The crowd of competitors on the beach, just before the race starts. I’m at the back. With my jaw dropping. It was a beautiful sight. So overwhelming that I kind of got lost in it, and forgot to put on my goggles. Remembered after I’d swum about 100 metres. Gee, I can see really well, but I have to keep closing my eyes underwater.
Again, it was just awe-inspiring to see the churning arms and bobbing heads, and all the waves. Weirdly, I felt no hesitation or fear running after the pack into the water. I said to a woman nearby, “Isn’t this beautiful?”
Totally geeky photo, but I guess this is what I look like in goggles. Now you know. The pink cap indicates that I estimated my swim time to be between 33-35 minutes, which was the second slowest group. Should have taken that white cap, because what with the wind and the waves, I actually got lost at one point and swam for the wrong buoy. Lost a few minutes. The 1500m swim took me 38:41, but I think that includes the arduous run up the hill to the transition zone. Hardest run of the day. I felt absolutely exhausted and couldn’t catch my breath.
Until I hopped on the bike, that is! I love cycling! I was so emotional here, at the start of the bike race. I almost wept. I’d finished the swim!
Finished the bike race on a high. Forty km in 1:18. I felt so powerful. My knack for climbing hills came in handy, and the weird thing was that I got faster and faster as the race went on (or else the people in front of me were getting slower). If it hadn’t been for the strange ticking noise my bike started to make with about 15km left, the whole ride would have been pure pleasure. I was thankful to have no mechanical issues in the end. I really felt I like I could have kept going and going and going.
Which is a good thing, because I still had some race left to complete. I do run 10km regularly in training, but it must be said that it’s very different to run it post-bike-ride. But the “brick” runs came in handy (training runs immediately following bike rides), and my legs made the transition without much complaint. By two kilometres, they were ticking like normal, and I thought to myself, Hey, I know how to run! That’s when I picked up my pace. I pushed as hard as I could, though the last couple of kilometres were, well, gruelling. I used every mental trick available: feeling gratitude for the hours put in, picturing my children, and, finally, just running like I was doing a solo run–I always run hard on those.
The race organizers kindly arranged for the final couple hundred metres to be oriented downhill. I could hear my friend Tricia and her husband Jeff (who took some of these photos) and then my own family (including my mom!) calling out my name, and I just sprinted as hard as I could. The time on the clock was 2:53:17, under three hours, like I’d hoped. 10km run in 51:23 (not sure whether that includes transition time after hopping off bike, but if so, it’s close to my PB).
Packing up afterward in the transition zone. Note the bike gloves. I couldn’t rip them off fast enough after the cycling, and then I forgot they were there. Ah, the face of a happy woman. Holy bleep, people, I actually did it!
Finishing the first leg, heading for the transition area. Both feet off the ground. Looking and feeling strong. Plus, the sun is shining!
Getting out on my bike. Right at the start. My form isn’t great here and I haven’t settled in (and down), but I look so darn happy. I like that. Let’s get this baby moving, uphill preferably!
Heading out for the final leg, post-bike ride. Discovering my leg muscles no longer know how to function. Fittingly, it had started to rain. Thinking: I can do this. Right? Well, I’m gonna.
The homestretch. The finish line is before me. I did have a moment of emotion here, realizing I was going to make it. That final leg was one of the harder things I’ve done in my life. It was like running on legs of water. I tried and tried, but throughout the four km, I just couldn’t pick up the pace.
Me and my friend Tricia! I am so glad she was with me. All of the planning and logistics, plus the ride there, set-up, the wait: I needed someone with me. It would have been awfully lonely and intimidating on my own. She went out of the first transition ahead of me and I never caught up, but it made me glad to see her jersey in front of me. She is an Ironwoman! This picture makes me teary. We’ve trained together over the winter, shared some early mornings, and today, we worked so hard and we made it across the finish line! (And thanks also to her husband who took these fantastic photos. My family didn’t quite make it to see me finish, though we all got to eat pork on a bun together afterward).
I’ll write more in-depth about the experience on my Swim/Bike/Run Mama blog. And now I can offically call myself Bike/Run Mama. That’s something.
A few weeks ago: note the child’s expression of concentration and concern (it was visible in all the photos I took).
Earlier this afternoon: practice at the empty lot across the street. CJ’s birthday gift: a balance bike!
Right now: she can ride her two-wheeler! She just showed me her “trick,” which was to cycle independently all the way around the apartment building next door (which Kevin running along beside, just in case).
In other news, CJ got to blow out more candles last night when we celebrated his birthday along with his best friend’s birthday (they are about two weeks apart in age). But even an excess of candle-blowing and cake cannot change our boy’s mind: “I’m still two.”
