Friday, November 8, 2013

Down Time

Well, I seem to have caught my first cold of the year. That's generally what happens to me in the fall when it's cold, rainy, I start training, I share my water bottle with my teammates, and fill up my schedule so I'm working almost every day. Let's just say I never learn my limits. The good news is, this cold has given me two days of downtime to not have to worry about teaching and lesson planning. The bad news is I'm trapped in my coffin-sized room like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.

I'd like to say I've made good use of this time, but instead I've been looking at the statistics of this blog out of curiosity as to who my readers are. It seems you guys really like my post about the "Ugly Coyote Bar and settling in", as it comes in first with 130 all-time views. Second with 119 views is, somehow, still my post on "Nastalgia" from before I even left America (maybe I should re-read that one). A close third place, with 117 all-time views, is my personal favorite, "Once a Runner..." and fourth is, possibly my second favorite, "Escape From Moscow" with 105 views. Nothing else beats 61 views.

I'm amazed that "Nastalgia" is doing so well despite being written when there were few people who were reading my blog and I hadn't even started my adventure. It's like that song a band writes before they made it big that somehow becomes a hit long after it was recorded. In any case, I'm glad people are reading, but you should really go back and read my post about Berlin and Vince Vaughn! I put a lot of work into it!

And where are my readers reading from? Well, perhaps they are all just random drones from, but if the stats are to be believed, my American readership is strongly leading the way with 1615 views, with Russia in a strong second with 699 views. However, over the last month Russia has supplied more views than my fellow Americans. I predict that Russia will end this year in the lead :). Next comes Germany and the Netherlands in a tie for 3rd with 22 views each (very fitting, I think), which makes sense because that's where I was before I arrived in Russia and I have friends there.

What doesn't make sense is what comes next: Serbia comes in 4th with 18 views. SERBIA! Who in Serbia is reading my blog, and why? Not that I'm offended, I just find this incredibly interesting (assuming you're not working for a shadow blog advertising company). If you read this, please leave a comment because I want to know you're real. Next come Belgium, Spain, and Norway with 6 views, and then Belarus and France with 5 a piece. I even have some "reader(s)" from China, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Australia, and Italy. Alright!!

I wont go on about this much longer, but you might find this entertaining: 42% of you use Google Chrome, and if you're still using Internet Explorer you should get with the times, because you're in the 6%!! As for my fellow Firefoxers, we form a respectable 22%. Windows is holding down the OS market as well as Google Chrome owns the browsers, with 45% of you using Windows to read my blog. But 34% of you have used an Ipod or a Mac computer. Isn't it scary that I know this stuff? I'm like the NSA!

And now I'll start counting the hours until my blog gets blocked...

Ok, but seriously, I have made pretty good use of my time. Training had been going pretty darn well until I got sick. I even did a set of Ks on the one and only indoor track in Novosibirsk. (Yes, it was the first week of November and we were already on the indoor track... I may never see an actual outdoor track in this town.) Speaking of which, assuming my Russian ability didn't fail me, my university used to have a track, but someone STOLE the surface of the track. I really don't know how that's possible, but the story is people came and pealed the rubber off the track and made off with it. That's why the track looks like the road to Oblivion, and not because they haven't bothered to maintain the track since they built the first railroad bridge over the river Ob (When Grover Cleveland was the President of the USA, remember that guy?).

Right, the Ks. So the workout was 6 x 1000 with 400 jog rest in between. The goals were entirely heart rate based. During the Ks heart rate should be between 160-180, and during the 400 jog my heart rate should get below 140. I remember doing something similar in high school, when we would do "3 minute ons" on the track. But we would always rest til our heart rate was down to 120, and I probably got over 180 on the ons. So the first one was silly slow as we found our bearings (3:34), but for the last 5 I ran 3:13, 3:13, 3:12, 3:08, 3:06. Afterwards we did some 50 and 100 meter flies as speed work. It was nice to finally get on a nice, banked track, and this indoor track was as nice as the better indoor tracks in the United States. It's not quite at BU level, but it was much better than UNH or CNU.

