Suppressing My Expressions

Surprise. How many times did you come here wondering when I would update I tried a few times over the winter break, when I first started my Boca Hawaii bike training, when I first started teaching full-time as a permanent sub at Kaiser High School, when my LinkedIn account was finally extinguished, when I first started this year’s Boca Hawaii Honu 70.3 triathlon training program, if I ever got a moment to myself.

But I was in a lot of pain, deep inside. Every time I wanted to write something, my inner demons would tell me it was stupid and that no one cared. Who would read it? What would they say? And always someone to tell me I’m a whiner.

The intentions were there. I miss blogging. I like weighing in on what’s going on in the world and what it means to me, and what I think it might mean to you. But, I have instead begun an implosion, a deflating, a shrinking, a suppression of my expressions. The pie of my life is divided into smaller and smaller pieces. Sleep is one of the smallest. Triathlon training keeps me healthy, and I love to just work things out in my head while I’m swimming, pedaling my bike up a steep hill, or running for miles. I help my in-laws with their vegetable garden, I have my own yard to take care of, I feed the family, I pay bills, and I have those oh-shit moments when I look at the bathroom and realize it’s been a while since it’s been cleaned. Now that I’m teaching, I am thinking just about every waking moment about lesson plans, meetings, deadlines, building quizzes and tests, considering reading assignments, grammar and punctuation lessons, or choosing American Literature stories that won’t turn class time into nap time.

Adjustments have been made. Parts of life have been delayed. But new goals are set and, as I tend to be hopeful and optimistic as the sun rises each day, I desperately grasp the positives that people bestow upon me. They keep me sane, they keep me alive, they show me my relevance.

Hawaii Bike Training — Absolutely loved it. New teammates, different kinds of workouts, riding all over Oahu, loving coaches who pushed my ass further than I ever thought it would go. Grateful.

Teaching — Called by the principal on a Friday to start on Monday. American Literature for juniors, Expository Writing for seniors, English Language Arts for sophomores. I so enjoy it, despite the tons of work that’s involved. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having students who are disruptive and insulting, but they are far outnumbered by those students who work with me. I teach core courses. It’s really a good idea to do all of the homework, all of the journal entries, and read the book. Teaching reminds me of my youth — that time when you think you know everything, don’t want to hear from the voices of experience, want to forge your own path and don’t see the benefit of someone who would love to help you avoid mistakes. Been there, done that. The older I get the more I realize the less I know. That’s the main lesson I’d love to tell these kids. One student asked me how it felt to hold graduation in the palm of my hand. I told him I didn’t. “You hold graduation in the palm of YOUR hand,” I said. He got it.

LinkedIn: The Brag Book of social media. True, it was extremely painful for me to face unemployment for so long and to wonder what the problem was when I applied for hundreds of jobs, got a handful of calls, three interviews and no offer. Hopelessness was a constant companion. It sucked. I didn’t want to see how wonderful everyone else’s life was. It took nearly six months to shut the front door on all that noise. I feel better already.

Boca Hawaii Endurance Triathlon Training — My home away from home. My extended family. Coaches who see in me what I don’t quite see myself. Third year of training for Honu 70.3. I feel like things are finally working. I’ve made a few personal changes. Wino’clock only occurs on Saturday evening. Beerthirty, once in a blue moon. Those two adjustments have made it possible for me to lose some weight, and it will continue. I pack a lunch for school, which is usually an apple, a Kind bar, some cheese; or humus and pita chips. Water, water, water.

Quiet moments. Cooking. Gardening. Connecting with my husband. Snuggling the kitty. Stealing hugs from my kids. Valuing every moment I have to myself and with you. Treasures.

Big South Shore Waves

This is the last week before the quarter ends, so school teachers aren’t calling in sick and substitute teachers like me are not getting called to work. What a gorgeous day to be outside! Hot. Hot. Hot. But beautiful. There is nothing like living in Hawaii. Nothing.

After we drove along the Ka Iwi Coast taking in the sights, and getting a video via Instagram, we came back home for a cold lunch. Cold wheat linguine for me dressed in sesame oil, shoyu, sesame seeds and green onions; target-rich tossed salad for him. Naps.

I was craving an ocean fix so bad. I couldn’t go out at Sandy Beach because it was too big. My hair was a big ball of fuzz, and the best remedy for that is an ocean swim. I decided to go for a swim at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki before I had to pick up Kid2 at school. Hot. Hot. Hot. Parking was easy at 1:30 p.m. In fact, if you run the Honolulu Marathon, there were like ZERO cars parked along the finish. The waves are too big on the South Shore for most surfers and definitely not a swim to the windsock kind of day.

