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Perseverance and 2013 Goal Setting
Sunday, 06 January 2013 15:09
Last Updated on Sunday, 31 March 2013 06:21
Written by Jay
Since I took a little hiatus from blogging I have a lot to say but I want to start by talking about the amazing experience I had this past week at the Hopi Tribe in Tuba City, AZ. I was honored to be chosen as one of the featured speakers for the runner’s forum. When the schedule of events came out I quickly learned that I would be following the only American to ever win a gold medal in the 10,000 meter at the Olympic Games Billy Mills. I was already blown away that I was asked to be a speaker but I have to say I was slightly nervous to be following an Olympic legend. I was a little worried about how my presentation would go but since I was talking about my transformation from a 275 pound male grieving from the loss of a father into an ultra-runner I thought the words will flow right out of my mouth. I sat and listened to Billy Mills speak and we watched the most inspiring video of him go from third place in the final 30 meters to win the gold and from that moment on I as inspired and ready to talk. He spoke of perception and perseverance and I realized it is these two items that have long held me back and I need to not worry about perception in life or running and just be myself. I want to share with you the story Billy shared with us regarding perception.
It is no uncommon to hear people refer to the Native American culture as a society that suffers from diabetes and alcoholism. While this may be the case for some individuals, it is one of the biggest generalizations people can make. In 1992 Billy was attending the Barcelona Olympics with his daughter and while sitting at a restaurant the video came on ESPN showing him cross the finish line of the 10,000 meter run and win the gold medal. After the video played a couple of guys next to him and his daughter remarked that “that was the Indian guy who had come back to win the 10,000 meter in 1964 but they couldn’t think of his name. “ The one friend said” yes, I remember seeing that; it was amazing. “What was his name again?” Neither one of the guys could remember his name and Billy’s daughter who idolized him said “dad, tell them that’s you and your name is Billy Mills.”
Prerace with Tere Zacher and the Tarahumara
Billy was never worried about being famous and just let the conversation go on but then one of the friends asked “what ever happened to that guy after he won the gold medal?” The other friend responded “I heard he is an alcoholic and has been in and out of rehab his whole life trying to straighten out.” This infuriated Billy’s daughter because she had never seen he dad drink a drop of alcohol and they were talking about her idol, her dad. She said “dad, you have to tell them who you are and that you don’t even drink.” She said “I’ve never had a drop of alcohol in my life because I’ve never see you have one in yours.” Finally Billy had enough and leaned over to the gentleman and said the runners name is Billy Mills. They asked if he knew Billy and he said “as a matter of fact I do know Billy, my name is Billy Mills.” Calmly Billy explained that the guys had their perception all wrong about him as a person and while he may have left the lime life after the Olympic he was not an alcoholic in and out of rehab. The gentleman apologized and went on their way feeling quite embarrassed but the truth was their perception is the same as so many others had about him and other Native Americans. I bring this story up because perception is huge and often the perception of others and the negative perception we have about ourselves plays a huge impact on our life and our performance. We need to overcome and look past obstacles that stand in our way and go get our goals. I for one have always put different obstacles in the way of my goals just so I could tell myself it was okay to fail. Not this year, not anymore.
For those of you who have not seen the amazing comeback from Billy Mill’s 1964 Gold Medal race in Toyko check this out:
Speaking in front of an audience has never been much of an obstacle for me but I did have a moment about five years back when I just went blank as I stood up on the stage. This was completely different because I was talking about my life, and what it took for me to be able to run 923 straight days. They didn’t bring me there to teach people to be streak runners; they brought me there to tell my story of perseverance. I probably wasn’t ever meant to be a runner, in fact I had never ran a day in my life until four years ago but I overcame the death of my father and 100 pounds of extra weight to become a runner. I stood up there and explained that running isn’t easy and it takes time to build up strength and endurance but we all have it in us to do it if we choose too. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, what size you are, or how athletically inclined one is, it matters how big your heart is when you lace up your shoes. I have failed many a times running because my mind beat my body but as I told my audience I won’t let it happen again. Telling the story of how I started running was both emotional and physically tough because every time I speak of my father’s passing at the age of 58 it seems to overwhelm me. Physically I felt sick to my stomach and emotionally I won’t ever stop believing that someday he will return and until he does I will be partially broken. I felt his presence for the last mile of my first 100 mile run and I feel his presence every morning when I step outside but on day 923 I felt like I could scale Everest with him by my side.
