Saturday, January 31, 2009
It’s a wild and crazy Saturday night.
I have been down for the count for about 2 days. Really it’s been about 7 days but who is counting.
It started last Saturday after the swim. On Saturday I swim and run. Running has been feeling strong lately despite weighing about 5 – 7 lbs more than ever (but again who is counting; again, me). So I wasn’t too happy when I boarded the mill of dread to find that my anterior tibs really hurt which usually means something is about to go wrong (enter ominous foreshadowing)...
Sunday was good though. I had my bike test and added a ridiculous number of watts since my last test and since I was getting sick this impresses me even more and trust me – it has been a LONG LONG time since I have impressed myself so it is worth noting and don't worry the bottom drops out in a few days...
Monday I woke up and didn’t feel too bad. Tuesday it finally hit. I read somewhere that it takes 4 days for something to settle into your body and then incubate before revealing itself. On Tuesday I believe I had my big reveal after the bike ride. I had a good bike ride then did masters at night. Lucky for me we did yet another timed mile. When I added 1 minute to my time from 2 weeks ago I did the math and even with my bad math knew that something was up (or slow, or just wrong).
Wednesday I still was not convinced I was at death’s door so instead went running in the cold. I forgot to mention that on Saturday my foot – my right foot which is supposed t o be my good foot – kind of blew up for no reason at all. I was convinced it was broken, fractured or slowly seceding from the rest of my body. I also am convinced it was all the treadmill’s fault so I ran outside on Wednesday instead. That was great except for the fact that it was about 17 degrees and windy. At one point I was so cold that I wanted to cry but intelligently said to myself – a wet face is a cold face so instead I gathered myself and finished the run.
After that run I got my usual winter kennel cough that sometimes leaves me breathless in the middle of the street gasping for air and convinced I will die – DIE – and have to run up to a stranger’s doorway explaining who I am and where I come from in 1 breath of less. DIE! I decided then – finally – that a trip to the doctor was in order. I have been wheezing for about 6 weeks and had on and off episodes of kennel cough. I get wheezy most winters so I don’t think much of it. But now it seemed kind of different.
Time to call the doctor.
Wednesday night was a weird one. At midnight Chris’ phone rang. I thought about not waking him up to tell him it rang but then feared it was bad news about someone in his family. Turns out his office burned down and…yeah. That’s all I’m going to say about that. So on Thursday I woke up late with 15 minutes to get myself to the doctor which was 12 minutes away.
I got there just in time to get weighed. Good thing because I wasn’t feeling fat or anything. So I took off my shoes – hey, this isn’t my first time at the doctor’s weigh in rodeo – and the nurse actually said to me, “funny, you look like a much more silght thing than that.”
I think that was her very polite way of calling me fat.
Good thing I took off my shoes.
Anyways, the Nurse Practitioner (who has the same stethescope and prescripton rights as a doctor but got out of school before she was 40…who’s the smart one now?) told me I had acute bronchitis and gave me 30 days worth of antibiotics crammed into 5 pills (which feels GREAT on my stomach) and a funky steroid inhaler that leaves me jittery and feeling like I could lift a truck.
I did nothing on Thursday and Friday and woke up on Saturday saying give me a workout or give me death. You see, last year I never wanted to train because I was so overtrained. This year I really want to train. The first thing I thought of when I found out I was officially sick was DAMN! I just want to train! So now I sit here literally foaming at the mouth for training. Last year I would have said – screw it! I’m going shopping instead.
Obstacles as opportunities, I know. So I took the opportunity to find a new hobby today. Actually it was Chris’ demand. He told me over coffee (ironically) that I need to relax. I don’t do so good at the relaxing. Yoga was supposed to help but then it turned into a stretch death mission. So relaxing is not my thing because all of my hobbies are work or working out. I just really like what I do and really like doing things too. I can’t sit still.
I believe Chris’ words were something like this:
“My mom has shopping, Meredith has beading, Megan has shopping – well she did but now she has baby – and my dad has trains. You need to find something mindless to do like all of that.”
It’s as good as done: I’m going to start shopping for beaded trains.
So I thought – scrapbooking. There’s this little issue of my wedding pictures from my wedding 3 years ago that are still sitting in a box. Today would be the day I would put them into an album with all sorts of stickers and frilly things. Oh why not. They’re just pictures and I am not paying some guy an extra $700 to put them in a glossy laminated album.
I didn’t realize people took scrapbooking so seriously. There’s a lot of shit out there you can scrapbook with and I felt really overwhelmed. I bought a lot of stuff then spent the rest of the day in a sea of sticky tabs, card stock and wedding photos. It was not relaxing because I am a perfectionist who has to line everything up and match everything and ended up tossing half of what I did to do it all over again.
So much for relaxing.
Now I feel back to normal and fully functional. I can pin this one on Chris. He nursed me back to health with vanilla milk (that sounds kind of creepy, eh?). I am drinking vanilla milk because Chris bought it for me. I complained to him that I felt I had not met my nutritional quota for the day so the boy brings me back vanilla milk. That’s usually my treat after a hard workout. But these days the treats seem to come after…well, just about anything. Hey, I answered the phone! Treat. I got the mail! Treat. That might be why I’m not such a slight thing. But I’m not counting (yes…I am…really).
For the rest of the night I’m going to take hits from my new inhaler and run crazy laps around the living room with Boss. Because I have got to burn off the 400 calories of vanilla milk I just drank. Plus I’m just itching to run. And as long as I keep it in zone 1 I think it’s safe to do a few crazy laps...
Thursday, January 29, 2009
It’s not even my stapler. It’s an imposter. It’s sitting on my desk in the house and I have no idea where it came from.
I was trying to staple papers for a meeting. But the stapler did not want to do its job. You know what, when I wake up tomorrow I am just not going to do my job. Every time someone asks me to do something I am just going to sputter and then jam up.
(that was the sound of me spitting out workout mumbo jumbo back at you like a bent up broken staple)
How well would that go over? Not very. So why does the stapler get away with it and not me?
(as a side note I do tend to spit out swim workouts with very bad math and for some reason the only two that routinely get these workouts are Cat and Colleen. This happens so often to Cat that she politely informed me that my laptop has a calculator…)
Of the few things I miss about working in an office, the stapler is one. On my last day as I packed up 7 years of things I had collected in my corner office (yes, nice girls do get the corner office, and it does have two windows with a view and a door you can close to keep everyone out), I considered stealing one thing:
I special ordered the stapler a few years earlier. My first stapler kept disappearing. The second stapler was a cheap Swingline that the Receptionist ordered to save money. Those savings were my frustrations. For every penny we saved by ordering the cheap stapler, we wasted a penny in a jammed staple. Brilliant idea on ordering the cheap one.
So finally when it was in my budget I ordered myself a new stapler.
This stapler was serious about stapling. It was sleek and fully operational – all the time. I actually looked forward to stapling. You know how office work is – finding something when you need it and having it work at the same time is like an office miracle.
I loved stapling.
Sadly, I ended up leaving the stapler behind. Turns out that reorganizing all of my files into File 13 was a much more productive way to spend my last day there.
When I started working from home I had to build my own empire of office supplies. Not as easy as you think. You know all of those little things that just seem to be floating around the office whenever you need them for your job (or a special home project where you just borrow the supplies for awhile or…uh…permanently)? Paperclips, post-it notes, copier paper, binder clips and a mach speed copier machine? Yeah, well when you work from home those things aren’t always there. So every little thing need you have to go out and buy a box of 100 of them because they don’t come any smaller. And the copy machine? No such luck. You are painstakingly scanning every piece of paper in your printer.
Which takes 30 seconds per page – in case you were wondering.
That is where I was last Thursday. Scan, print, staple. Or, scan, wait, wait wait wait, print and then ram my fist on the stapler 100 times because it would not staple.
As I drove to my meeting with stacks of papers with corners chewed apart by the rogue stapler, I called up Purchasing. As you know, I employ 3 employees in my company. Myself, my dog and my husband. My dog is the Boss and token Chihuahua (every company needs a token accessory dog). Myself – does the actual work. My husband – is the VP, Equipment Consultant, Accountant, Mail Clerk, Shipping & Receiving, Maintenance and Purchasing.
Immediately the call went into voicemail (figures…) so I left a message describing the stapler I wanted. It is black. It is sleek. It has bumps on the upper top end of it. It staples. Buy me that stapler or buy nothing at all.
A few hours later, the email came in: is this the stapler you are looking for? with an online link.
There it was. My old stapler.
DING DING DING DING! That’s the ticket!
That night, Chris came home and I asked him if he had the new stapler. I was ready to start flawless stapling. He said no – he would order it. Order it? Typical of any Purchasing Department, eh? I need it now – not 3 weeks from now. Alas, I waited….
The next day, I was in the kitchen flipping through a magazine when I noticed something on the counter.
What is this? I mumbled to myself with a mouth full of pita chips. Over there on the counter protected in a fortress of plastic was….a stapler – but not THE stapler.
Let me make one thing clear:
That was not the stapler I was looking for.
I picked it up. It would take at least a knife to cut through the Alcatraz of plastic packaging. And I would have to consider it an upper body workout to operate the thing. It was HUGE! At least 3 inches tall of stapler. Not only that but I turned the package over to read these very convincing statements: “70% less effort”, “release the power”…
Are we talking about a stapler or an automatic weapon? Do I need a special permit to staple with this?
