Friday, October 29, 2010

The Grossman Motivation Series Part 4

These are great motivation pieces written by a great runner, Eric Grossman. I had to copy these from Running Times just for my own record in case this is ever removed from the site. LOVE IT! You can find it by clicking here or just read below.

One of my earliest crushes was a demure small-featured girl who visited my neighborhood each weekend. Whitney’s father shared custody of the children, including two younger brothers: Joel and Jamie. I imagine the quarters were small. In any case, we spent our time outside, where Joel and I had plenty of space to goof around. Our partnership worked well: He got to play with an older boy, and I could lose my inhibitions long enough to catch Whitney’s attention with our crazy antics.

I knew it was working when I ran continuous laps around the block with Joel riding piggyback. Each time I crossed in front of the house Whitney sang out from the porch: “I think you’re really loony but you’re really loony-toony.” We eventually established that we liked each other. I don’t remember if we ever defined our relationship, but I remember one summer that Whitney spent away. For a long time I kept a box of all the letters she wrote me during that time.

We had at least one date. Whitney went to Collegiate School in Louisville and she invited me to a school dance. It must have been semi-formal, because I remember being dropped off at the home of her mother and stepfather and waiting at the door feeling utterly self-conscious in my borrowed brown sport coat. Thank heavens for the beneficence of the older generation, who can casually intervene when middle school becomes unbearably awkward. Will, Whitney’s stepfather, opened the door, pipe in hand, and ushered me in. “Your outfit is a symphony of brown,” he stated. The ice broken, he kept up the cheery banter throughout our dinner.

Too bad he didn’t go to the dance with us. I won’t linger long on the gory details. Just picture a half-lit wall with a line-up of gangly overdressed preteens pressing backwards like they wish they could disappear and pop through to the other side. We wished we could cut loose. Someone had collected good dance tracks. “Rock Lobster” echoed across the empty dance floor. We were completely constrained by our self-consciousness. We needed a Joel to run across the floor and slide on his knees to seize the hand of a partner. He could have dragged her off the wall. When “No Parking on the Dance Floor” played, he would have the perfect excuse to pry the rest of us off.

That’s the lesson in motivation: When the music plays, you dance. There’s no room for reflecting on it. Think of how different the dance floor looks when you are on it, dancing, compared to when you stand pensively beside it. You stand by the dance floor because you don’t want others to see how silly you might look. Dancing from the middle of the floor, the music fills your body and you move with it and with the people around you. You stop thinking about how others will view you and you just are. You are less self-conscious and therefore more yourself.

Your continued motivation depends upon your ability to perform to your potential. High-level performance depends upon achieving the state of mind in which you are the performance and nothing else. To achieve this, you will need to have developed the habit of complete focus and engagement with the task at hand. This Holy Grail of sports psychology may be best known as “the zone.” When you are in the zone, you have a heightened awareness of salient sensory information (baseball pitchers, for example, see a larger strike zone), and you become less aware that time is passing. You move fluidly, without hesitation. You are “lost” in the moment, but, ironically, just when you stop thinking about yourself, the best you can perform.

You can find lots of prescriptions for reaching the zone. These are like diets. If they worked, we’d stop hearing about them. The problem is, we are working against antagonistic forces. In the case of diets, we are working against the biological imperatives to stock up and the environmental triggers to consume. In the case of reaching the zone, we are working against the biosocial need to fit in. With the exception of sociopaths, we have all been equipped with psychological mechanisms for alerting us to the potential scorn of our peers. How hard will you work to avoid embarrassment, shame and social exclusion? Your level of self-consciousness is a good measure. If everyone else is standing on the wall, you may do well to avoid potential embarrassment and stay put yourself.

So, like a lot of our less-than-optimal traits, self-consciousness is a trade-off worked out by our ancestors. You have inherited the mechanism and a fragile means of working around it. The means? Accept yourself. Let others see you, and let go of the worry over what they might think. The risk is that they will think about you in unflattering terms. The gain is nothing less than an open gateway to becoming better. That, and attracting the attention of yon fair maiden.

Eric Grossman is a member of the Montrail ultrarunning team. At age 40, Grossman won the 2008 USATF 50-mile national championship. Check back next week for more of Grossman's motivational tips.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Grossman Motivation Series Part 3

These are great motivation pieces written by a great runner, Eric Grossman. I had to copy these from Running Times just for my own record in case this is ever removed from the site. LOVE IT! You can find it by clicking here or just read below.

