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Seeking the Comfort Zone September 24, 2011

It’s no exaggeration to say that last weekend’s open swim REALLY FREAKED ME OUT. It had me to the point where I was seriously questioning this whole triathlon idea. I was in Doubtville, big time.

So this week I have been treading a fine line between trying to take care of myself psychologically and emotionally while still trying to prepare myself physically.  After tiptoeing into little Lake Temescal on Monday, I gratefully took a rest day on Monday. I needed to rest my psyche.

Tuesday we were supposed to go back in the pool. I was a little perplexed by this but I am an obedient athlete so I did what the coach said, which was:

 I just wanted to make a plug to continue to do your pool workouts, even as we transition to practicing open water. You *really* must continue to get in the pool and do the full workouts, as it will help your stroke and will help you get in more distance. (When you are not used to open water, you often just do less than you need to). Practicing out there is awesome and great, but don’t neglect the the pool!

Hmm okay. So we went back to the pool. Oh my goodness. It was so warm! and clean! and clear and well lit! The lines were so straight and visible! It was like plunging back into the arms of my mother. On one hand, it felt wonderful. On the other hand, I was on the verge of a little tantrum the whole time, saying, “But open water doesn’t feel like this! It’s not faiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir!” I was upset about all the weeks of training, when I’d been feeling so much more comfortable and then BAM! I can’t swim five strokes without having an attack. I felt like I’d been duped, tricked by the pool and that all I had done was build up false confidence. So I swam in the pool, and it felt good, but inside I was feeling dubious still.

The next day was hill repeats. I did the steeeeeeeeeep hill right near my house. I got it over with as quick as I could. Enough said.

Thursday I was tired. I looked at the next 4 days’ workout and got kind of overwhelmed. We were supposed to do a one hour 11-15 mile bike ride followed by a 20 minute run. I came home from work to get my bike and I was soooooooo tired. SO TIRED. I took a little nap. I really could not fathom doing this workout, let alone doing it alone. But we were having house guests so it was a “now or never” situation. I went down to the Estuary Bay Trail where Juniorette was practicing crew. Going along the water where she was rowing brightened me up immediately. I knew that she was in one of those boats and it just made me feel happy.

I took the same path that Mr. McBody and I did the first day I got on a bike in a gazillion years. I went all the way to the end and was like, WOW that was a long ride! But my BikeMeter app said it was only 3 miles. Oh man. So I got back on and just did major loops all around the Bay Trail. Finally I got back to the boathouse and it was at 11 miles! Part of me felt like a super wimp because I had just rode on a pancake flat trail with no traffic, but part of me was like, it’s OK, you kept your butt on the seat for an hour.

I realized it had taken me an hour to ride 11 miles. Which means I was averaging 11 miles per hour. Which is insanely slow. Then I did some more math and realized if I doubled that to the distance of the bike portion of the Olympic tri, then, um, yes, 22 miles would take TWO HOURS. Then I mentally added in the swim and the run and I had the extremely sinking feeling of realizing that this race could very well take me FIVE HOURS. Oh. My. God.

Okay, I can’t think about that now. If it takes me five hours, so be it. I just want to finish. But that was a sad little reality check.

Now it’s today. OPEN WATER SWIM. (cue “Jaws” soundtrack) Part of me was anxious and part of me just wanted to get back IN again, this time in the Bay, and see what was going to happen. I was feeling bolstered by my Lake Temescal swim and my pool swim.

First there was awful traffic. Then I got lost. Finally I got to the beach and there were 3 team buddies there. I wriggled into my wetsuit and jumped in. Man! Cold. For just a minute though. It wasn’t so bad.

We started swimming parallel to the beach, in not-so-deep water, just to get the feel of it. Suddenly it felt verrrrrry different. For one, I felt SUPER buoyant. Yay salt water! Yay rubber wetsuit! It was almost like wearing a life preserver, I felt so floaty. THEN it was that salt water taste. It’s not yummy, but for me it was… childhood.

Miami Beach. Every summer since I was a baby. My father and mother and grandmother swimming with me back and forth. I didn’t mind the salt.

I just relaxed. I could feel my father with me. I just swam and swam. The breathing was easy. I went in a straight line. No hyperventilating. No fear. I just swam.

