There are times of the year that I am drawn into deep and purposeful focus; cycles of work and respite, process, and, hopefully, results. During these periods different things unsettle balance. For the last couple of months I have been deeply focused on training for this upcoming summer’s adventures and races. An single eye devoted to honing fitness.
Many times I have pondered this process of refinement while out running. It is very analogous to the sharpening of a blade. A blade, blunted by use and abuse, requires periodic maintenance. The process of honing or whetting a blade can be, at times, easy and quick, but a perfect cutting edge takes multiple steps of refinement. First the rough shaped is regained; large defects are removed using a rough stone. If done without caution this may take too much material away causing weakness. Once the rough shape is regained multiple steps are taken to further shape and sharpen the blade. Finer stone is used, less material is taken and the edge is further improved. Near finishing the blade extra caution must be taken to not mis-stroke the blade or it will be blunted and the process must retreat multiple steps to fix the error. Painstakingly a craftsman will have to work to bring out the perfect edge on the blade. Mistakes, although small, are often made, but the end result is a perfect cutting edge.
Training for mountain running can very easily be compared to whetting a blade. It is very much a process of refinement. Every season I seem to have to start from scratch when I start the process. Rough shape is slowly refined into sharp fitness. Often mistakes are made; too much material is taken and/or a mis-stroke of the grindstone, and back-pedaling occurs. Injury or deep fatigue may overrule forward progress for a short time. Patience is rewarded with gradual and incremental gains in fitness. Occasionally I test the cutting edge of fitness with a time trial or training race to assure that the blade is actually being sharpened. These “tests” of fitness can reveal weaknesses or inconsistencies of training that are not always recognized in normally training blocks. Finally, the finishing touches are put on the sharp end of fitness by tapering and letting the training all soak in.
I have unapologetically been absent from writing much here as I have been in this recent refinement process. It takes time, energy, and focus to work through large blocks of training. My life falls out of balance, and to maintain synergy with family and work some things have to give. Time is becoming more available as I start the taper process for Transvulcania, which is now just over two weeks away. I raced Menan Butte Challenge on Saturday, a race I highly recommend, which served as a test piece of fitness. I ran my fastest time there in 6 years. After finishing the race I went out for some extra mileage to work on the finishing touches of the whetting.
I should note that this spring I have adapted my training from what I have learned from Steve House’s new book “Training for the New Alpinism”. The book has been a tremendous tool for me, opening new insight into training cycles, volume, and strength. I highly recommend it. Over the next two weeks I will diligently work to put the final touches on my fitness, to hone it to the sharpest cutting edge, so that, when the race comes, I can cut deep and fast.