About 3 months ago I went for a run without my iPod. The weather was getting hot, the cord and ear buds never seem to behave themselves this time of year when after a couple of miles I am literally drenched from head to toe. I stopped racing with music more than a year ago as I felt it was a much better way to stay “in tune” with my body and the signals it was sending to me while pushing pace over the course of a race. Every PR I have ever set has come while running without music, so something must be working.
The strange thing is that I haven’t missed my music one bit on my training runs like I had thought I would. I may go back to it this winter preparing for the Houston Marathon for my 20, 21, 22 and 23 milers, but for the time being, I am now firmly entrenched in the “no music” running crowd.
One product of this shift is that I tend to have random thoughts pop into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, and very disconnected to anything else I had been thinking about previously. An item for a shopping list. An idea for work. Something Landry said to me that made me laugh. Sometimes a song will pop into my head and others I replay miles from a particular race course like New York or Boston. The other day while I was running the movie Good Will Hunting popped into my head and I was thinking about some of the quotes from one of the most quotable movies of the 1990’s.
One particular exchange between Robin William’s character Sean and Matt Damon’s character Will struck a chord with me and stayed with me over the final 5 miles. It was the part near the end of the film during Will’s final session with Sean when they were talking about Will’s file and the physical abuse he experienced as a child in foster care:
Will: He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, “Choose.” Sean: Well, I gotta go with the belt there. Will: I used to go with the wrench. Sean: Why? Will: Cause f$#% him, that’s why.
“Choose the wrench” I thought as I pondered taking the uphill turn up and over the dam vs. the flat section of the trail for my final 4 mile loop. That decision adds more than 250 feet of climbing to those final miles vs. only a 46 foot climb on the flat section. That decision is akin to choosing going up and over a 25 story building instead of a 5 story one.
The next afternoon I was faced with a decision on a 100 degree afternoon. The lawn needed to be cut and I needed to knock out 28 miles on the bike. Do I cut the grass first and then ride on tired legs or do I get the ride out of the way first and then cut the grass at a leisurely pace. “Choose the wrench” I thought again as I fired up the mower, did the yard work for 1 1/2 hours under the summer Texas Sun, then hopped on the bike and rode 28 miles at 20.7 mph pace.
It seems to me that when it comes to training you have more choices than just whether or not to get out the door and hit the pool, the road or the trail vs. punting and skipping a workout.
For those athletes who are dedicated to their pursuit of the Marathon or Ironman very few skip a workout for any reason other than injury or illness. You don’t get to that point by doing anything other than working hard.
But during each workout there are decisions to make. Do you tack on an extra mile at the end of the run? Drop pace over the final 2 miles by :30 to push yourself? Do you ride the hilly sections of Parmer Lane or do you turn around and tack on some flat miles at the end to finish up your workout? Do you swim that extra set of 100M repeats on :20 seconds rest instead of :30 to increase your ability to recover? Do you drop it to :10 of recovery on the final set?
Those are the choices that manifest themselves on race day. To me that is the difference between setting a PR by a handful of seconds or missing by the same amount.
Choose the wrench