Thursday, August 31, 2006

September Eve

It was like this.

It was chilly last night. So chilly that I had to put on a hoodie to take the dog out. I LOVE this time of year. The kids are all excited because the first home football game is tomorrow, and my classroom isn't a sweatbath. It's getting darker earlier, but the fall clouds are coming which make for some amazing sunsets on the lake.

So I came in and thought I'd check the weather for tomorrow.

More of the same. I love it.

But man, my swim might get a little chilly. Ah, no biggie. That'll bring back memories of swim team, freezing cold before an early summer meet, shivering a little under that red swim team hoodie that had my name on the back, feeling like the coolest kid around.

And then, I thought...hmmmmmmmm. 7-10 day business forecast. Just put in the city. Hmmmm.

And it didn't quite go to September 10th. But it came close. And just like you don't EVER, EVER, when someone's pitching a no-hitter, utter the words, "Hey, this guy's got a no-hitter," I will NOT utter the words that I thought when I looked at that weather forecast.

The words will not be uttered.

Or typed.

Don't even think of commenting about it, either.

So the wind made it feel like fall today. I love fall. Love it love it love it. It is by far my FAVORITE season. Fall means the leaves are red and purple and yellow, the sunset is all different shades of amazing, there's lots of football to be played and watched, s'mores on my fire pit, one more camping trip if I can, and baseball playoff season. It means my favorite 5K weather.

And this year, it means something entirely different.

I knew it when I got my bag to head to the pool. It was windy, and very chilly, but I knew I just needed to swim outside in one of the last days for the pool. I also knew it wouldn't be crowded at all.

What I didn't realize, until it's too late of course, is my body's already doing its weird little things to tell me that I am nervous, even though I don't outwardly appear nervous. Today, I realized as I tasted a little blood on my lower lip, that I had been biting it and not realizing it. I do that when I'm nervous, but I never know it until it's too late.

Guess that's to be expected this week, huh?

I arrived at the pool and sure enough, it was me and about 4 other nutcase lap swimmers--and that's IT. Some very bored guards sitting in their chairs, in full sweatsuits, shivering.

Well, here goes.

I got in--and immediately knew it would be a good swim. I didn't wear my watch at all. Just was going to swim and enjoy it and do about a mile.

And that's when things got nuts.

I just felt awesome. I felt really strong, and not sore, and not fatigued. I was wearing my new goggles, and I almost forgot what it's like to really see underwater--you know how after you wear your old goggles for so long, you just sort of get used to a little film of fog on your vision?

I could see everything crystal clear.

I could see my hand catch the water and pull it back with the little bubbles that followed it. When I took a breath, I could see the wind whipping through the trees and the clouds in the sky that looked a little bit gray like a windy fall day does.

I could see the guy next to me in the other lane, and just for fun I "raced" him for a lap. He didn't know it, of course.

I so beat him. :)

Then I started to see other things, too.

Wil and I with our wetsuits on, walking into Lake Monona at around 6:50am.

RobbyB and his wife meeting me when I exited the water to help me with my wetsuit.

SLS, my other new tri sis, riding either Louise or Tony. (I vote Louise :)

TriAl cracking jokes Saturday and making me laugh.

Siren handing me my T2 bag.

TriMama and her amazing Tribe cheering me on.

Walchka in the crowd somewhere.

Greyhound handing me my medal.

My girls there to make me laugh and have a good time.

My parents, and my heroes, who will probably be running all over the place, with various cameras, waving.

My Aunt Betsy, Uncle Jack, and Grandpa, who can't be there but will be with me.

My husband and best friend, who I can't even describe the size of the sweaty, nasty hug he's going to get.

And I saw all these things as I saw myself, with every flip turn, and caught myself thinking that suddenly I barely recognized this swimmer.

And before I knew it, it was my last 50, and I thought, "Remember this...you need to remember this feeling" as I watched my hands reach and reach and reach to the wall.

And then I touched it.

And as I dried off as quickly as I could and headed to my car, I passed two teams of probably 10 year old boys learning how to play football...they looked so awkward in their equipment and helmets, and eager to learn as the wind whipped on the field. And I thought, Just give it time guys. Give it a few years. You'll grow into it before you know it.

And you might not even recognize yourself.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pacific

Things have changed.

I knew they would, but I never really thought they would like this.

Five years ago, I stood on the beach to start my first triathlon. I was scared, but ready. I was nervous, but confident.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

I sort of remember standing there looking out into where the blue sky met the dark waters of Lake Erie, which is surprisingly big. I say that, because my friends who have never seen it are always shocked by how big it is. I don't know if they were expecting something a lot smaller, or to see Canada across the other side, or what. It's funny to me that the size of a Great Lake seems to surprise some. But it's big. Trust me.

And I sort of remember standing there, nervously squishing sand in between my toes thinking, "What am I DOING here?"

I knew I could do it. That wasn't the question. But was I ready to do it? Could I deal with whatever happened when I set out to do it?

Was I ready for how it would change me afterward?

Only one way to find out, I guess.

So sooner or later, the gun went off. I dove in.

And I made it through. And it changed me more than I ever could have imagined.

This thing called triathlon is no longer just a sport I do. It has become a pretty big part of who I am. It's so much a part of me that I can not imagine, nor do I ever want to imagine, my life without it.

Sometimes my day and my race flies by as effortless as the waves crashing ashore onto the beach--like the smile I have on my face on the downhill after a hard climb. Sometimes I go so fast down that hill that the wind makes tears form in my eyes, and it makes every second of the climb worth it. I might even let out a little laugh.

But I'm not gonna lie. I've got a long way to go. There is always work to be done.

There's been other days and races where I feel full of doubt. I forget how hard I've worked to get there...I let my head get in the way. But I've come to see each of these stumbles as part of a grand climb up a hill that's simply testing my head and my heart.

In the past five years I've become an entirely different woman.

Five years.

Five short years, and I've seen everything around me change: my world, my country, and myself. This change has sometimes seemed out of my control, but despite that, this sport has helped me remained grounded in my same values and principles. Essentially, I've been able to deal with the various forces beyond my control, and to grow exponentially from the things a simple sport made up of playground activities has taught me.

