Archive for October, 2012

Pain and Strength

Posted: October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized


“Pain is a feeling.  Strength is your power to choose how you’re going to live.”

What’s an investment worth to you?

If we’re talking about a financial investment, we invest our money into something and we have the expectation of a financial gain.  But with regard to a time or talent investment where we invest our energy into something, we still have an expectation of achieving something… but what is it worth?  When we train for a race, how much is that investment of sweat and dedication worth to us?

To what limits are we willing to go to in order to ensure payoff?

I had not even thought about “my investment” of time spent training when I was injured.  My heels, ankles and calves were sprained and swollen, and the only thing on my mind was how painful it would be to run 12 miles and 26 obstacles.  I was considering bailing on my Tough Mudder team.

Then I got a phone call from my good friend (we’ll call her F.D.) and she offered this advice:

“The hay is in the barn, my friend.”

“What does that even mean?”  I asked.

“You’ve got this.” she said.  “You’ve invested the time.  You can do this.”

I later found out that this expression is commonly used by athletes (runners) when they have completed many weeks/months of training leading up to an event, and they are in the final days before the event when they should be tapering down and resting.

Here’s a little blog post about just that:

Anyway, F.D. was right.  If I bailed now, my investment would not offer a profitable return.  I had to consider the months spent training and the hours I devoted to getting in shape for this race.  (not to mention the six or seven weeks I was on the Paleo diet this summer and stopped drinking wine, beer and cocktails!)  All for what??  To sit at home?  …and mope?  No way.

I will be forever grateful to F.D., T and Miss M., for both reminding me of the importance of my investment… and for their devotion.  They bought spectator tickets to the Tough Mudder and were showing up, come rain or come shine.

But at that moment when she said “the hay is in the barn”, it all clicked for me.  I’m not even sure I could tell you why, but for some reason I finally realized that I had earned my rest.  I had put in the time, and gained the strength, gotten down to my fighting weight, and I was ready.  So even if I didn’t do a damn thing in the days leading up to the race, rest wouldn’t hurt me.  I think sometimes we train so hard, for so long, that we forget that we need to taper down before a race.  I’d been so used to knocking out kettlebells everyday, that the thought of “resting” for a week sounded crazy.

But sometimes our body forces us to rest by way of an injury.  Maybe it’s the body’s way of getting us to slow down and take it easy.  But my Achilles were strained, I had swelling in both ankles, my claves had charley-horses in them… and I could not run even a quarter-mile.  Things were dire. (and this was only 5 days before the Tough Mudder.)  This was more than just a “rest period” or me knowing when to taper off…. this had to be a super-fast healing period too.  How do you tell your body to do that?

Here’s what I did: I took the time to get professional advice from two sports medicine doctors who specialize in overuse and acute injuries.  I did acupuncture, cupping, soft tissue release and massage, epsom salt baths, arnica oil rubs, Kinesio taping… you name it…  I did it all in an effort to get back out there.  Was it the easy road?  No.  But I was trying to cash in on my investment.

In my previous post, I rambled on about how you’ve got to tell your body what you expect from it… but this is the other part.  Work.

About a week before the race, I met F.D. downtown and we walked (limped) over to my favorite coffee shop on 2nd and Stewart.  I lamented about the pain.  Then we walked over to my favorite bakery on 4th and Lenora and she bought me two peanut butter cookies.  (Now, let me digress for a moment, because this is an important part of my story.  These are not just your ordinary peanut butter cookies.  No, no… these are the BEST peanut butter cookies in the whole world!  This little bakery takes two of their homemade chunky peanut butter cookies and adds a smear of peanut butter between the cookies, then they press them together to make a little sandwich that is quite simply: Heaven!)  F.D. bought two of these cookies for me, put them in a bag, and simply said: “Eat these after the race.”

“Oh, you bet I will!”  (but then I figured since I had two, I could eat one before the race and one after… it made sense to me… after all, the hay WAS in the barn, and a peanut butter cookie this special would do wonders for my sprained ankles and Achilles tendons.)

Moral of the story?  We need to remember our committment, our investment, and honor that by doing what it takes to follow through and compete.  It takes work… but this is your investment after all… are you just going to throw it all away the minute a little pain surfaces?  No!  Figure out the pain… seek professional advice and get back out there!

We also need good friends around us who truly understand us and the things that motivate us.  (Who knew what a little peanut butter cookie could do?)  But seriously, more than that, a friend’s dedication to your success is a powerful thing.  When you have people in your corner, rooting for you… there is no stopping you!

The sisterhood may not be dead… although I am always a bit cautious… but when we find someone (or several someones) who understand us… this will charge us up!   People who understand what it means to put the time into something… and how important it is to accomplish what we have our hearts set on… that’s power!  Surround yourself with support, cut those with envy or unkind words out, and you cannot fail.

Be well,

Peace Out,

My Tough Mudder report???  Well… the MOST important thing is… I got my orange Tough Mudder headband at the finish line!!  OooRah!!!

It’s taken me more than a week to sit down at my computer and try to describe this amazing event.  Call it writer’s block, or some sort of inertia to document the incredible.  (…and it only gets more incredible with each passing day!)  True that.  But there is much to tell, and it’s hard to know where to start.

I’ll start about 10 days before race day.  That’s about the time when my blog went “dark”.  I was training hard (some would call it over-training) with not much time to sit and write.  I was running long distances in my new “zero-drop” shoes (they are all the rage, don’t you know?) when all of a sudden I could not run 3 miles.  I blamed it on the heat.  It was, after all, 75 degrees here in Seattle in September, and we are just not used to that kind of heat.

Ah yes, well, as Bill Maher would say, “I kid the Seattle weather.”  It was not the heat.  The next day I could not even run around the block.  That’s right… I had gone from running across town on a whim, to barely being able to get around my neighborhood block.

My Achilles tendons were shot.

Between my new “barefoot running” routine and probably too many box jumps at the gym, I had strained both my Achilles tendons to the point where I was hobbling around my house like a little old lady.

It was then that I hit a point of self-pity.  I got home from a failed run and cried.  I cried for about 5 or 10 minutes, but then I knew that had to be the end of it.  No more feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve been down this road before… this feeling of defeat is not new, it is just a hurdle.  When I begin to feel that my body is letting me down… the best thing for me to do is get angry, not sad.  (and certainly not go to the “oh poor me” stage… God forbid!)  Anger was the next phase of my “grief”.  I got angry, and that launched a feeling of stubborn determination.  I was not going to quit.

I absolutely believe with all my heart that once an athlete reaches this level of mental determination (which quite often starts with anger, but needs to channeled positively) their body will respond to that.  Anger bubbles up and becomes the “trigger” for momentum and action.

I have blogged about this before, it’s something I want to write a book about someday.  I feel so strongly about will power, and what it can do for people.  I know that the body will respond to what the mind is saying.  I’ve lived through this before with two torn ACL’s, so this feeling is not a new one for me.  I had to recognize it, and then deal with it.

Here’s the key: If you tell your body to be strong, your body will respond to that.  We all wake up in the morning and set our intention for the day, whether we’re conscious of it or not.  We are always setting our intention for small tasks, or for the day, or for the week… or even for how we want to live our lives.  Intention is all-encompassing and a very powerful force.

I set my intention to compete, and I did.  (I also got a lot of help from a few sports medicine docs who had positive, “we’re-going-to-tackle-this” attitudes… more on that later).

I’m going to leave it here for the day… I’ll continue this story tonight.  For now, just know how great it is to have a mind and body that work together.