Friday, February 28, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

World English Dictionary
perspective  (pəˈspɛktɪv) 
— n
1.a way of regarding situations, facts, etc, and judging their relative importance
2.the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it; objectivity: 
try to get some perspective on your troubles

Since yesterday I ran my longest run ever - 12 miles on the treadmill, this is my current perspective:

or a long run....
Our house is a split-level.  Which means there's a half a flight up from the main floor to the bedrooms (and bathroom), a half a flight down to the playroom (and other bathroom), and another half a flight down into the basement where my treadmill and other instruments of torture live.  As we designed and built our house, this was intentional at the time.  I was am still traumatized by when my then-15-month-old daughter fell down the stairs at our old house, hitting her head on the baby gate at the bottom.  It raised the most impressive purple blue bruise you've ever seen on a little bald head, and resulted in 2 visits to the ER and a CT scan.  (She is fine).  So when we moved, it seemed a great idea to have several smaller flights of stairs in our house.  Until I started triathlon training.....

But let me back up a scootch.  I had one more long run on my schedule to complete for my half-marathon training, supposedly on Saturday.  I also have two big cake orders (one for family), swimming class, work, and the knowledge that I usually can't walk or function after long runs due to muscle and stomach pain.   This run was looming large in my mind.  Plus the kids are so sick of winter that the little guy is passing the time by perfecting his "Annoying Little Brother" routine, and the little girl is near constantly crying for my attention and to please get her brother the heck off of her.  Awesome.

Can barely see the end of driveway.
 Then, yesterday around lunchtime I decided I'd fit it in after work.  I was working from home.  The weather report was totally clear (even if the windchill had the temp down into the single digits).  I could suck it up, bundle up, get it done, then collapse afterwards, leaving the rest of the weekend blissfully free for everything else.  Sheriff gave me the go-ahead, saying "do this any day you can make it the main priority".  Silly man.  As if I ever get ONE main priority....

Within minutes of making this plan and having it blessed by coach, husband, and kids (ok not blessed but...), it turned into a white-out outside.  Clear skies and clear roads were gone.  I was furious.  Mother Nature seriously has it in for me.  The feeling is becoming mutual.

 By now the idea of having the blessed run over with was so ingrained in my mind that I decided to not let the elements win.  I would charge up the IPad, load on some Netflix, and hit the treadmill.  Which I did.

I mimicked the race course, doing the first 5 miles at a 2% incline and the rest flat except for the last mile, which went back to a 1% incline.  I took a walk break at miles 4 and 8 to drink and to take in some Pocketfuel.  I watched The Tudors and Breaking Bad.  I watch the kids zoom around the basement and crash their big trucks into one another until I begged my husband to take them back upstairs.  I wanted to quit after mile 7 or so.  But I didn't.

Final time 2:07:55.  And apparently 14 calories.
I now know when my 'mill's automatic shutoff is.

My first reaction after finishing was panic and anger, as my kids both rushed to hug me, taking me out at the knees and causing me nearly fall on them.  Seriously kids, give mom a break.  We need to install an escape route from the pain cave that doesn't immediately pass the playroom.  My second reaction was disappointment at my pace and overall feeling.  Which was exhaustion and pain.  No exhilaration or endorphins here, but lots of relief to have the run done.

Shouldn't I be feeling ready?  Excited?  Energized?  After a good nights sleep, some chats with friends, and careful consideration, I've decided that I need to put this in perspective.  A side effect of hanging out with amazing athletes, both in real life and via social media (which is sadly at least half of my social life), is that you get a skewed perspective on what is "normal".  Most people don't run 10+ miles for fun.  Those that do are often sore afterwards.  A mile at 10:30 pace is the same distance as a mile at 8:30 pace.  It just takes longer.  Duh.

So instead of comparing my current state to say, my coach who has been an IM triathlete for years and just ran a marathon, or my running friends who've been at it for years, let's compare yesterday's run to this chick:

This was me less than a year ago.  Posing at the Mile 3 marker of one of my very first 5ks.  BEFORE the start of the race.  Two hours later I would be quite inebriated watching the St. Patrick's Day parade from a local beer garden, having walked half of the route and gone straight to the pub after.  Actually, it was a really fun race.  But I could only jog a mile, I never had aspirations of going farther, and I'm pretty sure that roll under my race bib is actually my muffin top, not something in a kangaroo pocket.

Fast forward four months to July 2013, when I completed my first sprint triathlon.  The fact that it was over 95 degrees that day is something, but in reality it took me over 32 minutes to cover 2.5 miles at a shuffle so slow I really could have walked.

Fast forward another 3 months.  October.  I'm on crutches.  Couldn't walk for 5 weeks, much less run.

December.  Two months ago.  Just wrapping up the Couch to 5k plan.  I could run, but only for a few minutes at a time, and then only at about 12:00 pace.

Yesterday.  12 miles at 10:40 pace.  In two weeks I will complete my first half-marathon in under 2:30 (barring natural or other disasters).  

Furthermore, I'm very excited to be able to tell you all that my favorite tri-friend Gypsy will be joining me!  She's jumping into the race to keep me company, stay with me, and make sure I finish. Since I did my first triathlon with her, and watching her train for the Boston Half last fall was a major inspiration for me taking on the 13.1 distance, I couldn't be more happy to have her.  I would wax poetic about it longer, but it would just embarrass her.  I can see her shaking her head as I type this.  Still.  Pretty psyched.

