Category Archives: thought

Ode To My Tri-versary

Triathlon brings families together, kicks off fitness monthThree years ago, I chose the impossible. I did my first triathlon.

It still amazes me that I ever thought the idea of combining swimming, cycling and running was a remotely good idea, let alone a good sport for this aging human.

I still have that first hard-won medal, hanging by itself, but surrounded by many more achieved since then, none without hard work, all of them appreciated. The trophy wall has expanded to three walls and part of the floor (I’m looking for an antique corner table so the trophies on the floor will no longer rest there). I start Triathlon Competition Year Number Four tomorrow with a triathlon, of course. A tough one (it involves a bridge crossing during the bike portion), but it’s a good way to celebrate both a milestone in competition and a milestone birthday. I have begun my seventh decade on the planet.

At a time when many of my contemporaries prefer the comfort of the couch and computer, I look for stairs and seek new ways to wake up sore in the mornings. Bottles of OTC pain relieving-pills and a variety of ointments, salves, rolls and gels are now a common presence in my life, rather than an occasional visitor. I need a training day off now and then, something I once considered only in times of illness or excruciating pain. My workout gear still takes up more closet space than regular clothing, and my bike lives on an indoor cycling stand so I can ride it on rainy days. I’ve been packed for this weekend’s event for almost a week, so ready-set-go has conquered nerves and anxiety. I still use a gear list, but by now I can place everything in my transition bag the same way, in the same place, every time. If only I could re-pack the bag after the race as neatly as I pack it before the race.

I enjoy the competitive community; we temporarily stop being friends at the sound of the starting gun, yet we are there for each other if something goes wrong out there. We never let an injured athlete sit alone and hurting on the course.  Show up in transition with a broken shoelace or bent spoke, someone in the crowd can fix it. You need extra water, ice, sunblock, bug spray or a protein bar? The guy or gal in your rack row is sure to have some. TP run out in your porta-potty? Open the door and ask; another competitor will get you some. It’s gratifying to see a lot of kindness out there in a world where bullying seems to be a government institution and the widespread callous treatment of minorities is expected and accepted. Triathlons, swim meets and competitive running events have neither race nor ethnic requirements, and remarkably few physical requirements; you only need to bring your best effort.

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Walking the walk as Houston weeps

Watching the news coming out of Texas is enough to make a person swear off TV and Internet access for a long time. You don’t want to watch, because it’s like the worst train wreck meets the worst airplane disaster on top of the worst car wreck, and all of it happens under almost six feet of water. But you can’t turn away, and you know that this massive disaster isn’t a Texas problem – it can happen anywhere.

So much is unbelievable, unreal and unbearable. Yet so much is compassionate, caring highwaterand offers consolation, reminding us that in the worst of times, the best in society come forward with no thought of reward or recognition.

The thousands of volunteers with boats and high-water vehicles performing rescues, buying food and feeding others, checking on their neighbors. The schools, religious centers, libraries and stores opening to stormed-out refugees. The benefit concerts, collections, financial donations, and the dozens of animal rescue centers helping to find and shelter separated pets.

In a TV interview, one man helping a family into an air boat was asked by a TV reporter why he volunteered. He replied, “In the Republic of Texas, this is what we do. We depend on each other.” In any other setting, such an answer would have sounded jingoistic. Standing in waist-deep water in the driving rain, it sounded exactly right.

Not everyone has the money to write the big check, or the time off to travel as a volunteer. Do what you can. Donate to the Red Cross, give blood at the nearest blood center, bring storm supplies to a collection site. Don’t sit and stare at the screen and think this cannot happen to you. At some point, whether by fire, flood, tornado or other disaster, you may be next. And the second-to-none volunteer spirit seen in Texas this week will be there to help you.

 

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Defy Life – Don’t Be One of Them

I stopped at a locaoldmanat tablel bagel shop yesterday to pick up some of their fine homemade product for the long weekend. There are usually a few people sitting outside at the smoking tables; I call it the Old Dudes Club. These guys show up early, get their breakfast and coffee and then sit around and talk for hours.

Yesterday they were inside, still chowing down, and still talking. A South Florida July chases even the toughest old dudes indoors, I guess. Over time, I’ve caught snatches of their conversation as I’ve walked in, waited in line and left with my to-go bag of fresh bagels. Most of the talk is predictably about their health – operations, doctors, meds, and what hurts at the moment.

