Monthly Archives: June 2010

6/28/10 Tupperwhere?

Monday.  Well it’s done.  I guess you could say goal set goal met but in retrospect I needed to set a few more goals.  I finished my 1/2 Ironman 1 week shy of my 1 year anniversary of my surgery.    As usual so many lessons to be learned in there and I am sooo very grateful for coaches and friends who helped me process all of those lessons.

It really started for me on Thursday with bike practice.  I was feeling okay and showed up to  find none of my regular riding buddies were there.  None of the gals in the next group were there either.  So I had to ride with the semi-fast gals.  I got dropped quickly.  God’s way of saying “don’t get all full of yourself, you may feel good, doesn’t mean you are fast.”

On my second loop I was kind of slogging up a hill all by myself, not really paying attention to what I was doing.  We were doing intervals on the flatter parts so I was kind of taking it easy going up the hill and not paying attention to my method.  Then a gal I know remotely from old TNT days (she was a swim coach and a college national triathlete star) rode by with some guy.  They were in aero pedaling up the hill.  As she passed me she pulled out one arm and gave me the peace sign to acknowledge me.  She didn’t say anything because she was working hard and the two of them just blew up the hill.  I watched her feet.  Tick, tick, tick.  Then I looked at mine, slog, slog, slog.  I realized how inefficient and lazy my pedalling was.  I tried to follow her as long as I could, tick, tick, tick.  I get it.  Her pedal stroke was beautiful.  Then she was gone.  But the pedal stroke was stamped in my brain.

Next day packed and off to Tupper Lake for my first 1/2 Ironman since 2008 and since being sick last year.  I wasn’t nervous because I’ve done this race twice before.  I knew exactly what I was in for.  I knew all the hills and all the problem spots.  I knew it was going to hurt it was just a matter of how much.  I was ready to rumble and do my very best.  I have been feeling good for months, no excuses.  I realized I have an amazing capacity for turning off my brain when it comes to fear of pending danger (and then later I can’t shut it off when in danger).  I refused to think about what was about to happen.  Just have to get to the race start.  That’s all you have to do.  Shut your eyes and jump.

I shared a cabin with a great group of gals.  All very calm and no drama and extremely low-maintenance.  Just what the doctor ordered.  Very light, good stories, nice dinner out talking about what races we want to do what wines we were going to drink after which races.  All very good vibes.  Great energy.  This was how these weekends were supposed to be, good friends, good conversations and go do a race for fun.   I was really glad to be around them.  I got a decent night’s sleep.  We didn’t have to get up at the crack of stupid because we were only 2 miles from the race start and we rode our bikes there.  All good.

The swim.  To be honest I’m a little stumped.  I thought I did great.  I really practiced my sighting.  Following my left breathing arm (careful to be pointing it towards my target).  I was rotating, I was catching, I was driving my arm through.  I had to sight every 8 strokes and I was a little off but I quickly adjusted for the pull and I thought I was fine.  Felt my swim out was pretty fast, across I felt it slow and on the way back in I felt really slow because all of the relayers were passing me.  I tried to catch a draft off of them whenever I could but they were too fast.  I felt comfortable.  My wetsuit felt fine again as it did in Rev 3 (which still amazes me that suit will even zip up — thank God for rubber.)  So imagine my surprise when I hit the beach and my watch already said 49 minutes which was 1 minute slower than 2008 when I had a broken scapula that had prevented me from practicing for most of the season.  I thought about it for quite a bit afterward and the only thing I can come up with is my turnover is too slow.  I’ll start working on a little faster turnover and see what happens then.

All in all I truly enjoyed the swim.  I just love being out there.  I think it is the coolest thing to be able to swim 1.2 miles across a lake.  Not that many people get to do that and I get a big kick out of it like I’m a ten year old.  That also might be part of my problem is that I start having such a good time I forget that it is a race and I don’t race the swim. But then again how much could I really take off my swim?  5 minutes?  And is it worth being tired for that?

The bike.  The bike, the bike, the bike.  If you know me, you know that for me it IS all about the bike.  My swim is always my swim, my run is a total crap shoot and not in my control most of the time, but my bike is MY bike and I control that.  I know every pedal stroke and I know if I am doing my best and if I am working hard.  Plus I know the Tupper Lake bike course, it is perfectly suited for my riding style.  Plus I have two years of really accurate data to look at.  I have two years of riding the bike what I thought was perfectly both times –2007 and I did it in 3:13 with 100% satisfaction and 2008 when I did it in 2:59 with 100% satisfaction.  It’s rare to be able to go into a race with great benchmarks.  (I was conveniently ignoring the fact that I had bike bench marks for St. Anthony’s too but that was all the way back in April and I now had several months of training while feeling really good under my belt.)  I knew there was no way I was going to break 3 hours but I thought there was no reason I shouldn’t break 3:15.  I should be at least that strong.

The weather was perfect.  Slightly overcast, not too hot, not too cold.  Didn’t need to wear arm warmers.  Felt good.   I was aware that I wasn’t working that hard right out of the gate but I’m pretty sure that had always been my strategy.  Just get the cadence going until the big hill out of town and then start to race.  By mile 10 I was in full racing form.  I had the tick, tick, tick going.  I kept visualizing that gal from Thursday.  I was doing my nutrition right.  I felt good.  I was starting to pass people.  I wasn’t over gearing at all.  Any time I felt pressure on my legs I backed off one gear and upped the cadence, tick, tick, tick.  I was doing what I love to do more than anything else.  Open road, rolling hills, me and my bike.  This is why I do triathlons.  I just love riding like that.  I was really aware that there were fewer people to pick off than previous years.  I had to wait until well past mile 10 to start finding some victims to hunt down.  In previous years I remember there being more people around me and more victims.  I started to find them and pick them off.  It was just fun, plain old fun.  I really thought I was doing well.  Then I hit the turnaround point.  My watch read 1:45.  Gulp.  Gasp.  Wha???  How could that be?  That would mean a th-th-th-three th-th-th-irty bike.  That couldn’t be.  There is no way.

I started to convince myself that the return trip would be faster.  There must have been more uphills on the way out.  I put on my logic blinders and refused to think about the fact that it is an out and back.  In order to end up at the same place whatever you go up you must go down — out and back has the same up and down.  I crossed the mat at 3:31 according to my watch.  I felt a lump in my throat.  I worked hard.  I did the absolute best I could do, I still felt good but there it was.  There was this number in front of me.  This big huge number quantifying everything at last.  All season you’ve known you were slower.  You’ve been feeling it, saying it but now here it was.  The real data.  Nothing to argue with, nothing to justify.  You are 20% slower.  There it is said.  This voice in my head said very loudly “Well, now we know.  Now we KNOW.” Still disbelief.

I quickly tried to recalibrate the race.  Okay how can I break 7:30?  Let’s see 3:30 for the bike, 50 for the swim, two transitions that’s 4:30, oh God you are going to have to break 3 hours on your half marathon.  Impossible.  You have to do it.  I can’t do it.  It’s tupper lake.  There’s mile 3.  That alone will kill me.  But it was over cast and there was no heat, no sun out, not hard to breathe so maybe, just maybe there would be a chance. You can do it. Just try.

I felt okay coming out of transition onto the run.  I was actually surprised.  As I exited the transition onto the run, a girl from our team was crossing the finish line.  She won the race for the women.  Amazing.  But I had a lot of work left to do and so I set out.

Here is where I think I failed.  I didn’t have a plan for the run.  I knew I was going to have to walk so I just figured I would run as much as I could and walk when I had to.  This has to stop now.  I’ve been going back and forth in my head about timed walks vs. opportunistic walks (i.e. walks when you need to vs. a strict walk only during timed breaks).  I went with opportunistic which unfortunately I think lead me to be too opportunistic. Opportunistic gives me too many outs.

Up until mile 3 I did okay.  Met a nice guy from Canada who ran with me for a mile and told me all about the Ironman Canada course and tried to give me a running lesson.  Uh okay yeah, thanks for the advice.  I walked up the hill on mile 3.  Darn, I thought I might be strong enough this year to make it up.  Nope, not even close.