And in thirteen days, I'll be standing on another beach in Madison, Wisconsin.

Lake Monona is not as big as the lake I stared at that August day of 2001, but the day itself will be the size of the Atlantic Ocean. And I supposed I'll yawn like I always do when I am nervous--my body's little trick of making me appear to be calm, when I am really terrified. And I don't know what that day is going to bring me.

I can't even begin to imagine what that day is going to bring me.

But I can almost feel the sand between my toes.

And I have a strange sense of calm. Like I've been there before.

I know who I am and I know what I've done to get here.

And I know I will get through this ocean.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Enter Sandman

Um...yeah.

OK.

I've sort of, had to....um....sleep.

I don't like to admit that--for some reason it feels like I'm "giving in" a little bit. But let's just say after this week I think I have a whole new appreciation for sleep. And how much I need.

Apparantly, I need a LOT.

I've struggled with getting enough sleep from day one. A quick search through my blog reminds me of this. I just am sort of a busy bee and I'm always, ALWAYS moving and thinking. So sleep gets pushed to the back burner, especially during the school year.

Starting back up this week, I definitely underestimated just how much my first day of school sleepless night would SCREW ME UP all week. I did have a friend visit, too, so I wanted to stay up a little bit to hang with her.

All week, I just haven't felt great. The previous post states how I CRASHED hard on my swim Wednesday.

Ugh.

Then, I sludged through my hour and a half ride Thursday--in an hour and twenty.

Ugh.

Matt is fighting a nasty head cold, and I'm now interacting with 126 teenagers. Germ city.

UGH.

So yesterday, when I was staring at a 4600 yard workout, I just sort of froze up. I just KNEW that I didn't have it in me. Well, I should rephrase that....of COURSE I have it in me. But I started to realize that I shouldn't use it up, you know? I think it's that post I recently re-read from back in January when I "just couldn't figure out why I didn't feel good," so I kept doing 6 mile runs in the snow and 5am swims, and then was KNOCKED OUT WITH PNEUMONIA for 2 weeks.

And, yeah. That can't happen right now.

So I called my coach and told her what was in my head. She talked me out of the tree. We have readjusted things, because, as she says, taper affects everyone differently. Some need LOTS of rest and others not so much. Some are OK doing very similar, and others need more Zone 1. So here's the protocol:

1. NO SWIM Friday. Done. Over with. No worries. I'm fine in the water. I will be fine in the water.

2. SLEEP must now be #1 priority. I am NOT TO SET MY ALARM this weekend. NO early morning ride. I will sleep until I wake up, and then I will do a 3 hour ride in Zone 1-2 instead of a 4 hour ride. And, if I'm not feeling good, I will cut the ride short, and I will NOT BEAT MYSELF UP.

3. I will NOT set my alarm Sunday. I will sleep until I wake up, and then I will do a 1:30 run. But if at 1 hour I'm feeling tired, I WILL STOP. And I will not beat myself up.

4. I will NOT do lots of heavy/taxing chores around the house with all my spare time. I will do what most Americans do and sit my butt down.

5. I will supplement with a bit more Vitamin C until race day, and be even more OCD than usual about hand washing/antibacterial stuff in school.

6. I will GET OFF MY FEET as much as I can...including school. It's been in the high 80s and high humidity all week, and I'm on the 2nd floor, with up to 32 students in my room, and no A/C. My thermostat read 89 yesterday. I pretty much SWEAT from about 11am on. It's really disgusting. So I need to keep hydrating lots and SIT DOWN during the day.

Hold up. That last one's gonna be a problem.

I CAN'T. SIT. DOWN. AND. TEACH.

But OK....I tried on Friday. I told my 6th period kids that this is unusual, but I have to try and sit down. They were laughing at me since they know I never sit. But I sat for a whole 20 minutes and introduced the Renaissance! Yahooooooooooooo!

I swear that felt harder than my 5 hour ride last week.

So, I took a nap after school yesterday, which I never do. It was supposed to be a half hour.

It was almost an hour and a half. I totally got up too late to meet the NE Ohio IM MOO athletes. :( But I guess I needed it, right?

We hit the hay last night around 11:30. Matt got up at 8 to head to work. When I woke up, sans alarm clock, it was....are you ready for this?.....10:35!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I freaking slept for 11 hours.

Okay, so I guess I really REALLY needed this.

I've been relaxing all morning and early afternoon here, and now I'm getting ready to head out for this ride that, according to coach, should "feel so easy you are annoyed with it."

And you know what? I am feeling better.

So, we'll see how this weekend goes. As coach says, I've done all the work. Nothing I can add workout-wise at this point will HELP me, but it can HURT me. So I NEED to trust the training, trust myself, and back off.

And two weeks from tomorrow, it's go time.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

All place the over.

Whew.

The first two days of school have been great. But man, am I TIRED. I'm not exactly one of those teachers who can sit at my desk and teach. I'm kind of all over the room. My feet hurt. Ugh. I'm gonna have to wear better shoes or something......

So far the kids are awesome and I'm loving it. I'm thinking of all these new things I can do and ways I want to teach this and that...man, if only I had more time....and LESS proficiency tests....sigh. :)

BUT, as promised, I totally didn't sleep the night before. Ugh. 3.5 hours AT BEST.

Got up to run at 5:30 and was supposed to do an hour with 3-3 minute pickups to Zone 3. Well, I got 5 miles in and wasn't able to run a full hour. Oh well. I had to get goin', plus my good friend Sammy is here randomly for a few nights on business, so I was wanting to get back to see her before she left at 7am. My pickups were good though, and I averaged around 8:10 miles for them. Yahoo!

Taught all day and then was supposed to swim 4000 yards before Sammy, Matt and I went to dinner.

And that's when I CRASHED. HARD CORE. I was dehydrated, tired, and didn't eat much, and I bonked. Only could get out about 2500 before I threw the towel in and called it a day. Tomorrow I have 4600 yards so hopefully I will redeem myself.

