Guest Blog: Fantasy Track Camp
Since 2008 Andy and I have spent pretty much all vacations, certainly all major vacations, traveling to watch our favorite Olympian compete. We’ve been to Eugene, Oregon countless times, and Des Moines, Iowa to watch the national championships; China (not just Beijing) for the Olympics; and Berlin, Germany, and Daegu, South Korea for the World Championships. We’re planning to be in London for this year’s Olympics. From all this track related travel, and because I live with the Chanman, I’ve learned a thing or two about professional athletes. This holiday season I learned a bit more by spending a week at elevation at “Fantasy Track Camp.” At some point when Shannon was planning her winter elevation training she invited Andy and I to come visit her in San Luis Potosi, we took her up on the offer.
I arrived in Mexico already knowing that professional athletes are focused individuals, that being the best in the world requires a lot more than just running – and that those things are very time consuming. I didn’t feel a need do any serious sight-seeing and expected that wouldn’t be on the agenda. Shannon has traveled the world to compete but her job is a lifestyle, one that doesn’t often include taking in the sights. I’m sure that Andy and I have seen more of every city we’ve traveled to, to watch her compete than she has. I arrived in serious need of some real down time, so it was easy to come without any expectations, with a fat book, and let the week just flow. Even so, I learned a couple of things from our week with the professionals.
Part of what I love about running is the adventure. I love exploring new places. I enjoy the beauty and challenge of a trail run. I don’t want to run in the same place too many days in a row. I want to see new things. Even though I understood that structure and routine are important for a professional athlete, I was still startled to discover how important. We ran eight times, in only three places – and one of those places while familiar was obviously not a regular part of the routine. We visited a very large park a number of times. I explored a different route with each visit. The others focused on accomplishing their specific workout goals on the flattest most convenient route. We went to a familiar although out of the way place for a long run. I enjoyed the scenery (as much as I could while searching for foot prints to make sure I didn’t get totally lost – since the backsides of everyone else were a distant memory). The others focused on their pace and how to run a course that minimized running into the wind. The hills I love to challenge myself with at home were something the group drove to avoid. We went to La Loma Altitude Training Center and I mixed in swimming. Bolota Asmerom was perfectly content, and consistently fast, running lap after lap after lap on the one mile trail woven between the pool, track and tennis courts.
This all makes sense. For me a run is a break from work, a physical challenge, a release from sitting in a chair, a reward in itself. When you’re training to win, and training involves: running, generally conditioning, strength, treatment, mental preparation, and recovery your goals and objectives are to get it done, done well, maybe with some free time left.
For the first time in my life, mystical “Double Days” make total sense. Since I first heard the term some fifteen years ago I’ve associated it with really hard core runners working to rack up the miles. But I lined that up with an ultra-marathoner or marathoner type of hard core. Tough. Really long. It turns out a few miles here, a few miles there, a few miles later in the day. All on the same one mile loop can add up to a substantial run. One that was less challenging and exhausting than those miles would have been all strung together. I might try this again.
The last thing that startled me was diet. I expected the group to be somewhat uptight about their meals. While I would say that everyone in the house paid attention to their diet, the pros ate more meat and eggs than I do. Not uptight. They’re worried about getting the right amount of protein and other nutrition; I’m worried about keeping my cholesterol low. I felt that we all want to be the appropriate weight. The pros consistently ate small portions slowly and stopped. To win they need to; There is some pressure with this profession. I struggle with that one; I’m working on it again.
I’m so glad that Shannon, Pablo Solares, Bolota, and Nick Alvarado worked us into their routine for a week. Andy enjoyed the San Francisco and track talk. It was a gracious, generous, interesting group. We had fun, really relaxed, and I will take an even deeper perspective with me to my next professional track meet to watch my favorite runners tear it up on the oval.