If you’re paying attention, you’ll often find that everything that happens in your life is more interconnected than it seems on the surface. Themes and life lessons often are simultaneously applicable to professional and personal Greg. The first few months of 2017 are saying, “It’s lesson time!”
There is truly no replacement for the wisdom and insights that come with getting older and life experiences we collect with time. My marathon training, much like last year, continues to provide lessons about exercise and life.
Every weekend since early August, I have a long run to complete. Since the beginning of this race’s training and the abbreviated schedule, they’ve all been at least 10 miles long. This past weekend’s should have been a 20 miler, but a number of factors kept me from finishing that distance (I did just shy of 18.) The main reasons for less than stellar outings, outside of heat, have been sleep and diet.
(And heel. And ribs.)
Since I decided to sign up for another marathon just over 3 weeks ago, I’ve been learning a lot about finding limits. I’m more than 25% through the training schedule, but issues are hindering my already accelerated schedule. I’m concerned I won’t have enough time to properly train and currently doubting if I should still run the race.
The winter months can bring with them more than their fair share of hibernation side effects. A bit more lethargy in our physical and even mental activity levels can settle in.( Can’t we just sleep through these cold months like bears do?) And as the warmer spring-like weather seeps into the Midwest, I can’t help but feel the effects of winter still slowing all my movements.
I was motivated and challenged to sign up for a race this year, but for now I’m focusing on doing a half marathon scheduled in late May (the North Shore Classic on May 31, 2015). In preparation, I mapped out a training schedule which officially started on the 9th of March. These first few weeks aren’t bad. Weekday runs are all 3 miles and weekend long runs *only* get up to 6 miles this month. Tiny obstacles are trying to thwart me like slight twinges of asthma or unexpected snow after the first official day of spring. Frustrating as it all can be, I’m fighting something else entirely more cunning:
It’s trying to tell me running is boring, that there’s something more entertaining to do, like watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix (which is awesome by the way), or to go eat a double cheeseburger, or just lay on the couch as the world goes by. But when I overcome these elements one by one and I make it outside on a trail or onto a treadmill, my mind is still trying to convince me it’s bored silly and that I should stop and go be complacent instead. I even have a good podcast or two to entertain and encourage me to keep going. The physical act of running isn’t actually that terrible, though my dry spell through the winter isn’t helping, but it’s the head space that’s keeping me from literally wanting to go the distance.
I’m hitting mental barriers. My body can do it, but my head is trying to say “You’re good right where you’re at.” My heart knows this isn’t true. I need to get out there and put one foot in front of the other. Part of me knows it can be done; the other part wants me to just be OK with where I’m at.
The barriers are in the way in other parts of my life too, but that’s for another post. Excuse me while I go work through some ideas as I run.
Above: Photo gallery of Missoula and the state of Montana
It took four months of training and Saturdays where I didn’t sleep in until noon and many other nights during the week skipping out on TV, laying on the couch, or hanging out with friends over a beer or other tasty beverage. It all led up to one Sunday morning in Montana and a 26.2 mile route ahead of me. The Missoula Marathon had finally arrived. But there was so much more than just those 5+ hours to share.
I could write about the time in Montana before, during, and after the race. I could share about Troy, the guy at “The Hub” who told us about so many great things to do around the area; about Doug, the guy who took us via boat and led our expedition across Flathead Lake over to Wild Horse Island and dropped knowledge and factoids like sick beats; and then there were the various events and friendly faces around Missoula that made our time there magical.
It’s already been three weeks since the race and there’s still elements of the total experience that I’m unpacking in my mind. I can share what I’ve learned about running and myself so far:
Training stretches you beyond your limits (almost) without you noticing. It’s hard to believe that before March of this year, the longest I had ever run was 5 miles and that by July I considered that a “short” mid-week run. The small incremental jumps in distance in each week trained my body to take on a little more, mostly in chunks it could handle.
Training is MUCH better with others. I don’t know if I could have done this without others, especially for the weekly long runs. Even without many words, the encouragement of having a friend or two by your side does wonders for your ability to continue going.
Big goals require a lot more change in your life than you plan for. By far the biggest noticeable adjustment for me was not sleeping in on Saturdays. For anyone who knows me, Saturday morning is not a time you assume I’m awake or available for anything. Waking up as early as 5AM once to get my training run in took me way outside my comfort zone.
The body and mind is capable of far more than we normally give it credit for. Growing up and living with asthma, running long distances never seemed to be something attainable to me. In the last few years I seem to have mostly grown out of it, however, and it allowed me to complete a marathon.
