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endurance

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Happy International Women’s Day. do what you have to do, take care of each other, never give up.

Hey. so,, Sunday I did my FIRST EVER Triathlon! It was only a sprint, eh, which means a 700 metre swim, 20 km bike ride and 5 km run. All of which i’d done before–the five k run only once–well, i used to run a lot when I was a student in Lethbridge, but that woman was a different woman than the one writing this blog. That was many many years ago now. Anyhow. I’ve done all of those things before, but never all in a bunch like that.

It was at UBC, where I go to school. Though i’m not often on campus anymore.

I was worried that I would have an asthma attack in the pool.

I was worried I would lose my glasses somehow, and then have to ride my bike and run wearing my prescription swim googles. I would look like a great sweaty wheezing bug, my red cycling jacket flapping behind me like cicada wings. scary.

I got up way too early (’cause i get up too early anyhow, so i can make really strong coffee against the inevitable sleepiness that’ll come later ’cause i get up too early…) and made coffee. Not as much as I usually make, ’cause it’s a diuretic, and i knew once we were going, we wouldn’t have much opportunity to pee. Also I didn’t want to get unbearably thirsty. Which I generally become because i drink way too much industrial strength caffeine stew. It was double strong, though. Didn’t want to fall asleep on my bike, cause i’d gotten up too early after a tossy-turny night.

K was going to race too, and we were going to be in the same heat. We arranged that I’d leave my bike up in my office at school, and she’d pick me up to get there for about 7–a good hour and a half before our first heat.  But she had to work–(she and her partner are self-employed caterers, so when they get a gig, they kinda have to take it). damn capitalism. I was very sad. She picked me up anyway, and we had a lovely visit on our way up. We don’t know each other that well, trade training tips and success stories on crackbook. I know her partner E better, on account of we hang out at some of the same, um, church basements and stuff. So it was good to have some one-on-one time with K. She’s smart and disciplined and kind, and she looooves my friend E, and who doesn’t like that?

Anyhow. So she dropped me off, and I checked my bike in, and fussed with the stuff i’d need for my wetbag. You gotta get out of the pool (in this case it’s a pool, mostly triathletes swim in open water) and rush out to grab your wetbag and then change and run to your bike and then get on your bike and ride like the wind. So all the stuff you need after the pool better be in your wetbag.So i had to make sure there was a clif bar in there (product placement) and a lara bar (gender equity, i guess–clif and lara) and my water bottle and bike shorts  and a towel and my shoes and my glasses and long underwear (which i didn’t use anyhow) and, oh, more ventolin (a fast-acting broncho-dilator) in case i lost the stuff i brought to the pool. I always over pack. Sunday was no exception.

We milled around, some buff people with tiny swimsuits, a few people older than me by a couple of decades, most people younger by a couple of decades, some fat, some skinny, all of us in the first heat were less experienced than people who were gonna go later, ’cause we’d estimated our swim time as on the slower end of the scale. We had to be able to swim the 700 metres in 28 minutes–no slower than that. I estimated 25. there was a bit of a glitch in some of the timing equipment so we were a few minutes late getting started, but these people were overall so efficient and organized, i tell ya, it was smooth like butter.

We finally got into the pool. it was cold outside, but the water was warm. swim! I love swimming. But i had a lot of trouble breathing. I’d placed my ventolin at the top of the lane, so i swam down 50 meters, went under the rope and back up, took ventolin, tossed it to the top of the next lane over, swam down another 50, under the rope, back up, more ventolin–I took my ventolin every fucking 100 metres for the first 500 metres, until i finally warmed up. that was a pain. I didn’t have an asthma attack, but I was sure wheezy. next time i’ll train more in the pool. promise. it took me AN AGE to swim 700 metres–in fact, I was 6 seconds from disqualification by the time I got to my bike! Glad i didn’t know that then. the swim took me 27 minutes and 54 seconds.

The bike was a breeze, such a pleasure. The route was along Marine Drive, the ocean right below, and the endowment lands on the other side of the road, with all the trees and trails and the smell of the ocean and the cedar together was intoxicating. It was cool and sunny and there was a light breeze, but the wind didn’t come up until long after the slowpoke heat was already midway through our run. I made up a lot of time on the bike, it was so easy–all those spin classes and commutes paid off– 20k in 58:55. that’s respectable.

