Tuesday, May 14, 2013


On April 15, after I crested Heartbreak Hill, the next mile I ran was one of my fastest miles of the day—run at a 7:10.  It was all adrenalin.  But I couldn’t sustain the rush of adrenalin after mile 22.

On the evening of April 15, after we heard about the explosions while still on the train headed back toward the hotel, after we were evacuated from the train station, after we got back to the hotel, watched along with other horrified observers on the television in the hotel lobby, and got cleaned up and drove home, we drove all the way home without an problems staying awake.  Why?  Adrenalin.

Except at that point it was not positive adrenalin.  It was negative adrenalin.  A reaction to the events of the day that kept us going.

The only good thing was that we had something to keep us going.  After the three twenty mile races I’ve run it has been tough the rest of the day.  Of course, in all three cases it was warm in September.  After my Boston qualifying marathon, I remember getting a really big burger at a chain and then sleeping and trying to get comfortable in the car on the way home from Lexington, Maryland, while Sherry drove.  I wasn’t much help there.

When I told a local running friend that me and my two travel companions were planning on driving back on the same night as the race (rather than either flying back, taking the train back, or waiting till the next day) he commented that he was worried about us falling asleep at the wheel.  Taking the train back seemed really appealing as you can walk around while you travel and sometimes walking is the best thing for a person after a marathon or any other very long race for that matter.

But that night, there was no sleeping.  There was just constant chatter.  The events of the day had been sufficiently disruptive so that we were out of sorts.  We just kept going.

It is interesting to me to think of when adrenalin is good for keeping going and when it really just doesn’t work.  I have tried to live my life on adrenalin for a long while.   I love what I do and I like to keep doing it. 

But over the years I have found that just loving what I do is not enough to keep me going all the time.  When I do not get enough sleep I can’t run on adrenalin forever.  I can sort of get by for a while, but trying to just run on adrenalin, bad things start to happen.

Running on adrenalin rather than being well rested leads to bad judgment sometimes.  I heard it called a problem with sleep discipline the other day.  The term sleep discipline is apparently used in the military.

Running on adrenalin is enough to keep me going when I am just doing things on my own, but really not enough to keep me going when I have to interact with other people.  So it is not just bad judgment but it is really a bad face to the outside world. 

Running on adrenalin lets me go in waves, and then I crash. Much like I did in the race.  And much like I did afterwards as I was not really completely coherent at work on the day after.  The feeling of waves—going for a while and then having to pull back and doing that over and over again is a somewhat annoying feeling.  And it leads to feeling very drowsy and sometimes dozing off at odd times that don’t help with life in general and don’t help with career.

Adrenalin leads to focus while it lasts—and sometimes a truly laser focus.  But once the adrenalin passes the focus is lost just as quickly.  And that can be a problem as well.

I was blessed to see what adrenalin can do when it is called upon.  But I also have experienced what trying to rely really on adrenalin alone for too long can do to a person as well.

I have had three nights in a row with more than six hours sleep.  That is a recent record for me. I think I will break that streak for the next two nights (one because I have a lot to do and one because of a red-eye flight) but as I look ahead I am going to try to run less on adrenalin alone and more on sufficient rest, sound judgment, and good sense.  That will require my own form of sleep discipline.  As a test of just what a difference it makes, I made it through a three hour meeting with a ten minute break without even a single head-bob today.   Heck, I could have made it through a mass with even the most boring homily today.

If I continue down this path, knowing what adrenalin can do when it is used in just small spurts and otherwise relying on better decisions, then I think I will gain moving forward.  I will be able to make the positive impressions I need with the family, with my church community, with the community of those who attend the performances for my children, and still be able to write and run.  I will be able to do the things I want to do not because I stay up till all hours trying to cram them in but because I can be efficient when I set my mind to doing things.

When adrenalin is used only a little, it can increase efficiency rather than just being used as a prop to help keep me going.  It almost sounds like I have treated adrenalin as a drug.  Perhaps I have.  The key is that the events of April 15 have made me re-assess not only the things in life that were most directly tied to the events of the day but reassess every last element of my life.  I can’t say that I came face to face with death to turn around and reassess everything I face in my life, but I came close enough to a very negative and life threatening experience that my reaction has been to do a complete review of my life.  A complete reassessment.  And once that is done it will be time to move forward again.  

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