So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Fairness Doctrine

Every so often data gets thrown in your general direction sans context which makes no sense whatsoever, makes you frustrated, & causes you to doubt your abilities. Everyone needs an ear to bend at least once a month; not to try & solve the problem, but to sometimes just listen & to ask questions, forcing the frustrated one to discover clarity. I vaguely recall Parker Palmer writing about such "clearness committees" in his book, The Courage To Teach, which I received as a holiday gift from an old friend I haven't talked with in a long time. I think I owe you a call, Hunter. Blessed are those who provide context, for they right the listing vessel...so to speak.
I guess you can't call a training group dead if there are eight-to-ten persons training as part of it at least once a week. Stop listening to detractors. You're not (as John Parker, Jr. would say) Once A Runner, just a person with different short-term & intermediate goals. Stop basing your happiness on another persons' expectations. And, regardless of what other people have to say, you are one lucky SOB. Consider the massive list of alternatives.
But, right now, even that doesn't seem a bit fair.

Why is it that I, a guy who won't throw a leg over any bicycle without strapping on a helmet, only wore my seatbelt approximately 30 percent of the time I drove my car? I, mister-living-on-the-edge-of-stoopid-by-not-wearing-a-seatbelt-all-the-time, walk away from a 35 mile-per-hour automobile accident with perhaps a square yard of minor bruises & contusions on my lower torso, some small cuts on my right hand, & a little scrape on my right knee. My seatbelt-wearing, cautious-to-the-point-of-near-paranoia (I say that with much love & appreciation) bride looks like she went 15 rounds with Mike Tyson? Is it to show me the stoopidity of not wearing the devices by displaying the potential damage, which could have been on me, on her?
My own personal clearness committee of two would probably respond, if I were to ask them:
"Is it not more dangerous to drive in this country than to fly in an aircraft?"
"Is life always fair?"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Older I Get, The Better I Was - OR - Never Kick A Man Unless He's Down

Some days, when everything seems to be going haywire, all you want is one voice of sanity in the babble. It doesn't sound like it's going to be today.
A local race promoter contacted me at the beginning of the year to ask about the exact location of some mile splits for a race, since the description I wrote on the technical map was a little confusing. I mentioned to him the concern from guys running at my pace - low-6:00/mile - about getting the location correct. I used the term "front pack" perhaps ten seconds too loosely to describe the group who asked me while we were on the course about the sign location. The discussion went from information-gathering to a you aren't all that statement.
The gentleman proceeded to pull up my local race results from previous years & compare them to the top-shelf local runners near my age-group. He also compared locals to out-of-towners. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard before about out-of-town competition. In fact, I have written on several occasions the (painfully obvious) fact with our performances, many locals wouldn't get a sniff of awards in some areas of the country.
While I was down, so to speak, he provided a diagnosis (his words describe an autopsy) why the training group here I coach isn't alive any longer. He used a comparison to some local female runners who have done well, calling them modest, humble & accomplished. I guess that means I'm not, to which he could be right. Of course, one of the female runners he mentioned, as well as a few age-group triathletes, have publicly complimented my advice & counsel. So maybe he's only part wrong.
There are very few good coaches out there who were accomplished athletes. There are even fewer accomplished athletes who have become great coaches. Good coaches have a talent for getting inside the head of the individual athlete, helping them believe the work they've done in the past prepared them for the performance/s of the present. But, there are very few citizen-athletes who want to do the work to be at the level of the top-shelfers this promoter is trying to draw in to local events, mostly because of the painfully-obvious fact most local citizen-athletes need to be able to eat & sleep indoors, pay utility bills & groceries, maintain marriages & families, etc.

It's like the NCAA commercial, nearly all (of us?) are (going) professional in something else. So, the odds are good most of us will someday (if we're not doing it now) look back at our former selves & wish we could do it again, either to do it better or simply to do it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Out Of Your League

Occasionally we get ourselves in a situation which, after we are hip-deep (or deeper) in it, begin to ask the rhetorical question: 'how the heck did we get into this kettle of soup?' Sometimes it's something as simple as an athletic event you signed up for on a whim; maybe someone called you out and you decided to participate rather than be considered weak. The worst possible version probably comes when it has your income or your future income involved.
But, going back to the simple end of the continuum, sports, at least it's something you either have the choice of bailing or enduring. Okay, in a few situations you could possibly die, but those are few and far between. This morning's sports page had a report on a 100-to-nothing score in Texas private school girls' basketball. The winning team, from a private religious school, was so ashamed at the ease of their victory they have asked to forefeit the game. On the other side of the coin, the school on the down end of the aforementioned beat-down seemed to take the loss in stride.

That's what defeat, when you have given your best effort, should provide an athlete.