Then the run. 5 k. I don’t like running, and didn’t do it much in terms of training. Squats, yes. Deadlifts, lots of core stuff and leg work, but not so much running in and of itself. Still and all, the course was lovely, there was a short steep hill right a the end, and i walked some of the course. But finished in 37:07. which is more than a minute faster than the time it took me to run 5 k last september, my first 5 k run.

I felt amazing. And you know what, there were all these fantastic volunteers on the course, they’d pop out everywhere, yelling encouragement and high-fiving people on their way past, and handing out water and gatorade and smiling happy smiles–it was wonderful. We can’t do it alone. I mean, we all did this thing with our own bodies and all that, but there is much less chance that I would have finished if those people hadn’t been there cheering us on. And the other participants too! Wed say, “keep going!” and “looking good!” and “Way to go!” to each other anytime we passed each other or met up at a transition point.

this is what the revolution should be like. Well, it kind of is. It’s an endurance sport, that’s for sure. Yesterday, i went to see Gunilla Eckberg speak to a University class here. And my friends from AWAN (Aboriginal Women’s Action Network) and EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating) were there, too and they spoke before Gunilla, and they were all most moving and powerful. Gunilla, too, she was–now I gotta say about Gunilla, she’s sometimes a bit dour, you know? She’s Swedish, after all. So sometimes she’s kind of dry and seems a bit grumpy. But yesterday? She sparkled! she made jokes and she reeled out all these facts and statistics and talked about government reports and so on in a way that was engaging. Optimistic, even. yes, she was. My dour Swedish friend was optimistic. She said it took them a long time to educate men, and especially the cops and the legal system, but now the police are on side, and they have arrested something like 3500 men in the last 10 years, and cut the incidence of buying sex by almost half, and the women selling, about 60% have got out.We can do it too.

I asked her if men went out of the country to buy sex now, and if they did, does the law follow them. She said, “unfortunately, no, the law does not follow them. But most men don’t. Most sex buyers are occasional buyers: they are on their way home from work and stop for a blowjob, or they are out with the boys and decide to go buy a woman for sex; or they’re at a stag party. So if it’s not available, they won’t buy it. A man is not going to go to, say, Latvia for a blowob on his way home from work–his wife would notice”. Also, she said, if buying sex is no longer normalized in his home country, a man is not going to think of it as normal or unquestionable in another country, either. There is no evidence that Swedish men now go on sex tourism jaunts any more than they used to–in fact it is probably less, because all over incidence of buying sex is at least half of what it was ten years ago.

Hah! see? She said, “it took us a long time. We are not done, and this new government we have is both conservative and libertarian, so we are in danger. But public opinion is on our side, and people have seen how much improvement has been made”. That’s not an exact quote but you get the idea.

Revolution is an endurance sport. It is. And no one person is going to achieve it all by herself, of course not. We are all in this together. Some of us are racing, some of us are shouting encouragement from the side, some of us are making it all work, some of us are handing out the gatorade. Everything counts. Everything helps. This talk, these women talked to young people in a University class. Those young people, some of ’em might have been sleeping. Some of them might have been busily taking notes and trying to figure it out for themselves, some of them might’ve been resistant. But they heard it. Those words, the words of the Aboriginal woman and the formerly prostituted woman and the legal scholar and activist, they landed. and the ripples from the landing spread way past that little lecture theatre.

there is joy in the struggle. the race itself is the thing.

Happy International Women’s Day.  Never Give Up.

observation

I really like it when the big guys at the gym ask me for a spot.

A “spot” is when you stay real close to the lifter as she is attempting a heavy lift (i’m using ‘she’ as the generic pronoun today, ’cause why not).  So, the spotter may stand at the head of the lifter who is attempting a heavy bench press, say. She will keep her hands close to the bar, and offer perhaps a pound or two of pressure at the sticking point to help the lifter complete the lift. When a fella who outweighs me by 100 lbs or more (45 kg+/-) asks me to spot, makes me happy.

Most of the time, women like me are invisible. But lately, I tell ya, i’ve been getting some attention. the other day, one of the big guys asked me to spot for him as he did these crazy heavy front squats, that was fun (he was wired up to his fucking ipod thing, so he did not hear my words of encouragement–tsk). And yesterday another guy, he complimented me on my squats, and asked me a question about technique (!). Men almost NEVER ask women for advice with weightlifting. so that was cool, too. Then just today, one of the women who works at the gym complimented me on my technique.

