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!
*Cross-posted from my Swim/Bike/Run blog.*
This morning, I went for a long run. I planned to run 15km, and the idea of the long run is to go fairly slowly. But I found that I didn’t want to go all that slowly. I felt so good! So I let myself run. I ran 15km in an hour and 20 minutes; not quite my half-marathon pace, but close. It is just the best feeling to be able to run and run and run. I decided to stay at my edge, where my breathing was very controlled and rhythmic, and to let myself stay at that pace as long as my breathing stayed sure. I find that in races, I’m running harder, and my breathing gets much heavier. I didn’t want to run that hard.
Today, I thought about how far I’ve come on this journey. I don’t always take time to appreciate it, because as soon as I’ve accomplished something, I’m pushing toward something else. I’ve decided to embrace that part of my personality. It’s just who I am. It’s how I write, too. I’m pleased with a story, and then give it some time and come back and discover that it could be improved, so I work even harder. The story may never be perfect, in my mind, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of it. Somehow I’ve found the same pleasure and balance in my running/swimming/cycling. I love doing it. And I love doing it even when I’m pushing myself to go faster and even when it’s hard and it hurts. I love doing it even when I wish I were capable of doing it better. Feeling like I could do better doesn’t discourage me, it has the opposite effect–it makes me want to try even harder. I might have a moment of feeling down (like I do when a story has been rejected, or I read a bad review), but the pain or disappointment only lasts a short while, and before I know it my spirit bounces back with even greater drive and intent.
I think in a funny way, I’m as motivated by failure as I am by success. I’m certainly not afraid of failure. Or of success.
So that’s how I’m thinking about my naturally competitive spirit, these days. I’m coming to terms with it. I’m embracing it. The bar for accomplishment is always of my own setting, and hopefully mostly in line with my actual abilities.
And there’s nothing like running and running and running. Nothing. I can hardly think of anything that brings me greater happiness. Best of all, when I got home from the run, the older kids were waiting and ready to go: we’d agreed to run one or two kilometres together at the end of my run. My son surprised me by running two; my daughter was ready to stop after one (she ran it a bit too fast and got a cramp). What joy to hear my son say: “This is really fun, Mom!”
What a lot to be thankful for.
This is what we were working on last weekend, on the day before the duathlon. It’s hard to fathom, after a week of storms and rain and grey, that a day could be so sunny. I got to get my hands dirty, digging up the big beds in the backyard. It’s never too late to discover a love for gardening. We’re enriching the soil even more this year, and hoping to grow potatoes and kale despite the shade. In the front yard, Kevin’s put in strawberries and flowers, and we’re planning to add tomatoes and cucumbers this weekend. I will also have some herb pots around the side of the house where the sun falls strongest (when it falls at all, which currently feels a bit like never).
This post is a little gift to myself while I take a lunch break from other writing work. I’ve been longing to get on here all week to write about such exciting topics as: urban homesteading, and running with children (not quite the same as running with scissors). We’ve got big plans this year, for this brief and precious summer season (as always).
We are planning to take down a few trees to gain sunlight for more vegetable gardens, and possibly a greenhouse (advice, anyone?). We hope to dry and plane the wood for further projects. We’d like to build a trellis over the patio, for grapevines and prettiness. We have a treehouse plan in the works. And a chicken coop. Then there’s the porch project, with room for my teeny-tiny perfect office (architectural drawings already underway!).
Earlier this week, I got to do something especially thrilling: I jogged with my kids. I have such wonderful memories of jogging with my dad, probably from about the age of seven. On longer runs, I would ride my bike. So last Sunday morning, in preparation for the duathlon (and because, after a long and tired week, I needed to remind myself that I knew what I was doing), I went for a short run around the neighbourhood. AppleApple was hanging around, bored, so I suggested she join me on her bicycle. Off we went on a 4km jaunt, me with a grin wider than a river. We talked about running, and I reminisced about my childhood jogs, and she said she’d like to try running with me, so Kevin and I decided to work it into this week’s schedule.
Wednesday morning I get up early to run with a friend; we’re usually home by 6:45 or so. This Wednesday, we laid out the two eldest kids’ running clothes, and Kevin set his alarm for 6:50, and the kids were set and ready to go by 7. I grabbed a drink and headed back out with my kids. The light was beautiful. I promised we’d go exactly 1 kilometre (which seemed like a long way to Albus). We chugged through that kilometre in about six minutes. AppleApple was keen for a second kilometre, so we said goodbye to Albus (red-faced, and proud of his run), and went around the loop again. She ran fast! We even sprinted at the finish (something I always like to do).
We plan to do the same tomorrow morning: the kids can join me for the first kilometre or two of my long run. And we hope to keep up the habit, twice a week, in the weeks to come.
It was such a good start to the day. Both kids were energized and in great moods. AppleApple said she felt like she was floating afterward. Me, too. It’s such a privilege, as a parent, to get to watch your children grow in skill and develop interests, and to encourage them to excel and to find courage and strength.
If you’re following my triathlon journey on chatelaine.com, here’s a link to the latest story, on what it really costs (literally, in dollar figures) to train for and race in a triathlon.
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.
Awhile back, I wrote a post about “Conscious Discipline.” At the time, I copied a list of ten parenting principles onto a piece of green paper, which is still hanging in our kitchen. I think the list is terrific, and continue to refer to it from time to time.
