Friday, March 30, 2012

(half) Ironman California Oceanside 70.3 tm ...

I've been involved with this race for 13 years now, ever since its inception in 2000.  I am not sure I would be living in San Diego if Kerri hadn't signed up for it.  We came down for the Carlsbad half that year, and then again for the race itself.  I fell in love with north county.  We met so many interesting and unusual friends, an eclectic ensemble of crazy characters.  I felt compelled to race it in 2001 and kept the streak going from 2002 through 2005 on the half course that rose from the ashes of Perry Rendina's fatal crash.  Rod Nesmith's funeral brought us all together, as did Scott Smith's untimely passing.  Babies were born, bones broken, bikes crashed.  Through these years, the yellow page has lived on, surviving as if it had its own pulse.  The page has become a virtual home for those of us who received one of Scrote's harley doo-rags and a few who didn't:

"The man the myth the legend. The Big Dog has eaten Again. let that hunger NEVER be satisfied. Who Loves ya Baby??????????????Thats right:-)))))) The IRONSCROTE:-)))"


That was a message to KP from 2006, I felt it to be an adequate representation of the man I remember meeting a few times and hearing about a lot.  Scrote embodied the spirit of the yellow page and his soul lives on in so many places in all of our hearts.

Requisite lame tri-geek belly photos from over a decade ago.  Why bother keeping your eyes open while running with wet feet?  What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Ironman has long since lost its luster for me.  I just can't seem to get past how annoying it is to schlep so much darn crap all over the place and the ultimately futile attempts at keeping things clean and organized, even with the assistance of multiple sizes of ziplock bags.  After the 2005 race I switched sides and started working instead of racing, and I've been one of the run course captains ever since.  I've seen a few people come and go, and I've also seen a lot of the same faces return year after year to give freely of their time to ensure a smooth operation on race day.  It seems like groundhog day every year, as if I'm reliving the same experience over and over.

What do tanks and shaved legged tri geeks have in common?  Next to nothing.

Here's where the introspection comes out to play.  Typically for me, during a race, I'd start to get a feel for how things were going on the second half of the bike.  If I managed to hold it all together, I could usually count on a decent run since that's sort of the only thing I know how to do.  In 2001, the year these photos are from, after rolling through Perry's blood and seeing his body covered by a tarp, I lost my desire to race.  It all just seemed so callous and pointless, a man lay dying, mere feet from me and I was somehow supposed to keep pushing myself.  However, stopping seemed even worse, so I wandered through the rest of that day semi-aimlessly.

I know it looks like I'm leading the race, but  Tim and Tony are  about to make mincemeat out of me on their second lap while I struggle to start my first.

I got lapped by the lead men as I started the run and they headed out for their second lap.  I didn't seem to care much although I was happy for them.  I remember Natascha running with her hair out in a giant mane, truly an unusual sight.  Finally Roger caught me, on route to a PR and his first sub 11.  It was a good memory for both of us, and a reminder for me that I can always find something worth salvaging even in the midst of confusion and even when I feel lost or broken.  This same scenario would be repeated at Ironman Canada later that same year, only with a 5:18 run split and an extra hour on the finish clock.  At Canada, Roger ran well ahead and I was left with someone I met out on the course, who I wound up dragging through the final 10k, only to have him cramp up with 1/2 a mile to go and miss sub 12 by a hair.  It seems quite true that life's lessons are repeated until we pay attention and 2001 was definitely a year of lessons for me.

Roger and I almost holding hands at the finish. 

But back to working.  What I find most interesting about myself on this one particular day is how I wind up in this sort of in between role.  My job has never afforded me the freedom to spend an indulgent week measuring the course, identifying water sources for the aid station, marking the miles, and coordinating the necessary supplies.  Every year I freak out that it won't get done, every year there is someone who is capable and willing to deal with this.  For some strange reason, this week of the year always seems to kick my butt with work and everything else going on in my life.  So, every time I show up at oh dark thirty on race morning Saturday to collect my radio, I am always the #2 or #3 guy, never the #1.  I'm rarely even listed on the phone number list.  As of tomorrow it will be 7 consecutive shifts as one of the 3 run course captains, I'm a recognizable face and name to just about everyone, and yet I'm not the lead, I'm non alpha, and I really like it that way.  Yes, you can count on me.  Yes, you know I will give everything I have to give and then some on race day.  But I don't do a whole lot outside of race day because I simply don't have the bandwidth or desire to be more involved.

Ironically, I feel the same way about any aspirations I have to teach yoga.  I can't afford to spend my week planning a theme or preparing a flow, as much as I wish I could, and as much as I admire and respect those who do.  The opportunity cost of doing a bunch of preparation on a weekly basis simply isn't justifiable given all of the other things I'm already not doing which I really should be doing.  At the same time, I know I have vast excesses of enthusiasm which typically are bled off during the week by my workouts.  It would make a lot of sense to tap into this energy source for an hour a week to share that side of me with anyone interested in rolling out a sticky mat and sweating their nuts off.  The insecure side of me wonders how I'd feel if nobody showed up for my class.  The confident side of me knows that I can motivate, I can inspire, and I know how to kick my own ass so I can probably figure out how to help you kick yours.  I simply love those moments when I can share pain with my fellow humans, they bring me great joy.  I just haven't figured out the right formula yet.  I keep thinking about it though, and hoping that one day I'll find a solution to the equation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ebb

Two of my favorite instructors teach an ebb and flow class at the Nest.  It's one of my favorite classes because of the duality of it all.  I know there are other dual teaching classes out there and I'd like to try them, but there is something just ever-so-right about how Meg and Caitlin fit together in their little nest.

Today's ebb and flow, however, is entirely unrelated to the nest.  Today I took two classes.  The first one, even next to the incredibly agile Ahlia, felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel.  It was one of those classes where 60 minutes in a room with good friends felt like an eternity of suffering.  Just like some of the runs I've been on where I found myself walking home and barely able to make forward progress.  It was a great class, but I just had nothing by halftime, and it left me feeling depleted.

Tonight's class, was entirely different.  I felt energized, strong, and adequately hydrated.  I still got my butt kicked, but the class flew by and it was over before I realized it.

I guess the bottom line is that there are moments when your body simply doesn't respond the way you'd like it to, and then there are other moments when your body surprise you.  Despite the best laid plans, I may have very little actual control about when each of these scenarios unfolds.

Maybe that is part of what makes life so fantastic.  The unknown possibility that tomorrow might be incredible, and the realization that it could just as easily turn into a huge struggle.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monique

Monique gets the last word on the LA marathon.  She was perhaps my greenest athlete, having picked up running relatively recently.  However, I worried about her the least.  Primarily because I knew Vince would take care of her.  I trusted him to do everything that needed to be done to get Monique safely to the finish and he did all of that and more.  So, my job was pretty easy, just throw together a few workouts and try to provide some structure.  Monique had a few moments where the training got difficult, either because of the various aspects of life that tend to get in the way or the few days where her body simply didn't respond well to what was on the schedule.  In the end, she battled through and got it done, just like I knew she would.



I think Vince summed up our 14 weeks of training pretty well, so I won't go over that again.  But I do want to add how I was feeling the last couple weeks coming up to the race.  Looking back at weeks 11-12 of my training schedule, I made a lot of notes about how great my runs were, and how good I was feeling.  I had my longest run of 20 miles during week 11, which actually went better than I expected.  Then I rolled right into a great training week for week 12.  I had a great experience on two of my runs that week, where my pace was right at or faster than race pace.  I felt really strong and positive, which I knew I would need going into my last 2 weeks of tapering.  Vince warned me that the last 2 weeks sometimes plays games with a runner's mind.  You feel like you're not doing enough, like you're losing your endurance, etc.  But instead, that I needed to trust is what I had done all the other weeks of training.  That was going to be enough to get me through the marathon, or else it wouldn't be set up that way.

