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The Undeniable Ruth

Training for Ironman Mont Tremblant 2021

I’m doing my first full Ironman race in 229 days – Ironman Mont Tremblant in Canada. I was supposed to do it last year, but the race was cancelled, and we all got deferred to this year.

I’ve never done heroin, but this is what I say every time I pay for something expensive related to my race.

What is the Ironman?

The Ironman is a triathlon, composed of the following distances:

  • 2.4-mile (open water) swim, then a
  • 112-mile bike, followed by a
  • 26.2 (full marathon) run,

All in under 17 hours.

The race starts at 7am, and you must finish before midnight to be an official Ironman.

Why Are You Doing This?

I learned a long time ago that if I don’t have a race or other athletic event on my calendar, I will not be motivated to work out.

I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to do something I’ve never done before. Races like this take dedication and mental toughness to get through not just race day but also the training to prepare for the race.

In 2017, I hired David Roher to help me train to complete my first marathon. During Mile 20 of the race, even though every part of my body hurt, I knew I wanted to do more marathons. I knew David did triathlons and coached triathletes, so I expanded my training in the off season to include swimming and biking as cross-training. Within months, I was signing up for my first sprint triathlon. About 30 seconds into that race, I knew triathlons were for me. I did the Half Ironman in 2019, and after that went well, I signed up for a full Ironman.

Are You Following a Program, Have a Coach, or Creating Your Own Thing?

Coach David is overseeing my training. Every Sunday, I get a text from him with my workouts for the week. Most weeks, I have two swim workouts, two bike workouts (one on the stationary trainer, one outside), two run workouts, and a rest day. I also have strength work that I do three times a week and stretches that I do every day. 

In addition to this, I also go to physical therapy once a week. I’ve been having long-term issues with my hips and back. My physical therapist is also an Ironman, which is helpful, because she has a greater understanding of my goals as well.

How Many Hours Are You Spending Training, Prepping, and Planning?

Oh geez. Right now, my shortest cardio workout is about 28 minutes (1,500-yard swim), and my longest is about 3 hours (48-mile bike ride). My strength workout is probably around an hour each time. Stretching takes around 30 minutes each day. A physical therapy session can last over 2 hours with all my exercises.  

In addition to all of this, there are other activities like checking on airline ticket prices for the race, bike maintenance, and replacing gear when it wears out like running shoes, workout clothes, and swim goggles.

In terms of diet, I mostly try to eat healthy, avoid excessive sugar, salt, and white flour. I also try to make sure I have enough protein in my diet, which might require more planning since I’m vegan.

Triathlon Shoes: Flip flops for the pool, bike shoes that clip in to my pedals, and running shoes.

What Will be the Longest Training Workout/Brick in Your Ramp Up?

That will be up to Coach David. In passing, he’s mentioned a 50-miles bike ride/5-mile run and a 100-mile bike ride/3.1-mile run.

I’m also planning to fly back East to do a 3.1-mile open water swim with my coach and the rest of the “Jewish Swim Club” in the Atlantic Ocean. During the race, I’ll be able to remind myself that swimming 2.4 miles is easier than swimming a 5k.

What Are You Most Looking Forward to Related to This Race?

So much. I’m excited to be an athlete who is capable of completing an Ironman race. Every time I can go faster, go farther, or see more muscle developing, it’s exciting.

What’s especially exciting about this race is the fact that I’ll be doing it with my coach and almost all of his other triathletes. There’s a strong sense of family and camaraderie in this group.

What Are You Least Looking Forward To?

My race is in August in Canada, but most of my training will be in Arizona. My longest workouts will be in June and July, when the low for the day can be in the high 80s. We’ll have to be careful to make sure I don’t overheat. On my long workout days, I may have to start at 2am or 3am to beat the heat.

Are You Practicing Peeing on the Bike or While Running?

To date, I haven’t needed to use the bathroom during a race. I’ve heard this is a thing. I even heard from another triathlete who was peed on by another racer while they were both on bikes. That must have happened while one was passing the other, because Ironman has strict rules about maintaining a minimum distance from other cyclists unless you’re passing.

Are You Going to Get the Tattoo?

Oh yes! I’m looking forward to getting the classic “M-Dot” tattoo.

