Sunday, August 29, 2010


Provactive title, no? Well, at least I hooked you for a moment. Until I tell you this isn't about booze, it's about being tired. Okay, half of you, see you later!

For the rest of you...

I’m not the hardest working athlete out there. Far from it. And I’m not here to convince you otherwise. Wouldn’t matter anyway. Endurance athletics – the running, the swimming, the biking, the hours, the miles … all of it, are personal. Incomparable to others on many levels, despite the numerous times we reveal our race finishes.

Anyway, I start this post with that caveat because I’m tired. Exhausted, actually. My hip is sore when I press on it. My legs don’t really want to run. And my brain is tired of staring at my Garmin.

Why? Because for the last eight days, I have pushed myself. “Crash Training” sort of. Not volume for me, but for pace. I’ve pushed my limits a bit this week with the aim of making pace/speed gains in the coming weeks. I don't have a defined goal in mind, but it would be nice to hold a 7:40/mile pace for 10 miles. Abstact maybe, but I think it is attainable.

It started with the Cool Breeze Century, and finishes with today’s run. Sure, I didn’t put in huge distances (no run over 13, no bike over 50 post-Century). But the little pushes, little forces, add up over the week’s end.

And at the end, I’m feeling it.

So I offer to you a peek at the past week’s work – a summary of the eight days that have brought on this mini-exhaustion. What my life is like outside of the moments you see me, work with me, or read my tweets. Emily-on-the-daily.

My drive home. The daily commute

Granted, my day job (approx 10 hrs/day) has not been crazy. And our West Side Team in Training team has settled into a nice rhythm. So I’ve been able to fit this all in without sacrifice.


Saturday 8/21 – Cool Breeze Century

Bike: 101.3 mile / 6:10:20 /16.4 mph with about 5000ft gain

Sunday 8/22 – Long Training Day
Ran 12.2 miles / 1hr 55 mins
Walk 4.2 miles / 1hr 17 mins
Swim .9 miles/ 30mins

Monday 8/23 – Recovery Run
Ran 3.6 miles / 30 mins / 7.2 mph

Tuesday 8/24 – Brick Workout

Bike 22 miles / 77 mins / 18.1 mph / 4 hill repeats
Ran 2.5 miles/ 20 mins / 7.5 mph

Wednesday 8/25 – 800 Meter Repeats
Ran 5.1 miles / 44 mins / 7.5mph

Thursday 8/26 – Two-a-day Recovery Session (AM/PM)
Ran 3.25 miles / 30 mins / 6.5mph
Biked 11.1 miles / 40 mins / 16.6mph / two hills loops

Friday 8/27 – Tempo Run
Ran 8 miles / 1hr 3mins / 7.6mph

Saturday 8/28 – Long Training Workout

Bike 46.14miles/ 2.6hrs / 17.9mph with about 2500ft gain
Ran 8 miles / 1hr 6 mins / 7.2mph

Sunday 8/29 – Team in Training Practice and Lactic Acid Workout
Ran/Coached 2.5 miles / 25 mins / 6 mph
Ran 9.55 miles / 90 mins / 6.5 mph
Walked 3.3 miles / 56 mins / 3.5mph
Swim 2000 yard / 40 mins

Time: 22 hours
Distance: 244 miles
Calories: 5.6 lbs

Looking at these totals and at the summary of the week (by the way, I never analyze it in this form…), I think my sleep and nutrition are the culprits of my exhaustion. I haven’t tweaked my food or sleep in any meaningful way, and I should have. When you push more, you require more – more of everything.


My breakfast has been cereal, coffee and a bagel thin (those skinny bagels) since work has limited scrambled eggs to once a week. (Note: my work provides me free breakfast. It is where I make up a lot of my paycheck, usually in the eggy form.)

My view from breakfast

My lunch is the same every day, in a compulsive kind of way: Cucumber, tomato, cheese, mustard and arugula on two pieces of pretzel bread, and a Caesar salad.

My dinner varied, but mostly revolved around lettuce and Paul Newman’s delicious salad dressing.

I snack throughout the day, as our PA can tell you. I eat nuts, crackers, trail mix, fruit and the occassional piece of chocolate.


I sleep 5-6 hours a night, depending on the day. Sometimes 4 (if work is busy) and sometimes 7 if I miss my alarm.

