Sunday, September 29, 2013

leaving los angeles

i'm leaving los angeles. for those of you who know me this is a pretty big deal. i held off on making an announcement partially because i haven't quite digested it, partially because i've been swamped with work, but mostly because i've been in denial about what this meant to me. of course, despite my best efforts to manage the preoccupations of packing, crating, inventory, insurance, billing, shipping and studying, researching, grading, writing and saying goodbyes, farewells, and bonnes chances, it's actually ended up becoming a very emotional experience.

in a way, it should be no surprise. i've lived in LA longer than i've lived anywhere else--pretty much half my life. my time in this city has gone along a theme of constant, chaotic change, some of it good, some of it bad, all of it unforeseen, all of it unexpected. i can say that in this city i've lived multiple lives that have taken me through multiple phases as b-boy, punk, industrial metal, goth, mod, rockabilly, swing, electronica, and unabashed shameless hipsterdom. concurrently, i can say that i lived these lives against a backdrop of a city enduring a time of some of its most profound upheaval, with seismic shifts in demography (a massive influx of latin and asian immigrants), economics (an erosion in traditional industries of aerospace and entertainment to new ones in biotechnology and technology), class (a deterioration of a middle class and a widening of the gap between the elite and the powerless), infrastructure (a return of light rail, a growth in cycling, and a surge in green energy use), and culture (a halting, fitful rise of a world-class visual and performing arts scene).  i lived with this city through all these states of change, and like the city never looked back on what had been and never thought about what might be. together, we just lived the moments as they came, even as their dynamism and eclecticism at times overwhelmed our mutual capacity to take in all the experiences that came our way.

it goes without saying that in such an eclectic environment my relationship with LA was less than placid. it was, to summarize it in a single word, crazy. c.r.a.z.y. it was like having a partner who didn't know, couldn't comprehend, and couldn't decide her own tastes, her own preferences, her own personality, or even herself. sociopathy might be an apt description. schizophrenia would be more accurate. multiple-personality disorder might be even better. it was confusing. it was agonizing. it was frustrating. it was infuriating.

and it rubs off on you. if anything, it magnifies whatever similar predilections you have in yourself. because a partner's inability to know herself keeps you from finding yourself by distracting and diverting your attention with the baser tendencies of your mutual souls, and thereby accentuates every bad quality you didn't know you had or were too afraid to acknowledge you had. it doesn't help that LA offers, invites, encourages, hosts, and allows and enables you to indulge in every vice known to humanity--and then some.  to summarize it in the most succinct terms, this city was Elizabeth Taylor to my Richard Burton; the relationship brought out the worst in both of us. in ways no one understood and in ways we couldn't explain.

but then there were those times when, incredibly, inexplicably, unbelievably, LA would reveal itself to expose the most amazing, gentle, selfless, caring, poignant, even noble, soul. and while it didn't know itself (or know you)--and didn't really seem to care to--it did know something about what was right. and better yet, it had no fear or self-consciousness about doing something about it. and that's when it redeemed itself by rising to the occasion. and at those times LA lived up to its name, sometimes to the point that it became beatific.

like the time your car died on a bridge overpass in morning traffic and a plumber on his way to work stopped to push your car to a shoulder where you could safely wait for the tow truck to arrive. or the time a stranger stopped traffic so that you and a group of passers-by could help an old lady cross a busy intersection to reach a farmer's market.  or the time a tattooed cholo gangster stopped in the middle of selling you his fresh bread to explain his decision to ignore his church's take on gay marriage, saying "yo homes, like, why is it my business what 2 dudes are doing?"

and those kinds of things also rub off on you. if anything, it's then that the city not only brings out the best in itself but also the best in you. it was become of those times that this city was like Grace Kelly to my Prince Rainier; the relationship brought out the best in both of us. in ways no one understood and in ways we couldn' t explain.

the funny thing was, for all the insanity, for all the contradictions, for all the chaos, the very things that made LA so frustrating and infuriating were the very things that made me want it more. LA pulled me in, and the deeper i went the more it revealed itself. even more complicated. even more diverse. even more varied. even more preoccupying. even more engrossing. and i found no matter how deep i went, there was still more.

