It doesn’t really FEEL like I’ve been hiding – more like, “I’m really busy,” or “Time just got away from me,” etc. Stuff you’ve heard before. But you know that conventional wisdom says that If a fitness blogger seems to, er… disappear, then chances are high that something is not right. That they’ve fallen off the wagon, or gained weight, or lost their fitness, or all of the above.
I’ve had some pretty big gaps in blogging recently and although I have all these Excuses, it probably has come down to the fact that I was in a fair bit of struggle. Mostly with myself. And it’s only now that I am able to come back the blog because I feel like I’ve made it out the other side (I think). I wish that I had been able to be more open and to have shared some of that struggle here, but clearly – that just wasn’t happening.
During the time I’ve been gone, my 3rd healthaversary/blogaversary came and went. It’s a first for me not to note this with a commemorative, celebratory blog. But this anniversary had me feeling more sober than other years. Realizing, I guess, that this is a lifelong journey and that there’s no guarantee that it’s going to just Happen. In several ways I was feeling like I had let myself down and that I had been in a period of failing. It wasn’t a good feeling. But having the healthaversary celebration to celebrate my intention was a good thing, I think, and it helped get me back on my good path. Here are some of my friends doing our annual Walking of the Labyrinth on a cold and drizzly Sunday. Then we came back to the house for a nice brunch that made me feel all nourished, both physically and socially.
On Monday, the next day, I had a little mini breakdown/meltdown. I reached out to a friend who really helped me. Until that point, I had not felt like I could share my struggles with anyone. In retrospect, that is just so sad and dumb and wrong. I know that I have SO many people who would so gladly “be there” for me, but my disappointment in myself was just too huge. As it turned out, I reached out to exactly the right person and it was a major turning point for me.
Somehow over the past couple of months I felt like I lost the me I wanted to be, and it was hard finding my way back. I had a bunch of setbacks including a break-in (busted back window) of my car with a purse robbery included. That wasn’t much fun. But first through walking the circles of the labyrinth, and then through opening up to one friend and then more (and now to all of you) it has made a huge difference. Things have lightened up considerably (including me, no pun intended). Today I ran 9 miles in the rain, something I have been attempting over and over the past few weeks and just could not accomplish.
Next weekend is the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in Disneyland, which I’ll be doing with Junior and Juniorette. I am in nowhere near the condition I had hoped to be in, but judging by today’s 9 miler I think I can survive it. I hope we’ll have some fun together and then I’ll be turning my direction toward the new triathlon season. I can’t even begin to describe how excited, nervous and thrilled this makes me.
So, with much relief, I feel like I am “back.”
Have you ever “gone away” from fitness for a while? What helped you come back?
I’d say that 2011 was overall very positive for me, health and activity-wise. Here’s a peek at what went on last year:
first snowshoe adventure, New Mexico
2nd year as Weight Watchers leader
2nd “Healthaversary” Party
I took my first of two trips to Baltimore last year!
running in the snow
meeting the awesome Roni for the first time!
The “Fight for Air” Stairclimb with Sabrina
View from the top: 110 flights up!
Oakland Running Festival Twilight 5k THE NEXT DAY!
That was quite a weekend.
featured in story in Oakland Trib about running after injuries
Trip to London (here on Abbey Road)
and Paris (Notre Dame)
Good thing we walked a lot because typical breakfast = croissants and cheese
My first Bay to Breakers. CRAZY!
Major highlight of 2011: Fitbloggin!
Looking back, I have to say I feel good about it. That was quite a year. I kept pushing myself and finding new and different things to do. I think that’s the name of the game. Keep going. Keep improving and challenging.
What’s in store for 2012? I’m starting out with a New Year’s Day 10k run. Then I’m doing the TinkerBell Half Marathon in Disneyland with my two daughters (fun!) on January 29th. February 5th is the TNT Snowshoe Hike in Yosemite (prettty!) and then I’m diving into a new season of triathlon training, this time as a mentor. I can’t wait to get back to training again!! Would you like to be on my team and become a triathlete in 2012? Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!!
