Friday, 19 February 2010

Cell phones on Race Day.

So they have passed this new law here.
Drivers can't talk on the phone or text while they drive. Not a bad idea. I've seen too many drivers - especially as a cyclist and runner - not even notice me because they where on their mobile devices, concentrating on where to find the @.

Although there are huge fines and demerit points for those that get caught, it is next to unenforceable other than at spot check kind of situations. I still think it is a good idea and will, eventually take hold like it has in some parts of Europe - not because it is illegal, but because it is just wrong to be holding a phone and driving.

But then there is the frustration. You know how locked doors only keep honest people out. Well. Every so often, I get a call or text while on the road. And it is really not possible to pull over and stop.

This happened today while I was driving with Second Born. I quickly recruited her into reading the text and answering. It worked really slick.

But as with all unrelated things this incident got me thinking about endurance sports and what draws me to the longer distances.

I'm an age grouper. I'm not aiming to podium or FOP and sometimes MOP turns into BOP. That is clear. But even though I wont likely jump to the Front Of the Pack, I'm still in these races to finish and to finish standing, upright, smiling and hopefully, at least a little, breathless.

In the car, I had Second Born do my work for me. In some shorter events, MOPs can just show up and race and be done. Training is secondary little work is really done. Someone else is really doing all the work at their races.

Don't get me wrong, the contenders in these races, even those cursed with balsa wood bones and lightening speed, train and train hard. Some, however, just do a little running and stuff a few weeks before the race and get by with that. And that's fine, but it is like making the destination the most important part of the journey.

Can't do that for an iron distance race. You just can't phone it in. You have to start training early, you have to train hard and you have to train smart. No one can do this for you.

If you show up unprepared, you will end up at the side of the road seeing the inside of your stomach convulsing in the open air right in front of your bulging eyes.

As for me, I like to finish races. I love to finish races, it means I can rest. The races themselves? Well...

What motivates me is seeing my progress through the months of training. Pushing myself more and more every week, then resting. Then pushing harder.

The destination is not the race, the destination is what I can achieve through the training. The six hour solitary bike ride to nowhere and back is the journey that will get me there.

The four hour run - just to see if I can do it - is just one of the signposts. The soup├žon of chlorine on my skin is the tattoo.

I just signed up for a bunch of short races to prime my training as I work towards the Marathon and Ironman I have have planned this season.

I'm not looking forward to getting up even earlier to get in the training before my family misses me. But I am yearning for the euphoric jolt I get as the training takes hold and that quiet confidence fills me on race day.

I won't be phoning anything in, except maybe the news that I didn't drown when I call my mother after the race.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Deviant Triathletes

Recently, after a visit to the doctor and some conversations with athletic and non-athletic friends I started thinking a lot about deviance.

Now deviance is not anything new to me, I've leaned left centre and right of left and below the horizon in one way or another since I figured out what rules were. Others have called it going against the grain, or trendsetting, or even being an anarchist. It is all about being a unique individual, just like everyone else.

But having revelled in the danse macabre a few times, I prefer to look at the unsightly underbelly of zigging when the everyone else is zagging.

That's why I always visit pawn shops in every new town I find myself in, I like to see what is being traded just below the surface of polite society.

This is where the deviants used to swim. Increasingly though, there has been a sea change of what is normal and what is not.

One definition of deviant is: One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behaviour and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.

This definition got me thinking about triathletes, especially Iron ones and other endurance athletes.

Where I live I'm surrounded by endurance athletes and Iron folk. I know dozens of them. The training and the dedication and the commitment to this kind of lifestyle is normal in this group.

But take one sidestep into polite society - at work or with extended family and, all of a sudden, I become the sideshow freak; the fodder for conversation and the source of disbelief as I go swimming at lunch time, instead of visiting the buffet.

In the news media and the popular infotainment media we are starting to get more images of people doing extreme things - including endurance sports. From basejumping to extreme surfing, tv viewers are seeing images of people engaged in untraditional activities in High Def. Swimming and biking and running - especially in lava fields is high on the list of these extremities.

Meanwhile, these same news and infotainment medias are also demonstrating how normal people are choosing to live and behave. Think Biggest Loser or the countless reports of obesity and the unbelievable wealth of the diet/weightloss industry.

Every day a new report seems to be published claiming that one ailment or another is caused by sitting too much or watching too much TV or eating any processed food.

It seems, in my little oxygen deprived mind, that the new normal is the couch sitting, tv watching, binge exercising, overworking, sleep deprived, crap consuming set.

