Sunday, May 13, 2012

Turning the Extraordinary into the Mundane

According to family lore, one day my great-grandfather Henry saw a relatively new site up in the sky - an airplane.  This was 1926 in rural Nebraska - about 50 miles south of Omaha. It had been some twenty some years since the Wright brothers first flew an airplane - and it was only relatively recently that airplanes had found a practical purpose as carrying mail between major cities.  The plane he saw in the sky was following highway 50 - carrying mail north from Kansas City to Omaha.
As Henry watched, the plane seemed to be having some trouble.  The engine sputtered and seemed to lose speed and altitude.  He watched panic stricken - fearing that the pilot would have to bail out of the plane or worse.  Airplane accidents were very common at the time.  Although the plane was still losing altitude the pilot appeared to be gaining control and safely landed in a field not far from Henry's machine shop. 
The pilot didn't have a scratch and Henry was able to help him fix the engine - although it was so late by the time they were finished that Henry let the pilot stay overnight.  Six months later that young pilot became the most famous man in the world when he became the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
I don't know if my great-grandfather ever actually met Charles Lindbergh - but the story does illustrate an important point about training.  Twenty years before it had been incredible that two men could "fly" a few hundred feet and just over 40 years after Lindbergh landed in the middle of a huge crowd in Paris another pilot from the midwest would set foot on the moon.  It's very easy to only look at each major accomplishment and overlook how important it was to make the prior step seem mundane. 
Training in athletics is the same way.  The only way we can make any major breakthroughs is by turning what used to be extraordinary into the mundane.  I love the rhythm of the training cycle.  Laying out 20-24 weeks that build upon each other - pushing just beyond what I had done previously - allowing for the body to rest - and then pushing forward another few inches.
A little over a year ago a 3 hour bike ride left me exhausted - ready to curl up and sleep the rest of the day away.  Next week I'll ride 3 hours three times - plus I'll have already swam almost 2 miles - plus I'll run 45 minutes directly after each ride.  Obviously there are people who do more, but making that day into "just another training day" is as important of an accomplishment as anything I do this September.
This process is why I'll probably always keep training for something.  Not only does it keep me in shape, but I feel deeply connected to my body and to something that's very human - pushing our boundaries by making a goal and doing something everyday to try to attain that goal.  Like my favorite movie character Andy Dufresne, Lindbergh toiled in obscurity for years - not giving up even when he had many reasons to do so - and put everything together on one day to accomplish something spectacular.  It is indeed all about "pressure and time."

Monday: 1 hour swim
Tuesday: 1 hour run
Wednesday: 1 hour swim & 2 hour bike followed by 30 min run
Thursday: 1 hour swim
Friday: 1 hour swim
Saturday: 1 hour swim and 2.5 hour bike
Sunday: 1 hour swim & 1.5 hour run
Total: 13.5 hours - 4.5 hours bike 6 hours swim 3 hours run

Monday: 1 hour bike 30 min run
Tuesday: 1 hour swim
Wednesday: 1 hour swim & 3  hour bike followed by 45 min run
Thursday: Day off
Friday: 1 hour swim
Saturday: 30 min open water swim 2 hour bike 45 min run (including 7k trail run at 6:15 pace)
Sunday:  2 hour run
Total: 15.5 hours - 8 hours bike 3.5 hours swim 4 hours run

Next Week
Monday: 1 hour swim 3 hour bike 45 min run
Tuesday: Day off
Wednesday: 1 hour swim 3 hour bike 45 min run
Thursday: 45 min run
Friday: 1 hour swim
Saturday: 1 hour swim 3 hour bike 45 min run
Sunday: 1 hour swim 2 hour run
Total: 19 hours - 9 hours bike 5 hours swim 5 hours run

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