Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Review

Had someone told me at the beginning of the year, that I would learn the most about myself and my love for triathlon by not racing, I never would have believed it. But then again, we all know how unpredictable life can be. Twists, turns, trials, and tribulations: it’s all there. Trust me.

My 2008 triathlon season can be summed up in a few choice words, including (but not limited to): growing, learning, frustration, passion, love, hate, perseverance, survival, hope, joy, and resolve.

Okay, MOST people’s 2008 season can be summarized with those adjectives as well. I’ll give you that much.

Through the training in January and February, Camp HTFU, and my time in California pre-crash, I thought I knew who I was. I figured that I was unshakeable, unflappable. I was ready for the best season yet, races across the country, a new and wonderful coach to work with, and the promise of an even brighter future in the sport. I was wrong.

Funny how life works, eh?

Just when I thought I had it figured out, I crashed. KA-BOOM!

Looking back, though the experience was truly horrific and terrifying, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. At the time it was incredibly difficult. Painful, filled with sadness and sorrow. But through the process, I grew. With the support of friends, family, and many of YOU (who I have never met), I got through the worst bits.

The physical rebuilding and rehabilitation was just the beginning. The subsequent depression was the worst. But something happens when you hit rock bottom. You are forced to reckon with who you are, and why you are the way you are.
Grammatically incorrect, but I don’t care.

When questioned by non-athletes about why I race, my response is twofold: 1) I love it and 2) Because it’s through the process that I learn the most about myself.
There’s just something so brutally honest about putting yourself out there, laying everything on the line, pouring your heart and energy into the one task of getting as fast as you possibly can from point A to point B. It’s not always pretty: the mind tricks, the pain, the steely grit and determination it takes just to make it to the finish line…It’s the epitome of survival at the very core.

But it’s real.

You always have the option of quitting, of stopping, of putting an end to the pain. A true measure of who you are is what you do when faced with these questions (that only you can answer).

And that’s where I find the greatest reward. At our deepest, darkest moments, there is always hope. There is always light. And before I sound too much like a “Lord of The Rings” fan, we are never alone. And in the end, it’s not about fast times or overall place, it’s the journey itself.

I don’t think that I really understood the concept pre-crash. Yes, I knew about race pain and “pushing through”, but I didn’t recognize or understand the process that gets us to where we’re going.

Or more importantly: why?

Sitting in my kitchen today, I feel like a very different athlete than what I was 365 days ago. Physically I’m healed, have been given a clean bill of health. Through the tremendous support of family, friends, total strangers, doctors, physical therapists, and many many countless others – I can say that I’m 100% recovered.

Mentally and emotionally, I’m a very different athlete. Cautious? Absolutely. But I’m smarter, more patient, and willing to work for the big picture. I understand and realize that the end result isn’t the prize (although it certainly is nice), but it’s the process and the journey where we learn and grow the most.

I know that I’m not defined by race results, splits, or times that I’ve run. And that the overall place or time has very little value if I haven’t gained anything from the process itself.

So there you have it.

Not the kind of year one could ever plan for. But one that I’m eternally grateful for, nonetheless.

Thank you to everyone for your love, strength and support this past year. I am continually amazed by the friendships, the outreach, and the support from individuals whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting. There are simply too many to thank –

May your 2009 season be the BEST yet! Enjoy the journey, learn from the process, and let’s HAVE FUN!

I know that I’m MORE than ready…starting on the 3rd of January. The New Year’s Resolution 10k! Hooray!

See you at the races!

Monday, December 29, 2008


Yes, my friends who are covered in the white stuff, you read the title correctly.


And to prove that we do get it here in sunny So Cal, I've got photographic evidence. Sure, we had to ascend to 5000+ feet in order to get them. But it does exist.

For the record, last week Nathaniel and I drove to Mt. Palomar. Yes, it felt slightly odd to be on the mountain sans bike. We did make great time to the top, though... But lest I feel too sorry for myself (or my bike), I need to remember that next week I'll be back.

With the bike. And a shit tonne of gear to pile on for the descent. It is cold up there!

Seriously - Nathaniel and I were bored the day after Christmas, so we decided to go for a drive. No - not shopping (we were "shopped" out), and nothing, absolutely nothing involving food or wine tasting. The Berenstein Bears and too much holiday food and drink! Nope, we have officially started doing things that "old married couples" do.

We have resorted to taking long drives in the country.

(Raise your hand if you're under the age of 40 and have ever done this with your significant other. Didn't think so.

But in our defense, we opted to hike at the top.

We just weren't wearing the proper foot attire, hence the butt scoot:
Nothing says Safety! and Great Planning! like old running shoes while one is trying to hike down a steep, ice-crusted mountain slope. Had I slipped, the frozen creek bed at the bottom of the big hill would have saved me. At least that was my thought at the time. The dignity would have been gone, but at least I wouldn't be over an edge or anything.

It was a great time, though. I survived Nathaniel's fast driving through mountain passes, and he didn't roll his eyes too much at my back-seated driving. In my defense, the guy drives as though he's flying a helicopter: low and fast! Throw in a few sharp banks, er, turns, and you've got the general idea.

And there I am, sitting in the front seat, right leg firmly stomped on the invisible break on my side. As though that will help. Occasionally I would say helpful things like, "I almost ran off the road here at one point - you had better slow down..." or, "Gee, that 20 mph turn up ahead doesn't look really well banked. You should probably go under 40."

And my favorite?

"SLOW DOWN! YOU ARE GOING TO GET US KILLED! And they you'll have to live with that for the rest of your life!"

Not really a "helpful" suggestion, but it made me feel better to get it off my chest.

But it was a great day, a beautiful drive, and an excellent hike. The Hot Chocolate from the Palomar General Store made the day. Next week when I find myself gasping for breath at the top, cursing my bike and myself for even suggestion to Jen that I climb Palomar in the first place, I'll be sure to stop for a cup of the stuff. It's delicious!

And I remember somewhere reading something about how chocolate milk is the perfect recovery drink. I vote Hot Cocoa as a suitable winter substitute. What do you think?

Oh - and to show how much I love nature, let it be known that I'm a tree hugger. A Palomar-covered-in-snow-after-a-drive-that-I've-survived-with-a-husband-that-I-love tree hugger.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all! And Happy Holidays in general!!

Wishing you and your loved ones a great holiday season! Nathaniel and I are spending this season together in San Diego, minus the extended family and snow. Though we fiercely miss our family and friends, we're thinking about them, and wishing them Happy Holidays and LOVE from the both of us.

Quotes from our Christmas (just in case you were wondering):

"Oh look! The tree is STILL up! It's a Christmas miracle!"

Nope, the kitties did not knock it over. So far.

"MORE tools!" (In reference to Nathaniel getting a tool box and MORE tools for Christmas). I swear, I have NEVER seen anyone get so excited about a metric wrench set.

"I LOVE Baclava!"

Upon seeing a plate of the stuff from my Mom...

(4 hours later...)

"I don't think I ever want to eat Baclava again..."

"Oh great! We're drinking before 9 am! Getting a head start on the rest of our guests for Christmas dinner!"

In my defense, it was the Champagne breakfast. Let's face it: how often do we indulge like this?

And I'm sure there will be many more memories in the making... Christmas is only 9+ hours old... We've still got the entire day ahead of us.

To my friends and family: I love you all. Thank you for an incredible year; your love and support will be forever remembered.

Now I'm off to make a Rum Cake. Dessert, Marit-style! Hope that wherever you are, you're surrounded by love and doing what you enjoy the most!

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Bellydancer

DISCLAIMER: I swear unto all that is sports related and dignified, that I have never 1) belly danced in public 2) belly danced in public while wearing a belly dancing outfit 3) belly danced in public while wearing the belly dancing outfit while drunk males (and females) shove dollar bills into crevices of my clothing that are otherwise overburdened in supporting various parts of my body.

Suffice to say, last Friday's dinner was, ah, interesting.

It started while I was wrapping presents.


No, I was up to my ears in blue and white ribbon, name tags for gifts, cards for family, and silver and gold wrapping paper. The tape was buried under some pile, and I was reduced to using (clean!) kitchen scissors, as the other two pairs had gone mysteriously missing.

Sitting on the bedroom floor, I was only paying slight attention to my new favorite TV Channel: Universal Sports. Seriously - they have everything "non-traditional", the non-major MAJOR sports. Like downhill skiing, luge, skeleton, cross country skiing! Obviously all winter related. BUT, the cool sports that aren't silly like football or boring like baseball and golf. (sorry to offend).

Nathaniel walked in and mentioned that we had been invited out for dinner, and would I be interested?

I pondered briefly, debating the merits of one or the other. Dinner out, or dinner home? There were merits to both, and generally I'm up for going out. However, I had just gone to the grocery store, and I knew full well that the fridge and pantry were actually stocked with healthy stuff.

Ah. The catch. Perhaps husband was aware that wife had gone to grocery store, and knew (just knew) that dinners would be of the healthier variety through Christmas...

Then again, I was up to my ears in paper and ribbons, and was still looking at completing my functional strength and core workout. It was going to be a late finish for me, regardless. And the idea of prepping a late dinner on top of that, wasn't all that appealing.

I put the ball back in his court.

"Hey - if they're willing to wait until 7 or so. I need to finish this, do functional strength, and then some core work. Otherwise, why don't you just go out?"

Long story short (because we know this will be long), we ended up meeting our friends Keith and Rachael at 7:30.

Our first restaurant attempt was The Pizza Port. Known for its ambiance, good food, friendly atmosphere, and cheap drinks, we figured it would be a great place to meet up. So did half of Carlsbad.

After roaming up and down the wooden benches for 5 minutes, looking for a place big enough to cram in four adults, we figured our efforts would be futile. The restaurant throbbed with life, and there simply wasn't enough room.

Besides, Rachel had just finished a 30-hour work shift (ER intern - like the TV show! Yes, she gets that all the time), and looked oddly out of sorts in the atmosphere. Can anyone look "normal" after working a 30-hour ER shift?

So instead, we settled on the cute, quiet, peaceful, adult (ahem - this comes into play later. Trust me), corner restaurant right off 101 "The Armenian Cafe". The food is great, the staff are really nice, and Nathaniel and I have always had great food whenever we've been there.

Which is two times, to be exact. And this is important to remember. Very important. We had already dined at the establishment two times before. We thought we knew the place pretty well, had an idea of what they served and how it came out.


However, we had always been a little curious about the images of belly dancing girls on the inside cover of the menu. We first noticed it while eating with our Realtor, and then again with my parents. One girl looked like the Armenian version of Princess Lea from "Star Wars", while another looked like Princess Jasmine from "Aladdin". Throw in Jeanie from "I Dream of Jeanie" and you've got the general idea. Each menu had a different belly dancer, dressed in various outfits and holding a different pose.

Keith and Nate cracked a few jokes about their girls, while Rachael and I just rolled our eyes. Well, I rolled my eyes, as she was half-asleep. And then the boys started talking about boy things (helicopter! tanks! motors! weapons and tactics systems on the UH-1Y!) while Rachael and I touched on the subjects of weddings! dresses! cakes! (no - sadly not sheet cake) venue! party! invitations! yadda, yadda, yadda.

I kept flashing back to the scene in "Father of the Bride" when Steve Martin's character replies, "A cake, Fronk, is made of flour and water. My first car didn't cost that much!"

But I kept my mouth shut, and relished in the atmosphere of wedding-planning.

While the waiter took our drink order, I had a chance to look around and study the atmosphere. The first two times Nathaniel and I had been, we sat outside on the deck, under the warmth of heat lamps. This would be our first dining experience inside. There was a couple kitty corner and behind me, who were very focused on their wine, and then a British pair at the table next to us. They seemed to be out of town visitors, as they were discussing weekend sight seeing plans.

And the four of us made for eight on our side of the room. The other side of the restaurant hosted four very drunk friends, and another table of people who seemed rather amused at the four very drunken friends. Based on the assorted glasses and bottle collecting on the table, they had decided to sample every Armenian adult beverage on the menu.

And what do four really drunk friends do at a restaurant?

They get happy. They get loud. They become bold. And they order The Belly Dancer.

Yes, my friends, you read that correctly. They ordered The Belly Dancer.

Honestly, I missed that part of my menu...

I was confused. Seriously. I flipped back from the main entrees to the appetizers. Nope - no Princess Jasmine or Jeanie up for selection.

And then the music started.

Actually, what I first noticed, was the Brits; they had stopped discussing their weekend plans, and instead stared open mouthed and speechless at something (or someone) behind the pillar that was blocking my view.

Then cue funky Armenian-techno belly dancing beat.

Yes, I admit it. I like techno music. Turn it up, and crank it out; it gets me going during a tough trainer set, makes my adrenaline flow before a race. But honestly, does it go with Armenian music? And in a small restaurant that seats only 25 people, four of whom are exceptionally drunk and waving dollar bills? Really?


Wedding plans and helicopter operating systems were drowned out by Armenian Techno music that was making our silverware jump, and causing the salt shaker to slide across the table.

The Brits had gone from relaxed and conversational, to sitting with their mouths slightly ajar, speechless. Dude - so was I!

I snuck a glance at the wine couple behind me; sure enough the half drunk wine was reverberating ever-so-slightly on their tabletop, the woman's head cranked around and glaring at the four drunk compadres across the room.

And that's when I heard the Xena cry.

There is honestly no other way of describing it.

High pitched, wide vibrato, and very loud, I could only imagine the woman that came with this cry.

I didn't have to wait long.

Suddenly there she appeared: blue see through dress with lots of sequins and jangly things. Her hips moved and her stomach did the weird roll thing, and her boobs were this close from popping out of her bustier.

I didn't know weather to laugh or to look away in embarassment.

As she moved, from one very drunk patron to another, she rang bells that she was holding in each hand, and continued to cry her Xena shout.


Add the Armenian Techno Music and you've just about got it.