So, I'm trying to freaking slow down, sleep, hydrate, and eat good stuff. It's been rough, but I'm glad I have something busy to keep my mind off this taper thing and also from freaking out about the race.

On deck this weekend, I'm meeting with the Northeast Ohio IM MOO peeps, like TriAl, on Friday night, then a 4 hour ride in ZONE 1 for hours 1-3 on Saturday! Zone 1?! What's THAT? Sunday, probably an hour and a half ride, and then Iron Johnny and I are meeting with our coach to go over IM and our race plan. Hard to believe...

On a funny note, yesterday for an ice-breaker, I had my kids play two truths and a lie. You have two statements that are true and one that is false, and you have to guess which one is false. So, I used myself as an example and said this:

1. I love skydiving and have been 2 times.
2. One of my guilty pleasures are White Castle cheeseburgers.
3. In 17 days I'm going to do an Ironman Triathlon.

The ones that had me last year knew it wasn't #3, but a lot of the others guessed that one was the lie. :) hee hee I'm sneaky. Then, they asked what it was, and some about fell over when I told them. So I think I've got a little street cred. Now I'd better not screw it up.

By the way, #1 is the lie. I'm deathly afraid of falling.

Mmmmm. White Castle.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The First Day of School

So tomorrow is the first day of school.

Which means, of course, that I will not be able to sleep tonight.

I don't quite know why. It's not like I am new or anything. This will be my eighth first day of school as a teacher. Hard to believe, actually. I began teaching a few weeks after I turned 22. It seems so long ago now...like that girl is a whole different person. I've learned quite a bit about my profession and grown up a lot, so to speak. Thanks Oak Hills High School, for rolling the dice with me, and letting me spend my first year teaching in room 310.

And for that matter, I've had 24 consecutive first days of school. Every August, since I was 5 years old, I have had this night. And every night, I can't sleep.

As a student and now as a teacher, I think I have some of the same emotions. The first day of school marks another year to grow.

To me, it means many different things. All of which are exciting in their own light.

To me, there is nothing more exciting than an empty classroom the day before school starts.

It means another shot at hope and redemption, potential and fear, excitement and anticipation... wonderment and amazement and respect for the responsibility that room holds. I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the chance I have to spend the next 183 days in that room with 130 people that I will meet tomorrow.

It's the closest I can come to putting into words what it feels like right now, 18 days before I do Ironman Wisconsin. I am having a hard time explaining it in words, but this feeling I have for tomorrow is a little like what I'm feeling for my race.

Right now I wonder if I could have done more. I am excited, I am amazed, I am petrified, I am in awe, I am hopeful, I am confident, and I can't believe it's real. I have to trust that it's real.

I have to trust that I'm real.

Today at work, a few teachers were asking me about the race and training. One, who inspired me to do my first marathon, asked me, "But how do you know you can do it, if you've never gone the distance before?"

I told her the truth.

I don't.

Until I cross that line, until I hear the words, "You are an Ironman," it's still just a dream. So all I can do, is trust that I have the potential and the ability to do what that day demands of me. It's what I ask myself to do every August in this empty classroom.

So I will hope, and I will pray, and I will remain amazed, excited, and petrified for the next 18 days.

And for the 24th consecutive night before school starts, I probably won't get much sleep.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A glimpse inside my head

Things I thought Friday night when I was trying to sleep the night before a big ride:

Damn. It's 2:37am. Seriously. I didn't go to bed at 11pm for no reason. This blows.

3:08am. Hey, Matt's finally home from working the Browns game. Wonderful. I'm still awake.

What? 5:15 already? A new record...2 1/2 hours of sleep. Great.

Things I thought when I left the house at 6am:

Uh oh. It's raining.

It's really dark. That must mean school starts this week.

WOW. That must mean I have an Ironman in three weeks.

Stop. Panicking. Go. to. meet. riding. friends.....

Hey, it's the WIBA theme song: Young Jeezy's Soul Survivor! Why is this on the radio at 6:03am on a Saturday?

Things I thought as I started my ride

Riding friends are the best. Especially Canada Jenn, who just came out to ride 1:30 and could have easily done so at 9am like any normal person would. But she's a rida.

Crap. I forgot my top plastic straw to my profile designs areobottle.

Woo hoo! My new 305 is sweet! And I totally blame Jodi for telling me about the deal that lead to the purchase.

Wow, it's early. Here are some things I can't wait to do when Ironman is over:
  • sleep past 5:15am on a Saturday
  • watch football on my couch, preferably with a Blue Moon, Hoegaarten, or some other tasty libation
  • Cook really good meals with my tomatoes and fresh basil from my garden, and try new Rachael Ray meals from the cookbook I haven't even touched yet
  • Watch races and volunteer--I can't wait to see Jacks run Chicago!
  • lots and lots of yoga instead of a few minutes here and there
  • have my toenails back: Mr. 2nd from the left on the right foot is a resiliant little guy, and I feel quite bad for him.
Things I saw on my 72 mile ride and/or 4 mile run:

The biggest--and only--wild turkey I've ever seen in my life on Valley Parkway in the Cleveland Metroparks. THIS THING WAS AT LEAST 3 FEET TALL and just waddling around like he owned the road. WTF?

Rain. LOTS and LOTS of rain.

One dead possum, raccoon, and squirrel

Two deer and two bunnies

Lots of beautiful, green, rolling hills

A sign for "Brown Eggs," one "swimming pool--$600," and three sweet corn stands

A stand with lots of fresh produce

TriEric

Another party that I missed

Things I thought about during this ride

I have to do my lesson plans.

Uh oh. It's not just drizzling anymore. Hey, that reminds me of that joke: why does Snoop Dogg need an umbrella? For the DRIZZLE.

Okay, this isn't funny anymore. This rain is so hard I can barely see and I have to go down a hill that usually tops me at around 40mph. Darn. I have to slow down.

Hey, I don't think I've ever rode in a storm like this.

Hey, if it does this at IM MOO, I'm now officially gonna be ready.

Cool.

