sept 27/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
to the ywca pool

I always bike on the river road to the greenway then over the Sabo bridge,until I reach lake street and the high school where my son goes. I turn left, bike on the sidewalk for half a block, carefully turn in the narrow gate and I’m there, at the u. Today for the first time, maybe ever, I saw a train on the tracks beside the greenway trail. Usually the tracks are empty or, occasionally, someone is walking their dog on them.

swim: 1 mile/1800 yards
ywca pool

Changing into my suit, I overheard a woman talking about swimming in the locker room. “People ask me why I swim. Isn’t it boring, just swimming back and forth? And I tell them that it gives you time to think. I’m always thinking about work stuff, planning what I need to do. I should get paid for my time in the pool because I’m working!” I like locker rooms and the rituals around either getting ready to work out or winding down after you’re finished. I don’t always like talking to other people, but I enjoy listening to their conversations. Frequently, they’re happy and positive, about how great it is to work out or when they started working out or answers to the question of where they got their lotion/socks/shoes/shirt/shorts. The best conversations are between the older women (the silver sneaker set) between 9:30 and 10:00, after they’ve finished the aqua blast class. So much laughing and giggling and joy. They feel good, working their bodies in the water.

Only swam a mile today because I think all the flip turns are messing with my kneecap (I’ve displaced it before, pushing off the wall). I could stop doing flip turns, but I’d rather stop coming to the y and run outside this winter. Swimming is something I’ll do in the summer. Noticed that the blue tiles that make up the plus signs on the walls at either end of the lap are in blocks of 6. I tried thinking about different things while I swam, most of which I don’t remember. Lots of thoughts about my stroke and the catch, push, pull, recovery of it. And, one fun idea about a writing experiment I’m doing right now about my many Sara identities (the Saras): the Sara with a smile not the Sara with storms brewing in her eyes.

Discovered a wonderful poet who is also a swimmer the other day: Maxine Kumin. In her poem “To Swim, to Believe” she writes:

Each time I tear this seam to enter,
all that I carry is taken away from me,
shucked in the dive.

Where have I come from? Where am I going?
What do I translate, gliding back and forth
erasing my own stitch marks in the lane?

What a beautiful way to describe how swimming takes away/erases your thoughts/worries/sense of self!

sept 14/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
to the ywca pool

The hill up to the Sabo bridge was easier today. Could this be because I’m biking it more?

swim: 2 miles/3520 yards
ywca pool

Swam slightly less than on Wednesday, but I did it. 2 miles. I’m hoping to do this twice a week this fall/winter (at least). Might need to mix it up with some sets because an hour of lap swimming with so many flip turns gets a bit tedious. Today I put in a quick set of 4 X 100s on 1:45. Still not enough variety. But, even though it was tedious, I enjoyed doing it and felt good during and after. The main thing I remember about the swim is the beginning. Swimming underwater, my nose almost touching the white tiles, as I swam at the bottom for 3/4s of the first length. Swimming underwater without breathing until I reach the line marking the deep end has been my ritual at the y pool for several years now. Rereading this last line, I’m wondering: is there actually a black line at this point or does it just drop off? I’m doubting my memory now. I’ll have to check next time I swim. It always starts my swim.  I also remember how the choppiness of the water when all the lanes were full and the woman next to me was vigorously kicking. No waves making it hard to breathe, like on the open lake, but a gentle rocking. Oh, and at the beginning of the swim, when I was still getting used to breathing with my nose plug on, feeling the sting of chlorine trapped in my nose, burning. I thought about stopping to adjust the plug but I figured it would stop bugging after a few laps (it did). And the older woman in the brightly colored suit swimming next to me, her body halfway between horizontal and vertical, bobbing and kicking and hardly moving forward. Strange and fascinating and beautiful to watch. And the feeling of power and strength as I plowed through the water after increasing my speed for 4 100s.

Before ending this entry, decided to google, “swimming pool poetry”. Here’s the first thing that popped up:

Swimming Ool
BY KENN NESBITT

Swimming in the swimming pool
is where I like to “B,”
wearing underwater goggles
so that I can “C.”
Yesterday, before I swam,
I drank a cup of “T.”
Now the pool’s a “swimming ool”
because I took a “P.”

