Monthly Archives: September 2008

9/30/08 Expanding to Expectations

Tuesday.  Good weekend.  Nice celebration for my birthday — lots of wine and a day to recover before I had to do my 18 mile run.

Saturday went to see my friend Rob do his Crossfit Fight Gone Bad competition.  Grueling to say the least.  Crossfit is a circuit training workout where they emphasize strength and speed over endurance.  There are five stations — throw a heavy ball up at a box on the wall, jerk-pull a humongous weight that I don’t think I could have rolled across the floor, jump up on a box about two feet (maybe more?) off the ground, lift weights over your head and then do rowing.  You have to do each station for 1 minute and then run to the next station.  At the end of the five stations you get a one minute break and then you have to do the entire circuit two more times for a total of three.  The goal is to get as many reps in during the 1 minute.  I’m not even sure I would have been able to do 1 rep never mind the 30+ people were doing.   I’m not sure I could have crawled up onto that box never mind jump up on it.

This was a competition (for charity) so there were six teams with five people on a team.  One person was at each station facing off against a competitor from the other team.  At the end of each circuit all ten competitors fell to the  floor to rest.  By the end of the last circuit they were just heaps of sweat panting on the floor.  Oh my God, that looked so hard, I would rather run 9 million miles than have to do that.  (I was proud of myself for walking up the flight stairs to get into the gym.)  The event was a clear demonstration of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Here is a link to their blog and you can see pictures of the event.  If you click on the forward picture button real fast it kind of looks like the real event.  Chaotic and sweaty!!!  http://crossfitbrooklyn.typepad.com/  Ugh, I need a nap just watching it.

After that exhausting morning of watching them do a lot of grueling work I set out on my little hike around Brooklyn.  Oh about 1 mile or so through the farmer’s market (found a tofu sandwich stall!) and to the Brooklyn Museum.  I walked the stairs in the museum though does that count?  (No!)  It was my birthday weekend and I wanted to do something just for me and not for working out so I went to see the Judy Chicago’s  exhibit called “The Dinner Party” at Brooklyn Museum in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.  Loved it.  I’ve known about this exhibit since the late seventies, have the book and have seen pictures but never the full installation.  I was very happy to have finally seen it in person.   Brooklyn Museum is its permanent home.   http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party/

Sunday was back to the grind of getting ready for the marathon.  I signed up to do the 18 mile run in central park.  I had one goal — beat the clock.  They were only giving credit if you finished in under 4 hours.  Seemed reasonable until I started running.  I didn’t have it.  I was walking every hill.  It was humid but that wasn’t really the problem, my legs felt tired.  I had done a 1:45 run on the trails in CT on Thursday and had a GREAT run.  Didn’t stop for 1:45 up and down rolling hills and was really picking up the pace.  Maybe I worked too hard on Thursday and too much birthdaying on Friday, but on Sunday I was just trying my best to keep the jog alive and I had to walk every hill.  (I had some patella scraping going on because I missed my acupuncture appointment this week.)  By the end of the run I was literally racing the clock and ended up doing it in 3:58:40 which is not very good for me but it was all I had that day.  At least I made the 4 hour cutoff because I wanted credit for the run.  If I do that pace for the marathon my time predictor says it will be a 6 hour marathon.  Oh yuck, but what can I do?  Just keep trying.

I had to take Monday as a day of rest because I was too sore and I got some lovely blisters for the first time in a long time (socks?).  So I just stretched.  My plan had been to stack up the early days of the week with extra mileage because I’m off to do the Tour de Pink on Thursday.  So now I have to stack today, Wednesday and early Thursday morning and be on the bus by 9 a.m.  I’m going to try to do 8/10/5 miles (with a run/walk formula for today) and then Friday, Saturday  and Sunday it will be 80/80/60 miles on my bike.  If my hip flexors don’t give out I think I can do this.  I can only focus on one thing at a time so right now I am focussing on getting my mileage in.  Then I will focus on the Tour de Pink.  Then I will focus on the marathon.

I’m looking forward to the Tour de Pink but I am not looking forward to all the work I have to cram into 3 days.  This won’t be easy, but sometimes it seems the more you have to get done the more you can do.  It’s like running.  Tell me I have to run 6 miles and that’s all you’ll get.  Try to tell me to run another 6 after I’m done and I’ll say I can’t do it.  Then, the next day tell me I have to run 12 that’s what I’ll do.  It’s like my capabilities shrink and expand to assignments.  You have to get 18 miles in under 4 hours — that’s what I do.  If you told me I could take as long as I wanted to it would have taken me 4:20 easily because I would have walked even more.  Deadlines are good that way.  Get this project finished by Wednesday or you’ve lost a client.  Amazing how you get the work done quickly when you’ve been shuffling that file back and forth across your desk for a week.

Unfortunately making up fake deadlines doesn’t work on me.  There has to be something that will happen if I don’t get it done.  I’m not a self-motivator despite what everyone thinks about me.  I need the fear factor to get my butt going.  If you don’t finish in 4 hours you won’t get credit for this race and you’ll have to do another one to qualify for next year’s marathon (if I even want to do it.)   If you don’t get up and swim some laps in the pool there is a possibility you won’t make the swim cutoff at your next race.  If you don’t track your food you will gain another 2 pounds and you won’t fit into any of your clothes and you’ll have to suffer the humiliation of everyone seeing you get fatter and fatter and fatter.   If you don’t get two long runs in for the marathon there is a possibility that you’ll have to walk the end of the marathon and be out there until midnight and you’ll miss your ride home.  I respond well to the fear factor.  It’s my number one motivator.   I know I should be doing all of this for the love of fitness but frankly I love the couch and chips too.  A coach of mine once said to me “Fear is your Friend” and I think that’s what she meant.  Take your fear and embrace it because it will get your arse moving!!!

So right now I am off to do the Tour de Pink.  I’m definitely undertrainedfor this as far as distance rides go (I’ve only done 1 ride to Nyack since Ironman) but it’s a tour and I have been doing weekly loops in the park.  It’s about endurance not speed and if there is one thing I have it is endurance.  I’ll give myself that.  I can stay out there and suffer for hours with the best of the them, lol.  I may not be able to throw a ball up a wall 20 times in a minute or jump up and down on a box a kabillion times, but if it is about slogging up one more hill after they told you there were no more hills or riding another 20 miles even when you don’t want to, I’m your gal.  Whatever it takes to get the job done, I’ll do it.

This weekend is a chance to be grateful that we are strong enough and healthy enough to participate.  The marathon, the Ironman, the races, the long rides, the circuit training.  This is by choice.  We like doing this.  We suffer for fun which is a weird thought.  I’ll admit we are a strange breed that seeks the pain to find the joy but there is joy in the experience.  For me, at least, there is a distinct awareness of being alive when doing these activities and there is also a constant reminder of how blessed we are to be able to do these events.  So many people are not able to participate.  Every time we go out for a run or a walk, a swim or a bike it is a reminder that we are blessed to be able to do it no matter how fast or slow we are.  Getting up and moving is a celebration of life.  I’ve got a lot of celebrating to do this week.

Namaste

“It’s been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Every day that she gets herself dressed
Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast,
If you ask her why she is still running,
She’ll tell you it makes her complete

I run for hope, I run to feel
I run for the truth for all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life”

Melissa Etheridge

So far I’ve raised $2,480 so far for breast cancer for the Tour de Pink.  I am still trying to reach the $5,000 goal and am collecting donations at http://www.active.com/donate/Hersheystourdepink/CCarpen48

Donations expand to expectations?

