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

Monday, August 22, 2011

Done for the Week: Crossing the Finish Line

Back from my day at the races.  But not back to earth.  Not yet.  And not for a while, if I can help it.

Here's the story of what I got done last week: 

Done for the Week:  Aug. 15-21, 2011
  1. Completed Week 15 of 15-week triathlon training program, resting for race; ran twice; biked once; swam twice
  2. Worked out and meditated several times with my training partner
  3. Attended second Open Water Swim class
  4. Swam across the lake--sort of 
  5. Rented new, larger, more life-sustaining wetsuit (unlike the one I own, this one permits breathing, which I've come to appreciate--the hard way!)
  6. Continued working on pre-race anxiety, mental training, pre-race nutrition and hydration
  7. Packed to leave town for the race
  8. Picked up race packet; bought stuff at the expo 
  9. Shared pre-race dinner with my husband and training partner
  10. Did gear check with my training partner
  11. Finished the race!!!  Beat even my stretch goal
  12. Celebrated with my training partner and friend, who also finished with strength and grace
  13. Attended triathlon camp reunion, post-race
  14. Helped youngest son prepare for first long-distance flight on his own
  15. Finished No Death, No Fear:  Comforting Wisdom for Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  16. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  17. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  18. Meditated four times
  19. Published 1 blog post
  20. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  21. Continued work on current clients' projects
  22. Attended Issues Night
  23. Attended Jobs Prayer Vigil
  24. Paid the monthly bills
  25. Accomplished major cleaning/decluttering/rearrangement of main work room
  26. Did laundry

Last week's focus goal was to "finish my training using the less-is-more and self-nurturing approach appropriate to the final days before the race."  Did that. 

Tuesday evening's pre-race swim across the lake proved even more of a hurdle than I had anticipated.  Last Monday I wrote about this planned workout that "I intend to get to the other side by any means necessary."  And by Tuesday night, I had delivered on that prediction.  The "means necessary" turned out to include yelling "Help!" in the middle of the lake when my extra small wetsuit and this year's two additional pounds combined in a way that was literally breathtaking.  After the motor boat came to my rescue, and I had regained my breath, but not my cool, I transversed about a third of the race distance using a "noodle."  Thus I joined the ranks of what my partner referred to as the "noodle girls."  A humbling, and scary experience overall.

Subsequent race preparation made room for learning all I could about how wetsuits can restrict breathing and contribute to panic attacks in the open water swim portion of a triathlon.  This led to re-thinking my sausage casing of a wetsuit, and deciding to rent one a size larger.  I also crammed in a short session in the pool on Friday trying out the borrowed suit.  The result?  I could breathe on race day, and made it all the way across the lake , without stopping to rest, or switching from freestyle.    Spent my way out a dilemma, but it was soooo worth it.

Last week's most important accomplishment--hands down--was finishing the triathlon.  Once again, I surprised myself by doing better than I expected.  I took 4:44 off the swim; 1:03 off T1 (the time spent shedding the wetsuit; getting on shoes, socks, helmet, Camelbak, and sunglasses; and, unfortunately discovering I had forgotten to unlock my bike before the race); 1:06 off T2 (bike to run); and 2:22 off last year's run time.  I added 1:18 to my bike time, but race officials had added 1.5 miles to the course this year.  My pace was just shy of 2 mph faster.  My net gain put me at 2:00:35--36 seconds over my "dream" goal of breaking 2 hours, nearly 2-1/2 minutes under my stretch goal of 2:03:00, and 4-1/2 minutes under the 2:05:00 I thought I would do.

Needless to say, I am ecstatic!  In my second tri, I moved from the back of the back of the pack, to a position near the middle--and in the top third of my age group. 

For today, I'm resting on my . . . ahem, laurels.  

My goal for the week:  come down gently, and as little as possible, from Cloud 9-3/4.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Done for the Week: Staying the Course in Wisconsin

This morning, my fellow Wisconsites and I awake to another week in the land of what many refer to as FitzWalkerstan.  Last week's recall election losses were hard to swallow, though "our side" did manage to take two of six.  Up tomorrow are two more recalls, this time of two Democratic senators who left the state for a few weeks last spring to conduct a virtual fillibuster intended to slow down the Walker train wreck.  Needless to say, we are again holding our breath and hoping for victory.

