Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 41

OK, here's Part Two of my thoughts on mental training. The second phase is "the day to day," phase, which started for me some time in the third week, when the initial shock had subsided and it was time to get to work on rowing across the ocean. Here's a little on how I've been doing it. You'll have to read my book for the full analysis...

The hardest part is getting out of the cabin in the morning, when I still have 10 or so hours of rowing ahead of me. Luckily, I think that years of rowing, especially the last 24 months that were done primarily by myself, have conditioned my body to at least easily get moving in the direction of the boathouse, rowing machine, gym, etc...which is the biggest challenge of all. Once I arrive at the place where I'll be training, I'm always be able to convince myself that, since I've come this far, I might as well get my rowing piece, lift, run, etc...over with so I can go home and not be a quitter. So, it's generally the same unconscious movement that pulls me out of the cabin and onto the rowing seat every morning and afternoon.

OK, I'm in the seat, gloves on, socks on, ready to go. I have to turn the boat stern to the waves or I'll get soaked in a minute or two, so no messing around. Once I've turned the boat around and pointed west (or whatever direction the wind will take me), the rowing has basically begun, whether I know it or not.

I realized early on that ocean rowing, unlike flat-water rowing, is really a defensive sport. I don't ever go out there to show the ocean who's boss; instead I take every oncoming wave individually with two goals: 1) Don't let the boat capsize or take the wave broadside and get soaked, 2) Use the power of each wave to my advantage to move to boat as far as possible. That's it. My rowing out here is more about protecting myself and not missing any opportunity to gain distance from every wave than it is about actually rowing the boat across the ocean.

Does that make sense? It might be like a boxer that blocks every one of his opponent's punches until the opponent finally falls down, rather than throwing punches in an effort to knock the opponent down directly. It's the ultimate war of attrition.

So that's the mindset, but in order to stay focused I have to see progress and hit milestones constantly. I do this by setting dozens of goals during every shift, each with its own reward of some kind. The GPS screen that I'm looking at shows my position down to .001 nautical miles, so that's an easy way to measure my performance. Any time I want to snack, change the song on my ipod, take a break to stretch, go to the bathroom, etc...I won't do it until I've reached a certain easily attainable goal that I'v set arbitrarily. Bigger rewards for bigger milestones, which means for example that I only end shifts at whole numbers of miles rowed. Things like that...by earning lots of tiny victories all the time, the days go pretty quickly and before I really know it I've rowed all day.

Hope all this makes sense! Note to self -- write shorter posts...

Thanks to all who have supported this expedition and important research at Yale Cancer Center with a donation to Row for Hope. If you haven't donated, or if you would consider donating again, it would be much appreciated. To donate online use the link in the upper right-hand corner of this page or visit www.rowforhope.com.



Melissa M said...

Paul -
You managed to put in so much time training while being a great friend (and roommate)to many of us! No small task! You are in my prayers as always :)

Sara P. said...

Dear Mr. Ridley,
I am thirteen years old and when I was 8(4 1/2 years ago), my father was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Adeniod Cystic Carcinoma in his head. Over the summer he had a recurrance and was lucky to win the battle. My father is very lucky to still be alive. I am very inspired with your task and I hope someday in the near future I will do something as great as this!You will be in mine and my families prayers. Good Luck!

Zack Bloom said...

This might be a stupid question, but why do you wear socks?

keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

I never thought about the auto-pilot rowers have in the direction of the boat/gym/erg (well maybe not the erg) before. I guess when you're used to getting up at 5am for practice you need auto-pilot to drive you there as I know the rest of you isn't exactly functioning at that time.

Anyhoot, I'm glad that same auto-pilot helps you get out of the cabin every morning, it would be a long three months if you never left the six foot compartment. And who knows where you'd come ashore.

On a serious note, I'm so impressed by you continuing on every day, as someone in a workout rut, hopefully your post will inspire me.

Keep up the good work, it's amazing to see so much progress on the GPS tracker compared with only a few weeks ago! Throw in some power tens for me!


Anonymous said...

Hey Paul,
I'm glad to hear that you're making such great progress out there. This must make Khaled's old workouts seem like a joke, huh?

You are truely inspiring. Keep up the great work!

-Paul K.

Anonymous said...

Paul, Your mental strength is amazing. Has this experience changed your future? Have you allowed yourself the "what's next" question? Or is that a question to be answered only on land? -- ETS

K-Rock and #1 Wild Bill said...

Hi Buddy - Bravo! What a great description of how you keep yourself moving. This post gives a great sense of what is making you tick out there. We should all be embarassed at what sissies we are when we think about how much discipline we require to just lose 5 lbs! All we have to do is not open the refridge - you are looking at every stroke of the oars as a milestone -great stuff. I like hearing that you are sort of 'going with the flow' - excellent philosophy.You would waste tremendous amounts of energy trying to change the Mighty Ocean - take what it gives you and get the most mileage you can from it.
PS Based on the many literary references in the posts, I've started reading The Life of Pi -just what I needed -more opportunities to think about people alone in the middle of the ocean! xxoo -

Anonymous said...

We all know your mental :-)

Good to hear all is well! Any new beard update pics? I'm keeping a running posting of them on the home page!

How's the watermaker doing?


JoAnn said...

Hey Paul.... WOW! Each day you impress me more! You're the best! Hey send in a poem for Valentine's Day, you may win the GA Prize! Keep rowing! Jo @ GA

Anonymous said...

In case you need additional motivation -- The 2009 SI Swimsuit Edition has been released. Brooklyn Decker - Body Paint. A copy will be available for you at the docks in Antigua.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul -
Reading your blog every day is incredible! It is hard to articulate the kind of hope that I think you are bring to people around the world who are following your journey and your cause.

Everyone’s thoughts are with you. Keep up the good work - you'll be in Antigua before you know it!
- Marla