I got scared. Left it on the counter – untouched, not sure I could handle releasing its power with 70% less effort (what do I do with the other 30% - collate some copies? Sharpen pencils?)
Later that evening, Chris appeared in the bathroom door, stapler in hand. I didn’t know if I should duck or play along with whatever strange office supply game was about to begin.
Did you see this?
I looked at it. I looked at him.
That is not the stapler I was looking for.
He admitted that he knew. The stapler I wanted was out of stock. The one he got for me was a better stapler. Top of the line. The best stapler money could buy. Look at it, he begged me…
That is not THE stapler.
I just couldn’t explain. I wanted my old stapler. Perhaps it is just me trying to hang on to any threads that remain to the office job that I once knew. I miss the cabinet full of office supplies and the man-eating copier. I miss having co-workers, even the ones I didn’t like because I really liked talking about how much I didn’t like them with the co-workers I did like. I do not miss being mismanaged but I do miss the feeling of Fridays. Or seeing how much time of your day you could waste making coffee, reheating coffee, cleaning the coffee pot, walking to the bathroom, walking to the other building to use the other bathroom, cleaning your desk, making your desk look messy so you look busy.
And I miss the office supplies. In the land of office work, your office supplies mean everything. Your day is completely ruined if you lose your favorite blue pen. You might as well go home after lunch if the whole puncher punches the hole too close to the edge. You tell yourself if the copier jams one more time you will quit the job altogether.
I don’t miss my last job, I just miss certain things about having an ‘away from home’ job. Working from home is a dream come true of pajama bottoms and bed head but then you realize you work in your home and live in your home – you spend all day working there, living there and days go by where you think to yourself:
I haven’t left my home in days….(unless you count swimming which really doesn’t count)
The good news is that I am starting to build my own empire of office supplies that could make or break my day. If you send me an email and it comes back sounding short there is a good chance I am in a tangle with the scissors or the scotch tape. I had one such tangle the other day. The printer ran out of ink so I cursed the receptionist. I know it’s futile to curse myself but it sure felt good to blame it on someone else. I have nothing but my favorite pens around and I’m even growing keen to the idea of this new stapler powerful enough to put out 400 watts with each staple.
But I’m telling you, the first paper it mis-staples, I’m going home after lunch.
Or, I’m going out to lunch.
Something like that.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
But it’s time. Alarm goes off. Wake up. Eat oatmeal. Make coffee. REALLY strong – for survival of course. Drive to pool. Stand in dry sauna until body temperature goes from 5 degrees outdoors towards 180 degrees in the wooden hot box with the strange man that has a razor tucked behind his ear and reads the newspaper.
(he does realize it is 180 degrees in there, right?)
Then at exactly 7:29:59 I am faced with the fact that it is time to get into the pool with not one more second to spare. I put myself into my new lane which is becoming my usual lane which still makes me kind of giddy with swimmyness. I miss the first 50 yards standing in the water refusing to submerge my arms because jumping up and down while waving them and shouting COLD COLD COLD is a much better than any 50.
The doctor starts swimming back towards us and I know to get my ass moving before she laps me. The warm up pace is always too fast and anything that says drill, swim or build in warm up is always at the same pace – fast. Near explode. Today we did 4 x 150 of them. Drill, swim, build by 50. Or, in my case, 150 straight in zone 5c.
Can you think of any better way to wake up on a Saturday?
Today the lane is filled with the usual Saturday swimmy friends. The doctor. My husband. Jack, oh Jack of never will swim an entire practice without DNFing something or taking a potty break, Jack. Beth. The guy with the wicked left hand that always crosses the black line and is known to devour entire paddles in a single THWAP!
I am also in the lane. Just to clarify.
The workout is revealed. Quickly we decide it is pure evil with a thin ‘looks easy’ disguise.
2 x 50 on the :45
2 x 100 on the 1:30
2 x 200 on the 3:00
Those are not hard intervals…so what are we missing here? Ooooooooooh. The fine print that reads, “do the 100s faster than the combined 50s. And the 200s faster than the combined 100s.”
Damn the fine print. Not so easy then.
Leave it to a doctor to plot out strategy. We will do the 50s super easy, she says. We will coast the 100s. She is writing the prescription and we, the lane, do nothing but nod our heads. The 200s will be hard, but only the last one. We are not sure why but who are we to doubt an MD?
The 50s are cake. The 100s are cupcakes. The 200s. Not as tasty. The doctor takes off. I have seen this rocket blast before the last time I tried to follow her on 100s where she decided to come in around 1:10 while I decided to relocate my breakfast from my stomach to my throat. I do not do 1:10. I do 1:15 if I am lucky – like, had my super strong coffee, a good poo, a rest day previously, and a giant draft. But 1:10 – not yet. The doctor can click this off as needed. Do you know swimmers like that? They make it look so easy. Like they can flip the switch from 1:20 to 1:10 with a shrug of the shoulder and a casual how many? I have since learned she has a freakish ability to sprint anything 100 – 200 yards. Beyond that my endurance seems to give me a fighting chance of staying within 5 seconds of her feet.
But today my endurance was no match for the blast.
I realize that as I went anaerobic within the first 10 yards which didn’t do me so well for the next 190. My safety net, husband, left the pool with a hangover (just call him the Drunken Sailor, please, just do it for me) and left me second behind the doctor. No one else will step up and instead they hang perilously on my feet which are now kicking as fast as possible while my arms reach new high turnover rate records (low stroke count is highly overrated, as are flip turns, breathing bilaterally and anything else that screams efficiency when you are trying to move along anaerobically down the lane).
It's good to note that about 20 yards into the 200 I also regretted my overzealous “I wonder how much I can bench press right now” moment at the gym on Thursday.
Some things are better left unwondered about.
We finish the second 200 and all announce it was “hard”, harder than it should have been and wishing the 200s were on the 4 minute so we could stand around and breathe for a little longer. But no dice. Back out and time to do the second time through. Which goes well except for the guy with the wicked left arm who decides to do breaststroke for the 200s – and we lap him but he doesn’t quite get it so I end up with feet in my face while he glides his way to the wall.
Third time through and I get a free pass. Why? I was supposed to swim 1 hour today (thank you, rest week). I was at the 1 hour mark. But we had 1 more set. So I made a deal with myself. I can swim the last set with paddles and pull buoy. This should be easy, right? A cool down? In theory yes. When you are then leading the lane because you are voted new lane leader by way of being aided by personal flotation device – no.
The first 200 was a load of fun. I have since abandoned “I will do the last set easy” the first lap of the first 100 when I realized if I worked a little harder I could race the guy in the lane next to me or at least dangle in the corner of his eye and since I never get to torture anyone like that –I take the opportunity. The first 200 makes my arms scream and then we arrive at the last one.
I tell the doctor to go ahead and tell her she needs to break a certain time for the 200. I was half joking but then realized within 10 yards (yet again) that she took me quite seriously. And the biggest paddles in the world would not have helped me get within 5 seconds of her.
I am ready to die. Do you know that point where you stomach is churning and your biceps are ready to burst and your legs are starting to kick WITH the buoy just to stay in someone’s draft? Breathing every other stroke is not enough. Breathing every 5 strokes is faster but you fear your eyeballs will pop out your head. It is that moment of desperation where I love to listen to what happens in my head. I hear myself saying, boldly, something I always say, stupidly, to myself when I feel like it’s too much…
I can do anything on 10 seconds rest.
Because sometimes I feel like I can. Ever notice that? 10 seconds in the pool for rest feels like eternity. 7 seconds is the point at which it becomes hard and 5 seconds is approaching impossible when you are doing really fast sets. But anything 10 seconds or more and you might as well grab a snack. You can have an entire conversation with your lane mate on 10 seconds rest. You can empty your goggles or get a drink of water. You can put on pull buoy, paddles and then remove said paddles to put on your goggles you originally forget to pull down before you had paddles on your hands - all this after having a conversation with your lane mate – all in those 10 seconds of rest.
But anything more than that? You have no excuse. It’s like taking a nap before the send off. 20 seconds? You could probably make it to the bathroom and back. And so we rested (napped) a looooooooong time before this last 200. But as the doctor tries to beat the time I put out in front of her (remind me never to do that again), I am still furiously paddling down the lane shouting in my head ANYTHING ON 10 SECONDS REST to remind myself how stupid it would be to balk about going hard after anything over 10.
We make it to the wall. The doctor beat the time I gave her. The rest of lane abandoned ship at some point during the last 200. And I tried to remove my paddles which were now burnt into my hands.
The next day I found myself in the middle of a bike test. It’s two tests split by a 4 minute easy spin. As I spun my legs easily after spending the entire first test above my LT and up to my eyeballs in leg shaking I will either puke or combust right now type of pain wondering how I would repeat that effort without crying like a little girl or soiling myself…..I heard myself say…I can do anything on 10 seconds rest.
Oh for the love of being above my lactate threshold. Sometimes I hate the voice in my head. Because - I was just called out – by myself.
Lately I've realized that I’ve been doing this sport for nearly 10 years now and I’ve got no excuses anymore. I’ve done too many races and gone too far. Because of that, you kind of lose the old oh that’s too far/too much/too hard excuse. And then you find yourself feeling you can do anything strung together no matter the interval, no matter the sport. Because you’ve learned unless it’s under 10 seconds of rest, you’ve got plenty of time to chat and catch your breath.