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9/25/08 A Reclaimed Youth

Thursday.  Feeling strangely okay after the weekend.  Not anywhere near as tired as I had been.  I played a great game of tennis on Monday with an old tennis friend.  We didn’t really play, we just whacked the ball around for an hour and we had a blast.  Was the best hitting I’ve done to date.  Long rallies, racquet back early, my foot work was greatly improved and I was getting to a lot of balls.  Was very pleased.

Tuesday I had a 5 mile run with 8 minutes of total uphill running time on my schedule.  Hmmm.  I want to try to run on trails (and play on clay) as much as possible to give my legs a break.  I walked to the park at Columbus Circle, jogged up to Tavern on the green, ran the bridle path up and around 102nd street and back down to Columbus.   I think that was only a little more than 4+ miles but I think I got 8 minutes of uphill time in there.  I tried to run the uphill parts with more effort.  I’m trying to train myself to keep pushing the uphill portion even though I know I can probably walk them faster than I run them.  Maybe someday the opposite will be true.   Brisk walk home and a long stretch and I felt really good.  Great, now I’m feeling rested AFTER my triathlon.  Why couldn’t I have felt rested before?  Mental stress?  Worry?  Maybe.

Yesterday I played tennis again this time with my friend John.  Again had a much better game.  Even he commented that I seem to be finding my stride.  Lots of long rallies and I was feeling much lighter/faster on my feet.  All good.  November we are probably moving our games indoors onto the hard courts but that will be after the Marathon so I won’t be as worried about it.  I have a busy training season starting in November so I think I may start switching my tennis to playing doubles.  Just something to keep my hand/eye coordination alive.

Today I’m in CT and I am off to do 90 minutes on a trail run.  Strangely looking forward to it and I’m not sure who has taken possession of my legs but they feel really good.  Strong and ready to rumble.  I can’t explain it but my quads feel stronger.  Tennis?  I don’t know, but they feel stronger.

Food has been going okay this week but I’m not expecting a loss.  I’m documenting and I think I’m eating fine to maintain my weight but I’m not creating a negative intake in order to lose weight.  I’m giving myself through Friday and then will start some more cutbacks.

Friday I turn 49 years old.  At Westchester my friend was clever and said I should have had them write 24×2 on the back of my leg instead of 48.  24 sounds about right.  I have a hard time thinking of myself as 49.  Not that I even think of 49 as old (look at Cloris Leachman doing Dancing With The Stars at 82 — she’s just as funny as she was back in the seventies on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.)  Age is in the mind.  I definitely feel younger now than I did at 39 or even 29.  (Frankly I don’t remember either of those years — they are lost in a smoky haze.)  I feel younger now than I did then and most of it can be attributed to my return to sports.

In 1984 I plopped my butt behind a desk and computer screen and didn’t stand up until 1998.  Sure I socialized — mostly the unhealthy kind in smoky pubs on 2nd avenue but the worst part of my descent into unhealth was due to the lack of movement.  I would start work by 7 a.m. and literally not stop working until it was time to go out at 9.  I wrote a lot of computer programs in those years (some of which even worked) but I rarely got up from my desk.  When I started my own business in ’92 one of my assistant’s jobs was to empty my ashtray, make sure I had a pack of Merit Ultra Lights on my desk and a full pot of strong coffee brewing all day long.  I lived on nicotine and caffeine.  Lunch was always ordered in and eaten at my desk while I worked.  I was the least healthy person I knew.  Worse, I didn’t even notice.   I was just intent on creating my empire of… of… hmmm… not even sure what it was I was trying to create, but I was working very hard at it. 

In 1998 I finally quit smoking and returned to tennis.  I was creaky at best.  It didn’t take too long for me to start hitting a decent ball again (maybe 2 years?)  But moving was definitely very hard.  I relied on strength and placement more than getting to the ball.  Easier to ace someone than to have to play the point was my motto.  Why hit two or three shots when you can hit one big one and get it over with?  It was my way of not having to move to get to the ball.  Slowly over the next couple of years I started to move a little more and a little more.   I got certified to teach tennis, I was playing a lot — was feeling younger than when I started.

Then one day in early 2003 (Oh my God almost 20 years behind a desk) my dear old pal and college roomie Stephanie sent out an email to all her friends that she was working for the Leukemia Society and they do a program called Team in Training and would anyone be interested in training for a Triathlon with her?  I will be honest, I had never even heard of a Triathlon.  I had never heard of Kona.  I didn’t know the first thing about Triathlon.  I knew what the decathlon was — but a triathlon?  What the heck was that?  So without a clue I replied and said sure, I’ll do it!  Let’s just say Stephanie was a little more than leary about my attempting a triathlon.  I was her LEAST likely friend to go swim/bike and run.   Go shopping and out for lunch?  Sure, I was the gal to call, but a triathlon? 

I remember my first day of training like yesterday.  Ed was my mentor (he was so kind.)  We started at Bethesda Terrace and we were doing a group run for a couple of miles.  We turned the corner at 72nd street (oh maybe that is 1/16 of a mile?)  He turns to me andsays “so what’s the furthest you’ve ever run?”  I turned around and looked back at Bethesda Terrace (still in sight) and I said “hmm, I believe we just did it!”  Ed and I STILL laugh about that one to this day.

I couldn’t make it to the end of the pool without having to stop midway.   I kept trying to get to the end of the pool but I would be  totally exhausted by 10 meters.  Apparently my legend as reigning champion of Marco Polo in the Lareau’s pool the summer I was 10 was not going to help me complete a triathlon.

It was Memorial Day weekend 2003 which lives in my memory to this day as one of the greatest achievements in my entire Triathlon career.  I’m not kidding when I say my achievement that day means as much to me as completing Ironman– (granted two different situations all together.)  I went down to visit my parents at Amelia Island.  I vowed I would not leave that Island until I swam two complete laps in the pool without stopping. 

I started on Saturday and spent hours in that pool and I would make it half way, three quarters even to the end of the pool but I couldn’t turn and keep going without stoppping.  Sunday morning the same thing.  I would get close or to the end of the pool and had to stop.  Finally I made it to the end and back.  Now this pool was not even a 25 meter pool.  Maybe it was 20 meters.  I think if I swam it now it would be ten strokes and I would hit the edge.  But back then it was all I could do to not be totally out of breath.

I went back out on Sunday afternoon, determined but exhuasted.  I wasn’t leaving the Island.  I remember it was about 6 p.m.  There was nobody in the pool, nobody on the deck.  I swam to the end of the pool, touched off and swam back, touched off and swam to the end again, touched off and swam back.  I was simming very, very slowly but that was the trick.  I was exhausted so I didn’t have it in me to kick and flail anymore.  I stood up when I completed the second lap.  I couldn’t believe I had done it.  I had done it!!  I swam two laps without stopping.  I wanted to jump up and down and shout to everyone I DID IT!!!  There was nobody around.  I was filled with such a deep sense of pride that honestly to this day I’m not sure I have felt the same sense of accomplishment.  It sounds so trivial now in comparison to the many miles I have swum over the last 5 years but I think of that day as one of the biggest achievements in my triathlon career.  Maybe because I did it on my own?  Maybe because I wouldn’t quit?  Maybe because I finally relaxed and figured it out?  Regardless of the reason it instilled in me the belief that if I just stick with it I can do anything. 

