That picture of me and the mutt? It was right after I'd finished my run on Monday. That run was full of sweat and smiles and singing along to the iPod and waving at (oggling) passers-by and jumping curbs and stopping to pet a pug. It was just pure, unadulterated fun. It was what I love about running. It was running without an agenda or a focus on pace or intervals or even a route, distance or time. It was just walking out the door and taking off in any direction, getting a little lost in West Covington, and enjoying the sun, the heat, the ability I have to do this sorta thing.
And Tuesday? I decided to get up at 4:30am and go to Masters practice...and I also decided to NOT push it. Coach Aaron tried to place me in the fastest lane for the main set. I simply stated that I wasn't ready to push it yet. So I led my lane instead...for a killer set of 4x(300 on 4:15, 200 on 2:40). We used fins and got plenty of rest, but that's a lot of swimming for just a portion of the practice!
Tuesday evening, I followed the plan and the did intervals on the bike . It felt good to pick up the pace, to gun it up a hill, to relax between sets. And to finish the cool-down in the rain.
Had a conversation with the good doc on Wednesday. He said "YOU are the expert on you. You have to listen to your body. I think you're being given a great opportunity here." Wha?! This "opportunity" sucks donkey dick. I come from the school of thought that if your mind thinks your body is hurting, that is your mind tricking you and you need to surpass this level of "pain" to tap into real potential, real speed, real endurance, real pain. This makes it difficult for me to discern "real" pain from "perceived" pain. Regardless, I left feeling a bit more focused and at ease.
All this was great and fun and quite lovely, but the real magic happened Wednesday night after my interval run.
My car themometer read 87 degrees, probably 80% humidity...and the sun was burning down. I started with my warm-up and as I was crossing the bridge with the Reds traffic, I saw a skinny bitch up ahead (he he he! A rabbit!). And just then, the warm-up was over and the intervals kicked in. I passed her and never looked back. These were relatively short intervals - 3 mins. And there were only four of them. After thefirst two, I was still feeling great. It was that third one when the pain kicked in. I could feel the heat on my back and the burning in my thighs and the fire in my lungs. And the fourth one was just brutal...keeping close eye on the watch, counting seconds, until FINALLY, the cool-down.
This was a focused run, which means no music, no lolly-gaggin', just running with purpose. And it's after these type runs that I assess things. So, assess I did. As I walked Clubber and the lethargy set in, I weighed my alternatives. On one hand, I want so badly to compete at Louisville this year...and I want to listen to Coach E and do what he says and be the BEST I can be, which won't be the best I want to be. And on the other hand, I want to just have fun. I want to do road races, 5ks, trail runs, the Cleves TTs, Masters swim practice. I don't want to be beholden to a rigid plan of action that won't allow these moments of play.
And it occured to me that these things aren't mutually exclusive. I can go do these things I want to do. I can have a plan. I can also be open to deviating from that plan. I can still go to Louisville and compete. And I can go in a much more relaxed state of mind if I allow myself to play. I can also decide that I'm just not ready for Louisville when it arrives. I always said that when this becomes not fun, I hope I have sense enough to quit. And I'm just putting a lot of stress on myself to be so rigid at a time when I've got no control over how I'm going to feel, physically, on a day-to-day basis. So, I decided that I'm just gonna have fun and not take myself so damn seriously...
And, this meant getting up again at 4:30am to go to Masters practice :) Coach E isn't a fan, but this to me is play time...but an incredibly intensely physical play time. Today's main set was avg best 100s. I held 1:20 on all, maybe dipped to 1:21 on 8 and 9, and went out a little fast at 1:17, but pretty consistently there. It hurt. so. good. And I stayed and chatted and laughed with Aaron and the boys after.
I walked out with a smile on my face and I felt freer than I've felt in weeks.
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