Iron Girl Lake Tahoe Race Report (Way to Impress the Parents)

A couple of months ago, Todd and I were planning a trip to Tahoe to visit his folks and hit the trails. After a little too much time perusing races on during the off-season, it instantly struck me that the timing was right to do the Iron Girl there.

I loved the idea of getting a chance to swim in Lake Tahoe after hearing about Brett Blankner’s endurance swim there last summer. I loved the idea of getting a taste of what it’s like to race at elevation since they introduced a new Ironman event there. Hey, I’m no way near ready to take on an Ironman, but a sprint? I hadn’t done one since before my knee surgery almost four years ago. That I could handle. I looked forward to pegging it in a new environment!

We drove 500 miles straight to the check-in, which was mandatory the night before the race. Then I made a quick change in the car and we strolled down to the lake. I wanted to see if I could tolerate the temp without resorting to wearing a wetsuit. The water was about 65 degrees, maybe cooler. Nothing I couldn’t tolerate for 10 minutes after all the cold-water training I did in Lynne’s unheated pool last winter.

Before the race started as we headed to the beach, we heard the race MC announce, “Now, you’re going to see a couple of ladies without wet suits. Those will be some of the local girls!” Todd and I laughed. No there was one crazy, So Cal girl too. You can recognize her by the blue lips and the goofy goggles on race morning.

The 43-degree air temp was a bit much. Glad Todd stood next to me on the other side of the chute, so I could hand off my sweatshirt and hat at the last possible second.

My first goal of this race was to do it without a wet suit. I had never raced without one, so it represented breaking through a huge mental barrier for me. Taking up swimming late in life made me a little too co-dependent on that thing. It was only a 400-meter swim. I had to go for it. It went well. But I overshot the second buoy. This was the first place where I probably lost a good minute or two.

T1 went well for me. It was one of the longest I’ve ever done.

We had to run up one block around a corner for another block and through the race chute. But it was a long one to do bare foot. Note to self: Next time, bring a pumice stone so you don’t have black feet for the rest of your vacation.

When I got to my bike, I was surprised to see I was one of the first few who made it back to the racks in my age group. Um, that never happens in the races I’ve done the past few years. We raced two loops from the strip to Zephyr Cove. There were a lot of rollers that felt steeper when you’re used to zero elevation and racing at 6,200-feet plus. There were some places that felt so cold that my feet where shivering in the pedals.

I had trouble taking in any fluids on the bike. Not sure if something got wedged on my Speedfill or if I was just too winded from the elevation to draw fluids properly. I’m thinking the latter because I’ve never had issues with my Speedfill before. I had five sips of water the whole 15 miles. Note to self: Buy a normal bottle cage for sprints like this one.

T2 was uneventful. Looked like a few more gals came in ahead of me. I need to work on grabbing my stuff faster. But it was one of my betters ones.

On the first lap of the run, I cramped up badly and walked before and through the aid station. It was pretty bad and not my norm. I’m thinking it was dehydration. Todd found me and looked concerned when he saw me walking. Grrr, I didn’t want him to see that… but his encouragement helped. The second lap went better. I passed a couple of ladies in my age group in the last mile. I went as hard as I could in the last half mile. I finished strong. And then another first – as soon as I crossed the finish line, I puked. I didn’t even know I was nauseous. The poor volunteers stepped back and looked at each other like ‘Who’s going to put a medal on her? You do it!’ And all I could think was ‘Way to impress Todd’s parents!!’ They swear they missed that part. After I made my way out of the finish area, I immediately spotted my enthusiastic tri sherpas. I was so happy to see them and it meant the world to have them there. I knew Todd would be wonderful. I was afraid his folks might be bored there. But it was obvious they enjoyed taking in the whole thing. His mom spent hours making her artsy sign the night before. And they were so patient, waiting for me to check on results and gather my stuff.

I was pleased to find out that I did pretty well. I was 9th out of 64 in my age group; 150 out of 605 overall. I was about 4 minutes off the podium. And you know what? That was just a matter of better navigating of the buoys and better hydration. Woulda? Coulda? Shoulda? No, I’m just feeling like maybe one of these days, it might be doable.

