Thursday, April 20, 2006

Still Living Strong...

An interesting item in the news today that Lance Armstrong is training to run in the New York City Marathon this fall. The triathlon community is abuzz about this, and has been happily conjecturing since his retirement about all the "what-ifs" if Lance came back to triathlon - he started (and dominated) in triathlons in his teens, before he was a pro cyclist.

I think it's very cool that he's doing NYC. I think he could easily just go get fat on a beach or play golf and nobody would blame him at all. That he's training - he says "not seriously, just something to fill a void in my life after I quit competing as a professional cyclist" - for a marathon is extremely cool, because marathons are hard damn work, and it's a hell of a way to just pass the time or "fill a void". Even if he runs it in 6 hours and walks most of it, I think it's cool. I admire that he'd choose to spend his new time like that.

I do wonder: is dude capable of not taking it seriously? I think he suffers (enjoys?) the same affliction that Michael Jordan had, or Tiger Woods - they want to win. Checkers. Fiddlesticks. Doesn't matter, they want to win. And not just win, as Tiger has said, but kick your butt. Lance never wanted to just win on the bike - he wanted to destroy his competition. Make them feel silly for even being out there. Now certainly Lance won't be competing with the Kenyans anytime soon, but in competition with himself, I wonder what his expectations are? I can't honestly imagine a scenario where dude is just out there, all smiles for the cameras, lolligagging happily and just having a good time. Does he want to go sub 3:30? Sub 3:00? Hell, sub 2:30??? Could he? Cycling fitness is very very different from running fitness, but it's well documented the biological freakshow he is to be able to to what he does on the bike. With enough of the right training, you'd assume much of that would translate to running fitness. Do you think he just leaves his Austin home in the morning and enjoys a few brisk miles, or is it pretty possible he has those years of information and resources around him at work to maximize his training, nutrition, development, etc. It's interesting to think about, I guess.

Which brings us to Ironman. It was asked even before he retired if he'd come back to triathlon, specifically to Ironman. He contradicted himself in interviews, saying sometimes he's not interested in triathlon, other times that he'd maybe do some small XTERRA triathlons. In one interview he did say he'd consider a marathon and maybe Ironman sometime later. Triathletes have been salivating about this - about his potential to bring positive attention to the sport (a different topic, but I'd do okay with triathlon staying a little bit niche, as it is), but also just the fun of having him go through what he'd go through, and see how it turns out - none of us can fathom training for and climbing the Alps on a bike, but eve us hacks could relate to him racing Ironman. He even joked about it on SNL a few months back, flopping around in the swim, killing everybody on the bike, the flopping around on the run and being passed by us age group hacks. That would be a hilarious scenario. And maybe not an altogether inaccurate one? Who knows. Maybe he'll do it one day, and I hope he does, if only because I admire him as an athlete and human being (so far as it's sensible to admire any public figure, I suppose), and would be interested in his process. I'm one of those people who thought it was cool Michael Jordan played baseball, because it was a dude chasing down his dreams. He had the time, money, and discipline to make it happen. He may have called in some favors to actually play minor-league ball for Chicago, but that's okay. He was so heatedly criticized for it, and I never understood that; I don't think Michael Jordan had World Series ambitions with baseball. He just wanted to pursue a dream. Do something. Try something. Work hard at something that doesn't come so naturally, and so what he could accomplish. I relate to that, and think it's time in life well spent. Nobody sits on their death bed and thinks "I should've kept with the status quo more." People do think "I wish I would've gone to France. Seen the Grand Canyon. Tried to play baseball." He being a pro athlete - and not just a pro athlete but Michael Jordan - doesn't change that he's a human being, on the same relative journey as the rest of us. Lance Armstrong is two years older than I am. Are you kidding me? He's certainly not lost his ambition for competition, or his savvy for performance, or his willingness and discipline to set out and accomplish competitive goals, just because he's retired from cycling. So if dude wants to run the marathon, I say God bless and may the wind be at your back. If he wants ever to venture back to triathlon, then here's hoping Nike makes some dope Lance Triathlon gear for me to buy and show my support. I'm just happy to have him in the mix - it's far more interesting for all of us.

While I'm no Lance Armstrong, I am happy to report on the week so far. 52 miles on the bike on Sunday - an OBNOXIOUS 23mph wind made it a slow and challenging day. For all but 6 miles it was either a nasty cross wind or in my face - but man, those 6 miles with it at my back were a good time. 8.5 slow and patient miles running yesterday - a great run. Just one of those days where I finish and couldn't stop thinking "what a great run". I just really enjoyed myself. No worse for wear in general from last week's half marathon, and looking forward to 3.5 hours on the bike this weekend as well. Onward!

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