Now, how ’bout that?

on a totally other note, i wanted to write a bit about my visit with my mom and my auntie. she’s not my auntie, really, she was my godmother, er, is, and is one of Mom’s oldest friends. Anyhow, she has three sons, who are, you know, men. And they’re all divorced and have kids and so on. And one of ’em, his wife wouldn’t let him see the kids for years and years. They’re all grown-up now. Anyhow, they were engaging in some discussion about some cousin of my auntie, who is married to an obnoxious woman. She’s loud and she smokes and she smokes dope and she’s generally abrasive and unpleasant to be around. Apparently. And this cousin dude, he won’t divorce her because “his brother got taken to the cleaners, and look what happened to poor so-and-so, he got taken to the cleaners, too, and–”

i piped up, “wow. that’s weird. everywhere else in Canada, it’s the woman’s income that plummets, and men’s standard of living increases after divorce”.  They didn’t have much to say about that, these women who love me and whom I love so much. Sometimes their conservatism surprises me. My auntie, I guess she thinks she has to protect the interests of her sons, but what is this strange compulsion to blame women, trash women, call out women’s (where does the apostrophe go? dammit…) bad behaviour and when they sniff the air around men, they seem to smell only roses? Sure, women can be assholes, too, but the structure of our society is such that it is men who are protected, promoted, empowered–at the expense of women. we behave badly, and we get shunned and attacked and disparaged. Men behave badly and…well, Don Cherry makes a lot of money, doesn’t he? Kobe Bryant? Charlie Sheen? These guys are obnoxiour and/or downright dangerous, and they are protected.

and it’s not just the famous guys, of course not. My auntie’s son didn’t get to see his kids, but he didn’t have the work and expense of raising them either. I don’t know if he ever contributed money to their care, but I do know that my fiance, in the 80s, while his kids were growing up far away from him, he paid just a little over $100 a month to their mother for their care. Three kids! And at the time, i was enough of a turd to begrudge her that meagre amount–especially when she re-married. what an asshole. See? We protect men, and take care of them, at the expense of our relationships with each other. I did that. anyhow, so my auntie’s son, I guess he’s my sort of cousin, he gets all this comfort and fussing over from his mom (and who knows who else), and then he gets to be off the hook for whatever he did to provoke his ex-wife to keep the children from him. Of course, according to Auntie, the ex-wife is crazy and unreasonable.

Oh, i don’t know. I just know that all the women I know who were married and who are no longer are in some way or another struggling to keep the kids happy, and the man reasonable and everything on an even keel, and the men are just going along, letting the women do all that work.  Even the nice guys. And lots of these women are either called crazy, or really driven mad by the behaviour of their ex-husbands and their apologists. such a tragedy…

Because, of course, it’s not individual men or women who are just being free agents, we all live in this highly structured imperialist capitalist patriarchy that is rigidly hierarchical and we behave the way we’ve been raised (by the system, mind you, not by our individual parents, who god knows did their level best to encourage us–) within the political categories to which we were born (race, sex, class). we all got mushed into this template, and for some of us, it fits just fine, we get lots of stuff, and for others it’s oppressive. capital “o” oppressive. And for some reason, we have to argue for the continuation of that hierarchy, ’cause it’s what we know and we have real trouble imagining what we can’t imagine. that’s the tragedy. All of our humanity is diminished, both the oppressed and the oppressors. and just to clarify, I do NOT mean to say that “men are oppressed by patriarchy, too”–they’re not. they are negatively affected by it, but they get lots and lots of stuff and power and room to move that women do not, because women are oppressed by patriarchy. Men are oppressors. even the nice guys. ’cause that’s how the system works. Similarly, I am not oppressed by imperialism because of my whiteness. I am rewarded materially because of that, even if interpersonal and political relationships are harder to build because of the systemic oppressions of women of colour and aboriginal women (which reward me) getting in the way.

huh. so how to change? What to do?

i gotta go transcribe some more interviews now. then a meeting. those meetings sometimes open up some cracks for the light to come in…to try to make the metaphor work–it’s kind of like having a spotter for a really challenging weight. I get to wrestle with this stuff–how much “free will” do we have? How can we change the world? Where do we start? oh dear, who is with me?  what does freedom look like? What am I doing wrong? Which way? Christ on a cracker, this is hard! and then someone opens their mouth in a meeting and the truth comes out and there’s a glimmer there, for me, a spark of understanding, a little bit of…”this is how. These simple things. One at a time.” then I can rack the weight, take a deep breath, walk home and look at it from another angle. it’s gonna be okay.