My coach used to remind me on Sunday morning long runs he had been beaten by some of the best runners in the world. Sometimes, just being on the same course or event with the good ones is an accomplishment in itself. Prefontaine's Sacrificing The Gift dictum holds true. Give your best. Hold your (perhaps beaten and bloodied) head high when it's over. I think I'd be more offended by the win of a game I lost on the court. That would be like getting stomped at a road race, where the winner is finishing their cool-down as I'm coming into the chute...and I get the victory check.
Gosh, haven't had one of those crossword puzzle moments in a while.
Fabric moments, we have had, shopping at the mall over the weekend. I don't mind it, really, unless the background music gets obnoxious. Thank God for iPod; crank up the volume when Britney comes on the Muzak. The missus can always use an occasional re-tool of her wardrobe, usually right before she goes out on business trips...nothing wrong with a piece here or there. I might not know style, but I know what looks good on her.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thank You Very Much

Every once in a while you hear or read something that surprises the daylights out of you. In this particular case, it was more of a good surprise. One of the triathlon coaches I enjoy reading, Chuckie V, announced the fact one of his main athletes was moving on to (or was picked up by) Team TBB. For most of average readers who know little about multisport, but might know something about the Hawaii Ironman triathlon, one of TBB's athletes, Chrissie Wellington, has won the Hawaii Ironman during the past two years. Team TBB is described as a developmental squad & has one of the best coaches in the business, Brett Sutton.
I can only imagine the pride, as well as the mixture of emotions, coursing through Chuckie at this moment, as he helps Angela prepare to move on to bigger opportunities. It's not so much that Brett Sutton is a better coach, or TBB is a better team as much as it is an opportunity for Angela to be able to more closely focus on her dream; becoming a professional triathlete...becoming the best athlete she can be. And when you read Angela's blog you can tell the feeling is mutual.
Frankly, nothing more warms the cockles of my heart (whoa...dude...hearts have cockles...) than to have someone I've coached (defined as provided counsel, guidance, encouragement, and/or workouts) publicly compliment me for what I've done, & how I've been able to assist them achieve their personal athletic goal/s. Sometimes, amazingly, some even laud me to others around them.However, I have to make it clear; their personal accomplishment was achieved because of their own efforts, with a small degree of help from me. Regardless of whether I draw up a training plan, or answer a physiology question, or recommend a workout, or even provide a bit of perspective (some cases I'm the guy telling them, 'don't worry about having a bad workout/day/week/performance today; this isn't the day to focus on...'), I cannot follow the training plan, run the workout, take the action (or inaction) for them. They have to do it themself.
So, maybe I should thank them in return for following my advice & trusting me to be their coach/sports psychology technician/referral person. Since they're not making money it might be all I get. However, in many cases it leads to repeat, ongoing customers.
So, thank you, thankyouverymuch...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Haiku? Hai-not?

Coach MB's counsel for the day: Never eat in a place where coffee is not served without the option of having a 'real' cup. If you can't take the time to sit & enjoy your coffee, or it seems there is a rush to get you out the door so your space can be filled by the next available fool...well...
With the beginning of the new year it's back to the typical battle rhythm of my organization; teaching on Tuesday, meeting on Wednesday, (non)emergency data calls on Thursday, & slacker days on Friday & Monday. It never fails to amaze me, especially on my swim workout mornings, how I can prepare the night before, have all my stuff together, & still barely make it to the pool in time. Same goes for when I take my work clothes & shower stuff; it's like the traffic pattern has it in for me & I hit the office at 7:30-ish. I could not prepare & get the same results, so why worry? After a while I gave up on providing excuses. I just spend more time in the office in the afternoon to make certain the boxes are checked off.
Back on the beach last night for the first time since the holidays. Our little group of four had lights & electronic training acoutrements, which were made almost redundant by the relative brightness of the evening skies. It still was good to have a spot lamp in order to pick out the unpainted speed bumps on the route; definitely in the darkest portions of the route. Who knew?
While our pace was nothing to sneeze at it was a good beginning to a challenging year. We finished up the last quarter-to-half mile of fast-paced slap-it-into-B-for-boogie running by a quick recovery walk to the sound, then into the sound to let the icy cold water work its magic on our leg muscles. Perhaps that also could be considered one of the many reasons we continue to live in Florida. While I was in a tri top & arm warmers, we were fairly comfortable throughout the run...afterward was definitely a different story altogether. I think the wind kicked up & the temperature dropped while we were having a beer.
Former athlete speaks;
"Thankful to get e-mail..."
Damning with faint praise?

