Sunday, December 02, 2007

Specificity of Sport

Running and lifting everyday does not really prepare you for anything other than being able to run and lift everyday. Sure, there is the race across the airport to catch a plane or the challenge of opening a bottle top but they are few and far between.

But then there is a test. A touch football game. That seems like a good challenge for a 42-year old against a bunch of late 20 somethings (a handicap I face in dating a late 20 something woman). Unfortunately, the above paragraph still applies. So despite my teammates exhorting everyone to "get the ball the Ironman, he is really fast," we were crushed and I did little to help. In football there are no 3rd and 7.5 miles and blocking a 200 pound person is not at all like benchpressing 200 pounds. So for all the good working out did me on the football field, I might as well have been drinking, smoking and eating lots of french fries (wait, I already do that).

Plus I have a sore hamstring to boot.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Super Jews

Last night I went to a Friday dinner with a bunch of people I refer to as Super Jews, people who believe and observe the customs of Judaism with a serious commitment. I do have a number of Jewish friends but almost all of them share my apathy/agnosticism so I was borderline shocked that there exist people under 40 who act like a character from Fiddler on the Roof. I have nothing against it - it just came as a shock. Who knew there were after dinner prayers, the religious liquour.

After leaving the dinner, I got in a debate with my girlfriend on whether or not I understood the source of the Super Jews passion. I think that I do, that it is relatively the same level of spirtuality I feel during an endorphin rush or when I hang out with Ben and Sam or listen to the B-52s. It defines my purpose for being here, what drives me each day.

Which got me to thinking about my contemplation on adding more activities or interests to my repertoire. Get out of the box. But is that really the issue. Do I need to do more stuff or be more committed to what stirs me? Pursue my own form of religion, not add others.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just start talking

If you have nothing to say, then just start talking and you'll end up saying something. 42 years old, no visible inprint or mark left on society. Yet.

It's 8:01 p.m. and it is no longer time for practice or planning. That can still be done but not as the step, but a step. Just start moving, with each step having a purpose but it not being about landing.

I swear this will make sense.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The thing that fascinates me about House, the latest medical TV drama, is that the hero has deep passion for his career but pursues it without a care for how he is perceived or for others rules or moral codes. The purity for what he is doing and for how he does it is bizarre and inspiring.

There are lots of real Houses. There is my girlfriend's enormous passion and love for her family, my emotional dejection at a poor marathon followed by the reinvigoration of the desire to go after it yet again, my rebonding with my two boys every time I see them, and the rare client who sees their company and job as more than a paycheck or resume builder.

It means no compromise, no 2nd place, no fear of consequences. It means 3.19.59, emotional vulnerability, no cable and and no time clock.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Imitation is the best form of flattery

When I admire or worship someone, my natural inclination is to copy them. Admire Lance, do triathlons. Dare to be a succesful white male. Wear black slacks and blue shirts. Love PTI and The Gabfest podcasts, start one of my own.

Well, actually, Mike Myser, a good buddy of mine and I started a podcast a few months ago to discuss the three key news items of the week (tech, sports, politics). After four episodes, and three dedicated listeners, Mike convinced Gelf Magazine to pick up the podcast.

Let the fame begin!

Monday, July 30, 2007

New Podcast

This could be the last Myser-Freund Podcast before it is picked up by a leading online magazine. Swear to God.

Weak Mind

I won’t go into the details of the latest endurance fiasco at Vineman for the same reason I won’t watch Holocaust movies. I know it will be painful to relive it so what’s the point. The one statement I will make is it wasn’t cramps, dehydration or a lack of fitness that did me in. Instead, it was my Achilles mind. Again.

There are people with issues that affect their ability to succeed by either their own or societal standards. It is hard to overcome depression, attention deficit order, or lack of stupidity without magic pills or tutors.

In an attempt to cover up my glaring weakness, I have used ADD as an excuse for why I can’t sit still or maintain focus for a specific project for more than five minutes at a time. But I don’t really think I have ADD. I think my medical condition is a weak mind. I don’t think that I am unintelligent or lack creativity. I just think that I bail out of situations when they become tense or painful, primarily in two areas.

Endurance sports – Unless I am incredibly prepared for an event (e.g., Wildflower and Sacramento Marathon 2006), I stop giving my best effort at the first sign of physical stress. Not even Creatine can save the day for me. Sure, I can take solace in the fact that my mind is strong enough to get up every morning to run 8-10 miles or lift weights, but I really am looking for emotional satisfaction by passing tests such as marathons and triathlons and am coming up empty half the time.

Emotional relationships – One of my goals is to get closer to people (friends, parents, girlfriends) but part of this requires dealing with the painful part of the relationship. Tackling the tough issues (e.g., I wish you didn’t treat me that way, say hello to my vulnerable side, etc.). And I avoid these situations like the plague, to avoid painful emotions. To my detriment.

