Monday. Apparently the absence of blog entries is upsetting several coffee/procrastination rituals so for that I apologize. I had no idea that these entries were almost as essential as powdered non-dairy creamer….
So where’ve I been? It’s been a long summer. A few bumps and bruises and lots of work mixed together with a few other responsibilities put the blog on the back burner. Let’s just say I looked up one day and my cup was empty and the pot was burnt!
An image upon which I have been meditating is one from the Sahara desert. I keep thinking back to a some of the mountains we had to climb over. High, rocky, craggy hills (mountains?) in the middle of nowhere. I remember standing at the bottom of them looking up thinking “you have go to be kidding me. I have to do what?” Backpack on my back, sand kicking in my face, tired, dirty and far from camp. I turned around and saw nothing but miles of desert behind me. Nothing but miles of desert to my right and left, only way out was up and over and I really had no choice. That’s how I feel right now. I have a huge climb ahead of me but I have no choice. What would be my choice? Quit? I don’t think so. Quitting is never an option. (Well it is an option but I prefer to reserve for a later time, like after I’m dead.)
My fitness is back to zero. I’ve gained a lot of weight this summer and I haven’t been swimming, biking or running for what seems forever. (Though really it was only 4 months ago when I did Marathon des Sables.) Just goes to show you that a lot can happen in 4 months.
I’m kind of spoon feeding my way back to the ultra buffet. My attempts at running have been met with fatigue and disappointment. Biking has been even worse because it always breaks my heart to see how far behind I have become considering I never even got to where I wanted to go with it. Swimming, well, swimming has always been my mediocre constant so I have no disappointment there. Tennis and I have an understanding at this point, my strokes will be there and when my fitness comes back it will be fine. Tai Chi has been my friend though even that sometimes is a lot harder than it looks!
But how to get over the disappointment once again to find myself facing another September of starting all over again? That’s the mental mountain I must climb. Several of my friends remind me that I am not starting all over again. Like a spiral, training and fitness keeps coming back around. You are never really back at the same place — you are always a little higher. Despite the gains, it seems never to be easy. It is so easy to look at a friend and say “it will be fine, one day at a time.” It’s not so easy to be the one in the shoes thinking “crap, I have to do what? And why is it so hard to tie my shoes?”
Along the way over these years I have learned a tremendous amount about training. I do know how to get back. I’ve proven to myself (albeit the hard way) that I can start all over and train my way back up and meet a goal. Okay, maybe I have yet to actually meet all of my goals but I’m on the course.
This week I had two run sessions that were quite successful in my opinion. I was actually able to run for more than sixty seconds and I ran along the metacomet trail in Bloomfield for 1:30 of which I estimate about 45 minutes was spent in actual trail running — really running. I did a lot of 8/2 intervals. At one point I had to climb (crawl?) using hands as well as feet over a rocky cliff side only to find there was a paved road on the other side which I could have taken just as easily. (I felt this was a perfect metaphor for my return to training — I never take the easy route do I?)
I also had a nice hike in the woods up in CT one day and another day of running along the river –again seemed to be able to do the 8/2 for 1 hour and then hit the wall. But that’s better than I could do two weeks ago.
I find it very ironic that running seems to be the easiest thing for me to do right now. The one sport that has always been the most difficult for me seems to be the easiest to modify and the easiest to just get out there and do it. I also remember being in the desert thinking I would never run again and here I am lacing up my sneakers. (I feel I have earned the right to call them sneakers and not running shoes and I’m not going to apologize ever again for calling them that!)
I resume my quest with Weight Watchers on Friday, but, like working out, WW is something that I cannot choose to just quit. Another huge uphill and I find it disheartening to look up the size of the mountain in front of me (and my butt behind me) and realize there is no way around this — I must go up and over to get to the other side. There is no other way but forward. Focus forward, failure is not an option. (One of our WW mantras.)
The one good thing about my lessons in the desert is I also remember coming upon short “walls of sand.” I remember standing at the base thinking there was no way I could get up them. But I put my feet in the footprints in front of me and climbed the “ladder” of imprints. Every time I made it up I would marvel at the fact that I did it. How did I not topple over? How did my weight not just crush the sand beneath my feet? The next time I hit a wall of sand I would just remind myself that “just start and go until you cannot.” And I made up every wall of sand. And that’s where I am now, looking at a bunch of walls of sand and a huge mountain in front of me but I have to have faith that I can do this again. One footprint at a time. One craggy cliff at a time. One grain of sand at a time. Don’t look up, you might puke. Just go until you cannot.
I also remember back to Ironman in 2008 when I was starting the marathon. I thought there was no way I could finish. But that little voice said “just try.” And as I tried the voice continued and said “you must believe, you must banish doubt and you must believe.” So I decided that I will just believe. I will believe that despite how I feel right now that I will feel better and I will run again and I will bike again and I will do an Ironman again.
I would like to do another Ironmanin 2010. Either Brazil or Canada or maybe even both. Some of my actual event plans are pending as I see what races I can get into and which races I can convince my friends to come along on. But there will be another Ironman and possibly another ultra in my 50th year. Oh yeah, I turn 50 in September. How’s that for a dune?
Namaste. Now enjoy your cup of Joe and get back to work.