Look out New Bedford!!!

How do you keep perspective on your fitness journey?  Tell me how far you've come!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Phantom Babies and Near-Spring Fever

This is my brain.  My brain pretty much every waking second (and some of the non-waking ones).  Except with way more boxes.  Kindergarten registration forms, obtaining used ski equipment, scheduling a two hour long run around the daily predicted snowstorms.  Why is the cat throwing up?  How are we going to use two pounds of organic mustard greens from this week's delivery?  When will we get our tax refund?  Can we afford a vacation this year? And when in the week are all of these things going to be accomplished???  And on and on......

Multitasking is the meat and potatoes of a mom's existence.  Work, kids, marriage, throw in some athletics, some hobbies, finances, a social life - you know the drill.  Most of the time I manage this all pretty well- with a modicum of grace (dare I say it?) and without too much strife.  As my mom once said to me - "Miranda, it's just multi-tasking!!"  But the ability to stay calm while juggling too many responsibilities is one of the first things to go when anxiety and depression start getting to me.

Part of me would like nothing more than to write a chirpy post about how it's two weeks out to my first half marathon.  I feel ready!  I feel excited!  Plug in yet another funny cartoon about the Polar Vortex (which I'm increasingly convinced was manufactured by Disney as a marketing ploy to promote Frozen.  They have the clout to do it....) and be done with it.  But many of my readers have expressed to me, either publicly or privately, they they appreciate that I "am real" in my blog.  There are 1000 fitness blogs out there, and my fitness journey is by no means exceptional to the point of being interesting on its own.  So... here's the real scoop.

It is, but...

It's the end of February, which I have already stated as the worst time of the year.  I'm starting to unravel a bit.  A little sad, a lot crazy.  Lots of not wanting to get out of bed (which really, why would you want to when it's this cold and dark?).  Earlier this week, in reaction to wistfulness over my skiing and reading Big Kids, I convinced myself I was pregnant.  My evidence?  I'm tired all the time, and hungry all the time.  Seriously - I eat everything that's not nailed down (Clean eating, what?).  Gee, what other reasons could there be for that?  7+ hours of workouts a week??  And that being pregnant would mean I'd have a bona fide reason to stop doing such long runs.  Plus my existing, real children are growing up too fast, and they are very cute, so clearly another one would be equally cute and cool.  Phantom crazy baby.  Mommy's off the deep end.

I Am Here.

Clarification - it's not medically possible for me to be pregnant, so please hold the gifts and phone calls.

Depression, whether it is seasonal, generalized, anxiety-related, or otherwise, can be very difficult to describe.  The best way I can try is to say that it's a disconnect between your reality and how you react to your reality.  You know that you have all these wonderful things in your life - warm home, beautiful children, a loving spouse, great family... and yet you can't quite connect to them.  Imagine being thirsty and having a glass of water in front of you, and yet when you reach for it, your hand passes through it as if you are a ghost.  You know it's there, you just can't grab it or feel it or touch it.  You're removed from your own reality.  Some people feel lethargic, some spin madly with obsessive thoughts (me), some withdraw completely - everyone's experience is different.

If you know someone who is having a tough time with such issues, please know that trying to "cheer them up" is just not effective.  Do not keep pointing out that there is a glass of water in front of them.  It's right there!  Grab it!!  Just cheer up!!  Trust me, if they could they would.  I am fully aware that I have wonderful kids and a great job and I'm doing well in my training.  I also know that nothing is really going to help me fully appreciate these things until spring arrives and takes away my February blues/psychosis.  So I get to wait.  That's ok.  I can wait.  I do this every year - it's fine.


So what about that little race coming up?

The New Bedford Half Marathon is 18 days away (but who's counting?).  Physically, I am ready for it.  My last long run went really well.  I have one more 12 miler this weekend, and then shorter runs until race day.  I even will possibly have a very good friend at my side for the race.  (More on that later).  All good things.

I started running longer distances because I had a number of friends who are half marathoners or marathoners.  I wanted to keep up with them, be able to run with them, but mostly I wanted to see what it was like.  If I could do it.  How my car would look with a 13.1 sticker on it.  Just kidding.  I'm not stickering my car.

Maybe it's because I've done a lot of my training solo, and in the cold months.  Maybe it's because my body (GI tract) hasn't adjusted to the long distances.  But here today, in this moment based on how I've been feeling over the last several weeks of training, I don't think long distance running is for me.  I realize this is the opposite of a motivational message.  Sorry folks.  Cupcake Triathlete Inspiration Fail. 

As we strive for new goals, to improve ourselves, and to push our limits, I think it's important to pay attention to our bodies and minds and be open to honest feedback.  My body and mind are telling me that I don't enjoy much over 6 miles.  I love being able to bust out a 5k like its nothing.  The fact that I woke up yesterday and ran 5 miles on the 'mill before work and didn't think much of it is extraordinary (for me).  But honestly, long runs do not make me feel physically good.  Or emotionally better in any way.  Certainly not more than something in the sweet spot of 45-60 minutes.  I don't like having to find a three hour block of time every weekend to run - I've got too much going on with the family and the cake business.  Plus the desire to relax!!  Read a book with kitty.  Play tetris with the kids (the real kind, not the one in my head).

