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Slow, Old, Fat Triathlete Goes back to Training…return of the boring BLOG

So it’s 0545 and I have meditated and done my stretches. Had a protein fruit smoothie for my 1st breakfast and I am leaving momentarily to do my swim practice. Potentially meeting my son Dallon and maybe being joined by DIL. I will be updating my levels of exercise and intake today as I move back on track for my October event.

I barely finished the 4-3-2-1 drill from before my hiatus. My muscles and my cardiovascular system have lost ground from the time off and I was getting leg cramps  and chest muscle pain. I managed four non-consecutive lengths freestyle, no laps without breaks. I am kind of dreading class tomorrow but showing up is half the battle.

It is almost noon and I have some housecleaning and  laundry on the docket for today. I am making Ratatouille from “eat vegan on $4 a day” by Ellen Jaffe Jones for dinner tonight and continuing the perfecting of organic Blueberry Muffins, my base recipe was Laurel’s Kitchen but I am wheat sensitive and so since its amazing texture is achieved through wheat germ….well I am tweeking it to be as awesome but less inflammatory to my gut and joints.

Anyway the real story for me this week involves three athletic and beautiful young women who train at the same pool I do and how the dramas in our heads are so NOT reality, and how I am learning to acknowledge and face my fear.

As I may have mentioned a couple times before, I am not athletic. I really am slow (I will actually time my 5K sometime this week and verify this for you), I am what the medical community calls “obese” although I prefer fluffy at 5’5″ and 222.2 lbs as of this morning, but I was near 250lbs when I started. I am also over 50 years old. I am just saying all this because for  many years I though that completing a triathlon really looked like a rush, but was not trying it , because I believed I couldn’t succeed and would look stupid even trying.

Part of my fear of athletic attempts is rooted in a lifetime of being picked last in school PE (until I got too “cool” to care about “those stupid Jocks” and almost failed HS because of skipping Gym. I had to take summer school PE my Junior year) I was the loner, the outsider; think Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club without the family money. I had to be somewhat athletic to succeed in my military career. However, I joined the military when there were much fewer women. I was the first female in a brain dependent field and so as long as I wasn’t last in Physical Training, my less than mediocre performance was attributed to my gender and pretty much ignored.

A couple weeks into this new goal of completing a Triathlon, I had to face my fear of being ridiculed when some slightly intoxicated post-adolescent males had nothing better to do on a Friday night than taunt the overweight old lady trying to swim laps at the community pool. Still, their butt size focused humor was not a major challenge because there was nothing about them I admired.  I had no script in my head that said I was less than them, in fact if anything I shielded myself from the brunt of their cruelty feeling superior. The emotional embarrassment generated a few ego-centric tears in my car when I was done with that practice from the rather mean things they said but there was never any danger of me quitting my goal.

The first real threat to sticking with this goal came when two more ladies joined our class, both with prior swim experience. Dawn is able to swim circles around me and they were out swimming her. I reminded  myself that there would be hundreds of people swimming  A LOT better than me at the event I plan to enter in October. I chose to view these new training comrades as a chance to grow into not comparing myself to others when I swam while I just focus on doing my best. At least I still had the morning swims where the pool was mostly empty and I could just focus on my own improvement with no one to glaringly reflect my incompetence. My goal was still a go!

Then “THEY” showed up. Three times a week, women who looked like they had stepped right out of a sports magazine were swimming laps next to me in near perfect form. It was obvious they were just trying to improve their lap times, and that they were friends. They chatted among themselves, laughing, working hard but having a good time together. I was intimidated and jealous, or at least that part of me I call EEV (EvilEgoVoice) was. The script in my head started up at full speed….you know the script, or maybe you don’t, but I know it too well. This the script where someone else is laughing at you behind your back or someone thinks they are better than you, and somewhere in there is usually the statement “It’snot fair”, and often also the statement “I can’t do this because compared  to so and so I am just too something”. All last week I wrote those kind of dramas in my head. My morning practices were just hour long comparisons of my inadequate self to these ladies youth, strength and skill. I really wanted to just quit swimming and crawl back to my comfort zone.

