The red-faced, wind-kissed cheeks and the smell of fresh air on your skin ,and knowing that you just came in from a slightly windy morning riding at the beach never really does get old. San Francisco has changed. For sure. But the morning fog still rolls, and and the crazy waves still crash on the shore of Ocean Beach. Still not up to “training pace” but getting out again on Sunday put me back into that infinity circle again of “what have I been missing!”
Crissy Fields is another one of those magical places. I ride my bike down Market, up Polk Street all the way up to the Marina; gives a real feel of how the city changes from one area to the other (from rags to riches…and all the colors in between). My heart becomes lighter as I climb up that last hill and the ocean comes into view.
Getting started, like with anything, always feels like a big push. And last Monday I drudged myself along for the first mile or so, convinced to keep going only by the ocean breeze and the sway of the grass. By mile 4 I was in a groove when I heard quick-footsteps behind me and then beside me. Realizing that we were basically the same pace, the other set of foot-steps and mine matched each other–first her running slightly faster with me a little behind and then vice-versa (the pains and gains of training with another). Half-way through, I gasped between breaths, “What’s…your…name…” and aside from that the only sounds we exchanged was the rhythm of our feet and the quick breaths as we continued down the path.
Yesterday, I tried to run on the treadmill. Bad. Idea. Too tired. Too light-headed. Too stifling. Not happening. Didn’t even want to get into the pool after that. But it’s a rooftop outdoor pool. And it was, again, that perfect mix of fog and rain.”One lap,” I whispered to myself, shivering on the side of the pool. I dipped one foot in the water which sent my face into a scrunch. I felt the whine coming low and fast and before it sent my legs running down into the locker room where a sauna awaited, I dove in, the water making me forget whatever doubts I had about being here in the first place.
Sprints were on my agenda. Just one length of the pool at a time with a 20 second rest…how to get my time down to just 20 seconds? I put my attention on the pull part of the stroke; where the elbow is bent and the forearm pushes against the water. Could I push any harder? Recover any faster? Focusing on the push and recovery on the seventh of twelve lengths, I glanced up at the clock as my fingertips touched the wall. The clock read 20 seconds…all because of a bit of awareness and effort at one aspect of my stroke.
Exhaustion has consumed me this week. Maybe after a week of insomnia I am now swinging the other way.
…I fell asleep before 9pm last night. Maybe it was the kava that did it…yes, kava..a south-pacific drink that tastes like dirt (“an acquired taste…” “people don’t drink it for the taste”) giving the body a high while still being cognitive. It’s supposed to be a relaxant…I think it worked.
At 6am I woke up with that slow very tired brain mush and pushed myself out of bed contemplating the closest place to get coffee that was open… a cafe that didn’t require a hill. “Mmm…bike ride?” Really? First, coffee. Always first. Coffee.
An hour or so later, reluctantly climbed on the bike and sailed down hill towards the park.This morning was another moderate ride of 20 miles. The fresh air felt good on the waking up from mush head and I played with the push and pull of my shoes on the pedals.
Discovery #1: My Feet!
While doing a balancing pose in a yoga class recently, a teacher suggested that we focus on the instep of the foot. I noticed immediately my tendency to shift towards the outer parts of my feet (towards the pinky toe) and how much concentration it took to press down with the entire foot.
I noticed the same on my ride this morning. In order to go faster I use the outer edges of my feet; so I practiced pressing down with the whole foot, which although, uncomfortable at first and had me slowing down was neat to realize the difference in the muscle usage and ultimately made for a more comfortable ride.
Discovery #2 Clip-ins!
At stoplights I always clip out with both feet which is incredibly ineffective. It’s pure fear. And so again today I played with clipping in and out and discovered that I could do it with relative ease (and fear).
Discovery #3-No hands!
Not yet….but for sure so much more comfortable in the dug-outs and also finally able to comfortably take my right hand off the bar and take a sip of water.
These are small easy bits that perhaps I should’ve mastered years ago when first starting out. But I didn’t; and it’s fun, now, to these abilities emerge while enjoying the ride.
Mix adrenaline with a half a cup of insomnia, and powder on top with a pinch (or two or three) of anxiety for a recipe of signing up for a half-ironman. I mean, also it was a long time coming…
It started with a bike ride in late February. A bike ride on the most perfect late February day. I was just supposed to go to the park and practice but I felt so good that I flew across the Golden Gate Bridge, met a friend and her daughter for lunch and then on the way back, four blocks from my house a flat tire landed me in a bike shop…which then turned into a serendipitous meeting of a man with whom I had practically a long-term relationship (all of one month!)-that ended when the fairy dust settled and we realized that we were both human after all.
