long term


Earlier this year I wrote about long-term relationships (in running). It had dawned on me then that I had had a short-sighted view of my running career, even if I fully intended to run for the rest of my life. Over the last few months, I have not been great about incorporating a long term mentality into navigating my training. I piled a lot of big challenges on my plate this year, so it is easy to get sucked into a short sighted approach. My default mode has become extreme discipline and intensity, starting back when I decided to train for the Trials. That is a long time to be pushing the envelop. It is not a long-term strategy but I have found a way to physically and mentally endure (hell, enjoy!) this long streak. I thought "this is what it means to be truly committed to something".

This past Saturday, Nathan, Brett and I set out from Muir Beach for a nice long run around Mt. Tam. It was a gorgeous morning, a perfect blue bird morning. The day before I had done a super hard tempo workout before a jam packed day which didn't leave me feeling very recovered. I was worried that the run was going to be a slog, but we all fell in comfortably, chatting as we cruised along the road to Deer Park Fireroad. I managed the climb (and by managed I mean I didn't get dropped) and we got to Pantoll feeling happy to be out on the trails. It was just what I needed. I love cruisey runs where you just fall into pace and don't necessarily have to worry about feeling good or bad.

After a quick stop at Pantoll and a run re-route due to all the wash-outs, we headed over to Mountain Home Inn via Matt Davis. At Mountain Home Inn, we ran into our friend Mike and he joined us for a few miles along Sun Trail and down into Muir Woods. Mike was in the process of trying to start a bread starter from the Tartine bread book and so Nathan spent time answering his questions and talking him through the process. I think it is super cute when Nathan starts talking about bread because he gets so excited!

Mike turned off at Muir Woods and we headed over to Redwood Creek to connect to Miwok. Nathan and I had planned the route over breakfast and he really wanted to run down Diaz Ridge to finish the run because he'd never run down it. I figured it was going to be a beautiful way to finish a run so I was into it.

Miwok (from Redwood Creek) Trail is a special place for Nathan and I. In all the time we've been running together, no matter how far we run, whenever we get on this trail, one or both of us totally bonk (usually epically). Thankfully, we always have a gel to get our energy up, but we usually stop to have a quick kiss (ok maybe a make-out session) about halfway up the hill before taking our gel and carrying on.

This time was no different. Or so I thought.

We were cruising up the hill when Nathan said, "It never fails....I am totally bonking". I asked him if he had a gel and if he wanted to stop. He said he had a gel and would take it. He told me to keep going though so I kept on running. A minute later, he told me to hold up. So I stopped. He asked Brett to hold his waterbottle and after handing it off immediately pulled me into a kiss. Brett said, "Aw man, I didn't know I was going to have to hold your water bottle so you could make out with your girlfriend". I pulled away from Nathan to make a face at Brett (and was about to harass Nathan about taking his gel). As I pulled away and looked at Brett, Nathan dropped down on to his knee. He looked up at me, pulled a engagement ring off his pinkie finger where he'd been hiding it, held it up to me and said, "will you marry me?" I was shocked, so surprised in fact, I didn't believe this moment was actually happening. I asked him if he was kidding (actually first I called him something not very nice I was so surprised, oops) and then bumblingly told him, "YES!"

Meanwhile, Brett is in shock as well because he wasn't in on the secret. He told me "quick give me your camera!". It was nice to have someone else there to experience and capture the moment. I had witnessed Brett and Larissa get engaged a month earlier and it was such an emotional high! 

I was overwhelmed. I cried, I laughed, I swore, I kissed Nathan over and over again. I couldn't believe it. We are so excited about our future together!

I learned something in that moment too. Something about me, something about my running. As I said earlier, I believed that I understood what it meant to be truly committed to something.  I thought I was at the highest level of commitment with my running because I was rampaging forward with serious momentum, doing work, racing hard. I realize now that part of pushing so hard for so long comes out of not truly understanding what commitment for the long haul is. Real commitment for the long haul is not about precise execution, flawless discipline or perfection all the time. Sometimes it ugly, sad, messy. Relax, quirky or a total flop. I am excited about the heights to which my training has taken me in the past few years, it is exciting and wonderful. But at the same time, it has made me lose sight a bit of what I am truly committed to in running: doing it for my whole life. I have been driving myself so hard, there has been no room for balance (the good, the bad, the perfect, the totally flawed). I have enjoyed my successes less and taken my failures harder. I see now that I was trying to squeeze it all in, get out every last drop before some perceived inevitable end. I once loved something as much as running and now, it is not even a part of my life (basketball) at all. I think deep down I thought the same thing would happen with running. And so I pushed.

