Thursday, August 23, 2012

to stoop and build again with worn out tools

It has been nearly a month since I wrote a piece for this blog.  I had my laptop stolen (from a room at La Quinta - don't ever stay there) and I am afraid that it significantly dampened my enthusiasm for writing.  Or at least that is the story I told myself.  Loose a favorite tool and it becomes the end and the means rolled into one.  Tools have a funny connection to our psyche.   We acquire more of them we need.  Tell ourselves that we need them to be successful.  We use their imperfections and/or their absence as an excuse.  We covet those of others.  We fill our garages, cars, homes and lives with them.  While there is no question that the right tool is important for the right job... we take it too far.  Case in point - my stolen laptop and month of not writing.  We have plenty of other computers in the house.  I am using one right now.  It is often very difficult to remember that there are times when one tool is just as good as another.  Even harder is to know the difference between the times when you have legitimately outgrown a tool and when you are just being acquisitive.  I have lots of trouble with that.

I recently retired a tool that I told myself I had outgrown.  My super-bad-ass-road-bike (built by yours truly) is for sale and has already been replaced.  I think I probably did "outgrow" it.  I kept getting passed in triathlons like I was standing still.  It is too heavy for the level of racing I am doing (or so I tell myself).  I bought a new tool.  A lighter, faster, and far more expensive Cinelli road bike.  Another tool for the garage.  I tell myself a story that I am going to sell the old one.  I even put it on Craigslist ( if you want to check it out).  But let's be real... when you buy a new tool do you really ever get rid of the old one?

I get a chance to put the new tool to use this weekend.  The Mormon Lake Road Race - 70 miles at 8500 feet.  Biggest, baddest, toughest race that I have done yet.  It is on Sunday.  New tool, new race.  Saturday I have an open water 2k swimming race in Lake Pleasant.  For that race, I will be using the same old well worn tool - me.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

This is going to be harder than I thought

Last night I watched some of the opening pageantry for the Olympic Games. It made me conscious of my own athletic ambitions, delusions and dreams. Which, in turn, made me hyper-conscious of how long it has been since I wrote about any of them. All of which forced me to acknowledge "THE REASON WHY" I have been so long absent from this blog. I feel like I have written some checks with my mouth that my ass did not cash. I have come to the conclusion that this road that I am on is going to be a harder one than I had thought. I had previously set some benchmarks - I have failed to meet them. It doesn't mean that I throw up my hands and walk away shouting "hell with it - can't be done - I don't have it in me". What it does mean is that THIS IS GOING TO BE HARDER THAN I THOUGHT.

Two weeks ago I had the honor of swimming in the US Masters Swimming Summer National Long Course Swimming Meet. I was witness to some incredible and inspired athletic performances. I saw competitors ranging in ages from 19 to 89 set both world and national records.

I wish that I had been one of those record setters. I wasn't though. I had told myself a story a few months back that I would be "not too far" off from those record setters. I was really far off from them. To be fair, I have been training to be a super-hero since February. I started out as an obese 40+ smoker. Five months later I am doing a triathlon or two per month and swimming in Masters Nationals. Not too bad. I have done pretty well - just not where I told myself I should be though.

This Sunday (29 July) I am swimming in Arizona's Grand Canyon State Games. Next week I swim in the Arizona Long Course Masters Championships. The very next weekend is the Flagstaff Mountain Man Olympic Triathlon. The next weekend is the second in a series of three Arizona Open Water Championships. After that comes the Fire on the Mountain 50 mile mtn bike race. Then the Xterra Off-road triathlon. Quite a mouthful of events over the next nine weeks. Quite a series of meets and races. I am truly blessed to be able to do this. Suspend the "wows" though... it is not as impressive as it sounds. I would be a liar though if I said that I was kicking ass and taking names. I am finishing. I am not dead-last. But, I am not as fast or fit as I was 25 years ago. I guess this is going to be harder than I thought.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

