Sedona is breathtaking. My words fail to describe the beauty of the place. Here are some photos from the 3-day hiking trip with Maggie.
I did promise to come back here and give you an update on my swimming progress. Before that, let me sidetrack for a minute for a quick story.
Last weekend, Josh and I went swimming. After he encouraged me to try the water slide last time, we have done it multiple times because I was no longer scared.
This time, he encouraged me to jump off the spring board into the dive tank. I said, “Errr, I am scared.” He spread his palms, shrugged his shoulders and said, “But mommy, it’s nothing but water.”
This kid gives me the most interesting perspectives in life.
Anyway, back to my swimming progress.
When I started 5 weeks ago, I really had nowhere to go but up. Now I have completed the five half-hour lessons from the Vancouver Parks Board, and practiced on my own five times. I went from not being able to do front crawl at all, to doing half-assed front crawl for 25-35 metres. I can only breathe out of my right side, I still choke on water regularly, and I can’t swim more than 35 metres at a time. But hey, that’s progress, right?
Very slow progress. But progress nonetheless.
The next step for me is to continue practicing. I’m planning on two practices a week. I have also signed up for another round of lessons starting in March with Sea Hikers.
Swimming is probably the most unnatural and uncomfortable sport I have ever tried. Maybe it’s the mental block I have about water, and hating the feeling of water going up my nose. Maybe it’s all the self-fulfilling prophecy about I could never learn to swim. Whatever it is, it’s this gigantic task that seems so impossible.
My plan is to just slowly chip away at this task of learning to swim. I need to do this for myself, to see for myself what is possible when I put my mind to it.
Josh and I went swimming on the weekend. It’s partly to have some “mommy and Josh” time, and partly getting me more comfortable in the water.
We were merrily going along, trying different stroke in the pool, playing games in the water, and having a good time. Half way down the 50 metre lane, where the pool is the deepest, Josh notices a slide on the side of the pool. His eyes lit up.
“Mommy, I want to try the slide!”
“Sure, go ahead.”
The slide was maybe only 6 feet high, and the bottom of the slide was maybe a foot above the water. I knew Josh can handle it. He quickly climbed out of the pool, up the ladder, and came down like a cannon ball. Splash! He surfaced with a big smile on his face a few seconds later. (This whole time I’m clinging onto the edge of the pool for dear life.)
“Mommy, I want to do it again!”
This time, he wanted to come down without his goggles. Splash! He surfaced again with a smile. I was so proud of him. He is such a great swimmer, and so brave.
Then, he asked me the deadly question.
“Mommy, do you want to try the slide?”
Instantly, I thought about 100 reasons I could give him why I should not try the slide, ranging from my ass is too big for the narrow slide, to I’m too full from lunch. Oh, I know, how about I’d rather not die?
It took me maybe eternity to answer him with a whisper, “No, I’m too scared.”
You read that right. I’m 41 years old and too scared to come down a kids’ water slide. I am much happier to jump out of an airplane, or bungee jump off a bridge, ride a motorcycle solo across North America, or hike up Kilimanjaro. But no, no water slide into a swimming pool.
Let me just take a second to remind you the fact that I am struggling to learn to swim. Each time I have my lesson or go practice swimming, I drink so much pool water that I can taste the chlorine in my mouth all day. Choking on water half way down a lane and then panicking to grab the pool edge is my specialty. To willingly go down a steep slide, and throwing myself into the deep end of the pool is just asking for trouble.
With all the wisdom he has accumulated in his 7 years, 2 months, and 14 days of life, Josh said in the most gentle and non-judgmental voice, “Remember last time you were scared of that tree run at Whistler? You tried it, you had fun and liked it. Maybe you will like the slide too if you tried it.”
May this moment always serve to remind me that despite my irrational fears and parental failings, Josh is turning out pretty freaking awesome.
Sigh. “You’re right,” I said.
I climbed out of the pool, up the ladder, sat at the top of the slide, hoped I don’t drown in front of my kid. I cursed the “setting an example for your child” thing. I took a deep breath, pinched my nose hard, and slid down towards my death. Splash!
I recall lots and lots of bubbles, then I surfaced. OMG, I survived! Somehow I did not die. In fact, I had so much fun that I did it two more times.
Josh, one day when you’re old enough for swear words and scarcasm, I’ll let you read my blog. I want you to know that when I finally conquer my fear of water, you are a large part of that process, and I will always be grateful for that January Saturday afternoon when you encouraged me to try the slide.
Water is my nemesis.
My mom put Grant and I in swimming lessons when we were kids. She had a lifetime of regret for not learning to swim, so she made sure her kids learned to swim. (BTW, my mom did eventually learn to swim as an adult. More on this later.)
As a kid, I learned breast stroke and stopped there. It was good enough. In any event, I didn’t love swimming. I didn’t love anything that required practice. Like the piano. Anyway, Grant and I probably spent more time splashing around than actually swimming. All this took place in a swimming pool at a fancy health club where my dad had a membership. I did enjoy the cool water on hot summer days, and ate countless sandwiches at the poolside restaurant.