Undeniable Recap of 2020

Oh my goodness – I’ve been living in a pandemic-based society for over eight months. All of my in-person conferences were converted to virtual ones this year, and my Ironman race was deferred until 2021. For the bulk of the year, I worked and trained. I only left the Phoenix metro area once since we all started needing masks to leave the house.

Even with the monotony, there were still some important events that happened this year:

Helping Rosie Over the Rainbow Bridge

I’d had a suspicion for months that Rosie wasn’t going to make it to end of 2020, and as her arthritis and doggy dementia added more and more challenges to her life, I helped her over the Rainbow Bridge on August 7, 2020. My eyes still well with tears when I think about losing her, but I know I made the right decision and gave her a good death.

Photo by Lauren Ellis Photography

Officiating Sarah and Thomas’ Wedding

My friends and neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, got engaged last year. I thought they were going to ask me to watch their dog while they were getting married, but to my surprise, they asked me to be their officiant. I had a blast spending time with each of them individually, asking about how they met, their relationship, and their hopes for the future. From their stories, I found themes, looked up quotes about marriage, and wove them into a short ceremony that was customized to them.

I also felt like a bit of a MacGyver that day because at the beginning of the ceremony, I had the bride and groom’s rings on my fingers (because they didn’t have a wedding party), and the bride’s handkerchief tucked into the back of my belt to hand over when she started crying since neither of us had pockets.

Singing at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

I love spending time at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary. In the winter, I was out there to help with Gracie the baby lamb with the crooked neck. At one point, I was snuggling her on my lap, and I started to sing. Aimee was awestruck and said I have the voice of an angel. Since then, she invites me out to sing whenever an animal needs extra love and attention – like Peanut the pony when he was new to the farm and scared, Duke the cow who was born without elbows, and Wooliam the sheep after he had surgery (neutered). I love when I start to sing to one animal and other animals wander over to listen too. Aimee even had me out on the Fourth of July to help keep the animals calm while the fireworks were going off.

Photo by Aimee Takaha

Releasing the Lights Camera Lawsuit Online Course

It’s been about three years in the making, but I finally finished and released my first online course, Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography. I wanted to create a course that gave the photographers the information about copyright and contracts at an affordable price, so could avoid making the painful and avoidable mistakes that I see photographers making all the time.

This course has been a journey, and probably the start of more courses to come. I had to form a separate business, create the website, hire people to create the logos and slide templates, create the lesson outlines, record and upload each lesson, and promote the course. It felt so good to bring this to market. 

Every Time Miss K Says “Oggy Ruth”

I have a nibling who lives across the country. She’s two and has brilliant blue Disney eyes. She’s so expressive. Now, I’m not a fan of children as a species, but I adore this little creature. If her parents don’t post pictures of her often enough, I’ll send them a text that says, “Send proof of child.” Since there isn’t a gender-neutral term for aunt/uncle, I picked “oggy” as my title (rhymes with “doggy”), and everyone in this kid’s life is completely on board with it. My heart melts every time I hear her say, “Oggy Ruth.”  

There were a few things that didn’t make my top five for 2020 – including going to my friend Cora’s wedding and participating in multiple Love and Compliments rallies. The thing that made these and the other top events from the year so important was that I got to spend time with my friends, even when we had to stay at least six feet apart at all times. Being away from loved ones has been one of, if not the biggest challenge of the COVID pandemic.

Photo by Liesl Pimentel

I didn’t have many firsts or any celebrity sightings in 2020, so they’re not in this Undeniable Recap. Hopefully, they’ll be back next year.

In Memoriam

Humans: Mary Griffith, Maggie Griffin, Katherine Johnson, Grant Imahara, Justin Lutch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sean Connery, Alex Trebek

Other Creatures: Ziggy Moriarty the Boston Terrier, Moonflower Takaha the Cow, George the Corgi

Surviving Social Distancing with Depression

It’s not a secret that I live with depression. As an introvert, social distancing is great – to a degree. However, being alone most of the time means I’m left alone with the thoughts in my head all day. (I’ve been warned that my mind is a dangerous neighborhood, and I shouldn’t venture there alone.)

