Did you have a good summer?

This time of year it is inevitable to think back on the months of June, July and August and ask yourself, “Did I have a good summer?”

So I’m going to offer up a little perspective to help you think about your summer, and indeed your life in general. We’d love to hear about things you did that you really enjoyed.

IMG_8774As for me, here’s a little operative in which I believe when assessing your life. I always look for opportunities to have what I call “peak experiences.” These are events or moments that cause you to live tremendously in the moment. That’s not always an easy thing to do. Being so busy all the time can cause you to just roll through everything you’re doing. That can include something so profound as riding a Century or even racing a triathlon.

We don’t have peak experiences when our minds are so distracted by the import of life that we cannot focus on what we’re doing in the moment. As a result, you can finish a run or a ride or a swim and hardly know you just did it.

But there were wonderful exceptions to this habit of mine (anyway.) I’ll share because they serve as allegories for peak experiences all on their own.

The Peak Experience of SHARED TRAINING

Sue RunningThis year has been an interesting year in a significant way. We started out with a trip to Great Britain where a training run took us on the banks of the Thames in Oxford and through the heart of London. We had to stop at times and just consider what we were doing. The birds singing in the hedgerows. The Tower of London across the river. The bustle of people heading to work in the financial district of London. We took a risk, spent some money and had a peak experience for the first time overseas for both of us. And that was a great way to transition from spring to summer.

But then our attention turned to a task at hand. Doing large chunks of training with my girlfriend Sue in preparation for her Ironman on September 13 has stretched us both in several directions. My runs have gotten longer and some rides too. That culminated in runs of an hour or more, a significant change for a guy that had been keeping it to half an hour or less for years. The peak was a 2-hour run with Sue that led up the Fox River Trail and back. It was almost strange to be running pain-free for so long. Granted, my hip flexors got tired toward the end, and that hurts a little. But a few trips to the gym fixed that problem.

It’s a peak experience to be running longer, and faster. Our track training has pushed me back down to 6:00 pace and below in training. That opens up some interesting ideas in both road racing and in the triathlon.

The Peak Experience of the GALENA DUATHLON

11336898_10153355466639313_5963747517278445329_oGalena is situated in a hilly region of northwest Illinois. Racing a duathlon in that area means that you have to adjust all kinds of expectations. For my first duathlon of the year, and second in my life, there were other logistical problems. The Galena race does not start and stop in the same place. That meant planning to use my dress orthotics in the first pair of running shoes, jumping on the bike to ride nearly 20 miles on a hilly (wet) course west to Galena, and throwing on my actual shoes with orthotics in them. The course went straight uphill for nearly half a mile. That was a peak experience indeed. Talk about in the moment soul-searching.

But I set aside such anxieties and raced well enough to place 8th overall and win my age division. And that was a peak experience.

The Peak Experience of HORRIBLY HILLY

Last Climb Horribly HillyA few years back a friend and I entered the lottery to get spots in the Horribly Hilly 100, a highly respected event held in the Mt. Horeb area of Wisconsin. Having ridden several times in the Wright Stuff Century the loops from Mt. Horeb to Spring Green, I knew some of those roads and that the climbs could be difficult.

The trepidation was somewhat real, therefore, that this would be a difficult ride. And it did not help that on the way down the first hill, my front tire flatted at the same point that some enthusiastic rider had gone too fast and pitched into the ditch. An air-vac helicopter was hovering above the course and paramedics were attending to the rider.

It all brought to mind my own crash during the Wright Stuff in 2013. There I broke my collarbone after bike wobble sent me careening to the ditch at 40mph.

Once the flat was fixed I gingerly braked down the half mile of the whole first hill.

And from there, things got better. All day my legs felt strong and the climbs went well. Some topped out at 18-degree grades, and they were tough. People on tri-bikes had trouble getting that geometry up the steepest hills.

The peak experience came on the last long climb. It was 1200 vertical feet to the finish. There were people lining the course cheering as rider after rider crept up that hill. It had rained and the wind had blown. The sun came out for a brief moment near the end however, and we all smiled at the fact that we’d ridden a tough training ride that was its own reward. But we had frozen chocolate custard anyway. And that capped off a peak experience.

The Peak Experience of the IRONMAN WISCONSIN LOOP

Following the ride in the Horribly Hilly 100 we returned to Wisconsin on a few separate weekends to ride the “stick” and the “loop” portions of the Ironman bike course so that Sue could prepare both physically and mentally for the fall race.

Coming off the Horribly Hilly ride, the set of three hills known as the Three Bitches were not so daunting for Sue. And I had recalled struggling up those hills myself last year. But this year we pedaled right up together, almost laughing at our former selves. And that, my friends, is the peak experience of having gotten over your fears.

The Peak Experience of the Swedish Days Century

 What I learned from this ride was how to eat better and how high I sit up on my bike. Sue’s low aero position was hard to follow in the wind. But I thrilled in truth to see her pulling away from me at 80 miles because it meant her fitness for the Ironman was coming together well. She was thrilled at the end, and went for a good brick run following the ride. She wasn’t even tired.

However we stopped for beers and food with friends following the ride, and by the time I brought her home she was nodding asleep in the car. A foot rub put her to sleep on the couch and I went home to bed. It was a peak experience to share that nice fatigue that comes from doing something big and real together. There were many such nights, and part of being a Sherpa to an Ironman triathlete means you get to see your sleepy companion nod off during evening television. It’s part of the gig.

The Peak Experience of the Naperville Sprint Triathlon

Chris Fun Pic TooIn the weeks leading up to the race, my swimming was still a concern. In my head I had the swim segment at 700 meters. That’s a long way for this beginning swimmer. It wasn’t until race day that I actually figured out that the swim was only 400 or so meters.

But there was still a logistical issue. The water was so warm the race declared wetsuits illegal if you wanted to get included in the race results. Having no idea how I’d do, but banking on the fact that I’d done okay in the Galena race, I stood by the shore contemplating whether to wear the wetsuit and be disqualified or overcome my concerns about swimming without it and give it a go.

Sue stood by the start as I walked about getting my feet sandy. Finally I stripped off the wetsuit and said aloud, “I can do this.” And I did. It was chaos in the water given the fact that I started with a load of swimmers that turned the place into the Panic Pool, but I made it in just under 9:00 exactly as I predicted. And that was a peak experience of shedding fears to do something new that I really wanted to do.