I fully reserve the right to change my mind once its warmer.  Maybe running for hours through the warm spring sun or the crisp autumn leaves will feel completely different than doing so over ice-covered streets with screws in my running shoes.  Though if it's nice enough to do that, I'd rather spend those hours on my bike.  Oh my bike... I miss you so.....

I'm not sure what this means for my Rock'n'Roll half marathon in April with Rio.  I think she will forgive me if I punk off a bit.  If we take walking breaks to watch the bands and generally take in the experience.  I will give New Bedford all I've got, and then I'm looking forward to backing off running.  Getting back on my bike.  More pool time.  More yoga.  Training for sprint and Oly-distance triathlons (the run leg is only 10k).  Spring winds and the snowbanks receding.  My mind quieting down again.  So much to look forward to....

After yesterday's morning run.
The bulbs in my basement pot are starting to sprout!

What are you looking forward to most about spring?  

Has it sprung where you are, or are you still Frozen?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Run the Mile You're In

Much advice for running and triathlon is quite transferable to everyday life.  One recent piece of advice I heard, regarding my upcoming half marathon, is

Run the Mile You're In

In other words, don't psych yourself out by looking too far forward into a long race.  Don't let previous setbacks throw you.  Run as you are, in this moment, in this mile, until your race is done.  Easier said than done, no?  Even harder to practice in life overall.  Being present, not worrying about the future.

Friday's short run.  Great run whichever device you believe.

I had am amazing weekend.  I also had an incredibly worry-filled weekend.  My 10.5 mile long run was scheduled for Saturday, since we were going skiing with family on Sunday.  After last weekend's disastrous race, and despite a good run on Friday at lunch, I was nervous.  Strike that, I was terrified.  I got myself so worked up that by Friday night, while out at a painting party with friends, I had the glass of wine two glasses of wine I'd promised myself I wouldn't, just to calm my nerves.  Even though I knew I was heading out first thing in the morning.

When painting wine, is unreasonable
to not drink wine, no?
My anxiety was particularly stupid, because I was being joined by friends.  On Thursday, Hummingbird texted me and told me that for her own sanity she was coming out with me.  I'd have adult supervision!  Furthermore, we were picking up Gypsy at the 6.5 mile mark and I'd have TWO of my best buddies to carry me home.  I had a route planned.  My coach had suggested that I make my long runs mimic the course for the New Bedford HM as much as possible.  Given that the HM course is mostly flat, that isn't possible in my town.  The half has an overall elevation gain of 176 ft.  This run was 776 feet.  The best I could do....

Of course the weather for the run was perfect.  A beautiful day, despite the occasional icy patch that had us jumping and whooping between strides.  The miles fell away quickly while Hummingbird and I talked about everything under the sun, heavy on the race discussion.  Another pearl of wisdom?  Run in your own shoes.  Don't compare yourself to others, because you don't know their story.  True to racing, true for life.  We got to Gypsy's house a little later than planned, but still kept good pace.  Gypsy with her fresh legs pulled us home (up the biggest hill in town), with overall negative splits for the nearly 11 mile run.  
It was just about as perfect as you could ask for.  All that worrying the day before was wasted.  If I'd "run the mile I was in", I'd have enjoyed the painting party a lot more and saved myself a day of anxiety.  

We spent the rest of Saturday taking the kids to the botanical garden, puttering around the house, and in my case, curled up in a ball on the bed with stomach pains (my standard after long runs.  Still.  National Drink a Margarita Day was ruined).  Yet despite the lesson of the morning, I still managed to fit in plenty of worrying about the next activity - a family ski trip on Sunday.  

My reward.  PJ pants, kitty
and video games.
My daughter running laps
at the botanical garden in the
finally-warm weather.
And tho she be but little, 
she is fierce.
I learned to ski as an adult, and it's been six years since I was on downhill skis.  Jedi had taken my little guy skiing twice already this year, and it would be my daughter's first time.  We were meeting Jedi's sister, BIL and four boys up in New Hampshire.  I was anxious about my own ability to stay upright, my lack of ability to teach my daughter (I'm am not one of those parents who can ski with a kid between their legs.  Nor can I explain the mechanics of skiing, as I barely grasp them myself).  My son needs a helmet.  I'm gonna fall off the lift.  Oh my oh my.....  Once again, I really shouldn't have worried.  For one, my son needs zero help.  He is crazy good, fast, in control, and fearless for someone who is only three feet tall and been skiing three times in life.  My brother in law taught my daughter with patience and obvious skill - she had a great time.

My only rough spot of the day was when I took my son up the chair lift by myself.  He's a little guy, so he can't just sit down on the chairlift as it comes around.  You have to boost him up.  Well, between very very tired muscles, fumbling with my ski poles, etc. I didn't boost high enough.  Leaving him dangling by the armpits as the chair was lifting up for maybe two seconds, if that, before I got his bottom onto the seat.  He said to me, very reproachfully, "Mommy, you really scared me!!!"  I told him I was sorry, and he was fine now and of course I'd never drop him.  (On purpose, gulp).  He was quiet for a bit.  I asked him what was wrong,  "I don't think we should have come."  Is he tired?  No.  Upset he fell on his last run?  No.  Scared Mommy is gonna drop him?  Beat of silence.  Yes.  Oh buddy.  I tried to assure him we'd get off the lift just fine.  As we neared the tower I waved so frantically at the attendant, signaling that I wanted the lift slowed, that she nearly stopped it for us.  I was not gonna drop my kid - even if I had to face plant in the snow, I was gonna put him down ski side down.  We got off perfectly.  Even so, at the end of the run he said he was tired and retired to the snow pile to play. Until Jedi reappeared when he immediately demanded to be taken back out.  Clearly Mommy isn't to be trusted.