We got Without Limits via Netflix last night. Hate the title. At least I can't blame Pre for it in the same way that I can blame Phelps for the title of his book, No Limits. I much prefer Paul Tergat's approach with Running to the Limit. I don't go for mysterious or supernatural mumbo jumbo. Maybe athletes don't want you to think they have limits -— but of course they do. And, like Tergat, great ones have become very adept at approaching them.

A couple of months ago, I convinced my 10-year-old son to run a handful of 200s on the track. We had entered both kids in a mile race and I wanted them to get a sense of the pace for it beforehand. So, I lined them up and started my 8-year-old daughter first and, five seconds later, gave my son the signal. I told him just to approach, and not pass, his sister. So he did, and he ran very controlled. He also started to look like a lion pacing his cage. So on the fourth repeat, I told him to wait eight seconds after his sister started and then to run as fast as he wanted. I was watching from across the track and my mouth dropped. If I did believe in hocus pocus, I would say that Steve Prefontaine's spirit had found its way to the Abingdon High School track in Southwest Virginia! His strong arms swung low — almost 90 degrees at the elbow — and his legs extended surprisingly far behind him.

You probably know that two movies — just one year apart — came out about Pre. His is a compelling story partly because he competed at the top level, and partly because he died young, but mostly because of the way that he lived. You probably know his story: He was a frontrunner who couldn't stand to be boxed in; he felt that anything less than racing wide open from the start disgraced the sport. He lived full-throttle and partied hard. He bristled at any attempt to reign him in, including attempts from coaches working in his interest. Even if you don't know the two movies and even if you've never heard of Pre, you can get a sense of who he was just from my brief description.

People are master character and story builders, and not just the novelists among us. We have to participate in crafting our own stories in order to be anything. Let me explain.

When I was in high school, I drove a car. What car did I drive? Well, let's see, it was a yellow Volvo 240. At least it was yellow until I painted it blue. OK, so color notwithstanding, can I positively identify the exact car I drove in high school? I could start at the beginning and get an assembly record, conveniently shown on the door jamb as the VIN. But, my brother wrecked the car and the part showing the VIN was replaced. That's OK; it's probably also listed on the engine. Or it was. The engine had burned up and been replaced before we even got the car, so it shows a different VIN than the other parts (well, before the door jamb was replaced). So, should we go with the identity of the engine or with the identity of the pre-replacement part that used to have the VIN? Wait, you think, let's just use the identity of the majority of the car parts. Well TOO BAD because every single part of the car has been replaced at least once (that isn't actually true, but it could be). What is left to make the car I drove in high school a particular car? Answer: it's history.

This gets more serious with people, who are faced with the same problem. Our cells continuously replace themselves and die. In any given seven years, almost all of the cells in an adult human will have been replaced. Why don't we go ahead and change names and assume a new identity to match the whole new set of cells? Who should change the names? In my case, it's this overly analytical, philosophical type who spends too much time alone running on mountain trails.

Becoming a person is not a magic event that happens at conception; it's a process that happens as we grow and start to formulate, with the help of those around us, a story about who we are. Unless we are depressed, the story likely exaggerates the positive. And why not? We have to live the story, so shouldn't we shine it up a bit?

Here's the tricky part, and it will help explain the enormous appeal of sports. I can make up a character with far greater prowess than I actually possess. Sporting contests, however, are specifically designed to separate fact from fiction — they reveal the truth about what we were made of on that day (or days). Exaggerating my story will have at least two devastating results: I'll be revealed as a fraud and I'll misappropriate the resources that I have at my disposal. Conversely, if I am reasonably accurate about what I can do, I can use resources to improve myself and win the most respect possible.

The chances are good that as long as you are improving yourself and winning respect, you'll stay motivated. That works especially for young people who are working to establish themselves. You are telling the story of becoming a good runner. My story, for example, started with accidentally joining my high school cross country team when I got a "special" letter from the coach before my freshman year. Turns out he sent the same letter to all incoming freshman, but I didn't know that at the time. I liked to play soccer and ride my bike, but I had no concept of distance running. It turns out that I was good at it, so I trained harder and harder and eventually became a high school standout in Kentucky. I was recruited by an elite school and readily adapted to training at the collegiate level. I did not, however, adapt well to the way I was coached. Things eventually came to a head when I was denied an overseas travel opportunity offered to the rest of the team. I was ready to end the story line that had me running at that particular school. I called my high school coach to talk it over. He listened intently, as always, and responded that this was my chance to have a real impact right where I was. My perspective changed immediately. I didn't have to be the runner who was humiliated by being denied a team privilege. I could be the runner who took a hit and got back up, even stronger than before. And isn't that a motivating story?

