photo by Steve Penland

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fun, Fun, Fun

Today was fun.  I met up with my sister and a couple of her friends to skate the trails this morning.  I had planned to do only 3 laps of the (3.2 mile) trail, in deference to my upcoming Oval workouts this week. But after I had done 3 laps and everyone else had done 4, they were all heading out again (and even picked up another skater in the parking lot), and I couldn't resist.  I don't know when the last time I skated with 4 other people was--probably a couple of years ago.  We had a great pace line, the sun was shining, the trail was fantastic, I had a couple new songs on my iPod.  And, maybe best of all, I, at 47, was the youngest of the group--I love hanging out with other middle-aged obsessed athletes.

So it was a great day.  Nothing hurt, breakfast (McDonald's, but don't tell my dietitian) was happy to stay where it was, no strain, no pain, no oh-my-gosh-I-can't-keep-this-up.

And yet, as fun as today was, and as much as I was looking forward to it--I'm looking forward to tomorrow more.

A lot more.

So what am I doing tomorrow?  Getting up really early, eating a breakfast that is aimed at keeping my stomach rather than my tastebuds happy (unsweetened applesauce with protein powder, which actually looks like it already took a quick round trip to the stomach and back), driving 30 miles to the Oval, and then skating pretty much as hard as I can, off and on, for 90 minutes or so.   I'll collapse in relief on the Oval bleachers during the blessed 5-minute rest between each of the 6 German Endurance sets, and mentally steel myself to get up and do another set when the 5 minutes are up--just as I will, gratefully, stand up a bit and rest during the 2 minute "easy" part of each set, and then steel myself to get "down" and go hard again for the final 2 minutes.  During that time my legs will hurt, my lungs will burn, my stomach will (probably) churn.  In other words--just a standard day at the Oval.

And I can't wait.

So what is it with us "obsessed athletes?"  I read similar things from others' blogs--"I'm going to make myself hurt tomorrow, and I can't wait."  Are we masochists, or what?

Part of the enjoyment, of course, is trying to hit (or better) the goal times for the workout.  For those of us who are data-obsessed, there's always the fun of looking back at what we did before and looking forward to what we might do next time.  And for those of us who are approaching that dividing line between "getting faster" and just "getting older," there's a bit of urgency in the quest to better the times.

I think there's more to it than just bettering a time, though.  I know that the past three sluggish months, while I have missed being able to hit my target times in workouts (man, have I missed it!), I have missed just as much the feeling of pushing myself hard.  I remember this same frustration from the summer of 2005, when I was dealing with some heart rate issues and simply couldn't skate hard.  The thing I missed more than anything--more than nailing workouts, more than racing, more than winning races--was simply skating hard.  So hard that it hurts.

Weird, when you think about it.  What's to miss about pain?

The Hubster observed, when I was in the midst of thyroid-induced sluggishness last month, that "if you don't get fast again, now we'll really see what motivates you to do this.  Will you like skating as much if you can't go fast, if you don't improve?"

But I don't think that would be a fair test, because the thyroid issues not only prevented me from skating fast, they prevented me from skating hard.  And I'm not sure which I missed the most (I'm using the past tense here since I'm hoping that last week's--and today's--return to feeling good continues).

I guess I'll find out when I get old enough that--although I'm still giving it my all, making it hurt--my times are rising.  Then I'll be able to separate out the "getting faster" enjoyment from the "going as hard as I can" enjoyment.

And if I still enjoy skating just as much when I am no longer getting faster but am still working just as hard...well, then, I really have no rational explanation for that.

I just hope it's a long time before I can gather that particular data.

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