Saturday, January 29, 2011

My take on swimming, part 1

I know you all have been dying to get this blog post, ha ha!. Most of you know I am swimmer. I remember my first swim lessons at age 4 at Optimist Park Pool in Raleigh. I guess these lessons were really just to perfect my stroke because I know I was swimming prior to being 4 years old - I did spend a few years living in the Bahamas and you don't live in the Bahamas without knowing a thing or two about swimming (or maybe it is more accurate to say without knowing a thing or two about not drowning). My swimming days started with a blue suit, an orange bubble, and a heck of a tan but they started early for sure. By the time we moved to Raleigh I was ready to take my ranks as an eager, splashing and thrashing 6-and-under where swimming 1/2 the length of a 25 yard pool into the arms of an awaiting teenager showed little more than a will to survive. And to be perfectly honest, I cannot remember my transition from being a summer swimmer to being a year-round swimmer. Maybe it was a reality that just always was, I dunno. What I do remember is the day I went from being a mediocre swimmer to being a really good swimmer. First long course meet of the year, 50 meter freestyle - Goodstuff Invitational (yes, I was a sprinter once). For you folks familiar with swim lingo I went from being a "B" swimmer to a "AAAA" thanks to that one event. I am getting so old I do not even know if they still have these designations. No one other than my mom probably noticed the break through but  the next thing I knew I was swimming with the senior group and some of the older girls were asking, 'why is she here?' with the teenage sneer we all know and hate. I do have to take a moment to thank the girl who asked that question many many years ago - that one moment in time has brought me years of motivation! Even in Kona, I caught myself thinking, 'what am I doing here, I don't deserve to be here' but like back in the day I reminded myself I had worked hard and I qualified to get here. No one could take that away from me . . . .

Yeah my swimming started early for sure

So basically swimming makes me the triathlete I am today. I cannot even begin to estimate where I would be without my swimming past let alone what kind of triathlete I would be. I have to admit that I probably would never have turned to triathlon if I had not spent so much of my life swimming.  I think anyone can attest to the fact that when they have devoted their whole life to something it is hard to let that life go without replacing it with something. Triathlon has replaced my swimming even though I still consider myself a swimmer (I think everyone else does too). Competing in triathlons is emotionally and physically rewarding, to the extent competitive swimming ever was, if not more. I now find myself in a place where I enjoy helping other triathletes realize that swimming is more than the first leg you "just have to get through." And it is this idea I plan to discuss further in "My take on swimming, part 2."

Ok folks there are only two days left to vote in this month's poll! I am impressed with the poll's progress. Keep checking for the results and for February's new poll!

Train safe. Train smart.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Conquering fears and anxieties

So this past Monday I had a lesson in conquering my fears and anxieties. I took the well deserved government holdiay to check out Inner Peaks, Charlotte's indoor climbing gym. I have been wanting to give rock climbing a try ever since I watched two American rock climbers take on Ninja Warriors (a must see televised obstacle course competition). I used to think rock climbing was all upper body - I had my doubts that my upper body to could handle my lower body – no comments from the peanut gallery, please.  I realized however that rock climbing works your upper body but it also requires a lot of power in the legs - holding, gripping, squatting, LAUNCHING all with your legs! I thought it would compliment my Saturday pull up sessions with the Aquageek while being a fantastic off season workout.

I knew I would get a good workout and I knew I would have a lot of fun but what I did not anticipate is how suddenly and overwhelmingly I would become afraid and anxious half way up the wall. I'm climbing, I'm laughing, I AM SPIDERMAN . . . and then suddenly I am just a piece of gum stuck against the wall. My palms start to sweat, my breath and heart rates double, and the thought starts creeping in . . ."I . . . CAN'T. . . DO . . . THIS . . .” What one sentence can be so evil - "evil like the fru-its of the dev-il?" (brownie points if you can you name the movie reference!) The whole experience got me thinking about fears and anxieties and the roles those emotions have on racing. My swim coach back in the day explained to me the difference between nervousness and anxiety. Nervousness is something you feel when you know you are not prepared for what is coming. Anxiety is the excitement you feel what you know you are ready but you are not prepared for the outcome. As I prepare for my races I suffer though nightmares (such as accidently shaving my legs too early - or taking a 15 minute transition because my goggles don’t match my outfit - situations that should strike fear in the hearts of all sane people) and stomach butterflies so severe I can't eat without gagging. In times like these, I have to stop and analyze my feelings. Am I nervous or am I anxious? And once I answer that question I wonder is it ok to be nervous or anxious in this situation?