Why does this feel so easy? It's slow, but it feels....EASY. My average HR is 133? Even with these hills? Wait--these hills didn't even make me blink this time. I didn't dread their arrival like I usually do. Is that the rain's doing? Or am I....dare I say it....just BETTER?

What's my pace for these 4 miles? 9:50, with an average HR of 152...after 72 miles on the bike?

Really?

I'm going to do this. I really am going to do this. Arent' I?

Things I thought on the drive home:

I had fun.

Did I just think that out loud?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

overheard on the street

*spin, spin, spin, spin*

*smug grinning*

What?

Hee hee.

What are you laughing at?

You.

Why? I'm just out for a nice 90 minute ride...what's the problem?

No problem. It's just that in all of your worrying and moaning and complaining, you've....well....nothing.

Nothing? You can't have all this attitude and then tell me it's nothing.

Fine. It's that you've actually gotten quite good at me.

I'm still not very fast.

Dammit--when are you going to stop equating GOOD with fast?

What do you mean? How can you NOT?!

I mean, THINK about what you're doing right now. Think about what you've done the past 3 weeks. On each and every Saturday, you've rode me for 100 miles, and then went about your way. You even RAN afterwards. Remember when you did Pedal to the Point in 2003, and 75 miles made you turn in your Cedar Point ticket and lay in the hotel watching the Anna Nicole Smith True Hollywood Story on E?

Ugh. Sadly, I do. Can we not mention that ever again?

Fine. But just promise me you'll remember.

Remember what? Anna Nicole Smith?

NO!! Remember what you are DOING. When you are freaking out in the days leading up to IM. You will remember what you've done to get there. You will remember that no matter what happens on that day, you will deal with it and you will be OK.

Yeah....you're still not my favorite, though.

Well, you're just going to have to pretend that I am. That's how you'll do this. Stop this "I hate you" mentality and think of why you just heart me.

*silence*

Well? Don't you know why you love me?

......no.

Look--look at your legs.

I see a lot of scars on my knees from falling off you.

Okay, Miss Pessimist. How about looking at the good part of your legs?

What good part?

They look....GOOD. They are more toned and stronger than they ever were.

Well...yeah, I guess. Maybe.

Not Desiree Ficker good or anything. But good nonetheless.

Thanks....I think...?

The bottom line is, I'm not as bad as you think I am. And YOU are not giving yourself enough credit.

Yeah, yeah. I think I really have learned that.

So, we cool?

*sigh* Yeah, we cool.

You're still looking forward to your 2 hour run Sunday more than the 5 hour ride Saturday with me, aren't you?

Of course.

Okay, okay. I guess I can live with that.

I'm just keepin' it real.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A little more thinkin'.

So I'm doing what TriEric said, and thinking of all the reasons why I got into this stuff and what I'll do afterwards--like go to the Chicago Marathon to see my buddy Jacks do her first marathon--and quite a few bloggers up there, too! I found this little rumination from back in January.

It was just before the entry where I couldn't figure out why I felt so rotten, so I did a few more runs and swims thinking it would make me feel better and then basically collapsed with bronchial pneumonia for 2 weeks.

Now that I read those entries, they are kind of funny. I just wanna slap myself and say, "STOP WORKING OUT, YOU NUTCASE! YOU HAVE PNEUMONIA!!!"

Ahhhh, good times.

Anyway, I thought I'd repost this one. I don't know why it hit me today, but I just got a lot done in my classroom and am ready to read a nice Triathlete magazine and book outside, as it's gorgeous and not a cloud is in the sky.

Sometime's it's good to be reminded why we do these things. Here is such a reminder, from January 13, 2006.

__________________________________

Okay, one of my first posts ever was a little rant called, "Why am I doing this, anyway?" in which I pretty much walked through my past to see what it is in me that makes me want to conquer IM MOO. Well, this has been a challenging 2006 so far and my training has really been my grounding force. I actually started writing this around Christmastime, when I was so moved and upset after seeing a news story. I thought maybe I'd try to explain why I was doing this to someone in the future. As my writing developed, that someone became the daughter I might have someday. OK--Big IF, I know...but for some reason it just fit. I'll have to do a son version, too, just in case. And if all else fails, my little niece is already here and can read it eventually.

So this is long. Really long. I added links in the letter for this blog only. The real deal is printed out and now in an envelope in my dresser drawer. For some strange reason, writing this made me feel like I was understanding myself and my desire to do this thing even more.

Wil got me so pumped up last night with her post that I thought I'd share this one.

Here goes.

To the daughter I might have someday…

I know you’ll never know me when I was 28. I often wondered if I could have talked to my mother at my age (or at least had a rational conversation with her, since she had me at 26), what would it be like? Would I see a lot of myself in her? I think the answer is yes for me. I don’t know what it is for you, but for now I’ve pretended that you were 28 and I’ve told you what’s on my mind now. Right this second. Here goes.

I’m currently embarking on a long journey to see what I’m made of. This thing called Ironman has sort of dominated my life since I began to contemplate it last year. I decided, at the urging of a few buddies and at the gnawing of a little voice inside of me that just wouldn't shut up, to throw my hat into the ring last September 12. I remember sitting in my classroom, staring at the computer screen. Reading the long waiver. “Blah blah blah....possible death...no refunds...Are you SURE you know what you are getting into?” the waiver read. I thought long and hard.

Are we ever really SURE what we are getting into in life?

I don’t think so. But I knew in my heart that I could do this.

So I pointed and clicked—and it was done. The single scariest mouse-click I’d ever made in my entire life. My hands were shaking. I had a huge goofy grin on my face. I ran to my friend’s room next door to tell her the news….

“I’m in!!!”

Since then, lots of my friends and family members have asked me, “WHY?” They can’t imagine why anyone would ever put their body, their mind, their personal life, or their sleep schedule through the grueling training that is necessary to complete an Ironman. I’ve found myself asking that often, too.
Why did I do this?

