I’ve just returned from being in Rome for work ten days and it’s probably been my biggest challenge so far without meds. I could only run in 35 degrees, no gym, little writing and a shed load of carbs. But I managed a short 6 miles running each day and I stayed sane. This week I am back to work proper, in my routine and I’ve been writing. It’s also a big race week, full distance triathlon, and I have been thinking about what it means to finish or complete both of those activities.
I write in blocks of either 90 or 45 minutes. Usually the former and manage 3.5 (90’s) a day when I have no other commitments (apart from training), but regardless I do 10 of those every week at all costs. Its called ‘Deep work’ (more on that later) and I started doing this about 6 months ago when the anxiety was sky high and I had no meds to fall back on and my body literally screamed at me. At first I could only manage a few sentences without hating everything I wrote (and about myself) and tackling demons beyond belief. As the months have passed this has been my savior, strict routine with 15 or 30 minute breaks of easy or brainless stuff. It might not always lead to direct outputs but it keeps me calm and that works for me. I am very meticulous with the timing of these, I use a timer and I always stop when the timer announces the end of the session. I have chosen those times because they are about as long as my small brain can manage, but also long enough to get a good amount of thinking and writing done. Any longer and the bad thoughts increase rapidly and I get too tired to fight them off. I therefore know as a matter of fact that if I try to do longer then I will be writing shite and start to go ballistic. My treat is knowing that I made it until the end of the time and that my work is done for now. It’s tempting to do more but I have experimented with that and it ends in tears, every time.
Being a big week of racing I have also been pondering how different the finish line is in endurance sport to writing. I mean everyday writing rather than longer outlooks on things like journal submissions. It’s this difference that probably has caused me a lot of pain over the years when trying to do academic stuff. I am trained and built to stop swimming, biking and running when you are done, and at the required distance, not when you are tired, hungry or feeling a bit bad. I have the mind set of dragging every limb over the finish line, even if that involves crawling, and a lot of paddies and painkillers. In triathlons, I am rewarded for being uncomfortably tired with a medal, t-shirt and points. When I am writing, I am rewarded for protecting my sanity. And that is a very significant and important difference.
Anyway, I am not overly convinced I am ready for a full distance triathlon this weekend. This might be some nerves settling in, although it will be the fourth year on the start line. Perhaps I know how much it bloody hurts. It is such a long way that one only dares to dream of finishing the 140.6. miles once about 20 miles into the run. I have foot pain and I am not quite at racing weight, it will definitely be a day of just keeping on going. I will be tired and in a bad way but I can’t stop because that won’t lead to a medal. After today’s very exciting news of qualifying for the World Champs in Albi as a Team GB rider I have also had to downgrade this weekend to a B race. Whatever, the aim is to finish. More to follow on Albi soon!