Well the madness of last week has finally come to an end. I feel like I burst through a layer of constricting ice into a world of fresh air and relief, however short lived that may be. I continue to wind and course my way down the path laid out before me, with all of its uncertainty and fun adventures and who knows what else.
Between graduation from a master’s program, trips to and from Vegas in a 30 hour period, and a wedding for one of my best friends, I certainly had plenty of time to think and try to begin the digestion process of where I am at in life at the moment… my analogy for today relates to the wonder and power of nature and the constructive yet explosive smashing of hammers in our lives.
The Crash of Waves
I will admit, I am not a beach person; I would much rather be in the mountains. However, it is simply fascinating being at the beach watching the waves sweeping in with a thunderous roar, scraping and clinging to the sand only to be pulled back out into the blue depths as another round come pounding in. Nothing dwarfs someone or makes them feel as insignificant as the sheer magnitude of the ocean and all that it contains. It’s really quite dumbfounding… something so huge and so vast and yet the waves are constantly in sync, smashing the shore repeatedly, being driven forward or pulled backward, following their path carved out for them by the moon’s gravity infinitely, with no greater purpose than to rinse and repeat. The one critical difference between our lives and the natural path of the waves is that we actually make progress.
So often I feel like I’m just being slammed into the sandy shores in my life (aka my cubicle) without making progress. A brutal pummeling that just breaks my will and resolve… what I fail to see is that I’m really being thrown further up the shoreline away from where I once began. I’m sure many of you are tired of racing analogies, but I just can’t help myself. I’ve got five more weeks so you may as well suffer through with me! I may hammer out swimming, grind through bike rides, and drag my brick-like feet along runs, but it can often seem monotonous. Only when you reach the opportunity for racing do you really see all of the progress that you’ve made. What a great feeling to look back and see how far you’ve come.
Thunder of Hammers
I’m sure many of you have broken bones; it’s really not that uncommon. I’ve had the joy and privilege of shattering my nose… twice. I can’t really say that it’s a fun or enjoyable experience. Actually, quite the opposite. Swimming and trumpet playing become exponentially difficult when your breather just doesn’t work quite right. The nose crushing blows I experienced felt like someone just sledge hammered me in the side of the bloody face. Frankly, that’s what hammers are good at: smashing something with a force to disjoin it from its current position in order to move it to another.
Hammers are used for pounding, crushing, smashing, reforming and reshaping. Ironically, they are used in that purpose often for the improvement, reconstruction, or reforming of a tool or other object Think of the blacksmith’s hammer repeated blows directed at piping hot metal to reshape it from a useless hunk of metal to a useful item. We spend our lives getting pummeled, hammered, crushed, and smashed, but so often it’s for our own good even when we don’t realize it.
The strengthening and reinforcement is gradual. Layers of strength are slowly added to us as we go through the various experiences in life and cannot be noticed until you are able to step back and view the big picture. Of course it would be easiest to just have positive experiences, but that’s boring and does not promote growth. The heaviest, bone crushing hits that we experience so often end up creating the most positive changes in us. Changes that we would not normally sign up for or admit that we need, but are positive nonetheless.
Often those changes take the greatest toll on the mental or conscious side of our brains, but there are also experiences that obliterate our physical tissues.
Ironman is beckoning.
Ironman is calling.
Ironman is casting a long shadow with very little light at the end of the 10.5 hour tunnel. Then again, perhaps the crushing that I will endure will be the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. That idea is far more pleasant :-) Time presses on and so must we all!
Can you hear that? The crackle in the air, the hum of raw energy, the sweeping arm of change. Graduation is upon us. Tomorrow is the day I’ve chased for two years. A moment of small victory over the academic regime. It’s yet another step in my (now) very adult life.
As all good things, the title for this blog came out of one of three books that I have for training for an Ironman. It’s all too appropriate that the two most impactful events of my life so far will take place within five measly weeks of each other. I swear, each academic year I would whine and complain about school then WHAM, finals had come and gone and I was stuck holding a calendar filled with 16 weeks of a crazy schedule that had flown by. The same has happened yet again. My two years absolutely evaporated into thin air! I seemed to have forgotten to catch my breath along the way.
