Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking it on the chin..

One of the most heartbreaking lessons one learns as a runner is that aggravations and injuries are effectively inevitable. Countless prospective clients have engaged me with the idea that I will somehow help them run 'injury free' in perpetuity.

I have no choice but to be honest in telling these individuals that you can have the best biomechanics/form on the planet, the best shoes available, the best training on the planet, and still find yourself injured.

Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezghi, Kara Goucher, Paula Radcliffe, and countless other elite level runners have been felled on occasion and these are some of the best on the planet with the best possible coaches and resources at their disposal.

The knowledge that injuries can (and likely 'will') happen at some point does not provide much comfort or solace when it actually does occur. There's no way to mentally prepare for having something you love abruptly taken away from you. I suppose the closest thing one might compare it to is a breakup. It's simply heartbreaking.

While I always tell my injured runners to remain positive and proactive, I am well acquainted with the various fears, doubts, and disappointments that simmer in the background as one deals with injuries.

Will I be able to run again? When will I be able to run again? How much fitness will I lose? How long will it take to get back to the kind of shape I was in before? Is this even worth it?

I am well acquainted with all of this because I have dealt with all of it before. For better or worse, I have personal experience with just about every running related aggravation and injury out there.

I find myself confronted with all of this yet again as I stare down a stress reaction/fracture I incurred just two weeks from entering taper for a marathon that likely would have been my fastest ever. Heartbreaking is pretty much the only adjective that accurately describes this setback.

Truly, the emotional anguish of this injury transcends any other given how close I was to achieving a goal that has been in my mind for nearly 5 years.

If I were advising myself, I would likely provide the same direction I'd provide any other runner. Focus on the positive. Do whatever you can to maintain your fitness. Be proactive and aggressive in facilitating your recovery. All of this is sound advice.

But, I'd be lying to you if I said I am in a space where I am solely focusing on the positive. I'd be misleading you if I said I'm feeling enthusiastic about 'maintaining' my fitness on a stationary bike or in a swimming pool. I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm distraught.

That doesn't mean I am wallowing in the aforementioned, but just like any other trauma in life, it's important to acknowledge all of your emotions...not just the fuzzy, happy ones that people want to hear about. To bottle it up and pretend like it isn't there isn't healthy and it's just not me.

So, the next time you find yourself sidelined (and it almost inevitably will happen), try to stay positive, try to maintain your fitness through alternative activities, and try to be as proactive as you can in facilitating your recovery.

But, don't ignore the shitty feelings. Acknowledge them. Talk about them. Get them out of your system as much as you can in whatever way you can. Seek out others who know what you're going through just as you would seek out close friends when you go through a breakup or any other trauma in life. Shed a few tears if you need to.

While aggravations and injuries are inevitable, so is healing. Look forward to the day when you will be back. It's likely you will be smarter and stronger. Don't forget that everyone loves a comeback. Start planning yours.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saturday (6/26) Course Description

On Saturday, you will be logging between 3-7 miles depending upon your training level. The link below should give you a relatively clear sense of where we're going. I've also included a verbal description beneath it:



We will head north along the Marina to the intersection of Mason/Halleck. This is right next to Crissy Field Center and is 1 mile into our run.

Everyone will follow the pedestrian crosswalk and turn LEFT onto Halleck. You will be running uphill for about a block until you reach a controlled intersection with a stop sign. This is the intersection of Halleck/Lincoln.

Take a quick LEFT across the pedestrian crosswalk and then an IMMEDIATE RIGHT across the pedestrian crosswalk onto FUNSTON AVENUE

Continue running up Funston. You should see the Presidio YMCA on your left as you head up Funston. Continue up Funston for a few more blocks until you reach the intersection of Funston/Moraga.

Take a right on Moraga and take another RIGHT on Mesa Street. Follow Mesa back towards Halleck. (Mesa Street runs PARALLEL to Funston Ave.). You will follow Mesa until it runs into Lincoln. Head back down Halleck.

BEGINNERS will turn RIGHT once they get back to Mason and head back to the monkey bars for 3 MILES!

