Outside the comfort zone

So, you have already been introduced to one of the other people that lives in my head.  That little voice that tells me it’s ok to cram some carbs or sugar every now and again, but there is another.  (Yeah, I am starting to think I am pretty crazy too!)  It’s the “social me.”  You see, I am not a very social person.  I don’t go out much, and can count my friends on one hand without using my thumb…. or pinky and maybe tall man too.

Anyway, I am not much for socializing, but at work it is a necessity.  In the professional world, you will inevitably have to work with someone you absolutely despise, and you have to do so in a professional manner.  In my outside of work “real” life, I never do that.  Either we get along and like each other, or we don’t and that’s that.  I really try not to be fake because I don’t like fake people and don’t want to be one of them.

My husband is the total opposite.  He makes friends without even trying and people just love him.  One of the big differences, is he is far less judgmental than I am and doesn’t assume most people are jerks first.  He lets them do their thing and it either works out or doesn’t.  I’m the opposite in that I assume they are jerks first, don’t bother, and if they happen to prove otherwise well then that is great.  That’s pretty horrible now that I think about it.

As I mentioned in my last post, Kristie had come up to me when I was at the pool and introduced me to Sandy, one of the ladies in the Sunday group class.  I told them I would go, primarily because I decided to put more effort into my swimming.  The training part of me was really excited, but the social recluse in me was not thrilled.  Sunday came and it was raining most of the morning, so the recluse secretly was assuming the class would be cancelled.  I texted Kristie and she responded that the pool would be opening again right before our scheduled class time, we were still on.  Greaaaat news……ugh.  I got my things together and reminded myself that as uncomfortable as I was, my purpose lately is to get out of that comfort zone.

As I got to the pool, Sandy was walking in at the same time.  She mentioned how part of her was hoping it was cancelled because of the weather, and I chuckled, telling her I knew how she felt.  The next few minutes felt like a whirlwind of shaking hands and throwing names out there.  I am horrible with names.  I smiled and greeted everyone.  I felt like I must have just met ten people but once I got a grip, i realized there were only five of us.  I quickly got my phone out and listed their names.  It helps me to “write” things down….  I practiced remembering Sandy since last week, so I was good there.  Ok, then there was Mindy, Eleanor, and Audrey.  I spent the first few warm up minutes chanting in my head… Sandy, Mindy, Eleanor, Audrey.

As we were chatting and getting our caps and goggles on, Audrey informed me that she had done the Tradewinds park triathlon twice before, and Sandy was signed up for a relay in the one I am going to.  Apparently the relay allows one person per item.. huh, didn’t know that.  I had seen Sandy swim before, and she informed me that Mindy was even better than her.  Surely, I was going to be the slowest most uncoordinated one there.  I had to remind myself that I needed to be ok with that.  I was there to learn and get better.  I kept repeating that to myself, along with Sandy, Mindy, Eleanor, Audrey.

Kristie had us do various things for different lengths.  Sometimes, it was just easy freestyle to the end, sometimes it was freestyle with exaggerated kicking and sometimes it was whatever we wanted.  My favorite was when she asked us to all practice rolling onto our back mid stroke so that if anyone got nervous during a triathlon or a swim, they would know how to regain their composure.  That is what I practiced most!  I was constantly going onto my back when I felt like I could not breath.  She watched each of us during the lengths and gave amazing feedback.

I was breathing too late in my stoke, which I corrected.  I was tilting my head up even when I thought I was not, which I corrected.  I was so thrilled with all that I was learning and experiencing.  I was like a sponge, absorbing each and every tidbit she could offer.  Then, I started to pay more attention to the others.  Not in a competitive way, like I have done in the past when in a group, but in a way that I realized we were all very much alike.  We all had challenges in our own way.  For some of us, it was breathing right, for others it was wanting the perfect stroke, for others it was all of the above.  I found that I did pretty well for the most part, I only lost it once and had to roll over for breath.  I pushed too quickly and hard and got panicked.

I asked Audrey her opinion on the best goggles for the lake.  Her response was “honey, you can’t see a damn thing, so just use what feels good!”    That’s when Kristie had us all swim with our eyes shut and only open them when breathing and sighting.  Part of me felt bad that a lot of Kristie’s instructions were very triathlon centric, but no one seemed to mind at all.  As the hour progressed, we did various things and all felt very much the same.  When we pushed hard and crazy, we all felt like we couldn’t make it another length.  When we did a relaxed length on our backs we felt like we could do that all day.

One of the last things we did was a length taking as few breaths as possible.  Oh boy, I thought.  Here comes anxiety and paranoia.  I took a second to calm myself and reminded myself the entire time that I was ok, I was in the pool and not going to drown or run out of air in a way that I could not just get some more.  I made it to the end with three only breaths!  That was a record for me and I was thrilled!  Kristie asked us each how many and when she got to Sandy, her answer was one, in the middle.  Mindy and I were amazed!  We told her that was awesome and that we didn’t think we could do that.  Kristie then asked us all to try.  She told us to try to breath only at the ladder in the middle.  I told myself I would try, but not be too disappointed if I was not successful, after all a second ago I was thrilled with three!

