Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't Scorn the Base Degrees By Which You Did Ascend.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.
 - Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (4.3.224 - 230)

Fresh out of the collegiate running scene I found myself in a somewhat  middling position: just fast enough to keep running and support myself a little, but not yet good enough to make an Olympic or World Championship team, marry and raise between three and seven children.  People might call my choice to delay an aerospace engineering career for one in professional running risky economically - but no one enjoys any real accomplishments in life without indulging in some risk.

When I do begin real life after running, I'll invoke Brutus: on Opportunity: when the interviewer asks what I've been doing the previous four years.  For now I sit on a precipice, squinting far across the divide to "real" life; in between a vast chasm of "work".  Miles to run; goals to accomplish.  Why brave the rift?  Because the opportunity is perishable... existing  now in strong legs that only weaken with time.
Death of Caesar, Vincenzo Camuccini
On a hot n' sweaty morning run in Austin recently, a sophomore on Texas' team (who loves questions) asked me what I'm going to do to 'get faster' in the coming years.

Until this December I'll be living, training and going to school in Austin at UT, following Reebok / Zap  Fitness coach Pete Rea's instructions day to day.  I have a very solid fall road racing schedule set up, but the focus is outdoor track next year.  Once I have my Master's Degree I'll forget everything I know about airplanes (hopefully not) and head to North Carolina to train, where Zap is based (and airplanes got their start).  Thus begins my full immersion in running. For the first time in my career.

The simple answer to Brady's question, and something I'm very excited for, is that all of me will be a runner beginning soon.  In college, and even now, one hundred percent has never been possible.  In fact, it's taken me this long - since I began running at fourteen - to get (somewhat) close to understanding what one hundred percent even looks like.

The runs take care of themselves.  In high school, to be good, you run year round, and you'll do well.  You can beat superior talent.  In college, everyone runs year round and talent plays a larger role.  There, everyone talks about 'the little things' - Drills, stretching, icing, napping, strength, strides, eating, sleeping, hydration - that fill out those last percentage points.

But 'one hundred percent' is not stubbornly abstaining from things you enjoy in a martyrly pursuit of perfection.  That's not sustainable.  When I make a sacrifice for running, I make damn sure it's worth it.  It's something I'll do again- and never dread.  It's taken time, but I've come to truly enjoy spending time outside of runs doing many things to recover and stay healthy.  A sustainable recovery system - something I'll never half ass - something that's become habit - that I practice because I understand why it works and not just because someone told me to do it - is what I think causes longevity  and consistency in the sport.

...Running + The 'Little Things' + Knowing Why.

The other element of improvement in my plan is running stronger.  The types of 'fitness' I've brought to races so far in my career sit atop tall, pointy pinnacles of anaerobic work - temporary, fragile.  At their foundations, base fitness stretches far to the horizon: permanent, unmoving.  I want to move that base higher above sea level so I don't need to build such lofty towers.  The longer approach featuring more base building and aerobic work throughout the year is a natural consequence of post collegiate running's structure - something I'll need to get used to, that requires patience.

'Tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost rung,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.
- Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (2.1.22 - 28)

This is my 2013 fall racing schedule:

September 22:   CVS/Caremark USA 5k Road Championships in Providence, Rhode Island
October 14:       Ivy League Alumni Ekiden Relay.  Izumo, Japan
November 2:     Dash To the Finish 5k.  New York City
November 17:   .US Road Racing Championships (12k).  Alexandria, Virginia
November 28:   Manchester Road Race.  Manchester, Connecticut