Saturday, January 22, 2011

In Bruges, beer, and ironman

Yesterday we watched the movie "In Bruges." It was entertaining, funny at times, silly at times, but what is best about it is that it offers an impressive sightseeing tour of the city without the crowds. Granted, the characters sometimes teleport from one location to another that is almost a mile away, but unless you are intimately familiar with the city and its layout you will never notice. Ironically enough the characters are not very fond of Bruges and refer to it as a "shit hole" more than once. But that should not detract from the visual beauty that is apparent in every shot. Probably no better way to see it all from the comfort of your home. The tour even includes visits to the museums and shots of the most famous works of art that are there.

Ralph Fiennes in Bruges, more credible than Voldemort, but just as evil

Speaking of Bruges and Belgium, I picked up a six pack of Leffe at Whole Foods the other day. Here is a great blond Abbey beer that can hold its own in any contest, yet is easy to approach and enjoy. The Leffe can be enjoyed straight out of the bottle but like any self-respecting Belgian I use a glass.

Leffe, the glass I got at the Pacific Crest half ironman
The glass, a souvenir from the Pacific Crest endurance weekend, brought on a discussion about triathlon and ironman. I mentioned rather casually that I had participated in several ironman races, which caused one of my guests to look at me as if I was from another planet. It is strange how many people seem to believe that finishing an ironman is a superhuman endeavor, when in reality it is rather easy to do.

When I say easy I don't mean that finishing an ironman is easy, as in taking no effort. The race is most certainly not a walk in the park. On the other hand it does not require superhuman strength or endurance to finish. Six months of training will suffice for anyone who is not terribly overweight or out of shape. The time window is rather generous and allows for a very leisurely pace. Thousands of people finish ironman every year and thousands more ride double centuries or run 50 mi ultra-marathons, which are comparable in effort required.

While finishing an ironman is easy (as in eminently possible) racing an ironman is a different matter. If you start out with the simple goal of finishing, chances are very good that you will indeed finish and live to tell the tale. But if you set out to race or set a personal best, things are very different indeed. Now your chances of finishing are quite a bit smaller and unless you are well prepared, and have a good plan, you can easily end up with a DNF.

Finishing Coeur d'Alene (with Annelise). First time I ran the marathon start to finish

Pacing is the key to success and nowhere is that more true than in ironman. What makes the pacing more difficult however, is that there are two distinct disciplines that come with their own set of rules. It is hard to mess up the swim, but the bike and the run can be challenging for all. The bikers are prone to go too hard on the bike, which can mess up their marathon, while the runners often do not eat enough and bonk on the bike, resulting in the same problem.

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