By the wayside

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Published on: January 9, 2011

A triathlete friend of mine recently pulled me aside and asked me, point blank:  “so, are you even a triathlete anymore?  Or have you become a complete wuss and given up on the sport?”

Well, it’s true… I’m certainly not the triathlete I used to be.  In the past two years?  I think I did a total of one triathlon.  And that was an all-women’s sprint triathlon where I could wear my wetsuit (and it was basically a pool swim, even!).

So, yes.  I believe that officially makes me a triathlon wuss.

And I’m not entirely sure that’s something I want to change, either.  It’s well-known in these parts that I’ve got little love for the water.  If I never went swimming again, I don’t think it would bother me one bit.  I’m glad that I overcame my fear of it, and I’m proud of myself for taking on the 1.2 mile half ironman swim in Lake Michigan (twice already!), but don’t know that I feel the need to go back and do it again.

My reasoning goes like this:  I don’t like to swim.  I’m an adult.  I get to make my own decisions, especially about things that are considered “hobbies” in my life.  Therefore, the math looks like this:  don’t like to swim + an adult + make my own decisions = NO SWIMMING!! YAY!!

I suspect I’ll stay active in the sport to some extent, though mostly racing triathlons where I can hack the swim without training (meaning – easy, short, wetsuit-legal swim).  I do like the idea of duathlons, though.  I think the bike cross-training will be good for me, and what’s not to love about a race that allows you to run twice?  Right?!

This is the year that a bunch of my friends are headed to IMWI to race.  There’s a part of me that wanted to be out there with them… but, unfortunately (or fortunately!) there wasn’t another part of me willing to commit to the rather insane hours of training — especially all the time in the pool (I mean, 4500y swims??!  Just kill me now….).  I’m not totally discounting the idea of an Ironman.  But certainly not today.  Or this year.  But – someday.  Perhaps.

This is what I figure:  I spent the last 2 years doing not much racing, not much training.  In the past 4 months or so, my running mojo has definitely returned with a very fun vengeance.  And my interest is certainly piqued at thinking about how much I can improve my bike time in the Metlife Duathlon in June.  And that’s about where my racing desires end.  To be social, I might hop in and do the Subaru sprint triathlon, but that’s as wet as I’ll get this year.

You know, except for all the sweating I’ll be doing.

Impossible?

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Published on: October 7, 2010

In the midst of my internet meanderings, I came across a daily motivational quote on potential, and in the middle of it were these two sentences:

“Think of all the things, once considered to be impossible, that are now commonplace.  Always remember that when there is a good enough reason, there is a way.”

And that got me to thinkin’ a bit … I mean, really – how many things have I now done that I was TERRIFIED of doing at one point or things that I would never have thought even be possible? And, as you can imagine, I managed to scrape up a few examples…

(drumroll, please)

