Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Industrial Park Plan

Friday is a rest day for me in my current Boston Marathon training plan, so while my car was being inspected at the Black Point Auto body shop on this past Friday, I took a slow walk around the Scarborough Industrial Park.

It was a brilliantly sunny and very cold January morning, and there was just a slight wind out of the north. This industrial park borders the Scarborough Marsh so there were very nice views of snowy fields, marsh, and ice-covered trees.

It occurred to me as I strolled around the loop past one and two-story warehouse-type buildings, that this area must be quite quiet and non-trafficked on weekends, as most of these businesses are closed. I was also impressed with how wide and clear the road was and determined that since the Scarborough Public Works operations is based in this park, the road probably is plowed well and often during winter storms. It's also FLAT.

My car cleared inspection and as I drove out, I decided to measure the loop. Just over a mile, about 1.3 miles. Perfect.

On Saturdays, my schedule calls for a race pace (about seven minutes per mile) run about half the distance of my long run the following day (Sunday). I've done a few of these now both on the road and on an indoor, 200 meter track. I've had mixed results.

The first time I set out to do a five mile pace run from my house, I basically ran like I was in a race and did not know my exact mile splits. I came in on average pretty well under pace so that was okay. The next time I was on the track and after a warm-up it meant 40 more laps at pace! Gawd, can I even count that high? Thankfully, I had one of Maine's best female runners there willing to do it with me. Kristin had raced and won a 10K the day before in 34:42, but still wanted to run with me. I was humbled. We did it, again under pace.

The next time I went to the track I was alone, and had to do a six-mile run. Yup, 48 laps. The men's track team showed up at the same time for a practice, though they told me it was fine to do my thing, as their practice was going to be pretty informal. But then, a couple Army National Guard troops showed up to do fitness training, and even though I was still fine to do my thing, it started getting crowded and I was having a hard time getting on pace. I ended up doing only three of the six miles, way faster than I should have, so that didn't work out.

Here's the plan: On Saturdays, go to the Industrial Park and after a short warm-up, do pace laps there. Running (I should say counting) four or five laps is so much more feasible for me than 48 or 56!! Also, I'm road running versus on the track, and it's quiet.

Yesterday I tried out the plan with very good success. (Well, actually, I muffed up on my math and thought I needed to do only four laps when it was five.) But with my warm-up and run back to the car, I got in my six miles, just under pace. Sweet.

Let me know if you ever want to join me for an industrial park jaunt. The only drawback was it was a little lonely going around in circles by myself.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Already Perfect Invention

This post is an opportunity to purge a running conversation I've been having with myself recently. The discourse is fairly pervasive though I find it most enlightening when I have it over the course of a run. As you might know, I am training for the Boston Marathon, and since I am following a schedule, I don't think much about what I have to do or why I am running a certain distance, I just do it with a clear mind. Potentially dangerous, I suppose, but refreshing as well. I'm also using my free time to read more, which always stimulates my thinking.

Gregg Levoy's book titled Callings - Finding and Following an Authentic Life, suggests that our true calling, that which we are meant to manifest in our lives, is already and always has been present in our being. Sadly, and one hopes mistakenly, parental oversight, education, and socialization can discourage or somehow seal-over our passion and our purpose, and we simply proceed in 'the right direction.' It's sad when you think about it, but I think it happens more than we know. Levoy's premise provides much needed hope that everything we need to thrive is indeed intact.

Ani DiFranco is coming to Maine to perform her music and was featured in today's Portland Press Herald "Go Magazine." The article discusses a lot of things but the one piece that struck a chord and relates to my running conversation centers around parenting her daughter. DiFranco is a feminist and of course uses her music to communicate the struggles she experiences dealing with the awesome responsibility of parenting a girl child given her own awareness. The article reports, "Seeing her daughter in such a raw state forced DiFranco to examine her own personal demons surrounding the pressure to conform to the supermodel ideal." DiFranco says, "I needed to address my own self-loathing so she knows she perfect." Aren't we all so perfect when we are fresh on the planet? And isn't it great to hear a parent committed to nurturing that in her daughter?