I chanced a glance at Nathaniel, positive that he would be wide-eyed and soaking up every minute of Belly Dancing Bliss. Oddly enough, though, he and Keith seemed very focused on their menus. Lamb or beef? A red flush had crept up their necks to the tips of their ears, and suddenly it hit me: they were afraid of Belly Dancing Girl while their significant others were present.

Belly Dancing Girl was now (if possible) even louder, her bells beating in step to her gyrating hips. Somehow, she had miraculously produced a shawl from somewhere in her outfit, and had "hooked" one of the drunken guys around the back. Then I saw his fist full of dollar bill and I understood instantly. She leaned over and he very drunkenly, but very carefully, placed George Washington right in her mound of cleavage.

I think even poor George was embarrassed.

"Well that's a relief! I remembered to bring all small bills with me!" joked Nathaniel, barely audible over the techno tumps. There was nervous laughter between Nate and Keith, while Rachel looked half asleep and I was just plain curious.

What next?

The Brits hadn't moved, were still staring open mouthed, while the wine couple had just finished their bottle and were moving onto the next. Honestly, I couldn't blame them; given the choice between adult beverage or adult entertainment, give me the beverage any day.

I can entertain myself just fine, thank you very much.

And that's the moment, the exact moment, that the Cafe Owner came over to our side of the room, and in a very thick Armenian Accent (picture The Soup Nazi on "Seinfeld" - in both looks and tone) shouted, "Clap! You MUST Clap! And she come over!"

Fear has a funny way of motivating. On the one hand, we didn't want Belly Dancing Girl to do her thing on our side of the room. And given the body language of the Brits and the Wine Couple, we were all in agreement.

However, Cafe Manager with thick accent appeared much more foreboding. Plus, he was wielding a kitchen knife (perhaps, in a cloud of excitement, he had rushed from the kitchen, forgetting to put down all deadly weapons) and was exceptionally stocky and tall. Not the kind of guy you disobey a direct order from.

So, dutifully, the 8 of us started clapping.

Ah. This should be interesting.

Belly Dancing Girl made her way over, clanking and ringing with every step. Standing squarely between our table and the Brits, she started moving, shaking, and doing her dance. The shawl was in one hand, ready to toss around a willing participant.

I looked directly at Rachael, not wanting to chance a glance at the girl, who less than 3 feet from my person, was rolling her belly in ways that I had only seen on TV. Nate and Keith, seated on the outside of the table, had the best view in the house. Though, Keith was even more absorbed in his menu, and Nathaniel looked as though he was trying to remain perfectly still.

It reminded me of the scene in "Jurrasic Park" where Dr Grant comments about the T-Rex, "His vision is based on movement. If you don't move, he won't see you..." (Suffice to say, Dr. Malcom got that one wrong.)

I suppose Nathaniel thought the same principle could be applied to our Belly Dancer. If he didn't move, she wouldn't see him.

Fat chance.

She continued dancing, now adding waist bends to her repertoire. The Wine couple as working very hard on their second bottle, and the Brits looked as though they had never seen anything such as this EVER. Well that makes six of us, my friends.
And just as she made an extra deep waist bend, a few of the dollar bills came cascading out of her bosom bodice. George was free! Without missing a beat, she continued dancing, shaking and shimmying in groove to the techno music. Sensing that our side of the room was filled with embarrassed and innocent people who just wanted to eat Armenian Food, our Belly Dance backed away and continued her dance for the drunken four.

The Knife-wielding owner returned and shouted over the beat, "Is good, NO!"

Not a question.

He then picked up the few dollars that had escaped, and returned to the other side of the room, enjoying the rest of the show. He and his knife friendly self could stay on that side of the room, if you ask me.

The music continued for another 10 minutes, but safe to say, our little group of eight were out of the woods. The Brits still looked shocked, like they couldn't believe what they had just witnessed, while the Wine Couple were (at this point) too drunk to care.

And the four of us? Well, jokes aside, we did recover and return to the topics at hand: wedding and helicopters. And eventually the Belly Dancer went away, the owner returned to the kitchen, and we were left with the 4 drunk compadres, laughing and joking about what they had just done.

Does this experience in any way make me want to consider Belly Dancing lessons? Not remotely. I think I would have a hard enough time keeping a straight face, let alone mastering the belly roll thing. Besides, I've got enough on my plate as it is. And given the look on Nathaniel's face, he's probably happy that I'm sticking with triathlon.

And next time I find myself in a situation such as this, I'll have to remember that even if I don't move - I can still be seen. Time to think up some other way of not getting noticed. Until then, I'll hide behind my husband, even if it's just the belly dancer I'm hiding from.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Self Proclamation

Self Proclamation: I, Marit (Mar-it,like Marsh-mellow) C-L (because who really wants to say me entire last name? Way too long!), have decided that a race report should NOT take longer to write than the actual race.


My 5k race report - ONLY a 5k - NOT like I had to do anything fancy with a wetsuit, or bike - took longer to write than an actual triathlon. And that is just wrong.

From now on: report shall not take longer to write than race.


Beware if you decide to read it. Your bells might just come off as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bells 5K

I knew this day would come: my first RUN race post crash. Suffice to say, it's been a while. Long - WAY too long, for someone who admittedly loves to race.

The itch to race has been brimming ever since we moved out here. I've managed to push these thoughts to the back of my mind, but sometime early last week, they broke free and busted forth. It was Mary's blog about "Seeing this little light of Mine" that finally did me in.

Thank You Mary!

Well that, and I didn't think my running heart rate zones were accurate. There's just something about whipping out a really really fast time with a low heart rate that spells BOGUS. Especially when the day before, the exact opposite held true. Slow pace and high heart rate. Can we spell i-n-c-o-n-s-i-s-t-e-n-c-y?

And I freely admit that it was all my fault: I've been hesitant, nay SCARED to compete in a running race since my crash.

For me, running was always my strength, something I could count on at the end of a race. But because it was final thing to really come around post-crash, its been the most difficult mentally for me to cope with slower speeds.

But it was time: I was ready, and I wanted to simply see what I could do.

Hello World! It's Mar-it (pronounced like Mar-shmellow!), and I'm ready to RUN FAST AND RACE!

Jen, being the uber-supportive and wonderful coach she is, readily agreed. Additionally, she casually mentioned that I could choose between a 5 or 8k race.

I'll have the 5k, and no more, thank you very much.

So the Arthritis Association Jingle Bell 5k it was!

Race morning dawned early with a 5:15 am wake up call, followed by a 5:20 and then 5:25 alarm ring. I like to be thorough, and have always harbored a secret fear of sleeping through a race. I did DREAM about my race: for some reason I was going to do an Open Water Swim in New Zealand and my hamstring was hurting. Weird, I know.

Also, very random.

Arrived at the Balboa Park race site an hour or so before the race, picked up my packet, used the loo, carefully pinned on my number (I forgot my race belt!), used the loo, drank some water, loo, water, loo, water, loo, loo.

