Monday, August 24, 2009

Of Faults and Unpredictability

The very nature of triathlon leads one to live an organized, compartmentalized, regimented sort of existence. Training is a priority -- we will get up at ungodly hours and shuffle errands and obligations around to get our workouts in. When we travel, we suss out the local pool, running paths, and local bike routes. Vacations, weddings, family outings, etc, are all planned around our race season and our training schedules.

Thus, triathlon very quickly eases one into a routine. Everyone develops his/her own unique routine, based on countless hours of experimentation and careful strategic planning. Some of us sleep in our workout clothes in order to capitalize on early-morning training time. Some of us buy multiple soap/shampoo/lotion products and leave a set at work, at the pool, and at the gym. Gradually, one becomes quite adept at packing swimming-to-work-to-running gear; stuffing sufficient tubes, C02 cartridges and nutrition in jersey pockets and bento boxes; and yes, even toting almonds, chopped up veggies and other snacks in various ziplock baggies to ward off the ever present nibblies. Whatever we do, we do it because it works for us.

Like mice finding the quickest path to the cheese, we follow our own habitual paths over and over again, until our routines harden into a substance very much like concrete. To the uninitiated (and to our loved ones), these routines can seem like border-line (or even full-blown) neuroses. For example, I treat my schedule like a writ from God. Let's call it "The Book of Sara." Whatever is on my schedule, I do. Religiously. Without excuses.

When a run is scheduled for 8:00am, I run at 8:00am. Through rain, snow, shine, doctor's appointments, life, whatever. My schedule says "do it" and I obey. If I have a bike ride scheduled for 3 hours, I will ride for exactly 3 hours. If I misjudge and go over the 3 hour mark, that's OK. But, if I am under, I circle the block, so to speak, until I reach the required time. I've prefaced so many of my conversations with, "I have to swim/bike/run today..." that my friends and family now ask ME what I have on schedule before they ask me for coffee or dinner! Terrible of me, I know! Hahahaha!

There are times when this blind, unthinking addiction to routine backfires though. I know I'm not alone in arriving at the pool only to realize that I forgot to pack my swimsuit. Or towel as was the case last week. The towel was no big deal -- my pool has a paper towel dispenser by the bathroom sinks. There I stood, butt-naked, pressing the paper-towel lever again and again and again and again. I'd grab a few rough brown paper sheets, dry off a random body part, and then start pumping the lever again.

Two girls who usually always swim when I do were just getting into the showers...I laughed and explained I forgot my towel. Instant friends. Isn't it strange how quickly you can make friends with people when you're naked? Hahahaha!

OK, back to when routines backfire...

Sometimes, I am so used to the timeless nature of my routine that I fool myself into thinking no time has passed --- not so good when your swimsuit needs to be replaced. Right Susi? Hee-hee!!!

But, what makes a triathlon routine so different from other routines? Ahhhh!!! Here is the sweet part:

It is true that a triathlon routine on the surface can appear to be rigid, unmovable, unforgiving. But appearances are deceiving. Triathlon teaches you to prepare for the unexpected, to deal with life's unexpected challenges. Hence, while sticking to my schedule, I've had to bike in hurricane-force winds, snow, sleet, rain, and sometimes even sun. I've had to deal with two flats, no C02 cartridges, and a long bumpy 50km bike ride back to my car.

In essence, I've learned how to get things done. To deal with life as it happens and not stress and worry when life throws me a curve ball: To change a flat tire, to get my hands dirty, to inhale a lot of water so I can learn how to flip-turn, to LIVE.

This is the innate paradox of triathlon....and I love paradox. Embedded into triathlon's seemingly strict tenets is a hardy resourcefulness; a penchant for dealing with the unexpected --- and thriving.

Last Thursday, I gauged the weather to be too hot for my dog of 11.5 years to join me for my run. She's older, I'm faster, and I worry about her cooling down enough in the various watering holes which I include in my route. Toby was rolling around in ecstasy in the shade in the backyard, when I made my move, and left to go for my run. The few times I've left her at home, she guilts me with an incredibly depressed look -- big, liquid dark brown eyes, gazing up at me with the saddest expression you will ever see. Tail down, body posture shrunken in, like she has been kicked and abandoned. GAD!

Nonetheless, it was HOT, and I told her to "Watch the house," like I always do, and off I went. Ipod cranked, I ran about 2.5km when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I was running up the highway, when to my immediate left, a little black shape cruised up beside me. TOBY! Hahahahahaha!

