Friday, August 29, 2008

One Room Living

There is a photograph by the famous photographer Lewis Hine that I have been thinking about all week. For those of you not familiar with his work, Hine worked during the early 1900s capturing images of tenement life in NYC, of child labor, and later on of mining life, life of the steel workers in the 1930s, and life in rural TN. His work is amazing. He also captured the building of the Empire State Building. He photographed these men on break from their work in the early 1930s.

So. This photo on my mind. It is of an immigrant family living in the New York City Tenements in the early 1900s--likely between 1906-08, which is when Hine was working and photographing there. It's a powerful image; there are seven people in the family, and they are living in one small room. They are smiling in the photograph, or at least the children are. The "facilities" were outside in an alley, as was a communal sink. Obviously this latter info was not in the photo--I just remember reading about it. The photo on its own is both devastating and uplifting, if that's possible. Upon looking at it you think about how much people can withstand, and how much we take for granted in our modern, comfortable, middle class lives.

This week I have lived in one room with my husband, three kids and two big dogs. I will live this way for awhile, it seems! At first I was just overwrought. How can I do this? But last night as I listened to my children's heavy breathing as they slept, smelled my old dog's stinky farts she busily emitted from beneath our bed, and looked over at the glowing computer screen that was doing duty as a night light, I was at peace. It's okay. It could be so much worse. I am NOT LIVING IN THAT PHOTOGRAPH, but like the family in that photograph, I can make the best of this. Hell, if they can, I certainly can! At least I don't have to shit in an public alley or wash my body and my dishes in a sink used by thirty other tenement families!

This one by Hine is of tenement boys taking time off their street jobs to play a pick-up game of ball with materials found on the street. This one, too, makes me think. My kids are in heaven right now--the irony! They love living in one room, they love our construction site lawn, they love finding inappropriate things to play with and using them in their games. I know it's cliche and trite to say, but kids don't need that much to make them happy. Food in their bellies, love from parents or caretakers, education, other kids with whom to make up games. (And actually, the boys in the photo probably didn't always have food in their bellies, and definitely didn't have education, which though available, was not usually possible as they were needed by their families to work.) They didn't have their own rooms with their own toys and 8 million after school lessons and the perfect, manicured lawn with a soccer goal and a basketball hoop. Know what I mean?

In short, it will be fine.


In tri world:

I've done some GREAT swimming workouts this week. Thanks, Jen! They are tough, and fun, and keep me focused. I'm loving swimming more than I ever have.

Too bad triathlon is really all about the bike and the run!!! ha ha.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How I Got A Spot

Okay. Here's what happened.
There were, supposedly, only two spots allotted to the 35-39 women. I placed 6th. No chance. I went to roll down anyway, because you never know.

First up. Our AG got three spots, not two. I think this had to do with the projected number of athletes in our AG being different than the actual number that competed.

Ange got her spot right away, because she had finished first. I tried not to be too jealous. The second in our AG (Abby Dean) did not want a spot. By the way, I noted that Abby Dean was not only 2nd in our AG, she also competed in the Olympic Marathon Trials this year in Boston. Wow. Okay. Moving onward. Numbers 3 and 4, two women who I know and whom I thought would likely beat me, decided to take the spots. Game over. I slumped away, dejected.

Ange and I hung out awhile longer, then said our goodbyes and she got on the road. I couldn't leave yet, though. You see, I had these WHEELS. That's right. I rented race wheels from a company out in CA. The night before the race, I received an email from the man from whom I rented them that he needed me to hand them off to Michael Lovato (right, that Michael Lovato) who would take them with him to Ironman Canada. I learned that Michael placed fourth overall, and would therefore be receiving some cash, so I figured he would likely be at the awards ceremony, and I'd hand off the wheels there.

So I'm walking around with these WHEELS and asking around to see if anyone knows or has seen this Lovato character (I even asked Chrissie Wellington! Isn't it true that all famous people know each other???)

And then I heard it.

"We have three more female spots for Clearwater. If you want one, come forward!"

I dropped those race wheels and came running. Unfortunately, however, they weren't just handing out the spots to the first come first served. First they asked if there were any 40-44 women who wanted a spot, as they had the most competitors in their group. A few raised hands. The woman with the fastest time in 40-44 that had raised her hand was given the spot. One down. Then they did the same for the 30-34 age groupers. Two down. Then they asked the 35-39ers. Me me me! I waved my hand. (Yes, I was obnoxious.) They made us each give our times. And I was the fastest, baby. By a lot.

Yahoo! I jumped up and down. Later, Andy told me I was less than gracious about the whole thing. I would feel bad, except, well, I don't. I worked my ass off for that 5:20 God Damn it!

So that's the story.

In other news. I am STRESSED OUT. Here's why:

I have three kids under the age of seven.
Today I started a new job.
We are having our house remodeled, and so therefore we must live for the next month in one room (all five of us and two big labs) and one bathroom alongside plaster dust, band saws, tools, nails and construction workers. And did I mention one of my kids is a SON who is FOUR and who dreams of being a construction man?
I am competing in a half ironman in three months.
I can't find any of my shoes or work clothing. It was all packed away, and cannot be found.

I am a WRECK.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Timberman 70.3 Race Report

Ange and Me--nervous before the swim.

The Cliff Note Version of the RR:
We will both go on to qualify for Clearwater. Ange will go on to break five and crush our entire AG. I will go on to have a great swim, and a pretty solid bike and then.........................

then slower,slower, slooooowwwwwwer, sloooooooooowwwwwwwwer, painnnnnnnnnnnnn on the run.

The Long Version of the RR:

Andy and I stayed at the luxurious Super 8 in Tilton the night before, which is a good half hour from the race start. So we got up around 4:15 a.m. in order to make it to the race site by 5:15. No one should be up that early. It's just not right. Anyway, luckily the Super 8 is right next to a 24 hour McDonald's, so I was able to get some coffee and Andy a very healthy Egg McMuffin Meal before the day began.

I, as expected, was a bundle of nerves and no fun to be around. However, I was definitely less scared than I had been the year before. On the drive to the race start the year before I felt like I was headed to meet the Grim Reaper, and by the time we began walking to the beach to begin, I felt like I did when I was told I would be having my first baby by C-Section, RIGHT NOW. Total panic-ville. But this year I was calmer. Last week I watched Jonathan something something--a US Olympian gymnast say that he was able to calm down before competing by telling himself it was "just another day of gymnastics." So I just kept repeating that to myself--Just another day of gymnastics. Just another day of gymnastics. I know you're thinking I should have replaced the word gymnastics with the word triathlon, but frankly, that word made my heart pound wickedly, so I didn't.

I went straight to the porta-potties when I got to the race site because I noted there wasn't really a line yet. The result of the porta potty trip wasn't satisfactory, so I knew I would have to make another trip--or three-before the race began. I found Ange in transition. We chatted and tried to stay calm. Then I went back to the porta potties to wait in line again. When I finished going to the bathroom I simply walked out of the john and got in line again. It was a good 20 minute wait, and I knew where I'd want to be in 20 minutes. So that was my early morning. In line, smelling the sweet wholesome goodness of porta potties filling up with pre-race jittery shit.

I exited the bathroom just as they were closing transition. I raced in, grabbed my wetsuit, cap and goggles, and headed to the beach. Ange and I were wave 10, so it would be awhile before we began.

The time actually went really fast. I took in a Gu and chatted nervously with the women around me. Finally we entered the water. I got right up to the front and to the right. Ange was right next to me. We said good luck to each other about ten times. I felt as if I would never see her again--as if we were both going on some long, long trip--and it was questionable whether we would both survive to see each other again. I almost felt sad. Weird, huh?

And then we were off! Ahhh! Finally I could let go of all of my worry and just go! My first ten strokes were so light--I felt I was just skimming the water's surface. Ten more strokes and that party was over. My breathing was labored. I had to keep trying to separate myself from a girl swimming exactly parallel to me who kept clonking me on the arms. I almost smashed straight into the second buoy instead of swimming by it. Argh. Here we go!

The water was warm. I felt I must be sweating and I suddenly felt thirsty thinking about it. Fuck. It was going to be a warm day. The morning had been cool, but I knew the heat was coming. There was no denying that now.

There were a lot of buoys. I kept thinking this MUST be the buoy we turn at to head into shore, but no, it was just another little one, ushering us deeper and farther into the lake. Finally I saw the BIG orange triangle ahead and Yes! people were turning!

I was now mixed in thoroughly with the stragglers from previous waves. The caps were mostly pink and light green--the two waves before us--but there were a few yellows too--women who had started 20 minutes before us. Wow. That's a long swim for them...
Then I saw the beach. THE BEACH! and then it hit me again, the beach... no... not the beach! I wasn't ready for the swim to be over. I love the swim. I am fast in the swim. I am not sucking wind violently in the swim! I feel good--don't put me on that damn bike! no!

But the swim always ends. At moments like that I think Alina has it just right. Why do the other two disciplines when I love the swim the most?

I stumbled out of the water. I began my run to transition. I hard Mark (Ange's Mark) and the hub. shout--Go Mary! The run was a single file path, and these two women from previous waves were ahead of me. I was, at first, polite, but then I said Excuse ME! very loudly and shouldered my way past. Don't yet hate that? Stay to the right if you sense someone wants to pass you! For crying out loud!

Anyway. Swim Ranking:
5/101 in AG
153/1900 OA (not sure how many competitors--I head about 1900 actually competed.)

T1 was fine. No major mishaps. The run to the bike could've been faster, that's all. T1 time: 2:29. Rank: 12/101 in AG

The bike. The course starts out hilly, then gets really hilly, and then flattens out a bit for a nice, pleasant middle portion. Unfortunately, you must repeat the hilly portion that you began with at the end, as it's an out and back type of thing. This is a big fat, bummer. In the last 10 miles of the bike you just want to grind it out and get it done. This course forces you to slow down and contemplate the fact that your average miles per hour is getting SLOWER. argh!

56 miles is a long way in my book. I had moments where I thought, God! This is taking for f-ing ever! I am only at mile bleep bleep! You must be kidding me!

I rode with two men the whole way. One was short and dark with a nice silver Cervelo. He didn't look at me once, even though we played cat and mouse the entire ride. Because this was an Ironman event we had our names on our bibs. I think this guy's name was Iain. I spent several 20 second bursts passing him, but I still can't be sure I was reading it right. I wanted to ask, but he seemed pretty intent on ignoring me. The other guy was wicked tall and rode a bright yellow bike. Every time he passed me I thought, Man! He is twice the height I am on my bike! I couldn't make out his name because his bib was turned around, but he was pleasant and he smiled a few times as he passed or I passed.

I passed many, many women on the ride, which was nice. This is, of course, because I was a part of the last female swim wave. There literally were no women behind me except those in my wave. Two 35-39 AG women passed me early in the bike. One of them was named Robyn and the other Laura(I read their bibs). I made a mental note to try to catch them on the run.

The bike ended FINALLY. I averaged 19.3 mph. My goal had been 19.5-- so pretty close. I had forgotten how hilly the first and last 10 miles of the ride was, so I was still pretty pleased with my ride.

Bike stats: 2:54:19
10/101 AG
543/1900 OA

T2 was FAST! I got in and out of there in 1:35. I was pretty psyched about that.
T2 rank: 2/101 AG

The run. I knew from the minute I got onto the course that it was going to be a tough one. It was hot. Actually, it wasn't that hot. I think it was in the mid to upper 80's in the sun. Here in New England, though, we have had two weeks straight of misty, cool wet. My body was not acclimated to nor happy about the heat.

I tried to take in a Gu. Uck. I did it, but I felt sick. About two miles into the run I passed Robyn. One down. About 2.5 miles in I passed Laura. How many were still ahead of me? Ange, of course, but how many more?

At the turn around I saw Mark and Andy. They were loud and encouraging--but at this point I felt like absolute ass. I was slowing with every mile. I decided my goal for the second loop would be to just not walk. I heard Jesse, Cait, Pat, Courtney and Chrissie, my QT2 team, cheering me as I went through the first loop too. I tried not to look as bad as I felt.

During the second loop I spent a lot of time just telling myself I was doing great, that whatever happened was fine, and that I just had to finish. I could feel blood blisters forming on the sides of my big toes. They squished in my shoes. Argh. It was becoming a definite, bona fide sufferfest. Good bye hopes of 5:15!

I was so happy when I made the turn to finish, I wanted to holler aloud. I didn't have the umph to do that though, so I just kept trudging. At the end I duked it out with a 40-44 women. She was awesome and just wouldn't let me pass. It kept me moving. Thank you, woman, whoever you are!

Final run time: 1:50:03 8:24 pace. (LAME x 1000)
rank: 8/101 in AG
363/1900 OA

Final overall stats:
6/101 AG
47/449 females OA
36/424 female amateurs
348/1900 Overall

The End.
Details of getting a Clearwater Slot in my next post!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Going to Clearwater!

Timberman 70.3
6th AG

Great swim, good bike, shitty run. More details to follow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer--Hanging On

I used up all of my profoundity on my last post. Sorry. Here are some photos of the summer to tide you over as you wait for my next super duper deep and meaningful entry.

Me, Ange, Alina

Super Fit Moms at the Beach

Is this the right carb. to protein ratio?

Get in the water, NOW!

Noah: Head in the Sand

Lara: the Height of Summer Fashion

Monday, August 11, 2008

I"ve Been Thinking Way Too Much

I’ve been offline for more than a week. It was, at first, rather difficult. I wondered what everyone was up to, how Speedy Claire did at Vineman, whether my favorite blogs to read had been updated and I was missing out. Then I noted that the internet satisfies my need to know things immediately. Questions that popped into my head could not be immediately satisfied. When will the triathletes compete during the Olympics? Who is that author I have read all of and who I know has a new book out, but whose name escapes me? What will the weather be tomorrow? What’s the name of that strange black duck floating on the ocean’s surface—the one who swims in packs and isn’t a loon or a cormorant? (An Eider Duck, it turns out—though I had to look it up in Peterson’s Guide to find out). That type of thing. I also was unable to take care of everyday life business. I have a list a mile long of things I must do when I get online again.

Nevertheless, after several days I became used to it, and I noticed that the sense of urgency and anxiety I carry around with me settled a little bit as a result. The irony is that when we are online we are sedentary and staring numbly at a screen, but that without the internet our minds, if not our bodies, slow down. We can’t know everything immediately and so there is reduced information intake. This is quieting. Life has gone on without us, without me. What’s good to remember, I’m realizing, is that life continues, inexorably and evenly, whether I attend to it or not. Acknowledging this fact is both freeing and morbid.

Okay. I’ll shut up now.

Timberman 70.3, the A RACE, is next weekend. I’ve been trying to put things into perspective. This has taken the form of ironing out why I do triathlon in the first place, and what this race means to me in particular.

My first conclusion:

This race doesn’t mean anything in particular. It is not the sum of everything I’ve done this year. I know it’s a total cliché to say that it’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters, but for me, I think, that it what I’m actually learning. This season I’ve had fun at every race (except perhaps booting at Mooseman), I’ve loved my training, the friends I’ve made, the community I’ve built around me here in Maine, the courage I’ve mustered in order to make these friends and build this community, getting closer to Ange and Alina around the common love of sport, testing myself day after day, and relishing what I’ve trained my body to do. I will have a great day at Timberman no matter what happens, because the race will be a celebration of the discipline and courage I’ve developed in order to make it to the starting line in the first place. I expect that if I don’t flat or crash or trip or something like that, I will crush my time from last year and I will have fun doing it. And if I don’t crush my time from last year, I’m not even sure I will be overly disappointed. How can I be disappointed with the result of one day’s race after the incredible fun and success I’ve experienced this season? This may sound as if I am mentally preparing myself to fail. Actually, I’m mentally training myself to keep the result of any race—this race-- in perspective. It’s impossible to keep it fun if you put too much stock in a single performance—if you give it power and meaning greater than the days that lead you there in the first place.

My second conclusion:

I arrived at conclusion number one by really working at the why of my need and desire to do triathlon. Many people claim to do triathlon because they want to see how far they can “take” their bodies. Some people say they do it because it requires one to maintain a positive, healthy lifestyle. Some people do it because they need a home for their obsession/ compulsion or addiction, and triathlon fits the bill. Some people claim to do it because it forces them to confront pain head it. There are a billion reasons one might do it, I guess. I do triathlon (and before that running) for several reasons, but at core there is one reason that dominates.

Working my body day after day silences, or at least quiets, my critic. I think most people have a critic. He lives inside us and gnaws away. For me, the critic is this core, unshakeable belief that I am indulgent, lazy and stupid, and as a result, I am not worthy—of anything—but most importantly I’m not worthy of being loved. This unshakeable belief is irrational, and from an objective standpoint, I acknowledge that it is, in fact, wrong. But that doesn’t matter. He, this critic, is a part of me, and though I haven’t learned to kill him, I have found ways to quiet him.

Triathlon has me spend hours a day proving my critic wrong. The end of a race is exhilarating because I have so thoroughly given him a beating—shown him that he can fuck off—because look what I’ve done! The problem, of course, is that if I stop triathlon, or running, or whatever, the critic will win. When I think of stopping, panic set in. Also problematic is that one fast 10K, one marathon, one Boston qualifier, one half Ironman, one Ironman—is never enough. The critic is unimpressed. I could be Lance Armstrong or Michael Phelps and my critic would just shrug and say, “Whatever. I saw you cut that last workout short. You and I both know the truth.”

This all sound extremely unhealthy, doesn’t it? I’d feel pitiable except that I’m pretty sure that most of you out there are equally, if not similarly, unhealthy. What I’m working on is the notion that 1. I can get rid of this critic by cognitively disarming him (this has yet to work, but I maintain faith that it might) and 2. Though the critic is mean and terrible and wrong, he has gotten me to do and try some pretty cool things which, in addition to quieting him, are really fun.

Breathing in fresh, sea air on an early morning ride, pounding the pavement so hard and furiously as Joan Jett screeches, “I Love Rock n’ Roll” in my ears, feeling so sad and alive while running in the cool wet of late November, executing a perfect flipturn in the pool or doing a length of fly just because I can, meeting a whole slew of people who are so fun, and healthy and alive…. The list goes on and on.

So, back to Timberman. I will have a great race. I will have a great race because to not have fun, to not rejoice, to not totally savor the amazing thing I’ve prepared my body to do, would be to allow my critic to win. He may have used shame and fear to drive me into this craziness in the first place, but next Sunday I will not allow him to have the last word.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Will be back soon...

Hi! I am still alive and well--really!
However, I am having an internet free week.
I don't want an internet free week, but the fellow from whom I have been stealing wireless internet access all summer either found me out or left town.
I'm at the library! (Love the library.)
I will catch up on all of your blogs next week when I have access again.

Until then, Happy Training.