Tuesday Tri Brain Dump

I don't know if it will work for you. Actually, I don't know for sure what it's done for me. But I think running on uneven surfaces has served me well. This was another aspect of my wacky podiatrist's prescription for solving my Achilles problem: there was the thing about wearing shoes with little in the way of raised heel or toe lift, very little padding and plenty of room for your toes to wiggle, and he suggested I run as much as I can on soft but not necessarily smooth surfaces to strengthen my feet and all the muscles, tendons and ligaments that connect to them. So I've been doing that and my Achilles feels great, as does everything else. And even when I go over to the hard stuff, which I do run on occasionally because, after all, that's what I'll encounter in races, I feel plenty strong and comfortable. OK. I don't have scientific evidence. I understand the danger of drawing casual cause-effect linkage. Yet I think this program has worked. I will certainly say this: six months ago I would not have been able to pull off a workout like the one I did today. I warmed up for a couple of miles with some slow jogging and a little striding. Then I alternated hard one kilometers at under 5K pace with jogged one kilometers. Five hards, five easies. The last couple of hard ones hurt but that's always the case with repeats. What was unusual here was that these weren't done on a smooth track with gentle curves and long straights; no, these were done on the grounds at Normandale, a well used public park with grass that is hardly golf-course quality and these wet days is rather slippery and sloshy to boot, and dirt that in addition to the usual rocks and tree roots now features more than a little mud. Plus, there are six tight, right-angle turns to negotiate on around the course. This is active, alive, engaged running. Running around a track, you lock in and go almost as though you're working a machine, like you're pedaling a bike: there's a steady rhythm, a constancy to it. You don't even have to think about your steps. Normandale is all about constancy, too—constantly adjusting. You've got to be mindful of so many of your steps and your brain has to make a million more little calculations about how to work the muscles to keep you upright and moving along safely, and your muscles have to do that extra work. It's challenging, but great fun. I was doing these kilometers in 4 minutes but I'd guess the effort was equal to a 3:45s on the track, maybe even faster.

An hour or so after I finished running it was time to get to the pool. I was exhausted. I plopped down on the couch and in five minutes was dozing. Rest. It was what my body wanted, what it needed. But this swim workout had an expiration date—in about 90 minutes, I'd need to be at school to fetch The Lad. So I dragged my drooping ass to the pool. Along the way, I kept wondering if this was the right decision. Maybe rest would be better for me? Maybe I’m pushing too hard? I did offer my body a compromise: I'll make you swim, but I won't make you swim hard. We'll enjoy the water, how about that? Stupid body fell for the gambit and after 10 minutes of sleep-swimming, I actually began to feel pretty good in the water. I kept my promise and didn't swim hard, but I got in 2000 yards, yards that felt like they actually did something good for me, if only by continuing my swimming momentum. And now, several hours later, I feel fine, like it was a good day, a day of continued progress.

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