Break the Resolution Cycle and Get Active
January, 2012 - Issue #87
"Marathon. Mud run. Mountain bike race. Mini triathlon. It doesn't matter what it is, just GET IT ON THE CALENDAR."

It's January again, so it must be time for resolutions.

So what's it going to be - the usual? Eat healthier. Work out more. Watch less TV.

Here's the real question - do you really want to do any of those things? Didn't think so.

This year, resolve to skip the resolutions, and, instead, sign up for a challenge. Marathon. Mud run. Mountain bike race. Mini triathlon. It doesn't matter what it is, just get it on the calendar. Then get a friend to join you. Then get to work training together. A goal, coupled with external motivation and accountability, will trump any resolution and get results.

To make it really fun, pick an event that's held out of town and make a weekend of it. This being Southern California, there is no shortage of possibilities in terms of location and degree of difficulty. Visit and you'll almost be overwhelmed by the choices. There is something scheduled somewhere on any given weekend for every ability level.

So what makes me such an expert? It isn't my lightning fast times, just personal experience.

Mountain biking is my preferred form of exercise. Running is a close second. They're so fun I hesitate to call them exercise. Tackling the local trails in Castaic is far more appealing than pedaling a stationary bike or floundering away on a treadmill while watching the Kardashians on closed caption.

Going out for a morning ride or run is one thing. But signing up for a duathlon that combines a seven-mile ride with a three-mile run to the top of Mt. Baldy is a whole different level of intensity. Still, I knew that having an already-paid-for commitment on the calendar would be the perfect motivation to ride more, run farther and improve my diet. Plus, it was sponsored by Red Hook Brewing - so there was something cold and foamy to look forward to at the finish line.

I pushed myself training in the weeks leading up to the race. As the race started and we rolled out of the ski lift parking lot, I felt confident. That faded when we hit the first hill and I began gulping for oxygen. The elevation was 6,000 feet and it was only climbing higher.

I pumped my legs, but my lungs couldn't match the pace. I settled into a much lower gear than I was used to and resigned myself to grinding away. The fire road climbed up the mountain winding through pine trees and under the ski lift. Finally, I reached 7,800 feet, did a couple laps around the top of the mountain, and then dismounted for the run. More bad news.

The three-mile run headed straight up a steep, rocky trail. Again, my body was starved for oxygen. Puffing and picking my way carefully along the path, I settled into a walk. Other racers on the downhill leg flew by me, shouting encouragement on the way.

The run topped out at 8,700 feet with amazing views of the San Gabriel Valley on one side and the high desert on the other. I took a cursory glance as I gulped down water and oranges at the summit aid station before heading back downhill toward the finish line.

Given my training pace, my goal was to finish the race in 90 minutes. The altitude provided a rude reality check. More than two hours after I started, I finally jogged across the finish line.

Other finishers passed around pitchers and cheered their success. I thought I would have wanted a beer, and I had certainly earned it. But exertion did what no resolution ever could. It made me crave something healthy.

I celebrated with water and a banana.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic and regularly rides the mountain bike trails there.

Let's Get Physical
When you're ready to race, visit for a list of events from 5Ks to full Iron Man triathlons.

Whatever your athletic interest or ability level, chances are you'll find the perfect race - along with training plans and nutrition tips.
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