Open Water Swim

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I did an event this past weekend that combined a 500 M open water swim (lake) and 12 mile bike ride. With my knee not 100% healed for running just yet, I opted for the very elegant sounding aquabike event.


This recent swimming episode started six months ago as ‘I am a supremely pissed-off, injured runner who HAS to be in the damn pool because I can’t run.‘ It’s morphed into ‘I really like swimming, a whole lot.’

I’m as surprised as anyone.

Trust me.

I am afraid of the water and have been my whole life. My friend Kerri reminded me that once upon a time I told her I would never visit Hawaii because it meant flying over water.

While a pool is a contained environment, the idea of an open water swim (OWS) in a lake or ocean takes fear to a new level. I have never been a swimmer and yet knew I wanted to do a triathlon at some point. I have been reminded a bunch of times that swimming is a skill that can be learned. And I have also been reminded that I don’t usually let fear stop me…  So I began over the past few years, with coaches, trying to learn how to swim and manage anxiety around water. I was not gaining endurance or building skill or learning forward momentum in the water; I was simply learning that I have a wicked strong dog paddle and can ‘safety stroke’ through a panic attack while staying in the water.

Plus there’s the whole body image thing that just hangs around like an annoying little sibling shadowing my every move… Right on my butt at all times…. Being seen in a bathing suit is something that once upon a time (for about 20+ years) kept me out of the pool. I’d been made fun of in a bathing suit in high school and the taunt/words/mortification are still easily remembered. I have gotten a WHOLE lot better about being in a bathing suit in public through practice and being around supportive people of all shapes and sizes who are comfy in their own skin. My body works hard and I love her. Yet I would be lying if I denied that those first few moments on the pool deck, in a bathing suit, always increase my heart rate just a touch.

So, all of that background is to say; there has been a whole LOT of focused practice in the water these past six months. Learning endurance, getting over the bathing suit hurdle and learning to like and respect water.


I signed up for the event at the last minute, after thinking about it for 3 months. The tipping point was realizing that once I did the event — I’d have my own opinion and experience to base things off of, instead of a creative cache of ‘worst case scenarios’ playing out like Netflix in my brain.

Got tired of being afraid of a bunch of unproven, unknowns…

Signed up.

Showed up.

Swam.

Loved it.

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When I was wading into the water to start my assigned wave, I acknowledged that the chances of panicking and fleeing for the shore at any moment were fairly decent. I wasn’t being defeatist or negative about it at all. I didn’t start this whole thing with the idea that I would bail. Quite the contrary. I designed a race plan to give myself a little breathing room and grace in a new and scary situation. My fear of water was big. So I made a big, safe plan to help my brain accept and manage the fear.

I mean one of my friends, trying to explain the OWS to me said ‘It is kind of like swimming in a washing machine with maybe one or two pissed off cats thrown into the mix to keep it from being boring’.   That kind of requires a plan. 🙂

Here’s what I was going to do…

  • I would give it my all. ANY stroke that worked to move me forward was fine!
  • At any point and time, ONCE things started, if I panicked or felt unsafe I would flip on my back for a count of ten and breathe.
  • If that didn’t work THEN I could simply swim for shore or swim to a lifeguard and ask to be done.

My only self-imposed rule was that I had to START this thing. No quitting before the gun went off.

Having that safety plan actually made me feel a whole lot braver.


I think I swam some variation/interpretation of every possible legal type of stroke and about 15 made-up strokes. It was a chaotic, messy, funny, rolling shitshow of a swim!  NOTHING perfect about it from a technique standpoint. Not a single thing. I simply swam to keep moving forward no matter what it looked like. All those hours of practicing in the pool and watching videos and being coached on the perfect stroke suddenly seemed HILARIOUS!  This felt like a freaking street fight of a swim where anything was legal and allowed. ‘I’ll see you one free style stroke, with a subtle left hook to get your foot out of my face’ HA! AGAIN – nothing intentional or mean. Just a bunch of forward moving bodies, in close proximity, trying to get back to shore. I was laughing in my head the entire swim.

It was awesome.