Lesson learned?  You are going to let your kids down sometimes, and you need to let it go.  
Second lesson?  While picking up a 40+ lb child onto a moving seat, ditch the ski poles.

Little buddy safely installed in the chairlift with Daddy
Aside from the obvious physical challenges of this weekend (long run plus skiing equals unbelievable pain in legs), it was a hard week as a mom.  Not hard maybe, but bittersweet.  I was simultaneously proud and sad watching my four-year old son streak down the mountain.  My daughter has recently really started to read well.  She read me "Good Night Moon" Saturday night.  Remembering reading that book to her as a baby made me cry.  It was only moments ago I was marveling that my baby son could roll over - now he's tackling summit trails with his 16 year old cousin.  How does this happen?  It's a pain that every parent knows... wanting your children to grow up and flourish, but hold them back against your heart at the same time.

Of course the answer is to "run the mile I'm in".  The mile I'm in is having smart, sassy little runner chick for a daughter and a cuddly little daredevil for a son.  The mile I'm in is working at a job that, if I don't 100% love, I mostly enjoy, has great benefits and serves our family very well.   The mile I'm in is being able to run long distances, but still feeling wrecked afterwards.  The mile I'm in only involves green level ski trails.  I miss my babies.  I wish I was a better runner and athlete. There are an infinite number of things that I look back on and can't have back.  There are even more things that I hope for in the future.  But for now, I need to look around, appreciate what I have, and just run.

Any other advice for me at t-minus 3 weeks to my first half marathon?

P.S.  Huge congrats to my coach Sheriff for PRing the New York Central Park Marathon yesterday.  There's nothing quite so satisfying as knowing your coach is just as sore as you are.  And also watching Downton Abbey to recover.....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Giveaway! Swim Bike Sell

So I know that everyone is jealous of my not one, but TWO new pairs of shoes this week.  Girls love shoes, right?  (actually, short of athletic and outdoor shoes I've never really had that "girl gene", but still.  Never waste a good cliche).

Regular running shoes.
Trail running shoes.  Completely different.

Don't despair.  Because you know who has LOTS and LOT of shoes?

They also have everything else triathlon-related that you could ever think of.  

  • Bike saddles?  Got'em.  
  • Chic running gear?  Yup.  
  • The tri-bike you've been saving up for?  Affirmative.  
  • Race tattoos for your kiddos? Ya darling!  
  • The wetsuit you just realized you need for your season opener?  You betcha!

Me sporting my SBS wetsuit at the Title 9 Sprint last year.
I make rubber look good.

Run and created by the intrepid SwimBikeMom, Meredith Atwood, and fellow triathlete Ansley Sebring (Sweet Red), Swim Bike Sell is giving away a $25 gift card to one of my readers!  It could be you!  Enter below to win.  And yes, as their name implies, you can also sell your unwanted gently used gear there as well to pay for that race registration to get new goodies.

What would triathlon(etc.) goodie would you get if money was no object??

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Official Rules:
  • You must be 18 years of age or older and is limited to U.S. residents only
  • The sweepstakes will run from 2/19/14 at 12:00am EST through 2/23/14 at 12:00am EST
  • In order to enter to win you must use the Rafflecopter to earn entries.
  • The winner will receive a $25 electronic gift card valued at $25.
  • The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • The winner will be selected at random on 2/24/14 and will be notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to email  If the prize winner forfeits or does not claim the prize, prize will be re-awarded, in Sponsor’s sole discretion.
  • All entrants are bound by the official rules of this giveaway.
  • Winner must be able to prove identity and provide a legal mailing address.
  • All entries are verified by myself.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I have a coworker for which this is their standard water cooler greeting, similar to "How's it going" or "Sounds like somebody has a case of the Mondays!"  Of course being at the office the standard reply is usually some version of no thanks and when can we go home?

Yet it is a very relevant question.  Are we having fun?  Am I having fun in everything that I am doing?  Is training for a half marathon, while learning a whole new way of swimming, and also trying not completely lose to ability to identify my bike, all at the same time, actually fun?
My daughter thinks the
treadmill is seriously fun.

As adults we spend tend to describe facets of our lives as rewarding, meaningful, fulfilling... but not often fun.  In my experience, most problems can be fixed not by excessive over-analysis, but with more fun.

On the trail
Yesterday Gypsy took our kids for the entire day, giving the Jedi and I several blissful hours of uninterrupted time to just enjoy each other's company and talk.  As our kids + her kids = 6 kids solo for the day, this earns her Best Friend of the Year and Mother of the Year simultaneously.  Seriously.  We went for a nice long cross-country ski on the rail trail, and followed it up with some chores around the house (remarking the whole time how quiet it was) and lunch out at our favorite local sushi place.  I cannot describe to anyone who is not a parent what a tremendous gift it was to have that much time together, and how much ground we covered as a couple. Career.  The kids.  Training.  The correct method of snow removal from our driveway.  The future.  The past.  All these things that you never get a chance to really connect about when the day-to-day reality of work and parenting turns you into Mrs. "Why can't she stop leaving dirty clothes all over the house" and Mr. "You always load the dishwasher wrong".  So that was excellent.  Just a few hours of fun together smoothed over months worth of bumps in the road.  Not that we have major bumps in the first place.  But nothing is perfect, not even us.