A year-long business coaching program seemed to also cross my path where my pen gave the signature along with the digits of my credit card number, and I finally re-entered the world of solo performance which was (as I told myself) the reason I returned to San Francisco in the first place.
My Cannondale road bike was stolen (and no it wasn’t as safe as it should’ve been. I’ve done all the grieving, kicking and beating up to myself necessary)….
and I also moved!…well, rooms. And even though the process of moving inside the same house is radically different, it still comes with a rush of excitement and the challenges of well…moving!
So in the midst of all this last Wednesday while sitting in a café on Valencia my keyboard took me over to the Santa Cruz 70.3 and entered, once again my name and credit card number.
So here we are, first week in May, half ironman training week one, Day #3.So far, so fun! Two moderate bike rides with a very sweet Specialized (emphasis on moderate) and one moderate run (with a stop at 0.42 mile for coffee. See what I mean by moderate?). The soundtrack for this one is just beginning to build, so be sure to get your pick in…
Performance dates for Solo Performance (if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area) will either be June 17th or 19th at Stage Werx on Valencia. Save the dates for some good storytelling…
A little girl stands next to a water fountain. She thoughtfully looks over the glistening penny in her hand and focuses in on her wish. I hope my parents get back together she thinksas she whisks the penny into the fountain. She knows this is never going to happen and somehow she knows that it’s not a good idea, nor does she really know if that what she wants. So why wish it?
That is my adult analysis of my four or five year old self. My parents divorced when I was one, and I have no recollection of them ever being together. So it seems odd to me, having no memory of them ever being together, wanting that for myself. Could it be, so young, that I already was feeling that social conformity demanded that the family unit be a mom, a dad, and a child living under the same roof? Could it be that I just wanted things the way they were supposed to be according to what I saw around me? Quite possibly.
During school (especially math class) I found myself in the front lines of a war torn country, being the key to reuniting the two lands, or the heroine in a hostage story while my teachers droned on about adding numbers together. But I knew I had bigger things to conquer.
A psychoanalyst, I think, might have a field day with me: “Tell me about this unsung-heroism-fantasy of yours where you are off saving the world joining lands together?” Might this have anything to do with…your parents divorce at such a young age?
Or, is it just another childhood fantasy that I must be so unique in the world of divorced children that of course a psychoanalyst would find my case interesting?
We learn as adults that courage and heroism do not have to be grand gestures. It can be found in the every day random acts of kindness that we pass onto one another. And yet, there’s a small part of me that thinks that that is complete bullshit. How glorious to save the world in some valiant manner, nothing short of a cape or a glistening wand or the halo that teeters above my head.
Immediately following college I enlisted in a workshop with a political theatre group . In exchange for some hours of labor we were given a workshop in which we learned some fundamentals of melodrama and comedia d’elle arte. Our final product was three plays, written and performed by us. Our play, of course, was about the failures of our education system (we chose melodrama). Having somehow a cast of all different ethnicities we played up our stereotypes (me being the white nerd whose parents sent her to inner city schools because they thought it would be safer than a suburban school where a random school shooting might take place). Through a cookie, the students became indoctrinated with the politics of No Child Left Behind and it was up to those who hadn’t eaten the cookie to somehow save the school from the evil superintendent!
And so we did! Harrah! And as writers, in a fit of idealistic flurry wrote an ending so beautiful and magical in which the school became the most perfect, performing, multi-ethnic-everyone-getting-along school-after, and we all lived happily ever after killing the evil superintendent.
We read the script aloud, and marvelled at our brilliance. Yes, kill No Child Left Behind and leave our emblem of emblems of schools! And yet… somehow we knew even as we read the script for the first time, that even for the fairy-tale/fantasy play we created we had to shut down the school. With hanging heads and big sighs we walked over to our facilitator and broke the news. “We have to shut down the school.”
She looked at us with incredible empathy, and sighed.. “I know,” she said wistfully. We turned around, slumped back to our posts, and reluctantly began the sad business of destroying the school that we had created and had become so attached. If that’s fiction, how might we react to such scenarios when our ideals conflict with reality?
Just recently, I find myself in such conflict. The team that I have been a part of for what seems like forever (really since October) has decided to split into two. This occurred right before I was to leave for the beach for a week. Throughout this week, I took walks on the long sandy beaches, gazed into the sunset,
Sunset in Puerto Escondido
and knew in my heart: that I, heroine-extravaganza, could get both sides to see how important they were to me (oh, yeah, and everyone else) and then of course they would get back together.