5 Seemingly Impossible Things

  1. Running a 5k … I remember being at the Brookfield Zoo Run Run 5k/1 mile walk.  Some college friends and I were there for the Zoo Walk Walk (as we liked to call it), thinking it’d be a fun way to pass a weekend morning.  As I looked on at the people lined up for the 5k, I was probably 40 pounds overweight but still a weekend athlete, and inexplicably I thought to myself, “I could totally do that.  It’s only a couple of miles” (note that I didn’t actually know how many miles were in a 5k yet).  And then, even more inexplicably:  “Next year I’ll do it.  Next year.”  And next year?  I toed the starting line of the 5k.  I remember being so nervous, so scared I wouldn’t make it to the finish line.  I had trained, sure, but this was different:  for the first time in years, I was doing something competitive that was just me pushing myself as hard as possible.  I finished that first 5k in 29:36.  I was ecstatic. And mostly dead. Which was good, because if I had more energy, I would have puked.
  2. Running a half marathon … this has turned into one of “my stories”.  You know – everyone has them – the stories that you trot out for people that don’t know you too well, the stories that are fun, entertaining and are guaranteed a laugh or two.  Very long story short:  I broke my arm.  Badly.  I was in rehab for a very, very long time.  Long enough to become friends with some of the folks there.  One of the OT’s?  She dragged me, kicking and screaming into joining with Team In Training to run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville.  I thought she was crazy.  I thought *I* was crazy for allowing myself to be peer pressured into it.  Funny how the thing I so didn’t want to do, the thing that seemed like the longest, hardest thing I’d ever done turned into one of the best things I ever did for myself.  Or, rather, was forced to do for myself.  :)
  3. Getting up at 4am every day … a non-sports/non-tri-related impossible thing.  When I was in college, the 8am class was my nemesis.  Unless I absolutely had to, I wouldn’t schedule one because I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to get up for it.  One semester I ended up in a 5-day/week, 8am Advanced Calculus that just about killed me.  I skipped at least once a week — even though I could nap for 1.5 hours in between that and my next class.  If you would have told me then that I’d be STARTING work at 6am?  I would have laughed at you. No – I would have had milk (or Coke Classic, as my drink of choice back then) coming out of my nose, rolling on the floor, unable to stop the tears, laughed at you.  And now?  My alarm clock starts ringing at around 3:40am.  Every work day.  And – like the responsible adult I am – I get up and get going.  I honestly never would have thought it possible.
  4. Surviving a triathlon swim leg … when I decided to dip my toes into the triathlon waters, I knew that swimming would be my Achilles heel.  Even as a kid, going swimming wasn’t ever high on my list of things to do.  Oh sure, I was forced to go to swim lessons by my well-meaning parents, but I never enjoyed it.  In fact, the mandatory swim class in high school?  Yea, I managed to finagle my way out of it.  Wasn’t pretty, and the teacher (who – of course – was also the swim coach) openly derided me in front of the class, but hey – I didn’t have to swim.  Who’s laughing now, buddy? (at least that was my thought as I strode triumphantly out of the pool area and headed to study hall).  So, fast forward to summer, 2004:  my first triathlon.  Um, yea.  Perhaps, I *should* have taken swim class in high school.  It wasn’t pretty.  Lifeguard assistance was necessary (hyperventilation + swimming = notsomuchfun) and I ended up doggy-paddling to the other side of the lake.  I made it, but had decided then and there that this was the end of my triathlon career.  One and done!  Apparently, I’m a glutton for punishment, though…
  5. Completing a Half Ironman … I remember the debate, the back and forth about whether I could even dare to do such a thing.  The adrenalin rush when I went through the online sign-up.  The immediate panic about 3 seconds after the adrenalin rush.  And the low-level panic that stalked me throughout the 20-week training program.  I was nervous about it all, but mostly the thought of 1.2 miles in Lake Michigan made me so crazy it almost gave me hives.  And then – the day arrived.  To my amazement, Lake Michigan – for the first time ever, it seemed – was calm.  As I stood on the beach, awaiting my wave start, a calm took over:  I knew I’d be okay.  That somehow I’d make it.  That even if I had to bob from start to finish in my wetsuit, I could do that.  And you know what?  I did.  As it turned out, the swim was the best part of my day.  The bike?  Who knew that 56 miles could be so HARD?  And the run??  Let’s not even go there.  I started the run thinking, “I’m FINALLY at the part that I like the best!” but switched quickly to thinking, “OMG THIS HURTS… is it done yet? I’m never gonna make it!”  But – 6+ hours later, I crossed the finish line, never in my life so proud of what I had accomplished.  Style, panache and all semblance of sanity may have deserted me over the course of 70.3 miles, but I did it.

And what are some of your Seemingly Impossible Things?

There’s something I forgot to mention…

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Published on: January 25, 2010

.

____________________________________

Um, yea.  Last fall?  I registered myself for Ironman Wisconsin.  Kind of on a whim.  More of a “just on the weird offchance that I decide I want to do it, then I’ll have that option open” kind of thing.  And then decided not to tell a soul about it, you know, because I’m all about the drama.  Or something like that.

