Saturday, July 18, 2009

Affirmations

You know how sometimes folks (especially women) write down or chant affirmations to themselves to get through the day or the athletic event? Like "believe" or "I can" or "strong."

I always thought that was a little weird. A little new-agey. Like incense and the Crystal Blue store.

So, I was listening to an Endurance Planet podcast yesterday in which the host (Kevin Patrick) was debating whether it was better to be cocky, confident or humble in racing or training. He was wondering whether it was better to be cocky (like the Aussies) in a race or humble. In the course of the broadcast, Kevin talked about ways we psych ourselves up (or down) in racing or training. He suggested keeping a journal of all of the things we say to or about ourselves during the day or while we are exercising to be able to analyze our self-talk. Like "wow, this hill is horrible, I don't know if I can do it" or "I'm too slow to catch that girl" or "I'm too jiggly to take my shirt off" or "I might have to stop to use the bathroom."

Wait, that last one is probably just me.

Anyway, it got me thinking about whether I do that kind of self-talk during a race. I thought no, because I don't need any silly old affirmations.

But it turns out that I do it! I tell myself "that hill is nothing compared to the one out of Mountain Park" or "it's too hot for a shirt, no one who has borne two children has a flat tummy" or "I don't care if I'm jiggly, at least I'm running" or "I can catch that girl" or "my neighborhood is hillier than this" or "you may pass me on the bike, but I'll get you on the run".

Interestingly, while I do engage in a lot of negative self-talk in my regular life (I bag on myself because I eat badly, I procrastinate, I am lazy, I'm not patient, I'm not creative, I'm rigid and fear change), when I'm exercising, I'm only positive. And confident, and self-complimenting.

Maybe it's the endorphins.

Or maybe, it's so completely ridiculous that I run (or bike or swim) at all that I'm inspired by the act of exercising and any progress at all is great. Coming from a youth spent on the couch, anything I do is automatically super. Seriously. As a kid, we used to come home from school and watch TV (with microwave popcorn or some similarly bad-for-you treat, in mass quantities) from 3-7pm, break for dinner, and watch again until bedtime. Exercise was for the crazies. Sports? Didn't do them. Running, forget about it.

And then I got fat when I hit puberty. I think I gained 30 lbs in 7th grade. And at least that many more in 8th grade. And that is when I realized that exercise and moderating the diet was not just for the crazies, it was for me. It made me very sad. Exercise was not for my family, who were blessed with rabbit-like metabolisms, but I have known since that time that I have to exercise or I will get fat. So, I took extra PEs in college, I joined gyms, I made friends with folks who exercised. And the exercise, it makes me better. It makes me feel happier and stronger. It gives me confidence in other stuff in my life.

Sure, I still fall off of the wagon every few years. But then, I get back on and relearn how to ignore the wheezing feeling in my chest and the sweat pouring off of my body and the jiggling of my thighs and tummy. And because I know I've done it before, I am confident that I can do it again.

So, maybe those affirmations aren't so hippy-dippy after all.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Tour de What?

On our Beginner Triathlete board, everyone is talking about the Tour de France. I don't know anything about the Tour de France except that it is a bike race with beautiful scenery and Lance Armstrong. When Doug suggested that I join up in the Versus Fantasy League, I was dismissive.

"Pshaw," I said, "I don't know anything about it!"

"It will be fun and make watching the Tour more interesting."

Then, after Doug switched our cable company so that we wouldn't have to pay extra to get Versus (the channel that is broadcasting the tour and shows all of the good triathlons), the folks on the board kept talking about it and Doug and I watched the pre-game specials while I folded laundry at night. It was really cool to see all of the different stages and learn about what all of the jersey colors mean.

And finally last weekend, I gave in to the pressure. I now have my very own fantasy team. Just like all of those guys at work who have fantasy baseball or football teams.

I tried to pick riders from each of the disciplines (sprinters, mountain guys, and general contenders) as our friend Neal recommended. Since the only rider I know about is Lance, I picked other guys based on their bios on Versus or on the coolness of their names or because I like Russians:

Thor Hushovd - his name is Thor, therefore he must be tough.
Andreas Kloden - was mentioned in the pregame coverage and he is good in the mountains
Koen de Kort - his name sounds like "Boom Boom Clap, Boom de Clap, de Clap" from the Hannah Montana song
Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu - first ever Japanese cyclists, so they will have something to prove
Rigoberto Uran - is 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighs less than me
Inigo Cuesta - "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."

And folks, fantasy cycling is FUN! I love to check the news to see how "my guys" did today. And then, Doug and I watch the Tivo-ed coverage at night. Wow, check out the ad for the male enhancement pills with the ever so subtle pointing fingers and photos of wood. Hee!

I'm having a blast with my guys and not doing too bad in our little group (I'm 11th!) considering my lack of cycling knowledge. Next year I'll be unstoppable. For actual cycling knowledge, though, go check out our friend Brett's blog here.

And, Thor (the one who is tough) won today's stage. Yes!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Ridges Resort 5K Swim Race Report

Since I injured myself again this year, there was no reason not to do the Ridges Resort 5K Swim again this year. I wasn't as excited about the training this year, though, maybe because it wasn't a distance record. It could also be that all of Doug's marathons just made me want to run.

