So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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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.

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