‘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.

Really.

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

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.

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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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I Got Stupid and Signed Up For A Triathlon

This is what I'm used to. Won't be this nice in a triathlon.

This is what I’m used to. Won’t be this nice in a triathlon.

It’s been a busy time here. And yes, you read the headline right. I got stupid and decided to add yet another new endeavor to my bucket list. Bad enough my first open water swim is two weeks away. Now I have a triathlon less than three months away as well.

It seemed like a good idea at the time I hit the “Register Now” button on the website. No, I didn’t think it through for very long. Yes, I did have a sports-deprived childhood. No, my parents weren’t mean to me. Yes, I can cycle, run and swim. No, I have no idea what I’m doing in triathlon-land. Yes, I think I will figure it out.

I’ve already had my first shock trying to find a one-piece triathlon suit, Size is a problem. My size, not the suit’s size. Triathlon types are skinny people. I am not one of those types. So the search is ongoing. I have all the other gear I need. I have three months to build up a good-size case of nerves. Part of me wants someone to talk me out of this. Part of me wants to find out if fear and adrenaline are enough to push someone through a multi-sport endeavor.  As time and training go on, I’ll keep you posted on what I do, what I learn and even confess to (at least some of) the abysmally idiotic things I don’t plan on, but will inevitably happen along the way to the last Saturday in June.

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A salute to old warbirds

A B-24 is beautiful to look at, but a beast to walk through. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

A B-24 is beautiful to look at, but a beast to walk through. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I did a 10K race and swam yesterday, and felt just fine. In fact, I took four minutes off my last 10K time.

Upon arriving home, The Husband thought it would be fun to visit some old WWII planes at a local airport; a B-17, a B-24 and a P-51 Mustang. The planes are part of The Collings Foundation, a traveling exhibit that goes to local airports, offering rides to the public (for very high, but totally worthwhile prices) and teaching war aviation history to generations who will never know what it was like to literally fly by less than the seat of your pants.

I agreed to go. I like planes and airports and most things aviation-related, though I admit to being less than a stellar air passenger. I don’t get airsick or panicked, but I don’t enjoy flying all that much. It’s more to do with having a control-freak nature. I need to take a lot of reading material with me to take my mind off the fact that my feet are not connected to the ground, and other than the dollhouse-sized restrooms, I have nowhere to go inside that long metal tube.

When we arrived at the airport and paid our entrance fee, our first task was climbing under and inside the B-24. I am not accustomed to ducking under anything, being quite short. But even I had to first crawl under and then inside. It’s cramped, dirty and smells like old engine oil upon older engine oil. Bare minimum, stripped down, hard metal green surfaces, lots of angles and black boxy little letters denoting equipment, storage and dangerous things. There are windows and gunner openings, but it’s still a claustrophobic space to conduct a war. You stoop and step slowly, trying to imagine navigating through the plane while it’s noisy, you’re hot or cold and under fire.

Then came the B-17 adventure.

This time, no crawling under, but up an aluminum ladder. First stop is stooped over in the cockpit, waiting for the people who entered ahead of us to go through. I knew this was not going to end well when I heard a woman’s nervous voice and what I thought were giggles, and her talking about being afraid of falling. What happened next was the sound of panic in the plane, a full-blown frenzy. “I CAN’T DO THIS! I CAN’T MOVE! I CAN’T GO FORWARD! DON’T PUSH ME! I’M AFRAID I’M GOING TO FALL! I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!!!!!!” The woman ahead of us was mired in panic attack mode, unable to move forward or back. Dropping out of the center of the plane, paratrooper style, was not an option, thanks to the replica bombs in the way. So she left the way she came; backing out, whimpering all the way, with her husband yelling unhelpful things the entire time.

She was wearing green pants and pink sneakers. For some reason, I’ll always remember that. I’ll also remember to thank a service member more often. No matter what branch or which war, whether in miles of desert or a few feet of foxhole, military service is a thankless job.

 

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