We had a nice celebratory breakfast back at Zephyr Cove. Well, it looked tastey, but my body was only ready for a café mocha. As I answered some texts about the race from friends back in Cali, I heard Todd joking with his parents, “You know I should get Minnow some jewelry one of these days. We’ve been dating for so long, you’d think I would get her something by now.” (Yeah, my guy is amazing, but he is not a shopper.) I may have made a smart a$$ comment back about the fact that grocery stores don’t sell jewelry. Then he said, “I should find her some jewelry and put it in a little pink mesh bag.” And then I thought ‘Wait, where did that come from?’ I looked up and there in front of me was a little pink mesh bag and we all started laughing. Yes, my tri sherpa totally surprised me with an Iron Girl necklace charm. Hey, if I knew that was waiting for me, maybe I would've gone a little faster!

Wednesday ZenDay: Photography as Meditation


For the past few years, I’ve been practicing meditation. I’m still taking a bi-monthly class that I love. Every month it amazes me how many different ways there are to meditate. They all offer a way to look at your life through a different lens and relax.

The common theme? Slow breathing and quieting the mind. Very few things can do that for me. But I couldn’t help noticing a while back that I feel as relaxed and refreshed after taking pictures as I do after a meditation session. When I’m alone, taking pictures of nature, my mind ceases to think of all those to-dos and other things that concern me. Getting caught up in the visual delight of composing a shot is my mental break.

Part of it, I’m sure is my upbringing. My dad gave me my first camera in the third grade. I’d spend many school nights down in our basement darkroom. Dad guided me as we dipped photo paper into trays of chemicals and watched them slowly come to life. I look back fondly on those days as much as I look forward to pulling out my iPhone or digital camera at unexpected moments.

The real reason I started meditation? I read that it was good for the adrenals. When you overwork those little glands through physical (training) or emotional stress, your body responds with fatigue, a weakened immune system and other symptoms. A decade ago, my adrenals weren’t up to snuff. My doctor forbad me from running for nine months! The only thing that kept me from losing my mind was learning how to play golf with my then young nephews. I don’t want THAT to happen again. So meditation is now a regular part of my recovery. Yeah, 7 (pictured above) isn’t the only one who needs to slow down.

Wednesday ZenDay: Setting Your Intention/Making Cooking Easier

A couple of years ago, our Zen Coach Devi gave us a pretty interesting exercise. We had to take out an old-fashioned paper calendar and “set our intention” for each month at the beginning of the year. We had to do it in a way that sounded empowering rather than negative or self-admonishing. For example, me (little Minnow) couldn’t write:

“Swim better in the ocean”


“Face your fear of the ocean”

Nope! Nope!

“Find courage in the water”

Bingo. Much better!

It could be anything that you want to focus on that month. It doesn’t have to be a total self-improvement thing. January was a blast for me because after a pretty intense year, my intention was “to laugh.” And hanging out with Todd’s family over the holidays helped me get a jumpstart on that one.

So, I looked down at my calendar this weekend and realized I had written for September, “Nourish myself.” Pretty funny since after reading TriSaraTops blog, I downloaded this slow-cooker e-recipe book she recommended for $5.99. And as a belated b-day gift to myself, I replaced the hand-me-down crockpot my family has had since the Carter administration and got a new, larger programmable one.

With a couple of hours of chopping and assembly in front of the TV on Saturday and Sunday, I was able to prep what I think will be about 30 cheap, healthy meals for this single gal. The recipes are designed for families, but I just divided up the portions into more bags that are in the freezer and ready to go in the slow cooker. If you’re like me, Zen is just finding a way to be at a peace. And lately, some nights that has meant eating half a tub of hummus with some rice crackers and a couple of Steinlagers. I'm human! But I think this style of “cooking” once or twice a month will do just that for me too. Now I’ll be able to pop a bag out of the freezer and into the slow cooker and come home from my master’s swim workouts or crossfit classes with some nourishing, warm comfort food meal ready to go. (Without blowing my mostly gluten-free diet or budget.)

Another Round of Bobcat Pickups?

