Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Race Report: The Jailbreak DFW

Friends expressed interest in the Jailbreak mud run, so I signed up to run it. None of my friends signed up. I ran alone. With a few hundred strangers.

I went anyway because I wanted the stupid t-shirt, medal, and beer. I drove an hour to Roanoake, parked a half mile from the start line, and jumped into an earlier wave to get this shit done and over. Points for free bag check (but which I think ought to be standard in the industry), shady trails, flat course, pleasant weather, decent beer (Shock Top), and a quality race shirts in women’s sizing (which also really ought to be a standard offering but is frustratingly hard to come by).

My memory card wouldn’t work, so I carried my camera the whole way for nothing.

I was pleasantly surprised to scale the first wall obstacle easily on my own. I skipped the next one because I was tired of waiting in lines so much. Later I was confused to see people ahead of me struggling to climb the tire wall, moreso when I had no trouble darting right up it.

Eventually I just got bored with such long stretches between obstacles and a half hour of queuing at obstacles and the course being a mile longer than the 5k advertised. I skipped obstacles and walked a lot. I had a triathlon the next day and nothing to prove.

I crawled through mud, got my medal, drank my beer, stood in an even longer queue for 45 seconds of “showering,” and drove home. I showered as quickly as possible, scarfed down some Ramen noodles, and dashed back out to the Jenny Lawson book signing at Half Price Books.

Which meant several more hours of queuing. But I got a cool pic and get to say The Bloggess took my virginity since it was my first ever book signing.

TL; DR: This event did nothing to entice me to get back into obstacle racing. I can buy my own beer.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Swim strife

This time classmate Miguel did not come and coach ragged on Emily the whole time and that was definitely worse than every other class.
When we went to begin backstroke drills, he instructed us to first do 50 yards just kicking and then 50 swim. He turned to me to repeat himself, saying that I had mistakenly swum when he said kick in last class. I stared back blankly. “Oh, you don’t remember, do you? No matter. This time, just kick.”

I knew he was talking about Emily’s mistake last week, which she then repeated this time. I know we’re both white girls in black sport suits, but I’m easily twice her age and wearing a neon green swim cap. And this is our fourth class together and there are only three students total.

Surprisingly, he praised the work I’d been doing to improve my form and said that was very good when I finished a lap. Then he turned to Emily and said that was “very bad, not good at all.” We thought for a moment he might be jesting, but he was serious and went on to tell her what was wrong. She became very flustered throughout class.

I just don’t get it. The rest of the time he does a gret job pointing out what individual things we should work on to improve our form and explaining them in detail, and it’s been very helpful. So why the negativity? As I said before, this is a city rec center swim class. It’s not a master’s class, it’s not a team practice, it’s not a private coaching session, no one here is training for the Olympics.

I may have very limited experience with teaching, but I’m fairly certain you’re not supposed to tell your students that their efforts are “very bad.”

Just two classes left.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Swim struggles

In swim class last Tuesday, after instructing us to swim 50 yards front crawl at 80 percent effort and I did, coach asked me in a dubious tone if I was sure that was 80 percent. To which I nodded confidently, breathless, which upon seeing he conceded. It was not an unfair question, but he’s seen my abilities with regards to speed and conspicuously didn’t ask it of my classmates.

To be honest, it was not 80 percent in that I cannot fully comprehend sprinting and have nary a fast twitch fiber in my body, but it was 80 percent in that I would maintain a challenging, gasping pace throughout class without floundering.

Yes, I am a slow swimmer. This is why I paid for a swim conditioning class. But I am only slightly and not always slower than the two young teens in my class. I push myself, really, enough that I'd probably cry except that I'd drown.
At the end of class, he said to me alone that two times a week (how often our class meets) is not enough exercise, so I cheerfully informed him that I run and bike all the other days, not mentioning my frequent two-a-days on top of that. I’m more interested in learning what I can from these sessions than challenging this man.

Later I wondered what on earth he meant by “enough.” Enough for what? It might be enough and all one has time for if she has a full time job and maybe children. It might be enough and all one has time for if she’s a full-time student with other extracurriculars. It might be enough for someone recovering from a running injury. It might be enough for someone looking to crosstrain for her sport. It might be enough for anyone at all trying to add enjoyable movement to their lives.