Buck up, camper. (that's me talking to myself)
Monday, January 26, 2009
Ok think fast…trick question….husband point of view…the year of the torque wrench? The year they make those energy efficient light bulbs mandatory? The year they declare husband is always right? The year they announce extensive research has shown that hygiene really is overrated?
All right, you’ve got me. What year is it?
It’s the year of the ox, do you know what that means?
You’re going to take those hideous bull horns you had hanging over your mantle when you lived in your fabulous bachelor pad out of hiding and hang them in our house?
It means I’m going to be 36 this year.
And this is news?
How old did you think you were? (no answer)
The Chinese New Year is this week and this is my year, the year of the ox, it only comes every 12 years.
He did the math. He’s definitely not 24 so alas he is now 36. Tough time to figure that out. But now that I’m on to the whole “ox” thing it all makes sense. The bull-headed stubbornness about random projects around the house like changing all of the lights over to motion detectors or measuring the ceiling to see if it’s crooked.
Now I understand.
But really I had no idea the Chinese New Year was here. The last time I remember celebrating the Chinese New Year was 2 years ago when I was finishing up my first ever 20-hour workout week. I was one 30 minute run away from being done when I was told we were going to Triple Crown to celebrate the new year. It wasn’t a will you go, it was a you will go. Later I remember a dark cold night running circles around the neighborhood while deciding that chicken feet, rice and other things you find at the Chinese New Year table do not make a good pre-run meal.
I can’t remember why we didn’t celebrate the Chinese New Year in the years between then and now but today we got the call that dinner would be at 6 pm in celebration of the New Year. Boss, grab your best red shirt and get ready for a bowl of Kung Pao chicken kibble. We’re going to the in-laws house.
Red envelopes, egg rolls, double joy, eternal happiness, long lasting life and a giant bowl of pancete are part of the Chinese New Year. We arrive at the in-laws house greeted by the smell of good food. And of course Popo stirring a giant pot of something on the stove.
Now if you have a grandparent that likes to cook you know how this goes: you will eat what they are trying to serve. It is not up for debate. Oh how I love a debate but not with Popo. My resistance, if given, would be futile and I knew that in a few minutes I would be eating a bowl of that soup. Sure enough, I am offered a bowl.
Wait…uh…what is in there? I ask looking into a pot of black stringy masses and little button mushrooms.
It has seaweed. You eat it. You like.
No, no I don’t like. Along with pizza, I am sure I don't like seaweed.
This is different seaweed. You like.
You mean I am going to like, like it or not. Defeaed. I get myself a bowl.
Turns out, I could get to like black seaweed. And that would be good because this seaweed I have just been informed is lucky. The entire bowl of soup is good for me. Who knew that seaweed soup brings you a year of prosperity?
I finished the bowl. More please?
Pancete (I have no idea if this is how it’s spelled) is featured at every special meal. Thin cellophane-like noodles with chicken, pork, shrimp and vegetables. Didn’t matter that I was vegetarian for the first 2 years I knew Chris – you eat the pancete. And then some stuff that looks like it normally resides in an eggroll but tonight it is to be wrapped in a crepe. Just in case I didn’t know how roll my food up, Popo shows me then insists I eat the demo.
Next up is the chicken. You eat the chicken for….Chris’ mom says with a giggle…good fortune. I have a feeling I’m eating it for some other reason than that but good fortune is good enough for me. While eating I am almost talked into a viscous black sauce that goes on top of the chicken when Chris saves me. I don’t like sauce. Especially not black. And I’ve already met my quota of foods from the black food group for the day (seaweed).
The conversation turns. This is an extra special Chinese New Year. Baby Aubrey is on her way. Meg-Meg started having contractions and we all guess when baby should arrive. If she waits 4 hours she will be born into the new year, the year of the ox. If she comes sooner than that she arrives in the year of the rat.
We were thinking the kid might want to wait until the new year.
Afterwards we did what you would do on any Chinese New Year. We cut the dogs toenails. This was extra exciting because we tried something that Molly suggested – with a little twist. Mr. Tom held Boss, Chris put peanut butter on a spoon and I clipped nails (and saved myself a trip to the pet store). Worked just as good for Aichee. Then we sent the dogs outside to watch them scavenge for birdseed in the snow. The funny thing is that you take Boss out to make potty in anything under 10 degrees and he sits with one paw up looking at you woefully from the snow. You toss in some birdseed and all of a sudden he’s an Eskimo.
After ringing in the new year, we returned home. Chris went to bed early to prepare for his big year ahead. An ox is mighty and has much work to do. Meanwhile, I did some research on the Chinese zodiac. People born in the year of the ox are what you would think of an ox; stubborn, hard working, tenacious and determined. Myself, I was born in the year of the rabbit and we rabbit are articulate, talented, ambitious and reserved.
I like this zodiac.
So then I wonder about the union of ox and rabbit. Would we, according to the Chinese, make a good pair. When Chris’ mom talked at our wedding she wished us double everything – happiness, joy and something else I cannot remember. I have a feeling some may have also wished Chris double good luck in dealing with a twitchy Italian rabbit.
(we may be twitchy but us rabbits run really fast)
Like any zodiac, you can only believe so much of what you read. And this was just the same. About ox and rabbit:
No major conflicts.
Congenial and solid relationship.
Compatible to a good extent.
Could work as a team.
The relationship is harmonious.
Ox is stable and industrious while rabbit is peace loving.
Can get on well together and any differences can easily be sorted out.
The Ox learns to appreciate the fine taste of the rabbit.
Together both will be able to set up a peaceful home.
Call that a crock of seaweed or call me crazy. Either way I’m thinking I should eat another bowl of soup and fill it with chicken. It’s a new year and I need all the prosperity and fortune I can get as a rabbit living with an ox.
And for Meg-Meg and Chris, I do hope for you that Aubrey is born in the “new year”. Ox are industrious, intelligent and all around good ungulates, if I may say so myself - after all, I live with one.
To the new year!
(I feel like I should roar but I don't think an ox roars, so I looked it up and found that the musk ox kind of roars like a lion..not kidding!)
Friday, January 23, 2009
Listen to me: I like yoga – a lot. But I do not like doing hard work on a no workout day. I’m sorry yoga if you cannot understand that but you were hurting me.
The break up happened last Friday. Friday is my day off. No workout day. “Recovery”. Oh, that. So on Friday, Chris, my mom and I headed to the usual yoga class. Each week we noticed the room getting a little colder, the moves getting a little harder and the fun factor going down.
And down, and down, descending your heels towards the mat.
Enter last week. We were in the back of the room as to hide far from the instructor to avoid being watched, touched or yogaed in any other way. If I don’t like being touched, my mom doesn’t like being looked at. She’s a tough one to crack. Chris? He just likes being close to the mirrors.
The class progressed through a series of moves that left my inner thighs on fire and a deep hatred in my open yoga heart for one more damn downward dog. In other words, it hurt. It wasn’t fun. I was overstretched and shaky. At one point I just sat on the mat. I was trapped. The back corner is a great place to hide – unless you want to escape. Then it becomes a cold prison cell and all you have is your little blue mat for your safe place.
“I’m so cold.”
My mom and I exchanged eye rolls and seated defeat. If I knew my mom, I knew she was thinking what I was thinking – get me out of this class. But there were still 30 minutes to go. I ask you - why does it have to be 95 minutes long? And where is the music? I’m tired of hearing people breathe and the chatter in my head. Seems like every class I go to you suffer in the heavy quiet of the room. What about some Zero 7. Shawn Gallaway. Amel Larrieux? Ok at the very least…Enya?
I need some tunes to fade away…
No such luck unless you count Crazy Train blasting through the walls from the spin room next door.
So here’s the problem. I really like yoga. I like what it’s about. The whole prana, dharma, chakras – I’m into it. I like stretching and all that other shit you do when you’re barefoot, relaxed and on a mat. I like the smell of lavender. I enjoy the clash of a gong.
But I don’t like Fitness Yoga. In fact it sort of offends me that the word Fitness is in front of Yoga but I guess this is what I get for doing yoga at a gym. Does everything have to be so damn hard? Do we have to burn calories in everything we do to make it worth it? What’s wrong with just quieting our minds and stretching? Why does it have to be a fitness activity? And why do the instructors seem to get flexible pleasure from torturing us with 100 forward folds, 90 downward dogs, 80 lunges, 70 chutturunga or whatever the hell that is just tell me what you want me to do without speaking in code, 60 reverse bridges (I do not reverse that way) and…..there was just a lot of stuff crammed into those 95 minute and we did it all really, really fast.
Since when did yoga get so attention deficit? Seems to be apropos for everything that happens in our world. It can’t just be “yoga” it has to be YOGA EXTREME! AH! I want to hide under the mat. Save me: Is there a yoga out there that moves at a slower pace? Because I think I finally found my sport where I need to be in the slow group. Well, other than masters. But the pool isn’t “real” so...it doesn’t really count. Right now I need to walk my yoga miles. I need training wheels. I can’t keep up with everyone else.
And what’s with all the props? Have you realized in life that we cannot just simply go somewhere empty handed? We have to have our water bottle, our iPhone, our safety bag filled with things we need just in case – like chapstick, a million cards to save 10 cents on paper towels or get a “reward point” for spending “our” money at a store. Huh? I looked around the class and realized each person had a small island chain of props surrounding their main island – the yoga mat. There were: 2 blocks, a water bottle, a belt, a “bolster” (still don’t get the point of this one…), a blanket and their shoes. And gym locker key. Their socks. If there was anything else they’d have to pay a daily rate for occupancy.
