A new experience

OMG, I’m excited to report I had my first bi experience last night.

NO, not that kind of bi-experience!

I did one lap of bi-lateral breathing while swimming.  Woot Woot!

It was ugly and I’m not lying when I say I drank a ton of water and probably held my breath more than I should.  But I did it.  I swam, I breathed to my left, I swam, I breathed to my right and then I hit repeat.  By the end, I was basically willing myself to get to the side of the pool because it was so ugly and uncomfortable.  But I don’t care how ugly it was.  It was my first and you never forget your first time!

I definitely have to work on my rhythm because it was not smooth and my instinct kept wanting me to breathe every right stroke.  All of that will take time to get used to.  But at least now I feel that there’s hope for me.  I feel that I can keep making progress and maybe I can actually get this whole swimming thing down.

So while I’m not getting any faster, at least I am making some progress and that really excites me and keeps me going.

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

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Swim pace illiterate

Someone please help me; lord I’m a lost cause when trying to figure out my swim pace!

And NO, I’m not even trying to figure it out in my head or old school by looking at the timer clock in the pool.  Maybe that is what I should be doing.  No, instead I’m relying on not one, but two, very expensive watches.  (Don’t ask why I wear two watches – it’s a long story).

A few weeks ago I went swimming at – what one of my watches told me was – a sub 3-minute pace/100 yards.  I can not swim that fast but a few of my laps were flipper aided or were other “drills” so I took my time to be pretty meaningless.  Expect for the fact that the laps I did “standard” seemed to also come up as sub 3:00.  But again, I know this isn’t possible.  That was my first red flag.

My .88 mile swim on Sunday took 54 minutes – give or take.  One watch calculated my pace per 100 yards at 3:04 while the other one said 3:33.  If you actually do the math, the 3:33 is more accurate.  But where did the 3:04 come from?  Three thirty-three has me missing the swim cutoff by about 10 minutes, but 3:04 has me making it by 10 minutes.  Now you can see why I need to figure this out.

I went swimming again this morning and once again did drills, some with flippers and registered a pace under 3:00 minutes – 2:48 to be exact on my watch on my left arm and my right arm watch gave me a pace of 3:19.  Seriously, how can this be?  As far as I know, they are both set up the same, I never set an auto pause on either watch.

So what can it be?  My pessimistic side says to always go with the watch that shows the slower time, just to be safe.  But come on, I need a win every now and then, so if I can actually see improvement in my swim speed, I’d sure like to be able to celebrate it.  But more importantly, I need to truly know what my swim pace is.  If I can’t even swim at a pace that gets me out of the water before the swim cutoff, as I’m swimming solo in a pool, how in the world can I expect to try a Half Iron or Ironman in open water where the conditions are more like a rugby match than they are a casual swim?

If anyone knows why my watches, an Apple Watch and a Garmin, are so far off, please let me know.

Until next time,

Gotta Run

 

Self-congratulations is not easy

I had an early morning session in the pool today with my Coach.  I had seen him on Wednesday too but we didn’t do a lot of swimming or drills on Wednesday, it was more talking about what I’ve been doing and my upcoming goals.  Today he had me doing more drills.

He really wants me to work on my body position because as we both agree, it’s the SECOND most important part about swimming…. with not drowning being number one.  He’s finally conceded that body position is number two because he’s tired of asking me what the most important aspect of swimming is and me answering “not dying”!  So to speed things along, he’s now acknowledging that for me, body position is the second most important.

As we were working on body position in the water he had me just glide through the water with my arms out in front of me and just kicking.  I wasn’t doing any strokes and when I had to breathe, I would stop and stand up to breathe.  It was pretty simple, so I was surprised when he was pretty excited about how I did.  He said my body position was really good and that I was basically 80-90% perfect.  I just shrugged it off and he could tell that I wasn’t overly impressed with it and he wanted to know why I wasn’t more excited.  I said that I wasn’t more excited because it wasn’t that big of a deal.  I wasn’t actually doing the strokes – I was just gliding in the water.  No biggie.

That’s when he pointed out that it is indeed a big deal.  That last year at this time I needed two pull buoys and flippers to do what I just did now without any swimming aids.  Not only did I need two pull buoys and flippers last year at this time, but I didn’t even want to put my face in the water to do it and I would routinely cough or swallow water.

