Friday, December 30, 2011


I love swimming. Except that I don't love it as much as running, and I don't value it as much as biking, and so it constantly gets the shirked. I have only been swimming twice a week lately, and although I have tried to make the workouts of true quality, two workouts is still just -- TWO workouts.

My big obsession is the fly. I want to be able to swim fly... on and on and on and on...
That is my new goal. And then I will swim a 200 fly in a meet.
Why is this important? Because only bad ass swimmers swim the 200 fly in meets! (and of course I want to be a bad ass swimmer...)

On Wednesday I went swimming with my super swimming studress daughter, Jordan, and she made us this workout:

1000 swim with every 4th length IM order
with fins : 2 x (100 free hard, 150 IM kick, streamline)
200 easy pull
200 fly--no stopping
4 x 300 as
1. pull with buoy, paddles-- easy/moderate
2. paddles, swim no buoy--moderate
3. paddles, fins, no buoy--moderate
4. fins-- hard
off 30" rest
100 cool down
3200 SCY

Though she tried to convince me to try, I decided to the 200 fly with fins. But the important thing is I DID NOT STOP. GO SUPER MARY!
But I did have fins.. Next time, I will try it without. Jordan did it without. Show-off.


My friend Son asked me to write a little piece for the MESC newsletter on what it is like for a triathlete to swim in a Championship Masters Swim Meet. Here is what I wrote. It is very exciting, so I thought I'd share it. :)

Just recently, on a balmy morning in early December, I gathered my swim garb together, got in the car with my MESC swimming companion, Alina Perez-Smith, and headed to Boston University for the Short Course Masters Swim Championship.

The plan: to shed my triathlete persona and play at being a swimmer for a day....
because, the thing is, I am not really a swimmer.

I am a long course triathlete and coach. As such, I swim, and I actually swim quite a bit. But swim meets are not my territory, and as much as I love them, swimmers are not my people. So I come to these championship meets as an outsider--an imposter--as a pseudo-swimmer playing in a world that is not my own. And I love it.  I love it so much that sometimes attending a meet like this makes me--gasp--want to drop everything else and just swim.

All the big dogs come out for the big meets like this one, the SCM Masters Championship. And when I say big dogs? Yes, I mean big. Often, though not always, the best swimmers are huge--with broad shoulders and smooth, toned muscles. Swimmers aren't wiry like many triathletes and runners. They are more lumbering than lithe, except when they hit the water. Then they are not just lithe, they are lightning--a blur of smooth, rhythmic, powerful body parts skimming the water. It is amazing to watch. Amazing.

At this meet I witnessed world records being broken. A MESC teammate, the ageless and gorgeous Diann Uustal, for example, broke the record in the 100 meter IM. Watching her swim the event in 1:20 was awe-inspiring. To swim that fast at 65? And I witnessed it!

The best part of these meets for me, aside from watching the real swimmers swim, is to hang out with the MESC team. Our Maine teammates are so humble, easy-going and down to earth. I love my triathlon peeps, but we are not really, well, humble, and most of us are more than a little Type A, not easygoing. Meets, unlike running events or triathlons, leave lots of time to socialize. A swimmer warms up, then races, then warms down, then waits a long time (usually) until her next event, and during this time she can socialize! I love this aspect of meets, as it turns them into social events as much as athletic events.

The one thing I haven't mentioned in my description of such a swim meet is the actual swimming! For me, swimming in this type of meet is always humbling. I consider myself a very competent swimmer--when among triathletes. But when around swimmers? Not so much! Unlike triathlons, in which athletes start in waves specific to their age group, swim meets do not distinguish the young from the old until the entire event is over. Heats are seeded by time, not age, and so in any given heat you could swim next to a 70-year-old on one side, and a 25-year-old the other. I am nearly always seeded in a very early heat, given my very mediocre times (compared to swimmers, that is...) and I nearly always place in the bottom portion of my AG when the results are tallied. I will say, though, that at this meet I chose to swim the 400 meter IM--my first 400 IM ever at a meet. And I placed 2nd in my AG! Of course, there were only two people in my AG, but who's counting.... right?

I have been a part of MESC for almost three years now. I can't tell you how lucky I feel to be able to experience these meets, and to compete with and for such a great group of people.

See you at Harvard in March! Go Blue Lobstahs!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


“Things may come to those who wait… but only the things left by those who hustle.” - Abraham Lincoln

Today I continue on with my series of posts that take mid-life reflection (read crisis) as the theme....

I'm a hustler.

Saying I'm a hustler is nearly as bad as mentioning that I played hooker in college, isnt it?

Playing hooker allowed me to play aggressively in a big girl sport even though I'm a physically small person. The flaw in it: Once my neck almost snapped in the scrum while playing the (more adept, aggressive and large) Portland Women's Rugby Club and also, the sport fostered my already supremely developed collegiate drinking habit.

I abandoned playing  hooker following college, which is probably good in terms of saving both my neck and my liver.

But I've never abandoned being a hustler.  When I was younger I didn't always understand the most expedient way to get what I wanted--especially in terms of school and sport. It came most naturally to me in terms of the social: I wanted a certain friend, I would get her. I wanted a certain guy, I would go for it. I put fear aside. Who could say no to my wit and charm, right? As a result I met with some painful rejection, specifically on the guy front. But I also ended up getting what I wanted a lot of the time.

As I got older I began to understand, however, that hustling didn't just mean going for it by putting fear aside and taking the plunge. That was a big part of it, but the other part was to take immediate action--and then to follow up that action with hard, consistent work. Suddenly not just the social world was my domain. I could also get straight A's. I could get the job I wanted. I could run a marathon. I just had to take action, right now, and then work harder than everyone else and it was mine.

What I didn't realize at the time was that by hustling--by taking immediate action and following that action with ferocious and unrelenting work--I was also limiting  my options. I couldn't do it all. I couldn't become an animal behaviorist and also a a teacher. I couldn't become an English professor and also a specialist in organizational psychology. I couldn't be a master gardener with a degree in horticulture and also a top age group triathlete. I couldn't be a published writer, and a voracious reader, and own a thriving coaching business and be a dog trainer who also owned fifteen different types of dogs. And I couldn't do any of the above, at least really really well, if I wanted to be a good, loving, focused, attentive mom and wife.

Being extraordinary at any one thing requires a willingness to take action, a will of steel, and a singular focus. I figured out early that the hustler got first choice, and if she backed that action up with work she could usually keep that choice. What I didn't realize is that the hustler still didn't get all she wanted--because in going for what she wanted she automatically limited all the other options in her single minded pursuit.

I tend to have the most admiration for people of have achieved greatness in one realm. Actually, I think this is a national preoccupation. But these most successful people, more than anyone, have limited their options, haven't they? No one achieves greatness without that singular focus. No one is at the top of the game without having sloughed off the extra weight that hinders progress. These people have had to be ruthless in their taking action at the expense of reflecting on other choices.

To hustle. or not to hustle. To focus or diversify. What makes a person most happy? The satisfaction of achieving no matter what it takes, or the satisfaction of letting success go so you can enjoy more than just the pursuit of one, great thing?

Nothing like pondering these things when I could be taking action....

Friday, December 16, 2011

SCM Masters Championship RR

The Short Course Meters Championship at Boston University.

MESC women Cheryl, Alina, Diann, Mary E.
World Record in the 200 Medley Relay (AG 200-239).

Every year at this time I wonder WHY I sign up for it. I'm in abysmal shape, I don't feel like racing, and the meet is in METERS as opposed to yards, and so the times mean very little to me (having been brought up on yards and all...)

But each year I sign up... and each year I remember why once I get there. I love my Maine Masters Peeps! And I love watching the really fine swimmers in the final heats of each event.

The swimming culture is so different than that of tri and running, and I love to occupy it for a day or two a year. With running and tri I am an insider. I live and breathe triathlon and running--and even though tri and running culture are slightly different, they are also kindred in many ways and I feel at home in each. The swimming culture is a different beast, though. Here is my analysis of swim versus tri and run culture.