Miles 3-8 were my worst.  I had a nice clip going on the downhills but on the flats I just had a hard time keeping my head in it.  I was well aware of my reduced strength.  I wasn’t bonking at all.  Much too much walking.

Food-wise I was doing an alternate of one gel at a water station and then half a banana at the next.  My doctor had suggested trying staged calories and I think it worked.  I took my new buffered Iron the night before so no stabbing pains in the a.m.  I started with 6 oz of soy protein shake when I woke up at 5:30 with my morning pills.  Then at 6:15 I ate a bowl of granola and blue berries with soy milk.  Brought a banana with me to race and had that at 7 right before the race start with a 5-hour energy shot.  That was about 900 calories before I got in the water and no stomach pain.  1,200 calories out on the bike which great for me.  Perfect.

On the run I was doing about 3 gels an hour + 1/2 banana every other aid station.  The banana really helped keep the gels from making me nauseous.  I think bananas are the most perfect food.  I did not run with Infinite which might have been a better alternative.  I didn’t feel like carrying my fuel but that might have been a better idea.  Too many gels are hard to get down.

A race is not complete without my visits from Angels, Demons and Wind Spirits.  This time I got all of that WITH Carrie Underwood of all people.  (Believe me, I can’t stand Carrie Underwood and the fact that I ran 5 miles with her in my head was more than annoying.)  It went something like this.

Passing through the woods around mile 7.  This is where I tripped over some roots in ’07.  I was being extra cautious but something hitting dirt makes my feet move so I was starting pick it up a little.   That’s about when I started to doubt whether I could finish without harming myself.  I actually thought “I think I might be killing myself by doing this.”  Ah melodrama!!  Wouldn’t be one of my races without it.  That’s when voice jumped in “of course you can do this, just one step at a time.”   But this was different from previous years.  There was nobody out there with me as far as I could see.  I would turn around and look back and there was nobody.  I couldn’t see anybody in front of me at all.  It was weird.  In past years I had company all the way up to the finish line.  But now it was just me and the voices in my head.  The drama was brewing.

I wonder if I have an athletic guardian angel?  I mean who gets me through these ridiculous events?  “Yah think?”  I hear a voice in my head?  “Of course you have a guardian angel, duh.”  Really?  Well why aren’t you helping me be faster then?  Why am I struggling so?  Why do I think I’m going to die?  “Just keep going, stop thinking so much.”  I kept trying to run but my head was getting in the way and that’s when that stupid song from Carrie Underwood popped into my head “Jesus take the wheel.”  Instead of Jesus I was singing “AthleticGuardianAngel take the wheel.”  I was thinking back to Lisa Smith Batchen and running in Avon, CT and how I got she didn’t want to have to think any more.  Someone else drive for awhile.  Someone else do the thinking.  So I just said Guardian Angel I’m too tired to think any more, you think.  And I just kind of zoned out, hummed that tune and that was my best running of the whole race.  From about mile 8 to 11 I had a nice little tick, tick, tick going.  Just me, my guardian angel and Carrie Underwood singing.

I ran through a neighborhood with a bunch of boys on bikes looking to be pains in the necks.  I heard one of them yell “hey there’s a runner, let’s go ride with her.”  A pack of 13 year old boy troublemakers on bikes, all I needed.   There was absolutely not a soul around to look to for assistance.    They rode up kind of circling around me on their bikes.  I growled  “you better have some music with you or sing something or don’t ride next to me.”   It was so funny.  Two of the boys rode away.  The third he took out his cell phone and put on some music I could barely make out and he held his cell phone up and rode his bike next to me.  He was so earnest I had to laugh.  He was really just trying to help.  He rode about a two city blocks next to me one hand up with his cell phone and the other on the handlebar while I was jogging until we hit the rest stop and I said “okay you stay here now, thanks.”  He had a smile on his face like he had done something good and it still brings a little tear to my eye when I think about how in two seconds that kid turned from a little troublemaker to a little troubadour….

Then I got a bunch of winds swirling around me.  I always think of the desert when winds were swirling around me and how joyful they were trying to push me to the finish.  These weren’t the same winds.  These  seemed all confused.  “What’s she doing?” “I don’t know”  “How do we help her?”  “You do something”, “No you do something.”  Hey you are terrible wind spirits!!  Get your acts together, you are not helping me at all!!  AthleticGuardianAngel take the wheel.  All that was missing were some dancing Indians.  I’m thinking too much.  I don’t know how to shut off my brain.  Everything is brewing, brewing.

And then I hit mile 12.  A woman had passed me about a mile past and she was just ahead and I knew I should be able to catch her but I didn’t want to.  I was trying to pinpoint what I was feeling.  Fear (weird),  emotional but not happy or sad it was something else.  Something was trying to come up from really deep down inside and I didn’t know what it was.  The woman at the mile marker was handing me some water.  “Is this really mile 12 or just another fake mile marker I ask?” I am fully stopped taking a half a banana.   I had long passed the hopes of breaking 7 1/2 hours and now was seriously doubting whether or not I could break 8.  It seemed unreal to me.  8 hours?  I’m all the way back to an 8 hour 1/2 Ironman?  Really?  But the numbers don’t lie and this is the most perfect day you could have asked for.  If it had even one inch of sun I would have had to have quit.

There was something rumbling deep down inside of me and it wasn’t a bad gel or anything.  It was some kind of emotion.  Oh my God, I think I’m going to start crying.  Don’t cry, don’t cry.  This whole year was flooding back to me and I was thinking of Central Park and having to hold onto tree branches on my runs and River Road and having to pull over because the George Washington Bridge was dancing.  And my Dad being sick and my Mom’s hand wrapped in bandages and moving furniture and being in quarantine and not being able to drive and all kinds of weird images coming up.  This is important, this is a big deal, I don’t know exactly why but it is a big deal and I’m fighting these tears and this huge lump in my throat.   If you cry you will never get to the end.

There is a little hill, a bump really, right before you make a turn.  I just ran as hard as I could up the hill to fend off the tears.  If I run as hard as I can I won’t think about the crying.  I think it is amazing that I can actually run up this hill now.  I turn and now it is downhill.  I round the bend and there is a cop ready to stop traffic and he sees me.  He puts up his hands to stop the traffic and he’s just too far away and I stop to walk and I put up my hand to tell him don’t hold the traffic I can’t get there.  And then he bellows like something in the deepest drill sergeant voice I have ever heard in my life from about 100 yards away “ROOOOUUUUUUNNN!”  It shocked me.  Oh my God.  Did he just bark an order at me?  And I started to run.  I was scared of him.  He didn’t say another word.  He didn’t say good job or anything.  I think I was just holding up his traffic.  I kept running and the volunteer in the yellow shirt was laughing.  “I don’t know where I am supposed to go” I say to him.  Follow the orange arrows on the ground.  Now the cop has me too scared to stop running.  I don’t see the finish line.  I  see some guy standing in the grass telling me good job and then I hear the voices calling me.  My teammates see me before I see them. I follow the voices and then I see the finish line and I’m just thinking don’t cry, you won’t be able to breathe, don’t cry.  But that thing so deep down inside of me wants to roar and say “I am so mad that everything had to be so hard.”  It wasn’t that I was happy to finish the 1/2 Ironman it was that I was mad at how hard it had to be to get back here.  And I was mad that I was not even back to where I was in 2007 yet.  It was so hard, it was so damn hard.  And it was all just so unfair.

So now here it is I have the medal and I have the finish line but it doesn’t feel settled.  Something is just not settled.  I can’t figure out exactly what it is.  But that number 3:30 just keeps flashing in my head.  I think the honest to God truth of it is, even though I kept saying out loud that I understood I was slower and I had things like my time trials in Central Park to tell me the same thing, in my heart of hearts I thought Tupper Lake was going to be my friend and I was going to come out and pull out some kind of miracle on the bike course and then, then everything would be even.  I would have fought back and won.  But instead I fought back and I fell just a little short.  I didn’t lose, but I fell a little short.  I just couldn’t understand why?  I worked hard.  Final time 7:54.  Yeah, yeah, I know I’m supposed to feel happy that I finished and that I didn’t quit but why does it feel like stabbing pains as the knife goes through my heart?