Ahh.

first dip in the ocean with my dad

 

 

Back in the Saddle/Water September 19, 2011

I knew that if I didn’t do something FAST to counteract the terror of yesterday that I was going to be in deep trouble. So today I made a plan to swim at Lake Temescal with Lily and my bike friend Mary. It turned out to be a really hot day out so even though we brought our wetsuits we knew we would be broiling, no matter how cold the water.

You can click on the lake picture above to see how it’s set up. There’s the shallow part, which goes to the orange  floaters. Then it drops off and gets really deep (“really” = anything over my head). There’s a lane line where people can do laps way out yonder. That looked kind of nifty from the parking lot.

But my objective today was to get comfortable swimming again. It was to avoid having a panic attack at all costs. So basically what we ended up doing was lots of laps back and forth on the “deeper” side of the orange floaters. It was mostly over my head, but I knew that all I had to do was splash over that rope and I’d be standing up again. Which I really psychologically needed.

The first length was kind of a shocker, it was pretty cold and I could feel my heart racing. But it wasn’t HAMMERING. And I wasn’t having an all out panic. I was tired, and sort of out of breath when I got to the end, but I wasn’t like dying. I did a bunch of laps back and forth and each time it got a little better. The last few times, we did two lengths (back and forth) without stopping. That felt just fine.

I’m feel like I’m taking little baby steps (strokes?). I am back at square one. I’m going to have to build from here. But I  accomplished my goal for today, which was to find my way back to some sort of comfort zone. Next time, we push it just a few feet more. Then a little more. Baby steps.

it's good to have buddies.

 

Open Water September 18, 2011

I was actually really excited about the open water swim yesterday. The drive out to Del Valle Lake in Livermore was incredibly beautiful and I wasn’t feeling too nervous. We had had a good pool swim on Tuesday where I’d done about 2000 yards and felt relaxed – slow, but relaxed.

First we had a little clinic about open water swimming- how to “sight” (ie see where you’re going) without the comfort of lane lines in a pool. Then they passed out our wetsuits – very exciting! Wooo!

We got a demonstration on how to put on BodyGlide and how to turn it inside out and put it on “like pantyhose.” Then we were shown how to do the “wetsuit wedgie” – when someone else picks you up to jam the wetsuit completely into your crotch. Pretty funny.

AJ demos the pantyhose technique

Then it was our turn! Here’s Matt giving me my wedgie. Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

We felt pretty stoked with our new wetsuits.

Finally, we went down to the lake. The mud at the edge was SUPER DISGUSTING feeling but soon we waded in up to our waists and dived in and opened up our neck holes to get water into the suits (this is to form an insulating layer to keep us warm). I didn’t think that the water was too cold, actually.

Here they are instructing us to pee in our wetsuits to warm up. Nice!

Our first drill was to swim out about 25 yards (a pool length) to coach Stephanie in her kayak, then swim back to shore. I took off and the first several strokes felt just fine. I noticed right away that there was NOTHING TO SEE underwater – ie, it was just a bunch of murk. Just bubbles from exhaling. Okay. I think maybe I was about halfway to the kayak when I realized I was panting. Oh man, I have to rest already? I rolled onto my back and tried to breathe some. I made it around the kayak and got back, but I was SUPER out of breath and it didn’t feel good. I thought, “Man, what was that? Am I getting asthma or something?” The feeling in my chest was just tight.

I'm in the aqua cap

Second trip around the kayak went much better. I felt relaxed, but the memory of the first trip had kind of spooked me. They had asked us at first, “Who wants a buddy swimmer” and silly me didn’t raise my hand. But when we got set to do our first long swim (1/4 mile back and forth to a buoy) I was like… um, yes please! So my mentor Annika said she’d swim with me.

Things were going pretty well for about the first half. Then I heard Annika say, “Susan, turn to your left a little.” I popped my head up and saw that I was bearing really hard to the right, and I had drifted way away from everyone else (who was also way ahead of me, not to mention way to the left). I think that was it. My chest just seized up instantly. I couldn’t breathe. I turned on my back and tried to breathe but I was hyperventilating. Coach Haakon came over and he and Annika literally held me up, horizontally, like a little baby, while I struggled to regain my composure. It felt like forever. Finally they asked if I could manage to do sidestroke. I tried. I did sidestroke for a little while and then I felt like my lungs attacked me again. I sort of flipped out. “I…. can’t…. BREATHE!” I flailed around for a bit and then coach Stephanie showed up with the kayak and I pretty much lunged for it. I held on for dear life and panted and panted. I felt like there was a giant steel vice around my chest and it wasn’t letting me breathe. Stephanie asked if I wanted her to pull me in. I felt very, very defeated but I said, “Yes please.” I felt like there wasn’t any choice. I think we were very near the buoy at that point, but I’m not sure.