What did you do in 2011 for health and fitness’ sake? What are your plans for 2012? I want to know!!
The fake blue frozen peas, that is. I’ve been pretty much living with this thing attached to my foot since Sunday, and laying low. By complete coincidence I haven’t had to go in to work much this week and this has proved a good thing. A three hour stint on my feet at Weight Watchers on Wednesday had me literally hopping around on one foot from the shooting pains.
I went to the doctor yesterday. Diagnosis: bruised peroneal nerve and tendonitis on BOTH sides of my left ankle now. Aggravated by shoes, which hit the tendons on each side, and walking. Greeeat. But I kind of expected this, or something like it, and I’m glad it’s nothing more serious, like a stress fracture or something. I just have to stay off it, which is not so hard, considering it hurts like the devil to stay ON it.
I did get a little exercise in this week, though. On Tuesday Lily and I were all bewildered that we did not have our usual swim workout, so we went to the pool anyway even though it was freezing as heck, and we swam a nice relaxing 300 and then sat in the hot tub and recapped our respective triathlon experiences. She had had no idea what had happened with me, and vice versa. She rocked her race and I’m so proud of her. Already we are scheming for our next tri.
This morning we had coffee with one of our teammates Elisa, plus our mentor Annika, and we talked about signing up for the Maui Triathlon in June. I am excited about this. I am realizing how very much I want a ‘do-over’ of my triathlon. I feel like I learned so much and am ready to apply it to the next experience.
Meanwhile, my new Hike/Snowshoe team is doing their very first workout tomorrow, but alas I won’t be joining them because 1) I have a conference all weekend and 2) I can’t really walk. I hope I will be good to go by the following weekend! Plus, I need to get a little running in here and there so I can work up to the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in Disneyland in January. So many events! But it’s all good.
It’s been good to rest this week, but I also admit to having a touch of that post-triathlon letdown. I miss my team! I miss my workouts, now that it’s all over. But soon enough I will have a new team to get to know, and new workouts. In the meantime, it’s cold peas on the ankle.
So finally – here’s my race recap. It isn’t exactly a replica of my idyllic visualization that I wrote a few days ago. It also took a long time to gather up all the pictures (click on any of them to make them bigger). When you train with Team in Training, you pretty much have a papparazzi gang following you everywhere! It’s good that I had some reflection time, too. Two days after the fact I can say now that I feel good about it. Sunday night, not so much.
Here goes, in probably excruciating detail, but this is kind of how I process stuff (in case you haven’t noticed, LOL!).
Woke up at 4:10am. Actually woke up at 12:59am, 3-something-am AND 4:10am because Mr. McBody (Dr McBody to some) was on call, and get calls he did. (note to self: if spouse is on call night before a race, sleep in separate rooms)
I was WIDE awake though. This was helped by the switch back to Standard Time, which felt like a gift from the universe. So it only FELT like 5:10am, which I’ve done before! Got dressed and had mini-mini meltdowns due to 1) someone at the last whole wheat English muffin and left the EMPTY PACKAGE on top of the breadbox! So I was left without my Eng muffin and peanut butter breakfast which I have gotten very attached to. Instead I boiled a couple of eggs and ate some weird Chai-flavored instant oatmeal. They both felt unfamiliar and kind of wrong, but what choice did I have at 4:30am? Not much.
Picked up Lily. Yay! Her sweetie and parents and dog were all waiting down on the street to load her bike in my car. We had an awesome drive over to the tri site. I am really going to miss driving to workouts with her in the wee hours of the morning. (snif)
We arrived at the park in plenty of time. It was actually really beautiful there in the predawn.
I ate my hard boiled egg, we used the restrooms and picked out our transition spots. Since we were there so early, we had a good choice of spot and I got to use the fence as a coat rack.
Coach Haakon taped up my foot. Which is supposedly not in the regulations, but I really appreciated it.
