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.