Saturday, August 19, 2006

Random topics

1. Debunking the 20 mile run. Right before going on a 10 mile run this morning, I read an article that questioned the value of the 20 mile run, a presumably critical workout to successfully complete a marathon. The article quite persuasively argues that it is not necessary, and that a 16 mile run is sufficient. Rather than resting before and after a long run of 20 miles, this training approach has you running hard before and after the shorter long run to simulate the stress and fatigue of the marathon. For example, before a 16 miler, run 10 miles the day before so your legs are already tired when you start the 16 miler. This is a huge revelation for me as I get ready for the Sacramento Marathon. I can tolerate a 16-18 mile run, but I detest the 20 miler, both for the mental boredom and because I always get injured doing them. No more!

2. City versus country run. I have lived in both cities (Chicago, San Francisco), small cities (Boulder) and the burbs (Sudbury, Mass., Millwood, NY) so I have experienced different running environments. I definitely prefer city running as there is more visual stimuli to occupy my mind and more fellow runners with whom I can measure myself. The catch is that I be able to run with no impact from traffic. For example, on Thursday I ran along the Seattle Harbor, and did not face any traffic lights or street corners. It was awesome, running by the Aquarium, Ferry Building and through a train yard.

3. Running alone. After running 10.5 miles with Gina yesterday, the verdict is in; I am a social runner. Even though our pace was pretty close to my normal runs, I felt much better and had much more fun. I could even deal with periods of silence (usually I freak out at lulls in conversation) because these were a result of a lack of oxygen rather than a lack of inventory of conversational bits. I might even go to a Nike weekend run and run with the hordes(unprecedented).

4. Busy. If or when I become president, I am going to have the word busy removed from the dictionary. It has no meaning but is the most overused word in the language. As in I am too busy to work out, read, go out for drinks, accept this work assignment, cook, etc. These are all PC ways of saying "It is not important or fun enough for me to do this. I'd rather be doing something else." Let's stop claiming we are superpeople with acked agendas and let everyone know where they stand in our list of priorities.

5. The 12 hour work day. I am often compelled to work more than eight hours a day to
make up for my lack of efficiency and the fact that I am easily distracted (i.e., welcome them). Therefore I feel I can state with great expertise that people who habitually work more than nine hours a day do it because they are either a) inefficient like me and doing eight hours of work in 12 hours; b) in love with their job so do it willingly; c) using work as an excuse to escape from or avoid their personal life or d) trying to get ahead by impressing people with their long hours. There are of course exceptions but 87% of the workforce fits within these four buckets.

6. Spectator versus competitor. A couple of days ago I was making conversation with a client, and asked them if they were a fan of their local baseball team. They said no, they'd rather participate in sports than watch them. Is it a choice? Can't they enjoy playing basketball and watching people who are much better than you play? Can't you watch Lance bike 120 miles up the Pyrenees and then go for a 50 mile ride yourself out of inspiration. Does it make people feel lazy to watch others exercise? Does this go against their type A personalities?

Strangely enough, I am probably the most obsessed sports fan who doesn't actually watch any events but not because I would rather be doing them. Either I am not emotionally invested in the teams so I get bored or I am too emotionally invested (e.g., Michael Jordan, Yankees, Steffi Graf, Lance Armstrong) and get sick to my stomach watching. For example, I could barely turn on the Yankee-Red Sox game yesterday in the 8th inning even though the Yankees were up 13-5. Color me the pessimistic sports fan.

7. Organized room, organized mind. At the end of the summer before 10th grade, I made the huge mistake of telling my mom that a clean room was indicative of my state of mind. Organized life, focused mind. Thereafter, dirty laundry on the floor became indicative to her that I was not studying.

25 years later and I am still having this debate with myself. Does complete and total organization provide an ideal mental platform to focus on your work, life, etc. or is spending time to attain ultraorganization waste time in which you actually could be moving forward, not laterally?

