Editorial: AU Editor Chris Ord looks at the balance, or lack of, in his trail running lifestyle. This editorial appears in the current edition (17) of Trail Run Mag, downloadable for FREE here.
In my natural state, I am chaotic, unorganised, and essentially a lazy individual.
But sometimes life demands more of you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still that same person sitting on the couch, eating fish and chips and ice cream watching endless episodes of Breaking Bad, wondering if my shed will be suitable to run an easy-money meth lab.
But somehow, today, life as a runner has demanded a little more of me. A little more organisation. A little more responsibility. A little more effort.
And, as a runner, it is demanding a lot more attention to detail than perhaps my personality has inclination toward. Attention to detail like, umm, training.
Essentially I’m on a mission to balance my running life of unpredictable, unstructured and unplanned running yīn with, for the first time, equal amounts of rigid, structured, charted-training-plan running yáng.
Now my yīn (shady side) is like Darth Vader’s force within (powerful and looking for total domination); the yáng (sunny side) is like pre-Yoda coached Luke Skywalker, all wide-eyed naïve and a little lost.
Barely two weeks in and I’m fumbling with the demands of scheduled training like Luke fumbles with the realization he’s related to Princess Lea. It’s awkward to watch.
My yīn approach to trail running has long been one of as-and-when-the-whim-strikes I’ll go for a training run. Trust me, the whim never struck at 5am. And if it did, I missed it, being fast asleep and all.
The whim that did win out on occasion is the one that had me entering long(ish) trail events without sufficient lead-in training. That mostly ended in all sorts of agonizing wrongness (particularly embarrassing was the needless call out of ‘medic!’ at the finishline of Shotover Mountain Marathon). I am responsible for all my own embarrassing demises, of course, and that is one thing I do take full responsibility for. Indeed I usually document it, see TRM Edition 12 for the Shotover tale.
But the time has come to see if there’s any Jedi lurking within. Reason being, I have committed to an expedition run in the high Himalayas. It’s a project that would be fine to approach with a death-by-cramp-at-altitude-wish if it were just me up there. But on this expedition I will be responsible for guiding other runners. And if there’s one thing that will make me sit up at 5am on a crisp winter morning, it is the realisation that I’m to be responsible for other people’s lives as they trot up to 5000 metres at a rate of incline that risks death from cerebral or pulmonary edema. Even tapping that out makes me sweat more than my scheduled hill repeats ever will. It also induces me to do them. At 5.05am.
And so in search of my inner-Jedi, I have sought some Yoda-wisdom where the Force I’m aiming to tap into is conditioning and strength. While I can (mostly) blag the distances and I’ve completed a wilderness first aid course so medical knowledge is covered, it’s the strength and abating of injuries and cramps that I need to tackle. The latter is my Death Star nemesis (exhibit A: a near-death banshee screaming session as seen in Run The Planet, a TV show pilot that underscored my ill-preparedness, in that instance at 93km in a desert. Google it. Not in a workplace. Swearing involved).
So the yáng to my yīn has materialised in the form of not just one structured approach to training, but two, the other side of my personality being always to put in three chillis when the recipe says one and generally over-salt everything.
And while I wouldn’t say that I am yet to latch onto Skywalker’s singleminded focus (The Force is a long way from my grasp), I have managed to jump on the Bulletproof Legs bandwagon, a program from the crew at Brewsters Running. Then there’s an adjunct program from Lee Harris, a mid-east based Brit who is a multiday running machine and owner of Lifestyle Fitness Management. His knowledge about holistic training methodologies and a focus on core strength gives me faith he understands where I need to get to with this new-fangled yáng approach.
To my own disbelief, I’m enjoying the structure and routine. It’s a work in progress, my idea of ‘routine’ a long way from winning any Anally Retentive OCD award, but on trail I am seeing, even in these early days, results. Whowouldathunkit?
Even better, I’m enjoying the yīn side of my running more so thanks to the late arrival of yáng. On an impromptu jungle run in the Otway Ranges, south west Victoria, we ran in with not enough water (there were waterfalls so we were safe), no food and no idea how long we’d be in there for. The reward was one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve seen standing proud in an ancient forest far from any human impost. It was wild and remote goodness, off the chart. What made it possible and enjoyable was the fact that I’d been training. The foundations are only a brick session or two in. And the Otway run topped out at roughly 200 metres above sea level, not 5000, so we’re not on training parity just yet. But I love that my new yáng is complementary to (rather than opposing) my beloved yīn. Light cannot exist without shadow. Performance cannot exist without training (it’s finally sunk in). And for my money, a training program will never be truly leveraged without the chaos of a whimsical wilderness run where anything can happen, but the legs are bulletproof enough to withstand it.
Your getting-more-balanced editor, Chris Ord
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