Friday, October 14, 2011

More Sweat = Less Blood

This past Monday marked my return to a regular training schedule. The last 2 months have been more about tapering, racing and recovering than actual training. Of course it was fun, but it’s time to start thinking about the next goal. As I was planning my schedule for the next few months I was reminded of this saying: “The more sweat on the training field, the less blood on the battlefield.”

I was curious about the origin of the quote, and assumed it came from a famous coach or athlete. However, it was actually preached by Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist from 400 B.C.. Tzu’s perspective on war preparation can certainly be applied to race preparation as well. After all, a race can often times feel like a war… sometimes against a competitor, often times against your body, and always against your mind.

Preparing for the next war (or race) isn’t always as fun as we’d like it to be. Concerns about pace and average heart rate can easily overshadow the joy and relaxation that we should feel when running. The 5am workouts always feel unnatural. And sometimes the monotony of the training can break the strongest of wills. However, as time goes on I have found that these challenges have become less daunting. The workout sessions become more habitual, to the point where a day feels incomplete without one. The healthy, active lifestyle has become so ingrained that it just feels normal. It’s who I am.

But occasionally, distractions or a waning motivation can wreak havoc on a consistent routine. That’s when I have to break out the big guns: the memories.

Don’t laugh. I’m pretty sure everyone does this. Right? During a workout you pretend you’re racing. Or, even better yet, you relive a memory from a past race. That’s exactly what I did last night during my run and it was amazing. I went back in time to the last 5 minutes of the Leadville 100. It was eerie how real it felt.

Jess and I crested the hill onto 6th Street. It was pitch black except for the lights shining at the finish line a half mile away. The cheers of my family were encouraging me to finish strong. But I was tired, weak, spent.  Yet somehow, despite feeling like I was just thrown into a large kitchenaid, I mustered up enough energy to run the last few hundred yards. And fast.  It was like some out of body experience. I couldn’t feel that I was running, but I could tell I was moving. My pain was masked by all the emotions…pride, relief, gratefulness. I finished, finally. And I took a minute to reflect on all of the hard work and preparation that afforded me this amazing experience.

And then I was back at my car. 9 miles. Done.

Words can’t always sum up how we feel. The finish at Leadville was definitely one of those moments. It was not only one of the highlights of my racing career; it was also one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Just thinking about it can give me goose bumps and cause my heart to race. And the great part…I have the ability to create more of these memories. How sweet is that?  

Now get out there and sweat, but remember to have some fun while you’re at it.

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