Saturday, October 01, 2005

What do I think about

One of the challenges of the long run or bike is trying to occupy your mind with thoughts to eliminate the mind-numbing boredom of repetitive motion. Sure, there are the occasional mystical moments (though I have had maybe five in my life) when you forget about time and space during an entire workout. Most of the time, however, it is a grind, especially if done alone, which represents 99% of my workouts. And don't even try to pretend that 72 laps in a pool is enlightening. Counting, even done slowly, is not a transcendental experience.

That is why it is extremely frustrating that almost every endurance athlete never gives a very good answer to the "what do you think about while working out" question. Usually they say something stupid like "I think about my workout." That can't be.

Here is my top 10 list of things I think about during the "fun" 14 mile runs

1. Play mathematical games to make the distance seem reasonable (e.g., when I get to the stop sign I am 12% done).

2. Think of three important things I have to do when I finish running. They are always simple (buy stamps, brush teeth, etc.) After the run I want to keep this accomplishment thing going

3. List of cute woman who think gaunt men are hot. Very quick game; takes about .1 miles).

4. Analyze subplots from that week's Laguna Beach and Real World episodes. This cannot be done on a run of less than 6 miles.

5. Compare Yankee 1998, 2005 and 1977 teams. Hard to pick against a team with Jeter AND Paul O'Neil.

6. Determine the best place to buy a house. This is admittedly an overplayed bit. It will be resolved by the end of the NYC Marathon. Swear to god.

7. Measure how faded the mile marker signs painted on JFK Blvd. for the Bay to Breakers are getting. I run the same route way too much.

8. Contemplate why the hot female runner says hi to me when she is with her male friend, but ignores me when she is alone? She is teasing me but why? Is she secretly in love with me? Is she trying to make him jealous? Is she aware that I am at least 60 seconds faster per mile? Show some goddamn respect.

9. Annoy myself by rehashing petty things that happened at work. This is a good way to stimulate the production of adrenaline.

10. Listen to Bolero in my head. Why is this motivating? Who doesn't remember the gold medal performance of Torville and Dean at the 84 Olympics. One of the top 5 inspirational moments in sports history. Sports perfection.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I'm Back!

Three-and-a-half months after my cathartic failure at Wildflower, I put the pungent odor of weakness. lack of convinction and fear behind me by completing the Escape from the Rock Triathlon. The race legs (1.5 mile swim, 2.5 mile run, 13 mile bike, 7.5 mile run) don't seem too daunting but it was the swim where I proved myself to myself.

The concept of swimming from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore is crazy to me for several reasons. First. I am not the stongest swimmer in the world. Second, I have always had a fear of the Ocean as a large, scary unknown. Third, my body gets cold really quickly. Fourth, there could have been reruns of Laguna Beach Season Two I was missing during the swim.

My friend Will talked me/peer pressured me into signing up for this race about four months ago and if he had not been doing the race, I am not sure if I would have shown up despite my $190 investment. Our conversation on the walk to and boat ride out to Alcatraz helped me a lot, making the swim seem like just another day.

Once I jumped off the ferry into the water to start the swim, I felt like 75% of the battle had been fought. I did have a few scary moments in the water (e.g. fogged up goggles, perception that I was making no progress, swallowing lots of sea water after getting kneed in the head by another swimmer) but once I exited the water, I felt unbelievable.

I had my usual quad cramps during the second run but, all in all, it was an awesome experience.

Now for the stupid part. I got way to hyped up watching Lance win the tour (subject for my next blog entry) and I signed up for the 2006 Lake Placid Ironman on July 25. That is just nuts.

Monday, June 06, 2005

What is my hobby?

I have been caught in a mental struggle to determine if I need a new hobby in order to feel like I am leading a full life. While I would describe exercise as a passion, would I be limiting myself if I also labeled it as my principal hobby? To be a renaissance man don’t I need to learn a language, write a short story or weld large pieces of metal into interesting shapes?

While I do get a lot of fulfillment from running, biking, skiing, swimming, etc., I fear becoming or being one of those singularly focused people who can only talk about their VO2 max, favorite break or ideal powder day. These people bore me in the same way ultra-religious people do; it’s OK to know your source, just keep it to yourself.

My potential hobbies; I do love to read, watch movies, critique characters on reality TV shows, travel, etc. However, I don’t think these count as hobbies.

