Thursday, February 26, 2009

199 days to go!

Wow, that didn’t take long, it seems like I was just standing in line signing up!
Fortunately, although I haven’t been pounding a ton of super-hard workouts yet, I have been making productive progress.

The most progress has been in the pool. I jumped in on November 7th, and have worked my way perhaps from “splashy” to “slippery”; yesterday I clocked my mile time about 7 minutes faster than when I started. At this pace, I’ll be out of the water with 50 minutes to spare. Now it’s a matter of keeping my shoulders healthy, slowly building up the distance, and adding some tougher speed intervals. I’m looking forward to adding lake workouts and a wetsuit in the early summer.

The bike – as with many triathletes, this is probably my favorite. And fortunately, because it’s the longest part of the race. Triathlete magazine just ran a page description of each IM course for 2009, and described Wisconsin’s bike as “extremely hilly.” I thought hmph, it didn’t seem that hilly to me! I think this is a good indicator of my love for climbing, which goes a long way for riding in Wisconsin. Using the Powercranks Jon leant me is training my muscles to be strong and efficient, and I look forward to trying them out on the open road once spring comes. Race wheels too? We’ll see how the budget looks mid-season…

And on the run, I’ve decided to run the Madison Marathon on May 24th, so I’ve been training with the current group of Team in Training participants who are training for the Seattle, San Diego, and Anchorage marathons in June. I love spending time with the new runners as they begin this crazy journey! My legs are feeling pretty fresh and strong lately, so I’ll continue to work up the miles for another cycle this spring.

Finally, fundraising. This has never been all about me, it’s been about curing cancer – that simple. So as I was getting ready for the season ahead and Brianna from the LLS office approached me with a nomination for their “Man and Woman of the Year” campaign, I couldn’t say no. A moment later, I had doubled my annual fundraising goal, and was signed up to work even harder this year, to work even harder at an important goal. I’ve brought in several hundred so far as I start ramping up. Each person, one donation this year, any amount. Click when you’re ready.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Digging out!

Hello from snowy Wisconsin!
Today has been a great day for training and fundraising.
It started this morning with a 5-mile team run around Monona Bay, over about 3" of fresh snow to make things a bit more interesting. Remember the part in Rocky IV where Rocky trains in the winter in Russia? I felt a bit like that. Spending time with the new, incoming Team members is always a lot of fun, and I remember some of my emotions as I first started this journey...
And then I decided to make the very best of this snow. After that warm spell, I think Wisconsonites thought maybe, just maybe, winter would end early this year. Today's storm is leaving some people with snow fatigue. What better way to help out than to clean off windshields and shovel off driveways and walks? I've had the chance to meet even more neighbors, have nice conversations, and lend a hand while bringing in fundraising dollars. One family made me a sandwich for lunch (which I'm eating now on a short break before I head back out.) Thank you to everyone who has joined with me to oppose blood cancer. Thank you to everyone who encourages a member of your community. Spring, and a cure, will come; let's hope they're both soon.

PS - and it's been a great day for my arms, abs, and back, so - happy training!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watch out for nonprofits!

Many people are surviving with blood cancer today - many times more than 20 years ago - because Team in Training participants have the guts to ask strangers for donations, a few bucks at a time.

I had my latest bout of stranger-asking on Tuesday evening, selling coupon booklets at the Boston Store in the mall for the upcoming Community Day event. The store is a great contributor to our mission - they give us coupon booklets (for free) which we can sell for $5 to benefit TNT. The coupon book includes several offers, the top one of which is $10 off any item. Donate $5 to a worthwhile charity, and get $10 off your purchase. Read: get $5 for free.

I got to paying attention to people's reactions to me standing near the door and offering this deal to them. I try to keep it quick: "$5 to charity gets you a $10 coupon". I'm inside the store, dressed in business clothes and have a presentable table set with a red cloth and TNT literature. There must be some sort of societal reflex that makes people shy away from anyone asking them for anything. Maybe it's a scam, maybe there's a catch, maybe I don't want a new store credit card, maybe ....

There were several common reactions. Some patrons immediately ducked into the merchandise, veering right into the racks as they entered the door. Others picked up their phones as if "checking" them, some seemed to head for the door farther from me. One woman bought a coupon without saying a word to me. A couple cheerfully informed me they've "got one!", and my favorite response was "I work here."

I sure appreciated the folks passing by who said hello anyway, or "no thank you." I'm just a regular guy, after all, volunteering for something I believe in. Last year, just for grins I tried busking, with my guitar on State Street and outside a couple Badger games, singing songs I made up about Team in Training. I got a pretty decent case of ones, and a couple larger bills, that made a dent in my goal. And I got a good appreciation for what it must have to take to try to make a living doing it. These days I try to hear people out more often.

I'm reminded of the scene in "Airplane!" where the characters are bombarded with swarms of "we'd like you to have this flower from the church of religious consciousness..."


PS - training is solid. Lots of swimming this time of year in the pool and spinning in the basement, keeping in shape and trying to strengthen up before the spring takes me fully outside.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Inner Fire

In the bleak midwinter, I have respite from the cold.

In the summer of '07, before any of these athletic pursuits began, Jenn suggested that we try a local yoga studio that offered Bikram yoga - a challenging class in a hot room. I begrudgingly agreed, and let my beginner's mind lead me blindly to my very best effort, one pose after another, without knowing what was coming next, and not knowing for how long I could even retain consciousness. In the car going home, Jenn and I each said that the class might have been one of the most challenging demands we had ever experienced.

Bikram yoga is a regimented set of 26 poses, practiced in a specific order over 90 minutes, designed to strengthen, stretch, and cleanse the body. To facilitate opening the body, it is practiced in a 105-degree room. I took quite a liking to this practice that was somehow gruelling and blissful all at once, and have recently renewed another year-long membership at Inner Fire Yoga Center.

There are a lot of reasons why I love the practice. Flexibility is an important one. Some people say "I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible enough"; ah, but *doing yoga* is what can *make* you flexible! I couldn't touch my toes in my first class, but I practiced and was patient, and now I can put my wrist on my toes! Strength is big, too: among the many types of yoga, some combine flexibility with strength and power. Mostly core strength, which I learn all the time is paramount to all activities. At Inner Fire, I practice Bikram yoga, as well as vinyasa flow yoga (a more lively, connected movement from pose to pose), and yin yoga (a quiet, gentle, static stretching and relaxing class).

There are also some intangible benefits I love. The studio is a retreat from everything else in life, and I'm able to quiet myself and focus like nowhere else. The hot room and tough poses fortify my sense of resolve. The instructors are kind and accepting of all levels, and push just hard enough. The community always feels supportive. And the practice teaches that amidst all stresses or exhaustion in life or on a race course, I can breathe, focus, and be solely in control of my body and mind. I am in control of my joy.

I give great credit to my yoga practice for rounding out all my other training. I recommend anyone give it a try, to heal the breakdowns of training, to become stronger from the inside, and to practice focusing in on one's own very best teacher.