Monthly Archives: October 2009

10/25/09 Overlooking the Obvious

Monday.  Surprise!!  Another entry and you didn’t even have to wait a month!!  I’m trying to be a little more regimented as I am getting into IM training full swing.

I’m feeling REALLY good right now.  I had a tough run on Saturday (not the toughest I’ve ever had — more like a reminder of the “fun” to come).  I made it to swim practice at 6 a.m. on Saturday.   I knew I had been absent for awhile when I showed up and the swim coach (from last season) pointed to the pool and said “this is a pool.”  Yeah, yeah, I get it, I haven’t been swimming.  But I’m here now and got in.  I swam the week before and thought I did pretty well.   The previous time I was in the pool I could only do 8 laps (and that was not continuous.)  Last week I did 40 without stopping.  Felt 100% fine.  So why were my arms hurting this week with the sculling drills?  And more important,. why were my legs mush after all the kicking drills?  We did A LOT of kicking drills.

After swim practice, I headed out for my run.  I was nervous but willing to tackle the stair drills with the team but my coach turned me around and sent me to the trails.  “Not yet.  We have time for that.  We have to build you up.”  So he gave me some drills to do on the soft surface and I hit the bridle path.   Whoa!!!  As soon as I started my legs were shaky.  (Apparently my coach knows me better than I know myself — I had no muscles yet).  It was an old and familiar feeling but I haven’t felt it in over a year.   It was the same feeling of when you get off a long bike ride and start to run.  My legs felt like pillars of cement and all my muscles were tightening up.  Oh yeaaahhh, I had forgotten that feeling but my memory came back fast.  They call a bike/run (or any two workouts together) a brick.  I think it is because your legs feel like bricks when you start the run.  Eventually it goes away the more you practice it but I was a hurting puppy.   First time around the bridle path I had to stop twice to stretch.  During one of my stretches my old friend Missy found me and ran with me for the second loop.  I still had to stop and stretch one more time.  But I did manage a third time around and ran back down to Tavern on the green.   I’m not sure of the total mileage on that.  Maybe 6 miles?  Maybe a smidge more if you count my commute from Asphalt Green to the park.  It took me 1 1/2 to finish it (with all my little stretches) so 2 1/2 hours of workout not so terrible for pre-season.   I walked home from the park.

My coach was adamant about my stretching when I got home.  “I want a thorough stretch when you get home, get out your roller and really work out everything.”   Ugh the roller?  I hate that thing.  But I got home and did it.  I pulled out my Max massager and my styrofoam roller and I stretched and stretched and stretched.  I was tight.  I can tell when I do my windshield wiper stretch (that’s when I lie on my back with my knees bent and flip my knees back and forth like windshield wipers) that I was tight.  I usually can get my knees all the way down on each side — I wasn’t even close.  Stretch, stretch, stretch some more.

Sunday I got up and my legs felt great!!  I met one of the gals from the team for a ride over the GWB.  The weather was amazing.  She was a newbie rider and maybe not the best riding partner for me but she was super nice and I had an agenda anyway.  I wanted to work on my hill climbing skills.  I had spent some time talking over mechanics of hill climbing with my friend Jac and I was going to try to figure out what the heck she was talking about.  I also had some tips from the coaches and was going to try some experimenting on what was going on with my hill climbing.  One of the Assistant coaches said to me last week he believes  it is my mechanics not strength.  Really?  I didn’t believe him because I’m carrying so much more weight that I figured of course I’m going to be slower (not that I was ever fast but I’m REALLY slow right now on the hills.)  So I was taking all the comments and data and trying to figure out when to use my hamstrings and glutes and when to use my quads and when to use my core (always) and when to push and when to pull and where to sit and where to put my hands and.. and… and…. 

Meanwhile I was still a little mad at myself from my bike session two Thursdays ago when I made the most basic of errors when climbing Harlem Hill with the group.  Basically I’m the slowest climber but I can usually catch them fairly easily on the other side.  I pick the slowest group hoping that I wouldn’t be lost climbing the hill but then I made a tactical error.  We were pacelining (which basically means we in a formation together and work together as a unit.  You move faster and catch a draft off of the other riders.  Many pedals make light work.)  The paceline we were doing was two lines going up the hill.  The line on the right is forwarding line.  That line goes just a smidge faster.  The line on the left is the retreating line.  It goes a smidge slower.  When you get to the front of the forwarding line you smoothly move over to the front of the retreating line and scrub off a little of your speed so the next person can move in front of you.  And then the next person goes.  Eventually it ends up looking like a counter-clockwise rotation as the entire group moves forward.  The idea is you are only out of a draft when you are on the front and we work together to move faster. 

