Saturday, September 17, 2016

Race Report: Ironman Wisconsin, 2016

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." --T.S. Eliot

This is a tale of two races, a decade apart.

I always knew I wanted one more shot. I just wasn't sure if I'd ever get it.  So when my friend Andy wanted to do an Ironman I put out the feelers to Matt and he didn't say no said yes so I went for it.

The second time you do an Ironman is a little like the second time you head to the hospital for labor. You know what you're in for this time. It's going to hurt. A LOT. But the end is pretty unreal and definitely worth it.

Training for an Ironman while working full time with two kids at 39 is a lot different than training for an Ironman while working full time at 29. For one thing, RECOVERY. Like, wow.  It made a huge difference this time and I would feel the workouts for days. Luckily I had Coach Emily to keep me on track and help me walk the fine line between wrecking myself and getting in high volume. I trained as most people juggling too many things do--seemingly never enough and at odd times. Running laps around the pool and park while the kids were at swim team; finishing my long rides at the baseball fields so I could watch Jackson play, swimming while my kids played on the diving boards.  But I got almost everything in, and I felt super fit going into the race.

I knew, however, how difficult this bike course was. Because I had been there before. And I knew that there could really not be a bike course more perfectly set up for my weaknesses.  But, the timing of this race was perfect for school and life so I sucked it up, because, Ironman. It's not supposed to be easy, anyway. And call me a brand snob, but I wanted the next (only? last?) full I'd do to be an Ironman-branded event. They throw one hell of a party, and I wanted in.

So Ironman Wisconsin it was.

Most normal people arrived Thursday but I only get three personal days for the ENTIRE school year and I just couldn't see using two of them in the third week of I left after school Friday. Here's how it went: caught a one-way plane to O'Hare. Graded APUSH essays on the development of identity in the colonial era. Bought a bus ticket from Chicago to Madison. Graded more APUSH essays until I was carsick and felt like hurling.  Arrived in Madison at 8pm CST or 9pm EST. Collapsed at Rob's house.  Matt and the kids drove after school Friday and stayed in Chicago to sleep, then met me in Madison the next day.

Oh, forgot to mention we bought a house and had to clean our entire house so we could show it while we were gone. The week before Ironman was the most exhausting week I can remember. I was looking forward to Ironman SO I COULD RELAX. That's kind of sad, but it's the truth. (Also, we sold our house while I was on the bike course--so it worked!)

Spending time with Rob's freaking adorable family was so fun. I miss my Evotri teammates and it was so good to see him!  He kept me laughing and relatively calm while I got my copious amounts of bags together.

My family grabbed dinner that night and I was so energized from having all of them there--it meant so much to me that they all drove out so far just for one day!

Race morning I got up, tried to eat as much as I could (nervous, so it was tough), and then we headed up to the race. The weather literally could not have been more perfect.  It was a far cry from 2006, which you can read about here, here, and here.  I was excited to get it all started.

Except I was terrified.

See I knew, really knew, what I was in for this time. The lows would be really low. I knew it would hurt, I knew I'd doubt myself, I knew there would be times when I wanted to quit. But I also knew how amazing that finish would be.  I knew that if I could finish, then I would show my kids that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

I wanted to get to the end so badly but as I stood there and tears welled up in my eyes, I knew that in Ironman, there are no guarantees.  You just have to trust yourself to deal with what the day gives you and hope you are strong enough.

It was scary. I said bye to Rob and tried to bat away a few tears that snuck out.

I headed to the water, said a prayer, heard Mike Reilly say, "Have the best day of your life!" and then heard the cannon go off.

The day had begun.

The trip to the first buoy was chaos, but this time I was prepared. I got kicked, punched, my butt got grabbed (what was that all about?! STOP IT PEOPLE), my goggles got punched. I stopped often to let people go by who were way too aggressive.  I "moo-ed" at the first buoy, because that's what you do.  As I turned to head across the LONG way of the lake, I got in a little more of a rhythm, but was still pretty constantly surrounded by feet and arms.  It seemed like the lake was never ever going to end and in my head, I was thinking I wasn't going to go any faster than 2006 and it was going to make me mad but oh well.  I expected to see something around 1:30 when I finally got to the shore. Blarg. I was gonna be mad.

