Sunday, March 30, 2014

Of Hotels and Expos

Hotel elevator selfie
Triathletes are a little weird.  It's just true.  We get up at horrifically dark hours of the morning to jump in cold pools.  We spend weekends on bikes and doing something called "bricks" that has nothing to do with landscaping.  We are way too used to wearing spandex in public.  Moreover, we do something that, in my opinion, kinda freaks most people out.  The idea of doing a race is hard enough.  You're out there.  You're alone.  There's no team - just yourself and your body and your mind for one hour, two hours.... 140.6 miles.  Then we go do that in three different sports.  Ha!  The possibilities of messing up just got three times more complicated.  Why embarrass and torture yourself one way when three is so much better?

Triathletes "get" this

My weirdness was reinforced this week at my conference for work.  Every year, all of my division is shipped to Boston to a conference center for two days of fist-bumping and team building.  Many grumble about this, but I was just psyched to be put up in a fancy schmancy hotel at no cost and sleep in a bed alone for once.  Plus - this particular hotel had both a lap pool AND a first class gym in it.  Skip sessions anyone??  Anyway, my coworkers [good-naturedly] ridiculed me for leaving the open bar reception early to go swim laps.  I also ended up running around the hotel in my sweat-soaked spandex after my morning workout, because my room lost power and I had to find a coworker's room to shower off in (awkward!!).  So yeah.  I'm a little weird.  But it's all good.

Pretty hotel flowers....

Tuesday:  25 minute continuous swim in the itty bitty but very nice hotel lap pool

Wednesday: 3.3 mile speed workout on the treadmill while watching storm waves in Boston Harbor

Thursday: 1 hour swim with kids (yes I count this as training), then 2 mile easy run after bedtime followed by 40 minutes of yoga to loosen tight hips

Friday ended up being a rest day due to that pesky day job, and this little number:

Monster's Inc. birthday cake.
Piping that much fur frosting
totally counts as forearm strength training.
Do you use your forearms ever in triathlon?

Then Saturday was......

Yay!!!  The Trimania Expo in Boston!  Heading back to the city with several hundred (thousand?) of my fellow weirdos to spend a day of seminars, clinics, races, and vendor expos....

My coach's advice

I was super excited to have my best girl Gypsy with me.  We started this sport together after all, so it's always extra awesome to have her by my side for anything athletic related.  Actually - for anything not athletic related too (though come to think of it I'm not sure we've ever done that.... hmm.  A social occasion with no running.....)

Anyway, my first task of the day was a gait analysis I'd signed up for.  When I first got my running shoes back more than a year ago, the seventeen year old kid working at the store said, 

"Wow, I've never seen anyone run like you do...."

Hmm. A suite of injuries has followed, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to be checked out by someone who knows what the "right way" to run is. It was very helpful.  And a little humbling.  As the videos the coaches took and sent to me crashed when I tried to download them, I had my kiddos reshoot that evening so I could share (make sure you have the sound on.  They are hysterical).

I have a lot of "pathological" gait characteristics.  The biggest one is that I literally put one foot in front of the other.  Like running on a tightrope.  This twists my hips around a lot (hello, hip pain??).  I also twist a lot on top.  And I bounce up and down at a super low 152 cadence.  The physical therapist filming me said "you have kids, right?"  Not "a kid" - kids plural.  Clearly she wasn't taken in by my youthful good looks.  She went on to say that I have tremendous weakness in my core due to childbearing, and possibly even diastasis recti.  Which is the separation of your abs in front to make room for baby.  This doesn't always heal.  In my case, having two kids right on top of each other could have done some damage.  This came as a decent surprise to me.  I've done yoga and pilates on a regular basis since well before I became a mom.  I can plank with the best of them.  But my bouncing, rotating rear end tells the story.  I need more hip strength, glute strength, and core strength.  

So this morning I snapped a chalk line down the center of my 'mill, set a metronome to 170 bpm and set out on my new quest to correct my running form.  Guess what, I feel really good doing so.  Way less hip pain that usual.  Who knew running didn't have to hurt so much?

Saturday (today): 5 mile hill run on the treadmill at 50:45, followed by 20 minutes of hip/glute/core strength

Back to the expo.  Another highlight was helping Gypsy try on and purchase a wetsuit.  I already have a sleeveless wetsuit, so I couldn't justify buying myself another (sigh).  Gypsy had never worn a wetsuit, so out of solidarity I put on my swim suit and tried them on with her.  Let's be real - the grunting, sticky, awkward horror that is trying on your first wetsuit ranks right up there with other loss-of-virginity activities.  Friends don't let friends do it alone.  Plus it's just the sort of embarrassing goofball activity that I enjoy.  I'll skip the details and just say that while Gypsy's first fitting experience was a little rocky, we both had fun in the pool and she left the expo with a pretty purple and black new full sleeve suit.  Jedi would later ask how I could call any wetsuit pretty.  Hers is pretty.  We make them look pretty, Jedi.....