I couldn't get mad -- she was quite pleased with herself -- you could see that in her grinning smile. Somehow, she sneaked out of the yard and ran DOWN THE HIGHWAY behind me so she could join me. Hahahahaha -- I can just imagine how it looked to traffic. Hahahahahaahahaah!! Toby has ran with me all over the Crowsnest Pass -- she knows where she is going. She doesn't own a collar -- I usually carry a leash (just in case I come across another dog) and loop it upon itself to make a collar/leash thing. I hadn't brought her leash on Thursday, since I wasn't bringing Toby, but she is so good, we didn't need it. We never do. :)

Toby's great escape taught me it is through the apparent faults and unpredictable nature of life that we flourish: love and grow. It is when things don't go according to plan, when our routine is challenged, that we rise up and become more than what we are.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Feeding the Machine

I certainly have an Iron appetite...

Today's cumulative total for breakfast: Bowl of cereal with milk; two glasses of OJ; Big bowl of oatmeal with almonds, raisins, a banana, and yogurt; 4 eggs and two pieces of toast.

And it's only 8:15am!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Mikey woke up this morning when I stumbled out of bed to go swimming, and murmured, "I'm so proud of you honey. You're such a dedicated athlete." :) :) :) :) :)

Yup, he's getting pancakes later on. Hahahahahahaha!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

TransRockies Pics AND...I FOUND THE SUN!!!

As promised, here are some pics from the finish line of Stage 6 of the TransRockies... You guys know this is the Tour De France of mountain biking? There are only three events of this kind IN THE WORLD, and this is one of them!

My Mom and I pick a sweet spot under a tree -- note the pompom, bells and tambourine...

My Dad was the smart one -- he scored the gazebo on main street!! All to himself!! Hahaha!

For Keith... :) :) :)

DONE Stage 6!! YAY Charmaine!! No sooner had she crossed the finish line, than she was eating everything in sight. :):)

Me and Charmaine and the hordes of people cheering the TransRockies finishers on...(My God, only in the Crowsnest Pass...I swear if the Tour de France rolled through main street you'd have the same 8 people cheering for them too.)

Charmaine and her hubby, Stuart -- so proud of you Charmaine! :) :)

Rinsing off her bike shorts in the tub after dinner -- UGGGH! It didn't even touch the mud that was embedded in those bike shorts. Hahahaha!

Onto news about the sun!!!!

I left really early yesterday morning to drive to Longview. Long drive through the rain. But wait --- what was that over to my left? Was that a barely discernible lifting of the clouds? Indeed! It looked like the sun was going to be where I was cycling!

I parked in Longview, and although the road was wet, it wasn't raining there. It was stinking cold though, and it had snowed all through the mountains, so I donned my special fleece-lined goretex balaclava underneath my helmet.

It's about 44 km from Longview to the beginning of the Highwood Pass -- the closer I got, the less dark and gloomy it became. Once I started to gain some elevation, the sun came out and it was really nice out -- go figure! Usually the opposite is true -- it's nice everywhere else and the weather up the Pass is terrible. Not yesterday!! YAHOO!!!

I kept my balaclava on though -- the air was still brisk -- it's a great one with perforated holes where your mouth is so you can breathe. I was the only cyclist out there yesterday morning -- and pretty much the only human out there. Hahahahaha!

At exactly 5:31 into my ride, I was getting worn out. The wind was against me, I just wanted to curl up on the side of the road and go to sleep. Picture it -- the long ribbon of asphalt seeming to go on interminably through the prairie. The long grasses are all bent with the wind, and out of nowhere, this plaintive cry escaped my lips...

"Why Sara? Why?"

LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I surprise myself sometimes with what comes out -- Hahahahaha!!

Finally, the ride was done, and then I had a 20 minute run to finish things off. I was so tired by the end of all that, I was wiping sleep out of my eyes. Hahahahahaha!

I had major sleepy face by the time I got home. Big plate of spaghetti, and then it was bed time for me. :) :) :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Like a Hobbit!

There's first breakfast, second breakfast, and also third breakfast...

Before I swim, I eat a bowl of cereal. Afterward, I eat a couple of eggs on toast. THEN, I have a big honking bowl of oatmeal with nuts and raisins. YUM!!!!

Feeding the machine, baby! LOL!!! (NOTE: Not feeding any kind of baby-machine, or baby-making machine, just feeding the machine LOL!!!)

Big news today -- my best friend, Charmaine is on her 6th day of the Transrockies Mountain Bike Challenge!!!!!! YAY Charmaine!! Her and her partner will be rolling through the Pass sometime later this afternoon, so I'll be down on main street all day cheering my lungs out. :) :) :)

I'll get some pics and post them later!

GO CHARMAINE GO!!!!!!!!!!!!! The weather has been absolutely dreadful this year for the race...she is one tough cookie! :) :) :) You know over the course of 7 days they climb a over 45 000 feet? HOLY $hit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What day is it?

I have lost all track of days -- I'm in the middle of a LOT of training and barely have enough time to choke down enough food and sleep. I even woke up at midnight one night to eat a bowl of cereal!

