August 31, 2006

The "I" in "Team"

Team sports in our country have gone to hell in a handbasket. And I'm not talking about some nice Dorothy from Kansas, flowery and foofy picnic basket with fresh baked homemade cookies inside. If only our beloved sports were in that wonderful condition. Instead, team sports are carting off to hell in a frayed, sharp edged, stanky basket that holds nothing but the soiled remains of used syringes and the putrid stench of inflated egos. Blech!

It's a sad state of affairs.

Many a journalist and critic have spouted superfluously about their disbelief in the state of today's sports. Cheating has become so rampant and the lies so unimaginable, we barely blinked an eye as Tyler Hamilton, cycling's neo-Houdini, denied doping charges by telling us how he'd channelled the energy and genetic make-up of his miraculously vanished twin fetus. So when Floyd Landis stepped forward in his drug allegation brouhaha to claim that a bottle of scotch had altered the composition of his blood cells, we barely chuckled in astonishment as we flippantly turned the page to the Barry Bonds fiasco. C'mon Floyd... Tyler Hamilton has already trumped you with a vanishing twin fetus, you've gotta come up with something better than a bottle of alcohol! Jeez Louise... At the very least, how about a claim to having been gang-raped by Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin? Or, better yet, what about those EPO aliens that came down from outerspace, siphoned all your blood out of your eyeballs and refilled your veins with the miracle blood of their fearless leader.

All joking aside (for a second), Tyler and Floyd are just the tip of a very large iceberg in a very big drug problem in sports. We are living in what has become known as the "Steroid Era." In fact, steroid allegations are released so frequently, I heard the New York Times is already coming out with a weekly sports-gone-bad supplement. It's called "Dope."

The truth is, though, I don't think steroids are the problem. Steroids are just a mere byproduct of the state of sports in our world. Steroid use is a symptom, not the disease. The true problem with team sports in today's culture is that it is no longer about the team. Somewhere along the way, with all the money and the media, we forgot about the "team" in "team sports". I just double checked the dictionary and apparently there is still no "I" in "team." Then again, maybe it's written in invisible ink cause somewhere along the way we definitely took a left into "selfish gain" when we should've taken a right into "team unity." And so here we are in a new age that I affectionately call the "Selfish Era".

Terrell Owens may very well be the poster-child of the Selfish Era, and he's not even accused of using steroids (Lord knows, NFL players don't use steroids at all. In fact, they're all celebate too.) Terrell, or T.O. as the rest of the world calls him, suffers from an acute case of Fat Richards Disease. In other words, he's a big dick. T.O. is a child who refuses to grow up. He acts so much like a 3 year old, even 3 year olds don't want to be associated with him anymore.

For the record, T.O. is a football player and football, as we know, is a team sport. However, like most toddlers, all T.O. cares about are four things: Me Me Me Me. I will freely admit that T.O. is a great football player; arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. He has a lot going for him. Unfortunately, every one of T.O.'s actions - on and off the field - acts in detriment to the team mentality. As I said, he's a big dick.

T.O. doesn't follow direction, he doesn't respect his superiors, he doesn't abide by his word and when all is said and done, he doesn't care about anybody else but himself. He is a selfish ass and if he weren't such a goddam great football player, he'd be sitting at home cursing the world for being so unfair to him. Truth be told, if he keeps up his inane behavior, he may find himself there sooner than he thinks.

Unfortunately, T.O. isn't an anomaly in the sports world. To the contrary, the disease runs very very deep. Barry Bonds (baseball), Latrell Sprewell (basketball), Jose Conseco (baseball), Kobe Bryant (basketball), Ron Artest (basketball), Justin Gatlin (US Olympic Team, track)... and the list goes on and on. All of these guys play ON athletic teams, they just don't play FOR the teams - they play for themselves. Their goal is simple: to get more well known, more money and more fame, regardless of what they've to do to get there.

Steroids, my friend, aren't causing the selfish behavior. Selfishness breeds steroid use. By taking performance enhancing drugs, they are feeding their selfish machine - making them stronger so they can get more money and notoriety and then having to continue the steroids so they can live up to their hype. Very little of this has to do with helping their team succeed.

But wait, there's more. We haven't even talked about the irony yet. And there's always irony.

The irony of the Selfish Era is that individual sports like triathlon, snowboarding, golf and skateboarding, breed more unity than most major team activities. How many times, as a triathlete, have you encouraged - or been encouraged by - another competitor on the race course? Did you know that the pro triathletes at Kona come out to the finish line to cheer on the last of the Sub 17s? I challenge you to show me the selfish nature of that act.

