The Process of Process is Process

The process of process is process.

I first heard this statement on the Rich Roll podcast right after I moved to Colorado, and soon after I had less eloquently learned the concept through life. To me, this quote encompasses everything. The awareness of putting one foot in front of the other (both literally and metaphorically) being the process that we follow to reach our goals. I live it, but I often forget it. Focusing on the goal, or the day, but often lose track of where it fits into the process. The process of growth. The process of becoming a better runner/person/scientist. Also, realizing that multiple process are occurring concurrently that we must balance to persevere.

Whether it has been running or school or work, I continually find myself pushing through self doubt and the edges of my fitness/knowledge to perform. It’s the days I am aware of the process that are the most fulfilling.  The days where I look at the growth from the past and not my current state where I am continuously at the edge of reason, but instead how far I have pushed that edge out into the unknown. The days where I can appreciate the process of the process: how I structured my day, my ability to piece together facts to move a conversation forward, or my gait/cadence on a run. Mostly it’s the appreciation that each of these events are not occurring in a vacuum, but as part of many processes that are occurring simultaneously.

Today I am standing on the precipice of my next race. The first race that I had intended to care about this year. Four months ago I signed up and established a plan that I had hoped to follow. For 16 weeks I have run faster and farther than I have in a long time. I celebrated the victories and dwelled on the defeats.

I developed a time goal at the beginning of training, but more importantly I developed a purpose for signing up for this marathon. I spent the last year of running, haphazardly traveling around the country and world exploring the mountains. While I had a blast, saw some amazing things, and met some amazing people, I lost track of the process required to stay healthy. As my training began, my legs were tight, my knees hurt, and my speed was lacking. I could barely jump over a basketball. The purpose of training was to learn how to run again, to remember how to try, to find my inner O’Doyle again. The time goal: qualify for the Boston Marathon which last year would require me to run a 3:07:52.

I’ve run two marathons around this pace in the past both at the Surf City Marathon in Orange County. In 2012 I blew up at mile 22 and ran 3:08:33. In 2013 I blew up at mile 24 and ran a 3:03:24 (Qualifying for Boston but missing the cut-off by two seconds once all was said and done). Before beginning this adventure I looked back over my training for those two races and set three goals for my training plan. Run 50 miles a week, gain about 4,000′ of elevation, and have an average pace of my runs under 8:00/mile. Long story short. I failed. Three times. But I still won.

1. Mileage

I am not a high volume runner.

If there is one thing that has always plagued me in training, it has been consistency. I assumed there was no way I would run 50 miles a week for 12 weeks because I have never done it more than 3 times in a row. It turns out in the last 12 weeks, I couldn’t even do it once. I did back to back 40+ miles weeks twice, but couldn’t even hit that B goal. Even so, I was ahead of the total mileage I ran for both of my last two marathons until the last week when travel and snow cut a few out.

Result: 425 miles our of 600 miles. Grade: C-

Shoe goals.

2. Elevation

Nothing is flat in CO. The down weeks were all travel based lows.

My elevation goal in training was more based around the fact that the CO Marathon descends 2,000′ over 26.2 miles. I found out in St. George that this can destroy your legs, and since there are no guarantees of popsicles this time,  I knew that I knew I needed to get a lot of downhill miles in; what goes up, must come down. I also have plans to run a 50k in a month and I needed some elevation so I wasn’t starting at zero with that one.

This goal was the closest to being successful because nothing in Colorado is flat. Early in my training I helped get the PlayGldn band back together to run hills on Thursday mornings, then in the final weeks of my Lakewood residence, I added more hills nearby. Since these are all based on my watch, this data is far from accurate. Twice on my long runs, I know my watch added an additional 500-1000′, but I’m going to count them anyway.

Result: 41,400′ out of 48,000′. Grade: B

Running hill repeats with fast friends keeps you honest.

3. Pace

I spent a lot of time drooling over my 2012 and 2013 splits. I didn’t realize I was so fast!

Ha ha ha. Who the fuck do you think you are? Averaging an 8 minute pace? Are you kidding me? It’s not as bad as this looks, because I spent a lot of these minutes just standing around (or sometimes doing push-ups) at November Project, but needless to say I’m not as fast as I thought I was.

About a week ago I was talking with a coworker about my race plans and he asked me how many miles I had run at marathon pace or faster. My guess would be about 20 :-/ Nine we at the Gasparilla 15k, four were at the Dino Ridge Relays, and then maybe I squeezed 7 other 7:05 miles in there. If I’m generous, 10 of them. So yeah, I didn’t train fast to run fast. The good news is, I did get faster. The average effort it took me to reach these speeds declined significantly. My two race events retrained me to tap into adrenaline and my PED laced Bell genes to out race my training.

Result: I don’t know how to calculate how bad I failed at this one, but Grade: D.

If this is what a D looks like, do I even want an A?

Back to the Process of Process

So here I am. 24 hours from finishing this race. I have “failed” in all of my training goals. My fitness is at the edge of reason for my time goal that I have set for myself, but I look back at the last 16 weeks as a success. While the numbers don’t match up, I have fit my running into the rest of my life which has been filled to the brim with work, friends, and family. There has been stress and change, but I am developing a functional process to integrate it all together.

While my knees still hurt, I still can’t gracefully walk down the stairs in my new house, and I’m not as fast as I was four years ago, I feel better about where I was at the start of this adventure. I am reestablishing a running process that fits within the systems of my life. I’m remembering how to try and how to balance my time and time-goals so that running remains fun; even the long ones.

Last year I focused on the process without really having any goals. Running was fun, but without the goal, it lacked structure and allowed my awareness of the details to falter. I was just kind of existing in a space of my current abilities. I think this was due to settling into Colorado, settling into a new group of friends, and settling into a new relationship. My known world had changed so much that I needed to come to terms with where I was. Before I could get to the edge, I had to define the center.

At the beginning of this year, I felt comfortable with my base, and the people and places has solidified enough that I could start trying again. So I creeped to the edge of my known world and set some goals. By setting a goal, again, one that I doubt I will be able to reach tomorrow, I got myself back to the edge of my comfort zone, to the place where the sidewalk ends. It took longer than I expected, but once at that edge, I started taking steps again. Pushing back out into the unknown. At times I got scared and pulled back, at times I tried to take another step, but was too exhausted, so I retreated back to the comfort of the known. But with each step forward, and each step back I started establishing a new process of growth. Both in running and in life.

These steps forward and back became one of my processes. A process that integrates more into the rest of the processes than ever has in the past. So yeah, I might not meet my time goal tomorrow, but I have already succeeded. Succeeded in getting back to the edge of reason again.

But I’m not going to rest on my laurels and claim victory prior to the battle. I have always been able to out race my training. It’s in my genes to do this shit. Like the Little Engine the Could once famously said, “I think I can.” #OdoyleRules

Winter and road training are over. Friends make them both bearable. To the trails!

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