You heard me right – I am asking yoga to slow the pace. Back the pace down. Quit moving along at FTP and cruise at 50% LT watts instead. In life, I don’t think there are many things I wish would slow down. I feel like my thoughts have a V02max of 80 pushing out 4:08 miles. If only I was actually built like that. But that’s just how my mind moves….and I thought yoga would help it slow down. Except yoga started doing 800 repeats on the track. In between 200s of downward dogs. Is it so wrong that I want this to be the one activity each week where I can take my time?
I was wrong. Proven by the fact that all of the other adults in the room older than me, possibly less fit were kicking my ass at Fitness Yoga. The guy breathing really loud in the front of the room? He didn’t need a block. The woman twice my age? Did not sit down cross-legged in defeat. Just me. And my mom – but she’s always had my back like that.
So I’m not going this week. I’m moving on to solo practice for now until I can get myself up to speed. I’m going to turn the lights off in the house, light a few candles, crank the heat up to 72 and put Simple Things by Zero 7 on auto repeat. I’ll do moon salutations at my own pace and tell myself to take deep belly breaths.
No gym necessary.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
It’s a hard time of year. January starts with a whizz bang of excitement, new directions and golden opportunity. The year is wide open. Pen in our hands we are busy scribbling down the 100 things we will accomplish this year and we attack them with fervent excitement. We are hungry. We are ready. We are ready to be born again.
Know what I mean?
And then – oh crap – winter settles in. It’s dark, cold and snuggling up on the coach while watching trashing reality tv and eating junk food sometimes wins. And the goals – you mean there is hard work involved? Sacrifice? Getting up for masters at 5:30 am? Screw it. The goals – yeah, they can wait. Until it’s nice outside or until I feel like it. Goals schmoals, I’ll just wait a few months and set them again.
But here’s the thing – now’s the time. I’ve said it before but the winter doesn’t wait. The time is now to be doing your thing. You’ve got a big goal that you want to hit later this year? Get your ass in gear and commit to it now. Harsh? Yes. True? Yes. The athletes that are achieving their goals are out there and committing to it this early in the year. They trust and know that it takes long-term commitment and dedication. Now is the time.
So – where do you find the motivation?
Motivation is a tricky thing. It comes and goes. When we need it most, there are a dozen reasons why we are distracted or it's not there. It changes day to day. And it is totally individual. What motivates my husband most definitely does not motivate me. His goal is to get on a race course and devour people. Literally sh*t himself trying. Me? My best achievement is bettering my expectations of myself. I could care less where everyone else is at.
Each of us is motivated by entirely different things.
Cracking your own motivation code can be a very valuable thing. If you can find out what drives you, what inspires you, then you have a better chance of reaching your goals this year. Because hear me out – anyone can write a goal. That’s the easy part. But to actually do the work and get that goal to jump off the paper to turn into real life?
Well, that is a special thing.
A thing that requires oodles of motivation because reaching your goal is guaranteed to be: hard, requiring sacrifice, at times boring, sometimes containing drills, running really slow to keep your heart rate down, following a plan, resisting the urge to do what you want when you want just because. In other words, working towards a goal takes a lot of work! It’s never easy nor fast. If it was, you wouldn’t need goals in the first place because you’d always get what you wanted right away!
Therefore: I declare this is the perfect time to find your motivation. We are in the ass of winter right now. Not even half way through. It’s dark, cold and there has been snow on the ground for weeks. The wind blows. The cars are covered in salt that keeps brushing up against your nice black work clothes. Yeah, I know how it goes. It’s winter and you’re in the doldrums.
Pull yourself out of winter’s ass, here's a plan.
This past weekend I sat down to find my motivation. I grabbed a giant stack of magazines, a new pair of scissors (any teacher out there knows the pleasure of a new pair of scissors all for yourself) and a glue stick. I was in kindergarten again. It was time to make a collage.
My task was to go through the magazines and cut out anything that motivated me. Anything that would inspire me or remind me of my goals. Because I need some inspiration. I’m happy to be training and I’m healthy. But it’s been under 20 degrees for at least 3 weeks. I’m inside all of the time. I’ve been looking at the same off white basement carpeting and tan walls. I have not ran outside in three weeks. I am not kidding. I have been on my treadmill 4 times a week with a fan on my left side and a track light burning a hole in my head all while staring at the same thing:
Women’s Health is obsessed with trying to make me lose weight or look better
It’s really not a great view. Nor is the view very motivating.
(As a side note, I take no responsibility for that Race In Progress sign. It was illegally taken from a race course in Missouri in September 2007 by way of my husband and a certain smiley blond from Kansas who insisted that because I was the girl on the sign, I deserved the sign. I disagreed but clearly lost out and now the sign is posted in my basement.)
So I needed a new view, one that was a little more motivating. Enter: my motivation board.
Flipping through magazines, flipping through magazines…it was fun, a complete diversion from the daily tasks that I do and along the way an interesting thing happened. You realize quickly what magazines are trying to say to you when you flip through them looking for pictures and phrases. Here is what I found:
Cooking Light is sort of ok but then on the next page makes me feel fat and bad for liking ice cream
Bicycling is trying to convince me that speed or power is just another expensive tool away
Runner’s World gets the idea that reaching your goal will hurt and hurt bad
Running Times is cool if you’re in high school
Mountain Bike uh, that one went straight to the recycling bin
Clean Eating wants to get me to eat better and lose weight
Rachel Ray speaks her own language of acronyms and kitschy kitsch
Anyways...I read through a lot of magazines, but it was both Body & Soul, Yoga Journal and Experience magazines that spoke the most to me. There is a lot of filler in other magazines but these two were filled with words that made me think, words to inspire, words to cut out because they said “me”.
Once finished, I had a giant pile of clippings. I looked through them and collectively they said what I wanted to say. And it was motivating. So I set about to put them together like a puzzle. It was hard to figure out a way to make everything fit together but in the end it worked. All in all, it took me a few hours. Seriously? Who knew that cutting and pasting would be so time-consuming but it was one of those projects I just lost myself in. And when I was all done Chris looked at it like that is what you’ve been doing for hours on a Saturday? Yes. Do you know how hard it is to cut and paste! Especially with sticky hands!!
It was worth it because I look at it now and it is motivating. So today before my (once again treadmill) run, I posted the board and….I changed the view.
This one was much better.
60 minutes tempo never felt easier and all the motivation when my mind wandered or the treadmill wouldn't relent - it was right in my face. I kept finding words and relating them to my goal. It kept me focused and busy. And damn I got off that treadmill feeling pumped!
Not all of us will be motivated by words – maybe it’s pictures or something more tangible. Whatever it is, put it together and keep it nearby. The ass of winter is cold and it can chill your motivation on the darkest days. Find something that pulls you through. Maybe it's writing down your goal time on a notecard, a picture of your "A" race, a word that you want to "become" this season. A picture of your rival. Whatever it is, begin it and find your motivation.
Stick with it - work towards your goals. Now is the time. Get yourself out there, carry a card in your pocket or a picture in your gym bag. Fill a notebook with quotes or start clipping up your magazines. Get in touch with your inner child with scissors and a glue stick. Do whatever it takes.
And then keep doing it. Start now and keep at it.
You’ll get there.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
It’s kind of like my obsession with crazy hats. As the crazy winter hat gives my dull winter an exciting life, a name can infuse vigor and meaning into anything.
Look at my dog. His name is Boss. Not only is it his name, it’s a conversation starter. Every where I take my little Boss people ask “is he the boss?” You bet. Not only that but he is the Mayor McBarks, Sir Barks-a-Lot, Barks Magoo, Shlomo McNulty, Nibs, Crap Wiesel, Little Shit and sometimes just Boss Boss.
….Should I go on?
What if I had named him Bobo. Once I visited the vet and he mistakenly called Boss “Bobo”. I almost threw a biscuit at the guy. You call yourself doctor? Does this look like a Bobo to you? Does he look like a clown? Chihuahuas are small yet mighty (arctic) dogs that lived in the hills of Mexico making their nests in large sombreros (all lies). Really though, a dog like Boss needs a sturdy name lest someone mistake him for a 9 pound accessory dog (which he is not).
Not only am I gifted at naming dogs, but also non-living things. I used to collect stuffed monkeys. Brought upon by a spell of loneliness after my husband subjected himself to a two week trip to China. I bought a monkey to replace him. Bite your tongue, it was just for two weeks. I christened the monkey Mr. Pickles and over the years he grew to have an entire entourage. Sir Zippy Jumbles, Scribbles and Scraps (twins), Waffles and Peanut Butter.
Growing up we had a pet bird named Rosalie Birdie. That was after Quincy MD, also bird (and medical doctor of avian species), died. A dog named Cookie. An assortment of fish named after spices (Marjoram, BayLeaf). An imaginary friend named Lassie. A make believe restaurant that I not only owned but waitressed at called The Country Kitchen (I lived in Brooklyn – does anyone else see the irony in that?). A Pound Puppy named Cookie (no relation to real dog). A Cabbage Patch Kid named Danica (who later went on to become a famous race car driver). About 10 dozen Barbies AND her dream house (still have the fabulous 70s furniture from it too). An entire classroom of students that I taught in my grandma’s kitchen when I played school. I had a grandma called Momma and a mother that went by Mom (both real). And a great grandmother we called Ema (which means grandmother but we are not sure in which language). We called my brother Larry even though his name was Pete. And when I was little he was simply known as Pee-ba. Growing up my stepdad called me Liz O’Dimus (we are not Irish, the name O’Dimus originated from a speech Chicago mayor Harold Washington gave in which he said he did not want any more “hocus pocus dominocus”, O’Dimus was a variation of that which meant – I think – that you were behaving like a complete fool). My husband’s phone number comes up on my iPhone as Pooperstrudel (it really is his nickname born from love). And even Ragbrai includes an assortment of real people with code names: Red Bear, The Timmers, Shady Tom and who could forget…Trixie.
