My husband and friend tried to kill me

The Chicago Tri is 13 days away and I had my first group, open water swim this past Saturday.  And by group I mean I swam with Brian and my friend Nicole.  Nicole competed in Ironman last year and is an EXTREMELY strong swimmer.  So it was nice to get in the water with her to get some tips and pointers.  I had wanted to get in the water with more people than just Brian for some time, but it’s so hard to coordinate schedules.  But I had wanted to do it because I wanted to get a more realistic feel for swimming in a group – and while two people doesn’t necessarily constitute a group, trust me, I got the full “group swim” experience thanks to those two.

Let’s just say my first group swim was terrifying. I hated every single minute of it, but it’s what I needed to prepare for the triathlon.  Nicole, unlike Brian, who’s my husband and who can’t tell me what to do unless he wants “the look” that all wives are capable of when their husbands piss them off, kicked my butt.  Nicole, being the friend she is – the one who calls me on my shit – was the perfect one to do a group swim with because she wouldn’t let me off the hook.

First, she said I had to take the lead swimming and that I was going to be responsible for sighting, which typically doesn’t happen when I swim with Brian.  And when I say it doesn’t typically happen with Brian, I mean it’s NEVER happened with Brian.  I let him take the lead and sight.  I figure I have enough to worry about just trying to swim, I don’t need the extra pressure of trying to sight too.  I always make Brian swim to my right so I can see him and then when I can no longer see him, I stop – pop out of the water – realize I swam off course and then readjust.  So this time Nicole was making me take the lead.  Let’s just say we did not hit the mark I was given.  But I did practice sighting.  But I really shouldn’t call it sighting as much as I should call it, stopping all momentum as I pick my whole body out of the water to look around and then completely readjust where I am swimming.  As I explained to Brian and Nicole at one point when they were asking me, what landmark I was going to use to keep me on course and I said, “the dock”… but I told them part of my problem with sighting is…. I can “see” the dock from here and from over there and from way over there – so while I’m seeing it and sighting it, I’m still swimming off course, because I can still “see it”.  I just take a really curvy way to get there.  But I was not too concerned about not being able to sight well  because I soon realized sighting was the least of my concerns.

Besides having to do my own sighting, I was also supposed to do my best to treat the swim as the real thing, that included reacting or not reacting to “other swimmers”.

The first time Nicole came up from behind me and bumped into me while swimming, I stopped, panicked and looked at her like “what the fuck!?” (I may actually have said it too – I can’t truly remember).  She said, that I need to get used to it because that’s going to happen.  And then I panicked some more.  She asked me what I’m going to do if that happens on race day and I said, I’ll stop and let everyone go around me or get away from me!  Well, apparently that’s not a real plan.  I thought so, but Brian and Nicole did not.  So when Nicole told me I had to deal with it because it was going to happen on race day, I truly wanted to quit.  And while I fought back the vomit, a tear or two may have escaped.  I was truly panicking on the inside and wasn’t doing too good of a job hiding it on the outside either.  Let’s not forget that I’ve only been swimming for two months!  Having people bump into me while swimming is such a fear inducing act, it’s almost indescribable.

But if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen so I had to keep swimming.

Long story short, I spent the entire 1/2 mile swim having Nicole and Brian throw everything at me.  They swam right next to me so I couldn’t complete my stroke, they bumped me, they cut in front of me, they swam right behind me so I’d kick them, they kicked water at me, they swam in front and then promptly stopped in front of me so I’d have to swim around them, etc.  I’m not going to lie, it was HORRIBLE.  And besides feeling panicked, I was also just so pissed.  I wanted to just be able to swim and not have to deal with all of this.  Swimming (and now sighting) is hard enough for me, why couldn’t they just let me be and let me swim????

But I know why, because on race day, the other swimmers aren’t going to just “let me be”!

