Bike Therapy

First time I ride with slick tires on my mountain bike. Here are the stats for you to judge if it makes a difference:
  • Distance: 17.76 miles
  • Time: 1:29:13
  • Average per mile: 5:01
  • Top Speed: 25.9 mph
Lap 1
  • Distance: 9.70 miles
  • Time: 52:16
  • Average per mile: 5:23
Lap 2 (return leg with the sandhill road down hill)
  • Distance: 8.06 miles
  • Time: 36:57
  • Average per mile: 4:34!!! (my fastest ever time on a bike)

Running Blind

The importance of choosing a path that's right for you.

By John Bingham. Originally in the July, 2009 issue of Runner’s World

There's a quote by William Purkey, a well-known professor of education, that goes, "Dance like no one is watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like no one is listening, and live like it's heaven on earth." It seems like the perfect life philosophy—and one I've learned to apply to running over the years. I run like no one is watching, even when I'm racing with 35,000 people. I'm usually having so much fun, I simply don't care what anyone else thinks.

But I didn't always feel this way. In my early days, when I weighed 240 pounds, I ran like everyone was watching—and judging. If I was on a run and saw a car approaching, I'd stop and pretend I was looking for something I'd lost.

I was so concerned with what other people thought of me that by the time I did open up about running, I constantly worried whether I was living up to their expectations. My first coach put me on a treadmill, dialed up the pace to 9:20 per mile, and said to run for 40 minutes. I tried and, not surprisingly, failed. I couldn't help but be disappointed in myself—even though I knew what he was asking was nearly impossible for me.

I even dressed like people were watching. I bought the high-tech gear and sleek clothes that I thought would make people believe I was a runner—even if I felt like an imposter in them. And I didn't have a clue if the expensive shoes I was wearing were the right kind for me—I just wanted to look like I fit in with this group.

To be honest, I felt a certain satisfaction in believing that someone was watching. I really thought that other people cared about my performance. The best example of this was a combined, two-lap marathon and half in Florence, Italy. As I neared the finish line, the crowd began to cheer. I was astounded. Here I was, thousands of miles from home, and the Italians were yelling for "Il Penguino."

About 20 yards from the finish, the truth set in when the winner of the full marathon went past me as I was finishing the half-marathon. No one was cheering for me. No one probably even noticed that I was finishing. I couldn't help but smile at my own illusion of self-importance.
That's when I realized I had been running for every reason except the right one. I ran to make other people happy, ran to live up to their expectations. But that didn't matter. No one was watching—no one cared. So I decided I was going to run for me—just me—and gained a new enjoyment from the sport I hadn't truly experienced yet. That doesn't mean I don't want to improve or sometimes wish I could run faster. It just means that the joy I feel when I'm moving my body with my own two feet is so great that the act alone is satisfying enough. I've learned to run like no one is watching.

So if you see me at a race, and I look like a 60-year-old guy waddling along, don't worry. I'm fine. I'm better than fine. I'm happy. You see, I remember those words that first appeared here 13 years ago: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

Waddle on, friends.

Share your thoughts or ask John Bingham a question at


Alfred Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle Well-
loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd and wrought, and thought with me That
ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads you
and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

How Amazing!

Racing Towards Inclusion

by David Tereshchuk

Article as it appeared in Team Hoyt’s website courtesy of multi' 

Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-and-son team from Massachusetts who together compete just about continuously in marathon races. And if they’re not in a marathon they are in a triathlon — that daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America.

It’s a remarkable record of exertion — all the more so when you consider that Rick can't walk or talk.

For the past twenty five years or more Dick, who is 65, has pushed and pulled his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines. When Dick runs, Rick is in a wheelchair that Dick is pushing. When Dick cycles, Rick is in the seat-pod from his wheelchair, attached to the front of the bike. When Dick swims, Rick is in a small but heavy, firmly stabilized boat being pulled by Dick.

At Rick’s birth in 1962 the umbilical cord coiled around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain. Dick and his wife, Judy, were told that there would be no hope for their child’s development.

"It’s been a story of exclusion ever since he was born," Dick told me. "When he was eight months old the doctors told us we should just put him away — he’d be a vegetable all his life, that sort of thing. Well those doctors are not alive any more, but I would like them to be able to see Rick now."

The couple brought their son home determined to raise him as "normally" as possible. Within five years, Rick had two younger brothers, and the Hoyts were convinced Rick was just as intelligent as his siblings. Dick remembers the struggle to get the local school authorities to agree: "Because he couldn’t talk they thought he wouldn’t be able to understand, but that wasn’t true." The dedicated parents taught Rick the alphabet. "We always wanted Rick included in everything," Dick said. "That’s why we wanted to get him into public school."

A group of Tufts University engineers came to the rescue, once they had seen some clear, empirical evidence of Rick’s comprehension skills. "They told him a joke," said Dick. "Rick just cracked up. They knew then that he could communicate!" The engineers went on to build — using $5,000 the family managed to raise in 1972 - an interactive computer that would allow Rick to write out his thoughts using the slight head-movements that he could manage. Rick came to call it "my communicator." A cursor would move across a screen filled with rows of letters, and when the cursor highlighted a letter that Rick wanted, he would click a switch with the side of his head.

When the computer was originally brought home, Rick surprised his family with his first "spoken" words. They had expected perhaps "Hi, Mom" or "Hi, Dad." But on the screen Rick wrote "Go Bruins." The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season, and his family realized he had been following the hockey games along with everyone else. "So we learned then that Rick loved sports," said Dick.

In 1975, Rick was finally admitted into a public school. Two years later, he told his father he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dick, far from being a long-distance runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but they felt they had achieved a triumph. That night, Dick remembers, "Rick told us he just didn’t feel handicapped when we were competing."

Rick’s realization turned into a whole new set of horizons that opened up for him and his family, as "Team Hoyt" began to compete in more and more events. Rick reflected on the transformation process for me, using his now-familiar but ever-painstaking technique of picking out letters of the alphabet:

" What I mean when I say I feel like I am not handicapped when competing is that I am just like the other athletes, and I think most of the athletes feel the same way. In the beginning nobody would come up to me. However, after a few races some athletes came around and they began to talk to me. During the early days one runner, Pete Wisnewski had a bet with me at every race on who would beat who. The loser had to hang the winner’s number in his bedroom until the next race. Now many athletes will come up to me before the race or triathlon to wish me luck."

It is hard to imagine now the resistance which the Hoyts encountered early on, but attitudes did begin to change when they entered the Boston Marathon in 1981, and finished in the top quarter of the field. Dick recalls the earlier, less tolerant days with more sadness than anger:

"Nobody wanted Rick in a road race. Everybody looked at us, nobody talked to us, nobody wanted to have anything to do with us. But you can’t really blame them - people often are not educated, and they’d never seen anyone like us. As time went on, though, they could see he was a person — he has a great sense of humor, for instance. That made a big difference."

