Swimming is relaxing, biking is fun, and running is… [fill in the blank]

My kids are away this week — hanging out with their grandparents in Asheville and going to a really cool “River Camp” on the French Broad. It sounds like they’re having a great time. No worries there. No reason, whatsover, not to accomplish anything and everything that I’ve been storing up to do over, say… the last year. Right?

I began with a basic list: clean, organize, exercise, create, socialize. Perfectly reasonable aspirations for a five day stretch. Or maybe not. As you might guess, this has not been the period of amazing productivity and self-actualization that I hoped it would be. (Could it be I set my sights too high?!) And I’m trying to be OK with that. Sadly, “create” has been given the shortest shrift. My neglected poetry manuscript continues to languish, and even more tangible projects, like working on the kids’ scrapbooks, were not in the cards this week.

But I did exercise. With a little more time and flexibility, it seemed like the right moment to step up my triathlon training. Awhile back, a friend mentioned that when he trained for a triathlon, he made sure to always do more than one activity at a time because transitioning from one event to another was difficult. He didn’t mean the actual transitions (knowing where your bike is parked, putting your shoes on quickly, etc), but the adjustment your body has to go through to shift from one activity to the next. It made sense, and was not something I had been doing, so this week, I gave it a try.

The first multi-event day (on Tuesday) was biking followed immediately by running. It was horrible. Seriously. I couldn’t run at all. I felt hobbled. Very discouraging. My doubts about the feasibility of actually doing a triathlon began to grow and take on a life of their own.

Today (after a one day rest), I tried again — this time adding swimming at the beginning. Swim, bike, run. My goal was not to simulate an actual triathlon. I knew I’d have way more time between each event because I’d be swimming in a pool and then driving home to bike and run. But I wanted to see how it would feel to string all three events together without too much of a break in between. It went better today. Swimming to biking was not bad at all (though, again, I had a pretty long transition in between — say, 30 minutes). And the running was not as bad as it had been earlier in the week, but it was still the weak link. The triathlon I’m planning to do has a five mile run (long for me!), so this is definitely worrisome.

Actually, I’ve been stewing and grousing to myself about running for awhile. In my mind, swimming is relaxing, biking is fun, but running is… unpleasant. painful. clunky. discouraging. The more I thought about it, the more I resented the running. I’m just not good at it. I can’t do it! I’m so slow. Well, it doesn’t take a rocket science (or a self-help guru) to recognize that these kinds of thoughts are not helping me do better. Today, I realized I needed a word for running — something to add to “relaxing” and “fun”. But what? Running is “difficult”. No. Running is “bumpy”. No. Running hurts my knees…? No, no, no! So, finally, this is what I came up with: Running is challenging.

Swimming is relaxing, biking is fun, and running is challenging. Maybe this is a trifecta I can work with. I will try.

What about you? What are your three words for swimming, biking and running? Please tell! : )


I got this reeeally tight shirt…

So, yeah, I ordered a special triathlon top, and it arrived in the mail a few days ago.  Several of the reviews on the website (Athleta, by the way) said that the top was “hard to put on”.  This is an understatement.  Once you pull it over your head and shoulders, there is this complicated heavy-duty bodice thing made of mesh and padding and super thick, strong elastic that you get stuck in.  This is where your boobs are supposed to go. But while you’re putting the top on, your boobs are trapped outside and it takes some major adjusting to get everything in the right place.  Even in the complete privacy of my own home, I felt fairly ridiculous trying to get this top onto my body.  Definitely not something I will be whipping on and off at the race site.  Yet amazingly, once it’s on, it’s remarkably comfortable (which the reviews also said), and nothing is moving.  That’s for sure.  It’s like Spanx.  (At least I think this is what Spanx might feel like.)

Special shorts are on the way.  Similar to biking shorts but, somehow, so much better (?!).  I know, I know.  I’ve been swept up in mindless consumerism!  I probably have a top and shorts that would work just as well.  But, what the heck?  You only turn 50 once.  And this stuff can double as “control” undergarments, which I may need somewhere down the line!

Really, this is so comfy…


Slow and steady does not, in fact, win the race — and other revelations from the life of a non-athlete in training

Sometimes, particularly when grinding uphill at a snail’s pace on the bike, the chant, “slow and steady wins the race” pops into my head, almost unbidden. It’s comforting. There’s a mantra for athletes like me. One day, however, when I happened to mention my tortoise-and-the-hare-inspired slogan out loud to my husband, he bluntly pointed that this was not actually true. Slow does not win the race. Fast and steady, maybe. But slow, no way. Not gonna happen. This is the same guy who, when I moaned to him about my pokey times in 5Ks, suggested helpfully, “Run faster.” Um. Yeah.

Armed with these pithy home-grown truisms, I decided it was time to get more information about preparing for a triathlon from the font of all knowledge: THE INTERNET. I needed answers to questions such as, “what the heck do you wear?” and, “are other people also afraid of the swim?” and “why do we swim, then bike, then run, in that order?” The information I found was the usual mix of useful, irrelevant, alarming, and confusing typically available on the web. I learned that there are many options for triathlon apparel and discovered that, yes, lots of people (including much fitter, more experienced athletes than me) are apprehensive (even panicky) before and during the open water swim. As for my question about the order of the events — three words: drown, crash, trip. Great…

In the meantime, I have, in fact, been swimming, biking and running. Things are going pretty well, but not amazingly. I’m still primarily just putting in time and distance, trying to increase my stamina and comfort level in the the three activities, but not really “training” in a rigorous, disciplined sort of way. In my mind, I envision a distinct turning point — still somewhere in the future, but coming soon (soon!) — when things get hard core and I ratchet up the intensity of my regime. When I really start pushing myself. But what if I’m just not a hard core kind of gal? Can I still pull this off in my incremental, moderation-in-all-things, slow-and-steady-wins the race kind of way? The answer is murky. Two months out, I’m not feeling as confident as I’d like to be. Will keep you posted. Suggestions for tapping into my hidden hard core self are welcome!