Category Archives: Philosophy

A Higher Standard

Bear with me, because I was thinking about this on the middle of my ride today and I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. It all started when I Anyhow, I was watching From Russia With Love (because some days there’s only so much Breaking Bad one can stomach). The movie opens SPOILER ALERT with a scene of chess being played and one of the players is passed a note during the course of played. That got me thinking about the Virginia chess cheating scandal and how it might relate to doping. The main player in question was caught using an electronic guide to help figure out his next move and was beating far higher ranked players. So a relatively open and shut case of cheating (though the scope and length of time of the cheating is in question).

So how does that relate to doping in sport, and, in particular, in triathlon (some of the sourcing for what follows comes from this Slowtwitch thread)? Given the WADA rules, it’s pretty clear where the limits are. The scope of the testing for amateur athletes, however, is a bit less clear. It appears that the individual races themselves (at least when sanctioned by USADA/USATF/USAC/USAT) are often on the hook for providing the funds for testing athletes out of competition testing, I believe, is performed by the USADA sending testers to individual athletes. Again, it’s expensive, even for a limited number of pro athletes. Now one possible solution is to have some athletes tested only at the races, but not all doping occurs right before the race1. And as amateurs, many (extrapolating from my data point of 1) are less cautious about knowing exactly what is on the WADA prohibited substances list (unlike the TSA). While I would be open to getting tested (given that I haven’t knowingly ingested/injected/snorted anything banned). That being said, it’s our duty to know the rules, as it’s our duty to know the course.

And here’s where I ran out of steam, until I saw this article. And holy shit.

Now, you could say this doesn’t matter. After all, there aren’t a lot of amateurs doping, and whether the pros are being tested is sometimes questioned. But it matters because the rules are the rules. We can ignore that there’s a doping problem. I don’t know the answers. I don’t know what makes sense. But I do know doping is cheating. It is dishonest. We need to hold ourselves to high standards.

  1. I recommend The Secret Race by Hamilton and Coyle for some background on doping

What City Would Claim Me

What makes something home?

As I was suffering/enjoying what I told Steve was a boring workout this weekend (not every workout will knock your socks off or crush your legs), I rode through Needham and saw a sign proclaiming it the home of Aly Raisman, Olympic Gold Medalist. The question of home has come up multiple times: what is home? Is home where the heart is? Is home where you were born? Is home where you are now? If I were an olympian now (not that it’s ever happening), which city would try to claim me as the hometown kid1?

Jacksonville, to be honest, never felt like home while I was living there, though I have felt the need from time to time to defend the city from its detractors. The DC area never felt like home but I think perhaps a bit of that was unhappiness with the situation there. Perhaps it was all the stress of my job there, the situation that brought me down there, the je nais se quaquoi of what home really is? I don’t know. Boston has felt like home, at times. Part of that is family, part of that is friends. But there is also something about Boston, that despite having great friends and great family and great places to run and ride and drink and hang out… it sometimes feels like the city isn’t home, yet. It has its moments, its place and its quirks, like the way the city winds its ways around the water and always appears to be 90° from where you think it would be.

  1. This is why I should never be allowed to train on no breakfast or fuel during the ride

Confliction

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would talk about Lance Armstrong racing the Rev3 Half Full Triathlon after the USADA ruling against him. After all, Rev3 is my sponsor and I’ve got ambiguous (at best) feelings towards Lance. I think the truth matters, and I think integrity matters. Honesty too. So yes, I was a bit conflicted about how to reconcile the Ulman Cancer Fund dropping USAT sanctioning and allowing Lance Armstrong to race in the survivor wave. A little tangent first…

I’ve been struggling a bit, as I often do, with the feeling that I am living slightly past the edge of my own control… that is, things are getting away from me and I am not living up to my own standards. It’s impossible, in this day and age, not to see photos of friends on trips to far reaches of the world, whether for business or pleasure, and not be a bit jealous of the lives they are living. But then I remember the choices I have made, the lifestyle I lead, the things and people I love are pretty fantastic and they are mine. They have not always been right, they have not always been the best in the end, but they were mine and they are me and while I am jealous that people are in far corners of the world, I am confident that there are others who feels pangs of jealousy for my life as well. These are stupid things, and things I know and understand all too well. All of this is to say I was thinking of whether business school is something I would ever want to do, given that I know people who have gone and respect many of them…

So as I got off the trainer after watching 2 episodes of Breaking Bad (yes, it was that long of a trainer ride) I started framing this from a business perspective. Charlie has talked publicly (and privately) about the decision. Rev3 providing race support to UCF is expensive even before UCF let Lance race (Rev3 donates timing and other support services). There is some discussion (on Slowtwitch and elsewhere) that there are further opportunity costs to letting Lance race (e.g. some people who feel very strongly will not race Rev3 events, other race directors may not allow Rev3 to steward their events in the future). But if UCF and Charlie believe that letting Lance race will provide an inspiration to young cancer patients, survivors, and their families, then I can understand their decision to let Lance race. It’s an honest decision, and if celebrating Lance the cancer survivor helps others, I think perhaps we can sport aside once. The onus is on Lance not to “race” and rather to encourage those racing and battling around him (I would be extremely disappointed if he even attempted to win the survivor wave).