In order to deal with the social distancing aspect of COVID-19, I’ve created some rules to help me manage my depression:

1. Shower every day.

2. Brush your teeth twice a day.

3. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. Every day. No matter what. This rule has served me well for 40-something years. I’m not going to fuck up my skin now.

4. Put on fresh clothes each day. PJ pants or athletic shorts are fine.

PJ Pants!

5. Put on jeans to walk the dog. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with going out in PJ pants. My PJ pants are men’s medium and drag about 4 inches on the floor. I am not going to destroy them by dragging them around on the sidewalk.

6. Eat a mostly balanced diet, well more balanced than not.

7. Open the blinds every day. There is a sun out there.

8. Do whatever workout Coach David assigns. (I’m training to do my first Ironman in August, and anticipate it will go on as scheduled.) It doesn’t matter if I don’t like it. As Rocky Kees used to say, “I didn’t ask you to like it. I told you to do it.”

9. Try to talk with a real person each day – by phone or from at least 6 feet away.

10. No more than 2 Zoom-based events per day. I have enough challenges with the voices that reside in my head. Pumping in too many extra ones will make me bat shit crazy.

11. When in doubt, wash your dishes. Doing a simple task can make me feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

12. It’s ok to do the bare minimum. Every morning, I create a to-do list on my white board. If I only have energy to do the bare minimum, and I need to spend the afternoon taking a nap, that’s ok.

These are the rules that are helping me survive mostly sheltering in place. Hopefully they’re helpful to you too.

Legal services are considered essential, but I’m limiting my contact with the outside world, trying to do my part to flatten the curve.

Save Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary in Gilbert, Arizona is home to 100+ animals (horses, donkeys, cows, alpaca, goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats), many of which have or have had special needs.

There’s Adorabull, the calf who, last summer, was found abandoned in a ditch, umbilical cord still attached. When he came to the farm, he was so weak and sick he couldn’t even be bottle fed. He had to be tube fed. I laid with him for hours one Saturday morning, dotting on him like his mother would.

Now, he’s a strong happy cow, who’s able to frolic with the other cows in the pasture. I call him “Addy.”

Sweet Baby Adorabull

One of the more recent additions to the farm is a lamb named Grace. Born with a crooked neck, she came to the farm sanctuary all the way from Texas. With cold laser therapy and massage, her head becoming more in alignment with her body. She doesn’t let her disability prevent her from running zoomies around the farm. She’s so cute!

Grace always looks like she’s smiling!

This farm is also a healing place for the community – people with various physical and emotional disabilities. Aimee regularly posts on the farm’s Facebook page about the how the farm helps its various visitors. She also offers tours and cow hugging sessions.

Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary is a healing place for me. My depression and anxiety are always better after spending a few hours at the farm. It’s always calming to visit the farm – whether I’m shoveling manure or singing to animal cuddled in my arms. I happily show up with my boots and gloves asking, “What do you need me to do?”

I love this place. I love it so much that one of my requirements for my future dream house is that the property has to be closer to the farm than where I live now so I can visit more often.

I want to help save this farm. Aimee’s landlord recently informed her that he sold the land to a developer. Aimee and the 100+ animals need a new home.

Thanks to generous contributions and fundraising efforts, Aimee has raised close to $100,000. She’s researching possible properties every day. The more money she can put down for a down payment, the more options available for the farm’s new home.

Photo courtesy of Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

Here’s how you can help Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary:

Direct Donation

You can make a donation directly to the farm through their website or PayPal. You can also send money using Venmo (@Aimeesfarm).

The farm sanctuary is 501(c)(3) charity so all donations are tax-deductible.  

Smile.Amazon.com

You’re already shopping on Amazon. When you shop through Smile, you can designate a charity to benefit from purchases that are Smile eligible. You can designate Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary as your charity here.

If your workplace purchase supplies on Amazon, please ask them to use Smile and support Aimee’s Farm as well.

The Farm’s Amazon Wishlist

The farm always needs supplies. Please check out their Amazon Wish List if you want to purchase one of the many things the animals need.

The farm regular puts out requests for towels and blankets. If you’re cleaning out your linen closet, please see if the farm sanctuary could use them.