Clearly I am no model of perfection-as-an-athlete. Maybe there isn't such a thing for us amateurs and age groupers. I'm not paid to compete. I do it for ... well, "fun" is not the right word. But I'm sure many of you know what the actually means.

But I also recognize that I’ve got work to do if I want to be a great athlete. So going into this upcoming week, it’s my goal to get some more protein into my diet. Drink more water. And when I return to CT for a 6-day vacation over labor day, sleep is a huge priority. As is spending time with my parents, of course.

Until the next lightning stroke of inspiration has me writing up a storm, may your workouts bring you happiness.

Final Thought:“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest” - Ashleigh Brilliant

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cool Breeze Century Ride 2010

A recap of the Cool Breeze Century Ride up in Ventura, CA. Thanks to the Channel Islands Bike Club for putting on the event.

Friday Night:

As work was winding down Friday afternoon, I started to have some event jitters. Predictable. I always get them. Mostly, I fight an internal urge to just stay home and stick to my routine - running or biking my normal routes. But these jitters were centered around my recent crash, I think. I'd run all week. I avoided my bike. Hadn't ridden since Saturday's 40-miler.

So I decided best thing to do would be to head to the park after work for two sunset loops up and down the hill. The same loop I crashed on. Face the fear, and keep on going.

Once I got out and there going, I found my stride (or pedal... push... rotation... whatever), and 11 miles later I was ready to pack it up for Cool Breeze.

Saturday 4am:

Alarm Clock. Coffee. Toast. Gear. Drive the 101 for an hour.

Saturday 5:30am:

Checked in and met Chris in the parking lot. His team left from their hotel, but since he was on a tri bike (and too fast), he didn't ride with them. We checked in, drank coffee, waited for the start.

Imagine the peacefulness of a quiet parking lot at dawn. Now imagine the TECHNO MUSIC that he's blasting from his car. Can you see the grin in the car reflection?

At 6:35, we set off for "an easy 100" as was described to the twitter community. It's cold, maybe 60 degrees (cold for californians!). The sniffles set in for a couple of miles.

The Starting Line

Miles 1-30:

The course takes us north along a bike path and then spits you out on an extremely uncomfortable, unpaved piece of gravel known as the 101 highway.

It was like riding a jackhammer (that's what she said). So bumpy that I lost the barplug that got loose from my accident. Nevertheless, after 14 miles along the gorgeous, albeit marine-layered coast, we headed inland to smoother streets.

Map of the entire route - 102 miles through Carpenteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Summerland and Ventura

We were definitely pushing the pace for the first 30 miles of the ride. Averaging somewhere in the 18-19mph zone on the flats (of which there were many). We skipped the first stop at mile 14 and went right on grinding away.

At one point early on (mile 25?) a pace line past us in poor form. They swarmed. So Chris attacked. He hit the pedals and re-passed them at about 25 mph. And little, old me was left to ride behind their line for a while. Once I hit a wide stretch of road that was safe to pass, I played catch up to Johnny Rocket and caught back up with him a 5-10 minutes later. The nickname jackass may or may not have been uttered. Or yelled.

Miles 30-54:

The second rest stop was right after mile 34. And that's when the hills showed up.

Elevation Map. Notice the "bump". Also know as a "bitch"

The course was advertised as a 3800ft gain for the century, but my Garmin made the case for 5000ft total at the end of the day. I'm inclined to believe my watch, and my quads, may they rest in peace.

Mission Canyon

Lots of climbing through the middle section of this part of the course. It was then that I decided to play idiot biker and start snapping pictures on the move. My apologies for my negligence ... but you're welcome, for the shots.

The two major climbs we hit were close together. The first was through a field-like area. Reminded me of Idaho. It was three "turns" up. So you climb, then flatten out and turn and face another hill...and repeat once more.

The second section took us through a State Park area. From the top you could see down into the valleys and to the marine layer that still covered the ocean.

Top of Mission Canyon

The descend was pretty amazing. Switchbacks around tight corners and past beautiful houses. Not unlike Latigo Canyon in Malibu. Saw some big ass wild turkeys. I didn't take a picture because I was eating a Clif Bar. So here's a picture of a Clif Bar.


