Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On becoming the Master of my domain

Last evening, my husband and I tried a new Masters swim group that is being offered through our kids' swim club.  It is a near-perfect situation: the class is immediately after our daughter's practice, it is coached by our son's coach, and therefore the comfort level is way up there.

Now, I have not been coached in many, MANY years.  I was 17 when I last took instruction from my high school swim coach, Coach Lavallee, and I am now 40 (ugh).  You do the math, it might give me an aneurism to do a subtraction problem that large.  What I remember of Coach L was that he was very kind, never raised his voice, always demonstrated the breaststroke on-deck with the left side of his body, and repeatedly told us to "undulate" our hips during butterfly.  What I remember of myself during those days is that I hated kick drills, especially freestyle because I just about went backwards (I was so slow) and would cheat with frog kicks when Coach wasn't watching, and that I loved being guided toward doing something that I truly loved better.

I have been throwing around the idea of joining Masters swimming for a while now, not because I want to be super fast (lie) or swim in meets (another lie) or even win races (yep, that's a lie, too), but because in the last few years of training for triathlons, I have rediscovered just how much I love being in the water (that's the truth).  It's like I was born to be there.

I don't have the benefit of a childhood filled with hours of swim practices, dry lands, and swim meets to quell my idealized and romantic notions of the sport of swimming.  I came late to the party, and only enjoyed the briefest time as part of an organized club and team.  And even after being a swim mom for the past few years, and spending pretty much half of every single weekday driving one kid to one pool then the other kid to another pool and then BACK to the first pool to pick the first kid up, and also sitting through the hell that is a weekend swim meet, not to mention practically mortgaging my house for practice fees, meet entries, fundraising, kick boards, goggles, paddles, buoys, caps, swimsuits, drag suits, gear bags, fins, team t-shirts, team sweatshirts, and hotel rooms for travel meets, I am still not disillusioned by swimming.  But, I digress.

Back to last night's Masters trial.  My husband and I surrendered ourselves to our wide-eyed coach (Well, I did. More on husbands reticence in a bit), and as he outlined the workout he would have us do, I realized how ignorant I was to all of the drill and interval terms - base, drill, descend, build - that are part of my own kids' vernacular.  After getting clarification and then MORE clarification, we were sent off to drill, build, kick, and descend for the next hour.  I have to say, that even though I found myself worried the entire time that the coach was shaking his head, face palming, and even wondering why he was wasting his time trying to teach this old dog any kind of new trick, I had a fantastic time.

I realized that, despite my personality, which tends to be headstrong, stubborn, and pretty omniscient (don't I sound like great fun to live with?), I actually respond really well to coaching and critiquing.  I guess it is because I have an openness to getting better, to knowing more about the strokes and how to get faster, that it doesn't bother me to be told not to bring my knees up during breaststroke and that I don't roll enough when I swim the crawl.  And I think I was even like that back in my pissy teenaged days, too.

My husband, however, is a completely different story.  Though he was perfectly willing to succumb to the expertise of a coach (and one that is LITERALLY half our age at that), once the down and dirty instruction started happening, he clammed up and acted really reluctant to heed any advice or instruction.  This surprised me somewhat, because I've always thought of my husband as a pretty open guy.  But when the coach gave him some tips on keeping his legs together when kicking and to use his feet in a less, um, spastic, manner well, he wasn't having any of that.  Head shaking, eye rolling, and downright ignoring followed, and I began to wonder why he was being so closed off to the idea of getting an outsider's viewpoint.  He's the one who always says he wishes someone could watch him swim and tell him what he's doing wrong (MY opinion on that does not count, because I have offered it more than a few times).

After we finished the workout, my husband acted totally annoyed. "I got NO feedback." "That was NOT what I expected." Yes, he did get feedback, but you can't receive something that you are not open to.  And it wasn't what he had expected because it was something new, and again, he was not open to it.

