I've always been a speed person. My mindset has been, go hard and go fast....get 'er done. In high school, I was an all state sprinter. I was blessed with a higher proportion of fast twitch muscle fibers. For anyone who cares to know more about my history as a sprinter, my PRs from high school in the various events were:
- 100m: 11.2
- 200m: 23.00
- 300m: 37.8
- 400m: 51.2
In order to stay in shape for indoor and outdoor track, I also ran cross country. While I loathed cross country (what sprinter wouldn't!), I'll credit everything I learned during this time with the success I've had becoming a longer distance runner. My coaches taught us so much about proper form, nutrition, and training. It wasn't just about showing up and doing the workout, as much about learning how to train one's body. It has played such as significant role in my ability to train as a triathlete. For cross country, although I wasn't a top runner, I was still fast enough to be on the varsity cross country team and run in most of the big state meets. My high school 5k cross country PR was 18:48. Not bad. However, if you asked me if I would ever run longer than 5k when I was in high school, I never would have imagined doing what I'm doing now. I always said 5k was my limit.
One day I'd like to beat that 5k time. But that day isn't today. As I'm sure you know from reading about my training, I am focused on longer distance endurance events, such as the Sun Trust National Marathon (yes, they just got a title sponsor recently) and Eagleman 70.3. Needless to say, speed is not my focus these days. However, the mindset of ever having a limit has been thrown way out the window.
Something hit me yesterday, while I was running my recovery 5.5 miler. It takes me almost 4-5 miles to START going and feeling good on my runs. The first 3 miles or so of my run were a bit of a struggle to loosen up. But once I got to about the 4 mile marker, everything opened up and my running was just fluid, the way you visualize yourself running in your head. The first half of my runs are basically a warm up.
What amazes me is that I used to just get up and run fast and go. Ahhh...those were the days. But you know what? To me, it shows signs of progress. Progress toward the endurance athlete I strive to become. It takes time to train your body to go from utilizing exclusively fast twitch muscle fibers, to mostly slow twitch. It definitely doesn't happen over night. But that feeling is gone. No longer do I feel like a sprinter trying to be an endurance athlete. I AM an endurance athlete.
But here's the good news: I am just about as fast a sprinter as I always was, despite the changes. When not living the life of an endurance athlete, I find myself playing flag football and softball with my friends in a variety of work/fun leagues. Anytime I step on the field, I do so knowing that I am faster (and in better shape) than almost anyone on the field. I need to play every so often, just to make sure those muscles are still there. Whether its playing wide receiver, or returning kicks, it would be a shame to lose those muscles. For now, its the best of both worlds.
And one day, my fast twitch and slow twitch muscles will call a truce and I WILL BEAT THAT 5K TIME!