Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today I caught a documentary on Steve Young while I was running on the treadmill. Steve Young could only be described as the Christenson family hero of all heroes. My dad taught my Sunday School class when I was around 13, and at least once a month the lesson was a talk by Steve Young that my dad had on cassette tape. Most of us in the class had it memorized. The gist of the talk was about working hard and not giving up. For those that don't know Steve's story, he was an 8th string quarterback at BYU who worked hard and with a little luck, ended up as one of BYU's all-time best quarterbacks. He took the same approach in the NFL, finally taking over Joe Montana's old post as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and earning them a Super Bowl championship.
During the documentary, Steve talked about heroes he had, the two most important being Roger Staubach and his father. To roughly quote him, he said his admiration for Staubach growing up helped him want to be a hero to someone else the way Staubach was for him. He said Staubach didn't owe him anything just because he was his hero, but because Staubach lived an examplary life, Steve sought to do the same. Of course I thought about how more sports athletes should think about that concept on a deeper level: how their actions in and out of the sport will affect those who are watching.
I think what impressed my dad so much was Steve's attitude of not giving up, and even more, of giving it your all. It was a very inspirational hour of television that has really helped me refocus my energies on the upcoming Vikingman. It also helped remind me that nothing is as important as the family. He ended the documentary with a famous quote from an LDS church authority: "No success can compensate for failure in the home." For me, triathlon must enhance my enjoyment with my family or else I will have to give up triathlon. Triathlon can definitely be a family matter. I may not be the fastest, but it makes me healthier and happier, thereby spilling out on my family. It's hard to feel sad or down on yourself after running, swimming, or biking a few miles.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Triathletes Suck

We do. Seriously, we do. Triathletes only want you as a riding partner if you can stay the same speed as them, you're focused, and you don't slow the group down. Case in point: Saturday's ride.

Old friends Jared and Steph moved back to Utah for the summer so Jared could do an internship in SLC. Though they claim they're out of shape, their combined body fat wouldn't keep a small child warm on a summer day. Two years ago, Steph rode 17 centuries. We knew they could keep up with our pace, and maybe even leave us in the dust. Kulani and I are Clydesdales and Athenas at best--we could even fit into a newer, larger category if needs be. Kulani made it clear to them that it was okay if they came along, but they needed to know that it was our ride and if they wanted to go faster, they could. If they wanted to go slower, we would leave them in the dust. I was more worried for the former.

About 20 minutes before they arrive, they ask if they can bring their little brother Butch. What's one more person on a road ride? Most cyclists enjoy lots of people. It gives you a chance to talk with a lot of people, and their is safety in numbers. Not to mention you just feel cool being with a pack of cyclists; you feel like a part of a road gang taking over large swaths of road territory. But triathletes travel in little packs because, again, time is of the essence and we suck. We're not riding for the social aspect as much as for the keeping-the-heartrate-up aspect. So they bring Butch.

We start out the road ride in great form. And it's fun. I'm catching up with Steph and Jared and Butch and it's a beautiful morning and we're keeping a good pace--I'm happy. But by hour 2 into the ride, we start to get slower. Jared looks back and sees Butch a nice shade of puke. We stop at a convenience store to fuel up with more water, bananas, some jerky--all the accoutrements. We're hoping Butch will recover enough to get him to Orem. Turns out he'd only ridden a 22-minute ride earlier that year, so he was pushing himself a touch. Even though we're triathletes, Kulani has way too much of the cyclist in him to leave a man behind. Luckily from Sringville to Orem, it's nearly all downhill. By this time, Butch is feeling better and he's ready to make it all the way back to Cedar Hills. Our pace continued to get slower, and not just at the fault of Butch. I was starting to get slower too. My leg muscles were shaking, and I was crankier than a curmudgeon whose lost the remote control.

I noticed something, however, that will hopefully be useful for my race in three weeks. Gels really help bring up the blood sugar levels. I hit a gel, and five minutes later, my mood is up, my legs are better. I brought six gels on the four-hour road ride, but I found I needed about two more. I usually do what the books say, which is take a gel every half hour of exercise. I found that near the end of my ride, I really needed a gel more like every 20 minutes. There affect seemed to wear off after about 15-18 minutes. Good to note, I think.

So my goal was to average 17-18 mph on the four-hour ride, but we only averaged 15 mph. I promised Kulani that next week, he could go on his own. And for me next week, I hope to average 17 mph. That's a much more realistic goal for me. And I'm also taking out my tri bike for the first time this year on next week's final long-road ride before the big race. I didn't train so great this season. I'll finish the race, but I'll be slow and bone-dead tired. My cycling has never been my strong suit, so maybe for the Spudman I'll focus more on doing better with it. The problem this season, or the excuse I'm making, is that our cycling bike broke, and our Gold's gym membership expired. So to get a road ride in, I'd need to call a babysitter, and I'm squirly when it comes to babysitters. I'll get one for our big rides on Saturdays, but I don't like to leave the girls anymore than is necessary. Plus, babysitters can be so moody when you're late, and road rides are unpredictable, and I always end up being later than I say. Not to mention the cost involved. I pay $6/hour for a sitter, so to get in all the road rides I need, that would add up to a small mortgage payment per month.

I'm not sure about this half-Ironman distance. It takes a lot of hours to train, which is hard to do when you're a mother of small children. I may just have to stick to the Olympic or sprint distance. But having a half-Ironman distance early in the season does help lay a really great base for the rest of the season. After training and doing a half-Ironman, you look at the Olympic distance like it is a walk in the park. "At most I have to train 2 hours on a Saturday? Sign me up!" is how your mind works. And it has sooo many analogies to life, a few being:
  • The mind is stronger than the body.
  • Endure to the end.
  • Work before the glory.
  • If you can do this, you can do anything.

And another thing I like to remind myself is that triathlon is three sports. I get passed by a ton of people on the bike, but then I pass a lot of people on the run. It's not a one-event sport, which is why I love it so much. Yes, triathletes suck, but they're also pretty cool when you get to the run part. By the run, people are tired and chatty. And when anyone hits the finish line, everyone is proud for them.

And bonus, I lost four pounds after Saturday's ride and swim. I'm pretty sure it's nearly all water weight, but it was nice to see that on the scale nevertheless.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bio Network

When I have a long run on the treadmill, I find myself watching the Biography channel. In the early morning, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., they usually show two "classic" profiles. It's fascinating enough that it takes my mind off the running. This morning's profiles were about Uri Gellar and James Praag.

I'm not really sure what to think about these two mind-bending folks. (My gut tells me they're either charlatans, or they made a lucrative money deal with ... could it be ... SATAN?!) At any rate, good information for the next time I do a crossword puzzle. I've also watched bios on Pat Tillman (football player killed in Iraq), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeanie actress), and Sandra Dee (as in, "look at me, I'm ..."). It's the kind of TV station the family I grew up in can't pull themselves away from. We are sponges for pop culture. Try playing Trivial Pursuit with us sometime and you'll understand.

The Bio people know how to keep a runner tuned in. I didn't even stray during the commercials. They'll end each segment on a cliff hanger like: "James' life was about to take a turn in a very drastic way." Drastic way? What could it be? I've got to keep it on this channel to find out, which is exactly the kind of thinking my tired, running mind and body needs. So I'll tell myself that I'll run through the commercials, and then I'll treat myself to a one-minute walking break after the commercial break. It works every time. With 15 minute of show, followed by three to four minutes of commercials, it's not long before the two hours of running is up. And I've got a little bit more trivia knowledge for the next Christmas-day challenge of Trivial Pursuit. Watch out brothers and sisters: this is when a little bit of Bio channel can be a dangerous thing.