We went and got our bodies marked with our race numbers and our ages. 52, baby!!!! I always wonder why they do that – so that if we die on the course we have ID on our bodies?
Our mentor Annika gave us a visual preview of all the ins and outs and showed us where all the buoys were for the swim course. I’d say we’re looking fairly concerned. Teammate Vince calls it “game face.” LOL.
We started walking over to the swim entry area, led by an awesome bagpipe player (very dramatic!). My heart was pounding like a jackhammer. Then I stepped in this crazy HOLE in the parking lot (like six inches deep and the width of a coffee can) – my foot went RIGHT IN and I fell down. Bam! Not an auspicious beginning. I could feel something bad in my knee (which is still feeling pretty twisted, by the way). But we kept going. I was feeling pretty psyched, and pretty ready.
We TNTers got to go in the first wave and that was a really good thing. We got in the water (brrrrrrrrr!) and got the water in our wetsuits and floated around while we waited for the starting horn.
We were being led out on paddleboard by Coach Neil, the guy who had led my semi-disastrous last open water swim a few weeks ago. I told him I was feeling good about the swim and he seemed pleased but also surprised because I think he really had me for a goner in the open water department.
So we swam. I know that I was swimming really, really slowly. But I was relaxed. I kept up my “gentle-kind” mantra pretty much the only time, except when I was daydreaming about pleasant things, which was a pretty nice way to pass the time. I noticed that each time I lifted my head to sight on the big orange buoy, it kept GETTING BIGGER! which I found very encouraging. I was making headway, even though virtually everyone was passing me and leaving a large gap between them and me. I was OK. I made a few little “bobbing” stops to get my bearings and take some extra oxygen in, but they weren’t like panic stops, more like, “let’s see what’s going on.”
I was somewhere between buoy 2 and 3 (out of 4?) and a couple kayakers were yelling and motioning at me to “pull it in toward the shore!” I think I got kind of drifty toward the right and ended up adding a couple hundred extra yards to my swim. I had a few moments of “Well, that’s a drag” but I didn’t freak out. Pretty soon a huge wave of red-capped swimmers took us over. They were churning up the water like a hundred sharks in a frenzy. A couple of them slapped at my feet and bumped into me. Thank goodness that is ONE thing that doesn’t freak me out. I just kind of got out of their way.
The swim felt long. By the clock I think it was around 40 minutes, which was shorter than I’d planned for but still I was near the end of our group. No matter. I was relaxed the whole time, and toward the end I was almost regretting it was going to be over. I was sort of enjoying thinking my nice thoughts and just stroke, stroke, stroke. The last bit between the final buoy and the red finish arc felt reallllllllly long. But I didn’t panic, didn’t float on my back, didn’t hang on any kayaks or people, and pretty much DID the damn thing! After all the struggle I had these past months? I was ecstatic.
I was pretty darn happy when I got out of the water.
I headed to T1. (Transition 1) When I got there I was suddenly overcome by lightheadedness. I felt super dizzy and suddenly insanely COLD. So I was just focused on trying to get warm and put on some dry stuff. It seemed to take forever to put on my socks and gloves. My feet were this wacky white/red color. Finally I felt ready and I pulled my bike down and got out of there.
Ha! Forgot this very Special Moment during the tri until teammate Katherine sent it to me. Right after this last picture above, it was time to “mount the bikes.” I got on and then… OOPS! Seems like Katherine wanted some team togetherness. 🙂 Neither of us actually fell over though, and it was all good! This is now one of my favorite pics of the event.
