PSA for new swimmers

Here’s a Public Service Announcement for any newbies out there – if you just learned how to swim in June, don’t go swimming with a lake full of Ironman or Ironman-in-training athletes.  Trust me, it does nothing for your self-esteem or confidence.

Let’s back up to my last open water swim, when I swam with Nicole and Brian (both Ironman athletes) and they swam circles around me.  Literally.  They literally swam circles around me to get me used to the activity that I’ll encounter on race day.  And yes I was very aware that they swam past me effortlessly and at such a high-speed that you would have thought I was anchored in place.  If I wasn’t so scared I was going to drown, I would have been very bummed at how slow I was swimming and how much harder it was for me than it was for them.  So my being scared actually helped me not have time to feel completely bad about myself!

And last night I went swimming in a lake where a bunch of folks were doing their own open water swims. EVERYONE in the lake was either already an Ironman or will be one shortly.  And then there was me.

Besides Stosh and Brian, who were doing shorter swims – the others all swam close to 2.5 miles.  Everyone swam effortlessly, quickly and confidently.  Except me, that is.  I went about 1/3 of a mile and I tried to do my own sighting which means I stopped and flailed every 5 to 10 strokes as I tried to figure out how off course I was swimming.  There is nothing graceful or effortless about my swimming and my sighting!  Then there was the issue with my goggles fogging and my swim cap coming off.  I stopped to try to fix them both but only made the situation worse.  Grace and ease were not my friends last night – not that they ever were as it pertains to athletics, but it was very apparent last night.

After fussing with my goggles and swim cap, I limped (not sure what the correct metaphor is for swimming, but you get my point) the rest of the way to shore and I called it a night.  I sat and watched everyone complete their training swims and I was so unbelievably envious of them all.  And while I know they’ve all been swimming longer than me and have put the time and the hard work into getting where they are, I just can’t help but want to not struggle at everything I do.  I have some friends (actually it seems like most of my friends kick ass) who are just athletic and gifted at whatever it is they do.  I, on the other hand, am not.  But seriously, at some point – can’t I be good at something!?!?  At some point I have to find something I’m good at and I’m not always be the “slow friend”.  You know the one, the one you don’t want to go on a training run or training ride (or now a training swim) with because they hold you back.  Yep, that’s me.  I’m the slow friend.   But then again, if I wasn’t I guess I’d have to change the name of my blog to something else!

But here’s hoping I can find a rhythm and not embarrass myself by coming in dead last and being the last one out of the water at the tri.  Because based on my swimming ability last night with the others, it’s a definite possibility!

(Side note:  How many fricken people can I know who are, or soon will be, an Ironman!?!?!?  I have some freakishly talented friends because I don’t think it’s normal to know this many people who have done something so epic!)

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim or bike)

One month and beyond

My very first tri is one month from today and I am a mix of emotions.  I’m excited and terrified at the same time.  And while it may sound similar to how I feel leading up to most of my marathons, it’s completely different.

I haven’t had this completely “new” feeling for some time.  The newness of a tri is kind of exciting.  I’ve missed it.  But on the flip side, my OCD and anxiety also appreciate knowing what the hell is going on.  So too much “newness” is not good and it’s kind of freaking me out.

Here’s a laundry list of things I don’t know.  In no particular order and by no means is it a comprehensive list:

I don’t know how to rack my bike, I don’t know how to get out of my wetsuit quick and easily, I don’t know how to put my shoes and helmet on and head off for the bike, I don’t know how to bike with others and don’t even get me started on the fact that I don’t know how to take in fluids or nutrition while biking.  I don’t now how to find my empty rack in transition, I don’t know how to run with a running belt on and I don’t know what my legs will feel like at mile 3 of the run.

Yikes!

And I obviously left out all there is that I don’t know about swimming.  I don’t know how long it will take me to get into my wetsuit in my wave.  I don’t know how to get my swim cap on without looking in a mirror, I don’t know how to put on the second swim cap I’m required to wear from the event that absolutely pulls my hair and is too small so I need to put my silicone cap on first, and then the cheap latex cap.  I don’t know how to get in the water with others, to swim with others and in general, not panic and sabotage my entire race.  I actually have to stop thinking of all that I don’t know and all that I will experience in the water on race day because it’s freaking me out and I’m getting really anxious just typing this.

But on the flip side, I’m excited to learn.  I’m excited to have a new challenge.  I’m excited to embark on something I swore I would NEVER do.  I told anyone that had ever asked me if I’d do a triathlon that I would NEVER do one. EVER. NEVER EVER!  NEVER EVER! NEVER EVER!