Over the past 5 years I have seen a slow but steady progression.  First triathlon, first half marathon, first half ironman, first marathon, first Ironman.  When I got home from Westchester triathlon and put my medal on the closet door, I stopped to count the medals.  (A friend had asked me how many I had and I honestly didn’t know.)  I counted all my finsher medals from Triathlons.   (Note: Medals simply mean I finished, they do not mean I won or anything.)  As I looked at each one I remembered the different races.  The memories, the stories, so many — too many.  Including the Ironman medal I had 17 medals in my hand.  I was missing a tupper lake medal so that made 18 and I also did a sprint once so that would be 19 triathlons in the last 5 years.  Geesh.  Then I looked at the door knob still laden with even more medals — 10k’s, half marathons, full marathon, mile swims in the Hudson.  NYRR website lists results for 48 road races I have run — that does not include out of town races or half marathons like San Francisco or Alaska or Lake Placid or even the Marathon. (Gosh, you’d think I’d be faster by now.. but regardless of speed  I have come a long way.)

But when I look back at all of these races I don’t feel like a 49 year old looking back on the past.  I feel like a kid looking toward the future.  I have so much to do.  So many adventures ahead of me.  I’m just getting warmed up!!  I haven’t even started bike racing.  That’s still on my to-do list.  Lose enough weight, get fast enough and wear a Mariella Pizza outfit or join some team like that.  (Maybe I’ll start a Rumble Girl racing team.)  I haven’t done Wildflower yet, I haven’t done Alcatraz yet (two triathlons that still hold a fear factor for me.)  I’m not fast enough to do SOS YET.  (Another couple of years and I’ll get there.)  Let’s not forget the big Kahuna of Kona — there is always a chance at a lottery slot.  And that’s just the sport of triathlon.  There are tennis tournaments, advenuture races, mountains to climb.  Someone told me about a run, bike, canoe race up in Vermont.  As my friend Espo would say “Hells Yeah!” 

Sure sometimes I feel old when I’m chasing some 30 year old up Harlem Hill but when I get to the other side riding downhill I feel like a ten year old.   Sure I feel like I’m one of the slowest swimmers out there but I don’t have any fears and I truly love to swim in open water — it makes me feel ageless when I forget about what color cap I am wearing.  And running, oh boy, running.  One of my biggest challenges has been to learn to run.  I’m not a natural runner but I have learned that on an Autumn day running DOWN a mountain can be a religious experience.  I have experienced moments in running where time disappeared and I have entered a meditative space where I’m not any age.  The sports of triathlon and tennis have given me injections of youth and a chance to reclaim a little of what I have squandered.

So tomorrow I will be excited to turn 49 years young because I’m not getting older I’m getting badass.

Namaste

It takes a long time to become young
Pablo Picasso

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9/22/08 Visualization (Westchester)

Monday.  Whew, am I relieved.  Westchester is over and it wasn’t a disaster.  I am actually quite surprised to report that it was actually a very nice day. 

I ended up taking the day off on Thursday.  I don’t usually take days off from work because my work is where I live and it’s kind of hard to not going into the office when it’s right next to the kitchen.  But I was really exhausted and I needed sleep — good sleep.  I realized that although I have been getting 6-7 hours of time in bed I was not having good night’s sleep so every day I was waking up more and more tired.  So finally on Thursday I just cracked.  I came home from practice with my tongue hanging out of my mouth and hit the sack.  I didn’t get up again until Friday.  I might have had a low grade something but I have never slept so much in one day — weird.

Friday I started to get nervous about the upcoming Swim on Sunday.  Might be a good idea to stick your toe in the pool and see if you can actually swim a straight line (why should I be able to do that all of a sudden?)  I hit the pool for a grand total of 15 minutes.  I did a few freestyle laps a few breaststroke and declared “eh, good enough, nothing I am going to do now is going to prepare me for Sunday.”  I sunk into the Jacuzzi for 20 minutes.

After I exited the pool I sat on deck for awhile and observed some of the swimmers.  I watched one woman who hand been swimming the same pace as me.  Ugh, she was slapping the water and looked like she was working so hard.  Oh boy, I hope I don’t look like that.  Then I watched a guy in the lane next to her.  He didn’t look like he was moving at all.   His actual arm stroke was at the exact same speed as the woman in the next lane.  Yet he was finishing a lap in 53 seconds and she was finishing in 1:05.  So that meant he was getting more distance per stroke.  I kept staring at them.  What was the difference?  What was the difference?

Things I noticed is his arms were out wider — lobster claws I think Mo calls them.  The other woman was definitely crossing her right arm past her nose line.  He swam quietly through the water, she was slapping her arms into the water and making little splashes a slap/slap sound.  He drove his hands out, she drove hers down — subtle but I could see it.  And the last thing I could notice was I actually saw him making a little “S” shape with his hands underneath his stomach so I knew he was pulling the water.  I saw no such thing with her.  The biggest difference was he looked like he was expending zero energy and she looked like she had to take a break every other lap.

I had my WW meeting on Friday.  Was still not feeling particularly perky but the topic was a timely one.  I was up 2 pounds and not very happy with myself.  I had been really taking care all week to make healthy foods, lots of grains, lots of veggies and I have no idea why I was not losing weight.  I know I could do better but there was no reason to actually gain weight.

Our topic was Visualization.  AdmittedlyI am a victim of negative self-talk.  Visualization is an important tool.  Same old story — see it an you’ll achieve it, what you manifest lies before you, you are what you think.  All the ole stuff from Wayne Dyer, The Secret and pretty much every self help book out there.  If you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t.  If you see yourself as struggling, you will struggle.  I thought of the two people in the pool.  She was determined to work hard and get nowhere.  He was smooth and confident and hitting his 53 seconds lap after lap.  So that must have been the big difference that I really couldn’t see from the pool deck.  He knew he was a good swimmer.  She knew she wasn’t.

I realized after the meeting that my exhaustion had led to negative self-talk and a lot of bad imagery about Westchester.  I didn’t want to do it.  I knew it was going to be a debacle.  Why humiliate myself?  I wanted to just stay home and hide under the blankets.  I’ll swim, bike or run just don’t make me race.  I didn’t want to race.  I didn’t want to do the whole production of doing a race.  After the meeting and my swim and realizing how negatively I had been talking to myself I decided to just start saying “hey, this will be fun.”  I didn’t believe it, but as Maggie my WW leader says you do not have to actually believe it but just saying it out loud and over and over again will make it work.  Fake it until you make it.    Okay can’t hurt, I’ll try.  I love to swim, I love to swim, I love to swim. 

Race day. On the beach I started to get nauseous.  Oh lo, I have to swim out where?  It looked a long way out there.  I saw my coach from this past season and told him I wasn’t ready for this (I hear later that several people said the same thing to him).  “You’ll be fine, you’re six weeks tapered, you’re rested and ready for this.”   I nodded and managed a weak smile.  Rested?  RESTED?  I’m not rested!! I’m exhausted!!!  Six weeks?  It’s been Nine Weeks since I raced or did a brick or swam a full mile.  I’m not rested  — I’m rusted.   Whatever, I will get through this.  The sun started to rise over the water and I had to force a “hmm, yeah, that’s pretty.”  

