Missoula Half Marathon Race Report

The Missoula (MT) Marathon and Half Marathon were run on Sunday, July 8, 2012.  I ran the half-marathon.  It was the first major running event I have participated in since my Traumatic Brain Injury.  I completed the half in just over 2 hours.  That was the hardest “race” I have completed.  I was not running for time or place.  Instead, I ran for the experience and the constant struggle to continue to live life post-TBI.

Starting area

The half-marathon started at 6 in the morning, in order to beat the heat of the day.   It was still dark when I arrived at the starting area via shuttle bus.  It was  5 am.  As I rode the bus, I reflected that I thought my days of pre-dawn bus rides ended with my Army service.  It was a surreal ride.  I kept checking to make sure I wasn’t in uniform and wearing OCIE (field gear).  Nope, still wearing running clothes.

Surviving the starting of the race required adjustment from my usual pre-race routine.  In order to reduce some of the sensory stimulation, I wore sunglasses, my running hat, and hearing protection.  It was not yet dawn.  I also had taken a half-dose of anti-anxiety medication.  The starting area was a large area.  I was able to stay away from the loudspeakers and the worse of the crowding while waiting to line up.  On the starting line, the familiarity of routine took over.  I knew what to expect.  Before longer races, runners tend to be focused.  Their conversations are quiet.  There is little yelling and unexpected motion.  I spoke to a member of the National Guard marathon team.  I hope he did well on the race.   I met a lady who was a veteran also.  I ran part of the race with her, until she sped up.  But, having someone “familiar” during the first miles helped.  Running is  calming. The pounding of foot to pavement is a centering and grounding experience.  I still had some problems with sensory stimulation during the first miles, when the runners were still crowded together.  I made a few stumbles with stride corrections and felt sick.

Mountains at the startline

The course was beautiful, especially the first half of the race.  We ran through a rural area, in the foothills of the surrounding mountains.  We were next to the river.  I watched the sun rise over the water as the race got under way.  The morning was clear and fresh and the temperature mild.    The first aid station was hard.  There were too many runners and some women cheered loudly.   I was overwhelmed and ended up tripping on the side of the road.  The fall did not result in injury but was jarring regardless.  Since I was carrying water and Gatorade, I made the decision not to take advantage of the aid stations from that point onward.  The stops were too busy.  I stayed to the left and focused on some point downroad from me.  Although I did not partake of most of the stops, the on-course support was great.  There were also a lot of people who came out just to cheer on runners.   Some home owners set up lawn sprinklers to cool runners as they passed.  The people of Missoula were awesome!

We crossed this bridge on course.

 

I got more tired as the run progressed.  I stayed to the plan to take short walk breaks.  However, for the most part, I did not “hit the wall” like I had during training runs.  I think having other runners with me helped.  Their energy encouraged me to keep going when I really wanted to quit.  The last few miles were a painful blur.  About mile 11, a migraine threatened.  I took Alleve in an attempt to stave of the inevitable.  It worked to a degree.  It kept the pain at a tolerable level until the finish line.  I took another trip about mile 12.  I managed to keep my balance with the help of another runner that I bumped off.  Fortunately, I did not knock him off stride.  As I got closer to the finish line, I heard the crowd cheering.  I put the hearing protection back in my ears.  I removed them soon after the start as I found them unneccessary on the course.  The finish line was incredible.  Given that it was just after 8 am on a Sunday, there was a large crowd out cheering on finishers.

spectators on the bridge at the finishing. Taken from Caras Park.

 

The bridge at the finish line.

 

The finish area was well organized.  At this point, my migraine had arrived, full force.  I swallowed my migraine medication with some Powerade provided at the finish.  I sat in the medical tent a few minutes to get out of the noise and sun.  I waited until the nausea subsided and the medication started to work.  When I left, I followed the crowd through the rest of the recovery area.   The food provided was ok.  This is one thing I would change.  They offered warm pasta, some fruit, nuts, and Popsicles.  To me, the pasta didn’t work.  The thought of hot food made me sick.  I had some watermelon and nuts.  The line I was in ran out of Popsicles.  The area had two lines through an open-sided tent for food.  I prefer to have more tables where runners can walk from one to another.  However, given that it got quite hot as the day progressed, the race needed to keep volunteers and runners under shade.  Given that, it was probably the best arrangement they could make.

