Now I’m using the word “struggle” here liberally. Like one someone hasn’t eaten for six hours and they say, “I’m starving.” No, you aren’t. You are hungry. You’re not starving. It’s hyperbole, so pardon the dramatic language :)
Anyway, It’s hard to accept that a 60-minute workout is “worth it”. The hassle of preparing gear (prepping my bike, collecting my swim toys, tracking down my HR monitor for one of the watches) seems like a pain in the ass if I’m only going to be sweating for an hour.
Yesterday I was faced with this challenge. I’d packed up my bike, swim gear, and running clothes all in my car – which has become my locker room on wheels – I even do a full change in there occasionally. But my coworker was out sick, so I saw my workload doubled and my usual quitting time evade me.
I was faced with two choices: Take a rest day (which, admittedly, I am entitled to this week) or cut my workout down. The sun was descending, casting it’s final colors on the rock faces in the park. I wanted to enjoy those colors. So I hauled myself over to the park, unloaded my bike, helmeted up and promised myself a quick brick workout.
Since time was short, I agreed on a 40min bike and a 20min run. And if I was going to go so short, hell if I wasn’t going to push the limits of my legs.
There is a 5.5 mile loop around that park that includes a +500 ft climb over the course of a mile. It’s a great climb and an even greater descent.
I usually incorporate the loop into my longer (+4hr) rides and runs to get a little incline work in. I’d never ridden it at sunset, so doing the loop was a great excuse to see the SF Valley from on high.
I usually average just under 17mph on longer rides that include the hill. But I found my cycle legs quickly and committed to blasting out two loops (11 miles) as quick as I could. I flew around the flats at about 20mph, climbed at about 12mph, and took the descent at paces between 28-36mph. It was amazing. 37 minutes later – the ride was done. 17.6mph. My quads were screaming a little. My calves were talking to me.
And my mind was saying, “Let’s blast out 20 minutes of running.” So I threw the bike back in my car. Swapped clipped shoes for my Sauconys. Hat for Helmet. And I took off. I headed back for the hill, about a mile away from my car. 20 minutes is not enough time to get into a running rhythm for me, but the ride helped me click into the run pretty quickly.
I was 7 minutes into the run when I got to the bottom of the hill. I was going 12minutes out and 11 minutes back – 23min run total. I had 5 minutes of climbing. Time to play mind games. How high could I get up this hill before having to turn around? Can I get to that sign? That hydrant? That tree?
I booked with the incline will enthusiasm. A hunter on the hunt. Eating hills for dinner! I climbed about 400ft before the watch hit 12 minutes.
But I didn’t relax on the turnaround. Time to book back down. Trail runners know that the descent on runs is what kills you – and your quads. I jumped roots, navigated rocks and divots, and made my way back down to the base at a cool 6:45/mile clip. I kept up my pace in the 1 mile flat run to my car. Called it a day when I reached minute 23. Logged 2.75 miles in 23 miles, or about 8:23/mile. I don’t think I’ve ever done that with such a hill in the middle.
Legs shredded. Head happy. Only 60 minutes, but I made the most of it.
The lesson from the workout (because there are always lessons from workouts. Every moment is a teachable one, as someone recently said on twitter) is you do what you can with what you have. Sure, I could have used more time. Could have used more miles. But I am always going to want or need more – that’s the struggle. Fight to get in what you can, and as long as you give it what you have – a little leg shredding included – you will end up with a happy head too.
Final Thought comes from Josh Cox, one of the top distance runners in the country. It's this attitude that I try to follow, that will get me to get out the door, lace up and work hard under whatever circumstance.
"Never give up. Don't let your dreams die. Bleed, claw, sweat, & scrape to make them a reality. The world needs your passion."