Friday, April 8, 2016

Celebrate the little things

In a few days I will be running the Hapalua Half Marathon. Which means I have been spending some time thinking about what will happen. What to wear. What time to leave the house. My fuel and hydration strategy. My race plan -- the big challenge of this race is the climb up Monsarrat near the end. This year's Hapalua is special in that it will be the first time Pattie and I are running in the same event. Neither of us has any illusions about finishing anywhere but near the back of the pack.

To reach the point where one can do something as physically challenging as running a half marathon requires a significant investment in training time. Even for slow runners like me. In fact, it takes more endurance to run slow. A good runner will finish in considerably less than two hours, a short enough time that fuel and hydration are not a big deal. For those of us out on the road for three hours or more, a bad fuel plan can ruin the day. Staying strong during the run up Monsarrat after two hours of hard running is a real test of endurance.

The only way to gain endurance is to endure. If all I did was run thirty minutes a day I would be cooked by the time I got back to Waikiki, and the run up Monsarrat would be out of the question.

Which brings me to a question. Given that I will not finish anywhere near the leaders, what motivates me to show up and run hard on race day? For that matter, what keeps me going day-by-day? The answer is to be found in small successes that turn up along the way.

This week I had a perfect example of just such a win. About a year ago my trainer Dorian Cuccia had me down on the floor on my back doing bridges. Anybody can do a bridge, right? Just lift your hips up as high as they will go, feet and shoulders on the floor. Hopefully your thighs and back will make at least a straight line. Maybe a bit of a curve, like on old Chinese bridge. Dorian adds a bit more challenge. Lift your spine off the floor one vertebra at a time, starting with your tail bone. Conversely, on the way down, make your spine flex so that it reaches the floor slowly, bit by bit, bone by bone, shoulders to tail bone.

A year ago I could not do this. The lift was so-so. On the way down, everything below my scapula hit the floor at the same time. Yesterday, I could do it. My spine actually rolled down onto the floor like a snake slithering down from a tree. High fives all around.

Maybe I will have a great race on Sunday. Maybe I'll blow up. I cannot know that now, and in the end it does not matter. What I can do is remind myself that a year of hard work has given me a much greater range of motion in my lower spine and strengthened my abs to where I can control the tilt of my pelvis while my legs lower me down. That is a huge win for me.

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