Saturday, April 02, 2011

45

It's April. Where the hell did March go anyway? Let's see, work, vacation, the Alexandra 7th birthday week long Fiesta, Gangsta Coyotes, more work, training on and off, Alexandra's first asthma incident in a year, and hmm...anything else? Oh yes, I'm old. 45 to be exact. I turned 45 a week and a 1/2 ago. 4 days later I ran a 10k. I felt heavy and old. My mind was convinced I was done; the best days were truly behind me. Too many distractions, too much to overcome to keep the train moving. I had finally found the limit of what I could handle. And then a few hundred yards from the finish I saw the clock reading a time better than it ever had at this race, and in an instant I felt transformed. I buried it, set a new PR on this course by 10 sec, of course hurled about three times (I'm sure many of you would have been disappointed had I not!) and was once again an athlete on track to do something I had never done before, break 10hrs for Ironman.

I ran the race w/o a watch. I carried my Garmin in the back of my shirt so I could get data later, but I ran blind and just went with it. We've got sooo much technology weighing us down. The constant, incessant feedback all these training gadgets provide can be overwhelming and at times demoralizing. So I decided to go old school as much to heal my brain as test my form. Athletics is about a body versus a course measured by a clock. That's it. There are peaks and valleys throughout the event. That's the natural course of things. Running blind allowed my instinctual behavior to guide me through those peaks and valleys. With the constant feedback provided by the GPS watch, I find I'm more likely to fret about drops in pace throughout the race. That doesn't help the head and as a result it's harder to rally at the end. This time around I focused on dosing effort on the course, one of the finest 10k courses anywhere if you ask me, and on my fellow runners. I felt the invisible push, that bubble of force they create when they are right behind me, and I felt the invisible pull of that imaginary elastic band when I was behind them. These forces kept me honest. Like running on a treadmill, the pace couldn't really slack off because the bubble would push or the band would pull.

So going old school has become my focus. In part it's because while I realize just how little I truly understood when I was young, I also realize that doesn't mean I did it all wrong. I was pretty good at some things, I just didn't know why. Like riding my bike, there was a time when I was pretty good. I've been on a bit of a decline for a while now, partly because I'm older, partly because I second guessed everything I had ever done, and partly because I just wasn't enjoying it anymore. So now I'm old schooling my training. Back in the day I never averaged much more than 18mph on any ride. Okay, I loved BIG hills so it was hard to hold too much pace, but even when I wasn't climbing the number was 18 when I trained alone. And then somehow, on race day, the number was always much bigger than that. The last few years I've been stuck in the mindset that if I didn't average north of 20 on any given ride it was a disappointment. And the "pressure" to achieve that, to make every single ride faster than the last, made it all start to suck. This year I'm back to the old mind set. I've even reset my position on the bike to feel a bit more road, and a bit less triathlon. And you know, as I rolled out today, it felt gooooood. It was amazing in fact. The sensations were the same as they were decades ago. I felt part of the bike, not a rider on the bike. I may just have to break out the Oakley Eyeshades (yes I still have them!).

All right so I'm rambling a bit, but so be it. It's been more than a month since I've written anything and stream of consciousness is what I've got right now. Coeur D'Alene is now less than 3 months away and the final push has begun. I'm trying to do something I've never done, go under 10 hours. But the story here, at 45, I've finally realized this effort isn't about doing everything in a manner different than I've ever done. It's about pulling everything I am and everything I've learned over the years together and delivering them in one magnificent athletic expression.