The Triathlon and Memories of Math Class
Remember sitting in a math test or a history test and looking at the questions and not having any clue how to do any of them. Remember flipping through the pages looking for just something that you understood. I'm sure there are many that didn't have this experience (my husband), but not I.
I was a sharp enough kid and teenager, but I was lazy when it came to paying attention in school or studying. Except that as I write this, I am reminded that I had the top score in geometry and aced one of my pre-algebra classes. I failed the first one.
I was not a consistent learner - I was swayed by my interest in the subject and in the instructor and distracted by my interests in other things. And what I recalled with vividness yesterday during my run was of sitting in a school desk feeling that feeling of disconnectedness and failure that I couldn't even bluff my way through the test because I was so unprepared.
For my triathlon I was not unprepared. I WAS prepared and it was great! It's like being packed and ready for a trip and then just sauntering out the door with kids in hand right on the planned time schedule. It feels good! It's like taking a test and at first feeling a wave of panic, but then settling in and realizing you know how to do this junk and you kinda like doing it.
That was my race.
I'm glad we started with the swim because I can only do what I can do. I can't berate myself for not going faster or trying harder. The pool is like that. I've been working on improving my stroke so that I can move more efficiently, but my times are always around 50 or 55 minutes (I always forget when I started so I don't really know).
Waiting around for the race was stressful. Showering to go in the pool and then standing by the pool was freezing. My response to the low grade stress was to mellow out which meant I got that much colder and quieter. The "on-your-mark" was met with much more gusto than my body was prepared for.
My husband and I shared a lane and when we all started off, of course we all started off too quickly. My poor unprepared body rebelled with a gasp for air and my brain said, "Oh my God - I can't breathe. I can't make it." But my beautiful cognitive brain said, "Just slow down goof. You've been doing this. You can swim a mile just fine." My socially aware brain said, "But if you slow down, all the people watching will see you slow down and realize that you started too fast and can't keep it up and think 'ROOKIE'". To which my smart brain said, "Well yeah - that's the truth."
I soon got into a better rhythm and worked on my stride and stretching my sides (which feels good) and keeping my butt high in the water and anchoring my arm. I decided to ignore my lack of kicking. And you know what? I did great! My counter (the person counting my laps) was a great person because she'd make comments here and there like, "You're going fast. You look efficient." Those comments (particularly the one about being efficient) was nice. The feedback on what I should keep focussing on was reaffirming.
When I finished and hopped (I hopped) out of the pool, I thanked her, invited her to dinner and asked for my time.....
42 minutes and 43 seconds! Hot Dog! I was like a frickin dolphin!!!
And as I walked into the locker room to change I could feel my muscles shaking. I didn't know I was swimming that fast. My muscles knew, but I had no clue. My breathing was fine. I think I just was more efficient and focused. It felt really really good.
I did my changing into dry clothing. The outside temps were supposed to be 67 but the cloud cover and the icy wind had things down in the 30's or possibly 40's. My changing time was about five minutes and then I was off to run four miles.
I pressed the button on my running app on my iphone and took off and felt good - except that the direction of the race went up a hill. It's not much of a hill if you're in a car, but on foot and after swimming, it's definitely a hill - a long gentle upward grade. My pace was slow, but my joints were good.
There was a man ahead of me who would walk and then jog for ten seconds and then walk and then jog. He was a big man (like football big not fat big) and I got the impression he wasn't loving the process. I felt pretty much like I wouldn't mind just walking and going out to pizza, but I reminded myself that my one claim to fame (ha - "claim to fame") is that I can keep going steadily.
And that was the thing that worked.
My ONLY rule in running is that I can't stop or walk. And interestingly, I don't think I even slowed down although that would be acceptable. I just kept plugging away.
And I thought of the words, "have fun" and I realized I was - especially as I rounded the top of the hill. I appreciated the clouds and the wind and the blue skies that poked through on occasion. I appreciated the musk ox by the side of the road and the birds and the fact that I could just keep plugging along and enjoy myself a bit more in comparison to the big man who kept jogging and walking (and always stayed ahead of me! - so buggy - like a car on the highway that keeps staying in your blind spot even when you speed up or slow down and prevents you from changing lanes)
While I ran, I thought about how nice it would be to be on the bike (this is a first).
And when I got to my bike, there was my friend holding it up and handing me the water bottle and cheering me on.
And my time for running? 50 minutes for 4.2 miles!!! Ha-ha!! That's 12 minute miles!!!
I got on the bike and quickly realized that I preferred running. But the biking wasn't bad. And it wasn't so bad because my husband worked on my gears the day before allowing me to use the gears that make you go further with each push of the pedals - they're great for going downhill, but I also just plain like them in general because I can feel that connection between pushing and moving.
Though....there was a woman who got on her bike at the same time as me and took off ahead! I didn't even know she was behind me on the run and there she was now ahead of me! She and I are in the same age bracket and as I followed her the first four miles at the same pace I wondered if I'd be able to pass her. I also wondered if it would be mean to pass her.
This is a small town. She liked being the oldest person. She's sensitive about her times.
I also was not loving the biking. The back of my head was sore. I felt a bit thirsty. I was tired. I was starting to get saddle numb. I was also aware that I had not practiced the third hour. I had prepared by doing two hours of exercise with swimming and running, but I hadn't done this extra bit and I was feeling it. It made me appreciate all the more the preparation I had done. And I was very aware that this 8 mile loop did not feel as long as it used to before I had tested it out on the bike in the last few weeks. I can't imagine what it would have been like if I had not prepared - well, I can - it would be like those miserable math tests - or like giving birth when I came out of my focused meditative zone and said, "I don't want to be here".
I did pass the woman right before the turn around point. And then she passed me when I turned the wrong way and then I passed her again and kept on going. In truth, it's just because my bike was better. I was able to shift down (or up) and go faster on the downhills.
And then I tried to appreciate the landscape and the dark gray and white billowy clouds and the sun burning on my skin and the cold air and the musk ox and the birds and whatever else I could find. And while, I did not enjoy the biking part as much, it passed by and I did okay and I ended well and with a cheer for myself. (With a time of 46 minutes!!)
I was sweaty and it was cold and my body said, "I'm done". I tried to eat a cookie that someone handed me and my stomach said, "No way". We chatted a few minutes and then biked home where I quickly showered and put on dry clothes.
It took a few hours for my feet to warm up, but I enjoyed a hearty meal and dinner with friends and then the feeling of being completely exhausted. The kids slept well last night and I slept well last night and aside from my brain feeling like it will never get enough coffee to wake up today, I'm feeling good.
And this is the problem...My times were SO good that now it will be hard to beat them! Dang.
This is what I posted as my goals the other day:
Swimming one mile - 55 minutes (hoped for is 45 - this is a stretch. I should hope for 48 instead) ACTUAL - 42:43
Running four miles - 56 minutes (hoped for is 48) ACTUAL - 50 (which is the same as 48 because the race course was 2/10 of a mile longer than I realized)
Biking eight miles - 56 minutes (hoped for is 40) ACTUAL - 46 (what the heck was I thinking that I could bike 8 miles in 40 minutes? Maybe it was a typo or else just utter delusion!)
So, big inhale, that's that. A triathlon. Kinda fun.