Back in 1989 or1990 (it predates when I started my Excel running log, so I don’t have the exact date on tap) Ethel – who, at the time, was just Kim, not having gotten the rest of her names – went with a bunch of our friends on a white-water rafting trip on the Ocoee River.

She came home with a T-Shirt that said “Paddle Or Die!” – it wasn’t this graphic, but this is the idea:

paddle_or_die

The notion, see, is that once you get on the raft, everybody has to paddle together, following instructions as to which direction to paddle, or the raft will hit the rocks too hard or capsize.

You don’t get to decide not to paddle in the middle of the river. You can’t get off the raft, and you can’t get out of the river – you’re going downriver. You’ll either go on the raft, or in the water, where if you don’t drown, you’ll break all your bones on the rocks.

Paddle or die.

I’ve lately been using this as a metaphor for the Third Step.

STEP THREE: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

A lot of the time, in meetings, I hear people talking about “taking our will and lives back”. That’s a curious phrase – it sounds, to me, like more folklore.

There are a couple of reasons for why I don’t believe that we can “take our will and lives back”. The first is the simplest – it never, ever, mentions anything about this in the Big Book.

To me it seems that the Big Book, being a manual designed to give me precise instructions on how to work the Steps of recovery, is verbose on milestones – almost every action Step has “promises” which really means “this is how you know that you did it right”. And many of them have warnings – saying “don’t do this” or “if you do this wrong, this bad thing might happen”.

Never, ever, at all, in any way, does the Big Book ever say anything at all about us getting our wills and lives back – or being able to take them back. It just ain’t in there.

Secondly, there IS a warning at the end of the paragraph with the Third Step prayer on page 63:

We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.

Not too long ago, Ethel and I were considering getting a radio-collar fence for the husky pups; living in a condo, we don’t have a fenced yard, and we were tired of having to put them on long leads every time we let them out to go potty. We wanted to be able to just open the door and let them out.

In reading the write-ups on the most promising product, it sounded okay, but the cost seemed quite high – however, then I saw this line in the “returns” policy:

“If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it within 45 days for a refund of your purchase price.”

Oh, okay – gee, that’s easy. No reason not to try it, right?….No real risk….so we ordered it, and it didn’t work for us, and they refunded our money most riki-tiki.

Notice how the website did NOT say – “Think well before ordering this product, that you can, at last, abandon yourself utterly to keeping it and losing your money“.

The Big Book is telling us that, when we do this, we are abandoning ourselves utterly to Him. No return policy.

We think of the First 100 as early members of Alcoholics Anonymous – but they weren’t. They didn’t have the name “Alcoholics Anonymous” until AFTER the book was written. In the early days, most of them were members of the Oxford Groups – a Protestant evangelical group. And the instruction is to say this prayer with another person.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”Β  – Matt 18:19

There’s a belief there that asking for this to be done means that it will be done. Couple that with the fact that what’s being asked for is, indeed, God’s Will, and it’s a slam dunk.

So I don’t believe that we can “take our will back”. The way the model works for me is this – once I say that prayer, with somebody else, understanding it and meaning it, then it’s cast in stone.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I can’t believe that I can still run my own life; but, again, I sorta suppose that trying that, after I’ve made this decision, means that those events are nothing but teaching opportunities πŸ™‚

But I hold the belief that once we do this, we then are in God’s hands. He’s going to help me work the Steps if I do that. If I “decide” that I’m going to do something else, that’s just fine too – because He’s going to keep pushing me back to a path towards Him. What looks like my “decision” to not do it is just another part of the plan.

Perhaps, before I do this prayer, there might be random chance in my life – but once I take the Third Step, random chance is no longer a factor. Now I’m being taken back to God – helped and supported, or kicking and screaming, but I’m going to God πŸ™‚

It’s like the Ocoee River – as long as I’m on the shore, I can dither and waffle and hem and haw – but once I get in the boat. I am going down the river. I might follow the guide’s instructions and paddle correctly, and have a ball and yell with my raftmates and wave joyously to the people I see on the shore as I pass.

