Monday, December 31, 2012

A look back on 2012

I have written in the past that I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, like to use the New Year as a time to map out tangible goals for the following year and determining whether I accomplished the goals I set out for myself the previous year. These goals are often related, in no particular order, to sports, family, coaching and science. I need a barometer to measure whether I have moved in a positive, forward direction with various facets of my life. The end of a year marks a crossroads between reflecting on the year just gone by and the year spanning in front of me.

My perspective this year is different, though; 2012 will always be my year of gratitude and not judged on any singular accomplishment. That is because there is no achievement that can possibly outweigh the kindness that others showed me at a time when I reached my lowest low. This past year took twists and turns I never could have imagined. The year began like any other but by the mid-point I had a harsh realization that my rib injury was ruling me and that I needed to take drastic measures to fix it.

Just about the time when I thought there was no solution to my injury, I fortuitously found a surgeon in Minneapolis, Dr. Dan Saltzman, who would change my life. His empathy, skill, and optimism gave me hope at a time when I had none, and when I awoke from surgery I knew that I was better. Dr. Saltzman’s handiwork began a chain of recovery that involved: physical therapy (Bob Cranny), massage (Kim McCormack), dry needling (Christine Bell), lots and lots and lots and lots of strength training (Robin Galaskewicz), patience and understand from friends and family and overwhelming support at work.

Without the unending help and devotion from these individuals I would never have been able to achieve such a high level of physical health and accordingly better mental health so rapidly. I am ending this year by sending out a hearty THANK YOU to all of those people who have played a role in helping me reach the ultimate goal of any year: good health. Because, once you are healthy you can accomplish anything.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Diesel the Dog: Bath Time Sucks

I love to swim. When the weather is warm, Crazy Blonde and Deep Voice take me to the lake and throw my ball really far and I jump in to go after it. When Crazy Blonde takes me for a run in the summer, she makes sure there is a creek nearby that I can wade in to cool off. Yes, I do love the water. But for some reason, I really hate getting a bath.

Crazy Blonde takes me to this place where there are bath tubs all lined up and shampoo and brushes and towels and lots of whimpering dogs. The only thing I like is the bucket of treats I get to snack on during the torture.

When we get to the place I am all excited and I wag my tail because inside are all of these yummy smells and food everywhere and I think we are getting something good to eat.

And then, Crazy Blonde crushes my dream when she says to the lady, “I am here to give my dog a bath.” What terrible words those are, I always feel duped! I am clean enough and I like the way I smell, a combination of doggie sweat and grass. Who cares if I have dried slobber behind my ears from Violet and Calvin from when they chase me at the park?

We walk to the back of the store where the “Doggie Wash” is located. Crazy Blonde puts on one of the aprons and lifts me into the tub and then puts one of the straps around me so I can’t jump out, which I would do in a second if I could. They have this really high pressure faucet, way stronger than the one at home. It gets me all wet really fast and I do not like the way it feels. Of course, I show my displeasure by shaking all of the water all over Crazy Blonde. I guess she is smart to put on the apron.

Can you see how pissed off I am?
When I start to cower in the corner or put my tail between my legs, Crazy Blonde knows I am mad and she gives me a treat to make me feel better. Sometimes, I put on a show just to get more treats.

After I am all wet, Crazy Blonde uses this soapy stuff that smells like Lavender and she rubs it all over my fur. Can you imagine? A sporty dog like me smelling so prissy? I shake even more to get the yucky smell off. I can see there is a mess everywhere; the floor is soaking wet and there is water splattered all over the walls.  No wonder she washes me at the store and not at home.

Crazy Blonde rinses off the soap and then puts in this other stuff to make my fur smooth and shiny. I don’t mind that so much because I like it when people tell me how nice my fur looks and how does it get so sleek. Hey, I like a compliment as much as the next dog.

Crazy Blonde spends a lot of time brushing me. Lots of my fur comes off and it is all over the place. I am surprised there is any left on my body when Crazy Blonde is done. The last part is the one I really, really don’t like. Crazy Blonde towels me off and then turns on this loud thing that puts out hot air. She waves it all over me until I start to bark, telling her “You’ve had your fun, turn it off before I bark so loud they call the cops.”

Finally, we walk out of the store and go home. Crazy Blonde likes to sniff my fur and tell me how good I smell. I start to whine that I want to go to the park. I have to get the smell of doggie sweat back.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Regrouping after a disappointing race

A key race comes with a lot of emotional and physical investment. The hours spent training and mentally preparing are too numerous to count. Anticipating the event can cause moments of excitement nestled in an anxiety ridden wrapper. Thoughts of well executed training sessions are intermingled with memories of horrendous workouts. All of this momentum culminates in The Day – the months of hard work all come down to a few hours of racing. What happens if the race turns out like crap? How do you handle things if you don’t get to race at all due to illness or injury or in my case, cancelling out due to poor weather?

After I made the decision to not race CIM last weekend, I spent a few hours sulking and guiltily hoping that race day would turn out rainy and windy and horrible (it did). I thought about all of the hard workouts, the physical therapy, the interminable gym sessions and I felt dejected. My immediate thought was, “What a colossal waste of time”.

When I finally came to my senses, I realized that the training I put in for this race was not for naught. The fitness gains I made in running and the improvement in post-injury strength and functionality don’t get washed down the drain because I didn’t race. I will be able to build on the experience of training for this marathon and apply it to whatever athletic endeavor I choose next.

That is when I realized I needed to find another goal. Quickly. As a goal-driven athlete, more important than anything else is finding something and then going after it with vigor. Since the end of the year marathon ship has sailed, I am re-focused on running some local races with an eye on a fast half marathon early next year and ultimately qualifying for the 2016 marathon Olympic trials. Boom. Just like that my mind is at ease with new goals already in place.

Recovering from a race gone awry requires several steps:
  1. Allow some time to wallow in disappointment. Put an actual limit on your brooding and adhere to it. Anything over 48 hours is unacceptable.
  2. Focus on the positives of the lead up to the race. Whether it is gains in run speed, improved swim technique, or increased power on the bike there is always something positive to glean from a training block.
  3. Enjoy the training for the sake of training. If training is a chore and un-fun, the disappointment of poor or missed races will be exacerbated. However, if training is social and enjoyable and the workouts themselves are used as mini tests of progress, there will be fewer feelings of discontent following a race that doesn’t pan out well.
  4. Assess what went wrong. In the instance where a goal was missed, it is important to figure out what happened and apply that knowledge to future racing and training. Determine whether it was pacing, nutrition, over training, under training, a taper gone wrong or just a plain and simple bad day.
  5. Pick a new goal. Unquestionably, finding a new focus is imperative. Having a concrete goal in the immediate future helps ease the frustration that comes with a race that does not live up to expectations.