Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Irony Ironies

As I begin my third season in the multisport life, there are a number of odd and sometimes ironic I've noticed. Maybe you've noticed some of these too.

1. Can't stay awake in the daytime? Can't stay asleep when you're in bed? You might be a triathlete and you're probably a bit overtrained.

2. Locker rooms? Full of ironies. Men? Not exactly designed for aesthetic appeal. Women? Aesthetic masterpieces. And yet the girly locker room has (I am told) a separate dressing room for each shower, while the men's locker room is full of random, undesired, communal nakedness.

3. More on locker rooms? Plush locker rooms with puffy white towels. And yet the former athletes can't manage to put one around the waist and privatize the junk. Why do I say former athletes? Another irony. The inverse relationship between aesthetic merit and clothing.

Translation: the higher the BMI and the more body hair on a person, the more likely it is they will be buck naked. (This rule apparently holds true in locker rooms, on beaches, wild parties . . . .)

4. I have more gym bags than days of the week, my own locker, and the best locker room in town. So why is my car turning into a locker room complete with dirty socks, discarded clothing, bike helmet, shoes, bike, swim gear . . . and yet I'm a neat freak in the gym locker room.

5. Cars? More oddities. Are you unable to carry a small child in your car? They're not allowed to sit in the front seat because of the airbag. They can't sit in the back because the seats are folded down to transport your bike.

6. And Irony. Why is it that the more fit you are, the more crippled you feel getting up out of a car after a long drive? Do you look forward to a six hour bike and dread a six hour drive? You swim bike and run for 13 or 14 hours and yet would rather have your teeth drilled than be in the car for that long?

If your life is this odd or ironic, you're probably a triathlete.

Monday, January 28, 2008



I don't live very close to where my work and local tri-friends live. And for that matter, there are not hoards of people training for Ironman anyway. So, I wind up spending a lot of time on the weekends all by myself.

Sometimes when I do that, I know that I am not really training hard enough, not really pushing myself, not taking many risks. I'm just putting in the time. That is especially true when I am riding on a trainer. I show up. I usually hit the approximate heartrate zones. But, it almost doesn't feel real if I am the only one who is involved. Sort of like "if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it really make a sound?"

This past weekend was for real. Lisa of Ferrari Flies and Robyn of Iron (who totally needs to get a blog) were coming north of town with a group of HRTC-ers who are training for Ironman Arizona and Ironman CdA.


Lisa, the "skinny jeans" ringleader and her bike, The Silver Streak.

Feel the lust for Robyn of Iron's pinked out bike.

I think this is a first Ironman for both of them, and they are both totally on track to have a strong race. Lucky me, I latched on for the ride with several others, and it was for real.

It was about 41 degrees when we rolled out at 7:30 and very damp. The slate gray cloud cover pressed down and drifted through the pines of the Sam Houston National Forest. Very soon we could not feel our fingers or our toes. There was great conversation to hold off the chill, some fog, cattle, one dog attack, 60+ miles of Texas countryside, and in the last hour, beautiful sunlight. The group of us did an honest to goodness ride with hills and some tempo and a run off the bike.

Of course the best part was not having to wonder if "it really made a sound." I think each of us pressed a little harder during those parts of the ride where we would not have bothered had we been alone. I know I did, and I can feel it today. It was real training with real people that will result in real improvement.

I need to do this "people" thing more often.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Not About Me

I have been suffering a severe case of blogger block lately. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. If you suddenly try to write gooder than you were writing before, and then you try to write something profound (especially about yourself), it becomes pretty insufferable. Sure, I’ve been training, but how much can I enlighten and entertain writing about my training. (“I swam. I biked. I ran. I lifted weights. It was hard but I did it anyway.” (Repeat as necessary))

So I had the idea this morning to break the vicious blogger block by writing about a couple of folks I know, telling you how remarkable they are, and giving you the links to their blogs so you can give them some comment love. These are all folks that are members of my triathlon club who blog and who have taken life by the scruff of the neck and shaken it until it cried “uncle.”

First, meet Jane of Born Again Athlete.


Jane is a physician and a gourmet cook. The best desert I have ever had, bar none, was her baked Alaska, made from scratch, including the home made vanilla bean and espresso flavored ice creams. While I took several years to go from sedentary guy to back of the pack nearly died half-marathoner to marathoner to triathlete to Ironman, Jane abbreviated that learning curve. She went from completely sedentary and overweight to MS150 and half-iron triathlete last year, ran her first marathon two weeks ago, and is signed up for her first Ironman this year. She is making today the self she wants for tomorrow.