After 4 years of marathons, Team Hoyt attempted their first triathlon — and for this Dick had to learn to swim. "I sank like a stone at first" Dick recalled with a laugh "and I hadn’t been on a bike since I was six years old."

With a newly-built bike (adapted to carry Rick in front) and a boat tied to Dick’s waist as he swam, the Hoyts came in second-to-last in the competition held on Father’s Day 1985.

"We chuckle to think about that as my Father’s Day present from Rick, " said Dick.

They have been competing ever since, at home and increasingly abroad. Generally they manage to improve their finishing times. "Rick is the one who inspires and motivates me, the way he just loves sports and competing," Dick said.

And the business of inspiring evidently works as a two-way street. Rick typed out this testimony:

"Dad is one of my role models. Once he sets out to do something, Dad sticks to it whatever it is, until it is done. For example once we decided to really get into triathlons, dad worked out, up to five hours a day, five times a week, even when he was working."

The Hoyts’ mutual inspiration for each other seems to embrace others too — many spectators and fellow-competitors have adopted Team Hoyt as a powerful example of determination. "It’s been funny," said Dick "Some people have turned out, some in good shape, some really out of shape, and they say ‘we want to thank you, because we’re here because of you’."

Rick too has taken full note of their effect on fellow-competitors while racing:

"Whenever we are passed (usually on the bike) the athlete will say "Go for it!" or "Rick, help your Dad!" When we pass people (usually on the run) they’ll say "Go Team Hoyt!" or "If not for you, we would not be out here doing this."

Most of all, perhaps, the Hoyts can see an impact from their efforts in the area of the handicapped, and on public attitudes toward the physically and mentally challenged.

"That’s the big thing," said Dick. "People just need to be educated. Rick is helping many other families coping with disabilities in their struggle to be included."

That is not to say that all obstacles are now overcome for the Hoyts. Dick is "still bothered," he says, by people who are discomforted because Rick cannot fully control his tongue while eating. "In restaurants - and it’s only older people mostly - they’ll see Rick’s food being pushed out of his mouth and they’ll leave, or change their table. But I have to say that kind of intolerance is gradually being defeated."

Rick’s own accomplishments, quite apart from the duo’s continuing athletic success, have included his moving on from high school to Boston University, where he graduated in 1993 with a degree in special education. That was followed a few weeks later by another entry in the Boston Marathon. As he fondly pictured it: "On the day of the marathon from Hopkinton to Boston people all over the course were wishing me luck, and they had signs up which read `congratulations on your graduation!’"

Rick now works at Boston College’s computer laboratory helping to develop a system codenamed "Eagle Eyes," through which mechanical aids (like for instance a powered wheelchair) could be controlled by a paralyzed person’s eye-movements, when linked-up to a computer.

Together the Hoyts don’t only compete athletically; they also go on motivational speaking tours, spreading the Hoyt brand of inspiration to all kinds of audiences, sporting and non-sporting, across the country.

Rick himself is confident that his visibility — and his father’s dedication — perform a forceful, valuable purpose in a world that is too often divisive and exclusionary. He typed a simple parting thought:

"The message of Team Hoyt is that everybody should be included in everyday life."

David Tereshchuk is a documentary television producer. He currently works for the United Nations.

I guess I’m officially a triathlete





From the team in training bracelet

I’ve done it!

I swam 500 meters, biked 10k in a bitch of a course and ran 5k… all in the same morning and right after the other; so I guess that makes me a triathlete.

I can’t really begin to tell you how I feel; some adjectives to make a start: Accomplished (the last 6 months of training were worth it), elated (that I managed to do it without major incidents), satisfied (that the training and the ethics worked out) and determined (not to give up and continue training for what’s next not afraid of the challenges.)

It’s hard to believe but it’s been six months with this insane regiment and I can’t really see myself doing anything differently. The first thing that came to mind is discipline… you wouldn’t believe how hard is to keep proper nutrition when you’re starving after a 15 mile bike ride, or the times I haven’t wanted to work out because I was tired of plain lazy and went anyway.

I used to laugh when friends and teammates from TnT told me that once you did your first race you’d fall in love with the sport and want to do them over and over again. I hate to admit it but it’s true; I’m so looking forward to my race in July that I can almost taste it. I want to do endurance races as long as my body tells me it’s ok and I want to enjoy it as much as I did the race today if not more; I want to improve my time to where I hit top 10 in my age group, not easy considering that next year I move to the 35-39 group along with all the other 34 year olds out that raced today.

Time Splits

Swim ( 0:12:55.2 ) t1 ( 0:03:07.9 )

Bike ( 0:56:25.3 ) t2 ( 0:02:47.4 )

Run ( 0:42:15.1 )

Check the organizer’s site if you’re interested in times overall.

Wow, for some reason the split times feel a lot different than they fell on the race, Particularly the swimming. 

Lessons Learned

"In Japan we have the phrase Shoshin, which means 'beginner's mind.' The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner's mind. Our 'original mind' includes everything within itself. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few."

Shunryu Suzukin

I did learn a lot today and I’ll attempt to summarize these lessons below:

What needs improvement:

  • Your swimming can definitely use some work. I’m surprised to say that, I thought that my swimming would be stronger than it actually was.
  • Use short sleeve shirts even though it may cause sunburn, short sleeved shirts are better; easier to put on and they cool you off better
  • You need to build better running endurance. It was ok but towards the end you really were running on the last reserves
  • Need to figure out a nutrition strategy while on the bike and run. The gel tasted like shit but did the job at the beginning of the run. It is also very hard, still, to get the bottle out of the front cage. I managed to do it but would like a more consistent way to get my water/electrolyte replacement/Gatorade or whatever I decide to drink (camelback?).  See this article or this article about fueling up before a ride in for possible solutions

What needs to be done differently:

  • Try to do the course at least once before a race. I don’t like surprises and the technical level of the bike course was an unpleasant surprise, particularly the uphill from hell.
  • (buy and) Bring an extra pair of shoes, especially for a Mountain Bike tri. There was a stream crossing and it was deep enough that my shoes soaked, so I ended up running with wet shoes. Don’t think it really made that much of a difference but it’d pay to have another dry pear around just in case.
  • Do consider clipless pedals. Several times I wished I’d had the clipless, particularly when I was trying to get pedaling on the uphill.

What worked:

  • Transition worked very well. All the visualization work on the transition paid off. I think both of them went without a hitch.
  • The run wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be. Even though endurance wasn’t quite where it needed to be, the technique I learned through Team in Training helped a lot. I could run even after the murder bike ride
  • I was comfortable in the bike. Even though the course was very technical (biker’s way of saying the course was a bitch), I felt good on it, despite the wipeout.

What is Zen?

