I have taken some planned, and some unplanned, time off since completing (read: finishing) Ironman Florida. In that time, I have had time to reflect on what I want to explore in this blog. My focus isn’t going to change so much as it is going to narrow. Heretofore, my focus has been on Warriorship, and in the past 12-18 months or so, specifically on the training aspect of Warriorship. However, it has occurred to me that all of that really begs the question.
The question seems to be more accurately–How do we actually make things happen? or What is the mechanism of Manifestation? These seem to be the questions that go the heart of Warriorship. The Warrior’s key role is to act. The question then is, What does it mean to Act? How does one actually Act? What is it to transform a Thought, Concept, Idea to an Action? and What is involved in Action impacting the larger Reality?
Training and Warriorship remain ideal forums for exploring these questions.
Join me on this new leg of exploration.
There is no purpose to my training. There is no real end-goal to all of this. People ask why I train. Last night the question came up with one of our surrogate daughters (as I call them). This time it was in the form of “Why do you triathlons?” We were discussing Ironman. The answer was “Because it was the next step”–Which doesn’t really answer her question.
The question of Purpose implies in part a practical purpose. My training and competing does have some practical side benefits. There are several very real real-world reasons I train. However, these are not compelling enough in themselves to justify what I do. Therefore, in honesty they are not Why I Train.
I have asked this question before.
Training has many practical benefits. I have actually needed it in the real world. Survival is a huge one. General health. Improved mental functioning. Ability to keep up with my kids. Respect amongst my peers. Social outlet. Fun. Improvement in my other purposeless activities (rock climbing, camping, hiking, fishing). It is a tool on my spiritual path. But none of these, even surviving the coming apocolypse, is really compelling enough.
I’ve been reading the “E-Myth” Series of books, by Michael E. Gerber. In E-Myth Mastery he tackles this question of Purpose, Passion, and Vision (his distinctions). Gerber concludes that once something is reduced to purpose, practicality is attached, and the original vision is killed. This is something experienced in business all the time. Artists talk of how earning a living from their art, killed their art. I am going through this in my business right now. My artistic vision has been compromised by the practical needs of operating a business. Consequently, I find my passion waning.
Walking back to the soccer fields last night, approaching from above, I was able to look out over the whole complex spread out under the lights. I was struck by the sheer numbers of kids working hard at something, which, for most of them, will yield no practical results. There will be no soccer scholarships for most. Most will not play on the top state and national teams. Even for those who play on top teams, or make their competitive high school squads, the real practicality of it all is hard to define. There are much better ways to finance a college education than pouring all the time and money we do into sports. We put a massive amount of effort and resources as a society into sports. All of which only yields “practical” results for an improbably narrow slice.
Why do we do this?
I believe it is a primordial longing that compels us. Our obsession for sports embodies a longing for a Human state lost thousands of years ago. I’ve talked about how the Warrior class developed as human society became more organized. How the Warrior class is an embodiment of some of our most powerful Human evolutions. The Warrior is a link between Civilized man and Natural man. We long for this connection.
There is no Purpose to my training. I am compelled by a calling from time before Reason, a root deeper than Purpose.
Neurogenesis. The process of the brain producing new brain cells. This was believed for decades to not exist–Despite case-study evidence to the contrary. At any rate, this is the first step in reprogramming your brain.
For the Warrior, neurogenesis provides a unique opportunity to reprogram the brain. Exercise contributes to neurogenesis–it induces the growth of new brain cells. This is great because we are already training and exercising. New brain cells are already being generated. However, this is not enough.
New brain cells alone will not make things different. These are raw cells that need to learn stuff. They can learn what you already know. Or you can program them with new information, habits, behaviors, reactions.
Bottom line: New brain cells need to be programmed with something–this can be negative habits or new, positive behaviors.
Your move. You’ve got these new brain cells. What are you going to program them with? You need to consciously decide what learning, what habits, what behaviors you’re going to expose these new brain cells to.
You can pick up a new book. You can take a class. You can Meditate. Meditation, with its own effects on the brain, seems like a great way to double-down. You can continue your old, bad habits.
Yesterday I was scouting out a new 60 mile bicycle route for the Crew. What was supposed to be a ride punctuated with map checks, became a mini Warrior-Up session. This weekend I finished installing a new wheelset, exchanged my 8-speed Hyperglide for a 9-speed, new chain, new rear shift cable, and adjusted my bar-end shifters for the new set-up. Saturday night all seemed well.
Everything started out well enough. The route starts out the first 10-15 miles or so sharing the same roads of other routes we ride. I had to conduct a couple of map checks, to verify intersections, etc., but all was well.
