Try your Best…Is a Farce (RANT)

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a minute if you will. How many times have you been told to just, “try your best”, or any variation thereof? You are working your tail off to accomplish something, and someone decides that you need some motivation and informs you that all you need to do is give it all you have. As if putting every ounce of energy into this particular task will somehow, magically, make it work where it did not before.

You could spend days, weeks, months, or even years trying to accomplish this particular feat to no avail. All of your energy, time and focus has been in an attempt to make your life work better or run more smoothly, and yet you find yourself frustrated with the results. Did you ever play team sports in school? Let’s put it in terms of basketball. You stand on the free throw line day after day, practice after practice and no matter how you position your hands, no matter where or how far apart you place your feet and no matter how much coaching you receive – the ball will NOT enter the basket. Did you try your best? I bet you did! Yet, for whatever inane reason, the ball refused to make the sound you were struggling desperately to hear.

You tried hard, then you tried harder and you did the best you could with what you knew and with what you’d been taught but it simply was not enough. Sound familiar? There are some things in life that are just not meant to be or, on the flip side of that coin, there are some things in life that are inevitable. Telling ourselves and others that they only need to work a little harder though, is a farce. In my mind it’s right up there with participation medals. If you are not talented enough to place yourself or your team on the podium then why should you receive a medal? This is teaching our children especially that even if you did NOT try your best, you still get an award. Is that the way it is in the real world? Nope!

As I just pointed out, there are times when your best is not good enough. It happens to the majority of us, so why do we insist on putting ourselves through the misery of thinking that if we only try harder it’s going to change everything? It’s not. Get over it. Which leads me to my next point. You did the best you could with the tools that you were given is another bit that grates my nerves slightly because it’s almost like making an excuse for bad behavior in adults.

Last I checked, we all have this thing called FREE WILL. This means that we make choices and although they may not be all bad, we certainly make the choice between doing what is right or not and then, here’s the kicker – generally speaking there are consequences for our actions. Make your decisions and stick to your guns, but remember that there is nobody to blame but yourself for how it turns out. Part of being an adult means owning your own mess. Sure, we all make mistakes. Lord knows I have made PLENTY!

Mistakes are funny things though you see! If you have an accident because you turned down a wrong way street, it was a one time thing and therefore a mistake. The next time you drive by that street you will remember that you had an accident there and not repeat the behavior. Lesson learned. On the other hand, if once again you drive down the same one way street and have an accident, it’s no longer a mistake. This is an extreme example of course but you get the idea. We make errors in judgement that cause us pain usually and these are called MISTAKES. Acting out the same behavior over and over again, despite knowing that it’s going to lead to pain – this is no longer a mistake. It’s a behavior over which we have FREE WILL to either cease or continue. To say that you did the best you could with the tools you were given is an excuse.

*RANT OVER

Until next time friends…

~Peace

TLT

“Race” Report (It’s long!)

I use the term ‘race’ very loosely because my reality is that I am simply racing against myself and the times I’ve accomplished on a given distance during a previous attempt. Although, chasing the proverbial rabbit does help me get through some tough patches, it’s simply a game played out in my own mind in order to keep pushing. If you play or have played any sort of sports related activity you probably know what I am referring to. 🙂

On with it then! The first alarm rang at 5:00 a.m on Saturday morning and by 5:30 I was eating some english muffins for breakfast while standing in the kitchen double checking my gear to make sure I had all the essentials. Not very exciting to be sure! By 7:00 I was on the road watching a spectacular sun rise and feeling steady in my mind. As I drove I was picturing myself running under that start/finish banner at the end of the race. I often use this tactic like a mantra in order to remain positive. It seems to help…

About halfway to the race location at the 7IL Ranch in Bellville, Texas which is a 2 1/2 hour drive from my house, I notice the tire pressure monitor warning light up on my dashboard. Really?!  I decide to err on the side of caution and pull over at a gas station with an air pump to check the pressure since the computer on my truck appears to be programmed by someone smarter than I am. Don’t you know, the doggone air pump doesn’t work there. Off I go, praying that it’s a nail that’s stuck into the tire and it holds pressure. A few miles later I see another station and pull in, stick my quarters in and….promptly get eaten alive by a gazillion mosquitos as I attempt to put air in the tires only to find that this pump seems to be letting air OUT of my tire, not putting it in. UGH! I finally get it situated just right to put air into the tire…as I swat blood sucking flying insects SMACK!