Having its roots in Asia, many of the elements of Zen can be confusing to Westerners, giving the impression that the practice is not relevant to their lives. The purpose of this section is to provide a short orientation for individuals unfamiliar with the practice but interested in learning more about it. Copyright © by Les Kaye Kannon Do Zen Center 1972 Rock Street Mountain View, CA 94040 May 9, 2009


The heart of Zen practice is the individual's motivation to sit in meditation (Jap: zazen) on a consistent basis and to make his or her best effort to maintain awareness.  Zazen immediately upon awakening - in the dim morning light, before the first cup of coffee, before engaging in the busyness of daily life - brings a fulfilling sense of giving birth to the new day.

However, when the responsibilities of family, work, or the need to commute a long distance each day does not allow for early morning zazen, sitting in the evening, or at another time during the day, is perfectly fine.

When possible, sitting with others in a space dedicated to meditation practice brings a sense of connection. But if such a center is not readily available, sitting by one's self is encouraged.

Letting Go

Despite our best efforts, the mind cannot entirely put an end to mental or emotional distractions through will power; thoughts, memories, and creative insights will arise continuously during meditation. And so the primary emphasis of zazen is not to try to cut off the mind's activity but rather to bring our attention back to the present whenever we recognize that we have become distracted. The point is not to be concerned about the distraction but instead to gently "let go" of the exciting, disturbing, or entertaining memory, fantasy, or conjecture that arose spontaneously, and return to paying attention to one's breath.

Attentive Intimacy

As the mind increases its capacity to come back to the present during zazen, it is concurrently improving its skill to be attentive during activities of daily life - at work, at home, on the freeway, or in the market. We become more intimate, less distant, with things and with each other. Problems are solved more readily, with less anxiety, while relationships go more smoothly.

Responding to Discomfort

In addition to memories of the past and imaginings of the future, distractions include recognition of negative emotions and feelings spontaneously arising to consciousness. In the early days of one's practice, these mental activities appear more frequently and clearly as the mind softens and drops off its instinct to defend itself from the parts of itself it does not like or that reminds it of the unconscious pain it may be carrying around. At first, our reaction is to blame zazen for creating such discomfort, not realizing that the tendency to remember has been dimly present all along.  Eventually we realize that zazen is doing us a favor in bringing mind activities to light so that we have the opportunity to understand and learn how to respond to them in a creative way, rather than being overwhelmed by their sudden rush. Over time, the frequency and sharpness of these distractions diminish as the mind better understands and accepts itself just as it is.

Relationship to Therapy

Meditation practice can be therapeutic, yet Zen practice itself is not therapy, even though both are about relieving suffering by uncovering and honestly facing the activity of the mind. The practice does not analyze emotional difficulties or try to investigate their sources. Rather, it encourages recognition and acceptance of whatever feeling may arise and letting it go by returning attention to the present. In effect, the mind gives itself permission to have a negative feeling by acknowledging, "It is just something happening in this moment." The emotional grip is loosened, leading to relief of anxiety.

This does not mean that Zen discourages therapy in severe situations where deep, unremitting suffering - severely impacting an individual's capacity to function and find meaning in life - does call for identification and exploration of its sources.

No Striving

Soto Zen discourages engaging in zazen for the purpose of gaining enlightenment - a vision, a flash of wisdom that reveals all Truth in an instant, that puts a final end to all one's personal problems. Such a pursuit is contrary to the individual's best interest, as striving to attain something for one's self - even spiritual fulfillment - is actually just one more desire, adding to suffering. More to the point, enlightenment is already inherent in each of us, rather than something outside of our ordinary self that needs to be pursued and achieved. Rather, it is to be expressed, or realized, by zazen practice. This is the foundation of Buddhist understanding.

Expressing True Nature

Zazen's quiet activity expresses one's true self, enabling the experience that each of us is infinitely more than a short-lived creature of flesh, senses, and emotions, hungering for gratification at so many levels. The unfolding understanding of the Reality of worldly phenomena - the Reality that exists beyond appearances - releases confidence uninhibited by limitations of human frailties and mortality.  This spiritual understanding is deeper than the self  assurance that comes from finding success in worldly affairs, wider than the good feelings that come from reputation, from being admired, from the nice words people say about us. These things can fade; confidence based on knowing our true self can never be lost. As practice matures, the mind learns to recognize the world as a cohesive, timeless whole, rather than as a series of isolated personal activities and experiences, driven by desires and expectations.

Rituals of Work and Ceremony

With time, ordinary activities are seen in a new way, not just as routine chores but as quiet rituals, the expression of something larger, universal. Work, usually envisioned as tedious and necessary, is embraced enthusiastically, rather than shunned. This attitude is succinctly expressed in this well-known saying:

[My] Supernatural power and marvelous activity;
Drawing water and carrying firewood.

So in addition to zazen, Zen temples and monasteries emphasize paying careful attention to simple tasks, including sweeping the floor, cleaning the toilets, cooking, and washing dishes.

Ritual ceremonies continue to play an important role in the practice of serious Zen students.  The orientation of Zen rituals is not a form of worship towards an external deity. Rather, chanting, bowing, and taking meals together in a reverential, carefully orchestrated way are considered active extensions of attentive sitting practice, continuing the attitude of "no self." As one Zen scholar points out:

As one engages in ritual, one's consciousness changes......Rituals work through the senses to cultivate wisdom in the bones.....rituals can help one feel the sense of connectedness bodily.

Taking Care

Zazen, work, and ceremonies are all understood as expressions of the true nature inherent in all things. Pursued mindfully, they diminish emphasis on personal issues, encouraging in its place selflessness and concern for the well-being of others. These activities enhance the individual's focus, discipline and "taking care" attitude. This reverence - expressing inherent enlightenment by being mindful to whatever we are doing in this moment - becomes the basis for the sense of well-being we seek.

The importance of "taking care" of ordinary activities, rather than taking them casually, is illustrated by the f
ollowing story:

Two monks are on a pilgrimage, following the tradition of traveling from temple to temple,       visiting and studying with well-known teachers in order to expand their practice and understanding. Walking beside a creek, they approach a well-known monastery.  A vegetable leaf appears, floating downstream. The monks pause; in dismay, they prepare to turn around and retrace their steps. Suddenly, a monk comes out of a side door, running towards the creek with a long pole. He stops at the edge of the water, reaching out to  retrieve the truant leaf. The two monks smile and quickly resume their journey to the temple.

No Dogma

Intrinsically spiritual in nature, Zen itself is not a religion in the usual understanding of that term.  Adherence to a philosophical belief system is not part of the practice.  At the same time, it does not discourage the Zen student from reading philosophical or religious texts or engaging in her traditional faith and attending the church, temple, or synagogue of her choice. What it does discourage is a closed mind and a narrow view of life. Suzuki-roshi put it this way:

"I discovered that it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing. That is, we have to believe in something which has no form or color - something which exists before all forms and colors appear. This is a very important point. No matter what god or doctrine you believe in, if you become attached to it, your belief will be based more or less on a self-centered idea."

Zen practice includes the practice of Buddhism, bringing together self-discipline and determination with generosity, patience, and a caring attitdue towards others.


