Friday, December 11, 2009

What Inspires YOU?

If you are in the upper half of the U.S. (or all of Canada), it’s getting cold. Races are fewer and farther between. You find yourself checking the thermometer for apparel requirements and considering if Yaktraks are appropriate (they are). It’s the unofficial off season. Your next race is probably still a whole season away.

So, what now?

This is the time of year to take some internal assessment of where you are at as a runner and where you want to go. Reflect on 2009 and plan for 2010. And eat too much cheese.

I haven’t finalized my thoughts on 2009 yet. It feels incomplete somehow. I ran only one marathon and it was a non-competitive fun run. I had planned so many other races that, for one reason or another, never came to fruition. The new web site I had hoped to launch? Still a collection of scribbled ideas sitting under my employers more pressing work demands. Register for Boston? Didn’t do it and now it’s no longer possible. 2009 was a good running year for me in the sense that I enjoyed the work-outs, fine tuned my weekly training regimen, and developed a greater understanding of what my body can and cannot handle at 38 years.

But races? Not much to show except a PR in the 5k and Half Marathon. Nice but I expected more challenges, more opportunities to test myself.

So, as I forge onward into winter running in long pants, hats and gloves, I look forward to a more definitive 2010. More races and results that reflect my level of training. Also, more FUN.

First, we have to get to 2010. There’s long, cold nights to deal with. The temptation is powerful to leave the Asics in the closet when the thermometer reflects sub 20 degrees. What I do now does matter though. These are important weeks. Important miles. I don’t want to backslide. Neither is it necessary to move speed and distance to a higher level right now. Maintain, maintain, maintain. Make 2009 count.

Times like these, you need to find inspiration from wherever you can. Articles in Runner’s World or a good book (I really liked The Perfect Mile). This is a good time to hook up with another runner to cajole each other out the door when it is too easy to say ‘not today.’ Whether it is the goal time at a spring race or just the desire to hold your current fitness level, find some way to become inspired.

I recently found inspiration from an unusual and unexpected source. As I’ve mentioned before, I coach my daughter’s second grade girls soccer team. After the official outdoor season, most of them continued on with me to an indoor season. Unfortunately, we were the only group of U8’ers (8 and under) that signed up. The girls had to play U9 and U10 teams. On top of that, these teams were not “recreational” like ours (U8 only plays rec league in our area) but competitive travel teams filled with girls committed to the sport through hours of practice. We were up against it, for sure. A win looked unlikely. How would they handle the inevitable lopsided losses?

Sure enough, the girls’ first two games did not go well at all. The losses were ugly. They stopped keeping score at some point in the first half (once one team goes up by 8 or more). But, then something happened. Even in the first two losses, our team fought hard to the final minute. They never gave up. They came back to the bench still smiling and ready for more.

In the third game, another loss, the score was kept the entire way. A loss….but closer. The following week, they would play the same team on back-to-back days. The first game ended with yet another loss, 8-0, but it was their best effort yet. Long periods of the game went by with even play. The little U8’ers, at an obvious size and experience disadvantage, were playing even with the dedicated U9/U10 team for increasingly longer stretches. The next day brought the same team. But this time the score was tied 7-7 with about eight minutes to go. A few late goals by the other team ended the upset bid but our girls were excited. They were working hard and seeing results.

The season just concluded. There is no magical fairy tale ending. They lost every game. However, after getting beaten soundly in the first two games, the team improved a little bit each week until the other teams had to really fight to win the game. I couldn’t have been more proud. They played hard. They had fun. It was a great experience.

Ultimately, the team benefited from taking the focus off the big picture: The scoreboard. Instead, we worked on little things. We worked on getting our non-attacking defenseman positioned correctly every time. When we had that, we worked on the forwards more quickly closing the gaps when the other team’s defense was trying to move the ball. Pieces and parts of the game. Bite-sized portions. The girls felt like they were having success even when the scoreboard reflected otherwise.

I’ve taken a lot from the experience to apply to my own training. I tend to focus on my time goal for a race while training. Sometimes it seems daunting and almost de-motivating. I’m going to start focusing on the smaller pieces that will lead to the big picture time goal. How can I modify my training plan to align to the race goal? Instead of 6 x 800’s, maybe I’ll do 8 x 400 just to mix things up. Can I shave a few seconds from each 400 or 800 lap? Maybe I need to hydrate more and earlier during a marathon to help fight the late race cramping. There are parts of our training that come together to form the whole race day results.

My daughter’s team found a way to be successful outside of the normal constraints imposed by the win-loss record. A positive attitude. Small improvements in specific areas. The courage to take on the challenge.