For a measly 5k, I was certainly in dire need of the port-o-potty's. I guess it was the "fight or flight" response in me vamping up. That's the ONE thing I really like about wetsuits: no loo lines. You just deal and go (certain restrictions apply).

Warm up completed, I peeled off my tights, threw on the race flats, and ran a few strides. On my final walk-by of the car, I was extremeley tempted to throw on arm warmers. The 55-degree temperatures felt chilly to my still-Floridian-adapted-body. But I knew my Northern counterparts would blanch, Liz would tell me to pull up my big girl pants, Jen would roll her eyes, and Mary would scream HTFU.

Suffice to say, arm warmers remained in the car.

However, I did attach some cute little bells on the ends of my flats. One jingle bell per shoe. I figured it was okay to be festive, and the bells added a nice touch. Besides, I wasn't planning on sprinting ahead of my competitors at the last minute anyway. And even if I were, they would hear my Darth Vader-like breathing long before they heard the tiny tinkle of bells.

As I ran to the start, I realized how annoying the damn bells were.





Which each and every step.

The really great thing? EVERYONE had the little bells attached to their person. So did the animals. We were one Binging chorus of people, waiting to run and walk our way through a 5k.

I lined up towards the front, about one row back from the scary fast looking people. You know the ones? They guys and girls all look alike: super skinny, shaved legs, bright race flats, bony elbows that will take you out with one jab - that sort. Oh, and they were all very serious.

I had to remind myself helpful things like "this is for fun!" and "I paid for this!" and "I just want to get my heart rate zones and see where I'm at!"

Who was I kidding?

This was much more than just heart rate zones.

It was my first running race back from my awful accident, and I wanted to prove to myself that no matter what the finishing time was, I could still push myself, my body, my mind.

Gun went off, and so did we. After almost tripping over 5 or 6 kids (where did they come from and why the heck did they line themselves up RIGHT in front? Oh yeah, because they're kids and they don't know any different. The inner child in me cheered!) But I didn't think it would be prudent to take any down as I blew past them, so after a few tricky side-steps that made me think back to drunken dancing at Marine Corps Birthday Balls past, I was on my way.

Within :30 I knew the damn bells would have to go.


Yeah, it would drive YOU bonkers too.

But, the cadence of them made me aware of my sride, and I recalled all the run drills I've done to help develop good running form and efficiency.


About 2:40 into the run, two things happened. One girl passed me, and I lost a bell. And truth be told, I would have wanted to run as far and as fast away from myself if I could. The bells/bell were that bad. What was only mildly annoying at first, was now out of sync and majorly annoying.

Bing Pause Bing! pause BING! pause BING!

Or was it Pause Bing?

Who knows.

Up another small incline and we turned out of Balboa Park onto a side street. I knew we were approaching the one mile marker, and that's when I made a big mistake. I glanced at my watch confirming 1) I was going out WAY too fast 2) My heart rate was WAY too high and 3) It would only be a matter of time until I would be reduced to a shuffle.

Hello World, My name is Marit, and I am about to blow up. BIG time. Get ready for a show!

First mile passed in just under 6:20 and I tried to keep from hyperventilating. This was, after all, a heart rate test, and hyperventilation would not bode well for results.

I could still see two girls ahead for sure, but was a little confused at the three or four other pony tailed runners. Were they guys or girls? One of them had shaved legs, but I honestly couldn't tell if it was a man or woman. Another had thick brown locks, that I later confirmed to be male (after catching a glimpse of his very thick goatee).

The second mile was almost one straight long block, with a slight downhill slant. I don't remember much, except for thanking the volunteers at the intersection from where we came out before hitting the first mile marker.

I was in pain, though. But not a bad pain. The pain associated with doing your best, pushing your hardest, and leaving everything out in the open, raw and exposed. I didn't care about my time or place, and instead focused intently at putting one foot in front of the other.


Then, at exactly 9:40, the bell came off. Literally.

I bounded down a curb and suddenly, there was no BING! Just me, the Darth Vader-like breathing, and my heavy footsteps.

Sharp left turn, down a slight hill and past the 2 mile marker. 12:40 and I was still going strong. At least I get something for consistency, right? After way too long of NOT running a 5k race, the first two miles that I run are EXACTLY the same pace.

Kind of like going to the track and running a 3:00 800. I spent 5 years in high school (laugh if you want, I ran track and cross country in 8th grade - so there), running 3:00 800s. I KNOW how they feel.

I may not be as fast as I was pre-crash, but my body remembered what it felt like to be consistent. Bonus points for me!

And then I hit a hill. A big hill. A hill that had me gasping for breath, and shortening my stride. "Good feeling" gone. But a hill that reminded me I had climbed many OTHER hills to arrive at this point, and that this measly little hill that Mr. Reindeer Horns was sprinting up, was not going to hold me back.

Yes, just ahead of me, was a man running with homemade reindeer horns. And I would be damned if I was going to let Reindeer Man beat me up a hill. Especially since his Reindeer Horned Barrett was slightly askew.

Right turn back across the bridge into Balboa park, and I knew I was almost done. I glanced at my watch and began making deals with myself. You KNOW you're hurting when the deals start getting made.

"Okay... 3:00 left. You can do anything for 3:00. If you hold this pace, you can break 20 minutes. You want this, right? And there's a packet of Margarita Cliff Blocks waiting for you in the car upon your return.... Salty, chewy, delicious!"

"...Oh, and while you're at it, pass that group of 4 guys!"

So I did. I ran for the antlers, and then ran my rear end off for Margarita Cliff Blocks. Oh, and for a sub 20 finish, of course.

In the distance, perhaps two blocks ahead, I caught a glimpse of two girls, and realized that I didn't have enough time OR strength to catch them. Instead I focused on staying strong, thanking the volunteers, and making sure that no one blew by me in the final 200 meters.

Then again, if they did - more power to them!

I looked at my watch and I was right at 19:30. I had no idea where the finish line was, but suddenly one of the two guys ahead of me took off sprinting around a corner, and I knew it couldn't be that far. With as much energy as I could muster, I lifted my feet off the ground an tried to kick up the pace just a bit.

Rounding the corner, the finishing clock came into sight. It read 19:47, and I still had 50 meters to sprint. Bloody Hell, it was going to be close. Inwardly I groaned: breaking 20 minutes would have been icing on the cake, and deep down I really wanted it.

And before I knew it, I was done, clicking the STOP button on my watch right as I crossed. 19:57 according to my clock, 19:58 according to official race time. Hey - as long as I finished under my own power, happy and healthy, it didn't matter.

I walked through the finishing chute, handed the volunteer my tab, and then kept walking. I think a few people tried to hand me water, but I started tearing up - emotions getting the better of me.

The LAST thing I wanted was for the race organizers, volunteers, or paramedics think that there was something wrong with me. And yes - I've cried after races before; but usually only after the half Ironman distance. And not because of the pain or hurt, but of the emotions that I experienced while racing. The ups and downs, I suppose.

This was different; this race was so short, relatively speaking. But I had been carrying the weight of fear, of doubt, of insecurity about my running ever since I restarted back in July. It felt like this race affirmed that I COULD run, I COULD do it, and hence I was okay. I was normal.

