eat, move, think, feel


October 2011

Gentle, Kind… Victory!

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.


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.

Baby it’s COLD Outside!

I don’t know what happened between Friday and Saturday, but suddenly the weather has chilled down like crazy. Yesterday we had our final bike-run-bike-run full team workout. I sort of cluelessly dressed in my regular outfit (bike shorts, sleeveless top and thin windbreaker) but in fact it felt like THIS when we got out to the course.

As we were standing around getting our workout instructions etc., I could see my breath coming from my mouth in clouds. That was crazy. Then we took off on the bikes. Somebody told me it was 46 degrees. That is darn cold to be wearing shorts. Eventually I could feel my core warming up as we rode, but my fingers were like blocks of ice the entire time and they never really warmed up. By the time we got to the run portion, they were completely numb.

It made me think about next weekend. We are going to be SWIMMING in the cold, cold bay and then getting on the bike with dripping wet hair and clothes. I checked the temperature in San Rafael this morning: 39 degrees! OMG! Suddenly I am re-thinking my entire outfit. I think I’m gonna need gloves and maybe those arm and leg warmer things. I don’t know. But I’ve really never encountered cold like we had yesterday. It was wild!

The thing that plagued me most during the workout yesterday was needing a bathroom during the run portions. Man that is so uncomfortable. All I can say is I am happy there will be port o potties available next weekend.

Today is our final open water swim. (yeah, brr) I’m feeling calm about it. I’ll report back later.


12:35pm — This is a short phone post. But I’m overwhelmed by relief from my experience this morning. Michelle took me out to Lake Temescal and we had a great swim. It was sooo what I needed. I am so grateful. And I think it’s gonna be okay.

20111028-015400.jpgOK, so here’s the longer extended-version of today’s session because it seems a bunch of people have some questions about “What actually did you guys DO out there?”

Well, first of all, I cried like a baby in the car on my entire drive down there. I was terrified and really nervous it was not going to go well. Even my next door neighbor noticed there was something weird about me as I was getting into the car. I was just so wound up because I felt like this was my LAST HOPE (“ObiWan Kenobi, you’re my only hope…”) and if I didn’t have a positive experience it was going to be Game Over.

So I was pretty shaken when I got to the parking lot and Michelle pulled up right next to me. “How are you?” she asked and I was like… “Errr…” It has been a tough week. Starting with the open water swim last weekend. I also had my annual cardiologist appointment this week. He said everything looked terrific, “except your EKG…” It had some funny dips where it was supposed to bump, or vice versa. T-waves. What do I know. (nothing)

He said it COULD be just some good changes that happens when people get more athletic, or it could be.. something else. And given my hyperventilation/shortness of breath nonsense that has been occurring, not to mention some troublesome lightheaded/dizziness stuff as well lately, he said I need to have a treadmill cardiac stress test before the tri. So that’s scheduled for next Friday (um, 2 days before). So that put me into a bit of a worrying state (like I wasn’t already) and it’s just been a domino/snowball effect of anxiety.

We had a bit of a comedy show wriggling into our wetsuits on the beach. That’s always good for some chuckles. There’s nothing more comical than trying to put on a wetsuit.

She said the plan was we’d go into the water, make a plan, etc. We got in about waist deep (BRR! But to be honest, I actually love the feeling of wetsuit in cold water – it’s like, nyah nyah can’t touch me!) and discussed some strategy for race day. I told her my plan was to position in the back of the pack and maybe to the left, since I tend to drift to the right. We discussed this and the course a while and she pretty much convinced me to stay to the right to avoid too much buoy and pier traffic on the turns.

So first we did some back and forth swimming in the super shallow area. (chest high?) So far so good. She asked me how I felt. I said I felt fine because I could pretty much SEE the bottom. Which I think I found reassuring. So they we ventured out beyond the first set of ropes into the “Steep Drop-Off” area. She showed me a little about “bobbing” which is kind of like vertically treading water but without moving. She kept repeating how the wetsuits are going to keep us afloat, and that we can bob like a cork. I found this comforting because that’s my “kayak” position except without holding onto the rope. (that was kind of an “aha!” moment) I can catch my breath MUCH easier when I’m vertical than when I’m on my back (<wheeze position).