Before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped shifting to the big chain ring. I made a pit stop in Rutledge, GA, made the field adjustments, and proceded. Then the front derailleur began dropping my chain to the outside. Several roadside adjustments later, and I had that under control.
By adding time to the ride, my water began to get low.
Then, in the second half I couldn’t shift to my lowest gear.
Later in the second half, I couldn’t hit the #8 sprocket.
Then the #7 sprocket.
I stopped the check it out. Clearly a couple turns on my cable nut would square it away. I succeeded in up-shifting to my 12 tooth #1 with a completely stretched out cable, and the one nut on the whole bike I couldn’t adjust with my new onboard multi-tool.
I had to ride it out like that, hills and all.
There were at least two hills I considered dismounting and walking.
Eventually, the school parking lot where my truck was parked was in sight.
It didn’t kill me.
I’m glad it happened–now. We don’t want to have to Warrior-Up every training session. Once in a while, we need a little extra suck–those sessions where one thing after the other, after the other, goes wrong to really test and stretch us mentally.
In the gym lifting yesterday, I had an epiphany. An article tweeted by @EastTriFitCrew drew the analogy of your body as a vehicle you train and prep for race day–a vehicle that it is then up to you the driver to drive for the race. I found this analogy striking at the moment, a great distinction between your body, training, and your self who must actually execute on race day, mechanical malfunctions, inadequacies and all. It is similar, but not exactly, like the guy with the $5000 bike, the bike alone won’t make him go fast. (I also appreciate the role of the self as the observer)
However, in the gym yesterday, it occurred that this analogy can be extended further, and more meaningfully to Practice and life in general. We practice for what purpose? It is not an end in itself. Nor is it for the purpose of the real side benefits–reduced heart rate, longevity, improved health, better focus–but to prepare ourselves to navigate this life, many of whom’s ultimate goal is to not rinse-and-repeat next life, but ultimate freedom from Samsara.
Practice that only aims for the side benefits, falls far short. Yoga, zazen, tai chi–whatever your practice, there are many side benefits (so readily marketed to us now), but what is the point if you don’t then use that improved vehicle to navigate this life.
You are the driver. Your body is a shell. You will eventually shed your body, your mind even. Until then, to what use will you put them?
Training is my Practice. It is what actually keeps me functional in this life. For me the vehicle and driver analogy is perfect. My truck with 316,000 miles on it–I do the maintenance so it will remain functional, and continue to help me navigate around town. I don’t do the maintenance just so it will look nice, or people will think it is cool (though some actually do think it’s cool). I practice so my mind and body will remain functional (sometimes even at peak performance), and I can use them to help me navigate this universe.
I just put my first triathlon of the season in the bag (I have a few more races scheduled)–it was the Spring Fling at West Point Lake, on the border of Georgia and Alabama. (West Point, Georgia, near LaGrange). This event actually consists of two races–the West Point Triathlon, an olympic distance, and the Spring Fling Sprint.
My selection of this race was that it was the first sprint distance scheduled on a Sunday. My Saturdays are impossibilities until after soccer season. In fact my next race will be the Turtle Crawl Olympic at Jekyll, the first Saturday after soccer season!
Down and Dirty
This is a fun race. The weather was great, the water temp was a tad cool, but I always feel the lake temps are cool. The people are fun, and the volunteers super helpful.
Distances: 600 yard swim, 15 mile bike, 5k run. With relay team option, also
Course: Out and back 600 yard swim in West Point Lake;
15 mile out and back (essentially) bike, no aid stations; 5k out and back run, water at start and 1.5 mile mark.
Registration: $65, early mail-in, USAT member. I hate online registration through those thieves at Active.com .
Host: Georgia Multisport
Weather: Weather was beautiful and warm. The water was still a tad cool–Wetsuit legal. I was able to test my new Xterra john suit. Weather stayed sunny and rain-free all day. I didn’t notice the heat until after the race.
- Swim–Start and end on a boat ramp, which is always slightly tricky in terms of toe scrapes. A simple out for 250-300 yards, hang a left for 50 or so, and back.
- Bike–Rolling hills. Somewhere this course was called flat and fast. It is not flat. No killer climbs, but don’t look for the flats. A Pit/Staffordshire mix came charging out on one uphill. Thank you to the sheriff who chased him off.
- Run–Again, not flat. Rolling hills, no killer climbs. I’m sure I negative split on the way back.
Competition: Mixed bag of super fast guys, and first-timers. The first olympic distance guy was out of the water in 17 minutes. The last olympic people were behind me.
