Monday, March 25, 2013

"Where you at?"

I am the one hidden behind the guy in the white shirt.  Notice the Batman socks.

Race season is almost here! In just under two weeks, I will be traveling down to Galveston, Texas to race the 70.3 there. This will be the first race of the season for me, which makes me nervous.

The race is one giant question mark. Having not raced since November (my local 10k Turkey Trot) and having not done a complete 70.3 since Word championships in September, I am not sure where I am at physically and how well I am going to do, my age group is a stacked with plenty of stellar athletes from across the country and some international blokes also making an appearance. The caterpillars of doubt, who have been wrapped up snuggly in their cocoons since last year,  are starting to emerge as butterflies in my stomach (and I still have two weeks left till race day!). My feelings of doubts and nerves hit me particularly hard and it felt like there was a mass hatching yesterday during my long run followed by a local 5k.

I typically like to listen to podcasts on my zone 2 runs and, especially, the Rich Roll podcast. Today, however, although the podcast was playing, my mind was miles away in Texas. "Who was going to be at Galveston?...Are they faster than I am?...I bet they are...There is no chance I will race well...I haven't ridden outside in months, just miles on the trainer...I am simply not ready...maybe I don't have what it takes..." and so forth. I noticed that with each successive thought I was pushing my pace and my heart rate began to creep up. Then, as if in response, Rich (we are on a first name basis because we are bff being both from the Bethesda area) said (and I am paraphrasing here):

"You shouldn't train where you want to be or where you think you should be. You have to train where you are at."

Once again Rich has it right. I cannot get caught up about where I want to be rather, I have to accept where I am at currently and train at that level. There is no point in pushing yourself to a level that you are not capable--at that time. I  would love  to swim like Andy Potts, bike like Chris Leito, and run like Pete Jacobs, but I am not there right now. That is not to say that I will never get there; I hopefully will but that is in the future and thus unknown. What is known though is that I am progressing in some manner, which is far better than regressing.

Later on that day during my 5k (more on the race later), Rich's words continued to resonate with me. I definitely was not the fastest one there but that was alright. As the lead group slowly pulled farther and farther ahead of me, I just let them race. I was pushing my pace to the maximum (check out that heart rate!) and that is all I could ask for. I may have been faster in the past but that was me then and this is me NOW.
You can see where Rich's Intervention

I finished the race with the time in 18:20, which is a pretty solid result given that I had run 17 before (18 if you include warmup), and the course was .25miles  long.
Taking it to volume 11. 

Those are excuses. Even if I had not run before or the course was different, I should be pleased with that time because I know I pushed myself to my (current) max...but thats just my two watts.

Bring it, Galveston!

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Asile Uptopia

I love democracy, and I love America. In my opinion, for what it's worth (which is not much), even though Congress may do some stuff that is well intentioned but more often than not goes awry and our soccer team struggles to make the world cup most years, America is pretty awesome. I am definitely blessed to have been born and raised in such a great country. HOWEVER, I think I may go and found my own communist country. (I may be making light of a serious subject here but bear with me please. The message is a good one I think.)

I pity the fool who doesn't this eat cereal
The reason why I want to move is not because I want to set my own tax rate, embezzle hundreds, or have a whole population under my control. No, it is because there are too many goddamn choices in the cereal aisle, and I cannot decide which one is the best and which one I can trust. Is Kashi's "Good Friends" really my friend? Those old people on the front of the box look so sweet. Will Captain Crunch steer me to a healthful lifestyle with its "made with whole grains promise?" (these are obviously rhetorical questions here so no need to respond in the comments unless you want to).

The other day, I went to the Supermarket to pick up some vegetables and walked down aisle 6 (this is the ultimate aisle of temptation: cereals, breakfast pastries, granola bars, and cookies on one side, and sodas and chips on the other. And yes, I still get excited when I go down this aisle and my inner child throws a major hissy fit when I refuse to put Fruit Loops into the cart). I did not count but there had to be over 60 different types of cereal to choose from. Moreover, there are hundred more that have been, for some stupid reason, stopped (my top list :

I have to give major props to the cereal industry for the design of all their boxes.  The labels are catchy and grab your eye (and more importantly your kid or inner kid's eye). Just looking at them makes me want a bowl of cereal. Moreover, all the different colors are enough to give you a seizure. Walking down the aisle is like watching Japanese anime. Even the "healthier" cereals like Special K too are perfectly designed to give the impression of health even though they are still filled with sugar and refined crap.