Special for Law Firms: CLEs for Charity

I want to do whatever I can to help save the farm. I’m offering an hour of continuing legal education  in exchange for any law firm donating $500 to the farm. Yes, some of the CLEs I’m prepared to do fulfill our ethics requirement. If I’m in your city, I can do a CLE in person; otherwise, I’ll present it over Skype or Zoom.  

Please follow Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary on Facebook for more opportunities to help and updates about what’s happening at the farm.

How I Manage Stress

Yesterday, my coach asked me how I manage my stress. I instantly responded:

Poorly.

That’s actually not true all the time. When I feel solid and secure, I can be so confident it’s uncanny.

I know that feeling.

I’ve felt that feeling.

Just not lately.

Always Been High Strung

My standard response when someone asks me how I handle stress is, “Not gracefully.” Usually, I find a way to muddle through, but it’s not pretty. I’ve been living with anxiety since I was a wee one – like before age 10.

For as long as I can remember, my modus operandi has been to have a plan for escape – physically, emotionally, and/or chemically.  A lot of my -isms (alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, and self-injury) were ways to self-medicate. When I got into recovery and took away those vices, I still had to deal with my emotions and life’s challenges.

Here are some of the things I do lately to manage my stress.

Sweat

Starting in gymnastics and now as a triathlete, I workout 5-6 days per week. Working out gives my brain an endorphin boost it needs, and it gives me a break from the rest of my life. There’s not much I can do while I’m in the pool except swim.

It also gives me a safe way to vent emotions. The day after I got my California Bar Exam results (I failed), my coach had assigned a 17-mile run. I ran one of my fastest paces to date and I got flash of inspiration about how I was going to tell my friends. Pounding pavement for those hours gave me the much-needed break I needed.

Sweat keeps me sane.

Lists

My life is managed with lists:

  • Weekly to-do lists – x2
  • Daily to-do list – on my whiteboard
  • Medication checklists – one for the hooman, one for the hound
  • Workout checklist
  • Program checklist

If I didn’t have my lists, I’d never keep track of who took which medication or whether I did everything I needed to do on any given day. My stress is related to anxiety and depression, both of which make me forgetful.

My lists also give me a semblance of control over what I’m doing, which is reassuring since lately I’ve been feeling out of control. There are days I wish I could emotionlessly work through my lists without dealing with my feelings. Thankfully, I have loving people around me who remind me that I’m not a robot.

I love this photo of Jeff and me from an Ignite Phoenix #17 Speaker Bootcamp. Photo by Brandon Larkin. (Creative Commons License)

Selective Peopling

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an avoidant and an introvert. I’m not a fan of people in general, particularly in crowds or places with a lot of noise. However, I selectively like individuals. These are the people I want to spend time with, and from whom I’ll ask for help. It’s so reassuring to be around and/or text with people I love. They get me.

Every year, I have my jar on my nightstand and I add happy memories to it throughout the year, and then on New Year’s Eve, I read through them. One thing I noticed when I reviewed the memories from 2019, was that a lot of them had to do with hugging people.

Hugs keep me sane too.

Short-Circuit

On rare occasions, my stress gets so bad that I emotionally crash and burn. I panic to the point where I have trouble focusing and I can barely eat. (That’s how I managed to drop 10 pounds in law school.) When my appetite drops out, that’s my tell that I need to take swift deliberate steps to counteract my stress.

Sleep

Sometimes the best thing I can do when stress hits hard is sleep. When I’m asleep, it means my muscles are relaxing and I’m taking deep breathes – two things I need when I’m stressed. (A friend recently suggested I add massage to my self-care routine, probably for the same reason.)

Stress is exhausting.

An hour-long nap can make a world of difference.

Rosie’s Rules

I didn’t realize how many rules I have for the care and feeding of my 12 year-old, blind, arthritic basset hound in the early stages of doggy dementia (canine cognitive dysfunction – CCD), until I had to document them. I have to be gone overnight, and my neighbor volunteered to look after her for 30 hours.

Blind Dog Rules

Don’t leave clutter on the floor.

If you need her to get up, making the kissy sound or the clicky sound with your mouth or saying, “Up up” in a high voice is your best bet.

If Rosie’s going to walk into a wall or other stationary object and you can’t reach her in time to stop her, warn her by saying, “Bump.”

