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The Lent Project: Day 21

As I write, we're in the middle of our largest snowfall of the year in Chicago. Some parts of the area will get 10 inches--though we're never the most because we live too close to the city.

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Yesterday, Cole was playing in the dining-room-turned-playroom...which was covered in toys...and he turned to me and said, "this place is a mess." Ok then. After I got done laughing in my head, I said, "should we clean up a little?"

His response was to grab the toy vacuum we got Leda for Christmas and pretend clean while saying over and over, "it's a mess!" in delighted tone.

No clue where he got this from though I think is speaks volumes about how our household works. lol

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My first night of my first ever triathlon training plan was a little bit of a letdown...because, basically, it was the same workout I've been doing for weeks. A short swim.

But tonight's workout will finally be something a little different. A bike! Thank goodness I can just pop downstairs to the bike trainer given the weather, right? It will feel weird to put on bike shoes, shorts, etc. though.

Last night's swim was nothing all that different, but I must have either been excited and pushing a little harder or my technique must have changed ever-so-slightly because I was sore and needed to stretch some. My arms don't surprise me, though my back and neck was a little tight as that's different. My other swim workout this week is my long swim for the week so that will be my first real test in the pool.

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Ok, today marks the opening of the Chicago Marathon lottery to fill the remaining spots for this year's race. And it also comes with this article from Runner's World about what happened to crash the registration system and how races more and more will be headed towards a lottery.

And RW points to this article in Crain's Chicago Business where Race Director Carey Pinkowski (who I love) is quoted as saying he'd like to get away from the open entry format.

On one level, I totally understand. I really do. Demand has gotten so crazy for a handful of races that it's literally impossible to make it fair and handle the load.

But that's also the reason I have little desire to try to qualify for Boston or get involved in the madness of logistics that is NYC. I suppose I'm a different type of endurance athlete, too. Some people are obsessed with BQ and KQ (if they are a triathlete). That's Boston Qualifying or Kona Qualifying. And while I have no future plans to race Boston, I can see a certain set of conditions where I might like to participate in the Ironman World Championships. There's a much more everyman "survival and triumph" quality and history there.

With big races come big expectations though and I know there's a lot of pressure there to meet sponsor demands, elite demands, city demands, etc.. I'm definitely no purist. I may rant about the designated hitter and taking the focus off the game in baseball, but I truly don't mind the non-racing mentality that has crept into Chicago just in the few years I've been doing it. The beauty of it was that it could be what you want it to be...a legit race, a charity fundraising opportunity, a chance to achieve a lifelong goal.

I can't help but speak out a little bit with this lottery tipping point though. The balance about Chicago before was that the first-come-first-served system rewarded those who were serious and prepared to take the race seriously. People who knew they wanted to participate could--by showing up first. Which isn't to say that latecomers don't take the distance seriously. I just mean that if you truly wanted in you'd get there first.

Going to a lottery has slighted a lot of people this time--the whole thing has left a bad taste with many in the endurance community. What about those who were filling out there info only to have the system crash...they're not stuck with their chances in a lottery? I suspect that no matter how many people walk away from Chicago based on this, there will be plenty of runners to fill their spaces in the future. Demand has only been growing.

And that's the duality here. I worry that the race organizers are missing the trees for the forest...if the race is popular they must be doing something right, right? But I've written before about the quality of the race going downhill just in the last, say, 5 years. More corporate tents, the new corral/wave system, the crowded course, the ever-present lines for toilet that I've learned to anticipate and blend into my quest for a PR.

I don't want to turn this into a Serious Runner versus Casual Runner thing. I hate that "you're not racing" mentality from top finishers that us Back of the Pack runners aren't taking it seriously. Some of us are. Some of us aren't. Which is fine. I guess my point is that perhaps the festival atmosphere isn't where my future entry fees will go.

After the troubles at Escape From Alcatraz this weekend, some in the triathlon community are questioning (even more) the people who use big races like EFA or Ironman as entry points to the sport. Meaning, what I'm (smartly?) getting myself into at a small local Olympic race with a calm lake and 600 racers is vastly different than what I'll be getting myself into at a 3,000 person 140 mile race with bigtime pros, a huge "race week" environment, etc..

I think that's the line I'm trying to draw with the Chicago Marathon. It's crazy, huge, big city, world class event. One that I recommend everybody experience before they die. But, more and more, I maybe also don't think that should be the bread and butter of the endurance sports world. Kona or Boston isn't everything.

I suppose it comes down to where we want to prove ourselves as athletes.

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This article about McDonalds investing in Guatemalan coffee farms makes me laugh. First of all, because it doesn't matter what kind of beans you use if they're roasted and brewed in a crappy way. Cough, cough.

Secondly, the idea here that McDonalds as a vast global corporation is somehow improving coffee growing conditions and farmers' lives is not much beyond the headline. The scale of coffee required to supply McDonalds is sort of de facto too large to be sustainable. And, I run counter to a few roasting colleagues here, being Rainforest Certified or Fair Trade or whatever is a decent way to go...but, I would argue, not the end all be all.

If McDonalds really wants to give Starbucks or Dunkin a run for their money among coffee fans they're going to need better roasting and brewing processes in place. But, more importantly, they're also going to need to work with small farmers using economically/environmentally friendly practices that focus on quality and paying more to the farmers...not yield and "sustainability."

What ultimately would be best for McDonalds from farmer-to-consumer is boosting crop quality and introducing premiums paid for good results. In the end, that will encourage the practices that will taste better in your cup and be better for the planet.

...But something tells me that's not McDonalds business model/plan!