Falling to the level of our training

I first saw the following wonderful quote in a book by Joshua Medcalf (called Hustle),  attributed to  an anonymous Navy SEAL:

Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.

What a beautiful principle to live your life by. (I was particularly inspired because I have been doing quite a bit of training for my upcoming IPPT – haven’t had an IPPT gold in ages!)

PS: A little research brought me to Quora where I learned that the origin of that quote could probably be attributed to the Greek poet Archilochus:

We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of the training.

Going beyond economics

“So,” he asked, “what should he do?”

Straightforward as the question may seem, it was anything but. There were two tracks I could take: (1) the economic, rational track; or (2) the moral, slightly irrational track.

I can’t quite share with you what the exact nature of the discussion was, but the question would be somewhat analogous to the following:

Imagine that you and another person are participants of a social experiment, which pays both of you $5 each for participating. As part of the experiment, the experimenter passes you $10 and says that it’s to be shared with the other participant but with a catch: you decide how much you want to share. If you don’t want to share any of it, you don’t have to.

And, the other participant won’t know anything about this additional $10 that has been handed over to you. What do you do?

The economic track (that’s option 1) says that you keep the full amount. The other participant, not knowing that you have received this $10, will not be in any way worse off if he or she wasn’t offered anything.

The moral track (that’s option 2) says that you should split it 50/50: both of you did pretty much the same thing (turning up for the experiment), and there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t be split equally.

Now, that was pretty much the question that was asked of me: “What should he do?”

Take the full amount, or share it?

I chose to answer option 1, and was agreed with an attaboy smile. It was, after all, in the business’ best interest.

But I couldn’t help but feel a little peeved that there wasn’t so much as a hint that option 2 was just as viable an answer. I’d answered option 1 for the sake of argument, half-thinking that it was the wrong answer, hoping to be refuted and then having a good laugh about it. That I was so heartily agreed with… that was unexpected.

It is during times likes these, because of times like these, that I seek out disciplines beyond cold economics. It’s times like these that I’m reminded of the importance of having different perspectives, perspectives gained from activities like reading poetry, studying philosophy, and running.

Running especially. Because of the pure irrationality of it. It’s a constant reminder that it’s OK to be irrational. That it’s OK to be nice.

Running “barefoot” with shoes isn’t as silly as it sounds

It’s been more than a year since I started running “barefoot” (and yes, I have to admit it was due to the book Born to Run — one of my first of many, and still my favourite, book on running). I do not quite run “without shoes”, but wear either my New Balance Nimbus or my Skechers Go Run 2.

The New Balance was my first barefoot shoe, and it took a while for me to get used to it (my calves would kill me after each >5km run). I still haven’t fully gotten used to it, and have never gone more than 8km in them.

The Skechers, on the other hand, has a bit more padding, and feels more like a racing flat — wonderful light, responsive, and yet with a  subtle bounce. I’d gotten it after giving up on the New Balance as a long-distance shoe, because my legs just wouldn’t adapt.

I fell back to my trusty Ascics GT-2170. Though calf pain was no longer an issue, and running long distance in the Ascics brought no problem, I craved the minimalist feel that the New Balance gave me.

One day, I received a flyer on the GoRun2 by Skechers and was immediately intrigued. But it was only after reading some pretty good reviews in Runner’s World that I was persuaded to see the shoes for myself in the shops. And boy did I fall in love with it. It was really light (much lighter than I’d expected), and really flexible.

Having just changed shoes, I didn’t quite have the change available to spend on new ones, so I decided to wait till my old pair wore out. But after a few months, I couldn’t resist and I got myself a pair. Though the first couple of times I did feel a little calf pain (always an issue when I transition to the more minimalist shoes), by the third time I had gotten so used to it I had to park my much more costly (and padded!)  Asics aside because it felt more like running in padded bricks.

I’ve since gotten myself a second pair of GoRun2, and have not been disappointed.

The only issue that I’ve faced running with these more minimalist shoes (as opposed to the padded bricks) are the comments that my family of non-runners give me. “Why do you buy barefoot shoes? It’s such a stupid idea. Just go run without shoes!”

I never really had a good rebuttal, could never really articulate the feeling running in those shoes gave me.

Then I came across this from the book Running with Kenyans (by Adharanand Finn):

The barefoot style of running is less about actually being barefoot and more about the way you run.

And that, I must say, is the perfect response.

Beautiful cartoon on running

There’s a wonderful cartoon on running over at The Oatmeal. Beautiful as always, especially to this avid runner without a chance in hell of winning any running awards (“so why do it?” they ask — not quite understanding that I run for running’s sake. I just don’t get it, either).

Push On

I just realised that I haven¹t announced that I achieved my IPPT Gold last Saturday. Third one in three years. Full points for all three too.

I almost make it seem easy.

But the fact is, it was anything but.

For the past couple of months I’ve been training really hard for this and the half-marathon  coming up this Sunday (the “army half marathon”). I’ve amazed myself with disciplined long runs and early-morning interval sprints, mixed with properly executed HIIT, towel-pull-ups, rope jumping, box jumps, and other classic strength training devices.

Still, I almost didn’t make it. Despite all I’d done, despite how much I prepared for this, I almost gave up on the Gold after the first lap of the 2.4km run. I just didn’t feel comfortable.

Too hot.

Too sleepy.

Too much water moving about in tummy.

It was just all too much.

This has got to be at least my 20th “all-out” 2.4 run (the others are just for fun or training or nothing serious). And yet I’ve never really gotten used to really running the 2.4.

No matter how much I’ve prepared for it, the run itself is always gut-wrenching; stomach-turning; bloodcurdling; and prone to thoughts of giving up.

I guess it’s useful for people who look on in awe at people who do get the Gold to think, sure, it’s easy for them. But it’s not. At least not for me. Thoughts of how much pain I’m going through and of giving up hardly leave my mind at all.

Perhaps the difference, then, is that even with all my fear and thoughts of failure, I push on.