Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When it's no longer about having fun

On December 3 I am running the Sacramento International Marathon, my latest attempt to run a decent 26.2 miles. I'm back to try yet again.

In the last five years I have run four marathons, San Diego and San Francisco in 2001, New York in 2005, and Lake Placid as part of the Ironman, and crashed and burned training for the Rock and Roll Marathon in 2003. My problems basically boil down to two things; 1) I have not been strong enough to fight through the mental and physical pain that hits around the 19-20 mile mark, which is compounded by the fact that; 2) I end up hurting myself training for the race after I have done a few 16+ mile runs. This exacerbates problem 1.

It's five weeks to go before Sactown, and I have done a 15 and 17 mile run. So far, so good. If I can nail a 20 miler two weeks before the marathon, and overcome problem number two, I think I can tackle number 1.

Which raises the question of my goal for the race. I have waxed poetic about the need to have three goals in a race, each increasingly hard so, at the very least, you will have some level of satisfaction after the race. Plus there is always the philosophy repeated ad nauseam that "the journey is more important than the destination." All of this is true, but not for this race.

December 3 all boils down to one thing - breaking 3 hours, 30 minutes. Since 2001, this has been my marathon goal. I came closest at San Fran '01 when I was on 3.24 pace until I blew up mentally with 6 miles to go and crawled home seven minutes too late. All the formulas (e.g., double your half marathon, add 10 minutes, the Yasso workout) all indicate I should be able to it but I haven't. And I really really want to do it. I feel like this is the key to the rest of my endurance kingdom, the sub-12 hour Ironman, the sub 90 minute half marathon, the five minute wall squat, etc.

So I say shove it to the "fun experience", the "personal best", the "competitive positioning in my age group." None of it matters. On December 3 it all comes down to three digits. I will judge myself by the hours and the minutes.

All or nothing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

San Francisco versus Woodstock


Hypothetically speaking, if you lived in Woodstock, NY, and were considering moving to San Francisco, what would be the pros and cons to the decision. To help provide some context and guidance to the list, you are an active woman (triathlete, skiier, hiker) with 12-year old and 10-year old boys. And their father lives in San Francisco. He's really cool.

1) Weather- San Francisco - 65 and partly sunny versus 20 degrees and sleet. And if you want summer live in Marin and you'll have summer, where you'll also have much better school districts.

2) Scenery - San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and Tahoe versus Catskills, NYC and the Adiriondacks.

3) State Schools - UCLA and Cal versus SUNY Albany and SUNY Binghamton.

4) Fast Food - In N Out, Baja Fresh and Buen Sabore versus McDonalds, Taco Bell and Taco Juan.

5) Skiing - Squaw versus Hunter.

6) Skateboarding and baseball - All year versus six months

7) 2,700 miles closer to dad

8) Positive energy of change versus inertia of the bubble

10) Big fish in the awesome Pacific versus big fish in a small pond

1) No immediate friends versus great friends

2) Hassle of moving

3) Three hour drive to Squaw versus 45 minute drive to Hunter

4) High cost of living

5) Yankees versus the A's

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Avoiding the Hype

Maybe I am overly sensitive to information on Ironman races, but it seems like their popularity and hype has gone off the charts. The World Triathlon Corporation just announced a new race in Louisville, Kentucky, 2007 races like Canada, Wisconsin and Coeur D'Alene sold out in minutes and Kyndra and Tyler are even thinking of doing one. (shameless Laguna Beach plug).

After I did Lake Placid I was super pumped to do another Ironman realsoon but now I don't know. I can't decide how I feel about Ironman-branded races.

The positives
1) Successfully swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 and running (well, sort of) is incredibly rewarding, especially after you dedicate lots of time to training and abandon friends and fun.

2) Ironman Lake Placid was a great experience because I got to share it with my family. Physical challenges not only bring out strength and committment, they also bring out fear and uncertainty, which opens you up emotionally as a person.

3) Human beings grow only when they are chasing a goal. It can be knitting a sweater, meditating for an hour straight, discovering the background of your 18th century Bohemian relative or breaking 12 hours for an Ironman. Goals brings a purpose to relatively random daily acts.

The negatives
1) With the ridiculous popularity of Ironman races, the individuality of the challenge is disappearing. As a 41-year old white male working in the tech industry in the Bay area, it is almost required by law that I participate in endurance sports. We are all turning into sheep, spouting the same platitudes about discovering our inner chi through training, appreciating changes in seasons, blah, blah, blah. I mean how many Ironman bloggers do there need to be, either listings workouts down to the minute detail or railing against imaginary critics when they don't finish a race and feel their experience might be perceived as diminished. Obviously I am one of the guilty ones.

2) I feel like we are all trying to buy meaning in our lives. Pay $20,000 and hike in Nepal, pay $5,000 for entry fees, coaching, travel and equipment and do an Ironman. It's adventure in a can. Are we all becoming Sandy Hill Pittmans.

3) Spending 15 hours or more a week exercising is a great way to avoid facing bigger issues in your life. If my abs are rock hard or I successfully completed the hard workout this week, then I don't have to feel bad when I don't have control on the more important parts of my life. How is this different than drug addiction?

Strangely I don't feel at conflict when it comes to running. This is because so many people have done at least a half marathon that it is not viewed as a big deal anymore. Which is good. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment for anyone, yet these people do not parade around with the same tude that Ironpeople do.

Running is more the sport of the people, Ironman of the elite. And I'd rather be a man of the people anyday. Albeit, one who has done Ironman.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quiz time

Is this me or Lance?