Posted by: Bill | January 30, 2009

Sometimes I think Commitment to Fitness and Lunacy are Synonyms

To set the stage for this post, I must inform you that Heather and I receive coaching as we train for our various endurance events.

(Pause while I offer a plug for Fitness Concepts as an organization and Margie Shapiro specifically. I won’t go into detail on Margie’s resume, but do know that she was at the Olympic Trials in the Spring as a triathlete and there were only 9 women invited.)

If someone asked me why we expend so much toil, treasure (and occasionally blood) to train, the short answer is so that I can continue to renew my license to eat. There are also the health benefits (realage.com says we are both under the age of 23), but I think it’s also to see how far we can push ourselves and how far we can take the concept of “continuous improvement”.

To put things in perspective, you will not find me on podiums after our races. Heather, on the other hand, has been known to do quite well in her age group. I only say this because I am usually racing against my previous times and have no true rival (except perhaps Adrian Fenty).

Before I transition from the Commitment portion of this post to the Lunacy section, let me reiterate that I love the competition and the eating and the supposed health benefits…but sometimes…I really wonder what the hell we are doing and dream of retirement.

Here are short descriptions of 2 recent incidents that had me contemplating retirement.

Date: Tuesday, 1/6/2009
Location: Fitness Concepts

Margie leads a cycling class on Tuesday evenings. Our communications with her are via email and a once a week 6:00 AM track session (Margie also runs the Potomac River Runners, a club that conveniently meets at the same track near our home). This has led to improvement in my gait and running times aS I am always receiving “tips” at these sessions. She has never actually seen us cycle though.

We decided it made sense to undertake the journey to Fitness Concepts for the Tuesday evening class. The day arrives and I calculate that in order to:  drive home, change clothes, rack bikes on car, load bike trainers, eat, drive outside of Beltway (gasp!), unload bikes and put bikes on trainers, we would need to leave work by 5:30 (an often difficult task). As a bonus, it’s cold and raining. Every fiber of my being wanted to bag the class, but, as a couple, we are accomplished committers (good argument for “my spouse makes me a better/stronger/more compassionate/etc. person”).

I made an assumption in my mind that the class would probably be 50-60 minutes. This was a monumental mistake. Endurance sports (or perhaps all sports) require a blend of physical and mental performance. While the proportion is different for everyone, the mental is never going to be small. At about 30-35 minutes into the workout, we had just finished a 9 minute set that (I believed) took everything I had. I was very happy with myself, thinking I had kept a strong cadence through the entire thing.

This was when I learned that we had 3 more of these sets before we reached the last stage of the workout. Mentally, I was not ready for this. I was over halfway through (>50% is huge for me in all workouts/races) in my head. Now my math skills told me we were talking about 80-90 minutes total, each minute laden with pain and suffering.

My first instinct was to flee. If I had known this, I would have eaten more and had more liquids near the bike. Only a combination of pride and the knowledge that Heather does not quit kept me going and we both finished without injury or embarrassment. Oh yeah, in addition to the pain, Margie was able to see our pedal stroke and posture and offer some valuable feedback.

Now that we were exhausted, dehydrated and starving (Heather’s dinner was inadequate), we had the pleasure of racking bikes, packing trainers, putting on dry clothes (all in harder rain than earlier), stopping for food, and arriving home at about 9:45. I knew I had at least 45 minutes worth of work to do as well. I recovered mentally at about 11:00 PM and started in on my work…all the time thinking that we are lunatics. Speaking of lunatics, I need to mention that Margie and 2 other people in our class did the 80 minute workout before we got there…and then did it again.

Date: Tuesday 1/13 – Thursday 1/22
Location: Various

You may recall this was a really cold week. I ran three times in sub-20 degree weather (plus this run on inauguration day). I mention it here because it was most likely a first and I was having the “I’m a lunatic” thoughts through all of them. Tuesday was a 5:30 AM wakeup for a 6:00 track workout. Saturday, the gentleman I am training with for the National Marathon was not able to run until later in the day so we started a 16 mile jaunt at about 2:30. We used the distraction of the inauguration and headed for the National Mall, through portajohn city, through Eastern Market and back. The distraction was only a partial success as we spent the 2nd half of the run describing how miserable we were. The late start  helped with the temperature a bit. It was 9 degrees for Heather’s run that morning and there was ice on her behind…literally. By the end of the run though, we were losing daylight and the temp was dropping rapidly and we had the pleasure of running uphill for most of the last two miles. The last was another track workout on Thursday. Clubber Lang described it all quite well in Rocky III.

I am done whining for now. I don’t complain for attention. It is therapeutic though. And yes, I do still love it.

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