Tiger Woods recently encouraged drug testing in pro golf. Some might shirk at that comment. In fact, I'm pretty positive that a lot of people laughed at it. Drug testing in golf?! they spat sarcastically at the SportsCenter crew. For godsakes, we know Tiger is not using them - and whatever other golfers are using, clearly it ain't working. No harm, no foul.

But let's try to keep our sarcastic comments to ourselves and not be over-critical of Tiger's intentions. The simple act of Tiger's encouraging drug testing in golf, was a tremendous example of unity and community. Essentially, Tiger is saying that if there are bad seeds in this bunch, let's all work together to get rid of them. We will not harbor criminals. We do not welcome cheaters (or, in some cases, women) on our greens. Golf, like triathlon, tennis and so many other sports, is an individual activity, but it is not a selfish sport. Perhaps other sports should look towards these activities as an example.

Don't get me wrong, I am vehemently against the use of performance enhancing drugs. Athletes must work together to put a halt on steroid use in sports. And by doing so, perhaps the unity will quell the rising tide of selfishness that has violated the very fabric of our national pastimes.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author (which is me) and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the page owners (which is me as well). The page owner (yeah, me) reserves the right to remove any material deemed to be of offensive or inappropriate nature (which I would've written myself). (Wait a minute.. why am I disclaiming myself? Have I truly gone mad already?!)

August 30, 2006

Oh Come, All Ye Dissidents

Los Angeles is a town of extremes. The Wealthy and the Poor. The Democrats and the Gropenfuhrer. The Haves and the Havenots-but-are-willing-to-give-up-everything-for-the-dream-of-one-day-Having.

The beautiful thing about living in LA is that you get to experience these extremes on a regular basis. Sometimes even at the same time. Take today for instance. While stopped at a traffic light I gazed mindlessly into the supermarket parking lot on my left. There in front of me was a fairly tall African American security officer speaking to a not-quite-as-tall homeless looking white man. Just the sight of the two of them elicited all sorts of thoughts about the tremendous advancements in racial equality we've experienced in our country over the past 50 years. Isn't it wonderful, I thought as a somewhat stilted version of Ebony & Ivory played in the rusted jukebox of my mind. In fact, according to this rather small supermarket survey, we've equality-ed ourselves right through to inequality again - apparently the white man is now the one on the outside. The segregator has become the segregatee. And just as my mind was flowing into a wonderful tangent that involved Tiger Woods, Iman and the Macy's Labor Day Parade, I noticed the homeless man yelling frantically while the security guard pointed, angrily demanding that Whitey vacate the premesis.

Wait a minute, I thought, what happened to our racial harmony?! Can't you people hear Ebony & Ivory? Hold on!! THERE IS NO VIOLENCE ALLOWED WHILE STEVIE IS SINGING!!

And just as we were side by side on the piano, the white homeless man turned around and started walking out of the parking lot. As he walked I could see that he yelled something - I just couldn't hear it. No need to worry though, cause the security guard sure heard it. And whatever it was that the homeless man said, I can pretty much guarantee you, it wasn't too nice. I'm guessing it was a reflection on a previous time, when we weren't all so goddamn racially equal. Or maybe it involved the security guard's mother, which is never nice. Either way, the security guard, in what I can only imagine was a clear breach of his employment contract, ran up to the homeless man screaming and yelling in a rage, reached his arm back and - THWAPPPP!!! - smacked the bejesus out of the homeless guy.

As you can probably guess, homeless guy wasn't too happy with the beat down, so he turned around and started kicking at the security guard. Next thing I know, it's a full-on throwdown with fists flailing and feet kicking and people running over to help but not knowing what to do so they ended up just standing around feeling - and looking - quite useless. Just as I was about to take a dramatic Bo & Luke Duke type of turn into the parking lot to save the day, the homeless man turned around and ran away. Which is good, cause this violence really didn't need to escalate any further and besides, I really had no clue what I would've done when I got there either. I'm sure I probably would've just stood around being as useless as all of the others.

Eventually the light turned green and I continued on my way. A few minutes later, finally recovering from the sight of a seemingly violent protest of the homeless, I arrived at my destination: the Post Office.

Why, pray tell, has the Post Office become a magnet for the wackos? It's as if you had to act like a freak in front of the Post Office before you are recognized as an official Weirdo and people start avoiding you when they walk down the street. Random crazy Post Office behavior is like a Bar Mitzvah for the insane - it's their official entry into Wacky World.