I suppose some people can be coached, and some people try to rebel against it.  Is it an ego thing?  Possibly.  In my situation, I think there really was a reversal of roles where I, the one who usually thinks she knows it all, welcomed the coaching with open arms and where my husband, the more "agreeable" of the pair, shut his mind off to any feedback and criticism completely.

When it comes to being coached, where does your ego land? Are you coachable or not?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If a tree blogs in the forest, does anybody read it?

So, I'm on day 6 of blogging for NaBloPoMo. It's difficult to come up with stuff to write about on a daily basis, especially for a blog that has a very focused subject, and also since I spend my mornings writing stuff for other people.  

I started this blog out of the desire to write about my hobby, to complain about the doldrums of training, to share the mistakes I've made along the way, to revel in my achievements, and to put my thoughts down in a forum that (ideally) people with similar interests will read and relate to.

So that's not working out too well.  Based on my visitor stats, it looks as if the only folks that read my blog are the ones that have had it thrown in their faces on their Facebook feeds.  

I wrote a blog several years ago, back in the early days of blogging, and even without the "benefits" of social media and social networking, I quickly and rather surprisingly found myself with a small but loyal following of readers.  I never had to share or post or tweet or hashtag anything, and still they found my posts, and commented on them.  Ideas were exchanged, debates were had, and even some friendships were forged.  Folks sent me trinkets in the mail, birthday cards, books for me to review on my site, it was surreal and fun.

I stopped writing that blog when it became all-consuming, when all I thought about was the next day's post and how I could amuse, confuse, or flabbergast the few readers I had.  And when I decided to blog again, I had a few starts and quick stops, kind of afraid to put myself out there again.  And then I landed here.

I'm not looking for a huge army of followers, I'm not looking to benefit financially from my blog (although, if there is a bike company out there that would like me to promote their brand all over this place, I'm ALL YOURS, just send me a size medium all-carbon tri bike. Thanks!).  I'm just a little shocked at how much different the blogosphere is now.  Social media lives under the guise of bringing us closer together, and making it easier to network and promote yourself, but it really just opened the gates to a flooded market of bloggers looking to be the Dooce or Pioneer Woman or Swim Bike Mom.  And it ain't like that.  Capturing lightning in a bottle is too difficult.  And the landscape is all watered down with everyone doing the same thing as I am.  Ultimately, I am not on this blog for anyone but me.

How about a little experiment?  If you read this post, please leave me a comment.  Let me know you are out there!  Tell me you like my blog, tell me you think I'm obnoxious, just let your presence be known!  Thankyouverymuchandhaveaniceday!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stretchy is the New Black

I've become one of those women. I'm a lycra-clad, visor-sporting, ponytail-wearing mom who struts around town in glorified pajamas.  I used to look at those women and think, "Can't you do better than that? Maybe a pair of jeans or a flowy skirt?" Stretchy pants were for yoga class, NOT for the daily grind.  Oh, but how misdirected I was.

Because I spend so much time training, my wardrobe has morphed into what looks like the clearance rack at Sports Authority.  I now own more running shorts and yoga pants than I do jeans and shorts.  In my dresser drawers you will find more sports bras than actual attractive bras, along with more workout and race shirts than actual blouses whose function is to be stylish and flatter my figure.  My shoe rack sports approximately 9 pairs of running shoes - most are too worn out to run in - and just as many flip flops.  My cute work shoe wardrobe, oh I have some great shoes, sits lonely in the corner collecting dust, my dark brown faux suede ankle boots, my beautiful gray faux leather riding boots, and my 3-inch black Mary Janes have all been mercilessly overshadowed by shoes that I now refer to lovingly by pet names such as Cadies (my Brooks PureCadence), Ravers (my Brooks Ravennas), Old Faithful (my Brooks Adrenaline 9, still my favorite shoes ever), and my Sweat Hogs (my Asics Gel Lyte 33 minimal shoes).  I own 6 pairs of swimming goggles: tinted, clear, racers, green, blue, and purple, and I have about 15 pieces of tri clothes, including 3 full suits and multiple separates.  Plus, there are the cycling shorts, cycling jerseys, swim suits, blah blah blah.