On the one hand, I get that these are, well, old dudes. They’ve been through hard work, hard wars, and hard life. They’ve earned their time in the breakfast club chair and maybe the right to commiserate. But I don’t want to end up like that. I don’t want to be one of those guys, complaining to anyone who will listen (mainly because they’ve lost the ability to move away) about how it hurts to get out of bed everyday, how it stinks to keep track of daily pills and how I’m not as (young, good-looking, fast) as I used to be.

We live with a political administration whose leader actually thinks exercise will kill you. He has zero scientific evidence to back this statement, but frankly, it comes across as just one of the many nonsensical yips that emanate from the District of Columbia these days. I say defy the dudes, tune out the yips and forge ahead. At this point, I hurt when I get out of bed anyway, and even now, have to track pills daily. So it won’t get better with increasing age.  I say find a goal and go for it. If you do sprint triathlons, train for an international. If you walk, train for a 5K. If you swim, train for a meet and swim a few 50s and 100s. It’s easy to sit back and cheer for others, as we do when we watch professional and Olympic sports on TV, or even our kids’ teams. Putting ourselves in a pair of running shoes, on a bike, behind home plate, on a soccer field or in a gym for the first time is a stomach-churning, catch-in-the-throat sensation. But the first time only happens one time. Then you are not one of those old dudes anymore.

I always thought the name for this blog, Notes for My Next Life, was just a name I came up with that would mean something someday. Someday has arrived. My Next Life starts in August, with a major life change in terms of my working career. I will pursue more freelance writing and other options, more athletic training and work part-time. How will it all work out? I’ll keep posting and let you know.

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In the thick of things, a new training toy

Anyone who trains for swim meets, runs, cycling events or triathlons knows the inevitable will happen: you will collect a variety of training gadgets.

Sometimes, you will actually use them.

Sometimes, that sometimes will turn into devotion to the device and you’ll wonder why you ever did anything without it.

This is an example of that:

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It’s a Finis Tempo Trainer. It is about the size of a half-dollar and I should have had it inserted in my brain years ago. Basically (at least at this point, because I am still learning how it works), you can set it to time yourself to swim a certain distance in a certain time before it beeps in your ear, letting you know you either made it to the wall and turned in the set time or you didn’t. It has other uses, such as maintaining stroke tempo, and for running and bike training.

Right now, its primary purpose is to be annoying and let me know that I don’t need to look at the pace clock for feedback. It does not play music or emit other nice sounds. Just that regular persistent beep. I find myself wanting to #beatthebeep now. I like it because I can already see it helps, but I want to hurl this aquatic accessory into the locker room sometimes. In the long run, I think any training tool you buy that benefits your performance is a good investment, and I  think this trainer will be one of those. At least this item is small and relatively inexpensive.

Now if only I could stop hearing that beeping noise in my sleep…

quitting

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Filed under athletic competition, Cycling, Exercise, Ocean swimming, Running, Swimming, thought, triathlon gear, Triathlons

Back on the training treadmill

I don’t normally compete in July and August. For one thing, it’s stupid insane hot here.

And I have time to get caught up on other things, like doctor appointments, writing and maybe some real rest time.

But as that famous blonde singer once warbled, “Oops, I did it again.”

I signed up for another half-marathon. It’s not until next March, but ten months goes by faster than you want it to. One month you’re a lane lizard in the pool or strolling on beach sand like a tourist without a timetable, and the next thing you know, it’s time to pick up the race packet and goodie bag.

I have other events before March: a few swim meets, road races and three triathlons. Those need care, feeding and training, too. But the half-marathon was an event I swore I’d never do again after I did the Daytona Speedway-to-The-Beach-And-Back half a few years ago. It was a nice race (if you ignore the 3:30 a.m. wake up time to be parked by 4:30 a.m. for a 6 a.m. start thing, along with the 38-degree temperatures), but I figured by then, my distance days ought to be over. I was hurting so much at the end of that race, The Husband’s hope for a photo of me at the top of the track’s 31-degree banked Turrunsn 1 was just that – a hope.

Why do another half? A small desire for redemption mixed with a decent dose of insanity plus a need to defy the onslaught of age. I want to do a better job on the finishing time. And all of us who run are at least a little left or right of the center line of normal anyway. It’s not that age is showing or catching up. But little things are noticeable – injuries take longer to heal than they used to, and while I don’t require more rest, I seem to benefit from more of it.

