Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

So around Christmas time, I had the very excited revelation that my Demons had “come out of hibernation,” so to speak, and that I was thus hopping back into the saddle to gallop forth into the glorious sunset to set PR’s, run better than ever before, and CRUSH all races (but only uphill ones, and only at certain grades, and preferably nothing technical. I’m a bit persnickety nowadays).

That’s right: Payne Train Version 2.0 is locked and loaded and about to leave the station folks! Choo-choooo!

And happily, for the most part, that has happened thus far, with the exception of “crushing all races.” I know, I know, “patience, young grasshopper!” Eh, do I still qualify as a "young grasshopper"?

Because come to find out, when you’ve been out of the game for a while, it’s surprisingly tough to work your way back in. You forget, in a way, how much you did and how hard you did it to get to where you were, how many hiccups happened along the way, and how long the build-up really took. That’s one of the things that drives me bonkers when someone chalks up another person to merely being “talented” when they’re winning things. Natural talent plays a role with any good athlete, certainly, and so does luck to a degree, but there’s a whole lot of effort there behind the scenes too. But, blog post for another day. That aside, bottom line is you recall things as having been so much easier than they really were. The great coach Jack Daniels had a name for this aspect of training, he called it the Time-Erodes-Memory Principle. Yes, yes it does.

One of the great positives of spending so much time over the last couple of years more or less removed from the competitive aspect of running, was the abundance of, shall we say, Running-Come-To-Jesus-Moments. In this particular case, mostly brought about by being pulled out of a mindset that I've resided in for some time, and forced to look at things more subjectively and without as much emotion tied to them, has been a great way to see all the places where things went wrong both physically and mentally, and just see things for what they were: good, bad, and ugly. When you come to terms with what’s bad and ugly, see that they were not really benefiting anything, you can try to improve them for the next go around.

In any case, it took no time at all for me to go right back to my old ways. In many ways, that’s been a great thing! One thing that disappeared there for a while was the ability, much less the desire, to make myself really hurt. But after jumping into a couple of rinky-dink local races, not to mention actually completing workouts, it became readily apparent that it is still there and has remained perfectly unscathed. And even better, the butterflies came back. Workout days and races are again always preceded by that fluttery feeling of excitement and anticipation blended with a bit of adrenaline because that primitive part of you that thinks you’re about to wrestle a saber-toothed tiger somehow thinks YOU MIGHT DIE TODAY.

But aside from the physical aspect of training, if you really want to be Version 2.0, you have to tackle the whole kit n’ caboodle. The other thing that wasted no time in rearing its ugly, scraggly, mottled little pin-head was the angry little Type-A monster that lives deep (or maybe not so deep) within my psyche, who is absolutely bent on getting a given result, every single day, and is going to make that result happen come hell or high water. Training log says ___________? Then _____________ better happen. When he doesn’t get his way, things get real ugly real fast. I’m not super proud of it.

It’s a crying shame that this characteristic doesn’t seem to permeate a single other area of my life besides running.

They say that we shouldn’t be like bamboo: bamboo looks strong, and it is, but really it’s too rigid, and so it breaks too easily, but rather that we should be more like willows: even though they might look super wimpy, they have a flexible nature and can withstand tough storms because they bend with the wind. I mean, that’s a pretty solid analogy and it gets the point across, but let’s move away from tree metaphors for a moment, to something more original. I think we should try to be more like jellyfish.

Jellyfish have a flowing, tranquil, almost liquid quality that is quite beautiful to behold as they get tossed around to and fro in waves and currents, going wherever the ocean feels compelled to send them, but they also capture their prey by stinging them to death,

and then engulfing them within their bodies prior to consuming them. That really doesn’t line up all that great with the previous tree analogy, but what I’m getting at is that jellyfish go with the flow wherever they go, but when push comes to shove, they get sh*t done. Yes, we should all strive to be like jellyfish.

I’m no jellyfish however. I’m a control freak of such epic proportions that somehow I more often than not make this running thing out to be quite stressful, which is absolutely absurd because it truly does not matter. But alas, that is a concept that the brain will always understand, but the heart never will. Give me a piece of paper with a training schedule to follow, and follow it I will--dotted i’s, crossed t’s and all. Yep, me and that training schedule: Till Death Do Us Part. And very few things give me the warm-fuzzies quite as much as knocking out a whole week, gone to plan, with an A+. But have one tiny thing go wrong; one workout that was a tad slower than anticipated, one run that needed to be replaced with a pool run, a couple of days that needed to get switched around as a result…and behold, it’s not just as though the whole bamboo forest got blown over, but that it then proceeded to light itself on fire.

Yes, it is one of God’s many great miracles that I have never been institutionalized.

But seriously, I didn’t really write this with the intention of actually telling anybody how to go about being a jellyfish, but just that we should. Super helpful I know, you’re welcome. We should be adaptable and fluid regardless of where the waves of life (or running) take us and keep the faith that we can still sting when it counts.

I’ll let you know when I actually figure out how to do this. Don’t hold your breath, but I’m trying.

Till then, don’t be the bamboo.

Maybe don't even be the willow.

Be the jellyfish.

Bro, don't touch that.

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