Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cali Here I Come!

Last week I received an email from my friend Keri. She planned to write a post contemplating what might happen when and if she decided that intensely training for triathlon was not a top priority anymore. She asked me and a few other competitive, women triathletes we both know the following:

If and/or when the day arrives where you can no longer race competitively (for any reason: injury, burn out, something else in your life gets in the way,etc.) would you still enter races "just to finish" or just to experience it (even though there would be no chance for an award/podium finish -- no nothing but you completing the race)? In other words, would you be able to be happy just being involved even though your results would be a mere shadow of what they used to be? Or, would you rather just walk away from the sport altogether?

When I got the email I thought, Oh timely. This is exactly the question I am trying to answer these days.

My drive to train and race triathlon waned little for five straight years, beginning in 2007, when I first took up the sport.  It wasn't until last spring that my drive wavered a bit, and it wasn't until late summer, when I developed a stress fracture in my foot that I really lost my drive.   I stopped working with my coach. I stopped running for 10 weeks. I took up cross and did not get on my triathlon bike or road bike for nearly three months.

With the loss of my drive came a loss of self.  Who am I if I am not that Mary--driven, consistent, and unwaveringly obsessed with training and racing?  But I didn't seriously contemplate Keri's question. My drive might be missing, but I kept the faith  it would return if I just rested a bit.
I wanted my fire back. I did not want to ponder what might be if that fire never returned.

But tomorrow I turn the calendar's page to March, and my drive for triathlon hasn't returned. Not yet, anyway.

I spent a good portion of this winter depressed--and not just a little depressed. It became increasingly obvious that my lost drive wasn't just a temporary phenomenon; I was making a life transition. I began to contemplate new goals--goals that had nothing to do with triathlon. I planned my garden for the spring and ordered seeds, flats, and grow lights. I took (am taking) classes. I read. I wondered about going back to teaching. I wrote to my friend Liz, and asked her to help me make writing my daily focus.

Meanwhile, California 70.3 stared at me, the printed words on my calendar searing and definite. One day I'd feel determined and I'd go over my next weeks of training and think, I'm going to do this. The next day I'd feel tired and unmotivated, and decide to write, read or take a nap instead of getting on the bike. I'd read about others training on blogs and Facebook and the posts of my athletes in my inbox and think, that used to be me--so jazzed and focused and determined to conquer the triathlon world. That person is gone now. Will she ever come back?

I haven't done the training to compete at California 70.3
And I could still race it. I've been swimming a great deal, and I have a backlog of biking and running that certainly would allow me to finish the race.
And that brings me to Keri's question:
Would I still enter races just to finish?

I wanted that answer to be yes.
But that's not the answer. The answer is no.

I love the journey toward a goal. I love making the plan and executing, and on "race day" -- whatever that may be, whether it be triathlon or something else, I enjoy giving it everything I have and seeing where I stand.  With some goals the "race day" is more gradual--like with a garden, or with writing. But  no matter what the race day looks like, I don't want the arrival without the journey. I've lost my drive for triathlon, at least for now,  but I have not lost my drive.

This winter the journey has been about figuring out who I am and what I'm going to do if I I'm not training. The arrival of this journey is not racing California 70.3. The arrival is going to California and NOT racing it. It will be hard to watch it--and I will watch it because I want to cheer on Ange. It will be hard to watch in the same it is hard to watch an x-lover going out with someone else. But it must be done. Worse would be to race it, and spend intimate time with the x-lover that I have rejected all winter, and don't really want.

So, what now?

I felt such relief when the decision was made, and this week I have just been relishing that relief. And I know a few things.
I know I'm going to continue swimming, and I will go to Nationals in Indianapolis in early May. I know I'm going to get my seedlings going, and tear up the front lawn this spring to make a vegetable garden. I know I'm going to continue to write, and I'm 99% sure I'm going to apply to low-residency MFA programs this fall, for entrance in the winter of 2014.

I still have triathlons on my schedule, and I may do none or all of them. The only thing I know for sure is that I won't be racing big events, like a 70.3, unless I've trained for the race, and I'm only going to train if the desire to train for something long like that comes back.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013: Year of the Swim Meet

Well, at least for me it is the year of the swim meet!

On Saturday I swam at a local meet. I've been working hard in the pool, so I had great hopes for some fast times. When I arrived, though, I noted there were no touch pads! For those who aren't swimmers, let me explain. Touch pads are electronic large, usually black timing pads that attach to the finishing wall in a meet. They are good for two reasons: first, they insure your time is accurate, and second, they offer a good gripping surface off which to perform backstroke starts. Without the pads, backstroke starts are extremely difficult because the tiled wall off which one pushes is slippery. For those people good at starts, not having pads is a bummer. For those of us who have quite terrible backstroke starts already, not having pads is pretty much devastating in terms of a time suck.

My heart sank and my backstroke goals immediately went flat as soon as I learned of the NO touch pad situation.
But then I got over it.
My goal became to match my backstroke times from my last meet despite not having a true start.

