Yesterday I took Henry to the St. Pete Pier so we could bid farewell to our favorite ailing tourist attraction.
Like most Bay area residents, I’ve known for years that the this old landmark would soon be demolished. I also knew that once I had my son I would regret having not made memories with him on the old pier before a slick new pier (hopefully one day) opens in its place.
The fate of the Pier has become a hotly contested subject. I refuse to discuss the pros and cons of its replacement design, The Lens, out of sheer exhaustion. I’m tired of hearing about it. When it comes to CHANGE I’m as much a fan of progress as I am a curmudgeon, so I’ll refrain from offering what would likely be an uneducated opinion.
However, this fact remains true: the Pier’s infrastructure is falling apart, its concrete pilings, if left alone, would crumble into the bay. Studies revealed 10 years ago that the aging destination with its smattering of kitschy gift shops and empty restaurants wouldn’t survive another 20 years of saltwater erosion, never mind an impending economic blow.
When this news become public fodder in 2010, I added the Pier to my biking route. When Henry arrived in 2011, I added it to my running route. Knowing it would close before he’d be old enough to remember it, I decided to take him there often – always by foot or by bike.
Save for a handful of brooding old men drinking coffee and reading the paper, the food court inside the Pier’s dated building was usually vacant in the afternoon. Often it looked like Henry and I were the only people to order an ice cream cone for hours. In order to get the attention of the guy manning the counter I’d have to knock on the freezers or shout, “Hey! Anyone here?” Sometimes it looked like he was asleep in a chair.
I wondered which was crumbling faster: the Pier’s infrastructure or its business.
Why do I love triathlons?
There are the obvious reasons.
The constant training keeps me in shape. The constant outdoor training forces me to explore my city by foot and by bike, activities that immediately appeal to my inherent sense of wanderlust.
Also appealing: the fact that I can build muscle and endurance without having to be married to a gym.
Running is free. Biking is free. And the paths available to me for these pursuits are gorgeous, well-lit, lined with palm trees and guarded by dolphins and a popular family of manatees.
And then there’s swimming.
Swimming feels SO good when you spend half the year living in stifling humidity. If you’re lucky enough to live within two miles of a 50-meter public pool as I do, you don’t have to fork over big bucks to install a backyard pool. For five bucks and no upkeep, I can bike two miles to a sprawling aquatic complex that borders the bay and swim 80 laps before Henry rises from his afternoon nap. (FYI: This is only when Joe is home to man the fort.)
Living in St. Petersburg how could I not be a triathlete? I read somewhere that Florida is the triathlon capital of the world. I’m not sure if this is an accurate claim, but whatever. I’m reaping the benefits.
Quick disclaimer: April was a crazy busy month. I had a ton of work to complete, a triathlon, a visiting sister, visiting parents and a brief family vacation on Daytona Beach. I apologize for the two-week hiatus. Here’s what I should have posted on April 24 to commemorate Lance’s FIFTH BIRTHDAY, a milestone I let slip by with little acknowledgment.
Hey! The Lance turned 5! 35 in pug years! That’s like a big accomplishment for an easily distracted, moderately busy mommy blogger. Woop woop.
ANYWAY. I read this piece April 19 before a small crowd at CL Story Time: Birthday Edition in Tampa’s Ybor City. I wrote it nine days after my 31st birthday and 45 minutes before the start of the event. At 31, I’m finally making peace with my procrastination pattern, among other things.
AND in case you missed it, this is how I coped with last year’s 30th birthday woes.
¶ Last year I spent my birthday curled into a fetal position, sobbing quietly into a pillow. The voices in my head, sounded, on this particular day, a lot like Marge Simpson’s sisters crossed with my husband’s 95-year-old grandfather.
True to form, they were none too pleased with my despondency.
“You’re pathetic,” they rasped. “I’d give my left titty to be 30 again.”
As I sobbed, my infant son napping in the room next door, I glanced down at my left titty. It was visibly TWICE the size of my right titty.
Why? Because my breastfed child preferred the left boob to the right boob and because I subconsciously offered him the left more than the right so my stronger hand would be available for such important tasks as operating a remote control, reading an issue of Vogue, swigging from a bottle of Vodka (just kidding) or in some cases conducting a phone interview for work (not kidding).
