Wednesday, May 30, 2007

practice?!?! we talkin' 'bout practice?!?!

i don't want anybody ever thinking that triathlon is it about single-minded obsession with training. it is...and it's not.

training is fundamental to learning how to complete, much less race, an athletic event as demanding as triathlon--especially if you've never done one before. it involves commitment and dedication, sometimes to a degree you have never done before. but once you do it, you'll realize it's just like anything else of value in life, and hence not anything more demanding than the act of living itself.

i don't want people thinking that training is ever easy. sometimes it is...sometimes it's most definitely not.

training is about improving your capacities and developing your skills, and just as equally about expanding your perspective and increasing your expectations. in order to do this, you must break through self-perpetuated limitations on your life--physically, mentally, spiritually. this can be quite painful. it can turn out to be the most difficult thing you've ever done. but at the same time, once you've done it, you'll wonder how you never did it, or how you could have ever been the person you were before.

i don't want people thinking that triathletes are sadistic, self-absorbed, obsessive sociopaths with no other thought in their minds than to train, eat, train, sleep, train, work, train, shower (or not), and train some more. they are...and they are not.

as a triathletes (or any athlete)--especially at elite levels--you have to tolerate discomfort in order to push yourself to the level necessary to overcome a challenge. sometimes, in order to deal with the biggest challenges, this means more than just tolerating discomfort; it means embracing pain. and embracing pain means having to live with suffering...a state that is not natural to the human psyche, and something that requires effort by the human spirit. this is something that invariably blurs the border into an apparent attraction to pain, self-obsession, and anti-social behavior. thing is, once you've overcome your challenges (especially the biggest ones), you'll invariably find yourself humbled, and greatful, and more resolved to making the world a better place than anyone who's never been through what you've been through could ever hope to understand.

i do, however, want people to understand that triathletes are just like any other athletes, and this means that they are human. and being human means being capable of realizing the greatest qualities of humanity, as well as its being vulnerable to its lowest foibles. the implication of this is that as superhuman as many triathletes appear to be to the average person in overcoming nearly unimaginable distances, triathletes are in reality just as tortured by the temptation to be simply normal and either quit or avoid those distances.

trust me, sometimes you wake up and the last think you want to do is to get your rear end into a gym, or a swimming pool, or on a bike, or on a track or running trail. sometimes you just don't want to do anything other than just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling and watch tv and eat and read and then sleep some more. sometimes you just don't want to anything at all.

and every triathlete has had the moment when they've just wanted to chuck the sport and hang it up and go home and get fat (well, okay, maybe not that) and lazy (well, yes, most definitely that).

and every triathlete, just like every other athlete, has had a time when they've had this thought--or something very close to it--running in their head:

if that doesn't work, here's the direct link:


not that i condone this attitude. i don't, because--and let's face it--practice and training has a purpose, and you won't ever realize whatever potential you may have unless you practice and train. but having said that, there are still times when i can totally sympathize with the sentiments here, and there are times i've completely felt this way.

i think it's better to recognize and accept this. you have to deal with it before you can move on. the alternative--denial or resistance--just aggravates the problem by allowing it to fester, in which case all it does is grow. and if it grows big enough, it will explode, and the results won't be very pretty, for you or anybody else around you. what you really need is for it to go away, and the sooner the better.

by recognizing and accepting that you feel this way, you at least give yourself a chance to treat it by doing the following:
  1. understand the nature of the problem
  2. realize the source of the problem
  3. either allow the problem to dissipate on its own, or mitigate it by addressing its origins
  4. decide how to get past the problem and move on
dealing with the problem begins with recognition and acceptance. it ends by moving on.

and you have to move on. it's the only way you'll be able to continue with the task you've set for yourself: completing the race. more than this, it's the only way you'll be able to have the freedom to become the one thing that you have the potential to be: fully human.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

many paths, one way

the right way. there are many who claim to know it, many who claim to follow it, many who claim to teach it.

the right way to swim, the right way to ride, the right way to run. the right way to carry your head, the right way to hold your hand, the right way to turn your shoulder, the right way to arch your back, the right way to move your hips, the right way to move your legs, the right way to point your feet. the right way to breath and look and tense and release and count cadence and heartrate and turnover and footstrike.

