Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Demons ~ Page 2

A few weeks ago I wrote the first page of what will become a series of pages called Demons.  These are about the Demons that are surrounding me while I am going through this Ironman process. They are ones that have recently appeared in my life and that are currently or forever have been haunting me.  Chasing me, holding me down and creating struggle and conflict.  We all have Demons of some sort.  Whether we want to admit them or not.  Many of us suppress the idea of them.  We have this fear that if we admit they exist then they will have control over our lives.  Funny, because we create stories to cover them up.  We go on diets or to the gym or read books or spend hours watching TV so that we can close out the world and ignore them.  We wear makeup or buy the latest styles or shoes with taller heels or cars we can't afford, befriend those we don't really like and break up with those that we really do in order to keep our Demons away.  The truth is.....by doing all of these things we give our Demons all the power in the world.  We give power and are submissive to that we are most fearful of.  On this journey, I call life, I am forever trying to confront my Demons as so they do not have power over me.  I believe that I have done a pretty decent job of facing new experiences, managing change and of meeting my challenges, short comings and fears head on.  All along while not comprimising my beliefs and who I am as an individual.  But with all of the years of work I have done in staying mindful, I know I have Demons and I know I have a long way to go to aknowledge them and to not allow them to rule who I am and how I live.  I believe it is in this simple act, that we can make those Demons harmless.  They will always be there ready and waiting in the wings to pop back into our lives given the chance.  But if we give them their due respect and more importantly if you give yourself your due respect and the self love you deserve these Demons then can't touch you.  
Nokk....Swimming Demon

In Demons ~ Page 1 I played it a little safe and introduced you to Nokk.  Nokk is the Swimming Demon known for drowning people who play  in rivers, lakes and potentially the Caribbean.  For me he is the creature that makes the first 10 minutes of an open swim pretty crappy.  He steals my breath and attempts to make me quit before I have really even began.  Considering I have a 2.5 mile open water swim to start the Ironman I will be competing in December in Cozumel,  Nokk is very real to me.  Now do I believe I will drown while racing......absolutley not.  But do I fear Nokk, when I start swimming......most definitely.  Have I acted like he didn't exist and tried to ignore those feelings and emotion.  You betcha!  After I introduced you all to him, I had the best open water swim at the Steamboat Olympic Tri.   I simply aknowledge he existed, I listened to what my mind, heart and soul were telling me and I created a plan in working with Nokk.  I know he has not gone away.  I know he will be hiding behind some coral or reef.  Waiting in a school of fish for me in the Caribbean Sea.  It is my hope, that I will continue to aknowledge him, perhaps wave to him and blow him a kiss wth a big smile as I swim safely to shore.
Getting kicked &  punched with a few hundred buddies

I say I played it safe because being nervous or scared about swimming with a few thousand others smacking you around is not really unnatural or deep or profound.  It is not really  revealing of me with exception that I hid it intially and I have openly revealed Nokk to all of you.  But it actually is probably very real and normal for most who first attempt to do an open water swim, let alone first really learn how to swim to have a few Demons thrashing around in the water.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Belial ~ The Demon of Guilt.
Belial ~ The Demon of Guilt

Belial can be found in the Jewish texts of The Dead Sea Scrolls.

Belial is the leader of the Sons of Darkness:  
But for corruption thou hast made Belial, an angel of hostility. All his dominions are in darkness, and his purpose is to bring about wickedness and guilt. All the spirits that are associated with him are but angels of destruction.

Guilt???....me???....a nice Italian Catholic Boy with Jewish ancestry doing guilt???  If ever there was a recipe for lineage doing guilt........