If the skin tag on her nose bleeds after she bumps into a wall, it’s not a big deal.

You can use your legs to help guide where you want her to go – acting as a bumper for her.

All pills and treats are offered from the left side of her face.

Be careful she doesn’t walk off the curb or into cars during walkies. She prefers to walk on your right side.

If you need better control over her during walks, pull directly upwards from her harness and walk her like a marionette puppet.

Sleepy Rosie and her Reflection

Arthritic Dog Rules

Arthritic bassets can’t scratch their ears, necks, or noses. You have to do it for them. Bonus if she makes happy mumble-grumble sounds.

Morning meds (3 pills) are given on a spoon with peanut butter. If the peanut butter drips, try to get it to land on her paw so she can lick it up.

Her CBD tincture is squirted into the left side of her mouth. Stand just behind her shoulder blades, one foot on each side when giving her this.

Sometimes Rosie gets “stuck” temporarily in the downward dog position when trying to lay down. Resist the urge to push her butt down. She’ll do it on her own as her muscles are ready.

If Rosie picks up one of her back paws and holds it in the air, she has a cramp in that butt muscle. Give it a good scratch to relax it.

Dementia Dog Rules

If Rosie walks in the wrong direction at mealtime, slide two fingers under her collar to guide her to her bowl.

If Rosie starts pacing as if she’s lost in the house, give reassuring pets and tell her she’s a “good girl.”

If she has an accident in the house, it happens. Towels are in the kitchen. Rug cleaner is above the washing machine. Hopefully it happens on the concrete.

Before bedtime, dip the end of a treat in peanut butter, top with half of a puppy sleeping pill, and give it to her. Otherwise she could be up-and-down all night.

So many rules for a dog who sleeps 18 hours a day!

I’m also going to sleep in the same shirt for three nights and leave it behind in Rosie’s bed, so she has something that smells like her hooman.

Benched

“One of my favorite meditation spots” by Jay Thompson from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My hip pain flared up at the end of last week, and Coach David benched me for three days. I don’t even have a good story. It just started hurting. Only things I can do are stretch, heat, and strength work that doesn’t engage the hip. (My apologies in advance to anyone I converse with while I’m on the sidelines. I get moody and opinionated when I don’t workout.)

Yes, this is the same hip injury I’ve been dealing with off and on for over a year. It’s the one body part I didn’t blow out as a gymnast (except for a few pulled groins), so they’re making up for lost time.

Coach David has been increasing my workouts painfully slowly – like increasing my running distance by ¼ of a mile each week. (The standard is a runner can increase their mileage by 10% each week.) I’ve pushed myself hard the last few weeks, but I didn’t think I was going too hard.

As always, Coach David uses a practical and logical approach to dealing with injuries. It’s better to take a couple of days off now – over six months before race day – than to push through and be triaging a worse injury closer to race day. This morning David lovingly said, “Your body needs a vacation.”

Thankfully, I was already ahead of schedule in regards to my training, so taking a few days off isn’t a setback in terms of that. It’s just a challenge for me to be forced to sit on my tush.

I’m starting to wonder if the line between pushing hard and pushing too hard is razor thin. It’s frustrating to constantly have to deal with the possibility that my hip could flare. I felt like we were doing everything right. I was slowly gaining speed, strength, and confidence.

I was pushing myself, but not that hard.

Challenging myself, but not killing myself.

Over the last week, I spent a lot of time sitting as I was sending 500+ emails promoting my first online course on the legal side of photography.  I wonder if that has something to do with this most recent bout of soreness.

Rosie’s trying to teach me how to relax.

Regardless of the cause, I’m spending three days sitting on my heating pad, trying to get the muscles to relax and the joint to calm down. (I have two heating pads – one at home and one in the office.)

I’m on board with the plan that it’s better to deal with a minor setback now than to deal with worse pain later.

The goal is Ironman Mont Tremblant, not killing myself getting to the starting line.

New Swimming Accessory: Choker Necklace

Yup. I’m wearing a choker.

I don’t like things touching the front of my neck.

I don’t own turtlenecks.

I don’t wear kerchiefs or fashion scarves around my neck.

When I go to the salon, I ask them to make the drape one snap looser.

Sometimes I can’t even wear crewneck t-shirts because – you guessed it – the edge of the shirt barely touches my neck.