Zen emphasizes understanding the true nature of all conditioned phenomena of the world we live in, including, mainly, ourselves. One usually begins by studying the various teachings about transiency, impermanence, and "no self," and the insights into how the human mind works to create desire and its own suffering. Reflecting on these ideas helps the mind appreciate things with a new perspective, not simply according to appearances or what "common sense"presents.  However, being limited to the intellect, the ideas are not enough to bring about deep understanding. It takes place only when our inherent, subtle wisdom expresses itself.

Giving the mind a chance to be still enables composure and wisdom to arise. It is the experiential way, allowing the busy mind to feel its basic quality, beyond the conglomerate, noisy things of the everyday world. It is the subtle way of seeing the world, including one's self and others. Without this subtlety, worldly things seem to us to be inherently either "attractive" or "unattractive." This arbitrary mental distinction in turn creates either desire or repulsion. Known in Buddhism as duality, it is the source of confusion and anxiety. By contrast, attentive stillness yields insight into non-distinction - not exciting in an everyday sense, but subtly revealing and joyous.

The Teacher

Starting with the Buddha and his followers, the teacher and the community have remained vital features of Buddhism. In Zen, the teacher is seen as the one who nurtures the practice, who brings the tradition forward to the present day, maintaining the connection with all past teachers back to Buddha himself. The teacher leads and encourages others, not by relying on preaching or admonition, but by setting the example. He or she is always in the meditation hall (Jap: zendo) for scheduled zazen. Through the wisdom of his/her own study and experience, he/she provides guidance to others in their practice, through lectures, personal interviews, and social engagement. With optimism and a supportive attitude, the teacher models ethical behavior and caring, the hallmarks of Buddhism since its beginning.

Most Zen teachers in the U.S. have had some years of monastic training. However, in contrast to Asian countries, a good number - perhaps half - have worked, or continue to work, in the everyday world and lead a more or less secular life. Their experiences bring "real world" relevance to the practice, enabling them to respond to the oft-asked question: "How do I bring my spiritual practice into my everyday life?"

The Zen Community

As in Buddha's original community (Jap: Sangha), Zen practitioners bring encouragement and support to each other by practicing together, whether in zazen, work, ceremony, informal social activities, or taking care of administrative affairs.  By nurturing friendship and trust, the Buddhist community provides a sense of sanctuary for its members.  Sangha is perhaps the most important concept in the Buddhist and Zen world view, as it represents the universal connection of all things, their inherent oneness.


Sports Illustrated. May 14, 1979

To earn that title, Tom Warren victoriously swam 2.4 miles through rough seas, bicycled 112 miles and all ran a marathon, all in a single day of agony

Barry McDermott

He was taking the gale head-on now, but at least I the stinging rain had stopped and his mind was still working. Keep concentrating, Tom Warren told himself. Still 20 miles to go, most of it into that awful wind, the same gale he had been fighting for 120 miles and almost nine hours. The bass drum in his leg was getting louder, and his head flopped sideways.

Up ahead stood a man and his wife, paunchy, middle-aged Hawaiian tourists, watching a spectacle outside their ken. Past the astonished couple the runner stumbled, shirtless, eyes down, concentrating to avoid delusion and shock. Finally the tourist could be quiet no longer. "Go, Iron Man!" he shouted. "Go, Iron Man!" Tom Warren, age 35, shuffled off. Still 20 miles to go. And the others were back there chasing him.

The athlete had been stung by a jellyfish and partially blinded by salt water. He had been lost and confused. Physically he was a mess. But still he kept on in this, the Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon, an event that involved swimming 2.4 miles in perilously stormy seas, then bicycling 112 miles around the island of Oahu, followed by a 26.2-mile marathon run. A fellow in a Superman outfit was among the competitors. They all shared a common reason for being there, a very compelling reason (some called it a curse): an addiction to inordinate amounts of exercise.

Warren did not want to take leave of his agony and look up at the distracting grandeur of the distant mountains. A man endures torture believing the end will come. On a bet Warren once did 400 sit-ups in a sauna. The man he bet against was to keep count, but he wilted in the intense heat and quit after 300. "You're crazy," he told Warren. Warren did the last 100 alone in the sauna. The prize was a bottle of beer.

That morning 15 people, including a woman, had ignored the boundaries of sanity and started the contest. It was a Sunday in January, the stormy season for Honolulu and the middle of one of the worst stretches of weather in recent years. In six days, five feet of rain had fallen in Hilo on the nearby big island of Hawaii. Now the waters off Waikiki boiled and frothed, stirred by winds of 40 miles per hour. A Navy officer of two decades of seagoing experience could not get his boat out of the harbor. That meant there would be only one rescue vessel in seas of four to six feet during the swim from the War Memorial Natatorium to Hilton Channel. The competitors were undeterred. This was a legal way to prove their toughness.

Originally 28 people had said they would enter—including three with shaved heads, one of whom wore an earring. Of those only 16 milled about in the early-morning darkness. The sky was black and the wind bent the palm trees. The vote was 13-3 to race. A balking, apprehensive woman entrant wondered why. "Everybody has to make their own decision," yelled a man in a rain slicker, one hand holding the hat on his head. "It's just like life." The woman walked away. She had dropped out of school and trained for a year to be in the contest. Still, she figured her life was worth more than that.

The Iron Man contest was born when someone wondered what would happen if endurance tests in swimming, bicycling and running were piled on one another in a single event. Twelve people finished the 1978 Triathlon. Three did not. One fellow turned delirious and quit. Another inexplicably said that he would run only 14 miles in the marathon. And the third wrecked his bike. He was unhurt, naturally, being an Iron Man, but his fretful father persuaded him to retire. All finishers received five-inch-high trophies made of nuts and bolts, each with a hole in the top, or, you might say, the head.

It would seem not much of an award for so great an effort, but the significance of the event is that there is no apparent significance. No prize money is involved, and little fame; last year's winner, bearded Gordon Haller, a 28-year-old retired taxi driver, was delighted to read a short race report in a Honolulu newspaper. Better yet, friends started sending him mail addressed "Iron Man." The 1978 event began as an experiment and included a mixed bunch of casual entrants. One fellow could barely tread water. Another bought a bicycle and learned to ride it the day before the race. In the run, a contestant stopped at McDonald's for a soft drink. The man who won the swim had a bad knee from an old karate injury and needed eight hours to complete the marathon. Organizer John Collins, a Navy commander, did not foresee that Gordon Haller and a college student named John Dunbar would bite the athletic bullet and almost kill themselves in the first contest.

Last year Dunbar splashed out of the ocean with a 20-minute lead over Haller. As Haller chased him the rest of the day, Dunbar slowly crumbled. He was not adequately prepared. The night before, he had been up until midnight packing supplies. After the swim he had to borrow cycling shorts for the bicycle ride, and then his support van became lost. Ten miles from the marathon finish, and hallucinating, Dunbar ran out of drinking water and guzzled two cans of beer.