Step 1: Breathe
I can hardly sit down to watch an hour of Big Bang Theory let alone actually regroup emotionally or, you know, CLEAN MY BLOODY KITCHEN! I take great solace in my quiet time with my dog, which is actually more of me passing out at the park while she runs amuck. It seems to be mutually beneficial for us both.
Breathing, as you all know, is critical to living life, but it can also be taken for granted. You won’t get very far swimming if you forget to breath, just like you won’t quite make it through the week without getting some mental and emotional fresh air.
I also have great appreciation for a quiet dinner with my friends. On the flipside, it’s terribly and horribly ironic that I have less time now that school is wrapped up with a bow on top. Seriously, it’s painful to be the antisocial one now. My calendar is an absolute mess, and you know it’s bad when you have to schedule seven nights of “No Plans” in order to contain yourself. Ugh!
Ah, visualization, quite possibly my greatest strength. Visualization is the ability to foresee, dwell, focus, study, revisit, rehash, analyze, construct, deconstruct, and thoroughly run through the general idea of an event, a process, or a decision. While you may not be able to know every nook and cranny, the ability to at least place yourself into a that scenario will help you leaps and bounds than those who do not make the attempt. If you have to give a huge presentation, it’s always beneficial to picture yourself up there giving the information and running a successful meeting.
In the same way, picturing yourself in athletic endeavors is equally important. Yes, I spend a retarded amount of time swimming, biking, and running, but I also spend a huge portion of that visualizing what it will look like in Ironman, how I will be feeling, testing out my mental endurance, pushing my limits, imagining what kind of issues (puking, flat tires) I may have to deal with in worst case scenarios, but I also set myself up for success. Imagining the feeling crossing that finish line gives me more energy and excitement than I need, and it paves the path to get there. Granted, it won’t happen how I imagine, probably not even close, but the artwork can always be changed as long as the paint is still wet. Here’s to the unknown!
Step 3: Succeed
The MBA took a lot of time, a lot of effort, and certainly required dedication. I can’t even imagine how my classmates run a family and take grad classes! Kudos to them. I only have to train for a race and play with my dog…
As I walk across the stage tomorrow it will be the final step in a multi-year process that has been exciting, worthwhile and a stretch for me as a person. When I first began the program, I pictured the end result even though it was hidden in an impenetrable fog two years into the future and suddenly, here we are!
Often, it’s hard to help others understand how the whole process for Ironman works. I didn’t just wake up last year and decide to do it. It’s taken a long freaking time! I’ve spent seven seasons reading books, watching videos, talking with coaches and other athletes, reading more books, training, eating, training and reading more, eating again, and absorbing everything I can find about triathlon and the crazy world that it encompasses.
I only decided to do an Ironman in August of 2011, after my first half Ironman in Lake Stevens, and yet that was still two years ago! That’s quite a foundation to lay and yet now I have five weeks. Five lousy weeks to keep it together! The pressure is immense, but having pictured my success (just crossing the finish line) has set me up for a great adventure. Perhaps the thing I’m most worried about is what I’m going to eat first once I streak passed the finish line…. Probably chicken fajitas!
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill
Well out with the MBA, in with the Ironman training! Not that it wasn’t there before but holy cow has it ramped up. I am now training at an hourly equivalent to a part time job, but don’t ask me how I’m doing it because I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Mostly, I don’t really sleep or relax, I eat constantly, and the rest is just a blur. My excitement consists of watching movies for mindless entertainment while either spinning on my trainer or stretching before collapsing into a helpless pile of goo in my bed for what is a laughable amount of sleep before waking up for another round in the morning. It must be May…
I’m not one to shy away from challenges or intimidating circumstances but my gosh, Ironman is beginning to cast a dark, looming shadow. The more I talk about it with people the more I wonder to myself WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING TRAINING FOR THIS THING!?!
I was recently explaining the race to some friends and was trying to put it in context for them in relation to our lives in Reno. Basically, I will swim across Donner Lake, bike to Sacramento, and then run to Fernley. Gah, the panic is slowly trickling into my head as I’m becoming more in touch with the sheer magnitude of this kind of event. Frankly, it’s overwhelming even just reading about strategies for surviving the race because everyone has their own opinions and strategies for success. Some suggest eating a gel every 20 minutes, another camp fully supports eating PB and J while drinking chocolate milk, some bring Twix and Snickers in their bags, and yet others swear by a strange mix of guava juice, monkey fur, and ketchup. Sigh…
I only know a paltry handful of people who have completed an Ironman, not more than three, that’s pretty daunting odds if you ask me. That means the chances of me being the only Ironman someone knows is also pretty high. Better not let the expectations weigh me down. Oh the pressure, I love it!
