Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life on the Crazy Train

As with all my post, this post has taken on many twisted and complicated forms over the last few weeks.  Just like my life, its been a roller coaster of ideas and thoughts.  It originally started as a celebration and reflection, that quickly turned sour.  This post is a brief ride on the roller coaster ride of my life, where I have learned that I might be Just the Right Crazy.

Looking back on this season I wouldn't think that my best race could be traced back to April.  That's not what any championship minded athlete wants.  Going into the Blue Shoes Mile on April 12th  (held yearly at Furman University since 2007) this year I was naturally ready to prove that I was capable of competing on the Elite stage.  I had to fight tooth and nail to even be allowed into fast section.  Since I haven't posted a fast time in over 2 years, the meet director played hard ball.  After a lots emails and several favors called in I was finally allowed in the fast section finally and ready to prove I belonged.  It turned out to be a beautiful night and a fun race in front of friends and family.  I executed well and was able to run a Mile PR of 4:01.7.  While this was slightly bitter sweet that I missed the sub 4 min barrier, I knew I was on the right path, it was my first real PR in 2 years and I was excited for the coming months.... so I thought.

When momentum swings one way in life we always expect it to stay like that right?  I mean an object in motion is supposed to stay in motion right?  Or so I was taught in school.  Well, if you haven't personally learned this yet, life is that force that acts on the outside jet and momentum. Blue Shoes was supposed to be just a small stepping stone for the year, yet it has turned out to be my best performance thus far.  Looking back on the past several months strictly at training and racing schedule it would seem inexplicable how since early April that I haven't replicated or bettered that performance.  The performance that was supposed to be an early season test.  I mean I ran over 90 miles that week and was gearing up for upcoming steeplechase races.  Not really how you properly prepare for a mile.  Momentum can be just as quickly lost as it is gained.  Over the next several races I lost all that good momentum and found myself out of opportunities and out of USA Nationals.  But, luckily for me the Bring Back the Mile series has come to the rescue and given me the opportunities to continue to compete on the big stage for big prizes.  They have helped reignite that fire. All of these races are giving me a chance to paint my story and hopefully give me the opportunity to inspire more people.  

As I've mentioned here before, I have been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks since last July. In fact, my biggest challenge this year has not been physical like the last 2 years with my Wegener's relapses.  Physical is the easy part. Always has been. I am innately gifted at pushing my body to it's physical limits. Most good runners are. We teach our body's on a daily basis to ignore it's basic pain response. This year though has been a challenge to turn off my brain and relax.  Now, for a control freak this becomes a viscous cycle. I know I need to give my body and mind rest and relaxation, yet I know what I need to be doing training wise as an athlete. So, when I don't run it makes it worse, and when I do run during these spells it's shitty and not near my capabilities.

The months of May, June, July, and August have been a roller coaster both physically and emotionally.  I have had some of the best workouts of my life and I have also slipped into deep depression and crippling anxiety with my current life situation.  In the past month alone (in the middle of all the traveling, racing, training, and working) I have moved into the nastiest apartment that I have ever lived in (and I've lived in some dumps as many of you have visited), flipped my 4Runner for the final time (the Falcon is gone for good), and worked more hours this month than I have all summer.  Not necessarily ideal training and racing conditions.  It's these times that I have to remember to find my center in all the chaos. The lesson from all of this is that it doesn't matter how hard or good you are at pushing your body to it's limits, it's learning when to take a step back and know when to relax and stop forcing it.  I found out my breaking point this week.  I ran the worst race I have run all year, at the Michigan Mile in Flint, Michigan.  It's the first time I remember finishing last in a race in years.  My body reached that tipping point with stress.  Trying to find a new car, a new apartment, and a better way to manage my work schedule with my training schedule all while still working, training, and racing proved too much.  As my therapist warned me several weeks ago when this started... "You are on the fast track to finding your breaking point and ending up in the loony bin."  So friends, family, colleagues, and strangers be weary of your breaking point.  You never know how close you are to the edge until you cross it, especially in life on the Crazy Train..... To quote a few lines from the great Ozzy Osbourne..... All Aboard!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA

Mental wounds still screaming 
Driving me insane 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 

I know that things are going wrong for me 
You gotta listen to my words 
Mental wounds not healing 
Who and what's to blame 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train 
I'm going off the rails on a crazy train

Grandma's Mile hear comes the Crazy Train to town!!

