Friday, January 7, 2011

This Year, Get in the Game

Let me tell you a story. The first time I ever ran a 6.2-mile race, I came in dead last. That was in 1977. In fact, I was so slow, the truck picking up the cones was beeping its horn at me. I was discouraged because the guys in the truck were jeering at me, and I said to my friend, “Maybe we should step aside and quit.” He said, “Are you kidding me? Do you know how many people can actually run 6.2 miles? You’re an elite athlete, and those guys in the truck are a bunch of deadbeats.” That statement rings true today.

It's a new year, but your resolution shouldn't be to change everything at once or be the best right away. Instead, work on changing one thing permanently. It’s been my experience that change occurs when you do something long enough to make it part of your life. I’ve always lived by motto, “Don’t let work interfere with your training," but, recently, I’ve been thinking “Don’t let work interfere with your play.” That’s the way I’m approaching my training: As a form of play. People shouldn’t consider training for an Ironman 'normal,' or something that everyone should attempt. But those who do should view it as play, and enjoy the challenge of it.

This morning was a perfect example. I saw the sun rise off the ocean around 7:10, and it was 50 degrees out (you have to be prepared for that weather, even in Florida). There was no wind. The sky was crisp and blue. On a bike going 20 mph, though, the wind chill brings you into the 40s. But it was still a playful day, because I had run hard the day before, and cycled hard the day before that. Today was a tempo ride; I never looked at the speedometer for how fast I was going. I just concentrated on keeping my leg speed constant for an hour. It was like begin a kid.

That’s how you should look at physical fitness. That’s why basketball is such a common sport for college grads who used to play a little bit, and why so many gyms have them. Rollerblading is fun, and master swimming can also be fun. The new year is all about transformation. Think, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” My answer is, "I want to be a kid." I want to be able to play again. Why else would I set a goal for wanting to get back to Hawaii? It was one of the most playful times of my life.

I signed up for Ironman 70.3, a half Ironman in Orlando taking place on May 15, because I wanted to have an event before Louisville. It will give me 5 months to train, and I can use the event as a gage for how much hard work I have to do before August. It’ll help me find out what I have to work on. This month, I’m working on running and swimming. I’ll be in Las Vegas this week, where its 34 in the morning. Cycling at that temperature is not fun. So, I'll swim indoors or weight train.

The 70.3 is also a qualifier for Hawaii, so if I win my age group I get use Louisville as a training race. For those who are following my goal of getting back to Kona, I’m also entered in the lottery, which accepts 200 athletes from around the world. Worst case is I don’t win, best case is I get chosen on April 15 and get to go to Hawaii this year.

The more I get back into Ironman training, the more I become convinced that the most successful people are the ones who are in the game. Watching the game isn’t as exciting as playing, even if you’re not the best at what you do.