Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Meditations On A Year Of Endurance: 2013 - Broken and Fixed

I had originally intended to write a followup post to OT 100...maybe a month or so after the race. Needed to kinda sum up the impact and late effects of a race that enormous. But the race report itself took a damn month to write, and I guess I got all busy livin' life and bein' Danny, so it never really happened.

I am now going to attempt to take what should be two separate posts and try to blend them into one cohesive piece of literature. This attempt will, in all likelihood, fail miserably, but when has the risk of failure ever stopped me before?

This year began with me in a very difficult place personally. I was still reeling from a failed relationship, but the full weight of significance hadn't yet sunk in. I was basically just stunned. The worst was surely yet to come. But I had been to that place before, and I knew the best thing I could do was distract myself. Luckily, I had set some pretty lofty goals for myself which were quite conducive to long hours doing some of my favorite things. In addition to throwing myself at The Year Of The Ultra and all the feats that it entailed, I also accepted a challenge to work out at least 30 minutes a day for the first 100 days of the year.

I missed three days. Not too shabby.

In the midst of this, I finally recommitted to building my yoga practice back to where it was when I was with her. I hadn't practiced in nearly a year, but I dusted off some old yoga videos she had given me and eventually found a studio in KC that welcomed me and made me feel at home. Yoga was a very beautiful and bittersweet thing for me. It calmed me and grounded me, but no matter how much I tried to "make it mine", it still did, and likely always will have that association with somebody I had loved and lost.

Doing work at Free State 100K
My other goals involved running, and lots of it. I was mentally committed to attempting my first 100K, and possibly my first 100 miler, with the bonus goal of 1000 miles of running in 2013. If you read me regularly, you know I did all of those things. January started off strong with lots of long runs out at WyCo with my future pacer Heather C. February saw me smash my 50K PR at Run Toto Run. March saw me PR again when I ran "with" my brother for his first 50K out in California. By "with" I mean he dropped me like a bad habit after 13 miles. Moving on into April, for the first time I raced the Brew2Brew solo, and then completed my first major goal of the year by finishing the Free State 100K.

It was during this time that things were beginning to resemble "ok" in my life. I was doing lots of fun and exciting things in my day to day life as well. I felt like maybe the worst was behind me, and my writing at the time reflected that. Perhaps it was all the success in running, goals achieved, and nice weather. Maybe it was that after 5 months of radio silence, I was talking with the ex again, trying to re-establish some form of friendship with this amazing person I had grown so close to. Maybe it was just lots of false hope that I pretended was a healthy friendship. Scratch the "maybe". It most definitely was that. And it would come back to bite me in the ass later in the year. But moving forward, I was starting to feel like I had regained some amount of equilibrium since the year began. The good times continued into May when, almost as an afterthought, I entered another 50K and once again utterly destroyed a PR. 

And then came the inevitable crash. When you try to build on an unsound foundation, it will all eventually come tumbling down to the earth. After 5 months of nonstop running, my body needed a break. Without running, without my distraction, my bubble of mental health unceremoniously burst, leaving me feeling sadder and more wretched than I had even at the beginning of the year. So much for progress...

After 2 months of pretty intense depression, with my body mostly healed, I was able to run(distract) myself again. In September, I spent a few weeks out west. I got to dizzy myself in alpine forests at 8000 ft elevation. I got to run straight-the-fuck up a ski slope in the freezing rain(first stretch of Western States 100 course). I got to help good friends achieve mighty things. I returned home feeling focused and more importantly, fulfilled. THIS is the shit that actually makes a heart whole again. You can run 1000 miles, but if those miles don't mean anything, you're still a sad asshole who is angry at the world.
Finding bliss on the Tahoe Rim Trail
It was also around this time that I began to realize that the "healthy friendship" I had been trying to maintain was simply not a possibility. Not now, and maybe not ever. I've struggled with that a lot. The idea of letting an important person disappear completely from your's pretty fucking heavy. But I think letting myself finally accept that possibility was an important step in my recovery.