This is a city rec center swim class. It’s not a master’s class, it’s not a team practice, it’s not a private coaching session, no one here is training for the Olympics or any other competition for that matter. I’m here for triathlon but not to compete; I wanna make sure I can knock out the swim on race day and have something left for the bike and run.

There are three classes left in this session; I don't think I have it in me to sign up for the next. I hate that these are so late in the evening and am really looking forward to going back to my 5 a.m. practices. I’ll keep training through the winter and think about classes again after the New Year.

I support abortion on demand. But I didn’t always.

I was raised Catholic and was vociferously pro-life throughout most of my teenage years. I believed everything the youth group leaders taught me about a woman’s responsibility to carry a child and to sacrifice her life for it if need be, about abortion being a “Holocaust,” all of it. I wore the ABORTION IS HOMICIDE t-shirt to school and believed myself a crusader for those who had no voice. I twice attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., with my youth group, shouting all those cheers (Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go . . .) and praying for the little babies unfairly robbed of their “right” to life, “the lost generation” they called it.

I moved away from home for college and tried to attend church on campus with a new friend but immediately realized I’d only been going for so many years to spend time with my friends from the church youth group. Then I understood that I only believed what I’d been taught and had no idea at all what I really believed. I stopped attending church and started exploring other faiths.

About the same time, I had a revelation: because abortion is a really hard choice and an unwanted pregnancy a tough position to be in, I couldn’t help but respect and admire the women who made the right decision for themselves in that situation, no matter what their decision was. As I became a woman, other women suddenly became humanized to me; more than mothers, martyrs, and murderers for the first time ever.

It was a few years more before I adopted a pro-choice viewpoint, and even then I thought I should advocate for “reasonable restrictions” and oppose late-term abortions because I still thought of them as barbaric as the pro-life movement had taught me. But when I tried to reason with pro-lifers, certain there could be a middle ground; I’d been wrong. They had no interest in being reasonable; I was only ever a baby killer to them.

In early 2013 I sat in a presentation by a woman who explained how becoming a mother moved her from pro-choice to pro-abortion, and I adopted the pro-abortion identifier, too. She loves her kids and being a mom, but she spoke about the realities of the pain and dangers of pregnancy and childbirth and how experiencing them herself helped her understand that no one should ever be forced to go through that. She also explored our culture’s weird fetishization and glorification of motherhood and the silencing of any negative feelings anyone has about her own pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum experiences. And how this culture is a lie designed to pressure more women to bear children without their fully informed consent.

I’ve also learned that restricting and criminalizing abortion does nothing to decrease abortion rates but does cause more deaths of people with uteri. It doesn’t matter if one believes life begins at conception. The ways proven to decrease abortion are to increase access to contraception and comprehensive sexual education.

I’ve learned to accept that I was indoctrinated and brainwashed as a child. I try not to dwell on the harm I caused during my pro-life days, and I’ve learned to embrace the challenge of spending the rest of my life atoning for that. I enjoy doing advocacy work: writing, donating, debating, educating, and fundraising.

I support abortion without restrictions. I support abortion on demand. I support abortion for everyone who wants one for any reason at all. Abortion is a social good. Humans have a right to bodily autonomy, even and especially if they have a uterus.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Celebrate Bisexuality and Visibility Day

I wrote a piece for the South Florida Gay News. Check it out.

“Ironically I’m writing this piece about Celebrate Bisexuality Day, a day I'd never even heard of before receiving the assignment. As a bisexual woman all too familiar with bi erasure, I’d been looking forward to Bi Visibility Day, which Google now informs me is the same thing as Celebrate Bisexuality Day and is also called Bi Pride Day. My ignorance of the holiday dedicated to honoring my own sexuality seems an apt similitude for the bi erasure endemic to our society and serves to highlight the necessity of CBD.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

On Depression and Training

CN: depression
My depression meds spontaneously stopped working a few weeks ago* and this week has been really really hard. But I'm fighting really hard and want to share.

