Ghosts of Tennis Past.

This weekend, I spent time with people from my tennis past. One of my former coaches was in town. He gathered some of his players for a tournament that was affected by the weather we’ve been having. Storms. Major storms. Floods. Even tornado warnings. I would have spent more time out at the club on Monday, cheering and reconnecting with some people from my junior tennis days, but the rains came, so I hunkered down at home. That gave me a lot of time to think about whether tennis can or should be part of my future. Continue reading

Tennis Again.

I played tennis yesterday for the first time in too long. At first, my friend Trevor and I just hit. Then we served. Then we decided to play a set. Then we decided to play another set. Overall, we played for almost two hours. I had a great time, even though he beat me badly. But this morning? Holy moly, everything hurts. My thighs, my butt, my back, my arms. Everything just hurts. Continue reading

My Dinner With Coach.

The night before I flew out of town for Memorial Day weekend, I met one of my high school tennis coaches, his family, and another player and her mom for dinner. I played for this coach my sophomore year of high school. I played the number one spot for girls’ singles and doubles, but I did so under the shadow of the previous year’s number one player, who was a far better player than I and had a much better ranking in the state than I did. In short, the year hurt, partly because I had to change schools because my family moved and partly because I thought the coach didn’t like me. I found out at dinner the other night that he didn’t dislike me. In fact, he gifted me with one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Continue reading

Wednesday List #26 – Things That Are Growing

I’m feeling positive as I approach my personal new year, so today’s list has an upbeat undertone to it. So much is growing in my life. Here are some things that I consider to be particularly fun.

  1. My Tree: At the finish line in Portland this weekend, I received a medal, a t-shirt, a charm, a coin and a tree. Yes, a tree. The tree came in a little paper cup like you would see by an office cooler. The tree is most certainly the most unusual finish line gift I have ever received, but I was in Portland, so perhaps I should not have been surprised. I flew the tree home with me and planted it. (Okay, Mom planted it, but whatever.) Cute, huh? Here’s to hoping that it stays with me.tree
  2. The Number of Books I Carry: I’ve always loved blank books. I carry a journal with me pretty much everywhere I go because I never know when I’ll find time to write. The same is true for my “to do” book. These are my fundamentals, but I have a number of other books I carry too. I have a book that I use for note-taking during writing workshops, Jeanne Guy gatherings, or lectures at the Seton Cove. I started a quote book a while back. I also have a book that I use for jotting down ideas for stories or articles. I have another book that I keep in my purse for thoughts, books suggestions, or notes about conversations with random people, like those I meet on the plane. I also carry a book for poems and lyric ideas. Finally, I carry what I call my Oregon book. My Oregon book is about more than Oregon. In it, I keep a list of my dreams – not the kind that come when I sleep, but the kind that come when I’m wide awake.Books
  3. The Number of Bags I Carry: I live in the country and work in town, so I often find myself “living” out of my car. This means I carry a number of bags. I carry my purse, my work bag, my lunch bag, my writing bag, my gym bag for getting ready for work after morning workouts, a running bag for my after-work trail runs, and most recently, a tennis bag. At times, I look pretty ridiculous, and my big boss calls me a bag lady, but my system of bags works for me.bags
  4. My List of Trips for 2014: I knew long ago that 2013 would be a year of travel. I thought 2014 would be a year of sitting my happy butt at home and restoring the coffers a bit, but that doesn’t seem to be where my year is headed. I’ve got Africa in December and the first half of January. I have races in St. George in May, Coeur d’Alene in June, and Portland in October.  I’d like to find one more marathon to run, so I can keep up my streak of three marathons in one year. I also want to go to British Columbia in July to see the new Ironman Canada venue. Then I have some personal trips I want to make. I want to see my Exeter roommate Karyn and her family. Jenny and I want to hit Chicago (after years of talking about it) for a Cubs game. I want to visit Gretchen in Washington in the summer so that she can take me to Mount Ranier. I want to visit Ann in New England so we can run a race together. I want to get back to DC since I missed my trip last year, so I can see Meghan and Anthony. I’d also like to plan a trip with my cousins Tina and Matt because the three of us are really liking one another in our old ages. And that’s what I know for now. So much for a planted 2014!
  5. My Hopefulness: I’m feeling really good about where I’m headed. Work is going well. My training is going well. I’m enjoying my old friends and making new ones. I’m writing more. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m getting excited about what a few people have separately described to me as the kindness that comes with turning 40. In the last few weeks, three different people have told me that turning 40 made them go easier on themselves. They became more accepting of who they are, less concerned about what other people think, and more forgiving of themselves when they either don’t want to do something or don’t do something exactly right. I’m ready, I think, to settle into myself more and do a little less “shoulding” on myself. Call me crazy, but I’m starting to feel pretty good about things, including turning 40.

It’s fun to think about the little joys – the ways things are happening in life that feel healthy and right. It’s also fun to think and write about them with a cute little critter staring at me from behind the computer screen, like this:Butter

That cute little critter is my Butter. My love for my Butter is also growing every day, but that’s a whole different story.