Then she asked if I knew about “head up” swimming – which is like doing freestyle but with (duh) head out of water. I said no. Which is weird. I see people doing this in tri videos all the time but I’ve never tried it or learned about it. I actually like it much better than the other “recovery” strokes – breast or side stroke, both which seem to make me more anxious. So I practiced that a bit and I liked it. She said that if I get all out of breath that I should try that for 3-4 strokes and see how it feels for recovery. Then she asked me what my strategy was going to be, mind-wise, while swimming. I said I was going to mentally count to 10 over and over, and I was also going to use a mantra that the wonderful Annelise suggested to me: Exhale on “gentle” and inhale on “kind.” What two better words could there be? As it turned out they were much better and more effective than last week’s “You got this.” (you can’t really ARGUE with “gentle and kind” can you??)

So then we ventured out into the REALLY deep water (like, 20+ feet?). After you can’t touch the bottom anymore, it doesn’t really mattter if it’s 20 feet or 200. There are some lane lanes out there in the middle of the lake and the plan was to do one big rectangle, using all my strategies.  I took off. I think about 3/4 of the way around I started getting that “I’m tired I want to rest” feeling. But I just slowed down and counted. And before I knew it we were back in the corner again, bobbing. No death rattle of doom! No panic! And no need to ever stop, I didn’t even use the head-up method.

I told her that I had gotten that “uh oh” feeling a few times, but that each time I was able to count it down or slow down or “gentle-kind” myself back to just swimming. We went back and forth (60 yards I think) about 4-5 times. Which is about 300 yards? Maybe 500 total given the shorter ones before. Not a huge distance but definitely the longest I have ever gone in open water without having the Bad Feeling. I felt like I could go more. But I didn’t really have to.

I was so happy when we got out of the water. Part of me was disappointed that I hadn’t actually HAD the Death Rattle Wheeze, but of course part of me was enormously relieved. To be honest I’ll be happy if I never have that feeling again.

So, a bunch of major good things happened:

1. Long, uneventful swim in open water.

2. Learned a couple of good “recovery” techniques: bobbing and head-up freestyle.

3. I had a positive experience! So now I can build on that and let go of the bad one from last weekend.

YAY. I feel a million times better than I have all week. I feel so much more confident. I feel like… that triathlon is definitely in my reach now. And I have to say, I have been to see many a therapist about many a fear/bad feeling/etc. And this is the first time that someone actually TOOK me to my scary place (quite literally) and worked it out with me. I am really so grateful. I need this so very badly. Woo hoo and thank you to Michelle, sports psychologist awesomeness.

I Lied About Not Crying

Image by privatenobby via Flickr

I wrote in my last post that I wasn’t going to cry. But…  yesterday I did indeed cry. I was doing my run workout and as I was running, these thoughts floated through my head.

“It’s a good thing that another commitment prevented me from running with the team because I know I’d be the slowest one AND I really need/want to run with music today.” I clutched my earbuds to my head a little more closely. It was like Linus’ security blanket, running with my comforting music.

“I kind of can’t wait for This to be over.” This meaning triathlon training, of course.

“I really miss some of the other things I used to do for exercise.” Like seeing my beloved trainer (not since July!), going to Nia class, going for beautiful hikes, just walking with friends or whatever.

“I feel like I’m 9 months pregnant.” This was a sort of amusing and sort of horrifying thought. I realized that I was looking at the upcoming triathlon the way I anticipated labor when I was pregnant: an extremely painful and difficult event that would end up with a great outcome. (although, I laughed to myself, I’ll still be able to sleep in! especially on weekends! after the tri)

“No wonder they call these ENDURANCE events.” Then it hit me: I am really just enduring this. I am enduring the workouts and the practices and I feel like I am going to be gritting my teeth and using every last fiber of determination to get through that event.  Is that what it’s supposed to be about?

I know it’s supposed to be “fun.” I mean some things have been fun. The social part. Meeting my awesome workout buddy and other members of the team. But I can’t really say that most of the workouts have been “fun.” They’ve been hard, grueling, challenging and sometimes ultimately rewarding. But not fun.

I thought about what I say to new Weight Watchers members every single week when I talk about exercise. “Find something that you LIKE to do. Find something that is fun, that you really look forward to.”

It was then that I burst into huge sobs as I was running, and I was gulping, “Wh-wh-why are you DOING this to me?” (you meaning me AND me) I was all, “This is NOT FUN!”