Psychoanalysts get your pen ready!
Like the little girl at the fountain sure that the penny would fly like cupid into the hearts of my parents, and the playwright ten years ago, I wrote friends eagerly. “This could work, right?” “Yes!” they responded to me enthusiastically. “Yes! What a grand idea!” I planned my speech carefully-starting of course off with an apology for my lack of mastery in Spanish. And then with incredible articulateness, wit, and empathy dove into how the team had served me. “Too much about me?” I thought. “Maybe so…” and then revised it as such to make it more about “us.”
Returning to the city, ready with my post inviting both teams to a place of mutual agreement, I called my good friend for back up. “This is a good idea, right?”
“Yes,” he responded.
“Not overly idealistic and ridiculous?”
“No. Do it.”
All right. Ready to launch.” Excited and nervous I copied and pasted my comments on the two FB pages only to find that…one member was already talking about different logos. My heart sank. I called my friend. “This isn’t a good idea,” I said. “
No,” he said. “People have already moved on.” “
“Yes.” And sadly I erased my posts.
I have spent all week wondering at my dissapointment. I have told myself I am not disappointed. I have told myself to stop being so emotional about it. I have told myself that I’m fine. But for some good reasons it is a big deal. And there is nothing I can do about it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s sad. And Goddammnit, as I make changes in my life It would be nice if just one thing stayed the same!! But we all know that the only permanence on this planet is change.
And there’s another truth to this…a selfish-morbid truth:the heroine who at four was so sure that she, single-handedly, could be the answer to her parents reunion, at thirteen could be the re-uniter of two war-torn lands, and at thirty-three, as she danced on the shores of sunset while the waves furiously crashed around her, could join two teams as one, would once again have to sink into the every-day reality of being just another human being.
Saturday night, November 30th, I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know if it was thinking about the incredible luck I had in having the best people around to support me both far and wide, or the excitement of the next day, or….?
I laid down at nine pm to be only slightly awoken two hours later by a phone call. “Todo listo?” said Coach Edgar’s voice on the other end. He was calling from Mexico City.
“Si,” I responded, hoping indeed that I had packed everything the day before. “What time is it?” hoping so hoping that it was already 4:00 so I could just get up and go already! “Todavia es muy de noche.” He wished me luck, a hug, and reminded me that this was going to be one of the best days of my life.
I fell into a very fitful sleep. At 4:15 my alarm went off (not that I really needed it) and mom and I went up to the roof of our hotel who had provided a special Ironman breakfast. How fun it was to see all the competitors and their families getting ready…nervous mumblings, intense chewing, and excited glances among us all.
We rode a taxi down to the transition area where I got my bike tires pumped, stripped down to my bathing suit, and walked back and forth between where my mom was spectating and my bike, reminding her of last minute details or asking her to just hold one more thing. I felt like I was at a high school swim meet again (let it be noted that whenever my mom or dad is around I think I automatically regress to fifteen years old).
As I was walking back to my bike for the umpteenth time in the semi-dark I heard a familar, “Hola.” It was Antonio, the owner of Asdeporte who really was the reason that I was able to participate in this journey. I gave him a huge smile. “Antonio,” I said, my heart swelling with gratitude, “Thank you so much for this. You have no idea what an incredible journey this has been.” “Estas contenta?” he asked back calmly. Hardly being able to control the emotion in my voice, I told him,”Yes, very content.Thank you.”
I found my ironwoman pair, Paloma, and together we received hugs and we walked over to the busses where we were being carted for a new start to the swim (3100 meters with the current because of strong winds)…yessss!! I gave a hearty hug to the amazing cheerleaders and photographer, my mom, Vail, and Diane and headed off to the bus.
Having to pee so badly, I decided to exercise my it’s MY ironman- and-no rules- apply, found a tree in a not-so-secluded area before boarding the bus.
I followed Paloma into another bathroom after getting off the bus. The line was long and there were only two stalls. The countdown to 7 am was upon us and in both English and Spanish we pleaded with each other to please hurry…we were on the beach with 3 minutes to spare when I glanced up and saw Luisen, our coach. “LUIIIIISEEEEEEENN!!!” we shouted and he came running down to give us a huge hug and suddenly without me even realizing it the horn sounded and Paloma said, “Vamos juntos?”