EVERYONE ELSE WILL TURN LEFT UPON REACHING MASON! Continue running on the paved path along Mason past SportsBasement. Shortly after we pass SportsBasement, there is a lengthy straight stretch and a funny looking metal power box (or weather measuring device as Micah calls it) on your RIGHT. There will be an 'FF4' in chalk on the ground at this point. INTERMEDIATE RUNNERS TURN AROUND HERE. Head back to the monkey bars for 4 MILES.

Everyone else will continue past the 'FF4' along the paved path. Eventually the path curves over to the right and merges with a dirt/fire road that heads towards the Warming Hut (for the uninitiated, the Warming Hut is A BIG WHITE BUILDING WITH TABLES AND BENCHES IN FRONT OF IT. Hopefully, it will be hard to miss). ADVANCED RUNNERS TURN AROUND HERE. Head back to the monkey bars for 5 MILES!

Race level runners will continue past the Warming Hut onto a paved road that goes past a series of buildings (including some restrooms). You will pass these buildings and continue running along this path next to the water towards the base of the bridge. The path curves around and dead ends at 'Hoppers Hands'. Turn around here and head back to the monkey bars.

Race level runners will continue running SOUTH along the paved path past the Marina Safeway and UP the hill en route to Aquatic Park. Crest this hill and go a bit further. You will turn around right at the point at which the hill starts to head DOWN into Aquatic Park. Return to the monkey bars for 7 MILES!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Uncharted Territory

I recently finished an entertaining read entitled The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon.

In short, the book examines a 1925 expedition into the depths of the Amazon jungle led by Percy Fawcett. Specifically, Fawcett was looking for El Dorado (or 'The City of Z' as he called it.

Ultimately, Fawcett and his team would disappear never to be heard from again. But, Fawcett inspired countless people to search for El Dorado.

Undoubtedly, The exploits of Fawcett acted as a catalyst for countless others to head off on quests and expeditions...some of which likely were ill fated.

I've always been intrigued by people like Fawcett (and Ernest Shackleton) who largely eschew convention and boldly (or foolishly) venture into the great unknown hoping to uncover something that no one has ever seen before.

Honestly, can anyone really say they don't at least like the idea of discovering something novel or extraordinary?

The glorious age of exploration that Fawcett was a part of has long since come and gone as virtually every corner of the earth has been discovered and explored (or will be soon).

What's left for the mere mortal to explore? Outer space is a frontier that the majority of us will never have an opportunity to explore in any substantive way.

But, arguably, as runners we're all explorers and the territory we explore is perhaps more mysterious and enigmatic than any corner of the Amazon jungle.

I've been exploring since I was 15 years old and each expedition I've undertaken whether success or failure was the result almost inevitably served as a catalyst to explore even more.

When I first started running, simply running 3 miles was an expedition fraught with all kinds of pain, peril, and the unknown. Once I 'discovered' my body was up to this task, I explored running farther eventually going as far as 10 miles which seemed a staggering distance and TRULY an 'expedition' in every sense of the word.

Conquering 10 miles led to an expedition that was more about 'speed' as distance seemed to be something my body could handle, I wondered how 'fast' my body could travel. Countless miles and track workouts later, I still don't really know the answer to this question, so I continue exploring.

Multiple marathons and PR's later, I am still searching for the outer limits of what my body can support when I am out on the road, still exploring the uncharted. While I have a 'vague' sense of what I can do, the reality is that I don't really know....and nobody does and that never fails to excite me to embark on yet another expedition.

There are trails I've never run. There are events I've never completed. There are places my running shoes have never touched.

But, independent of the externally visible and tangible, there is the intangible and the unquantifiable.

There is a race inside of me that lies in wait for the right training, the right conditions, and the alignment of the stars. My genetic limits are ultimately unknown to me. Just as I imagine your true limits are unknown to you.

Many thought Fawcett was crazy, but years later it would prove to be true that indeed complex civilizations existed in the Amazon jungle. A city of gold perhaps not, but his instincts were right and ultimately one could argue his expedition was not in vain.

I would not encourage anyone to run themselves into the ground (or the hospital), but I would encourage everyone to be an 'explorer'. Explore a distance just beyond your grasp. Explore a speed that is unfamiliar to you.

Explore the limits of what you can support and chances are this will give you the confidence to explore even more.