And in the end, that's all that I wanted.

I went through (literally) hell and back with my recovery, and all it took to affirm my running confidence was a measly 5k. (small smile). Had I known this, I would have requested a race like this much earlier.

But I think I had to go through what I went through - physically and emotionally. I feel so much better, stronger, healthier, and wiser. I know myself, know what I'm capable of. And I'm having FUN. In these few short months, I've rediscovered why I love this sport, and what it means to me. I don't have to be the fastest, or the best: but the process, the journey, the friends I've gained along the way has all made it worth it.

In the end, I was 3rd female, 21st overall. Turns out that nearly all of the "girls" I thought were ahead of me, were really speedy guys. Ha! To quote Jen (because she was the first person I called after I walked from the finish line to my car) "You're definitely in California now!"

I had so much fun, enjoyed myself so much, that I've already signed up for a my next race. 2009 is looking better by the minute! The resolution 10k on January 3rd. What a great way to start the New Year!

And next time, the bells are OFF from the beginning!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Misty, the original FGC

Before Tabbitha, The Fat Grey Cat, there was another. She wasn't quite as grey, nor nearly as fat, but sure enough, she was a cat.

And her name was Misty.

Misty was adopted sometime while I was in high school. One August morning, Mom took Karyna and myself down to the local Humane Society, and we adopted two kitties. Misty was mine, a beautiful Blue Russian with a white spot right where a bow tie would be placed, and Miranda was Karyna's.

Quickly we discovered that Misty was a kitty of great but unforeseeable qualities. She enjoyed chasing socks, playing hide and go seek games, and was extremely possessive of twistie ties - you know the kind that keep your bread from getting old. A few months into her tenure at our house, we discovered no less than 30 of the things stored under the dining room carpet.

Suffice to say, she tended to hoard twisty ties.

I can't recall how the bread turned out though....

Misty was never one to explore on her own; rather she preferred to stay inside in the relative safety of home. She wasn't a fan of thunderstorms - then again, neither was I - so we would huddle together under the covers when it rained (or stormed). She was always eager to jump on a cozy lap, which proved to be a challenge when my parents finally bought the living room furniture of their dreams.

No Cats On The Furninture! EVER! Quickly turned into a game of I'll let Misty sit on my lap ON the furniture while I read, but as soon as we hear footsteps she'll have to jump off...

It went along great until Misty blew our cover and would insist on sitting on my lap in the company of Mom and Dad. She never was that subtle.

She seemed to be a little "slower" than Miranda, earning her the nickname of "The Limited One" from my Dad. Then again, she soon had my parents trained to feed her treats whenever she mustered up the courage to walk into the new kitchen - so really, who was training who?

When I left for UW-Madison, I had to leave Misty behind with Mom and Dad. Her home was in St. Paul, with Miranda and the rest of the family. She loved the house, loved my Mom's garden (and Japanese Grass, which she would nibble on a la Cow), and quickly adopted Mom and Dad as her People instead of me.

She quickly had them trained in a new routine, which consisted of lots of petting, snuggling on their bed, getting lots of treats, and being one of the most well loved kitties ever. She lived a great life, full of happiness, joy, twistie ties, Japanese Grass, kitty treats, secret time spent on forbidden furniture, and earned the adoration of houseguests. No - she wasn't an attack cat. In fact, once she got over her initial fear, she enjoyed flopping over and having her tummy rubbed.

Don't we all?

I just got the sad news that Misty had passed away early this morning, sleeping in her favorite chair in the Sun room. She didn't appear to be in any pain, wasn't sick, wasn't suffering in any way. It was simply her time, and she died very peacefully in the home she loved. In a favorite chair, no doubt.

It's never easy loosing a pet, a part of your family. I am happy that she had a wonderful life, filled with treats and love and constant attention. Though she had a bit of a dandruff problem, I'm convinced it was because we petted her so much.

Just earlier today - before I got the news - Anabelle, very uncharacteristically, brought me a twistie tie and wanted to play. I recalled Misty and the memory brought a smile to my face. It just goes to show that the people (and animals) we love, never really leave us; they are forever with us in our memories, in our hearts.

To Misty, the original Fat Grey Cat, with love.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The list of 109

Today hot yoga was, well, hot. Like 109-degrees hot. And though I focused on my breathing, stomach, posture, and form, the little voice in the back of my head was making mental notes.

And here’s what she came up with:

109 Things about Hot Yoga:

1) Drink LOTS beforehand.
2) Beverages should be of the non-alcoholic sort.
3) Water in the room is a must.
4) An icy water bottle works even better: half way through when your face is flushed and you think you won’t survive, the somewhat medium-cool-tepid-about-to-turn-luke-cold-bottle feels really good against the back of your neck.
5) Individuals experiencing hot flashes be warned! The class is ONE GIANT Hot Flash (or at least what I would imagine a hot flash being like).
6) Do not consume strawberries and light vanilla soymilk beforehand. Trust me. When it comes time for the Lotus pose, it gets really really ugly.
7) Yoga mat is a must.
8) But the non-sticky kind work better.
9) One towel is good. Two are better.

10) Throw in two hand towels (to aid in poses and to wipe the sweat off your face) and you’re good to go.
11) Make sure to spritz your towel and mat down with water spray before class begins.
12) Otherwise during your first Downward Dog of the class, you’ll find your hands slipping forwards. You MAY end up on your stomach, making a very big non-yoga-appropriate THUNK. Not that this happened… But I’m just saying.
13) Wear as little clothing as possible.
14) But don’t be inappropriate. (I swear someone was wearing just a bra and undies, but I wasn’t close enough to tell)
15) Oops – yoga is non judgmental. Who cares what people wear?
16) Seriously! Just no underwear, okay? I don’t want to see anything popping out as I’m moving from my Chatteronga to my Upward Dog.
17) How DO you spell Chotteronga?
18) I think this is what Kona feels like…?
19) But I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t know.

20) But I WANT to go there…someday. 
21) Really, do NOT eat strawberries and soy milk before class.
22) If I hold in my gas, how long can I go before my stomach explodes?
23) If I fart, can people tell it was me?
24) Oh shoot, the teacher just walked behind me.
26) Good feeling gone. Breathing is now necessary for survival.
27) And preventing ugly-stomach-explosion.
28) Its hot.
29) And getting hotter!

30) The bike knickers were NOT a good call.
31) Especially since they’re insulated.
32) Do I really need insulated bike tights in California?
33) Suddenly stripping down to undies doesn’t seem all that bad of an idea.
34) Too bad I’m commando under the knickers.
35) It only took me 3 years of biking to “figure out” that one does NOT wear underwear under bike shorts.
36) Stupid bike knickers.
37) But they’re helping me keep my stomach in.
38) From the side angle I look pretty good!
39) I think the heat is getting to my brain.

