Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Goal

It's almost 2009?!

Three weeks have gone by since I arrived in Mammoth. I'm having trouble putting into words my feelings about my place in life right now. I'm startled somewhat by the position I've put myself in. For me I've always been puzzled by the fact that one (well, I suppose not all of us are so lucky, but speaking generally here) has so much control over his/her life in our society, yet one so rarely is aware of the power we hold over ourselves.

Its true that we often feel held back by many things, money/jobs, relationships, "the man", etc... but when I look back at the last 10 years of my life, I realize how much authority I truly did have on where and what I did. I've made the decisions to go to law school, leave law school, move to Bloomington, move to Chicago, etc. and I've not had anyone forcing me to go in any specific direction. It's kind of like when you are driving and you look in the mirror at all the stop signs, turns, and lights you passed but don't remember maneuvering. You wonder to yourself if you obeyed them at all, and then you realize that you must have, because there is a lot of traffic and you did not wreck. That's not a perfect analogy but it is close.

Because of this, I seem to have trouble recognizing the fact that I'm actually in California. I live here. I live in the mountains. I don't have a job. I am spending 3-plus hours (easily, perhaps more) a day exercising. I'm sitting alone reading books and listening to podcasts (All Songs Considered, The Moth to name a few). These things are all true, but I'm not so aware. It seems as though any day I'll go back to my regular life. But wait... this is my life! And I've guided myself here. I suppose these are pretty common feelings for someone that relocates to a place where they know no one.

Why am I sharing this on my "running blog"? I'll do my best to explain. I think one of the reasons the above is true, is that when I look at my life just three years ago, absolutely nothing about right now is how I would have planned it. I think the reason this is the case, is because the factors behind my decision-making are so much different now than they were then. (Perhaps I'll learn as I get older, that this is often the case and isn't so unusual.... but who knows?) The biggest thing that is a part of my life now, that was lacking then is running. "Runner" is probably the easiest, most accurate one-word description someone could give me. (Maybe a person or two would argue it should be asshole or stupid, but what do I know?)

I'm happy with where I've ended up. But, for some reason I'm driven to try and make a plan. Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that I think a plan has found me, and I'm not going to push it away. Those who know me best may laugh at the idea. Dan McDowell and plans? Well, I'm not exactly looking to dot every 'i' and cross every 't'; not even close. But, I do see one goal that has risen in me and seems to be the biggest influence on my decision making, and in that way I can see a recognizable plan ahead.

What is that goal? Well, let me make a few disclaimers before I share it. This is something that has been floating around in my mind for a year or so, and I have discussed it with a few close friends. And I don't think it will be a shock to anyone. But, I suppose I've been weary of laying it out publicly because it could lead to ridicule and some may think I'm not being realistic with myself. But, I will be ashamed of myself if I let that stop me from at least trying. The goal... I want to run in the United States Olympic Marathon Trials for either 2012, or 2016.

I had the privilege of running beside (and often behind, but don't take that the wrong way Paul) Claudia Becque this past season as she managed to accomplish this feat. It was inspiring to watch her during the trials in Boston. And in the weeks before, during training runs, and as I stood on the curb just off the side of the St. Charles River I knew inside how much I wanted to be part of something like that. When I went home from a Jens Lekman concert early, got up at 4am and ran 6 miles to a friend's house, just to watch the Men's trials live the November before last I knew there was a part of me that wanted in.

The thing is, I've had trouble admitting this to myself. Mainly because its a far-fetched goal. Only 134 men were able to compete for the '08 spots (which happened in '07) and the time requirements have been made more difficult since then. The men who have been in this field are all much faster than me. They are now, and they were when they were 14. And perhaps, I will never get close to being at that level, but I think I'll find joy in going for it either way. So, if you are inclined to pity me for thinking I have a shot, don't. I'll be happy in the pursuit, and if I'm lucky enough to reach the goal, that will simply be icing on the cake.

