Happy New Year!
No, I’m not Chinese, or even a true Western Buddhist or anything of the like, but I’ve always had a bit of a thing for the Chinese Zodiac. Maybe because I’m the only sign that doesn’t have clear signs of life1. I am a dragon. 龍. (One of the few Han characters where I can really see the etymological roots of the design.) Specifically, I am a Yang Fire Dragon.
And as of today, we’re in the fourth year of the dragon2 since the one I was born in. To that effect, my wife made a sign for me that she waved while cheering me in along the final chute of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon which read simply “THIS IS YOUR YEAR!!” and “GO KEATH!!!!!” – multiple exclamation points bring me great joy, as does the P.F. Chang’s logo with his little running shoes.
I have since taken this sign, pinned it up over my desk, and taken it as a manifesto for this year. The plan is to focus on quality rather than quantity and really score some serious PRs. The best laid plans, but I’m hoping the constant reminder over my head while working will help keep it fresh and active.
To this extent, I am spending a lot of time this week with Jack Daniels, trying to digest the academic sports science marvel that is Daniels’ Running Formula so that I can build a solid plan for the year. I’ve got the New York City Marathon scheduled for November, and now that RnR Arizona is past, I think I’m going to go mostly marathon-free until that point, focusing on shorter distances. Having gotten a little out of control last year, both body wear-and-tear-wise and budget-wise, my wife and I are trying out a $100 per month race budget3, so I’m trying to narrow my racing to specific target races rather than anything that might be convenient or fun. Fortunately, my wife is a little light on her spending thus far, so she might “sponsor” me in a fun run or two before my NYC debt is paid. Otherwise, my first target is to build a solid 5k training plan for something mid-April.
Beyond April, we’ve got no idea where we’ll be yet4, but I’m hoping to find an early summer 10k and a late summer half marathon before starting a solid training plan for NYC, using my legs of Ragnar Napa Valley as a tuneup5, seven weeks out from race day.
Other than that, I don’t know the specifics of what my training plan will be here, but I’ve got a group of folks who’ve committed to a sort of virtual training team to help support one another in our goals this year, plus an awesome wife who keeps a better eye on my well being and capabilities than I do. I know I need to do more cross training, especially cycling and strength training, and will hopefully get more regular swimming in.
I’m laying this all out on the table now, rather than after I have a plan, because it would just be too easy to let the plan building fall by the wayside and go in to another season of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants training, grumbling about how I only improved by 30 seconds due to the total lack of plan or poorly executed last minute plan. So, in the spirit of accountability, here’s to a plan.
Year of the dragon baby. MY year.
Until recently, I’d never thought of the odd selection of animals that are included in the Chinese Zodiac. There’s many different versions, but the most common backstory seems to be that the Emperor, or possibly Buddha, decided to have a race to determine which animals would get to be part of the Zodiac. The key part of the race was a water crossing and, in short, this challenge illustrated the behaviors of the animals and indirectly dictated their finish order. (e.g. Rat was first because he tricked Ox in to carrying him across the water, then scampered off ahead of Ox to finish before him. Tiger was next due to being the second strongest runner/swimmer after Ox. Rabbit was fourth, having hopped across rocks and logs in the river, while Dragon, whom you’d think could have flown, apparently was so late due to taking time out to make it rain (up in here!) to help all the people of Earth and then help Rabbit, who had slipped on his way across the river, make it safely to shore. Ain’t we dragons all self-sacrificing?
Also adding to my excitement of getting proper plan planning started is the recent arrival of my refurbished Garmin. It started acting all loopy early last year, but I limped along with it until late summer when it started driving me bonkers. Once it got the point of dying within the first three miles of every run, I finally opened a ticket with them in October and shipped it off for warranty service, using myTracks to track my workouts instead. It took a while, but when I finally asked why the status had read “awaiting shipment” for over two months, they were very apologetic (for what was essentially a bookkeeping glitch) and shipped it out immediately, second day air.
