Monday, February 23, 2015

Mom first ... triathlete and writer next

Sometimes being a mom comes before updating the blog.

Okay, well all the time being a mom comes first it's just that sometimes there isn't time for both.

That was definitely the case this past week.

My daughter does gymnastics. She has since she was about 4 or 5. Honestly though she's not perfectly suited physically for being a gymnast. She's 11 and already 5 feet tall.
guess which one is mine ... yes the one who looks like me except she's tall where I'm not.

She has always loved gymnastics and while she wasn't the best on her team she was on the team and that was what was important to her. One of the proudest days of her life was getting her first "team" leotard. There is, to be honest, some serious playground "street cred" that goes with being able to do a good cartwheel in kindergarten and first grade. While I scoff at the idea of being a cheerleader ... it is her dream in middle school and I will no matter what encourage her to chase her dreams.

Her closest girlfriends are on the team. The friends with whom she shares her secrets and feels free to share her creative side freely. These are great girls that she's known a long time and she spends 2.5 hours a day with them which honestly during the week is more than I see her.
When you're legs are long you have more work to do to get up high in the jump and bring all those long parts back in line in time before you land.

Her competition schedule started in January. It didn't go well at all. She scored much lower than she was expecting and it was very dramatic and not much fun for anybody. I was at the competition with her grandmother and grandfather. My husband and son were at a cub scout campout.

My m-i-l was beyond agitated she wanted to "write a letter" to the judges, she told my daughter that the judges were "jerks" and she really pushed me to make my daughter quit the sport. She called me almost every day and that resulted in me dodging her calls.

My father-in-law who is less dramatic than his wife did have some advice that I thought was spot on. He observed that she (my daughter, not his wife) wouldn't know how to quit gymnastics by herself even if she wanted to because she has been doing it as a sport since she was so young. I think he's correct there. As adults we know that sometimes when you do something for a long time it becomes ingrained with how you see yourself and even value yourself. Deciding that it's time for a change can be very difficult. 

My daughter is both my oldest child and my middle child. That's because I have two adult step-children. My husband's first children are both in their 20's. It's only relevant because I know intellectually that what my daughter is going through to some extent all children go through. I'm not unique. My step-son dreamed of playing for the NY Yankees.  I remember when he asked us, "why doesn't everybody play for the Yankees?" I also remember that his final season of baseball was really tough for him because he wasn't good enough. But back to my story of parental angst from these past weeks.

This is a transition year for my daughter. She'll be changing schools next year. A lot is going on in her young life. Eventually, I came to realize that if she didn't need to change this thing that was so important to her she shouldn't have to. And of course quitting after one bad experience isn't a great message.

Those who know my daughter might be able to tell that she was already stressed going in to this competition. Isn't she a cutie?
The second competition which was only 2 weeks later didn't go any better. Even though she had worked really hard during those two weeks and she had made big improvements. There were tears after each event and as her mom my goal became just to help her make it safely through the day. She is USAG level 4 so she does big moves including a cartwheel on the balance beam and a short trip up to the high bar in uneven bars. Which is to say that it was in my mind that if she couldn't calm down she could get really hurt. But she did pull it together and complete all four events and stayed and cheered for all of her teammates getting awards even though she got none.
okay terrible picture. But on the left on the stage is my kiddo with her team collecting the team award. She's in the pack of the group and it's hard to see but she's almost as tall as the next tallest girl's hand extended over her head. She towers over this group especially now that the two girls who are a year older are both out injured.

My husband who had been very relaxed about the whole thing did get to see how much she was hurting which was good because he understood that I wasn't overreacting. He's pretty confident that I overreact to most things. But he wanted to let her stop mid-competition she was so upset.

Parenting can be really tough
It has been a parenting challenge. It is incredibly hard to watch your child hurt and want to make it better but also want them to do it themselves and battle with yourself to know what to do. This is just gymnastics ... in the end it doesn't even matter. Except that it is very important to her ... right now. She has the very lucky luxury that this is one of the most important things to her. All that was bouncing around in my head these past few weeks and getting in the way of me blogging (and doing much else except fretting and making my husband nuts as I hashed through it every night).