For the next 10-12 years, I was never required to swim. Since I didn’t love it, I don’t tend to want to go swimming.
I’ll spare you the details on how I almost drowned in a lake when I was 20, because, you know, my mom will read this and freak out.
My fear of water kept me away from water for the next 20 years. I could swim laps (with badly done breast stroke) in a pool if I know I can reach out and grab the edge of the pool and be able to see the bottom. But I never went swimming. Why would I? The fear-induced shiver each time I get in the water is just too much for me to handle.
I decided that this needs to change.
I was inspired by a small human–Josh. It’s not just his capability of swimming that inspires me; it’s his comfort level in the water. When we went swimming with whale sharks in the middle of the ocean in Mexico, he jumped into the water without hesitation. When his mask/snorkel fell off and he sucked in some water, he was not fazed at all. He got the guide to help put his mask/snorkel back on, blew the water out of his nose, and just went on his merry way to see the whale sharks.
Pride oozed out of my pores, and I was so inspired to be more like him.
I was inspired by another person–my mom. As a child, she was traumatized by old school jackass gym teachers and never learned to swim properly. When she saw Grant and I learn to swim, she was inspired to learn as well. So in her 40’s, she took lessons and learned to swim, and swam a lot in the following years.
I was also inspired by a bunch of strangers. When I did that duathlon race (run-bike-run) last summer, I longingly looked into the swimming pool at the athletes who were on the swimming leg of the triathlon. I was envious of their abilities, even if they were slow swimmers. I thought to myself, maybe one day. Maybe one day I will overcome the impossible, and learn to swim. Maybe one day I will be able to swim well enough to participate in a triathlon. Maybe one day.
The one day started last week. I signed up for 5 private lessons, and committed to going for 5 swims on my own. In 5 weeks (10 times in the water), if I make absolutely no improvement, I will concede defeat and remain a land animal forever. I am really hoping that I will make some improvements, regardless of how slight.
I’ll report back in 5 weeks on how I’m doing. Fingers crossed!
*Warning: very long post with many bad selfies*
About a year and a half ago, I set out to lose 15 lbs. I had no desire to be skinny; I just wanted to be less chubby. I figured 15 lbs is do-able.
Somewhere in this process, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can learn a new trick. I learned that it’s not just about the weight. I learned that I will always be learning. And I learned that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination.
I can learn a new trick
For 15 months, I kept a detailed record of everything I ate and every exercise I performed. I weighed how many grams of chicken breast I was eating, and used a heart rate monitor for every workout for an accurate count of calories burnt. I used a combination of Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app to help me track everything. Everyday I aimed for a caloric deficit. I had to do this. You know how people say, “Listen to your body”? I can’t. I can’t listen to my body, because I can’t hear it.
I remember years ago, one time I had lunch with my BFF Karen. She ordered a burger, as did I. (Karen, I think that may have been the first and last time I saw you eat a burger!) I wolfed my burger down whole, barely listening to what she was saying. By the time I looked up to take a breath, she had set half her burger down. She was done. No longer hungry. She left half her burger and never ate the rest of it.
I was amazed. How does she do that? If there’s food on my plate, I finish it. That’s just how it is. But this woman did not finish her food!!!!
The difference is, Karen listened to her body. I, on the other hand, only know to eat whatever is put in front of me, and eat it quickly. She controlled her food. My food controlled me.
Anyway, Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app tell me how many calories I have left for the day. The more I exercised, the more I could eat. Otherwise, 1200 calories is all I get for the day. I did not have to “listen to my body”, since I could not hear it anyway.
After diligently tracking everything I ate for 15 months, I was finally getting the hang of it. I was starting to get a feel of what I should eat and how much. I was finally starting to hear a whisper of a voice when I am satiated. I learned that I can be trained to listen to my body.
It’s not just about the weight
I started with a goal to lose weight. I was 40, and have a less-than-perfect family health history of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, etc. My heart valve doesn’t close completely. I sit on my butt all day at a stressful job. It’s only a matter of time before shitty health problems took over my life.
I look at these two small human beings that I am beyond blessed to have, and damn, I want to be here for a good long time to embarrass them and watch them grow.
The first thing I did was increase my running volume, and starting spin classes at a studio. I often run early in the morning, and come home as the kids are just waking up. Savanna got savvy quickly to check if I was sweaty before she would give me a morning kiss. I loved that the first thing they see in the morning is mommy coming home from a run.
Then I started following some workouts from Beachbody, streamed over the internet. The kids sometimes watched me go through Fix Extreme or P90X3. Then one day, they joined me during my workout. Now if I work out at home, I’m bound to have one of them jump in with me.
When I bought a road bike and started cycling more, Josh told me he is crazy about cycling and he wanted to ride everyday with me. He is always asking how many kilometres we have done, so he can do just a bit more to beat his last record.
I learned that it’s not all just about losing weight. It’s about influencing my kids through action to live an active life, and do better than yesterday.
