Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Jitters

If you've ever toed the line for a race, one where you really wanted to do well (whatever that meant for you at the time), you know the feeling. Right up to the last split second before the gun goes off, their's that voice.
  • "You really think you're prepared for this?"
  • "Just take it easy and cruise this one."
  • "Why aren't you home in bed?"
  • "Are you nuts?"
Even if you've never raced, surely you've stood face-to-face with the unknown, your own personal unknown. At once dead sure you're going to kick some ass, and equally certain that your ass is about to be kicked.

That's what I've got going on right now. I'm soaking in it.

8 days in a row is my record. Oh, and the next day I put in my log that my back was killing me. Four or five times I've made 7 in a row. Otherwise my log is like swiss cheese.

If I make it through January, a whole 31 days in a row, that will mean bettering my record by almost 3 1/2 times.

If I do that, I will be less than 10% of the way to 365.

The jitters are there to remind us that we are about to test ourselves, push our limits, and maybe we should pay attention.

I can't wait to see what happens.

This is going to be a great year!

PS - "The Jitters" would also be a great name for a band.
PSS - Yoink! Guess it already was a great name for a band.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My last wild hair

In June 2006, before starting my current (awesome) job, I had a 6 week hiatus. I was EXTREMELY lucky to find a great job in just a couple weeks, so I had a few weeks to kill. A luxury I'd never had before and guessed I'd never have again. I was still getting paid from my last job. I was single. I had no schedule.

It. Was. Awesome!

I read, ran, saw a jillion movies, cooked, met up with friends, even bought a car. I spent time deciding what I wanted to do, and then doing it.

As the end of my forced vacation drew near, I wanted to do something memorable. I wanted to put an exclamation point on what had been a period of introspection, experiences, exploration. An awakening.

I had just finished Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes. I was inspired to try something that I didn't know I could do. The details are in this (now defunct) blog, but essentially I decided to run 100 miles over my last 7 days.

Do the math with me... that's over a half-marathon. Every day. For 7 days. In a row.

I know!

It was one of my greatest experiences and most certainly partial inspiration for this challenge. I experienced highs, lows, and really low lows that week. Heck, on nearly every run that week.

I learned a lot about myself.

It was a tough, tough week.

It was only a week. Gulp.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Potential Pitfalls

I'm a problem solver. Always have been. When something is put in front of me, I try to figure out how I would make it better. When some event is coming up, I spend a fair amount of time guessing what might go wrong.

That's been my personal slice of hell the past couple days. All of the things that could go wrong. All of the things that could cause me to fail this challenge.

Luckily I've spent almost as much time planning to avoid these obstacles.

Here's what I've got so far:

Inertia: "A body at rest tends to stay at rest." (Isaac Newton was the it-shay.) I don't know which is harder... stopping a bad habit or starting a good one. I did a quick study of my running logs and since 1993, the longest streak of consecutive running days was 8. Not really close at all to 365.
Avoidance: How about telling all of your friends and starting a blog and generally making it pretty public if you fail? That's about the best I've got.

Burnout: There will be days, many in fact, when I don't want to run.
Avoidance: See Inertia (above).

Injury: Show stoppers include death, prolonged coma, broken bone below the waist or in the spinal column, torn leg things (ACL, etc.), bad sprain, serious connective tissue badness that would jeopardize running in the future. Softer problems are typical overuse injuries.
Avoidance: Stretch... religiously. Use good running sense, like not running on ice, taking one-mile days when I need to. Core work, weights, yoga. Wear a light and reflective gear when its dark. Don't slip into a coma. Don't die.

Illness: Unless I'm hospitalized or unconscious, I can run a mile, but man will it suck.
Avoidance: Eat well, wash hands, get enough sleep. All the stuff our mom's told us to do.

Weather: This shouldn't even be on this list. I have plenty of gear for any weather. I just need to remember to have it on hand. If the weather is dangerous, hit the hamster wheel.
Avoidance: Grow a pair! It's just weather.

Schedules: Kids, work, friends, impromptu lunch meetings, relationships. Everyone has demands on their time.
Avoidance: Plan ahead. Put yourself first for at least a few minutes every day.

Absentmindedness: This is a big one. Forgetting my gear. Bringing just one shoe. Plain forgetting to run. This is my biggest risk over the 365 days.
Avoidance: First, be flexible. If I forget something, I need to make a new plan. Also, keep spare gear in the car.

There's a lot going on here. Kinda freaks me out. But I think that with a mega-dose of dedication, common sense, and some luck, I'll make it.

