Have you seen my legs? Has anyone heard from them? Or noticed which way they went? I tried calling them up this weekend, but just as soon as we would connect the call would get dropped or they would just hang up.
I know for sure they were with me last Monday on a long, hot run. We did about 14 miles together with 10 miles at tempo pace, descend, finish all out, standing on the path hands on knees head in a world of hurt. They made it through, but not without much protest for the remaining 4 miles as we shuffled back to where we started. True, it was hot, they were tired, we all needed a rest. But come on legs. 14 miles? Remember at time when we did 26.2? Non-stop? Still they would hear nothing of this. And I didn’t blame them. Especially since it was holiday. They weren’t too thrilled about running in the forest preserve on Memorial Day, a holiday, when most people – and their legs – were busy visiting with friends, or playing volleyball, or eating grilled meat.
Tuesday seemed to catch them in a better mood. So I promised them a day of rest, in the form of a swim. But you know how this goes. Especially at this time of year. There is no such thing as an easy swim without the legs. Somewhere in the midst of 10 x 400 they were called out, But a few minutes in the hot tub afterwards seemed to make nice with my legs again, letting them stretch out and hopefully warming them up to what would probably be a harder Wednesday ahead.
Wednesday I woke up pleased to hear back from my legs. There they were. Both of them, right there. Ready and willing for an early morning ride. Even without coffee yet, the legs were perky and fresh. They plugged away at a steady pace, strong climbing hills. Standing, seating, spinning, stomping. It was an early morning play date, and we once again made friends. But I knew it wouldn’t last long.
You see, Wednesday evening we had another hard swim. Wait – didn’t we just swim hard yesterday? The legs are starting to see through my lies. They are starting to doubt the system. They are angry and waiting, two masses ready for mutiny. They are filled with nothing now but memories of our angry fights in the form of long runs, track bricks, and other random torture throughout the past few weeks. And they never seem to forget. They prefer to remind me of this every step of way. Even in the water.
Thursday would see no rest. Not for me or the legs. Because Thursday was the day I put my bike on the track and geared up for a run-bike-run-bike-barfathon. Something, though, must have gotten into the legs because they – like the track – were on fire. Fast, furious, ready to push big gears and then throw it into my land gear as I blasted through 1600 reverse ladder on the track, descend. They negative split, they powered through, and just when they couldn’t take any more they dropped it the reserve gear and turned those feet over faster.
You could say I was surprised by my legs. But not surprised by the fact that when I woke up the next day, my legs were gone. I didn’t realize this until I headed to the pool. And tried to get through yet another hard swim in a neverending string of hard swims this week. I didn’t think I’d need them but upon reading 100-max-all-out-rest-5-seconds-go-immediaetly-into-200-tempo-pace-repeat-4-times, I knew I’d need their help. You don’t max a 100 without kicking the last 25. All out. I tried to recruit them but they weren’t there. Enlist them, engage them, cajole, coerce, finally force them…with no avail. They had checked out, they had run the other way trying to recollect pieces of themselves from last night’s tussle with the track.
Saturday morning Chris must have found what was left of my legs to harbor for himself because he woke up ready to roll out of bed and ride while I woke up ready to roll back over. I wanted to explain to him that somewhere along the way last week I had lost what was left of my legs. They were in silent protest from all of my pushing this past week. But Chris was already in the car waiting so he wouldn’t hear my or their quiet cries. While he waited, I was still trying to pull on socks. A very difficult task with angry, absent legs.
Finally, we are ready for our 3 hour ride. I rode alone, me and my legs. And after a short while they seemed to be ready to ride. We rode hard into the wind on the long, flat straigthaways. And then we pushed hard up the hills. I can’t explain it when just a day ago they had completely ambled away. So it surprised me this morning, whether to spite me or tease me, when they literally rode away.
And I guess they forgot to come back. Because afterwards was a run. I stood at the car pleading with the legs. Come on, legs, we have to get through this. If we don’t, we’ll remember it and come the next race this memory of defeat will be fresh in our head. And we can’t have that. Plus we never give up. But we can bargain. We can push for 10 minutes, then if we push really hard for 15 minutes we can back off for the last 5. Fine, we shake legs on that deal and we get the run done.
Sunday morning I woke up and my legs were just walking in. I believe they spent the night dancing the tango in three inch heels while I was sleeping. Because judging from their heaviness, there was no way they were laying in this bed with me all night long.
It was war between me and my legs. Not permitting them to give in, not yet, I decided to put them on a leash to keep them in line and take them for a swim. I thought it wouldn’t be so bad. That we could even fake it, me and my legs. It was a swim that started easy but all of a sudden after something like 16 100’s into it, it got to the point where I could barely shout the interval to Chris and barely touch the wall before I had to go again. Of course I had to kick like crazy with my legs. And since they were still leashed, they were not happy. Tethered in this lane of pain. They only started talking to me when I had a pull buoy between my legs but once it was removed – silent treatment all the way.
I decide to give them a rest for awhile before dropping the news of the early evening run. Not the type of news they wanted to hear. But at this point, it has nothing to do with the legs. It’s mind over matter and what matters is that my mind is going to win with or without the legs. Like it or not, legs, we push today for one day more. Because this is where it counts. This is the work that makes the difference. Not when we’re rested, or fresh. It’s when we’re tired, and walking – I mean, running, or biking – that fine line of breakthrough versus exhaustion.
One more workout, legs, one more and then for one day we can call it a day. I drag my legs weary to the path and put them out for a run. At first they are tired, they are muttering. They are begging for no more. But the mind keeps plugging away, visions of the next big thing, the big thing that leads to bigger things, bigger visions, bigger goals ahead. My mind is hungry for this, and my legs must follow. Now is not the time for them to run the other way.
Wait a minute……….I think I hear the legs shuffling back. All this talk of goals, visions, dreams that lie ahead. They too are hungry, no matter how beaten. They too have the same desires. And wouldn’t you know just like that they pulled themselves together again. They show up just in time for my pick ups and we pick it up. When they feel like giving out, I kick it into a speedier gear and turn my legs over faster. Together we work in unison with one vision, one goal – for now, for tomorrow, for the next big thing – full speed ahead.
Afterwards, the legs are tired. Good thing because the mind finally follows. It is tired too. It is Sunday night, and time to rest. And in front of us is the taper week ahead. To let the good work settle in, to build the hunger, and recharge the legs for next big thing.