Friday, September 19, 2008

All the Pieces of the Puzzle

Are coming together.

There is one final one to put in there before I will call the picture of--for me--near perfect training done.

Still gotta do that open water swim. . .

I am a little ill about it, to be perfectly honest.

I have no doubts that I can swim the distance. I swim it regularly.
But in a pool.
And well, the race part does have me a bit nervous too.

Sure I was competitive swimmer once upon a time 25 years ago but even then I got to have my own lane-- in a pool. And sure, I clearly remember getting kicked in the face and swam over in practice but again: in a pool.

A pool where only a leg's length separated me from stopping and standing up to adjust goggles, catch my breath or whatever. Not to mention that every 25 yds (or 50meters depending if it is long or short course) a wall was forth coming. There is a bit of comfort in doing a 5k swim and knowing that every 25 yds you get to touch a solid surface.

So yesterday as I did my final self imposed mini triathlon I played out in my head all my race anxieties-- as if just thinking about them would make it all a little better.

No, not so much.

As I swam my 1600 yds back and forth, back and forth I thought about how I am still scared that I am going to crash my bike and at the very least worried that I will get a flat. Which, no, I still don't know how to change. But I can rationalize with myself that is a scenario that could happen on any given day I ride my bike. Admittedly, I have learned to set that fear on a shelf and only look at it in passing moments. I tell myself there is no reason to pull it down and play with it on race day.

And on my 5k run yesterday I was sad to find that no matter how many bricks I have done this summer it still sucks to get off the bike and run. So sure, despite the 4 long runs I have done over 21 miles, and the 5 16 mile runs and even the 2 twelve mile runs I have done at a sub 8 min mile (and one at a sub 7:30 minute mile) I am STILL anxious that my run is going to be terribly slow and is going to hurt.

But hey, at least I am use to it.

Without a doubt I know what to expect. It will absolutely be no surprise for me if my run sucks. I am certain it is going to. And I have to admit that I have sort of tried in training to make my runs suck to prepare for it: running in the hottest part of the day, long runs in 90 degree heat, running almost every long run a bit faster than I should. I am for sure banking on the misery I embraced in training to get me through the 13.1 mile run portion of the race next Sunday. And oddly enough, I find comfort in that.

But for 30 miles on my bike yesterday I thought about the swim portion of the race and-- I am not sure how I am going to get over this-- my fear of the creepy lake bottom.

I do not like to touch lake bottoms.
Totally skeeves me out.
I don't think I am going to get past this either.

I have tried consoling myself with thoughts about all times in my life I have swam in open water. And I have realized it is not at all open water that bothers me. I am actually quite comfortable in water.

I mean, after all, I grew up with a lake in my backyard. I spent most of the year swimming in that lake from age 13 until college. But when I thought about it I never ever walked into the lake and certainly never ever touched the creepy lake bottom. I either jumped off the dock or was out in the middle of lake when someone would flip the canoe or suicide boat over.

The suicide boat?

Okay, quick stroll down memory lane as this memory totally played itself out to me in my head yesterday as I riding. Funny the things that pop in your head, you know.

The suicide boat was suppose to be a homemade kayak. My uncle was making it but never finished it. I have no idea why we had it but we did. Growing up my dad and his brothers were always swapping, "borrowing" or stealing various rag tagged things from each other that they deemed valuable; like, a 1980 Landcruiser, a Boston Whaler fishing boat, a row boat, various canoes, kayaks, camping equipment, and even a cement mixer etc. Things that sometimes became a fixture-- or just an annoying joke at our house. Other times they would disappear for awhile; only to show back up in the driveway or down at the lake. Ownership of such items was untenable and was usually based on some bet or a wager or bartered form of payment.

The suicide boat was at our house for several years. It looked like a canoe but was much less stable as it was just the bottom shell part of a kayak. The sides were very low since it was missing the top cover part.

We called it the suicide boat because it always flipped over from the very slightest of movement. So if you took your chances in the suicide boat you knew you were going swimming. It also wasn't terribly bouyant so you would have swim back to the dock while trying to keep the suicide boat from sinking. Talk about honing some swim strength. Try swimming 500 yds dragging a waterlogged boat.

But even worse than the flipping and the sinking was the fact that it was made of unfinished fiberglass. So sitting in it, or even just touching it would get fiberglass in your skin. In case you have never experienced fiberglass in your skin it is very uncomfortable and itchy and I am guessing not too healthy.

You'd think we would have learned our lesson the first few times we went out on the lake in the suicide boat but no. That boat was around until Brent, Sean, Liz and I completely destroyed it.

One year it snowed. And see that is headline news here in Georgia on its own. But that year it actually stuck. There was a ton of snow--again, by Georgia standards. So the 4 of us ran down to the lake and got the suicide boat. I don't know if we drug it down the street to the dam or rowed from my dock to the dam but I am guessing that we drug it not wanting to fall in the lake in January. Which, while not completely unheard of in our group, I am sure --well almost sure--that falling in the lake on a snow day is something we would have avoided. I think.

Anyway, the street I lived on was flat. And while the houses on the street sat a top a hill that slopped down the lake; the hill was densely wooded. The only clear hill on the road was the back side of the dam. It was a steep embankment that bottomed out at the foot of a waterfall. A waterfall that was also great fun to play in and yes, we did entertain sliding down the waterfall in the boat but decided against it since it was quite treacherous.

The four of us hopped in the suicide boat and shot down the back side of the damn. The suicide boat went air born and we jumped over the low fence into the creek bed. The suicide boat broke into two pieces upon impact. And we sat in the creek wet and laughing our asses off. It was even better we now because we had two pieces of boat and spent the entire day sliding down the dam into the creek. After awhile my dad showed up--and I was a little worried that we were going to be in big trouble for breaking the suicide boat he seemed not to care. Instead he hooked the larger piece of the boat up to his Bronco and drug us up and down the road.

No. We were not wearing helmets.

That was such a fun day.

And what, by tale you may ask is the point.
Sorry. I don't think I have one.

It is just a tangent that I wanted to set down before it was completely lost in the recesses of my mind.

Or perhaps this memory, and not my missing open water swim, is the final puzzle piece. A piece that revealed itself in memory to remind me that there was a time in my life that I did risky things with abandon and had a freaking fabulous time doing them.

Maybe it is the piece of the puzzle telling me that I have been taking myself and my training too seriously and I need to remember that this is suppose to be fun.

Hmmm, something to definitely ponder tomorrow during my open water swim.


  1. Nat - you are a runner first and foremost. And I have a feeling that no matter how you perform in your HIM (which btw, will be awesome), you won't be happy with the run because you'll be comparing it to your stand alone times. Don't do that! You are doing so well in training and your race is going to be awesome. It's just a different sport when you combine all 3.

    And the lake? It'll be ok. It helps me that I can't see anything but I hate touching the goopy bottom. Even without the wall, it's going to be ok because what's the worst thing you do? Stop and tread for a second or roll over on your back.

    I just know you are going to impress yourself and have a great race. I believe in you!

  2. We'll just jump in and go. No touching the bottom :-) There is an art to running off the bike. You will figure it out, cause you are an excellent athlete.

  3. It snowed a lot back then and I remember one year we tied it to the back of someone's four wheeler and rode it up and down the road.

    What do you mean you can't change a tire it's really easy.


  4. Was that Lacy's 4 wheeler? I remember that too.

    I can changed the tire on a car. Not a bike.

  5. It's actually easier on a bike. You need to learn how to change the tire. Trust me on this you do not want to not finish the race because of a flat tire.