Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Caught in Advice

It usually starts out something like, "Vince, can I ask you a question?". Now normally my heart leaps at such a turn a phrase, loving as I do nothing so much as the sound of my own voice dispensing pearls of wisdom. Hell, I have even printed up little manuals of Vince Advice, with catchy and original titles like, Vince's Top Ten Running Mistakes. And to those folks who have yet to do their first marathon, or who have only done one or two, an old codger like me who appears to have survived a couple of dozen or so marathons and who has run back to back marathons through the mountains probably seems like someone who may know a thing or two. May... So why am I surprised when hours into the middle of a long run someone should turn to me, looking for answers, traing tips, race strategies or the cure for the aches and pains du jour?

The answer of course is that I myself am endlessly in search of similar advice, have the same questions, the same need to know. I have all the same doubts I did when I first started running marathons, but now, with a few of them under my belt I can see that I have acquired a little knowledge - maybe not even knowledge, but the experience of doing - along the way as the miles have accumulated and piled up.

Where once I was a know it all, dispensing that little knowledge I had with total confidence, now I preface most of my tid bits with qualifiers such as, "in my experience..." , or "I have found..." , or "what works for me may not work for you..." , or the old stand by "everybodies different...". Time has taught me that I don't really know jack shit. I am making all this crap up as I go along my merry way. I think of myself not as an expert - I tend to spit on experts - but more as a crusty old soldier in the endurance trenches, just trying to keep my head down and my feet and my powder dry as I attempt to survive another marathon or ultramarathon campaign. The advice I tender to green peas and newbies has evolved from the big picture stuff of years past to the more mundane tips like the best kinds of socks to wear or using vaseline on long runs or simply eat more gels and drink more water, buy new runners before the old ones wear out, listen to your freakin' heart rate monitor...

Most of my running tips are heavily weighted towards long-term running survival. "Err on the side of caution, less is usually more, it's better to be under-trained rather than over-trained, eat less, eat better, don't do it if it hurts..." Basically, do whatever it takes to survive to run another day. I cringe a little bit when people ask me about their latest twinge or injury, because the last time I checked I had still not graduated from medical school, but then again I have probably graduated from the Marathon School of Aches and Pains and earned some kind of honarary certificate... Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation... take two anti-inflammatories and if it still hurts, call your doctor in the morning... Because let's face it, over time, if you run enough and run enough marathons you are going to experience all kinds of twinges, aches and pains. There is a reason they call it a marathon.

The best advice is usually firmly grounded in common sense. And the general lack thereof in modern culture leaves me shaking my head. It really is true. The older you get, the less you know. Or rather life teaches you the less you know with absolute certainty. As time goes by you get to experience many more of the exceptions that prove the rule.

So well I certainly do not know everything there is to know about running marathons, even I have to concede that I have picked up a thing or two along the way. So fire away with your questions. Just don't ask me about women, balancing a check book, family relationships, politics, religion, keeping dogs from peeing in the house, getting organized, or planning a career. Trust me, I have no idea what the fuck I am talking about.


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