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Gentle, Kind… Victory! October 30, 2011

Keller Beach: all photo credits to Katherine Mapes-Resnik

Today was really an amazing day on so many levels. It really felt like my Last Chance. Yesterday at the bike-run workout, our Coach said, “It’s really important that you get in a mile swim in open water before the race.” I knew that was true. I have biked the distance, I’ve run the distance, but until today I had not swum (in open water) anywhere near the race distance. I needed to know I could do it.

So today a bunch of us gathered out at Keller Beach, which is pretty much right across the Bay from where we will be swimming next week. It’s the same water!

First of all, I was happy to note that I was calm and happy on my drive over to the beach. Unlike my drive over to Lake Temescal on Friday. I knew I had that positive experience in me, and I was ready to build on it. I made a bunch of pumpkin bars to celebrate a great swim with my teammates.

When we got out there, we mapped out the course. We figured that a round trip to this jutting-out-point and back was about 800 yards or half a mile(ish). So to do it twice, two round trips would be a little bit over a mile. There were already some families picnicking on the beach and some playing in the water, I noticed, without wetsuits!

We got in and that rush of COOOLD water when you open up the neck of the wetsuit – I shrieked. Mostly I noticed my feet were really cold and I regretted forgetting my new swim booties at home. We bobbed around and got used to the temperature. I took note that we would have one person on a standup paddleboard but no kayaks. Which I think was actually a good thing.

Annika, my mentor, who has swum right next to me for all of my panic-swims, asked if I wanted a buddy. I said I was going to try and just go with the group. She said I could just wave my arm if I was in trouble. I prayed that this would not be necessary. Somebody made a fake horn sound with their mouth and we started off.

What can I say? It just felt different this time. Right away I stretched out my arms as far as I could, and I swam with the “gentle” exhale and “kind” inhale like last time. (Again, huuuuuuuuuge shout-out to Annelise who suggested this to me via Twitter) It just calmed me. I also employed the roll-and-breathe method where I pretty much rolled on my side and put my face up to breathe. Which gave me more breathing time and also kept me going in the right direction. I just kept going. I’d say on a scale of 1 to 10, I got about level “3″ tired. I never floated on my back to rest. I never did the heads-up freestyle. I just kept swimming.

When we were about to the turnaround point, my right ear was reallllly hurting from all the cold water. I’d forgotten to put in my ear plugs and I thought, I’ll just go to shore. I’ll stop. I’ll just do one lap. And so on. It was a familiar litany of “you can’t make it the whole way, just stop.” But then when we got out to the point, another voice said, “that was 1/4 the way. not bad.”

It just felt like fun. My teammates were all around me and every once in a while I’d bob around and check in with them. At one point I saw what looked like someone in a black swim cap, and then I was like… “Um, what’s that black thing?” It was a harbor seal, coming to check us out! I had a little flutter of nerves over that but my teammates reassured me that nothing bad would happen and he was just being friendly.

our little swimming companion

We returned back to where we started and Monica asked me if I wanted to go again. A bunch of people had headed in at that point. I said yes. I knew I could’ve said I was done, and she would’ve said it was okay. But I reallllllllly felt like I needed to get that mile done, for my own mind’s sake. I wasn’t tired. I knew I could do it.

So we did the 2nd loop and it was just… man, I can’t describe it. It was calm, and relaxing. Swimming without having a panic attack is kind of like… walking. It was just that easy.  I kept my “gentle-kind” mantra going, and I noticed that when I put my face in the water, it was this pretty green color, and when I put my face up, it was blue sky. Green-blue-green-blue. It was all very… relaxing. When we got out to the point the second time, Monica said, “You just look so peaceful!” which made me really happy.  We turned around and went back to shore. It was like.. nothing. It was fine. I could’ve gone further.

When I got back to where I could touch down, I was so happy. I felt like Rocky. I wanted to cry I was so happy. Instead I went to hand out pumpkin bars and the box was full of ants!! It didn’t faze most people (“hey! more protein!”) but we managed to shake them off most of them and pass them around.

I was just kind of walking around the beach in disbelief. Even if we don’t actually do a triathlon next week, this swim felt like such a major victory. Man, it hasn’t been easy. But it’s taken time, and going back again and again again. Learning about myself, learning some tools. I am so grateful to Michelle and to my amazing teammates and mentors and coaches and FRIENDS and family who have believed in me these past months. My own belief has dipped down to incredibly low levels, especially recently. I really wasn’t sure I was going to make it, last week.

GO TEAM!

But now I am happy and I feel ready. All I need to do this week is take care of my foot (funny ankle/foot injury that popped up last week) and rest and do some taper workouts and get ready. I’m not dreading next Sunday anymore. I am EXCITED.

 

And I Thought I Could Run… July 28, 2011

Running Track by www.mattdevino.com
Running Track, a photo by www.mattdevino.com on Flickr.

Today was my first solo (and REALLY solo) track run. The team was meeting up for a coached run tonight, but I couldn’t make it because of my WW meeting. So I asked the coach to email me the workout.

It started out all messed up. First, I drove to a nearby field with a sort of rough track around it. I was only a few yards into it when I realized it was super muddy, wet and almost swampy in parts. It was not going to work.

So then I drove to a not-as-nearby high school because I knew they had a track. It’s a huge campus and as it turned out I was like half a mile away from the track place. Finally I found it. It was huuuuge and fancy and was one of those bouncy rubber tracks.

But just being at a track brought back some minor PTSD from my high school track team days. Yeah, I was on the track team! Originally I was a sprinter but there were too many sprinters so I was placed on the 880 (half mile) team. UGH. That is the worse race ever. It’s so hard because it’s too short to be long distance (like the mile) but too long to be sprinting. You just have to be going at full speed for two whole laps. it was really hard for me and I ended up dropping out of several races and puking on the side and just not having a happy time at ALL (and losing the races to boot).

The workout involved doing intervals based on RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). We were supposed to do 2-minute intervals at level 6-8 which was described as “threshold pace. This is moderate to hard pace where conversation is possible but labored.”

This RPE is a very tricky thing for me. It reminded me of when I tried to do it on the treadmill. I think in face I was going more like level 9 where conversation was NOT possible. It was also hard for me to maintain for an entire two minutes. And then I got so wiped out I had to walk instead of jog for the recovery intervals. All in all, I think I don’t really know or understand my running self well enough to get these intervals right. It’s a work in progress.

So as a result, I was either going too fast (and feeling freaked out by exertion) or having to walk to recover. It was not the combo we were supposed to be doing. So it felt kind of messed up to me. I wish I’d been able to do this with a coach but I’ll have to ask more about it on the weekend.

It left me feeling kind of unhappy because here I’d been feeling like running was the one tri discipline I had already accomplished, and I was feeling comfortable with it, and now all of a sudden it wasn’t comfortable or easy or familiar. It also dawned on me that in my regular running life, where I run 3-5 miles, I don’t end up feeling really in the groove until I’m well past the first mile or sometimes two. With these faster, interval workouts, I NEVER get to feeling any groove or like I’m physically comfortable. It’s a struggle, and then it’s over. Yuck.

The only good thing about these workouts is that if they feel like a struggle, well there’s always a chance to do it over again real soon. Haha.

 

 
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