the right way to train. the right way to eat. the right way to sleep. the right way to study, the right way to pray, the right way to work. the right way to dress, the right way to listen and speak, the right way to think and feel. the right way to live.

so many voices. each one claiming they know the way--and their way is always the right way.

funny thing is, when the day comes and you show up for your race and the starting horn goes off and you find yourself in the thick of people and weather and road and chaos, and the goal of the finish is only a flicker in the distance, you invariably discover that the circumstances are very different from what the many voices told you. by chance or circumstance or purpose or design, you find that their ways do not work.

at least not the way they said they would. or the way you wanted them to...or the way you needed them to.

that's when you look around, and see everyone around you. that's when you see many different people doing many different things. that's when you see that their swim is different, their bike is different, their run is different. their heads and hands and shoulders and backs are different. their waists and hips and legs and feet are different. and their breathing and looking and control and count are different. everyone, and everything they're doing, is different. from you, and from each other.

they're not following any of the ways you were told to follow. in fact, they're not following any way at all.

all they're doing is moving as best they can as fast as they can with whatever they have and however their bodies will allow them. one hand at a time. one leg at a time. one foot in front of another. in an inexorable progression somewhere anywhere further than where they were before.

all they're doing is moving forward the only way they know how.

all they're doing is following a path.

so many people, so many paths. each person on their own.

of course, some are better than others. some are slow, some are fast. some are hard, some are easy. some are complex, some are simple. some lead to self-destruction and oblivion, or wind aimlessly off the course altogether. but some do none of these; some lead instead over and around and under and through the water and land and sky, on journeys through places and people and sights and sounds forming the full experience of life and living that is the sublime meaning of existence and has as its purpose a serene mystery all its own.

and these paths take people in a manner they were meant to go...or need to go.

and these paths hold lessons far greater than can be covered by any one voice claiming only one right way.

it makes you wonder if there is such a thing at all.

but you know there is.

it's the one that takes you on the path you were meant to go...or need to go. it's the one that recognizes all the paths that all the souls in all the world must take through the sublime meaning and serene mystery that is this creation.

it's the one that gets you to the finish.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

back on the wagon


i'm back on the wagon.

actually, i've been on the wagon.

i finally bit down and sucked it up and got back on 2 weeks ago. it all started with the 10k race (Santa Monica Classic) back on May 6. i figured i'd just go ahead and keep it up. no point in letting good exercise go to waste--if you're going to go out and sweat and suffer and stumble and stagger for an hour on a perfectly peaceful and godly serene Sunday morning, then you might as well just make it worthwhile and take the conditioning gain as the starting point to get back up the mountain of fitness you know you're going to have to go up again sooner or later...and it might as well be sooner rather than later (because later means it's going to hurt just that much more).

seriously, though. i'd had enough of a break.

i kind of alluded to this in my last post: recovery: the post-Ironman blues

the obsessive-compulsive desire to go workout just wasn't going away. in fact, it was getting worse. waking up in the mornings was waking up to the constant thought of "oh geez, what was on the training schedule today?" i was waking up before my 5am alarm and jumping in the car to get to school so i could make it to the gym just as it opened, even though i had absolutely nothing on the training plan to do. i basically just stood around in the gym, flailed around in the water, pedaled aimlessly on the stationary bike, sauntered lazily along the track...and then promptly launched into anxiety attacks about all the fitness i was losing and all the hours i was wasting and all the calories i was accumulating and all the work i was facing and all the bills i was paying and all the things i needed to be doing and everything and anything and something and nothing.

yup. your basic training-deprivation-induced existentialist crisis. yikes!

compounding it was that the cravings i'd been having for everything that i'd previously been denying myself (you know, the good stuff: ice cream, cake, pies, cheeseburgers, hamburgers, pizza, steak, BBQ, etc. etc. etc.--the stuff that you look at and instantly feel the surge of arterial slag, endocrinal decay, and cardiovascular distintegration) was complete satiated (yes, you heard that right: completely satiated) with just daily single servings in the course 1 (yes, you read that right: one) week. i just didn't want to eat it anymore (yes, that is right, it's not a type: i. did. not. want. to. eat. it. anymore). i mean, you go out and satisfy the craving with a massive gorging and consumption fest of ridiculous boorishness and utter depravity, but then about 24 hours later you're wallowing in a sudden onrush of intestinal pain, digestive distention, full body bloating, sensory shut-down, internal systemic chaos, and overwhelming, overpowering, overthrowing, omnipotent, infinite guilt.

