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Don’t tri, just do it!

31 Jul

Were you starting to get worried? No, I didn’t drown in Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg on tri day (if you’re not up to date, yes, that really is the name of the lake). In fact, I dare say I showed that lake who’s boss! I stuck to my plan of starting in the back, so as not to encounter the same terrifying situation as last year. If I had to do it again, I’d start more in the middle (I got stuck behind some slower people who I just couldn’t get past, which slowed me down) but overall—success! I didn’t have any scary moments, I felt good during the entire swim and I even remembered to use some of the great swim strategies Audrey showed me. Hooray!

I'm out there somewhere!

The bike…..well, the bike kicked my ass. I don’t know what happened, but from the moment I got on the bike my legs felt like lead. I don’t know if I didn’t train enough (I definitely could have trained more, I’m not just being hard on myself there), or if it was just one of those days but the whole biking leg of the tri felt like a battle. There is also a KILLER hill (one mile up) about 4 miles in, which at least 75% of the people get off their bikes for. I’m not ashamed to say I was one of those people, but I’m determined to beat that hill next year. It’s good to have a goal 🙂

The run was good— it’s my comfort zone. I may not be the fastest runner, I may not have the best form, I may not set records, but I’m so familiar with it, it’s like seeing a good friend at the end of a long journey. My knee held out— no pain until mile 3, which is what’s normal for me now, so I was happy. I felt good, but I was really cautious not to overdo it— I didn’t want to cause any further injury to my knee since I need to be focused on getting back to normal!

And then my favorite part…crossing the finish line! Yeah, it’s about the journey, not the destination, but the finish line is always a great feeling. I’ve never doubted my ability to make it there, but crossing the line is still a validation of my effort, determination, struggle and yes, I still feel in that moment a victory and affirmation of the changes I’ve made in my life.

But I can’t lie, there was a solid 24 hours after the race when what was at the top of my mind was the fact that my time for this years tri was seven minutes longer than my time from last year. I was disappointed. Sure, my knee slowed down and shortened the time I had to train. But I didn’t want to make excuses, I didn’t want that to be a barrier to being better. Because if there’s one thing I always want to be, it’s better than myself.

I couldn’t seem to shake my disappointment. Until Monday afternoon, when James and I sat down to watch the video he had taped of the triathlon. On the tape, shortly after I started swimming, you can hear my mom say “…two years ago, she never would have done this…”

And it was precisely the jolt I needed to hear, as I watched myself start to swim. Because she’s right. Two years ago I would have NEVER EVER EVER imagined myself completing a triathlon (let alone two!). If you had suggested such a thing, I probably would have laughed, told you at least 5 reasons why it was a ridiculous idea, and laughed some more. Why had I allowed myself to lose sight of that in the face of seven extra minutes? And as I continued to watch the video, I found the feeling my disappointment hadn’t let me feel. I felt really proud of me. And that’s how I should have felt all along.

Last Sunday, I was once again surrounded by more than 2,000 women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. And I have to tell you that in looking back on those moments I realize I think we all too often sell ourselves short. We don’t believe in ourselves enough. We think we can’t or shouldn’t do something because we aren’t the smartest, best, fastest, prettiest, thinnest. Because we don’t have enough time, energy, resources. Because it won’t be easy. Whatever the excuse may be. We don’t even let ourselves start.

But once we do, we’re amazed by what we can accomplish. If you looked around on Sunday, you would have seen a vastly different group of women. But looking closer, I think you see a group of women who are remarkably the same. A beautiful group of women who had surely been toiling over the same goal for weeks, months, maybe all year. Maybe years. A group of women who had the strength to start, and to keep on going.

If all those women listened to the voices of doubt in their heads, I’d have been standing on an empty beach on Sunday. If I listened to mine, I wouldn’t have been there to see it. But I was there, and so were they— a beach of 2,000 amazing, beautiful, fabulous women who will all tell you: If I can do it, so can you.

