What do you do?

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My last post was quite a while ago, and it oddly enough foretold a lot of what I was about to experience. Sorry in advance, this one’s not going to be much about running or fitness.

Four months in a nutshell!

Several months ago, I applied for a job that, if I’m honest, was the absolute dream job. I’m not currently looking for a new job, but when I became aware of this one, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I sent in my resume and got a phone interview, which was thrilling enough. After the interview, I took a copy writing test so they could gauge my writing voice and see if I could fit with what they were looking for. Then two weeks went by. Those two weeks were torture. I couldn’t stop thinking about the job and whether they had moved on or just hadn’t gotten to me yet. Then, I went for a run in the woods and the whole idea of following pink flags and searching for my direction (that I wrote about last time) opened up in my head. I slowly accepted that this job was not for me. It was a trail that I wasn’t supposed to go down. I had told a few people about the situation, so I updated them saying that it was a no-go, and I would likely not hear anything again. Ashley and I planned a vacation to Colorado to head off to the mountains and renew.

Then I got the phone call, “You’ve been selected for an in-person interview…” Ooookay. Suddenly everything was moving really quickly. I was going to fly to Utah (!) at the end of the week, have lunch and a half-day interview with a bunch of different people, then fly back home the next day. I bought a new suit.

Then came three more torturous weeks while I waited to hear back from them. Then, finally: “You were a great candidate, but…” Darn, darn, darn, darny, darn!

At first, I was fine. And generally I’m okay with it. But every once in a while, I get really sad. I thought this was a done deal, and we were ready to pick up and move into the mountains of Utah. Now I’m readjusting to staying in the flat, humid, wet Southern Indiana. What I thought was going to be my dream job in a dream location turned out to be just a ruse.

So, for a few months, I was running along a trail that had both pink and blue flags. The pink ones turned left and went up a hill, and the blue ones went right and stayed flat. I really wanted to turn right, but my course is marked out with pink flags. I’ll follow them, but I’m not super thrilled to be climbing this hill right now.

So…what…

Well now I just dig back into life as I know it. We have some projects we’re working on at our house, and there is the ever-present training. I’ve been training for a while to run my first 50-miler at an event in my town, but now that event has been postponed. It’s not the end of the world – just kinda like gearing up for a big sneeze only to have it disappear. I’ll just readjust and get ready for the next sneeze, which is going to happen in November. I’ll tell everyone all about it soon! I am excited for it.

tunnel
You heard it here first, folks: Running 50 miles is just like sneezing!
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Can’t? – or won’t.

Hey, so, I haven’t updated in a month.

Mainly because not much has been going on. After Yamacraw, I was between training. I really enjoyed three or four weeks of running outside of a training plan. I still ran every day, but I didn’t have any set mileage, so I just did what I felt like. But, that playground style of exercise has ended. I just started a new training plan for my first 50 miler. More on that later!

It has been raining a lot here lately. This makes trail running a bit difficult. As a trail runner, staying off the trails because they’re muddy is really frustrating. I’ve missed two (TWO!) Transcendent Tuesday trails runs because of rain. Now I’m doing a training plan, and the first long run was intended to be done on the race course, which is a trail. Not only is it a trail, but it’s a notoriously muddy trail. Any little bit of rain leaves standing water and terribly sloppy conditions.

With the all-day rain we’ve been having for the last several weeks, I decided my first long run of the plan would be done on the road. Sad, frustrating, but acceptable.

But then I remembered last weekend.

Gnaw

Last weekend, Ashley and I volunteered at an aid station for the Dances with Dirt trail races at Gnaw Bone. Our station was at an intersection where all distances went through twice. Once four miles into the race, and then again five miles before the finish line. We gave water and food to runners doing 13.1 , 26.2, 50k, and 50 mile distances(including a couple friends doing their first trail half).

All the rain we’ve been having made a wreck of the trails, and about 1,000 sets of feet churned them into miles-long mud pits.

As the runners reached my aid station at mile four, I couldn’t see their shoes, and their legs were caked with mud. They had just climbed up four miles of muddy trail and continued through to get back on the trails before returning to my station.

Some of the runners were in good spirits, enjoying the new challenge of running in these conditions. Some people were broken down, sore, and tired. Whether they stayed at the aid station for a few minutes to rest and recover, or whether they downed a quick cup of water and sped back down the trail – they all kept going.