  • There are few short and little people like me at swim meets. Swimmers are not little people. Swimmers are big and strong and muscular--but not really cut. (Well, some are cut... but most aren't chiseled like super fast triathletes and runners are.) 
  • The pace of meets is slow, but the events within the meet, because they are almost all sprints, are fast.
  • You don't compete once in a meet like you do in tri and running. You warm up. You swim all out for a minute or two. You cool down. Then chill. Then warm up again. Then swim all out again. Then warm down again.Then chill--over and over again--all day. It is exhausting, but in a totally different way than say, an Ironman or a marathon.
  • In swimming, all ages compete together because individuals are seeded by time, and only later, after the competition, separated by age. In any given heat you could have a 21 year old and a 65 year old. The only things that matters in the seeding is your TIME.
  • Swimmers are a laid back bunch, but yet they are very serious about what they do. They are unassuming for the most part, and very modest, but the best swimmers are also supremely confident. There are very few flamboyant peacocky types in swimming.
  • Swimming, though people compete individually, is more of a team sport than running or triathlon. People come together to do relays in a meet, and the relays count (in terms of points) more than an individual event. People also really seem to CARE if their team wins or loses in swimming. It was a big deal for Maine to take back the trophy this year, for example.
So there is my assessment.  

Onto the race report!

Hmmm. Not much to say here.

I swam events that have nothing to do with my swim in triathlon--and that choice was by design. I swam the 100 IM, the 400 IM and the 200 backstroke, and a 50 breaststroke in a medley relay for Maine.

No freestyle. No distance. As I mentioned earlier, I am in abysmal, off-season shape. No need to put salt in that wound and SEE exactly how out of shape I am in by swimming in an 800 or a 1650, huh?

Even though I am a triathlete, my best stroke is definitely not freestyle. My best stroke is backstroke with butterfly as a close second. Don't get me wrong: I am very very average in back and fly compared to real swimmers. But if you compare my times in each of the strokes, I am more competitive in back and fly than breast and free.  My favorite event is the IM. My problem with the IM is only that I generally lead quite easily (against those who are my speed/level) through the backstroke, only to fall way behind in the breaststroke and to freestyle. It's a little sad to see every time I swim it...

The 100 IM was my first event. I was seeded pretty much exactly in the middle in terms of heats. I took it out HARD and had an awesome first 50, as per usual in the IM, and then I fell apart in the breast and free, also as per usual, and finished last in my heat. sigh. I swam a 40.05 for the first 50 and a 48.63 for the second 50. Of course, the first 50 was off the blocks... but still. 1:28.68 for a time. For those people (like me) who need a time translation to yards to have that mean anything, I basically took the first 50 out in the equivalent time of a :35 and then brought it home in :43--for a time of about a 1:18 converted into yards.
yep. That's all I have to say about that!

I will add here that a MESC teammate of mine, Diann Uustal , swam a 1:20 for the 100 IM at age 65, and broke A WORLD RECORD in her age group in doing so. A 1:20 IM converted is like a 1:10. At 65! Holy shit!

My next event was also IM--but this time the 400 meter IM. I have never competed in a 400 IM--meters or yards. I was scared--but I really wanted to see if I could finish it, so despite the fact that I wanted to scratch, I didn't.  Turns out it wasn't so bad! Of course, this is likely because I spent all of my energy getting through the 100 meter fly, and then loafed the back, breast and free. I finished in 6:55, which in yards would be about a 6:10. My 100 fly (1:33) and my 100 free (1:33).... ummm.... same split. I guess I didn't leave anything in the tank for that last 100, huh?

Right after the 400 IM I had the 200 meter back. I was tired from the IM, and honestly, I didn't work it very hard. I was 9 seconds SLOWER this year than last. Yikes! I finished in 3:10, which would be about a 2:50 in yards. Last year I finished in 3:01. Hmmmm. Not sure what to say about that. I DID finish first in my AG for the 200 back, though! Of course, only two 40-44s signed up for it... but I'm still counting it as a WIN.

I also did a 50 breaststroke in a 200 Medley relay. My team won, but not because of me, I'm afraid. Still, given I SUCK at the breaststroke I didn't do so badly (for me) and finished it in 46.73, which is about a 42 in yards. Given it usually takes me 55 seconds to finish a 50 breaststroke in practice, I'll take it.

So, that's the story of my meet. The best part was not the swimming, of course, but the hanging with friends and watching the other swimmers. Alina won her AG in nearly everything she swam, and with teammates broke the world record in the AG 200-239 200 medley relay. My friend Tracy won her AG in every event she entered, and also broke the Meet and New England records in the 200 free (2:17) and the 50  free (28.00). She also won her AG in  the 100 free (1:01:77) and was only 1/100th of a second off the record there. She is freaking speedy-- that girl. And pretty and smart and funny... but I'm not JEALOUS or anything...
Not me.