My Ironman partner Paloma and me
And so along with 2,000 other red swimming caps at 7 am sharp we began the year-long-anticipated day. Swimming with the current, looking down at the coral reef where I could actually see the bottom was just like everyone said, beautiful.I found my space (among 2,000 swimmers not so easy) and settled into being a “snorkeler” telling myself to take it easy, breathe, I was going to be here for what I anticipated, about an hour and half.
I glanced up to make sure I was on track and heard a large booming microphone and realized that I didn’t see any buoys anymore…whaa? Oh my gosh, it’s the shore? I’m…done??? I raced with other swimmers (careful not to get kicked) clamored out of the water, and glanced down at my watch…51 MINUTES!! I tore off my swim cap, eyes wide, smile big, when I heard, “SAAARRAAAAHH!!” I glanced back and saw my friend Armando as he waved with his head and shouted, “VAMMOS!!”
Running to the bike
I ran to get my bike bag, praying that I hadn’t forgotten to pack anything from the night before. I found a chair to put my things on, stripped out of my bathing suit (again the it’s-my-ironman-no- rules-apply) and shimmied into my two piece tri-suit (including the ironman tri-top that my mom had purchased for me the day before). A woman shouted, “We did it!!” and a huge hollering went up in the tent. Volunteers lathered me up with sunblock and I grabbed my nutrition (nutella sandwich, honey stinger waffle, and gawd-knows how many gels) with one hand and my bike shoes with the other and ran awkwardly to my bike where I tried to fit all of my food into my bento box….had to leave some things behind…(there was an ironman who said if only 12 things go wrong during the event, you’re doing well). I counted this as one of the 12, cut my losses relieved for the cliff blocks and the knowledge that stations along the way would have gel.
And there I was. On the bike! Oh my gawd! I’m actually doing this!!! This is happening!! The cool thing about an ironman is that your race tag has your name and your country of origin (mine said, Sarah, Mexico City, United States)…and so as I was biking I heard, “Go Sarah!” and was confused for a second at who might know who I am especially from behind and then got excited that I could also root on total strangers by name! However, trying to read names and countries is a little difficult and so sometimes I would start out in English? no…Spanish? Portuguese?? Sorry, don’t speak French–
The first part of the course was awesome. Winds in our favor, going a steady 30-32km an hour, paying attention to cadence at 90rpms a minute–and just so much fun. And then to the Punta Azul….the wind. The day before my coach and I had had a conversation about this. “And what are you going to do?” he said. The bike is not my strong point, and lots of learnings of surrender have been had while riding.
“Just sit in the wind and pedal, I guess. There’s nothing else TO do.”
“Exactly.” And so, there I was, on my aerobars, surrendering, breathing, smiling, into…10 miles or so of cross-winds.
And then we turned the corner again and oh, soo nice to have the wind behind us and pedaling at a normal pace again! We got into town and there were my faithful cheerleaders with their morracas as I heard, “Saaaraaah!!!” and gave them a huge smile and a thumbs up as I rounded the corner for lap number two.
Mom with her hat and morraccas
The volunteers and fans were amazing. I think my favorite sign was “Smile! It makes you go faster!”
I lost track of how far I had gone because I had failed to turn on my watch at the very start…(and then realized that that was the mistake, not that it wasn’t working, and with much relief turned it on). Your mind does start messing with you a little bit. And so at some point on the third lap I would ask a cyclist if he/she had clocked the distance and then depending if they were from the States or the rest of the world I would spend five minutes converting miles into kilometers or kilometers into miles and doing that again and again and again….something to keep my mind occupied.
I think it was at mile 70 (kilometer 105 or so) that I realized that I was going to finish the bike. That I could do another 42 miles…and even with the stupid wind (sorry) I was doing just fine. During the last lap, as I was settling into the wind once again, I thought about Endurance, my team. I thought about my coaches. I remembered the first bike ride that I did with them. Frustrated by the hot sun, frustrated that I couldn’t keep up, and within seconds of expressing this frustration my coach said, “Smile! You can suffer if you want, but that’s not what this is about!” and I thought about the conversation with my coach the day before…and then I thought about what had been drilled into me since day one of joining that team. “What’s Endurance’s mantra?” I joked with Coach Edgar back in Mexico City after.
“What?” he asked back.
“Who told you that?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye. But it worked. Without worrying about speed (I knew pushing would waste my legs for the 42km run I had at the end) I just focused on that 90 rpms a minute, breathing, and smiling. As I rounded that final corner and pulled into town I saw my coach and my mom standing by the tent. “Heeeey!!” I greeted them. No stomach aches, totally hydrated, legs totally mobile. “How do you feel?” Luisen asked me. “Great!” and it was true! “Go put water on your feet in the tent.”
