The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eat Pray Love Swim Bike Run

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is quite the rage in bookclub circles (I just finished reading it for my bookclub and enjoyed it very much). It has also been on the NY Times Bestseller List for upteen weeks. The book is Gilbert’s account of a year she spent traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia in search of “everything.” After a crippling divorce and a crushing depression, her road to recovery begins in Italy, with the pursuit of pleasure, continues in India with a search for love of self and God, and ends on the island of Bali where she seeks balance.

Swim Bike Run is my version of Eat Pray Love. It is an account of this woman’s search for “everything” across Westchester County.

The Bike is my Italy. It is my source of pleasure as I travel many miles through the natural world and across the seasons. Most of the time I share the experience with friends, new and old. It is easy to make the ride fit my needs (both physical and emotional) on that particular day.

The Swim is my India. Even when I swim with the Masters Swim Team, I am in the pool alone. It’s me against myself. Because I suck so bad at swimming, I am constantly battling my negative thoughts. “Why are you even attempting this? You’re supposed to be in good shape. The coach thinks you’re hopeless, but he can’t tell you that.” And on and on and on, lap after lap after lap. Like Gilbert, I am learning to banish these negative thoughts by telling myself, “You have no idea how strong I am.” You don’t have to excel at something to enjoy it. I am learning to love swimming and rejoicing in my baby steps. Lance understands, “Feed the warrior…..Kill the coward within.”

The Run is my Indonesia. It is a constant balancing act, between my knees and my lungs, between pounding the pavement and finding the rhythm that propels me with little effort. Running is the only time I find myself thinking about just about anything or pretty much nothing. I can turn inward or I can turn on the iPod. I can focus on the rhythms of my body or the rhythms of classic rock.

When in Italy, Gilbert's favorite word in Italian was "attraversiamo," let's cross the street. This becomes a metaphor for her journey as she learned to cross the street, navigate all the traffic and end up on the other side of her life. Swim Bike Run, attraversiamo, let's cross the street and find out where an athletic life can take you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's All Good

What a great weekend, ending with a Giants victory that is sending them to the Super Bowl. What a great football game! There were a lot of very excited people in my house last night. Son #2 had his posse here, and they were going crazy when the kick was good. Things got a little bit crazier around here when I opened the email this morning and realized that we have 2 tickets to the Super Bowl. Details are being worked out, but DH and I have decided that if it’s at all possible, we are going to send our kids. That seems a better alternative than trying to come up with 1 or 2 more tickets. Of course we could sell these tickets and make a nice little bundle of cash, but our children would probably never forgive us. The upside f this decision is that both of my children will do anything I ask of them with no lame excuses or backtalk. They jump when I say jump! Might as well enjoy it while I can.

The weekend began bright and early on Saturday when I showed up at the gym at 8:00 for my first workout with the Masters Swim Team (Team, every time I type that I crack up!). I am one of three “beginners,” but I’m probably the most beginning beginner. But the coach is fantastic and gave me quite a bit of instruction. I wish I had a dime for every time he told me to keep my head down. Swim in the water, not on the water. I was in the pool for over an hour when I got a cramp in my calf, so that was it for me. It wasn’t an intense workout because I didn’t swim more than 50 yards without stopping and talking with the coach. But it was all good. I don’t know if I will be ready to swim freestyle in the triathlon, but I don’t really care at this point. I’m so freakin’ happy that I’m learning to swim and enjoying it. I thought I was reasonably fit before I started on my swimming journey. I have a new respect for swimmers and swimming as a fitness activity.

On Sunday, I met a couple of other triathletes at another gym for an all morning workout extravaganza followed by a girltalk lunch. Now that was fun! We jumped in the pool for about a half hour, then we threw on our bike shorts for a 40 minute spin class and then we did an hour Total Body Conditioning class. I was ready to kill the instructor if she yelled, “Lower! Hold it” one more time during the bazillion squats she had us doing. This was quite the workout and I’m feeling it today. I have the day off today, and I think I’m ready to head to the gym for an easy workout.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wobble Snort Flap Gasp Burp

I have earnestly been teaching myself how to swim. I have made significant progress, but the experience has been humbling. I wobble down the lane. I swallow water as well as snort it up my nose. After 50 yards, I am gasping for oxygen. If I think about what my arms are doing, my legs forget to kick. If I make sure my legs are kicking, my arms are flapping. I haven’t even thought about what my head should be doing. But I’m improving, I’m definitely getting better. And the weird thing is, I am starting to enjoy it. I actually look forward to getting in the pool. It’s like Lance says, “Feed the Warrior, Kill the Coward Within.” Do not be deceived. I am only 5 feet tall, but I am fierce.

And so, it is time for the next step. I have decided to join the Masters Swim Team at my gym. “Team” is a misnomer, although some of the members do compete. It’s more of a “Swim Workout for Grownups.” The aquatics director has assured me that the coach is very open to working with swimmers of all levels. The limiting factor is my comfort level for being the slowest crappiest swimmer in the pool. That works for me. I’m practically guaranteed to win “Rookie of the Year.” (realize that I am the only member of the Awards Committee). I just hope my teammates don’t swim over me as I wobble snort flap gasp across the pool. Oh, and did I mention burp. That comes a little later, after I swallow and snort enough water.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I’m getting the pieces together. The various workout parts are starting to come together into more of a unified (yet flexible) plan. My nutrition is more consistent and I know what I need to “fix.” My support network is taking shape. I’m feeling more focused. Now I just hope my knees will keep me in the game.

