During a flatter part of last weekend’s long run, I chatted with a guy who’s big into triathlons. He’s doing Ironman Boulder this summer, and part of his preparation is a trip to an Olympic facility for two weeks to work with top coaches. He’s about my age and the two-a-day sessions are, to put it mildly, brutal.
“You’re killing me!” he told a coach after one particular grueling session in the pool. “You’re used to working with athletes thirty years younger!”
“The payoff comes in June, Michael,” he was told.
The coach was correct, of course, and those of us in the throes of training know it. But there are two issues with just accepting that, “the payoff comes in X” and moving on. It doesn’t make training any easier, and it assumes we survive to get to the payoff.
The conversation came back to me while reflecting on this past week of training. While I train and race year-round, January through March is technically my off season, so this is the time to hit it hard. I’ve stepped up my weekly mileage and added an extra session at Body Specs, and boy, am I feeling it.
My coach and gym trainer are keeping an eye on me so I don’t overtrain. But see above for how that makes me feel.
Assuming that I do get through this and end up stronger and faster, my payoff begins as early as April 9, when I join the Martians for a marathon through the streets of Dearborn, in an attempt to qualify for Boston next year. After that, trail season begins, with another April marathon, a May 50-miler, and my first-ever 100-miler in June. I’m still working out plans for the second half of 2016, but for now I think I have enough to train for.
If you’ve read this far (and if you have, thank you!) you may be wondering why all this training and racing is worth the payoff. After all, what’s to gain? A couple more medals? And is the satisfaction of finishing these races worth the time, the effort, and the pain?
My brother perhaps expressed it best once when my wife was telling him about my latest ultrarunning exploits. “Does he enjoy torturing himself this way?” he asked her.
I’m tempted to quote Mark Twain, who said, “I hate to write, but I love having written,” but the analogy doesn’t really apply. Yes, there are times during a race or in training for a race that are no fun (last week’s hills come to mind), and yet there is something fulfilling about the act of running for me that is hard to describe.
Yesterday’s run was a good example. It was a fifteen-miler, with a good portion of it at marathon pace, on a cold, windy day. But I distinctly remember thinking, somewhere in the middle of that run, today, right now, there’s no place I’d rather be.
Train on, everyone! The payoff is ahead – and right now.