Friday, July 15, 2016

A Walk in the Park



Wow, has it been 5 years since my last post?

I'm now a mom of 2 kids - an infant and a toddler - and my adventure as an athlete feels like a vague dream.  Pregnancy, delivery and postpartum have been brutal on my body, particularly the second one when I had a traumatic emergency c-section resulting in a preemie baby in NICU for 10 weeks.  I spent 11 days in hospital due to complications. I was forced to take rest for 2 months, and avoid lifting heavy objects and strenuous exercise. Now in month 5 of postpartum, I still am not allowed to swim or do ab-related workouts. The physical and emotional turmoil left me battle scarred.

During this time, my instincts were to take care of my baby, not myself.  Even though I was so fortunate to have strong support from friends and family who looked after me, I still engaged in anxiety-eating. Food was my comfort, my balm for the long days and nights I spent caring for my preemie, and helped me stay strong during the roller coaster experience that was the NICU. It was something I looked forward to at a time when things were unpleasant, and it was constant at a time when things were uncertain. I thought NICU was my marathon. But I was wrong.  NICU turned out to be a mile marker on a much longer marathon in regards to my son's health. I'm still running that marathon. 

The other day, I ran upstairs to attend to my infant, and I felt out of breath.  Two nights ago, I broke a sweat while having a mini-dance party with my toddler. As a 40-year-old mom of young kids, I realized I need to shape up if I want to enjoy their active childhood.  And so, I can no longer continue this sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle of mindless eating and sleep deprivation. 

As this realization is setting in, it seems as though the Universe is sending me signs.  Lately, I feel a new chapter opening up. I was reminded by this video how sport has transformed me, anchored me, and brought me to a higher understanding of myself.  And after 5 years of chartering the uncertain, tumultuous world of pregnancy and parenthood, I'm ready to get back to fitness and find my ground again.

So, today I dusted off my running shoes (literally) and took a walk in the park. It was an uneventful 40-min walk. It was hot. I panted and perspired. And it felt SO good to take the first step of my journey back to fitness.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but Bikes and Clips excite me

I took Optimus for a spin after what seemed like a lifetime. After months of being busy with being busy, I finally decided that I had to start training. For whatever reason, when I pursue my other life passions, personal fitness is the sacrificial lamb.

When I began training again, the easiest activity to start was swimming, but the most exciting was biking! After strapping on my bike shoes, I literally dusted off the cobwebs and filled the near-flat tires with air. As I guided Optimus out from the darkness of my garage into the sunny outdoors, sweet (and sour) memories of bike workouts and races flooded my mind. Has it been 4 years since I first tri-ed? I set modest goals for biking – to just get reacquainted with my bike and reclaim the joy of biking.

Traffic was thin in my neighborhood and I used the opportunity to flout all kinds of road courtesy and safety rules. Don’t try this at home, folks. I smiled, recalling how Cha and I would sneak past Stop signs on Shoal Creek when there was no traffic just so that we wouldn’t have to unclip from our pedals. (I can see you shuddering, Coach A). When I wasn’t comfortable, I hopped off my bike and walked – and quickly remembered how hard it was to do so with clips, and was a big reason I refused to walk any portion of the bike leg of races. Arvind, who had gone for run, planned his route so that it intersected with mine (he refuses to admit that he was keeping tabs on me, but I know better). It was even more encouraging to see him running alongside. I called out, “I hope I will ride faster than you can run!” He replied supportively, “You’re blowing right past me, baby!” And off I went on my merry way, feeling the hot summer breeze against my face.

I had a modest start to tri-training last week (1K swim, 4 mile bike, 5 mile run) – but most importantly, I started.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My first Olympic Distance!

Finishing time: 4hours 8min :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Full Circle

It's hard to believe it's the night before my target race - the Austin Triathlon. I first signed up for the race in April, and prepared over the last 4-5 months for my first Olympic Distance. It's amazing how quickly time passes, and it's insightful to observe the ups and downs of training which in many ways parallels life itself.

As I look back on my training this year, I've learnt quite a few hard lessons.

1. Overcoming fear of open water
This was by far one of biggest learnings. I remember how debilitating the fear was 5 months ago, and just other day, as I swam effortlessly and fearlessly in Barton springs, I felt free. On hindsight, I had made a mountain out of a molehill in my mind, and it was only when I gained control over my thoughts, was I able to see how mistaken I was. When I gained clarity and calm, swimming became the joy it once was when I was a child.