I think the answer is actually partly answered by you.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the stories of my Ironman I did this year, and how much love, patience, and support your father provided me to help me accomplish my goal. I’d like to think that as you grow up, you’d see me continue to set my goals high, whether it be with racing, career, or life. High enough so that they are almost out of reach. High enough that I have to stand on my tiptoes to even touch them. I’d like to think that it shapes who you are and your image of what you can be, as it was inspiring for me to see my mother, a self-proclaimed “non-athlete” take up running 5Ks at age 53. She’s amazing for it, and it’s really helped me understand where I get my drive and persistence.

You’re probably also used to my little history lessons and political rants at the breakfast table or in the car. I probably argue with the TV and constantly throw my opinion in there…especially when the topic is one of two things: foreign affairs and education. I probably am saying that I could do it better—half joking, and half serious. You probably roll your eyes every time I relate something in the news to something or someone from the past. But that’s who I am, too. I definitely got that from my mother! I can’t wait to see what your passions are and to support you in whatever you choose to do with your life. I went into teaching to show my students that individual people have the power to change the world and write history, and I want you to experience that power, too.

I read this news story on Christmas Day (of all things), about an “honor killing” in Pakistan. This was 2005. This happened TODAY. Aside from this little blip on my computer screen, I didn’t hear anything else about it. No one at school was outraged when I got back in January. No one on the news mentioned more than this.

Another story told of a beheading of a teacher in Afghanistan by Taliban rebels. Can you guess why they invaded his home and beheaded him?

Because he taught both boys and girls in his classroom.

It really got me thinking how lucky I am to live in a country where I do have equal rights, and how enraged I am that it’s 2006 and there are far too many countries where women and girls do not have equal rights. How long will it take? Honestly, it seems like such a clich├ęd question. But I’m serious—will it be gone when you’re 28?

Then I also got to thinking—this country is not immune to discrimination based upon gender. And really, when you think about it, it hasn’t been that long since it’s been legally dismantled. 1920, as far as history is concerned, is (in a historical perspective) about 5 minutes ago. I can tell you, at 28, that even I have experienced gender discrimination. It’s so ingrained in our culture that sometimes I think we don’t even realize it. Good girls don’t say this or that. Good girls don’t have muscles and don’t sweat. Sometimes I think we make excuses for it. I wonder--will this be gone by the time you’re 28?

As a student of history, I have learned about so many great leaders that have tried to rid the world of various kinds of discrimination, and I’ve learned that change can be excruciatingly slow. But, nonetheless, change happens. I think about the opportunities I have to work where I work, live where I live, say what I want, and physically do what I can. I’m so lucky. I’m so blessed to be able to do these things. I have more opportunities than women did even just a generation ago.

But the more I study history and even the more I listen to the news, I realize that my opportunities are not shared globally. In fact, sometimes I feel as if I am in the minority.

To me, that’s why I do these crazy things like run marathons and do an Ironman. It’s the same reason I vote.

Because I can.

Quite simply, that’s reason enough. There doesn’t need to be any other reason besides that. Why can I do this? Why do I do this—put my body and mind through vigorous tests, both physically and emotionally? I owe it to you. I owe it to myself.

I owe it to her


and her.



I owe it to her


and her.


I wouldn’t be able to do it without her



or without her.


For me, I see how hard these women fought and the sacrifices that were made so that I could do this if I wanted to. So that I could play this if I wanted to. So I could run this if I wanted to.

I do it to celebrate choice. Free will. Things women weren’t always able to have: even in this country. Things too many women today do not have.

I want you to see that. I want you to celebrate this too, whatever your choices may be...and wherever your free will takes you. For I truly believe the saying: “Women who are well-behaved rarely make history.”

So I guess that’s why I did it. I hope it makes sense.

And I can’t wait to meet you.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

One for me...and one for my homeeeeeyz.

So I've been feeling a bit burned out on the bike lately...perhaps because the last 3 Saturdays I've averaged 100 miles each day on the bike?

I would venture a guess that's why.

Anyhoo, I asked TriEric 2 weeks ago at the start of a 106 mile ride if he ever felt burned out a bit at this point in his IMUSA training. He suggested to me to think about what I'll do next, think about how much fun I'll have with Wil, SLS, and my blogger friends, and think about why I got into this stuff in the first place.

You know. Basically, think of anything except my butt sitting on a bike seat for the next 6 1/2 hours.

So yesterday, Matt and I enjoyed the Feast in Little Italy. Today, I went into school.

Yes, school.

Remember when I said the next time I'd be back I'd be in taper? Well, I wasn't kiddin'.

I was the only one in my hallway today. We start a week from tomorrow. It was pretty quiet when I unlocked my door and heard the familiar "click" of the doorknob sticking a little. And I went in, and it looked just as I left it. Only much shinier and cleaner.

You know what? It felt good to walk in.

Now, I'm not sayin' I love my job every day. There are days when I am very frustrated. But as I got my room ready, hung up my "beginning of the year posters" (I rotate them based upon topic) of Thomas Jefferson quotes and some Newsweek Interactive Posters my awesome college professor Doc hooks me up with, put the new pictures of my classes up from last year (I take class pictures every year), and hung up a drawing a student sketched one day of Queen Elizabeth, I really just felt the good of my job. And that was good.

Then I headed home to get my workout in. I did a ride and kept it in Zone 1-2.

Zone 1, for the record, feels like walking.

And sleeping. Sleepwalking.

But Coach says that is how it should feel. And I think it was just what I needed. I didn't feel like smacking my bike after it was done, which, I'm not gonna lie, is kind of how I felt on Saturday.

So I'm mixing it up. Trying to get out of the little rut of craziness I was in, and trying to think about other things besides IM.

I then checked the mail and got the best surprise: a card from my good buddy Jaclyn. She apparantly read my post about making it to taper, and sent the nicest little card with the nicest things in it! She did that once before and she has no idea how much I appreciate it. I am so proud of her as she's training for her first marathon in Chicago, and I bought my ticket already to go see her! I want to run with her for a bit and keep her company. Jacks is one of those people you kind of want to hate: freaking gorgeous, talented, smart, funny, etc. etc. But you just can't hate her, because she is one of the coolest people in the whole world. :) She's a great friend and I can't wait to see her on my way to Madison, and then again as she kicks BUTT in Chicago!

