Flip Turn

Exiting a lake swim!

Exiting a lake swim!

I decided to sign up for swim lessons.  Yes, I know how to swim and I could probably get by just fine if someone dumped me out of a boat into a lake, but I can definitely use some improvements in regards to swimming efficiently during a triathlon.  The cost of solo lessons were much too steep so I opted for a small group lesson at my YMCA.  I already knew the coach who taught the class because he is a regular visitor at the pool.  The coach had already watched me swim and provided me with tips for improvement.  He told me that I should join the advanced swim lesson group (at least that made me feel better).

So, there I was on Day 1.  The coach took the other newbie (another triathlete) and I aside and taught us all of the strokes.  What I really wanted to do was improve my freestyle, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to know a few tricks of the trade.  At least now I can resort to the back stroke or breast stroke if I need to take a break in the middle of the lake.  Actually, I learned that the back stroke won’t help me much in any situation unless I want to totally go in the wrong direction or bump my head and knock myself out.  However, my strong legs fair well on that breast stroke.  I just don’t really want to use my legs much while swimming in a triathlon…. gotta save them for later.

Regardless of whether or not Day 1 was useful, I went swimming on my own a couple of days later and I felt like I was queen of the pool.  I felt so great about my swimming form that I decided to do my timed half mile.  It just so happens that I was 4 minutes faster than last month’s timed trial… and in swim minutes that is quite a bit of time!

Then there came the flip turn lesson.  I always thought swimmers who did flip turns were the real swimmers of the pool.  As I started triathlon training I realized that was not a correct assumption.  It actually didn’t make sense for me to learn how to flip turn because I wouldn’t be doing that in a lake!  But still, it looked pretty cool and if I ever want to be a competitive swimmer (which I don’t) I should at least try to learn how to do a flip turn.  After two lessons on flip turns I realized that I probably will never become a cool swimmer who knows how to flip turn.  I am the most clumsy flip turner ever.  Sometimes my feet don’t even touch the wall.  Other times I hit my head on the bottom of the pool.  Most times I get water up my nose.  Oh, and that is only when I practice a flip turn without actually swimming laps.  The coordination of swimming and flip turning at the same time is just too much for me.  I mean, really, I can’t even run with proper coordination.

So, I am focused on the freestyle (and just touching the wall and turning my body).  I have learned that my left hand comes to far to the right.  Now I keep it in a straight line.  I have also learned that my hands flip up instead of down when entering the water.  I now have trained them to point down.  I have often brought my arms out of the water before they reach all the way back, but now I follow my pull all of the way through.  Not sure what is going on with my legs, but that will be the next step in the process.  I almost forgot how much I enjoyed learning.  And I am even becoming a better swimmer!

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Run Like My Mother

At the Portland Marathon

At the Portland Marathon

The arrival of March brings the memories of my mother’s passing.  It has been 13 years now and I know time heals, but it can never make you forget what you have lost.  At the time of my mother’s passing I was attending college in Alaska while she was in California.  At the time, I was not a runner nor did I ever desire to be one.  Sure, I was all about rock climbing, skiing, ice climbing, hiking and even spending some occasional time at the gym hanging out on the elliptical.  My mother knew I wasn’t a runner like her.  She often encouraged (or forced) me to run in little fun runs… the furthest one might have been a 5K I completed (half walking) during her Portland marathon debut.  Getting fired from my lame job at IHOP (I was 18 at the time) in order to take a weekend trip to watch her finish the Portland marathon was one of the few times I showed my mother support for her running.  I didn’t understand her love of running.  I didn’t understand her need to run at least 5 miles every day.  I didn’t understand her desire to run 26.2 miles without stopping… and then do it again and again.

After my mother’s passing I would run occasionally.  Mostly only if I really had to like during my training in the Coast Guard.  It took me having my own children before I started to take running seriously.  My main reason at the time was to lose baby weight.  My mother was always very thin and I just assumed that running made her that way.  I didn’t think about the other reasons why she might have been so thin.  Running was just the one positive thing that I could have  a firm grasp on.

As I started running I began to think about my mother in a new light.  We weren’t always on the best terms because she made many mistakes.  I always focused on the negative and refused to cherish the positive.  As I continued running I began to turn towards the positive aspects of my mother’s life.  I know that everyone makes mistakes and it was time for me to learn from all of the experiences that I had faced during my childhood.  My mother was strong and determined when it came to running.  I took her strength and doubled it.  I refused to become like her in many ways, but was comforted by the fact that I could make my own choices and carry on her strengths.