And this is what I have an issue with.  As I was talking to them about it later, I don’t understand why swimming into other people is acceptable.  I mean, I don’t run into other people.  When running, even in the most crowded spaces, runners do everything they can to NOT run into another person.  And we certainly don’t bang into each other, rub tires or throw another biker off course.  Why isn’t it the same with swimming?  Brian and Nicole said it’s because you can’t see while swimming.  But I can see!!!  I saw them in front of me, I saw them alongside of me.  I could see!!!

So, while I hated every single, fricken stroke of the swim – I’m so unbelievably happy that I experienced it.  I’m going swimming with Nicole again later this week, and while the thought of having her run me over while swimming makes me a bit sick to my stomach, I know in the long run – I’ll be better off because of it.  It’s just definitely not something I could ever look forward to.  But it is good practice.  Which makes me think, that all coaches and blogs talk about making sure that triathletes get out of the pool and do enough open water swims to prepare for race day.  And while that’s true I think the biggest miscue by the experts is not making people do group swims.  And I don’t mean group swims where everyone spreads out nicely and goes about their business, I mean group swims where your husband and friend deliberately try to scare and drown you!  Okay, maybe they weren’t trying to drown me, but it felt like it at the time.

So to any newbies out there that may be reading this blog, make sure you have a spouse and friend that love you enough to try to drown you!  You’ll thank them for it!

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Only 35 1/2 lengths to go

Since my breakthrough last Friday morning when I was actually able to swim, breathe and stroke, I’ve gone to the pool 5 more times, including twice yesterday! That’s right, I’ve started two-a-days bitches!  Okay, that sounded more hard-core than it really was. But hey, I have to try to give myself a boost when I can because this whole swimming thing has been really demoralizing, so if pretending that going to the pool twice in one day is card core, than dammit let me pretend!

In my time in the pool since Friday, I have gotten pretty good at swimming and breathing while using flippers.  I’m super pumped about that.  It’s a HUGE breakthrough.  Huge.  Huge.  Huge.  And the fact that I’ve been able to maintain that skill, has me pretty geeked, hence the visit to the pool twice yesterday.

However, once I ditch the flippers that’s when things go downhill.  Quickly.

I just can’t maintain my stroke and breathing.  I can swim (omg, did I just type, “I can swim”?, who would have thought?!?!) about a half a length and that’s it.  Then I have to stop because I’m taking in too much water.  But why?  What’s happening at that time that makes me fall to pieces?  Am I going to slow to keep myself afloat? Why can’t I breathe properly?  Am I too tired?  Am I out of shape and can’t make it more than a half a length? Am I out of breath?  Am I really sinking, drowning and about to die a horrible death – which is the way it feels?

Brian thinks it’s not that I’m out of shape or going to slow or anything else, he thinks it’s that I’m not calm.  He said swimming is all about getting into a rhythm and staying calm.  And lord knows I’m anything BUT calm.  Calm has never been by specialty.

But how do you practice being calm, especially while in the fricken water and trying not to drown?!?!  It’s not like Brian can give me drills to work on that teach “calm”.  Oh sure there’s yoga and meditation that help a person learn to be calm, but that’s completely different from trying not to panic while swimming.  Oh yeah, and I’m also trying to concentrate on all the things Craig told me to, like…. kick from the hips, keep my feet at the top of the water, head down, elbow over wrist, push the water, blah, blah, blah.  That’s a lot of freaking shit in my head that’s not helping me stay calm.

I’m hoping the more I do it, the more calm I become.  I mean everything else just “clicked” for no apparent reason and I had no idea it was going to happen and click when it did.  So I’m really hoping calmness clicks for me too.  Because as of now, I can only go .5 lengths of the pool which means only 35.5 lengths shy of the 1/2 mile swim I need to do in August.  Just a tad shy!

Here’s hoping.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

Am I swimming?