So anyway, I'm walking up to the Post Office and I see two people lounging about on the sidewalk under a beach umbrella and sitting at a table with a couple of anti-Bush signs hanging about. Now, being in a very very Democratic state, it is not uncommon to see lots of anti-Bush hoopla all over the place. Sure, it's like preaching to the converted, but that's another story entirely. This anti-Bush protest, however, was not your regular sit-in. You see, these two people weren't just sitting about spouting their Democratic rhetoric. Oh no, this one was much better. Get this - they were sitting amidst all of their "change the world, we're going to hell" paraphernalia as they sang - yes, sang - in two part harmony - yes, two-part harmony. As if this Mamas and Papas reunion tour wasn't enough, you had to hear what they were singing. Clearly it was some sort of peace protest song, but it was belted out to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for anti-Bush protests. Hell, I like a good non-violent protest as much as the next guy. But to have a two person protest in the middle of summer, to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing?! There's a fine line between protest and just plain wacko. Besides, if you're singing a Christmas carol, can that really count as a protest anyway? Does anybody have a protest rule book I can borrow?

I couldn't believe my eyes - or ears, for that matter. In fact, I couldn't believe it so much, I started laughing at them. Other Post Office dwellers looked at me with a twinkle in their eye, as if they too wanted to laugh but were too scared the peaceful protest carolers may morph into violent psychopaths.

That's wonderful, I said looking around to my fellow letter mailers. And as I thought about the violent outburst in the parking lot but a few minutes before, I wondered if a good Democratic Christmas Carol may have calmed the rambunctious energy of the Supermarket brawlers. Maybe if I had driven into that parking lot, screeching and squealing my tires in announcement, and jumped out of the car with all sorts of Superhero fanfare, and suddenly began singing, at the top of my voice, a wonderful version of Good King Wenceslas - maybe that would've quelled the violence. And maybe I wouldn't have been as useless as I previously imagined.

I guess the truth is, we just don't have enough singing protests in this town.

August 29, 2006

From The Streets Of Penticton

Imagine you were a street in Penticton today. After a full day of tires thrasing across your body, the incessant pounding of running shoes hammering into your very being, the unrelenting jumps for joy of spectators battering your backbone as they bellow callously in your ears. The brutality you experienced was undoubtedly excruciating. If you were a street in Penticton today, you'd probably wake up this morning with one helluva hangover - and a fairly sore backbone.

But there is a pain that is bad and a type of pain that is good. And I would think, if you were a Penticton street today, the pain you'd be experiencing would probably be of the good variety. Similar to that fireman who, seconds after saving the life of a baby in distress, falls through the woodwork and breaks a leg, somehow the pain is worth it all.

In fact, I'd imagine if you were a Penticton street yesterday, that after awhile you'd even have stopped feeling the pounding. That as the energy of the racers surged into your skin, you would have become electrified. And maybe you'd even have gotten to a point where the pain gave you strength, and all of the sudden you found yourself striving for greater elasticity, for anything you could do to help propel those racers forward.

If I were a guessing man and you were a street in Penticton, I'd imagine that everytime a racer crossed that finish line, you felt a sense of pride. As if you helped drive that racer forward. As if you yourself lay face-to-face with death so that this racer could get through to the end. In fact, I'd probably guess that with each finishers cheer, your pride grew exponentially. And as the last of the racers were passing across your being, you reached deep down inside and gave everything you had to propel them forward. Even as Sherri Lee, the last of the sub-17s, crossed over your body, you still didn't give up. The clock had stopped, but the racers didn't. And so neither did you.

And maybe after all the aid stations were moved away and the spilled Gatorade evaporated into air, after the road barriers were dragged off of your sidelines - maybe you laid there trampled and trodden, unable to rest from the enduring memories streaming through your mind of your days incredible experience.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, your memories faded into sweet dreams until you woke up this morning to a new day. Beaten. Battered. Bruised.
But proud.
Very very proud.

To all Ironman Canada finishers,
From the streets of Penticton.

August 24, 2006

Ironman Canada: Thoughtful Wishes From A Self-Important Fool

I've got a few friends racing Ironman Canada this weekend and I've got to say I'm a little bit excited for them. When I think about the amazing experience they are going to have, I can definitely feel something fluttering about in my stomach. Perhaps it's not a full family of butterflies frolicking down there, maybe just a house-fly jacked up on crystal meth. But its a fluttering feeling nonetheless.

For a few of these friends, IM Canada will be their first Ironman distance race. Ah, I remember back whenI was younger and doing my first Ironman race. What was it... four?... no wait.. five...yes, five weeks ago. Those were the good ole days, my friend, back when men were men and I was freaking out. It was a mere few days before my first foray into Ironmania. The excitement and anticipation. The fear and nausea. Just thinking about it makes me eek out a smile and silently scrunch out a harumph.

And so I sit here an Ironman, with my vast library of IM racing knowledge, wondering what great life-altering insights I could impart onto these puerile little neophytes; these defenseless little lambs, their heads peering with naive curiousity into the drooling jaws of the lion.