Then I stood at the side of the beautiful Bay and sobbed a bunch of snotty sobs into the wind. I was feeling verrrrrrrrry sorry for myself.

Today I went back to the sports psychologist and rehashed the whole thing. She was very patient. She’s a great listener, and good at teasing out the little moments.  She reminded me of several things to feel good about. And then she offered something which I truly think is going to be the make it or break it session: we’re going to meet IN OPEN WATER in the lake near my house. In wetsuits. She said, “I’m not going to be your kayak.” (meaning she won’t rescue me) She said she was going to be with me to see WHAT HAPPENS in those moments when/if I start being unable to breathe. I really feel like this is my last hope. I have only one weekend left, and then it’s showtime.

I am so incredibly grateful and scared and hopeful and freaked out.

Image by miracle adult via Flickr

I’d Like to Schedule an Open Water Lobotomy, Please

Today I did another mini triathlon although it wasn’t my original intent really. My intent had been to get another open water swim in, this one organized by a private group called TriMoreFitness. It was taking place at the actual Marin Triathlon swim course and after last week, I felt like I really need to get back in there and also have another go at open water.

I was feeling so prepared. I’d gone to see the sports psychologist and we’d had a fabulous and what felt like very helpful session. Last night I swam a mile in the pool and felt so incredibly relaxed and happy the whole time. I felt like I was doing everything possible to make this go right.


I admit, it went “righter” in many ways than last time. But still it was not what I had hoped.

This is the course. I know it’s sort of hard to visualize, but this is what we did.

So we started at the point marked “Olympic Swim Start.” First we got in and got our faces wet and practiced floating on our backs for a while. That was pretty relaxing. I checked in with myself. So far so good. The first kayak paddled out  about even with the end of the pier. Man, it looked tiny and far. (first flutter of anxiety as I noticed this) Then it was time to go. I tried to really focus on going SLOW (the coach instructed us to go what felt like “embarassingly slow” and I was glad to comply). I think I was about half way to the pier when my brain kicked in with, “I need a rest.” I flipped over on my back. Already? This was kind of annoying. But whatever. I breathed. When I turned over I noticed the huge and growing gap between me and the vast majority of swimmers. There was one guy behind me with the other kayak I think.

I kept going. It was sort of swim, rest, swim, rest until I got to the pier. I was happy to get there. But then I noticed this weird… “What the heck?” feeling. I was caught in a fishing line. For a second I felt like a fish. It was like walking into a spiderweb (ack! no! What is that??) but stronger. I was really hoping there was no fish on the other end of it.

So, that rattled me. The coach came by on his standup paddleboard and kind of guided me off and away from the pier. He was reassuring. I set my sights on the first buoy beyond the pier (there were 3 total, and after the third we were to sort of make a sharp U-turn to shore).  But by then my breathing was all messed up. I’d swim like two strokes then my body would almost involuntarily flip over, like, HELL NO this isn’t working.

My sighing was also messed up and I realized I was relying on the coach to kind of point the way. Which he did. But then he started talking to me and gesturing and I couldn’t really hear him because I had earplugs in. It seemed important (and potentially lifesaving). So I wrestled one earplug out and tossed it in the water. (sorry for the litter) He was saying something about swimming with one arm. At this point my brain was kind of scrambled. Like seriously scrambled. I had no idea what this meant even though he was gesturing. He could have been speaking Swahili. I tried the one-arm thing and then he said “Face down!” and I was like, “Ohhhhhhhh man I am just screwing up right and left!” I know he was really trying to help me get more relaxed and save energy and all that but I was seriously stressing at this point.

That’s when the wheezy, death-rattle breathing started up. Oh GREAT. I was talking myself the entire time, saying my “You’ve got this!” mantra. But at this point another voice came up, somewhere around my strangled lungs, and responded, “I don’t believe you!” So that’s what was going on. Some crazy Gollum/Smeagal death match in the Bay.

I didn’t know what to do other than just roll over and try and get my composure. But I remembered last week the instruction to “Just keep moving” so I was fluttering my feet and arms like snow/water angel formation. The coach was like, “STAY STILL!” because he wanted me to conserve oxygen and get a grip. But I was now confused as well as freaked out. I heard him say the work “kayak” and that was it.

