Mark’s been pushing syncronicity for a while. I wasn’t buying it until I read his entry today about Emil Zapotek. One of the quotes he gave was “It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys.”

Which echoes yesterday’s post on one of the turning moments of my life.

Sign me up.

I is an engineer – I can count

So I’m sitting here tonight wondering why the evening’s swim took almost a complete hour to do a mile – a set of 5 laps of breast stroke to warm up, then four sets of ten laps of freestyle, then a set of five laps of breast stroke to cool down.

(A nautical mile, that is – 2,000 yards. 2 kilometers for y’all north of the border types.)

Then I add it up and realize there’s an extra thousand meters in there. Crap. No wonder it took so long. Go figure. Good thing I’m long past being paid to do math upon which people might live or die. Mostly now, I just deal with money.

Wow. I feel much better now. Tonight’s swim was another microcosm of my life. Warmup was great. The first set was in-frickin’-credible. Dunno what it was, but every stroke was stretched out, straight arm and fingers close together just like a canoe paddle cutting through the water, the kicks were powerful, rhythmic, and straight-legged, and the flip turns were quick and powerful. Probably I shouldn’t have stopped to catch my breath after ten.

The second ten were painful. White boy got no rhythm. Knees were flailing, arms splashing, breath gasping. Just ugly. Third ten were kind of better – started bad, but I concentrated on improving one part of my stroke with each lap – first my left arm, then my right, then breathing, then straight-legged kicking, then pointing my toes, etc, until the last lap of that set felt smooth.

The final set – zen. Focused on the tiles slipping by underneath, took a breath as soon as the cross at the end entered my field of view, flip-kick-twist-stroke-breathe. I counted half-laps: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. And I finished strong. Good stuff.

Pimpin’ for some old friends

If you’re down in the Houston area and interested in cycling, you could do a whole lot worse than to ride with the CC Riders. Their big gig is riding the Houston-Austin MS 150, and they do it up right – big tent, refreshing beverages, and interesting people. I cannot recommend them highly enough, and hold a special place in my heart for Ish and Cynthia. Aside from my actual family, leaving this community of cyclists was the hardest thing about coming back to New England.

In any case, they all rock. And the MS Society does a bang up job for a disease that can strike anyone at almost any time in their lives.


I’m not Catholic (big C – though the church I go to does do the Nicene Creed and honors the “holy catholic church”, meaning all Christian believers), but I dig the idea of introspection and self sacrifice during Lent.

So for this Lent, I’m giving up eating crap. No more food out of the gee-dunk (say it out loud, first syllable high pitched, second syllable low) machine, no more food from convinience stores, no more pre-packaged cookies, etc. I’m not giving up candy – high quality chocolate is still OK – or dessert – again, only the good stuff. But what I am giving up is the sort-of tasty; the convinient, and the deadly.

The produce aisle at the local groceries is my new snack-food stop.

Amen, and amen.

Sage Words

When I started Officer Candidate School after 4 hard years of drinking beer and chasing women, I was soft. As in soft and over weight, soft in the belly, and soft in the head.

I was also going into a “kinder, gentler” Navy; one that was recovering from Tailhook, adopting to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and moving women onto fighting ships of the line – Destroyers and Cruisers. As such, the Navy’s training commands had instituted the “Training Time-Out” – any trainee, during any evolution, could bring their participation in the evolution to a halt by calling a TTO.

The first or second week at OCS, I was getting worked pretty hard by one of the Navy Senior Chiefs who were usually the “good cop” to the Marine Corps Drill Instructors. I was soaked, panting, had limbs trembling from exertion, and was pretty much done. So, seeing as how we’d gotten a dozen or so briefs detailing TTO procedures, I called one.

The Senior Chief immediately stopped yelling at me, and ran over to me. “Son, I need you to look deep in your heart right now. If you’re calling a Training Time Out because you really need help, if you are in actual, honest to god pain, then just let me know and we’ll have all the help you need in a heartbeat.

“But damnit, boy, if you go through with a TTO because you’re experiencing some discomfort, even serious discomfort, then God help you, ’cause I’m never going to let you get commissioned.”

It was at that instant that my OCS experience became transformed; that I realized that all the shouting and sweating and exertion was stripping the fat from both my psyche and my body. And at that instant, I felt lower than I’d felt in the twenty-one and a half years I’d lived to that point. I dropped back down into push-up position, and the Senior Chief gave me a little more personal attention until I couldn’t push no more.

Since, I’ve seen much the same point made in a lot of training books – with exertion comes some discomfort, and even serious discomfort might be just a result of serious training.

But pain is another animal entirely. Pain is a sign of something gone seriously wrong, and a reason to call off training and get attention.

I learned a lot about life that day, and more about myself. I did not like the guy who wanted to quit, and worked (and am still working) on keeping him out of my psyche.

Pshew. Back to running:

2 miles on Wednesday. Two easy miles on Wednesday.

And much discomfort as my legs worked out the residual effort from Tuesday’s six miler. But no pain :)