Busy Bee

19 Jul

Saturday was a wash as far as exercise goes. James’ band had a show, and then there was a late-night ER visit for a friend who had a concussion…so we didn’t get home until 7:30 am. That certainly justifies sleeping til noon. I was still very tired once I woke up, and the swim and bike ride we had planned was something I didn’t feel physically OR mentally capable of. So that just meant that Sunday suddenly became a super-active, super-busy (but great!) day. No time to slack off! James & I started off with an hour bike ride, sprinkled with a quick run and topped with a gorgeous view. There is a KILLER hill to get up here, so the fact that our bike ride was shorter than usual didn’t make me feel so bad. I was still feeling really tired, and the fact that it was hot and I was incredibly thirsty didn’t help the overall weak feeling I had, but James really pushed me (in a good way!) to give it my all.
Then it was off to the farmer’s market for fresh veggies and live music by a friend’s band…oh yeah, there was also fresh black raspberry ice cream and organic pizza topped with nasturtium (flowers! On pizza! How fabulous!). We shared, so I didn’t feel bad about indulging.Next up was swimming. We went to a local lake, and since we weren’t town residents it was $17 to get in. 17 dollars! It was worth it, though, because I really need the swim practice. James watched out for my form while I swam some laps. And of course we goofed off for a bit, too, because all work and no play isn’t much fun! Honestly, though, I hate swimming in lakes. It creeps me out a bit. And no one was swimming all the way out to the buoys like I was, so I started envisioning monstruous lake creatures waiting out there to eat me. The good thing about swimming with goggles on is that you can see— and the bad thing about swimming with goggles on is that you can see! Seeing long green slimy grass or even a bunch of rocks makes me think of the creatures that would love to call it home….eww! I think I have too much of an imagination sometimes 🙂 In reality, I know that no lake creature is going to eat me…maybe!

Part 3: Liking Biking

3 Aug

So, I was still pretty psyched by the time I reached my bike (which I was able to find thanks to the giant bumble bee balloon tied to my place on the bike rack, that my mom bought for the occasion). I mean, at least with the bike if something goes wrong you can stop and figure it out. Swimming doesn’t quite allow you that advantage. But to be honest, even before I reached my bike any negative feelings about the swim were gone. I had already mentally moved on to the next thing, which was getting to the transition area. Drying my feet, putting my socks on, putting my shoes on, putting my helmet on, grabbing my bike, and going. But I was calm. I took my time. I can’t quite explain the cool, composed focus I had going on. I wasn’t worried about time, I wasn’t concerned with anything other than doing the next thing I needed to do. My mind was completely clear of anything extraneous, I was completely in the moment.

So many people had told me, don’t forget to acknowledge the moment when you’re in it. Don’t forget to look around, take it in, really feel it as it’s happening. And I am so thankful I was able to do that. I enjoyed the scenery during the bike ride, the people on their front lawns cheering everyone on, the homemade signs dotting the race course. I got off my bike and walked up most of the two painfully steep hills when I found I couldn’t quite make it up. Ordinarily I would scold myself for doing such a thing. But this time I didn’t care. I was just in a zone….happy for the women who were speeding by me and glad to see there were women like me, huffing and puffing and barely moving up the hill until they got off and walked the rest of the way. I put zero pressure on myself. It was fine either way. That’s not to say I wasn’t trying or putting in an effort. Of course I was. But it was a relaxed, sane, happy effort.

Before long, I rounded a corner and a volunteer called out that we had 5 miles left. Ok, I thought to myself, that means I’ve done 7 miles already. So I’m more than halfway through. And I feel great. So this will be a breeze….And I just continued to enjoy it.

And then it was over. Before I knew it, I was hopping off my bike and heading back into the transition area to drop my bike, grab an energy gel and pick up my race belt, thinking: This is the part I know. This is the part I have already overcome. This is the best part- just me, running.

Lucky Charms & Mr. Miyagi

28 Jun

Since I started off this week feeling like the energy had been completely drained from my body, I figured it might be a good thing to give myself a week to take it easy with the exercising and counting points, and have some relaxed, no worries kind of fun.

I am proud to say I was tremendously successful in this endeavor. While I still worked out 4 days this week, it was also a week full of Lucky Charms, an ice cream cone, Coronas and late-night karaoke. So, it’s true that I may not have figured out the balance thing by tipping the scales too far the other way (no pun intended by the way, but that’s obviously a subconscious confession to the fact that I am not looking forward to stepping on the scale on Tuesday). But that’s okay with me because I had a blast while I was doing it. Might as well get a little break in now, because the next month (28 days to be precise) is surely to be one in which I push myself the hardest. Might as well go into it with a re-energized state of mind.