One of my favorite places to ride is a stretch of pavement within a local state park. The most traffic it ever gets is kids on training wheels, mountain bikers, and joggers. No cars are allowed. So I like to go in there and do a few laps and practice being aero. I think of it as my own semi-private wind tunnel with a view.

Three years ago, I had some unexpected company. Two big cats checking me out as I came around a bend. I wasn’t sure if they were mountain lions or bobcats. I stopped in my tracks. They gave me a long stare. My heart raced. I was petrified. It was Valentine’s Day. I wondered if I’d ever get my romantic dinner. I left Todd a message on his cell, letting him know where he could claim my body.

After those cats looked at me for what seemed like a minute or two. I hopped on my bike. I was still rehabbing my left leg, but managed to get up 24 mph on a grade and some flats for a couple of miles. When I got home, Todd and his brother Brad informed me that some gentle bobcats lived in the bushes down there and were harmless. Ever since, this regular workout has been dubbed, “Bobcat Pickups.”

Inspired by some words of advice from pro Jessi Stensland on the Zen and the Art of Triathlon podcast, I headed out to do a ridiculously slow zone-2 bike ride. I was determined to take it easy on my normal pickups.

Then on my last lap, I spotted the biggest cat I’ve ever seen walking down a dirt trail away from me. He looked at me nonchalantly, like he was saying “Whatever.” Then he took a sharp right and headed up a little kicker parallel to where I was riding. I got a really good look at him since he was only about 25 or 30 feet away.

He was tan, shorthaired and much taller than most big dogs. I saw a tail, but was even more struck by his beefy muscular shoulders. In my mind, I saw a mountain lion. With my volunteer training at El Moro, I knew it was a good sign that he had initially walked away from me. If one comes toward you, you’re supposed to stop and lift your bike over your head to look big. I didn’t do that though. As he matched my slow pace, he looked at me. I looked at him. Like a sprint start waiting to happen at the end of a Tour de France stage. And then, I decided I didn’t like this feeling of being looked at by the big fella and I booked it for a mile.

I rode back to Todd’s where his brother Ken greeted me. He was about to head out for a ride. When this adventurous soul who has spent a lot of time camping in Death Valley heard my story, he quickly decided he wanted to go out and find this cat and his tracks. Oh great! Look what I started. Of course, I felt 100% sure it was a mountain lion this time, but it would have to be verified – preferably by the ranger.

Ken went down there with a camera just before dark and found the fresh prints. We waited anxiously. We were beyond relief when he got back. He captured this shot. We Googled the tracks of different cats over beers and recounted what I saw – with my eyes, which let the record show aren’t 100% correctable. I didn’t sleep great.

Here’s the thing: We love this park because it feels pretty safe there. We don’t want to have to start watching out for mountain lions there. I didn’t want to start any rumors that weren’t true. On the other hand, what I saw had to be reported.

So I went down early this morning and talked to the ranger. He was cool. He explained most sightings are bobcats. I explained that I hadn’t seen any bobcats with broad shoulders and features like this one. Then he pulled up a database of two large bobcats that have been caught on the park’s infrared camera. The two biggest ones weigh 65 lbs. I looked at the photos and still can’t say for sure it was one of them. I didn’t see any spots on this animal. It could’ve been the lighting. The tracks were definitely that of a large cat.

The ranger said he’d check it out and look for more proof. He said he’d move some cameras around to see if he finds anything out of the ordinary. But I really don’t want to be right.

Kenevil is On The Mend

In early July, I posted about a very sick sea lion that we spotted in Seal Beach right before our open water swim. We called for help and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center came through for the little guy. I tried to see him in person after my trail patrol at El Moro last month, but he was still in isolation. I learned he was doing better then and taking in solid food finally. They just didn’t want to expose the other sea lions to parasites and anything else that was upsetting his system.

A few days later, one of the volunteers down there emailed me a picture of him after he was finally allowed to swim with the other sea lions. A hopeful sign.

So last weekend after trail patrol, I stopped by again. Kenevil was doing so much better. It’s amazing. I arrived in time to see his weekly weigh-in. When he was first admitted, he weighed 52 pounds. That afternoon, he weighed 91 pounds. They’re hoping to get him up to 120 pounds.

