Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Death by Triathlon

I am beyond saddened by the recent news of 2 age-group triathletes (which means... non-professional) dying during the Nautica NYC tri this past Sunday. This news has really hit me hard. To think that these unfortunate athletes pushed themselves past their limit unknowingly... is very scary.

Athletes have a tendency to get wacky. We get very focused. And very determined. We listen to a lot of Eminem. And thus, sometimes we make very bad decisions. (Sorry Slim).

I think of my last race. I was so determined to finish, if I had lost my legs, I would have crawled across that finishline legless. And what happened... after being stung by that damn jelly, and then running on an injured knee... I finished. Now after 2 months and 6 weeks of knee PT,  I still cant do anything. MRI is tomorrow. Ramifications!

Anyone who has watched Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham collapse 100 yards from the finishline and then proceed to race on all fours at the Ironman World Champs in 1997 knows what I mean. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTn1v5TGK_w)

There are times like these where your brain stops listening to the rest of your body. All you care about is finishing and you forget that their are ramifications to your actions. Athletes can become so obsessed with the "What", (What will my time be?  What will I place in my age group?  What event will be my best?) they forget the "How" (How will I get there? How will my body react to the extreme conditions? How will I cope with the physical stress), and the why ("Why am I doing this? Why am I motivated to push limits?), and most importantly... the WHO ("Who am I doing this for?" Who are the loved ones on the sidelines that deserve to have me back after this race is over?")

Becoming an athlete is more than training physically. There are so many mental layers. You need to have determination. You need to have an ego. You need to be committed. But you also NEED to be able to stop. There is a reason that triathlon has a high rate of divorce and death. It is because the athletes that participate have the kind of personalities that foster determination, ego, and commitment, but not restraint.

I am committing right now to getting my heart checked before I start training again.  And I think anyone else out there who is an athlete should do that as well.

Till the roof comes off, till the lights go out
Till my legs give out, can’t shut my mouth.
Till the smoke clears out and my high burn out
I'ma rip this shit till my bone collapse

- Eminem

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Playing Seeker

I got yelled at yesterday. And rightfully so. A friend of mine pointed out that I started a blog... and then didnt write. I explained that I had some good reasons, and then proceeded to give my lame excuses. She, a true friend, sort of poo poo-d me, and then she let me have it. And she was right. Something every athlete knows is, you don't start a race, and then give up. You finish.

About the time of my last blog entry, I had a bad race. We all do. Mine consisted of being too nervous and worked up on race day, then swimming in water like a washing machine; getting stung by a very nasty jelly which removed most of the skin on my neck; making a wrong turn on the bike; and lastly screwing up my left knee on the run, resulting in 6 weeks of no activity. But I finished. Then cried. Then DQ'd myself. Then sucked my thumb for a few weeks. That is my excuse. (Insert large gulp of wine here).

As I "rested" (aka a triathlete's worst nightmare), I pondered why the fuck I do this is the first place. I mean really, this is a HOBBY. I do it for FUN. And the definition of the word "fun" in the dictionary is... "Something that provides mirth, or amusement". Now my last race was not "fun". But is that really why a person does triathlon? The race? Is it the journey or the destination that make our hobbies "fun"? When you make a model airplane, do you have more fun making it? Or flying it? (Both sound like torture to me, so maybe this is not a good analogy.)

Another strange little tidbit about me... I am a huge Sci -Fi fantasy buff. Friends and relatives often make fun of me for this. Of course, this is understandable as I have a huge map of Middle Earth on my living room wall. And a Mauraders Map. And Narnia. Shut up.

And like triathlon, I am pretty passionate about reading these types of books. Books that are usually at least 400 -800 pages long and are 4 - 5 books per series. So on average, reading 1 Fantasy Novel = at least 2000 pages. My husband always looks at me like I am nuts when I start reading one of these. And I read them usually over and over again.

Sound like torture? Why do I do it? THE JOURNEY. I find comfort in the journey. When I am not training for a race, I am lost. When I am not reading a 100 lb book about elves, dwarfs, dragons, and wizards, I am lost. For this reason, I am calling myself "The Seeker".

