Sunday, September 28, 2014

Music Dump: The "Over And Over and Over and Over and Over and" Edition

Every major event, big assignment, or prolonged stressful situation in my life has had a theme song.  Sometimes it's a newly released song, sometimes old, sometimes upbeat, sometimes mellow.  Usually the song either matches my feelings or models an emotional state I need or want to achieve.

But no matter it's characteristics, once identified, the song is played over and over and over and over and over and...until the situation has ended or been resolved.  And it is forever identified in my mind as "the song that got me through X, Y, Z."

Scrolling through my iTunes library is like using a pensieve (see: Harry Potter).

I had a big paper due Friday.  The song was Waves, by Mr. Probz.  Incredibly soothing.



Studying for the GRE in January 2014 was Elastic Heart, by Sia, and The Draw, by Bastille.  Both plaintive and a bit haunting.





IM Brazil in 2011 was The Show Goes On, by Lupe Fiasco.  A future-focused pump up.



May 2010 and IM CDA was Airplanes, by B.o.B. and Hayley Williams.  (The two never met in person until performing this song live at the MTV Video Music Awards, after the song had been recorded and released.)



IM Louisville 2009, my first IM that I signed up for 10 days beforehand, was Run This Town, by Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West.  Obviously.



Writing my "senior thesis" the spring of my senior year in college was a weird collage of instrumental movie theme songs.  I wrote about the technology and federal policy that allowed the U.S. to spy on the USSR during the Cold War.  I basically taught myself to whistle by "singing along" in the library for two weeks.

Shawshank Redemption (just the first half)
Road to Perdition
Last of the Mohicans
The Boondock Saints
Gattaca
Braveheart 
LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
The 5th Element

Fall of my senior year in college was Mama, by Beth Hart.



Fall of my sophomore year in college was Everywhere and All You Wanted, by Michelle Branch, frequently sung with my roommate at the top of our lungs as we compiled assignments for CS 50 (intro programming).  Girls wanting disposable girlie songs to combat a drawn out period of serious pressure and no sleep.





The winter of my junior year in high school was Angel, by Sarah McLachlan.  Who the heck knows, but I listened to it continuously for months straight.  Now they use it to jerk tears in ASPCA commercials.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Scratching Post

On Friday I went to the local ASPCA to play with the animals.  Someone told me there are just rooms of animals roaming relatively free that you can play with - and it's true!

When I got there I was a little grumpy.


I looked around a little bit.


I was very suspicious for a while.


I stiff-armed a lot because I wasn't sure of my surroundings.


I wanted to watch rather than interact.


Eventually I got a bit more comfortable.



Soon I wore myself out and needed to sit down.



Which was a bad idea because then I was covered with animals and stuck sitting on a concrete floor for an hour and a half.


Being a pillow (and a scratching post to a 2-month-old kitten aptly named Freddie Krueger who climbs you like a tree) is tough work.

Sadly I didn't see these two there.



PS - Mr. Haugh, if you are reading this, I totally had permission to take that sweatshirt off of school property....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Step Right Up

Two experiences this past weekend starkly highlighted what has been a developing anecdotal observation since I started swimming with my age-group team here.

The seed was planted when my first couple of weeks of practice contained more all-out swimming (or all-out of any physical activity) than my entire previous swimming experience combined.  Most of it was off the blocks, meaning the diving start of real swim races, and all of it was supposed to be as intense and focused as real swim races.  I was nearly overwhelmed with the anxiety of it - the anticipation, the pressure, the pain - and all these...kids were (seemed to be) totally at ease.   In fact, all they wanted to do was 100s all-out off the blocks and all I wanted to do was vomit.

Several months later I'm all "you want me to do x, y, z all-out?  ok, lets's go on the next top."

But the funny thing is that the (slow) change didn't even occur to me.  Not once.  Until this weekend.

On Sunday I "watched" the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and putting myself in their shoes, vividly remembered the gut-wrenching anxiety of triathlon race starts.

Except that on Saturday I did 12 (!) race-simulation repeats without much hesitation.

Setting aside the different physiological demands of triathlon versus pool swimming that determine their ultimate repeatability, the practice of swim starts and damn-near-close-to-race-intensity swimming is intentional.  A swimmer could start 6 events in one day of a three-day meet in a season of at least 1 meet/month.  Balking really isn't an option.  You need to step right up - and go.

In that moment - and swim starts, it truly is only a moment - you don't want to think.  You want your body to act, almost in reflex, for the entirety of the race.  Therefore, swimmers practice starts, all-out swimming, and get comfortable with approaching each, a lot.

In triathlon, it's not a moment, it's a week, and all you do that week is think.

All that thinking drives some people batty.  {raises hand}

All you do that week is think because you have never practiced or prepared to do anything else.  The reason I was freaking out so much this summer is because in all my years of cross country, soccer, and triathlon, I had never practiced with any real repetition or dedication, the mental and/or physical start of any event.

Sure, a triathlete may only start 6 events all season, compared to the swimmer's 6 per day.  But that only expands the gap between the number of opportunities that type of athlete has to practice starts - a lot vs. six - and the number of those opportunities they make use of to practice starts - a lot vs. none.  And I can't really blame triathletes for not using those fews races to practice because in that moment you aren't thinking "oh, let me practice my mental and physical approach to starting a race."  Most likely because you are too busy thinking "I am so scared and nervous and afraid, what the hell did I get myself into?"

Swimming is preparing me to be fearless in a way I never have been before.
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