Yet here I am, one month out from my first triathlon.

A co-worker asked me yesterday what’s next.  I said that I need to start AND finish this tri before I can think about what’s next.  But that wasn’t exactly truthful.  I have been thinking about what’s next and it might be more tris.

I had always hoped I’d get my marathon mojo back after doing an ultra in 2015 but as of now, I still don’t have it back.  I just don’t have the drive in me.  That’s not to say it won’t ever come back, as they say – distance makes the heart grow fonder.  Maybe the more time away from marathoning, the more I’ll miss it.  But a part of me says it’s gone and maybe gone for good. While there are still a few marathons I’d like to cross off my bucket list, starting with the Marine Corp. Marathon, I’ve done most of the other biggies.  I’ve had the pleasure of running some incredible races in incredible cities.  I’ve run in all weather conditions.  I’ve had good races and I’ve had bad.  I’ve run 10 marathons and 1 ultra and while a lot of people do more than that, I’m not sure if I will.  My body has done nothing but pound the pavement for thousands and thousands of miles.  Training for the ultra, and doing nothing but run for 8-12 hours per weekend, gets a little old.  I’ve been there, done that.  And right now, I have no desire to do it again.

My husband has always enjoyed triathlons because he enjoys the variety that comes with training for a 3-sport event.  For the first time ever, I understand that feeling.

Training for a triathlon has kept me extremely busy, yet rarely bored.  When I get a bit too bored in the pool, I head outside for a bike ride.  When I’m tired of biking, I hop off and go for a run.  This is very different compared to just running.  Running and running and running.

And there’s so much to learn and achieve with triathlons.  Because I just learned how to swim, there’s much more that I can and want to achieve in the water.  I need to learn how to swim in rough waters, I need to learn how to bi-lateral breathe and I need to get faster and more efficient.

I’d like to get stronger, faster and better on the bike too.  I cannot get up fricken hills on my bike.  God gave me these monster thighs for a reason, and if it’s not to propel my own body weight up a small incline – than what the hell are they good for?  So I’d really like to learn how to bike up hills because these thighs aren’t getting any smaller, so I might as well make them work.

I’d also like to get faster and I’d really just like to get comfortable on my bike.  Both figuratively and literally.  Dear god my lady parts hurt when riding a bike.  I swear I must be doing something wrong because I don’t understand how females can bike with this much discomfort – so achieving some level of physical comfort would be nice.  And of course, I’d like to feel comfortable on my bike and not always feel like I’m about to crash.  I guess that goes hand-in-hand with wanting to learn how to bike in a straight line!  Which is also on my to-do list.

And I’m starting out with a sprint tri.  But there are many other distances in the triathlon family.  Will a longer and harder distance be in my future?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

But having the option to think about it and think about the “what if” that comes along with competing in triathlons is pretty exciting.  I feel I’ve achieved a lot in my running career and I think it would be fun to see what I can achieve in the world of triathlons and see where these can take me.

But I digress and need to get back to present day.  I need to keep working hard the next month and do all I can to put me in a position to successfully complete the Chicago Triathlon because a lot hinges on this first tri.  If it sucks, I’m not sure I’ll have it in me to go on.  But then again, as a co-worker pointed out – I’ve had some really bad marathons (first marathon was “okay” but yet painful because I was dealing with knee pain, my second marathon was HORRIBLE because I hit the wall at mile 6 – mile 6 people – that sucks! – and in my third marathon, I hyperventilated twice and strangers wanted to call medics… fun times!) but I kept going.  I went on to have some incredible marathons and a most incredible ultra.  So is having a bad first tri a deal breaker for me, maybe not.  But it sure would make it easier to continue if it went well.  And as I just pointed out with how my first few marathons went, I think I’m due for having a good introduction to a sport.  I also think the crap that I went through learning how to swim should entitle me to a perfect, smooth and uneventful race day.

But then again, if history repeats itself, having a bad race day experience won’t necessarily deter me from trying again. Because after all, we all know that I’m too stubborn to quit!

Until Next time,

Gotta run, bike and swim!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am swimming

I am swimming.

Three little words I NEVER thought I’d say.  Truly.  I never thought I’d say those three words.

I got in the pool yesterday and I swam, unaided, for 18 mother-fucking laps!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s half a mile for those that don’t know pool lap conversions!

Half a mile is the distance I have to swim in my triathlon.  HOT DAMN!

