Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Race Report: Huntington Triathlon, 2015

This was a race I do every year and a race unlike any other.  It's the shortest race I do and was the hardest for me to get in the water.

On Friday, my friend Shannon posted a frantic post on facebook that her son, Sidney, was missing.  Sid is an amazing 4 year old who also happens to have autism.  I had just seen them all heading to the pool on Thursday and said, "Hey Sid! What's up buddy? Have fun at the pool!"  His mommy, Shannon, is a tremendous mother who always has a smile on her face.

After the softball splash party, I saw he still hadn't been found.  I took the kids home at 10pm, called up Noelle, and headed out about 12 miles west along Lake Erie to get to his grandparents house, where he was last seen.  Shannon believed he was trying to walk home along the coast to Bay Village.

In your heart, you know where this is going.  I did too, but I didn't want to believe it.

I headed home around midnight and couldn't sleep at all.

I got up on Saturday and headed back out with my neighbor Suzy.  We searched door to door, climbed the rocky coast of Lake Erie, and called out for Sid.  We begged him to come out.  I wanted to believe he was just hiding.

The worst happened. When I heard, I collapsed to the ground. I spent the rest of Saturday crying.

I woke up Sunday and the thought of getting into Lake Erie made me sick to my stomach.  But I thought maybe it was what I needed; to get back to the thing that has always made me feel better and reminded me that forward motion is sometimes the only thing you can do.

My swim was awful. Just horrible.  I was all over the place, I kept losing my head in the murky water. I was very, very happy to get out of that water, and my time reflects some of that.

I saw my children and Matt at the top of the hill--they just arrived, and gave me big high fives and shouts.  I tried to keep my emotions in check and accept the blessing of them in front of me.

I hit the bike hard and had a great ride--from what I can tell, I had the 3rd fastest female bike split!  It's so funny that my weakness has become my strength and what started as my strength is my weakness.

The run was AWFUL.  The slowest run I've done in years at that race.  It was humid, yes, but that run was literally 30 seconds slower per mile than the 10K I ran in Vermilion last year at the end of the Olympic race.  I tried to just focus on counting my steps and moving forward and keeping my emotions in check.

I finished holding Emery's hand.  It still makes me tear up to think of it.

I won my age group, despite my not so hot performance in the swim and run.  Somehow I ended up 1/8 in the AG and from what I can tell 6th overall female and about a minute off the podium from 3rd overall (what I was able to do last year).

Sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other.  I am glad I made it to this race and it felt good to move after so much fruitless movement in the search and rescue effort.  I am blessed to be able to hug my two little ones after the race, to see their toothpaste globs in the sink, to step on their Legos, to hear them argue over Skylanders.

This race was raw and the events of the next few days will be very difficult.

Forward motion.  Sometimes it's just what you do.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Race Report, Cleveland Half Marathon 2015

....or, Definitely Not My Favorite.
....or, It's Been A While Since A Good Old Fashioned Death March.
....or, Why Spring Races are Just Not A Good Idea For Me.

Okay, so I'm still a little bitter.  But the sting is wearing off a bit and I'm trying to keep the chin up and stay positive.  Long story short? My phone said 100% humidity. All day.  Is that even possible? Is it a swimming pool?  Because it felt like it sort of was.  And humidity and I just don't get along well.  Humidity likes to smack me upside the head like 658,943 times per hour.

So needless to say, my super stretch goal of sub-1:40 was quite laughable.  I ended up with a chip time of 1:49:53, which was a full 10 minutes of this goal.  However, it was only 2 1/2 minutes or so off my previous PR, which is old and not really what I can do now, but still.  Little victories.

The best part about today was kind of like what happened at Cleveland last year.  I'm to the point in my racing where my absolute, wheels-fall-off, want to quit races are still not too far off from what used to be my best.  So I'm not allowed to be too upset here.

Oh, and pretty much everyone I know had crappy days.  Like, most of my marathoner friends were at LEAST 30 minutes off their goal times. THIRTY. MINUTES.

Those poor, poor souls shuffling up the Shoreway...I felt really bad for them while I was drinking my Great Lakes in the Beer Garden after the race.  No really, I swear. I did!

I knew this would be tough, but I guess I didn't realize how tough.  My teammate Mike posted this article about running in humidity and I would say, yeah, that sounds about right.  The pace I could barely--BARELY--hold today was equal to or slower than the pace that I did a good amount of my long runs.  So it was pretty dejecting, but again, everyone had to deal with it, so times were slow across the board.