Most recently, number eight jumped out at me: “Become the person you want your children to be.” I love that line.
I’m becoming a fairly fit adult, and someone who takes great pleasure in running, biking, yoga, swimming, etc. And my kids know how I feel about it. I talk about it as relaxing, or as an outlet for difficult emotions, and a way to make life, generally, happier. The kids have now been to three races and they’ve seen how happy running makes me feel. One might say, job well done, Mom. You’re becoming the person you want your children to be.
Last week, Albus brought home a piece of paper from school, which he grabbed and tried to hide as soon as he saw me heading to check his backpack. What on earth? I thought. Is it a note from his teacher that he doesn’t want me to see? Is he in some kind of trouble? When he sheepishly showed me the piece of paper, it had information about the school’s Running Club. “You’re going to make me sign up,” he said, despondently. Of course, I said I wouldn’t force him to do it, but wouldn’t it be lovely, blah blah blah? And he said, no. He doesn’t want to waste his recess time on running club. AppleApple was equally disinterested. I was mildly disappointed.
But when my eye caught number 8 on my “Conscious Discipline” poster, I just had to laugh. Here I am modeling away, and my kids are, so far, oblivious to the hints; at least to the most obvious and particular of the hints. I do think it’s a good thing to become the person you want your children to be. But hopefully you’re doing it as much for yourself as for them. They will have to make their own choices along the way, and there is only so much a parent can/should push for. It’s just not a one-to-one ratio: do this, and receive that result. Life, and parenting, is much less predictable.
They’re going to break out of my mold, and be themselves, be the individuals they already are. Maybe the more subtle messages will get across; that’s what I hope. The messages about focus, working hard, and enjoying what you do. May it be so.
In other news, please read my latest blog on Chatelaine.com. It’s about learning to swim last summer, with an unexpected teacher.
What?! I’m smiling?! This is nearing the end, and I was sure my face was one giant grimace. (Thanks for the photo, J & T!).
I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ll become someone who enters races and obsessively tries to beat my last best time. My personality-type just does not allow me to relax and finish at a comfortable pace. Instead, I try to run to my limits, calibrating throughout the race how much harder I can push myself. The physical part of the race almost seems insignificant. It’s the mental part that takes all the work and the toughness and the guts. I’m not sure I could have gone quite so fast in today’s 10km run had my friend T not been behind me pushing me all the way along. I knew she was tough — she’s done Ironman, and she was running today on an injured foot and therefore much less running training than me, but there she was pushing me on. Somehow knowing and trusting her mental toughness made me push even harder to find my own. Thank you, T!!!!! You’re an amazing competitor!
The first half of the race I ran a bit faster than originally planned and I felt a slightly more fatigued than I would have liked. But once half the race was done, I believed it was possible to keep pushing at least that hard for another 5km. Since it was a loop, I knew exactly what to expect. I took advantage of every downhill to pick up the pace, though I did use one downhill, at about 7.5km, to rest just slightly and try to restore my breathing (it didn’t help much). I was disconcerted by my breath — I sounded like a freight train coming through, and I’d hoped to sound much more relaxed. It really felt like a mental game that I was playing with myself. I would feel a flash of doubt — can I keep this pace going, or am I going to slam into a wall? And then I would find a reason to keep the pace going. I pictured a friend’s daughter, who is an amazing runner, and I thought, she wouldn’t slow the pace. That’s not how she wins races.
Not that I was going to win this race, you understand. It was a race against myself, essentially. I did have those times in my mind: 55 minutes was what I believed was within my means, and I wanted to do it in 50, at 5 minutes a km, which is fast for me. Honestly, I’m not sure how I made it that last kilometre. I couldn’t look directly ahead, oddly, but it seemed easier when I looked to the side, almost as if seeing the finish line wasn’t going to help me. I was in the zone. The zoned-out zone. I couldn’t even wave or smile at friends. Yet I found it within myself to sprint to the finish, a longer sprint than my body wanted to do, but why stop now?
The time on the clock was so exciting that I threw my hands into the air. Under fifty minutes. And my official chiptime clocked me in at 47:54. THRILLING. Honestly, I could not have run that race any faster. I threw everything into it. I finished 6th in my age class, and 16th among the women overall (there were 113 women who finished the race). That’s insanely better than I ever did in high school. I wish I’d recognized my own potential back then, and trained properly. But you know, even with all the training in the world, I’m not sure that back in high school I would have had the mental courage to run the way I ran today.
That’s what makes running so hard, I’m beginning to see. The training is important, of course, but to go fast, you have to be willing experience deep mental (and physical) discomfort. I’m pretty sure the runners who break records are willing to run to the very edges of their physical limits, and that’s simply not easy. I did my best today, but I’d have to train even harder to push the edge of my physical limit. Man. Part of me wants to do exactly that. But during the race, the thought I kept shoving back down was — this is WAY TOO HARD and you are NEVER GOING TO DO THIS TO YOURSELF AGAIN!
Sorry, self. I think I just might. The high of crossing the finish line, the high of knowing I pushed as hard as I could — well, it’s a bit like childbirth, really, though on a slightly reduced scale of pain and ecstasy. It’s not fun ’til it’s over, and then it’s right up there with the most amazing feeling you’ll ever have the privilege of experiencing.
[this entry is cross-posted from my triathlon training blog]