I also last night got to catch up with my girl TriShannon--lives in Denver, who did the very first sprint tri ever with me almost 5 years ago to the day. She did a half-Iron 2 years ago (?) and then had a ROTTEN injury that sidelined her for a while. This girl has more grit and determination than ANYONE I've ever met in my life. She makes me look like the biggest "oops-I-broke-a-nail" sissy. She has wanted to do an IM for pretty much as long as I've known her. She told me before she'd sign up for IMMOO 2007 if this race went well. Her last HIM didn't go as well for her, as she had to walk most of the half marathon. I really wanted her to do well.

You know what she did? PR'd by FIFTY MINUTES and finished in 6:16.

6:16!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so proud of her. Looks like someone's heading to Madison next year!

So then I got to thinking about my girls. My girls ROCK.

My girls all live so far away.

It makes me sad. See, when I was in high school, I had a couple of REALLY close girl friends who rock, but most of my friends were guys.

Why? High school girls can be very catty, mean, and just not very fun to be around.

High school boys make fart jokes.

Who would you rather hang with?

But in college, my friends were my girls. These girls were amazing. They still are amazing. We would lay down in traffic for each other. We would throw blueberry tarts at each other's head. We would jump in a bush after running full speed down the slantwalk and tear our jeans. We would throw coffee tables off our front porch. But I digress.

For the most part, my girls live very far away. Denver. Chicago. Cincinnati. Columbus. Indianapolis. St. Louis. It's hard to stay really close, but I think we've done a damn good job.

So I really am excited that some of my girls are going to make the trek to Madison--to spend time with each other, and as much with me as possible, given I'll be doing the race pretty much all day. It makes me so happy to know they are going to be there, probably cracking jokes while I'm doing my best not to crack....but knowing they are there will make me think of all the stupid jokes we have from those years. And I'll be scouting the course out for TriShannon, so she can continue to kick ass and take names there next year.

So here are my girls that will be there, since they are as much a part of this as I am:



Hedda, Sammy (who can't come anymore but will be there in spirit), me, Lush, Cerveza, Po, and Jacks who is making a funny face so let's find another one....

Here's a good one!

Sam, Po, Jacks, and me Posted by Picasa

Even if something falls through and they can't make the trek, just the thought of them even trying to make it up there means so much. Thanks, Nutters.

Luf,
Arx. :)

Monday, August 14, 2006


Here is said cannoli and cavatelli. You know you are jealous. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Taper Time

It felt like this day would never get here.

But I should back up.

Friday, I had a 4,000 yard swim. I was still tired from Thursday night's 2 hour ride, but I was pleased with my results. I'm consistent in my time at that distance, so that's good. And, I felt like I could have a) kept going and b) gone harder. So I feel like I've established my race pace and I feel comfortable with it.

Saturday, I had my last insanely long brick. A 6:30 ride on hills and an hour run off the bike. Let me tell you, I still just don't sleep well the night before these rides.

Which means I've had about 8 weeks of sleepless Friday nights.

I am sooooo ready to actually sleep more than 5-6 hours on a Friday night.

I don't know why, really....I'm just thinking about everything I need to do, and I have to admit, I dread these rides. I am just not a cyclist at heart. It sure makes IM easier if you are, but it's just not me. I'd rather swim laps for hours on end or run. That's just the truth.

So I was very much looking forward to this ride--because when it was over, I knew I wouldn't have to do it again until race day.

Last week's ride was SO good. I felt great, we cruised along, and I felt like I got a lot stronger on hills this year.

But this week, I just wasn't feelin' it.

I dunno. I just couldn't recreate last week's feelings. So from hours 2-4 I really just didn't feel well. I don't know what it was--probably that I was tired, probably fuel and hydration, probably some of it was mental. But for the first time in a long while, I felt so weak that I didn't know if I could finish it. My legs burned, my stomach didn't feel good, and I just felt WEAK.

Hours 4-6 were better--still not great, but better. I got through it and arrived at my car at 6:11. I decided that, given the day, that was going to be good enough.

The funny thing? My pace, despite feeling like poo, was STILL significantly faster for those 90-some miles than it was the first time I road the hilly GCT course of 56 miles.

So even on a bad day, I guess that means I made progress.

Then I ran--and let me tell you, it rocked. I was holding a great pace for me after riding 90-odd miles, and finished 6 miles in just under an hour. I felt great, and negative split the thing.

So last long brick: check.

Today, I had to do my last long run on hills. I was NOT looking forward to this either, as I am just exhausted. There's no other way to put it.

Yawning-27-times-on-the-way-home-from-a -wedding-last-night-and-then-drooling-on-my-pillow-exhausted.

I could barely wake up this morning to go. But--knowing it was the last one helped with that.

We did the Hinckley Hills again--a tough, hilly 10 mile loop that never seems to let up. It's great training, though. If you can run at Hinckley, you can pretty much run anywhere.

So it was slow, but it was steady. And that was good.

Around mile 7, there's this killer hill that never seems to end: we call it Harter Hill, after the street name. Iron Johnny and I were running and were almost there when I looked up.

Hinckley is also famous for their buzzards. As in, HUGE birds that eat dead stuff.

There were (according to my count--could have been more) 17 HUGE buzzards swirling over Harter Hill.

Now, I'm sure there was something dead there.

BUT--it made me briefly think of the great Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the guys goes through town yelling, "BRING OUT YER DEAD!" And the old guy who's getting thrown on the cart says, "I'm not dead yet!"

I yelled to the buzzards that I wasn't dead and to go away. They still circled me as I huffed and puffed up Harter Hill, but I think they got the point.

And before I knew it, 14 miles of hills were done.

And now it's taper time.

It's been 37 weeks of this training. I can't believe that--for the past 37 weeks I've been working out somewhere between 7 and 18 hours a week consistently.

I will NEVER complain about not having enough hours in my day again....that's for sure.

