Monthly Archives: December 2010

Triathlon no longer

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Yes, you heard it here first.

My long-held ambition to do a Sprint Triathlon has hit another snag. First it was the looming December deadline, then it was the rolled ankle. This snag, however, has really turned things around. And, of all things, it was my first swim in… oh I don’t know, 10 years?… that did it.

It was horrible. No, really, I mean horrible. Really horrible. Now it may not be truly ironic that an ex-swimmer’s demise has come from swimming, but it certainly qualifies for Alanis Morriset irony, no?

The other day I decided it was time to hit the pool, to test out my gills, so to speak. I mean, February ain’t that far off and I’d hate to be hit by a nasty shock in the first 450m of my big event. A test run is what any wise aspiring sprint triathlete would do.

By the end of the first lap (which I walked 25m of because it was too cold to just jump right in) my shoulders were lead and it had become painfully clear that any semblance of the core strength required to keep one’s arse afloat was no longer part of my physiology. Devastating to say the least. As if getting into a swimsuit was not traumatic enough, I didn’t even look like I knew what I was doing. The Olympic rings tattooed on my hip made a complete mockery of me.

I seethed down lap two and determined that my weakness would not get the better of me. I would swim 450m if I had to do it on the bottom of the pool, coming up for air from time to time like a whale. Even if it took all night. Even if it meant that Blossom would have to (shock-horror) take a bottle instead of my boob. Even if it meant emerging with prune fingers and chlorine poisoning, I would do that 450m.

By the time I had completed 300m I had had lane rage twice (what is it with hairy men swimming two millimetres from your ankles when it’s clear you’re having enough trouble dragging yourself through the water, let alone their bulk in your supposed wash, not to mention the oblivious teenagers who stand in the middle of the lane to chat about their i-phones and the 8-year-old playing chicken with oncoming traffic… GET OUT OF THE GODDAMN WAY!), I’d wrestled with leaking goggles (is it possible my head has changed shape that much in 10 years?), I’d smashed my toe on the wall during a miserable attempt at a tumble turn (you should have heard the language accompanying that moment) and my sprint triathlon career was over. Done. Vertig. Finnis.

It was clear there was nothing sprint-like about what I am capable of doing, nor is there anything athletic about it. In fact, my swim felt a lot like I was running in water, so I’m a bit doubtful about the “tri” bit too.

But hold the violins. There’s no need to dip into your bag of “Encouraging Things to Say When the Chips are Down” just yet. You see, I dragged my sorry arse through another 1200m. That’s right, total 1.5km, and in that time I made a new goal:

I may not be attempting a triathlon at the end of February, but I will be attempting a Triplodalong. The notion of me doing anything sprinty or athletic may be ludicrous, but I can plod, right? Anybody can plod.

Genius, no?

I don’t know why I never thought of it before. In fact, I’m so chuffed with this new lower bar that I have decided to make it a New Year’s Resolution – I will cease being an overachiever (and hence giving myself a world of grief). Instead, I will aim to “plod along” through every activity, ensuring that the only thing I achieve is ENJOYMENT.

I think this resolution should cover every other item on my monumental list of  eating habits to change, gardening, sewing and cooking to master, writing to do, child rearing to get a handle on, husband keeping to perfect, self grooming to be considered, household maintaining to be completed and world-changing to be fitted into spare time. If I shoot for plodding and enjoyment, 2011 should be a cracker on all fronts.

Care to join me?

Or you could always join me over at RRSAHM for a Flog Yo Blog Friday list…

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No post today

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Sorry. Had grand plans, but kids are being… well… kids.

Boo hiss. Don’t worry, though, I’ll ruin your fun when you’re 15 and you want to go to a party at some random beach with a bunch of good-for-nothings whose mothers I don’t know and/or don’t trust.

And when you cry and scream that I’m horrible and unfair, that all you wanted was one small moment of fun and that I am denying you even that; when you wail that I’m ruining your life and that you’ll never forgive me as long as you live, I’ll smile and reply, “Have a read of this, my lovely, and it will all become clear.”

That’s right. I’ll point you to this very post where I cry and scream that you are being horrible and unfair, that all I wanted was one small moment of fun and that you are denying me even that, and despite all this you have not ruined my life because in the end I will forgive you everything as long as I live.

Because I love you, you little monster.

More than I love writing… (but only just!).

Over and out.

Santamania

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I don’t get the Santa photo thing. Sorry.

I just don’t see why it is so important to drag your reluctant children, dressed in their Sunday best, kicking and screaming, bribing them with “whatever you want from the shops afterward”, to stand in a line half a mile long to sit on the lap of some smelly old man with a bad (and often disturbing) disguise, to pretend to be happy for the camera, so you can spend a small fortune for merchandise that you will either never look at again or that will forever be tainted by the heartache involved in getting the kids there in the first place. PHEW! What a mouthful!

But plenty of people seem to be committed. Committed to a level I am kind of impressed by. Take, for example, one family I observed for some twenty minutes while The Little Lion obsessively drove one of those truck rides that sends parents broke or insane (depending on their resilience against the ‘I want’). They came prepared in a way that suggested it was not their first Santa photo expedition.

