NYC Training, Week 6 of 20+: What Triathlon and Statistics Have in Common

This has been a hard week for me with running.  I have a bit of runner's knee on my left, and my right calf has been really sore, reminiscent of my old stress fracture in my shin. My weekly mileage is now up to the 20s during non-recovery weeks - that's a lot for me, and with 14 weeks to go, I have a lot of increasing coming up. 

Exploratory Factor Analysis

So this week I was reminded that, in the choice of both my hobby and career, I have made a conscious decision to conquer something that is my biggest challenge; to go against my natural strengths.

Let me explain . . .

My whole life I have been classified as a "words" person and not a "numbers" person.  When I chose a career that was heavy in math, I knew I was fighting an uphill battle: to become a numbers person when I'd struggled with numbers my whole life.

But, for some reason, the more advanced the math, the better I do with it.  Ask me to add, regurgitate geometrical rules, or make you a factor square and I'll fall on my face; ask me about laws of physics and statistical significance and I'll eat it up. I believe it's because they're more practical and applicable versus heavily computational.

Still, it isn't easy

It is actually pretty funny how similar this is to my triathlon experience.  I was a gymnast in elementary school and adored figure skating in middle school and high school.  Flexibility was always my strength; never speed. Compact and stocky, I was never built like a lean, leggy marathoner.  I was built for powerful back handsprings and bouncy floor moves, for crazy pretzel twists - not for powerful running or long, elegant swim strokes or lots of leg power on the bike.

Maybe there is a part of my motivation that only activates when I think, or am told, that I can't do something.

I used to be able to even do this,
even on figure skates, while moving
When classes started, I was terribly displeased with the online experience.  I really love being in an actual lab, attending conferences and job talks, so self-learning graduate-level stats was . . .well . . . . hard as shit.  And this is coming from someone with 4 stats classes plus research experience under my belt.

By the end of my first Methods class, even while traveling to Alabama to visit my parents when they first got ill, meeting all their doctors and starting Arnie on his cancer treatments, I'd earned an A.  While I still dislike online classes (they aren't for everyone, and being a traditional academic they just weren't for me), it turned out I learned a LOT. 

Still, I got into my more advanced Methods class during this 12-week shorter term and worried I'd have the same struggles.  I was promptly proven dead wrong.  Two of my colleagues jokingly called me "brilliant" and, by finals this week, I had racked up a 99.8% grade in the class.

And . . . here's the next shocker . . . I had FUN.  I had SO much fun that I started looking for other ways to use advanced statistics.

And then several of my colleagues at work starting calling me the "numbers guru."

Fast forward . . . .
This week I got a little down; I kept thinking, I'm never going to BQ at this rate.  A smart guy told me not to do that, of course.

And then I thought about stats, and how hard numbers usually are for me, and how much ass I had to bust to be so good with them, and it made me realize . . . I used to finish at the back of the pack. Now, I am still nowhere near someone calling me a "triathlon guru," or a "marathon guru," but I have definitely become a very fit and knowledgeable person about my sport.

And that's when I realized that just because something is hard for you doesn't mean you can't also be good at it. It just takes extra effort.

Is there something you always thought you couldn't do, or were bad at, that you changed for the better?  If so, what was it?

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