I might balk at the guide’s orders, maybe only following the ones that I want to follow. It won’t go well, but I might get to stay in the raft.

Or maybe I decide not to listen to the guide, and think that it’s okay if I throw my paddle down and just try to hold on to the handle. This might get me thrown out of the raft – and who knows? Maybe my life jacket will keep me afloat long enough to get back into the raft in the next calm spot.

Or maybe I’ll drown, or bash my head against a boulder, and die.

It doesn’t matter – I am still going down the river. God’s Will will be done in me, even if I’m not alive for it.

Paddle or die!

 

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Here are the elevations from our final set of builder’s plans for the house on Vista Drive:

Elevations

We met with Matt from Stumptown Design and Build last Thursday to go over the estimates and budgets – this much for framing, this much for excavation and foundation, this much for cabinets, this much for plumbing fixtures – once I’d settled back down into a lower orbit after getting the final full number (read: much, much larger than I was expecting).

So now Ethel has her nose stuck into her laptop and tablet, Making Decisionsβ„’ about Important Stuffβ„’ while I sit in the corner and laugh maniacally about how much this darn thing is going to cost.

That’s how I know that it ain’t real yet – when it really settles in and becomes reality, I’ll stop laughing and start shivering in terror πŸ˜‰

The Important Stuff includes such topics as – Siding types and colors. Trim types and colors. Garage door styles and colors. Roofing shingle types and colors. Window materials, brands and features. Hardwood. Carpet. Tile. Cabinet styles, features and placement. Countertops. Plumbing features and placements. Appliances. Hardware fixtures. Lighting. Interior colors. Door styles and colors/stains. Toilet types. Bathtubs, vanities and showers.

There’s other stuff – it starts to all run together in my head. That’s why she’s making the decisions – I would hit decision fatigue the second time they asked me what color something should be.

Looks like we can start to think about planning on scheduling an tentative move-in date for sometime in the time frame of late April; at least, that’s the current mindset. I’m torn between “let’s get this over with” and “the longer it takes to build, the longer it will be before I have to pay for it” πŸ™‚

But at least the dogs will have somewhere to run and play…whups: Sod types. Sprinkler system. Fencing types and colors….

Here’s the lap pool at the Wave Aquatic and Fitness Center here in Whitefish.

WaveLapPool

My last post mentioned that I’d just have to accept that I have this fear of cold water and would have to work on it with the Tenth Step until it was gone.

Well, “butter my butt and call me a biscuit” πŸ™‚

When I wrote that, they had just shut down the Wave for the annual cleaning – and they close the pool for a couple of days longer than the club, for whatever annual maintenance they have to do there.

Here’s the funny part – when the club opened back up, the water was warmer. πŸ™‚

Now I’m able to jump in without any real hesitation; almost immediately, I’m comfortable, and in very short order, I’m squatting down in the water to stay warm because it’s warmer than the ambient air πŸ™‚

A Course in Miracles says “Now you must learn that only infinite patience produces immediate effects.” The purpose of time is to learn, and once the learning happens, there’s no reason for the passage of time anymore.

Lots of folks who are trying to walk a spiritual path will tell you – it seems that as soon as they really accept something, and don’t even think about it anymore, it changes. It’s happened in my life so many times that perhaps I’ve stopped thinking about it – but rarely has it happened in such dramatic fashion.

Of course, there is the law of Unintended Consequences – now that the water is warmer, some of us are very happy about it. Others, it seems – not so much. This morning in the pool, there were six folks swimming laps, and the split was down the middle – three of us smiling, three complaining.

However, there are other factors – the ones who want the water cooler are also the best swimmers. I suspect that they are more fit, and use more power swimming, and thus they get warmer quicker and need the cooler water to help cool their bodies.

But, as I told the maintenance guy – those folks will swim anyway! These are the types who are going to swim no matter what. They’d swim if there were piranhas in the water.

But the rest of us – ah, that’s where they can make money! We might talk ourselves out of swimming if the water is cold – I’m sure that it’s happened to me.

