Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend of Running and Philosophizing

Philosophizing, is that even a real word???

/checks middle school dictionary
//discovers it is a real word, even with a "z" in it.

This weekend I was lucky enough to participate in a 12 km trail race up at Devils Thumb Ranch up in the mountains.  It was a really difficult race, as it was all on narrow or wet or rocky trails, it started at 8600 ft, eventually climbing up to 9000 feet, and the competition was pretty stiff.  The results are not posted online, but according to my Garmin watch, I ran the 7.6 mile course in one hour and thirty seven seconds, for a nice even pace of 8 min/mile.

Beth and I nordic ski pretty regularly at DTR, so I was knew what the trails and what the steepness would be.  The race started out pretty flat, but then was going to climb two monster hills.  One hill I have skied a number of times, and I knew it was moderately tough, and the other hill was an unknown to me.  This presented a little bit of a conundrum during the race.  I didn't know how hard to push myself on the opening fields, as I didn't want to burn myself out for the two hills at the end.  I ended up not really pushing it until 3-4 km into the race.  The race turned onto a flatter trail that was after a short little steep climb.  By then, the all the racers had really thinned out, and I just felt it was time to get going and start reeling in racers before the big hills.  I might not pass them, but I felt I needed to be close to them at the start of the hills to be able to make my move going up the hill.

So, my plan of saving for the hills was somewhat thwarted, as the first hill was bypassed, and the second hill was not as brutal as I thought.  That meant I had tons of energy for the killer downhill off the unknown hill, and it was a BLAST!  Right at the start of the downhill, I passed two people, then I was behind a guy in red, and I just couldn't get around him.  It was a narrow, rocky, tree-y trail, and we were just bombing down it.  It was more of a free-fall than a run, and it was so exhilarating.  We were leaping off rocks, flying over streams, dodging a horse in the trail (yeah, there was horse and cowboy in the middle of the trail).  I felt like I was 15 years younger, when I used to run off the mountains in NH as fast as I could.  We ran at this breakneck pace for at least two kilometers, then it opened up into the meadows again.  We were about 3 km from the finish, so I just took off as hard as I could.  I had one mini-hill to lose red guy, then tried to chase down gray guy.  Those last two kilometers, I was redlining it, and when I finally finished, I was 100% spent.  All I remember is slowly falling to my knees, then rolling over onto my back, then Chloe launching herself up onto my stomach.  It was a tough race, but it was more fun than tough, which is how races should be.  Huge shout out to Igor and the crew at DTR, the put on great races no matter what season it is.

So, where is the "philosophizing" you might be asking?  It hit me during the race, that I, as well as others, are too caught up in results of racing.  Sure, it is great that James Kadolph ran a 16:05 at Liberty Bell, or that the Sierra 8th gr. girls went undefeated in 2011, or that the CHS boys 4 x 800 team was State Champs this spring.  I do not want to take anything from those accomplishments.  However, when I was trying to strategize during the race, when I was tapping before the race, when I was flying down that hill at the end of the race, I realized it didn't matter what place I got, all that mattered was that I was having fun and I was pushing myself to get better.

Sometimes websites and coaches and parents and athletes can get too caught up in "What was your time, what was your place?" instead of worrying about "How did you race?"  Bode Miller once said (and I am paraphrasing) that it didn't matter whether he got a medal or not, what mattered was how he raced.  He likened a ski race to a work of art, and I really can see where he is coming from now.  I might not have won the race this weekend, but I was really psyched with how I raced, with how I fought, with how I prepared.  And I think we need a lot more of that in running.  We need more of focusing on the total picture, not just the end result.


/commence hammering me with "you hypocrite" comments. :)

The snow-capped mountains are much more impressive than my struggling form. 

Chloe with her hot cocoa,  a veteran of the race watching circuit.

The best support team anyone could have!

1 comment:

Jake Odell said...

You pulled me in with using the "p" word!

I'm surprised that this epiphany is news to you. Some of the stand out philosophical moments from my childhood are off-hand comments I remember you making during our adventures in NH. When we did hikes together, I was always pushing for the rewarding view from the summit, but you would always chide me with the catch-phrase worthy "you should hike for the hike". I also remember a bike ride on Grange Road where I blew by you racing down a slope, but then you breezed by me going up the next while exclaiming "anyone can pass someone going downhill".

These have always stuck with me, and I've found my ethical studies have always leaned more towards emphasizing Means rather than Ends. Not to ignore results completely, but to focus where importance should be placed.