Thursday, January 31, 2008


(Quick note: my spell checker is down, and I can't figure out how to make it work. So "bare" :) with me and my awful spelling. Thanks. Oh yeah, and the font stuff is doing some quirky stuff. Sigh. I wish I knew my way around computers!)

Last night I went to a spouse FAM-O (essentially a Question and Answer session, along with an information-filled presentation) for Nathaniel's helicopter squadron. I didn't really know what to expect, but was told it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the helo squadron, more about what Nathaniel does, and possibly what to expect in the future.

Sounded good - so I did some fanangaling with my schedule, and by 4:15 pm was bumping along the road for my :45 minute drive out to Whiting Filed.

As the spouse of someone who has been in the Marine Corps for 5+ years, Nathaniel and I have been through a lot together. Deployments - there have been two, Afghanistan and Iraq - stress, moves (he's lived in Virginia, California, North Carolina, and now Florida. I've visited VA and CA, but have spent a lot of time in NC and now FL), job changes, life changes, meeting new friends, saying good by to old friends, and seemingly everything in between.

Additionally, I've had some great experiences and some not-so-great experiences with other spouses. After a few years, I feel that I've adopted a pretty healthy persepctive on Nate's job. Let's face it: I need to in order to survive in this system. Nathaniel is the one who wears the rank: not me. I've been bullied by other spouses to "volunteer" for jobs to help out - which I flatly refused to do. But I've also met some tremendous women, strong and courageous in their own right, who have really helped me, and inspired me. Even though I don't see these women as much as I would like, their friendships have remained true and strong.

At this point, I am confident that Nathaniel's carreer doesen't hinge on my ability to bake cookies (thankfully!). If I want to volunteer, to be involved, I can. But if I'm busy or have a lot on my plate, then there's no need to worry. This might change in the future, if he stays in and increases in rank (he's currently a Marine Captain). From what I've read and discussed with spouses who have been around for a lot longer that me, this is a newer trend. Sure, there are still relics of the old system, but by and large modern spouses that I've had the pleasure of meeting are (more often than not) pretty much down-to-earth.

When Nathaniel checked into his helicopter squadron, we were both made to feel immediately welcome. We are sent frequent updates, both via newsletter and email, and while Nathaniel spends 10-12 hours at the squadron daily, I still appreciate being informed of what's going on (he doesen't always relay the message. "Lost in translation!").

When the opportunity to attend FAM-O came up, I knew that I wanted to go.

Even though Nathaniel and I have been down in Pensacola for 18 months or so, this was the first spouse meeting that I've attended. Yes, I realize that Nathaniel is in a training command, which differs from a regular squadron. However, I feel that familes, spouses and loved ones would be much better served, if the MTSIG and VT squadrons took a more active role in letting everyone know what was going on, what to expect. (Nate had to go through 2 squadrons and 3 different flight programs to get to where he is today - in a helicopter squadron, FYI). A family meeting, any sort of informational meeting, would have been greatly appreciate by THIS spouse. Even though I've been a Marine wife for 5+ years, I can always learn something new. (Flight school is just as new for ME as it is for my husband.)

At a fleet squadron, the purpose is mission-readiness. At a training squadron, the atmosphere is that of a teaching command. In the fleet, its been our experience that the squadron is "tighter" - military personel and their families are all on the same page. The purpose is to prepare for deployment, deploy, and then return. Everything in between is done to help the Marines an their familes.

At the training squadron, it's different. There's no threat of an impending deployment. Additionally, Nathaniel has no Marines under his command. His sole job is to study his aircraft and learn to fly. Still stressful, but a different kind of pressure than in the fleet. As a result, it's been our experience (again), that the squadrons aren't as tight. Students are on their own plan, their own schedules. There's no pressure to be "mission ready" and have the Marines "mission ready." Instead, Nathaniel and his counterparts need to be ready for every flight.

Flight school has been difficult for both Nate and myself. I hate to say this, but its almost easier when he's deployed. Yes, I still worry about his saftey when he's gone (all the time), but I don't see the stress that he's under, aren't exposed to what he goes through. In my mind, he's gone for 7 months "doing his thing." This allows me, in turn, to form my own schedule. Yes - it's really hard and it sucks - but gradually you get into your groove. You figure things out. You make your own schedule and time eventually ticks by.

Flight school is different: I see Nathaniel sometimes, but he spends almost all of his time studying. His day is spent at the squdron, and at night he studies - yet he constantly checks the next day's schedule to see what time his pre-flight brief is (it changes daily) We're like ships passing in the night. We sleep in the same bed, but he gets up at 3:30 or 4 am, leaves the house by 4:30 or 5, and doesn't come home until 4 or 5 pm. And then he studies until 8 or 9... and then falls asleep. It's very hard being so close to someone you love, and them under so much stress. He's adapted to the workload brilliantly, but I still struggle with missing my husband (except on Saturday - our day).

Typical Nathaniel - he just shakes his head, smiles, and returns to his studies in his ugly green recliner.

I wish that 18 months ago - when we first arrived in Pensacola, that the squdrons (The MTSIG and VT squadrons) had held an informational meeting for flight students AND their spouses/families. There are so many new things to learn, so much that is different and unexpected: it would have made the past 18 months a little easier had I known ahead of time what I've had to learn (painfully at times) during this 18-month tenure.

Just simple stuff: why is my spouse studying for 15 hours a day? Where will we be 6 months from now? How can we better communicate? How can we support EACH OTHER? What kind of resources are available to me, to us, to him? Can you give us an idea of what to expect? Do other people feel the same way? What is your advice on how to cope during this time?.... and things along those lines.

Last night was great. I was SO GRATEFUL to the helo squadron CO, the XO (oops - the company commander, the executive officer), and several of the IP (instructor pilots) who showed up to help out, answer questions. Additionally, there were several IP spouses who served as a link between the squadron and the student spouses (they basically pass along information and answer questions), and a woman from the Counseling Center on hand to answer our questions.

Even though there was lots of great information that they provided, the CO made one comment that stuck with me:

"Every day your spouse (Nathaniel) gets in that helicopter, every day he comes to the squdron, he's taking a pass/fail test. Every flight he takes is a test. It's pass/ fail, but its still a test. He is tested every day. And where they end up is largely based on how they perform on a daily basis. Every day is a test."



That doesen't sound like fun.

It sounds stressful. It sounds scary. And that explains a lot of Nathaniel's behavior these past 18 months.

Rationally, I know that he's tested every day. That every flight is a test. But it was really great hearing it from other people. To see other spouses and realize that we're all going through this together. It's nice to see the IP spouses, and realize that many of them have been in our shoes. AND, its nice to know that the counseling center is always available, always on hand to support us should we need it.

I wish I had known this 18 months ago...learned a little more of what to expect.

There was so much information given out at the meeting - and I was grafetful. Yes, I had learned a lot during these past 18 months through trial and error, but I really appreciated the effort that Nathaniel's helicopter squadron took to make sure the families and spouses were informed. I wish the other squadrons that he was in before we hit the helicopter squadron, would have made this available. It didn't take a lot of effort, but it left me feeling so much better about where Nathaniel is and what he's doing.

And I know that folks at the helicopter squadron care about the families.

I don't know how I would be if every day I was given a pass/fail test. Probably under a lot more stress than I am now. Sure, I do my workouts, write, do my own thing: but nothing like what Nathaniel is doing. Hearing the CO discuss a daily test really help me to put things into persective. Not only does it help me to understand a little more of what Nate is going through, but I can alter my behavior to help him out. For the most part, I feel I'm pretty good in this department - going over flashcards, taking care of dinner and stuff around the house - but I can always learn.

And when it comes down to it, that's what life is about. Trial and error. And learning.

I can't reiterate enough how grateful I am to Nathaniel's helicopter squadron for putting on the FAM-O. For the past 18 months, I've been nervous about the flight program, unsure of what we got ourselves into. It wasn't a "family friendly" envoronment, and both Nate and I suffered as a result. I didn't feel that families were given the support they needed, and a lot of the painful lessons I learned/endured could have been averted with a little more information and support on the part of the previous squadrons.

So far, I'm liking the helicopter community. I'm learning new stuff, and discovering that other spouses feel the same way. And in the end, its a lot easier when you know others are going through the same thing as you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Armchair Wars Part 2

Once upon a time, there was a boy who studied very hard. He sat in his favorite green recliner, surrounded by books, and spent hours upon hours reading and preparing to become a helicopter pilot.

He loved this recliner SO much. He would nap in it. He would listen to the radio in it. He would watch movies in it. He even took pictures from it, when he thought no one was looking (but they were).

He was so attached to the recliner. He read in it, not only his study material, but his regular books as well. He listened to music in it. He even ate his meals (from time to time) in it. The green recliner and the boy were the best of friends, and spent a lot of time together.

But there was someone else who loved the recliner...

Someone who didn't have a sense of humor. And who didn't like to share.

One Sunday, the boy was studying very hard for his helicopter flight the next day. He had brewed himself a pot of coffee, ate his breakfast (in the green recliner), and studied very hard all morning. Finally, he got up from the green recliner. He needed to stretch his limbs, to use the bathroom, to take a break.

But he was being watched. There was another being in the room, intent on claiming the recliner as her own. She waited and waited. And then waited some more. She was patient, and she was determined to get her recliner.

She watched him leave the room, ears perked in case of an early return. When she heard the boy in the bathroom, she sprung into action. Quick as a flash, she jumped onto the recliner, claiming it as her own.

She spread herself out as wide as she could, pretending to be asleep.

The boy returned, only to find a big cat in his chair. Shaking his head, he removed the fearsome creature from the green recliner, and reclaimed his spot. The cat was forced to lay on the ground.

She was mad, but undeterred. She had seen the boy drink a lot of coffee, and knew that it would only be a matter of time before he got up again.

And sure enough, as soon as he got up from the recliner, she waited for the familiar "click" of the bathroom door, and hopped on. She had been explicitly told, "don't even think about it!" by the boy. But she didn't care. And besides, she needed to clean herself.

