“Tell Me how I’m Suppose to Breathe with No Air”

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” – Amit Ray

Amit Ray could very well be the father of breathing and relaxation. His “Om Meditation” and yoga technique would be impossible without breathing and the ability to allow calmness to settle over your body and soul. He spent the time between 2004 to 2010 living at 4500 feet and probably meditating higher in the surrounding landscape. Amit Ray knows his breathing but where I think I differ from him is that I know the importance of breathing while hitting an incline at 7000 feet and wanting to quit running all together.

This is my 23rd day at altitude. I still wake up parched and hungry. I still regret running up the stairs in our house, I still don’t drink enough water (but plenty of iced coffee), and I still spend the first 8 minutes of each run wondering if my heart is going to explode. They say that 4 weeks is the initial amount of time to see the benefit of altitude training and I am assuming that when the 28th day strikes, I’ll wake up in the morning with a resting HR of 30 and drop a 6:00 first mile with ease. But in all seriousness, this has been an awesome first 23 days in Flagstaff and I want to share with you why.

For starters, even though while running, my initial mentality is simply breathing in the mountain air and the smell of fresh pine. It’s quite lovely. You may think, “Craig, that’s silly, you’re going to sit there and tell me that the air is your favorite thing?” and I am going to nod my head in this coffee shop and tell you “Yes!”. I was so used to sucking in moist city air that smelled of pee (for any Austin runners crossing the street on Dirty Sixth), occasional sewage, and car pollution, that even though this air causes pain to my lungs, throat, and lips, at least it smells fresh and isn’t humid!!

Another thing that I’ve been pretty stoked about each day is standing in front of the mirror in the mornings. Sea level Craig had some chunk in the front section and my thighs looked like cumulonimbus clouds. But sea level Craig, he has “the V” now and his thighs look more like a rolled up T-shirt that gets fired into the crowd at a sporting event. And don’t try to tell me i’m wrong, I have 4 years of BMI scans to show for my fat storage.( I was just shy of 11% my freshman year at Texas) For the first week I was just excited about the change in my body and didn’t really manage my calories very well for the increase in my metabolism. I have since then began eating a lot more freely but still working on my healthy streak (this is my fifth week with no coca-cola, still working on the water thing).

Sleep. What is that? I haven’t slept consistently since getting here to Flagstaff and that’s not even due to taking naps because those don’t exist anymore either.

Something that I have enjoyed the most has been the vast amount of people to run with on any given day. Obviously, I’m always surrounded by NAZ Elite teammates but with Team Run Flagstaff and the ever-growing list of individuals who call Flagstaff home, the options are endless for who you may be drafting off of while dying on an incline. This has been a very important part of the transition for me because the team environment has always been something that I look forward too. Granted, the goals are certainly more individual at this step in my life but to be surrounded by other professionals with the same goals in mind is certainly helpful. Also, while Ryan Dohner, Scott Fauble, and I are just starting off in our journey, we are continually exposed to runners who have “been there and done that”. So if any question arises about training, how many beers can I have at 7000 ft, where are the routes that wont kill me, and who gives the best massage in town, we are always covered.

The days are so long here! Almost every evening when I have eaten dinner, finished my second run, and maybe rolled out for a little, I look at the clock and think “wow, it’s only 7:30, what now?” I have certainly had a lot of down time in the last 23 days which, as most have probably noticed, I have filled with building a brand (LutzGrind), tweeting, and watching The League (Why I just got around to watching this show is beyond me). I have also been successfully losing in a fantasy league (0-2) so far and that means scanning the waiver wire every day to figure out how to slow the bleeding. Sometimes Dohner and I will go look at nature to pass the time and sometimes we just sit at our dining room table and stare at each other as time passes. I also come to this very coffee shop that I am sitting at as I write this and pretend to be busy while I scroll through each newsfeed over and over again. It took some boring days to pass before I figured out that these long days are actually a blessing. My free time is no longer filled with going to class or nonsense meetings (sorry UT compliance) and instead with recovery and zero stress other than losing in fantasy.

Update on life: some of the blog already covered a lot of my day to day feelings but here are some of the other things brewing in Flag. We are now only 11 days away from my first race as a post collegiate! (US 10 miler). This last weekend, my GF Meg came into town. We hiked Mt. Humphrey and I showed her around town. I also forced her to either bike or run every time we had practice. The LutzGrind shirts are finally ready and going up on the NAZ Elite site today at 4pm PT! Dohner and I currently have three Canadian roommates for a two week period. It has certainly been interesting to hear their own stories about their journeys and training. I will be growing out my mustache for club cross in December which should give me plenty of time to sculpt a true winner and have a great stache on the line in San Francisco.

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