Except I didn't see 1:30. I saw a 1:18!
This is me, happy with a triathlon swim, for the first time in 15 years

I have never been so happy in a triathlon swim before! I am a notorious underachiever in open water swims and for the first time ever, I felt like I did what I actually could do.  I saw Rob and all the wetsuit peelers and I screamed "ROB I ACTUALLY HAD A GOOD SWIM" mostly because I was completely shocked!

Ran up the helix in my Wonder Woman swimsuit which got lots of cheers and laughs!  T1 was full of amazing volunteers who helped me get all my clothes ready, shoes on, and nutrition in order.  Those volunteers in Wisconsin are UNBELIEVABLE people. I'm telling you, Ironman may be the evil empire, but they sure know how to throw a race.

All smiles on the bike as I started!
Getting out of downtown was a little dicey as we had to go through a city parkway with hairpin turns, bumps, and a LOT of people.  I was so afraid of getting busted for drafting that I took it super easy on the first 14 or so miles until we got to the "loop."  This loop would be two times, but due to construction, a little different....there was this hill called "Barlow" that everyone was nervously mumbling about.  I know I trained on mostly flat terrain, because, life, but I did get some hills in and knew I made progress on them.  What was this Barlow? I asked Rob, would I know it when I got there?

HA! I remember asking the nurse in my prenatal appointments if I'd "know what a contraction was" when it happened.


Barlow was every bit as tough as everyone said it would be, but the crowd support was amazing. I made it up about 1/3 of the way, but when I saw I was making literally no progress compared to the approximately 75% of people around me who were walking it, I said a few bad words and then said "NOT WORTH IT" out loud, got off my bike, and walked it. And did not feel one iota of remorse.  It was barely mile 40, and I knew it would be a long day.

The first loop was tough, but I took it very very easy.  I came back to Verona and saw my family, and got a hit of energy just from knowing they were there for me. It made the doubt temporarily subside.
Little shadows, waiting for me

 Because there was some doubt creeping in a little; I know what I can do on flatter courses and let's just say it's a good 4-5 mph faster than I was doing on this course.  It got me down. I thought, "maybe I should have done Rev3 and been done with it."  But, I chose this. I wanted another shot. This course was not about my fastest time ever, this was about a journey ten years in the making. This was my choice; this was about my family, this was about showing myself how far I have come and what I can do, and showing my children that you can do impossible things if you put your mind to it. It was never supposed to be easy, but the relentlessness of the hills and my own doubt started to really get to me.

Miles 70-95 were a dark place. First, there was a creepy clown hiding in a remote field that honked a horn and menacingly said, "Go faster."

Actually, that was hilarious. Thank you, creepy soul-stealing, serial-killer clown.

Other than that, I was full of doubt and pain and cursing the seemingly endless false-flat back to Mt. Horeb.  I started to hate everything: every breeze, every hill, every person there to cheer on the course (how dare they tell me I'm doing good! stop it, you nice people!) every cow, every piece of cheese I've ever encountered, and the entire damn state of Wisconsin.

Around mile 80 or so, I knew I needed to shift my focus. I said, out loud, "GET OVER YOURSELF" and focused on my dear friends Jeff and Mallory, Mike and Amy, and Sam and her mom Ginny, who are dealing with MUCH more than a stupid hilly bike course. It helped...a lot. I said a few prayers, I reminded myself I chose this pain and so many others don't get to choose it.

Back to Verona and turning off the loop to head home made me smile. I was going to be okay; the worst was over. There were a few rollers on the way back in and I was, quite frankly, out of steam. I thought "just keep moving forward" and knew my split would be slow--over 7 hours--which made me respect 29-year-old me for doing the course in the pouring rain at 8:14. Suddenly, I'm less ashamed about that.

Can I ride a course faster? Of course. But not this one. That was the best I could possibly do to set myself up for a marathon--yikes, a MARATHON--and I came into T2 smiling to more amazing volunteers and Matt and my brother Mike snapping a really inspiring picture of me:

Yeah, thanks guys. :)

This run. This run is two loops and you are almost NEVER alone. The weather was absolutely perfect and led to college kids hanging out on their front yards, massive waves of people along State Street, and Zac Efron. Yes, apparently according to my students, his brother was doing the race and I must have ran right by him, so now we're best friends. It's legit. I checked.