The similarities between 2011 and 2013 are so far somewhat disturbing me. In 2011 I was gearing up for my first half Iron (70.3 miles) and this year is of course the full 140.6 excursion through Idaho. 2011 had me soul-searching to discover myself in the MBA program; 2013 has me soul-searching because I’m graduating. 2011 forced me into all kinds of fun adventures and 2013 has yet to disappoint me with a new dog, a new career, a new degree, a new camera, new social circles…
Food is what keeps us alive, fuels our body and our minds, and keeps us pressing on as long as we consume it in adequate amounts. The amount of food I purchase and devour is rather insane, but without it I would wither away (and often do as my friends can vouch). It’s a great source of energy but so are many other things in life:
- Social interactions – I thrive on meeting new people, having engaging conversations, debating the strengths and weaknesses of superheroes, and just engaging my friends and people close to me at a personal level. It’s not energizing in the way that a power nap is but it’s fun exposing my brain to new things.
- Good support – I will never forget the construction adventures with my dad as a little kid. He used to drive me around to various sites where a new bridge or parkway or other wonderful feat of human ingenuity was taking place and would talk me through how it all works together. Frankly, I find large-scale construction quite fascinating especially how it is all rooted in the supports that are put into place. Bridges need massive amounts of cabling, concrete, towers, arches, or whatever else to keep them up in the air while bearing a load, and roads need to be built so as not to collapse under thousands of cars driving over certain areas every single day. Our lives aren’t different; in fact, we take beatings on a daily basis which is why we must find support through those around us. Life is rife with stress, disappointment, and downers but it’s also packed with joys, wonderful experiences, and adventures of an epic proportion. Sometimes, we just need to view it all through a different lens…
- Fuzzy pets – I have always had a soft spot in my heart for warm creatures dating back to my 6 year old self in Tennessee when I got my first hamster Rocky. I gradually progressed through the ranks with my Fuzzies and have finally arrived at a dog of my very own. Next time you see me, you should ask me to tell the story of how my parents replaced me with a dog the week after I went off to college. That’s always a hoot… Regardless, there’s just a great feeling coming back to creatures that look forward to seeing you.
- Tools of the trade – I wouldn’t be a very good IT dude without a computer or a very diverse set of computer skills just like an artist would really suck without brushes and a slew of rainbowed pastel splotches on their palette. A triathlete without goggles, a bike, or running shoes sure won’t get far, and an astronaut without oxygen, well, that won’t end nicely. We all gather tools for our chest in life and may use some of them often, and others rarely. Interestingly, it’s the collection of tools and how we use them that makes us unique and exciting individuals.
- Mental perseverance – My mad devotion to success in life and triathlon can only be explained by an inane locus of control, the ability to set ridiculous (yet achievable) goals for myself, and just an internal thirst for more, more, more! For whatever reason, my mental and emotional aptitude for success are thrusting me ever forward to June 23rd. The words “Russell Aaron, you are an IRONMAN!” will be well worth the grocery bill, taxing training, loss of sleep, sore muscles, and social outings cut short. It’s going to be a good year. Strap in!
The weeks are blazing by, and summer will be in full force soon. What had previously been a neatly laid out plain is quickly becoming a cratered pothole of craziness, beautiful weather, and no more school! Huzzah! Happy Friday to all and to all a good weekend!
I will admit it; I’m done with my MBA so I bought a new DSLR! It makes taking pics of the dog so much easier :P
Photography is yet another passion of mine, and I’ve been very fortunate to take pictures on four different continents, all over the United States, in the park in my backyard, up in the mountains and the trees in the beautiful Sierra Nevada’s, and just throughout the wonderful and amazing world that we all live in. If you’ve ever seen the Grand Canyon in person, you know how little credit even the best of photos can give it. It’s truly an amazing phenomenon that can’t be reproduced on paper.
Photos are used to capture our fondest memories, our great adventures, the calm times and the upsetting times. Our photos (worth more than 1000 words) are a link to our past and often inspiration for our future. Mt. Kilimanjaro, I’m coming for you!
