So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

My photo
Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Friday, September 28, 2007

MB's Gumpian Moment For The Month

'They just couldn't believe that somebody would do all that running for no particular reason.' - Tom Hanks, as Forrest Gump, "Forrest Gump" (1994)

Sometimes as we head into the university track facility, a parent or walker or jogger who has seen one of our three-times-a-week workouts asks the inevitable question, 'so what are you guys training for?' At first, I flippantly told them, 'life,' and left it at that. Now I think to preface my comment with, 'this may sound a little flippant, but...' It tends to win friends and positively influence people a little more, I guess. Perhaps I'm starting to become more coach and less athlete.

I hope not; I love being an athlete. In spite of the fact I pay for my running habit; right now I get $500 worth of Snickers Marathon Bars, a singlet, a couple of technical fiber shirts, a hat and a pair of shorts per year, my goggles, glasses, shoes, bike stuff, sports drink, race entry fees and all the other stuff comes right out of my pocket. I am 90-percent certain that I like it that way. Snickers Marathon Bar asks me to race six times a year in their gear. That's not a lot of races, unless you're a marathoner. Since I'm a 10,000-meter to half-marathon specialist, who also dabbles in multisport, with a conservative training/racing schedule I can do six races a year.

However, it's a sign of weakness around this town should you decide to be conservative in your racing. Fail to show up at every little podunk, rancid possum (approximate) 5,000-meter road race and people start to talk about injuries. Since I only have to race six events a year to please my sponsor, I can be selective on what I want to do and when I need to be ready to race. And, in order to encourage my sponsor to keep me on their rolls, I choose larger regional and national-level races outside of town. Because probably 70 percent of my races are not local, people who don't know when/where I race think I do a whole hell of a lot of running for no particular reason.
I did a local 5,000-meter road race two weeks ago as an early-season fitness test. It wasn't great, but it wasn't a bad start to a season delayed by six weeks of no running whatsoever because of injury (fractured humeri heal slower when you run at the same time they're trying to heal). I managed to stay seconds ahead of a local runner who tattooed a bulls-eye on my @$$ this summer. He told me, straight to my face that his goal this fall was to beat me - why I was his goal I have no particular clue. Actually, I do; the guy is in his early 50s and focuses strictly on 5,000-meter races, which (to paraphrase Sam Mussabini, in Chariots of Fire) is "tailor-made for neurotics." He trains strictly for local events. He's become stronger since he started training with this focus. He's also wound up like a cheap freaking watch, the way I used to be before I got married.
Last weekend, I filmed my athletes at a 'relatively competitive' 5,000-meter race. The guy who has been gunning for me ran a decent race, but was beaten soundly (a minute or more) by a runner who came from New Orleans, who drinks Budweiser like it was iced water (I had a great time the next morning as we all ran an eight-mile run on the Bayou, after which he killed off three Buds.). And boy, was the guy p!$$ed.
Hello? McFly?
It's an object lesson I've provided to my athletes in the past two years, and one thing I spoke of often with my coach in the last year he worked with me:
Sometimes you have to find a new challenge; whether it's a different location, doing races outside of your home turf, a different distance (such as going from the 5,000 meters to the 10,000 meters and up...), a different discipline (from cross-country to track or road racing), or a different sport my own case, multisport events. A change of scenery and a change of competition is almost always a good thing. It provides you the opportunity to find out where you truly stand in comparison with the rest of humanity. Oh, sure, we all can be heroes in our hometown. But there are races where I can run a personal best and be fortunate to get third in my age group, after the top-three are awarded in the masters' division. Far be it from me to get arrogant and say I think it's not fair. If there are guys out there who are my age that are training more consistently, are blessed with better genetics, and run smarter, faster races...more power to them. I want to know what they are doing in order to see how I can improve myself.
I've started to think seriously about whether I can run for no apparent reason other than the love of the sport, the visceral pleasure that comes from propelling myself up a hill or around a track. If nothing else, perhaps to pull others along to a fast time. It doesn't seem like a lot of sense in this 'I placed fourth in my age group in this 5K race; all I have to show for it is this stupid ribbon which I'll now use to wipe my @$$ and drop in the rubbish bin' society. Beer glasses break. Medals tarnish. Ribbons fade. Tattoos can be lasered off. Sometimes all we have to show for our sport is what we show up with in the first place.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You Can't Sugar-Coat Bad News

