Thursday, June 4, 2009

Justifying My Self-Depracation:
The Dilemma of a Runner-Coach

Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments in my last post. It did made me feel better and in a way keep things in perspective. I agree that it’s quite unbecoming of me to rant on my own running like that. I’m usually a bit more discreet about such things and is able to weed out my self-deprecating alter ego before he announces his presence here on the blog, but on that particular day, I was stressed, frustrated, confused, and just wasn’t in the mood to edit him out.
I guess I could’ve blamed my troubled state on the three teenage diabetics who are basically committing suicide with their refusal to care for themselves and making me feel generally inadequate and utterly powerless to help them. I could’ve likewise pinned my frustrations on the young mother of the newborn I had to admit to intensive care for treatment of hypocalcemic seizures because mom thought prenatal vitamins were “optional”. Heck, I could’ve even chalked it up to any of a number of parents that day who verbally abused me in clinic for not “fixing” their morbidly obese kids who were 40, 55, even 80 pounds overweight. (Um, sorry lady, there is no medicine I can prescribe to undo the damage you’ve done by overfeeding little Johnny for the last 10 years. And no, bariatric surgery or stomach stapling is not an option!)
Still, I know I’m ultimately the one at fault for carrying my work life onto the road and placing intense pressure on my body to perform at the highest level under not-so-ideal circumstances. No matter what I know about proper rest and recovery, I just wanted to run fast and run well in THIS ONE race and THIS ONE workout just so I know for myself that I can still do THIS ONE thing well. Maybe no one else ever approaches their running in quite the same manner, but for me, sometimes the passion for the run overwhelms its purpose. That’s why the failures both in the race and in my interval workout was so emotionally disappointing. For the first time in a long time, running just felt so hard and pointless.
As for those who are suggesting that I’m pushing my body too often and too hard, I can’t really disagree but then again who’s to know? The coach in me is often telling me that I’m so used to taking the easy way out that it’s not a surprise that when it really matters, when push comes to shove, my body just doesn’t know how to respond. In my “Video of the Week”, Kara Goucher talks a little about when she first met Alberto Salazar, one of the earliest workouts he had her do was “12 X 1K real easy”. She thought he was crazy but she did it anyway and nailed it, much to her surprise. In the same way, I’m always challenging myself to be just a little bit better or just a little bit faster than what I think I’m capable of, even if it sounds a bit crazy at first. I feel that only by pushing the envelope every so often will I be able to uncover something close to my potential as a runner. The weird thing was that in my Tuesday speed session, I was only trying to hit my pre-Boston time goals, and hence, not even pushing the envelope at all! (It’s sad that even that I couldn’t do!) At any rate, the point is that there is a fine line between pulling back and regressing versus pushing hard and risking injury to test the limits and it’s hard to know when to say when. I guess as long as I’m training myself, I will always have difficulty separating the coach, who keeps wanting me to run faster and push harder, from the runner, who just wants him to shut up!.
Hope this explanation makes sense to some of you…Maybe?


Robert James Reese said...

I know exactly what you mean. I've been struggling with very similar things myself lately. I know I'm not pushing too hard because I see others out there working so much harder than me (the elites, the ultramarathoners, and even other more competitive marathoners). I sometimes get so overwhelmed by everything that I'm not accomplishing with my running that I forget the positives.

As we keep fairly similar training regimens, I don't think you're pushing too hard either; I think that you're still recovering from the marathon and just had an off day. Nothing to worry about. I know it's easier said than done, but you need to just shake it off and get back out there with a clear head. Focus on the bigger goals on the horizon.

Anonymous said...

Lam, I really enjoy reading your posts. Your writing is just so fluid.

Sorry to hear some parents treat you so poorly:(

I don't have any real advice for you about your running. I think you are a great runner and that there is nothing wrong with demanding more of yourself, however you need to give yourself some slack every now and then.

lindsay said...

you sound a lot like me. rant/complain and then apologize :) so i'm pretty sure i understand what's going through your head. it's hard to not meet a goal, even if you are close, and even if you meet/exceed your other goals 99% of the time. you know in running, there are going to be 'off' days. take it for what it is, know that the effort you put forth will benefit you in the future, and getting out there is better than skipping the run altogether.

i wish i could know when i really was doing too much. i feel i give myself that excuse too often - "oh, but i'm due for a rest day", "i'm due for a cutback week". :-/

let me know when you find the magical cure for obesity. i could stand to lose a few lbs. obviously diet and exercise are inconceivable to those people!

NY Wolve said...

Ironically, I find that some work stress often helps me be a better runner. Focuses more of my energy from the office on the track. When that stress, however, affects sleep, eating, etc., it degrades workouts and progress.