If I've forgotten any, let me know. Meanwhile, I'll be fidgeting... anxiously.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Rules

People are funny. Everyone I've talked to about this challenge has, sooner or later, asked what the rules are.

"What counts as a run?"

"Do treadmills count?"

"But you didn't run today!"

I suppose those questions are the obvious ones. So when people try to understand just what it is I'm doing, those questions come out first. Not one person has asked what I hope to get out of this, or if I think I can do it, or why I'm doing it.

That's probably a good thing. I'm not sure I have answers to those questions.

I do, however, have answers to the easy ones. Here are the rules:
  1. From 1/1/2010 to 12/31/2010 inclusive, I have to run at least one mile every day.
That's it.

If I miss a day, I fail.

Pace doesn't matter.

Distance over a mile doesn't matter.

Location doesn't matter.

I know someone out there is thinking "Wait a minute! 'Run' is open-ended and subject to interpretation", but really, we all know running when we see it. (In that way, and likely only in that way, running is just like porn.)

(Good comment thread - ways running is, in fact, just like porn.)

Walking doesn't count. On some really bad days I may run slower than most people walk. But it will still be running.

I am the keeper of distance. I'll use my cool Garmin GPS watch when I can, but I'm sure there will be a day or 12 when I don't have it, or it's not charged, or I forget to start it, or worst case, it's lost or broken. I'll measure as accurately as I can on those runs, and trust me, I'll be sure to cover my one-mile.

Treadmills? Treadmills are like lawyers. We all hate them until we need one. (Ba-dum, tish). I try to never run on treadmills. Makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel. But when running in the real world is too dangerous, like when the roads are icy, or the windchill is ridiculous, a treadmill run is better than no run. Barely.

This thing isn't about rules. It isn't a contest. It's a challenge to myself to get off my butt and do what I know is best for me. To take care of myself. To spend at least a few minutes every day focusing on me.

Tomorrow, potential pitfalls.

P.S. Probably goes without saying, but I don't want to assume... blogging, while an important part of this adventure, is secondary. The challenge is to run every day, not blog every day. The running will be hard enough.

I will blog as often as I can. I'll do my best to at a minimum post my distance covered that day. I'm sure some days I will have more insight or humor or ideas than others. I will try to keep those who are interested at least informed. I'm aiming for entertained.

I hope that if nothing else, I can convey the many benefits that being a runner brings me. And who knows, maybe gather up a few converts.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

365 days in a row

I have an idea. More like a goal I guess. It's not original. But it's big. For me. Huge.

I am going to run every day in 2010.

For those who don't know, I've been a runner for as long as I can remember. I ran everywhere as a kid. I was a sprinter and hurdler in high school and college. (I took a hiatus after college, apparently to see what it was like to get fat.) When I moved back to Indiana, I worked at a small software company where many of the people ran at lunch. Before long, I was one of them. I've been running ever since.

I have gone from torturing myself training for one half-marathon a year, to year-round running, to being kinda fast, to injury riddled and full of excuses. Yet through it all I have identified myself as a runner. It is a part of who I am.

I'm a runner because I value what it does for me. It's great for my body and my health. I've made lifelong friends over thousands of miles of lunchtime runs, weekend training, and sharing advice and tales. I am an evangelist for running. Not the sport, the lifestyle.

I also understand what it does for my mind and my emotional state. It centers me, brings me back to the present. It clears the fog. It is a release.

Yet lately, when I need that kind of run the most, the kind that will lift me from the doldrums, I usually don't feel like running. The effort to dress, stretch, warm-up, get out the door seems too much. I KNOW I will feel better as soon as I take the first step, but instead I sit.

When I'm running, I'm more positive, I feel better, I am better. For me to be my best, best father, best friend, best everything, I need to be running. That's just the way I am.

On my run today, the first in well over a week, I realized that what I need is something to get me out the door. A goal. For some reason, at this point in my life, I need a shove. Even to do what I know is the absolutely best thing I can do for myself.

This is it. 365 days in a row. This won't be any kind of record. People have done year after year of this. But for me, given my performance over the past year, this is like climbing Everest.

2009 was a really, really crappy year for me. Really crappy. I am determined to make 2010 better. And I know that running will be a catalyst. I didn't run NEARLY enough in 2009. I didn't take care of myself. I let everything else get in the way.

I'm going to make up for it in 2010. I'm going to run every day.

I have no idea if I can do this. But that's the best part.