Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Running, Less Thinking = More Fun!

Back in my teens and early twenties I loved bowling.  While I despised most sport activities due to my lack of ability, I had become pretty good bowling.  This was more because of the amount of time and practice I had put in.  Let’s face it, when you live in rainy Western Washington, it was one of the few activities you could do year round. 

Because I was good at it, I enjoyed it, as simple as that.

Well, a couple of weeks back I participated in a company team build event.  This year it was bowling at the Presidio Bowl.  And while I felt competent, I was quickly tagged as the ringer.  With this added pressure, I began the first game with the humble goal of breaking 100 which I achieved.  Really, my thought was to use the first game as a warm-up, getting the cobwebs and dust off of my game, and then bowling at least 150 on the next two.  My best game ever was a 265 with most games hovering between 185 and 210.  However, that was over twenty years ago!
First 50K, pretty fun day!

Early on I quickly found my analytical side kick in. The side of me that focuses on the mechanics of the sport: weight of the ball, the angle of the ball rolling down the lane, am I lining the ball at the right spot on the lane guides, what is my stride, where do I begin that stride, etc.  This is constantly going through my brain.  And thus I lost the enjoyment of the game.

Everyone else on the team was having fun though.  1 pin hit, a round of high fives.  Two gutter balls in a row, woo hoo!  Meanwhile I was grimacing at every 9 pin set.  I reached the point where I had lost the fun of the sport.  On the third game, I finally realized what I was doing and just gave in to the fun.  While our team had one of the lowest accumulations of points we won the trophy for the team that clearly had the most fun.

One of my greatest Achilles heels is my analytical nature.  I can’t ever shut it off!  This especially happens in activities where there is the opportunity to improve.  See, while above I stated that I despised most sport activities, I put very little effort or interest into those activities.  This played a bit into my self-esteem since when I was asked (required) to participate I failed miserably.  To prevent further hurt, I would try to analyze how to improve to the point where I would overthink the activity which would further increase the likelihood of failure.

That said, running and cycling has typically been the activities that I have had no problem shutting my brain off and just participate.  In fact, I have really enjoyed this aspect, until recently.  I now find that I am again back to overthinking every aspect of these activities.
Nothing more fun than eating cow pie on a run!

The greatest drivers have been the slow creep of my weight gain and the use of programs like Strava to really see how I am failing. It was just two years ago I was running a 1:51 half marathon, now I would be good to run a 2:10 flat marathon.  Also, training also for the Diablo 50K and running more with “the guys” during that training further highlighted my insecurities.  Finally, changes with work, starting a new industry, and unlearning my old job for a new job further heightened those anxieties. 

It is funny how these insecurities have manifest themselves, especially through this blog.  I have found that my writing has migrated from the fun of running and exercise and conquering past weight issues to writing about things that I have only an analytical understanding of.  To further feed my insecurities, I have become handy with Reddit, LinkedIn, and the Runners World forums to drive readers to my posts.  I have become neurotic at checking my StatCounter (sometimes on a minute by minute basis) just to see how many page views I can accumulate.

The problem is that now running is no longer fun but something I do. 

That was until I ran the Dirty Dozen 12 hour event earlier this month.  Without a mileage target, I no longer could come up with an overly analyzed strategy.  I had to turn to forums to find out my answers instead of using them to drive traffic.  I ran with folks at the event that were just there to enjoy running.

My wife for the last few months has been asking when I just will stop and enjoy running like I used to.  At this race I finally was able to do it.  I slowed down, even took an hour just to rest, eat a hot dog and a Mexican Coca Cola, and push for the final miles.  

Canyon Meadows 30K, I love running with my wife!
So expect fewer posts from me in the coming months.  And when I do, it will probably be more about the fun of running, maybe a good run that happened, or some of the ups and downs of training for the next big event.  I will continue to use Strava but as it is meant to be for me, a training tool instead of a comparison tool.  And I will use the forums, but more as resources instead as an ego booster.

Running is definitely my best way to shut off my brain and have fun, which I will be doing more of going forward.  I will be enjoying my runs going forward.  I will always have insecurities, but I do not need to bring them to the run!  And you should see me more on the trails on those early morning runs going forward.

Time now for more running less thinking……a lot more fun!

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