Telling my story to an audience allowed me to battle the emotions that have building up since my original streak ended and as I spoke the details that I was missing for my book seemed clear as day. I could go back to the day when my brother called me and said my dad was gone and I could feel again in my heart just how difficult of a moment it was. I trembled at the thought of talking to my mom after she lost her husband of 36 years and I could feel the anxiety run through my body as I spoke of his patience when I ventured into trouble as a teenager. It is tough to stand up on a stage and look 50 plus people in the eyes and tell them exactly what you did wrong in your life but what wasn’t tough was telling them what I learned from it. I had such a captive audience and as I saw the heads nod in agreement with my struggles as a teenager I could feel the audience picturing themselves in my body and going through a similar circumstance. We have all had moments of failure, terror, anxiety, and trouble in our lives but it is how you overcome these moments that truly matters. Standing on a stage explaining to an audience that I tried to drink and take enough anxiety pills every night to make my mind numb was not easy but I could see in their eyes that they’ve been there too or that they understood just how I was feeling. To me my story is not a running story but a story of life and that is why I have been writing my book for the last year. My goal for writing this book is for the reader to be able to filter out the running and realize it just takes a few changes and an open mind to overcome bad circumstances. My book is close to being complete but as I left the stage the other day and finished telling my story I now know exactly how it ends.
My journey was not just as a speaker this week but I had the rare opportunity to race with the Tarahumura, talk to some inspiring athletes including Gold Medalist Billy Mills, Nike sponsored Olympic Trials runner Alvina Begay, world Champion swimmer and Olympic Trial hopeful Tere Zacher, and Ironman finisher Caroline Mei-Ling Sekaquaptewa. I learned so much by hearing them speak and it is amazing the inspiration you can take away from a forum like the Hopi tribe put on. I would encourage anyone interested in running or looking for some help finding inspiration to sign up and attend next year. The raw emotion of the attendees and the inspiration of watching so many go out and run really made me question what has been holding me back when racing.
We all sit around and set our goals for the following year around New year’s and while I’ve always been reluctant to start anything on January 1st in the past I thought this year I would give it a go in the month of January and see what happens. I have always felt it is better to start something on some random day than to pick the day where everyone sets themselves up to fail with the New Year’s resolutions of losing weight, saving money, find love, be more active and several others that no one ever seems to be able to keep. I saw a quote the other day that said “My goal is to not gain any weight during the holidays.” Why not apply that to the rest of the year and allow yourself to enjoy the holiday season? Most likely you’re going to over eat a little, drink a little more than normal, and have fun but if that only occurs for two weeks out of the year versus 52 weeks out of the year it really won’t affect you. Why I feel the need to go and on and on about this I don’t know but I think it is because I want people to succeed in their goals but I don’t think January 1st is the day to start. I’m okay with the 2nd but it’s time to go outside the box and really hold yourself accountable for your actions instead of accepting failure like everyone else by mid-January.
Anyways I have put some thought into what I would like to accomplish this year with my running and in life and so I decided to race less and enjoy the races I sign up for more. I have always signed up for one race a month since I started running a few years ago and frankly it has lost its luster. I would wake up on race day and wish I was just going out for a 30 mile training run instead of going to race. Just so you get an idea of what I’m talking here was my race schedule from last year.
1) Bandera 100K Trail Championships
2) PF Changs Marathon – pacing
3) Grandpa Jim’s 50K
4) San Tan Scramble 50K
5) Nueces 50M Trail Championships
6) Mountain to Fountain 15K
7) Zane Grey 50M
8) San Diego 100M
9) Speedgoat 50K
10) Pine to Palm 100M
11) Cave Creek Thriller 25K
12) Mesa Turkey Trot 10K
13) CIM Marathon
While for some of you that doesn’t seem like a lot of racing it really took a toll on me mentally because I was having trouble getting excited for my races. I felt like every month there was a bigger race than the month before and the ones I really wanted to go after I didn’t have much left in the tank to complete. I went after Bandera, Speedgoat and Pine to Palm 100 and ended up DNFing P2P100 which was my first ever DNF. I didn’t DNF because I ran out of energy, I was sick for 25 miles and couldn’t recover but maybe if I wasn’t trying to kill myself every month with a tough race I would have been able to fight through the pain. I had some good races and I had some poor races but ultimately I didn’t find myself to be into the races as much as I had been in years past. So this year I will only be doing select races and while I often say I’m using a race as a training run it never seems to work out that way and I put way too much pressure on myself. So without further ado here is my cut down schedule for 2013.