Me and my boy....Day 1
Why Guilt?  Why is Belial in my life?  Training for an Ironman is a very selfish act.  It is wonderful that I want to experience the race and perhaps pushing myself to the limits.  But at what price and who pays for it?  My boy certainly does.....when dad used to run marathons he would find running routes and take Rugger on just about every training run.  How can he come along on a 4 hour road bike ride or a 2 hour swim?  Work in a great way has gotten busier.  Combine that and my training for an IM and I am about invisible to him.  I work 8 to 12 hours a day 5 to 7 days a week and then add on hours of training 6 days a week beyond work.  So just the time alone, not spending it with him has drastically been reduced.  Last summer we hiked 8 ~ 14ers together, this summer we have done 3.  Weekly we would go paddle boarding,  hike sanitas, mtn biking on single track and trail run almost daily.  I can count the amount of times we have done those four activities on one hand this summer.  What does this beautiful adopted once beatened and abused Vizsla know about an Ironman or why Dad doesn't spend as much time with him anymore?  They say doing an Ironman is a family event as it takes you away from your family so much.  That the accomplishment of crossing that finish line is truly shared by all those in the household and the sacrifices that everyone has made to get the athelete there.  That is why scores of family members attend each event wearing T shirts proclaiming their athlete and waving signs as they follow them throughout the course.  

My boy, he will get to stay with a sitter for a week while I'm out on the course alone.  Not sharing a single moment of this event with me.  How will he ever know how much I appreciate and am sorry for not having this time with him or the guilt I feel over it?  Perhaps this is silly to some,  when I open the door after a day of work there he is my silly boy jumping up and down and having a parade in the house because I am home.   I run in the house typically trip on him as he is under my feet and try to get to my bike because I need to get out the door in 5 minutes otherwise I will lose the daylight. He follows and then watches me with his sad eyes as I leave.  My heart feels heavy and I'm sad and guilt ridden.  After 3 hours when I return, he does his wiggle butt dance just as happy to see me as he was earlier and I feel more guilt and it is now too dark or too late to take him out for a run or swim or bike or to do anyone of the billion activities he loves.  So I try to just give him love but  a V needs to run and explore and I know he is missing out and Belial is present in my mind and my soul.
My goofy adorable lovable boy.

There is another way in which Belial is very present in my life right now and he is literally present  right now, at this very moment as I type these words.  Belial is present when I am unable to work out and get a training session in.  It is now 9:30pm and I just got home from work moments ago.  I started working at 8am this morning.  12 hours at the job.  Today's training routine was supposed to be an hour masters swim class during lunch and then an hour run with others being coached by Eric.  Well, I could not get out of work today for class.  I let Eric know and he adjust today's routine.  I then realize I am not going to get out of work in time to hit the running training session.  He adjusts my routine once again.  I'll get them both in on my own I tell him. No worries.  Doesn't look like that will happen. 

At this point if I was to do the work out prescribed to me I would need to swim for about two hours and then run for an hour.  I could do that.  Gym is open till 11pm.  I could get my swim on and then run the roads till 12am.  Then shower and get ready for bed and be wired till 3am or so.  I know, I have done this before.  Tomorrow corporate folks are coming to work for a few important meetings.  I cant be wiped for that and then I will need to try and do tomorrows workout.  This scenario is not uncommon for me.  I need to make a decision no one but me and I pay the price one way or another.  I am wiped for a few days trying to catch up while maintaining my vigorous work schedule and training or I sit here and kick myself in the ass for not working out.  Oh sure, I rationalize and say I've made the right decision and I can come back even stronger tomorrow.  But then tomorrow looks much like today and I seem to be missing a workout day once a week or every other week.  "Ahhhh no worries Marty, it is just a work out.  Don't be so hard on yourself."  Well, I think that is very easy to say but  after swimming 2.4miles, riding 115miles and running 26.2 miles, if I don't cross the finish line in time before the cut off, I will be kicking myself harder in the ass ever than before and I will come back to days like today when I rationalized myself out of the days training.
Belial ~ Feeds off of your guilt
I feel like I have let my coach down, myself down, Rugger down, all those that are rooting for me down and think about all the time effort, money I have thus far invested and for what?  To say it has been a very long day and I am tired and I am having a hard time getting out there to now do a 3 hour workout till midnight ????  I feel the guilt and I feel like I should "Suck it up" but there are times where that it is very difficult to do.  I haven't had the opportunity to take the boy out and I don't get a training session in.  Today I get the double whammy of Belial.  He is laughing and mocking me right now as I type these words.  I can hear his cackle in the back of my mind.  

