Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Art of the Choke

The Podium for Gi.
The Podium for No-Gi.
Me and coaches:  The Professor (Cristiano) and Jared. 

I thought I knew something about choking people based on my many years of wrestling.  Boy was I wrong!  I started Brazilian Ju-jitsu this past January and am still a White Belt, but I am progressing.  At this rate, my Professor tells me that I will be a Black Belt by the time I'm 67.  Wow! I'm not sure I want people strangling me when I'm 67.  I might just take up golf or tennis to avoid ruining my delicate health. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed Ju-jitsu training. I love the people I'm training with and our Professor at the Gracie Barra club (Cristiano Oliveira) is phenomenal. I genuinely like choking people and love the physicality of the sport.  It's crazy though, there are so many ways to lose.  One mistake and it's light out.  It's like wrestling in many ways, except way more tricky and technical.  You have to constantly think ahead and anticipate your opponents attacks. In Ju-jitsu if you guess wrong, you're basically going to be strangled by your opponent.

Today was my first opportunity to compete since joining the club.  It was a lot like a wrestling tournament:  Making weight and then sitting around in a stinking gym waiting for your weight to be called.  The only difference is that once your weight is called, your entire weight class and division goes to a mat and you fight everyone in your bracket with very little breaks.  My cardio is good, so this turned out to be a big advantage for me. Because of my background in wrestling, I am basically dominant in the White Belt Division for No-Gi.  It's harder to choke your opponent in No-Gi and you score for takedowns.  I took down everyone I fought today, including the match I lost.  In No-Gi I scored 41 points and only gave up 2.  It was a blood letting for sure.  In Gi, I was mostly trying to avoid be strangled.  I would take my opponent down and score points and then find out I was in a terrible position and would have to scramble just to survive.  I don't know if I will ever get good at Gi, but No-Gi is a lot of fun for a wrestler. 

So, next time you see me if you notice some heinous red marks on my neck, you can rest assured, it's not a hickey from my wife, but rather the markings of being choked with my own Gi. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fat and Fit

Lil D at the finish line.   She was a beast!

Yes, it was freezing.  Darcee's advise to shed our warm ups was a terrible idea.

Syd and Lil D early in the race--and still smiling.
Crossing the finish line
I completed my first (and perhaps last) marathon on October 6, 2012.  Now that have checked it off my bucket list I might never run again.  My time was 5:05:30.  Okay, it's out there for all the world to see--I did not beat Oprah's time of 4:29:15.  However, I did best Jared Fogle's (the pitch man for Subway) time of 5:13:28 and Katie Holmes' time of 5:29:58.  I realize that 5:05 is not a very impressive time, but there are certain facts which must be considered before you too enthusiastically jeer my efforts.  First and foremost is that I am fat.  Well, at least according to the notorious height/weight charts for Body Mass Index (BMI), I am officially "obese."  At 5'8" I would have to lose 35 pounds to not be considered "overweight."  What anorexic psychopath designed the BMI?  Regardless of what this chart tells me, my life screams something entirely different--that I am fit.   I don't care that I weighed in at an impressive 200.1 lbs the day before I ran my marathon.  I trained very little and was still able to run the entire race, stopping only for potty breaks.

The second point of consideration is that I didn't train all that hard for this marathon.  I rode my bike, hiked, climbed and trained for Jujitsu as much as I could.  However, every time I tried to run long distances (over 10 miles) my body would break down and I would experience some minor bodily injury. I spoke with my running coach, who also happens to be one of my favorite daughters, Darcee Burnett, who sagely advised me to forget the training regimen and just rest my body.  She further advised that I tamp down my expectations and run slow on the day of the race. Fortunately, and uncharacteristic to my nature, I followed her advice, did exactly that and was able to run the entire 26.2 miles.  While I was hoping to complete the race in less than 5 hours, in the end just being able to run the entire race seemed to be a monumental accomplishment--at least in the moment it felt that way.   I really should have been able to run it well under 5 hours, but I experienced some remarkably painful bodily breakdowns at mile 23 and felt lucky to just finish.  My last mile was an impressive 15:57 minutes--you can almost walk a mile in 16 minutes.  Miles 24 and 25 were equally painful and slow.  Regardless, I ran the entire race and was close to my goal of 5 hours. 

Now getting back to my place on the BMI charts. My normal weight is around 190 lbs.  (I gained a little weight this past fall for various reasons) While 190 lbs may seem like a lot for someone who is 5'8", I don't feel uncomfortable at this weight.   My guess is that my ideal weight is between 180-185lbs.    At this weight, I can bike, climb, wrestle, grapple and run in a manner than brings me great joy.  Is there any medical reason to lose an additional 25 lbs?  Would I be any sexier to the Shewolf if I shed this weight?  What would be the point of correcting my place on the BMI chart?  Who would I impress?  Would I look better if I lost 25 lbs?   When I was in my prime I weighed 175 lbs.  At this weight I ran the mile in 5:20 and the 3 mile in 18:20.  Despite my genuine dislike of running, my guess is that I will, in fact, run more marathons in the future.  I am hopeful that my body will toughen up and that I will be able to more consistently train for long races. Who knows I might even lose a few pounds.  In the interim, I will continue to be an overweight, middle-aged man who feels fortunate to have the health and athleticism to be actively engaged in fairly rigorous activities. I admit that I am fat, but I hope that it's also clear that I am fit.  