Suddenly I wanted that kayak and I wanted it BAD. So the kayaker came over and she was very kind and patient and I grabbed the rope thing. I had really, really, reallllllllllllllllllllly wanted to complete this swim without kayak aid. But here we were. She began paddling toward shore and I kicked and she pulled me a long for a while (I have no idea. 50 yards? 100?) until I realized I could breathe. I made some conversation. I said, ‘Oh man, what if this happens to me during the event?” And she said, “No problem, you just go to shore and go do your bike and run.” And I was like, WHAT? Even if If don’t go all the way around the 3rd buoy? And she insisted no, “the swim can be whatever length you can do” and I was like, “Huh!” This was a glimmer of hope and possibility. I swam alongside the kayak and for a little while it felt almost as good as in the pool. I got back to shore.

I think I swam out to the 2nd buoy, which was about halfway between the pier and the turnaround buoy. Which was about 3/4 of the way, more or less. Maybe 2/3. Better than last weekend’s halfway.

So. The good thing about today’s swim is that I went farther. I only hung on the kayak once, as opposed to like half a dozen times.

The bad things were getting tangled in fishing line, getting freaked out by not hearing/understand the coach’s instructions, and the Bad Phase in which I had dueling voices in my head and could only swim two strokes at a time.

I was not the last person out of the water because most of the people did their complete swim, ie around the 3rd buoy. Which would naturally take longer.

After the swim, Lily and I had a rather leisurely transition onto our bikes (which had been locked in my car) and we did one loop of the bike course. My chain slipped off two times. (Lily helped the first time and the 2nd time I put it back on myself, yay for that) I was more tired on this bike ride than any of the other three times I’d done it. I realized I hadn’t really had anything to drink or eat after the swim, and I didn’t drink while on the bike either. (I better get used to that Camelbak) I was pooped. After I got back down we hustled into our running shoes and went up to the run course.

Both of us realized pretty soon that we really, really needed to pee. Which is a not-good feeling when trying to run. It’s almost like having an injury. At the very least it’s extremely distracting. So a lot more walking than usual went on.

That was our mini triathlon of this weekend. I keep telling myself the ways in which it’s going to be better on Race Day for a variety of reasons.

Right now I am really kind of looking forward to completing this season. I’m disappointed that my mental training did not yield a calmer swim than what I had. But I’m glad that I accomplished what I did today and I’m going to move forward. No crying today or tomorrow.

Coming Out of the Cave

I’ve spent the past several days hiding out in an emotional cave, licking my wounds and trying to turn my head around after the practice tri on Saturday. I pretty spent all day Sunday crying uncontrollably. I cried every time I thought about it.

Then I got an email from sports psychologist Michelle Cleere (who magically came into my life this month!) saying she really thought I could do the Olympic and that she would help me. I met with her on Wednesday which was immensely helpful. Problem is I have not been able to get back into the freaking water since then. Last night I was supposed to go with Lily and about a minute before heading out we had our 2nd earthquake of the day. Not a little one. Which led to freakout of her dog, ourselves and various family members. By the time everyone calmed down (sort of) it was too late. So today it’s do or die! I am eager to try out what Michelle suggested to me. In the meantime I am setting about making several dozen “YOU GOT THIS” post-it notes to put in all corners of the house.

What did she suggest? Well, both mental and physical things. One thing that came out when I was recapping the open water swim was that I was breathing with every stroke. When I’m in the pool, I breathe every 2 or 3. I was really aware of this in the open water, and TRYING to get myself to breathe less often, but it wasn’t happening. Michelle said that this changeup, physiologically could have added to my hyperventilation issue (just not having enough oxygen and having periodic “can’t breathe” episodes in between fine regular swimming). She recommended that I start practicing swimming with the “every stroke breath” technique in the POOL so that it is less of a stressful transition. Many people I speak to say that they breathe every stroke and sometimes this is just necessary in OW. I’ve watched some tri videos recently and the top people do seem to breathe constantly. OK .

In addition I am working very hard at thinking positively, about the great progress I made since the start of the season (when I could barely swim 2 lengths of the pool). I am going to do a long pool workout today, and then tomorrow a course preview swim  practice with another triathlon training group (my team is doing bike run which will probably also be a big benefit, but I need to NAIL this swimming thing and soon). I am working at a ton of self-talk and how to deal with that huge “I CAN’T” voice in my head.

