"The timorous may stay at home."
~ Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co., 250 N.Y. 479, 483 (N.Y. 1929)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Walking a Tightrope

A conversation that happened with a couple in my apartment building the other day:

Man: "Excuse me, but I have to ask, are you a trainer? My wife and I always see you in work out gear, and you are in great shape."

Me: "ha, no - I'm an attorney."

Man [unnecessarily flummoxed]: "Really? Oh, we were going to ask you to train us."

My reaction to this was initially to be flattered, but then I though, HOLD UP - does that mean that I always look like a slob in warm ups and headbands? This thought was then followed by "shit, maybe I missed my calling."

I mean, the man has a point: I spend 95% of my waking hours at either of two places: work, or the gym. I get a lot of questions about my training schedule, and I always kind of dismiss it. So FINE, I'll dish:

I spend WAY too much time with
these people

I'm up M-F by 4:30am, and heading into the Crossfit box and/or regular gym (where I will hike away on the big rotating stepmill or run in the winter). (And yes, you Crossfit fanatics can judge me and preach to me all you want - I simply need the cardio for training, I enjoy the cardio, and I don't see how anyone just does Crossfit and can stay in any type of shape for endurance events. There, I said it.)

And then I do my attorney stuff all day, where my life plays out something like this

A few times a week I'll hit a two a day: post-work, grab a run outside or at the office gym, or head to the box to work on skills. And around 10-10:30pm, I'll crash, and get up and do it over again. Sundays I try to reserve for couch, rest, eating, and football (please come back soon, football - I miss you).

Yes, very little sleep. Yes, very little room for a social life.

And over the past few months as I've been laying low, away from racing, one thing has become crystal clear to me: as obstacle races expands and grows as a sport, more and more athletes will emerge that are doing this "professionally," without the obligations of a day job, and with the luxury of training for several hours at a day, multiple sessions. And, obviously, those are the people that will excel (hell, I hope they would). 

Perhaps what has crystallized this for me is participating in the Crossfit Open. I am, at best, a mediocre Crossfitter. While I perform decent enough for my box, compared to athletes around the world, I don't hold a candle. But at our box, we all are recreational Crossfitters - we have careers, day jobs, other obligations. The Crossfitters that go to the Games (and more and more, even just Regionals), are those that somehow survive doing it for a living. And when there is money at stake, this makes sense.

At the root of it, perhaps I'm jealous. That I'll never be one of those people. Or that I'll never be able to fully commit to a race until a few weeks (or, more typically, a few days) before the race date. My standard caveat when I tell people I'm going to a race is "assuming work allows." I usually can't leave my phone unattended for more than a few hours, let alone a whole day or two (I'm looking at you, WTM & Death Race). Because my obligations at work have to come first, and when the client/partner needs you on a weekend, the client/partner wins. I knew this going into this career (granted, obstacle racing wasn't even around at that point)*

I missed my law school graduation because I was in Chicago studying
for the bar, so a can of cooking spray and paper plate sufficed

The lesson is this: in the grand scheme of life, my balance has to tip more towards the professional. My brain got me through school and my brain makes me money. And for that reason, I can't commit to as many races as I'd like, and, more often than not, professional obligations have to come before racing (and personal - believe it or not, I do retain a sliver of a functioning personal life). And I'll keep doing both of them at the race time to the best of my ability, but it's changing landscape out there. For example, with money on the line in every Spartan Race this year, you can sense a shift in attitude, in priorities, in goals. 

But I'll keep racing regardless of whether there is money on the line, and do it solely for the competition, solely for the sport. For the thrill of being out there on the course, for the people you meet and the memories you make. Because that's what got me into this, and that should be the only reason I keep doing it.

*To be fair, while they don't understand why I do it, my work has been incredibly supportive of my exploits


  1. There is one glaringly WRONG statement in this post. You are far, far better than "mediocre" at CrossFit! However, I love you and love this post. If I ever miss a graduation of anything, I'm coming to your house for paper plates and cooking spray.

  2. Very heartfelt post. Loved it. But, there's one thing that seems to be missing here. The post sounds a bit like you're mourning a potential opportunity of being a full-time obstacle athlete. But you never really address the question of whether you would really want to go pro. Did you ever consider what that would mean? Does the notion in your head excite you? Or, does it seem scary/unfulfilling? Or, did you never let yourself get to the point of daydreaming it because you feel you're expected make money the normal way. The way I see it, you can always go back to being an attorney later in life....but can you go back to potentially being a pro-obstacle racer later in life? I'm not so certain.

  3. The first comment from an elite races (yes Amelia you are one) that resume my exact position on this
    "But I'll keep racing regardless of WHETER there is money on the line, and do it solely for the competition, solely for the sport. For the thrill of being out there on the course, for the people you meet and the memories you make."

  4. That's too bad you can't commit until really late in the game. I'm signed up for TM Chicago. I wonder if you'll be there? At least there's a lot more options for races now that obstacle racing is so popular.

  5. I went to law school with Amelia and I've seen the 4:30am treadmill runs she put in while still excelling in school and writing articles for law review. Now she's continuing to do the same thing at a higher level. Has anybody ever seen Battlestar Galactica? There's only one word for Amelia: Cylon.

  6. I understand the part..."my balance has to tip more towards the professional." and I think that in no way does that mean you cant completely love racing and enjoying the events that we make it out to! You go girl!!

  7. This was awesome on all levels, makes me feel like I am not the only one trying to compete in elite/endurance/obstacle events that also has to balance work (and my dogs)! You rock, other than the time you brought your devil magic to DC when the Seahawks beat my Skins in the playoffs:-)

  8. Well written, as always :) You echo my thoughts completely sometimes!

  9. Love this post! It echoes what I'm feeling and what other competitive racers seem to be feeling (by the talk that's kicking around on facebook). I will never be ranked in the Spartan points system, not because I'm not good enough (but that's also arguable as tougher competition comes out to race) but because my family and career comes first-- I don't have the time or money to travel to multiple Spartans during the year.