When you become an athlete, you start measuring your progress in a sport by firsts. Like, the first time I ran one mile at age 8. I did not consider myself an athlete at that point. I was in ballet and was terrible at it. I think I had done a season of ice skating. Not pretty. I was a green belt in tae kwon do, and was pretty decent because I was
strong husky, which explains why I was terrible at ballet, besides the lack of practice. S I could break wooden boards and knock people over. As for running, I was forced to do that as part of PE class. I was also forced to do sit-ups, which were as difficult then as they are now. You see, I have what I have dubbed “Cabbage Patch Abs.” I have a nice big hard head and a nice soft midsection like a Cabbage Patch Kid doll. It’s genetics, I swear. Ok, it’s probably my diet, but I’m working on it.
Eventually, I got really into swimming when we moved to Florida. We also ran a lot as part of our cross training. I ran my first 5k at age 10, ran my first 5k under 24 minutes at age 12, and did my first 10k at age 13. With swimming, it went from “oh I can swim across the pool now mommy!” to “I just schooled a bunch of older girls at practice ” And that’s how it went for years and years. First time conquering 10×1000’s in one workout, first time I beat that girl who has been dominating for the past three years, first time I did an open water swim without getting stung by jellyfish. After college, I began running more so it went in this progression: first time running a half marathon, first time running a marathon where bands are playing- thereby annoying me because I can’t hear my book on tape. First time having to walk during a marathon- ugh. First time doing Yasso’s 800’s. *If you don’t know what those are, good. You probably don’t want to know. They hurt. * First time running races while pregnant. It’s actually pretty liberating because there’s no pressure. If you are 27 weeks pregnant and running a 10k, it’s accomplishment enough if you can make it through the whole race without having to use one of the non-existent porta john’s.
The past month has been chock full of firsts, which is a huge confidence booster at this stage of life. When you’re blank years old, you don’t experience a lot of firsts, besides watching your kids accomplish firsts or getting your first minivan. Obviously, there was my first triathlon in July. But what I am most proud of is this past week’s firsts. As you may recall, I am not running right now because of my suspected compartment syndrome. I am still having symptoms and putting off going to a doctor, because if I don’t get a diagnosis then there’s not anything actually wrong with me. Right? I decided to commit myself to strengthening my swimming and cycling. Last Thursday night I did a tough one hour spin class then went straight into the pool for a 2,000 swim workout. I got out thinking, “Wow, I really have only two speeds: slower than my 10 year old self, and slower than my 11 year old self. ” I was really really down on myself. But then I realized it is utterly ridiculous to compare myself to a version of me from that many years ago. Could I drive a car when I was 10? Could I afford to buy a car when I was 10? Could I run a marathon when I was 11? Could I go to a bar and order a Bloody Mary when I was 11? No way, so being blank years old is really awesome. Who cares if I was a much better swimmer when I was pre-pubescent? Plus, I swam like 20 hours a week back then. At the rate I have been going, I log about 20 hours in the pool per year. So I am getting a pretty good return on my investment.
I stopped having a pity party after I got a Drumstick in my system, and the next day, I accomplished a first (since 2002)- I did another pool workout within 24 hours of the last one. Super Girl was having her private swim lesson. She is pretty much kicking butt at swimming, and I in turn am kicking myself for not getting her private lessons earlier, because winter is coming (if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, sorry for the obscure reference). That gave me a good thirty minutes to do a quick no-pressure swim. I borrowed some hand paddles and cranked out 4×500’s. I didn’t time myself, because really, was I going to get faster in one day? I felt so invigorated and strong afterwards, which reminded me why I am doing this. I want to set an example for Super Girl and Super Baby. You don’t just quit because things kinda suck one day. The next day can be pretty awesome.
On Sunday, I woke up early to meet my new tri club for a long ride. On the club calendar, it said that there is a 50 mile and 33 mile option. I roll up with my little female frame road bike and find that there are 6 guys there, all with souped up tri bikes, all who have completed at least one Ironman. They had no intention of doing only 33 miles. A few of the guys were typically ride in the A group, which is 22+ mph. Oh kill me now. I texted my sister-in-law because I was terrified. I didn’t want to hold anybody up, but I also didn’t want to get stranded in another county rolling around in a ditch with extreme leg cramps. I thought I should just pack it in and go to two spin classes later in the day. How I would accomplish that didn’t matter. I just could not think straight. One of the men, a gentle giant who I will call Angel Gabriel, assured me that we would only be going around 17mph. Ok I can handle that, I thought. Actually, I had no clue if this was possible, as I had never ridden more than 33 miles and I am pretty sure I averaged about 18mph on the 18 mile bike portion of my triathlon. I decided to just suck it up and head out with the big boys.