As I type this, the true magnitude of swimming a half a mile hasn’t really sunk in.  Part of me says, “no biggie, it’s just another workout at the Y.”  But the other part of me says, “FUCK YEAH, I ROCK!!!!!!!!!!”

Swimming the 18 laps felt really good.  I didn’t struggle, I felt I was in a rhythm, my breathing was pretty good and I felt comfortable.  I didn’t intend to swim 18 laps.  My goal is always to do 9, or 1/4 mile.  But once I got going and it felt good, I just kept swimming.

So while I’m nowhere near a confident swimmer and I still have a long way to go because I need to get “okay” with swimming in choppy, open water with other people… at least I finally made some decent progress and I’ve been able to cover the distance I need to swim.

And to think, just over a month ago I was thinking about deferring because I couldn’t swim one lap.  Wow, a lot can happen in a few short weeks.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim a 1/2 mile!)

 

P.S.  For those keeping tabs on my poison ivy, here’s the update.  I also have hives.  Yep, that’s right, I have hives ON TOP OF MY POISON IVY!  It turns out I am allergic to the oral steroid they gave me to fight the poison ivy.  So now I’m off of all meds and I just have to gut it out.

AND, if poison ivy and hives wasn’t bad enough, last night as I was sitting outside I got a few mosquito bites.  Yep, I have now completed the trifecta of itching… poison ivy, hives and mosquito bites.  I can’t make this shit up!

Cross another first off of the list

So remember when this happened?

IMG_8576

Well, now this happened.

IMG_8643

Yep, I went ahead and got myself a nice case of poison ivy!  I got it when I crashed in the ditch.  And to think I thought I was lucky landing on the weeds because it helped break my fall.  Little did I know the weeds were poisonous.

Seriously, how do I manage to do this shit?  I grew up in the country on a farm and never once had poison “anything” on my body.  I played in fields, ditches and woods most of my adolescence and I never got anything worse than bug bites.  Now as an adult, while tri training, I get poison ivy?!?!!  Seriously!

And yes, of course I’ve itched it and it’s spread.  And to some not very appropriate places.  I’ll leave it at that, no need to elaborate!

So until next time,

Gotta run (and stay out of the poisonous weeds!)

 

My first “official” swim – thanks to Garmin

Any runner knows that if you run and you don’t record it on your Garmin, it didn’t really happen.  Well if the same is true for swimming, I just got my first “official” swim in yesterday.

Brian and I went for an open water swim and he had his Garmin on (mine isn’t water proof or made to track swimming because when I bought it, I thought never in a MILLION years I would need that functionality — little did I know!) and recorded our swim.

It wasn’t pretty, wasn’t fast and it wasn’t in a straight line either.  (Yes, there’s a pattern forming here of me not being able to go from point A to point B in a straight line – if you don’t know what I’m talking about – read my previous post.) But at least it’s official!

So while I may not look it while I’m actually swimming – I’m official and legit because I’ve got the Garmin data to prove it!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or bike or swim)

image

I’m a little more optimistic – for now!

I had a session in the pool this morning with Coach Craig and man, it’s just what I needed.  And seriously, he is the best Coach for me and my need to “know” and my tendency to over think EVERYTHING.  Here are a few highlights from today’s time in the pool.