It’s not about the TIME. It’s about what you do to get there. I’ve found some inspiration to keep me going during these cold days and dark evenings.

I hope you find yours.

Happy trails.

24 comments:

Xenia said...

Your frequent absences of late seem to be draining you of your snark. Scary.

My motivation to keep running through this craptastic weather is the marathon I'm hoping to run in March. Rome or bust, baby!

Sun Runner said...

I have Boston looming on April 19, 2010 (I was one of the lucky ones who registered as soon as possible) so I have no other options. I will get through this winter with Boston as my motivation.

Watch out for llamas at this time of year. They conceal themselves better in the dark.

ShutUpandRun said...

Great post. Important to remember the big picture and to run your own race.

X-Country2 said...

I've put the Garmin away for a bit to focus on things other than time. I think I was getting too attached. Great post.

Razz said...

"Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory."
-inscribed on the South corner of Memorial Stadium.

Love that quote.

Great post!

Viper said...

OK, who is this writing on Nitmos' blog? The helpful information and inspiring tale are a dead giveaway. Cheers!

Ace said...

Without the cheese comment, I would have surmised that this was a guest post. However I'm clinging to the cheese, like the plastic on a Kraft American single. I find cheese to be very motivational...

Katie A. said...

Wow, a tear just came to my eye as I read about the U8's and their win-less indoor season! Very sweet! And you are right, we can take a page from that book. I also have Boston in 129 days so I must keep plugging along through all the winter weather :(

Lily on the Road said...

Oh, I'm going to have to check your forehead, are you running a fever? who are you and where is Nitmos?

Working from home has given you way too much time to reflect, could it be the fumes from the mold on the crown moulding?

Glad to hear that the filly and the herd continued on with their games and came away in such great spirits....Nice!!

BrianFlash said...

Sign up for some races dang it! That's the best way to have fun and stay motivated. Your soccer gals wouldn't have as much fun if all they did was practice.

Surely everyone has an organization that sponsers a frostbite series this time of year.

The sarcastic Nitmos must still be trapped in his cube...

Morgan said...

Alright did you read my schmoopy post and get all soft on us? Cuz seriously I wasn't trying to turn everyone soft...

But on the real deal... great post and very inspirational. Congrats to your daughter's team that is most excellent and all those girls are going to have so much confidence in themselves walking on to the field next year!

Running and living said...

Gotta maintain to make training for Boston easier. I actually like winter running. It makes winter seem shorter and more fun!

theloosemoose said...

Working from home appears to have fried your brain and altered your entire personality. The old Nitmos would've tasered every member of that losing team, then slaughtered a llama just because.

Emotional and inspirational? Who ARE you?!

Jamoosh said...

Well put - it isn't necessarily about the "time." To take that thought a bit further, while I don't know what is possible in your neck of the woods, have you thought of choosing a goal that has little to do with time? Perhaps back to back half marathons (yes, I know you have done the Disney Challenge - but I think you get my drift). Training for a fast race is one thing; training for back to back quality races is another.

Spike said...

you didn't have to make a motivational post to ask me to go running with you (wait, I asked you first).

what do they say, little steps to make huge strides.

Marci said...

Its hard to motivate, its a good time to cross train etc.

Jess said...

I have one more race before I'm officially in the off season, where I planning to turn my focus to building strength and maintaining speed. (aka, ramping up cross training and cutting back slightly on running)

Jessica said...

Good post and way to wrap up the year. Cool story about the soccer, gotta love that!

KimsRunning said...

Adults could learn a lot from kids. Aren't they great??? Hey...have you tried taking B-12s for the cramps? You cannot take too much, your body just takes what it needs. I take 3 tabs twice a day and it seems to help. You have to let them melt under your tongue though!!

It's prime training time here in Florida. The runners are everywhere! I'm so happy to be running again and that's all I need for inspiration these days. Every time I tie my shoes and reset my Garmin for a run I smile and say "I'm back!!!!!"

mr loser said...

Great post. You're right: kids wants to have fun, be with their friends and learn skills; it's "winning" obsessed parents who ruin things.

Melissa said...

Well, I received my Fitbit Tracker finally, and it is totally effing awesome!!!!! My behavior has drastically changed. I am soooooo jazzed.

sRod said...

Just getting to this now.

I feel like every little league team my friends and family tell me about ends the season with no wins. And I always wonder where are the teams that are winning.

Nice way to refocus your training. I'm learning too that the speed goals aren't the best way to go.

chaco sandals said...

Great post! Very interesting!

spyder ski said...

its so nice to read post like this.. very inspiring..you made my day.. Thanks for this!