Sink, then swim

When I was four or five I nearly drowned. After that I was afraid of water.

Couldn’t take showers until high school, couldn’t keep myself afloat in a pool until 19. Learned to swim properly at 30 to do my first triathlon.

I have done triathlons for ten years, building a massive toolkit of coping skills for anxiety and panic. I started full custom triathlon coaching last year. A few months ago I was telling my coach about my whole history with water and she said “It sounds like you have some Post Traumatic Stress from that.”

Because so many other people in my life had “Bigger Problems” or “Real Problems,” because I was able to cope, I was able to go on despite my anxieties, I had never thought to even consider the impact of my near drowning in anything other than practical terms e.g. how do I swim, how do I shower? It had never occurred to me that there was anything other than just dealing with it in the moment.

After under-swimming my fitness in two races my coach said “I think it’s time for you to talk to the sports psychologist.” I had a session with a psychologist named Will and we went through an exercise that was developed to help people with Post Traumatic Stress. It seemed pretty simple and easy.

I think that once you live with the memory of a traumatic event for long enough, you stop recognizing what it brings up as a problem because you need to live your life. As Lady Gaga said about trauma – you need to put it in a box so you can keep functioning and living your life. So sitting there and ranking my feelings of fear and panic at close to a ten was the normal I had developed.

I will always be grateful that I learned to look my fear in the face and say “That’s cool, let’s go anyway.” That I have learned how to pull myself out of a panic attack. How to observe my thoughts and choose my reactions to them. It had never once occurred to me that I could have no fear, no panic, no anxiety.

Two weeks ago I went swimming in open water for the first time since my session with Will. It was just…swimming. In a wetsuit in the San Francisco Bay. It was cold and dark and it was just swimming. Not a one hour exercise in anxiety management with some swimming added. I was in the pool this Monday and we were going hard and it just felt like running.

Now that I’m in this new space I’m realizing how much of my life was spent managing constant anxiety. That one experience had jammed the panic button in my brain so hard that my whole life was in one way or another brushing that button, triggering that very real and justified fear that was now in the way of everything else in my life.

That constant anxiety is falling away and I’m working to identify the habits I built to cope with it and rebuild my life to reflect my healing. I’m spending a lot of my days thinking “Why am I doing this? I am acting as if I had anxiety about this but I do not feel anxious. This is a coping habit and I can let it go.”

I’m telling this story because I you to know that no matter what anyone else’s problems are, your problems are real. There is treatment available and it can work. You deserve and are worthy of treatment.


Oakland Triathlon Festival – Reasonable Goats

Oakland Triathlon is coming up on August 18, 2019 so it’s time to make a plan.

Race performance is an expression of your reaction to the conditions not only on race day but during the training period.

I hurt my left ankle quite badly in May. It held up through Folsom Lake Triathlon and for most of the Tilden Tough Ten. I kicked the last fifty yards of Tilden and absolutely jacked my foot. I was smart about it and took time off, went to the Physical Therapist, and did my homework to rest and recover.

The good news is that particular injury is almost completely healed up. The bad news is that there is a host of other shit going on with my feet that I’m managing and I took a few weeks off of running during the build up for this race. I’ve been back to it for a few weeks and I’m feeling great. I’m still being very careful of my ankle and foot health.

During the summer school break I have my daughter Friday night through Sunday night. This means I don’t get out for a three hour low intensity ride with a transition run on the weekends. The summer has had a lot of trainer rides – especially during my ankle rehab we filled the gap with more trainer work. That, combined with not being able to run has resulted in a lack of big training days. I do have a lot of fitness from the rest of the year so I’m not un-fit. I haven’t done many bricks and I need to get a bit of transition sharpening in.

Swimming has been going very well over the summer. This is the first time I haven’t taken a four to five month break and it shows. I’m faster and more importantly have a done a lot of work on getting more comfortable and confident with hard efforts in the water. I was unable to push as hard as I wanted at my last two races so I under-swam my fitness. I want to get closer to what my pool times say my open water time could be and I think I’ve done a lot of the work to get there.

With all those factors in consideration I’m going to be very reasonable in my expectations for Oakland.

