Tuesday was my birthday!! It was quite wonderful. I had a low key brunch with my family on Sunday. Cupcakes were made and consumed with and by the almost three year old. Fortunately, her frosting induced hyperactivity was charming.
Wednesday morning I headed off to Masters swim at the pool. When I first joined Masters I had not swum laps for three years. I was very nervous and the encouragement of the lane dwellers was welcome. “Do what you can!” “It’s ok if you do fewer sets, you’re doing great!” I have had some minor beef with my lane mates in the past. Things like getting lectured about pool etiquette by the person who is always kicking me with her fins.
Well Wednesday it kind of blew up. I did a swim workout by myself about ten days ago. In one hour of Masters I can get in 1400-1600 yards. In 55 minutes by myself I got in 1900 yards. That seemed weird. Now we do more than just front crawl in Masters, and not everything is as fast, but that seemed like a big discrepancy. I realized that I was losing yards because I was waiting for the whole lane to “get” the workout. They wouldn’t pay attention to the coach for some reason, then would have a chat to determine amongst themselves what the workout was, then realize that they needed to ask the coach, then start swimming.
I used to wait for the whole lane to have it down. I stopped waiting a couple of weeks ago. After trying to tell the group the set, because I had been paying attention, and having them ignore me, I started leaving when I knew what to do. They were still faster swimmers, but not fast enough to make up thirty seconds to a minute on me.
So I was swimming in front, cool, right? I thought so. Wednesday we get assigned a set of kicking. I hate kicking, so I grabbed some fins to make it bearable. One of the lane dwellers always wears fins of some sort so I figured this was cool, in terms of etiquette, she being the Emily Post of the Pool. Well, Emily Post and her buddy were going down, side by side with kickboards, almost completely blocking the lane, chatting during the kick set. I thought “Seriously? You gave me a lecture on what not to do and you pull this blatant shit?” I passed them going down, then had to thread through the gap on the way back while they nattered away.
We move on the main set which is this weird down, stop, jump, down, dolphin dive, thingamajig that took a lot of instruction from the coach. We finish the instruction rep and then start the main set. We finish a rep and suddenly there’s the question “How many was that?” I said it was three, the instruction set plus two. The Queen of the Lane (Emily Post’s friend) says it was two.
Well I can fucking count to three. QoL and I say “3” “no 2” to each other and then Emily Post reaches the wall. She comes up and is asked how many reps that is and says “3.” BUT then QoL says it’s two and she changes her story. Because she is there to be buddies and I am new and can’t be right (interpretive license ahoy I know, but fuck them). I was done. “Well, it’s just fucking math” I say and then leave on the next rep (that, by the way, QoL is doing wrong because once again she didn’t listen to the coach).
I finish my workout and go to the locker room. I’m pissed. QoL is in there and proceeds to tell me that I shouldn’t get upset. There’s no reason to get upset. It’s just swimming. I say “It doesn’ t matter” because I don’t want to get into it. She didn’t ask “Why did you get upset.” She had no concern for me. She communicated to me that my feelings were wrong and that I was wrong to be upset over swimming. She gaslighted me and tried to emotionally negate me. No compassion, no camaraderie, just someone who felt they needed to dictate what I did and control how I reacted in the future.
Now, I know that what other people do shouldn’t matter to me, how many reps they think we have done should not be important, but I’m exhausted by these people. Every week they miscount something, they have gone out of their way to communicate that they know what to do and I need to learn what to do. People who don’t take the rest intervals, people who think 4 * 2 is the same as 8. People who are here “just for fun” and “it doesn’t matter.” Well that’s them and that’s fine _for them_. I am in deadly earnest in the pool. Yes, I think it’s super fun! It’s also really, really important to me. What I do is not a commentary on them or their correctness or their righteousness. I’m here to get coached, to get better, to get FASTER. Frankly, I’m here to win. I don’t know what I’m gonna win, but I’m fucking going for it.
I’m leaving my Masters group. Yes, it’s a very good deal financially. It’s a crap deal emotionally and I won’t go back until I can move up a lane and not have to deal with these people. To quote my brother “You do not have to prove anything to anyone.” I don’t have to keep going to an environment that is somewhere I don’t want to be.
