Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Everything I know about endurance sports I learned from Les Paul

I love this picture of Les Paul. In his 90's and still kicking it.
If you don't know Les, you should. He has been called the father of the solid body guitar. He invented new and exciting ways of recording. He played the guitar well into his 90's and was playing well just a few days before his death. If you've never heard him, download some of his tunes and listen to clear, sharp virtuoso playing by someone of your parents (or grandparents) generation.
I'm not a guitar player, although I gave it a shot once. I used to play the bass and can still roll off a few licks if I find one in my hands.
Endurance sports like running an cycling and triathlon, at their core, involve the kinds of things Les used to talk about all the time. As I get older even more of his wisdom applies because it deals with longevity.
"Don't touch it if it gets complicated."
Running, and cycling and doing tri's shouldn't be weighted down by the tyranny of technology.
The more you let yourself be sucked into things like a GPS watch and computer programs to track your fitness, power meters and all sorts of other technology, the farther you get from the core of the sports: Being fit, having fun and becoming a better person. They may have their place for you, but they aren't necessary. Often they get in the way.
"Be patient. Learn one thing at a time. Don't worry about being fast. That comes with practice."
We live in a culture of "Gotta have it now!" I meet so many athletes who are new and have a bucket list and have no real sense of their sports history or what it means to do something for years upon years. They simply have to have that marathon NOW. That Ironman NOW! They simply have run Boston NOW! Be patient. Truly learn your sport. Know it's history. Become a part of it, if you love it, let it become part of you. Learn to swim well. Learn to bike well. Learn to run well. Learn how to handle races and how do deal with things when it all goes bad (and it will). Stay healthy and don't get injured. In time your speed will come and you'll find all your patience will pay off. Bear in mind "fast" is a relative term and different for everyone. Be your fast, not someone else's.
"It's what you do with what you have that counts."
I beat my head against the "Boston" wall for years and just never managed to get there. I'm just not that fast. I have managed to pull down some Age Group awards over the years, but to be honest, most of those were before the current triathlon and running boom so my age group was kind of light. Being able to go long was my strength. I can run all day. Literally. I can bike all day and all night. Literally. I can stay upright and keep moving for hours upon hours. Literally. It's what I do, with what I got that counts. Do your best with what you have.
When Les was 33 he was in a car accident and had his right elbow broken. Once set, it would be immovable for life. He had it set at just less than 90 degrees so he could still play the guitar...something he did for the next 61 years. With a fused elbow! It was what he did with what he had that counted.
"It's not technique, it's what you have to say."
Many folks who are involved in endurance sports look like they have no business being there. Their arms are all akimbo when they run. Their swim technique is more dog paddle than anything and don't even ask them to hold a line on a bike!
They are all heart though. Despite how they may look, they love what they do and are successful at it. So many who strive for perfection suffer on the altar of that perfection. They don't stay around long. Sports for them is full of pain and angst, most of it mental and self inflicted. Those other folks? The ones who just get out and go? You see them year after year. There is more to endurance sports than medals and finishing. What are you saying? What example are you setting? What are you saying about the quality of your life? Are you mentoring other athletes? Are you making a difference in your sport?
"There are times when you want to go where you used to go and you can't go there."
We all get slower. Can't ride as far. Running times slow and distances shorten. There is a time when the PR's just stop coming. That's life. It's doesn't mean you're less of a person. It doesn't mean you have failed. It's not an indication it's time to quit, it's just that time is leading you down a different path.
Les never quit. He never stopped playing. He loved doing what he did. He inspired others to do the same.
Be like Les. Never quit. Never stop playing. Love what you do, even when it all goes bad. Inspire others to get off the couch and move.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Observations on running with the Mouse.

Compression socks don't help you walk any faster.
Compression socks really do help AFTER the event.
The number of newbies that have no idea what they are doing is staggering,
they can be dangerous to those around them.
Don't get pissed...your number says Corral E and that's why they won't let you in Corral B.
Race starts with fire works are so cool!
D tags come off really easily...there were tons of them near mile 18 and 19 just before the place where you can cut the course.
Running a half marathon in the dark makes for easy pee stops.
Does everyone who runs on the road in VFF's tape ice to their knees after every race?
You meet the nicest people during a race but the relationship usually doesn't last long.
Arm warmers look dumb with a singlet.
I swear the largest age group seems to be women 20-24.
Real runners wear split shorts.
Those folks that come in in 3 hours for the half and 7 for the full...they're tough.
Disney has the nicest volunteers.
Screaming at your boy friend won't get him to go faster. I know this from past experience.
Everybody deserves a pat on the back.
Hot tea heals all does a kiss.
Running 5 abreast on a one lane road can piss off 21,000 other people.
He really does look like Jack Sparrow.
If you drop something during a race and stop to pick it up you WILL get knocked flat on your ass.
If you stop ON THE FINISH LINE to wait for a friend you WILL get knocked flat on your ass.
Looking at your watch as you cross the finish line at your first marathon just eliminates half a dozen pictures that you'll buy to remember the race.
Just because you finished before 18,000 other people doesn't mean you get all the water/bagels/bananas that you can carry.
If you're cold standing at the start line you're dressed right. My guess is you wouldn't be drenched with sweat and could have finished your race faster if you weren't over dressed.
Running is truly a great equalizer.
Finally, as always, the number goes on the front.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time to hit the pavement!

