Sunday, October 23, 2011

Leap of Faith

Running into the Fog, October 23, 2011

I stepped out of my house this morning for a long run, as has become the Sunday morning custom. However, now I am in the taper, so long is not so long. 12 miles today. I put on my sunglasses, and hit the road. I live on a hill, and as I descended, I found myself in a fog. Literal fog, that is. It was really socked in. A foggy day seemed a good reason to head for the Marsh, where the only traffic is bird watchers and the watched birds. It is eerie to run with limited visibility, not unlike the times I have skied in a snowstorm where the snow whites out everything more than 3 feet in front of your face. Once at Tahoe I followed a ski patrol down the hill, unable to tell whether there were boulders or 300 foot drop-offs ahead of me. It was a leap of faith.

The taper is a leap of faith. You train and build your mileage and do your speed workouts and get jazzed about topping 50 miles per week (which is less than half of what those elite marathoners do, but for mere mortals, not bad). Then one day you look at your plan, and the mileage is puny! There are days off! How can this be? The mind starts playing games: am I ready? Should I do just one more big long run? What if all of my hard work is lost in the next 3 weeks?

I should know better. In music, if you are still developing your chops in the 3 weeks prior to performance, you are probably in deep trouble. To perform well, you need time for things to percolate. You need to be refreshed. You need to feel that strong desire to push yourself again. The taper is the calm before the proverbial storm, the pause before the cadenza, the polish on the turn of a phrase. When I had time to do actual recitals, I would take long walks in the woods and play the whole thing over in my head as I walked. I probably looked pretty strange, with a vague and foggy look on my face. Though probably no stranger than when I start dancing and singing to "Love Shack" while running 20 miles on Old Arcata Road.

The other day, I did hill repeats. It was an abbreviated version of my prior hill repeats, because I am in the taper. I ran hill repeats, distracted somewhat by the worries of my life, and considering other leaps of faith that may come my way soon which make the taper seem like child's play. Make no mistake though, the taper is scary. So many miles to run in New York, and today's 12 mile run is the longest I will do between now and the big day. Usually when I run hill repeats, I need some furious rock and roll. But this time my mind was so loud, I found myself turning to something altogether different, something I have not yet selected on my iPod in all these months of training. Something to quiet a distracted mind running up hills amongst the Redwoods while in the taper.

The taper is a letting go. The Redwoods are a chapel. That's all.

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