Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Beneath the skin.

What really lies beneath?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I've been trying to kickstart my training.

Am I a runner with layers of procrastination and self loathing and corporal excess? Or am I just someone who wanted to fit in and painted my skin with the bleached complexion of a triathlete? Perhaps I am something else? Some atavistic nuance that I missed along the way. A philatelist? A humanist? A unicycling xenophobe on two wheels? Whatever it is, it was never stamped on me.

So I have wandered, sometimes aimlessly, trying to find my place. Focusing energy on what is important, family and all the emotional, materialistic and intrinsic intricacies integral to maintaining that organism's health. For a while this was contrary to the health of my organism.

Starting to move. Swimming, biking and running changed that. I could do both. In so doing, I found a third dimension and a spiritual calmness that may only be experienced by an endurance athlete or someone in forced isolation - both of which amount to basically the same thing.

Yesterday was the first day of winter. Things are frozen. Excesses of the past can be covered and forgotten for months, be it by the metaphor of pristine snow, or by the equally concealing layering of winter clothing.

But instead of covering, I must scrape down. Past the ice and the cold and the procrastinating excuses I must find what really can emerge from this body of flesh, bone, muscle, fat and most of all, infinitely limited time.

What lies beneath is potential. The challenge will not be swim 4k or bike 180 or run 42, but to remove the layers without breaking the core - or the spirit.

The real race will be to cross every finish line with a little more in me than what I started with.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Remembering to not forget.

Training in December, when the temperature ridicules me at -49C windchill, is all about remembering old patterns.

I forgot that. I forgot the energy I could create and the feelings I could dissipate by doing some very simple drills.

Yeah, they hurt. Yup, it is a pain to run indoors. Is it embarrassing to be goose stepping around a bunch of teenagers and elliptically committed adults? You bet! And I can't even spell machs...mocks...mawks?

Still. Remember how good it felt to finish the workouts? Remember how prepared I felt wading into the water or getting off the bike. I trained for that transition. I trained in the depths of insanely cold winter so that I can concentrate on doing the race, not worrying about whether I could finish or not!

And even when I found myself so cramped up that I wanted to cry, it was never a question of not finishing. It was always about damage control, or dealing with temperature, or how long to walk backwards until my quads came back on line.

Waking up to -49C windchill, I forgot about all this.

It took a phone conversation with an ancient friend to remind me. She reminded me that in 1976, I wanted to be just like Bruce Jenner.

She reminded me that even though I was on the fast track for field stardom, at least in shotput, the politics of amateur athletics suffocated my dreams. I wasn't allowed to defend my gold medal.

She reminded me to remember the curiosity I once had lighting fires everywhere in me and, once too often, around me.

It is that curiosity that made me relearn to swim and do a first ever sprint triathlon.

It is that curiosity that made me first ask: "what happens when I push that?"

So what will happen when I push myself to train a little harder in December to March?

I'll see the difference at the beach at Ironman, in the transitions and in the quiet moments where there is no noise but my footfalls.

I'll not forget to remember!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Finding my euphoria.

There's some words that we use around here. I can't remember who was the first to use them, but they are nonsensical to some and perfectly clear to others.

"If you want to go fast...you have to go fast".

I've been in the doldrums for a few months now. Working through various colds and the flu, struggling with a baffling calf injury, dealing with sick family and now the cold. -42 cold that grips me by the throat and doesn't let go. Even when summer finally slips in unannounced, the cold always lingers...everytime I see see gloves or balaclava or asthma medication...I remember the season that will always return.

This was the season I was going to become a marathon runner. The year that I would increase my mileage and finally consider myself a runner - as a opposed to an Ironman who's managed to get through the run.

Lots of excuses went into this abdication. But most of all, what went into it was the forgetting. The forgetting of how good, how euphoric this exercise stuff is.

Last night I remembered.

Running indoors, I did my usual 30 minutes at an unremarkable pace.
Then I stretched. 40 minutes getting out every last bit of pent up tightness in that damned calf.

I decided to remember what it felt like to go fast. Getting back on the track I did a lap, then took a deep, tentative breath and did 100 metres faster than I have run since last summer. Rounding the turn I ramped it up.

I ran faster than I've run in years. I could feel myself loosing peripheral vision...I wondered about what was deciding where my feet were landing. I saw these odd shadows where my arms should be moving to a long forgotten rhythm. There was music in my ears, but I'm not sure if it was from my ipod's playlist or not.

I ran fast, really fast for 100 metres. And nothing could wipe the smile from my face.

I'm starting to climb up from where I was.

I've found my runphoria!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Waiting is part of the transition


There's a lot of waiting in life.

From the moment of conception until someone turns the lights out permanently, it seems like we are always waiting for someone or something, or even ourselves to make something happen.

Take right now.
I'm waiting for the cold/flu sickness-thing to be purged from my body.
I've been waiting for days.

Not quite sure what I'm waiting for.


To feel better perhaps.
Or, I'm waiting for my T-cells to fight off the attacker - or less likely, give up the ghost and turn out my lights.

But, and here's the rub. I'm not really waiting.
I'm multitasking. I'm taking medicine, drinking fluids, resting, writing this blog, thinking about how I'm going to spring back, wondering about dinner...

I'm doing stuff.

Even if I'm immobile in bed, feeling sorry for myself, I'm still going forward - or thinking back and using that to look forward (as how good I felt last time I started to feel better after a cold).

So for the anxious triathlete waiting for the season to start, I ask: "when did the season ever end?"

Every day not training is a day preparing somehow for the very first time your hair gets that familiar and now comforting smell of chlorine.

Every day that you drive by a runner, you wonder when you can pull on your own shoes and feel the aches of the first few miles melt away to a middle distance bliss.

Every day you walk past your bike, hanging and lonely in the basement is one less day before you'll be back on that saddle and moving your feet in the circle of life - triathlete style.

This isn't waiting at all. It's all race prep.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Looking forward from the depths of a cold.

I'm sick.
Not the kind of sick that deserves any sympathy.
Just a miserable cold, or flu or something.

From this vantage point, shivering and feeling sorry for myself, I find it easy to look forward.

Ahead of me I see a third Ironman. A race where my run is not something that I just get through, but, part of the race that I actually race.

A race where the hills on the bike are no more challenging than the wind I see everyday on the prairies.

I'm looking at my limiters: speed, technique, climbing, body weight.

And balance. Always balance family and work and multisport.

I see this quite clearly.
But it could be the fever talking.