Swim – 1500M (1640 yds)

My last race at this distance I went just under 40 minutes. That race was fresh water and very choppy so I think I can cut a pretty good chunk off. I definitely want under 40 minutes and I think I can get below 38. Super stretch, “I’m having the best swim ever plus this swim always goes with the current” goal is 36 minutes. (EDIT: I just checked the tide table for race day. The tide will be ebbing and almost slack at race time so the benefit will be minimal).

T1 – The transition from the swim to the bike is very long and includes running up and down three flights of stairs. I always drop shoes at the swim exit and take my wetsuit off right after the swim rather than after I’ve run for five minutes. The last time I did this race I did T1 in 8:25 which includes getting out of the wetsuit, grabbing shoes, and a bathroom visit. I will still do all of those and I’m aiming for 8 minutes.

Bike – 40K (24.5 miles)

This leg has a power target, so I will stick it there regardless of speed. I’m thinking it will be between 16 and 17 mph average so somewhere between 1:27 and 1:33.

T2 – 1:45

I will not be prideful. I will approach my transition with humility. I will focus on execution rather than speed. (This is my way of saying that I usually do this very quickly but I don’t want to get caught up in making this fast and sacrificing my overall effort. They don’t give out podium places for transition times)(Also, I’ve been running in socks lately and that’s gonna slow me down)

Run 10K (6.2 miles)

Running has been coming along. More than feeling fast, I’ve been feeling steady and controlled. This leg has a heart rate target, so regardless of speed I’m going to set the effort and sit there. Training suggests I should be able to run 12:30 – 13:00 per mile and that would give me any where from 1:14 – 1:20 and I’ll be happy if I’m under 1:30 because I haven’t run that far in almost three months. If I’m feeling strong after the halfway point of the run I’ll try to put in a push but I’m going to be the daintiest little flower ever coming down the stairs after the overcrossing. And no kick at the end (or a very, very gentle one)

Overall – My PR for the course is 3:37:35 and my training strongly suggests that I can meet that and maybe beat it a bit, which would be very, very cool but anything at 3:45 or below will be just fine by me.

Welcoming & Wanting

I’ve felt so very alone for years and I felt like I didn’t know how to be friends with people or that no one was my friend, acquaintances but not friends.

The other day I was really thinking on why, what I thought would make someone a friend in my brain and I was able to separate my friends into two categories. This really is helping me to understand and break through my negative perceptive filter (seeing everyone else’s actions as being about me and thus an active rejection of me at all times rather than mostly having nothing to do with me and being neutral).

My two categories are Wanted and Welcome.

There are hundreds and hundreds of people who Welcome me. If I called they would answer, if I said “Let’s hang out!” and then set a date they would joyfully welcome me and love being with me. If they see me somewhere we will totally spend some time. But they aren’t calling me, they aren’t pressing for my time, they aren’t pushing to be an active and frequent part of my life. (AND THAT’S OK! People have their own things happening and their lives don’t need to be about me!) These people Welcome me.

Then there is Wanted – I can think of very few people (less than five) people who are friends who Want me. People who reach out without my having to reach out first, people who ask for my time, ask for my energy (this is reciprocal – no energy vampires here – I do the same to them, we Want each other). People who send me links and pictures and memes because they are thinking of me. People who are actively asking for my time, my energy, my presence.

When I was expecting everyone that I applied the word “friend” to to fulfill the Wanted criteria, there was practically no one. I was basically friendless and totally alone. When I gave myself these categories and permission to think of people as “Welcome” friends that really opened my perception of how many friends I do have. Just because they aren’t beating down the door doesn’t have to disqualify them or me from friendship.


Race Report! – Discovery Bay Tri

Last fall I decided that part of turning forty and being single would be getting custom triathlon coaching! I’ve been doing that for a while, which is it’s own thing, and this was my first race with actual “Coach’s Orders!”

I’ve done the Discovery Bay Sprint tri as my first race of the season the last three years. It’s a grassroots race, field is capped at 300 for both Sprint and Olympic Distances, and I get there early enough to park about 30 yards from transition.

I was oddly nervous this year. I actually got into open water before the start of my racing season, which was the day before. I had a sort of rough go of it, nutrition was off, and that was in my head so I had extra swim anxiety on top my pre-existing swim anxiety.

