Infrared Yoga and Recovery, Healing and Optimism

Before I get to the yoga part:

On Saturday, September 6, I swam in the inaugural North Shore 5k Swim, finishing in less than two hours, and in third place women’s fin division. What a great finish to a great race season. The week before my finish in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim was considerably slower, thanks to the current. That swim really beat me up. But, I absolutely adore swimming in the ocean. I will confess I spend the first third of an ocean race wondering if I will be a meal. Then, when I start passing other swimmers, I gain confidence and find a comfortable pace. My final third is usually quite charged with enthusiasm. I haven’t been eaten, I passed a few other swimmers so I won’t be DFL, and I rise out of the water having accomplished one more great thing.

Triathlons and triathlon training push me beyond limits I ever thought possible. Coaches demand more and I try to deliver. As a result of that, and as a result of aging, I feel like my body would prefer to be in a constant state of rest. But try telling my mind that! Try telling my ego that it’s time for me to sit on the sidelines! It won’t happen.

The Yoga Part

I decided to take up yoga during the offseason to improve my flexibility, ease the aches of arthritis and combat the osteoporosis that is turning my bones into brittle mesh. My research and the timing of a great Groupon deal resulted in my signing on with at the Aina Haina Shopping Center. So far I’ve gone to six sessions, and last night I completed my fourth day in a row. It is getting easier, but it’s always challenging.

I put my mat and yoga towel down in a spot away from the infrared lights and wait for the class to begin. I have found that the more crowded the class, the harder it is for me to complete all the exercises. Maybe I am wrong, but it feels as though there is less oxygen when there are more bodies.

Everyone advises that when you attend yoga, you check your ego at the door. It’s easy for chunky chicks like me to check it. But it’s really hard to not look around and feel so outclassed and so far behind the lithe and limber superhumans that fill the room. I don’t even meet eyes with anyone. Four years ago I burst my right Achilles tendon. After it was surgically reattached, that tendon is a little shorter than the other, making it difficult to do some of the yoga poses symmetrically. No one knows that, so I figure I look lazy.

For me, yoga will not only have to help me get my body to that flexible and ready point for the next triathlon season, but it will also have to work on my spirit and mind. I have to give myself permission to feel worthy enough to say hi and enjoy what others bring to the class.

Years ago I took yoga at The Oahu Club with yogi Vishnu, a black dude with long dreadlocks, who taught at a variety places. When he left Hawaii, I had no desire to practice with anyone else. I tried, but I had developed a habit that got thrown off by the styles of other teachers. This time I’ve decided to not get too hung up on a teacher but to go with the flow.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to hop with my two legs out of downward facing dog, as I just gingerly step my legs up so I don’t fall. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my stomach flat enough that my forehead rests easily on my knee, massaging my internal organs and creating all kinds of great results with my digestive tract. At the end of class, I look like I got stuck in a downpour. This girl doesn’t prance out looking all spiritual and glowing. So far I have resisted the urge to go to the Starbucks next door or through the McDonald’s drive-thru across the parking lot after yoga. Yay me.

Another thing I’m looking for in my yoga practice is developing more patience and forgiving myself for all the things I think I do wrong. Because one of the things we’re asked to check at the door are all those things that are bugging us in the world. What’s past is done, and there’s nothing left to do about it. What’s in the future is unknown, so there’s no reason to worry about it. All I need to do is be present and welcome this one-hour gift.

Health, Happiness and Relevance

My triathlons for 2014 are behind me. The 2014 North Shore Swim Series is complete. I’m still feeling the effects of Labor Day’s Waikiki Roughwater Swim, thanks to some Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish stings on my left arm and torso (into my suit?) with an itch that’s hard to resist. One more race in 2014 to go, the inaugural North Shore 5K Swim, from Sunset Beach to Waimea Bay. I’ve decided to participate in this one using fins. So this morning I went to Kaimana Beach and tested my new TYR fins that I got at Boca Hawaii, swimming to the windsock three times and back. I definitely feel I can handle this, but I’ve never had to get fins on or off during a race, so that’ll be a new factor. During ocean swims, especially when doing triathlons, I don’t kick much because I need to save my legs for the bike and run. So putting these fins on and actually using my legs was super fun. I couldn’t get over how much faster I was. I think that every time I go into the ocean from now on I am wearing fins. Wheeeeeeeee!