So duh me.  I know I’m the slowest rider going up the hill.  I know I’m supposed to  position myself (or the coach positions me) to be toward the front as we approach the hill.   The coaches always put me in the right spot.  I’m not last starting out the hill.  I’m usually like second so I do have to pass one person early on.  Somewhere on the hill I will move over to the left and the group will keep going.  If I do it right I won’t be left that far behind.  IF I DO IT RIGHT.   So my duh moment is I move over to the left and I back off the pace a little so the next person will have room to move in front of me.    DUH!!!  They are faster than me.  I didn’t need to back off even a smidge.  I needed to keep working as hard as I could which would APPEAR to be me backing off when in reality it was just me trying to hang on.   The moment I backed off one smidge?  The whole group took off without me again and I had to fight to get back on.  It’s also harder to pick up momentum than it is to keep it.  ARRGGGH!!!  I didn’t figure it out until I got home and I was making my breakfast.  It hit me what I had done.   You yahoo!!!  I can’t believe I didn’t figure that out.  I was just backing off as I always do on the retreating line.  I did not take terrain into consideration.  I was so mad.  I would probably still have been dropped but probably by not as much.  The difference between catching up on 25 yards and 50 yards is a big difference.    That just stuck in my craw all week.  How could I be so unaware!?!?!? 

So now I’m hell bent on figuring out how to get up the hills faster as I am waiting for my weight to come off.  I set out to ride on Sunday with one of the gals from the team.  Of course she gets a flat as soon as we hit 9W and of course she has never changed a tire and she doesn’t have a spare cartridge or a pump and I end up showing her how to change her tire and going over some really basic bike stuff.  I don’t really mind (because people have done this for me many a time) but I’m anxious to get to some hills to test out my hill climbing techniques.  Memories of my conversations with various people are floating through my head.  Do I push with my quads or my hamstrings?  Am I pulling with my hamstrings or pulling with my core?  Push harder 1-4?  But wouldn’t that make me be doing the dreaded hammer pedal?  We stop and I point out all of the points of interest — this is Ranger Station, this is  Tallman park, this is Piermont bike shop where you WILL buy a spare tube and some CO2 cartridges.  This is the coffee shop where I WILL be buying a cup of coffee…..  The weather was SOOOO gorgeous and she was so nice and everyone out was in a good mood.  All the cyclists were talking to one another and everyone was just bursting with Autumnal glory.

Then we start our climbing home.   First stop was Tallman.  I start playing around with different pedal strokes.  Nope they pretty much all hurt and I’m slow with all of them.  I do notice that the end came quicker than I recalled and I really wasn’t sucking wind as much as I had the last time I hit Tallman.  Then we hit Stateline hill.  I’m trying to practice pushing with my hamstrings and quads.   Try that vs pushing down with my quads.  Yes, I feel the difference.  I keep trying to push with my hamstrings.  I think there might be a little difference.  Keep going.  When I get to the top I continue to push out.  I’m focussing on every part of the pedal stroke what am I doing where and what am I feeling.  I keep pushing out and then I really feel a difference.  Ooh, I got something there.  What was that?  There was some power.  What did I do?   Now I’m at the top and I’m waiting for my teammate who is struggling because this is her first ride so I decide to practice all of this in my easiest gear.  In my easiest gear I try the same thing.  Whoa… that really works.  I’m able to get some power there.   And then it dawns on me.  It dawns on me what I am doing.  I’m pushing from 11-1.  I let out a big sigh of disgust.  11-1,  11 to 1!!!   ELEVEN TO ONE!!!  Jimminy Crickets.  2007, clove road.  Russian Coach riding next to me.  Push through 11-1.  He says.  Push your heel through 11-1.  That had become my mantra for two years.  11-1.   (11 to 1 is referring to a clock.  If you imagine your pedal stroke is like a clock,. instead of thinking of lifting up and over you think of pushing straight through across 11 to 1 and you create more force.  You end up pushing through your stroke and getting more power.  You still end up going through midnight but that’s because of the rotation of the pedal.)  Some how I had managed to totally forget it and had made up every single variation of it.  I think I was pulling the clock in reverse instead of pushing it forward.   I was so mad.  I need to have this tatooed on my hand or something.  Eleven to One.  I can’t believe I totally forgot this.   Yikes I’m starting all over again.

So I take the next hill 11-1, it definitely works better.  I’m not really faster — I just feel more efficient.  People are blazing by me but I’m feeling my legs getting strong, not weaker.  My quads are not burning ’cause not engaging them first.  I am feeling my quads work but in a lengthening kind of way.  It’s coming from my glutes first.  I’m not explaining that very well.  But now I’m on the flats and I continue to do the same.  Now I feel the power in my legs.  Yes, this is how it used to feel.  This is what I what I need to be working on.  Freaking 11-1.  It’s like tennis all over again.  I say it all the time, start with racquet back and down.  Then you start moving onto all kind of fancy stuff and you forget, racquet back and down.  Six months later your stroke has gone to crap and you don’t understand why, you go out with a pro and they say racquet back and down and voila, you are whacking the ball again.  So my cycling equivalent of “racquet-back-and-down” is “eleven-to-one.”  I was thinking of putting 11-1 on my handle bars but I don’t think that will remind me.  Maybe if I write “Racquet Back and Down” I’ll remember to go 11-1.  ARGGGHHH it drives me nuts when I am oblivious to the obvious.

I felt fantastic on my ride.  It was only about 4 1/2 hours of actual ride time but I felt good and strong the entire time.  My head was clear.  My lungs were working.  My heartrate was under control (maybe a little too much.)  The weather was great.  Awesome day.  I could have ridden 100 miles — seriously, I could have ridden a lot more.

The other really weird thing that has been going on is my sinus headaches that have plagued me for my whole life are gone all of a sudden.  For the past week I have woken up every day with such a clear head and I have no idea what I have done differently.  Sometimes my sinuses hurt so much that I have to take pills.  Most of the time they are tolerable.  They are better in CT than they are in NYC so I just figure it’s something to do with pollution.  They are never really clear it is more a matter of some days worse than others.  But my head has been so clear for the last week that it is almost alien to me.  I wake up breathing so clearly that it is almost shocking.   I would say it was meditation but I’ve meditated a lot more than I doing right now and it’s never mattered.  I can’t figure it out.  What did I do?  How do I maintain this?  The good news is I have a complete food log for the last couple of  weeks to look back on.  If my head clogs up again I can look to see what new foods (if it is food) that I have introduced.  I’ll be bummed if it turns out to be just the good weather factor because I don’t have any control over that.

I’m excited to go back to my doctor tomorrow to see if we can adjust my medications again.  I have been working out and tracking all of my calories but the scale is not budging.  In fact last week at WW they said I gained again (but it didn’t feel like it so I’m chalking that one up to water weight.)  Since my last appointment, I have a complete log of calories in and out, including workout out time spent with effort and calories consumed on my workout.  I get to bring it in to her and say HERE!!  Here is my proof that I am not eating too much.  I’m working out every day and I’m watching every calorie and it’s not working!!!  To be fair, I’m not starving myself so it may be that she says I have to cut back even more but that might kill me.  I’m quite sure that I am due for a bump up in my hormone pills.  She’s rather cautious so we’ve been very slowly building it up.  (But I’ve consulted Dr. Google and I think my dosage is way too low.)   I am starting to feel pretty good energy wise.  I feel like my system is getting back in a groove, but I think my metabolism is still on vacation.  I’m just hoping she agrees with me and doesn’t say “sorry, your just old, you have to reduce your calories even more.”  I might cry. 

This morning I started my morning shake.  I’m not really too thrilled with this idea.  I really like eating my calories vs drinking them.  But there are so many good things I can get out of a morning shake.  I got the Vita Mix blender.  I’m supposed to throw in an acre’s worth of vegetables and make a super shake that has zero calories and a kabillion micro nutrients.  I was really leary about starting this so I started with a not so green shake.  I took 1/2 cup of soy milk, 1/2 ounce raw cocoa powder and a banana with lots of ice.  It tasted good but really?  I’d rather eat something.  Now I have to start working these protein shake recipes.  The idea is this will curb my morning appetite, get me lots of micronutrients and protein (macro nutrient) with low calories and lots of fiber.  I don’t know why I can’t get behind this.  Maybe it is the lack of chew factor.   But I’m willing to try if this is supposed to help me.

I’m pumped for a good week.  I feel truly ready to rumble!!!


“No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious”

George Bernard Shaw

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10/23/09 Benchmarks

Friday.  I’ve been bad about updating the blog.  Ironically this week having a blog history has proved helpful if not humorous.  For that reason alone I think it is important to keep a record of your journey in life.  You can’t possibly remember everything and one day you’ll look back and wonder what was it really like training for an Ironman, Marathon des Sables, learning to swim, recovering from a crash, recovering in general?   Sometimes the reality of your journal clashes dramatically with your memories!

I’ve been feeling better every week.  There have been little but marked improvements.  Back in September when I came back to riding and joined the 1/2 Ironman team for their “decompression” training rides (which were much too hard for me) I remember my heart beating so hard it scared me.  I really thought I was going to have a heart attack and keel over.  I couldn’t get air to go past my collar-bone — wouldn’t go into my lungs or fill my lungs. 

Then slowly my lungs began to fill with air and then I was aware of the lack of muscles in my body.  My legs were mush.  Slowly I started to feel the burn of muscles reclaiming and rebuilding.  Then there were a couple of workouts where I finally felt the air reach all the way down to the bottom of my toes and the burn hit all my muscles at once.  Then I knew I was on my way back to rebuilding. 

After my accident in 2007 there were several moments when I realized I was getting better.  The one that sticks out in my memory is one morning I was riding my bike to the park and I turned my head to look behind if a car was coming.   After I did it I realized I had turned my head without having to sit up and turn at the waist!  I turned my head!!  I still remember the feeling today.  I can’t believe I turned my head.  Even now when I hit that spot on 64th street I turn my head and remember “there was a time when you couldn’t do that.”  (yes, yes, I know I probably shouldn’t have been riding my bike if I couldn’t turn my head, but too late now, so we’ll move on.)

