Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare

When I played little league baseball I used to sleep over at my friend's house a lot in the summer because the games were right up the street. His Dad was a little off-beat, but I have always remembered his parting remarks as he went to his daily toil at the wheel:
"See you later, Danny, I'm going to the race today!"..."What race Dad?"
The human race! Wanna come?"
Ok. Maybe you had to be there. Like 30 times.
My kids love it too. A real knee-slapper.

Who's the Jackwagon now?

So yesterday I "competed" in the 2nd of five 5k races I've signed up for this year. Following increasingly disappointing times (like, since the year 2000), I thought that if I committed to doing all 5 I might even train for them. Hah. I even found a training program called "From Couch to 5k" but so far I've only managed to pick up the pace to the refrigerator and back.

Anyway, it also seemed like a great opportunity to demonstrate my Commitment to Continuous Improvement. My first run gave me just the opportunity that CCI is built on. A REALLY bad baseline. In the face of a howling 45 mph wind on the mighty Potomac, I crushed the first mile and never felt better. Then at the turn I realized: DAMN IT, Jim! I'll be going back in a headwind! I ran sideways to cut down drag. I kept my elbows in to my sides. But despite all my efforts, I had to break down and walk.
More than once.

And then. I was passed by my uber-nemesis: the old guy in the red running uniform. Oh I've been owned by worse - 10 year olds, Moms in strollers, even women whose leggings were set on fire from the friction. That no longer bothers me. It's the geezer. It seems like he's at EVERY race I run. I first saw him in 1998 and he must have been 70 then. I was 40. You could tell he had a lifetime of running behind him already. He even runs with kind of a limp. Probably arthritis. And he CRUSHED me.

"Curse You, Red Baron!"
He's wearing down though. I could see Father Time was starting to win. And that cold windy day I thought "This is the day." I had him. Until the turn.
I started thinking about moving to another state.

Yesterday I set a different goal: Finish without stopping. Pace yourself I said - not having run in over a month. And I was able to accomplish my goal. My time was a little better and I'm able to set a meaningful time to reach next race. Over time I've learned in all the races I've run that going out too quickly means certain death, slow and painful at that.

And then I realized the same principle could be applied to all aspects of life. You have to regulate your pace; find the one that's right for you. And if the race is close, you will likely have some reserve left in the tank. And there's NOTHING more satisfying than overtaking someone at the tape. Even if you're sneaking up on them and they can't hear you over the squeaking wheels of their trailing oxygen tank.

But for some strange reason the Red Baron was not there yesterday. And I no longer curse him. I recognize him as my worthy opponent on the field of battle. And he is probably not aware that I exist.


  1. Haha, well good for you!! That is awesome. And next time, do yourself a favor, and just unplug the guy's oxygen mask at the start line. Then you won't have any problem taking him over at the finish, lol. That is awful! But funny :)

  2. haha i think that the red baron was a figment of your imagination.. and represented some sort of life hurdle.. and that he wasnt there means you succeeded in getting over it. WIN.

  3. @TGN: Good idea...but I want to beat him fair and square BEFORE he gets to the wheelchair. Well, I guess I could always put a stick in his spokes.

    @Cullen: I like it! Funny -he sure seemed real. Will have to report if I have future sightings.