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5778: A Year of Great Expectations

October 18, 2017

5778: A Year of Great Expectations[1]

 “From time to time you think someone is hitting with a baseball beneath your knees and you just want to drop out, …” – Patrick Lange – Winner Kona Ironman 2017

Parsha (Torah Portion) Noah in a nutshell from

G‑d instructs Noah—the only righteous man in a world consumed by violence and corruption—to build a large wooden teivah (“ark”), coated within and without with pitch. A great deluge, says G‑d, will wipe out all life from the face of the earth; but the ark will float upon the water, sheltering Noah and his family, and two members (male and female) of each animal species. 

Rain falls for 40 days and nights, and the waters churn for 150 days more before calming and beginning to recede. The ark settles on Mount Ararat, and from its window Noah dispatches a raven, and then a series of doves, “to see if the waters were abated from the face of the earth.” When the ground dries completely—exactly one solar year (365 days) after the onset of the Flood—G‑d commands Noah to exit the teivah and repopulate the earth.

Noah builds an altar and offers sacrifices to G‑d. G‑d swears never again to destroy all of mankind because of their deeds, and sets the rainbow as a testimony of His new covenant with man. G‑d also commands Noah regarding the sacredness of life: murder is deemed a capital offense, and while man is permitted to eat the meat of animals, he is forbidden to eat flesh or blood taken from a living animal. 

Noah plants a vineyard and becomes drunk on its produce. Two of Noah’s sons, Shem and Japheth, are blessed for covering up their father’s nakedness, while his third son, Ham, is punished for taking advantage of his debasement.

The descendants of Noah remain a single people, with a single language and culture, for ten generations. Then they defy their Creator by building a great tower to symbolize their own invincibility; G‑d confuses their language so that “one does not comprehend the tongue of the other,” causing them to abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations. 

The Parshah of Noach concludes with a chronology of the ten generations from Noah to Abram (later Abraham), and the latter’s journey from his birthplace of Ur Casdim to Charan, on the way to the land of Canaan.

Not planning to do my normal post-race Blog, my daughter Michaela commented that my Melbourne Marathon race number, 5778 is the current Jewish year. In Shule (synagogue) on this past Sabbath, Rabbi Noam Sendor commented that we all need to look back at this ‘marathon’ of Jewish festivals and take some inspiration, meaning and life lessons etc.

 “There is a quote in the Talmud that ‘when a mitzvah comes your way, run to do it at the first opportunity.’”

Many people have the custom that straight after Yom Kippur they start to put up their Sukkah to fulfil the quote above, but what else did I learn from this mitzvah? The goal of Sukkot is to take the spiritual experience of Yom Kippur and bring it down to the reality in which we live and to make it part of our everyday routine. If we hum and we ha, we do nothing.

A race is very different experience to a training run. It is a bit of a spiritual experience, and while the memories are fresh in my mind, I need to try bringing this experience into my training and planning or setting a goal for my next challenge?

After a tough training year and my forced break from training, I did not set a very high goal for this race. Normally, I potentially over-train for an event to make sure I am 110% prepared, but I was way more relaxed in my training and the pace I set in my training runs.

Before the race, I said to my mate Anthony Barnett that I was planning to run in the 3:40 or 3:50 group. He said that I was crazy and should join him and his running mate Neda Nahemoff in the 3:30 train. I had not really done a training run at 5mins/km pace or tested this pace on a run? “Embrace courage. // Crush life” – Robyn NYC  – So, against my better judgement I joined them and will share my experience and lessons:

  • Following a bad plan” – Matt Frazier (The No Meat Athlete[1]) – I think that this was key to me doing the time that I did start slowly and built up to a good steady pace rather than racing out the blocks. I have noticed that since coming back from my forced break that I have been able to hold a certain pace, but have battled when the pace speeds up or people surge. This I think was my undoing with about 3km’s to go. I am sure as my base builds I will get stronger, but understand that this all takes time and patience.
  • Even champs have a bad day – In Lance Armstrong’s Stages Podcast[2] that was a race re-cap of the Kona Ironman. In the podcast, Lance said that the previous year’s winner, Jan Frodeno was this year’s hero. Jan was reduced to stretching on the side of the road and walking 5km’s into the run. BUT he pushed on, finished, ‘honoured’ the race and his fellow competitors. (See Instagram post[3])Frodeno floor

 “It was a downright awful day,” he admitted. “Just when you think you’ve got this race figured out, it does a 180 on you and I guess it’s a tradition of our sport. So many guys out there are still fighting and fighting for a long time and it was my first taste of what some of the age groupers get to feel. Again, my respect for you guys has grown.” – Jan Frodeno