8. Exercise without goals. As I was nearing the end of training for the Ironman, I was looking forward to working out with no goals, no focus. Rather than running 10 miles in the morning and swimming 1.5 mile at night, I could go for a six mile run in the morning and be happy with it, and not lose much in fitness. So after the Ironman was over, I almost immediately signed up for a marathon in December, imposing the same pressures on my training that I was looking forward to avoiding.

While it is clear that I love training for races and striving for increasingly competitive goals, it is also clear that training for the sake of health and wellness are not compelling enough reasons to get me out of bed at 5:00 am. I need to create time-sensitive events that force me into a "do it or you are screwed" ultimatum.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Ben and Sam have labeled me an exercise bulimic; I exercise as a means to purge food out of my system in order to maintain some distorted view of my body. There is some degree of truth to this but my relationship with food cannot be reduced to one convenient psychological term. It goes way deeper than that.

In simple terms, I run to eat. There are many other reasons why I exercise but at the heart it is so I can eat with reduced concern or worry of becoming fat. I don't think this makes me an exercise bulimic. It is simply a way to take food guilt out of the equation, just as the perpetual jeans and gray t-shirt combo eliminates the need to genuflect over my wardrobe everyday.

If I was given truth serum and asked to name my number one passion in life, I would say food. Unlike things that are better when they are anticipated than when they are realized (e.g., birthday presents, baseball games, hot tubs) eating is always better than waiting to eat. I could never be clinically depressed for more than six hours, the amount of time I would have to wait before ordering a pizza which would make me instantly euphoric. I have never claimed to be a deep person.

I consider a big appetite to be the mark of a real man. A stud. Loved Brad Pitt's character in Ocean's 11. When my mom jokingly harasses me for doing the same annoying things now that I did when I was 14, it grates on me. Except when she is exasperated that she still can't cook enough for me. Then I beam. Eating 75 chicken wings to beat Bob Lukens in The Ground Round Challenge in college ranks up there with the Ironman among my proudest accomplishments.

Food allows me to pretend I am a renaissance man. I dabble in all of the classic civilizations (Greece, ancient Rome), maintain religious faith (the Deli), acknowledge the world's rising economies (India, Vietnam) and keep it real (fries, always the victory fries).

While I would not label my typical diet as unhealthy, it definitely lacks fruits and vegetables. Lots of burrittos, pizza, spaghetti, chicken and tuna and cereal. Despite constantly hearing that nutrition is the fourth leg of the Ironman, I can't get motivated to refocus it. My body never craves cauliflower but it does Corn Bran cereal (a hidden secret I can only find on And I don't think I feel better eating diet that is conventionally healthy. I feel flat, lethargic and constantly hungry.

Also I think improving my diet would have the reciprocal effect of reducing my motivation to work out. If I had a salad and salmon for dinner instead of a 1,200 calorie burrito, would I be as motivated to run 8 miles the next morning to burn it out of my body? Would the reward of a fruit salad at the end of a hard weight session be as pure as Escape from New York Pizza ? I don't think so.

So yes Ben and Sam, my relationship between exercise and food does suggest some minor strain of bulimia but it goes way beyond that. Now that we've got that straight I can now move on to explaining why skiing kicks snowboarding's ass.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Typical Monday

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I tend to train alone, whether it is lifting, running, biking or swimming. The rational is that: a) All of this exercise takes a lot of time and I want to minimize that time by eliminating minutes and hours spent waiting/meeting people before a workout; b) I know my pace and I don't want to push myself too hard by trying to keep up with a speedster or reduce the benefit of a workout performed below my ability by holding back; c) Training alone toughens me up mentally and if there is one place where I need the most help it's in my ability to endure and push through pain and boredom and d) Given that I travel every other week to be with Ben and Sam, I am a flaky training partner who is not reliable on a week-to-week basis.

I am now questioning this Greta Garbo philosophy based on recent events.

First, training and racing for Wildflower 2006 was a great experience, and not just because I nailed that son of a bitch, hard deck or no hard deck. Biweekly rides with Will made it a much more enjoyable experience and hanging out with the San Francisco Triathlon Club at the race made it a communal experience. I even ended up joining the Club, although I have yet to go to a workout. Baby steps, my man.

Second, committing to and training for a race with other people deepens your own personal motivation and commitment. For example, this morning the plan was to run 10 miles as my first long run in preparation for the California International Marathon. I felt tired the first three-to-four miles and contemplated just doing eight to save my legs. However, knowing that Gina, a friend who is also doing the marathon, had done 10 miles the day before, motivated me to do the entire 10.

Third, there is a community of strangers out there doing the same thing as me and there is a conversation waiting to happen on every run. On the aforementioned 10 mile run, I was passing a runner after 5 miles. Once I got abreast of him, he sped up slightly to keep up. Rather than ignore him, as I would usually do, I started up a conversation, and we ran the last 5 miles together. I didn't even mind that we went slightly faster than I normally would go, the perils of running with a 17-year high school runner with a 3 mile best of 16 minutes.

I'll still probably do the majority of my workouts alone, but more out of necessity and convenience, than desire.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Now what?

Ironman Lake Placid was 12 days ago and I am still buzzed by experience, still love talking/pontificating about the experience. It was definitely a classic experience in my life.

The stats

1 hour 25 minutes swim

9 minute transition

6 hour 47 minute bike

5 minute transition

5 hour 3 minute marathon

13 hours 28 minute total time

Highlights include:

1) Crossing the finish line holding hands with Ben and Sam, and my parents watching on the sideline. Not only were they not bored after 13 hours, they were excited for me. Goosebumps.

2) Being identified as a celebrity blogger during the bike by fellow Ironperson Catherine.

3) The unbelievable organization and enthusiasm of the volunteers who support the racers. It might be a cliche, but they are the heroes of the day, not the athletes.

4) Being surrounded by 2,200 nut jobs like myself. OK, it was cool, but I was thankful that I stayed 45 minutes away from Lake Placid the night before. At work and among my friends I am the weird but quasi admirable fitness freak. In Lake Placid, I was just another person. Zero identity.

5) Swimming 2.4 miles. The night before the race I started freaking out; my longest swim ever is 1.5 miles and I was wasted after that. Other than entering a trance the last 15 minutes from metronomic stroking, the swim was not so bad. I totally could do a Nyad and swim from Cuba to Florida. OK she failed but you get the point.

6) Love the mass start. In the traditional wave starts, I end up getting passed during the bike by lots of people who started after me. I am no sexist or agist, but having calves fly by me with F23 and M65 engravings gets tiring. In Lake Placid I might have started and finished the swim near the back of the pack but that means fewer people passed me on the bike.

7) The start of the marathon. Completing a 112 mile bike ride knowing you still have to "run, walk or crawl" (to quote the athlete's rule book on allowed methods of moving during the marathon) 26.2 miles is clarifying.

8) Transition from motivating to annoying. Love the spectators, love being cheered but there comes a point in the marathon when people calling out your name in encouragement starts to grate on the nerves. Irrational but true.

9) Recovery. Within two days of the race, I felt great. On the plus side that means I was prepared for the race, on the minus side I didn't push myself enough, which means

10) There is a lot of room for improvement. Sub 12 for sure.

Which brings me to the philosophical part of the show.

I feel like I am in the middle of a big corn field, about to get completely lost in a world of endurance races and challenges. The question is whether this is a Twilight Zone or Field of Dreams corn field.

There is no question that I am getting a lot of joy, satisfaction, confidence, etc. from successfully training for these races, attaining ultra high levels of fitness and meeting challenging objectives. As I have pondered before, is this my hobby and is that acceptable and worthy. What am I missing by focusing so much on a training lifestyle? What is surrendered from leaving parties two hours, four drinks and several levels of intoxication before my friends so I can on for the morning workout?

I am not ready to curtail the focus yet; I signed up for the Sacramento International Marathon on December 3, committed to finally breaking three hours, thirty minutes. But as I train, these issues will remain in my brain. Or at least until Laguna Beach starts up again and demands all my focus.