There are times when hitting the road is a good thing. There are times when hitting the road isn't such a good thing.
This is about both.
My 6th Goofy Challenge at Disney World was this past weekend and having finished all six makes me "Perfectly Goofy"! I hadn't really had the intention of going but the ever lovely ML thought it would be fun to go and get her 5th half marathon there.
Last May 12th I was on the couch medicated with really good drugs staring at a post surgery ankle propped up on a chair. My doctor said my ankle should be solid within the year but that running might be a problem, he just wasn't sure. After 40 years of running well, if that was it...that was it. As it turns out and much to my doc's glee, it's just fine and running isn't a problem. Well, I have had a few gait change issues that I'm working through, but they'll pass.

What can you say about running at Disney? It's fun and cool and expensive and worth it.
The hardest part of the weekend is getting up at two in the morning to get to the race venue. Do Goofy and you have to do it two days in a row. Fine.

We were up at the right time and on the bus and off to the race sight getting there at 3:15. Now previous years and increasing years have led us to get slots at the runners retreat. While expensive it is worth it to ML and to my creaking bones. We meet some nice folks at our table and nosh on bagels and hot tea and enjoy the private porta- johns. Nice.

At about 4:45 we head over to the race start which is now the same for both races. Kisses, hugs and I leave ML in her corral and walk up to mine. We wear only the best in lawn and leaf bags which block the wind and provide a great place to pee in plan view of twenty thousand people.

At 5:35 the wheelies go off and six minutes later the first wave goes off. Six minutes later I 'm off. It's 5:47. It's a cool morning.
Running in the dark is good. I like it. It's fun with fire works! Away from Epcot and off toward the Magic Kingdom the miles tick by and hitting the road out here is cool...lots of fun and happy folks and it's neat to be running up Main Street with all the lights, including Christmas lights. I never get tired of it.
With so many folks it does get tight in a few places, and I'm in an early wave! It must be really tight for folks at the back.
I spin along and the ankle feels good and I've taped my knee to help with a tracking issue. It feels good too. (KT tape rocks!)
Before long you can see Spaceship Earth and are back in Epcot and at the finish. 2:08 for the 13.1 miles at an easy pace. Now in my neighborhood, 2:08 is slow. My PR is 1:38. and I usually run a 1:45, but I'm running a marathon the next day so a lollygag is good. almost 22,000 finishers for the race and I'm 4,800th-ish.
ML, my hero, rolls in at 2:45, quite happy. Not bad for someone pushing 58 in her 5th year of running.

Back to the hotel for a stand in the cool pool water, a shower and off to the parks! Can't pass up fun.

ML sleeps in the next morning and I repeat the previous days awakening and repeat the process to get to the start line. While waiting in the corral the announcers are interviewing some woman who is all fired up about doing Goofy and se boasts how she resisted going to the parks after the half so she'd be ready for the mary. Myself and the other Goofies around me laugh..."Who does that?" someone said You're supposed to run the half, go walk around the rest of the day and then run the marathon. It's part of Goofy.

The fire works and cannon go off and off we all go into the dark but only 17 thousand folks this time. (13,522 finishers)
The miles go by kind of quick...I'm listening to music and it really helps things go faster. I never do other races or train with tunes so pulling them out on this day, a really bumpin' play list, makes it even more fun.
I'm just humming along, ankle and knee solid, leaving The Animal Kingdom park and passing mile 18 then 19 and thinking about a 4:30 finish. Two wide open lanes on the road and the pack has really thinned out. It's all good when....SLAM!!!! I'm face down on the pavement. I'm a little dazed and have the wind knocked out of me and have no idea what the hell happened...
Some great runners around me helped me up and stayed with me till I could breathe. One of them, a woman, told me what happened: A "young girl" (her term) passed her, running with her head down...she came right up behind me and when she realized we were going to collide she pushed me. BAM! Down I went like I was spring loaded. She didn't stop. It took a bit (three miles) to pull myself together and feel ok and I was able to finish in about 5:19 with two sore hands and some chest pain. All that sort of dissolved when I crossed the finish...Perfectly Goofy!
Now If I realized I was going to hit someone with a back as sweaty and hairy as mine I'd have pushed them too, but at least I would have helped them up and said I was sorry! She probably hasn't learned yet that what goes around comes around. I just hope she doesn't get hurt when it does.