Monday, May 29, 2017

Shit Happens

In 2016, 72-year-old Wally Hesselfine narrowly missed the 30-hour cutoff at Western States by crossing the finish line 2 minutes late.  In 2015, 70-year-old Gunhild Swanson crossed the line with 6 seconds to spare. Running does amazing things to keep the body young.  And according to Dr. Jordan D. Metzl's article "The Incredible Medicine of Movement" in the Special edition of Time: The Science of Exercise, "Exercise is a miracle drug."  He goes on to say, "It works for everyone who takes it, young or old, and if done correctly, it has few or no negative side effects.  Every dose is 100% effective - even the small ones.  It's the most powerful, readily available drug in the world.  And it's free."

But, shit happens.  One thing that happens is age.  So many of us take our health and our ability to run for granted.  We wake up and decide that we simply are not going to exercise today, or postpone the planned run because something else takes priority.  But others would literally die to trade their bodies for our capable ones.  I get my high energy and active choices from my mother.  When I was young, she was on her feet and busy before I woke up, and still up and doing things far after I went to bed. My father's nickname for her was "Speedy" because she was always busy.  But, age happens.  My mother is 82-years-old and unable to walk to the mailbox.  She has the heart and mental state of a much younger woman, but her body is not cooperating - and that sucks.  When I am faced with the decision of "To exercise, or not to exercise," I think of my mother and realize that one day, that decision may not be mine to make anymore.

And, I think of my dear friend Shelly Austin Hoover who is fighting a strong fight against ALS.  Shelly must constantly adjust her "exercise" routine as her body parts aggressively refuse to cooperate and no longer function under her control.  Lately, her tasks center around delicately maneuvering her fork to her mouth during meals.  Life happens - and it sucks.  But we adjust and focus on what we do have under our control

Clint and Becca, BTR 2017
And adjustment and adaptation are exactly what Clint is facing, with only 26 days left before his big Western States debut. After a three-week hiatus to deal with life, I finally met with Clint again to get an update on his progress and training.  My daughter and I spent an hour with Clint, Becca, and Halle Saturday afternoon. He was still suffering from BTR Blues, but took time out of his weekend to share with me the recent adaptations to his training plan. The last few of my blogs have mentioned the battle that Clint has been waging against his arthritis-ridden knees.  Clint is a tough guy and can more than handle pain.  He's not a whiner or one to make excuses.  But life has happened.  And he's going to do whatever it takes to make the trek from Squaw to the Placer High school track.

With surgery and medical procedures out of the question, Clint returned to his roots and experts.  He went back to his "country folk"  and is now using a non-medical cream on his knees; the same cream used on racehorses.  It has the same properties that seem to attack the exact symptoms Clint deals with in his knees: arthritis, inflammation, pain.  And to preserve the damage to the knees by reducing the amount of friction and bone-to-bone contact, Clint also made drastic changes to his training plan.

Heat training after the beer mile.
Traditional training plans for the 100-mile race include increasing weekly mileage that currently ranges between 70 to 140 miles per week, depending on the elite status of the runner. But Clint consulted with others in the know and has adjusted to lower mileage, with higher intensity workouts.  His term of choice is "Balls out effort."  The adjusted training routine includes two days in the gym at The Ranch with strength workouts supervised by Seth Kotelnicki, one day of hiking or easy runs in elevation, and three days of high intensity running workouts.  "The workouts are not fun.  I'm not throwing up, but it's not like the long training runs that you can dial back when you aren't feeling it." For example, this weekend he is running three consecutive 5Ks at race pace with a ten minute break in between.   "Physically I'm feeling great.  My knees are much better.  I'm not pain free, but the adjustments have helped a lot.  My challenge is mental.  I'm not used to the low mileage training.  I need to trust that this training is going to get me over the hill."

Heat training is another adjustment to Clint's current training plan.  When temperatures flirted with triple digits last week, he kept sweats on while working in the yard.  He doesn't turn the air conditioner on in his car nor at work.  "This year we are going to experience the first 30 miles dealing with snow, and will probably end with typical summer heat."

But the best medicine that Clint did for himself and Becca was to sign up for the 4-day Born to Run Ultramarathons.  It was immediately obvious that his mindset, mood, spirit and attitude were uplifted and rejuvenated by spending time with his BTR and Dirtbag Runner family. "My confidence about States ramped up after being with 'my people.'  It may sound corny, but I feel like my soul has been cleansed. "  He was surrounded with positive energy, down-to-earth people, memorable shenanigans, and never ending availability of beer.

Both of his pacers, Tyler and Peter, traveled from Colorado for this annual event. They were so positive and motivating about their role in Western States.  Clint and Tyler were practically joined at the hip.  Luis Escobar, the man who puts on the race, was drinking beer right alongside them for most of the shenanigans.  He even helped Clint with heat and strength training by riding on Clint's back at the end of the infamous Beer mile.

A smaller group of BTR campers continued the love into Monday for an After Party Beach Camp Out. It seems everyone involved in Clint's quest for the prize buckle are sending positive energy his way, and Clint is doing his part by adjusting to all that life throws his way. And you can bet that Clint will be feeling the love when he runs into various members of his BTR and Dirtbag Runner family members lining the trail and keeping him motivated.

Sometimes, really good shit happens.

#seeyouinsquaw in 26 days.

1 comment:

  1. Well written AGAIN Sylvia. It certainly sounds like, if the support group has anything to say about him finishing Western States, he'll make it! It amazes me what goes into something like preparing for this race.