*Above are some pictures of our family participants in the Leavenworth Marathon.  Kudos to Sydney for promoting this event and encouraging us all to challenge ourselves.  Running a marathon is in fact a big deal and I am proud of my kids for setting goals to do hard things.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Angry Music

Recently certain members of my family who apparently don't love me all that much signed me up to run a marathon.  In their enthusiasm to run, they assumed I would love to run with them.  Wrong!  Nothing could be more wrong!  One day last August, while my children were training  (I didn't actually train very often, but this is fodder for a different post), my daughter Sydney borrowed my I-pod because her battery was dead.   After she returned, she whined about my music selection, and asked, “Dad, what's up with your music?  It's all so angry." I dismissed her complaint as envy--everyone knows that my music is almost entirely classic rock--what's not to like about that?  Well that was my thinking until I experienced something during one of my few training runs last August in the in extreme heat.  As I was struggling through my long run and listening to JB (no, that's not "Justin Bieber"--that would be "James Brown") I started to think that maybe Sydney was correct.  Everything coming up on my playlist was indeed very angry. 
                                   I want Revenge, I want some payback. 
                                   I'm mad.  My patience ends on revenge.
                                   I want some get-back.  I don't know Karate, but I know Caarrrazzzy!
                                   You Mother get ready for the Big Payback!
                                   (James Brown--The Big Payback)

Whoa!  That seemed pretty angry.  I quickly skipped to the next song on my playlist:
                                   I'm gonna warn you just one time.
                                   Next time I warn you, I'm gonna use my gun
                                   I'm mad, like Jessie James
                                   (John Lee Hooker--I'm bad, like Jesse James)

Double whoa! Scary angry music.  Next song up:
                                   Born down in a dead man's town
                                   The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
                                   You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
                                   Till you spend half your life just covering up

                                   (Bruce Springsteen--Born in the USA)

Yep, you guessed it. More angry music.  It went on and on.  I wondered, "Don't I have any happy Pop music on my playlist? Surely, I must have some Britney, or Selena Gomez or something happy to run to."  When I got home I reviewed my playlist and discovered the only Britney song included on my playlist was "Piece of Me" which is probably Britney's worst display of attitude. 

So what's up with my running playlist?  I have thought long and hard about this question.  Is my playlist a subconscious representation of how I feel about running?  Or has listening to angry music negatively influenced my attitude towards running?  Loyal readers of Darrell's Yakimania have frequently lobbied prestigious universities for me to be bequeathed with an honorary degree in psychology because of my insightful ruminations concerning human nature, and in particular my numerous contributions to a greater understanding of the peculiarities of the male psyche.  I am sure that what I discovered is well based in scientific theory.

I hate running because of my life's experiences.  I don't remember hating to run when I was young--in fact, I have fond memories of chasing around my neighborhood as a kid.  I think it all started in Jr. High School when I first played football.  When we made mistakes our coaches punished us by making us run wind sprints.  Next, I tried out for track in high school but was not fast enough to sprint and did not have the endurance to succeed as a distance runner.  Consequently, I was unsuccessful in my bid to letter in track.  Finally, and most important is my many years of wrestling and cutting weight.  Dialing in your "strength-to-weight" ratio is critically important in wrestling.  Finding the point to which you can cut and not lose strength is a very tricky proposition. 

Essentially, the only way to effectively control your weight as a wrestler is to run.  Early in the season, I ran like a cross country runner to get within striking distance of my desired weight.  However, this is not what caused me to viscerally hate running.  Several days before weigh-ins I ran hungry.  Again, this is not what caused me to truly loath running.  The day before, and the day of weigh-ins, I usually ran thirsty.  Running thirsty is unbelievably difficult.  People who have never wrestled, pity "starving wrestlers."  They don't have a clue what wrestlers actually experience in trying to shed the last several pounds by extracting water from their bodies.  The thirst endured by wrestlers who are cutting weight is something you have to experience to truly comprehend.  While wrestlers who are cutting weight incessantly talk about food, wrestlers who are drastically cutting weight are singular in their obsession with water and liquids in general.  My freshman year in college was horrific.  During that season, I swore an oath that I would drink an Orange Julius every day for the rest of my life to reward my body for what it endured. Anything sweet and cold and juicy. Mmmm.  Running to extract heavy water from your body when all you can think about is sucking on something sweet and cool is enough to drive you crazy.  I am convinced that it's not my body habitus, it's not my attitude, and it's definitely not my angry playlist that causes me to detest running-- simply put, it's my experiences as a wrestler in cutting weight that has caused me to forever hate running.

So, if your I-pod battery runs out of juice, I suggest you borrow some other friend's playlist.  My angry music might seriously jeopardize your enthusiasm for running for quite some time.