And the chair helped her to stay upright. It's a tricky process, cleaning oneself. The green chair was paramount to her success. She could sink her sharp claws into the green fabric, and hold herself upright. The chair was instrumental in this job.

The boy soon returned, only to find the cat had taken his chair. The boy looked at the cat. And the cat looked at the boy.

In the past, they had tried to share the green recliner.

But that didn't turn out so well.

This time around, the boy really needed the chair. The chair helped him study. He pretended to fly the helicopter from the chair. "Chair Flying," he called it. The chair gave him strength. The energy from the chair helped him retain memory from the thousands upon thousands of flash cards that he had to memorize.

So, ever so carefully (because he knew the cat had sharp teeth and ready claws), the boy took back the chair.

The cat returned to the ground, and lay down. She got as comfortable as she could, while the boy looked on. They both knew he had won the battle, but the war for the green recliner still raged on.

It would simply be a matter of timing. The cat was patient; she knew the boy would not always be home, be in need of the chair.

So she waited and waited, and waited a little more. When the boy was done studying, he bid her, "good night." Exhausted, they boy fell into his bed and was soon asleep.

And the cat, feeling that victory was finally upon her, jumped up into the recliner, curled up into a little ball, and was soon slumbering blissfully away.

In her very own, ugly green recliner.

The End.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Happiness IS...

Sometimes the simple stuff just makes you smile. Today was one of those days.

I found myself sitting down to write, but instead went to Mary's blog site and discovered a new link to Peter Reid. I was just getting interested in triathlon, learning the basics towards the end of his racing career. I really became aware of him, his story, after viewing "What It Takes". He seems like such and inspiration, such a great guy. And while parts of his story/history make me sad, I felt myself grinning ear-to-ear when I saw his new adventures.

So here's to happiness, Peter Reid, and following your dreams.

Happiness is...

-Seeing other people succeed, and being happy for them.

-Warm cookies, right out of the oven (or just the cookie dough).

-The sound of rain, tapping against the window pane.

-Seeing the love of your life across the room, making eye contact, and feeling your heart skip a beat.

-Knowing that there are others out there who help animals and people in need.

-The first sip of coffee. (And an automatic coffee maker).

-Enjoying a hard workout, and the satisfaction that follows its completion.

-A good book, one that is difficult to put down, and captures your imagination just as much as your heart.

-Looking at yourself in the mirror, and accepting the way you are.

-Warm socks on a cold day.

-Letting someone cut in front of you while driving, and waving instead of giving them a rude gesture.

-New swimming suits.

-Sharing your favorite dessert with that special someone, even though there's only a little left - because you want them to enjoy it just as much as you do.

-Children laughing.

-A comfortable bike seat, one that won't make you shift positions every 5 minutes. One that you can spend 4 hours (on the trainer) on, without chucking your bike over the balcony (me, yesterday - love my new saddle).

-Ibuprofen, tea, hot pad, chocolate for that time of the month.

-Stopping everything that you're doing in order to listen to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto.

-Getting an email from your Mom.

-Watching dry leaves dance across the forest floor.

-New sheets on the bed.

-Celery, Dried Cherries, and Peanut Butter (not in that order).

-Learning something new that you never knew before.

-Shorts that don't ride up when you run.

-An open road, a promise of freedom, the feeling of adventure, light winds, sunny skies, and boundless optimism.

-A red pepper (have always been a fan).

-Watching your husband and your cat battle it out for the ugliest green recliner on the planet. For hours and hours (and hours) on end. He would get up, she would jump on. He would remove said cat. He would get up again. Said cat would jump up (again). Cycle would repeat. And repeat. Over and over again.

-Taking a nap when you're really tired, but knowing that you're tired because you worked your butt off.

-Watching my husband study. Because in doing so, he's fulfilling his dreams.

-Being able to use chopsticks when eating Pad Thai. Or anything from that part of the world. REFRAIN: The ability to use chopsticks and actually get the food from your plate to your mouth.

-Non-profit charities that help others: knowing that there are people all over this world who care.

-Watching you cat sit at the window, entertained for hours on end by the 10 birds, feeding at the bird feeders on the deck.

-Cliff shots during a long bike ride (not another gel!).

-Falling asleep listening to the sound of the ocean (with that special person by your side).

-Public radio shows that remind you of home.

-Seeing Peter Reid flying an airplane, making yet another dream come true.

I never thought I would enjoy flying - as I'm afraid of crashing. But I've listened to Nathaniel so much, discussing how flying, both airplanes and helicopters, is like nothing else. He feels at home up in the sky, loves every part of it. When I saw Peter Reid, grinning in the cockpit of his plane, I thought of Nathaniel and couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

Hurrah for Peter the Pilot! May you always soar.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Numbered Conclusion

Thank you to everyone who left comments after yesterday's "Number Games" blog. It was a heartfelt attempt for me to discuss several one very long blog post. And I truly appreciate all of your comments and support.

I did want to clarify a few things, as I thought more and more about "numbers" today. An added bonus: I'm a full day removed from the events, from the raw emotions and my feelings. Its a lot easier to be objective at this point, don't you think?

For a while now, I've been mulling over the ideas of "What defines us?" and "What makes us who we are?"

There is no easy answer.

Just as there is no single way to decipher, to break down these questions.

Firstly, I know that I am more than just numbers. I am a feeling, thinking, independent, free-spirited human being who tends to march to the beat of her own drum. (Okay - you called my bluff. I don't march. And I'm pretty sure it's not a drum that I'm "marching" along with... hhhmmmm. Will have to get back to you on that one).

Yes, I'm guilty of following numbers, of pondering over the data they produce, trying to figure out what they mean in a specific context.

But I know for a fact that they don't tell the entire story.

Several of you (very helpfully, I might add), pointed out the heart rate is NOT the only indicator of performance. Training with power, being fatigued, illness, stress, previous workouts, nutrition, hormones (guess what time of the month it is for me? TMI, I know. But I had a pleasant surprise after I hopped off the bike. Go figure. You spend 4 hours in the saddle only to discover your period has arrived 5 days early. Surprise!), can ALL impact heart rate, and therefore your data. Which makes following ONLY heart rate seem pretty silly.

Rationally, I know this.

I realize that heart rate is one small piece of the pie. So is the weight on the scale, for that matter.

So then, why specifically did it bother me so much?

Well, for starters, I tend to "catastrophsize" things. Meaning that when one "bad" thing happens (my weight being up by 4 pounds), it makes other seemingly "bad" things (failure to hit a specific heart rate on the bike) seem so much worse.

However, the REALLY REALLY GREAT thing, is THAT I KNOW THIS! I am aware of this aspect of my personality. (That's half the battle: awareness. Because only AFTER being aware, can we start to make change, and move forward)

I recognize that I do this, and I try to remind myself this in the process. It's not always easy, but usually my rational-self will (try to) take over.

I think what I was trying to say is simply that our numbers can be a great training tool, but they can also be our own worst enemy. WE can turn into our OWN WORST ENEMY. Let's face it: it's hard to focus on the good, when all you see is the bad.

That's why yesterday was such a break through for me: even though I didn't hold my assigned numbers, I still had a phenomenal workout, still grew in the process. Even though it bothered me afterwards (when I saw my splits), once I decided to really give-it-a-go during the workout, I was able to focus, to persevere. I was aware of what was going on - was still upset, yes - but didn't give up or stop in the process.

I realize that we define our numbers. Our numbers DO NOT, in any way, shape, or form define us.

Yes, they are indicators of what we're doing at that specific time, but they - in no way - take any of the aforementioned factors into account.

So while I may have not been all that successful in conveying it, I really was happy with my workouts, even though I didn't necessarily "hit" my target zones. Immediately after the workout, while still caught up in the pure emotion of the piece, its pretty difficult to take a step back and assess the good and the bad. I simply saw the data and went from there. It was during my long bike ride today that I really got a chance to think - to wrap my brain around it.

The jury is still out on "What defines me?" and "What makes me who I am?" I know that I love triathlon. I love Nathaniel. I love Tabbitha... Love the rest of my family (not in that order! My friends and family come first, just that this blog IS about, well, triathlon)... I love good books, wonderful friends, soft slippers, rainy days, sushi, coffee, learning new things, traveling, new bathing suits, soft sourdough pretzels, clean sheets, people who are kind to animals, peanut butter, and peanut m&ms. But this is only the tip of the ice berg, what you see on the outside (and a slight, teensy-tiny bit of the inside). I'm still figuring out who I am, still learning about myself.

But that's simply part of life. The journey that we're all on. Heart rate data and other numbers seem so silly, so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But I still use them to help me train, still depend on them to help me reach my goals.

In the end, it's easy to get caught up in numbers. But we have to remember that they are just that: only numbers. They don't define us. They don't dictate what we do, what we wear, and should NOT dictate how we feel. They are merely a training tool, an indicator, something that we use to aid us in our development.

But our numbers don't define who we are. We do that all on our own.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Number Games

I often times find myself pouring over and obsessing about numbers. Today was no exception.

As athletes, specifically multi-sport, multi-tackers, multi-crazy, we tend to compulsively follow our numbers, and even (at times), track the numbers of our counterparts. We live by our heart rate, our power output, how many gels consumed, hours between workouts, interval minutes, times spent in heart rate zones, weekly volume, races per year, hours in the saddle - you get the drift.

And for what?

Well, for one thing, it's simply a part of the sport. It's what we do. We are assigned a workout for X amount of time, to be spent in Y heart rate zone, with our end numbers totaling Z. Or at least that's the goal. It's one of the ways we measure improvement, we track our progress.

Additionally with this information, we can make changes, adjust our schedule.
Bike power needs improvement? Let's spend more time in zone 3 and 4, with rpms steady between 80-90.

Run cadence a little slow? Let's add drills, specifically aiming to hold 20-22 foot strikes per 15 seconds, on a run lasting no more than 40 minutes.

