All [I] Need is Just a Little Patience

goals, races, running, training, triathlon

I mentioned last week that I was seriously considering running the Freak 50k at Run Woodstock instead of the Hippie Half. I ran sixteen miles and planned out two more long runs and figured it would not be pretty, but I could get it done. I still stand by that. I know I could get it done. But I do not want to just get it done. I want to get it done well.

I had a plan. I wanted to do a mini-triathlon in Coldwater, Michigan as a replacement for the sprint triathlon I had planned for late September. I thought very seriously about training for something more, a marathon or a 50k. But then decided against it. Running has been going so well. I did not want to jump the gun. I wanted to have patience.

Patience involved going shorter instead of going longer. Rather than find some later fall marathon or 50k, I found Michigan’s Holiday series trio of races (schedule permitting — but you know I want that magic mug!) – a Halloween 10k, a Turkey Trot 5k, and a Christmas 5k. Rather than focus on endurance, which I know I have, I wanted to focus on speed. It would be a literal change of pace.

Then the possibility of this 50k came up. It isn’t like visions of grandeur popped in my mind, but as I said, I have been wanting to be an ultramarathoner since I graduated college. This is a life goal, like finishing my Ph.D. or writing a book. The temptation to put a “checkmark” next to it is strong.

But honestly, as I told Bruno, it would not be the same. I do not just want to run an ultra. I want the process of training specifically for an ultra too. I want to think about the training and hard work I put in while running. I do not want to break the ultimate running commandment: respect the distance. I don’t want to blow up at mile twenty and have to walk the last eleven miles. I do not want to injure myself. I want to do this right.

So, I picked out a 10k plan. I have a time goal (more on that later). I’ll do my first triathlon in a little less then two weeks. Then, I’ll run the Woodstock half and have a good time listening to classic rock. I will celebrate that I have been able to run this year. I will have gratitude instead of trying to push it.

I will eventually run an ultramarathon. Maybe the next year. Maybe the year after. They are not going anywhere. I’ll take it slow. It will work itself out fine. All I need is just a little patience.

xo, Ali

 

Impromptu Sixteen Mile Run

goals, running, training

One of the friends who ran the half-marathon with us wants to run the 50k at Run Woodstock. In fact, from what his wife told Bruno yesterday at CrossFit, it sounds like he will probably do it. Which, of course, made me want to do it. Not to race it, of course. I have not trained for that, but only to complete. I’m on the fence about it all.

Yesterday we went out for a three hour run. I told him that if we were going to do this, time on our feet would be most important. The race is five weeks away. Both of us are reasonably fit people although probably have not put in the mileage to finish a 50k well. I’m placing my faith right now in Jason Koop who says only six hours of training for three weeks is required to finish a 50k. Finish. The plan for the three hour run was to run four miles, then walk five minutes. This was based on the actual race where aid stations are approximately four miles apart. We went on the hilliest country road I knew and took off.

I felt fine, although my legs were tired, until the last twenty minutes. Everything hit me: the half-marathon I raced on Saturday, the 110 pounds I back-squatted the previous day, and general graduate school stress. I gutted it out, running/walking 16.1 miles in three hours. 1 loop for the race.

I feel ok today although the most I will be doing is a short bike ride later this afternoon and a lot of stretching, if anything. I still have not decided if I will switch from the half-marathon to the 50k. It feels bold, like who am I to do that? I have not really trained for that. But then again, as my mom put it, if I keep my expectations in check, go very slow (even slower than yesterday’s 16 mile run), I might be ok. I’m not sure. I have no doubt in my mind that I could finish. My fear is more about who am I to just do this, to just try it, to just see. I respect the miles. I respect the distance. I expect to be humbled. I expect to hurt.

The ultimate decision will rest on how well I recover from yesterday. My right hamstring bothered me, but my right hamstring is always bothering me. I feel stiff, but mostly fine. I did not feel like my energy was gutted like I hit a brick wall. I took a nap later in the day, but that was several hours after the run. Last night I fell asleep sure that I would email and ask if I could change races. This morning I wonder if I’m out of my mind.