I asked volunteers for water for my feet and they asked if I wanted ice. “Yes!” I exclaimed. And so began the best five minute ice foot massage I have ever received in my life. I teared up and looked at the two women massaging my feet. “You guys are the best…” I told them in Spanish.
I got my run bag, put my visor on, and without socks, put on my already laced up sneakers to begin the last third of this journey. “What time is it?” I asked Luisen as I exited the tent. “Four o-clock.” Awesome. If I need 8 hours to finish this damn marathon, I can take 8 hours (not that it would take me that long). “Just keep moving!” he advised. Diane met me a few minutes into the run. “How you doing?” she asked. “Soooo goood!! Is it bad that I have this much energy right now?” “No,” she said. “Just go with it.”
“What did you guys do all day?” I asked her. And as she started to reveal the day I said, “Oh my gosh. A whole day has passed!” at which point it started to downpour and what a relief that was. We both started laughing. “Paloma’s about 40 minutes ahead of you.” she let me know. “You’ll see her as she comes this way.” She let me go as I ran my first lap of 7km (it was out and back three times) and as I came back for my second loop I started to panic just a tiny bit. In the distance I could hear the announcer shouting people’s names as they came over the finish line.
Because it’s a loop, I had to go all the way down past the screaming fans and then bypass the finish line and turn around again. Crowds and loud music put me in a panic anyway, and knowing that that those cheers were not for me yet made me panic just a little bit more. I wanted to yell, “Stop cheering! not yet!” and as I rounded for my second lap I heard my mom and Diane talking. I shouted to them,but they didn’t hear me. At that moment I needed a little bit of love so badly that for the third time I applied the who-cares-it’s-an-ironman and shouted their names until they turned around and said, “Gooo!” I felt much better and continued my run.
As I Paloma and I passed each other I saw the determined and tired look on her face. “How are you?” she asked. “I’m good!” I responded, and it was true. At some point during the run, however, I had taken a small pink pill, unaware of what it was…and all the sudden started to feel a little dizzy.[turns out it was a muscle relaxer] Focus, breathe. Eat a banana. What-number-of-things-that-go-wrong were we on?
Coming back after the second loop was a little easier, although a small pain on the bottom of my feet started to develop and I pushed the thought of shit-I-should’ve-worn-socks- those-are-big blisters out of my mind. How-many-things-wrong were we up to now? My coaches caught me on the last loop, and Luisen instructed Mike to run with me as he continued with Paloma.
“How are you?” he asked. And true to form, yes, tired, sore muscles, yes, but knowing I was going to finish strong, I said, “I’m really good!”
“You look good!” he said as we continued along our way. We ran in silence for awhile (passing people sitting on the sidewalk, or seeing people with a shaking hand reach down to pick up their gel) and others who were in good spirits, passing the tents of music in which I said again tearing up, “you guys are the best!” at which they saluted me with their beers and shots of tequila offering me a hearty “vamos!”
Cheerleaders-Mom and Vail
I know this entry is long already. I’m applying once again it’s-my-ironman- and I can do what I want rule. And so I will pause to say this: as a competitor I knew I was getting myself into a long, hard day that would be both mentally and physically challenging. Volunteers and cheerleaders….well they almost have a harder job!–standing out there for fifteen or so hours simply because they love their friends and their family. That does not go unnoticed, and as I told my colleagues at work, when my legs did not want to move anymore it was all of you, all of your amazing kindness and words of support and wisdom and goofiness that kept me going…
My pace had slowed so much that Mike at one point started walking beside me. I laughed. “I’m going so slow you can walk!” “No, no,” he said, and started running again. He had brought his iphone with him. And for all of his making-fun-of-my-singing he very sneakily, put on a song that we both like. “Just one song,” he said when it was over. “Okay,” I said. “Thanks.” and then started humming to get me started singing of which I couldn’t help of course, but entertain.
The pier came into view and I knew for sure I was going to finish. I told Mike, “I’m not doing another loop! I’m done!” He laughed and said, “Here, do you want an Endurance shirt with which to cross the finish line?” I nodded yes and somehow found the fine motor skills to put on another shirt. As I got closer, the cheers got louder. My eyes got wider, and I thought, “Holy shit! I really am going to finish!”
The sides were lined with people and hands to slap, and somehow even with the blisters and the crazy sore quads I found it in me to find some speed and slapping hands sped across that finish line to hear….”Sarah….con Endurance! Tu eres…un Ironman!”