Oh, my little tender ones. You are opening a door to which you know not what lies beyond. It is a door into a new world; a door into your soul. Let me tell you, Ironmanettes, let me tell you what lurks behind that door. There is a monster in there. A big, ugly, horrific monster. It is a monster that can rip you apart with one brash stroke of it's claws. It is an evil being with deadly fangs that can violently tear the heart right out of your chest. It will hold up your heart in it's paws with pride, as your lifeblood floods the streets. And that monster will stand there over your heartless body, shrieking and screaming and ferociously rejoicing in it's ability to destroy you.

But you need not be scared, my pretty, because there is a way. Ah yes, there is a way that only the initiated will know. But I am here to tell you, and it is so very simple. Come around, little kiddies, come around and listen. For the answer is so very easy.

All you must do, when you open up that door, is embrace the monster. Wrap your hands around the monster and embrace him. Let him know that you are not scared, that you will not turn back. Demand to all that can hear that you will keep moving forward, under all circumstances. Through rain, sleet, cramps, pain and agony - nothing will stop you from taking another step. Let the world know that no matter how hard he screams and tears and claws at your soul, the monster can not rip the heart out of you.

Yea though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you shall fear no evil.

And if you do that steadily and continuously, trust me, you will suddenly feel that monster fall into your arms. The monster will cuddle against you like a defenseless kitten.

And when you find yourself crossing the finish line, hands triumphantly in the air, a smile stretched across your face, you will feel victory in your heart, for you will have conquered the beast.

So march forward, one and all. Feet pittering and pattering upon the pavement in dissonant unity. Ironman awaits. And you're gonna have one helluva great time.

August 22, 2006

It's All So Very Sketchy...

I'm sitting at a chair in Starbucks right now. There's a guy in the chair next to me who is clearly an artist. It's really the drawing pad and the charcoal on his lap that gave it away. (You can call me Sherlock Holmes, if you like. I don't mind.) I think he's drawing me. That is to say, I recently noticed that he keeps looking over at me every minute or so, then goes back to his drawing pad. Then looks at me again, and back to the drawing pad. Dead giveaway, really.

So I'm sitting here, all of the sudden feeling a bit self-conscious, and wondering what the hell the common protocol is for when you think somebody is drawing you. Do I just lean over and say, Excuse me, sir, are you perhaps drawing me? That seems a bit awkward. Maybe I can casually try to walk around and glance over his shoulder. Though since his back is against the wall, that could prove to be quite a bit difficult without a jackhammer and some sort of drywall remover. Perhaps if I give him a good swift kick in the shins, he'll double over and I can peak a glance.

Such dilemmas.

But all of that won't really answer the most important question of why he would be drawing me. Do I really look that unique? Are my features that grotesque? If he is in fact drawing me and I think it's ugly, shouldn't I be allowed to take the drawing away from him? I mean, wouldn't it only be natural for me to own the rights to my own image. Perhaps if he says that he is, in fact, drawing me, I should tell him to stop immediately until I call up my attorney and get a release form drafted up for his signature.

Maybe I'll just sit here and start constantly shifting in my seat, thereby screwing up his drawing. Want me to pose for you Mister Replicate-My-Image-Without-My-Permission Guy?! Well how would you like it if I moved my arm HERE!! And maybe now I'll drape my leg over THIS! How's that drawing coming along now?!

Oh wait.... he's not looking at me anymore.
Never mind.

August 21, 2006

I Can't Be Here Now Now. How 'Bout Tomorrow?

Sometimes I stare at a big blank piece of white paper, desperately trying to think of something worthwhile to write. Well, maybe it's not exactly paper, more like a computer screen. And, sure, maybe it's not all white, there's actually a blue strip on top, a little bit of orange, some grey... come to think of it, it's all fairly colorful.

Yeah.... so sometimes I stare at a blank space and I don't quite know how to fill it up. I'll sit there for minutes on end, racking my brain for some wee tidbit of a story that might breed a modicum of intrigue worthy of your attention. But, alas, you could practically hear the tumbleweeds swooshing about and thwacking against the walls of my cranium.

At that point, I sometimes just start typing, if for nothing more than to calm the tumble-swooshing in my mind. Eventually, amidst my random typing some story tends to evolve and I get so engrossed in the story, describing every minute detail, every emotion and interaction, that by the time I come back to my senses I've realized that I'm already three pages into the damn thing. So I bring it to a close. And as I read over what I have regurgitated onto the once white/orange/grey space, I marvel in the fact that I haven't really said a darn thing at all.

My life, it seems, has become a never-ending Seinfeld episode.

Things happen - they're funny, heartbreaking, ridiculous, dramatic, idiotic, overwhelming, underwhelming, midwhelming... all these different things happen, and though they're so tragically meaningless, they tend to draw even me in. I get caught in my very own spider web.

