Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Finding Uncommon Motivation

In the middle of an easy five miler last Friday on a route my wife and I refer to as “the Lake Loop,” I spotted it. I had crested the hill I call “Sweet Leaf” if for no other reason than the cross street at the top is called “Sweet Leaf Ter.” I took a pull on my water bottle as I made my way down the backside. Several of my scheduled runs during the week had become casualties of work that demanded late nights and early mornings. If nothing else, I dubbed this a “clear your head, detox run” to clean out the trash bags piled in my head from a week of toil.

Detox runs are rarely fun, and this one was no exception. The humid air clung to me while I labored, when I caught the lime green VW beetle out of the corner of my eye. The license plate read “VRRMONT.” I smiled as the memories came roaring back and let them carry me the final 1.5 miles home.

You see, back in 2009, thanks to the McMillan Running Calculator, I plugged in a recent 5K PR and was astonished to see that my predicted marathon finish time was indeed a Boston Qualifier. It truly became a turning point in my running. From there, I set about the task of making that predicted time a reality.

And I planned for it to happen at the 2010 Vermont City Marathon.

While I trained, the Lake Loop and variations on the Lake Loop made frequent appearances in my training log. And each time I climbed Sweet Leaf, I kept my eye out for that green VW, and for some reason, pulled motivation from it. It seemed like a good sign that the very marathon I trained for was imprinted on my near daily training route, and the “VRR” implied some level of speed. Whatever the case, I adopted it.

Looking back, I suppose this isn’t completely uncommon for me. I often find my thoughts drifting away to relive races past, or visualizing races to come. Every time, I ran by “VRRMONT,” I felt a surge of energy and branded the image of powerfully cresting the race’s most major climb at mile 15 into my head, immediately followed by the waterfront finish with the clock numbers burning 3:09:59.

During those long months of grinding out training, when the excitement of beginning a program fades and the start (and finish line) is still a season or two away, it’s hard not to look for ways to stay motivated. For me, I think it’s the reason I pick a “finishing” song. It’s a song I put on in the car or iPod as soon as a particularly hard workout, good workout, or strong race finishes. I start to yearn for that song to play to reinforce that job well done…the same way I fantasize about pancakes during the last few miles of a weekend long run. For Vermont, it was Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music.” For Boston, it was Boston’s “Don’t Look Back," and for New York, it was Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Right now, my car thumps to Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling.”

While I marked off the final meters of Friday’s detox run, I relived the 20 miler I did in the rain, the one where I ran by that license plate four times and finished with a huge smile on my face. I remember walking into the house soggy and declaring, “I’m ready!” And of course, crossing the finish line in 3:08:41 just two weeks later, soaked and raw from the rain that fell for the first 20 miles, but too euphoric to care because I was going to Boston.

What uncommon things motivate you?

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