  • During my warm up lap with just the pool buoys, he stopped me and told me my first length was almost perfect.
    • Why oh why don’t they allow pool buoys in a triathlon?  I could rock it if I didn’t have to worry about the whole breathing and stroke thing!
  • When I put on my flippers to show him that I can breathe to the side (I could not do this or use my arms the last time we had a session) and I can “kind of-sort of” stroke, he said that I was doing more right than I realized.
  • Craig knows me well enough to know I over think things and he is one of a few people who call me on my bullshit.  And he literally called bullshit today.  I kid you not.  I was saying something, I can’t remember what, but I’m sure I was criticizing something I was doing when he looked right at me and said… “BULLSHIT”.  Actually he said it a couple of times.  After the shock of him literally calling bullshit wore off, I actually chuckled because it was just too funny and because I knew he was right.
    • I still can’t believe he LITERALLY called bullshit.
  • He keeps telling me my body position in the water is spot on.
    • Which I quickly replied, “that’s only because I’m using ‘aids’, such as flippers or the pool buoys”.  Now that I think about it, this may be when he called bullshit! 🙂
  • He had me do a drill where I keep one arm in front of me and I just stroke with the other hand and practice “stabbing” the water on entry.  This went okay.  Thankfully he didn’t make me do it to the left, only the right side – which is the side I breathe on.  Even though he said he’s going to make me breathe on both sides, he said right now he’s going to play to my strengths and what I do well before doing hard stuff, like breathing to the left.
    • Really, I think all of this is hard!  But I will be grateful for this window of time when I don’t have to breathe to my left.
  • As I was doing the drill with my left arm in front the whole time and only stroking with my right arm, I said that these drills (and one more he had me do with both arms in front) are what I feel is messing up my rhythm because I don’t know when to move each arm in coordination with the other.
    • Basically he said my rhythm isn’t as bad as I think it is and that I’m really much better than I realized.  And this is when I called bullshit.  Silently of course because I wouldn’t dare say it out loud!
  • At one point Craig had me do a lap in the pool (same one arm drill) because he was watching for something specific.  When I finished he proceeded to explain to me – in great detail – what he was watching for, how I did, how it should be and why it’s important.
    • He knows I need to know the “why”.  He even acknowledged that he doesn’t tell most people the details because they don’t need to know the “why” like I do.  But I can’t learn unless I know the “why” behind what I’m doing.
  • After one lap where I was given specific instructions on what to do, Craig said that I did exactly what I was supposed to be doing and that this is the time where I could drop the mic.
    • Huh?
    • Seriously, huh?
    • Did Craig just do a “mic drop” on me?  Classic!
    • Never, ever would I have thought someone would do a mic drop for me in regards to swimming.  But hell, I’ll take it!
  • We talked a lot – if you didn’t already notice – about the fact that I have good body position (which I said I don’t when I drop the aids and he doesn’t like to hear that) but he did say that a few times he caught me trying to “run” in the pool compared to kick.  I said I didn’t realize I was doing it, but it doesn’t surprise me because the flippers are long/heavy and awkward.
    • He suggests I buy shorter flippers online.  I think I’ll do this because not only will it help me from trying to “run” but it should be less of an aid than long flippers.
  • Speaking of my kicking, he said I am kicking too fast and that because I’m learning to swim for a tri, I need to conserve my legs.  He made me do a few laps and really concentrate on slowing down my kick.
    • This was extremely awkward.  I feel kicking is the only thing that’s keeping me afloat and that slowing that down will not be good for my desire to not sink!  But I was able to do a few lengths slow enough that he was satisfied.  But he said that it will definitely be something he will have me continue to work on.
  • The reason I need to know the “why” behind everything I do, not only because that’s the way I learn (always has been and always will be – I have the personality tests to prove it) but I also have a tendency to be skeptical of things.  So until I know “why”, I oftentimes don’t believe it.  And not that I don’t believe Craig (or whomever), it’s just that I feel it doesn’t pertain to me.  So when Craig was saying I need to slow down my kicking, I was skeptical and I figured, “well, he doesn’t realize that it won’t work for me to slow down my kicking… I’m not like other people, I need to kick fast to stay afloat”.  But just as I was having internal skeptical thoughts, he said… “your heart rate is elevated after one length and it’s because you are kicking too fast.  You’re a runner and your tendency is to just go-go-go-, but that doesn’t work in swimming and you’re getting winded”.
    • This was my most recent “aha” moment.  I for the life of me couldn’t figure out why I was out of breath from doing one single length in the pool.  I couldn’t understand how I could go for a 10 mile run, yet be fricken out of breath in the pool after 25 yards!?  Well, now I know.  And apparently there is something to this whole slowing down my kick thing because when he had me practice it, I was less out of breath at the end of each length.
  • At one point we were talking about my body position (yes, we talked about it a lot – I think he was trying to keep me from getting frustrated by focusing on what I’m doing well) and my kicking and how I feel I do when I take off the flippers.  I said my body sinks and my arms are so slow that I don’t think stroking alone can keep me afloat.  He looked at me skeptically so I had to admit that I had someone video tape me and when I watched the video, I……. am………. very……….. slow……….. seriously………… so…………. slow…………. and…………meticulous.
    • He just shook his head.  I don’t think he knew what to say at that point about me watching myself on video.
  • During one of my laps, Craig told me that I had done pretty good but he could tell that I got “tense” during it but that I corrected it and got out of the situation – which was good.  I was shocked that he could tell that.  I mean, I was under water, so how did he know?
    • He said that I have a “tell” (like in poker) that he has picked up on and he can tell when I’m stressed or tense in the water.  I SO desperately want to know what my tell is.  But I didn’t even ask him what it was because I knew he wouldn’t tell me.  He knew, that If I knew, that I’d focus too much on that, and not what I should be doing.
  • And speaking of focusing on what I need to be doing, Craig asked me a question about arm placement after one of my laps and I said, “I couldn’t tell”.  Which is really the truth, I really can’t feel much or tell what I’m doing – I don’t know how people can tell what they are doing under water.  It’s all so uncomfortable and happens so quickly, that I honestly have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.
    • I told him that I have SO much to think about while swimming.  I feel I can’t really be smooth for fluid (which is his goal for me) because nothing is fluid about having to think about a million different things:  butt up, kick from your hips, feet at the surface, slow down my kick, look down, rotate, thumb along my side, elbow up, soft wrist, stab the water…. oh yeah, let’s not forget about BREATHING!.
  • After a lap where he said I did well, I said I didn’t think I did well because I got a lot of water in my mouth.  He said that it’s a timing thing and will get better.
    • Later when I was comparing myself to other swimmers and was questioning something he said to me, he said, “well, they don’t get a lot of water in their mouths”.
    • Damn, that one came back to bite me in the ass.  But it was a good call on his part!
  • As the session was almost done and when he was talking about what he’s going to suggest for drills, etc. he also said, “no more video self-analysis without my prior consent”.
    • HA!
  • After Craig told me I couldn’t watch myself swim in videos any more, he said…. “do you know what your biggest hurdle is right now and what you need to work on the most?”  I shook my head no.  He then pointed to his head.  He said, you need to work on this.  “Does this surprise you?”, he asked.  “NOPE!”, was my reply.  I’ve always been in my own head too much.  Running, swimming, work… anything.  Mental hurdles – not physical – are always the hardest for me to conquer.  And good lord Craig, if he can help me with the mental hurdles associated with swimming, he will be a miracle worker.  He will be able to charge extra for being a psychologist!