I don’t know that I was ever really serious about doing it.  All along, while secretly wanting to be called an Ironman, there’s a large part of me that has absolutely no desire to put the time and effort needed into the training.  I mean, it’s not like my idea of fun is climbing on my bike for a “short” 3 hour trek after having spent 7 hours in the saddle the day before (and let’s not even mention the running and swimming that most likely was squeezed in there as well).

And so, here I sit:  it’s January and I feel like I ought to make a decision.  I thought it would be an easy decision — don’t do it, never tell anyone that you signed up.  But now… but now… there’s this little voice that wonders if it might be possible.  Wonders if all that’s holding me back is that the enormity of this task scares the pants off me.

And what am I scared of?  Scared of failing – of course.  Scared of being too lazy to train for it the way I’ll need to.  Scared that my body won’t hold up through the training.  Scared that I’ll do all the training and then have something stupid happens that ends my journey before the race is finished.  Scared that I’m not fast enough.  Not committed enough.  Not up to the challenge.  Just not good enough.  And that then – epically – publicly – everyone else will know that too.

Being rational about it, though, the ability to successfully complete an Ironman takes more than just will, heart and a butt of steel.  It requires time.  And resources.  And more time.  And money.  A willingness to forgo a social life.  And some time on top of that, of course.  Coming into play are whether I’d be able to ever get enough sleep to support the long hours of training each week.  And the necessity of having to not only give up softball, but also anything else that didn’t fit into the training plan.  That’s a huge sacrifice.

But in the face of all that, there’s still this whisper, this call to do something great.  Doing something that only a very small percentage of people have ever done has this draw to it, and it’s slowly reeling me in, robbing me of all logical thought.

And so…. well, maybe… perhaps… I just… might… possibly… train for (gulp!)… an Ironman.

Maybe.

I’ve done my homework:  I’ve looked at the training plans.  Hyperventilated over the number of really, really, REALLY long bike rides I’d have to get in over the summer.  Grew physically tired looking at some of the peak 20-hour training weeks. And have now started mentally rearranging my life to accommodate the craziness.  I’ve tentatively told my softball teams this would be a year of just being a sub.  I’ve talked to my boss and got the okay to work the later shift one day a week to ensure that I’d get at least one full night’s sleep a week.  And – most importantly – I’ve begun the work of putting in base miles to prepare for training to start at the very end of April.

So, I guess – right now at least – I’m in.  Kind of.  We’ll see how things go between now and the official start of training.  I totally am reserving the right to reclaim my place in reality, though, and back out.  Yes, that’s my big ol’ disclaimer to my little announcement.

So… who wants to go for a bike ride?  Just something short?  You know, like, 7 hours or so?

Wisdom from the inside of a chocolate wrapper

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Published on: September 12, 2009

“Be fearless.”

Yup, that’s what the inside of the Dove Chocolate wrapper told me.  And it can’t be wrong, can it?

As I licked the wrapper clean of specks of chocolate (we wouldn’t want to waste any!), I contemplated this little nugget of wisdom.  Be fearless.  Without fear.  Boldly go where no man has gone before!  Uh, sorry, got carried away there.  Not quite sure what to do with this yet, I picked up yet another delicious dark chocolate goody (dark chocolate is healthy, you know), and lo and behold, more insight in the form of a shiny, red wrapper:  “Think without boundaries.”

Whoa.  I mean, whoever thought chocolate could be so smart?

Be fearless.  And then – think without boundaries.

And now’s the time of year when I have friends who are embarking upon the ultimate adventure — Ironman Wisconsin. A commitment made a full year ago that required fearlessness and thinking beyond their comfort zone.  Some are now going crazy with the taper, others are guessing and second-guessing their training, and some fluctuate between thinking they’ll fly through the day and worrying about whether they’ll make the swim cutoff. But all have taken that step to shove through the fears and uncertainties, putting in the time, sweat and tears even when the end result wasn’t so clearly in focus.

And now:  it’s here.