So I keep trying to convince myself that there is brilliance in the minutiae (great word, minutiae... so much fun to type.) I persuade myself that the little things in life are the most important. The little things, I'm convinced, are really the big things. In fact, that's the funny thing about the big things in life; most of the time you don't recognize them as big things until long after they're done. They start out as little things until one day you realize that it's changed your life, which might very will be the definition of a big thing.

Think about it. Each little training day you have seems so meaningless when it's happening. You don't go out on one fifty mile ride and all of the sudden feel like an Ironman. But one day leads to another and one mile stretches to two. And as you're finishing mile one hundred thirty five of a one hundred forty-plus mile day, you realize that all of those seemingly meaningless training days have added up to one big thing. They've changed your life.

I guess all of this gobbledy-gook could make you learn to appreciate the everyday. You know, maybe it could make you sit around and meditate on the breeze blowing through the trees, or treasure in the joy of your every breath. Unfortunately, I barely have the patience for any of that stuff.

The whole concept seems like such a small thing anyway.

August 18, 2006

The Seventeen Day Free Ride

It all changes after seventeen days. Nobody else is ever going to tell you this information, so make believe you don't have ADD for a second and pay attention. Better yet, with your memory, why don't you write this down somewhere. Mark it on your calendar, even. Seventeen days.

Let me explain...

One of the many great things about Ironman training is the amount of calories you burn on a regular basis. In this crazed world of never-ending fad diets, Ironman training is arguably the best solution. Why give up gorging on a loaf of delectable Hawaiian Sweet Bread when you can go for a seven hour ride and two hour run instead. Hell, you might as well make it two loaves - you're gonna need the carbs.

But wait, it gets better... There comes a point a few months into the intense training where your body's metabolism takes a drastic turn from good to gooder. All of the sudden, you're burning up food like a wildfire in a marshmallow factory. You suddenly realize that within 24 hours just about everything you put in your mouth will be quickly annihilated by your body as if it never existed in the first place. It's somewhat existential, I guess -- if the food disappears without anybody seeing it, did it really exist in the first place?

Throughout the height of Ironman training, your body's metabolism is at it's peak. It becomes a finely tuned machine, processing all it consumes as efficiently and effectively as an auto assembly line. Suddenly you realize that you've essentially built yourself a Free Food Pass, able to chow down just about anything you want without turning into the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. Sure, you want to try to stay healthy. Hell, some days you're out there exercising for so long, you really only have time for one or two meals a day anyway. Why not reward yourself with a few slices of pizza. Extra pepperoni, if you will. And while we're at it, why don't you pick up a vat of that ice cream, it sure tasted good last night.

Then, of course, you race your Ironman and your training comes to a screeching halt. Maybe you manage to get out there a week or so after the race for a short run or a slow spin on the bike. But you finally have the freedom to put your life back together so the training regimen becomes drastically different. And guess what? Your metabolism hasn't realized that Ironman training is done. Everything you eat is still getting burned up quickly. That side of cattle you gorged on to celebrate the Ironman? Gone in a day.

A few days later you realize that you're in dieters heaven. You've managed to change the very functioning of your own body, allowing you to eat just about whatever you want without the impending fear of porkiness. This is heaven, you think to yourself. I've trained and gone to heaven.

It's amazing, you tell your friends between bites of hamburger. I can eat anything. Truly incredible, you say as you shove french fries into your cheeks.

I'm here to tell you.. enjoy. Eat, gorge, chow, ingest. You know why? Cause it doesn't last. Eventually your metabolism is going to catch on to what is happening - and it ain't gonna be happy. Those potato chips aren't leaving your body so easily anymore. Oh, and that extra side of bacon you had for breakfast ain't goin' anywhere either.

Though it took you half the year of strenuous training to get to the point where you can eat anything you want, you know how long it'll take for it to all go back to normal? Seventeen days.

So enjoy, cause eighteen days after your Ironman, you're gonna find yourself back in the exact same place you were seven months ago... staring down at a sad, wilted plate of lettuce greens as you start thinking of when you can squeeze in another year of Ironman training.

Star Spotting Of The Day: Christian Slater, soon to be featured in either some VH1 inspired "Where Are They Now?" show or a "Hollywood Drug Rehab Recap" rerun on Entertainment Tonight.

: San Vicente Blvd, Santa Monica

What He Was Doing
: I was in the middle lane on my bike, he was stopped in his black GTO in the right hand turn lane, sipping on some frappacino or macchiato or one of those foofie whipped creamed Starbucks beverages at 6:45 in the morning.

August 17, 2006

14 Random Things I'd Tell First Time Ironman Racers If Anybody Ever Asked Me

1. Stick with your plan.

2. Inevitably, things will happen that won't allow you to stick with your plan.

3. In case of #2, make believe Plan B is your plan. Stick with that one.

4. No matter how bad and irreparable things may seem, they will eventually get good again. Unless you die. But you won't. So don't even think about that. I'm sorry I brought it up.