But what happens if our numbers are off? What if we fail at meeting our numbers, or can't seem to hold onto those precious zones?

What kind of athletes are we?

Well, for starters, we're human.

My day started with a trip to the bathroom scale. I have a love/hate relationship with my weight, as I think a lot of people do in general. As someone who has been heavier at times, I know all too well what it feels like to be overweight, regarded as "fat." I have worked hard to be the weight that I am, and try to remain as healthy as possible in the process.

For the past year, my weight has pretty much stabilized, and I only experience a few minor fluctuations. Most notably after Gulf Coast Half Ironman, where a 9 pound upwards swing after the race due to a sever fluid imbalance (because of scorching hot temperatures), left me pretty much dazed. Luckily, my weight stabilized after a few days as my body recovered from the heat and effort.

Today, as luck would have it, I didn't experience an upward swing of 9 pounds. Instead, it was 4. 4 pounds difference from 2 days ago??? WTF? What have I done?

My mind raced as I looked at the numbers, immediately trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

My Rational Self was left speechless, unable to offer any words of encouragement, as my Irrational Side took over. 4 pounds? 4 effing pounds? You have GOT to be kidding me! You are the worst person when it comes to your weight! See, I KNEW this would happen after you ate Chocolate Santa's head! And that glass of wine you had 2 days ago - that'll teach you? You are fat, you are slow, and you will never be fast - not at this rate. Not at this weight!

I was speechless. I regarded myself in the mirror. I didn't look any different? I certainly didn't feel any different, except for maybe a little bit of fluid retention in my legs and fingers (my wedding band was more snug than it usually is).

As I made eye contact with the scared girl in the mirror, I could see the her fear, and feel the pain from the awful thoughts. Her blue eyes met my own, and very quietly, very softly, the Rational Self made her presence felt.

"It's's only a number, only part of who you are. You ate after 9 pm yesterday, and surely the two whole wheat Mexican salad tortillas were heavy on the sodium. And beans. And grilled chicken. And tomatoes. And lettuce. And salsa... Although they were healthy, they packed a powerful punch. You completed 3 workouts yesterday, 2 the day before that. There's absolutely NOTHING to suggest in ANY possible way that what you ate made you gain 4 pounds. It is not possible for you to have consumed an extra 14,000 calories for that to have happened. If that was the case, there would be no way could could move. You've been eating a lot of pickles, lately, and they have a high salt content. It's only a number, and in two days, it'll be different. Just be patient, just give it time. You are not the number on the scale..."

Thank goodness my RS was able to talk over my IS, as I don't know where I would have been otherwise. Granted, the number on the scale was just that - a number. Then why did I still feel so bad?

Try as hard as I might, it's difficult for me to not base my self worth on the number on the scale. And THAT, my friends, is really sad. I'm working on this, and it's a struggle on those days when the number is higher than I want it to be. I think as athletes - in a sport where typically (note I say typically, but its not true in every case) - the lighter athlete, the leaner athlete, the healthier athlete, usually wins. And I am guilty of falling into this trap. I work so hard at watching what I eat, making sure I take care of myself, completing my workouts, watching my body, that when the number on the scale doesn't reflect my work ethic and drive, it's easy for me to get a bit down.

But I tried not to let it bother me as I got ready for my workout.

On today's agenda was a 2.5 hour brick. 60 minute bike in heart rate zone 3 followed by a 90 minute run in heart rate zones 3-4. Additionally, I was supposed to practice race nutrition and focus on recovery for 2 hours after the workout.

As it was rainy, cool, and soggy (overcast, dower, damp, foggy, call it what you may!), I had no motivation to drive :35 minutes to the trail head and do my brick up in Milton. 60 minutes on the trainer is pretty easy, even if it means holding a higher heart rate. I figured I could do the run from our place, making a loop or two up on the hills of UWF (University of West Florida).

I wrote my heart rate zones and workout on one of the white boards, along with a few encouraging quotes (HTFU!). For 60 painful bike minutes, I stared at the following:

Bike: 60 min zone 3 = 158-164
Run: 90 min zone 3-4 = 165-173, 174-180

My bike was hard, no way around it. I spent 5 minutes warming up in zone 1, and then another 5 minutes in zone 2, until my body gradually shifted into the upper 150s. I kept up shifting, chugging along at bigger gears simultaneously maintaining 93+ rpms. It was a battle, through and through. For the first 20 minutes of so, I barely registered 158, and felt as though my legs would not last much longer in an even higher gear.

"I have another 2+ hours to go. Be patient. Once you hit the heart rate, you stay there. Keep the rpms high, the power going, and it'll work out. Just be patient. HTFU and keep going. Your body WILL hit the zones - it always does in this gear, just be patient."

At one point I saw the word "CAN'T" on my other motivational board, and couldn't stop fixating on it. "I can't do this. This is too much for my body to handle. Can't get through this."

After assessing my situation, I finally told myself to HTFU, took in my first gel, and after 25 minutes or so, I was hovering at 160/161 bpm. I determined that having a negative attitude for a 2.5 hour-long break through workout was not the way to go, as zone 3 and zone 4 are painful enough - even in the best of moods.

Thankfully, the rest of the workout was uneventful. My mind was quiet, had accepted the task at hand. To pass the rest of the time, I constantly monitored my numbers. Even though I was at or around 160 bpm, my heart rate would still drop to 158, 157 at times if I lowered my cadence. In turn, I monitored my rpms, increasing from 93-97. I was still in the big ring - what gear, I have no idea (not too good with the gearing thing. I can change out my rear cassette from one wheel to another, but can't tell you which gear is which. Thankfully, I know when I'm in "the big ring" or the "little one" - that's much more obvious!).

So these numbers I kept watching, more obsessively as the minutes ticked off. I kept glancing at the minutes on my watch, how much time had elapsed, noting my heart rate, keeping track of my cadence. Once I hit 50 minutes, I took in another gel, and settled in for the final 10 minute push.

My last minutes on the bike, I spent downshifting, but keeping the rpms high. I knew that the run would be tough, and wasn't willing to start on heavy legs. For the final minute my heart rate dipped below zone 3, but held steady just under 150 bpm.

After the final seconds, I clicked off my watch, happy with my effort. It had been a struggle, but I felt all the better for persevering through. I wasn't easy, and I had found myself (on more than one occasion), having to quiet my mind, silence the doubts that kept creeping forward. I was really ecstatic about the last 40 minutes, as my heart rate had remained (for the most part) in zone 3.

Eagerly, like a little kid awaiting Christmas presents, I checked my watch data.

My grin quickly slid off my face, as I came to terms with what I was seeing: 156 heart rate average, 163 heart rate max, 1:00:01.

It could have read 120 avg heart rate, as far as I was concerned. I had failed, despite my best efforts. The numbers had eluded me, and I didn't achieve my workout heart rate. I had pushed, and pushed, been a slave to my numbers, but still the golden 158 heart rate or higher had slipped beyond my grasp. 2 beats short.

What did that make me?

I struggled with this idea as I changed out of my biking gear and quickly threw on my run clothes and shoes. I grabbed my trusty camel back (no water stops on UWF, and as I had been instructed to practice "race day nutrition", I wasn't taking any chances. Besides, my stomach doesn't cope well with gels and NO water), 3 various flavors of gel, wrote down my bike numbers, reset the watch, and was out the door.

Before even starting the bike, I had decided to spend the first 10 minutes of the run getting acclimated, letting my body warm up into its running groove. I knew that I would be covering between 12 and 13 miles, and it was just a matter of time before I inevitably hit my assigned heart rate. So I spent 10 minutes building from the 140s into the 150s, passed by my first mile marker in just over 7 minutes, and felt (finally) that I was coming into myself.

My camel back sloshed merrily away, the the gels in my pocket kept cadence with my stride (92 rpm, in case you're wondering).

I hit the UWF Campus in just over 14 minutes (my 2 mile marker), noted my time, and did a double take when I saw my heart rate. I was still in the upper 150s, barely cracking 160. My running zone 3 started at 165, and I knew I would have to up it a bit if I wanted to achieve my objectives.

For the briefest of moments, I felt the old negativity, bad self-talk returning. It was as though my Irrational Self was trying to resurface, bring back those elements of doubt. "You can't maintain a zone 3 pace. It's too hard. And your body is too tired. 90 minutes is a long way to go - remember how awful you felt a few days ago spending 50 minutes in zone 3? This is nearly double. And besides, think of how much harder you'll have to run to combat those 4 extra pounds you're carrying..."

I bit my lip, felt my chest tighten, and struggled to hold back tears.

Why was I doing this? What purpose did this serve? What was I trying to accomplish?

If the goal was to make myself feel as bad as possible, the mission was already well accomplished. Okay, sure - I was 4 pounds heavier, didn't meet my zone 3/158 heart rate bike set - but what did this mean?

Was I a "bad person" because I didn't hit my numbers?


Am I a failure as a triathlete because my weight was higher than I wanted?


Am I a bad biker, because I was 2 beats below my zone 3 heart rate minimum?


So - what gives? Why am I beating myself up? This has absolutely no forbearance whatsoever on what kind of a person I am.

And then, my Rational Self took over, once again. She countered that my weight is always in fluctuation, that doing this Ironman training thing is new, and that my body is adapting just as much as my mind is. She reasoned that the first 10 minutes of my bike had been in a significantly lower heart rate, and that for the main set of the workout, I had undoubtedly hit my heart rate goal. It just wasn't apparent because I didn't hop on the bike and immediately start cracking out 158 bpm. If anything, what I did was reasonable, and responsible: I let myself warm up and then started my set.

The way that I looked at it, I had a choice: I could choose to be upbeat for the final 70 minutes of my run, pushing myself as much as my body would tolerate, or I could decide that I sucked and that zone 3 was too hard.

Thankfully, I choose option number 1.