In retrospect I can see that I was more susceptible to EEV because of the helplessness I felt in my dogs illness.  Loss of someone I love always shakes my comfort zone, and worse yet was not being able to control all her symptoms or explain to her what was happening. Today I am in that functional shocked relief state that comes after the death of someone you love who was suffering, and now thankfully is not.  I am not saying I am thinking any clearer, but apparently  EEV is less fed by this grief phase as I don’t feel her centripetal twirl .
Anyway, last week as I wrote and rewrote the script in my head, I was building a nice resentment towards these “Jockettes”. Thankfully, this past Monday,  I finally decided that I would actually talk to these women. It is much harder to resent, judge, etc people once I actually know them. So I introduced myself and said what I was training for, how long I had been doing it and where I had started. I asked them about themselves.
Guess what, They Are Awesome. The three women are training for their first Triathlon in August. The script had totally been only the fear and inadequacies in my own head. Today these three slim, fast Triathletes are my inspiration instead of the weapon with which I beat myself up. It was that simple, I faced my fear of them rejecting or laughing at me, took action by saying hello and the script in my head evaporated. It is inspiring to me to not only observe their form and speed but also to hear out of their mouths the same fears and desires to “just finish without looking like they are drowning”. Now I get to smile when I arrive and see them in the pool, not to mention their team leader printed off an amazing practice schedule for improving tri style swimming and brought it to me this morning.
I realize it could have gone differently when I spoke to them, but generally it doesn’t, especially when I remember it really is never truly about me, not the complements or the insults. The resentment I was building towards them had nothing to do with the reality of their kind and ebullient personalities. Potentially I could have been rude to them or standoffish when it was all my own fear and personal pain manifesting drama.  So that is my best lesson I take away from training this week. Face my fears and remember, it’s not about me!
I am pretty excited to meet new friends trying the same sport I am trying, equally excited to say it looks like Dawn and I have inspired my son Dallon to join in the “Tri” funfest as well.  As a final note I am a little surprised to see how much strength and endurance I have lost from taking about a ten day break from daily training. Since Noien’s first crisis in the night my eating and exercise have been spotty at best, so time to get back on track. Off to do my housework then hit the Gym for my 5K and stationary bike workout…..eating an apple (instead of chips) as I type, have had two protein shakes and coffee so time to make a salad, hope to drop below 220 this week and consistently complete 8 lengths (25 feet) each practice and have at least two of those be a consecutive lap.
Namaste friends and thanks for reading.

Valiant friends in a struggle ‘gainst impossible odds.

      "Aw, don’t give up hope,"  said Tummeler. "This is the part in stories where they gets real good–valiant friends in a struggle ‘gainst impossible odds."   (a quote from Here There Be Dragons, Book One in the Imaginarium Geographica by James Owen. A perfect audio book exercise companion as I walk and bike, etc this week).


"Melinda Mae" 
by Shel Silverstein

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.

And everyone said,"You’re much too small,"
But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a little girl should…

…and eighty-nine years later she ate that whale

Because she said she would."


"I get by with a little help from my friends." The Beatles
I love Kaliedescopes, I guess because they are a physical representation of how  life is. I have a "make-your-own" Kaleidescope I purchased a few years ago at the Nelly Bly in Jerome, AZ.  The store is a destination in itself with Kaleidescope art selling for more than I make in a year. The one I bought was inexpensive and I actually fill it with found pieces of discarded "stuff" like chipped marbles, old earring sparkles, rocks, sticks, leaves, etc. I take different pieces of junk, shove a few in the end of a piece of PVC pipe outfitted with glass and mirrors and screw on the cap.  Nothing in the individual components accounts for the breathtaking beauty and variety my eye finds when I look. The cumulative effect is as magical to me as the 100,000$ ones.
Like that PVC pipe my life is pretty mundane, there is nothing remarkable about me.  If I look at my current set of life circumstances one way; individually scrutinizing the minutiae of the problems; the trashy health issues, the lacking skill sets, the scarcity of financial resources, time constraints, etc, the idea of becoming anything special, especially any kind of an athlete and most especially a triathlete is clearly and overwhelmingly preposterous.  
However, I, like everyone else, am a kaleidoscopic.  It is not the composition of the tube or individual value of the found items but how they are viewed together that makes the beauty. When I turn the kaleidescope of my life a bit to the right, let the challenges tumble together and let in a little more of gratitude’s light, all the pretty scraps of detritus collected between the lenses of hard work and faith become a laughing colored rainbow miracle.  
Last week, my hope was a mite shaky and my resolve a bit sorer than my thigh muscles. I was stuck on the fact that a gym membership is the most effective way to be able to continue my training for the triath, especially in Arizona in the summer. However my Quicken Books program was (and is) telling me that my outgo exceeds my current income by about 1500 dollars this month, and a gym membership, just like buying a bike right now, are luxuries, not necessities. To correctly tell this story I need to backtrack a little.

