Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I’ve pret­ty much al­ways not been good at sports. This holds true de­spite the fact that I have a huge NCAA Championship ring that I’m al­ler­gic to wear­ing. In Little League I played left field and chased but­ter­flies out of bore­dom. I had no idea about the cor­rect tim­ing to hit the ball. Elementary bas­ket­ball was sim­i­lar. Instead of steal­ing the ball, I asked if I could please have it. I was the tall kid, but had no hops, and no ag­gres­sive streak. I was okay at golf, but out­grew my clubs. In Junior High and High School I ran. I was the slow guy.

In col­lege I walked on to the fenc­ing team, worked my ass off, and most­ly due to the ben­e­fits of hav­ing team­mates of world class, Olympic cal­iber, was good enough to beat those op­po­nents who didn’t have the op­por­tu­ni­ties and ac­cess that I had.

I’ve al­ways con­sid­ered my­self more co­op­er­a­tive than com­pet­i­tive. I still am, but I’ve come to a dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ing about what it means to be com­pet­i­tive. I used to think be­ing com­pet­i­tive meant get­ting re­al­ly up­set at los­ing; want­i­ng to win so bad­ly that los­ing is anath­e­ma. I think I’ve re­al­ized where I (and oth­er folks) have gone wrong. Being com­pet­i­tive can al­so mean rev­el­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion, no mat­ter what the out­come. Sounds like a ra­tio­nal­iza­tion from a guy who’s used to los­ing, right?

What keeps me in the game then, if I’m such a los­er? It’s the com­pe­ti­tion, the striv­ing, the test­ing, stu­pid! I en­joy it. Trying to win does not mean hav­ing to win. The mind­set is sort of zen with a low­er-case z. Would you rather be com­pet­i­tive as a test of your own abil­i­ty or that of your team’s, or be com­pet­i­tive be­cause you en­joy beat­ing your op­po­nent? If the lat­ter, why is beat­ing your op­po­nent so im­por­tant? Answer that ques­tion and you’ll know what fu­els your com­pet­i­tive streak.

I’ve pret­ty much al­ways been good at trash talk. I’m mouthy. I’ve been known to play games with my own goals in mind. I used to play chess by try­ing to see how many pieces I could take be­fore los­ing. I used to have a Magic: The Gathering deck which could pret­ty much not ever win, but would make the process of win­ning as ab­solute­ly mis­er­able and drawn out for my op­po­nent as pos­si­ble. The sadis­tic psy­chol­o­gy of com­pe­ti­tion lives in this kind of trash talk, and asym­met­ri­cal strate­gies. But like the two types of com­pet­i­tive­ness I’ve cre­at­ed, there’s an­oth­er type of trash talk, too; sports­man­ship.


Taking the high road is al­ways a win. My friend Chas is a huge Pitt fan. Being a Domer my­self, we’ve got an un­der­stand­able ri­val­ry. Chas loves to talk smack. I’ve not talked to him in a few years, but it used to dri­ve him ab­solute­ly crazy that I wouldn’t rise to his bait, and would in­stead com­pli­ment Pitt whether they won or lost. Graciousness and class can be just as ef­fec­tive at un­set­tling your op­po­nent as any­thing else.

I guess this boils down to the fol­low­ing: The stereo­typ­i­cal com­pet­i­tive streak, and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing trash talk & oth­er be­hav­iors seem to re­flect such a strong need to win, there’s got to be some lack dri­ving it. For folks who just re­joice in sport, how­ev­er, win­ning and trash-talk­ing aren’t nec­es­sary (al­though both are quite fun in dif­fer­ent ways), just be­ing in a po­si­tion to strive, and hav­ing the abil­i­ty to do so is enough. At the same time, that zen-with-a-small-z state of mind can be just as ef­fec­tive a tac­tic as telling your op­po­nent that you’re sleep­ing with his girl­friend.

Training Day ?