So the best way to increase their target demographic is to keep the water warm so the weenies will show up πŸ™‚

Maybe I’ll try to help those fast fit folks by quoting A Course In Miracles to them while they are sweating between laps. I’m sure that they will find that helpful….

 

 

This is Sand Hollow Reservoir, in Hurricane (pronounced “HER-i-cun”) Utah. At this site, in May of 2014, I squealed like a girl.

sandhollow_wtc

The above photo was, as I understand it, taken during the start of Ironman St. George, but I don’t know which year, so I don’t know if I was in that crowd or not. I did IMStG in 2015, not 2014.

In 2014, I was all trained up, and ready to go – I had started tri training the previous October, at the behest of Corch Ian*, and was probably in the best physical shape that I have been in since I made the decision to stop being bad at one sport, and start being bad at three sports instead. I had done rides indoors and outdoors, and runs indoors and outdoors, but I had only swum in the POOL, because, Park City in the winter πŸ™‚

So I got to St George the day before the race, and got everything set up in T1 and T2, and then Corch Ian said “We need to get you out in the open water before the race”. So I pulled on my wetsuit and waded out into Sand Hollow, to swim with my friends.

I went out a couple of hundred yard, happy as a clam, until suddenly I wasn’t – I started hyperventilating, and couldn’t stop!…I sprinted back to the shore, completely freaked out to be in the middle of a lake with nothing at all to grab onto, certain that I was going to die.

On shore, I did my Tenth Step, realized that I was just afraid – but that I had swum many thousands of yards before without stopping, so I assumed it was just being in open water that had me freaked out; so I swam back out again, as far as the swim raft that they had set up…

…and freaked out, hyperventilated, and sprinted back again.

I tried two more times; the same thing happened each time.

That night, I couldn’t sleep; every time I closed my eyes, I would see the dark water below me, and the shoreline so far away, and would feel that awful terror again. This kept up all night long.

I got out of bed around 4 AM and realized that I was not going to do the race. We gave a friend a ride to the start, but I just started getting my stuff from both transitions, and we left at dawn and headed back to PC. I felt like I was skulking my way out of town, full of shame and regret.

When we got home, Ethel started doing the research – what had happened to me was called “cold shock response” and it happens below the level of consciousness; it had to do with the water hitting the nerves on the side of my face, causing that hyperventilation, and once I started panting, the fear just took over.

I’m happy to say that one can condition against that problem, and I was able to do so – and I’ve gone four years now without it ever happening again. I wish I’d’a known before race day, but the experience has helped me to help others understand when it happened to them, and I sorta figure that that’s what I’m supposed to be doing with my life anyway.

However, there seems to be a secondary problem. I am now afraid of the water.

I’m not afraid of bathtubs or hot tubs. I’m not at all afraid when I go swimming in hot springs pools. Snorkeling or SCUBA in the tropics is just fine.

But I now have a visceral, persistent fear of getting into “cold water”. And “cold water” doesn’t mean water in the upper 50s or very low 60s, as Sand Hollow was that day in 2014. “Cold water” means “water that feels cold when I get into it”.

And this manifests this way – every Monday and Wedneday morning, when I am taking my Eleventh Step quiet time and getting my list for the day, I wind up feeling fear in my belly – and the fear is because I have to go get into the cold pool at the gym and swim.

I’m not aware of that being the problem – but I note that the fear persists, at some level, until I am in the water and warmed up after a few hundred yards, or something happens and I decide not to swim.

Every time I swim in open water, I have this fear as well (except in Palmilla Bay in Cabo, where the water is very warm). I can usually overcome it by just getting into the water and swimming, but sometimes the fear works around in me and keeps me from getting to the lake at all. This last Monday was an open water swim across Whitefish Lake, and I was looking forward to it, until I checked online and saw that the water temp was supposed to be 53 F, and then I completely gave up on the lake swim.

(It turns out that the site that I saw that water temp on was wrong, and that the water was fine. But my fear was so deep seated that I didn’t even go to the lake and test it for myself).

