Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some Time in the Valley...

Yeah, so I've been spending a lot of time in a valley lately,  Not Death Valley.  Not the San Fernando Valley.  In fact, it's not a geographical valley at all.  I mean a training valley, as in the opposite of a training peak.
It's times like this when we runners start waxing philosophical about why we run, and whether we're losing some of what we had and are doomed to never get it back.  Well, at least I think that way, and it may be because I'm overly competitive for a recreational runner.  When I notice a slump coming on, my first inclination is to work harder, to set lofty goals, and to claw at them like a ravenous dog trying to pilfer an unattended pork chop.  This leads to more frustration--the inescapable feeling like I'm ice-skating uphill.  The vicious cycle continues until I exhaust myself and feel worse for wear.  When I'm in a hole, if I keep digging, I'm only going to end up in a deeper hole.
Then, always too late, I remember: peaks are nothing without valleys.  Professional athletes know this better than anyone, and they design their training such that they peak for focus races.  In retrospect, my best performances have been when I inadvertently did the same thing.  One might think that my sub-24 hour finish at Umstead 100 was my magnum opus, but I beg to differ.  Really, when it comes to setting a specific goal at the very edge of my ability, training specifically for that goal, and following through on race day, I'd say the 2012 Ridge To Bridge Marathon was my masterpiece.  Without a doubt, I was in the best shape of my life last October.  And book-ending that peak Marathon race were several other prideful accomplishments, including still standing decisive personal bests for 5k, 15k, Half Marathon, and 50k.
Are those fast days behind me?  Hell no!  I'll get'm back, but I have to contend with the clock first.  Like many runners, I'm obsessed with time.  I check my watch repeatedly during training runs.  I count down weeks, days, and sometimes hours to a focus race.  I use numbers denoting seconds and minutes to denote effort for given intervals of speed training.  When I approach the finish line of a race, my eyes laser-lock on the gun clock.  When friends race, I always ask "how'd you do," but that's really a tactful way of saying "what was your time?"  Time is my enemy, and it's bullying me.  Therefore, instead of fighting time, I'm going to do what I tell my third grade students to do to bullies: walk away.  That doesn't mean I'm going to stop wearing a watch or stop training, but as far as reaching for those lofty goals like before, I'm just going to say "what's the hurry?"
So naturally, I can't look ahead and say THIS or THAT is going to be my next focus race.  It's summer time.  It's hot.  I ENJOY running, so when it feels too much like fighting, I know I'm grasping at straws.  I'm going to enjoy my time with my wife and my dogs, and I'm going to have some fun running with friends, training with them to make us all mutually better runners, and letting my fitness come back to me on its own terms.  So I may not post as many recaps, but that doesn't mean I won't be out there Running Reckless in sockless shoes!

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