The biggest thing I took away from my rock climbing experience (other than it is great fun and a great workout!) is that it is ok to be anxious of the unknown but it is not ok to be paralyzed by your own fear. As I was stuck high on the wall I could either stay there too paralyzed to move or I could reach for that next hand hold. If by reaching for the hand hold I fell from the wall I could falter, swing wildly back and forth, but I could try again.  I could learn from the path I had taken – I could recognize where my confidence was replaced by fear and push past it. Or maybe I take a chance and grab the next hand hold suddenly realizing it was not the leap of faith I thought it was and I can shimmy to the top and bask in victory! If I stayed, suspended high in the air and stuck against the wall surrounded by a shroud of fear, I would eventually fall from the wall exhausted, fatigued and dejected. Most importantly, I would leave the wall having learned nothing about the wall and nothing about the victory I was capable of achieving.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 is here . . . bringing with it the snow!

Ok I will be the first to tell you, and this probably won't come as a shock, but I do not like the cold. Yesterday it snowed here in Charlotte a good 4-6 inches. When it was fluffy and light it was quite fun. But now it is hard and slick AND STILL COLD. I did make it into work today - only failing once on the ice. I did have brief moment were my thoughts drifted toward the idea that a trail run would be nice today but then I realized muddy ice is a lot worse than icy ice.

So onward! I am so excited to announce that I now sponsored by blueseventy! I am truly honored to be sponsored by blueseventy. First of all, I love swimming. I will probably always be a swimmer first and a triathlete second. I think a lot of triathletes do a disservice to themselves by not taking the swim as seriously as they take the bike and the run. Think all the tinkering done to drop weight off the bike and super fast light weight running shoes with the ultra fast shoes laces (don't think about the blisters) and the quick draining seamless inseams . . . then think about your swim kit. Have you done everything possible to reduce drag? Is that tri top with the pockets really hydrodynamic? Really? There are a lot of things people can do to make their swims faster without spending another year in the water - racing in the appropriate gear is a start. Secondly, I love anything that makes me faster. This past May I swam in the blueseventy NeroComp in Atlanta and won the 1650 yd freestyle, breaking the North Carolina State record in that distance in my age group. Do I believe in their products? Yes I do. I really think blueseventy has a great swim concept and I am happy to help bring it to the triathlon world. Be looking out for me on the course proudly sporting my new blueseventy products! Oh yeah and I love that the logo in all in lowercase letters. I used to write in all lowercase letters circa middle school. I thought it was cute. Everyone else thought I did not know how to capitalize. whatever.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Year in Review!

First of all, Happy New Year!

Thank you all for taking the time to review my blog. This whole blog thing is new to me and while at first I was a little hesitant to pursue it I can say now that I am enjoying adding to it. I am looking forward to future contributions. I am excited to receive any kind of feedback, good or bad.

I would mark 2010 as my return to racing. I ran a 1/2 ironman in May of 2006 and then took an extended break from triathlon. I competed in a race here in there but I really did not compete in a "season." In 2008 I decided to sign up for Ironman Florida 2009. I had to sign up a year in advance since it sells out in a matter of hours. I fully intended 2009 to be my return to racing, however as the season came and went I ended up signing up for just one race, Lake Lure Sprint, as a prep race for Ironman Florida. Not really much of a prep race - one hour of racing does not really prepare you for 10 hours of racing a month later, but it did help me get my feet wet and remind me of how to set up a transition. It was also a great confidence booster as I won the race feeling comfortable on both the bike and the run. While I was incredibly nervous about Florida, Lake Lure really did help me feel ready to race and it worked! Ironman Florida is where I surprisingly qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii! Thanks to the move to Charlotte and a new job I was able to compete in a number of races in 2010 as I spent the year preparing to go to Kona. The season kicked off with a lackluster race, the Huntersville Sprint Triathlon. I was really disappointed with the race despite winning the open division, mostly because I felt like crap during it. It was a pool swim and a time trial start which I usually enjoy but I didn’t find a groove during the swim and subsequently felt "off" the entire race. I then went up to Virginia to race in the Kinetic 1/2 Ironman a month later. It was a fun race for me and my mom. It is a very spectator friendly race course with a three loop run. Each loop started with a short but steep hill for my mom to taunt me on as I struggled up. It was brutal for me and enjoyable for her! I raced in two sprints before I headed out to compete in the SC 1/2 ironman in Greenwood, SC. This was to be my pre prep race for Hawaii. I had always wanted to race in the SC 1/2. I have raced in the international distance triathlon at the same location (usually held in June – The Festival of Flowers Triathlon) and I knew it would be a well run race on a great course under intense conditions. It is a hot and hilly course, a perfect place to test my nutrition plan for Hawaii. Five races down and only one to go! Oddly enough it seemed like Hawaii snuck up on me - as if it was all of a sudden here even though it never left my thoughts. It is hard to imagine years of hoping to qualify for Hawaii, to find yourself qualified, and then lined up at the start with no where to go but forward – IN HAWAII! What an experience! I would not trade it but I would like to do it again . . . oops did I just say that out loud?

Still from NBC's coverage of Ironman World Champions - yeah this is my game face

I have a lot of great things coming for 2011! I can't wait to tell you all about them!