Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ultra. Take 2.

In the last decade, since reinventing myself as a kind-of-athlete, I have undertaken some big challenges. That first half marathon. That first marathon. A half Ironman. Ironman. And oh that swim. The first time is always the hardest. A jumble of nerves, self doubt, and a little fear. After that, there is a little deposit in the memory bank that reminds you: you can do this. You’ve done it before. Oh don’t get me wrong, there are still nerves & self-doubt - my familiar pre-race house guests - but the second time is easier. Except sometimes, it turns out, it isn’t.

My first race of 2018 was in February when I set out to tackle my first 50K. I made it not quite halfway when I was pulled, having missed an aid station cut-off by 4 minutes. I was devastated. I felt shame. This foolish undertaking of a 50K by someone like me. I cried. A lot.
Scenes from a training run on-course at Deception Pass

This weekend is my last race of 2018 and as you might have figured out by now, it’s my second attempt at a 50K. And this time doesn’t feel easier than the first time. I’m peeking in that memory bank and all I see is evidence that this is beyond me. Beyond my fitness. Beyond my capabilities. Beyond my crunchy, beleaguered knees. Another foolish undertaking. I am trying to work on my mental game but man, I am having to dig deep.

Speaking of that swim… if you’re wondering how it went. I got my money’s worth. With less than 40 seconds left to spare on the official cut-off and an extra km swum - because, why not - I finished it. Here’s the post-race ugly cry as I hug my paddler and super hero friend Shelly, who guided me down the lake and listened to me whine about how hard it was. It always seems impossible until it’s done. 

Note to self.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hold my beer...

So, tomorrow I’m doing this thing. It seems kind of crazy, even to me, and especially FOR me because well… who signs up for an ultra swim when they’re not a swimmer? Well, me, it seems. Chalk it up to a chain-reaction of crazy ideas beginning with my 2019 Ultra520K application, followed by a little post-Hyack hot-tub encouragement peer-pressure from super swimmer Ann. And hey, it was so far away, surely I could become a better swimmer by then, right? 

Well, then is now, and despite spending hours and hours of time in the pool and the lake, and Sunday after Sunday (after Sunday) of early morning swim coaching, I’m no faster than I was before. Le sigh.

Speed matters because here because this race has a cut-off. If I swim straight enough, and conditions are favourable, I should be OK. Should be.

Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey to transform my body, my health, and my life. In those early years, when I was well at the back of the pack of running races and triathlons, I feared being last. And in those early years, I came close a few times. Very, very close. Like… I think I was 3rd from last once at an AIK race but although spectators warn us with signs that race results last forever, I can’t find it to confirm!  Over the years, I’ve worked my way up to the middle of the pack, and every once in a while, I’m closer to the front than the middle. It’s been a long time since I feared being the last athlete across the line.  Well, tomorrow, I expect to be the last athlete across the line. And that’s 100% OK with me. It will mean this non-swimmer who can’t seem to work her way out of the slow lane will have made all the cut-offs and hauled herself through the water over 11.8 km. Crazy, right?

No matter the outcome, I want some people to know how much I appreciate them when it comes to tomorrow’s crazy. Shelly, who took kayaking lessons to prepare for this and will paddle all day and manage my snacks… Andrew, who may tell me I’m crazy when I get these ideas, but supports me all the way anyway… my Coach Liz, who has never said a single negative thing about my swimming (and chastises me when I do) despite the fact that I am sure she must look at some of my swim workouts and wonder how the hell someone can go so.damn.slow …she always makes me feel like she believes in my ability to be successful, even when sometimes I’m not so sure myself… and my swim coach Ryan, who has yet to declare me hopeless. 

At my last session with Ryan coaching, he kayaked alongside me and shouted (he’s good at the shouting):

“Karin! Karin!! You can swim all day…” (I mmm-hmm’d my agreement) “…you need to swim faster.”

I’ll try Ryan, I’ll try.

See you at the finish line.