I bumped into so many friends and training partners that day.  It was just so amazing to be around so many other triathletes.  It sounds cliche, but it was so very inspiring.  I love that there were ages from teenagers to folks in their 80s still racing.  Men and women.  Little skinny folks and not-so-skinny folks.  Fast people and slow people and everyone in between.  But every single person there was a triathlete because something in the sport speaks to them.  About getting out of their comfort zone.  Of doing things that are scary.  Of learning how to translate the lessons of triathlon into their regular life.  Mental toughness.  Physical discomfort.  How to improve.  How to win.  How to lose.  How to be somehow better than you were before you started....

The keynote speaker was world champion Siri Lindley.  She was not at all what I expected a world champion triathlete to be like.  She was funny.  She was self deprecating.  She told the story of her first race, where she didn't know that she was supposed to swim with her head in the water, road a mountain bike, and did 100 m sprints on the run until she puked.  

I don't aspire to Kona, but knowing that Siri started the same place as the rest of us.... that is powerful.

Tomorrow starts a new week of work, a new week of training.  Spring is creeping closer - I have the photos to prove it! 
Even better than hotel flowers.
Crocus emerging from the snow.

What have you learned (or do you hope to learn) from triathlon?

Monday, March 24, 2014

100 Happy Days

Because I'm HAPPY!!!!

Whew that was fun!  I think this was playing at the finish line (or somewhere) of the New Bedford Half Marathon last weekend.  I thought it was ironic at the time, but it's been stuck in my head ever since (which makes a nice change from Frozen music).  I'm going with it.

Buoyed by my resolution against negativity, I also took the advice of my wonderfully wise PT and friend Laura and signed up for the 100 Days of Happiness Challenge.  It's simple - for 100 days you take just five minutes to appreciate and enjoy something that makes you happy.  Then ideally you take a picture of it and share it via whatever social media floats your boat.  100 days of being annoying cheerful to your friends....

But in all seriousness, it is a great idea.  When I was a kid, I also had a tendency to be pretty negative.  Not remember the good stuff.  Which, as a parent is deeply annoying when you spend all day playing with your kid and doing nice things for them only to have them throw a temper tantrum at bedtime.  So my mother started a tradition of making me tell her three nice things that happened to me during the day.  (We have also employed this parenting strategy with my daughter, who is a copy of me in all things).

When you have to deliberately find something to be happy about each day, it makes you appreciate your life more.  Because, let's face it - most of life is craziness sandwiched between responsibilities and more responsibilities.  If you don't look for them, it's easy to miss the small things that are most important.  Also by tagging all your photos, you are able to look back over the days and months and get a picture of just how nice a life you really have.  Even on days that aren't so great.  Even on Mondays <<cough>>.

This weekend kicked off my 100 Days.  It was a pretty amazing weekend.

Saturday morning the kids and I packed up early and headed to the gym.  Although my Total Immersion class is now over, I am fond of our Saturday schedule.  Plus Hummingbird is starting TI at the same time, so I wanted to be in the pool to make faces at her (which she appreciated).  I had a really nice, comfortable swim set of about 1300 meters.  It was slightly abbreviated due to child watch difficulties, but that's ok.  I got to take my class picture with Gil, and received a TI swim cap as my finishing prize.  Also bumped into (almost literally) Laura from A Fat Girl's Ironman Journey, which is the first time we've met in the real world versus online.  Yay!

Me and Gil.

Hummingbird also hopped out of the pool long enough to give me another present out of the blue - Shwings!!

All Shwinged out!
I'm not sure what possessed her, but it was really sweet.  I've wanted these for a while, just because I think they are cute.  She told me that they would help me run faster.  I guess she knew I needed a confidence boost.  I felt so very lucky to have good friends.  It takes a village to raise a triathlete.

I followed the swim set up with a spin class - something I have not done in literally months.  I had forgotten how much fun they could be!

Total mileage for Saturday: BRICK Swim 1300 meters, Spin 22.1 miles in 53:46

In the afternoon we took our kids to a local historical museum and enjoyed the temps in the 50s and the warm(ish) sunshine.  It was a perfect day.

On our run.  There's a instrument business
the next town over.
Love me some French horn!
 Sunday was cold again, and I did NOT feel like running.  Happily (there's that word!) Sheriff has told me that I can keep my long runs close to the Oly distance (6 miles) from now on.  No need for epic shenanigans in the cold for hours at a time.  I was still in bed when Hummingbird texted that she was on her way.  Shoot!  Quick breakfast and throwing on my not-yet-clean running tights and we were off!  We did a nice, slow 6ish mile loop from my house.  My hips were still just a little tight, but overall I felt really great.  So relieved to be feeling strong and well again after my tough run a few days prior.  We even ran negative splits with the last 2 miles in the 9:00s for pacing!

