And You Will Have Had Fun

We triathletes seemingly always have a plan to our workouts.

We measure our wattage.  Keep track of heartrate, pace, and number of footstrikes per minute.  We count strokes as we swim.  Everything has a purpose.  We plan, execute, analyze, re-plan, and so on.  We follow training guidance from coaches, friends, the internet.  We gear all of our workouts in terms of preparation for the next race, our “A” race, or that iron-distance race in six months.

What would happen if once, just once, we didn’t measure our performance against our personal benchmarks?  What if we just went for a run?  Or a swim?  Or a bike ride?

It’s a foreign concept for many triathletes.

But in my opinion, one that’s overdue.

Like many of you, I’m in the midst of a heavy training block as I prepare for Rev3 Florida in October.  My run mileage is picking up, my time on the saddle has increased, and I’m in the pool for more yards than I can recall.  Seemingly each time I do something, it’s with an eye on an end-game.

Here’s the real question?  Am I having fun?  Is it fun to track, measure, monitor, and tweak?  I do it all, just like many others.  In fact, I’ve taken this approach for so long now that it has all become second nature.

But is it fun?

Well,,,exercise is fun.  Triathlon is fun.  But approaching a run without a plan….just running is fun, too.  Try it.  Instead of going out for a 60 minute fartlek run, just go….  Forget your iPod.  Leave your Garmin on your dresser.  Find a good trail and just run.  Same story for your bike.  Just plop on a helmet, grab your glasses and pedal.  Don’t think about what you’re doing.  Say “hi” to everyone you see.  Hum to yourself.  Listen to the sound of your feet hitting the pavement.  Don’t think about your pace, your wattage, or your upcoming race.  Just go.

I think you’ll rekindle your enthusiasm.  You’ll be refreshed.  Centered. 

And you will have had fun.

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Crossing the Finish Line

Crossing the finish line at the 2010 Rev3 Knoxville.

Crossing the finish line of a triathlon is a pretty big deal for lots of folks.  Heck, for that matter, crossing the finish line of almost any race is a big deal for lots of us.  Perhaps you’re in the midst of finishing your first iron-distance race.  Perhaps you’re finishing your first couch-to-5k program.  It doesn’t matter.  Crossing finish lines can be monumental for folks.
 
I read an interesting thread on Slowtitch today about folks’ reactions to completing their first iron distance triathlon.  Granted, the athletes that typically post on Slowtwitch are slightly more jaded than folks that post on other triathlon boards; there was still some commonality in terms of how people reacted to crossing the finish line. 
 
Reading the posts on that thread caused me to think about and remember how I reacted to finishing some of my milestone races.  How did I feel when I finished my first marathon?  When I finished Ironman Florida?  Heck – when I finished my first triathlon in general?
 
I ran my first marathon in 2009.  The race was 26.2 with Donna – the National Marathon to End Breast Cancer.  My time was slow – but I did a marathon!  I was giddy!  I sprinted the last 200 meters as if I had not run at all.  I high-fived folks.  I was so excited!  Basically, I could not believe that I had finished a race of that distance.
 
When I finished Ironman Florida, I had a similar reaction – but there was more of an emotional investment in finishing that distance for me than some might have had.  Just eight weeks prior to IMFL I had DNF’d at Ironman Louisville just eight miles shy of the finish.  Coming into the end of the race in Florida, and knowing I was going to actually finish, I experienced similar feelings that I had when I finished my first marathon.  I was totally stoked!  I thrived on the cheering, the “atta boys”, the “you look great” comments.  It was as if I was floating through the last quarter-mile.
 
Here’s the really interesting thing – at least for me.  While I may not get as giddy when I cross the finish line of any “normal” race as I did with those two examples above, I still get really excited to finish!  I really enjoy racing, and I totally enjoy seeing a finishing chute come into view.  I seem to always take a moment to straighten out my visor, to pull my race number to the front and to zip up my singlet.  I always find a way to kick into the finish, no matter how poorly I felt during a race. 
 
My most recent example of doing this was at Rev3’s Half Rev in Anderson, SC earlier this month.  I had a pretty difficult race – especially on the bike.  I was not on pace to achieve the time I wanted to, but I was on pace to earn a pretty sizeable personal best.  I struggled in the last mile prior to the finish, but yet as I came into the last quarter-mile I began to feel better.  I crossed the finish line feeling absolutely great, with a smile on my face.
 
