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Don’t tri, just do it!

31 Jul

Were you starting to get worried? No, I didn’t drown in Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg on tri day (if you’re not up to date, yes, that really is the name of the lake). In fact, I dare say I showed that lake who’s boss! I stuck to my plan of starting in the back, so as not to encounter the same terrifying situation as last year. If I had to do it again, I’d start more in the middle (I got stuck behind some slower people who I just couldn’t get past, which slowed me down) but overall—success! I didn’t have any scary moments, I felt good during the entire swim and I even remembered to use some of the great swim strategies Audrey showed me. Hooray!

I'm out there somewhere!

The bike…..well, the bike kicked my ass. I don’t know what happened, but from the moment I got on the bike my legs felt like lead. I don’t know if I didn’t train enough (I definitely could have trained more, I’m not just being hard on myself there), or if it was just one of those days but the whole biking leg of the tri felt like a battle. There is also a KILLER hill (one mile up) about 4 miles in, which at least 75% of the people get off their bikes for. I’m not ashamed to say I was one of those people, but I’m determined to beat that hill next year. It’s good to have a goal 🙂

The run was good— it’s my comfort zone. I may not be the fastest runner, I may not have the best form, I may not set records, but I’m so familiar with it, it’s like seeing a good friend at the end of a long journey. My knee held out— no pain until mile 3, which is what’s normal for me now, so I was happy. I felt good, but I was really cautious not to overdo it— I didn’t want to cause any further injury to my knee since I need to be focused on getting back to normal!

And then my favorite part…crossing the finish line! Yeah, it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the finish line is always a great feeling. I’ve never doubted my ability to make it there, but crossing the line is still a validation of my effort, determination, struggle and yes, I still feel in that moment a victory and affirmation of the changes I’ve made in my life.

But I can’t lie, there was a solid 24 hours after the race when what was at the top of my mind was the fact that my time for this years tri was seven minutes longer than my time from last year. I was disappointed. Sure, my knee slowed down and shortened the time I had to train. But I didn’t want to make excuses, I didn’t want that to be a barrier to being better. Because if there’s one thing I always want to be, it’s better than myself.

I couldn’t seem to shake my disappointment. Until Monday afternoon, when James and I sat down to watch the video he had taped of the triathlon. On the tape, shortly after I started swimming, you can hear my mom say “…two years ago, she never would have done this…”

And it was precisely the jolt I needed to hear, as I watched myself start to swim. Because she’s right. Two years ago I would have NEVER EVER EVER imagined myself completing a triathlon (let alone two!). If you had suggested such a thing, I probably would have laughed, told you at least 5 reasons why it was a ridiculous idea, and laughed some more. Why had I allowed myself to lose sight of that in the face of seven extra minutes? And as I continued to watch the video, I found the feeling my disappointment hadn’t let me feel. I felt really proud of me. And that’s how I should have felt all along.

Last Sunday, I was once again surrounded by more than 2,000 women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. And I have to tell you that in looking back on those moments I realize I think we all too often sell ourselves short. We don’t believe in ourselves enough. We think we can’t or shouldn’t do something because we aren’t the smartest, best, fastest, prettiest, thinnest. Because we don’t have enough time, energy, resources. Because it won’t be easy. Whatever the excuse may be. We don’t even let ourselves start.

But once we do, we’re amazed by what we can accomplish. If you looked around on Sunday, you would have seen a vastly different group of women. But looking closer, I think you see a group of women who are remarkably the same. A beautiful group of women who had surely been toiling over the same goal for weeks, months, maybe all year. Maybe years. A group of women who had the strength to start, and to keep on going.

If all those women listened to the voices of doubt in their heads, I’d have been standing on an empty beach on Sunday. If I listened to mine, I wouldn’t have been there to see it. But I was there, and so were they— a beach of 2,000 amazing, beautiful, fabulous women who will all tell you: If I can do it, so can you.

