Thursday, September 10, 2015

3 Essential Steps to Stop Self-Sabotage Once and for All

"To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will."
-Sugar Ray Robinson

There are plenty of cynics in this world. Even if someone doesn't self-identify that way, we all have that dark little voice telling us the reasons we can't accomplish something, the reason things are destined to fail. What's worse than telling ourselves something isn't possible? Telling someone else that their dream isn't possible. One side step to that that's even more insidious, is telling other people that someone else isn't capable of something (ahhh, vicious gossip).

While you may not choose to acknowledge that you are indulging your inner bully, what else can you call it if you're being straight up about it? Start by making a choice to listen to your inner bully, then tell him/her/it to "take a long walk off a short pier". Or you can tell it to "Go F**K itself!" Whatever you need to break from that pattern of thinking long enough to get something done.

Step 1: Choose to believe you're capable of more than you can ever imagine. In some respects, you might be in the paradigm of fake it til you make it here. When you get to the point you believe in yourself, know that this isn't a permanent condition, nobody transcends that inner bully, at least nobody I've met yet.

Step 2: Surround yourself with people who are adult in their self-respect, and childish in their belief in chasing dreams. The adult part is important, as people who behave as children across the board are prone to childish jealousy, gossip, and feeling bad for themselves when you succeed. Your victory becomes their insecurity. The part that is childish (dream chasing element) is key because a lot of so-called grown ups are bitter, jaded and cynical. As far as I can tell, a very high percentage of these people have lived responsible, reasonable lives, and have at some point in time given up on something they really, really wanted to chase after.

Step 3: Foster an environment where you empower others in their goals and dreams, you become a champion vs the inner bullies of others. This can take many forms, but it starts with recognizing the red flags of others' inner bullies, and taking a stand for them to overcome. Interestingly enough, Step 3 is the most essential to maintaining Steps 1 & 2, as when our focus expands to community (instead of self), it's much more difficult to indulge in bad habits. When you put your focus on others, I find you also elevate your personal game. When you stand for excellence in others, you naturally trend towards maintaining your own excellence. Vanity helps here, nobody wants to be viewed as a hypocrite.

To expand a bit on the community focus, I have long had a rule for myself as a coach, but even more so as a human being:

"Never tear down the dreams or goals of another human being."

That's the baseline. But when I am living and breathing it, "another human being" will also extend to me, I'm not allowed to tear down my own goals and dreams.

A shout out to my friend (and mentor) Robert Mills, a man who hired me to coach one of his marathon programs before I had even really run a marathon myself. Yes, you read that right. Marathon program #1 (I'm now closing in on my 40th program coached), I had not even RUN a 26.2 mile footrace myself. Now, looking back on 13 years of marathon experience, I've finished over 60 races of 26.2 miles up to 135 miles in a single shot, having coached 2,500+ athletes to achieve their goals and dreams. But it started with believing in myself even if not 100%, and finding others who did too. Again, thanks to Robert and Euri, and especially that champion who's been at my side for all of that, my beloved Kate.

Call to action:
1- What big goal / dream are you chasing after actively now?

2- Is there a back-burner goal/dream that you haven't taken any action on in a long time? (i.e. something you keep telling yourself you'll go after when you're ready, just not now)

3- Who could you share these with that would stand for you being accountable to chasing these goals and dreams?

4- Who could you stand for to get on track with their goals and dreams?

"A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at."
-Bruce Lee

Monday, July 21, 2014

The First Steps (Out the Door) Are Often the Toughest - Original 6 Hundo Challenge aka #O6HC Blog Entry 01

"You are capable of more than you know.  Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path.  Aim high.  Behave honorably.  Prepare to be alone at times, and to endure failure.  Persist!  The world needs all you can give."
-E.O. Wilson

*Original 6 Hundo Challenge (#O6HC) - the first six hundred mile trail races to exist in the United States, in order of inception: Western States, Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA (1974), Old Dominion, Fort Valley, VA (1979), Wasatch Front, Utah (1980), Leadville Trail, Colorado (1983), Angeles Crest, Wrightwood, CA to Pasadena/Altadena (1986), and Vermont (1989)  * - this challenge has historically been known by the title the Last Great Race which is presently "on hiatus".  Out of respect to the organizer, we've chosen to call the challenge another name until we are able to register for the LGR officially.

It's been quite a 9 month stretch since I completed the 2013 Angeles Crest 100 (AC) and Leadville Trail 100 (LT) inside of a two week period (well, 2 weeks, 1 day and a couple-few extra hours).  I spent about 10 days post that 100-mile double challenge hibernating, as it f**king wrecked me.  So, sounds like a perfectly rational idea to run 6 hundreds (the first 6 hundred mile trail races that existed in the United States) in a 13 week period, right?!?  A long-standing motto of mine: the worst ideas often make the best stories.

