Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Those 3 words

60 long treadmill minutes have finally passed. Sweating, I glance at my faded reflection in the window overlooking the Evangeline ice surface. 3 words come to mind, and this time, they are not 'tall, dark, and handsome.' No, these 3 words are no joke. They are as beautiful as they are dangerous, calming as they are overwhelming. These 3 words can put one's guards down quite quickly, as their virtue is just that - they represent the ending of a physical and mental war. To me, they represent a past mistake that I do not want to replicate. I walk to the locker room, change my shoes, and begin walking home as these words still dance in my head. I eventually force them out, but they come back in. I succumb to them and enjoy a moment of bliss. Staring at my shoes, I slowly let them out: I did it. 

What did I do, exactly? For starters, I had just run 60 minutes in a row in a routine, nonchalant manner. In contrast, a year ago from today, after only 15 minutes my face would have expressed the trademark exhaustion and redness of Rob Ford's. From then on, my health had returned to normal, and it thankfully showed in performance. In a matter of months, to the public eye, I had went from total crapshoot to AUS medallist in a track season that rekindled my love of running, and winning. This then set me up for a - so far - good spring season. Shortly put, one good season followed another, and I was lucky enough to stay healthy during this time and enjoy new PBs in every distance. In this fortunate string of running, I may have surpassed other people's expectations, but most importantly, I have surpassed my own. Most recently, I entered in a 15km and 5km with the results I was looking for:

5k - May 2nd - Proude Shoes 5km - 15:03

New Saucony Mirage - courtesy of Proude's Shoes

15km - April 25th - Le 15km de Grande Digue - 49:13 (3:17/km)

If you look closely you can maybe spot Matt McNeil beginning his cooldown

This whole year has finally permitted me to re-gain the confidence I once had before the injuries and sickness. One race and workout at a time, it has re-taught me how to deal with pain, how to be mentally strong. I believe those traits cannot be taught at once, but can be picked up through time. Kind of like a Leafs fan slowly latching on to a more successful hockey team.

So, to backtrack, why all this fuss over these 3 words? Why are they unwanted in my regular stream of thought? The answer is simple: Icarus. Now, I was far from fond of English class, but this is one fable that stayed with me. In Greek mythology, Icarus had received artificial wings from his father, but was cautioned not to fly too close to the sun, or they would burn. Ecstatic about the idea to fly, Icarus did just that, and the sun burnt him to the ground. The moral of the story: don't get too greedy; in physical AND mental terms. The last time that I began looking at my achievements instead of seeking new ones, the last time that I uttered those 3 words (2013), I fell drop out of provincials and watch Neuffer break a record hard. Out of all people. Neuffer. Yeah. That one hurt. Where was I? Oh yeah.  

In 2013, in my last indulgence of overconfidence, on the physical side, my newfound swagger (sorry..really tried to find a better word)  had caused me to overthink, overtrain, overdo. Improvement is like a drug; when you reap its benefits, you will get addicted. Being too aware of my fast development caused me to expect it to continue in a linear fashion, and as soon as that was no longer the case, training mistakes ensued. I spent most of my grade 12 spring trying to patch up stagnancy with additional training. That did not end well. That never ends well. 

On the mental side of things, feelings of overconfidence completed a strange paradox. Nourishing this thought that I had become invincible as a runner encouraged me to rest on my laurels and to not chase the next level, being content with the one I had reached. 

Mentally I was confident and comfortable, physically I blindly longed for more. I had it all backwards.

Back to the present, after speaking with a fellow AUS runner back in XC season, I was left inspired. This runner, who is very well respected for his wisdom and his experience exceeding that of his peers, shared with me his way of thinking. "At first, you become the best in your school. Then, the best in your district, and then provincial champion. Maybe someday, you will be AUS champion as well. You can choose to stop there and be content, or to buck up and strive to eventually become the CIS champion. AND THEN, the concept continues. Will you stop there, or take on the world?" 

This notion, taken all at once, seems superfluous and out of reach. But, I believe this style of thinking places an athlete in the right mindset. It allows one to never get too high on oneself, to never be completely satisfied, and that is what keeps one going. Personally, it allows me to never repeat the mistake I made in 2013. It allows me to remain grounded by putting into perspective how much room there is for improvement. So, in the end, what did I do? In the grand scheme of things, not all that much. 

Looking ahead, the next big stop is the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. A group of X-Men and X-Women are hitting it up for good times on the race course and beyond. It will be wild. I, along with Naughty, Hot Wheels and many others, will be running the 10k. 

See you in the Capital

PS - I entered a contest. It's cheesy. But it gives me a chance to win a bit of cash. So, if you have 30 seconds, follow this link  , scroll down to my video, and vote for it by liking it. If you want to listen to a rap about university finances, take 2 and enjoy...

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