Some of you are tired of hearing about exercise. Well, I’m tired of doing it – so welcome to hell, bitches. I can assure you that one thing this will not become is a repository for stats on my runs rides and swims, as absolutely no one on earth that I’m not paying to care about that should care about it. I only care as much as I have to in order to ensure I don’t regress. Plus, next week’s post will be non-exercise related just to prove that there is some humanity left in the world. Even if it is bitingly sarcastic and critical of others.
But I re-digress.
Tapering. Let’s explore this. it’s the part of training where an athlete’s workout schedule goes from absolutely bananas to merely insane. “I’m just swimming 2000 and running ten today. Tapering.” I’m trying unsuccessfully in the triathlon club to start the ABT movement. Always Be Tapering. Also known as the Fat Athlete’s Coalition, we will work out 3-4 times a week instead of the requisite thirty six, eat whateverthefuck we want, and probably never enter a race. Not a lot of traction so far…
Kind of flies in the face of my prime directive, which is to seek satisfaction over fun. Fun isn’t really fun unless you are satisfied, and you can only really become satisfied by doing shit that hurts now and then. It’s in the bible…they just used different words. Dumb people think they are satisfied by wasting time on things that produce nothing because they don’t know how good it feels to get in bed after a sixteen hour day or see the results of something created over months or years of cultivation by your mind and/or body.
The other day I went for a run in Vermont. Never thought those words would come out of my keyboard in that order. I decided to run six miles, which would be my longest yet. It was 53 degrees, I was tired, it was kind of raining, and all I brought was shorts and a tee shirt. Sounds like the beginning of a newspaper article that ends with a bloated corpse found on the shore of Lake Champlain…should be fun. I have been trying to be super objective and look at every set of circumstances as neither good nor bad, but a product of how I handle it. This kind of delusional optimism is probably some form of mental disorder. Last night I was trying to heap words together in an effort to describe it. I came up with this –
I ran from the hotel to the lake, which was about two miles. I was running a faster mile than I had ever before. I will not say how fast because your collective laughter might alter weather patterns in the northern hemisphere. I ran a mile along the lake shore, came to a weird place that smelled of raw sewage or hippies, turned around and went back the way I came. Home stretch – back from the lake to the hotel. This is where it got “satisfying”. I realized that the reason I had been running so fast on the way to the lake was that I had been running down a 65% decline. I stood at the bottom of the hill, toes throbbing (Seriously. My toes hurt more than my ankles, knees, and the rest of my nerve endings – probably because they had been slamming into the front of my shoes as I ran down hill for two miles) waiting for the light to change and hoping to be hit by lightning or eaten by a lake monster. I was staring up a hill that would have made me sweat if I was going up it in a car. To waste more time, I looked at the running app on my phone and confirmed that the last two miles are all up hill. Great plan, dipshit inexperienced new runner.
It was starting to rain, so I started bargaining with God. I don’t believe in him, and he doesn’t believe in me, so that didn’t go well. I decided to run just to the next traffic light and then I’d allow myself to walk to the one after that. I figured if I did that a million times or so I might die within a block of my hotel and maybe they could find another pilot to fly everybody to Detroit the next day. I got to the first light about an hour later and started my well deserved walk. Then it was “Well, I caught my breath, and I’m just getting wetter and colder, so let’s get moving, fatass.” So I ran to the next light. At the fourth light I didn’t actually throw up, but my body did everything required to cause it to throw up. I walked a little, ran a while, and so on. I really wanted to sit down, but something was telling me that was a very bad idea. I listen to the little voices when they say things like that.
I made it back after 6.22 miles, ate an entire chicken, drank almost a gallon of water, and slept like a dead baby. The following day I honestly thought I was going to have to call in sick because my legs hurt so bad I had to use my toes to put my socks on, which takes a while. I took a shower lying down. I offered to pay my captain to do the pre and post flight inspections because the idea of climbing up and down the stairs was enough to make me consider changing careers. Luckily he was a nice guy and just did it. My feet hurt. Not the soles, really, but all of the bones and toenails and ankle machinery and even the muscle on the front of my shin. I don’t think that one even has a name. It was four days before I could run again, so of course I did. Satisfying.
Someone sent me an email saying that training is tough when you train with real athletes because they don’t remember what it was like to be terrible at everything. The assumption is that the new guy is just not used to the pain and needs to push through. That may be 25% of the truth, but the rest is grounded in the weirdness that greets you when you ask your body to do something it doesn’t normally do. I gave it some thought. Running isn’t as hard for me as it was six months ago, but I still remember the first time feeling like I was running on a trampoline, ankle deep in buckshot, wearing one running shoe and one scuba flipper. They need to make a simulator for good athletes to bring them back to a time when they weren’t all awesome McFastypants. So that is how I would build the running simulator. The cycling simulator is easy – just deflate your tires 50% and loosen all of the nuts on your headset so the front wheel doesn’t necessarily go where your handlebars are pointed. Swimming is more complex – it is a concert of dozens of movements of all parts of your body that must be done in almost perfect timing to do it well. I considered a drag chute, but a good swimmer wouldn’t have much trouble with that – it would just take him more strokes to go the same distance. He wouldn’t get the benefit of forgetting body position, sucking in lungfuls of water, doing whatever I do that makes me sink for a few seconds, and so on. The solution, like most solutions to complex problems, was simple. If you are a good swimmer and want to know what it is like to swim like me, just put a live mosquito in your goggles.
Now go have a nice swim.