Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Slow Swimming and Self-esteem

Why is it that we equate speed in athletic activities with self-esteem? The average age-group althlete isn't being paid to be fast. Unless you are an elite althlete, someone is always faster than you. For some of us, almost everyone is faster than us.

In triathlons, I am almost always last out of the water. I didn't take up swimming until later in life and I have been working on technique for years. I swim four hours a week with a masters group, drill until I am blue in the face, take lessons and clinics and I am still slow. I have improved enormously, but I still feel bad that I can't swim as fast as everyone else.

Maybe it's a pyschological issue. We feel we won't be valued unless we do well.
Most people are by nature competitive whether they admit it or not. We feel bad if we can't swim, bike or run faster than someone else even if we trained hard and are working at our physical limit. While competitiveness is not necessarily a bad thing, it clouds our perception of what we are accomplishing sometimes. Sometimes it compels us to do the best we can in an effort to outdo someone else, other times it crushes our spirit.

The problem with equating performance with self-esteem is when you don't do well and start thinking that you never do well or improve and you give up. Supposedly, the goal is to compete with yourself and not worry about everyone else. Easier said than done.

When it comes down to it, we are what we are. You have to work with and accept your limitations and celebrate your small victories. And swim really slow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I have created this blog because I have been reading other people's blogs for years and I figured that if other people could blather about their life, so could I. I am a Facebook fan, but it's hard to write a race report in their word constraints. You finish describing the swim portion and there is no more space.

My journey to finish an ironman started in 2007with training for Ironman Arizona. Unfortunately, the day of Ironman Arizona in April rolled around and the weather decided to be hot. REALLY HOT. Being a slow swimmer and a slow cyclist, I didn't have enough time make the bike cut-off. The twenty mile an hour winds and the 95 degree temperature didn't help either. I spent time in the medical tent trying to recover from heat exhaustion and watching the misery of the other athletes.

If I thought that not finishing an ironman after all the training, expense and time was devastating, it was nothing compared with being dumped by my husband of 32 years. In August of 2008 he announced that he was moving out. Being in denial about his behavior for the last two years, I was totally blindsided. My world fell apart and I have been trying to put it back together ever since. I thought it was the worst thing I had ever experienced.

Triathlon training is one of the things that keeps me grounded. I can't control people around me, but I can control how I train. My coach recommended working on speed and doing shorter races. I found out I could get faster- faster than I thought possible. I learned to tolerate the pain of racing at one's physical limits. It was a blast.

I signed up for the November 2009 Ironman Arizona because I still badly want to finish an ironman, to experience the joy of the finish line. I am willing to risk failure to finish again because the payoff is priceless.

As far as the divorce goes, I found that therapists, a support group and talking to other people that have gone through divorce has helped a lot. I haven't really recovered, but I am better off than I was. Connecting with people has been theraputic. Blogging is hopefully another way of doing that.