Finally my wave went off and they a horn blared.  All I could think was “Oh Sheet” I cannot believe I am walking into this water and I have to swim all the way out to some buoy I couldn’t even see from shore (it was hidden behind the jetty).  I start to swim and my exhale in the water seems forced and hard.  Too hard, too fast I tell myself.  Slow down, get a rhythm.  Then the image of the guy from the pool popped into my head.  I concentrated on driving my arms out wide and rotating to follow my arms.  I made sure I felt the water all the way through the stroke.  I made sure my hand exited near my hip and to not flip too much water up behind me.  Smooth, slow.  What is that line Rob always says “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” or something like that?  I can’t remember. 

Next thing I know I’m at the big orange buoy at the end of the jetty.  Huh?  How did that happen?  I’m swimming out to the next buoy for the turn and it seems almost effortless.  I make the turn and keep swimming.  I am overwhelmed with how great it feels to be swimming.  This is totally cool.  This is so much better than swimming in a pool.  It was the same feeling I had on my very first tri in September 2003.  I wanted to yell out “Does everyone realize how cool this is?  We are in the ocean, swimming along, like it is no big deal.  Who gets to do this?”  I was smiling to myself as I was swimming.  I just kept thinking of that guy in the pool and driving my hands out wide. 

I was also shocked at how strong my right arm felt.  Ohhh, I get it now.  I now realize why I was so much slower in Lake Placid.  I thought I had been swimming fine but I had no power whatsoever in my right arm.  Now I was feeling the water with BOTH arms and I felt different.  Tennis, that’s what has strengthened my arm and shoulder.  I felt nothing in my shoulder, NOTHING but strength.  This is cool.  You are getting stronger as you are swimming and you not even close to being out of breath and if they told you to get out and swim this again you could do it without blinking.  Cool.

The last part of the swim seemed to take a long time but eventually I hit the beach.  I looked at my watch and it said 41 minutes — eh, nothing spectacular and I still had to run up the beach and on the sidewalk up to transition.  43 minutes before I hit the timing mat.  I’ll live with it.  I’ve done worse and I’ve done better.  The time was really irrelevent because I had a great time out there.  It was plain old fashioned fun.  I enjoyed every stroke of that swim and it made me want to go out there and do it again.  (That’s how the triathlon addiction is fed.)

I took too long in transition.  I don’t have my split for T1 — I’m not sure if I hit stop instead of split on my watch (I won’t know until they post the final results).  I put too many things on — arm warmers, vest. I was worried it was going to be so cold.  As it turns out I think I would have been fine without them.  I was very comfortable on the ride but would have been able to ride without them as well.

The first half of the ride was a struggle.  I was really sloggging along.  Every time I looked down at my computer I was going 12 mph.  Not good, not good.  I was passing a lot of people but the race was filled with a lot of less experienced riders.  So although I was passing people I should have been passing these people — none of them trained for 2 years for an Ironman.  Every once in a while some guy tried to play catch up and pass but then I’d pass on a downhill and never see him again.  Since I was in the second to last wave, it was really up to me to pass people I knew there were not that many people behind me.  I didn’t have a fast swim so most of the last wave people passed me.  I was not going to have a huge number of people passing me on the bike there were just not that many people behind me.  The good thing about going so slowly is that I got a chance to see how beautful the bike course was.  Hey, not a bad way to spend the day. 

I made a tactical error going up Claire’s climb.  I actually wanted to do it faster than my normal pace so I attempted it in the big chain ring.  Mistake.  The climb was not anywhere near as steep as Harlem Hill.  I know that when I do my fast intervals on Harlem Hill I used to go into the big chain ring.  (Not recently though.)   So I put myself into big chain ring and started to attack the hill.  I didn’t have it.  I was too afraid to shift down mid bump so I just sucked it up and stood and climbed up to the top.  It’s really a bump not a hill but it felt like a hill yesterday.  Ah well, live and learn.  I should have spun up the bump.

The second half of the bike was totally different from the first half.  After Claire’s climb I hit a small downhill, picked up speed and never looked back.  I don’t think I hit less than 20 mph on the remaining miles.  Everytime I looked down I saw 23, 25, 27.  The only thing that was stopping me were the many turns and the cops who I have to say seemed to have blockades up at unneeded spots and then at some serious spots where cars were turning on the highway they had no cops. 

A teammate from this past season passed me and said good job.   I don’t know what happened but my legs just kicked in and I decided I was not going to lose him.  He’s a good rider so I didn’t expect to hang on to him for very long.  I wasn’t drafting at all, a good twenty feet behind him but I didn’t want to lose sight of him.  Now I was totally warmed up.  I was cooking.  At one point I passed him and then he passed me back.   Yee Haa, I was doing 27, 28, c’mon get to 29 before the next time you have to turn.   I was telling my legs to go, go, go and for the first time in a long time they were doing it.  Another downhill leading onto a flat.  Oh yeah,  cruising.  This was AWESOME.  This was so much fun.  THIS is why I do triathlons.  How fun is this?!?!?!  Open stretch of highway (albeit crappy, crappy roads), hunkered down in aero.   Rumble Girl Rumble.  Just flat out fun.  I loved every second of the second half of that bike.

I’m not sure how long my bike took.  My watch says 1:29 but I’m missing a T1 split.  So either the 1:29 includes my T1 or not.  I won’t know until they post my results.  Either way I know it was not a great bike split for me based on the first half of the bike but who cares?  I had a blast on the second part and although it was 25 miles of riding, it was 12 miles of extreme fun.

All I had to get through was the run.  After the run I would be finished with my last triathlon of 2008 and I wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of thinking about triathlons for awhile.  6.2 miles to freedom.  6.2 miles that’s nothing.  I wasn’t expecting much.  (The day before on Saturday I had done a short 3 mile run up to the tennis courts in Central Park and back and it had been creaky at best.)  Just focus on your posture.  I focused on shoulders down, lean in from my ankles, knees down, heels out.  Lift your feet (ugh, they didn’t want to go very high), 1,2,3,4 very quick feet.  I pass my coach he tells me I look good — I believe him because I think I am doing everything to the best of my abilities.  First mile 11:27 — I don’t know that might be too fast for me to maintain that for 6 miles and I want to just finish with dignity, no walking in a slump at the end.

The weather was AMAZING.  It was perfect, perfect weather.  The run course was basically flat except for one hill that I did walk up (it was faster for me to walk it).  I had taken 2 Alieve the night before, 2 Alieve at 4 a.m. and 2 Alieve at 6:30.  I was feeling NO PAIN.  Nothing.  Not even a twitch.  I kept trying to pick up the pace a little but I couldn’t go any faster without feeling a strain in my quads.  Miles 2 & 3 were 12:30’s or so (missed the mile 2 marker).  When I got to the mile 3 marker I thought I was in a time warp?  What?  3 miles done already?  Now I was regretting stopping for water at the first aid station.  Maybe you didn’t need that and could have saved yourself a few seconds there.

Mile 4 and 5 were 12:30 and 12:21 but they just flew by.  The irony is that mile six seemed to take forever (it was straight out and I could see people for the mile down the road ahead of me so it seemed like forever) yet now I was “smelling the barn” (coach’s term) and there were more people cheering and I ran that in 11:18.  The last .2 seemed to take FOREVER.  4:50.    There was a little uphill before I turned into the park and ran into the finish.  Time seemed to stand still.  C’mon, C’mon, let’s get this done.  I saw my coach again right before a little bump that you had to run up to get to the finish.  Flash back to 2005 and I ran up a similar bump at the end my coach cajoling me to get up the hill.  Stephanie on the sidelines wearing flipflops and I grab her and say in a deep, desparate voice “you HAVE to run with me up this hill I can’t do it alone.”  ROFL, I was dying in 2005 and couldn’t make it up a bump and now I was running up and over it with no problem.    I might not be that much faster but I have a lot more dignity now…. Too funny, too funny.