I can’t thank you all enough, you who posted and commented and emailed and sent me good vibes this past week. It has meant the world to me. It was a rough thing, but I’m ready to get back in it now and do what I can do.

In other news: Today is the day to sign up for the next season of Team in Training for just $10! Yahoo! I just picked up the phone (call 800-78-TRAIN) and signed up for a Yosemite Snowshoe Hike for February 2012. One, it will get me into the Triple Crown club at TNT (three separate sports) and I am all about these sorts of bling/reward things. I want to be a Triple Crown! Plus, what could be more beautiful than snowshoeing in Yosemite?

The Bittersweet Triathlon

So I actually completed a longer-than-sprint distance triathlon yesterday. And yet I’m feeling pretty low. Why?

Yesterday was the big practice event before the actual tri in November. It was a real litmus test for how we will do in a few weeks. And on many levels I feel like I probably failed. 😦

Part of is has to do with my perhaps inflated expectations of wanting to complete an Olympic triathlon. If I had begun and continued with the goal of a sprint, I’d be riding high right now.

So.. first we got our transition areas set up in the parking lot of Paradise Cove Beach Park in Tiburon. I got it all arranged fairly neatly. Then we wriggled into our wetsuits and head down to the water. We took a look at the course, which was a triangle shape – first heading  straight out to a buoy, then back to another buoy near shore and then a parallel line to the first buoy and repeat. It totalled about 900 meters or half a mile.

We got into the water and it didn’t feel horribly cold to me. I think they said it was around 65 degrees. We bobbed around for several minutes and then it was time to go.

I’m not quite sure what to say about the swim except it was a ridiculous combination of strong, easy swimming and absolute struggle where I could not catch my breath. It went back and forth like that. It was in many ways an echo of my Livermore lake swim, except the bad parts weren’t quite as bad and of course I swam a much longer distance successfully. However, I had to hang on to the kayak or the buoy several times to get my breath.

The angelic Annika, my mentor, swam by my side and called out encouraging things to me the entire time. I am not quite sure what I would have done without her. After one triangular loop she asked me what I wanted to do. I stood in chest-high water for quite a bit, collecting myself before I decided to go for the 2nd one. I just had to.

The second loop was somewhat better, or maybe not. I also needed several breathing breaks. I swam on my back for a while. I came in 2nd to last.

Then it was time to transition to the bike course. I was feeling pretty shaky and jellified at that point but I did manage to get my wetsuit off and my bike shoes and socks on. I took off and immediately there was a big hill up from the parking lot to the street. I managed to get up it in first gear.

I feel pretty proud of the way I managed to navigate a hilly, twisty, trafficky course on the bicycle. It was some of the best cycling I’ve done. But after the 8.5 mile loop I felt like I just could not bring myself to do a 2nd loop. I wanted to get off the bike, onto the run and DONE. There is one big steep, LONG hill near the end that nearly had me puking. I yelled obscenities all the way up the hill but I made it. I knew that it was worse than any hill for the real triathlon, and I didn’t think I could do it twice.

So after one loop I switched out my bike shoes for my running shoes and took off. I walked up the hill with the intention of running once I got to the flat road. This wasn’t going to be. My feet and calves felt like cement and were cramping up like crazy. I could barely hobble. So I did a combination of mostly walking with some small spurts of slow running when I felt able to.

My husband and mom had generously offered to volunteer at the 2-mile water stop so I was hoping to get myself into good running shape by the time I saw them. I finally made it around the corner and saw my husband’s sweet face and the cups of water lined up on the back of the car. Then I saw my wonderful Lily. She was kicking butt! She felt awesome and wanted to run with me. I had to wave her on. I slowly jogged back to the park and was FINALLY feeling halfway decent as I got to the parking lot. My feet and calves had relaxed but I was having some GI distress and not 100%. I joined the group who had finished, got my awesome paper medal and felt some degree of pride.

One one hand: DAMN I completed a triathlon! Even with the missing 2nd bike loop, the distance I did yesterday was longer than a sprint. So I had to feel good about that.

On the other hand, it filled me with worry (and not relief) about the upcoming Nov 6th tri.

