The Pursuit of Happiness in Triathlon

In 1997 I was working as the Director of Stadium Operations for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.  Director of Minor League Operations at the time, Dan Duquette (now a VP for the Baltimore Orioles) was a long time family friend thanks to his relationship with my father.  We were both standing on the field before the game when he asked me a simple question, “What do you want?”

It’s important to understand that Dan could have helped me get whatever I wanted inside the world of professional baseball.  I think he liked me and wanted to help.  Did I want to be in minor league development?  A Major League front office?  Just tell me and we’ll get you on the right track.

It was one of those questions that scared the hell out of me, but I was under the gun and had to come up with an answer.  I looked down, then out at the field and sheepishly said, “I want to be a baseball player.”

I’ll never forget his reaction.  It wasn’t disgust, but it was kind of a “throw your hands in the air, I give up” kinda things.

It was kind of a turning point for me.  I ended up going back to school to finish my degree, then into a myriad of different things before landing in television for 15 years.  I’ve always been one of those guys that likes trying new things and never quite masters anything.

I feel that ugly head rearing itself in triathlon as well.  I still like the principles of being in shape and as healthy as I can be, but am torn about the dedication it takes to pursue Ironman.  I’m registered for Chattanooga and will give it my all, but until then I must find ways to make training a passion.

It can be a relentless grind, but I can’t accept that.  I’m determined to find ways to make swim, bike, run enjoyable, and why not?

I’ve added a new tab along the top of this site called “The Squad,” and our mission will be focused on ways to get better and enjoy the process.  I’ve just never felt like I can put my life into a box, but it certainly doesn’t get easier when its scattered.

So as Dan leads the revival of one of baseball’s most storied franchises, I will continue to search for a deeper fulfillment in my life.  A pursuit of happiness through movement and hopefully a lot of you will join me.

jesusvan

Photo: Mike Tarrolly

 

Get Better Every Day

By Coach Robbie

“Better…….

Just get better…..

Today, all I have to commit to is getting better.

Tomorrow I will do my best to JUST get better.”

This is the internal conversation I had with myself a little over a week ago in the midst of struggling with both internal and external motivation for the upcoming 2015 triathlon season. After a long lunch with the Godfather of Crushing Iron, I had a lot of questions about the intent and meaning of racing in 2015 that I felt needed answering.

In the past, external motivation has been at the center of what fueled much of my training and racing: a fuel rich with comparison to others, and a fume that emitted an odor of discontent and lost appreciation of accomplishment. Even though those days are behind me, a new approach comes with an unknown and sometimes an uncomfortable simplicity to training and life.

GetBetterWebSpec

Where does my passion within sports really lie?  Within training?  Within racing?  Does it subtract or add value to my life?  For myself, an abundance of questions usually means it is time to get back to basics; looking at where my passion comes from.

It should lie with just getting better — At life, at work, at home, in training, etc.  I should simply start with getting better all around.  If I can’t get “passionate” about bettering myself, do I really have room to be passionate about anything else in my life?

That being said, last week my only focus was getting better AT EVERYTHING, each day.  Every day I spent time getting better at work, at relationships, at home, and trying to better myself.

After that, I trained just for the sake of “getting better.”  “Just for today” has been a theme for me the past year but occasionally for me this simple approach often disguises its impact on some of life’s most complex situations.  Every time I hopped in the pool, set up my bike on the trainer or went for a run my only commitment was to get better.

I didn’t think of the finish line at Ironman Chattanooga.  I didn’t think about beating John Triathlete.  I let “just getting better” be the driving force behind my daily activities, instead of something or someone else.  I am sure that for many people this is a natural habit, something they always do, but for me though it is a bit of a breakthrough.

Mentally.  Emotionally.  Physically and Spiritually.  I focused on getting better.