which is why i, a sworn member of the bachelor brotherhood, finally realized that i had found someone with whom i could finally be faithful, because no matter where i went in the world i still wanted to come back. because no matter what i saw or what i did, i still felt there was someplace i needed to return.

because that someplace was something special. eclectic. diverse. complex. contradictory. quirky. dynamic. shifting. fascinating. no other place did so much to contradict my preconceptions and challenge my assumptions. no other place did so much to prod me to question the status--or static--quo. no other place so constantly made me encounter something new. no other place so continuously forced me to deal with the unexpected. no other place so totally kept me in flux and ready for change and flexible and open and accepting and curious and eager and seeking all there was and all there is and all there will be to the experiences that constitute the act of living human life...and no other place made me want it all so much, so long, and so deep.

i became LA. LA became me. because as much as we were different, all along deep down inside we were, we are, really just the same.
the only other time i've felt something close to this was in Hawaii. but there, the feeling was one of deja vu, like i'd been there before, as if i'd been a Polynesian navigator in a prior life, standing on the shore gazing at the sea that lay beyond Diamond Head, for various reasons unable to complete his destiny to find the land that lay beyond the edge of the morning sun's horizon. here, i felt like i had finally come to belong. that for whatever reason here, in ways that i could only begin to understand and could only partially articulate, was right. LA became, in a word, home.

a place is ultimately just a place. a geographical marker that sometimes coincides with our lives and occasionally, infrequently, briefly hosts our activities while we are upon it. in the end, what makes a place a home is not the geography, but the lives of the creatures that inhabit it and infuse its substance with the actions and intentions of souls expressing their nature and fulfilling their design to imbue the universe with the stories of their lives. and the creatures that have inhabited this city--all of them, good or bad--have imbued this place with stories in a supply whose sum has exceeded the respective parts to become a song of the human spirit.

and you, my friends, are among them. sing loud. sing long. sing well. sing of the human spirit that we all share.

for that spirit has given me life. it has awakened me to things i never imagined, and led me to see the world in ways i never thought possible. and in so doing, it has given me the freedom to think and see and hear and taste and touch and feel this life in ways that go beyond the possibilities of dreams.

life and freedom...those 2 things are all this man could ever have any right to claim. for they are what empower me to realize the secrets that lie far, far out in the vast reaches of creation--a creation that finds itself in the mysteries placed deep in the core of the human heart.

i do not know what the future will bring. but LA has made me understand that i do know i need to see what is out there, because it will lead me to discover what is within here.

deep in the core of the human heart:

LA, i love you.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

on diana nyad

note: Diana Nyad trains at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center (RBAC) in Pasadena, California, which is the same place i swim. it's only 2 miles from where i currently live. i've seen her swimming there, and as you might suspect, it is rather awe-inspiring. she swims. a lot.

this past Monday, September 2, Diana Nyad completed a swim from Cuba to Florida. she covered a distance of approximately 110 miles in 52:54:00 (that's 52 hours and 54 minutes). this was her 5th attempt, with the 1st being in 1978 when she was 29. she is now 64.

just think about that for a moment.

i should note that the Cuba-to-Florida swim was done before by Australian Susie Maroney in 1997, who was 22 at the time. but Diana Nyad's achievement is unique because she is 1) the 1st person to swim without a shark cage, through waters notorious for sharks, and 2) she is 64 years old.

at an age when the vast majority of people have resigned themselves to the lives they're living and are looking to retirement, she accomplished a feat that most people--never mind young and active athletes in the prime of their lives--would never even think of trying. for many, i suspect that this distance is absolutely inconceivable.