I just wasn’t as dialed in as I have been for some other races. I forgot my race belt (managed to borrow the exact same race belt that I have from a teammate, go OTC!) I was feeling just a bit lost all morning. I was ten minutes behind schedule when I got into line for the porta potty the last time. Now this isn’t late, it’s just that I was behind perfect and I knew it. The nerves were horrendous. I was practically crying. But there was about 5% of me looking at this saying “Wow, these are some really bad race day nerves!” and not participating in the breakdown.

I nattered at a random person as I walked down to the water and that helped. I saw another ETPA athlete and got some water off of them for the dry mouth that had developed. I was able to zip up my wetsuit with no help!!

SWIM 700 Yards 15:44 2:15/100 Overall Place 70/114

I jumped in with about three minutes before the first wave and six minutes before my race start. It was cold this year! about 58 was what I heard and I felt that all the way in my chest. Brain freeze and yay! more panic. I just held on to the dock and waited for the men’s wave to go.

They went and I took some strokes to get the sighting line right, check my goggle fit, make sure my goggles weren’t fogging up too much. Then it was go time. For all the nerves, I was fine when the horn sounded and we were off.

The word from Raeleigh was to find my edge. Well, I didn’t. I’ve had a mantra for swimming for a while and I lost it. I swam strongly but not as fast as I could have. I tried to kick up my pace once or twice but my chest started to get tight and I just backed right off. My head game was not all the way there and I knew it.

I stayed patient, I kept my strokes long and I kept swimming all the way to the end. No in swim panic, just steady effort.

And when I came out I saw that I hadn’t actually started my watch, so no data beside time. I staggered when I came out which probably cost me a couple of seconds to the timing mat, but that’s all part of the game and it counts.

(Last year was 17:10 – two years ago was 15:39, feeling pretty good about that!)

T2 – 4:39

I was shaky as hell. Heart racing, dizzy. Trying to jog all the way but also trying to got some semblance of control. Top half of the wetsuit off, cap and goggle off on the run up. Had to sit down to get my wetsuit off, feeling slow as anything and like always – top half for speed. 2018 T1 – 5:38.

Bike – 16 miles 58:08 86/114

On the bike I had a power target to meet, not too slow, not too fast. I had to do some watch wrangling to get my power displayed. No riding to feel today! I forgot to lube my bike shoes, so I got to practice really shoving my feet in. I did a big practice session a couple of weeks before for getting into/out of my shoes on the bike, I just forgot I’d be wet this time. Took some breaths and did the thing.

I sat down and tried to match my effort to my target power. It was tough because there were gusting winds, slight rises and depressions and changing road surface. My right hip started to complain about half way through and I was on the look out for having to call it a day. No idea what it was but it didn’t carry on to the run, so I’ll call it stiffness and carry on. After the race my average ride power was exactly in the zone I was aiming for and I rode in under an hour so I am well happy with it.

Last year was a 59:41, so again, improving!

T2 – 1:02

My pride and joy! Which I just whiffed. I couldn’t find my spot! I was just blanking and my towel had gotten thrown over my shoes and I was just dazed and confused for a couple of seconds.

I managed to get it parked and then it was just odd. My brain could not quite wrap around what I was doing. Still grabbed my stuff and got going, just not as fast as usual.

Run 5k (it was long, if Garmin is to be believed) 38:54 12:33 pace 95/114

The run was pretty nice! We had lovely weather all day, low 60s, clear, and dry. Some wind but nothing heinous. I got myself all together, heart rate monitor slipped but I got that sorted set off at my target heart rate.

It’s an out and back so I spent my time cheering on everyone who was coming towards me and everyone who was passing me. It was very, very relaxing to not have to decide whether I was going to chase any of the people who passed me. I had a target and I was going to hit it and that was my whole job.

,Some shin splints for the first mile or so but no serious issues, no blisters either. I gave a tiny kick at the end and that was that. Saw teammates, had a beer and then went for my cool down. Yep, I finished my race and then went running again.

All in all I had fun, I had a very controlled race, I was happy with having a race plan to race to and then racing to the plan. Discovery Bay gets a little better every year, they are very good about incorporating racer feedback. This year they moved a water stop so we hit it twice during the 5k instead of just once at the turnaround.

All things being equal, I’ll probably be out there next year!

