Once More into the Breach

It’s happened again: I have signed up for an Event and it means I have to do training and let’s face it no one likes training. I will be participating in Ragnar Northwest Passage, this time with a different set of folks (albeit I know the same number of people this time as last: one). Interestingly enough I’m assigned the same runner legs I was last time, and so it shouldn’t be too rough.

Training is exasperating. As much as I default to Rule by Spreadsheet — checklists, things to do, etc. get almost maniacally followed — having one tell you exactly how many miles you must run is annoying. Some days it’s four, some days it’s two, some days it wants you to run fast and some days it wants you to run hills.  This means you may be feeling like a nice, flat four-miler, but the spreadsheet says you must run 2.5 miles of hills. The spreadsheet does not have any regard for your feelings.

In previous years the “long run” of the week was typically the most daunting, not because of the run itself but to find someplace, local and convenient, that fit the spec. I live on a hill. I live in an area surrounded by hills. You cannot, conveniently and within walking distance of my home, start a run that will be flat for longer than about a mile. So when the spreadsheet calls for 4 miles, “easy” (read – flat), then the spreadsheet is blowing you a raspberry. You must either get into a car to drive to someplace flat (which is ridiculous), walk however long to get to someplace flat (in my case, about 2 miles down a crazy steep hill, which means you get to walk back UP the crazy steep hill when you’re done), or deal with hills and try to tell yourself that you’re taking them “easy”. When it’s four miles that’s fine. When it’s seven that’s less fine.

Which is a long and whiny way to point out that this is the least fun part of Type 2 Fun, and I’m in the thick of it. On the flip side, the usual performance anxiety that comes with these things — questioning if I really can do it again, finding that joints hurt more than they ought to, fantasizing that if I really injure myself then I can bail and no one can blame me — has not happened.

At all.

This is unusual, and incidentally I am not exaggerating when I say that often in training, usually about 20% away from target, I get this fantasy that I will fall or trip or otherwise twist or jar my ankle or knee or hip, and then I won’t have to run anymore, and it will be okay because no one could blame me for quitting. We have a deep societal attitude towards quitting which merits further inspection (and an example can be found here). Rather than feel comfortable saying “I realized I said I’d run the Seattle Half/do a tri/bike 200 miles, but I’d rather stay home and read Nero Wolfe books”, I’d find myself running along the manicured suburbs considering the merits of air casts and crutches.

I can’t dismiss this newfound acceptance as “I’ve done Ragnar before so that’s why it’s okay” because the “I’ve done it before” didn’t work with training for 4 of 5 half Marathons, or the second of two double century bike rides.

The only thread I have to hang this on is that this time last year I was finally running again after having messed up my ankle good and proper – complete with crutches. I lost an entire month’s training, and still caught up and was able to run Ragnar. Not perfectly, not even at my desired pace towards the end; but I was able to do it and survive the sleep deprivation and questionable hygiene that comes with a two day relay race.  Instead of bailing when the opportunity was handed to me (in the form of tripping in a restaurant, of all places, in Beijing) I did my physical therapy, used my crutches, worked my way out of it and ran.

Maybe the fantasizing of what it would be like to quit — or, I think more accurately, to not have to train — was enough to keep my mind occupied while running. Maybe I don’t have that anymore and the tedium needs to get replaced with other things.

Maybe this is what I will try to figure out while I go for my next run. I’ll need something to distract me. There will be more hills.

 

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