For the last month I’ve been trying to run again –with little to no success.  I’ve gone out twice a week, faithfully trying.  I was definitely able to stay out and on my feet for 90 minutes but it was mostly walking.  I would try and try.  Try to go eight minutes without stopping.  No?  Okay, five, just do five without stopping.  Can’t do five eh?  Okay, three, shoot for three.  Okay just see how far you can go.  One and half minutes?  That’s all you can do?  Okay, we’ll take it.  One and a half minutes before my heart would be beating so fast it was three feet outside my chest.  Scaring me into stopping.  Okay walk, just walk.  Walking is good.

Then I got to where I could run downhill.  Any downhill I would run.  But as soon as I hit any uphill boom, boom, boom my heart would start beating so hard.  Some days I was just exhausted and I couldn’t even finish the ninety minutes walking.  Just keep going.

Two Tuesdays ago I made it all the way around the bridle path.  The most I could do was a couple of five-minute stretches of running but I was walking fast and I had the energy to complete it.  I felt it was a starting place.  Okay from here I can work on getting better.  Now I have some numbers to beat.  I can’t really get up any of the hills yet but I have energy and that gives me something to work with.

This last Sunday I tried again.  I was able to run on the flats and about half way up the little inclines.  Couldn’t make it up the garbage truck bump in the park and on the bridle path hill going up to reservoir I could get to the knotted tree and had to stop.  Gasping for air, my heart beating too fast, too hard.  Walk until it comes back down.   Then resume.

Tuesday I went out for the exact same run as Sunday.  This time I had some music and I decided I would not look at my watch.  I would just hit my timer and go.  Instead of trying to see how many minutes I could go I would just go until I absolutely couldn’t.  So I started out nice and slowly.  (I start at the southern end of the Bridle path near Columbus Circle).  Jogged up to Tavern on the green.  Hey, that was a little incline and you didn’t have to stop.  Yeah, keep going.  I kept going and going and going.  Up the garbage hill, up to the reservoir waiving at the knotted tree as I passed.  I kept going on the bridle path, now it was flat.   I kept going up the bumps down the bumps (they are not even hills but they have felt like mountains to me at certain times).  I couldn’t understand what was going on.  My heart rate was back to the way it used to be.  I was breathing hard but not so hard that I couldn’t talk.  My heart wasn’t jumping out of my chest.  I was getting oxygen all the way down to my toes.  I started to pick up my pace a smidge and then brought it back down when I thought I was breathing out of control.  I was actually lifting my feet off the ground (which is not easy these days with the extra tonnage).  Back down the bridle path.  Okay I’ll forgive myself if I can’t make it up those final two bumps to tavern on the green.  But no problem up a bump and up a second bump.  Back down and I keep going.  This is unbelievable.  I went to the end and then back up to jog back out of the park.  An hour without stopping.  Unbelieveable.  I haven’t done that since April.  And here’s the really sick part.  If you told me I had to keep going (like I was going to save the planet or something) I could have kept going.  Three days earlier I couldn’t do eight minutes.  Yet on this day I did an hour.  I don’t get it.  But I was happy.  It’s progress.  From here I can start.  A benchmark.  An honest to God real life benchmark.  Exhale.

No time to rest on my huge achievement of running for 1 hour (did I really run/walk for six and seven hours in Feb and March?)  Bigger fish to deep fry.  Thursday was our time trial for the bike.  I was very nervous.  I haven’t been able to keep up with anyone on the bike yet.  The cycling team leaves me so far in the dust that I can’t even join the workouts anymore — they have advanced so far past me that I can’t even catch up to hear the instructions for the next interval.  But in its own way the cycling team served its purpose of getting me out there and suffering through the high heart rate and burning muscles and learning that I can’t afford to even whisper to someone because I need every ounce of my oxygen.  But now it was no longer serving its purpose.  Now it was starting to break me down.  Time to recognize and move on.   I decided to not go to the cycling team practice and focus on setting a benchmark for myself with the Ironman team on Thursday.

I was nervous about this.  I can’t tell you exactly why but I was.  Whenever you attach a number to your performance you can’t help but feel nervous about it.  Of course there a million different factors that effect comparative numbers.  You can’t compare two different races — if the courses are not the same.  That’s why we have PR’s and course PR’s (PR meaning Personal Records).  When I race St. Croix I have a totally different expectation than when I race Tupper Lake.  The courses are different, the time of year is different (different stages of training).  Your focus can be different (is it an A race or just a “please God let me not die out here” race).   Weather – temperature.  And for me it seems that every year I have to take into consideration what stage of recovery am I in.  What’s broken and what’s mending and what’s getting stronger?  So the numbers are nice to look at but what do they really mean?

I let myself fall into the trap of “Attaching” to a number this week.  I wanted to be at least as “good” as I was this time 2008 Ironman training.  My Buddha School teachers could have a full day discussion on just my using the words attached and good.  Intellectually I understand all of that.  Emotionally I’m still a third grader looking for a gold star on her test.  I get it that the numbers are relative and yes it means very little to compare the numbers from when I was recovering from my bike accident in 2007 and now getting back into training after a long summer in 2009 but darn it all, I was going to pull out the numbers and compare anyway!!

That’s where having a blog and a training diary come in handy.  Hmmm,  what was I doing at this time in 2007 training for Ironman?  How did I do in my first time trial then?  I looked it up and saw that I did the three loops of the park in 1:05.  Okay, well I was still recovering from a punctured lung, broken scapula and broken ribs so even though I was riding my bike I should be able to do better than that.  Hey wait a minute, how about 2006?  In 2006 I wasn’t recovering from anything.  Yeah it was first year Ironman training but nonetheless I can look to see how I was doing.  That’s when I got a nice big fat slap in the face with the wet towel of reality.

I found two posts from October 2006.  Here are the excerpts:


“We did more drills this morning.  Figure 8’s and tight circles and then we had to do sharp turns.  I stunk.  I know coach R was getting frustrated with me ’cause I kept breaking around the turns.  Well actually I know he was frustrated ’cause he kept yelling at me — “stop braking”!!”….  Then we did more pacelining.  The first loop around we were fine but then they really wanted us to start picking up the pace.  Our pace line fell apart a bit going down the big turn at Lasker Hill.  Oops I guess that was me that caused the paceline to fall apart there.  That was the fastest I’ve ever taken that turn and it wasn’t fast enough!!  I have lots of work to do on turning.  We did 3 loops of Central Park (two 6 milers and one 5 miler).  I counted 4 times the coach told me to stop talking this morning!!!  And that was on my good behavior — I was trying to keep it zipped!  But if I say as much as “Hello” he shouts at me to stop talking.   ROFL.  This is going to be a long winter….  Not sure I can control my gift of gab or my sharp turns but I will keep practicing.  “


My big piece of progress is that I didn’t brake going around the corner on the big downhill.  Dan cheered for me because he knows I’m a big chicken when it comes to rounding that corner and last week I kept breaking up the paceline because I was braking.  This week no braking.  I just said to myself “if you go down, you go down.” 

After I read these entries I flopped in my chair and start laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes.  You big poser you!!!  Try to beat 1:05, let’s write an algorithm to try to predict tomorrow’s performance based on the moon effect.  How absolutely ridiculous.    Three years ago you couldn’t get down Lasker Hill without braking and breaking up the group.  But you know why I loved that group?  They never yelled at me.  They always encouraged me.  I remember coach Kim saying to me “I promise one day you will be bombing down this hill.”  I didn’t believe her for one second.  I knew every bump and crack in that turn at the bottom of Lasker Hill and I was sure I was going to hit each and every one of them.

I could barely sleep the night before this weeks’ time trial because I was laughing so hard at myself.  If those blog entries were not a knock down to reality I don’t know what is.  How’s this for a goal for your time trial?  Don’t fall on your ass.  Don’t brake going down the hill.  Stop talking!!  (I can’t believe it is 3 years later and I STILL talk too much, I can’t help it!)

So how did the time trial go?  I think it went great.  I had a blast.  It’s how I like to ride.  Maybe I’ll never be a “cyclist” cause I like to ride the road as I like to ride the road.  I backed off on the uphills and I pushed on the downhills.  I stayed a steady effort and tried to hold back a smidge so I could finish.  I realize now I could have gone a smidge faster but that’s okay.  But not too much faster. I wanted a bench mark.  Final time?  1:02.  But I’m laughing because the 1:02 doesn’t mean as much to me as I didn’t brake once going down Lasker Hill.  I didn’t hit a crack and fall.  And I didn’t keep talking the whole time.    Oh and the 1:02?  That was my EXACT time from my time trial in January of 2008.  Exact.   And I thought I stunk then too.  This will keep me amused for days!


I have to write out this intro paragraph from Pema Chodron’s book Start Where You Are.  I just love this intro (and I love her).

“We already have everything we need.  There is no need for self-improvement.  All these trips that we lay on ourselves – heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth.  They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun.  But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here.  This is who we really are.  We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”

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10/5/09 Wheee…. 50…..

Monday.  Oops I promised the coffe klatch I would have a new posting up.  I honestly don’t know where September went.  I looked up and saw Fall looming in front of me and now it is just zooming past.  Lots of good stuff starting to happen.

Let’s see.  First I guess I should say I turned 50!!  Yep, the big five-uh-oh.  This is very interesting because like most people who hit milestone years I’m usually disappointed because I don’t feel any different than before.  I have to say I feel very different as I have hit 50.  I am not the same person I was at 40.  I love all the previous decades but I have a sneaky feeling this one is going to be the best.  A lot of the things I worried about before I’m just not that worried about anymore.    I’ve experienced heart aches and joys.  They have all brought me to where I am today and I’m pretty happy — so no regrets. 