Busy Bee

19 Jul

Saturday was a wash as far as exercise goes. James’ band had a show, and then there was a late-night ER visit for a friend who had a concussion…so we didn’t get home until 7:30 am. That certainly justifies sleeping til noon. I was still very tired once I woke up, and the swim and bike ride we had planned was something I didn’t feel physically OR mentally capable of. So that just meant that Sunday suddenly became a super-active, super-busy (but great!) day. No time to slack off! James & I started off with an hour bike ride, sprinkled with a quick run and topped with a gorgeous view. There is a KILLER hill to get up here, so the fact that our bike ride was shorter than usual didn’t make me feel so bad. I was still feeling really tired, and the fact that it was hot and I was incredibly thirsty didn’t help the overall weak feeling I had, but James really pushed me (in a good way!) to give it my all.
Then it was off to the farmer’s market for fresh veggies and live music by a friend’s band…oh yeah, there was also fresh black raspberry ice cream and organic pizza topped with nasturtium (flowers! On pizza! How fabulous!). We shared, so I didn’t feel bad about indulging.Next up was swimming. We went to a local lake, and since we weren’t town residents it was $17 to get in. 17 dollars! It was worth it, though, because I really need the swim practice. James watched out for my form while I swam some laps. And of course we goofed off for a bit, too, because all work and no play isn’t much fun! Honestly, though, I hate swimming in lakes. It creeps me out a bit. And no one was swimming all the way out to the buoys like I was, so I started envisioning monstruous lake creatures waiting out there to eat me. The good thing about swimming with goggles on is that you can see— and the bad thing about swimming with goggles on is that you can see! Seeing long green slimy grass or even a bunch of rocks makes me think of the creatures that would love to call it home….eww! I think I have too much of an imagination sometimes 🙂 In reality, I know that no lake creature is going to eat me…maybe!

Nine Days

16 Jul

I know I said this already, but the triathlon has really snuck up on me this year. I can’t believe its only NINE days away! Maybe it’s a matter of knowing what I’m in for this year, but I like this relaxed feeling. I hope it carries all the way through the big day. Don’t get me wrong, when I started reading through the athlete info guide they released this week, I kinda wanted to vomit for a few seconds. But it went away quickly 🙂

I remember last year, I was SO SO nervous the two days leading up to the triathlon. I was a ball of nervous anticipation and excitement. It was like creaking up an old rollercoaster for days. But on the morning of the tri, which should have been the top of the rollercoaster, the height of nervous anticipation and excitement and energy, I was incredibly calm. I can honestly say I was not at all nervous on that day. I was sooooooo ready. So focused and care free. It was great. I hope I can have that same feeling again. It’s my natural tendency to worry, something I’d been working on a lot, so the fact that I was so calm and clear-headed is one of the things I’m most happy about when I think about that day.

Then there’s swimming. I survived last year’s swim, but it wasn’t pretty. I’ll never forget the feeling of choking on the lake water, of being only a few seconds in to the start of the tri and feeling panic sweep over me. It was awful. And I think it’s an experience that has only been amplified by my memory of it. Last year, I was most nervous about the swim. This year, I’m most nervous about the swim AND I have a reason to be. Eeek! But the amazing Audrey took Lola & I for a swim practice the other day, which was wonderful, went great and made me feel much better. We’re going to go again next week, and James is going to go with me this weekend, so hopefully it’ll all be enough to boost my confidence and push away my bad memories.

And since somehow, the triathlon is next weekend (oh my gosh I know I can’t stop saying this, but I still can’t believe it!) I’ve already made my packing list for the weekend of the tri, in an effort to calm any nerves that may arise next week. I just feel better when I’m organized. Although I’m sure James & I will be going through the same routine as last year–we sat in my apartment and talked out every step of the next 30 or so hours of my life and all the things necessary to be properly equipped for those hours, in order to make sure I had packed everything I would need. And I still managed to forget my balloon (although thankfully James was at the race site at 4:45am the next day, balloon in hand).

I have an interesting new outfit for the triathlon. I had ordered a new tri top–OBVIOUSLY cannot wear the same thing two years in row 😉 — but the company didn’t send me what I ordered. Instead, they sent me what I like to call my triathlon catsuit.When I pulled it out of the box, I laughed. I initially tried it on only for laughs; it’s a one-piece triathlon suit, so the shorts are attached to the top. I was figuring this would be a body-image nightmare. But when I tried it on….it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t much different from my tri shorts and top, and it was comfortable. So…I decided to stick with it! Comfort is key, and I like that since the top and shorts are attached, I won’t have to worry about my top riding up or moving around. And anyway, let’s face it, a triathlon is not the time to worry about being super cute. It’s the time to worry about…nothing 🙂

Part 2: Swim Lessons

30 Jul

And then suddenly I wasn’t standing on the edge anymore. I was swimming.

And just as suddenly, I inhaled a huge mouthful of lake water and any ease I felt about my strength as a swimmer disappeared. I was choking. And trying to swim. With 30 other people. And they were all around me. And I was still choking. And I was tired. More than a little freaked out. And only 15 seconds into the 1/2 mile swim. Oh God.

I flipped over onto my back to get my face out of the water. I couldn’t stop coughing on the water I had swallowed. Why hadn’t I practiced swimming more? Twice?! In a calm, clear, seaweed-free pool?! Was I kidding myself thinking that was enough? I was suddenly so shaken and could feel exhaustion creep into my body. I looked up, saw that the first buoy I had to swim to was still incredibly far away, and realized that I needed to get. it. together. Or I would never make it. So I calmed myself down and just focused on doing what needed to be done. Which was mainly: a) staying afloat and b) moving closer to the finish.