This poem reminds me of sign at a nearby Middle School with a pool. Someone removed all the ls so instead of “pool, pool lobby,” it says, “poo poo lobby.” It makes me laugh every time I see it.

sept 7/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
mississippi river road north/midtown greenway/sabo bridge/ywca

What a glorious early fall day! Sunny. Clear. Slightly cool. The view of downtown from the Sabo bridge was beautiful.

swim: 1.36 miles/2400 yards
ywca indoor pool

96 laps. 96 flip turns. Surprisingly, so many laps and turns didn’t bother my mood or my knee today. I felt strong and swift and glad to be swimming again after almost 2 weeks off. The water was so clear. I could see every tile below me. Such a different experience from the lake where I couldn’t see anything. It was also nice not to have to worry about sighting the big orange buoys or getting off course or random debris getting stuck on my hand or my head. I still prefer open swim, but I’ll happily swim in this pool a couple times a week this fall/winter/spring.

sept 6/RUNBIKE

run: 2.5 miles
62 degrees
mississippi river road path, north/south

This is my fourth day in a row of running. Feeling good. Woke up to 53 degrees. Fall is here!

bike: 9 miles
lake nokomis and back

Was planning to swim at the lake today but I got there just as a boat was taking out the last buoys. Last year, they kept the buoys in until the beginning of October. I’m sad but slightly relieved to know that it’s over–no more doubts about whether or not I should try biking over the lake to swim. I can’t, it’s closed. See you next summer, beloved Lake Nokomis.

aug 19/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 3.4 miles/5 loops/6000 yards
lake nokomis open swim

5 loops for the first time ever! Maybe I can swim 6 on Tuesday? Felt strong and not too sore. Such a great way to start the final week of the open swim season.

aug 16/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 2.2 miles
mississippi road path, north/south
69 degrees/90% humidity/dew point 66

With my lingering cold and the thick air, it was hard to breathe. Mostly I managed short, jagged breaths. It doesn’t help when the temperature and the dew point are almost the same!

bike: 4.3 miles
to lake nokomis

I only biked to lake nokomis because Scott gave me a ride home. Two things I especially remember: 1. I can “see” the path much better than at the beginning of the summer. Is it the light that makes it better? Am I actually “seeing” it or have I just memorized all the curves? 2. Too many acorns on the path. Sometimes they crunched loudly under my wheels, sometimes they popped and went flying across the path. I was worried my wheel would hit one wrong and I’d crash, or a popping acorn from someone else’s bike would hit me in the face.

swim: 2.72 miles/4 loops/4800 yards
lake nokomis open swim

This is the best open swim season I’ve ever had. I’ve swam 4 loops 5 times this month (so far).  I only swam 4 loops once last summer, on the final night of open swim. The water was warm and calm and buoyant–at least it seemed more buoyant to me. I felt powerful and happy. Swimming back to the big beach, into the sun, I couldn’t see the big orange buoys at all. I swam mostly blind, occasionally glimpsing a stroking arm or the top of the building or a light pole or a lifeguard. I wonder if everyone else had as much trouble as I did or if it was my messed up central vision? I keep planning to stop in the middle of the lake and take a minute to pay attention to the light and the feeling of being immersed in water, but I don’t. It’s hard to stop pushing myself to the other shore. I’ll be happy if I manage to do it just once in the final week. I’m ready for summer to end, but sad that swimming in the lake is almost over too.

aug 14/RUNBIKESWIM

2 miles
dogwood coffee run
75 degrees/77% humidity/dew point 67

Scott and I decided to run together before going to vote in the primaries. So thick outside! Everything felt heavy, especially my lungs and my legs.