By next year I plan to be able to swim a mile and perhaps enter the Racine Half Ironman. I can do it.

A peek at a Peak Summer

So it turned out this summer had quite a few peak experiences. I’d mention the fact that we also swam at Centennial in Naperville one hot Sunday afternoon. Sue rode 80 miles with friends and I pedaled 40 before meeting up with them at the pool.

And when she walked out to greet me in a borrowed bikini that complimented her figure, that was a peak experience for me as well.

IMG_1357It was a good summer because I spent more time in the water and even got the requisite bikers’ tan that makes you feel like you’ve actually done something with your life and lived in the moment. There’s nothing I like better than looking down during a ride to see sweat shining on the legs. Then you look up at your riding companions and realize, “I’m here. We’re riding hard. This is real. This is fun.”

Of course we’ve also overcome obstacles along the way. Late this summer Sue was forced off the road by an absent-minded driver. The insurance and legal protections for cyclists are ill-defined. There have been personal challenges and opportunities as well. I’ve started working with GreenMark, a public relations company I just love. That was one of my peak goals heading into the new year of 2015: set your career on a track that makes sense with your values, your passions and your knowledge base.

The Peak Experience of FRIENDSHIP

Pre-Ride PartnersWe shared many of these training and racing moments with Sue’s original swim buddy Lida, who committed last year to do the Ironman this fall. It has been fascinating to watch her gain confidence and strength on the run and the bike. We ran together all winter in the blasting cold. Then we trained through the damp spring and rode up and down those hills in Wisconsin. She and Sue are true friends. They trust each other implicitly. So it has been a peak experience to share in their mutual motivation. And as the race approaches, I fully expect they will both have peak experiences that will last a lifetime.

And that’s how life should be.

werunandridelogo

Posted in IRONMAN, PEAK EXPERIENCES, TRAINING PEAKS, triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The triathlon of eating, sleeping and shitting

I once dated a gal in college that professed not to like eating, sleeping or shitting. “I just don’t like to waste time doing those things,” she admitted.

That relationship broke off after two years, but not for those reasons. She met another guy who fit her vision of security and they had four daughters, I have been told. So I hope she’s happy.

But I suspect she’s not if she still hates eating, sleeping and shitting. Because those are all things people I know really enjoy.

At the time I dated her the only four things I was doing were eating, sleeping, shitting and running. An oh yeah, dating her as well. We both had fun in our respective college endeavors. She was an actress in a musical and I was Captain of the cross country team. We fell in love and that was great.

Otherwise known as shitting a brick.

Otherwise known as shitting a brick.

But while doing 100 miles weeks it was important that all those natural rhythms fall into line. So I loved to sleep. That was restorative. I loved to eat. That was nutritional. And when nature called, it was a damned good thing to take a good shit.

Some people spend eternity on the toilet, reading magazines or books. In the age of cell phones one can only imagine where some of those posts to Facebook originate. That’s right, people are probably doing a ton of social media from the throne.

You probably don’t want to think about that, but now it’s too late. The next time you get a weird, vacuous post from a Friend give it some thought. Could they be sitting on the shitter?

And what about Strava? Could there be anything more entertaining while taking a crap than looking at your Run or Ride stats and those engaging little maps that show where you went? I think not. Strava was born to entertain athletes occupied with taking a good crap.

Actually there ought to be an app just to measure your efforts on the toilet. Call it JockStool or TriPoop or SphincterLinkter. Something like that. You could take pictures and share them with your friends. “Nine inches today,” a typical post might say. “That’s a PR! Poop Record!”

Let’s get real about this, people. You measure everything else you do in life, why shouldn’t you measure your own poop? Some days it’s the best thing we produce in this place we call The World. As anyone who works in the corporate world can tell you, there’s a very fine line between taking shit in your job and taking a shit while you’re on the job.

It just proves that most of the shit we do doesn’t really matter half the time. But when you turn around and look at that squatter lying in the bowl, admit it. You think to yourself, “That was a really good shit. At least that was one good thing today.”

And that’s the glass half-full attitude, redefined.

cyclists.31-550x300It’s a cycle, you see. The more you run and ride, the more reason you have to eat. And the more you eat, the more you have to poop. I mean look at these people. You can see it in their eyes. Coffee was great, but they’re all really looking forward to finding a place to take a good shit. That guy on the left may already be doing that. And the guy on the right? He’s already done. Look how happy he looks. The rest of the ride will be a little squishy, but he won’t get saddle sores.

It’s true that sometimes our body rhythms get messed up, and the worst feeling of all time is having to get up and poop in the middle of the night. When you’re sleeping, you should be allowed to sleep. But when your body has different plans, there is no holding back. Getting up to pee is one thing. Getting up to poop when you’re in the middle of a deep sleep is quite another.

Once in a great while, my ass will send alarm signals up to my brain in the middle of the night. It’s like there’s a turtle down there trying to push its way out of a sand bank. It hurts. You try to go back to sleep and there’s No. Way. In. Hell. That’s going to happen.

Porta_Potty.jpgAC79941A-A6DB-4897-BC5AB086AEBEE81D.jpgLarger

An angel put it there for you.

See, our bodily functions don’t always follow The Rules. Sometimes hard training results in hard poops. You get constipated or the opposite, generate a case of the runs.

And how ironic is that? You run and you run and you wind up with the runs. That’s when a Porta Pottie can look like a literal Gift from God.

By contrast, constipation is serious business to many people. You simply can’t afford to be blocked up. It’s not good for your body, plus you might be carrying around more than a couple extra pounds.

It’s easy to have happen. Miss the proper hydration and your body sucks water from every corner of your system. That leaves your poop a bit dry. It compacts. Fills the lower cavity with its shitty girth and then you have to resort to some Roto Rooter drugs to loosen it all up.

Recently when I had a colonoscopy I got thinking about all the poop sitting in there. By the time it all came out I felt like the mouth of the River Ganges. It looked like that too. It all happens because we have to eat, or else we’ll die. And we have to poop, or else we’d explode.

human-rhinovirus-16But just think about all the poop that gets dumped on the world every day. Fortunately it breaks down when exposed to water, bacteria or flies. Cause if it didn’t, we’d be up to our collective ears in the stuff.

Perhaps you’ve heard that joke about the guy who dropped his sunglasses down a deep latrine. He goes in to retrieve them and his buddy calls down to ask, “How is it down there? I’ll come in to help!”