I thrived in that chaotic environment in the water. I knew I could roll on my back to breathe – so I never panicked. Not for one moment. It was this glorious, bubbly, mess and we were all trying to get to the buoys and get to the shore.

I came out of the water, almost dead last, smiling and happy and wondering how I would ever go back to the boredom of the pool again.

Back to the pool is exactly where I’m headed. Today. I have so much work I can do to get stronger and build endurance in the water.

I will also acknowledge that the very next time I hit the open water I could in fact panic and wind up swimming for shore or a course lifeguard. I’m keeping my safety plan intact. It worked perfectly.

Every experience in the water is to be respected and I understand that every event experience will be different.

I feel so, so lucky to hit the shore after my first OWS and have loved the experience of being in a competitive, lake environment exceeded ALL my expectations!

Kudos to Best In the West Events (Blair and Staci) for putting on a safe, well-run race that welcomes ALL levels and abilities into the sport.  

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Sierra giving me the ‘you can do this and you’re going to love it!’ pep talk.  I adore this women who crushed her own event this past weekend!
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Five – oh!

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PC Rita V at Waldo 100K — we were all volunteering. 🙂

I turn 50 tomorrow.

I’m excited for this next decade.

I’m healthy and active and living a pretty fantastic life. Which wasn’t true even 10 short years ago. A lot has changed and I am ready to enter a new decade as healthy and active as I have ever been!

I remember when I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes — and my numbers were shockingly bad — the off-hand comment from the Doctor was ‘you won’t make it to 50 if you don’t change your ways.’ I know it was a randomly selected number chosen to simply scare me into action. It didn’t work for about 8 years. In your 30’s – 50 seems a long, long ways away.  (It isn’t. 🙂 )

Yet, I will admit that number stuck in my head and has been a sort of ‘destination’ for a the last 7 years or so as I worked to get healthy.

So, yeah – there is some pretty nifty satisfaction in reaching 50 years old and being in good health.

Healthy. Happy. Non-diabetic. Living a life I could never have imagined had I stayed 400 pounds and dependent on insulin.  Assuming I’d made it this far the realities are that if I was still Type 2 Diabetic, I would likely be missing digits or limbs or be dealing with failing kidneys or far, far worse….

Flip to the other side of the potential coin? I will admit that there is some wistfulness as I wonder what life could have been like had I heeded that warning in my 30’s and bought myself another whole decade of this healthier version of my life.

Yet, that’s not my story.

I have no regrets.

I’ve learned and loved and lived the best I could once I decided I was going to change things. The saying ‘when you know better, do better’ resonates deeply with me.  Regret is a wasted emotion. I eventually learned better and I’m doing better.

So tomorrow is a day to celebrate simply being alive.  I’m going for a bike ride with my friend Cat, we should hit the halfway point up by Mt. Bachelor/Elk Lake for an open water swim with Spencer sometime before noon.  Then Cat and I will bike back home.  Hopefully gathering some Bend-area folks for a guacamole-only dinner. 🙂    My sappy/mushy point of view on this celebration/journey/adventure; bike 50, swim and leave the last 50 years of the old me in the lake, walk out with the new me ready to live the next 50 with gusto and then bike 50 home.

That’s the plan. 🙂

I wonder what the next 50 years will hold in store for me? What I’ll get to do? How I’ll choose to embrace each of the remaining days I get?

I’m honestly just glad to be alive, to give it a go and see where life takes me in this next decade or two or five.

#lifeisgood

 

Being called names out the window of a car…

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Biking today up a popular climb in Bend, a guy in a car slowed, nosed over toward the bike lane and yelled out the car window at me…

‘Fat C*^%!’

Ok.

First.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong and we have a really wide bike lane — I was way to the inside of it. He was the only car on the road. He wasn’t pissed at my biking skills or road etiquette.

Second.  C*^% is just a word.  Not one I own, accept or use.  It’s just a word to me. But he had some intended meaning and anger behind it and I understand that it is vulgar and offensive.

Third. DO NOT CALL ME FAT. That’s my own personal weapon of choice.  I am the only one that is allowed to call me fat. I usually use it when I’m beating the shit out of myself. Don’t try to validate my emotionally-messed up thinking by using my favorite self-loathing word…  Asshat.

