November 06, 2005

The Dichotomy of Me

The 8.8 mile run this morning felt very good. Surprisingly good considering the fact that I haven't even put on my running shoes in over a week. It's amazing how much no alcohol the night before a workout can really make the exercise more enjoyable. I keep forgetting about that. I remember back in the day when I could drink myself silly on a Saturday night, staying up until the wee hours of the evening and consuming enough alcohol to inevitably have me dancing down the streets with a couple of friends, singing rounds of "Sweet Caroline" or any number of cheesy sing-a-long classics. I'd wake up bright and shiny at 7am the next morning, head out to some local race and pump out a 40 minute 10k as if it were nothing at all.

But life ain't like that anymore.

I've gotten older and my body just doesn't work the way it used to. I'm overly passionate about triathlon and exercise, but I also really love going out and having a good time. And therein lies the problem: as I've grown older, these two activities have become mutually exclusive. It's just not possible for me to consistently train seriously and, at the same time, eat/drink myself silly. So what I've done is come up with the perfect solution - a solution that pretty much defines the dichotomy of me. You see, I've divided up the year into two distinct sections: the Racing Season and the Drinking Season.

Let me 'splain.

The Racing Season usually starts around January 3rd and continues on through October-ish (though the end date is fairly flexible.) Throughout the Racing Season I become seriously dedicated to my workouts. Inevitably I have a goal race in mind for each year. Most years, it is the Vineman Half-Ironman in Sonoma County. This year's goal race, as we all know, is July's Ironman USA in Lake Placid. Thanks to Coach Gareth, throughout every Racing Season I have my daily training schedules, which I adhere to religiously (says the guy who hasn't been to temple in 17 years). I study each week's training schedule with the meticulousness of a brain surgeon. I alter my travel schedule, my work activities and my social calendar to adhere to each week's particular training needs. I rigorously pay close attention to my nutrition, ensuring that I cater my eating habits to maximize my ultimate training potential. I rarely touch the alcohol. In fact, I have no desire to drink alcohol during the Racing Season, and would much prefer a nice glass of water over anything else. Throughout the Racing Season, my mind is completely focused on preparing for racing, recovering from racing and actually racing. I become a triathlete possessed.

It usually takes about one month for me to recover emotionally from the goal race each year. So about four weeks after the race, the Racing Season officially comes to a close in my mind. Over a period of a few weeks, I slowly transition from the Racing Season into the Drinking Season. I go out to dinners a bit more often and catch up with the friends I haven't seen in months. I have a glass of wine this day, maybe a vodka tonic that day... a couple of margaritas even sounds quite refreshing, now that you mention it. My nutritional habits slowly disentegrate. Pizza may find its way into my stomach once or twice a week. A good burger isn't too far behind either. Ever so slowly, I spiral down into the off-season crevasse. Falling and falling into the chasm of out-of-shape off-season athletes. By somewhere around October, all bets are off. I'm eating and drinking myself silly, going out nearly every night of the week to catch up with friends and inevitably getting sucked back into singing "Sweet Caroline" at least once throughout the season. Previously, I've been considered a part-time alcoholic. The drinking has cut down significantly but oh there are still the moments.

And then, just like that, January is upon us again and the Racing Season must begin.

The transition from Drinking Season to Racing Season is not an easy one. One quickly gets lulled into the simplicity of sluggishness, and climbing out of this abyss is a laborious process. It takes me a good month of focus to make the full transition. The beginning phases have me telling everybody I'm back in Racing Season again. Yet I still find it difficult to be physically active every day. The next phase has me out there lethargically, trying to awake my body from its numb hibernation and kick-start it into reliving the joy of training. Ever so slowly, I lessen the alcohol intake, improve the nutrition, become focused on my training and one day find myself smack dab in the middle of Racing Season - and feeling great about it.

With Ironman USA in July, I've committed myself this year to beginning the official Racing Season on December 1 in order to give me ample time to train properly. So, with December looming down on me like a vulture over fresh roadkill, I've begun the transition process from the Drinking to the Racing Season. And though you will read anectdotes of me galavanting across town, you will read just as many about my passionate and oftentimes tumultuous relationship with training. Slowly though, the galavanting subsides as the training intensifies. With this change comes the struggle to keep my life in balance.

And so begins my yearly rebirth. I am beginning to let go of the Drinking Season. I am trying to embrace the Racing Season. It is oftentimes difficult, but I know the joy that lies in front of me as I once again transform myself into the passionately obsessed triathlete I pride myself in being.

It's amazing what a simple 8.8 mile run can do, huh?

(now, just for old times' sake...hows about a quick sing-a-long..)