Sunday, July 27, 2014

Same SHIrT Different Day!

“I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.”
~ Ken Venturi ~
The younger "old" me at a hypertensive 250 lbs

Not as good as I'm gonna get, but I'm better than I used to be

Same SHIrT Different Day!

First, let me explain the title and pictures. The picture by the lake is the only picture of me that I have from that period of my life, and it is a constant reminder of one of my personal battles. The other picture is taken wearing the same shirt years later, and minus many pounds. The title ties together the transformation my body has gone through and the constant reminder of what I must continue to battle not to go back to what I once was. Anyone who knows me should know that these pictures being displayed here contain no ego or arrogance. The unfair fact of the matter is that I can undo six weeks of hard work in very short order.

Similar to anyone who struggles with any form of self sabotage, it is sometimes easier to deal with failure than success. Unfortunately, for too many of us, there is a sense of familiarity with failure and disappointment. And the possibility of success brings its own fears and stress. This does not mean that we don’t want to be successful, but it may mean that we fear the expectations and unknown entities of not failing at least a little. I believe that many of us have the built-in excuses that are easier to reach for than stepping into unfamiliar territory.

I have been my own ongoing experiment for many years now. On the one hand, I am much happier with the person I am now compared to the old me. On the other hand, I am constantly frustrated by my self-inflicted limitations. On countless occasions I feel like I have been on the threshold of major personal growth and before I can stop myself I shrink back into safety. Why is it so much easier to encourage and advise others than it is to put the same ideals into effect for ourselves?

Let’s go back to self-sabotage for a minute. It really does not matter what our vice is; the behavior pattern gives us a safety net. When we fail we can jump into the net, when we succeed we can also jump into the net. This not only keeps everyone else’s expectations down but it keeps our own at a more comfortable level. The fact of the matter is that we have to want to succeed more than we want to fail. In this, I believe I may have made some progress because the level of regret and disappointment of a recent failure is much higher than it may have been in the past.

Another important aspect to remember is that people need to stop comparing themselves to others. Partially because in doing so we feel those we compare ourselves to are above us and therefore better than us; worse is when people feel the need to be better and in this case someone has to be worse off for you to feel good about yourself. When, truth be told, we are all dealing with and fighting our own battles, the extent of which most people know nothing about. 

So when we know something is wrong or not good for us what makes us go back to it? We can blame society, marketing and many other possible reasons. I have noticed that when I give myself permission to slack on my nutritional guidelines or come up with reasons to back off on running or exercise plans, I slip into a spinning vortex. It is like something inside of me sees the open window and wants to get everything I can before the window closes again.

A recent example would be the six or seven weeks of strict nutritional guidelines I set for myself before my last race, with the prize of pizza and beer upon completion of that race. The mistake in the deal I made with myself is that it should have been contingent on successful completion of said race, but my subconscious left that part out. Then there is the convenient failure to complete the distance I set out for and, voila’, built-in reason to extend the free fall. I might as well get that Burger King, Chinese food, doughnuts, ice cream and whatever else before I straighten up. And if no one sees me have it, did it really happen? Much like any other addiction or weakness, yes, it really did happen and must be dealt with.

Why is it that I feel the need to put myself out there for all to read this and judge? Mostly because I hope that if even one person reads this and it helps them to make a couple of changes in their life so they can move towards a better quality of life, then it is well worth it. As you can see my journey has taken many turns and gone on for many miles, but it is far from complete. I will always keep this picture as a reminder or what was behind me and what lies ahead. I must keep moving on the road I am on because I already know where the other road leads.

If you are new to my blog, Welcome! And if you have been with me for a while thank you so much for keeping me company on my travels down life’s twisting and broken roads! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wyco Is Making Me Psycho

“Disappointments are to the soul what a thunderstorm is to the air.”
~ Friedrich Schiller ~

Wyco Is Making Me Psycho!

This is going to be a tough one to write so where do I start? Like so many previous plans; Saturday began with confidence and good intentions and leaving my watch at home so I could take the day as it came. I really felt ready both physically and mentally for the challenge to come, but it is said that momentum is a cruel mistress and she can turn on you at the drop of a hat. Someone described what was to follow as the perfect storm.  

I dedicated the race to a 14 year old named Abigail who has been struggling with being bullied and has responded by trying to hurt herself. I do not know her but she is the granddaughter of someone I know and I guess I wanted her to be aware that people she doesn't even know care about her. Bullying has become a real problem especially with social media and people need to realize that life is hard enough without us making it harder on each other.  
The calm before the storm
This was three races in one for the Psycho Psummer with a 20 miler and 50K starting at 8:00 and a 10 miler starting at 9:00. Since I was signed up for the 20 and my wife was doing the 10, I took the shuttle to the park at 7:00 and she read her book and came over before I started. We got our picture taken together and she gave me some words of encouragement before the start.