The Twelve Steps Programs have a powerful saying:
“You are only as sick as your secrets”

The agents of darkness lose much of their power when hidden things are brought into the light. To hide the things that haunt us, treating them as dark secrets to be kept from others, is to try to fight the forces of darkness on their own turf. It is to play into their hands, foolishly putting ourselves at a dangerous and totally unnecessary disadvantage in our spiritual fight.“ . . . in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). The cunning enemies of our soul are well aware that their chances of hoodwinking us soar if they can somehow pressure us into isolating ourselves from our greatest human sources of comfort and spiritual wisdom. Their evil strategy is to keep us from sharing with others our deepest concerns because these spiritual con artists know that feedback from God’s children will bring us back to reality and help us see through the lies deceptive spirits have kept whispering in our lonely ears. The forces of evil want exclusive access to the most vulnerable area of our lives

Every street-wise city dweller knows that to walk alone in the dark is the scariest, most unwise place to be. There is security in numbers.

So much like Nokk, I am hoping to shine a light on Belial and bring this guilt Demon out of the secrets and darkness and into the public with my admitance of him to you all with this blog.

I am not sure quite yet what I am going to do about this missing training day.  Will I make it up somehow?  Will I try to turn tomorrow into a triple session?  Will I put my tail between my legs and apologize to my Coach for missing yet again another day of training?  Right now, the triple session seems to make me feels the best about myself though I am unsure if that will happen tomorrow.  In marathon training they say if you miss a workout to let it go.  You can't make up for it.  Just continue to move forward.  I guess the same holds true for IM training.

I know that for tonight I will light the sandlewood and sit on my gomden for 20 minutes or so in stillness and silence.   It is my hope to start to bring my meditation practice back with more regularity in thought of being more present and not so judgemental and guilt ridden of myself.  I will also cut myself a break and give my boy a few extra rubs on his belly.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

An Olympic point of View

Well, I've done two Sprint Tris over the course of the last two months and now it is time to try my hand at an Olympic distance race.  The difference between the two is that an olympic has an extra 1/2 mile swim, 10 more miles on the bike and 3 more miles running.  Mentally, I have been saying to myself that the Sprint Distance is not for me.  Too short.  It seems that once I get warmed up in an area then that discipline would be over.  Here, back in the Boat, is my chance to see how the next level works for me.  To me this is just the next logical step in my growth, progression and learning about the world of triathlons and getting ready for Cozumel.

So what am I going after today?  In my final prep email from Coach Eric lays out a basic game plan for me.....

Swim: steady and long in the swim
Ride: steady!  like you did in the TT loop is pretty good. bike pedal around 170 watts. coast when you can on down hills etc.  
Run: find your rhythm in the first mile then try and run faster each mile to the finish! 
Max effort! 

Nokk, Nokk, Nokk.....saying his name three times out loud keeps him at bay.  It's 7:30am and I say these words as I stand on the bank of Lake Catamount.  Three times, 9 times, 27 times...who knows.  I just recall saying his name in threes.  He won't get me today.  I will live to swim another day, I think to myself.
Lake Catamount

8:05am is the start time and I want to do a few minutes in the water loosing up and mentally make a final check of all systems.  I overhear people talking about algea and that there is a ton of it in the water.  Nokk and ton of algea this is gonna be a great start to my first Olympic Distance Tri. I complete my warm up swim and feel nice and relaxed.  I may be swimming in pea soup but there will be no Nokk today.

The race begins.  The older racers first,  a 15 minute delay then the young guns go a three minute delay then the middle aged dudes are next a three minute break followed my the fast women and so on.  I take a last minute view at the field and floats out on the course.  My game plan for the swim.... steady and long, defeat Nokk.  But how??......the gun goes off for us Middle Aged Dudes.  Everyone takes off.  Not me.  "Hurry hurry Nokk will get you!!!!"  Nah, not this time, I wont let him.  I wait almost a full minute to allow the racers in my age group to get a comfortable lead.  I am not worried about my time, I want perfect execution of the race.  Now I can swim Long and steady and I feel good.  Nokk, Nokk, Nokk I say one more time and away I go.  I am just before the 1st turn bouy and I catch up to those slower racers in my age group.  I notice a guy hanging onto the bouy for dear life.  I try to send him some comfort and make the turn.