Haller caught Dunbar four different times. On the first two occasions Dunbar had stopped to have his legs massaged. The third time he had stopped to urinate. Finally Haller passed Dunbar for good and finished in 11 hours and 46 minutes, running the last five miles in 31 minutes as Dunbar's physiological warning lights flashed and alarm bells sounded. Dunbar's time was 12:20. At the end he was staggering into parked cars and accusing his support-van driver of trying to poison him.

That was totally out of character for the 25-year-old Dunbar, a blond, open-faced fellow who is very good-natured and shy around strangers. He ran in a women's race last year wearing a T shirt that read TOKEN. But there is a serious side to Dunbar, and he had seethed ever since his 1978 defeat. When people mime his hardened competitive spirit, they clench their fists and make chomping, biting gestures, evidently comparing him with an implacable snapping turtle.

In the Navy Dunbar had been a member of the Seals, an elite underwater demolition group. On ambush training patrols, Seals are not allowed to swat mosquitoes, and during 23 weeks of schooling they are at times in mud all but three hours a day: that is when they sleep. One of the tough parts is log training, when a group of men run with a 300-pound log on their shoulders, shouting, "Kill." Seals are supposed to have the highest divorce rate, as well as dropout rate, in the military, but they think it unfair to them to be considered only as zealots who, on bets, bite heads off chickens or eat glass. They say they are looking for challenges.

Dunbar's rival, Haller, also was in the Navy. "The Seals aren't so tough," he says. "There were a few in my unit and I was tougher than they were."

Haller grew up in Forest Grove, Ore. as a studious, bashful sort. He took a degree in physics at Pacific University. Since then he has raised a beard, learned to modulate his voice at radio broadcast school, taken a speed-reading course, let his hair grow, studied the power of positive thinking, shed his timid ways and resculpted his body on exercise equipment. Around strangers he wears tight T shirts and subtly pops his muscles. Old friends don't recognize him. The revamped Haller finds joy in odd accomplishments; he is, for example, an expert on TV cartoon trivia. Someday he hopes to run cross-country—that is to say, across the entire country, the continental United States. Meanwhile, his
average yearly income runs between $4,000 and $5,000. He gave up driving a cab and now repairs roofs. More exercise to be had doing that.

Competing is Haller's real profession; he will sign entry blanks the rest of his life. "I'm good at it," he says. "If you've got a talent, don't waste it. Also, I like the feeling of power." During the months preceding the defense of his Iron Man title Haller trained back home in Oregon, running and swimming through fog, cold, rain, ice and snow, and pedaling his bicycle indoors on rollers. He drove 80 miles round trip several times weekly to exercise on Nautilus equipment. He has seen the movie Superman twice. A favorite scene is when the man of steel scans Lois Lane's lungs for cancer. Haller will not date a girl who smokes. He says he is happy.

Some people associate times of their lives with popular songs or love affairs. Haller does it with injuries. Thus, 1972 was the year he sprained his ankle four times. And he will never forget 1969. He was sick then for nine months, a siege precipitated by his exaggerated regimen. He was working out three times a day, had two girl friends, was staying up all night to study for exams and was preparing to run the quarter mile and half mile in a track meet. In succession he had mononucleosis, strep throat, hepatitis, dysentery, tonsillitis and trench mouth. His legs became paralyzed. "Then I really got sick," he says. His convulsions were so severe that he suffered a double hernia. "It was a good time to lay back and reflect on life—what was left of it." Haller lost 28 pounds in one week. "At the end of the week, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and I ate my first meal," he recalls.

Haller played the trumpet to ease the boredom of convalescence. Then his face became partially paralyzed. But worse, he felt, was the deterioration of his athletic skills. Frantically he fought against it. "I liked my crutches because they were building up my triceps," he says. Haller sneaked a rubber inner tube under his bedcovers and surreptitiously exercised with it, and, when nobody was home, he slipped outside and ran around the block. His time was 3:12, a minor disappointment. He rested and slept for three days, then did it again in 2:52. There is a big star in Haller's workout log for Jan. 5, 1970, the day the doctors pronounced him cured.

Now, on a spooky morning on Oahu, the competitors contemplated the start of this year's Iron Man contest. Ahead were hours promising pain, mental anguish and significant physical danger. John Dunbar arrived at the starting line wearing a Superman costume sewn by the sister of one of his support crew. Also present was "Cowman," 34, a bearded 6'3" individual weighing 215 pounds who competes in distance runs while wearing "caveman pants" and a buffalo hat made of fake fur with two large cow horns protruding from it. Another fellow had on a football helmet. Haller huddled in a rain jacket. And Tom Warren paced nervously. Warren had arrived as an unknown quantity from San Diego, where he owns a bar called Tug's Tavern. His trip cost $1,000, suggesting he could be just as serious about the event as Gordon Haller or John Dunbar. "Some people would take the $1,000 and buy furniture, but this is something you'll have with you for the rest of your life," Warren said.

That may be the essence of this type of contest. In San Francisco there is a man with a curlicued, waxed mustache four feet wide. It has changed a dull life. Writers interview him, and women are fascinated. Crowds part before him, and celebrities ask for his autograph. To Warren, the Iron Man contest does much the same thing. Warren is a blithe, irrepressible imp who speaks in an almost breathless voice, his eyes magnified behind his glasses. He says he does a secret type of sit-up and claims the bad feature of racing is that it interrupts his training routine. "I could never associate racing with pain," he says. "It's like going to school. You have to take exams to find where you stand."

On superficial inspection the triumvirate of Warren, Haller and Dunbar might appear to be the same person, one fanatic inhabiting three bodies. However, there are differences. Warren is able to combine a lust for training with the successful operation of his tavern, while Haller would be content never to work another day. Dunbar is somewhere in the middle. Believing that physical conditioning can become a cult activity, he vowed that this Iron Man contest would be his last, win or lose.

Commander Collins had postponed the race one day, then had delayed the scheduled 7 a.m. start, afraid not only that someone might drown in the turbulent passage but that during the 112-mile bike segment a sudden squall might unseat a rider. Warren was thinking of the wind, too. He planned to use it to his advantage on the bike leg, figuring he could ride it down the entire back side of the island, using his body as a sail. For this purpose he had installed an unusually high gear on his bike. He hoped to leave the younger fellows like Haller and Dunbar so far behind that they never would recover.

With starting time near, German martial music blared from Dunbar's van as he changed from his Superman costume into swim trunks. At the water's edge, Cowman, wearing his horned hat, knelt before the ocean.

"How are conditions?" one of the competitors asked a spectator.

"Terrible," came the answer.

"Good," was the reply.

The contest rules stipulated that each swimmer be escorted by a paddler. Finding one certainly would be no problem, since it is assumed that any young able-bodied man in Hawaii can handle himself in water. Well, 40 minutes into the race one of the paddlers had to be rescued. Unfortunately, he was Jamie Neely, Haller's guide. Neely said he was sorry, but he really was afraid for his life.