40) Time for something to drink – after the next round of poses!
41) Maybe while I lean forward, I can angle my head so that the faucet of sweat that drips off my nose, can at least get close to my mouth. Salty – yes!
42) Yuck. What have I stooped to?
43) Time to lean back and see how flexible my back is.
44) Suck in the stomach. Tighten the glutes. Pelvis forward.
45) I’m doing it!
46) Uh-oh.
47) Will I be able to bend back up?
48) Hold in the gas, hold in the gas, hold in the gas…
49) Bloody Hell!

50) Now Mr. Bendy Instructor is helping me in my pose. He’s telling me to LET GO! And LEAN BACK! If he only knew… If I don’t completely collapse on him, I may fart in his proximity.
51) HOLD HOLD HOLD. (in more ways than one)
52) Do I get extra points for taking out the instructor?
53) Obviously grace is not one of my attributes.
54) Nor is flexibility.
55) Phew! He’s safe.
56) So am I.
57) But my Gastrointestinal tract isn’t.
58) Oh good! Time for more balance.
59) Except for the part about holding onto sweaty limbs.

60) Balance + sweaty feet = inability to hold pose without a)shaking b)dripping sweat in a constant flow c) falling over in un-yoga-ish manner.
61) Underwear people are the BEST at these things.
62) But I don’t think I could ever wear JUST underwear…some things are absolutely a no-go.
63) I think I have an abnormally high sweat rate.
64) Besides, underpants and sweat are a bad combination. It becomes see-through.
65) Don’t stare at underwear girl!
66) Remember: non judgmental!
67) I can’t stop sweating! Bloody Hell!!
68) I think this IS what H-E-L-L feels like. Okay, okay – a bit of an exaggeration. But when you’re laying in your back with your legs over your head and your knees squeezing your ears – what else do you think of?
69) I have a new appreciation for women going through Menopause.

70) And individuals who are naturally gassy, WITHOUT consuming strawberries and soymilk before Hot Yoga.
71) I seriously thought soymilk would be okay. Really! No lactose! No stomach-curdling!!
72) Now I’m nauseated.
73) I will never eat strawberries and soymilk. EVER.
74) Which sucks, because I really like them.
75) Maybe just NEVER before class.
76) I can’t stop sweating. Gulf Coast Half has NOTHING on this. And I know, because I ran a half marathon in 93 degree sunshine with nearly 100% humidity. And I’ve never been the same since.
77) Would it be inappropriate to take in a salt tablet during class?
78) Perhaps not. I’ve already got “Triathlete” written all over me.
79) Nope – not the bike shorts, run tops, or Zoot apparel.

80) My inability to touch my toes at the start of every class is the dead giveaway. Holy Tight Hamstrings Batman!
81) Cute instructor is back! Suck in the stomach! Tighten the glutes! Look relaxed!
82) Ouch.
83) Do the Happy Baby Move
84) Am REALLY happy that I’m wearing knickers. Even with the shorts, too much would be revealed.
85) I wonder if the instructor ever wants to laugh while watching grown adults lay on their back, legs splayed up in the air, fingers grabbing their big toes, and rocking back and forth…
86) Do NOT start laughing.
87) No worries, as I’m more concerned about the passing of gas thing. It still hasn’t gone away. And this Happy Baby would be a LOT happier if the pressure would be released.
88) But the other Happy Babies all around wouldn’t like it so much.
89) Humbug.

90) And that goes for the gastrointestinal tract as well.
91) But with all this work, I’m getting MORE flexible! Hooray!
92) I can lay on my stomach with my hands under my hips, palms down and pinkies touching!
93) When would I EVER need to do this?
94) Too bad my glutes aren’t as flexible as the elbows.
95) Is it even possible though? Aren’t the glutes a muscle and the elbows a joint?
96) Uh oh. SHOULD I even be physically able to lay on my stomach with my hands under my hips, palms down and pinkies touching?
97) Ah. There IS a reason. I’m now supposed to lean forward and kick, er, LIFT both legs off the ground.
98) Ha ha ha ha ha. That was funny.

100) Major sweatage going on here. It has now pooled around my soaked towels and yoga mat.
101) My fingers and toes are wrinkly.
102) And my towel makes a squishing noise when I step on it.
103) Only a few minutes left – I can ALMOST taste the cool air.
104) Funny breathing exercises. If the hot classroom wasn’t enough, now we have to breathe Lamaze style.
105) I got through yoga without passing out. I WILL be able to make it through the breathing exercises without passing out.
106) Cho-cho-cho-cho-cho-cho-cho-cho-cho (Lamaze breathing).
107) How much longer? Stay conscious stay conscious say conscious…
108) I can feel the cool air as the door opens!
109) Hooray, I MADE it!

And that was my night. Sort of. I may have left a few things out – but you get a general idea. I wonder if I look like I’m thinking these things. Hopefully not – my face would be scrunched up and I would probably start laughing. And once I start, I’ve got a hard time stopping.

Kind of like with Hot Yoga. Now that I’ve started, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop. Besides, I need to see if I can do the palms under the body trick AND get both legs off the ground. Patience and perseverance, I tell you – that should do the trick. Oh, and throw in a good sense of humor as well. I can’t lose. When I can’t do the poses at least I’ll have fun by laughing at myself. And that should count for something, right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lane 3? Lane 2??

It was a beautiful morning, crisp temperatures in the low 50s. The pre-dawn sky was inky blue, dark with the promise of a vibrant sunrise. The clear air, with a slight wind, caused goosebumps to form on my forearm as I walked towards the pool.

It was a crisp, clear, calm, and slightly cool morning. And should have been relaxing.

And WOULD have been, had I been smart and remained in bed. Warm, dry and comfy under the covers. Instead, I found myself standing at the end of the pool deck, debating between Lane 2 or Lane 3.


Obviously not a question to tackle pre-coffee while shivering uncontrollably outside under the starts. It was so cold I couldn't feel my fingers. Which probably meant that precious blood was being diverted from the extremities to keep the important stuff warm.

My brain seemed to be working half time anyway. Not that its super speedy - but it seemed frozen at the thought of making a decision. Or being decisive.

Ever have those days??

Lane 2? Lane 3? Lane 2? Lane 3?

They both looked the same. The water was the same...

But those 5 seconds make all the difference. And I was sure that mid-set of whatever we were about to swim, I would realize how either smart or stupid my decision was. Was this a trick question? Seriously!

I just needed to HTFU and jump.

Lane 2? Lane 3??

Its at times like this, that I wish Jen was next to me. I knew she would say Lane 2. And then she would probably push me in the pool for good measure.

Lane 2 or Lane 3??

"You're still not in the water!" shouted Charisa, as she sprinted by me and dove in.

Clearly it was too early for me. And cold. 50 degrees sporting only a swimsuit is not fun. Trust me.

So I half dove, half jumped into lane 3. Easy, problem solved. And the water was WARM compared to the air temp. Yes - the perfect incentive to jump into the pool is freezing temperatures on deck. No more "easing in" for me.

Aaahhhhh - much warmer.

And then something funny happened.

At 6:13 I cruised into the wall, stopping to catch my breath and get the day's workout. I heard the coach mention something about 400s and 300s, and then a few more 200s. Quickly he announced the pre-set of 8 X 100 pull, paddles being optional.