Saturday I ran in the morning, took a nap, and then struggled to get out of bed again, succeeded in arriving at the pool fifteen minutes before close and getting in a mere five laps just to get it done. Sunday I got in a decent run and swim.

Monday I'd planned to do the same but woke up dead tired and had to call it a rest day. I struggled to get out of bed at all. Tuesday I struggled to get out of bed and went into work late but ran after despite a tummy ache and swam hard in swim class that evening. Wednesday I struggled to get out of bed and went in to work late but swam after.

Today I got up early and went for a bike ride but cut it in half because my tires were low and bugging me. I racked the bike on my car and was overcome with inexplicable overwhelming despair, so I decided to walk a bit since it was pretty outside. I stopped in the dog park for a few minutes to watch puppies play. These things should have cheered me up but didn't. As I headed back to my car, I realized I probably should have locked my bike or put it in the car, but no harm no foul and no use berating myself for failing at higher functioning in this state. I couldn't get past the strong urge to cry for no reason at all, though, and decided to call in to work.

I'm missing swim class now because of a migraine and feel bad about that because these classes are important to me. But tomorrow is another day.

I made an appointment today to see my doc, but he doesn't have any openings til next Friday, so that fucking sucks. #thanksObama** And I have a sprint tri the following Sunday and would be worried about the 750m OWS (my max OWS to date being 500m), but I just don't have any spoons/bandwidth to stress over it.

#justkeepswimming #perseverance #fuckdepression #journeynotdestination

*It took me two weeks to figure out what was wrong and another week of hoping it might be temporary. This is the fourth week, and it took til today to gather spoons to make the appointment with my doctor to ask about changing meds. The first available appointment was Friday afternoon next week. And we're looking at several weeks after that to see if something new will work for me. The thought is daunting, but my anxiety is well managed at present and I lack extra spoons/bandwidth to stress over it.

**Over a week to see my GP has been new since the ACA took effect. I can walk in for acute things like strep, but I don't know whether my doc might be out of town now and I'd have to see another practitioner if I try to walk in, and I've never seen the other doctors at this practice and fear they'd tell me to wait for my doc anyway to change my prescription. It could be worse; it's a minimum 2.5 months to get an appointment with my OB/GYN since the ACA, so here's hoping I don't get a yeastie or STI outside of my pre-scheduled visits. That's a rant for another post.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Weird Cramp

Last week I started a twice-a-week swim conditioning classes at a local pool. Thursday I was lucky enough to have a one-on-one session with the coach to work on my form since the other three students did not attend. The classes are capped at nine students, so we’re all pretty lucky to have a small class in the first place.

But a weird thing happened at class last night that has me really confused and still uncomfortable today. Near the end of practice, after doing 150 yards of front crawl sprints with short rests between each length, I got a stitch in my side and told the coach I had a cramp. I’m a slow swimmer and have never practiced sprints before, so I wasn’t surprised by the development. I mentioned it because I wouldn’t be able to continue swimming hard for the last few minutes of class.

‘A cramp? Where?’ he asked, confused that I pointed to my side, right where you get them while running too. A pool employee came over and asked if I was sure it wasn’t in my legs. No, I told him. Side cramp, pain. And they both vociferously assured me that wasn’t a cramp, couldn’t be a cramp; you could only get cramps in your legs; you don’t even use those abdominal muscles while swimming. It must be your liver or lack of oxygen due to poor fitness. Definitely not a cramp.

I didn’t want to argue with them, one of whom I know is a swimmer with many accolades to his name; I just wanted to not sprint full tilt against my classmates anymore for the last five minutes of class. So I nodded, got some water, sat out a lap, and took the kickboard to do a slow cool-down lap.

I was confused and uncomfortable because I know it is a cramp. I’m among the 70% of runners who have experienced side cramps; I just hadn’t had one while swimming laps before. It’s a diaphragm cramp caused by a combination of too shallow breaths/too little oxygen plus movement and sometimes weak abs. Swimming is a full-body workout, and my abs sure are feeling it today. I just learned that all strokes engage your abdominal muscles. I struggle with swimming because I run out of breath long before my muscles fatigue, and sprinting surely exacerbates the issue: movement + shallow breathing/insufficien oxygen.