Ocean swimming is not like swimming in a pool, where Haller had trained diligently for 12 months. Last year in calm seas he managed the ocean swim in about 80 minutes. This time he hoped to lop off 20 minutes, improve significantly in the other events and complete the contest in 10 hours or less. In Oregon a few weeks before, he did half a triathlon at a 9:12 overall pace. But now, without a paddler, navigation became as much a problem as the high, cold seas. As Haller zigzagged, trying to stay on course, his strength was being sapped, as if he were swimming in jelly.

First out of the ocean was Ian Emberson, a 27-year-old restaurant manager for a Honolulu hotel. His time was 62 minutes and 35 seconds, a pace of 2.3 miles per hour. For comparison, distance swimmer Lynne Cox averaged 2.1 miles per hour on her most recent English Channel (20-mile) swim. Old Tom Warren finished four minutes later. Then in quick succession John Dunbar and Mike Collins, son of the Commander, arrived. The 16-year-old Collins was so debilitated that it would take him 14½ hours to complete the bike ride. Dunbar was thoroughly chilled, his body shaking and his arms and legs flopping about uncontrollably. A tourist looked on worriedly and said, "Doesn't he need rest?" As Dunbar climbed on his bicycle to take after Emberson and Warren, Haller was still hidden somewhere back in the swells of the ocean.

After the early finishers scrambled out of the water, the mood of Haller's support crew grew somber. Lyn Lemaire, a 27-year-old Bostonian and the only woman competing, emerged at the 76-minute mark. At length the defending champion was sighted, barely moving. Ten yards from shore, in water so shallow he could have stood, he weakly splashed in place. Finally he got up, stumbled and almost fell. "Is that all there is?" he wheezed. His time was 112 minutes. He was in ninth place, about 20 miles behind the cycling leaders. For this he had trained a solid year.

There were those who e
xpected Haller to quit, in exasperation if not in exhaustion. Winning seemed no more than a remote possibility. But Haller is convinced he is tougher than a Seal. He showered, changed clothes, swallowed some high-energy liquid nourishment and wobbled off after Warren, Dunbar and the others. Last year the bearded athlete had passed wilting rivals throughout the bike race. Maybe he could do so again. Now was the time to cash in on those days of pain recorded in his training logs.

Most of the Iron Man contestants keep precise training diaries. To them they are canceled checks to peruse fondly. Haller logs not only every shred of physical activity, but also each morsel of food and the time it was consumed. Junk food is underlined. He records his pulse rate, his sleeping time, injuries and the quality of the day. Tom Warren not only chronicles his daily exercise but makes copies that he sends each month to friends around the country. Most of them get thrown away; some do not. Fifteen years ago Warren swam for the University of Southern California. He has a standing bet with each year's swim team that he can do more exercise mileage per month than the entire team can do in practice. Coach Peter Daland reads Warren's monthly exercise tallies to the squad. Once Warren rode his bike from San Diego to Los Angeles, rolling onto the Southern Cal campus and into the natatorium to hand-deliver the workout sheet. The swimmers applauded.

Opinions differ as to what worthy competition is, what toughness is. To some, it is playing in a Super Bowl—or making enough money to drive a Mercedes-Benz. Last year a television-network president was interviewed at a college basketball game in New York City. Since then he has been replaced, which is perhaps immaterial, but at the time he commented that he was in his office daily at 7 a.m., and ate both lunch and dinner at his desk. He had taken a limousine uptown to see the first half of the basketball game but had to return to the office right after the interview. He usually knocked off around midnight, he said. There were a wife and kids at home. The contest he was competing in may not have been for everyone, but he said he was happy.

Among the Iron Man entries was an individual with a master's degree in exercise physiology, another with a degree in accounting, a fellow applying to law school, a research anesthesiologist, the treasurer of a San Francisco leasing company and Haller with his physics degree. Disparate as their backgrounds were, they shared a common bond. Henry Forrest, a Marine stationed in Jacksonville, N.C., had hitched rides on military transport planes to get to Honolulu. Until the 1978 Iron Man Triathlon, he had not ridden a bike since the fourth grade and had become lost during the race. He hoped to improve on his performance this year. People thought his name was Forrester, because when introduced he said rapidly, "Henry Forrest, sir."

Pedaling along during the first part of the bike race, Warren reflected that this would be a momentous day. His presence near the lead was surprising. A businessman closing in on middle age, he had less time for training than the unemployed Haller and Dunbar. When Dunbar, disgusted at the event's one-day postponement, had impulsively announced on Saturday that he would challenge Haller to do the course that day—just the two of them, man against man—off to the side stood Warren, unnoticed. No one thought to challenge the saloonkeeper. So Warren went down to a Waikiki bar, drank beer in solitude and watched a week-old television replay of the Hula Bowl.

While Haller and Dunbar were with friends, Warren was staying alone in a cut-rate hotel that had black-and-white TV sets with 12-inch screens. After 8 p.m. he couldn't be reached by phone. Warren had not trained in four days. He felt fat. And the weather was getting worse. Reports from the mountains mentioned snow and waterfalls where the water was being blown upward by the fierce wind. That night Warren turned up at dinner with some fans of the Iron Man contest; he was, by and large, ignored. The discussion centered on the merits of Haller and Dunbar, on which of those two had the better chance to win. Eventually Warren spoke up. "I just want to be a factor," he said. In the movie Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, playing a heavyweight challenger, said, "I just want to go the distance." Warren would not contradict the notion that the race would belong to Haller or Dunbar, but he wanted to go the distance, too, to be a factor.

Warren has owned his bar in San Diego for 10 years. It is a business not lacking in competition. The record for Thursday-night taco dinners is 1,519. The Sunday breakfast record is 1,003 omelets. One floor of Warren's four-level, $220,000 house is "Tug's Athletic Club." It has a whirlpool bath, a sauna and a weight machine. He also owns apartments and a five-bedroom, 80-year-old house that he and 15 friends once occupied. When he runs on the beach he stops at lifeguard stations to write down business ideas. His grammar isn't perfect, but in his business that is good cash-flow strategy.

With all of the entrants, Warren shares the love for competition, but, surprisingly, he hates gambling. "The gratification of winning money isn't as high as the discomfort of losing, therefore the odds are bad," he says. But he will bet on his body. For fun, he even competes over the time he can sit in the whirlpool. "Fat people are tough to beat. Especially women with those little skirts on their swimsuits."

Warren remembers when he first realized he was different. There was a boy in his neighborhood, a good swimmer, and the boy's parents urged the youngsters to race. Warren hesitated. The parents insisted. Tom Warren won, and afterward he cried, not because he won, but because he had to win.

