Sunday, October 12, 2014

Moving forward, but in a different direction

Coming back to look at my blog, it's hard to believe I haven't posted here in nearly 6 months, but when I confront the hard truths, it all makes sense.

I've stopped running.  Maybe not forever, but certainly for the near future.

Hard as it is to read that, it's been a hard journey towards even being able to write that statement down, as it required confronting certain hard truths.  After having run 2 marathons in 2012, I began 2013 with a foot injury that I suffered running a 10K on New Year's Day.  In spite of that, I tried to work around it to be able to run my 4th marathon over Memorial Day weekend.  Showed up for that marathon drastically unprepared and suffered through one of my worst running experiences.  I tried to continue to run through the rest of 2013, but my heart wasn't in it anymore.  Combining that with my foot injury, and everything started to pile up.  By the time 2014 started, I had hopes but not much else to go on.  It's hard for me to believe that only 2 years ago, I was getting my marathon PR at Hartford....seems like it was another life.

And yet, I'm not standing still.

After enjoying an epic summer, highlighted by an amazing family vacation traveling through the Southwest (NV, AZ, CO, NM), I faced up to how the change in my activity level had impacted almost every facet of my life.  Let's just say that I didn't feel as good about myself as I should.  The previous two school years had been very stressful and while I still loved what I do, I didn't quite love it as much as I used to.  A new school year would give me the opportunity to hit the "reset" button and re-discover my passion for teaching.  The weight I'd gained over the past 2 years would come off, but I needed to become mindful again about what I was putting into my body.  And without running being a realistic option, I needed to pursue another outlet for physical activity.

Enter Crossfit............yep, you read that right.....Crossfit.

I've long had gym memberships, but have never really achieved any meaningful results, so I was looking for something new and different.  At age 52, I refuse to believe that my best years are behind me, but I knew I had weight to lose and strength to both regain and gain for the first time.  I had vague memories of having seen the Crossfit Games on ESPN and marveling at the strength and conditioning the athletes displayed, but it never registered with me that I would one day find myself even considering Crossfit as something for me....

As summer ended, I started doing research.  Crossfit has seen a dramatic increase in both visibility and popularity, but with that has come some controversy and concerns.  The possibilty for injury exists in ANY physical activity and Crossfit is no different.  I went to the Internet and found no shortage of viewpoints on either side, and also read a great book ("Learning To Breathe Fire" by J.C. Herz), but the true selling point was personal connections with right around Labor Day, I girded my loins, checked my ego, and went to discover for myself if this Crossfit thing would work for me....

Showing up at Crossfit Cut (Walpole, MA) CrossFit Cutthat first time, I had no idea what lie in store, other than I would be working with co-owner/trainer Alicia.  The box (it's not a gym.....many Crossfit locations are in industrial spaces, and the look is decidedly video hot treadmills....just barbells, squat racks, climbing ropes, hanging rings, rowing machines, a few Schwinn Airdyne machines, and chalk.) was a little intimidating at first, but Alicia was very friendly, which put me at ease.  After taking me through a warm-up (air squats, situps, pushups, scissor kicks) with was rigorous all by itself, she then got me started on my first WOD (Crossfit is all about acronyms....WOD stands for Workout Of the Day)......3 rounds of 3 different exercises (kettlebell deadlifts, jumping pullups, and wallball throws), 15, then 12, then 9 reps.  The WOD probably only took about 15 minutes to complete, but I was drenched with sweat and completely wiped out!  Constant motion and high intensity work......"functional fitness".   I walked/limped out to my car and drove home in a fog.....heart still pounding in my chest.  I had only worked out for a very short period, but I had NEVER worked out so hard in my life!  I was already sore all over and knew that the worst was yet to come.  Indeed, when I tried to get out of bed the next morning, I could barely move.  I think even my eyelids hurt....but somehow I got myself moving and went to school.  As the day wore on, I began to come to grips with a crucial I, or do I not go back? 

I went back, fully knowing that if I didn't go back the following day, I'd never go back.   It wasn't fact, I'm pretty sure it's never going to be easy, but the constant and varied nature of the challenge posed by the WOD is amazing.  It's a HARD workout, but it's fast-paced, individually oriented, and NEVER boring.  While I'm stronger now than I was before I started, I have a long way to really have to check your ego at the door each time you step inside the box, and I'm getting better at that.  I still cannot do a pullup, but that will change in fact, my ability to perform most every functional movement that constitutes Crossfit is increasing every time I go.  More and more, I find it's mental toughness that's being developed, perhaps even more than physical strength.  I've already lost 7 pounds, my clothes are fitting better, and every day I'm feeling better about myself.

So the page has been turned........and I'm moving again, but not in the manner in which I used to.  Will I one day return to running?  Perhaps........I honestly don't know.  During my time as a runner, I was injured several times, so I'm not sure it would be a viable, long-term option, but only time will tell.  I'm enjoying the rush I get from Crossfit........working harder than I ever have before, and enjoying the community of the box.  I'm encouraged by the gains I've made so far and am truly curious to see just how far I can go......a feeling that's unfamiliar not because I've never felt it before, but unfamiliar in that it hasn't been felt in ages.