For me, crossing the finish line of a race is one of the biggest factors that motivates me to race.  I absolutely love the experience of finishing.
 
How about you?  What are your milestone memories from finishing a race?  What kind of race was it and why was it special?

>What I liked about the 26.2 With Donna

>In yesterday’s post, I talked very briefly about some of the really nice things about the 4th Annual 26.2 with Donna.  This was not a small race – there were more than 10,000 participants in the event.  That said, it felt small because of how charming, welcoming, and exceptional the environment was.

I thought it made sense to share with you some of the things I really liked about this race.  As there are quite a lot of things I’m going to write about, I decided to do it bullet style:

  • The Expo:  I don’t normally write about liking an expo, but the expo for this race is really an event.  Unlike some triathlon expos, this expo was held at a large convention center in Jacksonville.  There were literally hundreds of companies there selling and giving out goodies.  Now, certainly many of the product were targeted towards females – but that does make sense given the main charity for the race.
  • The Swag:  Among the “normal” race flyers and ads for sponsors, the swag bag for this marathon had lots of interesting information about breast cancer research, information about the Mayo Clinic, and some good nutrition samples.  The race shirt was a nice long-sleeved technical t-shirt.  The whole package came in a high-quality drawstring backpack
  • The Celebrities:  Well, it wasn’t the Grammys, but there were some high-profile folks at the race.  Take for example, Mr. Run-Walk himself, Jeff Galloway.  Galloway leads several training groups for this marathon, and as a result, he’s a fixture here.  Another high profiler:  Joan Benoit-Samuelson.  She has run this race every year, and was again on hand.  Then there were the Kenyans.  OK, I really mean to say the elite runners.  There was a pack of them, and boy were they fast.  The winner finished in 2:20. 
  • Great On-Course Signs:  Given the topic (breast cancer), you could imagine how good & creative some of the signs were.  Some of the ones that caught my eye:  “Saving second base…”, “Big or Small, Save ’em All”, “Hakuna Ma-Ta-Ta”.  The other signs that stand out were all the “I’m running for…” signs that athletes wore.  I saw so many “my mom”, “my sister” type signs.  These signs really make breast cancer tangible, in that each of those ladies had been impacted in some way or another
  • Amazing volunteers:  If you’ve ever done a long-course triathlon, you know that volunteers make or break an event.  I’ve got to tell you, the volunteers at this race are the BEST EVER.  They blow the volunteers at Ironman Florida (which had the best volunteers I’ve otherwise ever experienced) completely out of the water.  Everyone was willing to help.  Everyone had a smile.  The supplies were bountiful and always ready.  In this respect, this race is flat out exceptional.
  • Running on the beach:  There’s something totally centering about running on the beach early in the morning – and that’s certainly the case with this marathon.  The marathon runs for about two miles on the sand.  It’s just a beautiful way to spend a few minutes, and one aspect that makes this marathon unique and really special.
  • The Spectators:  This is another aspect that really sets this race apart from others.  There were spectators literally on every foot of the course.  People were out having parties at the end of their driveways.  Communities and neighborhoods came out.  People held their own unofficial rest-stops and gave out everything from freezer pops to M&M’s to beer (yes, I saw a guy near mile 13 running with a beer in his hand).  They decorated like crazy.  There was more pink on this race course than I’ve ever seen in my life.  There had to be thousands and thousands of folks on this course.
  • The Survivors:  No, this doesn’t mean the people who finished the race.  The real survivors – people who have had, and overcome, breast cancer.  There were breast cancer survivors who ran the race.  I met a woman in the start corral from Buffalo, NY who had just finished chemo.  She trained the whole way through chemo just so she could run this race.  She proudly showed off her nearly bald head.  Then there were the survivors who lined the streets.  I’ll never forget hearing people on the sidelines thanking me for running the race.  Usually it’s the other way around – racers thank spectators for coming out to watch.  It was surreal to have people thank me for running.  I was moved close to tears more than once.  This race is for them.

All in all, this is an extremely well run race.  For me, however, the intangibles define an event.  It’s these intangibles that add to the experience – that make it an event that you’ll want to do again and again.  In all honesty, this race has those intangibles.  I highly recommend this race as a true destination marathon – and one that you should, in my opinion, strongly consider placing on your “must do” lists.

