Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Athletics is Life Compressed

I'm ready to quit. Okay not really, but maybe. I'm maybe ready to throw in the running shoes and never race again. However, I'm running the 100 km world championships in two and a half weeks. It might be my last serious race.

In March I started to have trouble running. I was breathing harder and my heart rate went up, and I've been on a long gradual downhill slide. I ran 28.0 miles in July. I've been to doctors seven times, plus plenty of emails. I don't have anemia, although my ferritin and B12 was never checked. I've had two chest x-rays that came back clear despite some sort of gurgling that happens when I lie down near my back lower rib cage. I have a prescription for an albuterol inhaler, which I'll admit makes about a 5% different when pushing uphill, but does not at all take my 9:00 miles down to 7:00. I've done a stress test, and ran to the end of level four, farther than anyone else at Coffeyville has, with no issues in the EKG. Last week I had an echocardiogram and it's not serious enough that anyone has called me about it. I don't have any of the standard tick borne diseases. It's not lead poisoning. I've had mono (which was news to me) but it was sometime in the past and is not active now. My sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are all great. My TSH is 2.09, which is consistent with the last few years of my measurements. I'm even five days into taking Prilosec because it could be acid reflux, but that hasn't solved it. The only thing out of the reference range in blood tests was Eosinophils, 5.7% in May and 3.1% in June. And the reference range is 0-3 or 0-6 depending on your source.

I keep offering stress as a reason, but none of the doctors seem to think I stressed myself out to make this kind of difference. I can walk and talk, and function, even bicycle all right, but I can't run a 24 minute 5k at this point. Sure I'm getting older, I'm 32, and I'm probably 10 pounds over ideal racing weight, partly due to rock climbing and some upper body strength. In March I ran 20 miles at 7:20 pace, Saturday I did 3 at 9:00 pace.

Right now I'm laying in my bed, two hours after coming home from work too tired to go out and exercise. Is this the end? Is this the hospice of my running career? In December I tried to set the American 24 hour record, because it is possible for me. I haven't run a single race this year, nothing. Was it the business trip in March to Mexico? Was it the skiing trip in March to Aspen and way too long sitting in my car? Why am I sick? I'm more than willing to go to doctors and get more tests, but I'm tired of advocating for myself when test after test comes back showing I'm in great health. I'm not in great health.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Crying on the Mountain

I just went to the memorial service for Tim Valentine, a strong Christian who died last Saturday when his Extra 400 (N13EP) crashed shortly after take off. He was flying with another pilot and three passengers to the Ponca City pancake breakfast fly in, which happens the first Saturday morning of every month. The coworker friend of mine who owns a Cessna 150 and I have flown there twice for breakfast on a Saturday. Plus, Tim's parents in law sit beside me in church every Sunday. And he was involved with Boy Scouts, where another friend and coworker is the scoutmaster. So it hits close to home despite the fact I never met him.

As I sat there and they talked about his adventure taking, flying, scuba diving, travels, and even mentioned his view from the mountain top, I cried. I realized that a lot of crying happens in the mountains, but it rarely gets talked about back on the plains. The mountains push us mentally, emotionally, and physically to our breaking point. There is a lot of joy there, because it's a difficult accomplishment, but there are also a fair amount of tears. Tears because you are tired, hungry, thirsty, bleeding, scared. Tears when an avalanche kills 16 people and you see the bodies. Tears because you just went through something mind blowing that you know you won't totally be able to describe to people. How do you describe the hanging belay at the top of the 5.10 pitch on the Casual Route on Longs Peak?

Point being, take the lows with the highs. Don't just cry for the person who died in a plane crash or on a mountain, also celebrate that person being in the airplane and on the mountain.

Saturday, August 4, 2018


I won't lie, running isn't going stellar, and I'm running the 100 km IAU world championships in Croatia September 8th! But I'm not really going to talk about that today. Instead, I'm going to touch on motivation.

This is my second USA Track and Field world championship team. The first was the 24 hour world championships in 2015. This means a lot to me! Not only does it show that I'm more than a one-good-race wonder, I also have some range, I'm not just good at one event. I am (or at least have been) at least national class over seven hours, and 24 hours, two rather different events with few cross over successes. I was never in the military or the Peace Corp so I have felt guilty for all of the luxury and wealth I enjoy simply being a USA citizen despite never being in public service. So being a representative of our country with USA across my chest is a huge honor and opportunity to represent this diverse nation.

I have never been a very physically talented person, except maybe in the mountains. In high school I never went to state athletics competition of my own independent doing. In college I never went to nationals. After college, working at the shorter races my performances were no where close to national level. On top of that, I was the shortest person in my kindergarten class, and more or less held that status until late in high school. Also, from years 9 through 18 of my life, I lived in rural areas, and that tends to mean that athletics takes on more importance than it might in an urban setting.

That's a long way of saying, there is some insecurity inside me that I am not "good enough" from an athletic or physical point of view. This would be part of the negative side of motivation, the thing I am fleeing, my inadequacy, my need to prove something.

Now that I have achieved this, there is a calming and humbling aspect. It's a lot like landing a plane, it's the best moment in flight training when you bring that plane down safely alone!

This part of motivation is much smaller than the positive "what is possible?" aspect of motivation where I love pushing myself to see what is possible. Yet I realize now that I'm far from alone with this feeling. Many successful athletes are trying to prove something. Mostly it's prove it to ourselves, but there is a definite external factor, like Michael Jordan not being on his varsity high school basketball team his sophomore year, and wanting to prove his mettle.

I'm not encouraging people to go out and get insecure, just consume some media for a few hours and you will get some insecurity. I am trying to recognize the fact that this athletic insecurity of mine has contributed to my success. I mean, mountain ultra running is more competitive and if I really had a good range I would make the USATF mountain ultra trail team, or win a medal at the world championships too...