Thursday, October 30, 2014

Measured Indifference: A Backyard Odyssey

     What is an odyssey?  Webster's Online says: a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding to someone.   The Big Backyard Ultra was such an experience.  The Ultrasign up description says, "The concept is brutally simple. Race until every runner, save one, surrenders." And you can click on the link above for the rest of the details.
     Even though Doug told me about the event back at Hardrock, I didn't sign up or make any plans for this event until the Barkley Fall Classic.  Gina and I were having a smoke with Gary after packet pickup closed and he mentioned it.  Once I got back home I signed up on the wait list and Gina and I made our flight arrangements.  We were not sure I'd be able to run, but figured if not, we'd get drunk and party. 
     Lo and behold, I made it off the wait list.  Yippie!  I get to run 4.166 mile loops till I die.  Great.  We arrived in Nashville the Friday before the race, picked up supplies, and headed to Bell Buckle.  The race venue was laid back.  We checked in with Laz and tried to make friends with BigCharlie Engle was there which was cool because I had seen his movie, Running the Sahara, and hoped I'd get a chance to meet him one day!  We talked a bit and headed back into town for some pizza and beer.
     At dinner we meet up with Mike, Kelly,  and also Joe Fejes the American 6 day record holder.  Stories were told and a few beers consumed in the typical ultrarunning fashion.  Always wanting one more, but knowing we have work in the AM, we paid the tab and headed back to our tent at Gary's house.
     We got off to an easy start at 7AM.  No worries, 4.16 miles and an hour to do it in. Listening to advice from Mike, Marcy, and Kelly I made a mental note of waypoints on the course and at what minute of the hour I hit them.  As we completed the first loop at about 55 minutes, I mentioned to Marcy how it seemed a bit stressful that at 57 minutes Laz blew the whistle 3 times, at 58 - 2 times, and at 59 minutes 1 time and at the top of the hour he rang the bell.  Marcy casually replied, "It's only stressful if you make it."  Great advice Marcy.
     Gina crewed the shit out of me.  She had all the right things I needed at all the right times.  She alleviated the boredom between loops by swapping stories and jokes with Mike, Mike, and Gary.   She had her bikini top on with her cowboy boots!  Of course!
     We went round-n-round every hour, on the hour.  At hour 12 it was the last loop on trail before we moved to the road, but you hit night time during this loop.  A few drops were expected.  I'm not sure how many there were.  However we hit the next 12 road loops with about 20 or so runners, maybe just 16 but I don't know for sure.  While some folks, mostly Kelly, said I was real talkative, I actually felt like I didn't talk much at all.  Her and I did talk on loop 2 and maybe 3.
     In the middle of the night, probably loop 20 I really wanted to quit.  Gina urged me to go on, and I kinda knew I would not quit at that time, but got dammed, I wanted too.  I kept saying, okay dammit one more loop.  And plus there were 16 people left on the course. Geeze, I can't quit now!  
     This is where the poker game started.  Okay, how many folks can drop before me.  :)  Each loop I was like, "Got dammit, I hope one of these fuckers quit!!!!"  But they just didn't quit.  On loop 25 we moved back onto the trail.  A few drops were expected on this loop and the odds makers were not let down.  At loop 27 there were 6 runners left.
     After loop 29 I dropped. Runner 6.  By loop 32 there were only 3 men standing.  Loop 37, 2 men remained, and after loop 48 the last two men both stopped.  What a chivalrous end too an epic adventure.
     I stopped after loop 29 for one reason.  I took the pain personal.  I ran the short road section, before we hit the trail portion of the loop and the pain really grabbed me.  I had been having this conversation over the last two loops as the pain would torment me, "Okay John, think about something else right now."  This strategy was effective.  I'd been using it since loop 20.  I even thought to myself. "Imagine this is the last loop, of the last race, you'd ever run in your life, would the pain be so personal then? Would it matter how bad it hurt if you knew in 10 minutes you'd never run again?"
     I knew the answer to the question already, "No, the pain would not matter."  However this still did not stop the pain from overwhelming my mental capacity to push it away. It's as if you need to view yourself at point A and the pain at point B.  You are not the pain and the pain is not you.  You exist and the pain exists, but the pain isn't taking this out on you like a school yard bully.  To love the pain or to hate the pain  is to acknowledge the pain and let it control you a bit.  If you consider the pain with a "measured indifference" then it becomes manageable, controllable. 
     So thank you to Laz and the volunteers and especially to my crew chief Gina for providing the venue and support that helped me learn this valuable lesson.  When Epictetus wrote his Enchridion, he could have just entitled it, "Measured Indifference" .  The path to realizing the principles of the chief philosophy which I espouse, has just become more clear.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Big Dream Came True

     I'm behind on my posts from the Barkley Fall Classic and La Ultra the High.  I've got a bunch of work to do.  I guess I'll get caught up, eventually.  I got off my ass and created a small personal run coaching business.  I've been wanting to do this since 2010, but lacked confidence and experience.  Whether I have the requisite experience or not now, it doesn't matter.
     This new endeavor is a project for me in an number of capacities.  Aside from learning how to coach someone other than myself, it's an exercise in methodology, marketing, social media presence, accounting, management, empathy, motivation, among other things.  It's generally understood that physical achievement is tied closely to mental outlook.  So it's also a project in philosophy and psychology.
     The business is Sharp Coaching. I'll be working with clients, motivating them, providing training schedules, nutrition advice, and necessary advice/guidance to help them tackle any dream they have in the running space.  5K to 10K to 26.2 to 100miles, road or trail.  Running is simple, that's my ultimate idea.   Let's un-muddy the waters so you can focus on being a runner, not a scientist or psychologist. 
     Most importantly, I want to do this on my own terms.  I'm me.  It would be a violation of my personal ethic to present myself in this endeavor as someone other than my authentic self.  I'm "required" to do this in my professional position.  When I'm working in my personal, passionate  space, authenticity must be paramount.  However, the client is due professional service, and diligent dedication to your commitment to their goals.  My intention is to provide this.
              Let's run, let's have fun, let's change the world!