Important note for subsequent events: I was really kind of a woozy space cadet during this transition. I wasn’t thinking clearly. ie., I looked at my huuuuuge bottle of Gatorade on the ground, and a littler bottle. But I didn’t drink any. Nor did I eat any of the salted pretzels I’d so carefully baggied up. I took a little swig of water and then put the water bottle in my bike’s holder. I ate a half of a Kind bar. (sweet flavor)
I go back and back to this moment. In the past months I learned that the combo of Gatorade and salty pretzels is like the PERFECT combo recovery/fuel for me. The electrolytes/carbs/salt combo. This combo has given me like superhuman energy and really surprised me. So WHY didn’t I eat/drink it during this transition? One, I was dying from salt overload from the swim and I couldn’t deal with the idea of pretzels. Which is why I chose the Kind bar. Two, I remember kind of glancing at the Gatorade and I may as well have been looking at a doorknob. Like, “Hmm, that looks familiar like something I’ve used in a past life.” It just didn’t click to me. I took that one little sip of water and then I was starting to get really concerned about sitting there having a picnic while everyone else was clearing out to bike, so I just wanted to hustle and get out of there. I MAY have thought, “I’ll drink when I’m on the bike” but I also thought there would be some water/Gatorade stops on the way.
I got going out of transition and up the hill. This is a really steep kind of hill of doom thing, but I set it in first gear and just got up it. It wasn’t so bad. I was feeling pretty good. My feet were absolutely NUMB and I had noticed when putting my socks on they were a freaky white/red frostbitey color. They never thawed out the whole time I was on the bike.
Then we turned out of the park and it was so exciting! People lining the streets!
I saw Annelies and my coaches and a whole ton of people. It was so cool. Then we had ANOTHER long climb but I felt OK.
I got through the first loop, turned around at the campground and headed back to the park. Fewer people standing around this time because a lot of people had transitioned to run. I was still feeling OK I thought.
I started coming up the long climb for trip number two and right away, my chain slipped. Damn. And as soon as I got off the bike, my head started swirling and I just felt… NOT GOOD. This guy came over and helped me with the chain. I continued up the hill and then I just had to stop. By complete coincidence, I happened to stop in front of this orange-shirted volunteer guy who had this first aid kit. It was a medic! Wow! He asked me how I was doing. I said, “Um…. not so hot.” He told me to rest a few minutes and I did and then I decided to walk to the crest of the hill. But I was feeling really wobbly.
I got on the bike again at the flat and went a little ways longer and then damn, my chain slipped off AGAIN. This time my teammate Art came to my rescue. He fixed my chain and at that point I just started crying. And finding it hard to breathe. And shivering like nobody’s business. I was SO COLD all of a sudden. Then I felt nauseated. I drank a little more water but at that point I felt like I was going to puke. Then the orange-shirt medic came trotting up and he told me to sit down and I told Art to keep going. And then I REALLY fell apart.
(edited to add: I was dehydrated. I was SO DEHYDRATED! Because I hadn’t really had enough to drink beforehand, and I FORGOT to drink during transition, and I thought there would be water stops on the bike route so I didn’t drink while I was riding either.)
When supervising the medical care of athletes, it is important to recognize the basic signs of dehydration. These include thirst, irritability and general discomfort followed by headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, heartburn, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations and decreased performance.
I felt like I was dying. Like all of my internal systems were just going haywire: stomach, lungs, brain, circulation, the works. The medic took my blood pressure. It was high. He said my heart rate was “pretty fast.” I started crying even more, and gasping and death-rattling, not unlike what I’ve done in open water. Except here I was now by the side of the road. Meanwhile I was getting colder and colder and all I wanted was my big fake-fur parka back at transition. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t get warm. The medic gave me his fleece jacket but it didn’t cover my whole body and my teeth were just chattering like a skeleton dance. I knew that I had two choices at that moment: I’d have to throw in the towel, or I’d have to rally and keep going. I had been sitting on the ground there for probably more than twenty minutes (no, no exaggeration!). I was feeling in a desperate state. He said, “Maybe you will feel better with some wind in your face, or we can call the car to come get you.”
HELL NO. No car! No car! I felt like I would die a thousand deaths of shame if I got toted back in a car. (worse than a kayak?) So I walked the bike shakily over the next rise and then got on again. I was about 20% into the 2nd loop at that point. I started going verrrrry, very slowly and grimly. I felt like death. I was so cold it was almost unbearable, and I was still kind of hyperventilating. I pedalled. Finally I got out to the turnaround where my friend Mary was waiting with another support person. I was feeling pretty miserable right then. I made my way back to the park and my plan was to ask coach Haakon what he thought I should do.