Getting to the track is kind of a story of its own. So I'm having a recurring bad dream of showing up with one plan in mind, to find out the plan is OH-so-different from what I imagined. This day it was raining pretty hard, and it turned out there was a miserable traffic jam on the only road downtown from our little university enclave. So I arrived at the locker room to find the Coach and a small group of girls from the team. They decided that the best thing to do was walk to the train station... which is probably about a mile away, because the traffic was so bad.... In the pouring rain... through the woods. Once funny is that, well, this was the best thing to do in the situation. It was the fastest way! Russia (smh)... The paths had turned to nothing but mud and one of the girls was wearing heels (girls are always wearing heels here). And it wasn't a stroll - we stretched over about 100 meters as everyone did their best to speed walk to the train station, but one girl was in heels, so how is she supposed to keep up?

In any case, we made it to the train station to find the rest of the team, which was a surprise to me. I would have asked them how they all got there, if I trusted my Russian ability to understand the answer. I figured I would just try to read their minds instead. Soaked, covered in mud, and a train ride, a metro ride, and a short walk later, we were at the indoor track on the other side of the river. I can only imagine what getting their is like in the middle of January when it's -30 outside...

At this point, after reading my other blog entries as well as this one, you may be asking me why the heck I chose to come out to this dreary, godforsaken city in the middle of Russia. Well, the coach at the university asked me that as well. "Why did you leave somewhere where everything was good for the place where everything is bad?" He asked (In Russian, more or less). Well at the time, all I answered was "In order to know!" But it's more than that. I feel the need to explain here (because I know you're reading coach!)

When I graduated from William and Mary and finished with collegiate running, I was tired, sick of running, and worn out from an emotional battle with a coach I despised. I simply wanted the freedom of not having to slave for the man every day of my life for a sport I once loved but that had turned into nothing but work. I took a month off from running. Over the summer I started running again on my own terms, and I realized it wasn't the sport I hated, just the situation I had found myself in. I trained hard for about 6 weeks, and was once again in decent shape. I attended workouts with a coach, but I did the majority of my running on my own with my own plan. However, I pushed myself too hard, too early, with too little emphasis on staying healthy and all-around strength. I injured myself.

So I took another 6 weeks off. And then I started jogging around on my own just to stay healthy. But my discipline was shattered. I could barely get myself to run 3 days a week. I decided I needed to start a training plan.

So, firstly, it wasn't really my intention to seriously train here in the place of "everything bad". But I find myself in a position where I need to seriously train to give my life structure and focus. Secondly, I came to Siberia in general to gain a new perspective on life. Sure, everything was "good," training in America. Except I couldn't see anything good about it anymore. We had nice tracks, nice gear, nice shoes, nice weather, free travel to events, "knowledgeable" coaches, and high-level competition. But I hated running and was living an unhealthy life by the end of college. It's so easy to take all the nice things for granted, especially when your psychologically stuck on the things you hate. I really need to get back to basics. I think I can do that here. And when I get back to the United States, all of those nice things will seem so nice again, at the very least for a little while. Or maybe I will appreciate the value of regaining that toughness of training and living with less, and appreciate life all the more.

Besides, not everything is bad. I like to highlight the examples of things that are different here, but just because they are different doesn't mean they are worse. Living, and training (training is a life, in a way) are entirely relative and entirely situational. A run in the best gear in the most beautiful landscape in the world with the sun shining can sometimes be the worst run of the weak, and a run in a freezing rain down a muddy street can sometimes feel the best. I'm going to stop here before I talk myself into becoming a Buddhist Monk and living on a mountaintop in Nepal.

Lastly, life in general. At this point I am teaching 8 classes of English a week at the university and volunteering my time at other English language centers when I can. I'm taking dance classes - I'm learning how to dance the Bachata (it's similar to Salsa but slower and easier)! Next week I will be taking part in a sociological conference and I wrote a paper on youth (18-29) voting trends in American national elections. I am now the proud owner of a Russian ushanka, my project on Russian track and field is off to a slow start, I drink lots of tea, and my beard and hair are growing long.

That's enough for one day. Good use of down time?