Since I am now in my off season for triathlon training, I bought a Groupon for yoga. I’ve been thinking about how stiff I am, how hard it is for me to sit on the floor, to get up, even to get out of the car after a long drive. I’m not ready for my body to seize up and age in place (like a pillar of salt?) when my spirit has no intention! Last night I went to Sun Yoga at the Aina Haina Shopping Center for my first class of hot yoga. Sun Yoga incorporates infrared lights and it really heats things up. I couldn’t fully participate. I’m not sure what was happening. I would get dizzy and I’d have to sit or lay down while everyone else was posing. I felt very conspicuous, but I realize that I’m new at it and there will be adjustments. I am optimistic. I’ve been told the first class is the most challenging. I expect the first week to be the most challenging. Every bone, muscle and joint in my body resisted the yogi’s directions. While there were a few women who had been practicing for a little bit longer than me, two thirds of the class were lithe, striking beauties, some of whom I doubted were out of their twenties. There’s really no point in comparing ourselves with a younger generation, right?

I used to take yoga when the girls were tots. We belonged to The Oahu Club and I attended sessions taught by a yogi named Vishnu, a black guy with long dreads and a mysterious background. When he left Hawaii I stopped going to the yoga classes there. So it’s been about six years since I was in a yoga setting. Add the trendy heat factor, add my being about six years older, add my right foot being about 1/4 inch shorter than the other and add absolutely no elasticity in my joints, and you don’t have to wonder why I spent a good third of the class trying to breathe and not faint.

But I survived. The instructor, Michele Santos, was very nurturing and I felt safe. I slept really well last night, and didn’t wake up until after 5. Usually I wake up between 2-3 a.m. and what a party that can be, especially if the cat is on to me.

I don’t know if I have depression or what, but there are times when I feel irrelevant and that life isn’t worth living. I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t have a real job. I am also very realistic, so I think the freelance writing and the substitute teaching are perfect for me because they offer so many variables: different stories to write, lots of different people to talk to about their projects, different subjects to teach, several classes of students a day, finishing in the afternoon and having me time or family time after hours.

Fortunately, I always think about my family and that keeps me from doing something foolish. They are worth living for. We always try to see what lessons the universe is teaching us in times that suck. For me, I think, it’s to live simpler and love fully.


Duke’s Ocean Mile 2013


Waikiki Roughwater Swim 2012 commemorative swimsuit fits in 2013. Yay.

Three times a charm. Deep breath. Pleasantly surprised that among the hits to the blog were a handful of people looking to read about the Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile. They probably hit on the last two years’ entries. Here is the entry for 2013.



Beach starts are my husband’s favorite to photograph. The bodies, the swimsuits, the waves, the sand, the sky, the clouds, Hawaii. It is truly beautiful. Swimmers in all shapes and sizes and ages come out for these open-ocean swims to test their mettle against each other and against themselves. I’d like to report that I improved on last year’s time, but I didn’t by nearly two minutes, which I think I lost when I had to dodge here and there to get around the thrashing arms and legs in the bottlenecks at the start and around the buoys. My time was 00:38:03, and I’m actually quite pleased with that. I came in 26th in my age group of 50-59, of 35 women. This should tell you how kick-ass women over 50 are. OMG. Competitive much?

Men first, women second. It always feels good to pass a few guys on my way in.

Men first, women second. It always feels good to pass a few guys on my way in.

I am certainly in better shape than last year for having trained in the spring for the Ironman 70.3 that occurred in early June. I continued my training with TryFitness for the Hawaii Tinman, I now train with my masters team at The Oahu Club, and I’m also getting coached by Rachel Ross through Runspo. I’m now back on an aquajog regimen to get that plantar fasciitis healed once and for all. That’s on the left foot. My right knee is a pain in the ass and it keeps me from having a good night’s sleep. Cortisone and SynVisc-One injections alternate throughout the year. Might be time to see Dr. Chun at the Kaiser sports clinic pretty soon. I was going to do the Marathon Readiness Series, but it’s time to respect the healing process. Next up? Waikiki Roughwater Swim and the Na Wahine Festival. I’m doing the Swim and Spin event because those are the things I love the most. Swim, bike, SUP, fun.

No matter how big a buoy is, I have a hard time spotting them while swimming.

No matter how big a buoy is, I have a hard time spotting them while swimming.

Did I say SUP?  Last week when the winds were scarce and Maunalua Bay was glassy, I took out my million-pound SUP three times and got back into the groove. Wobbled a bit at first, but it wasn’t a disaster. Enjoyed it even. Maybe I will dust off the surfboard one of these days.

Waves wash away our footprints.

Waves wash away our footprints.

Gaining traction with my freelance writing assignments. My life is changing. You’ll probably want a garden update soon. And we have Comet’s ashes in a beautiful koa box. There’s a lot to appreciate.