Can’t? – or won’t.

With a head full of last week’s incredible runners, I went out to Angel Mounds yesterday and slogged through the mud for 10 miles. It was filthy, but I got it done, and I’m proud I didn’t give up on that detail of the run. It was actually pretty enjoyable.

It’s one of those times that the lessons I learn or the determination I cultivate as a runner can carry over into my “real” life. That one I live where I don’t smell like a yeti. There are many times when I don’t do something because I can’t. But I think, in most cases, it’s really only because I won’t.

I’m not saying that I’ll always be able to find the motivation to do a chore or complete a project, or even run 10 muddy miles on a trail because that’s what my training plan says. What I am saying is that I’ll dig deeper no matter what. I’ll pick up my pen, lace up my shoes, or grab a sponge or paint scraper, and get it done. Because I’m an ultrarunner. Ain’t nothing gonna stop me.

mud

The bad run.

Though I run quite a lot, I seldom have a truly bad run. Wednesday threw a bad-run kink in an otherwise stellar streak.

At mile 3 of a 7-mile run, I was going through the cemetery when nature called. I really had no option but to find some seclusion. Luckily, there is a stand of trees behind some large mounds of dirt well away from the burial area of the cemetery. Don’t worry, no desecration going on here.

Unfortunately, in order to get there, I had to go through an area that had some aggressive burrs, which got all over my legs, shoes, socks, and shorts. Four miles left in my run, and I had been attacked by burrs. I did my best to clean off as many as I could, but my attempt would prove to be fruitless. There were burrs inside and outside my shorts, including in the liner, and all over my legs, feet, socks, and shoes.

Between the unscheduled bathroom stop and the burrs, I was feeling pretty disheartened. At first I thought, “This is going to be a long 4 miles.” Then I admitted that I couldn’t possibly finish my 7 miles with burrs all over my body, causing all sorts of discomfort. So I compromised. At this point in my run, I could go home the long way or the short way. I chose the long way, thinking that if the burrs didn’t cause too much trouble, I’d keep running to get the whole 7 miles.

As the miles came, the burrs as a collective weren’t a huge issue. Most of them were tangled in the hair on my calves, and in my shoes and socks. Not much friction going on there. However, there was a good amount in the liner of my shorts and, therefore, around my inner thighs. These burrs were not very gracious passengers. I ended up with large red scratches on my inner left thigh and on my outer left hip. This red hot rubbing combined with general soreness and lack of sunny disposition brought my pace down and deadened my run into an uncomfortable plod. Nevertheless, as I neared home, I went a couple extra blocks, trying to maximize my miles for the day knowing that what I didn’t get Wednesday, I would transfer to Thursday’s run.

I ended up only 1.2 miles short, but I was exhausted and in a decent amount of uncomfortable pain from the burrs. I got right in the shower, which only made the raw wounds burn worse.

Not my favorite run by a long shot. What makes a bad run worse, though, is the effects that carry over to the next run. “Will this happen on my next run? Will tomorrow’s run suck, too?”

The only way to know is to pull the burrs off my shoes, lace them up, and hit the road again.

Update: As it turns out, like most bad runs, Wednesday’s was a standalone. Thursday’s run was outstanding.

My next big challenge.

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The biggest challenges I’ve undertaken have usually been proceeded by “I’ll never…I could never…”

After deciding that I would not be held back by fear of failure or fear of the unknown, I have been able to achieve some amazing things that I’m proud of. Through the process of tackling these challenges, I’ve also been awakened to the idea that I can accomplish anything.

So what comes next? Well, I’ll be working hard to reach the next level of fitness. Further, faster distances. A leaner physique. Basically upgrades to the things I’ve already accomplished – and that’s great. It’s still motivating and inspiring to me, so it keeps me going.

But there’s something else I’ve faced many times over the years. I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that it will hold me accountable to this next goal. It isn’t a glamorous one, but it may be my biggest one yet.

5:00 a.m. Wake-up Call

I’ve never been a morning person, and that seems to get worse and worse with each passing day. I’ve tried and failed several times to wake up earlier in the morning to get things done, whether those things are running, housework, reading, writing, or whatever, nothing seems to work. After a week, or even just a day, of getting up at 5:00 a.m., I begin to hit that snooze button again. Then I give up, and it’s back to 6:45 for me. Well, to be perfectly honest…it’s back to an initial 6:30 alarm followed by resetting my alarm for 6:45 before getting out of bed.

