Monday, May 23, 2011

Of wetsuits and toe clips

Never Done: I tried on a wetsuit
Never Done: I rode (a bike) in toe clips

One thing I like about training for the triathlon is that it pushes me up against physical challenges that are just a little bit of a stretch for me. Within reach, but a little bit of a stretch -- usually physically, and also usually mentally. Today's stretch was trying out toe clips for the first time. People say that everyone falls three times when they start riding with toe clips. (Toe clips are not the little cages you put your feet into, but the mechanisms that require special shoes that you actually clip onto the pedal, making it so if you need to stop riding, you have to make sure to get your foot unclipped first, or else ... fall over.)

I've always slightly feared riding with toe clips. I think it's just your garden-variety fear of being trapped, but it's kept me from it all these years. When I started training for the triathlon though, I was advised pretty quickly that I would want to use them, so I've been mentally preparing myself for a couple months. But mentally preparing and actually doing are two different things, and what is interesting for me is that (at least in this case) the fear actually drained away as soon as I stepped over the threshold and actually tried. It charted out like this:

Scared thinking about it
Scared thinking about it
Scared thinking about how I'd be doing it soon
Scared thinking about how I'd be doing it soon
I'm about to do it -- time to just figure it out and stop worrying
Doing it -- not actually scared at all

As is so often the case, doing something is easier than perseverating about doing something. Or, as we say in Mussar, Patience: don't aggravate a situation with wasted grief.

So let's see if I can internalize that lesson. I tried on a wetsuit today because a week from tomorrow I am going to swim in the Great Hudson River Swim. Here's what I've been perseverating about: I should have gotten one with sleeves, the water is going to be really cold, I am going to swallow too much water, I should get better goggles, how do I use Glide (this anti-chafing stuff that comes in a container that looks like deodorant,) what if the tide is going the wrong direction? Do you think maybe it's all going to be fine? Or if it isn't, that it's still going to be fine? I mean, I'm in really good shape. If something goes wrong, I can just stop. And the whole reason I am doing it is to get used to swimming in the Hudson before the triathlon. Also, because I thought it would be fun to swim in all the waters around NYC this summer. Hear that, psyche? Fun!

So in that spirit, I am going to try to spend the week anticipating the physical and mental challenge of the swim next weekend, and working up a head of giddy excitement that I am going to swim in the Hudson on Memorial Day weekend.

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