So it makes sense that I might get a stitch in my side while swimming several hard laps. What doesn’t make sense is the complete refutation that it could even be possible. Cramp or no, the logical conclusion is that something about my form needs improvement. And the coach had been continuously telling me what I could focus on and improve in each lap.

I worked hard, I pushed myself, and I got a cramp. Why was it such a big deal?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sports Bra Recommendations

Breasts are a big deal, especially when it comes to running. Through several women’s fitness groups and friends, I’ve collected a list of sports bras for ALL SIZES and tips on how to choose and treat them. I hope you find this helpful and share with your friends.

Add your recommendations in the comments!

Don't wear two bras. Do invest in one that fits your body and provides the level of support you need. Wearing two bras on top of one another will not provide the same support as one properly fitted sports bra. Wearing two also gets really hot. (Source: http://www.fleetfeethartford.com/sports-medicine/sports-bras)

Don't bind with Ace bandages. It is dangerous and can cause serious issues such as tearing muscle, bruising of the ribs, misshaping the spine, and serious lung damage. (Source: http://www.idontdoboxes.org/your-friendly-neighborhood-binding-safety-guide/)

While many sports bras come in S/M/L sizing, women with C cups or larger need bras with a cup and band size.

Take care of your bra. Investing in a good sports bra is pointless if you don’t treat it right:

Don’t wash it every time you wear it. “I will only wash my sports bra every three [workouts],” she says. You can take it in the shower between washes and rinse it out.
Don’t put it in the dryer. That can really take a toll on it.
Don’t use fabric softener. It can erode the fabric’s sweat-wicking properties.
(Source: http://www.groupon.com/articles/bra-guide-its-very-possible-youre-wearing-the-wrong-sports-bra-sb)

A, B, C cup brands/stores
Ross, Target, Walmart, JC Penney, etc.

Shock Absorber (30B to 40HH)

Ds, DDs, DDDs brands/stores
AKA Title Nine Last Resort (Up to 40DDD)

Shock Absorber (30B to 40HH)
The band size runs tight.
Also sold by Title Nine as the Trade-Up sports bra

Under Armour Armour Bra (Up to DD)

Moving Comfort (up to DDD/E)
Some friends like this brand, but I find its support highly inadequate for DD/DDD running.

F cup+ brands/stores
This place is amazing for larger chested women. Bras are $60 US but way worth it and lasting!
Similar to myintimacy, large boobies extra welcome!
Shock Absorber (30B to 40HH)
This site carries Enell, Panache, and Orange Zest Nursing Sports Bra by Cake.
This particular Glamorise style is very supportive of a 50F. Follow their sizing guide; don't assume size: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007KFZGYS/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_4?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

All Sizes
ENELL (32C to a 54G and custom size orders):
SUPER supportive.They have a regular one and a light version for lower impact sports.
Awesome customer service. Take the time to measure yourself properly. Best bras I've ever bought are from these folks.
(30A to 56G)
Lauren Silva
Their site has REALLY slow-loading pages; be patient!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blackland Triathlon Race Report

I signed up for the Blackland Triathlon because the event was near my home and I really liked its charity that works to combat food scarcity for low-income families. I’d completed my first tri in March and had two more tris rained out, a 10k tornadoe-d out, and missed a duathlon due to illness and injury all within a two-month period. So I was REALLY looking forward to getting back on the horse, bike, whatever.

Two weeks before the race, I drove the bike course so I’d have an idea of what to expect. I was dismayed to find it included difficult hills compared to my usual training course around White Wock Lake. So I planned to ride it a week before the event, but my knee had been giving me trouble after an incident with a coffee table, and I knew I’d be better off resting than pushing it.

Race day dawned 80+°F and 65% humidity before even sunrise, and in the three minutes it took to air up and mount my bike on the car, I found myself melting, bug-bitten, and dreading the day.

