Friday, October 12, 2012

I Need a Counselor

"It's like deja-vu all over again!" - Yogi Berra

As I sit here trying to come up with a riveting topic for this week's RWA, I find my usually crystal-clear thought process (yeah, right!) somewhat clouded by my impending immediate future.

Let me back up a little - last October, I saw a race advertised at Ruffner Mountain, probably the most technical trail system in the Birmingham, Alabama area. It was a 21k (half-marathon), and knowing (and feeling) the state of my ailing ankles, I knew it would be stupid idea to sign up for, of course, I signed up for it, and yes, it was a stupid idea. I gloriously finished dead last! Here is a link to that post a year ago.We have really progressed with our trail systems at Oak Mountain, Red Mountain, and at Ruffner, and as trail runners do with single trails in a system, or with whole systems at a time, we rate them on their difficulty. We rate them on elevation gain, from flat to mountainous (usually a gain of over 250' gain/mile). And we also rate these trails on the terrain itself, from paved or very smooth to a very rough trail with rocks, roots, ruts, downed trees, streams to cross, and all manner of hellish obstacles to wish you were someplace else. Each trail system has it's own personality, and to me, Ruffner is the wicked witch of the East. You just can never get into a rhythm with it's steep hills, rocks, short, twisty turns, etc. But, as I say to my running buddy Moha...Red Mountain is for beginners with it's mostly wide double track, Oak Mountain will make you a better trail runner with it's undulating long ups and downs on mostly single track, BUT Ruffner will make you strong with it's tight turns and sudden dramatic changes in elevation, some short, some long.

So, where is all this leading? Last year, I SWORE to Vanessa (my friend and Race Director) that I would NEVER come back. So, what does she do this year? She adds a 42k (full marathon, more or less)!! My God, girl! Get a grip! I made the huge mistake of reading the race application. Why? I don't know...I just told you I would NEVER come back. I see the race fee is the SAME for the 21k or the 42K! I see you can sign up for the full, but drop at the half and get credit as a half finisher! I don't see a downside in this. Before remembering that I would NEVER come back, not only had I registered myself for the 42k, but I registered Moha also and then told him he owed me the race fee! Pretty slick, huh?

My next move was to call my buddy Ken, who is a High School Counselor, and plead "I need a counselor!". When I explained what I had just done, Ken's response was "You're calling the wrong guy" - you see Ken is a serious marathoner with numerous Boston's under his belt. He even registered for last year's Boston on his iPhone during a meeting! So, you see, Ken dips into the same kool-aid of rational thinking that I do. And now, the race is tomorrow. It's only 26 miles, but it's a challenging 26 miles...challenging, my foot, it's gruesome! Ok, I'm exaggerating. My plan is simple - run, eat gel, run, eat gel, walk, eat gel, swear, run/walk, until somebody tells me to stop, then eat pizza and beer. And I want to do all this before my Nike+ GPS battery gives up the ghost (advertised as an 8 hour battery).
What is it with us long distance runners? We see a challenge (while we're sitting at our desk at work) and it's immediate: "I can do that. It'll be fun". Good Grief! The double-edged sword in all this is that if I do good (some degree of OK), I'll figure I'm back and look for other "challenges". If I don't do good (some degree of a NASCAR crash), I'll be safe for at least a little while anyway, and retreat to my safety cocoon of "training" runs. But, these are the runs I love...long and hard and sweaty and deep and, in the end, they are the kind of runs that make a difference in who I am and who I want to be. No, that's not right. These are the kind of runs that weave a thread through my running past, where I am now, and where I will be in the, hopefully, many tomorrows. I know my best running days are behind me, and I am at peace with that, but going back when I say I will NEVER go back, somehow that feels good down deep. Yeah, maybe I do need a counselor. Or maybe, I'm just a long distance runner ready to write, and live, another chapter tomorrow.

I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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