“Men of Destiny”



Recently I started reading “The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert (of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame) where she profiles Eustace Conway, a man who left home at seventeen to move into the Appalachian Mountains, where for the last 20 years he has lived, providing for himself solely off of the land. Conway lives on land he named “Turtle Island” (not far from ZAP actually) with the romantic, ambitious, and often crazy idea that his destiny in life is to convince modern Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature.

I have only just begun the book but a quote stuck out to me that I think loosely relates to my running aspirations. Eustace’s mother would often tell her son at an early age that he was a “Man of Destiny” with great things in his future. This idea came by way of her frontier-thinking father, C. Walter Johnson, who said the following on what it meant to become a “Man of Destiny:”

“Every age has need for Men of Destiny and in every age, some men will respond to the need…These men believed they were Men of Destiny, and prepared themselves for the task that lay ahead. They were gripped by a compulsion that they could not resist. No man becomes a Man of Destiny unless he believes, with great conviction, that he has a unique contribution to make to the society of his day. Conceit? No! Just a sense of mission and the courage to follow through. He who is compelled by an inner conviction that he has a mission that he must accomplish, that he was born for this purpose, that he must and will follow through; that man will be a Man of Destiny.”

How about that for some inspiration?! I think the pursuit of trying to make Olympic and World Championship teams requires a mindset like Johnson discusses above. I believe you must approach your training with a sense that you are doing something you were made for, something you are compelled to do without fully knowing why you are doing it. I love the romantic idea that an inner conviction is urging and fueling me to work hard everyday. An inner voice is screaming inside me as I push, push, push through all the hard miles. Now, the belief in one’s destiny as an athlete may wax and wane at times, but the courage to follow through can lead to a runner becoming a “Man of Destiny.”

At ZAP, we live a monk-like existence up in the mountains with the goal of seeing how far we can push ourselves and I think each of my teammates looks at training as a pursuit that is destined to culminate in putting on that USA singlet. Yes, running is an inherently selfish pursuit but one must approach training in this way to reach the highest heights. I believe this hubris is a necessity because the chase to obliterate our limits requires this restless and brave mindset!

I will now step off of my soapbox and give a short rundown of my training last week! First off, Esther arrived on Sunday night to stay with me for the week which was great. I have really missed having her around ZAP this year but am happy and proud to report she has been blossoming in her new running situation under coach Terrance Shea and the New York Athletic Club.

Also, I was able to get in two solid workouts last week. On Tuesday, Pete, Esther, and I drove down to Mulberry Church Road to do a “camel hump” session. Mulberry is just off the mountain in Lenoir and offers lots of rolling dirt roads that are perfect for early season strength efforts. Camel humps are a session run back and forth on a 1,000 meter stretch. The 1k starts flat then climbs over two hills before descending and flattening towards the finish, with the shape of the 1k repeat resembling a camel’s hump. The workout gives you a chance to run flat, climb, and then run downhill on each repeat which keeps things interesting and works different systems of the body.

I opened the workout with a 12 minute moderate progressive piece where I increased my pace every 4 minutes. I ran the first two miles of this opening piece a bit fast (9:44) but overall it was a good way to start the workout. Pete is a big fan of having a longer aerobic piece to open the workout as a way to a) put some fatigue in your legs before the “meat” of the session begins and b) extend the warmup so you are fully ready to go when the repeats start. After 5 minutes jog, I then did 7x1k camel humps. Following the 7th 1k I took 5 minutes jog again and then finished the workout with a 9 minute snowball effort. The progressive snowball effort started slower than I was running my 1k repeats (around 3 minutes) and finished slightly faster as I increased my pace every 3 minutes. It was a long workout but a good one that will serve me well as I move into my season.

Salem Lake in Winston Salem, NC.

After a few easy days I closed out my week with a moderate progression run in Winston Salem, NC at Salem Lake. Salem Lake is a beautiful 7 mile loop that I did most of my tempo runs on in college. Each mile is marked so it is a great place to run when you want to know how fast you’re going. I ran 11 miles total on the day with the middle 7 miles progressing from 5:39 pace down to 5:05 pace. It was a nice way to end a long week!

Here is my last week of training (3/16-3/22):

Sunday: AM: 17 miles (8×20 seconds post run)

Monday: AM: 10 miles   PM: 6 miles

Tuesday: AM: 15 miles (camel hump workout)  PM: 4 miles treadmill

Wednesday: AM: 11 miles   PM: 5 miles

Thursday: AM: 15 miles (6×20 seconds post run)

Friday: AM: 11 miles (miles 4-10 5:39 down to 5:05)   PM: 5 miles

Saturday: AM: 10 miles

Total: 109 miles, 11 runs