New Challenges – New Perspectives

Onward I goAbout three weeks ago, a fear most athletes have came true when I had my first major injury.  My training had been going very well and I had just started incorporating some mountain training.  I was hoping that it was just a slight strain–something that would go away with some rest or reduced training.  Yet deep inside I knew it was probably something worse.  Over the five years I have been running regularly, only once had an injury occurred and it was just something the set me back for a week or so–nothing serious.  When this injury happened, the pain and severity was quite different than anything I ever experienced.  Immediately I went to several medical/athletic websites to try to figure out what the injury may be.  The symptoms lead me to believe it was a type 2 (maybe a type 1) tear of my left medial gastrocnemius aka the upper inside part of my left calf.  On the recommendation of a physiotherapist I got an ultrasound that confirmed that it was indeed a type 2 tear.  That meant 4-6 weeks of recovery–right in the middle of my training for my 100 mile race in late October.  Not what I was hoping…

The good news is that prior to this injury, I had been focusing on many ways to improve my life, attitude, performance, etc.  Several books I read had large sections focusing on the power of a positive mental attitude–no matter the situation.  When the news hit that I had to stop running for over a month, my positive perspective was that this would make me stronger and with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease, I would gain some new skills that will ultimately make me a better runner.

The doctors and physiotherapists all agreed that I could continue to walk.  With that, I set out to become an efficient power walker.  Using many websites, photos, and videos, I learned some tips to improve my pace as a walker which is immensely useful in ultramarathons.  During the Keys 100, I think one of my assets was my ability to walk at a faster clip than most, allowing me to make up a lot of ground in the second half of the race.

Over the past 3 weeks, my walking has improved by leaps and bounds.  It reminds me of when I first started to learn how to run regularly.  I am pretty sure that my form is not legal for the competitive speed walkers but I am definitely not running.  Any motion that is close to running still bothers my calf.  When I walk, my feet land on the heels and roll to the front.  Plus, I am much less fatigued even after walking for 60-90 minutes compared to running.

My adjusted view is this:  I know that I will not be able to match or beat my Keys 100 time at the Javelina Jundred (20:28) but the whole purpose of this race is for the experience and to run a qualifier for entry to the Western States 100.  The only requirement is that I finish under 30 hours.  I am confident that I can walk 100 miles in under 30 hours.  While my running fitness will not be where I want it going into the race, my hope is to have enough in the tank to give it a 50/50 or even a 75/25 run/walk ratio.

Beyond this new power walking ability I am honing, I have been focusing on increased flexibility especially in areas that have been neglected during my years of running.  Also, I have (finally) started to learn how to practice mindful meditation.  It has been a goal of mine for numerous years but I never made the time to learn or try.  In addition, I am working on increasing strength in the supporting areas of the body for running–better balance, posture, and range of motion.

The funny thing out of all of this is that I am not worried or scared.  I have a feeling of peacefulness that tells me I am learning and improving myself.  This is exactly where I should be despite it not being my chosen path.  In a zen-like approach, I am not focusing on what might happen and wishing I could change the past.  Right here is where I want to be.


The Charity Dilemma

wellFor most of my conscious life I have considered myself a caring person.  In fact a pillar of my identity is the desire to help others.  In my adult existence, I have donated a considerable amount of clothes and items to those less fortunate.  I volunteered to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity in Nigeria.  Yet, I have always battled with the concept of giving money.  Many times I come across people begging in the street.  It is very difficult to determine whether a simple handout of money will help or not.  Is this money going to be used to feed and/or clothe or will it simply be used for destructive purposes.  The mental battle not to judge arises as well.  Things have been compounded as my daughters have grown a little older.  They ask me all the time why a person is asking me for money.  Generally I respond by telling them the different possibilities but also stress that simply asking for handouts is not the preferred route.  The message I convey to them is that work is always available, you have to be willing to do it.  What I will do is hand out food to those asking for change.  If they are truly desperate, they gladly take my offering but some refuse.

cleanwaterOn the other side of the coin, I do live a fortunate life and have money to spare–not that I am rich by any means–just a normal middle class life.  I have tried to donate to organizations in the past but then find out how little of the money goes to the efforts they claim to support.  It has paralyzed me to not give out money at all–until now.  Recently on my favorite podcast–The Rich Roll Podcast–there was an episode with Scott Harrison who started Charity Water.  I was greatly moved by the message of this charitable organization.  First, their battle is to bring clean water to the over 663 million people around the globe who have no access to a clean source.  Second, their model is completely transparent in which we as donors can see exactly where all the money goes.  They have 100% open books for their financials and do not keep any extra portion of the donations.  Their operating costs are completely covered by private donors.  They have even teamed with Google so you can track the status of the well(s) in which you contributed to see its status.

openbookFinally, and this blew me away, they have generated this concept of “Pledging Your Birthday”.  Instead of receiving gifts (almost all of which we do not really need), you can ask your family and friends to donate to this charity instead.  Some people use their age to be in dollars as the amount to ask and others just say donate whatever amount you would have spent.  I was very moved by this especially after hearing stories of children aged 7 donating their birthdays.  Can you believe that??!!  A child that age who is so wrapped up in the concept of getting new toys, dolls, gadgets, etc. being willing to forgo it all to help others. Wow! On top of that, I have been going through a slow transformation in the past several years of trying to minimize my life’s possessions.  When birthdays and holidays come around, I really do not wish to receive more “stuff”.  I am truly grateful for those thinking of me, but at age 42, I can honestly say I have everything I need (and more) materially.  My next birthday (unfortunately 11 months away) will be pledged.

100Maybe I buried the lede with this charity but you ask why water?  According to what I learned diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence including war.  In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.  Clean water helps keep kids in schools, especially girls.  Less time collecting the water means more time in class.  Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa.  When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back.  They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures.

gpsI am fully aware that a post like this is way of the beaten path for me but I am excited over this project.  Personally, I am going to start contributing using their monthly subscription model.  According to their model, it only costs $30 to bring clean water to a person.  It is my hope that some of you will see this in the same light I did and feel comfortable to finally have an outlet to give and feel confident you are truly helping your fellow human.