I will say this. Even if I do not end up running the 50k, I discovered myself much stronger than I thought. I have not run sixteen miles in three years. If you would have asked me last week if I could run sixteen miles, I would have said no, even though I have been half-marathon capable since March. I don’t even think I would have thought myself capable of that at the beginning of this year. Even if I end up (probably responsibly) deciding not to run the 50k, I surprised and impressed myself yesterday. I can do more.

xo, Ali

Thoughts on “The Process”

books, crossfit, dissertation, goals, graduate school, reading

At the moment my “guru” is Ben Bergeron. I love Chasing Excellence (I re-read it after finishing). I love his podcast. I love his Instagram account. His advice is commonsensical and yeah, a lot of it I have read or heard before, but I like his presentation. I always come away not feeling just inspired, but I actually try applying his suggestions and recommendations — not something I always follow through on. And while his book is about CrossFit athletes, I think all of it is applicable to graduate school.

I have one quibble though. And it is not just Ben who says it. I see it all over. The process. The process, not the outcome is what should be focused on. We can only focus on today. We can only focus on what we are doing right now, in this moment. The outcome does not matter. Just today. Only today. Ben Bergeron and two-times CrossFit games winner Katrin Davidsdottir never discuss winning the CrossFit games. He writes they never even talk about it. They only focus on the process.

I am very lucky. What I most want in life, I already have. On a good day, I wake up. I write. I work-out. I eat. I write some more. I eat again. I read. I study French. I read some more. I might work out again. I eat for the last time. I read even more. Bed. If you would ask me what I want to be doing twenty years from now, I hope I do what I do right now, but writing something different, reading different books, maybe studying a different language, and hopefully teaching. Sure, I’d like a different location and a different income. But the core of my life is exactly what I want. I wanted a life of learning and I am living that life right now. I just want this life to be able to continue.

In this way, for me, the process is the goal. The process is the positive outcome I want to continue. Yes, I want to write a good dissertation. Yes, I want to get my Ph.D. Yes, I want to publish. Yes, I want an academic job. Doing what I do every day, the process, should ideally lead to those outcomes. But I only want those things so I can continue doing what I do right now. I’ve already “made it,” so to speak.

So, back to not caring about outcomes and focusing solely on the process. How can I not care about writing a good dissertation or getting an academic job, not as the ultimate goal, but because without these outcomes, the ultimate goal the daily life of learning, is threatened? Because without these goals, in a way, my living in the process is threatened. Without achieving certain outcomes, I can probably say good-bye to all that. And as my dissertation comes closer to being finished, as I come closer to going on the academic job market, as Bruno as I talk more about this probably being our last year in Michigan, I know strongly I do not want to say good-bye to all that. Outcomes become more important. It doesn’t mean I do not care about the process, but outcomes also ensure that the process continues.

All that is to say, why not care about outcomes? Why not discuss them, want them, hope for them, long for them? I understand that people become way too focused on hitting a certain goal rather than living a certain life, but I do not think that means that wanting things to go a certain way, having specific goals and outcomes is always a bad thing. I do not think it is a bad thing especially when those outcomes are not merely stopping points, but help you continue with the bigger goal, the process.

 

 

 

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things : February 10-16, 2018

favorite things

I found this history of the waterbed to be fascinating. My parents had one when I was little that I remember popping. Also, who, as a child of the 90s, did not want that impressive aquarium waterbed in The Goofy Movie?

I am teaching my first class next semester and I loved this interview with Teller (of Penn & Teller) on teaching.

Your reminder that motivation is bullshit.

I try to live a life of intellectual humility. I don’t know everything. That is why I love this idea of an anti-library.

“A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

An important reminder for myself. I can definitely be on the curmudgeonly grump side of life.