1) Castle Hot Springs 22M – January 5th, finished 1st in 2:47:25
2) Phoenix Marathon – I will go sub 3 if it takes me collapsing at the finish line
3) 3 Days of Syallmo – this is a 50K the first day, 50M the second day, and 20K the third day.
4) Miwok 100K – This is my “A” race for the year and I would like to break 9:30 hours
5) Speedgoat 50K
6) Pike’s Peak Marathon
7) Mogollon Monster 100M – 24 hours or bust
I will incorporate pacing for Traci along the way at a couple marathons to get her a Boston qualifier but I’m going to take a year and really work on improving my times. For the past few years my running has been all about my dad and running 923 straight days with 4 miles and while I will continue to run for my dad I will now start to really challenge myself. Running 923 days for my dad was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and while I’m often asked if I regret breaking the streak and taking a day off the answer will always be “NO”. The streak wasn’t about me and without feeling my dad’s presence every morning to get me out of bed there is no way I would ever have come close to accomplishing my goal. I took September 24th off and it was the best thing I have done. The day off did absolutely nothing to help my body recover but it did allow me to reflect on the man that made me what I am today. While I have ran 104 days straight since taking my day off I am now doing it because this is how I feel most comfortable training. I will get told that I would run faster if I took at least one day off per week but moderation has never been my strong suit so you can expect that I will knock out at least four miles every day in 2013.
Goals for 2013
1) Be a great dad and husband
2) Finish writing the ending to my book.
3) I’m on month 3 of being vegetarian and I will make it through 2013 without meat
4) Break the 3 hour mark in the marathon
5) Run at least 4 miles every day of 2013
6) Change my mind set when I toe the starting line
7) Finish every race the same way I start the race. Strong from beginning to end.
8) Run at least 3650 Miles (Last year I went 3874)
9) Pace Traci to a Boston qualifier
10) Pick up a sub 24 hour buckle from the Monster
11) Break the 9:30 mark in the 100K distance at Miwok
My year started off well yesterday with a strong race at Castle Hot Springs where my goal was to run under 3 hours for the course and I was able to go 2:47 and some change thanks to the pacing of my coach John Reich. It has been a while since I won a race and even though it took a guy getting lost at the end and John holding back for me to win, a win is a win. John probably would have ran a 2:30 or so on the course but he was there to pace me and show me that I was capable of running a strong race from beginning to the end. This was not an easy course with over 2500 feet of elevation gain and never a great chance to get a rhythm running since the ups were often too steep to power through fast and the downs didn’t seem to last very long before you were going back up hill again. We lead this race from the beginning through mile 19 when I started to feel tight in my glutes but a couple nice down hills brought me back at the end and allowed us to cross the line first. The race directors put on an awesome race at a beautiful location and the course is extremely challenging. I would highly recommend this race to anyone next year looking to improve their endurance and become a stronger runner. This may sound crazy to some but I am associating a 7:38 pace on a course like that with a sub three hour marathon so I am now confident that come the 2nd of march I will cross the finish line in under three hours. For the rest of my goals they will take hard work and a lot of effort but no matter what it takes I will help Traci get that Boston Qualifier she has worked so hard to get, and I know with the right training and mindset I will hit each of my goals for 2013.
3 days of Syallmo
Caroline Mei-Ling Sekaquaptewa
Castle Hot Springs
Cave Creek Thriller
Grandpa Jim's 50K
Mogollon Monster 100
Pike's Peak Marathon
Pine to Palm 100
San Diego 100
San tan Scramble 50K
Zane Grey 50M
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