The final finsh is down hill on a grassy field.  You can’t help but feel like a champ.  I think all finish lines should be downill.  (Hear that New York City Marathon?  Downhill!!)

Jackie came to cheer and my teammates were waiting for me at the end.  Dear Deanne had even tapped a beer keg for me and had a cold frosty one waiting for me.  We are sisters at heart, lol.  Jackie lead us through a stretch that killed me but since I woke up this morning feeling okay (more stretches at home) I think it did the trick.   On the ride home I said to Ally, the sad part is I was just getting warmed up by 6.2 miles.  If someone told me I had to go run another 6.2 I could have done it.  She laughed and knew what I meant.  This had been her first Olympic distance back in 2005 and she was doing her own comparisons. 

The day ended up being really great.  The weather was a huge part of it.  Makes a big difference to ride your bike instead of swim your bike.  Sure I had a course PR but that was from 3 years ago and I’m a different person so I don’t think it can be compared.  I didn’t do as well as St. A’s 2007 time wise, but in some ways I did better.  I know I am a stronger athlete and I’m still getting better. 

This race was the perfect way to end my 2008 triathlon season.  It let me remember why I like to do these races.  When things go right it is just so much fun.  I love to swim in open water.  I love it.  To me it feels like total freedom.  I love to ride fast on my bike.  The most expensive wrinkle remover cream can’t make you feel as young as you feel as you do racing down a hill with the wind blowing in your face and a Yahooo coming out of your mouth.  Running is not fun for me but we are learning to respect one another, on a flat course in mid 70 degree weather even I can feel like a superstar.  The fact that the miles ticked off so effortlessly and that I could say to myself with no doubt in my mind — not only can you finish but you can pick it up now and don’t back off this last mile because you are more than capable. 

Thursday I was thinking I was ready to pack it all up, retire from Triathlon I’m done.  It’s like golf you play 17 terrible holes you want to quit and hit the pub.  On the 18th hole you look down, exhale and swing.  You hear the crack, swoosh of the club hitting the ball and you know you are coming back for another round.  I was dreading Westchester and it turned out to be a great day.  There wasn’t any on great shot but the whole day turned out above par.  What more can I ask for?  I’ll take a birdie any day.

Namaste

My splits (not confirmed)

  • swim .9 miles 43 minutes
  • bike 25 miles 1:29 minutes (might be less if this time includes T1)
  • T2: 3 mins 11 seconds
  • Run: 6.2 miles 1 hour 18 minutes ( 12:30 pace)
  • Total Time 3:33 (or maybe more if T1 was not included in my bike split)

Guest quote from my friend Colleen:

“`There are going to be times,’ says Kesey, `when we can’t wait for somebody. Now you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place–then it won’t make a damn.’ And nobody had to have it spelled out for them. Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: `You’re either on the bus…or off the bus.” (Wolfe: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test)

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9/18/08 Hang on Sloopy

Thursday.  Final diagnosis = burnt out.  Had our last team ride this morning and I couldn’t hang on to save my life.  Past pathetic.  Went to bed exhausted.  Woke up exhausted.  I need to sleep for a week but I have too much to do. 

Yesterday I met my friend John to play some early tennis.  We rode up to the clay courts and were very disappointed to find they had a 2 hour wait!!  What?  We’ve been walking right on and playing with no problem for a couple of weeks, where were all these people coming from? I know I have weird work hours but who are all these people?  We decided to ride up to 116th street and sweet-talk me onto a court.  (I don’t have a season pass and have been paying per play at 96th which you can’t do at 116th).  Nice guy, let us on before the rest of the overflow from 96th street showed up (they walked we rode our bikes). 

The entire Riverside Park Renaissance all the way down to 43rd street is amazing.  The little parks, the running/walking paths, the little nooks with chairs.  I can really see a transformation over the last 3 years. 

I have to say I was shocked at what GREAT condition the 116th courts are in.  I haven’t played on the courts on 116th street in years, maybe 4 years or longer?  I remember old green cement courts.  Lots of bumps in the surfaces and even more cracks and holes.   Not anymore.  They were really, really nice.  Painted blue (seems to be the trend nowadays).  Not a crack or a lump or a bump.  In really, really nice condition.  Only problem is they are still hard courts and I mean hard.

I was watching a bunch of tennis videos and was particularly inspired by this one.  Go ahead and watch the point but go back and watch just Federer’s feet.  Don’t look at anything else.  Just watch his feet. Amazing. Now THAT is INSPIRING!!!

So I decide I’m going to bounce around and move my feet like Federer.  (Let’s forget about hitting the ball 500 times in a row.) After missing a couple of billion balls, I started to get a little groove going and was able to start moving my feet. (Okay, MY version of Federer-like feet, let’s not pretend I move anywhere close to that.) But I’m bouncing and hopping and I’m actually getting to a lot more balls. Only thing I wasn’t able to do was jump to hit overheads in the air. For some reason I didn’t want to lift off. To which my friend would moan “ohhh nooo” like I was going to jump 3 feet in the air and hit an overhead, lol. But other than that I think my baseline game was much better. My friend suggested we stop reminding me that the hard courts had hurt my legs the previous week. “Nah, I’m fine, let’s play another 15.”

The really cool thing was the number of good players that were out there. I commented that I never see this many good players at our club. Who are these people? They just play on the outdoor public courts and not indoors I guess. Then I started to see people I know and with whom I used to play tennis. It was weird it was like a high school reunion or something. Three different people I hadn’t seen in years coming up to say hi and talked about setting up tennis games. I now have games set for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week and this morning I got an invite to play a tournament this weekend (I did say no after thinking how could I do Westchester AND play in the tournament, lol). I forgot how quickly the tennis world can just suck you up and I could play every day, twice a day with little effort. Focus you are doing the Marathon, Marathon, Marathon. 

Last night I did a little speed walk down to Jack Rabbit to pick up my Westchester race packet. Oh my God, my quads were killing me. I couldn’t believe it. How could playing for just an hour on hard courts make my quads feel like that? I ran 14 miles in the park on Saturday and that didn’t hurt. It’s all that freakin’ bouncing. Little steps. Bounce, bounce, bounce. It must use my quads somehow. I thought my little spin on my bike there and back was enough to flush out my legs. I guess I was wrong. C’mon, I did an Ironman and I can’t bounce for an hour on hard courts? I played on clay with Rhonda for an hour on Monday and felt nothing during my run on Tuesday. Okay, no more hard courts until after the marathon.

At JackRabbit it was like another high school reunion. I saw a lot of old TNT friends down there picking up packets. A tri-life teammate too. Nobody seems ready for this race. I appreciate all my friends who emailed me to say they were not ready for this race either. Did ANYONE train for Westchester?!@?!? I’m glad and sad to hear that I am not the only person experiencing end of season burnout and that the Marathon seems like an exam for which we have not cracked the book. I’m glad I’m not alone but sad to think that anyone out there is feeling as tired or behind as I am feeling.