2. Race nutrition
The Sweet & Twisted Tri turned out to be a huge wake-up call in this respect. I crashed and burned at the tri because I had not eaten wisely the day before the race. On race morning, I could not keep anything down. I started the race on an empty stomach, and by the time I got on the bike, my energy completely tanked. On the run, I barely had the energy to run and felt nauseous. It was a hard race in other ways too - the heat got to me & the bike seat had not well-adjusted. After the race, I felt really overcome and my confidence took a hit. I remember sitting down with Coach A and going over the race in great detail. Finally, I asked if he thought I could actually do the Olympic Distance. He put it plainly, "Of course you can! Sha, you "bonked" at S&T. You had no fuel, and you need learn how to eat right during the race. If you don't put anything into your system, how do you expect it to anything for you?" Feeling like a trainwreck, I retreated inwards and focused more on training. I dealt with my negative energy and learnt to move on. I trained hard the week following S&T mostly to shake off the negativity. After regaining some confidence during training sessions that followed, I felt better.

3. Reclaiming the joy of Tris
While this may sound silly, but I think somewhere along the way, I stopped having fun during tri training. Several times, Arv would watch me struggle through an ardous bike ride or long run, and say, "Are you having fun yet?" Truthfully, I did not. I felt the training was necessary but tedious. After the Sweet & Twisted Tri, particularly, I became conscious of this, and went back to my core reasons for tri-ing. I also read my previous blog posts from my first season, and realized that although training had been challenging, I genuinely had fun getting through the challenges. I examined the reasons why my thinking had changed, and began to reclaim my joy of doing triathlons. I became mindful of when I felt like the training was a drag, and shifted my mental energy to more positive thoughts. Arv as always was my pillar - he chided me when I slacked, encouraged me when my confidence plummeted, coached me when I felt unsure of how to train and most of all, reminded me when I had forgotten the joy of tri-ing.

I've walked a long way on this path, and in some ways, I feel like I've come a full circle. But perhaps, that's best destination of all - to return to your Self and see the same world of Tris with new eyes.

I've set no timegoals for my first-ever Olympic Distance. And I'm already celebrating - I know how far I've come from my first season in 2007 (when I had initially thought about doing an OD), and feel so much better prepared for the race - that in itself is a great feeling!

And as Coach A put it, when you do a new distance for the first time, you already know you're going to PR. :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

This Race is Yours, and Yours Alone.

(Inspirations from Bhaja Govindam)

Will you help me cross the finish line, my friend?
We’ve played together, trained together and ran many miles together.
Won’t you stay a while until I finish my race?

“I would if I could, dear friend... but this race is yours, and yours alone.”

Crossing the finish line, I felt a sense of freedom,
independence, and peace within..
that I had made it, and did it alone.

Will you journey on this Path with me, my teacher?
You’ve taught me, nurtured me and given me the strength to come this far.
Won’t you walk with me until I realize the transient nature of life?

“I can’t and I won't, dear student… my absence, not my presence will help you attain this knowledge. This Path is yours to walk, and yours alone.”

So I walked and walked,
reflecting on this wisdom,
Until I came across my own reflection in a lake,
And there I stood stunned, when I saw that I was truly alone.

Will you be with me forever, my love?
We’ve shared our joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations together.
Won’t you live this life with me for always?

“This moment is ours, and I can’t promise you more than this. This life is yours to live, and yours alone.”

Going through life, I began to see
the world seemed like an easier place to live in,
when I accepted being truly alone,
And I depended on myself, and myself alone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning from the Fish (or Facing My Fears Part II)

Barton Springs Pool, Austin, TX

My usual trepidation began as I set out for my open workout yesterday evening at Barton Springs. I had a near accident on the highway getting there while asking Arv about how deep 30ft was. As I was driving, I pointed to the height of the freeway to get an idea of the depth, veered into another lane and nearly skidded. After the drama, Arv looked at me wryly and said "you need to stop thinking about swimming when you're driving!"