Total mileage for Sunday: 6.2 in 1:04:03 plus some good yoga

After lunch it was back to the Y with the kids for their swim session.  Humongous mommy brag alert:

Both kids now swim with no floaties or bubbles.

I was thrilled.  Getting my girl into the water has been a pretty big deal - she has a lot of fear to work through.  It's just a great milestone for them both.  I rewarded them with pizza and hitting the Lowe's to pick out seeds for their garden this year.


We rounded out the weekend with some new recipes - broccoli rabe from our organic vegetable share, and maple white chocolate brownies in honor of our visit to Maple Days at the historical museum.  One upside to scaling back the cake business is that I have the energy and inclination to bake for the family.  The kids were so happy when I answered Yes! to their question of "is that for us?" instead of telling them the treats were for customers....

Maple brownies

So now it's Monday.  I have the kids cold, so perhaps I should be grateful for modern medicine:

Or perhaps I will be grateful when I get to go home and curl up again with this one:

Cuddle me!

There is a lot to be happy and grateful for.  Even on Mondays.  Let's hear it for the next 97 days and me keeping this streak alive!!

What are you happy about today?

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Negativity

Last night, while playing with the kids, I sent my coach a message that I felt like this guy.  Seriously - dogs barking, tummy bubbles, and something to do with a rubber band in my leg.  The Operation Guy is clearly a runner.  Right??

I ran for the first time yesterday afternoon since my half marathon.  It didn't go great, but it didn't go poorly either.  I was tight, my hips and lower back were sore.  My pace was nowhere near what I had come to expect from my body, and I came home grumpy and making a lot of quips to anyone who would listen (and several bystanders on social media) that I was crippled and would need a wheelbarrow to be pushed home in if I went out on a group run anytime in the foreseeable future.

In an effort to make myself feel better, I looked back over the last several months of my Training Peaks account, looking for the improvements that I knew were there.  But here's the thing - in addition to those improvements in pace and distance, I noticed that

Most of my comments were pretty negative.

Now granted, most of what I was looking at were my running workouts (I doubt I was that grumbly about swimming or biking), and most of the time I might have been trying to be funny.  I have, on occasion <cough> been described as a somewhat sarcastic person.  But really - this can't stay this way.  This morning I apologized to my coach, and he graciously pointed out that it's been a long winter, training is hard, and a number of other excuses.  I'm pretty sure I'm forgiven.

Why am I spending hours each week doing something that, if I enjoy, I can't say something nice about?

Cue the inspirational posters.  My family and I have made huge sacrifices of time, focus, pain, and money towards my training.  If I can't be present enough to enjoy it, or at least be gracious about it when it doesn't go perfectly, then I need a new hobby.

I firmly believe that your thoughts shape your reality.  

Most everyone will agree that a huge portion of triathlon and other endurance endeavors is mental.  Life is mental.  The above quote is exactly right.  My mind is a cluttered mess of doubts, insecurities, and criticisms that is only holding me back from happiness.  Along with the melting snow and the mountains of dust bunnies under the beds, my attitude needs a serious spring cleaning.  

I took a rest day today.  The only thing on my [athletic] schedule was a Yoga for Runners routine, that I did after dinner in the playroom with my son.  It was bliss.  From between my legs in Downward Facing Dog pose, I watched him try the forms and tip over giggling.  I felt the physical release of muscles that have been taunt rubber bands since Sunday.  I felt joy.

Daffodils in Central Park.  Now this is a positive sight!
Photo credit: Anthony Bagnetto

I am recommitting to finding joy in my sport.  If I cannot, due to single bad workout or rough patch, then I will at least try to be grateful, be realistic, and be positive.  Maybe even to letting this outlook trickle into the rest of my life.  Or at least, as close as I can get.....

How do you snap yourself out of it when you're feeling a dip in confidence?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seasons of Change

It's the first day of spring.  Every branch and twig is coating in a shimmering, sparkling coat of ice.  As I waited for the bus stop with my little girl, she told me how excited she was to flip the calendar in her kindergarten class from "Winter" to "Spring" (she is on calendar duty this week).  I remarked that the frost fairies seemed to still be out in force, looking at the ice-encrusted brambles and tree branches at the end of our driveway.  She then told me that she saw Tinkerbell and some of her Warm Fairy friends on a nearby rock.  Don't worry Mommy - the warm fairies will take over soon.  They are getting ready.  Gosh I hope so little girl.

With the ice melting and falling in drips from the trees, and the cardinals calling from the woods, I can almost believe her.