Harry Potter fans out there will understand. Harry plays "The Seeker" on his Quidditch Team. And throughout the HP novels, he is constantly on a Journey. Same with Frodo and Sam. And the Pevensie children. And so many more. They are all seeking something. And in the process of Seeking... there is comfort.

I lost my way a bit. My journey has been interrupted by silliness. I am finding my way back. I am now in week 4 of "rest". So expect a new journey to start in 14 days. See you then.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Comfort of Discomfort - My trip to LA

In another attempt to explain my obsession with Triathlon... I want to share a horrifying business trip I had to go on a few years ago. 

I had worked from home for about 2 years. After booking my ticket for this business trip, I realized the one down side to work-from-home… you become VERY out of touch. And to make things worse, I lived in Suburban NY, and my trip was to Los Angeles, which to me was like Mars… a mars with very beautiful, skinny, stylish, rich Martians.

My theory about LA was that it didn’t matter how rich, thin, and beautiful you were. As soon as you hit LAX, you would breathe in some toxin that made you NEED to be richer, thinner and more beautiful. I loathed LA. Still do. 

About a week before the trip, I realized that I had no idea what to pack. (Insert panic here). Not only did I no longer have clothes appropriate for an office, but even if I did, my old clothes would be completely out of style.  In my desperation, I started searching the Internet for papparazi photos of celebrities. What were they wearing?  I actually checked out “celebrity airport styles” on People.com.

Wow! Pathetic.

Ok…fedora, check. White cotton scarf…the kind you can loosely tie around your neck… as if you just threw it on while running out the door. (Of course in reality, you spent an hour trying to tie it just right.) Check. Ray ban aviators, or wayfarers, Check. Skinny jeans and tall rubber boots… um, ok, I drew the line with that one.

I avoided packing until the last possible minute. 

Maybe, just maybe, this was my attempt at avoidance and denial. Nothing made my “old-ness” and “momm-ness” more obvious than the contents of my suitcase. The space formerly taken by bikinis was now stuffed with spanx. Instead of lacy bras and underwear, I shoved in all my “mommy” bras. I am talking industrial bras … with more hooks than a fishing trip. No wonder my grandmother’s suitcase was always so heavy… she was carrying a 20 lb. grandma girdle. 

OK, undergarments were packed. Next was the really hard part. ACTUAL CLOTHES.  Here was my interior monologue… “I am in my mid-30s. I am in my mid-30s. I am married with 2 kids. I do laundry every day… sometimes multiple times. Between my dogs and my potty-training son, it is not unusual for me to come into contact with poop at least once a day.” 

I finally finished packing and headed into the unknown. JFK Airport. I was terrified.

I got to the gate only to see that half the plane was filled with a youth group. How annoying. All of them were talking about High School Musical, Hunger in Africa, a fight between “Team Edward” and "Team Jacob" over a girl named Bella. (What ever happened to "Team Duckie versus "Team Blane" over Molly Ringwald?) Some of the youths were wearing cute braids. I saw a fedora… a loosely wrapped scarf… Ray Bans… I started sweating.

I finally got on the plane. “Our movie today is going to be “17 Again”.  Of course it was. Great.

I arrived in LA and survived the walk through LAX. No one commented about my lack of style… my “momness”. Although I was a bit embarrassed when I got to baggage claim and asked someone where the rental car desks were. Said guy responds, “Well, 15 years ago they were here. Now you have to take a S-H-U-T-T-L-E.

Fuck you very much.

I found Budget Rent a Car. They took my info and asked if I would like an upgrade. I gratefully declined. The woman at the desk gave a chuckle and then sent me on my way. Parking spot 28. I approached my car with a bit of apprehension. It was a Silver Kia surfer/pimp car with tinted windows and very shiney hubcaps. I double checked the spot #... was this really what I was driving? Was that even legal? Shouldn’t there be an age limit on these cars… no one over 21?  No one in Maternity pants allowed?

I finally got to the hotel and collapsed. 