I made it to the race location about two hours prior to race start, picked up my packet and stood around for a few minutes talking to my running friends Dan ‘the man’ Macintyre and Dale ‘the Texas Yeti’ Cougot. The fabulous part of this sport is that one can glean so much knowledge from others, if you choose to listen!! Headed back to the truck to grab a protein cookie and chill for a few minutes while taping and lubing my blister-prone feet. I’d heard that there were patches of beach like sand on the course so I wore Altra shoe gaiters to keep it from getting into my shoes. In my experience, sand plus sweaty feet plus friction equals HUGE blisters! Let’s not have a repeat of that issue. Before I knew it we were all lined up behind the start line and it was GO time!!

A phrase you may have heard is that the first mile is a liar.  It tries to convince you that you’re not ready; the body may be a little taut from the taper and your mind may still be caught up on some minute detail. On this day, the first six miles were decidedly unpleasant. The protein cookie didn’t digest well and because of that my stomach didn’t send the right signal to let me know that I really needed to EAT. You must know that a lack of calories in the body really messes with the mind. Here I was on just the first loop and already thinking how badly it sucked, how slowly I was moving (though I wasn’t) and wondering why in sam hill I had signed up anyway.

I didn’t realize until about ohhh 5 miles in that I was HUNGRY!! That’s why my brain was acting so ugly. The problem was, after the three mile mark there was no more food available at the aid stations, so I had to wait until the start/finish to eat. On top of that, I wore my Hokas & I could feel the blisters beginning within the first 3 miles. I ignored it of course and planned to change my shoes at the turnaround. Though blisters and I are very well acquainted, I did not want them to visit on this day!!

     As I came in to the start finish for a high-five from Rob Goyen himself, I noticed the clock display of 1:27 for the first loop! I was ecstatic and simply wanted to hold that pace without blowing up on the last loop!!  The medic gave me a baggy of ice which I stuffed  in my bra, ate food (pretzels, pickles, ritz),drank coke and changed my silly Hokas for the Altra Olympus. I was trying to hurry up through the aid station but didn’t want to forget something either and the ice was an absolute necessity. I took off walking while eating pretzels feeling re-energized. The baggy of ice didn’t last long though before it was a sloshing bag of water! I popped the bag and poured the cold water over my head….ahhhhhhh bliss!
     Loops 2 & 3 were MUCH better physically and mentally! Loop 2 had an elapsed time of 3:04 where I repeated everything I did after loop one, except change the shoes. I also got rid of the neck wrap I’d made because the ice was all melted and it just felt heavy around my neck. I was still happy with how I was feeling and progressing through the course. At one of the “unmanned” aid stations on loop three I ran into Dan again and he did a double take when I told him I was finishing up the 3rd loop. He said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it!” That was the plan! :)) When running ultras, one must take advantage of the moments when you feel good because whatever goes UP…will come down!!
      As I was beginning the fourth loop I crossed paths with Stephen Moore who was just a few minutes behind me. I told him that I’d see him on the ‘flip side’ and he came back with, “unless I catch you.” HAH!! Guess what that meant? I was going to do everything in my power to NOT allow him to catch me!! LOL! Around 2 miles into loop four, I felt a familiar twinge that told me a blister was rearing it’s ugly little head and it needed to be dealt with. I debated just sucking it up until the start/finish point, but I know from experience how ugly they can become if not handled correctly. I had to stop for blister care. Once done and back up out of the blasted chair, I put  the discomfort out of my head & focused on moving forward – I HAD to make up some time. The stop cost me about 15 minutes!! 😦
     At the start/finish for the start of loop five the clock read 6:22 and I knew not only did I WANT to push it the last 10K, but I needed to do so in order to beat the loss of sunlight. I’d brought headlamps but they were in the truck!! It was a repeat of lap 4 – only faster through the aid station. As I ran that last loop, I walked the uphill and there was one looooong one, then ran every downhill as safely as I could. I thanked the medic (Casey?) and “Waldo” for the tape job on the blisters as I blew through their aid station…Somewhere around mile marker 4 on the course, I saw lightning trying to light up the dusky sky! Seriously? Push HARDER! As I rounded that last corner and the tents rolled into view I knew I was home free. I walked for a few to catch my breath, started jogging then pounded up the chute as fast as my legs would go to the FINISH! When I looked back the clock said 7:52 and change. Not the 7:30 I was aiming for but I’ll take it!! 🙂
     Sorry for the lengthy nature of this one!! There are lots of other details I could put but will spare you this time! 🙂
Until next time friends…
~Peace

The Same and yet Different

I’ve been thinking about writing this one for awhile, but life continues to roll on and priorities being what they are, it just hasn’t happened. This evening as I sat here trying to process more new information for work related duties over dinner, the idea once again came back into the forefront of my wee brain, so here we are.