So try this on for size. My favorite activities are those in which I am lost in the moment and don’t have time to contemplate my navel and the meaning of life. A great book or article, Landon’s latest bout with CT on Inferno2, my pending Escape from the Rock triathlon, hanging out with Ben and Sam, shagging flyballs on a baseball field. These are all activities that prohibit meaning of life thoughts yet define the meaning of life.

So, at the risk of sounding asinine, my hobby is not thinking.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Destination or Journey?

Yesterday was the Bay to Breakers 7.5 mile race, 100,000 people racing, running or parading in various stages of inebriation from the Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach. I did it my first year in San Francisco, arriving at the starting line 90 minutes before the horn to make sure I could get a place near the start so I could actually run. I am glad I did the race once but would not do it again; it was too crowded and crazy for my taste and I wasn’t down with the whole pre-race tortilla throwing bit. Instead, I ran 11 miles alone yesterday morning before the madness.

This attitude of avoiding racing, coupled with my DNF at Wildflower makes me wonder (yes, this does read like the beginning of a Sex in the City episode) whether it is ultimately more satisfying to be competitive or judge yourself versus other people or your own expectations. Is it more heroic to push yourself up Lincoln Rd. at 7:00 am with no one watching or to fight through the pain against other fit people with hundreds of people watching you?


This does not just apply to individual timed sports, in which you are competing as much against a clock (and prior performances) as your expectations and other competitors. At work, I tend to judge myself against my own expectations or desires, which are not always consistent. Working a 12-hour day can give me satisfaction and make me accomplish a lot professionally, but then I feel like I am losing the battle in other categories such as friendship, fitness, parent, MTV reality show viewer, etc.

Some have written that it is not what you do or accomplish in life but who you do it with that matters. I think this is a great philosophy but how does that apply to time spent alone. What ultimately matters when you are alone?


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Greatest Inning in Baseball History

To combat the impending affects of aging on performance, I have officially begun to experience athletics through the lives of Ben and Sam, my awesome 11 and 9 year sons. Last weekend was opening day for their little league team, the Woodstock Mets.

Ben starts at shortstop, Sam at third base, which is incredible to begin with. We all worship Derek Jeter. Ben naturally sees himself as Jeter's replacement in eight years; Sam loves Arod, and expects that Arod will tutor him when he is called up from Columbus in 2016. Of course I argue he has to first graduate from Cal with a degree in economics. However I digress. My life plan for them is a topic for another day.

Back to the game and the top of the fourth, what will now forever be referred to as the greatest inning in baseball history. Pitching for the Woodstok Yankees was Chris Pollo, allegedly a 12 year old, but the Justice Department is investgating him for both age fraud and as part of the Balco investigation. Think Roger Clemens at 15. With one out, Ben hits a line drive into center field for a single. One out later, with Ben on second, Sam smacks a double down the left field line, scoring Ben. Talk about a wild range of emotions. Shock, ecstasy, pride, hope, etc. I barely contained myself from crying in front of 20 baseball moms - I do have to maintain my street cred as the mysterious San Francisco guy.

It did not even matter to them that the Mets lost 3-2. They also knew that we had experienced our own Field of Dreams moment.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Wildflower Incident

As I sit awaiting my America Worst flight to Austin, I continue to ponder the meaning of my Wildflower Half Ironman fiasco from last weekend.

The summary- good swim, OK bike on killer course was punctuated/punctured by a flat at 52 miles. 20 anger-filled minutes later, I fixed the flat and chugged to T2. Half a mile into the run I started cramping and quit. Stopped. Ejected.

Why did I do this? Aren't I the man who gets up at 4:00 am and runs 8 miles, no matter how I feel? Haven't I tied a lot of my identity to my fitness persona? I mean, getting Dean Karnazes to sign my copy of Ultramarathon Man was almost like a visit to Mecca.

My attempts at explanation have included:

I already did a half ironman - this was nothing new.
I didn't train enough, particularly on the bike.
I haven't faced adversity in a race in years, so did not know how to react.
I am weak mentally and faded at the first sign of stress.

Bottom line is I think I need to stop investing so much in these race quests. My love of exercise is for the solo workout, the daily addiction to endorphins, not the gathering of 2,000 like minded people. I do think there is a marathon and ironman in my life soon but I need to also focus on the other important things in life. Like MTV's Inferno.