5. Every once in awhile say something encouraging to another racer. It'll make both of you feel better and the sound of your voice will remind you that you're still alive. (I still feel kinda bad about that dying comment)

6. Don't try anything new on race day. Unless its got the words "chicken" and "soup" in it.

7. No matter how hard it seems, you had much harder training days.

8. Before you get to the starting line, make sure you know the reason you are doing an Ironman. Write it down, remember it. If everything else dramatically falls apart, this will be your source of hope. As Nietzsche's middle-of-the-pack triathlete-racing second cousin once said, He who has a why to race an Ironman can bear with almost any how.

9. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Train hard, race easy. Be here now. It's time you made a withdrawal from the Mantra Shop. You'll be surprised how well a few simple words will keep you on track.

10. Be here now. (see, the mantra works already). Don't worry about what is behind you and stop your mind from thinking about what lies ahead. All you can affect is right here, right now. An Ironman is not 140.6 miles. It is one stroke, one pedal, one step and you keep focusing on that one step and repeating it until you feel a finisher's ribbon crossing your chest.

11. Figure out what you need to eat and drink months before you get to the starting line. All the training in the world will add up to a load of bull pucky if you don't pay attention to your body.

12. Take it easy throughout the day. An Ironman race doesn't really begin until somewhere around Mile 16 of the run. If you pace yourself well, you'll be zipping by people during the last 10 miles like they were passed out on the side of the road. Which they probably will be. Try not to kick them in the face as you run over them - that's just plain rude.

13. Stay positive. Stay calm. As Yogi Berra's triathlete-racing Australian neighbor's uncle once said, racing Ironman is 90% mental, the other half is physical. Maintaining a calm, positive attitude throughout the day is oftentimes the difference between a good race and a really crappy one.

14. Remind yourself regularly that you are racing an Ironman. Relish the experience. Enjoy the day. The miracle isn't that you will finish - and you will. The miracle is that you had the courage to start.

August 16, 2006

Che Guevara Would Not Be Proud

So I get to the library this morning at 9:30, only to find out it opens at 10am. Since when did libraries start opening at 10am? Don't people read before 10am?! This is crazy, I think. Absurd even. And so I stood there for awhile pondering the societal implications of library working hours as it relates to the proletariat's continuous struggle for civil equality.

And then I looked at my watch.
OK, that wasted five minutes. Twenty-five to go.

I realized that the Library Cafe was open. You see, the city of Santa Monica just built this new fancy shmancy library with more books than you can imagine, free wireless Internet access, rooms where you need secret security clearances to enter, a super-advanced highly-technical book check-out operating system and, of course, a Cafe. Which apparently opens before the actual Library does.

With twenty-five minutes to kill, I decided to venture into the Cafe courtyard to take a seat at one of the many quietly comfortable tables. As I walked outside I noticed about ten other people scattered around in various stages of time-kill, all of whom clearly must be equally flabbergasted as I that the library doesn't open until 10am. Maybe we should start a protest, I thought. Right here in the Santa Monica Library Cafe, maybe we should all get together and make a statement about Library working hours. We could change the world.

But, alas, though I really enjoyed Motorcyle Diaries, I am far from a Che Guevara type. So I sat down at a table right outside the locked library doors and started reading my book. Which, I've got to admit, felt kinda ridiculous. Like having a picnic on the front lawn of Applebee's. But whatever.

I looked around at the other folks in the courtyard. There was the college-looking student sitting like a wallflower in the corner, bobbing her head silently to the beat of her iPod. Granny McReadalot was at the table behind me, with her thick glasses and stack of books-on-tape. Across the way there was a quiet kid, about 19 or so... jeans, t-shirt, blonde hair in a crew cut, just sitting calmly and silently.

It was almost soothing in there. All of the sudden, as if on cue, in walked the loud obnoxious guy with the booming, cigarette-gravelly voice and the know-it-all attitude. He saw the quiet kid across the courtyard and apparently marked him as the primary target.

You in the military? he yelled over to the kid as he walked up to his table.
The kid mumbled something that sounded like a long way to say Yes.

Good for you, you'll be great, Gravel Guy said. I was in the army. Sounds like you have an accent, where you from? he continued without barely taking a breath.

Russia, the kid replied, clearly wanting this strange overpowering man to go away.
As for the rest of us in the courtyard, clearly it was showtime.

Russia?! Gravel said with a lot less excitement than I made it out to sound. He continued... I was station'd over there once I know some Russian lemme tell you what I know howta say in Russian.

And suddenly my ears perked up. This might be a better show than I expected.