Next, meet Kathleen of Kathleen’s Craziness.


Kathleen’s story, like many others, involves getting dumped and then refusing to stay down. She ran her first mile on January 18, 2003, the same day she got dumped by a boy who doubtless needed to have his head examined. Since that time she has done 5 marathons, assorted ultras, shattered her PR this year in Houston, did her first Ironman last year at Arizona, and will return to raise money for the Janus Charity Challenge this year. Just look at the change between last year and this year. Amazing. Read her story here. Like Jane, the self that she will wake up to in the future is being made right now with determination and elbow grease.

Finally, meet Mishele of Dude I Am Freaking Out.

Mishele has done 4 (F-ING FOUR!) iron distance races--all before the age of 25. Mishele can finish an Ironman swim before I'm even barely wet--like 1:04. I started riding with her over a year ago and she later was my swimming sensei as I learned to overcome my open water terrors. When we first started riding, Mishele was a talented engineer thinking of going to law school. She used me as a sounding board for how and where to apply. She has since passed the patent bar exam and we’ve since talked about how to “do” law school. (See, when I was in law school, I was kind of a big deal.) Mishele will probably be embarrassed that I told you this, but she is kind of a big deal too. Her first semester’s grades are back, and she totally kicked ARSE at school. There is an Ironman athlete who is number one in her law school class and her name is Mishele. Mishele is the best because that is what she aimed at.

Visit their blogs, give them some comment love, and follow them. Each of these people has decided what they want to shoot for, have taken aim, and are firing away. They will hit their targets, and so will you if you decide to take aim. “In the end, men (and obviously these women) hit only what they aim at.” (Thoreau)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ever Feel Like You Wuz Being Watched?

Just a quick little story today.

So, Superpounce is working on some little essay questions to get herself into the gifted program at her new school, and I'm helping her outline her responses. One of the questions asks, "Name someone you admire and tell why you admire them." I thought she might pick me, if only to suck up. And of course, she says,

"My dad . . . .

"because he did an Ironman."

As if I finished in 8 hours or made the podium! But wait. It gets better.

"Describe one of your long term goals," the application inquires. And she answers:

"I want to do an Ironman."

Obviously, that goal (in the unlikely event it sticks) is at least 8 years in the future--more like 10 if I get my way. But little did I know how contagious this disease can be.

Picture 001

Kind of scary being a dad, they watch you so closely. But also nice. At least for a couple more years I'm not the village idiot and she wants to follow in my footsteps.

I'm a Bad Blogger

OK, so The Bigun skypes me all weepy and hurt the other night because I don't have a link in my sidebar to his blog. While I think he had no need to get all emotional, he does have a point. I need to update my sidebar to include some of the readers who have become part of the circle of friends since the last time I updated it.

So, if Trigreyhound is one of your regular stops and you enjoy throwing out a comment every now and then, leave me a comment now and I will try to get the sidebar updated as soon as the HELL THAT IS MY JOB RIGHT NOW becomes less onerous.

Oh, and if you're a skype junky like I am and you want to be on each others contact lists, send me an e-mail and we'll get it done.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Running On Tip Toes

One of the unique things about blogging is that it opens your eyes . Just like walking around with a camera makes you see things differently, walking through life looking for something to write about makes you notice your surroundings and think about them--although hopefully not too much. Friday, I saw something that just bumped around in my mind all weekend, through the long ride, through my long run, and into Sunday afternoon.

I went to the pool on Friday evening to grab a swim. Every lane outside was filled with kids from The Woodlands Swim Team doing their workout. The huge, olympic-size pool looked like it was filled with pirahna, the water churning like an angry sea. So, I took the next best alternative available and prepared to drop into the indoor, 25 yard pool.

As I was doing so, preparing to do a workout that no one was making me do for a race I had no hope of winning, I noticed two kids, probably 14 years of age and probably miscreants from the outdoor squad, who were getting out of the pool, one making the happy observation to the other, "no more practice 'til next week!" Something made me file that away in my brain.

A few minutes later, as I was completing a pull set, I noticed little kiddos, about 5 or 6 years of age, beginning to arrive. These kids weren't dragging into practice, nor would they have been happy with an announcement that practice was canceled. They were practically levitating as they came into the natatorium. They were doing what little kids do--running on tippy toes from the shear excitement and joy. Again, something made me file that image away in my brain.