My days as of late are spent working out, writing, driving, and waiting.  I quit my job to do this, and I don't have any regrets about the decision.  For about 5-6 hours out of every day, I drive my children to every corner of town multiple times, and then I wait for them so that I can drive them to yet another location.  Nothing I do requires me to wear my cute army green sleeveless cute cargo vest with my black ankle pants, and it is pointless to sit in a car while wearing my navy blue belted dress that always reminded me of Mary Tyler Moore when I wore it.  

So here I am today with a wardrobe that has evolved out of both hobby and function. I find myself without makeup most days, hair pulled tautly back in a ponytail, and sporting very black and very stretchy yoga pants.  Some days I miss playing dress up, and exchanging words with others about my cute shoes or where I found my moonstone drop earrings.  But most days, I just want to be comfortable.

My new work wardrobe is that of mom on the run, wannabe athlete, and always 5 minutes behind schedule.  It's life, and I'm living it every day.  In stretchy pants.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On the Search for a New Yoga Dog

This past June, my family had to say goodbye to our family dog, our source of entertainment, endless cuddles, and our seemingly bottomless pit of love.  He was my yoga dog, my companion throughout my days in both fitness and leisure, and he was just short of total perfection in an animal.  His death was too soon and too painful, both for him and for us, and everyone in the family, myself included, knows that there will never be another Oliver on the planet.

But, as is typical after the loss of a pet, after the initial pain begins to subside, and you stop tearing up at the mere thought of your furry friend, and after you've stopped thinking you see him every time you turn a corner in your house, you begin to feel that nag.  That familiar pang of wanting to welcome a new member to the family.  Dog people know what I am talking about, cat people know what I talking about.  You know you can't replace or substitute that ideal animal that you've been forced to say goodbye to, but you know that you have room in your heart and your home for a new soul to squeeze.

Saturday afternoon, my husband and I took a trip to the county animal shelter to look at dogs.  We weren't adopting that day, and we knew it, but we wanted to see what kind of pups were available.  I am a rabid (pardon the pun) advocate of rescuing animals, and for $30 at my local animal shelter, I can adopt a dog or a puppy who has been vaccinated, fixed, registered, and microchipped.  You can't beat that deal for a decade of love and companionship.

While at the shelter, we (of course) zeroed in on a precious little Boxer mix puppy named Panda.  She was spritely and energetic, but not overtly so (at least at the time), and seemed to zero in on us as well.  As the shelter was getting ready to close for the day, we only had about 10 minutes with her, inside her dog run.  We both took to her, and talked about her for the last few days.  We told the kids all about her, and decided that I would take a trip to the shelter this morning and begin the adoption process.

When I got there, I filled out the paperwork and asked to have some play time with Panda, outside of her dog run.  I got a leash, went to her run, and my hear sank immediately.  Not because she was gone, and not because something happened, but because when I looked at her, she wasn't Oliver.  I knew at that moment that she was not the dog for us.

Things devolved quickly when she wouldn't let me pick her up.  I managed to get her to the play area, and she was about a lightyear passed crazy.  She never zeroed in on me like she had on Saturday, and she never stopped jumping and barking.  There was no yoga dog in her, she was too fiery and too spunky to even let me rub her belly.  I knew I wouldn't be taking her home with me.

The ride home was filled with disappointment.  I am disappointed that I didn't feel THAT connection with this beautiful and spritely puppy.  I am disappointed that I still compare every single dog to my Oliver.  I am disappointed that I had to say goodbye to my yoga dog, and that I can't seem to move on.

More time is needed, obviously.  I still have not accepted Oliver's death fully, and it would be cruel to try to bring home a new dog with me wearing that attitude.  No pet deserves the pressure of having to live up to that, and the inevitability that s/he will fall miserably short of the mark.  

