Thursday, April 17, 2014

Run Life From Your Core

Running life from your core takes practice, patience, vigor, curiosity, and the continued desire to seek and find the pieces of the puzzle hidden in plain sight.  Everyday I train: My mind. My body. My soul.  


Building up my base so that I can enjoy life and live every moment to the fullest.  It isn’t about being skinny, achieving an arbitrary number on a scale, or looking “hot”. It’s about feeling good and about breaking down the obstacles that lie in my path, and harder yet, the obstacles I have put there to slow myself down, to prevent myself from moving forward.

“Your body will argue that there is no justifiable 
reason to continue. Your only recourse is to 
call on your spirit, which fortunately functions 
independently of logic.” 
- Tim Noakes: The Lore of Running 

I train because I love the pain.The sore muscles, that spent feeling -- the temporary weakness experienced by the body, overcome by the mind.  One night in June after a particularly hard track workout I felt completely worked over and exhausted when a friend reminded me that “pain is just weakness leaving the body”. Personally, I love the feeling of weakness taking shape as beads of sweat on my skin, evaporating, then invisible, gone: only strong remains.  





I live for the feeling of exhausted muscles, shaky legs, and slipping into compression socks that hug my calves and refresh my legs, so I am ready when life comes calling. 
If you want to move forward you have to be ready.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Steve Prefontaine

My recovery involves sitting with my feet up, in compression socks, writing and sipping tea, listening to music and trying to make sense of my life and then share it with my small corner of the world.  Triathlon training builds the physical and mental muscle, so that when I sit down to write, the writing process heals my body by keeping me still, present, in one place; and brings fresh ideas and insights, the butterflies that follow me home on my run, and find their way onto paper, a story, a sentence.  A word. Meaning. Life. One page, one mile, one day at a time.

“Good things come slow, especially in distance running.” 
- Bill Dellinger 

They say to write well you have to write often, that it helps keep the cobwebs at bay.  I would change that and say that in order to run and write well you have to run and write often, it helps keep the cobwebs and kinks at bay.  When I run before I write my brain is stimulated in different ways and the thoughts and ideas that flow are more abstract, unexpected, and pure. I find sitting to be very difficult work and it doesn’t take long before I start to bemoan being stationary, I need to move.  Running gives me movement, it wears me out.  By the time I get to sit down and write, sipping tea, listening to music, I am ready to receive the moment for what it is: a gift.  Running makes me give thanks each and every day for movement. A body in motion.  That is a gift.  Running and writing about it is how I honor the gift of motion.

 “I write to find out what I think”
- Stephen King 

Training hard is the strategic, systematic process of breaking the things that beg to be broken, the parts of my body and mind that cry out for more, giving them what they want, what they need, burning them down to build them back up again, stronger, better, faster. Finding new ways to fix old problems, habits, and ways of knowing and doing. Training.I do not “exercise”, this isn’t about “personal fitness”, or “weight-loss”.  I train for life.  



Simple. Running is simple. And complex.  Pleasure. Pain. And all you need is a pair of running shoes. Get outside and run, let nature do the rest

A section of Pre's Trail in Eugene, Oregon - Jan 2013 

I run because I believe in magic and the simpleness of an ordinary run that can somehow, through perspiration, effort, and distance can transform instantly into a force of its own, allowing you to dig deep and tap into the energy of the universe, when you get “there”: you feel like you can run forever. Heart and my legs fueled by pure unadulterated bliss. Flying.


Cranking out hill repeats, digging deep, cracking myself open to peer inside and seek to find the simple answers that lie in wait at the perimeter of my mind and on the outskirts of my life. The fringe.  Feeling the burn in my legs and the oxygen flowing through my lungs, trying to keep my breath steady, form strong, until I break and start sucking wind, until the lactic acid takes over my entire body and the burning feeling becomes fire, which to my endorphin flooded brain feels like pleasure, like sweet satisfaction.  

“Dig deep into that inexhaustible well of grit, guts and determination.”
 - Ken Chlouber, Leadville Trail 100 Founder

Satisfaction keeps me moving forward and the “feeling”, the experience of a satisfying workout an wash over you like a shower and the best part is: it lingers.  Not every run is a “good” run, but if I run long enough, any run has the potential to be an epic, mind-opening experience.  If you push yourself against your comfort zone, you’ll start to break the wall down, brick by brick.  Mile by mile.  Day by day. Page by page.  Waiting on the other side of your fears and doubt you will find possibility.  




