The Purpose of the "50-Mile Dolphin Dash"

Welcome to my blog leading up to the American Cetacean Society's 2nd Annual "50-Mile Dolphin Dash" fundraiser run on Wednesday, July 6th, Monterey, CA. I'm willing to shed 50 miles worth of blood, sweat, and (possibly) tears to raise funds to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in St. Helier, Jersey (UK), where ACS will be speaking out against commercial whaling and compromises to international whale protection measures. I'm also the Executive Director of ACS, so I put my heart and "sole" where my mouth is.

Support the Dolphin Dash with a tax-deductible contribution:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless.

Today marks the first 35-mile run of the training season. I’m not ready. I readily admit that I rarely ever consciously prepare for such distances or even longer. I’m a notorious slacker in my running. It’s not that I don’t take it seriously... I just find more joy in it when I approach it on my own terms, rather than how others believe I should.

A former coach used to refer to me as “Jan Ullrich”, a reference to the notoriously undisciplined German cyclist who unfailingly allowed himself to get hopelessly out-of-shape and overweight in the off-season, only to have to seriously bust his ass ten times as hard in the eleventh hour in order to compete against Lance Armstrong. While Armstrong was pounding away mountains to dust in the Pyrenees, my cycling hero was watching football, couch surfing, and pounding beers and bratwurst. Ullrich always pulled it off, though, and I prefer to think he just worked best under pressure. I liked Ullrich precisely because he was the underdog, and because he seemed more real to me – with feet of clay, temptations, propensity for burnout, and natural but undeveloped talent for something that is all-at-once your greatest source of joy and anguish.

My ‘Ullrich-isms’ are heightened by the fact that I have no coach this year as a result of relocation. Consequently, I am coaching myself, which believe me... isn’t one of the more illuminating ideas I’ve had.  If I had a coach, I wouldn’t have been tempted to goof off and go surfing yesterday, which also means I wouldn’t be nursing a huge, purple, swollen injury to my right quad that aches with every step. I also would not have had three glasses of wine and enough party food for two linebackers last evening.  But here I am, feeling-less-than laser-honed and tight, and remorseless.

My Mardi Gras approach to running, training, diet, and lifestyle makes me a coach’s worst nightmare.  At times, I approach life as if New Year’s was a weekly event; I rarely get enough sleep; I work too much and burn out; I don’t replenish my body with electrolyte-balanced sport drinks; I don’t rebuild and repair damaged muscle tissue with protein bars, and I don’t load on Advil to mask pain; I may or may not remember to take in enough salt.  I don’t carbo-load before runs; I don’t use a heart-monitor; I don’t even wear a watch. I don’t stretch or taper, I don’t believe in high-tech anything when it comes to running, and chances are good on a race day that I’ve literally rolled out of bed, grabbed some chips and coffee for breakfast, and schlepped up to the starting line to banter with my fellow racers. Not exactly “Eye of the Tiger” material.

I’m not focused on the win. I’m not focused on the field of runners around me. I’m focused on reaching that point where my brain disengages itself from active thought and my body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that I almost forget I’m moving. That’s not rocket science, that’s just putting the time in.

My last coach, John Russo, liked to remind me "second place is first loser!

I’m making peace with second place – in running and beyond. It’s not a terrible place to be until second place begins to feel like first loser.  So far, it hasn't.

Running has taught me a lot about life. Maybe now life will teach me something about running.

Happy trails...

No comments:

Post a Comment