Monday, August 18, 2008


It’s been a wile, eh?

Sorry to cause worry or concern, Dear Readers – that was never my intention.

So what’s the deal? You so rightly ask.

Oh – where to begin? Nothing serious, nothing exciting, nothing other than every-day-life. I wish I could say I had taken a surprise trip to Fiji. But I haven’t. And yes, even though it was my worst race last year and a race that I fully intend to compete sometime in the future; I wasn’t up at Timberman (although I know it would have been incredible to watch). No – sadly I wasn’t up in the Twin Cities with my folks or in Philadelphia with my sister.

I’ve been in Pensacola, going about with recovery (again, the physical and mental part – it never seems to end), enjoying the new furniture, going out on dates with Nathaniel, reading at local cafes, and watching the kitties with growing amusement.

Anabelle, it seems, thinks that her tail is some foreign object needing to be chased. So she runs in circles, chasing a tail that seems to always elude her.

And Tabbitha? Well, The House Monster is growing less hostile towards her Itty-Bitty counterpart. We’re down to merely one or two chases per day, although Anabelle is the provoker of kitty chases.

Quite frankly, I can’t blame Tabbitha, as Anabelle has now taken over The Ugly Green Recliner. The battle for this piece of furniture is never ending. And never ceases to amaze me. Between the Husband, The House Monster, and Itty-Bitty Kitty, the recliner is the most coveted piece of furniture in our house. And after buying a new living room set, that is just plain wrong.

Additionally, I’m a self-professed “Olympaholic”. There’s something simply incredible about watching these amazing athletes pursue their dreams, give their all, and participate in the sports they love. I have a newfound respect for those athletes recovering from injuries; I know how difficult the physical – and now mental – hurdles can be.

And what about those Canadians, eh? Only recently have they managed to win a few medals. The Canadian press, prime minister, and public – as reported in the NY Times – have become increasingly alarmed. Even I feel bad for our Northern Friends. So I’ve taken to cheering them on as well as the US.

I was very happy the Canadian Lightweight woman’s double won bronze, and over the moon about the Canadian Men’s eight gold. I speak of rowing….

But that still doesn’t answer the main question – what about the blog?

Through this journey, one of my friends recently dropped a bombshell on me. “Marit,” she said, “You are one of the most Thinking-persons that I know. But in your thoughts, in your brain, you loose complete sight of your feelings.”

I wondered if she was correct. And as I went about my day, it slowly dawned on me how correct she was. I can think my way into and out of just about anything – be it races, feelings, ideas, writing, training, etc. If I want to hit x mile in y time, then I need to run at z pace… Additionally, I think when I write, but I don’t take the time to experience, to feel what I’m writing. There’s a huge disconnect between what I write – getting the thoughts out onto paper – versus feeling the emotions that accompany those thoughts.

In the past few years, I’ve turned off my feeling receptors and instead have tuned in only to the thinking aspect of life.

So my challenge to myself was to simply sit back and FEEL for the past week or two.

Turn off the computer, get off the treadmill, not write (although that was tough, as I get a lot of my issues out by writing), and simply experience and feel the emotions.

And for the first time in recent memory, I actually stopped while running.

Odd, I know. Something the thinking aspect of Marit would NEVER do – that’s not the point…. But the feeling aspect of Marit wanted to try something new.

While running the trails out at UWF, I crested a rather-large hill in the middle of the woods. The morning’s rain had left droplets on the leaves and trees, and as the wind rustled the overhanging foliage, I could feel the individual droplets splashing off my face, neck, and shoulders. I paused, turned my face into the wind, closed my eyes, and simply let myself feel my surroundings.

I heard birds chirping, could hear a rushing stream nearby, felt the wind whip past my body as the droplets rained down on my open arms. I opened my eyes, and picked up a red and rust-colored triangle shaped stone near my feet. The sand felt gritty between my fingers and I could feel the rough edges of the stone.

I’m not really sure how long I stood still – it felt like an eternity within a matter of seconds.

But I was proud of myself, because I took the time to really feel something, even though it was contrary to my running task-at-hand.

And I realize that sometimes we need to rock the boat, so to speak. Sometimes we need to go out of our comfort zone and really feel things for what they are. Take a break from what we’re used to in order to grow. I’m still figuring things out on this journey, but I feel closer to a resolution as each day passes.

Now, if you can excuse me, I’m going to go cheer for the US and some Canadians, eh?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Quote for the Weekend

All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.

-Henry David Thoreau

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Things

In Pre-school, my Montessori teacher was big on trying new things. Being the enthusiastic pupil that I was, I took Patti’s words of advice to heart. Which culminated in my consumption of an entire hard boiled egg, shells and all, during Easter break.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.