Packet pick up the day before the race was held in Caras Park.  There was also a show, with vendors of running gear and other items.  The packet pick up was well organized and smooth.  On race day, Caras Park was the reunion area.  They had some vendors there in the tents.  One thing I really liked was the ability to get your finish results immediately.  The races were chip-timed.  You typed in your race number and got a print out with your gun time, chip time, and place finishes (age group and overall).  It was cool to have that information immediately after finishing.

Finish line me. Looking “good.” lol

 

 

 

I loved the park.  There was plenty of room to move around.  I found a quiet area in the shade of a tree to rest while I waited for my friends to find me.  It was a beautiful place.

The river at the park

 

The “other side” of the river

 

I returned to the hotel and slept four hours.  I did much better than I expected in managing the crowds and the run.  I wish I didn’t need the ear plugs and anxiety medication to be able to tolerate the crowds to run.  The migraine made the race ending unpleasant.  However, all in all, it was a great experience.

If you are a marathon or half-marathon runner or walk, I recommend the Missoula Marathon.

Changes

Tosca Playing

One remarkable trait of ferrets is their ability to change the color of their coats.  Usually, the changes are connected to seasonal “blowing” (shedding) of the coats and are mild.  Perhaps their fur is a little darker or lighter, or they may start to roan (silver).  Tosca went all out with her change.  She went from a panda marking to a  DEW (Dark-Eyed White).    Her tail, however, remained unique; black with two little white rings.

Tosca's Tail

Tosca "smiling"- playtime!

Well, she evidently decided it was time for change again.  She decided to add in a few black patches in her glorious fur for fun.  By AFA standards, she’s now a DEW Pattern.    I wasn’t able to get good photos of all the markings.

Tosca

 

At times, I envy the ferret’s ability to change her coat.  What fun can be had if I had that power!  I don’t like the shape of my nose… blow the nose (no pun intended- blow a coat; blow the nose).  Those laugh lines and wrinkles on my forehead… gone.   And hair color!  Ho!  Let’s try red this year.  Next year I’ll be blonde.  No more “dish water blonde.”  Let’s see: I like hazel eyes or perhaps darker blue.   The only drawback is frequency.  If I were as a ferret, I could only change twice a year; fall and spring.   And to be technical, it would only be my hair, not the rest of my features.  Tosca can’t change her snout, after all.   Well, until I gain that superpower, there’s always hair coloring at the salon and colored contacts.  The other stuff will have to just be.  I’m not into surgery.  No “body sculpting” for me.   I wonder if they make contacts in burgandy?  I love Tosca’s pretty burgandy eyes.   That might look odd on a human…

America is fascinated with physical appearances.    Youthful appearance is treasured.  You don’t want to look “old.”  Old being over 30.   We’re constantly bombared with commericals for hair color, white teeth, youthful skin, smooth legs, and a size 6 waist.    Even men are targeted- Just for Men.  Although, for them, it is acceptable to have some gray to look “experienced.”  With women, that’s old.  Underlying all this commercial hype is sex.  With men, it’s often obvious: Axe body products, drugs for getting it up and on.  It’s more subtle for women.   For women, it’s how to look younger and sexier.  And what sane woman would want to wax her bikini area?  Really?  Ripping off body hair from that area… ouch.

Clothing is another adventure.  We’re bombared with shows like “What Not to Wear” and makeover episodes on talk shows.  All the shows I’ve seen are the same.  The person comes out with the “in vogue” clothing and almost the same hairstyle.   And they are long hair styles.  “What Not to Wear” is better than most.  That show actually teaches people how to select the clothing, makeup, and hair that works for their body type and skin tone.   Magazines hype the most popular fashions.   Women’s jeans are now spandex and have “tummy control panels.”  They are designed to fit tight, no matter if that’s not what is comfortable or flattering.  I miss the old, real denim.   Yet, all this focuses on what the person is on the outside.  Isn’t the inside more important?   Clothing doesn’t make someone trustworthy, honest, hardworking, or happy.  If clothing truly reflected the person, our politicians would be wearing sackcloth and ashes.  Shouldn’t we spend as much effort as a society in instilling character traits that lead to a more productive, honest, and content society?