Fourth. Hugely threatening to be solo on a stretch of road and have someone nose their car over (only enough to yell – I never worried about him hitting me with his car – just to be clear), slow…  YELL. Then pull back onto the road. I’ve heard too many stories about riders of all sorts being harassed by drivers. I’m pretty damn sure this wasn’t even me as a female being targeted. This was simply me as a cyclist.

Fifth. You made me slow down on a climb and I had to jack with all the gears just to keep moving and not tip over in my clips. Asshat X2.


I quickly texted Spencer so someone would have location/time stamp.  Also because if I didn’t do something I was going to start crying.  And if I got crying, I was going to need someone to come pick me and my bike up off the road….

There’s no crying in cycling.

I hate being called fat. I hate feeling intimidated. Crying is how I respond to most of that.  I fight the tears HARD, but then they usually fall. My reaction to stress has always been to cry. I am not a sappy crier. I’m a pissed off/embarrassed/ashamed/overwhelmed crier.  Those types of emotions and situations are MUCH more likely to trigger tears.

When the car was gone, someone knew my approximate whereabouts, I still had a hill to climb and a workout to get in….  I started pondering the episode and trying to decide whether to be pissed or cry.

I pretty quickly opted for pissed.

The word ‘fat’ is my own personal weapon. To have someone else lob it in my direction hurts. Always has. The worst memories I have of being bullied in high school and beyond include the word fat. Followed by ugly.  They were usually paired up. I hate both of those words. And it always scares me that they’re right – that I really am fat, ugly and ALL the emotional-laden BS that I attach to those words that they have NO CLUE even exists for me….

I have spent a lot of time trying to ‘grow’ past that notion. It took me about a mile of riding to realize…

UH….

This was NOT personal, this guy doesn’t know me. I wasn’t even going to ride this route today until the last minute,  so it was in NO WAY personal.

I felt unsafe, but I was prepared.  I’ve spent time thinking about exactly this type of situation. I texted a friend with basic whereabouts/time because it didn’t feel like it was at the ‘911’ level. I was watching for other people to help or turn to. I KNEW I could steer and ride my bike around/out/down and escape. And baring something really whacky or scary — I could jump off my bike and run up the mountain. Even in bike cleats. I know I can. (Thank you trail running).

So…  I took some deep breathes. Pedaled a bit. Decided I wan’t going to let him have MY workout that I’d been looking forward to all day. I didn’t own the ‘fat’ or ‘c*^$’ part of the yelling because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t cry.  I was wary and eyeballs open for the car, to be sure, if he decided to turn around I was going to be ready to react.  I never saw the car again for the record.

So I kept peddling.

Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t ‘fat’.  The difference this time around?  It wasn’t punishment peddling;  ‘you are fat, he said you’re fat, get moving fat ass.’  It was like ‘NO, you worked hard to be fit, you’ve waited all day for this ride. This is your bike, your body and peddling is what we do when we’re working up a sweat; now get down to rocking this workout like you know you can. And don’t let that asshat get in your head.’  I don’t know that that distinction will resonate with everyone. But it sure made my brain happy that I could choose NOT to own something and re-focuse pretty damn quickly on the task at hand which was trying to push hard up Skyliners.

I got to the turn around point, texted Spencer ‘I’m at the bridge (turn-around). I’m pissed. Might be one of the best climbs I’ve done.  F*&^%er called me fat.  That pisses me off.’


This is going to sound a little backwards, but I’m always a wee-bit grateful when these little reality bumps hit and I can see how much I’ve grown in my thinking and reactions. I don’t love being called names or feeling threatened.  Yet in the end it just kind of highlighted the right things, the healthier thinking, the better reactions in my life. I’d kept my wits, had thought through a safety plan, thought through how I wanted the words to affect me and then chose to just kept peddling.

And by the way….

I PR’ed up and down that road like I’ve never PR’ed before.  So — um… Thank you? Mr. Asshat for properly motivating me to ride that stretch as hard as I knew I was capable of riding it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes/comparisons.

