Anyone undertaking endurance events, particularly ultra distance races, has to have something to motivate them during the long hours of training and racing. People tend to fall into one of a few broad categories.
MP3 Maniacs - I grew up in the age of the Walkman. I was lucky enough to witness the entire evolution from boom-box through Walkman and portable CD player to MP3 and iPod. Now, just about any running event, from 5K to ultramarathon, is a showcase of digital players and music. Many runners become dependent on tunes to get them from start to finish.
Socialites - I am always impressed with the number of people who interact with anyone and everyone around them. Who hasn't been in the middle of a race and had someone come up, match pace and start talking as if they'd been there the entire time? These people thrive on the opportunity to spend time with others, whether old friends or brand new.
Zen Masters - The Zen Master is often the exact opposite of The Socialite. Zen Masters work their way into trancelike states and seem completely unaware of anything going on around them. They are focused on the road ahead and block out anything that might distract them. Either that, or they are EXTREMELY rude. (Note: Some people just like to be left alone. They aren't particularly rude, though they may desire to rip your throat out if you talk to them)
Driftwood - In the 2002 release of The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes is named "Zatarra" by Luigi Vampa. When Dantes comments how fearsome the name sounds, Vampa tells him it means "Driftwood." In endurance events, there are many people who fit this category. The drift from group to group, worry little about changing conditions, and generally go with the flow. If people want to talk, they are willing to turn off their music and listen. If they're alone, they enjoy the moment and appreciate their surroundings.
I'm sure there are other categories (everyone is welcome to share their favorite "type" in the comments). And the categories are vitally important. In every race there are people who don't really fit into ANY category. They frequently find themselves lumped together in the very undesirable "DNF" group. Why? Because when things got tough they struggled to find motivation to continue.
I almost ran into that at Ironman Louisville. Fourteen miles into the marathon I was struggling with motivation. I had already seen my family and knew I was unlikely to see them again before the finish. And that was a long way off. I wasn't hooked up with anyone with whom I could share stories. I don't race with music. And I'm NOT a Zen type individual.
As I plodded along in a sea of determination, a life-saving driftwood type crossed my path. She figured that since we were both walking, we should walk together. And we talked. That was enough to get my mind off the many and various issues that were making my trek difficult. And that was what I needed to get myself running, again. With my head on straight, I found the energy to run the final 10K and finish strong.
It was an interesting position in which to find myself. I generally fill the role of "storyteller" trying to help people "while away the time" as they complete their first marathon. Suddenly, I was listening to the tales of another.
So, tales or tunes? It's up to individual athletes to figure out what best fits their personality. Are you the storyteller or the avid listener? Or do you prefer the solitude of jamming to your own playlist? Whatever your preference, be sure to have a back-up plan. Because just like every other aspect of endurance racing, mental game plans can go awry on the course. Having the flexibility to adjust to conditions can be the difference between calling it a day and finding a way to drift to the finish line.
If you are an endurance athlete looking for a new challenge, check out B-Fit B-Day to learn about the Birthday Challenge and meet likeminded people pursuing their own goals.
I heard a statistic recently that helps explain the apathy or outright anger toward our military members in recent history. During World War II, pretty much everybody knew somebody (or several somebodies) serving in the armed forces. And a great many people knew at least one member of their extended family who wore a uniform.
Now, only weeks after the safe return of a family member, a close friend is headed into harm's way, himself. The guy third from the left is my best friend's brother, John. After spending the last several months training in Kuwait, he is headed to Baghdad.
One very notable thing about triathletes is their ability to laugh at themselves. And before anyone disputes that fact, I acknowledge there is a comparatively small group of hardcore athletes who lack that ability. That's okay, the rest of us will laugh at them.
Consider the next picture from a nearby camera. Have I gotten perhaps a bit TOO relaxed. Granted, I'm moving at a pretty good pace and have clearly blown by the guy in the red shirt. But is it TOO laid back.
This picture was snapped by a friend as I approached the finish line for a 15 minute marathon PR at the Green Bay Marathon on March 18th. I must have been very tired (or relaxed) here, as well. Rubbery, in fact.
Of course, it's tough to tell exactly WHAT is going through my mind at this point. Is it:
First, let me congratulate the members of the TBC who competed at Ironman CDA, this weekend. So far as I could tell, everyone finished the race in fine fashion. This includes:
In everything we do, the piper must be paid. And the better we want to be, the higher the price. The only thing left to us is deciding just how much we are willing to pay. Any time we misjudge the costs, we can find ourselves stuck paying more than we originally intended.
The 2008 Bellin Run is in the books. It was a beautiful day, with very slight breezes and fairly moderate temperatures. While it was a bit warm in the open areas, it was far from the extremes of heat experienced the past few years. In fact, conditions were so good that at least one new course record was set (though I don't know which).
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
Eight years ago, I sat in a doctor's office as he threw around words like surgery, biopsy, and non-Hodkin's lymphoma. Though somewhat stunned at the urgency with which the doctors were considering options, I was fairly stoic about the overall discussion. There was little to be gained from wigging out over "possibly" and "potentially." A minor bit of surgery and some time with a microscope was all that was needed for concrete information.
Imagine running an Ironman and finishing with a PR of nearly an hour. If that race was an Ironman 70.3 event, it would be even more satisfying. And achieving that kind of improvement in an Olympic is huge.
Part of the B-Fit B-Day challenge is to swim the first digit in your age, in miles. Turning 40 this year means I must swim four miles to meet the challenge. Since my goal is the gold, I must accomplish the swim within a 24-hour period. Tuesday provided a reminder of just what that will take.
Mrs. Pol had a conference to attend, that day, so I took the day off to watch the kids. Her schedule left me with a considerably more training time than normal, and I put it to good use. I got about 30 minutes extra sleep in the morning, and hit the pool for a planned 4000 yard swim.
While motivated for the workout, I wasn't feeling very creative. I decided to do a 2000 yard warm-up followed by a 2000 yard cool-down. I took a few minutes between sets to chat with some fellow Tri Foxes. In all, it took about 83 minutes to complete the swim.
I'm proud of this for a couple reasons. First, it means that without the pressure of an Ironman, I have at least maintained my swim fitness from last year. My swim time (#1675) at Ironman Louisville was 1:31. I'm guessing that if I'd gone the full 4224 yards without a break, my time Tuesday would have been very close to that.
Second, I'm always proud when I can pound out major swims. Granted, it falls way short of what many dedicated swimmers accomplish, but it's pretty major, for me. And given my disdain of swimming, any time I spend 90 minutes in the water is worth mentioning.
As I mentioned, Tuesday was also a reminder of what is coming. Perhaps "warning" is more accurate. With the birthday challenge on the horizon, I have to be ready to swim a minimum of 6600 yards. That's a bit better than an Ironman swim followed by a half-IM swim. I think I've mentioned before that it's also 1600 yards more than I've ever gone before.
So, it's one of those "good news, bad news" stories. It's great to see I've been maintaining my fitness at a pretty decent level. It's frightening to think about how I might feel after pounding out 6600+ yards in a single day.
Oh well, shoulders are overrated.
Just who is this Iron Pol?
A former out of shape sailor, who became a marathoner, then a triathlete, Ironman, and ultramarathoner. Now, life has pushed me into short track speed skating. More important than the titles is the lifestyle, and sharing it with others.