I gotta word for ya, the Gravel Guy, said. Kamchatka. You know what that means? Kamchatka.

Kamchatka?! I thought, as I glanced over at the guy to see if he was serious. Isn't that a type of vodka?! Is this guy retarded?!

I couldn't see the Russian kid roll his eyes, but I can only imagine that's what happened.

OK, I've got another one for you, Gravel retard said as he uttered four or five words that, through my linguistically challenged ears, sounded about what I would expect Russian to sound. At the very least I suddenly had a craving for a very cold shot of Kamchatka.

You know what that means? he asked as the Russian kid sat there in what I can only imagine was a mixed bag of fear, anger and annoyance. The kid nodded and looked at the guy like he was crazy, like if this obnoxious American stuck around much longer he'd go all Ivan Drago on his ass.

What does it mean?! I began silently yelling to myself as I perked up my ears hyena-like. For the love of borscht on a hot summer day, tell me...WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!

And when he said it, I could barely believe it myself.

Turn down your TV set, he said.

This was one of those moments where suddenly it felt like the entire world had gone silent. Like everybody from the Santa Monica Library Cafe to the Yablonoi Mountains had suddenly stopped what they were doing and turned around to stare in bewilderment at Gravel Guy. Here we are sitting quietly in the Cafe as we wait for 10am to roll around so the damn Library can finally open their doors and let all of us good, honest working class people partake in what we Americans like to call "freedom." Meanwhile, some moron is using up quality oxygen to let a poor, innocent stranger know that he has the ridiculously impractical ability to utter the words Turn down your TV set in Russian.

At this point there was nothing further to say.
The library doors were opened. And democracy prevailed.

August 14, 2006

From The Annals of Be Careful What You Wish For

I've said in the past that I wanted to remember every emotion from my first Ironman experience. It was such a special event in my life for so many reasons, I don't want to forget the feelings. Of course, here I am saying this just 3 weeks after the race. A bit pre-maturely sentimental perhaps. Maybe I should actually wait a couple of months before I look back and memorialize the damn thing as if it were the most momentous event this side of Jesus pulling a Houdini three days after he died.

The thing is, though, I can't help but think about the different feelings I had throughout that Ironman day. Every once in awhile I'll be sitting about doing a lot of nothing, when I just start thinking about the second loop of the swim, or the climb on the bike at mile 100, or....

My Ironmind is at it's most active when I'm out exercising. I guess it all makes sense. I mean, as I'm pedaling on my bike it's only obvious that I would think about my Ironman bike ride. Maybe it's the honey wheat pretzel guy, or seeing Catherine for the first time - or maybe just those few blocks through downtown Lake Placid where the throngs of people were screaming for me as if I were actually a superstar - as if I were even within 3 hours of the leader. I wasn't. But it still feels good.

And that's the thing I realized, is that I keep remembering those good feelings. The feelings of achievement, of the crowd yelling my name - the excitement of being a first time Ironman. And these are the emotions I was talking about up there in the first paragraph. They are the ones I want to hold on too as tightly as I can, to grab them and bear hug them with all of my might until they are firmly Crazy Glued to my heart.

Those are the emotions that get me excited to exercise again. Biking and swimming have been fine since the race - almost enjoyable. No pain, no tiredness (no schedule and no heart rate monitor.) Running, on the other hand, has been a chock full o' fatigue. I can barely get through three miles without my legs pleading for an Ottoman - and I ain't talkin' about no Empire.

I went for a run this morning. As usual, my legs were pretty darn tired when I started and didn't seem to get better throughout the 4 mile shuffle. Around mile 3 I was struggling up a very shallow climb with such effort it had surpassed the point of near embarrassment and slammed right into the wall of pitiful. I could see the final turn a few blocks ahead of me, knowing that if I could just make it to that street it'd be downhill all the way home. But my legs... ah, the legs. They just didn't want to move. Then the ever-so-slight twinges of pain started creeping into the hamstrings. And the stomach started growling.

Here I was, an Ironman, and I didn't know how I'd make it through my 4 mile run.

And then it hit me like an Acme Anvil on the head of Wile E. Coyote. This is EXACTLY what it felt like at Mile 14 of the Ironman marathon. This pain, the agony, the utter sense of defeat. This was it.

The thing is, it's not a good feeling. In fact, it's a pretty crappy one. But it's part of my experience, whether I like it or not.

And so I guess no matter how much I try to push all of these painful memories under the rug, I can't ignore them. Eventually I'll just end up tripping over the damn feelings and bashing my face right into them.

I suppose that the pain and challenge just makes me stronger. I'm sure if the adage is correct, I must've built up all sorts of character I never had before. But seriously folks, when I said I wanted to remember all of the emotions from my first Ironman experience, I thought we all kind of assumed that I was just talking about the good ones.

