Thursday, September 26, 2013

Yes I do shave my legs... SO?

Its race week.  so many of my friends are packing up and getting ready to head for Augusta, GA to compete in the Ironman 70.3 there on Sunday.  Everyone has different ways of getting ready.  Maybe a lucky hat, or jersey.  Some go get a new jersey for every race, not wanting to have photos taken in the same jersey as the previous race.  Heaven forbid, if you show up and someone is wearing the same exact Zoot jersey or race suit as you, how embarrassing!  From special nutrition, to pre-race meals, to lucky bracelets, whatever it takes to go 70.3 miles as fast as you can go.

Then comes the age old question for cyclists and and triathletes alike.  To shave or not to shave.  No, I'm not talking about my face.  Yes I know hockey players love to grow their "playoff beards" and not shave until they lose.  I'm talking about the legs.  I used to make fun of guys who shaved their legs.  The first time I saw real cyclists wearing spandex with smooth legs, I laughed and said I would never, ever do that.  Guess what, I do both now.

Yes, I shaved my legs for Augusta as I have for many races and long rides.  I was stretching in the gym weeks back and noticed two ladies talking about my legs.  They felt bad when I noticed, but one asked, are your legs shaved?  When I said yes, they both somewhat giggled.  Actually so did I.  One then said it makes your calves look really big.  I wasn't so sure how to take that.  My calves were once referred to as "baby dinosaur legs"  by my massage therapist Lisa, who also said, if we were flying through the Andes, with a rugby team, I was the one she wanted to sit near, how comforting.

The first time I shaved my leg it was a partial, basically I was taping my lower leg, and ripping the tape off hurt something fierce with my hairy lower extremities.  Then the poll question.  I put out on Facebook, to all my athlete friends, should I shave my legs for Ironman FL, 70.3 in Haines City.  Oh I got quite the responses, and it was funny, which was what I had intended.  The overwhelming margin, 47 - 5 in favor of shaving with several smart remarks.  And thus, a new race tradition was born.

Do I feel more aerodynamic, no, not really.  I'm certainly not fast enough for that to make a difference.  It does help getting the wet suit on and off.  One thing I did find, when I did have a bike crash early this summer during a training ride. Cleaning the cuts and road rash, was a lot easier, and those cuts healed way quicker then my arm and elbow where there was still hair.  No I didn't shave my arms, what am I a freak?

As I pack my gear bag for Augusta, GA, I have to smile.  I know I've come a long way since the first time I organized for a race. I had a great track workout, this week.  I feel strong enough and mentally ready.  I also feel like a little kid, waiting to wake up and go on that trip my parents promised so long ago.  I tired on the wet suit this morning.  I've made my gear list, checked it twice, and off for a few last minutes errands and get ready and pack the car.  

Oh yeah, legs shaved... check.  AUGUSTA OR BUST!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Melee of the Mind

I know its been a while since I last blogged.  I just haven't been able to put thought to paper, or keyboard in this case.  I know I have not been my jovial self this year, and my blog posts aren't as funny as they used to be.  I'll work on it I promise.

Ironman Florida, is now less than eight weeks away.  My body is obviously tired, but my mind seems to be racing.  As I have said before, there have been several "Oh $#!+ moments.

As the month of September rolled in, my mind seemed to explode in a staggering amount of emotion, and anxiety accompanied by doubt.  All of a sudden, Ironman FL, wasn't some distant race, we're registered for, but right there in front of us!  You can count the long rides and runs left.  Looking at the training plan and seeing 80, 100 or more miles to ride is rather intimidating.  Then the runs go from the normal, to quasi insane as they get deeper into double digits.  Even the shorter workouts have a sense of urgency and intensity not felt before.

The great Yogi Bera once said:  "Ninety percent of this game is half mental".  Of course he was referring to baseball, but the quote applies to triathlon and Ironman even more!  Your mind has to tell your body to do something it doesn't want to do, and get the muscles to fire and comply.  If your mind isn't clear it becomes very very difficult.

Mom & Dad Sept 4, 1965
As I said, September has been a bit overwhelming for me.  Remembering, what would have been my parents 48th anniversary hit me in a way I had not anticipated.  I just couldn't get out of my own way that day, or that week.

Sleep was hard to come by, as I just could not shut my brain off.  Waking up and walking downstairs seemed to summon all the old aches and pains, and a few new ones too.  Sure I completed my workouts, my spin classes, my rides and my runs, but my heart was heavy, and so too my legs.

Then this morning, September 11th, made all of us stop and remember.  As most Americans, I recall exactly where I was, and what I was doing that morning.  I was safe in Sarasota, FL, but watching a building fall that I had gone into every day for years was surreal.  I remember feeling complete panic when I wasn't sure if my cousin was in that building that day.  It wasn't until the next morning, I would know for certain that everyone in my family was home and safe.  Then feeling shades of guilt as I knew so many people's families were not.

These anxious moments have caused the "melee of my mind" these past two weeks.  What keeps me moving one leg in front of the other, is the great people I have around me.  My family, my father who is an incredible source of strength, my brother, my insane but wonderful sisters are always there for me even though I know they want to kill me at times.  They think I'm insane too, and well, I guess they are right to a degree.

My training family too is just an awesome group!  I can't tell you the satisfaction that comes when Jamie tells me she "hates me" at least once a workout!  Her new line lately:  "How did I let you talk me into this"?  Whether we are running together, riding together we are a family that is there for each other.  I say in the A-Train credo, that "we learn from each other, and we pick each other up when we are down...sometimes literally" has been so true this year.  You guys have picked me up, and picked me up off the ground literally!

Of course who's been with me through all of this, when most would have run away, is Kari.  She's been there through my moments of doubt and pain.  She's picked me up and been there.  She's been a medic, a masseuse, and a reasonably good sport about training at 5:00 am.  Oh sure she has called me a few choice names and has said "I hate you" almost as much as Jamie, but she has been there.

They say when you get to mile 18 of the marathon portion of Ironman, you need a reason to finish, because its no longer about what your body has left.  Well I have several reasons, and they will be with me on the course, with me in spirit, or waiting at the finish line.

In the "melee of what's left of my mind" I can't help but hear Diana Nyad's words over and over again, "We should never, ever give up..."