The beginning of May I was pretty pleased with myself and grateful to the abundance in the universe because I had just gotten constantly back to the black  (which I will again by the fall at current rate). (Not sure why, but it matters to me to mention that my debt is almost all medical and educational.) I was finally paying off a large tax debt (courtesy of delaying the end of a  previous marriage in a community property state) and I was planning a party to celebrate the awesomeness of life and dance and all that is good in the world. I wanted to throw the party in June as I had the means in my savings to do so, still meet all my bills and have necessary reserves.
 Then a glitch in the health of my awesome Beige Pearl(car),  in the health of my sweet little Lhasa Apso, in the health of my new big ol’ lovable lunk of a Golden Retriever and me all occurred at pretty much the same time.  Not only was the excess gone but my reserves were drained as well and lots of little gold triangles were showing up on my Quicken planning grid.(Gold triangles are indicative of negative balance)
Thanks to local business AZ Auto Repair’s honesty and efficiancy, my 11 yr old paid for car is still my ship of choice (at 30-35mpg). My longtime canine companions needs were met with a Viox prescription and a food change and my new Golden boy has his Thyroid levels and ears back in acceptable condition. I also still happily threw the party, just changed the food to "Stone Soup" which actually improved the party!
My personal health crisis pushed me to taking a little more responsibility for myself and effectively highlighted my need to have a clear cut fitness goal, as opposed to health issues to fight against. What we give energy to grows stronger. I toyed with the goal of completing a triathlon three years ago, ran a 5K and then quit. What I wanted to stop giving energy to could be considered big, so  I needed a nice bright whale to eat or the shadow of the illness might overwhelm me and  I just might stop chewing.
I knew revisiting the Triath goal was the right choice. I also knew I would need a few things I didn’t have, like swimming lessons and a pool to practice in, a bycicle and the ability to ride one, a place to use a "spin" bike, a place to run laps as temps topped 100 because unlike other places I’ve lived, Arizona stays hot 24/7 in the summer. I set the impossible goal and turned it over to the universe as I began talking about it and doing my research.
The universe showed up for me, as it always does, with bells on! A pool to practice in materialized when my son and daughter-in-law were my first true supporters. In fact, my daughter-in-law decided to join me in the training and despite a crazy professional and school schedule is up at the crack of Dawn (her actual name, LOL) and in the water training with me at their community pool. Rick held the back of his VERY EXPENSIVE bike while I took my first tentative rides and Dawn took me on a guest pass to her gym this week. They also donated (gifted?) me a smart phone that logs my miles, calories, etc as well as allowing me to end a bitter relationship with StraightTalk. (I think calls to their Customer Service count as actual purgatory for practicing Catholics.)
Support has come from other friends too, as Amie walked mall laps with me and my friend Pat allowing me to add in some stationary bike time,  treadmill and  elliptical with her coaching and encouragement on one of her guest passes. Its happening. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know all the right questions, tomorrow is a mystery. Today I will get my work done, go for laps at the mall, visit Costco and really read the details on the 3 month membership I saw on sale there to see if it is the best current option, do my swim practice, and put some gas in my car. I will relook at my budget and try to get ends to wave at each other so I can pay a very important 250$ past due bill, my rent, keep the lights on, eat, buy gas for my car and still train.
I am getting by with a little help (OK, a LOT of help) from my friends but I am also concentrating on the power of my own choices, so in the coming weeks I will take whatever extra shifts I can without working myself into being a less effective nurse, trim my budget to its bones. (Okay in the interest of complete honesty, I have a serious NEED for books and music and will admit to spending about 50$ between the two of them in the last month, but I take it out of my food budget to justify the variance from necessities! Bread and Roses, man, Bread and Roses)

So pretty much my life is like everyone else.  I am just at the part of the story where it gets good and I do have valiant friends. Some are the close"real" kind like my son Rick, his wife Dawn, Sara, Pat, Amie, Ann, Angela and some are outer circle friends like my Rennaisance friends, some are lifetime friends like "Donny" and Egon, and some are my "imaginary" friends like Tummeler, the Inklings, and Melinda Mae. Hope is restored, I cannot fail with this kind of army with me, so I better get back to the battle.