Getting engaged unlocked a deeper understanding of commitment for me. I thought I had always had a long term view of our relationship and yet, in that moment, I realized that I can in fact love more and my commitment can, in fact, deepen. In the days since, it has provided food for thought about my relationship with running. I want to get back on track with my primary goal of running for my entire life. I want to truly embody a long-term view. I want to remember that that kind of commitment takes work, discipline and execution, but it also takes forgiveness, balance and perseverance. If I can remember that, then each step is a little bit lighter as I see the path ahead of me for miles and miles, disappearing beyond the horizon.


Long term relationship

Seriously serious about running

I don't recall the exact moment that it happened and I can only recognize it now that its true: I've gone all in with my running. I know it started with pursuing the Olympic Trials qualifier and simply grew and grew from there. And now I find myself at a place where, for the first time, I am taking a long view of my running and development as a runner. I am making plans and setting future goals.

It may be strange to think that I have ever been any other way about running, but the fact of the matter is, my racing has always been about short terms goals. I have always seen my running as something I want to do perpetually for a long time, but my racing has always been only on the micro scale. I never thought in terms of how my workout today might lay groundwork for a breakthrough in 3 years. Since I switched over to ultras, I have raced so often that my mind has never had to really plan longer than 3-6 months out. I have thrived and developed through intense 8-10 weeks of training at a time. I build on one race to leverage another, but the goals are always close at hand and readily upon me before I have time to even think about it.

After my recent success at NYC marathon and the Olympic Trials, I am chomping at the bit to see what I can develop into as a runner. I am eager to see what kind of runner I can become. I am back training intensely when many of my fellow competitors from the Trials are only now just considering going back to serious running. I have new goals and am pushing myself towards them. I am focusing back on the details and working on new ways to develop myself as a runner. I am all in.

Last week, after asking my coach Howard to up the intensity and difficulty of my key workouts, I was treated to more butt kicking than I have ever experienced. I ran so hard in my key workouts that I finished them completely drained and spent. I had moments where I bordered on wanting to puke or give up or fall apart but made it through. It was intensely satisfying and I am excited to do this tough kind of work.

And then yesterday afternoon, I had one of the worst runs of my life. I felt dead, I felt drained. My legs felt disembodied and I couldn't get my head right. I let it stress me out because with a short training cycle, every day and every decision feels so much more important. I spent a good amount of time contemplating how I was feeling, what my problem was, and generally just beat myself up about it. I finished the run and was worried that my important workout today would be compromised by fatigue or soreness that seemed to wrack my body.

When I woke up this morning, I felt a lot better and set out to my hill repeats up Strawberry Hill. Howard had 6 repeats planned for me, but being the glutton (mileage/intensity) that I am I was thinking that I would try and do more if I felt good. I started the workout and felt fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. And then I had an epiphany: Sometimes you just have to get in there and do the work. Some workouts are just building blocks for the long term goals. Every workout, run, decision is not a make or break. I realized that this workout didn't need to be a perfect one, it didn't need to be a breakthrough one, it didn't need to be THE workout. Instead, I realized that it was about getting my hands dirty and digging in, a building block for the future. I realized that I had put too much pressure on myself in individual workouts or decisions because I was not seeing the long term plan. I forgot that gardens take time to grow.

After my run, I was reading an article by Greg McMilan about Traits of a Successful Runner and this quote jumped off the page:

We have a saying in our Olympic training team that you must train consistently for two straight years -- no unscheduled interruptions due to injury or illness -- to even begin to see how good you can be. This reality applies to all of us. A year of consistent running is more beneficial than a few stellar weeks of training.

I had been living in a constant state of a "few stellar weeks of training" mentality. I realized on my run today and upon reading this, that I am, in fact, amid a much bigger period of uninterrupted consistent training. I hadn't seen it before, but I was working for the bigger picture without even being able to clearly see it. Furthermore, I had skewed my mentality to focus on the importance of short-term gains.

I see now that, while I have short term running goals, speeding very quickly up to meet me, they are only a part of the plan and their importance should not overshadow the pursuit of long term development. In essence, by allowing myself to look at the big picture, I am relieving the pressure to achieve everything NOW, NOW,NOW (or soon, soon, soon). By seeing that I am working towards the big picture, both successes and failures feel much more like the gentle ebbing and flowing of the tide instead of gigantic 100 foot waves. I am released from feeling like I have to do everything perfect because I can see that somedays simply cutting myself some slack is as important as the hardest most lung burning workout.

I am all in, but now I see that being all in, doesn't necessarily mean being unbalanced or single minded. It means methodically doing the work, taking steps in the right direction and constantly cultivating the garden where the seeds of my future will grow.

Being all in, doesn't mean stopping your life, either. Cheers to that.