Friday, July 26, 2013

A New Day Dawning: Still Going Long but also Trying to Get Strong

Last year I completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and while it is not the ultimate test of an endurance runner it is an accomplishment that most ultrarunners see as anything from respectable to awe inspiring.  People who don’t run ultras see it as downright incomprehensible.  I am not here trying to toot my own horn…well, ok, maybe that’s a lie, there’s at least a little tooting going on, but for the most part it’s an accomplishment that I hold for myself and reflect on. It makes me smile.  However, the Slam is part of my history and I don’t foresee it ever being a part of my future.

Last year I ran the Boston marathon as well.  I qualified for the first time ever in December of 2011 at the Tucson Marathon the weekend after having run two marathons in one weekend while holding nothing back.  I had brought my marathon time down by an hour and twenty five minutes from my first marathon in December 2005, also the Tucson marathon.  However, Boston has cut its qualifying time by five minutes and I’m not sure that Boston will be a part of my future again either.

In my years of blogging one thing I haven’t really talked much about is just how hard the whole triathlon and ultrarunning thing has been for me, how much sacrifice it has entailed.  Sure, I haven’t held back in revealing how hard various races were for me or my experiences of low points during races but one thing I haven’t written about is the almost constant frustration with my size and my never ending attempt to not only control it but to shrink it.

I am not an endurance guy.  Yes, I can do endurance sports and have done pretty well but I have always been bigger than 95 percent of my peers, I have always been overweight and my sports growing up were mostly football, rugby and the throwing sports in track and field.  How on earth I fell in love with extreme endurance sports I’ll never know but I really do love them and I’ve done my best to be competitive.  I think those days are over.   Actually, I want them to be over.  I’m tired of spending hours upon hours training mostly alone.  I’m tired of tracking my calories constantly year after year in the hopes that I can shave three pounds off my 200 pound frame when my competition weighs in at a typical weight of between 135 and 150.  I’m tired of fighting against my own biology.  It’s burning me out and I need a balance.

Here is what I do want.  I do want to keep running marathons and ultras though when it comes to ultras I don’t yet know what distances are still in my future.  I want to be able to eat healthy and smart without counting every calorie taken in and expended.  I want to allow my body to find a good weight and I want to stop agonizing over whether I weigh 203 or 197.  I want to get the mantra out of my head “two seconds per mile slower for every pound gained, two seconds per mile faster for every pound lost.”

Enough is enough.  I just want to do my thing with my friends and have a good time.  I realize it’s my own fault for pushing myself as I did but I’m a master at imagining external pressures where there really are none.   I began this season at 208 and immediately freaked out and started hammering my body with exercise and trying any crazy ass diet I could think of.  I also pretty much immediately discovered that my body was still cooked from having run the Slam last year and within a month I became sick for a month and bounced up to 212.  In desperation I tried to hammer myself back into shape before the National Guard marathon trials at Lincoln in May.  It’s not that I expected to make the All Guard team or anything I just didn’t want to embarrass myself or my team.

However, despite all attempts my body just wouldn’t respond and I became increasingly discouraged about my ability to keep up the low weight I had achieved or to regain any of the speed I had lost over last year.  At the marathon trials the other three members of my team all placed in their age group and made the All Guard Team.  I ran about 8 minutes slower than the previous year when it had been about 10 degrees hotter and landed somewhere in the middle of the pack.  While I was happy for my teammates I just felt like the out of place fat kid back on the elementary school playground.

I don’t need that in my life.  I love to run and I want to keep loving to run.  I have 24 more marathons I want to do in order to collect the 50 states and I’d still kind of like to run Hardrock though I honestly think there’s little chance of that.  The luster of the Hardrock dream has faded considerably because of the virtual impossibility of getting in.  There is far more to life than a slavish devotion to one race.

So, what’s next?  Well, Olympic weightlifting, that’s what.  It was a dream of mine as a very young kid, I mean like second grade young.  I remember seeing it in the Olympics and then going out to the garage where, for whatever reason, we had one of those plastic coated concrete weight sets and I started doing the lifts as best I could.  Like many things in life at that age Olympic weightlifting quickly fell by the wayside and was soon forgotten.  I mean, it’s not like it’s a popular or well publicized sport.

As I was researching alternative ways of regaining my speed having given up on the notion that I could regain and maintain a low enough weight, I came across Olympic weightlifting for sprinters and the old flame was rekindled.

As I said, I’m still going to do endurance sports but I’m not going to push hard to be fast.  I’ll run at whatever speed I can muster on 40 to 50 miles a week and my weightlifting.  Maybe more importantly, I don’t plan to slack off on my weightlifting for the benefit of my races.  I’d like to see what I can do at a weightlifting meet and that is going to mean consistent lifting, which I have already discovered keeps my legs pretty fatigued what with all the squats.  On the same token though I’m not going to sacrifice my running for my lifting because in all honesty I think the running is my long-term ticket to health and fitness.

So, here I go, heading off into two directions and looking to get the best out of both.  Yes, it’s a lot of working out but it’s what I call a balance and I’m really looking forward to how things unfold.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't give up on Hardrock just because it's hard to get into. On the contrary, keep putting in until you get in. In the meantime, during the times you DON't get in try to pick off ever more difficult mountain 100s. Hardrock is a post-graduate mountain 100 for a reason; the more experience you have under your belt the better! Trust me!