Week three, and May continues its torturous voyage. Most people see gentle puffs of pollen dancing on the breeze as “Waltz of the Flowers” plays in their minds. I, however, hear “Flight of the Valkyries”. …No really. I do. It makes me chuckle a little every time, but within moments I am back to being miserable.
Run: I made it my goal to get at least three days of running under my belt, preferably in the middle of the afternoon when the heat would be at its worst. Between the pollen, heat, lawn chemicals, fresh cut grass, newly planted flowers, paved driveway, and fumes blowing out the dryer vents, I was reminded of precisely why I both hate and love the Spring. As much as I curse this dreaded month of aerobic transitions, I love being able to run on the pavement surrounded by fresh flowers, rustling trees, and sunshine- a true rarity in Syracuse. During some 88 degree runs, I thought to keep a cold water bottle on the trunk of my car to keep me both hydrated and motivated as I completed my one-mile loop. My water was hot (not warm, but hot) about twenty minutes into the run, but hydration is hydration. I am surprised as to how quickly my lungs are adjusting this year. I imagine this is mostly due to all the biking and swimming I did this winter. Mental note made!
And then there is my all time favorite: running in the moonlight. Running at night has always made for my strongest and most memorable runs. There is something so soothing about the night which is strange for someone like me to say. I have been terrified of the dark for the majority of my life, ESPECIALLY when it comes to heavily wooded areas. However, running is one of the only times when the dark comforts me. There is an especially dark (and rather short) stretch in my apartment complex next to the woods. My pace picks up dramatically during this stretch, but I always tell myself I am doing interval runs rather than face the truth: I am a giant baby. “Doing intervals” just sounds better, don’t you think?
The Paige’s Butterfly Run 5k is approaching, and while my time does not have anything to do with my collected donations, I truly want to run this race crossing the finish line with as much strength as I can muster. The run benefits the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital for cancer research. I lost my best friend at the age of ten due to a brain tumor. The strength and determination she showed every day is something that has always stayed with me, and I am running this race for her. She will be with me in every step.
Favorite running song of the week: “Lion Man”- Mumford and Sons
Swim: I had an unusual swim day with my training crew this week. While I would normally swim for a forty-five minute session and switch to a core session for the next forty-five minutes (or vice versa), I had to coach the first swim group and miss my core session due to a coach not being able to make it. That being said, for once I saw exactly what we would be doing. There is something nice about being mentally prepared for exactly what is to come rather than being surprised. Our coaches have been kind enough to give us a “heads up” of sorts this season, but seeing a workout on paper and seeing it performed in a pool are two different things.
After coaching, my warmed up group came in from their core workout (with some lovely looking cores, might I add) for the swim. I took the liberty of jumping into the water right away and trying to get in some extra laps for a warm-up so I wouldn’t be at a disadvantage from the rest of the group. I soon noticed I was, for whatever reason, trying to QUICKLY warm-up as if swimming faster would somehow make up for missing core. I realized I was draining my body of energy and immediately went at a normal warm-up pace. I felt my lungs and limbs relax and off we went!
I knew we had to do two ladders (25-50-75-100-75-50-25 with rest times of 10-15-20-30-20-15-finish) and was ready to go. Ladders were my worst nightmare (next to mass swim starts) during the winter session. They were one of my main focuses in the off-season; I was determined to complete a ladder with the appropriate rest times. The day I finally did it, I felt unstoppable. I even added an extra 100 repeat into the workout! For someone who could only swim two laps in a half hour four months ago, completing my first true ladder was one of the greatest athletic accomplishments I have had in years. Ladders have since become one of my favorite exercises.
As we began ladders, my lane dubbed me the “fearless leader” of the pack since I could keep track of distances and times. As I prepared for my first 100, I felt fantastic. My form was on, I was getting distance in my glide, and my breathing was fantastic. Or so I thought.
