Sunday, 19 September 2010

racing to save the world? to save myself?

I have been thinking about racing and competition, whether I could achieve  a podium finish. Wanting to win.  And thinking No Chance!  What's this about? When I think about wanting to win, instantly, in my mind's eye thoughts appear about what would keep me from winning, from being first across the finish line. These are fantasies that distract from the task at hand. A construction of my ego and my own assessment of what I think of as my limiting conditions. Age, weight, physical condition, personal history, mental state. Station in life.  Me against them. Me against me. Competition.  Only one winner.  Then I hit on a paradigm shift. What if it's Us Together, not Against. And we're all winners.

What if the race is about all of us who join up at the starting line to race together, trying to harness our individual power and sweep the course as one human race?   I can draw a circle  around all the entrants, from the first across the finish line to the last to cross. We're all winners in that sense. We will harness the power within ourselves at that moment and express it with grace and courage.  A team that converges at an appointed time and place to fan out over the course, striving to be our individual best.

What if my race day performance is simply an expression of my humanity at that moment, my readiness to exert myself and release the speed that I carry from within. I will race with heart. Unleashing the very best of myself at that moment. Within that bubble of competitors, moving as one group of winners, I add what I bring to the race.

Throughout my training, I have been in love with the practice sessions. I have felt joy every morning ride or run. I have felt excitement and determination in every swim. I have felt courage in the sea. I will take all these experiences with me to the race. Rather than fear of failure, of not "achieving" success or "beating" the other competitors, I will feel delight and celebrate, just as I would at a holiday meal that has required lots of advance preparation. When I celebrate Thanksgiving, I don't sit at the table with fear in mind. I have spent hours in preparation and have confidence that I have put together my best.  It is with pleasure that I dine. And it is with pleasure that I will race.

I read this morning about an athlete who raced the Ironman at Kona only five months after being diagnosed with ALS.  And I read about another Ironman triathlete who now races in a wheelchair  after he crashed his bike while training. He says, every setback is an opportunity to fight back. And that we can do more than we think we can.  So, I feel inspired to race with the field and contribute my best as part of this unique field. And to find the best of myself out there on the race course.

Total Immersion Swimming Freestyle Demo by Shinji Takeuchi

another nice demonstration.

Basic Breathing Drills שחייה

Thursday, 16 September 2010


As the start line approaches, there is an uncomfortable place where I am still reaching for something I want and don't think I have yet. I didn't manage to drop a bunch of weight by the start date. My swim stroke leaves me nervous I'll not make the one hour time limit. Bike? I feel pretty okay on this one. I'm a little nervous about the distance and saving enough that I can run a half marathon with decent form and speed.

On the other hand, I ran a freaking marathon - well, gutted the whole thing out. So I know I can do the competition with heart. I've given birth to two children, survived septic shock, rescued two children from drowning in the North Sea, crashed my bike, survived the incredibly difficult Beach Challenge, and participated in some very challenging professional engagements. So next Sunday, while not a cake walk, will be a long, fun day of pure recreation.  Let's not make the day more difficult by focusing on what I wished I had accomplished on my way to the starting line.  Instead, I started changing my self-talk and appreciating that my body has done the training to prepare me for this race, and that I have wonderful support.  I have developed some great muscle definition in my legs that I never had before.  I feel comfortable in the water.  I run with ease and pleasure. Since May I've run more than 50 hours, cycled more than 1,000 km, and swam more laps than I can count.  I'm ready!

The craving and the wishing?  That's just fear talking.  Perfectionism. A destructive waste of energy. I let go and accept that I will race in the body I inhabit, with my big, healthy, strong heart, loving who I am, and who I was, and who I will become.

Why am I doing this?  Because I find a high degree of pleasure in pushing myself really hard to see what I can do - to the edge of my capacity and just a little bit further. Into the land of the Beyond.   It is a thrilling place to visit.

I will race for the boys I rescued. They are my heroes and their courage and love inspires me.

I will race in memory of Elham Mahdi. And in memory of fellow tri-athlete Elizabeth Bradley who was struck and killed by a car while on a training ride this summer. I will race to inspire girls to grow up and have goals that are so big they're scary and to still pursue them with passion and delight.

Courage is not the absence of fear, it is going forward in the face of fear.  And what is fear anyway but a little conceit. There is nothing to be lost, and only ourselves to gain.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Open water swim tips from Dave

1. Sight the course in advance. where are the turn buoys? How many buoys are there? what would you see on-shore? What are the fixed landmarks that you can see from the turns?  What's the angle of the finish line chute?

2. Slow Deep Breaths at the start, while trying to get on someone's feet and find the buoys, remember to breath.  While breathing look up at the sky for a moment and relax.

3. During recovery, relax and wriggle your fingers - send the relaxation to your shoulders.

4.  As you finish, avoid calf cramps by stretching your toes up (opposite of pointing - dorsiflex).

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Looking forward and taking steps for peace

I've just registered to run 8k in Amsterdam. I decided to run with my colleagues at work to raise awareness of the crimes against women and children in Congo.  I decided to enjoy the day with my colleagues rather than run the half marathon like I did last year.  We will accept pledges to provide financial support through the trust fund of the International Criminal Court.  Funds will go to hospitals that treat rape victims.

I have also created a fund raising page through Run for Congo Women.  If you enjoy running, think about taking a step for peace in the Congo by donating. Even if you can share only the cost of a cup of coffee, you will help to heal the violence of war.  I plan to donate a dollar for every  mile I complete  at Bustinskin on 26 September, where the race will take me through at least 70.3 miles!

What steps for peace will you take?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

heart rate training

I must have been carrying some doubt about the effectiveness of the heart-rate limited training I have been doing the last five months. I say this because of the relief and delight I have been feeling the last couple weeks as my training plan has moved into speed work.  I can run and cycle a lot faster and more comfortably than I could last May when I started training for the middle distance tri at the end of this month.  I had an insight while riding today as I road past the tulip bulb fields I visited in May. Back then, they seemed so far away - I reached them on a ride which was then my longest ever.

Today I found the fields laying fallow. I thought about the waiting time after something is planted. Waiting for it to grow beneath the ground until it blooms.  I thought about my worries during practice sessions where the heart rate limit required me to keep a slow pace.  I was waiting for me to grow. I wouldn't criticise a bulb field for not having flowers in September or February.  Why would I feel concerned about a slow pace during training?  I don't need to bloom except on race day, after I've carefully tended my fields and given myself time to grow.

the joy of morning training