Thursday, June 17, 2010

The octopus in the sweater is back....

I heard it but I just didn't believe it. Everything I've read said that open water swimming was totally different from swimming in the pool. But hey, I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. I swam in Lakes Union and Washington regularly in Seattle. How different could it be?

Well those were all some time ago. I headed to Wenonah Lake tonight for an open water swim sponsored by the organization that's running the triathlon. I'm up to 1800 yards in my pool workouts and, while I don't swim fast, I swim strong so I was feeling pretty good about the 1/10 mile loop there would be at the lake.

I decided to try out my new wetsuit while I was at it. There's a good chance it won't be allowed the day of the race, if the water is too warm, but just in case I thought I'd give it a try. The suit was comfortable, though I thought I'd feel more bouyant given what I'd been reading. Actually, I felt a little heavier in it and I got tired really quickly.

I headed out into the water and made the first turn just fine but about 50 yards into the swim I was suddenly up to my neck in a panic attack. There was no wall, I couldn't touch the bottom and I was surrounded by swimmers. I paddled around for a good several minutes before I calmed myself down and remembered that I know how to swim. That got me through several strokes when I took the first blow to the head. Then a stray foot in my side. I was startled, but not as completely thrown off as I thought I would be. I made it around the loop and touched bottom for a moment. I was tired and I had only done about 300 yards!

I knew that if I didn't go right back out there just then, I would be afraid for the rest of the summer and would have real problems on race day. So, back around I went. The second time I was able to get into my rhythm and remain calm. I stayed on course when the first few swimmers went over me. At least when there's a foot in your face you know you're going in the right direction. I did have a little trouble sighting the bouys, as they were on my right and I breathe on my left, but I was going so slowly that I didn't get too far off track.

I stopped after two loops, that was just a bit longer than I'll have to do for the tri. It wasn't nearly as long as I was supposed to do for my training swim today but I know I worked twice as hard. It's frustrating how difficult it is to find a lake to swim in here in South Jersey so I'm not sure yet when I'll get to practice again, but I know I sure need to before that race comes up!

I will say again, as I have after every group event I've done, you couldn't find a nicer group of people to spend time with. I think if we could get everyone in this country active, not only would we cut down on obesity and weight-related illnesses, but I think people would just be happier and get along better. I may be pushing it, I realize it's probably the endorphins talking, but I felt like I was at one big swimming party and it didn't mind that I bulged out here or there. There were people of every size, shape and age in the water and the thing that tied us all together was that we were all there, seizing our own fish, meeting our own challenges and refusing to sit back and just watch things happen around us. And that was worth every sliver of cedar I'll be pulling out of my nether regions for the next couple of days!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things learned on a 40 mile bike ride

Last Saturday I did my first-ever charity bike ride. It was 40 miles, more than I've ever ridden at one time. The course was all flat (one of the few reasons to prefer New Jersey over Seattle) except for two big bridges over the bay to the finish line at the shore.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew it wasn't a timed event and that nobody would be left behind, a van would be available to pick up stragglers or people who just decided they had had enough. I knew I had a good bike and was in better shape than ever before so the distance didn't really worry me too much.

After the first 10 miles I thought "I could actually rest at the end and then bike the 40 miles back if I needed to". At 22 miles, or "The site of the incident (more in a minute)", I thought "40 miles is just about right for me, but I could have done 65". At mile 39 I thought "Where the HELL is the finish?" but as I pulled in I knew I would have been find with the 65 and look forward to finding a century ride after the triathlon is over.

I thought I would be riding in a pack of riders and was pleasantly surprised at how spread out we were. I was alone for nearly the entire morning and had plenty of time to learn a few things along the way.

Look for the signs : When we checked in we were given "cue sheets" with the route written out in turns and distances. I didn't think I'd need it so I stuffed it in my pack and headed out behind a few riders. That worked great for a while and I learned to follow in the paths of others Then they got away from me for a time or I would get ahead of them and suddenly I learned sometimes following a prescribed plan is not such a bad idea. I got little panicky when I couldn't see any riders and there were not a whole lot of signs up for us. In fact, after the first three intersections where I saw no signs for our ride, I got a little concerned and wondered if I might actually be able to get myself lost. That's when I learned the signs are all around you if you just look in places you hadn't noticed before. At that fourth turn in the route I suddenly realized that there were pink arrows spray painted on the asphalt and I had been seeing them all morning. On closer inspection, what I thought were little fishes were actually arrows with the initials of the race.

