Back in the days when I flew for a living (before I had to get a real job), there was a term nobody wanted to hear in the weather briefing… WOXOF. The official translation was “indefinite ceiling zero, sky obscured, visibility zero, fog.” The unofficial translation was “you can’t see @#$%.” The fog was so low and so thick that nobody was going anywhere.
The weather for this morning’s ride wasn’t exactly WOXOF, but there was a low layer of fog hanging around, mostly in the river valley along the turnaround point of my ride. The upside is that the fog formed because the morning temperatures were so cool, and even more so along the river. So, I’ll take a little fog in exchange for some cooler weather. Looks like that will probably be the last one of those days for a while, though.
As I was driving to work about an hour later, I crossed that same river. By that time, though, the fog was much thicker. In fact, I couldn’t see halfway across the bridge. That’s not too much of a problem, because I’ve driven it so many times that I know what’s on the other side. What you don’t know in a situation like that is, what’s in the fog? That got me thinking more about metaphorical fog… that stuff that hangs around in our lives and often makes it hard to focus on what’s ahead, or even believe that anything is ahead. Bear with me for a couple of thoughts.
Emotional fog, like the real stuff, tends to hang out in the low places. Real fog settles in valleys and depressions because moisture gets trapped there. Fog of the emotional variety does, too. Ever notice how hard it is to see any possible good in the middle of an emotional fog? The lower you get, the harder it is to believe there could be anything on the other side… or that it will ever end. But just like I knew what was on the other side of the bridge this morning because I’ve seen it before, you know there is life outside of emotional fog… you’ve lived it. Someone once said the most profound statement in the human language is, “This too shall pass.” There is life beyond the fog… believe it.
Fog blinds us to things that are often right in front of our eyes, both good and bad. An old rule from flying helicopters in some really crummy weather was “Never out fly your visibility.” When your emotional visibility starts dropping towards WOXOF, slow down and get your bearings. The worst thing to do in bad weather is to start randomly turning around to find your way out. You’re lost before you know it. My first instructor pilot told me the best thing to do in any emergency was to wind your watch… not because it solved the problem, but because it made you slow down and take a few seconds to think… to focus on something other than the problem that seems insurmountable. Stuck in the fog? Slow down, take a deep breath, and wind your watch. Calm is always better than panic.
The last thing to know about fog is that sunlight is about the only thing that will make it go away. The radiant heat warms the air and it eventually dissipates. Sometimes shining a little light on the subject is the only way to clear the fog. Some good advice from someone you trust, a little wisdom from someone else who’s been there… that may be all it takes to begin to clear the fog and give you the visibility you need to start moving toward your goal again. So seek it out.
What does all this have to do with triathlon training? I don’t know, this stuff just comes to me at 6 in the morning when I am running or riding. Not usually when I’m swimming. All I think about then is, “BREATHE!”