So I am sure there comes a time in every racers journey when they realize the call of nature has come knocking.  I've had a few funny stories of ducking behind cactus in Arizona etc.  There is always this judgement call to me, can I hold it or let it go?  Is it impededing my performance or can I ignore?  Wait, I'm in the water swimming in this algea ridden lake what is a litte urea gonna hurt??  If Nokk is on my heels perhaps this will help keep him at bay....aaaaaahhhhhhh.  I say his name three more times and off I continue to go.  The fast gals are starting to pass me as I make the final turn for the long last stretch.  

What the.....??????  I am not literally swimming in seaweed?  With each kick or stroke I feel like I am pulling up this plantlike substance from the lake floor.  I am picking it out of my mouth as I try to breath.  It is on my goggles and creating a rope burn kind of sensation as it wraps itself around my arms and legs.  Damn you Nokk!!!!  You've come in another form.  But wait, this is happening to everyone as I observe people cursing and going through the same struggles.  This is just a hurdle we all must clear equally.  I laugh to myself.  No Nokk today, just all the damn algea.  Today Nokk has been invisible.

Nokk turned into Sigmond (this race)

I am out of the water, I am feeling relatively good, I head into transition.....slow is smooth and smooth is fast.  Don't be distracted, be the distraction.  Coach E's words ring through. I down a GU, drink some fluids and I am peddling away, out for my ride.
My little transition world.  Organized and ready to go.

I check my power meter.  .5?  huh?  Oh wait I see a 100.  Wow I thought I was peddling more powerful than that.  Oh wait it is building....151....170.....185....200....how can this be I am on a slight downhill.  Something must be wrong with my power meter.  Then I laugh out loud...my watch is reading miles I am traveling not my power output.  Dang, I am supposed to ride at a solid 170 Watts.  How will I know am and doing that?  No worries, ride by feel and ride Steady.  That's all I can do.  Similarly like the other Tris I have done, I am being passed by many people on the initial start of the bike but I notice one by one after 5 to 10 miles I am passing many if not most of them.  Then around mile 15, I notice I am passing people I have not yet seen in the race.  I am fueling, I am powering up some hills, stretching out my leg muscles on the coasts to get ready for the run.  I feel real good and think about dropping the hammer a few times but hold back.  I still have the 10K ahead of me.  I just realize that I have not run the distance of a 10k since May and I don't want to burn myself out.  Need to keep some in the tank I say and I enjoy the rolling hills of River Road and head back to the transition area.

A quick flip into my running shoes, put on the visor and my race number and I am outta here.  Just a 10K to go.  Again, starting relatively slow, I watch some folks pass me by.  Goal of the run, faster with every mile and finish strong.  I look at my watch to see my pace and realize that it is still just showing miles covered.  I really need to figure out this damn watch.  Some one once suggested I read the intructions.  Mile 1 as I am being passed the person turns and asks, "Hey what pace are you running at?"  "The tortoise's pace" is my reply and I keep digging.  After mile 2 my legs start to loosen up a little and don't feel as heavy.  Standing out in the middle of the course is this guy who I would classify as a Richard Kind look-a-like.
You are the BEST!!

He is clapping for everyone.  Right in the middle of this desserted road.  I wonder how and why he is there.  But he is clapping for everyone telling them how wonderful they are and that he is soo proud of them.  "Hey, YOU ARE THE BEST", I shout at him.  "No, YOU ARE THE BEST!!" He replies.  Too funny and fantastic all in the same breathe.  Mile 3 is an uphill and my goal is equal exertion.  I notice a young guy who is next to me in the transition area who this is first race coming at me and think he has got about a mile lead on me.  I see a few people that had passed me earlier come at me as they have come through the turnaround.  "Wow have they put that much distance between me" I think a few times.  I really must be moving slow.  Mile 4 I see the backs of those people who had come at me just minutes ago and realize that I am making ground on many of them.  I then see my friend who asked about my pace at mile 1 and laugh to myself.  I don't say a word  I just pass them.  "Hey", he states "You are a machine! The tortoise alright strong and steady"  I smile in my mind.  I then catch up to the younger guy from the transisiton area, we exchange plesantries.  He was like, "Wow that was fast, you caught up to me quick"...."Nah, just pluggin along" I reply, "Have a great finish and enjoy this" I remind him.  Enjoy this, I think to myself, that is why I am here.  For no one or no reason but to enjoy  this ride, take deep breaths of this life and be thankful for my journey.  I look up and coming at me is a competitor in a wheel chair.  I saw him prior to the race and wished him well.  He was all smiles, I remember thinking.....God Bless him.  He is awesome.  He sees me, our eyes meet and he sticks out his hand for me to slap. "Go get 'em brother" I say as I slap his leather gloved hand.  "You too man, great job" What a positive race and day this has been.  Mile 5 marker.  Where is Richard??  There he is.  He sees me, runs out to me and gives me a high five.  "You're the best!" he says. "No way man, you are the best" is my retort.