We came back down to sea level, and before we hit the lunch stop at mile 54, we rode the section that the race organizers described as "junk miles." Those flat, uninteresting miles that we needed to do to hit the 100 mark.

Fortunately, they were flat and deserted, so I took a couple photos.

Wide Bike Lanes!

Empty Streets



Chris over my shoulder

We got to the Goleta Rest Stop in 3hrs and 20mins. Although it was somewhere in the 10am hour, it was still time for lunch. And by lunch, I mean cookies and a PBJ sandwich for me. And by lunch, I mean this delicacy for Chris.

2 sandwiches, a cookie, brownies, tomatoes ... and olives

Though we had gone fast early, my legs were holding up nicely. Happy to report that Latigo and Griffith Park training had served me well. Most of the course was flat or downhill from here on out. Time to go back to Ventura.

Somewhere in that man there are olives and chocolate in very close quarters

Miles 45-85:

This is the fun part - through Hope Ranch and Santa Barbara. The course winds up through the archway-gated community of Hope Ranch. I think Oprah has a house here. It looked like a giant resort. Very beautiful, very un-LA.

Nice stretch of road inside the community

Pretty sights

Chris over my shoulder

From here, the course hooked up with Cabrillo Drive, which is a familiar stretch of road right along downtown Santa Barbara. Not only is it a busy and popular stretch of street, but it is also the Santa Barbara News-Press Half Marathon course which we've run and coached at.

From Cabrillo Drive, we hopped onto the bike path that runs past the Four Season.

To the right, ocean. To the left, swankiness

More clouds over the shoreline. It's about 11:30am by now

After another quick rest stop at mile 70ish (for phone calls and cantalope), we head to the final rest stop. Between miles 70 and 84, Chris found some "energy" and motivation to pass along messy pace line and jerk cyclist. He took off. Fast. Once I got around said paceline/jerk, I took off. This time he got farther away from me, and I chased for a good 8 miles.

I uttered another "jackass" to Chris, but upon hearing his reasoning for taking off, my wide eyes were settled. He passed the jerk to send a message. Message sent. We resumed our casual pace to the final rest stop, mile 90. The popsicles there were okay. Not great, but okay.

Miles 90-101.3:

The final, largest straight stretch of the course runs alongside the 101. With big trucks, speeding cars and all. Though there is a definite bike lane, breakdown lane, and cushion to move around a bit, it is still a bit unnerving to bike.

And our nerves were not without merit. Unfortunately we passed a very bad accident between two Cool Breeze riders (about 20mins ahead of us) and a semi truck. One of the big ones. Reports I've read say the truck inexplicibly (at time of reporting) veered into the bike lane. It did not make contact with the riders, but caused one rider to veer to her right and slam into her partner. They hit the guard rail. Broken bones and head injuries, but very, very thankfully no injuries. UPDATE: The Ventura County Star reports that the truck did make contact with one of the riders. Thankfully, they are both recovering and in good condition.

When we passed, I couldn't look directly at the scene. I know there were stretchers and people lying down, eyes closed. It was a huge bummer and pit in my stomach to end the ride that way.

Finish and Post-Ride Grub:

We crossed the line at 6hrs 10mins and 37sec, although it's an arbitrary time since it's not a race and we were not racing. Just out for that easy 100-miler.

Chris' family greeted us at the finish and snapped some pictures. I quickly found food and dove into my favorite salad.

I have a favorite salad, Cesaer, and I will eat it under any circumstance

All in all, a very fun day. Love the early start because it means I have the rest of the day to catch up with the real world. The course was a bit hilly in sections, but the views were worth the challenge - as they always are. I felt really prepared and never hit any low moments. I'm happy with a 16.4 average. Did it faster than last year, by 0.4mph, so that's a tiny victory. And that I am healthy and capable and got to spend the morning in good company will always be celebrated. Thanks for a great ride, Chris!

After downing the grub, I packed up the car and headed back to LA (traffic very easy despite the mid-afternoon rush).

Sunday Post-Race:

Sunday was a long day, including three workouts. 7.5 miles with the Team in Training group out in sunny Santa Monica. Coaching pace dictates that I go from a 9min/mile to a 19min/mile over the course of the workout. Was nice to shake the legs out. No ill effects from the ride.