Since I don’t have a consistent address, there was one more delay involved, as we only get our mail forwarded once per month. So late last week when the January shipment arrived, I was like a kid at Christmas! In addition to my Lazarus Watch, there were also a pair of packages from Planet Ultra6, our “bonus prizes” for doing both events back to back. They kept the gift a mystery, but with an organization that gives out rock arch statues to overall winners and cow bells to age group winners, we knew it would be awesome. Mugs! Okay, yeah, we don’t really need more mugs, but now we have more mugs, with both race logos, and a “Back 2 Back” in between with the dates underneath. I’m a definite fan of race bling that can be used. I ought to make some hot cocoa.
This was all very exciting for me, especially considering the let down of the prior week’s arrival of a package from the Layton Marathon, a race that I thought was very well organized, even though I crashed and burned on my own efforts. My “great race director” comments are partially rescinded. My impressions of the event remain positive, but I’m a bit frustrated in some of the aftermath. First, they did age groups by your age at the end of the year instead of race day, which is weird and confusing to say the least, but that may be the fault of the timing company and not the race director. Second, because although I was listed fourth in my age group on race day (and no, nobody in my age group – or the age group the timing company put me in – was an overall winner), when the results were posted online, I was bumped to third. Since the race had some pretty snazzy etched Lucite statue things as age group awards, I figured I’d ask the RD if there was any way to get it post-race. I was expecting a no, as the FAQ clearly stated that there would be no post-race awards shipped, but he said yes – they were available for pickup at a bike shop Bountiful. It took a few weeks, but when my wife and I headed up to Provo for the Halloween Half, we swung by Bountiful to grab my award. Only it wasn’t there. And the bike shop had no record of what went where or who took what or really any clue about why they were put in charge of these awards. They suggested I e-mail the RD, which I did, and he said he’d ship it to me. Cool!
Weeks later, I’ve gotten nothing, so I ask for an ETA. No reply. A few weeks later, again, no reply. Finally, as the year came to a close and my wife and I were planning on leaving Mesquite, I tried once more, since the address I had given him was no longer any good. Nothing. I posted a quick note to their Facebook wall asking if there was a new address I should be using or something. It was promptly deleted, but I got a reply moments later asking for a new address because the award was ready to ship “today.” A few weeks later, I get an envelope, postmarked January 11, clearly too small for Lucite statuary. Inside I find a generic “Layton Marathon 2011” medal, wrapped in port-a-potty toilet paper7. I don’t know if this is an alternate finishers’ medal they ended up not using or just something quick and cheap he sent me to shut me up, but it was quite a disappointment. I honestly think a simple “hey, dude, someone stole your award and we don’t have any more” or “we gave it to someone else at the post-race award ceremony” or some other form of “no” would have been less disappointing than this.
It was clearly a pain in the ass for them, because the “No age group medals will be mailed after the race.” has been amended to read:
Though we only give awards for the top 3 we suggest that if you are one of the top 4 you stay around for the Awards Ceremony in case a racer is disqualified or has been pulled to the overall finisher. Last year we had two 4th Place Finishers that actually came in 3rd when the results were finalized.
Yeah. Lesson learned. Or rather, known lesson reinforced. Ah well.
Don’t want to end this post on a downer though. While I’m disappointed in my lack of shiny things, or moreso on the way the RD handled it, it was still a well run race, and I’m mostly excited to get back in to proper training, using old toys come new again, dig in to some hard core runner geek science, and slaughter some PRs and serve them for supper.
- Come to think of it, the same thing holds true in the western Zodiac; I’m a Libra, the only inanimate sign… ↩
- Which is a Yang Water Dragon year, which I’m hoping doesn’t mean anything bad with the whole fire/water thing, but, well, the whole heavenly stem and earthly branch concept gets a bit beyond my comprehension. Side goal for this year: read up on the Chinese Zodiac. ↩
- Which I’ve already spent through March thanks to NYC. ↩
- Though omens and portents are pointing to SoCal… ↩
- Yeah, I’m probably doing a relay this year. I thought I thought relays were stupid? ↩
- You remember them, right? My new ROBFFs that put on the Mesquite Tri-States Marathon and Valley of Fire Marathon back in November. ↩
- Fresh, at least. ↩