Okay, here we are in August of 2017.

Dow5Year

The Dow, S&P, NASDAQ, and my company’s stock are all at or near record highs. From the looks of things, I have plenty of money (or quick, liquid equivalents) in the bank.

At the same time, my job isn’t going great – I’m the dumbest guy in the room, and the other folks are all about half of my age and seem to do nothing but work and sit in traffic (they are Californians). So any day they are going to fire me, and I’ll be sitting on the sidewalk selling pencils in a jar.

At the same time, I’m 58 years old. Males in my family don’t live long – they fall over dead.

So I would think to myself (and I do, several times a day) “Self, this would be a great time to cash out and head to Mexico; with what I have now, I could get a nice little condo on Cozumel – just a few blocks from the beach, from the meeting house, and from the square – and I could put up a hammock on the back porch and nap. I’d be able to run and bike, I could swim at the Alberca Municipal, go to meetings and dive.” (I’ve got a pretty good connection for reasonably-priced scuba). “Ethel’s enjoying her job and is at the top of her game, so I could just be a househusband and dog daddy”.

That’s what I think to myself, several times a day – and Self, unsurprisingly, always agrees with me.

However – and equally unsurprisingly – Ethel does not agree with me. She just flat won’t do it.

She’s so mean and selfish!

The Big Book says “Selfishness – self-centeredness. That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” And it’s correct – obviously, Ethel’s selfishness is the root of my troubles 🙂

Okay, okay – no, that’s not what it means. But it’s amazing how quickly I can see selfishness in somebody else without seeing my own.

But the important thing is this – I have no idea whether or not Ethel’s refusal to sell everything and go to Mexico is actually selfish or not. But I do know this – I can never see selfishness in anyone else unless their actions or attitudes are somehow interfering with my own selfishness. My ego can only bump into other egos.

So I have three simple rules –

1) If I spot it, I got it.

2) If it makes me mad, I’ve got it bad.

3) Just because I think I see it, doesn’t mean you have to be it.

To amplify:

  1. I can spot a lot of things, often fairly accurately – say, active alcoholism, or binge eating, or grandiosity or laziness. I can spot them, because I’ve got them.
  2. Active alcoholism and binge eating, though, don’t bother me when I spot them. I’ve got those issues, but the have been dealt with and solutions found years ago. But grandiosity and laziness? Those I still suffer from – and I can be very short-tempered and unforgiving when dealing with folks who I believe to have the same defects. It’s only the things that still trouble me in me, that trouble me in you.
  3. However, I can spot these things in others even when they don’t suffer from them– but since I do have these problems, and feel guilty about them, I want to see them in other people so as to make other folks guiltier than I am, and thus see myself as ‘better than’ they are.

So Ethel may, indeed, be working at a much higher level than I am – she may be working with God Himself to save me from myself; she may be holding out for a better life that we might have together, later, instead of bailing on all responsibility now and heading to Mexico.

Maybe.

But one thing is for sure – since I see her as causing me a problem, that means that I have a problem, and if I have a problem, that means that I’m not seeing things correctly. So as long as I’m irritated that Ethel won’t run off to Mexico with me, I shouldn’t be trying to run off to Mexico, because the irritation itself shows me that it’s my selfishness at work – and my selfishness never does me any good at all, but only causes me (and all those around me) troubles!

So now my path is clear – I need to reach a place where I want to go to Mexico, but I’m not upset that Ethel won’t go. Then we’ll be free to go.

However, I’m not sure that I can get there while I still want to go to Mexico, because my ‘wanter’ is the problem, after all. So now I’ve got to stop wanting to go to Mexico, so that Ethel can then decide that we should go.

Whew. I’ve worn myself out 😉

On the 25th of last month, I did the half Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, for the second time.

I’m finally ready to decide how I feel about it.

CdACycle

Here’s the deal – last year, I had a fair swim, a pretty good ride, and not-a-good run. So I spent the winter and spring working on my swimming and running, and letting my bike slide a bit. You know – work on your weak points. Heck, there were a couple of months where I barely saw the pool or the trainer – I was in a “running block”.

Three weeks before the race, I was swimming better than I had ever imagined swimming, and I was consistently running over a minute per mile faster than I was running the year before in the period leading up to the race.

I figured I’d lose something in the bike, but I’d more than make it up in the swim and run.