How much did my training do for me last week?  No clue.  But I know I enjoyed it and I know I got better, and that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

366 Marathons is Authenticated

This is pretty great.  A few days ago I wrote a post called “366 Marathons in a Year?” and put one snarky line in there about how “they may have tried to sneak in a couple 25 milers” along the way.  Less than an hour later I found this comment waiting in my inbox:

Hi Mike,
Thanks for featuring us on your blog.
To clarify, we ran a marathon every day for 366 days, no days off. Every day we ran at least 42.2 km (official marathon distance), some days we ran further, so our average for every day was no less than 43.12 km for 366 consecutive marathons.
We were sponsored by Garmin and recorded the running data on the Garmin watch and on the Garmin GPS devices on our two support vehicles.You can’t cheat on the Garmin! So, no, there were no 25 milers happening :)
We documented the daily runs on the Garmin and Strava sites and posted the data in our daily Facebook blogs. We have written a book entitled ‘Running Out of Time’ based on the Run, which is available on our website, http://www.RawVeganPath.comand we are currently making a documentary which will be submitted to the Cannes Film Festival in April/May 2015 with the intention of distributing to cinemas worldwide. Please do not hesitate to contact us through our website http://www.RawVeganPath.com if you would like further information. Together, we can make a difference – one step at a time… Janette

This doesn’t quite top the response I got from Dr. Oz, but it’s in the ballpark.

I am genuinely in awe of Janette and Alan’s accomplishment.  It’s one of those deals almost too big to fathom.  I emailed her back and assured her that I was just having fun with the story.  I would actually love to do an interview with them on here . . . if they’re up for it.  (Hint).

Follow this blog on Twitter @CrushingIron 

 

The Problem with Race Swag

It wasn’t that long ago when I was dying to get my first race shirt.  Nearly three years later, I fear they may wind up being my demise.

My Couch to 5k program came with tech shirts (see photo from this post) and I was jacked!  I thought it was the coolest thing since I wore a leopard print bandanna to the Indy 500.

Soon after that 5k, I started running with the East Nasties and for some reason, their “hand out the shirt process” was very secretive.  I kept asking and they’d say something like, “Ya just never know!”

Then I helped coach the next Couch to 5K for East Nasty and one of the promises was a shirt.  But I missed the night they handed them out and was literally crushed when Cyrus told me they didn’t have any left.  But, by some stroke of luck, they found an extra and I thought I was the coolest piece of cheese on the shelf!

And speaking of shelves, mine are overflowing with crap.  Mostly race tech shirts I can’t get rid of to save my life.

I’ve been suffering from the Winter Blues lately and my typical remedy is to clear out the clutter.  So, with genuine intent, I stormed into my bedroom and scoweled at that shelf.  I was determined clean the slate, but I stood and stared at that that tech-shirt-overflow for 10 solid minutes.  I was frozen in time and more confused than the morning I took my college ACTs with a hangover.

For 10 minutes, I stayed in a perfectly executed tree pose.  I gazed at those shirts and thought, why can’t I get rid of you?  Why does the “Shamrock 5K” have such a grip on my psyche?  What is it about the “Moosic City Dairy Dash” that makes cling to those utters for life?

It’s perplexing.

So, now, I am in a different room writing about it and those shirts are resting unscathed on their cozy little shelves.  All waiting to laugh in my face when I saunter by with tense and frustrated eyes.

I realize this is not very impressive coming from a guy who claims to be practicing Zen and meditating every night.  Holding onto possessions like this is senseless and certainly no way to find enlightenment.  And how can I not understand that when I hold up this bright orange Rev 3 shirt that is eerily reminiscent of something I would get at Mapco?

Rev 3 Swag

This will certainly not go down as my night of awakening.

Follow this site on Twitter @CrushingIron 

 

New Stuff With Crushing Iron

1.  We will be slowly migrating the Twitter account over to @CrushingIron so please follow us there to get all Crushing Iron updates.

2.  We’re looking for guest bloggers, so please email Mike (mtarrolly@gmail.com) if you would like to re-post one of your favorite articles or write something new for the exposure on Crushing Iron (there could be a free t-shirt in it for you).

