Monday, 25 August 2014

No Excuses

Guest post by Cathy another good friend and fellow crafter

I am so pleased Cathy agreed to tell her motivational story about how she got into sports and crafting at a young age and, although she took a break while her children were young, has returned more motivated and enthusiastic than ever. I particularly love that she took on the challenge of learning to swim so she could transition into participating in triathlons. When you set your mind to something there really are "No Excuses". 

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I was pleased when Beth asked me to write a guest post for her blog. I will admit that trying to figure out my motivation for crafting and endurance sports was more difficult than I anticipated. I have done both for years but never really thought about why!

Beth and I have known each other for almost thirty years through London Centennial Wheelers (LCW) our local cycling club.  For many years, we volunteered for the 7 a.m. shift at registration for the LCW Springbank Road Races in May, and would catch up on our parallel lives. We have a lot in common, including husbands who are engineers and two kids each with our sons being the same age. However, it wasn’t until Beth and I connected on Facebook that I realized she is also a crafter. 

I’ve done several crafts over the years starting with sewing. Back when I was in elementary school, all the girls took Home Economics which provided a solid basis in making our own clothing. My mother had a sewing machine so I continued making much of my own clothing as it was far less expensive than store bought. 

Once I reached university age, I was heavily involved in competitive running, cycling and cross-country skiing. With the advent of spandex fabric, I was able to start making my own sports clothing as well. I even started a small business making and selling custom sports clothing. The name of my business was Willpower Sportswear, which was a word play on my last name "Williams", and "willpower" needed to pursue endurance sports.  

That's me in 1982 wearing a cycling uniform I made. It was tough lining up those stripes!
In my teens, I also taught myself how to knit and crochet mostly making Nordic knit sweaters and granny square afghans. I didn’t enjoy joining squares, so I chose yarn colours I liked and made big granny squares, changing colours every couple of rows. Most of the gifts I gave at this age were handmade, mostly for economic reasons, but family and friends always appreciated my efforts.

I had great intentions of making handmade clothing for my own kids. Oh how naive! I made several knitted baby sweaters and hats while I was pregnant the first time and then didn’t make anything for almost 15 years. Similarly, my athletic endeavours took a backseat while my kids were young. Leisure pursuits became a thing of the past during those busy years.

Here is my daughter wearing one of the few handmade baby outfits I managed to make.  
A couple years ago, I got the urge to pick up needles again. This time I wanted to do something simple that did not require a pattern. I discovered yarn bombing which is the act of covering outdoor public items such as statues, fences or railings, with knitted or crocheted pieces. 

I have stayed with covering trees on our own property using my favourite granny square crochet stitch. I love how colourful and cheerful they look. 
Sometimes I buy new yarn, but I often use scrap yarn from my own stash or from a local thrift store. I like crocheting while we're at our cottage. It is simple and fast plus, if I run out of a particular colour, I just switch to another without needing to drive to the city for more.

As my kids have gotten older (18 and 15 now), I have been able to return to sports, this time as an "age-grouper". When I was competing in endurance sports as a young adult, I was very hard on myself and rarely satisfied with my results. At this point in my life, sport is something I choose to do for fun, so I don’t put the same kind of pressure on myself. I train as well as possible given my other life responsibilities, and then look forward to testing that training on race day. I am always excited to compete now which is a very different and positive way to experience racing.  
I have gradually increased my running to the point where I am doing half-marathons. This is a distance I had not done when I was younger, so every improvement is my best ever result and I’m not competing against my younger self.  
Several years ago, I tried my first duathlon. This is like a triathlon, but without the swimming. My favourite distance is 5 km run – 20 km bike – 2.5 km run. I find I can fit the training required for this distance into my life and still have time and energy to take care of everything else that needs doing.

Last year I turned 50 and wanted to do something that’s been on my bucket list for a very long time… learn to swim. I had tried several times before but had not gotten proficient enough to do a triathlon. This time I took private lessons and swam two to three times per week for over a year. In June of this year, I did my first ever Give-It-A-Tri in Welland featuring a 375 m swim – 10 km bike – 2.5 km run. I experienced a few moments of fear and doubt before entering the water, but once I started swimming with the other competitors, I realized I was going to be just fine. 

I have done two more triathlons since then, the most recent in Chicago. That race included a very tough 750 m swim against the current in Lake Michigan. It left me panicky and gasping for air but I managed to get through it even more determined to improve my swim portion. Becoming a great triathlete is not my goal, participating and enjoying the process is my motivation.
People often ask me why I do my sports and my crafting, both of which are a bit outside the norm, especially for a 51 year-old woman. They wonder how I find time for these pursuits. I will admit I do have a lot of responsibilities, with kids and care giving for several family members, as well as running my own small but busy accounting practice. 

To me, sports and crafting feel normal because they are similar to activities I have enjoyed from a young age, more like a return to what I used to love. These activities provide relaxation and stress relief so I make sure I find the time. I also think they help me deal with things outside of my control in the “real world”. 

Yarn bombing is considered pretty silly and meaningless, but it gives me pleasure to see colourful decorations on the trees as we pull up to our cottage. Likewise, I’m not going to the Olympics at this stage, but it gives me satisfaction to know that I can set a physical goal, work towards it and see the results of my efforts on race day. 

Real life can be so serious, I think it’s good to have less serious pastimes. And sometimes, on a good day, I can even win a pumpkin! How fun is that?

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Thanks Cathy for contributing to my Blog. I know we have been friends for years but we rarely get together to discuss all that you have shared in this story. I was so pleased to see you use the term "parallel lives" and reference our husbands and kids. I had been thinking the exact same thing with the same words for the past few days. How weird is that?

I have to mention my husband bought a pair of cycling bib tights from you years ago and was still wearing them 20 years later. Your work produced quality custom fit sportswear that lasted. 

I also love that you've taken up frivolous yarn bombing of trees on your property. It makes me smile although I think my husband is worried I might 'bomb' his car or his bike. OK that thought makes me smile a little bit too.

I am super impressed with all that you do and with your competitive spirit. I can tell that you love the challenge and especially the social side of training and competing. Keep on Tri-ing.

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  1. Nice story. As Beth said, I still have the cycling tights some 30 years later, and they are still stretchy (which is good because I'm bigger in the middle). And stay away from my car with the yarn.

    1. No worries ... far too many projects in mind that take priority for now.