When I picked out my wetsuit, I got one with the lowest neckline I could find. It still touches my neck. Actually, my wetsuit is snug around my neck. It’s snug around every part of my body. That’s how wetsuits work.

When I’m wearing my wetsuit and I go from being vertical and walking into the water to horizontally swimming in it, the discomfort becomes more intense as going face down puts extra pressure across the front of my neck. (If past lives are real, I’m pretty sure I either drowned or was strangled in one of them.) Add in being hit by other swimmers and unable to find my swimming cadence, and it’s enough to make me panic.

Heading into Ironman Mont Tremblant, I’m trying to work on this. I don’t want to start this race with a panic attack.

I can’t control how choppy the water is.

I can’t control other swimmers bumping into me.

What I can do is force myself to get used to swimming with something snug around my neck. (I know some athletes cut their wetsuits to lower the neckline, but I don’t want to do that.)

My chokers, courtesy of the junior section at Target.

I bought myself a set of five stretchy choker necklaces, popular among tweens and young teens. I look like a person having a mid-life crisis when I wear them.

Before I leave the house for the pool, I pull one of these things on, and I don’t take it off until I’m back. I figure the more I wear it, the sooner I’ll get over the heebie jeebies of having something touching my neck.

For my first day wearing a choker to the pool, I opted to wear the red one so if the feeling of it touching my neck was too much and I ripped it off mid-lap, I could easily find it in the water and not litter in the pool.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I don’t notice it when I’m swimming. Once I’m fully used to wearing one necklace, I may try wearing two, then three, at a time, so I can get used to the material covering more of my neck.

Hopefully, this exercise will teach me that I can have something snug against my neck without feeling like I’m choking myself.

All Genders Deserve Equal Access in Sports

Arizona has joined the number of states that has proposed legislation that would ban male-to-female transgender athletes from competing in female sports unless they have a doctor’s note that proves that they’re female. This law would impact athletes at every from level from K-12 schools to community colleges and state universities.

Photo by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Why We’re Having This Debate

The surge of proposed laws followed news stories last year where a female track and field athlete claimed that male-to-female transgender athletes were unfairly allowed to compete in the girls’ division. The trans athletes finished a race higher than she did, which she claimed cost her the opportunity to compete at the regional race, which could impact her ability to get a college scholarship.

What I didn’t like about the reporting of this story is that most reports didn’t state whether the trans athletes were on hormone blockers and/or on hormone replacement therapy which would have made it a more level field than a cisgender male competing in a female sport. By the way, they’re both on hormones replacement therapy.

School Athletics May be the Only Option

My first thought when I heard about this proposed law in Arizona, was that trans athletes should bypass political issues in school and compete on club teams. A teacher friend pointed out that club teams are often very expensive, so the only option to participate in sports is to play on a school team.

Is It Talent or Testosterone?

Transgender girls are girls. They should be allowed to participate in girls’ activities, whether we are talking about Girl Scouts, entering a nunnery, or playing sports. Forcing a transgender girl to participate in boys’ activities or be left out is discriminatory and potentially devastating to her mental health.

In the situation of athletics, I wonder how much of is this outcry based on fairness and how much is based on transphobia. Are girls afraid of being beaten by someone they view as less than a girl?

It’s worth asking how much of these trans athletes’ success is based on talent or testosterone. History suggests that cisgender men have physical advantages over women in many sports. In looking at Olympic Records where men and women both compete in same types of events (e.g., track and field, weightlifting, etc.) the record held by the man is higher, faster, better than the women’s record. That’s why we created Title IX – to give women equal access to participate. But once a trans athlete has the same hormone level as their cisgender counterparts, I wonder if the cisgender athletes are claiming it’s unfair, but they’re using the competitions’ trans status to complain that they didn’t win.

It’s Time to Re-Examine Division in Sports

It’s time we re-examine how we divide participants in sports. With growing acceptance that there are more than two genders, which is backed by law in at least 17 states and Washington D.C., the traditional division of boys/men and girls/women is no longer sufficient. I’m a non-binary athlete (with a birth certificate to prove it), and when I sign up for a race, I rename the divisions “testosterone” and “estrogen” and select accordingly.  