“It’s only ankle deep!” the first guy replies.

So his buddy jumps in and the crap is up to his chin. “What the hell, dude? I thought you said it was only ankle deep!”

“I dove in,” his friend admits.

Proving that his sunglasses must have been Oakleys. That’s the only explanation to that joke.

The biggest piece of shit in Wisconsin: The House On the Rock.

The biggest piece of shit in Wisconsin: The House On the Rock.

At any rate, we really should consider that eating, sleeping and shitting are pretty worthwhile and necessary activities. So screw that college girlfriend and her corporate attitude about bodily functions. Maybe she changed her ways after I dated her. But maybe not.

As for me, these days I still like eating, sleeping and shitting. What’s not to like?

You have to do all three to be healthy and survive. They’re like the triathlon of existence. Each discipline requires its own training and dedication. And like the triathlon, it’s the transitions between the three that sometimes cost you the most time. Don’t you just hate it when the rest of life gets in the way?

As for pooping when you are in the middle of the pool, I have just two words. Code Brown. Get out now. Please.

werunandridelogo

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The speed question

Felt Bike ShinyAs a cyclist the most I’ve been able to accomplish is to avoid getting a ton slower than I was 10 years ago when I started. Some might say that’s a pretty fair accomplishment. It’s not easy to go faster as you get older.

The only exception to that rule is between the ages of 15 and 25. That’s when athletes are supposed to build upon their maturity to reach a speed peak. Some athletes continue well into their 30s competing at the highest level for their native abilities.

Technically I can still run as fast for two miles as I could when I was twelve years old. That’s when I ran my first 12:00 two-mile in gym class, in Red Ball Jets on a cinder track. The feeling of that accomplishment set deeply with me, and running became something of a release.

By contrast in cycling I did not begin trying to race until I reached my late 40s. Entering criteriums as a CAT 5 racer, I learned every sort of lesson on how not to win or go faster.

There was the race where I thought the best way to catch on was gradually. Mistake #1. Then came the race where I caught on every time around a hairpin turn on the course. That was mistake #2 because I had nothing left for the last lap. And so on.

Ultimately the lesson one learns from speed in cycling is that very few people are actually fast all on their own. What you need to learn instead is how to go fast borrowing from the company of others. Then if you’re smart, you’ll have saved enough energy toward the end of the race or for an intelligent breakaway, again usually in the company of others.

LegsBy contrast runners often pour on the gas and create their own space in the lead. The wind can be a factor in running races, but it usually isn’t the determining factor in the outcome of a running race. In cycling however, the wind factor and staying protected in the draft is everything. In bike racing, that is.

In time trials and triathlons, no drafting is allowed. So you have to depend on the aero position on your bike to go faster and be competitive. If you can’t do that, you will lose time compared to others. Almost guaranteed.

So the speed question is relative in cycling and direct in running. Of course great cyclists can ride off the front, but the power of the peloton in both criterium and road racing usually pulls back all but the strongest of riders.

By contrast in running it is common for a surge to create panic in the front pack, and runners must weigh their capacity for additional speed to catch up or keep up.  It really doesn’t often help to have additional runners chasing down a lead breakaway because the draft effect is minimal.

And since triathlons typically involve a lot of lag time even among the leaders, it is obvious when someone who led out of the swim stage gets caught only if you are in the same wave. More typically in duathlons and triathlons the only way you can tell if you’re beating your age group or category competitors is by sex or by the age marked on their bodies.

Think about that. You manage your own speed as best you can until that moment when competitive awareness sparks and you must face the speed question. Am I going fast enough? Am I going too fast? Can I sustain this pace till the finish? Will this pace leave anything for the next stage in the triathlon?

So for all the training you do to get faster, the speed question ultimately comes down to a test of character and faith in your training, and in yourself.

It’s a fascinating reality that all of us face. All speed is relative to circumstance. There’s very little you can to do change that fact. Except go faster. Which is the best answer to the speed question.

werunandridelogo

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Down a trail gladly

PeaceThe path along the Fox River through Fabyan Forest Preserve may be the most popular section of running trail in all of Kane County. The preserve itself has been named a favorite for years in reader polls by local newspapers and magazines. The property was once the estate of an industrial magnate. It has its own Frank Lloyd Wright home and the remnants of cages where bears and other animals were kept.

There is a Japanese Garden and the beautiful arbor sidewalk (at left) on the west side of the preserve, through which the Fox passes in its alternately roiling and lazy glory. When the river floods the isthmus section of the park is submersed, leaving behind long trails of river findings like a testament to natural archeology.

So there is plenty to enjoy while running through Fabyan. One morning a band of five bald eagles flapped out from the protection of a white pine, and in winter there are mergansers feeding in the open water when the rest of the river freezes over.

On many days it feels like a peaceful place. Runners and cyclists share the path, which does a huge S-curve over the isthmus to clunk over a metal and wood bridge on the east side. Turning north the trail heads to Geneva through even more dense woods, and a pastoral windmill stands atop a mowed grass hill. The windmill actually operates at times, its huge warms waving vacuously at the passing cyclists and runners.

The trail can get crowded at times, and many races are held that pass through the park. Soon the Fox Valley Marathon and Half Marathon will take place. The Fox River Trail Runners put on the increasingly popular race, which runs north and south along the river trail.

The trails were once a set of rail lines following the river. Trolley trains carried turn-of-the century commuters from town to town. There were plenty of industrial trains as well, headed north to factories in St. Charles like the Howell Furniture Company.

For years after the train lines closed down there were traces of its former existence. But as the pole lines slowly collapsed and fell, and cement mile markers leaned and fell over, there were no longer any signs of the trail’s history as a train track.

But I’ve lived here a long, long time. And just after the trains stopped running I took birding hikes along the cinder beds where the train tracks rusted into place. Weeds choked the lines shut eventually.

Then our county took over the trails and turned them into greenways. In 1982 the first river trail opened, and I was the first runner to lead the Geneva Community Classic 10K down the barely finished path. Two years later I won again in perhaps my best race ever.

So there are many happy memories, and also deep tidings of consideration and care. My late wife in her failing health liked to walk along the trail. Our walks grew shorter and shorter as cancer did its work. During a walk for Living Well Cancer Resource center she could not make it back the mile we’d walked up to Fabyan Park. So she sat down while I ran in my hiking boots back to the car to come get her. It was a desperate and strange run indeed.

