Category Archives: thought

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

How To Be Normal When Life Isn’t

job-hunting

Sixteen days; still looking.

Two weeks and two days without a job so far. That’s two weeks longer than my previous longest layoff. That’s two days longer than my longest vacation.

I don’t hate myself yet, but I am bored with myself at times. I alternate between feeling optimistic and hopeful and feeling like an old useless hack of a human being.

I’ve learned a few things about keeping as sane and close to normal when life isn’t what I planned:

  • I still get up at my normal time. Why not sleep in? At some point, I plan to have a job. Getting up as per usual now will make it easier to keep doing it. And I sit down at my home office desk at the same time I would have done so while working.
  • I still work out every day. It keeps my brain engaged and my body functioning well. It also keeps me from the pity-party junk food binges.
  • I put on makeup and get office-dressed Monday through Friday. Just because I am sitting alone in front of my  computer, doesn’t mean I should look like a slob doing it.
  • I eat well, and stick to a good diet as much as possible. It’s the same as maintaining sleep and workout patterns. Breaking good habits now, even for a short time, will make it harder to resume them later.
  • I still maintain contact with the outside world – friends, family and neighbors. I’m not proud of being unemployed, but you never know when one of these folks might have a job lead. And they are not at fault for my not having a job.
  • I do other stuff throughout the day besides job hunt. I clean bathrooms, run a few miles, sweep floors, fix lunch, make a cup of tea, write this blog, or whatever I need to do in order to divert the brain cells for a bit.
  • I force myself to branch out in the job hunt, and consider other lines of work, alternate hours/days of work and other locations than what I consider ideal.
  • I get my financial life in order. I’ve done a pretty good job putting money aside, so I have something to use besides unemployment, if and when that time comes. I’ve rescheduled doctor visits (to be covered while I still have my current insurance), signed up for ACA coverage and paid off bills.
  • I budget using cash. I use an envelope system labeled with different spending categories. Nothing extra, nothing in the “wants” category for right now.
  • I maintain a daily written schedule. Just a list next to my computer, where I can see what’s coming up each day. At the top of the list each day is “Job Search” and everything else comes after that.

These are the rituals that are keeping me going at the moment. If you have any more suggestions from your own personal unemployment trenches, let me know.

 

 

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What first place feels like

This was the wettest race I’ve ever done, other than a race in a pool. And I’ve seen rainstorms before. This was epic, however. Short in duration (about a half-hour), but epic. Blinding sideways rain that left you wondering if your next step was a safe one, and howling wind that brought down tree limbs. The kind of weather that makes people not show up, or quit after a mile.

And I have to admit, that’s how I got my first place division win at a 10K this morning. My competition showed up, and was ahead of me, but the rain annoyed them enough to DNF.

On the one hand, a win is a win, right? On the other hand, I would have preferred to get this the right way, by beating my opponents outright. But there was no give up and go home for me. It was a long drive there and a long drive back. Too many miles to live with disappointment.

And compared to being laid off (which occurred two weeks ago, for the first time in my forty-plus years of working), running in a driving rain and howling wind isn’t that bad. It pushes you mentally and physically, especially when there are what we call “hills” down here (AKA the causeway drawbridges) to climb.

I’m still looking for work, but not panicking at this point. I have options and the word is out that I am available. Meanwhile, I have this accomplishment done and the medal is on the rack, not hanging with any others at the moment. It’s just on a hook by itself. I’d like to tell you that I plan to rest and enjoy this one, but there are more runs on the schedule. And training resumes as soon as my shoes dry out.

rainyfeet

We saw a bit of blue sky, but not enough to call it a nice day today.

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Filed under athletic competition, Exercise, Running, thought

The Lure of the Garage

I walk around my neighborhood most evenings, and I have become fascinated by garages. I’m not the Peeping Tammy type, but when the doors are open, your gaze is drawn that way, after all.

You can tell a lot about a family, a life and a history by what theirgargages garage looks like. No, none of them look this bad. But many are interesting.

For one thing, garages tend to be pretty full around here. There are a lot of kids, so you have the requisite bikes, scooters, toys, games, stick-and-ball gear. There are swimming pools, so add floating objects, pool chemicals and cleaners. We don’t have snow, but we still need shovels, brooms, rakes and lawnmowers. The do-it-yourself types cannot have enough electrical cords, tools, paints and tables loaded with projects partly done. Washers and dryers tend to mate in the garage.

And then there’s garage furniture: the extra fridge (one neighbor has two full-size refrigerators in his garage). One neighbor has a small home brewery (he makes outstanding beer, by the way). One runs an entire landscaping business out of his garage. It’s amazing what will fit in a two-car structure, when you forgo putting two cars in it.

And plenty of old, unused things wind up in the garages. I’ve seen a small, dingy fishing boat undergoing restoration; a family of bikes, rusty and unused, yet occupying the space that memories are made of; woodworking tools, displays of fishing rods and bags of soil, mulch and plant food for that oft-promised but yet to be planted garden.

Around here, we even manage to get our cars into the garage sometimes. Mostly though, we get our hopes and plans stored in there. We take them out and enjoy them when we can, but mostly keep them safe and dry for someday.

 

 

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