In college he was a good swimmer, but teammates were better. They had been swimming seriously since infancy; he had started organized competitive swimming when he was 16. Warren will not play racquetball anymore and this is why. One regular opponent had beaten him repeatedly. Warren improved and finally won. The other fellow refused to play again. Warren wanted to keep beating him. He has not married; he is afraid he would always be badgering his children to work harder.

After a dozen miles of bicycling, Warren caught Emberson on a steep hill overlooking the Pacific, a point where the wind was so bad Warren's support car almost was blown off the road. The Californian bored ahead and broke the other man like a dry stick. Emberson swims five miles a day and carries his ocean gear to work, just in case conditions are conducive to swimming the channel between Oahu and Molokai, a 26-mile trip. But he is not a cyclist and had run only one marathon.

As the race developed, the rain stopped and two things became apparent. Warren was holding his lead and he was being chased by a woman. Lyn Lemaire was about 10 minutes behind and matching his pace. Emberson and Dunbar were falling back while Haller, feeling better now, was slowly gaining ground on them all. When Lemaire pedaled past Dunbar, Superman appeared startled, then asked a crew member, "Is she in the race?" Lemaire smugly turned and waved. She holds the American women's cycling record for 25 miles (1:00:6). At 5'6" and 148 pounds she is not a whole lot smaller than Warren, Dunbar and Haller, who are about 5'10" and 155 pounds.

Going down the length of the island, Dunbar trailed Warren by 15 minutes, then 30. He thought, "When is he going to stop?" Warren, the man who does sit-ups in saunas, was dreaming of cool rides through the evenings back home and thinking, "If I don't stop, nobody can catch me." His eyes watered from saltwater irritation, no big problem; Warren does not feel pain as most
people do. He won't allow himself to. Yet his feet are so tender that he has tried running races wearing women's nylon ankle socks to prevent blisters. It didn't help. Warren claimed to be in only mediocre shape, "but sometimes it's more fun that way," which is to say the challenge is greater.

Warren's mother, Josephine, comes from an athletic family. His father, George, who died in 1966, was a senior vice-president of a savings and loan bank, and had earned a college scholarship by playing the bugle. Tom's brother, Bill, is seven years older and, like his father, not interested in sports. Consequently, Tom grew up tugging at the sleeves of older kids who did not want to be bothered; hence his nickname Tug. The frustrated youth amused himself with solitary games. He set a record by swimming three miles, a total of 500 laps, in the 11-meter family pool. Only he knew it was a record. When racing, he wants the lead so no one can see the pain on his face.

As the bicycle race went on, Warren decided that if he stopped because of fatigue, he would act as if he had a fiat tire. He knew Dunbar and Haller were back there hoping.

Warren's support crew symbolized his haphazard approach to the race. Dunbar and Haller each had four people and two vehicles with them, and Dunbar's crew included Dr. Kent Davenport, an orthopedic surgeon, who had put the former Seal on a special diet. He was using an $800 bike and someone always rode alongside, helping to pace him. Warren had asked Hank Grundman, the proprietor of two local Nautilus fitness centers, to find a vehicle and two support drivers. First Grundman wanted a promise from Warren that he would not keep his support crew on the course all night. "I just want to be a factor," Warren told him. His eventual, minimal crew consisted of Stu Malmgren, a 240-pound occasional jogger, and Sue Nakamatsu, a hair stylist. Warren did not have a backup bike. As the race progressed, his crew's mood ran from initial surprise, to enthusiasm, to awe.

Turning back toward Honolulu, Warren's path took him up Route 99, a tortuously steep grade that arrows through pineapple and sugar-cane fields, and directly into the wind. On this stretch Ian Emberson balanced almost motionless, making virtually no forward progress against the gale. Warren began the six-mile climb with a 30-minute lead over Lemaire and a bit more over Dunbar, but the pursuers took an alternate route that was more sheltered and made up great chunks of time. The woman cyclist closed to within five minutes. "Where's the girl?" Warren kept shouting. He started pumping harder.

Fighting their way far behind the increasingly concerned leader, Haller and Dunbar hoped that their chance would come in the marathon when Warren finally might collapse. Haller is a fine runner, and Dunbar, in the last year, had improved so much in the marathon that his best time now was two hours and 39 minutes. If he wanted to concentrate on the event and lose 25 pounds, he probably could become world class. In 1977, his final year at Honolulu's Chaminade University, Dunbar lived on campus, sleeping in a van for six months. Now that he had graduated, he was staying in a one-room cottage that rented for $160 a month—nothing much, but a spacious dwelling to someone accustomed to life in a 6' by 15' metal box on wheels. Dunbar planned to apply to law school and to get a job as soon as the contest was over. It had been a long year. During the previous week the normally placid youth had noticed that his pulse rate was up.

Leader Tom Warren pedaled into downtown Honolulu, hunched over his bicycle, legs churning so hard that his support car was haying trouble keeping pace. When he pulled up to the finish line, he discarded his bike, smeared Vaseline on his feet and shed his shirt to reveal a back turned scarlet by exertion. A television man stuck a microphone at him. "How do you feel?" he said loudly, like a man yelling down a cave.

"I don't feel like dancing," answered Warren.

His time in the bike ride was six hours and 19 minutes, the Oahu bicycle club would be embarrassed to know; a fine time for a fresh club member on the same course is just under six hours. Warren had all but buried his fagged rivals in the final 25 miles. The second-place cyclist, Lemaire, finished 11 minutes behind Warren after leg cramps stopped her eight times in the last 10 miles. In the same stretch, Dunbar halted and switched bikes twice because he was uncomfortable on the seat. His eyes were receding, his face drawn and wan, his complexion going fishy.

Up ahead, early in his marathon phase, a factor named Tom Warren jogged past Waikiki Beach and down the middle of Kalakaua Avenue, serenely singing the Southern Cal fight song. If he won the contest, Warren planned to purchase a $600 wooden lion. He is amused by such artifacts. His tavern has a mock smokestack and a ship painted on the side of the building.

Warren's typical garb is shorts and T shirt. Once in France he noticed that people were whispering. He asked his Parisian girl friend why. "They think you're vulgar," she sniffed. The athlete had been walking to the Seine River in his bathing suit and goggles for a swim. As he ran through downtown Honolulu, dodging in and out of traffic, his back burnished red, no one paid him any heed.

About five miles into the marathon Warren knew that Dunbar had passed Lemaire and Emberson but was trailing by almost 30 minutes. The other threat, Haller, was another 30 minutes behind that because of his disastrous swim. Warren was reminded of a friend who for a year told the story of Warren winning a 15-mile lake race. "And he never broke stroke!" the man would say. Now as he plodded dumbly into the wind, Warren knew that the young men behind him could not catch up. "Don't break stroke," he thought over and over.

Life's tailings have significance for Tom Warren, who cherishes what most people throw away. Occasionally he will run from San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico. Then when someone asks how far he ran that day, he can shrug and say, "To Tijuana." People are impressed. "You need the incentive," he says.