Even though she is no longer with me, running has brought my mother and I closer together.  Running has meaning now.  It is my passion.  It is my strength.  I am a runner just like my mother.

Running and Wildlife

The loop around Table Top Mountain

The loop around Table Top Mountain

My biggest concern about running here in Colorado is encountering a rattlesnake.  Even though I freeze my rear off in the winter and have to deal with running on snow and ice, I am happy about the fact that I don’t have to worry about snakes.  They are asleep in places that I can not see (and I try not to visualize treading on their homes and waking them up).  I enjoy running on Table Top Mountain during the winter because I refuse to run on it during the summer.  I have heard stories about people jumping over rattlesnakes.  You might as well call it “Rattlesnake Mountain.”  No thanks.  I will stick to the sidewalks before I set foot on “Rattlesnake Mountain.”

Today I was kind of enjoying (okay, not really) a run around Table Mountain.  The trail was packed with hard snow and ice and, in areas where there was no snow or ice, there was mud.  I made every effort not to twist my foot, get stuck in a footprint hole or trip over a rock.  And it was not a level effort.  There were the ups and downs.  Some of the ups were so steep that I just couldn’t catch my breath.

So, I was struggling around a corner when all of a sudden I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye.  I swear to you that my first thought was “wolf.”  But then I realized that wolves are extremely rare in Colorado.  Then I thought it had to be someone’s dog. The dogs around here bark when you come to close.  No, it didn’t look domestic.  I swear it looked like a wolf.  It was the size of a wolf.  Whatever it was, it was heading in my direction.  Fortunately, there was a barbed wire fence between me and the wild dog.  Yet, I still felt my heartbeat speed up as it trotted towards me.  This wild dog had a mission: to get through the fence.  I didn’t want to be around when that happened so I continued forward on the trail. I didn’t want to turn around because there were no houses back where I had come from… only vast open fields.

I tried to tell myself that it must be a coyote.  There are thousands of coyotes in this area.  We hear coyotes howling at night and my husband has seen them in our neighborhood.  For some reason I still didn’t feel any better.  It was just me and the coyote and a lonely trail.  It continued to follow me along the fence line and then I started to panic slightly.  Okay, so I did what you shouldn’t do… I ran faster, nearly tripping over my feet in the snow, ice and rocks.  I passed the area where the fence met another fence and there was no chance that the coyote could go any further without passing through a hole in the fence.  I didn’t want to take that chance so I ran faster.

I considered jumping over the fence into someone’s property and running to their house, but then I imagined myself slicing my legs on the fence or crashing down the hill that led to the houses.  It was pretty steep and rocky.  I decided to stay on the trail.  At one point I forced myself to glance back, but I didn’t see the wild dog anymore.  I wasn’t sure if I could continue at this pace all the way around the mountain.  A few minutes later I encountered a trail that went down into the neighborhood.  I figured that it was better to be safe than sorry.  There was not point running around on a mountain with a coyote.  Who knows what he was doing.  I thought they usually traveled in packs at night.  It was the middle of the day.  And I did not see one soul on that trail while I was running on it.

I ran down to a road and couldn’t decide whether to turn left or right.  If I turned right then I would have a very long ways to go around the mountain back to my car.  If I went left I would pass by the area where I had seen the coyote, but I would be further down and next to the houses.  I wasn’t sure if it was smart, but I headed back in the direction of the sighting.  I figured I could run up to someone’s house if I saw the coyote coming down to the road.  When I got close to the area, I stopped and looked really hard.  I couldn’t see any signs of movement.  I continued on and ended up running an extra 3 miles just so I could stay on roads within the neighborhoods.

By the time I got back to my car I realized that I had probably overreacted.  When I googled “coyote encounters” the Humane Society’s website stated that issues between humans and coyotes is extremely rare.  And the encounters usually only occur when another animal is present (like the family dog).  Funny enough, the website emphasized that you had a greater chance of being killed by a flying champagne cork.  Lastly, it mentioned that you should stop and make yourself big in order to scare it away or slowly walk backwards until you are out of sight.  You should NOT turn your back to it and run.

What was I thinking about when my adrenaline spiked?  Making sure I turned my Garmin back on as I started running.  Okay, maybe that has just become a subconscious habit.  I thought about what the teachers would think if I didn’t pick up my girls on time.  I also thought about the knife on my running belt.  I was suddenly thankful for that little device.  It’s funny because just the other day some members of my running club were asking me about it.  I am not sure what they were thinking, but I told them that you never know when you might need one.  They just gave me an odd look.  Unpredictable wildlife is one good reason to carry a knife.  Unpredictable humans is the other reason.