A couple weeks ago, H headed off on his annual backpacking trip. He’s been doing the trip for years, and before kids, it was NBD, but this all changed when L showed up. Actually, before. The night before his planned 6-day backpacking trip in 2011 when I was pregnant with L, I was puking so much I thought we were going to have to go to the ER for dehydration. (Unisom saved the day in the end. It really helps morning sickness for some reason.) Anyway, that yera, I started to mind him leaving. Fast-forward to 2015, and I had my first panic attack when he was on a short backpacking trip. Being unable to call him somehow made everything seem harder. It’s not something that can be explained easily, but it happened. Anyway, he’s continued to go on trips, because he feels they’re important for his happiness – and I agree – and we both want him to be happy. Last year, he went while my parents were visiting, and that was the first trip of any kind that he’d been on in some time that didn’t precipitate a panic attack. I took Clonazepam for the duration of his trip, and needed a run and a major pep talk from my brother and SIL who happened to be visiting at the time. After that, things started to get better. Still, at times, I feel like I’ll never leave this anxiety behind, that it’ll always be an issue in my life. When i feel nervous or anxious, I’m constantly asking myself what’s normal and what’s not. I can’t really understand what caused the panic attacks to start, and so, I can’t be sure it won’t happen again. Anyway, this year, the hiking trip was a non-event. I didn’t medicate. I wasn’t stressed. It just wasn’t a big deal – as it shouldn’t be. (I mean really!) So it’s good to look back year over year and realize that even if life isn’t perfect, it’s better. And it’s good.
I completed my first triathlon last weekend, and hence I can finally say, I am a triathlete. It gives me great satisfaction, honestly. Triathlons are not easy. I picked the shortest, easiest tri locally, and it featured a 400 m open water swim, 16 mile bike, and 3 mile run.
I had to get up at 4:45 the morning of, way earlier than I prefer, and even still, I was hustling to get to transition. I set up my bike and put out my stuff on a towel. I was happy to see many of my co-workers had snagged spots nearby in transition. There were no less than seven of us from my company doing the race, including five from my group – awesome! Naturally, I was extremely nervous. I was resigned to my fate but also swore I would never. ever. do this again.
We had unusually high temperatures in Seattle the two weeks before the race, leaving the water in the high 70s, so I decided not to wear my wetsuit, given that I was only swimming 400 m. I’d practiced once sans wetsuit, so I felt it should be fine. About ten minutes before the race, I joined some of my friends in the water, and stood there absolutely freezing waiting for the race to start. The water was in the high 70s, but it was 60 degrees, and I was shivering. The 400 m swim was clockwise square, beginning by swimming along the shoreline before turning right out into the lake. It was a “deep water” start, but you could stay in shallow water until a minute or two before it was time to go, so I didn’t have to tread water for a long time.
I competed in the super sprint, and I was immensely glad I didn’t have to swim 1500 m like the Olympic competitors or even 800 m like the “sprinters.” They let everyone else go first, and then we Super Sprinters started. The only difference between the sprint and the super sprint was the swim being 800 m rather than 400 m, so I think the Super Sprint was mainly composed of people like myself not wild about open water swimming.
When the race finally started, I found myself quite uncomfortable in the water. I had a hard time getting into a rhythm and getting my breath, and I was freaking out a little. However, I just told myself that 400 m isn’t very far and kept going. I started breathing every other stroke rather than my usual every third stroke and tried not to zig-zag too much. By about halfway through, I finally caught my breath and started feeling better, but I was still extremely happy when the swim was over. According to my watch, I swam 425 yards at something like 2:12 per hundred yards. That’s a bit slower than usual, but I’m happy with it, given that it was my first open water race.
At this point I should note that I had to lay out a lot of money to get ready for this tri, between race fees and bike gear and swim practice sessions and a wetsuit (required for the open water practices). So, I decided to save money on the tri suit and bought it for $15 or so on eBay. Note to self: don’t buy white for anything you plan to swim in! OMG it looks horrid in the photos.