Then they put him back in the big pool with the ladies. I even witnessed him being a little territorial because they added a new boy to the mix. Apparently Kenevil has enjoyed being the token male all week and didn’t like the competition. It was funny to observe the action. One of the volunteers caught this clip of him when he was acting mellow.

They’re hopeful that he’ll be released in a couple of weeks. It made my afternoon to see the awesome work they do with the seal lions and elephant seals at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. If you’re in the Laguna Beach area, driving or riding through Laguna Canyon, you should check it out for a few minutes. Or you can see what they’re doing online. Definitely has a way of making you feel better about the world to see these guys rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals.

WednesdayZenDay: Rewire Your Brain to Become a Better Athlete

The word of this WednesdayZenDay is “neuroplasticity.” I interviewed a neurosurgeon for a story a couple of years ago, and he explained, “It occurs when other neurons make new connections and learn new tasks by practicing them over and over again. It’s like rewiring the brain.” I’ve done a lot to change my swimming over the years. But there have been a couple of areas that I perceive as being a real hindrance to taking my swimming to the next level. One in particular is flip turns.

Figuring how to do a flip turn has required me to completely rewire some circuits the past couple of weeks. It’s something that has not come naturally to me over the years – AT ALL. (But I’ll save the blackmail material details for another post.) I’ve decided to embrace it. Every awkward, baffling, frustrating, and exhilarating moment of it. Because that feels a whole lot better than dwelling on the not knowing how to do flip turns.

Logically, I know that if I can do flip turns I will become a more conditioned athlete in the pool and the open water. My average lap times will drop. Psychologically, I’ll feel like I’m joining all the cool kids in the Master’s lane by finally mastering them.

It’s just a matter of practicing this new task and the various parts of it over and over again. What about you? Is there one thing that you’d like to nail that’s going to force you to rewire your brain? A faster cadence on the run? A more powerful stroke in the water? A better position on the bike? Learning to do that one thing better just might be the key to taking your performance up a notch.

Since the Wednesday ZenDay series was inspired by my Wednesday meditation classes, I’d be remiss in not mentioning that numerous studies have shown that meditation can help your brain make those new connections. To learn how, I highly recommend the book “Rewire Your Brain for Love” by Marsha Lucas, PhD.

WednesdayZenDay: Visualization Like an Olympian?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be just like tennis player Chris Everett. (Yeah, dating myself.) I would spend six hours a day hitting a tennis ball around the court and against a backboard in the summer, honing my two-fisted backhand. So when I read an article “You’re Not an Olympian: Imagine That” in The Boston Globe’s fitness blog about mental imagery in sports, it took me back. The author delves into how certain visualization techniques can help or hurt your performance and a couple of great research studies.

My favorite quote, “…imagining yourself as Ryan Lochte powering through the 200-meter freestyle may be nice, but imagining you yourself exploding off the walls during a 200 freestyle will yield greater mental and emotional benefits.”

Sure that kid is still inside me. Once in a while I might fantasize about qualifying for the Boston Marathon or Kona. Maybe you do too? But if we really want to get there, we better focus more on visualizing the ways we’re going to become faster and stronger, not the end result.

Wednesday ZenDay: Olympians Who Meditate

I was watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings play in their Olympic beach volleyball match and heard the announcer Heather Cox say, “Playing their last match came with an extra layer of pressure. It weighed on them too much. So they worked with sports psychologist Mike Gervais. He helped them with trust and dealing with pressure. The duo met with him today. They worked on breathing. They did meditation. And he finished by saying, ‘Everything you need is within you.’” And one of my favorite Twitter peeps @DrMarsha also passed along a great article from the BBC on how Olympians practice meditation to improve their performance.

Do you meditate? Would you like to learn? It might be the one thing you need to reach your next PR.

Wednesday ZenDay: Humpback Whale Rescue

Last week at the end of our meditation class, my instructor gave us our homework, "Look for the magic in the world and see what you find." Feeling totally relaxed after a great session, I could've gone straight to bed. Still working on unplugging, I checked my email one more time and received this from my swim buddy Janice. Yup, MAGIC!