yeah. nagging persistent headache-inducing subconscious afflictions of conscience. ugh!

the turning point was when i looked in the mirror...and the mirror does not lie. you can see things in the mirror that you don't want to see. the muffin-top love handles starting to pile up on the hips (especially on the backside, where you find it just a little to easy to not to want to see); the flabby underarms jiggling down the armpit (just so pretty); the chipmunk cheeks ballooning down the gullet (so a circle is more symmetric than an oval, huh?); the tire gathering around the midsection (making the pants fit just so snug, baby!); the stretchmarks growing across your butt (mama's little secret...she sure did raise a cutie!). things that just tell you how far you've fallen back, and just how far you're going to have to go to get to moving forward.

uh huh. body-centric image-focused superficial waves of insecurities. oof!


so seriously, i'd had enough of the break.

and after that 10k (unbelieveably painful, by the way), i figured enough was enough, and decided to get my fat, lazy, insecure, conscience-ridden, existentialist-crisis butt back into the gym and back onto nutrition and back under a training plan and back around a fitness goal and back back back on the wagon.

sort of.

i haven't gotten back to 2-a-day workouts. 1x per day is where i'm at now. i haven't gotten back to 3 mile swims, just 1500 yards is what i'm doing today. i haven't gotten back to 6-8 hour bike rides, just 60 minutes on the stationary bike is enough for me. i haven't gotten back to 2-3 hour runs. 1 is plenty right now.

but i'm getting there.

besides, i'm doing a whole load of surfing, so that counts for some exercise right?...right?

ok, maybe not. but whatever.

i'm back on the wagon.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

athletes in other countries

the experience of athletics really does vary.

this was an article in the LA Times recently:,0,2410288.story?page=1&coll=la-home-world

wow. wow. WOW.

in our society, athletics usually breaks down into very distinct and commonly accepted types of experiences:
  • there's the recreational athlete, who's invariably a "participant" in sports more than a "competitor," in the sense that sports is treated more as a past-time (i.e., the "pass the time") rather than a passion or a profession
  • there's the serious amateur, who pursues sports as a passion consuming time, with the main purpose being to improve and compete, even if there is little chance of a professional sports career ( would be nice if the opportunity presented itself).
  • then, of course, there's the professional athlete, for whom sports is a livelihood, and something to be taken seriously because it is a way of earning a living.
i see these experiences as involving (in various degrees) different objectives:
  • socialization--because you get to meet, practice, and compete against people you might not ordinarily have the opportunity to meet
  • personal development--to improve your physical, mental, and spiritual self, whether in terms of improving aspects such as physical strength or conditioning, self-discipline and self-motivation, or serenity and connection with issues in life and the world.
  • competition--as a means of engaging, expressing, and directing ordinarily primal violent competitive instincts in an environment that is still safe, controlled, and sportsmanlike (i.e., maintaining courteous behavior to avoid hurting someone)
  • getting paid--if you're good enough. most, obviously, are not. but some are, and for them, the money from prize winnings and sponsorship deals is all the motivation they need.
this article, however, shows a much different, much darker side of athletics.

i should note that i don't interpret this article as a condemnation of Asian sports in general. i have no doubt that there are situations like this played out in Western countries--there are abusive, nefarious, and dishonorable people in Western sports who are just as bad as the Eastern ones presented in this article, and the Western ogres can produce just as harmful consequences on their athletes...they just do it in different ways.

however, i do want to present this article to show that for some people, the athletic experience is one of brutality, and the objective is one of exploitation and victimization. it's a cautionary tale of just how sports can be co-opted for the worst side of human nature, and how it can be used to reduce the human condition.

sports, i believe, is amoral. by itself, sports does not have any intrinsic qualities. the qualities it does have are those qualities given it by its participants. as much as sports is a part of life, then sports must follow life as a reflection of human behavior.

which is why i tell people that if we want sports to be about improving the human condition, if we want it to be about the better side of human nature, if we want it to be about being noble and uplifting and empowering, then we as athletes must take it upon ourselves to exercise those qualities within ourselves. in this way, our athletic experiences will be reflected in our sports; in this way, our sports will pass on our experiences to the rest of the world.

hopefully, if enough of us do this, sports will serve the ideals and values of all that which is good in life.

and we'll prevent the horror of stories like the ones told in this article:

Chinese athletes are run into the ground
The many who don't make it big often end up jobless, even crippled.

