Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Suffer More Than Anyone Else

I saw a friend and fellow triathlete, Kurt, at last weekend's Cranksgiving-Omaha event. Kurt is as fierce as any competitor in a race. But outside of that, his easy-does-it attitude spiced with humor is disarming. But while we were talking about this past year's races, he said something that has turned into a repeating scratched mental record in my head. Paraphrasing, he said, "in triathlon racing, there's a fine line between pain and pleasure - that's why I do it."

Saaay what?!

Now I've often wondered what motivates someone to do ultra distance events like an Ironman. It's one thing if you're trained and truly racing the entire thing, but it's an entirely other thing when you're out there just to suffer. But Pleasure-pain? With the thousands of Ironman entrants, maybe Kurt's onto something here. Perhaps many triathletes are in some sort of 18 hour pain n' pleasure erotica fest. (If you've ever been to a triathlon, you may agree that this accurately fits the bill.)

Regardless, in my world there's a huge gulf separating pain and pleasure. I'd guess that my Mom would be happy to know that I'd fail at being a masochist. Indeed, I think I'm quite able to differentiate between agony and joy. If you're in doubt about your ability to distinguish between the two, try this simple test. Load your iPod with Barry Manilow, set it to shuffle, then blindfold yourself and push play. If you like what you hear, then you should be competing in Ironman events.

Still, I've got to hand it to Kurt, for he caused me to stop and question my motives in racing and training.

Then today, I read Josh Horowitz' Levi Leipheimer interview. In it, Josh asked Levi how he motivates himself to race, to which Levi replied, "In order to win, you have to suffer more than anyone else and you have to believe you can win to push yourself to that point."

I carefully re-read the part about "suffer more than anyone else". He didn't say a word about pleasure. It was just simple good old pain and suffering.

Thank God! Now there's something I could relate to.

Like Levi related, pre-race knowledge of immanent suffering can be a mental barrier well before reaching the starting line. This is especially true when you've done the training and have set a very specific goal that you'd like to reach. Training, too, is prone to a loss of motivation due to the suffering factor - be it intervals, a time trial or a long workout. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to rip up the hills and destroy the competition without slaving hours on end on the trainer, the treadmill or in the pool? Even environmental factors such as rain, snow, wind and extreme temperatures can be a drag on the mental mo-jo.

So why do I do it?

I searched the depths of my soul for answer. Seconds later, I had these: 1)Being physically fit has its rewards in good health, 2) The soothing effects of beta endorphins during post-workout recovery, 3) Refueling (and a good BM after that) 4) Measuring progress, and 5) Meeting of a goal and/or achieving a victory.

In my search, I discovered something. Boiled down it comes to a word: SATISFACTION. Hmmm, I suppose there is a little pleasure in it after all. By golly, Kurt's been vindicated!

Oh crap. It's 60 minutes in Zone 4/5 on the trainer this evening...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nathan Reflective Vest

You guys made great points about being seen in the dark.

So on yesterday's ride in to work, I busted out my Nathan Jr vest for extra visibility. I originally got this thingy ($12 at Dick's) for night time running.

Until I upgrade to a high visibility windbreaker with detachable sleeves, the re-cycle of this reflective tunic and upgrades to my life insurance policy is money well spent for Ms Katherine.

Oh and one more thing. The bonus of the wearing the Nathan Jr vest is that Shim makes fun of it. Hey Shim! I'm wearing the crossing guard uniform I stole from your kid's school!

Anyway, I'm off for Bryan's Cranksgiving Omaha tomorrow. Have a good weekend everyone and ride safely.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Being Munsoned In the Middle of Nowhere

Last night, I rode home wearing a black woolie and black tights. It was an exceptionally dreary night: dark, wet and cold. In many ways, it reminded me of one of my favorite albums, Smell the Glove. It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

But wait, there's more: my tail light's battery was dead. It was like I was riding in a vacuum.

I stopped at the Quick Shop at 38th and Leavenworth to replace the tail light's batteries. Unfortunately, as I removed the light from the seat-tube, I snapped it off its plastic mount. Crap!

Let's recap: I was wearing black, it was extremely dark, cold and rainy and now I was without a tail light. I suddenly realized that I was Munsoned in the middle of nowhere.

A lesser man would have called for a ride home; a foolish one would have ridden in the dark and taken his chances with the Grim Reaper. But faced with adversity, I did what Munson would do and unmunsoned my way out of a mitmon.

Others have already written plenty about Munson. But while it's easy to chip away at his character, one thing that I really appreciate about this fella is his gritty resourcefulness. You see, Munson has embraced his inner-Munsoness. Like a kung-fu master, he has turned what would normally be perceived as a weakness into a strength. And in doing so, he's become quite able at turning a bad situation into a good one (and on the cheap). For instance, when Old Yeller's original RSX shifters blew up, it was Munson who duct-taped it back together.

So I feared not, for Munson's can-do attitude was with me on that dreadful night. Resolutely, I pushed open the Quickie Mart door (and after the fog cleared from my glasses) grabbed a pack of triple-A batteries and clear packing tape. With steady hands, I ripped and taped until that blinker was fixed to a highly visible place on the back of my Giro. Shoot, I now had more visibility than ever.

Thanks, Munson. For a moment there, things looked bleak. Then I realized that I too could become a Munson in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's Been Goin' On

Over the past two weeks, I've got back in the pool five times, weight room four times and commuted to/from work by bike and foot every day. While I haven't had a long run or bike ride, I've been fairly consistent on getting in at least forty to sixty minutes of riding/running during the work week.

New Gear: AMFIB Bib Tights
Today, I commuted in to work with a new pair of Pearl Izumi Amfib bib tights. They're fantastic: bibs and amfib booties kept the legs nice n' toasty on the 25 minute ride in at 26 F. In contrast, I under-dressed the upper body in a short sleeve base and long sleeve woolie. Quite a difference in warmth between upper and lower. Also, because I lent a pair of lobster gloves to Munson for this weekend's cycling/camping crazy fest, the hands were a tad chilly in full-fingered mtn bike gloves. A full face balaclava under the helmet was just enough to keep the head warm. But as for the bib tights, I'm looking forward to see how they perform on colder and longer rides.

During the past two weekends, I've been catching up on household maintenance: repairing a wooden fence in the backyard, concrete on the front steps, staining the back deck, winterizing and other honey-dos inside the house. The result has prevented longer rides and training runs on the weekend.

However, I've kept the calendar free for this Saturday's Omaha Cranksgiving event hosted by none other than Bryan Redemske.