Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'll tri in a week

Swimming in Lake Tahoe for the first time. The closer I get to this event, the more it seems to mimic life-- in both good and bad ways.

I never thought training for a triathlon would be so draining. Really. And not just physically, though I have to say the brick workouts (running after cycling or cycling post-swim are more demanding than I had anticipated). No, the training is exhausting in the same sort of way having three jobs is exhausting: the three jobs in and of themselves aren't that demanding, really, its the life that attempts to form itself around them that is.

Take, for instance, the reality that a five-am swim must be followed by not only a seven-mile run, but then an eight-hour shift in a clothing boutique frequented by tourists who either trash the store (not intentionally, though I do often wonder why shopping has to be so violent. Doesn't anyone fold or hang things up anymore?) Or, per the nature of working in retail, people are just downright assholes. I should probably not mention, but will, the blaring music, the wish-washy and unreliable personality quirks of both my bosses and the lack of a lunch break because these things, too, are all exhausting. On their own, perhaps one might consider each an annoyance; but put all that together and you get exhaustion that squirts all over me like green baby diarrhea.

I admit, I'm overwhelmed. I have to race in less than a week and immediately after I'll be moving to Moraga to begin a two-year MFA program in creative writing. I want to keep my job, though exhausting it may be, to pay the rent, but I know I'll have not only academic demands, but athletic ones as well. I want to not only sustain my level of training, but increase its intensity and volume. I want to write more than I have been writing lately (which is to say, a pitiful amount of scribbles I'm able to cast into a journal every now and then; mostly observations like "why are people so rough on public restrooms?" and "why on earth don't some parents keep their kids on leashes?" )-- in short, I see before me a sea of exhaustion-diarrhea and unless something changes, I'll soon be swimming in it.

In my past lives, I had been a fan of the "list" method of organizing large tasks into smaller mini-tasks to make the impossible seem do-able. But even this, too, has me gasping for fresh air. I mean, have you ever SEEN a pre-race checklist for a triathlon? It challenges the length of the list I have for the next two years of my life. Wetsuit, bike, googles, shoes. Yikes! Don't forget the bike, the socks, my god WATER! YOU NEED WATER!

And here's the other: Pack up my books and move them to Moraga, move in, take appropriate clothes, pay tuition, run. Yikes! Don't forget to go to class! Go to work! Coach the Cross Country team! BREATHE!

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but for some reason it seems as though my life is passing through a funnel. What was once spread out and comfortable is now getting all smushed together and confused. Where once running safely occupied a quarter of my life, it now spreads itself into the 40 minutes I usually use to ready myself for work. Where work once ended at a precise time, now dribbles into the evening hour when I had once been home, preparing dinner and writing. Sleep, too, is messy; persuading me to lie still when I ought to be up and swimming. Steve says, I hope wisely, that this will pass. I hope he is right-- I would like to glean more from my experience at Saint Mary's College than two years of nonstop exhaustion.

And I suppose this rant all begets the question: why? Why am I doing this to myself? It would be easier, perhaps, to do nothing at all, or to pick only one thing and do it over and over so that I could be very-- well, if not good, at least well-versed in its processes. Yet, I can't do that. There's something about my personality (is it self-loathing, I wonder?) that makes me do all these things. True, the athletics give me joy as does writing; my job, a pain but a necessary one if I'm to do anything at all. And so, what do you do?

For some stupid reason, the only answer I can come up with is that "I'm going to tri." I say stupid because the triathlon is one major stressor and training for it obviously hasn't made me feel any better. And yet, as I suggested above, there's something about my personality that forces me to answer that way and no other. I can't "not tri"-- I already signed up to do it, just like I signed up for Saint Mary's and all that it entailed.

Perhaps there is nothing more for me to do than to return to that list-maker I once was two graduate programs ago and accept its length and its demands. Take the swim googles with you for goodness sake, I'll say, just like I'll remind myself to order those books for the literature class they make us take the first year. Read and write, I'll say while I remind myself I have to do two bike workouts this week and a quality session on the track. Eat and spend time with Steve because you won't be able to in a few weeks (see Steve. I think I will continue eating.) And that is life-- there's no negotiation at the moment.

Or checking off items on the list may have to become one of life's little joys. While not impressive, I did swim a mile in Lake Tahoe (open water) and I DID send in my application for Financial Aid (even though my throat closed up when I dropped it in the mail slot.) Little steps, little breaths, I guess I have to keep telling myself I'll be fine. There's no stopping, really, in these things I do (in races or in life.) I just have to keep going, no matter how tired or poopy I may feel. I have to believe there are better things to come: hours to write and read and needed hot showers to enjoy.

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