But there was pretty much nobody there at the park entrance at that point. People were FINISHING the race (I could hear the loudspeakers) and the guy waved his orange flag and flagged me back toward the entrance. They were starting to take down the bike course. I knew that about 4 of my teammates were still out on the course, doing their 3rd loop, because we’d passed each other. But they were past the turnaround and I hadn’t even started. I thought about the big hill and the time. I felt like I had no energy to do another loop, and no time to do it in, and that it would pretty much finish me, physically and emotionally.
I turned into the parking lot and headed down to Transition again.
Here, dear readers, is what is LITERALLY a turning point in the story. Where I made that decision, for better or worse. On one hand it felt like the only tenable choice. On the other hand it felt TERRIBLE. I knew that if I started the run portion I would still be way behind 99% of all of the participants in the race.
So I went down to transition, put on my running shoes and hat, and headed out again. As I passed a lot of people yelling my name, all I could think of was, “If you only knew! I just did two loops!” I also knew I had to keep going and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
In spite of my wonky knee and foot, I managed to “run” (ie not walk) more than half – maybe even 75% of the six miles. I did a walk interval with Art, who had saved me with my slipped chain during the ride. It was great to have him for company during that final piece.
He finished up his 2nd run loop (my first) and I ran the majority of the last one. Two of the highlights of the run portion were seeing my beautiful Juniorette appear. She ran up and gave me a kiss and I got all weepy. Then I got to pass my awesome trainer, Doug, who had set up camp with a cup of coffee and a folding chair. I could hear his huge booming voice, “Here comes SUSANITO!” from blocks away. It was amazing to see him out there. (I wish I had a picture of this!)
Meanwhile, the vast majority of participants and spectators were passing me on the road as they headed out of the park, beeping and cowbelling out their windows. I think a hundred cars must have passed by and while it was nice to be cheered I was also wondering if there was going to be ANYbody left in the park when I got down to finish.
As it turns out, my whole beautiful team was there. I got down to the finish chute and my beautiful mentor Annika and her husband ran in with me.
The whole team was yelling my name. The announcer goes, “What an entourage! They’re all yelling for Cindy!” and everyone yells “SUSAN!”
I passed over the finish and got all hugged by everyone and I was a sobbing, weepy MESS.
The announcer boomed out, “Yes, sometimes there are a few tears.” Which made me cry more. I was just freaking SPENT at that point.
Then the last bunch of teammates came on in a while later and then everyone was done and I walked around feeling super fragile, and a combination of triumphant and completely fraudulent and awful. I told Mr. M what had gone on, and of course he was not the least bit disgusted or concerned. (he was, however, quite dismayed by my lack of hydration)
Came home. Took a hot bath (I was STILL cold!). Passed out into a fitful nap then had soup for dinner.
I read the gazillion Facebook accolades and “you are so awesome!” comments. I started writing this recap but at that point I was drowning in feelings of guilt (over not doing the 3rd bike loop) and feeling like I had somehow cheated. I didn’t want to think of myself as the kind of person who takes the bus to the finish line. I was really agonizing over it and felt like I needed to return all the congratulations that had come my way.
I sent a confessional sort of race cap email to my coaches. It was really eating me up. Their responses made me bawl even more, but helped me see that I really did have something to be proud of and not ashamed about.
Coach Stephanie said:
I knew that you hadn’t finished that last loop. You are still a triathlete. Nothing takes that away from what you accomplished this season. I don’t know too many people, myself included who could have the tenacity to get back on that bike after the very emotional moments and sheer physical discomfort that you experienced and decided to carry on. Well done to you! Live to fight another day…Forgive yourself for any feelings of defeat. You are a warrior and a Triathlete!