You are going to get knocked around. Your story will have difficulty, strife, illness and injury. Your trials are that much more dramatic when compared to times when you performed well. To stay motivated, you will have to rework your story continuously to confront the reality of your situation and to remain aspirational. Lance Armstrong was a strong rider before cancer. As a cancer survivor, he became an endurance icon. Does he have human limits? Of course. We can all strive to push and even redefine those limits, though, and still live to tell the tale.

Eric Grossman is a member of the Montrail ultrarunning team. At age 40, Grossman won the 2008 USATF 50-mile national championship. Check back next week for more of Grossman's motivational tips.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Obituaries- Robert Andrew Mika

I came across this today. I knew that it was out there on-line but never searched for it until today. Not sure how long the small newspaper in Sidney Nebraska is going to keep this up so I thought I would copy it on to here for my records.

I really miss talking to Grandpa 2-4 times a week as I drive home from work. Sometimes I still find myself dialing his cell phone before I catch myself. I know this will pass soon because it happens less and less as time passes.


Robert Andrew Mika
1934 to 2010
Published: Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Robert Andrew Mika, 76, of Lodgepole, went to be with the Lord on Thursday, July 22, 2010. He was the son of Frank and Lula (Hein) Mika and was born on the family farm south of Lodgepole on Jan. 27, 1934.

Rosary Services will be at 9:30 a.m., Monday, July 26, with a Mass of Christian Burial to follow at 10:30 a.m. Both services will be at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sidney with Father Art Faesser and Father Neal Nollette officiating. Burial will be in the Czech Cemetery south of Sunol.

Friends may stop at the Gehrig-Stitt Chapel on Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m., with the family present from 2 to 5 p.m.

Bob was educated in the Lodgepole Schools. In 1955 he began employment at Cheyenne County Roads Department and worked there for 40 years before retiring.

He married his lifelong partner Elizabeth (Betty) Urban on May 30, 1956, in Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church at Julesburg, Colo. In this union six children were born, Rod (Sherry) Mika of Missoula, Mont., Tami (Dave) Trump of Lodgepole, Star (Scott) Smith of Sidney, Diane (Ryan) Block of Lodgepole, Julie (Mike) Miles of Sidney and Steve (Stephanie) Mika of Sidney. Robert and Betty have 14 grandchildren, Shad Mika of Boulder, Colo., Stacey Wilkins of Parker, Colo., Amber Wiegard of Lodgepole, Jennifer Schmitt of Lake Crystal, Minn., Chelsey Donaldson of Platteville, Wis., Jason Skovly of American Falls, Idaho, Michael Miles of Sidney, Austin Smith of Lincoln, Marcus Schilreff of Ogallala, BJ Block of Lodgepole, Nicole Walker of Sidney, Jordon Schilreff of Sidney, Kirsten Block of Lodgepole, Avery Mika of Sidney, Zach Mika of Sidney and Emily Mika of Sidney; twelve great-grandchildren, Bradley, Braden, Rylan, Alayna, Kai, Kolton, Makenah, Jaiden, Jeremiah, Shane, Connor and Caiden. Bob is also survived by one sister, Shirley (Robert) Richards of Longmont, Colo., and one brother, Dale Mika of Sidney.
Robert was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Francis and Patrick Mika.

He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, Sidney Elks Club and was a current member of Saint Joseph’s Church Council in Chappell. He had many hobbies, such as attending auctions and garage sales to collect antiques, model toy cars, trucks and tractors. He enjoyed time on his computer and was skilled at many trades, including vehicle mechanic, household repairs, gardening and various electronics interests. This helped him as he became owner of several rental homes in the area.

He had a keen sense of humor and enjoyed all his grandchildren and the company of many friends.

Memorial contributions may be made to the donor’s choice.

Gehrig-Stitt Chapel & Cremation Service is in charge of Bob’s care and funeral arrangements.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Long distance swimming

Think running 50 or a 100 miles is bad ass? Check out this 61 year old swimmer on CNN! Click here for the story.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Last Minutes with ODEN

Got this video from Steve's blog and had to share, this is why it took me so long to get another dog after my Saint died a few years ago. Great video!

Last Minutes with ODEN from phos pictures on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Grossman Motivation Series Part 2

These are great motivation pieces written by a great runner, Eric Grossman. I had to copy these from Running Times just for my own record in case this is ever removed from the site. LOVE IT! You can find it by clicking here or just read below.