So it's also Post-Race Day 4 for me, after running my first half marathon over the weekend.  As you would imagine, I've been doing much more resting than working out.  In fact, this was my training log for the day after the race:

He was kidding.... I think.  ;)

I was content to sleep like the dead, hobble around, and try to plan what is coming next.  Interrupted by my daughter coming down with the stomach flu for the third time in the last week on Tuesday, depriving my husband and I of anything more than 4 hours of sleep the night before.  I attempted work, but came home early due to a queasy stomach of my own (flu, sleep deprivation, or psychosomatic result of listening to my daughter retch for six hours).  We watched Frozen, read about ten chapters of Charlotte's Web, and fell asleep at seven o clock. Back on our feet now, but I'm still feeling low level crummy.  Who knew that running and an eternal winter can take it out of you this much?  Is it normal to sleep 8-9 hours and still wake up tired?

The only ones exercising around here

In between all the sleeping, I've been doing a lot of thinking.  Perhaps it's the time of year (even if the season has yet to change) that has me thoughtful, or that finishing New Bedford was a big milestone in my training. 

But it feels like change is in the air.

Last week my husband and I made the difficult decision to scale back our cake business.  For many reasons, most of them having to do with money and time.  We are no longer selling at nearby coffee shops.  We will still bake for family and friends, and the occasional customer.  It is the right decision, but still one that is bittersweet after the two years of effort, capital, and time we invested in the business.  We aren't completely shutting down, but our focus as a family is shifting.  I'm investing more time in my job.  Jedi is pursuing some other money-making opportunities.  I also started playing with a community band in an effort to balance what was starting to feel like a life that was too focused on athletics as my only source of fun.  Changes.

Of course, it is also race planning season.  

I feel pretty solid in my races this year.  After a brief mental tussle about whether to double down and really push for the time I wanted (instead of what I ran) for a half marathon next month in Raleigh, Rio and I decided to stick to the plan of just taking it easy and enjoying the day.  If I still feel the need for redemption maybe I'll train for a fall half after triathlon season is over.  I'm already registered for one sprint tri and two Olys this summer.  That's about all I want to commit to.  Many of my friends are currently signing up for more and asking me to come along.  So far I'm resisting.  I don't want to over-race.  But I also don't want to abandon those friends that I sucked into triathlon by not being there for them.  Perhaps I can be there with signs and orange slices instead of in race gear....

I am playing with ideas of trail running, biking, and other endeavors.  Hummingbird and I went to the pool last night for my first swim set this month.  The feel of the water and the peacefulness of being back swimming was just lovely.  I was out for a while because of my hurt shoulder and the general nuttiness of the half and a household that just can't seem to stop getting sick.  It is fun to contemplate open water season.... biking season... running the rail trail through warm sunshine.

I'm not committing to any extra races for a while.  I want to use the next month to recover, to reconnect with activities I enjoy, and hopefully watch the Warm Fairies bring in spring.....

What are you looking forward to the most about spring?

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Bedford Half Marathon Race Recap

Unluckiest race number ever?  Or awesome bc it's 13.1(3)?

Well folks, I did it.  My first half marathon is on the books.  It was an experience.  A great experience, a painful experience, and definitely a learning experience.

Gypsy [post-race]: Yeah I guess it is a lot like childbirth.  It hurts while you are doing it and then you walk funny after.

I didn't have the week I wanted going into this race.  I had a lot of stress-related jaw pain and shoulder pain (happily resolved due the efforts of my awesome physical therapist - thank you Laura!), was just generally tired. Then Saturday morning, the day before the race, I missed my last Total Immersion class taking care of my kiddo who had the stomach bug, only to realize I also had it myself.  A half day in the bathroom and bed.  I tried very hard to eat lots of carbs and low fiber for the days leading up to the race (please I never want to see a baked potato again), but all that kind of went out the window down the toilet.  Ah well. Jedi made me my favorite pre-race tuna pasta Saturday night.  Why tuna pasta?  Because it's what my parents made me growing up, and because it's what Chrissy Wellington eats before all her races.  Two good reasons.  Anyway... onto race morning.

Walking to the start.  New Bedford is a pretty little coastal town

 The New Bedford Half had an 11 am start.  Which meant that Rio and my coach Sheriff (also racing this day) would be done with their races before I even got my bib.  It was an hour and a half drive, and we planned on getting there an hour and half before the start to park, catch the shuttle to the start, get our bibs, etc.  This race is known [to me only as of yesterday] for being kind of a logistical nightmare.  With 4,000 runners, there are too few bathrooms, and bib pick-up can take a while.  Furthermore, there are seven aid stations on the course but only water at all of them.  No fuel, no porta-potties.  You're on your own.  As tummy issues are a problem for me even on days that I wasn't recovering from a lower GI bug, I had carefully researched all the coffee shops and convenience stores along the route, should I need an emergency potty stop.  I would later entertain Gypsy by pointing them all out.  "There's the 7-Eleven I could go at..... there's the Dunkin Donuts..."  In fact, I was validated in this approach when we saw a trio of tutu-ed runners bolting into the Dunkin Donuts around Mile 7.  I don't think they were ordering coffee....

