Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silicon Valley Beer Mile Championship

Each year at Thanksgiving I like to sit down and give thanks for the blessings in my life. The Universe has bestowed many gifts upon me including great friends, a loving family, and a fulfilling career that lets me put food on the table.

I've also been blessed with a few rather peculiar physical talents including the the endurance to run stupid long distances, the leg strength to propel myself on a bicycle at super high speeds for super short distances, and the surprising ability to consume large quantities of alcohol in rather short periods of time. While the first two skills have come in useful for bike racing and ultra running, I never imagined the latter talent would prove useful outside of a college fraternity setting.

However, I firmly believe that God does not play dice with the universe. We are given our gifts for a reason. And when I saw a post in my Facebook feed about the upcoming Silicon Valley Beer Mile Championships on Nov 21, it suddenly became clear that this is why I was put on this Earth. Here was an event that combined my two greatest skills -- running fast and chugging alcohol. My destiny had found me!

In order to make sure I didn't embarrass myself on race day, I did a couple of practice test runs on the street outside my house. I got a few odd looks from my neighbors as I set up a table with four cans of beer on the curb and then proceeded to take my shirt off and chug beers and sprint up and down the block. But luckily no one called the cops. In return, I graciously made an effort not to puke on anyone's lawn.

On race night I showed up at the track with my four cans of beer, wondering how fast I could run and hoping to finish in the top 3. My goal was to run break 7:00 minutes, and hopefully to go under 6:45. This includes drinking time (four beers) and running time (four laps around the track). I'd run a 7:09 in one of the practice attempts outside my house at 80% effort. So I figured that on race day I should be able to run close to 6:30. I figured that this would give me a shot to win, depending on who else showed up, and would at least put me on the podium.

The race officials gave us our instructions and then sent us on our way. I popped open my first beer and slammed it down in seconds. As I tossed the empty can and started running down the straight-away I assumed I was first out of the blocks and in the lead. But I noticed a guy about 50 yards ahead of my on the track. Was this guy in the race? And how the hell did he get so far in front of me so quickly?

I slowly reeled him in during the each lap, but then he would regain his lead during every beer. Apparently he was slamming his beers much more quickly than I was. I had met my match. After finishing the race in 2nd place with a 6:39, I learned that the guy who won -- in a blazing time of 6:14 -- was 2010 former beer mile champion Chris Weiler.

I left feeling both ecstatic and disappointed (as well as a bit tipsy). I'd run a PR and thrown down an impressive time, but I'd come up a bit short. Perhaps, as my wife remarked, "if you're not puking afterward, you're not running hard enough". Did I run too conservatively? Should I have spent more time polishing my beer chugging technique? In the end, I was left with only questions. Questions that will haunt me for 365 days until next Thanksgiving.

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