 

Sadly, I’m not immune to the pressure of physical appearances.  For me, it takes a different form.  I am not a fashionista.  I’m perfectly happy dressed in a casual or relaxed style.    My issue is phyiscal fitness.  After the accident, I gained 12 pounds.  To me, this was as traumatic as the injury!   From a slim, well-toned marathon runner, I transformed into a chunky, fat waisted, floppy size 8-10.   How terrible is that!  I know that many people would love to be a size 8 and really struggle to lose weight and improve fitness.  I’m not putting down anyone.  People’s bodies come in all different shapes and sizes.  Yet, for me, personally, it’s driving me crazy.  This physical change challenges another part of my identity, already under attack from the concussion.   “Physically fit, marathon runner.”

Physical fitness is a part of my identity.   I actually enjoy the process of weight training and running.  Usually.  The feeling of a hard run and the discomfort of the body morphing into the runner’s high and feeling of accomplishment after the workout is completed is priceless.   Even the marathons that I do not run well in, I still have the accomplishment of completing the  training and finishing the race.   26.2 miles is a long run.

Abdomen exercise- planking Dec 2010

 

Fall 2010

 

Last week (Sep 2011)

 

 

 

BOZU

 

 

 

 

 

Meditations

I changed my routine today.  After I finished my physical therapy run at the track, I spent time just being.  So often in life, I move from task to task without spending time just being present.  It’s easy to do.  Life has time demands: family, work, ferrets, and even fitness and other enjoyable activities.   In the past, I have often been so busy doing life that I forgot to live. 

Many people believe meditation reduces awareness of the world around you.  There are different forms of meditation.  I frequently practice mindfulness meditation, which actually enhances your awareness and experience. When I was running, my focus was on running.  I was aware of my breath and my body.  My mind was focused either on the run or pleasantly neutral.  This, too, is a form of meditation.  As I walked to cool down, I focused on my breathing.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.  I visualized peace entering my body every inhalation and stress leaving every exhalation.   I felt my muscles relaxing.  I experienced the sensation of my feet on the track, the breeze gently blowing on my skin, the sound of the wind in the trees, and the smell of freshly cut grass and the nearby wheat fields.   Then I sat in the sun, closed my eyes, and felt the sun’s warmth soaking into me.  I listened to the song of nature around me.  I heard the shussch-shusssch of a nearby lawn sprinkler and the scent of water and wet concrete tickled my nose. 

I decided to take a trip. I sank my awareness into myself, becoming aware of my breathing and the movement of my abdomen.   I chose my destination: the Oregon Coast, near Haystack Rock.  This exercise was particularly challenging for me.  Even prior to the accident, I was not strong in visualization.  The concussion did not improve it.  I concentrated on my other senses.   I tasted the salty brine in the air, smelled the tang of the ocean, heard the crash of surf and felt the cold wind.   This is concentrated imagination or perhaps body memory, as I frequently visited the ocean in the past.  I managed to see the tip of Haystack Rock in a hazy gray mist.   Given the Oregon Coast, it would not surprise me if I visited in a rain storm, with reduced visibility.  I am pleased I got as much detail of the rock as I did.   Soon, it was time to return home.  I became aware of my breath; and then my body, paying attention to the feel of the grass on my legs and the contact of my seat on the ground.  Then, I paid attention to my other senses.  When I felt totally “home,” I opened my eyes.  This is meditation based on a themed visualization. 

Meditation benefits health in several ways and it is an important part of my recovery from the concussion.  Meditation reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and slows the pulse.  It can help lower blood pressure.  Focused meditation is being used more in pain management and reduction.  Meditation improves concentration and the ability to use imagination.   When I first started meditating after the accident, I was totally unable to focus for more than a couple of minutes.  That was fine.  Meditation can be as short or long as I decide.   I think my meditative practice has helped improve my concentration.   Yesterday, I had a migraine that the medication was not ending.  I used a simple breathing meditation.  The headache did not leave totally but the pain level dropped considerably.   There are real health benefits to practicing meditation.

Many people are overwhelmed by meditation.  They visualize a monk, sitting cross-legged, chanting “ohm.”  That is one form of mediation.  But, as demonstrated in this post, there are many others.   Meditation does not have to be based on spiritual or religious practices, unless you want to use it in this fashion.   Prayer can actually be seen as a form of meditation on Deity, as well as conversation.  You can meditate on your favorite scripture or spiritual practice.    Meditation can be used as a method  to be in the presence of Deity and to discover more about yourself and your spiritual connection.    However, meditation does not need a spiritual theme to work.

I want to challenge you, my friends, to try a simple experiment.  

Find a time and place you won’t be disturbed.  You may want to go into a room and shut the door.   Ask children and family members not to disturb you.  If you have furry-family, you may want to put them in another room.  As much as I love my ferrets, they can interrupt a meditation faster than you can say “dook.”   You can play relaxing music in the background if you wish. 

 Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet touching the floor.  Next, take your pulse for a minute and write it down.   Follow this link to learn how to take your pulse.  http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/taking-a-pulse-heart-rate

Close your eyes.  Become aware of the sensation of your body sitting in the chair.  What does it feel like?  Can you feel it touching your back and legs?  Become aware of the sounds and smells around you. 

Become aware of your breathing.  Just notice it for 5 breaths.  Don’t try to change it.  After 5 breaths, start breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t try to breathe deeper or change how fast your breath.  Just breathe. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Continue for 10 cycles of breath.   Remember, don’t try to force your breath.  Breathe naturally in rhythm.  When you complete your 10 breath cycles, slowly open your eyes. 

Take your pulse again.  What happened to your pulse?  What do you notice about how you feel? 

 This is an easy meditation that does not take much time.  Yet, it is still effective.  And it can be done literally anywhere. 

If you want to learn more about meditation, there are many sites on the internet and resources at bookstores.   I recommend for mindfulness meditation  “Full catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  The book primarily focuses on mindfulness in pain control and reduction.   However, it is a wealth of information on how to practice mindfulness in daily life.  Dr. Kabat-Zinn has other books and media available.   Thich Naht-Hanh is a Buddhist monk.  His books and audio are excellent to learn about life and meditation.   “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and “Breathe, You are Alive” are excellent places to start.   

Give meditation a try!  It really helps!

Pushing the limits

Tuesday,  I had the bright idea to make my running more challenging.  I had already jogged a steady mile at a 9:50 pace.  Slower than I used to run before but better than I had since the injury.  My running brain came up with a bright (not) idea:   since I was already on a track, why not try intervals?  You know, just a little speedwork.  Just to see how it goes.  So said the running maniac part of my brain.  The same part of the brain responsible for my fascination with marathons and my determination to be a Maniac someday.  Well, my friends and family say I’m already a Maniac.  Anyone who runs one marathon must be crazy.  I run 3 or 4 a year.  That means I must be a maniac and ready for some serious therapy help. 

So, I listened to my crazy running brain.   It started off innocently enough.  Just a nice warm up jog.  Hmmm… I’m at the 200 meter mark, how about a nice pick up?  My feet start running faster, my crazy running brain took over.  The first 200 went well.  It actually felt good to run a little faster than my usual post-concussion shuffle.  It felt like I was sprinting faster than I ever have but I’m sure it really wasn’t an earth shattering pace.  I slowed to a nice recovery jog. The second 200 went smoothly.  A nice start with a pick up to the end. I started feeling a little odd, but no worse than the first time I walked/ jogged after the concussion.  I can handle it.   I slowed to a nice jog again.  Since it went so well, how about another 200?  The mark came and off I went.  This time, I felt fairly queasy at the end.  And I’ sure my stride looked like a drunk trying to run.   But, still, I was running!  Not jogging, not walking, running!     Oh, the JOY!   My recovery jog was much slower and less steady. 

My smart mind pipes up: maybe that’s enough? My stomach is in rebellion, warning of imminent eruption of nastiness. I’m slightly dizzy but I can still find the track.  Good enough: My running brain immediately quashes the thought of stopping at three.  Endorphins!   I hit the 200m mark for the fourth time.  Off I go.  I’m sure I’m staggering between the lines of the track now.  But, I make it to the finish line.  I stop, stagger to the side, and greet an old friend “Ralph.”   We had a few words in conversation. 

I stagger over to my water bottle, located handily in the shade, and plop down to rest.  I lay on my back and watch the world tilting and whirling.  Who needs an amusement park when you can run with post concussion syndrome?  I rest  until the world rights itself and my stomach returns to normal. 

I get up and walk a cool down lap.  I return home, shower, drink some Gatorade, and sleep for three hours.