Then Coach Haakon said (and he was who I was most worried about because he is such a BAD ASS!):
You do not have anything to be ashamed of. I hope with all my heart that what you take out of this experience is that you accomplished a hell of a lot more than I think even you thought you were capable of. Plenty of people start and don’t finish completely. You toed the line and you battled through more obstacles than just about anyone else out there. You have trained diligently and hard and have contributed in a big way to the personality of our team. You deserve that medal and many more. I am none the less proud of your accomplishment today than I was yesterday and I would be shocked if anyone else was either. Everyone has a story and everyone has their reasons for doing things. What I see here is someone who struggled enormously yet pushed through despite every part of her body telling her to stop. I can imagine that the decision to cut it short was not an easy one, but it also sounds like it was the right one. Be proud of what you accomplished and celebrate the small victories that you made along the way. Some times it is good to “fail”. It teaches us where our limiters are. Notice I did not say limits. Recognizing our limiters gives us the opportunity to focus our attention in areas that will in term make us better, faster and stronger.
Be proud of what you did, I know I am. Your story will be very inspirational to many and there is no need to paint it any other way. Hang your medal proudly on the glory wall and use it to stay motivated and continue to push outside your comfort zone. Thank you so much for your participation this season and for sharing your story. I would love to see you come back for another go at it some day.
DOUBLE WAHHHHHH! I hope they do not mind posting these emails, but receiving these made me really feel what it has meant to be part of Team in Training. Where they took me in and encouraged me and believed in me to the very end, and beyond the end. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my LIFE.
Thank you team, thank you teammates and friends and donors and supporters who have followed this journey since July. I know I’ll never be the same.
I’ve been preparing for Sunday’s Olympic-distance triathlon in Marin County since July. It has taken so much blood, sweat and tears (literally) it’s incredible. This week is the time for the mental and emotional preparation. My awesome sports psychologist, Michelle Cleere, gave me the assignment to write about my upcoming triathlon exactly the way I want it to happen. This is it. I would love it if you would read this and then imagine it happening just like this for me on Sunday. It’s my best case scenario, my dream event. Thank you ALL for your incredible support and encouragement in this undertaking! Much love and gratitude — Susan
On my knees. Arranging items in a pile on the floor, some of which I’d never heard of three months ago. A box of silicon earplugs nestled like soft eggs. Swim booties. Purple spandex. My Team in Training wetsuit with its oddly comforting smell of rubber and salt. I’m checking things off on the list our coach sent us, building a little altar to improbability and miracles. I love the ritual of lining everything up the night before, touching each object, asking each one to do its job, to keep me safe, keep me healthy, warm, dry, hydrated, nourished. Vanilla GU and a lavender towel.
I set my alarm and sleep with dreams of floating effortlessly, rolling over hills up and down and taking sure steps.
4:30am. The alarm goes off and I don’t want to hit Snooze. I’m excited to get up in the dark. Today is the day. Today is the day I become a triathlete. For me, believing that I can be a triathlete is like believing I will be an astronaut, a tightrope walker, a brain surgeon. A fantasy of the nth degree. But today I’m going to put on the costume and the identity.
First layer: the purple tri shorts (padded for biking, quick-dry for swimming) and top. I’m so proud to be part of this team. Then thick sweat pants, heavy socks, a sweatshirt. I need to keep warm. Warm warm warm to carry me into the ocean. Is it raining already? Maybe. It’s okay. It’s just water.
Breakfast. Coffee, water, whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter. Maybe some cut up apple. Boil some eggs to take in the car. Fill the water bottles, one with Gatorade and one with water.
Transfer the gear pile into my gym bag. Check everything twice. John is out in the garage, oiling and cleaning the bike chain, filling the tires. He’s a great bike support. Hard to believe that three months ago I was terrified to get on a bike of any kind, that I couldn’t turn, stop, or start without falling over. I still have scars on my legs from all the falls I took.