Anyway, we got there with time to spare, picked up our numbers.  I got 1313 - unluckiest ever??  Really???  Waiting in the hot locker room for about 20 minutes to pee, and met up with my friend Dawn who was also running.
Staying warm and ready

I did not eat much at this point.  I had tried to eat a pouch of PocketFuel in the car, but I couldn't get most of it out of the pouch.  Instead I took a Gu, which was all sugar and caffeine.  Mistake #1.  I figured I'd have my meticulously planned Mile 4 and Mile 8 fuel stops, so I didn't sweat it.  Also didn't really appreciate that I'd eaten breakfast about 4.5 hours before the start.

We headed out, and lined up with thousands of our best friends for the race.  It was a gorgeous day - sunny and bright but seriously, seriously cold.  With half of the course along the coast where the wind can be quite strong, I had opted to layer for too hot, rather than too cold.  Mistake #2.

The start

Gypsy and me.  I seriously love this girl.
The race started well enough.  The beginning of the course was a gentle downhill.  We had seeded ourselves in the 10:00 minute milers, my goal pace for the whole race, but the first two miles we were running under 9:00 - passing people as we could in the crush.  We even had the amazing experience of running past Team Hoyt around mile 1.  Seriously inspirational.  I didn't get a picture, but my friend Dawn did later so I'm stealing it:

Team Hoyt.  Photo credit Dawn Ertel.

Towards the end of mile 2, I started to slow.  Gypsy asked what was up.  I was seriously too hot.  I made the snap decision to move over and walk while I took off my middle layer.  Why my middle layer, which had the pocket with all my fuel, instead of my top layer?  No idea.  Made sense at the time.  I handed all my gear to Gypsy, stripped, and tied my sweatshirt around my waist.  Back on the road.

Splits.  Pretty clear BONK
at Mile 8
The next section, miles 3-5, were the hills.  I use this term very loosely, because the hills around our homes in central MA where Gypsy and I train make these "hills" look like bumps.  But they were enough to slow my pace to around 10:30.  I'm not quite sure because my watch had stopped working during my strip-tease, so I had to rely on pestering Gypsy for our time and pace.  I was rattled by my watch stopping and my wardrobe failure - already was questioning self.  At Mile 4 Gypsy again helped me take off my sweatshirt, extract my mile 4 Pocketfuel.  Walked for a little bit while I ate and chased it with water.  I tied the shirt back in place, and tucked the Pocketfuel pouch into my waist, thinking it would stay.  Mistake #3.

Around Mile 7 I was starting to feel tired.  My hips and lower back were hurting.  I said something along those lines to Gypsy, and that I wasn't sure I could make the last six miles.  I also knew we weren't pacing as quickly as I'd hoped.  My confidence wasn't really there.

Gypsy said "It's not six miles!!  [Counting on fingers] Eight... Nine.. Ten... ELEVEN!!!"  I looked at her and yelled loud enough for the racers nearby to hear me over their headphones, "It's a 13.1 mile race!!!"  Laughter.  Gypsy said her math was more cheerful.  Agreed.  

I will admit to being pretty grumpy during the race (sign of low blood sugar).  God bless Gypsy for keeping me going.  Mile 7 brings you out onto the water portion of the course.  The crowd support thus far had been great, but at this point the wicked wind drove everyone indoors.  It was very pretty, but freezing cold.  We started joking about going for ocean swims, what kind of wetsuit Gypsy might need (she's in the market).  Make it a reverse 70.3?  Where the heck is my bike?  That would get this over with faster....

Pretty but freezing.  Photo credit Dawn Ertel.
The Mile 8 marker rolled around - the second mandatory fuel stop for me.  I reached into my waistband for where I'd stashed my Pocketfuel.  It was gone.  Not good.  I have pretty severe hypoglycemia - unlike most athletes straight sugar doesn't do it for me - I need the mix of protein and carbs to keep me going.   We kept going.  I'd been stopping for brief walking breaks for the last couple of miles.  

I knew I was in trouble when I stopped to stretch my back, bent down to touch my toes, and fell over.

I caught back up with Gypsy and told her I wasn't feeling well.  I was slurring my words.  I was unbelievably dizzy.  She asked me if I should start walking backwards.  "Why?  Does that help?"  She said the med station was behind us. Oh.  I said no way - I was not stopping, I was not doing anything that didn't result in forward motion.  I was finishing this race.  But that I might have to walk a bit.  Which I did.  Walk and jog and walk.  I'm not sure - this part is a little blurry to me.  I remember being very dizzy, and Gypsy giving me jelly beans to eat.  That the jelly beans were frozen from being in our hands over the last several miles of windy coast, and that they were hard to chew.  Making jokes about feeling like I did three shots of tequila. Handing the jelly beans back to Gypsy like a toddler and telling her I didn't want to hold them anymore, even though her hands were full too. Wanting desperately to be warm again.  (You could ask why I didn't put my sweatshirt back on.  I wasn't in the best decision-making state).  

