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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Timothy Noakes and the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

There was a time, just before I started college, that I started to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation & (to a lesser degree) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It came on just after the local news; this gave me the chance to unwind after an evening run. Since my friend John (and his wife Terri) had a nice television (Anything larger than the 12-inch diagonally-measured black-and-white I had at that time in my little apartment met the definition of nice.) at their apartment, they would graciously invite me over for an O'Doul's or a white zin spritzer, & we would watch one or both of the ST series episodes, depending on the day of the week.

I thought ST: TNG was the better of the two series, but there was something entertaining about ST: DSN.
As a guy with an all-too-rigidly-defined sense of right-and-wrong, I found the Ferengi both abhorrent & attractive. For 18 months between my sudden social shake-up & going to college, I had a former roommate, a one-time grad assistant/fervent left-winger/lecturer/small-time con artist/educational fraud-enabler at the University of Arizona. We spent evenings discussing ethics, philosophy, economics, history & political science over coffee or dinner, either at the local Shoney's or on the back porch of my apartment. I absorbed the equivalent of a freshman-year education during that time, for cost his share of the rent.

Discussion topics ranged from existentialism (once you understand it you see it in everything) to what can best be described as the economics of the street. Of course, when you've had a Manichaean black v. white, good v. evil mindset drummed into you from childhood & further beaten into you by fundamentalist preachers, there are certain moments which can be quite liberating. Nietzsche's beyond good & evil, master mentality v. slave mentality, for example. However, you don't have to read Nietzsche to understand Nietzsche. Just look for old Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes. The Ferengi are Nietzsche reincarnated.
I used to love the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. My buddy used to laugh at me because I had a rigid, methodical approach to everything in life. (I was a Methodist for many years. Sue me.) He used to joke about the Tao of Bowen: Follow sidewalks rather than cut across grass, stuff like that. Even my wife figured I have this tendency to calculate, & try, much like Emanuel Kant, to live my life as though a universal rule should be written by it (what Kant called the categorical imperative). Until this morning I wondered if ANYONE wrote down or collected the ROA for the benefit of fanatics (lunatics?) like me.

So, I was at the track last night...we were finishing a particularly ugly workout when my friend Larry S. finished his warm-up jog. We chatted about training, & he asked my opinion about a particular long-distance training program. (Naturally, I've got opinions. If I didn't I wouldn't be writing here, right?) I told him what I thought was the dirty little secret about the plan, then provided him a recommendation of my own, based on his goal...which I learned was completing an international distance (otherwise known as Olympic-distance) triathlon. Larry trains with me when his work schedule permits, & he's a good soul, so I do not hesitate to give him my wisest counsel...which, of course, he can ignore at his peril or use...& more than likely do well. Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #284: "Deep down everyone's a Ferengi."
Larry was going to use a marathon training plan as the run training portion of his triathlon prep. Since Larry's doing an international distance event, I felt a marathon plan would put too much run training volume into his training. After doing a quick crunch of numbers, I estimated he would do 50 minutes for ten kilometers of running, 75 minutes for 40 kilometers on the bike, and 18-to-20 minutes on the swim. So, nearly two & a half hours at race effort? I believe he needs little more than to be able to run a decent half-marathon at the worst. Maybe somewhere less, but definitely more than a typical ten-kilometer training plan, and definitely less than a marathon, since he's going to be fatigued from the bike by the time he starts the run.

Why did I provide Larry that counsel? Timothy Noakes' Law of Training, #6: "Achieve As Much As Possible on a Minimum of Training."
Too many athletes, especially ones whose goal is to finish the event, do too much training. The law of diminishing returns, especially in run training, has sharp teeth. It doesn't hurt to know your own physical limitations: If you try to run marathons & the training volume kicks your @$$ (which it has done to me two times out of three), it might be the Almighty's way of trying to tell you to try half-marathons instead...or to find a training program with less volume.

Yeah, there are other factors, too, but you have to know what your body can - & cannot - handle. And in closing, let me remind you of Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #44: "Never confuse wisdom with luck."

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