We all took a big breath and got started.  I held my breath at first and then started to slowly let it out.  I assumed i was about a quarter of the way when I was out and needed to pop back up for some air.  Much to my surprise and delight, I saw the ladder just behind where I was.  I knew in that moment, that if I got that far on one breath, I could surely make it to the end.  I got to the wall just as I was out of breath.  I only took one breath that length.  I was so thrilled!  I looked over and Mindy had just as much excitement in her eyes.  She had done it too!  We high five’d each other and were grinning ear to ear.  Sandy almost made it to the end without coming up for air at all.  Everyone did way more than they thought they were capable of.

I always try to recognize what I may have learned or should learn from situations and today, I learned that if I let my guard down once in a while, I might be surprised.  It was hard for me to accept help.  It was hard for me to socialize.  It was hard for me to swim the way I did, but in the end it was one of the greatest training sessions I have ever had.  I met some really nice ladies, all with their own challenges.  Eleanor has troubles getting all the pieces of the puzzle to fit and sometimes struggles getting the entire length done.  Audrey told me how she waved the kayak guys down several times to rest during her triathlons.  Mindy is going through chemo.  Sandy has a broken toe.  We all have our own situations going on, but we all banded together and encouraged each other through that session, and it two more weeks we will do it all again….and this time, I won’t be hoping for rain.

Bike, Run, Swim

Pride, Prejudice, and Training

I don’t think you can take up a sport or training of some kind and not be proud, and you should be.  A lot of hard work goes into getting up every day and getting it done.  Pride, however can also be damaging.  I am a perfect example of that.  I am one of those people that is often to proud to ask for help.  I am also too proud to admit when I need to take it easy or slow down a bit.  I have big goals, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I also need to admit to myself where I am in my training and ability.  It’s tough because that can vary, even by the day.

I have shifted my training a bit, because I realized that I am possibly going to struggle more on race day if I don’t adjust the way things are scheduled.  Most of my training happens between 5am and 6am.  I get up, get dressed and head out.  If the training is long, I will bring a gel and have that while out, but I am done with training on weekdays by 6 and some weekends by 7 or 8.  That’s good in that I get it done nice and early, but bad in that the conditions at that time in the morning are much easier on the body than they would be at say 9am.  When was just running, it wasn’t as much of a big deal because on long run days, I still got the feel of what the heat was like and most long races start at 6am anyway, but for triathlon it is different.

The triathlon starts the first swim wave right about 7am.  I am not sure what order they go in, but I could very well be starting at 8am for all I know.  That would likely lead to my running anywhere from 8am to 10am depending on the start and how well I finish the other two disciplines.  That also means that I need to eat the morning of the race.  I need to have already had something to get my body moving and stay moving before the start.  Then, I need to ensure that I keep those energy stores ready and going through the even.  I decided to go out later on the weekend training sessions and start eating and maybe having coffee or something before I head out.  Better to find out what doesn’t work on a training day than race day.

The other morning, I had a 10 mile bike ride scheduled.  I was on the fence about if I was looking forward to it or not.  Part of me was, part of me was not.  I got up at 4:30 as usual and had a cup of coffee.  I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out as coffee can “get things moving” for me, if you know what I mean.  I figured I would try to have a gel before I headed out and the another when I got back as I was going to do a walk/run right after with a friend.  The coffee did it’s job and I was relieved that I felt good to go when it was time to head out at 6am.

For this morning’s ride, I wanted to try to keep a good pace and see where I thought my time would be in the race.  The challenge is that in training, I have a few intersections so having to stop is a must.  I set the Garmin to auto pause the timer, so that stops would not be counted in the total time.  I headed out feeling great.  I got on the bike and started out really strong.  About a mile in, I had to get myself to slow down a bit as I was too afraid I would burn myself up in the first half and have a hard time heading back home.

My legs were great, my cadence was high (for me) and I was going pretty fast (again, for me)!  I was so happy with my performance.  I barely had to stop for a light and was headed to the halfway point.  I decided to give myself a burst of pleasure by looking down to see where my time was.  You see, in the past it has taken me anywhere from 45-48 minutes to do about 10 miles.  I was almost where I would turn around and I assumed I was under 20, I mean I was flying for crying out loud.  So proud…..until I looked down and saw 22 and change on the clock.

Seriously?!  No way!  How could this be happening?  I mean, I was feeling good, I was flying.  Apparently, feeling good or like you are flying does not actually constitute going any faster than a day where you are not feeling great but are pushing hard.  Even though the math would not support it, surely my average speed was near that of sound….. ok maybe not, 13.6 mph.  I was immediately defeated.  It took me a moment to shake that off.

Maybe I did the right thing?  Maybe I slowed down to conserve energy to kick the crap out of the second half.  At least, that is what I tried convincing myself of.  I hit the turn around point and did my best not to just stop and cry it out.  Suck it up, conquer that inner biotch.  I pedaled and just tried to focus on smooth strokes and getting home.  I was either going to do well or I wasn’t but I just wanted to get back home at this point.