To begin with, I blame the seed for this idea being planted on Andy Kumeda.  In 2007, we were chatting in Wrightwood awaiting the check in for the Angeles Crest Endurance Run.  Andy had attempted to run these same six races in 2007 and going into AC Andy was 4-for-5 having timed out at that year's #4 (Leadville), at Mile 60.  I was still floored, as he had finished the Wasatch Front 100 (WF)  in 35:57 (with less than 3 minutes to spare) and was attempting to complete AC only 6 days after that finish.  The 2007 Angeles Crest became my first ever DNF at any race of any distance (it was my only hundred attempt in 2007). I pulled out about halfway through (Mile 49, Mt. Hillyer) with some breathing problems that may or may not have been hypoxia or the early stages of hyponatremia.  Andy finished AC with a couple/few hours to spare.  He vowed to give these 6 hundos another shot as soon as he got back into the Western States 100 (States), and 7 years later, here we are.

I personally loved the idea of The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (the Slam) which is 4 of the original 6 hundreds, about one per month, but have some longer term goals at Angeles Crest, so while I wanted to run Western States, the Vermont 100 (VT), Leadville and Wasatch in the same summer, I felt too impatient to skip AC for a summer (FOMO in LA is particularly fierce).  Angeles Crest used to be late-September/early-October as recently as 2008, but has been moved to July/August since the devastating Station Fire in 2009.  Now, with AC in late-July/early-August, it's sandwiched in between the only 4 week break in the Grand Slam, 2 weeks after Vermont, 2 weeks prior to Leadville.  I realized I'd be doing 5 of the original 6, looked up Old Dominion 100 (OD)which was formerly a part of the Grand Slam, between 1986 when Tom Green first finished OD, Western States, Leadville and Wasatch in the same summer, and Tom is at it again this summer 28 years later (Go Tom Go!). Old Dominion was a part of the Slam until 2003 when OD did not happen and Vermont has formally replaced it in the Slam every year since.  Since my modified Grand Slam (the Slam+AC) only allotted 2-3 weeks between each race, it didn't seem like much more of a stretch to throw in OD 3 weeks before that all began.  NOTE: I joked far too often that Old Dominion was my "warm-up race" and that joke bit me in the rear.  OD kicked my butt, and I was taught that joking about how one race will be easier is a very dangerous mental space to be in.

The Torrey Pines Glider Port (Cliff) Stairs and Blacks Beach
I DNF'd for the second consecutive February at a SoCal 50 mile race (2014 was the inaugural Sean O'Brien, a race I helped lay out, and test ran in October to create an elevation profile, and 2013 I failed to finish the Ray Miller 50 Mile before going on to complete Angeles Crest and Leadville later that year), and I'm holding my breath that it was a good omen (although I have to work out my string of lifetime DNF's the second time I run a course which includes 2 hundreds and 2 fifties).  That was a wake up call.  Training got a lot more consistent after that.  Life, however, failed to cooperate with my extended training plans for this challenge.  From February to late-May, ultimately I averaged 47.5 miles per week, which included an entire month where my mileage total didn't eclipse 62 miles (for the entire month!).  At one point, spent about 2 weeks with my mom who had a horseback riding accident that led to her fracturing L1 and requiring some significant medical care for the first phase of her recovery.  I got to know the running available in La Jolla, California pretty intimately as I'd help administer my mom's meds and home care, then head out the door for a couple hours of sand running & cliff repeats near the Torrey Pines Glider Port & Blacks Beach.  Looking back on this, it may have been the longest half month of my life.  Seeing a loved one that injured is beyond any emotional or physical stress I have ever experienced.  My mom is greatly improved (3 months into her recovery) and may have dodged a bullet not immediately needing a major 5 vertebrae spinal fusion surgery.  Yay, mom!  Got really sick for about 8 days after that, and didn't feel like myself (running or otherwise) for another 3-4 weeks.  When all that dust settled, I was 3 weeks from race #1 in the #O6HC

"Good judgment comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgment."

-Mark Twain

Instead of going through and writing a blow-by-blow recap of the 3 one-hundred mile races I've already gone through (which I promise to recap via podcast or video-blog, at the very least), I'll let you know a few of the epiphanies and reflections that could hopefully be more useful to you in your running or life goals.

*Never underestimate 100 miles  - researching all 6 races in this series, both Old Dominion and Vermont had the least aggressive elevation profiles and fastest historical finishing times.  I went into OD saying, "this is my warm up 100" and the race beat me down pretty soundly.  Kate has seen me run this distance at least a dozen times, and said she had never seen me looking that broken at the end of a race.  Every 100 will have it's own unique (and idiosyncratic) challenges.  Respect the distance.  Respect the conditions.  Seek to uncover the hidden challenges of an event prior to starting.  I was geared up for the challenge of the humidity, when my left peroneal tendon went out, I realize I had never considered what cambered country roads would do to me.