Wine and Sushi.  Big fun.

After Sunday's race, I was seriously questioning my sanity and the fun-ness of training this time of year.  I mean really - THIS is the correct way to cover a long distance on semi-packed snow:  Not running.

They make these things called skis that slide over the snow....

Similarly, getting out of bed early, trainer rides, and cold pools were starting to top my list of non-fun things. Ditto for lonely long runs in the cold that left me Cranky Tired Mom afterwards.  Ironically one of the reasons I wanted to run longer distances was to be able to go out with some of my runner friends.  Who now are running much less or not at all because of the weather, leaving me to soldier on alone.  Not fun.  So friends - as it warms, expect me to come for you.  I'm a lot faster than I was last fall and I want buddies again!!!

I talked to Sheriff about all of this in a few back and forth emails, and we decided that truly, what is needed is less pressure and more fun.  He even gave me license to "goof off". (I'll be testing the limits of what that means!).  We agreed that for the next few weeks, it's ok if I can't get up super early.  The cycle of packing for a workout, hitting the snooze and then feeling guilty about it all day is killing me.  I will religiously complete my three key runs a week to get ready for the New Bedford half, but other than that I can swim, bike, ski, yoga, or lay around with the kitty as much as I like.  This sounds like fun.

For clarity, here are some examples:

Not fun: commuting home in a huge snowstorm - the third in four days.
Fun: stopping at the gym to wait out the storm, and doing a 2000m swim set that felt like much less, in a completely empty pool.  Oh yes, this happened today.  After running a pretty fast 5K on the treadmill this morning.  Funny how I celebrate freedom to punk off by working out twice in one day.... hmm......

Not fun:  Watching every. single. thing. I. eat.
Fun: Weirdly slug-like and suggestive flambeed banana.

Not fun: Endless trainer rides in the cold basement.
Fun: Trainer rides in the warm living room, while watching Game of Thrones Season 3 which we got on DVD yesterday.  I'd adapted this drinking game for use on the trainer.  Shift up a gear every time someone dies.  Spin up whenever a White Walker appears (bike away!).  Stand up and push for 3 minutes whenever a main character dies.  The Red Wedding episode is gonna be tough....

How do you make exercise fun when you really aren't feeling it?

Any other GOT and SciFi geeks shout out!  (come now don't be shy....)  I'll send you the complete rules to Trainer GOT.....

For your meditations - watch the pretty snow fall......

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes - Race Recap

Today was the Old-Fashioned Ten Miler, put on by the Wampanoag Road Runners in Foxboro.  Although that area got a significant amount of snow last night, I was confident with my new screw shoes and dressed perfectly for the weather.  After a great breakfast, I drove the hour and a half down to Foxboro in plenty of time for the start of the race.  Although the run was tough, I had my Garmin to keep my pace on track, my carefully crafted playlist on my iPhone to keep me company, and I finished well before 2 hours, which was my goal.  I broke the run up into 3 segments like my coach had suggested, thinking of a different friend who needed positive energy for each three mile segment.  It was a beautiful day and I'm so happy with how the race went overall, especially because this was such a critical training run/race going toward the New Bedford Half Marathon next month.

Psych!!!  None of that happened.

Ok that is not true.  Breakfast was good, and it was a beautiful day.  If you happened to be curled up sipping coffee with a book by the fireside, or <<cough cough>> at a picturesque country wine tasting like some coaches I could mention.  But in MY world, the day started with an email that the race start was pushed off from 11 am to 1 pm.  As if 11 wasn't late enough to be a nutritional challenge.  To say nothing of my ability to stay calm and cool for seven hours before the start of a race.

Beautiful snowy day, from the comfort of my house

So I test ran my screw shoes around my house - good stuff.  Headed south towards the race a little early, as the kiddos decided my extra time would be best spent going to Toys'R'Us for them.  Pretty sure none of the Sochi athletes have to worry about selecting the right Lego Creator set prior to their events.....  I arrived at the race hall about an hour before the start.  Had my lunch, and promptly realized my headphones were missing.  I sent a few frantic texts to my friend Spark who was meeting me at the race to see if she had extra.  No dice.  I went into the hall to register.

Shortly after getting my number the race organizer came over the loudspeaker announcing that the ten mile route was now a five mile route.  There was supposed to be a choice of a 5K route (that was actually shorter) and a ten mile.  Those of us who had been planning to run the 10 now could run the 5K route twice, as the town hadn't salted any of the roads that made up the ten mile course.

Spark and I at the start.
See how we still look more or less happy?
At this point my phone started melting from all the expletives I typed into it, as I vented my wrath to Spark (who hadn't arrived yet), my husband, Maid Marion who just happened to text me at the wrong time, Legos (also was a texting bystander), and most importantly my coach.  I needed to run 10 miles.  I had planned and prepared to run ten miles.  Sheriff and I decided that I would just run the loop three times. Close to 8-9 miles would be ok.  There were several other runners there who were using this race as a key training run for New Bedfored, and I was not the only one with the idea.  Spark arrived and we jogged to warm up while I further sputtered and swore while she laughed at me about my "stubbornness issues".