on my way to swim in Micheal Phelps' wake

Tomorrow I step up onto the starting blocks in Omaha, Nebraska to swim 100 meters of butterfly. I am in Omaha for the US Old People National Swimming Championships. Competitors from all over the US, ranging in age from 20 to 92, and organized into age groups blocks of 5 years. I am in the 40-44 age group. Guys who swam in college and never stopped in my age group are still damn near as fast as they were 20+ years ago. I, however, am not. I am doing pretty well considering I got back into the water in February after a 20 year break in my swimming career. Having said that, I am nowhere near as fast as I used to be. But I will be again. In fact, I have decided that I am going to be that one oddball freak-of-nature swimmer who goes faster as an old guy than he did as kid. I am on it. Done deal. Going to happen. Though probably not at this meet. The target for that one is next year.

The 100 fly will be the first of four events that I will compete in over the following three days. The 100 has always been my favorite event. As a kid a in the 1980s I had about 15 minutes of fame as a flyer. I swam that race about a million times in some incredible pools and against some awesome athletes. Having said that... tomorrow's venue and competition beats all of that history by light years. Built for last week's US Olympic Team Trial Swimming Meet, the pool is absolutely unrivaled in the world of swimming. The kind of place that gives swimmers goose pimples to visit. Where the chlorine heads wander about with a dazed and amazed expression. Today at registration I took heart from the fact that I was not the only one gawking like a bumpkin in times square for the first time.

The people I am joining with and racing against are from all of the United States, from a myriad of different backgrounds, and range across the age spectrum. One of the people I most want to introduce myself to is Mr. Bob Doud. Bob is the oldest guy entered in the 100m fly. He is 89 years old and is swimming in a lane next Mr. Thomas Maine. Thomas is 87. I'm rooting for Bob, though I am cool if Thomas wins too. One of things that makes masters swimming so extraordinary is that it is full of these stories. Every event has a story of human triumph that inspires and uplifts us. I spoke with a guy in warm ups today who is focus made flesh. He is here to try to set the masters world record for the 400 Individual Medley Relay. This a particularly brutal event where you swim 100m of every stroke. He has a legitimate shot... though the competition is fierce. There are 21 people swimming his event in his age group and three of them can potentially beat him. He is 73. His age group is 70 to 74 year old men.

I am not going to break any world records tomorrow or the next two days after. What I will do is step up and be counted. I am a man with a mission and tomorrow I take an important personal step forward toward accomplishing that mission. If you don't know about the mission, please check it out in my past blog.

For all who are interested in watching me swim (or any of the meet for that matter) the whole thing is being broadcast on the internet. You can tune in at The state of Nebraska is in Central Daylight Time Zone (UTC - 0500, an hour behind EST, two ahead of PST). My races are:
Fri 6 July - 100m fly between 11:20-11:55am
Sat 7 July - 200m fly between 3:45-4:20pm
Sun 8 July - 400m free between 8-10am
Sun 8 July - 50m fly between 3:10-3:40pm

If you have never seen me in a bathing suit or watched a swimming meet... maintain low expectations. Both share a high degree of anti-climax. My hope, ambition, secret plan, and solemn vow is work to make both be more exciting in years to come. For this meet... I will settle for not embarrassing myself in either a suit or (more importantly) in the pool. I hope you tune in and give me a virtual "cheering on" to speed me along.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink

It has been 11 days since my last blog post.  That is the longest "silence" that I have had since I began this several months ago.  For the three of you who love my blog - I apologize for my absence.  I was on vacation, and then came home to disaster.  Disaster is a funny thing (that would be "funny" in the "peculiar" sense as opposed to the "ha ha" sense).  It seldom comes comes in single doses.  Its effects are complicated.  Spiderweb-like.  We had several disasters of varying degrees of severity hit us.  Some of them are easy to fix - but costly.  Some are hard to fix - but cheap.  Some are - well - complicated.  Like the problem of my hip.

