Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Working on your Weaknesses!

Up until about a week ago I was a man without a goal race for this fall and my racing plans were ALL over the place.  Basically every week I was telling someone a different race it would be fun to peak for.  My original plan of the Berlin Marathon was supposed to be my fall race, but a miracle happened and with a baby on the way for Kelly and I later this year we decided to push the Berlin Marathon off to another year.  After tons of back and forth I ended up deciding to go with the JFK 50 miler as my peak race.  Yes, I have decided that 31 miles and 4 hours of running was not enough and that I wanted to add a couple more hours and 19 more miles of fun!  What lead me to make such a crazy decision with only one 50k under my belt and my general feeling of not being a great long distance guy, well read on and get inside my head!

Ever since I started running again in my 30’s after a long hiatus my mindset has changed drastically as a runner.  Ask me in high school and college what I needed to do to be a great 5/10k or steeplechase runner, well the answer was always intervals on the track, short long runs and no real long runs.  Who needs them, my race is 6+ miles long and the work to be done was on the track.  I HATED running long, you couldn’t pay me to run double digits.  Doubling, was the worst (two runs in the same day!).  But when I started up again as a more experienced person in my life, I followed the mindset I had the first day I got my first real job.  I wanted to be as well rounded as an employee I could be.  I was a software engineer by degree, but every day I was learning something new outside my area of expertise, something I felt I was weak or lacked knowledge about.  I would continually speak/learn from others on the project to try and broaden my knowledge of everything that went into this project.  My strength was software by degree, but by learning about everything else it would only help me to make more informed decisions as a software engineer.  I immediately became more powerful in my job because of having knowledge of other parts of my project and being able to apply that knowledge into software decisions.  But enough nerd talk what does that have to do with running?

We all have weaknesses and we can choose to accept them as that or choose to try and turn them into strengths.  One of the reasons I started this blog is because my comprehension of the English language is quite terrible (if I knew another language I would definitely be #ESL) so I continue to force myself to improve by reading books and writing this blog.  The dream is to one day write an email that has the correct “then” in it!  For a while like a lot of people I just accepted my weaknesses as something I am not good at but need to overcome, but at this point in my life I look at every weakness as a chance for me to get better at something.  It’s easy for us as people to just continue to do things we are great at, instead of trying to do something we are terrible at and risk looking stupid (I look stupid everyday it’s really not half bad).  As I apply this to running, I have spent the past five years always trying to find something I am not good at and focusing on that to try and turn it into a strength, something I hadn’t done in my younger years.

One thing I continue to do on a yearly basis as a runner is have tons of variety in my running.  I feel if you just keep focusing on the same stuff you get stale and you miss out on a valuable chance to improve all aspects of your running.  I have never done more than 1 marathon in a year, I always plan a shorter distance season, and usually a mid-distance race like 10 miles or a half marathon.  There are however a few weaknesses I have always had that I haven’t tried to improve and they are the reason I have decided to do the JFK 50 miler this fall.  I have never been great at having the mental focus needed for longer races or even longer training runs.  The Rosaryville 50k taught me that when you spend 3-4 hours alone on trails with no one around it’s that mental focus that will keep you on track and keep you going.  Especially when you look down at your watch and realize you have 17 miles to go, you need to stay focused and keep moving.  Even in training I don’t usually go for longer runs, looking back at my logs, in my 15 years of running, I have only ever done 15 20+ mile runs (counting marathons), so this is definitely something I call a weakness.  Another weakness is if you read my race report from my 50k I struggle mightily in taking in proper nutrition in races.   Every Marathon I have a problem getting in getting in nutrition when my heart rate spikes late in races, and well in the 50k that was even more magnified.  Additionally I am terrible on technical trails, my entire career I have avoided trail running like the plague.  If there are roots or rocks you can be sure I would find another place to run.  It was one of those things that I knew I was weak at so just avoided it at all costs so I didn’t get dropped on runs or hurt myself.  All of these are areas I have ignored for years and thought this fall would be the perfect time to try and improve. 

Now one might say… Nick every single weakness you pointed out is exactly what makes up the JFK 50 miler.  A race that has 15+ miles of technical trail(on the Appalachian trail), that is 50 miles in distance, that requires you to probably take in 1200-1400 calories, and that will require tons of mental focus as you are out there mostly alone for 6-7 hours.  And to that I would say, hmm you might a good point why did I sign up?  But seriously, I think it’s a great opportunity in my life at age 34 with many years of running behind me to be able to train really hard and try and attack a lot of the weaknesses I have as a runner in 1 training cycle and race.  Will I turn all of these into a strengths by November 19th, hell no.  But by sometime in the afternoon on Saturday November 19th, I will feel confident that I have trained and gotten better at each one of these weaknesses.  It gives me a level of excitement to know I am challenging myself in new ways as a person still into my mid 30's.  And in the end I will know that by taking on this challenge it will make me that much of a stronger runner across the board in 2017.  So as a runner and as a person I implore you to get outside your comfort zone as often as you can.  Don’t accept a weakness, try and improve them.  Sure it might be embarrassing at first but when you are on the stage karaoking “We Are Who We Are” by Kei$ha and killing it you will forget all about your fear of public speaking and just have fun.

Past couple of weeks update.  Well in my race recap I pointed out some foot pain I suffered before the Rosaryville 50k and thought it had basically subsided so it wasn’t anything to worry about.  Turns out after seeing my doctor I broke bones in two different toe’s about 10 days before the race.  So I ended up running the entire 31 mile race with 2 broken toes!  So that was fun to find out and the doctor and I had a good laugh.  Since I have listened to my Doctor’s advice(While being a giant whiny pain to everyone!) and taken the past 12 days off and just started running again this past weekend as the training ramps up on the way to JFK 50 miler in November.