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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Following Your Bliss

It's definitely "beer o'clock" here in the P'handle. Been up since four a.m. & in a state (fairly much) of "on-the-go" since five-ish. Not much difference between the wake-up time for participants of a triathlon & the workers & volunteers who make it possible.

There's always (so it seems) some sort of crisis, some kind of "oops, we gotta get this issue worked through" moment...and we had a little bit of it this morning, but it was all right...once we got the solution. While it's tiring, maddening, frustrating, and sometimes even boring, it's also rewarding. I think every race participant should work with a race promoter at least once a year, & I'm not talking about one of those 'two-hour, packet pick-up' cushy, beer-in-one-hand, marker-in-the-other jobs. Ride the back of a rental truck setting up & picking up cones. Hand out water at an aid station of a marathon, or a 70.3. Tear down & put away speakers, tables, & various/sundry supplies.

It makes the thank you of the back-of-the-packer that much more sweet...if you hear it. It definitely warms the heart of the race director, just in case you hadn't figured.
FOLLOW-UP, Monday, Oct 26:
The need - or my need to rant - about volunteerism is as much aimed at myself as the next person. More often than not, people are in the throes of training for a long-distance triathlon are predisposed toward selfishness & self-centeredness. I used to have a t-shirt that summed it up precisely: 'as a matter of fact, the world does revolve around me.' It might still be tucked away in one of my dresser drawers.
I guess last week was either National Volunteer Week, Make A Difference Day, or one of those marketing ploys to get people off their behinds to do something they probably should be doing anyway...helping their fellow man. You'd have thought I'd have caught the message through the weeks' comics. It took until some time around Thursday for me to figure it.
To follow on to the 'marathoning' post from a few days back, someone posted a comment about how much different the triathlon community is from the running community. In many ways I cannot help but agree. Many tri-geeks are personable and approachable...a couple are grade-A type-A...ain't going there right now... But, some are tightly focused on their own training, & can't/won't take time to teach newer tri-geeks some of the tips & tricks which make racing less painful and more fun. In the back of my mind, I think it would solve some of the 'on your left, on your left, oh, $#!+...' moments you hear about, especially on the bike course.
(I can't help but feel grateful to a number of local tri-geeks who I've managed to corner at local shops...they've provided great advice/counsel and helped me get past the intimidation factor of the long-distance event up to this time. Thanks again, dudes & dude-ettes...you know who you are!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Do I Consider You A Marathoner? Why Not?

Some of my running friends are in a bit of an uproar over this morning's New York Times article.
There are a number of runners who chafe at the thought of slow, plodding penguins having the nerve to call themselves marathoners. They believe slower participants have diluted the challenge of the marathon distance & lessened the cachet of their identity as - gasp - a marathoner.
Once you read the article, you'll realize something seriously missing. There are no 'elite' marathoners quoted in the article. I think in their case a marathon is "another day at the office." To the elite marathoner, slow participants are a non-issue. It's the folks who are slightly more slow & plodding than they - John Bingham calls them "slightly fast runners" - who are kvetching like a bunch of whiny, wounded animals.
While the trend is for marathon finish times to become more slow, as cited by Running USA, that may be more due to the democratization of the marathon than anything else. Remember that concept of selectivity we all learned about in college psychology? That was the same reason more students in graduate school scored no lower than a "C." Grad school was more selective to get in, & the grades reflected that very fact.
So, when Mr. or Ms. Marathon Race Director opened their event to the lumpenproletariat, the great unwashed run/walking masses, they spread out the total range of the bell curve a bit more. Of course, I don't think all of the race directors are pleased with the unintended consequences of larger fields of slightly slower participants...it means more time for the course to be closed off for safety reasons. Some events have taken to instituting cut-off times. Which is all right, in my opinion. If you can't make the cut-off, you'll look for another event where your chances of finishing is better. If I were a penguin looking for a marathon & saw a cut-off faster than my best effort, I'd find another event & say, 'their loss. Sucks to be that RD.'

Frankly, I haven't mastered the marathon yet. My best effort is in the high-threes, my worst in the mid-four range. I marvel at the elites as well as the three-hour folks. I'm not going to think any less of a person who wants to go out & do a marathon. But, what I'd like to see is running programs/coaches work over an extended period of time with their charges.
First, coaches need to be honest with the athlete about the social stigma which exists about plodding/walk-running/penguining...whatever the faster people want to call slow-paced participation.
Then, work with the person; get them off the couch doing 5Ks for six months-to-a year, then 10Ks, then half-marathons. After a couple of years of consistent training and racing shorter distances, then put them on a conservative, mostly run-based training program focusing on a marathon that has entry-level marathoner-friendly conditions...preferably a small one.
I'd personally recommend something as small as the Tallahassee Marathon, (next years' RRCA Southern Region Marathon Championship) which has about 250-300 participants, or Melbourne's Space Coast Marathon, which is on a very flat course. I'm not saying they can't do Chicago, New York, Honolulu, Disney, Marine Corps or any of the big name ones, but I'd rather see them get their first marathon in on a course where they can learn the art of marathoning, rather than be treated like children of a lesser god by wanna-be elites, fairly fast runners, & Runners' World/Slowtwitch/Let's Run.com forum posters, the gatekeepers of marathon/road running purity.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Thought On Tapering