But I think we're working through it together. I'm 100 percent confident that my daughter knows that everyone in her life is proud of her doing gymnastics regardless of the score. One hundred percent because I have told her in a zillion different ways since the beginning.

This is the best arabesque she's ever done on the beam her foot is up above her head. She has really worked hard on her events and I am amazingly proud of her.
I have delicately started the discussion that she is probably better physically suited to other sports where being tall is a blessing without crushing her self-esteem which is very tied into this sport. That has been the hardest thing without a doubt to try to do and sadly I won't know for about 25-30 years if I'm correct that I haven't shattered her self-esteem.

I have reconfirmed with her that I know that these are her very bestest girlfriends and that I'm not going to ask her to stop going to gymnastics (which I wouldn't do unless she was hurt. Did I mention both other tall girls on the team are at the moment... injured that is. Well they are.). And I have started the conversation about changing the goals in her mind for her next competition so that she can enjoy the day. I have said to her that we do this for fun and so we should enjoy it. As long as she gives it her best (which she always does) the score is just a number.

Now back to me and triathlon... I practice what I preach. 
I do beleive that if you give your all the result is just a number. In gymnastics and triathlon. I really do. But there is some small print.
  • a) you have to give your best in training for your race day result to be the best. Best doesn't mean top effort every day it means following the plan to the best you can. If you are sick the plan changes, if you are busy the plan changes, if you are injured all bets are off. 
  • b) It takes tremendous courage and confidence to take that leap and go ahead and give it your all on the day of the race. 

The confidence to swim the swim without worrying about the bike. The confidence to push on the bike to get the time you want and know that the run will be there in your legs and lastly the courage to run the marathon with all you've got.

When I do that I I feel good at the finish whether the clock says 15:20 or 13:05 or some lower number that I'll hopefully see in the future.  Actually, in Chattanooga I was pretty cranky at the finish for a few minutes but within a few hours despite knowing that I hadn't run the marathon time I wanted I knew I had run the best marathon I had in me so I was okay.

That to me is the challenge of triathlon. That's why I love it. That's why I do it (over and over again).

152 days until Ironman Lake Placid. But who's counting?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My recent Ragnadventure - standing by the highway in the middle of the night in the wind and rain waiting for my runner -- it must be The Ragnar Relay Report - Miami to Key West 196 miles

Saturday morning at about 3 am I was standing on the edge of the highway hiding for shelter behind a parked "church van" from the chilling winds and waiting for my runner to come into the Ragnar exchange. Yup ... it's time for the Ragnar 2015 Team We've got the runs race report. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

I love Ragnar. It's kind of a mix between a road trip, a sleepover party, a running race and a hazing ritual.
gratuitous photo of another van.

It's really all about the van
There are 500 teams which is 1000 vans (I'm good at math). That's a little over the normal population of available 15 person rental vans in Miami. It turns out you cannot wait until the last minute to rent the vans. Too late! I found us vans but we ended up with vans from Sunrise Van Rental. Very nice guys there but these vans had seen better days. In fact, both our vans got dead batteries at some point during the weekend. A little stressful. But in the end they did the job and got us home safely.

Switching from driving the huge van back to your regular car is a little funny. I stopped short about three times driving the kids to school Monday morning ... my daughter definitely gave me the stink eye.

Part of the tradition of Ragnar is to decorate the vans. We are amateurs in my group at this so we employ child labor in the form of my children who love it and then the adults take over from there.  

People in the van bond for life but dropping out the day before the race gets you hazed
Unless you live under a rock you know the joy and torture of being included in a group text. During Ragnar we communicated via facebook and text.  We had one teammate who is not on Facebook ... I know I know how does she live? But she shared information with us all via text. Including sending everyone in the group every photo she took.