This morning was my first time back in the pool in over a week because I had gone on a short vacation.  And unlike running while on vacation, it’s not as easy to get a swim workout in while out-of-town.  My only “water” options were the incredibly wavy Atlantic Ocean or the lazy river pool at the hotel.  Neither, getting wiped out by the undercurrents of the ocean or getting run over by a suburban family on their tubes in the pool, appealed to me,  so I thought it best to skip trying to swim while I was away.

Brian and I went to the pool this morning and got started around 5:15 am.  A big shout out to Brian for getting up with me, as he is NOT a morning person.  But I knew I wouldn’t be very productive on my own and I needed the additional support to get me out the door.  Plus, Brian’s been really helpful in showing me some additional drills to do while in the pool, so his coaching would be helpful after my mini-hiatus.

After a few laps of “front breathing” with the kick board and two pool buoys, it was time to try my hand at breathing to the side again.  I had been trying it before I went on vacation and had varying degrees of success.  I figured it would take a while to get back in the swing of things again, but I couldn’t stall any longer, and it was now time to turn my head and breathe (not to be confused with the gentlemen’s turn your head and cough routine!).

I did a few lengths holding onto the kick board with one hand and then when it’s time to breathe, instead of lifting my head up in front of me, I bring my arm back to my side and I rotate slightly and then breathe on the side.  I executed it fine once or twice and then I’d get anxious and swallow water.  But for the most part, it was going “okay”.  But I wanted to try more.

Why I got so ambitious so early in the morning, I’m not sure, but I ditched the kick board and proceeded to move (not swim, I was simply moving in the water) in the water trying to actually use my flippers on feet and my arms – no kick board or pool buoys.  I managed to do a few SLOPPY strokes… but I did it!  It was far from pretty.  But it had all the elements I needed to work on.  I wasn’t using any flotation devices to help (other than flippers), I was kicking, I was breathing to the side and I was using my arms.  Hot damn!  I did this a few more lengths before I decided to up the ante one more time.  So I dropped the flippers.

Okay, here goes nothing…

I wasn’t using any flotation devices to help, I was kicking without flippers, I was breathing to the side and I was using my arms.  OMG! OMG! OMG!

I made it only about 3/4 length of the pool.  But I made it!!

Let’s recap this for a second and let it sink in….

  • I wasn’t using any flotation devices to help
  • I was kicking without flippers
  • I was breathing to the side
  • I was using my arms.

By George, I think they call that swimming!  And trust me, I wasn’t sure because I had to ask Brian.

After getting done with a less-than-pretty length in the pool (and yes I did have to stop half-way), I looked at Brian and I asked, “Am I swimming?!?!”

I tried it a few more lengths and I didn’t do so well.  It’s so much harder without flippers on.  I feel like I’m sinking.  And when I feel like I’m sinking, I feel like I’m drowning.  And when I feel like I’m drowning, I panic.  And that’s never good.  I swallow water and I cough a lot.  Actually this morning it was so bad that I caught the attention of the lifeguards. One actually came over to me and asked if I was okay and if she could bring me a cup of water.  Which was basically her way of saying, “what the hell are you doing, you’re not drowning on my watch!”

My sinking/drowning panic came from not going fast enough to truly propel myself through the water and to float on top of the water.  I’ve been going so slow to learn (when using the help of floatation devices) and I’m also now so focused on my arms (and my breathing, and my leg placement and a million other things people have tried to teach me) that I am used to going slow to try to do it correctly.  But going slow means sinking.  So I could no longer go slow and instead I needed to increase my speed.  I tried so hard to kick as fast as I could to stay afloat.  I swear I was like a cartoon character, just spinning my little legs.  Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 11.21.52 AM

After a lap of “so-so” progress (and yes, this is the lap where the lifeguard offered me water) I decided not to push it and to stop while I was ahead.  Because so-so progress is better than no progress.  And while I have a LONG way to go, right now I’m going to try to be positive (which is super tough for me) and not think about how far I have to go, but instead think about how far I come.  And god dammit, I’ve come a long fricken way!

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 11.39.57 AM

This poster is from the Fall 50, but it seems appropriate today!

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)