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June 28, 2007

Summer Break

“Slow down, everyone – you’re moving too fast –
Frames can’t catch you if you’re moving like that … “

- Jack Johnson, “Inaudible Melodies”

I need to slow down. With my Ironman about five weeks away, I’ve been training like a lunatic, and trying to cram every other part of my life around the margins.

So I’m stepping back a bit to take a little hiatus, which coincides with a few upcoming days when I’ll be without Internet access. It actually works out nicely, in that I’ll have a chance to catch up on some reading (more on that below), and keep working my way through Season 1 of Lost (yes, I’m still working on that one).

Make no mistake – everything’s good. Just busy. And I won’t be gone for long.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few random thoughts that have been bouncing around my head lately, but I never got around to writing about. Any one of these topics could have been a full post – but to spare both you and me some time, I’ll try to keep them to brief bullet points. Starting with …

The Internet highlight of my past week was reading blogs and race reports from two of the biggest events of the year: the Western States 100 and Ironman Cour D’Alene (and in one case, IM Switzerland). I was going to write a whole post about how exciting it was to follow the exploits of these athletes - but then I figured that if you can’t get inspired by reading the words of people like Momo, TriJack, Eric, Jodi, and Benny … I’m not sure what else I can tell you. Except that maybe you’ve picked the wrong hobby or something.

Remember the Carmel Valley runner I talked about who let me accompany him on a nighttime trail run during his preparation for Western States? Well, after he finished the race, I contacted him to ask if I could write an article about him for my Monterey Herald column.

He wrote back to me and said that he had just finished giving an interview to a professional reporter from Sacramento, who had been commissioned by the Monterey Herald to write this article about him and another local runner which appears in today’s Herald.

In other words, I got scooped by my own paper. And it’s probably the best example I can offer to illustrate the difference between a freelance writer and a professional reporter. When it comes to sportswriting, I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of the Monterey Peninsula.

Like a kid counting the days to Christmas, I’m looking forward to next month’s release of the 7th Harry Potter book on an hourly basis. If I knew how to put one of those countdown clocks on my blog, it wouldn’t be for my Ironman, it would be for this book.

Seriously - I can’t overestimate how excited I am to discover how the whole story wraps up. Where are all of the horcruxes? What secret is Aunt Petunia keeping? And what the heck’s the deal with Snape? I’m so anxious about all of this that I’ve been going back through previous books of the series in hopes of glimpsing some clue I hadn’t noticed before, and refreshing my memory of the multiple storylines that have yet to play out in the final episode.

On the other hand, I’ve spent so many runs contemplating so many questions related to this series, that it’s interwoven into the fabric of my experience. So what happens once I finally know all the answers? What will I think about then? Will I enjoy my running any less than usual? I can’t help but wonder if I’ll feel some sort of letdown once the whole thing is ultimately finished.

(Have I mentioned yet that I can find the downside to anything? I've come to think of it as a gift. Let’s just move on … )

When I get back into the swing of posting, I owe you a post about my daughter and Brer Rabbit. I’ve also got some thoughts about Bugs Bunny – and yes, both of these posts will relate to triathlon. I know it sounds strange – but trust me on this one.

(This last point got a little carried away, and probably could have been its own post. But since I’ve already written the previous stuff, I’m throwing it all in at no extra charge. Don’t say I didn’t leave you with a lot to think about.)

For the first time in eight years, I may have to spend the Fourth of July without watching Takeru Kobayashi at the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest – and I’m almost disappointed beyond words.

Kobayashi is considered the Lance Armstrong of competitive eating (including the suspicion of drug use – in this case, whispers of performance enhancing stomach relaxers. I know, you think I’m kidding – but even I couldn’t make up something this silly.) He has dominated the Coney Island contest for the better part of a decade, but this year, he is scheduled to face his most formidable challenger in years: American Joey Chestnut, who just broke the hot dog eating world record.

Recently, Kobayashi has hinted that he may back out of the competition, citing a jaw injury that has limited his training. Which raises a couple of questions:

First off …am I to understand that these guys actually train for this stuff? I mean ... do they keep blogs and write event reports and read workout articles and hire coaches and attend clinics too? I'm sensing that the Hot Dog Contest is just the tip of the competitive eating iceberg. So the next time you see an overweight dude piling it up high at the Hometown Buffet, think twice about being overly critical – for all you know, that guy might be in serious training.

Second: Kobayashi is supposedly the Lance Armstrong of his sport. But does anyone seriously think that Lance would have backed away from his biggest challenge due to a training injury?

