Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I Am A Shodan. And...Tired.

Soooo I haven't posted anything about my running in over a week, but there've been some good reasons for that.

#1) I am officially a shodan (1st degree black belt). I know, that probably comes across as a little deadpan anti-climactic, but as anyone who has ever worked at something voluntarily for 11 years knows, getting the final, official, rubber stamp recognition sometimes does feel a little anti-climactic. I mean yes, the testing itself was demanding and exhausting and I am incredibly proud of myself for still being upright at the end of it, but that's just really nothing compared to the thousands upon thousands of hours and gallons upon gallons of blood, sweat, and tears that got me to that point to begin with. If you've ever heard people talk about how running a great marathon is just a victory lap for the training, it's a little like that. Except on steroids. And with people hitting you a lot.

Whoah! Who's that absurdly young-looking yellow belt there??
MIT Isshin-ryu Karate-do, Boston MA, Summer 2002

Pittak's Isshin-ryu Karate
Cuyahoga OH, April 2003

Spectating at Don's shodan testing, December 2006
On the other hand, there are ways in which the whole thing snuck up on me. I haven't done the whole wedding planning thing yet, but based on conversations I've had about it with people who have, I think there were some similarities.

First, as with some girls & their hypothetical dim-and-misty-someday weddings, I think karate students often daydream about their shodan testing from the earliest days of their practice. They think about how they will tell people, who they will invite, how they will answer certain questions, what they want their weapons to be like, which kata they will select for different parts of the testing, the compliments and critiques the panel will give, what it will be like to get the belt, how their practice and role will change after that, etc. etc. etc., literally YEARS before they are anywhere remotely close to a shodan test. Before it's anything but this abstract, fuzzy, out-there-somewhere thing.

Obligatory post-testing group photo from Don's shodan testing. There was some quality hair all-around at that testing from what I remember. Well done, Berkeley Isshin-ryu.

Second, when the testing is actually scheduled and it's time to start working out the details of all that, you feel like you have all the time in the world. AGES and AGES to make sure everything is perfect and awesome and exactly the way you always imagined it.

Sai practice, June 2011
Third, you become acutely aware that you're actually planning two things--a serious formal ceremony (where the real meaning of the event lies) as well as a social celebration, and sometimes managing both of those pieces at once (and constantly reminding yourself of which part is more important) gets kind of stressful.

Fourth, at some point you suddenly realize that you are alarmingly short on time and some of your best laid plans, the things you've been daydreaming about for years--years!--just are not going to come together the way you envisioned, because life happens. Also, you just don't feel ready and start fantasizing about all the different things you would trade for an extra two weeks.

And fifth, when the day finally comes and it finally happens, when you're sitting on the dojo floor exhausted and bruised and dripping with sweat, when the words are said and the belt put into your hands, you realize that all along nothing else but this has mattered, don't know why you ever cared about anything else in the first place, and if you are a shodan at the end of it then the day has been perfect.

#2) I am tired. So, so much more tired than I thought I would be, both physically and mentally. I had an idea that I would do my regularly scheduled run on Friday (~7.5ish with some tempo intervals), exchange the Saturday miles for the testing, and some amount of running on Sunday but probably not the scheduled 20-21.

Boy, was I mistaken. My "easy" Thursday run left me exhausted and kind of gimpy, so when I came home from work Friday already worn out, I decided a better call was resting up. The night after the testing I slept for 11 hours and woke up exhausted and bruised and gimpy and WAY more sore than I have ever been from karate before. (Which makes sense, I guess; to quote one of my panel members, "I think if I had had to go through this, they would've been taking me out on a stretcher.") I briefly entertained the idea of putting on running clothes, leaving the Garmin at home, and just jogging easily until I didn't feel like it anymore, but as soon as I put my feet on the ground and stood up, I knew there was no way and that I owed my body a day of complete rest to heal.

Also, my back hurts, and the tiny dime-sized sore spot at the base of my spine that's been there for a couple of months now has become a squishy little bulge, so....yeah. That's probably not good.

Now that it's over and I can look back over the last few weeks with a clear mind, I have this suspicion that I've been running on adrenaline 75% of the time or so, and now that my neurons are no longer bathed in it every minute of every day....I kind of just want to sit here on the couch, drink wine, & watch The Daily Show. I tried to read a few blogs, but even that just took more mental energy than I could muster. I could read my book, but only for a few pages at a time, and then I needed to just put it down and be a vegetable for a little while.

I couldn't even run Monday. Not a step. I went to karate (because who skips their first class as a freshly minted shodan???) but kept it pretty low-key & went to bed at 11 (rather early for me). On Tuesday I packed up my gear and went to the track for a speed workout; after a lap or two of warming up I was all like "hahahaha, AS IF." So instead I jogged an easy six miles around the park. Which, you know. Something. I got four in before karate on Wednesday but finished feeling glad I didn't have time to go much further.

Basically, I had assumed in terms of the fallout that the black belt test would be like racing a 10K. Instead it's fallen somewhere between racing a really hard half and racing a marathon. Maybe a 20 mile race. Or a trail half. The upshot is, I. Am. BEAT.

All this has me re-thinking my weekend plans to drive to Napa & race a half marathon. My training since Oakland has been not great for various reasons, and the only way I'd even *remotely* be ready to race is if the name of the game this week is recover recover recover. Frankly, with as many runs as I've missed in the last month, and with Ojai five and a half weeks away, I can't afford that. I need to get the miles in, including another long run, which means I will not be on fresh, peppy legs come Sunday.

Now, I am not a total killjoy, so I'm still planning to drive to Napa, get my bib, and run the course, but as part of a long run, not at HM race pace. Maybe I'll get up early & do 6-7 before the start, or maybe I'll park a few miles from the staging area. Realistically, all this should've occurred to me back when I was thinking of signing up for this race, but it didn't, & here we are. Eh, no biggie; there will be other half marathons.

I hope everyone is doing well. I will post some pictures from the testing when I get them. There is also a pretty sweet video of Don elbowing me in the jaw & nearly knocking me out cold, and I KNOW you don't want to miss that. :)


  1. Congrats!! I haven't been through the wedding planning thing either, but your experience sounds a helluva lot like my Ph.D. defense!

  2. This is a beautiful post, I got a bit weepy when you got the belt. I know nothing about karate and had no idea of the time and effort and passion that went into getting your blackbelt. I hope this isn't patronising but I'm so proud of you...what a wonderful achievement!!!

  3. congratulations on your accomplishment!