My husband had seen my swim from the shore. He pretty much felt like (and told me so) that he did not think there was a snowball’s chance in hell I could complete the full mile. I just struggled way too much. Part of me wanted to punch him for saying so, but part of me knew, with a very sinking heart, that he was right.

After everyone finished we gathered for a really nice BBQ hosted by our coaches. I went up to Coach Haakon, dragging Mr. McBody with me, and asked him what he thought I should do. He said that he felt like physically and athletically I could do it, but I might not make the time cutoff. (but would I get a medal for finishing? YES!) But he also said he thought I was “on the bubble” between Sprint and Olympic and I could just have an awesome time doing the Olympic. Mr. McBody and he had a long discussion of my Breathing Issues during OW swimming.

I went back over to sit on a bench overlooking the incredibly gorgeous bay. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. I just kept sobbing, “I’m so-so-so-so disappointed in myself.” I wanted to be with my team on Nov 6th so badly. I want to be able to battle through it and complete. But I don’t know. I just felt so sad and let down and disappointed.

So there it is. Yesterday afternoon I was all on fire about going out to swim in open water like EVERY day, and getting a special coach and just really trying to overcome this. Today I just feel tired and kind of resigned.  And I’m not quite sure what to do.

I’m also sad that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy this incredible milestone: my FIRST triathlon! A huge accomplishment. I looked at all the congratulatory comments on my Facebook page and felt like, “Man, if you only KNEW.” Part of me snatched the victory away from myself because I felt like the struggly swim cast a menacing shadow across all of it. I couldn’t be as happy as I wanted to be.


Triathlon: the STUFF (or, Having a Gear Meltdown)

Wow, doing a triathlon sure involves a lot of STUFF. Stuff to keep track of, and in the right order, and… aghhhh! Want to know what’s in my pile?

  • wetsuit
  • tri suit
  • sports bra
  • Bodyglide
  • silicon ear plugs
  • swim cap
  • goggles
  • bike shoes
  • socks
  • bike helmet
  • GU chomps
  • water bottle
  • bike gloves
  • running shoes
  • hat

Tomorrow is our coached super-sprint practice triathlon. What is a supersprint? It’s more than a sprint and less than an Olympic: 1/2 mile swim, 17 mile bike ride, 4 mile run. EEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I had ordered a special Team in Training two-piece tri suit for the big event, and we found out this week that it will NOT be ready by tomorrow. So today was all about scrambling for stuff to wear. Until now, we’d been doing leisurely transitions involving locker rooms and bathrooms and such. But tomorrow we are going to be learning all about Transition (what some people call the 4th sport of the triathlon, and also what I remember as the most painful part of labor and giving birth).  We are not going to go into any locker room, we’re doing it all out in the Transition Area, just like we will for the Real Event. Coach Haakon sent us this video to study. Which made me kind of nauseated with anxiety.

First thing I need to attend to was getting a tri suit. I asked my friend Mary if I could borrow hers. She had just gotten one and WON in her age division in See Jane Tri, her first triathlon, (!!!!!!!!!!!) and I knew it had a bunch of good mojo in it. I went and picked it up around 4pm today. I held it up. Squinted at it. Hmmmm. I suddenly felt a rush of doubt. I went to my local sports store. They had NOTHING I needed. No tri equipment. No springy shoelaces. No Bodyglide. OK, that store SUCKS.

Then I drove to the big discount store (*cough* Sports Authority *cough*) about 20 minutes away. This place is huge and yet it is full of useless crap. Again, NO tri wear whatsoever. Come ON.  I brought Mary’s tri suit into the dressing room and confirmed that NO WAY was it my size. I mean I could zip it up if I did not breathe at all, but I was in danger of splitting it wide open if I so much as moved one muscle. I was getting really upset at this point.

I realized that I was used to the phenomenal thorough wonderfulness that is Sports Basement, which also gives TNT athletes a nice discount, and I could not believe the lameness of these other stores. I checked my phone. There is a SB in San Francisco (8 miles away but during rush hour! Over the bridge! NOOOOOO!) and one in Walnut Creek (14 miles away, also gnarly traffic). I felt very discouraged and overwhelmed and my sense of preparedness was out the window. I texted Lily. She recommended REI, which is in Berkeley. Brilliant girl!!! But first I called them. They were great. Not only did they have tri clothing, it was on SALE.

