Here we go – all or nothing

This will be my last post before the Chicago Triathlon.  I’m hoping when I write my next post I will be a triathlete!

Wow, a triathlete.  It’s crazy to think I may actually be a triathlete in a few days.  When people say, “never say never”, I’m pretty sure they were talking about this endeavour.

I swore on all things holy that I would NEVER be a triathlete.  I knew I would never participate in a triathlon because the issues that I would have had to overcome to participate in one were numerous and insurmountable to me.  And 95% of those issues revolved around swimming (and the rest involved the fricken outfit!).

I have had an issue with swimming and water since I was a child.  I took, and flunked, swimming lessons as a kid and from there my anxiety with water only increased.  I’ve tried to be “okay” with water for certain activities and I tried not to let my fear hold me back from doing things like kayaking or going in the water while on tropical vacations.  I’d go kayaking but I’d have a life vest on and I’d panic and want to stop the moment the kayak rocked even the slightest bit due to a ripple in the water.  I’ve gone in the water of a Cenote in Mexico, but I basically went in and then promptly got out because it wasn’t fun for me.  I instead stood on dry land and watched Brian jump from cliffs.  There was another vacation where Brian got to play on a waterfall (and he also fell down it – but that’s another story) and I again, watched from dry land and took pictures.  The thought of getting my face wet or going under water was too much for me and I had to watch from the sidelines.

Same is true with triathlons. A few years ago a large group of my friends all competed in the same triathlon and wanted me to join them.  Instead I cheered them on and played event photographer.  It was never in my realm of possibilities to swim and participate in a tri.  The thought was absurd to me and them asking me was laughable. I actually did laugh when they asked me if I wanted to join them and followed my laughter up with a quick, “fuck no”.

If I had to think of all the things that I would have said would never happen in my life – competing in a triathlon/learning how to swim would be at the top of the list, just behind growing 8 inches, losing 50 pounds and becoming a super model!

Not only did I not enjoy water and know how to swim, I had no desire to change my lack of enthusiasm for what I used to call “liquid hell”.  It never occurred to me to try to learn how to swim, especially at my age.  But about two or three years ago, I had the idea of doing a triathlon start swirling around in my head.  And I just couldn’t shake it.  And then once the challenge became real, I had no choice but to learn how to swim.

Learning how to swim is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.  It’s bigger than just learning to perform a physical task.  It’s taking a true, deep and lifelong fear and trying to shut it the hell up!  And when we talk about fear, let’s not mistake it with my fear of mice or the fear some people have for spiders.  I don’t like mice and they creep me out, but I know a mouse will not kill me.  When I started this journey, I couldn’t say the same thing for water.  The fear of dying was (and still is) real.

So while I’m not sure what’s going to happen on Sunday, I’m sure you all will get a good story from however my day turns out.  I just checked the weather forecast and the winds are more brisk than I’d like and I may be swimming in rippled water. Yikes! And while I won’t like it and I may likely panic, I at least will be in the water trying and doing.  I will no longer be on the sidelines, watching comfortably from land.  I won’t be comfortable, I’ll most likely be scared and freaked out, but as they say, if your challenge doesn’t scare you – it’s not big enough!

Well, this one is fucking huge!

Until next time, when I’ll hopefully be a triathlete…

Gotta run, bike and swim!

 

 

 

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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)

Coach Craig to the rescue

Today was the day shit got real in regards to my training for the Tri.  I met with Coach Craig this morning.  He’s the trainer I worked with for the Fall 50.  He knows me and knows how to work with my issues.  And when I say issues, I mean my mental hurdles, not physical ones, but he obviously knows my physical limitations too.  But for me, I need someone who can help me get out of my own head.  I feel like meeting up with Coach Craig is like the Cavalry coming to the rescue.  If he can’t save me from drowning, then oh lord, I’m in trouble.

I’m not going to recap the entire 1-hour session (omg, he had me do so much stuff and I thought the damn thing would never end – 60 minutes in the pool is way too long) but I’ll give you some of the highlights.