With this achievement under my belt, I look ahead to what else I can do. Perhaps it will be another marathon to push for a faster time, or to improve and increase my writing abilities, or to actually learn how to fix more stuff around the house. At the expense of sounding cheesy, “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” (Marty McFly, Back to the Future).
As readers may know, I decided to sign up for a marathon in Montana this July, which is actually 3 months from today. This weekend, I completed the 5th week of training with yesterday marking my very first double-digit run at 10 miles. A couple weeks ago I also completed my 3rd Shamrock Shuffle 8K, besting last year’s time by a few seconds. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’ll take it.
What measurable things have I accomplished so far?
- 84 miles run (combined treadmill and outdoors)
- 10582 calories burned
Me so happy after the Shamrock Shuffle.
Yesterday’s post 10-miler lunch went down with ease.
I’m pretty sure all of 2013 I didn’t run 84 miles! And to think there’s still 3 months of training ahead. There will be many more burgers and other high-calorie meals in my future to not feel guilty about.
What about the non-measurable stuff?
In this short period thus far, I’ve already been seeing changes in routine that would never have occurred were it not for this marathon challenge. I’m waking up before 11AM on Saturdays, actually eating something for breakfast, and often times already out on the road and paths getting my miles in. There was even one Tuesday that I woke up early to do my scheduled run. The cold harsh wind hindered me from doing it outside, along with my lack of proper cold weather running gear, but I hit the office gym and got it done before work. I am not a morning person at all, so this was quite a feat.
Time on the treadmill, trails, and roads certainly provides a space to think with little else to distract you, except that burning question of “Am I done yet?” No email or phone calls bother me out there and my mind is able to work out problems I can knock out later on. Honestly, the monotony is sort of therapeutic in that sense.
While my eating habits aren’t improving just yet, I do find myself sleeping quite soundly and taking more naps as my body forces me to stop and allow it to rebuild and rest my muscles and joints. The stress of the longer runs is felt, but my hope is that it gets better as I gain strength and endurance.
I also finished a book I was reading (“Perelandra” by C.S. Lewis) over the course of many months, but am making quicker progress on another one (“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.) Maybe it’s the required focus of the schedule or the forced physical rest running has brought, but my mind feels sharper lately. Ideas are flowing in and out of work and I’m excited for what’s to come.
More to come. Excuse me while I go buy new shoes and hit the paths again.
Earlier this year, a friend and I started talking about the realities of running in a marathon this year. My initial reaction was “are you serious?” He said, “you’ve run the Shamrock Shuffle. You can definitely train yourself to run a marathon.” So after some consideration and entering my credit card info on the registration page, I signed up to run the Missoula Marathon on July 13th, 2014. Yes, this race is in Montana.
Why this year? Isn’t it too much at once?
That’s a great question. On the brink of a new year with a promotion at work that brings new demands and other responsibilities outside of the day job, adding on a training schedule between now and July seems like a ridiculous idea and a sure fire bet for burnout. And on paper, it very well could be. A full time job that often takes me beyond the 40 hour work week, a proposed 4 day a week marathon training schedule, me wanting to read more books, write more here on this blog, watching TV shows that everyone’s talking about, AND spending time with people: is it all possible? Can it all be done by one man? Can I be all things?
Maybe, but with a large dose of discipline.
While I naturally love to have a flexible schedule and be open to the random opportunities life has to offer at any given moment, the fact is that won’t work for getting myself ready for a 26.2 mile run. I’m not a fan of living by a strict calendar when I’m outside of work. I love the space I leave for myself to think, mentally wander, and just “be.” However, the body and mind don’t magically become capable of big achievements without some serious work.
Yes, it’s going to mean things like swapping out Netflix for a 4 mile run after work on Tuesdays followed up by reading a couple chapters of a new book. It will mean forcing myself to call it quitting time from work before 8PM so I can spend time reflecting on whatever’s on my mind and writing about it here. It will mean trading in my precious Saturday mornings in bed for a double digit endurance run. And it will also probably mean (trying to) eat better so I have the energy I’ll need to do all of this and not pass out.
I can’t expect my life to ever be any different if nothing about it stays the same. I suspect I will learn useful life lessons while I train for this marathon, many of which plenty of marathoners before me already have learned, but I hope my personal perspectives and reflections will be of some interest to you over the coming months.
Now excuse me while I avoid all that tries vehemently to distract me from everything I’d like to do this year.