And before I knew what I was doing, without thinking, with no pause for thought, I dunked under the lane lines, threw on my paddles and took off with the Lane 2 guys.

Oh. Bloody. Hell.

What had I just done?

What in the world was I thinking?

And then it occurred to me that I wasn't. I had pushed all rational thought aside, thrown caution into the wind, and decided to swim from my gut. It would remain to be seen if I could keep my gut intact half way through the main set. But the move seemed so natural, so effortless. No thought whatsoever. Almost like my body knew what it wanted. Only before on the deck, with my indecisive mambo of Lane 2 Lane 3? I had been letting my mind get in the way.

And that, my friends, was key.

Not only in swimming - but with triathlon, with life, jobs, family, friends - our bodies know what we want, what we need. Too often it is our head that prevents us from moving forward, from trying something new. It doesn't think we can, or it assumes that something will be too hard. When really, sometimes we just need to go with our gut instinct, turn off the brain, and push forward on autopilot.

And that's about all I remember from the rest of the swim. Well that, and that I was in major amounts of oxygen debt and pain. I made all the interval times, but I think I pulled a tricep in the process.

Suddenly we were on the last 100. ALL OUT. I was dimly aware that it was no longer dark, no more stars overhead. Holy Cow, when did the sun come up? I was so focused on the task at hand, so intent on not throwing up, that I missed the plethora of colors changing from dark to light.

Then, as quick as it began, it was over. As soon as blood flow and oxygen was registered in my system again, my brain turned back on and registered what had just happened.

Had I known before the workout what was in store, would I have ducked into Lane 2?

I don't know.

But the great thing, is that next time I won't have to think about it, won't have to debate the merits of one over the other. I'm sure that once I hit the water, my brain will click off, my body will shift to autopilot, and I'll swim wherever I feel is best.

And that sounds pretty good to me.

So next time at the pool, if you happen to see me standing on the edge of the deck, muttering under my breath, please do me a favor and push me in. I won't be mad, I promise. Because once I hit the water, I'll be going off of feel anyway. And that's a great thing.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Timing: Good & Bad

Timing is everything. We have perfect seeming days; things run smoothly, workouts are nailed, traffic isn't a nightmare, and the family gets along beautifully. Then there are other days. You know the kind. Where timing is just, well, off.

For yours truly, it hasn't been bad days. Thankfully not. But I've noticed that with a few things, my timing just isn't quite right. You may be able to understand.

Good Timing: Long bike rides along the coast, and inland through Elfin Forest (that magical place that Liz once described)
Bad Timing: Hills at the end of Elfin. Because what did I do? Per coaches orders, I rode backwards of how I normaly ride. Meaning hills that never let up, even though I had already climbed an insane amount before hitting the forest (through Rancho Santa Fe and up dos Dios. I think I saw an El Diablo Blvd, but I can't be sure).

Good Timing: Talking to Mom - I LOVE my mom!
Bad Timing: Answering my cell phone on Pacific Hwy after I've come this close (me with fingers together) to chucking my bike in the lagoon because of too many damn hills. The phone rang twice and no message - surely an emergency, right? Not this time. I think I was curt. But it was the I-am-so-done-with-this-workout-8-hills-ago-Marit, not the usual Loving Daughter.

Good Timing: Biking through forests. Being at one with nature.
Bad Timing: Going so slowly up a hill that you swear you're about to get eaten by a Mountain Lion. 4 mph doesn't give me much hope, eh. Again - this was in Elfin. After Canyon del dos Dios. Backwards from what I normally do.

Good Timing: Making all the lights on the way out! Green lights baby - watch me GO GO GO!
Bad Timing: Just when I really wanted off the bike, and was making great effort to not throw the thing in the water, I hit EVERY RED LIGHT from Leucadia to Tamarack Ave in Carlsbad. I tell you, I was impressed with my will power. I still have the bike.

Good Timing: Drinking and eating on schedule.
Bad Timing: Loosing BOTH water bottles off the back of my bike after passing under The 5 on Lomas Santa Fe. There was an unavoidable bump, and before I knew it, I heard the Thunk Thunk of not one, but two water bottles hitting the pavement. No big deal if I was by myself. But I had an audience of traffic in all directions. And construction workers. And office workers out for their lunchtime stroll.

Good Timing: Traffic waited for me as I retrieved my water bottles from the middle of the road (there must have been a few kindred hearts who took pity on me with my bottle mishap).
Bad Timing: I looked like a complete Nerd. And held up traffic.

Good Timing: I hit the White Church at the half way point - right before Elfin Forest.
Bad Timing: Was this a sign that I needed saving?

Good Timing: Bottle refill at said church (thankfully I had bottles)
Bad Timing: No port-o-potty. Is it a sin to pee on the bike while exiting a church parking lot?

Good Timing: Rolling into the house after 3+ hours on the bike
Bad Timing: I should have been done 30 minutes ago.

But you know what? I made it. I got through the ride, survived the timing – good and bad. It’s so true: we can’t control the external circumstances; but we CAN control how we choose to look at them. Sure, they saying grew old after the fourth red light, but I made it home. And so did the bike. And that’s good timing all around.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Can you Hackett?

It never ceases to amaze me how much harder I work when swimming with Masters. Yes, I know how to push myself in the pool, and at times enjoy the solitude. But noting spells M-O-T-I-V-A-T-I-O-N and S-W-I-M-Y-O-U-R-G-U-T-S-O-U-T like 7 super speedy lane mates, chomping at the bit to finish the workout on pace.

Base Pace.

What is that you may ask. Good question. Because I really didn't know until I started swimming with Carlsbad Masters.

Each lane is assigned a specific swim pace to base all workouts off of. The really really fast guys (and gals - today I found out that Michellie Jones is a member!) swim here. Lane 2, 3, 4 etc etc are all 5-10 seconds slower per 100 meters.

That's another thing: the pool is metered, so my 100 yard times no longer apply. Sianara fast 100 times! Hello slower metered times!

Deep down, I know its good for me, I know its exactly what I need. A dose of humble pie while I hang out in lane 3, doing my best to keep pace and hang with the Big Boys in Lanes 2 and 1 (I peek at them under water while swimming my sets. Admit it: you do it too! I am SO excited if I can "hang" with one of the Lane 1 studs for 25 meters before they take off on their flip turns. And then I'm left looking at a pair of feet disappearing into the gloom).

But back to today.

Due to some, er, oversleepage on my part, mostly associated with a post-holiday-induced Turkey coma, I choose to attend lunch time practice. Great for tan lines and warmer air temperatures. But the water feels downright hot once we get going. Sure, in the morning the air temps are freezing on deck, but at least the water doesn't feel tepid once you go fast.

Or try to go fast. As one does when swimming with people who swim with Michellie Jones.

Immediately upon walking on deck, I noticed a packed lane 3. There were at least 3 people in the water and another 4 on deck, chatting before practice began in earnest. Being the new gal in town, I didn't want to step on anyone's toes, so I quickly jumped in and warmed up.