I was greeted with a medal and a towel. Hardly being able to speak, a woman from the medical tent came up to me. “Congratulations!” I nodded a yes in thanks. “How you feeling?” I nodded yes. “Do you need anything?” I nodded no. “Do you speak English?” I laughed and nodded yes. So overwhelmed with emotion words failed me. I found my mom and Diane, the coaches, and Paloma.
Coach Luisen, Me, Paloma, Rafa, Coach Mike
The rest…is in the pictures.
The aftermath is a whole different story and for a different entry. For now I will say, this was a journey about what people say it’s about: testing my limits and going beyond what I think is possible. But even more than that: this was a journey in learning to open myself to the abundance of love, taking that love giving it to myself and shining that onto others. So, thank you for shining in your light. Thank you for making it possible for me to shine in mine.
I’ve been talking to my aunt (an ironwoman) a lot lately making sure that my ups and downs during this thing are somewhat in check. I mentioned to her some time ago that I find myself super weepy in every way when it comes to kindness and athletics. (or just kindness in general). “I wonder why?” she responded.
“Well, anyone who shows such interest simply because they love what they do and they see that you are trying so hard to accomplish something and they really and truly want to help you get there make me cry. They are examples of I guess what one might call pure intentions. A friend gave me a framed poem the other day and put her own artistic spin on it, and I started tearing up. So it doesn’t take much…”
She wrote, “So exciting to be soooo out there taking risks with folks supporting and cheering you.”
Yes. So amazing to be supported and cheered for. I feel so lucky to be a part of an international community that include friends, writers, yoga teachers, directors,massage therapists, actors, teachers, students, athletes, coaches, teammates, family members, taxi drivers, tamale ladies, empathetic strangers,cleaning ladies, to name a few…all of these people have at some point (or multiple points) gone out of their way to help or to support me in some way.
I have no idea what the outcome of this crazy race will be in 9 days..(9 DAYS)!! But it is goofy moments, big hugs, long walks, meeting your families (parents, children, nieces, nephews), staying in your homes, long car or bus rides, running, walking, kind reprimands, impromptu dancing in front of youtube videos, long and short bike rides,brunch, watching you on stage,teacher talks, flying into crazy ocean waves, coffee dates, sharing the stage with you, training with you,getting an email from you, hanging out with your cats and dogs, cycling with you, laughing and laughing and laughing, your random acts of kindness, that I end up focusing on when the winds start blowing hard, and my legs don’t wanna move anymore.
So here’s the bottom line: Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for taking a risk.
I knew a couple things when I embarked on this “Ironman” journey. I knew it would be more mentally than physically tough. I knew that I would have to grapple with comparing myself and fears of not finishing, and good and bad training sessions. I didn’t know how much mindspace it would take up, conversations, grapplings, etc. I vowed never to be the person who could only talk about my training. I am that person right now.
It seems that all people ask me are “How’s your training going?” (because that’s all I can think about right now)And I either fiercely want to or don’t want to talk about it depending on how my training session was. And I find myself fiercely annoyed when people do or don’t ask me about it. Or putting up and taking down photos of myself at athletic events, and fiercely annoyed at people when they do or do not like the picture. I wonder if this is how famous actors feel (and there is a fair amount of drama that lives inside of me.). “How dare you talk to me…I’m out to dinner with my family.” “How come you’re not talking to me…don’t you know I’m famous?” I shouldn’t do it. Too much mind space.
I went out for lunch with two type A personality friends on Friday afternoon who also happen to be very competitive triathletes.They are in love with spreadsheets. That’s how I know that they are Type A.
I’m not Type A, but I’m collecting friends who are. They come in handy for spreadsheet making(and planning my life). A recent article was describing that the “ironman” are type A personalities sitting on the edge of their couch just in case something is about to happen. Right now I am sitting back in a chair with my feet up drinking a cup of coffee. I have no problem sitting back on my couch gazing at facebook for hours thinking how “I should go grocery shopping,” or grade some papers. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. I don’t have the right personality type.
And then there’s my friend who has done two Ironmans. Both of which she laughed and smiled throughout the trainings, doing it with her best friend, and without a care about time or pace, just having the time of her life with her friend (what?? you’re allowed to have fun???). Sometimes it’s hard. I shouldn’t do it because it’s not always fun.
Triathlons are trendy now I’m told. I don’t want to be trendy. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.
I am tired. Enough said.
“I cry when buying bread,” a new friend who is also doing her first ironman, confessed.
I cried for two hours on the bike yesterday, and cried some more when I came home before taking a nap. I’m crying too much. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.A dear friend, who has nothing to do with sports at all, commented to me yesterday, “Yeah, you know maybe do what you enjoy without this stress.”