which i think offers quite a few life lessons for the rest of us. i won't go into too much commentary, since i think Diana was more than eloquent enough in her post-swim interviews to render anybody else's prose irrelevant. in particular, the short speech she gave at the end of the swim sums things up nicely:

you can also reference her own website and the news features on her:
PBS interview:
CNN interview:
CBS interview::
New York Times:
LA Times:,0,3322544.story

i'll repeat what she stressed throughout her statements and interviews to emphasize her points:
1)  never give up
2)  we're never too old to chase a dream
3)  we're part of a team
4)  find a way
5)  stay engaged in life

these are all fundamental truths that many in the endurance community know so well, and which carry over into daily living.  we can never quit, no matter what, because the central theme of life is to just keep going on. we can never accept age, or for that matter anything else, if we want to realize our dreams. we may think we act alone, but we are always a product and a reflection of a larger team seeking the our same goals. we have to be resourceful and pragmatic in order to move forward. and above all, we have to know that the reason we do all these things, and the reason we do anything, is to engage our lives to the fullest extent of our being.

i would also like to add the qualities of diligence and dedication. we need diligence in terms of taking the care and sacrifice necessary to lay the foundations in ability and skill that enable us to achieve our goals, and we need dedication to carry out such diligence with the time and energy necessary to help us become what we need to be to reach our dream--in short, we can dream big, but we have to be worthy of our dreams.

i'll finish w what i think is the most significant and most poignant quote from Diana, and the one that i think calls for us to listen, learn, and take action in our own lives:

"we blink and another decade passes. i don't want to reach the end of my life and regret not having given my days everything in me to make them worthwhile."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

a long way to go

a little over a year ago i spent some time in northern Spain engaged in an attempt at a different kind of endurance event called the Camino Santiago (often just called "the Camino"):

the attempt was a bit mixed, since we made the destination that is the goal of the Camino: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and also visited the termini often used as a denouement: Finisterre and Muxia. but being neophytes, my mom and i were totally naive to the pilgrimage and traveled more as tourists, and so missed out on quite a bit.

in a way, this is not really a big deal. over the past few years, i've been accompanying my mom on trips to religious shrines that comprise a canon of the major pilgrimages in the Catholic faith. i'm personally not Catholic, but i've found these trips illuminating, providing substantive, meaningful time for connection with my mom, quiet reflection, and spiritual restoration--all things which i've come to realize mean a lot more to me than i thought, and all things which i've come to consider as fundamentally important to comprising our identities and our existence as human beings. we've been to the Czestochowa (Poland), Montserrat (eastern Spain, near Barcelona), the Vatican (Rome), Notre Dame a Ile-de-France (France), and most recently Notre Dame de la Grotte a Lourdes (also France). so the Camino is but one of many pilgrimages we've undertaken.

i've gone w the understanding that each pilgrimage, whether in destination or in time, is its own journey w its own expectations, own adventures, and own lessons. but the fact that each pilgrimage is a journey has provided a consistent quality that has appealed to me as an endurance athlete. as signified by this blog, my motivation for endurance athletics is for the most part utilizing it as an opportunity for personal exploration via the peaceful, deep, thoughtful contemplation typically ascribed to meditation. it is, in a way, moving meditation, using my body to connect to the greater rhythms of the universe and go beyond my corporeal existence to discover the greater truths of this creation. and these religious pilgrimages, i've come to realize, are essentially at their core doing the same thing: taking pilgrims on meditative journeys to reach the mysteries of the divine.

but the Camino Santiago, from what little of it i experienced, comes closer than any of the other pilgrimages i've encountered. i think it's because it calls for a physical act covering long distances, which while walking as opposed to swimming, cycling, or running, is very much the same as ultra-endurance racing. i can feel a greater connection to it.

which is probably why i can't stop thinking about it.

you can sort of get the spirit (sorry for the pun) that i sense from this documentary from another pilgrim, who i think very much shares a mindset that i have:

yeah, i know. i do Ironmans. i do ultra-endurance. i do distance. already. what more can i get from walking? even long-distance walking? to someplace i've already been?

but as i've written before, this is a different kind of endurance event, w different characteristics from other races that i do. and so allowing other aspects of the distance to come into play. and so allowing other experiences on other types of journeys. each with its own expectations, own adventures, and own lessons.