The learning never stops
When I first started with working out regularly, I ate a very high protein, low fat, and low carb diet. I cut out all rice, bread, pasta, and noodles. The only carbs I would eat is a small amount of fruit, and baked sweet potato. Mostly I ate a lot of chicken breast and low fat cottage cheese. No avocado, no nuts, very little cooking oil–the fat content scared me.
That worked, along with the workouts. Weight came off. I was happy.
Then I started cycling. Then I was told to eat carbs on long rides.
Wait, what? Carbs? Isn’t that bad for me?
I learned that on a long ride, I need carbs that will quickly convert to energy. If all I eat is protein, I won’t be able to handle a long ride. Well, damn, ok, I’ll eat some carbs.
That worked. I was still losing weight.
I read 6 different books on sports nutrition, from one end of the spectrum (body building) to the other end (vegan Ironman racing). I got 6 difference sets of advice.
I learned that the sport you train for may dictate some of what you eat. I learned that I need to eat a balanced diet to keep the rest of me happy. Mostly, I learned that I will never stop learning about the theories and sciences of what works and what does not.
It’s a journey
When I lost the 15 lbs I set out to lose, I was happy. I was having so much fun with my workout routine, I just continued.
Today, I don’t feel like “I’m done”. I feel like I am just beginning to learn certain sports, and there are so many other things I want to learn. I took a cycling clinic last summer, and met some incredible women who inspire me to ride more, ride faster, run, and try different sports. I joined a bunch of rides with a local bike shop and met some kickass ladies who eats hills for breakfast and run at speeds I can only dream of. I just signed up for swimming again, because damn it, I’m gonna learn this!
When I signed up for the 122 km Whistler fondo 7 months ago, I thought to myself, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” That’s how huge and unreachable the fondo was to me. And guess what? I did it.
So what else is so huge and unreachable for me today? Maybe I can do that a few months from now. Who knows?
Today is just a moment in time in my journey. I wanted to document these thoughts, because some days are harder than others to be motivated. Like this morning when I had to get my butt out of bed for a run–that was brutal. But then tomorrow morning I scheduled myself to ride my bike on the rollers, which I am really looking forward to!
2017 was awesome. The kids are growing like weeds. They are doing more (biking, skiing, swimming), and they wipe their own butts. Big win.
I have ran and pedal biked more than I ever have in my life. Towards the end of the year, Cliff also got into cycling. We changed our family eating habits to incorporate more whole foods and less processed crap. Another big win.
I have no plans to make 2018 “better”, because I don’t think of a year in terms of good or bad. I am fortunate enough to have my family, my health and my career, so I already feel like a million bucks right out the gate. I do plan to have as much fun as I can fit into 24 hours a day.
In keeping with the same tradition of the past 5 years, we spent a week in Whistler to end 2017 and welcome 2018. And of course that means jumping from the dresser to the king size bed for photos. Back when the kids were little, Cliff would toss them onto the bed. But now that they are both heavier and bigger, they get to use their own legs to jump.
I have a few “finisher medals” stashed away in a drawer, for having enough grit to finish a sporting event. Even then, I don’t have many of those, since I have spent most of my life “not into sports”. Translation: I am too slow and discouraged to participate in competitive events.
However, I have never had a REAL medal for placing top 3 in anything. Until last week.
A padded envelope showed up in our mailbox from Mountain Equipment Co-op. It was a third place finish medal from the duathlon I did back in August! I was third in my age group. I had no idea, but hey I’ll take it!
Back in 2001, when I was 25, I did the Crescent Beach duathlon. Even with my missed mileage, my time was:
5 km run: 47:48
20 km bike: 1:06:58
5 km run: 58:19
As you can see from above–this is not very good. At all. Most people can walk 5 km in 1 hour, and that was pretty much my running speed. Almost 3 hours of agony, with the officials closing the course right behind me.
16 years later, I quietly signed up for the MEC Langley Duathlon. I really didn’t tell very many people about it. Knowing my history of how slow I was in 2001, I was not going to advertise my slowness again.
The difference this time, is that I actually have been training pretty consistently, following a schedule. Also, I’m now a few pounds lighter. That always helps.
My time for the MEC duathlon was:
5 km run: 27:27
20 km bike: 44:48
5 km run: 28:34
I shaved almost 72 minutes off my 2001 time. 72 minutes!! Yeehaw!
I was very happy with the results. Just knowing that I did better than 16 years ago was a huge victory for me. I didn’t really care about how it compared to other people. These kind of victories are pretty private for me to savour. I am happy that I am stronger and faster as I age, and being an example to my kids for being active and loving it.
Then to get this 3rd place medal in the mail, it’s just icing on the cake.
My mom happened to be in town visiting, so I dragged her to the race with me. That was the best part for me. I will forever remember her cheering for me loudly every time I looped back to the transition area, holding her phone in front of her face to take pictures of me. She is so cute and she just warms my heart.
Look, Mom, we got a medal!