These are issues I intend to conquer before the New York Marathon and way before Ironman Florida 2008.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Performance Enhancers

For the .03 percent of the people who follow professional cycling, there is a lot of angst on the state of the sport given all of the admissions and investigations of "cheaters." Before anyone engages in the debate, they should take Creatine for a month.

I have been taking it for the last three months, and, embarrasingly know little about it other than the generic definitions. However, I do know that it works. Nate convinced me to try it and I have gotten noticeably stronger in bench pressing, curling, etc. and am close to the magical 175 pounds. Hopefully there are no side effects other than increased levels of self absorption, but I was already in that state so its hard to notice the difference.

Now that I have experienced the effects of performance enhancing drugs, I have new sympathy for Jan Ulrich and Ivan Basso. If you knew a great performance was just a tablespoon away, and the only physical risk was to yourself, would you fight the temptation? Not only would you win a fortune, but hundreds of thousands of people would genuflect as you rode by at your strength, endurance and mental tenacity. How can you fight that? A minor compliment from me at work sends me into my office to do pushups so the potential of a nation worshipping me would have me doing anything to get it.

Rather than fighting the use of performance enhancing drugs, sports should embrace them. People watch football, the Tour de France and the Olympics to see freakish athletes perform incredible physical acts. Let's see how far they can go. And the potential side effects will only make it more interesting. Imagine the Nielsen Ratings for the Tour de France stage if there was a chance someone could go flying down a 3,000 foot Alpine drop after suffering an EPO-induced brain aneurysm? Tragic yes, but they made the decision on their own to tempt the health gods. Maybe Versus and the NHL should encourage drug use and potential on ice heart attacks to save its ratings and its sport. People love watching hockey fights, so let's take it a step further.

Off for another teaspoon of the legally acquired Creatine.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Creatine and Superheros

Explanation forthcoming

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Merrill 2.0

What happens when you reach 42 years old and you have pretty much accomplished your goals. Clearly you didn’t have enough of them. It’s time for the quick reinvention, time to build a new list.

The new list can’t be an incremental growth to the last one. No studies in minutia like lowering my marathon time by 2%. Although 3.5% weight gains are acceptable.

What are the big themes in Merrill 2.0? It’s kind of like being the president in the second term when you are thinking about how will history teachers explain your legacy. To be morbid, do I really want my tombstone to say “He was in better shape than other people his age” or “His clients got a crap load of coverage?” Probably not. That can be in paragraph nine of the Times obituary.

I am not saying I need to start from scratch. I do have skills, however niche or obscure you would like to classify them.

I can write a press release on the impact of next generation open source application servers and make it almost interesting. I can run 8 miles every other morning and describe it with the same level of enthusiasm to the same people at the same time every other day. I can hold the attention of a room for at least 3 minutes before I get bored of hearing myself talk. I can discuss the benefits of Creatine for two straight weeks without buying it at the GNC across the street.

In short I have useful skills that can be transferred to important tasks. Monumental tasks.
Like what?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I am unique

As a kid, I had issues with my name. Merrill Freund. It doesn't project any specific image other than "dude, that's a strange name." I wanted to be Bud or Jim. Something with a masculine ring to it. Somebody from Mission Impossible. But no. I was Merrill. Or Merl. Or Merrill the Peril.

But now I am older, trapped in a sea of homogeneity. I live in San Francisco, work in the high tech industry, am a white, 42 year old male who wears blacks slacks and blue shirts and spends his day leveraging, lacking bandwidth, developing strategic plans and crossing the chasm. In short, I am a statistic.

But my name isn't. There are no Merrill Freund's listed in the United States. None. I am not a trend or a pattern.

See for yourself. I am unique!

Monday, February 19, 2007


To avoid making exercise seem like a mindless pursuit but one with a purpose, it is important to have significant goals. They do not have to be as noble as raising money to cure cancer, or attaining inner peace and self-knowledge although that would be nice. They merely have to be enough of a motivation that it will drive you out of bed or away from the TV to work out. Because if you do reach it, you will be overcome by waves of satisfaction.

I am currently struggling to define goals that will produce this sensation. The debate centers on three choices;

1) Numbers. Given that I have completed a half Ironman and Ironman, and finally went sub- 3.30 for the marathon, any advancements in time for these distances will now be incremental. Setting personal records at any distance is satisfying. However, pushing myself on a 50-mile training ride in the hope of lowering my Vineman time from 5.47 to 5.35 seems slightly trivial.

2) Body. At six feet and 172 pounds, I am on middle ground. I am bigger than most competitive triathletes (a group to which I do not belong) but skinnier than the societal definition of buff. In short, I have recently been feeling too skinny. As I get older, I will start losing muscle mass and will probably become skinnier unless I change patterns. As in eat more and lift more to get to 180. Of course, this extra eight-to-10 pounds will directly affect my ability to hit the numbers.