In the morning, I changed my pants at least 7 times. Jeans… black pants… no, jeans… no, black pants, jeans… you get the drift. I decided on the jeans and a sleeveless “post-marriage” top to dress it up.  I got downstairs and sat waiting to meet my co-workers.  Sitting next to me was Jason. He's a contractor too… and 20… and a surfer… with big tattoos… What fun.  We chat. My boss sees me from across the room…comes over and says, “Hey, Dori…chatting up all the young guys already!”

Sigh. And I hadn’t even had coffee yet. 

I finally saw the 2 people I was supposed to meet. They were both very cool. One was wearing a loose scarf, and the other was wearing a fedora. (I was always very good at research).

After the conference I relaxed a bit in my room... AKA stared at my wardrobe again in terror. After an hour or so, I took a shower and began to get ready for a night out. I opted for a pre-marriage top this time…  it was a leather tube top, and jeans. Not too slutty, but appropriate for a bar on Sunset. I felt pretty good about it.

I was going to see my step-brother, who lives in LA, play in his band at a bar called Les Deux. I had read about this bar/club during my “research”. Apparently it was what People Magazine called a “celebrity hot spot”. Rihanna had been there recently… and it was a long time hangout of Ms. Lindsay Lohan. This of course made me a bit nervous. So nervous in fact, that I felt the need to wear leather. I am not sure what it is about celebrities that make people need to don animal skin…but whatever.

I drove my pimp car to the bar. As I got to the door, I saw that there was a line. So I waited. The bouncer saw me and immediately motioned me through. Hey… I must be super hot. Eat your heart out Ms. Lohan. Get to the back of the line Rihanna… I must have looked like a celeb. Maybe it was my leather top. I knew I still had it. NICE.

As I got to the door I looked back at the line. I noticed that most of the people looked really young. I mean, not just young… like high school young. Then someone says… she’s older than 21 let her through. GOOD GOD. AM I HERE ON TEEN NIGHT? OH NO. IT CAN’T BE.


I got back to the hotel and barfed. Perhaps it was the quesadilla I inhaled for dinner, or maybe it was just time for me to face up to what is really going on. I need to barf… aka purge all the confusion about being comfortable, and stereotypical, and in the middle of my life (which is actually untrue… because I am only 36. If I am really having a mid-life crisis here, that would mean I am counting on being dead at 72… which I hope is not the case. So from now on, let’s just call this my 1/3 life crisis and hope for the best.)

I was sick all night. I mean, full on, sweaty, shaky, barfy, etc sick. It had to be the quesadilla.
I woke up feeling renewed, and slightly sore around the middle from the continuous barfing. I mean, c’mon… my LA prayers were answered and due to a slightly underdone chicken quesadilla, I am officially thinner than I was last night.

I actually felt good.

I realized it was time for a change. Living in my comfortable little bubble made me forget how to feel excitement and tension. The feeling you get when experiencing new things… new places, new people, new loves, new losses. Those feelings you get before an adventure; like the first day of freshman year in high school, or being in a play, or travelling abroad to a totally strange place, or finding your first love. All those things give you THAT feeling. Sometimes it’s not a good feeling…but no matter what, it is very gratifying. Insatiable really.

I live in a Catch-22 and I am lucky and grateful for it. Awesome husband. Superb House. Wonderful Children. Great job. I’m healthy as a horse. No discomfort is forced on me. But everybody needs a little discomfort. 

That is what I get from triathlon. I never know how far I can go. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. But the excitement of not being sure what I can achieve is always there. 