I still believe the truth matters.

Disclaimer #1: Like I said, I’m sponsored by Rev3, and this is a touchy issue. Even for me. I struggle with it
Disclaimer #2: I know that this post avoids a lot of the ethical issues. But it’s a very slippery slope no matter where I stand

The Opposite of Here Goes Nothing


From the first emails back and forth with Steve last year:

Goals (short and long term) within the sport? Short term goal is to go sub 4:40 in a half within the next year. Long term I’d like to be competitive within my AG (moving from top 40 or so to top 10-15).

Yeah, I’d say I covered that one pretty well this year. To be fair, that longer term goal is relative to who shows up on a given race day. At Lobsterman (of which a google image search is hilarious) this weekend, I know some of the speedsters who will be there and there’s just no way I can keep up with them. But this year has been relatively consistent nonetheless: just off the podium a lot of times, on the podium once (in triathlon). 2012 has been a pretty interesting year so far. Although MCM happened way back in October 2011, it feels as though it was part of this entire training block1. And while training rarely went as planned or hoped, things have generally turned out pretty well. And as I’ve said, it’s somewhat frightening to think what the top end might be.

So with that in mind…

Goals:

  • 4:25 70.3 — this seems like it should be very difficult. 15 minutes off of a 19 minute PR this year? That’s a 5% increase in speed. Surely I can get some of that on the bike, maybe some on the swim and hopefully some on the run because…
  • 2:45 marathon OR 1:19 half — This. I have no idea whether I can hit this. But Emily thinks it isn’t unreasonable. I’ll get my chance at Boston (if I don’t do Two Oceans 2-3 weeks beforehand) or maybe the New Bedford Half.
  • Be smart, live right — I know; this is really a stupid goal. But part of it means deciding whether I want to race 140.6 again (not next year, but maybe the year after), eat healthier, do less stupid things (or stupid things less often)… hard to quantify.

So there it is. I’ve said it. Those are pretty tough goals to reach for2. It won’t be easy. It’ll hurt. But it’s worth the effort. I’m worth the effort.

  1. I guess it kind of was. Steve and I decided to get right back at it 1 week post-marathon
  2. I haven’t even talked to Steve to see if he thinks they are a good idea. Maybe he comes back and says pick one or the other (triathlon or running) as your goal for 2013.

Camping is Intense

There’s a building being, well, built next to my office at work. On the skeletal frame, there are these staircases that lead to open air below. Turns out they are part of these elevators that ring the frame allowing workers to put up the facade of the building. But as someone afraid of heights and afraid of my brain, the thought of a stairway to suspended in the air terrifies me.
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A Plea

I’ve said before that cycling is dangerous. Running is also dangerous. There are things that my friends have created to mitigate the risk to some extent, but there’s little we as athletes can do, aside from being wary and alert all the time. Sadly, that’s not always enough. News out of Colorado tells of one cyclist being run over by a car and not expected to make it, and another killed by a hit and run driver who took the bicycle. According to twitter, at least one, if not two, cyclists were hit in Boston today.

One lasting memory I have from Jacksonville is riding in the car on a weekend morning and seeing a giant crowd outside of a driveway, huddling around a body on the ground. The female runner was still alive at this point, but she ended up dying later that day from her injuries.

A little math. I weigh ~160 lbs; my bike weighs about another ~20 or so pounds. Your car probably weighs at least 10x that and is designed to protect the occupants inside from a collision with a vehicle of similar size. As a cyclist, I’m protected by a helmet and little else. As a runner, I’m protected by… staying off the road when I can. Your car is aluminum or steel or carbon fiber or plastic; I am flesh and blood and family and friends and loved ones. Should we attempt to occupy the same space… I won’t win. Everyone will lose. I’d prefer it not to happen.

I know it’s annoying to be slowed down by a cyclist… but at most it’s going to delay you a couple of minutes. That’s not worth a life. The vast majority of cyclists are trying to do the right thing. The vast majority of runners are too. And so are drivers. But we could all do a lot more to watch out for each other, to be more predictable to each other, to be better to each other.

Please please please share the road.

Update: As Laura says below in the comments, cyclists can do more too. Respecting the laws of the road goes a long way towards being more predictable for drivers and pedestrians. Also, not treating a mixed use path (e.g., the Charles River bike path) as your own personal time trial is a generally good thing to do.

Update 2: In terms of amount of damage that can be caused, it’s pretty clearly cars>bikes>>>>>>>>pedestrian. While I agree that cyclists should abide by the rules of the road, a car running into a cyclist or pedestrian is typically going to cause catastrophic damage/injury (I got lucky once, I don’t want to have to be lucky again), and a cyclist at speed running into another cyclist or pedestrian can also be catastrophic (lots of sharp and pointy bits on a bike), I think we as drivers get so complacent with our driving skills (I do this all the time, I can text and drive, I can read emails and drive, etc) because the risk of injury to ourselves is so much lower (I’m not saying that cyclists don’t do stupid/risky things (they do), but just that the risk to themselves is high as well).