But this isn’t about dogs. Or stuffed monkeys. Or other nicknames. It’s about something more serious than that.
It’s about my bike.
I sit upon my bike several hours a week looking for a name. Something that sits so close to my booty deserves a proper name. A proper burial. Something like that.
People name their bike all sorts of things. Some people ride with their name painted on their bike (really, I just could never, have never, would never do that for how can you be a stealth threat with your name painted on the frame, huh?). My last bike was named The Machine. Because it was. Chris names his bikes things like Cupcake, Sunshine, Raindrop.
Could you imagine Chris riding a bike at 26 mph with Cupcake painted on the side?
And I know I’m not the only one that names my bike. I’ve realized some of my athletes name their bike too.
Fuzzy Puppy Cuddle
Thank goodness for Training Peaks.
A name. A name for my bike. JH fake pro from New York (he called himself a fake pro first) is trying to name his bike. He got a sleek new black bike from Cannondale. Of course he wants to name it something like dark death metal killing machine. But for a girl’s bike – that would never do.
People name other things with wheels. In high school my friend named their car appropriately, Car-Car. Another drove a Nova which we renamed the “No-go”. Bessie, Sparky, Cobra…I imagine these are all things you would name your car. Or even your monster truck.
But what about a bike? If it had a name, what would it be?
I look at my bike sitting idle in the basement. Forgive me bike but it has been 2 months since our last confession. Or our last ride on the road. Early this winter, I ignored you for about 4 weeks and left you in a deconstructed heap.
But now you are back and I ride you frequently. Plus I have known you for about 2 years. We should at least be on a first name basis by now.
The other day I rode you for 1:45, the longest ride since early November. It felt like eternity. How quickly our endurance fades. I cannot say I am looking forward to riding you longer in the weeks ahead. Even with Rock of Love to entertain me (if you don’t know who Bret Michaels is, shame on you), 1:45 is sort of a long way.
In addition to a new season of Rock of Love (TOUR BUS!) - to make rides more interesting this winter, I have also found a way to add more wires to the complicated web of wires and sensors close to the rear wheel. My new favorite toy: a Computrainer. I did a power test a few weeks ago and damn you bike you are hiding watts from me. There are about 15 missing and I would like them back. Rather than piss and moan about how out of shape I am (because really, I am, and I’m not going to sit here and feed you a line of “chipper chicken blah blah” about how it’s January and I’ve never been in better shape), I will just continue to ride you and hope for the best. Or at least some of those watts to find their way back to my legs.
About a month ago you started to sputter and hiccup in the rear wheel. I wasn’t sure if you would make it through another season. Chris took the rear wheel apart to find a 5 dollar bill in there from when I last flatted at mile 76 along the Queen K. I felt compelled to give Chris’ mom her 5 dollar bill back but then again – I think I just bought myself coffee for a few days. And for you, bike, a new tire quieted you down.
Together we have ridden nearly 10,000 miles in the past few years. I noticed the other day that the computer is getting dangerously close to 10,000. Do you remember where we rode all of those miles? West Coast, East Coast, two trips to Hawaii and….I know, mostly a lot of loops around Fermilab.
A bike like this deserves a name.
My bike is blue. One of my favorite colors is blue. Blue can be turbulent, moody, hopeful and calm. It is deep like the ocean and limitless like the sky. Blue is, come to think about it, kind of like me.
And so I christen you…Blue.
Blue, rest up this week because ahead of us we have a lot of riding to do. Like any new year, this year is limitless. A few times a week I will saddle up to become stronger, smarter and faster on you.
“You’re my boy, Blue!”
I asked Chris about a name for his bike. Doesn’t have one, he said. I told him to humor me. Give it a name. A few seconds later he said…
Huh? Like the animal? Vulpes vulpes (spend 7 years teaching science and you learn a few – and just a few – things like kingdom phylum class order family genus species to be remembered by the phrase Killer Penguins Can Often Find Good Sex and as if THAT wasn't enough you also learn latin names for animals). But why "fox"?
Exactly, he said.
I think that was his polite way of telling me that it was ridiculous to give your bike a name.
But I don’t care. I see Blue and he looks….glorious.
Yeah, something like that. We’ll see how long that lasts because I have a feeling the long rides are getting longer and 1:45 on my bike in the basement will seem like nothing in due time.
But at least now when I curse at my bike for stealing watts, when I talk to myself on my bike out of boredom or when I sit on it for a few hours straight I will feel like I have someone I am talking to. Blue.
Blue, how come there’s no ice in my Accelerade?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Many exciting things are in the works for me both personally and professionally.
Thank you to Trakkers for coming on board to support my training and racing endeavors in 2009. Not only that, but they have asked me to write for some of their projects, one being the Rev 3 Triathlon. If you have not heard about the Rev 3 Triathlon, it is a race that will showcase what racing is all about - quality race organization, a challenging venue and top notch competition from some of the world's best professionals. Check out their website for more information and read some blogs especially written for the site here:
Power Bar continues to support my efforts. I have been a part of their geneours Team Elite program since 2003. I train and race using Power Bar products - and they have never let me down! Two Ironmans, many many many half Ironmans and so many miles on nothing but vanilla Power Gels and Cookies n' Cream Power Bars. Thanks!
Trisports.com has been my dream sponsor since 2005. Incredibly supportive, generous and fun is what this team is all about. It's a down-to-earth company that defines what a triathlon store should be - not just product but a resource and leader in multisport; www.trisports.com. Enter code EFEDO-S for 10% off your order at checkout.
Rudy Project makes cool sunglasses and helmets. The other day I spoke to a group of high schoolers and they thought my helmet was not only very alien-like but super speedy cool looking too. Even at their age they could spot aerodynamics. There are probably over 10 pairs of Rudy Project sunglasses around my house for good reason - they are comfortable, high quality and do what they are supposed to do.
SOHMAR is the School of Holistic Massage and Refloxology in Downers Grove. The school was founded by Michael - who is not only the best massage therapist in the western suburbs but a triathlete (and Ironman!) too. If you are looking to be taken care of by relaxing and experienced hands, head over to SOHMAR for a massage.
If you haven't heard, you haven't been listening...Well Fit is opening a brand new training facility in Chicago. And the grand opening is this Thursday! The coaches and staff at Well Fit have poured endless hours into putting together a unique multisport training and coaching facility - designed by multisport athletes for multisport athletes. CompuTrainers, treadmills, Endless Pool, New Leaf performance testing, showers, lockers - it's all in there and waiting for you. I have the opportunity to lead their Ironman Wisconsin training program which starts in February. Visit their website at www.wellfitinc.com for more information.
Alive With Mission Me is an organization you will be hearing more about. They are leading the way in bringing multisport to youth around the country. I am grateful to have been a part of their inaugural efforts to teach coaches how to connect youth to multisport. On February 28th, they are leading a coach training in Chicago. If you have the opportunity (and if you need CEUs), participate! The founders are passionate about what they do and driven to share our sport with youth. I am excited to be a part of this project as it allows me to merge two of my biggest passions - multisport and working with children. For more information, visit here: www.alivewithmissionme.org
And, finally, you know about my own coaching business, Multisport Mastery. 2008 was a year of success beyond my dreams. My business has thrived and I can say that I wake up every day excited to do my job. Thank you to all of my athletes for making this possible for another year.
I am looking for sponsors interested in joining me for 2009. What do I bring? In addition to a snappy attitude and a collection of crazy winter hats: widespread coverage race schedule around the country, representation on an award winning blog, contact with hundreds of athletes through my affiliations, direct exposure to all athletes on my coaching roster and more. Contact me at: multisportmastery at comcast.net
Here's to 2009! Let's go!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Good thing I woke up this morning feeling zippy and fresh. I was expecting to look outside my window and declare a snow day for masters but no such luck. Turns out that the snow shoveling crew we pay to shovel our driveway (it’s not an option, when you live in a townhouse you have to pay a fee to get people to do what you are perfectly capable of doing yourself) – yes, they actually showed up. I’m starting to see a pattern that when snow is forecasted but does not arrive they arrive to shovel the snow that arrived when it was not forecasted. I am not sure what all of this means but when I least expect it, there is a clear path on my driveway. And all of the other days - I am shoveling.
A clear driveway meant I could drive to masters. First I took Boss out. I believe I have the world’s only Arctic Chihuahua. F*ck the booties, he says, I’m walking all the way down to the field with bare paws. Not only that but he pulls me which is really fun when the street is covered in a month of snow, ice, freeze, thaw and you are wearing rubber shoes. I feel like Balto the sled dog is pulling me down the street. Expect he’s only 9.3 pounds. And I’m Fat Elvis. He decides that it was too cold to make the potty so we sled our way all the way back to the house. Good thing we went for that 12 degree walk with winds gusting to 20 mph that make it feel like 20 below.