As I started the run, I heard Robby yelling numbers out at Run Special Needs, and as he saw me he stopped to say into the megaphone, "Sara awesome." It was a great way to start the run!  Thanks, bro.

The first ten miles were tough. I was moving but hurting, and I seemed to keep slowing down. There's a few hills on campus that are just tough when you're already depleted, and I walked them and every aid station. But I felt like my stomach was okay...I was just running out of steam. Right at Mile 10 I walked an aid station and this nice girl said to me as I must have looked completely dejected, "I know it doesn't feel like it, but you're doing amazing."  I nodded weakly and said "thanks." And then I saw my ENTIRE family--just at the moment I really needed to:
Fact: hugs from your Dad make Ironman less painful

high five to Emmy

The girl in the red was the one who had just tried to cheer me up. Thanks, girl in the red. :)
It was the boost I needed. I shuffled past Robby who gave me another shout-out at special needs, turned around right at the finish line, and knew I'd be back. Did a little math in my head and decided I wanted to see a 13 at the end.  That was going to keep me going.

So the weird thing is that although my splits show me slowing down, I FELT better and better. Food was staying down although it was getting harder to eat and drink, and I could keep moving.  Lots of people around me were running out of steam and I didn't seem to be, and that felt good.  There was still steam, it was just a tiny bit. Enough that I could smile, though.

Right around mile 18 or 19 I saw Beth--she was walking so I told her to keep it up--she was injured so badly last spring that even doing this Ironman was in jeopardy, so for her to finish it as strong as she did is simply amazing. So proud of my friend!

As I hit the last 10K, I entered the "barf zone" where I felt like I was most assuredly going to hurl.  It was a matter of time. So I tried to take small sips of water and gatorade, but Gu actually made me I switched to potato chips. WHAT? I don't even like potato chips. But they sounded AMAZING and it worked, so there you go.

Miles 21-25 were a blur. I just kept shuffling and hoping that I didn't barf. It was getting dark and the sunset over the lake was beautiful. I kept thinking of one of my favorite Hamilton lyrics, "how lucky we are to be alive right now!" while I "ran" slash shuffled.  It was slow, but I was making progress and every step got me closer to the end.

The last mile I had a big stupid grin on my face. My watch had died sometime on the bike so I had no idea what I was doing pace-wise, but I felt like it had to be good enough for a 13.  I turned the corner around the capitol, and I got tears in my eyes. I was going to do it. I'm a mom of two kids who works full time and I have no business even attempting something like this, but because of love and support---NOT talent, because I honestly don't have much of that--love and support and my unwillingness to ever quit, I was going to do it. Again.

The tears that threatened to come out as I rounded the capitol stopped and were instantly replaced by laughing. I could not stop laughing, and I put my hands in the air, high fived everyone I could, and just screamed like a complete lunatic.

I got to be in this finish line again--a place that I can barely put into words, but I tried ten years ago here:

"I have never felt more alive in my 29 short years than I did in those 20 seconds.

I felt so aware of being. Of seeing light and feeling wet and hearing laughter. Of feeling my feet ache and loving my husband and adoring my friends and feeling unwavering gratitude for my parents. The smell of rain and mud and sweat all around me...the squish of my shoes on my feet, the feel of my hands holding my head in disbelief, that this body--this collection of bones and nerves and cells could do this."

It's something like that.

I saw Matt and I yelled to him, saw a 13--13:54.21, to be exact, let out a huge yell, and hit the dab for Jackson.

I still can't put into words why I wanted to do this or what I feel. In many ways, I'm more proud of this finish than any other race I have ever attempted. In other ways, I'm even more proud of myself for finishing this course 10 years ago in pouring rain.

