Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sweating the Details

Do the opposite of this sign.

The sweat dripped off the brim of my backwards turned hat. I rummaged through the back of my car looking for the towel I knew I had removed over the weekend but hoped by some slight chance I misremembered. I had not.

For a moment, I pondered pulling on my dry shirt and just hopping into the car and driving home. But I heard, Katie Mackey’s voice in my head: Do the little things.

I exhaled -- the 9.5 miles still clinging to me -- and tried to find a comfortable way to lower myself onto the warm, gravelly pavement and go through my series of post-run drills.

I just learned about Mackey last week. She is one of three athletes who run for the Mammoth Track Club and make up the “Brooks Beast” video series on FloTrack. The series chronicles their buildup to this week’s U.S. Olympic Trials. Mackey talked about being in college and seeing Jenny Simpson following a race Simpson just won. Simpson trotted off after the victory, not to celebrate, but to do her cool down and drills. When asked for advice for an up and coming runner, Simpson told her, “Do the little things.” That includes incorporating stretches, strides, and drills after every run…even a victory.

For the last year or so, I’ve incorporated (and blogged about) these little things and had no idea the cumulative effect of these 5-10 minute post-run sessions. That is until others started to notice. My wife, for example, kindly gave me a massage the other night and she grabbed my hip and said, “What’s this?” referring to the knot of muscle.

“That’s my hip flexor, I guess,” I said.
 “I don’t have that, how’d you get it?”

I thought for a moment and realized that it had to be the clams, fire hydrants, and single leg lifts (or Jane Fondas as Greg McMillan calls them) that had accumulated on those tired legs after so many months and perhaps even years.

RunDanRun recently posted on my Facebook wall a fantastic article from this month’s "Running Times" called The Kenyan Summer. While it’s geared for high school runners base-building for the fall’s x-country season, many (if not all) of its principles apply to runners headed to base camp for fall marathons. What’s prevalent in the article is adding drills and strides to the conclusion of your workouts. I have to admit, the adrenaline pumped after reading this article and I proceeded to text back and forth with Dan for the rest of the afternoon about workouts and goals for the summer and beyond.

Five minutes after gritting through those exercises on the pavement, I stood up and laughed at the shadows of sweat that had soaked into the road. I pulled on my dry shirt and climbed into the car, knowing when I laced up again, I’d be stronger than the day before. And reminded to remember a towel next time. 

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