I can assure you we did not average only 17mph. The first half of the ride was somewhere around 20 mph. There were flats where we had no tailwind but were going 25mph. I was going as fast as humanly possible, which could not bode well for miles 25-50. Plus, I was in the middle. There were actually two guys behind me about 1/4 mile, and then four guys about 1/4 mile ahead of me. Do you know what that means? I didn’t have anyone to draft off of. The guys ahead of me took turns pulling each other, and I tried so hard to catch up so they could pull me to, but no dice.
We stopped at miles 20, 30, and 40 to regroup. One of the guys, whose wife is also a saint, was our “team car, ” and she just hovered around. She opened her trunk at stops and it was full of water, gatorade, pound cake, bananas, and oranges. I almost made out with her. Twice. At the 30 mile stop, I was starting to get the chills and shakes. I chugged an entire gatorade and am pretty sure I inhaled two pieces of pound cake. I contemplated hopping in the saint’s car and just riding around for the next hour, handing out drinks to the men and chatting about life. But I rode 33 miles the week before, and didn’t feel particularly winded afterward, so what’s another 20 miles?
When we stopped at mile 40, everyone (except for me) thought it would be a good idea to go a different way, so we could get more hill work and tack on another 4 miles. Huh? I did not sign up for this. But I had no idea where we were, and I couldn’t even form complete sentences, so I just went with it. By mile 45, I noticed we were keeping about a 19mph pace even with the hills. That meant only 30 more minutes! I finally started to mentally break through my fear and then I realized what I good time I’d had. Angel Gabriel talked me through every push and he assured me I was doing great. When I told him it would be my longest ride by 20 miles, he looked so shocked I thought he was going to fall off his bike. I guess I did alright hanging with the big boys. I conquered my fear of the unknown, and I got a sweet tan while I was at it.
Another first came after the ride. I DID NOT TAKE A NAP on a Sunday. Yes, that is not a typo. I felt so bad about leaving Super Dad with the kids for over four hours, because I I didn’t realize that even if 50-ish mile should take about 3 hours on a trainer, we would be taking three longer stops for fuel. Plus there are these little things called stop lights and signs which are minor but frequent nuisances when you live anywhere other than Antarctica. Oops, duh. By the time I got home, Super Girl was ready take a nap and of course, Super Baby had just risen from a marathon morning nap session, so I decided to forego my precious Sunday nap in order to give Super Dad a major break. I didn’t give him enough of a break to account for my very long absence in the morning, but parenting isn’t always going to equal out. Hmmm, maybe I can still cash in some points from carrying two babies to term and being in labor for a few days? No?
The other first I must report is that Super Baby finally walked!
Just kidding, he still has no interest in walking and I have no issues with this. When Super Girl was a baby,
we I thought it was critical that she walked by one year old. Then when she started walking at 15 months, I was like “can you please stop moving? For like three seconds?” Super Baby is very curious and he loves to crawl around and cruise, but walking is not on his agenda. I am thinking he will just take off running at 15 months but if not, I won’t sweat it because he is developmentally on track in every other area and babies who crawl a long time are supposed to be super smart. I don’t know where I read it but it was on the internet so it’s definitely not science.
Did you have any firsts this week, month, or year? Do you have any first goals that you have set for yourself? How many of you have rockstar spouses who will drive around in a Durango supplying snacks for your tri club all morning when he or she could be watching tv or getting a massage- or better yet, sleeping in? Will your spouse watch your kids for four hours while you get super sweaty, then listen to you go on and on about the ride all afternoon, much like he endures listening to you ramble about every other form of exercise you perform on a daily basis? Or cook delicious meals for you several times a week because you are pretty much useless in the kitchen? Probably not many, but if you have such a spouse, consider yourself lucky, or blessed, depending on your religious preferences. And if you are a single parent who can train for tris or marathons and cook and clean for your kid(s), well, then you are 100 times more amazing than me and Super Dad put together. And you over there, if you have no spouse or kids and you do all of this for yourself, you’re a rockstar too. Because if you are putting time into bettering yourself for yourself, then that’s awesome. When I had no Super Dad or Super kids around, I ate a whole lot of fast food, drank a whole lot of wine, and pretty much just ran so I could burn off the calories I ate and drank. I didn’t run for myself. But now I do, and that’s a first.