At about this same time, during the last 2 taper weeks, I started to get sick.  My stomach started really bothering me, as it usually does.  Many people know that I have an extremely sensitive stomach, which many times takes me out of the running game for a couple days at a time.  I also started to get hives on my arms and legs, something I've never had before  I decided it would be a good time to get to the doctor and find out exactly what was wrong with my stomach, and what was causing the hives.  After a couple doctor visits, blood tests, and some new allergy medications, all I was left with were a bunch of medical bills and no answers.  The medication even made me feel worse unfortunately.  I skipped a bunch of trainings over the last couple of weeks, which just deteriorated my positivity.  I wasn't sure how I was going to do on race day.  At this point, all I wanted was to finish.  I was pretty sure hitting my 4:09 goal was out the window.  My new goal was under 4:30.





I kept checking the weather all week for LA, and it consistently showed rain.  I was terrified of this.  Running 26.2 miles is hard enough in itself, but then you add in the elements, and I'm freaked.  I don't like being wet (I moved FROM Seattle to San Diego for a reason).  Running in the rain is not how I envisioned this race.  I honestly wasn't sure what I was going to do.  If it was raining as hard as it did the year before (I had talked to people that ran the race in 2011 and said it was the worst experience), I had a feeling I might drop out.  I was trying to block that thought out of my mind, but I knew it was a strong possibility.  Luckily, a day or two before the race the weather reports started to show no rain for Sunday.  I was more than ecstatic for the change.  However, driving from San Diego to LA on Sat, it was in fact raining horribly.  The wind was also a huge factor.  This started to make me nervous again.  It was the last thing I wanted to think about the day before the race.  I tried to block it out of my mind and hope for the best.




The morning of the race I felt positive, excited, and ready to go.  Something had clicked, and I was just ready to do it!  Vince and I had set everything out the night before, so all we had to do was wake up and throw everything on.  Luckily we got a good amount of sleep as well, so I felt refreshed and ready to go.  My belly was full of pasta from the night before, and we stuffed a bagel and banana down before we left the hotel.  However, I did of course still have many doubts racing through my head.  As Vince had warned me previously, I started to doubt my training for the last 14 weeks.  Had I done enough in the last 2 weeks to maintain my endurance.  I was starting to wonder how I was going to get through the race.  I knew I was going to have to rely on Vince much more than I originally anticipated.  

We got to the race about 2 hours before the start.  We cuddled in a tent, wrapping ourselves in garbage bags to stay warm.  With about 30 minutes left before the race, we headed for one last restroom break, then to the start line.  My addrenaline started kicking in, and I was once again excited about the race.  I think I started forgetting all my doubts, and was ready to take on the endeavor in front of me.

Everything started out great.  The first mile was much slower than my 9:30 pace, but that's to be expected at the start of any race.  The next 4 miles flew by.  I don't remember any thoughts, landmarks, feelings, etc.  Our pace was right on track, even going slightly faster on some splits.  Then we got to the crazy hill around mile 5-6, and our pace slowed a little.  But I still felt pretty good in my legs and my mind.  I almost started to think that maybe this wasn't going to be as hard as I originally thought.  Then I hit about the half marathon mark, and my right leg (which had bothered me the most during the 14 weeks of training) started to feel a little bit of pain.  Vince asked me how I was doing, and I finally told him that I was feeling pain but it was tolerable, and I'd be fine.  I knew it was going to get worse, but I didn't want to say anything yet because I didn't want him to worry and keep asking me how I was doing.  I kind of wanted it "out of site, out of mind."  I also kept hearing you and Vince's voices in my head telling me that I need to learn to run through the pain.  That its ok to feel uncomfortable.  This is a new ideal for me, but what a better time to test my pain threshhold than a marathon?  For miles 1-16 we managed about a 9:20-9:40 pace, with some exceptions at miles with hills.  I was pretty happy considering I was definitely starting to feel the discomfort in that right leg.  

At mile 16, while running up a hill, it hit me (not my wall), but the pain in my right leg.  It hurt extremely bad with every step.  I felt like we were just barely treking up that hill, which also seemed to last FOREVER.  I didn't stop or walk, I just fought through it- with a lot of complaining I might add :)  But I was still determined to get Vince his PR.  Luckily we hit a lot of downhills the next couple miles which made things much more manageable.  We were hitting around a 9:50-10:20 min pace, which I was really happy with at this point in the race.  

My goal was to get to at least 22 miles before I walked, but I think I may have found that wall (that everyone talks about) around mile 21.  We walked for only a minute or two, because it was actually more painful to walk than run at that point.  We ran again until about the VA hospital where I saw a small hill coming.  We walked up the hill, then started running (pretty slowly) again.  I think it was at this point that I cried for the first time.  I had so much doubt in my mind.  I wasn't to the point where I thought I wouldn't finish, but I was pretty sure Vince wasn't getting his PR.  I was also extremely mad at myself for ever wanting to do this, and wondered what ever made me think I could do it in the first place.  I hurt, and I just wanted to be done.  I didn't care what time I finished anymore.  I started to get super grouchy with Vince, which he expected.  He knew not to take it personally.  He kept asking if I was mad at him (which he would say with a smirk), and I would yell back (literally yelling at him), "NO I'm mad at me!  I don't want to do this anymore!"  Then he would just motivate me, somehow, but I don't remember what he said though.  I was totally out of it.  He kept trying to get me to drink water or eat something, but I felt like if I ate or drank anything else I was going to throw up.  My stomach was pretty upset from mile 22 on.  I managed to get fluids in every couple water stations.  Vince did an amazing job at keeping me motivated and going at a decent pace.  He did everything he could to keep me around 9:30.  At mile 20 he told me I was still under a 10 min pace, which really surprised me.  I owe all of that to him.  I'm pretty sure it would not have been the same story if I had been running by myself.

I think it was mile 22-23 when we saw June and Lev.  They ran with us for about 2 miles.  It was a nice change of pace, different conversation, something else to concentrate on, and it probably was a nice break for Vince from attempting to motivate me, and from me yelling at him.  I tried to be a little more lady like when others were around :)  However, I was a little exasperated at this point as I just wanted to focus and finish.  Vince also wanted to speed things up a little so I could finish under 4:30.  He knew that I was going to have to run faster in order to make that goal.  He asked if I could do the next mile at an 11 min pace, and I told him he was crazy.  My legs were going as fast as they were gonna go.  But then we hit the downhill, and I guess I found some momentum and speed left in the legs.  I managed around a 10:30 pace for mile 24, then 9:50 for mile 25.  I had no idea I could do that at that moment of the race.  Vince asked June and Lev to leave around mile 25 I guess, so I could focus.  I had about one mile left to go, and that moment was just for Vince and me.  He told me I could finish under 4:30 if I really took off for the last mile.  So I did, as much as I could.  I was going around a 9:20 pace when we finally saw the finish line.  I looked at Vince and said "let's go."  He got a big smile and asked if I was sure.  I didn't answer, I just sped up.  For about the last half mile we ran around a 8:40 pace, which felt like the fastest I had ever ran my entire life.  I couldn't have done any more.  I knew I had to put everything I had left out there, or I wouldn't forgive myself.  I felt elated when we crossed the finish line.  I couldn't believe what I had just done.  Vince looked at me with the biggest smile and told me how proud he was of me, and of course I started to cry again.  He told me later that he got chills when I looked at told him, let's go.  He was so proud of everything I did during the race, and especially during the last half mile or so.

I still can't believe that I actually finished the race, and at a pretty decent time/pace.  All the doubt is gone, and I truly believe that I can do anything now with running... well almost anything.  I'll never question "why am I doing this" again, because this race helped me realize the answer to that question- because I can.  I never thought I could do a full marathon, it wasn't even on my radar, until I met both of you- Dave and Vince.  I couldn't have done this without you, so thank you so much for putting such confidence in me and my running.  I have so much to look forward to, I just can't wait :)





Seattle rock and roll half PR goal- 1:50:00.  I'm sayin it, now hold me to it guys :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Uncle Tim

As we settled into final savasana, 2 hours after walking through the door, I heard his voice change in tone and color.  "Since you've been good little boys and girls, Uncle Tim is going to read you a story."  I was lost in his message from that point on, not the content, but the camber, the seasoning, and the melody of each word.  When I am in the presence of someone who has inspired excellence in so many others, I can feel the vibrational buzz of simply being in their orbit.  I discussed this a bit tonight, how certain cultures (specifically Danes and Brazilians) seem to naturally exude an abundance of radiant energy.  Tim Miller, a man of chiseled good looks and timeless youth, is all of that and quite a bit more.