I breathe every other stroke, and it is always on my right side. That is the compromise I have made with my body. “I will swim, fine, but I get to breathe as much as I want and need. I may look silly breathing so frequently, but breathing is better than not breathing.” So, breathe I did. My coach who, during the infamous winter session swims, witnessed me literally curled in a pale ball on the bleachers trying to hide under a towel so people didn’t see me cry after some traumatic swims decided it was time to give me a new challenge.
Just as I was ready to push off the wall, I heard her familiar voice. “Okay, Rhiannon…I want you to try bi-lateral breathing. You are going to breathe every three strokes. I think you can do it.”
The anxiety. The ball in my chest. The desire to cry. The screaming in my head, “YouCan’tDoThisYouCan’tDoThisYouCan’tDoThis”. Everything I had worked so hard to overcome from this winter exploded back into my body as soon as she spoke. I literally began to hug myself as I pleaded.
“No, I really can’t. You don’t understand. I can not do this. I just can’t. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. You don’t know how hard I worked to just get here.” And then the tears began to well. Let me be clear in saying I am not a crier. I like to think I am a tough cookie…a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, perhaps. They seem tough. But my journey with swimming has unleashed a fear and panic I never knew I had in me.
“You will be fine. I just want you to try it.”
So…I tried. And I failed miserably. I made it about 20 meters before my breathing lost control and I was gasping. The fact I was panic breathing/drowning on my left side doesn’t help, I am sure, but I have a lot of work to do. I finished the ladder switching between my right-side breathing and bi-lateral drowning with a new goal to master this breathing style. My current plan is forcing myself to swim while breathing on the left, only, and working my way up to bi-lateral breathing…or as I called it for the next week, “binary breathing.” I’m still a rookie, what can I say?
Small steps. ….strokes…. whatever floats your fancy. (Floats…get it? See what I did there?)
Bike: After my novella of the swim, I will try to keep bike short. I biked to Alliance Bank Stadium at 6 am Saturday to get in an extra workout. I figured it was only a few miles and traffic would be low. 6.8 miles later, I arrived to a group containing some of my favorite people in the world, something that makes 6:30 am seem just a bit less painful. We took our riders through the streets of downtown Syracuse. They did a fantastic job! I was so proud! As a coach, I was supposed to know exactly where we were going. I ended up writing the directions in pen down my left arm—a living, breathing, MapQuest. While I looked ridiculous, my directions-in-the-flesh worked great. I had to stop a few times and pick up stray riders for a variety of reasons: putting in a lost contact, fixing a couple lost chains, getting less confident riders through lights, but thankfully we didn’t have any major crashes or injuries. That is an instant stamp of success.
My way home was slightly more eventful. At a major split in the road to go into Liverpool or North Syracuse, I dodged three potholes. I didn’t see the fourth. My second flat tire in two months, I was prepared to at least try to fix my tire with my flat-tire kit. I realized the better option was calling my coach and her husband (whom we have adopted as our bike-mechanic roadie to come to our rescue during any group ride). She frantically answered thinking I was severely injured but breathed a sigh of relief upon realizing I only wanted help with a flat so as to save my carbon pump. My favorite married bike duo arrived in their chariot and had me back on the road within minutes. Never a dull moment with Lola!
Core: I did core with our Wednesday night group during one of the four sessions instead of coaching. I was going to pull a double session since I am technically done coaching the last two sessions, but after doing one round of stations, I decided I had filled my squat quota for the week. Instead, I offered to coach some of the stations to help with the flow of traffic. What was I assigned? The worst squat station, of course: speed squats. They are as horrible as they sound, and they are the exact reason why I decided not to do a second round of core. Forty speed squats were enough for me. Thanks to demonstrations, working with the athletes, and karma, I totaled two hundred speed squats. Needless to say my high-school students were quite curious as to why I was literally waddling the next day. I just keep telling myself…”It’s beach season…It’s beach season…It’s beach season…”
Bring it on, week four!