Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hibernation for Type A's

Re-thinking this hibernation thing.

I'm actually grateful that I live in a climate that supports a forced but temporary dormancy.  I'm sure that somewhere in my future, I'll likely pull up stakes and head to a more balmy environment. And once I get there,  I will likely burn myself out in a hurry for the lack of natural forces as potent as winter weather to stop me from doing so. Downtime is necessary.

But I have goals, you know, and early races looming on my immediate horizon. And, lately, those races haven't been very effective in motivating me to suffer on the indoor trainer. So how do I satisfy my desire to hibernate without turning into a huge, noncompetitive slug? That's a dilemma, but I think I figured out how to relax my standards a little so as to at least give the impression that I'm hibernating. A little.

Here's the plan:

  1. Do something physically challenging, but not the usual workouts and, preferably, non-competitive
  2. Watch football the rest of the afternoon (i.e. hibernate)
And so, today, I ran my first long-distance trail run, thus accomplishing the first part of the plan. And then I watched NFL Championship playoffs all afternoon. It was perfect. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dead of Winter

Every year at this time, I desperately want to hibernate. It's a deeply ingrained, instinctive carry-over from some primitive past.

I don't want to wake up in total darkness. I don't want to go out in the cold. I want to succumb to the bone-deep tiredness that sets in early in the evening, because there's not enough heat or sunlight to power my depleted energy stores.

Is it OK to back off a little? Do I need to try to force myself to plow through these days full bore, like I do in the summertime (because I want to be full bore in the summertime)?

Can't I just cut myself a little slack? It's cold, it's dark. The warm indoors beckons. A glass or two of a smoky cabernet in front of a roaring fire as the snow falls softly outside: is that too much to ask?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Increments and wild plunges

After so many years, this business of making resolutions has lost its luster. I understand the benefit of setting intentions, of course, and posting goals to the blogosphere adds an element of accountability. But resolutions are for list makers. Ambitious targets look great on paper, but reality creeps in after about a week, and the list goes missing.

Can this be me one day? We'll see...

A new year isn't any different from a new month or a new week, or a new day.  Each one has it's own 'blank canvas' appeal. Each evokes the promise of a fresh start.

Is that why we like the idea of New Year's Resolutions? Is it less about achievement of some goal (often a multi-year, or multi-decade, target of a perceived ideal) and more a sense that we can do things different this time around?

In a break from the same-old, I've settled on a couple of new things I want to do in 2016.

First, I want to swim in Lake Erie. Not some ridiculous Polar Plunge, nor do I plan on ever competing in this sport. I'm talking about maybe joining up with some of my triathlete friends for an open-water swim during the heat of summer.  And here's why I think this is a worthy endeavor: I love to swim, but I don't do it. I don't live near a pool, and I get out to the ocean rarely. But I do live along one of the Great Lakes, and I do know folks who swim there. Maybe I've grown nostalgic for those days when I was a kid and would spend entire summers at the local outdoor pool. Or when I was a bit older, and would hang out on weekends at Mentor Headlands with all my friends. In any case, I used to love swimming. Consider this going out looking for a lost love.

Second, I want to master Crow Pose. I'm a sporadic practitioner of yoga, and although I know the benefits and even occasionally enjoy it, I've never quite reached a level of proficiency (flexibility?) that has me convinced that I should keep doing this. Figuring out how to hold a Crow Pose might change that thinking. Previous attempts at Crow often resulted in my falling flat on my face, until I got smart and started stacking blankets up on the floor. But I can't say I'm any closer to figuring this out. Really, should it be so hard? It's just a handstand - a combination of mostly balance and core strength.  Unlike my desire to jump in the lake, Crow Pose proficiency is something that I'll have to work on in increments, maybe a few minutes at a time.

If these seemingly simple aspirations appear to be too unambitious, consider that each one requires some character development. In the case of the swim in the lake, I'll need to learn to make space in my life for something I've found ways of avoiding for many years.  And the yoga thing will require a level of self discipline, and patience, and maybe even frustration tolerance. None of which I'm currently all that good at.

With 360-some days ahead of me, I have plenty of time to attain both these goals before we turn the last page of the current calendar.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Training takes a holiday

This past week was a definite break from the training plan. And from any form of discipline, for that matter. My annual Christmas escape gave me ample reason to abandon the usual hardcore adherence to the pursuit of higher fitness, and to live life with reckless abandon for 5 whole days.

Days were spent immersed in exploration, a return to the ocean, and beautiful cocktails. Evenings were made for lingering in dimly lit, intriguing spaces with feasts of fresh oysters and more cocktails. There was very little time for working out.

I wasn't a complete slacker. Dave and I did manage to get out once or twice to run through the city streets and down to the Embarcadero, but those were slow runs with lots of photo stops. The hotel had a very nice gym, too, and a couple of times I went there to fill up my bottle at the FloWater station (because all those cocktails were quite dehydrating). We even made plans to hit the gym early, before we started our day's adventures:

D:    "It's 7 AM. Wanna get up and go to the gym?"
P:     "No. Do you?"
D:    "No. Let's get breakfast."