And now... no more racing for me until early January. I plan to run a 5k early in the month, which should be interesting given my weight and recent training... but you gotta start somewhere, right?!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Things

Courtney (aka That Runner Chick) tagged me in a recent post. The game is to list seven things about yourself.
This one seemed pretty easy to complete, as opposed to some other tagging games, so I decided to do it. Also, I know you are all getting super sick of me talking about how time is slipping slipping slipping into the future....and how I am not keeping up, so I figured this was a good opportunity to depart from that topic for a day or so.

So here are my seven things:

  • I am destined to be a crazy dog lady. Before I die (oh boy... the time is slipping theme again...) I want to have owned a Boxer, a Mastiff, a Newfie, a French Bulldog, a Grand Pyrenees, a St. Bernard, a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Vizsla.  So far I have only owned 2 yellow labs, a chocolate lab and a Boston Terrier. I have some dog owning to do.
  • In high school, given my love of sneaking off to drink coffee and philosophize about God knows what, I could've been voted most likely to NOT do an Ironman in the future. Ange may have gotten most likely to do one, however. I love Ange for never giving up on me... and waiting for my inner Ironman to make an appearance....
  • After reading IronWar I realized a few things. At first I thought I liked the portrayal of Dave Scott better than the portrayal of Mark Allen because I am more like Dave Scott in my attitude and training predilections. I realize now, however, that I identify more with Mark Allen. He is more like me if I am at all like either--especially in terms of his upbringing and its effect on his personality as an adult--but I would LIKE to be like Dave Scott. I am more in awe of his type... I have always wanted to be someone like him. I want to be able to suffer more and better than everyone else.
  • It is quite possible that my son inherited his ADHD from .... me. I have likely read 1000 books now on ADHD and I keep coming up with.... Oh dear. I know where he gets this...
  • I want to love to cook. But I hate to cook.
  • My kids get after me because I constantly swear in front of them. Jordan frequently lectures me on how I might become more like other moms: work out less, don't swear in front of children, start making wholesome meals. 
  • I am swimming a 400 IM in a swim meet this weekend and I fear I might drown after the 100 fly.
So there you have it. Now I am supposed to tag other people, but I am too lazy to do so. That should be number eight? So if you read this, and you feel like posting seven things about yourself, do so, and then let me know to go visit your blog so I can read all about you. :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Time.... Is Not On My Side....

It's probably not on anyone's side, but I feel the slippage of time so acutely lately, I feel it warrants a post.

Since Kona, I feel like time has acclerated and I simply am not running fast enough to get everything done that I WANT to get done in the amount of time I've been allotted--both in each 24 hour period and also in my LIFE.

My bucket list is huge. It grows a little longer every time I pluck a white hair, and since each day I have more white hair... while you get the idea.  It's like I can see the landslide... slipping slipping....
and I want to do it all before age conquers me.

Does anyone else experience this? My heart starts pounding when I think about it. The pressure. The pressure! I cannot sit on my ass or I might miss out on -- everything !

The problem is that I am not a solo unit. I can't scratch things off the MUST DO list when I have three little rugrats that rely on my placement HERE, and a husband who is as confined as me by job and kids and dogs and taking out the trash.

I had a dream last night that I was deep within the earth. I had crawled down there through this tunnel, and the deeper I crawled the harder I knew it would be to get out, but I did so anyway. it was like a compulsion. Finally I hit the bottom, and then realized I needed to start the journey back--to get air, and light. To be free again. The tunnel, as I climbed UP UP UP was dark and cold and wet. And then there was dirty clothing clogging the tunnel. At first I went by the clothing and thought... ugh, I'm going to have to go back to get that because it needs to be washed... but I kept going anyway. Then the clothing got to be so dense that I couldn't crawl past it .So I started pushing it up, up up... and it gathered and got harder and harder to push. There was so much of it and I was so far from the surface! It was weighing me down and then it began to wrap around me, suffocating me.

Then I woke up.

So there you have it.
I can't get to the top. I can't conquer the bucket list and I'm running out of air. I'm in a dark tunnel and suffocating on laundry. The brain frames dilemmas so well, doesn't it?