Tip of the iceberg

Is obsession relative or absolute? What looks like obsession from one angle may look like perfectly sensible dedication from another.

I've been obsessed before: most famously, with food and eating and shame. But also when I worked long overtime to perfect a project, or when I was writing my book. Every day centered on it.

And now it's sports. Who saw that coming? And to what perfectly sensible lengths has this new passion taken me?

1) I got my hair cut short last week because I was rocking the wet-hair-in-a-ponytail look way too often at work after my morning workout. Also, the short hair is easier to fit under a bike helmet.

2) I got up at five Saturday morning to do a brick workout in Smithville so I could check out the triathlon course. I didn't plan to swim after the bike and run, and I was tired, but I had my goggles with me, so I headed out in the water.

3) The night before the brick workout on course, I took my first ice bath. This entails letting cold water fill a tub whilst you shiver in it, then dumping in a couple of bags of ice. Drink a cup of hot tea and wait at least ten minutes while your toes turn blue and your muscles thank you for letting them get rid of inflammation. Follow with tepid water and epsom salts for ten minutes.

4) I practiced my race-day nutrition, right down to the number of shot bloks I plan to pop. (All other things equal, I will want more carbs the night before.)

And what have I learned from this early obsessive attention to this activity? Mostly that at some level, the obsessive attention doesn't go to waste and is fun. I'm still at that level. I enjoy digging in and exploring my passion — but I vow not to let obsession ever rob the fun!

For instance, the tub full of ice felt great: every little twinge and ache left my calves and thighs. Worth every goose pimple. Would I do it again if it didn't work, just because others say it's a good thing to do? Um, no.

There's not enough hot tea in the world to get me back in the ice if it didn't make my body feel better. And there's not enough ice in the world to keep me out of the tub if it does make my body feel more ready to do this thing I've set out to do.

So, back to the question. Since I've not yet reached the limits of things I'll try to increase performance and balance it with pleasure, I'll have to go with "relative."

Obsession must be relative, because I still have way more potential for obsession than this.