The Chameleons of Concord had home meet yesterday at Great Brook State Park in Carlisle. Great Brook is a beautiful park, and there aren’t too many things nicer than watching cross country there under a cloudless sky on the first full day of Autumn.
We’re not even four weeks into the season but we’ve already had a time trial and two meets. It boggles the mind to think how many of the kids go from relative inactivity over the summer to racing a 5K every week in the fall. Some of the runners, it’s true, trained seriously over the summer. For them, the early meets are tune-ups to get used to racing again. But for the rest, every meet is a new experience and the progression or regression of their times is a matter of great concern.
Yesterday, I had several kids come up to me to ask what was wrong since their time at Great Brook was slower than their time the week before. It’s a reminder that for newbie runners, training is what they did yesterday or perhaps as far back as last week. They expect that good runs/good workouts will translate immediately into faster times in races. It doesn’t matter how often I say that training is a gradual and sometimes frustrating process, the first time they run a couple of races without seeing an improvement it’s a crisis.
We’d all like training and racing to be like that cloudless sky we had yesterday, with no dark masses looming between us and our goals. The sky’s the limit, we say, and we don’t mean the low sullen sky of a late September storm that in a half hour turns the lovely trails of Great Brook into a quagmire.
So today will be the day to talk about races and time, but also long-term training. I will invoke the mystery of low-level cellular changes that have been only just set in motion by a few short weeks of moderate running. I will prepare myself by trying to remember how it all looks to young, enthusiastic runners who haven’t been toiling away at this game for years.
The mills of training grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.
It never occured to me before I started running, but then it was obvious that what I was doing was training my muscles to be stronger and more efficient. I remembered what I was told by a cardiologist who said that for the highly trained athlete that the heart is a secondary organ — it doesn’t have to work all that hard if the muscles are efficient.
Perhaps it would help your athletes to make the analogy of learning to play a musical instrument, in that the muscles can be told what to do, but need to practice over an extended period of time for them to do that task easily and well.