The clown goggles. Seriously, these TYR goggles are polarized, so great for a sunshiny day. One earplug for my right ear. This year's WRS cap.

The clown goggles. Seriously, these TYR goggles are polarized, so great for a sunshiny day. One earplug for my right ear. This year’s WRS cap.

Put on my fins, my Roughwater Swim cap, and my clown goggles and headed out toward the windsock. The waves were deliciously rambunctious. I love swimming up and down and under and over, swishing around loving the sea foam, diving under to check out the fishies. But I wasn’t confident to swim all the way out to the wind sock. Waves were breaking big outside — they looked easily to be 6-8 feet. The wind sock pole was always in a wave. And besides, no one else was out there. Not that I ever swim with a buddy, but when there are other swimmers, then we’re all buddies.

Nope. I noodled around inside on my back, on my side, under and over, freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, a few butterfly kicks and under again. A half hour to myself. Instead of mom time or wife time or sub teacher time or maid time, it was Me Time.

It was cool.

Waikiki Roughwater Swim 2013: Hard.

A tagged monk seal woke up to a few thousand people on the beach for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

A tagged monk seal woke up to a crowd on the beach for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

Labor Day 2013 at Kaimana Beach was calm. The ocean appeared gentle, no waves barrelled up against the shore, no white caps popped on the horizon. It was deceptive. I should have taken a cue from the monk seal we discovered snoozing above the shoreline at about 7:30 a.m. When it realized there were about 2,000 people on the beach, half of whom were getting ready to swim 2.34 miles, the seal slid into the drink and away from the cameras and commotion. Pretty sure I saw the seal again as I was swimming from the sixth to the seventh buoy on what felt like an amazing swim to nowhere. Heh.

Smooth as glass. How hard could it be? It was hard.

Smooth as glass. How hard could it be? It was hard.

Swimming the Waikiki Roughwater Swim is like giving birth. You train for months for this marathon ocean swim, it’s a huge pain in the ass, and when you finish you swear you are through. The End. Finis. But while you might take a few months to warm up to having another kid, the very next day you’re telling your loved ones how NEXT YEAR I’M GOING TO DO IT BETTER. Loved ones roll their eyes knowingly, because they knew already. I’m that swimmer. Find me again, probably in wave D, trying to bust my ass to surface at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in under two hours. A year older, 20 minutes faster? Could it happen? I have to believe it will.

Here’s my results via Garmin:

Me and the sign.

Me and the sign.

Looks like I went wide around the first buoy, wove in and out of buoys 2-9, and turned this 2.34-mile plan into a 2.75-mile swim. My husband calls me an overachiever. LOL. Like I said, it seemed flat, the trade winds blew briskly from east to west, and
it felt at first as though it would be a quick swim, much like the last North Shore Swim Series 2.4-mile swim from Pipeline to Waimea Bay, which I did in 01:32:52. I mean, why couldn’t I expect to finish this in less than two hours?!

But let’s talk about the differences between this swim and last year’s. This year I was always within sight of other swimmers. Last year I was alone a lot, surrounded by blue and wondering if I was being watched by big sharks. This year, I wondered the same thing, but most of the time I didn’t worry about it because I was amazed at all the fish I was seeing! It was amazing! Black, blue, yellow, parrot fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaa, brainy coral heads, turtles! Some swimmers saw a hammerhead, but I didn’t. We have plenty of those in Maunalua Bay here in Hawaii Kai, they’re harmless and pretty cool to look at. I got a really bad charlie horse cramp in my right leg as I was approaching the finish. It was so bad I had to stop and stick my foot up and out to give it a stretch. It was horrible! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone run, up the beach across the timing mat. But I did and it was AOK. I worked so hard in this swim. My arms felt like jelly for hours afterward.

While I was out there swimming my little 2.75-mile marathon, I thought of Diana Nyad, who was swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage and with a University of Hawaii scientist in her crew who is an expert on jellyfish. I’ve encountered my share of box jellyfish and manowar jellies, and I can appreciate that.