There I was sitting on the couch in the dark with my eyes closed trying to wolf down some cereal...Mike is a night owl and was prowling around the kitchen and was surprised to see me up! Hahahahaha!!!

I haven't trained this hard since the Penticton camps...

I've hit some low points on the bike in the wind and rain this week. The superlative doesn't exist to tell you how windy it was on Tuesday. I've never experienced wind like that in my life. Never. Enough said, but I tell you, if I ever hear of somebody whining about wind, I'm going to personally extend him/her an all expenses trip to the Crowsnest Pass...You will NEVER complain about wind again.

When it was safe for me to actually stop and try and unclip, I talked to myself..."Okay, Julie -- don't think, just eat something." Man, that was a tough workout!

Yesterday, I started off the first hour of my ride on my Cervelo, and then the rain started to really blast down. I had hill reps to do, so I switched to my mountain bike and headed up into the muddy mountains.

Sheesh, I'm pooped from typing this. Hahahaha!

As I wrote my coach in an email, I bought $65 worth of Chinese takeout so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking the next few days...

:) :) :) :) :)

Good times!!! :) :) :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Favourite Email...

Every so often just before my current schedule ends, I anticipate a new one in my inbox. I have quite the little ritual now when I open my email and see a new schedule! YAY!!

I get out all my coloured dry-erase markers and go about plotting the upcoming weeks. You have no idea how much satisfaction I derive from this simple exercise! Hahahahahaha!! I know I am a dork!!!!!

In other training news...

I had a great weekend of training -- 5.5 hours biking from Longview to the Highwood Pass and back, and then a short run. I met up with a few of my coach's other athletes and away we went!! What a blast -- it was perfect weather too -- first time I've been up there when there hasn't been snow/hail/rain/or other type of self-inflicting drama. :) :)

Yesterday, I had a great 2.5 hour run -- I did 24 km with my crazy uber-super dog Toby. She is 11.5 years old and you would never believe it! I am always sourcing out various water stops for Toby and yesterday, the water Gods were smiling on us...

We were running back home along the highway when the sprinklers on this small strip of municipal grass came on. Perfect timing! Toby went running into them and kept *biting* and trying to *eat* the water. If any of you have dogs that like to do this, you know how funny it looks, eh? :) Those underground sprinklers really shoot out the water, and when Toby grew tired of snapping at the water, she let the sprinklers blast her chest. Hahahahahahahaha!!!

My run was great, but I could have gone further had I brought more gels with me. Big mistake, so I learned a good lesson yesterday! I had another run later in the afternoon, and Toby was raring to go. How does she still have so much energy? She was quite put out that I wasn't moving as quickly as the morning run... LOL!!

Afterward, I wore my compression tights the rest of the day, and through the night. Heh-heh-heh --- I'll take all the extra help I can! :) :)

The only hint that Toby gave that she was somewhat fatigued was when she refused to get up with me this morning to see me off to swimming. But when I came home, there she was, back curled around to her head (she does this when she gets excited, we call her the C-Dog because her body forms a C, LOL!) and wiggling and squiggling all over the place.

I wonder if I could exercise her enough if I took her biking with me? Hahahahahahaah! :) :)

The picture is slightly blurred because Toby is always on the move! Hahahahaha!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Eau de Earthworm

After missing the last three weeks of training, I managed to use the Calgary 70.3 as a great training day race -- and a kick start to training again! YAY!!! It's crunch time now, and I am so thrilled to be able ratchet up the training again.

Not too much else going on, so I thought I'd list some random thoughts...

Does anyone else smell the overpowering smell of earthworm when it rains? I had a 2.5 hour ride yesterday out in the pouring rain, and the surrounding air was scented with a tangible wormy smell. NICE. :) :)

The swim start at a triathlon DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SO ROUGH! Again, another female wave start showed me just how kind and friendly female swimmers are. One gal accidentally grabbed my shoulder...instead of pushing me down, she immediately let go and said, "Sorry!" The next breath I took, I responded with a "No problem!" Compare this to three stories I heard from my male friends -- ugly kicking, harsh, and thrashing. People need to respect themselves, respect their competitors, and respect their sport.

Coffee tastes really good the day after a race.

I can eat 24 ice cream bars in two days.

Did anyone peruse through the Calgary 70.3 glossy pamphlet and read the pro profiles? Did anyone else catch that one girl that told her story of how she tried to avoid a Momma duck and baby ducklings crossing the road in a race once, but ran over one when a duckie turned around. WTF??? OF ALL THE THINGS TO TALK ABOUT WHY IN GOD'S NAME PICK THAT?????

The poop fairy only half-visited me on the morning of the race. Hence, my poop-belly race pictures which I will NOT be ordering. LOL!!!

Maybe if I hadn't eaten 24 ice cream bars, the poop fairy would have finished her job...

That's all for now! :) :)