Thursday, February 18, 2016

Everything Has Changed and Yet Nothing Has Changed at All...

The last few weeks have been hell of a roller coaster to say the very least.  Basically a microcosm of my life in just a few weeks.  The photo above was taken mere moments after my first sub 4 minute mile, I was elated but that look is full of so many emotions; I can see my thoughts in that picture, the gravity of the situation still not having set in.  On Friday, August 7th 2015, I finally became a Sub 4 Minute Miler by finishing 5th in a time of 3:59.67 at the Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC.  I can now say looking back that Friday night August 7th, 2015 was one of the best nights of my entire life.  Not only did I break 4 minutes after all the struggles my life has held, but I got to do it in front of my parents, girlfriend, and so many friends.  For those few hours that night I was on cloud 9!  All the miles, the struggles, the highs, the depression, and the anxiety was worth it.  The next few days were absolutely overwhelming with the out pour of messages and feedback from social media, emails, texts, phone calls, high fives and congratulations.  All this lead to such a feeling of triumph that I hadn't experienced in my life yet.  That night I finally felt like everything had changed.  I thought my moment was here and it was here to stay.  I felt lighter and more confident than I ever remember feeling, the this picture below says it all!

Fast forward nearly 3 weeks now and not much in my life has really changed.  I guess that's just the hangover after every big party.  Nothing I have done to this point in my life really prepared me for that hangover feeling from such a high.  The high and dreams I had felt so tangible and I know things had changed. So what hasn't changed?  I am still sitting at the same 40 hour a week job, I'm still broke and can barely afford travel to races, I still have trouble even getting into a lot of races, and I still don't have one single company that seems to get the big picture that I envision and live.  Maybe I was delusional, but I thought for sure with my story, my personality, and now my time to go with that lethal combo, that sponsors would finally see some value in me as an athlete.  From my side of the story I feel like no one can see the vision I and so many others seem to see.  I've been getting the same response from companies that I have for years now, which I titled the ole pat on the back email.  My response back from nearly every company that has been contacted has read something like this, "Congratulations on your Sub 4!  Your results are impressive and your story is inspiring.  Unfortunately our roster and budget full at this time.  We would love for you to keep in contact with us for the future."  It's, good job out there pat on the back parents give their kids when they are playing youth league sports and aren't quite good enough to keep up with their peers.  I have been getting some version of this email from companies in the running world for 4 years since Saucony dropped me in 2012 from a gear only sponsorship (while I was of course suffering from a relapse with Wegener's, #findyourstrong right?).  It used to make me angry and bitter.  Now though it makes me question if companies really have any foresight outside of a number.

As I have often professed I have reached the point where I am often one of the only if not the only person in the race with a full time job, much less the 2 that I have to work to afford all my bills (yes I still have medical bills and health bills to pay, drugs aren't cheap).  I work my Resort job to pay my bills and personal train & coach to pay for my travel.  I know that this takes its toll on my body at times and my training suffers.  Just one week to the day after my first sub 4, I had to skip a pm run after work because of how late I got off that night.  Those pm runs, especially after workouts, are so crucial to fitness and aerobic metabolism, that it drives me insane knowing that all my competition was able to go out for their runs that day.  Being a control freak like I am, this drives me absolutely insane.  Knowing that I am not doing everything that I need to in order to be successful at the Professional Track and Field level, literally keeps me awake at night.

Now that Runner's World and Let' ( the guru's of everything track and field) has picked up on my story, I thought it would help my case.  But while the shoe world isn't paying attention, certainly the Vasculitis community has taken notice.  Not only has the Lauren Currie Twilight Foundation (I run with their logo on my jersey) shared my story, but so has the Vasculitis Foundation, which is the largest foundation for all forms of Vasculitis not just Wegener's.  The out pour of messages. emails, and Facebook notifications has been overwhelming to deal with once they shared the story with their followers.  According to one source inside the Vasculitis Foundation, my story has been shared over 4,000 times.  Now both want to not just do interviews but have me involved with a documentary and more to help inspire people with all forms of Vasculitis to not let the diseases control their lives.  While I may have struck out with the shoe companies, I seem to have hit a home run with a community that as just as dear to my heart! So I'm classic BHudg fashion I'm gonna find a way to keep chasing my dream and finding a way to inspire others in all walks of life.