But before that there were many health-restoring walks along that river. I teased her often about the time she estimated the size of a beaver we’d seen at 300 lbs. It was a huge animal, but no more than 80 lbs. at the most.

Such are the absent-minded exchanges while traversing such trails. But there are deep thoughts as well. Thinking through life’s challenges is what many of us do while out running or riding. That’s a good thing.

And when life’s transitions bring you to a point where all familiarity is overwhelmed by change, you seek out these places for space to consider what it all means. Sometimes it’s actually possible to think it all through while we’re on the move. But other times you simply must stop for a moment and catch your emotional breath. I know I have.

Ten years ago this November my mother passed away. She was 80 years old. My mom was a great fan of my running. She also loved peaceful places like forest preserves, and growing up she used to take me to a spot by a stone waterfall south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We’d sit listening to the peaceful sound of water tumbling over the dam and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the brown and muddy Mill Creek.

We need these places to catch our breath at all ages, you see. We also need them to help us get out of breath. Because through effort our true and best thoughts are often revealed.

Now I share my time with a running companion named Sue, and we sometimes run in silence together just taking in the beauty of the trail. North from Fabyan to St. Charles and back is about eight miles. We have the river for company as well as each other.

“This reminds me of marathon training,” she recalled a week or so ago. This summer she’s been training for an Ironman that takes place September 13th. Many days we’ve run down that trail gladly in prep for that race.

But a week ago she got stuck in a wicked rainstorm and texted me t0 come pick her up. She stood under the Fabyan Bridge out of the rain and away from the lightning. Climbing into the car, she was shiny and wet like an otter that had just crawled up from the Fox River. “Well, I didn’t get the whole run in, but it went well until the rain,” she laughed.

And that’s how we go down a trail gladly. Through it all, and all for one…as in one more good ride or run.

werunandridelogo

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Early risers who run, ride and swim

SunriseThis morning while walking the dog I turned the corner and the view down the street was perfectly composed. A rising sun seemed to be following a course through the space between the trees. Of course that’s all an illusion of perspective. Just like stars in a constellation, the space between these objects in our view exists in a flat plane of reality.

But the fact that you’re up at such an hour grants you the right to impose whatever reality you’d like to make for yourself. Early risers see a lot of things the rest of the world ignores. We see early morning creatures slinking home from their nocturnal journeys. We hear birds waking from their naps in the trees. If you rise early enough to hear the bird chorus in its fullness, life itself feels more real and rich.

Those of us that pull on running shoes and put in a few miles before the sun comes up know about these things in an intimate way. When you run alone, there are times when you wish someone else was there to witness these revelations. And yet, it is a gift of heaven here on earth that the world can seem perfectly composed for our appreciation and understanding.

It is my contention that faith itself is dependent on appreciation of this connection. When Jesus teaches about spiritual concepts he frequently uses examples from nature to illustrate his points. In my book The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age, I wrote that understanding the entire bible depends on these roots of organic fundamentalism. It is the symbolism of nature that conveys concepts such as the tree of knowledge, the river of life and the yeast in the dough that teaches us how faith can grow.

So it’s not just a circumstance of life’s rhythms that so many people rise early to run, ride or swim. The difficulty of rising from bed at such an early hour is a gift of strife. God does not promise that we’ll all sail through life without difficulty. It is often the toughest parts of existence that form our character in important ways. These experiences can be revelatory. It’s what we seek in events from 5Ks to Ironmans. The struggle that reveals the human spirit.

I recall a moment during an intense period of training in college when my college roommate Dani Fjelstad got me up from sleep to run an 8-miler before our first class at 8 a.m. Dani is one of the most disciplined people I’ve ever met, and my training with him brought me to a fitness equal to second man on the squad much of the season.

Together we ripped through those eight miles together without a word. Just the sounds of September birds muttering through the yellowing leaves. Our footstrikes kicked up puffs in the dry dirt. Then we rolled back through our quiet college campus to the dormitory, a shower and then a quick breakfast at the Union.

We half-jogged across the campus quad to the old building just in time for our 8 a.m. class in Anthropology.

Our instructor was a brilliant man named Clark Mallam, whose research on the mound builders of northeast Iowa helped led to the establishment of Effigy Mounds National Monument, a sacred space on the bluffs of the Mississippi overlooking Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. This is where early Americans created mounds in the shape of animals to commemorate the human connection to the earth.

As we walked into Anthropology, Clark winked at us and watched us sit down. Then he turned to the class and said something on this order. “Good morning everyone. I want to share something with you before we begin. As I drove to class this morning I saw two young men out training on the road. Dani and Chris here were getting miles in before today’s classes. How far did you guys run this morning?”

Dani quietly stated, “Eight miles. 6:30 pace.”

Clark gave that remark a moment to sink in. “These guys are up before class every day running like that,” he said. “I know it, because I see them every morning on the way to class. It’s what makes you good, right?”

We both shook our heads yes. And with that he swung into teaching the class. I’ve always thought it significant that an anthropology teacher made that acknowledgment. He knew the sacrifice going on, the dedication it took to rise so early. Later I’d see our Anthropology professor standing on the sidelines during the All American Cross Country Invitational our school hosted on campus.

It is the study of human nature, I believe, that calls us all back to nature. Connecting those dots leads us even deeper into the mystery of existence. You don’t have to read the Bible to find connections to the miraculous cycle of life available to us every day. But if you do, keep an eye open to the metaphorical foundations of scripture. Our words and metaphors playfully and yet significantly interact with all of creation. And there you can find God if you look, and the spirit of evolution as well. I believe there is no conflict between the two.

Sunrise 2Skip the labels for a moment and think to a moment when you’re up early. You might be driving to a swim practice at a local pool, or clipping in for a ride through an early morning mist. You might be running through your neighborhood when a coyote or fox cuts across the street in furtive wanderings. You realize that despite all appearances at times, you are not alone in this world. Nor disconnected. You are neither superior or inferior to the blue jay calling its mates from the trees. You are simply an early riser trying to make the most of the day. And whether it is a call to prayer that you feel moved to engage, or a conference call with colleagues, your mind is opened to an entire universe of possibilities when you are through with your workout.

Early risers really do get the worm. The organic truth of that paradigm is that you understand at some level that worms literally make the earth, and you are not separate from it. You may run across its surface, or ride over the ground as if you were flying like a swallow, or swimming like a fish. These elements are part of you, and you are part of them. That’s your real carbon footprint. From the ashes of time you have come, and to ashes you will go in due time.