3) Form. While I am a decent runner, I am a terrible swimmer, and below average biker. Rather than maintaining my asinine training approach to swimming of churning inefficient miles and expecting improvement, I should join a masters swim club and actually learn to swim. And even nail flip turns. Now that would be satisfying.

Choosing between the three does not have to be either/or. Step one in the process; go to Koret Center this afternoon, sign up for a masters swim program and weigh myself.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Life is a negative split

In this morning's Kaiser Half Marathon, I achieved the exalted negative split, running the second half of the race faster than the first (44.26 for the first 6 miles or 7.24 pace, 49.32 for the last 7.1 or 6.58 pace). I could play it as an example of my brilliant pacing or ability to fight through the accumulation of pain.

However, I think it's more the case that I do not warm up properly for races and the first 2-3 miles end up as a warmup. The last 3 miles should not feel easier than the last 3 but they usually do. I am more than happy with my 1.33.58 time, and it is a huge psychological boost to finish a race so strong, passing and not being passed over the last 4 miles. Still , I am leaving seconds and minutes on the course and if I am going to ever break 1 hour 30 minutes for the half, this type of racing will not cut it.

Warming up, stretching, speed work, etc . do not require deep scientific research or analysis but it does require me to think. And that is one of the reasons I love lifting and endurance sports. They do not require thought, just effort. Fire, ready, aim.

What do I want?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Climbing out of the rut

Autopilot is not a state I particularly relish inhabiting. My job, my endurance routine, my relationships, my everything currently exist in this plain. I continue to work relatively hard, I am still running 35 miles a week, lifting the same amount, hanging out with my friends and family but something has been missing.

In short I am in a big, ugly rut. While I embrace the routine, it has become extreme. (Non sequitor; I just noticed BusinessWeek now costs $4.99 an issue. Since when does it cost that much?)

The Kaiser Half Marathon, two hours from now, will be a good emotional amphetamine. I suspect I have been in a post marathon malaise since December 3 so this should help.

But I need more than that. More significant changes are required. An initial stab.

1) Ben and Sam. I go back and forth with Jessie on whether or not she is going to move out here with the boys or stay in Woodstock. Regardless if this happens, I need a definitive, actionable plan that is going to get me in front of the boys on a more regular basis. In Woodstock or in San Francisco.

2) Learn to surf. Four five years, I thought about doing a triathlon before I actually did one. I have reached that same anniversary with surfing. It has all the requirements I love; cool gear, promotes the outdoor lifestyle, triggers in its disciples an over analysis of its emotional and psychological tenants, and the ladies dig it.

3) Move to Marin. I love the Bay Area but have mostly been exposed to just the San Francisco side of it. I am not a city man at heart. I am not shutting the bars down at 1:00 am and I don't attend gallery openings. The best place I ever lived was Boulder; parts of Marin are a lot like Mecca. Plus I'll need a car and can finally live out my Wrangler fantasy.

4) Push my workouts to a higher level. Since the California International Marathon, my workouts have lacked purpose. I have been doing the same distance runs and lifting the same amount of weight but there is no fire. I am adding that clarity. The big four goals for the next 18 months:

a) Break 5 hours and 30 minutes at Vineman
b) Qualify for Boston (sub 3.20) in 2007, presumably at New York.
c) Increase weight to 180, without increasing the 8.8 % body fat
d) Break 12 hours at an Ironman.

5) Make a difference at work. Much like in my workouts, I have lacked a purpose or goal at work. My performance has been acceptable but I am treading water, going nowhere. I need to identify how to grow my career, how to challenge myself to jump out of the box in which I am currently operating. To impress me.

6) Open up. Rather than becoming more brave emotionally as I get older, I am moving in reverse. I am increasingly avoiding situations which I think will make me feel vulnerable. No more.

The plan starts in 90 minutes. Break 1.35 for the half.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

2007 - Year of Risk

For whatever reason that will never be dug up by a shrink, I am not someone who likes to expose themselves to great emotional risk. Whether it is at work, in relationships or in endurance events, I am not comfortable taking on big challenges. And this is not good.

The Job
I have had the same job for the last 11 years. While there are good reasons for this situation (i.e., I like it, make good money, am a proven commodity/job security), it is also because it is familiar and predictable. I know what I am doing and have mastered all of the essential skills years ago. A new job would require me to leave my comfort zone. While I am confident enough to think I would succeed, it would entail far greater risk than I currently face.

The relationships
While I have friendships that I consider to be meaningful, they could be much stronger. The barrier? I lack inherent emotional trust. I assume that people are going to let me down at some point . To avoid the inevitable, I put up a wall to prevent reaching that point. If I don't put myself out there, I can't get hurt. This partially explains my recent dating paloozza.