There was mum, dad, nan and pop and somebody I guessed was a relative of some kind (judging by her manhandling of the elder child). The two daughters were about 3 and 5 and were dressed in matching, angelic white dresses with bows in identical ringlets and pretty, new sandals to boot. They were perfect… for the first five minutes in line.

Then they were bored.

Then they were ratty.

Then they were hysterical.

Then they were downright horrid.

Then it just got so nasty I had to look away.

And through it all, the army of adults enlisted to contain the girls and maintain their picture perfection fought to stay in control. The girls screamed. They ripped at their bows. They threw themselves on the filthy ground and slid around on their bellies like snakes, trying to escape the clutches of their Santa-obsessed care-takers. And when mum reminded the elder that she could have whatever she wanted after the photo, the self-possessed little miss stopped screaming and, cool as ice, said, “Do you have the money?”

“Yes, of course I do,” said mum, sounding a little less confident by the second.

“Show me.”

“We’ll put it on the credit card.”

“You don’t have the money!” she shrieked.

“Here, here, I do,” whimpered mum.

“I want it now. I want it NOW. I WANT IT NOWWWWWWW!!!”

It was at this point that manhandling relative grabbed the girl by the wrist and dragged her from view which sent younger daughter into a fit of tears so dramatic that nan and pop took her from the scene also.

You would think a Santa photo rain check would be in order, no?

No. Mum and Dad stayed put in the line, determined to see this thing through.

I wonder how they looked up there on Santa’s knee…

 

Happy Christmas to you all!

So what’s success anyway?

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When I did a personal best time and finished 6th in the final of the 200m Breaststroke at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, I felt like a failure. Without a medal, I was coming home empty-handed and as far as I was concerned, that was not good enough.

When I retired from competitive swimming in 2000 after five years on the Australian team, I felt like a failure. I had missed out on the Sydney Olympic Games team because of a flu and as far as I was concerned, that was not good enough.

When, years later, I looked back on my 20-odd international finals, my incredible memories, my privileged swimming career as a whole, I felt like a failure and I was sure I was doomed to a life of constant disappointment because I had never managed to capture the glittery prize at the end of the race. As far as I was concerned, that was not good enough.

Of course, I never told anybody about what was really going through my mind. As a sports-person you know that the sportsmanlike thing to do is talk about how grateful you are for the times you’ve had, how you are proud of your efforts, how it is the journey that is the important thing, that the other competitor should be commended for being better on the day, blah, blah, blah. And a lot of the time I managed to convince myself that was what I really believed.

But for years after my retirement I suffered a depression that sent me on a self-destructive cycle that I could not get myself out of. On the surface I was an all-together, dynamic, high-achieving young woman with the world at her feet, but inside I was a frightened, empty fraud.

Why? The definition of success.

When we are young, we want to emulate what we see around us and later we still find ourselves, even if unwittingly, aiming to reproduce what we are shown of the world. On the TV, in magazines, on the internet, even on our breakfast cereal boxes we are surrounded by the shining images of the successful – world record holders, gold medallists, the most talented of the sporting world. Just as beauty is defined by the most clear-skinned, bouncy-haired, digitally enhanced, nipped and tucked models, success is defined by outstanding achievers in every field. The motivation to be like them was what drove my competitive spirit in the early days.

And why? Because that was where the fame and fortune lay. To be the best meant sponsorships, financial relief for my family who had mortgaged everything on my dream; it meant media attention and recognition; it meant a stamp of approval from the whole world. But I failed to see how quickly the world can crucify and forget the cricketer who fails to take the wickets, the runner who doesn’t make the semis, the team that loses a few matches on the run.

What I have learned in the past few years is that Pierre De Coubertin chose “Higher, Stronger, Faster” as his Olympic motto because he understood that success is not about winning. He never intended for The Games to be about the highest, strongest or fastest athletes. Like beauty that is defined by the quality of one’s life rather than the clarity of one’s skin, De Coubertin’s notion of success was defined by the quality of the effort.

To always strive to be better than you were yesterday; to be stronger, kinder, more honest than you were. To give life a good shake and to move on when your time is up, this is what success is about. Some may have fantastic bodies and beautiful cheekbones, some may have gold medals and world records – good on them. But, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”

So here’s to the anonymous, the unrecognised, the ‘also ran’. It is your face I see on my cereal box in the mornings.

Bite Me

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Dear Jean and Joe Average,

Here’s a taboo topic for you: My son, the Little Lion, occasionally bites his sister. So bite me. Does that make me a bad mother? Does that make him a bad little boy? Will we all go to Hell in a pea green boat because my poor little two-year-old is finding it hard to express his very strong emotions in a socially acceptable manner?

It doesn’t happen often, but judging by the reaction from you onlookers, you would think he had just bludgeoned her to death with his “noi”.

Your eyes widen, you gasp and squeal and tut, “Oh my!” and “Oh dear!” and “What will you do with him?” and “What will he be like when he’s older?!”. I don’t know, should I banish him to the desert? Tie his feet to cement blocks and throw him off the pier? Dear God, he may grow up to be a cannibal! Or maybe a vampire! Well, here’s hoping he’ll unleash his fury on you next, you imbecile.