I'm reminded of the delightful movie WALL-E with its promotional tag-line, "After 700 years of doing what he was built for, he'll discover what he was meant for..." Once this small trash-mashing robot in pursuit of his love interest, EVE, boards the floating Axiom, he sees that the humans who evacuated Earth for the promise of the good life, one of automated pampering, have lost so much bone mass they can no longer walk. They go about on conveyor belts or in mobilized lazy-boys. It's pretty pathetic and an extreme example of unfulfilled beings. Though that's a judgment, isn't it? Perhaps they are living their authentic lives. I just kind of doubt it.

So do you see where I'm going with this? Once we head, or are steered down a certain path (or several paths as the case may be,) without really knowing that it is indeed our destiny, I believe our submerged longings continue to rumble and gasp for breath. They don't just go away. I also think that as one tries to analyze it or understand it, it just gets more complicated and convoluted.

Today, "More" magazine arrived in my mailbox with a call on its cover to "Reinvent Yourself! 74 Smart Ideas." It seems to be a popular trend, this self-reinvention, but I'm not sure I want to buy it. Or maybe it's semantics and I just disagree. Aren't we already perfectly fine? What about touting "Recognize Yourself!" or "Be Who You Really Are, Love What You Really Love, Do What You're Really Meant For" like WALL-E?

Running the other day, pondering things and coming up with all the answers to my life's problems through my personal running conversation, I realized, "I don't want to reinvent anything. I am invented and I simply want to remember myself."

I suppose I could come up with 74 smart ideas about how to do that but I think that's a bit contradictory. I plan to quiet down in order to hear myself, and listen closely to realize just what it is that has been invented as me. And then, own it already. Own it for real.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Value of Recognition

There are plenty of management consultants who advise that recognition is one of the most, if not the most, important criterion to motivate and retain employees. Some believe that it is more effective than giving the employee more money. (That has never been true for me personally, but I get the gist of what they're trying to say. It's important to notice good work and give that someone a positive, perhaps unsolicited appraisal.)

Running and racing have been at the core of my work for the past couple of years. I have been extremely fortunate to have been immersed in the world of running and to have been compensated for providing coaching, program development, event management, marketing communication, and some retail sales. On the other side of the running coin, I've trained and raced and remained competitive. It's been a rewarding few years since starting A Running Conversation, and of course, I was running and racing long before then.

The Maine Track Club hosted its annual awards banquet on Saturday evening to recognize age division standouts, exemplary club members, first-time marathoners, volunteers and race directors, as well as to enjoy a social evening with friends and food. Last minute obstacles prevented me from attending the event, though I am proud to say that I was voted the 2009 Female Runner of the Year.

I am very pleased with this award, as it lends credibility to how I've been "working" over the last year. It also really does motivate me to stay at the top of my game and to remember this is what I can do! It is a real honor, too, given the terrific female runners in the Club, and the community as a whole.

In the January/February 2010 edition of New England Runner Magazine, one can find a list of the 2009 Top Runners by state and age division. NER lauded my performances for the year and gave me the nod as the top female Mainer in my age division. I also received the award for Athlete of the Month, something they feature in every issue. I was completely surprised and very excited to receive these honors, as the net is flung wider than my local club.

So why aren't I brimming with self-satisfaction and fulfillment? The truth is, I'm feeling rather blue. I've been grappling with this mood for a couple weeks (notice my last blog post was December 28, exactly three weeks ago) as it doesn't make sense to me. I am pleased. I am proud. But I'm in a funk.

I think it harkens back to what I said in the first paragraph about money and how it translates into value for me. I don't have an income right now, well for the past three months, and it's wearing on me. It's not for lack of trying: I have been looking, networking, applying, wracking my brain! And coaching is something I can and will do part-time. I'm looking for other work - doing the same things just not revolved around running. I think it's exhausting me even more than training for the Boston Marathon. I also think the emotional drain is insidious.

The mind is a powerful thing. I know what I need to do. I know I need to turn things around upstairs, in my head. And I will. After all, this is who I am and this is what I can do. I'm a runner.