*Plan to flow (and how to flow when the plan disintegrates) - mentality conditioning is as important as physical conditioning in difficult life and running adventures.  Look to unlock your Zen by practicing some mantras and putting forth a positive perspective (or assigning silver linings to tough situations) in training and in life, prior to the adversity that will inevitably find you in your goal events.  In the early stages of the Vermont 100, I noticed a piece of trash on the trail, which I picked up to put in my handheld water bottle sleeve.  The paper, when examined, was from a fortune cookie.  The fortune?

"You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails."

Frolicking at Western States around Mile 38
This thought stuck with me the rest of the day.  I couldn't control when/where my difficulty would arise, but I could determine what attitude I approached the difficulty with, and make adjustments to my plan for that race.  That sourced me the rest of the day and worked very, very well.

*Far more fun to be had rooting FOR people than wasting energy rooting AGAINST someone - I have met and enjoyed the company of no less than 30 people over the 300 miles Andy and I have covered thus far (in Virginia, NorCal and Vermont).  To qualify that, I've talked to more than 300 people, but have held at least 3-5 minute conversations during the race, with probably around 1 person every 10 miles.  I love hearing a person's (aka new friend's) story.  Why they do this crazy $#!^ too, what they are up to in this one precious life of theirs.  First half of the race it's generally talking about life, goals and dreams type of stuff.  Second half of the race, often times we're talking about problems we're having, a running issue we need to trouble shoot, (adjusted) goals for the race, and how we can help each other achieve them.  The last time I remember actively rooting against some one (save any member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, LA Kings, or Dallas Cowboys) was Rollie the Goalie after seeing his cheap antics of the 2006 NHL Playoffs.  Honestly, don't even ask.  When it comes to ultrarunning, a few people have made it clear to me that they are rooting against me (again, don't ask) and I can't even find the energy to return favor.  There's so much goodwill, and positive humanity around 100 mile mountain races, I find that I want everyone to have their best day.  We all know we're in for trials, for discomfort or bone-jarring pain, and the day/night/day will be an adventure.  The kinship this activity breeds is what makes this community so special to me.  So even if I get it in my head that I want to "finish before you do" which never equates to me as "beating someone" as there are only a few rare friends I even think this way about (Mike Chamoun, Karl Hoagland, Eric Wickland, George Gleason, Kate Martini, etc.), I still want you to have your A+ day out there, and want it to be a fun story for both of us to share a beer over when we're long since old-and-gray.  So do what you can out there to help people succeed, yes, help your fellow competitors.  It will make you feel better (and forget your current issues for a moment).  That good mojo will feed back into your race.  But don't do it for the mojo.  Do it because you want to see yourself as kind, generous and graceful.  Never know, you might turn someone's day/race around.  That feels better than a finish (to me).

I could wax on (and wax off) a lot longer on these things, and these three races.  But there's a lot more decompressing to do, and 3 more races to "run".  I'm going to sign off now and get this thing up, as it's been too long a dry spell for this #WannaBeWriter

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

But I Don't Feel Like It Anymore - Commitment vs Feelings and Why You Should Do It Anyway

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable (of becoming)."
-Coach John Wooden

My first career (1995-2001) was inside and outside sales for a technology firm in Silicon Valley during the boom/bubble years.  That's a fancy way of saying that right out of high school I got a job working for my father's business partner Paul on business development of a new territory.  The new territory?  Southern California.

From 1995-1997 I went to school full time and worked part time developing new business making cold calls from a business guide.  This is prior to major & minor companies having robust websites and prior to Google telling me how to find any information on any company, product or person that has a public presence.  I had only an encyclopedia sized book, a company name, their product line and a phone number.  It was my job to call the receptionist, and somehow talk my way through the web of that company to get to someone who purchased electronic components from other companies to make the product that they sold.  Simple enough, right?  Only problem was that the bigger the company, the more intricate the web of people who didn't know what anyone else did, not to mention the bulldog receptionists and personal assistants that were hired and trained to be a firewall against calls like mine.

Paul, my mentor/boss, has completed many endurance rides/runs.
In 1997, Paul (co-founder of the company, Signet Technical Sales, later Signet LCD and then IDS) offered me a full time position.  I accepted and stepped full tilt into the corporate world, which included 10-15 hours a week of commuting (to and from San Jose) and 40-60 hour weeks.  "Salesmen have no hours!" Paul used to say, much like Alec Baldwin's character from my favorite movie about sales, "Glengary Glen Ross."  Back then, I would spend most of my day dialing up strangers and asking for a favor, "please tell me who I need to talk to who makes the decision on purchasing these parts for your products."  I got really clear that there were going to be good days and bad days.  Days I felt inspired to do it and days I didn't want to pick up the phone to encounter 43 more rejections in 44 calls (and the 1 other call was a voicemail).