Then next day I went to do a recovery ride.  Ran into coach Shifu who told me I didn’t have to go do the standard regular loop.  Do it in reverse, go explore, find some roads you don’t know.  Go past the coffee shop. What a great idea.  The idea of doing another loop of Lake Placid bike course was nothing short of sticking salt in wounds.  But adventure?  Exploration?  I’m always up for that!  I didn’t need any more jaunts down memory lane.   I definitely didn’t need to go down that six mile descent.  So I headed out the opposite way.  Kind of meandering down some of the side roads in Lake Placid, eventually heading back down the bears and out to Wilmington.  My legs were hurting and I was just thanking my coach in my head because if I had had to climb out of Lake Placid I might have killed myself, instead I got to pedal downhill and warm up a little.  Just me.  No Angels or Carrie Underwood or Wind Spirits.  Just me and my muscles.

Then as always, my friend Jac pops out of nowhere in Lake Placid. I hear an Australian Accent “hey there.”   And we ride and chat like old, old times.   She’s out to ride in another direction.  I tell her I’m going to find the coffee shop and then I’m going to explore a little of Whiteface and see what else is out there.  We ride into Wilmington together and stop at the coffee shop and sit out on the swings for a few minutes while sipping the coffee.   I  tell her how disappointed I am with my lack of strength.  It’s not my performance because I couldn’t have ridden any better.  That is all I have and I am sad about it.  She sips on her tea and thinks a second and then says (I paraphrase) “you know, if you had done a 3:15 or better, it would have all gone away in that instant.  You wouldn’t have had to acknowledge everything you have been through.  But now you have to face it and deal with it.  It’s real and now you know and you can move on.”    It was the strangest thing.  As soon as she said that everything became crystal clear to me.  I literally felt this huge weight lift off my shoulders.  I got it.  I understood.  She was exactly right.  It made sense.  If I had done a 3:13 the slate would have been wiped clean and 2009 would just disappear.  But it can’t disappear.  I have to face it. I’m not just starting over from then.  I’m starting over from now.  Okay, I get it.  I finally, finally get it and now I can move on.

Next race, July 11th, Rhode Island 1/2 Ironman.  I’m already a little excited.  I think I can do better.  More planning, less brain chatter.

Namaste

June 27, 2010 1/2 Ironman

June 30th, 2009

June 30th, 2009 Escape from Roosevelt Hospital

And just in case you haven’t had the privilege of being haunted by Carrie Underwood…

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6/22/10 Keepin’ it Real

Tuesday.  I’m laughing at myself.  One of the nice things about maintaining a blog since 1872  is I have so much data to look back upon with wonder and humor.  I’m getting all my gear ready for Tupper Lake Half Ironman this weekend.  In my mind I have been basically getting ready for a masacre.  If in the past I have thought I might be ready for a race (really? when was that?),  this is one of those times when I know 100% I am not going in to PR (personal record) I’m going to to DMB (do my best).  Of course I’m trying to figure out estimates, how fast should this take me based on the reams of data I have?  I went back and read my race reports from ’07 and ’08 and realized that all of my best predictions are nothing better than a crap shoot.

One theme that has been popping up over and over again in my training lately is “get a reality check.”  I keep bemoaning I’m not as fit as as I was, I’m not as fast as I was.  Newsflash YOU WERE NEVER FIT AND YOU WERE NEVER FAST!!  I read my race report of 20 pounds ago and I was complaining about needing to lose more weight then!!   That was my complaint.  If I lost more weight I’d be faster.  Well that’s true but you still PR’d by 10 minutes!

Recently I’ve started to reconnect with a bunch of my high school friends through Facebook.   This is a scary prospect I assure  you considering I graduated high school in 1977.  That’s before some of my teammates were even born.  It started with one friend contacting me and then next thing I know within a week I had reconnected with about 20 of my graduating class.  Several of my classmates are, gasp, grandparents. I went to a small school.  We had just shy of 100  students in my graduating class (~98).  I would guess about 80 of them I went to first grade with.  There is no way to hide in a small school.  Nobody can get uppity with you when you can remember them eating glue in first grade.   Over 12 years everyone had their moments so it was more like a big family than a traditional public high school.  Someone could put on whatever cool outfit they wanted but you still remember when they peed during 2nd grade reading class.

So imagine my umbrage when a couple of people exclaimed shock and surprise to see me doing endurance sports.  One gal had been interested in trying to get some people together to do a relay triathlon.    She told me she had heard my name somewhere about doing triathlons and she was sure it was the wrong person.  She was so surprised to find out via facebook that it was in fact me.  I was so insulted!!  How dare she!  How could she assume it wasn’t me?  I could whip her in tennis playing lefty.   The nerve.

Then a second person wrote “wow, so surprised to read about your athletic achievements based on our childhoods.”  What?  What is she talking about?  I always had athletic abilities and she was a cheerleader for goodness sakes, what is she talking about “based on our childhoods?”

Then I got an email from a guy reminding me of our pet nickname for one another. “Lush.”  Hmmm….  Wait a minute…  Suddenly high school was starting to come back to me.   Maybe that was actually Steffi Graf who won Wimbledon and not me….   Oh yeah, memories of keg parties and bars were starting to come back.  Yeah, tennis, we played tennis and my friend J and I used to go out back and smoke a cigarette before a match.  We smoked other stuff too.  I played more than one tennis match with a happy smile on my face.  Wait a minute, what’s going on here.  You mean I wasn’t a child superstar athlete?   You mean I cut school and hung out with the kids from the other side of the river (where the not so good kids lived).   Oh yeah, it was starting to come back to me now.  My triathlete career in high school was cutting school and hanging out by the Farmington river with Mr. Boston (swim), riding on the back of M’s motorcycle (bike), and ultra shopping trips to the mall with my trio of thick as thieves girlfriends (we’ll call that the “run” portion.)   Memories started to flood back to me.  Any nice summer day and we swapped school books for beach towels.  17 years old and we were hanging at the pubs (okay it was 16 but I still have fake ID somewhere to prove otherwise.)

Yeah I did a couple of bike races when I was 17 but that was one summer when I was more interested in a certain guy who bike raced than I was in a bicycle.   (That said, I was madly in love with my Rould — I loved to ride that bike.)  I don’t remember there being any kind of austere athletic lifestyle.  In the winter we cross-country skied and then drank bourbon.  So could it be that my high school friends’ memories were more accurate than the ones I had been building for myself?    Tennis, tennis, tennis, yeah but you were stoned for a lot of that.   Yeah you played Basketball but you stunk at it and you hated it.  Yes you did cross-country ski races, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t win.  Knock, knock, knock — reality at the door.

So could it be that I was voted most likely to enter Betty Ford and not Ford Ironman?

So all this got me to thinking.  What else am I b.s.ing myself about?  A lot….

One of things that goes through my mind a lot when I write this blog is be truthful.  Write about how you really feel and what you did so you can improve on it.  So when I went back and read my race reports they were full of all the same complaints I have today.  I’m not a fast as I once was, I walked too much in my run, I can’t take the heat, I struggle on the uphills and I’m fast on the downhills.  All of that was true and it is still true — it’s just in different degrees.  I really had to laugh.  How interesting it is to see that what I was never satisfied with then I am still not satisfied with now.  You know, then, 2 years ago when I was a triathlete superstar?  Remember when I qualified for Kona?

I also remember feeling like a fat cow in high school.  That was a lot of pounds ago.   I remember going on grapefruit diets to try to lose weight.    In my wildest dreams today I will never be that size again.  But what remains is the dissatisfaction.  This fascinates me.  This dissatisfaction with who I was and who I am.  This is not new, this is old stuff.  Wow Geneen Roth (the woman who wrote “Women, Food and God”) would be having a field day with this.  I’m not sure exactly what she would say but I know she would talk a lot about it. (I’m only on week 4, 2 more weeks before all of the universe’s truths are reveled to me.) But the big thing I would think she would say is you are robbing yourself of the beauty of your now by comparing it to some ideal that is an illusion.