This e-mail arrived in my account this morning as I was settling in to figure out a collection plan for a project I'm starting. I guess you could say we saw the handwriting on the wall about a month ago, but there were still some (irrational?) hopes for a rescue on the part of a resource sponsor with large pockets (and perhaps the ability to tolerate a top-heavy organization).

Hello Everyone, As I head out...this morning, this is a particularly difficult email for me to draft; I am just not certain where to begin....Just last month I was made aware...had been cut from...budget schedule. Soon after, I heard there was the potential to disestablish...entirely in FY09. Since that time, I have been seeking other options (and funding sources....Despite from many of our customers, I was informed this week that all funds..., starting in FY09 have been zeroed out....This means as of 01 Oct 08, ...will be gone. As most of you know, we have a good number of influential supporters, and several have been speaking up on our behalf, but I am fearful their words are falling on deaf ears....I have talked several times..., and made alternative proposals..., but none has had any traction--except one. In desperation, I made a proposal to maintain a group that would only work...projects and lean heavily on the Science of Learning. This group would be comprised of a smaller number of people....I have been asked to put a brief together and brief the...Governance Board of Directors (GBOD) this Thursday. My hope is that at the GBOD, will continue to push to ensure...existence. We all understand that...budget cuts are necessary to offset...costs...; however, I have a hard time understanding how a small...relatively inexpensive to operate and consistently delivers positive cost benefits...(our cost $17m return $450m+) can be placed on the chopping block without undergoing any formal business process reviews. I can't easily accept the decision to cut...funding, and I will continue to work with our Sponsors and Customers, as well as our...leadership, to find ways to negotiate both sides...out of this stalemate. The fight isn’t over yet, hang in there with me for a while...very respectfully...
Sometimes, when you are a coach, you have to learn the best way to say a bad message. There's three methods: hard-and-fast, diplomatic, and sugar-coating. Before I talk about them, let me be honest and say that there's no coach on the planet who likes passing on bad news. As an athlete, I certainly felt the opposite, let me tell you.
Hard-and-fast is the most painful for the athlete to hear, and the least painful for the coach to provide. "You're never going to get any faster in the five-thousand meters." That's a good example. Hopefully, the coach will be smart or insightful enough to say something like, "however, you do have great endurance and might be able to run some great half-marathons" as a salve for the wound they just inflicted.
Then, there are coaches like me who would much prefer to be diplomatic in our tack. Rather than say, "are you freakin' out of your mind!? You've been running all of three months. A marathon is going to turn you into a non-runner," we try to say, "let's try a few 5,000-meter races first, then move up to the 10K, and so on..." However, rather than listen to our voice of reason, most athletes who will make that particular decision either go do the marathon and get injured so badly they never want to run more than a mile a whack ever again, or they go to one of those "four miles a day, three days a week, and don't forget to walk every ten minutes" training programs. Then I see them on crutches in the local running emporium and all I want to do is sidle up to them and say, "see? I told you it was a bad idea..."
Sugar-coating does neither the athlete nor the coach any good. The message never gets across clearly, and the intent is lost. Invariably, the blame game occurs and both sides lose.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

End Of The Month Blues

'She keeps a toothbrush at my place; as if I have the extra space. She steals my clothes to wear to work; I know; her hairs are on my shirt...' - "City Love" (John Mayer)

I'm certain this scenario would happen around my house if we were a little farther north; there wouldn't be a flannel shirt available...of course, I couldn't wear a flannel shirt into this office, anyway. For my wife and I, it's more like borrowing my running clothes. Since she works out of a house converted into an office, a mere 200 meters around the corner from our own, she's in the catbird seat. She has no commute, the option of taking our big rude d-a-w-g (a retired racing greyhound) to keep her company (and scare the bejeezus out of door-to-door lunatics stoopid enough to stop by), and (should she decide), even better, the option of stepping out the door for a 30-minute run without offending anyone with her schvitz.