I headed upstairs to the TV room, which later became my younger sister’s bedroom, hard-boiled snack in hand. I was very proud of myself, being able to use an actual plate – the kind that adults used. Quite a big deal to a three-year old.

While watching Sesame Street, I munched on my egg, slowly peeling off the shell, and then devouring the outer egg white and eventually the yellow yolk. I was fascinated that the outer part of the yolk matched (almost exactly) the carpet color in the hall.

Half-way through the show, I looked down to find an empty plate full of egg shells. And then it just dawned on me: I should eat the shells. So I did.

Later, after the show was over, I walked downstairs to return my plate to the kitchen. I was being very grown-up about taking care of my things; putting everything back in its place.

Just as I hopped off the bottom step and made the right-handed turn into the kitchen, my Mom greeted me at the doorway. She looked at me, looked at the nearly empty plate with only a few tell-tale egg shells left, and then back at me.

“Where did the egg shells go?” she asked.

She probably couldn’t have imagined that her three year-old would do something as silly as consume egg shells.

My response?

Not that I was hungry. Not that I was bored. And not that I fed them to the cat.

“Patti says to try new things.”

And I just left it at that.

I don’t really remember what Mom said. What could she have done?

In life, I’ve found that more often than not, I try to follow Patti’s words of wisdom. For the most part, I enjoy trying new things, enjoy (for the most part) the challenges and opportunities they present. Sometimes it turns out great – like the time I ordered Cambodian Rolls from Ichiban (the best sushi roll ever! from the best sushi place in Pensacola!)

And others, well, not so good. Like the bottle of sake that Nate and I ordered from the same restaurant. Absolutely awful.

But at least we tried.

Today on my swim workout, there was something very new. After my warm-up, my Uber Swimmer-of-a-coach Jen had written for me to do “press-ups, without feet.” And no – not once, and not only one set. For 7 minutes during one of my pieces, every time I hit the wall, I was supposed to do five (count them – f.i.v.e.!) press ups.

Unfortunately, the day that Long Course Meters would have been my friend, UWF pool is no longer doing the distance. Something about too many people and teams competing for space. (And I'm not interested in hopscotching between lanes from 6:30-7:10 am, and then again from 7:15-7:55 while teams and swimmers have to be moved. It's a zoo, I tell you!)

So instead, I drove up to Whiting Field, where Nathaniel does his helicopter training, to use their awesome outdoor pool. The problem? Lots of people witness to my antics.

And no – it’s not uncommon to see buff flight students or instructors pumping out push-ups or ab work on the pool deck. Meow! But very rarely do I see them swim 25 yards, complete their calisthenic sets, and then swim another 25 yards. And if I did see someone do something like that, I would seriously question their workout. Or their sanity.

Turns out today I was the goof ball.

Once I got going, it wasn’t that bad. At least the lifeguards didn’t say anything (that I was aware of – remember though, that I was swimming for at least part of the time), and my swimming counterparts seemed oblivious. But after 75 yards of 5 press-ups every 20 or 25 seconds, I could feel my arms, triceps, and shoulders begin to shake.

And it wasn’t just the press-ups that were affected. Somewhere after 100 yards, I began to seriously slow down. No matter how much I rotated my hips, or stretched out my stroke, my body felt – simply stated – sluggish in the water, as though weights had been attached to my limbs.

My coach, it seems, has a funky sense of humor.

But the press-ups were written on my schedule, and I’m all about the trying of new things – so I gave it a shot. And I learned that while I may not have (voluntarily) dome something like this on my own, the process of following my workout to the “T”, of gaining insight on my form from the accumulation of fatigue, and of completing a new challenge far outweighs any fear or anxiety about failure.

And then it hit me: this is exactly what I should think about for any and every race I do this season.

Yes, I’ve done many a triathlon.

But I’ve never done one after breaking my back, after going through a life-altering event.

And just because I haven’t done something, haven’t experienced it with the post-crash mentality doesn’t mean that I should fear it. Quite the opposite, in fact. I need to embrace the challenge and relish the opportunity to try something new.

So with that, I am very excited to do my first triathlon on August 17. I’ll be racing in Greenville, South Carolina, at the Greenville Sprint Triathlon. And I couldn’t be more excited. Thank you to Ashley Long and Jeremy from Setup Events. It seems fitting that I really discovered triathlon while racing the Setup series in North Carolina, that my first race back should be with this race production company. I feel like I’m coming full circle, in a way.

Back on familiar ground, I guess…

Earlier today I tried on my race kit for the first time since returning from California in March. And though it was a bit of a squeeze, I liked how it felt, liked the feeling I had while wearing my racing outfit.