Even now as I am getting ready for Tupper Lake I am dissatisfied with my current bad habits.  I read my race report from 2008 and I was weaving all over the swim course.  Oh, so that was not something new I just acquired at Rev 3?  You mean I’ve always been doing that?    What do you mean I walked a lot of the run because it was hot and I couldn’t breathe?   I thought that was something new from this year at St. Anthony’s.  I laugh at the absurdity of my own ego.  How absolutely ridiculous.

So what is different this year?  I’m laughing a little bit more.  It’s all okay if I don’t PR.  When I finish my first half Ironman post surgery this weekend that will be a big deal for me, but the reality is it will be just as hard as it was in 2008 and 2007.  It was never easy.  It was NEVER easy.  The fears remain constant  — it’s the realities that get distorted.  My goal for 2008 was,  according to my blog, “to work harder” during the race.  Interestingly before I even read that  I had made my goal for 2010  to “work harder.”  Shocker!

I gave a great example to my warped sense of self importance when I was telling  some of the gals on my team about the difference between how hard I thought I was working coming through the Ironman Finish and the evidence to the contrary.   I thought I had a look of pure determination on my face.  I remember my arms pumping and my feet kicking it in to the finish.  I must have been running a 7 minute mile.  The reality?  Well here is the reality: 

The reality is I was smiling and waiving and I kind of looked like a goof ball.  A happy goof ball.  (There is no way for me to watch that video without laughing.)

Note to self.  Keep it real, nothing here is as life shattering as you make it out to be.

Namaste

I was looking for  certain picture of me during my reign of terror in NYC during the 80’s  I couldn’t find that but I have a picture of the latest member of the FDU varsity tennis team cramming for a final exam. I’d say she looks worthy of a tennis scholarship, wouldn’t you?

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6/17/10 Goal Set. Goal Met.

Thursday. Before anyone calls out the dogs, I’m still here. Crazy, and I mean CRAZY amount of work. Feel like I’m 30 something again. I’m too old to do this much work, but in a weird way it was kind of fun to get back behind the mouse and code and design again. Haven’t really done the old school stuff in a long time. Have a moment to breathe so I figure I would submit update.

I was feeling like shoe scum last week. I slept and slept and slept. Saturday morning I got up to go cheer for my friends doing the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (MIMS). 28.nn miles around the Island of Manhattan, swimming. It was a beautiful day and I set out on my bike to cheer for my friends including Amanda who was going to the be first of 4 of my friends doing a relay team. (The other gals were already on a boat near the Manhattan Bridge). I saw Amanda and other friend Gerry in his Electric Green Kayak and bright red shirt (absolutely brilliant color combo because I was able to spot them all day.) Very exciting seeing everyone get in the water. I followed them on my bike around the lower end of Manhattan and up to the 59th street bridge where I cut off and came home to put on my running shoes. I was supposed to run 18-20 miles. Didn’t happen.

I ran up to the GWB and back thinking that it was 8 miles from my apartment (because that’s what it is on the bike) which would have been 16 and was disappointed that I couldn’t get 18 in before I pulled a muscle in my butt and my knee started to tweek. As it turns out mapmyrun says I only ran 14 miles which is even yuckier because it took me 4 hours with all the stops and starts I took while looking for the Mermaids…. Oh well, I’ll have more opportunities to do another long run and maybe I’ll be more conditioned for it. It was a weak pre-run ride and a weak run but at least it was movement?

For me the best part about the MIMS was the execution of the plan. Goal set. Goal met. Ironman, Marathon, balancing your checkbook — whatever your personal goal is, I really admire and appreciate how people dream up an idea, set a goal, do the necessary work to make it happen and then watch it happen. My friend Deanne was the mastermind behind the whole swim. She had a vision that she would get a group of friends to swim around Manhattan, she got them registered as a team (with a bunch of stuff that goes along with that.) She drove them to Delaware to get certified to swim that distance. She had practices. She got her husband to get trained on the kayak. She got a boat captain. She even got them team uniforms. She called them the Manhattan Mermaids. And then stroke by stroke it all worked. They did it. I think that is very cool. As I said to Deanne it’s not really about the race (as Ironman is not really about the race day either), it’s all those lonely miles on the road or in the pool or on the bike. Those miles when nobody is cheering for you (unless you are lucky like me to have multiple personalities then sometimes there is a lot of yelling going.) So Brava to the Manhattan Mermaids and the Queen Mermaid who made it work.

I was very wiped out from the whole day of cheering 7:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I only got in an easy bike and lame 14 mile run? Eesh…. I had to get home, clean up, get packed and head to CT for a century ride with my friends Ro and Cat. My apartment looked like the MIM swim went right through it. Had to finish one bit of work and it was 10:15 before the lights clicked out. 4:30 up with the alarm and the late night partiers and packed up the car.

The bike ride turned out to be great. I highly, highly recommend this ride. definitely one of the best Centuries I’ve done. Rolling hills for the most part and a couple of small climbs to keep you honest. Nothing to cry about but nothing to scoff at either. Not a Montauk Century where it is tick, tick, tick get it done. Also not a Vermont Ride where people are getting off their bikes trying to make it up a hill. A nice middle of the road century ride. Small group of people. Rode from Danbury CT up to Kent and back down in a loop formation. Rest stops every 25 miles (or so). The people putting on the ride couldn’t have been nicer. (Met Theresa one of the founders, 73 year old woman who is still kicking butt and has climbed every major mountain in the world on her bike — Idol.) This was my friends’ first Century ride (Century ride is anything over 100 miles). I have to say they looked like rock stars out there. I followed behind them for a bit and it was such a great picture. Rolling Connecticut roads, shaded by trees and two bikers wearing matching red Jerseys just floating through like they rode 100 milers all the time. I think it was the best 102 mile route to do for your first Century ride. Very proud of them.

As for me I was exhausted driving there (and worried I would need a nap). I stopped for a pit stop and got a cup of real coffee — no decaf. WOW, what a difference that makes. I took that along with one of those 5 hour energy drinks and bingo! I felt great. Off and running. I felt good up until about the 75 mile mark. I never felt bad but I kind of lost interest. I think that is another form of bonking. I did my nutrition really well up until that point and then I said “eh, 22 miles left, no big deal.”   I didn’t continue my intake of calories. My muscles felt okay, I wasn’t bonking in the I-see-dancing-Indians kind of way, but I felt fading….. Lesson learned. Keep on eating right until the end.

Course was beautiful. Gorgeous. Very little traffic except for a few spots. Roads were pretty choppy but since there was no traffic that was not a problem. I would mark your calendars for next June and check out Hat City Cyclists.

Went to bed at 7 p.m. on Sunday and slept straight through until 4 a.m. Monday. Got up starving and had breakfast and went back to bed for another 3 hours!! Woke up in a start because I had to take my Mom to an appointment and we were almost late!! I was zonked. Here it comes, I thought,  another week of feeling like shoe scrape. I slept a little more and headed back to the city.

Tuesday I woke up feeling okay. Amazing. I did my ride but I couldn’t get my run in. Ran on Wednesday, Biked today. Nothing great but I feel 100% okay. It’s a miracle.

I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work coming in. I don’t know how these young kids do it. Work all day and train. God love ’em. For me, something has to give. No double workouts this week but I’m just doing the best I can.

This weekend we have an open water swim at Coney Island and a heat acclimation run. Yuck. Then on Sunday another rolling hills ride.

I’m not feeling terribly confident about any of my upcoming races. Tupper Lake (next weekend) is going to hurt – a lot. I’m signed up to do Rhode Island 1/2 on July 11th. That’s going to hurt a lot too. Then I have my own personal training camp for IM weekend at Lake Placid end of July. I have a couple of fun ideas for torturing myself that weekend. Then I’m off to do Colorado to do a 12 person relay team 195 miles from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs first weekend in August (my part should be 14 miles in total but run straight through the night). Then I come home, start tapering and pack for a little thing called Ironman Canada. Ooph, that one is going to hurt A LOT!!

I’m thinking a lot about my afterlife. Not after I’m dead, more about after Ironman. I have visions of such a great life. Back to Tai Chi in the mornings, yoga, TENNIS, light swimming, keep up with biking, a little 5 mile run here and there. No workout over 4 hours. I just don’t think we need it. Until the Gobi Desert, I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Namaste

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

Mohammad Ali

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6/11/10 Ready, Set, NO!