One last hill to the finish line, I hit the 6 mile mark turn the corner and begin my Flying to the Finish end run.  A few high fives and the announer states "New to the world of triathlons, this is Marty's 1st Olympic race he comes from Cozumel ummm Boulder ahhh this is quite a way from Cozumel, How do you like the elevation difference?"  I wonder how they got any of that info and just laugh to myself one last time as I cross the finish line.

Post Race Bloody
Only one thing left to do........Post race Bloody Marys.   I head up the Gondola all stinky and with a nice coat of sweat and algea covering my body and meet up with my dear friend Karen.  A real nice way to end this trip before departing Steamboat.

So...some immediate afterthoughts of this race.  I had a bit left in the tank so I am not sure if I was able to follow my coach's words of max effort.  I know I played it conservatively as I was unsure of how the new distances would affect me.  I hated the algea and seaweed and for this reason alone, I might not sign up for this race again in the future.  I overheard someone saying that they had done this race the past 8 years and it was never this bad. All in all although some dissappointment as I guess you always want to do better.  It was a decent effort for my first Olympic outing.

Secondary thoughts......a few days later my coach stated he was happy with my effort.  That considering I could not see the proper display on my watch I rode steady and increased my pace each mile in the run.  That I executed the game plan exactly as we had wanted. A smile comes to mind and the thought on how hard we are on ourselves.  Odd how hearing those few words from him made me feel much better about my efforts.  

What race is next???  I'm unsure but I know I will always smile when I look back and think about Steamboat Olympic and I will continue to look forward to my experiences that will lead me to Cozumel.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Demons ~ Page 1

The last few weeks I have been chased by Demons.  The self imposed Demons of training.  The Demons of fear of failure.  The Demons of the unknown.  The Demons of excuses.  The Demons of Guilt.  The Demons of expressing these Demons publicly in this blog and allowing those who read my words to know of some of my weaknesses, fears and thoughts.  I've been struggling to write in here for over a month.  I guess I always envisioned writing in here would always be witty, a comical journey filled with funny stories and antidotes to the every day life.   I didn't wanted to "bore" people with just my stories of running, biking and swimming.  The last month or so, none of it has seemed worthy of a few chuckles or exciting enough for putting pen to paper or index finger to keypad as it may be.  Who wants to read about my Demons or more aptly do I want to share those Demons?  Ironically enough, isn't that what my last blog (Pages) was about?  One at a time, Baby steps, keep writing those pages and don't allow fear to control you, prohibit you, rob you of your life's exeriences no matter what.

In these next few pages, I'll attempt to catch you up on what has been going on over the last month or so.  More importantly, I will attempt to publicly face some of those Demons with you in hopes that perhaps we can rid or defeat or simply aknowledge that they exist but equally know that they don't have control over our lives.