But first and first again you will rise and call the day into being. It will answer, and you can converse at will, given enough awareness. Early risers have a head start on that process. You must know that for all the difficulty, grace itself awaits you. Go run. Go ride. Go swim.

But go.

werunandridelogo

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Back to school

IMG_1299When the light begins to change in August and kids head back to school, ancient instincts rise within the mind. For those of us that competed in running and the fall sport of cross country, these August days smell and taste of hard effort and tw0-a-day workouts.

It was always confusing to be going “back to school” when cross country always started earlier than the actual school year. There was such freedom in those early practices, running without the burden of classes to hold you back.

Yet the reminders were there. In high school we’d gather in that creaky old locker room and change into our jocks and shorts along with shoes issued by the program. Then we’d head out for a half-hearted stretch on the grass behind the football stadium and go run our asses off for an hour or more.

Down on the football field were the supposed real warriors of the gridiron. They’d be dressed in full pads and grunting through workouts in the heat. At the end of practice they’d pile back into to locker room all sweaty and greased with dirt and we got the hell out of their way.

Joyously we’d pile into the showers after our workouts and sing our way through several rounds of song by The Who, the Doobie Brothers, Chicago or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

“But you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking…and racing around to come up behind you again…the sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older, and shorter of breath, and one day…closer to death…”

Little did we know those songs and that period of music would remain at the forefront of culture for the following four decades. Yesterday at our local Panera Bread I watched a kid that was obviously a freshman or sophomore in high school walk in the door wearing a tee shirt from the 70s group Boston. We still see Led Zeppelin shirts and Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Stones.

The more things change

10703754_10152865040451095_3933546903019467610_nAs a result, the kids walking into high schools these days don’t look much different than we did 40 years ago either. That holds true especially for the skinny kids going out for cross country. It’s still the hair flying back, the half-awkward strides and the focus in the eyes that seems to drive these kids along, and always has.

They still tend to come from the bookish end of the spectrum. Last weekend I stopped to pet a dog during the middle of a 12-mile run while my running partners visited the restroom. The dog’s owner started asking about our running, and it turned out his kids ran cross country for the same program I did. “Four of the top five runners are now doctors,” he informed me. “I always appreciated that the cross country team encouraged the kids to pay attention to their grades.”

Making grades

Well, I wish that could be said for everyone in the program over time. I struggled with some subjects in school due to inattention and flat out stubbornness. So the joy of running always seemed to be balanced by the dread of an unfinished homework assignment or a pending test.

At some point I missed a test on the subject of genetics in Advanced Biology because of an afternoon cross country meet. To make up the test, I  had to head out into the hall for a period to take the exam. I knew going in that I did not recall the subject well. My brain did not grasp the Xs and Os of genetics well. I don’t recall if I needed that grade to stay eligible for running but it felt like a lot of pressure at the time. So I fashioned a crib sheet out of notebook paper and brought it out into the hall with me.

Window 1There was just one problem. The biology teacher was actually a birding friend of mine and he knew me pretty well. As I sat there sneaking looks at the crib sheet to get answers for the test, he stood behind me watching the process and no doubt snickered at my awful attempt at academic credibility. “Well, if it isn’t the Furtive Nutscratcher,” he finally intoned over my shoulder. I jumped out of my skin and handed over the crib sheet. “I can’t believe you did that,” he scolded. Then he left me in that raw, empty hallway to suffer in genetic distress over my incapacity to memorize certain types of information.

Schoolyard dreams

But it wasn’t because I did not like to learn. Other subjects I gobbled up ferociously, and reading was absolutely precious to me. Before one cross country meet against an important team, I was immersed in an amazing book called The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. It chronicled the pursuit of those rare raptors by a denizen of the moors and mountains in Great Britain. That book took my mind off the nerves and I went on to run one of the best races of my life.

That was an interesting lesson in the relativity of thought. What was it about the dissociative power of that book enabled my mind to run so freely? As a generally anxious kid I was often so nervous before races it was hard to control my guts. Yet somehow that day I floated into competition both determined and relaxed.

Human nature

CudworthEnglertThat was a lesson so important in life that no amount of actual schooling could ever teach it. It had to be re-learned many times, but that’s the nature of many things about human nature. We’re going Back to School all the time.

That inevitably stokes some memories along the way. It’s easy to beat yourself up for having to re-learn some things in life. But then you see those kids with the Boston and Beatles tee shirts on and you realize that it’s human nature to have to make mistakes and learn from them. You can tell a kid (especially your own) a thousand ways what’s the right thing to do and they’ll still go out and screw it up out of sheer stubborn will. And you have to let them do that. We all go back to school every day.

Yet it’s the light and the smell and the feel of August that makes us recall that we’re all alive and going through life at a pace that, while it often changes, also stays magically the same. We are neither faster or slower than we need to be. We just are. And August tells us that every time it comes around. It’s time to go Back to School.

werunandridelogo

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A successful experiment with the Waterford bike

WaterfordA while back I wrote about the difficulty I’ve been having at the competitive level in duathlons and triathlons getting good results in the bike segment. No matter how hard I rode on my Felt 4C, or how I managed to stay in “the drops,” I was still losing two to three minutes to my competitors.

And that did not make me happy.

So a couple weeks back something happened that stoked a move to upgrade my cycling situation. My daughter was cleaning out the Toyota Matrix I once owned and found a conversion stem that I’d purchased three years ago to fix the configuration on the Waterford racing bike my brother-in-law had bequeathed to me because he does not ride or race anymore.

Classic bike

It was a wonderful gift, to be sure. But I was a bit frozen on how to use it with respect. Right away there were several offers made for the bike. Real cyclists know that the steel framed Waterford line is beyond classic in feel, control and even speed. My brother-in-law raced that bike to a Category 3 level and rode 40K in under an hour. That’s 24mph if you don’t want to do the math.

So the bike is fast. Heavier than some carbon bikes today, for sure. But this Waterford was the pinnacle of racing machines at one point. Bikes like that never really go out of style.

I’d purchased the conversion stem and it somehow got wedged down in the fold between the seats and back and disappeared. Then life intervened in many ways and I was riding the Felt happily enough.

Test runs

But I’d taken the Waterford up and down the street on many occasions and marvel at how smooth it rides. One of my best friends is a longtime cyclist who knows my brother-in-law and raced against him. My buddy is also a great bike mechanic. So I asked him if he’d be willing to work on the Waterford and turn it into an aero machine for my time trial efforts.