Just as I got ready to get into the springs, I met a friend of mine and we chatted. As I expressed my trepidation at looking at the depth of the lake, my friend said something that struck me, "when you look inside and see the fish hanging out, it's really pretty cool! You'll feel like you're flying..." I thought about for sometime. The idea of flying held for me a great sense of freedom. It put me in a contemplative mood.

My plan was to swim 800m with the pull buoy and REALLY look into the clear springs. I had never dared to look inside (and usually got away with keeping my eyes closed or head straight ahead). With security of a floating device, I figured even if I panicked, I would not struggle in the water and feed my fear further. This plan worked like a charm. It really gave me an opportunity to peer into the depth of the springs. At one point, I just stopped stroking and floated.. observing the fish below. I was reminded of what Steph told me me last year, how amazing it was to watch life underwater when you really paid attention and observed. Most of the fish moved away from me hurriedly. A few others lay very still. I was calmed by their stillness. Some looked at me inquiringly. And it dawned on me that if such little fish could be so comfortable in the water, I did not have anything to fear. (except arguably my mind!)

After that, I did another 400m unassisted. I felt myself gliding through the Springs, using very little effort. I realized that the reason I had gasped and usually felt tired after open water swims was because I expended a lot of energy in the process of panicking - breathing deeply, irregularly, heart rate racing, all of it drained my energy. If I could stay calm, and just swim, I would not be as exhausted.

Towards the end of it, I still swam a little cautiously, no doubt. But I had learned from the fish. To be in the water as they were.. practicing stillness. Within.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ruminations on the Rookie

I met my goals for the Rookie! YAAY!


I had created the mental picture of my goals and as I did them, I "checked" them off in my head and gave myself encouraging words on the tri. This kept my spirits up during the tri.

Since I did not have any specific time goals, just a general "hope-to-do-better-than-my-first-tri", I did not wear my watch. I usually avoid that anyway, because looking at the clock is more stressful and takes some of the fun out of it for me. ( I can see you Garmin-and-what-not users balking as I write this..) I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had shaved off about 8 minutes from my first tri. Considering I took a year-long break from training, I'm quite pleased with the result.

Here are some short notes:

1. SWIM

I've said for the 100th time now, but the lake was DISGUSTING. A foul stench emanated from the lake as we jumped in. I was a little distracted by the smell and struggled a little initially to focus on swim. Fortunately, I was calm about swimming in the deep. I found myself veering off course when I did freestyle, so I used breast-stroke to re-navigate. There's still a lot of improvement but the important thing is that I finally put my head in the water and did free-style (and that too, in a filthy lake)! :) I took about 10min 23s to finish it.

What worked well is that during my swim practice the day before, I practiced my routine - mental & physical for how I would swim - how I would breathe, how I would mentally chant, and the rhythm of the two. Once I figured this plan, it was easy to execute on the actual day.


2. BIKE

Gearing & hydrating on the bike were my two focal points, and I didn't care much about the speed (though I was happy to note later that my speed had improved). I took pains to find exactly the right gear for the moment, and stayed alert throughout the course to get a feel for gearing (as opposed to switching off mentally while coasting down the hills).

And yes, I hydrated on the bike - 3 times!!! I slowed down, reached for the bottle, pulled it quickly, took a few swigs, and put it back into the cage. It sounds very basic when I spell it out this way, but it does take quite a bit of balance to do this right. anyway, this made me particularly happy because it was an indication that both my balance and confidence had improved. As bike distances get longer, I know now that I can stay hydrated on the bike, and this will surely help me down the road when I train for my Olympic Distance tri.

3. RUN

Was not great. I didn't walk, thankfully. And frankly, the first mile for me is extremely tough but I warm up after 2 miles or so. The trouble with super sprint distances is that by the time you're actually warmed up, it's done. I'm not a sprinter and generally do better on long-distances rather than short ones. So this was tricky for me.

It did make me wake up to the fact that I need to pay more attention to my running and build my endurance over the summer. The heat and humidity are huge factors in one's performance, and I could have been definitely been better prepared. Admittedly I've gotten lazy about running. The challenges of swimming and biking tend to occupy most of my focus, so running has been on the back burner. Additionally, this past half-marathon season was so disaster-stricken that I did not really have a chance to train well - and it showed.

Overall, however, the Rookie was a great kick-off to my tri-season, and hopefully it sets the mood for the rest of the tris I'm planning for the season. (more about races soon.. dun dun dun dun...)