My last full year at Signet (2001), I stopped commuting.  I moved from San Francisco to San Jose, and cut my 3 hours of daily driving to 15 minutes each way.  I suddenly had 2 to 2.5 hours per day I didn't even know what to do with.  I was inspired, energized and ready to train for my first marathon, something I had put off for 5-6 years.  I committed to run my first 26.2, which was actually the second time I made that commitment (it was first a New Year's Resolution in 2000, until I didn't feel like training anymore, about maybe 19 days later).

I had signed up for the San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon, I also booked the round trip flight from San Jose to San Diego for early June and I hired a coach to help guide me (shout out to Coach Kaley, the first coach I ever hired).  Problem was, I was overeager.  I trained myself right into an overuse injury (ITBS) within about 2-3 weeks.  I wanted to run, but I couldn't.  So Coach Kaley (a very talented triathlete) started working with me on swimming and biking (as much as sitting on a spin bike can be considered biking).

I cross trained for a full month, until I just didn't feel like it anymore.  My knee hadn't improved, and I still had pain after mile 2 on basically every run I'd go on to test it out, about every 2 weeks.  I stopped training altogether.  That was mid-February.  Late-May came up on me fast and I realized I had a trip to San Diego (flights booked, accommodations made) and suddenly I was feeling inspired again.  So I went for a few runs to shake off the rust, determined my knee didn't hurt at mile 2 anymore and flew to San Diego.

*Note: this is NOT my bib # from 2001
Along the way I had raised maybe $500-$900 for the NCCF, but it was all in $1-$2 per mile sponsorship donation checks.  I was certainly not fit for 26.2 miles straight, on roads.  But I also felt a sense of obligation to finish what I started since I couldn't donate checks for the amounts they were written out for if they were based on the miles I had committed to doing.  I was in a quandary: do I run a marathon and put myself at risk of re-aggravation of this injury that put me down for 3-4 months?  Do I not run it, yet send in the checks anyway?  Do I not run it and send the checks back to their donors?

I went into the marathon expo on Saturday and again was inspired by all the fit, healthy people. There were many charities there with teams, and coaches, and team colors.  I knew I had to send these checks in.  I also knew I needed to run the distance.  I also didn't want to spend another 4 months not being able to run.  I decided to walk 13-14 miles, Saturday.  I got the course map and followed it until I got to a freeway entrance (94 out of downtown SD) and elected to do another lap around Balboa Park.  I wrapped it up in about 4 hours (about 17-minute mile pace) and went to visit my sister for dinner in La Jolla.  Sunday morning I caught a cab to Sea World, and at about the mile 14 mark I waited for the race to come by.  I watched the elites, the sub-3 national class athletes, the age groupers, and somewhere about an hour later jumped into the fray.  Again, I walked more than I ran, but I was coming up against my feelings of failure, the disappointment I wasn't an official participant (it was a chip race, and I'd never show up in the results).  But on the other side of those negative feelings, I was doing something maybe for the first time in my life, that wasn't going the way I envisioned it, and I was finishing it anyway.  My watch read 6-hours, 17-minutes when I hit the 26.2 mile mark, and based on when I started the day prior, my unofficial time would have read 22-hours, 17-minutes.  By all measures of marathon finishes, I was a DNS (on Sunday) or a DNF (on Saturday).  Two half marathons in back-to-back days is not a marathon.  But I sent in those checks and wrote a letter to everyone who donated, "I am happy to reimburse you if you object to the way I completed this marathon, and here's why you won't find me in any official results...".  It was a huge turning point in my life.

Officially finished my 1st marathon 16 months later.

Even today, I still come up against the feelings of "I don't want to train today, I just don't feel inspired or motivated to do it." and some days, those feelings win out.  But more often than not over the past 13 years, I cast my feelings and lack of motivation aside, and ask myself, "what am I committed to?" and often, the answer is pretty simple.  When you ask yourself what you're committed to, and weigh it against what you're feeling, whatever is bigger wins.  So my commitments have become huge, 'larger than me' type challenges, such that my fickle and ever-shifting feelings can be good, bad or ugly, but rarely are they bigger than my commitment to the goal.

You won't win this battle every day.  But the more you play this game, the stronger at "being your commitment" which is essentially "adhering to ones principles" instead of empowering your feelings which can change moment to moment, day to day and are as unpredictable as the weather.

What are you committed to?
*post a comment below and declare what you're committed to!