It’s hard enough for me to control my urge to throw LL across the room for hurting my baby Blossom while also dealing with the ache that my first born is so distressed that he has to lash out in this way. So I sure as hell don’t need to hear you judge and label my little boy.

He’s not “A Biter” because he occasionally bites as much as he is not “An Angel” because he occasionally does as he’s asked. He’s not “A Chatterbox” because he enjoys a conversation, he’s not “Gay” because he likes to wear necklaces and carry handbags, and he’s not “Naughty” because he enjoys deliberately defying his mother. He is an average little boy trying to figure out this very confusing world full of terrible, frightening, challenging experiences for which he has not yet learned the coping mechanisms that we grown ups take for granted.

In fact, truth be known, I sometimes wish I could turf the stupid social filters that make me suppress my more animal urges. It would be wildly satisfying to bare my teeth, snarl and lunge at you self-righteous turds as you tut ruefully at the little mark on Blossom’s arm.

I won’t bite him back, I won’t wallop him and I won’t publicly humiliate him. You do what you like with your kids. I’m dealing with “this issue” my own way – my son will know his boundaries, he will feel safe enough to express his emotions freely, and he will have healthy strategies to cope with difficult feelings (rather than being forced to repress them and later stifle them with addictions of one kind or another) and he will know that he is loved no matter what.

These are big, hard lessons to learn and they will take some time. In the meantime, you can fuck right off with your suggestions.

With mildly masked disdain,

Lioness Fang.

Pounding Pavements and Ripping the Roads

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I’ve been exercising.

(wild hoots and riotous applause now please)

You may remember that in one of my bouts of motherhood amnesia, I vowed to do a sprint triathlon before the end of the year. Well, I am proud to say that motherhood won out over this rather absurd goal. The last event for the year is on in two weeks and I will not be anywhere near it. In fact, I wouldn’t be seen dead in a swimsuit yet, so that rules me out completely!

BUT

I have been exercising… the goal, a sprint triathlon at the end of February.

I’ve been pounding the pavement with my latest bandwagon (C 2 5k) and loving it despite my run of mishaps (don’t bother pardoning the pun). I’m mid-way through Week 5 and so far I have one misadventure on every single run. The latest have involved local wildlife (specifically rather persistent flies), domestic (though not domesticated) dogs enjoying the chase, wardrobe malfunctions (read: shorts creeping up my crack and causing nasty chafing between the thunder thighs), and an unfortunate case of stealing debris from a building site for my husband at the beginning of the run and having to carry it all the way. I’m a good woman, I am.

My only criticism of the podcast program is the atrocious song change in Week 4. I don’t know what you were playing at, Robert, but DJ just ain’t your thing. I thought there was something wrong with my machine, but no, the three tracks jostling for air space and creating a cacophonous noise for almost a minute just as I started my last run for the session was simply you trying to be cool. Newsflash: NOT COOL.

So, being past half way to a 5k Cliff Young shuffle with just enough bounce to get the ponytail swinging, I decided it was time to incorporate some riding into the mix.

Let me clarify here: Mr D loves me more when I exercise. Not because I’m sohotrightnow, nor is it the beetroot face and sweat moustache, but because I’m not such a snarky, downtrodden martyr when I exercise. So, having the unsettling capacity to see through me as he does, Mr D eliminated the last of my “Reasons Why I Can’t Possibly Go For A Ride Today” by buying me a new helmet for my birthday. Bugger.

“Riding”,for me, means getting on my bike and hanging on for dear life while feeling sure I am about to die of a heart attack any moment. I’m not what you might call a “confident” rider. No. Ok, so it terrifies me. There. I’ve said it.

But I got out there yesterday. Good for me. I rode 9k. Good for me. I figured that if swimming was all about getting into a breathing rhythm, and if the same seemed to be true for running, then I’d just do the same thing on the bike. Good for me.

I got the pedals going – breathe in one two, breathe out two three four, breathe in one two, breathe out two three four – I geared up and down to make sure I didn’t lose that rhythm and, LO! HARK! JOY TO THE WORLD! I had a great time doing it!

So, after a rest day today and a run tomorrow, I’m going all out: I’m going to do the 18k that I’ll have to do in the race. Bring it on. See how it goes. Who knows, I may be ripping up the road and pounding the pavement all in one session next week. Then we’ll really see who’s a tough little chicken!

And if, for some reason, motherhood wins out over this burgeoning triathlon career of mine, I will at least take solace in the fact that I now have three exercise options to keep the snarky martyr at bay. And that is a good thing. For everyone. Yes?

A POST POST SCRIPT (Do you like this? I think it’s really quite funny!)
After writing this post, I went to the bakery. At the bakery I bought a bun. With my bun, I exited the bakery. As I exited the bakery I stepped down an uneven step. As I stepped down the uneven step, I rolled my ankle. As I rolled my ankle I jarred my knees. As I jarred my knees (and rolled my ankle) I swore loudly…
So now I have my ankle in ice. I hobble. I creak and moan and curse that step. I will not be “going all out” any time soon. The universe has spoken. The career is on hold. The bun was average.
The end.