He also commented on how, when he watched me swim on Wednesday, a lot of what he taught me regarding the basic mechanics of swimming had stuck with me and are still there.  Again, all good things in his opinion.  In my mind, I still am not comfortable and still can not go fast.  That’s what I think about. I don’t think about the mini victories I’ve had (just ask Brian, he’ll confirm it) along the way.  And Craig could tell that I wasn’t impressed with my improvements. That’s when he again said how well I’m doing and said that he actually wanted me to say it out loud.

So I reluctantly said… “yes, I’ve improved!”  And then I got a fist bump from Craig.

I know I never acknowledge my progress and instead get down on myself for that which I can’t do – instead of being proud of what I can do.  So here I am, I’ll say it again, this time not just to Craig as I was sitting in the pool, but to all of you.  I’m acknowledging that I’ve made improvements.  I’m swimming!  I’ve come a long way and I’m not giving up.  I’ve made improvements and I plan on continuing to make improvements!

(It’s taking all of my self-control to not type out and follow-up with all of my negatives and all the things I still need to learn!)

So there’s my Friday self-congratulatory fix!   And it’s just about as difficult to admit I did something well and give myself credit for it as it is to actually learn how to swim!

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

Just like riding a bike

I got back in the pool yesterday, the first time since the Tri in August.  I figured I couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer.

You know the saying, “it’s just like riding a bike”?  Well, it was like that.  And remember, when I started riding my bike, I crashed and got a wicked case of poison ivy and hives?!?!!

Yep, just like that!

Ugh!

Have I said lately how bad I am at swimming and how it is not easy or natural?!?!

And I haven’t even tried to learn to bi-lateral breathe yet?  THAT.  WILL.  BE. INTERESTING.

Until next time,

Gotta run!

 

 

I can sum up my feelings prior to the start of my first-ever tri in two words: irrational fear.

Are the three sports in a triathlon -1.  getting sick, 2. crying and 3. running away?  Because that’s what it felt like leading up to my first triathlon.

Let me fill you in.  But where do I begin?

As most of you know I was SO freaking nervous leading up to race weekend.  And man, let’s just say my nerves did not subside once I got to Chicago.  Actually they escalated and were at an all time high.  They were so bad that I was physically making myself sick.  My anxiety was compounded every time I saw the water.

Let me walk you through the nerves and the tears.  Yes, there were tears.  Many, many tears.

We got to downtown Chicago late Saturday morning.  We checked into our hotel, had a quick-lunch and then headed to the expo and the mandatory course talk.  It’s at the course talk the first tears emerged.  Just seeing photos of the water and thinking ahead to the race were troublesome for me.  I few tears escaped.  I tried to be cool and brush away the stray tears before anyone noticed, but I’m guessing Jolene and Brian noticed.

After we left the expo Brian and I went to rack our bikes in transition and walking along the water to and from transition sent me over the edge for the first time that weekend.  The water was so choppy – I was not expecting it to be so rough.  Brian had been assuring me for months that because we were swimming in a harbor that the water would be calm.  The water was not calm and neither was I.

OMG!  What was I going to do?  I couldn’t swim in that water!  This seemed like just as good of a time as any to cry once again!

The afternoon slowly slid into the evening and my nerves slid into an uncomfortable bout of nausea.  Yep, I was making myself ill.  Literally.

By the end of the night I was truly sick to my stomach.  I just wanted to lie in the fetal position until the waters of Lake Michigan turned into the calm waters of the YMCA pool.  But knowing that was extremely unlikely, I decided to take some Pepto and go to bed.

And then the next thing you know it’s Race Day!

Oh lord I was sick to my stomach.

I was trying to compare my feelings on this particular day to the morning of my ultra and while I was nervous and anxious for both, the feelings and worries were completely different.  Before my ultra I was overwhelmed at the magnitude of having to run 50 miles.  I had never run that far and I didn’t know if I could complete the task.  I was worried about the physical aspect of the adventure – how I’d feel, if there would  be pain, etc.  But before the tri, I didn’t have those type of worries and concerns.  It was not a concern for the physical act of swimming, it was fear.  Athentic and irrational fear.  Keyword is irrational.  I knew it wasn’t rational, yet I couldn’t do anything about it.  I just had to go with it.

As I stared out my hotel window and looked at Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park and Lake Michigan I willed both my nerves and the waters to be calm.

2017-08-27 05.35.07

Race Morning. Willing myself and the waters of Lake Michigan to be calm.