Make your damn potty already!
After that I get into the car ready to drive to the pool. You know how cold is cold? When you get into your car and the snow you tracked into last night is still in there. When the windows are frozen shut. When the windshield is frozen from the inside out. It took a good 10 minutes to get the car warm enough for human inhabitance and finally I was on my way.
I arrived at the pool needing to thaw myself so I decided to take a quick trip into the dry sauna. When you do the same thing every week you start to notice patterns. Like the two older women that stand not in but in front of the dry sauna, blocking the door while pressing their legs against the glass. And every week I politely ask them to step away from the door so I can get in. You would think the entrance door to the sauna would tip them off that perhaps that’s not the best place to stand. Because then when I want to leave the sauna, I have to tap on the glass and I am at their mercy that they move away from the door.
If they choose not, I could bake. I could literally die and bake in there at 180 degrees.
They let me out of the hot box of hell and I walk towards the lanes. Immediately I could tell something was up. As I approached my usual lane, Tugboat Tom asks me with urgency, “Are you going to captain our lane?”
Something’s not right. Tom looks unusually nervous and antsy today. I get the sense that he doesn’t like distance free Tuesday but convinces himself he needs to so he shows up every Tuesday looking frantic about at anything over 50 yards. And then he spends a few nervous minutes convincing someone else to lead the lane.
I look to S. who is already in the lane and spreading the rumor that we are doing a timed mile. Tugboat Tom looks at me again like, well, are you going to lead us or leave us to die. I knew I had three seconds to quickly glance at the other lanes to see my choices or else someone would answer for me and I would be captaining the lane.
And so I did what any brave captain would do. I walked away. I had to save myself. At the end of the pool I noticed John swimming alone and can you not read the sign? It says no swimmer shall swim alone. Don’t worry guys – I’m on it – I’m going to make sure John has company in the lane.
(you should also know that John is fast and would most definitely lead the lane with me safely in his draft)
We started swimming the workout written on the board which was deceptively devoid of any mainset. I see some 300s, some 75s, some 50s and….where oh where is the mainset? Chatter continues about the timed 1650. Where is this rumor coming from? And if it was true it means that someone in the 5:30 am practice told someone that was coming to the 10 am practice that we were doing the 1650. It’s not like we all exist in some high school walking the halls. We live throughout an entire county. Someone had to call someone who then put the word out. This is just swimming? Who calls to spread the news – sound the sirens, blow the horns today at masters is a TIMED MILE!
Somewhere in the middle of a kick set I realize I am alone in the lane. Hmmm. Not to worry, John will be back. Potty break? Fin malfunction? I get a little nervous when 50 goes by and he is still not there. I especially chose this lane – this annoyingly cold lane on the wall right next to the door to the outside (which by the way has snow on the inside of it – that’s how cold is cold) and I am not here to swim by myself. I am swimming in someone’s draft in this lane. I will drag John back by fin if that is what it takes. Where is he?
Then I realize someone new has joined me lane. John – out. And I realize J. – in. For someone who doesn’t take all of this very seriously – J. can haul ass. The problem is – he won’t let himself. He rarely swims the entire workout, refuses to lead the lane and never touches the wall. For every 50 yards we swim, he swims 47.5. He typically arrives late and leaves early. Anything that includes a timed set, he usually DNFs.
So one thing was certain – there was no way he was leading the 1650. Look at it – it contains at least two conditions he automatically cancels out. Leading and a timed set.
Perfect. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place. All of a sudden my perfect plan to draft John into new timed 1650 personal best left under the lane line about 150 yards ago. John acts helpless claiming that J. made him switch lanes. Well the joke was on him because now his fate was to swim with Timmyboy (as a side note, Timmyboy is really fast and Timmyboy actually has Timmyboy tattooed around his arm which always makes me laugh because I would never think of tattooing Lizziegirl on my arm – or….well…maybe?).
Meanwhile, another swimmer joins our lane. Within a few minutes she tells us she doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t like timed 1650s and by the way will be swimming it slow. J.H.C., who snowed all over her driveway? Call me crazy but I’m guessing she won’t be a contender for leading the lane. But it didn’t hurt to ask. And just as she confirms that she doesn’t want to lead, I overhear the girl in the lane next to me announcing that she will be swimming the 1650 slow to practice turns.
Wait – what? TIME OUT. You are going to swim the timed set slowly to practice turns…what am I missing here? Have you noticed this? You give swimmers a set of 10 x 50 on the 2:00 all out max effort and they are all over it with no complaint (yes, I said 50s on the 2:00 which implies you do them so hard you barf at the gutter after each one before waiting a long time before doing it again). You give them a timed distance free set and they’re “going slow”. They’re opting out. Hey guys, about that timed 1650, uh, I’m good. I don’t think I need to do that. For crying out loud, who shows up to “go slow”? That would be like me showing up to a 5K telling everyone, know what guys I’m just going to cruise this 5K race and throw a little carioca drill in there to work on my lateral movement.
It’s a TIMED SET. Go for it! I have noticed, though, that any time you throw the word timed or test into something adults freak out. I see this (lovingly) with my own athletes. All of a sudden their student identity comes out and you can tell the crammers, the naturals, the “let’s just wing it”, the neurotic, the spent the entire week sleepless, the excuse maker, the fear of failure, fear of their own pencil, fear of being judged, fear of the timed set (test).
Well, I was the student who waited until 2 nights before the test, rewrote all of the my notes then read them the night before the test and called myself prepared. I have no idea how that prepares me for a timed 1650 but today I was set. And a good thing because apparently I was leading this lane.
All right – timed mile. 33 laps. A 150 with 3 x 500s afterwards. The final 500 you pick it up with the last 200 of it all out. So what to do in between? Swim. Oh my lord this is a long time to swim. Whose idea was it to build a pool in short course yards? Whose idea was it to lead the lane? The good thing about the timed 1650 is that you knock out a lot of yardage at once. The bad thing is that you swim 1650 continuously. Not so bad if you let your mind wander or sing swimmy songs – all impossible, however, if you are leading! Each lap you are thinking about the lap you are on or the lap you are going to be on all while trying to sneak a peak at the clock occasionally to see if you are on the lap you think you are on based on time. It is all very confusing and when we do anything over 1000 yards straight there is no guarantee that I go all the way.
The 1650 goes by slowly. I won’t kid you. I am trying to feed off the energy in the other lanes but I cannot even see them. There is an overchlorination problem in our pool right now that makes it very cloudy. You can barely see the person swimming behind you when you make the turn. In fact it was so cloudy that Tom tried to convince the coach we shouldn’t swim the mile because of poor visibility that might cause us to miss the turn buoy.
That didn’t fly.
I finish after being lapped only 3 times by the lane next to me. On my masters team, I consider that a personal victory. I ended up missing my dream time by 3 seconds. And I realized that J. cut the entire thing short by 50 when I lapped him. As the lane leader I tried to command him back out to make up the 50 but he wouldn’t hear any of it.
I guess my captain’s hat came off right at the end of that 1650.
Now it is time to ride. I suspect leading the pack for this workout will be much easier. Rumor has it that we are riding 1:45 today. That's a long time to ride in the basement - almost as long as swimming 1650 straight. But it will go by much quicker because this time there is no counting or clock watching. Oh no, it's better than that because I can watch Rock of Love.
Tour bus, baby!
Monday, January 12, 2009
January is now in full swing. It is finally the new year. I was so excited to start 2009 because it signaled a new beginning.
I needed a new beginning. You can start anew at any point during the year but honestly I wanted to put 2008 behind. 2008 was a year with many ups and downs. In early December I stepped back from everything – a coach, a training plan – and thought about the year. I owed myself the time to reflect.
It was not a good year. No one wants to spend a year getting worse at the sport – and that was how it seemed. After April my training and racing was crap. No better way to say it. I was finishing in times I had not seen for almost 5 years. All of a sudden breaking 5 hours in a half Ironman which I could always do easily was harder than ever. I was fatigued, my heart rate wouldn’t move and I cried - a lot.
The sport was no longer fun for me.
But I was in a hard place. I had left a rewarding career to not only build my own business but compete professionally. Not because I had dreams of becoming the next Olympian but because I wanted to grow and challenge myself. I wanted to take a huge risk to see – what if. What if I spent a year taking it seriously and giving myself completely.
Everything for me as an athlete went wrong. It was the first time in life I had ever failed – and that hurt. Yet at the same time everything with coaching went right. My business and my athletes filled me with happiness and hope in the sport and I am so grateful for that. In a year where everything for me personally deconstructed in sport, my athletes allowed me an outlet to grow in a new way and share their success. For every failure I had, their successes filled me up and kept me passionate about multisport.
Yet I was still not satisfied with myself in sport. Before I began 2009 I wondered if it would be worth doing it all again. When you spend a year seeing the worst version of yourself in something you used to succeed at you wonder what the point of it is any more. I had to ask myself what am I doing and why. Why keep at something you are clearly failing at? Why risk doing that to yourself again? Would it be worth another year?
True, it would be a risk but also the only way to find the best version of myself. And that is worthwhile. I realize my best is not yet out. When I walk away from competing I want to know that the year behind me felt like my best. I don’t have to win, I don’t have to make a living from it – I just have to be satisfied with myself.