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

It’s amazing how much easier it is to bike when you have your tires pumped up all the way!

swim: 2.72 miles/4 loops/4800 yards
lake nokomis open swim

Open swim is almost over and I will miss it. 4 more regular sessions + the 2.4 mile race on the final morning are all that’s left. What a great summer. Things I remember about my swim:

  • so many weeds and twigs to swim through, some almost like webs or nets
  • something warm touched my foot, before freaking out correctly decided that it was another swimmer’s hand and not a fish
  • lots of planes flying above
  • such opaque water!
  • several swimmers swimming way out, almost past the edge of the course, others swimming straight, from buoy to buoy
  • glimpsing something out of the corner of my eye–a swimmer? a duck?–decided it was just a wave then suddenly a blue-capped swimmer popped up, someone swimming breaststroke, surfacing only for a second before hiding underwater again–good thing I didn’t swim over them!
  • realization: I love choppy water

aug 7/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 4.5 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
71 degrees/87% humidity

Dark green tunnel above the gorge. Leaves blocking out my view to the river and the sky. Later, past the old stone steps, I could see slices of the blue gray water. Lots of roller skiers. Some behind me going slow enough that they never caught up. Some ahead of me, slowing down enough that I could pass them. Why so many skiers this week? Ran to the Franklin bridge and then stopped to watch some rowers passing under the bridge. Felt pretty good, even if I walked a few times. Too many discarded acorns on the path crunching and twisting my foot. Why so early with the acorns? Will fall and winter come too soon this year?

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

A typical bike ride. Not too fast, on the river road. On the way back, looking out through the trees at the river, I felt lucky to live here and be able to bike on this trail so often.

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis main beach

Looped around the white buoys ringing the big beach. 5 or was it 6 times? The water was gray and calm and cool. My arms felt strong cutting through the water, my legs powerful as I kicked. Several kayaks paddled through the swimming area, too close to me, so I spent much of my swim always looking out for clueless boaters. Swam for a little over 30 minutes. So glad I fired up to bike over. I’m going to miss these long loopy swims when I’m in the pool this winter doing countless flip turns, hoping my knee doesn’t slide out of its groove.

may 29/BIKERUNBIKE

bike to lake nokomis and back: 8.8 miles
run around lake nokomis: 2 miles
82 degrees

And the heat wave continues. Decided to bike to the lake. Was planning to swim when I got there, but I cut my finger pitting cherries yesterday and I’m wary of open swimming with an open wound. So, I ran instead. So hot! Even in the shade. Managed to run almost all the way around. Stopped at 2 miles. Saw a few other people running. Mostly slowly and miserably. Ended my run near the fishing dock. A paddle boat was up on the grass with no one around. How did it get here?How long has it been here? Where are its paddlers? When I got back to the big beach, I returned to my bike and grabbed my water bottle. The ice had melted, but the water was still cool. Then I walked into the water. It’s warmed up fast! A few people were out swimming, doing wide loops around the white buoys. Standing on the sandy lake bottom so clear and clean with the water almost up to my chest, the sun reflected off of the waves, bright and sharp, hurting my eyes. Not nearly as pleasing as the sun-casted shadows of leaves dancing in the breeze near the bike rack that memorized me before my run. Leaving the water I felt cold. Mostly refreshed but chilled too. And wet. Dripping, not from sweat, but from a wet suit. Later, drying off my sandy feet at a picnic table. I heard the click click clack beep of a metal detector as a man slowly walked around the trees near the trail. I’ve seen people–only men, actually–in the lake looking for treasure, but not in the grass. Did he find anything?

Found a short story online called Water In Its Three Forms. I like the idea of organizing a short lyric essay/prose poem around the theme of water. So much of what I wrote about in today’s entry involves water!

may 24/BIKE

bike to u of m and back: 7 miles
87 degrees

Hot. Windy. Sunny. Feels like July or August, not May. Biked to the library at the U to skim through a few books I might want to buy. I do, at least one of them: Roger Deakin’s Water Log. Feeling ready to write more about water and my love of swimming. Strange to walk in the building. I haven’t been in it since I left the academy 6.5 years ago. Hardly anything has changed. Same steps. Same stacks. Same study tables. Different me. I miss being at the library, swimming in books. In Water Log, Deakin describes how swimming in water is an other-worldly experience. Submerged, your senses working differently in a dark, watery (almost) womb. Sitting in the middle of the library, surrounded by stacks, is not the same as swimming, but it generates similar feelings of being submerged and in a time/space that is in-between. Maybe I should think more about these two activities together?

