Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Am I happy?

So here I am, a 41 year old man, basically approaching the dreaded point of middle age. Most people consider 50 to be middle age but I don't know that many 100 year old people. I would generally consider myself to be a happy person, and on paper I certainly seem to be successful in the way most people would define success. A great job, excellent health, no addictions, the two greatest sons in the world and awesome friends.

What do I lack?

I am currently single but this is not a big problem for me at the moment. I want to be in a long term relationship but either have not met the right person or have not been in the right place when I met them, and let it slip away. I am still open minded, but increasingly puzzled at the difficulty of the process.

I do not have clear long term goals. I tend to think specifically in short term, six-month time frames. Train for and finish the Ironman. Make XX more $$. Go on this trip. However, ask me where I will be or what I will be doing in five years and you will get a blank stare. I do not need to have the next 20 years mapped out but it would be nice to have an idea of where I am going, for what I am striving.

I am too far from my boys and don't spend enough time with them. Although I live 2,700 miles from Ben and Sam, I see them as much as I would if I lived in Boston or New York. Jessie, the ex-wife, has talked about moving West so they can be closer to me, but I understand her hesitancy to pack up and move away from her base, dig up her roots. Professionally, it makes sense for me to stay at my job for the next year.

If that is it, then it seems pretty clear what I need to do to be "happy." Sure, I could add other things to the list like a new backpack from LL Bean, but that is trivial. I do covet some Mountain Hardware but lets keep things in perspective. I need to focus on the core three areas.
First determine where I want to be with all three, and then determine the baby steps needed to get there.


FYI - about 50 days until Lake Placid Ironman. I ran 9 miles yesterday morning and swam 1.25 miles at night and felt great. I actually think I have a shot at finishing this puppy. I am slowly raising the distance of my workouts (e.g., 10.5 mile run and 1.5 mile swim tomorrow, 70 mile bike on Saturday) and my body is rapidly adapting. The excitement is building.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


So here I am, two weeks post Wildflower, two months until the Lake Placid Ironman. The euphoria of my performance at Wildflower has faded a bit, and the training is starting feel less heroic and more of a grind. Double workouts can be a smile, but they also become extremely repetitive and all consuming. So why do I do this? What is the reward because it surely is not to win or compete against other people.

1) Eat. I love food and can't stand thinking about controlling how much I eat. If I was a woman, there is no doubt that I would have an eating disorder. None. But I'd also be really hot.

2) Stuff. As I have mentioned before, I love the things associated with triathlons. The bike, running sox, goggles, wet suit, race numbers, etc. It's like collecting Civil War figurines, except much cooler.

3) A major. Everyone needs to major in something. For some its work, celebrity gossip (that is my life's minor), charity work. Working out and exercising is the bit with which I am identified and have 42 seconds to discuss each day before I am told to shut up.

4) The ultimate excuse. I love to hang out with friends and drink but I have limitations. I have never been a night person so even in my teen and 20's, I would start to fade at midnight when everyone else was starting to crank it up. That is now compounded by the fact that I am complete lightweight so on any given night that I go out, I have about 90 minutes before my engine shuts down. Training gives me an excuse for bailing early ("I have to get up early and run") even if I would have left anyway due to being bombed on three Bud Lights.

5) Stress management. My job in high tech PR is pretty stressful, and I tend to overanalyze everything in my personal life. Endurance sports reduce this stress in a physiological way and provides a mental break from obsessing over other aspects of your life. Rather than wondering whether she likes me, I can have a break from these thoughts by thinking about whether my calf will cramp before I am done with the swim.

6) Vanity. While everyone is vain, I am probably worse than the average. I tend to judge people too much on their appearance, including myself. Working out only feeds this disease. It does hinder my performance, as I lift more weight than I probably should for optimally performing in endurance sports. Of course, if I didn't lift I'd finish 47th, not 51st, so it's not like I am leaving money on the table by lifting.

7) The challenge. Nothing ground breaking here. Running the last three miles of a 10 mile run when you are exhausted, forcing yourself out of bed at 3:00 am to get the pre-flight workout in and biking 50 miles solo in the rain makes you a stronger person mentally, and gives you a lot of confidence that you can accomplish things that seem outside of your reach. Merrill in his natural state is a couch potato, but I have forced him to become an active person.

8) Being different. Not only does everyone need a major in their life, but people want to be different, to stand out as an individual. This is why in college I wore shorts in the dead of winter. To get attention. Not sure if it got me the right attention but infamy is better than irrelevancy. While tens of thousands of people do triathlons, and millions of people run, in any given closed environment, like work, family or friends, there are not that many people who do so you stand out in these groups. You have some unique to add to the mix.

9) Health. From an efficient respatory system to ideal weight to constant endorphin release, you just feel better when you exercise.

10) Return to the animal. This reason is copied. Humans basically spend most of their time focused on mental activities (communication, work, reading, watching TV) which is opposed to almost every other specie which exists in a physical realm (walking, hunting, etc). Exercise is an attempt to stay in tune with the animal side of your life, to remain in the state from which you evolved. To be the best rhino that you can be.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Vindication and exhiliration

It has been six days since the Wildflower Half Ironman and I am still on an incredible high. Without a doubt, it was the most satisfying race of my life. There are so many reasons for my euphoria.

The major ones:

1) Erase the memories. Last year I dropped out because I was a wimp and could not handle minor cramps, the 15 minute delay from changing a flat and general antipathy over doing another race. This year I wiped away all of those memories. As I rode by the location of my flat, and the point at which I stopped running, I seriously got choked up at the difference a year makes.

2) Tenacity. I broke through and shattered my mental barrier. For so long, particularly in marathons, I have not gutted it out when faced with crisises. At mile four of the half marathon leg of this year's Wildfire, I got major cramps in both of my quadzillas. Rather than pack it in, I walked them off and then kept running. Unprecedented.

3) Hit all three goals. 1) Finish. 2) Break 7 hours. 3) Break 6 hours, 30 minutes. My time of 6 hours 13 minutes was so unexpected, so exciting.

4) Bring on Lake Placid. I am so geared up for the Lake Placid Ironman on July 22. I know I have a lot of training left to do but I know I can finish it.

5) I am not alone. I did the race with Will and a bunch of people who are as if not more obsessed than me about triathlons. I am not a freak. I even joined a triathlon group, ignoring Woody Allen's mantra that he would never join a club that would have him as a member.

6) Peeing. Last year I had to pull over about 5 times to pee. Wasted time, ruined my momentum. So this year I let it fly while on the bike. Hygenic no, but very liberating. Like being two all over again.

7) Lance. I wore my Discovery shirt for the first time and someone yelled at me to say hi to Lance. Even if it was a joke, I can pretend that they think I know him.

8) Recovery. I am already fully recovered from the race, even though I was totally spent on Saturday. Took the red eye this morning, and ran 8 miles around Central Park and felt great.

9) Armagedon. The Wildflower course is considered to be one of the hardest courses, particularly the run. Major hills at mile 4 and 10 and I ran up both. And broke 2 hours for the half.

10) So much room for improvement. I am so happy with the time for the race but I can become such a better swimmer and biker. So much time, so much fun to be had.