Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On your own..

There are so many ways in which we make our triathlon training easier - train with friends, train with an Ipod, train indoors so that we do't have to face the elements... It has become almost like "instant TV dinners" - all the (or most of the) benefits of training but quick-and-easy-and-comfortable-without-all-the-actual-trouble. But man, when you're out there facing the elements on your own (no friends around you, no music in your ears, no shelter from the elements) - it's just you and Mother Nature. And the two of you have to sort out your differences - and let me tell you, Mother Nature always has the upper hand. She is stronger, more powerful, more supreme than you ever imagined. She decides on the tides of the ocean, she decides how the wind blows, she determines if there will be cloud cover or if the sun will beat down relentlessly on your back....she has the final say. You have to be humbled by her. You have to realise that you are part of her immense creation, and that it is by her hand that you are even allowed to breathe. So you do your best to prepare for what lies ahead - train, make sure your nutrition is good, put on sunblock, wear the right gear - and then you prepare to face her in the race. But there is a secret in facing her - and it lies within your heart and mind. You're not going to fight her, or tackle her, or see her as the opposition. You have to embrace her, breathe her in the wind, taste her in the salty sea water, feel her in the pain in your legs on the hills... And when you learn to embrace her and really experience her "aliveness", her immense power, her diversity, her beauty....you will realise that you are part of her, that you belong to her, that you are one with her. You will feel fulfilled and satisfied, because she has humbled you and made you realise that you are part of something bigger. And you had nothing to do with your being here. She did. She is the reason you are here, that you can exist, that you have breath. And it gives you a serene sense of peace knowing that you can exist in this vast expanse of this thing called life because you were put here by her, Mother Nature, and that she will sustain you and nuture you.

And I prefer to call Mother Nature, God.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Body vs Mind

My body is starting to officially object to the extra training my husband and I have been putting in for our half Ironman. I have always been a runner, but the past few weeks have been a combination of additional cycling and swimming, and still the normal running. And this morning I could hardly move my arms. My muscles are sending two simultaneous messages of "pain" and "satisfaction" to my brain (the kind of eina you have after a marathon - the continual muscular aching which leaves you with a combined feeling of achievement and fatigue). So, the Official Coach (that's my husband) said we may have one day off (today) in our continuous training session of a few weeks. Yipee! (Although I must add that I am such an exercise junkie that I am missing it by midmorning already....)

I have this trick that I use to help me when I have a long training session ahead. I break it up into sections, and tell myself that the first section is a warm-up and that the mid-section is the actual exercise, and that the last section is the cool-down (but all at the same pace). And so a 2km swim ends up being (in my mind) a 500m warm-up, followed by a 1km training swim, and finally a 500m cool-down. And so, at the end of the session I have done a 2km training session which I convinced myself was only a 1km session with a warm-up and a cool-down. But how exactly the tricking-your-mind-thing works, I have no idea. Because surely your one side of your mind (the side that's doing the convincing - you know, the "sales person" side) and the other side of your mind (the side that has to be convinced - you know the "parent" side) are connected? Surely the moment your one half of your mind says to the other half "okay now this is what you're going to believe is happening" when actually something else is happening, BOTH SIDES KNOW? I don't understand it at all, but it's true and it works for me! Amazing thing, the brain!

I believe that 70% of a tough race is in the mind. Even when your body is objecting, your mind can take over and you can block out quite a bit of discomfort and carry on. Then, of course, we mustn't neglect to mention that very useful hormone, endorphin. Lovely little hormone, she is! (I've always thought it's very useful and appropriate that endorphin sounds a bit like morphine....) So when she kicks in and blocks out a serious amount of pain, we feel as if we can carry running / cycling / swimming forever! We like her, that endorphin hormone! Yeah!

So, I will enjoy my official rest day, and try to keep the withdrawal symptoms to a minimum (getting jittery already....what should I do with all this excess energy...mmmm.....don't those cupboards need repacking?). And tomorrow we will hit the road bright and early, and MIND can rest for a moment while BODY takes over and does the work...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ping....a lightbulb!

You know, whenever there's a really cool invention, you can be sure that news will travel fast.... I mean like the satellites would scarcely be able to blink and it would have come and gone to the next continent. But here in SA (or maybe it's the whole of Africa), when it comes to a state or government institution, they would probably not have heard of it and DEFINITELY not have implemented it yet, even if it were for sale on E-bay already (if you could sell a concept like credit card payments on E-bay).

Yes, that's it - a credit card payment - and our Municipality hasn't heard of it yet, or maybe they have but they definitely haven't implemented it yet. Or they somehow think it's less safe than a cheque - what century are you guys living in? Oh my word - it's really the most convenient thing since sliced bread (I know, what a cliche - but have you ever tried to slice bread with a knife?) But no - cash or cheque only! Did you know that they set up temporary credit card facilities at the Stellenberg Christmas Market (and I'm sure many other places) every year for a three week period? I'm sure if they can do it for a three week period at a small out-of-the-way location, they could definitely do it permanently at the Municipal Buildings - would you like me to phone ABSA or Nedbank for you? Not a problem, just let me know when there'll be someone in the building and I'll organise it.