Around Mile 12 the world stopped spinning.  Jelly beans had done their work.  I told Gypsy I felt better.  Mile 12 is a hill (again I use this term loosely) - if I'm proud of anything from yesterday it's that I didn't walk a step of that hill.  Which isn't to say we were moving faster than many runners who were alternating walking and running.  We weren't.  But I wanted to finish the race running, which I did.

After we crossed the line I again almost fell and grabbed onto Gypsy for balance.  Someone offered me a wheelchair.  Again, no thank you.  I just needed food.  We ate the best orange slices on the planet.  Gypsy told me to give her my phone to take photos of me getting my medal.  Even that wasn't done very gracefully!

It's stuck... wait.... oof got it now!!

My phone then died. Gypsy texted out husbands that we'd survived.  Walked back to the YMCA where everything was based for some clam chowder and fish sandwiches (possible the worst post-race meal possible).  Saw some more friends.  It seems everyone had a tough time.  An elite friend of ours dropped out due to injury.  A friend & trainer from my gym had her legs seize.  Everyone was cold.  Moreover, they were packing up the gym and food while people were still out on the course.  Not cool.  3 hour runners need that food even more than the quick ones!

In the end, our time was 2:23:03.  Gypsy even dropped back to let me cross first.  She is awesome.  This was not the race I had wanted.  I didn't feel strong or well through most of it.  I made some mistakes.  My nutritional planets did not line up right.  I really want a new GPS watch.  And I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't had a good friend there to watch out for me.  Maybe a DNF.  Maybe an even slower time.  Who knows?

I was disappointed on the ride home.  I had been hoping for 2:15.  Why?  Just because.  I feel like that's what I could have ran given all things going well.  But when I got home, my kids were so proud of me.  They had made me paper medals and a paper trophy.

Guess which medals mean more to me?

We went out to dinner at my favorite Mexican place.  My phone was charged again, and I received texts and messages from many friends.  Hummingbird's first HM time was similar to mine.  Rio's time for the day was also similar.  My coach was proud and congratulatory and insisted that nutritional BONKs happen even to the pros.  

And hey, I finished a half marathon.

It's amazing what running 13.1 miles and then having a margarita can do to you.  My kids cuddled in bed and read me stories - I was out by 8:30.  

I deserved this.
I took today off to rest and reflect.  I learned a lot of what to do next time.  I'm grateful for the amazing support of my friends, especially Gypsy.  Grateful for my family, and my kids who have insisted I can stay in bed all day if I want (unless they want me to play with them).  Grateful that I'm not so sore today that I can't go up and down stairs (a small miracle).  I'm not sure if I will run another one after the Raleigh Rock'N'Roll next month.  I'm sure that race will be 100% different.  For one thing, it will probably be warm.  Definitely re-learned that you can't predict what will happen on race day.  And learning to be proud of my accomplishments, even if they aren't exactly what I had imagined.....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Before & After - Total Immersion Wrap Up

This coming Saturday is the last day of my Total Immersion class.  I started taking TI back in December, with little to no previous swim instruction.  My first season of triathlon swimming felt more like what I imagine a hamster would feel like if you threw it in a pool - lots of thrashing around, fear, and not much forward momentum.  Certainly the swim leg of my first two sprints was something that I survived, rather than excelled at.  I've already written one post mid-class extolling the virtues of TI swimming and how it has changed my experience in the water.  Coming to the end of the class I can only repeat the already positive things I've already said.  If pictures paint 1000 words, then videos must be even more illustrative.  So here you go:



Some of the big differences should be obvious between my swimming at the beginning of class and end.  Overall, I'm a lot quieter in the water (less splashing).  That's not because I'm moving more slowly. I'm not. My overall stroke count for 25 meters has gone from 30 strokes per length to 19 strokes per length.  That's consistent at most paces for me now, even when I'm stroking pretty quickly (which I'm not in these videos bc of my sore shoulder).  My head position is much better, even though I have room to improve on that while breathing.  My balance in the water is greatly improved.  My legs no longer sink if I'm not kicking vigorously.  I can, in fact, swim without kicking at all and still maintain my position.  These are all huge improvements.

Some differences you cannot see.  That I enjoy swimming much much more now.  That I find it relaxing instead of stressful.  That I look forward to my swimming days instead of dread them.  That I'm looking forward to the open water season in a way I never did before.