I went up to north Berkeley. There was a nice rack of discounted tri clothes at REI. I decided to get a 2 piece because the unitard style just looks insanely horrible on me. I also got some new silicon ear plugs and some elastic shoelaces.

I made my little/big pile. I ate my pasta dinner and drank a bunch of water as directed. I’m going to bed at 9:30pm and reading a bunch of the Mental Training book as bedtime reading. Then I get up and Do the Damn Thing, as coach says.

I was going to write about how freaking nervous I feel but decided to do some positive self-talk instead.

I am prepared.

I have been dedicated at completing my workouts as instructed.

I trust my coaches.

I am ready.

When I am in the water, my father will be with me.

I am going to DO THIS tomorrow.

This Is Your Brain on Triathlon

I knew when I signed up for this that this event was going to be as much of a psychological challenge as a physical one. I was not mistaken in this. The psychological and emotional obstacles have been HUGE and sometimes even debilitating. After my first open water swim I was not at all sure I could even continue.

But continue I have, and I have been putting as much time into my training my psyche as I have training my body. If there is ANY tool or resource I can find to help me in this area, I am trying to use it.

At the “Stories of the Body” retreat last weekend, I utilized several of the guest artist activities to help me in my tri efforts. At Bethany’s “Bodymindfull” workshop, I created a triathlon dance in which I danced my way through the swim, bike and run. I envisioned them happening with ease and joy. Then in the collage workshop I made a triathlon collage with random pictures I found in magazines and calendars. I LOVED the image of the nuns rowing on the water. It just gave me immediate comfort. I won’t be alone out there. Some holy presence will be there protecting me.

My wonderful retreat participants blessed and gifted me with a little Quan Yin figurine which I immediately took with me on my tri course bike ride. Another source of protection and support. Knowing she was in my bike pouch really was calming and reassuring.

One of my Team in Training teammates recommended a booked called The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training– I ordered it on Amazon within about 30 seconds! and have read about half of it already. The chapters on Confidence, Emotions and Intensity are really helping me. (thank you Katherine!)

Yesterday, Lily and Vince and I went out to bike the tri loop again. It felt really good. I felt strong and I loved the course – hilly but not too steep. It felt so reassuring to get out there and feel what it’s actually going to feel like. I can do this!!

Today was the first big coached workout I’ve had in two weeks. We did about 90 minutes in the pool which included some fascinating tri open water “simulation.” First they had us warming up, all bunched together in two lane lines. All the thrashing bodies smushed together in the water. It did indeed bring up, even in 4 feet depth, the anticipated anxiety. But then we got through the next phase, of pushing hard to get out of that crowd, then finding a race pace that was sustainable, and finally a push toward the end. It was so helpful.

Then we had a six mile run. My last attempt at running six miles (after the open swim) was NOT a happy experience, and I was determined to find redemption on this run. I challenged myself to run for the FIRST TIME EVER without my earbuds and music. I love running with my music. It calms me, it keeps me at a good pace, and it keeps me from hearing the sound of my own panting (which just makes me upset and nervous). But I know that earbuds are most likely going to be prohibited during the race itself and I wanted to get used to doing without. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

Incredibly, as soon as I began running, the music started going in my head. I’ve listened to those songs over hundreds of miles and you know, they are so hardwired into me at this point. I don’t know every single song lyric, but I was able to hum/sing most of my repertoire through the majority of my run. Which included a bunch of hills and challenging trail stuff. I walked up the hills and ran the rest of it. When I was coming down the hill toward the group at the end, I was so excited about finishing 6 miles (race distance) that I was all set to hold up six fingers for the camera. The camera guy was not aiming at me when I finished and then I heard coach Haakon say, “That was about 5.5 miles.” WHAT?? I didn’t finish my six? Teammate Alison said, “let’s do the last half mile.” She was sorta kidding sorta not, but I said “YEAH let’s do it!” and we ran out and completed the last half, just so we’d know we could do the whole six. YEAH! HIGH FIVE! (high six?)

When the workout was done I was pretty overjoyed. I was jumping up and down. I didn’t feel depleted or sick or horrible. Which meant a couple things: one, my bug from last week must be GONE from my body, and two, I think I’m getting better! I’m going to be prepared!

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