3.  We’re working on setting up an online store so you can order some of the awesome Crushing Iron t-shirts that have been floating around at many Ironman events.

4.  We’re about to up the ante on training videos, so keep an eye out for more visual treats.

Thanks for a great year and all the positive feedback!

Measuring Progress

I used to have a black Camaro with over-sized rear tires and a crazy loud stereo.  The Clarion power booster and Pioneer triaxial speakers made me the most hated kid on the block.

Old men and woman would swing their rakes in disgust as I blew through the neighborhood cranking Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.”  And it kinda made sense because I was too young to have anything to look back at.  But now, as I turn into an old man with a rake, it’s almost impossible to ignore the past, and frankly, I think it can be a healthy reminder of what we’ve accomplished.

Last week my neighborhood running store asked if they could interview me for a massive blog feature story.  Owner, and former University of Oregon track team runner guy, Lee Wilson, thought I would be a good testimonial for their Couch to 5K program.  I thought, “Hell, I’ve spent a ton of money there and they’ve given me free water and use of their bathroom a few times, why not?”

So, I stopped by the store and sat in front of a young woman named Jenna who peppered me like Barbara Walters.  I mean, tough questions that make you squirm and blush.  She didn’t use a recorder and occasionally wrote a note or two, but let me tell you, she nailed the story.  Frankly, I don’t even remember what I said, but somehow she captured the essence of how I grateful I am that my buddy Jim tricked into signing up for Nashville Running Company’s Couch to 5K.

456961_3535494309652_106217492_o

The three-year-anniversary of “my starting to run” is this January.  Since that day I have done many things I never dreamed of.  Two full Ironman, three 70.3’s and many 5 hour bike rides.  It’s not really that big of a deal to me now, but I am genuinely amazed at what the human body and spirit can accomplish.

So, today, I am looking back at that January day in 2012 when running 60 seconds seemed like climbing Everest.  Just yesterday I lopped down the trails for an hour and five minutes while making bird calls.

It’s quite a transformation, but I think more than anything, I’m just grateful to be able to do that.  When you can just get up and go, it is an insane feeling of freedom, and there aren’t many things better than independence.

And I can’t help but wonder where this will go next.  I have no interest in doing anything more extreme than an Ironman.  I just want to find that place that feels right and gives me energy.  That makes me the strongest, happiest, and best person I can be.

Is that a steady diet of Ironman, Xterras, or leisurely runs?  I’m not really sure, but for some reason all of this makes me want to get another Camaro.

You can read Jenna’s full masterpiece here.

 

 

366 Marathons in a Year?

I was digging around on YouTube for juicing information last night and came across this interview with a couple who ran a marathon every day for 366 days.  All on fruits and vegetables.

To be honest with you, I’m not even sure what that means.  I have “run” two marathons in my life, both at the end of an Ironman, about a year apart.  Simply running every day seems impossible to me.

What has me most curious about this is the raw food and vegetable part.  I know that is big time controversy in the world of athletics, which I find hilarious, because why do people get so pissed at athletes who endorse vegetarian lifestyles?  It’s like hating your neighbor because they believe in a different religion.  Oh, wait.

And granted, they were certainly not out there running for the podium, but in the interview they said their last 100 days were the strongest.  He’s in his 70’s, she’s in her 60’s and restored her health after getting breast cancer at 52.

Anyway, if they really did this, which I tend to believe in theory . . . i.e. . . I just ran 7.69 miles, but will have an incredible urge to tell people I ran 8.  I mean, “more or less, eight, right?”  We all do it, so I’m pretty sure this couple may have thrown in a few 25 milers along the way, but maybe not because I really dig this snippet from their “About Us” page:

Throughout the year 2013, to inspire and motivate conscious lifestyle choices, to promote kindness and compassion for all living beings and to raise environmental awareness for a sustainable future, we  ran together around Australia, 15,782km, running 366 marathons (43 km) each in 366 days, no days off. On January 1, 2014, we acquired world acclaim by setting a new World Record as the only couple over the age of 60 fuelled entirely on raw fruit and veg, wearing barefoot shoes, to run 366 consecutive marathons while Running Raw Around Australia.