This morning I had my last team bike of the season. I should have stayed home in bed. I actually considered it for a minute but then I knew that if I didn’t ride I would go to Westchester without having ridden my tri-bike in 10 days. That wouldn’t be a good idea. I needed 3 more hours of sleep. In retrospect that would have been the right thing to do.

If last week was bad this week was worse. I couldn’t keep up with anyone. I had zero energy. My quads were burning. I actually heard them squeak. Can quads squeak? I heard something — okay it might be my pedals but thinking the noise came from my quads seemed more logical. They were crying. I was trying to recruit other muscles. Stand up, find some dignity somewhere darn it. Nope. Not an ounce of dignity in me. I was spent and burnt out. Totally burnt out. “Go, just go already.” The effort it was taking me to catch the team was killing me and they were all trying to be so nice and wait for me. The sad part was I was chasing them around the lower loop — couldn’t touch them and I was going 21 mph trying to catch them. That’s the power of a paceline. I could see them but as soon as they hit the hill the distance between us got bigger.

When I got to Engineer’s gate I backed off. Forget it I’ll never catch them. I glanced down and I was still going 19 mph. Well that’s not bad by normal standards but I couldn’t catch them. Then my teammate Gerry came zipping by he must have had a flat tire or something. Hmmm…. Free ride I thought. So I jumped on his wheel and said “I’m drafting off you!” He was nice enough to let me ride his wheel. 29 mph down the little incline. That’s what we had to do to catch everyone who where waiting at the bottom of Harlem Hill. Ugh. I had nothing left to attack that hill. Why did I even try to jump on Gerry’s wheel? Now I have to try to keep up with everyone again…. I’m tired, tired, tired. My quads felt like they were on fire. I’m too old. I should just play doubles.

Home, stretch. Work. Exhausted. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do a triathlon on Sunday. I know everyone keeps saying “don’t worry.” I’m not worried. Of course I can do it. It will be ugly just like this morning was ugly. Satifying? Rewarding? Fun? No. But I’ll say one thing, I’m opening up the biggest freakin’ bottle of red wine I can find on Sunday night.

I’ve been eating so healthily all week (chopping, measuring, Veganing) and I haven’t lost a pound. I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m supposed to be eating steak and eggs and drowning it down with whiskey. Maybe I’m not supposed to be a Vegan (48 days) but the idea of eating anything animal now makes me sad. I’m taking my vitamins — ALL of them, even ones I think I don’t need. I think I need a margarita….. First Westchester. Then we’ll see.

Namaste

Very interesting article in the NYTimes on “Positive Eating.” I have thoughts on it. I agree much of it and yet I think if we eat whatever we want is not really the answer either.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/eat-less-or-eating-better/

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9/17/09 Taking It Down A Notch

Wednesday.  So far so good this week.  I’m a little nervous about Westchester Tri this weekend.  Nervous is not the right word.  Unenthused is the right word.  Instead of looking forward to it I’m thinking “what a pain in the patooty.”  Have to pack up my equipment, get up at the ‘crack of stupid’ (as my friend Sunshine calls it) lug it all up there, set up a transition station, wait around a kabillion years (okay 24 minutes but it FEELS like years) until my wave goes off, swim, climb out of my wetsuit, ride 26 and run 6.  Doesn’t seem worth the trouble.  Can’t I just go run for 3 1/2 hours instead?  But I’ll go because I paid 200 freakin’ dollars for this race and I’m not throwing that money out the window again!!  (Last year I had no choice.)

One more thing to kvetch about and then I’ll shut up.  Here are the wave starts for the Westchester Tri:

  • Swim Waves 3 Minutes Apart RACE START 7:00am
  • Wave 1: Pros Challenged Athletes Silver Cap
  • Wave 2: F15-19 F20-24 F50-54 F55-59 F60-64 Relay M55-59 M60-64 M65-64 Royal Blue Cap
  • Wave 3: M35-39 Red Cap
  • Wave 4: M40-44 White Cap
  • Wave 5: F35-39 F40-44 Light Blue Cap
  • Wave 6: M45-49 M50-54 Yellow Cap
  • Wave 7: F25-29 F30-34 Pink Cap
  • Wave 8: F45-49 M30-34 Green Cap*** THIS IS MY WAVE
  • Wave 9: M14-19 M20-24 M25-29 Light Orange Cap

Does this make any sense to anyone?  First you send out the Pros, okay that’s about the only part that makes sense.    THEN you send out the supposedly slowest group — the youngest women, the oldest women and oldest men.  I guess the logic here is they will need the most time.  But you send the relay out with them?  Relay?  Shouldn’t they go last since they have their strongest swimmers there?

Then they send out the most competitive group the Men 35-39 followed by the Men 40-44.  Okay they are going to PLOWWWW right over those old women and men.  They should go off first.

Then the middle groupers, fine, they are alternating men and women, and it’s all the middle agers so okay.  But then they send out my group, the Female 45-49 WITH 30-34 year old men.  HUH?!?!  Okay that makes no sense to me.  The older women with the younger men?  Where’s the logic in that?   A little off balance to say the least if you ask me.  Although to be frank, I know plenty of Females 45-49 who can trounce a lot of Males 30-34 so maybe Age and Gender has nothing to do with the seeding but I can’t figure out their logic.

Personally I think we should just do mass swim starts for every race.  Just let everyone duke it out like Ironman.  If you are slow, go stand to the back.  If you are fast go line up in front.  Nothing to do with gender or age.  I’ll just keep that in mind for Sunday.

On Monday rode my bike up to Riverside and played tennis with Rhonda again.  I felt a little better on the court.  Not so many aches and pains and although I’m still not reacting fast enough I feel I’m getting better.  I had a little serve slump but then I started to remind myself of some of my old touch points (toss the ball towards the net post to avoid throwing it behind my head) and even my serve started to feel a little better.  We had some good rallies and I ran down a couple (not a lot just a couple) of good balls.   Small progress but progress nonetheless.  Good to spin out my legs on the bike to and fro.  I didn’t feel too bad because all I did on Sunday was the Danskin swimathing and some walking.

Yesterday I actually had a decent run.  Nothing spectacular but a nice, average, no-pain, 1 hour run along the river.  I decided my acupuncturist might be right when he said that “maybe those warm-up drills you are doing aren’t good for people with trick-knees.”   Hmmm, well okay, maybe (I never was able to figure out the B-skip anyway despite my practicing in my living room.)  I walked to the river, did 11 minute warmup run, stopped my watch and did a thorough stretch for about 3 minutes, skipped the skipping drills and then ran at a little above my normal effort pace (maybe it was a 12 instead of 12:30?) For 1 hour.  Every so often I tried to pick it up (maybe I was running an 11?) until I was really out of breath and then backed it back down until I was at normal breath.  No knee pain, no fatigue, no muscle pains, no problem.  For me that is a good run.  I was actually hopeful.  I still don’t feel like 26.2 is in sight but at least I can move a little.  (26.2, HA! How about 6.2 on Sunday?  Let’s get through that first.)

The Marathon is going to be here before I know it.  That is really my focus, much more than Westchester.  So yes, I’ll take it down a notch this week by making Westchester Triathlon my long run day but other than that I don’t really have the luxury of tapering.  I have my eye on the marathon  — that scares me a heck of a lot more than an Olympic distance tri.  Taper schmaper, I don’t have time for tapering.  I feel VERY behind in Marathon preparation.   An outside observer might say “hey, why not give up the tennis and put in some more running.”  Good point, but frankly I’m sick of having to give up tennis for everything.  I like to play tennis and I’m playing again today with John — he’ll make me run.  Then I keep thinking that we trained all season for Ironman with only running 2 days a week so maybe if you count my biking, swimming and tennis it adds up to another day or 2 of running. 

