Friday, October 26, 2012

EricG's Running Tips #36 Get In Focus

Back in June of 2011, I wrote about focus, but it was very generic. After running the Chicago Marathon a few weeks ago, I thought I would talk a little more about this topic and the specific ways I have found to help me focus. Chicago was a hard fought run for me. With a focus on ultras the last few years I had not run at this pace for that long since I ran NYC back in 2008. I decided to run this race hard without too much marathon specific training. I am certain it was the last few years of running ultras where I learned how to channel my thoughts better that got me through it as strong as I did missing a PR by 57 seconds.

When I use the word focus in this instance, I am not referring to paying attention to what you are doing, form, breathing, blah blah blah. To the contrary. I am actually suggesting you completely ignore all that and take your mind somewhere else. Focusing for me is having the ability to either tune out what is happening, changing my thought process and even visualizing something other than what lies ahead. These personal methods have helped me to get through some of the toughest times in a race. The moments when I think I can't do this any more.

Tuning out:
If I stare at something I can completely space out. How does one do that when you are running down the road or trail at warp speed you ask? Similar to when you are driving and staring straight ahead at the car in front. Sometimes before you know it you have travelled several miles without realizing it. Find a runner who is running at the same pace, preferably one with a really nice butt and simply focus on them. Watch the rhythm of their stride or something that has a steady constant movement, or very little movement and focus on that. Stare! Don’t think about anything else “butt” that. Maybe not a great idea on technical terrain but trust me this works. I did this in Chicago when I began to doubt my ability to keep pace and I was able to zone out from mile 16 to 20.

Changing thought process:
I was running with Tom Holland last week, a fitness expert and multi time Ironman including Kona. We were discussing ways we do this. What it boils down to is embracing the moment and changing its meaning. When Tom starts thinking “this sucks” with 5 hours to go in an Ironman, he changes that to “this is great” and of course numerous variations of the theme. “ I can’t” to “I can or I will” and so on. You will be surprised at what you can talk yourself into by using positive messages to embrace your situation. One thing is for sure, it is going to hurt and it is going to suck. Remember! The pain is good and if it sucks that’s even better. It means you are giving it your all. The reward is worth it so keep reminding yourself you can.

This can take many forms and can even be quite entertaining. I have heard of people who visualize crossing the finish line. I prefer to visualize the beer I am going to drink when I am done, the big steak I am going to eat and the big smile on Tani’s face when I get my gigantic hug. These are great images, but how do we use visualization to get us there. For me, my runs are always dedicated to someone. What I like to do is imagine that person is there with me. This past June during a 50 miler in DC, my legs were beaten to a pulp after 40. All I wanted to do was walk or better yet sit down. I imagined my friend Anita picking me up by the back of my shirt, not carrying me completely but just enough so my legs stopped hurting so badly. Ten miles later I had run my best 50 to date by 20 minute breaking 9 hrs for the first time. In Chicago I was running for Quinn who is 7. He gave me a ride on his shoulders around mile 23 when I needed to pick up the pace. These visuals are short lived for me and maybe even kind of silly to some, but they remind me that I am not only out there for myself and there is so much power in that.

If all else fails, just keep telling yourself what a bad ass you are and nothing can stop you!

Peace and Have A Great Day

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago - Most Unexpected

Admittedly, I did not go into this trip with much expectation except that I hoped to enjoy the city with my wife and daughter while running a marathon for the first time in 3 years in support of the MMRF. Well what came out of this trip was indeed most unexpected.

The City
Chicago is such a great city to visit. So much to do, see and of course eat in this surprisingly clean and friendly urban environment. From the attraction of Lake Michigan to museums and aquarium and the landmark food establishments, our days were full. Did I mention the food? There is of course the famous deep dish or stuffed pizza and what I would say was our favorite, the Italian beef sandwich at Portillo's.

While we primarily walked everywhere there are numerous methods of transport including water taxis which also doubles as a ride for the kids. The history of the City from the architecture to its storied sports franchises is every where, and the locals pride is evident. I love a city with passion. I would go back any day.

I also got to see my old college friend Bob. Many good times back in the day at the Cuse. Good to see you my friend, even if you are wearing that ridiculous hat.

I suppose you can figure who is who
The Brothers Goad
I have met many many amazing people and families through my involvement with the MMRF and this trip was no different. I heard stories from all those there to run, saw tears and smiles and walked away feeling pretty damn good about what we are doing. I must be honest, I have had my doubts since our friend Anita died this past May. After having so much hope we were shattered by her passing and it really took a lot to keep pushing forward for a cure. This event really brought us back. Not that we ever left but I know I really needed this to get me fully motivated with purpose again.