Friday.  I did something drastic this week.  Nothing.  I know I probably blew all the proper coaching techniques and should have been doing modified light swimming, biking and running but instead I did nothing.  Yep, you heard me.  Nothing.  And I’m just fine with it.  Little voice in the back of my head saying “Okay well now you’ve blown it.”  Bigger voice in the front of my head saying “Shad up,  get over yourself, I’m tired.”

I really couldn’t shake the tired thing this week.  I couldn’t care a bit about Ironman if I did it, if I ever did it again, if I ever swam, biked or ran again.  Monday I moved furniture in the house in CT and was exhausted.  Tuesday I barely had enough energy to walk to the park have my picture taken and walk back.  Wednesday I started to get worried, shouldn’t I feel more rested by now?

Thursday morning I didn’t go to bike practice.  GASP!!  I never miss bike practice. I was just too tired and I didn’t care at all.  When there is no discussion going on in my head I know I’m really tired.  “Don’t even worry about it” I told myself.  “If you don’t want to do Ironman you do not have to do Ironman.”  I was surprised that didn’t even bring up some tears.  Nope, couldn’t care less and I was staying in bed.  This was not the same way I trained in years past. Or was it?  I will have to go back and read older posts…

I really thought I would be ready to do something yesterday and normally I would have.  I wasn’t feeling that bad and if I didn’t have so much work to do and company coming I would have gotten out for a walk or something.  Book Group was coming to my apartment and I had to cook and I had three projects due yesterday.

I spent 4 hours chopping and cooking yesterday.  Made a fabulous Veganized feast for my Book Group.  Gals came, we had a great time and I had two glasses of wine and lots of great conversation about things other than triathlon.  We talked about literature and art shows and current events.  Huge reminder of the life waiting for me when I get out of Ironman detention camp.  Tennis trips, shopping trips, beach weekends?  People go and just lie on the beach for the weekend?  The whole weekend?  They just sleep on the sand?  Wake up to flip over and go back to sleep?  What????  And they have cocktails while they are doing it….  Heretics!!  They go to movies and dinner parties and take yoga classes and think that is just fine.  Shopping, that used to be so much fun…  Shopping and lunch?  I remember that…. Wistful sigh…..  I forgot what real life is like — not a single Gu to be found.

Went to bed late still wistful and woke up this morning…..  much better!

Yep, I feel much better.  I feel ready to swim, bike, run again.  Today I will swim.  Tomorrow I will do a 2 hour bike and 4 hour run and Sunday I will do 100 miles on my bike.  No problem. 

I needed to unplug for a couple of days.  Intellectually I know this is no big deal but emotionally for anyone training for an Ironman missing any workouts is usually stressful.  What?  I didn’t do my 2,600 meter swim?  That’s it, it’s all over, I’ll never make it.   And missing my 4 loops of the park?  All over — everyone will pass me now.  And I didn’t run on Tuesday.  That means I won’t be able to run 28-20 miles on Saturday.  And my big response to all of those fears that used to haunt me?  “Yeah, whatever.”  I’m over feeling anxious about anything.   It’s all going to work out exactly how it is supposed to work out. 

I have two half Ironmans coming up.  They are going to hurt. I’m not as ready as I have been in the past but then again I’ve never been that good anyway so I’m  a little slower.  The world will keep spinning.  I still get to swim in the open water which I love.  I still get to ride my bike fast (or my version of it) which I love.  I still get to run until I want to puke (which I don’t love but they only give medals to finishers.)  And I now feel rested enough to give it a shot.

I’m an older version of me of just two years ago.  I was joking to my friends last night that all the cards I never wanted to use before (I’m sick, I’m old) I am now throwing around with abandon.  But I’m laughing about it.  It’s all good.  I’m realizing the number of things I’m not able to do by training for Ironman and I’m looking forward to a more normal life.  At the same time I am really looking forward to Ironman too.  I get to swim in open water for 2.4 miles and I get to ride my bike for 112 miles.  Oh and then I have to do that little run thing but that will be over before I know it.

I’m coming from a kinder training place.  It’s okay to just do my best.  It’s okay if my best is not the same as a 30 year old.  It’s okay if I just finish.  It’s okay if I don’t finish.  Heck it’s okay if I don’t start.  It’s all okay.  As long as I am enjoying what I am doing, whatever happens is okay.  Wherever I end up is where I am supposed to be.

I’m ready to go for my swim now.

Namaste

This is my favorite pic from our weekend at Rev 3.   Our “team” passing out water at mile 39**:

This is my second favorite picture which I am printing and putting on my desk.  It just makes me laugh, laugh, laugh.  My friend David joking around while taking water from my friend Ro.  It’s my reminder to keep it all about the fun.  I can not look at this picture without smiling.**

**Photo credits to Michelle Monteith

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6/6/10 Rev 3 x the Insanity

Sunday.  I’m tired.  I’m so tired that I can’t sleep.  I have passed the point of being too tired.  I figured I might as well write since I am staring at the ceiling mulling over everything anyway. Every fiber in me in tired.

Rev 3 weekend.  I did the Olympic on Saturday.  In some ways it was what I expected, in others not.  I ended up doing the 4:15 or so. I have not even looked at my results on line because I am so tired I just don’t care. (I think there are other reasons I don’t care besides being tired but we’ll see.)

I have to clarify.  I am not systemically tired or sick tired, I am plain, worn out from working out tired.  That’s a distinction that will always make a big difference to me.  I just can’t pedal another stroke if you paid me right now.  (Well, wait a minute, how much would you be willing to pay me?)

I wasn’t very organized for this race.  I didn’t do my homework.  Things like reading the emails from the race directors and the schedule of events.  I knew I had to pick up my packet on Friday.  I was in CT so I drove over.  I didn’t realize I had to rack my bike.  I accidentally had my bike with me because I had been too lazy to take if off my car from the day before.  I had done a marathon with my parents at UCONN medical center on Friday.

Friday was my first event of the weekend and I definitely PR’d (personal record) there.  2 parents, 4 doctors, 2 medical centers and lunch all in 5 hours.  I had different floors of the medical center functioning at the same time — highly efficient and I think I kind of scare the nurses there because they see me coming and I see the whites of their eyes.   Lists, questions,  appointments, to-do’s — let’s go people….  We are in, we are out.  Everyone is getting decent grades — not perfect but c’mon we are all getting old.  I was very pleased to be done in 5 hours — we got a lot of stuff done.  I used up all my organization skills at the medical center so I had none left for the race.

After lunch I had to head down to packet pickup.  I was already starting to feel a little tired.  Now what do I have to do?  Okay, rack the bike, I’ll figure everything out when I get home.  I left the expo and headed back home and looked at the pile of junk I basically just brought with me from camp (same clothes, went from suitcase to wash/dry and back into suitcase.)  I just grabbed the essentials and put them in a bag and set alarm for 4 a.m.  Geesh 4 a.m.  that would mean only 6 hours of sleep and I was tired…

The race.  Swim was not bad at all.  I was actually surprised.  Managed to get wetsuit to fit over my butt with plenty of lube and friends pulling my suit for me.  I thought for sure it was going to either explode from stretching or choke me in the water but it didn’t.  Rubber is the most amazing material — how it stretched enough to fit still amazes me.  I actually found the swim somewhat calm and relaxing.  It did occur to me that maybe I don’t work hard enough in the water.  But I was really working on catching the water and I think I did great with that.  No complaints about the swim.  Beach to beach it took me 36 minutes but then I had to run up a hill to transition and that took a couple of minutes.

Transition — eh fine, who cares?

The bike.  I was having difficulty breathing for the first couple of miles.  It was hot and humid.  Air was very thick.  It felt like I was pedalling standing still. But all in all I did take ten minutes off my two practice times of 2 hours.  I did it in about 1:50 (again not exactly sure just going by my watch).  I was pleased with that.  Could have been much worse.  With no question the most difficult Olympic distance course I have ever done.  I think it is much harder than Westchester which I don’t even think of as hard but the only one I could think of with some hills.  Middlebury hills are what Westchester hills want to be when they grow up.  Guy in the elevator told me Middlebury is the San Francisco of Connecticut.

The run.  Well just shut my mouth.  That was ridiculous.  I should have scoped out the run before hand.  It started out just fine, nice and flat and I was jogging along thinking okay I can do this.  It was almost all shaded so I was thrilled.  Then I hit the first hill and I never got over it.  The race was only 6 miles but I walked so much of it.  Mountains, mountains, mountains.  I just gave up.  Mentally I said I didn’t care and I didn’t.  I will say most of it was shaded so that let me run what flat parts I could find.  It was so hot that if I had had any direct sun contact I would have stopped.  The shade as the only thing keeping me going.

The funny thing for me was that when I tried to get myself to move in order to better my time “c’mon, if you run you can easily break 4 hours.”  I didn’t care.  I could not have cared less about my result.  But when I said “c’mon this is a training run this is to make you stronger for your other races”  then I would start running.  To practice making me stronger and faster I will run but to a better race result I wouldn’t.  I still don’t understand that and I can’t quite process it.

It was the hardest Olympic I have ever done.  Harder than some of the 1/2 Ironmans I have done.

I had a quick lunch with the gang and headed back home to shower and rest up for Sunday which would be another 4 a.m. wake up call.  Again another 6 hours but needed 10.  I was going to man the water station at mile 39 with some of the gals from the team and we were all going to ride our bikes out the water station to get our workout in.  It ended up being just two of the gals from my team and me riding out.  Of course we got caught in a lovely downpour but it was over soon.   A lot more of the hills.  I had to walk up the little hill that I had made up the day before and in my last two training rides.  I tried to stand up and almost fell over.  “Enough” my legs were saying.

Bike out was slow and painful.  I was really exhausted.  Sleep, sleep, sleep my body kept saying.  We made it out there and set up the water station.  We got there around 7:30 to set up and then dismantled around 12:30.  Very stressful but exciting and fun.  Passing water to the bikers at mile 40 something.  I saw Natasha Badmann and got to tell her that she was my favorite.  She was smiling but she is always smiling.  I couldn’t get over how hard all the cyclists were working.  I kept thinking “this looks so hard, does it look this hard when I do it?”

I think our group did a stupendous job not only passing out water and cheering but representing Trilife and the triathlon community.  I was very proud of us.

Then I rode back with one of my teammates.  We had done 19 miles out there but the way back would only be 16 and hopefully most of it downhill.  There was still a lot of uphills but they were more gradual.  Unfortunately I was toast.  My teammate was very kind in waiting for me but I knew she had to be thinking “how is this gal going to be doing Ironman?”  I was just spent, spent, spent.  My feet were swelling.  My legs were refusing to work.  As I slogged I passed some of the runners doing their own slog up a ridiculous climb — they didn’t make the run course any easier because it was longer for the half Ironman, they just found more hills for them to climb.  I was watching them all in awe.  How are you doing this?  What is this?  Why are you subjecting yourself?  Is this what it looks like when I do this?  This is insane.  But at the same time every one of them gave off an aura of strength and determination that was incredible to watch.  You could almost hear them thinking “will not give up… refuse to give in…”

Watched the last of the Trilife team cross the finish line.  The last people are always the most uplifting.  These are the ones who fought the swim freak outs and the flat tires and the heat stroke to sill finish with dignity.  They looked amazing but the whole time I was thinking “No way I could/would ever do that.  That’s just insane.”

Then I got home and I had a couple of emails from a guy on my Hartford “Team” (it’s not really a team just an email list.)   He did both the Olympic on Saturday and the Half on Sunday.  I read his race reports in disbelief.  This guy is totally insane, I cannot believe he did BOTH races.  Of course my very next thought was “oh yeah, next year I have GOT to do that.  that would be soooo cool.”

I am going to sleep for 3-4 days.  I am so tired I need a recovery week from my recovery week…

Namaste

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6/2/10 Happy Anniversary

Wednesday.   One year ago today I left bike practice, came home, took a shower and went to my doctor’s appointment.  He said “I’m sorry, the biopsy came back negative we are going to have to remove the tumors and your Thyroid and lymph nodes.”  I started to cry.  I then came home and ate an entire bag of potato chips and drank a bottle of wine all the while bemoaning poor me.  When I finished doing all that, I still had cancer growing in my throat and it still had to be cut out.  Therapy plan A did not work.

One year later to the day, I sit here full of wonder at the journey my life has taken.  I feel like I am on the verge of understanding myself more that I ever thought I could.  (Though every answer seems to bring with it a new throng of questions).  Through this year of my own recovery and trying to help my parents with their health issues as well, I have found a deeper well source.  I have found a kinder, gentler friend in myself.  I really had no choice.  I couldn’t go through this year without finding an inner resource of kindness.  My Puritan ethic of suck it up and work harder just wasn’t going to cut it anymore and through my struggle I have found growth in a direction I never imagined. 

I was upset that they had to remove my Thyroid and that I would have to take replacement hormone pills for the rest of my life.  I knew other people had to take pills and thought it was no big deal but it was a big deal to me.  I didn’t like the idea that someone was taking out something that nature had put in my body for a good reason and now I was going to be at the mercy of the pharmaceutical industry to stay alive.  How surprised am I to find myself one year later looking at my bottles of pills and feeling nothing but gratitude for them? 

I had to go through low-sodium diet and radioactive iodine treatment and whole body scans which were all  just a treat.  I have to go through them again after Ironman but I look at the whole experience differently now.  You let me live and I’ll do my best to live.  Even though for months I felt like something someone would scrape off the bottom of their shoe, I never lost sight of the fact that many people were suffering much more than I was.  Levels of injustice.  It’s like someone gave me a tatoo that says “remember to be grateful everyday.”

This is a strange segue into dieting but I quit Weight Watchers last week.  I am trying something new for the first time in my life.  I am not going to diet (I wanted to write the word “anymore” there but I just couldn’t bring myself).  I know, heresy.  I’ve spent my life dieting, depriving, reprimanding, punishing, yelling at myself — just be stricter, tougher — you are too lazy.  After 50 years I have finally come to the end of my rope — and it’s just not working.  I’ve exhaled and said I give up.  I must change routes and start a different climb.   It’s that mountain over there, the one I’ve been avoiding.   A harder climb.  That one over there where you have to be a peace with yourself. 

I’ve read a new book called “Women, Food and God” and I’m currently taking her online seminar.  Dieting is out.  No more Weight Watchers,  Eat Right for Your Blood Type, Volumetrics, Quantum Wellness, THRIVE diet, You on a Diet, Eat like a Caveman or a Fireman, No Dr. Furman, Dr. Joy, Dr. Beck (though we may come back to that one.).  No juice fasts or cleanses. [I’m simply reading the names of the books on my book shelf.]  All the secrets of the dieting universe laid out in fine print across my living room. It’s simple, just eat carbs, no carbs, protein, no protein, dairy, no dairy, volume, smaller portioins.  What’s wrong with you?  It’s calories in and calories out.  Just say no.  According to Roth none of these will ever work because they are based on a premise of not trusting yourself and of punishment and restriction.  They do not come from a place of loving  yourself.  No permanent change is ever made based on a negative mindset.  That is not to say that we don’t eat right and take care of ourselves, but how we get there comes from  a path of love, not restriction and punishment.

What really struck me is how she talked about the identities we hold on to as dieters and how we subtly sabotage ourselves all the time to maintain that identity.  Take away that identity of being the person who struggles with dieting and you are left with communicating with food in a peaceful way instead of in an aggravated way.  There is no “Monday” to start all over again.   This can be very frightening.  It’s much like the battered spouse who never leaves because the violence has become part of her/his identity.   To walk out the door into the unknown can be even scarier than the burden you have learned to carry. 