This is like the biggest smile I have possibly created, ever
I broke every single conventional rule of training and did this my way, on my own terms. And for that to work and for me to take 98 minutes off my time is something that I will be forever proud of.  But I think the journey of getting to the start line can't be underestimated or under-appreciated. I picked a course that timed up with my career--and Matt's--so I wouldn't sacrifice what I need (and want) to do in that classroom. I started almost all of my rides at the sunrise and leaving from my house, so I wouldn't miss time with my family. I missed training on hills like I probably definitely should have, but I got to see some amazing sunrises; I got to swim while the sun came up, too.  My children watched me train all summer and I think they are old enough to really remember this...and I hope I set a good example for them of aiming high and daring to do something a little crazy.
My little bro!
Robby and I look like we were just crowned Homecoming King and Queen of Spandex High School
I am forever thankful and grateful to my family for their support, without which I would never, ever have been able to do this.  This was not me; it was them, and that's the truth.

Gratitude isn't possibly a word that's big enough for my amazing coach, Emily. I started working with Emily when I was about 8 months post-baby with Jackson...and since then, it's official: I have had every single PR in every. single. distance.... 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, sprint triathlon, olympic triathlon, half ironman, and now, full Ironman.  Thank you, Emily, for always knowing exactly what to say and how to help me fit this love of triathlon into one busy life. Your advice and your friendship means so much to me.

I am grateful to dedicate my race to my friends battling cancer and to the Village Project, where I was able to raise over $1,000 to help support families in my community as they struggle with something much harder than I can imagine or than I felt on that course.

It was an epic, perfect, painful, love-filled day, and I could not have asked for a better Ironman.

Friday, April 01, 2016

So hey, that swim's not half bad.

So that crazy week of workouts?

I'm getting most of them in! With LOTS of help.  My parents were super awesome yesterday and offered to watch the kids so I could swim.

Got up early and ran 7 miles on the treadmill (gross, but necessary) and then had breakfast with the kids.  Then, my mom came over and I took off for the pool around 10.

Got there, walked into the locker room, and saw LOTS AND LOTS of older ladies.

Oh no. That could only mean one thing.

I dashed out to the pool and saw they had already removed the lane lines.  One of my former students was guarding, so I asked him, "Hey, is there a water aerobics class today?"

He replied, "yep, in 5 minutes."


So I had to swim in the super hot and super annoying 20 yard reminded me of last time's Ironman when TriEric and I did a ton of training in the warm gross YMCA that was 20 yards.  (Why the water aerobics classes aren't in the warmer pool, I will never know.)

So, sigh.

I had a nice workout all ready to go but it was very time-specific and had 50s and stuff in it and there was just no way.

I remembered that another swim workout I was supposed to do involved 3 X 1000s.  I didn't remember the specifics, but I figured that if I could just get in 3X1000 in the small, hot, annoying pool, that would be good enough.

Busted it out in around 53 minutes, counting a few times of getting my old cap adjusted and my goggles to stop sucking my eyeballs out of my head.  So that was a good confidence booster, because if I can swim 3000 yards in 53 minutes with no training and no trouble, I'll be able to work my way up to the roughly 4250ish that are in Ironman by September 11.

(The key, of course, is to get to the point where that feels like an easy warmup, and I can't say that was the case yesterday.)

But, hey!  I needed that.

Tomorrow I'm going to run with Ana and try to get in 1:40-1:50 as some good base miles.  Then, if I can squeeze in a swim Sunday somehow, I will have done all the workouts that Coach Emily asked me to, although I had to shorten a few.  What started as me thinking I couldn't even get in half has turned into me almost getting most in!

Progress, indeed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's like apples and Mount Everest

Hi there!

It's been a while.

See, I had intentions of posting at least weekly, describing my training and writing witty anecdotes like I did ten years ago the first time around. I posted almost the last time around. Surely I could handle once a week, right?

Ha!  Ha ha ha ha haahahahhahahahahahahha that's cute.

So it's only March 30th but I have learned something already:

This time is much different. I can't expect it to be anything like the past Ironman, in training or in execution.  And there's some good to this and some bad, too.

For instance, twitter, instagram and facebook have all made it easier for me to post quick updates or pictures from training. Yay for that!  Back in the day, I feel like this blog was the only way for me to document the journey, and sometimes, you just don't have time for that.  Like, all the time, it seems for me.

But I will always keep this place as a digital record of thoughts that are more than 140 characters.  There is still a need for a place like this for me, so I'm not going anywhere...but you can definitely not hold your breath for my daily blog posts here, like I did last time.