So what does this have to do with my experience… Well. At about 13km’s Anthony Barnett who has 10 x more experience than me, needed a toilet stop and said that he would catch up to us. Neda and I kept hoping that Ant would catch us, but unfortunately, he had a very bad day, and was unable to catch us, which was disappointing to us and very upsetting for Ant, but he persevered… You just never know how your body is going to respond on race day. No training or experience can prepare you for this…

  • On route, Neda’s neighbour and family were cheering her on, which was very exciting for her on her first marathon (Family – I was not expecting to see you, so don’t feel guilty). Neda ran so consistently and was able to pull away from me in the last few km’s and run under 3:30. Bumping into her neighbour the next morning at the pool, he said that Neda is very headstrong. So much to do with an endurance event is in the mind. I don’t think we fully understand how powerful our minds are and what we are capable of. (Yip I am thinking of David Goggins[4]).

“If you have ANY mental toughness, if you have any fraction of self-discipline; The ability to not want to do it, but still do it; If you can get through to doing things that you hate to do: on the other side is GREATNESS” – David Goggins

  • With about 6-8km’s to go in the race, I suddenly got so bloated (GI Issues). I was able to push on, but it is not very comfortable. “Unfortunately, what can result from a focused attempt to obtain carbohydrate calories for high fuel needs, is that your stomach becomes overfull and does not empty quickly or comfortably[5].” For years, I have been trying to get off the sport brand products without much success. Post-race on the Stages Podcast, I was listening to Lance’s discussions with triathlon greats, Mark Allen and Dave Scott. Dave provided unbelievable insights on nutrition and discussed these GI issues. Hopefully, with what I have learnt from the race and the advice of experts I am hoping this will put me in a better position for my next race. The answer may be avoiding sports bars and using salt tablets?
  • I noticed that there is a high correlation between highly structured training program prepared by an expert and race performance. I must congratulate some of IMG_1999my running buddies who followed these ‘crazy’ training programs an achieved unbelievable PB’s – Well done Daniel, Danny, Mark & Barak. Len B, you have inspired us all this year and I hope your injury is not too serious. What was just as inspiring was seeing so many Team Bear runners doing the Marathon. Well done to you all, especially first-time runner Evan Nathanson. There is one other person I need to congratulate – Adrian Godlewicz. I would not say he runs with us, as with a turn of speed he leaves us in his wake. Adrian has been very reluctant to do an organised race, so I was very surprised to see him at the start (he entered a few days before the race), but with his immense talent he was able to do his first marathon under 3hours.
  • Slightly off the topic, but very important is to thank people who have supported, guided and loved you during your training – Thanks, Loren. I have recently heard a few Podcasts featuring Esther Perel. Esther is an author, a psychotherapist and a self-described expert in relationships and sexuality. As an athlete, we can sometimes get selfish and forget about our family and spouses. One lesson I learnt from a recent Esther Perel Podcast with Mia Freedman[6], was that she said that what ‘turns a woman on’ is when she is removed from her ‘responsibility’ as a wife and a mother. So, as a husband, it is not about ‘helping’ with the dishes etc. , but taking ‘responsibility’ for the dishes, removing this burden from our spouses and giving them time to think about themselves and do something for themselves without this burden of ‘responsibility’.

To end a quote from Rabbi Meir Sendor[7] for the year ahead “May we all be blessed for the year ahead … – for a year of healing, prosperity, inspiration, creativity and closeness to Hashem and to each other.” Plus with good health, a healthy lifestyle and improved performance. BUT we need to remember that most of us will settle back into our routines, perhaps relieved that the Yom Tovs and marathons are over. So before you get too comfortable, remember all those resolutions, those goals and those ideas.

I just had to re-end with a lesson from Matt Frazier on the mistakes runners make “Actually, you know another big mistake people make? This one is sort of different… It’s that they don’t think running a marathon is possible for them. They think it takes a certain type of person to be able to run 26.2 miles (42.195kms).

Nope. Unless you have a serious medical condition, you can run a marathon. I mentioned earlier how I overcame injuries (that’s a story for another time) and have since run ultramarathons.”

[1] “Marathon mistakes = sad runners” – Matt Frazier – Email


[3] Janfrodeno So this is where it all unravelled for me today. A pretty sudden muscle spasm locked my lower back up (SI joint) and it took me a good 10min to even be able to stretch it. Not sure if a nerve got some pressure or I need a spoon full of cement to harden up, but this was one of the more painful experiences I’ve had. After 5k of walking things started to loosen up and I could even get back to some jogging. But I guess that makes me one of many out there today who just had to honour this race and their fellow competitors by bringing it home. Until next time… ( )


[5]





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One Comment
  1. Mom permalink

    Enjoyed the theme of your blog and its connection to our marathon celebration of Jewish festivals. Especially appreciated your quote from Rabbi Sendor (senior’s). Very well done to you and ALL your friends who participated in the marathon..

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