April 17, 2010

Old Dog, New Tricks?

They say you can’t teach ‘old dogs’ new tricks.  There is a ring of truth to this cliché for us runners.  That is, until we push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

One of my good friends—also an ultra runner—is one old dog.  With no disrespect to his 30 year running career, when ever I ask him to run a trail outside of his regular repertoire, I’m quickly rebuffed.  “No, I’m just going to do two loops of the xyz trail”.  XYZ trail being the same trail he’s run a hundred times before.  With him I’m now convinced of one thing: if it aint that dog’s hunt, that dog aint gonna hunt!

Which brings me back to this old dog.  I used to believe that I would never be a morning runner during the workweek.  I detested getting up early, rushing to get ready, then throwing myself outside to get though a workout.  Knowing I needed to be at work before 8 am, I always felt rushed, with no time to warm up or cool down.  The result?  For the last 20 years, most of my training during the week has been in the evening hours, after work.

Enter Family--The Great Teacher of New Tricks.  Last week I was on spring break with my family.  Since we were in the mountains to snow ski, I had to make a decision.  Should I run after spending most days on the slopes with my daughter, or get my training done before hitting the slopes, like early in the morning when the temperature was pushing 22 degrees?  With several hours of running per day on my plate, I opted for the morning.  The first 30 to 45 minutes of these runs where challenging, but manageable.  Though while making my way along the solitary Pacific Crest Trail during one of the coldest mornings, the nozzle on my Nathan hydration pack froze solid.  Uhg! 

I also used to think training for ultras was a sacrosanct affair.  Once I registered for an event and had my eye on the prize, nothing could take me away from my beloved trails on southern cal. 

This week I was summoned yet again to the east coast for work.  Business travel and ultra training aren’t natural companions.  But I’m learning they can co-exist.  When I woke up in Portland, Maine at 7 am, I knew I needed to put in 10 miles before my meeting.  Not a big deal, but when my return trip was re-routed on account of a last minute meeting in Columbus, OH, it meant tacking on 7 miles in New York City the same night.

Hell, I thought to myself as I was running through Times Square at 9 pm amidst throngs of tourists, why don’t I touch the Hudson River, then run across Manhattan and then touch the East River?  Determined, I made my way over some rickety steel pipes hovering above the dark, foreboding Hudson.  Hidden below me was an abandoned pier.  I leaped across a wide gap, then made my way to the river’s lapping edge.  As I reached for its cold touch, I couldn’t help but smile as my mind wondered.  If not running, where would I be?   

New tricks?  No, not for this old dog.  It’s just my own hunt. 


Jess said...

as a runner who is obsessed with running and just starting to think about ultras (signed up for my first one, a 50K, in the fall) i really enjoy your blog. wish you had more time to write more posts, but i bet you'd rather use the time to run. and i certainly can't blame you for that. thanks for writing.

Will Cooper said...

Jess, thank you for those kind words. Yes, I often wish I could spend more time writing, but one thing is for sure, if I had to choose between running and writing, it would be running. It's nice to have both. Good luck with your 50k and let me know how it goes.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

We have the usual regular routes, but often like to vary them by exploring new trails or mixing and matching old trail routes. I find I like the regular routes for fitness checkups, since I can measure progress (or not) over time on those. The advantage of new routes is that you can more readily enjoy the journey and exploration since everything is new.


RunnerinLV said...

The one thing I love about running is that you can choose to cool things like running through Times Square at night, or running across a state line, or stopping to enjoy the view. Running is that part of the day where I can just 'slow down' and enjoy the simpler things.
Good for you keeping the focus and getting your training in regardless.

EricG said...

As a north east runner I know the frozen bottle syndrome well. I think the beauty of running is the fact you can do it anywhere, anytime and figure out how it can fit into everyday life. I could never train right without new tricks, also defined as getting up at insanely early hours no matter where I am.

Will Cooper said...

C&D: great point...checking on fitness is a great way to utilize established trails.
RunnerinLV: enjoying the simpler things is what makes the world turn for happy souls. sounds like you're keeping it real.
Eric: based on what I've read in your blog you will be out there no matter what the conditions. For this west coaster I'm still learning the meaning of cold.

Thanks for all your comments!

Emz said...

this was...

always feel guilty [ahhh what I do BEST] when I train while on a family vacation. What I need to remember happy mom/wife = happy life.

I'm with C&D must agree ... I love when and where you choose to run.

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....