I look at some of my friends, a few my age and some a little older, who are becoming burdened with the ailments of oncoming years. I don’t want life to get like that. I’m all for taking advantage of medical specialists, both Western and non-traditional practitioners, but I want to make the decision to do so because I am maintaining good health, not because I am fundamentally hurting.

Training has started, or in my case, just kicked up to a slightly higher level. I bow to all those who improbably and insanely choose to go back on their word and try something again, just one more time. I am one of you now. The Never Say Never Brigade.

 

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Filed under athletic competition, Exercise, Running, Swimming, thought, Triathlons

A nation at half-staff

flag

Once again, our nation is in mourning.

We hardly had time to digest the idea of dozens killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting, and now this. Five dead in Dallas. Police officers all, but human beings with spouses, friends, children and lives. Killed by snipers who did not know them and did not care who they were outside those uniforms. To their killers, they were nothing more than symbols and targets; representative of an idea so hated and reviled that to end their lives was worth the snipers possibly losing theirs.

Are you asking yourself where we went wrong as a society at this point? Or just moving on from the headlines and twenty-four hour news cycle, certain that something else will supplant this story, as it always does?

The uniformed professions – police, fire and paramedic – are not only noble and proud, they are necessary. Who are you going to call to save your burning house, catch the thief who stole your car or aid a loved one in a car accident if not any of them? Are you going to learn all those skills, and practice them enough to not only become good at them, but conquer your fear of walking into a burning building, chasing an armed suspect or crawling under a gasoline-drenched wreck?

I get that people are angry, frustrated and looking for justice after a number of recent police-involved shootings and deaths of unarmed civilians. Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, Corey Jones, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner are some of the more famous names. In 2015, over 100 blacks were killed in police incidents. That’s 100 too many if none were justified use of force. If 100 whites were killed the same way, the outrage would bring more than just protests. It would change laws.

But trying to even the score by dealing death from tall buildings and dark corners does nothing to change history. It only perpetuates the us-versus-them acrimony over a gulf so wide that soon, no bridge can ever be built to bring both sides together. Change has to start now and with the youngest and most impressionable: the children. You can teach trust as easily as mistrust. Outreach has to come from both sides: police officers have to make the split-second decision to defend themselves and others, but also have to see their role inside the community as one of peace and leadership, not just continually on the defensive role.

There will be another Dallas; there’s no question that crazy attracts more crazy and they try to outdo each other. But there is something more ominous in this kind of crazy: the fact that people feel left out, angry and unwilling to wait for solutions. And with that disenfranchisement, you often find those willing to deal in desperate measures.

 

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Filed under Current news, death, Murder, Police brutality, Police shootings, thought

I missed the hardware (this time)

Good news and bad news about the 5K I ran today.

Good news: it was my first 5K of the year, after doing 10Ks, swim meets and triathlons to start the year.

Really good news: I finally broke my old personal best time and set a new one.

Sort of bad news: no medal this time. I finished fourth in my age group, forty seconds behind third place. No medal for fourth, which is disappointing, as this particular race had especially nice hardware.

But I’m happy with the new PR time, as that old one was from two age groups ago, and set on a flat course (today’s race had three small hills and a persistent headwind). Also old for this race: my current running shoes, which are retired from regular use as of today. I’ve been saving for a new pair, and got the money together yesterday, even though I have still not found full-time employment.

Being out of work has made me healthier, because I force myself to get up and move around more often. I’m not sedentary for eight hours a day. The weekly track workouts, with the bleacher climbs and sprints, have helped as well. And competition has kept me focused on not getting depressed and caught up in the frustration of not having a job just yet. It’s also something of a social outlet, after sitting in front of my home computer working on the job search, or freelance writing, or both.

I plan to keep competing, though not spending hog-wild on it at this point. I realize this is not the ideal time to be spending money on these endeavors. But I consider regular racing, whether it be running, swimming or triathlons, a reasonable investment in my health and my sanity. At this point, it’s hard to tell whether I am chasing what’s left of my mental marbles, or they are rolling behind me, trying to catch up. Either way, the personal race should be at least as interesting as my next event.Motivational-quotes (1)And a note to my friend Steve, who suggested that I “throw a little chocolate into every day”: my friend, I know you meant that literally, because you know how I feel about chocolate. But I’m going to consider your advice in the figurative sense as well. I’ll consider a good competition day to like a piece of the best chocolate: sweet, satisfying and a tonic for the senses.

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Filed under athletic competition, Cycling, Exercise, mental health, Running, Swimming, thought, triathlon gear, unemployment