imagesEven though my last race of the summer was September 6th in Hyde Park, London, and I said I was going to take a break, I only sorta did.  In the 12 days that followed, I ran 5 times, one of which was a 3 hour run up a 4000 foot mountain with my mountain goat friend Geoff…gorgeous, but impossible to confuse with relaxing.

As the first week of my “break” ticked by, I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time simply not running, a subject I used to be an absolute expert in.  But then a light bulb went on.  It happened as I was limping down the stairs, my quads shredded from the 4000 foot elevation drop that accompanied the aforementioned 4000 foot climb.  Even though I was wincing and whining to my housemates every time I moved, it felt good.

There were two factors at play here preventing me from taking my much needed physical and mental rejuvenation period, and what I needed to do was identify what was going on and find a way to stop this nonsense.  Past experience has taught me that even though it is dull and boring and hard to watch yourself deteriorate physically from your peak form, it is the best thing you can do for the success of your next season.

Factor 1:  Inertia

After being out for a year and a half, it took until March 2010 to handle a normal training load without having to do tons of cross training.  I had spent all this time rebuilding the engine of the car, and now that it was up and running, I spent the next six months revving up the speed.  When the season “ended” it was like slamming on the breaks of the car without wearing a seat belt…my body kept moving forward.  Now its like one of those movies where the film goes into slow motion…the car has stopped and I am very slowly flying out of my seat toward the windshield of the car, one inch at a time.  I need a seat belt, an airbag, someone in the passenger seat to fling their arm protectively in front of me to halt my motion (before the windshield does, ideally).

Factor 2: Nature

Nature is, and always has been, my church.  I’ve never felt the power of God in a building constructed by man, even though I’ve tried many times, but on a trail someplace removed from buildings and highways, I feel divinity slowly flowing through my skin as if I were made of cheesecloth, with only the finest substances able to move through the tight mesh, leaving the rest behind.

After weeks of travel and pressure and grime and compromise and city life, I need some time in the wild, and my favorite way to see nature is on foot, zipping through the trails.

Problem:

My body needs a physical break, but my mind and soul need to run on trails in nature.  Those things don’t exactly line up.  So what the heck?

Friday I came up with a plan.  I will spend the next two weeks in gorgeous places, and I will occasionally hike or ride my mountain bike, and only run if there is a trail I absolutely can’t live without.  So Friday I went to my favorite spot for rejuvenation: Bend.  Yesterday I did one last trail race to symbolically end my season in the same place it started, and today I sit writing from my In-Law’s living room where the walls are floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Deschutes River while the rain makes a million tiny splashes on the waters surface and patters the ceiling above me.

I’m going to focus on my health during this time, eating well and sleeping soundly and feeling peaceful.  I’m going to be a hippy, basically.

Its funny how traditionally my break involves partying and junk food and an overall rebellion against all things athletic.  But this time feels different.  All of 2010 I enjoyed myself in moderation, and as a result, I have no pent-up aggression against my sport for restricting my life.  There is nothing to rebel against when you feel you have autonomy.

What a revelation.