Green Dream # 6 Front yard veggie patch.
Green Dream # 7 Re-purpose household items (ie. found this old curtain from our last house, hiding in the bottom of the linen closet, and it fits our front door; better yet, it replaces the lace curtain that has been there since we moved in SEVEN YEARS ago, which never ever felt like ours.)
Green Dream # 8 Wash, dry and re-use plastic bags. We haven’t bought new for years. When these run out, I am considering making/buying cloth bags instead. One question: for freezing food, especially liquid food, what would replace the plastic bag?
Green Dream # 9 Reusable mugs and water bottles. Milk in glass containers.
Green Dream # 10 Cloth wipes. We haven’t gone the no-toilet-paper route, however (as per No Impact Man). The used cloths are stored in a diaper stuff sack, (a welcome re-purposing that marks the end of our cloth diapering days). I launder them every other day.
Green Dream # 11 I just wanna ride my bicycle.
This morning the house is Friday Quiet. Ah. I actually sighed while typing that last sentence–a good sigh, a cleansing sigh, as one might put it in yoga practice. I am drinking my ginger-garlic cold fighting brew, because apparently spring ain’t sprung without a touch of the ague. CJ caught it first, and I coughed all night long. Would I choose to set my internal alarm clock for 5:40am, or would I skip early morning yoga? My alarm went off (it’s inside my head; I set it when I’m falling off to sleep by picturing the numbers on the clock–the time at which I’d like to wake; and it almost never fails me). Turns out, I wanted that time for myself; how could I sleep through it? I couldn’t. I leapt out of bed.
Guess what? I’ve been biking to morning yoga. It takes less time than travelling by car, at least on the way there, because it’s downhill and there’s little traffic. Coming home takes more effort and attention (focus, blissed-out yoga brain, focus!), but I don’t lose more than a few minutes in the commute. I am riding Kevin’s old mountain bike, and the front-riding baby seat is perfect for stowing my bag; but I’m coveting a more upright ride that would fit my body better. Add it to the (short) list of Things I Covet.
(Also add: fire pit for the backyard).
As I tinker with a slight re-design for this blog, I’ve changed “Eco-Attempts” to the friendlier and more optimistic “Green Dreams.” Riding bike is going on the list. I fully intend for that to be our family’s main summer transportation. My only concern is that the roads are not terribly safe for cyclists. Apparently a bike trailer was recently struck in the north part of the city, resulting in a broken arm for a small child; and the driver fled the scene.
Our cities are designed around cars. As Michael Enright put it, in a recent editorial on The Sunday Edition (a three-hour radio show that airs on CBC Radio One): There is no war on cars; the war was won ages ago, and we already know the victor: the car. The Walrus recently ran a fascinating article on green cities in Europe (Chris Turner’s “The New Grand Tour”), and the author’s description of cycling around Copenhagen on rented bicycles, one of which included a double seat on the front into which two children could be strapped … well, count this reader as pretty darn envious. He and his family cycled the city on lanes exclusively designated for bike traffic; they never felt safer.
In our city, we have a few paths on which only cyclists and pedestrians can travel, but the paths are broken by busy streets, across which one must dash without any marked crossing or traffic signals. I frequently let the kids bike on the sidewalk, and wrestle with biking on the sidewalk myself, considering that I’m pulling two vulnerable children behind me in a carrier.
I spend a lot of time coaching my children on how to be smart and safe pedestrians: no, it’s not fair, but even if a car is doing the wrong thing (ie. running a stop sign, or not giving the right-of-way to the pedestrian at a crossing, or swooping around a right-hand turn without checking for pedestrian traffic), the walker has to let the car do what it’s doing. Because in human versus car, car wins, human loses.
I wonder whether that’s an apt description of the peculiar lives we’ve built on the altar of car. Car wins, humans lose. Think of everything we sacrifice in order to propel ourselves inside our own individual motorized compartments. Think of the oil gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico, right now. Consider the air we breathe. Remember what it feels like to walk and talk, to exercise, and meet our neighbours, and take time. Cars give us convenience, without question. There are jobs that could not be done without cars (ie. midwife). But a lot of us don’t really need to use cars, not as often as we do, or think we do.