Sunday, Febraury 1, 2015, I completed the 2015 Tour of Sufferlandria. It was right up there with a marathon as one of the hardest physical endeavors I have ever attempted.
Nine days in a row, get on a bike trainer and bust out a hard workout. Day 8 had something like 125 high intensity intervals, including more than 80 sprint efforts. I cried, I yelled, I learned new things about what I prefer in the pad of my bike shorts.
Now social media is not perfect, there are very negative elements to the ubiquity of networks of people posting innocuous but vapid memes or vitriolic, bigotry without consequence.
The Tour of Sufferlandria is an example of the positive potential of the internet. The Sufferfest itself only exists by virtue of a highly available, high bandwidth, digital information delivery system. The Tour is organized over the internet, as a benefit to the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. The highlight of the Tour has been the Facebook group. For all that the Sufferfest spouts words like “pain, misery, agony” the group has been a constant flow of camaraderie and support.
On the eighth day, when I was very close to cracking, I thought of Dame Alissa Schubert and I fought on. On the last sprint of that day and the last sprint of the tour, I thought of her again. On the ninth day, when I did not want to get on my bike trainer for another two hours, I logged onto Facebook and there were dozens of posts from others exactly where I was. To find the energy and the motivation to complete the tour I just needed to know I wasn’t alone.
I bought my first Sufferfest video in 2010. It was so cool! They are very well put together and I find the music especially is programmed in such a way that if I am having trouble hitting my power target I can just close my eyes and tune in to that and I’ll be right on, it’s magic. But they were for tough people, for “real” cyclists. I really, really wanted a Sufferfest jersey to ride in but I told myself I had to earn it.
I told myself that I could have it if I was fast enough. I didn’t know how fast that was, but I knew I didn’t want to look like a poseur. If I was going to fly that flag I wanted to come correct.
That was bullshit. Seeing so many Sufferlandrians this last week I’ve seen that speed has nothing to do with. What size your body is, your FTP, your average speed, how much you sweat, none of that matters. Will matters.
Having the drive to get better, the will to work, that is what makes a Sufferlandrian. Getting up, wanting it enough to play less video games, get up early, make the childcare arrangements, deal with the soreness, that’s it. If you’re making space to give the energy, you’re here.
My husbeast did me the great compliment of telling people about the Tour. Proudly he told friends and family about his crazy, sporty wife. He gets it. When I told him about the stages and how hard they would be he would say “That sounds terrible! Have fun!” He knew that I had earned that Sufferfest jersey long before I did.
I finished the Tour and it was amazing. I was hard, it hurt, I cried, and today I feel that much more confident and sure of my own strength. Will I do it in 2016? I don’t know, but I’m very glad I did it this year.
So I’m on this journey to train hella hard (and smart!) to get as fast as I can at triathlon-ing. The earliest I’m going to race the swim-bike-run format is February, 2015. I have months until I will test my fitness in a race. There are fitness tests on my training calendar but right now I’m in this limbo of working out a lot (really, a lot!), and sort of beating the crap out of myself, and not knowing if it’s doing a damn thing besides make me tired.
I have a great fear that I’m slow, that nothing I do will make me faster. In my brain slow=fat and fat=lazy, stupid, bad, horrible, etc. So yay, irrational fears!
This past weekend I got on the bike trainer for my first extended bike workout. Unlike the daily bike commute, there is nowhere to hide on a trainer. You can’t coast, there are not stop lights. When the schedule says 40 minutes, there will be pedaling for 40 minutes. Because the weekend schedule was crazy, I lumped my run in right after this ride.
It was easy. 40 minutes watching old Ironman Hawaii coverage, alternating between the hoods and the drops to build my arm and neck strength and keeping my heart rate in an easy work zone and my cadence high. No worries! That was probably faster than I have ever actually ridden in a race and then I busted out 30 minutes with the stroller, toddler and doggie. No speed records but I covered most of the distance of a sprint triathlon in a time I would have been jealous of four years ago and I wasn’t even tired.
So yeah, it’s working. Strangely enough, so far, self coaching and working out by myself has been effective. With the exception of swimming, which I do at masters and it kicks my ass, I don’t workout with other people. There is no temptation to slow down and chat. Conversely I don’t go too fast trying to keep up with faster athletes. I’m training myself and it feels awesome.