Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Setting the Bar Higher and Other Tapering Musings

It's taper time, and the realization that I haven't blogged since April!  As usual (for the last forever), life has gotten in the way of writing.  We all prioritize, and my priorities this year have been family, family, family, and Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I'm actually pretty satisfied with the effort I've given to family this year.  It's not always been my greatest achievement, being a work-a-holic and all.  At the same time, I've managed to prepare myself for Lake Tahoe in a way that suggests I'm coming into this race in the best shape of my life....and at the age of 54 that's saying something!  I've been giving a lot of thought this past year to how I tend to set the bar...I think I may have blogged about this in the past, but I'm not sure when.

When I was in fourth grade, I decided to read "Martin Eden".  This is a book by Jack London that my father got as a wedding gift from his childhood friend Carl Levin (the U.S. Senator from Michigan).  It changed my father's life.  I somehow had the need to read it.  It was far above my age level at the time, but I persevered.  It's interesting looking back, in many ways it was way over my head, but that didn't bother me.

By the time I reached the seventh grade, I was bored. I wanted to start high school.  Again, the interesting thing was that I wasn't a "Straight A" student.  It wasn't like I knew everything that one could know at that point in life.  But I wanted to move on, to get to the next level.  I pushed to skip the 8th grade.  The test was for me to go to summer school at the high school and see how I did.  So, I took two high school classes in summer school and did well in both of them.  Started high school (9th grade) and was on my way.

A side note on Junior High School.  I had political leanings even back then and decided in sixth grade to run for School Treasurer.  Being a nerd (I even carried a briefcase back then), I didn't really stand a chance, but that didn't phase me.  Of course I lost.  For my encore, as I started seventh grade, I decided to run for President.  I remember giving a very serious and well thought out speech (one of the teachers actually praised the quality of my speech).  I'm sure that the kids didn't care, as they voted in one of the most popular girls in the school.

A theme is already clear.  I have always had a tendency to set bars that I can't really achieve.  I think that the act of reaching for those high bars is what I love to do.  Not scaling them isn't really an issue to me.  I rarely recall being disappointed by not achieving goals that were beyond my reach.

I had actually planned to finish high school in three years, but honestly, finally started having a good time socially and probably realized that it might have been too much.  Still, during my senior year in high school I took several classes at Cal State Long Beach.  In fact, I put my first year of college chemistry in the books, which would allow me to jump ahead when I started school at UC San Diego the following year.

No mention of athletics at this point.  Actually, I hadn't helped myself much by pushing ahead scholastically.  I was a klutz.  I had asthma.  While I loved sports, I just wasn't at the level to participate.  While I had a competitive drive, that drive wasn't at the same level as my scholastic drive at that point.  That said, I did try out for the Freshman basketball team.  It didn't go well.  I wouldn't get into organized team sports until college.

UC San Diego.  Working 15 hours a week for a scholarship.  Signing up for more classes than I could handle.  Taking Organic Chemistry as a freshman.  Sound familiar?  I also got introduced to intramural floor hockey.  Oh yes, and I fell in love.  She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen.  I met her the week before school started when one of my dorm mates brought her by.  My first thought was, she's too pretty to ever want to go out with me.  It took my the entire first quarter before I had the confidence to ask her on a date.  Ultimately, this was one bar that wasn't too high for me.  We've now been married for 31 years, and I still feel the same way I did that first day in the dorm every time I look at her.

My second year of college found me consumed by intramural floor hockey.  I practiced every chance I could get.  I changed my major a bunch of times.  I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.  I was taking graduate level chemistry courses already, but I was unsettled.  I dropped out of school and immigrated to Israel.  Well, I guess I found a way to set another bar.

I ultimately got back on track a year later, went back to school at UC Irvine and finally got into medical school.  After completing my residency at Cedars-Sinai and my Geriatric Fellowship at UCLA, I became the first Geriatrician at Kaiser Woodland Hills.  Time to start setting the bar higher again.  I opened up Kaiser's first Geriatric clinic.  Having been at Kaiser for only 3 years, I won their Exceptional Contribution Award.  But it wasn't enough.  The term of the Medical Director for all of Southern California was coming up and they were looking for the next Medical Director.  I applied for the position!  I'd only been there for 3 years, but I was already setting that bar.  Looking back, it seems a bit crazy, but in the context of what I have accomplished in the last twenty years, it makes all the sense in the world.  In my work life, I always set the bar as high as possible.