Let me rewind and start at the beginning.  When I first started working with Shane, we discussed goals.  Perhaps yoga is different, perhaps I am different, but instead of me telling Shane what my goals were for my practice, he told me what his goal was for my practice.  I like that about Shane, his willingness to straight up push me even if that might seem unorthodox.  Shane told me he wanted me to reach a point where I could complete the Ashtanga primary series on my own.  Today was my first attempt to do just that, in the presence of one of the better known yogis of the western world.  To say I was petrified would be putting it lightly.  I needed Shane there if for nothing else than to break my fall and forgive me if I ruined class for everyone else.  Just like the first class I tried to teach, and my first 100 miler, I leaned heavily upon someone who had been through it before as my security blanket.  When I walked through that door, I knew I was ready to give it my best shot, but I had no idea what my body would be capable of.

The warmup went well enough, I was very thankful that my shoulders were feeling capable of my attempts to pick up and float back.  I knew I would be calling on them to work hard today.  I subbed in crescent lunge for vera 1 during the warmup b/c it just takes me so damn long to work my hips semi-square in vera 1 and there's only one inhale up and one exhale down, so no time to settle in.  I started to sweat.  I found the 5 breaths in adho mukha to be a little longer than I do at 7am, perhaps the pre-warmup in Shane's driveway and the 10am class time on top of the 4:50am start to my day had me feeling a degree of afternoon-like readiness and openness.  Padangusthasana took me deeper than I've ever been before noon, opening up the deepest padahastasana I've felt, my toes were on top of my wrists instead of inches away from the crease and I felt my forehead gently grazing my shins.  I became optimistic, the day seemed ripe for this session.

Before I realized it, the lunges began with trikonasana.  I grabbed for my toe and pulled up, I pressed my feet apart and rotated my chest towards the ceiling.  Well, that's what was going on in my mind.  In my body, I was probably bent with a duck butt and crooked neck.  But my heart was pumping, the sweat was dripping, and I was charged all the way past full on my internal battery.  One thing Tim said later, in marichyasana D, it just keeps getting harder.  This is so true because immediately after triangle is twisted triangle, which is my 2nd most feared lunge in the series.  I forgot which hand goes on my hip and which hand reaches forward, but figured it out based on which hand is up and which is down.  I don't often attempt twisted triangle without someone stabilizing my hips to keep me from falling over.  I feel so vulnerable in this pose, and today I felt doubly so with Shane on one side and his friend, Clancy, on the other.  I didn't have my palm on the mat, and my back heel lifted up slightly, more than I would have liked it to, but I had to accept that I'm not there yet.  Overall it was a reasonable attempt.  Then, the call to switch sides and I tried to gracefully rotate my arms into position as I spun on my heels and pretty much took myself down to the mat.  Tim looked in my direction with what I assumed was a look of utter disgust and asked me to "get a grip".  It was a well deserved reminder to be mindful and not attempt to add anything to what would surely be one of my most challenging days on the mat to date.

Side angle felt a bit like triangle, doable but not perfect, my knee won't press out into my arm, and it's hard to keep 2 feet and one palm all on the mat while attempting to rotate the chest open to the sky.  I'm happy with where it is, and I have a lot of room to progress.  Then parivrtta parsvakonasana which is my #1 fear when it comes to lunges.  I'm sure it was ugly.  I remember feeling some deep sensation.  But I made it through, without assistance or a block, which might be the first time I've attempted self sufficiency in twisted side angle.  Don't think for a second that my heel was on the ground or that my torso opened much or that my hand was over the centerline of my body, none of that happened.  Just to survive it without 3 or 4 of Shane's limbs involved was a big first for me today.  I felt like this marked a progression, I felt that my confidence increased even though my alignment is much worse without the assists.

Prasarita paddotanasana went well, as a helpful hand placed a block down for my head and reminded me to get my hands further back in A.  As we progressed through B and C I remembered that the half lift breath cycle is only on A and D, a subtlety that Shane had mentioned to me a few times and I was grateful for that knowledge.  I have to mention that the only part of the class where I was forced to suppress my laughter was when I had to contort my neck during the ascent and descent to avoid going head to ass with Shane.  I don't think that is in the series, not even for partner yoga.  I managed to get a bit of a stagger going by C so that I could bend to the left and work my head around his knee.  For some reason, perhaps the hours of sweating I've done within his supervision, this moment of physical proximity didn't phase me beyond a silent chuckle.

Parsvottanasana with my modification (fists, knuckle to knuckle) went OK, of course with the usual lateral shakiness.  By this point on my own, I am typically pretty trashed, but it's actually only about 1/4 of the primary series.  Today I felt pretty good, ready for more, and accepting of my limitations.  It wasn't easy to keep pace with the class, filled with students who can do all of the poses well, but I was enjoying the moment very much, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to practice in the middle of it all.  I wasn't overly impressed with myself for uttitha padangusthasana but I didn't fall that much, so it was at worst a pass and at best a decent attempt.  I couldn't help but look over, past Shane, and admire for just a moment, a 1/4 breath, the woman next to him who had her foot above her head.  I can't describe how incredibly beautiful that degree of flexibility seems to me.  Perhaps this is because it is so far away from where I can ever see my body.  Uttitha eka padasana was a confidence boost, I felt prepared for it from all of the work with Shane and with the flexibility traded in for strength I felt much more like I was on familiar turf.

I almost thought about going for a bind in ardha baddha padmottanasana but I played it safe by using the wrong hand to hold my half lotus in place.  Utkatasana flew by, I've really been working to get my arms vertical and while I'm not there yet, I feel comfortable pushing vigorously towards that for a few breaths.  Skipping the handstands, I did my crappy version of warrior 1 and then goofed and went into vera 2 instead of switching sides with vera 1.  That goof bummed me out because I've worked hard to learn that transition, palms together, looking up, spinning on the heels.  I do it halfway decent most days with Shane.  I was annoyed at myself for missing a chance to do one of the garnishes which make the primary series so flavorful, but it was done, it was over, and I had to put it behind me in warrior 2 and focus on the one pose that I can sort of get mostly right other than low plank.  My one legged crow after warrior 2 also left me feeling like all the work I've done added up to a bit of nothing on gameday since I know I've done better versions of eka pada bakasana, but there isn't any time to dwell on the past when you're staring down the seated asanas.

Photo credits:  Trevor Hawkins

Dandasana might be my favorite pose, there's no balance, there's no movement, there's no grace, it's just heaps of muscular energy and breath.  But to do dandasana right you have to engage all sorts of muscles simultaneously and that's difficult no matter how familiar it is.  Pachimotanasana went really well, I managed my first steeple mudra with my wrists in front of my feet and I felt like that was a very good sign.  The next four single leg stretches seemed to drag since I can't do any half lotus in any of them, but I was really digging the pickups which seem to come with a fury in this section.  Some of the students were skipping the pickups, perhaps to save their shoulders or for whatever reason which was right for them, but I took them as an opportunity to keep the energy flowing, even though my feet/butt hit the mat on the way through, I still get a great boost from each cycle of lift up, squeeze through, press back, chaturanga, jump up, float forward, push through, kick out, sit down.

Janu Sirsasana went so well that I came close to grabbing my wrist on each side.  That was a first.  I was glad my body was so compliant today, so willing to stretch, twist, and bend.  It made it that much easier to really dive in and soak up every bit of each moment.  Marichyasana was similar to the single leg stretches, without half lotus it's an exercise in repetition, but a useful/meaningful one and peppered with pickups to mix into the sauce.  And then, bam, navasana.

