Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Look into Yourself

It's easy to forget that this Sunday's half is not really a race, but rather a "workout" or" tune-up race". There's no real tapering. This week is a recovery week, thank god, but no formal taper. I don't plan on doing any complex carbo-depleteing-loading diet. A half-marathon shouldn't deplete my glycogen so there's no need to overdo it.

That being said, I am getting excited. As race day approaches, my determination to go hard increases. Matt Fitzgerald, the author of the book containing my training program says that he uses the tune-up races as an opportunity to suffer as much as he can. I'll certainly give it a go. 

I think the most interesting aspect of endurance sports is why we choose to do it. For mid-distance races the distance itself is immaterial. People who run those races routinely run further than the actual race. We know we can run the distance. It's all about speed. You can allow yourself to run faster than you would, for this one glorious 5k, 10k or 21k. As you strech the limits of what the human body can comfortably do, you move into the realm of endurance sport, and distance itself becomes the enemy. Runners almost never run the full distance when they train for a marathon, an ultra, an Ironman. Why do I want to tackle that challenge. I'm quite not sure yet. I just know that I want to.

It's possibly my age (I'm 44). Some 40-something feel like they have to buy a Porshe, others need to prove they are not getting older by accomplishing feats that they were not able (or willing) to do when they were younger. According to Marathonguide.com statistics, the Men 40-44 age group is historically the largest AND fastest marathon running age group. WHat does that tell you?

But I don't really care why others run or tri. I'm just happy that they do. Sometimes I feel like I do it so that I can find out why I do it. How fucked up is that? Other times, it's the intensity. There are few moments that are as intense as a race where you plan to give a maximum effort. You can usually tell by looking at people's faces. Even when people joke around before the gun, there's a tension, an edge. The further up you start, in other word the faster people plan to race, the more tension there is. People have race plans. Their brain is busy trying to evaluate how hard to go. Is it hot, cold, windy? There is a clarity of purpose in a race that we seldom experience in everyday life, where things tend to be shades of grey. I believe that this "moment of clarity" is something I seek. The longer the race, the larger the window but the higher the price. The funny thing is that after a few days, you can only remember a faint shadow of those moments. You still have stunningly vivid memories of the race, but you also know that it's nothing like living it. You just know that you will have to race again. 

And maybe, just maybe, if you swim-bike-run even further you will experience something even more intense.

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