So, last Sunday, Doug and I loaded up the kids and headed up to Hiawassee. The Ridges Resort is a neat area located just up the road and across the street from the Brasstown Valley Resort. When we arrived, I noticed a distinct lack of teenagers in the field. Apparently, the team that has raced together for the last several years had a conflict. There were, however, a lot of triathletes. We all milled around and sized-up the competition while waiting for the start. I ate a granola bar and made several trips to the car to retrieve things I'd forgotten.

Scott Hanna is the race director. He is really nice. He gave the same speech as last year with similarly vague directions and we were off - trooping in line down to the dock for launching. A lot of people waded out to start this year. which didn't happen last year. Then, Scott counted down and we started in unison. After about 30 seconds of trying to find a clear area, I found my place. Looking around, I saw only men around me. "Cool!" I thought, "I'm hanging with the guys!" Number 123 was on my right. He had a beautiful relaxed stroke so I listened to Doug's voice in my head telling me to "elongate my stroke" and copied #123.

I did a good job navigating around the first island. It has three points (the point-on-land-adjacent-to-a-body-of-water/regular-old-point distinction was lost on some people during the pre-race meeting) and I rounded them decently close to the shore because that is the shortest line. My strokes felt good and I was pulling strongly. There was no trace of my yoga-induced shoulder issue. All was great. The water was green and cool and it felt effortless to glide through it.

Until I saw the bottom. Ugh. The bottom freaks me out. Maybe that is my problem with swimming in the ocean - I'm not deep enough to not see the bottom. So, I chose to move deeper to avoid the view. That was probably a mistake.

After rounding the points, I headed for the two-story dock. Turns out that there are two two-story docks. Scott had told us to get close to it - so close you could touch it so I headed way over there. The rest of the field did no such thing. So, there I was all by myself in the middle of the lake. Awesome. I sang a little of the song to myself as I swam. We had escorts in boats and canoes, but they never seemed to be very close to where I was. No problem - I knew I could finish without assistance and boats make waves, which are disorienting. At times, the wakes were so big that the tops of my feet and legs would hit the surface of the water as I was tossed around. Annoying.

I had worried since last year about whether or not to fuel during this swim. 2 hours of swimming shouldn't require any fuel and I have never fueled during my training swims. However, on a bike or run of the same duration, I would have some electrolyte drink or a Gu. And, I really ran out of gas at the end of the race last year. So, I couldn't decide. Despite some rash claims about taping a Gu to my chest, I ended up just putting it in the side of my bathing suit. Guess what? Gu is about the same buouancy in the water as I am, so it just floated around inside my suit. Eventually it nestled around my tummy. I felt better just knowing it was there.

Finally, I crossed the channel and could see the buoys (there were 6, 5 yellow ones in the water and an orange one at the finish). You could only see one of them at the time, though, because they were pretty far apart. I made a deal with myself that I could eat my Gu at the first buoy. "Better safe than sorry," I thought. "I'd rather finish with gas in the tank than drag-ass across the line." I reached the buoy and had a slug of my Just Plain Gu as I did some breaststroke kicking. Mmmm, delicious Gu. It's hard to breaststroke kick without your arms, though, so I flutter-kicked with my hands out of the water while I squeezed the Gu from the bottom to get it out of the envelope. I'm sure I looked like an idiot. After 3 tries, I had consumed most of the Gu, tucked it back into my suit and resumed swimming. As I did so, the canoe escort came past me. "You don't need a gel in a 5K swim," the woman sniped nastily. They weren't talking to me because I was swimming; they were just talking about me. I resisted the urge to stop them to explain my whole fueling plan and rationale. They had probably just come over because it looked like I was drowning and now they were making conversation. Still, they hacked me off.

And, negative motivation, it works for me.

"I don't see your asses swimming 5K," I thought to myself. "Assholes." And picked up my pace from "two hairs above forever pace" to "hair slower than 1K time-trial pace." I felt awesome. Either the extra calories or the mental boost from the Gu or the anger-induced adrenaline kicked in and I flew to the next buoy and then the next.

And suddenly, there were the guys! I was back! I saw them over to my left - right in line with the next buoy. Oops, I had veered right again. I fell back in behind them and it was delightful looking up every few (15) strokes to see their blue caps ahead of me. Then, just as suddenly, they were gone! When I breathed to the left, I saw them again - I had drifted right about 50 yards. I tacked back left but couldn't seem to stay there. Next thing I knew, they were way left again. We continued this way for the last three yellow buoys. I tried to sprint up past them at the finish, but three of us finished together with me in the middle, which threw the whole finish area into an uproar. Apparently, they weren't used to more than one swimmer at the time. Ha!

There were 6 finishers in the Women 35 to 39 age group and 79 finishers in the race.
My overall finish place was 35 and my age group finish place was 3. My time was 1:47:38.0

Here are the official results. Apparently #123 was the guy who finished in front of me! Funny how that happens.

And then, I ran up the hill and got a banana and then we jumped in the car and came home because Doug had a long run to do and the girls had a birthday party to attend. Next year, though, I'll bring some peeps so we can hang out and enjoy the burgers that Scott's group were grilling up for the finishers.