And as soon as I made that choice, I relaxed and felt my pace increase. Yes, the hills were still a killer and I watched my heart rate jump up and down depending on the terrain, but I refused to be mad because I couldn't meet my assigned heart rate. For all I knew my Mexican taco dinner the night before had given me an extra boost of energy - my body using the extra water efficiently. Additionally, the "cooler" temperatures made it difficult for my heart rate to achieve a certain level, as I'm used to training in warmer weather.

There were too many circumstances, too many different things that could have thrown my body for a loop.

And while I couldn't control my heart rate, couldn't play "the numbers game" the way I wanted, I could control my mind, my pace.

With a positive mental outlook, I kept hitting each mile marker at or below the 7-minute threshold. In spite of my heart rate holding slightly below zone 3, I was ticking off great times, feeling good, following my nutrition, and pushing my pace at every opportunity that I could. I charged up the hills, leaned forward on the downhills, and felt myself fly during the brief periods of flat section.

All in all, it was a great run - but I still remained a captive to my numbers.

During the final 2 miles, I kept checking and re-checking my heart rate. I was running a 6:52 and 6:45 pace respectively, but still my bpm didn't budge much above 164. I felt myself getting extremely frustrated, and had to remind myself to, "hang in there" and that "the workout is almost over."

But in spite of the fact that I was turning in a great run at a great pace after a solid bike effort, I was still unhappy, unsatisfied with my performance.

When I finally hit the 1:30 mark, I stopped my watch, and immediately felt the tears welling up in my eyes as my chest constricted. I placed my hands on my knees, shivering in the cold rain, as hot tears poured down my flushed cheeks.

I was incredibly frustrated.

Even before looking at my heart rate data, I knew (yet again) I had failed to achieve my heart rate zones. I felt like a failure. In spite of my best efforts, in spite of running nearly 1/2 marathon in 1:30 a lower heart rate, I was still upset with my performance.

I didn't get it. I averaged 160, maxed out at 168, but wasn't anywhere close to averaging 165. I was angry, I was frustrated, I was mad.

After a few minutes of walking around outside, letting the misty rain soak my seething body, my mood began to lighten up.

There was nothing I could do about my heart rate. I don't know why it was so low, can't explain the reasoning behind the numbers. But what I DID know, was that I gave it my best effort. I didn't leave anything out there; my tank was on empty, in spite of the 3 gels and camel back.

What have I concluded?

Well, for starters - that I am so much more than a number. A number is what? A measurement? A value?

Is it an indication of our self worth?


Am I a bad person if I don't hit my zones?

Absolutely not.

If my weight is higher than the previous day, does that make me slow or fat?

Resoundingly NO!

So why do numbers have such a draw over us? Is it only for the aforementioned reasons in the beginning of this post? Or is there some greater meaning to discover?

You know, I'm really not sure. I can't speak for everyone out there, only myself. And I know that today, even though I wasn't able to hit my target numbers, wasn't able to reach the assigned heart rate, it doesn't make me any less of a triathlete.

What I DO know, is that I didn't leave anything to chance. I pushed my body to new levels, and I grew in the process. My numbers, my heart rate may have indicated a failure to achieve a certain result, but my body, my mind were successful because I worked my hardest.

Could I have gone faster? Would my numbers, my heart rate have been higher?

Perhaps... - but during the workout, I was constantly evaluating my performance, constantly assessing my body. My tempo felt fast, and I covered more ground on this specific workout than ever before. Even though the numbers didn't necessarily match up, I didn't leave anything to chance. I didn't want to end the workout, and wonder "if" I had gone faster...

I've learned that you can't judge a book by its covers. Same way that you can't always look at someone Else's performance and think I could do better than that, go faster than that. Because conditions change, we change, and oftentimes the surface doesn't reveal what's truly going on within.

In the end, I'll record my numbers, note the workout data, and analyze my totals. But they won't change who I am, what I'm about.

I'm still a good, ethical, moral person.

I am worth more than my weight, worth more than my heart rate.

My friends and family will still love me for who I am, not the numbers I put out.

My bike, my running shoes, my favorite pair of jeans will still be there tomorrow, and will still fit my body.

Numbers are simply part of the sport, part of how we judge ourselves. But they only scratch the surface. Yes, they reveal a bit about us, on a specific day at a specific time. Our numbers are only a small part of who we are, not the other way around.

If you believe otherwise, I strongly suggest you read "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin. OneState, although an interesting study, doesn't seen to be as "utopian" a society as it claims to be. People are assigned numbers, based largely on their physical attributes. The dystopian classic is thought to be the inspiration for George Orwell's "1984."

Take your pick between the two.

Me, well - I'll be doing something else. Something that doesn't involve numbers, heart rates, zones, or anything of the sort. Tomorrow is another day, a chance to start anew.

The numbers can and will change. I, however, will remain pretty much the same. And that, is something that makes me happy.

Good Luck!

Good Luck to Mary and to Ashley this weekend! Mary's running an incredibly hilly 10k and Ashley is swimming her tail end off in a meet. You guys rock! Way to take the hard road and challenge yourself. I'm sending you both lots of good Florida vibes!

Friday, January 25, 2008


There's nothing like a great workout and a beautiful sunny day to lighten up your mood. In the pre-dawn light, I awoke to clear, cool skies, and the promise of a great bike ride. My goal was to hit my heart rate zones while working on my power (ie holding an rpm of 80-90). While spinning at 95+ rpm for me feels easy and efficient (especially in the upper zones), I really have to WORK to hold the lower cadence with the bigger gears. At the end of last season, I pledged to increase my leg power and power output on the bike - and this is just part of the process. This workout was an opportunity that I didn't want to miss.

So up went the bike on the trainer, a few words were written on my "motivational board", my ipod was raring to go, and I hoped on.

After my fatigue from yesterday, it felt good just to knock out a tough workout. Misery loves company, and for me, one bad thing will oftentimes morph into several (fatigue AND hunger!). But today's ride was exactly what I needed to get back into my groove I bled sweat (or so it seemed), and felt all the better afterwards. Take THAT Chocolate Santa!

During the workout, my mind focused on the oddest things. But I kept returning to the acronym of POWER!.

P - Push. Push through. Push it out. Push beyond yourself and hold on.

O - Ouch. Outstanding. You've only got one chance to nail this workout - a lot of "Ouch" now will help make you an "Outstanding" athlete.

W - Wonderful. Now that I'm willing to push the ouch, I don't feel wonderful. Physically, I feel like I'm about to throw up. Wonderful because I'm on my way to Outstanding.

E - Eeek! How much more can I give? Excellent - "push" more, make it "ouch" more, all on the way to hitting my "wonderful".

R - Right now. This is my focus. This is my world. I am Pushing Outside myself With Each Rpm. If not now, when? Right now.

! - !uck! This hurts. But its worth it - every time I do this workout, I will get stronger. So, yeah, I may be swearing up a storm, but bring it on.

When I read over my post from last night, I had to laugh. I was tired, I was hungry, and I was mentally exhausted from all the rain and cloudy weather we've been getting. But today was different: the sun was out (if even for a brief time!). Today was new, and today I felt better.

As for Chocolate Santa - Mel asked why I didn't just scarf the entire thing?

Well, because Chocolate Santa is a SOLID block of chocolate, and he packs a powerful punch. At 5.5 oz (156 g), Chocolate Santa can be divided into 22 servings. And at 40 calories (25 from Fat!) per serving, well - YOU do the math. Had I devoured Chocolate Santa, I would have not only been really sick, I would have developed an aversion to chocolate. I did as much damage as I could, enjoyed biting his head off, and then stopped there. Really, it was all I COULD do.

Nathaniel or the House Monster will have to enjoy the rest. Actually, NOT the House Monster, as we don't let Tabbs eat chocolate. So Nathaniel it will be! Maybe I'll go for an arm, or a foot, though. You never know...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yawn, Growl, and Santa's Sacrifice

YAWN! I am so tired. And I don't even have kids (yet!). Tonight, Chocolate Santa - the one living in our fruit bowl - fell victum to 1) my fatigue and 2) my hunger. But back up just a bit: I don't know how people with kids train for an imronman... probably with the help of a very sympathetic spouse...and/or a phenominal support crew... or they don't have a needy cat (Tabbitha is a "special needs" kitty - she was abused as a kitten, was (thankfully) rescued, and therefore follows her own set of rules/expectations...meaning that when she curls up with me, I'll usually stop what I'm doing and pet her...except if I'm biking. Otherwise, all bets are off. How could I not?)

There are two pretty big things I've noticed about myself in these past 3 weeks (3 weeks of a major base build for me. Lots of hours, lots of quality volume, medium to high level intensity, and every workout has a specific meaning). And next week, I've got 14.5 hours on my schedule. Not quantity, but quality. O-k-a-y. Luckily, I'm not the one planning the schedule, I just do the workouts. I can't reiterate enough how much this is new territory for me. I would almost prefer a 5k run test. OR a T-pace swim with Mary Eggers... gulp... I had better watch what I wish for. I have a feeling it may come to pass sooner than I expect.

Here are the two "big things" I've noticed:

First. Wow, I am TIRED.



I didn't realize it would hit me like this. This morning it was a struggle to get out of bed. I checked my pulse, to make sure it wasn't fast or indicating an abnormal amount of fatigue... but it was perfectly normal. I, on the other hand, felt as though I had been hit with a ton of bricks. I waited to do my run until after I got a little food and a lot of coffee in my system. Functioning without the aforementioned nutrients would have lead to disaster.

The run was great, but hard: it was all about hitting zones 3 and 4. I thought about Beth on my run, how much great progress she's made on holding her heart rate, and I tried to channel her motivation into each and every step I took. I was still tired, but managed to hit my designated zones.

I was one beat above the threshold between zone 3 and zone 2.

But I was still in zone 3. So it TOTALLY counts

Zone 3 - is what I consider to be comfortable enough to maintain, but uncomfortable enough to not want to hold onto. Its doable, but with a much greater work-effort on your part. I hate to say this, but it's almost easier running 3 X 12 minutes zone 4 or even (gulp) 800s - as they are painful, but over quickly. Holding steady in zone 3 is, in my opinion, the equivalent to spending a bunch of time in purgatory. (Cue scary music) You're meeting an end result, its doable, but it hurts (like hell) in the process.

