Monday, December 28, 2009

That Guy

I did not write the following essay.

Someone posted it on Beginner Triathlete from Bike Sport Michigan, which is no longer in business. But whoever wrote it is good. It is awesome and just re-reading the pasted version has made me cry all over again. Here you go:

That Guy. You know him. He can also be That Girl, and often is.

It is that guy (or girl) who you see at every race. He's at every one. Everywhere in the country.
He is always more tan than you are. He is usually a good bit thinner too. His calves have those mysterious vertical striations that define each individual muscle; as if to say, "I have spent hours training each individual muscle in each calf- each individual muscle fiber in fact." He/she has triathlon clothing that is super cool that you've never seen before. You have no idea where it came from. If you were to ask him- if you mustered up the courage to approach him- you would get some vague answer like, "Ahh, well, I know Dave McGillicutty at Sweetass Trisports and he got these samples, prototypes really, that he….. blah, blah, blah…." And you just wanted to know where you could buy a pair of those cool trishorts he has. Maybe they would make your ass look like Michalangelo chiseled it too. Prolly not though.

So this guy (or girl): His bike is clean. It is also weird. It has parts you think you may have seen in a magazine and, is that what carbon fiber looks like? Half the stuff he has, no, all of it, is stuff you've either only seen in magazines or never even heard of.

He's wearing sunglasses. But he didn't buy them. They just kind of "got there". He drives a special car just for doing what he's doing now: Getting ready for a ride, a run, a swim workout or the triathlon you're at now. He has stickers all over it.

You know when he talks about "Hawaii" he isn't talking about the state as a vacation destination, but rather, an event that you've only seen on TV. He is either talking about getting into it, having already gotten in, or why his last race there wasn't as good as it should have been. It had something to do with some chemical in his body you've never heard of. "Too much polychondrotineospandoplasm in my maldochondriacts during the last ten miles of the run. I should have know better." Yeah, an obvious mistake for someone like that guy (girl). Another thing that guy knows that you don't. Polywhat in his maldowho?

So you get to the race and there is that guy. Setting up all his stuff in the transition area like he's done probably a thousand times before, or so it seems.

And that guy is the reason why so many people are afraid to give this sport (and many others) a try. Because you know you are not That Guy (or girl) and they will look at you and think "Oh, another novice athlete…." And maybe you are embarrassed by that. I know I have been.

That guy is experienced, dedicated, accomplished, fit, knowledgeable, well-versed and respected in the sport. You are a beginner. So you are at the bottom of the food chain here. You may be the big woman or man at work and at home. But here you feel like the first day of kindergarten and you don't even know where the bathroom is but you have to go. It's been a long time since you felt like that.

And you'll feel embarrassed in front of that guy.

Consider this though: You are that guy. You are that girl.

Don't understand? Let me explain.

On the hypothetical morning we're describing you got up early, loaded up whatever bike you have (the old ten speed you've had since you were 16, that old mountain bike from college, whatever), put the gear you scraped together in your car and went to the race. You stood there in your sweats and registered, set up your transition area as best you could.

Welcome to the show my friend. You are walking the walk.

You made that monumental leap off the couch and into the realm of That Guy. And now you, to millions and millions and millions of people - you are That Guy.

The next time you go to work when the conversation comes up about what you did Sunday morning you will say, "Oh, ahh, well I did this little triathlon, my first one, I'm not really any good, I was nearly last…."

But to the people at work, and your family, and your friends, and everyone else not there on Sunday morning (and some that were) you are That Guy. The guy who does those endurance races. Who works out all the time (even if you don't). Who eats right (even though you don't).
Pretty soon it will get around work, what you did Sunday morning, and someone will ask you, "Hey, ahh, have you ever done that one in Hawaii?"

And then you answer, "Oh, Hawaii, no, I'm not that good. I've never done Hawaii…" And to you now it is just "Hawaii". You are That Guy. To someone out there you are That Guy.

Everyone has That Guy. He's better, faster, smarter, luckier. The interesting thing about That Guy is, to someone - you are that guy. No matter who you are, there will be That Guy. Don't let him bother you. Do what you do. Remember, to someone, you are that guy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

When Pigs Fly

Last night at the Fogle holiday party, my dad bragged on my marathon finish. I can't tell you how great that made me feel. My dad is old-school and doesn't usually see the need to exercise (except for tennis), but now he's thinking about doing some running. He even asked my brother-in-law the cardiologist about his heart rate zones. : )

I can't find the words to convey what a cool feeling it is to finish a marathon. Especially when you are carrying the baggage about weight, body image and sweating that most women seem to carry. All of that stuff is really heavy.

