Thursday, May 5, 2011

Borrowing Inspiration From Ferran

I’ve started training for the NYRR New York Mini 10K. The first few weeks of my training plan are straightforward: a mix of two, three, and four mile runs. Nothing too challenging.

But, given that the race is in New York during a summer month, I better swap out the air-conditioned comfort of the gym treadmill for outdoor runs.

There are times and moods when I really do prefer running outside. I like the scenery; I like controlling my own speed. And I especially like running in cities – As I pass lively restaurants and weave through 5pm crowds, I absorb the energy until I’m amped up and nearly shaking with joy. As a result, I always run too fast in cities. And then I usually get lost.

My last outdoor run was a little different. It was a four mile run of punishing hills, long stretches with no shade, and humidity. Near the end of my run, I considered vaulting over a moving truck ramp that was in my way. But I decided that one broken bone (left ankle, 2005) in a lifetime is too many, so I went around the long way. And then I eyed the neighbors’ lawns, wondering if they would mind too much if I spat in the grass. I know, just gross.

When runs turn out to be sort of gruesome, there’s a point when I start bargaining with myself. I begin by telling myself that I’ve run a marathon – what’s four miles compared to a marathon? And then I tell myself that I’ve only got another mile to run, so I better man up.

Tough love doesn’t always work.

Then I resort to mantras. A recent Runner’s World article explains the benefits of using a mantra during training and then calling upon the same word or phrase during the race. When I trained for the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon, I used “Tough.” Simple and to the point.

I’ve chosen my mantra for my 10K training: “Go in and win.” You’ll laugh when you hear where I picked it up: Ferran Adriá of El Bulli fame.

I recently had the opportunity to see the documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The documentary is a loony two hours of vaporized sweet potatoes and icy tangerines and it’s fascinating.

The filmmaker Gereon Wetzel follows Adriá and his team through a year as they spend months in a Barcelona laboratory and then return to El Bulli for a season. One night, Adriá sends his right-hand man, Oriol Castro, into the dining room to serve a water and oil cocktail. Yes, water and oil. That’s it. It’s incredibly ballsy. And Adriá sends him off with simple instructions: The English subtitles read, “Go in and win.”

Well, it turns out that Adriá accidentally gave him a bottle of sparkling water and, when Castro returns to the kitchen, he confesses that he almost fainted when he saw the bubbles. But the consensus among the team is that maybe they hit upon something brilliant.

So that’s my mantra: “Go in and win.” And I’m hoping it will stand me in good stead as I go through six more weeks of training in hot and humid weather and then try to set a PR in New York. So far, so good.

* For more interesting tidbits on Ferran Adriá and El Bulli, check out Anthony Bourdain’s recent blog post on his behind-the-scenes look

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