We did have a runner drop out of our group one day before the race. Her punishment ... we never dropped her from the group text. Hope she had fun ignoring all 3 billion messages and photos. Sorry but not sorry. Hope your dad is okay, you seemed not to worried from the selfies you posted from the gym during the race.

The Worlds Hottest 3 second shower, King Ragnar and Speedo man
King Ragnar. You're welcome.
Some people will make it the whole way without a shower. But not us. After the second leg we were all too ripe to go any farther unbathed. So after a quick stop at IHop for pancakes we headed to the Coral Shores Elementary School which for some reason has ample showers for 1000 runners to use during this race.

Clean from the worlds hottest shower. But still not sleeping.
I never showered at school in elementary school and I have children in an elementary school that barely has a cafeteria so I can't explain this phenomenon but I'm happy to be able to take advantage of the shower.
Other people sleeping. The only thing worse than not being able to sleep is clearly being surrounded by people who are sleeping.

You pay $3 and you get a bar of soap and a towel the size of a washcloth. As this was not my first ragnar I brought a shower bag including a towel this year. Then you head to the shower (in your shower flip flops don't be daft) and press a little button and you get 3 seconds of 300 degree water showered onto your body scalding off whatever skin it hits. Lather up, switch positions a little and repeat until all your flesh is either gone or your feel clean.
It's Ragnar the speedo works ... trust me. Actually Roy is on a team that won the whole race last year so he gets to wear whatever he wants.

The Battle Cry: Maddie needs her hair tie!
In van two one of our runners is a fire fighter who drives the big fire truck. She handled the van like a sports car. which created some hilarious moments like when she tried to teach me the official hand signals and I failed when I waived to a friend and she almost backed into another van. Grade "F" for amy on hand signal class.

That's Mario Andretti demonstrating the correct hand signals. Not like me who almost directed somebody to crash the van waving to a friend ... oops.
In leg 35 of 36 Maddie had a hair tie emergency. The wind had literally ripped it out of her hair and she was struggling to keep her pace. The Hair Tie Emergency team left runner 36 at the exchange and ran back to the van to give her a hair tie. Driver Arlene Mario Andretti  issued the command to, "hold on girls!" and floored it accellerating the ancient van from 0-75 in about 2 minutes. Always calm under stress runner Nicole issued commands to find a hair tie which was prepped for transfer.

Driver Arlene honked the horn about 75 times to alert Maddie we were on our way going the opposite way and then she threw a u-turn so fast I am pretty sure not all the wheels were on the ground. But I can't be sure because my eyes were squeezed shut and I was bracing for my life in a cross between preparing for an airline crash and curling into a fetal position. I may have wet my pants.

Then of course I hung out the window while Arlene screamed don't let her get too close to the van and carefully handed her the hair tie while we were still moving. Then we accelerated back to maximum van speed to make sure we were there in time for the final runner exchange.

Then I may have laughed hysterically for about 15 minutes.

Good times.

Sleep is for sissies!
For the second year in a row I got zero sleep during the race.

Mario Andretti not sleeping either.
I made a serious effort this year to get some sleep. In fact I made my whole van defer showering to turn off the lights and get some shut eye at our first break. But no luck. I was lying on my air mattress thinking how incredibly uncomfortable air mattresses are, listening to Lori sleep and wondering why I couldn't sleep so I checked my watch and it was 7:45 pm ... well that's one reason. It was a little early for sleep.

Look at me even with my eye cover and yet no sleep.

I was so tired by the end that it was a serious question whether I would fall asleep at dinner. I was in bed asleep at 7:15 Saturday night. zzzzz. Sunday night I also slept hard, Monday everybody kept telling me I looked like a zombie and finally today I feel human.

We finished the 196 miles in 29 hours. We were 119th overall and 66th in our category. Which is pretty great. We don't treat it as a race other that we do our best. We do this for fun so no pressure. Except to make shirts there is definitely pressure that next year we need shirts and magnets.