We got about halfway back and all of a sudden I realized I was breathing normally. I wanted to swim again. I said, “I think I can try again.” I got back to doing freestyle and it felt pretty good. I thought, at least I can redeem myself by swimming back half the way. It felt decent. Then I was almost, almost, almost there – I mean SO CLOSE and Bam! it hit me again. I was so close. I think what happened is I thought I could touch bottom and then when I tried and couldn’t, the Thing happened again. Shit! Another coach AJ asked, “Are you okay?” and I said, “No! NO!” and he grabbed my arm and dragged me like five feet to where I could stand. Annika asked if I needed to sit down but really I just needed to stand there and breathe. I was devastated. My breath sounded like a death rattle. My lungs were, I don’t know how to describe it. They felt like they were made of wood. It felt like an asthma attack. Was I having an asthma attack? I just couldn’t breathe. The coaches asked if I had an inhaler or I’d taken my medication. I haven’t actually HAD asthma in probably ten years so I don’t have an inhaler, no.

We got out of the water and out of our wetsuits and changed into running gear. That’s when I heard we were running 4-6 miles. I was like, oh BOY. Most of our post-bike or post-swim runs have been really short, like 20 minutes or 2 miles. This was a definite change.

We headed up to the trail for the run. Coach Joan told us it “wasn’t flat.” Um, true story. I decided I would do a 5/1 run/walk ratio. It was going okay at first. My feet were pretty achey but I know from experience that that goes away after the first mile or so; I was just going to have to run through it. I knew that I had about 3-4 people behind me and something about that made me feel like I had some company at my pace. The deal was we were supposed to run to the 2 mile marker, run back, then run to the 1 mile marker and back for a total of 6.

There was a killer hill in there right before the 2 mile mark that I just had to trudge up. Again I was feeling that panting feeling, like I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t like that very much. But I got to the 2 mile turnaround and realized the people behind me weren’t there anymore. They must have turned around earlier so that meant I was truly the last one out there. Coach Mark showed up to see if I was still alive (ha!) and jogged around with me a little bit. He nudged me up a couple of hills. Then my breathing started acting up again. I wanted to cry. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get my lungs to fully open up. I kept wanting him to go ahead of me and leave me in my misery so I could walk and cry.

Finally at the one mile marker he seemed satisfied I could make my way back so he took off. That’s when I pretty much hit my psychological wall. I was walking. I was walking really slow and the most incredible onslaught of thoughts just ran through my head. I knew there was no way I was going to go back out for the 6 miles. Four was going to have to be it. I thought about the swim and how terrifying and upsetting it had been. I thought about the really sucky bike ride I’d had on Friday and how I still couldn’t manage to deal with this little bridge on the trail near my house, and how I almost fell down twice. Almost.

By the time I made it back to the rest of the group, I was emotionally wrung out. It was HOT and I went over to sit under a tree a little ways away. I sat on a curb and cried for about twenty minutes. I knew that if anybody came and talked to me I was going to get truly hysterical so I kept my distance. Then I went and got my car. I have never felt so discouraged. I really felt like it was over.

Lily was a total rockstar yesterday. She did two entire loops around the buoy (1/2 mile!) and the whole 6 miles. I am so proud of her. We talked on the way home and she was her wonderful supportive self.

Look who got the Golden Hat of glory this week!

I’m not ready to give up. I’m going to give it another go, hopefully soon. But man, that was scary. I have to have some success and soon or else this little dream of mine is going to deflate fast. My friend Mary challenged me to a pretty daunting bike ride this afternoon but I know that’s not in the cards. I need to feel some success, some ease, some sense of possibility.

 

The Manatee Gets Swim Lessons September 13, 2011

So I just got my swimming analysis video from the Team in Training folks. WOW. Eight minutes of slow-mo, extreeeeeeeemely detailed analysis of my every move, from both above and below the water! My initial reactions are: wow, this is some excellent feedback. So much more than I was expecting. And two: holy moly, I look like a manatee underwater. :-(

But the real reason I posted this was just the amazing level of attention and support we are getting from our coaches. Isn’t this pretty phenomenal?? I also got to look at the videos of my teammates and really learned some great stuff from that – like what is it SUPPOSED to look like. Impressive!