Sometimes, having that 7-to-3:30 in the cubicle farm is little more than a royal pain in the @$$. However, there are days when the 'other lives' I lead can be more painful. Approaching the end of the month can be that way, since I'm looking to (at least) one set of officer meeting minutes, one newsletter, and putting the first touches on the next month's article. Add on top of that the need/want/desire of some clubs to have me do things (many of which can be done well enough by them - which means reverting to teacher once again)...and the last few days of the month can be as hectic or depressing as a week of Mondays. Sometimes they sure feel like a week of Mondays, let me tell you.
Because I lead two lives, which take up 13-15 hours of my day - I know some of you who read this have no sympathy; that's all right, I wasn't asking for any - my finger on the pulse of the world occurs usually in one-hour chunks; listening to NPR on my way to and from work, reading the print media's offerings on-line, and lunch time with what I like to call the independent, semi-corporate media. Yes, I'm blissfully ignorant, but it's been that way for a good five years. And it probably won't change until I decide to move to a town where the most entertaining portion of the newspaper is not the daily letters and opinions section.

Since when did editors feel the irrational need to allow a once-weekly religious food fight to occur on their pages? If I were a potential advertiser I certainly would not spend my money to market there...unless I was selling alcohol, tobacco or firearms.

Okay, so each one of us has our vice. Mine is physical activity and recreational chemicals...but I repeat myself. I felt much like Bob this morning after my swim workout. Thank God for my wife; she made a pot of coffee this morning when she finally got out of bed to prepare for her work (usually after I've departed to swim/spin and work). Of course, today she had to suffer without her foo-foo, the flavored and mildly sweetened non-dairy creamer she purchases by the pint. I'm a straight, hot, strong black coffee kind of guy (tubinado sugar and skim milk is for the weekend); foo-foo is for road trips, especially if I've made the supreme mistake of buying coffee at Krispy Kreme (where it's burned and reconstituted, beyond the darkest roast Starbucks could imagine in their wildest dreams) or Krystal (where half the cup is filled with grounds, as I learned in New Orleans)...and I won't even mention Circle K.

Mickey D's puts the milk and sugar in for you. Of course, the rhetorical question, WHY!? Outside of the obvious fact they are cheap b@$t@rd$ and want to minimize waste I think it's so you don't know just how flippin' lame their coffee is in the first place. Sorry, I'll be like my German friends and suffer for another half hour on the Interstate until I can get to a Starbucks (or in the case of that particular road trip, Community Coffee in Slidell, LA).

We started getting in the longer road runs on Sunday, starting last week. One of my athletes planned to do 16 miles, and I probably would have joined her, save for the fact I actually felt good and didn't want to kill myself this early in the autumn. Fortunately, she was stoopid enough to think she could handle two hours of Tae-Bo and follow it with 5,000 meters of jogging. I see a new workout video; remember Buns of Steel, Abs of Steel and all those? A two-hour Tae-Bo workout, followed by 5,000 meters of jogging, will be titled Skulls of Steel. Sorry, Stacie. I love you, kid, but I had to give you just a little more grief. I'm your coach. That's my job.

At the three-mile mark on the course we usually run, there is a long downhill, followed by a long uphill, which usually whacks all of us squarely in the @$$ and reminds us we're all stoopid. At the bridge over the bayou in between these hills there was the highly-flattened carcass of an animal; I'm not certain what species, breed or size it was (it was a big truck, though), but it reminded me of two very important things:

1. Life is short. You're dead a long time.
2. Speedwork is underrated.

Today is my last day in this particular age group (well, USA Triathlon already moved me up, since they consider your age on December 31 to be your competition age). I'm not freaking out too much about aging; usually I have a lot of introspection during this month. I tend to think long and hard on things during September because of the High Holy Days, the change of seasons, the end of fiscal years, and strange stuff like that which is out of my control. This time, however, it's been more, 'time to get moving, Coach.' And so I think I will.
As the Maori say: Kia Kaha. Stand Strong.