Bike Thoughts:

As usual, most of my thoughts while biking were about staying alert and cautious. Paying attention to other bikers and trying to avoid potholes. It felt good to ride, even though it was hot. At first, I was angry by all the bikers coming from the other direction, biking beside each other and hogging the path. With my lack of depth perception and my inability to quickly process some images, passing so close to other bikers is very scary. At some point, I decided I would stop worrying and just try to smile–not at others but for myself. Doing this helped. Much better than my old approach: rehashing the close encounter in my head and imagining how I would confront the bikers and shame them with an explanation of how dangerous their biking was for someone like me, with macular degeneration. Will I ever be able to lose myself in a bike ride, letting my thoughts wander like in a run or a swim, or is it just too dangerous to not always be focused? As I bike more this summer, I hope to find out.

august 1/XT

open swim: 1 loop, 1200 yards
biking with Ro: 11 miles (86 degrees)

Finally, after wanting to do it all summer, Ro and I biked to Fort Snelling. It’s about 3 miles to the entrance of the trail and then another 2 down to the state park and the lake. The last two miles were scary and very unsettling. Because of my vision and the condition of the path–partly sunny, partly shaded and narrow, with lots of ruts–I had to bike very slowly. I could tell that my vision has deteriorated a lot since the last time that I biked this route, which made me sad. I can still bike, but I have to go a lot slower and be prepared to feel anxious. When we got to the bottom of the hill, it was much better. And the 2 miles on the way back was much easier. Maybe because we were going up the hill instead of down it?

Swimming across the lake was fun, as usual. Experienced some choppy water on the way back, which made it harder to breathe. Didn’t make it harder to stay on course, though. This year, I’m not having problems staying on course, even when I can’t really see the buoys or anything but water and nondescript trees. I’m amazed by my ability to swim straight and to not panic when I have no idea where the buoy is. Pretty cool.

 

july 30/XT

72 degrees
open swim: 1 loop/1200 yards
bike to lake nokomis: 8.5 miles

Bright. Beautiful at the beach. Blinding sun. Difficult to see. I wrote an abecedarian about swimming and seeing. What is it about this poetic form that helps me to write?

A Steady Stroke

Almost
blinded by the sun.
Can anyone see through the sparkling? The
deep blue water mixes with the
endless blue sky and only
flashes of orange and brief
glimpses of the big triangles are visible on the water.
Hardly anything to
indicate which direction to swim. But,
just a brief glance is enough for me to
know that I’m getting close to the
little beach.
My stroke is steady and straight and I have
no doubts that it, and not my vision, is my best guide. Sometimes my
only guide.
Putting my faith in my stroke and not
questioning the movements of my body feels
right, not
scary or
too trusting or
unsettling. I see
very little with my eyes
while swimming across the lake. I don’t need
X-ray vision to feel which direction will take me to shore.
Years of stroke work—bending my elbows, tracing my thumbs up my side, like
zipping up a zipper—lead me to safety.

july 20/TRI TRAINING

75 degrees
82% humidity
dew point: 69
Run: 1.55 miles
Swim: 100 yards

Another training morning with Ro. Our first run, we did .66 miles. The next, 1.32. This one, 1.55! Slowly but surely, we’ll get there. I’m hoping to convince her to run a 5K race in the fall.

Here’s our walk/run breakdown by minutes:

walk 1/run 2
walk 1/run 2
walk 2/run 1
walk 2/run 1
walk 2/run 1
walk 2/run 1
walk 2/run 1
walk 1

It was a beautiful morning at the lake. The water was glassy and smooth. At first, there was a haze, but soon the sun came out. I wish I could have stayed at the lake all day, but all be back there tonight for open swim!

open swim: fail!
bike to lake nokomis: 8 miles

I was all set to swim and then I dropped my nose plug in the water. The minute it dropped, I put on my goggles and looked for it, but couldn’t find it. Oh well. After my awful experiences last summer swimming without a nose plug and then staying up all night with a stuffed up nose, I wasn’t willing to risk it. Met up with Scott at Sandcastle and had a beer instead. Worked for me.

july 18/4 MILES

75 degrees
87% humidity
dew point: 70
mississippi river road path, north

Yuck! Uncomfortably thick and heavy. The first half of the run was okay, but my legs started to hurt and my pulse started to race after the turn around. I stopped to walk a few times. I really don’t like running in the heat. I’m not looking forward to the Torchlight 5K tomorrow night.