 

Decision September 12, 2011

Today, I was running, I was listening to this. It brought a lump to my throat it was so true.  I’m not going to let the fear steer me.

“Drive” (by Incubus)

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It’s driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I’m beginning to find that I
Should be the one behind the wheel

Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
I’ll be there

And so I came home and:

 

“Stories of the Body” Retreat – Do YOU Need to Be There?

Filed under: giveaway,good things,Stories of the Body retreat — Susan @ 3:33 am

Sometimes we need to be alone. Sometimes we just need some quiet. A place to think and to be with ourselves. What a concept! I have been stealing moments, hours and sometimes days and nights at this particular blissful place for more than 25 years now.  It has been such a place of healing, and abundant creativity and lovely just-right solitude.

I am hosting a special weekend retreat in a few weeks and I am so excited.  It’s going to be an incredible gathering. We all have a body. They all hold infinite stories inside us. This weekend will be an opportunity to listen to those stories and then bring them into being by:

  • Writing (inspiring prompts will be provided)
  • Making art (collage, paint, calligraphy, origami and more) in the fully stocked Art Cellar
  • Resting or meditating
  • Walking or hiking (there is a wonderful local “tree walk” that includes visiting a number of amazing historic and beautiful trees)
  • Enjoying a massage (optional/additional cost)
  • Being a hermit in the Hermitage (one of my favorite things EVER)

I’m thrilled to announce that special guest Bethany Trombly will be leading an optional session called “Bodymindfull” (how perfect is that?). A dancer and teacher, she has created a method of transformative movement art that “allows people to connect with their body’s wisdom and stories, and to move more consciously, purposefully and meaningfully in their worlds.” She is a joy!

ALSO: Collage artist and author Lindsay Whiting (Living into Art: Journeys Through Collage) will be supporting and inspiring those who are interested in the art of storytelling through collage.

And finally, writer, blogger and artist Wendy Williams will share some of her personal drawings and artwork and how they have helped her heal some of her own body’s deeply held stories.

I am so moved and honored to have these inspiring guests, as well as a group of (so far, only) absolutely wonderful women who will be gathering together in both silence and sharing. I can’t wait.

BIG NEWS: I am able to offer one full scholarship to the event. All lodging, meals and retreat costs paid for.  I can do this for one person. I would preferably like to offer this spot to someone who really wants to attend but would have to travel quite a distance to come. I would also like to hear from people who feel they could really benefit from this retreat, for whatever reason. Tell me your reasons. Tell me your circumstance.  Whoever receives this scholarship will need to provide their own transportation to and from San Rafael, CA, either by foot, bike, plane, train or bus! Email me by this Friday, September 16th at midnight. I’ll be making a decision by Sunday the 18th.

 

In Which I Biked On Hills, In Traffic, Without a Bike Lane, With Huge Wind and Hairpin Turns! September 11, 2011

me and Tree

Yesterday was really special. I got to get together with my beloved workout buddy from my 2000 TNT marathon training. Back in the day, she and I were stuck together  like peanut butter and jelly. Treeeeeeeee! I just love her. I hadn’t seen her in like seven years  but something about being back in the TNT mode just made me miss her so much. So yesterday  we got together and tried to smush 7 years of conversation into about 90 minutes. It made me realize that even though I like being on the team, I need my One Person. Y’all know who that is for this time, because I don’t go anywhere without her!

Here’s me and Lily working out on our weekend vacation last week. (“triathlon means bike, run, and… hot tub, right?”) ANyway, it was awesome to have this little mini reunion from my BFF from TNT ’00.

I wasn't ACTUally drinking wine while training. I swear!

Today, many of our mentors headed down to participate in the Pacific Grove Triathlon (where they rocked it! Go team!!!!!!!!!!!!) so we had a smaller group do a “captains’ workout” of a bike and run.

Yesterday I prevailed upon my every kind and generous friend Mary to help me fix my flat tire. She was working at Weight Watchers all afternoon so I hauled the whole shebang over to the center and we got down and greasy in between people walking in to get weighed. I have to admit, after doing this process now for the 2nd time I’m probably more intimidated than ever. It involves so many intricate moves and decisions. Right away I jammed my finger in between the frame and the tire and I don’t know what I did but it is all bruised and swollen. (note: if you’re doing bike sports, don’t EVER EVER get a manicure because it is so not worth it. It will go to hell in about an hour) Even after the tire clinic, and watching the Youtube video half a dozen times, I still feel like if this ever happened to me, like in the middle of an event, (please NO) I would just sit on the curb and cry and wait for the SAG vehicle to come pick me up. (SAG = Support and… Grapefruit? Gummy bears? Giggles?)