Here's an interesting thought, inspired by something I just saw on the Yahoo! News marquee... If I were to donate an organ, say, my kidney, to my wife...do I have the right to ask for it back in the event the marriage goes south? Some things are just way too insane for extended thought.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It Does Not Follow

Often I have too much time on my hands, which provides opportunities to ponder things I hear or see in the media. Usually, what I end up feeling when it is all said & done, is a sense my fellow man is more inept, gullible, or stupid than I previously feared. Of course, there are many occasions when I feel like Walt Kelly's Pogo, & have little else to say but the semi-classic: 'we have met the enemy and he is us.'
Some people feel as though making a change in one area of their life is going to positively change a completely unrelated area, say, by releasing a number of employees at a satellite office, or selling a home/office during a housing slump...or, better yet, increasing the amount of red tape & waste efforts needed to accomplish a necessary work function. Oh, how about telling a supplier they will have to accept payment for their goods/services in a certain way? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Oscar?
Athletes do the same thing, too. All of the time. 'If increasing from 20 to 40 miles per week drops my 5,000 meter time by one minute, then increasing from 40 to 60 should drop my time another 30 seconds.' Doesn't quite work that way. Quality, as well as relevance to outcome, is the key to personal improvement.
As some of us age it becomes more of a challenge to see clearly. I've been wearing eyeglasses for everything but athletics since I was in my mid-teens...so that's three decades of being stuck with the suckers. Of course, when you participate in athletics, or spend a good amount of time in bright light (for Florida residents, that's nearly all year) it's almost de rigeur to have a good pair of sunglasses.
Those of us with weak vision have a Hobson's choice (for those unfamiliar, that means all of your choices pretty much s*ck):
1. Spend money on prescription sunglasses which look more like Clark Kent specials. We affectionately called these birth control glasses when I was in the Air Force.
2. Spend more money on sunglasses which have prescription lenses fitted in, like Rudy Project or Bolle' products.
3. Spend decent money on sport-focused sunglasses, and,
3.a. Wear contact lenses, or
3.b. Go without vision correction.
Tri-geeks have it even worse, because of the goggle issue. If you're fortunate to have your prescription fall within an even or half-diopter, there are fairly inexpensive goggle implants or prescription goggles available from a couple of companies. I have it worse than the average bear, because of astigmatism; making my prescription very screwy & falling in between a half/whole diopter. Toric contact lenses are my only option...but I choose to suck it up and follow the person (really, all of the persons) in front of me on the swim.
Oh, here's a new one which makes me feel more stoopid. Hyundai, the Korean car maker, as come out with an advertising campaign to try & boost sales of their product. While other car makers have promised the sun, moon & stars to get you into their vehicle, Hyundai promises to make it easy for you to get out of it, should your cash flow suddenly become a problem.
Hyunday promises to allow buyers to return their car within the first year in the event of job loss. Once again, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Oscar? If I lose my job & have no income, therefore have no ability to pay my car payment, I'm certain every car maker is going to take my car back, no questions asked.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The First Miles

Happy New Year to all of you - Ended my 2008 on a (fairly) good note, after two-to-three days of misery. The jury is still out, sort of, on what caused my 48 hours of GI un-fun-ness. I'm not ready to lay blame on a couple of food items I scarfed during the (post-) Christmas Luau; more likely the lingering effects of the flu bug I caught just before Christmas. It probably was the flu or some viral fiend, because I was still kind of feeling it even this past weekend.
The New Years' Day Pot Luck Run at our local running emporium was good fun, with some of the usual suspects on board, but a higher tri-geek-to-runner-geek ratio going down. Since we spent the prior evening at a runner-hosted New Years' Eve celebration, it's probable some of the possible participants of the next day's running event were, er, overserved.
The run was led out by one of the running emporium's employees, a nice (sliver over) three-mile, rolling jaunt. With sunny skies, a temperature in the high 50s & a very gentle breeze, there was not much to complain about...especially the obvious fact we live in FL & can go out for a run without YakTrax, three layers of tights, a balaclava from hell, etc., etc., nearly any time we please throughout the year. In fact, most of the holiday season was temperate, shirt-sleeve and/or (in my case!) short pants conditions.
The bug & its effect on my fitness level made the jaunt entertaining. I felt, throughout the entire run, like a Thor-Lo sock had been shoved down my windpipe. However, running a seven-minute-per-mile pace and sucking sock didn't seem like such a bad thing, given the realm of possible alternatives. A year ago I was in pain from achilles' tendon injury. Yes, silly, keep it all in perspective. Hit the track for the first real piece of track work on Saturday morning. I took most of December's workouts & made them long, boring, meat & potatoes stuff. It was a lot of mileage but at an intensity level (most of the time a 7:30-8:00/mile pace) that made it possible for everyone to hang closer together & semi-socialize. Not like any of us had any races coming up...save for Ferris, who was approaching a taper for his marathon & would benefit from something that easy in pace.
Since I was doing a solo workout it was going to be a relatively no-nonsense one. I wanted to see how many miles I could get in the course of an hour, from warm-up to shut-down. I managed to get in five miles worth of running in 31 minutes with 27 minutes of recovery time. Seemed like a good start to the year...at least until I tried to do my swim workout & cramped up in the pool. I managed to get 2400 yards (a good day!) in a little over 47 minutes, so it wasn't a total loss...more like the first of many lessons learned this year.
The challenge to doing two workouts during the course of a day is providing sufficient time for recovery, which includes nutrition & hydration. Several cups of coffee & a bagel with provolone cheese & hummus, as I learned, is a little on the light side when it comes to both nutrition & hydration.