Monday, September 16, 2013

Strengths and Weaknesses

My wife recently shared a very interesting article with me and today it really hit home for me.  It was about how ones strength can also be ones weakness, and visa versa.  As I'm preparing for my Ironman (yes, right now that is what seems to inspire my life's musings), my obsessive-compulsive side definitely comes out.  This morning, I did a test run in my race day clothes, while the temperature was about 39 degrees.  Unfortunately, weather prediction is an inexact science, and I won't have a decent idea as to the weather on race day until the day before the race (not that that helped in St. George in 2012).  The thing is, at a certain temperature, the amount of energy that I will lose fighting the cold becomes a very important factor in the success of my day.  So, I wore my tri top and my Gabba cold weather jersey, with my Castelli nano arm warmers, put shoe covers on my shoes and wore my Zoot compression socks.  I had my KASK aero helmet with the visor on in front and Pearl Izumi headband (that seems to work in both hot and cold weather).  I also had a pair of Castelli Rosso Corso gloves on.  After riding for one hour in 39 degree cold, my head felt fine, my legs were ok, my body seemed fine, though, finally started feeling a little chilled.  But, just 15 minutes into the ride, my fingers were frozen and uncomfortable, ultimately becoming numb and somewhat painful at the end.  My toes were ok for most of the ride, but also started feeling a little numb right at the end of the ride.  The good news is that my OCD got me to test out my gear well before race day.  It then went into overdrive, as I found that a magnet on my visor had fallen off and so I was risking having the visor fall off if I hit a bump.  So, first thing I did back at the hotel was to go online and order a new visor, having it two-day shipped to me.  It so happened that the site I was on also had cold weather gloves and socks, so I took my best guess and ordered them as well.  A hot shower and getting under the covers got me warmed up after a couple of hours, but I was reminded yet again of the impact of lack of preparedness for cold weather in the first couple hours of a twelve hour day.  I'll be better off being too warm, than being too cold.  Plus, I can always shed gear.  If I didn't care about my time on Sunday, and I do, I would bundle up completely and not worry about having it slow me down.  Instead, I'll try to find the "perfect" combination of warm clothing and gear to coincide with my desire to maintain good aerodynamics. 

This same obsessive-compulsive behavior helps me have very good transition times during a triathlon.  I visualize the transitions many times prior to race day.  OK, enough about triathlon, although my daughters have probably stopped reading the blog by now.  I'm one of those people that tends to overthink things.  Or, at least that what it seems like at times.  My wife knows that if we have a plan for something, I somehow manage to come up with three or four alternative plans, just because one of those might be better.  Often, they're not, but occasionally they are.  My business partners also probably will have gone a little crazy over the years with my need to look at all the possibilities and to think of solutions to all of them.  When I'm going to have a meeting, I think about it over and over again.  Ironically, I hate role playing out loud, but I do it in my head all of the time. 

So, is this a strength or a weakness?  I'll let others judge that for themselves, but clearly I've got to where I am today by being who I am.  The compulsion to think of all the options has allowed me to rarely be surprised by a turn of events.  I will often come up with solutions to unforeseen problems and be prepared for them.  On the other hand, I'll stress over unforeseen problems that never occur.  It's easy to sit from my present vantage point, note that in many ways I have been quite "successful", and state that this behavior is a strength.  On the other hand, it probably adds stress to my life, which as I've learned from my triathlon training, affects the body in many ways that we are often unaware of. 

Ten years ago, after a  hiatus of several years from triathlon, I reengaged in the sport.  Over the past ten years I have managed to continue to improve, and even now I expect to achieve a personal best this coming week in Lake Tahoe.  Again, is this a strength or a weakness?  If I avoid hypothermia on Sunday and conserve my energy for the run, it will have been a strength.  If I lose too much sleep over it, then maybe not. 

Human beings are complex.  Some traits can be strengths on one day and weaknesses on another.  Perhaps it's growing and learning when to use those traits appropriately that is the real goal.  I've often said that I learn every day how little I know.  If I can maintain that attitude, never assume that I have all the answers, and keep trying to learn, then my journey will continue to be productive.

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