Tuesday, May 7, 2013

try-athlete extraordinaire

a freddyboo illustration
I am supposed to participate in a sprint triathlon in just 3 weeks. 


If you aren't familiar with these kinds of races and you're feeling impressed by the "sprint" aspect of it (thinking that I'll be traveling faster than participants in those "regular" triathlons) then you should know that the "sprint" part refers to a shorter course, not a faster participant.

I'll need to swim 1/4 mile, bike 12 miles, and run 3 miles. 

To be honest, I have the bike/swim thing pretty well covered.  If you've visited here before, you might know of my propensity for life on a bike.  This old bird does hit the lap lanes fairly often as well.  HOWEVER, taking my knees out for a run measures about the same on the misery meter as taking my kids to the Smithsonian.  Oh, the strain! The lack of endurance! The pain! Need I mention the whining and complaining? 

They're just not cut out for it.

While I vehemently refute the idea that my kids are genetically unsuited for museum browsing, I can't make the same objections about my knees' suitability for running.

Apparently, there is a deformity.  Crooked knee-caps or some such thing. 

The doctor did tell me (twenty years ago) that I could run as far as I wanted if I just strengthened my knees regularly with a few easy exercises.  That was good news.  Except I still had a problem. I hate to run.  Given that, I figured never doing it again was also a good option for optimal knee-health.  I put the latter plan into immediate action. 

Except now I like this idea of a race.  My cycling friends and I all want to challenge ourselves.  It could add a whole new dimension to our current work-outs (riding at a leisurely pace through the countryside before pampering ourselves with a luxurious dinner).  OK, perhaps I shouldn't downplay it too much.  It's true that we have conquered a monster hill or two over the years, but we have never really emphasized speed on our rides. 

Besides, it turns out that peer pressure works on grownups too--I don't want to be left out!  If they can run three miles, surely I can too, right?  If I can't, I figure, I can at least try

For the last few months I've been all, "Oh, yeah, I'm doing a triathlon this summer," like I'm a super ready, all over that, regular multi-sport mama.

My kids totally believe me!  I actually think that's important because they see me getting older. They like to tease me about my age, my emerging gray hairs, my FORGETFULNESS.


What was I saying?

Oh--they like to tease me, but you know that under that laughter lurks anxiety.  Kids don't like to see their parents age and become vulnerable.  While I believe the discovery of our weaknesses is part of growing up for kids, I also want to set a good example. I don't like how older people, especially women, get so little positive air-time in youth culture.  I'm middle-aged, yes, but I'm not dead!  If I at least try, and they can see me as a try-athlete at 45, then maybe they'll feel inspired later in life to try something new themselves.  In other words, if I enjoy my middle age, maybe they'll enjoy theirs.

So I've been running. which I don't enjoy at all, but we'll ignore that irony.  I walk the downhills because I accept the limits of my knees, but aside from that, I'm up to two miles. 

I know. That's really far!       For me.

I want to be inconspicuous because this might be one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done.  It's not working, however.  After 17 years of morning walks, the neighbors notice when you change the routine, no matter how hard you try to slink past their windows without anyone noticing the odd wheezing sound from the road. 

In my walking days (one short month ago), I was a hot fast chic.  I was!  My speed in the 'hood is legendary.  No one can out walk me.

Now, that's all coming apart.

Neighbors wave in consternation, "Hi?" they say with questioning and lingering gazes that follow me down the street. 

Walking, my body always felt firm and swift and under control.  I blurred my way past the dogwoods and the azaleas, leaving a flutter of pedals in my wake.

Now, all my softer parts seem to have come loose from the frame, giving a sort of gelatinous effect to my form and evoking words like "rollie" and it's humiliating counterpart, "pollie." 

Worse, I saw my shadow the other day.  I'll leave my shockingly small head out of it for a minute and tell you I could see my "running" pants are high waters, and bell bottoms to boot.  Really?  The word "dork" popped into my head unbidden and I started to giggle.  I tried to stop right away because laughing takes way too much energy when you're "running," but trying to stifle it made me snort which only worsened the crisis. 

I didn't care about fashion in my speed walker glory days.  It didn't matter! But now, if I want to cover my inadequacies, I should probably gear-up: a flashy tank, a svelte ipod, some trendy shoes.  Maybe a blinking something-or-other? You notice that it's always the inept beginner who has the best sports paraphernalia, right?  Instead, I'm out there snorting and gelatinous in a tattered sweatshirt, crooked knee-caps and a pare of too-flared "capris." 

When I got home the other morning, I laughed with Steve about how I stopped and walked in front of our neighbors' house so they wouldn't see me lumber through the frame of their living room window.  Gareth heard me huffing and broke in: "Mom," he said with the drawn out exasperation of an all-knowing teenager, "you just have to pace yourself!"

I choked on the water I'd been sucking down, "PACE MYSELF?!" I spluttered.  Did this foolish child think I could possibly run more slowly? Did he not know how I teetered, just a millimeter of a hop from a walk?  "Honey, I promise you, there is no slower pace!"

"Oh," he said with dawning realization.  I heard him giggling as he walked away.

So there you have it.  He saw my vulnerabilities after all, but that's OK because I wasn't really hoping to hide them.  I just wanted him to see me try, no matter what that may look like.

Meanwhile, I wonder: will my knees survive the race?  I don't know.  Stupidly, I haven't even done those exercises the doctor advised me about.  All I can say is that I will try to get to that tomorrow...

How about you? Are you a "try-athlete?" 

What's your latest challenge?


  1. "rollie" and "pollie" - had me cackling at the breakfast table. This piece is an inspiration to all of us "try-athletes"! I'll remember to pace myself as i head out for a run this morning. :)

    1. thanks for reading and sharing lisa! and yes, do try to pace yourself. i don't want to be too lonely in your dust next month! :)

  2. OMG Debbie, this is hilarious. Makes me want to light up a ciggarette. But, ya know, don't smoke, it's bad for you. LOL Cuz Shellie

    1. hey shellie! what a nice surprise to see you here! that's funny, thought you did smoke - been trying to work up a habit all these years just to impress you! :)

  3. latest challenge. hmmph. up the slide. down the slide. repeat a gazillion times this morning then repeat in afternoon. carry toddler. up, momma. down, momma. that's about the extent of my workout these days. running - which i abhor - sounds like a rather delightful change of pace some days. :)

    1. oh the monotony! i hear you! Here's wishing you an hour or two of quiet, or excitement, or rigorous exercise - whatever it is you're needing!

  4. I'd be content just doing 1/8 of a sprint triathlon! I'll start my training by taking the dog for a long walk!

    1. i love a long walk with the dog! in fact, mine's got a hurt leg, so i've been feeling guilty every morning leaving her home while i go out and "run" without her. poor girl.