Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aspiring No More

Last Saturday I stood on a beach at 6:30 am while a stranger wrote numbers on my arms with Sharpie. My husband's hybrid was balanced in a wooden rack between some impressive-looking road bikes, standing guard over my running shoes. People bustled around me, some walking bikes, others clipping straps to their ankles, yet others testing the water. A man spoke into a walkie-talkie about buoys and kayaks. This was not my typical Saturday morning.

Two hours later I stood in 66 degree water wearing a bright green swim cap, waiting for the horn that would signal me to start swimming. So began my participation in the North Country Triathlon in Hague, New York, my first sprint triathlon. The horn sounded for my wave and we started swimming. Thirty seconds later the bottom of Lake George disappeared from view and my swimming became floundering as I fought a wave of panic. My wetsuit felt tight and I couldn't catch my breath, nor could I put my face back in the cold water. Six months in a heated pool had not prepared me for the cold lake swim.

After thirty minutes I dragged myself out of the water. Freestyle had been abandoned, but I managed to complete the half mile swim with a combination of breast stroke and side stroke. Occasionally I floated on my back and kicked. I did manage a few seconds of freestyle as I got close to the shore and could see the sandy lake bottom again. I was tired and knew I was one of the last people coming out of the water, but the swim was just the start, so I stripped my wetsuit off as I plodded up the beach to my bike.

The start of the bike course was uphill. For a couple of miles I pedaled furiously with my chain in the smallest rings and seemed to go nowhere. The slower swimmers from the wave after mine passed me on their fancy road bikes (the faster swimmers had passed me in the water). I kept going. After six months of training, I planned to finish this thing. At an aid station I grabbed a cup of water and asked if we ever got to go downhill. The volunteer laughed as she told me the top of the hill was right around the next bend. Sure enough, a few minutes later I was coasting downhill.

It turns out the clunky hybrid is capable of some decent speed. Hours and hours of pedaling with the bike sitting on a trainer in my kitchen during the winter and rainy spring must have paid off. My legs weren't screaming despite the long uphill climb, so I pedaled to maintain my speed. I even caught and passed a couple of people. Flying down one hill, hearing nothing but the wind in my ears, I realized that I was having fun. Even though I was racing, I was relaxed and enjoying being out in the fresh Adirondack air. The frustrating swim was out of my head. Instead, I was wondering how I could get my hands on a road bike for next time. At that point, I knew there would be a next time.

I was almost disappointed when the transition area came into view and I had to get off the bike. I found my place in rack and left my bike, then turned and ran back out of transition and onto the run course. The sun was strong and the run also started uphill. I was running too hard and felt my heart rate climb, so I took a couple thirty-second walking breaks, had some water at the next aid station, then started running again. It took a couple of minutes, but I found my rhythm and the rest of the run went by quickly. Before I knew it I could see the finish line. Just as it came into view I could hear someone coming behind me. Not wanting to get passed at the end, I sprinted to the finish, slowing down just before crossing the line to wave to my kids and my mom.

A volunteer handed me a finisher's medal while another cut the timing chip strap off my ankle. Then I got hugs from my family. My son told me to wear my medal, so I did. I was no longer an aspiring triathlete. I finished. I am a triathlete.

Monday morning, after taking the remainder of the weekend to think about my race and what I needed to do to get better, I registered for another triathlon. In September, I'll be competing in the Lake George Triathlon. This will be an Olympic distance event, twice as long as the sprint I'd just completed. This time I will be ready for that swim.
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Monday, June 22, 2009


Back in yoga teacher training, a big challenge was mastering transitions. A good yoga class flows from one pose to another with limited movement, allowing the students to maintain peaceful focus. Too much repositioning or jumping around gives the mind an opportunity to start chattering away, distracting from the meditative quality of the practice. At first putting together a class with good transitions was a daunting task, but, with practice, it started to come naturally. I love to come up with creative sequences that flow smoothly.

Triathlon training came with another transition challenge. I have to master leaving the swim and getting on the bike, then getting off the bike and starting to run. I've been practicing the transitions, hoping that on Saturday I'll be able to get my socks onto my wet feet and that I'll remember to take my bike helmet off before the run. Time counts, so these transitions have to be quick and efficient.