...The Whale... If you read a recent front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso and a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them.

Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you. And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

I pass this on to you, my friends, in the same spirit. Life is good.

It reminds me of my friend Lynne Cox's experience, which inspired her book Grayson.

So, what about you? What's been magical?

WednesdayZenDay: An Observation of a Tour de France Champion

I was riveted to the Tour de France TV coverage as usual this year. Yes, I may’ve watched it two or three times a day. It was everything I hoped for – incredible views, amazing race footage, new talent and old favorites. One thing that caused me to have a double take was listening to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin as they discussed how sport psychologist Steve Peters had helped Bradley Wiggins. According to a BBC article, “Steve Peters has been key in getting the Sky riders to conquer their emotional "inner chimp" and stay cool, focusing on the process not the outcome.”

Sounded very much like the advice I’ve been getting over the years from my Zen Coach in meditation. Being present and being mindful comes from being in the now. Of course, with some things it’s easier said than done. But a few minutes of meditation a day does help.

As I was thinking about focusing on the process more in my own training, I realized I’m a real mixed bag. Even in one master’s swim workout I am a mixed bag. Last night, I struggled again with learning flip turns for a good 15 minutes before moving on to the rest of the workout. I know when it comes to this new skill I am way too focused on the outcome of successfully flipping my legs over my body. But then a few minutes later when Coach Hanna gave me sculling drills on my back, I was totally focused on the process. It’s also very much a new skill for me. I enjoyed being in the moment, staring up at the sky as dusk took hold and feeling the sensation of my hands doing small figure eights and the movement of the water.

What about you? Where are you focused on the process? Where do you need to tame you “inner chimp” and not think about the outcome?

Elizabeth: She was a good one!

Elizabeth was the WOD – workout of the day for me on WednesdayZenday. More like a workout of the week – WOW.I had looked forward to doing this crossfit workout for a while. After all, Elizabeth was my mother’s name. It’s my middle name. It’s my niece’s name. I couldn’t skip it.

What was it? 21 reps of each of cleans and ring dips. Followed by 15 reps of both. Followed by 9 reps of both. We had 10 minutes to complete this WOD. It took me 7:35.

I don’t do heavy reps, especially when I have to a lot of reps. It’s all about getting the form and the muscle memory right first for me. Even though I’ve been doing crossfit for the better part of a year, there’s so much variety that I could go for weeks without repeating some of the moves.

Here’s what a good clean looks like. Imagine me doing it with just a 35 lb. bar. I’ve done more weight than that but not with this many reps!

Ring dips? I had a bunch of ‘em to do in last Friday’s WOD too. I do them assisted with my knees in a large band draped across the gymnast rings. As I discovered last Friday, if you’re not careful, you can be transformed into a human slingshot. So I only had one knee planted in the band on Wednesday.

(Here’s what they’re supposed to look like – about 30 seconds in.)

I was the slowest kid in the class. But that’s okay. I still get lots of love for trying and by the end of this one, I definitely wanted my momma!

Here’s what Elizabeth looked like in another crossfit class.


For the past five years, I’ve been taking a meditation class with an incredible group of five women. We meet every other Wednesday. I plan my training around it. Our husbands and significant others know we can’t miss it. The class has done more for me than I could have ever imagined. Devi, who Todd has nicknamed my “Zen Coach” has a way of helping us constantly look at our lives through a different lens. Set our intentions for the little and the big goals. Change some of our bad habits. Recognize the good. Learn to be more mindful. And cope with the variety of stress that enters our lives. It’s become my own personal re-set button.

I’m still working on all of the above. I’m human. For instance, a while ago, I set an intention to blog more about the things I’m passionate about. This is one of them. I’m going to make WednesdayZenday a regular feature and share with you some of the things I get out of my classes and elsewhere. Devi usually passes out a handout near the end of class that makes you want to read it again and again. Here is the last one, which I may just have to commit to memory:

Peaceful Awareness

Open your awareness to the abundance. Open your awareness to the goodness and the possibilities.

Life is renewed in every moment. There is no need to keep re-fighting the battles of the past.

