Sunday, June 29, 2014

You inspire me!

It's been a journey, this time training for an ultra marathon. To recap, we started out methodical and strong, but quickly frustrated. Virginie struggled with trying to find her place in our running relationship. This went on for months, and before long, became all we could see in front of us. Running became a chore. It became a frustration, and it became demotivating. We stopped talking, stuck behind the paradigm that we were ultra marathon runners, and without the label, we were in and of ourselves, of no worth.

It's okay, self worth has never been my strong suit, and I can imagine all these people responding to my post, ensuring me that I'm an inspiration and to not listen to negative self talk. I can imagine me wondering how to reply to them, not knowing what to say. Consumed by the self imposed requirement to respond with perfect eloquence.

Perhaps there are those who can relate to my struggles. Those who know what it was like to be bullied while young. To feel helpless and alone. To learn to not trust anyone, and to isolate myself from people, because in the end, they would only use me to advance themselves socially, and that requires them to demean, insult and ostracize.

Then running came along.

It gave me an identity, it saved me from the chronic depression that runs in my family. I was able to get off medication, and felt I had something to offer people socially.

But I wasn't social still.

I could see that the changes were only skin deep. My running served as a means to prove to the world that I am not broken. That I have worth. I began running hundreds of kilometers per month. Literally thousands per year. There were people who told me that it was unhealthy, but I was too vulnerable to listen. I felt that their solution was to deprive me of the one thing that was providing me hope and healing. I felt they wanted to take away my running.

This past weekend something wonderful happened as I watched my one and only best childhood friend push beyond his own limits to conquer a difficult 100 mile course. His efforts, and enthusiasm for the sport have been an inspiration for me. I think my kids get annoyed hearing me talk about him. Seriously though, I had one friend until grade 9. That was him. Our friendship was something that held me together as a child.

The last couple of weeks, I have decided that I really do love to run. I love the sport, and I love the people. I started running intervals with the Fast Trax run and ski shop the last couple of weeks. The friendship, comarderie, and enthusiasm brings to my mind one word in particular.

...  Healing ...

Nobody will ever know this, and sometimes I hope nobody does, because I don't want to be treated differently, because I have been so insecure in the past, but honestly, all you folks from the shop are restoring my faith in friendship. Something I have denied myself all my life.

This weekend looks like it will be very hot for the Sinister 7. Perhaps 30 degrees. If that is the case, it will be a very difficult run. But, with that said, I still plan on going out there. It's truly different this time. I'm not going out to impress anyone. I'm going out to take part in an event because I'm not only passionate about the sport, I'm passionate about the people.

Runners: thank you for all you do for me. Seriously. This means anyone who has got off the couch, tied up their shoes and put one foot in front of the other, repeating the process for whatever length of time until you arrive at your destination. I don't esteem myself above any of you. You are all an inspiration to me. This includes all those boys out there who would run, but can't because their bodies simply won't allow it.

I love you all.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The storm before the calm

When Virginie and I first moved to Edmonton we visited the West Edmonton Mall to look around and get a feel for getting around in it. While there, we were admiring the paintings in one of art stores. There was one in particular that caught my eye. It showed a dimly lit wetland area surrounded by a shadowy boreal forest. In the foreground a nervous elk cast his eyes heaven ward, there to see a looming black sky. The elks mouth opened perhaps announcing it's warning to nearby friends to seek shelter right away. I was enthralled. I could feel the electricity in the sky. I could feel the cool breeze shoving it's way through the heavy moist air. I could hear to unnerving rumble of approaching thunder.

Virginie and I have often talked about that picture. As avid storm lovers, we both would love having a chance to go to the central States, and have a shot at seeing a real tornado. For now though, it's the storm before the calm for me. All of those questions that naturally pop up prior to a big race.

- Did I train hard enough?
- Will everything go okay?
- Will it be hot? (I'm hoping for cooler)

It's the storm before the calm. Frankly, when I line up and the gun goes off, my energy can finally be directed. Then I feel calm and free. The excitement of race day is contagious. If you can, come out to the crowsnest pass and see for yourself. There is a magical energy.

Really, it's all tapering from here. I'll do a half marathon tomorrow, then intervals Saturday morning. Then next week, only enough to keep me from going stir crazy :) I'm not sure what that will be, I am planning on listening to my body.

Last year at the Death Race, Virginie and I set expectations as: Enjoy the journey, don't go for the finish line. The strategy seemed to work well for us. We did not want to loose the focus that if we stressed about the finish line, we would miss all that happened in between.

As I look at the weather report, it keeps bouncing between hot and cool for race day. Hopefully it will be cool. It's what I am trained up for.

