Otherwise known as the zoo.
I had two days off from training due to my mental and physical breakdown on Thursday. So on Saturday I took the kids out to lunch. Then we went to the zoo. Then we went to a birthday party. In the end I was more pooped than if I had simply trained all day.
At the zoo we saw all sorts of cool animals, including:
- a cool camel named Humphrey who the kids rode
- little ponies that Lara decided she wanted to adopt
-a tiger that paced back in forth in front of us in a really agitated way
-a boa constrictor that the zoo dude took out for us to see and touch.
-a really inappropriate monkey that wiggled his ass in our faces, in addition to making other, even more inappropriate gestures such as sticking his tongue between his fingers and stroking himself. I kid you not. It was kind of hilarious--and also really mortifying. The more the crowd laughed and pointed, the more the monkey decided he would put on a show.
Here is Humphrey. He is the MAN. Don't you love that mug??? I wanted to take him home with me!
Here we are out to lunch.
Today I ran. I was actually uneasy about it. Would I feel fresh? Would I struggle? Turns out it was fine-- Maybe a little faster than usual because it felt really good to finally sweat. Two days is a long time when you are used to doing, well, -- a lot more than that.
My friend Steve wrote a post on getting back into sprints the other day. He pointed out that the trajectory most triathletes take is to start with a sprint and move "up" in distance. Rarely do people decide to just stay doing sprints, unless they are too busy with life, work and family to take on more than that. But why? Why don't more people decide to try to really excel at that sprint distance?
I would argue that many of us aren't sprinters-- that's why. Steve is a gifted sprinter--a man with many a fast twitch muscle fiber and a work ethic that made him fast fast fast as a high school and college swimmer, and later as a triathlete. But many of us aren't like that. Many of us (or maybe I should just speak for me, here) aren't sprinters at all. I didn't excel in sports as a young person, and I believe that's because the longest distance we could swim in high school meets was the 500. It's funny to me now that we considered that an endurance event. How long did it take, 6 minutes? Less if you were super fast? And anyway, I didn't know I was a person who could go long. Frankly, I had never tried to run longer than a mile or two--and in swimming, I had no real ambition to do more than a 100 back.
It wasn't until I trained for my first marathon that I realized that I had something that could make me a good athlete in my adulthood. I had never had much speed, but I could go for a long time--a little bit more each day. I may not be faster than my sprinting friends, but maybe, if I tried hard enough, I could outlast them. This was toatlly novel and liberating thought for me. It was with that realization that I was finally able to consider myself a person capable of great athletic feats--if I could just put in the work.
So it's really no wonder that I was one of those who quickly moved from a sprint to an Ironman. Actually, I signed up for a 1/2 IM before I had even ever completed a sprint. And I know I'm no turtle. It's just I'm also no cheetah. I like the idea of Ironman because IM is about pacing, planning, working, and outlasting. It's not (at least in the age group ranks) about sheer speed.
Unfortunately, though, there's a catch. Sometimes, hard work and long hours aren't enough.
Sometimes you actually have to give up some long hours in order to gain fitness. Nothing makes an athlete like me panic more than being told my long hours may be holding me back--that I need to rest. Nothing. Those long hours are what I have--the only magic I own.
I think the reason so many IM athletes drive themselves into the turf with their training is because like me, that's all they have. They can't fall back on their speed. They can't fall back on their natural ability. They have only their hard work and their ability to endure. What are they-- who are they-- without their willingness to work harder and longer than everyone else? These are the same people who excelled in school not because of their innate brilliance, but because they were willing to study longer and harder than everyone else; the same people who excel in their jobs not because they have a knack for what they do, but because they spend longer at the office, honing their craft, than the other Tom, Dick and Harrys.
I have no real point here. I'm just attempting to convey the helplessness that comes when that magic--the magic of working longer and harder than everyone else--fails us.