Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Race readiness, showering and the importance of play

I'm a guy to who likes to shower. During peak training, on a good day, I'm sometimes up to three or four a day. An environmentalist would probably say that's a bad day. Mind you, I don't eat red meat...but I digress...and believe me, not-showering would not be good for my immediate environment.

But stink-loving technical fabrics aside, I think it is more about the routine, than the cleanliness. Sure, I put the "wet" in sweat, but starting the day with a quick lather, just seems right. finishing a workout, or a swim or a ride or a run with a quick, not too-aggressive scrub is just second nature now.

So the other day, I was greeted on a workday by she-who-shares-my-genes not with breakfast in bed, but with the request for a very early lift to school. Well, of course. A challenge is a challenge and I rose to the occasion, as it were. A few minutes of cursory hygiene and wardrobe selection later, I was in the car driving to work, via school.
Although I was conscious of the not-yet-shaved and showered feeling, I was not overly concerned as I knew I could catch up during the noon-hour swim session.

But I got to thinking. And while I'm still in the grips of T3, I seem to do more thinking than anything else! I thought about race readiness. According to the experts, race readiness is supposed to be how ready one is, physiologically and mentally to participate in a race or competition. Yeah, I suppose it has something with that. But what I really think it is about is how ready are you to go out and play?

Do you remember? When the little snot-nosed kid from next door came by and would ask if you wanted to go out and play -- what was the go/no-go parental decision usually based on?
  • Was homework done?
  • Chores? 
  • Was it cold/were you appropriately dressed?
  • Were you fit enough - not sick and capable of playing without getting hurt?
  • What was the playing "history" with this snot-nosed kid? Any trouble with local authorities?
  • Were you adequately fed and/or could you get back in a reasonable time for a meal?
  • Would you benefit from the activity in any way?
These are all questions that any racer goes through before going to sleep the night before a race. Sure the specificity of them may be different, but the essence is the same. Are you ready to do this and if you are not, what will be the cost if you do it anyway?

So, I was driving back from the early-morning drop-off, unshowered, but completely confident that I had been ready to perform the unexpected task that was asked of me. But how ready was I to go out and play? How ready was I to go and run or swim or bike at any pace faster than a leisurely amble that I have mastered of late?

Well, judging from a near-PB on my first 10k race in years the week before, some solid off-road bike riding and a surprise 1300m swim earlier in the week, I could probably hang out and keep up with the snot-nosed kid.

This whole experience reminded me that  throughout the race season, but more so during the off-season, being prepared for anything is essential. Whether that anything is a pick-up game of football, a muddy trail ride, or even an early morning drive.

And why is it important to be prepared during the off-season? Because play is important. Play is what keeps you limber, agile and cogent enough  to take on the next challenge. Play is what will entice you into a novel activity that will re-energize your soul. Play is what will keep you young, even as, with every passing year, you will race with fewer people your age and against many more that do not remember the rotary phone, the 8-track or the Soviet Union. 

Most of all, and most importantly, play is what will give you a reason to look forward to having a shower...sometimes even having one with a close friend!


  1. Pretty good stuff there COMMUNICATOR. Nice job on the site, like it :) And ... great article, double :) :)

  2. I like this 'play' concept. And it seems the older we get the more we need it. Serious time is over, Soviet Union is over, one party is over.
    As you said, we need to be ready to party at any given time.


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