This was my second sprint tri, and this time I took the time for warm up in the pool. Which was apparently useless since the race was delayed 15 minutes and I didn’t get in the water again until an hour after I’d been out and standing on increasingly sore calves. It was tough to watch one of the first 50ish swimmers get pulled in the first three minutes of the event; someone near me overheard her say that her shoulder had given out. Ouch.

I was really thankful that this event started in the shallow end so I could get a strong push off the wall, whereas my first race had us jump in the deep end, and I just kept sinking (literally and mentally) before I could get myself going. I paced myself well for the first time in my four swim races and felt really good about this one. I confess I took forever in T1 trying to put on sunblock and eat and hydrate. I can’t swim with anything in my stomach, which makes race-day nutrition one hell of a challenge.

That bike course was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I overheard more experienced riders telling first timers not to let this event put them off triathlon because it was rough even in their opinion. It was VERY hilly and hot. The last three miles of it, I sang the whiny “Ow” song aloud to myself because I was alone, bored out of my skull, and breathing raggedly due to the pain. I don’t think my sitz will ever forgive me.

I sniffled through T2 and openly cried through the first 3/4 mile of the “run” (I didn't run) until three women walking caught up to me, and I decided to try to keep pace with them. They were also runners new to tri who’d intended to run but just had nothing left. Our legs were OK, but the heat was killer, and I never caught my breath even walking it all. They were cheerful and welcoming and kept a better pace than I could have alone. Honestly, I’m not wholly certain I could have finished alone. There was no shade on the 5k course, and we hit it at the 11-12 hour. We were very lucky to have volunteers with ice cold water and Gatorade at every mile.

The finish line and festival took place in an open-air, unshaded amphitheater. The only good think I can say is that there was ice cold beer. I couldn't bring myself to walk the sunny half mile back to transition nor the additional half mile to my car and called Mom for rescue. As I waited for her, I kept standing with the intention to walk back to transition, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt bad leaving my bike there til almost 1 p.m., but in a surprising twist, it was not alone nor the last bike. The Blackland Tri volunteers should be SAINTED. No hyperbole.

Fortunately, my bike fit easily into Mom’s Jeep, and she and I had already made plans to meet at that location to get her signed up for a rec center membership and water aerobics classes (at the pool where the race was held and where I regularly train), so at least something good came out of all this.

Today I got my race results and compared them to my first sprint. My swim was 3 seconds slower this time, but I paced myself much better, felt better throughout, and didn’t have to take long breaks of back stroke, only one brief stretch of breast stroke. One person passed me in the water who was kicking way too hard and splashing so much that I couldn’t see anything and was scared to maintain my pace, and it took a while for that person to pull ahead, so I think that’s what got me.

As horrible, awful, miserable, wretched, and no-good as the bike portion felt, scaling my spring race’s 13-mi pace up to this one’s 15-mi distance shows that I only finished 5 minutes slower yesterday, which I’m OK with.

I couldn’t ever catch my breath enough to run at all, so I ain’t even mad about those numbers. My transitions sucked, but there was a much longer distance between transition and the timing mats. It was 98°F yesterday when I finished, and I’m not sure how I managed to race for over 2 hours outside without getting dehydrated, heat stroke, OR sunburned.
Unfortunately, this all has me re-thinking whether I want to go for an Olympic distance tri in another month and a half. I may need to wuss out and buy a padded cover for my fancy saddle, because the bike shorts just aren’t cutting it. I’d ridden longer distances before but never suffered as much as at this race, and I had to sit my butt in a bathtub with three 10-pound bags of ice after the tri so I could walk the next day.

I don’t need to decide yet. I start twice-a-week swim classes tonight for the first time ever and won’t be looking at my bike for a week. I can reassess after I’m recovered whether to register, which should be about payday anyway.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Summer Vacation

Early in August I went on a 5-day Carnival cruise with my family from Galveston to Cozumel to Yucatan to Galveston. It was a graduation gift for my brother/belated senior trip for sis and me/birthday gift for me since my birthday happened during the trip. Mom, I, sis, brother, brother’s best friend, and brother’s best friend’s mom all went.