Happy Wednesday, y’all.

Different Kinds of Fitness.

I’ve been less sore after an Ironman than I am today. I did one session with a trainer yesterday morning – the first in about a year – and I feel as though I went from a couch to a marathon with no preparation whatsoever. How is it possible that one hour of movements can cause this much pain?

I gripe, but I love this feeling. It’s been a rich few days of workouts. I did my 8-mile trail run on Saturday. I ran 7 miles on Sunday. Yesterday, I did the trainer session and swam in the morning and then went on a five-mile walk at a solid pace with my friend Ilene after work. This morning, Kerry and I ran five miles. I love working hard, and I love the tiredness that comes from feeling like I’ve worked hard. And yes, I even love the pain. Dammit, Jake.

I know my arms are sore because of the push-ups and weights we did. I think my legs are sore primarily from an exercise where Jake had me stand on a bench and lower myself into a squat on one leg while I kept the raised leg out in front of me. I got to use Jake’s arm for balance and for aid in getting back up out of the squat. It was tough. Apparently people can do this one-legged thing even on the ground. Right now, I can barely do it on a bench with the help of Jake’s arm.

This is a lesson for me that “fit” means lots of different things. Ironman fit doesn’t mean I can handle strength work. Running fit doesn’t mean I can handle swimming. Bike fit doesn’t mean I can handle running. Swimming fit doesn’t mean I can handle yoga. And none of this means that I can handle tennis, which is something I’m considering getting back into. Tennis? Yes, tennis.

I played a ton as a kid. Mom and I traveled all across the state and even the country playing tournaments until I was about 16 and totally burned out. Some of my friends are still playing, and others have recently taken it back up. In Connecticut, my friend Sarah runs a tennis club, and on my recent visit, I got to see the club and watch her play paddle tennis, which involves a smaller court, a solid racket, and, I think, more finesse than tennis. I loved being at her club and seeing the lessons and even just seeing my dear friend on a court again. Her movements on the court were so familiar, even twenty years later, that I recognized her immediately when I drove into the parking lot of her club.

Last time I played tennis with any kind of consistency, I was playing with my friends Don and Corky when I sort of tweaked my knee and decided that I better stick with repetitive movement one-directional sports to avoid injury. Now, I think I’m ready to give it a try again. Maybe I can get stronger so that all the little tweaks and movements don’t cause me pain. Maybe I can get to where I enjoy the competition once again. Perhaps most importantly to me, maybe I can reconnect with old friends and develop a community of women who play a few times a week.

There are these really cute old guys at my gym who meet most mornings for racquetball and then sit in the cafe and have coffee and some kind of pastry or cake that one of them brought. They are darling men who keep mugs with their names on them at the gym cafe, as well as one mug that says “Guest” because they like to include others in their fun. I love seeing them. I love hearing their laughter and their teasing of one another. It’s charming.

I’m not ready to be a little old lady at the club, but I do feel like I’m setting down roots. Tennis would be a nice way to be both active and social. But tennis is hard on the body – harder, in my opinion, than triathlon, even Ironman. So I need to be strong to make it work.

Yesterday was a good step towards strength. I’m hopeful that every little bit of pain I feel now will spare me some pain if I step out on the court again and as I get older. For many reasons, it’s hard to get older, but lots of people get stronger as they get older. I intend to be one of them.

Partners.

I arrived at the Austin airport ridiculously early this morning and ran into Alicyn, my doubles partners from my days of junior tennis. What are the chances that I would run into Alicyn on my way to New Haven, where I am going to visit my doubles partner from my boarding school days? Those sorts of coincidences make me think I’m doing the right things with my life these days.

Heading out to see Sarah and running into Alicyn totally got me thinking about my days of playing tennis. I spent hours and hours, both before and after school on the tennis court. I was living in Corpus Christi at the time, and Mom and I travelled constantly on the weekends for tournaments in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, Wichita Falls and eventually to California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and elsewhere, as I became a national player. We were always on the go. I regularly packed and unpacked, always hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything important, like my tennis racket, shoes or bloomers. (Yes, I wore skirts and, therefore, had to wear bloomers. Tennis clothes weren’t terribly cool back in the day.)

I realized that, in many ways, I’m still living that life. I workout before and after work. I travel lots across the country, and many times, Mom still travels with me. I’m constantly making lists so I don’t forget my bike shoes, gloves, race belt, lucky hat, or lucky socks. The differences are that I’m doing triathlons and running, rather than playing tennis. I’m making the plans instead of playing whatever tournaments Mom signed me up for. And I’m competing only with myself. (The clothes are still pretty uncool, except for the finishers’ clothes. Those are super cool.)

