My alarm clock rang at 6:03 (I don’t like to set alarms for even numbers), and almost immediately I heard Mikey stirring in the other room. Not 30 seconds passed before she had her shoes on and was at the door: “Are you ready yet?” “Uhhh” I groaned.
I’ve first met Mikey in Freshman year of college... but I think we exchanged our first words two years later when we both worked at a geology lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. We became fast friends... and that’s when I first noticed her strange habit: she came to work after having run at least ten miles, and headed off after work to run another ten. I mean, she was on the track team and all, but still, it seemed a little excessive for running the steeple chase or a 3k race.
I tried to go on runs with her sometimes, but was dropped in approximately 1.3 seconds. She did her best to make me feel good - she said she wanted to work on sprint training with me, and as a recovering football player, I knew my fair share about sprint training. So we began. And I noticed something even more peculiar about her.
In a 40 yard uphill sprint, I blew her away. Again it happened. I gave her a 5 yard head start, same result. 7 yards, 10 yards. I was still passing her. The thing was, her top speed just wasn’t that fast... but she could hold it for miles.
And that’s just what she began to do on this dark, rainy morning in Berkeley. The feeling of running in the rain was actually quite liberating, but as I struggled to regain my breaths, the classic old thoughts began to creep in. Why am I doing this?
We veered off road and started up a muddy trail in the dark, our feet sinking into the soft earth as the trail began to ascend. And ascend. We climbed, climbed some more, and reached areas where we started literally climbing. I grabbed onto roots and clumps of grass, using them to essentially slab-climb up the trail - the difference between this and true slab climbing, of course, was the fact that I couldn’t trust any feet. Mud gave out beneath each step as I clawed my way uphill next to Mikey. Eventually, though, she found her footing and trotted on. I continued to slip and slide, finally reaching a 10 foot section that had no good roots or holds. I made a go at going straight up it quickly, but slid back down, covered in mud. Mikey had noticed my lagging and customarily turned around to run back until I met with her. I was determined to get up the section, though, with no help, so I ran towards the side of the trail, kicked off the mound and lowest branch of an innocent tree, and leapt for a clump of grass at the top of the section, just barely catching it with my hands and hoisting/mantling/rolling like a beached whale on top of it. Mikey laughed, turned, and ran on. For the first time in quite a while, I felt like the out-of-shape fat guy once again. whew.
The trail flattened out for a bit and came to a divergence - one path exited from the park onto the street, and the other headed straight up. Mikey went straight for the path out to the ... well to my suprise to the street. I got hopeful! I wanted to be done now! She stopped, carefully looked at the sign facing the opposite direction, and said - ‘let’s go this way!’ So straight uphill we went.
My calves were slowly suffocating. I was pretty sure they were going to need to be amputated. I wasn’t keeping up with Mikey at all. I wanted to be done running, not just now, but for good. She would run far ahead, and then turn back, meeting up with me again to sprint on ahead. This was both very nice of her and like leading a rabbit on with a carrot on a string - every time I thought ‘this is the time I’ll be able to keep up with her!’ and didn’t.
It’s about time I heeded my own advice, right? I reminded myself - just find a process to focus on, and trust the process. It doesn’t matter what the rest of your body feels like, just focus on maintaining breathing only through my nose. If you must slow down, so be it.
Slowly, gradually, I began to relax and run. To just settle into my rhythm. Maybe I’m being too woo-woo positive and it was actually just that the 14% grade began to gradually reverse its direction. Whatever the case, I trusted the process, and I loved it. I felt strong. I trusted the process, and it set me free.
I think we all put ourselves into cages created by our own minds at times.
What’s the process you’re going to trust in?
Listen in to Episode 023: