Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Quest for Water

The quest for water...

Nope, not the cattle tank water Super Bee likes to play in on our runs, but the water you find upon going to the well.  This next statement is a coaches nightmare, but to me it's also a motivator to keep pushing toward the next goal.  I am confident I can count on both hands the number of times I've truly crossed that line during a race and discovered the success that lies on the other side.  Typically, I'm the one playing it safe, not tempting that line.  If you're competitive in any aspect of sports or life, you know that line I speak of.  Or to some, they refer to it as going to the well, seeing how far they can push beyond their "limits."

Super Bee enjoying the muddy water at Pipeline Tank.

Many argue running is more a mental act than a physical one.  I believe running is greatly physical and there is such a thing as talent, however I do argue that racing is more mental than physical.  Ironically, I have been known to say "I wish I could just turn off my brain during a race."  Turning off your brain is still a mental act though.  Banishing those demons and negative thoughts takes just as much practice as going out and logging mile after mile, day after day.

It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief.  And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.     ~Muhammad Ali

During those handful of times I went to the well,  I have experienced first-hand the exhilaration and confidence that occurs.  And also the rewards that followed.  Because along with the decision to dig just a little deeper, came a break-through race, a championship title, or an opportunity to advance in my running career.

What's interesting is that upon looking back on these races, I remember exactly what was going through my head.  I distinctly remember making a decision, deciding that I had not gone to the well and that there was a lot of fight left in me.  So, I ask myself constantly why do I not do this more often?

A perk of living at 7,000 feet is feeling like you can reach up and touch the clouds.
A scene like this will quickly lift your spirits.

There's a delicate balance between racing smart and racing recklessly, between being too conservative and taking that risk that could lead you to greatness.  Why are we so afraid to cross over into the unknown in a race?  Is it fear of failure?  Or a fear of being great?

My high school athletic director sent this to me about a year ago, and I can't help but think this has merit. At the time, I was struggling to find the runner I once was.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.       ~Marianne Williamson

Second run with Bee paralleling Wing Mountain.

And now I'm more than the runner I once was.   Enough philosophy!  Training is dialed in and going very well.  I did a 5 x mile workout starting at 5:43 and ending at 5:24 (road loop averaging 7300').  Last year at this time, I couldn't finish the workout and the times were slower.

Mistakenly named A1, this is where many a long run
happen.  Last weekend saw a Fast Finish 18 miler.

Part of the above run, you can do what is called the Lollipop
around Wing Mountain.  The loop is 7 miles for a total of 21 miles.
This is marathon training at its best.  As I say, sugar is a silent killer.

So I ask, is the over-used, cliche quote "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift" really cliche?  The search for water continues at Twin Cities...

Friday, September 9, 2011

USA 20k Championships Reflection

On September 5th, I returned to the USA 20k Championships in New Haven, Connecticut.  In 2009, I learned a valuable lesson: never toe the line at a US Championship race unless you are healthy, fit, and ready to compete.  The goal going into the race in 2011 was a top ten finish.  My final place...9th in a time of 1:11.05.  Photos by (Chris Nickinson and John Nepolitan).

Post-race interview courtesy of RunnerSpace:

Mid-warm up.
After being in east coast for two weeks leading up to the race I figured I'd be ready for the humidity.  However, the weather gods had other plans.  According to locals, these were the worst conditions in several years.  Nevertheless, we all had to cope.  I knew it was a rough day when I passed one top woman walking along the water leading up to 7 miles and then yet another very consistent performer a couple minutes later.

Brett Gotcher, 2009 Champion, mid-stride.
Brett finished a solid 5th.
Top men hammering it out.
It has become apparent that Flagstaff, Az is the place to train.  Three of the top ten men and two of the top ten women train in Flagstaff.  But wait, it gets even better!  Both the men's and women's winners prepared for this race in Flagstaff.  I present your 2011 champions: Abdi Abdiraham and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom.

Abdi, aka Black Cactus, with a dominating win.

Each year at the elite meeting, a family member of the late Ryan Shay (2004 Champion) gives a heartfelt talk in remembrance.  This year, Abdi spoke on his most prominent memories of Ryan and their friendship.  

Janet takes the win.  Janet is often seen at our
weekly Bagel Run in Flagstaff.

Although I am not entirely happy with my race, I am encouraged that I am "back in the saddle."  After many airport delays and the worst travel nightmare, our crew finally made it back to Flagstaff to get recovered from our Labor Day festivities.  I am now ready to hit a few short weeks of marathon specific training to prepare for Twin Cities Marathon in early October.  I have high goals to achieve and unfinished business to take care of!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Next Generation

I've recently had several reminders as to how much of an impact I have on up and coming runners without even realizing it.  I just found out the other week that two girls in the surrounding area both recently received running scholarships, in part because my parents were able to share with their parents what we learned from my high school running career.  I had no idea, but one of the girls carried around a picture of the two us together for many years as her inspiration.

A couple months ago, I was talking to my high school coach, Coach Mike Tanner, and he asked if I would be interested in talking with the local high school teams.  I was excited to be offered such an opportunity.  This week, I had the privilege of returning to my high school (now split into two schools: Warren County and Skyline) to give a talk on all the little things that take you to the next level in running, such as core, strides and drills, and nutrition.

Upon arriving at the track for a run with the Skyline High School (Coach Mike Tanner) and Warren County High School (Coach Jeremy Burnworth) teams, I was met with a surprise:  The Warren County girls had made "I love Emily" shirts.  I was very flattered, and it made me not so nervous for the upcoming talk.

Warren County Wildcats Cross Country Team

The next day, I went to Warren County's dual meet with Clarke County (The Wildcats won on both sides!).  Meanwhile, the Skyline Hawks were at an away meet with some fiercer competition with the boys missing the win by a mere two points.  After the race, the girls invited me to cool down with them.

Gathering around the finish line.

Post-cool down.  These ladies are chasing
the State Title this year.  Photo by Ariel.

Thank you to Coach Tanner, Coach B and all the athletes for making me feel welcome.

Over the past year, I've also had the opportunity to work with Coach Trina Painter's Kids on the Run program and the FACTS after school track program, both of which have broadened my awareness of youth running.  I feel honored to have the continuous support of my hometown community.  I look forward to continuing to share my love of running with others and to be a positive influence.    
Post-long run relaxation in the the Shenandoah.
Unfortunately, it's not cold enough to count as an ice bath.

Warming up for 12-16 x 400m.

Beast  (That one's for you Coach Tanner)

On the drive home...