I’m not going! I’m too busy hiding in my kitchen cabinet!
But there’s always been a level of stress in completing whatever goal I have at the time. Applying for a new job. Creating a piece for the stage (oh my gosh, a week before every performance I told my director, “I’m not doing it. And I mean it this time!!!) and she would nod her head and smile and say, “I’ll see you backstage!” And predictably I would show up and have the time of my life.
I wrote the above at 7:30 this morning. It is now 3:40 in the afternoon and I’ve just returned from a bike race that swore I wouldn’t do (after I picked up my packet yesterday) and then a run with a friend. A teammate who I met yesterday and I’m sure gave her an ugly stare as I frustratedly rounded corner after corner at the concrete jungle of a 4km track, found me lost (shockingly) trying to find the team this morning, pointed me in the right direction. Before the race started, my coaches said to me, “Today, I don’t want to see you riding alone. As a triathlete, yes, you go alone. But today I want to see you as a cyclist, working in a team.” I nodded solemnly.
“Smile!” my coach yelled at me.
During the race, that same teammate found me.”Vamos juntos!” she shouted, almost out of breath. We rode together, in front of a pack, and as we rounded the curve on the third round she whooped and hollered and from the sidelines we heard a blur of cheers meant for us.
And so it was that I cried for the thousandth time in the past two months.
I finished that race with my teammate. We howled and hooted through the finish line. Me: faster than I had ever ridden, wanting to throw up… and smiling. Greeted by friends’ congratulations and by coaches’ hugs and approvals.
Teaching in the classroom
So ironman, job, the stage…how about waking up each morning? The butterflies in the stomach, the excitement that today I’m going to make a difference!…and the fear…what if I don’t?
At the end of Nicasio Valley Road in Nicasio, California is Old Ranchera Road. For me, this road has been the joyest of joys to be at as it has meant 40 miles of riding and the home-stretch to my final destination. It means that I have just ridden through “the enchanted forest” up and down the hill of Nicasio Valley Road and now I get to reward myself with a little goodie to get me through the final bit.
I looked in my bag to find 85 cents. Snickers bars cost $1.25. I glanced at the mini york peppermint patties on the counter, and said to the clerk, “I’ll just take this.” “That’s it?!?! Go get your snickers bar! Do you want something to drink? Might as well fill up!” I gave her my water bottle and she very kindly filled it to the top with tap water (well-water as I found out) and we struck up a conversation that began with me saying: “Sooooo is the road to Petaluma veeeryyy hilly?” (That and how much further usually have unhelpful answers, but nonetheless I still ask them). “I’m jsut so impressed with all of you cyclists,” she said. “There are people that roll in here that have gone 70-80 miles and they just shrug it off. I mean I used to ride 4 miles to pick up my son from school and that was a lot. And I guess you just can’t think about how far you have to go or you get overwhelmed. You just think one mile by one mile. And it just makes me think, what have I done today? I mean just in life, you know?”
The night before I had visited a dear friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She relayed a story of a friend of hers who had been in the hospital recently. Nachshon, a slave under Pharoah’s rule was considered the brave one. However, he did not know how to swim. When the Red Sea parted, he walked into the water and for all intents and purposes should have probably drowned. But he didn’t. He just kept swimming.” On bad days, these two will text each other and say, “Just keep swimming.”
I told this story to the clerk at the general store. As I was telling it, her eyes were darting around the store and I thought that perhaps she thought that I was a religious zealot trying to convert her…however when I finished, she looked down at her arms and said, “I just got goose-bumps, wow.” And then, “Yeah, so I just ask myself every day…what have I done today?”
“Well,” you talk to cyclists every day and (others I’m sure) and offer words of encouragement and let them have snicker bars for 40 cents less than they are worth!” She shrugged and said, “Yeah, I guess.”
Now, fully fueled with my well-water and snickers bar I got on my bike and headed out for the “homestretch” of my journey. It was…considerably hilly (um, duh, Northern California) and as I spun my pedals trying to make my feet go at 100rpms a minute, I focused on the ground ahead of me, gathered up the kind words of the woman at the general store, and chanted, “Just keep swimming… Inch by inch. Mile by mile.”
Thanks for doing something today, General Store Lady.