It seems fitting to post a collage version of my humidity/dew point fragments that I’ve been working on in this entry.

Bad Air! Bad Air!

“What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air!”

unpleasantly warm

It was hot. It was not a good idea to run this morning. Only 7:30, but it was hot. Already, the day shot. No more running, biking, gardening, just hiding inside. We should have left earlier. Maybe 6? Before it was hot. I forgot how miserable 77 can be when there’s humidity and a high dew point. And the wind, it was hot too. We only ran a few miles before we stopped. It’s too hot, I said to Scott. And he agreed.

damp

The dew point is the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair, or any other part of your body, because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

muggy

Oh you! You muggy, buggy thing. So thick it makes me sick! Why can’t the water you contain be refreshing like the rain? Why must you make me feel so moist, a word I detest hearing almost as much as I despise feeling its effects: sweat that drips and sticks, heavy air that presses down on my body, sinking me deeper into the ground and making it almost impossible to fly or even to lift my legs up off the damp earth.

moist

How many cups of sweat can fit
Under the brim of my baseball cap?
More than 2?
It’s hard to
Determine but
I keep
Trying to figure it out while I run through the thick air. I think my cap has
Yielded at least 3 ounces of water per mile.

thick

When you mix up the words in dew point you get: not wiped. Not wiped? I guess if the dew point is low. Anything under 50 would work. Otherwise, it should be totally wiped, but those aren’t the letters in dew point. You also get: wit open’d. Really? Could more miserable conditions = more wit? I suppose for some comedians, this is true. And you get: owed pint. Owed pint of what? A pint of blood that traveled to the surface of your skin to help cool you down instead of flowing to your heart? Or the pint of beer that you owe your body for putting it through the misery of running in the heat and humidity?

oppressive

The Index of Human Misery, the Dew Point Version:
<50: very comfortable
50-60: manageable
65: uncomfortable
70: so thick and hard to breathe.
75: ugh!
80+: stay home, it’s not worth it.

wet (blanket)

Have you ever said,
Under your breath, in the
Middle of your run,
I really don’t like humidity & humidity heard you & replied: Well, I
Don’t like you either!
I am going to make you even more miserable because of your
Thoughtless comment!
Yesterday I think that happened to me.

stifling

The effects of heat and humidity on your body as you run:
increased sweat,
depletion of electrolytes,
flagging energy,
dehydration,
the pumping of more blood to the skin and less to your heart or your muscles,
sweat that can’t evaporate to cool your body,
elevated heart rate.

sticky

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. It’s not the humidity, it’s the heat. It’s not the heat, it’s the atmospheric moisture. It’s not the warm temperatures, it’s the moisture in the air and in your hair, on your skin, in-between your toes, on the back of your neck. And it’s the stickiness between your fingers as you rub them together, trying to keep your hands relaxed. And it’s the fibers from the cottonwood seeds, the catkins, that fly into your eye or your mouth or get stuck in the sweat on your face.

relief

86 degrees. Hot! Difficult! Some success, some failure. A hot wind, blowing in my face, which is already bright red. The sun beating down. My pulse heating up. No running playlist to distract me. And no memory of the running chants that I created to keep me going. What am I thinking about, other than: when am I done? why am I running in this heat? will I make it to Lake Nokomis for open swim? I stop and walk several times. But then I’m at the lake and it’s cooler, with a breeze coming off of the water, and I’m almost done and I’m trying to get past two other runners that are running just a little bit slower than me so I speed up for the last half mile. It feels good.

open swim: 2400 yards
bike to open swim/back: 8 miles

A great swim and a good bike ride. Some serious exercise today. 116 minutes worth. Talked with a woman after the swim today and she told me that she just learned to swim 2 weeks ago and managed to swim an entire loop tonight. Wow! Very impressive. I told her that I learned to swim when I was 6 months old and it took me until I was 38 to swim across the lake! She also said that she’s signed up to do a half ironman triathlon (1.2 mile swim/54 mile bike/13.2 mile run) this fall. That’s hard core.

july 3/1.8 MILES

75 degrees
lake swim: 500 yards
bike to lake nokomis and back: 8.5 miles

Biked over to the lake and tried out my new watch. I’m not sure if it got the correct distance. Looking forward to seeing how it works in the swim across the lake on Thursday. Tomorrow is the half marathon. It’s supposed to be warm and humid. I’ll be happy when it’s finished. I’ve raced in two half marathons. One went very well, the other didn’t. The one that didn’t was this marathon, 2 years ago. I think I can do a much better job this time, especially if I stick to my plan.

