Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chubby Chook

There were also impromptu lessons after their meals, like the time when Cerutty
lectured them on warming up. A cat was sitting on a ledge outside one of the
huts when their coach snuck over and emptied a bucket of water over it. The cat
leapt away and disappeared in a flash. Cerutty then expounded: "There. Did the
cat do stretches? Did the cat jog around? Did the cat do knee bends? Did the cat
have a track suit on before racing? No, the cat just got up and went. No more
warming up. Forget it!" (Excerpt from Neil Bascomb's The Perfect Mile)

Don't believe him? Get a bucket, find a cat and see for yourself!

Cerutty was an unofficial coach for the Australian olympic team for the 1952 Helsinki olympics. He trained John Landy ... one of the contenders at that time, along with Roger Bannister, for being the first to break the 4 minute mile barrier. Cerutty was big on training mental fortitude by putting athletes through grueling bootcamp style regimens. Daily long runs up and down hills and over sand dunes, through rivers etc were standard fare. The idea was to basically train people to push themselves to their limits. It certainly worked to build endurance and mentally strong athletes but, unfortunately, he neglected speed training and Landy failed to break the mile barrier that year.

Too bad because Cerutty would probably like some newer ideas about training like the 30 second workout where you sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest then do it again 6 or 7 times. This is supposed to have a better training effect than running for an hour at a steady, easy pace. I haven't tried it yet but I like the idea of being able to get that same benefit in about 5 minutes! But here's the catch: to do that workout you need some fairly serious mental fortitude to push yourself as hard as you can for 30 seconds, several times over ... until you taste blood and/or bile in the back of your throat in other words. Most of us, I think, would rather do an easy hour than a painful 5 minutes. Physical and mental discomfort is ...well... discomforting to us.

For we have become a nation of softies looking for the easy way out. Look at me ... the lazy trail runner. A perfect example. I want to do the least amount possible to get a decent result (or at least beat monsewer Craik). But to do that I have had to become less lazy, eat less chips and push myself. And doing that has yielded some decent results.

Mental fortitude is necessary to improving at, I would say, just about anything in life. If we want to get better at something we have to put in the effort and sometimes do things that we don't like or that aren't pleasant or don't make us feel good. It reminds me of something I read in Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" where a direct correlation was made between student successes in math and the willingness of students to persevere and not give up on math problems. Students who didn't give up or tried for a long time before asking for help were generally more successful than students who gave up quickly and easily.

I'm a teacher, and the empirical evidence is right there in the classroom for me. A lot of our youth lack mental stamina. "Why do we have to run? It's hard! I'm just going to walk and talk" "It's raining, we'll get wet!" "I can't do this work .. it's too hard. Help me!" ... and so on. The slacker culture. How did we get here? Whose fault is it? How the hell do I know. Are kids inherently lazy? Do we have low expectations of them? I dunno .. those are hard questions. I think I'll give up. Ok ... anyway ... a lot of "pushing" these days seems to be external (parents). That's fine .. there's certainly some place for it. But what of the internal drive to overcome problems... to test one's own limits (be they mental, physical or both) for the purpose of self discovery, self esteem and the feeling of accomplishment you get from not giving up? Do I have what it takes to finish that second bag of chips..etc? Have we overcompensated on the external whips at the expense of the internal ones?

I'm not talking very young kids. They haven't developed that yet. But certainly by the time they're 12/13 some interest in pushing one's limits/abilities should be present at least some of the time. And it certainly is .. mostly in girls which may support the premise of an article in Atlantic monthly magazine called "The End of Men" which talks about how women are now far more successful in school, university and work than men and how they are beginning to take up more of the workforce than men, especially in so called information age industries. It's pretty interesting and a bit of a wake up but I think the title is a little sensational. There's no doubt women are really kicking our collective male behind these days but, speaking from my experience in a female dominated profession, I can say that there is a point of diminishing return when a work force is either all or mostly women. It has its issues. So I'm not quite ready to write off men just yet ... but let's not be complacent! Anyway ... I digress... that's a discussion for another time..

Get out there and drive yourself into the ground sometimes folks. It'll do you good! Look at Gary Robbins. He's uglier than a mule! Hell if I looked like him I'd wanna lay down and die too! (..wait a minute... I...) .. Never mind. The point is he's out there whippin' himself and doing some mental fortituding and whatnot and he's had some pretty stellar successes for it all! So don't be a chubby chook. Get out there and give life a good rootin'!

That's two postings in as many days. What the hell is wrong with me?! Ok ... i'm tired and no one's helping me with this so i'm going to bed. Lazy's working for me right now. Night. ... (did someone say chips ..? .. )

Friday, July 16, 2010

Haze - The latest quarterly installment from the lazy blogger

The word describes my return to the Kneeknacker 5 years on.
I woke up in one at 4:59 followed by the sound of a distant but somehow familiar voice "crap!" ... my own. I've been known to oversleep on the odd occassion but have an uncanny knack of waking up just when Tom arrives to pick me up. Surprising myself with my mental agility at this moment, I implemented a diversionary tactic and sent him off to get two other people on his delivery route. That bought me a precious 8 minutes or so ... enough to awkwardly put running gear on a body that still hadn't woken up fully; put contacts in without getting an eyelash with them; stuff pack with gear i had laid out; drink a glass of orange juice (trying not to let the misery set in from not having time to make coffee) and head out the door hoping i had most things i needed.
The start was a press of people anxiously sizing each other up and jitterbugging around with nervous energy. Me? Nothing. Quite comforting really. I didn't care who was there or what was ahead of me ... I just wanted to get under way .. get my legs moving and get to the end.
The memory of the 5hrs:47mins it took to do that is guessed it... a bit of a haze. It was rather surreal and I will just recount it with the random thoughts/images that stick out ... which should help keep it shortish.
1st half - Humid, heavy air. Not a whisper of a breeze in the trees. Thinned out racers. I hiked/ran dripping sweat onto the parched Black Mountain trail. John Foy sighted ahead and Rob Doyle. Slowly gaining and then catching them where we reach the open bluffs and still no damned breeze! Fun and a few laughs as the three of us run together to Cypress.
Cypress - A little faster than I wanted. Foy takes off into the Hollyburn section bitter and cursing ... at what i don't know. It seems pleasant enough out here. The air by the streams is cooling. Foy disappears - i run stride for stride with doyle for a while and talk about the world cup. Hollyburn .. a larabar ... holy those things are dry. I can barely get it down without choking. Down, down to the dam. Sun's heat is coming through now. Feel a little weak but nice to see familiar faces.
Nancy Green - with Mr Green .... walk/run .... walk/run .... chocolate gel all over my hands... bottles... frustrating little inventions. Back into the forest. Energy returns slowly. St George's bench - recovered and running alone.... pretty much from here to the end - kind of like it. I accelerate and it feels good and sustainable. Unlike Black mtn the forest here seems cool and fragrant, holding the light like wine in a glass.
Mountain hwy .. two blue shirts ... Mr Green and Tom .. dependable and efficient as always. He made it easy for me to run on auto pilot while i noodled with a different kind of race ... the kind where you don't know where the finish is! Bummer..
Lynn Canyon, tourist slalom .... girl hill ... john foy .. yes! gotcha. Hyannis, Seymour grind and it's down to the finish... relief, satisfaction, cherubs in the grass and hot water on the legs...
Good night from Seattle..