Jack and Jill Ran Up the Hill: Crossing the Coach-Runner Divide

Falmouth is on Sunday, and when it comes to my 2012 PR Blitz Campaign, I really only get one shot at a PR in this case. There are probably 179 5ks for a PR between now and 2013, but there’s only one Wood’s Hole-to-Falmouth. Duh-duh-duuuuuunhh. Inflated ego much?

Reasons why I will PR:

1. My track and distance splits are faster than they’ve ever been.

2. I will not will not will not dance with pixies and vodka on Saturday night. Probably.

3. Forecast is lookin’ good.

4. I’ve been doing tempo runs faster than goal pace.

5. I want it bad.

Reasons why I will not PR:

1. I sometimes maybe a little bit race my training and choke my race.

2. My right leg has been gimping on the run. Quad, knee, calf. It hurts. Grrrr.

3. I’m blogging about it, Murphy. 

4. You can’t ride a ferry to the start this year.

4a. In case it isn’t totally obvious why a ferry might be required to PR, I am anxious that taking a bus means I’ll sit in miles of traffic and won’t have time to warm up long enough. Also, boat rides make me zippy.

5.  Jack will probably be at the Finish, probably holding a mic.

So my odds are pretty even.

Jack told me to take two days off to rehab my leg. Hmph. I decided that another couple 10-milers and a pedicure will work out the kinks. After RICE-ing my leg all day yesterday, I tested it out on the mill this morning and made it through 5 miles before the calf started to complain. It’s not screaming, so much as whining. It’s more annoying than anything. Back to RICE. I’ll try another 5 miles tonight and hope for a miracle. I will not be defeated by my own scar tissue.

If I were one of my own runners, I’d give myself a talking to. In fact, runner Jill emailed me this morning in a similar position, aggravated that her body is fatigued from training when she wants to work hard. My response?

It’s the nature of the thing. I feel your pain and am struggling with the same frustrations. I think every runner struggles with that in every training cycle–if you’re not walking that line, you probably aren’t training to your potential, you know? So try to realize that the ebb and flow of pushing and retreating is par for the course–it’s how you get faster. You’ll run so much faster because you rested this weekend. Of course, I can’t easily take my own advice, but that’s why we have coaches : )

Self-coaching won’t work for me, clearly. I am pretty schizoid when it comes to running and coaching. Do as I say, Jill, not as I do. I’m just going to head over here to ignore Jack for a while.

When life gets twisty with switchbacks, unpredictability, and impermanence, I cling to the pieces of continuity even when I’m ready for growth and change. Running is my continuity, even when I want the growth that is the PR, the PR that requires I rest. How do you reconcile those? How does one have the continuity that gives solace along with the tears in your muscle fibers that can put you on the bench? It’s clearly a mess.

I look at the Saudi runner Sarah Attar competing in the 800 meters for the first time, and I think, that’s it right there: continuity and change. Almost 100 years after the Olympic committee prohibited any women from racing further than 800 meters, a Muslim woman races the 800 in a head scarf. Whether it’s on the sociopolitical, psychodynamic, or muscular level, we grapple with issues of continuity and change, issues of breaking up scar tissue in order to get stronger.

As runners, we can be hella stubborn in that process when we love the solace and gratification we get from our sport.

Henry and I talked about that solace a little yesterday. He said he likes to go biking when he’s feeling low, instead of watching a movie. It feels better to move than it does to just sit there, he said. Yes, it does, I agreed. It breaks up the scar tissue. It makes us stronger.

Last weekend he biked 10 miles for the first time. When I asked how he wanted to celebrate his first 10-miler, he said, “Go 11 miles.” He’s my boy, through and through. That’s the goal of it all, the best of motivation, celebrating the thing with the thing itself. That’s how we court damage and end up with a steady dose of RICE, but it’s also how to live. One must tiptoe gently along that line, ideally with a soft and quiet midfoot strike, in order to achieve what you want most. It’s a work in progress, as we all are.

Along the way: the hills of Falmouth.

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