and for me, this means more personal exploration, in connection w the greater rhythms of the universe, to discover the greater truths of this creation. and while as a mortal i may not reach the mysteries of the divine, i can still do what i want to do: grow beyond whatever it is that i am, and thereby go a little bit closer to god.

that, and if there is a god, maybe he'll finally be nice and bless me w what someone once told me happens on the Camino: "you will find the woman who will be your wife on the Camino."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

a (different) swim workout

for those of us looking for an alternative workout to break up the stale dullness of monotony that comes up w our exercise routines, i came across an article in Fitness magazine that caught my eye. it's a swim workout, but for those of us who swim this is probably not what we have in mind. most of us think of swimming as lane lines, sets, intervals, stroke count, breath count, and a pace clock. maybe, if we're feeling adventurous, we add in paddles, pull buoy, fins, and drag chutes. and if we're feeling really kinky, we add exit-and-enter reps, running starts, and mass starts.

well, drop all  of the above and add this to the list of alternative workouts:

there's also a video:

i never quite thought of pool workouts as a total body sculpting exercise. i mean, yes, i know swimming is a total body workout and that there are countless exercise routines that are done in swimming pools. but swimming workouts never helped w other sports, like cycling and running. and the exercise routines done in pools that i know are usually associated w physical therapy. i never considered just doing exercises in the water to tone specific muscle groups--certainly not w these kinds of exercises. but they look like a challenge and definitely something that can put the body through the ringer, so i think they're worth a try.

if nothing else, they at least offer some variety and a taste of something different from staring at a black line at the bottom of a lane every lap in a swim set. and they sure take up a lot less space than a competition pool.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the measure of devotion, and what to do about it

recently i watched a stroke patient with disabilities so severe he couldn't sit straight fight to rise from a wheelchair and walk unassisted through the front doors of the Basilique de Notre Dame de l'Immaculee Conception (english: Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) at the Sanctuaire de Notre Dame de Lourdes (english: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes).

it was an agonizingly slow, painful process, with the man hunched over his curled, atrophied right arm and dragging a twisted, limp right leg. each step was a shuffle of the left foot a few inches forward, a lurch of the body to pull the other forward, and then a pause to balance the total precariously on a single good limb, before repeating the process once again.

he had only the assistance of 1 person who appeared to be a relative. but she did little other than to hold open the door to the basilica and motion for others behind them to go ahead and pass. i thought at first to try and help, but then i noticed that he had refused the offer of aid from church monitors and had left his wheelchair behind, and realized that for him, this was something that he decided he had to do on his own. not so much as a display of determination, but more an act of personal devotion to what he--and so many others like him--believe to be a place of miracles from the divine.

i have not gotten him out of my mind.

i am not Catholic, and don't consider myself particularly religious, but i found the image of him deeply moving. shuffling out from the glare of summer heat into the cool shade of the church interior, silhouetted against the votive candles and urn of holy water by the entrance, he was in that moment an expression of a commitment made to transcend the limitations of an earthly body and become an embodiment of faith to realize the possibilities of something more.

this is something that i can and must respect.

because i know the desire to exceed the confines of this physical body, the yearning to go beyond, the need for something greater. i know it as the motivation that drove me to undertake this life and take it with both hands and wrest it from its complacency and push it from its indolence and kick and drag and hurl and crawl and throw and scrape and stagger and fall...and shuffle...and a display of determination. as an act of devotion. to transcend the body. to realize something more.

because i know the meaning, the feeling, the living of the moment when you go beyond what you think is possible and you enter a different place entirely beyond anything you've ever known.

and because i know that means that devotion is not just about belief and that sometimes, just sometimes, faith is instead itself made manifest.

as the mantra says: nothing is impossible.

so who am i to judge another? we are, ultimately, all pilgrims on our own ways.

so what am i to do to help another? we can, and must, respect the pilgrimages we take.

so how am i to recognize another? we see the nature of our paths as we proceed, and acknowledge each other as we pass by, and remember that we believe in more than what is possible.