One thing is true both last time and this time around:  Ironman is a big fat reminder that you think you are in control but you have no idea.

Case in point: the first week of February, Emery and Jackson both got a stomach bug. Then I got a MUTANT STOMACH BUG FROM HELL that had me unable to keep food in me for almost six days. And Matt did not get it because clearly he is a robot.  But, I was out of school for 5 days--an entire week--and I have way more responsibilities at work now than I did ten years ago.  Teaching AP US History and serving as department chair means more essays, more papers, and more meetings.

To say I was buried was a complete understatement. It took me almost 2-3 weeks to get completely un-buried.

Then, just as I started to get back into the swing of things, I screwed it up again. During the first week in March I took part in a charity fundraiser at school that required me to do something stupid to make the kids laugh.  No problem! I can do that! I do stupid things daily!  However, I took that a *little* too seriously and, long story short, ended up with self-induced whiplash due to headbanging on stage to make the kids laugh.  I ended up in the ER getting a CAT scan after I was passing out the following night at a restaurant scaring the entire establishment and one of my good friends who was with me.  So I lost some time training due to that stunt, too. To be honest, I'm still not 100% and am working on dealing with the fallout of this poor life decision (that was really funny, though).

I feel like I keep sending Coach Emily these ridiculous emails full of excuses and disappointments.  I remember last decade this time around I was doing much longer workouts, more consistently, and now I have the occasional sick kid or self-induced headbanging whiplash or meetings and a soccer practice and there goes another workout, again.

I looked at this week's workouts and about LOST my MIND.  There was a lot there, and I panicked.  How am I ever going to get any of this done? How am I ever going to get HALF of this done?


Maybe I have no business doing this.  It's not the same as it was ten years ago. I was 28, kid-less, with probably half the responsibilities that I have at work now.  I could wreck my body on long rides and runs and recover quickly.

Now I'm 38, with two kids who are busy and involved, and with a LOT more responsibilities at work than I ever had a decade ago.

I panicked and wrote to Coach Emily that I expected it to be different, but not this different. "It's not apples and oranges," I said. "It's apples and Mount Everest and I did not anticipate this."

As she always does, she pulled me back from the ledge a bit and reminded me that this time of year always sucks hard, and that I need to stay in the moment. I believe her first line of the email was:


If she could smack me across the head, I'm sure she would.  But that was left to Matt, who watched me burst into tears when I saw my schedule on and did the equivalent of a smacking for a triathlete.  He said,

"I think you need to go out for a ride. Just a little one."

And he pushed me out the door.

So I did.  I rode for 45 minutes in the sunshine and was reminded how good it feels to be on my bike OUTSIDE and NOT IN MY BASEMENT with laundry hanging around me and my kids Shopkins and Pokemon cards on the floor.

I won't be stuck in this basement--in this moment--for much longer.  And things will settle down, and I will get outside with my friends, and I will be able to swim more and it's going to be okay.

I may be ten years older with a hell of a lot less time to train, but I have 7-8 years of solid training under my belt in those ten years.  I am much stronger than I ever was at 28 (but, as my headbanging stunt proved, still probably not smarter) and that has got to count for something.

I'm not trying to get to Kona, so why am I doing this, ultimately?  I think to remind myself how it feels when you take away all the BS, all the stuff that doesn't matter, and just focus on what does. Family, health, friendship, training, nutrition. Repeat.   That's what Ironman reminds you.  That's all you really need--all you ever really needed, anyway.

It won't be the same as my last journey, but some things are universal.  I still have a lot to learn, and I think that's why I'm here.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekly Roundup, sorta


Where was I?

Little bit of craziness the past two weeks.  First, Em got strep throat.  Then, I got some weird virus thing that made me super tired for a few days.  And then, a lovely stomach bug hit our childcare provider and her poor little guy, so that threw us all for a loop with scheduling this week.

So I'm going from memory here--

The good:

Proud of myself for missing my group spin but hammering it out in my basement and really holding myself accountable with two, one-hour killer workouts back to back.

Swimming twice a week and it's starting to NOT feel like quicksand. Yay!

Gave myself a break when I was sick and the world kept spinning.  Funny how that happens.

