half ironman

The Next Step

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
-Walt Disney

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Can you all guess what I did today?  Anyone?  Okay I’ll just tell you then.  I started my book!  I wrote the whole preface/introduction today.  That means that writing a booking has gone from being one of the dreams I want to accomplish someday to one that I am currently making a reality.  Holy cow!!!  It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few pages because it’s started, and someday it will be finished.  To be honest, I don’t care if it is ever published.  It’s more about the principle of following through on something I’ve always wanted to do.

Up until this point I’ve have been doing the ground work.  I’ve gotten into the habit of writing regularly.  I put a lot of effort (and myself!) into this blog.  I have found my voice and identity as a writer, and been more open and honest than I ever thought I would be.  I’ve even built up my media presence.  All these smaller goals I’ve set for myself have been stepping stones for this major leap.  

I’m sure there are people who will be surprised or think I’m not qualified, but as far as I’m concerned their opinions don’t matter.  Every great author was once an everyday guy or girl just like you and me.  People aren’t born into greatness; they set out and create it.  I will succeed because I am crazy enough to believe I can.  I am a writer not because I have been published, but because I write.  My message to the world is no less valid or needed than any other work out there today.  

I believe in leading by example, and I want the world to know that you don’t need to have a perfect life or upbringing to get somewhere in life.  Every life is full of setbacks and failure.  It’s how we deal with them that builds our character.  Does surviving trauma leave scars?  Yes, absolutely!  Does it mean that you are damaged? Heck no!  

I would never wish the trauma I’ve experienced in my past on anyone, not even my worst enemy.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from it.  We all know that bad things can happen to good people.  What we sometimes fail to realize is that good things can come from bad situations, good things like growth and strength. 

I want people to know it’s ok to embrace your past along with your present and future- even if it’s ugly and full of mistakes.  Take what you’ve learned and draw from it.  Don’t for even a second stop to be ashamed.  We all have made poor choices in our lives.  They make us human.  They don’t define us.  It’s never too late to let go and start living fully.  Nor is it ever to late to set a new goal or chase your dreams.

It’s not about living a perfect life.  No one is perfect.  Perfect is the enemy.  It’s unachievable.  Authentic, however, is achievable; and it’s a great way to go.  

There is nothing particularly original about sharing my story from victim to survivor and ultimately thriver, however that is the point.  I’m not some elite super athlete.  I am an everyday women who took a rather round about journey to finding herself, a journey that involved a lot of anxiety, tears, self doubt, and crazy mileage and dreams.  Never in a million years would I have ever believed that I would be a survivor of domestic abuse, but I also never dreamed I would be a marathoner, ultra runner, swimmer, cyclist, or triathlete.  I am not fearless.  If anything I am a huge chicken.  I’m clusmy.  I was cut (repeatedly) from my track team and kicked out of swim class, but I never quit.  Now I am training for a Half Ironman.  

Believe me when I tell you that “If I can do it, so can you!”

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Why I’m Not Ready to Give Up

“I’m going to succeed because I’m crazy enough to think I can.”

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I’m not sure where exactly the crazy idea started that I needed to do a Half IM or why it had to be the REV 3 at Quassy.  I think it likely had to do with the desire to one day complete the ultimate test of endurace: A Full Ironman.  The REV 3 at Quassy just happened to be close to home.  In fact, the course is only a few miles from our house.  What’s more, the tri club we joined just happens to ride the routes in that area and race there.  It was beyond convenient.  It was meant to be.

In my mind, there are no coincidences in life.  Everything happens for a reason.  Therefore, the fact that I am not yet pregnant and the REV 3 is almost here is a clear sign that I am meant to break into the sport of triathlon this year.  I had no idea how to swim or bike when I first set out to do this race.  I have spent over 9 months training.  I learned to swim, trained countless hours, and now am focused on spending every spare moment honing my cycling abilities.  I’m not looking to set any records.  I just want to finish.

That is why, despite my utter terror of cycling, I am not ready to give up on my dream of completing the REV 3 Half IM this year.  I can’t help but think that if it wasn’t meant to be that the registration would have closed or I would already be pregnant.  I just can’t let it go and accept defeat, even if I don’t feel completely comfortable on the bike yet.  Yes, 56 miles is more than I have ever biked in one day.  Yes, riding on hills still scares me out of my mind.  Yes, I will most likely get annihilated out there.  But, not one of those things has any bearing on whether I can finish.