Friday, September 21, 2007

End Of The (Summer) World As We Know It

My dog, Rubin, is a little more subtle. But not by much. I've talked about how I've learned to be an athlete by observing him; run when you feel good, sleep when you can, eat when you're hungry, and always be on the lookout for someone who's willing to rub your back. Lately, he and I have been much alike; he's recovering from some strange chip fracture in his heel bone. The veterinarian and I are uncertain as to the root cause, which could have been anything from a bump in the bedroom to a bad step in the back yard. So, now he's on a daily course of an anti-inflammatory much like Celebrex and getting gentle walks in the park on a near-daily basis...mostly in the grass, if I have my way about it. Suzanne was always good about having him in the grass beforehand, so I was the one who had to adjust my surface of choice. Lately he seems to be getting better, but I think it's going to be quite some time before he's one-hundred percent.
Maybe autumn is the end of the world for persons living in areas further north than Ft. Walton Beach, FL, but for those of us who live (sometimes fearfully) in the FL panhandle, the end of September marks the beginning of a more comfortable time of year. Okay, so there are persons here who will dress up like Nanook of the freakin' North once the mercury dips below 60 degrees. I'm not one of them, thank you. Yes, I own tights and long-sleeved tops, and use them on training sessions. But getting temperatures that are closer to 80 degrees than 90 means I can get my longer runs in outside.

I didn't do anything last night at the track because I did a little too much the previous evening out at the beach. I had the chance to run for an extended period in the afternoon, doing a tempo run of nearly eight miles in a little under 50 minutes. A little faster than I needed to be going, but boy, did it feel good for the first five or six. The hot spot on my left heel from the thin socks and the lightweight trainer wasn't so good; I had a blood blister the size of a half dollar coin that made wearing street shoes at work and running last night's workout out of the question. No problem. It was time to play coach for a workout...something I don't do as often as I'd like for the team.

The boss is back in the office today, fresh from her trip north to brief out the project we were in the middle of for the past two months. No new revelations for them, but a lot of data to support their suspicions. And now, one of the organizations involved in the analysis is complaining, stating the data is wrong. Wait a minute, fellas. You're the ones who developed the reporting tools and the spreadsheet.

It's final performance appraisal time for this year. Since the mid-term appraisal was all right (I'm considered a valued employee, just like everyone else who's not in management) and there's nothing additional I can put in the write-up that hasn't been said up to the past two or three months, I just sent the same write-up to the boss. She won't whack it any lower, and the pay pool is still going to give me the minimal pay increase all the other valued employees are going to receive. It's the next worst thing to communism; at least my possessions are mine.

I've got my more subdued Hawaiian-style shirt on this morning. Ties are definitely out of the question, since I don't do a lot of briefings. Once the temperature drops, I'll move to what I like to call my winter uniform: collared shirts with sweater/vests or sweatshirts. I probably need to make a road trip to my alma mater in order to get a couple more sweatshirts; think I gave the last one to my mother a few years ago.
I used to get the advice from my mentor, telling me to wear the same kind of attire I saw the incumbent whose job I wanted was wearing. Well, around here, it's flowery Hawaiian stuff. Go figure.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hammer Time!

