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.