Unfortunately there are not too many truly healthy cereals out there (some would argue none), and the ones that are remotely so resemble bird food and taste like cardboard. There is a direct relationship too between how boring the outside and the health of the inside. The more boring and simple, the healthier it is. If health conscious companies really wanted to make money and sell cereal then they should start making their boxes look as good as their competitors. Regardless of whether it tastes like sawdust, I would definitely eat more of these healthful cereals if they came with some sort of toy and had games on the back of the box. For example, to get old people to buy Kashi Good Friends, they could offer a free sample of Viagra in each box or to attract the triathlon community, Ezekiel 4:9 could have an "Escape from Alchatraz" maze on the back of the box. However, the chances of companies making this change is as slim as Mary Kate's waist; consequently, I want to create my own communist nation with me as chairman.

In my communist country, the cereal aisle would only have two or three options. Maybe, a brand called Castr-O's ("10 out of 10 party members agree that it's great!" It was 9 out of 10 but the one dissenter suddenly went missing and his replacement agreed too). Or Chairman Crunch (a little red book in every box). Regardless, it would be a healthful cereal without wheat or gluten, sugar-free, preservative free, tastes better with almond milk than regular milk, comes in a recyclable box, and made with organic, sprouted Chia, flax, raw nuts, coconut chips, kale chips, sweet potato crisps, beet bits, sprouted tofu nuggets, and a bunch of other heart healthy stuff (I am actually working on my own recipe for this).

The cereal aisle is only one example of this problem. In all aspects of life it is hard to know whom to trust and which path to follow because there are so many options. Whether it is the cereal aisle, a nutrition program, a training plan, or a path to enlightenment.  Having one option would certainly make life easier Just one choice that you know you can trust that its the best thing for me. No doubts that it was made with child labor or from baby seals. A guarantee that if you do "X" you will get "Y" (and "Z" too) eventually.

However, in this life , there is nothing certain, no guarantees, or one plan that works for everyone. Which is why all you can do is do your research with an open mind, then take a leap of faith, trust your  decision, and chose one cereal box. Hopefully, Count Chocula will not be a cruel despot...but thats just my two watts.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tom Fleming is full of it

I grew up with the motto:

"Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win."
Tom Fleming's Boston Marathon Training Motto 
Tom Fleming: Great Runner but not always right

I loved this expression in high school because it gave me such motivation to train. Whenever I would feel tired or not in the mood to lace up my running shoes, I would remember this quote, and it would instantly drive me outside or to the gym to do a workout. As I ran, I could envision my rivals (some of them my own teammates) beating me. "I cannot lose to him" I would think to myself. "I MUST keep pushing."

This overly competitive attitude got and occasionally continues to get me into trouble. It drove me to disregard how I was feeling and the condition of my body, and instead overtrain to the point of exhaustion and beyond. I could not let go of the fear of losing and even worse being thought of as a loser. I needed that external validation for my efforts and therefore could not allow anyone to come between me a the podium. If somewhere out there someone is training to beat me, then I have to train even harder to beat him. Writing this makes me sound like an absolute jerk, but please don't judge me. I promise I have matured since my prepubescent high school days even though I still cannot grow facial hair.  

This mentality also sucked all the joy out of training and racing. Instead of training for the pure internal joy and pleasure of running, I was running for, or I should say from, an external and more importantly imaginary fear.

In my mind, my rivals were just like me. They would go for runs and think to themselves: "I have to beat Chris Hague this year. He has to go down." In reality though they were running because they enjoyed it. I highly doubt they even thought about me. Only I was freaking out about them and not the other way around. I therefore was stressed for no reason.

When illness or injury struck, which was bound to happen given how stupid I was training and how much I was stressing, the anxiety only got worse. Since I was on the sidelines feeling like crap and literally watching myself through my skewed mental goggles getting slower, more unfit, and fatter, it drove me up the wall to see others race circles around me.

Being partially sick this past week and still recovering from whatever horrible bug or influenza that I had has made me think again about this quote. As I lay in my bed coughing up multi colored mucus, I kept on beating myself up about not being able to train. "Everyone is going to get ahead of you" that little nagging voice inside of me said. "You NEED to get into the pool...You were slow already but now you are going to be even slower." The more I stressed the worse I felt, and the downward spiral continued.

In the middle of this fever, it finally occurred to me that this quote is deeply flawed.  The first part is true. There is undoubtedly someone in the world training right now, but when I race him (s)he might win and (s)he might lose. Regardless, both situations are unknown and thus uncontrollable and thus should not be part of my mental consideration or angst. If (s)he does win, good for him/her; his winning has no impact on how I perform. It is not like if I come in second place, 5 minutes will be added to my time. Moreover, if I try to push myself through this sickness, (s)he will of course beat me; there is no way I can perform my best in this current state. Doing half ass workouts will only prolong this bug and how bad I feel. The only way I am going to get back to full speed, health, and quality training is to get better. The focus has to be on me and never on anyone else.

In triathlon, there are only three competitors: you, your watch, and your own preset and false expectations...but that's just my two watts.