January 05, 2006

The Zone vs The Pocket

Morning Workout
RUN (on treadmill)
40 minutes (including 10 minutes warm-up and 16 seconds cool-down)
Heart Rate Zone: Lactate Threshold (Zone 2)

Random Comments: There's something very soothing about running on the treadmill. Well, soothing in a "trying to relax while somebody's pounding your legs with a hammer" type of way. But soothing nonetheless.

Main Set: 15 x 100m (off 30 seconds)

Random Comments: How come it's always sprint #11 that hurts the most? What is it about the 11th sprint that makes it so painful every single time? I'm baffled. I mean, the first ten 100 meter sprints are nice and fine, then all of the sudden I hit the proverbial wall on sprint #11. It hurts. A lot. Every. Single. Time. And to make matters worse, the 12th and 13th sprints are usually my fastest splits. I guess it's just one of those mysteries of life. Like blackholes. But wetter.

Life is perfect in The Zone. It's so peaceful, and calm, and soothing. And free. There is complete and utter freedom in The Zone. If you are a runner, or any type of athlete for that matter, you most likely know what I'm talking about. You've probably even experienced being in The Zone at least once in your life; that feeling where you've mentally cast aside the concept of tiredness for athletic immortality. Where you feel like you can go on forever, in a very Forrest Gumpian type of way. I know you know what I'm talking about.

The thing is, The Zone can be so elusive. You never know when you're going to get in The Zone - it usually just sneaks up on you when you're least expecting it...like gas, but with less of an odor. There are those times when you're out for a run and everything feels great, you're in your groove just smiling and laughing and focused... and then - whooosh! - you suddenly realize your perception on life has changed. And you know, without a doubt in the world, that you're smack dab in The Zone. And you live to be in The Zone. You love to be in The Zone. And when you realize you are there - in The Zone - it is like you've grown wings (sans Red Bull.) Like your feet aren't even touching the ground. The angels of exercise have lifted the velvet rope and escorted you right into nirvana. Nothing could be more peaceful. Nothing can be more satisfying. [Cue the cherubic harp players]

At other times when you're out for a run, you might be struggling a bit more. You are striving to stay focused, to get all of the week's stress out of your mind. But it isn't easy. And there's nothing more you want than to be in The Zone. So you concentrate and you focus your mind and you do everything you can to get in The Zone. But it just doesn't feel like it's working. Until you stop. And the moment you stop you suddenly realize you were in The Zone the entire time after all. It wasn't until you left The Zone that you knew you were there in the first place and all you can do is wonder where the heck it all went off to and curse yourself for feeling like you just went to the best movie ever and slept through the whole damn thing.

This morning's run was just that. I was in The Zone, I just had no fucking clue. I went through the entire 40 minute run striving for peacefulness and serenity, doing everything in my power to quiet my mind and be one with the treadmill. Then, just as I was stopping - literally, as my feet stopped moving - I suddenly realized I had been in The Zone the entire time after all. And I missed it. Frankly, I want my damn Zone back.

I was pretty P.O.'d, if you know what I mean. It's an anger inducing thing when you've been so peaceful and serene for so long and never even recognized it. This whole missing The Zone thing got me all flustered, so I cut down my cool-down period to 16 seconds. It's all I could muster with the anger swelling so quickly inside of me. Besides, I had to go for a swim.

I changed out of my sweaty running clothes, put on my bathing suit and went down to the pool. I started the 100 meter sprints right away - I love this workout but, knowing the pain it usually enduces, I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. The thing that surprised me, though, is that it felt so good. I mean, my swimming was on. My form was locked in, my bouyancy was great, my speed was inspiring. Hell, I was In The Pocket. Getting In The Pocket when you swim is such a satisfying place to be. Like golf, swimming has so many moving parts and so many little tiny teensy idiosyncrasies, that when they all come together - when you're truly In The Pocket - it's a very exhilirating feeling. When I'm In The Pocket I tend to shout out in excitement. I'll belt out a "Yeah!" or a "Yesss!" or maybe even a random "Come on!" (The thing is, my face is usually in the water so it comes out more like "Yabblgah!", "Yegglgges!", and "Combbble olggn!" And I usually end up swallowing a bunch of water at the time, which causes me to lose my breathe for a few strokes and slow down a little bit... but I'm In The Pocket, so stop bringing me down, wouldya..)

It's always a great swim when I'm In The Pocket. Just like it's always a great run when I'm in The Zone. Of course, I need to know I'm in The Zone at the time for it to really be great. Otherwise it'd just be great in retrospect, and that defeats the purpose of The Zone. And The Pocket, for that matter.

I'm going biking in the morning. If all goes well, I'll really get In The Groove.