I think this blog will continue, but the posts are going to look different.  My "destination" hasn't changed, as I'm still trying to stave off decrepitude, but the means I'm using to get there is different.

The journey continues.......stick with me!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spirit renewed

Was it really just 2 years ago that I was in my kitchen in the predawn darkness, pinning on my bib (#22243 - Wave 3, Corral 5) and then heading into Boston to meet up with the rest of my charity team to board our bus out to Hopkinton to start the Boston Marathon?

As I was greeting the runners getting off the buses at the Middle School yesterday morning, it brought me right back to when I was one of those runners......I remembered the enthusiastic volunteers who guided us into the Athlete's Village that warm morning and I did my best to pay that back.  Our "job" as Entrance Marshals was to have runners show us their bibs and to then direct them into the Village.  There were probably 10 of us out in front of the entrance, but I'm pretty sure my voice was the one the runners heard.  Many of my fellow volunteers did a great job, but I guess I took it upon myself to go a bit beyond......shouting out my greeting, encouraging the runners to show off their bibs ("They don't give those things EARNED them!"), trying to greet runners from overseas ("Viva Italia!") or out-of-state or any local runners, all with the goal of seeing them smile.  I'm sure some of my fellow volunteers found my enthusiasm amusing (or worse), but I remember how encouraging the support of volunteers and spectators along the course made that extremely hard day so magical.

There are so many things that make the Boston Marathon special, but I think the people are what really set it apart.  From the runners who come from all over the globe to run, to the volunteers who give up their time, to all of the spectators who cheer on perfect strangers as if they're family, it truly is a wonderful display of civic pride.  I've only run 4 marathons so far, and while they were all special in their own right, Boston stands apart.  There are definitely parts of the course that are "quieter" than others, but there is virtually no part of the course where there aren't spectators cheering.....well, there is that awful 128 overpass as you head out of Newton Lower Falls, but there always seems to be someone on the side of the road cheering.  In other marathons, there can be LONG stretches with nobody there.....I'll just say that more people cheering = more FUN!

Yesterday was a magical day here in New England.......and it has renewed my spirit.  I'm not going to go over the litany of difficulties I've had since last year, but the injury bug is still biting me a bit.  I was encouraged by my ability to run more consistently during February and March, but as the calendar flipped to April, the heel pain I was stuggling with last year jumped from my right heel to my left.  It may force me to take some time off from running, but I'm not going to be stopped.  I have to revamp my diet, as I'm convinced the pains are due entirely to the extra weight I'm carrying.  I've gained 30 pounds since I ran Boston in 2012, and while part of that is due to my reduced running, a large part of it is due to my own lack of discipline in what goes into my mouth.  That ends now......

I've only got a few 5K's on the schedule between now and the end of my school year, but I'm hoping to target a half marathon for the fall.  If I'm able to start training again with some consistency and IF I'm able to run a half marathon in the fall, then I'll seriously consider trying to run Boston next year as a charity runner.  Seeing all the runners living out their dreams on our streets yesterday left me feeling envious and, for a moment, a little melancholy, as I believe that I find myself in the condition I'm in based on my own bad decisions......but at the same time, I have the ability to make the necessary changes to turn this thing around, and in that spirit, that's what I'm going to commit myself to doing.  The future begins NOW!

See you all out there on the road, chasing our dreams!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Small victories.......

At this point in my life, I'm always looking to celebrate small to day stuff that, while small and seemingly insignificant, still deserves to be noted and celebrated....

When my son cleans his room.....

When the morning paper is actually at the end of the driveway when I get up at 5:30......

When my students have their homework done and are ready for class.........

When the temperature outside goes above 15 degrees..........

you know......the little things!

Well, I had a small victory last week and I feel like celebrating......and sharing it with the blog-reading world:

I ran 3 times...........and I'm not feeling any pain!

Yep, that's right.......after a 2013 campaign which was an abject disaster, including my slowest marathon yet, along with nagging foot pain which then morphed into knee pain.........I was able to run 3 times and not fall down afterwards.

In fact, my mileage total for the week (14.8) was greater than my combined mileage for the months of November AND December 2013.  What was actually (by my normal amounts) a slightly sub-par week ended up greater than 2 entire months.  Which speaks VOLUMES about just how badly my year ended.

So now, I'm going to officially declare the comeback is in's still too damn cold/snowy/icy outside for me to get my runs in outdoors, particularly with no long-term race goals on the table.  My only goal now is to build back all the fitness I lost in 2013......and to burn off all of the weight I put on as result.  Eventually, I'll come up with some race goals to shoot for, but that's way off in the distance.

For right now, I'm just going to celebrate my first small running victory in 2014.......the first of what will be MANY!

See you all out there on the road (eventually.....when the polar vortex goes away!)