But I did it, I hit my zones 3 pace

(And I made the workout).


The good part of yesterday's run, is that I ran further with a zone 3 heart rate, than I did last week with a higher heart rate (zone 4!). The bad part, it was SO COLD (no - not Minnesota, Chicago, or New York Cold) - but plenty cold for FLORIDA - the wind chill was 35. I wore 2 layers on top, a hat, and tights. It may have affected my heart rate, in the sense that it took a little longer for me to warm up, but then again, I was tired. And I was pushing myself as much as my legs would let me (they were still tired from Tuesday's track work). Like I said before purgatory: and uncomfortable level of comfortableness, or comfortably uncomfortable!

Okay okay, I WILL HTFU!!! (Mom - just click the link, and then follow the youtube instructions. It's totally worth it. I have based SO MANY workouts on the premises of HTFU)

(Everyone else: I had a great conversation with my Mom earlier today. It's always great talking to her! But I discovered she didn't know what HTFU meant. So I told her I would put in a link to today's blog. For anyone else who doesn't have a clue of what I speak - check it out. One of these day's I'll put it up on my side bar. In the meantime, I've got a link in nearly every other post. :)

In reality, it's not all that cold...

But when you've got a 50 minute run in zone 3-4 and you're already cold, tired, and hungry, gathering up the "gumption" to do the run can be hard. But I did it, and I'm proud of my performance. And again, I thought about Beth hitting her heart rate zones (thanks for the motivation Beth!)

Second. Our grocery bill has gone up. Significantly.

I am hungry.


Feed me Seymour!

I think that it's the Ironman training. Nathaniel is still eating the same. But I feel as though I'm in a different world. My meals revolve around my workouts: pre-workout, during the workout, post-workout, repeat. It's quite the cycle!

The most difficult thing, is that I don't feel that I get enough nutrient density in during the day before my pm workout(s). I've got a sensitive stomach, and if I eat a big lunch, snacks, etc (like I'm used to), I tend to get a lot of stomach cramps. I've had a few suggestions to start having shakes or smoothies... and it works a little. I just have a hard time consuming dairy within 2 hours before a workout. It tends to - ah - congeal or clot together in my stomach.

And then I get awful cramps (throw up cramps!).

And, as you can imagine, after a long day of training and work, I'll eat a lot at night.

This, in turn, has caused a bit of a dilema.

I'm not used to eating late, eating beyond 7 or 8 pm. I don't like to eat late. I try to refrain from snacking (especially at night), as this was a major culprit as to the reason why I was overweight in high school (try 180 pounds at one point - very overweight for my 5'4 frame!... 50 lbs heavier than where I am now - there's a reason why I threw the shot put! Like I said before, I had the heart of a distance runner, but the body of a field athlete). I know this mentality affects me today, as its still something that I struggle with. I'm afraid of returning to my shot-putter body.

But, when it comes down to it, eating late at night is non-negotiable (just check out poor santa above!)

These past few weeks, I've finished my second or third session late in the afternoon or evening. Nate is great about having breakfast for dinner, but me, well - I'm getting a little tired of oatmeal after 3 servings/bowls already. So I try to keep as much variety in as possible. Tonight was no different. I ended up having mexican tortilla wrap and chicken salad with veggies, a glass of wine (and eventaully Santa's head) - all after 9:00. My body was too tired, too hungry to put up a protest.

And I know that if I want to be effective tomorrow, I have to do this.

So I go against what my my instincts say (they are yelling at me that I will become the shot putter), and make sure that my body is satisfied.

It's an interesting journey, this ironman. And I'm learning so much about myself in the process.

Like I said before, Santa didn't stand a chance. I took Danielle's advice and bit Santa's head off. It was time. He was mocking me. And he remained an impostor in our fruit bowl. And besides, today was a break through day. Good food, lots of rest, and chocolate.

So yeah, the two biggest differences that I've noticed are the levels of fatigue and hunger. My body is about to crash... but my tummy is happy from Santa's sacrifice.

Sometimes you just need to bite someone's head off, even if it is Santa. (Thanks Danielle!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


(Read the title, and then imagine a HUGE explosion. With lots of fire, flames, smoke, and then even more reverberations.)

Can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it?


Because now you know what happened to me today.

No, not in a fiery-explosive sort of way. This was a mega-blowout from within during today's swim workout.

However, through the pain, through the agony, I learned a heckuva lot about myself. It wasn't pretty, and by the end I made quite a spectacle of myself at the pool. I made the old folks with chronic smoker's cough in the lane next to me look my way in concern (my wheezing matched theirs). And afterwards, I thought a lot about what had transpired. But it was really during the final 2000 that I grew the most...

First, I read another of Elizabeth's great entries - today it was about finding your own personal wizard. And then she gave helpful instructions on how to do so. It ended by a hilarious description of her personal wizard:

"When I think of a wizard I think of a mystical man in a large robe with cavernous sleeves, a tall hat, and crystal globe. A man that can make magical things happen in very secret ways." (Elizabeth Fedofsky)

So immediately, I think of "Dumbledore" from Harry Potter, the famed headmaster of Hogwarts (Wizarding school for all you non-readers: Jen!).

She ended her blog with the following, incredibly inspiring message:

"I think sometimes this is how we look at training – as if there is one magical secretive way to achieve great results. But if you are brave enough to look deeply into those sleeves you realize the magic is made in yourself. By pushing your own legs, pushing through your own limits. There is no magic formula, no crystal ball. It’s all within yourself."

"Find your wizard. Go on."
(Elizabeth Fedofsky)

After reading this awesome passage, I headed to the pool.

I know that finding the wizard for every workout, is downright stupid, let alone unrealistic. However, recently my coach commented that he really wanted me to work on my swim speed. I've been doing lots of technique, 300s, 500s, and some shorter stuff. Every week, I'll have endurance sets, sometimes 1,000 repeats, sometimes 1,500 repeats... and (gulp) sometimes both 1,000 and 1,500 repeats.

While I enjoy the longer sets, recently I've began to have some great times for the shorter stuff. I don't know if its so much of a leap in physical strength, but instead better technique combined with learning how to push myself in the pool . In the past I haven't stuck with my T-Pace, simply because it seemed "too fast".

My coach quickly laughed off that notion, and told me that I needed to focus and hit those numbers.

And lately, especially for the 100-500s, its been happening. Hurrah! My times have been getting faster. A week ago, I swam a 4 X 300 free at what I used to swim my 300 paddle/pull buoy! Hurrah! This pushing thing really works! My longer sets have been more challenging. I force myself to look at my splits every 100, and then try to keep on track from there (it also has proved to be a very accurate lap-counter!)

But for some reason, during the 1,500s and the 1,000s, I've found myself deliberately slowing down and saving myself.

Saving myself? From what??

After reading Liz's blog, it hit me. I was afraid: I was afraid to push myself, push beyond my comfort level for the longer work. Just because it says 1500 yards, it doesn't mean that you have to dawdle along at a snail's pace the entire time. During a taper, or during a period of high intensity, it's easier for me to justify pushing myself, really laying it on the line.

But why not now? My coach gave me the green light - so really, why not?

I don't want to spend my life, my adventures, my time that I have on this earth wondering "what if...?"

Me, talking to God at the Pearly Gates of heaven, after a long life: "What if I had only pushed harder for my 1,000 and tried to hold, say... a 1:20 split?"

God (looking - oddly enough - like Dumbledore): "You would have succeeded. But you never tried."

This vision flashed through my mind as I drove to the pool. And it was then and there that I decided I would swim a 13:20 for my 1,000s. (Now, I know this isn't incredibly "fast" compared to a lot of the people out there. But, its 8 seconds faster than my 1,000 pr - which I swam 2 weeks before Clearwater. I wanted this set, wanted this time, and convinced myself this was the way to go, that if I only applied myself, didn't shrink away from the fear, from the pain, that I could make it happen.

I was confident that I could do it. Or at least I would go down trying (prophetic, very prophetic indeed).

Got in the pool, without the usual dawdling on the pool deck. I didn't even sit on the side and complain of the cold temps - I wanted it to be cold, as I knew I would be working my butt off. After delving in, I warmed up, stretched, grabbed a few sips of water, and was then on my way.

The first 100 felt great. I came in at 1:19, felt solid, felt smooth, felt easy. Then again, the first 100 in a 3 X 1,000 SHOULD feel easy, feel smooth, feel easy. Because... you've still got another 2900 to go.

I stayed on track through the first 300 or 400, and then my watch check at 500 read 6:43.

6:43? No - I'm supposed to be at 6:40. And wait a sec... my legs are beginning to feel tired. And my shoulders are a little tense. Okay okay - relax. Then you can get back on track. Just 500 left to go, and you're done. (With the first set).

I quickly pushed aside thoughts of my second and third sets. They were partially to blame for my lesser-than-speedy performances in the past. If I didn't push now, how would I ever learn?

So I swam like there was no tomorrow.

By the 700, I was breathing every 3, instead of every 4 strokes. My kick felt non existent, and I marvelled at how fast the previous workout's 300s passed. I still had 300 left to go, and I felt like I was about to go down.

But I kept hope alive, kept going as hard as I could. I didn't want to give up, I was going to go down trying.

200 to go, and I felt like something jumped on my back. My stroke felt slow and I felt stupid - for lack of a better word - in the water. But I didn't think about anything else, except finishing, aiming high, and the last, agonizing 200 of my set.

The final 50 passed in the most painful blur. I hit the turn around and thundered home as though there was no tomorrow, as though it was my last set. I didn't want to get beat, had held my time - or at least been so close for so long - and was determined to set a new record, if not break 13:20.

I hit the end, hit my watch, and then hit my wall.