My life is in the midst of a big transition, too. Selling the house, moving to another state, changing careers, putting the kids in a new school - all these things need to go smoothly. Unfortunately, life is not as easily sequenced as a yoga class. There is no opportunity to practice the changes life throws at us. Sometimes there are glitches, and those can be stressful. Life's transitions also come with an emotional toll. Even though I am looking forward to the move, there are people and places that are hard to leave behind. This past week has had more than its share of glitches and good-byes, and I struggled to get through it.

adho mukha svanasanaImage by whatnot via Flickr

Like I have during all the stressful times in my life, I'm finding myself drawn to my yoga mat, even if it's just for a quick sun salutation before a run. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog) has been my favorite pose for the last few weeks. I like having my hands pressing into the mat, connecting me to the earth. I feel grounded and stable in down dog, even while the rest of my life is up in the air. My kids like to do double down dog, which really feels great and gives us a chance to have some fun together (and builds some trust, too).

When I look back on 2009, I'm hoping to see a time when I met the challenges of transition with grace and strength, and not too many tears or tantrums. I'm heading into the second half of the year looking forward to a time after the changes, when the only transitions I need to think about are going to get a yoga class from Tadasana to Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nature - Cute and Bizarre

Ever since my husband headed to the north country with the dogs, the New Jersey wildlife has reclaimed the backyard. We suddenly have a population of bunnies and groundhogs, hordes of squirrels, and birds galore. I'm not complaining, since we're enjoying watching the antics, but I'm keeping a close eye on the groundhogs and their proximity to my "vegetable garden" (large pots containing tomato, eggplant and pepper plants, which will move when I do).

Fuligo septicaImage via Wikipedia

We've had an interesting addition to the New Jersey garden this year. After days and days and days of rain, I noticed a patch of yellow in the garden that looked like vomit. Had the dogs been around, I would have assumed one of them had gotten into something gross. Curious, I did a search on google for "garden vomit" and discovered that the mysterious yellow goo is actually called "dog vomit slime mold". I'm not making this up. Check out Tom Volk's page on Fuligo septica here.

Dog vomit slime mold hangs out around rotting wood, eating bacteria. The extra water this year must have made my wood mulch a good place for the slime mold to grow. They must have had some wet weather in the 1950s, when a large patch of slime mold inspired the movie "The Blob".

We've got plenty of birds in the yard, but my kids and I have really been enjoying Cornell Lab of Ornithology's nestcams. Twitter friend @adktricollie turned me on to the website, where you can watch the nests of an owl, a falcon, a chimney swift and a robin. The young barn owl is really fun to watch. What a funny face he's got!

Thanks to Mother Nature I've had some nice distractions from packing, work and my pre-race training taper. There are some really amazing things out there!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


purple explosionImage by tattoodjj via Flickr

All the hard work paid off. After only nine days on the market, we got an offer on the house. Now we have to see how the negotiations go. A bunch of people have looked at the house, so I'm hoping there will be other offers too.

This week I started to taper for my triathlon, reducing the time and intensity of my workouts as the race gets closer. I have been warned that tapering gets maddening when the race gets close. A rested body is ready to go, and you have to hold back and save the energy for race day. It sounds like a good time for meditation.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Tonight, as part of our meditation, I asked my yoga students to think of things in their life that brought them joy or peace and to send a silent thank you to the universe for these things. Because energy follows our thoughts, focusing on the blessings in our lives brings us more blessings. It sounds easy, but the things that are stressful or unpleasant are what we tend to think about. We should practice thinking about the good things in our lives.

To follow my own advice, I thought I would share some things that I am grateful for today.

  • I am thankful that the sale of our house is being handled by a wonderful realtor and friend. He is the same realtor who helped me buy the house, and he worked very hard to make sure everything went smoothly then. I know he will work just as hard now.
  • I am thankful for my husband, who was willing to look for a job 300 miles away and move there on his own, so that in a few months I can fulfill my dream of teaching yoga and spending more time with my kids.
  • I am grateful that the universe blessed me with a great teenager who takes care of her little brother without complaining, and without whose help we would not be able to manage this transition.
  • I am thankful for every student who walks into one of my yoga classes and the energy each of them brings to the classes. I am blessed to be able to share my yoga practice with people who appreciate as much as I do the calm, openness and strength that yoga brings.
  • I am thankful for the divine guru who, no matter how I am feeling, speaks through me and brings my students the class they need each and every time I step on my mat at the front of the room. I am especially thankful today that I was given renewed energy for a couple of hours so I could be fully present for my students despite my illness.
  • I am grateful for the technology which allows me to share my thoughts with so many, and for those who read my thoughts and share my joys and struggles. Thank you.
May your life be full of blessings and peace.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sneezing is not Training

I guess it was bound to happen. I haven't been sick for months, but between working, training, teaching and packing, I've gotten a bit worn down. Last night my throat was hurting, and today I feel a full-blown cold coming on. Yuck.

I decided to take a few more days off from training so my body can put the energy towards fighting germs. I'm also taking lots of vitamin C. I hope I can beat this thing quickly. With less than four weeks left, I don't want to miss too much training.
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