We left the hotel to start our day.  As we were walking I was doing “okay”, and “okay” can be left up to interpretation at this point.  We headed to transition to finish getting ready before it closed.  It wasn’t until we left transition – when I saw the sailboats in the marina rocking back and forth – that I panicked.  And no, Brian saying it wasn’t too bad and that the wind will be at my back did nothing to ease my mind.  I was now officially “in my head” and I wasn’t leaving anytime soon.  And prior to a race, being in my head is NEVER a good place to be.

As we left transition, we walked along the water to meet up with my sister Jolene.  We were going to meet up and then we’d find a place to chill and wait for our waves.  At this point I had over an hour and a half before my start time and Brian had about an hour.  As we walked along the water, I got more and more sick.  And the tears came.  At first there were two or three stray tears that rolled down my cheek.  And then those two or three turned to twenty or thirty.  I was trying to keep it together, but it wasn’t working.  As I walked, I brushed more and more tears aside.

And then I saw Jolene and my friend Jody – who I wasn’t expecting to see – and who was in costume and really rockin’ “Race Day”.  Literally.  They were literally rocking out – they were channeling their inner Run DMC – with Jody in costume and all, they had a blow up boom box, gold chains and were playing “It’s Tricky” for me (It’s Tricky was my 2017 inaugural triathlon theme).

When I saw them, I could no longer hold it together.  I lost it.  I cried uncontrollably and I couldn’t stop.  I wanted to.  But I couldn’t.

I was crying for so many reasons I understood and for many that I didn’t.  I was completely taken off guard by my crying and more shockingly, by my lack of ability to stop crying!  Eventually I brought my cry down to a more manageable slow stream of tears.  Once my crying slowed to a trickle, I was finally able to say hi to Jody and appreciate her and Jolene’s efforts to rock Race Day for me! It was impressive.

But as impressive as it was, I still couldn’t find “happy”.  I was stuck smack dab in the middle of fear and happy was nowhere to be found.

tricky

Notice the uncomfortable and forced smile? I had just stopped crying and was not very happy.

We found a place to pop a squat and we watched more waves go off.  And as we watched, much to my horror, I saw many people get pulled out of the water.  Out of all the years I’ve been heading to Chicago for this event to watch Brian, NEVER ONCE have we seen anyone get pulled out of the water.  This day we saw the jet ski zoom in to help many swimmers, we saw lifeguards jump in from the break wall to help swimmers and we saw others swimmers flagging down help for their fellow participants.

What.  The.  Fuck.

Seriously, what the fuck?  Really, of all the days to have this happen, it was happening right before I had to get in the water???!! That’s not good timing!

As I watched other people swim I was filled with so much dread and fear.  I was also pissed.  I was pissed that I had worked so hard to learn how to swim a 1/2 mile and I was going to have to get into crappy, swell-filled water and I was going to have a horrible swim.  I didn’t want to panic, stop, gasp for breath but I knew it was going to be inevitable.  And that pissed me off.

 

It came time for Brian to head into his corral.  Once Brian left I decided to start putting my wet-suit on and get ready.  I had plenty of time, but I also had plenty of nervous energy and just sitting and waiting wasn’t cutting it any longer, I needed to do something – so putting on my wet-suit was a good distraction.

2017-08-27 09.32.05

Once I got my wet-suit on, I was able to see Brian for a few seconds as he swam past.  It wasn’t long after he was out of sight, that I decided to go and get into my corral.  Again, I had nothing else to do but be nervous, so I figured the act of getting ready and getting in the corral was another good distraction.

walk

As I was standing in my corral I was still watching the other swimmers go off in their waves and I was watching more swimmers struggle.  While I could have looked elsewhere, I found myself drawn to the water.  I felt a strong attraction – I had to watch.  I was a bit transfixed by it.  I felt as if looking away would cause me to be less prepared for what was about to happen.

While I was in the corral and moving closer and closer to my start time, I wasn’t as sick as I had been earlier in the day and I was no longer crying.  I wasn’t calm and I wasn’t freaked.  I was numb.  There was no turning back and backing out, so the only way to get through this was to get in the water and swim.  So that was what I was prepared to do.

It was just about go time.

Move forward.

Wave 48 is next up.

Now it’s our time.

Wave 48 enters the water.

I was among the last in the water.

Treading water.

Looking at the swim out – 1/2 mile ahead of me.

Treading water.

Numb.

It’s about to happen.