Now, I know from experience what to do about this – I once had a fear of large dogs while I was running. I was actually attacked by a pack of dogs when I was 19 or 20 years old. I’ve always loved dogs; never had any real fear of them when I was around them, unless I was running and they started to chase me. This bothered me for some years.

I kept trying to solve this problem in the world– by management. I’d pick routes where I didn’t think dogs would be. I’d yell at the dogs (or at the owner) and try to make them go away.

I tried carrying pepper spray for a while, but never wound up using it except on windy days – which doesn’t work very well.

Then one day I told my sponsor about it, and he said “Oh, that’s fear. We have a Step for that.” And I then started doing Step Ten every time I was out running and had a dog encounter; I would realize that I was afraid, ask God to remove it, tell myself that I would tell somebody about it when I got back home or to the office or from wherever I was running.

Then I would apologize – to the dog’s owner if present, or to the dog itself if not. And then I would turn my thoughts to somebody I could help – maybe I could get the dishes washed before Ethel got home? Maybe I could get that report ready for the boss when I got back to the office?

After some months of this, the dog fear went away, and has never come back – and that was twenty years ago.

So now that I have realized that I am afraid of getting into water that is not very warm, I can institute that practice again; Step Ten every time I am aware of the fear. I suspect it will work. Those Steps have a pretty good track record.

 

 

*That picture was taken the night before IMStG 2014; the astute observer will note that I was NOT smiling, as I was already living in the world of “oh my God I’m going to drown and die tomorrow”.

Here’s my training graph since January of 2017. The blue area of this graph is showing my ATL – my “acute training load”, or, in short, my “fitness”, over a given period…

dashboard

 

This graph means that I got into great shape for the half Ironman in Coeur d’Alene last year (that first double peak), and then, five month later, I was in slightly worse shape at Ironman Arizona, then that long valley afterwards while I hobbled through ski season – trying to stay in shape on the elliptical after my right knee went out in February, getting back up to the next-to-the-last hump in early April just before my LEFT knee failed catastrophically on Cozumel.

Then that last painful climb – the end of the graph is today.

What this graph doesn’t show is that when I did start back up after the crash on Cozumel, I actually lowered my FTP, because I couldn’t do the same workouts – so everything after that last valley is actually inflated. It should be about ten percent less.

So – I’m not doing Ironman Arizona this year.

There – I’ve said it out loud, and I feel some relief from that.

I’ve been trying to get back into shape, over and over, and it feels like I’m ALWAYS starting over – and the most important thing for long-course triathlon is consistency. And my body has not let me be consistent this year.

In addition, there are other stresses – I’m still the dumbest guy in the room at work, and it’s becoming more apparent, so I need more energy just to hang on.

And the whole emotional whiplash thing from earlier this year about “yes, we’re moving to Mexico so I can lay in a hammock/no, we’re not/wait, yes, we really are/no, actually, we’re not” wore me out, as well – and still lives in the back of my head, although it’s been told to shut up.

This last weekend, I took Ethel through three hours on the roads as her last longer ride before her century next week (watch this space!) and the plan was that I would finish out with another three hours at my own effort levels. But one more hour was all that I could do.

I managed ninety minutes of “jogging” (ha!) on Sunday morning, as planned, but then bailed on my Monday swim when it became the least bit inconvenient – I was at the pool, but couldn’t get my own lane, so I said “the heck with it” and went home.

That’s when I sort of realized – or decided; I’m not sure which – that it isn’t smart for me to keep trying to train for IMAZ this year. Just trying to do so is wearing me out, and that’s not good – not for me, not for Ethel, not for my employer, not for those folks whom I’m supposed to be helping – not for anybody.

I’ve always justified my training with the awareness that the discipline and effort needed for the training helped me to be a better person all around. Well, that’s not the case right now. Training at that level – or, actually, I should say trying to, since I haven’t actually been maintaining those levels – is making me less effective in the rest of my life, rather than moreso.

So, I quit.