Another great reminder: take risks.

And speaking of being able to survive the Yukon the other day, the Yukon Ultra had just one finisher.

To finish, some articles I thought were interesting on the #metoo movement. While I think it is a great thing that we are getting rid of schmucks like Harvey Weinstein and Matthew Lauer and, hopefully, their less famous counterparts, I do tend to feel hesitant at declaring myself as supportive of the movement. I think Kate Roiphe’s The Other Whisper Network sums up how I tend to feel about the movement.

“Most of the new whisperers feel as I do, exhilarated by the moment, by the long-overdue possibility of holding corrupt and bullying men such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer to account for their actions. They strongly share some of its broader goals: making it possible for women to work unbothered and unharassed even outside the bubble of Hollywood and the media, breaking down the structures that have historically protected powerful men. Yet they are also slightly uneasy at the weird energy behind this movement, a weird energy it is sometimes hard to pin down.”

Weird energy. Secret lists. A total lack of due process. It makes me nervous. Another great article, and maybe even better, from someone who supports the ends of the #metoo movement, while maybe not its means is Margaret Atwood. She asks if she is a bad feminist.

“This structure – guilty because accused – has applied in many more episodes in human history than Salem. It tends to kick in during the “Terror and Virtue” phase of revolutions – something has gone wrong, and there must be a purge, as in the French Revolution, Stalin’s purges in the USSR, the Red Guard period in China, the reign of the Generals in Argentina and the early days of the Iranian Revolution. The list is long and Left and Right have both indulged. Before “Terror and Virtue” is over, a great many have fallen by the wayside. Note that I am not saying that there are no traitors or whatever the target group may be; simply that in such times, the usual rules of evidence are bypassed.
Such things are always done in the name of ushering in a better world. Sometimes they do usher one in, for a time anyway. Sometimes they are used as an excuse for new forms of oppression. As for vigilante justice – condemnation without a trial – it begins as a response to a lack of justice – either the system is corrupt, as in prerevolutionary France, or there isn’t one, as in the Wild West – so people take things into their own hands. But understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit, in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window, and extralegal power structures are put into place and maintained. The Cosa Nostra, for instance, began as a resistance to political tyranny.”

But another interesting article I found this week is probably the #metoo article I agreed with the most, particularly on how women are educated to understand sex will be uncomfortable and how that extends to relations between males and females and health care (almost ten years to diagnose endometriosis, a shamefully long time for an incredibly common problem for us women).

“In the real world, the very first lesson the typical woman learns about what to expect from sex is that losing her virginity is going to hurt. She’s supposed to grit her teeth and get through it. Think about how that initiation into sex might thwart your ability to recognize “discomfort” as something that’s not supposed to happen. When sex keeps hurting long after virginity is lost, as it did for many of my friends, many a woman assumes she’s the one with the problem. And, well, if you were supposed to grit your teeth and get through it the first time, why not the second? At what point does sex magically transform from enduring someone doing something to you that you don’t like — but remember: everyone agrees you’re supposed to tolerate it — to the mutually pleasurable experience everyone else seems to think it is?”

I’m a big believer in getting the most intelligent analysis of all sides. This is a nuanced and important topic that I don’t think should be sloppily or dogmatically thought about.

And with that, I conclude this week’s favorite things.

Have a lovely weekend!

xo, Ali

 

 

 

What Am I “Serious”-ly Training For?

goals, running

Signing up for races makes me so nervous. My first (and last) marathon I did not even bother signing up for until I finished my twenty mile long run. Over Christmas I debated, should I sign up for something?

My problem is that I will start “training,” but then will get distracted by something else. Should I train for a half-marathon, a 10k, marathon, a timed event? I find it hard to stick with things, so the idea was if I invested in a race, I would be less likely to change horses midstream. Mainly, I was afraid that if training was going well, I might decide well why not train for something extensive? Next thing you know I’m injured, discouraged, and not running. Not at all where I want to be.

