My time in Ocean City, New Jersey has always been reserved for and effectively spent as “a vacation”, but after four days of running and five more days to go I have come to the conclusion this is not a vacation…this is a training camp. It’s a nice training camp with lots of leisure time and alternative activities, but it feels like a training camp none the less.
I guess that’s just how it goes for distance runners with specific goals…there is simply no downtime.
Vacations, for me, are usually marked by one increasingly absent luxury in my life….sleeping in. Ever since I was thrown headfirst into the world of parenting 3 1/2 years ago, there is nothing I miss more than being able to sleep in till my body says “enough”. So when vacation comes around it’s always in the back of my head that, “oh my god….I don’t HAVE to get up…I have NO obligations.” Then I remember then commitment I made to myself…and I get up…at 6 am every morning, no matter what, to go run my ass off. It was a nice thought anyways. And that’s what I do, every morning at 6 I wake up, work myself out the door and begin my run of anywhere between 10 and 21 miles….on my vacation.
I don’t mean to sound so disparaging though, for I actually love it. I’m at my running best in the morning and this is the one time I get to take full advantage of that early running time where I can put in a massive effort without dwelling on it all day long like I do at home. Here I can get it done by 9 am and worry about nothing else for the rest of the day except relaxing, as much as one can as a parent with a toddler surrounded by a beach and amusement rides.
And then there is the beach, just 4 blocks away from where we stay…and I like to look at it as part of my training as well. At home I run my butt off, take a shower and then tend to dinner and whatever else needs to be done around the house. Here though, once I make it down to the sand, set up the beach chairs, poke the umbrella into the sand like a toothpick in a canteloupe, I get to indulge in a post-run act reserved for elites with either time or lifestyle sponsorship…an ice bath. Granted, I’m not sinking into a frigid tub of frozen water, but the ocean water is just cool enough to offer some relief to my weary legs…and so as my toddler splashes around mimicing the surfers beyond the jetty, I let the waves cool and massage my stressed muscles.
And it doesn’t end there. Granted, I don’t indulge in an 11 am wakeup call, but as Michelle and I swap turns keeping Noah from drowning in the undertow, we also swap turns taking much needed power naps on the beach. They aren’t hours long episodes of deep sleep, but they are just enough to keep us going and get us ready for the rest of the day, night and then the next day’s morning. I’ve actually been pretty surprised at how depleted I am at the end of my runs in this suffocating humidity we are experiencing here, but then to find my legs recharged and ready to go the next day like I’ve been on recovery runs all week. Maybe my body is adjusting to the loads right now, or maybe these cool water soaks and intermittent rests are doing what everyone says they’ll do….helping me recover properly.
It’s not all sitting in beach chairs and waiting till our biological cooking timers go off though (as it seems most vacationers around here do), as I do get some adult playtime in the ocean for body surfing or just getting cooled off by the waves. I suppose I could stretch that perception and look at it as strength training, but I think I’ll just take that for what it is…playing, which I suppose is important in the long run.
In all, I could never complain about this set up. Yeah, I’d like to sleep in, but I make up for that on the beach. Yeah, I’d like to lay around sometimes, but there is something incredibly rejuvenating about jumping into the waves like a little kid again, sometimes getting pummeled by the weight of the ocean. And yeah, I’d like to take leisurely morning bike rides on the boardwalk like most people, but there is something undeniably awesome about seeing everyone’s stunned faces as you run by again and again and again, getting increasingly sweatier each time, as they gorge on their grease and fat soaked breakfasts and you put down mile after humid mile with the ocean to your side and the sun just barely lifting the blanket of dark from the ground.
So when the week is done, the miles and effort are put in, and the appropriate rest and recovery is taken, I can….sort of…say this was a vacation. But to be more realistic, this is more of a beautiful, intensive training camp where I get to indulge in the luxuries of all the downtime the top elite runners get to experience every day.
Until this whole competitive running thing succombs to the limits of my physical body and I’m left to cook in the sun and nothing else….I’ll take it.