All that said, I’ve had a hard summer.  Two years of IM training and the MDS and not feeling so well afterwards put me in the dumps.  I gained a lot of weight back.  I gained pretty much all of it back.  Big Sigh, BUT, Pema Chodron and I “start where we are” and move forward.  It’s not a big mystery to me how it happened.  It is what it is, but this time I am taking a little bit of a different approach.  I’m embracing who I am now and not worrying about what I once was and what I might be.  The best way I can think of  to explain my attitude is to say I’m no longer striving, I’m just letting what will be reveal itself.  That is not to say, of course, that I am not going to work hard and set goals.  But I’m not going to be kicking myself when I can’t run a 10 minute mile, or I can’t fit into a pair of jeans (or any pair of jeans for that matter).    It’s the kinder and gentler me.  It is who I am today.  Tomorrow I will be who I am tomorrow.

At first I thought, “uh oh, you’ve lost it, you’ve been beaten down, you don’t care.”  But in fact I have been finding by letting go of the reins a little bit I’m finding better results.  Funny irony there.  I’ve been taking some classes in Buddhist studies and one of my teachers had a really great example about taming the mind for meditation.  He gave the analogy of hugging a child.  If you hold the child loosely, he’ll stand by.  Maybe drape himself over your arms, fall asleep on your knee.   If anything he’ll hold on to you — climb all over you.  But the moment you hold him a little too tight as if to say “don’t go anywhere” that is the moment the child starts to resist, he starts to squirm.  Suddenly he can’t be confirmed another minute.  Meditation and taming your mind is like that.  A lot of times we try to force ourselves to “clear our minds.”  Don’t think of anything, just meditate.  Well that’s pretty much impossible for the merely mortal.  The wider you make the fence the more tame your mind will get.  The more you say “don’t think” the more you will think.  The more you say “don’t eat” the more you will eat.  The more you say “don’t”  the more you will.

And that is how training has been going as well.   I’ve been riding with the TL Cycling team AND I started Ironman Training (for Ironman Canada, August 2010).  To say I’m getting dropped regularly on the bike would be an understatement.  I take so many shortcuts to just catch up it’s not funny, but actually it is funny.  I play games with them and they don’t even know it.  If, for example, I take the 102nd street cutoff (while they go do an extra mile+) I race to get to the reservoir before they catch me.  If I get there first,  I win.  And I’m thrilled about it!! LOL  Because let me tell you, sometimes I don’t win.  I’ll be huffing and puffing up one of the rollers and all of a suddenly the wall of red comes wooshing by me.  Chapstick.  I’ll have to take the 72nd cutoff.  And then I take my time getting up Cat Hill and wait to rejoin them.    I don’t even get upset.  I just focus on what I’m doing and I have faith that if I just keep plugging away I will reveal the biker chick in me.  Someday I’ll be in the wall of red.   And if not?  I get some good exercise and a chance for some beautiful and quiet mornings in the park.

I’ve been out twice to “run.”  Let’s just say that is going about as well as the cycling.  I can’t even run a mile non-stop right now.  (Well I can if it is all downhill but I’ve not been finding a lot of those.)  I do 2 minutes and have to walk.  Then I do 3 minutes and have to walk.  If by the end of 90 minutes if I get a couple of 8 minute segments in there I consider it a huge success.  I figure I’ll just keep narrowing the gap until I’m running 90 minutes again.  It will happen.  I just can’t force it.  Loose hold.  Let it go and it will come back to you.

For my birthday last weekend I rode 50 miles.  That was fun.  It was a social ride and the first 10 miles we did with some of my non-tri friends who think 10 miles is just plenty (the smart people).  One friend hung on for 30.  Jac and Michelle hung with me for the whole 50 (or I should say I followed them.)  We did it at a nice and easy pace and it took most of the day.   Every time we hit a big down hill I made everyone say “Happy Birthday” to me and then bolted down the downhills.  They were fun. Beautiful scenery.  I was well aware that my biking endurance is gone for now but slowly (and I mean slowly) it is coming back.   I’m enjoying the process of exploring the miracle of my “humanness.”  What we can do as a human being is a miracle.  Just breathing is a miracle.  The rest of it is just miracle gravy.

