Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pushing Past "Good Enough"

Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, "How much money is enough?"

His reply, illustrating the potential poison of material greed, was, "Just a little bit more."

At the risk of sounding like Gordon Gekko, I discovered something about greed this week. In triathlon, a little greed is good--at least with regard to the amount of effort you're willing to put out.

You see, I have a bad habit when I workout--especially in the dog days of summer. My mind is always doing the numbers. I know precisely when I get 1/5 or 20% of the way through the workout. I know when I am 1/3 or 33.33% of the way through the workout. I know when I am 2/5 or 40% through the workout, 1/2 or 50%, 2/3 or 66.67% . . . . .

You get the picture.

And at some point past 2/3, when the workout starts to get hard, I get to a point called "good enough." At that point, the intensity can sometimes wane, and the completion of the time or distance becomes a pedestrian affair of merely completing task--kind of like a felon whose sentence is coming to a close. I have perfect attendance, but it's no real credit to me.

And it happens in races too.

But I've discovered a secret this week. Maybe its because I still have thickened blood from Colorado. Maybe its because I am comfortable with higher heart rates after living in a place where I reached Zone 5 rolling out of bed at 9000 feet above sea level. Maybe its because Ironman is less than 100 days away. There is something about 140.6 miles that focuses the mind. But whatever it is, here's the secret.

When I reach the point called "good enough," my mind often thinks, "I've got x minutes or miles or meters left in this workout. This level of effort is really uncomfortable. I cannot sustain this level of effort for x more minutes or miles or meters. This is 'good enough.' Ease off the gas pedal."

But if you want to get that 90% of improvement that comes in the last 10% of the workout you have to push past "good enough." But pushing past "good enough" is not a matter of lasting until the end of the workout. That's too big of a bite to chew. Think about that bit and you'll choke.

But you only need to take a wee little bite. It's only a matter of lasting "just a little bit more." You can nearly always keep going for "one more song" on the ipod, or "one more light pole" on the course, or "one more length" in the pool without pulling the plug. And if you go "just a little bit more" you can find that rhythm that allows you to keep going further still. You find the turn that lets you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You find the ability to finish the 4th and 5th of 5x300 at pace. You find the heart to negative split a 10 mile run by almost 7 minutes in heat that would choke an jungle cat.

It's not a matter of either pushing to the end or giving up. It's only a matter of pushing "a little bit more" past "good enough."

It works for triathlon training. It probably works for law and jobs and relationships too, I'm thinking.


Curly Su said...

that last picture (when it's shown in full) looks like the M-dot, kind of.

and yes - you're exactly right. i made it from mile 5 all the way to 10.16 today thinking, one lap around the track at a time...

and yeah, i do the percentage thing too. i think it might be a type-a athlete/musician thing, what do you say?

Fe-lady said...

never settle....!

(I hate numbers...but I KNOW when I turn around to head home that I am half way through and it's like a horse back to the barn to feed!)

Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

WOW. This could have come right from ME. I do math in all my workouts/races, and when the going gets tough - I too - tend to slow down. This has been my first year trying to push past those barriers, and I've had a BLAST. That said, without my "perfect" attendance - I didn't reach my full pottential this time either. I'll get it tho!

BowserTheCat said...

And I thought I was the only one that constantly was doing various, largely pointless, computations...well not really. It's gotten to the point where this morning I was doing a 12 mile run and started counting down the kilometers left doing the conversion in my head. Arg, I need a new iPod.

triguyjt said...

excellent post... yes that rang true with me as well.
I think I hear a Russian in my head telling me to

"vork teel your body eezz scremmin
vor you to stop"