-fh

How do you like it?

I took a love languages quiz today.

I was really paying attention and what I saw was that words of affirmation mean absolutely fuck all to me. Not that they are not good, but when given the choice I will almost never choose them. Words are the easiest thing to dismiss, for the brain weasels to either erase, deflate, or turn into something bad.

I’m Acts of Service, all day, every day. Then touch, then gifts. Tangible things are inured to the brain weasels. They can’t tell me the garbage didn’t get taken out, they can’t interpret that someone made me coffee into something other than that. With the bonus of if someone does me an act of service they save me energy and the more energy I have, the easier it is to properly recognize the brain weasel thoughts and put then “over there in the corner with their crazy friends.” It’s a virtuous cycle.

What’s your love language? If you had your druthers, how would others give you affection?

Race Report – Barb’s Tri

(Ed Note: I wrote this ages ago and am putting it up incomplete)

This summer hasn’t been the best for my training. I got some sort of wonderful lung thing that started as a cough and then continued being a cough for a month. Not optimal for sports that depend on the body being able to get, you know, oxygen.

But, in spite of this, I signed up for Barb’s Tri. Why, Fyre? Why sign up for a race when you haven’t been able to train?

My club set this as a focus race this year. Barb’s Race was the only women’s only half distance triathlon in the US. It was run concurrently with the Vineman Full Distance triathlon and was a fundraiser to support people living with cancer. When WTC (you know them as Ironman) bought Vineman a couple of years ago, the bought the rights to the name “Barb’s Race” and promptly killed it stating that it didn’t fit into their model.

This was the first year of the new Barb’s Tri, started by that same Barb. So bronchitis or no bronchitis, I wanted to be there to support this race. The fundraising was modest – just $100. The distance was short – a sprint. I’d been training all spring so the distance was doable, I needed to stick with what my body was telling me on the day.

I sent out a fundraising blurb on Facebook but I was completely prepared to throw down the $100 on top of registration. Well, BAM! Donations! I was covered and right quickly with many messages of “Fuck Cancer!”

So now I really had to do it, didn’t I?

There is a wonderful freedom when you race without expectations. I didn’t worry about how fast I was going to go, all I concerned myself with was racing within my limits aka – not puking or feeling like I couldn’t breathe.

OTC had a fine turnout (the first three people in transition were from my club) so there were many people to complain to about racing with bronchitis or whatever the hell was wrong with me. As I warmed up in the water I was very focused on how I was feeling. I felt great. I was able to swim without any distress, which was my goal.

I was racing the sprint distance – 750 meter swim, 12.5 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. The swim started wonderfully. Warm water, mild current in the river, a small race with lots of camaraderie. Then my goggles started leaking. I stopped swimming three times in the first half to try and clear them but had no luck. I resigned myself to having one eye to sight with and stayed calm and even.

When I hit the beach I walked. Usually I push transitions but not this day. Swim to bike is when my heart rate spikes and I was trying to avoid having my lungs do too much. I sauntered up the beach and over the grass to transition and got on my bike without any urgency.

As I got going on the bike I took my time and got very, very warm. Then I felt a bit of aggression and I wanted to push. My body was more than willing to pick up the pace. I very happily spun through the country (it’s a lovely course) and passed a couple of people. It was just fantastic conditions and I was having a great time.

I took a slight wrong turn on the way back but didn’t go too far and corrected to get back to transition. Whoops! I’ve made a bonehead move in most of my races this year. I’ve been able to laugh them off, which is great. I’m able to not take myself too seriously or beat myself up, I just have a giggle at my silliness and let it go.

Back in transition, I wasn’t pulling any fancy maneuvers for dismounting. I rolled up and quickly changed my shoes, grabbed my hat and got out on the run, again, careful to keep it comfortable.

I chugged along. Not pushing hard but definitely keeping it moving. I’ve finally learned to run “comfortably hard.” No spikes, no troughs, just one level effort start to finish.  I did stop to drink at the aid station in the spirit of not going too hard.

I came into the finish behind three women. If I’d been in better shape and in the space to push I would have tried to out kick them but that wasn’t the order of the day. I jogged in to the finish

She’s not hungry

My daughter is five. She recently started kindergarten and we have settled into a morning routine. She usually has cereal for breakfast.

