Mysteries of Baku – Volume 1

It’s windy here.

I’m not talking easy-breezy. I’m talking old-man-hold-on-to-the-building windy. Unpleasant, hurt your ears windy.

Easy breezy

If I’d done my research before coming, I’d have known that Baku is also known as the “City of Wind”.

Anyway.

One of the first things I noticed here was the abundance of little old ladies, sweeping. Sweep, sweep, sweep. With no real sense of purpose. Just sweep, sweep, sweep.

Most peculiar, is that they seem to sweep on the windiest of days. It appears really they are just swirling stuff around. The other day, when it was so windy that I literally had to lean into the gale to walk, they were everywhere.

The last 2 days have been calm. The little old ladies with their brooms? Nowhere to be found.

Mystery.

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Bits ‘n pieces from Baku

I’ve been in Azerbaijan for 3 days now and I’m slowly getting my bearings. My type-A side stood down on this trip, so I did very little research before arriving, and therefore I had pretty much no idea what to expect.

Actually, scratch that. I googled whether or not there was Starbucks. It’s kind of like having a security blanket to latch onto. Except that they open at 9am. Yeesh.

Anyway.

So far, Baku has managed to both delight and confound. I suppose that’s to be expected when you take a girl living in a mountain town, population 3000 and send her halfway across the world.

I mean, you can’t cross some of the streets: you have to take an escalator and go under them. Jaywalking? Not a “thing” here. Gold teeth? Totally a “thing”. Short girls with really short blond hair? Not a “thing”. Smoking? Still a “thing”.

Today, jet lag loosened its grip a little bit and I went exploring the best way I know how: by running. I woke up feeling a little bit homesick, and it seems that getting out helps a little.

The waterfront is lovely, and as I passed by walkers, runners and any number of security guards, my head swivelled around I made a mental list of things I wanted to figure out how to get to: that weird tower over there, those shiny buildings up there. It’s fun to plan adventures.

All in all, so far, so good.

I only got yelled at by a security guard once.

 

On my team and in my corner.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I suppose life is alway a little windy, but the last 30 days have vanished in a flash. Mixing training, work, racing away from home, jumping straight into a fairly big event, hiding/denying a cold and trying to find some quality time with my people  has led me to a big giant exhale…

… sitting on an airport floor, waiting to board an oversold flight to Baku, Azerbaijan.

This is totally one of those “it seemed like a great idea at the time” situations. I didn’t give much thought to the quick turnaround this adventure would require, but hey, here we are.

I kissed the kiddos goodbye as they left for school, and reminded them that I’d see them in 4 weeks or so. I was surprised and a little relieved that it was without a sense of dread and trepidation. There were no tears, no drama.

Don’t get me wrong: I miss them already with an ache that is physical. It’s hard to explain. I know from experience that it will fade a little but then come back with a vengeance just before I get home to them.

It was easier this time because, ironically, we feel like a little team and my little teammates totally have my back. When I’m in the thick of it, distracted by deadlines, obligations and work stuff, it makes me realize what a bunch of independent little humans we have raised, and how grateful I am for it. They don’t put up a fuss, it seems they know that they need to cut me some slack just when I need it most.

They get it. This is the life they know, and while it certainly isn’t perfect, it works for all of us.

The next few weeks will be filled with ridiculous text messages from Will, FaceTime homework sessions, rambling calls with Anja, breathless messages from Rory telling of his latest feat followed by I Love Yous and I Miss Yous and I’ll see You Soons.

This my team, they are totally in my corner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Oceanside 70.3: Perception vs. Perspective

As I crossed the line on Saturday at Oceanside 70.3, I dissolved into a puddle of tears. I immediately saw Jen and blurted “I’m so disappointed”.

Good lord. I felt like such a loser for crying at a finish line of an amateur event I had paid for the privilege of doing. I couldn’t even pinpoint why I was so bummed. I just was.

It took a couple of minutes to pull myself together, thankful for sunglasses to hide the evidence and the chance to meet new people and talk about something else for a bit.