It is fractured again. (if you did not know it was fractured - get caught up by clicking here)  That sucks so badly that it almost requires the invention of a new swear word.  I did it by going running every day after the Keuka Triathlon.  Where I got 43rd out of 44 (read about it here if you have not).  Because I had not run for 12 weeks.  Because I had a stress fracture in my hip.  I had thought that I would do better... I even shot my mouth off about it some.  So when I did crap (43 of 44) I thought "well at least my hip made through just fine so I can run again" and off I went.  I guess I had not given much thought to the weeks of drinking more than usual, eating WAY more than usual, and exercising less than usual.  What I did not consider was the other lurking disaster.  Twenty pounds.  Three steps forward.  One step back.  Since I started trying to be a super-hero I have lost 60 pounds (27.2 kg).  Maybe that should be "had" lost - because I regained about 20 pounds over three weeks on vacation.  Instead of running on my hip at 186 with a view toward hitting 175ish... I was pounding 206 on a barely healed stress fracture.  Guess what happened?

I have it under control now.  Not nearly as bad a break as before.  No more running (other than during a triathlon or xterra event) until I tip the scales at 180.  Hip should be healed by then and able to stand up to that level of pounding/poundage.  The challenge in the whole thing is keeping up the effort that it takes to lose   enough to step up onto the starting blocks at 180 in Omaha, Nebraska at the US Masters Swimming Nationals on 6 July.  The effort it will take to undo the damage done by vacation is herculean.  Today, for example, I went on a 12 mile mtn bike ride in 96 degree (38 centigrade) heat, then on a 14 mile road bike ride when the heat climbed to 100 degrees (40 centigrade), then swam 2000 meters, then did a mile of stair-climber, and then lifted weights.  I know what some of you are thinking.  Yes. I can sustain that level for nearly every day til Omaha.  I have to.  My only hope of doing anything of note there is if there is quite a bit less of me than now.

So if that disaster was not enough... we came home to a ruin of a house.  While we were away the supply line to our ice-maker sprung a leak.  Water ran onto the floor of the kitchen for three weeks and destroyed our kitchen cupboards and floor.  Also ruining a great deal of drywall and insulation.

It continued on into the dinning where it ruined a persian rug I bought in Pakistan many years ago.  It also destroyed the floor in there as well.

Finally, the water stopped in the living room where the bulk of the furniture and carpets were spared, but the flooring was not.

Basically our dream home was rendered uninhabitable.  Grim.  The last disaster was the realization that going pro was going to be more expensive than we had thought.  Indeed, more than we have.  More on this to follow.

Friday, June 8, 2012

just can build the wings on the way down

Not long long ago I turned a secret plan into a manifesto - and put some specific benchmarks into place.  I created these to serve as signposts to guide my way from the comfort-zone of my man-cave to my own personal superhero-land - my destination.  None were going to be easy signposts to get to.  My first came up last Sunday (3 June - Keuka Lake) at a triathlon.  The signpost I set out to pass... finish in the top third of in my age-group (40-44).  Not only did I fail to wizz past this one, I careened face-first into it.  I got 44th out of 45.  I finished - 44th out of 45.  It was my first time running in several months after a stress fracture in my hip.  When I finished that mile swim, 20 mile ride and, 6 mile run (hip felt fine - thank you for wondering) I was 44th place.  Out of 45.  Not even close to where I set out to be.  That is the problem with setting benchmarks - you might not reach them.  

When you step up, you sometimes get stepped on.  It is just the way it is.  It may mean that the original goal that you set was not realistic.  You don't really know that though until you have crashed into the signpost repeatedly.  That sucks but it is what is so.  The brutally grim piece is that you only have two choices: fail and collapse into self-loathing; or, fail and keep your feet under you and try again.  To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins "it's a dangerous business, [Subad], going out of your door... you step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."