Remember Lance’s final year at the Tour de France, when Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis were up and coming riders earning a lot of media attention and poised to become cycling’s next big superstars? Instead of shying away from the pressure, Lance showed up in the best shape of his life, seized control of the race in its early stages, and kept laying the smack down on every major stage en route to his seventh victory.

Then he retired … and THAT’S the way a superstar leaves his sport.

So if Kobayashi decides to skip the contest instead of going after his seventh straight title, it would highlight the primary difference (at least, the major one not related to body mass or cardiovascular fitness) between competitive eating and world class cycling. Because when a title is at stake and a legacy is on the line, true champions show up.

And if he doesn’t … well, I guess I’ll just have to attend a barbecue somewhere or find some fireworks to watch instead. But my holiday won’t be nearly as satisfying.

I guess what I’m saying is, July looks to get off to a somewhat unusual start: a potentially lackluster Hot Dog contest, a Tour de France without Lance or Floyd, and me vacating cyberspace for a little while.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason for optimism. I’ll keep rolling along with my training, clicking off the workouts and counting down the minutes until my Ironman approaches and until the new Harry Potter book is released (but, you know … not necessarily in that order). Then before you know it, I’ll be back here wasting your time with stories of workouts and wizards and rabbits, along with any other random nonsense that crosses my mind.

Or, as I prefer to call it: business as usual.


rick 6/28/07, 11:09 AM  

I spent part of my weekend doing the same thing, keeping up with the webcasts of WS100, IM CDA and at one point IM France-Nice. Unfortunately with none of the training, well not much anyway, still making my way back from the big run and I'm still eating like I just ran the race yesterday.

Good reading and watching, enjoy your relaxed time.

stronger 6/28/07, 12:29 PM  

Happy hiatus- you really think you can get through taper without blogging? I bet you.

Laurie 6/28/07, 12:53 PM  

I like business as usual.

Have a great vacation!

Phoenix 6/28/07, 2:51 PM  

I was the same way about the Dark Tower books. I was simultaneously fulfilled and strangely empty at the end of the last book. Maybe I should read the Harry Potter series?

Have a great trip. We look forward to your return.

matt 6/28/07, 4:54 PM  

enjoy the break, donald! i look forward to your fresh insights upon return. good luck with the training. i think i will shoot you an email as i ramp up my training. you are always a great sounding board.

Matt 6/28/07, 11:06 PM  

There's another "Matt" Crappers! Ok, three things (as all triathletes must do)1. Jack Johnson = incredible. Love his stuff 2. Lost - I watched season 1 in 3 days. I couldn't quit watching. It's so addictive! 3. Man, I'm going to miss your blog. Good luck with the work and get back soon.

Annette 6/29/07, 9:34 AM  

OK, so the competitive eating just gets me going. First of all, how can they call it a sport? How can you possibly train without causing serious harm to your health? I'd say that "training" is just an excuse to overeat. Yes, I've watched it the last couple of years, but it just irks me that they put it in the same category as running, biking, baseball, etc. No wonder obesity is an issue. OK, I'm done with that now! Enjoy your 4th and your break from all of us. ;)

David 6/30/07, 10:55 AM  

I can't believe they took the free lancer over you. What were they not thinking?

olga 6/30/07, 1:05 PM  

I once stumbled upon a TV show "Wife swap" or something, and one family had been (overly) into protein shakes, boxing/crossfit workouts and other health/neat stuff. Another was a champion of hot dog eaters. Imagine the swap...interestingly, after 2 weeks the hot-dog dude finally got the idea of health risks he and his family are into (you should have also seen their weight!) and got on a program. I hope they all stay on it. The healthy family didn't really change, but did start to eat dinners (those healthy ones) together and hug more.

Just to share:) Enjoy no-computer time!

Megan 6/30/07, 9:14 PM  

I am intrigued by your upcoming posts, but have to tell you, taking a break is kinda nice. I hope you have a nice time away, get some reading done, and train well!

susie 7/1/07, 6:34 AM  

Enjoy the time away...I did! But don't stay too long. I enjoy the random nonsense.

Darrell 7/1/07, 1:45 PM  

I'm looking for the next installment of "Running and Rambling" the same way you're looking for Harry Potter!

Enjoy the time away.

JohnF 7/3/07, 10:39 PM  

You don't think competative eaters train? I once watched a documetary on these guys. The one who was often runner up to Takeru explained how he regularily ate massive ammounts of cabbage over sevaral months in an exercise to expand stomach size allowing it to hold more hotdogs during the actual event.

Cliff Tam 7/6/07, 9:52 AM  

Hmm..i miss that heavy training weeks before tapering..life is good.

Analogy between training and eating. hmm..quite funny. At the same time. I don't see the health benefit of eating so much to expand stomach size.

Then again, we swim,bike and run for hours....

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