16 February 2009

The 60 Day Challenge

I’ve got twisted logic about winter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I love about winter. What’s not to love about daring the elements for a few miles, earning the respect and/or pity of passing motorists? Still, spring is the best time of year, so I get myself there mentally as fast as possible using The 60 Day Challenge, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Marathon Mentality.

The two things that bother me about winter are the dark and the fact that no matter what I and my roofer friend have tried, my roof leaks. Since there’s nothing I seem to be able to do about the latter, I’ve focused on the former and have mentally defeated the dark with a simple mind game.

And why is it so dark? Put it simply, we’re really in the wrong time zone. If Greenwich UK – the prime meridian – is 0° longitude, and time zones are, on average 15° wide, GMT -5 hours (Eastern time) should start at 82.5°W (5 time zones at 15° each plus the half of GMT time zone west of the prime meridian). But 82.5°W puts you around Detroit. The whole country is shifted for the convenience of fitting into four neat time zones. And even taking that as a given, if you look at your map of the US time zones and match them up to lines of longitude you’ll see that even with that shift, Atlantic time (read: New Brunswick) should start at the Maine border, putting Boston, even in the best case, on the easternmost edge of its zone. Which means…

…Enough engineer-speak. Come the winter solstice, it’s dark at 4 PM, and that stinks (OK, I don’t need to hear from you arctic readers claiming this is kids’ stuff, go back to your igloos). It stinks for evening runs – effectively, you can’t, and since it’s cold, you often don’t want to go out at the crack of dawn. It stinks in general, because we’re creatures of the day, an whether the economic stimulus package works or not, we live for the fact that the sun will come out tomorrow, or at least within a few days, weather permitting.

Winter is a mental game, waiting for the light, and it’s a game easily won with The 60 Day Challenge. I thought this was pretty obvious to everyone, but when I reeled it off to a friend at church yesterday they found it unique and surprising and told me I should write a blog article on it. OK, I made up that last part, but they did find it a unique and surprising way to think.

The premise is simple: The darkness sets in with a passion once daylight savings ends, but you’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas to keep you occupied. Nothing says “I don’t care if it’s dark” like putting up the Christmas tree. Before you notice, you can celebrate the winter solstice with the best of the pagans and hail the coming light, even though it’s a long way off. Next thing you know it’s New Year’s Eve, and then….

This is where most people groan and settle in for the long dark winter. The obsessive compulsive number-driven engineer, on the other hand, looks at it my way. In my world, March 1st, is spring. Yes, the equinox doesn’t come for another three weeks. Yes, I know that in New England, wintery misery can persist till May (I recall getting 14 inches on April 30th!). But it will melt! It just doesn’t matter! And it’s light outside! Under my brand of mental self-medication, March 1st equals spring.

January 1 to March 1: 60 days. You can survive anything for 60 days. This is the Marathon Mentality. It’s mile 24, I can do anything for another 15 minutes. Or, it’s mile 2, and I can do this 24 more times. I can survive anything for a day. What’s a couple of days? Six days pass in a flash. Do that 10 times? Easy. We’re 20% there. 30%, 40%, 70% whaddaya’ know? It’s spring.

I’ve been using The Challenge for many years, long before I started running again. It’s weird logic like this that reminds me I was cut out to run marathons. It also reminds me I should find a good therapist, too, but I’m good at denial.

This year brought several twists to the usual 60 Day Challenge. The New England ice storm in mid-December broke the usual rush toward Christmas and reminded us just how damn dark it was that time of year, since we couldn’t turn the lights on, making it harder to get to the starting line. Being largely immobile made my trek to the starting line tougher as well. The inevitable roof leak hammered home the reality of winter, as usual. The Challenge was off to a rocky start.

But then a serendipitous thing happened, the kind of event that makes the Challenge really work. Early February warmed right around the time I could put on a shoe and go for a real live walk. The 10-day forecast bode well, hinting we’d get through mid-month without a blizzard. Suddenly the horizon changed. In the twisted logic of The Challenge, I knew that if we could make it through mid-month before it snowed again, well, March 1st is just around the corner, and we all know that March 1st is spring, so we’ve made it.

That’s why spring has already arrived for me. And have you noticed? It’s light outside. See? It works.

And, as they say, in other news, in light of it being spring, I just couldn’t stop myself, and I jogged two house-lengths down the street yesterday. It felt awesome. OK, truth is, it felt horrible, but it felt awesome. Really.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Humor me. If you read it, if you liked it, even if you didn't, let me know!