Tri #2 done – and what’s next for this Athena?

It’s not all about the skinny, elite athletes at a triathlon. Regardless of your size, you can do this. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

My second triathlon is done. I finished second in the Athena class.

That’s right, I’m an Athena. Over forty years of age and over 165 pounds. Yes, I did admit to both of those numbers in the same sentence. Let the fat-flaming and body-shaming begin. Nicole Arbour, the Canadian comic who posted the much-reviled Dear Fat People video, would have a field day with me. Not that she would be the only one.

But it turns out there are a lot of folks out there like me (the men’s equivalent class is called Clydesdale). And while there isn’t a lot to choose from in terms of trisuits, tops and bottoms, there is a very active support network of bigger athletes who like the sport, are very active in it and are quite willing to share what they’ve learned. And we can easily find each other at events because let’s face it – we’re not the skinniest people in the tightest compression gear. And we’re not usually finishing in the top three in our regular age group, either. The Athena-Clydesdale classification gives us the chance to compete against people we look like, on the same, yet more level playing field than if we were up against the elite athletes. Call it unfair, call it over-specialization, call it coddling – I like the idea of doing the same event, but not looking like an idiot over and over again for finishing last in my age group.

What’s next? At least one more spring triathlon this year, then an early season sprint triathlon in 2016, and just maybe – move up a level, from sprint to international length. Six months ago, I said I’d never do a triathlon, never swim open water, never do an ocean swim. I did all three of those this year. As each “never do” is turning into a “done that,” I think about what the next challenge will look like. But I don’t fear it. And I look forward to meeting my bigger and beautiful athletic brethren.

Oh, and in case you are wondering what I did with my second-place medal; it’s hanging from my dining room chandelier. Not my idea, though. The Husband thought I should show it off.

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Triathlon minus 10 days; is a no training day a cop-out?

. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s almost here, and it’s a sprint distance tri this time.

Training is really a grind as you get older.

Stuff hurts more often and for longer periods of time. And because you’re more forgetful, you don’t recall just how bad it was the last time you ached. That first aid kit on the shelf now takes up the entire shelf. Where once there was lingerie and other silly pretty things, there are now bandages, tape, first-aid creams and muscle rub compounds.

The living room couch boasts a permanent addition: a heating pad, plugged in and always at the ready.

I now look at Relax The Back catalogs  with the same drooling devotion I once reserved for Williams-Sonoma.

Getting out of bed in the morning requires a 10-minute stretch, or my body makes sounds like a bowl of crispy rice cereal and four-letter words issue forth from my brain to my mouth.

I now have so many bodily scars, dents and pings, I can probably go to my plastic surgeon and ask if a total body refurbish job  is a possibility.

Why does anyone do this? Where’s the root of obsession, addition and dark-side desire to get up, get out and go to yet one more event? I’ve even scheduled an “away” 5K while we’re on vacation.The Husband does have a sense of humor about this, as long as he gets to do and see what’s on his list. But considering we go on one vacation a year, because most of my other time is used up for competitive events, does make me wonder if my motivation switch is stuck in the “On” position, somewhere between “Hell, Yes!” and “Can’t Stop.”

And what’s so hard about a day off that I was actually forced to schedule two of them a month in the months leading up to my next triathlon on Sept. 6? The body needs rest, but compelling it to do so makes me jittery, guilty and in search of something to do.

We have a storm brewing off the coast. Right now, it’s Tropical Storm Erika. It will likely be Hurricane Erika in a few days. Conveniently, it may blow through on Monday. I could use a Monday to myself. I mean, normally I’d be out running a few miles on the local high school track, but I have a final transition practice to do Sunday, so a Monday off would be nice. A day off, six days before a triathlon. Really, I can do that. I have projects, like dust bunny removal, window washing, yard work and paperwork to file. What’s that, you say? I don’t seem concerned about the storm itself? On the contrary, a Category 1 hurricane is a concern. It can bring downed trees and power lines, flooding and damage to homes and businesses.  Oh, and block the road for cyclists, close the pool for practice…WHAT? It’s almost here…and a sprint tri this time. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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‘Twas The Day After Triathlon…

Two days after, actually. Yes, I did it. I surprised myself with the accomplishment, actually.

Finished mid-pack in my age group, no injuries, flat bike tires or other incidents. My transitions could have been better, and I hated the (trail) run portion of the event, but aside from that, I enjoyed the hard work of it all. I did not get a spectacular time out of the event, but it’s done. And that’s the point.

