Friday, February 27, 2015

Roll the Dice

'May the odds be ever in your favor'- Hunger Games

News came down this week that the Spring and Fall Superior Trail Races in Northern, MN will be switching to a lottery system.  There was much uproar about the move but as detailed in the press release it was a move that had to be made as the demand rose so fast. 

I feel fortunate to have gotten into the Spring 50K that filled up in mere hours this year.  Luckily I was stuck at my desk when it opened and was able to snag a spot. 

When I first read that they were going to move to a lottery system I, like many others, wasn't all that happy with the move.  Like many people, I plan months ahead for these races.  Whether it's the training schedule, travel or just life in general the planning starts well in advance.  Last year the Fall 100 miler was on my mind and in the works from March all the way until a few days after when my brother Paul flew back home.  

I understand, maybe better than anyone, that there are certain years when you can make a big event like that work and others where you can't.  So to have your fate held in a lottery can be distressing.
But the longer I thought about it the more I realized I am okay with the move and understand the reasoning behind it. 

It was something that had to be done as the demand to get into these races grew, and there is good reason for the demand.  John Storkamp and his crew at Rock Steady Running do a wonderful job putting these events on.  They are first-class races in every way.  The courses are well-marked and challenging, the aid stations are well stocked and full of great people and the events always run smooth and have plenty of unique swag for the runners.  

Not everyone will get into the race they want to this year or in the years to come, unfortunately that's part of the lottery process, not everyone is a winner.   I've felt that sting twice now with Western States.  This year I really felt like it was going to happen, Ali & I sat with our breakfast and coffee watching a stream of the lottery waiting to hear my name.  Three Minnesotans were pulled but not me.  It was disappointing there's no doubt about it.  But at the same time it was a lot of fun sitting there watching the lottery, making it an event, getting excited for the MN people.  

The lottery made it feel bigger, and I think that can happen with this, almost turn it into the Midwestern States.  Superior Lottery watch parties, qualifying races, if your running buddy doesn't get in, and you do maybe that opens up a volunteer opportunity, or pacing or crewing.  

And if nothing else this might be an opportunity to explore other trails and new races. 

This is all part of the evolution of trail running, as it gets more popular more and more races are moving to lottery systems and just like when your plans change in the middle of a race, we must adjust and make the best of it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finding Your Misogi

"You can't fall if you don't climb.  But there's no joy in living your whole life on the ground"- Unknown

A few weeks ago I read an article in Outside Magazine about Kyle Korver, the sharp-shooter for the Atlanta Hawks. 

Korver, and the Hawks for that matter, is having a great season.  He's got an opportunity to do something no other NBA player in the history of the game has accomplished, shooting 50% from the floor, 50% from 3pt range and 90% at the free throw line.  Not only that but Korver's Hawks are in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference and just had their 19-game winning streak snapped. 

The article in Outside, which you can read here, talked about Korver's off-season workouts.  Not the normal kind where a guy's in a gym putting up thousands of shots per day, or out on sand dunes running up and down while throwing medicine balls.  Instead it introduced the concept of Misogi.

Misogi is a Japanese concept of purifying the mind/body/spirit through some sort of physical training or exercise.  In Korver's case he and his trainer have devised a series of one day workouts that take him totally out of his comfort zone and push him past his perceived limits.  Once he's pushed past what he thought was his limit it opens the mind to what else may be possible. 

Not all of us can rent a boat in Mexico and go out hauling a rock around underwater like Korver, but there are plenty of ways to develop your own Misogi, and it doesn't have to be a once a year thing, it can be practically every day. 

Over the past few years I have been practicing this concept without having a name for it, or even really realizing I was doing it.  Stepping up from marathon to 50K, from 50K to 50 miles, running multiple Ultra's in a year, or a month, heading to Patagonia on my own without speaking any Spanish.  Pushing beyond what I thought was possible and feeling energized and a mental clarity that was beyond anything I had experienced before. 

Heading into 2015 one of my goals was to challenge myself in a different way each month, sort of a monthly Misogi.  Doesn't always have to be a race, or physical challenge, it can also be a mental one or anything that takes me out of my comfort zone. 

January's Misogi was going to Yoga on my own, something that was challenging both physically and mentally. 

I've been going to yoga on a semi-regular basis for the past 9 months but always tagging along with Ali, who helped make it easy for me.  With Ali I never had to remember what class I was going to, if I didn't know what move we were supposed to be on I could always look to her and she'd show me, she'd laugh when I groaned at the concept of more core work, and found me towels when I was drowning in my own sweat.  Plus she always put her mat next to mine to assure that I was at least splashing sweat on her and not some poor stranger. 

The benefits I've seen since starting Yoga made me want to go more and in order to do that I'd have to venture out on my own. 

My first few trips there resulted in the normal awkward moments that seem to plague me no matter where I go, dropped water bottles disturbing pre-class relaxation, forgetting which class I was attempting to take & covering the mirror and some poor strangers in my sweat. 

But without Ali there during the actual class I was really forced to learn what was going on and not just follow what she did.  It focused my mind, something that didn't always happen when I knew I could just peek at what she was doing.  I pushed myself to prove that I belong and I'm not just there with Ali.  I am still not good, but there's a reason they call it 'practicing yoga' no one is really an expert.  Everyone is trying to get better each and every day, and that's how I approach it.  So when I am standing there hands on my knees panting from exhaustion in a puddle of my own sweat while the rest of the class contorts themselves without even a glisten of perspiration, that's what I come back to, I'm practicing at my own pace. 

I am very grateful for the times I do get to go with Ali and show her what I've learned and watch how much better she is at the postures, but also to show her I know what class I'm here for...

As for next month's Misogi, we'll see what challenge bubbles to the top in the next week or so.