All Hope is Gone


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

All Hope is Always Gone

Some of you may know that I have a mantra of life "All Hope is Gone."  This is a philosophy that I stumbled upon over the last few years and has really hit home with me as I have dealt with the my struggles in life.  In fact it has meant so much to me that this past winter I had it inked across my chest with some beautiful roses to off set the phrase because I truly find beauty and freedom in the statement that so many people find depressing.  It's funny despite this phrase being plastered across my chest I often forget when life is going well and I am happy that I should still have my mantra right in front of me.

The past few months have been a lot of transition in my life once again.  It seems that everyone this time of year is dealing with these issues, whether you are going off to college for the first time, moving out own your own finally, starting your first job, etc... This time of year seems to always bread excitement, turmoil, anxiety and stress no matter what your move.  Not knowing what lies on the other side can be scary for many people, myself included.  But you have to embrace that change and take that step to get out of your comfort zone our you will probably never be able to chase your true dreams.  All Hope is Gone means that you have to be willing to accept the fact that you may fail and be happy with your journey and struggles no matter the outcome.  It is also about learning to find your center and your balance during the most chaotic times in your life.  You must become the eye of the storm.  Be the calm that is in the center or the storm will sweep you away.

If you are like me then you have found yourself swept off that edge more than a few times by that storm.  This is when drugs, alcohol, and destructive behavior can lead you into those dark depths of the human mind and spirit.  I have currently found myself there.  The last few weeks of my life I have found myself out of control and out of my center of calm. I let myself get swept up in the chaos of life taking a shit on me and my family.  Mistakes begin to happen when I find myself strung out emotionally and physically.  In the last 2 weeks alone I have found myself in the nastiest place I have ever lived, with a landlord how is impossible to get in touch with to fix any of the broken things in the apartment (toilet, sink, shower, doors that don't lock, etc...), flipped my 4runner in my shitty driveway (that's flip number 2 for those who are counting- which finally totaled my baby), and dropped a tire of the rental car off the driveway.  All of this has lead to a lack of sleep, frustrated living circumstances, and horrible athletic training.  As I have stated before, when things begin to get in the way of my dream chasing as a runner, I get really worked up, angry and vengeful.  This stress has manifested itself into my body to where I now have nagging injuries, horrible training sessions, and a body that is just worn out.

Despite all of this I managed to run one of the happiest races of the season this past weekend in Pittsburgh at the Liberty Mile.  Being back in the pack of elite milers reminded me that I belonged there.  Despite horrible training for nearly a month, lack of sleep, and a car wreck 2 days before the race, I was able to kick with some of the best milers in the country.  I had many of them on the ropes until the final 100m, but that's when I believe the past month of stress finally caught up with me.  Which makes me laugh.  Initially I was mad because I had a great opportunity to finish 4th behind 3 of the best middle distance runners in the country, but then I realized how much shit I had put up with in the last few weeks and I laughed because I knew that had I been fresh and prepared better it would have been a different race.  What was also beautiful about the race was I ran without fear for the first time all season and was so caught up in the amazing atmosphere that the people at Bring Back the Mile and the Liberty Mile set up for us.  I lined up not knowing what my body could handle, but I didn't care I was going to help put on the show.  All Hope was Gone!  Whatever my body could handle I was going to dish out and I was happy with what I was able to accomplish because so many times in the last few weeks, including today even, I have wanted so bad to end my season.  But I refuse to let this storm throw me off course.

No matter how far off course you find yourself or how deep in you find yourself in (it doesn't get much worse than having to find a new place to live and a new car all in the same week) you have to try and find your center of peace in the chaos.   Realizing that there is no cause for all of the bad things and no one to blame will help you release those demons and find that peace with whatever shit storm life wants to blow your way.  I wish I could stand here in front of you and tell you that I had beat this battle, but we all struggle and we all can find inspiration in others around us.  Don't forget your dreams and fight like hell!

All Hope is Gone,