I had a good warm up and tried practicing a few starts. In short, it did not go well. SO, I decided I would simply push off the wall without a start for the 100 back, my first event. I definitely lost mucho time doing this, but I ended up nearly matching my time of a month ago in a 1:14.9. Okay, not my dream time, but I'll take it. On the 50 back I attempted a start, but I think I may have lost even more time trying than if I had simply pushed off the wall. I swam a 35.15, which is .06 off my time from last month, so I'm taking that as a win, too.

Then, backstroke was over. Phew!

Andy came to the meet to cheer me on. I say Andy, because even though he brought the kids, I think they missed all four of my swims. Jordan was somewhat interested, but mostly she wanted to play Queens with her sister and brother. But hey, they were there, right? haha!

Anyway, I then swam the 100 free in 1:06.4. That is a good time for me! I haven't swum a 1:06 since I was 17 years old.  I swam a 1:07 with the high tech suits we had a few years ago, but I haven't glimpsed 1:06 for 25 years. My goal at Harvard Champs in a month is to break into the 1:05s. Wouldn't that be amazing? To best a time from high school? (I didn't swim in college, so I have no times to best there.) My last event was the 50 fly. I swam a 33.8. That's the same time I swam last month, and I'm sad I wasn't a wee bit faster, but I was pretty tired after the 100 free, and the 50 fly came literally like 5 minutes later. (These small meets are hard that way; not much rest between events.) Andy snapped a picture:

What I see here is that I'm bending at the knee, and not the hip, and I am too high out of the water. But hey, at least my back looks strong, right?

Last night I went to a butterfly and backstroke clinic at Harvard. It was incredibly helpful. Of course, I HATE doing drills because I get so freaking cold. I literally tread water while our lane coach talked to us after each 50 in hopes it would warm me up, but by the time we got out I was completely blue and shivering. Anyway, I learned my turnover on both strokes is way too slow, that my dolphin kick needs to speed up and I need to move from the hips, not the knees, and that my timing is off in the breaststroke pull. At practice this morning I tried to implement what I learned. I have a ways to go. Yikes.

Okay, boring swim entry, I know!

Other than the swim, which I am having SUCH fun with right now, I haven't been doing a lot of training. I waver between thinking I should go to California and just ride the 70.3 course and jog the run, to thinking that is stupid, and that I should just turn the whole trip into a vacation and screw the damn race. I still haven't decided what to do. If I do race it will NOT be fast or pretty given I haven't biked or run more than a few hours a week since last summer, but I just seem unable to muster the umph to do the required work to do well at the event. I fought valiantly for awhile, but then I just decided the fight was making me miserable, so I'd just swim a lot and try to forget there is a 70.3 on my calendar, and now just weeks away!


Last week was a vacation week for the kids. Jordan ended up getting sick toward the end of the week, and then Noah. arghhhhhh. But before then, they had fun making me crazy.


Stacking cans! (random)

Lara got her ears pierced.

And Jordan had a swim meet. She is now a billion times faster than me in the breaststroke, and will soon kick my ass in the other strokes, too. I'm thinking I have about six more months on top. Maybe fewer.  

We also get a visit from Alina and company, which was awesome! (Margaritas! Woot!) 

And Where is Noah? Good question. He played video games all week and played with his neighbor, Michael. What can I say, I provide a totally wholesome environment here at the Casa de Wilson.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fighting Entropy

Today I was supposed to draft a paper on entropy in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying Lot of 49. That has yet to happen.


  • My kids are home because of the impending storm. I say impending because the story has yet to really hit, and it is nearly 2 pm. Good thing they got the day off.
  • I'm experiencing my own physical and mental entropy.
    • I'm tired. I have been working out more than usual, which is not to say I have been working out much. My fatigue is alarming me: I am not a person who, in the recent past, has gotten tired working out 12-14 hours a week. But I spent the months of September-January doing very little, and my body seems to think that 12-14 hours is a very unreasonable amount of work now.  Also, my brain thinks 12-14 hours is unreasonable. It has dawned on me, after hard-driving for many years in a row, that there are many things I could do with that time, other than to work out.
    • Coupled with my actual fatigue is mental fatigue. (see above) I'm exhausted from the war waging in me--Mary versus Mary. The truth is, I just don't feel much like training-- except the swim. And Mary of last year and the year before fought valiantly against such apathy. But this Mary--the Mary who has enjoyed not having training control her life these last months--is fighting hard against the Mary of yore who worked like a worker bee whether it made sense, or not. 
    • I don't quite get entropy in The Crying Lot of 49. The text is obscure and difficult, and I understand Pynchon's other books are even more difficult. I tend to feel resentment when an author's unbound brilliance makes me work too hard. Pynchon has me working, and I'm a little bit pissy about it. 
    • I'm obsessed with a story I just wrote, and I can't let it go. I keep going back to it, but I am stuck. What needs to happen now? This is a part of being a writer I don't quite get yet. When you have finished..but yet you know you haven't finished. I need a teacher to step in and gently guide me to the next point.  I struggle a great deal without the structure offered by school. 
This brings me full circle to my paper. I need to get on it. 