It all sounds so familiar:

  • I’ve told myself I can’t do it.
  • I’ve tried several times to overcome it and failed.
  • It’s something I really want to do because I know it will make a big, positive change in my life.

These are all ingredients to the success pie I’ve enjoyed for almost 10 years.

missing me

So I’m definitely going to do it. I’m committing, recommitting, to get this done. To become a morning runner. There are those who do and those who don’t, and I’m going to be one who does. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m greatly looking forward to the benefits!

  • Increased energy and focus at work.
  • More time to do things after work.
  • Less traffic.

Or as I read in a recent book on motivation by Doug Hay at Rock Creek Runner:

Imagine a time when your schedule is completely clear.

Where your phone isn’t ringing, no one expects you at work, and your kids don’t need a thing.

Sounds like paradise, right?

It’s called the early morning. When everyone else is in bed.
Doug Hay

The Plan

Ain’t nothing no good without a plan. In the past, I’ve tried to ease myself into waking up early, and it didn’t work for long. One thing or another would derail me. This time, I’m going to tear off the bandage. Cold turkey may be the key to success. So, my plan is basically no plan. Just do it. Don’t overthink it. Be it!

Want to join me?

If anyone wants to join me for a nice morning run virtually or in reality, let me know! I may not be much of a conversationalist, but I’ll enjoy the company!

New shoes (to run my victory lap)!

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Guys, I got new shoes! My feet are now proudly paired with a pair of Altra Instincts, the color of which demands to be recognized.

An aesthetic complaint I had about the Dyads that I’ve run in for many miles was that they are drab. Standard black and white…sometimes a splash of subdued blue…blah. Plus, I had to buy super double extra wide in them so my paddlefeet could fit comfortably.

Well the Instincts are just as blue as can be. And they are the shape of paddlefeet.

As I mentioned before, Altras have appealed to be because they are shaped like feet. This renders them somewhat odd to look at, and according to the guy at the store, that turns some people off. They don’t want their shoes to be weirdos.

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Personally, I don’t care. As soon as I started reading about how wide the toe box was, I had to try a pair. First trail shoes, and now road shoes – I’m all set! My toes have all the room they need.

Another distinction Altra holds to is that their shoes are zero drops – allowing your feet to run more naturally.

Illustrations of this drop business so I don't have to use words.
Illustrations of this drop business so I don’t have to use words.

Dyads have a 10mm drop. The Altra Olympus also has a zero drop, but maybe I didn’t notice it as much because they have a lot more cushion, or because I mainly run trails with those (cuz they be trail shoes), I don’t know. But I was shocked at how much I felt the difference zero drops make in the Instincts. Not a bad difference – just quite different. Runners with a more aggressive heel strike might have problems transitioning to zeros from 10mm, so if you’re one of them (and are considering zero drop shoes), see if you can try out these shoes before buying them. You might want to be careful when transitioning.

Another hint is to keep an eye out for sales (as if I have to even say this). According to the salesperson I talked with, “Altra keeps coming out with new version after new version, but really the main difference is different colors and design.” I got both of my Altras on discount because they aren’t the newest version. I’m not really a shoe elitist, so I likely wouldn’t notice small differences between versions anyway.


Victorious!

Aside from running, I can occasionally be found playing floor hockey with an intramural team at the university where I work. I just finished my second season, and I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it, to be honest. I’ve never been a sports person, and have never really felt the drive to win, win, win. Floor hockey has apparently changed all that. The competition feels really good (and it’s a good way to get some sprint work in!). It’s a really tough workout some nights, since I fit it in with my regular workout. Anyway, our tournament just ended, and my team is the reigning champ! We tied, but our team won in a shootout. Hurray hockey! I busted myself up pretty good. Some highlights were me falling hard on my right knee almost immediately, bowling over several opponents, and diving headfirst into the goal to avoid smashing my team’s keeper (and captain). So I have a busted knee (swollen, tender…but run worthy!), a bruised middle finger, and a sore left arm. At least I have all my teeth.