This morning she didn’t finish it. I saw that bowl with milk and little “o”s in it and I got mad. “I work for the money for that food!” “Why is she wasting food?” She doesn’t intend those things though.

Why was I mad? I was mad because I would never have done that. I filled the bowl and sprinkled sugar on it and drank down every last drop of milk. Why? Because I was hungry. She’s not finishing it because she isn’t hungry for it.

My kid has enough to eat. She eats when she is hungry and stops when she is full.  We make sure that she gets enough protein and eats vegetables and don’t make her clean her plate.

I get frustrated when she doesn’t eat a lot or rejects food without trying it. Her tastes and appetite change. But sometimes she’s not hungry and that’s a good thing.

 

More Data for Better Living – Swim Stroke Rate

So I know my stroke rate in the pool is slow – usually around 44 spm. I was racing on Sunday and my stroke rate was ~60 spm. I know that a faster stroke rate is better, and it’s definitely better for open water – I hadn’t been aiming for it, I just fell into it. I went back and looked at my previous four races this year. Same deal – my arms always move faster when I’m racing.

I’m much faster in the water when I race and I had been chalking that up solely to the wetsuit but now I’m thinking it’s a combo of wet suit and a higher cadence.

Race Report – Discovery Bay Tri

Well, I set some goals, let’s see how I did.

Discovery Bay Tri – Sprint Saturday, April 22, 2017.

700 Yard Swim – 16 (15.4) Mile Bike – 5k Run

There were family logistics to consider so I didn’t sleep at home, which meant that I didn’t sleep. Not too much of a bother and I was up bright and early. Or really, when my alarm went off I lay in bed and visualized by race for twenty minutes.

Got to the race on time, got checked in and set up. Set up the technical error for later and chatted with fellow racers.  There were quite a few first timers and this was a good race for them! Very small (about 160 registered), flat course, easy water.  I handed our some spare equipment and advice, mostly to wait at the start of the swim and not go off too fast.

“Here comes the sun, little darling…”

As it always does on race day, the time flew by. There are always first timers showing up fifteen minutes before the start like it’s a 5k and they can stroll up. I never know whether to laugh or feel sorry for them. I didn’t feel too nervous until I had to put on my wetsuit and then I started getting butterflies.

The Olympic Race went off at 8 (a very civilized start time) and I got into the water ten minutes later to warm up. I really warmed up, not just paddling around to get used to the temperature, which was a perfect 66 degrees, but really revving up my heart rate a couple of times. Getting out of breath with a few accelerations and then hanging out waiting for the start.

Swim – Goal 17:30 – Race Time – 15:29 – Woo Hoo!!!

We were swimming north, which is great because we never had to sight into the sun. I was nice and warm. I had confidence from my training and I went for it. Not too hard but definitely pushing my pace. I was aggressive at the start and going around the buoy. My sighting was good and I finally figured out how to keep my goggle from fogging up! I could actually see for the whole race and it was awesome.

T1 – Goal 6:00 – Race Time – 4:16. This seems good but let me tell you what happened.

I have a bit of pride around my transitions. So much pride that I kept my bike shoes on my pedals, even though I haven’t practiced getting into them while moving since last May. Yeah. Good T1 time that led to a complete stop 400 yards into the bike to put my damn shoes on. And it was a tiny transition area so even if I had run in the shoes it wouldn’t have cost me much time at all. I lost the forest for the trees right there but I was able to laugh at myself and learn from it.

Bike – Goal – 1:00:00 – 16 MPH   – Race Time 57:06 – 17 MPH

Despite my technical snafu, my bike time was good.  It felt amazing. I was able to laugh off my jackassery and get stuck in. The course was very well marked and volunteers were doing a great job. My handling was not confident as this was my first outdoor ride on my road bike this year. So there are a couple of minutes I could have shaved off with better technical execution.

My effort was steady and strong, with a good cadence. I never got tired. I spent a solid amount of time in the drops – which is something I’m working on improving. There was a woman in my age group who was right in front of me for half the bike. I passed her just after the halfway point but she passed me right back (and then slowed down to the same speed so she just wanted to be in front). We turned east with about four miles to go and I noticed two things. 1) We had a headwind and 2) she hadn’t been in her drops the whole race. I got in my drops, passed her and dropped her. I was going too hard at that point but damn if it didn’t feel good. She was a few seconds behind me coming in to T2 (Spoiler, she didn’t pass me on the run).

