TITLE: Getting Better AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: July 27, 2005 12:52 PM DESC: Being better is more fun. Getting better is work. ----- BODY: Well, the Gringo did it again. Lance Armstrong finished his professional racing with a dominating yet relaxed performance in the 2005 Tour de France. (Our friend Santiago finished 51st. A disastrous Stage 14 did him in.) If you watched any of the interviews Lance gave over the last few days of the tour, you could see that he really enjoys racing, competing, and winning. He relished the challenge that the T-Mobile and CSC teams threw at him in the mountains. He would have enjoyed the raw challenge of scaling the Alps and Pyrenees had he ridden alone, but having teams of riders try to take his yellow jersey made them all the sweeter. And his wonderful closing time trial to cement his edge placed a perfect exclamation on his tour career. Watching Lance these last few years has reminded me that being good is fun, as the folks at Creating Passionate Users recently wrote:
My running coach told me a few years ago, "It's just more fun when you're faster." I wasn't sure what he meant; I was just trying to get back in shape and do a decent 10K. But once I started training with much better runners, and began pushing myself and keeping my splits and timing my speed work... it was more fun. And it wasn't like I had any illusion of being competitive. Being better is just more fun.
You mean running repeats is fun? Yes. No, not every moment. A few weeks ago, I had one of those days that, in isolation. wasn't as much fun as I would have liked. Getting back to form in my 1200m interval training has been hard this season. The week after the not-so-fun day, I managed to do 6x1200m, but the last one repeat was slower than I had wanted it to be. Last week, I just wasn't motivated to run fast, so I skipped the work-out in favor of a steadier 9.5-mile run. My fatigue last week was a surprise until I sat down to compute my paces for my runs the previous week. In addition to the 6x1200m work-out on Wednesday and a 10-mile tempo run on Friday, I had done an 18.5-miler on Sunday. No big deal... until I see that I ran it in 2:25:37 -- an average pace of 8:01 min/mile. That is my marathon goal pace for October! Being better is more fun. I have no illusions that I am fast, or that I will challenge even for an age group prize in the Twin Cities. This is about challenging myself, and getting better. It feels good. This morning, I hit the track at 5:15 AM, earlier than usual so that I could get a bit more done at the office before a four-day weekend mini-vacation. It was cool, unusual after a month of 90-degree highs and 70-degree lows, but perfect for a work-out. As the sun rose, I knew that today was finally a good day of repeats. As I started my fifth, I knew that I would reach the days goal. In the end, 7x1200m, all in target time or better, with the seventh repeat being the fastest of all. Being better is more fun. But without the local moments of less fun a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have been better today -- either in setting goals or achieving them. As I quoted Merlin Mann a few days ago in the context of knowing ourselves as well as we know our tools:
Making improvements means change and often pain along the way. It's hard to get better, and good tools like these can definitely ease the journey. I guess I'm proposing you try to understand yourself at least as well as the widget you're hoping will turn things around.
One interview moment with Lance Armstrong stuck with me last weekend. When asked what he would miss most about racing, he said that he would never again be in as good a shape as he is today -- and he would miss that most of all. Not the yellow jerseys or the wins or the accolades and adulation that come with them, but the simple state of being in the best possible shape. I know the feeling. Of course, I have an advantage on Lance -- I didn't start working hard at my running until a little more than two years ago, when I started training for my first marathon. That means my body, while old, is still relatively fresh. So is my mind. I hope to keep getting better for a few more years... -----