Turns out that second half was a little better and I did it in 20 with an average of 14.9 mph.  Pride got in the way at first.  I hear Han Solo every time I think: “Don’t get cocky” but that is what I did.  I assumed that since I felt good and had held back in other sessions that I had it in the bag.  When I saw I didn’t, pride almost got in the way again and I almost didn’t push as hard.  In the end it worked out well.  I set a PR for myself.  That time may not be great for others, but for me it is something to work with and my goal is to achieve that after a swim that terrified me.

Miriam-Webster defines prejudice as an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.  That is me with swimming.  Before even really trying I was already dead set against my ability to do it well.  So much so, that my goal all along was to just survive it and not get a DNF after all this hard work.  I have been focusing primarily on the bike and run.  I love the run, so that is easy and the bike is almost as much fun as the run… but the swimming not so much.

My brain has gotten in the way of my swimming so much so, that I always go into it with a negative stream of thoughts.  Just get in, and get it done.  Train enough that you believe you can finish without drowning and we are good.  The last swim practice I had at the pool went pretty well.  It was one of those days where although I did not want to go (I never do), I went and I was pretty relaxed.  I did not reach any really goal but I went and got it done.  I put in the yards I had to and headed home.  For all intensive purposes it went fine.  Maybe I would start to get cocky again and that could help?

I went out again this morning with the expectation that, while I did to enjoy it,  I would get in and get it done again.  I was sorely mistaken.  I got in and did a side drill which went fine.  I did not bring the zoomers this time, I just wanted to be au natural.  I started off on my first freestyle lap.  I felt pretty good, but when I hit the end of the lap, which was just 25 yards, I realized how out of breath I was.  I tried again and again to alter when I took the breath, how I took the breath, how long I exhaled, nothing helped.  My brain took over and told me that I was not capable of this today.

I was only about halfway through, only 200 meters/yards done and I was utterly defeated.  I wanted to call it a day.  I wanted to get out, go to my car and cry.  I just wanted to be done.  I wanted to chalk it up to a bad training day and let it go.  I grabbed the edge of the pool to pull myself out and then stopped myself.  What if it was race day?  What if race day was this crappy?  What would I do?  How would I finish?  There were only two possible answers.  I would quit and not finish, or I would have to figure out a way to finish, even if the way was not ideal.

I decided to stay in the pool.  My new goal for today was to just keep going.  Even if I had to be on my back, my side, whatever it took just to finish the last 200.  That’s exactly what I did.  I’m not super proud of achieving that goal.  I did most of it on my back, so that I would not hyperventilate.  I didn’t do any of it well, and I certainly must have looked a hot mess trying over and over again to get into a good freestyle stride, only to have to flip onto my back again to breathe calmly again.

I finally hit the last lap and stayed at the edge of the pool again.  I started to just gaze out into nothing, trying to catch my breath and hold back tears.  That’s when i looked over and saw a swim group warming up.  I looked at all the different faces of the people in the group.  Some looked so excited to be there, others a little scared.  The group was made up of varied special needs folks.  Some were old, some were young.  The coach got them all into lanes and got them started on their swims.  I was blown away by how focused and determined they were.  I have no idea what their skill levels were.  I have no idea what fears they have or did’t have.  I could tell that some didn’t want to be there, even more than me.  Others were so grateful and excited to be there.

I decided in that moment to stop feeling sorry for myself.  I did just two more laps and collected my things.  I headed over to shower to rinse off.  When I was done and turned around, Kristie the swim coach was standing there.  She said she didn’t realize it was me down in that lane or she would have watched and gave me some tips.  I told her I was doing a little better but still had problems slowing down and end up hyperventilating to a certain extent.  I told her I would probably benefit from another session or two.  She told me about a ladies group swim every Sunday and introduced me to one of the ladies in the group, Sandy.  I told her I would absolutely love to join in.  I needed it.

I did cry when I got back to my car.  Sometimes you just need to let it out, or at least I do.  Today was very humbling and taught me many lessons that I am grateful for.  First and foremost not to take things for granted.  Being proud of accomplishments is fine, but being too proud to accept help or seek it out is not.  One good training day does not mean that you are ready.  I have been so scared of the swim that I was too frightened to have a real goal other than to finish.  I am very dismissive of the swim.  Almost cocky in assuming that I will finish and don’t need to consider it as anything more than a necessary evil.  I haven’t been accepting of the fact that to love triathlon, you have to train for all of its parts, you have to accept everything that comes with it and you have to understand that every part is equally important.  Sure, you might be better at one than other, but they are all important.

Most importantly, I learned to be grateful.  Grateful that I am healthy and able to train for three very challenging disciplines on their own, yet alone all together.  I am grateful for a supportive family that puts up with, and works around my training schedule.  I have only 4 weeks left to train and I have learned more than ever that the time I have is valuable.  I have a new focus these next few weeks.  Yes, I need to train on the bike and on the run, but my calendar is going to swim centric from this point on.  No more swim prejudice.  The swim has now become the most important part of my training and its a challenge that, for the first time, I am embracing.