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A new town, new apartment, new job….

These are such kick ass times to take inventory. I get caught up in comparing. Old life/new life. Fat Betsy/healthy Betsy. How can I not? It’s such a stark reminder.

I just moved to Bend, Oregon from the other side of the Cascades. Changed jobs after 14 years. Started a new professional adventure that – while only 4 days in – is something I can tell is going to be wildly fantastic and is aligning ALL the parts of my life. Moved from a house to an apartment. Working to build a new base and network of friends. ALL kinds of changes!  All good and all wanted, yet still big, scary and unsettling.

I worked hard to make the changes to my lifestyle a few years ago and I’ve worked just as hard to make these recent changes. I knew that a move could up-end a whole lot of those carefully structured ‘good habits’ if I wasn’t paying attention.  PERFECT time for old habits to slip back in, especially when loneliness lurks and self-confidence gets pushed around because of all the changes.

Even welcome changes can open the door to mental mischief if we’re not paying attention.

So I was hyper-alert to eating, timing, prioritizing those things that I needed to do in this new location to get right into the routine that keeps me healthy. I put a plan in place.  I made finding a pool, getting out on my bike, finding some trails my top priority.  Even more than the normal ‘adult’ stuff we’re supposed to focus on in a move, like address changes, unpacking boxes and finding a couch. I also forced at-home/cooked meals and not making brew-pubs/restaurants the focal point of gathering and meetings.

Here’s the list of ‘I can not believe this is my life!’ moments from the past 10 days:

I’ve officially used the shower at the gym more than I’ve used the one at my new apartment.  The locker room is super welcoming and friendly. I felt HORRIBLE intimidation going the first time, but it very quickly went away.  This pool (JUNIPER) is amazeballs. 🙂

I didn’t have to transfer prescriptions and find a pharmacy that takes Sharp’s containers. Or find a place at work to stash insulin and needles. Or explain why I’m ‘shooting up’ in the bathroom 2X a day. Or why I have finger-prick blood all over my desk and papers…

I am using my meetings with new colleagues to make them walking meetings. I can walk and talk at the same time. 🙂 I’ve looked for walking paths around my office. Not candy stores, bakeries, ice cream shops or fast food options.  That one BLEW my mind when about 3 days in on the new job, I realized I hadn’t brought lunch and didn’t even know where to go because I had NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION to food stuff.

I’m finding new coffee shops and places to eat and buy groceries and not having to battle the old food-related locations that were so much a part of my 400-pound life. Coffee for the sake of coffee/views/friendly barista/welcoming customers and work spaces. I don’t even know where the Taco Bell or McDonalds are. I’m going to keep it that way.

I found a gym. I have a new favorite trail. I’ve gotten some good bike time in. I haven’t even bothered to look for a new doctor because I only need well-patient care.

I’m meeting new people because I’m on hikes and group rides. Not because we’re in a diabetic counseling workshop.

There’s more. Lots more. Big and little. This just highlights for me how different life is now that I am focused on health. No longer having to worry about weight limits, fitting in a chair, or walking a block and being exhausted.

I LOVE Bend, my apartment, my new job, the sunshine!

I’m also still very much in love with what focusing on my health has given me each and every day since I started this lifestyle journey years ago.

Reminders and comparisons.

 

Ultras/Binge Eating Disorder

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I know this topic is likely to be too obscure for some folks. I’m really writing this for my ultra running friends. Hoping to start a conversation or get their help in making some connections or get your thinking on this topic…


For me, ultras and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) are inextricably and pretty wickedly connected. From the first ‘Holy shit, could this really be what’s happening?’ moment to the ‘Wow. Makes sense even though I detest the idea…’ moment it took me about 6 months to puzzle it out.

The information I can find about Eating Disorders are mainly about Anorexia or Bulimia. Like this great read from Trail Runner Magazine which covers a whole lot of valuable ground. Yet, I can not find anything about the ties between ultras/endurance and BED specifically. I can’t be the only one dealing with this. When you mesh the Google ‘percentage of U. S. population…’ stats of ultras at .5% and BED at 3%, statistically, I still don’t think I can be alone in this mess.