T2 – Goal – 2:00 – Race Time – 1:05

Still got it!

Run – Goal – 32:30 – 10:30/mile – Race Time – 33:40 – 10:52

Well – I’m ok with it.  I raced hard. The run was pancake flat with no cover. It was a slog. About a half mile out from transition a newbie triathlete I had been chatting with passed me. I saw that she was in my age group. Ugh. I stuck to my pace. She was about 100 yards in front of me at the turnaround. I thought I could get her.

Last year my age group was six people and I really wanted a podium. I kicked it up just a tiny notch. She wasn’t coming back though. We were both passing people at the same rate. I was hurting. Then I saw her walk to take a drink from her bottle. She started to look tired.

There are two ways you can go at the end of a race. There is the “horses coming back to the barn” surge of speed and there is the “Whew, that’s over with” relaxation and slowing. There was a slight downhill and she didn’t speed up on it. I started pushing harder. Then a tiny up hill to a hairpin turn and the finish chute. I pushed up the hill and turned she was ten yards in front of me.

Well if there’s one thing I can do, it’s sprint forty yards for sixth place! I passed her right before the line and had to bend over to not fall down. I very properly negative split my run and ran so hard at the end I nearly threw up – so a standard day at the office for me.

Total Time – Goal – 1:57:30 – Race Time – 1:51:35

Overall 31/64  Division 9/25  Age Group – 6/11

It’s funny, last time this race was run, that time would have gotten me second in my age group – so I hit the time I wanted.

Super fun day. I would absolutely recommend this race, well organized, well run, would race again.

Onward!

-FH

First Race of the Season!

Woo Hoo!

Discovery Bay Tri – Sprint Saturday, April 22, 2017.

700 Yard Swim – 16 (15.4) Mile Bike – 5k Run

Continuing my two year tradition – this will probably be my first open water swim of the year.  Not exactly setting myself up for success. I may try to get a quick one in this weekend along with some transition practice.

Last year I managed to mount my bike with the shoes on the pedals and get into them while riding (and not knock either myself or anyone else down). I did not manage to get my feet out while riding. I had practiced the maneuver with dry feet. When I tried to take my feet out at the end of the bike leg, the moisture from the swim had stuck the shoes to my feet and I couldn’t get them off. This year I will practice with wet feet and lube my bike shoes so they slip off more easily.

(I don’t do the “flying mount” (shown at :55) or dismount. I run my bike to the mount line and then mount regularly, using my clipped on shoes as pedals until I get some speed, then put my feet in. On the way back my goal is to get my feet out, stop the bike and then dismount regularly. The time savings I get is from not having to run in my bike shoes.)

This is a very small race. Last year in the ten year age group there were six women. I think I have a chance at coming top ten! Actually, I think I have a chance at the podium – so that’s exciting/motivating/scary.

The swim is in a freshwater marina, so no current and a very “honest” swim time. T1 is ~400 yards. The bike and run are dead flat and T2 is short. I’m thinking it will be fast but not super fast. The training plan I’ve been following hasn’t had much in the way of outdoor riding which gives me very little context for what my effort level is going to look like in terms of speed.

I’m going with a conservative prediction on this one.

Swim – 17:30 – 2:30/100y  Swim training has been going quite well. I’ve been able to hold 2:36/100 for 1000 yards and that was moseying along. I’m not giving myself any wetsuit credit or drafting credit. I will be wearing a wetsuit, so this could be much, much faster.

T1 – 6:00 – Big cushion here. I have done a slightly shorter transition in under four minutes but I don’t know the terrain.

Bike – 1:00:00 – 16 MPH  As I said, no idea what my outdoor speed is right now. My last flat bike race was a touch over 17 and that was almost a year ago.

T2 – 2:00 – I haven’t transitioned in 10 months. This could be crap or it could be under a minute.

Run – 32:30 – 10:30/mile – Running has been going ok but I’m not feeling super fast right now. Holding 10:30 will probably actually be really hard and this could be closer to 35.

I’m aiming for fun, fast fun, but mainly fun.

Onward!