When I wake, I wonder… was that worth it?  My smart brain immediately starts the lecture about recovery from head injury and being safe.  “Take time to heal.  Running to you puke isn’t a good thing.”  My running brain agrees reluctantly, then mutters “But, it was running.  Maybe next week….”

Motivation and Procrastination

 

My posts on motivation were inspired by a blog written by Judy Westerfield about an upcoming seminar she is co-facilitating about procrastination.  

Judy’s Four Phases of Procrastination

  1. Ow!  The task hurts

  2. Oooh! I’ve found something else to do that feels better

  3. Mmm:  I do the activity that feels good & is interesting

  4. Wah!:  The original task hasn’t miraculously gone away.

See more of her blog here: http://judithwesterfield.wordpress.com/

I started reflecting about procrastination.  You can’t be motivated and procrastinate at the same time.  What causes us to procrastinate?  What sucks away our motivation?   The specific answers will vary between individuals.   It also changes according to life circumstances.

Recently, I have been struggling with both procrastination and maintaining motivation.  Life with the head injury is unpredictable.  There are days that my symptoms are more manageable.  Then there are days like today where I have felt “off” and struggled more with speech and have constant “tweaking” in my eyes.   The head injury plays in with both my procrastination and motivation issues. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was removed from attending Officer Basic (I have 14 years service as enlisted).   Additionally, I was removed from the mobilization deployment roster.   I felt a sense of loss but recognized that these were necessary actions.  Since then, I have noticed my motivation to work harder through the discomfort of physical therapy and other tasks dropped.  I took for granted that I would heal to return to my regular job.  However, the deployment of my unit was a major motivator to push through.  Forget the 10k run (work), I was aiming for the marathon (challenge of deployment).  There are personal reasons why I wanted to deploy.  Perhaps I have been struggling with more depression lately. 

Lesson: Motivation is complex.  When something  has a lot of your emotional, mental, and/or spiritual energies put into it ends, it can result in a loss of motivation.   I often have the same sense of “let down” after a marathon.  All the training is done, the race is run, now what?  Find another goal.  Adjust the dream.  Find a new sense of motivation. 

Procrastination is avoidance of a task or activity.   It is a lack of starting.

There are several reasons that people procrastinate.  Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in some of them.  And there are other reasons you might discover in yourself when you look into procrastination.

1.  Being overwhelmed.  Where do I start?  There’s too much to do and not enough time.  Procrastination will certainly help with that!  This is my number one reason I procrastinate now.  My apartment needs cleaned:  the ferret cage, room, floors need vacuumed and mopped, bathrooms done, dusting, kitchen.   I look at that list, and it seems impossible for me to complete all those tasks without getting sick.  It’s overwhelming.   

Answer: a. Break the task into smaller steps.  If I start with the ferret cage and then the room, and then progress through the tasks, mindfully, one at a time, it’s not so overwhelming.  Notice I mentioned mindfully: do one thing at a time, effectively, present, and non-judgementally.   I get the supplies for the task and do it.  I don’t worry about completing the next one.   

 b. Keep the tasks realistic and allow for rest.   I won’t be able to clean the entire apartment in one session.  I may not even complete it in one day.  I have to allow myself time to rest as needed.  Allow yourself to adjust as needed.

c. Acknowledge your progress.  This is important.  It helps you stay motivated.

2. Fear.   Often people procrastinate when they are anxious or fearful about the task.  What if I fail?  We receive the message that anything less than perfect is failure.  How confining and unrealistic!  No one can ever achieve perfection.  We can only do the best we are able with the talents and abilities we have.  Certainly, we can work toward improvement; growth is part of life.   I notice fear often plays into procrastination when someone is contemplating a change in their life.  For example, I have a friend who is not really happy in her job.  She speaks about looking for other employment but has not yet started the process.  In part, her current job may be unpleasant, but it’s “comfortable.”  It’s known.  She gets good benefits.  Change looms threateningly if she were to look for another position.  So, she procrastinates and does other things instead. 

I also see the role of fear in fitness goals.  In order to truly become more healthy, lose weight, and increase fitness, you have to make a life change. 