On Friday, I decided I had to make the transition from practicing rotations and other swimming drills to some sort of real swimming stroke no matter how messy. And I did. I have a much better understanding of how to rotate my body when swimming. I don’t do it well and swimming 25 yards is exhausting, but this is a major breakthrough. I will work on making it smoother and easier and I may take a private swim lesson. At this point, I think a lesson can have a bigger impact.

On Saturday I planned a club ride for 11 am. The late start gave it time to warm up and I had the opportunity to go to the gym and do a core/upper body workout. I had 8 riders join me, including 3 on one bike! We have a family in our club that rides a custom built triple—daddy in front, mommy in the middle and daughter in the back. You can imagine the gawking, comments and questions they get wherever they ride. It’s quite a sight to see. It was a warm winter day and a great ride, including a rest stop at the Stone Barns CafĂ©, which is one of my favorite places in Westchester County. The ride was a 22 mile loop from a high school, with a beautiful turf track. I’m going to look into shortening the ride so we can start doing bricks—ride then run workouts.

Today a bunch of triathletes from the club had a meet-up. There were 9 of us, and we ranged from ironmen to first timers, competers and completers. We happen to have a very talented triathlete/coach (Coach A) in the club and he was offering some great advice about how to get a training program started. One of the points that Coach A stressed was the need to make a plan that fits into your life and then to discuss it with your significant other, because if you don’t have the support at home, it ain’t gonna work. I am very lucky that not only is DH a triathlete as well, but he has always been behind me 100%. We are on the same page. I’m really focusing on tweaking our food and nutrition, and he has picked up the slack around the house with both of us spending more time at the gym.

The next piece I need to put into play is Dab the Wussy (Once a Week, Do What Sucks at the Body Shop Until Your Eyeballs Hurt). It’s not too early to start doing bricks, or swimming after almost any other workout.

At our little meet-up, we introduced ourselves and told out personal triathlete “stories.” It made me realize how far I’ve come in the last few years. More importantly, registering for a triathlon after a 21 year hiatus has given me a new direction. I know where I’m going and I have aroadmap to get there.

Monday, January 07, 2008

DNF and Other Outdoor Adventures

On Saturday, I went on a club ride called “Dirt-Road-Dirt.” The 25 mile ride travels mostly dirt packed backroads, with a few paved roads here and there. The ride is not suitable for road bikes, so I pumped up the tires on my hybrid (haven't ridden it in about a year and a half) and threw it into the back of the Subaru. The weather people promised me temps into the 40s, so I dressed for temps in the 40s. However, when we set out at 9:30 am, the temp was only 27. I. Was. Cold. Soon after we set out on our little journey, I realized that riding a heavier bike, with fatter tires, on dirt roads, up many a hill on a cold day was really hard work. Much harder than riding a road bike on a paved road. MUCH Harder. My bike has a triple and my knees were wishing I had a quadruple! In fact, when we made a big loop and I realized we were only 2 miles from where we had started, I bailed. That’s right. I Did Not Finish. I quit with 12 miles on my little computer. I felt like a weeny, but a smart and considerate weeny. I probably could have dragged myself through the next 12 or 13 miles, but it probably wasn’t going to be fun. And while I know I need to push myself to become a better athlete, it’s still supposed to be mostly fun. I also thought about the other riders who were obviously going to have to choose between leaving me to eat their dust or slowing down to wait for me (so they could see me eat their dust). I may try again (he does this ride or some variation thereof) every Saturday morning. Knowing what to expect, and wearing warmer accessories might make enough of a difference that I could do it. Or maybe I’ll just keep doing the weeny version and bailing at the halfway point (makes sense, it felt about twice as hard). Or maybe I’ll wait until the roads are clear and stay with my skinny wheels.

Sunday’s outdoor adventure was hiking. This time the weather people promised me temps into the 50s! But I wasn’t falling for that again, so I wore 2 pairs of socks and brought an extra pair of gloves. The temp was only in the low 30s when we hit the trail, so I was dressed right. But did I mention that the leaves that covered the trails were covered with a layer of crunchy snow and that the light rain that had fallen overnight covered the crunchy snow and the rocks with a fine layer of ice. Oh, and that it was foggy and still drizzling. But I had no intention of being a weeny two days in a row, and neither did anyone else in our little group of hearty hikers. I managed to stay upright for 98% of the hike, and except for slipping and totally immersing my right foot in an icy cold stream (waterproof boots, you TOTALLY ROCK), it was uneventful. Although the conditions made it challenging, it was actually a really nice hike. I got home just in time for the kickoff, watched the Giants dominate the Buccaneers with family and some friends, and stuffed my face with totally bad-for-you foods. I never said I was perfect, just not a two-day-in-a-row weeny.