Tempo run of seven miles yesterday at the beach. The group - which includes most of our team officers, several of our active membership, and not a few of our former members (who I graciously classify on my nicer days as alumni) meets every Wednesday evening at 6:00 to run anywhere from four to six miles, then eat, drink and be merry until they can't stand it any longer...or the management kicks them out.
I've used the treadmill for the majority of the summer because it has been too d@mned hot to get any quality mileage in least while I was healthy enough to run (so maybe there was a good side to breaking my arm!). Two weeks ago I went to the beach to do a six-mile tempo and completely exploded in a blaze of glory at the three-mile point. BRAAP! Back to the treadmill for a couple of more weeks, Coach Mike. I bumped up the pace on the treadmill runs to ~6:44/mile, taking a three-minute cool-down cycle between each mile. Then, I decided to extend the tempo repeat from 1 mile to 1.2 miles, so I got the mileage in five pieces, vice six. That's three less minutes of easier running/jogging/walking, too.
We were talking about the beach loop the other night, and Scott, my assistant and club secretary mentions something in passing about the six-mile loop being only 5.8 miles. I almost asked him, 'says who?' We've never really measured a course out there, and I have little love for GPS wearers and their complete dogmatic trust (dependence?) on that gadget. I have to admit I'm not as violently opposed to them as I was in the past, and I would use one if it were given to me (Note to my loving wife: no, I really do not need a GPS, not unless it does the street navigation, too.) by a company wanting someone to wear-test. Dude, if there's anyone who can destroy a piece of technology with just casual, everyday use, it's me. Ask Nike; that's why they are no longer in the MP3 player market.
I probably could have used one last night, though, to run the tempo run. I have a good idea where the two-mile point on the course is located, so I figured what I would need to add on in time duration (ten minutes) to lengthen the 5.8 mile loop run into a 7-mile tempo run. Hammer ten more minutes (five out, five back), on top of what I guessed would be a 40-to-41-minute run normally and voila! Done.
Well, I went out at a comfortable (7 minute/mile) pace for the first two miles. Who knew I would pick up the pace that much after two? Who knew I would race the sun coming back? Who knew I'd run 49:34 for 7.8 miles!? That's a little bit fast (ya think, Coach?) for a tempo run. That's about 20 seconds faster than my average pace for a half marathon.
However, I tend to run on feel, not on gauges. When I had a Suunto POD and heart rate monitor, I spent a lot of time looking at the data rather than running more by feel. That's the liberty of going by physiological markers, especially after you've done enough training. Translates well into racing and you don't have to worry about if or when the technology bites the big one (like the Suunto did)...Murphy's Law...and it goes wrong after you become dependent on the technology.
Working that hard makes it interesting the morning after, especially if you're doing any kind of cross-training or you have a real daytime job. When our organization provided employees the option of working flexible work schedules; the kind where you do your 40 hours of weekly work over the course of four days, or your 80 hours of a pay period over the course of nine, I decided immediately it was not for me. Sorry, boss. I'm a creature of habit, and I coach. I have places to be in the early afternoon, and I like having not to worry about taking two hours of annual leave in conjunction with a federal holiday.

Besides, I'd rather do 80 percent of the something my boss and my other 'eight days a pay period' co-workers are doing each day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Getting There is Twice the Worry

I think I b!tched and moaned about six weeks ago about the joy of air travel, concurrent with our trip to Key West. But, since I'm getting ready to go north in about four weeks for the CW Dayton River Corridor Classic Half-Marathon, I think I'll do it again. Come on, you know you love it.

