Sunday, August 15, 2010

Christmas Came Early and Other Stories of Instant Gratification.

Or maybe my birthday came late. Either way, Houston heard my cry and gave me the awesome present of a spot in the marathon. Well, technically, I paid for the present. And I guess it's not really a present. I mean, I'm going to be busting a gut for 26.2 miles for absolutely no reason. I won't be going anywhere. I won't be running down deer for food like my ancestors. Just running for, fun?? Maybe I should avoid over-analyzing the situation and just be happy. Thanks Houston Marathon! Thanks for everything!

The marathon is 24 weeks away, exactly. My question has never been whether or not I could finish a marathon. Endurance has been my greatest strength as a runner since high school. To me, the big challenge is how responsible I can be for my training over the next four and a half months. Here are my goals:

1. Never try to replace a speed session with extra distance.

I don't like speed workouts. I never have, maybe never will. So sometimes I would justify skipping speed-work by adding more mileage and just running a little faster than normal the whole time. I could run 20 miles at a 9:30 pace, sure. But what happened when I tried to knock that down to a 9:00 pace? The drop off was huge! I think I could maybe do 8 miles tops without completely killing myself.

2. Never add extra miles so I can round up to a certain number of miles each week.

There is something so righteous about a 40 mile week. I mean that in both the Biblical way and the surfer-dude way. However, there were weeks when I knew I shouldn't add on 2 miles to a recovery run, but that was the only way I could escape from a taunting 38 at the end of the week.

3. Never substitute running for cross-training.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Part of the reason I love running so much is that I'm a highly accomplishment-driven person. Combine that with the instant gratification mindset that I share with the rest my generation, and you have an injury just waiting to happen. I want my miles now! I want to be in the best shape of my life right this second!

There is so much convenience and speed that we can purchase if we are willing to shell out a little more money. Faster cars, faster computers, faster internet, faster food. We pay for it, we get it. Instantly. In a time when things are increasingly digital and increasingly changeable, I forget that I can't just magically get a body upgrade. I approached my running last year with the thoughts "If I just try hard enough- pay the price- I can run any pace I want in this marathon." As inspirational a thought that might be, it's just not true. This is why I have grown to really root against the show Biggest Loser. It's not the safety issues that bother me. I understand that the contestants are monitored by doctors very carefully, and even though fast weight loss can be risky, it is far more dangerous for people that obese to keep the weight. My problem is that the audience doesn't see what really goes on in that gym. The contestants are on treadmills for hours and hours at a time. They sit interminably in saunas. They eat sugar-free jello by the case-load.

Instead of focusing on how miserable the contestants are during the week, they spend 45 minutes of an hour long show on the stupid weigh-ins and commercials for Jillian's work-out videos. The other 15 minutes are physical challenges that look to me like some producer said "Wouldn't it be funny if we had eight 400 pound people do the limbo?"

So what happens to the psyches of Biggest Loser fans that can't lose 16 pounds in a week? "I'm a failure." "I'm just not, tough enough." "If Jillian were here right now, she would be yelling at me in her Rachel-Ray-meets-James-Earl-Jones voice." That, by the way, makes Jillian's voice the second most annoying on TV, just behind miss E-V-O-O herself. (My sister-in-law may be the only person that gets that reference.)

ANYWAY, this post is about me, not Biggest Loser, but I felt it was too timely a tangent to pass up. What I'm saying with all of this is that it takes hard work, patience, and wisdom to really reach a high level of fitness for those of us that aren't Kenyan. I want to work hard, but ultimately, my body has the say of how fast I make progress in healthy, sustainable change. New shoes won't help. Pain won't help. Just a little bit of time....


  1. I get the E-V-O-O reference. And, um, I might subscribe to her magazine, also. Shhh...

  2. I'm totally in favor of a Rachael Ray magazine. Anything that prevents me from hearing her voice is a good thing.

  3. I'm afraid you're wrong about the most annoying voice on television. I'm afraid that honor goes to none other than Sarah Palin. Please everyone, I'm not speaking politics here; we can do that on my blog. I'm simply speaking in terms of annoying voices. I will admit though that Rachel Ray has an annoying voice and her food is not that inspiring, at least not to me.

  4. I can't look at Rachel Ray when she talks. She talks out the side of of her mouth like it's cute or something. It's not.