Treading water.

Numb.

Horn blows.

Everyone starts to swim.

Everyone except for me.

I didn’t freeze or panic, it was a strategic decision to hold back and let everyone get ahead of me.  My coach told me to count to 10 and then start swimming.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Go!

I didn’t make it to 10, I was too anxious and had to start swimming.

As I started swimming, I was just thinking about moving.  Moving forward.  Just do what I’ve trained for… stroke, kick and breathe.

Move forward.

Oh oh.

My heart rate was starting to accelerate.

My breathing was labored.

Oh shit, panic… here we come.

At this point I started having a hard and forceful conversation… with myself!  I kid you not, I had a major internal dialogue – actually it was more like an internal fight -happening.

“Don’t fucking panic.  Just calm down”.  ~Me

“Fuck you, you know telling me to calm down doesn’t work, it actually has the exact opposite effect, so thank you for fucking with me and making things worse.” ~Also Me

“Well, you better get control or do something because you’ve gone about 10 yards and it’s going to be a really long and difficult fucking swim if you can’t settle your ass down.” ~Me

“Seriously, shut the fuck up, I’m trying.” ~Also me

“You’re doing fine, so just fucking settle down.  Just swim.  Don’t think.  Just swim.” ~Me

“Good lord, shut the fuck up, I beg of you.” ~Also Me

“Not until you calm down.” ~Me

“Fine, I’m calm.  I’m swimming.  Are you happy?” ~Also Me

“Well, well, well…. look who’s stopped panicking.  You’re welcome!” ~Me

“Holy crap, I am swimming.  Oh.  My.  God.  I’m swimming.” ~Also Me

“I think I deserve a thank you for calming you down.” ~Me

“Fuck off and go away, I’ve got me some swimming to do!” ~Also Me

So much to my surprise, I had managed to calm down and swim.  I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I was doing it.  Stroke, stroke, breathe.  Repeat.

Autopilot.

Numb.

Just swim.

I sighted about every 8 strokes.  How do I know it was every 8 strokes?  Because I counted.  I needed the distraction.  And I also started running through my rather large and extended family and started naming my aunts and cousins.  I needed to think of something to keep my mind occupied.  I tried to do this between counting my strokes.  I couldn’t give up on counting because I desperately needed to stop and sight more often than not, as I typically swim off course.  And this race was no exception.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Sight

Alice, Bernice, Corrine, Donnie Sight

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Sight

Linda, Barb, Jeff, Kathy Sight

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Sight

At some point, I think it was after the half way mark, and may even have been closer to the 2/3 mark when I realized I was doing it and I was surviving.  I was swimming.  Holy shit I was swimming.

Whenever I stopped to sight (and yes, I know I’m not actually supposed to stop and sight, but I haven’t mastered moving and sighting at the same time!) and brought my head out of the water I could hear Jolene and Jody as they were following along on shore. It was just after I realized, “holy shit – I’m swimming”, that I heard them so I knew they were near.  This is when I lifted my head out of the water, I looked to shore and I yelled… “I’M SWIMMING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I hadn’t planned on shouting the obvious for all to hear.  It was spontaneous and authentic.  At that moment my fear had turned to glee and I wanted to scream it from the rooftops.  Or at least shout it from sea level!

 

Jolene told me later that at that moment, a weight was lifted from her shoulders.  She knew I’d be fine and I’d get out of the water and finish my swim.

And finish I did.

I got out of the water with a sense of relief.  I was so happy, yet I felt like I couldn’t truly enjoy my accomplishment because I had 2 more sports to do before I could really enjoy my achievement.

out2017-08-27 10.12.38out2

Crap…. no time to celebrate – time to get to transition and figure out how the hell to ride on Lake Shore Drive with thousands of other bikers.

Until next time,

Gotta Run (and swim and bike)

**Stay Tuned for Part 2 of my Chicago Triathlon Recap

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t die

I know some of you are anxiously awaiting my Chicago Triathlon recap, but it will most likely take a few days to write it – so stay tuned.

But for those of you that are curious – just know that I finished and I did well! I’ll just say it was a HUGE rollercoaster of emotions.  I was fighting against my internal demons and had to deal with a handful of physical ailments I manifested because of my emotions.  It was a long and crazy couple of days.

Here are a few photos to leave you with until I have time to recap all the craziness – and by craziness I mean my bouts of crying or near vomiting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim and bike – just because I can)

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!