5:30. Time to pick up Lily. My buddy, my angel, my constant companion since the day we sat next to each other for the first time at Kick-Off in July. She has pushed me, nudged me, encouraged me and made me believe that I can do this. I will so miss our nighttime swims, with her reading the wet workout sheet from the light of the pool. Nobody in the pool but us crazies, and then rewarding ourselves with a rest in the hot tub after.
We drive through the dark morning, no traffic, over the San Rafael bridge, over the very water we will be swimming in. It’s quiet. We’re contemplating the hugeness of what we’re about to do.
By the time we get to the transition area and our reserved parking spot, our coach Haakon is already there. He helps us find good spots right next to each other and gives us some encouraging tips before saying his mantra, “Let’s do the damn thing!”
I drink hot tea mixed with electrolyte powder to get warm and stay warm. Also to fill up my bladder so I can warm up my wetsuit and my body with some nice warm pee later on. (didn’t know that trick, did you?) I’m wearing my daughter’s Oakland Strokes fake fur parka and thinking of her encouraging “Go Mama!” vibes from Peru.
Then it’s wetsuit time. I put the Bodyglide on my ankles, wrists, neck, armpits, and then stretch the thick skin over my body. I remember the first time we got these – it was an Olympic event just trying to wiggle into it. I thank the wetsuit for keeping me warm and buoyant in the water. I love this thing.
It’s time to go down to the water! There’s a bagpipe player leading us all down. The sound of the music gives me goosebumps. My heart is pounding out of my chest. It’s still pretty dark but the light is breaking over the water. We walk over the rocky beach on a special carpet and WOW it’s cold! But it’s okay. I walk in up to my knees, then calves, then thighs then I just better dive in and get the shock over with. YOW! Yeah! It’s refreshing! It’s super refreshing! All my teammates are around me. We’re laughing and shrieking from the cold, letting the water into our suits from our necks. I know people are peeing around me. It makes me laugh.
There’s about 15 minutes from the time we get in the water until our special TNT wave begins. I use the time to float around, to realllllly get used to the water, to take a few warmup strokes. Breathe. I think about my special breathing mantra: “gentle” on the exhale into the water, “kind” on the inhale. Gentle-kind-gentle-kind. I look out at my first landmark, the pier. No fisherman today, no line to get tangled in. The giant orange buoys are bobbing around gently and easy to see. I’m just going to swim swim swim like I did at Keller Beach.
The horn goes off and it’s a churning of arms and legs as everyone takes off. I stay toward the back and the side, away from all the limbs. I’m not in a hurry. I’m just going to take it one stroke at a time. With every breath, I roll almost all the way onto my back and take a nice full breath. I blow bubbles down into the water. Gen-tle. I remember to look up every few strokes and I see the pier getting closer and closer. Then I’m around it and looking for the first buoy. I see the paddleboarders, the kayaks and other support. They’re cheering us on. I get to the first buoy and I’m feeling good. I see some of my other teammates around me. I’m not alone. Swim swim swim. With every stroke the air gets brighter and brighter, the sun coming up. I get to the 2nd buoy. One more and then land. I just look at one at a time. I sing a little bit into the water.
It’s hard not to get too excited when I see people running out of the water. I give it an extra kick and feel my hands touching ground. I scramble out of the water and feel for my wetsuit leash, unzipping it I wobble to the transition spot. Wow my legs feel funny! And the air is cold. Is it raining? No matter, I’m gonna get warmed up soon.
I get to my transition spot. I take a big swig of Gatorade, suck down some GU and peel off the wetsuit. It’s like a giant, wiggly sealskin. BRR it’s cold! I trade my swim cap for bike helmet, my goggles for glasses, and try to dry off as quick as I can. I pull on my socks and bike shoes, take one more drink and pull the bike from the rack.