Here’s how I perceived the day, “in real time”.

Swim: By the time I *finally* hit the water in the rolling start, I was shivering uncontrollably and so thankful that the water felt warmer than the air. Until the turnaround, I was a satisfied fish. And then.

*crack*

I caught an ankle squarely in the chin, bit my toungue hard enough that I could taste blood and inhaled a bunch of delicious, murky salt water. Then I barfed. So that was neat! Sorry to those fine folks behind me.

Eventually, staggered out of the water and jogged through what has to be the world’s biggest transition, fumbled around and rode away.

Bike: There was a tank crossing! I mean, Camp Pendleton and all. They take their armoury seriously, I suppose. I was pretty grumpy for a long time. I couldn’t find a rhythm, I couldn’t focus, and I was trying to stay within the zones that Liz assigned to me. I kept waiting for that sleepy, drained feeling I usually get. It wouldn’t come. Was I going too slowly? Bah. I couldn’t tell. I felt strong but I maybe I was tricking myself? Let’s just get this over with already.

Run: This was the dialogue in my brain:

Kilometers 1-15: TICK/TICK/TICK KEEP MY LITTLE FEET GOING TICK/TICK/TICK EAT SOMETHING THAT COKE WASN’T FLAT *BURP*

Kilometers 15.1-19.1: UUUUUUUNNNNNHHHHH NO NO NO NO MORE.

Kilometers 19.1-21.1: Don’tcrydon’tcrydon’tcry if you cry you can’t breathe I think I’m making a really ugly face don’tcrydon’tcry dammit I think this course is long.

And then it was over.

Fast forward an hour or so. I didn’t know how (numbers-wise) the day had gone. I was still feeling pretty ambivalent about it and then I texted Liz… lo and behold, welcome the objective perspective.

She gave me her view on the event, “as seen from her bike”, as she virtually watched my race from the discomfort of her bike trainer. Her view was far more positive than mine and hearing that pulled me out of my funk. Maybe I didn’t need to quit this silly sport after all.

The reality is that I did indeed have a shit swim, but I put together a good bike and a solid run. I actually raced, like we’d talked about me doing. I didn’t give up, stuck to the plan. I have something to build on. Battled my own demons all day. I may not have won against them, but I held my own. It took me a few hours to realize that.

I still haven’t looked at the results, but I know that I ended up 7th, clawing my way back through the field after the swim. And while my goal had been top 5, I ended up with what I wanted: a spot to the World Championships.

By sheer force of waiting around.

Next up? Tightening my race director hat and getting back to it for Coeur d’Alene 70.3.

Oh. And a little month long jaunt to Azerbaijan.

I’ll wait while you look it up.

 

Making the most of it.

I don’t particularly like swimming.

I was reminded of this fact when the alarm went off at 5:10am today. I groaned, cursed my sport of choice and went to the pool.

(Nevertheless, she persisted. Ha!)

Of the 3 sports that make up the rather odd one that is triathlon, swimming is, in my opinion, just the vehicle that gets me to the other two.

My dad will tell you all about how I used to scratch the shit out of my mom during toddler swim time. To this day, I still can’t open my eyes under water, making for some interesting swim meets in the lake as a kid (goggles? Who the hell wore goggles?!) The only reason I learned to properly swim in was to start triathlon.

(And also to feed my addiction to cute bikinis.)

Why yes, I have been dead last out of the water. This is proof.

Anyway. All this to say that getting into the pool always feels a little like a chore, the workouts always a little daunting.

Except! Except…

The boys joined the Whistler Swim Club about 8 weeks ago. I had made a deal: they had to try it for one session. They were wary of my expectations (were there races? What if it’s super hard? What if we’re slow?! Like you!)

I told them I wasn’t expecting mini-Michael Phelps’. I was merely hoping for them to learn how not to drown.

And here we are, 2 months later. No only do they know how to “not drown”, Will can sort of butterfly (I cannot), Rory like to swim backstroke because “I can breathe during that one, and they say things like “I had to go on the red top”.

