I'm training for a half marathon this summer, and it's during my workouts that I do some of my more energized thinking- anything to forget about the side cramps! This morning, it was time for sprints at the local track, and I had a breakthru of sorts about the rewards that come from the physical, versus man-made worlds around us. Perhaps you'll find it interesting as you dive into that pile of unfinished DMs on Twitter.
To get to the track, I passed my well equipped, always open gym, chock full of treadmills all ready and at my service. Something about running indoors on an early Spring morning didn't feel quite right, so I drove to the track-- deserted in the early am, save for a flock of geese making a buffet out of the dewy grass in the middle.
I hadn't been there in awhile, and I discovered it was not in the shape I imagined-- it was cinder rather than paved, and there were no markings for lanes, finish lines, and the like. Also, the track sits on a field below a low rise, so in spite of the rising sun, the air was crisp and full of hoary frost as I chugged down from the car. Hmm. Chilly, unmarked, desolate. Maybe the gym was a better idea after all.
On my warmup jog, I fussed with my stopwatch-the usual-- can't remember how to set it to time splits and resets thanks to that user manual long since thrown away. Plodding along, mashing buttons to no avail, I noticed that the track surface was really uneven-- ruts from rain, weeds growing through the cinders. My feet skidded around, ankles rolling, and I started to feel like this was a bad idea. As I came around to the backstretch, I discovered what I hadn't seen before-- the crown jewel of this circus minimus --this section of the track was ... uphill! Not a huge hill, but a hill nonetheless. I felt it in my legs as I pushed along, as if a stiff breeze had hit me bow-on from out of nowhere.
Great. Sprint work? Without a timer, on a track without markings? Rutted, weedy and now, uphill! Just great. My frustration brought my pace to a crawl and then finally to a stop. "I need get out of here and head back to the gym!" The geese paused their fescue-fest, raisng heads in unison, beady eyes trained on me. "How much time will it take to get back to my gym, nicely lit, warm, with shiny machines rubbery black belts, all able to time themselves? Hell, I even get fresh towels and water service to boot!" The geese just stared, unblinking, wary.
And then, it hit me-- clarity about why I was there in the first place. In little over 10 weeks time, I'm running a race..outdoors...with lots of other people... on streets with curbs, bumps, cracks and yes, hills! As I saw through my frustration, I realized that in spite of all it's real world discomforts, this ruddy ring was in fact THE BEST place for me to do my work because it simulates nothing. Authentic. Messy. Undefined. It's the real world. The world that I have to succeed in come the end of June.
So, with renewed determeination, some pacing and improvisation with a stick, I found the way to set my marks. And, though I couldn't crack the code, I managed to get my watch in countdown mode. Soon, I was off, getting my sprints done-- hills, ruts and weeds bedamned. It wasn't easy, especially on the uphills. But by the end, I felt exhilerated and a little self proud, standing there on a deserted track, with own flock of geeese, before most had ventured out of bed. I overcame what were minor challenges to achieve my goal for the morning.
I'll be going back again for my next sprint workout, and I will leave the machines at the gym to someone else. How about you?