I need to thank one family in particular because it is their unity and passion that really had a particular impact on me. The Brothers Goad! Jeff who is a myeloma survivor having been diagnosed 2 years ago and his brothers David and Brad were in Chicago to run the marathon together with their families all in tow. Jeff and David spoke to the team on Saturday night and I can't even begin to transcribe their words. Hope is what we need and that is what the Brothers Goad delivered. If you would like to read an excerpt from David's speech you can get it here. It is called "The power of yet".
Me and Jeff a few minutes before the start.

The entire Chicago Team raised nearly $90,000!!!
The Race
I had no expectations or real race plan other than to finish and to do it in under 4 hours. Not only was I not going to push it, this would be way off my slowest road marathon (not too exciting). I was looking forward to running the streets of Chicago and taking in the sites but I began to grow disappointed in my approach. My race strategy, or lack there of was completely foreign and against my usual give all you got attitude. Like most runners I suppose, my brain is typically on overload for weeks leading into a race. Many who witness it might even say it takes over all thought, rendering me useless in much of my daily life. Not this time. I felt lost.

I slowly made my way to the start at 5:30 am. There was a chill in the air and despite the other 40,000+ people congregating to Grant Park, I had no excitement building inside. After about an hour of sitting around in the tent I had access to, the start of wave 1 was near. I rose and began to head out to my corral and I saw none other than the Goad brothers. We exchanged pleasantries, snapped a picture or two and wished each other good luck. As I walked away David Goad yelled out, "Hey Eric! Run with purpose."

Quinn and Mia cheering from home
Run with purpose? It was as if David knew exactly what I was lacking. I had really lost sight of what I was doing and who I was doing it for. I guess you can say I was being a little selfish. I had dedicated this run to a young boy named Quinn who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia in October of 2012. I wrote about this in my last post, The "Mighty" Quinn prior to Chicago. Quinn has no choice but to give it his all, and with his inspiration and David's reminder I was about to give it my all too. Thanks to David's reminder of why I was there and "Mighty" Quinn's inspiration I decided at that moment to give it my all. What that would mean I had no clue, but I was going to leave my heart out there.

As I made my way to the start, I felt this incredible calmness and comfort in knowing that what lay ahead was going to hurt, just the way I like it. 3:29:12 seconds later I crossed the finish line, legs burning and lungs searing as I gasped for air. It was not my fastest but a near miss by 57 seconds and I can feel proud that I did my best. I actually ran a negative split by 3 minutes for the first time ever, in any race. The personal achievement certainly feels great, but "running with purpose", to help others takes the feelings to a level that is difficult to describe. If you ever have, you know what I mean.

(A little side note: Chicago is extremely well run and organized particularly for a race of this size. The crowds are amazing, fun and energetic, but not nearly as large as I was expecting. The loop course and location near so many hotels makes it extremely easy logistically.)

People ask me often how it is I get through the really tough times in a race. Granted most of my races are longer but when you run hard self doubt always creeps in. My answer is usually "focus", and I say it as I frame my face with both hands and motion forward as if to suggest tunnel vision. I think I will write a new running tip soon about focus but here is what I did when the wheels began to come off. First, I always try to zone out, almost putting myself in a trance like state and remind myself over and over again that I have been here before and I can do this. Second, as I was "running with purpose" I was not running alone. When I struggled to maintain the pace I had set out on, I actually imagined Quinn was right there with me. Not along side, but I imagined this young smiling boy actually carrying me on his shoulders through the final miles of Chicago's streets. Now if you really try to picture me on the shoulders of this little boy in the picture above, its actually quite entertaining. Anyway, it worked. Thanks for the ride Quinn, I could not have done it alone.
This sign may have helped a little too!
With that said, I did not do it alone. As always, my awesome wife Tani was there to cheer me on with our daughter and the MMRF Power Team was at mile 14 with hugs when the going was about to get tough.

And of course to those who provide me with my awesome gear, Drymax, Nathan and VitaCoco, thanks for your continued support.

To everyone else, get out there and do whatever you do, with purpose. Give it all you got!
Peace and Have A Great Day!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

From the Soul of My Shoe

From the Soul of My Shoe is a weekly writing in the NewRo Runners' newsletter. These are thoughtful and spirited musings usually with a message. NewRo's slogan is "Changing the shape of the community - One mile at a time." I have met many of this local club's members of which I am one, and I was impressed immediately. Not because of their passion for running, that's easy. It's their passion for people that makes me want to be around them. "Just Ask Nash" is the title of this week's narration written by Seven Stein. It captures the essence of so much I love about running including community, friendship, support and personal achievement. It also shows yet again that we are all capable of so much more than we ever thought possible. We just need to show up, and give it all we got!