What forced the issue? An acute episode of BED rearing its ugly head along with a planned off-season/down-time from running. (My blog about it is here…)

Running was no longer there to hide behind.

It’s absence made things brutally and undeniably clear.

I was hiking one day and was gobsmacked with the realization that I was using running to hide/feed the BED. It was this nasty, covert, and destructive cycle that I couldn’t really see because I was so deeply in it. I wasn’t running from something or even too something.  I was running FOR something.  And not for something good or worthwhile or sustainable.

I stopped in my tracks.

Sat my butt down on the side of the trail and wrote some notes on my phone while a newt cruised by to see what I was doing.

This felt BIG.


Here’s what I wrote on my phone: “I love long runs and hate tapering. I run long (5+ hours) and I have ‘permission’ to eat anything and everything in any quantities I want.  When I taper, food gets restricted, weight creeps up. I run long, eat how I want and basically don’t get ‘caught’ bingeing because the huge volume of food I’m eating is ‘acceptable’. Tapering unleashes sneaky-ass behaviors that I thought I’d banished once and for all. Including lying about food.’

BED brain thinks about food as an acceptable/necessary/urgent replacement for something missing or to fill an emotional need.  This has NOTHING to do with hunger.  Not.a.single.thing. For me food can take the place of damn near every emotion on the spectrum.  I’m just as likely to eat that emotion in the form of trail mix as I am to actually feel and experience it. No amount of cajoling/shaming/lecturing can fix it.  I’ve often said ‘pizza was never mean to me…’   When you have THAT kind of relationship with food you need professional help.

Running gave me the ability to ignore/continue/not-fight with my BED all in the name of ‘recovery from ultras/training’.  I wasn’t running for the love of running.  I was very much running to manage my weight since I binge, but I don’t purge…  I was very much running to make the occasional huge volume of food I was eating not look out of whack.

I was running to hide my eating disorder.  Even when I didn’t know that what I had was an eating disorder.

Eff.

I was ready to face all of this and not ignore it or hide it anymore. Scared shitless, but ready. I needed help beyond caring and concerned friends. After muscling my way through the post-acute phase of intense blues / shame / depression / anxiety / hopelessness / panic that lasts for several days after a binging episode…

I got into therapy.


My brand new therapist immediately, like first 20 minutes of first session, said running was an issue. I immediately told her she was dead wrong. Not politely.  I was rude and defiant. Defiance is my go to when I’m ashamed and someone’s getting close to the reason for the shame or embarrassment.

I flat out denied the connection. I lost 200 pounds, reversed Type 2 Diabetes. Running had SAVED me. Who the hell was this woman to say running was part of the current problem? Was she not listening to me? ….

The therapist quickly said we could agree to disagree about the role of running in my eating disorder. We would focus on other things. {Smart ploy…} That lasted two sessions.  I began to honestly assess what I was doing and why. Journaling impulses, noting emotions and starting to make tentative connections between feelings and food.

Damn if she wasn’t right…

Writing everything down it was impossible to ignore the connection. Running sat smack in the middle of the BED pile. It was about 2 sessions in where I had to concede she had a point.

More than a point. Ultra running was the 500 pound gorilla in the room.

I hadn’t replaced food with running.  I had used running to hide, enable and deny my BED. A crucial distinction. I hadn’t let go of ONE thing and grasped tightly onto something new.  I hadn’t given up anything at all.  I’d just masked what in the hell was really going on.

I think the college students I worked with would call that a HOT MESS.

Ultras and BED are married up in epically dysfunctional fashion for me.

As long as I ran long, I could pretend that eating 3,000+ calories at a single time after a long run was ‘normal recovery’.  Eating whatever I wanted for the week of a 60+ mile week was acceptable. I basically kept signing up for races to make sure I still had high mileage weeks and really full training schedules so that my bingeing wouldn’t be detected or life would seem ‘normal’ because of the training load and my food intake.

Eff.

So what now?  Great question. I have some tentative answers.