It was ridiculously tiring. I felt like part of the time I was swimming, but mostly I was surviving. I think I invented some pretty nifty swim strokes in my effort to simply make it through. That was the longest half mile of my life. When I was finally done, I was so happy to be out of the water that despite how tired I was, I ripped off my swim cap and goggles and ran up the beach with renewed energy, waving enthusiastically to my mom when I spotted her on the sidelines. I was just so happy to be alive and on dry land, and to have the hardest part of the tri behind me that I felt like doing cartwheels. After the swim, the bike seemed like it would be an absolute breeze.

Part 1: I did it!

30 Jul

I did it! The triathlon is over. I kicked its ass.

Friday and Saturday I was buzzing with nervous energy. I was so anxious, not nervous, but anxious, that I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the tri was Sunday….it seemed so surreal. I had been preparing for so long for that day that I almost forgot the day would actually come. But suddenly, there it was. And I could barely breathe.

But once Audrey picked me up on Saturday to head to orientation and registration, the calm that I had been hoping for started to settle over me. I knew I had prepared for this, mentally and physically, every day since I made the decision to do it. I knew I was ready, not just by the fact that I now owned a triathlon suit, bike helmet and race number belt, but by the fact that I had not a shadow of a doubt that I would accomplish exactly what I set out to do.

This calmness carried throughout Saturday into Sunday. It was exactly what I was hoping I would feel. I slept well the night before, I woke up without butterflies in my stomach. I was amped up, thats for sure, but in a very determined, even-keeled way. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was just ready to go. Bring it on, triathlon!

We left the hotel and headed to the race site to set up our transition areas. The number of bikes lining the rows was pretty incredible. There were so many people, and we had so much time to kill before our swim waves started. Normally these would be anxiety-inducing factors. Yet somehow I still wasn’t nervous. Just ready.

At 8:15, I entered the (freezing cold!) water with my swim wave. 30 or so girls in yellow swim caps, all about my age, all about to do what I was about to do. I can’t tell you what their journeys were to get to that moment. I only know mine. And I made myself think of it as I stood there waiting for the horn to blow. This is it, I thought. Here it is. You are standing on the edge of your moment.

Woohoo!

21 May

These past two weeks have been filled with quite a few meaningful accomplishments, which has been just the boost I need. Sometimes over the past few weeks I’ve felt my headstrong, unwavering, go-hard-or-go-home attitude begin to waver slightly and it freaks me out. I don’t want to lose that drive. Then I think about what I’ve accomplished, and I realize that I’m crazy- I’m not losing my drive at all; maybe I’m just relaxing it’s grip on me a little bit.

Way back in December, when I first started Weight Watchers, I set my first weight-loss goal. I wanted to be a certain weight by May 1st. To be honest it was an arbitrary date and an arbitrary weight, except for that back then I thought it sounded like the beginning of summer and summer is a good time to be feeling thinner, and it was about a pound a week, which was realistic. Now, me being me, I don’t just set a goal and forget it. This goal was on my mind every day. Even if I wasn’t thinking “May 1st” I was thinking of what weight I needed to be at the next week in order to be on track for May 1st. My rollercoaster-like weight loss patterns sometimes made me think I’d be derailed somewhere along the way. But, gosh darn it, if I didn’t make it then I was going to be as close as humanly possible, and I wasn’t going to allow myself to be standing on the scale on May 1st thinking “Well if I hadn’t had that cake/pizza/ice cream/Coca-Cola/french fries, I would have made it. If I hadn’t skipped the gym/layed on the couch all day/slept in/been so lazy, I would have made it.” Helllllllz no. I was beyond determined to prove to myself that I could do this; that willpower and persistence would be my keys to success. The struggle of weight loss (and no matter how much willpower and persistence you have, it is definitely a struggle) you play a constant numbers game: I ate 7 points at lunch. I ran 2 miles. I was at the gym for 60 minutes. I worked out 5 days this week. Count your points, measure your portions, time your pace. All those numbers were worth it when, on May 1st, I got on the scale and saw the exact number I wanted to see. I met my May 1st goal!

The following week was my next 5k. It was by far the largest race Lola and I have run in so far (more than 5,000 people total) which was very cool. For some reason, this was also the first race where I wasn’t very nervous at the starting line. The course was great- not too hilly, yet not too flat and boring. It was through neighborhoods and the people were very excited to see the runners come through, lots of them were out on their porches cheering or blasting music. I finished mile 1 in 9:53. That was the fastest I have ever run a mile. It was also the first time during a race that I ran the entire mile without stopping. And I knew I could keep going. I ran straight through mile 2 and into 3. Shortly into 3 I had to stop, but I was okay with that. It was still the best I have ever run- race or not. And, adding to the triumph of the day, I crossed the finish line at 33:43– my best time yet by more than 30 seconds. It was a great, great feeling.

