Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's ridiculous for me to begin every blog post by lamenting the fact that I don't write in this blog very much. The only thing MORE ridiculous would be to apologize, considering that no one actually reads it. Acknowledgment of tardiness, expression of regret, etc.

It's the day after Christmas, and I'm here in Cohutta, Georgia, at my parents-in-law's house. Yesterday, I celebrated my first-ever white Christmas, it having snowed about five to seven inches here early Christmas morning. It was very exciting for those of us who grew up and have spent most Christmases in the south; it was the first time in over a century that the Atlanta area had snow on Christmas day.

Happily, I did not attempt to ride my bike in yesterday's snow. Likewise, today, as it continues to snow and the ice thickens in the colder temperatures, I will not be riding my bike either. This seems strange given that I have some big cycling goals ahead and that I was riding A LOT this time last year. (In fact, this week last year was the highest-mileage week I have ever had on the bike: just short of 400 miles in five rides.) This year, I'm experimenting with a different approach to the off-season which includes, among other things, some running. Running has been fun, albeit at times frustrating. I was once a runner, so it's nice to get back to my athletic "roots." I have found that I very much enjoy the purity of running, and I can see why I was into it in the first place. At the same time,of course, I can see why I hung up my running shoes--because my hips don't really like the pounding, and it's hard to run without some amount of pain and discomfort. Few are the runs where I feel fast and strong . . . but those runs are really nice.

Because goals are so important to me, I'm aiming to do the Disney World Half-Marathon on January 9th. I hope to finish in the top 20 or so, but I have only a faint idea of how fast I might be able to run (based mostly on how fast I want to run and the single race that I did--and won!--a couple of months ago. Is a hilly 15k on trails in November a good indicator of what I can run for a flat half-marathon on the road in January? We will see). After that, I will focus almost entirely on cycling until April 17. During that period, I'll do an event nearly every weekend, and I hope to get enough points to upgrade to Cat 2. After that, I'll start training for my first triathlons, in which I'll compete over the summer and into the fall. My goal remains to do a half-Iron in late September or early October, and a full Iron in May of 2012.

I've tweaked my plans a bit since my last entry just because our lives have changed a bit. Most significantly, my wife has applied to compete in the Ultraman Canada competition, and if she gets in--we find out in February!--we will likely spend a few weeks this summer training at altitude in Boulder. (This idea is so alluring, actually, that we may do it whether she gets in or not!) Given that, I plan to do Triple Bypass this summer, assuming that I can get in via lottery. This year, for the first time, they are offering an event called the "Double Triple," in which you ride the course the traditional direction on Saturday and then the opposite direction on Sunday. I'm putting that down as my first choice in the lottery.

On that note, my wife gave me "Bicycle Dreams" for Christmas. We watched it this morning, and it was just great. As I knew it would, the movie got me me thinking about ultra events to put on the calendar after the Ironman in 2012. There are several ultra events that are appealing, but I know that there is a lot to consider. Among other things, having trained through last winter for Sebring, I want to make sure that the bulk of the training comes at a time of year when I would enjoy the training (and could likely mix in some other events). That is, I have resolved NOT to spend another cold winter--this winter or really any other--putting in ten-plus-hour rides in sub-freezing temperatures. For that reason, a summer ultra (like Race Across Oregon, RAW , or if I could somehow find a team, Team RAAM) that would enable me to train during the spring is desirable. By the same token, a fall ultra (like the Furnace Creek 508) that would enable me to train through the summer and into the fall--incorporating the fall centuries that I love (and that I had to miss this year because of my shoulder surgery)--would be fantastic. A fall ultra would take me out of school, though, and it therefore requires a more significant commitment.

Of course, I have a good while to figure this out, and I have plenty of really difficult things that require my attention in the meantime. It's not like I have to map it out today. It's just on my mind since we watched the movie. In fact, I should probably go back and consider why doing an ultra--any ultra--is appealing in the first place. Watching the movie, my wife--an Ironman who has applied for Ultraman and got her first ever win at an ultra-marathon two weeks ago--could not quite see the appeal. While she appreciated the drama and intrigue of the race and the racers' stories, there was no part of her that said, "I want to do that." For me, there was. Even as we watched them suffer, I was thinking to myself how I might be able to build up to this event over the next several years. That suffering appeals to me; I like the idea of completing the ultra-endurance test. (Solo RAAM is, I believe, equal to any of the world's great endurance tests.) Would I enjoy the training? Could I endure the event? Or am I only intrigued by the idea? I'm not sure, but perhaps that that's precisely why it's on my mind.

In some ways, I feel like I'm circling back around to where I was last year. This week last year, before it became my longest week ever, I had my first real athletic meltdown on the bike. In sub-thirty degree weather, I cut a prescribed twelve-hour ride short. Nine hours short. And I began to wonder what I was really doing by training for an ultra and why I was doing it. As I look out the window at the snow, and as I consider how much I've enjoyed not riding and eating lots of cookies and Skittles,yet as I ponder taking on more significant endurance challenges, I realize that I must continue to consider my search for the most pleasant exhaustion.

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