Breaking Bad (Habits)

Me, all week.

A two part post… they are slightly related? Buried myself on a dehydrated 10 miler today. You never know what race day might be like.
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Never make a decision based on fear or greed

I threw on my suit (a suit that when I bought it a year ago fit, but I am told no longer does) Thursday night because why not? and met my sister and her neighbor for dinner. The conversation was one of those that I thought people stopped having when they graduated college or turned 25 or 30 or…: “What do I want to do with my life? What should I do with my life?” It’s not a questions of bucket lists or a list of things you want to tick the box on (which is what I thought at first as they are both older than I am), but what will give me a sense of fulfillment, keep me moving forward. And the neighbor imparted the following piece of wisdom, which I’ve been turning over and parsing in my head for the past week:”Never make decisions based on fear or greed. And staying somewhere because you are afraid to leave, or make too much money, is doing just that”. So I’ve been mulling that over in my head for half a week now. Avoiding actively making a decision based on fear or greed, at least without some thought and balance (for instance, if I am afraid of heights, and I am, do I want to go climb Everest?), seems simple enough. But inaction… how do you prevent that? I think it’s far more complicated and much more difficult to do (for it often means leaving behind some sort of safety and the change of the status quo), but I think if you can accept that and learn to do that, you can probably live a much happier, more fulfilling life.

Chill out

I understand how odd it is to see an advice post from me after my last post about not liking to assert myself that way.

It’s now 3 days before race day… and the National Weather Service is calling for 84 degrees… so feel free to

A bunch of my friends running the Boston Marathon got a bit freaked out by this forecast today:

I’ve done quite a bit of racing in the heat (most recently in Costa Rica), but I’ve had to run two marathons (in iron distance races) in extreme heat.

Ironman Arizona 2008

Ironman Canada 2009

Both runs started around 2PM, so it was just getting to the hottest point of the day. Here are some tips on how I survived:

  • Adjust expectations. At Arizona, one of the racers on the rack across from mine was saying that if it were an open marathon, he could run a 2:40. I later passed him, walking very slowly, during the marathon
  • Pre-hydrate. Before Arizona I had extra Gatorade because I knew I would lose a lot to sweat. As Jamie points out in the comments, don’t use just water.
  • Do not pass up the opportunity to get water at an aid station. You’ll need it.
  • If someone gives you ice, put it somewhere that it will stick on your body. Easier to dump it into your pants in a tri-suit, but you can also put it underneath a sports bra, etc.
  • Sunscreen
  • Just keep going. If it gets really hot, walk the aid station and take on extra water.
  • Wait until a day or two before to freak out about the weather. In Arizona, it was cooler all week, but the forecast didn’t settle on hot until a couple of days before.

That’s all I got.

Ebb and flow

Prednisone is a hell of a drug. After going in to see the dermatologist on Tuesday (an appointment where he asked whether being red headed runs in my family…dunno why he’d ask that), I got put on a course of Prednisone. Amazeballs. It knocked me a bit for a loop: I don’t know if it was just the power of suggestion but I felt a bit sick (weakened immune system?) and a little bit heavy (increased appetite/water retention). My guess is that both are just temporal anomalies and will be resolved soon. But the hives are completely gone. Which is awesome. But the steroids and hives really knocked me off my training game for two weeks, so I’m glad to be past that.

Coach Steve had me do my bike testing this week. Not sure if he wants me to describe the protocol, so I won’t. But I’m really happy that 1) there is a protocol, 2) there’s a coach prescribing said protocol, and 3) I executed the tests as specified. I don’t think my results were stellar at all, but I’m glad to have something down “on paper” to build on over the season. And having done all of these tests indoors, I think I’ve done some really good work mentally as well. So bully for me! I wouldn’t say I’ve gone backwards in terms of power, etc on the bike, but I feel the stagnation ending

In the middle, freezing, head down.


Today was yet another 5K (the Yulefest 5K). Hung out with the Racemenu peeps. Cold cold cold day. Couldn’t feel my feet for the first mile (5:38 which holy shit…). After I passed RaceMenu captain Alain, I tried to close the gap to RaceMenu teammates Jason and Brad, but I couldn’t. My stomach wasn’t really solid today and 2.5 miles in I had to stop for a brief moment to make sure I didn’t defile my running tights (plus, I didn’t think my time for the 5K team competition would matter as I hadn’t bridged to Jason and Brad). Disappointing, but I had every chance to resolve the issue before the race. Next time. Turns out my time did matter (to some extent) because Jason and Brad’s registrations hadn’t been correctly moved to the team competition, but the team that came in first would have beaten us anyhow. Finished less than 10 seconds behind a PR, so next time.

After the race, I had lunch with Joe from 1BandID. He’s an awesome guy and made me a new ID to congratulate me on my Team Rev3 selection. A really nice gesture from a man I feel very fortunate to call a friend.