ImageI know I can swim the 1.2 miles and not get tired.  I also know I can run 13.1 miles when I’m utterly exhausted.  I am pretty sure I can muddle through 56 miles on the bike in between.  I have done other races that have required me to be on my feet and moving for 8 to 12 hrs.  I can run over 30 miles.  One would think that should translate over to have the endurance to complete a Half Ironman.  While I realize its not exactly the same thing, and that cycling involves some skill; I do know that I have managed to bike over 30 miles of hills and then run while sick.  Plus, I’m at a point where I can handle my bike well enough not to be a danger to those around me… as far as not being a danger to myself, well I’m not sure that we’ll ever get there… unless they’ve invented a cure for general clumsiness that I don’t know about.  

Anyway, I am not rushing to go sign up this minute, but I did take the time to map out the bike course into Map My Ride so I can test it and see how long it takes me.  I think I owe it to myself to at least try the course out on my own and see if it is doable.  If it seems like something I can manage, then I’ll come home and sign up.  Well, that is if registration is still open at that point.  If not, then I’ll know it wasn’t meant to be this time around.  

SIDE NOTE: my other task pre-race will be to attempt open water swimming.  Luckily, they have a session this weekend with the tri club.  Hopefully the lake water will be warm enough to swim without inducing hypothermia… and my new wetsuit will get here in time!  In the meantime, I am going to keep practicing my cycling.  In fact, I am meeting up with some peeps from the tri club tonight for a ride near the REV 3 course.  Wish me luck!

Becoming a Gear Girl

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.” 
– Little Engine That Could

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Hello My Lovelies!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, especially all the moms out there!  I had an unexpectedly prolonged weekend due to be home sick from work on Thursday.  That means I have been off from work for almost a week… Unfortunately, I spent more than half that time too sick to move from bed or the couch.  I know!  It was a total bummer and definitely threw a wrench in my training plans.  The good news is, I still made it to our Tri Club Brick and BBQ with the hubs.

So here is the thing about that…  Back when the hubs was in the Marines, he decided on a whim that he was going to do a Half Ironman (IM).  Mind you, this was before he ever owned a bike.  His training consisted of borrowing a bike from a friend and doing some swimming.  Of course, he finished without a problem.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am almost 9 months into training (including learning to swim and bike), and I still don’t feel prepared enough to meet the time qualifiers.  Why?  Because I am not where I need to be with my cycling.  This is something I have been aware of, however it became more abundantly clear at the duathlon… and even more so this weekend.

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Now granted, I went into our group ride this weekend still under the weather, and most definitely dehydrated and short on calories.  The hubs also skipped out on a real breakfast, but a 30 mile ride is a walk in the park for his cycling-loving-self.  I have read in triathlon books that people who do Full IMs average 17-18 mph on the bike portion.  Up until this weekend, I had no concept really of just how fast that is.  Then our group ride started… and I was left in the dust.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you I was literally last.  I did actually catch up with two people in front of me, but the rest of the group was not even within viewing distance for the rest of the ride (aside from when they all pulled over and waited at the first few intersections… yeah, that didn’t last long).

I have to be honest when I tell you it was somewhat demoralizing.  While I understand I am still a newbie cyclist, I have been on other group rides where I was not utterly annihilated by the rest of the riders.  These people, on the other hand, were completely out of my league.  Thankfully, the only two people I could keep up with were a married couple I knew from my swim class.  However, even they were light-years ahead of me on every downhill due to my over generous utilization of my brakes.  Did I mention I was the only one actually using them?  I repeat, Out Of My League.

 

ImageAt least the view was pretty!

I was incredibly grateful to Tammy (the wife of the couple, who I happen to know better from our traumatic experience in beginner’s swimming) for keeping pace with me to chat for a while and waiting at intersections to make sure I wasn’t lost.  There was also a more experienced rider from the group who periodically circled back to make sure we were all ok, and I was beyond appreciative of her as well.  (She even gave me tips on climbing the hills, and was incredibly patient with my slow-as-heck self. God Bless her!)

In all honesty, if it had not been for Tammy, I probably would have broken down in tears.  The ride was by no means an easy one, and the descents were nerve-fryingly, white knuckled, terrifying.  The roads were wet which did not help my fears, and my husband was somewhere off in the front of the pack leaving me in the dust along with everyone else.