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has guidelines regarding male-to-female athletes and the testosterone level they must have to compete in the women’s division. Lower level sports should adopt similar rules and require every athlete to have their testosterone level checked, and only those with a level above the threshold should be allowed to participate in the testosterone division.

(A friend suggested that the athlete’s sensitivity to testosterone should also be tested for it is possible for a cisgender woman to have a high testosterone level and body that is completely insensitive to it, so she won’t reap any athletic benefits from having this higher level.)

Photo by tableatny from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Where Change Should Start

In thinking about this issue, if we want schools to change how athletes are divided instead of using gender in the U.S., the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should be the leader. If NCAA schools change from men’s and women’s sport to divisions based on hormones, public and private high schools will follow suit since many of the best high school athletes aspire to receive scholarships to compete in college.  

I sent an email to the Chair of the Board of Directors for NCAA Division I, encouraging them to modify the classification of athletes instead of using gender identity. I don’t expect a response beyond a cursory, “Thank you for your message,” but hopefully it will plant a seed that change is needed.

Sister Laws for Access to Trans Medical Care

If states are going to pass laws that will limit male-to-female trans athletes from participating in sports, they need to a pass sister laws that allow for adequate and affordable access to medical care for transgender people, including the ability to access care without parental consent, and laws that allow non-binary and transgender people to change their birth certificates and driver’s licenses to reflect their gender.  

Open Water Swim Training Update

After a brutal swim at the Half Ironman in Maine last year, I knew I’d be spending part of my off season practicing open water swimming. In the pool, I can see where I’m going, I have my own lane space, and I can put my feet down whenever I want. Open water swimming is the opposite of all that, plus I’m in a wetsuit. Mine has a lower neckline compared to other wetsuits, but it’s snug against my neck, especially when I rotate my body to be parallel to the ground to swim. I always have to remind myself that my wetsuit isn’t strangling me. (I’m really sensitive about things touching my neck.)

I did the Splash and Dash at Tempe Town Lake a few months ago. It had four race options:

  • Swim 1,000 meters, Run 5K
  • Swim only, 2,000 meters
  • Swim 2,000 meters, Run 5K
  • Swim only, 4,000 meters

I suspect the real purpose of this event is to give the people doing Ironman Arizona a few weeks later a chance to swim the length in the race (4,000 meters) in the lake where there’ll be swimming on race day. I signed up for the 2,000-meter, swim only.

Tempe Town Lake – Image by Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale from Flickr (Creative Commons License) – No, I did not get poisoned or super powers from swimming in this water.

I arrived at the lake at 6:50 a.m., checked in, and strapped my timing chip to ankle. The air temperature was 58 degrees. The water was 63. The 2,000-meter swim started at 7:32 a.m. They invited us to jump in a little before race time to “splash about” and get used to water temperature. Yeah, no thanks. I was only getting in that water once.

The race route was a 1,000-meter rectangle. Each person did one, two, or four laps depending on which event they signed up for. Like Maine, there were kayakers and paddle boarders throughout the route to help any swimmer who got in trouble. Shortly after I started swimming – 2:19 according to my Garmin – I grabbed onto a kayak, trying not to panic. (There’s something about feeling my wetsuit against my neck coupled with being hit by other swimmers that triggers my “fuck this” response.)

I told the friendly volunteer in the kayak, that I was panicking and he asked an insightful question, “Has this happened before?” That actually helped me calm down a bit. I took a minute to take some deep breaths and compose myself, and then continued with the race.

Once, I calmed down, running into other swimmers wasn’t as big of a deal. After one collision I remember saying, “Oops, that’s your butt.” The rest of the race felt pretty good. I worked on my spotting (trying to swim in a straight line by aiming at landmarks). A good rule is to check your spot every 2 strokes. I was doing it every 10, because I don’t like how spotting breaks up my cadence.

I finished the 2,000-meter swim in 45:03, 17 minutes faster than my time at Maine 70.3. The cut-off time for the swim for the full Ironman is 2 hours, 20 minutes (140 minutes). That’s encouraging to see that I’m on track to have a good swim at Ironman Mont Tremblant this summer.

I still need to work on not panicking when I first hit the water. I hope to do a few more open water group swims before the race.