The most important thing here is, the power of the body to regenerate itself.  I haven’t looked into their specific diet, but eating raw food has always made sense to me on a subconscious level because sustaining life seems to be about quality nutrients and hydration.  If we clog our arteries and organs for years, they eventually shut down.  Then we get diseases because our body can’t function or flush toxins.

It’s almost comical to me that nobody wants to hear that talk.

USDA_Food_PyramidIn 1974 the United States Department of Agriculture introduced the Food Pyramid.  Right there along the bottom, they suggested 7 – 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice or pasta every day.  I don’t know enough about science to question that stuff, but I wonder if that had anything to do with what United States farmers produce the most of?

Nearly everything I read about grains now seemingly positions them a step above poison.  I also love how the top of the pyramid has fats, oils, and sweets grouped together under the “use sparingly” category.  I’m not sure if it’s irony or downright deceit, but grains and “no fat” foods are probably the biggest reasons for the obesity crises in this country.

Anyway, back to this lovely couple.  They ran 366 marathons in as many days, and frankly, I think we should probably pay attention to some of the things they are saying.

Here’s their website.

 

The Sports Addiction

I can’t remember how I felt when I discovered Santa Claus wasn’t real, but the feeling I had after watching my team, Wisconsin, take a 59-0 public stoning in the Big 10 Championship must be similar.  Something I believed in, cherished, even worshiped felt like a lie.

This will likely seem overdramatic, but thoughts are things.  Feelings are things.  And that’s what this blog is all about.  That, and growing.

I gave up on watching pro sports years ago.  The money, superstars, and hype were too much.

I much preferred college.  Guys busting their ass for the love of the game.  Sticking their nose in the middle of a scrum on passion alone.

I was especially proud of Wisconsin football.  Gritty over-achievers that never backed down.  I thought of Wisconsin as that team nobody liked to play because they were tough and wouldn’t give up.  They may not win, but they’d be trading blows until the end.

They reminded me of me.

Saturday night, I sat in that stadium, stunned.  Play after play, it felt like I was losing more and more of my identity.  It was rape and pillage; and I was taking it personally.

Sometimes it takes an ass whoopin’ to grow up.

The best part of the game.

The best part of the game.

I was also confused.  What did it mean?  Was it just a game?  Of course, but suddenly, everything I have ever spewed about Wisconsin, or college football in general, started to feel like a joke.  30-plus years of “scrappy, hard-nosed Badger football discussions” were a fraud.  I was a fraud.

I realize this may be an overreaction in the heat of the moment, and in no way is this about these kids. They work their asses off and shouldn’t carry fans’ emotions on their backs.

My desire to disconnect from the idolatry of a sports team, a state, a country, and product brands has been building for years.  Separation from the distractions that pollute us and holds back the evolution of consciousness.

It’s important to separate from the ego and not take stuff like this too seriously. Especially things you can’t change, and these games are 100 percent out of our control.

This isn’t about quitting, this is about evolving, which is what I find most fascinating about endurance training.  I have been having similar feelings about my relationship to Ironman.

What does the race mean if the training isn’t enjoyable? Do we really want to tie all of our efforts and image into the result of one day?  Exercise is supposed to be physically, mentally, and spiritually uplifting.  It’s supposed to give you energy, not take it away.

Not only energy, but clarity and confidence to become the best you.

I can no longer justify hiding behind the distraction of football.  The pain I experienced that night is not only unexplainable, but genuinely grotesque.  Why does sports matter so much?  Why do we tie our emotions to the fate of young men throwing around a ball?

It’s another form of addiction and I have finally realized the highs from winning are nowhere near the intensity delivered by the lows of losing.  It’s probably similar to how Rome felt while they were on the conquering spree that came to an abrupt halt at the hands of the Franks or climate or disease; or in this case Ohio State.