I started off between the 3:15 and 3:25 pace groups and lined up right by my teammate Jen and the super awesome Meredith who came into town after having a frustrating race in Athens--I was like, oh, hey! That was completely me last year!  And what are the odds I'd like up in between both of them in a race of 20,000?!  That was cool.

The first 2-3 miles I was right on pace, but it felt WAAAAYYYYY too hard.  I knew I was done for, like, before I hit mile 3.  I thought, well, maybe I can just PR today, since that should be something I can do in my sleep at this point as my training was spot-on all winter and spring.

No.  Sigh.

Around mile 3 I started to get angry.  Really, really angry.  I was swearing under my breath, and not under my breath.  Seriously.  I DON'T LIVE IN THE SOUTHEAST FOR A REASON PEOPLE.  Why was this happening?  I was PISSED.  Then I saw Laura from Salty Running.  She's a total badass, and she had a disappointing mile 2 of the 10k (still, her mile 2 was a pace I rarely EVER see, but it meant that she should probably drop out seeing she's an elite).  She asked if I wanted some company, and of course I said yes.

She stayed with me the entire race.  We held hands at the finish, and then I hugged her and cried.  Because, friends.  And because, FRUSTRATION.  But mostly friends.  That was awesome, and there was NO FREAKING WAY I would have finished without her there pushing me.  Or at least I would have spent the last 5k walking if it weren't for her chipper encouragement/harassment to get over the hills and catch "that girl in the teal shirt."  I love her.  Thanks, Salty.  You are the true embodiment of everything that's right with this sport, and I can't thank you enough.

I kept seeing my new Spin-Second Sole Multisport Teammates on the course and it was so great to see them.  They have been awesome about welcoming me to the team, and I certainly didn't want to let them down with my first race in the new kit!  So I kept pushing every time I saw them, which was quite often.  I saw them on bikes, pushing strollers, cheering loudly, AND running. They are good people. I am really looking forward to being a part of them!

My favorite part of the race was at mile 9, when my friend Noelle literally ran onto the course yelling--nay, DEMANDING--that I "open up my shirt" so she could stuff ice cubes down my sportsbra.  Seriously--I love it.  She had asked the night before if I'd need anything and I looked at the weather report and said, "how about some ice?" She decided that just giving me the ice wasn't enough--she wanted to help deliver it.  Best support crew ever, and I'm pretty sure most people in the crowd were laughing with at us.

Also, I ran into my friend Marie who was KILLING IT at Mile 10 and smiling like it was no big deal.  It was great to see her and finally see one person who actually looked like they were having a great race!  She finished really strong and I definitely need to talk her into Columbus. Hear that, Marie? I'm coming for you...

Afterwards I paused for a few pictures, but I hid my race bib because I could just tell this was a race I wasn't going to really want to pay ridiculous amounts to document anyway. So these two pictures are the best ones I have:

Me, and the super awesome Salty--

And me, and the also amazing Krystal, enjoying our very much deserved Great Lakes Brews:

No other pictures are needed from this race.  Those are the only ones I need.

When all was said and done, my 1:49.53 was good enough for 21/418 in the F35-39 AG.  So as rotten as I felt and as disappointed as I was, I can't be too upset with that. It was rough for everyone, and that showed it.

I know I have a faster half in me, but today was not the day.  I think what the past two years of training have done is change my mindset from "That Was A Wasted Training Session" to "WHATEVER. I Am Fitter Now So Screw You Humidity."  I have a great base going into tri season (and yay! Tri season!) and I'll continue to focus on getting stronger to have a great race in Columbus this fall.  

Any finish line is a good finish line, my friends.  Today was still a great day, just not for the reasons I expected it to be.

On to the next goal!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Let me tell you a story

Ten years ago this November, I started writing here to chronicle my Ironman journey.  This was before everything was done in 140 characters or even in status updates.  And that's where I've been, really--no time for much anything else except snippets, retweets, and likes.  Life lately has felt a lot like train, work, kids, sleep, train, work, kids, sleep.

When I was in 5th grade, all I wanted to do was be an author.  I think for that reason this space will never really go blank; at least not permanently.  The rest of the world might move on to snapchats and instagramming, but for me I think I'll always have a space in my heart to need to write more than that.  Even if no one is reading--well, especially if no one is reading.