There is a certain amount of discord regarding the "right way" to swim.  Total Immersion vs. conventional practice.  I cannot speak with any confidence about right and wrong outside my own experience, which is that TI helped me learn to swim in a way that was right for me.  By breaking down every part of your stroke, teaching me how to relax in the water, teaching balance, swimming has become a completely different sport.  Completely different experience.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who feels like a drowning hamster, is starting their first or second season and is still uncomfortable in the water, or just wants to learn a different way of looking at swimming.

(Side note - do not ever google "drowning hamster" in an attempt to find a funny cartoon for your blog.  It's disturbing.  People are sick)

Loose Ends - Injury / Diet Update:  

I went to physical therapy this afternoon for my shoulder and for a wicked case of TMJ that I seem to have developed.  It happens a few times per year when life gets particularly stressful.  Which it is for me at the moment.  A cocktail of work stress, kid stress, and taper week stress has caused my body to revolt.  I've cried about seven times in the last 24 hours, twice actually at work (which is awesome.  Highly recommended for your career). 

Anyway, the folks at Central Mass Physical Therapy are great.  A large proportion of their practitioners are triathletes, including my therapist Laura who also follows my blog.  The latter is great because they really take a whole-body, whole life approach to your therapy (including keeping you up and training as much as possible).  The latter is great both because she clearly has excellent taste in reading material, and because I never have to fill her in on what I've been up to.

Laura noted (rightly) that I never wrapped up my Clean Eating adventure.  I've alluded to it, but yes, I did drop off the clean eating wagon.  For a multitude of factors.  Cost, my son's utter rejection of all things gluten-free, and general laziness.  Once my running mileage starting topping over 15 miles per week, I switched onto the "Eat Everything in the Refrigerator" plan, with blatant disregard to what I was putting in my mouth, and a complete laziness as to meal planning and organization.  Which you really need to have.  Truthfully, my stomach problems did not seem to improve on the diet.  I may have been a little less moody (Jedi says he couldn't tell), but I believe the sugar was the biggest contributing factor. Maybe I wouldn't be the emotional mess I am right now if I'd stayed on plan.  Who knows. I'm still trying to reduce the amount of sugar I eat.  Despite the presence of these in my house (my Easter favorite):

Do.  Not.  Eat.  Whole.  Bag.  Not carbo-loading!

After having me go through the usual movement evaluation (bend over touch your toes, look down, touch your chin to your collarbone, etc.) Laura also confirmed what I already guessed.  That the exterior rotator cuff muscles in my right shoulder are quite weak and painful, and not really doing what they are supposed to.  Most likely they haven't been in years, since I first injured that shoulder during martial arts.  Also I have an epic amount of tension in my neck and upper shoulders, which is very likely contributing to the jaw pain.  Pain that, at the moment, is severe enough that I'm nauseous and almost seeing double.  She prescribed some excellent and unbelievably painful tricks with a foam roller and tennis ball, made seven more appointments over the next month, and thinks I'll be fine. Once again leaving me to wish I was a professional athlete who only had to concern themselves with their training, their therapy, and their nutrition, instead of all of the above plus that pesky job/family/bills/life.  Ah well.

Since it's taper week, I'll end this post with my biggest athletic project so far.  Resting.  With my kitty, working on my Boston Strong scarf for the Boston Marathon.

Last minute free advice for taper week?  Hit me!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pot of Gold - Celtic 5K Race Recap

At the starting line

Warning - the majority of this post is going to be shameless bragging about my daughter.  I can't help it.  I am so unbelievable, over-the-top, giddy proud of her.  If I completely bonk, break something or fall in the ocean next week at the New Bedford half marathon, I will still consider my brief running career a success, because it introduced my daughter to running.

And boy does she love to run.  

Training.  I stay next to her at all times.
A few weeks ago, Natalie asked if she could do a race with Mommy.  We often run together in warmer weather, but this unending winter has meant that our favorite rail trail isn't passable for little feet or the jogging stroller (where she takes her breaks on longer runs), so she's been feeling left out.  I hadn't planned on running the Celtic 5K this year, mostly because it's a little expensive, and because it's a week before my half marathon.  What was the point?  Well, the point started training on the treadmill - about 20 minutes every other day, and was determined to have a great race with mom.

Meanwhile I worked on creating the perfect leprechaun costume.  No small feat, when I wasn't sure what the weather would be like.  I got a clearance green sweater at Old Navy, pinned on some black and gold felt to make a belt.  A bowler hat from Target, some striped legwarmers on Amazon, and her existing white turtleneck and leggings finished off the look.  We tried her costume on for fit the other night and she was very happy with it.  Score one Mom!

We got a rocky start this morning - bleary from a late date night of babysitting and the time change.  Nat was also worried that I'd ditch her, since I DNFed my training run yesterday due to some tummy issues.  No chance honey.  The plan was that we'd all go.  Nat and I would run the race while Jedi and the little man found a spot to watch the parade.  Parking is tough so we got there early.  Got our bib (only one number so I pinned it on her back) and then had a lot of time to kill.  Which, when it's 25 degrees out and your kids are already tired, can be tough.  Luckily the Irish band was already playing, so we danced and jogged and shot some photos.


