I'm not complaining. It's been an amazing season, filled with success that I worked hard for. Triathlon is the love of my life. But some rest was long overdue. So, for the past six weeks, I've had only one workout a day on the schedule. It's been luxurious to get on the road bike and ride some hills with no regard for speed or distance, instead of chasing watts on the tri bike on the trainer - I think I've done one trainer ride since Norseman. I've also scaled back significantly on the swimming - this isn't luxurious - I miss it. (I don't, however, miss getting up so early in the morning to do it.)
Rest is important, I know this. You can't keep pushing on forever, you can't just continuously improve. At some point, you have to scale it back and rest and let the gains from the season come to you. Otherwise you'll end up totally burned out. I was told this twice yesterday by two ridiculously knowledgeable people (Dawn Elder and Matt Hamlin, in two separate, unrelated conversations). I know that it "wouldn't hurt, you know, to gain three or four pounds and play at a sport other than triathlon for a couple of days." Although I'm not going with the suggestion to join a ladies' sand volleyball league, I do understand the importance and benefit of losing focus for a little while.
That being said, of course, I've been slowly ramping the running back up. I'm training for the Rock n Roll Marathon in December - as usual, the girls and I have signed up for it as an annual fun event. I know it probably sounds ridiculous to say that marathon training is resting, but mentally, I think this does count as rest for me. The hours of training per week have scaled back since Norseman, and I've gotten a little bit fat. I don't think this is a bad thing. In fact, I recommend it!
The best thing is that as the weather cools, I'm remembering why I love running - it simply feels so good to go outside and run. Although I fought it when they first started showing up on my plan, lately I've been enjoying "naked" runs (without the Garmin - no data, just running for time and volume). Another surprising source of joy - hill repeats! Both are a welcome change from the speed workouts on the treadmill that I attacked all summer. I've been getting to run with Shelly again on our lunch break at work, which makes me incredibly happy because it's just like old times (like, old times - I'm talking the pre-triathlon days!).
And now the long runs begin, not that I didn't run long while training for Norseman, but there's something about the 14-, 16-, 18-mile runs of a stand-alone marathon build that speak to me. Even though we don't really have a change in actual seasons here in Texas, these weekend long runs symbolize a change in seasons from triathlon to marathon, and I just love it. For me, the path to endurance sports started with running, and to go back to it every fall brings me happiness that I forget about until it happens again each year. Not to mention the ease and speed that comes with a drop in temperature and humidity.
I've been kind of lost lately, but yesterday on my long run, I felt that joy that only comes when you're running alone for hours, feeling the wind on your face and the earth passing beneath your feet. There's something about being in that moment, aware only of the movement of your own body through space, that gives validity to the joke that "I run because it's cheaper than therapy." It's a point that's even beyond being lost in your own thoughts - it's just you and your feet and the road. There's nothing like it.
I remember how I used to tell Shelly that instead of dreading difficult workouts, we needed to be grateful for every training session that our bodies are able to do, because you never know what might happen. As corny as it sounds, I'm so grateful to be able to be grateful for that - to know what this feels like. So I welcome the new season. Hello, Running. Let's hang out a while.