People often look bewildered when I tell them about my love of running and even more so when they find out that I LIKE to run ultra distances. To those of you who read my blog but are not familiar with the term ultra-marathon, it means any distance more than the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Now, just because I run these distances does not mean that it’s easy for me. It doesn’t mean that the miles do not exact their own price on my body while cleansing my mind and spirit. To the contrary in fact!

I’ve dealt with numerous pretty minor injuries (huge blisters, neuromas, muscle imbalance) along with the normal muscle soreness and the breathlessness that comes from trying to push a particular pace when the conditions dictate that the run should be nice and easy. I’ve been told that I will never medal, never come in first place, never have the physique to run long distances efficiently. Guess what? It hasn’t stopped me! Does it nag at me when people think they know what I should or should not do or tell me that I should just quit running? Sure it does. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. I digress however!

What I really wanted to talk about are the similarities between running long distances and being in ANY long term relationship. You may be asking yourself, where in the world is she going with this? There are no similarities between these two activities! Ah, but I ask you to hang in there with me and I will endeavor to tell you, dear reader, that there are a few ways in which they are alike. They both require a commitment to stick to your guns when the initial passion to do so has long passed you by. They both have these hidden peaks and valleys that are often unseen until you suddenly come upon them, or they upon you. Both of these events require the ability to plan and yet be flexible enough to know when your plan has gone down the tubes and you’ll simply have to fly by the seat of your proverbial pants.

What do you think? Do you see it yet? Some call it discipline and commitment while others say that one must be a bit of a masochist to push your body, over and over again, in order to complete a long distance event. If you have ever been in a long term relationship, and I use the phrase long term rather loosely to mean any relationship that lasts more than a year, you know there is some degree of pain involved. As human beings we tend to be quite self centered at times and with this behavior comes pain, either our own or that of another person. During the initial infatuation phase you are absolutely entranced by all the passion and bliss; perhaps you even make a commitment to stay together “no matter what”. This happens when running long distance as well – I promise you it does!

You sign up for your race of choice, train your body relentlessly to perform at optimal levels and show up the morning of the big day primed and ready. Somewhere between that starting line and the eventual finish (for me this is generally somewhere after the halfway  point) the creeping vines of ugliness and doubt find their way into your now tired body and mind. The infatuation and passion is ebbing, leaving you wondering what in the world you were thinking when you signed up for this fiasco! Now comes the test to see how committed you truly are to finish what you started. Will you struggle through being tired, hungry and perhaps even a bit grumpy in order to reach your goal? Will you be cross and ugly to the people who have been standing by to give you a hand and tell you that you really DO have the strength or will you grit your teeth, smile through the pain and keep on moving through it?

You move through each mile after mile (or milestone after milestone depending on your perspective) and then the path suddenly rises above you like a goliath. In your head you think that although you are able to move easily enough up this hill the first time, you sure hope that your body remains strong enough to climb it again…and again. How many of you have wondered how many times you can possibly have the exact same disagreement (usually of the heated variety) over the exact same issue with your significant other? Is this not like climbing a hill? What about the downhill portion of climbing? The argument is over and peace once more reigns supreme in your life….ahhhh. It’s like cruising downhill! Are you with me? Have you ran down a hill lately my friends? Let me tell you that it’s a freeing experience to feel your legs moving like pistons beneath your hips as the earth drops down and down. I’d say that with the wind in my face and a nice, even descent, it’s probably the closest I’ll come to flying!

Flying…..until you stub your toe on something and you go flying for real to complete the best ever belly flop on dry land! Hah! Were you expecting that? Did you plan to fall flat on your face, bloodying your knees like an eight year old on roller skates? The answer is probably NO but it happens all the time. As is the case in relationships. You’re running along, minding your own business and following your plan for life when all of a sudden something happens out of the blue and BAMMM there goes your perfect plans! Ugh! How many times has that happened? Okay, so now your well structured plan is garbage to be thrown away with the mornings’ coffee grounds. What will you do now? There comes a time when you have to make the choice to keep going the way you are, with bruised and bloodied knees or a broken heart along the same trajectory, or you have to change things up a bit. Flexibility is a valuable trait and not only for gymnasts and dancers apparently. Agreed?

The bottom line is that even big, ugly blisters drain and eventually heal. Bloodied knees and bruised egos also heal – eventually. Does one have to be a bit of a masochistic to run long distance and repeatedly push the envelope to see how far the human body CAN be pushed to the edge without teetering over? I say, that running 30, 50 or 100 miles in a go is not much different than being in a long term relationship. What do you think?

 

Until next time friends

~Peace and blessings