Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nap Fitness

Carpet Bagger.  It's an apt caricature of life in rapidly unfolding 2015.  I began in the North, waking before the early January sunrise to the first snow I'd seen in Milwaukee this winter for a flight back down South.  "Don't go just yet" the white blanket seemed to plead as it dissolved in blue deicing fluid over the plane's wings.  Brief solitude in the mountains and Zap before bouncing to Scotland, to Tallahassee, to Boulder, to Ireland, and to Greenville, South Carolina.  We're vagabonds at times, us runners.  Train hard.  Rinse off.  Recover.  Race.  Recover.  Repeat.  Compete with your similarly tasked friends across the country, catch up for 90 minutes at a post race party, and see them again at the next one.  I'm not complaining.  Sometimes it feels like we're on tour, with(out) (tens of) thousands of screaming fans, (coach) buses, the (illegal) drugs*, and the (big) money.  But it's an honest, fast, fun life, and one I'm really thankful I get to live.  Things are going to settle down next week when Zap Fitness makes its springtime return to Zap Fitness, but we're as eligible for a trip to California or Istanbul while cutting Zap's grass field or fixing fence posts as we ever are.

Though the pace of travel and racing feels quick, the in-between times reserved for training and doing laundry are relaxing.  The most important thing I've learned since leaving college is how to chill the fudge out (You take fudge and refrigerate it. [too dry?] {My humor or the fudge?}]).  That manifests itself across the board: the nap between runs, mentally handling a string of hard training weeks with few distractions to break the days up, and in the pace of easy runs.  Pete often begins his Top Secret Zap daily training emails with a quote or tidbit, and one from about a month ago sums the idea up well:

"Handle boredom well - so many athletes I run into struggle with running and doing all the ancillary things associated with their running and little else. Put simply that is what the best in the world do but many fight it in our 'need to be productive all the time' western society."
     - 2 x Olympian Peter Pfitzinger (from a NE Runner Column Aug '91 - What it Takes to be a Pro)

But reading about boredom must be boring.  You'd rather be boring a hole in a board during a boring boarding school advisory board meeting about room and board.  Physicist Niels Bohr once said "An expert is a man (or woman) who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field."  He's talking about being bored.  More specifically, about focus on one single thing for a long time.  Wouldn't you rather fully complete something that took a long time than leave a bunch of competing, partially finished projects to die?  There is always time, lots of time.  I'm slowly getting better at what Pfitzinger described, trusting what I am doing and not worrying about what I could be doing.

The Wanderlust continues, bringing Tyler, Griff, and I to Jacksonville, FL for this Saturday's Gate River Run / US 15k Road Championships.  The race marks my last foray into over-distance before track heats up.  15,000 meters (roughly 9.3 miles) is traditionally a good ways for me, but I'm excited to continue breaking out of my mold and testing myself against the race's best ever field.  It's a flat course until the large hill in the eighth mile and blazing downhill in the ninth to the finish.  There's a handsome prize purse, bonuses for the fastest final mile, and a team competition with payout.  All that makes for an exciting run which will be live here (for free!) at 8:30 EST on Saturday morning.

Preparation for Gate River has gone well.  My most recent race was a 13:58 5k win on the roads in Armagh, Northern Ireland.  Since then the past three weeks of training in Greenville have been bountiful.  Last Wednesday Andrew, Griff and I worked well together over three sets of track 1200m snowball (get faster and faster) + road 2k threshold followed by track 4 x 400m for economy.  On our third set we were 3:17 (69, 65, 61) for the twelve hundred and 6:01 (3:04, 2:56) for the 2k.  It was a manageable workload executed patiently which always bodes well.  Nothing killer, but a fitness booster.  And on Saturday we were 5:06, 4:43, 4:45, 5:02, 4:44, 4:54 for the miles on a 10k progression run with hills.  

European Championships Steeple Chase Silver Medalist Krystian Zalewski (r) and I battling
in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

A close second on my list of things to look forward to after the 15k is our return to Zap and the mountains.  Winter training camp is over, and I can't wait for the silence of the woods, the icy rush of the creek outside, and to work on all the projects I have in mind.  I'm going to finish building our garden fence, plant the garden, re-finish some old rocking chairs, build a desk, and then go fishing.  There's something special about that place in the woods - maybe it just seems like home to me now.  As long as I find time to be bored once in a while.  Either way, I hope all this carpet bagging brings a profit in Florida.

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