Sometimes perspective comes only from crossing an ocean. The move back to the United States was one of the most stressful periods in my entire life. I’ve relocated my family, started a new job, purchased a home, and juggled a ridiculous work schedule. Triathlon, running, and hell—sometimes personal health—has effectively been an afterthought. It’s not something I wanted, but simultaneously it’s something I chose. So this ‘season’—or what’s left of it—has been about pressing the reset button.
I left England in the shape of my life. The June 2012 version of me would have crushed any historical version of myself without trouble and without remorse. But as the weeks passed, so too did the fitness. Months and months of consistent training decayed into a shotgun blast on a calendar—sporadic and uneven. So while I had flashes of that free flowing speed I remember; I’ve been forced to relearn the lesson: the hardest days as a runner are those spent getting slower, not the ones spent getting faster.
Near mile 12 at the Lehigh Valley Marathon—job done and Boston Marathon bound!
In college, I would have tried to eschew sleep and train on. But stress is stress is stress. Your body doesn’t care if it comes from work, illness, or the 1km repeats you did that morning. It’s no surprise then I spent so much of my college years wallowing in mediocrity and underperforming in any race for which I did not deliberately taper. The big weeks only came good as I worked in appropriate rest. As the saying goes, you can’t be over-trained, just under-recovered.
So it’s about pressing the reset button and enjoying the process. At the Annapolis 10-Mile, I reconnected with my old team and pulled on a Navy jersey for the first time in 5 years. The five mile split was shockingly slow, but the turn around brought a strange lightness to my step. I had forgotten what “Navy” means in this town.
The next 5 miles was not so much a run as a parade. Eight thousand runners streaming the opposite direction, screaming, cheering, and hollering, “Go Navy!” Fatigue, fitness, and pace quickly became irrelevant. It was about honoring the jersey.
Al Cantello, the Navy XC coach, once told a group of us assembled as freshman about the strange and unique honor of pulling on the blue and gold singlet for the first time. It didn’t dawn on me then, but the name on the jersey transcends the name of the runner.
In the weeks since, I’ve slowly been realizing some fitness. My runs and bikes have been steady, if unspectacular, but the cumulative effect is apparent. I ran a second race with the team, punching my ticket for Boston 2013 with a comfortable, controlled effort at the Lehigh Valley Marathon.
And so I’ll move forward, same as ever. Bulding fitness, enjoying the ride. I’m progressing and that is the only thing which matters. Soon it will be time to express it.