I mean, c’mon. That’s cute, right?

As for me, I time workouts to happen during their practices and I struggle through my swim sessions a little less, mostly because I find it fun to spy on my kids underwater, and to share an even playing field. They do their thing in their lane, I do my thing in mine.

And Will can already beat me in a kick race.

 

Snippets.

I did a cross country ski race last weekend. Can we talk about how refreshing it is to be a complete rookie at something? My goals were simple: enjoy myself and not get speared by a fellow competitors’ ski pole. I succeeded on both fronts.

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I came home from work a little late on Tuesday to find 3 children eating dinner. Dinner that they made themselves. Granted, they were leftovers, but still. Milestone.

I now, officially, drive a mini van. I fought it for years. And now? I lurve it. Why didn’t I just embrace it when the troops were toddlers? Gawd. Dummy.

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I skied with 5 boys on Sunday, while Anja had ski school. Despite the fact that I spent the day frozen, there was no part of the day that wasn’t awesome. I made no decisions, simply followed the pack and paid for lunch.

We came home and I collapsed onto the couch to do one of my favourite things: nap in long underwear. Those 5 boys? And that sister? Well, they played outside for another 2.5 hours till I called them in for dinner.

Spring afternoons rule.

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Spring?

oh hahahahahhhahahaha. Not so fast there, sister. You can blame the wet/cold forecast on my wishful thinking; I put new fenders on my road bike last week.

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Have y’all heard of Giraffe-cam? We’re a little obsessed over here. You got this, April!

And finally, I’m going on a new adventure to a land far, far away soon.

That’s what we call a cliff-hanger, right?

What keeps me rolling.

“So, are you training for something right now?”

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I get this question a lot. Seems a given that you’d be training for something when free time is taken up by staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool or sweating in my garage on a Friday night. I mean, who just does that for fun?

Oh yeah. I do.

Yes, I’m training for something. Again. And always. fullsizerender-6

I promise I’m not totally nuts. I mean, I’m a little nuts, obviously. But not completely.

The truth is, I really enjoy training. I love the racing aspect of sport, I love the fact that I’ve met some of the greatest people through sport but training is part of the package and I legit enjoy sweating my ass off to bad 80s tunes in the garage. I’d rather talk about boys with my friends deep into the forest during a trail run than over coffee at Starbucks. Training is a perfect angst and energy outlet for this introverted extrovert.fullsizerender-10

Endurance sport tends to keep me focused, happy and energized. It makes me a better parent. It keeps my inner narcissist (don’t lie – you have one, too) in check. It keeps me honest.

If my mum were still around, I know she’s roll her eyes, keep watch from a distance and ask me when I’m going to pack it in and “grow up; take up a more recreational pastime (gardening? Reading?) And I have the answer for that: fullsizerender-12

When the fear of getting slower surpasses the fun of trying to go faster.

Does that even make sense?

Even though I’m in my forties, I know that I’m still capable of going faster.

Sidebar: my kids are so confused about my age. Is she 24? 44? Why does it keep changing? Let’s keep them guessing, ok?

fullsizerender-11 I truly believe that every time I set foot on a start line, I’m going to go faster than the last time. And why shouldn’t I? Older doesn’t have to mean slower. I’m smarter (thank the good lord) than I was 15 years ago. I don’t eat like an asshole anymore (most days), and I use the tools and resources I have (like my smarty pants coach) to my advantage as much as possible. Not to mention, I thrive on the challenge of trying to beat myself. fullsizerender-8

So I keep at it, notching little success stories where I can. Thinking of races and challenges I can take on, plotting and scheming how to get there, and get there in one piece.

Let’s face it, Mum. I’ll probably keep doing this even when I start to slow down.

Eventually, I want my kids to get the call from the nursing home that “She’s at it again, racing her walker through the hallways and taunting Mr. Jones in room 204 again. Can you please talk to her?”

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Off to the garage I go!

