Blowing Out The Carbon

AJWs TaproomOut here in my neck of the woods, we are heavy into the fall 50-miler season. Just over the next three weeks, the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile, the Stone Mill 50 Mile, and the JFK 50 Mile will all go down. As such, many runners around these parts are either putting the finishing touches on their training or soldiering through the last few days of their tapers. In this context, I have been thinking a lot about the legendary University of Oregon track star Steve Prefontaine and his approach to the last few days before a big event.

Pre, of course, was known for a great many things–fearlessly running off the front, unabashedly challenging the status quo, and occasionally racing with a massive hangover to name a few. One of my favorite Pre stories was his custom of running a hard four-minute mile at the Hayward Field track a few days before a major track meet. Not sanctioned by his coach or even backed up by science, Pre simply did that, as he said, to “blow out the carbon.”

These hard, pre-race runs were in Pre’s mind a way to flush out his system both literally and figuratively. He was a firm believer in high risk/high reward and he felt that this custom of blowing out the carbon put him in a better place going into a race not only physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and perhaps even spiritually. This commitment to pouring himself fully to whatever he did made Pre an inspiration to an entire generation.

As I am wont to do and as I am watching many of my friends preparing for their big fall 50 milers, I recently found myself thinking not only of the running impact of blowing out the carbon but also the overall collective life impact. How often do we need to blow out the carbon in our relationships, our jobs, and our lives? When does the time come for us to clean out the old system with a good, old-fashioned, full-throttle cleanse? I would venture to guess that we need this more often than we think.

So, for all of you out there getting geared up for that final late-season effort, that final race before you settle into holiday excess, please do me a favor and head out one more time to blow out a little carbon. Not only might it make for a little better race, but perhaps even a little better life.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Flying Dog Brewery Single Hop Imperial IPA ApolloThis week’s Beer of the Week is the Single Hop Imperial IPA–Apollo from Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland. I had it on tap earlier this week at my local watering hole and was mesmerized. Not at all clingy or chalky, Apollo tasted like a classic West Coast IPA with a flowery twist. It’s not available very often, so when it is, I suggest you get some!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)
  • In running, have you ever “blown out the carbon” Pre style before a big race or event?
  • How about that phrase as a life metaphor? At the moment, is there anything you really need to blow the carbon out of in your life? Or have you done that in the past?

There are 8 comments

  1. Archangel_Tex

    When I was young, I bought a Kawasaki 175 Enduro. Shiny blue. Since it was new I rode it a bit tentatively, wanting to take care of it. The engine kept stalling. Took it back to the dealer. A young kid at the dealer got on it, rode the sh** out of it full throttle in a way that made me nervous, and brought it back in perfect working order. "What was wrong with it," I said. "Just needed to be blown out," he said.
    I've always remembered that as a metaphor for some things in life. And I look here today and see your article on the precise same topic. Interesting. And I never knew Pre said that.
    It's also good to see a mention here about going full throttle. I've noticed running sites tend to start out being hard-core, and then the articles about being careful and not over-training seem to dominate. Readers come, I think, to learn about mental toughness, and they have enough common sense to not overtrain. Nice to be reminded we all need a good blow out, whether it's running or other areas.

  2. DerrickSpafford

    As an aside from the point of the article, I have to get this off my chest as it's bugged me for a long time…As a runner I liked Pre a lot and how he raced with passion, however he died far too early as a result of his own drunk driving! Many others could have met the same fate on the night Pre died, but are fortunate he was the lone driver in his car, and that he didn't hit someone else. It's always bothered me that he was listed as a 'legend' and idolized as I find it disrespectful to others who have had family and friends killed by drunk drivers.
    …I know, different time and era, but still rubs me the wrong way. Sorry for the rant.

    Back to the point of the article, I do see the benefit of an intense time trial effort leading up to a target race if the taper has been done correctly.

    1. TonyMollica

      Kenny Moore wrote in an article about the accident that Frank Shorter was a cautious person and wouldn't have ridden with Pre if Pre was drunk. (Pre dropped Shorter off at Shorter's residence shortly before the accident.) I have never heard Frank Shorter take on the accident. I met Shorter at a USATF Masters event, but thought it would have been bad form to ask about the accident.

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