By Ching-Ching Ni

Times Staff Writer

May 6, 2007

BEIJING — Guo Ping was just 9 when she started training as a marathon runner. By the time she was 16, she had gone pro, getting up at 4 in the morning and sometimes running 40 miles a day on feet so swollen she could barely squeeze them into her shoes.

Although she harbored Olympic-sized dreams, the coal miner's daughter thought she also had a good backup plan. If she couldn't become the best of the best, she could always retire from sports and get a government job as a police officer.

That promise by her coach, she says, helped her endure a brutal training regime in which she and other runners had no contact with the outside world and no one to protect them from the coach, who beat them with a whip or baton, or knocked them off their feet with the bumper of his car if he thought they were slacking off.

But four years after she retired at 26 with nothing but an elementary school education and a body crippled by sports injuries, the former marathon champion says she has been duped.

Not only is there no job waiting for her, but Guo and her teammates charge that their coach pocketed their government-paid wages and refuses to give them back.

"We trusted him because we were young and he was our coach," Guo said. "He told us he'll save the money for us and we can have it all back later and not a penny will be missing."

Guo and two other former teammates at the Railway Ministry league are taking their coach, Wang Dexian, to court. Wang denies misappropriating their money and has said his beatings weren't severe.

But the case is an embarrassment to the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics and a reminder of the communist machinery that once mass-produced athletes and now can't afford to take care of them after retirement.

The athlete's entire training is financed by the state, and successful athletes, even basketball whiz kid Yao Ming, now a star for the NBA's Houston Rockets, are considered government properties who must do as their leaders say. Their job is about gaining glory for the country, not pursuing personal interests. Many poor families consider professional sports the best way out of poverty and are willing to sacrifice personal freedom for the leg up.

'Relics of the past'

But the cradle-to-grave welfare system that took care of their predecessors no longer exists. A lifetime of repetitive physical training and a lack of proper education conspire to make them poor candidates for the competitive new economy.

"These athletes are relics of the past, when training to win was all that mattered," said Xu Benli, a sports sociologist at the Shanghai Physical Education Institute. "The system is improving. The country is trying to give athletes a more well-rounded education. But it takes a lot of money to educate and find jobs for every retired athlete. Even now that's an impossible task."

The plight of retired athletes was elevated to the national political stage in March when former speed skater Ye Qiaobo, a member of the Beijing organizing committee for the 2008 Games and a 1994 Winter Olympics medalist, called on the Chinese parliament to give retired athletes the same social benefits as former soldiers.

"Athletes must choose a second career after withdrawing from the world of sport, and many of them go into retirement suffering from injuries. While the whole country watches its first home Olympic Games in 2008, cheering on the country's athletes to grab a bigger share of gold medals, we should also pay more attention to their lives," Ye told the China Daily.

Although some say the number is much higher, the Chinese General Administration of Sports estimates that about 6,000 professional athletes retire each year, and about 40% have a hard time finding new jobs.

Success stories

Those who successfully reinvent themselves are usually high-profile Olympic champions. The best known is gymnast Li Ning, who won six medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, including three golds. He now heads a sportswear empire.

Another gymnast, Liu Xuan, took the gold medal in Sydney in 2000 and has gone on to college and become a pop singer. "Diving Prince" Tian Liang, who earned two Olympic golds and three world championship titles, announced his retirement in March. He plans to open a diving school and enroll in graduate school.

But behind each success story is a vast army of Chinese athletes who won't make it to the top and can barely survive at the bottom.

Former national weightlifting champion Zou Chunlan scandalized the nation last year when she acknowledged that she worked in a public bathhouse scrubbing people's backs for about a dime apiece. The 36-year-old also told state media her coach fed her "medicinal tonics" that ended up giving her unflattering male features such as facial hair and a husky voice.