In running and in writing, I find the more I “do”, the better I think, feel and perform.  There is of course a limit and I’m always pushing up against the limit, expanding my boundaries, refining, tweaking, breaking it down to make it whole.  Our move here was the third in “recent history” in our quest to find something we’ve both been looking for and by the time graduation came in mid-December I was exhausted.  My training slowed, but was never put on hold.  I kept at it, week after week.  Progress was slow and motivation was low, but I kept moving forward.  

“You could carry your burdens lightly or with great effort. 
You could worry about tomorrow or not. 
You could imagine horrible fates or garland-filled tomorrows. 
None of it mattered as long as you moved,
 as long as you did something. 
Asking why was fine, but it wasn’t action. 
Sometimes you just do things.” 
- Scott Jurek 

Sometimes running wins the race, sometimes it’s writing, but the important thing is they’re both in the race, working and training hard to raise the ceiling to new possibilities and to explore the limits of the body, the mind.  It’s a slow and patient process.  It develops, like fine wine and cannot be rushed. 


In Joe Friel’s The Triathlete’s Training Bible, he discusses multi-year training goals and explains how to build a plan several years out, if your goal is a serious endurance event like the 70.3 mile Half-Ironman and the 140.6 Ironman distance races.  Last fall I hoped I would be ready to take on the Half-Ironman this year, but in being patient and listening to my body I realized I have to focus on (re)building my core: fixing the kinks and twinges, before I attempt to tear it down, break it apart, peer inside, and build it back up, stronger, better.  One mile, one day at a time. 

Running is the tool I use to crack my mind open wide so that I may peer inside and watch my thoughts running wild, it’s like trying to catch butterflies without a net. This is where the mind takes over the body and the body enters a new territory where anything is possible. 

Digging deep into that place, that state of mind, the switch flips, the trick is that you never know when it is going to be flicked. One minute you’re dying and the next minute you’re at the threshold of enlightenment about to take a sip from a sacred fountain. 

This is the zone. 

It is experienced in moments which are fleeting and often hard to explain and do not abide by the rules of time in a linear fashion, moments like that make their own kind of time and leave subtle, if any, footprints behind.  Everything and nothing all at the same time.  Empty. Full.  Silence. Noise.  Sweet release. Peace. Breath. Light. Wings.  Butterflies.

“Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow...Only while we are in action is the circulation perfect.” - Henry David Thoreau 

I usually finish a run with a feeling of blank, emptiness.  What now?  Then I sit down to work and attempt to interpret “the butterflies”, the fleeting thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotion that surface when I run hard and give it everything I’ve got, as a result I end up with a good amount of random thoughts and ideas, re-reading my journals is like reliving a run, one mile at a time.  Bits and pieces.  One page at a time.


Running and writing are a harmonious union and have allowed me to find a way to put the many pieces of “the puzzle” pieces together.  I stare at the blank spaces, the missing pieces and recall Rilke (thanks again, A & M): 

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” - Rainer Maria Rilke 

This fall when I began building the blog, documenting The Experience that is The Moose Lodge, I ordered business cards for networking, to include with hard copy submissions, etc.  It wasn’t a big deal, they didn’t cost that much, but they symbolized something important: taking my writing and my experience seriously.  The business card had a line for a corporate motto or other related information.  Puzzled, I thought “what am I all about?”.  
“Isn’t a runner’s story merely a collection of experiences defined by both risk and passion?  We can define risk as a willingness to embrace the unexpected, unpleasant or downright awful in exchange for a chance to feel something strong,  pure and barely controllable.” - Rickey Gates, Trail Runner: Dirt, 2014 ed. 
Last January I opened a new chapter in my fitness and embarked on my “Bad Ass Mother Runner” fitness routine (“BAMR” for short), modeled after an idea for a strength training circuit in Train Like a Mother and Run Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.  I incorporated an easy warm-up and cool-down, with varied sets of weights and body weight exercises using the bosu, yoga ball, blocks, resistance bands, and gravity.  
What I learned after finishing the Big Wild Life Marathon in 2012 was that my core wasn’t as strong as my thirst for running craved.  I set to work and did daily planks in addition to the BAMR routine and regular triathlon training. Why?  Because if you want to run well your core has to be strong, if you want to live well your core (values) have to be strong. Run Life From Your Core became my personal “mantra”, the fuel that keeps the engine running smooth.  My core. The foundation.  Building it up, to tear it down and start all over again. Training brings you to your knees, if you work hard enough and remain consistent training will grant you your wings.  
One page, one mile, one plank, one day at a time.