Waterford 2I meant this as a philosophical as well as mechanical question. One does not mess around with a Waterford without giving the issue some thought. But I’d had four years to think it through. What I want to do is race the bike in criteriums and also use it for time trials including those in the middle of triathlons and duathlons.

So for $130 I purchased a nice set of clamp-on triathlon bars that form a triangle off the front of the bike. Jack agreed this was a respectful (and respectable) way to use the Waterford for these purposes. The bars can always be taken off when I want to race in local criteriums. In fact that is a requirement. You can’t race crits with tri-bars on the bike.

I brought along a couple beers as Jack worked on my Felt a couple weeks back, which had a creak in the crank, so to speak, that needed attention. I paid him for that work and he smiled and said, “That’s enough to cover them both.” And I left the Waterford with him to install new bars, the aero setup and some new tape as well.

Returning a week later, it was a treat to see the bike setup.

Getting fit

With some experimentation on the fit I got comfortable in aero and took it out for a ride yesterday afternoon. The wind was blowing hard from the northwest, and I tucked down in aero and noticed right away a different sensation from riding on the hoods or drops on the Felt.

In fact I imagined myself competing in a time trial as they do in the Tour. Stay low. Push a decently big gear. Use the full pedal stroke.

And so it went. And then on the return trip there came a segment where last spring my companion Sue and I hit it hard to see how fast we could travel from Green Road to Bliss on Main Street in Batavia. We averaged a solid 25mph.

Yesterday I did nearly the same pace, missing my best time by only two seconds.

Waterford 3

Results

Aero works. I could feel the clean movement through the air. The classic spokes on the Waterford were whirring like a Ferris Wheel hopped up on coke. I was flying, in other words. I really felt like I was flying.

The bike fit was remarkably good. All that hurt was a spot on my shoulder after I got home and flopped on the couch to pet the dog. That was dumb, but I was so happy and satisfied it just felt good to stop and appreciate the moment. That was the first real thrill I’ve felt on the bike in a while.

So it feels like respect for the legacy of that bike. I’ve upgraded it to fit my needs while not whoring the thing up. The feel of those aero bars is cool as hell. And the fact that I averaged 19mph on a hilly course on a windy day is a good indicator that in race conditions I can average 22, 23 or 25 mph in a time trial. Maybe even faster depending on the course. I literally felt like there were no limits. That big ring delivers lots of power and the shifting is clean and crisp.

I am psyched.

werunandridelogo

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On race and running

As a teenager recently graduated from high school, I signed on to coach a summer track club in St. Charles, Illinois. The pay was $500 total for the months of June, July and August. There were 80+ kids in the program, including several athletes that went on to win AAU national championships.

We traveled around the state to compete with teams from Moline, Belvidere, Peoria, Chicago and Aurora. Many of the kids on the teams from these Rust Belt towns were black. We sometimes traveled to inner-city track venues as well.

Yet the novelty for our often blonde, blue eyed kids wore off quickly. Because when it came time to compete on the track, there was one purpose in mind. Run your fastest and see if you can beat the kid in the next lane.

Immersion

Our youngest athletes learned much about their competition over the course of those summers. Inevitably the smallest kids found reasons to play together between events. On many hot afternoons it was all one could do to stay hydrated and get out of the sun at those city tracks.

The coaches for the primarily black teams were always big personalities it seems. They would move around the track keeping kids in check all day, organizing relay teams and keeping an eye on the focus of their best athletes.

As a white kid from the suburbs it was enlightening to see this leadership in progress. What I knew of leadership in the black community was from big-world events in the mid-to-late 1960s. I was in grade school when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their hands in black gloves in protest on the Olympic podium. We learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., in school, and we knew that he’d advocated peaceful protest as a means to achieve equality for black people in America. We also knew that he  was assassinated by someone that was afraid of what he had to say. That was my take anyway.

Focus

But those events were a very different thing from witnessing the figure of a black coach running a track program so that kids could compete and improve their lives. You realized there were decisions being made every day that changed the world. It showed that someone cared about every one of those children.

The really fascinating aspect of those summer track meets was the athletes themselves. Being in the company of black children when you’re not accustomed to the culture was enlightening, and the constant creativity, social celebration and engagement stood out for me. Conversations and laughter and sometimes even hard words of criticism or encouragement deepened the sense that something very important was going on. It encouraged me to be more focused in my own coaching.

And it also made me wish I knew these people better.

Roomies

So that when it came time for college it was no big transition for me to room with a black teammate. The mid-1970s were a highly transitional time at Luther College, with perhaps no more than 100 black students on campus. At an Iowa school in the cornfields, you really could not expect much more. It was no doubt a culture shock just to drive the 6.5 hours from Chicago to Decorah, Iowa. So these were courageous people I knew.

At some level I understood the notion of being a stranger in a strange land. I’d been the minority at those city meets and had come to realize that it is the human connections that matter in all situations, not race. So during my track season at Luther I roomed on track trips with a great guy named Ron Bolden who hailed from the deep inner city of Chicago.

I don’t share this to aggrandize myself as some racially astute individual. All I know is that when the door to friendships have been opened, I have walked through. And many days I do my best to open those doors by looking people straight in the eye and greeting them as another human being. That’s what any of us can do, and should.

Walking through doors

To society’s persistent credit, in many places our formerly lily-white suburbs and schools are becoming more racially integrated. Many in these new generations of kids coming through the schools no longer see race among friends. It simply doesn’t matter. Indian. Asian. Black. White. Latino. Friends.

Frankly, it almost always comes down to one or two things that start a friendship. If someone listens to you that is one important aspect of friendship. And if they can make you laugh, they’re you’re friends forever.

Portals

Track and running are simply portals to those key elements of friendship. When you compete with someone on a team, you naturally share thoughts and laughter during training and competition. Race together and race disappears.

When you compete against someone, you also share an experience. Sooner or later you might approach that person and say, “Nice race.” It’s a show of respect. Or perhaps they show that respect to you.

We should all remember that respect is the foundation for all human connections, and sports should teach respect.

Plus everyone seems to love an underdog, and that one lone black athlete in the Tour de France is someone for whom you cannot help but root. And on the day that they make a breakaway, staring tradition right in the eye, you find yourself crying at the joy of someone stretching the boundaries and breaking free from expectations and limitations.