The bad:

The virus put a dent in training, for sure.  I especially noticed it on the run.

Have to miss the group spin tomorrow (boo) with some family stuff, and the next few days will be crazy. So I'm going to have to just do what I can to get in what I can get in.

I keep blowing off strength training--just too damn tired at the end of the day.

REPEAT AFTER ME:  It is only January.  I'll be okay.


It's also about 7 months away and I need to not blow things off unless I have a seriously good reason.  So I have had good reasons the past two weeks.

Talked to Coach Emily because by Friday I'm literally collapsing from exhaustion and so angry at life that I just want to crawl under a rock and sleep for three days.  So we're going to move a rest day to Wednesday and see how it goes--figure I can catch my breath and get caught up on all the silly stuff I need to do to keep the train running at home and work, too.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin, Weekly Round-Up 1

First week back to school had me like
My own two children were really excited to go back to school. Let's just say that my clientele, the high school sorts, were, um, LESS THAN ENTHUSED to be back at school and deal with tests and midterms.  One girl proclaimed loudly in my very first class Monday how "This is the worst day of the ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR."

So it made staying positive a slightly extra difficult challenge.  Throw in there that the subject matter we were discussing this week included the last resistance of Native Americans on the Plains and also the Armenian genocide during WWI, and we all needed a little laugh by the end of the week.

So we watched this.

Feel better? Me too.

It feels so good to be back on a schedule with a goal in mind, and a much different goal for this year.  Ironman is just what I needed, I think.

Challenges this week:

--trying to stay positive despite lots of non-positivity around me (I think I did pretty good especially once one of my students introduced us to the cats and cucumbers)
--dealing with the TIRED TIRED OMG TIRED feeling that hits by Thursday
--getting in a swim before school
--fitting in the workouts while being able to grade/plan

The good:

--got the swim in! yay me! And it didn't feel like quicksand like it did before, so slight progress.
--had a really good, hard spin on Sunday with cool people and still made it to church (almost) on time. Boo yah
--had a really good run on Wednesday after school on a sunny day in the park--big ups to Matt for getting the kids for me so I could sleep in a little and do that after school
--Nutrition was almost flawless except for that Bloomin' Onion at Outback last night to celebrate Papa Z's birthday (hey, I only go there like once a year)

The bad:

--The tired. OH THE TIRED.  I don't know if I can keep up morning workouts every day, which means Matt and I are going to have to get really creative about juggling workouts and kid activities and grading. Luckily, he is more of a night-owl and can work out at night with no trouble.
--By Friday I was not a happy person. I was cranky and snapped at J and E a few times, and I had my PJs on earlier and earlier (like 6pm) starting Wednesday.  I know it was just a rough week at school so hopefully this won't be too bad.


--coffee is my friend
--I need a new bike seat ASAP
--I probably won't be able to run with friends for a while since I need Saturday mornings to regroup in my PJs while my kids watch Christmas Story for the 875,496th time and then run later
--trading a run with friends for a 2 hour, HARD trainer ride with friends is the better choice for now at least

Matt's out for a run now and we're all enjoying some much-needed chill time on the couch, and then I'll head out.  Looking forward to a relaxing weekend and actually catching my breath!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Funny How That Works

Just listened to the latest "Happier" Podcast with Drew Barrymore as the special guest, and I just love her.  Seriously. Talk about someone who really turned life around and made something of herself...and, from what I can tell, someone who seems very grounded and appreciates being grounded is really refreshing.  She mentioned something that really resonated with where I am right now (and my last post) which was something to the tune of "You can do anything, but you can't do everything."  I hear you, sister.

Prioritizing is key, and so is cutting the right corners.  So, it's been nice to really get back to my roots.  My heart has always been in triathlon--I try to pose as a runner here and there and I do a decent job at it, but really?

My heart is and always will be in triathlon.

In a pool, when I was maybe 5 or 6, I first learned I had actual talent--like, not just because my mom said I did.  I learned that the only opponent that mattered was myself.  This carried over to everywhere from the piano to the seat in the classroom to the spot in front of the classroom to the race courses today.

