16 July 2012

It's Official

I heard on the news that they declared Syria to be officially in civil war. Gee, what a surprise. I’m making my own similar declaration today. Yes, I’m “officially” in a summer slump. Gee, what a surprise.

This seems to happen every year, and every year I question whether this is the beginning of the end, the start of that long slow slide to aged shuffledom, the piercing of the aura of being the fountain of youth, and no, I didn’t make that up, a business colleague uttered that one the other day to which I sputtered, choked, and lay dead on the floor. OK, it wasn’t that dramatic, but it’s been feeling that way. In any event, these slumps arrive, I ponder what malady is killing me, and a few weeks later normal life resumes. Or at least it has in the past; this time the jury is still out.

Yes, I know I just notched a personal best in that ten kilometer two weeks ago. It’s still a slump, and it started even earlier than that. I just haven’t declared it officially till now. Thanks, Syria.

During our annual week in Acadia National Park in Maine, there were a few days that were just plain brutal. One day’s measly three miles that left me ready to wilt and drop in a gelatinous heap on the pavement. A repeat a day later, pleased that I had the excuse of being on a comfortable slog with my daughter, since I didn’t think I’d be going much faster had I been alone. And an attempted track workout where I couldn’t blame my sloth-like velocity on the bizarre dimensions of the Mt. Desert Island High School track. Really, it’s a strange track with the longest turns I’ve ever seen, and it seriously throws you off, but just as seriously, that wasn’t the problem.

Characteristic of these slumps will be mini-anti-slumps, only to return to slump-dom shortly thereafter. This year’s Maine trip produced some lovely runs within the park proper, more than I typically get in during our trip, including the fun of pulling running shoes out of my pack, leaving the hiking boots behind, and hammering my way back (around the mountains on the road) at the end of a long point-to-point hike to retrieve our vehicular transport and recover the family unit. That one was a hoot, thirty-eight minutes to unwind four or five hours of hiking. But slump-dom returned.

And since then? Ever the obsessive, my training log spreadsheet (yes, of course I have a Total Geek Spreadsheet, you must have known that) has a check box for each workout where I can elect to ignore the pace of that day’s run in the calculation of the month’s “average training pace” – a measure that provides some insight into racing readiness. The check box is there for days when a pace calculation isn’t possible or practical, or for days when, due to social reasons, that day’s pace isn’t representative of normal training. Like an addict coming clean I have to admit that I have severely abused that little box over the last several weeks, taking the, “This one doesn’t count” out more times than not. Definition: Slump.

Heat? Perhaps. Humidity? Highly likely. Foolishly pushing past nagging injuries, like that Achilles that just won’t quit, or the recent stiff knees? Who’s to know? Simply overtrained, the streak coming home to haunt? Maybe, but let’s not jump to conclusions and kill it off before we really know. All I can say for certain is that the beginnings of most runs this past week have been pretty downright miserable. And in some cases, the middles and ends of those runs have paralleled.

For example, this morning’s expedition in Rochester – the one in New York, that is – started off at just plain awful, and ascended to notably unpleasant by the time I’d reached downtown and my planned break to overlook Rochester’s High Falls. The return trip scaled to the pinnacle of somewhat unbearably long before finally concluding in the state of soaked and wilted. That’s just how it’s been. But hey, the falls were really a nice sight. And tomorrow’s forecast is only for the mid- to high-nineties. No big deal.

This too will pass, and that’s part of the lesson, I keep telling myself. Life isn’t up, up, up. It’s got downs, sideways, and a few out-of-control skids now and then. Slumps will come. They’ll usually go. Until one day they don’t, in which case we simply learn to live with a new normal, the version of reality that will rule from that point forward. It’s inevitable, and we might as well enjoy the ride.

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