*Squeezed in a bonus run of 1.8 miles in the late afternoon when it was 81 degrees.

july 2/XT

68 degrees
open swim: 2 loops/2400 yards
bike to lake nokomis and back: 7 miles

Some Thoughts on Cross-training with Best’s Disease

Biking to the lake was difficult. A little scary when other bikers approached me, especially when they were biking too fast. My depth perception is pretty bad and I can’t always judge the distance between me and the approaching bikers. Hard to focus because of my macular dystrophy. Had to decide between looking forward and paying attention to where I was going or looking down to make sure that there weren’t any big cracks or debris on the path. Couldn’t do both because my eyes couldn’t focus on both or because my brain couldn’t handle all the jumbled signals it was receiving from my scrambled eyes or for some other reason that I don’t quite understand. I chose to look ahead. Luckily there wasn’t anything on the path. As I got used to the unsettling feeling of not quite seeing everything and just trusting that I was seeing enough, it got easier.

Successfully made it to the lake for open swim. A beautiful sunny morning. It’s always harder to swim across the lake in the morning. The sun is in my eyes as I swim to the smaller beach, making it difficult to see the big orange triangles out on the lake, marking the path. I’m sure it’s hard for anyone, but sunny days really mess with my already messed up macula. It’s also difficult to see because there are fewer landmarks to guide me. No big, sandy beach with the yellow boats on the one side that I track in my peripheral vision to ensure that I don’t stray too far to the right. No big beach house with the roof that you can see across the lake, even when you can’t see anything else. No white canopy. No tall light pole. On Sunday mornings, during my first trip across the lake, I’m usually swimming blind. Just trusting that my stroke is straight. It almost always is. And, now that I’ve been swimming across the lake for four years, I’m used to the feeling of swimming blind. It doesn’t make me panic or stop swimming. By the second loop, if I do one, I’ve figured out where the triangles are and worry even less about seeing them.

march 14/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, front room

Finished watching Asics Running: Beat the Sun while biking for 30 minutes. I teared up when the racer whose wife had recently died finished his final run and was briefly interviewed. Losing a partner too soon seems to be a theme today. Before biking, I read about the artist/writer who died yesterday from ovarian cancer, only days after her essay, You May Want to Marry My Husband, was published in the New York Times. So sad. Looking at her work, especially her experimental memoirs, and realizing how awesome she was and then finding out from my sister that she had known her, made her death seem more real and even more sad.

Grief and Running, a list of random sources

march 8/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Biked on the stand while watching ASICS Running: Beat the Sun. It’s a crazy endurance race in France where 5 teams of runners run for 150 km and scale a huge mountain. They’re not so much racing each other as they are the sun; they have almost 16 hours–the amount of daylight on the longest day of the year–to complete the race. The race is broken up into 13 segments, with 5 of the 6 team members running 2 segments and 1 member running 3. Each team has 3 pros and 3 amateurs. 10,000 runners competed for the 15 amateur spots.

I love watching shows like this, especially when they’re mostly about the actual race instead of dramatic conflicts between team members or highly polished and annoyingly clichéd personal interest stories. An occasional story sprinkled in is okay, but not at the expense of the race.

Perhaps my one exception to this rule is NBC’s coverage of the Kona Ironman. I love all those sappy stories about the athletes.

Sappy Kona Stories, a list

  • the widow of a gulf war vet who races in his memory
  • the 70 something nun who comes back every year to battle the trade winds on the bike portion–the winds that once threw her right off her bike, forcing her to withdraw
  • the middle-aged man who uses the motivation of competing at Kona to recover from a debilitating stroke
  • the pro racer who placed 5th the year before but then had a training accident and was paralyzed, coming back to race in his wheelchair
  • the octogenarian doctor who desperately wants to (and spoiler: does) beat the cut-off time of midnight so that he can officially claim that “I am an Ironman!”
  • the father and son team racing together, with the father dragging the son in a raft during the swim portion because the son has cerebral palsy
  • the former race volunteer who wants to see what Ali’i drive and the finish line look like from the other side.