And I can barely imagine being in their position.  The nervousness, the angst, the anticipation and excitement.  A year’s worth of preparation, all stuffed into one glorious weekend, then into one 17-hour stretch of time.  And I admire them all greatly; some day, I want to be in their position, that’s for certain.  What courage it takes to sign up for a race like this!  2.4 miles of swimming, an interminably long 112 miles on the bike, topped off with 26.2 miles of running. Most will finish after the sun has gone down, navigating through the dark towards the high-energy finish line to the cheers and whistles of their friends and family, all who know the sacrifices it took to get to that one moment in time.

So, good luck to everyone out on the tomorrow!  You put your heart and soul into training, now’s the time for the payback

Running Scared

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Published on: November 24, 2008

Switching gears… I’m going headlong into marathon training for the next few months.  Before this, I was intent on the half marathon up in Wisconsin (by the way, Half Marathon?  November?  Wisconsin??... what was I thinking???  oh yea… beer and lasagna afterwards… heh….).  After that – some recovery time.

I meandered my way through the week after the half marathon doing a whole lot of nothing.  Enjoying some time off from the swim/bike/run, getting a rebellious thrill out of actively ignoring training set down by my coach (though she gave me permission to do so … as a side note, does having permission make me less rebellious?  Because I felt like a rebel when I made the decision to skip some of the training….), basically trying to enjoy my time off the way a normal person might. 

And then, I looked at my training for this week.  And I was scared.  Really, really scared.  The honeymoon, as it were, was over.  Done.  Finished.

I think up until this week, my coach has been taking it easy on me.  We’ve only been working together since early this spring, and I had thought she was all nice and stuff.  I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. 

First up – the track workout.  As I read through the intervals and paces for the intervals, I think my mouth was literally hanging open, trying to decide if this was some sort of over-the-top coach humor.  I decided it wasn’t.  So I’m all, “well, I like the track, I’ll just suck it up, and put it all out there, see what happens…”.

And then – the weekend long run with some tempo thrown in.  Is she mad?!  (my coach, that is)  That many miles?  All at the same time?  And at those paces?  Eeek.  I’ll be sure to wear my RoadID so they’ll be able to identify me when the run renders me curled up in the fetal position in a ditch mumbling the words “just let me run in zone 1… I love zone 1… “.

And now – through the magic of technology and time – fast forward to AFTER the workouts:

I nailed it.  Aced it.  Hit my paces.  Hurt like hell, but no matter – I love me a good track workout.

And I was surprised!  When I finally started breaking down the track workout into what pace I’d have to hit for each 400m, I started to get my first glimmer of “hmmm… maybe I can do this… maybe Coach really isn’t on crack…”

So, after days of whining and dread and intimidation, I come out the other side feeling like I could fly.  Feeling like I DID fly.  And damn, that feels good.

And the long run?  While not the unabashed success as the other workout, it’s training in the bank.  Executed the workout exactly as written, and it wasn’t pretty, but it’s done – getting me ready for longer and even less pretty runs on the horizon.  

The ice bath afterwards reminded me that good results require hard work and enduring some PAIN along the way.  Of course, without the pain, everyone would do it, right?  I mean, who said a marathon would be easy?? (what?  No one said that?  Hmmm… why did I decide to do this again..?)

 

Now what?: New Directions

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Published on: November 17, 2008

If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going.   
–Chinese proverb

I’ve decided to change my destination; once my January marathon is in the books, I’m giving up triathlons and racing for awhile.  Be more social.  Try new things.  Rediscover some old things I had let go of.  Follow the road not taken… or at least not taken for a long time now.

When I started thinking about planning out my racing season for 2009, the overwhelming feeling was “…eh”. Not excited, not motivated … I didn’t even really want to think about next year.

And then I started thinking about taking a vacation that didn’t include running, biking or swimming… and THAT got me motivated.  What – you mean I could NOT have to train for something?  I could NOT have to plan my weekends around long rides or long runs? 

Wow.

That’d be different!

So, in my head I’m tentatively laying a roadmap for next year:  hiking trip in the spring/early summer.  Vegas in June.  Maybe a cycling from hostel to hostel kind of trip in the fall or even head to the mountains.  Pick up another softball league (might as well play while my body will still let me!).  Find another sport to take up (perhaps racquetball? or maybe something new!) and devote energy to it.