The Races
While I am in shape and have achieved respectable times for endurance events, I am not willing to push myself to reach loftier accomplishments. While at some level it is to avoid greater physical stress, it is also fear that I won't have the mental and physical strength and skill to reach the goal. Finally breaking three hours, thirty minutes for the marathon felt great but I didn't have to train much different from the way I always have. Running sub-3.20 would require I move out of my comfort zone and open myself up to potential failure. Hate that word.

But I have reached the point that I can accept the pain of failure or rejection. I welcome it. Bring it on because it is time for riding the waves at Bells Beach.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pursuing my goals

I have the usual plethora of New Year's Goals, of which only a few are race related. However, I am currently unsure if I actually am motivated to pursue these time specific goals, and the more intense training that this will require.

My growing apathy at pursuing these number-focused goals boils down to the specific reasons I work out. Not sure if the below are in order of importance.

1) Vanity. I can't say that I am proud of this but I judge people to a certain extent, including myself, by appearances. Fear of gaining weight (fat) and atrophying (losing muscle) are a primary reason that I get out of bed each morning to workout in the dark.

2) Meaning. As I approached my 5th decade, I was still struggling to find an activity that I could call my hobby. After training for marathons and triathlons, and loving the process, I realized that endurance sports were it. Phew.

3) Rebel. No one wants to feel like a faceless drone, living the exact same life as everyone else. Working out at 5:00 am provides me with some level of differentiation from the Babbitts of the world. The ceaseless mocking I get at work for going to sleep by 9:00 pm is like an English Beat song to my ears. Of course, in a world in which everyone is now training for an Ironman or ultramarathon and documenting the experience online, my endurance bit is losing its steam.

4) Fun. In one out of every four workouts, the endorphin rush overcomes the physical pain of exertion and the run/bike/swim/lifting experience is actually enjoyable. There is something to be said for having fun in the second hour of a workout.

5) Drive. Inside me, not particularly deep, lurks a lazy man, a reality version of Doug Heffernan. Working out daily balances my inner Doug, and transfers my motivation to the cerebral part of my life. Without my commitment to exercise, I would be 50 pounds overweight, unemployed, and in a deep relationship with the On Demand button.

6) Fitness. It feels great to be in shape. Physical well being directly ties to mental and emotional stability. I have reached a level of fitness with which I am happy. I love being able to rattle off an 8 mile, sub 64 minute run or bench 200 pounds 10 times anytime I want.

7) Goals. I like my job a lot but I don't have any clear, defined career goals that drive me. Identifying races to finish, times to achieve provides me with clear, linear goals that compliment my less measurable ones (e.g., be the best dad, be a better friend, achieve inner chi). As a wanna be anal retentive, it is important that I be able to judge myself by arbitrary numbers.

The basic conflict lies between numbers 6 and 7. Given my fitness level, my workouts are impressive to me but do not require tremendous levels of exertion. In short I am not improving becoming I am not pushing myself. The question is whether the increased level of pain it would require to go sub 3.20 for the marathon or break 12 for the Ironman is worth it. Will it still be fun, bring the same level of meaning to my life and maintain the drive to get out of bed at 4:30 am?

Monday, January 01, 2007


I am at JFK Airport on my way back to San Francisco after an amazing nine days in at Hunter Mountain with Ben and Sam. Despite zero natural snow on the Northeast, we got in an awesome week of skiing/snow boarding. I love my life in San Francisco but being with the boys makes me happier and more fulfilled than anything else in the world, and dampens my return home. Fortunately, my campaign to convince Jessie to move to California is picking up steam; it is definitely the goal I will nail in 2007.

As a father of a 12 and 10 year old boys, I struggle with the role I should play (role model, disciplinarian, entertainer, etc.) Obviously it is not an either/or situation; parenting requires several approaches. However, since I am not with them every day (at least for now), the traditional parental role is not one I can easily adopt. If I am back East for only two days, does it make sense to punish them for the weekend if they misbehave? How can I build a meaningful relationship if I am viewed as the visiting professor of punishment? Two questions I ask myself in judging my parental decisions are: 1) Would I be happy to have me as a father and; 2) Can Ben and Sam understand the reasoning behind my decisions and will it help them in the short and long term? I can’t say the answers to these questions are always yes but I am way above the Mendoza Line.

There were some great moments this weekend. Every night when I went to sleep two hours before they did, both Ben and Sam repeatedly said “Night dad, I love you.” Huge. Best five words in the world. They also both started doing pushups and situps each night, a sign that my fitness lifestyle is rubbing off on them. And neither of them asked to have a friend sleep over, which I take as a sign that they wanted to spend quality time with me. Ben did ask if Charlie, a 14-year old New Jersey snowboarder who I hate, could sleep over, but luckily Ben realized before asking that he hates him too.

Now that is bonding.