I don’t care that these stories seem designed to get me to cry and that my connection to them might be more orchestrated than authentic, I love them anyway.

But, getting back to the Beat the Sun race. I’m about halfway done with the show. It’s almost all about the actual race. Only one brief mention of how one of the runners decided to come and race even though his wife had just died. I’m learning about the climbs in elevation, the pace of each runner, the terrain, the difficulty of the altitude, GI distress. No sappy feel good moments to move me or make me cry. Yet, there’s a moment in the show that made me feel something deeper than I’ve ever felt in the dozen or so KONA videos I’ve watched.  A little over 19 minutes in, the camera focuses on a runner who has just finished his grueling segment. He’s wheezing and having trouble breathing. We watch him wheeze for 10 seconds, which seems like a long time. Finally, he recovers. He walks off and calls out “I need a hug.” I’ve wheezed like that after a race. I know how it feels to not be able to breathe, to panic, worrying that you might pass out. I hate that feeling. I’ve watched the clip several times now and every time, I feel my throat closing up.

I don’t have a neat conclusion to offer to this entry, but I feel like I’m getting at something bigger with my discussion of sappy stories, personal narratives, feel-good moments and orchestrated versus authentic. Part of what this run! story project is about is experimenting with how to authentically communicate my experiences training and running. How do I express what it feels like to be running in a way that moves others and/or enables them to understand who I am in all my complexity, beyond the trite clichés of “the runner” and the formulaic running stories and race reports?

feb 14/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Another 30 minutes on the bike in the front room. I watched the Women’s Tri at the Rio Olympics while I pedaled. So awesome. I’ll never forget watching it live (at least I think it was live) when Gwen Jorgensen won. Maybe because she lives in St. Paul or because she seems to have a great combination of humility, dedication and talent or because it’s satisfying to watch someone consistently succeed, I had become invested in her and really wanted her to win.

I was into watching that race, totally lost in the drama of her battle with Nicola Sprig during the bike and run. When I wasn’t chanting very loudly,  “Go Gwen! Go Gwen!,” I was yelling race updates to anyone else in the house, freaking them out with my intense declarations, “SHE’S IN SECOND PLACE ON THE BIKE!” or “SPRIG IS MESSING WITH HER ON THE RUN” or “SHE’S PULLING AWAY! SHE’S GOING TO WIN!!” When she actually won and broke down at the finish line, utterly undone by joy (and probably relief), I broke down too and started crying. And, unlike what I usually do, I didn’t try to stop or hide my tears.

My reaction to Jorgensen winning wasn’t just because I was happy she had won. I cried because I was moved and inspired by her effort, her dedication and her belief in herself. I cried because I was happy that she was able to achieve her goal and that I could bear witness to the moment she fully realized that she had. I cried because it had been a rough year– I had just found out that I had a degenerative eye disease that would make doing triathlons difficult and potentially too dangerous–and I needed to see her succeed. And I cried because the sappy shit gets me every time.

feb 7/XT

70 degrees
road bike on stand, the front room

Watched two thirds of the 2016 Island House Tri on YouTube while I biked for 30 minutes. Fun to watch Gwen Jorgensen racing (and winning) just a week before competing in the NYC Marathon. Wow. She’s amazing.

20 degrees
longfellow neighborhood
freezing rain

Took the dog (Delia, aka “dealz”) out for a walk this morning. It didn’t feel too cold and it was nice to be outside, moving slowly (very slowly, so I wouldn’t slip. think I might want to get some yaktrax). I don’t get too contemplative when I’m running, but I do when I’m walking. Nice. Walking past a yard I heard and then saw something rustling. Sensed that it was too big to be a squirrel. After a second (and third) glance realized it was a possum. Wow. I’ll add that to the list of things I’ve seen just a few blocks from our house, which is in the middle of the city.

list! critters spotted by/near the mississippi river

  • fox
  • coyote
  • wild turkeys (rafter of them!)
  • beaver
  • muskrat
  • possum
  • raccoon

What’s next? Hopefully not a bear. I’d rather not see a bear.