Hi. I'm still here. My new digs are not yet dug (the new site isn't ready for blogging), so I'll let you know when I move, but for now, I'm a bloggin' in the old 'hood. Hanging out patiently. Patience is a virtue, I've heard, so I will have to give it a try.
Training and racing, I've observed over the last year, are all about patience. You bust your ass, but there's a lot of patience involved, too. Waiting for the right race conditions. Waiting out an injury. Waiting for all the pieces to come together to meet your goal. When I bonked in Phoenix, my coach's primary response was: "It takes many marathons to meet your goal." It was not a koan: Nate is ever the pragmatist, but I appreciate his bluntness. I am a very impatient type, which is why I need a pragmatic coach and a structured training plan. It's also why I was an abominable Buddhist. (That, and the whole moderation and compassion thing.)
In my last few races--the 5ks and the marathon--I have pushed and pushed and pushed myself to my limit. Nausea. Delirium. Lactic acid ripping through my limbs.
The distinction these events hold is that I have treated them like they actually kind of matter. And they do. My trained muscles and tendons and joints hold all of my goals and mistakes and successes and failures. And so a race holds them, too, and I feel them viscerally when I rush forward at the sound of the pistol or the horn or the "Go."
Someone fires up a signal, and you go.
You rush--at whatever pace you've picked--until your body alienates you and starts its own signaling. Nausea. Delirium. Lactic acid ripping. It's like it's not even yours anymore and you have lost control or power over your own will. I hate that. I hate being at the whim of anything other than my own needs and desires. Even if it's my own body. Especially if it's my own body.
Damn bodies. They really make running rather difficult sometimes.
My threshold for exertion hit--my energy so tapped there is not even a drip of will left--I get to the point in a race where it is all I can do to keep going at all. I want it--it is in me somewhere--but wanting to keep your pace does not make it so. Someone might have said "Go" a while ago, but some force that sure isn't my will has demonized my heart and lungs, and I sputter.
I sputter and chug, losing steam. And then a corner is rounded. Here's something: the finish line is always just around a bend. Why do you never get a finish line you can see from a half mile away? It always just smacks you in the face. But the sting does something.
The sting sends a surge. And so, having seen the finish line, when your body feels most weakened and useless, you go faster. Faster.
The thinking used to be that our bodies try to maintain homeostasis constantly and that the body's symptoms of fatigue indicated its strained effort to maintain a safe homeostasis. But the finish line phenomenon shows the fallacy in that thinking.
Because "the only time homeostasis fails is when we are no longer alive" (Noakes, 2007; emphasis added).
Overlooking the cynical fact that our only choices appear to be homeostasis or death, this is an interesting factoid. Our bodies take care of us--no worries--making it possible for them to go out and do our bidding, even when our brains get all cranky and shit.
Like going faster when we sense the end is near.
When we see the finish line, we speed up. In my last 5k, I went from a 7:15 pace to a 6:35 when I saw the finish. In the marathon in Phoenix, I went from an empty-tank- 11:51 to a 9:32 for the final two tenths of a mile.
Our bodies are wrong when they're tired, and we're wrong when we think "quit." Unless we're dead, the homeostasis is kept, and we have to show those legs who's boss. We have to keep going, preferably faster. Because the goal is still there, even if you think the threshold has been met. You're wrong. You can handle more.
A surge is possible. Because you're tougher than you give yourself credit for. And the goal remains.