All Hope is Gone! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Short Term Memory

One of the best qualities an athlete can have is short term memory loss. This may seem contrary to the normal thought process of the successful athlete, but learning to deal with mistakes and failure properly helps make you a more successful athlete.  Successful elite athletes have the ability to put mistakes behind them and move forward. The nature of a hard working distance runner is almost completely contradictory to this philosophy. As distance runners we are taught that repeated hard work week after week leads to success. This is absolutely true, but unfortunately things don't always go as planned.

Coaches can make mistakes in training or an athlete can make an error in a race. How you as a coach or athlete handle these mistakes can give you the mental edge to succeed on the track and in life.
Learning from mistakes makes you a better athlete, but obsessing over them can lead to intimidation and fear. These emotions hinder athletic performance.  Runners can learn a lot from successful golfers and quarterbacks. Both of these athletes are some of the world’s most mentally tough and smart athletes.

If any of you have ever picked up a golf club you know how extremely frustrating a bad shot shanked into the woods can make you feel. For us novice golfers, this anger and frustration generally carries over to the next shot. Putting more pressure on the next shot is only going to compound the already bad situation. Golfers have to be in the present, and forget how great or awful the shot was that got them to their current spot. Focusing on the challenge in front of you is where you need to channel your energy. Fear of the next shot or putt is only going to hamper progress and create negative thoughts. 

Often times after a bad shot you will watch the golfer take another swing to feel and recognize where they made and error. Once they recognize this mistake they are on to the next shot. Elite quarterbacks are much the same way. Many of us have seen Tom Brady throw an interception or two during crucial games and of course his string of cuss words that follow on national TV. What separates Tom from a lot of other quaterbacks is his ability to come back out the next series and not be afraid of making throws. You see him go to the sideline and discuss his mistake with the coaches, then it is on to planning for the next series. He doesn’t let those mistakes affect him the rest of the game. In fact Tom is known for his nerves of steel during those crucial final minutes of close games.  Regardless of his mistakes early in the game he is able to still have confidence in his physical and mental ability as an athlete to do make the throws to win the game. You don’t make five Super Bowls without having a clutch gene!

So many times throughout my athletic career I have been incapable of letting mistakes go. Holding these mistakes and failures can drive you crazy and create unneeded stress and pressure. One crucial part of becoming a complete athlete is learning how to fail. Unless you are an undefeated Olympic Champion and World Record holder (Herb Elliott from 1957-1961 is the only one that comes to mind), chances are there you are going to get beat from time to time. This means that a bad race or bad workout needs to be left on the track.  These moments are teaching lessons not obsession points. I recently have fallen victim to not listening to my own advice. Last weekend while running the 1500 at Raleigh Relays I made several crucial mistakes during the race. Since then it has been hard for me to stop playing the race over and over in my head. Nothing about that race is going to change no matter how many times I replay that race. 

I made the mistake of not being close enough to the rabbit and leaders and wasted a lot of crucial mental energy battling several runners, while trying to get back on pace. Once the kicking began I was already out of mental energy and not ready for the final push to the finish. Immediately after the race I knew where I made strategic errors, but since then I have desperately wanted that race back to do over, but we all know short of a time machine being invented this week that won’t happen. I’m 
sure that many of you experience the same feeling after losing a race you thought you could win. So how do we apply the golfer and quarterback principles to running? The first step is learning to let go of failure. Holding on to failure can create doubt and fear. These emotions can lead to more crucial mistakes through fear of failure. One helpful thing that I have used recently is image of skeet shooting. I imagine that my mistakes and stress are crammed into a clay disk in my mind. I then hurl this disk out into the field and use a giant rocket launcher to obliterate these stresses. This also allows me to make light of these mistakes and realize that in reality these mistakes aren’t a big deal in the scope of the world’s problems.
This allowed me to go into my track workout on Tuesday with a clear mind and confidence that I will bounce back from my failure in my next race. Failing to achieve your desired results in a workout or race is not the end of the world or your career. There are always more workouts and races to be run. The happiness must come in the journey and the effort you put forth to achieve your goals. So continue to take chances and even if you have failed before, because if you never take chances and let fear from previous failures handcuff you, then you will never reach your full potential as an athlete or person!