A triathlon means you’re willing to take three sports you do pretty well (or two you do pretty well and one you’d rather not do at all) and put them together in a single competition. It means spending more time that you’d like off the comfy couch, away from the TV and computer. It means regulating your eating habits, your bedtime, your fluid intake and most of the crazy fun stuff you like to do. It means scheduling workouts so that the bike, the run and the swim each get something akin to equal time.

That’s me (in the pink shirt) crossing the finish line. Photo courtesy of Tri Bike Run, Juno Beach FL.

But mostly it means that if you cannot be brave, you can at least become less afraid. My first ever practice ocean swim was three weeks before the triathlon. I hated that practice; I thought about turning back to shore halfway through it. But there was no way to turn back during the triathlon, so why consider it in practice? I got past the fear, like I got past the choppy surf that day – by finding a different way through it. I didn’t cut through the waves, but rather used a butterfly stroke to go under them, until the ocean smoothed out.

As for the trail running: my triathlon camp coach says everyone has a “red zone,” a place they hate to be and makes them miserable when it comes to training. I’m afraid trail running will be my eternal red zone.

So, what’s next? Another new challenge – a one-mile ocean swim. Then a month of training without competition. Oh, and I think I found my next triathlon – it’s a sprint-length race. But I really need to get a bike rack first; I’m getting too old to haul that bike in and out of my compact car. And then there’s that nice triathlon top I wanted…

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Filed under athletic competition, Cycling, Exercise, Ocean swimming, plus-size athletic clothes, Running

Two Weeks To Triathlon, And What Was I Thinking Again?

Actually, it’s less than two weeks until triathlon Saturday.

It’s for real now. The two-day camp is done: no bruises, no blood and nothing broken (on me or the bike). I did my first ocean swim, which is very different from the discipline of the pool. No lane lines, no walls, no guidance other than the buoy markers. It’s liberating, in an odd, “welcome to the dark side” sort of way, especially if you’ve only been a lap swimmer.

I’ve practiced transitions (and decided to get the elastic laces, though I don’t think it will be much of a time saver for a first-timer like myself), practiced doing and undoing my bike cleats while riding, walking the bike to and from “the line” and even spent time running the wood chip trail that will comprise the run. I hate trail running, I don’t even consider it running; it’s somewhere between a slog and a jog for me. I’ll never get to the point where I like it, but by June 27th, I figure I’ll at least hate it a little less.

What else can I do? Watch what I eat (nothing unusual, no heavy meals, no carbo overloads and drink plenty of water), try not to cut myself (open wounds and salt water are not a good match), rest (a four-letter word meaning inactivity) and not overthink this. Don’t overthink how I look out there (I could go into the lack of triathlon clothing for participants larger than stick-figure size, but that’s a whole ‘nother post), or the time factor, or what could go wrong.

This is about getting it as right as possible the first time, not getting it perfect, while still having a perfectly good time doing it.

The Triathlon start: it’s a jungle out there. Photo courtesy of Maria Georgieva/Creative Commons.

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I Hate To Say This About Caitlyn Jenner…

…but (s)he looks better in a dress than I ever did.


For most women, it’s a little black dress. For Caitlyn Jenner, it’s freedom.

I’m not proud of that statement. But I am happy for Jenner. Note that I am still using the dual pronoun, since 1) all the physical gender transformation surgery is not completed, and 2) the legal paperwork (birth certificate, Social Security and driver’s license) is not done. Jenner has adopted the feminine pronoun, so I have to respect that, too.

There’s a lot out there on this issue. Many just don’t understand why, at this stage of life, Jenner didn’t just buck up and accept life as a male. After all, he had the Olympic glory, the wives, the kids, the Wheaties box and other spokesman gigs, the reality show and made pretty decent money throughout. Why bother to do this now?

Others just plain hate Jenner for it, calling what (s)he’s doing the result of a sick and deranged mind, a case of body dysmorphic disorder, a cry for attention or a plot to get a new reality show.

But others, from his own children to other transgenders including Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black, are speaking up on social media, not only applauding the transition, but going so public with it as to put it on the cover of Vanity Fair, in a pretty provocative outfit and pose.