Driving to Galveston early Monday morning with sis after she flew in from SLC was lovely. We arrived right on time for the rest of the family to check out of their hotel (they having driven the previous day) and set out to find parking and the port. Mom had special boarding because she’s disabled, so she and Mom-2 split off from us kids, who waited nearly 3 hours in a jam-packed cattle line among coughing and crying children before reaching the boat, a process that effectively put me off cruises for a VERY long time . . . before we even started.

After boarding, we hung out in Mom’s cabin and tried to order room service food since Mom couldn’t walk all the way to the buffet and we were all very hungry after the long ordeal. It didn’t arrive in the hour before our required muster meeting, so we set off cranky for the safety whatever. Every cruide requires passengers to line up where the lifeboats are and listen to a presentation about what to do in case of emergency; this one was broadcast at such a painfully loud volume over the speakers that I plugged my ears the whole time and still heard every word crystal clear.

After over 270 words, I can finally say something positive. When the muster demonstration ended, the little girl beside me wearing pink ribbons in her braids said she liked my hair and I returned the compliment.

We had Monday afternoon to explore the ship a bit, and I grabbed my swimsuit and camera for a single ride on the top-deck waterslide before changing for the evening stage song and dance show preceding dinner. The show was super white and sorta cute, the costumes horrifying, and the choreography painfully awkward. The one POC dancer among 14 was definitely the best and had the most joyfully expressive face throughout each night's performance.

Tuesday was a day at sea, and Wednesday we docked in Cozumel and made our way to the meet point for our excursion. We were very lucky to encounter a bicycle-trolley driver who saw Mom's difficulty with her walker and knew how far the meet point was AND how much farther the distance to our transportation was from there. He took care of our moms and spoke to the tour guide to make sure they could meet us at the curb and walk as little as possible.

Once there, we took a van to an attraction called Discover Mexico, which touts its accessibility for guests with limited mobility. Which was devastatingly misleading. The museum and grounds have low, wide, smooth paths and planks for wheelchair users but require LOTS more walking than my mom could do with her walker. The tour group was too big for us to hear anything from the back that the guide said, and the only available adult wheelchair the facility offered for loan was in use by another guest. They brought out the other wheelchair, but it seemed to be a child's size, and the oblivious guide's confusion as to why a woman couldn't fit in a chair half her size added insult to escalating irritation in the intense heat and humidity.

So our moms ditched the tour and caught a van back to the dock to enjoy the shopping there. The long shopping strip along the pier actually required less walking than the "accessible tour." We four kids stayed longer for pictures, piƱa coladas, and a recreation demonstration of the Papantla flyers performing an Aztec ritual wherein five men climb to the top of an 18m pole, one sits playing a drum and flute, and the other four descend head first in slow circles attached by hand-knotted ropes.

We then went back to the shopping strip at the dock and drank a lot. We were hot and in need of refreshment, and 18 is the legal drinking age, so the boys got to drink too. We took silly pictures and purchased frivolous tourist crap and had a really great time amongst ourselves and later caught up with our moms.

Since this is getting long, I'll put the rest in a "Part 2" post.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness: Abortion Clinic

I wrote and mailed this letter to an abortion clinic in my area.

Dear SW Women’s Clinic, 
Every day on my way to work, I drive past this office. And most days there are protesters sitting outside it pointing their signs at oncoming traffic. (Most often I see an old man, the kind of person who doesn’t have a uterus but needs to be in control of them, it seems.) And every day it makes me sad and a little offended on behalf of your staff and of all women.
So I’m writing this letter to say: Thank you for all you do. I can only imagine the flak and the hate you might face because of your job, especially in our conservative state. Thank you for continuing to do the work that you do.
In contrast to the visible signs of opposition you see daily, I’m writing this to show you support. I have never used your services and many women never will, but we appreciate and support you still. Know that you’re appreciated even by those who will never find cause to call or come in. Thank you for being there for those who need you, and thank you for caring for our sisters, friends, nieces, daughters, aunts, girlfriends, wives, and mothers. Thank you for being there despite the risks it means taking and despite the ill will directed at you.
Your work is important. My friends and I just want to say so.
signed by me and 16 friends whose info I won't share here