Kristen and I before the start
It was already getting hot and I had no idea what to expect, but I was going to try to go with whatever the trail had in store for me. Ben gave his pre-race talk and blew the horn and we were off, over the bridge and across the grass towards the entrance to the bridle trail which is always a conga line at first. Shortly people found their pace and we began moving more smoothly. The group I was running with was talkative and moving at a good pace so I stayed with them. I was pushing a little but decided to hang with them as long as I could. We got to the first manned aid station and there was a little girl ringing a cowbell; I smiled and waved at her and realized after I passed her that she may not have been waving but waiting for high fives. Sorry I missed that opportunity. I topped off my water and grabbed a couple of orange slices and was off again.

I crossed the road and entered the single track and I was still pushing but moving pretty well. They are nice trails with some rolling hills and switchbacks that go through the woods and have some nice views of the lake from time to time. At about 4.5 miles on one of these switchbacks I turned the corner and lifted my head for a second to look ahead and caught my right toe on a root, which sent me flying through the air. As soon as my feet left the ground I tucked my arms into my body and hit the ground hard and rolled a few times. I got up and assessed the damage, saw a cut on my hand and my arms, my hands were covered in dirt and my water bottle was squashed and packed with dirt. Shortly after, I passed Rick from Mile90 photography, who has a knack for appearing and disappearing on the trail, so I have dubbed him Photo Ninja.
All I had to show for it the next day
Right after my wipe out
I walked for a while trying to clean and unbend my bottle and trying to regain my focus. At the point where you get closest to the water I saw Bob sitting in his kayak taking pictures and I raised my arms and told him I was taking some of the trail with me. I walked/ran for a bit and was getting frustrated because I was not planning on walking this early in the race. I came out onto the dam where my friend Carl was working the aid station. He started hollering when he saw me and asked what I needed. I showed him my dilapidated water bottle (it leaked the rest of the day but did its job) and he cleaned it off and filled it and got some orange slices. My plan was to grab a couple of S-Caps here but with the distractions I forgot. I also tried to eat a peanut butter wrap, but took one bite and quickly decided that was not going to work either.

After another couple of miles my calves began to cramp and I was back to a walk/run again, getting more frustrated and having thoughts about not making it the whole 20 miles. I was drinking water with electrolytes or Heed and grabbing a couple of S-Caps along the way but I could feel the indecision and doubt getting the best of me. When I got to the Shelter 14 aid station they cleaned my arm up and, as I was leaving, the first 10 miler came running through. I said, “That’s awesome, he started an hour after me.” I was reminded that he is an elite runner, which I know, but I also knew there were more to come. I justified the top five 10 mile runners but then it got demoralizing and I was losing ground and I had not even reached the hardest part yet, the dreaded three sisters. A very nice lady passed me and asked if I needed medical attention; I guess I looked pathetic and I was limping because of the cramps.

I was not only frustrated with the possibility of not completing what I set out to accomplish in the race; today represented much more than just the race. Personally this was going to be the day when I pushed past what I thought I could do and transformed another piece of who I am.  There was also Abigail. I dedicated this to her, so would I be letting her down if I settled for a 10 mile finish?

I did not want to feel like I was taking the easy way out or quitting, but without proper caloric intake and the high temperatures I had to decide something soon. The lead 50 K people cruised past me and they looked like they were not even breathing hard. As I came out of the woods and saw the finish line and the turn to go for another loop, I decided to try a little and see what happened. I switched out a couple of things in my bag and was heading out across the bridge and field battling with what to do. A couple of people asked if I was okay and I said “I guess, just trying to decide if I am going any further”. Once I realized that I was standing by the lake watching the geese swim around I took that as a sign that I was done. I turned and did the walk of shame back to the start/finish area to tell the race director I was done. Soon after my friend Brittany and then my wife came across the finish line. They both did great!
Decision time
Brittany finishing 10
Kristen with a great finish on the 10 (First time running this loop)

I know I was not the only one to drop down but it does not make it any easier. I will never know for sure if it just was not my day and if I made a sound decision or if this was yet another case of giving up too soon.

To Abigail and anyone else who is being bullied or struggling with being depressed, please know that there are a lot of people who care and are willing to help. Remember that “Hurt people, hurt people”. Sometimes the people who least deserve your love, need it the most. Seek out help because hurting yourself is never the answer. Sometimes when we are hurting emotionally, we seek out ways to hurt physically so that maybe the emotional pain doesn't seem so bad.  Finding an athletic endeavor to push your body through is a far healthier way to counteract that pain than doing something that harms you, and may harm those in your life who care about you and want to help you.  Those who really care about you will support you and assist you in getting the help you need to work through the pain.      

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