dominus vobiscum

Saturday, July 20, 2013

more dynamic warm-up exercises

it's not been fun dealing w these nagging injuries. it has, to say the least, put a serious crimp into my fitness level and disrupted my routine. the consequences have been physical (being a fat slob) and mental (being out of sorts for being a flat slob, and being out sorts from not being able to follow my routine).

what's been bothering me the most is that the injuries won't go away. whenever i seem to be getting back into a groove and making progress, the problems come right back again, forcing me into another shutdown for rest and recuperation.

i'm starting suspect that i may be focusing on the wrong thing: i've been obsessing on the post-injury recovery when maybe i should have been focusing on riding the rehabilitation and following pre-injury preventative practices.  and by that i mean i should have been doing more to make sure i was limiting my body's susceptibility to re-aggravating these injuries. specifically--and some of you have probably guessed it--i should have been doing more regarding warm-up/cooldown routines and dynamic range-of-motion work to promote flexibility and resilience.

i admit, i've slacked off on this over the past year...which is about the time these injuries started to linger. i got complacent, and figured that being fit i could forego the warm-up/cooldown and dynamic range-of-motion stuff. in reality, it may have been because of such stuff that i was able to maintain fitness. i'm going to have become a little more religious about that stuff once again.

to honor this recommitment, i'm providing some current Youtube videos that i found useful. maybe those of you experiencing the same issues i am will find them so as well. cheers.

i'll give you an update, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

we're not fat! (er, well, um, maybe?)

you would hope the health and fitness movement is finally having an effect after seeing this:

the article references a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which you can read here:

according to the FAO, the U.S. no longer has the highest percentage of obese people in the world. it's now Mexico.

um, so, i guess hooray?

it is a positive trend, going from #1 to #2. but #2 isn't exactly anything to be proud of, especially when you go behind the rankings to see what they're referring to: Mexico has 32.8% of its population being obese, while the United States has 31.8%, both of which are obscenely high numbers.

in addition, it's still disturbing when you realize that these obesity rates are rising. you can see the numbers for the United States:

so the point to draw from this is that while the relative rankings may have changed, the absolute scale of the problem remains the same: we're all getting fatter. and that's not good.

health and fitness folks, we've got a long way to go.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

international surfing day 2013

today, Thursday, June 20, 2013 is International Surfing Day. happy International Surfing Day, kids!

i may be injured and out of commission, but i still love and respect the environment within which we all live our lives. so save the waves and share the waves!

to learn more, i suggest the following:

Surfrider Foundation:
Life Magazine:
Surfing for Life:
History of Surfing:

International Surfing Day has grown to more than 200 different events spread across 30 different countries, and meant to be a celebration of surfing but also a way of raising awareness for the oceans. so take time to educate yourself and others--whether or not surfers, we are all still affected by the resources the ocean provides us.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

a nagging injury bug

i'm having some knee issues, and try as i might otherwise, it seems to have become a nagging bug. it's at the point where the soreness persists almost continuously. i'm not quite sure how this happened.

i haven't been engaged in any activity levels any higher than normal. in fact, my activity levels this year have actually been lower compared to the usual ironman training cycle, and i've actually only recently been returning to some base levels of fitness to resume the ironman training load i typically follow during the summer.

what's happened, however, is that i'm having soreness in the inside and outside left parts of my knee, in what feels like ligaments or tendons. i feel it when i'm extending the joint (i.e., bending it), particularly when i'm putting my weight on the knee--such as when i'm going up steps, rising from a kneeling position, doing a lunge, etc. 

i've tried to rest it, but just when i think it's gone it comes right back. it wouldn't bother me so much, except that 1) i've never felt anything like this before, 2) it seems to becoming chronic, and 3) we all know the magnitude of the risk associated w knee injuries, particularly ligament ones.

i've checked around on-line, but i haven't found anything that really helps me understand what's going on. the best i've seen so far is this:

and these videos:
outside knee pain:
inside knee pain:
i know that at this point the solution is rest, but the question is how much? and is there anything i can do to prevent it in the future?