In the meantime, I’ll still keep running. The act of running is good for my soul — it’s one of the ways that I manage to stay on this side of sane.  And I think I’d like to spend the year helping other people with their running — pacing, training, whatever someone might need.  I know that kind of help is something I’ve always wanted and would appreciate to no end, and once the marathon is done since I won’t be training for anything specific, I can give that help to someone else.  Helping someone else cross a finish line is as much fun as anything else in racing!

I’m also hoping to forge a zen-like bond with my bike.  Now, one of the reasons that I’m taking a break from triathlons is that I’ve come to dread the long hours of training by myself — let’s face it, I’m not always the most scintillating of company! — so, perhaps this idea seems counter-intuitive…. but, it would be on my own terms.  I could ride with others when the opportunity arises without worrying about what type of workout I’m supposed to be executing.  I can join a bike club and ride with others, hopefully others who also like the socializing more than actual biking.  :)  And hopefully, in the midst of laughter and conversations, without even realizing it, I’ll become all BFF-like with my bike.

And I’m really excited about getting back to one of my favorite hobbies — hiking and backpacking.  I love the mountains, and often think that I would love to move out to Colorado or Montana or Idaho or anyplace where the skyline isn’t quite as flat as it is here.  But, I don’t even need mountains.  Up until recently when my training schedule started dictating my weekends, I used to make it out to Starved Rock at least twice a year and I’d also try and pick out somewhere else fairly local to drive to and spend the day exploring…. which is something I haven’t done in years now.  And I’ve really been missing the whole nature thing, like a part of me was going unfulfilled.

So, that’s the plan.   At the moment it seems like the most “right” decision I’ve made in a long time.  One of those things that once I made the committment to the decision, I could feel the relief.  No more hard training (unless I want to!), no more race-day pressue, no more having to dread long swim sessions or lonely 4 hour bike rides.  I suspect that once the season gets underway, there will be a part of me that misses it — at heart, I know I’m a competitor, and I enjoy getting out there and mixing things up a bit — but I think the break will be theraputic and motivating and energizing.

And plus, I was running out of triathon topics to cover here anyway… ;)

Now what?

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Published on: August 17, 2008

And… the end of the triathlon season.

Now what?

Free time.

Hmmmm.  Such a strange concept.  What – you mean I don’t have to fit in 8-12 hours of training this week?  I don’t have to plan my weekend around what bike course I’ll spend my Saturday or Sunday on?  That perhaps I’ll just take ONE shower a day (instead of my usual 2-3)?  Again — HMMMM.

To be frank, I’m not exactly sure what to do with such a luxury.  For those that know me, abundent down time from training has always come at a price:  for the past three years, I’ve had forced downtime each fall with three surgeries on my left forearm to correct/fix/make better something or other with it.  And – to me – that “free time” was more a prison sentence because of the doctor’s orders to not do anything stupid (difficult for me!… do you know how many fun things fall into the “anything stupid” category??).

So, my off-season begins, having started about 10 hours ago with me running across the finish line of the Pleasant Prairie International Distance triathlon.  And I believe that I’ve commenced it the way all off-seasons should start:  with good friends, outrageously sinful ice cream and topping it off with a chilled adult beverage and pizza.

But again …. now what?

First up, I’ve got about a month and a half of coach-mandated “fun” time.  Fun?  I’m not even sure what it is that I do for “fun” anymore, if it doesn’t involve a wetsuit, a bike or a pair of running shoes.  I need a triathlon-free zone for awhile to sample life in the outside world.  And I think I have friends out there who don’t care one whit about bike paces or running splits … of course, whether they remember me or not is another story.