Apparently I'm not all that subtle. No, it wasn't the bright green suit or black cap. It was the semi belly flop/half jump that caught their attention. Sweet.

I think I may have tripped over my pull buoy, but I can't be sure.

Warm up completed, we congregated at the end of the lane to get our workout. I was spotted and introductions were made all around.

"Hi, I'm Marit. Ma-rit. Like Marshmellow...But I'm not one. And I don't really even like them. It's just how my name is pronounced."

I trailed off. Not sure if they could give me more dubious looks or not. I decided that going into the heritage of my name (Norwegian) or what it means (Pearl) would be a tad overkill.

Luckily Coach Jeff came along and passed out the workout. It didn't look that bad. Then again, the last time I figured a workout "didn't look too bad" I nearly shat myself. And that's not very polite in a public pool.

He quickly explained, "I got this workout off Team Australia's website. This is what Grant Hackett does when he's training. He's more of a distance swimmer, but this helps his raw 100 times."

Ah - he had spoken the magic words. He's a distance swimmer.

Yes, I can bike up Mt. Palomar, run for miles on end, and am willing to swim 5000 meters in the pool - but sprint and kick FAST?!?! I can not.

Give me 300s, 400s, 500s, 1000s over 50s any day. Add fins to the kick sets and I may weep with joy. Just don't make me sprint or kick. I don't go nowhere fast (so grammatically incorrect, but perfect sentiment).

I figured I had a chance at survival with this workout. I could be consistent, I could hold the assigned pace, and I could do it for the entire (gulp) 2000 meters.

Our pre-set consisted of 10 X 100 swim with paddles and pullbuoys off bace pace. There were many eager volunteers to lead the set, the eventual "winner" being the gal who had been chatting on deck the entire time. She simply strapped on her paddles, wrestled the pull buoy between her legs and dove in.

For the life of me, I have no idea how she managed to get through the set without a "proper" warm up. Then again, she was pushing 50 and conventional wisdom seemed to go out the window. She put the boys and girls in lane 3 with her furious pace and great strokes.

Then onto the mainset.

It quickly became apparent why so many people were willing to lead the pre-set. It meant they wouldn't have to lead the main set. The biggie. The REAL swim. Yeah, NOW I understand.

Honestly, I didn't understand what the big deal was: so you lead the lane, big whoop. Throw in 7 or 8 overzealous swimmers queuing up behind you and the pressure cooker begins to boil. But in the end, everyone swims off the same pace, off the same base pace.

Perhaps it was the triathlete-in-me-who-is-used-to-swimming-alone. But while everyone was bickering about whose turn it was to lead, I volunteered.

All conversation ceased.

Great. Now I was the green-suited belly-flopping new girl who is crazy enough to lead the Grant Hackett set.

I peered up at the workout, and discovered - to my horror - it was 20 X 100 at +10 base pace. But - and here's the kicker - with each 100, we were suppsed to finish at least 10 seconds under base pace.

My lane - the 1:35 lane - would be going off the 1:45. But our goal became to finish each 100 under 1:25.

Is it as confusing to you as it is to me?

Great. I didn't have the heart to tell my new lane mates that 1) I had a problem keeping track of competed sets and 2) I wasn't sure I could do the math to figure out when to start the next set while starved for oxygen.

But (to quote the great ELF), I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and announced, "I'm going on the bottom..." and took off.

Apparently it was enough, and my 7 other swim friends followed, approximately 5 seconds apart from each other. Then again, they could have all waited as I came around after my first 50. But to my delight, they had followed suite. And I was determined to keep them (and myself) on pace.

With great power, comes great responsibility. (Yes, I thought it time for a Spiderman quote. And totally corny, I admit).

The first few 100s passed uneventfully. I hit my target pace with a few seconds to spare and felt powerful in the water. A few times my right hand slapped the guys in lane 2 or 4 as we crossed over, but it wasn't too bad. My bones weren't broken, although I've got a great red welt to prove my nettles.

By the 5th and 6th 100, I could feel the fatigue begin to set it. And I knew that THIS was the spot where the workout would really start to count. This feeling at this time - wondering how you'll push through, wondering if your lungs can stand the lack of air, if your legs can push off any harder from the wall - is what makes us stronger, is what makes us the athletes we are.

If it was always easy, everyone would do it.

But I didn't join Masters, didn't volunteer to stay in the back of the lane to take the easy way out. I wanted to work for it, to earn my speed back bit by agonizing bit.

Could I hack it? Hackett?

Now wasn't the time to question, wasn't the time to back down and head for the back of the lane. No - now was the time to push through, to believe in myself, to discover what I was made of.

7 and 8 rolled through, and with each pull, with each rotation of my hips, I reminded myself that THIS was what I wanted. I wanted to place myself in these exact situations: to climb Palomar, to lead a tough set, to sprint up big hills - because in the end, at times like these, we grow and we learn. And we discover who we are.

9 and 10 came and went, and I was happy for our mid-set break. 100 kick easy. I didn't push it. Trust me.

During the second 50 of the pull, I contemplated briefly having the girl behind me lead the second set. But a little voice inside of me rejected this thought.

Why her? Why now?

Is it really that hard that you have to go to the end of the lane?

And a louder voice responded with a resounding NO.

At least, I figured, I could lead for the first 5. And if I was falling apart - form especially - I could head for the back. Enjoy the draft and cruise the final few sets. At that point, I had certainly earned it.

But a funny thing happened: the more painful it became, the more determined I was to not back down. To hold my spot, hold my position through the entire set. Come hell or high water, I wanted this, wanted to show that I didn't need someone else's draft to hit my times.

I knew it would be tough - but I wanted to HTFU for a few more sets.

This was, after all, the Grant Hackett set. And my favorite HTFU video was Australian. Perfect fit. So it stood to reason that I remained where I was.

I watched the clock, put my head down, and swam my heart out. It wasn't easy, nor was it pretty. And I'm sure that at times I looked like some odd and flailing creature. But I did it.

Surprisingly, the second set passed a lot more quickly than the first. Not sure if it was because it was the second set, or perhaps I was in so much oxygen debt that things really didn't seem to matter as much as they had a few minutes prior.

By the time 18 and 19 rolled around, I was already dreaming about 20. Planning my final sprint towards the wall. My lower back was tight, but I focused on keeping my head down and my heels as close to the surface as I could. I may have muttered a few words of encouragement under my breath during our 20 second respite, but I'm not sure.

All I knew, is that I WAS hacking it. Hacketting it. Tunnel vision aside, I powered down my lane for the final 25 meters and touched the wall.

It was done.


And I had survived. No worse for the wear.

And the really cool thing? Now I knew I could do it. When push came to shove, I would push harder, demand more of myself, prove to myself that I wouldn't back down.

I had hacked the workout. One down. And many more ahead. Oddly enough though, I'm rather excited, looking forward to the challenge. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go search for my lats. They are somewhere in the Carlsbad High pool, lane 3 to be exact. Hopefully I'll find them before Wednesday, my next swim. And if not, well - it should be interesting. Another opportunity coming my way.