Saturday, January 18, 2014

Channeling My Inner Zebra?

As athletes, we all have our rituals and checklists.  Certain clothes need to be worn and aren’t worn for several weeks before the race just in case there is a cataclysmic breakdown of all washers and dryer in a six state radius of one’s race.  Bags need to be packed with the precision of a NASA employee sending someone to the ISS. 

And then, there’s the nutrition…  When you’re young, it’s not as big of a deal.  You can eat pizza and drink beer until two in the morning, get up and race the next day like it’s just another day at the office.  Not so when you’re middle-aged or beyond.  Meal planning starts days, weeks or sometimes months before the race.  We all know that fiber is usually our friend.  Not so a couple of days before a big race.

Fiber + big race = big dump… in a port-a-potty… out on the course…       where TP is not always accessible.   Not fun. 

Yes, as athletes, we’re a quirky bunch.  Joe saves his checklists from races and we eat the same thing (if possible) the night before a race – “Dad’s Easy Chicken”.  He has me write some phrase of the day on his arms before his Ironman races.  And, Joe has instilled in me the need to get a good night’s rest two nights before the race, because he says that’s the sleep you race on, not the sleep from the night before your race.  My buddy Stefanie paints her toenails bright pink and her fingernails black to remind herself to be tough, but to have fun.   Don and Megan eat cinnamon rolls for breakfast together on race day.  I wear something pink, to remind me to remember those that can’t race.  Coffee and McDonalds on race morning are also popular with our crowd.

As I showered today I was thinking about all the things we do in hopes that our races will be easier, that we will be faster, stronger, better.  As luck would have it, I was rinsing out the zebra-print headband at the time.  “I know,” I thought, “I need to come up a visual cue that will help me stay in my box and focus during my races this year.  A fun animal print would be good.”  

Now, those that know me and know my wardrobe will tell you that while I love bright colors, I’m not a pattern kind of gal.  Being as petite as people tell me I am (I’m not that small, people!), I generally stick to solid colors or small patterns.  And things must match!  I loved Granimals as a kid.  There is a reason my scuba instructor called me Gap Girl. 

The only reason that I even had a zebra print headband was because it was included in a multi-pack of headbands.  Since I was wearing purple and black workout gear today, I figured it “went” well enough.  But, I digress.  Back to my newly formed and soon-to-be-instituted ritual –an animal print something or other to make me feel bold, to make me feel, strong, to make me feel fast…  Yeah, I know.  A girl can dream.

What’s the fastest land mammal?  A cheetah.  “That’s it!  I’ll find some fun cheetah-print item to wear when I race,” I thought. 

But then I started thinking about cheetahs.  While they may be the fastest land mammals, they are sprinters and peter out after only a few short minutes of work.  I am a distance athlete.  I need to swim and bike and then run some more to reach the finish line.  And, when you look at a cheetah’s success rate, it’s pretty paltry.  Only fifty percent of a cheetahs hunts are successful.  And really, how many of us really look like the human version of a cheetah?  Well, yeah, Chrissie Wellington or Meredith Kessler do and Andy Potts or Jesse Thomas, but I’m talking about regular real people, not pros or genetic anomalies.   

I am not a cheetah; I identify more with zebras.  Just for fun I pulled up a couple of websites about zebras to do a little research.  My favorite was this one from Kids Konnect:
According to the website, zebras have excellent eyesight (For seeing the course clearly, my dear.), great hearing (The better to hear the competition coming up behind them, my dear.), and excellent sense of taste and smell (To smell the competition’s fear and to taste sweet victory, my dear.). It stated that zebras are short, stocky, social animals.  Zebras were sounding more and more like me than the lithe, beautiful solitary cheetahs. 

Next I checked Google to see how fast zebras and cheetahs could run.  Here’s a nifty little website although they don’t have cheetahs as one of their highlighted animals.  According to this website, zebras can run up to forty miles per hour.  A cheetah can go from zero to sixty in less than three seconds, but remember… its’ success rate for kills is only about 50%.  Talk about good odds for the zebras, especially when you take into consideration that the cheetahs aren’t always targeting only zebras.  I’ll take the zebras’ odds any day.  I know.   I know.   What about when you factor in the kill rates of lions with the cheetahs against the zebras?  I still think the zebras would be ahead of the power curve, and have you EVER seen ANY lion-print accessories?  Work with me here.   

 So, based on my not-so-extensive or scientific research, I think that when I compare animals in the animal kingdom; I am more like a zebra than a cheetah.  Look for my super-cool zebra print accessories that I’ll be sporting this season.  I hope that it’ll make me faster.  If not, I’d better practice my dodge and weave technique to avoid the cheetahs out on the course.

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