Thursday, August 23, 2012

The ocean is gross . . .The seal-quel

Last March, I ran for the seals. Last Sunday, I literally swam with seals, rather, they swam with me. My friend AC and I went down to Pacific Grove to take the triathlon course for a test drive. On the swim course, there were seals hanging out everywhere - probably 30 or more chillin' out by the rocks, enjoying the day. Apparently seals are quite curious; every once in awhile we saw a gray head with HUGE black eyes staring over top of the water as us. Seals don't come too close, and they swim faster than me. But, every time I crawled over some kelp I wondered if there would be a seal hiding under there. And it kind of freaked me out. Also, remember the ocean is their toilet.

I'm going to start referring to the ocean as the "groscean."

Seriously though. Through this whole training process I've had some major inquiry into, "Why the hell are you doing this?" both personally and from others. I've decided that doing things that completely freak me out is good for my soul. That's why I keep doing that terrible Splash and Dash event. I'm not sure why, but I really don't like that swim in Steven's Creek Reservoir at all. The reason I hate the Splash and Dash is not based at all in logic: I know I can swim, the water is fine, the other competitors are nice/supportive. It's completely unfounded why I don't enjoy that event, but I made myself do it again this year - THREE TIMES!

There are things I don't want to do, but I'm finding that I'm not really scared to try new things much anymore. Once you've taken off your swimsuit to find duck poo inside of it, your sense of "ewww gross" changes pretty dramatically. In the same way, once you've experienced the difficulty of trying something new and realized it's not going to kill you, it doesn't seem so difficult anymore.

I heard a pretty good quote lately:

"It's not getting any easier, you are just getting stronger." I like that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The ocean is gross . . . but awesome.

Hates California - it's cold and it's damp. That's why the lady is a tramp.

This is my friend, Erika. She likes the theatre but never comes late. She also convinced me to do the Dip & Dash last weekend.

I grew up in the Midwest. The middle states. The fly-over states. Or as people in California like to call it (mistakenly), "back East." A college friend who had never been very far outside of the Bay Area went to Indiana once, and when he returned he said, "I just felt so landlocked!" Really? There is plenty of water in the Midwest and we even have beaches! If anyone has seen the Michigan/Indiana side of Lake Michigan, it's quite lovely. We also have rivers, lakes, streams . . . you get the point. We just don't have an ocean.

Ahh, the ocean. As a kid I had only a movie/TV/books understanding of that big body of water that covers 3/4 of the Earth's surface. An ocean, paired with a beach where you can frolic in the waves and the sunshine, and see cute sea creatures. . . must be awesome. My CA friends will be astounded to know that I saw the ocean for the first time when I was 18 on a road trip to Seattle. Now that I've had some serious swimming encounters, it occurs to me that the ocean is actually pretty disgusting. It's cold, it tastes salty and awful, it's full of huge, slimy plants that you get tangled up in, and the animals smell like they just ate a bunch of stinky, raw fish (because that's actually what they eat - stinky raw fish - oh yeah not to mention that the ocean is their toilet).

My friend, Erika, invited me to do a Dip and Dash in Santa Cruz this past weekend. I was a little reluctant to do another event so soon after Barb's race, but I'm still training for the Triathlon at Pacific Grove, so I went with it. Even before my alarm clock went off I was dreaming about calling Erika, faking some kind of lame sickness, or just flaking out. When the alarm finally did go off, I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed the neoprene suit and was out the door.

"Don't be such a freakin' baby." I thought.

While we set up in the transition area in Santa Cruz I kept thinking, "Ugh, I'm so over this. I don't want to get in the cold water. The ocean is gross." We had some fun with all of the 15 or so competitors for the Dip and Dash while we got all lubed up and put our wetsuits on. I realized that this was going to be a much more technically difficult swim than the Russian River, and started to get nervous. Then we headed down to the beach to test the waters (literally). . .

I had a great swim. I was relaxed, all of the buoys were on my best sighting side, the water was a warm(ish) 59 degrees. It was probably my best swim ever. I'm reminded of how far I've come from my first triathlon last year. I finished Pacific Grove in 3:06 and thought it might be possible to be under three hours by working on swimming alone this year. This swim convinced me that the goal is possible.