My results: Back of the pack swim, mid-pack bike, front pack run. Mid-pack overall, back of the pack for my age group. My biggest opportunity still lies in the swim, but I feel that getting better with every training session. My next opportunity is in the bike, getting stronger and smarter there all the time.
General Impression: Fun race. Close enough to home to get up early and drive to, race, and drive home. Well supported during all legs, with nice post race recovery food (I did not try, and cannot vouch for, the pizza though)
Room for improvement: Swag period. We got our numbers before hand, and the t-shirt. No swag at all though 😐
I woke up at 3:30am to get ready and leave for the race. I had done minimal preparation the night before (which I regret). My aim was to be on the road at 4:30. I finally got going pushing 5am. From my house it was right at 2 hours to get there. Definitely load up all your stuff once your parked, and head down to transition in one shot. the closest parking is 1/4 mile. Where I ended up parking is 1/2 mile easy. You don’t want to make that round trip unnecessarily.
Once I got parked, unloaded and down to transition, transition was technically closed. (One reason I recommend you stay the night if this is your first race.) I set up transition fairly quickly, copped a squat in someone’s chair, and squeezed into my wetsuit.
With a little time to kill, I hit the bathroom (no, not the port-a-potty). By the time that was over, the Olympic distance had already started. I slipped into my start wave and waited.
The swim was uneventful, except I need to work on my wetsuit adjustments. I had not hoisted the crotch enough, and it ended up pulling on my shoulders, chest and legs. I think this is an adjustment issue, not a sizing one. Although, I’m finding the triathlon sizing charts are made for skinner guys than I, and I’m not a bulky guy.
Bike transition went smooth. Slightly slow, as I carefully eased the wetsuit past my ankles. The bike ride was also uneventful, one Lincoln buzzed me and pushed my bike number into my wheel spokes and I had the annoyance of that flapping sound for the last six or seven miles. I passed some folks and lost them on the hills. The pit/Staffordshire mix came charging out right before the 7.5 mile marker. He had his sights set on a cyclist in front of me, but a deputy ran him off. I tested out one of my homemade Lara bars. The bar worked great, but my wrapping, and deployment needs some help. Definitely not as simple as ripping open a gel. No sports drink for this race, only water.
Run transition was super fast. Rack my bike. Take off my helmet. Slip on my running shoes. Zing my elastic laces. and I’m gone. Nothing else to it. I hit an espresso gel at the .5 mile or so. After the 1.5 mile turn around, the gel hit, I kicked it in a bit, and finished with some fast guys, making me look a lot better than I am. The finish line sneaks up on you a bit, and is in a slightly different spot than the transition area.
Muscle Milk, cookies, bananas, water and a Coke for my post recovery stuff. There was a ton of other stuff. I wasn’t really craving anything else, and those hit the spot. Talked to some local racers for a bit, and headed home.
Got home in time to help my buddy with his hot water heater, and my son with his AP Statistics homework!
It was a good day.
Confession: This post is inspired by Lauren Hanna Foster’s recent post Trust the Practice. I saw a tweet/retweet with the titled and was led to read the post, mostly by its recollection of a refrain from my past “Trust your training.” The implication being, if you’ve put in the work, when you need it your training will in turn work for you. Regardless whether you intellectually understand it, or emotionally agree–you have trained, your training will carry you through. In a survival scenario, or in a grueling race, rely on your training.
Lauren’s post isn’t about life or death, but it is about Showing Up and Putting in the Work. If you show up, the Practice will carry you through.
I encountered this yesterday. After a day of barely dragging myself through, I had a soccer practice to run in the evening. The last thing I wanted to do was go out, down to the fields, and pretend to be highly motivated for my girls. Funny thing is, though the mere act of getting there was a struggle, once I hit the fields, the sluggishness disappeared. No pretending. I was highly motivated. I left practice elated and feeling good, so good in fact I didn’t remember how shitty I felt going in, until I read Lauren’s piece.
This is how it is with Training, too. It’s on the schedule. There are always other, more pressing, things coming up. There is always a crisis, some reason to not go. But once you get there (if you can manage it), all the excuses melt away, and all the terrible things which will happen, don’t. And your sense of dragging through, quickly fades. Time recedes, and before you know it, the session is coming to a close. Oftentime, the session comes to a close too soon, and we want more.
Now, for me, Training is my Practice. My monkey mind, lower self, nafs, whatever you call it, seems to try its best to throw me off track. It’s arguments are intellectually compelling, emotionally powerful. It’s too cold, you have too much to do. But the logic and emotional power never hold up in the face of simply Showing Up.
Trust the Training.