Answer: Fear is a natural, healthy part of life.  It keeps us safe.  It prevents us from rushing headlong into dangerous situations or making irresponsible decisions.   Recognizing what you are fearing and why you are afraid is the beginning ending procrastination and making changes.  Sometimes, the fear is present for a good reason and you need to take action to correct the situation before you can proceed.  Other times, you have to step boldly out into the unknown, fear or not. 

3. Avoiding something unpleasant or that you don’t enjoy.  It is hard to be motivated to do something you hate or is nasty. 

Answer: To quote my Drill Instructor, “Suck it up and drive on.”  There’s no real “fix” here.  Sometimes we just have to do it.   One trick that helps me is to set a time to do the task.  If it’s particularly noxious, like doing my taxes, I’ll have a “reward” set up for after.  The reward can be something simple, like going to Dairy Queen for a Blizzard (treat!) or something more complex.  Make the reward something you like and look forward to.

 Procrastination, Motivation, and Fear

Quite frequently, fear manifests in the words “I can’t.”   Over the years, I had conversations with many women in the gym who were struggling with fitness goals.  They had already taken gigantic steps by joining the gym and working out.  Now, they were facing difficulties with maintaining motivation .    Often, they felt a sense of frustration with their progress or a sense of hopelessness that they won’t achieve their goal (fear).  

One conversation illustrates the relationships between motivation, procrastination, and how fear impacts both.  I had just completed a difficult workout with my trainer and was cooling down on a treadmill.   She was overweight, dressed in loose clothing, and appeared to be determined.   She commented on the workout she had just witnessed and said, “He (trainer) really works you, doesn’t he?  I’ll never be able to do that. ”

I replied, “It took a long  time before I could complete that type of workout.  I’ve been running and training for years.  Keep working at it.”

As the conversation unfolds, she spoke to me about her past attempts at weight loss and how hard it was for her to come to a gym.  She was afraid of being ridiculed by other members.   She had tried to become more fit in the past but inevitably lost motivation and gained weight back. She had thought about trying again for months.    

Fear held her immobile for months.  She knew what she wanted to do, yet the thought of taking action was overwhelming.  She was afraid to try again.  She was afraid of what others would say.  And she feared that she would not succeed in making the changes she desired.

She found the courage to overcome her fears and try again to bring positive change to her life.  I asked what was different this time.  Her reply, “This time, it’s for me.”  Her goal.  Her desire.  That was important and powerful.

I saw her many times in the gym over the next year.  She started working out with a trainer and attending Weight Watchers.   As time went by, she lost the look of desperate determination.  She smiled more and talked to other members.   By the time I moved the following year, she had lost 90 pounds!  I saw her last spring.  She maintained her success and was training for her first marathon.

MOTIVATION!

 

 

Motivation

Motivation: 1a. The act or process of motivating. 
1b. The condition of being motivated. 
 2. a motivating force, stimulus, or influence.
Merriam- Webster Online Dictionary
 

I am known in my Army Reserve unit as a “PT Stud.”  This term is complimentary.  It is bestowed on Soliders who earn the respect of others through their physical stamina and abilities.  Following Physical Readiness Tests, Soldiers often ask how they can improve their scores on the three events (running, pushups, situps). 

“L.T.,  I wish I could run like you,” the Soldier comments. 

“You can’t run like me.  Like I can’t run like Deena Kastor.  We’re all individuals.  What do you really want to do?”

The Soldier looks at me like I’m crazy for a few moments, then thoughtfully replies, “I want to run faster.”

“Why?”  “To improve my PT score.”  “Why?” “To get promoted.”  “Is that all?” 

So, the conversation begins.  It may seem odd that my first response was a “put down.”   My purpose was to help the Soldier identify his goals.  He really didn’t want to run like me.  He wanted to run to the best of his abilities and get promoted.  As the conversation continued, he identified several other goals related to health, fitness, and his military career.   We refined two of the goals to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-targeted). 

Goals and motivation are closely related.   Without motivation, no goal will be achieved.  Without goals, motivation has no direction or purpose.

The following month, we met again to review his progress.   “How did the running plan work?” I asked.  “Not so good, L.T.  I just couldn’t get motivated to get up early to run.”   “Really?  No motivation?  Why not?”    The Soldier talked about work and school schedules, being tired, and life generally interfering with his goals.   “Sounds like excuses,” I comment.   At first, the Soldier was defensive, trying to explain why he couldn’t run.  “Hold on for a second.  I understand that getting up early is hard.  But, again… what’s your motivation?  How motivated are you?”  He stated, “I want to improve my run, pass the PT test, and get promoted.”  “Those are your goals.  What’s your motivation?” 