Then the taper started, and I started doing a lot more open water swims. Suddenly my legs turned to wood, and I couldn’t swim but 100 yards or so at a time, and then I’d have to take a break – this after doing a full Half-IM swim every Saturday morning, before my long bike ride.

Okay, okay, it’s taper jitters – it’ll pass.

Hah. On race day, I had to keep stopping about each buoy on the way out – I could swim all the way back, but the damage was done; my swim was four minutes slower.

And the run was hot, sure, but it was hard to believe that I ran slower this year than last year – when I looked at my training log, it was just not possible. But it happened.

Meanwhile, my bike was TEN MINUTES FASTER. (Here’s the Garmin file from just the bike portion.) Everything on the bike was easier – I was passing people for three hours, and passing on both the uphills and the downhills. I was out of my mind on the bike. 

So the things that I prepared for, trained for, and was ready for, went straight to heck – while the discipline in which I had slacked off and taken it easy in order to work on the other stuff is where the day shined.

I just don’t know anything at all about anything, and nothing that I do goes the way that I think it will 🙂

This would be a great time to quit triathlon – I mean, what’s a fellow to do, when his efforts result in the exact opposite of the any reasonably expected result?!? 🙂

But instead, I’m now in full training for Ironman Arizona, in November, and getting ready to sign up for IM Hawai’i 70.3 next June.

See,here’s the way these things work – the fact that nothing ever works the way that you think it will does NOT stop one from thinking. So the poor brain steps back and says to itself “Okay, then, if I had done THIS, then THAT would have happened”. And the brain goes right ahead and, next time, does THIS – but THAT, that should have happened, doesn’t happen.

Pirsig pointed out in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” that the scientific method – while pretty good, and the best thing we’ve come up with so far – has an obvious, but overlooked, flaw; the more information you get, the MORE hypotheses you can produce, instead of LESS. So what we do is we pick one hypothesis, and go with it, and ignore everything else that’s yelling at us from the edge of our consciousness.

I have no real idea why the things that I tried didn’t work – but the fact is that, unlike the scientific method, I can’t “keep everything else the same and change one variable”. All of my variables are changing, all the time, and all I can do is try to steer a course that makes sense, while having to admit that it isn’t going to work the way I expect it to – but it might work someway.

So how do I feel about IMCdA/2?

Whimsical. All I’m left with, in all honesty, is shaking-my-head whimsy, a crooked smile and rolling eyes.

And an entry blank for the next race 🙂

 

Yesterday I had the worst swim I’ve had since the day that I squealed like a girl in May 2014.

CityBeachOWS

(editor’s note – I’ve never done a straight post about IM/2 St George 2014, the day that I didn’t do the Half IM, and I don’t know why. Maybe I will soon). When I squealed like a girl, it was my first open-water swim (OWS) and it was water cold enough to cause the hyperventilation reflex (also known as Cold Shock Response ) and it resulted in me being, well, terrified, and I went home instead of doing the race.

That might even be a reasonable reaction to swimming out into the middle of a lake, and suddenly finding oneself unable to breathe. Prayer didn’t help, as it seems to be a reaction of the trigenimal nerve that requires adaptation for some folks (well, of course, prayer ALWAYS helps; in this case, it helped me to keep trying over and over again, and satisfy myself that it wasn’t going to work).

Well, for the last few months, I’ve been swimming with the Coach On Deck group at the Whitefish Wave, and Ive actually been getting faster; consistent, reasonable progress. It’s reached the point where I was doing three triathlon-distance single sets a week (two Olympics and one Half) all well below 2:00 pace (that’s 2 minutes per 100 yards).

I finished my last hard week of training on Sunday; yesterday morning I was supposed to go to the pool, but I couldn’t get my rear up and moving. So late yesterday, I decided to head to Whitefish City Beach to put on my wet suit and get some OWS time done.

It was awful.

I couldn’t seem to swim more than 50-60 yards at a stretch, then I would stop, hit my Garmin, and lay back and float on my swim buoy. Then, after I rested, I’d try again.

And again.

By the time I got out of there, I was pretty darn discouraged – rather than swimming 2000+ yards at 1:53, I was doing 50 yard segments at what my Garmin reported as 2:24 average pace.

As a result, I don’t even WANT to go to Couer d’Alene for the race.

Now, swimming slowly in open water while training for a triathlon is almost certainly classifiable as a “First World Problem” – it just ain’t important in any scheme of things. We’re healthy, sober, living happily and usefully whole while gainfully employed in a mountain paradise – who cares if I suddenly can’t swim fast? Trivial issue.

