Triathlon

People have been stopping me in the street lately, asking me if I shut my blog down because I never made it past the Finish line in the triathlon and couldn’t take the cybershame.  It’s a fair question, especially since the only thing my mum repeatedly asked me about the whole event was, “Will there be ambulances there?”  The truth of the matter is that ever since making it across the finish line of the triathlon, I have been studiously lazy.  I’ve been lounging, safe in the knowledge that with two labours and a triathlon under my belt, I never have to exercise again.  

For those of you who followed this blog through its days of rigorous triathlon training, it must have been like the time Frank read a 500 page novel whilst backpacking with his friends, oblivious to the fact that they had long ago ripped out the final 4 pages.  I can now reveal the missing ending of my triathlon saga, a story that begins 48 hours before the race, with an unexpectedly professional phonecall from my good friend, Rohan.  “Right, what are you eating?” she opened with, before I could get a hello in, a question which implied she’d had some kind of futuristic video messaging app installed her end which I hadn’t been made privy to.  “What?” I replied, playing for time, and trying to sound like I wasn’t chewing.  “Everything you eat from now until the race has to include carbs.  You have to carb load,” she said, with an air of Jillian Michaels that I was finding exciting.  I promised to carb load at every opportunity for the next 48 hours, only to find out that I already do that anyway.  My diet didn’t change one iota.  Jillian Michaels and/or Rohan will have a field day when they find that out.  

I showed up to the pre-race meeting to listen to an hour’s worth of course information and event rules.  I felt a bit like I’d wandered into the Olympic Village without a security pass, but nobody had noticed yet.  I felt like that, I should say, until I glanced to my right during the speeches, and saw my neighbour.  She was staring the course organiser right in the eye, listening intently, as she shovelled handful after handful of Miss Vickie’s chips into her mouth.  It was an hour-long production line - she never faltered – and the chip packet she’d brought along for the meeting was the size of a small sleeping bag.  I absolutely loved sitting next to her: she was so confidently non-triathletey.  Her incongruity reminded me of that Farside cartoon of the Positive Self-Image Seminar, where the speaker is taking questions from the crowd, and saying, “Let’s hear from that fat guy at the back with the thick glasses.”   Whether or not she was taking carb loading to a whole new level, there was something very calming about sitting next to that woman.    

My calm didn’t last.  By 6am on race day my adrenalin was flowing like a fast-paced river.  That might account for why I managed to swim like a rocket in the first leg: I think it was nerves.  I took off at a cracking pace, which is an interesting decision when you can’t see anything.  On lap 1 I swam right up onto the stomach of a large lady doing a slow backstroke.  I was like a seal, beaching.  

Having made it out of the water, I ran far too fast up the beach and into the transition zone, where I grappled for about 15 minutes with clothes that wouldn’t go onto wet skin, all the while breathing like a hoover.  I definitely used up vital glycaemic stores trying to get my sports bra to unroll out of its tight, wet line of cloth and get into position, so that I could actually consider getting onto my bike.  I also remember being gutted that my felt tip number on my arm had rubbed off on my wetsuit – I only entered the triathlon to get the felt tip numbers.  I would later draw it on again in a black felt-tip from Olive’s colouring bag.

I had a good lead on the pack after my uncharacteristically dynamite swim, a lead I held onto for about 7 minutes until 55 people overtook me on their bikes.  The only person I managed to pass on the bike leg had a puncture and was limping it home.  As the 38th person blazed past me with a demoralisingly cheery, “On your left!”, I started to check for rocket fuel coming off the back of them because seriously, my car doesn’t go the speed of most of those cyclists. 

There was a moment of horror for me when I jumped off my bike and began running, where I realised that actually my legs weren’t moving, only my arms were.  I was toast.  My calf muscles were cramping up, and I had to keep stopping near bins to stretch my feet upwards against them.  They were the kind of stretches that meant I had to put my face almost into the bin while I took big, deep breaths.  That didn’t help.  As I rounded the corner towards Safeways, I was overtaken by a family of 4 walking their Yorkshire terrier.  The father glanced back, probably to double check that I actually had a number on my chest, and was a registered racer.  He looked sympathetic, and confused.  My own family were loyally cheering me on from the bridge, and must have seen me coming 15 minutes before I actually reached them.  I’m pretty sure neither of my children have seen the movie ‘Dawn of the Dead’ yet, but I think the sight of me lurching towards them at zombie pace, gritting my teeth, might have been quite the preview.  As I passed my son, he stuck his little hand out for a high five which caused me to do a massive sheep-bray-sob-heave, which I’m really thankful the photographer didn’t capture.  From that point, though, I have to say I rallied, and I finished the race looking deceptively at ease.  And that, after all, is the main thing.  

