First Swim Class
We have our first swim class in an hour. It feels like it’s been about 8 years since Winter Tri class ended, but it’s really only been 2 months. Spring Triathlon training…
I’m nervous, but not as nervous as I was before Winter Tri.
…Meaning you didn’t stay up all last night tossing and turning and then refuse to eat anything today? Yeah…meaning that. I’ve slept, eaten a little, I’m pretty much ready to take over the world. One mouthful of chlorine at a time.
The swim is a real love/hate relationship for me. I used to really love it. In fact, the hardest part is that I remember how it felt when I loved it. But that was before my whole “nearly drowning” thing. And, unfortunately, I tend to remember how that felt too. They say that in order to run a second marathon, you have to forget the pain of the first one, or else your brain (in it’s ever-loving, self-protecting goodness), would talk some sense into you and you’d spend those hours on the couch watching reruns of the Golden Girls with me, instead of trying to win Boston. Which is partly why I haven’t managed to run my first marathon yet. In my defense though, the Golden Girls are friggin’ hilarious.
I need to forget what it felt like to fight the water. Mostly, I need to forget what it felt like in that moment where I lost. Or quit…
So I’m here, at swim class, surrounded by a group of training buddies that are wonderfully ridiculous, tenacious, incredible people. I’m not alone in my fears. Theirs may come in different flavors, colored by other pasts, but we’ve all shown up with similar intentions: We’re here to compete. But the competition is against ourselves, not each other. Which frees us up to be tirelessly encouraging of one another, whilst berating ourselves into the ground. According to our coach (amongst others), that latter part is wasted energy. In fact, worse than being wasted, it hurts us. He says, we’re supposed to stop apologizing about the “not good enough’s”, the “not fast enough’s” and the “not strong enough’s”. We are where we are. We are what we are. I’m tempted to add, “we are what we eat”, just because it seems like a natural sequelae, but I refuse to incriminate myself. Sorry. CRAP! Now, am I supposed to apologize for having said ‘sorry’??? These training classes are tricky…
I’m still sick to my stomach. I don’t know if that’s the anticipation of class, or my stomach reminding me that I haven’t done any core workouts for 2 months and if I think it hurts tonight, tomorrow this will all just seem ironic. Turns out, I’ll run, bike, and swim pretty routinely on my own but as soon as there’s no coach standing over me, I somehow manage to find a lot of reasons why I couldn’t possibly do core today. Or tomorrow. Or, apparently for 2 whole months. Obviously, Golden Girls was on a lot recently…sigh. Some people think paying for an exercise class is a waste of money. Maybe for them it would be, but for me, it’s more that I’m paying for accountability. All the training, insight, and motivation are just bonuses.
Aw crap, I forgot to shave.
During the winter, I got bronchitis and ended up in Urgent Care a couple of times (trying urgently to convince them I didn’t need to go to the hospital). I was explaining to one of the doc’s that I was taking a Winter Triathlon training class and I was swimming, biking, and running twice each week. She stared at me, stunned. “You mean you have to shave your legs all winter??” I looked at the ring on her finger and wondered if her husband might appreciate me trying to convince her to train…I guess we all pick our battles. She told me the only way she’d agree not to send me to the hospital was if I did a nebulizer treatment and felt better afterwards. I grabbed the inhaler and promptly announced, “I feel better!” She laughed, narrowed her eyes and then lectured for about 15 minutes on the perils of lying to my doctor. I was told, in no uncertain terms, what the risks of overtraining (or training at all) were at this point. She kind of reminded me of my coach…except he probably shaves.
I took the Winter Tri class so I’d be ready to take the Spring Tri class. Ultimately, the goal is to show up ready to divide and conquer at the Iron Girl Sprint Tri in August (I’m hoping the “divide” part means we show up and decide to do it as a relay…either that or at the end, we get to divide all of our times by 2, kind of like those handicaps in golf. Seriously, they get caddies, carts, country clubs – what is it with that sport??).