I got through transition relatively quickly. I decided to put on a long-sleeve jersey as it was still in the low 60s, and I was cold and wet. I hurried out and got onto my bike, and I was off. I did really well on the bike, completing the 16 miles at 17.7 mph. I just tried to keep my effort even and my cadence high. I actually think I overdid it, as my average heart rate was 155 (max 171) which is quite high for me considering I still had to run 3 miles afterwards. I really pushed hard, and my bike time was good as a result, but I paid the price on the run.
When I got off the bike and put on my running shoes, and start off, I felt LOUSY. The run was not exactly flat. I mean, it wasn’t what you’d call hilly, but it had small rolling hills, about 250 ft of total elevation gain. My run splits were 8:46 / 8:29 / 8:18, so I did start to feel better as I went along, but I was suffering. I was highly motivated to stay in front of my co-workers, which I did manage to do. (My two fastest co-workers did other races, but I managed to beat the others – all men – in the super sprint. Yippee.)
I was happy to find out I won my age group, though it turns out there were only two of us! I also got 4th overall and was happy with that, though I actually had faster times in the combined sports and lost out to third on the second transition. I guess I should work on that! Though it’s brutal enough switching from bike to run as it is.
Now that the memory of the pain is starting to fade, I’m enthused about doing it again next year and improving my swim, bike and run times. Relative to everyone else, my best sport is run (surprise surprise), second best is swim, and worst is bike. This is striking given that I killed myself on the bike, leaving myself totally exhausted for the run, and still ran faster relative to others than I biked. I just kind of suck at biking for some reason, though I am getting better.
I have to say I am very over the popular and media obsession with The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a good book. In my opinion, it’s not Atwood’s best; for me, that honor goes to The Blind Assassin. Whether it’s her second best is probably more debatable, but for me, that honor is also ambiguous (Cat’s Eye wins). Handmaid’s Tale is original, horrifying and thought-provoking. I thought it lacked a little in execution and the ending is unsatisfying. I haven’t seen the TV show because it’s not on Amazon Prime or Netflix. I expect I’ll watch it eventually. Or maybe I won’t. I had my own vision of the protagonist in Handmaid’s Tale, and she has already been replaced in my mind by the actress I’ve seen in trailers. If I watch the show, the rest of the world I imagined will evaporate, never to be seen again. Kudos to whoever decided to pick an Atwood for television production, but at the same time, I’m not sure I want to watch it. (My all-time favorite book is possibly Cloud Atlas – though Blind Assassin is definitely in the running – and now I can’t think of the former without seeing Halle Berry. Argh!)
I’m continuing to enjoy cycling. When I don’t have anything else going on, I’ve been going for a long cycle (30+ miles) every weekend. I’ve moved on from the Cas.cade Preparing for Spr.ing series to CH.EW – climbing hi.lls every winter. The idea is exactly what you might guess, to get better at climbing hills. I have a love-hate relationship with hills. Getting to the top gives me great satisfaction, but wow, it makes things so much harder.
This ride was fairly hilly overall, 2200 ft of elevation gain over 30 miles, but the hardest part by far was one particular hill, 250 feet of elevation gain at average 9% elevation gain with peaks above 10%. Brutal, in other words. I’ve found I can handle hills at 5 or 6% without much trouble; I just go slow and pace myself. But it is really hard to pace yourself on a 10% incline. I did this route for the second time this weekend (first time last weekend), and I really focused on going slowly and pulling up (rather than just pushing down) on my pedals, and that one hill went much better. It was still hard, but I knew I wasn’t going to have to get off my bike and walk.
Lovely scenery in any event. Below is the Cedar River. The color is odd in part because we have been having crazy smoke and haze for days now due to forest fires in BC with no end in sight.
The sexism in some parts of the world just boggles my mind and breaks my heart. It seems hopeless to me. Will it ever get better?