The day after the triathlon I went wakeboarding.  Didn’t everyone?  I’ve never been wakeboarding before, but apparently I am Olympic and not a day past 19, so being pulled at 500,000 horsepower, face-down, holding a rope shouldn’t really be a problem.  The day after the wakeboarding, I found I couldn’t walk, and that lasted for 7 days.   From triathlon to unable to move in 24 hours.  Who else of my felt-tipped brethren can say they did that?  See, I knew I was a record-breaker.

Posted in Ageing, middle age, Nelson, triathlon, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FloRider

It’s amazing how peer group pressure still exists at the age of 40. You’d think you’d have confidence in your own strong opinions by now, and easily be able to turn down offers to do ill-advised things. But, no. Apparently when it comes to those continuous surf-wave machines, with the fierce, constant swell – such as can be found in the Kelowna H2O Centre – I can still be talked into giving it a go.

The Kelowna flo-rider is basically a raging hill of water, on which you must balance on a smaller-than-average skateboard, whilst a crowd of what appear to be mostly men stare at you in your swimwear. It’s set up in a really focal part of the water centre, of course, because it has such a high failure percentage and everyone loves to watch a person faceplant into shallow water. The first time Frank tried it, he fell so hard the windows of the waterpark shook and all the people on the slides did an impromptu bounce. As soon as you fall down on this thing, the water hoovers you up and sweeps you fast over the top of the hill, out of view. You’re done; the crowd waits for a new contestant, like it’s some kind of post-modern gladiatorial gameshow.

Some exits are graceful but most are not. As I sat and waited for my turn, my anxiety grew exponentially with every crashing exit. I watched the Exit By Crocodile Deathroll, the Exit As If Being Sucked Backwards Out of A Hole In a Plane (with the facial expression to match), and my personal favourite, the Exit Minus Prior Swimwear. That one happened to a 13 year old boy who was swept backwards with his shorts stuck fast to the lower section of his thighs, exposing everything above. His exit was particularly panicked, because claw as he might at his short fabric, it was not to be shifted upwards. The crowd loved that one.

I don’t know why I felt I had to step up there, given the humiliation rate, and the fact that I had just witnessed somebody losing his shorts. I think it was a blend of needing to delude my children into thinking they had a young, cool mum, coupled with an outright desperation to outperform my husband in all things. This need to beat him is manageable in ping-pong, but I need to start to draw the line at things that require a signed waiver.

I can tell you that against all odds, I did manage to stay upright, thus avoiding the hoped-for slam and sweep. Frank looked visibly disappointed. I like to think the spectators cheered and clapped. Or that might have been me. I was exhausted though, and two clear learning points stayed with me after the event: a) half-squatting in wet swimwear in front of a crowd does nothing for your post-baby pouch-wobble awareness levels; and b) whether you fall or not, you will still need help getting out of a chair come Wednesday.

The FloRider is free to use, but it’ll cost you a fortune in physical therapy. It’s been 8 days since I stood triumphantly on the crest of that FloRider wave, my thigh fat jiggling proudly. I have spent 4 of those days all but in traction, and the remaining 4 journeying from Physio to Accupuncturist to Massage Therapist, in the hope that I will be able to turn my head in the slightest of directions again one day.

Such intense terror cannot be tolerated by my muscles these days, it seems. My shoulders and neck say no. They say stop it, you’re middle aged, behave yourself. It’s upsetting, because in my mind’s eye I still had a shot at that professional surfer lifestyle. But on the plus side, I am under strict instructions to never ride that thing again, which is both a blessed relief and a guarantee that my status as a FloRider Pro can never be revoked. That’s so worth the pain.

Posted in Children, middle age, mother, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rubbishfinger

It took me 2 hours today to build a marble run more intricate than the Basilica, only to have Bill place a marble at the top of it, and watch it drop like a pebble into a well. It went from the very top to the very bottom without touching anything. Bill looked at me, and sighed. He’s getting used to this kind of thing. Last October I spent 3 hours icing a pussycat birthday cake for Olive, as requested, but nobody at the party could tell what it was. Not even Olive, who’d asked for it. She thought it was a ball. It’s demoralising, but I’m starting to figure out what is going on.

Before I had children, my general sense of self told me that whatever I tried my hand at, I was pretty good at it. I had high self-esteem; I trusted in my own co-ordination. One friend even used to find me annoying because I could ‘do everything’. She’d laugh if she saw me now. What I have realised lately, though, is that the things I was trying my hand at back then were the things I wanted to do – so of course I was alright at them. The thing about motherhood is that it throws you into a relentless array of things you have to do, whether or not you choose them. It wouldn’t be my first choice to try and build a lego plane without an instruction booklet; I am not skilled at installing car seats into vehicles; my chocolate chip cookies never rise; and if you ask me to a Felting and Crafts party I will start to cry openly. All these things can really up your ineptness percentages – especially when you can’t balance your score with the things you’d choose and might naturally be good at. There’s no time for those things: you’re too busy building 7-towered loop-the-loop marble runs from a picture on the box. I flounder through the days, loving my children; but with the exception of them, feeling like everything I touch turns to rubbish.