I'm about to run a hard, fast half marathon on Sunday.  It will be hot--way warmer than I'd like--but I can't really control that so I'm working on letting that go.  There's not much  left to do except control the controllables--sleep, diet, staying positive.  So that's what I'm going to do.

Most of my training has been at 5am on a treadmill during this brutal winter.  Here in CLE, the average--AVERAGE!--temperature for the entire month of February was 15.1F.  So when I needed to run (like, when it was dark and icy), I had to do it on the treadmill.  Luckily, I have some great friends crazy enough to run with me in the cold on the weekends at least, and as always, training with them was such a gift when I had those moments to spare.

Boston came and went, and I was ridiculously happy for my friends and training partners who made it and got to toe that rather cold, rainy, windy line in Hopkintown.  But I'd be lying if I didn't say it was bittersweet.   I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but it was a little bit of pang-filled reminder that I wasn't there. I tried, and I wasn't good enough.  It's okay, because sometimes that happens.  I actually am of the school of thought that it's a good thing that those things happen, that you try your very best and still fall on your face, because it reminds you you're not invincible, and that hard work makes you better but sometimes takes a longer time than you'd like.  It was, and continues to be, a lesson in patience for me--something I definitely need more of.

I spent the better part of the past calendar year stepping away from that goal, because I was really starting to not like what it was doing to me.  So I rekindled my love for triathlon, where I know my heart really is.  It was perfect; it was just what I needed.  And on February 1st--the very first day registration opened--I signed up for the Columbus Marathon.  I felt a tiny bit of the fire coming back.

It felt good.

So I set the goal of going as fast as I can in a spring half, because I've decided that the next Spring Marathon I'll do will just have to be Boston.  No other spring marathon is worth that winter training for me--it's just not.  Done that enough times to know that fall marathons seem to be more my style.  A spring half, however, is a nice tune-up and long enough to make me work hard but not too long that it sucks the life and soul outta me.

The last time I did a standalone half marathon (without a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike ride in front of it!) was in 2009.  Right before I got pregnant with Emery.  It was 1:47.06, and it was a great day.

I've progressed quite a bit since then, but I've been so focused on the marathon quest that I never really got a chance to see just how fast I can run a 13.1.  So that's what I plan to do.

I've been training for a race pace of about a 7:40/mile.  Just typing that sounds pretty freaking insane, seeing as for 9 years I could not run a 5K under a 7:42 mile.  But the body is a pretty crazy thing, and one thing I've learned is that I never gave myself enough credit or believed what my coaches always said to me--there's a lot more fast in here than I give myself credit for.  I've hit all the paces I need on almost every single run, and I stayed injury-free.

I am pretty confident that I will PR; it's just a matter of by how much.  Which is a great place to be, really.  It's kind of liberating.  Just how much is in me, anyway?  I plan on finding out.

Any PR is a good PR, so I may need reminding of that in case something doesn't pan out the way I plan it to.  But I feel good. I feel confident, I feel fast.  I feel like if you told me 5 years ago I'd be gunning for as close to 1:40 as I can get, I'd laugh in your face.  I still have a playlist on my old iPod called "1:54 or Bust" since for years I couldn't even go faster than that.

So I'll tell you a story of a runner who just won't quit.  The story seems to just keep getting better, so I'll write the next chapter on Sunday and let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Review: Crest HD

I'm back!  It's been a while and I owe you a few race reports, but for now, I have a pretty sweet product to review for you.

Through the Women's Health Action Heroes program, I had the opportunity to try out Crest's Pro-Health HD toothpaste.  I might have just a *teensy* bit of a coffee problem addiction habit, and I am always a little concerned that said habit will turn my pearly whites, well, not-so-pearly.  So, I was super excited to hear about the toothpaste opportunity.  I like that the product boasts that you don't have to choose between your "healthiest smile and your whitest smile."  The product boasts that you will have "6X Whiter Teeth in 1 Week."  Well, bring it.  Because I've been drinking a LOOOOT OF COFFEE, CREST.  Challenge accepted. 

So basically, you first use Step 1 and brush for 1 minute.  Then, you spit, but don't rinse!  That was a little weird at first, but I got used to it.  After 1 minute, then you use Step 2: the polish.  After 1 more minute, you then rinse and you're done!  I was a little concerned about my tooth sensitivity that tends to plague me with any whitestrips I've ever tried, but I started my program last week.