The Soldier was confusing goals with motivation.  Why is this a problem?  He knows what he wants: his struggle is breaking the inertia to work towards his goals.  Change takes effort.  Overcoming inertia and making change takes motivation.

Motivation comes from two sources: intrinsic and extrinsic.   Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the person.  When I was a child, I hated math.  Left to my own motivation, very little math homework was completed.  The extrinsic motivations were twofold: my parents and grades.  Completing my math homework was less painful than facing the consequences set by my parents for not completing it and getting a bad grade.  This is an important point.  Extrinsic motivation is only as effective as the person’s desire to avoid punishment or obtain the reward.  If it’s not important, if there’s no personal value, it won’t be as effective.  Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual.  There are personal values, interests, and reasons why the goal is set.  When I run a marathon, the motivation to train comes from within myself.  I enjoy the activity and meeting the challenge.  I like the fitness I obtain through the training process.  I like how my body looks and feels.   I often experience a spiritual connection or resolve a problem while running.  Running is relaxing.  All these are motivators for me to run.  Intrinsic motivation is your personal desire; your personal reasons.  

Motivation is a verb and a noun.  Motivation leads to action.  Motivation is energy.  Motivation is being. 

Over time, the Soldier discovered what motivated him.  He started working on his goals and started to see progress.  And success became further motivation.

Motivation can be difficult to obtain.  It waxes and wanes with life events.   Frequently reflecting on goals and motivation can help keep you going. 

 

MOTIVATION!

 

The meaning of Running

I wrote this some time ago, before my car accident.  When I read it again today, I reflected on the simple joy that running brings me.  Post-accident, I haven’t been able to run the type of mileage I did before.  Two weeks prior to the accident, I completed the Yakima Valley Marathon, setting a personal best and placing second in my age group.  These days, I can “wog” (walk/jog) on a track for a limited time.   At first, I saw this as a major setback.  As I kept going to the track, I started to recognize it as an opportunity.  I can take my own pace.  There’s no pressure to run a given distance or a specific pace. 

This was written after receiving a Garmin watch for a Christmas present.  I had a moment of insight regarding the true meaning of running.

My parents asked me last fall what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted a Garmin. I explained to them patiently what neat bells and whistles that very expensive watch has for a runner. I also made sure they knew that I would not be at all disappointed if I didn’t get one. I know it’s expensive. Christmas came- and the only gift for me under the tree was the Garmin. Well, actually, my parents also gave me a couple of running shirts and some home made cookies.

I went temporarily insane. Truly. Every run had to be the right distance. And I just had to beat that annoying virtual trainer. The watch was running me. I wasn’t in charge. The watch says “faster! faster!” and no matter how tired, how sore, how annoyed- faster I went. Or tried to go. It became an obession. Beep! Crap. I’m 5 seconds slow this mile. Beep! Damn hill, I lost 8 seconds. Beep! Stupid traffic. If I didn’t have to slow down for the car…. beep! Yeah! On pace! This is fun?
Whatever happened to the joy in running? Back in the misty pre-history of pre-Garmin running… when I would go for a trail run and notice the river, or the deer, or the blue intensity of the sky? Beep! Sorry, better pick it up. Your VP is geting ahead… Wait! Did I just see an eagle? Oh, wow! Those are great flowers. How far did I run? Who cares? Wasn’t that waterfall incredible?

And while we’re talking about joy and running, let’s not forget endorphins. AHHHHHHH! Nice. And the Garmin wasn’t even necessary.

Running is a time for personal reflection. I have solved many problems while running. There have been many conversations with my Deity- and a sense of deeper, spiritual connection to Deity, the world around me, and all things living. Feel the heart beat, the air entering and exiting the lungs, the sweat, the feel of the muscles contrating and relaxing… that is oneness with your body.

Perhaps I have recovered from my temporary insanity caused by the introduction of a Garmin to my running. It is now I tool I use. It provides important information. But, who gives a BEEP! that I was 15 seconds off pace in that last mile? Hey, there was a deer to notice. Have fun on the roads.