But they too will fall.  Resigned to carry the baggage for an entire fan base of fragile adult egos.

 

Running the Katy Trail in Dallas

I have taken Thanksgiving nutrition to new heights this week.  The tally is bordering on embarrassing, including 654 cookies and absurd amounts of peppermint chocolate covered pretzels.  BUT, I’ve slept like a rock.

Yesterday, my sister tricked me into doing hot power yoga and it blew my doors off.  The last time I did power yoga I quit, not only yoga, but all forms of activity for a year, and frankly, it may have been the start of my fitness downslide.

Power yoga is no joke!  Especially if you’re not in shape.  Luckily, I took my off-season-modertation-mind into the dojo and spent a lot of the time in fetal, er, uh, child’s pose.  It was tough but I felt fine this morning, even after an intense bowling competition with my family last night.

Speaking of which, what the hell has happened to bowling alleys?  Last time I bowled Aerosmith was on the juke box and there was one small TV in the bar.  This place was like Studio 54!  It was so dark I could barely see the lanes and “Baby Got Back” Remix videos thundered right over my 10-pin target.  How’s a red-blooded blogger supposed to focus on the bowling pocket with Britney Spears “Work Bitch” in his periphery??

Anyway, it was a bad night on the lanes, but I woke up fresh and determined to run in Dallas. There were several intriguing options, but I opted for Katy Trail, the 3.5 mile path that gives you a taste of downtown.  The trail itself also has a Board of Directors, so I was sure it would pay dividends.

It’s a beautiful day with perfect running conditions and I parked next to the trail in Highland Park and headed downtown.  I’ve heard Troy Aikman frequents Katy Trail, but he obviously wanted no part of my pace.

It was a pleasant trek that covered 7 miles under tree covered shade and passed several places I would love to live and hang out including that BBQ joint I hit last time in town.

Oddly, I didn’t think about much on the run other than form and my latest focus is perfectly timed turnover that includes complete synch with my arms.  It’s about the same thing I think about in the water.  I just listen for the feet to keep hitting on time like a drummer and using momentum more than muscle.  Whenever it feels hard, I “think light.”  It’s not about pushing off as much as it is picking up.  Pick em up and put em down.  Oh, and trusting that you can keep it up.

Tomorrow I’ll be back in the car with my dog driving to Nashville.  Nearly 12 hours of meditation time that will allow me to simulate Ironman Chattanooga in my head from start to finish.  Wish me luck.

Katy Trail in Dallas

Katy Trail in Dallas

 

How We Consistently Succeed

Over the weekend I attended an AA meeting in support of a friend.  Before the meeting started, I was having a conversation with a lady who was marveling about doing an Ironman.

“It’s just crazy, I don’t know how you do it!”

On many levels, I agree with her.  It is a overwhelming to think about as a whole.

But, I didn’t tackle the 140.6 miles the day I signed up, I slowly built confidence day after day.

A 5K turned into a 10K into a half marathon, etc . . . and I was surrounded by people just like me doing the same thing.  It made these feats more manageable, and more importantly, believable.

IMG_4910

Everything about Ironman loses its mystery over time.  In my case, after about a year, I just did it.

Coincidently, my friend was at this AA meeting to receive his one-year chip.  One year of listening, learning, and doing the work.

He made it!  Well, he made it to that day . . . but it doesn’t mean it’s over.

After the meeting it dawned on me that most things in life, including Ironman and AA, are about convincing yourself you can do something, and that’s always easier when you are surrounded by people on the same mission.  It’s that support, that big picture focus, and visual reinforcement that keep us on track.

AA works because they are always around by people accomplishing the things everyone wants.  It’s a road map and constant reminder that anything is possible.  “Quit drinking forever?!?,” impossible.  Quit drinking today, “Sure, I can do that.”

But we forget if we’re not around people going through the same thing.  We go into our heads and rationalize the easy way out.

I’m also pretty sure this is why religion thrives.  We’re all in this together . . . we just need to be reminded.