  • I actually did worse breathing today during my first two test-laps than I had done the previous 1.5 weeks.  I was so bummed, because I wanted to impress Craig, but I had to stop a few times to breathe because I freaked out.  Ugh.
  • But Craig said he was actually impressed and that I was farther along than he thought.
  • He had a check list of things he was watching for and grading me on when I did my test laps.  He wouldn’t show me the list because he knew I’d focus on the items he was watching for compared to just being natural. Which I would have done.  And it’s an example of how he knows me so well!
  • Craig was impressed with my kicking.  He said runners almost always kick incorrectly and kick from their knees (which is what I thought I was doing) but he said I kick from my hip (which is correct).  He actually graded me a B+ in kicking and he said most people he works with he grades a D.  So here’s to being above the curve on this one!
  • Apparently when I’m floating, my arm placement out in front of me is spot on.  I can’t really get too excited about this because I’m holding a kick board.  But both Craig and Brian said that my straight arms in front of me while I do that isn’t normal and most people have bent elbows.  I chalk this up to my old cheerleading days.  I had many years of “straight arms” drilled into my head.  Some things I apparently just don’t forget.
  • Craig also said my flexibility is helping me more than I realize.  He said I have a better range of motion in my shoulders than most people and this too is good and will be pretty important when I start doing strokes.  Craig said, “you are extremely flexible… for someone your age…” and then I didn’t hear what he said after that because I was too focused on the fact that he implied that I’m old.  Oh man Craig, you could have just stopped at “extremely flexible”, did you really need to throw in the “for your age” comment? And yes, this is what women hear when you say something like that – so men, be warned!   I think I will grade you an F for that one!
  • He had me do laps without the kick board and instead use two individual handheld little floaty things.  I’m sure they have a name but I don’t know what it is.  They don’t provide as much support as a kick board – which was the point – so it was definitely harder.
  • But it wasn’t as hard as when he took away all floating devices from me and just had me float and kick with my arms in front of me.  I didn’t get very far before I stopped because I felt like I was sinking.  He assured me I wasn’t sinking.  I said, “well, I sure feel like I’m sinking”.
  • So I did it again and again I stopped.  He told me that I’m not sinking.  But I think the reason I felt like I was sinking is because I didn’t have the kick board to keep me “higher” on the surface of the water and in turn I couldn’t get my head out of the water enough to breathe.  So instead of getting a nice inhale I gulped and then I swallowed water.  And then I stopped and told him I was sinking and he said I wasn’t.  See the pattern??  Thankfully we didn’t do too many of those.
  • He had me do a few lengths on my back.  Again he said he was impressed at my kick and my straight arms (except when my arms go into the water – which I still keep straight, but apparently is a big no-no).  He thought I was really strong on my back.  Which I said, “of course, because it’s the only thing I’d do as a kid because I wouldn’t put my face in the water!
  • He had me do some drills kicking against the wall, some with flippers and some without.
  • I had to do some bobs in the water, just breathing in and out.
  • He also ended the session with the both of us looking into a mirror and he was showing me the arm stroke movements he wants me to practice.

He’s going to send me a list of drills I need to work on, which I guess is good but I still don’t have the breathing down.  I feel like I need to learn that first.  Honestly I couldn’t care less if my elbow is bent in the water or if I’m kicking correctly – if I can’t breathe.  If I can’t breathe, I’ll never have the opportunity to work on the other issues.  I was going to tell him this but I figured I’d try not to be negative during my first session.  I’ll wait until the second one for that! 🙂

But I’m guessing he knows my negativity and self-doubt are coming.  As I said earlier, he knows me.  At one point during the session he said to me, “I’m going to explain to you what to do next, then I’m going to explain why it’s important and then you’re going to soak it all in like a sponge, go home and think about it and over-analyze it”!  Ha!  I actually laughed out loud.  Some people might have been offended by that comment – but not me.  He nailed!  That is exactly what I do and exactly what I will do!   But I have to trust he knows what he’s doing.  Not only does he do this for a living but he helped me cross the Fall 50 finish line and there were definitely times I didn’t think that was possible.

So here’s hoping he can work his magic again because if Craig can’t make me a swimmer – than no one can!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are you holding your breath?

“Why are you holding your breath?”

What a small and simple question, that would inadvertently lead to such a big breakthrough.

Before my swim instructor could start me on drills this morning, I wanted to talk to her about my inability to breathe while swimming.  I went to the pool over the weekend and I didn’t have very good results.  I explained to her that I am just not getting enough air and I don’t know how to breathe correctly.  After about 5 minutes of me freaking out about not breathing properly she decided to scrap her original lesson/drills and instead she told me that today we were just going to focus on breathing  And she would even let me use the kick board. Love me some kick board action!

After a few unsuccessful laps in the pool and after I stopped mid-length to catch my breath – and I was using a kick board and wasn’t even incorporating in any arm strokes – she looked at me and said, “why are you holding your breath?”

Huh?

I didn’t know I was holding my breath?

When she explained to me and showed me what I was doing, I realized… “oh sure, that is what I do.  I guess I didn’t realize I was actually holding my breath”.

What I was doing was trying to quickly take a gulp of air, then I’d hold my breath until I got comfortably under the water and then I’d blow it out.  I wasn’t breathing.  I was inhaling.  I was holding my breath.  And then I was blowing.  Which in retrospect makes total sense because that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life whenever I attempted to swim.  So I’m not sure why I thought I was doing it differently now.  (But also…. why the hell did it take her 7 lessons to figure out I’m holding my breath!?!?!?)

She explained to me how I should be starting to exhale on my way back into the water, not once I’m in the water.

So I tried it.

And oh my god, it worked!  I was SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE.  I didn’t have nearly as much panic as I did every other single time going under water.  It felt more natural and it was definitely easier.

I was – I am – so freaking excited!  I spent the rest of the lesson just trying to breathe correctly and exhale on my way into the water.  It didn’t always go smoothly and I still swallowed water, coughed, panicked and stopped, but it wasn’t the same type of swallowing, coughing and panicking!

I feel today I made real progress.  I now know what it’s supposed to feel like and I have something to truly practice now when I go on my own.  It’s going to take time because after I realized what I was doing wrong, I still caught myself holding my breath out of habit.  But at least something positive has come from 2 months of swimming lessons.   Yay!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

 

 

No training wheels for me

Son of a bitch.  My instructor took away the kick board today.  Holy hell, what was she thinking?!

