Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Why I sucked

Well, school is done for the year, and because I'm missing english class so much, better start blogging more.

Today's topic: Why I sucked for the past while

At first glance, openly announcing my recent struggles in running might seem rather odd or even self-abusive, but there is just something about knowing the root of a certain problem or stressor that can relieve the stress. You see, if someone last week would have had the balls to state the obvious by blatantly telling me 'hey Cyr, you're slow,' I would have taken my light runner fist and brought it to their face. Or kick them in the shins, whichever one would allow me to run away faster. But in contrast, if someone would reveal their thoughts on my speed today, or lack thereof, I would respond with a simple 'yes, I know.' Why the change? One answer. Attribution.

My problem right now is that I am performing poorly in my running training. It has brought me much distress, but once a problem is attributed to something, it gives way to clarity. I have recently been on the hunt for this clarity. However, this search for clarity through attribution can be tricky, because it makes us seek attributions to the point where we tend to make false ones if we cannot find real ones. This is also known as making excuses, or trying to find an easy way out of the initial problem. I finally found out that that was not the case for my problem as I have, though unconventionally, found this clarity through attribution. A wise man who will remain unnamed once said 'winners find a way, losers find an excuse.' Anyway, more on that later.

Lets go back to last Monday, when I was living in ignorance and denial of my problem. I had just finished a 40 minute "easy" run. Problem was, I felt like garbage, like I had been feeling for the past few months, but worse. If I'd have a theme song for that run, it would've been Nickleback featuring Nicholas Cage on the bagpipes. I got back to campus heaving and sweating, feeling as though I had completed a marathon. The discomfort was abnormal, almost otherworldly for someone who had consistently been putting in decent mileage. When wondering why this was happening, the voices in my head began speaking to me. Like in an old-fashioned cartoon, there was the angel (mine is Pre) and the devil (Gerry Lindgren). One on each shoulder.  Here is an excerpt of what was going on:

Pre - Alex, back off. You have been feeling shitty lately. Take a week of no running, if nothing gets better, go check it out. Maybe there really is something wrong. Play it safe.

Lindgren - What the hell man? You've been putting 100k+ lately and you're shitting the bed on easy runs? You really suck! How the hell do you think you're gonna run well at the bunny hop 10k next weekend? Get your shit together, suck it up and get back at it tomorrow, you plug.

Needless to say I listened to Lindgren. I really don't know why. There really is a fine line between running and schizophrenia. Anyway, I kept running on my cloud of denial up until two nice gentlemen found me lying unconsciously on a Charlottetown sidewalk on a calm Saturday morning. Ambulances rushed me to the hospital and kept me there for 3 days before diagnosing my problem. After multiple tests, a striking revelation was made. By looking at my red blood cell count, I could only muster up a few words: Holy s***, I'm anemic!'

I guess there were signs. I felt tired all the time, and I had recently adopted the skin tone of the guy living in the cupboard in Benchwarmers. My hemoglobin count was reduced to half of what a normal body should produce. According to the doctor, I was likely anemic since December or even earlier. This really made me think about things.

This news triggered mixed feelings. On one hand, it is quite disappointing, as I will have to make some changes in my immediate goals. However, my long term goals will remain the same. Because on the other hand, the much-needed attribution to my problem brought me the clarity that I craved, and having trained with low hemoglobin for so long might make me feel revitalized when I get on everyone else's level. It's basically like taking EPO on a smaller scale! I'm gonna be like Lance, cool!

In the midst of all this thinking about running, I could not refrain from feeling philosophical when I was getting tested for every heart condition known to man. What if they would have found me to be a ticking time bomb with a severe heart condition? What if this fainting spell would have been the end for me, being a sign of a deadly disease restraining me from any future physical activity? As I saw many unwell people around the hospital, everything became very real, and suddenly my diagnosis didn't seem so bad. I don't know how I would handle being stuck in a hospital for a period of time. I barely made it through 3 days without losing my mind AND I had pokemon Blue downloaded on my laptop. In all seriousness, my prayers go out to the lady whom I was sharing a room with, as she was being told that she needed to stay longer, because her condition was worsening. It really made me put everything into perspective. I'm sitting there hoping to run again by next week, while many other people are just wishing to get healthy and leave the hospital before it's too late.

To conclude, to honour the wise man, I will not make excuses while battling this disorder. Instead, I will find a way to overcome this obstacle quickly and become stronger than ever with my newly prescribed iRun pills.



P. S. 1 - To those who found me lying on the street, as well as to the doctors, nurses, family and friends who helped me get through this process, thank you very much. I will pay it forward.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The secret

Funny how I only blog when exams are around the corner. I guess it's a good way of avoiding studying the diversity of plants and  Thebian plays. Like really, do people even like this stuff? Seriously, those types of things just need to be placed on the back burner from time to time. Although I'll be the first one to admit that I do not enjoy the fine arts, I will assume that they are what taught me the important skill of critical thinking.

A runner who thinks critically already has half the battle won. It takes a good mix of smarts and accountability to answer the questions he has about his own training. I've been asking myself a lot of questions about training recently, and I've come to the interesting conclusion that I don't know jack s***. I think and claim that I do, but I don't. Neither do most people. 

I don't know why for some days I could run forever, and for others I struggle to get my legs up. I don't know more about why runners experience breakthrough seasons, and others stagnate. Most people who think they know what they're talking about will mumble something about enzymes and capillaries and such, but do we really know what is going on inside our complex bodies? How much of this can we control by training 'smart' rather than 'hard.' What is the SECRET? 

After having The Sports Gene by David Epstein get passed around the X-men locker room, much talk about the importance of genetics and talent have risen, so here is my pondering on the topic (and my unqualified tentative answers).

Q - Why do some people become really good in no time, while others are spinning their wheels in a mud that does not smell of sub-9 potential?

A- These people have found the type of training best suiting their body type and capabilities (high mileage vs quality mileage, tempo vs specifics etc.) On the other side, those who can't get out of their slump could be overtraining with frustration, or might be too stubborn to change it up. Here is where it is important to face the problem head first and ask, 'why am I not improving?' because running is nothing but pointless exhaustion if one does not see benefits from it. 

Q - Will I never be able to beat this guy even if I don't have his talent?

A- I think everyone has a ceiling and a floor. You reach your ceiling by hammering your training spot on for X number of years. You reach your floor by spending too many nights at the Wheel. In reality, some people have higher ceilings than others, but most rooms overlap. Therefore, it is not always the most talented that will win. Training, mental aspect, grit, and a healthy lifestyle are all factors that determine how high in your room you will stand. 

Q- Is David Rudisha really retiring??

A- No. 

These answers are by no means more right or wrong than another runner's. That's the beauty of the sport; the eternal journey in search of our body's kept secret, of the key to unlock his greatness, of what makes it tick its fastest. Sometimes I wish I knew, but then I'd already be down the border with Salazar and his robots. I'd rather figure it out on my own.


PS - It was requested by Alexa Zarins that this blog should contain a portion about the weather, so here it goes:

Lately it has been sunny, then rainy, then sunny, then snowy, then sunny, then rainy, then really snowy. That's Antigonish I guess. Still gazing at a snow covered track.