Photos express things that we can’t put words to, they write the greatest of stories, and they help rekindle the cinders of experiences from long ago. How fun is it to dig out high school yearbooks, baby photos, your parent’s wedding album, or just snapshots from your latest get together? I have a photo album from my months in Australia that I can just sit and stare at for hours, conjuring up all my life-changing experiences and rehashing that epic trip in all its greatness. 21st birthday at the Great Barrier Reef anyone??
So here I am with graduation a mere ten days away, all of my coursework completed and the question must be asked what am I doing with my life? I know that I love being a crazy, insanely busy person doing 2 billion things at once, and yet there has been a definite close to a very large and substantial chapter in my life. Slam.
I was walking to my car after my last day of class and realized that I won’t be on campus until graduation, and even then, I won’t really be back to the business building or the union, or any of my old hangouts (bubbling rock). I left campus the first time in 2009 only to return two years later. This time, I don’t foresee that there will be any return. I have been known to be wrong from time to time though…
Flashback eight years and I’m sitting with 30 of my closest friends in high school English class. The countdown to graduation is nigh, and we’re prompted to write a response on where we think we will be in five years. Other than having some kind of college degree, I pretty much got everything wrong but that’s OK because I like where I’ve ended up. And really, who’s to say the journey has ended? It has only begun. Eight years later I still have no bloody idea where I will be in five years but, for once, I think I’m finally just letting it happen. Ahhhh, deep sigh of relief.
I consider myself very blessed to have been able to experience the MBA program, land a sweet job at a great company, and be pressing onward ever closer to Ironman. I’ve looked out the window at work many a time and just seen life passing me by at a blazing clip, wondering what is in store for me next, and that’s when my mind wanders back to my favorite photos. The memories come rolling back, life seems to tip itself right side up, and off I go in the right “frame” of mind…
Happy Hump Day.
It’s a very happy occasion… Iron Man 3 comes out today! I can’t believe that it’s been five years since the first one came out. GAH! What the heck!?!? May is always a wonderful time of the year, and always brings some of the fondest memories. The spring air (with allergens) is here, but with it a fresh dose of Vitamin D if you can manage to get outside.
In less than 30 hours I will be done, done, DONE with the MBA program. It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my brain around that idea. I’ve spent so long studying, putting together group projects, writing proposals, and a myriad of other things that I’m having a hard time visualizing a time in my life without school. I’ve loved the learning, enjoyed meeting new people, appreciated the counsel and wisdom of professors, and yet suddenly that’s not going to be a part of my life anymore. Trust me, I’m incredibly relieved to have one monstrous thing off of my plate, but it just feels so strange. I kind of want to rejoice and mourn all at the same time.
If you’re familiar with the University of Nevada campus (note: not UNR) you may be aware of the omniscient and very wise bubbling rock. It’s my favorite spot on campus to take my troubles, seek counsel, or just find some quiet time for my thoughts. I fondly remember spending time there as an undergrad in 2005 and now here I am. It’s very odd and yet the show must go on…
The incipient knot in my stomach is thickening and getting heavier as the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months. I have no more safety cushion. No more time to plan. The real world has once again arrived and come May 17th, things will be great, things will be different, things will be… well, I honestly don’t know how things will be. Story of my life, right?
I have 107 hours of triathlon training to jam in in eight weeks. Seriously people, please don’t try to hang out with me constantly. It just isn’t going to happen! I can only hope that is enough prep to get me across the 140.6 mile finish line. The race is now within sight and it’s a sickening anxiety. Yes, it’s exciting and yes it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime, but on the other hand… it’s the experience of a lifetime! It’s horrifying, sickening, and so unknown. I was digging through the race results from last year as well as course details and the other myriads of info that they provide and it’s going to be an interesting voyage. To infinity and beyond I suppose!
As I discuss the past semester with friends or family, it’s frankly ridiculous that I even survived the 16 weeks between triathlon racing, adjusting to a new job, school, band, travel, outings with friends, getting a dog, training for triathlon, going to baseball games, salsa dancing, eating for triathlon, sleeping occasionally, and whatever else.
