Monday, August 23, 2010

Correction, A Long Run, and Competition

Me trying to catch another runner - Feb 2010

First things first. I need to make a correction of an earlier posting. Yesterday, while coming back from a shorter run (which was a recovery run from a much longer run the day before), I chanced upon my friends and neighbors, Sandra and Renee. They and two others were on one of their last training walks for the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer event in August, 2010 in Denver, CO. After catching up, Renee and Sandra mentioned that they have read this blog recently. It was pointed out that I mistakenly referred to Renee as a 'former' Pilates instructor. Well, as I know (and should have written) she is a current Pilates instructor as well as a physical therapist. If you live in or near Lawrence, KS, you can enroll in one of her classes through LMH South. As someone who has done some early morning workouts with her, I can promise you that your money will be well-spent, and you will get a seriously great workout.

So best of luck to Sandra, Renee and co. for next weekend's walk (it's 20 miles/day for three straight days).

Now on to running: My trail buddy, Eric, wanted to pop another decent run on Saturday. We had looked at doing the river trails again, but opted instead for the more challenging Clinton North Shore trails. We met up with five other hearty souls at 6:30 a.m. and set off. I had run a bunch of days in a row (6), and was hoping to do a pretty easy run. Well, 2 hours and 20 minutes later we finished. That was about an hour longer than I had wanted to run, but what can you do? I can't recall ever having sweated so much during a training run. And since I normally sweat like a 10 foot breach in a levee, that is saying something.

The run reopened a few blisters that I had gotten the week before. I've never had blister issues in any run until the last two jaunts at Clinton. I'm trying to figure out what exactly is going on down there (on my feet). The shoes (my beloved Brooks Cascadias) are the same ones I've worn for all the hikes and trail runs I've done over the past year, so I doubt they are the sole cause (honestly, no pun intended there). If any reader has a suggestion for some product or procedure to chill out blistering (just at the front inner side of my arches, behind the balls of my big toes), I'd greatly appreciate it.

After the run, Eric and I were standing around chatting with a seriously awesome running friend named Kurt. He's an ultra type who's also nice and fast. He mentioned that he does a shorter, slower (for him slower means 7-7:30 minute miles) run the day after a long run in order to more quickly get the lactic acid out of his legs. I have almost always just taken the day off after runs of 10+ miles, but I thought I'd try it out.

So yesterday I got up relatively early and threw down 3.5 miles at an 8:30 pace. Other than the blisters and some crazy chigger bites, I hadn't experienced even a stiff muscle from the previous day's run. Still, I thought I'd stay slow and steady for a couple of days in order to make certain that there would be no ill effects. And I'm happy to report that Kurt's suggestion was spot on. The shorter run did seem to make the run recovery easier. I went for another run this morning before sitting down to write this, and still feel fine and full of energy.

New Subject: Competitiveness

I have been thinking a lot about competition and what it means to compete lately. Over the years, I've been labeled as a pretty competitive person. And, while I think in some instances I am, I also can say that I can't think of anyone who fights the urge harder than I do (hmmm... if I fight the urge harder than anyone else, does that mean I'm more competitive about being non-competitive?). I'll give some 'for instances.'

I love raquet sports; ping-pong, tennis, raquetball to name the main ones I play. I don't like losing to people I don't think are as good as I am at those sports, but it doesn't destroy me if I don't walk away with a win. A lot of times when I'm playing someone who's falling behind, I ease up in order to get them back in the game. I seem to lack the killer instinct to really take someone down. I also have no issues in being beaten by someone better than I am. I feel as though it raises my level of play, and I have a real opportunity to learn whilst I'm being schooled.

I usually gravitate toward sports that involve just me, either going for personal improvement against myself (running and biking), or against one or two other people (raquet sports). When too many people get involved on a team, I get uncomfortable with the testosterone level, and the heightened, shared expectations and pressure. I stopped playing World Team Tennis for just that reason. People seem to care too passionately about something that really doesn't matter all that much.

I'm also not a fan of team sports that rely on a country or a specific location. In tennis for instance, I love the smaller tournaments and Grand Slam, but can't stand events like the Davis Cup. I like seeing the individual players perform well, but don't see why I need to root for one country over another. I like seeing Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Andy Roddick walk away with wins. I don't care what country they are from, and don't see why that should matter. I feel the same way about the Olympics. I am always thrilled by the individuals competing. But when the commentators begin to talk about country-specific 'medal counts,' I head to the kitchen for a snack.

It makes me a bit sad as well that pro sports have become mainly about who will pay the most $ for an athlete. I don't get why fans root for the 'home' teams anymore when their top players are just going to gravitate to the larger markets with the biggest paychecks. And I don't blame the athletes for doing this. If I were in their position, I'd do it as well. But at some point, these sports start to lack any real meaning for those pulling for small market teams. When your 'home' team is competing against a team comprised of superstars that your team developed early-on, what's the point? If you can 'purchase' a real shot at a pennant or championship, are you really being competitive? It seems to me that the pennants and championships are diminished when that happens.

And my main sport, running, isn't immune from that either, but there is a difference. Most runners entering a big race (let's just use the New York Marathon as an example) have no expectation of winning. The major stars of the sport will probably be back at their hotels napping by the time most of the field crosses the finishing line. The average runner won't ever see the Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazars, Greta Waitzes, or Toshihiko Sekos (boy am I dating myself with these references), and it won't matter a bit. Most of the runners in the race are going for PRs. Runners mainly compete against themselves. And, while it is great that Joe and Jane Average can actually be entered in the same event as a superstar (unlike in almost any other sport), they have no expectation of victory against a pro. The clock is their true competition.

I try (and often fail) to keep that in mind as I run. I fall into the trap every now and then, where I focus more on the clock than on enjoying the run. I love to run, and got into running because 1) it keeps me in shape, and 2) because I love achieving a kind of zen-like state of euphoria where I'm really in a kind of zone that can't be described unless you've experienced it. The second I start to think about PRs, my fun-level drops, and I've lost what I'm really looking to get out of the sport. In races, I enjoy setting new PRs. But for me, PRs should never be the goal. The journey is the goal. And winning is just a pot of fool's gold at the end of a rainbow.

No comments:

Post a Comment