[058] Breaking out

Swim: 2,000 m/50,000 m

Bike: 5/154.1 miles

Run: 6.4/82.2 miles

Sometimes you need to step back and break away from the template to remind yourself how enjoyable training can be. I wasn’t sure how to approach yesterday’s workout – I’d been sick for about a week and a few swim sessions had been my only exercise. I was feeling better but wasn’t sure I wanted to go out for a hard run or ride. A solution finally came to me as I was getting ready for bed Thursday night and saw my trail-running shoes in a dark corner of my closet.

An easy trail run turned out to be perfect. The weather was perfectly cool and I decided to set out on a timed run of one hour. I would just run out for 30 minutes and then turn around and head back. I adopted an easy pace and quickly found myself getting lost in thought and not thinking about the run at all.

On the trail, the focus no longer was on performing a prescribed workout. It wasn’t about how things fit into the overall training plan. It wasn’t about exercise – it was an adventure. It was just me, running through the woods, evaluating the terrain, alone with my thoughts. After about three miles the running became so mechanical that I hardly felt it. It was sublime.

It’s very difficult to measure trail lengths, unless the park has done it for you, but as best I can tell I covered about 6.4 miles. I ran out for 30 minutes, as planned, but my second split was bit faster. But this run wasn’t about the pace, it was about the time spent.

When I returned to the car, my high was suffocated slightly by the realization that I had dropped a glove somewhere along the trail. They’re $2 gloves, purchased with the specific purpose of discarding them when I got tired of wearing them. But their sentimental value has increased over the years – I bought them for my marathon in 2007 and have used them in every cold-start race (and innumerable training runs) since then.

I wasn’t mentally prepared to turn a 6.4-mile run into a 12.8-miler, assuming I had dropped the glove at the far end of the run, so I returned home, loaded up my mountain bike and came back to begin my search.

I found the glove about 2.5 miles along, and right before one of the biggest hills of the course. I was so happy that I didn’t have to re-tackle that hill on the bike that I picked up the speed on the way back to the car. Again, the feeling of adventure overtook me.

I was, after all, riding a bike – that counts as training, right? But I wasn’t cruising along the pavement, hunched over the bars and focusing on my effort and pace. Rather, I was racing down hills, my back tire losing grip as I peeled around gravelly corners at 20 mph. I was attacking hills while standing on my pedals, and flying along the flat stretches. It sure didn’t feel like a training ride.

I’ve had a couple other similar workouts this year – my 14-mile trail run and my run home, for example – and every time I do one I think to myself, “Why don’t I do more of this?” It seems to take the “work” out of “workout.”

(The stats at the top of this post include 2,000-meter swim from Thursday night, bringing my yearly total to 50,000 meters.)

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