Friday, April 23, 2010

This time ...

This is the comic strip I’m giving Iian.
Iian is my swim coach, of course. He’s one of my swim coaches, anyway, my most recently added, and the one most responsible for the successful build-up to that great Alcatraz-Golden Gate weekend in San Francisco. He’s been very generous sharing what he does best, and I’ve wanted to thank him with some artifact of what I do best.

I actually drew this one specifically for him -- note the water bottle bearing the logo of his school, Auburn -- because Iian has been trying to teach me to do something I don’t do well at all. Three things, rather: the backstroke, the breaststroke and the butterfly. I’ve been saying “This time, I’ll get it right” a lot.

If that makes the strip highly relevant, so does the fact that the damn thing ran a month ago and Iian still doesn’t have it. I have a tendency to fall behind sometimes, and not just when I’m trying to keep up with competent backstrokers. I’m behind now.

I take a perverse pride in that one of the questions I get most is “How do you do it all?” Perverse, because the answer is not nearly as flattering as the question. It’s all too often the time-management equivalent of deficit spending, and like deficit spending, it works great until it doesn’t. You ride along in the red zone, even acquiring a certain amount of comfort there, until Powie! Something piles on and you realize you have no reserves and frankly your investors have started to figure you out.

Maybe that’s a dangerous allegory. While it’s accurate enough, I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I’ve been foreclosed on, developed a bankrupting medical issue or picked a war halfway around the world. I just did a lot of traveling in March to push the book and while I’m at it film a couple more segments for the lifetime highlight reel. My finances are fine. I’m short on time, sleep, fitness and, as you probably noticed again Wednesday, blog entries.

So let’s do what I always seem to do, and turn this into an athletic allegory. A bike racing one this time. In bicycle racing, the draft is everything. When you ride behind others and let them push the air out of the way for you, the ride gets 20 to 50 percent easier. So when you lose that draft – fall “off the back,” as the term goes – it’s bad news. What you learn, and try to apply to the rest of your life, is that no matter how hard it is to keep up, it’s a whole lot easier than trying to catch up. Often it’s complicated by the fact that if you wouldn’t be in the position of having to catch up if you’d had the suds to keep up in the first place.

But you don’t always fall off the back because you’re too knackered to hold the pace. Sometimes you have a crash or a mechanical or a pee or you have to help a more important (or more desperate) teammate. Racers deal with that stuff and catch up all the time, and there are few better feelings than tucking back into that slipstream after riding yourself cross-eyed to get there.

I think I’m just about back on. One more gut-busting surge, and maybe my worries will go from “can I catch up?” back to “please don’t anybody attack off the front for a few minutes.”

I will catch up. Iian will get his original. E-mails will be returned. Blogs will return to their MWF schedule. I’ll heal up and plot and resume a real training plan before I’ve squandered away my winter base. Patty will remember what the whites of my eyes look like. The dog will get walked more. And I’ll spend a little time on my backstroke.

And this time, I’ll get it right.


Anonymous said...

Practice, Practice, Practice....Patience, Patience, Patience....Persistence, Persistence, Persistence....REPEAT!

I've been reading The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. His blog is here Good stuff. I find it encouraging that I CAN learn new skills (even if it seems like I'm the slowest person on the planet)

Jef Mallett said...

Oh, wow -- Coyle is a terrific writer and journalist. "Lance Armstrong's War" remains, in my opinion, the best look at pro bike racing I've seen. (And second only to "Roadie," of course, for cycling in general!)I'll definitely find The Talent Code. Thanks!

Jon Ford said...

Dude, there is no backstroke, breaststroke or fly needed in triathlon. Is this some kind of cross-training for your shoulder?

I too am still playing catch up after SF. Including trying to sneak in time to read Trizophrenia. It is a really GREAT book. Forget about me buying one pass-along copy: I'm going for multiples!

Patty Mallett said...

I know what the whites of your eyes look like, hon. Really.