I’m done with long-course triathlon until I either get younger, or am retired and have the time and energy to put into it. “Long course” means Ironman or Half Ironman races. I’m still going to do sprints and Olympic distance – that’s my plan.

But for right now, I’m backing down from the 13 hour weeks I’ve been doing (or attempting)Β  and will be satisfied with much less volume. I am doing this in the hope that, sometime in the next few weeks, I find that I have more energy for all of the stuff that I should be doing.

We’ll see. If it doesn’t work, then I have no idea what to try next.

This is Gene.

Gene2

Gene is my role model.

Gene shows up most mornings at the Wave fitness center, at about the same time. He’s always smiling, just like this.

Gene greets folks, then gets on the elliptical for 20 minutes to an hour of light cardio. Then he seems to do some other stuff, but maybe not so much; I think he does resistance training, but I never see him sweat.

He’s never overtrained. He’s never fretting about being undertrained going into a race or event. He’s never injured. He seems to be in great shape and great health without needing an entry blank to stay motivated. He’s trim and fit and energetic.

Gene always has a good word to say. He raises people up; he praises or encourages, as the situation fits. He will good-naturedly deflect any negative comments and redirect the conversation into a grateful direction.

I misspoke above – I should not have said that Gene is my role model, because one hopes to emulate a role model; I don’t think that I could ever be Gene, or even a low-rent Gene substitute.

Gene is a manager at the local liquor store, but I’ve never smelled a drop on him, or seen a red eyeball. When I’ve gone in there during the holidays, buying gifts, sometimes I see him behind the counter, and he’s the same Gene at work that he is at the gym.

I would love to be Gene. Or even somewhat like Gene.

Today is Friday, and as sometimes happens, this is my day off from training this week. I’m 15 weeks out from Ironman Arizona, and I’m in terrible shape. I’ve had injury after injury this year; physical therapy on one knee, then surgery on the other. I’m still trying to get into shape for IMAZ while having to admit to myself that it’s not going to happen – and then going back and still trying.

I’m usually exhausted, almost always hungry while wishing that I could lose weight, and sore. After the last year of hard training, I’m currently slower in the swim, much slower on the run, and have an FTP on the bike that is 10% lower than last year.

Every year, I’m out of shape, and then the next year, I try to get back into the shape that I was in the previous year, when I was out of shape – and failing. Miserably. I’m not holding back the darkness any more. I’m just trying to generate a little light.

I wish I could be Gene.

Who knows? Maybe I could be Gene. Maybe prayer and discipline could free me from this cycle, and I could go to the gym, five or six days a week, and hit the elliptical for a half hour, and maybe do some lifting.

I’ll pray to be like Gene.

( editor’s note: I’m typing this on Wednesday, but I won’t post it until Thursday, because I don’t want Ethel to see it).

Well, I’m at home for four days by myself – Ethel took the 6:05 AM flight on Sunday morning to Las Vegas for a “convention” (cough-cough)* so I am batching it.

Lately I’ve been self-absorbed and full of self-pity because I can’t get my way in some things that seem (to self) to be important; the best thing for us drunks to do when we’re thinking about ourselves is to do something for somebody else.

So I’m painting the bedroom and loft.

SPS

Stupid Painter Syndrome (SPS) is that strange phenomenon that happens when one starts a paint project – or wallpaper, tiling, or any other home-improvement DIY that requires one to mess up one’s living area while it’s going on. There’s only one real symptom – an inability to stop working on the project at a reasonable hour.

Before Ethel and I got married, a friend told us that we shouldn’t tie the knot until we had wallpapered a bathroom together, the idea being that if you can do that, you can survive anything as a team. It was pretty good advice, and it does seem that we were a pretty well matched pair.

But when we wallpapered that bathroom – the first time I’d ever done ANYTHING with wallpaper – we started in the afternoon, and we didn’t finish until sometime the next morning, after working all night long. (We were, obviously, 32 years younger then than now πŸ™‚

Apparently, we had already demonstrated a genetic predisposition to Stupid Painter Syndrome.

