As we’ve drifted suddenly into late fall and what already feels like winter Alice and I are thinking again of winter fitness training. In the off season it’s more about holding onto the gains of the summer than about leaping new hurdles. I had some personal goals set for the summer, including being able to run four and a half miles of rocky dirt road in homemade huaraches. I did that. I also wanted to at least match the time I set for a five kilometer run about four years ago, before I ruined my feet in running shoes. I’m on the edge of doing that but it may take me another month, just before my peak season ends.
I’ve been remembering all the times my various training regimens have been successful, resulting in peaks of fitness that were both truly memorable and transient. Once you do reach the upper regions of ability it’s hard to stay there. It’s not even necessary to stay there. You can spend so much time training to be so fit that you can run up and down mountains that it isn’t worth it any more. Easing off on training allows you time to have fun doing other things. You can still hike up mountains, but it takes a little longer.
Very challenging training regimens don’t last long in my life. I go so far as proving to myself that I can actually do those things, whatever the goal may be, and then I wander off to something else. But I remember some great things, like cruising up a steep hill in Seattle in top gear on my ten-speed and passing cars doing the speed limit. There were some very amazed drivers in those cars. Doing fifteen laps around the mile-long compound perimeter at my duty station in Vietnam, while my barracks buddies counted laps and drank beer–watching a fellow tech struggle with a wrench trying to open a rusted valve, and opening it with a grin and my bare hands when he got out of the way. OK, that’s not very useful stuff and it probably isn’t worth training for years to accomplish, but it’s neat when it happens.
Now that I’m supposed to be old enough to have more sense, I still find myself pushing to see what I can do. I’m currently running in huaraches, essentially barefoot running except for a light protective layer of vibram, and I’m thinking I may soon run the fastest five k I’ve ever run. Not that it’ll be very fast in competitive terms, but I’ve always gone for distance before. It’s a new challenge for me. I haven’t pushed like this since basic training, when I was forced to do very unpleasant things like run fast. I’m having a bit of fun with it, now that I’m not being yelled at.
A couple of days ago I expected to set myself a new record, and had a great time pushing hard around the course, not struggling on the hills for a change. When I pulled up at the driveway and took out my stopwatch to check my time, I realized I’d accidentally turned it off halfway around the course. So I have at least one more run to do before I lose interest and look for something else to do. Hopefully, when I hit the peak this next time it will be a good thing, something I’ll care enough about to want to keep.