I wonder if I would have embraced the races I do now if I hadn’t been an athlete as a little kid. I’ve always juggled my activities. I’ve always loved being physical in some way. I’ve always enjoyed working hard and then putting my feet up with a good book. As a kid, I put my feet up in the back of the car while Mom drove me home from tournaments. These days, I’m putting my feet up in hotels.

Then and now, I’ve made incredible friends through my sports.  In my youth, tennis was about Alicyn, Sarah, Michelle, Teri, Anne, Heather, Jennifer, Tina, Ericca, David, and others. Today, triathlons and runs are about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin, Catherine, Kerry, Poppe, Jenny, Fred, MJ,  Judy, Betsy, and so many more. My tennis trophies are in boxes in my garage. I suspect some day, my race medals will be too. (Maybe not the Ironman medals!) But the people I met along the way remain in my heart as the best part of what I did then and what I do now.

I remember being in Hurst-Euless-Bedford are playing a match with Alicyn. I had just screwed up a point, and we stood at the back fence trying to rally one another’s spirits. I stood with my back to the fence, and I got so angry at myself that I banged the edge of my racket against the fence behind me. Little did I know that we stood right by a pole. I heard the crack of my racket when it hit the pool. Oops. That broken racket would be a tough one to explain to my mother. At that point we laughed so hard. I don’t remember if we won or lost the match, but I remember that we laughed.

That I recall laughter that took place more than twenty-five years ago tells me that I was doing something right then. And that I see my friend today and still feel the same warmth towards her that I did when we were kids trying to find our way on the tennis court tells me that what came out of tennis for me was not a skill or a drive to athleticism. I ended up with sweet and wonderful friendships. Lots of sweet and wonderful friendships.

I remember the day Jeanie called me in 2007 and told me to log onto ironman.com. I remember the cheerleading she did. When I reminded her about the size of my ass, she quickly assured me that it was the size of my heart that mattered. I remember the shock and the joy of registering for that first Ironman, and I remember all of the laughter and the occasional tears shed along the way as we trained that first year. I remember the race, but mostly, when I think about Coeur d’Alene in 2008, I think about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda and Robin and the friendships that grew out of that race.

I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met along the way. I’m so grateful for each and every partner through my adventures. Then and now.

Go Dance.

My dance instructor thinks I’m a complete idiot. I think he does, anyway. In fact, I’m so confident that he does that I would bet Bread and Butter on it.

I’m taking swing and two-step lessons right now. I started one month ago and have taken eight group classes and three private lessons. There’s a lot I can do now that I couldn’t do four weeks ago. I can do turns and spins. I can get into and out of what they call a “shadow” position. I can modify my three-step swing movements into a jitterbug. I’ve learned a lot of mechanics, but I’m not terribly smooth at them because I have no balance. I have no rhythm either, but my instructor tells me that I don’t have to have rhythm. I only have to worry about the lead’s rhythm. Balance, on the other hand, is my responsibility.

So tonight, we worked on balance, which meant we spent much of the hour doing “simple” pivot turns down the dance floor. My instructor is incredibly graceful at them. Me? Not so much. I can’t keep straight which foot my weight is supposed to be on and which direction I’m supposed to turn. I kept having to ask.  Our conversations went much like this:

Taline: So which foot am I supposed to be on?

Instructor: The Left.

Taline: Which way am I winding up?

Instructor: To the Left.

Taline: So I’m turning to the right?

Instructor: Yes, to the right, over the right shoulder.

Taline: So what we’re doing now is the opposite of what we just did?

Instructor: No. It’s exactly what we just did. It’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the last half hour.

Oy. What am I doing? Why am I putting myself through this dance business? Why am I subjecting myself to the embarrassment and subjecting my instructor to the torture of dealing with a complete incompetent on the dance floor?

Because I have to. I have got to get more comfortable in my own skin and learning to dance is the only PG rated way I can think of to do that.

I remembering being a kid and taking tennis lessons from a coach who didn’t understand me one bit. One night, Jack and I were working on my serve, and he demonstrated what he wanted without tossing the ball and without actually striking anything. He just demonstrated the motion. Then he told me to show him the motion he’d just shown me.  I stood there for at least a half hour refusing to pretend to serve, and he got more and more frustrated with me with each passing minute. What he was asking me to do was quite simple. But I couldn’t do it.  What Jack didn’t understand was that I wasn’t comfortable enough in my own skin to mimic a motion with my body while he watched.

That’s what dance feels like to me. Sober, I don’t feel the music, and my movements feel artificial and forced. So it’s hard for me. Anytime there’s dance involved in a social setting, I spend much of my time sitting on the sidelines while the person I’m with gets more and more frustrated with each passing minute.

That needs to change. I want that to change. So I’m taking lessons, and I will get comfortable on a dance floor. I will get comfortable in my own skin. It might take me months or years. It will most certainly take a ridiculous amount of patience on my poor instructor’s part. But I will get it eventually. I know that because I’m an Ironman, which means that I don’t quit and that anything is possible.  And maybe I’ll even manage to convince my instructor that I’m not the idiot I initially appeared to be.