Here's what I loved:

1.  TWO MINUTES!  MINIMAL COMMITMENT!  I can't tell you how many times I've started those Whitestrips packs only to be completely over it by about Day 3.  I just am no good at finding 30 minute blocks of time to wear strips on my teeth, so I was super excited to just commit 2 minutes of my life morning and night.  But, would it work?

2.  YES--it absolutely did work!  Within 3-4 days I noticed my teeth not only felt smoother but looked significantly whiter.  I am sold! 

3.  My very sensitive teeth were not at ALL bothered by this product!  That is HUGE. Usually my teeth have shooting pain from some of the whitestrips that I've tried in the past, so this is probably the most positive thing I can say about the product, aside from the fact that it just plain works.

So there you have it!  Check them out and tag your success stories at #HealthyObsession and #CREST!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Race Report: Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3

People, I owe you SO MANY REPORTS that I don't even know where to start.  The race reports are always the reports I refer back to the most and I know that I really need to record this stuff.  It was just an unconventional summer--we took a trip to Europe, lost a dear loved family member, and then I went to study the Constitution at Stanford University at the end of July.  In the meantime I completed three races: the Huntington Sprint Triathlon, the Vermilion Harbor Olympic Triathlon, and the Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Triathlon.  How can I explain everything that happened to you?  Because there's a LOT.

Here's the short answer: I set a course PR--and several actual PRs, including my best 10k--in every. single. race. and after a previous 8 months of heartaches and disappointments and near-misses in my races, finally got the joy back that got me into this sport in the first place.

Related: I am SO not a runner at heart.  I always have known this, but it's confirmed without a doubt.

The long answer:  get your popcorn and buckle up kids, because this will be a long one.

I didn't even register for Rev3 until, like, 3 weeks before the race.  Things were just so crazy this summer...we had both the most amazing and worst summer ever.  It went so fast and was such a whirlwind of emotions that Matt and I felt like we didn't even get a break, which is insane considering the break we had.  Throw a few kids in the mix, preparing for our jobs which were changing significantly, and, well, spoiler alert: I didn't train as much as I'd like to.  I'm a broken record on that, right? But I've already made it clear that I'm not training as much as you or probably anyone.  And that's just gonna have to be okay.

I knew I was fit, and I knew I had made significant run progress, as evidenced by my performance in Vermilion.  So I went ahead and pulled the (VERY EXPENSIVE, ouch) trigger.

Now, if I'm going to plunk down that kind of change for a race, you'd better believe I have some big goals.  My previous 70.3 was when Emery was 6 months old (and that, my friends, is what I call a "poor life decision") where I somehow PRd massively with a 5:44.  I knew that I was much stronger than that this time around, so my "perfect day" goal was a sub-5:30.  Here's what that would look like:

Swim: 38 and change
Bike 2:50ish
Run 1:50ish
Plus transitions to get to a little under 5:30.

This is what I know, without a doubt, that I can do.  So I decided to go hard or go home and see what happened.

I headed out to Cedar Point to spend the night in a cabin with my friends Andy and Noelle and their families.  This was super awesome as it allowed me to get settled in without having to get up at 4am and drive to the start like I did last time.  We grabbed some dinner hit the hay early on.


I didn't get to start until 8:45.  Ew. I hate late starts, but the Full Rev swimmers started at 7 and safety and blah blah blah I get it but that doesn't mean I don't get to hate it.  I was one of the final waves, and speaking of waves, holy crap, they were picking up.  The lake is rarely calm near Cedar Point, but this was starting to really look bad. I did a little warmup and got tossed around quite a bit.  I breathed in and just tried to focus on my stroke and remind myself that this is my 6th 70.3, I've been here many times before, and I know how to swim in chop.
It's impossible not to look like an idiot in a wetsuit and cap. So I embrace it.
Andy was off 10 minutes ahead of me and it was hard not to notice the waves knocking over swimmers as they were wading out to the start line.  By the time my wave waded out, waves were so big that they knocked us over.  I seemed to time my jumps exactly wrong and ended up with a face full of nasty lake waves like three times before I even started.  We had to swim directly into the waves, and all of us were officially panicking.  It was very, very rough.
This is what I call "Less Than Ideal Conditions"

I heard the horn, jumped over one more wave, and off I went.

It was, without a doubt, the worst swim of any 70.3 I've ever done.  The chop was so horrible that sighting was virtually impossible.  I had to do breastroke often just to ensure that I was not going the wrong direction--as in completely turning around wrong direction.  People were PANICKING.  A jet-ski flew by me after a swimmer who was freaking out.  I caught some of the men in the wave--or two--ahead of me before I even got out to the first buoy. My arm went up to take a stroke and, on several occasions, was smashed down by a cresting wave.