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More beautiful scenery as consolation…

I kept telling myself that I am not a bad cyclist, I am an inexperienced cyclist.  I also reminded myself how terrible I was when I first started swimming.  At least no one was kicking me off the route!  Instead, I heard only words of encouragement.  After all, I was the only newbie cyclist out on that loop, and it consisted of a lot of killer hills.  Here I was sick, dehydrated, and alone (for at least a good part of it), and I didn’t break down or quit.  I stuck with it- even when I got super dizzy and light-headed.  I drank from my water bottle, took some cliff bloks, and got back to pedaling.

I am pleased to report that I only toppled over once due to bumping a curb on my way up a steep hill.  I also had one near miss, but was able to correct myself.  I finished behind every other cyclist, but I finished… and I wasn’t far behind my back of the pack buddies.  The hubs and the more advanced riders finished a full 20 minutes ahead of us… which I suppose isn’t too bad considering it was a 30 mile ride.  Their average speed was in the 17-18 mph range, which consisted of riding between 40 and almost 60 mph down the hills (Um, no thank you...)  I headed off on my run just elated to have survived (I think I exclaimed something to the effect of “Yea! I feel so much safer!”).  Meanwhile, the hubs skipped his run and took a nap instead of finishing the “brick”.

I suppose when you achieve celebrity status with the Tri Club for your superior cycling talent, the run isn’t necessary.  That’s right, my super shy and antisocial hubs is now Mr. Popular.  Apparently when you ride in a group there’s a lot of chatting that goes on.  I suppose I would know these things if I actually rode fast enough to keep up with other people…  Can you believe he is already friends on Strava with all of them?  One bike ride, and they are all BFFs.  Go figure.  I guess that’s what happens when you put a bunch of like minded, uber competitive, cycling fanatics together.  How did I not see this coming?

What’s better is he even impressed Coach M and kicked her butt (her words) on the ride… though she admittedly likes the bike considerably less than the swimming and running.

In general, I have to say that I am pretty happy for the hubs.  I do find it slightly ironic, though, that I am the one who dragged him into joining the YMCA and Tri Club with me; and now he is the popular one and I’m struggling (and failing miserably) to keep up.  I guess that just means I have more work to do.

The good news is, I am getting the hang of bike maintenance a lot faster than the actual riding.  I currently am able to de-grease and re-lube my chain.  Plus, I now know how to get my wheels on and off to get all the nooks and crannies clean.  The hubs even taught me how to floss my cassette with a rag to get it extra clean.  Oh! And he happened to puncture one of his tires on the ride, so I got extra practice on changing flats.  Pretty soon I think I will be at the point where I can do these things all on my own without the hubs for supervision. 😉

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I biked today and lived! And I’m still smiling!

Today I spent the morning doing P90X chest and back, and then took some more time getting used to my bike.  I spent 30 minutes focusing on starting, stopping, coasting, balancing on one foot, letting go of one hand, starting and stopping on hills, and then I tried to practice climbing the really steep hill next to my house…  I had to stop when I started freaking my neighbors out with my wipe outs.  So instead I came in and did another 14 miles on the bike trainer… in 80 degree heat and humidity.  Can you say good time?

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So sexy… I know you’re jealous…

It wasn’t glamourous, but I got it done.  The way I figure, any time I spend on my bike is better than nothing!   My next task (other than getting generally comfortable) is to start familiar with some of the nearby triathlon courses.  In fact, I already mapped the REV 3 Half IM course in Map My Ride… I know it’s ambitious, but I figure I can do sections of it at a time and work up to the whole 56 miles.  Hopefully. it shouldn’t take too long to get there.

That’s all I have to share for now.  I hope you all are off to a terrific start to your week!  My goal for this week is to survive work and continue to work toward becoming one with my bike.  What are you hoping to accomplish?

Getting Back in the Saddle

“One thing that cycling has taught me

is that if you can achieve something without a struggle

it’s not going to be satisfying.”

-Greg LeMond

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Hello Everyone!

I have more exciting news for you all!  Yesterday the hubs and I went out for my first official outdoor ride of the season, and I survived!  In fact, I did better than just survive.  I actually did well!  No one was more surprised by this than me.  I think the hubs was secretly impressed, but he hid it well.  I was so happy because I had been terrified of tipping over repeatedly and getting covered in road rash and chain bites.  However, as soon as I hopped on it all came back to me.  