Maybe we're old. Maybe we're ragtag. But we're definitely champs!
Maybe we’re old. Maybe we’re ragtag. But we’re definitely champs!

Thought for the week: Motivation

This week, I came across a Facebook post in a group I’m in (1000 miles in 2015). The post was a call for motivation, and the range of responses was amusing.
– Think of all the people who are immobile and can’t move even if they wanted to. (Kind of a bummer…)
– It’s not work; you just get to go play outside for a few hours! (There’s unicorns out there!)
– Go for it, you got it, ra ra ra! (Go find your unicorn!)
– Fine, don’t run. But you’ll feel bad later for skipping it, and it’ll be your own fault. (Unicorns aren’t real.)
– Screw motivation. Cultivate discipline. Discipline will get you out the door whether you “feel like it” or not. (Quit being a baby.)

That last one was my favorite. It’s true that I don’t always feel motivated to run. I have to do it a lot, every week, with increasing distances and difficulty. Discipline is the only thing that’ll get you out the door on cold nights after long days. Nothing else is trustworthy. Motivation is fleeting; discipline is dependable. Go find your unicorn, whether you feel like it today or not!

Bound(ed) the Mound

Bound the Mound was certainly an adventure! The race director was working hard all day the day before the race to make sure every racer was safe and informed. The course was changed a little to avoid some of the more hazardous conditions, but there was still plenty of ice, mud, water, and snow to keep it interesting. One of the final e-mails he sent the night before said, “Make no mistake, trail conditions are quite challenging and the footing is as tough as I have ever experienced.”

He also gave us all a sense of as of yet unearned pride by closing with “…once you complete your distance, you can rest assured you will have accomplished one of the most difficult trail races ever held in the area!”

Well, let’s go run, shall we?

Running trails on their own can be pretty difficult. The terrain is a lot less predictable when it hasn’t been paved. Throw a layer of snow and ice on top of those trails, and the variety never ends!

The day after running in all that snow and ice, I ran 11.5 miles on thankfully clear roads, which helped to make up for the clunky trails having their way with my stride on Saturday.


I’ve been a lazy runner.

All that snow is now gone. A few days of above-freezing temps and a steady drizzle have melted all but the biggest piles. I’m hoping we can say good bye to old man winter and his finicky whims. This week is promising sun and 60 degrees, so you’ll hear no complaining from me.

I feel like I’ve been slacking off these last few weeks. Of course I can always pull the “but the weather has been bad!” excuse out if I start to feel bad about it, but I know that weather was just an enabler. I haven’t been giving it my all, and I’m quite aware of it.

My mantra of “You have what it takes, but it’s going to take all you have” has been more of an accusation of my lazy approach to training than an encouragement to push through uncomfortable things. This is because I haven’t really been doing anything uncomfortable.

So I’m going to be stepping up my efforts at the gym, run harder on the flats, and keep on my quest for finding hills for my daily runs – or at least one of the daily runs. Perhaps the more clement season will bring about new enthusiasm for these things (I hope so!) – but just as I can’t lean on poor weather to excuse my lazy behaviors, I cannot expect the good weather to motivate me to work harder. I need to dig deep and find the strength inside that I know is there.

I have 8 weeks left in my training before I run at Gnaw Bone. I know it’s going to test me mentally and physically, and I need to step up my efforts to meet that challenge head on. Leave it all at the gym, on the roads, and in the woods. I gotta earn my rest days!

What’s in my ears.

Right now, it’s really cold outside. Cold and windy, and I don’t like it. Sometimes you could say that I’m not having the best time while I’m out running.

Most of the time, I truly do love it. It’s a lot of fun, it’s very “freeing”, and all those other things you hear from runners coming down from their runners’ high. Things that make non-runners shake their heads, roll their eyes, and say “This guy has hugged far too many trees.”

A few months ago, I did a post on what I think about while I’m out there. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to get my mind off my bad day, the poor weather, my tired legs, or to simply forget that I’m running on a treadmill. Here is how I combat the brain bust:

Headphones
I’m pretty picky about how my music sounds. For a little while now, I’ve been using Yurbuds, which are fantastic. They lock into your ears and don’t fall out, which is especially nice for people using things for any kind of activity. Yurbuds come in different sizes depending on what size the inside of your ear is (they have a little measuring device), and they sit comfortably in there. They deliver great sound to your ears without cutting out ambient noises, such as cars or other runners/cyclers.