And so I started in early December by looking to myself. What would it take to walk away from this coming year and regardless of the outcome – to be satisfied with myself? I took a complete training break for late November and some of December. I put myself on training break to regain my health and my perspective back. I took a long walk in a beautiful place, the Grand Canyon, and finally found a quiet in my mind. When all other thoughts left, the right ones entered. Purpose, perspective – it was clear what I needed to do with myself. If I was going to commit to another year, to spend another year of my life doing this I had to reinvent myself.
First, I had to look at the source. Me. My body. What is going wrong, what is going right. This started by working with a nutritionist who showed me everything I did wrong with eating and recovery. They also suggested I gain about 6 pounds or spend another year with overtraining or underrecovery. Same thing. Gaining weight was not as easy as it seemed. I took all of December to eat what I wanted when I wanted. You think this would be a dream come true. But after so many peanut butter cups you start to think – I don’t want to do this any more. This is not me. It took a complete reworking of years of emotions and behaviors about food and myself. And now, I feel like Fat Elvis but I realize this is what it will take to sustain health.
The next change I made was parting ways with my coach. Because I wanted to start all over again. Not doing what always worked for me. It was time to find new things that worked. And the things that didn’t work – it was time to find out why. Change is never easy especially when it involves leaving what you know or leaving a good friend. But I needed to take the risk again and move forward without regret.
Starting over always feel good but first I had to let myself get over myself. I have a lot of emotions about the past year; frustration, embarrassment, anger. Before starting the new year, I let myself feel them all as I spent a few hours looking back through my 2008 training logs. I got pissed. I got sad. I told myself to feel all of the emotions to reconcile with all of it but most importantly with myself. Could I trust myself again, my intuition about what feels right, how hard is hard and about knowing what is best for myself? And I decided yes. What I lost last year was my confidence in trusting myself. When I stopped listening and started doubting, I started hurting. I let myself do the wrong things. I was dishonest with myself. About how I was feeling. About letting myself heal and rest. Every day you are in your own body and make the choice for yourself. You must give yourself permission to trust yourself.
2008 is behind me now. I never regret where I have been but instead focus intently on where I am going. I enter this new year with intent. I am intent on being a better version of myself. I am on a different path now. It is always a risk to wonder if it is the perfect path but already I like where I am going and can see how it will get me to my goals. My body responds by being fresh, my mind welcomes the challenge and my heart is in the right place.
At the end of this year I could very well find myself in the same place - I realize that. But if I do, it will not be for nothing. Last year I walked away with "nothing" but lessons and perspective about sport. But unlike any medal or hardware, each of these was something I could integrate into becoming the better version of myself. While no one wants to spend a year failing, I also spent it learning. Life is about learning. Sometimes the lessons are sweet and sometimes they sour in front of you over and over again. Your job is not to judge them rather it is to look at each lesson to find a way to improve yourself or someone else. I am a better athlete because of last year. I am a better coach because of last year. I am smarter and stronger all around. When it all comes together I will – without uncertainty – surprise even myself.
I sit here now with an entire year of opportunity ahead. Looking back to the person I was a year ago, I am in a much different place. Like last year I am bold, I am brave but this time I am confident about the choices I have made and excited about the opportunities that lie within each day for myself. I trust myself – no matter where this takes me – because the possibility of where I could go fills me immensely with hope.
The important thing is this:
To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.
In this new year I am giving up what I know to pursue a new direction with myself. It is a new year to pursue my own dreams athletically and to continue to help others do the same. I leapt into the new year once again with a giant leap of faith. We make choices in life and must have faith. Faith that the risk is worth it, that we are worth it. Because in that risk you exchange who you are for who you could be.
If you gave the best of yourself completely for a year with intent - what could you be?
Let’s find out.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I am maybe becoming one.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s that my mom bought me my own mat for Christmas (before you throw blocks at me – hear me out – the mats at the gym smell so bad that one day I almost had to leave class because it smelled like a working man’s armpit and I thought to myself I cannot lay on a mat that smells like armpit). Maybe it’s because I like the clothes, they are my normal business attire. Stretch pants and a stretchy top, finally a place where people dress like me! Or maybe I just like a quiet stretch.
Wednesday night, I needed to stretch. Lucky for me there was yoga at 6:30 pm at the health club. We belong to nice health club with a smorgasboard of classes; yoga, aerobics, dance, aquatics, heck tonight I even saw women in a class using the ballet barre. It’s pricy but worth it. Listen you spend every day at the health club and you learn that the 10 bucks a month gym is not your safe, happy place. It’s worth the extra few bucks to feel like you are not going to get staph from everything you touch or risk someone touching you inappropriately.
Blame a few slow drivers and a freakin’ half inch of snow for my late arrival. Unlucky for me there seems to be an unspoken rule – you just should not arrive late to yoga. Even my husband feels this rule. And if he feels it, it’s not unspoken, it must be written somewhere in bold, block letters where someone was trying to state the obvious.
Flashback to Sunday when we had to drop my mom off at her house before heading to yoga. This meant we were going to be late. Chris sat in the backseat having his 3 year old moment – which may have been my fault since I clearly forgot his bag of Cheerios – kicking the front seat while whining about being late for yoga.
Since when do you care if we are running late? I asked. Family birthdays, holidays, meeting me up at the altar – all things he was late for.
He just looked at me angry.
For crying out loud, it’s a 90 minute class we can afford to be 5 minutes late. We’ll sneak into the back of the room, I assured him.
Apparently not good enough for him, so he replied: I can't be late, it throws off my chakras.
Chris, you don’t even know what a chakra is.
Doesn’t matter. It’s already thrown off, he said.
We arrive a few minutes late and, you know how this goes. Everyone is already deep in trance on their mats with their eyes closed and ready to turn their breath to noise to chant the sound “om”. We are new to this class, don’t recognize the teacher so imagine my surprise when she starts saying we are going to chant the word “om” in a southern accent. I love me some southern accents but in this class – it was throwing my chakras off.
I got more bizarre. She then informed the entire class we were going to be “rocking out to Seal tonight.” When I come to yoga the last two words I think about putting together are “rockinout” (one word if you want to get to the true meaning of the word) and “Seal”.
But I’m game. After all, it’s yoga and I’m new to it. Maybe this is something yoga people do. They get together on their mats, put their hands together in Namaste while singing “Crazy”. So the Seal soundtrack begins as we begin a series of poses from Ashtanga which is really just a fancy way of saying very-painful-stuff-to-do-while-standing-on-one-leg. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than pigeon pose she throws out this:
After that experience, I come back tonight for more. Same studio, this time different teacher. My wet squeaky shoes across the wooden floor signal my late arrival. Hey guys, I’m here. Let’s turn the sound of my squeaky feet to even more noise and chant
OM...............IGOD LIZ HAS ARRIVED.
I’m trying to be all quiet and casual when I notice something at the front of the room….really…it can’t be….
It is a man.
There is a man leading our yoga class. Excuse me, class? Over there - MAN. I don’t mean to be all gender-biased but where is my tall lanky woman in stretching pants and a halter top telling me in a soft voice to take a luxurious breath.
So what’s with the dude? And is he wearing board shorts? Class has barely begun and my head is spinning the 100 reasons why a man could or could not possibly be leading a yoga class. Really needs money? Wants to meet chicks in tight pants? Lives on the fancy side of the street? All which are cool with me but my mind is wandering and chances are I might just blurt out my burning question, dude what’s the deal with teaching yoga, explain?
I’m going to stuff my yoga sock in my mouth for 60 minutes and hope it stays.
I’m not sitting for more than 2 minutes then he’s already walking up to me. Great - he is not only teaching this class but he can read minds. He knows I'm wondering. Then he touches me. Uh, there seems to be confusion here, MR. yoga instructor. There are about 20 other adults in this room longing to be touched (look at them – the woman in the headband which clearly begs TOUCH ME) and I am not one of them. I DO NOT LIKE WHEN STRANGERS TOUCH ME. Hands off. Back away from my mat before I whip you with my yoga belt.
He fixes my pose and I just smile. We do a series of other seated poses and this is my worst flaw at yoga – my mind wanders and I am people watching. I know I should be timing my breathing with the pose or some shit like that but really – look around – this view is much more interesting. So there is the woman in the headband, there’s the guy who is breathing really REALLY loud and then there’s just this guy. Like a totally normal shouldn’t he be at a bar tonight picking up chicks kind of guy. I found that odd because you don’t see a lot of ‘guys’ at yoga. There are men who are clearly runners with tight scrawny legs that cannot get within six inches of their toes and thought – I need yoga.
But there are not usually “guys”.
So this guy, I’m respecting the fact that he did the kind of unguy-like thing of showing up on the mat but then I notice something. He is bending over to grab his toes when his shirt lifts off his back and he shorts dip down to reveal nothing but 100 percent pure…
(this is why I really should not people watch in yoga class)
The rest of the class all I can see is this guys crack. After about 30 minutes of this I’m ready to throw my yoga block at him and tell him to saddle up his shorts, the moon is not supposed to be out tonight. Not only that but I’m fixed on the instructor’s board shorts. I’m surrounded by women in cute stretchy pants and matching tops and I’m thinking to myself someone needs – desperately NEEDS – to design a line of men’s yoga clothes. Because board shorts and crack are not cutting it.
It gets worse. I’m doing the poses but my mind is somewhere between fancy street and crack and I have no idea whether I’m inhaling or exhaling now. I’ve completely blown the purpose of the class – to relaxandstretch. I’m stretching but my mind is moving along at a sub 6 minute pace.
