For those of you who do not know my wife and I are proud parents of a precocious 27 1/2 month old girl. Every parent out there believes that their child is abnormally cute, bright, talented, smart and destined for greatness.
So few of us however are right – I of course am one of the lucky ones where it happens to be true 🙂
With knowledge of course comes great responsibility, and as I find myself spending time with my uber-aware daughter Landry I find myself constantly “checking myself” making sure that I am setting the right example. Trying to not only say the right things, but to also do the right things as one of the many advantages children have over the rest of us is that they have a built in bull-sh#% detector.
They like animals can see right through all that stuff, and know exactly the type of person you are. Not just the one you want people to see.
When it comes to running I am by no means an expert. I’m also not all that talented in the grand scheme of things.
I happen to love the sport, I work hard at it and like many of you out there I set goals with great purpose and then chase them down trying to stretch my reach to the utmost ends of my abilities.
I’m faster than some, slower than others, but I like to think that I work as hard as anyone else out there and that is what allows me to compete for age group awards at races. The funny thing is, I really don’t care too much about that. I really focus on running MY best race and MY best time. If someone else is faster, so be it. That is always going to be the case.
But the one thing I have realized ever since Run for Dom got legs and runners of all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and abilities have supported and visited this blog over the past several years is that people do look to me for advice, guidance, support, encouragement and shockingly – even inspiration at times.
The comments that are posted after I write a race report are always supportive. Especially when things don’t necessarily go my way. The e-mails I get at firstname.lastname@example.org are much the same – usually just a bit more personal. I tell you all that because I want to first say “Thank You”.
Secondly I want to share with you two observations I made during my down-time from my strained Achilles tendon that kept me from chasing my 2012/2013 “A” goal of a 2:59:00 marathon. A goal by the way that I spent close to 3,000 running miles and over a year preparing for.
1. Injuries are not always anyone’s fault.
In the past I have assigned blame to my injuries. Usually they occurred because I was doing something stupid. My IT Band issues were due to me ramping up my mileage too quickly without paying attention to strengthening the muscles in my calves, quads and core. I was running 50-55 mile weeks on a runner’s system that was new to the sport. I wasn’t ready for the load and I paid the price. Inexperienced.
My Shin Splint Issue occurred because I decided to vigorously train on the hills in Valley Forge Park preparing for the Boston marathon without acclimating to the change in my workout routine gradually. I over-trained that week, returned to Austin with a calf-strain, trained through it which put more pressure on the sheath around my right shin and I had a full-blown case of shin splints to show for it. Foolish.
My left knee inflammation was a result of deciding that 6 days after running my “At the time” Marathon PR of 3:15:01 I would run in a 24-hour team relay event from Wickenburg, AZ to Tempe. 3 runs in less than 20 hours and I had a knee injury. Stupidity.
My Achilles strain occurred because I mis-stepped in a half-marathon four weeks before Houston – a race where I PR’d in 1:23:30 by the way. Bad Luck.
I did nothing “wrong” leading up to Houston. I ramped up my mileage to 80 miles a week carefully, rested, cross-trained, took my step back weeks and during intense training managed to run PR’s in the 5-mile, 5K and half-marathon with no taper.
I was rock-solid and the most fit I have ever been in my life. And I still got hurt. Sad, but true.
So the lesson here is – sometimes it doesn’t matter how careful you are. Runners get hurt. Then they get better. Then they run again. So the next time you suffer an injury, do not beat yourself up. Just evaluate the situation. See a professional. Do not ask your “runner buddies” for a timeline as to when you can or should come back to the sport.
Injuries occur at the most inopportune times very frequently. They also heal on their own schedule. Not ours.
Patience is what we need most when we are trying to fight our way back to running.
2. EVERY race is JUST a race.
Yep, you heard me. At one time or another countless races were “The most important race I’ll ever run”.
Pittsburgh 2009, Boston 2010, Pittsburgh 2010, Austin 2011, Denver Half-Marathon 2011, New York 2011, Kerrville Half-Ironman 2012, Shamrock 2012, Boston 2012 and of course Houston 2013.
With the exception of the back to back marathons I ran for Dom 13 days apart in 2010 – all the others ended up just being “a race”.
Listen, I’m not going all zen-master on you after all this running and racing, training and focus. I’m still that guy. And the next time you line up next to me in Austin, Charleston, SC, Kerrville, Miami, FL, New York or Boston – you better bring your “A” game if you plan on hanging with me.
But I’m not going to get too worked up about an individual race when I am preparing for it and assign too much value. The fact of the matter is that for a truly special performance to take place you have to have multiple variables in your favor, and you don’t really have control over too many of them.
You have to be fit, focused, well rested and have full-health or damn close to it. The weather has to cooperate, the course has to be fair and fast. You have to be blessed to have competition running with you that is going to bring out the best in you. Someone to chase through the lonely portions of the race or at least somebody on your heels to push you and finally you have to “have it” that day.
Some days your body, mind and spirit all align and you lay down a performance that is truly special. Pittsburgh in 2009, IBM in 2011, Shamrock in 2012, Kerrville, Lights of Love and Shiner last year.
Those are the days where for whatever reason it all comes together and you run the race of your life.
You can’t plan them in advance, they just happen.
So go easy on yourself, put in the work and when you show up to race day, be ready to run the best possible race that you can. But if for some reason things don’t go exactly the way that you planned – sometimes you have to just remember that in this sport, just like life, sh#% happens.
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try your best the next time.
If my daughter never learns another lesson from her Daddy – I hope she learns that one.
Run on people.