The Plight of the Jumbo Shrimp

The jumbo shrimp doesn’t know what it is, despite having quite complex sensory and processing organs. Brine shrimp think they’re Sea MonkeysTM, so it stands to reason that jumbo shrimp (a size not a species) are confused. “Am I big, or am I little,” they wonder. ‘Shrimp’ is quite literally an idiomatic description of a person who is small. ‘Jumbo’ is quite literally an adjective applied to elephants, who are large.

Einstein taught us that everything is relative, though, so these paradoxes are naturally arising.

There is a fundamental paradox in my cycling life that I have tried and tried and tried to resolve, but I don’t seem able, which seems crazy to me, given the things I have successfully changed about my approach to life generally. I got sober. I addressed my chronic depression. I became less (but not entirely not) judgmental. I became a dad and didn’t screw it up too badly. So I can change. I know I can.

Just Add Water!

The paradox is this: I love endurance sports and, like many of you, have dedicated great swathes of my life to them. At the same time, I am deeply impatient, easily bored, and absolutely fixated on getting to the end of any task I’m doing as quickly as possible. I’m attracted to extremes, like running and riding very far, but mentally, I’m ill suited.

Part of this is simple ADD. I’ve got a twitchy mind. I’m usually doing more than one thing at a time, because focus is hard. Whatever organic ADD I’ve brought to the party has been compounded by living in the internet age, by more or less marinating in short attention span theater all day every day. And then, on top of that, I was taught to work by my father, whose approach to most tasks was to go at them like a dog with a fresh chew toy until they were finished. My dad didn’t want things done. He wanted them destroyed. And that’s the way I do things. I go at them.

But, as Padraig once said to me, “You know, John, you can’t just bang out a hundred miles. It takes time.”

This is unsparingly true. And the athletes I’ve admired have been these stoic, patient, tough people who have the mental strength and focus to pull off big, big things. I desperately want to be one of them, and though I’ve done some big stuff myself, it’s never not a struggle. I am not stoic or patient, even when I can muster some mental toughness.

This is the women’s Shimano RC-5 road shoe. It’s breathable, lightweight, has a carbon midsole, and won’t break the bank.

I have a 50-mile gravel event coming up in a couple weeks, and I’m not ready. I don’t have the base miles. Oh sure, I’ll probably survive, but who wants to survive? I want to enjoy it. I want to ride with my friends and have a good time.

So, I have been doing my version of training, over and over again telling myself to slow down, to chill out, to let the miles happen. You can’t hurry up and acquire base miles. You have to ride. You have to give it time. And I want to do that. I really, really do, but I’m forever battling this drive to finish, to try to get to the end before I have any right to get to the end.

I suspect even the jumbo shrimp knows it’s small. Evolutionarily speaking, it has too many sense organs not to realize that world of predators is larger than whatever claws it’s been given. In this way, I also know I’m not a real endurance athlete. I pedal hard, but I know.

I’m wondering if you have this issue at all. I’d happily take suggestions from listeners who deal with it. I manage, mostly, to get fit and finish all the things I’ve started, but I so wish I could find the patience to ride the right way, which would, I hope, lead to figuring out how to be more patient in my everyday life. If I’m not careful I’ll hurry into the grave, like my father did, before I’ve enjoyed every last sandwich.

Join the conversation
  1. johnrom719 says

    One thing.

    Just do one thing. Maybe this can become a meditation mantra for you. Something to start your day with, end your day with, and fill your day, too. We live in a fictitious world of multi-tasking. We think we can do more than one thing at a time, but that is an illusion. In reality we are simply switching from task to task and the cost of switching (in time and energy) is exhausting. If we can manage to do one thing at a time, it will save us immense energy, actually get them done faster, and we will remain closer to sane.

    Greg McKeown wrote an excellent book called, Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less. You can read the book, but I just gave you the main point (or the point I took from it). Just. One. Thing.

    That feeling of your mind revving up can be a reminder, not to lean into faster, but to lean into ONE thing. Good luck, I think you can do it!

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @John – I appreciate your faith in me. I am definitely exhausted.

  2. erikthebald says

    Same, with a few differences. The ADD is a bitch, but if I can get myself into the place where I want to be doing it or get on a roll, it is hard to stop. I don’t have any suggestions though, but I’ll keep my eye on the comments for solutions.

    I know that the answer it to just do one thing at a time, but how to get my brain to cooperate is the problem.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Erik, you make a very good point. There are definitely times when I have the mania, and I get laser focused on riding.

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