If only this process were not limited by the ugly anchors of politics or religion, the human race might actually have a chance at respect––and love even––for all.

werunandridelogo

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There’s a party going on right here

The morning after a party requires a bit of domestic forensic examination. There is a forgotten salad on the counter mixing it up with the microbes of the universe. Large bowls of Flaming Hot Cheetos and Fritos sit uncovered. A bit of Glad Cling Wrap solves that.

11951166_10204932967260195_8359790280938029599_nCans of half-finished Coke and Miller High Life Lite perch on the counter. As a party wears on, the will to finish such things begins to thin. Full cans still sit in the coolers outside. You think to yourself, “Who’s going to drink that now?”

But it will happen.

Perhaps most humorous is the appearance of the Fannie May chocolate sampler on the kitchen counter. Those little brown candy holders look so violated while the few remaining bits of chocolate huddle beneath the wrappers as if they were victims of war trying to escape the inevitable.

So I pick one up and eat it with a chocolaty morning relish, because that’s what party hosts are supposed to do. You browse your way through the carnage and pick up bits of edible things without a trace of guilt. You are the master of your post-party domain.

Good reasons to party

The occasion was the 50th birthday of my companion Sue. Several weeks ago when I mentioned the idea of a party for her birthday her eyes brightened. That was enough

Sue (center) with her sister Julie Dunn (left) and Anne de Traglia. All are triathletes.

Sue (center) with her sister Julie Dunn (left) and Anne de Traglia. All are triathletes.

motivation to make it happen. She’s been in deep training for the Wisconsin Ironman and there have been a few nights when the light was barely showing in her eyes. That’s because her eyes were generally closed after the hour of 9 pm. A half glass of wine and a foot rub will do that when you’re engaged in hard training for an Ironman.

The race is just three weeks away now. So it’s time to taper and get ready.

So the party came on the heels of a pretty big weekend for Sue that included a 17-mile run on Saturday and a 5-hour bike ride on Sunday.

The GirlsA moving party

I ran with her for 11 miles of the 17 on Saturday. She looked comfortable and confident and felt good. She even ran the last two miles in the low-9:00 range, a good sign that her endurance is there. She also had two training buddies join her for the run.

We paused for a mid-run drink and a photo at the northern end of the run in St. Charles. With the Hotel Baker forming a backdrop, it looks like the girls are out for a run in some exotic foreign city. Turns out a party is wherever you make it.

In many respects every run and ride you do is a form of party. Rather than drinking booze and eating Cheetos, you’re downing salty sports drinks and gobbling Gu packs. But it’s a party nonetheless.

Are you going to try to tell me the gals in this picture don’t look like they’re in the middle of a party? It’s just a 17- mile party. And sure it hurts at times. You get tired. But I’ve also been to plenty of other parties where it actually hurts and you get tired. Yet you turn around and brag about it the next day.

Party tents

Unfortunately, I missed the Sunday bike ride entirely. Sue joined up with a group of fellow Ironman athletes for a ride through the dank, misty morning. But the sun broke through at 10 a.m. and the day turned beautiful just like the weatherman said it would.

Cinnamon rollKnowing that there was still a bunch of prep to do for the party, I went to church early and then grabbed a guilty cinnamon roll on the way home. Then it was time to set about final cleanup and organization of the house and yard for the party.

The first thing that had to happen was the disassembly of the white party tent I’d left out in the elements since the 4th of July. See, I like to have at least a couple parties every summer. In summers past I’ve left the pop-up tent outside for weeks and it was fine. But this year the rain pummeled us in July, and that caused big dips in the nylon canvas that put a strain on the seams and from there it just got ugly.

So I took the thing apart one last time and it will go out to the curb for the metal gleaners to pick up and recycle. We’ve had that tent since the mid-1990s. It has lived a long and fruitful life and has seen everything from soccer tournaments to graduations. But it’s useful life is over.

Making things pretty

11889613_10204932967420199_8648756169181518670_nThe rest of the party prep involved yard work and clipping the scraggly parts of the garden back. A few mums got planted and a big heap of phlox was harvested and placed in a vase under the Jose Cuervo umbrella.

These things matter, you see. Parties are all about making quiet little statements of greeting and love. But honestly, they’re also about cleaning the crap up that gathers around all the seams of domestic life. From toilet detritus and dust on the porcelain to sweeping up flecks of dog food that migrate around the kitchen, it’s all about showing that you’re neat enough to care.

Life is one long party

So much of life is like that. One of the toughest things you must learn in taking on the triathlon is how to be organized in transition. Otherwise you’ve got this crazy little party IMG_0932going on every time you return to change from one sport to the other.

By all reports the transition tents for women at the Ironman are a relatively organized affair. Most of the contestants have a plan and get naked only when they need to be. Then they move on and out for the ride or the run.

But many of the men, apparently, are balls out half the time and a major mess at that. “Oh, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a transition tent for men at an Ironman,” my friend Maxine, a leading triathlete and volunteer at the Madison race once told me. “It’s quite a scene.”

Good parties and bad

 So there are good types of parties and also bad.

Of course bad parties can be really good too.

I recall a wild party following a LaCrosse Half Marathon in which most of the men and women at the party wound up wandering around the house drunk and naked or least half-naked and half drunk. That was a bad party that was really, really good. I woke up hung over to witness a comely young lass stepping over my sleeping position. She wore nothing under her oversized tee shirt and all I could think at the moment was some kind of weird pirate thoughts. “Yo ho!” I muttered.

Then we all got up and ran 10 miles nearly as fast as we’d raced the day before. Which for me was 1:10:50 for the half marathon on a hilly-assed course in Wisconsin. And that, my friends, was a party weekend not to forget.

We like to party

11947450_10204932967060190_391518101286961288_nAthletes simply love to party when they get the chance. With all that training and dedication there is nothing like a party to release a little tension. And of course it often doesn’t take much to get a skinny, overtrained athlete drunk. A few glasses of wine or a bunch of beers and away we go.

People used to come to our college cross country party just to watch the skinny crazies go nuts. You never know what might happen. I’m pretty sure some of the anthropology students did some sort of dissertation on that annual event.

Partying with a purpose 

11899770_10204932786895686_7541094398027786076_nOf course the degree to which parties do or do not get out of control are directly related to the purpose for the party. A birthday party for my girlfriend was more about sharing than daring. That made the group of thirty or so friends all the more interesting, because they came from all walks and elements of our lives.