There's only one way to finish : I think this kind of sport, an endurance ride, is ideal for single moms. We know beyond a doubt that the only way to get through a challenge, or a day for that matter, is to just get started and keep going. Setting out on my bike I knew my car was waiting at the finish line and the only way I was going to be able to get home was to start pedaling and the longer and harder I worked the sooner I'd get there. Knowing this helped me to just sit back and enjoy the rewards of my pedaling.

It's OK to let the bike do some of the work : Admittedly this is a lesson I don't ever learn quickly enough. Life isn't supposed to be hard. Everything doesn't need to be so difficult. In the high gears, each pedal gets you a little further and you share the work with the bike. True, the pedaling itself is a little harder, but you have to do less of it to get anywhere. So, as in life, you dig in a little deeper, not so much that it finishes you off, but enough to know you're working, and you cover more ground. That said, at those huge bridges I was perfectly content to drop back into "granny gear" and remember that sometimes it's just a collection of baby steps that will get you to the top of a hill.

Take your feet out of the cage: Nothing metaphorical here. My latest injury is a 10-color bruise the size of a football on my right knee. On Saturday it was also the shape of a large orange but I'm happy to say the swelling has gone down. We came to the first rest stop about 22 miles into the ride. It was a very humid and hot day so I knew enough from the Broad Street Run that I should stop and rehydrate. I pulled into the stop and I'm sure the message "Take your feet out of the cage and step on the ground" fired from my brain to my feet, but my legs didn't quite know what to do with that information after pumping continuously for so long. I stopped the bike and gravity did it's thing, sending me to the ground and the bike on top of me. Embarrassing for sure but nothing severe.

Because of the bruise I was not able to do my run the next day and because of my school work I lost a second day of training which I hope to make up with a double workout this Friday but I'm happy to report I was in the pool this morning for 1500 yards and the knee did just fine. Looking forward to tomorrow's run and getting back to my regular punishments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The road not taken

It's so funny. I know I've said it before, but a day really can make all the difference in a workout habit. Before I started this routine, if I had a day I didn't want to work out, it quickly became a week, then a month, then the treadmill was storing my laundry.

A few days ago I hit that wall and felt like I just had to quit. I figured out a way through it and now, only a handful of days later I'm completely re-energized about my routine and loving my runs and rides and swims again. Another sign that I've really made a life change this time.

This morning called for a 45 minute run. I have another new gadget to keep things fun, the Nike + chip. This little sensor goes inside my shoe and communicates with my i-pod. I select a time, distance or calorie goal for my workout, set the shuffle and go. Today, I let the ipod choose music from my entire library and I got to hear songs I haven't heard in a long time. Inspired by the new music, I took off for roads I've never gone down before and found a shady wooded trail along a river that I had never seen before - right in my little town! The ipod lady comes on every five minutes or so to let me know how long I've run and how much farther I need to go. Ordinarily, on a 45 minute run, I find plenty of excuses to stop and walk but this morning I didn't want to be walking when the voice came back to encourage me. I turned myself over to the music, took a long, slow pace and had a wonderful run.

Tomorrow is the 40 mile bike ride. They're calling for rain, let's hope this doesn't turn into more of an adventure than it needs to be!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where did I put that....

It is absolutely impossible for me to pack everything I need into a gym bag ever. More than once I've headed to work without some key undergarment, or with tangled hair because I forgot a brush, or sporting that "Fresh Face" look (which really doesn't work on 45 year old women) because all my makeup is still at home.

I haven't shaken those reoccurring transition dreams in which I get to the T-area to put on my running shoes only to find a strappy pair of evening shoes or puffy snow boots.

For the record, today I am wearing both a bra AND underwear. I'm wearing eyeliner, my hair could stand to see a hairbrush but it's passable, and along with my tailored pants and respectable work top I am wearing lovely gym flip-flops. Fortunately it is a desk day.

Wall scaled and I'm back on track

That run to Starbucks was the perfect thing. On the way back I even added a little more running because I felt so great. I also found a mulberry bush and had a snack and found a little hidden meditation garden that I must have driven past 100 times.

So I learned to listen carefully to what my body is telling me but don't give it so much credence as to totally derail my workout plans. I want to keep pushing myself but it has to stay fun and the routine has to allow for little miracles and discoveries along the way.

The swim the next day was great, mostly because I gave myself that break.