Saturday, February 26, 2011

Carrot and Stick...or, Chocolate and Sprints

I have a little problem that I'll call race envy. So many races are tempting... medals! finish line massages! free beer! spectacular views and bragging rights! Suddenly, I'll find myself on the verge of registering for a dozen races. A marathon in the Loire Valley? The Paris to Versailles 16K? Sure, why not! (Or, more appropriately, pourquoi pas!)

The serious contenders were San Francisco's Bay to Breakers race and New York's Colon Cancer Challenge 15K race. The 7 to 10 mile range seemed right and I love a good excuse to hop on a plane. But, after reflecting upon travel plans (stay tuned for an Argentine adventure!) and my time-consuming devotion to yoga and spinning, I decided to go short and go fast.

Hence, this spring shall be the Need for Speed Spring. Officially on the docket: A local 5K for breast cancer awareness and the NYRR New York Mini 10K.

I've been putting in regular runs of 30 to 60 minutes to establish a base for training, but I've got to increase leg turnover. So, today marked the reappearance of a long-lost friend: interval training. Training for the Boston Marathon a few years back prompted my first real commitment to speed workouts. Sure, I had flirted with tempo runs before... but interval training? Now that was real love. Hard enough work to keep me entertained, but short enough so that there's always an end in sight.

Coach would clock times and ask us to drop 5 seconds for each repeat. Only 5 seconds. It takes incredible discipline to shave just those few seconds off, to know what that feels like. And I wanted to take exactly 5 seconds off because then I would take another 5 seconds off, then another. There was a plan at work. Coach was going to get us to the finish line, in his ever-patient and ever-cheerful way. And, like Santa Claus, his pockets were always filled with bite-size chocolate candy bars. I'd finish a repeat and wheel around in circles, hands planted on hips, trying to get a good breath... and he'd offer me a piece of chocolate. And, in physical therapy appointments, when we thought I had a fractured femur, he'd open up his palm to me and there would be a candy bar.

Today, I methodically worked my way through a 9 x 200 meter workout (three sets of three 200 meter runs) today, allowing a minute of recovery time between each 200 meter run and two minutes between each set. Hard work undeniably, but it was tangible proof that I can drop those 5 seconds. Then another 5 seconds. Then another. It felt beautiful.

But I missed the chocolate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And That's How It's Done

We're so close to landing, maybe just a minute off the ground, when huge gusts of wind suddenly turn the plane on its side. A few passengers are looking a little tense. We see the tarmac from a funny angle. The plane pushes through the wind, lands with a bounce, and speeds down the runway -- maybe a little faster than usual?

Our pilot comes on the loudspeaker: "And that's how it's done." So it is. We pull up to our gate; I hoist my massively overloaded Longchamp bag onto my shoulder and find my aviators. The late afternoon here is stunning, a dreamy blue sky and balmy temperatures. We've escaped the winter weather and it feels delicious.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finding Luck in London

“So, you’re a writer?” asks the tie-and-shirt from Connecticut. I’m surprised by his American accent and I look up from my journal. He sits across the long wooden table at Wagamama. I smile: “Amateur.”

There’s a little conversation as we eat our bowls of ramen noodle soup. He has a house in Connecticut, another in Massachusetts, and a mother in Boca Raton. With such extensive time spent in the “London office,” he must be in finance. I skim over what I do, why I’m in London.

He finishes his soup and pays his bill, slipping on his suit jacket and picking up his umbrella (a good, sturdy one with a curved wooden handle). He wishes me good luck. It’s funny – For the first time in a long time, I feel like I don’t need it.

I’m still a little woozy from jet lag and a week spent in bed with the flu, so maybe I’m not thinking clearly. But, as the restaurant closes up around me, I continue to write, sitting at this long, wooden table by myself, in Wagamama, in the basement of Harvey Nichols, in Knightsbridge choked with tourists at all hours, in the midst of a ridiculously fantastic and buzzing metropolis – and it’s peaceful.