Triathlon is a winter sport that is merely contested in summer. – Slowtwitch user I can’t remember.
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. – Richard Buckminster Fuller
So here we are, approaching the ides of March, with Eagleman only three months away, and I am vastly undertrained. Seems a bit familiar, and it also makes what I’m about to put into print at the end of this post even more ridiculous. And I’m OK with that.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know this is not an obvious linear progression. There have been setbacks, course corrections, and some total changes in fundamentals. In fact, I am still considering the scope of DB –> IM as incomplete. It’s merely a starting point. Ironman won’t be an end, just a stop along the way.
In recent months, I’ve focused much more in this blog, and especially so in my actual life, on the food part of the equation. That’s not just a 50/50 proposition, it’s more like 80/20 for normal people, and for me, it is about 90/10. Even among hardcore training enthusiast circles, the advice is usually to focus on weight loss first and worry about training for distance as a secondary matter.
I didn’t really listen for the first couple years. I just wanted to cross finish lines, as a way to prove something to myself. And it was what I needed at the time. I’m glad I do it. I have no regrets about the path I’ve taken so far. Even the glaring mistakes have been opportunities to learn the hard way.
So now that I am in a much more secure and stable relationship with food, seeing steady weight loss again, and getting settled in my routine, it’s time to put life into living. I will still geek out on things like getting my daughter signed up for sheep camp, making my own bootleg unpasteurized ghee, and exploring biohacking and paleo tweaks as I figure out the ideal diet for my total health.
But I still have this need to hit tangible goals that have some sort of finish line. The deeper I get into the paleo world, the more voices I have come to trust are talking me out of endurance sports, favoring a crossfit style approach. But as long as Vinnie T. and Ben Greenfield are around, there’s hope for me yet. And even the most anti-chronic-cardio guys will say that if it’s what you want to do as a hobby, have at it. I’m sure this week’s spreecast with Vinnie, Ben and Rich Roll will be great at talking about those issues. The announced topic Diet Debate will prove to be heated enough, I’m sure. I’m psyched.
Turning Lemons into Limoncello (since lemonade is too sugary)
So let’s talk about my race schedule. With my primary focus on my family, a work schedule that involves every Sunday morning, and various community commitments, I look at a lot of potential races and have to say “would be nice, but I can’t.” This is probably a good thing, as my first season’s schedule shows what an experience junkie I can be. Still, I had hoped to make some events an every year thing. I already missed the second year of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail 4 Miler since we went to B2B in October. So other than my involvement with the Richfield 5k as RD, that leaves one event that I got in on the ground floor. Annapolis TriRock Sprint. It was my first open water swim, and 2nd triathlon of any kind. It hooked me. I love the venue, I like the setup, and even though it’s a pricey spin off of the Rock and Roll Marathon series, I love that stuff. So I was thrilled to go back in 2012 and cut a big piece off of my 2011 time. I signed up for 2013 the day it opened up, and made plans to race in my XL tshirt. 2011 was XXXL, 2012 was XXL. And, can I deny the joy of being recognized by the lovely and genuinely bubbly Ann Wessling at the finish line?
So we were all set for another family overnight trip to Annapolis in early May, complete with a trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
But alas, as I am apparently race poison (google 5150 Clearwater 2011), the race has been moved. Local issues require it to be on July 20 now. That date is impossible for me, since it’s Dutch Days weekend. Olivia asked why I have to be in town for Dutch Days, and I told her it’s kind of part of my job to be involved with those things. Not all my colleagues see it that way, but I do. Olivia said “wow Dad, pastors really have a lot of different things they have to do.” Amen sister. Besides, she ends sheep camp the day before, and I would miss packet pickup or the family sheep camp closing. And did I mention how jazzed I am that my girl is going to sheep camp? I did? OK, I’ll move on.
The other choices are Philly Trirock, which comes two weeks after Eagleman and would feel anti-climactic, or a spot in Nations Tri in Washington DC, which Competitor Group acquired this year. It’s an olympic distance race, and though it has been crowded and somewhat difficult to navigate for past athletes, the venue alone put it on my lifetime list a year ago. Ride around closed roads in the Nation’s Capitol? Yes please!