Relax, and let the fears dissolve. Be at peace, and allow the abundance to flow through you.

Send all your energy into all your love. Now is when opportunity is transformed into beautiful value.

Focus on what is good, what is right, what is true and meaningful. Give the whole of your presence to the best you can envision.

Let the richness into your awareness and into your life. Enjoy and love and live and create with no hesitation, free of worry and doubt.

Ralph Marston

Help for a Sick Seal Pup

Last Sunday, I took a stroll on the beach with Jan, Lynne, and Cindy. Jan pointed out where Dave and Laura were swimming off in the distance and we noticed an adult seal. It was typical gray morning here.

Jan and I were more than happy to delay our learning-how-to-swim-in-the-surf lesson with a walk. Until we spotted a young seal struggling in the water. The four of us stopped to see if he was just tired or sick. Lynne immediately went over to the lifeguard to request help for the little guy. But the guard seemed preoccupied with working on his jet ski. We continued to watch the seal make several sad attempts at getting beyond the breakwater, only to drift back to the beach. Maternal instincts kicked in and we decided to make a call just in case. I called the business line of the police department to request help and learned the guard did radio it in. A crowd started to surround us and it seemed like it was distressing the little guy, so we walked on. Lynne was great about coaching the kids about not getting too close to him or he could bite. As we headed towards the pier, I looked back and saw the little guy’s head in the water going towards the jetty. We worried about him. And wondered if they’d be able to find him again. Would he get the help he clearly needed?

It was one of those mysteries that lingered throughout the week. Then Sharkbait emailed me the good news. Through the magic of Facebook, one of her friends posted this from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center:

Kenevil, a 52-pound yearling sea lion, was rescued Sunday afternoon from Seal Beach. He is battling intestinal parasites/bacteria, severe dehydration and malnourishment. Two days of hydration therapy, antibiotics, and a quiet-warm-safe place to rest, brought improvement today. Kenevil still has a long road ahead, but his energy level has improved and for the first time ate the fish he was offered, which is certainly a good sign.

This news made my day! I have trail patrol tomorrow. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is on the way to Todd’s. I’m tempted to stop by to see if I can visit Kenevil.


I Finally Got My Popsicle Stick


I first moved to Seal Beach 21 years ago. Shortly thereafter, I learned of a big tradition in this small town – The Seal Beach Rough Water Swim. I thought it was for crazy people. Back then I wouldn’t get in the water unless it was 95-degrees in the shade. And if so, I’d only wade up to my waist because this East Coaster wasn’t comfortable in the surf. I wasn’t a swimmer yet. That changed in 2006 when I took up triathlon. My first few times in the surf were a disaster. I didn’t know what I was doing. It terrified me. I got flipped by a wave and stuck the landing like a waterlogged, lucky gymnast. Unfortunately, I allowed that experience to let my growth as a swimmer get stuck too. My fear of waves was as palpable as others’ fear of flying. My heart pounds, chest tightens up, and throat closes up. Pretty hard to hold your breath and duck when you already feel like it’s hard to breathe.

After my first season, I stopped entering races with a beach start. I wasn’t proud of it. Just wasn’t ready to face it again yet. Then last year, still recovering from the shingles, I watched my Master’s swim teammates compete in the Seal Beach Rough Water Swim. I was so proud of them. As they entered the finisher’s chute, each was handed a Popsicle stick with their place written on it in black marker. I was so envious. I felt left out.

So last summer, my friend Dave worked with me on dolphining in and out of the water whenever he was in town visiting from Utah. He was so patient with me as I timidly tried it out. When he left, I had my nephew and sister spot me as I kept at it – my homework. I met “Sharon Swimmer” on trail patrol and she swam with me several times at Corona Del Mar last fall. I even took a couple of Fearless Swimming workshops this winter from Ingrid Loos Miller, which were wonderful.

I still hardly felt fearless. I was scared. And I had all year to think about how chicken and evasive I’ve been about getting over it. The self-admonishment was tempered with the visual of one day being handed a Popsicle stick. I meditated on it. I read about it. I watched ocean swimming videos. Now it was just a matter of doing it.