Photo credits:  Trevor Hawkins


I am getting more and more fond of navasana.  It's such a perfect kick in the gut, such a demented and brutal asana that I almost feel like it needs to be done every day to remind me of what it feels like to be alive.  I think I've done 5 sets with Shane in the past, but I will say that I found the 5th set very challenging today.  I think this is when Tim looked at me and told me to chill out (I'm paraphrasing) since he didn't want to deal with a "myocardial infarction" (that bit wasn't paraphrasing).  I suppose my breathing was too heavy, perhaps in lolasana or maybe it was the crazed look in my eye.  The next section after navasana is a blur, a definite area of weakness for me, although badha konasana went as well as it ever has.  The wide leg floor stretches in tight quarters made for some sweat sharing with Shane and Clancy and a loud thump when my calves and heels slammed the floor (sure wish I could do that one gracefuly).  I got some much needed assistance in ubhaya padangusthasana and urdvha mukha pachimatanasana, since there's no way I can do those without help.  I misinterpreted the call to setu bandhasana, so I got into that one late, but felt my neck showing up stronger than it ever has and really felt like this one took a step forward today.

And then wheel.

Wheel.

The big wheel.

For anyone who skimmed the first part waiting for a punch line, here it is.

First, I'll summarize all of the above.  I worked hard, felt the best I have and managed to keep pace with a highly modified and graceless attempt at the ashtanga primary series.  Tim poked fun at me a few times but didn't seem to be too offended that I was sweating in his presence.  It was a pretty good day.

In recent weeks, wheel has taken on a new dimension for me.  It's opened up into a world of sensation I never knew existed, as I gain confidence, strength and flexibility.  It's still a long way from looking how I'd like it to look, but again I feel like I've made recent progress.  With all that said, not once in my work with Shane have I attempted 6 wheels.  Today was the day.  I was going to give it my all.  The first set of 3 went well, I felt strong, I pressed, I breathed, and I survived.  The second set got ugly.  On the 4th my hands slipped and my head hit the mat pretty hard, but I said f it and popped back up.  On the 5th my elbows were bending and I was noticeably gassed before the 5th breath, I had to bail out early.  This whole time I was thinking to myself, how the f does someone stay up for 5 minutes.  How?  I don't understand.  I can't understand.  I can't even make it through 5 sets of 5 breaths.  What is 25 breaths, maybe one minute with at least that much rest mixed in?  How does one do a continuous wheel for 5 minutes?

I'm beginning to realize how a very straightforward looking pose like urdhva dhanurasana can be such a masterful peak pose.  There is so much to it that you don't see looking at it as an observer.  There is so much to it that you don't even feel in your own body for the first few months of attempting it.  The door to my wheel room is ever so slightly cracked open and I've peeked inside.  It is a massive, cavernous room that awaits me.

I popped up for the 6th wheel, which would be the final wheel of the day.  My arms quivered.  My breath felt forced.  I willed myself to stay up.  I sensed Tim walk up onto my mat.  My HR doubled.  My eyes glazed over.  He stood between my legs, in a space that in any other situation would be considered personal, but on the yoga mat is considered shared.  He wrapped his arms around my waist and according to Shane he put himself in utkatasana and pulled me up to standing.  I'd like to say I was limp in his arms but I was not present in my body during this moment.  My arms remained above my head and I came to consciousness in tadasana.  I saw stars.  I felt complete elation and utter vulnerability.  I felt defenseless against and yet completely protected by this great man who had pulled 180 lbs of useless meat up from the mat with supreme confidence.

Wow.

There was a gratefully long utanasana to attempt to erase the effects of the wheel.  Shoulderstand, even with Tim's help, was pretty lousy, I think he sort of abandoned the effort of trying to fix it, realizing I was hopeless.  Headstand and super fish were strong, some of my better asanas from all the work Shane has put in.  Padmasana was my only attempt at full lotus and I had to hold my legs together to keep them from slipping apart.  And then utpluthih for 25 long breaths.  I made it to 10 feeling ok, with feet crossed instead of lotus.  By 15 I was worried and soon after my feet made contact with the mat.  At 20 I was breathing too loud and Tim told me to close my mouth.  By 23 I was done and came crashing down.

And then sweet, ever so sweet, savasana with Uncle Tim and his book.  The end of my first primary series.  It was an experience, an extended moment complete with all sorts of simple and complicated emotions.  I shared space with great yogis, I doubted myself and I explored new ground.  I didn't hurt anyone else or myself, and I passionately loved every minute that ticked by.  It felt much more like one hour than two.  I suppose that may actually be one way to measure progress in yoga, when time shifts over from plentiful to scarce and I find myself surprised to have reached final savasana.

Before

I am less than one hour away from walking through a door.  A door I am scared to enter even though I've been through it before.  Once.  My only visit to the Ashtanga Yoga Center was my first 108 sun salutations as part of a fundraiser for the Sean O'Shea Foundation which brings yoga to youth.

This time it will be different.  This time it will be my first attempt at the entire primary series.  There are many asanas I cannot do.  No matter how much my mind wills my body into form, the body revolts or ignores or simply blocks those signals.  And then there are all of the motions which simply take me a lot longer than they should, warrior I for example.  This class will be in real time, not slow motion.  Shane will be there to demonstrate but not to support or assist me.  I will certainly fall over many times.  I will be humbled.

Of course the big reason for all of this is to be in the same room with one of yoga's masters, Tim Miller.  I've heard his name so many times since I started practicing that I can't remember a time when I didn't find it familiar.  Many great yogi's would love to have the opportunity to take Tim's class.  I feel tremendously unworthy to take up a mat space, but invigorated to have the opportunity to do so.

There will be a follow up to this with my thoughts after class.  Right now I'm focusing on my breath, trying to contain my excitement and my anxiety about what is about to come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vince

I just got this from Vince and I feel compelled to post it immediately because it is just dripping with satya (truth).  I loved reading every word, especially his thoughts on how I fell short in giving him the leadership he deserves for his own PR attempt.  Leadership which he was able to provide for Monique.  I'll have her take on the weekend up tomorrow, but for today, let's all enjoy Vince's words and feel the pulse of his energy as we head towards pau hana and the weekend.

I think what I love most about Vince is how powerful he is.  And I don't mean power over other people type of power.  I mean power over himself.  He has a strong mind and a will to accomplish what is important to him.  He executes with diligence, intensity, and commitment.  He rises up to a challenge with vigorous enthusiasm.  And oh yeah, by the way, he's not even old enough to drink yet.

For any of you runners who haven't paced someone yet, if this doesn't get you fired up to do it, I don't think anything will.  Leading a friend (or being lead) through an endurance event is a feeling quite unlike anything else I have ever experienced.




I was told once that the Marathon is not about the race, but the journey to get to the finish line. From the point you decide you want to attempt the feat to the time you step foot on the across the finish line. The Marathon is not just the 26.2 miles and to only write about the race would not do the experience  justice. 

After my first marathon I was determined to avenge myself by crushing my previous PR and pushing my physical fitness to the limit. After a very successful half marathon in Vegas I felt I was ready to tackle just that, train diligently and cross the finish line faster than anyone could have predicted. Did it happen? No. 

With LA on my to do list, Monique's interest started to grow. She knew that with someone to train with and a coach at her disposal she could do anything. Monique decided she would also train for LA. Now I will be honest, this is not what I wanted. I wanted to focus on my training, my race, and my PR. I wanted this to be my thing, and didn't see someone tagging along in my master plan. But I would never discourage anyone from doing something to better themselves. I kept my reservation about her running it to myself and wanted to do everything I could to help her.

Training only went as well as I allowed it. If my head was in the game, I was fast, focused, and diligent. If I had other concerns on my mind, I was lazy, frustrated, and distracted. Nothing less than what you would expect from a 20 year old Marine in a newly founded relationship. The first few weeks went great, I was focused. Hitting my mileage, only missing workouts when I had to and giving it everything I had. My best week was when Monique was out of town. She didn't pose a distraction, I made her a distraction. I wanted to spend as much time with her not running as possible. This put running for me on the back burner.    I skipped runs that didn't need to be skipped and ran with Monique when I should have been running on my own. I started to stress out, trying to be the perfect boyfriend, the perfect running partner, and a Marine.  Now this is no hit against her, she was so dedicated that she often got me running more often than not. She was focused and she motivated me to run even when I had no desire. I had my mind other things that didn't involve hitting the pavement and running only stood in my way.