The only thing I kept thinking was, "Breathe, stroke, glide, pull. You've been a swimmer all your life, and you're fine."  And I didn't freak out.  But people all around me were, and it made me scared to see them so panicked.  That's when bad things happen.

After the last turn, I saw a guy with his eyes closed floating on his back.  I stopped, screamed "HEY!" at him and when he didn't move I got really really worried and yelled, "ARE YOU OKAY?"  He finally heard me and said, yeah, she's going to get me, and waved in the general direction of the kayakers.
I know, those waves look innocent...trust me, people. Miserable chop.
I finally made it out.  I am smiling because IT WAS OVER THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU and I was just so glad to be out of there.
I'm laughing at A) my horrible, awful split and B) the fact that IT'S OVER
Please, please people out there reading: swimming in open water is no joke.  It is WAY different than a pool.  I am just so glad disaster did not strike and everyone came out of the water alive.  They pulled 60 people out of the swim on Sunday.  Training for the swim, and for the worst case scenario in open water, is absolutely vital for your safety, not just for your race. I'll stop lecturing you now.  I just can't help it: it makes me scared to see so many people who don't feel comfortable swimming get into situations like that.  It ain't right.

My time? 42 minutes and change. Embarrassing.

I said mucho swear words under my breath and literally could not believe I was already 5 freaking minutes off my goal coming OUT OF THE WATER.  That did not just happen.  Except, yes it did, and I'd better get moving so I can pick up the pieces.

The official time: 42:13
Age Group Position 3/23

You have got to be kidding me: I swam a 42 minute leg and I was 3rd in my AG?! Either everyone else is HORRIBLE or the weather messed with everyone else even more than it messed with me.  Because I am just not that good.  So, I'm happy I remained calm and kept my wits about me.

TI: 2:33

The Bike:
Rolling out of T1!
Okay! My best part! I can regain some territory here!  I took off and tried to hold a good steady pace throughout the bike.  I was flying by people initially and felt great.  It was a clear, sunny, beautiful morning, and really, Lake Erie is pretty breathtaking like that.  I soaked in the scenery as I tried to settle into a rhythm.  I focused on nutrition and taking in enough fluids while also settling my seasick stomach.  About 10 miles in I really tried to settle into the pace.

The course is mostly flat with some rollers and a little bit of false flat/wind to deal with.  But here's the deal:

I just didn't feel it.

For some reason, right around mile 25 or so, I felt flat. Just no pep.  Not the usual "I'm going to kick so much ass today" feeling like I usually get on the bike.  Yeah, there was a little wind, but nothing that I should have been letting get to me...I don't know what the deal was.  I think that swim might have taken more out of me than I wanted to admit, despite my attempts to swim smooth and remain calm.  I dunno, but for whatever reason, I got back to T2, looked down, saw "2:57" on my PowerTap and literally made this face:
So not impressed.  That was crap.  I'm much stronger than that.

Oh, stupid mistake, too--I forgot to take off "auto lap" on my Garmin watch, so it took all 56 miles as "laps" and right around mile 54 decided to say it was out of memory.  Awesome.  Because I ONLY NEED YOU FOR THE RUN.  So I fumbled with it and tried to clear the memory while I rode.  Not good.  Very annoyed.

Bike time: 2:57.31 (literally, the same time I had in 2010)
Age Group Place:  3/23

Now, I knew my big goal was officially OUT the window.  Poop sandwich.  BUT! I can still go under 5:44.  The run was where I wanted to see the biggest gains and where I should see the biggest gains, so I vowed to myself that this craptastic effort so far was not all for nothing.  I could still have a good run, and I'd set myself up for it with good nutrition and a day that was warm but not too hot at all.

It was time to get into beast mode. Finally.

I put on my racing flats, because I thought, hey! they might make me faster! (another "poor life decision")

T2: 1:22

Off I went--Andy had a solid bike and had caught me around mile 40, so I tried to keep him in my sight.  Man, he was moving though.  My first mile was 8 flat, and I knew that was too aggressive. I tried to back off a bit but felt good at 8:15s so I figured I'd hold on as long as I could and just risk it, because at this point, I had nothing to lose.  I passed my buddy Tiffany who was running the relay, and said, "I might regret this later!" and she laughed and told me to keep going.