August 11, 2006

Left Leg First

This morning I put my pants on, left leg first. It felt weird. Surreal, even.

For the better part of thirty-nine years I've woken each day and put my pants on right leg first. That's approximately thirteen thousand one hundred and forty consecutive days of shoving my right leg in my pants before my left. And then today it all changed.

I know what you're saying right now. Who cares, you're thinking. I really can't give a flying frittata how he puts on his pants in the morning. In fact, I'm surprised to hear the little such-and-such can even dress himself at all.

Well, before you fall off your high horse and break a barnacle, why don't you stop interrupting me for a change and let me continue.... jeeeez.

OK, where was I.... Oh yeah, my pants.
It felt so weird to put my pants on differently that I got to thinking about it quite a bit today. I started thinking about the repetition in our lives. How we go on day after day, year after year, living our same habits in our own same ways. It becomes so incredibly incessantly monotonous until we virtually become numb to the feeling of our everyday activities.

Have you ever been riding your bike down a long road - or driven down the highway - and had your mind wander? Where all of the sudden you come back to reality and for the life of you, you can't remember the last ten minutes of your ride. Isn't that scary? Now what happens if you get to middle-age, and suddenly you can't remember anything interesting that happened in the last ten years of your life. That'd probably be a bit scarier.

Prior to my Ironman USA extravaganza, a fair few Ironman racers told me to stay in the moment and enjoy the experience. At the end of the day, they said, regardless of whether you have a good race or a bad one, what you'll remember most are the feelings you had throughout the day. So there I was on race day, plugging along at my pace, and continually trying to remember every single feeling that I had at every single second. I wanted to catalog every emotion of every mile so that in the future I'd be able to relive those feelings at the snap of a finger.

The thing is, by the time I got to race day I had already logged in so many endlessly monotonous training miles over the previous months, that my mind had already been conditioned to not pay attention. So while I was out there chugging along through the hours at the race, I had to learn how to do things differently. Instead of letting my mind wander, I had to force myself to stay in the present. In a way, I guess I saw the same experience from a different perspective. And that, in itself, was a wonderful experience.

So then I started thinking, maybe this is the answer; maybe sometimes we just need to get a new perspective to truly appreciate the everyday. Perhaps when I brush my teeth next, I'll start with the top left quadrant instead of the bottom right. And maybe tomorrow I'll once again put on my pants with the left leg first.

But I doubt it.
It felt really weird.

[Editor's Note: These are the types of things you think about when you are stuck in Los Angeles traffic. I really need to stop driving on Fridays.]

[Writer's Note: There really isn't an editor for all of this nonsense. If there were, he wouldn't allow half the crap that comes out of me to make it online. I sometimes just call myself the Editor. It makes me feel important. We all have to have fantasies.]

August 09, 2006

Don't Forget To Tip Your Waitresses

As many of you know, I started this blog to recount my journey from desperate dreamer to proud Ironman. And boy oh boy, it's been quite an adventure. Along the way we've had our share of laughs and tears and more than a few swear words. Throughout the months I've received tremendous support and encouragement from people all around the globe who apparently are bored enough at work to read this crap that I write. I thank you all from the very depths of my heart. So deep it practically hits my intestines.

So here I am, an Ironman. (If you haven't yet read my story about the Ironman experience, I recommend it. It's long but worth it. You'll laugh, you'll'll get indigestion. But in a good way.) And now I'm faced with the big decision of what to do with this damn blog. Truth be told, I've really learned to love writing my nonsense here. It's become a bit like a puggle, if you will. It started off kind of ugly and annoying, peeing and crapping all over my Post-Toasties, until one day I woke up and realized I had quite a bit of affection for the little bugger. And now that it's all up and grown, I've got to figure out what to do.

There are so many stories and thoughts I still want to share with you about Ironman racing and triathlon. Some pretty funny. Some maybe even a bit insightful (though it's best we not give me too much credit). On top of that, Catherine and I got slots for the New York Marathon. I don't know if we'll actually run it this year, but there is a chance that more training might be in my future, and that always makes for pretty good copy.

What this all means, I guess, is that I'll still be writing some more. Hell, now that I'm not training for an Ironman, maybe I'll even write more than I did before. Aren't you lucky? (correct answer: "yes")(other acceptable answers: "thank you sir, may I have another", "sir! yes sir!" or "fo shizzle my nizzle")

Here's the thing - I'm just trying to figure out an overall theme for this blogging nonsense. I mean, we've gotta have a theme, don't we? I can't just go all willy-nilly on yo' ass. That's not fair. So I'm thinking... trying to come up with something. In the meantime, if you've got any suggestions, please feel free to drop me an e-mail. Cause right now I ain't got no idea nohow.