After 10 months of exclusive breastfeeding, I was taking back my chest, which among some circles of mothers is considered sacrilegious. The healthiest, smartest, most benevolent children wean themselves. Didn’t I know that? Cutting my kid off early would cause irreversible damage to his psyche. Our bond would suffer and he’d grow distant and resentful. Formula would give him cancer, lead poisoning and cavities.
Everyone and everything is celebrating birthdays this month.
On April 10, I turned 31, as did my beloved pen pal in Toronto with whom I’ve exchanged snail mail for nine years. (Wait. Nine years? Is that right, LZ?)
Two days prior, my Irish twin, Heelya turned the big 3-0.
On April 24, this little blog turns FIVE. FIVE. Yeee haw, Lancelots! I stuck it out for five years, during which time I received more fan mail than hate mail. Success! Thank you for your loyalty, kindness and honesty. I plan to commemorate the milestone by turning the Best of Lance into a book. I’m putting this goal out there so you hold me to it. You guys are good at keeping me on track.
I’m an Aries to a fault: fiery, quick tempered, spontaneous and hyper. I start things and fail to see them through.
My blog however, is a Taurus. And like a true Taurus, it’s stubborn, sensible, down to earth and determined, which is perhaps why it’s still around.
For five years I’ve used this space to air confessions, fears, accomplishments, and of course stories.
Which brings me to tonight.
I’ll be reading something new, that is IF I can sit still long enough this afternoon to write it. I’ve been swamped with work these past two weeks, so I can’t totally blame procrastination, though without pressure I fail to work to the best of my ability. Typical Aries. Lance would have written a story two months ago and immediately laminated a copy at Kinkos in preparation for the event. I’m not even sure if I have printer ink.
Anyway. Special thanks to Mothership, who’s in town this week and currently at the library with Henry. They’re at a different kind of story time; the kind that involves dancing to Raffi with bean bags.
Oh, and about the picture. That’s me up there, running amok in Colorado on a hot summer day. I was 25 and on the brink of making major life changes. I’m posting it because it kind of, sort of, ties into the theme of the story I haven’t written yet that I plan to read tonight. Hell, I’m such a fickle Aries, it might not tie in at all. ♥
CL Story Time: Birthday Edition starts at 8 p.m. at the CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. #W-200, Ybor City.
Hope to see you tonight!
Before I had Henry I was impatient with the world, critical of myself and sometimes of others.
I thought stay-at-home moms had it easy. Worse yet, I thought they were devoid of interests beyond the confines of motherhood. I pictured them schlepping kids from Gymboree class to play dates, dressed in yoga pants and a pained smile. I pictured them chained to the kitchen, the SUV, the laundry basket and the obligatory spin class. I pictured them dutifully scheduling time for mommy pep rallies that celebrate the pleasantries of breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing and holistic nutrition. (Dear Earth Mamas: I see nothing wrong with these things. As topics of discussion, however, I find them boring.)
I thought I’d lose my identity as a stay-at-home-mom. I thought I’d compromise my self-worth and freedom. I thought I’d be resentful of my husband and pissed at myself for having failed at being a working mother: the ultimate wonder woman. I thought I’d be considered a disgrace to the radical feminists who came before me and a quitter to the overachieving, have-it-all multitaskers of my generation.
Leaving my job at the newspaper would mean I’d dropped a significant ball in the heroic juggling act that is regularly executed by the modern working mother. I’d be forced to rethink everything I thought I’d do or wouldn’t do as a parent, as if you really know these things before you bring a tiny, demanding, Bambi-eyed being into this world.
I was wrong about working mothers AND stay-at-home mothers. (As an aside, I was right about yoga pants.)
Over the course of my adolescence and adulthood I’ve made many attempts to stop biting my fingernails. They’ve all ended in failure. As a reminder of this weakness I’m left with nubs so useless I’m forced to use paper clips to open pop cans, credit cards to scratch bug bites and tweezers to fasten necklaces.
