Thursday, December 27, 2007

Be Contagious

This time of year, with the furnaces fired up and people stuck indoors, we choose (sometimes against our better judgment) to travel across the country and close ourselves up with other travelers. Apparently the purpose of this exercise is to share germs. Even if everyone in your family is completely healthy, there is always that one outlier who acts as a host for some bacterial or viral plague. If you want to know who, just listen for the child with the loose cough and the stuffy nose. Odds are, the old and the infirm and the unlucky will sound like that within the week.

Wash your hands until they bleed and be afraid, be very afraid.

Even though we traveled through two homes in two states with probably two dozen different people in attendance, I think we have made it through the holidays without bringing any unwanted cooties to our home. I, on the other hand, have been the host for a different kind of contagious disorder, and I encourage you to be contagious as well.

This summer, you may have noticed news articles about a Harvard study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study purports to establish that obesity is socially contagious. The study -- the first to examine this phenomenon -- finds that if one person becomes obese, those closely connected to them have a greater chance of becoming obese themselves. If a person you consider a friend becomes obese, your own chances of becoming obese go up 57 percent. Among mutual friends, the effect is even stronger, with chances increasing 171 percent.

But that's only the bad news. The good news is that conquering obesity is also contagious. If you take on healthy habits and maintain a healthy weight, or if you help someone else do it, the effect extends beyond (perhaps far beyond) that one person.

Hopefully, I am becoming contagious in a good way. I mentioned that Mrs. Greyhound, having made friends of my triathlon friends, has caught the disease. My brother has gained a gym membership and lost some lbs. My secretary just joined the greatest health club on the planet for which I am a part time model. And this Christmas, I went to the gym with my dad--to his gym--for the first time ever.

Mom just rolled her eyes at us and generally bitched. She seems immune to the virus.

Who infected you? Who have you infected? Who are you going to infect this year?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Day One

Today is Day One. It is not yet New Year’s day, and I am not making any resolutions. I’ve come not to believe in them because I seldom see them through. Even so, today is Day One.

Today is the beginning. This is the first day of the 25 week Ironman training plan for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, the first week of which is in the sidebar. Day One, Week One, which will already have to be modified to fit around family and Christmas in the way that training always must be modified.

For the pessimist, beginning is a fearful thing. One looks at the goal and only sees all the effort involved and all the opportunities for discipline to flag and for the wheels to fall off en route. Such a person, me in my darker moments, has no use for beginning with grand resolutions. Most such grand designs die from neglect by mid January. Just thinking of all the hours and pain and effort between now and the finish line, I am sometimes unsure whether it is worth it. At other times, I know beyond any doubt that it is.

For the optimist, there is a love for all beginnings. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” The “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The optimistic sloganeer, me in my sunnier moments, holds resolute fingers in the air and even pounds a table or two, resolving that this time things will be different. This time bootstraps will be pulled up and all will be changed. Heady stuff to drink deeply of imaginary finish lines, especially without the sobriety inherent in counting the cost of all that it takes to get there.

I have enjoyed these past weeks of not logging workouts and treating my training time like uncharted play. With no goal, there is no risk of failure, yet no opportunity for success either. I guess a certain part of me needs an Ironman plan or an “A race” to put all the rest of life in some kind of order. It helps put my manic optimist and my depressive pessimist into balance. The optimist gets his grand resolution, but the grand sum of Ironman is made up of many smaller, daily choices that are much less grand and much more mundane.

Ironman is honest, almost brutally so. You can desire the finishing chute with every fiber of your being, but grand resolutions won’t get it done. You have to assemble all the smaller skills. You’ve got to swim. You’ve got to bike. You’ve got to run. You have to assemble the volume, bit by bit over a period of long months. You have to work. You have to rest. You have to eat.. You can’t cheat the training. Either train adequately or you will suffer the consequences. You can’t procrastinate. Either lay the base early or you will have no foundation on which to rely. You can’t cram. Either build the volume gradually or your body will betray you.

People who don’t do Ironman look at this and shake their heads in admiration (or pity), but if they only knew, they might admire quite a bit less than they do. Sure, there is some “iron will” in getting all this done. But when the “iron will” fails, there is also a cold, unrelenting fear of failure to get one out the door. All you have in your control is what you’re supposed to do today. If you waste enough of your todays, your dream dies a slow death. As if you could waste time and not injure eternity. (Thoreau).

What beginning is calling out for you? What small, mundane choice must be made today? It’s exciting, uncomfortable, scary, wonderful, awful. But, it is here. Day One. Let’s begin.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

Again we come to the end of a year. This has been one of the best years of my life. The year included new friends, old friends, a marathon, three half-iron triathlons, an MS150, the triple bypass, and my very first Ironman. More important than the athletic finishes are the changes inside myself that come from the effort. I am different, and that is a good thing.