Anyway, I got the new tube in my tire and got pumped up and I was all ready for this ride today. Again, I was sort of dreading it. OK, not sort of. I was really dreading it. I feel like every bike ride has had some new unknown bad thing I hadn’t even dreamed of before. So what was in store today? I had no idea what the course was like or how long or if there were hills or anything.

We met up at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon. From the chatter in the parking lot, I just picked up on random words like, “narrow, treacherous, rollers (rolling hills).” Uh HUH. Okay. I just love that word “treacherous.” NOT.

But what choice did I have? I clipped into my pedals (go me!) and we took off. At first we were on this bike trail (sort of nice, but also sort of an obstacle course around little kids with training wheels, strollers, runners and dogs) but pretty soon we were on a Real Road (stomach churning) with some semblance of an actual bike trail (OK nice!). That was good for a while. It was flat but there were also more cars than I really like to be around. Then we headed into some other area where there was: 1) no more bike trail; 2)fewer cars; 3) MORE HILLS, 4) hairpin turns, and 5) Wind! So windy! Like a few people almost got blown over it was so crazy windy. What was THAT.

The first big hill damn near killed me. I actually had to stop about 3/4 way to the top because I was panting and hyperventilating so hard and getting That Pukey Feeling. It was kind of ridiculous how short of breath I was. The sweep person stopped and hung out with me and said that maybe I was on too much of an easy gear and spinning my wheels (hahah) too much. So I took off again.

I swear, this road is exactly the kind of road that would turn Mr. McBody’s hair white if it wasn’t already. It is the kind of road we drove on to go out to the beach last weekend (ie DEATH TRAP) where we were cursing the cyclists at every blind turn. But it was different, and I mean way different doing it on a bicycle. For one thing, there’s not much I can do. I can stay as close to the edge of the road as I humanly can. Other than that, I’m just focusing on getting up the damn hill or getting around the hairpin turn or not flying out of control on the downhill. I am focused on the BIKE.

It is much, much harder and more annoying to be a car driver on a road than it is to be a cyclist. I pretty much seethe at all the bicycles who have the potential to ruin my life forever when I end up KILLING someone. But when you’re the one on the bicycle, there’s really no energy for being afraid. It’s the car’s job to stay away from you. They had these huge banners on the street poles that said, “Spandex is not armor.” Tell me about it.

That said, there are certain manners that I think most cyclists do not adhere to. Like there’s this thing on narrow, twisty, hilly windy roads called PULLOUTS. They are designed for slow vehicles (slow cars as well as two wheeled vehicles) to PULL OUT INTO when there is someone on your tail who would like to go ahead. We never, ever EVER witnessed a bicycle using a pullout on Highway 1. They just act like they own the place.

But I pulled out. I pulled out plenty today and I felt like in doing so I was being polite to cars, AND I was potentially saving my life.  And I noticed that the faces of the drivers passing me looked infinitely more upset/distraught/annoyed than I felt.

I couldn’t believe that I was actually riding a bicycle with my shoes clipped to the pedals, and I was going up and down hills and around crazy sharp turns on a narrow road with no bike lane and cars going past about six inches away. I managed to do the whole 90 minute ride and was feeling very “OMG I did that!” when I rode into the parking lot, all proud of myself and then promptly fell over. Right in front of my car. Niiiiiiiice!

After I got semi cleaned up I put on running shoes for our little (20 minute) run. Again, my feet and calves felt like absolute concrete. It was torture. I felt like I was about 90 years old and just shuffling, one foot in front of the other. And a few times I had to actually slow even more to a hobble (ie walk), it was so ridiculous. Only when I was close to being finished (about a mile plus) did my feet and legs start feeling like I might be able to run anywhere. So. Note to self: don’t freak if you can’t run. Hopefully this will come at around mile 2 or so.

So in spite of the embarrassing owie at the end, I feel insanely proud (and kind of shocked) at the ride I did today. It’s not something I could have even imagined a week ago. Or yesterday.

Next week: Wetsuit distribution! OPEN WATER SWIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 
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