This weekend’s end marks the completion of any developmental race-type training prep for the first half of this year. Friday night’s 25+ technical mountain miles of long climb tempo repeats (3 x 4.25 miles w/ 2,750 ft elevation gain) followed by Saturday’s 35 miles and 9,000 feet of climbing pretty much sealed the envelope on a voluminous week of running 110 miles. The next two weeks will consist of tapering and hopefully getting slightly more rest than usual. Late June will officially usher in summer and with it another ramp-up phase in training, this time designed with the Leadville Trail 100 in August in mind. Until then I will absorb and enjoy the taper-race-recovery, taper-race-recovery cycles preceding and following Massanutten and Old Dominion.
When it comes to running in general mostly I am a self-conscious type which I suppose in a way more or less motivates me to work under the agency of some sort of measurable improvement program. To improve, as I see it, work, work and more work is the cornerstone of such a program. I’ve worked hard to get to the point where I am now in running- because I work hard to allow myself the luxury to run the way I want- and it is pleasing to recognize that, this year, I haven’t skimped in said training one iota. In fact, I’ve run every single day since before the New Year. Each day’s run has been a reaffirmation to improvement, to honing the body and mind as best as possible given my age, genetic disposition, geographic location, etc. With the exception of working through my teen and college years, saving as much money possible to fund college, at no other time in life have I deliberately given so much to one individual pursuit outside of daily priorities (family, work, education…) and, to me, therein lies poetry.
Even prior to my teen years, as a small child as far back as I can remember, I often worked with my older brothers cutting, splitting, hauling and stacking firewood from fallen or dead trees in the forest behind our home in Richmond, Virginia. We worked together during the warm months, gathering firewood, to prepare for the cold months when the giant wood stove in our basement, the “Papa Bear”, would burn and keep our family warm. As an aside, my siblings and I share fond memories of returning to the basement after many hours sledding in the backyard with neighborhood friends and tossing our wet snow gear around the Papa Bear. A gobbling of lunch, a mug of hot chocolate and, perhaps, a game of Monopoly and it was soon time again for more sledding. Thanks to the Papa Bear our snow gear was always returned warm and dry, perfect for heading back out into the cold. Each year growing up and into my adulthood I continued gathering firewood, sometimes working with my brothers, sometimes working alone. Not a single winter passed when the Papa Bear failed to keep us warm. And to this day in my parents’ home, the home of my youth, thanks to the efforts of my eldest brother, the Papa Bear still burns each winter.
The early formative years of my youth is when I learned the true value of hard, physical work and, also, to enjoy it. Currently, though my [career] work requires mostly gabbing on the phone, sitting behind a desk or a windshield I often return to my hard, physical laboring roots to prepare, build and create. I love it; I will always love it. Such work produces lasting satisfaction and a certain tiredness that feels warm and genuinely deserved.
So far, this year’s training has helped me to realize something poignant- I am still the same person who, as a child, helped his older brothers gather firewood for the Papa Bear. Only now, the majority of my physical laboring hours are more focused on trail and mountain running and fitness is what I stack for the greater good of future use. This is how I see my current state of training preparation and how it is a natural byproduct of my upbringing. What I do now, by which I mean to say how I choose to spend my time, is very similar to time spent as a youth: working and preparing. This is a comforting, proud feeling. One of which, of course, I will work to preserve.