What has become interesting to me as I look back is the reality of what it means to actually scale that high bar.  I became President of a company (GeriMed of America).  I co-founded and built the largest primary care Geriatric practice in the country.  I retired at the age of 53.  So what?  At the end of the day, it's not really about achieving goals, as it is living your life in a meaningful way.

Triathlon has become somewhat of a metaphor for my life in general.  It's also become an outlet for me to set the high bar.  I typically set time goals for myself before a race.  Do you want to know a secret?  I've never, ever, actually achieved one of my time goals!  It's because I always set goals that are higher than what I can achieve.  Then, so long as I give the race the full measure of my devotion, I'm happy and satisfied.

So, it's time for Ironman Lake Tahoe.  My training as gone about as well as I could expect.  I have my time goals that I've shared with no one, until now.  If you've read through this entire blog, perhaps you deserve to see my goals.  For the first time in my triathlon life, I think that I'm setting a goal that is attainable, at least on the bottom part of the range.

My typical Ironman swim has been 1:11.  At training camp I was swimming comfortably with people who swim 1:04-1:06.  While I haven't swam much in my training, I've increased my strength training, which I think will help.  Plus, Lake Tahoe is crystal clear, increasing the opportunity to draft off of other people.

My swim goal ranges from a crazy, best day ever, 1:04 to a realistic 1:10

By best ironman bike at 2011 St. George was 6:25.  This course is probably comparable, but I am biking better than I have in years.  In fact, I think that I've regained my best bike form.  I'm going to stick my neck out and set 6:00 as my crazy, best day ever, bike time.  Realistically, I'd be very happy to finish the bike in 6:15.

Ahh, the run.  My best ironman run was at the incredibly difficult 2012 Ironman St. George, where I ran about 4:32.  I've come to understand that the run is totally dependent on not swimming or biking too hard.  So, if I take the swim and bike relatively easy, a good run is possible.  I've been having my best runs ever off the bike lately, yesterday managing 6 miles @ 7:43 pace after a 2 hour bike ride.  Keeping 9 minute miles for 26 miles seems to me to be a reasonable goal.  Of course it's Ironman, once the wheels fall off, it's all walk.  That said, my worst Ironman run/walk times have been 5 hours.  My crazy, best case scenario, is 3:50, while my more rational, ideal run time is 4:10.  If I could pick one goal for this race, however, it would be to complete the run in under 4 hours, regardless of what my other times are!  I don't quite know how the transition is set up in terms of running in and out of it, but I'd like to keep my transition times between 4 and 5 minutes.

The final verdict:
The High Bar (the one I never actually achieve)-11:02
The Intermediate bar (this will take the possible, but unlikely scenario that I actually achieve the reasonable goals for each discipline)-11:35

My Ironman PR is 12:45, so, anything under 12:00 would be great.  I would be thrilled to go under 11:30.

As I write this, I do realize that the time really doesn't mean too much to me.  It's a goal.  A goal is a means to and end.  The end for me, however, is the journey itself.  Being in the moment, giving the race everything I have.  That's really what it's all about.  Kind of like life itself....

1 comment:

Lucho said...

Best post ever... I've known you for HOW many years now!? And I knew you were extraordinary but this just gives me some back story. Have you gone back and read Martin Eden?
I've always, from day 1, loved how you set the bar high. I can relate to you a little bit, not academically as I dropped out of school, but the set the bar high aspect. And I also see that with you as a father and a husband which I admire more than anything. I appreciate very much what you give to your family and that is truly admirable.
Tahoe... I'm giddy! I've never seen you in a better place physically, and more importantly, mentally! And I think the marathon really does come down to mental more than physical. Your body (the simple tissue) will do what your brain tells it to. But our brains can be finicky things. Your's is strong and I know you're going to have a great day!!