Your other points though about progress and goals resonate. I am currently trying to set a goal for my self. A very ambitious one -- or one that I can probably meet and live with? I mean what difference do 10 minutes in a marathon time mean versus the training and commitment that will go into making that difference? I am not looking to BQ, and it will be a good performance either way...
So I understand the dilemma of pushing yourself, self cricitism, but at the same time realizing and enjoying your current position, fitness and goals.
Good luck resolving the internal debate

carpeviam said...

I hate how parents can't take responsibility for how they've raised their kids. They are constantly looking for a scapegoat. It's the same with teaching. If they don't support the kids at home, how am I to be held responsible for their child's success in every content area? I can only do what I'm capable of with 27 kids in the 6.5 hour allotment I'm given, 5 days a week. I'm sorry you have to deal with that.

In regards to your running, just be happy knowing you are such an incredible runner and many only hope to be 1/2 as good as you! One day, you won't be able to do this, but today is NOT that day. Get your head in a good place. Do what you need to do. Enjoy it. Be happy with your accomplishments. And just RUN! ;)

Jamie said...

I can't say anything else that every other person has said here. You are an amazing runner and you had an off day. You have been pushing yourself incredibly hard since the marathon in what sounds like all facets of your life. It's a fine line between pushing yourself to be better and overdoing it/tearing yourself down. It's cool to give yourself a little break once in awhile :) Good luck with the battle!

Irish Cream said...

I totally get this, Lam. It is SO hard to decipher exactly where you're at in training and what is the right thing to do at any particular moment. I know that every time I hold back (for instance, the Brooklyn Half), I secretly feel like I'm being a total wimp--or using my upcoming marathon as an excuse to not push myself. Sure there are plenty of people who will tell me that I did the right thing, but still . . . I can't help but wonder if I'm actually holding myself back and harming my eventual performance by allowing myself to "wimp out".

But that's part of the beauty of this sport, I think--that as you run more and gain more experience, you learn more about your body and what it can take. And hey, keep this in mind . . . nobody ever knows what is the EXACT right thing to do. But we all do our best to train ourselves to what we hope is our peak performance level. And if you do that (and you clearly do) . . . well, that's really all you can ask of yourself.

aron said...

you know we all have off days, we dont need to tell you that. but it still does not make them any easier, especially on days you REALLY want to succeed. no doubt you will get there.

i am sure its also hard to balance the coach/athlete in yourself. i find myself telling my friends things and then turning around and doing/thinking the opposite for myself. its hard to know what is too much or what is really just pushing yourself hard to be better. do any of us really know?

i also cant imagine the emotional stress your job places on you. that is something that is just so hard not to bring home with you. i am an accountant, i leave the numbers at work and i can not think about them again until i walk into the office. but something that involves real people, and children at that, that are not taking care of themselves or being taken care of is just SO hard. i cant imagine. i would definitely be dragging that around with me on occasion.

Running and living said...

Sounds like you and I have similar work challenges - part of my job is to deter patients from getting unnecessary surgeries while teaching them coping skills instead. I, too, have days when I feel I was unable to get my point accross, or unable to motivate someone to think more flexibly, take responsibilities, etc. Then I go for a run, and make myself deal with the issue and remind myself that there is only so much that I can do. Running can't compensate for other things in my life that are not going well at times, but it certainly helps me sort things out and get a better perspective.
So take it easy on yourself, sit with whatever feels uncomfortable, sort things out, make some decision, and everything will come together in the end. It always does! Ana-Maria
P.S. Look at all the responses you got at this post - no one liners, so many people took time to think this through with you and write long responses. Thats speaks lots about how the blogging community views you!

J said...

Sometimes whevn everything else is going wrong you just want running to be there and work and to be amazing. after hearing what you had been going through at work its easy to understand how you could want that but your body was obviously tired. I am sure that when you get back out there, your running will have returned to normal and be there for you like usual!

Scott Brown said...

Yes it makes perfect sense!

Doing now what you couldn't or couldn't imagine doing before is the essence of life and if you want "the full love deal" Or anything else more out of life you have to put in something extra.

As my mate Ewen said via a song by "Karma County"

You gotta hurt, you gotta bleed, you gotta want, you gotta need. But most of all you you got to put in the hours!"

All the best with it Laminator

X-Country2 said...

I don't know how doctors and nurses do it. I'd freak out on someone 15 minutes into the first day.

It is good to know that awesome runners struggle with things just like me. Always love reading what you have to say.

nwgdc said...

So long as running remains, for the most part, FUN, you don't have to defend yourself to anyone!
Simply allow running to be your escape from work and all other stresses--make running your "eustress" and all is right!
Now, it's time for me take some of my own advice...

sRod said...

I think we've all had to run out our feelings at one point or another. The pavement becaises substitute for a horrible client (or patient) or a mishap with a co-worker. Isn't one of the reason we all run stress relief?

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