October saw me finishing up the last weeks of training before I tapered for the ultimate goal for the year: The Ozark Trail 100! Taper blues hit me pretty hard, especially considering I had to cut out my last high mileage week due to a sore ankle. I faced 3 weeks of limited running and all sorts of time to sit and think about all the doubts, the bullshit, and the fact that I hadn't been on a date for a really really long time and I was kinda sadly ok with that.

Limping across the finish line
Whatever...race weekend arrived and "presto" I became a 100 miler.  You most likely already spent half a day reading about it. I include the links to all of these race reports in the event that an 11th person has discovered my blog and that this is all new to them. Welcome Reader #11!

If I had to sum up the few weeks following Ozark Trail in a few words, they would be: Pain, Ibuprofen, and Ice. I was hurt. Not like post-race actual proper-fuck injury. Broken. It was most of a week before I could effectively walk on my gimpy ankle. It was almost two weeks before I could sleep through the night without having to wake up for fresh ice packs and more NSAIDs. My back was completely ruined. I got a few weeks of good work from my massage therapist before she took her leave of absence from work to ADOPT A BABY!!! (Seriously, he's cute...but I want you back ASAP.) In addition, I still have inexplicable numbness in some of my toes and we're almost 2 months out at this point.

I had prepared myself for quite possibly the worst bout of post-race blues I had ever experienced. I had already experienced the delightful effect of removing running from my life, so piling that on top of the normal post-race emptiness was going to be a real doozy...or at least I thought it would.

I discovered after my first Ironman that I have this tendency to downplay the importance of an accomplishment after I've achieved it. For some reason, my ego is less impressed by a challenge I have met than it is by one I have yet to meet. I cheat myself out of feelings of success for really no good reason. It all goes back to teenage insecurities...long story. With this being my biggest race yet, I expected nothing different than the usual rolling of the eyes and a "So what?" from my subconscious self.

Against all odds, however, it was different this time. I'm still trying to understand why I haven't sunk right back into depression following that race. I know I had my little "A HA!" moment during the race where I forgave myself for all the things I've beaten myself up about for the past 2 years, but that moment was fleeting and forgotten by the time I crossed the finish line, and it certainly didn't resurface in my memory until weeks later when I dredged it all back up to write my race report. And for some crazy reason, when I thought about what I had accomplished...I was really REALLY fucking proud of myself. Like...a lot.

So that was nice, for a change.

As broken as I was following that race, honestly I felt like something had snapped...I mean...not like a bone or a tendon...something intangible. Like I had broken through a wall of some sort. I felt light and carefree for the first time in a really really long time. I had finished most likely the longest race I will ever attempt in my life. That's pretty deep for an athlete. I mean maybe I'll become one of those sickos who do multiday races, but honestly I don't know if that's for me. But if the source of motivation involves either "faster" or "farther", then I've hit my ceiling for "farther". I expected that to bring some negative thoughts with it, but it's almost liberating in a way. I haven't fully figured that one out either.

Something else has changed though. The forgiveness that I allowed myself, while originally just a passing moment in a really good 25 mile stretch, has endured against all odds. I still feel that freedom from guilt in my heart. And that freedom has blossomed into something even better.


WOAH! Woah, back up the truck there, shitface. We accept only happy, positive notions in our New Year's Roundup posts. What the fuck is this asshole getting at?

 Yes. I am letting the hate flow through me as I embrace the Dark Side of The Force.

Ok it's really not as bad as it sounds. Anger is not always a bad thing, and forgiving myself was only one side of the coin. What I've realized very recently is this... I was wronged, but I never let myself be angry at the person who had actually hurt me. In my mind, I constantly apologized for her, made excuses for her, and heaped all of that anger onto myself instead.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not writing this to trash on my ex. I still think the world of her and hope that someday we can be friends again. She had to make the choices that she felt were best for her and I can't fault her for that. But for those exact reasons, it was really hard for me to let myself feel anger towards her. When I admitted to myself that it wasn't my fault, I opened the door for those festering emotions to finally be let out so I can let them go.

So it is, with a broken body, a slowly mending heart, and a healthy amount of righteous anger, I close out another year in the Book of Danny. Before I discuss what's next, allow me to briefly record my mileage totals for 2013:

Running - 1006 miles
Biking - 96 miles
Swimming - 1500 METERS (yes I swam twice this with it)

So not really an impressive year aside from the worries though. That will all change in...