With only a third-grade education, she was qualified to do little but backbreaking manual labor. She considered herself lucky to be hired by the bathhouse, whose owner was a fellow retired athlete who took pity on her and gave her free room and board.

Cai Li is another well-known Asian weightlifting champion who won numerous medals, including gold at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. He ended up as a doorman in a local sports school where young athletes are trained. When he died in 2003 of respiratory disease reportedly related to his training, state media reported he had $37 in savings.

Medals for sale

Guo's teammate Ai Dongmei also drew headlines last month when she went online and offered to sell her medal collection to support her family.

She and her husband, another former athlete, have been making ends meet by hawking popcorn and cheap clothes on the street for a few dollars a day.

"I regret bringing her into this sport," said Ai's uncle Ai Jingzhi, also a former runner, who recalled that the only job offer he got after retirement was as a furnace cleaner. "If she hadn't become a runner, she might have gone to school and learned something useful to support herself."

Guo said she envied Ai. At least she has a family and is scraping by.

The 30-year-old says she would love to get married and find a job. But she says no one wants her because of her feet, so deformed she can't walk more than 10 minutes without sitting down.

"You have to walk just to go on a date," Guo said. "I walk with a limp and when I tell them why, they all just want to break up. We live in a practical world. No one wants to marry a cripple who can't walk or work."

During her prime, there were admirers. Once after a competition, a young man from another team walked up to say how well she had run. But speaking to strangers was against the rules. Her coach beat her so hard with his slippers that she went into the next day's match with thighs that had turned black and blue. Another time, she said, the coach beat her for two hours straight for slamming a door.

"We were all petrified of our coach," Guo said. "Just saying his name makes me sweat."

Many teammates quit or ran away. But Guo stayed, not knowing anything else but her sport.

"We would get up at 4 in the morning in the summers and 5 in the winters. We would run up and down hills, sometimes 40 miles a day," Guo said. "For food we ate rotten vegetables and rarely any meat. We got to go home only once in five years. No one dared to complain for fear of being beaten."

A father in tears

When her feet hurt so much that she couldn't walk or pull on her shoes, she said, her coach simply gave her more shots to numb the pain and told her to keep on running. Now the bones of her toes are so deformed that she doesn't dare go sockless or buy shoes in public.

"My father rarely sheds a tear, but when he saw my feet, he was bawling," said Guo, who lives with her parents. They make about $30 a month and had to borrow money so she could get treatment for a heart condition and other problems she said are related to years of harsh training.

"I became a runner thinking one day I can take better care of my parents. Now I am a burden on them."

She has thought about ending her life. But that would mean letting the coach off the hook. So she decided to fight for her $6,000, her best hope of starting anew.

It might not be possible.

"That money has already been spent on her and all the other athletes," said Zhang Julei, the coach's lawyer. "I will prove in court that Coach Wang did not use any of it for himself."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mother's Day 2007

there was a time when the 2 of you got along.

it was before you could remember. before you could talk or stand on your own. when she could cradle you in one arm. when she still dressed your clothes and fed you meals and brushed your teeth and combed your hair. when she still sat next to your bed and put you to sleep and sang you songs and read you stories.

that time went away, but the stories you remembered.

you remember she loved mythology. zeus and achilles and apollo and hercules. odin and thor and balder and loki. she loved epics. the iliad and the odyssey, beowulf and roland. she loved legends. leonidas and hannibal, augustus and hadrian, arthur and robin hood. she loved history. thermopylae, cannae, carthage, rome, britain, gaul.

you remembered the stories. they were her stories, and she meant them for you.

but there came a time when the 2 of you didn't get along.

it was when you became a creature of time and age and society and place. you saw her as a relic of a prior generation, still holding to a sense of history; she saw you as an impetuous fool, reckless for the modern. you saw her as just another self-centered, self-obsessed baby boomer; she saw you as just another slouching, pouting, apathetic teenager. she was about memories returning to life; you wanted a life beyond memories. she was the past; you wanted the future.

