The Playlist

What I should have been doing with my free Thursday evening: Gathering up my gear and beginning to pack for Saturday’s drive to Ellicottville and Sunday’s Pain in the Alleganies Half Ironman.

What I did instead: Ripped some of my CDs to iTunes and worked on a playlist for my iPod to listen to on the ride and on race morning.

I also watched reruns of Parks and Recreation on Netflix before tuning in for the Season 5 premier. I may lack some of Leslie Knope’s organizational skills but I make up for it in passion and love of breakfast food.

But in weighing the options of how to spend my time I figured anything with the word “should” was suspect, so I went ahead and starting compiling songs which made me smile, which had good memories, into a new playlist.

This morning I woke up with a nervous stomach. Only two more sleeps before race day and the challenge shifts from physical preparation to mental preparation. In other words, I need to not talk myself out of the game. Because that is one of my personal gremlins who has overstayed his welcome.

I am a writer, whether it’s telling my own story on this blog or telling the stories of other people and events in the sports pages of your daily newspaper. And as such, I’ve seen stories go many different ways. Trust me, covering an NCAA basketball game on deadline requires the writer to be prepared for any scenario, lest you’re faced with a blank screen and 600 words due in three minutes. So being able to make up all different kinds of scenarios in my head can serve as a valuable vocational skill.

In the world outside of my laptop, it can be a bitch.

Instead of being a fun game, it turns into a bad round of worst-case scenario. In another version I “what-if” myself to the brink of insanity. Still in others I can completely convince myself that one thing — a half-assed assignment, an over eager email, a missed workout — is catastrophic.

As I was deciding which Tragically Hip songs to throw in my Allegany playlist, I my brain creeping toward catastrophic thinking. My gremlin wanted to play the “what-if” game. The moment of personal growth came when I noticed what was going on and I decided to not play along — or at least to not be an active participant. I let those crazy thoughts come into my head and them let them go out as magically as they arrived. (Did you see the movie Empire Records? I quote Lucas: “Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear.”)

For the past seven months, I’ve been in an intense training phase, with minimal taper and recovery heading into my major events. On Sunday it all winds down. Sunday is not a test day. It’s graduation day. Even if I trip on my gown or poke myself in the eye with the corner of my mortar board, I still get my diploma. I still get to celebrate with cake. And a victory playlist. Yeah. A victory playlist.

Excuse me. I’ve got to get back to iTunes.

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