i notice that in the videos they mention a knee problem is usually indicative of issues above and below the knee, which is something consistent i've heard w all the physical therapists i've worked with in the past. particularly the point about weakness in the buttocks and lower back--this is something that my physical therapists have pointed out, and something i've been working on over the years. but i'm not sure if this is the source of what i'm experiencing now (like i said, i've not felt this type of soreness before).

i'm going to try these and see what happens:
injury prevention:

still, i'm a little bummed, since i was just starting to ramp the training load. and i was just starting to get back to feeling like my usual self after several months of really bad and really inconsistent training. and it really sucks to see other people going hard while i feel like i'm limited to 50%. i'm hoping i don't have to go to the doctor, because that would really hurt the wallet right now.

let's hope this heals itself soon.

Friday, June 07, 2013

national donut day 2013

yeah, i know. my posts are a little slow. i've been navigating a bit of anomie, and charting things have been a little more challenging than usual. i also had some injuries and a double case of a cold/flu which put me out of commission for a few weeks.

but i'm back on the wagon now--or at least in the process of trying to get back. my workouts lately have been a tale of ebbs and flows, with alternating weeks of progress and setbacks. i think i'm starting to get back to a semblance of fitness, but i'm going to hold off on a definitive declaration until we get further into summer.

what won't help, however, is that today is National Donut Day in the U.S.

yes. yes, indeed.

and apparently, it's not just a made-up holiday, but one with an official declaration, a historical basis in American history, and a charitable cause to raise money for the Salvation Army. good vibes all around to match the fat tire it adds to your waistline. who doesn't want to celebrate that?

you can check it out for yourself:

and there's even a video:

rumors also have it that some donut chains are offering free donuts today.

if you're like me, you probably won't resist, and you may take more than 1. or 2. or 3. or 4. maybe more. in which case, we'll all be regretting it at our next workout.

but let's stay positive and take them as little pockets of fat-adding, body-bloating, insulin-skyrocketing, obesity-inducing globules of sugary blubbery gooey doughy goodness that will incite you to get your big jiggly ass out for a workout to work off all that cellulite.

boo-yah! get some.

Monday, April 01, 2013

playlist: all my days

note: it's been awhile. either for posts or playlists. i've been doing a lot of thinking. and so while less frequent, my thoughts have been a little more deep. there's not much to be said, just experienced. so these words are a meager attempt to import some of what i've been pondering. and the playlist this time is short. but i think it's on something that runs that deep. and it's something we all know...

we live our journeys in accordance with certain milestones. milestones that, while we certainly don't know them and thus by no means have by any right to expect them, we seem to assume as given and as certain as the coming of the sun in the morning and the arrival of the stars at night. milestones that we take for granted with as little thought to their existence as we give to our own. like the miracle of our breathing through the passage between our birth and death.

school. a job. a car. a house. things. and things, as we're often told and sometimes learn and rarely understand, are just things. devoid of meaning other than what we place in them and empty of life outside of what we imagine for them. and so we are able to accept the realization that they are impermanent and follow the dictum to let them go.  

family. friends. souls. souls are harder to let go. because we distinguish life from the lifeless and hence define life as something more than lifeless, making souls more than things, with meaning beyond what we can comprehend and existence in excess of what we can dream. even though the truth--even as we deny it but invariably discover it, however as much as we want to or not--is that they are all the same: impermanent. transient. as the moments we live in keeping with our each breath.

love. a love. the life of all life. the truth of all truth. the mystery in the riddle in the enigma in the unknown in the eternity that lies at the core of every creation conceived by a creator of the cosmos that lies beyond every universe. this we cling to. that which can only be known with more than one but yet it is the only one that continues. because it has always been and will always be, even in the void in the face of the abyss, and so comforts us before the visage we are never allowed to know and from whose gaze we are not ever allowed to return.

but this, too
even this
meant. to. be.
as it can only be known with more than one
a very specific, a very special one 
and so requires more than the simple arithmetic addition of numbers
but calls instead for the improbably occurrence of probability
as chance
as uncertain
as incredible
as incomprehensible
as our birth in the face of death
as an awakening with creation in the eternity of silence
as the stars situated in the midst of night
even this
is not assured
even this
is not a milestone
even this
if some perchance encounter another and find
then they are blessed
for the rest of us

our journeys are as they were before. and as they have always have been and will always be. even in the void in the face of the abyss.

before the visage we are never allowed to know and from whose gaze we are not ever allowed to return.