On a warm spring afternoon in 1987, Sue and I were splayed across the bed in her dorm room, listening to The Eagles' greatest hits. She was trying to work. She gripped her pencil tightly, annotating the margins of her book, fighting to keep her attention fixed. I lay on my back, one leg crossed over the other, thumbing through the pages of my book. I was more interested in Sue than in my work. When I had gleaned what I needed from my reading I put the book down and pestered her. It didn't take long to distract her away from her toils. Her study sessions looked to me like open combat — an effort to willfully execute a despised command. I knew she would be up late, feeling guilty for having procrastinated, forcing herself to stay awake to continue her work. She was in difficult pre-med courses, but wondered aloud why I wasn't, considering that the work seemed to come so easily to me.

Sue ran track with the same intensity. It was always a struggle. She literally gritted her teeth through hard intervals. After practice, she'd be worn out. It'd be 5:30 p.m. and time to eat and she'd crash for a short nap. I warned her to no avail that napping would keep her from falling asleep at bedtime. Sue beat herself up for a lot of things. She'd eat tiny portions at mealtime, wanting to keep her weight down, and then scarf a pint of Ben & Jerry's before bed. She occasionally raged at me for making everything look easy. I don't remember if I understood this then, but I've gradually realized that I make things look easy because I've made a science of anticipating what I can and can't do.

Dan Challener, the men's distance coach, told us to run 20 minutes and meet him at the track. Brown's stadium is a 10-minute jog from campus, so we looped through the affluent neighborhoods on the hill just north of downtown Providence. We knew the workout would be different. We were left wondering what we were in for.

Head coach Bob Rothenberg (Berg) was there, along with Dan. He told us we would run the measured two-mile course on the road, finishing at the stadium, and, without pausing, we were to run a mile hard on the track. He told me, along with some teammates including our captain, Fergal Mullen, to run the two miles at 5:40 per mile pace and then the track mile at 4:45. We were to repeat this twice more, without pausing in between.

I told our coaches that I wasn't sure we could do that. Berg looked at the ground and gave me a well-worn shake of the head. Dan stared at me, his agitation visible. I knew what they wanted, and Fergal was quick to give it to them. "Ah, we can do that! Come on, guys, let's be positive!"

We hadn't done a workout like that before. We'd certainly done mile repeats, though, and doing a set of 4:45 miles was a tough effort. We'd also done plenty of tempo runs, and 5:40 pace was close to threshold. We were getting pretty fit, but I was apprehensive. The guys were starting to bounce, stretch or do strides. They may actually have thought that believing they could do it was enough. Or maybe they thought that whatever coach said they could do, they could do. Or maybe they just didn't think deeply about it. Most likely, I suppose, they had learned that expressing a "can do" attitude worked in getting along with other people. I took the task at face value and tried to get my head around it. It made my heart beat harder and my hands turn clammy.

I wanted to nail that tempo pace and maximize my running economy. It would devastate our chances to finish if we got carried away from the beginning. When we started, we stayed bunched together. When I stuck behind one of the guys, I could lower my arm just a bit so that it would swing just under his. My gait was low and quiet. We hummed through the splits right on pace. When we transitioned to the track, I kept in mind that the acceleration wouldn't feel so abrupt coming off the 5:40 pace. Starting an interval from a standstill gives the body a jolt that takes a little while to accommodate. Shifting gears, as we did in this workout, actually made the first mile interval feel comparatively easy.

We were doing the work, though, and it started to show on the second two miles on the road. The guys were having some trouble keeping pace. I clocked off the splits like a metronome, barely deviating even for the slight inclines. By the time we were back on the track the guys were starting to string out behind me. I nailed the second one-mile interval on the track. I transitioned slowly to try and let the other guys catch up for the final two miles on the road. They were coming apart. I went on to complete the workout as prescribed.

The surest path to a struggle, and an apparent lack of willpower, is to be either thoughtless or wrong about what you can do. I remember a runner named Mike Haggerty from Saint Xavier High School in Louisville. He was two years ahead of me, and I knew he was a fast half-miler, so I watched him during cross country season. He'd bolt to the lead in every race, stay there for up to a mile, and then fade and get passed by any decent runner who went out at a sustainable pace. In some important sense, he just never figured out that he could have run better over 5K if he went out slower. While it may have looked like a lack of motivation (to sustain that early pace), it really was Mike's inaccuracy about his abilities. Conversely, we look like iron-willed heroes when we "talk smack" and get it right. We may fool others, and even ourselves, when we decide to achieve a goal — say a sub-2:30 marathon — and then we just "make it happen." More likely, we accurately predicted that, with proper preparation, we would meet that goal. And we were right.

Motivation doesn't start with an ambitious goal. Once our minds are clear of distractions, the key step is an accurate appraisal of what we can do. I called my own attempt to know myself a science because, like science, this requires objective observation and data. Fortunately for us, every run, workout and race yields plenty of data. Use that data — not your perceptions of what you "could have" done — to guide your goal setting. You'll find it a lot easier to exert your will, meet your goals and stay motivated.