However, I firmly believe that anyone who puts in the training can finish a marathon. The key is that the training consists of not just the three month marathon build-up, but the also the base-building phase where you teach your feet, legs and body that running is a normal thing. The base-building has taken me over 9 years. I don't think this is typical, but on my two prior marathon attempts as I ramped up into training, I hurt myself. My body just wasn't ready to go 26.2 miles (or less). I had built up a good enough run endurance for 6 or 13 mile races, but not 26. For this year's attempt, Doug wrote the plan for me instead of letting me blindly follow a plan I had found in a book or a magazine or on the internet. We built up to 25 miles per week of running my way - by increasing the distance of all three weekly runs at the same rate. That seemed to be easier on my feet and knees. Then, Doug had me add another run during the week and we started increasing the distance of my weekend (long) run. We didn't do any speed work, tempo pace or intervals. All of those things are great for people who want to increase their speed and are racing for time. Those people can already go the distance (not me). So, I ran all of my runs at easy don't-look-at-the-pace speed. That took a lot of pressure off.

On race day, the weather was forecast to be 36 degrees, raining and windy. When it is that cold, my gloves don't keep my hands warm enough. So, I followed some internet advice and added tubesocks over my gloves. Genius! My hands were toasty! I decided that the tubesocks/armwarmers would be a good way to give a shout out to Brooks. Voila - Brooks armwarmers. It turned out not to be so cold, so I only wore them at the start but aren't they cute?

All of my other racewear was Brooks too, but it is so well-loved that the logos have fallen off. Check out my vest - very reflective. This is on the shuttle from the parking area to the race start. I think the blurriness of the photo really captures the giddiness of the morning. We were all smiles.

We stayed with my folks at their new house on Edisto Island. It is on the tidal marsh and is beautiful. On the day after the race, we watched the sunrise (not the actual sun because it was on the other side of the house) over the creek. It was lovely.
Kiawah Island Resort puts on a good race. Here is my official race report on Beginner Triathlete. It was a green race, so they encouraged us to bring our own water bottles, to recycle our shoes and old medals. It was neat. I always carry my handbottle, so that was no problem. The start line looked good in the dawning light.

We went to Joe's condo to stay warm before the race start. Joe was racing to try to get his Boston marathon qualifying time. Here are Doug and Joe before we braved the cold of the start line.

Aren't they good-looking? Joe got his BQ. 3 hrs 25 minutes. He followed one of the Daniels plans (not a high mileage one, Paul) and ran a great race despite nearly (or not-so-nearly) breaking his toe over Thanksgiving vacation.

Our friends Amy and Jerry ran the half-marathon and they looked great as they passed us in mile one. I stayed on plan, though, and didn't go faster than I had trained (10 mins per mile). It was cool to see the miles click by as the race went on. We had Gus every 4 miles (I alternated Roctane and regular Gu) and I drank from my water bottle whenever I felt like it. Doug had some Chomps and also had Gus when I did. My IT band got very angry in mile 14, but as I warmed up again by going faster, it felt better. Whew! I felt pretty good until Doug told me to go on in mile 22. He was a great security blanket for the race. I had a lot better race because he ran with me. It was easier to stay in my plan because he was there. If I had been by myself, I would have been tempted to speed it up or slow it down and that would have been bad.

Then, in mile 22, I was on my own. My molasses pace and his Ironman had made Doug's quads cramp up.

Other than the IT, my GI and the usual aches and pains, the race hadn't hurt until then. Or, maybe they had hurt, but I'd been too busy to notice. But suddenly, my foot hurt and my knees were flashing red pain with every step. The little hills on the path to get it level with the road were suddenly like mountains. It felt like was I doing 8 minute miles when it was really 10-ish minutes per mile.

I cried those last two miles. For the sheer ridiculousness that I was going to run a marathon. I remembered back in elementary school when we had to run the mile for the physical fitness test and how I couldn't even walk it. I remembered how I used to be fat in middle school and how much I hated my body. And it was so great to be coming to the finish. I wanted to share the love with all of the cops, the volunteers picking up trash, the folks giving out water and the other runners. I tried to thank them all without bawling, but ended up only thanking some and just patting the other runners on the shoulder as I tried to keep it together.

Then, our friends were there when I finished and it was awesome. I loved it. : )