Then, through the weekend, I noticed myself thinking about that contrast. I don't want to be a glum 14 year old. I want to be the five year old swimmers. How can I avoid the former, and get more of the latter in my life?

Obviously, I've discovered some tip toe moments in triathlon and the friendships is brings. It regularly helps me avoid the tyranny of the inevitably average middle age. In part, that is why I love it so. But I want to "run on tip toes" more consistently in triathlon and in everything else as well. I want to run through all of life on tip toes, no matter how many people tell me to "walk" on deck, and I want to do that until I can't walk at all.

Along the way, I feel like I ought to serve as a herald to all my younger friends:

"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them." (Henry David Thoreau, Journal (July 14, 1852))

All you kiddos out there--you know who you are--all my twenty-something friends whom I admire and envy so much it probably irritates each of you to no end. Don't settle. Woodsheds suck. Run on tip toes. Fall. Then run some more. Collapse into bed every night and sleep like a 5 year old who played all day, then get up and do it again. Every day. Without fail. Until you don't wake up any more.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Can I Get A BOO YAH!!!

Ironman 2.0 started about two weeks ago, and there have been some times when I seriously thought, "who was that guy who finished Ironman Wisconsin last year? Couldn't have been me because I feel like a patient on the cardiac ward." I had forgotten that when I do Ironman training, I either feel like I'm 20 years older than I actually am, or 20 years younger. Thankfully, the ol' bones and muscles started to bounce back this week.

Tuesday mornings are usually some type of bike interval workout on the Greyhound Ironman Training Plan. Today, coach book said to do 10x20 second power intervals, which in our town must generally be done on a trainer because there simply are no hills. But the weather was sooooo loverly (sorry Minnesota and Boston) that I had to ride outdoors. The basic workout was warmup followed by eight, flatout, snot-slinging intervals followed by equal rest. It was the perfect Booyah experience including:

1. Reflective vest, blinky lights, and helmet torch, all sufficiently garish and bright that you can be seen from the International Space Station.

2. X-Wing, behind the seat bottle holder: Did you know that this awesome piece of equipment will actually hold that travel mug of home-brewed Caribou Coffee? Me neither. But it does. Nothing quite so perfect as sucking down some additional coffee goodness during the warmup or in a rest interval.

3. Face-melting playlist: Because the loop has no traffic, I can safely listen to the Ipod while I go round and round and round like a gerble. The basic workout is one song "on," and one song "off." But if you want to properly sling snot, Air Supply or Chicago is not going to get it done. You need music that will peel paint and melt faces, i.e., Pantera, Buckcherry, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica. (Note to self: alternative or heavy metal selections are longer than the average bubblegum pop tune, so if you go all out, you WILL be slinging snot by the end of the tune.)

4. 2 Cool down laps of Memorial Park where the pony tails and bare shoulders of the runner chicas were out in all their 70 degree glory. I know, 70 degrees in January is just wrong, but if this is wrong, I don't wanna be right. (And don't judge me! Those runner chicas were there oggling the bare chested he-men, because that is how people roll in Memorial Park.)

Then add to that, the evening workout. Nothing will make you feel 20 years younger than you are like running in 65 degree weather with someone who actually IS 20 years younger than you. This time it was Scuba Steve, Coach T's main squeeze, a former collegiate runner himself. I started slow and creaky like I usually do, but when the engine got warmed up, we started ticking off the miles at about 8 minutes per and quicker. Effortless fun.

And then the weight workout--**ahem**--where I leg pressed 110 more pounds than the 21 year old kid.

And then the swim workout this morning where 2:00 per hundred for a 1000 meters straight was LIKE BUTTAH!

I know, I know. There are all sorts of Ironhead "Legends" out there who could take me to the cleaners on my best of best days. But feeling 20 again--nay, feeling so good that you could kick your own 20 year old ass--that's good clean fun.

What kind of craziness is next? Base jumping? Mosh pits? Piercings? Remind me of this next Sunday night when I feel like I need a walker.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Be Silly

The other night, Trimama and I were talking on the Skype connection, and we were discussing weighty matters of writing, triathlon, life, the universe and everything. About a nanosecond before my pontifications became intolerably self-absorbed and pretentious, Trimama had a visitor looking over her shoulder. That child soon switched out with another child, and then another, and finally with the kid to which she is married. I had to snap a photo because it was just too blogworthy to pass up. If ever there was a family that plays and gets silly, it is that one.

