Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Competition

I recently ran the Run to Remember in downtown Chicago, it was my first experience with a 5K road race. The race started at Soldier Field and went north up the shoreline past the Shedd Aquarium and up towards the Loop before turning south and heading back to the start/finish. My brother and I arrived late and so I lined up at the rear of the nearly four thousand person crowd, but as I looked around I noticed that most of the folks surrounding me were pushing strollers or wearing basketball shoes. Thus began my forward migration. As the introduction festivities were going on I wove through the crowd finally ending up about two hundred runners from the front. I could see that the fifty or so people in the very front were serious short course racers so I figured I’d play it safe and hang back a bit.

I’m accustomed to longer races where I have a good mile or two to get warmed up and to find my pace; not so in a 5K race. When the gun blew I started fast and tried to go faster. The first mile was crowded as I had to deal with slow people in front and the gallop and gasp people pushing me from the back, but still I managed a 6:40 first mile. I hit the turnaround at 9:45 and pushed past mile two at 13:40. I was starting to fade, but worked hard to maintain a sub seven pace. There was a slight hill coming around the Aquarium and I even though I lost a few seconds I managed to pass three for four runners who had been just out of reach for most of the race. I finished at 20:32 and was happy to average sub seven minute miles.

Instead of my typical apprehension and thoughts of “why am I here” I’m starting to savor the spirit of competition. Despite other’s claims to the contrary I’m not a very competitive guy; what I mean is that I’m all too willing to accept the notion that other folks are better than I am. I’m looking forward to putting my new competitive spirit to the test during the upcoming Onionman triathlon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What It Is That You Can Do

Lately I’ve been reading that endurance sports are detrimental to “good” health, and as much as I’d like to say “aw what a bunch of horse crap,” I guess I reluctantly agree. I say reluctantly because it seems impossible to conclude that the negative effects of endurance sports outweigh the positives: for example does the positive self-image and nutritional awareness that comes with the completion of an Ironman outweigh the physical toll the race takes on your body? It’s also inaccurate to generalize: for some endurance sports may be a big mistake, but for others, those who have been blessed with a high tolerance body and a tough mind, going long isn’t just ordinary it’s necessary.

Really I think it comes down to the difference of living versus being alive. I know it’s cliché but life really is made up of moments; searching a rock face for the next hold, wondering if a snow bridge was going to hold my weight, standing on the beach at 6:59 before an Ironman, or meeting my son and daughter for the first time, these were the moments in which I was really alive. Just existing on this planet for 102 years isn’t worth a shit if you don’t get off the couch.

A life of comfort isn’t worth living. This statement seems paradoxical in an age where comfort is king. Advertisers try to convince us that being uncomfortable is bad: smooth out the ride, take the easy way; endurance sports are the polar opposite. Endurance is to endure: endure pain, endure fright, endure monotony, endure your dark side. Endurance is also to overcome: overcome pain, overcome fright, overcome monotony, overcome your dark side. Nobody finishes the Ironman as the same person who heard the canon go off at seven AM.

A friend once asked me, “why does everything you do have to be so hard?” I do hard things precisely because they are hard, what is easy isn’t lasting, what is easy isn’t worthwhile. Perhaps endurance sports are bad for my health, but I’m willing to take the risk as I feel the pros outweigh the cons.