We lined up with the 700 or so other runners on one of the many snowy side streets that comprised the course.  At some point a gun must have went off, because people started shuffling - slipping and sliding and moving only slightly faster than walking in the three plus inches of somewhat packed snow.  My plan had been to stay with Spark, who volunteered to be my entertainment in lieu of headphones for the first loop.  I'd then continue on to the second, then keep going past the official end of the race to complete a third loop.

The thing was, the roads were terrible.  My screw shoes worked great, but even so... running through snow is HARD.  In my experience, races are usually pretty quiet.  Everyone just puts on their headphones and runs.  Today, there was a constant stream of chatter.  More experienced runners consoled themselves and partners that running five miles in these conditions was the equivalent of running ten on pavement (an opinion that my mind is having trouble accepting, but my body completely agrees with).  Many people were commenting to anyone nearby just how much this run was terrible (not the actual phrases used), that they wish they were doing anything but.  It was like running on sand.  No - running on mashed potatoes.  Around mile 2.5, when the front runners looped us, one guy joked that he was going to jump on the back bumper of the pace car.  Spark and I lost each other in the sheer concentration of making sure our feet stayed under us.  My Garmin did not work.  It never works during races.  I really  must read the manual again.  And that playlist I spent hours making last night?  Not loaded on my phone, I discovered when I decided the crowd had thinned enough to just play it for myself sans headphones.  Damn technology.

The high point of the race came around mile 3 when, during a rare patch of pavement, some guys I was running with noticed my shoes.  Did I do that?  Yes.  How?  1/2 inch hex head sheet metal screws.  That's awesome - I'd have to do that for my girlfriend.. cool that you can.  Your girlfriend sounds lame..... (ok no that's not what I said).  But it was short lived.

By the end of the first loop I'd lost any illusions that I could make three.  I forced myself to run by the end of the 5K despite the screaming in my hamstring, foot, and lower back, and pressed on through another round of the 32 minutes I'd just endured.  I finished what turned out to be a 5.3 mile run in just under 56 minutes - an overall pace of 10:35.

Done.  I got a big medal with a beer opener.
Spark, wonderful girl that she is, had stayed outside in the cold to snap a picture and catch me at the end.  As we walked back towards the hall, tears of frustration and pain pricked the backs of my eyes as I hypocritically consoled her about her time (also not what she had hoped for).  The conditions were just not meant for PRs.  We'd get it at the next race.  It's ok.  It's really ok.....

It is ok.  It is also disappointing, frustrating, and painful.  I texted my coach and told him what happened (he was very understanding), my husband (he offered to buy me wine), and Maid Marion with a report on the screw shoes, who also was very supportive.  Checked in with the parents - I'm alive.  More virtual hugs.  I had some fantastic chicken soup, got myself the largest latte possible at DD's, and then zoned out so badly on the highway I ended up in Rhode Island.  Whoops.  I try hard to avoid post-race stupidity, but it always shows up in one form or another....  I laughed out loud in the car when the highway signs welcomed me back into my own state.  Welcome to Massachusetts, dumbass!!!

Now it's the evening and I'm clean and warm.  My foot is taped.  My hamstring and back are still killing me.  My kids said I still did great.  My little girl told me, "I'd be proud of you no matter what". (More crying)  The lesson of today has to be that things don't always go the way you plan, but that you can still make the best of it and [try to] be proud of yourself.  Part of mental toughness is staying strong in non-optimal conditions, but is also accepting non-optimal results.  I've got to let it go.  After all, there's another long run coming up on my schedule in six days....

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - last page

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Screw It

It's funny how life's experiences have a way of coming around again, no matter how far in the distant past you think you're placed them.  No matter how much you swear you've forgotten them.  Those following my blog for a while might remember that I come from a martial arts background.  It is, in fact, how I met my husband, and the reason I refer to him as the Jedi.  They might also remember that it has been years since my husband and I have practiced, mostly due to the lack of time and training partners that comes with moving and starting a family, but also due to the untimely death of our teacher a few years ago.  We have vague plans of starting a school at some point in the future - especially my husband who I think misses teaching.  But all things karate for me are tinged with a bit of regret and sadness, both at the loss of a friend and of what used to be a big part of my life.

This weekend brought martial arts to the front of my mind for two reasons.  First, because Lego's little guy is turning the big "0-5", and had a party in his dojo today.  I called dibs on making his cake, of course.  Unbeknownst to me, they would slice it (or try to) with a giant samurai sword.  Too funny.

Perhaps because karate was already on my mind this morning, I made a major mental connection between martial arts and swimming.  Really.  Total Immersion swimming teaches propulsion driven from a streamlined body position, weight shift emanating from the core, and their "two-beat" kick.  When I swim, I kick a lot.  It wears me out - give me a pull buoy and I can swim forever breathing every 3 strokes, but as soon as I have to integrate a flutter kick I'm sucking wind and sinking.

