Monday, November 21, 2011

Focus, Un-Focusing, and Running Far with a Purpose

I’ve started in on the serious training for the long races I have planned for the first six months of 2012. Yesterday I headed to Croft State Park for an 18 or so mile run, my first over 15 since last summer. Through this focusing time I’ll push my long runs up to 25-30 miles in preparation for the Highlands Sky 40 miler in June; every other week or so I’ll do that mileage in back-to-back runs on the weekends. 
Part of these runs is of course to build fitness, but much of the focus will be on building mojo, the mental toughness to spend hours on the trails putting one foot in front of the other. I’ll remind myself of what Christy has said on long trips: we’re getting closer.
As usual in our southeastern hardwood forests, late autumn brings deep leaves covering everything. I ran some lightly used trails, ones that have no blazes and only an occasional ribbon marking something of the way. Usually the tread is obvious, but now the thick covering of leaves makes the trail nearly invisible. I go by memory, and I go by acting like the trail, I say, heading where the trail ought to be. Yesterday I stopped a few times to scan the woods. 
Bristol the Enduro-Dog was with me, and he did a lot of leading. I remain amazed by his trail-finding abilities as I pick my way over the covered roots and rocks. He seems to understand when I am “lost,” and pulls to the front to take over.

Bristol the Enduro-Dog loves trails.

Those rough trails slow me down when the obstacles are hidden by leaves, or snow (yes, occasionally the snow is deep enough to hide the trails even here in sunny South Carolina). I tighten my vision to what’s just ahead, and the focus sometimes keeps me from seeing my path. I thought yesterday that in order to follow these trails when they are this obscure, I need to un-focus my eyes, to pull back so I can feel the trail better. These are times when I am really locked in, though, on the moment, feeling my legs and feet, gliding through the woods even on days like yesterday when I still felt heavy-legged from last weekend’s race. I remember that I can push myself into this zone, and hone my training to know the feeling. It’s mental “muscle memory,” I reckon, pretty useful in the bad times of any run. 
Another piece of my focus came into place this week. My fund-raising efforts will benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. I’ll be running as a member of Team Fox, whose members run in races and triathlons all over the world. They have set up a terrific support system; among other things, they give me my own donation page, which you can access by clicking on the Team Fox logo on the right side of this page. I have set a goal of raising $10,000 dollars, and I’ll need your help to do so. 
Over five million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease -- a chronic degenerative neurological disorder whose symptoms typically progress from mild tremors to complete physical incapacitation. In the United States, 60,000 new cases of PD will be diagnosed this year alone. There is no known cure today. Your donation will help to find that cure, and also find new ways to treat the symptoms of the disease to improve the quality of life of those living with it.
My dad’s hands shake. He has a hard time walking, and shuffles his feet, making steps, curbs, even the transition from wood floor to carpet difficult. Yesterday, I ran seventeen miles over rough trails hidden under leaves. My father’s efforts were much more difficult, and exhibit true “ultra” form of putting one foot in front of the other. He’ll tell you he’s soldiering on.
He has other symptoms, some of which I’ll talk about in future posts, and some of which he’ll write about here, too. When I finish my race, and he congratulates me at the line, he’ll still have much more to go. It’s the least I can do to run far with this purpose.

Week ending November 20: 
Tuesday, November 15:  7 miles at Croft
Wednesday, November 16:  4 1/2 miles on Cottonwood: dead-legged and tired
Friday, November 18: 10 miles lunchtime bike ride
Saturday, November 19:  5 1/2 miles, including 10x120 yard barefoot striders on practice football field at the high school. I reminded myself how much I love running barefoot on grass.
Sunday, november 20: 17 miles at Croft
Total: 34 miles

No comments:

Post a Comment