I’m glad I’m exercising every day (not really sure I would be if I didn’t have some imminent goals to scare me a little), but I’m feeling no inclination to do an event.  The hoopla.  The preparation.  The travelling to get there.    I’m evented-out.  I’m out of my Infinit formula and I’m too lazy to even order it for Sunday — “eh, I’ll take a couple of gus on the run and that’ll be good enough” is what I actually caught myself thinking.  See what I mean?  Apathetic.  I am bringing only the barest of essentials with me to the race on Sunday — I might even race sockless ’cause I don’t want to be bothered with having to put on socks.  Gasp, now I KNOW I’m apathetic.  The big irony is this weekend might be the most perfect weather I’ve ever had for a triathlon.  If it stays this temperature — low 70’s, I’ve never had that at Westchester (the years I did it it was hot). 

So right now the only thing I have any interest in doing is playing tennis.  Maybe if I run the Marathon with a tennis racquet in my hand I’ll sneak through or have my friends toss tennis balls out in front of me and make me run them down for 26.2 miles.   I’m doing my obligatory swimming, biking and running but I don’t really care about it.    I’m sick of hitting my head against the triathlon wall.  I need to do a little contemplation and get my Zen back.  I’ll go hit a few tennis balls and feel more inspired.

Namaste

“Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure.”

Meister Eckhart

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9/15/08 Noodling Around

Monday.  Okay, fresh week.  Fresh start.  I’ve been making plans all last week for rebooting myself.  I didn’t have a stellar workout week but I had few moments of inspiration.

Played tennis with John on Wednesday.  Not too bad but nothing stellar on my part because I had some weird aches and pains (most likely from my bouncing around on Tuesday).  Two guys who had to be pros were playing on the court next to us and it was apparent that we have a lot of practcing to do!!! (Well more me than John but still nobody was hanging off the fence trying to get a peek at us swatting the ball! lol).  I noticed how fast both of their feet were moving.  It’s constant tiny little steps, they seem to never stop moving.  At first glance sometimes it is difficult to see how tennis players (good ones) can get to the ball so fast.  It’s because they are not starting from a dead stop.  They are already in motion. They are reading the ball, they are bouncing on the balls of their feet, as soon as that ball goes they are already going.  It’s a true art form.  If Serena is Cassat, I’m a finger painter…

Thursday I had a disappointing bike.  I don’t know, I just keep getting dropped — even more this week than last.  This week they were waiting around for me to catch up and I still got dropped!  Last week I worked hard and thought I did better (though still dropped).  This week I was not doing too well.  I was out the night before but on good behavior.  I was in bed by 10 and up at 4:30.  I just didn’t have it.  Getting frustrating — I don’t seem to be getting back to normal at all — can I be getting worse?  Ugh.  I tried to go for a run afterwards but got stopped by Uncle Sam.  Apparently he wants me to do a lot of paperwork once a year.  What a pain in the patooty.

Friday I had WW and it was a good meeting.  I really needed it.  As I was walking to the meeting I started reviewing a lot of what I had been eating all week.  I really wasn’t eating anything out of line.  But I notice I’ve dropped some little habits.  Habits like using my teaspoon to measure out my olive oil.  Using my measuring cup to measure out 1 cup of pasta instead of my free form hand.  Ordering in Zen Palate instead of taking the time to make my own dinner.  All little harmless things but they are the start of the fall down the slippery slope.  I didn’t lose any weight this week but I didn’t gain either.  I got a repreive and a chance to buckle down and make a list of strategies that have worked for me in the past.  This week I’m starting with some little steps — back to measuring EVERYTHING.  Even 1 oz of walnuts for my cereal in the a.m. gets measured (sure enough I what I thought was 1 oz was 1 1/2).  All those little things add up so at the end of the week I may not have gained but I don’t have my loss either.  This week, paying attention to the little stuff.

I had another acupuncture session on Friday.  I have more aches and pains now than I did during Ironman training.  He doesn’t think the skipping and hopping is such a good idea for my knees.  He may be right.  That’s why I bought a Jump board for my Pilates Reformer.  I’m very psyched to start using it.  I’ve been using my reformer quite a bit — almost every day.  I’m feeling more flex in my knees and using the jump board will allow me to get some plyometrics in without having to put my entire body weight onto my knees.  I also got a DVD for conditioning athletes using the jump board.  I’m excited for my new toy.

Saturday was my long run.  I’m happy to say I ran 14 miles.  I was initially shooting for 16 then I thought that seem a lot considering the most I’ve done is 10.  The Road Runners had a long training run in the park and that helped so much to have mile markers and other people running and water stations.  My plan was to run to the 14 mile marker near the carousel and then continue around the lower loop to make 15.  Then i would walk home.  I got to the 14 mile marker and just stopped.  I could have grunted out one more mile but I thought why take the risk of injury now?  Take your 14, do a great stretch and be happy.  I did have to walk a bit of the 14 and most of it was in the first 6 miles when I just felt like crap.  I was tired, it was muggy and I was really digging deep to get those first 6 miles in.

After mile 7 I seemed to get a second wind.  Miles 7-11 were pretty good.   I was playing cat and mouse with some woman from mile 1 all the way to 11.  She was doing the run/walk thing where she was running too fast and then having to walk fairly often.  And she was doing the even more annoying waiting until I caught up to her and then she would start running again.  So rude!!  I had picked up some speed coming down the westside for mile 12 and was feeling pretty good.  I saw her walking.  As I got to her she started running, but this time she didn’t take off.  She was running right next to me.  You have GOT to be kidding me, I thought to myself.  She wants me to pace her after she has been running away from me for 12 miles?  Then I started to feel bad for her.  This is someone who really needs pacing and she was hanging on for dear life to stay with me and I was only running about a 12:15 — a nice even 12:15 but nothing a good race walker couldn’t keep up with.  I could tell she didn’t have anything left and I felt fine — so far.

We got to the bump by Tavern on the Green.  I felt strangely okay.  We were now running side by side, step by step.  She was would not leave me.  It was weird.  Didn’t exchange a word for 12 miles and here she was  was just hanging on to me like we were old buddies.  We got 3/4 of the way up the little bump at Tavern and she stopped to walk.  I just looked at her and spoke the first words between us in the last 3 hours.   “You are NOT walking now we are almost at the top.”  She shook her head no, she looked so sad.  I said “c’mon!!”  It was more for me than for her.  She started to run again and we continued running step for step to the bottom of the loop where there was a water stop.  She wasn’t carrying any water so I slapped her five and said good work and carried on.  (I was carrying my double water bottle holder and felt fine).  I thought for sure she would catch up to me before the 14 mile marker but I never saw her again.  I gave me a new perspective on those annoying people who start running right as I get to them.  I realize now that it is just their desperation.  I’ll look at them differently for now on.  They are not doing it to be rude, they are just clueless as to how to pace themselves and maybe that’s my little bit of charity.  I’ll let them pace off of me.  I may be slow but I’m steady.