My legs were burning, my head was pounding, my eyeballs felt as though they were being squeezed into my goggles, and my chest heaved. I couldn't feel my shoulders, and it was difficult to bend my elbow while pointing it towards the ceiling of the building. The triceps were seizing up, from forcefully pushing the water away at the end of each stroke. My watch read 13:26.

Wow. Not where I wanted to be, but a new pr for the 1,000.

And then it hit me: I still had 2 more left to go. And I had just set a pr.

Oh Sh*t!

After replacing my goggles, taking a sip of water, and restarting my watch, I was off. But something was seriously wrong. My pace check at the 100 read 1:25 - but I felt I was working my hardest, swimming with greater energy than I had just put forth. My limbs felt tired, felt unfamiliar with the water. But I kept going - feeling broken - but kept swimming.

"...Just keep swimming swimming swimming...What do we do we swim, swim, swim..."

It wasn't fast.

It wasn't pretty.

And I managed to salvage myself with a semi-decent time on the third set. So it wasn't all bad.

It could have been a lot worse

But I finished.

I had blow up, blown myself out - big time. Ka-POW!!! I felt every painful inch of the pool, felt every one of those last 2000 yards. And all the time I was swimming - at turtle speed (Turtle Power!) - I kept wondering why had I done what I had done?

Was blowing up worth it? What was I trying to prove - what was I trying to do? Was I trying to find the wizard? Was I trying too hard to find the wizard???

First thing's first: I learned a lot about my pace, effort, and personal capabilities. There's no doubt that the wizard was at the pool with me: I'm pretty sure that he jumped on my back during the final 200 of my first set. But I didn't break him. I didn't drag him with me, lap after lap. I didn't show him!

He broke me. But that's okay: because its the first time I've ever experienced the wizard on a long set. In the past I was too afraid. A 500 is short, a 300 even shorter. A few minutes of wizard dueling doesn't seem all that bad, all that impossible. I will put my head down, kick my hardest, and pull my ass off for a 400 (HTFU!) - but have been (until today) too uncertain, too fearful, too afraid to repeat this during the longer stuff.

I crashed, hugely. Ka-POW!!! I learned that I can't go out for 3 X 1000, set a new pr for the first 1000, and then expect to hold the same pace for the entirety of the workout.

Not YET, anyway.

Again, rationally, I know this. Had I been told before the swim what I was about to do, told before reading Elizabeth's entry, I would have laughed.

"Please!" I would have said. "You can't be serious! That's just stupid. Better to swim 13:40s and 13:50s, and keep it there."

Perhaps - but that was the old me.

And that, my friends, is the key.

The me that was afraid to make the longer work hurt. The me who didn't know she had it in her to swim a 13:26 and then keep swimming. For another 2 bloody sets.

So while I may have set my goal time a little too high...the point is - is that I set goals in the first place. I challenged myself, challenged what I've done in the past, challenged myself for the future. I went well out of my comfort zone, didn't let up for fear of the pain. I went until I was broken, and then, stroke after slow stroke, kept going.

The wizard my have claimed me for the second and third set, but the point is this: THAT I CHALLENGED HIM. I SOUGHT HIM OUT! I FACED MY FEAR! And in doing so, I bettered myself.

Sure, I was slow in the second set, but I redeemed myself during the third.

And next time... Next time I do this workout, setting a new pr will be at the back of my mind (it always is). But I'll have a new focus. While in the past I've been comfortable with swimming 13:40s and 13:50s, after today's pr, holding 13:30s seems pretty reasonable.

And you never know, for that final 1,000, I may just chase that 13:26. And afterwards, Dumbledore and I will have a lot to talk about.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Randomest" Thoughts!

Sometimes, you just get the weirdest, most randomest of thoughts going through your mind (is randomest even a word?) Today was a bit of an odd day, as I found myself distracted, amused, impatient, creative, ticked-off (at how old I'm getting), sad, and finally relaxed. (Aaaahhhhh!) I wish that I had kept a pen and paper with me at all times, so I could jot down random thoughts - but it seems that I'm much more disciplined about keeping pen-and-paper on the ready during workouts.

So I'll do my best. Here we go!

-Need to remember to NOT turn on Animal Planet. As I'm a big fan of animals, this channel is NOT good for yours truly. Just as I sat down to write, I witnessed an anaconda attempting to swallow some kind of big bird (no, not the Sesame Street character!). Great- something ELSE to worry about in the water. Sharks, barracudas, and now anacondas. Good thing I'm not planning on swimming in anaconda-infested water anytime soon. Then again... does anyone know if anacondas have been spotted in Florida? Wait! Don't answer that. I don't want to know.

-But alligators ARE in Florida water. No open water swimming for me, unless I have clear water, a safety crew, and other swimmers to throw in front of me when we get attacked. :)

- I feel like an old geek every time I go into Target. Today my mission was to find Harry Potter 5. I had a 2.5 hour ride, and it was raining off and on all day. Usually I don't mind the rain, but I do mind the :30-:45 commute that it takes me to ride (in the rain). Driving out isn't bad. Its the wet, soggy, traffic-choked trip home that sucks. So I had a date with Harry. Harry, has become quite popular. As have DVDs in general. There's quite a selection of different types of DVDs to choose from - types, not movies. There's Blue Ray, HD DVD, and then the regular. And the regular is way in the back, out of the way of the "new stuff". Humbug! I searched for 5 minutes before I gave up and called Nathaniel.


"Sweetheart - I have a problem," I plowed on. "Is it okay if I get an HD DVD or Blue Ray? Or do I have to get the regular kind."

I could hear him smile. "If it's there, go for the regular DVD. Our player won't be compatible with the newer stuff."


(As in: our crap is too old for the new, up-do-date stuff... as in, what works perfectly well for us in our "old age" will soon be obsolete).


- While we're on the topic of Target. I love wandering the isles, having a grand old time. Didn't realize how many wonderful goodies Archer Farms (Target's food company) has made. So I had to put on my blinders and plow through. If it's in the house, it has no chance of lasting a few days without being devoured by The House Monster, Nathaniel, or me (not necessarily in that order). But they do have - wait for it, wait for it... - "wine in a cube". For $10.00, you can purchase wine-in-a-box. That's $8.00 more than what I've seen anywhere else. But... new and innovative? We'll have to see, as (real softly...) ahem, i bought one.

-After spending the past 3 bike workouts on the trainer, all above 2.5 hours, suddenly it doesn't seem that hard anymore. Uncomfortable? Yes. But - it's weird to say this - I'm getting used to it. If it's thundering, just put on a great movie, great tunes, and away I go.

- I get motion sickness when I workout and try to read at the same time. Which is why movies or music is the option on the trainer. Which is why I went to Target in the first place, and felt bad about how behind-the-technological-times-I-am.

- Why does it take a single match to start a Forest Fire, but my husband can't light the grill with an entire box of matches and lighter fluid?

-One annoying tune (cue: Alvin & The Chipmunks) can get stuck inside of your head, and loop around again and again and again and again and again...

- Sometimes when swimming - the slower stuff (ie technique and drills) makes me feel nauseated and head-achy, whereas during the fast sets, my nausea goes away, but I can taste my oatmeal afterwards? What gives?

- Why does chocolate have to have so many calories? Especially the little, teeny-weeny pieces. Not that I'm anal about this kind of stuff (okay, I am a little - but again I have the genes/past physique of a shot putter - which I did to great success during my high school days...) But, come on! There's a chocolate Santa sitting in our kitchen fruit bowl (Impostor!), just staring me down, day after day. When I chanced a peek at the sucker, I put him down, horrified. My plan of chomping off his head was quickly squashed. (Where's Nathaniel or the House Monster when I need them?)

- Celery with Peanut Butter and dried cherries is my new favorite vegetable. Er, I mean "snack".

- I can spend hours customizing Splish suits. And they DO have great customer service - Danielle wasn't the only one. In my inability to handle even the simplest of computer tasks, I forgot to add color to the back of my suit. A very nice email was sent, inquiring if I wanted the back to be white, of if I wanted it to match the front. Phew!

Same color front-to-back please! Thanks Splish!

-After my email kept going off, I went stir crazy. It would bleep, and I would check. Bleep and I would check. Bleep check bleep check bleep check... Need to make a resolution to check the email only a few times a day, rather than have the flippin' thing open on my desktop at all times. I hear it Beep, and I come running. (Can anyone say "Pavlovian response?")

-After not wearing underwear with my bike shorts for the past few months, leaving underwear on is quite a rude awakening.

- Politics can get dirty. And ugly. Sometimes I wish that a leader who imbued some of the qualities of Maximus from "Gladiator" would run for President. Then again, anyone who had similar characters to Maximus, would never seek top political power anyway. It's only January, and the mudslinging is going on already. Boo! Double Humbug! Even though Nathaniel and I cancel each other's votes out (most of the time), we're both agreed on this. (Plus, Russel Crowe - meow!)

- You realize that life is short when an actor that you really liked tragically passes away. I don't really think Heath Ledger would have wanted all the hoop-la that has thus far surrounded his death. Very sad. But makes you appreciate the life you have, the people you love, and remember to live each day to its fullest.

- I'm not the only one who admits to peeing in the shower. Hurrah! Anything to get through a sore-leg day.

- It takes my body about 36 hours (give or take) to get through the most-severe-pain associated with a hard workout. Probably more had I not done the ice bath thing. However, I like being able to walk normally and not crash onto the toilet, so the ice will stay.

-If a blister on your 4th little toe starts forming :45 minutes into your ride, the WISE thing to do would be to put on a pair of socks. They were exactly 18 inches away. Sometimes the most obvious things are the most difficult to see.

-Animal Planet is still evil. Viewers beware: if you love cute, little animals, don't watch.

-There's a Weight Watchers two doors down from a Marble Slab Creamery. And I just witnessed one lady leave the WW and head in for the ice cream. Makes you wonder...

-And speaking of things that you'll see in traffic: don't pick your nose. Someone is always watching. I don't know who was more embarrassed - the guy who I saw doing it, OR when he realized that I had seen him picking his nose.