I am blessed that I have loving support in my friends and family.  They are genuinely proud of my 44th of 45.  They believe in me.  They are also not trying to go where I am.  So... I have to climb back up to the edge of the cliff again.  You will fail over and over again when you are trying to change your life.  It sucks but it is what is so - and so what.  In real life superheros are not born.  They are made.  They are made of pain, embarrassment, failure, and that dash of success that makes it all worthwhile.  If you are in this for instant gratification and the eternal sunshine of repeat triumph - then you are in for rude awakening.  Time to jump again.

You can build your wings on the way down.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to make a secret plan a manifesto

A Secret Plan can be stupid, pedantic, or ignorable to everyone other than you.  No one else's opinion matters when it comes to your Secret Plan.  What matters is that the end is big ticket high-stakes-life-changing-stuff for YOU.  If it ain't... it is just a goal.  The brutally tough last step is to make it public.  This is the piece of the life-change sequence where many of us get hung up.  When I wrote about it last week  it was so hard that I could not even get myself to publicly declare the gist of my own Secret Plan.  However, as a buddy of mine recently wrote, it is time to "lean forward into life" and turn the Secret Plan into a manifesto.

One of the pitfalls of self-improvement resolutions is that there is a breakdown in the sequencing.  The need is easily identified, end-goal clearly defined.  There is even a sense of some of the steps required to get from  need to end.  The vision of those steps is often blurred or distorted - we don't see the order that they need to take.  We are are scared to look closely so that we can see.  Take the example of the cigarette smoking Robad (Regular Old Bald Ass Dada).  He inhales $400 worth of smoke every month and is $400 short in critical monthly expenses.  He says "I really need to quit smoking" and then lights another cigarette.  He knows about nicoderm patches and sugar-free gum.  He understands that many of the aches, pains, and physical ailments he lives with will disappear if he quits.  He says "I really need to quit smoking" and lights another.  He absolutely gets that the extra $400 will be a sea change for his family.  Like rowboat to yacht kind of stuff.  But he does not get beyond "I really need to quit smoking".  I got news folks... he ain't crazy or weird.  He is you.  He is me.  We are him.  So don't sit in judgement.  We have all been in the same boat as Robad.

The trick to breaking the cycle is that there is no trick.  STOP looking for a trick.  No secrets to a Secret Plan.  Make a clear mission - a big lofty goal.  Just like you are a start-up business - make it clear, measurable, action-oriented, and simple.  Write down three to five checkpoints you will cross on your way to that goal.  What are the baby steps to get you to that first checkpoint.  Think of the baby steps as a punch-list.  Publicly state your mission - take the Secret Plan and make it a manifesto.  Always try to keep your talk "on mission" and remind others about your mission when their talk strays off your course.  Stay flexible, progress (as my mother says) ain't always linear.

So what is your Secret Plan?  Don't be afraid.  Make one - turn it into a manifesto.  Start broad and focus down into the specific.  Make yourself accountable.  Make it painful.  So here is mine... let's call it the Dada Manifesto:

Secret Plan - I will make my living as an athletic professional (competitor and mentor).

Manifesto - By the middle of 2013 I will make my living as a professional multi-sport athlete and as a coach/personal trainer.  I will compete at professional levels in swimming, triathlon, xterra, mountain biking, and road cycling.  I will earn the needed certificates to work as a trainer and coach and work with a wide range of people to help them to change their lives for the better.

Benchmarks - Physical: weight in june 2012 = 190 and rpr (resting pulse rate) 70, july 2012 = 187 and rpr 67, august 2012 = 184 and rpr 64, sept 2012 = 180 and rpr 60, november and on oward = 175 and rpr 56.  Swimming: 2012 US Masters Nationals Omaha within 8 seconds of US national record in at least one event, compete in five swim meets getting at least 1 second faster each time, break at least one US national record at 2013 US Masters Nationals.  Triathlon: june - finish keuka lake triathlon in top 25 for age group, sept. - top 10 at JCC Scottsdale Adult Sprint Triathlon, oct - top 10 at Bartlett Lake Olympic & Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon, nov - top 5 at Southwest Valley Regional YMCA Thanksgiving Day Sprint Triathlon, more to follow.  Xterra: aug - top 25 at lake tahoe, sept - top 8 at show low, more to follow.  Mountain Biking: ride and re-ride the Prescott Whiskey Off-Road course taking 10 minutes off every month, more to follow, Road Cycling: more to follow.  Professional Development: more to follow.

