Western States is less than 3 weeks away. You might expect me to say that I have trained harder than ever for this race and that I have single mindedly focused on this race. But I honestly can't say that.
The truth of the matter is, I have trained very hard for this race. I have incorporated new supplemental things to improve including seeing my trainer Josh, going to my naturopath Dr. Maderis, going to pilates, stretching, uphill hiking and heat training. I have run upwards of 100-130 miles a week, doing doubles, working on hills and lots of trail. I can't even remember what it is like to do a long run on the road. All that and I still don't believe I have trained the hardest I ever have. In fact, since becoming a runner, I haven't.
The hardest I ever worked and trained was in my basketball playing days. Routinely I would rise before 4am, go to work for a few hours, then class, then training would begin. There were hours of drills (shots of the move, ball handling, etc, etc), then conditioning including strength and stretching, then running, then practice. Then I worked hard. By my own standard set then, I am quite moderate in my running.
I have been thinking about it a lot lately. Wondering if should have sacrificed more for this race or if I should be sacrificing more for this sport. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with my massage therapist Scott. He summed it up perfectly saying, "who you are is not defined solely by you being a runner, you are a lot of other things beyond that". When I was a basketball player, I defined myself by being a basketball player. It was who I was and my success or failure dictated how I felt about myself. I sacrificed a lot for something ultimately meaningless. I don't ever want to define myself by being a runner. I want to stay connected to the love, passion and joy I have and derive from it.
I know at some point in my running career I would like to do more, but I am not sure I am there yet. I have only been running for 5 years and I don't think I have even begun to tap my potential really yet. In my training for States and incorporating new supplemental things to my training, I realize that its a long road and that my running is something I will develop over time. Also, it means finding a race that really really gets me motivated. I know that for some there is no race but Western States. Maybe after running it, I will discover why. I thought that about Boston and frankly feel it was simply something I am glad I checked off my life to-run list. I do have races that I want to passionately pursue and feel more confident about taking on now that I am developing myself as a runner through a multi-pronged attack mentioned above instead of just running. I also know the things that I must do to take myself to that next level. Those races will be next year and after and according to my coach, I am not allowed to be thinking or speaking of such things yet.
The ninjas out on the States course. Photo by Joel
As I sit down with my thoughts however, my mind wanders towards the long view. Even when I went up to the States course this weekend, I didn't rumble with excitement or nerves. Instead, I felt disturbingly calm. And maybe that is what has set off this whole thought process of wondering if I have done enough. But really, what it is that drives that calm is knowing that I have done what I have done and there is nothing more I can do but run the race, enjoy the journey and watch it unfold.
I feel pretty balanced now in life and I like that. I don't live a monk-like life, I instead delight in moderation. Sometimes I get worried that I am not being strict or devoted enough, ponder whether I should give up more in my diet, be more strict in everything (go to the gym more often, stretch longer, etc). And then I remember that at least dietarily that didn't work for me. I had a nice interview recently that reminded me of this. I was interviewed by an Ex-vegan blogger about being an ex-vegan athlete. The questions he asked made me think and ultimately reminded me that when I was rigid in my diet and defining myself by all the things I didn't eat (no meat, dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, peanuts, coffee, alcohol, etc, etc), I became very neurotic about food and distinctively unhappy as a person. And on top of that my running suffered because my health suffered. I have worked back towards being healthy and balanced in my diet, but occasionally those old neurotic feelings rear their ugly head and make me think that I am being uncommitted to my success as a runner because I am eating ice cream (coconut milk ice cream that is) on a weekday. When the reality of the situation is really that I eat such a healthy diet that the ice cream is essential just to get enough calories in. I delight in moderation and ultimately that makes me a happier person which is a healthier person and therefore a better runner.
Ultimately, at this precise moment in time, I am as ready as I can be for this race. I do however enjoy looking forward and thinking about my running career in the long run. It will change, it will develop, I will work hard and race strong, I will do more and sometimes less. I will continue to love it and enjoy my life. I hope I can always keep both running and my life, simple, beautiful and delightful, at least that is what I am working for.