I held the pace pretty well for the first 5 miles or so.  Somewhere in there I passed Andy, which confused me--turns out he hit the bathroom but then I was paranoid that I missed a turn!  I asked this girl next to me, "this is the right way, right?" and she assured me that it was. As I ran away she said, "Strong pace! I want some of your energy!" so that was a nice boost.  I tried to tell every single police officer and volunteer that I could thank you, because that's just a thankless and kind of boring volunteer job.

Around mile 6 or 7, I started getting that nauseous/sick/dizzy feeling.  Oh no, I thought.  Here it comes.  So I pounded a Gu and took a few eCaps just to try and get ahead of the bonk.  It was warm, but not hot--but the sun on the asphalt was really cooking things up, and I'm definitely a salty sweater.  It worked, and I managed to keep the pace hovering around 8:30-8:35.  My Garmin had the mile markers 0.2 miles off which is pretty significant and definitely messed with me, so I just tried to at least keep the pace consistent.

After Mile 9 or so things got hard, but good.  Like, people around me were dropping like flies.  But I wasn't! I was tired, and my legs were heavy, and I knew that I didn't have too much left, but I kept thinking, "just a half hour or so, and then you can see the finish line."  I can do anything for a half hour.  Right?  Except that at this point of the course it's extremely boring with nothing but old businesses and not many spectators.  So I tried really hard to just focus on my steps and my breathing.  Every step I made was one step closer to home, and I was ready for home.

The last 2 miles or so on the causeway leading up to the park.  Last time I did this race, it was hella windy and I might have said a few F bombs because of it.  This time, it wasn't too windy, just hot and isolated and OMG I AM READY TO BE DONE NOW THANK YOU.  My legs were starting to feel heavy, I was hovering now right around 9:00/mile pace, and I knew that I was running out of steam.  Due to the watch debacle I had no clue what my overall time was, so I just tried to go as hard as my body let me and figured I'd hopefully still have a shot at a PR.  I knew that my run wasn't going to be 1:50, but hey, the best I've EVER ran at the end of a 70.3 is 2:02.  And I was going to be well under that.  Victory is mine.

Making that last turn, I just had this stupid grin on my face.  I was so happy with that run--sometimes, it's a gamble and it's a fine line and I'm still learning, but sometimes, if you ease up on the bike just a bit, you can gain huge minutes on the run.  Maybe if I had rode harder, I would have blown up and lost 10-15 minutes on the run, because lemme tell you folks, I HAVE BEEN THERE.  It is not fun.  Part of what I love about the 70.3 distance is that it's so hard to execute perfectly, and it's such a learning process.  I know I can go a bit harder on the bike and still have a decent run, but to see an 8 minute gain on the run?  Yeah, that made my rotten swim and bike a little more palatable.

Saw my friends and they snapped this video accidentally--Patty was trying to take a pic, but I like it!

And then, saw Matt and the kids, and we got to do this:

Total Run Time:  1:54.49
Age Group Place: 3/23

Overall Time: 5:38.29
Age Group: 4/23 (don't ask me how it's 4...but it is, I checked, and the 3 spot went to a girl 5 minutes faster, so I'm not sure how it happened but it's all good)
23/153 Total Females
100/447 Total Finishers

70.3 PR by 6 minutes!

So it wasn't the perfect day I had trained for, but really, when is it?  Hitting that sweet spot is so tricky, and as my friend so eloquently put it, sometimes the journey is the sweet spot.  Given my life situation now, the fact that I can't train nearly as much as I'd like to, and that I keep getting older (funny how that happens), I am absolutely thrilled with this race.  I got faster. Again.  What I thought was a limit, quite simply, never was.  My first 70.3 was in 2005, and I went 6:33--and the swim was short, so that time should be longer.  My second was 6:47.  I have gone from solidly--VERY solidly--back of the pack, to this--a top 15% female finish.  And I'll never be a pro and I'm never going to win these things, but in the competition against myself? I'm killing it.

The first part of this season--well, the better part of the last year, actually, if I'm being honest--was spent frustrated and dejected.  And I hated that.  I hated that I worked so hard and made so much progress and was upset, because that is just ridiculous.  But maybe, just maybe, all of that work paid off in the past three races I've done.  I still owe you race reports, but the short version is:  3rd overall female in my summer sprint, and the fastest 10K I have ever clocked, 6th overall, and a course PR in the Vermilion Olympic.  