As all this started to build disaster struck. Dave noticing my lack of dedication to my own training program decided to test me, scheduling my workouts in a different location than Monique's. Now Dave had been more than accommodating through this entire experience and when asked to change the workout he refused. After a series of emails, Dave expressed his lack of desire to train a couple, we then ended our coach/athlete relationship. I was bitter. I looked at the situation at the time with extreme anger. I was furious that someone I considered a friend would set me up for failure and forced me to chose between my self and my girlfriend. Dave didn't want to coach me until I was ready to focus on only myself. And I wanted Dave to be understanding of the dilemma that causes when being in a relationship with runner that is tackling her first marathon. We never could reach a compromise so we decided it would be best for him to coach only Monique and for me to train on my own.

After a lot of reflection and getting the full picture, I cooled off. Dave had been overloaded, stretched so thin trying to help everyone, he snapped. It's no wonder that he didn't desire coaching a couple, it's demanding and caused to much worry, plus he knew what I was capable of and he didn't want or expect anything less of me as an athlete and was not going to give any less as a coach.

Now with all this on my plate I tried to adjust,  but I was unsuccessful. The reality of how much Monique needed someone to run with her set in. On the first long run without a coach supporting me i realized how impossible it was for me to get my PR and Monique across the finish line. At mile 7 of a 14 mile run, Monique didn't have it in her to finish the run. It wasn't her lack of fitness, she is a sub 2:00 half marathoner, it was a complex situation that forced her run to a screeching halt.  I was running 16 miles, and 10 minutes in to my pick-up I saw her waiting for me, unmotivated and in pain. I knew she needed me and she reluctantly asked me to finish the run with her. I of course did, toughing out 7 miles at the only pace that she could manage. I was in pain, the pace strained m body, my stride was destroyed and I ached all over. You wouldn't think it would be hard to run slower, but going from your normal 9 minute mile pace to 12 min miles causing some wear and tear. We finished and we both suffered. I hurt for days after. We decided that running together was not a good idea.

My runs were all tailored to fit Monique's schedule. I got some solid workouts in, some took some poking and prodding from Monique. It was going well but new problems emerged ,running be came a stress inducer not a stress reliever. On top of that my car was losing its reliability. Breaking down twice causing Monique and I to miss 2 workouts in one week.

The next week started off pretty weak. I didn't write down my workouts, thinking back I may not have even done them. Later on that week I noticed a lot of back pain and soon found my self in the hospital with shingles. Stress compromised my immune system and left me with a horrible rash and excruciating pain in my left side. This put me out for 3 weeks, I missed the last build cycle before tapering for the race, confidence was out the window and I knew that any hope I had for running a great race for myself was out the window. I gave up on my goal and began to focus solely on Monique, motivating her and tackling the long runs by her side. I still was not enjoying running. I didn't want to do it anymore. Monique used my desire to please her against me, unconsciously, dragging me out to run. I thank her for this though, I needed the push.

We prepared for our 20 miler and she knocked it out of the park. She finally got to experience the pain she needed fell. We suffered together, but I didn't express my pain with her. 3 weeks of ZERO running and then tackling 20 miles is physically and mentally demanding, but I knew I needed to be strong for her. I thought back to all the heroic leaders I learned about in the Marines. If they showed pain, exhaustion, and misery, would there troops have done the things they did. Would they have won battles with leaders wallowing in there own sorrows? I think not. I would be strong and motivated and enthusiastic for her. We finished the 20 miles but we suffered far beyond the discomfort of pounding asphalt.  After horrible idea to go in the hot tub, Monique's already low blood pressure plummeted. She called for me while showering and I ran to her. Once I got her she collapsed, I caught her preventing a deadly fall in the shower. At that point the marathon was off the table, but after recovering from the ordeal Monique regained confidence and motivation. She wanted it again. 

The two weeks of taper flew by, very little running and very little stress. The race was upon us before we knew it. I was terrified, I had no confidence, I had no mileage and no idea that I could play my role on race day. I was forced to play football and basketball at work and I was extremely sore going into race weekend. My mind and body were far from where they needed to be and I took that out on Monique at one point.  She was thinking about what marathon swag she wanted to buy at the expo, All i was focused on was finishing, and all i wanted her to focus on was the same thing. I didn't have complete confidence in her to complete the race. I believed that any snag encountered on the course would be disastrous.  I harshly tried to refocus her attention to the race and she reminded me that she still wants to enjoy the experience. I was wrong in how I addressed the issue but my message was received.

We departed for LA on Saturday with horrible weather and expecting a horrible race experience because of it. We checked in to the hotel and waited for dinner. After a few hours of relaxing we went to dinner. I was less than social because of how much was on mind. We finished dinner and went back to the hotel. I was relieved that we had so much time to sleep and Monique wasn't suffering from any stomach pain. We got our race gear ready and went to bed. Getting a solid 6 hours of rest was amazing, we were excited to get the adventure going.

We woke up optimistic and got ready. We ate lots of food and departed for the shuttle. We got on the bus and arrived the start 2 hours early. Freezing and wet we huddled in a tent. With a handful of trash bags we made a place to lay down. We cuddled in the cold and waited for the start time.  Monique and I got up to use the bathroom and were greeted by a huge line. After 30 minutes of waiting we finally got to use the bathroom and headed to the start.

I was excited inside, but stayed reserved. I knew what I was about to endure. I have done it before, but was fearful for Monique. She never tackled the challenge before and she only had a taste of the task before her. 

Reflecting on the 4 and half hour race seems harder than the 14 weeks of training. The race started off well we worked through the crowd and busted out solid splits. The hills slowed us down but over all we were doing well. I kept the pace and Monique worked hard. I remember  very few points in the race. Nothing stood out, nothing was unexpected. I was running strong, I was who Monique needed. She started to suffer around mile 16 and I stepped away from caring boyfriend to coach. I didn't  let her slow down. She did everything she could to keep up and I admired her effort. The pain in her leg made me nervous. I had the fear that she would soon be out of the race but she persevered. Though her pace slowed, her effort  stayed the same. She continued to suffer and continued to run. As we got closer to the 20 mile work the pain became to much for her to take. We had a few minutes of walking and some water works. At times she hated herself, she hated her decision to do this and she just wanted it to end. Witnessing this caused me to laugh inside. This is what the marathon was about, this is the experience I am glad I could share with her. 

After the moment of feeling sorry for herself she picked up the pace to the best she could. We walked one hill after that and once more to fix her bib, then we were ready to finish. Mile 20 to the finish were my favorite miles. The last 10 k would be the hardest and the most revealing of a persons character. I wanted to see what the girl I share my life with had in her. She painfully cranked out next few miles and reached the final 5 k. It was all downhill from there, literally. Doing the math in my head I knew that if she gave everything she had and more she could beat 4:30:00. She needed that, she needed a PR worth having. Anything more than 4:30:00 i think she would have frowned upon. My efforts to get her to run faster I feel was thwarted by June and Levs presents on the course. It would have been nice to see them for a second, but when they accompanied us for over 2 miles It was difficult to play the role I needed to. I finally told June that she need to leave. Now that I had Monique's full attention I told her she needs to hurry up. I was relentless,I would run ahead of her, she would catch up we continued to play that game until the last half mine. When she saw the finish and I told her the time she had left she kicked it into a gear I didn't think she had. She said "lets go" and ran hard. It gave me goosebumps, I was so happy and proud of her. We finished she got her sub 4:30:00

 I am so proud of her. Words cannot explain the joy that I got from this experience with her. The fact that I played a role in her success makes me so happy  I would not change anything about the last 14 weeks. Seeing cross the finish line brought me more enjoyment and pride than any PR could.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kim

At first I was going to paraphrase this.  I wanted to fill it in with my color commentary.  I wanted to edit and twist Kim's words into my own style.

Instead, I've decided to present this unfiltered view of Kim entirely from her perspective.  I have chosen to let the reader decide for themselves how to interpret Kim's thoughts.  This is the same story as my post titled Kimberly, only framed by the racer instead of the coach and pacer.  The experience is similar and also quite different.

