Monday, July 30, 2012

"Swim with the dolphins. Bike with the Cheetahs. Run with the Eagles"

Sundays are rough sometimes. I sleep in, eat a good breakfast, go a-worshiping, and then lounge about reading or watching movies or picking up my room. I guess that doesn't sound too rough does it? Well technically it's not rough at all... though technically because I'm used to a much more rigorous schedule, my body tends to want to stay awake on Sunday nights because of the sleeping in and eating and lounging and yes, the napping, thus here I am passing the time until I can fitfully toss through the night and awaken to a groggy Monday morning. All sunshine and rainbows today, aren't I?

THEREFORE! With my annoyingly ample late night energy and enthusiasm, I felt it was HIGH TIME to do a little bloggery catch up. And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.

Ahem, There's a little goal I accomplished a couple of weekends ago I'd like to tell you about.

I completed my very first sprint Triathlon! Woah! Good for ME!

I say first because that means I very much would like to do a second. Which seems like your basic sort of crazy talk because I tell you Internet, it was definitely one of the hardest most exciting most euphoric things I've ever done. Ever. Right up there with moving out to college, 6 week study abroad in jolly old England, and surviving the intestinal virus of death in Cambodia. I've been mulling over the experience trying to put into perspective how I felt, what it meant, and why in the world I subjected myself to such a thing. And all I've come up with is... because it felt really good. I know, the imagery is mind-blowing. Real. Good. Real. Mind. Blowing.

Running Cheetah
I've always been the active sort. I started running my first year at Snow College because I had what you might call "baby fat" left over from my high schools days... and I also realized that year that marriage should be a priority in my life. I remember the day when THAT gem actually clicked... I was sitting in my first Singles Ward, a wee girl of 19 and mostly through my first year of college, when I suddenly realized the only reason for Single existence the next x number of years in my life... was to get married. It was a very strange transcendent moment for me actually. Up until that point, dating or the idea of having a boyfriend let alone a husband never interested me. What kind of weirdy teenage female was I anyway??! Not a teenager who would've liked Twilight then or EVER! Mwhahahaaaa! Throughout high school I had shunned the idea and carried myself haughtily amongst the halls of Emery High School exclaiming "The first woman President of the United States does not need a man! She does not care about marriage! A pox on posterity!" Thank goodness THAT was only a phase... the a pox part... not so much the President of the United States part. ;) Vote Cox!

I digress...

Running. I started running to not be fat and also, because my priorities changed and I realized if I were to make this whole dating thing a priority, I should probably try and cute-up a little. Years and years hence, I'm still running, but not so much for the dating part anymore as for the health, happiness, and enjoyment of it. Sure I still think it's important to maintain some sort of appealing (realistic) physique, but running and being active is part of who I am now and if it took some silly 19-year-old reason to help me realize that, it's ooookay. Over the last year though, I felt that it was time to take my running to the next level. Mix it up a little.

And mix it up I did.

I signed up for the San Rafael Sprint Triathlon. I will tell you this, I ALMOST signed up for the Olympic Triathlon and in a rare moment of impeccably apt judgement, decided I had best "ease into" this new venture and signed up for the Sprint instead. I considered the Olympic because a biker and a runner I definitely was and I felt the Olympic offered me a greater challenge in that arena than the Sprint. HOW. EV. ER. Even though I had taken swimming lessons growing up (turns out they were merely not drowning lessons) I was a bit weary of the half mile swim, though at the time I slightly scoffed at the distance. "Psh," I thought to myself, "I can swim two laps around a track..." Little did I know...

For those of you not familiar with triathlon distances... below is a breakdown.

1/2 mile swim
15 mile bike
5k run

1 mile swim
30 mile bike
10k run

I began my training in early March... and by training I mean swimming. And I quickly found out that swimming is... hard. It's... harder... then I thought it would be. And though I found myself practicing at the pool 3 days a week, by the time race week rolled around... I could barely eek out a mere 400 yards without gasping for precious air. Do you WANT to know how long a half mile swim is? Ohhh close to 860 (ish... give or take) meters. Needless to say, I was completely freaked out.

But if there's one thing I'm not... nor never have been... even when sometimes it would be a very good idea... it's a quitter. I've never transferred a school... never transferred out of a class... never quit a job unless life circumstance dictated it should be so... and have a hard time quitting any sort of relationship, even if it's clearly a very NOT good thing. I've gotten better at the latter... as one does with experience... but I am still that person that once I commit to something, that's it. I'm doing it. And I'm seeing it through 100%. Sometimes it takes me a little time to come to a decision, but once it's decided, I don't look back. I am also very thankful that my first Sprint Tri was in my hometown. That way, should I drowned, I would drowned at home. That's the spirit!

But drowned I did not. Panic? Freak out? Breast stroke? Doggy paddle? Backstroke? Yes... did that. But drowned? NOPE!

 The day of the race I was a bundle of nerves. I watched as the Olympic men jumped in the lake for their first of TWO laps (I tell you if I had to face two laps that day, I would have certainly drowned). Then... the Olympic women. My time drew near.