He just tried this, so front kick maybe?
Except I'm not anymore.  Gil had me and another student swim a lap today without kicking at all.  I did not sink, I did not break position, and I went just as fast as I do normally.  Unreal.  I laughed out loud.  Later, as Gil demonstrated the weight change coming from the hips at the switch of your stroking arm, a concept that is integrated into every TI drill that I've done, I had a "light bulb" moment.  The same weight shift that used to allow me to lock up my 300 lb training partner's wrist and throw him to the ground, using only the force of my core, is the same motion and source of power for swimming.  Not my shoulders or legs.  Combined with my increasing balance in the water, I am really getting somewhere!  My body does actually remember how to power via my hips - that "engine" is still there.  And getting stronger from my increasing yoga practice.  I said in my last post that my hope is that swimming will take the same role of active meditation that my martial arts practice used to fill.  I'm on my way.
We'll work on her hand position

My elation from this morning's swim practice was short lived, however, as Legos texted me that another storm was on it way.  It's an hour's drive to her house, putting my commute to and from the party in the leading edge of the storm with two sugar-crazed kiddos in tow.  What's more, the race course for tomorrow's ten mile race is near the blizzard zone.  It's in Foxborough (where the Patriots play.  Tom is leaving the kids with Giselle and coming out to cheer me on).  Which will be under about ten inches of snow by midnight tonight.

Light purple folks
Not an ideal situation for a race that I was already nervous for, since it is by far my longest attempt.  I hemmed and hawed at my husband, my coach, some training friends and some random bystanders at the birthday party.  Then I felt a bit of that bad-assedness I had in my twenties when I was actively practicing karate kick in.  I worked really hard for this.  My karate teacher, who was also a marathoner, would not stand for giving up because of a little snow.  He taught us:

  • The first rule of self defense: believe in something worth defending. Or as Loreal puts it, "You are worth it".   Got it.
  • The second rule of self defense: dress for the weather and wear the right shoes.
Dressing for the weather is no problem.  I have done plenty of cold runs.  (Side note: under this mantra, even on the rare occasions I went to parties in college I never forgot a coat for the walk home.  Never a scantily clad coed stumbling home in the freezing cold.)  But the shoes?  With ice and snow on roads that will likely not be 100% clear and dry by morning, my usual running shoes won't do.  Heck, I was planning on replacing them this coming week anyway because their tread is worn down to nothing and they have over 300 miles under them.  Even if every sporting goods store between the party and home wasn't sold out of YakTrax, Mini-spikes, and other running aids, the snow was coming down hard enough that side trips weren't an option.

Luckily, not only am I my sensei's student, but I am also my father's daughter.  Which means I can use power tools.

Type A labeling is genetic in our family

We were scheduled for a stop at Gramma and Grandpa's anyway after the party, so while the kids played I snuck down to my dad's workshop.  His workshop that looks like a cozier, better organized version of Lowes.  I found what I was looking for among his hundred neatly labeled drawers, came upstairs, and asked as nonchalantly as I possibly could if I could have 30 of his hex-head 1/2 inch sheet metal screws please?

To my parents' infinite credit, neither so much as batted an eye about why I felt the need to mutilate my shoes and run a stupidly long distance in a blizzard.  They adopted the calm patience I imagine they used when I was a teenager and insisted I would simply die if I couldn't wear $60 acid washed jeans to school.  Dad even threw in a hex driver for good measure.

Once we got home (a scary and long process in the building storm), I dug out the drill, my faithful yet nearly exhausted running shoes, and set about creating cleats for the ice.  I set a pattern of screw heads on the outer edges of each shoe (not the middle, which would interfere with foot strike).  I followed the places where there was the most wear on the tread.

Don't overdrill - stop once the head touches rubber


Winter storm Quintus, you've been screwed.

Today was not the best prep day for a long race.  Instead of eating clean I had pizza (with gluten crust) and birthday cake.  I've eaten so many Valentine's day chocolates that I'm seriously considering just stuffing a few Russell Stover's in my pockets for race fuel.  It's what I'm acclimated to now, right?  Instead of resting, I drove around like a madwoman with my kids in the snow.  But at least I have a better chance of staying on my feet tomorrow.  I hope.

Wish me luck and see you on the other side!!!!

Does anyone else use "aids" to run in the snow and ice?  Which do you like best and why?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Messy Love Story

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day - a holiday that I usually spend the majority of my time trying to avoid.  Not because I don't believe in love, but because I don't like being forced to celebrate it on a certain day.  But I dutifully made melted heart crayons and a ton of those stretch bracelets for my kids classes, bought the Jedi some fuzzy jammie pants, and am getting ready to make our Valentine's Day orders.

The holiday does have me thinking about love stories.  Lately I can't go anywhere without someone asking about how my training is going (being a celebrity is so tiring.  Just kidding....).  The gym, work, running into friends at stores - everywhere.  So what about my "love story" with fitness?

I'd like to be able to write a totally inspirational story about how I woke up one day with the idea to become an amazing athlete and it's been smooth sailing ever since.  But like most love stories, it's more complicated than that.  It's also wound so tightly around the story of my family that I can't separate the two.  Like everyone's fitness journey, it is deeply, profoundly personal.  And messy.  And awkward.  And sometimes embarrassing.  And beautiful.

According to my mom, I had my first panic attack when I was 18 months old.  I curled up in a ball and went catatonic.  Even the pediatrician couldn't find what was wrong.  I just turned off.  Probably the best decision my parents ever made for me was to let me and my brother grow up on a 4 acre piece of property in rural New York.  I grew up rambling through the woods, riding my bike (and once walking) the 20 miles into town, and learning to love the outdoors.  Hiking with my big brother.  I had next to no athletic ability.  My only nod to athletics was a brief and very mediocre stint on the high school cross-country team (which I would use to justify my hatred of running for the decade that followed) and martial arts.