Given that we were both not up for another killer bike ride like the one we took last week (which honestly left me exhausted for 3 days), my brother and I decided to take a quick bike ride and run. I already knew that my energy level was low so there was no real goals for this time, just to ride. Except, my brother did remind me again that I need to stop braking down hills, because I need to take advantage of the speed. Yes, I brake when I go down hills. I get scared! I don’t really know why I’m such a wimp. But yesterday I did manage to not break down one big hill, so despite having low energy levels we did manage to accomplish something!

In a moment that will remind us all of how clutzy and athletically-impaired I can be, when biking up a hill earlier, the capri pants I was wearing got caught in my bike and ripped.

Thank goodness that I managed to get out of my toe cages and off my bike, because I could have just as easily tipped right over. That would not have been any fun at all. I tore off the piece of my pants that was hanging in shreds so it wouldn’t get caught again, and being the resourceful guy he is, my brother fashioned it into a totally awesome sweatband a la the Karate Kid.

You see the resemblance, right?

Except he’s more like Mr. Miyagi, because he’s my teacher, reminding me what I need to learn, teaching me how and challenging me even without meaning to, in my effort to keep up with him. And as it turns out, the real Mr. Miyagi also has some lessons I could use:

Miyagi: What matter?
Daniel: I’m just scared. The tournament and everything.
Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

21 Jun

Today’s bike ride kicked. my. ass. I probably wouldn’t even be typing right now, except I have a laptop and can therefore stretch out on my couch while writing–that’s about all the physical exertion I can handle right about now.

Let me rewind to yesterday. My brother and I went biking and I felt like I accomplished a lot.
With his help, I tackled some hills and learned how to switch gears appropriately. Might not sound like a big deal, but I’m really happy that we focused on this and that he was there to help me because I feel much more prepared. The bike ride I take in my town is great, but there are no hills, so it’s a little wimpy as far as training goes.

At my brother’s insistence (and also because we couldn’t find a wrench in the right size), I didn’t take the toe cages off my bike and instead learned how to use them. I was a little scared of them and had never managed to get both my feet in at once; I was afraid I would tip over, which when you think about it is absolutely something that would happen to me. But I learned to use them! And I didn’t tip over! Not only that, but by the end of today I was getting them both in on the first try. This made me really happy. It’s the small things in life sometimes. Kind of like this next accomplishment….

I managed to grab my water bottle and take a drink while riding! AND I put it back while riding. What now, biotch?! Yeah, I know. You’re intimidated by my skillz. Don’t worry. Today I managed to grab the water bottle but nearly dropped it, caught it by the lid, nearly lost control of the bike and rode off the path into the grass, forgot my feet were in the toe cages and almost fell off my bike. So this still needs some work.

Immediately after the ride, we ditched our bikes, tossed our helmets, and went for a run around the block. We had been warned that your legs will feel incredibly weird when you make the transition from biking to running, and those warnings were definitely justified. I felt like someone was pulling down on the front of my legs while meanwhile, I was trying to remain upright and move in a forward motion. Not to mention that we had spent the last stretch of the bike ride going all out, so I was exhausted before my feet even hit the ground. But running after the bike ride was exactly what I needed to do…since it’ll be exactly what I’ll need to do 35 days from now…

Today, we went for another ride. This time we went farther and were riding for about 2 hours. I am not even sure exactly where we were the entire time, but there were a lot of hills. A lot of BIG hills. As my brother was quick to remind me, it was perfect for training- exactly what I wanted. And he was right. But holy cow, I am the most exhausted girl on the planet right now. I think if, towards the end of the ride, a crazed madman had jumped out of the woods wielding a knife, I wouldn’t have been able to move fast enough to get away from him. By the time we got back to the house, I had used nearly every bit of energy that I had. Which is, as odd as it sounds, a great feeling. And now, I can lie here and feel okay about being lazy and consuming a few extra calories. Because I totally earned it.

