April Showers Brings July Flowers (and Chocolate Cake)

It is inevitable that about this time every year I have a self-induced running-related anxiety attack.   April is probably the hardest month for training for me – both physically and psychologically.  After months of training hard, building base, increasing strength, tapping into some speed and doing a few “rust buster” low key indoor or road races, April is the month when things really start to matter.  In February and March, a sub-par workout or week can be tempered with “it’s only March, I have loads of time”.  Suddenly, time accelerates and mid-April is a major reality check with races that really matter looming on the calendar.

The thing is, Aprils is still months away from peak performance season (end of June – August) but is the time of season when workouts and races are very easily quantifiable.  Long tempos, fartleks, and off track workouts are exchanged for prescribed pace track workouts that do not lie.  In my mind, I know what I should be able to do for workout, but my head and body are not quite in sync.  I expect my workouts to be where they are at the best part of the season and when I struggle to hit a certain pace or recovery it is easy to go into panic mode.  After years of racing and keeping a training log, I can go back in memory and my records and realize that few of my April workouts are spectacular, and they always improve significantly over the course of the season.   All I really need is…Patience, Patience, Patience.

2010 Rieti Athletics Meeting Rieti, Italy Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun

The month of April is critical to do the appropriate training for a long and successful season; however, it is also the month of April is critical to do the appropriate training for a long and successful season; however, it is also the time of year when more frequent and quality racing is introduced. The pressure is on and much of what we do in the latter part of the season depends on decent early season performances, especially in the cut throat world of track with limited spaces in few and far between competitions. It is important to produce strong seasonal performances early enough in the year to be confirmed in meets later in the year.  In the digital world, meet directors seldom rely on the good word of an agent or coach that an athlete is ready to compete if they have not seen proof. Best-laid plans do not come to fruition if you do not have the current performances to be accepted into desired later season meets – I have learned this the hard way.

As I was baking a (hopefully) delicious cake for my family’s Easter Dinner tonight, I realize that training and competing is kind of like baking a cake.  There are so many critical components that go into baking – flour, sugar, baking soda – and while you may omit certain ingredients, you will have a pretty flat cake without your leavening agent.  The key to a delicious cake is also allowing it enough time to cook, and impatiently opening the oven door for peaks every two minutes does not contribute to its end taste.  There is a chemical process that needs to occur, much like in training.  And when the cake comes out of the oven, it usually needs a few minutes to cool before diving in nose first.  Kind of like running.

In the analogy of cake baking, April training is basically the point in which all the ingredients are being mixed together and the dough tastes good but there is no cake to write home about yet.  I know I am doing the right stuff for a great season in June, July and August but I want to eat – or at least taste – my cake now.  I guess another word for it is Patience….

On an optimistic note, I did a real barn-burner/benchmarking type workout this morning and for the first time this year, running at my 1500m pace felt comfortable.  I love the feeling when I know I am in control of my body and not the other way around.  I think race fitness is not too far off anymore!  I will get a peak at how my cake is baking at the Payton Jordan Meet at Stanford on May 2nd and the Oxy High Performance Meet on May 22nd in Los Angeles; but the real taste will be end of June for Canadian National Championships in Calgary and July races in which I hope to qualify for the 2011 World Championships to be held in Daegu, South Korea at the end of August.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Easter and Long Weekend!

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2 Responses to “April Showers Brings July Flowers (and Chocolate Cake)”

  1. So, just curious because I know nothing about track — how do you get into a meet if you’re relatively unknown or coming back from injury? And do people sometimes get in just because of their name? Is there a ranking system and it goes by that (like tennis)?

    I hope your cakes turn out well (the real one and the metaphorical one).

  2. I, for one, Love cake!

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