After the Team workout, I headed to Griffith Park for a dusty, sand trail run in 94 degree heat. It's good for my soul, I tell myself. My throat begs to differ, and for water. Ran 9 miles at a 8:49/mile pace felt good for the first half and tough for the second. Sun+sand=tiredness. But I could have said "No, not today" and I didn't. I chose to face the workout. Got it done.

Jumped in the pool after the trail run. My rib, which bothered me only slightly during the ride and run today, spoke up loud and clear. Little yells from the ribcage during 1500-yard mini-workout. Resting it tomorrow.

A very productive, high-mileage weekend. And I leave you with a picture of the three-layered tan as proof:

Didn't Right Said Fred say 'I'm too sexy for my tan lines'? No? Oh.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Planning and Priorities

I was reading through some archived posts over at Loving the Bike. I found Darryl's blog through twitter, and it has become one of my favorite reads and resources for all things cycling.

I was really engaged by the “Priorities” post from July, not only because time-management has been on my mind, but also because there was an awesome poster at the bottom, courtesy of

I love that poster's quote. And I’m about to go to lunch and map out a hypothetical AR50/IMCDA spring training plan for myself. Still haven’t signed up for AR yet, but this is another step.

The Invincible Idiot

Last Thursday I wrote a post describing the final, long bike ride I would complete before the Cool Breeze Century Ride. I posted pictures of the Pacific Coast Highway, and shared with certainty my intent to ride all 90 miles along the coast.

And then Thursday night, 36 hours before ‘pedals up’, I got into a bike accident. More specifically, I caused a bike accident.

Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth. -Mike Tyson
The details: Thursday night I got out of work with just enough daylight left to take to the park for a quick hill workout. I planned to scale the 600ft climb three times on my bike to get some quality quad-shredding in. The loop that includes this hill traces the park and the LA Zoo right alongside the road and is just over 5.5 miles. I normally ride it in about 18 mins and 30 seconds.

Well, on Thursday I wanted to push myself a little faster. I hit the road around 6:30pm and logged the first go ‘round in 19 mins. A good warm up. I blasted out the second loop in 18:17. A nice increase despite some protests from my legs.

I set out to do the third loop in under 18 minutes. Why not? What’s the harm in pushing a little harder … she asked herself about 2 minutes before the crash.

See, along this loop there are multiple stop signs. And to the invincible idiot riding a bike around them, they are just suggestions. Yes, I was being one of the arrogant, annoying LA bikers who cruises along with only a shrug toward safety and the law.

About one mile into the final loop, I raced around a corner at 25mph. I was grinding and smiling. I saw a stop sign ahead at the four-way intersection. I figured I would just ride through it with the cars that were going straight, in the same direction I was.

I took a gamble that the timing would be right.

It was not.

Sort of what the accident looked like...minus the mountains, mountain bike, flying off cliffs and sunshine

About 10 feet in front of the sign, I saw the car. It was in the opposite lane, heading toward me. It turned left, crossing my lane, as it headed into the parking lot to my right.

I grabbed my brakes hard. Fishtailed. I knew it was too late just moments before I slammed into the hood and bumper of the car. Over it I went! 25mph to 4mph in 6 seconds. My garmin confirmed it. And the 15 other cars at the stop sign also bore witness.

I went tumbling, lost my bike (unclipped somehow) in the process, and scratched up a poor, unsuspecting teenager’s car. It was admittedly and clearly my fault.

But I was very lucky. I got up, a little in shock, and checked myself out. No major cuts, road rash or bones sticking out. I looked fine. Though I hit my head, my helmet protected me. I got my bike. Looked basically untouched. The bar plug popped out, but I popped it back in.

The driver emerged, and a cop joined us. But she didn’t want to exchange insurance info (despite my insistence) and the cop said as long as there was no damage or injury we could do whatever we want.

So I bid her a better evening, got on my bike, and kept riding. 10 minutes later I got back to my car, called my friends and (at Chris’s urging) went to the ER – checked out clean, no broken bones or concussion.

Suffice to say the experience left me a little surprised and sore. So I chose to skip PCH on Saturday and bike closer to home. The whiplash from the smackdown, plus some rib bruising, cut short my 90 mile ride to just 40 miles. But I was okay with that – I brought this on myself.