The first hill out of the parking lot is STEEP but I’ve done it a bunch of times before. I’m still pumped up from the swim. First gear, here we go, just pedal, pedal, pedal… Whoo! Got to the top and have a little coasting before the next long hill up the road. I’m glad I’ve done this route before, glad that the hills and turns are familiar to me now. Just… get .. up… this hill, then around the corner and wheeeeee. I let my heart slow down some, let myself enjoy the downhill through the trees around the part with the beautiful view of the water in which I just swam! It’s pretty soon and I get to the turnaround at the campground. Back past the beach entrance (more hills, but they feel fine) and there are so many people here! I love that there are no cars. People are clanging cowbells and yelling out. It’s kind of fun. I see some of my friends. WOW!
Get to the turnaround and head back out for loop number two. I’m feeling strong now. I’m getting warmer after being chilled in the water and the sun is stronger and warmer. All the familiar turns. I see my teammates passing me on the other side and it makes me so happy to call out to them. What we have all gone through together since July – this is amazing.
Okay, final bike loop. My butt is starting to get kind of sore. The course is getting a little bit TOO familiar. But the crowd is getting bigger as we get closer and closer to finishing. Every time I go past the park entrance there are more and more people there. It’s like a big party.
Finally, down the parking lot hill back to the transition. My legs are definitely talking to me (“Are we done yet?”) – not quite. I hang up the bike, take off my helmet and put on my running hat and running shoes. They feel nice and soft after those bike shoes! Throw back some more Gatorade, a handful of salty pretzels (my power snack) and it’s time for the run part.
Six miles. Okay. I still have this nagging tendonitis in my foot so I’m determined to go as fast as I can without hurting myself. Which at this point means a steady walk. Around the beach area, up the darn hill AGAIN and this time turning left to the trail along the water. It’s beautiful! It’s pretty! Instead of the 1:5 walk/run ratio I was doing during training, it’s now more of a 5:1 walk run but that’s okay. It’s a beautiful day. My clothes are dry, I’m feeling good. I need to use the bathroom and voila! There’s a portOpotty on the corner. Perfect.
Out to the turnaround and back. One final loop! I’ve almost finished an Olympic triathlon! Damn! I’m seeing my teammates fly by. I get so excited to see them. I’m passing my friends and some of them jump up and walk with me. This is so awesome. Final downhill back to the transition area – yeah, Haakon warned us it would be kind of steep. I take my time till I hit the grass and then I can’t help it, I’m running just this last part through the FINISH. FINISH! There’s coach Haakon with my medal.
I can’t believe it. Just as I was feeling SO AWESOME about the open water swim yesterday, I had to turn my attention to my left foot which has been getting progressively more painful over the last week. Today when I woke up it was really swollen and tender. Oh MAN!
I went to my podiatrist (who is a century cyclist himself) and he promptly diagnosed me with Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis. First thing he asked me was, “Where are your orthotics?”
Um. In the back of my closet?? (redfaced)
See, I got these new shoes, and I was just too lazy to cut out the inserts to accommodate the orthotics, and my feet weren’t bothering me so much like they used to, and my ankle felt pretty much all better, so I just… umm… haven’t been using them.
(hanging head in shame)
So now I have a roaring case of Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis. He said that “normally” he would recommend no running or biking or any sort of weight bearing for a few weeks. But then he gave this wry smile and said, “I could say that, but I know what you’re gonna do.” (he knows me)
I mean really. I mean REALLY DUDE. This is my first triathlon that has been eating up major gallons of my blood, sweat and tears for MONTHS and it’s five days away and I’m gonna…
I mean, just no.
I’m going to do my best to take really, really good care of it this week. As per doctor’s advice, I am icing the heck out of it, elevating it, taking high dose anti-inflammatories, taping it up and using my orthotics religiously. And trying to stay off the feet.
I am hoping that if I treat my foot like glass all week, then it will be able to manage the swim (no problem), the bike ride (a little more of a problem) and a modified walk-run (mostly walk) on Sunday. And then REALLY take it easy before I run again. I will go back to my trainer and work on my upper body! I will! I will! Just let this thing heal up by Sunday. Please.
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.
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.
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.
OK, 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.