I immediately remembered how to use my gears, which was a big fear of mine.  I also did MUCH BETTER at balancing than the last time I rode theImage bike path.  This was likely related to all the practice I have had in spin and on the trainer with relaxing- especially my shoulders, which I have a bad habit of keeping by my ears.  It’s amazing how much straighter and more smoothly the bike rides when you aren’t holding it with a death grip… go figure!  

I purposely picked the Cheshire Bike Path (as opposed Lake Waramaug which involves minimal dismounting) so that I would have LOTS of practice unclipping and riding through the lane dividers (aka THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE) at the intersections.  I also thought the good vibes from PR’ing on the bike path on Sunday might carry over and help calm my nerves.

The hubs spent some time with me teaching me how to coast while balancing on one foot.  He thought it would help me with dismounting at the intersections, which it did- thankfully!  Normally, I have a lot of trouble coming forward off my seat when I dismount, so instead I end up trying to balance on the toes of my unclipped foot.  This generally leads to toppling over at long lights… hence the reason I avoid city riding altogether.  Well that and being a general hazard on the road

That being said, now that I have conquered swimming, I REALLY want to learn to ride my bike like a big girl real cyclist.  Unfortunately, that means getting comfortable with stopping and starting.  I keep telling myself that if I was able to go from not being able to swim properly at all, and being completely anxious about even getting in the water, then I can conquer cycling too.  

Furthermore, I don’t want to settle for just being competent at it, I want to get proficient at it.  Of all the legs of triathlon, you spend the most time on the bike.  It only makes sense to put energy into becoming the best cyclist I can be.  Getting over my fear of seriously maiming myself riding is a necessary evil.  When I took on swimming, I knew it was essential to achieving my goal of one day finishing an Ironman.  As much as I was absolutely terrified, I was also determined.  

Start by doing what’s necessary;

then do what’s possible;

and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Francis of Assisi

I have never been one to give up on something simply out of fear.  To me, that’s just not a good enough reason.  I don’t ever want to say I didn’t go after something I truly wanted because I was too scared to give my all.  I would rather try and fail.  That is what got Imageme through the swimming.  I was convinced if I could just stick with it that I could do it.  I HAD to do it.  I didn’t consider the fact that I still wasn’t comfortable on my bike.  All I focused on was the task at hand.

Now I am approaching my bike with the same determination.  There is no room for fear.  It is now or never.  I have a roughly 6 week window to get really comfortable on my bike before the REV 3 Half Ironman, and I want to be there.  I know in my heart I can cover the distance.  I have it in me to do it.  If I don’t do it now, I don’t know when I will have another chance.  I have already invested over 6 months of training.  I have learned to swim and spent countless hours running, spinning, cycling, swimming, and cross training in preparation.

That is why I know I will get the hang of this bike, and why I am so thrilled to have survived my first ride unscathed.  I am lucky to have the hubs to back me up.  He loves cycling the way I love running, so if anyone can help me get to where I need to be it’s him.  

Oh and since our ride went so well (we did close to 20 miles at a “good pace”- according to the hubs) I signed up for a duathlon this weekend.  I figured it may be my only chance to practice transition before June.  Plus, it will give me a feel for riding my bike in an actual race.  The hubs says I am ready, so I am going to trust him.  It’s only a 14 mile bike ride, but it’s in downtown Waterbury.  I’m a little nervous about the city riding; but I have been doing well with dismounting so I should be ok.  

Good thing I’ll have my Tough Chik gear!  I swear it gives me super powers that keep me upright!  Maybe it’s just the extra boost of confidence that comes with wearing the logo “This is what Tough Looks Like”.

What adventures are you all taking on this week? 

 

 

Never Give Up

“If you really believe in what you’re doing, work hard, take nothing personally

and if something blocks one route, find another. Never give up.”

-Laurie Notaro
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Remember back when I got kicked out of swim class?  Remember how I said I would make that coach eat her words?  Well not only did I get personally invited back to class, but I have NOW BEEN PROMOTED TO THE INTERMEDIATE LANE!  