Eric Grossman is a member of the Montrail ultrarunning team. At age 40, Grossman won the 2008 USATF 50-mile national championship. Check back next week for more of Grossman's motivational tips.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Grossman Motivation Series

These are great motivation pieces written by a great runner, Eric Grossman. I had to copy these from Running Times just for my own record in case this is ever removed from the site. LOVE IT! You can find it by clicking here or just read below.


I still remember one of my first conversations with “Berg.” That was our term of endearment for Bob Rothenberg, head track and cross country coach at Brown University. It was the fall of 1986 and I had just arrived on campus eager, like all of my teammates, to run. Berg said, for us, running was "like brushing your teeth." That made sense to me. We had developed a useful habit. No one had to wake up, scratch his head and ask himself: "Should I run today?" About a quarter century later, I still run with about the same regularity as I brush my teeth, but I think of the comparison differently.

What would it take to skip brushing your teeth for one day? Say something happens to your toothbrush -— the dog chews it or it falls in the toilet. Or you are separated from your toothbrush by a night away (at the home of an unexpected liaison, for example) or, more likely, shipwrecked and marooned on a deserted island. Sure, you would go to some amount of trouble to salvage your routine. You could root around for an unused toothbrush under the sink. You could run out to the corner mart for a replacement. In desperation, you might even rub your teeth with your finger (like that is going to help!).

In comparison, there are many things that can cause athletes to skip a run. There are all the other things you could do with that time and energy: school work, professional work, writing, visiting with family and friends, watching kids play soccer. And then there's injury, which I estimate to be the most likely cause for first skipping, and then stopping, your daily runs. Come to think of it, we are at the mercy of a lot of worldly forces, and many of them push directly against our efforts to run. You will find yourself distracted by these forces. How you respond will determine the value you place on the pursuit of running excellence. I suspect that if you are a runner, you will dismiss these distractions. I'll explain how:

You have to cause your run.

The problem, in case you avoided philosophy class in college, is the work of those pesky worldly forces. Think of them as sirens, calling out the runner in you to certain death; they sing to you to take it easy, relax, catch the show with your wife and kick back on the beach with a mixed drink. Or, more insidiously, they whisper for you to be more productive with your time, work extra hours for that promotion and maintain your home. They are likely real people. When I started running ultras, my grandmother sat me down and talked to me earnestly about how excessive running was harming my health.

You can't just hope to ignore the temptation of worldly forces, though. The well established running routine of the most dedicated athlete is caused by forces just as grounded. When training for high school cross country, I made sure to run through neighborhoods and past the homes of girls I liked. I lapped up their animated disbelief at my running prowess like a puppy dog. We may run for prestige, health or social reasons. And these are good reasons. They just aren't very reliable causes of your pursuit of running. The girls grow up and get married. Young guns emerge to steal your thunder. Your joints start to hurt because of running. Your new friends don't run. You've submitted to the natural forces around you, so you skip a run, then several runs in a row and then too many to get back into it easily. The habit has been broken.

If you want to avoid the inevitable ebb and flow of the currents in which you are buoyed, you will have to anchor yourself. You will have to determine your position, no matter what. Set a course from which you cannot be swayed. World be damned! It may sound extreme, but I believe we all employ this kind of willfulness in pursuit of our goals. Ironically, when we are most fixed in our trajectory, we are most free because we are beyond the influence of material forces. An inversion of perspective occurs in the minds of accomplished athletes. Negative forces become positive. We welcome the burn from intervals that used to make us wince and slow down. We took on the project of getting fit for the target races of that season and embraced the work without question.

One example: I don't like running long races in hot conditions. It makes me sick. I should be repelled from these races in the same way that we are repelled from a particular food that we associate with nausea and vomiting. Yet each of the three times I have registered for the Western States 100, I spend the month of May gleefully overheating myself. I drive with the heat on, run at midday with layers of clothing and seek out the sun whenever I can. The twisted thing is, it feels good! The normal linkage between worldly causes and my behavior had been broken and re-configured to suit my purpose. I caused my run.

The distractions will inevitably find you. They may creep up on you along with your family and professional responsibilities. If you value continued running, you will have to steel yourself with a conviction to pursue your course no matter, and in spite of, any adverse circumstances. Just don't forget to pack your toothbrush.

Eric Grossman is a member of the Montrail ultrarunning team. At age 40, Grossman won the 2008 USATF 50-mile national championship. Check back next week for more of Grossman's motivational tips.