That afternoon I packed my wetsuit to go to New Jersey.  I figured I would visit my brother at the shore and get in a good swim.  As I was driving down it occurred to me that this past weekend was the Danskin Tri.  I had been a swim angel there for the previous 3 years — swimming alongside first time racers who had a fear of the water.  I hadn’t made plans to go down this year but at the last second I shot the coordinator an email.  I figured if I was meant to go, she would respond.  And she did.  Yes, please, come she said.

Luckily my brother’s place is only 15 minutes away so Sunday morning I got up and drove over to the race site.  Traffic was terrible.  Took me an hour to get throught the parking lot.  By the time I got out of my car it was 6:45.  The race was starting at 7.  There were so many cars behind me, how the heck were they going to start on time?  So many people walking toward the start with their bikes!!  Yikes, why are you getting here now?!  Isn’t transition closing?

Then the weirdest thing in the world happened.  Without my telling them to do so, my legs started to run.  Without me.  I wasn’t even involved in the process.  I wasn’t nervous about being late, who cares?  I’m not competing.  Maybe it was the energy in the air.  I don’t know, my legs started running.  Really running.  I-don’t-even-run-that-fast running, like a 10:30 run.  What the heck?  I’m running by all these people not even breathing hard and my heels are clicking up and my knees are bending and I’m think who the heck swapped out my legs in the middle of the night.  Then it was so funny.  Some gal who was walking her bike to transition says to her friend “Ironman” as I run by.  My legs are running and I’m wondering how the heck did she know that? And then I noticed I’m wearing my Ironman t-shirt and I wanted to stop and say to everyone — Look, this is not me, I have no idea why I am running this fast and I’m not having a heart attack.  I wanted to explain I didn’t run like this in the Ironman — I barely it made it through.  But by then my legs had gotten me all the way to the entrance.  It was like my torso was attached to two little motors.

When I got to the entrance there was a huge line of athletes waiting to get into the transition area and they were checking names off a list one by one.  Are you kidding me?  You are looking up each athlete’s name on a list and checking it off?  What the heck?  I jump to the head of the line and ask the security guard — I need to get to the swim start, I’m one of the angels.  She asks my name.  It’s written in big letters on the front of the first page (the coordinator must have called it in.)  “Go” she waives me through.  Now I’m running down the shoot with my wetsuit in my backpack.  I’m thinking, Dang, I wish this was a 5k race, I’d probably PR.  I get to the swim start throw on my wetsuit and jump in the water to join Sally Edwards and Ardis Bow.  I so admire Sally and Ardis for the work they do with women and triathlon.

Ardis starts sending out the few Angels she has.  One angel with one swimmer (handing them out only for the most frightened).  Then a small wave of swimmers lines up.  There is only about 30 of them.  Ardis points to me and says “you take them, you can handle the whole group.”  The whole group?  Whatever.  So I start to swim out behind the group.  Right away I get two swimmers who are panicking.  I give one a noodle and then I swim over and give the other a noodle.  Then I swim back to the first one.  Give her encouraging words.  Then I swim back to the other one, breathe, breathe, breathe.  Then a kayaker motions to me that she has an extra noodle.  I sprint over to the kyack and grab the noodle and sprint back to the pack where there is another woman holding onto a kayak.  “How ya doing?”  I ask her.  The kayaker shakes his head no, like not so good.  but the swimmer gives me a big smile.  “Fine, just resting a minute.”  We are not even 100 yards into the swim.  “How about you swim with me for a bit? I’ll give you this noodle to put under your arms.”   “Okay she agrees.” 

I start to swim with her.  We’re at 150 yards, the next wave of swimmers is on us.  The fast ones plow right by.  Then the strugglers looking up every stroke.  I start to yell out what our coach used to yell to us all the time “I…. Love… To…. Swim…  I…. Love… To…. Swim” counting out the strokes. It was so funny.  I just kept yelling it like I was a coxswain yelling out rowing commands.  I had about 20 women swiming toward me.  I stopped yelling they all looked up at once.  So I just kept talking out loud to them all.  One by one they would pass and say thank you.  I was swimming back and forth between my three noodlers — I kept checking if anyone was willing to give up their noodle — NO!   I think open water of the ocean was a little more frightening than they had expected (though I thought it was pretty calm).

 Then we hit the half way mark and had to make a left turn.  I started yelling more one-liners, the surfboarders and kayakers were cracking up.  I got a lot of the swimmers laughing too.  I noticed once someone laughed they started swimming better.  I was swimming back and forth all over the place.  Reminding one to breathe,  reminding the other one to keep her head up out of the water (she kept swallowing water every time she put her head down.)  One was doing the backstroke because she was hyperventaliting.  I would tell her what I heard a coach say once at a race “use whatever tools you have in your bag — float on your back, swim on your side, doggy paddle if you have to.” 

Finally we get to the last turn.  I have two noodlers left.  (One took off with the noodle and never looked back.)  I’ve gathered another 3 who are backstroking and side stroking.  I have my little platoon battling it out.  I’m shouting counts, mantras and encouraging words.  I’m swimming over and getting someone swimming off course.  I’m like a sheep dog in the water.  Sprinting right, sprinting left.   Finally we are seeing the finish line (this a 1/2 mile swim mind you and we’ve been out there for a good 40 minutes noodling our way around the course.)  Finally one of my noodlers takes off.  I’m left with my last noodler — the woman who was hanging off the kyack.  And I have a backstroker who is getting more and more confident.  I have her doing 10 strokes on her back, 10 on her front.  “Do what you have to do” I say, “but you make the rules.”  (That’s what I tell myself when I have to walk in a race — okay to walk but you make the decision when you will start up again.)

We’re finally about 50 meters from shore. I say to the woman, time to let go of that noodle and swim it in.  It’s 50 meters.  You are swimming great, you can do this.  She shakes her head no.  I shake my head yes.  You CAN do this.  She reluctantly hands over the noodle and starts swimming toward the finish line.  She’s doing great.  I just wanted her to feel some of what it would feel like to really swim in the ocean.  Yes there was  a tiny bit of chop — but about as minimal chop as you can get in the ocean with people swimming around. 

We cheered in the final swimmer.  I dove in the water and did a quick 5 minute out and 5 minute back just to get the feeling of swimming a straight line. 

Next time I will be in the Ocean it will be at Westchester Triathlon this weekend.  To say I feel illprepared is an understatement.  I will just do the best I can do.  Unfortunately there are no noodles to be had and I haven’t felt race-ready since Tupper Lake.  But I figure if those women can get in the ocean for the first time and breast stroke, back stroke and noodle their way around Gateway National Park, I can get off my duff and go swim, bike and run for fun and not worry about my result.  Little steps.  I love to swim.  I love to swim…….

Namaste

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9/11/08 Remembrance

Today is a day to be grateful for blessings.  I’m grateful for the opportunities I am afforded by the chance place of my birth.  Not only was I blessed to be born in America but blessed to be born into my family.  I am blessed to have work that affords me food and shelter.   I am blessed to have good friends.  I am blessed to have good health.  I am well aware that my blessings are great.

I have an abundance of choices in my life and I celebrate those choices every time take one more step towards embracing a healthier life.  Moreover, I honor the lives of people who could not make a choice and cannot make choices by respecting and honoring all life including my own. 

Namaste

Prayer For Peace

I offer you peace.
I offer you love.

I offer you friendship.
I see your beauty.

I hear your need.
I feel your feelings.

My wisdom flows from the Highest Source.

I salute that Source in you.

Let us work together for unity and love.

Gandhi

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