There is the outline of my plan for accomplishing my manifesto.  It starts tomorrow morning in the 62 degree waters of Keuka Lake.  There I will be swimming, biking, and running an olympic distance triathlon.  I have some people to crush.  I better call it a night.  Do yourself a favor - make a secret plan.  Turn it into a manifesto.  And for the gods' sake lean forward into life.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The secret plan for world domination

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about the challenges posed by trying to become a superhero (see the road to becoming a superhero is pavedwith broken ice makers).  To recap – I wrote about the difficulty in transforming into a comic book character cut from the Batman cloth (sans mystical/magical/supernatural/superscientific intervention).  In my case, I did not want to be the Dark Knight nor Iron Man but Super-Bad-Ass-Dada… a.k.a. Subad.  Most of you will not be too surprised to learn that it was mostly tongue in cheek.  However, the handful of readers out there who know me well probably suspected something else lurking below the surface of the Subad story.  You might have seen the shadow cast by a Secret Plan.

The dangers inherent in revealing a secret plan are legion.  Among the most obvious issues is that of commitment.  Once you have publicly committed to a course of action you have bound some of your credibility to the outcome.  You have to walk the talk.  Quitting and walking away from the project takes on a whole different aspect.  The declaration of “this I will do” is a bit like a marriage vow.  You stand before your assembled friends, family, and even the gods of your ancestors and declare “I am on the plane till we level out or crash into the mountain”.  There is no bailing out.  You throw out the parachute.  It is very hard to do the first time.  The second time, after a crash and burn, is brutally hard.  Most of us crash and burn a few times before we learn to either play it safe/shut up - or to walk our talk.  Just because revealing the Secret Plan is scary though is no reason not to do it.  Throwing out the parachute, when the flight is worth it, is a critical step.  Some flights leave without you if don’t toss it before boarding.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Super-Bad-Ass-Dada or just a Regular-Old-Bald-Ass-Dada.  Subad and Robad are faced with people that do want them to succeed.  Both Subad and Robad have overt enemies try to poison the wells, well-intended but limiting friends, and unequivocal supporters.  Unfortunately, stories told by the first two groups are the easiest to hear.  Both are telling themselves narratives that are different than the narrative of the Secret Plan.  One of the hard parts about reinventing yourself is breaking out from the force of the story that other people are telling themselves about you.  Almost everyone says “I don’t care what other people think about me”.  We are all liars.  We care.  The stories carry a weight that propels, drags upon, enrages, motivates, depresses, and limits us.  Make no mistake – most of the time we play a serious role in the shaping of these stories. The enemies’ stories and the friends’ are a combination of our actions and how they have chosen to interpret them.  Sometimes the story is grossly unfair; and, other times it is something we can never live up to.  It is seldom dead on accurate.  It might be who you were… but it doesn’t have to be who you are going to be.  You can write a new story.  There is a point at which you have to let people in on the Secret Plan.  If you don’t they never get to change their story about you, and trust me – you will need the energy that their new story creates.  Secret Plans cannot be implemented on your own, doesn’t matter if you are Subad or Robad. 

My own Secret Plan is uber-ambitious but is broken into concrete stages that build upon one another.  It does not involve having an island hideaway with lots of henchmen and a giant city-killing laser or anything like that.  It is based on some pretty basic premises. 
1. I am happier when I am very fit. 
2. The longer I live, the more time I have to be successful. 
3. I am a teacher and a coach.
4. I am a competitor.          
5. We need me to have an income.

All of those premises add together to equal my own Secret Plan.  In a nutshell, the plan is to....  Well, more to follow.  Maybe.  Walking away.  Plan stays Secret for now.  Some things are better left....