I told Coach Emily I was finally ready--ready for something structured.  I think that might have been the longest I'd gone (since being pregnant) without formal workouts. It was about two months.  And it was needed, too--I needed a full two months to wrap my head around what was making me race with dread and not joy, and figure out how to fix it.  And the answer is to get back to what consistently makes me happy, and that's triathlon.  So I'm doing it.

And it feel so good.

Well, not all of it.  To be clear, I told Coach Emily that the workout she wrote for me this week pretty much made me barf and made me realize just how much work I have ahead of me. Hello there, slice of humble pie! SUPERSIZE ME.

And I made it out to a group spin on Sunday for the first time in a long time, and I was a disgusting sweaty mess at the end but it felt so damn good to be there.  With people who get it. Who like this stuff too.  Netflix is okay and all but sometimes it is nice to get out of my basement, and I left there feeling pleasantly wrecked and ready for coffee and church, and the rest of my week.

Running is getting better, but I'm seeing it now more as a puzzle piece to my greater goal.  It's quite liberating.  No longer am I running through pain (yay!) and I'm thinking more how I can be ready to run off the bike, to have a solid race, and to finish strong.  It's a whole different take on running, and it's one that is more me.

In short?  This feels right.  Doing what my heart pushes me to do is making me happy.  My heart is in it, and the joy is coming back.

Revolutionary, huh?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On "Having It All," Which Really Means "Cutting the Right Corners"

A lot of people ask me how I have time to do the things that I do.  I've been thinking a lot about the answer to this question, and it really comes down to this.

Coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

(No, that's a joke.)

(but I do drink a LOT of coffee)

The truth is that I'm from the generation that was the first to really, truly, be able to "have it all."  Career and athletic doors were already flung open for me, largely due to my mom's generation (thanks, ladies!).  Don't get me wrong--there's still a glass ceiling for sure, and I can write a whole 'nuther post about how I still see a great amount of inequity, from little stuff to big stuff.  But overall, I've been able to completely choose my destiny, which is a lot different story than women who have come before me can tell.

So here's the real truth on how I "have it all:"  I get a CRAPLOAD of help.  And I figure out which corners can be cut. Then I cut them.  It's a constant tightrope of difficult decisions and reflection to be sure I'm doing the right thing, and a lot of questioning myself.  It's a lot of trusting my gut a-la-Olivia Pope.  Sometimes I panic; sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a sick feeling of HOW ON EARTH WILL I DO ALL THE THINGS but then Matt helps remind me that we don't have to do ALL the things, just the things that matter.  So that helps a lot.

But the most important things are the help and cutting the right corners.

So a few years ago I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.  I figured it would be a LOT of eye rolling and slow-clapping in my head ("Yeah, Sheryl, easy for you to say BIZILLIONAIRE") and in some parts, it was.


But it also sort of gave me a little kick in the butt that I needed to keep from being too mediocre, too.  I was feeling like I was just sort of floating along in my career and, quite literally, trying to stay afloat under a sea of papers and lesson plans.  Reading that made me think about ways I could reinvigorate my teaching, but keep it fitting in the very, very limited time that I had.  I stepped it up in a national group I'm a part of and offered to lead our statewide efforts to connect educators.  Through that, I had the opportunity to present at a national conference last March and this past November, which led to some more connections and pretty awesome experiences.  I aimed pretty high and actually got a position at a summer seminar at Stanford last summer.  And this August I was honored to be named my district's Teacher of the Year, which I'm still in a little bit of shock over since I work with some pretty inspiring and talented educators.

So how do I do that?  It helps that I love what I do and honestly can't imagine NOT doing it.  I realize the very fact that I can say that about my job is a privilege that not everyone has, and I am grateful for it.

I cut every corner I can in my house.  I hire someone to clean it, because I hate doing that and if I'm working, I'm willing to outsource cleaning. I often spend two hours or so putting together freezer meals (10-15) so I can stack  my freezer with easy stuff and I LOVE MY CROCKPOT MORE THAN ANYONE SHOULD LOVE AN INANIMATE OBJECT.  I'm not a baker; I'm not a crafter.  You're not going to get anything off Pinterest from me.  Don't expect me to sew you something or bake something. You'll get store-bought goods, and you'll like it, okay?  That's a corner I cut.