All I know is I just did situps and pushups in the airport and don't care what anyone thought.

America Worst flight is late - what a shocker.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What constitutes a root

I have moved every three-to-four years since I finished college, so I have never felt settled or committed to a specific area (Chicago, Boston, New York, Boulder, Vail, etc) , no matter how much I loved it and/or my situation within it. In San Francisco, this situation has been exacerbated by the fact that I a) fly home every two weeks to be with the dudes (Ben and Sam) and b) rent so dont feel a permanence from a real estate perspective.

Why bring up this semi-interesting point now? I just found out that I have the opportunity to get in on a new loft in Oakland. I have to decide by the end of the weekend. I am going to check it out tomorrow or Saturday and them must decide. Time to act like a grownup.

Should be a fantastic weekend - picnic/barbecue with friends in the park, 10 mile run, 5o mile bike, all in 70 degrees. and sun.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

It is going to be one of those days in which I fully appreciate living in California. 70 degrees and sunny, and I am going for a 50 mile bike ride in Marin. While I love New York and the East Coast, even when you have a perfect day, it is impossible to get out of the city in 20 minutes for some outdoor fun. And 8 laps around Central Park, while great, doesn't cut it all the time. I still think ultimately I will end up in San Diego or Boulder. Time to start working on the plan to make that happen.

For some reason, even though I worship Lance, it has never been about the bike for me. Given my oft-discussed problems with the long term focus, I get bored when exercise exceeds one hour in duration. I am not sure how to remedy this issue - riding with other people helps a lot but I have to learn to love the solo efforts.

Which leads me to my third point. Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes is a must read.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The first top ten list

Top ten movies of all the time.

1. Top Gun - so good that Kelly McGillis could not ruin it. Should be number one on everyone's list.
2. Point Break - Totally. Reeves and Swayze at their best. Like Rich Aurillia's 2001 season.
3. Field of Dreams - I defy any man not to cry after "Dad, do you wanna have a catch?"
4. Swingers - The most quotable movie ever.
5. Brothers McMullen - More raw and pure than She's The One.
6. She's The One - 2nd most quotable movie ever.
7. A Few Good Men - By law, Kevin Bacon must be in a movie in the top 10.
8. Dirty Dancing - I have more than enough macho movies to justify a) a chic flic; and b) two Patrick Swayze vehicles in the top 10. Most inspirational concluding dance to any movie ever.
9. Good Will Hunting - Very eerie how I am as smart and tough as Will. As if it is based on my life.
10. Contact - Best cinematic discussion of science versus religion ever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Staring into the void Posted by Hello

Merrill and the Boys  Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Just got back from two awesome days of skiing with the boys at Hunter Mountain in upstate New York. Color me East Coast biased but I think East Coast skiing is as good as Tahoe. Of course I have only been to Tahoe once but Hunter has great steep trails all the way from top to bottom. I have now skiied five times this season, my high water mark since 1999-2000. Until you get in the groove, you forget how incredible it is skiing and I finally got the knack of the shape ski. Going next weekend and I can't wait!

Now of course I have to decide on the direction of my personal life. But I digress into obscure details.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Today's deliberations promise to be intense and controversial.

1) To Treo or not to Treo. This is of course the marriage of a Palm, camera, phone and computer. The pluses - it's easy to check email (a total pacifier for ADD symptoms), I can avoid lugging my computer on trips, and chics dig it. The minuses - as someone who is prone to lose wallet and phone and sunglass size objects, am I basically throwing my money away for a short term buzz? Also, maybe the wrong type chics dig them.

2) 8 or 10 mile run this morning? Love the 8 mile run but I have to start doing more to get ready for Wildflower (

3) How much time do I spend trying to figure out how to upload photos onto my blog? If I place photos on it but noone comes to the site, did I really accomplish anything?

4) Who is more admirable ; the shark for its constant movement or the triathlete?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

My life is an attempt to balance two philosphies; stop and smell the french fries, and if you stop moving you die (a take on that famous Flashdance line - "if you give up your dreams you die").

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Morning Run

It's 50 degrees and rainy at 5:30 am and off I go for my hour of pseudo spiritual and physical awakening.