A few nights ago I called the plumber 24-hour emergency hotline because the pilot light had gone out on my furnace. I don’t even know what a pilot light is or does, but I was still having to talk about it on the phone. I’d called Frank first, to ask him what words to use when discussing a furnace – I’d even jotted down useful phrases on a notepad. By the time I’d hung up on the plumbers and they’d despatched their most skilled workers, hurrying through the night to save my family, I realised that Olive had secretly turned the dial down on the thermostat. I turned it back up and the furnace switched on. Another sheepish phonecall, another moment where I look at my feet and mumble something about being slightly out of my element.

Then yesterday at Bill’s daycare, I very efficiently drew his name onto his snowboots, having spotted another, smaller pair next to them in the boot line-up by the door. I went and found a permanent marker, then wrote ‘BILL’ proudly, right up the outsides of them. Later I had a phonecall from the pre-school to tell me I’d taken the wrong boots home: the ones with ‘Bill’ all over them were still there. That was embarrassing in itself; but then I checked the ones Bill had come home in. They were his size. I was puzzled for only a moment before I had one of those awful, flooding moments where you realise what you’ve done. I had to call the pre-school back and do more mumbling, in the style of a 10 year old in the headmistress’ office. I had to explain that I had got a bit muddled, and that was why I had accidentally written my son’s name all over another child’s boots.

It’s uncanny, this new talent I have for messing things up so spectacularly. I bet there’s no-one else out there bodging it up with such consistency. I might have to start being competitive about it. Nobody does Rubbishfinger better than me! See, that’s a better spin on it. My self-esteem is recovering by the second.

Posted in Children, mother, Parenting, pre-school, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Man Who Needed A Private Jet

Travelling on a long haul flight on your own with two toddlers is something to be avoided if at all possible.  For me, the stress is divided equally between the two main stages of the journey.  In Stage One, The Airport, the kids run away at top speed through the departure lounge, tripping up humourless businessmen or disappearing into lifts with the doors closing.  Stage Two, The Aeroplane, is 9 hours of complete confinement where The Naughty Spot becomes noticeably absent and air stewardesses who clearly don’t have children get really uptight about air turbulence and the lack of seatbelt wearing. 

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m their mother, but it is my strong opinion that actually my children behave quite well on aeroplanes.  I’m edgier than most when it comes to strangers viewing my – or their - every move, so I think if I’m feeling relaxed about what the kids and I are doing, it really must be going ok.  On this flight, we hadn’t yet taken off and were all looking out of the window, when the man in front of Bill turned around and, using absolutely top-level Childphone, told me he was kicking his seat.  I replied, using Childphone back, that he wasn’t kicking his seat, which he wasn’t.  But I knew right then, 5 minutes into sitting down, that we were in for it.

Apart from the 5 or 6 times an hour he turned around to complain about absolutely nothing with increasing nastiness, I could really only see the top of this man’s head.  It was entirely cuboid, with thick hair on top of it that looked spongy, like a cake.  He reminded me of Simon Cowell, only he was more sarcastic.  Bill would press his touch-screen tv, which by definition needed touching, and Simon Cowell would instantly pop up over his seat like a perfectly square, burning piece of toast and say plaintively, “Buddyyyyyyyy?”  We would all stare blankly at him.  Bill grazed his seat with his toe because, horror of horrors, he needed to shift an inch in his seat after sitting still for 4 hours, and Simon was there, with a gritted smile, saying, “You gotta take it easy on me, maaaaaan!”  I think if Bill had been a plant placed in a chair for 9 hours, it would still have been too much movement for Simon.

I explained to Bill, when Simon was in the bathroom, that actually he was being really good, he just had Mr Fussy in front of him.  Bill nodded quietly and then bellowed upon the man’s return, “Mummy!  Mr Fussy’s back!”  It didn’t help.  Mr Cowell took it up a notch, actually punching the back of the chair intermittently; then he started yelling at the cabin crew about the quality of scones the airline served and the length of time he was expected to sit in a seat, especially (with a gesture backwards at my mildly-mannered 4 year old) ‘in front of THIS’.  Had I been a braver, more confrontational adult, or had I been Frank, I would have suggested he get off the flight right now, and handed him a life jacket.  Or forgotten to.

By the time we landed I had a banging headache and was twitching every time either Bill or Olive moved a toe.  Then the pilot announced that there was a slight delay because the doors of the plane were frozen shut, and they were just trying to get a heater of some kind.  I think I saw Simon Cowell scrunching the in-flight tea menu into a ball and looking for his lighter.  I am happy in the thought that I will never, ever sit next to that man again.  For the next flight over, as a pre-emptive strike, I’m making t-shirts for the kids.  Bill’s will read, “Welcome to Public Transport.”  Olive’s will read, “My mum travelled with other people’s kids for years.  Your turn.”

Posted in Children, England, Homemaker, Parenting, travel | 2 Comments