Basically, he is deformed. When he tires, he grows silent, his right leg splays out and his head tilts toward his right shoulder. At 22 months he fell and broke his leg. It itched. Three times he broke off the cast by smashing it against a wall. Finally it was reinforced with steel. The leg healed crookedly. Most times, you cannot tell, but when he is fatigued his body leans grotesquely. Good runners blanch when he passes them, as if to say, "If I can't beat that, I quit."

Watching fatigue overtake the leader, onlookers were sure that he was finally unraveling. Johnny Faerber, a local marathoner, jumped in to run with Warren, offering counsel in the soothing tones of a man comforting a sick animal. With about 10 miles to go, Faerber whispered to a spectator, "I don't think he's going to make it." Four miles behind, Dunbar's handlers were goading their charge with this message: Warren is cracking up. Keep going. Keep going.

Faerber had no way of knowing that the splay-footed runner laboring beside him did not have a high pain threshold, but simply no threshold at all. Warren listened impassively to Faerber's advice. He had decided to win the Iron Man contest, and so he slogged on, measuring his stride against a series of dotted highway markers. The pain in his leg was a reverberating drum. All day long he had eaten only an orange and a roll. He would go the distance.

Suddenly, Gordon Haller loomed up ahead in the distance. Warren's route had doubled back on itself toward Honolulu and the finish line in Kapiolani Park. Almost nine miles behind the leader, Haller had stopped to take a drink. His handlers surrounded him. Warren speeded up significantly, his stride lengthened and his head was held uprig
ht. Upon seeing him, Haller was incredulous at the apparent absence of pain. He was getting a competitor's view of Warren's face for the first time in nine hours.

Examining the race leader's composed features, Haller felt as if he had been shot. In the next hour Dunbar came to feel the same way. In his final Iron Man contest he would be a loser.

Ahead a triumphant Tom Warren was approaching the finish line with renewed vigor. A light rain fell, and his pickup crew sprinted with him, along with a group of laughing teen-agers. He completed the marathon in 3:51. About 20 people were waiting at the finish. It had taken him 11 hours, 15 minutes and 56 seconds to become the Iron Man, a day's work for a lifetime reward. The scene was reminiscent of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when the character Life-in-Death shouts, "The game is done! I've won. I've won!" For every time Warren wins, he is cursed to try again. That is why he cried as a young boy by the family swimming pool. With thirst unslaked, this albatross around his neck, he sails on and on.

Tom Warren lay on the grass and talked as onlookers stood in awe. When he tried to rise he held out a shaky arm and a slight man in his late 60s pulled him to his feet. A little later there was a minor commotion. Cowman was jogging by, just starting the first phase of the marathon. He had taken almost 2½ hours in the ocean and just under nine hours on his bike. His real name is Ken Shirk. When he works, it is in construction, usually in Lake Tahoe. As he passed he let out a weird, loud yodel.

Of the 15 entries, 12 finished. A Naval physician from San Diego, Frank Day, wrenched his knee in the swim and had to quit midway in the marathon. And two youngsters, Dave Heffernan and Dennis Cahill, had assorted mishaps and retired from their agony in the run. Emberson was third in 12 hours and 23 minutes. Haller needed 12:31, strengthening as the day progressed and as he got farther from the debacle of the swim. His marathon time was fastest of the group, eight minutes faster than Warren's. Lyn Lemaire finished fifth overall in 12:55. She ran hard at the finish. Henry Forrest improved his overall time by 35 minutes, sir. Cowman finished in 16 hours and 41 minutes, his horns in place.

Warren was waiting when Dunbar crossed in second place. This was the real awards ceremony. Dunbar's numbed eyes widened when he saw the winner, now recovered in the 48 minutes he had put between them. The youngster's knees buckled and his body weaved a swaying dance. He was mumbling thickly, offering his congratulations. Warren quipped, "Ready to go bar-hopping?" But the dazed Dunbar was rushed off and wrapped in blankets. For a brief time his legs were paralyzed.

While Dunbar's handlers gently poured warm water over him, Haller, the deposed champion, and Warren, the new one, went off together and sat in a Jacuzzi, swapping training stories until midnight. It was, they agreed, a way of life. In another room, Hank Grundman and six others who had served on various support crews dozed in exhaustion. After two hours Warren emerged from the Jacuzzi. Later he tried to talk someone into breakfast, but there was no one still strong enough to lift a fork, so at 1:30 a.m. the new champion walked in the rain down a deserted Honolulu street. He was wearing a T shirt and shorts. A couple of miles away, Commander John Collins stood sentinel in the park, waiting for his son, Mike, still running early in his marathon. The youngster would finish at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Tom Warren shuffled down the street unnoticed, hands in pockets and head bent under the rain, moving back middle age another day, going the distance, cursed to win so that he will not lose, the bright-eyed Mariner, all alone, alone on a wide, wide sea.

Knowing versus believing

Reading blogs from other people who train and/or do endurance sports has always been refreshing to me. It rekindles motivation and it takes me out of my funk that has nothing to do with events or running/biking/swimming.

Reminded me again that we all face challenges but that the important thing is to meet them head-on and not to back away from them. Stresses from other areas of life are bleeding into training and I can’t really afford that, at least not this week with 2 weeks left before the race and 1 week, and 7 to 10 days  of actual training time. The third link actually was the most important one.  I have to constantly remind myself why am I doing this. Why did I agree to train and work my ass of the way I have? The first one was a challenge coming from a friend, the second one was more an impulse and the third one is because it is the right thing to do, it’s free training for a cause. I set up a pretty tough schedule for the second half of 2009, including a half marathon (maybe with Team in Training), swimming from the Bay Bridge to Golden Gate and who knows, eventually start working towards a 70.3 half Iron Man (which is my goal within the next 5 years) I think I got a big shot in the arms in terms of motivation yesterday (06/04/2009) when I found out that my running technique needs only a little bit of tweaking rather than the major work I thought I was going to need.  I guess I’ll have a chance to prove it on Sunday 🙂

Right now it looks like I’ll be staying in San Jose for a while longer at least.  The department of Anthropology accepted me for the Master’s in Applied Anthropology… I need to wait to see if the University will accept me; it’d be really ironic if the department were to accept me (which they have already) and the university were to reject me (which may still happen.) Although I am still passionate about UGA I am not really holding my breath. It’s been about 10+ weeks since I applied and 8+ weeks since I fixed the application and talked to the Dr. Reeves (the graduate coordinator) about what it is that I needed to do and how I needed to do it to resubmit the stuff that was rendered irrelevant by the faculty member who I had picked as my advisor not going to be there in the fall.  I wonder how long do you have to wait to get an answer and how does how long they take to answer affect the kind of answer and how you deal with the fallout of said answer.

The two videos in this page are what I’ve been using for motivation… It gets tough to stay motivated and training as hard as I have requires a little bit of mental push. I hadn’t really realized it but endurance sports are as much a mental exercise as they are physical