Biker chick

27 May

I woke up yesterday with a massive headache, having also gone to sleep with that same headache the night before. For starters, this is totally unfair; I think 8 hours of sleep should be enough to kiss any headache goodbye. But that was unfortunately not so for me yesterday. My original plan was to get up and get out on my bike yesterday morning. But waking up feeling crummy left me feeling blah overall, which was the perfect excuse for a little Memorial Day-laziness. I could not find my motivation to get out of bed, let alone to get onto a bike. I procrastinated by letting myself stay in bed until 10– I have not done this in FOREVER! And that made it all the more wonderful- hooray for lazy mornings! Then I got up, showered, did some grocery shopping and had lunch. At this point I had spent too much time trying to find an excuse that I could fool myself with that would get me out of getting on the bike.

I don’t know why I didn’t want to do it, I just didn’t. But I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, fool myself. There was no denying it. I was going out on that bike. I had planned to do it, so therefore I had nothing else to do- no excuse there. By this point I felt fine- again, no excuse. I had a helmet and I had a bike. There were no excuses.

And I am certainly glad that I found my motivation, because it was a wonderful ride. I was glad to find that riding a bike was like, well, riding a bike. There’s a great trail that runs through my town that’s perfect for running and biking (no hills!). It runs through the woods, so besides being really pretty it’s also shaded by all the trees, making yesterday’s bright sun less of a concern for someone like me, who forgot that sunscreen is generally a good idea when you’re going to be outside. It was a gorgeous day and I felt dorkily happy to be a part of it.

I looked at the trail map when I got back home, and I figured out that I probably rode around 30 miles. I was pretty happy with that, and feeling pretty kick-ass since the triathlon is 12 miles of biking, and I did the 30 with no problem. Which just goes to show you how different biking and running are, because if I had tried to run 30 miles, I would still be out there trying to finish. Scratch that, I’d be out there on the path in a ball, rocking back and forth, sucking my thumb and trying to remember my own name. The other great thing about biking is that you automatically generate a pretty nice breeze for yourself, which is quite handy on hot days. In running, forget it. If it’s hot you are going to feel like you swallowed molten lava and you might as well get used to it. The thing biking really doesn’t have going for it is the bug situation. I must have been in a hit-and-run with dozens of bugs that just did not know to stay out of my way. A few unsuspecting ones went in my mouth (gross) and one poor thing even found its way up my nose for a second (double gross).

Bugs aside, I am really glad I have my first bike ride (meaning, my first tri-training bike ride–my first bike ride in at least a decade) under my belt. As May draws to a close and June appears, I’m hit with the realization that July is not that far away. The triathlon, once a distant event, is now starting to appear on the horizon. The good news is that I feel more ready for it than ever.

Helmets. Ick.

14 Apr

I am getting ever so slightly concerned about the fact that I haven’t started biking or swimming yet. Bike’s still leaning against the kitchen table, swimsuit’s still sitting on top of my dresser. But in my own defense, I did attempt to look for a bike helmet on Friday. I wanted something plain, maybe black or silver- nothing crazy or fancy, nothing that made me look like Sonic the Hedgehog. I brought along my friends Callie and Wayne, because I knew I could not be left to my own devices when shopping for a helmet.

For starters, and this is something I’m quite honest about, I’m a huge goober. Serious dork. I knew helmet shopping would be funny, and if I was by myself I would be laughing at myself A LOT. Even if I was alone. So I’d rather have my friends laughing at me, too. Also, I needed someone there to remind me that a helmet wasn’t going to make me look beautiful or win me first place in a fashion show, that the helmet is solely for protection of the head- period, end of story.

So, with their help, I tried on every. single. helmet. In the whole entire store. And I swear to you, none of them fit right. Most of them sat on top of my head leaving so much of my skull exposed that it didn’t seem it could possibly be helpful should I take a tumble. Now, granted, none of us knew what we were looking for really, or how it was supposed to fit. But it just didn’t seem right. I was even starting to become open to the idea of a helmet that wasn’t plain and didn’t match my bike or my tri outfit. Anything to get the process over with. I was laughing so much that I was getting extraordinarily hot. Callie was plunking the helmets on my head and I was standing there like a child while she adjusted the straps to fit me. Wayne seized the moment to hit me upside the head- just to be sure the helmet was sufficiently sturdy, I’m sure.