Despite the dispiriting effect of watching the candidate I had worked hard for go down to defeat, I managed to keep going last week, and to get some things done.

Done for the Week:  Aug. 8-14, 2011
  1. Completed Week 14 of 15-week triathlon training program; ran three times; swam three times; biked three times
  2. Worked out several times with my training partner
  3. Attended second Open Water Swim class
  4. Attended race simulation; included biking the race course in windy conditions, on pace to meet my goal
  5. Continued working on pre-race anxiety, mental training
  6. Purchased bike inner tube, new running hat
  7. Finished The Scent of Rain and Lightning, by Nancy Pickard; Nose Down, Eyes Up, by Merrill Markoe
  8. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  9. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  10. Meditated four times
  11. Published 2 blog posts
  12. Shared Happy Hour dinner with my husband
  13. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  14. Arranged to meet with possible new web client
  15. Continued work on current clients' projects
  16. Worked to get out the vote for recall candidate 
  17. Advised newly voting-age son on registering, voting 
  18. Attended election night party
  19. Coped with election loss depression
  20. Kept up newly straightened/cleaned/decluttered areas, with some family assistance
  21. Did laundry

Last week's focus goal was to return to the regular practice of meditation.  As you can see above, I meditated four times in a fairly crazy week.  You'd think I could manage to remember what a difference it makes. 

Once again, last week's most important accomplishment was all the effort I put into getting ready for the triathlon.  Triathlon seems to be, for me and for many others I have met, something of a container/metaphor for growth.  At least, that's part of what I tell myself about why the endeavor deserves all the time and sweat and money I expend on it.

I am still learning things I need to know from triathlon, and things I apply across the rock-strewn landscape of my life.  This week's focus goal, another learning opportunity, is to finish my training using the less-is-more and self-nurturing approach appropriate to the final days before the race.  I will spend less hours on the track, on the road, and in the water; I will continue to meditate; I will eat to enhance health and performance; I will encourage sleep; and I will work on my head, using music, mantras, positive talk, and camaraderie.  And in the end, I will show up on race day and do what I came to do.

The final pre-race hurdle is a Tuesday evening swim across the lake where the race will take place on Sunday.  In the company of a dozen or so other nervous swimmers, I intend to get to the other side by any means necessary.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Done for the Week: Nearing the Home Stretch

As soon as we can manage it, my husband and I plan to see the heralded movie Crazy, Stupid, Love.  Life here lately has been all three.

In the midst of it all, I'm still managing to get some things done--and not others.

Done for the Week:  Aug. 1-7, 2011
  1. Completed Week 13 of 15-week triathlon training program; ran twice; swam three times; biked twice
  2. Worked out several times with my training partner
  3. Attended first rained-out Open Water Swim class
  4. Began working on pre-race anxiety, mental training
  5. Purchased new hydration system for biking
  6. Revised race goals
  7. Finished The Purple Culture, by Stephen Boehrer
  8. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  9. Provided technical assistance to nonprofit organization
  10. Meditated once
  11. Published 1 blog post 
  12. Shared Happy Hour dinner with my husband
  13. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  14. Met with new web client, finalized agreement; worked on project
  15. Met with current web client; worked on project
  16. Worked for recall candidate several times
  17. Voted early with my husband, and accompanied son to vote early
  18. Helped family member with minor medical crisis
  19. Attended grandson's birthday party
  20. Made continued progress in cleaning/straightening/decluttering living room & family room 
  21. Worked with my husband on major push to clean/straighten/declutter kitchen
  22. Shopped for (nearly unaffordable) groceries with my son
  23. Did laundry

Last week's most important accomplishment, as the week before, was all the effort I put into getting ready for the triathlon.  And last week's focus goal was to give triathlon the attention and the energy it deserves, and to relish its gifts and take in its lessons.  Triathlon is beginning to take its rightful place at the top of my list of priorities most days, as it will need to for the remaining 13 days before the race.  And I am starting to feel excited, as well as nervous. 

I had hoped to beat last year's time by 8+ minutes, bringing my overall time under 2 hours.  Last week I learned that the bike course had been lengthened by 1.5 miles, which will most likely pretty much trump my new, faster bike.  My times in each event are slightly faster this year, from what I can gauge in training.  But probably not enough faster to get me in under 2 hours. 

