Leave a comment

Regression to the mean

It’s about time for me to regress to the mean. For those of you who have read Daniel Kahneman‘s best seller, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. He talks a great deal about luck, optimism and probability – all of which have been in my favor for far too long. Some of you have heard my casual explanation for the world’s way of “re-balancing” in the past, but he does a great job of explaining it in a much more scientific way.

The reason is simple. When I signed up for the ultramarathon 3 months ago, I never expected to actually place. I wrote it down as a stretch goal in my training diary and promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until check point 3, 15 km into the first race day, that the goal truly felt within reach. The staff told me that the female front runner was only 100 meters ahead and openly laughed at my shock. While I never managed to catch her, I am very proud of my sub-12 hour time. The course and scenery were magnificent, with views of the Annapurna range and trails along terraced rice paddies. Below are the only three pictures I took of the course. The last few km lead us through the old stone streets of a small mountain town, lined with villagers cheering and tossing flower petals. I will never forget it.

My first week in Nepal could be an email all by itself, but I decided that an annotated map would be a more playful way to share the story. Hope you enjoy it! The pictures are available here.

The road leading up to the race was equally fulfilling and varied. Thanks to everyone who supported me – either by training with me, providing advice, or putting up with my restrictive eating and drinking habits. Below are some rough stats.

  • Kilometers run/hike: 298 km
  • Steps: 1,707,015
  • Treks: Langtang Valley (Nepal), Gosainkund (Nepal), Tongariro Alpine Crossing (New Zealand)
  • Summits: Lantau Peak (934m), Lion Rock (495m), Mission Peak CA (767m), Sharp Peak (468m), Sunset Peak (869m), Tai Mo Shan (957m), The Twins (363/386m), Victoria Peak (552m)
  • Activities: badminton, boxing, hiking, rock climbing, running, squash, stand up paddle board, tennis, TRX, walking, weight lifting, yoga

If you’re interested in learning more about my training regimen, I’m happy to elaborate, but I won’t bore everyone with the details. What I will share are a few of the surprises. First, it’s amazing how changing trigger habits have a domino effect. By making a new habit of waking up early for training 6 days a week, I quickly reduced my drinking, snacking and spending (no walking home late and depleted of will power past four 7-11s after two glasses of wine). Second, strength training is equal to if not more valuable for me than running. Building up core and leg strength was perfect for the race and had the added benefits of increased metabolism and improved body composition. Third, cutting out the noise (read alcohol and sugar) made listening to my body extremely easy and rewarding. Now I can feel how different foods and hydration levels impact my system and effectively manage them.

Now the challenge I face is incorporating these learnings back into “regular” life. A very smart person recently told me that balance is an illusion. After years of seeking it unsuccessfully, I am tempted to agree with him. Whenever I focus on a single goal, my progress is obvious and swift. When my energies and priorities are divided, balance is fleeting and momentum is inconsistent. It’s inevitable that I will regress towards the mean some, but I hope to retain a fair portion of the energy, strength and understanding that I’ve gained. Perhaps a challenge like the Mongolia Action Asia 100k Ultramarathon will keep me focused :].


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *