Tragic Sandwich

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Archive for the tag “triathlon”

Splish, Splash: Pools I Have Known

Sunset pool at ucla

I love being in the water. Love it. I once announced that I was pretty sure I could live in the shower in my parents’ guest bathroom.

But pools are better.

When I was a kid in southern California, we had some kind of above-ground pool that my dad almost never assembled. I remember playing in it, but not very many times.

Then we moved across the country. I’m sure someone had a pool in their back yard, but I don’t remember any. Instead, you joined a pool. There were wait-lists. It helped to know a member. After a year we joined one–although it turned out not to be the one most of my friends from school belonged to–and for years we spent lots of time during the summer at the pool.

The year I was eight, I was on the swim team for that pool. We would compete at other area pools against their swim teams. No one had Power Bars back then; between heats, you’d eat powdered Jello mix for energy. Lemon or lime was best. (Do not substitute a Twinkie. A Twinkie will hold you back. Even though it seems like a Twinkie is mostly air, experience suggests that it must really be Dark Matter.) I competed in the 25-free and 25-back. How did I do? Pretty much every time, I’d get third in free and first in back. Was that 25 meters or 25 yards? I don’t remember. I just know that if I could swim backstroke, I could beat everyone else.

Winters were wintery, but that didn’t keep me out of the water. How? Indoor pools. For several winters I would sign up for Winter Swim. I’ve always been good at swimming; whenever the instructor wanted someone to demonstrate a technique we’d just learned, he or she would ask me to show everyone.

Full disclosure: I have never been good at flip turns. Thus my success in 25-free and 25-back. I guarantee you I would not have won in 50-back, much less in 50-free. I was probably never asked to demonstrate a flip turn in either direction.

My other main memory of Winter Swim is a round of bullying that, unlike others, I was unable to deflect or derail. I carpooled with two boys from my elementary school who took it upon themselves to torment me. I have uncertain memories of them spitting in my hair during the car ride home. I loved swimming. I hated the ride to and from.

(I also hated my sweatsuit, which was some horrible 1970s attempt at–microfleece, maybe?–it was sort of fuzzy and when it pilled I wound up with little red fuzzy bits stuck to me, because it is impossible to truly dry off after Winter Swim. Even the locker room is humid.)

We moved to Texas. And, oddly, this is where I stopped swimming. Or not so oddly, if you think about it. We joined a pool that was within walking distance of our home, which meant that our mother wasn’t inclined to drive us. (Although I maintain that “walking distance” in a South Texas summer is about the distance from the front door to the car door.) Also, I was in high school, which meant that the pool and swimsuits seemed fraught with . . . well, fraught with something. I’m not sure I could have articulated it even then, but I stopped being willing to run around in a swimsuit, even at the pool.

In college, we’d go to the pool–but only to sunbathe. This, by the way, is a terrible plan for a redhead, particularly in an era when SPF 10 was considered to be a lot of sun protection.

Years and years and years later, I married Mr. Sandwich. We drove from our wedding in San Antonio to Los Angeles, and on one of the days before we left for our honeymoon in Hawaii, we went back to that college pool. I swam the length of it (this one I know–50 meters), clung to the side gasping, and then swam back. And while I was done for that day, I later spent many evenings in that pool training for triathlons.

Also, I am still lousy at flip turns, so it’s a good thing that when I compete, it’s in the open water with a noticeable lack of walls.

Now we live in the San Fernando Valley. When we moved there, I said, “I don’t need a pool–I don’t want one, too hard to maintain–but I do need air conditioning.” We have air conditioning, and I will admit that now that I’ve experienced a few Valley summers, I could also do with a pool.

Fortunately, we live within an easy drive of one of the city pools. It’s been closed for several years due to maintenance issues, but they finally repaired it and re-opened it this summer. While I am sorry that it’s now closed for the season, I’m glad we were able to go several times–and at $2.50 an entry ($2.00 with a library card, for whatever reason), I think it’s a much better deal than building, filling, and maintaining one in our back yard.

You know who else loves the pool? Baguette.

It must be genetic.

Photo by samk, via Flickr.


My To-Do List

There are a lot of things I want for Baguette. The big thing, of course, is an innate sense of self-worth. She has that now, and I want to do everything possible to help her hold onto that. It’s good to question yourself and your actions–but I want her to know her entire life that she has inherent value.

I want her to get an education. I want her to learn to question herself and others. I want her to be not just tolerant, but truly accepting of difference. I want her to learn when to be kind, and when to protect herself.

But there are also things I want her to see me do, because I want her to see the world as a place of possibility that is not limited by her gender.

1) I want to do more triathlons. My last one was in 2009 (I think), so it’s been a while. I had planned to do one this fall, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But I definitely want her to see me, and not just Mr. Sandwich, be active. Because I want her to be active.

2) I want both of us to learn to drive a stick shift. (I want her to do this a long time from now.)

3) I want to cook and clean and garden, but I also want to learn woodworking and minor home repairs, beyond just tightening the occasional screw.

4) I want to learn another language. My high school and college Spanish classes are long behind me, and considering that I live in L.A., it is ridiculous that I don’t speak decent Spanish.

5) I want to volunteer. It’s very easy for me to focus on the ways my life is challenging. But I have it so easy in so many ways, and I want her to realize two things: that we’re fortunate, and that we owe it to others to help them when they’re not.

There are many, many others. I want to teach and show Baguette so much. But this is a start.

January 2, 2012: Looking Ahead

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, primarily because I never keep them. But I do have goals. Here’s what I’m looking at for 2012:

  • Get our house in order. Literally. I can’t teach Baguette to clean up after herself if I have piles of papers lying around. Also, who wants piles of papers lying around?
  • Get in better shape. I’ve done a few sprint triathlons in the past, and I want to do another this year–I’m probably looking at September. Immediately, I’m going to start regular crunches and stretching.
  • Cook more. Between my job and commute, it’s hard to cook a nice dinner in the evenings. I need to dedicate weekend time to cooking in advance so that we can eat as a family during the week.

None of these sounds huge on their own, but together they can make a huge impact on our lives. I’m looking forward to it–and to the year.

Well, That Was Exhausting

Yesterday afternoon, J and I drove down to Redondo Beach. The day before a race, we like to do a practice swim and practice bike ride, to get more familiar with the course. I suppose we could do a practice run, too, but that way lies madness.

So we got to the beach and I decided very quickly that if the surf didn’t go down by morning, I was going to skip the race. It wasn’t stormy, but the water was pretty choppy. I really didn’t think I could cover 1/2 mile under those conditions.

And I was probably right. The water was much calmer this morning–the waves were breaking fairly close to the beach, with rolling surges beyond that. It turned out, though that the rolling surges were much more rolling than I thought. In spite of the short distances, this was the toughest of the triathlons I’ve done, and that’s all due to the swim. The ocean was cold, murky, and dynamic (and it tasted bad–I don’t know what’s in the water in Redondo Beach, but it can’t be good).

When I finally emerged from the water, it was with the slowest time I’ve gotten (30 minutes in the water, and my official time will be longer than that)–and a charley horse. My calf muscle loosened up over the bike portion, but then I developed a stitch in my side. Everything evened out a bit during the run (which I walked all of, except for the finish chute), but on the whole I’m amazed that the right half of me was able to finish the race.

Of course it helped that I had a lot of support. My dad and stepmom and J’s parents came out in the wee hours of the morning to cheer us on, and after he finished his race, J walked the run with me. Interestingly, the run may have been my favorite portion. The company, of course, was excellent, but the course was fun too. It wound through the Redondo Beach pier and by the neighboring lagoon, which has been turned into a saltwater pool with slides.

After the race, we all adjourned to the Redondo Beach Cafe for brunch. The service was really slow, but everyone seemed happy with their various entrees. I was quite happy with the Kitchen Sink Omelet, which had cheese, avocado, ham, and onions; other dishes at our table included French toast, multigrain pancakes, a tuna melt, a chicken-salad croissant sandwich, and a French dip. The whole wheat orange pancakes and the crepes sounded good, but what I wanted most of all was protein.

In the end, I finished dead last with a time of 1:52:35–but I finished.

Not bad for someone who, after waking up this morning, was so tired that she couldn’t focus her eyes.

Madness, I Tell You, Madness

I’m starting to think that’s what got me into this triathlon. Sure, I did two last fall (one as a relay, in which I only did the swim). So logically I could do another. But somehow I’ve done almost no training, and I’m starting to wonder just how badly I may do, when the race is only a month away.

I’m not too worried about the bike and the run portions, because the race distances are so short. Still, I need to get on the bike a few times before the race, and I ought to do some walking.

The swim, though, is another matter. We’ll be swimming 1/2 mile, which is manageable when I’m training properly. But right now I’m not training properly. On Saturday we went to the pool, and I finished 600 meters. I’ll have to do 800 in the race, and that’s assuming that the course is accurate. To be on the safe side, I should be doing 1000 in the pool. I also need to get in a couple of ocean swims, although the 58-degree water temperature is not very inviting.

Now, I hope you’ll excuse me as I eat a vanilla cupcake from Sprinkles.


We’re training for the Redondo Beach Triathlon in June. The race itself is pretty short, with a 1/2-mile swim, 6-mile bike, and 2-mile run. The bike and the run portions should be fairly easy, but I do need to work on my swimming

Yesterday was my first time in the pool since training for the Catalina Triathlon in November. I did 400 meters in my usual swim-100-gasp-for-a-minute style, and feel pretty good about it.

It was hot yesterday, but nothing like today. The temperature was supposed to be 97 at one point, and I can believe it based on how uncomfortable the apartment is. I stayed indoors, but J went for a mountain bike ride and the heat hit him pretty hard. Fortunately the heat wave is supposed to be pretty short-lived; for the rest of the week the highs are supposed to ping-pong between the mid-60s and the upper 70s.

Belated Triathlon News

The training paid off! I still have a bad knee, which limits my running, and I’m still afraid of biking down hill, which limits my cycling. But I rocked the swim, if I do say so myself. I expected to cover the 1/4-mile distance in about 20 minutes, and came out of the water in just under 13. The entire experience was fantastic, and I decided to follow it up with a relay at the Catalina Triathlon.

This race featured a 1/2-mile swim, which made up my portion of the event. I was so excited at not having to prepare for the bike and run that I completely forgot to prepare for the swim. I was late to the transition area, and as I was laying out my towel, I realized that I couldn’t find my official swim cap (color: yellow) or my ear plugs. Fortunately my husband was able to provide extra ear plugs, and I did have my regular swim cap (color: blue). Naturally, in between the discovery and the solution, there was freaking out and shrieking.

So I made my way over to the start, where I waited for my wave (relays go last). I couldn’t see anything, because I had torn a contact and therefore decided that it would be better not to wear them. In retrospect, that might have been half right.

Soon it was time for my wave to begin. I gave myself a quick pep talk (I am a strong swimmer! I am going to swim very fast!) and ran into the water. Within 50 yards, I was shocked to realize that (a) I was already dead last, and (b) I felt like I was going to drown. What kept me going at first was the realization that I was part of a team, and that I couldn’t let my friends down because the swim was too hard. After that, what kept me going was the people on surfboards. The support crew was absolutely fantastic, providing moral support and directions to the buoys. After I rounded the second one, I could see the shore, and somehow things got easier. One woman paddled the entire way in with me, cheering me on the whole way.

At this point, I was clearly the last person out of the water. Apparently the race photographer didn’t see me, and left to take pictures somewhere else. (Harumph! I was only 40 seconds behind the person who finished immediately ahead of me!)

However, in spite of being incredibly slow compared to the other racers, I improved on my previous pace. This time I finished in just under 22 minutes, which means that my pace was faster over the longer distance.

So on a personal level, my training paid off. On a team level, it’s a good thing that I was on a team with people who were faster on the bike and in the run in comparison to other racers–my friends and their speed are the reason that the team didn’t come in last, even though I did!

That’s it for this year. I don’t know what next year will hold.

And Now We Return to Our Previously Scheduled Program

Saturday: walked 2 miles

Sunday: swam 700 meters (600 freestyle, 100 breaststroke)

Let the Training Begin!

We went swimming yesterday. Sure, the weather seems to have been a little on the cool side–it may have gotten to the upper 60s–but with a heated pool, it’s not so bad.

I went for 400 meters, which will be more impressive when I can do it all at once, instead of in four 100-meter laps, with pauses in between. My goal is to be able to do 800 meters nonstop, because that’s twice the distance of the swim portion of the race. If I can do that, and get in a few ocean swimming sessions, I should be fine.

Then all I’ll have to do is learn to bike downhill.


I am going to take my out-of-shape self, and start training for The Triathlon at Pacific Grove. The sprint distance is the sprintiest I’ve seen, with a 1/4-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike, and 2-mile run. Which I will walk.

Watch this space for training updates, and lots of whining.

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