This weekend I was in CT.  I was supposed to do a 40-45 mile ride for my IM team and some form sprints on a hill for my Cycling team.  I figured I would combine the workouts and looked around for a good ride with some hills.   Found a local cycling club website.  They were doing a new 50 mile ride called their “Fall Classic.”  Cool.   Their team members didn’t look intimidating.  They looked like normal folk.  I signed up.   I figured I did 50 last weekend so I should be able to do it.  The description said it was a challenging ride but I figured “it’s only 50 miles, how hard can that be?”  (Yes, I know, I know…)   Then it said elevation gain 3,000 feet.  Sad part was, I really had no idea what that meant.  Is that high?  I mean I’ve ridden up Mohonk Mountain and Lake Placid — they’re hilly.  Couldn’t be much hillier than that right?  (I know… I know…)

 The 50 miler started at 8 and about 20 people were there.  None of the average looking guys from the website.  These were all skinny biker dudes and a couple of gals.  Great.  Not exactly a melting pot of cyclists.  Everyone was really nice and introduced themselves.  I met a gal who seemed about my age and fitness who was riding the 50 solo.  Cool, we could team up and be lost together.    Unfortunately within two minutes of the ride we hit a hill bigger than Harlem Hill.  It wasn’t even two minutes, it was basically around the corner from the start.  I started to follow the woman up the hill.  When I saw that I was passing her with ease I knew we were not going to be riding together.   It was going to take me long enough to finish 50, I could not spend the whole day out there.  I did my best to catch up to the group but they were slowly inching away.  I kept seeing a group of three pop onto the horizon every once in awhile and an occasional late starter passed me but I was basically on my own.  Well at least the roads were marked and I had a cue sheet.

I had to strip down at the SAG wagon at mile 10.  It was less than 60 degrees but the air was so thick with humidity that it seemed hotter.  That’s when I met Bob — the sweep guy.  His job was to ride with the last rider and make sure nobody would get lost.  Guess who was the last rider?  Yeppers, yours truly.  Since I was last anyway, I asked the SAG guy to raise my seat half an inch because I just wasn’t getting any snap in my pedal stroke.  (I had pulled Sylvia out of retirement from the barn in CT for this ride — figuring her triple chainwheel would come in handy.)  Off I went, stripped down and raised seat.  Felt much better.  But there were no people in sight on the horizon any more.

Soon Bob started to ride with me.  I had to laugh because he was riding what I would call a paper-route bike — you know the kind that has a fender on the back with clip to hold books and such?   He also had a big gear bag on the back of his bike (to help with first aid and fixing bikes).  He had some really cool GPS device that was mapping the route.   It was more like a small car than a bike. With all that weighing him down he was still riding circles around me.  Oh and he wasn’t young either.  I would guess he was about 60.

The hills weren’t that bad until about mile 15.  And they were fierce.  Like hills I would NEVER pick for a bike tour.  Hills I would never pick for a training ride either (though my coaches would).  It was like every hill was a State Line Hill but steeper and longer.  My heart was beating outside of my chest.   On the first half of the ride the biggest I think about a mile and half into an uphill and just before I was about to pass out and fall off my bike I saw a driveway.  I ducked into the driveway to stop.  When I looked up the hill I saw that it got steeper and longer.  I couldn’t imagine how I was going to get up it.  I waited until my heartrate got somewhere down toward normal and finished climbing.  I had to stop again at the top.  Sweat was pouring down my face.  Oh my God, what was I going to do?  Should I stop?  Should I quit?  There was one more part of the hill to climb.  I saw more hill after that but Bob was waiting at the the crest so I figured we would turn.  As I approached the top, all the while thanking Jesus, there was another gal from the 50 mile group waiting there.  She needed a rest too.  Whew, I was zonked.  The three of us carried on.

We came  across two guys who were obviously tuckered from the climb as well.  They joined our little weary band.  We hit the first big downhill.  It wasn’t exactly a downhill — it was more like the side of cliff.  It was so steep I couldn’t believe it.  I have NEVER ridden down something so steep.  The ground was wet.  There were leaves.   Recipe for disaster.  I was having a hard time controlling the speed.  The gal in pink dashed ahead of me.  Godspeed I thought, no way, no way, no way.  I saw another driveway.  I couldn’t scrub enough speed so I turned in.  As I stopped and turned around I saw one of the guys wipe out.  It was slippery and fast.  He was okay but I think we all thought it was better to be safe than sorry.  I waited for them to make sure they were okay.  Just a little road rash, he would continue on.  We saddled up.

I was hell bent on getting to mile 25 as soon as possible.  It’s so funny how we do calculations in our head.  Let’s see I did St. Anthony’s in 1:20 for 26 miles.  This is about the same difference let’s add a few minutes for the hills so say 1:45?  I did Tupper Lake in just under 3 hours so add another hour for a leisurely pace.  Yeah, I should be so lucky.  Took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to finish 25 miles.  Subtract 5 minutes for the clothes change and seat adjust and it is still a long time.  Oh yeah, St. A’s is pitch flat and I had actually trained all year for it so I guess not a fair comparison but nonetheless I was making them.  Let it go. 