Brother is ready to make some noise!
The same plastic trumpet I bought them
at the race last year after one too many celebratory beers.
Might as well use it again!
Finally it was almost race time, so we sent to boys off to play photographer, and started jostling our way into the crowd.  By some amazing fortune, we saw our friend Dawn.  We know Dawn well from the farmer's market where we sell our cupcakes, and her gluten-free business has fed my children dinner on many a market night.  Nat gave her a big hug right away, and I had someone to visit with while we waited for the gun to go off.
Finding a good friend in a crowd of 3,000 is great!!!

Once the race got underway, we shuffled toward the starting line.  Dawn help me body block Natalie from the big crowd for the first few hundred yards (thank you Dawn!) and then we started getting some breathing space.  The course is an out-and-back.  Slightly downhill the first half, and slightly uphill the second (obviously).  I'd talked to Natalie before the race about pacing, as she (like many runners, even those older than 6) has a tendency to go out too fast and burn out.  She told me her plan was to do bursts of speed and then back off.  Good plan.  The first half mile or so she did great - she was running a little fast (around 10:30) so I told her to back off.  She took a few walking breaks, and then would start up again.  All the way we soaked in the comments of "Oh she is so cute!" and "how old is she?" and "You're doing great sweetie!!!!".  Both from the spectators and other runners.  She also interjection her own adorable-isms, telling me that "Running makes everything better" and "I hope I always race with you mommy" and many many "I love you so much mommy!"s.

I will admit it - it was really cool being the mom of the cutest, fastest little leprechaun on the course.

Around the turnaround she was starting to tire.  Pacing around 13:00.  But the cheers continued, and Natalie was starting to enjoy the feeling of "picking off" some of the walkers.  There were many joked comments about being beaten by a six year old.  That's my six year old!!!  I taught her how to focus on a landmark up ahead and just think about running to that (like a telephone pole).  We played shadow tag (where she tried to catch up to and jump on my shadow).  I whispered to her how much fun it is to find a racer ahead of you and "pick them off".  She started picking her targets - the girl in the striped socks.  The sparkle skirt lady.  You are going down sparkle skirt lady!  She was still doing great but I knew she was tired.

Nat's little running friend is in between us

Then she ran into the perfect motivation.  A buddy.  Just her size.  As we started to pass a little girl jogging on the side, she said "hey you're my age!!!"  While exchanging life stories (what grade are you in, how old are you, what's your name, I'm a leprechaun... I'm not I'm just wearing green stickers on my cheeks) the two little girls were unwilling to let each other get ahead of the other.

Perfect mini-running friends.  Best buddies, and yet determined to beat each other.

I wondered a bit if Nat's new friend had a parent around, but she assured me her mom was walking and her dad was waiting at the finish line.  Ok.  Go girls go!!  There were no more walking breaks as the girls ran the last mile together.  At one point I yelled at then to slow down - they were running faster than 10 minute miles!!  Just as we started to enter the chute Nat told me she wanted a break.  I said no no no now is when you give it all you have!!!  She took off and finished strong, sprinting ahead of mommy.  I'm pretty sure she tied with her little friend (who's father was indeed, right there to get her).

Sprinting the finish.  Perfect form!!

We crossed just before 40 minutes.  Official time 39:48.

To put that in perspective, when I ran this race solo last year (my first 5K in a long time) my time was 36 something.  That is fast for a little girl!  I hoisted her onto my shoulders and took her to get water, coconut water (not sure she likes that), and pizza.    We met up with the boys.  Tucked an exhausted but jubilant little girl into the stroller for some well deserved rest.

Post race tired and sweaty.

The rest of the parade passed pleasantly.  We were cold and the kids were tired. There weren't enough snacks, so I ran to the grocery store (literally - not an expression) for cheese sticks, blueberries and cookies.  Little guy told me all about the double fire truck I missed while I was at the store.   The mom next to us ended up also being a triathlete so we chatted amiably about which races we had done and what courses were our favorites.  Triathlete moms are everywhere.  For real.  


Finally the kids had had enough so we headed home.  The kids are playing quietly, but Natalie refuses to take off her leprechaun costume.  I think she may sleep in it....

Post-run hair is tough

I have no idea where my daughter gets her energy, her love of running, and her talent.  Certainly not from me.  Not from the Jedi, who will likely only run if being chased by some sort of large carnivore.  At my swim class yesterday a group of us were talking about just why I (we) run if we don't always enjoy it.  I have my answer.

I will always run, to make sure I'm always there to race with my daughter.  For as long as she wants me to.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!