This 45 day period may prove to be difficult — it’s hard for me to be a little goal-less, to not have a race out there that I’m actively working towards.  See, I’m a couch slug by nature and I’ve got me some mad skillz in that arena.  So, in order to fight my lazy nature, I’ve got a list of things to accomplish during My Fun Month (and a Half):

  • Stay up past 10pm.  And NOT because I’m working.  Has to involve alcohol of some sort.
  • Read a book.  Cannot contain the words “swim”, “bike” or “run”.
  • Rediscover one of those sports that I used to have time for, like racquetball or roller-blading.  Or something to really get a cardio workout in — Trash Talk Darts.
  • Watch everything I’ve DVR’d over the past year.  Anyone up for 61 gazillion episodes of What Not To Wear?
  • Win the lottery.
  • Clean out all the empty plastic water bottles from my truck.  And then build myself a plastic fort out of them.
  • Cheer on the White Sox to a World Series victory!  Go Sox!!
  • Get lost hiking at Starved Rock.  You don’t think that’s possible?  It SO is.  Trust me.
  • Eat Clean out the Travelin’ Triathlon candy bag (it IS the off-season… no need for that to hang around)
  • Get the oil changed in my car (what – does everything have to be funny??)
  • Sign up for IMWI.  (Heh.  Just kidding!)

Looks like I might have enough to keep me busy now…  ya think?!

Top 10 things I’ve learned this summer

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Published on: August 3, 2008

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. 55 degree water isn’t as cold as you might think it is. And, conversely, it’s EVERY BIT as cold as you think it is. Thank god for neoprene!
  2. It’s always windy in Plainfield. Even if every online weather source says it’s not, it’s windy. Trust me.
  3. Swimming’s not so bad. I think I’d even go so far as to say that I might be disappointed if a race I were doing had the swim canceled. And coming from me, that’s a compliment of the highest nature for the watery part of triathlon.
  4. Training makes me hungry. (Of course, NOT training makes me hungry, too. Hmmm…)
  5. A great training session has a way of rewriting history, making it all seem not quite as bad as I once thought it might have been. Without actually knowing, I think it must be like childbirth — the pain makes you vow you’ll never do it again, but the good times afterward makes the pain seem worthwhile.
  6. For any tri-related trip, I average AT LEAST two bags per day away from home. I’m the queen of You Never Know What You Might Need, so just give me my tiara and stop bitching about it. Thankyouverymuch.
  7. My non-tri friends and my family are quite possibly the most patient people on the face of this planet. They endure a summer of me not having a free weekend or being able to stay out past 7:30pm because of training and races. And when the off-season does arrive, they don’t even make me feel guilty about ignoring them for 4 months.
  8. I’m a bike grease magnet. If I get within a 5 foot radius of any bike, I will inevitably end up with bike grease somewhere on my body. The corollary to this is that I will also miss one of those spots on myself when I take my next shower and find myself clean but for a smear of grease somewhere, usually on the back, hidden part of my leg.
  9. This summer I have a traveling candy bag, which seems to be a hit with all my friends. I’ve found, though, that it would be best if I could somehow make it travel outside my house during the week since it apparently has magical charms that make me unable to resist it.
  10. Good friends trump good race times, every time. After a frustrating season culminated in a really bad race, I was overwhelmed with all the friends that were immediately by my side bearing kind words, sympathy, advice and a good dose of humor. It was a good reminder of the main reason why I continue to do this stuff. The training, the racing … yea, sometimes not so fun. The friends and good times, though? Wouldn’t trade them for the world.

And miles to go before I sleep…

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Published on: July 3, 2008

About 182 miles, to be exact.

Oh, if you’re going to be nit-picky about it, I’ll actually sleep a little at the 62 and 102 mile mark.  And maybe drown my sore-ass sorrows in a beer or two as well while I’m at it.

But still – that’s a lotta miles to cover in one itty bitty long holiday weekend.  At least for this not-really-a-biker chick it’s a lot of miles.  The plan:  the metric century at the Fourth of July Plainfield ride (on – DUH – July 4th), and then oodles of fun up at the IMMOOOOOO course, with Saturday being one 40-mile loop and Sunday, the grandaddy of all riding days, two times around that 40 mile loop.  My coach is referring to this as the “BIG BIKE WEEKEND”.  Yes, in all caps.  It deserves to be shouted, don’t you think?