9/7/2011   Pac Grove tri swim = 1500 meters = 41 min, 32 sec
8/12/2012  Dip & Dash swim = 1500 meters = 33 min, 35 sec
= 8 minute difference

The main difference between Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove is the kelp (yuck). So as long as I can crawl really fast through the slimy stuff, I'm looking forward to another swim in the awesome ocean.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Race Photos

Man, race photos are generally terrible, but also hysterical. Enjoy!
I've decided no one looks good after an open water swim. No one. Goggle imprints on the face, the swim cap. . .
Somehow I gained a double chin while I was swimming!

Trying to pose: Yes, I was trying to do the "Call Me Maybe" look. Instead of looking cute, I look kind of angry. "Excuse me, Round Table, but I ordered a large pepperoni and you only gave me a medium. Fix the order, now!"

Deceptive picture: It looks like I'm beating all of these girls. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. . .

Bad hair picture. That woman and I played cat and mouse on the bike course and the run course. Until run course mile 10 when she took me for good. Yeah, she's 51 years old. Bad. Ass.

The droopy body part: That droopy part over my otherwise perfectly good knee.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I've been thinking about Bruce Jenner

I've been thinking a lot about Bruce Jenner - once the World's Greatest Athlete and now the Kardashian's dad. First of all, I love track and field. I remember Flo Jo and her bright colored nails zipping down the track, and I remember Carl Lewis jumping the distance of a large school bus. There is just something about those short events that really excite me. They are so short that you absolutely have to be perfect because there is no time for mistakes. Bruce Jenner didn't win one of these events, he won TEN, making him an Olympic gold medalist in the Decathlon in 1976. He was a major bad ass.

Now Bruce Jenner is known to a large audience as the dad in Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Most people who watch that show don't know anything about the Montreal Olympics, or that his face was on a Wheaties box. He recently featured in a short video called, The Bruce Jenner that was and I've also heard him interviewed on the radio about his life. Is he an athlete that became an well-known personality (positive)? Or is he a sell-out former athlete who can't do anything besides reality TV (negative)? Or did Bruce simply play the cards that were dealt him?

I watch the Olympics and somehow feel that it could have been me. Given another time, another place, and knowing what I had, maybe I could have been a fierce competitor - you know, like 15 years ago. Maybe I shouldn't have turned down that super small track scholarship at that super small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere. Maybe I should have begged my parents for a coach instead of a voice teacher.

But then I think about people like Bruce Jenner and Michael Phelps who may have already been the best they can be. Bruce puts it this way:

"How many athletes walk away from their sport, absolutely, totally satisfied because you climbed every mountain you can climb. There is nothing left in that sport besides, (to) do it again."
What do you do after you are already the World's Greatest Athlete? It seems to me that you are kind of finished. I see that a lot with Michael Phelps this year. He already was the world's greatest swimmer. He did that in Bejing 4 years ago, so what motivates him to want to do it again? That may have been his top, and that's quite ok. Now Michael has to play the cards that are dealt him. Maybe he'll go into acting and we'll see him and his ten children on reality TV. (Or a commentator or coach would be a nice idea. Yeah, I like that one better.)
In a way, we who are just getting started are some of the greatest athletes. Sure, we'll never win a competition or get a gold metal, but the will and ability to fight ourselves to constantly improve is exciting. I realize now that I don't have to be the best swimmer today because it gives me something to work on. I don't need to necessarily win races in my 30's because if I keep myself alive and healthy I'll be much more competitive when I'm 40 and 50. The people who continue to do it are the people who inspire me, much more than the best athletes in the world. Hell, those professional athletes are better looking than the rest of us, but that 80-year-old running the marathon looks pretty awesome too.
We are also way too hard on Bruce Jenner. He was once an awesome athlete, but he hit the top, and went into show business. He is unapologetic, and I don't think we can fault him for that. He played the cards he was dealt. The only thing I fault him for is not passing down his bad ass abilities to his children. God knows they could use some more exercise.