It was the very end of the 12-mile run, in the cold, gray and wind and the only thing between me and the delectable electrolyte replacement mixed beverage in my car was the climb out of Chestnut Ridge Park.
It would have been so easy to walk. Really. It was just a training run. I had put in the time, put in the distance, put in the effort for nearly two hours. Why not just back off and finish off the run?
But I was running with my friend Mark who wouldn’t let me dog it at the end. It was the final half mile, “the fun part” he called it. Each hill I had to pick it up, each flat I got to rest a bit. I would have muttered one of my better profanity stream of consciousness tirades if only I had the power of speech.
For the first time in some time I ran without any gadgets. OK, granted I did have my watch on, but I didn’t start the timer, using it only to gauge when I should take my gels since left to my own devices I would either take all of them too early or wait too long and suffer the consequences. Instead of being all Garmin-hooked up, I was just going to run, enjoy the new route, enjoy the new company and convince myself of mantra-like themes, including, but not limited to, “I am a screen and wind goes through me especially up this harmonious hill.”
A gadget-free run would also keep me from obsessing about how my pace would impact someone else’s run. My long, slow distance run is not a very speedy pace, especially for Mark who could easily have walked backwards on his hands to keep up with me. In fact, I was slightly concerned we wouldn’t be moving fast enough to keep him hypothermia-free. (Luckily, this was not the case.)
And a funny thing happened when I put the gadgets away and when I made a nobel effort to try and not be obsessively concerned about pace (because when I run with other people I get overly concerned that I’m ruining their workout, which is another intrapersonal blog post in itself). I had a great run. There were some faster miles, some slower miles, two “gel stop” walk breaks and of course the fun sprint up the hills at the end (and I use the word “sprint” generously). It was exactly the type of run it was supposed to be — logging the long miles and making it fun.
There are plenty of opportunities for me to focus in on the numbers on my wrist. Like when I’m doing my track workouts or given a tempo run with specific pace parameters to try and hit. But again, it’s about “trying” to hit the numbers. The actual numeric outcome will take care of itself — it’s a tool to help me learn my own pacing, my own rhythm and to force myself to work hard for specific intervals. This is helpful to me because, as oft-stated before, left to my own devices, I would settle into hours of a Law and Order marathon. It can also be dangerous as I get too attached to the numbers and the pacing and what I’m “supposed” to hit that I somehow collapse my workout results with my own self worth. I don’t go there often, but I would be lying if I claimed to never stumble into that dark recess of my mind.
That doesn’t mean those 12 miles were lazily easy (um, I was trying to Mark from freezing to death, remember?) or that the lower half of body didn’t really want to cause the rest of my being pain (not just the pain of sore legs but metaphysical pain, the kind which comes from having to listen to people scream for a 10 second backcourt violation in women’s basketball when there is no 10-second backcourt violation in women’s basketball). It also doesn’t mean that the next day I wasn’t intensely curious as to the distance and time we ran.
Ah, but it means the actual process, the actual run, was that much more enjoyable.
No one said that letting go of the false notion of perfection, and all the stories I make up about perfection, would be easy.
But training days like this one do a lot to move me further along that learning curve.