The Sweet Spot

AJW's TaproomGrowing older as a runner brings with it many realizations. Most of these are obvious and more expected, like slowing down, tightening up, and getting injured more often. But every once in a while, a realization causes a pause. These are the moments that spawn wisdom and provide experience upon which to build, even at a time in life when most of the building has seemingly been done. This past week I was confronted with one such realization, the notion of the ‘sweet spot.’

What is this sweet spot, you ask? It may not be what you think.

On a long run, I was lamenting the fact that with each passing year it takes me longer to warm up. By warm up, I mean that it takes me over an hour to get to a point where I lose myself in the experience and the act of running becomes secondary to the joy I feel in being in the moment. It was only a few short years ago that I got to that point within 10 to 15 minutes of heading out the door, and now it takes forever.

Fortunately, once I do reach that point, that familiar, effortless feeling of flow returns and I feel like a runner again. But with age, the time between when I get to that flow point and when I start to get tired is getting shorter. And it is that piece of time, the delta between the onset of the flow state and the initiation of fatigue that I now call the sweet spot.

AJW looking for the sweet spot on a run in Silverton, Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

On some runs, it can last a couple hours. Heck, I suppose if I went slowly enough and consumed enough water and calories it could last days. In my current reality, though, that sweet spot is inevitably brief and that means I need to savor it. Anticipating its arrival is part of the fun and dreading its departure means I need to enjoy the moment. This is the fun part of experiencing the sweet spot: you never know when it’s gonna’ come and it could be gone just as quickly.

I suppose that’s where the wisdom of the sweet spot is revealed. So often in life something good comes and then quickly goes. The value, then, is in taking what comes–however it comes–to be present and allow the experience to take hold. The sweetness of that which is fleeting makes it all worthwhile.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s beer of the week comes from Ex Novo Brewing Company in Corrales, New Mexico. Their delicious Mass Ascension is an old-school-styled West Coast IPA with a new-school twist of fruity hops that makes an explosion in the mouth. One of the sweetest IPAs I’ve tasted in quite some time, Mass Ascension is worth a trip to New Mexico!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you have a similar sweet spot in your running as AJW, that place where you’re warmed up and happily moving yet you feel no fatigue or other reason to stop?
  • Have you found that your own sweet spot changes with the amount of time you’ve been running, aging, or as other life aspects shift?

AJW and Bryon Powell on a chilly Silverton, Colorado day. Photo: Andy Jones-Wilkins

There are 3 comments

  1. Andy M

    I’ve got a few years on you, AJW, and am still searching for that sweet spot and still helplessly hoping to stretch it a bit further. Luckily for us, later to warm and early to tire hasn’t diminished our drive or desire!

  2. Franck

    Interesting thoughts.

    To me, the “sweet spot”, that not-too-hard running bliss, is also partly a matter of perception. In a way, this isn’t unlike the comfort zone – it’s a defined “thing” for any given runner at any given point…. but it can also be modified and tailored to what you want it to be.

    I do believe one’s comfort zone can be enlarged through experiences and also actively working on one’s perspective of what comfort is. Similarly, I think the sweet spot can be to an extent enlarged.

    At least as far as I am concerned, I would not say I am only passively (well, as passively as one can while running!) waiting for the sweet spot to arrive. I may be thinking about what I find especially enjoyable about the current state of affairs, which could be any number of things: the perfectly crispy cold air, the bright sunrays in the forest, a perfectly challenging trail, the process of discovering a new area, a bridge crossing a frozen river…. It could also be looking for things I am grateful for – my body’s ability to run as far and as fast as I do (regardless of what distance & speed those are in absolute terms), a good week in terms of mileage/training/whatever else…

    The more I do this, consciously and actively while running, the more I find that bliss comes easily and that almost regardless of the circumstances, I can appreciate it for what it is because I regularly am training myself mentally to look for it. As if it was becoming harder and harder for the sweet spot to hide from me!

Post Your Thoughts