Lions in the shade at Lisle
As I make the transition from the parallel universe of national outdoor track and field championships; that surreal place where velocity rules as the singular focus, I find myself in need of some physical and psychological repair. If one is seeking humility and motivation for the next season’s cycle, this is the script. Feeling a bit like a heap of discarded bruised dry fruit; dehydrated, sleep deprived, under nourished, strained hamstring in tow, with slightly wounded sprint ego.
I don’t usually consider traveling afar for these national competitions. This season presented a confluence of conditions that disposed me to more competitive participation. I felt compelled to test my limits against age group peers. Aside from a couple of dozen names attached to times, I did not have a real sense of who the competitors were or their relative ability. Experience it seems provides the mental framework for successfully approaching competition on this level.
Returning from injury in December, I was eager to test another possible approach to training for the 400.A bit of a mad scientist, I have dabbled in more than a few approaches. This time around I was going conventional, you know the drill; weight training (get stronger), skimpy aerobic work, diet modification (drop some weight), anaerobic capacity and power, ion threshold tolerance… I set up a plan with twelve week cycles, made it progressive, documented it’s application. It was an interesting experiment; I got stronger (although not in balance), I dropped aprox. 12 lbs.( still not enough), the prior injury to my right upper glute resolved nicely (pain free in may), I sustained multiple manageable muscle strains , and my times improved. Despite coming out of the blocks like a loping giraffe and transitioning into my Frankenstein like gait; I had personal bests in the 100 / 200, and my best 400 since 2006.
What I learned from the experiment; increase frequency of resistance training (get stronger), resistance training to include backside/front side balance, the need to id weakness’s (we all have them), I got faster because I was lighter and stronger (da), I got injured due to muscle imbalances (if I was an Indian, my name would be: he who runs like wounded animal), the variables involved in training for and executing a sprint are many.
Suddenly I’m sitting in a hotel room in some place called ‘lisle near Naperville’( like it does not have an identity of its own), with the specific and unreal purpose of moving myself across three short distances faster than a handful of other like minded men close to my age. I kind of like it here; it is as if I’ve been teleported to a giant sandbox, all the roles that make up my life have been put on hold, except for the one where I test my velocity against others, very strange. I feel just a tinge of self indulgent guilt, consuming familial resources on…
It’s in the mid nineties with high humidity; we are camped out under a tent, on the ridge above the track, lounging around like a cross between desert nomads and lions waiting to strike. Furtive glances at the time, quiet, alert anticipation, butterflies aflutter, we declare and wait. Stay focused, relax, visualize, hydrate. It’s time to warm up. Descend to the track, a nine lane super sprint highway under a blazing sun. Adorned in foreign legion garb and slathered in sun protection goop we are striding on the green rubber furnace of an infield, quickly evaporating. Check in time under the big tent. How many heats, what lane, which advance, how much time until we go, put on your spikes, who are these guys? I’m feeling thankful to be part of the Mass Velocity community; I can hear the familiar voices the encouraging words. Looking around I’m feeling small and inadequate, this is not helping. It’s time to go; we line up and march down on to the track. This reminds me of the Penn Relays and the march from the paddock. Somehow I’m very relaxed, confident, focused; everything around me has slowed down. Waiting for our turn; the starter is holding us for what seems like an impossibly long time, I can smell the rubber of the track, poised ready to react. Bam, driving, stay low, blurs on either side, go, go, go, use it all, lean.
For me this same experience played out in the 100/200 trials. I had no delusions of making it through the prelims in either. In the aftermath of my 200 prelim, I felt the incredible satisfaction that comes with the feeling that I had a well executed race. This is a relative, subjective and personal notion; except that you have that very objective and finite Fat timing number to go by. My time was a personal record for me. It never even crossed my mind that I might make it to the final; when I discovered that I had, I was absolutely flabbergasted. I ran hard in the final for about 180 meters before sustaining a race ending muscle event in my hamstring.
The fields assembled for these races were large and deep. Many of the best come to compete at these National events. It is extremely intimidating to compete against these fields; in light of their posted times, physical stature, and history of achievement in like competitions.
In the 400 prelim I made through to the final, as I expected to. In the final I lost my focus and floundered without a coherent race plan. I was executing a standard 400 race, rather than crafting a competitor specific race plan and rising to the level of the competition. This was a painfully frustrating rookie realization; very humbling, but a valuable lesson.
Mass Velocity fielded a large contingent of very talented competitors. I continue to be in awe of the extraordinary talent and graceful race/event execution of club members. It is truly an honor and privilege to compete with and for the Mass Velocity community. Thanks to all for support, sportsmanship, encouragement, mentorship, and role modeling.
Now that the season is over for me; it’s time to breakdown that training plan and devise another experiment