I’m happy for Jenner, and on a somewhat different level, I understand the here and now of it. Jenner simply wants to look like the other girls. Jenner wants the woman inside to match on the outside. That’s not hard to figure out. (S)he’s known for years that something was not “right,” that the image presented to the world and the image in the private mirror did not match. But years ago, the timing wasn’t right to make the change. Athletics, marriages, young children and making a superstar’s living took priority. But with all that out of the way, and moving away from the chronic chaos that is the Kardashian clan, Jenner now has time for Jenner, and living the life that perhaps should have been all those years ago.

It is not sick, deranged or wrong to realize that who you really are and who you’ve been presenting to the world are at war with one another. Better to do whatever you can, whatever you have to in order to reconcile the two and live life to the best and fullest. Jenner is fortunate to have the love and support of family, friends and transgendered individuals, known and unknown, to get through this. The very public admission of what has been a balancing act of a life lived and the new found freedom of a life to come is the mark of a brave soul, gender notwithstanding.

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Note To The Blondes: I Heard You


I ran a 5K Sunday, part of my continuing tuneup/workout/preparation for my upcoming triathlon. Nothing out of the ordinary; it was a nice day and a decent run. And I ran into trash talk, which is pretty much par for the (running) course for me.

The two women thought I could not hear them. They assumed I was far enough away. I may be old(er), but my hearing is still testing as perfect. They seemed to think my presence at the event was unwarranted, unnecessary and downright silly. On the contrary, I did belong there, as did everyone else who chose to show up and run or walk. Partly, it was to pay the money towards a good cause (a children’s charity) and partly because it was a good excuse to get up, get out and move.

What is the deal with women coming out to a running event, a place where we should be delighted in each others’ strengths and abilities and be willing to push each other when the need arises, and instead knock each other down with words employed by the schoolyard bullies many of us have known, our children have known and whose tactics we claim to deplore?

I felt like walking up to both of them and pointing out that since they were both clearly over the age of thirty, their matching running outfits was more the kind of thing that looks cute on eight-year-old girls, but not so much on grown women. Then again, maybe that’s their bond. Maybe that’s what they use as a way to get through the tough workouts. That and knocking their fellow runners. I didn’t say anything to them; at this point, I’ve heard the insults often enough that I’m almost immune.

But I’m not invisible. I’m the everyday runner, not the elite athlete. I’m the mid-to-back-of-the-pack finisher, not the one whose getting the award. The phrase “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” applies to me, because  after I’ve been there, done (run) that, the T-shirt is about all I get to take home. And that’s fine. It’s what I come for, along with making some new friends and learning some new things about my running that may help me at the next race.

So don’t insult me (unless you want to do it directly to my face and in full range of my ability to at least verbally strike back) or assume I’m less of a runner than you because I’m older, slower or not as pretty. It makes me mad, but I’ll warn you, it also makes me better.


Filed under charity, Exercise, Running

When Running Takes A Seat, It’s Still Running

As part of my triathlon training, I’ve stepped up the racing a bit, and did a 5K yesterday. It was a race hosted by and designed for disabled veterans. Everyone was welcome to run, however, and although early-morning rain brought down the number of participants, enough showed up to make it interesting.

I arrived early, since the venue was one I did not know well. A fast, flat, somewhat shady course, though the heat and humidity of the day would make the shade pretty useless in the end. As runners arrived and checked in, I had the chance to check out the sportschairs  the disabled competitors were using. Very slick and lightweight, they are low to the ground, powered by hand crank or pedals, depending on user mobility. The owners dress them up with miniature license plates, bumper stickers, streamers and whatever they can find to make them stand out as both individuals and racers.

As I was admiring the machinery, I was also watching the owners’ pre-race preparation. They stretch, warm up, trash talk each other, commiserate over recent races and times, share information about upcoming races. The difference is that they are rarely coming to events alone. Some can drive, but the transition from car to standard wheelchair or crutches to sportschair  is arduous. Many need assistance to get the wheels onto their sportschair (the wheels often have to be removed in order for the chair to fit inside a vehicle), seated and strap in securely, then get gloved and helmeted. Once ready, these wheeled warriors are as ready as they were during their time of military service. Whatever kibitzing they did before the start is done; when the clock starts, the competition is on.

Watching these men and women, who served from Vietnam to the present day, is an education in what life looks like after the guns go silent and the uniforms are put away. Looking at their sportschairs brought home the realization that while the technology to make them has come a long way, it’s tragic to need that technology for this in the first place. But most of all, no matter how we get to the finish, we’re all still standing together as a community of runners.

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