Actually, that’s not true (except the part about golfers being total slackers). I’ve done a relay triathlon already, and now I really am pretty psyched to be training to do the whole thing on my own (as in…I’d like 160 training buddies, 20 coaches, and a bazillion fans to do it with me. That kind of “on my own”.)
For me, the first (or at least the next) step towards Iron Girl begins with swim class tonight. So come on in, the water’s fine…
First Cycling Class
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ you fall, but ‘when’ you fall.”
Those aren’t good odds.
I haven’t fallen yet. But I will. Which is kind of the same feeling I used to have in volleyball when you took it for granted that eventually, one of those giant hitters is going to slam the ball right into your face. It’s a right of passage. Why is it that these “rights” always smack you upside the head and call it good? Moreover, why is it that we feel a sense of relief when it happens?
There’s an infamous chess saying, “The threat is worse than the execution”. Who said it is somewhat a matter of contention, which makes it all the more interesting to me. My dad used to quote it fairly often (it manages to be applicable to an astounding range of circumstances, according to my childhood). This morning was our first cycling class. As I navigated my, still somewhat foreign, bike around the cones, I watched people falling. Not many, mind you. But the appropriate percentage to fulfill the old, “not if, but when”, adage.
Their falling was (thankfully), rather anticlimactic. They just tip over in slow motion. My guess is they’ll be bruised tomorrow, but there was no screaming, no tears, no sirens or flashing lights. Just rights of passage quietly exchanged for swollen knees and bruised behinds. Most of us will fall for the first time and be relieved to hand in the fear of “waiting” for the pain of the experience. The threat is worse than the execution.
Unless you’re actually getting executed, in which case, it’s debatable. But also kind of a moot point.
It was good to do drills in class because, on our own, that’s not something we’re likely to make ourselves do. Afterwards, we decided to go for a ride to make sure we were still getting our workout in. At this point, the whole “let’s get up at 5:45 in the morning for cycling class!” idea was starting to wear on me. Plus, I’d felt clumsy and stiff on the bike all during class, so I was ready to just call it quits. But then we hit the flats and one of the guys we were with rode up beside me and said, “Come on. Seriously, we’re going like 8 miles an hour here.” I kindly informed him that he was old and I was trying not to break him. He unclipped one foot and aimed to kick me with it (seriously, forget cones…when do we get to learn how to do that!?) I got the message, popped my bike into a more respectable gear and took off, knowing he’d make me go as fast as I’d let myself.
And I remembered why I love the bike.
When you take away my fear of falling or my fear of a steep descent (and ‘steep’, at this point is a relative term, I’m finding), there really is something pretty amazing about flying like that. It’s like for just a moment, nothing else exists. There’s just you and this incredible world that you get to go through. Not long after that epiphanic moment, however, you realize that burning lungs, aching quads, and a sore crotch have all infiltrated your incredible world, like foot soldiers bent on destroying your defenses. It’s worth it to fight. Sometimes you win. Eventually you lose. But the muscle fibers you just ripped to shreds know how to hold a grudge. They’ll show up to the next fight bigger, stronger, and with 10 of their buddies ready to throw down. For now, winning just means I didn’t work hard enough. I want to come home beat.
Luckily, that doesn’t take much. I came home tired, hungry, and slightly sunburned (a Syracuse miracle!). Going around cones might not seem like the most exciting thing ever (and, it’s actually not. In fact, it’s like number eight billion and five, in terms of “most exciting things ever”, ranked just above watching golf). But if that’s what it takes to make me as safe and competent on the bike as I can be, then you better believe I’ll be there next Saturday morning – at the crack of dawn – with a smile on my face (at least, 9 times out of 10…).
There’s not much in life that I’m confident of, except that decisions based on fear are always wrong and decisions based on love can only end well. My fear of falling doesn’t get to be a deciding factor. I’m out there because I love it and whatever suffering I go through (i.e. falling), is part of getting me where I really want to go. So put it in your big ring, because there’s work to be done…