In thinking about my Green Dreams, I recognize that many of these choices and changes demand time. Hanging laundry to dry every day does take more time than throwing it into the drier–not a great deal more, but a bit. So does washing the dishes by hand. Baking my own bread. I’m still trying to figure out how to make snacks more convenient without falling prey to the ease of the prepackaged treat, grabbed as I dash a pack of hungry grumpy children to piano lessons. All of this extra labour would cut into my productivity, if I were employed at a regular job. But part of where I’m headed, I think, is viewing this home-based production as valuable on a number of levels. It doesn’t fit into the stock market. It doesn’t work comfortably with capitalism, but I’ve got a few problems with capitalism anyway; nothing in nature grows indefinitely, and it seems like madness to base a businesses’ success on eternal growth: it’s a recipe for corruption.
This work is valuable because it keeps me humble. It’s valuable because it’s my offering to the earth. It’s a small and humble offering, but so be it. I would like to offer my time–because I have it, and I’m grateful for that gift–to living creatively. Anyone who’s ever made anything knows that there is a great deal of invisible work behind what’s created. There is the original vision, changed and altered and made deeper by reflection and time, there is work, there is error and recognition of error, and incorporation of error, too, and there is luck, happenstance, improvisation. There are bursts of production and activity, and lulls of wondering, daydreaming, even doubt. There is sacrifice. You have to figure out if it’s worth it to you–figure out what you’re sacrificing, and why you want to.
Mostly, though, you just do it: you do the work you’ve chosen to do.
My photos are loaded onto a different computer. I may add some in later, but will not let lack of illustration get in the way of a small update. With a life packed perhaps slightly too full, there seems no time to blog. And I miss it. It’s like journaling, which was something I used to do every day, by hand (unfortunately–of perhaps fortunately, depending on one’s perspective–those journals are essentially illegible, written in code, due to my “handwriting” which is a cross between cursive and print–an unsuccessful, take-it-behind-the-barn-and-shoot-it cross. Except I can’t because it’s all I’ve got).
Darn. Tangents always seem to happen in Blogland.
Here are some of the things currently filling my days …
Books: I’m writing a review for a former colleague at the Post, who is now publishing a magazine called Lake Simcoe Living; we’re rounding up some books to recommend for holiday giving and reading, and as such, I got to thumb through catalogues (not literally, because everything’s online now), make a shortlist, consult with her, then call publishers for review copies, which was something I used to do almost daily, but haven’t for years. Of course, all the publicists I used to talk to have moved on. But publicists are friendly; it’s their job. I’ve got two beautiful books already sitting at my elbow, waiting to be read and reviewed (that’s on my to-do list for this morning)–one of them I’m especially excited about: it’s called Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm, by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. The photos are gorgeous and make me want to fondle vegetables, and then cook them.
Mark your calendars: I will be reading at the launch of The New Quarterly’s fall issue on October 22. That’s a Thursday. Which is the same evening that I also happen to have my first midterm. Seriously. Did I mention that I’m taking a women studies class? The professor thinks I’ll be finished in plenty of time. I’m excited about this class because I’m focussing my major paper on midwifery and doula’ing, and have already spoken to her about it. Yes, I’m a keener. Why the heck else would I be taking a class, if not to squeeze all potential learning out of it?
October 22, Art Bar, which is in the Centre in the Square, in Kitchener. I’ll be reading around 8:45pm, but doors open much earlier. Details to follow.
Kevin’s in Toronto running a slate of training classes, and this morning was HAIRY. I was a chicken with its head chopped off. Picture a cartoon Carrie suspended mid-air with legs and arms stretching in four different directions. And her head popping off. But we made it. And I enjoyed a brisk jog too. Which reminds me that I meant to blog about exercise. Am I fitting it into my life? I felt in better shape this summer with all the family biking we were doing. But I do bike to and from campus once a week, at a racing pace (why am I late, no matter where I’m going?). Biking after dark sure gets the heart pumping. I am covered with flashing red lights, but still feel only an invisible obstacle away from mangling myself. I also run home from school a couple of mornings a week. And I walk to school every day to pick up the kids (briskly on the way there, as, yes, I’ve started leaving later and later, because, really, why be early, when you can enjoy the adrenalin rush of not being sure you’ll quite make it in time?).
Does a joking tone translate in Blogland?
Stop typing. Stop typing, now. Time to work!
Albus informs me that nothing
is better than television. They earned this quiet time, occurring right now in our living-room, with another big bike ride to Columbia Lake, which this time involved a detour to the creek where everyone waded and splashed, including CJ (though his was more of an accidental entrance), and excluding me (though I got a bit wet during the CJ rescue). Kev even biked over from work to join us for a protein-heavy picnic lunch (boiled eggs, roast beef, cheese, hummus, crackers, carrots). Apparently, I need to bake another batch of bread. Sheesh, we eat a lot.
Here are some more cellphone specials from today’s adventures …