One thing that's funny about these long weekends I've been doing the past 3 weekends: the picnic area stares. When I arrive at the parking lota t 6:30ish-am on a Saturday, there is usually someone sitting in the picnic area, reading the paper, reserving the first-come-first-serve pavilion. They smile and nod, and maybe we exchange a few friendly words.

And then 8 hours later I come back. Still not done. Still having to run.

And the parties have been wrapping up. People are saying their goodbyes and taking down streamers.

I usually get some really strange looks from the ones that were there at 6:30am. Sometimes they ask, and sometimes I think they think I'm lying when I tell them what I've been doing.

I missed the WHOLE party.

It made me think a bit of how much I've had to give up in the past 37 weeks. When you sign up for Ironman, I think unless you've done one, you have rose-colored glasses on a bit--you picture the NBC coverage of the finish line and that's about it. No one told me when I signed up for Ironman about this part.

The fatigue. The drained feelings. Feeling like you have to give things up for a while--things you like. Food. Sleeping in. Meeting your friends for beers for happy hour. Reading a good book without falling asleep on page 2 because you're so unbelievably tired. From time to time, really resenting that you have to give these things up, or sometimes having people resent you for giving them up.

But as I look forward for the last few weeks here, I can also reflect on how much I've gained.

I have a whole new appreciation for time. When you don't have any, you learn to really treasure the minutes you have. You learn you can't waste them worrying about things beyond your control.

Ironman has a certain way of putting everything--EVERYTHING--in perspective.

For me, that's been the best part of it, and it's well-worth the burning legs, the heavy eyes, and even missing the whole party sometimes.

Because I know that I have grown so much in these 37 weeks. I am more sure of myself, and in every step I take.

September 10th will undoubtedly test this, but even if the buzzards fly over me, I know I'll fend them off.

It's been a long journey, and I'm not quite done.

But I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"I Can Only Imagine"

Thanks to Eric for sharing this--he got it from John who got it from Chris....

If you don't know about Team Hoyt, you sure will after you see this.

Get your kleenax.



Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How Far I've Come

"Don't run the second :30 minute run today. Scratch that. Given what's going on, just do the 2:30. And if the 2:30 is not in the cards, just do 2. Your heart rate might be elevated due to the stress you're dealing with. If you notice your heart rate is high, I'd rather have you do 2 and call it a day. It's not worth it at this point in the game. Your running is one of your stronger points and you'll be fine. Listen to your body."

These were the words of my coach today on the drive back from PA. The words following a 2 day break from workouts. The words following 2 consecutive 4 hour nights of sleep--not very good sleep, either. The kind of sleep where you wake up and your mind is racing. Where your head is so heavy because you've cried a lot. I did my 4600 yard swim and 106 mile ride/3 mile run on this sleep, and I just knew last Sunday that doing a 3 hour run was not a good idea given my circumstances.

My coach agreed. So today, 2 days later, she sent me out on a cautious run. I felt ready. I needed this.

Running is what I do to relieve stress. Running makes me feel better. Always.

But today, it wasn't working.

Today, my heart rate, just like she said, was up. High. REALLY high. I kept slowing down, and it would barely dip into Zone 2. And then shoot up again.

I ran the first hour frustrated, thinking about things, and running with that lump in your throat that you feel when you're about to lose it. I realized that this is not the way to attempt a long run.

So I turned around. She said I could, right? I sucked down an Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gel, and I started to think about how I could turn things around.

See, this is my last hard week. That's what my coach said on my plan, and I knew that before she even said it. This is it, folks. I just have to make it through this week and then I'm in taper.

Taper.

I can barely believe it even when I see it on the screen.

So I started to think about the stuff I've been dealing with in the past 2 weeks. The stuff keeping me up at night, and making me cry more than I have in a long time. And I'm not much of a cryer, either. Just when I'm going up that damn hill on the Greater Cleveland Tri Course at Mile 10....I'll admit, on rare occasions on that hill I've let a few squirt out. Alright? It happens.

I have a lot that is draining me, physically, mentally, and emotionally this month. I am tired. I am scared of a few things I will find out soon. I am dealing with some work stuff and some emotional stuff on top of this. I have a presentation on Friday.

The training, quite frankly, is the least of my worries.

So as I was running, for the first hour, I just kept feeling this overwhelmed sense that things were out of control. Why this week? I muttered in my head. Why does this all have to come to a head now?

So I turned around at an hour, and I thought, OK. This has got to change. I can't go through this week like this. How can I change how I'm dealing with all this stuff that's hitting me now?

And I think I got it. Finally.

When people ask me when I started training, I usually say the answer in my journal: December 1, 2005. That's when I started my official training for this thing that is now 4 weeks away.

But that's not really true.

As I ran back to my house today, I realized that the training started long before that.

I started my training sometime in June of 1980, when I took my first swim lesson.

Sometime in the summer of 1982, when I was riding my bike in the Cahoon Soccer Fields, and I looked behind me to see my Dad about 300 feet behind me. He took his hand off the seat. I was riding alone, and I can still remember how blue the sky was that day and how I screamed with fear and delight and shock.

It began in June of 1985, at my first swim meet.

It began in 1998, when I signed up for my first 5K. In 2002, when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.

I've been training for a LONG time.

So now, it's August 8, 2006. I've got a rough week ahead, in many aspects of my life. BUT--when I think about how long I've been training, I'm reminded that I've been through MUCH worse weeks than this. I can remember moments in time when things happened that shook me to my core between 1980 and now.

June, 1986.

October, 1998 and April, 1999.

August, 2001.

September 11, 2001.

September 12, 2001.

These are just a few that I can think of now. There are more. I could explain them, but I won't. Just trust me--they were trying days. All of them more complicated and hard then this week.

And then, after I realized that, I thought of my favorite Bible verse, which also happens to be one of my favorite quotes--it just played through my head:

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."--Psalm 139: 13-15

I remembered that I signed up to do some volunteering for my church this week--that I will have some good time with my Mom tomorrow--that I just had a wonderful weekend celebrating my 2nd anniversary with my husband. These things will get me through anything else that I might have thrown at me this week.