Next we move into our first downward dog of the class and once in position the instructor says, now feel free to walk the dog.
I almost lost it. You see on Ragbrai when you tell another man to walk the dog you better close your eyes because he’s dropping his pants. Sorry folks, this is R-rated but I remember a dark night in Coralville with Giff naked against the van holding a flashlight and showing us WALK THE DOG. It is NOT something that you should have to see.
And definitely not something you should be telling an entire room of adults to do when they are on their hands and toes!
To confirm this: when I arrived home, I asked Chris "if a man told you to walk the dog, what you would think?" He paused for a moment (I could tell he was thinking about this) and said “are we talking about the dog dog or puppetry.”
So I’m walking the dog (god help me) which is really just lifting my heels up and down on the mat and then we start doing seated poses. Good because this signaled the almost end of class. Soon as I knew it we were preparing for final relaxation and I’m lying on my mat (which smells fabulous incidentally).
The instructor, whose name is Paul, is walking around telling us what to soften and descend. Soften the mouth, descend the arms, your eyes and finally – descend your brain.
Wait a minute. You had me there until….descend the brain? DESCEND THE BRAIN?
At this point, I wanted to rise up off my mat, shake him and say what the hell are you talking about, Paul. How am I going to descend my brain, Paul, without detaching it from my brain stem? And then how would I drive home, PAUL, without higher cognitive functioning?
Are you seeing a pattern here? It’s not him, it’s that he’s named Paul. I will admit that I have a thing with that name. Now, I know that Andrea’s husband is named Paul and he is a really nice guy. And Paul the athlete whom I coach – he is also really nice and really fast. But any time I hear the name Paul it makes me want to run up to the guy and shake him on the shoulders and just shout ridiculous things at him while also shouting his name. It’s just that kind of a name. It begs to be shouted. PAUL PAUL PAUL.
I trace this back to the fourth grade when a kid named Paul sat in the back of the class. Paul was a wildly rambunctious kid always talking and always in trouble. Of all the words I learned that year, none were as frequently heard as the word Paul. Not only that but he was always playing with this little action figure robot that he called his “chicken cutlet”. So any time I hear the name Paul now I think of a wooden desk in the back of a room on the 2nd floor of P.S. 203, Mrs. Lugoff my fourth grade teacher, a wild child and chicken cutlets.
Can you blame me?
Which is how I found myself laying on the mat trying to descend my brain which was filled with the name PAUL PAUL PAUL thinking about chicken cutlets and wondering how long until final relaxation is over because I need to get out of this place or crawl under my mat to hide from the other guy’s crack.
I left tonight not so sure yoga is good for me. If it’s supposed to quiet my brain it is only providing it food for thought. And my brain is hungry. And clearly taking names.
Maybe I should try pilates instead.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
I moved up a lane.
Moving up at lane at masters is no easy task. Little did you know that the antiturbulence lane lines also serve as brick walls. Climbing up and over them is not easy unless you are Juggernaut. Even still I’m not sure he would get accepted in the next lane.
Masters is kind of a tough crowd.
Especially on Saturdays. Saturday morning masters is not for sissies, crybabies, whiners or triathletes. I have no idea what I am doing there. It’s a swim with the big boys. The pool is jam packed and the workout is 90 minutes long, sometimes over 5000 yards. It just depends on the coach, the workout and how many times you hang on the wall catching your breath or praying you survive.
This Saturday the pool was once again packed. I stood on deck and looked at my lane choices. To the right was my safe place. To the left was the other lane.
I have always wanted to swim in the other lane. They are always going fast, hard, sending off on intervals that I came in to the wall at. I want to be sending off. I want to be in that lane. No, one day I want to lead that lane. Lap that lane. Graduate from that lane?
Listen, let’s just start by surviving in the draft.
I figured I could. After all, I survived Tuesday. Tuesday is another one of those practices where you have to put your big girl goggles on, say two Hail Marys to hope you make it in before the next send off. I had two choices on Tuesday night: swim on the wall by myself or swim with my husband. There is nothing worse than swimming on the wall. Unless the wall has a staircase. It’s like you lose 5 seconds per hundred somewhere as that staircase swirls water around and then spits it back at you as you make the turn.
...Nothing worse but swimming with your husband. Married couples you know how this goes. The pool is not a blissful place. Chances are someone will leave mad. Why? Because someone will have a good swim which means the other is having a bad swim. It’s complicated like most things in marriage. But then I looked at the wall. At Chris. At the wall – I HATE THE WALL. At Chris…RISK MARITAL DISCORD….the wall…
I chose to swim with Chris.
As if that wasn’t trouble enough, the coach didn’t reveal the workout until we were finished with the warm up. This indicates nothing but trouble. In fact one day I am expecting her to turn the board around and it says 3 x TROUBLE @ 110%. We get 1200 yards into what is called the “warm up”, but what I call “half the workout”….only to see a mainset that is 2800 yards.
Mainsets should not be 2800 yards but when you show up to Tuesday night masters distance free workout that is what you get. Heck of a night to choose to swim with Chris. The coach puts up three intervals to choose from for the first set of 4 x 400. Chris chooses the fastest one. This is where having a wife in your lane comes in handy:
Chris, I don’t think she put that interval up for us.
Call me a naysayer but we are not sending off on that pace. We are barely making it in on that pace. Reluctantly Chris chooses the second fastest interval. He then turns to me and says “do whatever it takes to hang on.” Part of it was a gentlemanly gesture telling me it was ok to tug at his feet, perhaps hang directly on to them for what might otherwise be for me a continuous 1600. The other part was following the gesture up with a maniac laugh like “wife, you are crazy to swim with me when you know that just a few months ago I was lapping your peashooter ass.”
Somehow I survive in his draft and make all of the intervals. Part of me cannot believe it but part of me knows I should not overthink what is happening and instead just focus on staying as close to him as I can. Plus get ready for him to rage on the way home because somebody will think they are not having a good swim (really though he had a good swim and I had a good swim – it is possible for a married couple to both have a good swim in the same lane).
The next set was 4 x 200 followed by 4 x 100 and at that point it was somewhere after 9 pm, nearly 4000 yards, an ache in my arms, a pounding in my head but a growing confidence that at Saturday masters it was time to move up.
So on Saturday I see Beth also deciding about a lane. She is a good masters friend and friends do crazy things together. Like move up a lane. So together we are swimming in the new lane. She says why not. I can think of a million why’s not to swim in the lane and already I have my defense ready about how I will survive. I’m ready to tell them I’ll just drop a 50 or get out of their way when they go to lap me.
But then I tell myself to shut up. What are you doing. Why are you doing that? Who shows up with an excuse for why they might fail? Or a back up plan? You keep your mouth shut. You swim. You swim hard. You do what it takes to keep up. There is no back up plan.
The warm up is easy enough. Then we do a set of 5 x 200 on an interval that I used to come in at. This will be fun. I position myself fourth in the lane and we send off. The first two laps are fast and then the feet in front of me get closer and closer until I realize something – I’m not just keeping up, I’m ready to pull feet here. Something’s not right. So we get to the wall and I look at the time - it’s a new personal best for me.
The swimmer in front of me lets me go ahead. Really? Now I am third in line. I am swimming behind Chris who is swimming behind the doctor and I’m thinking in my head holy crap now, it’s real, I’m swimming with the doctor, THE DOCTOR!, it’s totally on, there is no turning back, I’m in this lane third in line and I’m going to survive. Another 200, another 200, I’m there, I’m not being dropped? Not lapped? Each time I hit the wall I’ve set a new personal best 200 time. I’m getting closer, like 2 seconds away from my all time 200 dream time.
I left the pool ready to skip towards the shower and excitedly over bagel and coffee told Chris that I had my dream swim today.
He looked at me like what? You dream about swimming?
I told him that he might have fantasies about women, video games and beer but I dream of swimming in the next lane. I really do. I dream about coming in under a certain time for the 200 and sending off on a certain interval for the 100s. To me the next lane is like Xanadu. It’s a place where they swim everything under that magic pace. And they make all of my magic send offs.
This will be my new lane.
But each time I get in the pool it means pushing myself. Today I arrived at masters and looked at my choices – I could either swim with the guys that do their 100s in 1:00 or swim with Tugboat Tom - who is quite zippy himself. When I told Tom I was joining him he said a firm NO. I said listen Tom, it’s between you or them. I am swimming in your lane.
Fine, but you are leading. He seemed ok with it then.
We swam a 3000 yard mainset. This seems to be the new thing at masters – swimming these monster mainsets but it makes the time pass fast. The pain in between – this is nothing that cannot be erased with a cup of coffee afterwards or a good feeling inside that you did it.
Sometimes that is all it takes.
I try to set a new goal each time I go to swim. Otherwise what is the purpose of it? Today was my opportunity to lead the lane. I did for the most part and it was not easy. I’m still not sure what pushes me more – leading or drafting. I know that sounds silly but when you lead you can sort of control the pace and ease up when you’re tired. When drafting you are getting an easier ride but it is at a faster pace. Mentally, to me, it is harder to keep up than lead. What do you think?
Since things are going so swimmingly, I wrote down a few other goals today. They are times I would like to hit by the end of January. I might just end my swimming career there because if I can breakthrough to them I will be ok to put my paddles down and walk away from the pool very happy.
Heck I might even do a swim meet.
But don’t quote me on that.