After my trip, I vowed to make more time for tension. Good tension. I decided that EVERYBODY, especially the lucky ones like me, need to get out of the bubble every now and then. We become so comfortable where we are, we forget the need to gain perspective by experiencing a daily dose of insecurity. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Accidental Hiker

How does one accidentally hike up a mountain? Sounds shady. Well, I was in Aspen Colorado. And if you have never been... let me tell you... when you get out of the plane and take a deep breath of that clean mountain air (after the altitude sickness subsides and you get over the nightmare of flying on a plane the size of a minivan), you feel like you can do anything. Colors are brighter. Due to the lack of humidity, your hair looks amazing. You can practically eat the nutrients out of the air. And as you look around at all the Ray Ban wearing, North Face clad, thin, fit, and sun-bleached people, you start to think that maybe you too can look and feel like a cross between Brandy Chastain in her sports bra, and Pippa Middleton. Sporty, Healthy, Tan, snacking on Fruit and Quinoa.  I mean, when these Colorado people want to relax, they climb stuff. Sometimes they climb with their feet, or while on a bike. Sometimes they climb on skiis, or perhaps they just drop their stuff on the floor and climb whatever is vertical and available at the time. How strange... I mean in NY, when people take a load off they watch TV, or go to a bar, or yell at eachother.

I also happen to be with one of the coolest, most inspiring people I have ever met. She is one of those people who did "Outward Bound" as a teenager when the rest of us were lathering up in baby oil, laying around a pool debating strategies on how to win a game of "asshole" or "flip cup". This friend... let's call her Energy-Girl, suggests that we hike up Aspen Mountain. After chuckling and explaining to her my "No Hiking" rule, we get to talking about athletics. I explain that when I was younger, I used to do this little triathlon at summer camp. I was a great swimmer and now that I am done having babies, I want to be more athletic. Of course, after gaining about 60 pounds during 2 pregnancies, the only triathlon I was doing was an eating triathlon. And I was winning. But I tell her, that I always saw myself as an athlete. And then she says the words that change things for me. "In my experience, people are EXACTLY, who they picture themselves to be." Then she suggests I join her for a "short easy hike" the next morning. Hmmm... ok, if it is short and easy.  And if I picture myself as an athlete, maybe I really am. Might be a nice way to enjoy the Colorado fresh air. Sure. Why not.

The next morning, in my lame Nike fake running shoes, I wait at what I think is the entrance to the trail. No one is there. Foolishly, I decide to check it out. So up I go. About 10 minutes later, I am at the end of the trail. Huffing and Puffing, I hear people calling my name. So I hike back down to the beginning to find Energy Girl, and 2 other people waiting for me. I tell them that I have already been to the top. They laugh (which is never a good sign).

I turn around and realize the REAL trail is on the other side. OK, no problem. I've just done a good hike. I am an athlete, remember?. I'm totally up for this. So we start. About 5 minutes and 20 switchbacks later, I realize that my little pre-hike was not a hike. It was a walk. In fact, it wasnt even a walk... it was a stroll. THIS is a hike. Energy Girl keeps looking back at me with a worried look on her face. Perhaps she realizes that I am in a bit over my head. Just a tad. I can't talk, breathe, see, hear, or feel anything. This trail went straight up, and up, and up.

To keep me occupied, Energy Girl keeps telling me stories. Motivating stories ... about people achieving things they never thought possible. The whole time, all I can think about is... how the fuck can she keep talking when I cant even breathe? 10 minutes go by. 20 minutes... 30 minutes... 45 minutes... now I lose track of time and focus on not dying. I try not to be discouraged by the Brandy Chastains and Pippas, who are RUNNING up the trail, which I guess is what Colorado people do after their hour of morning yoga and daily tree-huggin. (Outdoorsy Fuckers).

Finally, I make it to the top and collapse on a large flat rock, which I nickname "Collapse-in-Agony-Rock". After a banana and some water, and about 10 minutes of praying and speaking in tongues... I finally open my eyes. It is a weird sensation. I had never in my life felt so ... good. And strong. And proud. And it's really beautiful. For someone who proudly declared for many years, "I hate nature", this is an interesting turn of events. I no longer wish I had stayed at the hotel with my husband, curled up in bed, watching Golden Girls reruns (although I must admit, I do love them Golden Girls).

Collapse-in-Agony-Rock is where I decide to become what I always pictured myself to be. An athlete. After my moment of clarity, I quickly realize that before I can make the US Soccer Team, and be featured in the British Tabloids, I have to get my ass off the damn mountain. So began the first of many ups and downs to come.