Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dr. Lemmings

“Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The triathlon season is over, officially. No more triathlons. In fact, the season is so over I have been taking time off from any training whatsoever for the past 2 weeks. (Aside--its weird to be writing this as if I am writing to an audience, when in reality there is NO audience, but I will write anyway.) So now that its been two weeks with no training other than sailing related activity, I am itching to get back to it. Funny how that works.

I felt tired this year. I felt like everything was more difficult than it should be. I wonder if thats because of age? I doubt it. I think 2 years ago I felt the impact of age, but not this year. Perhaps after doing essentially 4 marathons last year including Ironman and the hardest timed marathon on Kilauea I just overdid it. I never really recovered. Maybe everything is just more difficult. That, actually, while ambiguous and rather dreary sounding, is what I believe is the truth.

Everything feels more difficult. Stress has been so high for so long--I sometimes don't know if I remember what it feels like to NOT be experiencing high amounts of stress. School has created a new threshold of stress, and, as in the drawing above, I follow that degree wherever it takes me--even off a cliff. Thats what my advisor and this faculty wants created--a little Dr. Lemming following the carrot they dangle in front of me.

Yes, thats a PhD being tossed just over the head of our hero, there... but fortunately he is so numb to any fear or stress that he just dives headlong over whatever is in his way to get that fucking degree. Sweet.

And, as a result, I have this plan. (Drum roll.)
I am going to work my ass off at school and get as much done as I possibly can until my General exam, which will hopefully land somewhere in December, maybe January. Then I can focus a little more on feeling good during the spring leading up to Ironman. I want to see if I can minimize the stress during training that is not training related.

I have a goal for that little endeavor, and I want to focus on it without feeling like I am sacrificing my school goals. Ultimately, school rules all for me, until I graduate. Its the ultimate goal to get my Phd in the correct amount of time and I really need to devote the necessary attention to it and get it done right.

The sad thing is, as I go along, it feels like I am getting farther and farther from all of the really important kinetics I learned. Its like learning a new language--if you don't use it, you lose it. The real downfall of this program is that we are expected to produce a complete package when we graduate. We design our experiments, we make everything we need for those experiments and then we run the experiments. Then at the end we analyze and write-up and present our data. The really important part for those of us going into industry is the analysis and presentation. The experimental design is also equally important.

But here is what every graduate student and scientist knows, and that I know also, now: The most time consuming and overall exhausting part of all this is the MAKING the things you need for your experiment and then doing the work. The analysis and writing and presentation is such a small piece that you work on it, you focus, and then BOOM its over. What I wish we had was more opportunity to practice analysis. Then, next spring--hopefully my last spring EVER in this wretched place, I could at least feel some peace going into Ironman season that I have the skillset I need. Instead, I already feel this big gray cloud looming over the horizon. This cloud is getting closer and closer, and larger and more menacing. The cloud is the realization that I have a lot of work to do to recapture the really important kinetic background I worked so hard to obtain in the first place. And I can already see the competition between training and school that could happen.

Therefore, I will do what I can to get that done BEFORE training starts.

I will train happy. I will train strong. I will train without the cloud following me around. I will break 11 hours. I will feel good at the end of Ironman, and I will finish with the knowledge that I didn't sacrifice anything school related to get there.

That PhD being flung off the cliff is just a bad dream. Its not the PhD I am getting, its a fake. My degree is waiting for me, safe and sound. All I have to do is grab it.

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