P.S. If you are reading my blog and have never read any the following books, forget my blog until you go read them. I am just a middle aged sojourner babbling about her struggles to keep on swimming, Everything important you need to know about life is found in these books, and they are simple to read due to intended audience. 
1.Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L’Engle (1st in series of 4)
2. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 
3. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
4. Here There Be Dragons by James Owen
5. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Celebrating achievement of my first training goal

 Noticed it two days ago actually, while pulling myself out of the pool to patter over to the bathroom. I do that a lot with exercise, go to the bathroom I mean, and how that will work with doing a triathlon is currently a mystery, potentially Depends. Anyway on a much better note, I have only had exactly four swim lessons, will have been training for less than a month (started June 1) and can now fit my hips through the ladder at pool side without angling to make them fit.

The joy this brings may mean nothing to someone who has always been athletic or thin, but to me it is a pretty big deal. My buttocks and thighs have been squeezed into opera seats,  plane seats, office chairs with arms, ladder sides, etc for most of the last ten years. These hips had one or two reprieves from their out-sized existence when I would drop near or below 200 lbs, but overall it has been a decade where everything I sit or climb on (especially with sides) has been a reminder of how I don’t fit. I find myself entering and leaving the pool more from the deep-end ladder now than the shallow end stairs, just because I can.

In the actual swimming portion of the training program,  I still can’t consistently make a half lap, never mind a whole lap, with my face in the water. I can make it about a third of the way without having to switch to backstroke. The more tired I get, the harder it is to breathe out under water, but I push a minimum of two strokes past what I think I can do, and I always complete my homework. I will take my victories where I can find them. Phil Veatch, my trainer says I haven’t lost endurance, I am just working harder when I am in the water (keeping my butt up, you know tightening the core, constant arm motion) and that is why my stamina seems less. I will take his word on it as I want to believe this to be true.

My current training plan now is walking 5k  and swimming 5 out of seven days (this includes the class) and working on how to work spinning (bike not wool) in as well to train in that area while I learn to ride (balance) a real bike. I am tired a lot, and hungry just as much. Sticking to my organic vegetarian ways (mostly, not everything is organic), trying to sleep at least seven hours a night and also remembering to do my stretches and meditation twice daily.  

I trained at the pool this morning and I walked a little over two miles as laps at the mall this afternoon (for those reading outside Arizona, it reaches 100 degrees before noon and stays hot. It is currently 110 degrees at 5PM, hence mall laps) Need to do another mile with the dogs tonight, but will depend on how fast the temperature drops. The Endomondo and My Fitness Tracker apps on my new droid (thanks again Rick and Dawn!) have been awesome helps in watching diet and activity.

Work week starts again tomorrow so that is my Day 1 each week. I have stated my goals for the coming week and my big achievement (or is it a smaller achievement! Yea smaller hips, also fit into my size 18 jeans this afternoon! Woot!) My next goal at the pool is to be able to complete a lap, face in the water, no pause at the turn!
In other more literary news I am totally in reader geek heaven. First, there was the long awaited re-opening of the way to faery and to Bordertown with the  story collection released earlier this month http://bordertownseries.com/, then JK Rowlings announcement http://www.pottermore.com/, and then as the ultimate icing on the cake James Owen makes his announcement http://coppervale.livejournal.com/. When you wrap this all around the fact I am listening on my Ipod to the awsome topped awesomeness of a complete collection of http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/ I received as an early birthday present when I couldn’t make Phoenix Comicon, you know my reader geek is truly tooooo bliss-ed out to even notice we have gotten up off the couch, are totally moving and that now its a whole lot more than our ice tea with lemonade that is sweating.

Starting where I am, progress and using pain as tool for peace.

If you are reading my blogs because of the triathlete training tag, I ask you  to endure the first more literary leg of this blog as my transition to my new obsession will come faster and more smoothly than I predict my first actual race transition will be, but then again I might just surprise us all.  

I am a typical middle aged bookworm with bulky glasses, more imaginary friends than lifetime peer relationships and a large, low rear center of gravity. I am typically voracious in my book appetites if atypically eclectic in my reading style. Just finished Melissa Anelli’s nonfiction "Harry, A History" at breakfast, and half way through "Hexed" by Kevin Hearne from lunch. I am listening to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files on audio while in the car and am up to book 6. I am rereading (again) "Ghandi an Autobiography" in the bathroom, have Jon Kabat-Zinn on the night stand and C.S. Lewis "The Great Divorce" in my briefcase.  

Certain writers are my mainstays, but I will try any printed page for depth and flavor. I have an ice cream like hankering for the spiritual and I am a huge fan of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Pema Chodron, and C.S. Lewis. I can’t get enough of their writings. One of their books is always in play, not only because the written works themselves are immensely readable but also because the author’s human struggle is the muddy garden in which these flowers of  enlightenment bloom.  Ghandi and Lewis have been with me since childhood and can be blamed for my attempt to guide my life by the principles of Satipatthana and Ahimsa. Pema joined my team when I was struggling to build some new neural pathways post surgery and infection and was given her book  "When Things Fall Apart"; she introduced annata, annica and duhka to me as the tools they are in language I understood. 