I was lunging with 8 pound weights at a bootcamp that I decided to join this summer. The trainer I’ve been working with (who is Doug Jones and amazing on so many levels) looked at me and said, “Those are too light for you, huh?” I gave him a sheepish grin, squinted my eyes and said, “But I’m comfortable?” knowing too well that that question/statement was inviting challenge and perhaps even a snarky comment..DJ just looked at me and pointed to the weights. “Go get yourself two 10 pound weights.” A kid who overheard my statement mumbled mischievously, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” and kinda laughed. He was obviously repeating Doug Jones’ words from an earlier time.
I was thinking about “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” later when I was walking into town (I am living in the woods this summer which is a whole other incredible story). “How true that phrase is” I didn’t want to admit to myself, “both inside and outside a gym. “Grrr.” I am a walking cliche in that regard. Physical exercise gives me a certain amount of incredible humility, patience, and mental clarity (among many other virtues).
So the “outside gym” application that I came to was that “I am uncomfortable being imperfect.” I didn’t like that at first. Yuck. I don’t like being uncomfortable and I don’t like being imperfect. I liked my 8 pound weights. I was graceful with them. We were successful together. What if I make faces in the mirror because 10 pound weights are harder? What if (God forbid) I make a complete fool of myself and those 10 pound weights show all of my vulnerabilities and failures? What if I can’t do it? What will everybody think?
But then I chose to risk being uncomfortable. Outside the gym that discomfort with imperfection just leads to a horrible internal beating that turns into judgment of others whether it be “I am better than that person because…” or “I am worse than that person because…” and that leads to a whole set of unhealthy, resentful, self-righteous thoughts. As I was walking, I suddenly realized that it’s okay to be uncomfortable! (Dang it, Doug!).And actually if I don’t get comfortable in discomfort I just get more uncomfortable. So then maybe it’s easier just to sit it in it and take that risk. And then maybe that acceptance of my own discomfort in my imperfections frees me up to see and love others’ with more clarity which then I can turn towards myself…
and maybe next time make faces in the mirror as I lunge with 12 pound weights.
is a phrase that I often find myself saying. It’s how I got into a Cage Fight last Fall, and how I found myself mountain biking over rivers in Chiapas, and really what has provided me with some of the most beautiful, adventurous, and (sometimes) stupid things that I have done.
Sometimes when I see a child doing something that as an adult, I see has clear negative consequences, I ask the child in a frustrated moment, “Why did you do that?” He or she usually stares at me blankly, and at the moment the shoulders shrug I realize the stupidity of that question. I think if I had thought about some of the “consequences” of my actions that have gotten me to the place of “What Have I Gotten Myself Into” I wouldn’t have experienced the incredibleness of those adventures (to be completely cliché!).
I have friends who will research every possibility of every action that they are about to take (I admire this greatly! I don’t have the patience for that) which is another reason I find myself asking the question that is the title of this entry..frequently. So, my latest action (which I have thought about and whose consequences I can only see as wonder and far away) is that I signed up for an Ironman…yeah. It is not until November 2013, too far away at this moment to even imagine doing…still, I think, from participating in previous endurance events and enviously (and not so enviously) hearing friends’ and family’s comments about the race, it’s a good idea to train for it. i guess my point is anyone can sign up for anything, and not necessarily commit. So, I’m not at the stage YET (read back in May and then we’ll see) of feeling the “burn” from that.
No, I thought about it today because I went with a triathlon team to a place called Las Aztacas which is a gorgeous park located outside of Cuernavaca that is known for the crystal clear natural springs. Not knowing the “plan” having been with this group for very little time and only having heard about this little slice of heaven, I had no idea what to expect or what the consequences of my decision to join, might be. The plan, simple enough, was to start by swimming downstream (a warm-up) and then up-stream twice. Sure. Not a problem until one is swimming upstream against the current and wonders if there is a Buddhist proverb somewhere that says something about the silliness of swimming upstream. And then as I let go of any dramatic stories of drowning or getting carried away with the current (it’s quite shallow and the shore is always near) I kinda realized that What I Have Gotten Myself Into was a split moment’s understanding of the idea of doing something that one is more than uncomfortable with so that one can surrender and just relax and be there.
The other objective of this entry is to point out how GORRRGEEEOUUUS Mexico is and not even have to go that far! I think training for an event is 1/4 challenge, 1/4 fitness, and half (well if the numbers added up, more than half) getting out into the most beautiful places in the entire world that I’m not sure (maybe sadly) I would push myself to go if I didn’t have a goal.
I mean yesterday running I started giggling…like I was on a swing in a park because the sun was shining as I ran down and looked out into almost a canyon type beauty. There wasn’t quite giggling today, but enjoyment yes…and little by little finding ease while going upstream.