Thursday, May 7, 2009

All the News That’s Shocking to Print

I narrowly escaped death by blow dryer this week. While I was arranging my locks, my grip slipped and my blow dryer tumbled out of my hand, hit the counter, did a triple Lutz, and splash-landed into the john. At the sound of the little zzzzt-pfff, I jumped back looked at my hands and limbs, ascertained that I was still alive (and still had straight hair), and quickly unplugged the cord.

For a few moments I just stood there in slight shock and then I started to laugh. It just seemed so funny. I’d been thinking of changing my ‘do to something easier. Was this a sign that I should get a “bowl” cut?

The day before, I was at my gym early to train for the Danskin triathlon and pulled on my Speedo swim cap to protect my hair. I know that professional swimmers probably love these things, but I can’t figure out for whose tiny heads these were designed – certainly not my Jolly Green Giant knob. I have to fold it, roll it, and cajole it onto my noggin. Forget covering the ears – it starts slipping up the moment it’s on and demands constant adjustment to keep it from popping off in the water. What I really want is one of those old models with the big daisies springing up all over and a nice fat chin strap – now that’s a classy look!

That morning during the tug of war, a big handful of the cap fell apart in my palm. Undaunted I cocked it around and started my laps, grateful that I was the only one at the pool. I enjoyed an entire hour by myself practicing the strokes that would serve me best in the upcoming half-mile water course. Of the triathlon challenges, the swim's the most daunting. Not only is it physically taxing for a mediocre swimmer, with the cutesy caps it lacks the glamour of, say, getting spiffed up in tennis whites.

But the varied training infuses fun in my fitness plan. It motivates me to keep moving and challenges me to push my limits. The medals are a big plus – I can’t think of anything since winning our grade school spelling bee that has made me feel so special. During my first triathlon orientation, they asked the question: when was the last time you did something that you were afraid to do? I must stay that getting into that water with waves of other folks passing you by is pretty intimidating.

Biking, though, has always been a great pleasure – even since my first ride without training wheels. It just looked so hard, maintaining balance on two wheels. I lacked the confidence to believe that I’d ever be able to do it and imagined breaking bone upon bone tumbling across the driveway. But one day my brother, who was supposed to be holding on to the back, just let go. I was far across our yard before I caught on that I was riding solo. And when I realized it, I promptly fell over. But I got up and rode independently from then on, without ever looking back.

For me, the event has never been about finishing under a certain time, it’s been about finishing. Period. So when it comes to the 5K run, the final portion of the triathlon, I prefer to walk at least half of it. Texas in June can be monstrous, so I pace myself according to the heat index and the distance between watering stations. As it’s tipping up toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I take my time and tank up like a camel.

When the end is in sight, I like to run across the finish line – I feel more like a champion. When they slip that medal around your neck after you cross the threshold, it's impossible not to grin like a beet-faced Alfred E. Newman. The inscription reads: The woman who started the race is not the same woman who finishes the race. How true.

So what was the last thing you did that really scared you? Have you pushed yourself beyond your supposed limits to reach a goal recently? Have you shocked yourself at what you can achieve with focused effort? What training wheels are you ready to shed?

While you’re mulling it over, I’ll be looking for someone who can give me a good bowl cut.