In the past week I’ve dealt with some lingering rib pain, but little else. I was able to run 21 miles Sunday and 13.5 miles Tuesday. In fact, this accident has allowed me to get back in touch with my running roots and routes a little more than normal.

I can’t swim yet, but will hit the pool next week. I’ll get back on the bike for one last pre-century ride tomorrow morning, just to make sure I can still stay balanced and safe on two wheels. I can, of course. It’s a mental workout.

And what lesson do I learn from the crash? Slow down. Don’t be an idiot. My boss's advice?
"Maybe you should take some time off working out. Go home and eat a pie.
Yes, I walked away relatively unscathed. Yes, it could have – should have – been much worse. I think I’ve spent my get-out-of-jail-free card. I can’t count on any more of those. Safety is going to take a front seat for a while, perhaps at the sacrifice of some speed.

Here’s hoping all goes smoothly this weekend and I return to LA with a few pictures of beautiful Santa Barbara/Summerland/Goleta.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Weekend's Peak Ride

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult. — E. B. White
I am staring at the final peak bike ride before Cool Breeze. It will be a 95-mile or 6hr trip out in Malibu on Saturday morning. Though I’ve done many workouts in the 5+ hour range, I’ll admit this one is definitely one of the longer ones. And writing about it here helps me commits to and focus on getting it done. Not sleeping in. Not forgoing the magic in those miles.

So how do I go about preparing for the 6-hour, Saturday sacrifice? Well, first, I stop thinking of it as a sacrifice. It’s a celebration. My legs work, my lungs work, my bike is in good shape, and I’ve got a chance again to ride one of the most beautiful stretches of pavement in the country. That trumps a 4am alarm clock buzzer and Westside traffic any day. I’ve got as much time as I need to tour the Pacific Course Highway and people-watch.

I’ve decided to start at Pepperdine, head north to Latigo canyon and climb that first. It’s a winding 10-mile 2,000ft ascent through some amazing vineyards and valleys. There’s a 3-mile descent down Kanan Road that I don’t love as much as the climb, but it’s always cool to hit about 40mph on the bike. Just got to watch out for rocks.

After Latigo, I will continue north past the Three Bitches – which are much harder to come back on – and past Zuma Beach (below). Won’t be too many people there on my way out. Many more beach goers and triathletes will populate the parking lot on the way back.

Past Zuma, I go north along a quieter stretch near Sycamore Canyon, the giant sand dune, Pt. Mugu and Thornhill Beach. Past the Big Rock (below) that sticks out over the ocean. I love this part – it’s always so calm and quiet, and the bike lines are generously wide.

Past the rock a couple miles is the La Posas exit. I’ve never gotten off the highway and continued further into Ventura County, so that will be a part of my adventure this weekend. I’m not sure where the road leads but it looks like mostly flats and farmland (below). I’ve seen cyclists coming back on it, so it’s probably pretty ride-able.

When I turn around, I’ll head back to Zuma after this, do one more loop to the Las Posas exit, and make the 25-mile trek back to Pepperdine. Well, that’s the plan at least.

I’m prepared for a little bit of mental resistance – the same I had last weekend. But I know to just keep pedaling. No matter how slow, how frustrating, just keep moving forward. The early climb up the canyon will help counteract the part of my brain that says, “Stop now.” I love climbing mountains.

I sometimes regard this marathon-length training sessions as my own little crusades against complacency. The goal is always to finish, and the aim is to finish feeling a little bit stronger than yesterday. I like knowing that I’ve put the effort in, and that the strength I will gain from these campaigns is earned. I’ve been training , semi-focused on Cool Breeze, for months now. Sometimes tedious. Sometimes thrilling. And all very real. A slice of life on two wheels.

Here’s hoping for no flat tires or spirits.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Gray Ride

A couple snapshots from my bike ride along the Pacific Coast Highway this morning are peppered through this post.
The Churning Waters of Malibu, CA
Got myself up at 4:30am to head out to Malibu for a 6:15am start time. It was a chilly 61 degrees at the start of the ride, and that definitely affected my mood. I was riding solo, a little tired from two Friday workouts where I pushed my pace. I wanted to ride, but the reality of a long day was dawning on me...appropriately at dawn.
From Big Rock, looking south toward Thornhill Beach in the distance. Mile 24.6

To step back for a moment. Had you asked me 4.5 years ago what I'd be doing with my life, "biking Malibu at sunrise" would not have made the list. As an east coast transplant and someone who hates the timed mile, it's still a wonder to me that I am here in Los Angeles. That I am challenging myself to long distances. That I am actually pursuing that Hollywood dream.