Photos by John Bender. 

Swim with the Fishes

Vertra Elemental Resistance Mick Fanning 28spf facial sunblock and a huge microfiber towel. Mahalo!

Vertra Elemental Resistance Mick Fanning 28spf facial sunblock and a huge microfiber towel. Mahalo!

My second North Shore Swim Series complete, I now look ahead to the Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile Swim on August 24, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Labor Day, and the Na Wahine Festival in September.

I love and I loathe open ocean swims. I love being in the water, I love the rise and fall of the waves, timing my breathing to be on top and clear to keep my eye on the horizon. I love seeing the fish swim beneath me, the turtles flutter by, the coral heads of blue, orange, and gold growing on giant volcanic boulders that hide secrets in every crevice. And I have to admit I’m a little scared, so that’s what I loathe about ocean swims. You really can never be too comfortable. Honestly, swimming out of one’s comfort zone is what makes ocean swimmers remarkable.

Fun waves at Pipeline at the start. Wheeeeee!

Fun waves at Pipeline at the start. Wheeeeee!

We swim as a pod of people, a school of swimmers, a herd of humans. I often think of those nature documentaries where the hungry beasts of prey take down the easiest, the smallest, and the weakest. Natural selection. Who will it be? What beasts linger along the edges, watching and not bothering with us? Thankfully we don’t taste good.

Courtesy of Steve's Gardening Services, a Native Hawaiian plant for participating in the whole series.

Courtesy of Steve’s Gardening Service, a Native Hawaiian plant, Pohinahina, for participating in the whole series.

A few weeks ago when I was in the Chun’s Reef to Waimea Bay swim and that flutter occurred right beneath me, I was frightened. My friend Barb asked me if it made me ink! Damn near, LOL! I looked up and I was so far from other swimmers. For this last swim I managed to stay inside to avoid much of the current and I kept other swimmers in my sight. It’s kind of trippy when you do these swims. You’re around people and then all of a sudden you’re not. You’re in each other’s way and then the gaps grow.

I expected this last and longest swim to keep me in the water for about two hours. I started off at a good pace and I wondered if I could keep that up for two hours. My coaches at The Oahu Club have really helped me get better with my stroke technique. My head is face down so my legs stay on the surface, I no longer stroke with my hand sliding forward before going down, my elbows peak at the right point to help me conserve energy. My goggles were a little foggy. I could keep track of the buoys this time (I think there were five or six), and I tried to pay attention to where the church tower was. When I got to Waimea Bay with several other swimmers, a water patrol guy pointed us toward the beach. I couldn’t believe it! I was almost done and that church tower didn’t stay in my face for 45 minutes like it did last year!

I poured it on and managed to get out of the water, up the steep sandy beach without falling, and across the timing mat in 01:32:14:4, about 27 minutes faster than last year! Yay! No pics of me coming out of the ocean EVER. OMG those are the worst pictures of anyone! Mercy!!!

The Vertra microfiber towel is thin enough to wear as a scarf! Mahalo, Rae!

The Vertra microfiber towel is thin enough to wear as a scarf! Mahalo, Rae!

One of the really fun things about these swims is that I volunteer to help with the check in with the Waikiki Swim Club, which I joined this year. Talk about a lovely group of people! I don’t know if it’s swimmers in general or ocean swimmers in particular, but these events have a very sweet and friendly vibe about them. WAIT. There is that one part where all that friendliness goes down the tubes: The START, which is about a minute of mosh pit, mash, slash, and splash of limbs and claws. No matter how great I feel at the end of these swims, the beginnings give me anxiety! It’s not like I know I could win, I just want to not finish last! I don’t expect a trophy, but I do like to get back to shore before the Tropilicious ice cream, Jamba Juice, Waialua coffee and chocolates, and North Shore Soap Factory liquid soaps run out! Especially the mint one! And for the grand finale, Steve’s Gardening Service presented each swimmer who participated in all four swims with a Native Hawaiian Plant. I’m still deciding where to put our new Pohinahina!

Speaking of prizes, while I was helping with the check-in, Rae of the Surf and Sea Swim Series let me know that I won a Vertra Elemental Resistance sunscreen gift pack! There was some fun and banter on the S&SSS Facebook page and I was one of three people selected! Scored a great microfiber towel and SPF28 face stick sunblock with surfer Mick Fanning pictured on the box. Mahalo, Rae and Vertra!