But therein lies the rub with ALL human endevours – in order to attempt something, you first have to make that something matter – and once it matters, it is hard to minimize it.

I heard a fellow in an NA meeting, back in the late 80s, say that whenever his truck got dirty, he started driving slower past car lots, looking at other trucks – and the dirtier the truck got, the most he was looking. He soon realized that, eventually, he was going to wash his truck, or trade it.

Now, I took that home with me and meditated on it, and realized that, for me, this expresses a general truth; I used to think that something got important to me, and so I put my effort into it. I have since realized that it’s the “putting in of effort” that MAKES it important. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart lie also” — Matthew 6:21.

So I put all of this effort into training – so how, now, do I minimize the importance? How do I just shrug it off and say “Oh, well, it’s a First World Problem?”

I suppose the Twelve Steps might get me there – they are, as I understand it, “a means of reducing our demands” (among many other things).  And, right now, I’ve got some demands.

If this is Sunday, then I must have done a two hour treadmill run.

But today, I did it slightly differently. But not, I fear, differently enough.

Zeno

For a good while now, on normal weeks, I’ve done two hour treadmill runs and always did them the same – just a hair under 10:00 pace for the first hour, and then sped it up by 0.1 mph for the second hour. Since my Sunday run always follows a hard Saturday swim and bike, these runs give me all the fun I can stand.

Splitting the pace like that – about 10 seconds/mile faster for the second hour – gives me a slight “negative split” – i.e the second “split” (time/distance) is slightly less than the first. That’s always been the way that I’ve run my best races, speeding up slightly as I go. (There are sound physiological reasons why this is so).

But today I got this silly notion – why don’t I check out Zeno’s Paradox? (For the uninitiated, Zeno’s Paradox has a lot of descriptions, but the one that I first heard was this – if you’re going to walk a mile, then first you have to walk half of that distance – then you have to walk half of the second half, then you have to walk half of the last quarter, then half of the last eighth – thus, there will always be another half of whatever you have left, so you will never get there).

I decided to try, instead, Zeno’s Negative Splits – so I ran the first hour at the normal speed, and then I sped up 0.1 mph for the next half hour, then increasing 0.1 mph for the next fifteen minutes, then 0.1 mph for the next 7:30, then 0.1 mph for the next 3:45, then 0.1 mph for the next 1:52, then 0.1 mph for the next 56 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 28 seconds, then 0.1 for the next 14 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 7 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 3.5 seconds, and so on….

TIME MPH
100:00.0 6
30:00.0 6.1
15:00.0 6.2
07:30.0 6.3
03:45.0 6.4
01:52.5 6.5
00:56.3 6.6
00:28.1 6.7
00:14.1 6.8
00:07.0 6.9
00:03.5 7
00:01.8 7.1
00:00.9 7.2
00:00.4 7.3
00:00.2 7.4
00:00.1 7.5
00:00.05 7.6

Now, if I could have done this correctly, I would have eventually been running at infinite speed, since I would always be increasing by a tenth of a mile an hour, always for the next 1/2 of the remaining period, all the way down to the picoseconds.

Unfortunately, there’s a quantum problem – that is that it takes a certain amount of time to press the up arrow on the speed control, so I can’t keep increasing the speed forever, because the time it takes to change the speed is longer than the period left in the run.

Oh, well. That’s why you don’t see the graph, above, going all the way to a vertical line at the end – it’s because the treadmill just doesn’t have the fine granularity of control it would take to keep speeding up. It’s not my fault – I tried!

(There’s another practical problem, that being that, once I hit the speed of light, I would have attained infinite mass, and the entire universe would have collapsed around me because I would have infinite gravitational attraction, and you’d all be dead, and not reading this anyway.)

This morning was a swim, ride, run, but by far the ride was the lion’s share of the workout. The ride was 4 hours long, and a doozey. But I’m glad that I got it done.

aian240

I was very happy with the swim – my fastest ever time for 2100 yards (a Half Ironman swim is 2100 yards, but you run into the water, and out, so I’m calling it good). I then went straight home from the pool and jumped on the bike, on the trainer.

A four hour trainer ride is (some say) effectively the same, as far as training benefit goes, as a six hour or so ride on the roads, because on the trainer, you never stop pedaling – there’s no coasting. So it can be tough, and uncomfortable.