We got back into Cleveland last night, to a pelting rain and a prediction of colder weather to come (finally!), and a brand new resolve to get back to training. Maybe we felt the need to shake off all those celebration beverages and expensive crab platters. Or maybe that one week off left us refreshed and ready to focus. In any case,  it felt like we were off to a good start, like the new year came a week early.

We grabbed our rain gear and headed out for some intervals. And managed to not celebrate our newfound momentum with anything with gin in it.
Wearing running gear, for proof that I actually did

Cask is a high-end liquor store
Decorated for Christmas at the Park Central lounge
The Dorchester, at the Slanted Door
The Princess Leia, at Novela

The Clift Manhattan, at the Clift

Fisherman's Wharf

Thursday, December 10, 2015

El camino a los Campeonatos del Mundo

There's lots to do to get ready to compete at the 2016 Duathlon World Championships this summer.

Alongside training my body to perform to its highest level, I also started training my brain to understand the local language. If I start now, I may be able to speak a few words of Spanish, too!

Wish me luck, and if you have any advice or recommended methods, please let me know.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Season of Pain

I'm not sure why it's called the 'off'' season, when it's really the season when all the hard work happens.

This year's races are over, but 2016 goals are not so far off. Future races (my first one of the year is the Chilly Willy Duathlon) are the little points of light at the end of this cold, dark tunnel.

Ambitious goals and important races mean that there are many tough workouts ahead. Suffering is mandatory. Gains are inevitable. Just keep moving toward the light.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"We aren't afraid"

I'm climbing up a wide spiral staircase in what looks to be the inside of a giant grain silo. I'm tired. My feet hurt from standing all day at the Salon du Livre, Paris's huge annual book fair. I'm jet-lagged, too, having just arrived this morning, and I'm hungry. I would be OK with a croque monsieur and a glass of wine and then let's call it a day, but my co-worker has other plans.  I'm being led through the labyrinth of the underground Metro, a connect-the-dots route to a particular point in the middle of Paris that is to become my introduction to the City of Light.

We come out of the dimly lit station into a dark alley. The night air wakes me up a little. We round the corner, and I'm stopped dead by what I just walked into. I'm face to face with the ominous, hulking grandeur of Cathedral de Notre Dame, awashed in an otherworldly glow of orange light. I don't remember if I gasped, or cried, or just stood there in awed silence for hours and hours. I remember my co-worker laughing at my reaction and saying "I knew you would like it".

This is how my love affair with Paris began. This is a place that I return to, over and over again, because I simply can't get enough of it.

After the Salon du Livre closed, I stayed on the rest of the week to explore this multifaceted gem. I wandered through gardens and museums (and one rather famous cemetery), ducked into tiny boutiques selling everything from taxidermy birds to exquisite art supplies to chocolate creations. I took the clean and efficient metro train everywhere, finding hidden treasures in each of the arrondisements. I spent plenty of time in cafes, of course, and watched the Parisian world reveal itself to me in its own time.

Paris exudes a quiet elegance. It is polite, and attentive, and unobtrusive. It embodies a joie de vivre (appropriately) that is evident everywhere. Paris values art, and beauty, and all the things that define what I consider a life well lived. French culture values quality over quantity, which is so contrary to  the general culture of the United States (a point I would dare anyone to argue). Paris, especially, has a culture that is clearly secular, but embraces a 'live and let live' mentality.

Paris, in my opinion, must be the most civilized place in the whole world.

Which is why the attacks on civilians earlier this week are so abhorrent to me. France has always welcomed immigrants, and although there is a concern that the waves of people from other countries aren't always eager to assimilate into their host culture (a global problem), there was an acceptance nonetheless. Not a 'let's build a giant wall' reaction. Not a 'round 'em all up and deport them' agenda. Maybe there should have been, but that would have been contrary to the French sensibility of civility, and hope.

I've been keeping up with the news reports since the coordinated bomb attacks. I've been interested in knowing who, and how, and why, and also in watching how Paris reacts.

What I'm seeing is this: that the Parisians, like America after 9/11, will mourn together, regroup, and move on. There will be a new sense of caution, of course, but there is a determination that wont succumb to extremist thuggery.  I can't see the Parisians using the bombings as an opportunity to protect their right to arm themselves to the teeth and lock themselves in their little houses.  Or that they'll now feel the need to carry a weapon into a movie theater or a church or a day care. Doing so would mean that they've given the terrorists what they wanted. They will have given in to fear.

The Parisians say that they're not afraid, but I know that's not true, at least not yet. I do know that they are defiant and resilient, and that they will fiercely protect their way of life.  My prayer for Paris is that it never allows anyone or anything to steal its grace.

"Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it"

--Mark Twain