As we were leaving the pool area Craig said that I am doing a lot right and that I need to focus on that.  He still thinks I’m on track and I shouldn’t be frustrated (no, I did not tell him about my questioning about whether or not to defer, I figured it didn’t pay to tell him at this point).  So if Craig hasn’t given up on me yet, then I guess I can’t give up on myself yet either.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

How not to feel like a badass

Morning quiz.

Q:  What’s the problem with trying to learn to swim?  (And yes, it’s a trick question because there are numerous things wrong with trying to learn to swim!)

A:  There’s just no way to feel like a badass.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.

Let me explain.

Monday I went for a run and I was doing a hill workout.  I was on my last hill, the one that has a .5 mile slow incline that just sucks the energy right out of me.  I was chugging up the hill when one of my favorite badass songs came on my iPod.  It’s one of my go-to “rally” songs for when I need to dig deep.  It’s a total kick ass female empowerment song and that song got me up that hill feeling like a total badass. I didn’t feel tired, I felt like a tough bitch.  Running at times, can make you feel like you can kick ass and take names.

Now let’s get off that hill for a moment and get in the pool with me.

There is simply no way to feel like a badass in the pool in my pastel, multi-colored swim cap (and yes I know I didn’t have to buy the pastel cap, but it was cheap and apparently so am I), and let’s not forget I look like a cone head in my pastel, multi-colored  swim cap.  My sensible tri swim suit – which also has pink and purple on it.  And again, I know I didn’t have to buy the one with pink and purple piping but as mentioned earlier, it was the cheapest and as I’m still new to this sport, I don’t want to spend too much money before I know if this tri will be my one and only or if I fall in love and keep participating in them.

So here I am, sensible tri suit with pink and purple piping, pastel, multi-colored swim cap fashioned nicely on the top of my head a’la Jane Curtin – Saturday Night Live circa 1977 and my Mr. Magoo goggles.  Not necessarily a picture of badass-ness.

And let’s now add in my kick board and pool buoys.  Just fricken take away my badass card and revoke my membership to the club, because the kick board and pool buoys are just one step away from fricken floaties – which I would totally have worn 3 months ago when I was starting out.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, imagine me with my sensible tri suit with pink and purple piping, pastel, multi-colored swim cap fashioned nicely on the top of my head a’la Jane Curtin – Saturday Night Live circa 1977, my Mr. Magoo goggles, kick board and pool buoys and factor in my stopping to cough and spit out water mid-lap.

Nope, not a badass.

Thankfully a triathlon is three sports because it will take me the other two to redeem myself from my utter lack of badass-ness when I get out of the water!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)