I also thought about small-kid time on swim team at Riverdel Swim Club in Riverside, N.J. Every summer, we’d be at the pool by 7:30 in the morning for swim team practice that went until 9 a.m. Then we’d stay all day until afternoon swim team practice at 4 p.m. After the big Tri-County meet, we’d spend a few weeks on Long Beach Island, working on our tans, riding the waves, beach combing, our hair bleached by the sun, our noses peeling.

Now I wear sunscreen. But I still have fun being an ocean girl. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother.

The Flutter

On Saturday I participated in the third North Shore Swim Series event, where hundreds of us swam from the start at Chun’s Reef to Waimea Bay. The instructions were sparse. Start here, get there, and do it any way you want. Having completed my first two of the series in a weird distance-adding zigzag, I got into the water and lined up my goal between the church tower and a cleared patch of green on the mountainside to the right of it. When I swim in the ocean, I have a difficult time finding the buoys set up along the swim. First of all there are too few, and secondly, they are the same color as the swim caps they gave to the men. Bright yellow and neon green swim caps would be so much better. It’s so disappointing to realize that what you thought was a buoy was just some guy you are passing.

I took off among other swimmers and sighted often and well enough to stay on course. The tower was always in the right place. But before I got half way, I realized no one was around me. Apparently, my plan was no one else’s plan. I looked around and swam toward shore and other swim caps that had the same destination. But I was never really close enough to anyone else until I entered Waimea Bay. And even then I felt alone. A water patrol guy on a jet ski circled me and I thought for sure I was last. I always think the worst.

Before we started I was hanging out with my masters teammates and they suggested I swim with them. I wish I had as they finished about 16 minutes before me. If anything I would have had a faster start. Then I went over to talk to my other teammates. One of them asked if I was going to swim in their chain and I said, sure if that’s OK. Well, it wasn’t. I was told no. I couldn’t find my masters friends so I went into the water, alone among 500 or so other swimmers.

For ocean swim races, we are trained to draft off the bubbles of the swimmers before you. The problem for me is that all of a sudden I’m alone making my own bubbles. I have found peace as a solo swimmer at sea.

Ocean swimming is my Zen. I enjoy the feel of the water, the rhythm of my breathing and my arms as I watch the action below. Sometimes I am surrounded by nothing but blue. It is deep, lonely and peaceful. When I first started a sting ray skimmed the bottom below us. Beneath me a school of needlefish pointed toward Kauai as I headed toward Waimea. My Garmin stats indicate I stayed the course better than I had before.

When I got to a buoy, and I still don’t know if it was the first of two or the only one out there before the bay, I checked my Garmin and it said I had been swimming 40 minutes (winners were dried off by then). So I figured that I probably would finish at about 1:20:xx. I checked for the tower, looked around for other swimmers (too far away), and swam with renewed determination, finishing at 01:16:14 (last year I did it in 53 minutes. Currents can be so fickle). The giant boulders below were a deep blue, dappled with coral heads and sea urchins, uhu and humuhumunukunukuapuaa darted in and out of the shadows.

All of a sudden this huge push of energy swooshed right under my torso. There were no other swimmers near me, so it couldn’t have been a kick. I stopped and looked left and behind me and saw a big turtle about 12 feet away. I didn’t look right. I wondered if there was something chasing that turtle, and that something would be a shark. As an ocean swimmer, I constantly think about the possibility of a shark chasing me. I’ve seen them while I was out surfing, I’ve had a big something bang up against my leg while sitting on a surfboard, but when you’re swimming, there isn’t anything to hold onto except your thoughts.

I realized that if a shark wanted me it would have me and no one would have known. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have known either. And the organizers wouldn’t have realized it until my chip, #115, didn’t make it to shore. My husband would be waiting at the finish, camera poised, taking pictures of everyone else while waiting for me to show up. I hope I always do.

This has been a tough year for me. I’ve done my absolute best to stay positive. That swoosh of energy, that flutter that stopped me in my swim, felt like the swift kick in the stomach that keeps coming at me in 2013. I’m holding on because I know that flutters can feel good, too. Rearranging my world to assure they happen.

Whole Hearted, Half Assed.


I wish I had a tech T-shirt that said “I’d Rather be Riding my Road Bike,” that I could wear while running. That way everyone who saw me running wouldn’t think I was putting in a half-assed effort but that … Continue reading

The Thrill of the Hunt


This gallery contains 2 photos.

It is difficult to explain to our observers why we do what we do. I am often asked why I torture myself by trying to be a triathlete. Although I am always training for an event somewhere in the future, … Continue reading