This past week was my first of the New Year starting my training with Coach Pat. In the past, I had options, with little sense of discipline. However, with interest in making up for my passive mindset last year, I chose to man up in my tightest tights and brave the cold. I have run in the midst of thunderstorms, showers, snowstorms, hurricanes, and fires (not). How bad could sub-freezing temperatures be?
Wednesday Night, 1/7 – 10 minute warm ups and then 3 sets of 10 minute runs, picking up 15 seconds with each set
Turns out, on a good run it can be awesome. On that Wednesday night I ran out into the semi-darkness, sucking up the 8 degree weather and forcing myself through some of the most brutal winds I had ever faced. It was an incredible feeling, both meditative and exciting, painful and soothing–perhaps something that only after almost a decade of choosing to run outside can induce. I recall glancing through my frozen contacts other runners as they gasped their way through the soul-eating winds along the West Side Highway, their gloved hands grasping the air as if pulling themselves determinedly up a tempestuous mountain with no end in sight.
Patrick told me after my run to take a measured approach to these first two weeks–they are an assessment after all. I had mentioned on a good run that the cold can be awesome. I would be remiss if I fail to bring up facts about today’s workout: running 5 sets of 800m at 4:15/mi. First, it was a cloudless Tuesday afternoon. I was supposed to run yesterday, but elected to do my ab workout instead due to a downpour of rain and snow that I dared not test–not a solid excuse judging from my previous statements about committing to running, but I confess I also would like to feel like I am actually enjoying my training. You can’t win all the time, but I felt that switching days would be a nice compromise.
Tuesday Afternoon, 1/13 – 10 minute warmup, 5x800m at 4:15, 10 minute cooldown
Today’s workout was a test of whatever willpower I had. From the get-go I lacked the confidence to go anywhere near 4:15. On a good day I’d be lucky if I could even run 6:30. On a day like today, after being sore and icky and now dealing with the cold, I made some of the worst paces I had ever seen–nowhere even NEAR my intended time:
Lap 1: 7:04
Lap 2: 7:27
Lap 3: 7:30
Lap 4: 7:40
Lap 5: 7:43
No matter how hard I pushed, no matter what I did to adjust my strides, my cadence, my lung capacity, each lap was worse than the other. By the end everything hurt, everything stung. My lungs were on fire, my abs sorer than ever. By the end of my run, I was swearing up a storm, cursing the weather, cursing my legs and weak body, cursing my sore abs. Did Coach Pat put too much faith in my abilities? Did I have not enough faith in mine? I just don’t know. I felt hopeless.
I am currently reading a book by Haruki Murakami. I was familiar with the name, but had never been interested in reading his work until I entered the Konikuniya bookstore in Midtown and saw a memoir, What I Think About When I am Running. At the time, I figured it would be good to get an artist’s perspective on the sport–the last book that I had read was Chrissie Wellington’s A Life without Limits and I had been left somewhat disappointed more because, well, she’s a champion Ironman Athlete…how can I relate to someone of such remarkable calibre? Here, though, was a man, an artist, a man who pursued the sport not to compete but to find fulfillment and an output beyond his work life.
Within the first two chapters of reading, I was immersed. Murakami talks about running, sure, but he talks about life: his musings, his past, his struggles, Mick Jagger. It is as random and yet as specific as my focus when I am running– the objectives for each training run is clear and yet, while I’m thinking about that, what will I be having for dinner? Do I have a shot at asking her out? Why didn’t I ask this girl out back in high school? I really liked that Backstreet’s Back song when I was younger–follow that beat at this pace, one more lap to go!
After reading some of the passages in the book, I stopped. I am going to read after every training run, but no more, no less. Especially after today’s miserable run, I think I’m going to take, as I had been told, a more measured step.