Oh, there is another option (it says so on the wall of the Municipal Building)- for your convenience nogal - phone this 0860-number and we'll give you a number (code) and then you can pay online...(What was that? Online? I think there's a dim light at the end of the tunnel....) So I phone the number and a friendly lady says "Welcome....one of our operators will be with you shortly" .....music....la-la-la...music..."Sorry, all our operators seem to be busy right now, we will attend to you shortly".....music...la-la-la....music...."We seem to be experiencing a heavy call load right now".....music...

So, I concluded that the single operator on duty was on lunch. And that light at the end of the tunnel - probably a candle. I hope they remember to blow it out when they leave...

(I must say that the staff were very friendly and helpful - thank you! Just need to get a zip-zip swiping credit card machine thingy and you're all set...)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Conquering my fears...

The last few weeks were loaded with opportunities for me to conquer some of my childhood fears. Like swimming fearlessly, unperturbed by the pump-like suction goodies (I don't really know what they look like because I've never looked at them directly) in the deep end of a pool. Or braving the dark murky waters of a dam, not knowing how deep it is (for me, often, I just think there is no end to the depth of those massive bodies of water) or what creatures lie in wait at the bottom of the dark mysterious waters. In the past, the only way you might have been able to bribe me to swim in there would be on a show like Fear Factor for a potential half million rand.
The only thing that would make me face my fears head-on? A challenge. A good challenge which seems just within my reach (or is it just out of my reach?).And not a challenge which someone else has challenged me to - something I've always wanted to do and which I've challenged myself to. A triathlon. And since my husband is training for Ironman, he has become my training partner and very patient coach. In fact he started this whole thing when he made up his mind to do the Ironman (and when he's made up his mind, then there's no going back) and so I got roped in to doing the "half Ironman" - and making my dream of doing a triathlon, come true. Along the way there have been many fears which I've had to overcome (a good thing, I know, but humbling and very scary at times) but it's turned out to be an awesome journey.
The lesson? Fears are often just based on something unknown to us and so we fear it because we know so little about it. Taking baby steps and getting to know that unknown "zone" often reveals that our fears are unfounded and out of proportion.
I still respect all sport that I do - I never think that I've "conquered" it - but I always remind myself that I'm doing this for fun and I never take it too seriously! So, Mr Triathlon, I'm looking forward to getting to know you a lot better. Thank you for the lessons you've taught me so far - I'm sure there are many more to learn!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The New Year...

Well, somehow Christmas came and went without us ever going to a "Carols by Candlelight" or without me ever putting up my tree... How did that happen? I haven't the faintest idea...(I did put up my mom's tree for her - does that count?). Somehow it just seems all wrong (especially since I'm a particularly sentimental person when it comes to Christmas). I did vow not to put my foot into an overcrowded mall before Christmas, but I found myself sneaking in there two days before Christmas (you know, with a peak cap and shades, Britney or Angelia-style) to get a last few things..but I really usually try to avoid being amongst irritated shoppers in malls just before Christmas.
Nevertheless we still got into the swing of things and exchanged gifts, had a delish Christmas lunch and I sang a few carols in the car (unaccompanied, I must say) on our way to our Christmas destination on Christmas Eve (if my husband hadn't known me for 15 years already I think he would have suspected something was up....).
But really, the real joy of Christmas is, and should be, the celebration of the miracle birth of Jesus and what it means for us every day and, of course, for eternity. And that, I think, we cannot miss even if we miss a Carols service or don't put up the tree. I think that many people get caught up in a "buying-gifts-for-everybody-within-our-budget" kind of panicky state (or maybe not so panicky state) and in the organizing of an over-the-top Christmas lunch, but really if we forget what the crux of it all is, then there's no point. I must say, I think my family has got it perfectly: a special day with family and friends, the exchanging of simple gifts to symbolize the giving of a special gift (Jesus) and really just spending time with each other.
And now - wham - just like that - we are in 2009! I swear someone PUSHED me 'cause I just wasn't ready yet (I know, I know - time waits for no man - but hey, I'm a woman!). I thought the transition would be smoooth... apparently not! This new year has just come so soon (snuck up on me, like Christmas did - maybe they're in cahoots!) and suddenly we're on a roll again. Sigh!
Well then, Mister New Year, since you came rather suddenly and uninvited, here are the rules for you, 2009 : I will celebrate each day for what it is - a gift!

I will embrace hardship and struggle and endure them so that I may learn the lessons there are to learn.

I will forgive quickly and not give anyone a reason to forgive me.

I will love others more and do more for them, expecting nothing in return.

I will make more time for my family and friends.

I will be nicer to myself and do lots of spoil-me things...

I will be more creative.

I will appreciate the gifts and blessings given to me.

I will put God first every day (His day, His plan for me).

I trust that 2009 is going to be a year full of blessings!