 I hope to take 2-1/2 minutes off my swim time, 29 seconds off my first transition, 28 seconds off my second transition, almost 3 minutes off my run time, and to finish the biking course in 54 minutes (improving last year's pace by 1.5 mph).  That's the stretch goal, which would bring my overall time to 2:03.  I would be really happy with 2:05.  (Pretty slow for a sprint triathlon, but way faster than the people my age who are sitting on a couch on a Sunday morning in August!)

Oh, and not to be forgotten, the essential goal of having fun!

This week's focus goal will be to return to the regular practice of meditation as an aid in taming the nerves I am starting to feel.  It should also help keep me more balanced as our recall election, and this phase of the long crazy political journey we are on, conclude in the next two days.  

As to that, I'm keeping my fingers and toes, but not my eyes, crossed.  Time to take our state government back!

Procrastinating 101: Some Assembly Required

Procrastinating 101 is nearing the end of what Dr. Piers Steel has referred to as our "leisurely walk" through his book The Procrastination Equation:  How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done.  This week, in Chapter 10, "Making it Work:  Putting the Pieces into Practice," we look at how we might begin to live all that we have been learning.  

But first, we have to remember all that research we've waded through, all those insights and tips we've garnered along the way.  And then we have to gird ourselves for the project of using all that good stuff in making over our disarray.  And then we have to leap that leap of faith--the one that requires we imagine ourselves as able to procrastinate less.

And I say less because Dr. Steel, among others, has taught me that procrastinating is a tendency that I was born to, and one that I've nurtured long and well.  The temptation to delay we have always with us.

Fortunately, my tiny, dried-up seed of faith has broken open in the soil of Dr. Steel's informative treatise, and been watered this week by Chapter 10's stories of procrastination recovery.  (And, I'm feeling more optimistic all around, after finding yesterday the last missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle my kids and I completed, sans final dark green leafy element, weeks ago.)

In Chapter 10, Dr. Steel reprises the three prototype characters introduced in Chapter 2--Eddie, Valerie and Tom.  Eddie, you may recall, is stymied by low "Expectancy;" Valerie, by low "Value;" and Tom, by issues of sensitivity to "Time."  (Oh, and--plot twist--turns out Eddie and Valerie are married to each other.  Yike, two serious procrastinators in one household!)  But in this next-to-last chapter, our procrastinating friends finally "get it."  Each in their own way, they apply the lessons of the book and emerge from the morass created by their previous difficulties.  Ah, a happy ending.  Actually, three of them.  And more, if we can ultimately count ourselves.

Those of us who are "lucky" enough to fall neatly within one of the three procrastination types represented by our three heroes of recovery should be able to apply the corresponding solutions in a fairly straightforward manner.  For others, like myself, who are more "democratic" delayers--displaying significant handicaps in all three areas--a bit more brain power must be applied to the task of customizing an approach that can work. 

Steel recognizes the cynicism that many of us experience after wading through mountains of self-help tomes.   He references a satirical novel, Happiness, by Will Ferguson, whose premise is "What if someone wrote a self-help book that actually worked?"  But Steel maintains that The Procrastination Equation actually works, just like Ferguson's fictional character's fictional work, What I Learned on the Mountain.  But only if we actually work.  

The moment has arrived to come out of this useful book, and back into our lives.  It is time to (gulp!) put what we've learned into practice, and become former procrastinators.

At the conclusion of the chapter--the "Looking Forward" section--Dr. Steel reminds us of what we are up against:

Nine thousand years ago, procrastination didn't exist.  Back then, if we worked when motivated, slept when sleepy, and acted on other urges as they came upon us, we did so more or less adaptively.  In that golden age, our compulsions fit out daily demands like jigsaw puzzle pieces.  We were designed for that world, life before the invention of agriculture.

Makes you long for cave, doesn't it? 
Fast forward nine thousand years and that same human nature has equipped us with inclinations that are ill-suited to the everyday.  We have to-do lists filled with diets, early wake-ups, and exercise schedules, among a host of other ugly and motivationally indigestible ordeals.  Almost every aspect of our lives reflects this maddening mismatch between our desires and our responsibilities, as we overemphasize the present and sacrifice the future. 

The hope he holds out, the answer to this dilemma, lies in accepting our circumstances, our shared humanity, and "adopt[ing] advice consistent with this understanding."  That is to say, the advice contained in The Procrastination Equation, which, if you'd purchased the book, you would be "holding. . . in your hands."

Last three words in the chapter?  "Now do it." 