When we moved to Bozeman, we had four days between closing on the house and our furniture showing up – so we painted that 2700 square foot house, with 28 foot ceilings in the great room, in four days. SPS – a real illness with real symptoms.

So during this past Sunday, my bachelor weekend day, I got all kinds of stuff done, but I was aware that the notion of painting the bedroom and loft was in the back of my mind, waiting to pounce.

Our bedroom and loft is a ridiculously complex room (or pair of rooms, depending on how you count ’em) with respect to wall area, windows, stairs, very high ceilings, and windows. There is one long ceiling that spans the whole area, rising at about a 45 degree angle from the low wall in the bedroom to the high wall in the loft.

I can only assume that this complexity is the reason that Ethel has not actually gotten going on painting this room in the almost two years that we’ve lived here; she got the house up to the bedroom (and the entry into the bedroom) painted in the first few months, but then things came to a stop.

So I decided to “surprise her” by doing all the work while she was at the “convention” (cough-cough)*.

So Sunday afternoon, I started on the hardest wall – the long one at the west end, that included the stairs. I got to bed around 10 PM on Sunday night. (I don’t stay up until 10 PM on New Year’s Eve).

I woke up Monday morning coming up with all sorts of reasons why doing one wall – the most difficult – was enough of a surprise, and that I should now take it easy. But it was too late. Stupid Painter Syndrome had me in its grasp.

The astute observer will note in the above photo the central presence of a can of Red Bull on the nightstand – which is, BTW, in the middle of the room, along with everything else, which means that silliness is going on. I was drinking this Red Bull at 6:27 PM on Monday, while doing the south wall, which was the quickest paint job, but one of the more involved preps, because of the windos, blings, door and trim.

When I realized that I was about to drink a Red Bull at 6:30, I knew that SPS was in full swing. Once again, I didn’t get to sleep until after 10.

(Please note – while doing this, I still had to work, and go to meetings, and do my workouts. SPS doesn’t care about the other stuff in your life, but you still do).

So on that Monday, in order to do the south wall, I had to pull out Ethel’s nightstand, which meant piling stuff on the bed – which was already getting pretty loaded down with things out of place from all over the room, which meant sleeping on the sofa Monday night. That wasn’t good for my back.

Yesterday I pulled out the bed – a big heavy thing made out of barn wood; now my back hurts – and pulled out Ethel’s workstation and supporting equipment up in the loft, and did the east wall, plus a section of the north wall in an accent color. I did get to bed last night at 9, so there’s that. But it was another night on the sofa – which didn’t do my back any good.

Now I have the unenviable task of putting everything back together and getting all of the paint stuff put away before Ethel gets here tonight. She won’t be in until nearly 11; since most of the wall work is in Harvest Wheat gold, not too far removed from the previous beige, she might not have noticed the change when she’s sneaking into the bedroom trying to keep from waking me up.

But it’s likely that she WILL see the dark green accent wall.

But even if she wakes me up, I’ll bet that I go right back to sleep, because – I am TIRED.

Stupid Painter Syndrome only has the one symptom – an inability to properly scope a day’s work. But it has a definite AFTERMATH, as well.

I am TIRED πŸ™‚

But I have to admit that the mission was accomplished – not the PAINTING mission, but the mission to get out of self. The whole time that I was painting, I wasn’t thinking about myself, my little plans and designs….I might have been thinking “I’m tired. This is stupid. My back hurts!” but I wasn’t thinking about what I didn’t have and wasn’t getting.

 

UPDATE:Β  Things never go the way that you think that they’re going to go. She was mildly surprised to find that the painting was all done, but she was VERY upset with me for moving her desk and unplugging her wires; I had sort of thought that, since she had hooked them up, she’d know how to rehook them.

Once again, I was wrong.

So instead of having lots of husband points, I’m in the dog house πŸ™‚

*yeah, okay, yes, I know that she’s at a convention for work, with her team – and she’s actually doing two presentations – but my favorite tease in this context is that she’s REALLY down there doing marathon sessions at Thunder Down Under. Be sure to ask her about the show. She appreciates that πŸ™‚