>A Bitter Pill

>Today’s post was supposed to be a race report.  A nice, tidy recap of a well-executed marathon run this past Sunday at the 4th annual 26.2 with Donna – The National Marathon to end Breast Cancer.  Well, it won’t be, because it wasn’t.

You see, Sunday I did something that I’ve never, ever, done before.  I dropped out of a race on my own accord.  On my own – without having an RD tell me that he’d “highly suggest I retire” from a race like happened at IMKY in 2009.  Nope.  This time it was all on me.

Let me tell you why.  This won’t be excuse mongering, nor will it be shared in the vain hope for sympathy.  I’ll just give it to you straight.  Why I chose to DNF a marathon.

The race started well.  I found a good rabbit to follow for the first several miles.  My pace was just about where I wanted to be for my “acceptable” pace – (as opposed to my “it’s a GREAT day pace).  The run out to the beach was fun & highlighted by helecopter flyovers, lots of honking cars, and lots of spectators.  The 2.5 miles run on the beach were breathtakingly beautiful.  The crowds were spectacular.  My half-marathon time was acceptable, especially given the fact that I’d been fighting a cold for more than a week.

After about 15 miles, the run took a decidedly poor turn.  I had a couple of coughing attacks.  My left knee started hurting.  Badly.  I stopped and stretched my ITB and then ran some more.  At 17 miles, I decided I need to walk some.  At first, it was just the aid stations.  Pretty soon, it was walk a little while, stop to massage the knee, stretch, and then run again.  More coughing attacks.  I stopped at mile 20 to stretch.  When I tried to go again, I couldn’t.  The knee pain was tremendous.  At that point, I weighed my options.  Finish the remaining 6.2 miles – and potentially really injure myself, or call it a day.

I decided to call it a day.

Part of me is tremendously disappointed.  Quitting is a tough thing – a bitter pill to swallow.  I could have probably finished the race.  Certainly my time would have been significantly worse than I would have been happy with.  But at what cost?  I don’t know if I would have really injured my knee — at the time, I wasn’t sure if there was something already wrong with my knee given the pain.  And yet, my pride is bruised. 

I woke up this morning, and had almost no knee pain.  My legs aren’t even tired today.  These things add to the bruised ego.  I’ve second-guessed myself today.  At the end of the day, however, I’m still positive I did the right thing.

I’ve got two “A” level triathlons this year.  I know that I’ll be healthy for them.  Had I finished the run, I’m not sure I could say that with the same level of conviction.

What did I get out of this year’s 26.2 with Donna?  I think several things….I got a long run in.  I got to run in a BEAUTIFUL part of Jacksonville.  I had the opportunity to run with, and for, people who have battled breast cancer.  I helped a cause.  I learned how to make a really tough decision about dropping out.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of the highlights of the race – facets of the race that will cause me to run this race again.

>Crashing the Party

>I’m t-minus 5 days until my first “big” race of the year – the 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to End Breast Cancer. Generally, at this juncture I am excited, well-rested, and feeling like I’m at or close to peaking. Well, today I’m feeling achy, stuffy, sneezy, coughy, and congested.

I have a cold.

It’s not just any cold, either. It’s a full-blown, 15-pound bowling-ball-on-my-chest, hacking-until-my-back-hurts, I-want-to-stay-curled-up-in-my-bed kind of cold. The kind you’re not supposed to exercise with. (You know the adage…”ok to exercise if it’s above the neck, no-go if it’s below”).

Frankly, it’s not surprising that Mr. Mucus decided to show up and crash my marathon party. I’ve been totally burning the candle at both ends. Work has been….significant. Over the past ten days I’ve had some additional stress related to a family medical issue (which, thankfully, appears to be resolved). I haven’t slept much. I sure as hell haven’t been eating well.

So now, I’m 120 hours away from my race, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to toe the line. If the race were today – I’d pull a Chrissie Wellington. I’m optimistic I’ll be better by Sunday morning. I have plans on sleeping well this week. I am going to hydrate as if I were a camel. I’m going to eat fruits and veggies as if I were a vegetarian who just escaped from a Brazilian steakhouse. Vitamins will be my friend. I’ve decided that unless I feel significantly worse, I’m not going to visit a doctor. I am positive this is a viral thing – and there’s nothing a doctor can do about a cold virus except tell me to do what I’ve outlined above.

I’m open to suggestions – what do you do to expedite the course of the common cold? Let me know – it it’s not too outlandish, I might just give it a try!