I have a habit known as my "Annual Excuse To Do Something Stupid." Suffice to say the act speaks for itself, usually in the form of an adventure race or endurance competition for which I am woefully unprepared. This year it was a return to Tough Guy, which I last raced ten years ago. Back then it was six miles of the most punishing mud, icy water and obstacles that I had ever encountered. This year, encouraged by the upstart Spartan Race movement, the organizers increased the course length to ten miles and the number of obstacles to two hundred or so. The air temperature at the start time was thirty-two degrees and the water temp just a few degrees warmer. It was a long day, full of the invariable misery that comes with being cold, wet, tired, hungry, and slithering through pits of freezing mud. But in the midst of it all, as I lost track of time and focused only on putting one foot in front of the other, I asked myself a simple question: Am I having fun?
The answer, I was glad to discover, was yes.
Next year's AETDSS came in the form of a simple request from my good friend Duncan Smith, a Navy SEAL and old friend from my adventure racing days: Had I ever heard of the Tour Aotearoa? Like most such questions from people who make pushing their limits a daily personal quest, it was almost rhetorical. Long story short, I had not heard of the Tour Aotearoa but now I have. And thus, along with a few good friends who should know better, I am now registered for next year's version of this north-south journey the length of New Zealand's two islands by bicycle.
A couple salient points: I am not in love with riding bikes, I am in great coaching shape right now (which means I am a whiz at telling others how to pursue endurance sports) but otherwise need to get to work on my fitness, and I am always wary of such massive undertakings — they start as a small quixotic dream and soon take over a man's life.
But I need it. I am bereft without a challenge. There are a million other things I need to focus on right now, starting with mindfulness and flexibility. Well, no. Not starting there. Starting with my relationship with my God and my wife (two separate but powerful beings) and letting everything trickle down from there. But a challenge makes the man, and I have this dreaded fear of settling for the status quo and "good enough" without one.
I read today that Catherine Switzer took up marathon running once again, having previously retired after thirty years of racing that distance. Yesterday she finished the Boston Marathon at the age of seventy. Frankly, I had my own thirty-year marathon career. Going down that path once again doesn't excite me. Maybe in a few years, but not now. But something about following the footsteps of Captain Cook down the spine of New Zealand sounds pretty cool. And so it starts.
Today's Workout: Spring Break Speed: 2x800, 2x600, 2x400, 6x200. In order, two-mile pace (800's), mile pace (600's) and half-mile speed (400's). The 200's are all out, with forty seconds rest between each.