Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tempe International Race Report

It has been so long since I had done an "easy" triathlon race that I had forgotten how it was to race without numerous things going wrong. No hypothermia, heat exhaustion, numb feet, forgetting where your bike is racked in transition, no horrible swim, no bike mechanical problems. Even on a flat course, a sprint race isn't necessarily "easy" if you are pushing yourself hard. You can't catch your breath because you are working at a high intensity level. However, some sprint races are harder than others. Last year I did a sprint race at Lake Pleasant. There were hills, more hills and yet more hills. It wasn't a race where you went at a steady speed, because you had to fight the rolling hills. I wasn't really in sprint mode(hard and fast) because I was training for Ironman Arizona, which is more long and moderate speed training.
The swim was mercefully wetsuit legal and short. It was a 400 meter course. I was prepared to swim without a wetsuit, but I wasn't prepared to like it. I have had many miserable panic-striken swim in Tempe Town Lake. Without a wetsuit, I use a lot of energy trying to stay calm and I get tired. I hate the feeling of being tired and out in the middle of the water with no place to rest. The lake had these tall cement walls that make you feel like you are in a dank tunnel. Usually the races have you swiming straight into the sun, which is right over the horizon, so you can't see a damn thing except hapless people trying to swim straight. This particular race was west of a bridge, so there wasn't that problem.
Since the swim was so short, I decided to go at a moderate steady pace. It worked well. The wetsuit made me feel secure and the swim went fairly quickly. I was working hard, but I could still get enough air. I was done in 11:50, which isn't great for the rest of the world, but good for me. I actually get past some bodies. I struggled up the stairs. The volunteers in the race don't help you, unlike every other race I do in this lake. I ran into transition and actually got my wetsuit off fairly quickly. Usually, I am so cold that it takes forever. I get on my bike and take off.
The weather was still delightfully cool. Last year, I did the olympic course and it was very hot by the time I got on the course. I passed what look liked younger people who were in previous waves. A sprint tends to attract newbies, so at least I am faster than some of them. I kept up a moderately hard pace, but I didn't try to go too hard. This race seemed to be going entirely too smooth. I kept wondering what was going to go wrong. I caught myself in time not to veer into an orange cone. I did that last year and crashed and injured my shoulder. The bike course went up a few short hills, so it seemed a little slower than the races I have done where you just circled around the lake for a million times. The average speed was about 16.4, which was kind of slow. I have been training on the mountain bike more and I think it has slowed me down a little. A small price to pay for variety.
I managed a flying dismount without incident and ran into transition. I actually knew where my stuff was, though it took me a second. I got into my running gear and took off.
I wanted to run hard and I did. The challenge of running after a swim and a bike is not slowing down. You get really tired sometimes, but I still had energy. You legs feel weird and it takes a while to get them going. I managed a 9:15 minute mile the first mile and a 8:57 the second mile. The last part of the 5k goes up a hill and some stairs so that you can go back over the bridge. I tried to pick off people to keep going. My chest felt like it had a crushing weight on it. The weather was still thankfully cool. Finally I hit the finish line in 29:12.
It was nice to actually do a race that FLOWED. Some races are such a struggle that it's all you can do to finish them. Everything will go wrong and you have to cope with it and move on. Sometimes you get lucky and everything works. All you are doing is fighting yourself. And having fun.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life?

Ever since I was dumped by my now ex-husband and my world was turned up-side down, I have been re-assessing everything in my life. My possessions, my house, my finances, my emotional state and especially my career. I am an attorney, but my first career was in commercial art. In the 70's and 80's, that meant pasting type on a board to make an label, ad or brochure ready for printing. Since my original college degree was in fine arts, it seemed a logical progression to get a job in. But since I didn't have a degree in graphic design, most of the available work was the scut kind, which was the paste-up. It was REALLY boring. I wanted to do something more creative, but this was the work I could get. It wasn't very intellectually stimulating or creative. I took some graphic design classes, but it really wasn't enough to get a good portfolio. I free-lanced some, which was better than being in a dead-end job, but it wasn't a lot of money.

When my then husband decided to go to law school, changing careers from an industrial chemist, it seemed like a good idea for me as well. It should be easier to get a job in than commercial art I thought. The fact that I was introverted and didn't like speaking in front of people didn't faze me. I also didn't like dressing up at the time. I did, however, life to read, write and research. Law was interesting, but it was very competitive and rigorous. First year law classes were large and upon occasion the professor would call on you with some question that you couldn't answer about a case you didn't remember reading. It was brutal at times especially if the professor was sadistic. They taught with the Socratic method which meant you damn well better analyze various interpretation of the particular law and fact pattern.

Law school also had classes in interviewing clients, but the classes didn't prepare you for the real world. Clients sometimes lie to you and they omit facts. Sometimes they desperately want your services, but they don't want to pay you. They want your advice, but they don't aways value it. All this you have to learn on your own.

When I graduated, I learned that my assumption that it was easier to get a job in law than commercial art was wrong. The big firms that pay well want students that rank very high in their class. For that "good" pay, they expected you to work 80 hours a week and in general give up your life to the firm. The smaller firms also wanted higher ranking students. I was about average, so it didn't help much.

I went out on my own, but the work was haphazard. I had to learn legal procedures on my own. I didn't have a lot of confidence and I felt like I was playing a role that I wasn't suited for. I felt like people expected me to know everything and I didn't. I avoided going to court like the plague because I didn't know the procedures and it scared the hell out of me. Cook County courts were difficult to deal with sometimes.

When we moved to Arizona, I had to learn procedures all over again. I still tried to avoid going to court, but sometimes I got sucked into it. I stuck mostly to simpler stuff like drafting documents and filing bankruptcy petitions. The work tends to be mostly routine with some ringers thrown in once in a while to make things interesting and sometimes stressful. I like helping people, but sometimes I don't like dealing with unhappy people that I can't do anything for.

I still get the feeling I am meant to do something else. Figuring out what that is is the tough part. I like research and writing and I also like to be visually creative. I like to be outdoors and I love nature. I don't like doing the same thing all the time and I get bored easily. I am not really entrepreneurial, but I don't like being a slave to a firm. I seem to like things that don't have an easy way to make a living like fine arts, history, gardening and design. I did a career interest test and they came up with librarian, writer, human resource manager. The testing showed that I tended to be contemplative and that I had a low energy level. That much is true at least.

I am as confused as ever and I really need to figure my life out. I have been thrown out on my own and it's up to me to make decisions about my life. I feel lost and scared. I have to hope that I will move forward and away from the feeling of helplessness that I have. Small steps will eventually get you to achieve a huge goal. I don't believe that you can do anything that you want, but I do believe that if you want something badly enough, you can go farther than you thought you could.