I have Kim's permission to put her words out there.  So, I've decided to do just that.  If you take the time to read this, you'll notice the voice is very different from my own.  I like that.  I find it very refreshing that we are all so unique in our approach to life, to training, racing, and suffering.

I have only one request.  If you take the time to read this, please consider posting a comment with word or two of encouragement for Kim.  She rallied through a very tough day in her 2nd marathon and finished with a BQ and a 40 minute PR.  I think that's a fairly remarkable achievement and I'm continually impressed with her toughness.



I couldn't sleep well the night before, wide awake most of the night,
tossing and turning, and by 3:30 an hour before my alarm was set to go
off I was up and there was no hope of going back to sleep. We left
the hotel at 5 so we would have enough time to get there. Thankfully
we followed the garmin directions to get to Dodger stadium instead of
the freeway signs because it led us around all of the traffic and we
had no trouble getting into the stadium. My parents who dropped us
off said we made it just in time because as they left the roads and
the exit we took to get off the freeway were bumper to bumper traffic
and moving slow.


I was with Tracie, Jen and Herb and we had about an hour and a half to
kill before the race start. We went to the bathroom and hung out,
after making small talk with the others for a little bit I decided I
didn’t want to talk to anyone anymore, and I headed over to my corral
to wait. I got into my corral and there were maybe ten other people
there. I found a spot against the fence where I would be protected
from the wind and curled up in my trash bag and put my head down.
Miraculously, I fell asleep for the next 45 minutes and ironically the
quality of sleep I got rivaled the sleep in my cozy warm hotel bed the
night before. :-) Just before the wheel chair start the corral
started to get busier. I waited around a little longer and watched
multiple people climb the fence and move into the corral ahead of me,
which was supposed to be for 3hours+ and I decided to join them. I
found myself a spot near the 3:25 marker and hung out til the race
started. I did decide that next time I should bring a blanket to wrap
up in and sit on, because my trash bag kept me pretty warm, but my
feet got cold on the cold asphalt and took a long time to warm up once
I started running.


The race started and I started out feeling good. The first mile was a
little behind goal pace, but it usually is and it was a little crowded
with everyone getting going. I thought it was hilarious as we left
Dodger stadium, the first planter the men were all lined up taking a
leak, and the police on duty across the road was watching and taking
pictures, laughing.


Miles 2 and 3 were a little fast, I tried to find a steady easy pace
just as I had done in my long training runs, but the race excitement
and all the people made it difficult. I passed the 3:25 pacer
somewhere in that first stretch. Not too far in the people thinned a
little bit and I started zoning out the running and just enjoying the
scenery. We went through little Tokyo, and Chinatown. I had no idea
where I was, I don’t know my way around LA, but I enjoyed looking at
all the different buildings and the music. There were some pretty
cool drums that put a little pep in my step. Somewhere in here there
were some hills and I just remember Easa telling me take it easy on
the hills, don’t power through them and expend all your energy so you
are wasted later. I tried to remember that as I went along. I passed
some people, some people passed me. I was enjoying my run, and felt
like I was doing pretty well for the first little while.


Shortly after I passed the 10K timing strip my legs started to feel
tight and I knew it was going to be a tough rest of the race. I just
kept plodding along. My goal was steady, easy pace through mile 20.
I quit paying attention to the scenery; I started to get annoyed by
all the people and all the noise. I tried to zone out and mentally
put myself back here in Carlsbad running down the coast by myself,
listening to the waves and watching the surfers, but about every mile
there was a good sized cheer group and it would bring me back to where
I was an annoy me all over again.


I was super excited to see Easa when I got to him at about 12.5. I
needed that support that seeing a familiar face always gives when you
are tired. He was very chipper and ran circles around me for a little
bit before he settled into my slow pace. When he asked how I was
doing all I could give him was a simple fine, partly because I was
tired and focused on climbing this very small incline that seemed much
harder than it should have been, and partly because I didn’t know what
to say. I couldn’t figure out how to put into just a few words that
although I was not even halfway through, I was already discouraged and
I knew that I was going to struggle the closer I got to the finish,
and how much it sucks that I didn’t have any problem at all in any of
my long training runs, but I was on race day. Although all of this was
going through my mind I did my best to push it to the back of my mind
and stay positive, because I knew that expressing the frustrations
would only seat them deeper in my mind and make it more difficult.


We continued on for a while, he tried to point out different landmarks
or tell me what was coming up and use landmarks as a carrot to look
forward to on the course, but I don’t know my way around LA and I
didn’t pay much attention to where the course was going to go to know
where that put me in relation to the finish, so it didn’t really help
me much.


I think we were about mile 16 or 17 and Easa finally settled into a
pace just in front and a little to the left of me, I retreated back
into my own thoughts focusing less on the course, and the people
around me knowing that I he’d keep me at a steady pace and just
running. This helped. It helped a lot to just go and think and not
think about how fast I was going or how much farther it was.


The miles dragged on, I know I wasn’t that far into it, but it just
seemed hard. The first 11 weeks of training were so easy, I cranked
out a 20 mi run one Saturday when it probably should have only been a
16 mi run, and that was easy. I was completely frustrated that now
that it counts I had such a hard time. My legs had been tight the
last couple weeks and that didn’t help. I realize after the fact
reading Easa’s thoughts on my race that he had no idea that I was
having such a hard time, that I had just kept it all to myself, and
when I stopped to throw myself my little pity party about mi 21 that
was probably one of the first indicators of my struggle. And he’s
right, it was a pretty quick and effective pity party. It didnt take
me long to get moving again, but I was tired and moving slow and my
legs were cramping and I was having a hard time finding the energy or
the motivation to continue on.


I realize after that fact that although I was really struggling from
about 16 on, it didn’t reflect on my splits. I looked at my watch a
couple times and it said 8:49, and then 8:37 and I got discouraged and
quit looking. I thought that all of these miles were super sluggish
and I was quickly losing any hope of making it anywhere close to 3:30,
but I just couldn’t find the energy to make myself move any faster.
The only consolation in my mind was that no matter how poorly I did,
as long as I kept running I could still break 4:00. I looked at my
spilts after the race and I realized that I was miserable, but I
still kept it together and I wasn’t going as slow as I thought I was.
Looking back I wish I knew that at this point because I think it would
have helped my morale a little to know that my suffering was not in
vain, and that I was still headed for a pretty good PR.


Around 22.5 I started to really struggle. I had taken a gu about mile
10 just before I had met up with Easa, and I hated that disgusting
taste it left in my mouth, which is why I never used them in trainings
and why I didn’t use more than one, but I probably should have. I hit
a wall, and my body started to shut down on me. I started to get
tunnel vision where the edges of your field of vision get dark, that
feeling that you know if you keep pushing and you keep going, you are
headed straight for passing out. I stopped to walk again to clear my
head and regain my composure and as I did Easa told me that it was
only a 5k left, and with that I found a new focus, a new driving force
to get me to the finish line. It now seemed like a doable task. I
started running again with that task in mind. I was able to tune out
everything else and I felt like I could maintain a reasonable pace.
It was even more encouraging to have Caitlyn and Lev join me at mi 23,
knowing that I had that much more support. I had to stop a couple
more times between there and the final stretch as my vision started to
blur and I felt like passing out again, including once only 150yards
from the finish line. I was so close, I didn’t want to stop, but I
didn’t think I could make it across the line before I passed out. I
am really happy that I had regained my composure by the time I passed
my dad who was about a 100 yds from the finish line and I heard him
cheering for me, of all the voices in the crowd I could pick out his
yelling for me and it made me smile inside even though I don’t think I
managed to on the outside.