But I’m always working on my mental toughness, so for today’s ride, I set up my music – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby, by Counting Crows, on repeat. I use music to keep my cadence consistent; I use the Maple music player on my Android, and that allows me to change the tempo on the fly. So I started Mrs. Potter, and slowed it down just enough to keep my cadence right close to 90 RPM.

The music keeps the cadence consistent – listening to the *same song*, eliminating variety, helps one to work on mental toughness. (A lot of folks listen to music for distraction, which does NOT help with mental toughness). I did this last year as well, a six hour version of the same workout (that was before a full Ironman; right now, I’m training for the half next month in Coeur D’Alene).

I’m a wimp, I’m wishy-washy, and I have no determination or character, so I have to work on mental toughness.

Now, I did STOP two times during the workout; while I learned how to pee on the bike during last year’s IMCdA Half Ironman, Ethel takes a dim view of me doing that in the training room, so I use a pee bottle; I stay on the bike and clipped in, but I do have to stop pedaling (I don’t know anyone who can pee on the bike while pedaling). One more way to build mental toughness – stay on the bike. And, as part of the “mental toughness” regimen, I set the pee times at the start of the ride – 1:20 and 2:40, or 1/3 and 2/3 of the, respectively. I don’t get to go when I want to – I have to go when it’s scheduled.

Now, while listening to the same song for four hours, there’s a lack of distraction, but I don’t get tired of things I like easily, and I’ve loved this song for many, many years. Mrs Potter lasts 7 minutes, 46 seconds, but with the tempo slowed down to a 90 RPM cadence, it last 8:10. So that’s 29 & 1/4 Mrs Potters for a four hour ride – however, eight minutes from the end of the ride, I restarted the song, so that I could sing along all the way to the end – out loud, vigorously, and joyfully.

I hope the neighbors didn’t mind.

After the ride, I had a twenty minute run – just a way of telling the body that when the ride is over, the workout is still going. (My long run is actually tomorrow).

I’m not sure whether I’m any more mentally tough right now. We’ll find out in Coeur D’Alene in five weeks.

 

Yesterday was Easter – “Hallelujah! The Lord is risen!” – which is a nice day in itself, and also means the end of Lent.

This year, I made several minor changes over Lent, not the least of which was staying off of Facebook.

facebooklogo

Now, here’s the thing – nobody noticed.

I’m a fairly high-volume guy, but (almost) nobody ever noticed that I was gone (my friend Billy Bob sent me a message a few days ago, who noticed that he hadn’t heard from me). There are a lot of folks out there that I was communicating with all the time, and they didn’t notice I was gone.

Put your finger in a bucket of water. Now, pull it out. See how much effect you have on the bucket.

A strange part of this was that my eldest son, and my triathlon coach – two folks that I always communicated with – had no idea. I spoke to them both on Palm Sunday weekend, and each of them mentioned some item of interest in their lives; when I mentioned that I hadn’t known about these things, they said “Didn’t you see it on Facebook?”

No. Didn’t you see that I wasn’t there? 🙂

“You would never spend any time worrying about what people thought of you if you realized just how rarely they did so”.

After months of swimming by myself (since leaving the COD crew at The Ridge in Bozeman) I started back with the Coach On Deck folks at the Whitefish Wave this week.

The workouts are much the same – well, probably longer – but the main difference is that I’m in the far left lanes now; in Bozeman, there was a large Masters Swim group, and all of the competitive folks swam there, so the rest of us swam with COD. But there’s no Masters group in Whitefish, so the fast folks swim COD.

The main difference, then, works out that the posted workouts here are longer than the posted workouts were in Bozeman, because most of the folks can do more in an hour.

Here was this morning’s workout, written up on the board, since Coach Carrie had the flu:

swimworkout

It only took me an hour and twenty minutes to do an hour workout! Woo woo!

I did some of these wrong – again, we were coachless – but I figured them out later. And the first 200 w/fins, I didn’t have my fins, so I just kicked hard instead (I have a ‘non propulsive kick’, as Scott Kelley told me, so kicking hard actually means that I’m swimming slower than when I’m not kicking at all 🙂

I have to admit, though, it was interesting to do something this complex, rather than just a long swim, or 5×500 pulls, or 10×200 on 5:00 – I’m not sure if it did me more good or not, but I reckon anything that keeps me in the pool will pay off in the long run.

I’m 74 days out from the Coeur D’Alene half. Dang. I’d better get to work.