It’s pitiful. And gross. My hands are ugly. Looking at them as I type this post, I’m reminded of the brief times in my life when I actually had real human nails. I can count these times on two fingers. (Pun intended.) Once: In 2007, when I went Kerouac-ing across the country. Twice: when I left the newspaper and a took a job in a marble yard . (Lesson learned from my marble yard experience: Having visibly filthy hands all day is the best deterrent to nail biting.)
So what does this have to do with a crushed bicycle you ask.
Well, let’s see here…
About a month ago I strapped my bike to the back of my car and drove to Sarasota to do some riding with Oma. (Note: I’m not talking about my sexy Bianchi. I wisely left her at home. I took Joe’s cumbersome, twice-crashed Specialized Crossroads – the one with Henry’s green seat mounted on the front.)
Two true conversations – one recent and one not-so-recent:
When I was about 19, insecure and dating my high school sweetheart, I asked him if he thought I was chubby.
He replied, “You’re not chubby. You’ve just got a thin layer of fat on your stomach.”
I couldn’t argue with this assessment. It was true. And though his remark didn’t send me into a downward spiral of body hate, it certainly didn’t boost my ego. It stuck with me of course, not because it was purposefully hurtful, but because it was idiotically truthful.
Fast-forward to my marriage …
About two weeks ago, after walking out of the shower and glancing in the mirror, I noticed that my shoulders looked especially broad and my arms looked especially muscle-y in that she’s-built-like-a-tank kind of way.
So I asked Joe, “Do you think all this swimming is making my shoulders too broad?”
He replied, “You’ve always had shoulders like a linebacker. It’s one of the first things I noticed about you.”
At first I sighed. I’m a Hungarian shot put thrower. Then I grunted and flashed my teeth like a grizzly bear.
“Fine,” I growled. “All the better to kick your ass.”
My training style in a nutshell:
1. I don’t stick to schedules. I find workout “schedules” to be overwhelming and frankly, stifling. When I want to run, I run. When I want to bike, I bike. On sunny weekends when Joe is at home and can watch Henry, I break away to the public pool and swim.
2. When I train, I push myself harder than the week before. I run 6 miles. I run 8 miles. I run 9-minute miles, then 8-minute miles and the occasional 7-minute mile burst. I bike 20 miles. I swim 75 laps. The only piece of gadgetry I use to track these workouts is the Nike fitness app on my iPod. The rest of the stuff I jot down in a journal. I rarely go back and analyze this data. The numbers don’t matter to me. Here’s how I gauge whether I’m making progress as an athlete: If what I’m doing feels difficult, but not like the world’s worst chore, then I’m doing OK. This is my guiding principle.
3. Just because I don’t stick to a schedule doesn’t mean I don’t train regularly. I think the reason I’m able to wing my workouts is because I do something physical every day. Even on the days I don’t do JACK, I still walk to the grocery store. I count this as activity though it usually means I’m up at night with insomnia. Another reason I think I like training: it TIRES ME OUT and helps me SLEEP.
4. I’m not a gear whore. In the running (and triathlon) industry too much money is spent on Looking The Part rather than Being The Part. Just get yourself a solid road bike, quality running shoes, a few cute tank tops and be on with it. A lot of triathletes take themselves uber seriously. I’d rather look weird and perform well than look slick and perform lousy. I’m already pedaling a strange old bicycle. Why not wear ridiculous sunglasses too? I’m not cocky enough for overpriced sports bling. Triathlons are expensive enough! The $50 Izumi Tri Suit was a splurge at HALF OFF the original price. It was an early birthday treat because I’d gotten to the point where I was too embarrassed to compete in a $20 swimsuit from TJ Maxx.
5. I wonder what the neurosis is behind this little strategy: each time I embark on a run, I set the distance on my Nike app to 5K. My intentions are never to run a 5K. I always exceed this distance by at least double. I’d rather set out to run a 5K and surpass my goal, than commit to a 10K and achieve my goal. I don’t know if this is because I set low standards for myself, or because I like to overachieve. It’s probably a little of both.
6. No matter how hard or often I train, I cannot stop eating sweets. In fact, I like to inhale a couple frozen peanut butter cups right before a run. It fuels my turbo boosters.