Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Make Myself Miserable at My First Triathlon

How to Make Yourself Miserable
A number of years back--three mostly grown children ago in fact--I happened on a book that helped me laugh at all my little neurotic tics and phobias.  It was entitled How to Make Yourself Miserable:  A Vital Manual, written by Dan Greenburg with Marcia Jacobs.  This handy little guide included tongue-in-cheek instructions for extracting the most distress possible from several fairly garden-variety situations.

One that has remained in my head since reading it, probably because the description corresponds so closely to how my household, in all its various forms, has generally handled it, has to do with getting to the airport.  The reader is advised to leave just enough gas in the car to maybe make it to the airport, if all goes well.  Similarly, we should depart from home with just enough time to dash onto the plane as the door is being closed, and no margin for traffic snarls, accidents, or other contingencies.  You can see how this sets us up for a significant period of suffering, as we stress in traffic, watching the descending needle on the gas gauge, and knowing that if we stop for gas, we will definitely miss the flight.  Of course, if we don't stop, we may run out of gas and miss the flight.  And this was written pre-9-11.  Just think how much more agony can be mined from this situation today!

Of course, Greenburg's volume was really intended to show us all the ways in which we sabotage ourselves by behaving neurotically, adding to our stress levels.  Maybe it's my oppositional personality, or my Irish black humor, but I got more out of reading this laugh-out-loud handbook than out of many more direct and traditional self-help books.  So having kind of late in the game figured out that the triathlon I am preparing for is going to be, for me as for many others, largely a psychological challenge, I decided to try adapting Greenburg's approach to my own sports psychology.

Here are 8 ways to drive myself crazy at my first triathlon.

  1. Visualize myself drowning, or worse, panicking and embarrassing myself.
  2. Use this handy little mantra--I think I can't, I know I can't, why did I ever think I could?
  3. Follow Therese Borchard's (Beyond Blue) example, detailed in this very funny post, and freak out about getting a fish in my shorts.
  4. Compare myself to all the younger, fitter, faster athletes.
  5. Obsess about my heart rate.
  6. Keep torturing myself about whether to drop out of the race.  Use this technique in all three events, right up to the finish line.
  7. Visualize paramedics standing over me.
  8. Keep thinking "what if. . ."  "What if someone kicks me in the nose while swimming?"  "What if I crash into a tree on my bike?"  "What if a squirrel runs in front of me?"  

I'm sure there are some other strategies I can come up with to make my race the ordeal I clearly deserve.  But this is a start.

And seriously, if I can laugh at any or all of these ideas, that's a good thing.

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