Thursday, May 7, 2015

Clinton Country Run 15k, Clinton, NJ 4/25/15

Less than a week after Boston and I was on my way to another race. I am starting to feel like myself again. Today wasn't my best race, but it was a great day.  

First, Enrique met me early to run a few warm up miles. We wanted to run together to celebrate him being the first runner I have ever coached that became a streaker.

I have been streak running everyday since Dec 2011. I don't expect this from my runners. But one week after Boston last year, Enrique had realized had completed an entire week of running. He did not miss a day even after running the marathon. He wanted to give streaking a shot. Now over 365 days later, we finally had the chance to run together to celebrate his accomplishment  You know you are a runner when you celebrate milestones by going for a run. Enrique also brought me a gift.  A race shirt from the Tokyo Marathon.  In the past two years, Enrique has run Boston, NYC, Chicago, and Tokyo.  All he needs now is London and Berlin to complete the series of World Major Marathons.  Right now we are in Berlin Training mode.  He has inspire me to make this a goal for myself.  This is a fantastic achievement. I am very proud of him! 

About 2 years ago I started a running group for Veterans.  Andrew was the one guy who was involved from Day 1 until the last race.  Despite severe shin pain at the start he pushed on (often against my advice to heal!)  During a 6 month window from May - November 2013, we raced 5ks, halves, road, trails, up mountains, and laps around Central Park in NYC.  And then after a year at the VA, I left my part-time position to take on more hours at the hospital where I currently work. The Veterans group that met at the VA, disbanded and people moved on.  

I always felt that my work with that small group was some of the best work I have ever done as a coach. While training with the guys, Andrew wanted a team name. There were three of us who were regulars. Others came and went. By November he came up with a team name - Triskelion Running Team.  He found a three-pronged triskele symbol, a Celtic swirl that symbolized forward progress, growth, constant movement amongst other things.  We never used this symbol as our team dissolved and we lost touch.

About two months ago, I decided to develop a log for my coaching business.  Taking my inspiration from Andrew, I sketched out out a version of a Triskele and contacted a graphic designer ultra-friend, Elaine Acosta, and asked her to turn it into a logo for me.   A few weeks ago, I got it up on my new website.  I chose this symbol, even though most people would not associated it with running, because it represented my work as a coach with guys who really needed it and excelled because of our time together. 

Right after Boston, I got a surprising email...from Andrew. A very nice message about how he was sorry to lose touch but he is ready to start training again. It has been 2 years now since we first started training together.  He remembered that I race for a team and asked if I would be going to this 15k Championship.  Of course I was! :)

When not coaching, I am a therapist on an inpatient short stay acute psychiatric unit. We monitor and stabilize severely psychiatrically ill patients who are a danger to themselves or others and then connect them with treating sources when they are safe to continue care outside of a locked unit.  I try to make an impact, but my patients are discharged to outpatient follow up before I can determine whether anything we have done in therapy has become a catalyst for positive change.  I rarely get to see the long term impact of my efforts in that setting, although I know many people do get well in time. 

This is why I coach. This is why I NEED to coach.  My runners often thank me for helping them, but I am more grateful than most will ever understand to my athletes for giving me the chance to help them grow. I get to see the beginning, middle, and end of our labor together. I get to see how with my help, people's lives truly change for the better. I get to see people grow strong and confident as athletes and as people.

Very few of my therapy patients ever contact to tell me that I have made a difference. But very often my runners do. I get updates about how they are still running or still using the lessons they learned during our training stay healthy.  

I get updates like Andrew's, where my runners come back to me, ready to start over after a break, or a set back, or a getting side-tracked. When my former athletes think about being healthy and happy, they often remember feeling their best when they were running. They find me and ask me to get them started again. 

Even though this is Run-Coaching and not Therapy, I know for certain that the best work I have ever done as a Therapist has happened inadvertently while I was functioning as a caring, compassionate, understanding, motivating run coach helping people to change their self-image, the physical being, and their world-view.  People excel when they set clear goals and then use a plan to achieve clear concrete measurable results. Running lets us practice goal setting, planning for change, and measuring progress.

Coaching for me is so much bigger than race results. It's is about health, wellness, and overall happiness for the people I get to work with and for me.  Of course not everyone experiences training and running the same way.  But for many, learning how to become a lifelong runner is life changing for the better.  

We don't need to win races to have great results. At this 15k, I ran about 39 seconds (7:39 pace) slower per mile than last year.  This is to be expected.  The weather was beautiful, but my legs were tired and not fully recovered from Boston. With lower training volume, my recovery takes longer now.

My Garmin dumped my splits for some reason. Losing a record of what was essentially a fast start and a hard painful fade is probably for the best.  I don’t need to perserverate on the struggles of the past. I know what happened.  I would prefer to look ahead to tomorrow and focus on the work I need to do to get my speed back, my endurance back and my soul fed again.   

Andrew and I have already begun to make grand plans for the Fall.  Big Races. Big Goals. I know if he sticks around this will be life changing.   Ultrarunning is life changing for pretty anyone who brave enough to face and accept their limitations with eyes wide open and judgement free.  Ultrarunning gives us that.  Ultrarunning is not about winning to grow. It is about giving it all no matter what happens… and more often than not we learn that we have so much more fight inside us than we ever imaged.   

1:11:52 (7:39 pace)

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