"The crowd at the finishing line had vanished, and the organizers had begun the post-race awards presentation. Vendors were packing away their goodies and their tents. The time on the race clock kept on digitally ticking by. It read 2:40:52. Normally there would be a crowd of NewRo Runners huddled together at the awards ceremony ready to celebrate the victories of the day. Ready to cheer as our very own 2011 defending champion took 3rd place overall, and eagerly waiting to hear who placed in the top 3 of their respective age group.

But not on this day. The remaining dozen or so NewRo Runners, were waiting at the finishing line, waiting to cheer on and bring home the last NewRo Runner on the course. Today, coming together as a team and collectively celebrating the accomplishment of completing a first half marathon took priority over cheering on our award winners. We cannot take away the glory, the hard work and the talent of all the NewRo Runners who took home an award, and we celebrate with them in the "Running Feets" write-up below. But today, it was all about celebrating the core, the heart and soul, the camaraderie of NewRo Runners, as well as the sheers guts and determination of one runner - Nash Warfield.

Nash (left) NewRo family (right)
The clock was now ticking past 2:45, and our Motivator in Chief Mark Medin took off down the Bronx River Parkway in search of Nash to run him home. 5 minutes later, Mark was back, but without Nash. Where is he? Did he get picked up by a car? "No"; said his fiancé and mother eagerly and nervously waiting for him at the finish line. Then we saw him. Actually we saw his pink socks first. Not sure if his color choice of the day was for breast-cancer awareness month or if it was his colorful choice of the day. Next thing you know, 10 NewRo Runners run down the Parkway to meet Nash to run him home for the last 250 yards. The NewRo Banner was hoisted, the cameras came out and clicked away, and the remaining NewRo crowd on the side of the road cheered him in as he crossed the finishing line at 2:57 into the loving arms of his fiancé and mother. The announcer, who was still dishing out awards, heard the NewRo Runners cheers and shouts, and stopped mid sentence and congratulated the runner who just crossed the finish line for his sheer determination.
Sprint to the finish

Oh yes, you deserve it

Today was one of my proudest days as a NewRo Runner and as co-founder of the club. There were many accomplishments to celebrate on the road this day - approximately 40 NewRo Runners turning out, and many award winners and PB's. But I was most proud of what I witnessed unfold before my eyes. Today I got a glimpse of the heart and soul of what many of us call our running family. We stuck together and made sure every single accomplishment was celebrated as a group. Some runners waited close to 1.5 hours to ensure Nash crossed the line; just as we all celebrated the other 39 crossing the line. We celebrated a fairly new runner, one who joined us over the summer, one who had never run beyond 5 miles before joining NewRo Runners. He set his goal over the summer to run the Westchester half marathon - his first half ever. Some of us have run with Nash at the BOTP (back of the pack), but all of us have encouraged him, given him confidence, and advice, and supported him every week he showed up. If this is not encouragement enough for those who have read our weekly newsletter and asked themselves, "should I come out and run this weekend?" "Will I be able to run with them?" "Will they support me?" - Just ask Nash.

Today, NewRo Runners showed its heart and its soul, and I am proud to say, it is big, and it is healthy and it is a beautiful thing."

Congrats to Nash and all the NewRo runners! You make a difference.

Peace and Have A Great Day.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The "Mighty" Quinn!!!

"Mighty" Quinn
Anyone who knows me personally or reads this website understands how important the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and its cause is to me. You also know that it’s not only Multiple Myeloma that I want a cure for, but all cancers. Just as the MMRF shares its research and findings with others in order to help speed progress, Tani and I also support other causes.

This weekend I will be running the first of 3 marathons in a 4 week span in Chicago. This one will be, as all runs are for me and my family, to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure for cancer. This particular run however is for a very special youngster named Quinn. And yes, Quinn is “Mighty”. Quinn is a Mighty Smart, Mighty Handsome, Mighty Athletic, Mighty Strong and Mighty Inspirational 7 year old boy who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on October 21st 2011. His parents Sandy and Dennis knew immediately that something was wrong when he returned home from school and did not want to play baseball or football, something he does every day.

Quinn and lil' sis Mia at Tough Kids Tri
Quinn is now in the midst of a 2 ½ year maintenance stage of his chemotherapy and doing well. Quinn who loves school (science) and sports, even completed his own race recently at the West Point Tough Kids Triathlon and his father raised over $6,000 in support of the Children’s Cancer Fund by completing the Westchester Triathlon on September 23rd. Tani thought it would be a great idea to dedicate this race to Quinn and I agree. I will be giving it all I have for Quinn this coming Sunday and if you would like to give too please go to his Dad’s fundraising page here and donate to the Children’s Cancer Fund. Thanks as always to all those who have and continue to support us.

Peace and Have A Great Day!

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