Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Small Taste of Death

What can be known? The unknown.
My true self runs toward a Hill.
More! O More! visible.
-Theodore Roethke, "One More, The Round"

In my opinion, bluntly put, we run because we crave a small taste of death. Pressed up against a lack (oxygen) & desire (to be something more than we currently are), we are confronted with the edge of what we are capable of & more often than not we are found wanting. Because of that desire we want to hurt more, to press the outside edge of our limited, conventional world. This is not a socially acceptable place. Your boss doesn't want you to expand your concept of what you are capable of; your husband isn't keen on you realizing your body is made to move beyond his circumscribed expectations; your government wants you to vote red or blue (& what's the difference if you pay your taxes.)

Of course the indignities we suffer are not unique; what IS is our response.

Running asks you to go to the edge of your limited, acceptable, reasonable daily existence & to ask for a little more...& unlike your boss, your husband, your checkbook, your daily grind, it always comes through. Not always with the answer you want, but always with the answer you deserve. These questions ask you to risk...to die a little to gain a semblance of an answer. Frequently the answers are hard to digest or decipher or, in fact, are not even actual answers...but they do require risk.

"What can be known?...My true self runs toward a Hill."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why Do I Run?

I was having my Team Rogue office hours on Tuesday with an athlete I have been coaching, on & off, for around 5 years. We’d been communicating through email about some coaching comments I’d made to her concerning why I wanted her to back off of a certain type of interval workout. My concern was that, given what I knew about her motivations, her past training & racing, combined with her personality, she would begin peaking too early. We are around 12 weeks away from our goal race…I was concerned that we needed to adjust the training the group was doing to fit her tendencies. Of course, this conversation occurred at around 6AM after a few hard reps & she wasn’t sure she’d understood the reason for my concern. We spent a week emailing each other about this issue but quickly things got a bit more theoretical. I asked her what she thought her strengths & weaknesses were; which is a tact I take when I feel an athlete needs to examine their goals & running from a different perspective.

She decided to bring the answers to my office hours & we imparted on a long conversation that went beyond strengths & weaknesses & shot straight to the heart of why we run.

The question is ubiquitous, if generally unasked. Why does one step out on the roads or trails, placing one foot in front of the other in pointless, humdrum repetition? Even the elite among us recognize that the pay-off is ephemeral. A great friend of mine put it to me best over 15 years ago, there is no reason to running…it is an essentially meaningless activity. I think his direct quote was something like, "I run because it doesn't make sense; because everything else in my life makes sense and I need something that doesn't." Sure it provides some health benefits but considering the the way the majority of people I know run there are also serious health concerns associated with high mileage &/or high intensity. Undoubtedly we had an evolutionary purpose for running beyond the flight or fight response that might have a key to why so many people who have no real need to run continue to don their running apparel & slog though the miles. But ultimately there must be more to it...

It brings me to think more about why I run…or more accurately right now, why I don’t run.

Why do YOU run?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Team Rogue - Phase II

Alright mileage mongers...here we go.

You should all be in a position to be fit enough train & the next 4 weeks will test that current fitness. Not necessarily in a way that will help you determine your time/"geek 'o meter" fitness but more to fine tune your effort levels on hills while continuing touch on the anaerobic conditioning (threshold/tempo) development that will be essential to your success in for the 26.2 mile distance.

I hope you'll forgive the repetition of the next 4 weeks & see that the opportunity to train on the same routes will allow you to more easily assess your current fitness. It will also allow you to be more conservative through the first round of workouts knowing you'll have the chance to get more aggressive later, once your soft tissues begin to adapt to the new stresses.

The work really begins now, guys. Your ability to listen to your own internal signals & to understand rhythm within the context of a variety of paces is now critical. You'll need to back your current mileage off some...initially I recommend you set a loose mileage level of 20% less than base mileage to allow a considerable amount of leeway for excessive tiredness, soreness & general shock to the system.

This is also a phase where you need to be able to communicate effectively with your coach. we'll discuss this more in the coming days, but you need to recognize that you need perspective in the coming weeks. I am here to help. Let's determine what is going to be most effective as we work on your weaknesses...this is a critical phase in your race preparation. Let's leave nothing to chance.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Imperfect Beast: Another Attemped Start

As a cub along the coyote's path, I have found to be wanting. As a boy among men, I have been found to be childish. As a businessman among the titans, I have been found "small." As a coach among the masters, I have been found inconsistent. I am imperfect & better for it. However, my lack of ability in being disciplined as a "blogger" is beginning to wear on me. I continue to think of myself as a person who loves to write, rant, share & cajole. Now, isn't a blog a perfect medium to incorporate these elements into messy stew?

I have to admit to being someone who cares what others think of me...for better or worse. When you are in the public sphere as I am this self-image can be intimidating: representing a university, the best athletic program in the country, a national championship program, a group of hardworking, motivated athletes, two independent businesses & the most progressive adult-focused training group in the world can be a little intimidating. If I haven't blogged consistently it is because it has been hard to determine where the "me" & the "we" diverge. I guess I have begun to realize that I am the "me" where all these competing organizations intersect.

We are all trying to be good, great, excellent or perfect. Our individual personalities are filtered through the day to day act of living, loving & learning. But each person has to adapt their worldview though their past & present. I hope to make this blog a place where purpose infiltrates the particular paths I find essential &/or interesting.