Next week:  Summing it up.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Done for the Week: Narrowing My Sights

I have reached the part of this summer that will involve focusing intensely on preparing for the triathlon in less than three weeks.  My training partner and I spent all day yesterday traveling to, participating in, and returning from the Danskin Triathlon Prep Camp held at the location of the upcoming race.  Tomorrow we will begin the Open Water Swim class, which will have us traveling to and training in the Lake we will be swimming across.  It is time to take my bike in for its pre-race tuneup, and to finalize additional equipment and technique tweaks.  The training schedule for the next three weeks will be hectic.  And it is time to start working on my nerves.

Even though this is my second tri, and I am no longer considered a newbie, I still approach the event with a bit of trepidation; although I have to say that getting into the lake yesterday was much less intimidating than it was last year at this time.  But, at least for me, an undertaking of this magnitude requires the kind of organization, persistence, faith, self-discipline, and FOCUS that do not come naturally to me.  Which is why this sport has been so good for me.  And so challenging.

To further complicate things this year, August brings me new staff to deal with at one job; my grandson's birthday (which I am struggling to remember is in 3 days!); a new web client, with his September launch date; a major website overhaul for another client, due at the end of the month; my continuing efforts to keep this blog up and running; support needed to get one son ready for college, and another to finish high school; and the rush to complete the long list of summer projects we came up with, what seems a few short weeks ago.  Oh, and then there's the recall election that Wisconsin believes the world is watching.  Eight crazy days, and lots of volunteer hours to go.

I am still managing to put one foot in front of the other, and still searching for equanimity.

Done for the Week:  July 25-31, 2011
  1. Completed Week 12 of 15-week triathlon training program; ran three times; swam three times; biked three times
  2. Worked out several times with my training partner
  3. Attended Triathlon Prep Camp
  4. Ordered & received new triathlon shorts; found old ones
  5. Got new contacts, and began wearing them 
  6. Finished If Sons, Then Heirs, by Lorene Cary
  7. Continued to work my two part-time jobs 
  8. Published 1 blog post 
  9. Shared Happy Hour dinner with my husband
  10. Continued reading Elizabeth George's In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner aloud with my husband
  11. Took my dog to dog wash/coffee bar, with my husband
  12. Set up lunch meeting with new web client
  13. Met with current web client; worked on project
  14. Participated in driving my not-quite-licensed-to-drive son to and from work
  15. Took last child to driver's license road test in the rain (He passed!)
  16. Worked for recall candidate
  17. Worked at two Get Out the Vote events, in the blazing heat of mid-day
  18. Attended stepson's fiance's graduate school graduation party
  19. Celebrated my husband's birthday
  20. Visited "Summer of China" Forbidden City exhibit at Art Museum
  21. Bought "new" sofa and sofa table at consignment shop
  22. Picked up sofa and sofa table, and moved out old sofa
  23. Made significant progress in cleaning/straightening/decluttering living room, family room & kitchen  
  24. Did laundry

Last week's most important accomplishment was all the effort I put into getting ready for the triathlon.   And in the process, I determined that my approach to training and preparations for this much-anticipated event has been neglecting its importance.  I have been trying to wedge this significant campaign into an already crazy-making agenda, and experiencing the necessary activity as more of a nuisance than the joy it was last year.  

Some of what has been missing is training with my daughter, which gave us some time and a shared interest outside of family.  She is four months pregnant, and not a triathlon candidate this season.  But I am enjoying training with a friend, and supporting her first effort.

The real culprit is the rest of my jam-packed life.  I haven't yet figured out what to do about that, though I have certainly spent a lot of time contemplating solutions, and writing about that contemplation.  But I have decided to enter more fully into the experience of triathlon, which is not just about race day.  I am going to try to give it the attention and the energy it deserves, and to relish its gifts and take in its lessons.  That is next week's focus goal.

Last week's focus goal, creating a realistic schedule that reflects my many current commitments, got short shrift, I'm afraid.   Given the crunch-time nature of these last weeks of summer, it was probably unrealistic to have expected otherwise.  As I said last week, "When I can be more strategic about my use of time, it should be easier to defend against additional incursions of responsibility (by using that two-letter word I have so much trouble with), and to prioritize projects in a way that will allow me to feel that I'm making progress."  Emphasis on when.  That time is not now.  

Later, for the realistic schedule.