Monday, January 13, 2014

Run The Story

C'mon, get him all the way in... Dammit.
Damn her, Thetis, for failing to fully immerse her son Achilles in the River Styx.  He, made only partially invincible by her act, ultimately fell by his heel, with which she held him under, not touched by the chilly, black water. Achille's end was Hector's arrow to this sole mortal piece of flesh, and today, us runners suffer the vestiges of Thetis' mistake in the guise of Achilles' tendonitis.  It doesn't always halt training like stress fractures or serious illness do.  But it has a way of punishing good faith training by competitive (read: stubborn) athletes.  Lingering, then withdrawing and encouraging, again returning and dismaying.  And so, when I felt Hector coming back for the kill late this fall, we immediately played it safe and took some time away from running.

Not much time.  I have no right to complain about injury given what many runners go through, missing entire seasons and years of training to broken bones, Lyme disease, coffee tables, you name it.  I prefer to draw positives from injury and the associated lull in the waves.  Coming during an effective intermission in my career, this most recent bout of Achilles tendonitis timed itself well, relieving Part I: Student-Runner and Part II: Professional Runner.  (Stay tuned for the epilogue, Joe Runs 100 Miles and Drinks 100 PBR's In One Week at Age ___.)

I used the extra time to mull over one question: why do I want to run and to win?  I sought a concise answer - the pillar of my purpose, season to season and day to day.  Awareness of purpose beats sickness, injury, motivational lows, and the naysayers.  Instead of blindly throwing thousands of miles and hundreds of workouts into a mysterious black box and hoping for a good result, I wanted to get inside and take control.  I was looking for a few words I could sharpie on some paper and tape to my bedroom wall.  Something that would take me, day by day, to 2016.

It was hard working through the bullshit; the multitude of superficial reward systems we set up: personal bests, chasing mileage, roaring crowds, victory laps, award stands, descending order lists, traveling, media coverage.  So many things that motivate me seemed egocentric and impure.  Or maybe I was being too harsh, seeking a sugary answer to an interview question.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
- Shakespeare, As You Like It

I arrived at this: By the time I've shuffled off this mortal coil, I want to have written an absolutely enthralling story.  Not with a pen, but with my feet.  One featuring great running accomplishments and the events that brought me to them.

So I put on my wall: Run the Story.

Those three words contain the instructions for training, everyday.  Mileage, paces, race tactics, recovery, workouts, strength, strides, injury rehab, planning: encyclopedic knowledge by now, but driven  and motivated by the story.  The story holds me accountable.  It gives me reason to run.

Nine days into winter training camp in Tallahassee, FL, Zap Fitness is working hard for the track season.  We have a special mix of personalities and types of runners that I'm enjoying training and living with. In the best week of training I've had since May, I've completed two strong workouts (Fartlek + 200m hills and 9 x 800), brought strides back into the equation, and had good long runs coming off that Achilles injury.  I always forget how quickly fitness and that feeling of confidence comes back after a break.

My next race: Mile at the Boston University Terrier Invite on January 25, with perhaps some Distance Medley Relay action the day before.  After that it'll be a 3000 in early February, date TBD.

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