I want to be clear that I still believe in the Weight Watcher’s program.  If anything, much of what they have been trying to teach me over the last five years matches right along with with Roth talks about.   We say all the time it’s not about the food.   But the bottom line is I was punshing myself for not being able to keep tracking and writing down everything I ate and keeping within a points range.  I was setting myself up for daily reprimands of trying to be better, stricter, more disciplined.  According to Roth it is not about discipline — it is about coming from a place of loving kindness and of course, meditation.   So I’m going on the meditaion un-diet.  There is so much more to her philosophy and I do it a disservice to try to summarize here but the bottom line is Roth is challenging me to the hard work of climbing up the mountain and to stop running around the base.  This is not an easy, quick-fix by any means.  This is a life long journey with your soul.  I fully intend to go back to Weight Watchers (hopefully soon) after I have done some of the harder homework to make my WW expeirence actually be a help instead of a weekly reminder that I have yet again failed.  But, according to Roth, if I do it her way there will be no reason to go back to WW.    Hmmm, we’ll see.  You have 50 years of conditioning to undo here Ms. Roth!

What I have learned in my life (and repeated often in this journal) is that without suffering there is no growth.  It’s the digging down deep into the stuff you don’t want to do.    It’s in the digging, it’s in the discovery process where you find that one thing that is going to make you a little stronger and little more patient and a little more loving.  BUT, sometimes the struggle is to simply lean in.  To learn when to dig hard and when to exhale is a subtle science.   I think going through the things I have gone through in the last couple of years (the past 50 years for that matter)  has given me a stronger appreciation for what other people go through, has taught me to be so much more appreciative of the many, many blessings in my life and to want to keep challenging myself.  It’s in the muck of the challenge that we find the stuff of which we are made.  And it is in the leaning in and letting go that we live.

So I celebrate my one year anniversary of being told I had cancer.  It’s made me stronger.  It’s made me a better person.  It’s made me think about who I am and what I want to be and how I want to get there.  It’s made me be a little more patient and a lot more compassionate.   I’m up and walking about and training for Ironman and doing my work and worrying about having too much food instead of not enough.  I’m blessed to have wonderful friends and a supportive family.  I have everything I need already within me.  I am learning to let go and to let it be.  I’m not even close to where I want to be yet but I’ve definitely put my sights on a different climb.  And all that is due to one year ago today someone telling me that they have to cut out some tumors.  Who’da thunk it?  June 29th will be my one year anniversary of my surgery.  June 24th I’ll be doing a half ironman in Tupper Lake.  Not too bad.

My new goal is to find appreciation in everything on my Journey — good or bad.  Everything that has happened to me has brought me to where I am today so I must therefore be grateful for every thing that I have encountered along the way.

Namaste

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6/1/10 Camp Gravy

Tuesday.  Back from Memorial Day Camp #3.    I feel I know the Lake Placid course thoroughly at this point so there were not many surprises.  I felt I got stronger as the weekend went on and then kind of petered out at the very end.  Tried some new nutrition ideas.  Had some good moments on the bike, some not so good moments on the run but all in all I am very pleased because I had energy.  I felt like I got a lot of support from all the coaches and once again felt they put on a very good program.  I never got the camp excitement of previous years but I think at this point it’s going to be hard to get me that nervous about anything.  I think I’ve just been through too much to get so nervous anymore.  I am looking at everything with eyes wide open.  Yeah, it’s gonna hurt.  I’ts gonna be long.  But I’m gonna get through it — or I won’t.  It’s going to be what it is going to be my wishes seem to have very little to do with outcomes up there.

The phrase I kept using all weekend was “appropriately fatigued.”  I was tired because I biked 160 miles and ran 21 miles.  That is not as much as I have done in previous years but it is okay because I just look at everything I do at this point as gravy.  I’ve already surpassed what I thought I would be doing at this point.  Everything now is greeted with “really? I did that? cool!”    My overall feeling of wellness continues and I don’t want to jinx it and say “all better” but I do feel that I’m doing well and have no reason to think I will not continue to do so.  So in the Thanksgiving dinner of life, camp was the gravy.

Arrived Friday with enough gear and crap to travel the world.  I had to laugh to myself because I remember having one of my friends over to my apartment to practice packing for Marathon des Sables.  Everything was weighed and measured for that race.  Our packed backpacks weighed 23 pounds and that was too heavy.  “Throw stuff out!” We scolded one another — “You don’t need an entire handle for your toothbrush!”   “Reroll that toilet paper so it takes up less room!”  What  a difference packing for triathlon camp is.  Didn’t know if it would be hot or cold, dry or wet.  Pack everything.  Every length of bike short, knee warmers, booties, no-sleeved, short sleeved, long sleeved throw it in there.   Food, medicine, socks, more socks, hats, helmets, wet suits (long sleeved and short sleeved). Running shoes, biking shoes, spare tubes…. get my drift.   Oh yeah and let’s not forget about the bike too! 

First order of business was swim at Mirror Lake.  I was ready for it.  It would be ice cold and feel like someone was putting needles in your face.  I brought my long sleeved wet suit, water booties and a neoprene cap for cold water swimming.  The one thing I have not quite shaken yet is my inability to deal with cold.  I still get chilled to the bone very easily so I wanted to be prepared.  Get to Mirror lake and the water is like a bath!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  All the other years it was some kind of water torture and everyone would gasp as the crazy triathletes would enter the water.  This year kids running around on the beach in their summer bathing suits splashing and dashing around.  Wow, this was unbelievable.  I swam for about five minutes in my long sleeved wet suit and had to get out of the water.  I suddenly remembered why I had bailed on the long sleeved wetsuit three years ago — my arms are too long.  It feels fine when I’m wearing it but when I go to take a long stroke, the wetsuit pulls on my forearm and I can’t really extend all the way without a  lot of effort.   Jumped out of the water and changed into my sleeveless.  Ahhh, that was fine.  Swam for a few more minutes and then it was time to get out of the water.  Okay, no real exercise but at least I reaquainted myself with my wetsuit and when I go do Rev 3 next weekend I’ll just use my sleeveless (yuck, wish I didn’t have to.)

Later that day we did a 30 mile ride down to Wilmington and back.  I was ready for the big head winds that had demoralized me the other years.  Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  Nice calm air, rode to Wilmington and back and it was no big deal.  Wow, day 1 which had usually been a prep for making me feel super insecure turned out to be no big deal.

Saturday had a bit of  break through on breakfast.  I’ve been having a hard time finding morning foods to eat.  There was a time when I could eat a bagel with peanut butter and a banana and not even blink. Oatmeal?  No worries.  But these days I find it really difficult to choke down food before practice.  Bananas seem okay but how many bananas can I eat?  One of my friends who shall remain nameless (but is a cop who lives in brooklyn and carries a gun so you have to pay attention…) has been badgering me that I need to eat more calories on my big workouts.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Then he tells me to shoot for 800-1,000 calories before the workout.  I almost peed laughing.   I don’t eat anything close to that for breakfast.  These days it is a banana and a soy yogurt and a really bad attempt at a cliff bar.  (I usually get it unwrapped, broken into four pieces, take one nibble out of one of the pieces and can’t get anything else down.)  Don’t get me wrong, hit me at 12 or 1 p.m. and I can eat.  It’s just the mornings.  It has something to do with how much Iron I am taking now (twice a day, two pills and that’s rough on your tummy.)  Never used to be this way but now it is.   So I found at the store an Odawalla protein drink.  If you drink the whole bottle it is 440 Vegan calories (soy protein).  With two bananas I got it up 650 calories.  I ate the bananas slowly while sipping the Odawalla protein drink.  It took me about 20 minutes to get it down in little bits.  But it didn’t hurt my stomach and seemed easy to eat while I puttered around.   Wasn’t 800 calories but it was an easy 650.  It felt right.  Strangely I have no longer any interest in coffee in the morning either.  It just kind of died away. 

Then we headed out to do a preview of the bike course.  Rode each section and gathered at different check points.  I had to gasp when I saw how long it took me to get to the end of the first leg.  55 minutes.  My time in 2008 for the same length was 45 minutes.  Oops, that was a little slow.  I kept practicing my new mantra — “everything is gravy.”   I didn’t think I would be this far along so just getting on my bike and getting to the bottom of the first leg — gravy.