Don’t get me wrong – I like my bike and I enjoy riding, especially on a beautiful day.  There’s nothing quite like rolling along when the sun’s shining, and it’s nice and cool out (but not windy!), listening to the cows “mooooo” at you.  And this weekend holds the promise of perfect biking weather.  Still, I’m a little apprehensive.

See, while I like my bike, I don’t LOVE my bike.  We have a relationship much like a “friends with benefits” relationship; we get together every so often, have a great time, and then spend time away doing our own thing without a second thought to the other.  Actually, let’s be honest:  I think I’m dating a little out of my league with this bike — it’s a much more refined machine than I deserve.  My biking skills bow to it’s form and function.

So with all the quality time planned for this weekend, it will be kind of like us testing out the “living together” waters.  Can we get along?  Will one of us leave the other at the side of the road?  Will Little Blue Deuce feel like I’m just constantly riding him (heh) and whining until he can’t take no mo?  Yes, I’m worried.  Worried that we don’t have what it takes to be in a long-term relationship.  Worried that there will be crying and begging and cursing (all me).  Worried that my butt isn’t up to the task of just going along for the ride without organizing a coup.

If nothing else, this weekend will be dramatic.  A battle of wills to see who will make it to the end intact.  And – with their ends intact.

I hope it’s me.

Water Wings

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Published on: June 20, 2008

Racing season is almost here!  YAY!

While I’ve done a few running races already this year, this weekend will be the return to the world of triathlons.  Running races are easy — strap on the shoes, power up the Garmin and RUN.  Sure, you think about pace and nutritional strategies and the like, but there’s nothing to be nervous about. 

But triathlons – those races really get the butterflies going in my stomach!

I’ve come a long way from the days of being absolutely panicked at the thought of any kind of open water swimming.  It used to be that just thinking about the swim portion of a triathlon would make me throw up in my mouth just a little (did I just share too much?) but now, I’ve got it down to a low rumble.

My first triathlon was, uh, well, let’s call it my very own “water adventure”.  It was all panic and limbs akimbo from almost the very beginning.  As soon as the bottom of the lake dropped out from under me, I was done.  As my mind raced and my breathing started sounding like something between an asthmatic having an attack and a crank caller, I tried to remember what they told me during the first-timer’s talk the day before.  Oh, yea:  raise your arm if you’re in trouble so the lifeguards will see you.  Ummm.  Yea.  Uh… what if you need both arms to simply stay afloat?  There’s a flaw in this plan somewhere….

Luckily, the lifeguards were top-notch and over to me before I went under and gave me a place to catch my breath.  And after a few minutes of calming myself down, I decided to start out again.  And again, within 20m, I was hyperventilating again and panicking.  So this time, I flipped on my back… got my breathing under control while I looked at the peaceful sky.  My meditation was suddenly interrupted, though:  “Ma’am!  Ma’am!! MA’AM!!!”  The lifeguard was frantically trying to get my attention:  “THAT WAY!” as he pointed me back to the course — I had back-floated a good 100m off line.  Oops.  At least I got some “me” time in.  Heh.

With the help of swim angels (the best part of doing a Danskin triathlon!  they have people out there who aren’t lifeguards, but are there to help calm down crazy people like me…) and a whole lotta doggy-paddle, I finally made it across.  As I walked up the beach, I was swearing like a trucker, vowing never EVER to do another triathlon again.  Ever.  Again.  Ever.  Really. 

Flash forward.  Now I’m starting my 4th full year of triathlons.  I’ve conquered the sprint, Olympic and Half Ironman distances.  I’m successfully completely the swim portion of tris in everything from easy (pool swim!) to difficult (Lake Michigan with 3ft. swells).  It’s taken this long, but I’m finally starting (almost) to get comfortable in the water.  Some of it has come with a couple of years of training — just knowing that I’m not the awful swimmer I used to be.  Some of it is just experience — the more races I do, the more confident I become in my ability to finish the first part and get to the fun parts. 

In the end, it’s a challenge.  If this were easy, if it didn’t make me nervous, if everything always went exactly the way I planned it, I’d stop doing it.  Where’s the fun in that?

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