So, while most of that is probably too self-absorbed for anyone to get through, it makes me feel a bit better to get it off my chest. I'm aiming to go to the trials. I may have to take a half-hour off of my PB, but I'm going for it. I've already taken 28 minutes off of my debut time. So, does any of this have a practical meaning?

Days and Nights in Mammoth Without a Job

Training is all too easy when you have all day to accomplish your day's goals. So while I would certainly like a job, I'll appreciate the good parts of this in the meantime. I have been running twice a day. I usually get the first one in around 10am after the sun has warmed things up a bit. I do the second run around 3:45 so I will finish before the sun tucks behind the mountain and the temperature plummets. This has finally gotten my mileage above the century mark. I've also found a few 30 to 45 minute core workouts that I do every other day. Rabbit and Coach Leach would be proud. No Tunisian Circuit yet though... sorry Coach!

My routes vary, but they do have one thing in common, they are hillier than Chicago, and much, much higher. The breathing doesn't come quite as easily. I've also become much more accustomed to doing some of my runs at a significantly lower pace than usual. Many of my routes are variants of the ones posted at RunMammoth. The views are quite beautiful. I often run with a mantra of "power from the mountains" and i know this is silly. But after living most of my life in the midwest, I still am not used to them.

I live in an A-frame right in the center of town with two other bachelors (one in his 30's and one in his late 20's). There is great public transportation here even though only 8,000 people live here because the local economy is based on the ability for people here to get to the main lodge and ski, snowboard, or mountain bike (in the summer). A 5 minute walk puts me on the bus and a 10 minute ride takes me to my gym where I do runs when the snow and wind is too much.

While running on a treadmill often makes me feel that I'm not getting the best out of my workout, I did get a confidence boost the other day. I finished a workout and headed to the locker room. Inside I met Ryan Hall and spoke briefly. I was an idiot, but he was nice. As I left I noticed he was running on a treadmill just a few spots away from the one I used. This is really silly, but it did help me to realize, that if its good enough for the most elite in my sport it has to be good enough for me. I've met a few other elites here, and I have to say they've all been extremely humble.

I'll be racing a 5k in San Diego on 12/29 so I'll probably check in again after that, and hopefully I'll already have progress to report.

Away from running I've spent most of my time reading and listening to music. On that note, I've been meaning to write on here about some of the music and books I'm most passionate about, but I've never taken the time. So, be warned, I may do that over the next few days. In the meantime I want to share this video with you. It's the group M83. I really love watching and listening to the first song as they perform it live. One of my favorite moments of 2008's music. While I'm at it, let me quickly say that Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago is my vote for best album of the year. And yes, I know it was released in a smaller fashion in 2007.

So yeah... for whatever this has been worth... good winter to you.


Nathan Shipley said...

"...has so much control over his/her life in our society, yet one so rarely is aware of the power we hold over ourselves."

Aside from the Olympics and running, I relate to this. Good post! (Which I read all of.)

Nettie said...

A-ha, now it all makes sense! That's a grand goal, but that's what goals should be, eh? :)

Schmoil said...

Hey Dan, it's Sam - I think it is extremely amazing that you're going for the trials! Right the fuck on! And if you send me your address, you will find both M83 and Bon Iver featured prominently!

Schmoil said...

Sorry, that last sentence was incomplete... I meant to say they would feature prominently on the CDs I'll be sending you. You probably would have figured it out either way...

Silly Cymberlin said...

Sam I'll get you my address as soon as I have a PO box!

Can't wait to hear the discs!

Schmoil said...

I'm an asshole - just realized I already asked for your address a while back and you answered the exact same way! Oops... sorry to be annoying! Anyway, what a great performance of Kim and Jessi... this is M83's best album, and they've all been really, really good. Thanks for posting the video!

Sarah and Kieran said...

Loved your "goal" post...very inspirational! I am confident that you will achieve it, you are an awesome runner and I like reading about your triumphs. please keep it up...even when you are a big time celeb/olympic medalist. :)

Have a great holiday!
Sarah Fransene

Silly Cymberlin said...


Good to hear from you. Thanks for your kind words. I hope you are having a great holiday in Chicago (or wherever you are celebrating!)