Track workout: Playing in the morning haze with deer

They pressed their noses up against the fence, looking with awe and curiosity at the events on the track. Had there been any real breath left in me, I would have laughed or offered them a gentle but sincere “good morning” as I do when passing horses on my long bike rides. As it was, I could barely smile, even as our approach on the turn startled them away from the fence.

Five deer had begun their morning in the grassy fields around the high school track. They hung out, amused it seemed by the track workout Sue, Maureen and I were running. They watched us intently then after a few minutes lost interest and went about to grazing in the grass wet from the heavy rain and high humidity.

On the inside, I smiled. And how I needed that. Because the last two days of training hurt, physically and mentally. It started Monday morning with my swim workout. One of my go-to pools changed to a long course format — meaning one length of the pool is 50 meters. I’m used to swimming in a 25-yard pool, which means more turns. While I don’t do flip turns (water up my nose on one too many attempts, thank you very much), I do touch the wall then push off with a blast. Seems that I get quite a kick from those push-offs. More than my coach or I suspected. And so, my conversion to the long-course pool has been frustrating. My times are off. Way off. This despite giving the best effort I know how to give in the water.

But even as my times continued to get worse, I brought my thoughts back to the positive. What can I gain? I’m working hard, thinking about my stroke, concentrating on good form. The mantras pass the time quickly: I am strong. I am smooth. I am sleek. Each successive 200 meter repeat I gain a comfort level in the water, feeling a glide, a shift, a new peace of working hard with the water and not against it. Yet, I still had tears in my eyes upon completing my main set, disappointed and confused at my swim time regression.

Fortunately for me, it was at that precise moment that my friend Diane came on the pool deck. She recounted for her me struggles with the long course pool and congratulated me for finishing my workout. Perhaps some days, the greatest growth comes not from the execution, but from sticking with it even when it feels like failure.

On the track this morning, my 400 meter repeats fell within the desired time range, thanks to pacing help from Sue and Maureen. With their assistance, I my laps were consistent rather than my normal mode of attack, which is to play frantic catchup in the final 50 meters. But they hurt. A lot. And I wanted to quit. The humidity was getting to me and each interval brought a stronger feeling of throwing up. I needed to find the positives.

And that’s when the deer came over to play.

I grumbled after each interval as the sensor between my mind and mouth broke and my running friends had to endure Amy’s Stream of Consciousness Dialogue, unfiltered and so annoying I wanted to slap myself. Perhaps I needed to purge the negative, literally get it out of my body to make room for the positives which resided deep inside me. This hurt more than I remember, but it was making me stronger. I was proving a important point to myself: I can do more than I think I can. And the deer along the fence, well, they were there to remind me of the joy and playfulness that I can bring to every moment of my day, whether it’s gutting out a quality track workout or completing a swim workout amid disappointment.

It’s not the outcome which defines my day. It’s showing up to play.

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