Meanwhile, the snow is piling up. Generally when it storms I feel a release. What was expected is no longer expected. I don't have to shuffle Jordan to and from practice. I don't have to go for that run because I did it already to avoid the snow. But today I still feel weighted down. I have this paper. I should be on my poor bike, which sits on her trainer waiting for me, tapping her wheels impatiently.  I should be doing something of consequence. I can't escape needing to feel that what I do is of consequence! Argh. And this, even though the physical world holds no inherent meaning except that which I place upon it-- a veneer. 

I want to take a nap.

And more than anything I want something juicy to appear in my inbox or online... something I can latch onto that will wake me up. 
Do you know what I mean? 
I'm so tired, and I want something thrilling to wake me up. Coffee just isn't cutting it. You know you're depressed when even coffee has a sedative effect. 

I just finished reading Plath's The Bell Jar. I read it when I was younger and I connected to it then. I still connect to it, probably even moreso. They say she was afflicted with schizophrenia, but the way she describes it seems to be just .... mental entropy. Just a slowing of the chaos -- into systemic disorder. There is energy--but none is available for work under the suffocating bell of the jar. 

You may not still be with me. 
If you are, we're sisters (or sister and brother?). 
xo and love to you.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Lots of Swimming.

and not much else.
That has been my M.O. of late!

You know how people say to listen to your body?
Well, my body is a-okay. It's actually quite rested given that I'm supposed to compete in a 70.3 in late March. This is not necessarily a good thing, understand.

No, I need not listen to my body right now, which is getting plenty of sleep, food, and rest. (ahem, too much of all three, methinks?) But I have been listening to my mind.

My mind is involved in a war right now--
Let me explain.
One side of my mind is saying, I do not feel like running or biking. At all. Not even a little. Leave me alone already!
The other side of my mind is saying, If you do not get off your (ever increasing) butt you won't be able to compete at Oceanside at all! Get moving, Fatty!

With each day the war gets increasingly ugly.

So I'm trying to listen. I'm trying to give both sides air time and I'm trying to stop the blows between the two factions. But wow, I'm getting tired. Neither side will rest, and consequently I am fast becoming an alcoholic as I try to drown out the clamor of it all.

(*It doesn't help that Andy recently purchased a Vitamix. You all know the Vitamix, yes?  But did you know it's possible to become even more unhealthy in your eating habits once you obtain one? Did you know how easy, for example, it is to make a nice, strong, frozen margarita using the Vitamix? No kale required.*)

One thing I have been doing is swimming. I think it's because I am social, and I like going to Masters. I like the people in my lane. I miss them when I skip, and I take it personally when a lane mate doesn't show up for practice.  I know... I have issues.
Plus, since I'm not biking or running much at all, I have plenty of energy to give to Masters. So I keep getting faster, and that is very fun.

I just had a meet on Sunday. I was coming off being sick, and so my expectations were a bit understated, but I ended up doing quite well! I swam a 35.08 in the 50 back. I still have to shave a half a second off that if I want to qualify for Nationals in May in that event. In the 100 back, though, I went a 1:14.79. The qualifying time for Nats is a 1:14.44, so I am getting close! I have two more chances to nab that time. I think I can do it. I also surprised myself in the 50 fly and the 100 IM. I swam a 33.8 in the 50 fly--which is not fast in the swimming world, but quite fast for me. I swam a 1:17 in the IM, which is also quite fast for me given that the IM includes breaststroke. I have a bit of a problem with the breaststroke...

And in practice the other day we had to swim 5 x 100s very hard, after doing 15 moderately hard 100s prior to those 5. I swam those last five all on 1:11/1:12, which I'm fairly certain I haven't been able to pull off since high school! I was pleasantly stunned. It's truly amazing what you can do if you focus only on one of the three triathlon disciplines, isn't it?

Alas, however, even if I swim really really really super duper well at Oceanside, I will still have trouble racing even a bit well if I don't get on the bike or out for a few runs -- like now. I'm trying not to hate myself for being so supremely unmotivated. The thing about Oceanside is that I am spending a week there with my family after the race. We are going to Legoland, Sea World, the Zoo... I really can't wait. So NOT doing the race isn't an option. We are going to Oceanside, damn it! I want that vacation! But when I stumble to the finish line after taking 7 hours to race... just know that I expect no notes of pity. I will deserve that performance...

Oceanside is coming.
But la la la la. I'm going to keep drinking and swimming and will then, come March 31, take my chances.
And I will keep chipping away at qualifying for Nationals in swimming in the backstroke. Why not? What fun! A new challenge! My friend Tracy will go, and I *might* be able to convince my new friend Carina, from Masters, to go as well. Since I will likely only qualify in just a few events I will be able to spend most of my time there cheering, and then going out for drinks at the end of the day. THAT is my idea of fun right now. Cheering and booze.

I hope you all are training a bit harder than me.
If not, hey. Some years we are on fire. Some years we .... swim too much to catch fire?