I've complained long and loud about spending time in the Atlanta airport, which is the nearest hub to where we live. We've gone on occasion through Houston or Dallas-Ft. Worth, but more often than not, it's ATL. If you don't mind spending copious amounts of money on food and beverages in order to speed your wait, which for ATL is a given (I'm suspecting a conspiracy between TravelHost, Aramark, or whoever the catering company is, the FAA and the airport authority to get more money out of travelers, but the data is still a little thin.), the time in terminal can be almost comfortable. If I were to travel more often I would seriously entertain membership in one of those airline frequent traveler lounges. When I was offered an American Express/Delta Skymiles card, I thought 'all right, I've made the big time as far as travelers go...'
Little did I know that AMEX card-holding would have nothing to do with being able to get Crown Room membership. Talk about sucking bilge. Since Suzanne travels much more than I do, it would make her life much more comfortable. However, even her travel schedule occurs in fits and starts; she can be on the road for six weeks in the autumn, four in the spring, or two months in November...all at the whim of her company. Hell, with the only place I've been permitted to travel in the past year being Norfolk, VA, I've decided staying home is much more convenient. Unless the trip is some place like Honolulu, HI. Hope those guys at PTC decide to do mid-January again.
As an athlete, it's hard to get comfortable in an airline seat, especially in coach. The Key West trip had the worst of all possible scenarios; not only were we shoehorned in the back of the plane, but I had bulkhead seating. I used to like being able to look out the window when I was younger and flying from point A to point B in Texas and New Mexico, but now what I really want is leg room. I'll even suffer the indignity of having to listen to special instructions from the flight attendant in order to have an exit row seat, if there's more room for me to stretch my legs.
This time, I set up the seating arrangements for Dayton.
Rather than sitting the two of us directly next to each other in the same row, on the same side of the plane, I made certain we both got aisle seats, especially for the trip south. She might not appreciate it so much on the trip north, but I think she will on the trip home.
What if airlines required a BMI measurement in order to determine seating? We could place all of the hefty (and invariably sweaty during summertime) passengers into their own special section. Better yet, they get the side of the plane with the two-seat rows, so they can wrestle with each other over who gets the armrest.
Beats telling them to go Greyhound.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Service With a Snarl/Blank Stare

After a week of waiting and the hope to expose our team's new logo/look to the masses, I have to admit I'm pleased and disappointed. The womens' gear looks great; both the singlet and the jogbra will get people's attention at the local races. Of course, there were folks who said to Suzanne, 'Oh, I didn't know you were going to do something like that...' She's gracious enough to not say anything publicly, but we both knew she sent out an e-mail to every woman who trains with the team, in fact, there were several team alumna who received the e-mail, too. There's the pleasure.
The disappointment was seeing my own singlet. Since the guy at the imprinter shop didn't take the time to READ THE FLIPPIN' (E-)MAIL, all I have on the front of my singlet is the abbreviation and the little running the web site URL. The back has the URL, too, but you'll never see it unless you're staring at my @$$. Yeah, it's that low on the singlet.
So, I went in and let the guy have it with both barrels. The only thing that kept me from engaging in a full-blown Tourette's Syndrome attack on his backside was the fact the t-shirts came out almost perfect. My vision was good on this one, for once.
So, now some of the UWF group (and one of the officers) has podium wear for upcoming races. This means they can hang out without looking like a drippy dog and risking the chance of catching a chill after a race.

A lesson learned through this particular situation; sometimes you just have to tell someone that their best effort was not good enough. It's taken a number of years for me to get this way, though. I've always been the type of person who wants everyone to be my friend (I have a hard time making friends, you understand...). Sometimes I say and do things in a state of mindlessness that p!$$@$ people off; I have to explain it's not a personal issue, only the fact they failed to meet my (sometimes way too high) standards.
First time I started to think about this was probably my first relationship after my divorce. The woman I was seeing had absolutely no qualms about sending a food order back if it wasn't right; I, more likely than not, will suck it up and eat lukewarm french fried potatoes at Applebee's. Now, I might not complain about a food order unless it's completely screwed up, but I will consider strongly whether to make a second trip into a particular establishment. My tolerance for failure is inversely proportional to the amount of cold, hard cash I'm spending, pretty much said.

It's amazing, though, to think how much we tolerate poor service and poor quality, from the snarly clerk at the convenience store who's ringing up our over-priced and exceedingly cheap American beer to the civil servant who charges us a $500 fee for the privilege of producing a local running event, yet makes us run all over the municipal building to every office to do her job. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another Thing to Do (in Denver) When You're Dead