In fact, I think I am the only person to get promoted a lane so far in the class.  As if that weren’t exciting (and terrifying!) enough, I also got singled out to demonstrate proper technique for the catch up drill.  This was possibly the most ironic moment to occur in class so far given I was kicked out for having the worst form in class.  lol  Regardless, the rest of the class was highly impressed on both accounts.

They keep telling me how great I look when I swim; however, I feel sort of like that person who lost tons of weight and still sees myself as fat.  No matter how many compliments I get from people on how great and effortless my swimming looks, I still feel like I am struggling and have no idea what I’m doing.  I am still terrified of not being able to breath every time I get in the water, and I still have anxiety before every class that I won’t be able to handle the workout.

swimminghurtsThe thing I continue to struggle with the most is being able to swim lap after lap without rest in between.  This is at least in part due to the fact that I swim as quickly as possible to get to the rest breaks. Now that I have graduated to Lane 2, however, there is no rest between laps.  Instead, we are doing  six 50’s at a time with 10 seconds in between if we’re lucky.  Then, immediately, it’s on to the next drill. Not to mention, there are now 100 meter drills which I am not quite able to do yet (I’m getting close though!)

The other big part of my problem is just being able to relax.  In the rare moments when I do relax in the water, swimming feels effortless.  On the other hand, during class I get so anxious that it is hard to keep my heart rate down, which creates more demand for oxygen, which makes my lungs burn, which makes me anxious… you get the idea…

I think the solution to both these problems is just to swim more- as in drag myself to the pool on my own and put in a closerthanyesterdaylot of time in the water.  After all, it’s gotten me this far.  Plus, I have a long way to go before I get swimming 1.2 miles continuously, so I could probably use al the practice I can get in.

In the meantime, at least I have another small victory to celebrate.  For me, it’s not about being the best swimmer in class or better than anyone else, it’s just about improving.  I am happy to be making progress, even if it’s not that noticeable to me.  My goal in signing up for swim class was to learn as much about swimming as I could, and I have definitely learned a lot from the instructor.  Despite all my anxiety about swimming, I can honestly call myself a swimmer now, and that means something to me. 🙂

 My point in sharing this with all of you is not to brag, but rather point out the value of persistence.  I could have very easily given up on swimming when I got kicked out of class, and no one would have faulted me for it.  After all, the swim instructor had told me to get a refund.  It doesn’t get more blunt than that!  The thing is that I am not at a point in my life where I no longer rely on other people to tell me what I am capable of because I know full well.  Was I a bad swimmer? Absolutely!  Was it hopeless? Absolutely not!

No person should ever allow someone else to crush his or her dreams.  If you want to be a swimmer, find a pool and swim. Want to be a runner, go running.  Want to be an actor, writer, stunt double, lion tamer?  Go do it!  Live your passion!  Don’t worry about other people’s approval.  You need to follow your bliss and do what makes you happy.  No one else in this world can tell you what that is.  You need to find it for yourself.  Besides, what good is someone else’s approval and adoration if you aren’t being authentic anyway?

Go chase your dreams, and never, never give up!

VINDICATION!

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
-Benjamin Franklin

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I am nothing is not persistent.  From the time I was a small child, there was no telling me I couldn’t do something.  Ever determined, I would simply redouble my efforts to find another way.  Once my heart was set on something, there was no redirecting me.  Perhaps this is why as an adult I own two bulldogs… It’s my appreciation for the obstinate.

ImageWhen I signed up for swim class, I was already determined to swim.  It was not just something I wanted to do, it was something I HAD to do.  It didn’t matter that I had anxiety and hyperventilated every time I put my face in the water.  Nor did it matter that I never learned to swim properly.  If I was going to take on a half ironman and potentially a full ironman, I was going to have to get the hang of it.  My goal was not just to learn to swim, but to swim well enough to survive 1.2 miles in open water.  This was my task, and I was going to find a way.

When I decided to join the YMCA and take swimming lessons, I was both excited and terrified.  I knew it would be a huge leap out of my comfort zone, but I was ready for the challenge.  I never imagined that the evening coach would be more intimidating than the water!  I was completely devastated when she kicked me out of class.  It was as if she had confirmed all of my worst fears about myself by pointing out I wasn’t good enough.  However, thanks to some tremendous personal growth over the past several years and a strong sense of self I was able to bounce back from the blow pretty quickly.  Instead of wasting another moment feeling badly about myself, I came up with a new game plan before I even left the parking lot… granted I was crying at the time, but never more resolute!