How you live is significantly more important than words you speak. However, in this Internet age how we live is becoming less & less visible. Who we say we are seems to hold a greater weight. I hope that this blog will wind through so many various paths that the words will trace a self that some will find interesting.

If not, ignore me. If so, we'll pass some time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rogue EQuipment

500 San Marcos St.
between E. 5th & E. 6th Street
two blocks east of IH-35; next to Progress Coffee

You are invited to attend the Grand Opening of RoguEQuipment, a new venture from Rogue Training Systems & Bettysport.
Austin's alternative running specialty store.
Dedicated to all runners: road runners, trail runners, triathletes & all of the above.

A store & training facility built by runners, for runners & run by runners.

We are running.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

El Sendero Coyote

Coyote Way

In October of 2001 my life changed. A marriage broke up, in Japan, & I returned to the States broken & purposeless. My brother & sister lived in So. California so I spent a few weeks there running & trying to put the puzzle of life back together in a place that was not home.

On one of my runs through the arroyos of Laguna Nigel I came around a turn & found myself face to face with a coyote. If you know coyotes you realize this is not a normal occurance. They are typically skittish around humans; they see or hear us coming & usually get out of the way. I was surprised to see the trickster on the trail in front of me. He looked me up & down then trotted off ahead of me down the trail. I started running after him. He'd turn back for a glance but I just kept my distance, trotting after the grey dog. We continued maybe a quarter mile before he strode into the brush & out of site. I continued on my run, not really thinking anything more about it.

Over the next few years I would remember that short encounter & it began to take on a deeper, more spiritual connection for me. It is very hard to describe accurately what El Sendero Coyote represents for me & I haven't really pushed to have it define anything...I just believe that I am on the path of the coyote I met in that California canyon. This is my path...I'll learn it's purpose along the way.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Bandera 100K

I'll save the drama: I FINISHED. I know there were some doubters & some believers about whether I would actually accomplish this goal. & I'll admit that I counted myself in both of those camps. It was ugly...but I finished. More importantly, through finishing, I confirmed a few things about myself. I knew these things going into this race but I came away from my 12+ hours on a very rugged course understanding a few basic lessons:

Lesson #1: I'm Stupid.

No training. I mean NO TRAINING...unless you consider 30 min 3x a week in Nov & Dec as training. My last long run was a 20M at Lost Maples in early October w/ Joe's group...where I got my ass handed to me.
I should not have started this race. Ruth thought (knows) I was loony-tunes...I didn't really let anyone else other than Joe know I was so under prepared. But I'd said I would do it. Committed at the Belt; committed with drunken verbosity on a number of occasions. So, in my view, I needed to pay the piper.

Lesson #2: I'm Weak.

I couldn't stick to a race plan I'd created. I got fired up less than a mile into the race. Then I realized I was being stupid & tried to create some kinda rhythm. Too fast into the first aid station (Nachos) but chasing the leader. Passed the leader into Chapas (station 2) but feeling "good". Starting regretting the early, ill-advised fast pace on the flats where I began to cramp & look over my shoulder. Absolutely crawled through Crossroads twice & over Lucky. I don't think I ran more than a mile from XRoads to Last Chance. Leader passed me just before Last Chance & I knew I was a goner: cramping of the back, quads & calves led to a significant shrinking of my testes. I'd quit at this point, then walked the last 4.5M over Cairns & Boyles back to the Lodge in over an hour & a half.

Lesson #3: I'm Tough.

Being a novice ultrarunner, I'd always thought crews & pacers were for pussies. I found out otherwise at the Lodge. My crew let me know I was letting them, my athletes, my family, my reputation & my very manhood down in the strongest terms possible. I was not amused. I give thanks to Carrie, Leah, Claire & Abe for their support. I was done & they made me realize that going back out for another loop was a better option than quitting.
I went back out telling Abe, my "pacer" (more like "life preserver"), that we'd just get around the first bend & I'd start walking. Somehow I kept running...all the way back to the Lodge.

Thanks to the aid stations...

Nachos - (Bill & Co.) Thanks for electrolytes, agua & the Old 97's.
Chapas - (Noelle & Co. - at least on the 2nd loop) Thanks for the pain killers & vaseline.
Crossroads - (HCTR, B-A-B-Y!!!!!!) Thanks for perspective, chicken noodle soup & being a soft cushion for my crew.
Last Chance - (ASHA!!! Brothers (& sisters) in arms!!!!) - For Tecate, a seat & L-O-V-E!!!

Thanks to Joe, Henry, Mike, HCTR & anyone I missed.

I am deeply humbled by my first foray into ultrarunning. [Simple aside: 50K does not equal ultra. You must go over 50M to be worthy of the ultra moniker] I was/am humbled by the requirements for success, humbled by the humility of the "winners "& the confidence of the "losers"; but mostly humbled by my own ability to overcome. In the week or so since the race, I seem to have garnered some undeserved respect for having covered 62+ miles. I feel this is completely ridiculous. I think anyone can run/walk 62+ miles if they had to.

The thing is, we don't have to...& I think that is what I am proudest of.

Don't understand? Well then, I guess you need to run an ultra.