If I am even coming close to living my "best life," I do feel like it is none of my own doing; rather, it is the doing of the many friends who have encouraged me to go long and exceed my expectations and self-imposed limitations. Many of them are pictured in this slideshow, images of the year that was. To them, and to you, I am profoundly grateful.

Enjoy, and think on your year--both the one behind you and the one that is yet to be. Where will you be next December. Dream big. Go long. Exceed. Excel.

Go play.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Part Time Model

I've written here before how I belong to the best health club on the planet. Well, since Ironman and meeting all the triathlon peeps, Mrs. Greyhound has started working out with Maria Gratia, my first trainer from the club. Maria Gratia is an uber personal trainer who healed up my knee the fall before my fastest ever marathon. Beyond knowing physical therapy and anatomy, she knows the female mind, how it deals with food and what it sees in the mirror. She's had morbidly obese clients lose more than 150 pounds and change their lives.

Now, Mrs. Greyhound does not fall anywhere near that category, but with Maria Gratia's help, she's completely changed as well. Instead of excuses why she doesn't exercise, she's more likely to schedule her day around her exercise. Instead of rationalizing what goes in her mouth, she's more likely to treat her food as fuel. Much of this comes from the inside, but Maria Gratia is able to provide motivation that I cannot. All a spouse can do is cheerlead. If you try to motivate, it just sounds like nagging and actually has the opposite effect.

Well, the upshot of all this is that Mrs. Greyhound got on the club mailing list, which turned out to be kind of funny.

See the other day she received a flyer like this:


The purpose was to encourage her to join the club and get a spa certificate for her trouble. Now, the pictures on the outside are all well and good, but it was the inside that was really calculated to seal the deal. Because inside was this:


Don't you see it? Look closer:


It's the stud muffin she's been sleeping with for the last 18 years. If that doesn't get her in the door, nothing will.

I mean, you'd join, right?

Wait! Don't answer that.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

MWM ISO Flip Turn for a Good Time

This is the point where we return to our regularly scheduled blog and I bemoan (again) the pathetic state of my swim.

Granted, I've become less pathetic over time. When I first started, 25 meters left me winded. I improved my stroke, took some lessons, and worked until I could swim a mile.

Really slowly. Like 2:30 per 100 yds.

Then I joined a masters group and got in the slow lane. I couldn't keep up and had to drop an interval or two in the set just to be able to breathe.

Air is my friend.

Then I got faster and led the senior citizens' lane.

That's not a knock on senior citizens. My two lane buddies are actually in their 60s. One of them kind of gets lost in the complicated sets and has to be reminded what we're doing and how many are left. So, uhm . . . yeah.

Then I did my swim block this fall and got faster still. Today I was running up on the heels of my lane mates if I did not lead the set, and I was lapping them if I did.

So, I gets to thinking, (again with the thinking, will I never learn), "gee, I wonder if I'm ready to move up a lane. Does the coach do that, or do I just do it myself?"

We were swimming hundreds that got progressively harder and faster from some funky kicking, to pulling, to swimming like a house on fire. It was 2350 all told. The next to last set was 4x100 on 1:50. The last set was 2x100 as hard as possible, which I landed in 1:36. (Yay me. I'm not Michael Phelps, but he ain't 41 years old, 5'4" and working at a desk all day either.)

Then coach says, "you might be ready to move up a lane . . .


Ack. I cannot flip turn to save my life and my open turns aren't too spiffy either.

Has anyone out there learned to flip turn as an adult? You freakazoids who have been doing it since you were 6 don't count. I swear I've tried it a bit, and it seems a recipe for hypoxia and water in the schnoz if you ask me. How is it that waterboarding is supposed to make you faster?

I'm ready to move on up, but I gots to find me a flip turn.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

You like me!! You really like me!!!

I've been such a bad blogger in the last week, failing to post and leaving everyone hanging with the guessing game below. So, imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail that I had been selected as one of the top 10 blogs in Team Race Athlete.

Oh my gawd. You like me. You really like me!

Writers write, and I would probably do this whether or not anyone read it. But, you know for a fact that I'm a comment whore, and it really makes my day when someone lets me know that something I wrote was funny or inspirational or meaningful or enjoyable in some way.

It is even more of a treat to be included in the top 10 among bloggers that I love to read. Go and look at the list, subscribe to their blogs, and you won't be disappointed. And while you're there, VOTE FOR ME . . . well, actually vote for your three favorites. For real. Just being included in the number is a kick. So vote however you want.

Now, to reveal the answer to the contest. NOBODY won. Nobody got it exactly right, which is picking out the random fact that is false and the reason that it is false. Liz came the closest.

The false answer is number 6, but not for the reasons any of you assigned to it. Although it might shock some of you, I did have a date to the prom in both my junior and senior years. I don't remember their names (boo me) but they were not both taller than me. One was about my height or a little shorter and (ironically) the other played basketball on the vasity girls team, but was a guard and was way shorter than me (and cute as a bug's ear).

That is all. Hopefully I'll have some training related stuff tomorrow.