What are the moments I appreciate most in my day?
During my short run this morning, I reflected on this question. With an upcoming race this Saturday, I should rest and feel little/no desire to go out running and embrace the "tapering" instead. So why do I feel most at peace running?
I know the answer already of course. I am attuned to the fact that running is not at all about racing, performance, training, physical fitness for me.
I often loosely referred to running as my meditation practice. But today, possibly for the first time, I consciously realized and appreciated that it actually is.
Being fully absorbed in the running movement of my body, particularly when running outdoors in nature, is a fulfilling way for me to witness the flow of passing moments. Without the need to interfere, I do not have to fill those moments with anything else except for just being, with no thoughts.
What else in my daily life do I appreciate with the same intensity and lose myself in?
Only few things as it turns out:
- Hugging my kids first thing in the morning and last thing at night before they fall asleep
- Holding hands with Lidia
- Moments of silent meditation, reflection.
- Moments of engaged listening and learning
Yes, this list is too short.
There is an infinite amount of moments in my day that I can claim back instead of filling them with mostly passing thoughts of the past or future.
It is common for runners and ultrarunners to suffer from iron deficiency, and there is still ongoing debate about the root causes of these deficiencies.
Recently, an article appeared on my feed, discussing two possible causes I had never heard before.
One is iron loss through sweat, which can be a cause of iron deficiency for endurance athletes who sweat profusely during prolonged exercise.
The other is foot strike hemolysis, which is the destruction of the red blood cell membrane and the consequent release of both hemoglobin and iron into the surrounding plasma.
While these theories make some sense, I have not verified the information and it could be partially or completely BS!
Nevertheless the consequences of iron deficiency in runners are real: fatigue, weakness, poor athletic performance, and a weakened immune system.
Personally, I found that the best way for me to stay on top of my iron levels is by using supplements every few months. I also encourage the runners I coach to have frequent blood tests, particularly during intense period of training.
Cookie Jar Run
My physiotherapist, Mark Green from The Body Mechanic, explains it perfectly: "Imagine your body is a cookie jar. Life is a constant balancing act of putting cookies in, and taking cookies out. You need your cookie jar to be ¾ full most of the time. If it is less than half full you’ll be feeling run down, picking up colds and flus, and lacking energy. If your cookie jar is empty, then you’re dead!"
I believe that the two weeks leading up to a race is the ideal time to fill up that cookie jar with a different type of cookie, the most important one - the right mindset.
By that, I mean acknowledging all the hard work we've put in during your training, for weeks, months, or even years, just to be at the starting line. Even if the lead-up to the race wasn't perfect or we plan to adjust our training strategy in the future, we've done the best we could do at this point. Acknowledge all the greater obstacles we've already overcome in your life, greater than anything "a run" can ever throw at us.
Ultimately, no matter how important a race may feel, in the grand scheme of things, for most of us, it's just a run. It has little to say about our worth.
And when one race day we are in doubt, we feel like we can't possibly push harder or can't take one more step, that's the time to take a deep breath and a big bite of that mindset cookie.
We, YOU are awesome.
We, YOU can do anything.
And if this time we fail, that's ok too.
I swear it did happen
This morning, I woke up to find my trusty Coros Pace 2 watch had died on me. It had been my constant companion for the past 18 months, never missing a beat. Despite trying all the troubleshooting tricks, the watch refused to start. It looks like it's dead for good.
Although I'm still heading out for my daily run, I must admit that the idea of not having my watch for a while makes me a little uneasy. I don't use any fancy features; I just hit the start/stop buttons to track my time and distance. This keeps me honest and feeds data into my training log, which spans 15 years. It's my way of keeping an eye on my fitness level and progress over time.
The real issue is the upcoming Noosa Ultra Trail 100km race next Saturday. It's unlikely that I'll have a new or repaired watch by then. Do I really need it, though? Will knowing my pace and heart rate make a difference in how I perform? Probably not.
The worst part would be having a "manual 100km activity" in Strava afterwards. I love being able to look back at my GPS data visualized on the map, with an overlay of my key running stats and memories. I can reflect on and relive the experience to some extent, and compare it to previous attempts.
Part of me wants to embrace the freedom of racing without a watch, and just run by feel. But then again, maybe I should just borrow one for race day! I guess I'll have to make a decision soon.
Running To Solve All World Problems
Running provides me with a clarity of mind and thinking that I seldom have.
Whether it's a work issue or a personal problem, I find that the solution often presents itself to me on the run or shortly after I finish. And if there's something bothering me that I can't quite put my finger on, by the 3rd or 4th hour of running, it certainly works its way to the surface - and usually comes with a solution, too. As they say, you can't hide during an ultra!
My theory is that when I'm running, my unconscious mind is occupied with the coordination of movements, muscle engagement, breathing, and stability required for the activity. This leaves my conscious thinking mind free to explore different thoughts and possibilities without judgment or resistance.
This phenomenon isn't limited to me; many of my running and non-running friends have experienced it too. Engaging in physical activity that requires a certain level of coordination and skill, at a moderate effort, seems to unlock creative ideas and solutions.
And when you happen to bring a run buddy along who is at your same level and is open to the free-flowing exchange of ideas, more magic happens! And while not every idea is genius (some of them are pretty rubbish of course), the process is always rewarding.
To me, running is like playing the violin or riding a bike was to Einstein.
So give me more running and running buddies and I'll solve all the world's problems!
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