Sunday, September 20, 2009

MFM Day 22: Be Here Now

September 20th, 2009: Motor Free Month Day 22

How can I love being here now, when I'd rather be up there now? I love to go fast. Almost all of us do. We celebrate speed, weather it be by car, bike or foot. And living Motor Free is really killing my ability to go fast in an absolute sense, but I think I might be getting a bit faster within my own nutshell. But let's talk about speed for a while.

In 1898, Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set a land-sped record of 39.24 miles per hour (mph) in an electric Jeantaud automobile. Barely over 10 years later, the auto speed record had leaped to nearly 126 mph, set by Victor Hémery in a Benz (before Mercedes bought them out I presume!) The record for wheeled land speed currently sits at over 760 mph, set by Andy Green in a jet-propelled car in 1997. At the risk of stating the obvious, that's fast. You might think I view these records slightly askance, due to the tremendous energy used to produce these amazing speeds. But actually I'm quite impressed, and a little jealous even. Impressed at the incredible ingenuity and engineering prowess and courage that surely went into setting each of these records, and all the records between them, and jealous that I'm suck in a world where I can at best achieve the 1898 land-speed record on my road bike, and that only going down a steep hill. As I assume these records were set on flat surfaces, I'm actually solidly under the 1898 auto land-speed record. Yes, I've set myself back over 111 years in the name of going Motor Free.

Sam Whittingham, though, is a chap that deserves a mention here. He has achieved a speed of nearly 80 mph on a bicycle, on a flat surface, over a distance of 1000 meters. Impressive! But done on a recumbent cycle, which I do view askance. What about elite cyclists? The Tour de France peleton travels at about 25 to 30 mph, depending on the terrain. Still quite speedy, but also slower than the 1898 auto land speed record! Yours truly averages a sluggish 17 on my road bike unless properly motivated, and about 12 on my single-speed cruiser, motivated or not.

And what about on foot? The current world-record for the mile run, set in 1999 by Hicham El Guerrouj, is 3 minutes and 43 seconds. That's about 16 miles per hour. And I'm officially a slacker since I ride my road bike in about the same speed. Of course I can cover 2 miles -- or more -- at that speed. I'd like to see Sr. Guerrouj do that. Who's the slacker now? I digress. The world record half marathon (13.1 miles) time is 58 minutes and 33 seconds, set in 2007 by Samuel Wanjiru. That is about 13.4 mph. More like me on my cruiser, then.

Anyway, where is this all leading? I ran a foot race today, a half marathon of my own (the Ft. Collins Crossroads Half Marathon). I must mention that Tera Moody raced as well, she's quite good. I was not quite as fast as Tera (she ran the halfy in 1:16), and I was of course a little slower than Samuel Wanjiru would have ran had he bothered to show up. I finished the race at 1 hour and 33 minutes. Just behind my friend Eddie, whom I was chasing the last 2 miles to no avail. My speed was about 8.4 mph. I'm actually quite pleased with that result, having never ran a half marathon that fast before. As an aside, I think the Motor Free Month is helping my fitness, and this must be the proof. Regardless, 8.4 mph sounds pretty fast considering I'm on foot, but it's really not that fast considering a) how fast Samuel and Tera can run, b) how fast I can bike, c) how fast the Tour peleton can bike, and d) how fast any of us can drive in a car. Even a car built in 1898. Even a Yugo.

Hey I know, let's graph it! Seems to be my thing lately:

Note that the scale is logarithmic; I did this to help accentuate the differences between most of the speeds, which fall between 10 and 30 mph.

What it shows me is that none of us are coming close to approaching mind-bending jet car speeds on a daily basis. When I put the jet car in the graph, and use the log scale, I don't feel so bad about being slow and Motor Free. None of us are jet cars, we're all in this together!

What happens if I take the jet car out and go to a linear scale though?

I see a lot of "me" under the 20 mph line there. And a fairly steep mountain to climb to achieve speeds that an auto could achieve 100 years ago. One cyclist has gotten close, somehow, but something tells me this is an unusual circumstance at best.

The conclusion is, if you're going to be Motor Free, you'd better enjoy being Here Now, because Here is where you're going to stay! But I suppose it depends on your perspective. When I'm running, I don't feel slow. I don't feel stuck Here. Because "Here" becomes this block, not this city or this state. I think my brain compensates somehow. I don't compare my foot speed with that of a car, or a bike even when I'm running. I still feel fast. Imagine that; 8.4 mph can feel fast still! It's fulfilling, too. I get my speed fix, just in my own neighborhood.

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