Friday, June 8, 2012

Shhh. Listen to your body

Breeeeeeathe in 1, 2, 3

Exhaaaaale 1, 2

Heart pumping at a steady rate, the attention draws to my heartbeat and breath.  Finding a 3 second inhale and 2 second exhale sets my rhythm.  With a constant focus on my technique, my mind only drifts when I no longer am aware of my breathing. Five kilometers into the run I look back to see where my running partner for the day, Karri, has set back to. The Finnish soldier is about forty meters trailing at his own steady pace.  At the end of the 8.5km loop, I stretch and wait for Karri to get there.  My energy seems rather high on this Friday afternoon. After greeting Karri acting like I'm not even breathing hard, I confidently state my intention to run another loop.  He wishes me luck and rides on his blue cruiser out of the Eco Reserve on his merry way.  After a quick stretch, I venture back onto the trail at a slow pace.

The pain sets in not even 500 meters into the run. The left knee feels stiff and extremely sore all of the sudden. Now it feels like rusty metal bending in a heavy wind everytime I flex the knee.

This cannot be happening, not now.  Flash back four years ago, the same pain setting into the left knee. Flash back 18 months ago. Yup, I recognize this feeling.

The It band not only hurts on the outside of the knee but inside as well. I quickly walk back and hop on the bike back on my merry way.  Perhaps I was getting a little ahead of myself with this whole process. My mind wants to do one thing and my body stands it's ground with a purpose.

Flash back nine years and four months ago at the State Champion wrestling tournament in Denver, CO. My mind is poised for a state title run. My body, ribs in this case, gives me a dose of reality with incessant pain every time I rotate laterally or horizontally.  What is one to do? Perhaps I haven't learned a very simple, yet often overlooked, art form. Listening.  Not just listening, listening to my very own body. It has powerful messages that can not be disregarded.

Where to go from here...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Running back to life

Maratón Internaciónal de la Bandera en Rosario, Argentina awaits me, my legs, running shoes and heart. That's right, I signed up for a marathon, the full 26.2miles/ 42.9km. 

Am I crazy?  It'd be hard to argue that I'm not.  I haven't done distance running in two years. A nagging IT band injury stopped my brief long-distance running career.  For you non-runners, the IT band is Iliotibial band, the muscle that runs from your hip down the oustide of your leg. The pain is often felt in the hip and the outside of the knee, where I so often felt it. 

Fast forward to 2012 and I'm daring to go from zero to 100 with my running, much like my blog posts. I now have something that is a bit more exciting to write about. Plus, it's low season with bike tours so I have a bit more free time to put pen to paper.  Two weeks into my training I feel the IT band pain again, hmmm. Ok, it's time to figure this out. After some research, I've narrowed it down to either A.) I need new running shoes.  B.) I need to correct my running technique  C.) I'm just not a runner.

I'm vying for option B at this moment due to not wanting to spend more money on running shoes and I'm not ready to give up running.  So I've been working out my IT band muscle with many stretches and strength training. I've also taken up a new form of running called Chi running. I literally am re-learning how to run. My training sessions have been just as much mental exercise, focusing on every move and how my feet land, as physical.  It has become somewhat meditative, all I think about is my breath and every step in stride. It's a great way to forget about daily stress and problems.

Curbing stress and problems. That is why I like to run.  Yes I also bike about 30km a day around the city and play futbol twice a week. Those are both great forms of exercise. However, running is just different. The way I feel after a long run is unlike any other feeling. My mind and emotions are pure, clear and balanced.  My body? Exhausted and pumping blood at a rapid rate.  If you find a good stride in your run and feel no pain sometimes it's hard to stop, just ask Forrest Gump. I decided to get back into it because a good friend of mine down here is also running in this marathon. He was a J. Robinson wrestling camp attendee as well. Anyone who really knows me well, knows that those 28 days in Minnesota with J. Rob and company were the most challenging in my life.  I never thought I'd say it, but I miss those days.

My parents will question this marathon decision with memories of shin splints and hip problems that I had while running cross country in high school. My form was awful then, I knew nothing of good running technique which slightly makes me wonder if my coach ever noticed or cared. 

Nonetheless, I'm back at it.  I'll keep writing as my marathon training continues. June 24th is the marathon date. It takes place in Rosario, 4 hours up the river from Buenos Aires.