I was not about to let some coach who didn’t know the first thing about me tell me I wasn’t good enough.  I have a lot of experience with being underestimated.  I’m petite, soft spoken, and polite.  People frequently mistake the fact that I’m quite and reserved for a lack of confidence and self assurance.  However, I am NO PUSHOVER.  I know who I am and what I’m capable of, and this woman clearly did not.  All she saw was someone she thought was struggling to swim: a snap shot in time with no backstory.  I knew for a fact that I would make her eat those words.

I went to that pool and swam everyday after my first class, including the full workout the day she kicked me out and our session on the weekend.  I went to that pool on the days I had to work, days I got out late, and days when I was stuck in traffic and knew I’d only have 30 minutes to swim before the pool closed.  I went everyday for a week straight before I ended up at the pool while swim class was taking place.  They had already started when I arrived.  I wandered over to an open lane and started my usual drills and laps.  I was swimming for almost 45 minutes when I looked up and realized that the swim coach was waving excitedly at me with the entire group in the beginner lane.  Upon returning to the far end of the pool, they erupted into applause.  She had stopped them to watch me swim and they cheered for me enthusiastically.

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t surprised.  In fact, I was shocked.  That class is so intense, I didn’t expect anyone to notice I wasgreatestpleasure even there.  I figured I would fly under the radar per usual.  Their excitement gave me enough of a boost to swim longer than usual, and I was happy to at least enjoy the company of my new beginner lane friends in spirit.  I knew they were rooting for me.  Unlike the coach, they understood where I was coming from.  They struggled with the breathing the way I had, and looked anything other than graceful in the water the way I did.  There was no judgement in the beginner lane.  We were all terrified together, hoping not to be singled out by the coach or drown mid lap.  Our fear of the coach and the water had bonded us almost immediately.

I am fairly certain that seeing me “transformed” into someone who could swim full laps somewhat gracefully with my face in the water gave them hope that they could too.  After all, I was the worst swimmer in class according to the coach- the one who was so awful I was kicked out of class!  Now the same coach was having them watch my swimming to illustrate how much improvement I had made.  If a disaster like me could do it, of course they could!

After class, the girl I had talked most at our last class came running up to me in the locker room to tell me how thrilled she was for me.  “You look like you really know what you’re doing!” I think she was more excited for me than I was for myself.  She said she had asked the coach to show her how to rotary breath the way she had taught me.  The rest of women shared her surprise and enthusiasm. Even the woman from the more advanced groups offered me sincere congratulations on all the improvement I had made.  It was clear though, that it was the beginner group that was most elated, as this was a victory for all of us.  Score 1 for the slow lane!

Then upon exiting the locker room I heard the words I thought would never come “So are you coming back to class?”  It was the evening coach.  I replied that I wasn’t sure if my swimming was strong enough partially because I was still in shock at the suggestion.  She told me I should come to the next class to “See how it goes”.  I’m sure that she was patting herself on the back and taking full credit, which is actually fine by me.  I am just pleased to know it only took me 6 days to make her eat her words.  The same women who initially suggested I get remedial lessons and try swim classes again in January at the earliest was now personally inviting me to class and using my swimming as an example to other beginners.

Like I said, she had no idea who she was dealing with. 😉

You Don’t Belong Here

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this.  For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”

-Henry Ford 
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On Wednesday morning I had my very first swimming lesson, and I thought it went pretty well.  I was both nervous and excited about my second class Thursday night, so I made it a point to head out of work early and ensure I got there on time.  As it turned out, I got there a little early so I spent about 30 minutes swimming laps before class.  Well, I thought I was swimming laps, the women in the lane next to me (who, unfortunately for me, happened to be the night coach) thought they were more of an abomination and insult to the sport of swimming.

lifeisfullofThat is at least what I surmised when she pulled me aside before the class even started and suggested I get a refund.  It wasn’t really a suggestion.  She actually told me that they should have made sure I knew how to “rotary breath” before I signed up.  I suppose I could see her point, but her delivery really sucked.  Plus, I had been very honest about my skill level (ie. swimming to avoid drowning)  when I asked about swim classes.  The woman who signed me up was emphatic about this specific class, and told me that I would pick things up more quickly because the class was a mix of beginner and advanced swimmers.  She stressed that beginners were welcome.  This was reiterated by the morning coach who assured me I would not be the only person in class unfamiliar with swim caps, goggles, and lap swimming.  After hearing the same message repeated by the other swimmers, I was really starting to believe them.  “You’re in the right place” they kept telling me.