So we’re ditching plans to return to Dewey Beach the week after Nations, and make it a family vacation weekend in DC on September 7-8. The kids are excited, and of course, the first thing they asked about was going to the DC aquarium.
It is disappointing to miss out on a three-peat, and enjoy that wonderful town. I hope Ann is still at the finish line of Nations, but if not, I can just continue to stalk her on facebook.
So we have to file this annoyance squarely in the category of first world problems. And seeing as the demographic typically bears out, I’ll use the less PC version and say this is a Grade A WPP white people problem.
Other than trying not to end up melted down, sobbing in a police car at mile 66 of Eagleman, then what are the new goals for this year?
Well, I’ve got big ones. And they aren’t just longer distances.
Back in January 2012, when I finished my first half marathon with some serious pain, I knew this had to go better down the road. And over the year, I saw improvement in my time, but it’s still way way way too slow. The day after my race, I watched mile 20 of the marathon to spot my friend Lee, and I made a key observation. There are plenty of obese people who do marathons. I could train for it at this size.
But I don’t want to.
The frustration of my 2012 season was tough to learn from, but now I’m on my way to proven success with body composition. Still, I’m slower than people with more mass to carry than me. I have no interest in just jumping into a marathon for late 2013. If I can’t squeak out even a sub 3 hour half marathon, then a full marathon for me would be something like 8 hours. No point in that. I want to do one, but not right away just to say I did it.
I do however have some lofty goals. But they will require more than just the decision to sign up for a race and talk about it. So far I’ve tackled events that did indeed take training, but weren’t yet at the level of severe punishment for undertraining. (OK, Eagleman was close, but that was all my fault.)
So, skeptical readers, keep that second quote above about the caterpillar in mind here. There’s nothing in my current performance to indicate that any of the following goals are reasonable or achievable. And I like it that way.
Short term goal – 10k swim in 2013
I’ve picked an easy 10k swim, if there is such a thing. The Little Red Lighthouse Swim in NYC, which is current assisted. As of right now, my stroke is still a disaster, and my 5k open water time from last year’s fundraising swim was just embarrassing. It was less so when I won the iPad and raised the most money, but hey, goodwill isn’t going to change a course cutoff clock. I believe that I can actually qualify to enter this swim now, just with last year’s result being official, and the pool test is something I can do now. The cutoff is less scary now that I talked to a friend of my sister’s who does this event, and can attest to the great current help. Even so, I don’t want to go in as if I were no better prepared than I am today. So swimming has to be a major focus this year.
Very Long Term Goal – Ultra Fantasy
This is like a 10 year goal. And if it happens, the fact that I once struggled to barely beat 4 hours in a half marathon will make the journey all the richer. But I am dead set on someday not just making it to a 100 mile trail run, but Badwater. This is coming from a guy who struggled to do a 7 mile trail last weekend. I’m a caterpillar. I have faith in my future butterfly form.
Another Brick in the Wall
So that’s a long way off, and in the meantime, I don’t plan to break any records. But I do want to do better than just be the last fat guy at every race. The swim goal shouldn’t be too bad, just fixing my stroke will get me there along with some serious yardage in the lead up. But that leaves one other element of triathlon, my worst weakness: the bike.
And so, in a move that will definitely raise an eyebrow or two by anyone who knows how hard this will be, especially considering the condition I am in now, I’m going to set a really ambitious goal for 2014. There’s no way this could happen this year, I’m not delusional enough to think that. But this could be in the works in 18 months if I get serious. I don’t have to put this off for five years. And by that time, they may run out of room at the top of the road.
If the hints I’ve dropped so far haven’t clued you in, you’re probably not a hardcore triathlete nerd, so I’ll just tell you. I want to earn a brick at the Westernport Wall in Savageman. If you were to watch me try any sort of climb right now, you’d laugh yourself silly at the idea of me achieving this goal. It will require both major weight loss and major bike power. One without the other will not be enough. Even thinking of this 18 months away from my current condition is probably a blend of ignorance and hubris. But those are the fuels that have kept me moving this far.
Caterpillar. Butterffy. We shall see.