Think of ten friends. How many of them engage in an active, non-sedentary lifestyle?  Think of those that do. It's easy to consider them as freaks when you hear that they get up at five a.m. to run, or swim on a Sunday night or go for a regular walk after dinner.

This brings me back to triathletes. A triathlete does stuff to the extreme. Not one sport, but three. Not one hour a day of exercise but two or four or more!

They eat strange stuff - gels and powdery concoctions and some even cook whole foods from scratch and eschew processed, fried calories from unknown sources.

And the clothes. Well. Every kink has to have a uniform. This one goes from head to toe compressing skin, showing bare bodies, making everything aerodynamic and covering up with colours that may not necessarily appear in nature.

And although triathletes are often solitary and choose to engage in their passion alone, they often come together to compete, to compare training, to purchase new stuff,  and occasionally to mate.

Does this not meet the definition of deviant listed above?

So the conversation with the doctor alluded to above was something like "you have very low BP and heart rate. At your age, I would expect to see you getting older, not younger. It isn't really normal. Do you exercise a lot?" 

So this is how my personal deviance has evolved from its anarchistic roots. There are far more destructive fetishes out there.

Now where did I put those day-glow orange Newton shoes and compression stockings?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Put your ear down close to your sole and listen hard.

I've had a bit of a shoe fetish lately.

Let me explain. I'm at a bit of a crossroad. My beloved NB 768s were "upstyled" with the 769s that just don't fit my wide feet - unless I go to a size that would make Bozo proud

Getting the right shoes has been a bit of an evolution for me. The first "running" shoes that were recommended to me and that I bought when I first started running for distance five years ago were a scary pair of motion control Frankenstein Boots that I wore for maybe two months before realizing that, just because I was "big boned", didn't mean my feet should be nailed to the ground. 

Since that time, I've stuck with one brand and traded off their relative heaviness and homeliness for the wide comfort and reliability they provided. 

It was a couple of months before Ironman Canada last year that I learned of the style and last change in the 768s. I scrambled and found a pair before they were all gone.  

I knew that I would have to start looking for new shoes eventually. This was also, ironically, about that time that I started to develop very tight calves and plantar fasciitis-like symptoms. And to think I've always respected Mr. Peanut. In hindsight, (and from looking at my big butt in the mirror) I think the leg/foot problems originated from a carrying a little too much extra weight.

At the advice of some and the horror of others,  I picked up a pair of Newton guidance trainers at the tradeshow at Ironman Canada in Penticton. Unlike many Newton noobs that I was amazed to look at, broken down at the side of the run course clutching their calves or nursing blisters, I did not wear my new shoes for the race. Nor did I  touch them until IMC was long done and over. 

If you are looking for a review, you won't find it here. Nor will you find a lengthy discussion of the merits of forefoot, midfoot or barefoot running. Although I have wasted many hours reading others' blogs, reports, articles and diatribes on the subject. I think I even had a few naughty dreams that involved thigh-high vibrams, but I digress.

I did start wearing the Newtons - but only indoors - treadmill and track. In the wintry outdoors I'm still wearing my last pair of  the 768s, as I still have a few hundred kms left in them. 

During all this experimentation, I have changed how I run. I wasn't a heel striker before, but I've moved even more of my efforts further to the front on my foot - probably the reason I'm still getting tight calves. 

One of most interesting experiments was running barefoot on the treadmill where I found that I was naturally favouring the front part of my foot - as I had been intellectually favouring with the fancy shoe technology. 
One word of advice to others who want to try this: The blisters start forming after 20 minutes of constant running. 

Everyone should try barefoot running, by the way. It is like running like a kid again. Golf course, beach, treadmill or track...anywhere you won't find glass, nails, snow, ice or lit cigarette butts is good.                                                    But I can't remain a podianudist. I have to start thinking about shoes. I have my first half marathon of the season in April and will be attempting my first ever marathon in late May - yes I ran the marathon in several IMs but that doesn't count does it?

I'll have to wait until the snow melts before I can get some serious distance on my Newtons before I make a decision on them. But I'll have to look at some other options. I hear that there might be a few other shoe companies out there that make shoes for wide feet. Maybe Newtons will be what I go with it is too early to tell.

In the process, my calves need to relax a little and Mr. Plantars Peanut has to get the hell out of my right foot and ankle. 

The snow melt is coming soon and the running mileage is beginning to ramp up. I'm looking deep into my soul, as Anne Sexton advised, and trying to listen to what my feet are telling me. Will this year be year that I evolve into more than just a triathlete who runs...