And of course, how would any of us get to do these events if it weren’t for Chris Gardner? You can tell he works hard on these events, probably working on sponsorships a year in advance! He’s gotta keep the fishermen happy, the lua company in line, the buses running on time, all the while talking on his PA system, blowing the horn at the start, coordinating results from Timeline Hawaii before announcing winners and giving out trophies. A weekend without Chris is kind of a drag! It was especially touching that Chris gave out awards in honor of Mark Foo and Ronnie Burns, two of his dear surfer friends who died too soon. I remember Mark and Ronnie. Those guys surfed fearlessly.

There’s a lot to think about when you’re swimming in the open ocean. You count your blessings. You reflect with gratitude. Swimming is such a gift.

Swim, Bike, Run, Mom. Yes, Me.

I bought this book a few months ago and last night I picked it up again. It’s by Meredith Atwood and its called “Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be A Triathlete. Yes. You.” Kona triathlete Bree Wee wrote a preface (she’s my mini hero, tiny and fast and funny), as did Chrissy Wellington, triathlete extraordinaire. And since I’ve been doing a few triathlons over the last couple of years, and still feeling like the fat old lady out there, I thought getting an autographed copy from Meredith might inspire me. I LIKED her Swim Bike Mom Facebook page, and I recommend you do the same if you’re a woman toying with the idea of loving yourself through the pain of swimming, riding bicycle, and running, without stopping, until you’re through and it’s dark and you’re not quite sure there’s anything left inside your mind or your cells or your feet.

That could be me. I’m doing the Honu Half-Ironman in Kona on June 1.

Because I’m so busy and so exhausted and so frazzed all the time, I skip around when I pick the book up. I know, I’m sorry, Meredith. I’m doing what I can! Last night while waiting for Kid1 while she was in her viola lesson, I sat in the van and read the chapter about nutrition. And a lot of it was about the SCALE. The. DREADED. SCALE. Meredith talks about how that mofo drives her up the wall. She spoke of disconnecting from the scale, and she addressed the input she got from others of how they couldn’t give up the scale.

This morning, I wish I had not gotten on the scale. But I did, and I’m pretty sure there’s a dark and gray cloud hovering over me now.

Why did I get on the scale? Well, for the last three weeks I’ve eliminated white flour. I’ve made whole-wheat thin pizza crusts, whole-wheat, home-made pasta, ate more fruit and veggies than ever, cut back on sweetened coffee, and even drank less wine (ME!). My waist looked a little thinner this morning. The fat pants slid on and had room. But I’m still in fat pants. So I got on the scale. And I could have cried.

But let’s put it this way: My fat pants have always been the same size: 12. I really like being a size 10, and that can’t be too hard to get back down to. When I weighed 30 pounds less I wore a size 12. You see how weird this is? To weigh tons more and still get to say fat pants are size 12? And give me this: I’m 54 and my body has been sticking its toe in the menopause pool for two years now. I think I’m in the middle of it, or getting through it now, but you can never be sure. It has thickened my waist. I cannot stand it. I have friends, fellow women triathletes, who are older than me and have slimmed down. I’m hopeful.

On March 12 I begin Honu training with my TryFitness sisters. We’ll meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sundays. Kid1&2 can’t wait! Mom will be working out and maybe start feeling better about herself again. I know my husband likes the after effects of a wife who’s worked out. He’s looking forward to getting his happy wife back.

I’m a little terrified about the Honu. Last Saturday I was in the Haleiwa Sprint Triathlon. While swimming among the thrash of other swimmers, I thought how much I hated it. But I knew I had to get through it, and so I incorporated some of the training Joe and Tom Lileikis taught me during Masters swimming at The Oahu Club: I moved my arms up and down along my body, keeping them close, avoiding connecting with the other swimmers, it worked and I moved efficiently through the water. Despite the dizziness as I emerged, my swim time was pretty good. I knew that once I was on my bicycle I could get a jump on how slow my run would be. My leg problems (healed burst tendon, knee pain, swelling, excess fluid, and now plantar fasciitis in the other foot) are a bit of a pain to work out. My sports doctor says I should just stop running, but he says it’s OK with him if I do triathlons because it’s not all running.

About those fat pants: Surely, the new eating habits will pay off, right? I can’t give up.

My First Waikiki Roughwater Swim


This gallery contains 7 photos.

Labor Day weekend was full of pain for me, but it was also full of joy. The Ride: Joy. On Saturday I joined my TryFitness Hawaii Na Wahine Festival training group for our 2-3 hour workout. It was primarily a … Continue reading

The Bitch Inside


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Yesterday I swam in the Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile Swim and finished with a time of 36:17:00. There were about 400 people competing, with the men launching 5 minutes before the women. Before the start, I was standing around waiting … Continue reading