...or two. I guess this train of thought started last Wednesday evening during our "easy" 60-minute run on the beach. Quite frankly, it felt like a bit of a slog for a good portion of the run; just couldn't get comfortable. The heart rate wasn't going sky high...in fact, it seemed quite reasonable. Just a little bit of lead in the legs. When we got back to the start I had to admit I was glad we kind of went off the beaten path; heaven knows I'd have been tempted to slap it into B-for-boogie...and might have felt like ten pounds of used kitty litter afterward.
That kind of feeling has persisted for this past week, & almost two. I'm certain lots of it has to do with a subconscious effort to conserve energies for the day. But it's not like I'm really going into taper mode. Friends who know I'm (about) three weeks out from the Ironman have hinted, 'yeah, you should be starting your taper next week...' Trouble is, I am not certain what I'm supposed to be tapering from.
The bicycle crash, by necessity, forced me to back off about 30-percent of my intended training volume. I've had to limit my swimming to twice a week, & at an intensity which is just comfortable enough to not strain the trapezius, deltoid, or latissimus muscles on the left side...unfortunately, life has managed to make up for the lost efforts. If you've ever tried to get out of a Mercedes sedan on the passenger side, it requires a certain degree of assistance from the left arm to help roll you out. So, when I whine about wanting to drive it has as much to do with physical comfort as it does with personal autonomy.
I managed to do well through the long bike ride on the IM FL course, so there's little to worry about there. Even running, when the shoulder feels good & hasn't been over-stressed, is all right. The heart rate is good. And now, the weather has become almost nice. So it's not like I'm really going to cut back on volume that much...or intensity...not until next weekend.
At that point it's going to be little more than a single hour of a single activity. Spend a little more time with the feet up, with the coffee pot, with the good book, with the light jazz or baroque music. Definitely. I'll revert back to one of the things I said before...just kind of be like my greyhound: eat when I can, go out when I want, & rest otherwise.
So, I'm not really tapering as much as maintaining.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Your Fault. Trust Me. I'm A Doc.

Before becoming a "documentarian/running bureaucrat/anal-retentive measurer/backyard shade-tree coach" I worked as an analyst in the human factors, medical, education & communications world. Until seven years ago I hadn't developed any real taxonomy by which to break down root causes to things. I just worked by feel.
After I entered my (Navy) educational internship I was enrolled into a human performance technology course track at a local university. One of the first documents I read was based on the work of Thomas Gilbert, considered to be the father of human performance technology. Gilbert was a disciple of B. F. Skinner, the human behaviorist. Think pigeons pecking metal plates in response to a flashing light in exchange for seed. Think Walden Two. Fortunately, Gilbert was thinking more humanistically.Gilbert believed all barriers to worthy performance (not just doing something, but doing something of worth to society) could be broken down into six areas; three at the organizational level, three at the performer level. Other theorists borrowed the Pareto (80/20) principle; 80 percent of performance deficiencies were caused by 20 percent of possible root causes. They believed 80 percent of performance barriers were organizationally rooted. In other words, as Gilbert wrote in his 1978 book, most workers go to work wanting to do a good job. Management screws it up by unclear communications, inefficient processes, & disincentivizing worthy performance. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)I've always had the tendency to look more at the organizational - in my own case, coach-rooted - barriers to an athlete's performance first, and then the worker - or athlete-rooted - barriers...or I've left them alone entirely. Unless the athlete places 100-percent trust and confidence in me there's not much I can do to control an autonomous, adult, post-collegiate, recreational athlete. (I prefer to think I was more accountable to my coach; he might beg to differ.) Sometimes we want to say to the athlete, 'I don't think you want to work that hard...you don't want to train to perform that well...' The coach's job is to do what it takes to prepare the athlete to execute the plan, given their state of fitness, on the day.Lately I've been reading & noting the guidance Brett "Doc" Sutton provides to amateur age-group as well as professional triathletes he trains as part of Team TBB. He's had some great success in the ITU, 70.3 & IM world, has coached swimmers, trained racehorses & world triathlon champions. He's able to read the athlete & see through the b.s. His brand of coaching blends tough love & stoking the inward fire, for want of a better term on my part.Doc's way of looking at a problem is simple:"...in every thing, we break it up into three steps. We don't believe in making it more complicated than that, what ever it is. You come with a problem that has five or six points? "The Doc" sends you back to the corner & says 'bring me back three & we will find a solution.'"Let's take a day where an athlete doesn't perform up to their expectation. Rather than blame the coaching, the weather or the course, what about the pace they ran in the first mile, where they staged themself in the starting corral, or the warm-up that was not done? As "Doc" says, 'no discussion...we reap what we sow.'Timing or scoring issue? Get scored fourth place in your age group when you know you were third? Some sports don't allow the opportunity for 'argument, no pity-partying , or you get your head punched off by the opposition within the next ten seconds.' Sometimes you need to 'make the very best out of a...hand that is dealt. That is your hand; how you play it is up to the individual. Some get inspired, some crack.' Don't place yourself in a position to be vulnerable to the frailties of human judgment. 'Don't like it? Don't race. This is your sport; can it be done better? Well of course. But that is not on the table on race day.'

While the vast majority of us are recreational athletes & not making dollar-one from our pursuit, we can still borrow the mindset & adapt the mental toughness of the professional. Sometimes that means looking in the mirror for the first cause, then going on from there.