Blizzard of blahs

What do you know… something like 65 centimetres (25 inches) of snow has fallen in the last 48 hours. Granted, I was in a conference room in Florida when this all happened, but still. Winter is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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It’s cruel when you can see it but you can’t actually touch it…

Is there anything redeeming about the month of February? I mean, besides the fact that it has 28 days instead of 31? Nope. January is all full of post-Christmas attitude and goals. March has hints of spring and noticeably longer days.

February? It’s got Valentines Day, and we all can guess how I feel about that.fullsizerender-1Somewhere between the end of January and now, I got sick again and have misplaced my mojo. My desire to stay under the blankets and daydreaming about warm sun and green grass is kind of overwhelming. I’d like to let my shoes and bike gather dust… but then I’m quickly reminded that I have a race to look forward to in about 7 weeks.

Maybe I’ll ski some neck deep powder this weekend and all will be right in the world again.

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Gauntlet thrown

We in the ‘Blog Squad’ shuffled the cards this week and each chose to answer one of the questions put forth to other squad writers in last week’s round robin. Jen got assigned this one and when I read it I was all “ooh! ooh! I have an answer for that one!”

The question is:

Who would you like to see attempt an ironman and why?

I didn’t have to think long about this one, the answer popped into my brain immediately:

My brother, Alex.

You see, Alex is a cyclist through and through. He works in the bike industry. He’s actually a pretty good runner. I think he knows how to swim, sort of.

You'd barely need to buy any gear.
You’d barely need to buy any gear.

He is also the first to line up and mock me for my triathlon tendencies.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I, too, mock myself for my triathlon tendencies. And I even poke fun at the sport in general. However, having been in the sport for too many years now, I feel like I have earned the right at this self-deprecation because I have toed the line at many a race and have actually completed an Ironman.

He, however, has not. Not even a sprint.

Therefore, I firmly believe that in order to keep making fun of me, he needs to earn this privilege. Once completed, I am going to give him free rein to say whatever he wants.

So, what say you, Alexandre?

Pick a race. I’ll even give you a head start.

Read the rest of the round robin questions in the coming days:

Erin, Jen, Liz, Caitlin, Elizabeth Laurel and Hailey.

Let’s talk.

I will never forget the day that I knew I needed to ask for help.

My life, as I knew it, was crumbling around me. My mother was dying. My marriage was falling apart. I didn’t know which way was up and was barely going through the motions. I was faking it in almost every aspect of my life. I was pretending I was fine.

I so clearly wasn’t fine. I was down to 100 pounds. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t eat. I was barely present, I couldn’t focus and was operating in a fog, seized by anxiety.

I was scared, sad, and I felt almost paralyzed. Of course, I had a few close friends in whom I confided (to a degree), but those nights, alone at 3:00am, when my mind was spinning, it was a dark and ugly place to be.

My whole life, I’d always tried to power through the emotional stuff, driven by the motto of “this too shall pass.” Stiff upper lip, and all that, right?

But that day, as I sat at my desk unable to type because my hands were shaking so hard, operating on 3 hours sleep, I knew then that this had to stop. I called my doctor, and walked through her door 15 minutes later.

She knew immediately upon seeing me that I needed help. She was gentle but firm. She asked me what I felt were prying but necessary questions. She drew me out, listened to my halting speech, and by doing so gave me that tiny little bit of confidence, that little push I needed to take those first steps towards getting help and getting well. I needed someone to take control, to give me a plan, to confirm that no, I wasn’t losing it completely.

‘Cause it sure as hell felt like I was.

Fast forward to today.

I am healthy, mentally AND physically. I am SO much better.

I’ve learned to read the signs of when things are starting to slide. I know when to ask for help, and from whom. My treatment is, and will always be, ongoing. I don’t feel shame in this; rather, there’s a sense of power that comes with knowing that I was brave enough to take this on.

Today, in Canada, it’s #Bellletstalk day. The goal of this campaign is to invite others to join the conversation and end the stigma around mental health.

By sharing my story, I hope that in some way, you know it’s ok to share yours.

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