Tuesday, June 5, 2012


We all know the Zen story of the empty cup. Student thinks he knows everything and master overfills his cup spilling tea everywhere, adding that much like the cup it is hard to learn anything new if there is no room in the porcelain demitasse of our minds. Empty your cup, grasshopper, of dated (sometimes cherished and defining) concepts, bias and fear in order to refill with truth, beauty and compassion. You might even need to close your eyes to see. Your limitations are all of your creation. You are the Mary Shelly of these monsters. Rewrite them. Change the story. 

This takes courage. The courage to act. Often to add by subtraction. Jettison those things that no longer serve you and embrace the new that do. Refill your cup with the things that you see now, today as wholesome, positive, energetic and, yes, impossible. Michael Jordan once astutely commented that he missed 100% of the shots he never took. You gotta have some huevos amigos. E amigas, as this is not limited by gender. I know some ladies who have ten times the brass of many men. It is a verb. An action word. Do what you fear. 

When we train, it needs specificity. It you race bikes, train on your ride. If you swim the 100IM, you had better do some slippery laps, if the 26.2 distance is your bag, better drop some acid*. However, and this is huge, we must stay cognizant that we are not doing this for our livelihood. We, with rare exceptions, are not pros. We do this for other 'big picture' reasons. Fun, optimum health & fitness, stress management, balance, competition, sport, camaraderie among them. Life has its ups and downs, as Frankie Blue Eyes once crooned, it can be like flying high in April and shot down in May. We must deal with the hubris of high altitude success as well as the doldrums of defeat. Be humble when we win, score high, or hit a benchmark, and find the lesson when we stumble, underachieve or miss our race goal. Should I be decimated because on a given day somebody has the audacity to run faster them me? Should I quit training because my power progression isn't as upwardly linear as others? 

We need to match our metrics with experience. Graph the numbers as well as the firing of nerves. Feel the change and appreciate the journey. We are all, regardless of stature, works in progress. This allows us to fine tune our individual adaptations. To know our strengths and to use them in training and in battle. How long does it take me to recover from a hard effort? At what intensity does my current physicality best respond? What duration? What type of carbohydrate works best for my body chemistry, GI and sport? How much sleep do I really need? Can I manage my stress with less trauma on my liver? Do I understand electrolyte depletion well enough to be able the strike when the iron is red hot? When to back of and when to charge? The beauty of indoor training is that we can test all this, practice it, enhance it. Experience it in the laboratory first instead of on race day when the variables can be devastating. 

That is how I structure my taper. How i juggle the peaks and valleys. I want to come into my key workout, my race and my big day (today) with a full tank, a tuned motor and a keen awareness of the big picture. I want to accomplish all this with joy and without fear, knowing that failure is, thusly, impossible. 

And of course, the big picture means that nobody is going to care about any of this. When the history of man is once again recorded, the effort I put into training, how I race, and the thoughts I share about them will not be included. I am pretty sure of this. Making my sole responsibility the enjoyment and experience, not the outcome. In other words, I need to make sure that my cup is perpetually empty. 

Tea anyone?

*here the reference is to long, slow distance, not lysergic acid diethylamide

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