I competed in the Seafair Duathlon this morning. I survived, which is the main thing, but I’m definitely feeling a little worse for the wear.
The bike was 20 miles, with 750 ft of elevation gain according to RideWithGPS. Basically, it was not hilly, but not what you’d call pancake flat either. I figured 20 miles isn’t that bad; I rode 40 last weekend, right?
The race start was a little weird, as they started two people at a time. Naturally, I couldn’t get one of my feet clipped in. (I’d love to know why I have so much trouble clipping in my shoes. Lack of coordination? Some problem with the way they’re set up? Or with the shoes or pedals? Or lack of practice??) Once I got going, I just concentrated on keeping the pedals spinning and keeping a constant level of effort. I thought I must be going terribly fast, but at the end, my average speed was only 15.7 mph. I am getting faster – I think that’s my fastest average speed for a ride. But . . . I’m still not really very competitive. If there’s anything I’ve learned from doing endurance sports for 25 years, though, it’s that the body does respond to training, so hopefully if I stick with it, I’ll improve.
When I hit the run, I was just totally demoralized at the though of running 10Ks. I did something to my right leg on the bike, and the top of my hamstring was hurting, as well as the back of my knee. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be able to complete it. I was really not in a great mental place for the first three miles. I knew there was a hill we’d need to climb twice, and sure enough, it was brutal. However, once I got up to the top of it the first time, at 2.0 miles, I started feeling better. The second 3 miles was painful, but better mentally. I felt like I was going terribly slowly, but I finished the 10K in 52:05, or 8:23 per mile. If I did that on a regular run, I’d feel like I was seriously pushing it, but there’s something about the adrenaline of a race situation that helps me go faster. It probably also helps that the race was overall much flatter than my neighborhood.
In any case, I’m glad it’s over. Right now, I’m not sure I ever want to do another duathlon. All told, it took me more than 2 hours to complete. That’s a long race. You wouldn’t catch me running a half marathon at the moment, and yet I’m doing two hour multisport races. It’s not quite the same as two hours of running, but it’s no walk in the park.
I did my first open-water swim on Wednesday. I’ve been worried about this for some time. The local triathlon club has practice swims on Wednesdays, and I was hoping to go a couple weeks ago, but I was sick, and then H was out of town the following week, so I finally made it this week. I’ve read so many triathlon books about people having anxiety attacks when they swim in open water, and my co-worker had a panic attack only last week. Given my own issues with anxiety and panic, I was worried I’d freak out when I got in the water, despite the fact that I’m a pretty good swimmer, if not particularly fast, and I’ve spent a lot of time swimming lately.
However, all was well. Well, maybe not quite all, but I felt completely comfortable in the water. I wasn’t nervous or panicky, and I just felt good in the water. It was great. The only problem was that the sun was low and quite bright. It was hard to avoid looking at it while swimming, and I triggered an ocular migraine. I’ve purchased mirrored goggles, so hopefully that will help on my next outing. Interestingly, even the ocular migraine didn’t really make me nervous. It was just annoying. There was a coach there who’d planned a 2000 yd workout – more than I wanted to do anyway. I soldiered on for about 1000 yd (according to my watch), and then just swam in. The ocular migraine mostly had subsided, which is unusual. Usually they persist no matter what I do. But this one had mostly gone away, but I had a headache, and I just wanted to get out of the sun. Still, I feel really good about the swim portion of the “super sprint” tri I’m planning. It’ll be in the same lake and will only be 400m. I’m sure I’ll be nervous on race day, but I’ll get through it. It’s kind of a weight off my mind. I’d been quite worried about it.
This weekend, I’m planning a duathlon. I’ve already paid (and ‘athlons are expensive), but both my kids are sick, so fingers crossed I’ll stay healthy. It’s a 20 mile bike and a 10K run. I’m not really in shape for a race of that distance, but I should be able to make it through, perhaps slowly.