This season truly is about trying new things. And that’s great, because I’ve been all about the new stuff for my entire life. Egg shells or not, I’ll give it a go. And while I may look a bit funny while doing it – press ups on the pool deck, every 25 yards for 7 minutes – at least I’m trying.

I’m not promising to go fast, I’m not guaranteeing any sort of speed like I was fortunate to have last season. But my heart will be out there with me on August 17th – exactly 5 months post crash. And I can’t wait to get started.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Pretzel

I never realized how much a pretzel could bring me back to my childhood. But sure enough, a giant, warm, salty, Target Soft Pretzel did just the trick.

And it happened when I was least expecting it.

Our weekend was spent mostly in the living room, watching Season 1 of “Mad Men”. Apparently My Other Half has developed an appreciation for the series; though I had no objection to curling up with him on the couch.

The new couch.


(We're still on Cloud 9, not that anyone could tell - right?)

And while I hate to admit it, the series has grown on me as well. Character interactions and development, costumes and art, and the amount of booze consumed only scratch the surface. The most interesting thing in my opinion, is the use of props. The lighting of a cigarette, a fly trapped in a light fixture, and lead role Don Draper’s hair (oiled or not), convey far more than the written word.

But I digress.

Earlier today I headed out for my swim, my only workout for the day. And while it feels slightly odd to only be working out for 60 minutes on a Sunday, I’ve found that I don’t mind all that much. This season has been all about learning, nay – finding myself. And I’ve realized that I don’t have to be training for a national or world championship event to feel good about myself or to justify my place in this sport.

Sometimes you just do something – swimming, biking, and running – because you love doing it. Not because you have to compete at a very high level. And before this accident, I don’t think I realized that.

But that’s a different post all together.

I will say, however, that I will be doing a few sprint races this season – nothing huge. Just back to the basics, and more importantly a return to fun. I’m doing them because I want to, not because I feel that I have to. And that has made all the difference in the world.

And as such, I’ve found that working out (again) has become much more fun. (I need to give a huge thank you to Danielle “Pendergraham”, my South Carolina Soul Sister Ashley Long, and Uber Coach Jen for helping me along this path of self-discovery). So while it would be sort-of nice to have more on my Sunday schedule, I was okay with my swim. (I'm still a bit conflicted - I feel like I should be doing more training wise. But I also recognize that's the IM training mindset that I had pre-crash.)

Back to my swim today. It was a bunch of 50s, a few 100s, and a heckuva lot of IM work.

If you were at the UWF pool this afternoon, you’ll know that the monsoon-like wave crashing over the pool deck was me, attempting to swim fly “fast”, Because not only was it on my workout to swim fly, drill fly, and swim slow fly. But I was also supposed to swim fly fast. (Say that five times – I dare you).

(whispered)And between you and me; there’s only one speed that I go when “doing” the butterfly. I just butterflop along as best as I can. I just go. Is there any other way? Really??

There is no fast, and there is definitely no slow. Trust me on that one – if I “slow” down, I sink. The only speed is that of desperation. Of getting myself – while maintaining as much dignity as possible – from one end of the pool to the other.

Post swim I returned home, showered, and raided the fridge. I’m not one to reward myself with food all that often, but completing lots of butter fly (okay, okay – it was only 100… but it was ALL in a row. That surely counts!), is certainly justifiable. The only problem; nothing suited my fancy.

So instead, I reached for the sensible, yet boring option of cheerios and milk. And settled with the bowl on the couch. Very carefully I might add. (We're still waiting for the dining room set to arrive. It's currently on backorder.)

After wolfing down the cereal, I found myself again in front of the fridge, contemplating my options. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was calling my name. And its not like I had been eating all day, quite the contrary. I have a hard time swimming if I've got a lot in my stomach. Something about flip turns with any sort of sustenance makes me slightly queesey.

I just didn’t know what I wanted. Finally – in a desperate attempt at satisfying both my sweet and salty craving – I settled on the Sweet Mini Gherkins.

And that’s exactly how Nathaniel found my when he walked in :20 later – fork in one hand, jar of sweet pickles in the other, and standing in the middle of the kitchen with a slightly guilty look on my face. The open fridge in the back ground set the scene perfectly.

“You must be hungry!”

I only nodded. My helicopter flying-husband was a master of the obvious. But I didn’t think he would appreciate a snarky response. I know that I wouldn’t. And besides, it was my deal – the fact that I couldn’t figure out what exactly I wanted, not his. So I kept my mouth shut, instead focused on the sweet crunch of half the pickle, while the other half balanced fastidiously on the end of the fork.

And then, he did something that made my day.

