I don’t know why, but I’ve always been the kind of guy who likes to plan things out. It may date back to my parents teaching me to save and be careful with my money. When I was young and spoiled(similar to this instant), I quickly outgrew the types of gifts one could receive in a single birthday or Christmas go-round. I’ve always been a Lamborghini man on a Volkswagen budget. Because of this, I quickly realized that with some patience and a little short term sacrifice you can achieve some really cool things. When you are willing to take a step back and look at where you are headed from a long term standpoint, planning for the future becomes extremely exciting and gives you the drive you need to complete your goals whether it be to save money, travel, or do something few other people could ever imagine.
It’s easy to say that you’re being foolish or getting to far ahead of yourself when you set your goals high and for the distance future, but isn’t that the point? Sure, some short term, achievable goals are important to reaching those crazy goals, but why not set the bar really high?
In sports and training, I’ve always been an endurance guy. Early on, I don’t know why but I was always intrigued and motivated in going long distances, albeit, in proportions I considered achievable during my limited encounter with endurance sports during high school. At track meets, I quickly realized that while I was quicker than most, I could never win a 100m or 200m race. 800m, 1500m, 3000m, and Cross-Country on the other hand were my bread and butter. Sure, winning was easier because not many people were crazy enough to consider doing the longer distances, but maybe it was the seeming crazy part that I liked.
I’ve thought a lot lately about why I have taken to triathlon in the way that I did and if I I’m after it for the right reasons. Sure there is bragging rights about finishing a Marathon, an Ironman, or some other long distance event, but for me I don’t think that’s it. I’ve always been competitive and that plays a large part of it coming from a high-level sporting background. But I think taking to it in the way that I have can be broken down further, the best I can do to explain it comes down to one thing, learning about yourself.
In a 100m sprint, the race is over in about 11 seconds, which doesn’t leave you a whole lot of time to think. You are competing with the other 7 or 8 lanes around you and they provide all the encouragement you need to go fast. The hurt doesn’t really come until after the race. In an endurance event, be it racing or training, you have no choice but to think. Thinking about how much you hurt, thinking about how much easier quitting would be, and thinking about the competition between your legs and brain. Some how within those thoughts, there is also the time to parse through life. There are very few moments throughout the day, week, month, or even year when you devote time to truly consider who you are, think about what you’ve accomplished and done up to that point in time, and really find out what you are made of. In a race, or when training gets tough, and you dig deep for that motivation to continue, you conjure up a happy moment, think about something that makes you want to push harder, or visualize a goal, and really find out what drives you and you truly discover what is important to you. When you’re logging the long training hours by yourself, or are in the pool, it also gives you a rare opportunity to think about your decisions, relationships, the past, the future and all of that other stuff humanly stuff that we take for granted. For me, that is why I am intrigued by and addicted to endurance. The post-exercise endorphins help too.
Any ways, moving away from the philosophical stuff and back onto course, today I read a really amazing article on the Runner’s World website about the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Over 12 000 people enter the 90km race every year and many don’t succeed in finishing within it’s 12 hour strict completion limit. The race also takes place over Africa’s 5 biggest peaks: Cowies, Fields, Bothas, Inchanga, and Polly Shortts. Comrades’ is considered the world’s largest(in terms of competitors) and oldest ultramarathon race and has many interesting traditions surround it. Someday, pending I don’t completely blow up my body and I am still driven to race, I’d like to complete Comrades. I really hope to travel the world as I get older and think visiting both Africa and completing a race of this magnitude would both be amazing moments and memories. Here’s the race profile, you can see just how nasty the race really is with a half-marathon from 20-40km’s with a gradual climb and then all of the other “little” peaks and valleys.
This year I have plans to run a 30km race which is coming up in just a few weeks, and then another half-marathon later in September. I am really looking forward to both races, the former being the longest run of my life and first trail race, and the latter, a chance to try and break the 1hr 30min benchmark in a Half-Marathon. I have no immediate plans for moving up to tackle a full marathon and instead want to focus on building a solid base of endurance and injury resistance when it comes to running. As a intermediate distance goal I’d like to complete an Ironman by the end of 2015 but that is entirely dependent on my progress at the 70.3 distance after 2 years of racing them which is my plan for 2013/14 Tri seasons.
My personal philosophy when it comes to racing is not only to complete a race, but to be at least semi-competitive as well. That means not just pushing to finish, but pushing myself to finish faster. While it is unreasonable to hope for a podium finish in every race or even most of the races I will ever compete in, I at the very least want to be the slowest of the fastest competitors. If I cannot achieve this at least with the shorter distance endurance events I am thinking about entering, more training is necessary before I race them and will have to put that race or distance off.
As a precursor to Ironman I’d like to tackle a Marathon in the year leading up to it. So if all goes well I will start training for one in 2014 at the end of race season to help prepare myself mentally for the massive swim, bike, run in the year following. In the mean time I plan on throwing in at least one baby-ultra into my yearly race schedule as they are an interesting change of pace from my normal training and at least one half-marathon during the times when cycling and Tri season are over/haven’t began.