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

I haven’t run con­sis­tent­ly in weeks. Here are the ex­cus­es: I’ve been read­ing through 41 grant pro­pos­als. I’ve been di­rect­ing my en­er­gies to­ward job search­ing. Running is de­stroy­ing my knees. See? I don’t have very many of them. This is why hav­ing some­one to run with is im­por­tant. You don’t want to let them down by bail­ing and they feel the same way. I call this: Runner’s Codependence.

Training Day 58

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

I had an un­in­ten­tion­al week off from run­ning, main­ly due to be­ing back in the Bend, but al­so with job re­lat­ed busi­ness. I was sup­posed to run 7 miles to­day and I got in 5.5 be­fore my left calf went Gordian on me. Stretch, test-run, walk::wash, rinse, re­peat. I got­ta just take my time and stretch for 15 min­utes or so be­fore the run, I sup­pose. I’m usu­al­ly good on the tight­en­ing if I can run and not stop the whole time, but just let one traf­fic sig­nal bring me to a halt and I get all bent out of shape.

Training Day 51

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

I had a crum­my run to­day. I was sup­posed to put in six miles, but on­ly did 2.5. My calves felt like bad clock­work. I think If I’d run much far­ther I would have torn some­thing. No mat­ter how much I stretched, they were still tense. Better take it easy.

Training Day 50

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

They say that it takes six weeks of any ex­er­cise pro­gram be­fore you start notic­ing re­sults. And by re­sults, they usu­al­ly mean weight loss. I don’t think I’ve lost much weight, apart from maybe a pound or two, but my body has def­i­nite­ly changed shape. I dropped a waist size and am now back to the ever-cursèd size of 32×34. Suddenly my hopes for find­ing pants that both don’t hang off my ass and cov­er my an­kles are dwin­dling. I ran three miles quick­ly to­day.

Training Day 47

Saturday, 18 February 2006

I think 12 miles is the longest dis­tance I’ve ever run. I man­aged to do it in three min­utes un­der two hours to­day, which is three min­utes faster than pace. About 5 miles in I start­ed singing “Venus in Furs” to my­self, which is a very bad idea. “I am tired/​I am weary/​I could sleep for a thou­sand years…” So I tried to get Acceleration by Machines of Loving Grace stuck in my head in­stead. “White light in­side of me/​acceleration all around/​till it don’t seem/​like I’m run­ning at all/​till it don’t seem/​like I’m run­ning at all” That didn’t help, but I did set­tle on Veruca Salt’s Volcano Girls, which has a bit about run­ning in it, al­though it isn’t much bet­ter than Venus in Furs. “A mil­lion miles of run­ning and/​I hit the wall,/I bounce back and I run some more.”

I hit the wall about mile ten and beat on it for the rest of the run. It was one of those times when you know if you stop to walk you’re done done and won’t start run­ning again. The wind was ab­solute­ly hor­ri­ble and my low­er lip was to­tal­ly numb by the end of the run, and my beard fur was all bris­tled up to keep my face warm. I tried to let a home­less dude know I was pass­ing him, but on­ly man­aged to make blub-blub sounds, which still served the pur­pose, I sup­pose. Brr! but done! I’m pleased. If you’ve got rec­om­men­da­tions for good run­ning songs, that I’ve not men­tioned [I just thought of Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell] please let me know. I think I’ll make a com­pi­la­tion.

Training Day 46

Friday, 17 February 2006

After a week like this week, it isn’t re­al­ly a sur­prise that I ran like a fiend to­day. Only three miles, but I bust­ed it out like the fat kid in dodge­ball and was rar­ing for more at the end. I’ve got a 12 mil­er to­mor­row though, so I didn’t run more. I fi­nal­ly got my train­ing t-shirt from the Cleveland Marathon, and I al­most re­gret it. It is pos­si­bly the ugli­est shirt I have ever worn. And for those of you who re­mem­ber what I wore in high school, that is say­ing some­thing.