I’ve been interested in trail running, really nature in general lately. I don’t know if it is all the Jean-Jacques Rousseau I’ve been reading for my dissertation, but 2018 is definitely the year of “Nature Ali.” We have a few camping trips planned. We’re taking a wilderness survival class, but I digress. So, I looked more into trail races instead of road races.

And I found one. In Hell.

Hell, Michigan. 

On April 28, I will be running the Trail Half-Marathon, which is part of a Trail Weekend that includes a 50k, marathon, and five mile run. I’m half-way through training. It is going well, no complaints. I’m a little bit more nervous about the trail aspect of the half-marathon, because there is not really any trails where I live, but I figure if I go in fully expecting to get my ass handed to me, I will be fine. For this reason, I have no time goals, nothing. I’m just going to go in and see what happens. Also — take a look at this beautiful course.

But I did not stop there. Nope.

I discovered the Trail Half-Marathon is a part of a larger trail series in Michigan: the Serious Series. It included the Flirt with Dirt, which is a 5k and 10k — I am doing both — and then The Legend, which is a 5 mile, 10 mile, and half-marathon — I am running the half. So yeah, it is time to get serious.

It is hard for me not to think about what comes after, especially as things are going well, but I plan on taking things race by race, at least for now. We’ll see how I feel after the Trail Half and go from there. One thing is for sure: I am so excited.

xo, Ali

 

Consistent

goals, graduate school, running

Consistent: adj. (of a person, behavior, or process) unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.

“Be regularly and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Gustave Flaubert

I have chosen a word for the year before. I remember one year being “Joy.” I have a small issue with these words though. How can I be joy though? Sure, I can make a point to notice the small moments, say “isn’t this nice?” more often. Be grateful. Try not to grumble so much. But for the most part this word is intangible to me.

I’ll admit to being prone to having a “cross it off the to-do list” mentality. It is kind of hard to determine “Did I joy today or not?” It was easy to forget. And what if it was a bad day, month, year? Those happen. So, it was just frustrating and flustering. And, more importantly, forgettable.

But I still like the idea of having a word. I like the idea of having something to look towards to evaluate my days (see aforementioned “to-do list” mentality). One thing I struggle with is consistency. I get things done and, if I am being fair to myself, I can even admit I get things done well.

My problem is that I am constantly tweaking. If I see a new schedule I like, I want to implement it. Should I write my dissertation before I work out or should I work out before I write?  This successful person does this in the morning. This successful person does this in the afternoon. Tweak. Tweak. Tweak.

I discover an interest I did not realize I had. I must explore it. I will lose hours to it. Days. Guaranteed. Last year I hit a total Amazon rainforest phase. I can tell you more about those who explored the Amazon than you might care to know. I was supposed to be working on my dissertation proposal.

Then, of course, there is the problem of doing things right. I can be all or nothing. Black and white. Did I wake up late? Day over. Did facebook distract me too much? Day over. Perfectionism for me is an excuse for laziness. I almost did it today. It is not going right at all and I thought, well, fuck it. I’ll make myself a bath and read the day away. Thankfully I did not do that, but my tendency is very much if things do not happen the right way, then the day is worth chucking away.

“Inches make a champion.” — Vince Lombardi

My desire for 2018? To be consistent in all things. I want consistency in running. I do not care about high mileage. I do not care how fast. I just want to see 4-5 days a week every week this year that I ran. I want consistency in writing. Procrastination has never been my vice, but I still sometimes feel like I am scrambling, never doing enough. I want to write a certain amount of time (for January it was an 1.5 hours, which did end up working out to about 40 pages of a rough draft) every single day consistently. When I start working on French again, instead of picking some big number to do every day. I want to read/speak 20-30 minutes every day consistently. I do not want to be doing some big impressive amount of work every day, I just want to do what I want to do consistently.

And so, cheers to 2018, cheers to being 28, and cheers to being consistent.

xo, Ali