There were triathlon teammates, friends and family. We introduced and shared these associations. Some just shook their heads at tales of the crazy training Sue has done this summer. But most told her that turning 50 was not all that bad. And it’s true.

Party fixings

11225349_10204932966620179_8569137128825084643_nThe beer flowed and the wine poured. Then massive piles of pizza showed up and Portillo’s salads filled the bowls. A fresh breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay and people fairly enjoyed themselves in my happy little yard with a garden formed of care and serendipity. There could be no better use of a Sunday afternoon.

I stood back at one point and smiled. It makes me happy when people get together. And all I could think to myself was one simple thought: “There’s a party going on right here.”

And it was good.

werunandridelogo

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It takes courage to go slow sometimes

One of the principal lessons in distance training over the years came in the most unexpected way. I had moved out to the Philadelphia area for work when I was 23 years old, and went looking for a group of running partners in the area. Fortunately there was a shop called The Runner’s Edge about three blocks from my house in Paoli.

The shop had a running team composed of about 20 guys. Women’s running had not yet taken off the way it operates today, but there were a few gals that joined us for occasional training runs.

Feeling my oats

IMG_7618The club had many very good runners. Several had 10K times in the low 29:00 range. My PR at the time was 32:20. Given the disparity in ability, I thought it would be a lot of work to keep up with them.

That first run with the group I started out at 6:30 pace thinking they’d soon pass me by. But when I looked back and saw them far behind, it startled me. “Huh,” my grand little ego thought for a moment. “They must not be as good as they say.”

So I slowed and let them catch up. “What’s up with you?” one of them asked. “Why are you starting out so fast?”

I stammered for an answer. Someone in the group chuckled a little. “Chill out dude. We’ve got 20 miles to run. And at mile 17, we’re going to pick it up to 5:00 pace. If you can still go fast then, have at it.”

Fast results from going slow

So we fell into 8:00 pace and trotted along talking and joking. And when mile 17 came around, the group increased its pace and finished with a time that for many runners would have been a PR for 5K. And that, I learned, is how good runners really trained.

Within a month my PR dropped another 20 seconds in the 10k. And by the next year I had taken a minute off my time at 31:10. All because I had the courage to go slow sometimes.

Modern art

Is going slow a forgotten art? I don’t think so. It’s more likely true these days that runners and cyclists don’t do enough of the other extreme. Fast interval work and hard, criterium-like rides are critical aspects of getting faster. You can’t skip those steps either, or you will never gain in racing speed.

So those are the balancing points of training. One must also still go slowly enough in training to build a deep endurance base. Then you build off that with speed to get faster in racing. It’s that simple.

Tripping along

IMG_7179Yesterday my body demanded that I go slowly because I’m increasing my training volume. So I tripped along at just over 10:00 pace, which I used to consider something less than running. To be honest, I’ve always been something of a running snob about pace. But that was always insecurity, not wisdom. When you’re trying like heck to get faster, especially as a young endurance athlete, it doesn’t seem to make sense to go slowly. What we wind up doing is not good for the body. We do a pace that is “semi-hard” everyday. Not slow enough to build baseline endurance, but not fast enough to get real speed benefits from the workout. That’s a dumb middle ground.

Rolling through time

In cycling that’s almost always what I do. It’s a really bad habit. But when you get home and find your average pace is 17 mph and you consider that too slow because you see others riding at a faster pace on Strava (or whatever) there’s this weird driving force that makes you want to go faster. So this spring I did not use either Strava or a cyclometer. I just rode. If I felt good and went faster, all fine. But if I needed to ride 10 miles into the wind at whatever pace I could manage, I did that too.

Slow ride

Going half fast all the time is a bad habit in all phases of life. I mean, having sex is not a good thing if all you do is jump on and pound away at the same old pace every time you have at it. Seriously, sometimes it’s really good to take it slow. In the words of the group Foghat… Slow ride….take it easy…I’m in the groove, the rhythm is right…Move to music… we can go all night…

There’s a lesson in that.

Getting loopy

Ride In CloseupIt paid to ride the bike at a sane pace while touring last weekend in Wisconsin. My girlfriend’s bike was busted and her loaner didn’t fit, so we were forced to ride the Ironman loop course at a much slower pace than usual. So I did what was best and just took in the scenery. It was enjoyable and we still covered 50 miles of very hilly terrain.

Too often it is a “head-down” approach we take to riding in such beautiful places. So I studied the hills and valleys. Took a look up the road and behind as well. I felt the terrain as we climbed, and trained rather than strained.

Toward the end a rainstorm came over us and we got a little wet. So we put on the brakes before reaching the downhill sections because our bikes would have hurtled ahead without us if we had not done so. I laughed at the water from my girlfriend’s back tire rooster-tailed into my face. It felt good. We were riding at whatever pace we could find. On the flats we went a little faster. And that was that.

Working it out

I told her, “You rode an equivalent to 80 miles in that 50. Without a bike fit you were working much harder than normal.” For a while she wasn’t having fun. But once she realized there was nothing to do about it we all relaxed a little and rode through the gathering summer heat until the rain cooled us off. It was almost like we were standing still and the road was passing under us like one of those movie scenes where the characters are in the car and the road is being projected on a screen behind us.

Stick to the plan

IMG_1165It takes courage to go slow sometimes. So you need to plan it into your schedule and stick by your goals. Ride 50 or 100 miles and don’t try to push it. Let that four-miler be your recovery day. Your legs and body need it. Swim and don’t try to kill yourself. Practice the finer points of your stroke and think about that body rotation and how it propels you through the water.

Going slow is really a matter of getting over yourself. Our precious egos make us think that ramming along is making us better every day, but really, that’s not the case. If you must, turn off the Strava and tune into the day.

Digitized

Forget about segments or kudos. Like so many I fall for that crap on occasion too. On Tuesday or Wednesday night I had a really good run with an average pace of 8:00 per mile. It felt great, but when I looked at Strava and saw all the people I follow had run faster, I was bummed out. Suddenly my 7:30 mile and 24:00 5K in the middle didn’t look so good.

And how stupid is that? It’s also being too chicken to admit that perhaps I’m not the runner I once was. So you see, it takes courage to go slow sometimes. Because it takes courage to appreciate who you really are. And that might not be who you think you are.

werunandridelogo

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