My heart is with triathlon, and I know this.  I sort of always have.  It is so nice to have the joy of the finish line again, and not have it laced in a feeling of defeat.

I don't know what I want to do next.  There's a tiny pull toward another BQ attempt, but I tell you what--I had so much fun in the past 8 weeks doing triathlons, that I am honestly not sure.  We'll see.

For now, I still have a pretty big grin on my face.  But oh, dear, those racing flats?  Let's just say my toes look like something out of the Walking Dead.  Trust me--you don't want to look.

Excited to have a little "off season" now, and so, so, so happy with the way these races played out.  On to the next finish line, wherever it may be. 


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: FitBit Flex

I feel like I can talk now.

Which is good, because I have a lot to say. (Shocking)

First of all, I'd like to review the FitBit Flex, which I was given as a Women's Health Action Hero (yippee!) and I was very curious to try out!  See, I'm a *little* bit competitive (cough cough) especially against myself.  So, I was interested to see if this would change my habits, enhance my habits, or not really change much at all

The FitBit Flex is available at Target here, and has the following information:

The FitBit Flex is a slim, stylish device that is with you all the time. During the day, it tracks steps, distance, and calories burned. At night, it tracks your sleep cycle and wakes you silently in the morning. Just check out the lights to see how you stack up against your personal goal. It’s the motivation you need to get out and be more active.

Mine arrived and I tore up the box like it was Christmas morning.  I was excited to get it set up!

Good news is that for cavemen like me who are technically challenged, it was super easy to set up.  A few clicks and I was all good to go.  I also have it synced up to MyFitnessPal, although my old skool iPhone Model Negative Two doesn't automatically connect to the app.  But I hear iPhone 5 will, which is a nice feature.

The Good:

It's lightweight, can be worn in the shower, and is very easy to read.  I just tap twice to see how many lights are blinking.  Once I hit five, it vibrates and does a little laser light show for me.  High five, FitBit.  You're cute.  Since I am a morning workout person, my little game became "How Early Can I Hit My 5 Lights?" Personal best: 10:32am.  I had ran and rode that morning.  I can't wear it when swimming, so all last week at Stanford pool I was a little disappointed that I couldn't count my yardage, but so goes life.  I got over it.

The other thing I like is that it tracks your sleep. Now, there's a little bad on this and it's because I'm a side sleeper who puts an arm under a pillow...so I could sort of feel it on my left side and it was a teensy bit annoying.  Not a deal-breaker, but still.  You get these cool graphics on your dashboard that tell you some information about your sleep patterns:
Question: what on earth am I doing from 2-4 am?  A kick line?  Pushups?  The Macarena? It was really interesting to see how restless I was then.  I could use this to try and figure out how to change my sleep habits a bit...maybe a little less screen time before bed? (Not that I violate that cardinal rule.  NO, SURELY NOT ME) Or coming off jet-lag from my week-long trip to CA last week?  It's a good metric to use and I've never been a very good sleeper, so I was most curious to see how this worked.

You also get stuff like this on your dashboard:  how many steps you've taken, miles you've moved, and your "Very Active Minutes" (which, of course, I try to best myself every day)
On the left, you can see the "social" aspect of it which I haven't played around with much.  You can link up with your friends to get a little friendly competition going.  That could also be a great motivator!

The Not-As-Good:

I mentioned the no swimming thing.  Sad face. I swim a lot.

I also mentioned the slightly-annoying-sleeping-on-my-side thing.

The only other thing I'd like to see would be another option for the arm band.  The violet is super cute, don't get me wrong, but usually at work I like to just wear simple gold or silver.  If I had a spare $195 laying around (unlikely to EVER happen), I'd definitely order this Tory Burch FitBit bracelet.  I LOVE THIS IDEA. Can someone make a "public-schoolteacher-budget one" for me?  Target, I'm looking at you!

Did I move more? Honestly, yesterday was a rest day for me after a triathlon Sunday, and I know on rest days I'm supposed to legitimately rest...but I wanted to hit my goal, so I ran around and played some frisbee with my kids in the park and a little pickup soccer.  It really did get me to move more.  On days when I am moving a ton (which is really most days), it's nice to see the metrics and especially the sleep.  Better sleep is a big goal of mine so I know that metric will be really helpful.

I think this is an EXCELLENT tool for beginner athletes and seasoned athletes alike.  Check it out at Target and if you have any questions, ask away!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Longest Ride

Well, I've been gone for quite a while.