it didn't help that you had different personalities. you thought of her as frenetic; she thought of you as placid, even lazy. she was mercurial, fickle; you were moody, introspective. she was rage and emotion; you were stoic and distant. she was not always tender, nor sympathetic, nor sentimental, nor calm; you wanted to pause and think and ponder the world and see what there was to see. she was a cynic; you were a dreamer.

and there was that great curse to all immigrant families: culture. you viewed her as caught in an outdated British colonial world of manners and mores and conduct and codes; she viewed you as all too eager to explore the morass of confusion and restlessness and lost direction of American society. she saw the world as black and white, absolutes and rules; you saw it as complexities and questions, uncertainties and possibilities. she thought of duty and piety; you thought of freedom and the need to live without fear. she was irrelevant tradition; you were the lessons of the street. she was out of touch; you knew better.

that time split you apart. you didn't talk for years.

and you forgot the stories your mother told you, so that you could search for your own. you ran away, as far as you could possibly go, seeking the space you thought you needed. the space for a story that was yours. the space that could only be found in the long, long reaches of the distance away from home.

you ran for years.

yet eventually there came a time, by the grace that came from family, that you stopped running, and the 2 of you spoke once again, even though you didn't get along.

it was when you reached a distance beyond time and age and society and place or personality or culture.

you were not the creature you were before. neither was she. you saw her as a human soul doing the best she could with what she had. just like you. you realized all that she was doing--all she had ever done--was to make her way as much as she could, in a world that didn't really make much sense to her. just like you. you understood that she'd just been trying to live her own story. just like you.

it was then that you discovered that the farther you had gotten away from home, the closer you had come to find it. because it is only in the distance that you learn what is important, and what you learned was important was the stories you shared. beyond time and age and society and place or personality or culture. the stories were, and are, beyond them all.

oh, the stories have changed. there's not so much mythology now. not so much epics, or legends, or history. not so much her stories. nor so much your own. because you're not the creature you were before. neither is she.

still, there is a chance for time when the 2 of you get along.

it's when you call. she'll answer. the 2 of you will talk. and you'll exchange stories.

you'll begin with eliot, and she'll begin with homer. you'll turn to cummings, she'll turn to beowulf. you'll mention yeats, she'll switch to shakespeare. you'll recommend joyce, she'll propose dickens. you'll quote wordsworth, she'll recite tennyson.

eventually, perhaps by serendipity, perhaps by resolution, you'll settle on kipling. and then you'll move on to carroll. and that will lead to someone else. and then another, and then another. and the lines will begin with one of you and finish with the other. sometimes, you'll say the lines together.

and then there'll be a pause, and a moment that needs not discussion, and the silence of serenity. and there'll be just 1 story shared by both of you.

and now is the time when the 2 of you get along.

if you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch...
if you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
and--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
--rudyard kipling, if

"the time has come," the walrus said,
"to talk of many things:
of shoes--and ships--and sealing wax--
of cabbages--and kings..."
--lewis carroll, the walrus and the carpenter (through the looking-glass)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

recovery: post-Ironman blues

well, let's see. today is May 5. IMAZ was April 15. so that makes it roughly 3 weeks since Ironman.

i think i'm in what's called "the post-Ironman blues." the time when you're in a strangely listless state that is in various parts sanguine, lost, tired, bored, emotionless, and detached. it's not an official term. but it probably should be.

not sure how long this is going to last. so far, it's been 3 weeks.

and i haven't done a damn thing in that time.

well...sort of.

the 1st week back i didn't do anything except sit in the hot tub, stretch, and hobble around. i slept a lot. i ate a lot. i got re-acquainted with people i hadn't really hung out with for awhile: family, friends, the postal carrier and the coffee shop girls, her pet dog, the neighborhood cat, the pigeons that love my car (and they love it, if you know what i mean), campus know, the usual.

but after a few days, i started feeling fat, and lazy, and a useless piece of turd. worse, i just felt compulsive--i didn't really want to exercise, but i just had to exercise. for piece of mind. to have something to do. to feel normal again.

so i got my rear end out of bed, and committed to doing something for the 2nd week after the race. here's what happened:

  • Saturday: kung fu - it was easy, everything was great, loved it!
  • Sunday: rest
  • Monday: swim (1000 yards), weight training (chest & abs) - not so easy, still pretty stiff, but okay, still good
  • Tuesday: rest
  • Wednesday: stationary bike (60 minutes), weight training (lower back & abs) - strangely difficult, felt pretty sore, but hey, whatever, at least i'm in the gym and hanging out with buddies, so right on
  • Thursday: hot tub day - i just about died
  • Friday: run (3 miles) - i just about died
  • Saturday & Sunday: kung fu - i just about died

yeah, you can see things started out well, then pretty much just went south from there.

i was so wiped out that for the 3rd week i just went right back to not doing anything. nothing. except sleep, eat, and re-acquaint myself with family, friends, the postal carrier and the coffee shop girls, her pet dog, the neighborhood cat, the pigeons that love my car, and the campus squirrels.

and this time, i made it a point to be happy.

as for the obsessive-compulsive desire to workout even if i didn't want to? i just ignored it. no OCD for me, please!

it's kind of weird. 2 weeks prior i went 140.6 miles. 2 weeks later, i'm suffering just to go 3 miles. 3 weeks later, i'm just happy to sit around and be fat and lazy and a useless piece of turd.

i do have to admit, though, that i think i'm recovering much faster this year than i did last year. after last year's Ironman (my 1st), i was pretty much out for 6 weeks. it took 2 weeks for the soreness to go away, 4 weeks before i could feel any level of energy, and 6 weeks before i really felt good enough to put in a decent effort at the gym. in contrast, this year, it was only 1 week for the soreness to go, about 2-3 weeks for energy levels to come back, and i managed to put in some light training by the 2nd week.

my friends who've done this tell me that your body tends to recover better the more Ironmans you do. apparently, your body starts to get acclimated to the workload. for most people, it usually takes about 3-4 iterations of the training cycle before things start to really become more manageable. even for pros, you'll see that their times gradually and progressively become faster from their initial races to their 3rd or 4th years. i guess it just takes that long for the body to adjust to racing Ironmans.

i suspect that there are several major variables determining post-Ironman recovery:
  • genetics--some people have bodies genetically pre-disposed to long-distance performance. i'm not one of them.
  • treatment--post-race care of your body makes a difference. fluid intake, massages, nutrition, etc. all of it helps flush out toxins, ease soreness, and improves muscle regeneration. of course, i've been giving in to my weakness for coffee (caffeine goodness, yummy!), i've gotten no massages (still not quite used to that idea), and my nutrition has been eating everything i'd banned during training (pad thai? mmmmmm. scones? ooooooh, baby, keep them coming. pizza? why not. hamburgers? sure. ice cream? if it's a sin, then you better open up to doors to hell, baby!)
  • conditioning--the better shape you are the quicker you'll recover. i was in better shape for this past Ironman compared to last year's Ironman. but probably not as good as i should have been...or could have been. but i learned some lessons from this past race that i plan on integrating into training for the next one.
  • acclimatization--like i said, your body acclimates to Ironman. which is why it takes most people 3-4 iterations of the Ironman training cycle to start to get better, because it takes that long to get into a higher level of conditioning necessary for Ironman. this is my 2nd race. things are better. but i'm guessing it's going to take a little longer and i'm going to have to keep doing Ironman before i start to feel a little more comfortable.
some of my friends who've been doing this for years (6-8 years, to be exact) are recovering much faster than i am. 1 week after IMAZ, they did an Olympic-distance triathlon (collegiate nationals, alumni division), 3 weeks later they're doing Wildflower (long course), and then 8 weeks later they're doing Ironman Couer d'Alene. and they're not even pros. my friends who are pros are doing 6-8 Ironmans this year, some of them only 4 weeks apart.

me? i'm just a schmo. i'm just your everyman Ironman. and i'm just doing the best i can, dude. hobbling around like an old man. i'm getting better. but it's going to be a little bit longer. i'm just not there yet.

which is funny, because i'm signed up for a 10k race (the Santa Monica Classic) this Sunday morning, May 6. i didn't plan on it, but then i saw they were giving away Nike dri-fit t-shirts, and i figured i couldn't resist. of course, considering how much the 3 miler last week hurt, and how little exercise i've been doing, this is going to be interesting.

but hey, whatever. i'm an Ironman.

and this is all part of the post-Ironman blues.