Well, if I wasn’t fully awake when I jumped into the pool pre-dawn, I sure woke up quickly when she said, “no kick board”.  Again I must say… son of a bitch.

Man, that sucked.

The biggest thing she had me practice was keeping my head under the water for a longer period of time to fully exhale, coming back up to take one breath and then going back under.  I did okay with exhaling, but I didn’t do so well with only taking one breath (and don’t even ask me about my arms, my form went to hell and I really lost all control of my arms. They were flailing around just trying to keep me afloat.  It wasn’t pretty.  At one point she told me I’m putting my arm straight up in the air as I’m bringing it out of the water.  I said, “is that good, am I supposed to be doing that”.  “NO” – was her reply.  Oh!).  I think I only managed to do it properly twice and then on my second time coming out of the water to take a breath I was really panicky and out of breath.  I stopped mid-length of the pool a lot because I couldn’t get comfortable with doing this.  But she assured me I did okay.  And that I am improving.  She even said that I swam today.  I really don’t think I swam, I think I just moved forward without drowning, but hell if she says I swam, I won’t argue.  Except that I will.  I really didn’t swim!

But what I did that was impressive and new for me… I wore my swim cap and goggles.  It’s the first time putting on the swim cap (other than when I did it as a joke last summer to see if my massive amount of hair would fit under a swim cap) and goggles.  And I have to say the goggles hurt like hell.  She kept telling me they were supposed to be that tight, but they fricken hurt.  Just seemed like a tad too much pain for just being swim goggles. But as I sat there in my goggles and swim cap, I figured I looked ridiculous considering I can’t swim.  But much like how I was when I first started running… fake it ’til you make it.  If I can’t swim, I might as well look like I can!

I plan on going swimming Friday morning before work.  My instructor gave me a few drills to work on, including what I did this morning.  But she told me not to do it too many times.  To which I replied, “yeah, I’d probably drown” and she answered… “yeah, and then you’d have to get rescued by the lifeguards and that’s no fun and it would be embrassing”.

Hhmmm… not sure if my snarky attitude is wearing off on her  or if she really agrees that I’d drown!  Either way, I’m glad I got the okay not to have to do too many of those drills.  They were not good.  Or should I say, I was not good at doing them? Either way, it’s back in the pool 5am Friday.  What a way to start the weekend!

Until next time,

Gotta Run (gotta swim)

It’s fall marathon time

I’m heading to Chicago to watch a friend run the Chicago marathon.  Races are so exciting.  For those that have never cheered someone you know, or a total stranger for that matter, on during a race, you have no idea what you’re missing.  Being at a race when people are in their zone and are warming up and then watching them run, step after step past you and then to follow them through the finish line, is just an incredible experience.  The things you see during a race are somethings straight out of the movies.  You see the young and old do things that sometimes quite frankly a human body was never designed to do.  Running 26.2 miles, I’m pretty sure is something the body wasn’t originally set up to do.   But just watching a marathon, or any race for that matter, without knowing the back story or knowing the training that went into it, can be a bit anti-climatic.  If you don’t know the stories of the training in the rain, running through a heat wave, the ice packs on the knees, the Flex-All on all the other body parts and the countless social occasions missed due to a training run and you won’t realize the sacrifice and effort that’s put into what ends up being a 3 to 5 hour marathon.  It’s not about the marathon itself.   It’s about the 5 months leading up to the marathon.

That’s why I chronicled my first marathon and why I’m going to do it again.  It’s about what it is that gets me out the door 6 days a week to run.  It’s about the “why”, not about “the run”.  I don’t know what my “why” is yet for this marathon.  The first marathon, my way was “to see if I could do it”.  That coupled with the fact that my mom had passed away just as I had started to run and when running 3 miles was a big deal for me and she told me to “keep at it”.  So, I did.   There was nothing that was going to stop me from running that first marathon.  Not even the expensive advice of some highly trained medical professionals that told me I couldn’t run anymore without the pain I was experiencing getting worse.  I had the “nothings going to stop me from achieving this goal” attitude.  But now that I’ve already done one marathon and the thrill is gone can I still do it?  Now that I know how incredibly hard this really is, do I have the grit and determination to do it again?  Ignorance was definitely bliss the first time around.  Not knowing how hard it truly was going to be, was a godsend.  But now I know.  And now I’m scared.

So, I’m really hoping to use the Chicago marathon as an energy booster for me.  I am excited about training for another race.  But will I still be excited in March when I have to log 50 miles for the week and it’s below zero with 30 mph headwinds?   I don’t have the answer to that at this time.   But rest assured, when I get that answer… I’ll let the rest of you know.  I’ll also let you know which neighbor’s don’t shovel their sidewalks, what the best technique for spitting in sub zero temps is, how to sneak out ahead of the training group to give yourself the illusion of being somewhat speedy and how to accessorize to compensate for a lack of speed or athleticism.

I don’t know what this training holds, but I hope you stayed tuned.  It could be an interesting 500 miles!