Sunday, February 12, 2012

Welcome Distractions

"Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more."
— Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I run this route in front of my house.  It’s a sloping incline out 400m and 400m back making it perfect for repeats.  Repeats are a regular part of my workout and I often take them early in the morning or after dark.  I get in one long run a week, but generally opt for higher intensity on other days with two of those days reserved for sprints of some kind.  Ladders, Tabata on the treadmill, or, most often, the dreaded repeats in front of my house.

By definition, repeats are horrible.  A veritable suckfest delivered 800m at a time as fast as I can manage (which varies day to day) the wheezy breaths escaping rapidly, visible as thick puffs of white air I pass through again and again as I go down and back the street.  This is especially challenging when it involves my 55lb sandbag T-rex. 

When I run, my mind tends to do one of two things: wander or empty.  When it wanders, I think about all manners of things from stressors, concerns, plans, goals, things I need to do, things I need to figure out, and depending on my mood, prayers or a great deal of cursing.  I’ve solved many of my own problems and created brand new ones in these times.  Yesterday I spent 20 minutes analyzing why I overanalyze things, which then led me to a whole train of thought around whether or not analyzing overanalyzing was productive or counter productive.  That one ended without resolution.  Those distracting thoughts certainly kept the synapses firing for the entire run. When my mind empties it becomes a tunnel, and the run becomes a purely physical task, the entirety of my mind released to the will of my body.   

One physical distraction is a spot on the ground no larger than a half dollar.  At about the 300m mark there is a glob of blacktop that is in the shape of a whale.  I always look for it on my way up the slope and it never fails to make me smile when I pass over it, being careful to never step directly on the spot imprinted on the cement.  It’s regularly been known to speed me up for the last stretch towards the turnaround and I sail back over it on the way back home. 

The repeats always hurt.  They’re never easy, back and forth on that stretch of road.  But I keep going out my door, down the driveway and around the corner to face it.  And it always takes something to keep me going out there to get it done.  Sometimes it’s a thought, a problem, a decision needing to be made, sometimes it’s pure physical will or the many distractions that line the street.  And sometimes it’s just a simple glob of tar in the shape of a whale.  Whatever it takes.