I couldn’t believe it when I passed the finish line and the finish
clock said 3:33. With how much I hurt and how poorly I felt I had
run, I thought there was no way that I was going to be that close to
my goal time. Although I still don’t have an official time, I don’t
know what the deal it with that, I am satisfied with my 3:33 race. I
began this training season thinking that 3:30 would be a good goal and
at the time I was not actually sure I could get anywhere close to it,
but I knew that if I tried and I put in the work I would do the best I
could. The training plan that Easa made for me almost seemed too easy
for the first 11 weeks when every run was fun and enjoyable and
nothing hurt. Maybe I went a little beyond what I should have an
that’s why I hit such a wall in my training and why I struggled
through the race so much, but I wouldn’t change any bit of it. I
absolutely enjoyed it. It was a perfect combination of challenge and
confidence builder to motivate me through training. Dave, thank you
so much for your confidence in me and intuition to challenge me
through training, and for sticking with me through the race. I don’t
think I would have come anywhere close to the 40 minute marathon PR
that I have, without you on race day.


Thank You!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dating

I'm not a fan of dating.  But I love reading about other people's adventures.  Take Ruby for example.  I can't get enough of her stories.  So I'm partly writing this in hopes that I can guilt her into another post someday.  I'm sure she has content.  She just needs to put fingers to keyboard like Shauna Rae did today.  Guilt might help grease those wheels.

OK, here goes.  Short and sweet.  I made plans to meet up with someone I've never met before tonight.  Now the biggest problem with dating is that it really interferes with my workouts.



While I was tempted to try out some of the of the tactics in this video, I opted for the traditional safety of an 8pm coffee date.  I use this same approach every year when I get stuck doing interviews of high school seniors applying to Princeton.  The reason this approach works so well is that I inevitably find myself being "polite" (and I use that term very loosely) and extending the conversation even though I usually don't want to.  Since most coffee shops close at 9, there is a built in time limit, and since it's always cold at night in SD, hanging out on the sidewalk isn't a reasonable option.

So, you can already tell where this is going, but I'll throw in some tidbits to color it in a little bit.  She has 2 fat cats and a chihuahua, hasn't done a workout in 6 months because of a knee sprain, and isn't much of a morning person.  She doesn't like dessert, but she does eat mayonaise and prefers Hellmanns.  She actually had the cutest facial expressions, a combination of shy, curious, confused and inquisitive, genuinely adorable.  And great hair.  And she's a software geek so she understands what work is like.  But let's face it, she's not going to ever understand what 2 hours to the river means.  She's the voice of reason and I'm the voice of stupidity, much like the video above.

And yet, just like the warmup strides I take before a big race, sometimes it's a good idea to force myself out of my routine once in a while, to skip a workout and feel hungrier for the next one as a result.  Wednesday morning is going to be something special now that I've hit my quota of 1 date per year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kimberly

Center stage this weekend was the LA Marathon.  As I mentioned in a prior post, I had 2 of my athletes racing, along with a bunch of other friends, so I really wanted to be there to watch it all go down.  Originally I was planning to volunteer at the Oriflame 50k on Saturday but that got canceled with the bad weather, so my schedule opened up considerably.  I hobbled my way through a morning yoga class and made plans to spend the afternoon with Cody who I hadn't seen since the Big Bear trip.  We went rock climbing and this time I decided I would climb as well, so I forced Cody to belay.  Even with the 3 to 1 weight differential he managed just fine and I got to climb a few 5.8's and 5.9's.  It was all beginner stuff but it was enough to get me quivering on the wall and wishing I had more balance, strength, flexibility and agility.  Cody performed like a champ on his second trip to the climbing gym, and I think he really enjoyed it.  I think he was really putting some thought into his route selection and how to use his legs to save his arms for the tough stuff, all of which I was pretty stoked to see.

I ate dinner and packed a bag, hoping that the traffic had subsided and arrived at Betty's place in Brentwood exactly 30 seconds before she and Scott got home from dinner.  We did a little bit of visiting and we all sacked out early.  I woke up, watched the start on tv, and drank some Peet's coffee with Betty before heading to my car to drop off my things and then out onto the course.  I jogged from Barrington which was about mile 22 up to the relay exchange point which was before 13 and waited for Kim who I expected to be somewhere after the 3:15 pace group and before the 3:25 pace group.  On the way there, Sean McKeon said hey to me so I turned and ran with him for a bit, he seemed gallantly chipper despite not having done what he considered adequate training.

Kim showed up right on schedule and I tagged along as she rolled through the half just over 1:40 which was a new half marathon PR for her.  Ordinarily that might make an athlete (and her coach) a bit worried, but after reviewing her 700 miles of workouts over the past 14 weeks I knew that a big race performance was brewing.  So, everything seemed right as rain at that point, the weather was stable, temps were cool, wind was present but not overwhelming, and the first half had gone according to plan.  It all seemed like an easy day at the office for both of us, me playing the role of armchair observer, Kim playing the role of "wow this is difficult but I'm tough so let's just get it done."

Kim doesn't talk much.  So there wasn't a whole lot of chit chat going on.  When she does talk, it's sometimes hard to hear her b/c she's fairly quiet when she is running.  I sometimes wonder if she has the same flurry of thoughts that I do or if she was blessed with a quieter mind.  Actually I think I wonder that about everyone, but particularly with those who don't talk a whole lot.  I do really admire Kim's training and racing focus, her ability to streamline and narrow her perspective and I think it sets a great standard for her friends to follow.  But I couldn't help but let my mind drift.  Since I had started from 22 and ran to maybe 12.5, I was about 3 miles fresher.  Coupled with a pace that felt comfortable for me, and no problems that needed my attention other than taking her long sleeve once she decided to remove it, my mind simply drifted and eventually found it's way onto my virtual yoga mat.


I have this recurring dream, or perhaps I should say "mental picture" of my yoga practice as an old mansion with stone floors and a bunch of heavy wooden doors with rusty iron hinges and brass locks.  Behind each door is a room which represents an individual asana.  Some days Shane has a key to one of the rooms I haven't been to before.  One day the door said ardha baddha padmottanasana and he opened it and shoved me inside.  Most days we go back to rooms I've seen before, cleaning dust out of the corners, opening the drapes to let some sun in, or just soaking in the unique essence.  Sometimes I look down the hall and see all the closed doors and wonder if or when I might explore them.  But there is so much to see and feel in each of the rooms which are already open that I can lose myself for hours.

Then there's this whole other building, built very different than the first, which represents running.  Most of the doors are open in that one, and I'm the one leading others through and showing them around.  It's not the fanciest building on the block, there are so many other great runners and coaches, but I've gotten a little foot traffic over the past six months and some have even enjoyed their time.  I've honestly forgotten about a few of the rooms in this building, rooms which I haven't been to in years.  When one of my athletes pokes their head in as we pass by on our way to their goal, I get a reminder of an experience long since forgotten.  Oh yeah, that's where the pity-party room is.  I had forgotten about all of the days I've spent in that room, most notably Ironman Canada 2001's 5:18 run split.  I like to think that my yoga practice keeps me more empathetic with my run coaching, but I'm sure I still trip on my own feet half the time.  I am human, and by definition I am flawed.

But, back to Kim.  Looking over her splits, and based on what I remember feeling, she was fine through the VA.  That's when the racing really begins, up that last hill and then you really have to crank the last 10k which is very runnable with the last 2 miles a gentle downhill to the beach.  Kim showed signs of cracking at the VA, which is exactly where the yogger had some trouble 2 years ago when he wore his "mmmmm Beer" bib.  I expected some trouble to hit, so I switched off my internal monologue and started giving status and encouragement more frequently to Kim.  I didn't get much of a response, I'm sure to her I was like Charlie Brown's teacher, just mumbling to myself various words of incoherent babble.  On we went.

The last few miles have big inflatable banners with race clocks.  I did the rough math and told her how much time we had to crack 3:30.  The margins got slimmer and slimmer, so I tried mixing in some tough love, some humor, I tried singing, heck I would have done anything she asked me to if it would have helped, but I think it was just destined to be a very typical marathon day.  Kim was valiantly fighting but doubt was creeping up, her body was shutting down, and the temptation to walk caught her a few times.  Finally, just past mile 23, she pulled off and threw herself a quick and efficient pity party.  Like puking, the euphoria from a pity party can be a great boost, and before we had burned 60 seconds, she was back on at 8:00 pace.  Soon after we bumped into Lev and Caitlyn who were with us for the rest of the way.  I was supremely grateful for them because I was out of ideas on what to say, my words were not effective, so I figured my role at that point was to ensure her head did not crack the pavement if she fell.