I work through my lunch almost every day.  I do miss hanging out with people during lunch, but it came down to bringing more work home or trying to soldier through so I could relax at night instead of grading so much from 9-11pm, and if working while eating lunch gave me (most of) my nights/weekends, back, then I'm doing it.

And it also helps that I have quality, loving child care. This is something that not enough of us have access to, and OH BOY IF YOU WANT TO HEAR ME RANT JUST GO AHEAD AND ASK ME WHAT I THINK ABOUT THAT.  But we'll save that for, I just want to say thank you thank you thank you to the women who provide me with childcare so that I get to do what I'm called to do.  I am so thankful for them and the love they give to my kids.  So Mary (and Terry!), Suzy, Paula, Luann, Lindsay, and Cristi--I can't thank you enough.  If I were actually funny, I would have said this (start around 1:10):
So that's the career aspect.  Now, how do I fit in athletics? Marathons? Ironmans?

Cutting the right corners, people. CUT THEM ALL (if you can).

First thing first: my quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon which has been on my radar for the better part of the past 5 years has shown me that there are some corners that I am just not willing to cut.  I've learned that I don't have the talent to do it right now in the time that I am willing to give, and accepting that has led me away from anger and frustration and toward a more peaceful acceptance that now is not my time and that's okay.  I'm not saying never, but I'm saying not now, and that's a powerful and difficult decision to make, and one that I'm proud of.

So wait, crazy chick--you'll do an Ironman, but you won't try to qualify for Boston?

YES.  Hear me out.

I have quite literally and figuratively beat myself up pretty badly trying to get to Boston, and I've had an X-ray recently to prove it.  Plus the sticking out my tongue at my running shoes since October (and the fact that I just wasn't that into it in this past training cycle, too!) reminded me that I am built for endurance and built for triathlon, too.  That's where my heart is.

I always, always knew I'd be back to Ironman someday. But the corners. I was not about to cut them while my kids are so young.  (Please understand some people do Ironmans with young kids and hats off to them!  You might be one of them.  I am not judging these people at all.  They are most likely WAY more talented than I am and can pull it off, and that's fabulous.  Keep on rockin' with your bad selves, people.)  Now that my kids are older, they are a lot less dependent upon me.  We're in a sweet spot where they still want to be around me, but don't need to rely on me every single second and, in fact, enjoy being with their friends sometime over me, and I'm (mostly) okay with this.  It means that if I'm swimming in the morning and miss them at breakfast, they know that I'll see them at our family dinner.  It means that I can swim laps at the pool WHILE they play, and they come by to ask me to do butterfly to show their friends (my fun party trick!) or wave at me while they're in line for the diving boards.

It means that now I'm ready to put in those long hours again.  I'm comfortable with that, because I know they will be, too.  I'm timed it up to be mostly in the summer--when I have a lot of help and support and time and when they have a lot of fun opportunities, too, that I can work my long stuff around so I don't miss the important stuff.

And let's be honest, I'm extremely lucky to be in a two-teacher household with available, active, loving, and supportive grandparents down the road who go above and beyond helping me, especially when I get overwhelmed by ALL THE THINGS.  My parents and Matt's Dad are also extremely supportive of my athletic endeavors and also of the kids, and are willing and able to help out often.  Matt and I do a lot of professional development and work over the summer, but we can make it work for our schedules.  So this is the real reason that I chose Ironman Wisconsin--I honestly was only willing to pick an Ironman that coincided with the summer and school schedules.  If it means a harder course, well then, I'm just gonna have to suck it up now, aren't I?  I was really hoping for Mont Tremblant but next year it was the DAY BEFORE school starts, and that ain't gonna work. So Wisconsin it is, and to tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to the challenge of those hills again. It will be a good measure of how far I've come in the past ten years.  I'm nervous about it, but in a good way.

And one more thing: I have been lucky enough to find a coach that I also consider a great friend--who knows the right words to say at every moment, and who knows how to push me just hard enough while still respecting the corners I refuse to cut.  She's made me a better athlete and a better person, and I can't thank her enough for that.

So "Having It All" means cutting every single corner you can, and find the help in as many places as you can.

And the coffee, of course.  Don't forget the coffee.