These thoughts cropped up during the first 25 miles of the ride, and made it a challenging one. Any time you question your potential and ability/ambition to live up to it, you open a can of worms. Big can. Lots of worms.

But at mile 24.78, I packed away the can. I decided to embrace the life I had laid out in front of me today. All 56 more miles of it.
Marine Layer over the Mountains of Ventura, CA. Mile 55.
I completed a couple loops - along one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the country - in 4hrs and 41mins. I went almost 82 miles. And then I swam 3K. Because I could. Because this is my California life. Some days it's gray and I question how the heck I end up here. But most of those days, I can pull my head from the clouds with some affirmation that the marine layer of life will burn off, and I will truly find my place on the road.
Finish Line of Today's Ride
Final Thought:
"Even when it's raining, it's still fun." -Stone Gossard

Friday, August 6, 2010

So What’s Next? Not an Easy Answer

It’s funny the way endurance training works. You’re forced to plan 1 or 5 or 12 months ahead of your race in order to prepare. The question of “What’s Next?” requires just as much math as is does consideration of personal ambitions. The calendar only has so many months, and it can be a tricky dance between what I want to take on versus what I can realistically manage.

Since we are inching out of the summer of 2010, I’ve started to piecemeal a race schedule together for next year. I’m already signed up for the Goofy Challenge – where I will run the half marathon with my mom (followed by Disney vacation!) and the full alongside some good friends and twitter folks (@goofy57runner @MrBrettYoung, @maddyhubba, @jenn_if_er, @petfxr … and others. Please @reply and let me know if you are going!)

But this schedule looks beyond Goofy (January 8th and 9th, 2011) to the summer season. Why so far out? I only have two races on my radar. Two big ones.

American River 50 Miler April 2011

Ironman Coeur d’Alene, June 2011

Both of these races are cornerstones of my personal athletic life, and of this blog. I am officially signed up for IMCDA 2011. In truth, I’ve been signed up for a while (two weeks after I completed it this year), though I kept this information to myself in case I thought it an impulsive decision and I wanted to back out. I have decided it is not.

I will train to be a repeat Ironman. I can’t expect to capture the awesomeness that I experienced during my time in Idaho this year. But I will train with the hopes of creating equally awesome memories next June.

The AR50 is the wildcard in my schedule. Also happens to be the day after my birthday. It’s a sentimental race for me. It was my first (of two) ultramarathon. It was proof to me that I could accomplish something I really wasn’t sure I’d success at. It taught me Focus. Persistence. Patience. Returning to the beautiful American River course in Sacramento would mean tapping into those treasured disciplines again.

The debate I am waging – to sign up for the AR50 in addition to my day job, training for the IM and coaching TNT – is a very careful one. I’ve never had to so thoughtfully consider my race schedule and how it affects my life. Maybe this is a sign that I am finally an adult (…who still eats Dunkaroos).

The volume of my day job is greater than it ever has been, which is a good thing for me professionally.

The time I dedicate to coaching is very important to me as well – I do not cap any hours I spend doing that. And I need to consider how my race schedule may affect everyone who is a part of my TNT family.

The distances I aim to complete require much time and effort to prepare for. That’s why I choose them in the first place. While I have gotten a bit stronger and faster, I train by minutes not miles. So being extra fit or a little slower doesn’t change the amount of time I spend training.

The root of this debate is a familiar topic in my writing – the balance of life and happiness. Can I balance all four of these challenges successfully? What does ‘balance’ mean? What does ‘successfully’ mean? Will I be shortchanging any of my training, my participants, my co-coaches, my social life or my health? Or can I transcend what I perceive are limitations and prove that I really can have it all?

That's the key to having it all: Stop expecting it to look like what you thought it was going to look like. -Cindy Chupack, Sex and the City

I work because I like making movies, I enjoy being productive with a team, and life isn't free. Bills and such.

