The crystal ball

First off, I was interviewed about running, diet, and blogging by Organic Athlete. They have posted the interview today…so check it out if you are interested.

http://www.organicathlete.org

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As a counter-balance to yesterday’s seemingly pessimistic post, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the boundaries of potential regarding my future in running.

There have been countless individuals with natural talent who have started running, and excelled. There have also been countless runners with natural talent who have quit for one reason or another. I think, to simplify the point, there are only a handful of reasons people quit running, burn-out being at the top of that list, followed by the scheduling constraints of daily life (job, family, etc.), and maybe injury or something a touch weirder below that. This realization, oddly enough, is very encouraging to me. 

I started running two years ago with not a single thought towards the future aside from keeping busy while my son discovered the world. I remember stepping further back from the start line than I already was at my first race, thinking to myself, “Holy crap, I’m gonna get smoked!” I had no competitive ambitions. But race after race I found myself at the front, or with the pack, or leading my age group, and everything kinda snowballed from there. My times dropped. I started training more diligently. I won gift certificates. I made friends in running culture. And so on.

Still, it took me awhile to accept that I was a “good” runner. I envied (and still do) the other guys in the race that consistently run sub 5:00 minute miles. Knowing how far off I was from a talent like that, I didn’t much think about how far I could go with this running thing. I just wanted to have fun and test my limits….I just didn’t know how far my limits might take me. 

Granted, I don’t mean to imply I’m on the threshold of running stardom, not even close…but this is about the future. 

I’m only 32, coming up on 33 in a month, and although this is the time some people have a mid-life crisis or start to really freak out about not living the American Dream, or even expect their running careers to end (as some elites do), I still feel like I’m just getting started. Maybe it’s not having a college running experience. Maybe it was the 13 year hiatus after high school. Still, I don’t yet feel like I’ve gone all out. Yes, this marathon training is noticeably more intense than what I’ve done up until now, but hell, we haven’t even gotten into that heavily yet. Technically, we’ve barely started. 

So this leads me to consider how far I can actually take this. 

Two years isn’t really THAT long in terms of training and it’s worthwhile to note that I’ve been doing this on my own, with no coach except my intuition and the bits of advice I’ve managed to retain from running magazines. I’ve only been stepping things up incrementally, adding a hill workout here, a speed workout here, an extra mile or two there, but nothing extremely dedicated, until this marathon of course. So, forgive my excitement about what is to come.

I’m humble enough to admit that I was quite thrilled, even if I didn’t show it, to find out one of the guys I run with on Tuesdays qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials for this past olympics. For one, it’s encouraging to know that I’m able to keep enough speed to actually hang on in the workouts with runners of this caliber, but further, his qualifying has given me a dose of perspective that inspired this post.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll qualify for the Olympic Trials in the coming years, especially since those buggers dropped the qualifying time from sub 2:22 to sub 2:18, but I am saying I don’t plan on knocking out a couple “successful” marathons and then calling it quits. Running is about progression. Progressing until something unavoidable gets in the way, whether that is the physical deterioration that comes with age (except the world record holder is 38 and going strong), or injury, or the constraints of daily life. 

I only see myself working to get faster and faster, whatever that takes short of doping, so hey, why not? Why not keep the olympic qualifiers as a future benchmark, not anything concrete, but not pushed so far to the back of the mind that it becomes a self-depricating joke?

Thinking about this on the run the other day, another thought came to mind. Let’s say things go better than expected in the coming years and I actually do make the qualifiers…would that mean I would be the first vegan to run the qualifiers? Now, there isn’t much of a record of vegan athletes…and I’d be thrilled to know a vegan has run the qualifiers already (clue me in anybody), but if no one has, why not try to be the first? If that was the only lasting accomplishment of my life, I could think of worse ways to spend my existence.

So who knows, besides time, what may come. All I know is that this still feels like the beginning and I’m not satisfied yet. For now though, I’ve got a lot of work to do.

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Log

Took the day off. It’s a long story, but I’ve developed some debilitating pains in my shoulder (nerves?) that I think are related to past construction work, or maybe current emotional stress, and they flare up from time to time. They get so bad that running becomes impossible…let alone breathing deep, yawning, coughing, sneezing, etc. It’s awesome. So tonight, I’m just looking to get a massage from Michelle and hopefully work this sucker out. Certainly didn’t want to miss my tough workout today, but somethings are unavoidable.

Diet

Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ peanut butter, almonds, turbinado), coffee
Lunch – Sloppy Joe TVP, corn and brocolli, Peanut butter and jelly
Dinner – cous cous, tofu, veggies
Snacks – water, coffee, banana, tea, wheat puffs cereal, some crappy health cracker 🙂

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4 responses to “The crystal ball

  1. Aloha Scott!

    Great stuff man, I read the interview on OA and your story is truly inspiring!

    Yes, I’m going to do this workout tonite and probably get through about half of it at 5:10 pace before doing a few 5:20’s. Ugh. It’s frustratin and I’m continuously being humbled by this workout. Next week it jumps to 9 and then to 10 the week after (something to look forward to I know!!)

    You truly are one of our leaders and I can only hope to follow in your footsteps. I am a long way off where you are and my coach is constantly reminding me how much I can improve and how much better others are than myself. I usually lower my head, eat my humble pie and get on with it.

    Continue to push and find your limit…your fuel is the right kind and you should reap the reweards! Keep inspiring me, I need all the help I can get here in Hawaii.

    • Hey Alex, glad you liked the interview.

      Man, you are adapting to the speedwork quickly…that’s awesome. You start nailing those times and you’ll be taking all the races. Where are you placing now…pretty high (if not winning) i’d guess?

      Looking forward to reading more entries on your blog.

  2. Believe it or not man, I’ve only run 3 races since I started running in January, all three of them without formal coaching. Translation = I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I placed decent in all of them, I can dominate these courses now but at the time, I didn’t think I’d get into running and cyling the way I am in now. My most recent race was the Bay2Breakers in SF. I think the top 12 runners in the world were present! The winner shattered the world record for that race incidentally.

    I placed 77th overall and my pace was a 6:05. Nothing huge, not too bad for my third race. I tell you this though, I’m foaming at the mouth to do this course again!

    Hope you rested up on your day off! My ‘day off’ is Sunday. I’ll be riding 60+ miles on the bike. Wish you could see some of the views on the islands with me amigo.

    Keep fightin’ the good fight!

    • Sounds like you are diving into this quickly. That’s awesome…you’ll be amazed at how quickly you improve and place at future races as you gain experience.

      Hawaii sounds pretty amazing. I’d love to do some mountain/trail running out there. I’ll let you know when I win the lottery and can take a vacation. We’ll go for a run! 🙂

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