I want Lehi and Mathoni, my brothers in law that have passed away from duchenne muscular dystrophy, to know that I love them. Oh, how grateful I am that you are in a better place. How I hope for Cedric, for Shad, for Nicholas and Benson, even for the healthy Elijah, because he will take on the role of the caretaker older brother, for Spencer, because he's is the protector older brother, and for Sam, dear Sam. If there ever was an older brother to be proud of, who quietly helped, hoped, loved, and protected unconditionally, it is you my friend. I hope that with all of the wonderful technology that we have  been blessed with in this day and age, that my offering, how big or small will provide some hope to you, and to your families. I've said it a lot in my blog before, but I know that things will get better. We will have good times and bad times, but as assuredly as the sun sets, and then rises again, so will new hope, new treatments, and new technology. I hope the best of these will find you.

When we love someone, anything is possible

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Define: Failure?

At supper time, we'll often use our phone to search for definitions. It's fun. I'll lift up the phone and say "Ok, Google", and when the voice search dialog pops up, we'll say "Define: <something>". We've defined a whole bunch of stuff. On request, by my Son, we were all enlightened to learn the definition for Poop. The voice on the cell phone read over each word in a semi-robotic voice, while my Son giggled.

If you actually googled "Define: Failure" you would come up with either "A lack of success" or "the omission of an expected or required action". Over this past year, I have been learning that many things are both true, and false, or at least my mind has made them both. Let's take running an ultra marathon... For me, success would require me to run 100 km, or 4-25km loops through a stunning, but difficult river valley course. The course started in Gold Bar park, and snaked it's way through Goldstick park, Capilano park, Strathcona Science park, Sunridge Ski-area, and Rundle park. The weather was perfect for running.

I won't hide it... I did not finish the course. There are lots of reasons, and now that I have had time to sleep on it, I realize how easy it could be to let thoughts slip, and drown myself in failure. It is easy because according to the definition, I did fail. I failed at completing the required 100km distance. I did run 55km though, and that's no small feat. If I had entered the 50km race, I would have succeeded. Another point. There is a difference between failing at the "required action", and being a failure. I am definitely not a failure. Far from it. The road we've taken to try and get to a point where we could run the Sinister 7 has been far from easy. Virginie is still injured, and our runs have been very depressing. Go ahead, read through the earlier posts, it was the same thing every week. I will often tell people that ultra-marathoning is a sport for the mental. It's 90% mental. The other 10% is all in your head. I lived in my head yesterday though. On the first lap, I had for the most part mentally signed out. I just did not want to be there. I made good time though, and almost equally good time on my second lap. There are many "if's" that run through my head:

  • If I had kept going
  • If I had trained harder
  • If I had brought more music
  • If I had more people to talk to
  • If, If, If...
Anyone else go through this ridiculous ritual? Well, I'm choosing not to. I am a unique person, worthy of compassion. I try my best all the time. Unfortunately, due to the activity I've chose, failure is a super easy thing. It's often very easy for me to choose it. Sometimes, it's healthier to find a sport or activity that will give more positive feedback. You can argue the opposite though. So where am I at? 

My brother in law "Lehi" passed away almost years ago. He had a reputation for being a very honest person. His older brother Sam told me once "When Lehi says something, he means it." I came to know him as the epitome of honesty. After our reception, I found myself back in the church looking for something. I don't remember exactly why I was there, but I do recall getting cornered by Lehi in his wheel chair. He looked up at me and told me "I love you". The quiet gesture of love and acceptance has touched me to this day. I write it now with tears in my eyes. I go back to our theme, "When we love someone". 

Mathoni would call us every Sunday. I admit, some Sundays I just did not have time for him, but the thing that really impressed me is that he was consistent. In his own way, he left a big mark by doing a simple thing. He did not just call us, he called his other Brother and 3 Sisters every week. I remember while visiting him, I would give him the "I'm watching you" gaze. You know, the one you give to trouble-makers by holding to fingers towards your eyes, and then pointing at the person. Whenever I would do this, he would hint that he was going to run me over by inching toward me on his wheel chair. That was our way to kid around. I loved it.

The moral of my post? I choose to not look at yesterday as a failure. I choose to look at it as a success. It was not easy, in fact, it was really really hard. I give it 100% and then some. Today, I choose to love myself.

Now, what of the Sinister 7? I'm still leaning toward running it. Why not? I'm super stiff from yesterday. I must have gotten something out of it. If I give'er really hard for the next week and a bit, who knows? My goal is to raise funds and awareness of neuro-muscular disorders. The next is to run 100-miles.

Perhaps the lyrics of this Toby Mac song summarize it better. 

Oh, by the way, we're just over $1000 into our $7000 goal. That's good, but not great. Please, share this post. Let's get the word out.

When we love someone, anything is possible.