The swimming Demon
Nokk....The swimming Demon
I have a swimming Demon.  I'll call him Nokk. Nokk, they tend to live in lakes, ponds, rivers, waterfalls and potentially in the Caribbean Sea. Nokk are known for drowning people who play too close to the water.   Here is part of my race report from The Steamboat Sprint Tri:   Swim ~ I'm having a real tough time with this.  I was relaxed and felt real good on warm ups.  Started the race nice and then after about 25 yards, I couldn't breath.  I felt like I was hyperventilating.  I tried to pry my wet suit away from my body to ensure I had enough room to breathe.  Finally I flipped myself onto my back trying to control my breath but being conscious to continue to move, started to do a pseudo back stroke.  I didn't think it was the elevation, I wasn't anxious about the race, I just couldn't breathe. This probably occurred for at least 3/4 of the swim.  I made a last attempt to "swim" regular and was able to bring myself in with a nice relaxed breath and stroke.  It was the most bizarre occurrence.  Obviously a billion things were running through my head at that time.  Most notably, How the hell am I ever going to get through this let alone an Iron Man?  I am very disappointed with this.  I realize now that Nokk is a big part of why I never published my race report. (more on Steamboat Sprint Tri later) I didn't want to aknowledge he existed.  I didn't want to admit outloud I was having trouble with my open water swim.  Hell, I swim 2 sometimes 3 times a week at the gym, in a Masters Class and I always feel prety strong.  Never a breathing issue.  What's wrong with me??  Steamboat like Boulder Sprint, I am able shake Nokk and to pull myself together about 3/4's of the way through the swim.  At this point I am still denying Nokk exists.  I'll figure it out.  I'll pull it together.  I always do and nobody has to know a thing about it.  Nobody but me..........and Nokk.  Fast forward two weeks later...BAM!  Boulder Aquatics Master...Bare Bones II.  It is a swimming race where you can do the 1/2, the mile or 2 miles.  (Notice how I didn't write about this experience either....Nokk)   Coach E suggest I sign up and do the 1 mile sans wetsuit.  This will be my longest swim to date, non stop.  No pushing off the wall in a pool.  No extra bouyancy of a wet suit.  I am so up for this, I even inquire if I can attempt the 2 mile.  No dice as I still have to do a 3 hour ride for training after this swim.
Moments before BAM
"One milers in the water"....I strategically position myself all the way to the right so that I am not surrounded by swimmers but just have to know the masses are on my left.  In Steamboat, I took a punch to the jaw that slightly rattled my cage, so I figured if I can avoid this type of contact the better I and the person who touches me is. "GO!"  First couple of strokes, not bad.  Then wait it is getting tough to breath. But I am not wearing a wet suit??  I convinced myself they may have been the reason in the past......aahhhhhhh SHIT.  Ok keep moving.  Breast Stroke kinda doggie paddle sorta.  This is going to be a long and miserable swim.  I could just swim to the right and take myself out of the water.  I could find a kayak or paddle board and take a siesta on them for a bit.  Nah, that'll just prolong the agony of finishing he swim.  Breast stroke, freestyle, doggie paddle complete with panting and gasping for air.  But hey there are still people in the 1 mile swim that are behind me.  So in all my struggles there are people even slower and perhaps worse off then myself.  A little consolation for myself.  Ok at the first bouy let's turn left.  Hey no zig zagging.  That was pretty damn straight though afterall I was looking pretty much up the entire time.  Let's try this freestyle thing again.  Stroke, stroke, breath. Stroke, stroke, breath. Stroke, stroke, breath. Stroke, stroke, breath. Stroke, stroke, breath. and so it goes...a rythm of sorts.  Let me see my watch.  9:52 into the swim. Boulder and Steamboat I struggled the first 3/4 of a 15 min swim.  That is the same time.  3 swims,  3 times having difficulty for approx 10 minutes before I gather myself into a rythm and can swim.  Difference is this time I am not swimming a 1/2 a mile but a full mile so only the first third has been troubled instead of 3/4 of it.  But why?  Nokk is my current answer.  My water demon.  I now know he exists.  I know he makes it tough to breath.  He rattles my confidence and attempts to sideline me.  He restricts my breathing and tries to mess with my mind.  I have shaken him off in my three races after 10 minutes in the past, without even knowing he existed.  Researching Nokk tonight I have learned that it is a demon who knowing it's name gives you some power over it. It is said saying it's name 3 times discourages the creature from getting too close.  This weekend when I step into the water for my first Olympic Distance Tri, I will have two things in my corner against Nokk.  1)  I now know he exists so I can concentrate on defeating him by attempting to settle into my breathing rythm from the start.  I will also continue to start in the rear or off to the side to avoid as much contact as possible. 2) I will have as my mantra...Stroke, stroke, breath (nokk), Stroke, stroke, breath (nokk), Stroke, stroke, breath (nokk), Stroke, stroke, breath (nokk).  I will repeat his name at each breath attempting to discourage him from getting too close.  I am not sure if it'll work but I will attempt to eliminate those 10 minutes of misery that I experience in the open water swim part of each race.