Backpacking.  Not our dog.
The meditative aspect of martial arts got me through my early twenties, a time where I had finally given up and been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.  On the up side, it also introduced me to my husband, the Jedi.  I introduced him to mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and took him on an ill-advised backpacking trip in the early spring in NH where we nearly froze to death.  He married me anyway, in 2005 on the top of Wachusett Mountain.  We had a wonderful honeymoon to Alaska.

Two weeks after we got home, my wheels truly came off for the first time.  Paralyzed by a job I didn't love, a house we couldn't afford to buy, and the certainty that this was supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life therefore I must be a terrible person for feeling so down.  Jedi took me to a doctor, who prescribed the SSRI I'm still taking.  I also joined a gym and started taking yoga and pilates there.  No running, nothing using those scary machines, but I did understand that I felt marginally better after a pilates class and I did my best.  A few months later I'd quit the gym for a new job, but still managed to crawl a bit out of my hole.

We even hiked on our wedding day

Time went by, I got a better job and we bought the house.  We had a new addition to the family, requiring me to come off my medicine.  I substituted with a prenatal yoga class - the first real steady yoga practice of my life.  I looked forward to those classes like a person lost in the desert looks forward to water.

Mini-Me is born

I kept up the yoga after the birth of my daughter, and good thing, because seven months later I was pregnant again.  No need to even find another class - prenatal yoga again.  But this time it wasn't cutting it.  By my second trimester the stress of working, having an infant and growing another one was too much.  I went back on my medication.  Weighing the cost of taking medication while pregnant was very hard.  I had to come off it again for the last 5 weeks.  After my son was born, I got my next dose within minutes of his first feeding.

We are four

Things settled in the next few years.  I gained back the weight I'd lost while pregnant (yes you read that right.  I was extremely ill with both kids and actually lost weight the first time, broke even with the second).  We built a house.  We moved.  Our kids grew.  I didn't do much exercising at all.  I gained weight.  I got really manic about counting calories and using the elliptical after bedtime and lost 20 pounds.  Jedi became a stay at home dad.  I lost my job.  I found another one. I got worse.  I tried a number of different medications in addition to my main one to try to find solid footing.  I settled on a long-acting benzodiazepine for anxiety.

We started a home bakery business to give me a creative outlet - another way to try to control my mind.   Life got busier.  We biked with the kids in the trailer when we could and went for hikes with them in baby backpacks.  We taught our kids to love the outdoors.

In 2012 we somehow got it into our heads to run our local Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving.  We dressed up our bike trailer like a turkey, loaded 40 lbs of kids into it and huffed through the course, finishing around 45 minutes, but making the local papers for our creativity.

I started to wonder what else I could do.  Some friends joined a Zumba class and the C25K program as New year's resolutions.  I followed along.  We ran/walked a 5K for St. Patrick's day.  I was sore for days.

I also was still struggling.  The time of year, perhaps - late winter is always the worst.  I contacted a friend (Merlin) who runs a wellness business - she convinced me to join a gym and keep running.  I learned to get up really really early.  A few weeks later she casually suggested I try triathlon, since I was already a biker and I was training to run.  All I needed was the pool.

You know the rest.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I believe that many, MANY women suffer from post-partum depression, with mental illness, with anxiety.  Because I believe it is important to talk about.  Because I believe strongly in the mind-body connection, and that you can make huge strides in managing these conditions through nutrition and lifestyle.

Veggies from our garden

So now, nearly a year after I decided to become a triathlete, where am I? 

 Good question - not one I always have the answer to.  My kids think I'm a rock star and love to do what I do.  They also did their first tri with me last year and love to come running and biking with me.  It's a part of them that they will keep forever - that is tremendous.  I'm eating more or less clean, and that helps the anxiety.  I'm learning to enjoy running, primarily for how calm I feel once the run is done, if not for the actual moments spent doing it.  Swimming is my meditation (or I hope it will be once I get my technique smoother).  Riding a bike is just pure joy.  I still do yoga on a regular basis to quiet my mind and help my body recover.

I truly don't care how I place in my races this year.  I'd like to finish them feeling that I did the best version effort that I could.  I don't need to break a certain time.  My fitness love story would have two happy endings:

  • That being a triathlete will teach me to let go more and worry less.  I don't stress a bad workout, I shouldn't stress a bad day.  That I train my mind and spirit by training my body.
  • The keeping my body sound will allow me to active well into old age, so that I'm still climbing mountains with my sweetheart in my 70s.  That my dreams of backpacking the Long Trail and becoming a yoga instructor will one day still be possible.


Since my last post, I re-united myself with a sub-10:00 minute mile pace with a awesome short run from work on Tuesday, followed by an easy swim set and a new-found Yoga for Runners video last night.  Sheriff's idea of tapering seems to still involve working out (my version prior to obtaining a coach was to sleep a lot and eat chocolate, but I guess he knows what he's doing), so I have a 40 minute bike trainer session today and a short run tomorrow.  A Valentine's Cake and a Karate cake for Legos' little guy.

It's actually snowing sideways.
Oh, and about a foot and a half of snow to deal with, like everyone else.  (Couldn't write something without mentioning the snow).  

I also woke up to an email that I've been accepted as a Sweat Pink Ambassador for Fit Approach.  I'm excited to be joining this community of amazing women, and hope to be bringing a give-away or other goodies soon.

I hope that this Valentine's Day brings everyone closer to the happy ending of their own love stories, and that everyone is staying safe in this storm.

What's the most important part of your fitness love story?

What are you doing for Valentine's Day?  Let me live vicariously!