Have I arrived yet? Nope. Will I have arrived after MBA graduation? Nah, not at all. How about after Ironman? I certainly hope not. And yet these goals and dreams have been built a piece at a time over many, many years. I didn’t just wake up and decide “Aha! Today is the day I’m going to ruin my social schedule for the next couple of years while I do all of these things.” Rather, it was a piece here, a few pieces there: the proverbial puzzle of life if you will.
The crushing excitement/nervousness will only increase over these next days and weeks as life continues to roll on by. I just need to make the effort to enjoy every moment because suddenly I will wake up and not be a student… oh wait…
To conjecture, I would say that things will be different next week, they will certainly be different by the end of June, but then again things will probably be very different even by the end of 2013. There’s nothing but adventure in my sights and I’m steaming full speed ahead.
Happy Hump Day!
The semester is nearly over and graduation is only a few measly weeks away with school wrapping up this Saturday. Yes! So, straight to the point!
• Be sure to laugh – I have admitted time and again that I thrive under pressure but don’t always handle it well. The only explanation for even staying sane is that I work my butt off in my career, my training, and school, and even in the midst of the most stressful few weeks of my year, I still have found time to laugh with my friends and that always seems to clear the air.
• Make time for your friends – Besides food, friends are the most important thing in your life, and be sure to make time for them. While I may have slipped off of the map for a semester, I really make the effort to connect with them in ways that makes them feel appreciated and important. Going to Aces baseball is so much more fun with your peeps than wandering there alone.
• Go on adventures – Life is too short and the world too big to not get out and see the country. As an introvert, I can really appreciate my solo adventures to this race and that, crossing a state or two en route to my next triathlon. Even a road trip with three of your favorite friends can provide a wonderful break from reality. Indulge yourself with your social time and drag your friends along wherever you’re heading!
• Take some risks – The most dangerous risk is the one that you don’t take. It’s OK to be the person who just lives a humdrum life, riskless and carefree, but they experience zero growth, they don’t have fun adventures, and likely, their friends may tire of listening to them munching on Doritos constantly. Find new and exciting ways to engage yourself, get involved in your community, take a journey…
• Rediscover yourself – What three words would you use to describe yourself? And would those three words have been the same last year? Five years ago? What about ten? There are core pieces of us that will rarely change, and then there are pieces of us that change annually or monthly. Keep up with knowing yourself. Embrace the things you learn. Find ways to live your life more according to who you are as a person and not how you think everyone assumes you should live. Be the master of your own domain. You owe it to yourself!
• Get a dog! – I must admit, I have waited a long, long time to get a dog, and the perfect opportunity has finally arrived. Furry companions, as many of you know, provide a wonderful boost to your life. I miss my rats terribly but I’m so excited to get a dog of my own. It’s like having a new member in my house, a fun companion for tackling life, and someone to talk to when I get home from a long day at work. Best. Week. EVER!
That’s life in a nutshell (gross oversimplification) but good luck with the rest of your week!
I’m panicking, overwhelmed, frustrated, scared to death, and kind of going insane. How did May 2013 get here so quickly? Not only that, how is my Ironman in less than two months?! Talk about the feeling of unpreparedness in the pit of my stomach. I spend my life making lists of things to do, some challenging, others a necessity, all in the idea of bettering myself and experiencing all life has to offer, and now within two short months, two of the biggest things ever to make that list will be completed.
It’s kind of daunting thinking that I’m carving a career and life path further and further into Reno. The 18 year old who showed up freshman year to major in Information Systems is long gone, and has been replaced by the more up to date and responsible version of myself. I reflect on my decisions and choices of the past years and dwell on the mistakes, enjoy the many fun adventures, and create new hopes for the future. Perhaps my greatest accomplishment revolves around the bridges I’ve built and the friends that I’ve maintained. I have nothing to complain about in the social arena.
Even in just the past two years I’ve written many a post on the shenanigans I’ve experienced in my life, and I look back and reflect with fond memories of it all. On the flip side, I wonder what the future holds in store and what challenges and struggles it may bring with it. Grad school was time consuming and tedious, but relatively painless at the same time. What a great way to advance my life!
Good times alternate with the bad, just like the seasons alternate with each other. I do know, without a doubt, that things will keep pressing on with or without me so I better be prepared to stay up to speed. Spring will soon turn to summer, and summer to fall. People move, get married, change jobs, get new hobbies, buy pets, etc., but when you build a core foundation in your life, you can’t possibly go wrong…