Tonight’s accomplishment was smaller but still significant. I went swimming! Phew! I’ve been so nervous about the fact that I haven’t started training for the swim, so it felt great to finally get in the water. And I was lucky enough to have Audrey as my swim coach. She went to a swim clinic a few weekends ago, and learned lots of helpful hints that she passed along to me after analyzing my technique (or lack thereof). I am hugely thankful for that, because when I first got in the water and realized the things I was doing wrong, I was slightly freaked out that the triathlon swim might mean my demise. As with running, it’s the breathing I have a problem with– but it’s even harder to think about breathing while you’re swimming because there truly are some less-opportune times to take a breath (i.e., when your face is in the water). But by the time I got out of that pool I had improved quite a bit (again, thanks to Audrey!) and felt much better about swimming. I probably would have felt even better if I hadn’t forgotten to bring a towel with me and didn’t have to dry off with Audrey’s extra sweatshirt and some paper towels. I am not joking; I was in a situation where drying my body with a sweatshirt was the best option available. And Audrey is teeny, so her sweatshirt was not very big and I didn’t have very much material to work with. Although it was surprisngly absorbent. Still, forgetting a towel when you’re going swimming is like forgetting socks when you’re going running (meaning it’s a completely doofus move). Even though drying off with a sweatshirt is not the greatest, thank goodness for Audrey and her sweatshirt. I absolutely HATE getting dressed if my body has even a drop of water still on it, so this was quite particularly torturous for me, but what would I have done if she wasn’t there? Answer: I would still be there, trying to get dry so I could put my clothes on and go home.

Not waving but drowning

30 Mar

I got the bike from Audrey today. For now, it is in my kitchen resting against my kitchen table (which I never use anyway), but I can’t wait to ride it. April is almost here and I definitely need to broaden my focus, which up until now has mostly been on running. Biking, I figured, would be next. I was all settled with this idea of expanding my focus one thing at a time until a conversation with my mother on Saturday.

“Have you figured out where you’re going to practice swimming yet?” my mom asked. “Uhhhh…no” I replied. I hate remembering that I haven’t figured this out yet, because I know that I need to. It’s just never made it’s way up to the top of my radar screen for long enough to actually work out a solution. “Well, you should figure out what you’re going to do. I’m most nervous about the swim part of this” she says. This is news to me. My mom is not the type to be unnecessarily nervous, and I have been feeling most comfortable with the swim part. Correction: I had been feeling most comfortable with the swim, until this very moment. Something you need to know about my mom is that she is never wrong. Ever. If she is worried, then she has a reason. And if she has a reason, well then that reason is right, whether you want it to be or not. “But swim is first…” is the only argument I can come back with. Weak response, I admit–the fact that swimming will be the first leg of the race does not speak to my ability to make it through. “I know, but with everything else you’re on land. If you get tired or hurt you can rest. But when you’re swimming you’re in the water, it’s not the same. You’ve always been a strong swimmer, but I don’t think you’ve ever done any type of distance swimming in your life. It’s different. I’m your mom. I can’t help it if I’m worried.”

Oh, no. She’s right (of course). I tell her that there’s “swim angels” in the water during the race, to pull you out should you start to flail about, or to talk to you if you just get a little freaked out. I can tell this makes her feel a little better, but not much. And it doesn’t make me feel better at all to use this as my reason why I’ll be ok– I want to be able to happily ignore these swim angel people. I kind of liked the idea of having one aspect of the triathlon that I didn’t have to worry as much about, but I realize now that I was fooling myself.

And I think the universe is trying to reinforce this realization, because a friend of mine, without knowing anything about the conversation I had with my mom, sent me a message on Facebook that says “be careful :(” and is followed by a link to an article about how triathlons pose deadly heart risks- particularly due to the swimming portion. The article goes on to describe the stress swimming can put on your heart and how scary it can be to swim with all those people around you. That training by swimming in a pool is not equivalent to training in a lake or river. And how, exactly as my mom said (see, told you she’s always right) it’s not easy for swimmers to slow down or signal for help and even those posted to watch them might not notice when they’re in trouble. I’m reminded of the title of my favorite poem, Stevie Smith’s “Not Waving But Drowning”. I’m not one to overreact but we all know I’m a compulsive overthinker (and I can’t imagine why my friend thought it was good idea to send me this article). This is putting a lump in my throat and I haven’t even showered yet- not a good way to start the day.

So. I will try not to obsess about this swimming thing. What I will do is just take from this the understanding that I need to focus on it all equally- run, bike, swim. Just as I didn’t want to be the one barely able to put one foot in front of the other during the run, I don’t want to be the girl with training wheels and swimmies either. Or the one not waving but drowning.