- World Record for cracking coconuts: 200 in 3 minutes. The guy used just his elbow to accomplish this feat. (And people think I'm crazy for training for an Ironman). Ouch. Seems like he would need the ice bath and Ibuprofin more than me.

So - those are just a few things today. Odd, how your mind works when you're training for an Ironman. You've got lots of time to think, to ponder, to question, to focus. And sometimes it's really neat to follow your train of thoughts, even if they take you in the most unexpected directions.

I'm excited about what's in store for tomorrow... hopefully nothing involving sharks, animals getting devoured, icky politics, Pavlovian responses, nose-picking, uber-new technology, reappearing oatmeal, or any other stuff like that. I'll stick to peanut butter, training, custom suits, ice cream (skip the WW), chocolate, and good movies. And my wandering mind, of course.

Monday, January 21, 2008

And I didn't even get a T-Shirt! (Humbug!)

You would think, for the amount of excruciating pain that I've been in all day, that I would have done something really extraordinary yesterday. No, not simply a silly treadmill run. No, something really deserving of a free shirt (okay okay, I know - we pay entry fees to get into events). Like a race... A triathlon, a bike, a run, a swim, even an adventure race (I have always wanted to do one of those, but I have a tendency to get lost. I ended up in Alabama by accident during one long bike ride. Oops.)

There have been times in the past where I've felt almost as sore. But not quite. Then again - those memorable, painful times were all in the past - so my memory of how awful I truly felt may be a bit dodgy. Or at least the pain I'm experiencing now is so great that I have nothing in recent memory to compare it to.

And just think - how awful it would have been had I NOT taken the ice bath...

Don't even want to go there!

I woke up this morning to my alarm beeping merrily away. I moved my leg and arm in effort to turn the flippin' thing off.

Big mistake.

My leg felt like it had a 10 pound weight attached at the ankle, and even my torso felt stiff as I turned to reach for my bedside table. Nathaniel - wonder of wonders - was already awake, going over TH-57 Emergency Procedures for a disabled tail rotor (that puts things into perspective... when you help your husband memorize what to do in case his helicopter starts going down. I love Nathaniel so much, and this part of his job truly terrifies me. But I know he's doing what he loves, and by helping him go over his flash cards, I'm helping to make him a better prepared pilot. Even though it sucks because I tend to have a vivid imagination. Hey - at least it took my mind off my legs for a while...). Like I was saying, he was awake and studying - so when I stumbled out of the bedroom at 6:03 am, he gave me a cheerful, "good morning sunshine!"

I don't think I even responded.

In a Frankenstein-like manner, I jarringly walked/shuffled/dragged myself to the other bathroom and switched on the light.

Big mistake.

I stared at my reflection. The crazy-haired, bleary-eyed girl stared back at me.

And then, I made my first really big mistake (aside from reaching for the alarm).

I attempted to sit on the toilet.

Even BIGGER mistake.

My legs felt as though they were being stabbed with little knives, and it was all I could do from crashing onto the toilet. I did, however, land with a resounding "thud!"

But hey, at least I was awake.

"I think something is seriously wrong with my legs," I told Nathaniel, panic creeping into my voice, as I re-shuffled towards the living room.

Sitting in his green recliner, he just gave me a look, sort-of smirked and said, "that's okay. Just think how you'd be feeling without the ice or ibuprofen."

Humph! The External Motivator wasn't being so, er, motivating.

I couldn't even think of a response. So instead, I stumbled back to bed, convinced that by getting a few more minutes of sleep, things might just be better when I awoke.

(What kind of fantasy land was I living in???)

Actually, sleep is something that I'm pretty weird about. I can function on very little (5 or 6 hours, even 4 at times) for a few days. But then I'll catch up with 9, 10, or 11 - all in a row. The even more difficult part - is that I'm a light sleeper, will sometimes have a hard time falling asleep, and usually wake up a few times in the middle of the night. I'm not a big fan of sleep aids - as addiction runs in my family. Plus, I don't like the groggy-feeling-all-day-long (if I can help it). The previous few night's, I had only gotten 6, 5, and then 5.5 hours of sleep.

I know it's not healthy - but I've always been like this. I stay up late reading and writing, and then set the alarm. Sometimes I can sleep in, or if I'm really tired I have the flexibility of adjusting my schedule (sometimes).

The increase in intensity and volume has affected me, though - because once I hit the bed, I fall asleep pretty fast. (I just feel so much more effective at terms of getting "creative" stuff done - always have..."burning the midnight oil!" as my Dad would say...).

Then again, the minute I start worrying about weather or not I can fall asleep, I never am ABLE to fall asleep.

It's a vicious cycle, I tell you! (Now I know what my Dad was talking about all those years ago. We, unfortunately, have the same sleep patterns. 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep sounds almost too good to be true!)

But I stumbled back to bed.

Next thing I knew, Nathaniel was shaking me awake, exclaiming, "Wake up sleepyhead! It's a little after 9, and I thought you should get up."

Somewhere, deep within the covers and under numerous pillows, I think I groaned.

"There's coffee..." he promised.

What? Did someone say coffee?

I was up, at 'em, and ready to go.

My mind may have been able, but the body was weak. My legs still felt awful, and I wondered how the heck I was going to get through my workouts, let alone my day.

And then I started thinking about those other "painful" incidents that I've had. There are a handful, but I've pretty much picked out my top 5. I'm sure many of you can relate - even my Mom... Who made the rather unfortunate error of doing lunges for an hour in a grueling aerobics class, after never having done lunges in the past. Ever. (She called me, wondering how she should stop her pain. I told her ICE! And then asked her, "why in the world would you do lunges for an hour?" Her response: "because everyone else was. And it was my class!")

Like mother, like daughter!

Here they are, in no particular order:

-My first Half Ironman, California 70.3, 2006. I couldn't walk for days, let alone hobble to the bathroom, or squat down on the toilet in order to pee. It was painful. I actually took a shower to avoid sitting on the toilet (again, so I could pee). I learned a tough lesson though: My racing flats weren't intended for the 1/2 marathon distance. I will never make that mistake again.

-My first 1/2 Marathon. Cherry Point, MCAS (sorry - Marine Corps Air Station), April 2004. The look I gave Nathaniel after I crossed the finish line says it all.

-My first time lifting heavy weights in the off season. Let's see YOU try walking "normally" after doing 4 X 10 of a heavy, leg-intensive day. Didn't get a tee-shirt, but that's to be expected: there was no running, biking, swimming, triathlon-ing involved. Strength is a different beast all unto itself. (Case in point: have you ever watched "World's Strongest Man Competition"? I wouldn't trade sports with those guys for the world!) Coincidentaly, this workout involved lunges. I made the somewhat catastrophic mistake of holding 20 pounds. In each hand, as I happily lunged forward. It may have been the only time I felt "cool" at the gym. But I didn't walk for days afterwards. (Mom: I understand what you went through. Believe me. Not a time goes by when I've got "lunges" on my workout schedule that I don't think back to that fateful day.)

-During my first triathlon, ever. I got off my bike - having never done a bike-run workout before - and tripped over a curb. And I wasn't even going up - I was trying to step down. The 4 mile run that I did took over 45 minutes. So long, that I had to pee on myself, as I had over-hydrated so much before the race. It was gross, I was embarrassed, and I was S-L-O-W. And sore. But, at least I got a tee-shirt. And I got hooked on a great sport.

-After yesterday's 4 X 20 min zone 4-5.

You get the drift.

But even though I'm sore, even though I have a hard time walking - after each and every time I've felt this way, I've also had a marvelous sense of accomplishment. I did what most people would consider crazy - and I feel all the better for it. It never ceases to amaze me, that I put myself through this kind of stuff, yet I do so willingly, aware fully of the subsequent consequences.

I might B*tch and moan right now, but I know I'm better for it. I know I'll be better and stronger for it. And I would rather live my life, meeting new challenges head on, facing life to its fullest, than shrinking away in fear.

And what does this all mean?

Well, for starters: T-Shirts are overrated. Yeah, it's neat to get cool schwag, a great t-shirt from a fun race, but what does it really mean? Are you a better athlete for it? Does wearing the "official race shirt" make you all the better? (Finisher Shirts are a different story: I'm sure that I will sleep with my Ironman Finisher - God willing - under my pillow every night for a year after that race). No, absolutely not. It's the person whose wearing the t-shirt that makes all the difference.

And besides, most of the time, they don't even come in my size. So I'll get a Large or XL, and Nathaniel will use it. He's got a whole assortment of Triathlon shirts I never wear. But I still deserve one after yesterday! Not only for the workout, but for the bath that followed. Now, I'd like to see Nathaniel wearing a shirt thay had that on it.

FINISHER! I survived the treadmill, the people at the gym, the weak legs, and the ice bath that followed. :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008



Green Bay lost. The mood is grim at our place. But it was an exciting game - just the outcome went the wrong way.

Thankfully, I'm not a betting person, as my blood pressure kept shooting up and down and then up again.

Sigh. Then again, every playoff team - except one - looses their final game of the season.

But it's still a tough way to look at it.

I've consoled Nathaniel, and now he's fast asleep. He took it better than I did, as I get emotionally attached to stuff - including football teams. Who would have known? But time moves on, seasons pass, and next year I'll look forward to watching Green Bay football with Nathaniel.

Congratulations on a great season Green Bay!

Confessions of a Treadmill Hog

I am a Treadmill Hog.

It is official. And while I'm not proud of my hogging abilities, I'm totally stoked about what happened with my run workout earlier in the day. It wasn't easy, it wasn't pretty, and I'm sure my fellow gym-mates though I sounded like a caboose (I think I can I think I can I think I can!). But I did it, I stuck it through, and today was more of a break-through day than I could have ever imagined.

My second confession, of course, is that I succumbed to the treadmill in the first place. Cold temperatures I can deal with. Chilly air masses, frozen ground, sub-zero temps: not a problem. After spending a few chilly weeks up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and doing every single run outside (except for 1) even when the weather was minus 16, I can pretty much handle myself. The Nordic child in me relishes the cold, and I'll happily bound along trails with the best of 'em. Bundled up, layer upon layer.

