Those stormy and feverish nights after Western States revealed my desire to run again. My training cycle had extended long and deep, and frankly, I was fit. Even a well prepared body will show the wear and tear of a mountain 100, and other than a sore ankle and toe, I felt unscathed. Had the ankle recovered, I would have entered the Burning River 100, scheduled for the first Saturday in August. I was determined. I know, of course, that scheduled downtime is a wise, and generally necessary, component of a sustainable training schedule. The nature of the freedom that I seek, however, sometimes requires a purposeful obliviousness to reason. I was going to run again – period. I am not so free as I would like. Within a few minutes of jogging I’m struck immobile – like Achilles – from a sharp pain in my heel.
Mood disturbances notwithstanding, it takes very little imagination to see this as a good thing. My body is enforcing a perfectly reasonable downtime. I’ve trained long and deep, and run one of the toughest mountain 100s anywhere. I covered 85 miles on a sprained ankle, much of it in blazing heat. I pushed through a difficult late evening of near-delirious dehydration and possible hyponatremia. My reserves were depleted, no doubt, and need time to recover. So what is the problem? Whether I am bound by good reasons, or by my injury, I feel constrained by the binding. Shelter is safe, and comforting, but once you have lived outside for a while, the containment is jarring. It reminds me of times during my AT thru-hike when I passed through town. It just didn’t feel right to pee inside. Can you see how resting right now is like peeing into a toilet? To most people it seems perfectly reasonable. But to the guy who’s been relieving himself amongst the expansiveness of eastern forests for weeks, it’s disconcerting.
When I do start running again I won’t be as fit as when I left off. That doesn’t concern me. The ramp-up to good fitness is the most motivating phase of a training cycle. I remember last year at this time. I hadn’t been able to run for many, many, weeks because of a calf strain. I started back in July. A few later I ran the Christopher Todd Richardson Memorial 10K run. This was a first annual run put on by Jennifer Nichols. It goes out and back along the Virginia Creeper Trail. Good grief, I felt the burn. I was completely racked by the time I passed through the finish. With a few more weeks of training, though, I was able to run nearly that same pace for several miles within my 50 mile race at Tussey. If for no other reason, we should take downtime so that we can be motivated by the improvements as we return.
And that brings me once again back to the only kind of freedom we really have. Motivation isn’t something drawn from a magic well by those blessed with the will to win. We structure into our routines those small steps that create motivating environments. Fortunately, if paradoxically, for me – I’m being involuntarily led through those steps now.