I coach to share my love of sports, honor the people who inspire me, and help find a cure for blood cancers.

I train for triathlons to challenge myself and show others that they, too, can do what is seemingly impossible.

I run because it makes me feel whole and in tune with the universe – yes, hyperbole! I want to do all of these tasks, and I want to work to better myself at each of them.

What I am risking by taking on so many challenges at once is the change at shortchanging one or all of them. Failing at them. It would be a failure to not give each the attention they require. It would be a failure to not “be present” – to be engaged – with each challenge in their moments. It would be a failure not to complete either race (though a bigger failure not to start, some may argue). And it would be a failure to miss an opportunity to inspire someone else.

We can learn a lot from failure, of course. But it is shortsighted to set myself up for it? Or is this another perceived limitation? A barrier that is not even there?

There are boundaries to navigate: only 24 hours in a day, the necessity of sleep, and my arch nemesis known as LA Traffic. But there are sacrifices that I can make: TV, mindless internet surfing, maybe even writing. All sacrifices in a search for deeper joys and personal satisfactions.

I’m very conscious that this is a philosophical post centering on a superficially small decision – pay the race entry fee for the AR50. Tape the calendar to the fridge. Get going.

But, as I am sure any dedicated athlete experiences, the races are always more than just miles on the pavement. It’s a way of living. This is what I debate. This is what I chase. Not the finish line banner and a telling digital clock. Not medals or jackets (though both are good reminders). I chase the pattern of discipline. And I chase in hopes that others join me and we create a common thread together.

The AR50 sells out in the winter, but as a planner, I will give myself through August to decide, and then I’m in or I’m out. And once that’s laid down, off I go with my goal or goals in sight.

Fire can cook you food or it can burn your hand. Depends on how you wield it. Same goes for ambition. Harness it correctly and it will take you to a reality that is beyond your imagination (…I sound like Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). But mishandle it and you will get very, very tired.

So in short time, I will have a full answer to “What is next?” Until then, I've got mountains to eat for dinner.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

4:00 AM

What are you dedicated to? What is your goal? And what lengths do you go to – would you go to – to achieve it? Is it a goal that can be measured and quantified? Or is it a way of living and being, a success that can only be revealed in hindsight?

These aren’t questions that cross my mind daily. Not in the least. There are too many excel sheets and final draft documents taking up room in my brain. But recently, after a spout of 4:00 AM wake up calls, I got to thinking about the decisions we make in the name of progress.

A clock that reads 4:00 AM is a symbol of dedication. It reminds me of waking up each morning to get in a run when I was training for the American River 50. It reminds me of getting up and heading to the gym to swim and run in preparation for IMCDA. Currently, it signifies rising on the weekends to go biking in Malibu (Sat) and get in a training run (Sun) before TNT practice.

Admittedly I do not do the most smiling or laughing before the sun comes up. My motions are slow, infantile. Coffee helps the cause, but like anyone else, in the 15 minute window when it hasn't kicked in, I'm all angry-eyes.

I don't jump out of bed and onto my bike. I trip and fall into it more often. I put my spandex on backwards once or twice before getting it right.

I leave my apartment without my watch, have to go get it. Then I forget my HR monitor. Back and get that. Get my bottles or socks I've also forgotten. It's a lame, zombie dance until I wake up. But I can't let it stop me. Progress in the face of ...sleepy-face.

4:00 AM is not a time. It’s a pattern of behavior. Perseverance exemplified. Choosing immediate discomfort for the reward of a much greater feeling later on. I will get out of bed because I promised myself I would. I am determined to bank time on the bike/pavement/pool before my other obligations come calling. Because ultimately, persistence makes me happy. And a happier me means that I am better at helping others.

So what is your 4:00 AM? Is it a medal from a race? A picture of a finish line? Is it a pair of goggles by your gym bag? A coffee mug? A picture of your family? A pair of socks?

Whatever little sign, memento or time of day captures your own sense of determination, take it and plant it in sight in the most figurative and literal ways. See it clearly, live it as best you can, and keep moving forward.
Because there is a whole lot of living that goes on at 4:00 AM.

Final Thought:"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves." Sir Edmund Hilary

Latigo Canyon: In order to get this view, you have to climb 10miles/2000ft at 5:30 AM. It’s worth it.