The escalator was down in my subway station on Thursday, so I had to take the stairs. And it was not easy.
I’d just finished a run, the final workout in a string of solid workouts that started last Friday morning in Dallas. In that time, I’d done my longest continuous bike ride (35 miles, with a total of 45 miles for the day), run three times, been in the pool twice, and even lifted some heavy things and put them down again in something resembling a strength-training routine. On the way up the subway stairs, I felt every one of those workouts in my tired glutes and quads.
It was awesome.
That’s the feeling I’ve been missing — the rush that comes with being spent. The delight in a rest day that feels earned by hard work, not defaulted into by laziness and burnout. The sense of building and rebuilding, of feeling a foundation sloooooowly fuse.
After Walnut Creek in December, my motivation melted away. I equivocated obnoxiously about races and eventually decided to do none of them. I spent some time in the pool, I set up the bike trainer, and I started running again after a short break, but nothing was really capturing my interest. Everything felt like work, and what workouts I did were mostly motivated by fear and guilt — fear of losing all fitness, guilt over having spent money on these sports I wasn’t even liking. That’s not really an awesome way to start a year with a big goal race — and not a time goal race so much as a life goal race — looming in July.
Starting with the bike ride up Twin Peaks, though, something sparked. Biking, oh, I might never love it, but it does have its newness; big, juicy milestones are there for the taking, and most of the routes are fresh, and even when I lose my shit yet again on a dumb little hill, I always end the day feeling like I’ve accomplished something. The joy of that is hard to shake.
And running? After marathon training all summer, and then half-marathon training with a not-insubstantial volume of miles through the fall, I’d forgotten that it was okay to run three miles. Truly: forgotten that it was allowed, forgotten that someone wouldn’t come yell that I wasn’t a runner if I turned for home after 15 minutes. So that’s what I’ve been doing: running three miles. Sometimes four, if I’m feeling really wild. But mostly three. It’s nuts. And for most of January, it’s felt like plenty. It’s finally starting to feel like not quite enough, and I’ve added some distance to my weekend runs, but man, has it been nice to wake up after sunrise on a Tuesday morning and realize it’s fine, the day isn’t lost, I still have time to run, because I’m only running three miles.
No matter how many times I fight through the goal-less off-season slump, I can’t ever remember what it feels like to see the other side until I’m there. So, for future reference, here’s how it happens: One day — and there’s no telling when — I’ll have a thought like, “Maybe I’ll ride my bike for a long time in a new place this weekend!” And that’s followed, a day or maybe a week later, by “Hey, it’s going to be a gorgeous sunset, might as well go run a little!” And maybe after that run, it’s “Okay, your legs are sore, but you know what makes them feel better? Swimming!” And then some day not too long from then, I’ll find myself slowly hauling up the subway stairs, grinning at the stupid exhaustion of a really good week.
Yeah, it’s only one week. Yeah, it’s going to be a long march to July. And no, I’m not quite where I want to be; I haven’t figured out how to put all the workouts I need (swim-bike-run) with the ones I don’t want to lose (yoga, strength training, my weekly chatty aquajog). I know that eventually the days with two workouts are going to far outnumber the days with one workout, and I’m not sure there will be all that many days with zero workouts, and that’s a little terrifying.
But oh, finally, finally. I’m ready to press ahead.