Here, at the beginning of the year, when there are lots of resolutions and plans and seriousness and introspection, that picture is a great reminder not to take one’s self too seriously. Sure, there are real and profound benefits from approaching this sport and this life with discipline and self-awareness. But you know, if there is no fun in it, if you’re not playing, what’s the point? Notwithstanding all the training schedules and monitors and gear and precision and practice and seriousness, this is supposed to be fun at the end of the day.

Years ago, I was one of the many who vow to go to the gym, or run, or get in shape, and I tried to do that, mostly by myself. My discipline was better than average, and I would see some temporary benefits in improved fitness or lost weight. But those benefits were always temporary because the training was a chore that was too easy to pass up when the weather was bad or life was busy. That changed when I found a type of training, in a community of athletes, that turned exercise into play time.

Playing changed me completely and permanently from the inside out. When training is play time, who is going to willingly give up play time no matter how busy they are? What kid in his right mind is going to give up “recess” to make sure he’s really sharp on those spelling words? Who is going to over-analyze a game of duck, duck, goose or ponder heart rate data on a game of tag?

As adults, we risk losing one of the essential ingredients of the well-lived life when we lose touch with play and all the child-like fun that goes with it. Kids learn and grow by playing, and we do too. If you stop playing, learning and growing, your purpose here has been forfeited and you’re just taking up space. Not to get too Jesussy for a general audience, but the guy I try to follow and emmulate once told his disciples, “Yo, bro! Don’t get in the kids’ way. Let them up here to me, for God’s kingdom is made of kids. Unless you change your act and start being a kid, you’re sunk.”

OK, so that was the Greyhound Amplified Version of some real bible verses.* And whether or not you’ve got a taste for Jesussy goodness, there are other sources that say the same thing. Sinatra, for one, reminds us that fairytales can come true--it can happen to you--if you’re young at heart. So, you don’t have to be a bible thumper to know that it’s worth looking in the mirror and asking whether you’ve lost the kid in you, and if so, how to get him or her back. Life is too precious and too short to scowl through your days like the world’s only living heart donor. Life is too important to leave it to the grownups.

Be silly. Training is recess. Go play.

*Mark 10:13-16 (“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Be New

I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

--Henry David Thoreau
So, it is a new year. Time for a new look? Well, that certainly is part of it. If you like the sleek new appearance of the blog, you and I have Curly Su to thank for it. I certainly could not have done it, and when she asked what I wanted for a Christmas present, there was no hesitation. I asked her to give my blog a makeover and she did. I think it is beautiful, and I hope you enjoy coming here all the more.
I am also hopeful that the New Year's makeover is not restricted to the blog's "clothing" or to the blogger's. Like Thoreau (maybe the only thing I have in common with such a penetrating thinker), I am suspicious of all things that focus on changing the outward appearance. I am suspicious because those things often don't have any changes of substance. On a silly level, that may be why I don't have a pointy aero helmet or race wheels. On my rig, they would scream, "POSER!!" I need to change the rider of the bike and make him faster and stronger before I worry about wheels and helmets and any more gear.
Triathlon sometimes is one of those "enterprises that require new clothes." People who can gear up do so, whether or not they are making any changes in themselves and whether or not they have any intention of making this sport a part of who they are. Much more often, however, I have found that triathlon changes the wearer of the clothes, and only later do the clothes change. It has changed me, from my physical appearance to my personality. This year, I want to allow that change to continue and hopefully to infect more and more of my non-athletic life in a positive way.

For one thing, I have long fantasized about becoming a writer. Enough fantasy. It is high time I started being a writer. I need to start just doing it and going about it in the same fashion that succeeded in turning a sedentary lawyer into a passable triathlete. I intend to work on the techniques, practice, get instruction where needed, start small, and increase the volume and intensity over time. Over the long term, I hope to hone my craft and start writing things that people will want to read and perhaps pay for. I hope this blog will be one tool I can use to do that, and that you enjoy watching it happen. Thankfully, I think I have a bit more talent at writing than I do at athletics. So, while I would starve if forced to earn a living with triathlon, maybe I can make a living some day writing about triathlon, endurance sport, life, music, and the other things I love. Whether or not that happens, I love writing, so why not write?

So, the year is new for you as well. To what will you devote this time, your life? Be open to the serendipitous accident, but don't accidentally expend all of 2008 and wonder what happened. Be new.