Then, just as we were about to give up, I tried one on that seemed to fit. The best part was that the helmet was white with pink and purple butterflies in a kind of abstract way. Pretty but subtle enough. And it fit. Score! Despite the fact that I had no intentions of getting a girly helmet, the helmet had found me, and I couldn’t deny that we seemed meant to be.

So, helmet shopping complete, we continued to browse the store for workout gear and sports bras (yeah, Wayne must have been totally stoked about this shopping trip). Suddenly I looked down at the helmet box I was carrying, and one word stuck out at me. And that word was “Youth”. It was a youth helmet. As in, for youths. As in, a 26-year-old triathlete-in-training has no business wearing this kind of helmet. Shit. Now I feel stupid because a) it’s a freaking youth helmet with pink and purple butterflies and I’m kinda lame for liking it. Why don’t I just get a Hannah Montana helmet and call it a day? and b) I know now that there is no way this helmet fits me properly because I know I have a big head, and certainly not a youth helmet sized head by any means.

Knowing that there is no way on earth I can purchase this helmet (both for safety and ego reasons), we decided I should definitely go to a bike store and get someone to help me- someone who knows what they’re doing. I’ll still need the moral support, but at least there will be a qualified professional there to help me find the right helmet, and probably stare at me oddly while I laugh at myself. So I put the helmet back on the shelf and left without it, imagining the 9-year-old girl who will be wearing it someday as she pedals to her friend’s house to read Teen Beat magazine and gossip about boys.

It’s like riding a bike…or is it?

25 Mar

Something that I’ve noticed is that I have spent a lot of time thinking, writing and talking about running. And actually running. Yet I am running because of the triathlon. And we all know that “tri” means three, and “athlon”, well, I don’t know what that means but probably something to do with sports or events or something. How would I know, I’m not Greek, or Roman, or whoever invented the word triathlon (sidenote: I just looked it up and it’s actually French. Guess I’m no historian. But this might come in handy should you ever find yourself on Jeapordy). Anyway, the point is that there are 2 other events that I have yet to put any real focus on. I’ve been biking at the gym but I’m sure that’s not the same, just how running on the treadmill is not the same as actually running outside. And swimming…to date I’ve been doing exactly no swimming. In fact, I have yet to determine a sufficient solution to the problem that I don’t even have a place to swim. I have been joking with my pal Callie that I will be swimming in circles in her above-ground pool all summer long, but it is starting to look like that is not so much of a joke. Since they just moved in last weekend and the pool has not used for quite some time, there are currently polywogs swimming around in it. If they don’t get cleared out in time, maybe I’ll just have to plan on some polywog races this summer.

I’ve been so focused on what I considered my biggest obstacle (running) that I haven’t focused as much on biking and swimming, and therefore don’t really have a clue as to how much of an obstacle these two things will be. Knowing me, there will be some minor technical difficulties to overcome (we all know I seem to have wardrobe issues when it comes to athletics) but besides that, who knows what I’ll be facing. And I guess now that I’ve semi-overcome the terror that running used to inspire in me, it might be a good time to hop onto a bike and see what it has in store for me. I wouldn’t want to get too over confident in my athletic abilities– adding wheels, chains and handlebars to the mix should be interesting. I’m borrowing my friend Audrey’s bike for the triathlon and training (super big thank you to Audrey!) and I’m just hoping to return it in one piece- meaning I hope that I am in one piece when I return the bike, and hopefully the bike is in one piece, too.

The well-worn phrase “It’s like riding a bike” always pops into my head– how hard can it be to ride a bike, if everyone refers to something that’s easy to pick up again by using this phrase? But I have a feeling that this saying vastly underestimates my personal hesitation towards a sport that involves a piece of equipment that needs steering and requires me to wear a helmet. This last concern is not solely due to the fact that I’m pretty sure no one looks cute in a helmet. It’s also because any time you have to wear protective gear to avoid brain injury, you should think twice about what you’re doing. But since thinking twice about anything isn’t really my style lately, I’m just planning to put on that helmet and start pedaling.