I remembered that my friends helped get me through my longest ride ever this weekend. That I got to spend some good time with one of my best friends Saturday night.

I remembered the sense of acceptance and amazement I finally have with my body--not because of how it looks, but because of what it is doing. And it made me realize that I will bounce back from this.

And I negative split my run, running the last 2 miles at about an 8:15 pace. It felt great. I finally felt better.

So when all was said and done, I ran 12 miles today--not the 15 like I had hoped. But I got a lot accomplished by cutting my run short. And I will deal with things as they come this week, and get through it.

Because, when I think about it, I've been training for a very long time.

And I've overcome a LOT more than this week in my training.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"You ain't cool...."

"unless you pee your pants." --Billy Madison

"If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis." --little old lady at the field trip in Billy Madison

I am so excited I could almost pee my pants. But I won't. And despite what everyone's telling me, I just can't bring myself to do that on the bike. I know, all you speed demons...getting off the bike to pee during IM doesn't "make sense," as it's harder to get back on and get in a rhythm, your legs hurt, whatever....all the IM people are doing it....real IM'ers pee on the bike....but ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Must I really DO THAT????

I just can't wrap my head around that one.

Anyway, the reason I am so excited is because of yesterday's ride. I would say about 80% of or ride was on hills--many of the same hills I slugged through last weekend at Sweet Corn Ride. Here are the stats:

Total Ride Time: 7:01.25
Total Distance: 106.39
Avg Pace: 15.5 mph

Because my computer screwed up again (my fault--I pressed buttons before reading the manual, and now it's in a different language or something!), I had no idea of my pace, speed, or distance. So I waited until we were done, and THAT'S what it was.

Now, for all you fast dudes and chicks out there, I have to explain: my initial goal I set a few months back was to come in under 8 hours on the bike.

The pace I just did at the HR I just did it at with no taper or anything would have me at somewhere around a 7:15.

This is really really really exciting to me. I've actually (gasp) made some significant progress.

Now, there are lots of factors: weather, wind, flats, etc. So--I am NOT going to get ahead of myself here. BUT--what this has done is showed me that I'm better than I thought I was. I felt so good on this ride. I will definitely have to file this one away and pull it out when things get tough on race day. I felt like I could ride forever. Those who were with me on the hilly rides I did back in May and June will attest to the fact that I have come a LONG way--both physically and mentally--on a hilly ride.

That's pretty exciting.

I know I couldn't have done it without some great friends to help me out: TriEric the IM King rode with us for the first hour or so, and taught me the wonders of using my watch timer to beep every 10 minutes. Then I 'd know to eat or drink.

As the Guinness Guys say, "BRILLIANT!" :) Thanks, Eric! And thanks for riding with us.

TriAl and Cassie met up with us randomly--we passed each other just when Iron Johnny and I hit about hour 4:30-which for me is when things get really tough. I was so out of it I didn't even know until they passed! They came back for us and even did some extra climbs just to ride with us for a while. That was awesome--we had fun riding and let's just say TriAl had a funny incident with some Chamois BUTT'R.....

Good friends, good weather, good nutrition--everything just clicked today and my good friend Iron Johnny and I rocked the course. Then, we had a GREAT 3 mile run afterwards at about 10:00/mile pace. We were both surprised how good we felt! It really didn't feel too hard. Again, I am filing this away for the 10th....I have to remember how good I felt on this ride and on yesterday's swim, and draw on that.

So it's been a rough few weeks here....moving my long run to Tuesday with my coach since it's been a little draining this weekend. Off to celebrate our anniversary! :) Must get packin'.

I am soooo behind on comments but thanks for all the encouragement. Hope everyone had a great weekend and the Steelhead Racers kicked some butt! Habeela, E-Speed, Rob, and everyone else racing this weekend--can't wait to hear the reports!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sweet.

Well, I had quite an emotionally draining day...what a difference 12 hours makes....it's all good though. Sort of.

BUT--the best part about today?

4,600 yards.

1:23:49.

That would be an average pace 1:49/100 yards.

That would make the TriSaraTops very happy.

Longest swim ever. Mostly at an easy pace with some pickups in the middle and ending on a race pace 1000.

SO. EXCITED.

Tomorrow's a 7 hour ride....and if you'll excuse me, I must go fill my bottles.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

a strange sense of calm

Well, here goes....

There won't be much time for blogging or commenting this week--so it's not because I'm ignoring, but it's because I can't.

I made it through last week. I will make it through this week. The fact that the heat index is at a record-high is a good thing. When I thought about it, I realized I rode the Wisconsin course in high heat, completed a half-iron in record heat, and this weekend did a long run, a century, and a run-off in high heat. Today I will do a 2:30 bike in high heat. Tomorrow I will do hill repeats in high heat.

The heat isn't scaring me as much.

After the past month, the hills aren't either.

It's not fun. I'm not the best by far. But I can do it, and I am doing it. And I will do it again this week.

So I am ready for September 10th, 2006 to be over 90 degrees with high humidity. I have planned for it to be that way and I am assuming it will. And if it's not, then I will be pleasantly surprised.

My bike is fixed up, I have a new bike computer, and my HR monitor should be ready to go here soon.

This week's plan is longer than the 17 hours I put in last week. But I just feel sort of calm and relaxed about it. It just has to be done, and it will.

This Friday-Sunday looks similar to last week, except everything will be just a little bit longer. Swim: 4500 yards. Long run: around 18 miles. Bike: At least 100--maybe a little bit more depending on how I feel and what I get done in the time. It will be done on hills. It will be done without crowds, or much traffic--but this time with a friend and fellow IM MOO'er, IronJohnny, and not alone, which will be nice. It will be done without running out of fluids.

I don't know if it will be done without bike trouble. It should be, but if it's not, I'm ready.

I can't believe how good I felt on the run after the century. That helped me mentally a lot.

So, I've put off my long ride today long enough. It's now 4:15pm and I really need to get out there. I think it's hot enough, but not too hot that I can't do it.

So I will.