2014: The Year That Doesn't Have a Slogan Quite As Catchy As "Year Of The Ultra"

It's a working title...

Honestly, all I know about 2014 so far is that I'm doing Ironman Boulder in August. I didn't want to do another one this year. Wasn't psyched about it yet. Didn't want to sign up for a race that big if I wasn't psyched. But then Alan, Del, Sherry, and Larry all signed up...who was I to miss out on racing with such quality people. So with no small amount of indignation for having been hornswoggled into signing up, I hoped that the motivation and excitement to train and race would present itself at some point.

And then it did. Running out at Shawnee Mission Park with Del one day, he mentioned that his primary goal for Ironman Boulder was to beat my PR.

Oh snap. It is now, for all intents and purposes..."on". I can't think of a better motivating force than rekindling the friendly athletic rivalry with one of my best friends. We've got such different strengths, but all in all we're incredibly well-matched. So now that I've got a title to defend, I'm excited about this race.

Some secondary goals along the road to IMB...I'd like to run a fast 5K...sub 21 would be a PR. Maybe try for a 1:35 half marathon. Perhaps a new marathon PR? I technically haven't run one since 2009. I mean if you ignore 2 Ironmans and 10 ultra distance runs. I know I'll be pacing Bryan West at Run Toto Run 50K. I know I'll have to train more on roads than on trails, but maybe I'll keep my trail brain happy by regularly pacing friends in their races.

Mostly this year, I know I need to really focus on the bike. I've never really put in enough training on the bike to really give myself a good chance to succeed in triathlon, and I want this to be the year that changes. I don't want to set a mileage goal because I'll basically be done with the majority of my riding in August. I think 3000-4000 miles on the bike sounds reasonable, but the more important goal is that I don't feel like pan-fried ass when I leave T2 this summer. I'm hoping the issues with my back can be resolved quickly so that I can start working towards this goal.

As far as non-athletic goals, or as normal people call them..."resolutions"...I'm going to switch up my usual stance. In the past I have ranted and raved against the idea of New Year's Resolutions. "Too limiting", I'd say. "Usually forgotten within a month", another favorite. "Self improvement can happen year-round" I'd shout to nobody in particular. "HEY MOTHERFUCKERS, BE INSPIRED. ALWAYS."...yeah maybe I got a little too pushy.

I have a few things I'm considering doing, haven't quite decided which ones will make the final cut and become "things I end up doing" but here's a short list of things I'd like to work on:

-Improving my spanish. I actually started a month ago, so yay for me.
-Learning in taking lessons instead of just fucking around with my self-taught bullshit like I normally do.
-Be smarter with my money...I don't do too bad, but you can always eat out less.
-Be a happier version of myself...I know that's a repeat from last year, but shouldn't that be everyone's goal EVERY year?

So why am I not raging against the trend of New Year's resolutions this year? Honestly, I haven't the energy. And as well as things seem to be going, I'm still not convinced that I don't have any struggling left to do. When you're at the top of the mountain, it's easy to yell down at the people just starting their climb and assure them the view is spectacular and it's totally worth the struggle. I feel like in previous years, as good as my intentions were, I was blinded by the privilege of having essentially LIVED at the top of the happiness mountain for a good while. When my lofty perch crumbled from underneath me, I got to relearn what it feels like to struggle. When the storm is so bad you can't even SEE the summit, it's really hard to get excited about any sort of forward progress.

Being knocked down a few pegs helped me realize that most people aren't lucky enough to be constantly surrounded by amazing and inspirational people, and maybe January 1st is that one time when they can see a break in the clouds and be reminded that there is something good to be found up at the top. I won't steal that moment from them, nor will I fault them if that is their only moment of the year. I will just wish them luck, and that maybe next year, the view will be a little bit better.

So that got about 500 times more deep and metaphorical than I intended. Sorry.

I wish the best of luck to you all in the coming year. If you are resolving to improve something, or have set a goal for yourself, let me know in the comments(here or on FB). If I can help you in any way I will, be it pacing, training with you, keeping you accountable, or just plain old encouragement.

Thanks for reading...Happy New Year!


1000 miles in 2013...done.