  • Awareness is a huge part of the battle. Talking about it. Knowing that my ultra friends support me when I get ‘wonky’ about food or food discussions.
  • Not running ultras or being lured in by Ultrasignup for a while is my main strategy for staying focused.  I needed a break from running.  I’m using this downtime in all the best ways possible. And NOT viewing it as punishment.
  • Rebuilding my running from the ground up when the time comes to hit the trails again. Slowly, carefully. Knowing food is fuel and that’s the only place it will hold in my running.

I didn’t take on this whole lifestyle change to give up when things got hard.

I will be running again, soon, for all the right reasons.

 

 

 

Bend {don’t break}

I am moving to Bend Oregon.

Like – I’m writing this blog sitting in the middle of an empty living room, in a camp chair, surrounded by boxes.

Big changes.

Feels about as big as losing 200 pounds. Maybe not as big as reversing Type 2 diabetes.  Damn close. Seriously.

Actually, this change is because of and driven by those other changes.

It was time for a fresh start, a new beginning. A time to align all the parts of my life. Time to really listen to my heart and not let logic or fear or ‘adulting’ crowd out her voice.

Late last summer I went to Boulder for the Run Mindful retreat. I went to learn how to be mindful and use meditation and I thought it was an interesting idea to explore while running.  My mind is a freaking hamster wheel and often I just open my mouth and let whatever’s rolling around in my head flop right out of my mouth.  I’ve been working for years on changing that. Being more intentional and thoughtful and learning to quiet my brain.  This retreat included mountain running, time with the famous-ultrarunner/equally-phenomenal-dad/mom-humans; Timothy and Krista Olsen, I got to see my friend Matt, a chance to meet other runners wanting to focus on being mindful.  My kind of vacation!

It was incredible.

I didn’t realize at the time it was launching an awakening or a mid-life crisis.  Whatever. Same thing, different names. 🙂 I was standing on the edge of a change in a fog.

This retreat cleared the fog.

Those days in the mountains, at high altitude, spectacular food from Real Athlete Diets, no cell phone, running, restful sleep and meditation, intentional conversations…

I started to get my mind calm enough to really hear the small quiet voice in my heart that said ‘I {you} need something different than this life you’ve carefully created. I know you’re scared shitless.  Hear me out…  This could be amazing if you’re brave enough.’

I heard it in snippets at first, and was in just the right setting and moment and place that I finally heard her whisper. I listened. I didn’t get it at first. But I didn’t refuse it. I didn’t create noise to drown out the seemingly illogical thinking like I normally would.

I kept quieting my mind and listening…

I wanted to move to an endurance community where I could run and play and meet other people who cared deeply about the land we were choosing and using as our playgrounds.  I was ready for a new work challenge – with a leadership shift in my college at Oregon State, the timing was oddly perfect for me to slip away after 14 years.  I wanted to live in a place that wasn’t a social-desert; I want a boyfriend. I wanted to change my professional work and dig in/lean-in on work that mattered for our future.

I felt like my heart was going to explode.  She was off and running (pun intended) and instead of shutting her up, ignoring her for the logical ‘adult’ reasons like a job/mortgage and stability….

I followed.

This experience has been like the technical single-track with sharp drop-offs and switchbacks that scare me to death and that I have grown to adore.  The ‘how’ changed several times. The ‘true North’ never did. I was able to get clear with each twist and turn and rattlesnake in the path. From ‘I want to live in Boulder’ to ‘I want to be in a mountain town, with a strong endurance community.’ From ‘Whatever job I’m qualified for’ to ‘What work would matter deeply no matter how hard I have to work to learn how to do it?’

It’s been a wild, sloppy, ‘bonus miles’ kind of trail race. My endurance training has served me well. 🙂

There have been candid/scary moments of ‘WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING?’ I’d be lying to deny those moments. And a few folks would call me out for not acknowledging those human, normal, bravery-checks that were tears or frantic calls for reassurance.

Yet, deep down I knew I was doing the right thing even while the details or moments would have everyone around me convinced (uh — and me, I was semi-convinced a time or two..!) this was just crazy…

My house is for sale.  I’ve worked my last day at OSU.  I start a new job with the Deschutes Land Trust in early June.  I’ve down-sized my belonging to basics and a few tubs of sappy-sentimental-crappola that I simply couldn’t part with.  The moving truck is rented, a rental lease is signed…

This is finally happening.