Last Saturday was my chance to toe the line of the Seal Beach Rough Water Swim. Todd was my Sherpa. Coach Mary was my escort out to the first buoy. I experienced all those uncomfortable feelings those first 200 yards and then I was good. I thanked Mary and enjoyed the rest of the 1-mile swim. The water was very cold in places and very warm in places, thanks to the power plant that heats the nearby river that runs into the ocean. As Sharkbait put it, “Made you wonder if a whale just peed.”

I was apprehensive about coming into shore, but Mother Nature was kind that day. There were no flips, but I felt like doing backflips when I ran up to the chute! It didn’t matter where I placed. The joy I felt to finish. The joy I felt to be with my teammates Sandy, Janice, Jeff, Gus, and a coach I truly love. The joy I felt to have Todd, Dave, his siblings Lynne and Laura, and his wife Jan there will be something I’ll cherish for a very long time.


Flip Turn Fail

Okay, if you’re a longtime reader, you know I’ve attempted to learn flip turns in the past. Those previous attempts didn’t go well. I have a tendency to stick my neck out at the worst time and back out of the somersault. I even had a lane mate attempt to physically flip me to no avail. We mutually, jokingly agreed I might need therapy to pull this off. That was back in 2008. Since then I’ve found a million excuses to not try this again – knee surgery, rehab, the Aquabike training, Oceanside training, bilateral breathing training, open water training, fatigue, crowded lanes, and busy coaches. Can you hear the “buck, buck, buuuuucccckkkk” chicken noises as you read this – uh-huh, I can!

I hinted to Coach Mary a gazillion times, “You have to teach me to flip turn.” Last Saturday, she surprised me by saying, “Come on, go do one.” Absolutely oblivious to what a little head case I truly am about it. “Do a somersault.” Fail. Fail. Fail. “Am I going to have to take you over to the grass to do them on dry land?” she asked. I laughed, “Yes!” “Okay, come on,” she answered.

So there we were – two big kids doing somersaults on my beach towel. It reminded me of the hours I spent in dojos studying various forms of martial arts. Sorry Mary, it’s just not the same with nothing solid to hold onto in the water.

Back in the pool, I did slightly better but never got my legs over. My nostrils seared with the sting of chlorine. I acted like I was being waterboarded. It was not my finest coachable moment. I’m usually pretty coachable. Mary looked at me with another grin and said, “Am I going to have to get Gus over here to flip you?” “Yes!” I responded. And then when she turned her head, I snuck out of the pool like an evasive little kid.

Ever had something you really wanted to do and NOT do at the same time? It’s a quandary. I do want to get the over this already. I certainly have the ability to laugh at myself in this situation. There’s also a varying degree of self-admonishment that’s not good. On any given day, this inward impetus to change and finally do a flip turn is somewhere on the scale of organizing-my-sock-drawer (not that urgent) to gotta-get-my-taxes-done (really urgent). The thing is I know I’ll feel a lot better about myself as an athlete if I can just start doing those flip turns. I know it’ll help my fitness and training. And I know I’ll walk a little taller in my flip flops if I do.

A Training First: ‘Cause I was THAT Busy

One of my favorite mantras is “There’s a creative solution for every problem.” Last week was a particularly stressful one.

Two family emergencies on the East Coast. Screaming deadlines for three clients on the West Coast. And a longstanding commitment to hang out with a friend’s elderly mom for a couple nights while she was on a business trip.

I examined my living room from my desk that afternoon, looked longingly over at Blaze (my tri bike) and realized there was only one way to get the training in. So I rolled out the Herman Miller desk chair for a seat that’s a little more aero. Propped up some ad awards annuals under the front wheel and got to work.

Then I managed to get some edits done for an investment product, came up with a bunch of ad ideas for a technology company, and read a long report on a new line of cosmeceuticals (beauty products dispensed by dermatologists). Hopped off the bike to take a couple of calls in between from people I will be eternally grateful to in Boston and D.C. as well as my big sis’ nearby in Long Beach.

When all was said and done and done and done, I put in 30 miles on the trainer. It wasn’t the highest quality workout. But it opened up the capillaries, helped me de-stress, and served as a mental victory.