The sudden passing of a local teacher/runner/political commentator last week had my wife and I discussing the merits of dying. She said to me, '...seems like the only way a person can become famous or noteworthy now is by dying.' Perhaps the term merits is a little off, but you start to wonder when a musician's discography - and sometimes even their popularity - increases three-fold in the period following their demise. Does the name Tupac Shakur ring a bell?
When I see all this, all I can do is extrapolate from a bumper sticker I once saw: Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, But Nobody Wants To Die. In this case, everybody wants to be remembered for something, but nobody wants to die.
I'd like to think I'd be remembered, or thought of positively, by the persons who were closest to me in life. My contacts in the business world won't remember me any longer than the period of time it takes for my bank account to be closed; my co-workers will say, 'Mike Who?' within six months, or maybe even six weeks, give or take a pay period. Tempus fugit.
We all want to leave a little something of ourselves out in the world; a perfect three-minute saxophone solo, a painting or piece of sculpture...or in the case of an athlete/coach, a performance recalled by the masses or a training system used by them. As I like to say, especially on Saturday morning in the coffee shop when choosing my breakfast item/ is short; you're dead a long time.

I'm certain that sales of Luciano Pavarotti's music won't take a major spike over the next couple of days. The King of the High C's has a new gig in the heavenly chorale. I had the supreme enjoyment of seeing/hearing his last public performance during the Turin Olympics. It was always neat to hear the duets he performed with European popular musicians like Lucio Dalla, Sting, Bono, Brian May, Zucchero and so on. That's the neat thing about European radio, you can get popular music from Germany next to Italian rockers, followed by English and French musicians. Okay, so the stuff is paid for through your (exorbitant) taxes. But hey! At least you get some culture...and I'm not talking about swabs from Britney Spears' (redacted).

Sometimes you get the best ideas from sources you would least expect. Best thing you can do is keep an open mind. Of course, I still pooh-pooh Runner's World magazine, but it has so much to do with what I consider a rehash of the same three or four training ideas. Many times, there really is nothing new in the training realm...just a different arrangement of the old song...In a perfect world John and Julian Lennon sing together.

In a world gone wrong, Kenny G plays behind Louis Armstrong.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Changing Courses in the Middle of the Stream

Ever have a training plan or a racing plan drafted out in the smallest detail, then suddenly - wham! - bad strangeness sets in? Often I find that what I've laid out works good for me, seemingly, then I encounter a friend or a teammate who says, 'hey, I'm planning on doing...' Next thing I know I'm sitting in front of a beer or two with my wife, trying to figure out how can I do this and not screw up my plan for that? Naturally, I have a number of choices:
One, I can choose to not do the particular activity with the friend/teammate. I might not have the opportunity to enjoy myself by being in their particular presence, but I definitely haven't screwed up on two fronts.
Two, I can choose the activity my friend is doing rather than my originally-planned 'thing to do.' Done that before and enjoyed the daylights out of it. In fact, I've never had (that I can rightly recall) a bad Plan-B-activity. I guess you can say that the social aspects of the event far outweighed the lost opportunity cost of the discarded event. It's not always perfect, you understand. Sometimes you pay the price for not doing what you know deep down you should be doing. There's a handful of x-rays in an orthopedic consultant's office and a velcro arm sling that can attest silently to this.
Three, I can find a way to do both...if I really want to do it. How many times have I jumped into a race at the absolute last minute and sucked bilge, or run two races on a single day and felt beat up afterward? Well, a couple of times. However, I think it's all in the perspective; if you do a particular event on a lark without any preconceived (unrealistic) expectations you'll probably have more fun than you expected to. And who knows? Sometimes that's when those fleeting personal best efforts come to pass.
I guess the lesson you can take from this commentary is to have a good idea when, where, how many, and how long a distance you intend to race during a season. Do what seems best to you, not to the friend who's trying to talk you into the Murky George 100-Kilometer Slog Through The Bog or something like that. Right now, I'm thinking about whether to take a year off from racing, outside of a half-iron distance triathlon or two. Whether or not the hiatus will sharpen my desire to toe the line once again is at question. Right now, the goal is to make it to the end of December...after that, I can start thinking about my racing future. Hey, it might not hurt to take a year and just be Coach.