Quick pit stop at the 25 mile marker.  Gal in pink is there already.  They ask how I’m doing and I said I had to stop on one hill to catch my breath. “Oh I know which one that was, yeah that’s a tough one.  Don’t worry the second half they are not as steep they are just long.”  Said the gal with the peanut butter sandwiches.  I mumbled “thanks” as I ate half a pb&j sandwich and refilled water bottles (so humid!!)  refueled and set back out on my own.  Pink seemed to be hanging out at the rest stop and I was in no mood for making this an all day event.  So I took off.  Right out of the park another hill. What a shock.  And on and on it went.  Hill, Hill, Hill.

I rode ahead for about 10 miles and then Bob popped out of nowhere again.  Where’s the girl in pink?  I asked.  “Oh she took a shortcut.”   “there was a shortcut?”  I asked, I felt some tears forming.   “Yeah, she had her GPS out and saw a short cut and took it.  I sent that other woman on a shortcut awhile back, she should be joining up with us soon.”  “There were two shortcuts?”  My lower lip quivered.  “I, I, I, I could use a shortcut.”   Bob laughed, “you’re fine, let’s go.”  “No, really” I said, “if there is another shortcut, please let me know…”

“Where are the other two guys?”  I asked.  “Dunno, they must have dropped out.”    I sighed.  “So I’m LAST?  Dead last?  What’s the time limit on this thing?”  “Dunno, sunset?  Whenever we get there we get there.”  Does he even breathe?  I think to myself.  He’s so not out of breath and I’m dying.

We start heading down a steep hill (all the downhills are steep and not fun)  and I see a woman in yellow waving flags at the bottom.  Hmm, what is she doing?  Oh I see she is waiving for us to go straight.  Oh, and she’s stopping traffic coming from the other direction.  Why does she need to do that?  Holey Chapstick.   Then I saw the wall.  It wasn’t a road.  It was a wall.  She was telling us to go straight and ride up that wall.  The only way to do it was to get as much acceleration as I could and see how far up I could get.  I took everything I had and pedaled as hard and as fast as I could.  I really though I might just smash into it.  Can cars get up this?  Shouldn’t I have a hiking pick?  What the ??????  I got about 1/4 of the way up and I just kept digging.  Every hill I have ever climbed came into my head.  This was harder than Mountain Rest Road but is it harder than that lip on Clove road where I sprained my stomach sucking it in so hard?  Yes it’s like that lip on Clove Road but it keeps on going.   I can’t do it, I can’t make it, I have to stop.  Don’t stop, don’t quit.  My heart.  I can’t do it.  Let me stop.  You can’t stop.  Suck in your stomach and pull.  Don’t quit.  Why the hell not?  People stop and walk all the time.  If you go through that door you won’t come back out.  You can’t stop because you can’t start back up.  There is no driveway.…   It couldn’t have been 2 miles per hour.  I was breathing down to my toes.   I made it to the top and my legs were shaking….   Bob pulls up beside me.  “Whew, that was some hill, hey?”  “Hey?  Hey???  That’s all you have to say is Hey???  I lost a lung down there.”    “Only one?”  He laughed.   He LAUGHED.    Yeesh.  I can’t do Ironman I’m too old.  Release the child.

More hills but now I’m immune.  I don’t care what the cue sheet says.  I’m just blind.  I’m shaky and blind.  I’m eating the emergency gels I brought.   We have only 7 miles to go and I don’t think I can make it.  We make it up one more hill and Bob announces that the cue sheet says that is the last big hill.  Yeah, whatever, at this point I don’t care.  They are liars.  There are more hills coming I know it.  7 miles and they’ll feel like 70.

But they don’t.  The last 5 miles are okay.  Bob and I finally get to chat.  45 miles in and it is finally flat enough to chat.  We ride along the Connecticut River, over a little bridge and through the town.  The race organizers are drive by honking and waiving.  “We came looking for you.”  They yell.   “We’re fine!” Bob yells back and waives.  “I’m not fine!!”  I yell.  “I dropped a lung and I’ve sprained both of my quads.”  The woman laughs and yells “your’re fine! we’ll see you back there.”   She laughed.  She LAUGHED.  I’m not fine.

But maybe I am fine.  Now we are riding through town and turning down cute little streets and then through a back alley.  Okay my head feels okay so I didn’t officially bonk, it was more like I burnt.  You know how they say do reps until failure?  Well I was at failure at mile 25. 

I pulled into the parking lot and the staff cheered.  Pink was there and one other guy.  “Yeah I knew you were right behind me” he said “but I didn’t want to wait and find out how far.”  He was shovelling food into his face.  I can’t eat.  How could he be eating?  Everyone was so happy I made it.     “What about the woman at the beginning”  I asked.  “She cut out and did the 25 mile route.” Harumph.   What about those two guys behind me?  “SAG wagon picked them up, they’re on their way home.”  Geesh.  So I’m really dead last?  Yeppers.  Dead last.  It took me 5 hours to complete 51 miles.  That’s 10 miles an hour.  10 miles an HOUR!!  And nobody seemed the least concerned about it.  They were all smiling and laughing.  They were LAUGHING.  Ah well, I guess I’m fine afterall…  Start where you are.


Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe.
Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

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