I found a couple of white faced, vomitus looking "It's-my-first-time-too" friends to walk to the pier with... assessing that they were as completely freaked out as I was.... which somehow made me feel better... and we watched the Sprint men begin.

2 minutes and it would be our turn.

We looked at each other. Smiled our nervous smiles. Some of us starred at the foreboding water... some crossed themselves in pleading prayer... some mumbled their solemn goodbyes (okay, just kidding) and all tried unsuccessfully to wrap our heads around the great expanse that grew between the three large round markers we were supposed to swim around...



We were off!

And I totally freaked out. I mean, of COURSE I knew swimming in an open water lake with 50 other kickers and strokers was going to be a little different than swimming in my own blue green lane at 24 hours fitness. Well, turns out, it's A LOT different. I felt like I had forgotten everything I'd ever learned. Everything I had practiced. I couldn't get my mind to accept and remember everything I'd done. I went into survival mode and did everything I could, never stopping, to get around those markers. I may have even cried once or twice. I tell you... that swim was the hardest thing I've ever done. When I stumbled out of that water... barely ahead of anyone (including one guy! HA! Girl POWER!), I was confused and weary and deliriously happy to be out of that water. In my mind, I had won the race simply by being alive at the end of the swim! Needless to say, the only Dolphin I was swimming with was some pathetic shrivel finned, half blind, old codger who had wandered away from the Flipper Nursing Home.

 But of course, there was a bike and run left. On to the bike! SO! Leaving the ancient old dolphin to swim in confusing circles, shaking his cane at the sky... I jumped on my bike.

The bike was really excellent albeit difficult as it was a major uphill ascension for 7.5 miles. But where there is grueling ascension, you can count on their being a fantastic dissension and I flew like a bat out of hell down that course! Out of the way desert lizards! I bike with the Cheetahs!!

Next, the run. I will tell you this, I am a runner. And I run fairly quickly for a short-legged hobbit. THIS run however, the only goal I had was to not stop. To never stop. "Do Not WALK!" I kept telling myself with my slow footed rhythm. "You will not WALK! You will run this WHOLE THING." I think instead of running with the eagles, they ran with me... boyed me up the whole time and never let me quit. That's the way of the eagles I suppose. We ran together... always pushing forward. And I tell you this, Internet, never in all my life did I want to walk more than I wanted to walk when I passed the 2 mile marker. However, never in all my life did I want to run MORE than when I saw that finish line... and my mom... and my brother... and the community who knew me and cheered for me and willed me to the end... then I did that day. Me and the eagles, somewhere somehow, found the energy to sprint that last hundred meters and cross that finish line, the first finish line of many in my life, and collapse in pure euphoria and yes, many tears. I'd done it!! And I never stopped.

I know a lot of life parallels can be drawn from such experiences. For me, this finish line represented all the other finish lines I have crossed in my life and those I have yet to cross. Moving out of my home. Going to college when everything about me suggested I should never make it... and then going back and proving myself better than I thought again. There have been finish lines of faith and finish lines of trial. There's the big race of life we're all running made up of thousands of other races, some longer than others, some harder than others, and all of us going at our own pace. I've been running the dating race for a long time and it seems like the finish line will never come... but I know it will. Someday. And then I'll begin another race... the race of raising children... the race of grandchildren...  the race of old age... and many many others inbetween. I guess the point is, in the end, to endure. To finish. To strengthen your hope and resolve to face another race, and this time to do it a little bit better than before. To utilize the knowledge you've gained and keep moving forward, trying it again, and believing that the only limits are the ones you place on yourself. That the finish line exists... and just believing it's there is the ultimate battle.

After the race, I felt really good about what I'd done, except for the swim. I knew that the swim had mentally beaten me. Yes, I had finished. But I hadn't done it in the way I should have... in the way I'd trained to. I had let fear and doubt limit my abilities. For me, sometimes I don't just want to finish, but I want to finish with all of my faculties and might and effort. I think endurance is more than plodding through, it's making the most of it. It's remembering everything you've practiced for and believing, when that fear and trepidation would hold you back, you can say no... I've prepared for this... I'm ready for this... I will not let myself beat me. I will do more than just finish.

So that next week, I went to the pool and for a moment, sat on the edge and starred down it's bluish chlorinated ripples. "I can swim a half mile... I can do it and not stop."

And you know what happened, Internet? I swam a half mile that day... and I didn't stop. Me, who had never effectively swam more than 400 yards on a good day, swam 880 meters that day... because I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable. That if I took my head out of it, I could do it. And I did. And I've done it 4 more times since. And I won't ever swim less than that every time henceforth. That half mile won't ever beat ME again.

So there you have it. Goal accomplished! I successfully completed my FIRST Sprint Triathlon; and you better believe, me and that open water will go the rounds again. And THIS time, without self-imposed limits.

Swim with the dolphins! Bike with the Cheetahs! Run with the Eagles!