Found a little zip on the next leg but I also found a cramp in my calf.  I have been working with my acupuncturist on this little niggling pain in my calf.  Not quite a pulled muscle but there is something in there.  Was feeling it pulling and it was making me nervous.  I told the coach and he agreed I should skip the out and back and just get back to camp.  I took my time practicing my perfect circles on the bike.  A little game I play with myself is to use the ball of your foot to draw perfect circles with each pedal.   I count 8 perfect circles on each side, then 7 perfect circles, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 by the time I get to 1 perfect circle on each side I’m doing my tick tick tick on the bike.  It passes the time and perfects my pedal stroke.  The rest of the team stayed out and rode 56 miles, I did only 43.  ONLY 43 miles…

Then we had to run after our bike.  Coach told me to just run on the flats by Mirror Lake.  I had to run 13-15 miles, but after 2 miles on mirror lake I was ready to shoot myself so I went down the hill to the regular run course.  The sun was beating on me the first 4 miles of my run. I had to run into the deli and get some sun screen.  I could feel myself burning up.  It wasn’t a great run, I was having some problems getting my head into it.  There were moments it was okay but more moments of  thinking this was the most boring thing going.  Sometimes it is hard for me to let my mind go and just relax into it.  Other times I have no problem disappearing into the dark and emerging 13 miles later.  Saturday was not one of those days.  A lot of thinking but a lot of gratitude.  I was tired but appropriately tired.  Tired as you should be after biking 43 miles and running 13.    I had absolutely nothing wrong.

I did get my period on Friday so I am chalking up a little fatigue to that.  This is a time when nature wants women to chill a little.  So I wasn’t killing myself.  It was more exploratory, what can I do?  How far can I go?  I stopped if I felt any pain in my calf.  Otherwise I just kept going.  All the teammates were super supportive and nice.

That night I slathered my legs in Boswellan creme and I used my Max Massager for about and hour on my legs.  Every kink outta there…..  Something you can’t do in the Sahara is bring along appliances to help with recovery. http://www.brookstone.com/max-performance-percussion-massager.html?bkeid=compare%7Cmercent%7Cgooglebase%7Csearch&mr:trackingCode=3B734051-0F89-DE11-9EF7-0019B9C2BEFD&mr:referralID=NA

So day 2 I gassed up the tanks with 600 calories in 2 bottles (1,200 calories) for a 43 mile loop.  I figured it would take me about 3 hours for each loop and that would be 400 calories per hour.  More than I have been taking so that would be good.  I ended up taking in 1.5 bottles per loop instead of 2 so that actually came to 900 or 300 calories an hour BUT I had a banana (110) and a gel (100) at my transition station.  [Yes I can already hear rumblings that it wasn’t enough but I really though it was pretty good.]

I felt like a rock star on Sunday’s ride.  Night and Day from Saturday.  On Saturday it took me 55 minutes to finish the first leg.  On Sunday it took me 48 minutes which is only 3 minutes slower than Memorial Day camp 2008.    I was keeping up with other teammates passing some on the flats and being passed by everyone on the hills.  But I didn’t really care about how I was performing next to them because I felt fantastic.  I felt better than I have felt in over a year.  I may actually have had glimpses of feeling better than ever.  I was so happy.  My bike was humming, my heart rate was low, my cadence was 90+,  this was ladles and ladles of gravy.    For the first time I really felt in my soul that there was a chance that I might actually finish Ironman Canada.  If I could I feel like this, I could do it.  But I’m not banking on anything.  I know that just as soon as good feelings come, they go.  But it felt different.  I was different.  I finished the first 43 miles in 3:06 which was just fine.  If I took out the water break pit stop/bathroom break it was 2:59.  100% okay with that.  In my head I knew my previous times for the missing miles and I was way under bike cutoff.

Second loop not quite as fast heading out of town but now I was just enjoying myself.  I was enjoying the air and environment and I swear my bike was giggling with happiness.  I was giggling with happiness.  I don’t think Ironpeople are supposed to giggle with happiness but I was happy, happy, happy.  Then I became aware of how hard my legs were working.  A lot of hill and a lot of wind but they kept working and working hard.  I was so proud of my legs.  I felt so bad for being mean to them and criticizing them for being fat and lumpy.  They were working so hard.  Good legs.  Strong legs.  And my lungs!!  They were doing a beautiful job.  The air was going in deep and my lungs were filling up with air, air, air to spare.  It was the most amazing feeling.  And my heart! My heart rate was nice and low, just keeping to where it was supposed to be.  I started to get a little teary.  I never thought I was going to feel like this again.  And here I was, feeling like $1,000,000 not even one year later.    I just kept thanking my legs for working so hard.  They didn’t complain they fell into the work.  I was very proud of them.  It took me 6:30 to ride the 86 miles and that included three stops for water/nutrition/bathroom.  I’m 100% okay with that. 

The gorge in Wilmington has always been my struggle area on the bike that whole section climbing up out Wilmington before River Road.  I cannot ride that section without thinking of the first time I rode it with Stephanie (2004?) and how hard the wind was blowing and we were going downhill and not moving.  We had to pull our bikes off to the side because at one point we were laughing so hard because we couldn’t believe how hard it was.  It was just ridiculous. I remember like yesterday Steph saying “and you want to do Ironman why?’  Here we are six years later and I’m still working on the answer to that one.    But I have glimpses of why I do this stuff.  Moments like I had on Sunday where everything comes together.  Heart, lungs, legs, mind all together in one spot working harmoniously.  Endurance sports do that for me.  It’s in those moments where I feel connected to myself.  Some people get it running fast around the track.  For me, I take a long time to get warmed up.

After completing two loops (86 miles) I had to run another 10 miles.  That didn’t go so well.  All that hard working in the wind (and I couldn’t have backed off unless I wanted to fall over) I really felt it in my quads.  I was supposed to run down to the red barn but I only made to the Marriot (1 mile and turned back to return to Mirror Lake.)  I couldn’t quit at 2 miles but I really, really, wanted to.   I did two more, run/walk, very much exhausted and my legs felt like pilons.  I had had that feeling before and I was trying to think of why this was such a deja vu….  Right!!   The last 2 miles of Ironman.  I’ll never forget that feeling as long as I live.  So close and yet so far.  My legs felt like they were made of cement.  I had that same feeling.  I finished 4 miles and went up to friend/asst coach Jac — I need help.  I was trying to do 2 lamp posts on and 2 lamp posts off but I couldn’t get started again.  I told Jac I needed to quit.  She said “I’ll put on my shorts and meet you out there.”  Groaannnnn, I shouldn’t have said anything.   Now I was dying and she would be coming out….

Yep, and there she was.  Okay two lamp posts on, groan, ouch, ooch..   Two off, thank you, thank you.  On — I don’t wanna.  Off — are we done yet.  And so it went.  I was just a robot.  And then I started to feel a little better.  My quads weren’t hurting quite as much.  I was fairly certain that 6 miles was plenty.  “I think we are done, enough.”  I said.  She says “I don’t think you’ve had enough nutrition. I’ll run ahead and get you a gu from you car.”  ????? What part of  ‘I’m done’ don’t you understand?  And then there I was with a fresh drink in my hand hold and a gu and heading out again.  Finished 8 miles, cheating ’cause Jac had to force me to do the last 4.  I call it cheating ’cause on race day they can’t do that.  I felt bad that I couldn’t summon the inner whateverness to do it but then I just said — Gravy!  It’s all freakin gravy.  I never thought I’d be able to do any of this never mind 160 miles of biking and 21 miles of running in 3 days.  Extra gravy without the lumps.

I have reconsidered the nutrition and perhaps I did end up a little shy afterall.  For my next long workout I’ll try to go a little above and see if that helps with the leg soreness.  See, I’m reasonable.

When I got back to my cabin I had a strange conversation with my legs.  “Look” they said.  “We worked hard, we did everything you asked for.  Most people couldn’t do what we just did for you and we did it without complaining.  Now it is our turn.  We want a rest and we want you to give us a rest.”   I thought about it and I thought about how hard they had worked and what an awesome job my legs and lungs and heart had done.  How could I not listen to them.  “Agreed,” I said.  “I appreciate everything you did for me this weekend, and now we rest.”  I did not go out for the 4 day of a swim and bike, I got in the car and drove home to recover for next weekend which will be my next race Rev 3 Quassy in Middlebury, Ct.  

Namaste

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