Wednesday, April 1, 2009

fish breathing.

Exhale. Okay. It’s been a long time since I wrote an entry that contained any real thought. I’m feeling out of practice, to be honest.

I guess I’ll talk a little about the upcoming triathlon. I’m not in nearly as good shape as I was last year, but last year I’d been doing quite a bit of weight training prior to my triathlon training. So my stomach was flatter. My arms a little more toned (only a little). I was a few pounds lighter. My body is mushier now. That’s okay with me for the time being.

Regardless of the shape of my body, I’ve been training for my next triathlon since February. I haven’t trained with quite as much rigor, but I’m finding that school is it’s own kind of job. I don’t have control over deadlines and due dates in the same way that I did when I was working freelance. I guess that I also want to be able to think of triathlons as relaxation instead of as extra work.

A little mushier, a little less rigorous, not to worry. I think I’ll be ready. This year will still feel like a feat for me. My event is on May 17, and I’ll swim 800 meters (a half mile) in open water. This is twice the distance of last year’s events, and this time, I intend not to let my anxiety get the best of me when I’m in the water. The run is also longer for this event – a 5K (3.1 miles) instead of 2 miles. (The bike is the same – 12 miles.). The event is far from a full length event; it’s a “sprint” distance event. (The ones last year were “super sprint” distance events.)

This month, my triathlon class begins training in open water. I’ll have a month and a half to get used to swimming in the open water. We’ll begin at Barton Springs, but I’m hopeful that I’ll have at least one opportunity to swim in Decker Lake (where the event will take place) prior to the race day.

Swimming – okay, watch out, I’m about to throw out invented personal theories – is like 4 % physical ability, 8% technique/form and 88% mental ability. So here is what I’m working on in the swimming pool: Keeping my core tight when I swim. Maintaining proper form. Finally, I’ve been envisioning myself as a guppy in the water. Eventually, I’m going to be able to see myself as a fish. I’ll know what color my scales are. I’ll know what my tail looks like, my fins. And while this fish swims, she’s going to be reciting a meditation. It will flow like breath, like a fish breathing under water, natural.

May is the month of my mother’s birthday. May is the month of Mother’s Day. May is when I thought most of her last year – it is when she surprise-popped into my mind as I was completing my second super-sprint triathlon. As soon as I felt her with me, I knew that triathlons would become my personal and private way to spend time with her memory and to celebrate her.

Last year, I had the additional gift of completing the event with a young woman who trained in memory of her brother who had died in a glacier climbing accident (and who had been training for an event he did not get to complete).

This year, I have the pleasure of competing with one of my classmates – a fantastic writer, as far as I am concerned. I’d asked her early on if she was interested in taking this training class with me, and I was so excited when she decided to do it. In truth, she’s become a motivating and comforting work partner. We get together and talk and laugh, and then our computers come on, and we sit for hours, focused and productive – sometimes on schoolwork, sometimes on personal projects, sometimes on earning our keep (that would be her, since my keep is attached to school for now).

I’ve also met a couple of women in my training class whose – “company” is not the right word; “aura” is not the right word – essence I enjoy greatly. Their inner personalities, which seem to radiate out from their skin, are shiny and kind and open and genuine. I know that sounds like some new agey shit, but it’s what I feel when I’m in the triathlon class with them. (Come to think of it, it’s the sense I have about my classmate who’s also training.) Both women are as new as to Austin as I am (one transplanted from the UK and the other transplanted from CA); both are mothers of three; both are about ten years my senior; both will be doing a triathlon for the first time.

I’m looking forward to the event. I don’t have the same wide-eyed-oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this wonder I had last year. Now, I believe it entirely. I’m doing a triathlon. Rolls off my tongue without any amazement or confusion; it doesn’t feel impressive or strange, there’s no –wait-who-am-I-again? going on in my head.

I’m considering doing a super sprint on April 28 as a warm up for the “big” May event. The swim in April is only 200 meters – a distance I feel completely at ease with, and it takes place in Lake Travis.

Between the super sprint in April and the sprint event in May, if I complete them anxiety-attack free and with no falling off my bike or dropping my water bottle, I think I’ll be able to call myself a triathlete rather than a try-athlete. I don’t know. Maybe next year when I’m competing on a road bike instead of a mountain bike, maybe then I can say I’m a triathlete. I’ll let you know what feels right in May.

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