Why do I exercise?

I guess everyone understands exercise is important. Yet the variability in our exercise regimen is huge. I have friends for whom exercise is walking to the fridge at half-time for another six pack (though the Yeti may soon make that hike extinct). I have a friend / coworker (Jim Holt) who could outrun me even if he were carrying me on his back, because he exercised every nonworknonsleep moment. And everything in between.

I exercise because I want to live a bit longer, but more importantly I want a higher quality of life as I get older. I actually think my life expectancy is largely determined already, but how ambulatory and self-sufficient I will be at 60 or 70 or God willing 80 is something I can influence through diet and exercise. Plus I’m having a grandson in October, and I’d like to see him graduate college. And not from a wheelchair.

So I exercise. I set a new personal record on the Billy Goat Trail today, 42 minutes and 45 seconds. I am exhausted and sweating Gatorade and my eyes hurt. But i did it. I wrote a month or two back that everything you need to know in life you can learn on the Billy Goat, and each time I run it I see that clearer.

I talked about how you have to have a short-term, a long-term and a medium-term view on the trail just as in life. I did a great job with the long-term view today. I hydrated before, during and after the hike/run. I paced myself so I didn’t burn out on the relatively easy first third of the course. I studied the course beforehand to reduce the chance of getting lost. All good long-term stuff.

I did really well on the short-term, watch-every-step-closely-so-you-don’t-twist-your-ankle stuff, too. I actually planned 2 or 3 steps ahead almost continuously, which I feel contributed most to my improvement. If you’re just looking a step ahead on the BGT, chances are you may end up stuck on a bad ledge; by looking ahead a coupla steps, you actually optimize your path quite a bit. But I didn’t get too far ahead of myself and lose focus on the very next step, ‘cuz that’s when you twist an ankle or fall. And I only had two missteps today, neither of which hurt. Much.

I kind of blew the medium-term, though. I got lost twice, once for 30 seconds and once for 2 1/2 minutes. I was kind of surprised when I checked my split time to see that I had gone fast because of this. I think I lost the mid-term focus because I was moderately obsessed with the short-term 3 step lookahead deal. That’s the challenge, keeping all three views in balance. I’m not sure I’d change how I approach it next. At some point I’m going to memorize this damn trail, not get lost, and finish it almost before I start it.

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