As expected, the final 2 miles went fairly uneventfully.  I'm hoping Kim has a chance to put her thoughts into words and I will ask her if she's willing to share them on my blog because I think it would be fantastic to read her take.  I'm sure she was pushing hard.  The pace was just fine.  But we were a bit over 3:30 after the pity party so there was nothing left to do other than "git 'er done".  Marathon #2 for Kim, her first BQ, and a well deserved ! on top of a solid cycle of training.

After seeing her cross the line I wandered down to the Urth Cafe, got myself a vegan cookie and a quad latte, then back out onto the course to meet up with Hillary and Auntie Jen.  I caught a wonderful meal with the Biscays, heard all about Mini's massive PR, and felt the warmth of a truly exceptional family to round out a great Sunday and a weekend to remember.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Persona Non Grata

If you don't know WTF that phrase means, then you are normal.  I like to translate it as "Class F***" since that is what my friend Alex and I would tell each other.  "Doooooode, you're the class F!"  "No way, dude, YOU are definitely the class F!"

I had never heard the latin version before my tour of duty in college.  Why am I thinking about this?  Well, as I was speaking to the Yogger this morning, I realized I how different it is to visit a college campus than it is to live the life of a student.  The best description I can give of Princeton is the following.  Imagine every douchebag you've ever met, you've ever known, or you've ever heard of.  That's your bread and butter, 90% of the student body, all assembled into one place.  People who would rather "learn" than talk, work out, socialize, or actually experience life.  Now, throw in the cream of the crop from all of your life's most impressive moments.  The star student-athlete, the captain of the football team who also got straight A's, and the kid from Nigeria who didn't have shoes but kicked butt at everything he or she did.  The ones who didn't need to pick up a book to ace the final.  The stars that shine so freaking bright you can barely see around them.  Sprinkle on top of that the best professors in their respective industries.  Not just the ones who are super smart, but starting with that pool, hand-pick the ones who can explain complicated subjects with clarity and relative ease.  Confused about this eclectic mix yet?  I was.  Finish it off with an administration typically consisting of snotty adults who were rejected from the college of their choice and have therefore chosen to pursue employment from one, presumably in search of invisible prestige.  I know that's a lot of stereotyping I'm doing, and it is only my opinion, but I like to throw it out there as an unfiltered representation of my experience.  While I can't imagine a better place for academic indulgence and inspiration, I can't think of a more restricted and insulated social experiment.  Hence my mixed feelings about the entire experience.  Of course that was then, this is now, and it is surely a different animal in today's jungle.  But as a Hawaii kid in the 1990's, I did not fit in at all.


This was my first experience with extra special recognition from the Dean.  I forget which night this was from.  A bunch of friends used to congregate in my 120 sq foot room, sit on the couch or the floor, and force me to inhale second hand smoke from their cigarettes.  We didn't drink that frequently, we just did a lot of geeking out and bs'ing about nothing, much like I do on this blog.  We would pretend that we were performing our own rendition of "Conversations That Matter" which was the promotional video we all got as incoming freshmen, and seemed to inspire bs'ing.

Sophomore year I explored the limits of my liver.  We got busted during our biggest party, a 3 kegger, about halfway through the 3rd keg.  The ROI from this one was definitely highest.


Junior year we got served our notices from the party we had after finals at the end of sophomore year.  Everyone else was on their 2nd strike so they just got warnings, but it was #3 for me so I got probation.  The only noticeable difference was the length of the form letter and the duration of the "punishment".

Senior year was the only one which actually upset me.  My neighbor across the hall was more of a pothead than a drinker.  I had a 2 person room to myself so he and I and one other neighbor hung out in my room as much or more than anywhere else.  It wasn't that late, we weren't particularly noisy, it was just a random evening after getting all our crap done where we were hanging out.  The proctors had master keys and would typically knock while turning the key in an effort to "catch" by surprise, pushing the limits of their authority.  They took a pipe and claimed victory, missing the water pipe which was basically out in plain view and the ziplock baggie that found it's way into a desk drawer while they were strip searching me and the other neighbor.
This is my favorite part of this series.  I sent a reply to the original indicating that I noticed a typo.  The response was an apology for the inconvenience and a properly worded version (below) to correct my "file."  I cracked up about that one.  When an EE is correcting your grammar for a letter informing him that he is indeed the class F, and you actually take time out of your day to respond, you know you've reached beyond the normal levels of absurdity.
The best part of all these stories?  Acknowledgement from the administration that I was persona non grata.  That they did not approve of my antics.  I often wonder what would have happened if there had been a 1 or 2 week overlap in the probationary periods.  By the letter of their rules, they would have had to ask me to take "time off".  It would have forced their hand, would they stick to the letter of their rules, or would they manage the intent behind them by placing me under house arrest or maybe just kicking me out of the dorms?  Ironically, I didn't really want to live in the dorms after sophomore year's troubles, but they were wired on the campus network which allowed me to do all of my CS work from my room where I had food and music.  I had one fellow EE who lived off campus and had to use ISDN to connect, in the days before DSL and cable modems and it sounded like a major annoyance.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Los Angeles

I have two athletes racing the LA marathon on Sunday, Kim and Monique.  It will be Monique's first attempt at the distance and it should be a solid step forward for Kim.  I'm hoping the marathon magic that Ryan started at Carlsbad will continue for both of them.  And yet I worry about something silly going wrong and having an unnecessary impact.  There are so many ways to f up a marathon and only a few ways to get it right.  Fortunately, both of these ladies have a large network of friends to call upon for help.  Monique will be escorted by Vince and Kim rattled off about 10 people who are planning to help her out along the way.

Kim
When I look back through Kim's workout log I can't help but be impressed.  I've never heard of or seen anyone follow a plan with the diligence and discipline that Kim has put into the last 14 weeks.  She has consistently nailed every single workout and actually made it really difficult for me to coach her because I have to remind myself not to throw in extra workouts to cover the misses that all of the rest of us encounter when life gets in the way.  Kim's effort and dedication have greatly exceeded my own throughout the past 14 weeks.  I want so much for things to be perfect for her on Sunday, and yet I know that universe likes to give us as much as we can handle, no more, no less.  One thing I do know about Kim, she has that quiet confidence that pays off big in long races.

Monique
Monique is a little different, perhaps more bubbly about the experience, perhaps more openly affected by the ups and downs that we encounter when we push our bodies through a grueling stretch of training.  I think Monique has experienced a lot in the past 14 weeks and I believe those lessons will continue to sink in over the entire year as the training effect is absorbed in her body and mind.  When I remember back to a tempo run I did with Monique last year and how excited she was about being able to crank out 10 miles relatively unscathed I can't help but be proud of her for the effort she has invested into this.

Vince
Vince is looking at his first experience pacing a marathon, something that is near and dear to my heart.  In fact, I've written a bunch about how I really prefer pacing to racing, it's every bit as challenging and possibly even more so to give of yourself during an event than to race it.  Pacing well is sort of like assisting with a yoga class while also taking it, something I never would have attempted before teacher training.  I still remember how strange it was to pop up off my mat when my name was called, still breathing heavy from the prior flow, and attempt to remember the sequence, a few basic cues, and carry the tempo of the class set by the previous leader.  I think Vince will have a big smile on his face at the end no matter what happens, he's the type who enjoys giving of himself to others and he brings endless energy and optimism to the table each and every day.

As for me, well, I continue to learn about myself by taking on these small positions of leadership.  I've learned a lot about my limitations, and my instincts.  Sometimes I have been spot on, sometimes I have been way off.  I've been inspired by the work these three have done while I've been slacking off.  But most of all, I'm very grateful for the trust and acceptance I've received along the way.  It is a truly special thing to take care of someone else in whatever way I am able to, and I don't take that responsibility lightly.

Good luck to everyone racing on Sunday!  I've put in my request for tailwinds, 55 degrees, and clear skies.