So, I will let another month or two go by.  Another month of that palpable absence of a pet in our home.  Another month of my daughter asking when we are going to get a new dog.  Another month of doing yoga without a companion.

The time will be right when it's right.  A new yoga dog will make his or her presence known, and it will be undeniable when it happens.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking Ahead

It has been a month since my big race, the glow has faded somewhat, and reality has set in.  The grind of daily life has ramped up, and I have found myself struggling to figure out how I was able to fit 9-10 hours of training in each week for 4 months amid all of the chaos swirling around me.  From my current vantage point, it seems impossible to undertake such an ambitious goal as I did, and it makes me feel tremendous mommy guilt.  A natural feeling, I suppose.

The best thing I can do for my family and myself is to keep pushing forward.  In the three years since I began running and racing, I have changed in such a fundamental way and it has been all for the better.  Sure, I have lost weight from my thighs, my arms, my tummy.  Even more important, though, has been the weight that has been lifted from the places that nobody can see.  I am physically and mentally stronger than I have ever been in my life, and I see no options other than to keep moving forward and to keep getting stronger.

I am ready to race again, but I know that my body needs a break.  I've been swimming and running (still not ready to hop back on the bike), working out about 4 times a week.  Core training and yoga are creeping their way back in to my routine, and all I can say about that is YOWCH! Take my advice, don't stop working on your core for 11 months

I have outlined very specific fitness and racing goals for 2014, and none of them involve a Half or a Full Ironman race.  Those days will come again in the not-too-distant future, I just need to have the time and energy to devote to those huge physical and mental undertakings. But, for now, I am looking to get faster, to improve and even perfect to a degree my short distance racing because, as slow as my time was at IM 70.3 Augusta, I really feel like my body and temperament are more cut out for long distance racing.  So, my challenge for 2014 is to conquer the short distances, and to feel fast.  And maybe see a podium finish here and there.

2014 Fitness Goals

1. To run a 25 minute 5k. That's an 8:02 min/mile pace, folks. Not exactly Usain Bolt territory, but lightning fast in my mind.

2. To run a 53 minute 10k. An 8:31 pace.  For me, that's equivalent to breaking the sound barrier.

3. A sub-3 hour Olympic triathlon. I'm planning on racing at St. Anthony's next April, which is where I did my first Olympic distance. It didn't turn out so well for me, I died on the run. Training for the race might have helped.  This time around, I plan on training long and hard. 2:59:59 is fine with me.

4. A podium finish in a Sprint triathlon. I won my age group once at a sprint triathlon.  It was beginner's luck, and all of the fast people were obviously racing elsewhere that day.  This time, I want to RACE and I want to EARN that podium spot honestly.

5. To get stronger on the bike. This is a bit ambiguous, but being that I am consistently at the bottom of the list in the bike department, I have nowhere to go but UP!  Strength training and long rides will be on the agenda in the coming year.

6. To join a Master's swim team. This is a big one. I have the opportunity, I have the means, now I just have to work up the courage to submit myself to a coach for the first time in a really long time.  I just hope she goes easy on me.  Well, not too easy.  Otherwise, what's the point?

I would love to hear some of your fitness goals!  None are too small and all are big!

NaBloPoMo - The experiment

It just came to my attention that it is National Blog Posting Month.  Bloggers everywhere vow to post one post per day for the entire month.  For someone like me, a "blogger" who is lucky to get 3 posts in an entire month, it seems like a pretty big task.  But I am going to give it a shot.  It has been my intention to devote more time to this little spot on the Internet, and NaBloPoMo seems like the perfect challenge and the right time.

I am already three days behind in this little experiment, so I might just write up an extra post today (and tomorrow and the next day) to get up to speed.  I've got ideas, I've got plans, and I just hope I can find the words!

So, if you'll excuse this short and sweet post, stay tuned! More to come in my quest to find an audience and to exorcize the voices in my head!