The Music
I have a pretty eclectic taste in music. My MP3 player is loaded with everything from Phantom of the Opera to Pitbull and Kesha singing “Timber” (which got me through my first indoor duathlon). What I actually listen to regularly is a bell curve. The outliers mentioned above aren’t always what I need. Scrolling through the hours of music I have, it’s incredibly difficult not to list each band/artist. But I’ll stick to the top 5.

(Click on the names to go to Youtube for samples. I didn’t want to fill up this page with videos.)

1. Josh Garrels
I listen to this guy probably more than anyone else. His lyrics and sound are inspiring and calming. I have all of his albums, and for my long road runs, there is simply nothing better. Shuffling through his music makes those long, straight stretches of road seem a little less monotonous. He has a decent variety to his songs, too.

2. The Avett Brothers
This is another band similar to Garrels. Lyrically and musically one of the greatest bands around, in my opinion.

3. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
I know this group may seem a bit different from the two listed above, but I can’t rule them out. I only have one album (The Heist), and I only listen to a few songs on it for the most part. The link is to “Can’t Hold Us,” which is the song I was listening to when I hit my 5k PR in 2013.

4. David Ford
One of the most recent additions to my musical world. His rough, emotional voice can evoke an adrenaline rush at just the right time.

5. Brandi Carlile
No music list would be complete without a BA female artist, and Brandi Carlile fits the bill quite nicely. This song in particular I can listen to on repeat.

The Podcasts
Music doesn’t always do it for me. Sometimes I need something that will take me even further away from the “here and now” of running. Podcasts are an especially great way to forget where you are and what you’re doing, while also learning or being entertained. I’m fairly new to the podcast world, so I don’t have as wide a selection I go to.

nightvalelogo-webWelcome to Night Vale
This is a brilliantly creative podcast about a town in the desert called Night Vale.

It’s creepy, funny, and you can really get caught up in the lives of Night Vale citizens.


logo-13-transparent-e1410982247676-300x213NMA Radio
No surprise here, the No Meat Athlete Radio is an easy go-to for me. They have great advice about food, motivation, and gear; interviews with big name vegetarian and vegan runners; and plenty more. It’s a really great resource, and it’s pretty entertaining.


PrintNMA Academy
This is a members-only area of NMA where Matt and guests go in depth into different aspects of the no meat athlete lifestyle. I’ve learned quite a bit from these monthly episodes – plus I got in at the very beginning, with a special entry price, which is pretty cool.


hh-coverHardcore History
My friend Eric suggested this, and I’m glad he did. Dan Carlin covers, epically, incredible history. His episodes are long, and there are a lot to choose from.

 


avatars-000050326439-np2qaq-t200x200Cracked Podcast
I’ve been visiting cracked.com for years. With articles like “5 Famous Historical Figures You Didn’t Know Were Perverts,” and “The 5 Most Insane Versions of Thanksgiving from Around the World,” (and thousands of others), how can you lose?

I recently started listening to their podcast, which has similarly interesting topics, except that they’re vocalized to you, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of reading.


What is your favorite podcast, musical genius, or audiobook? I’m always looking for suggestions, and I try just about anything once. Let me know in the comments below!

The Mystery of Missing Motivation

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This week’s training was at once successful and frustrating. My short runs were great and surprisingly strong. Thursday I ran tempo again, and when I felt like I was slowing down, my Garmin told me I was going faster – while I did not feel like I was pushing too hard to maintain the pace.

Despite strong training during the week, I hit the dreaded wall while out for my 6-mile run in Audubon on Saturday. This was perplexing at the time, though hindsight has revealed a few things that could explain it.

  • Difficulty recovering from last weekend’s race and tough trail run.
  • Choosing too intense of a course for what should have been an easier run.
  • 94% humidity, no wind in the woods! Ick.

With that in mind, I am taking this week off from running so I can fully recover from two weekends of tough, failed runs. I realized it’s quite a blow to my psyche, and emotional/mental training is all part of this process, too. I’ll be back next Sunday with a post on motivation! Because that’s what I’ll be focusing on this week. I’ll still be going to the gym during the day, working on building and maintaining a solid core. My evenings, though, will be run free.