Now I found myself in my second swimming class being told not to return.  The message was loud and clear: YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!  She suggested I get remedial beginner classes; and then, when the tears started, she told me to come back this morning and she would spend some time with me.  It was really the LAST THING I was interested in doing, but I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction of knowing how deeply I was wounded.

After the huge blow, she proceeded to give me instructions on the workout along with everyone else. YES– she had me stay for the workout after kicking me out!  The other people in the class were super friendly and supportive, which only made me more disappointed that I wasn’t allowed back.  I choked back the tears and sucked it up through each group of drills.  After it was over, I bawled my eyes out in the locker room.   The other women who were in the class did their best to make me feel better.  They told me that the night coach is really tough on everyone; and it was obvious during the session that she did a lot of yelling (…and that the majority of the class was afraid of her).  They encouraged me to stick with it and offered itsnotoverto help with my swimming.

As upset and disappointed as a was, I was more determined than ever.  I certainly was not going to let some biotch tell me I’m not good enough.  I had been swimming all of 2 days at that point, and had already made HUGE gains.  My swimming wasn’t pretty, but I wasn’t sinking either.  I was plowing out laps like it was my job.  I understand that the rotary breathing is important; however, I was clearly willing to practice on my own and told them I would get my husband to help me.  I didn’t agree with her decision to kick me out when there were clearly people in her class struggling more than I was.  I wasn’t the only person not keeping my face in the water, but for some reason I was the only one singled out.

This woman, obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with.  Back in high school I was cut from the track team repeatedly before they finally relented and let me on the team.  They ultimately had no choice because I kept showing up to practice regardless of whether I was on the team or not.  I thought about doing the same with her class, but it wasn’t exactly a friendly learning environment… Plus, I think she’d have a conniption.   In an odd way, the parallel to the start of my running career made me feel slightly better.  I wasn’t good enough for the track team my first time out, yet here I am a week away from my first 50K.  Maybe it’s a sign that the same will be true for swimming.  I won’t just get the hang of it, I’ll become passionate about it.  Granted, there aren’t a lot of coaches out there who admire passion over talent, but I have to say that it’s gotten me a lot further in life than talent ever has.

My point is, this isn’t the first time I have put myself out there to try something new only to have someone tell me I’m not good enough.  I’ve never let anyone else deter me, so I certainly wasn’t going to let this woman.  Instead, I decided I would spend time in the pool everyday, even if it meant after a 13+ hour shift, until I got the hang of the breathing.  It would be my personal F- you to this women for kicking me out.

So I did go and swim after work last night.  I went even though I got out late, got stuck in traffic, and knew I’d only have 30 struggleminutes at best before the pool would close.  I practiced the drills we did in class and tried my best to get comfortable with having my face in the water.  Then this morning I got up early and met Miss-You’re-Not-Good-Enough at the pool.  I had been absolutely dreading it, but it turned out she was much nicer (not nice, but significantly less bitchy) when not teaching a whole class.  It only took 15 minutes with her for me to get the hang of turning my shoulder and breathing properly.  She couldn’t get over how quickly I picked it up and how “beautiful” and “streamlined” I swam once I got it.  She even admitted she was impressed, though the look on her face said it all.  It was quite priceless, actually.

She didn’t invite me back to class, but at least now I know how to swim properly when I practice on my own.  I also have the card of the aquatics director (who tracked me down in the locker room when I was crying).  She told me to touch base with her and we would “work something out”.  I’m not sure if this means swimming with her or in a different class, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get it down.

When I first signed up for swim classes, I just wanted to learn to swim well enough to finish the half ironman.  However, now that I got kicked out of swim class, I’m determined to be the best swimmer I can be.  After spending time with numerous horrible coaches in high school and college and over 5 years with an abusive ex, I’m certainly not going to let one swim coach with a chip on her shoulder bring me down.  I think I have enough experience in dealing with self-esteem bashing jerks to be able to handle her.  In fact, I find that the best method is usually to make them eat their words, and I think I’m already well on my way to doing that. 🙂