I am not quite a book junkie who will just buy a book for the score, but I do have certain lighter favorite authors like Charles de Lint,  Wil Wheaton,  James Owen, Jasper Fforde, Karen Armstrong, Ayya Khema and Linda Pastan whose works are now purchased whenever they appear and are devoured on the strength of past positive experience. Then there are the authors like Christopher Moore, Debbie Macomber,  Stephen King,  David McCullough whose flashes of brilliance in the midst of McMainstream writing will get me to peruse the back cover of their latest and often buy it.  

I am making it sound like I choose what I read, but as I look more closely at my overstuffed shelves, I see that all a book really needs to do, is sit attractively on the front table of Changing Hands (my, yes MY, no I don’t own it but it is where I spend all my book money) and bat its attractively colored cover at me, flirt with an intriguing chapter list, or maybe take me out on that first page date, and I am theirs; mind, time and wallet. So many books, so little time, so many stories to live (from the comfort of my armchair with a nice glass of tea in easy reach.) I am the typical book nerd full of sweet and salty treats and disdainful of all that sweaty spandex sports world.
Which is why I am baffled as much by the book I am carrying around constantly as I am at this person stretching across from me in my bedroom mirror. Perhaps it is a a bit of a midlife crisis that starting June 1, 2011 I officially came out as a triathlete wanna be. The book I carry now (all the time!) is by Jayne Williams. 
The cover is a very realistic sports in progress photo with too much yellow; it looks more like a healthy diet bar than a tasty  tome. Inside the book the author’s writing style would have won my mockery in the days as a professional critic. The funny thing is, I think that would have been Okay with her, maybe more than okay, she would have embraced my mockery and just kept running, swimming, biking and sharing her experience.
If my  am very sure she would have been okay, it is because she is teaching me to be okay as well. Her book, "Slow, Fat Triathlete" has become as important to my going forward as Ghandi has been to my getting here. The funny thing is, she says all the things I am used to hearing from my spiritual sensei’s but the meaning is now manifest in the tight stretch of my neck to improve the chance of breathing air instead of water, the fold of my abdomen impeding a new core building yoga pose, the awkward weight and friction of my thighs as I break into a trotting sort of run.  I struggle with the very real dailiness of starting where I am in something I don’t have to do, compassion for the non-athlete I am is as much a challenge as the movements. Pain is proof I am pushing to improvement. The challenge today was to be mindful enough of my needs to take the day off training (Yup, Jayne recommends downtime too!) Patience, practice, compassion….easier said than done when the only success is showing up again to the process.
As to the annihilation of ego portion of my life program, that is a whole story in itself. The biggest ego lesson of slow, fat triath training is not the very HUGE one of continuing to show up for something I don’t shine at, the biggest lesson for me has to do with learning the "self" in selflessness.
I want to complete a triathlon, it has been on my bucket list for a few years. But… I don’t need to complete this goal to support myself better. It won’t make the world a better place. It won’t feed anyone, heal anyone, save anyone; make anyone’s life better except maybe me. This is probably the first most selfish thing I have ever done.  If I am no more and no less than anyone else, and I would make this kind of effort, utilize these resources, spend this time to help another, is this then my lesson in letting go of ego, I can and should do the same for me?
More daily logs coming tomorrow…for now, me and my deep thoughts are gonna go clean the bathroom and then make a healthy supper and maybe go for a swim, and if the pool bullies are there, I have a plan.

And another day of training complete..

Tonight my training consisted of  just the bare minimum really. Walked the 4 miles with Rick and Dawn, faster pace than my comfort zone (Rick has Loooooooong legs) and then did two full laps on the kick-board and 2 freestyle laps followed by 5 push-offs, 2 more laps trying hard to be the breaststroke followed by 5 more push-offs and then 2 more laps that were half and half backstroke and breast stroke. 

Still need to get pictures, although I think I will have body composition stats this week, and the weight is dropping, although that is not the point, other than the fact that it will be a whole lot easier to take say 190 pounds of person on a 200 yd swim, 8 mile bike and 1/2 mile run by October 30 than say 230 pound of person.

I am SOFT-IT  (Slow Old Fat Triathlete in training!) and it feels good! And now to sleep cause tomorrow I got stuffs to do!