“Look!” he exclaimed, plopping something down on the counter. “It’s a salty treat! I saw this at Target, and I thought of you. Every time we walk in, you tell the story of how much you love Target soft pretzels. Of how your Mom would get them for you sometimes. And I just figured you would like it.”

And, as if by magic, I was launched into my past.

It’s true: as a little girl accompanying my Mom to Target, we would occasionally stop at the snack counter. And I would always go for the salty soft pretzels. The non-salty kind just weren't as good. Occasionally I would add cheese, but usually not. I would pull apart the pretzel, bit by bit, enjoying the savory salt while we walked up and down the isles.

Now, whenever I walk into Target, no matter if it’s North Carolina, California, Florida, or any other place we’ve been stationed, I think of shopping at the St. Paul Midway Target with my Mom. The smell of pretzels and the concession counter pop corn brings me back.

“Do you like it?” Nathaniel’s question snapped me back into reality.

I nodded enthusiastically, managing to get out between bits “Sweetheart!” chomp chomp chomp, "it's wunderbargain!" chomp chomp chomp. Chomp.

Had the man given me diamond earrings, I don’t think my reaction would have been quite as enthusiastic.

A Zipp disc on the other hand…tough call.

And within a matter of seconds, my craving was placated while enjoying the still-warm pretzel with its large crystals of salt.

Sometimes you have cravings for certain things – I don’t think mine was just about food today. I was bored looking into the fridge – unsure about what to eat, and waiting for Nathaniel to return so we could finish our series.

The Target Pretzel, as yummy and delicious (and thoughtful – way to go Nathaniel!) as it was, reminded me of some of the great times that I had growing up. I suppose there’s a reason why even to this day, I still enjoy wandering the isles of Target. It is familiar, it is friendly, and it is associated with happy memories with my Mom and sister.

The pretzel just stirred up some of those happy memories.

So next time I walk into Target, I’ll not only remember my childhood, but I’ll remember how great Nathaniel is as well. Funny how something so simple as a soft pretzel can do that. And it makes me wonder about what other memories are lurking around the corner, just waiting to be recalled. Hopefully good ones – peanut butter and chocolate anyone?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Living Room

It has arrived! The new furniture for our living room - although not everything is new. Only the couch, loveseat, and ottoman. The rest - pictures, rug, book cases, chest, tables, lamps - is all original.

And yes, The Ugly Green Recliner is staying.

I believe it was Greg who suggested that the recliner bore a resemblance to Martin Crane's recliner on "Frasier".

Picture a condo full of priceless antiques, designer furniture, bottles of $500 rare vintage ports. And a mustard yellow recliner.

Well, our place isn'ta condo. We haven't got a lot of antiques. Our furniture is new and nice, but by no means "designer", and our limit on wine is $10 per bottle (a rule that we enacted in college that has remained through the present).

But we're keeping The Ugly Green Recliner (UGR).

Earlier today, while the furniture guys were hauling in the new stuff, Nathaniel turned to me (with a gleam in his eye) and suggested that we 1) sand the wood on the UGR 2) stain it dark to match the rest of the wood in the place 3) remove the cushons and 4) replace them with something else (5 - whispered - perhaps leather???). And then he gave me a sheepish grin.

Wouldn't it be cheaper just to buy a leather recliner? Or a nice leather chair? We contemplated that while furniture shopping last weekend. However the Practical side of Nathaniel came through and that idea was soon squashed.

Because we do, after all, have two cats. One being a 19.8 pound House Monster who attacks at will and the other, a 3.2 pound Mini Monster (Mini Me!) who charges up and down for hours on end. Leather, the real stuff, the stuff that costs more than a shiny Zipp Disc, wouldn't last a second in our place. Because the cats are curious. And they have claws.

And you know what happened to the cat who was curious? chimed Nathaniel....

Actually, we've enacted a new rule in the house: No kitties on the new furniture. And lest they be tempted we got small, plastic water spritzers, to squirt water at them, should they hop on or worse - claw - the couch. Nathaniel has already gotten Tabbitha twice.

I was forced to take aim, but had a very difficult time pulling the trigger.

Poor Tabbitha - who is on a diet, who suddenly has a new little sister, who's food has been moved to the bathroom, who has a hard time dealing with change - can no longer jump on the couch like she's done for the past 6 years. She is now resigned to the floor or Ulgy Green Recliner.

Life is rought, I tell you.

But that's what happends. We go through changes. We grow. We develop new tastes for things, new appreciations, and if we're lucky, we can pause long enough to really enjoy them.

Before I set out for my afternoon ride, I happened across Nathaniel enjoying the new furniture. He was doing what he's been dreaming of doing for the past week: reading his book, a beer close at hand, and relaxing on the couch. It's times like this when life really IS great.