I haven't really known what to say.  Things have been a bit of a blur since late-April, and then they got better, and then they got worse, and then they were over. And we're still adjusting.  We'll never truly adjust, as anyone who has lost a parent knows.  I don't know; I haven't lost a parent. But Matt has, and Linda was a wonderful wife of 40 years as of May 11, grandmother to 6 (about to be 7), mother to three amazing children, and mother-in-law to me.  After almost five years, Linda lost her battle to cancer on July 9.

From what I'm gathering, losing a parent leaves a hole in your heart that is so painful and never, ever able to be replaced.  You never will get over this.  You never will move on; you will simply try to adjust and wake up and know the sun will rise again.  Just without her. And it will just come in waves, at the strangest times, and you'll feel that choking feeling in your throat and your eyes well up, but you just have to keep going somehow.

I was pregnant with Emery when Linda was rushed to the hospital on our anniversary: August 7, 2009.  The diagnosis? Stage 4 uterine cancer.  They did everything they could; they took out everything they could.  But it was everywhere.  There was only so much they could do.  Everything I read said "12-36 months." We were devastated.

She anted up.

She took every single medicine they threw at her. No matter what it did to her poor body. She didn't care.  She didn't complain.  The only thing, and I mean the ONLY thing, she ever said in five years of chemotherapy, medicines, ports, and other assorted horribleness?

"I'm a little tired."

That's all she ever said. 

She wore her wig just once; for Dan's wedding a year ago yesterday in Mexico.  And after that picture was snapped, she put her hat back on. 

We decided to bury her in her hat.  She always looked so cute in her hats.

She beat every single statistic and odd out there.  The doctors and nurses were amazed.  She fought so bravely and so hard.

Not too many people can say they met their mother-in-law when they were 6, but that’s how it went for me.  My earliest memory of Linda was in first grade, when she was the room mother for my now brother-in-law, Dan, who was in my class.  Little tiny Kim was always on her hip. 

Linda was the kind of person who was absolutely selfless.  She cared first about others, all the time.  She had a dry and witty sense of humor, too.  We’d just crack up all the time.  She was always throwing in one-liners and zingers that were hilarious.  She loved Elvis. She hated squirrels and would throw potatoes at them when they tried to bust through her kitchen window screen.  She was an amazing cook.  She loved her family more than anything in the entire universe. She could remember any single historical event, what she was wearing, and what song was on the radio when it happened.

I keep remembering random things at random times, but usually when I’m running and biking and swimming.  Because it’s alone time, and it’s when I think.

I remember how she whispered in my ear at my wedding, “I’ve been waiting for this since Homecoming!” when Matt took me to Homecoming Dance in 1993.

I remember how good her stuffing is at Thanksgiving.  Oh my gosh, it’s amazing.  I didn’t get the recipe from her.  I should have.  She never wrote any recipes down; she just did everything by scratch and memory.  And then I feel the welt in my throat again.

I remember how her body was wrecked from fighting the initial chemo battle but she simply did not care: no matter what, she was going to stay up all night to see her new granddaughter born at 4:15am on February 21, 2010.  Nothing would stop her from being there.

And I remember that Matt and I are going to need to work hard to keep her memory alive for our children.  Jackson is 6 1/2.  Emery is 4.  If we don’t work at it, their memories will fade.  And that crushes me. 

Most notably, I remember her courage, grace, and strength, as I dropped off meals to her weekly and as we all rallied around her.  She was the matriarch of the family; she will be missed more than I can explain in words.  And my heart aches for my husband as he tries to move forward into this unknown with a piece of his heart, forever gone.  The lessons she showed us in her short 63 years were nothing short of amazing. 

You want endurance?  You think Ironman is tough?

I am here to tell you that it is nothing.  Linda was tougher, more persistent, more inspirational, and more courageous than any athlete I’ve ever known in my life, and her battle was longer and more difficult than any race you can imagine.

My training and racing lately has been a time for me to find peace, and think about what it is in my life.  As I stood on the beach on Sunday for my first triathlon of the season, and first race since Linda left us, I prayed, “God, let me enjoy this race and any pain I feel and just remember to feel alive and well and grateful.”  

That’s really, to me, what racing and training is.  A reminder that life is a gift, pain is a lesson, true courage is in grace, and strength comes from within.

That is what Linda taught me.  That is how I will try to move forward.