This is so much more than a move ‘over the hill’.

This for me is more like a movement.  I’m going to Bend, not break.

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Nemo and Dory. {Just keep swimming…}

IMG_1435Nemo and especially Dory,  have become new role models for me.

I feel like I’m a lot like Dory.  Optimistic, helpful, and while she suffers from short-term memory loss; I’m simply easily distracted.

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But the real reason I love this pair?

I’m learning how to swim. Learning how to be in public in a swimsuit, learning a new skill, learning to love it.

Learning a ton of new stuff.

I knew how to dog paddle and tread water.  I could swim to save my life. I can do a handstand and somersault in shallow water to show off for my nephews. That’s it.

But using swimming for exercise?  Uh… No.

I took lessons for a full year a few years back.  At the very beginning of this health journey I wanted to do a Ironman.  And then I realized — you have to be able to swim. And if I really wanted to do a triathlon, I better figure out the water part.

So I buckled down and got some ‘adult learner’ swim lesson with a very patient swim coach named Troy.  He worked hard to help me get over my fears and teach me the basics.  I’m asthmatic and claustrophobic.  Putting my face in the water and then trying to breathe — well…  It took some work.  A lot of work.  A lot of blowing bubbles and coating me off the side of the pool.  Secretly, my commitment to working with Troy was also my commitment to getting over my anxiety at being in public in a bathing suit. It was the first step to trying to get ready for a triathlon — which I wanted to do from the very beginning of my health journey.  But it was ALWAYS the swimming that stopped me.

So I found a coach to give up on the lame excuses and see if I could make it happen…  Troy was working into a whole lot of baggage some of which he didn’t even know about.  And he never batted an eye.   Just helped me learn and get comfortable with the water.

He had to stop coaching me when he went to PT school. I was mostly focused on ultra’s, so it was easy to abandon swimming.  The whole exercise/cardio/water-in-the-face/breathing thing was something I just couldn’t seem, to figure out on my own.   Resigned to the fact that triathlons were just not going to be my sport – I bailed out of the pool.

I can now — two years later — appreciate how well Troy set me up for the time when I would want to actively re-engage in learning on my own. (Thank you Troy.)

I want some cross-training in my world.  I really do want to do a triathlon. It was TIME to add something else in the activity mix.  I got back in the pool in March mostly because of an injured Achilles.  It swiftly became a ‘get to’ not a ‘have to’  And the ‘get to’ led to a HUGE attitude shift.  Instead of ‘pools are where injured runners skulk and recover’ to ‘can I get better, figure out the breathing and use swimming like I use running?’

Yes I can.

I’m loving being in the ‘newbie’ stage of a new sport.

I’ve learned a few things in the past few weeks that might be helpful for other newbies:

  • Chlorine makes everything smell. All the time. No escape. I’m about ready to shave my head.
  • When elastic gives out in your bathing suit…  It goes instantly. Poof.  I had a near miss with a boob almost flopping out of an armhole mid-stroke.
  • Goggles are blinders. They fog, they slip… Spit, baby shampoo — I can’t seem to battle the fog no matter the suggested hack.
  • A cold, damp swimsuit early in the morning is evil.
  • Swim caps don’t do a damn thing except rip hair out.
  • When someone in your lane accidentally physically connects with you during lap swim — even lightly – you instantly know you are being attacked by a shark.

I can swim a mile. 🙂  And deeply enjoy it.  I have to stop at the end of the pool on most lengths, but it’s getting better weekly.  I’m getting stronger.

I’m driven to get more competent with this skill. By the end of summer I want to be able to swim a meditative, mile, non-stop.

Thank goodness for patient friends who send you videos, teach you terminology, give you on-the-deck, goofy/funny, dry-land re-enactments of what you should be doing in the water.  Grateful for the friends who spend time in the water with me and are understanding of my new desire to learn this skill.

What new skill are you learning?!  Please share. 🙂  I want to hear the good, the bad, the funny. 🙂