"well i have been searching all of my days
many a road, you know
i’ve been walking on
all of my days
and i’ve been trying to find
what’s been in my mind
as the days keep turning into night 

well i have been quietly standing in the shade

all of my days
watch the sky breaking on the promise that we made
all of this rain
and i’ve been trying to find what’s been in my mind
as the days keep turning into night

well many a night i found myself with no friends standing near

all of my days
i cried aloud
i shook my hands
what am i doing here?
all of these days
for i look around me
and my eyes confound me
and it’s just too bright
as the days keep turning into night

now i see clearly

it’s you i’m looking for
all of my days
so i’ll smile
i know i’ll feel this loneliness no more
all of my days
for i look around me
and it seems you found me
and it’s coming into sight
as the days keep turning into night
as the days keep turning into night
and even breathing feels all right
yes, even breathing feels all right
now even breathing feels all right
yes even breathing feels all right"
--alexi murdoch, all my days

Saturday, March 16, 2013

understanding race risk

there was another death in a triathlon recently. it didn't get much attention in the popular press, but hopefully it caught the attention of everyone following endurance sports. like so many other times, it occurred during the swim leg of a race, this time at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco. this isn't the first time Escape from Alcatraz had a fatality.

one of my favorite triathlon sites, Slowtwitch, had what i thought was a good commentary on this.  it's not about the race in particular, but more about the general issue of the sport in general and what is a high contributing factor to the rise in fatalities at races:  a lack of appreciation of the risks inherent in endurance sports. i think endurance athletes--current or aspiring--everywhere should take some time to reflect on this:
read the article, then read the comments that follow it. the overall message is one that i strongly espouse, and one that i've written about before:

i want to accentuate the aspect that i think the Slowtwitch article is touching on: there is a lack of appreciation of the risks inherent in endurance sports. endurance sports is not easy. there's a reason why not everyone does it.  it takes training. it take conditioning. it takes preparation. and to do any of this, it takes an awareness of the challenges it poses to the person. and the longer the distance, the harder the course terrain, the more extreme the conditions, the more it is imperative that everyone involved take it seriously.  recall the 3 R's: recognize the reality, respond accordingly, and take responsibility.

unfortunately, given the continuing rise in fatalities, i'm not sure this is happening. this deficiency is all around, from race organizers to race sponsors to host cities to competitors alike. the Slowtwitch article indicates as much, suggesting that race organizers have a habit of understating the risks of their events and overstating the ease of competition, with the subsequent result that competitors are undersold on the magnitude of the dangers they're undertaking and subsequently show up undertrained for the challenges they've paid to face.  it's a classic case of something being overselling positives and underselling negatives. and it doesn't help that everyone has incentives to do so, with race organizers motivated to ensure sold-out races, race sponsors intent on maximizing marketing, host cities aspiring for public prominence, and competitors pursuing personal aspirations. which is fine, except that one of the collateral effects is that athletes, especially inexperienced ones, are led to believe that endurance sports is a blithe endeavor...when events clearly indicate otherwise.

i don't mean to be entirely negative on this. in fact, i've written on the need for positive thinking in the face of risk:

but one thing i've learned is that positive thinking needs to be in relation to reality, which requires some attempt to understand and accept the risks involved with every race--including all the challenges and the demands that it poses, especially to impressionable and uninformed neophytes.  in other words, it demands that we respect ourselves to recognize our state of health, respect each other to remind ourselves of what we are doing to one another, and above all respect the race and what it will be doing to us.

and i think ultimately this is what the Slowtwitch article is getting at: we have to respect the race. all of us.