Thursday, April 28, 2011

Muscials, ultras, and what impresses me

Training.  Adaptation to increasing levels of stress.  Right?  Whether you're training for a 5k, ultramarathon, century, Ironman, long swim, bodybuilding competition...even an exam or musical...the concept behind the preparation for all is the same.  The basic tenant is to get to a point so that just before the event, you feel ready - ALMOST ready - to do your best at said event.

Last night, I got to/had to (I lean more towards the got to camp) watch the three sixth grade classes at my school perform a musical.  Now, my childhood memories of these things aren't so fond.  "Let's get a bunch of kids who can't sing or dance and have them make fools of themselves in front of their parents!  Afterward, all the coward parents will clap and cheer and talk about how great everyone was.  Please."  My opinion, however, has changed drastically in the past two years.  Our music teacher's #1 teaching priority seems to be preparing the sixth grade for their spring performance.  It shows.

Behind the scenes, the amount of preparation that went into the musical would stagger most.
  • Performance selection - she was aware that this particular class had more boys and less girls who were strong actors than a normal class.  She also knew that acting-wise, there were a few more talented ones than usual, yet they were not super strong singers.  She chose an appropriate piece - one with many leading roles perfect for boys, one that was much heavier with acting than singing - than a "normal" show.
  • Casting - each of the major parts was played by a kid who seemed born for said spot.
  • Rehearsal - this is where lessons were learned.  Here is where the true lessons were learned.  First of all, the music teacher worked with the other specials teachers to alter the entire school's schedule for one month.  This allowed her an hour and half with the sixth grade every day, as opposed to the normal forty minutes every third day.  She had laid the groundwork throughout the school year, working on a few of the songs with the individual classes.  They had this background to draw on when all three classes got together.  All of the individual scenes were worked on separately until they could be performed near perfection.  It wasn't until the week before the performance that she even attempted to run through the whole thing, as she knew that it would be mentally psychologically taxing on the kids.  She knew the kids only had a finite amount of energy, concentration, etc, and that these days had to be carefully chosen.  Furthermore, she only ran through the entire show every other day during this time, in order to give the kids the chance to 'recover' on the days in between. 
   When the curtain closed last night, everyone in the audience was quite impressed.  While it was no broadway show, the fact that SIXTH GRADERS were able to actually entertain people for almost ninety minutes was quite impressive.  Everyone, including many of the sixies, walked away thinking, "Wow!  I can't believe we did that!"  You could feel their pride as they basked in their collective accomplishment.

Why did I just spend all that ink talking about an elementary school musical?  Well, to me it's pretty clear.  In nine days, I will be running my first ultramarathon.  I put a lot of thought into deciding when to do my first one, which one it should be, and what type of goal I could reasonably shoot for.  My #1 goal for 2011 is to do well on Pike's in August.  Training for two mountain races on back-to-back days looks quite different than training for many consecutive 8:00, 9:00, or 10:00 miles.   Therefore, I had to keep a few things in mind.  Time between the ultra and Pikes weekend was essential.  Completing training that was specific enough for an ultra, yet not harmful to Pikes training - also essential.  Having this secondary, closer goal NOT conflict with the big picture - the most essential piece.  (the Cripple Creek run being an exception to that rule, oops)

In December, completing a 20-miler was a big deal.  I now do those with such regularity, and with much uptempo build into them, that it's just another day.  I could step out the door and run 26 miles any day of the week and still have a decent run the next day.  Couldn't say that months ago.  50?  Still an unknown quantity.  Can I complete 50 miles now?  Absolutely.  Not a concern.  Can I do so quickly enough to be happy with the result?  Dunno yet.  But I can now wrap my head around it.  I have positioned myself to go for my goal next Saturday without feeling suicidal about it.  By taking a huge task and breaking it down to it's essentials, I now believe I can be successful.

The goals are myriad, but the process is the same.  Life is full of these opportunities.  This guy touches on it.  Nothing is special, it's all relative, and there's always more out there.  I'm not impressed with my accomplishments in an external sense, but I get off on it internally.  In other words, if some stranger tells me, "Wow, Sean, I'm so in awe of what you did Saturday, you must be so proud," I only can somewhat agree.  I'm satisfied with the fact that I've pushed my own envelope somewhat.  Everyone is capable of pushing his own envelope.  Any time someone succeeds at this, I am equally impressed.

This song is like crack in my head right now - I could listen to it for an hour straight and still want more.  Sick.


  1. Amen to that. Ultras and Pikes are different. Looking forward to seeing you next week

  2. Should be fun. Not sure how I'm feeling - excited, anxious, nervous, etc. Lotta fast guys there. The more the merrier - looking forward to seeing GZ in action again myself.