Today was different. The cold wasn't the problem, it was the wind. It was evil, it was wicked. If was as though the Wicked Witch of the West was blowing her icy breath across the Panhandle. It was bitter, it was cold. It whipped through layers, leaving covered skin covered in goosebumps. Average wind speed of 21 mph, with gusts upwards of 35 mph.

Honestly, if I had to do it, I would have. Half an hour, an hour - not that bad.

But today's run called for 1:45. No, not a minute and 45 seconds. One hour and forty-five minutes. (My coach is evil! Or at least has a sick sense of humor. I don't think he got the memo that I'm training for an ironman. 1:45 easy is one thing, but I had to do pieces. Like I said before, he's evil. :) Within the "mainset" of the workout, I had - pause, sit down, take it in - 4 X 20 min heart rate zone 4-5a.


No, that can't be right...

It was - confirmed on my workout spreadsheet.

Fantastic! Welcome to Ironman Training!

What would you do? Okay okay - many of you Cold Weather Warriors would have HTFU and just done the darned thing outside.

But in some sort of sick way, I think running on a treadmill for a workout like this is even more difficult than doing it outside. Compare bike trainer v. open roads. What would you pick?

But I wanted to eat the pain, to see my pained expression glaring back at me, feel my temple veins throbbing, taste the salt in my sweat, and watch the numbers tick by ever so agonizingly slow. This was the kind of workout that I expected to be so hard to push through, I wanted to play games with myself and make it even more difficult if possible.

I know that races that I've picked this season won't be easy. I know this. I embrace this. Frankly, I won't want it any other way. So this workout was mine to make as difficult as I could.

Quick note about the treadmills at the gym: they have television screens. But I never watch TV - something about the bobbing of my head and jarring of my stride makes me feel nauseated. Instead, I leave the screen blank, and force myself to look at my reflection. Not pretty, but when I feel that I'm at my threshold level and things are getting really tough, I'll take a glance at my image, force myself to stare my reflection directly in the eye, and then get back on track. I know I'm doing well when the temple veins start popping out.

And nothing can scare the speed back into me like a stare-down with myself. (This is the crazy woman in me coming out, I hope you realize).

When I arrived, I noticed immediately how busy the fitness center was. Geeze people, can't you find something different to do on a Sunday morning? Walking at 3 mph on the treadmill does NOT count - get off! Jogging at a leisurely pace of 5.5 mph does NOT count - get off! Don't you know I have SERIOUS work to do? Get off my treadmill! I have 1:45 to do, so get outta my way! I'm usually nice, and my gym etiquette is downright saintly. But today, nothing will hold me back. I am a woman on a mission, an Ironman-in-training with a break through run to accomplish. 5 other people waiting in line for the 10 treadmills, all being used - heaven help you if you get in my way...

Thankfully, I internalized my thoughts, and not a peep escaped my lips.

But the 5 other people waiting in line could tell that I met serious business, and after a few minutes a treadmill in the middle of the window-wall opened up. The gentleman waiting for it could sense how much I wanted it. I wasn't going to take it away from him. But once glance at my two water bottles, 4 packets of gel, gum, note pad and pen, 4 towels and ipod, he offered the treadmill to me.

"You don't know how much this means to me!" I exclaimed, giving him my movie-star smile, reserved for those oh-so-special moments.

"Not a problem, I see one over there opening up. Have a good workout." He replied.

What a great guy!

I hopped on and started stashing my stuff, as there was quite a bit. Even though I carried 4 gels, it was my intention of only consuming 2. I just wanted options, in case mid-workout one flavor became unpalatable. (Don't want another chocolate repeat from a few weeks ago). I wanted options, I wanted a flavor choice. (Hey, I always pack extra clothes on long trips, why not do the same with gels?)

Before I even started, I noticed my heart rate was about 20 bpm higher than it usually is. What could this be? I pondered. And then it hit me: I was giddy, I was excited, I was ready to rip this f*#!ing treadmill apart!

So lesson learned: when I get really excited, my heart rate goes up. Excellent!

After a 10 minute warm up, listening to the relaxing tunes of Aaron Lewis, getting my heart rate back in check, I stretched, reset the ipod and was on my way.

I wish that I could describe in vivid detail the intricacies of each piece, but I can't and won't. Something about 80 minutes of repeated zone 4 hell, is enough to cause a few blank moments for even the faintest of heart.

But I stared at my reflection, saw the steely grit and determination reflect in her eyes, and just kept running. 5 minutes became 10, which became 15, which became 20. I played mental games with myself, anything to keep me focused off, but on the clock. My usual zone 4 work during this part of the season, are 12 minute pieces - tack on another 8 and you've got yourself 20. I watched numbers, challenged them to go slower, and didn't give an inch.

I followed my game plan, increased the treadmill setting with each set, and kept my demons at bay.

Would it be easy to stop?

Hell yea.

But I don't want to go there. I don't want to ever doubt myself, question myself in a race situation. If I give up now, if I ease off now, what's to say I won't do the same thing come race day. The race, if anything, will be tougher. And giving up now won't bring me to the place I want to go.

I though of Bree, her words echoed resoundingly through my head, "The training is tougher than the race; if you can do the training, you can do the race."

After my first set, I took my splits, wrote down my distance and heart rate data, took my 5 minute rest, and got ready to run the second piece.

It was then that I truly began to notice the stares and looks from discombobulated treadmill-line people. I was getting a few dirty looks from fellow gym mates, but figured that Ms. I'm-walking-2-mph could get her rear off the mill-of-tread, I still had another 3 sets to go.

But what if someone confronted me about my treadmill overuse? What if the Gym Attendants came over and asked me to give up my spot?

I stared back at my reflection. Sweat poured down her face, the temple vein lookes as though it had a mind of its own. Her skin was pale, white and her eyes, while tired looking, also had a resolve. The heaving of her lungs, and gasping of breath only solidified her determination. She gave me inspiration.

If confronted, I would stop my piece. I would turn around, my full 5'4 frame taking up every single line of my challenger's vision, look them straight on and simply ask, "Do you really want this treadmill? Because, believe me - a big part of me wants to give it up, stop my workout short. I am in so much pain. I am pushing myself to new limits, to new bounds. But there's an even bigger part of me that knows that if I stop now, I won't ever achieve my goals, my dreams. I want to be an Ironman. I'm racing Ironman Arizona on April 13, 2008. I know exactly where I'll be that morning: getting ready to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, run 26.2. Can you say the same? Do you know what you'll be doing? If you want to take this workout away from me, so be it. But you won't take my dream. I implore you to let me finish my run - but if you insist, I'll give up my treadmill. Because a big part of me just wants to collapse on the ground because I've pushed myself so hard. I do today what you won't, so tomorrow I'll do what you can't. Can I please get back to my workout before I really have to stop? Will you help me to fulfill my dreams?"

Okay, okay, I know it's a bit sappy, a little thick. But I didn't have any other options. During my second and third 20 minute set, I was receiving downright negative vibes from one lady doing calf raises behind me. I knew that I shouldn't be on the stupid machine that long, and if I had my choice - I would be outside. But I was too far invested in this workout to stop. It was now or never, and I wasn't going to back down simply because one turquoise top lady was sending me evil looks.

I plowed on.

My fourth and final set was the most difficult. I ramped up the speed, determined to cover more distance than on any of my previous sets. For the past 3 sets, my heart rate had remained in the low to mid zone 4 range. I was ready to call all bets off, to go out, guns blazing.

So off I went.

I listened to Eminem's "Loose Yourself", remembered Alicia's post about the beauty of his lyrics.

And then I thought about all the fellow athlete's whose blogs I get to read. You guys all played a big role in the success of my final set. It wasn't pretty, but to all of you I give a big THANKS. Jen and her 8X800 sprint run, Ashley and her 1/2 marathon in ICY conditions, Danielle and her "hour-of-power" swim, Elizabeth's dirty words, Beth's ice baths, Bree Making It Hurt, Mary's HTFU (see above, I've already given the link, because its simply awesome!), Ness' Run Test, and the so many incredible entries that I've had the pleasure of reading. Every step I took, the words of my fellow bloggers ran with me, and I felt stronger by the end.

I wish you all could have been there.

You would have seen a funny looking blond girl, seating profusely, swearing at her treadmill, wibbly on her legs, but a big grin covering her entire face and lighting up the blank screen in front of her.

And I was trashed! I saw the wizard: he jumped on my back after my run and made it impossible to run again. I slowed to a walk and then a crawl, and eventually gave up on running my cool down. 5 minutes later, I wiped down the treadmill (it was wheezing) and went to stretch. I noticed that no one in line wanted to use my machine - I took heart by that observation. Ha - see if you can keep up with MY treadmill!

Actually, they were probably so disgusted by the mess that I left, that they didn't want to be anywhere in the near vicinity of my treadmill.

I wouldn't.

After stretching, I hobbled up, changed out of my soaking wet clothes, drank some recovery stuff (WHY does it taste so bad??? I have to hold my nose and then promise myself a "treat" - thumbprint cookies? - later. Awful tasting! If they can make an aero helmet, lightweight bikes, and all other sorts of delectable goodies, WHY can't they invent a good-tasting post-workout drink? Humbug!) and hobbled out of the building.

It was going to be an ice bath day: it was an ice-bath kind of workout.


And in the spirit of HTFU (3rd time the charm!)- I decided to make this ice bath as fun as possible. My theme was "It's HOT in here!"

Enjoy the picture - and to everyone out there, thanks for your help and support.

Notice the visor - "Life is Good" - and zinc oxyde (didn't want to burn my nose in the bright bathroom light), and the colorful bathing suit. If you're going to give it your all, you might as well go all out, right? So in the essence of a true ice bath, I sprung for way too much ice, and way too few warm clothes. Had to wear the socks, though. Nathaniel noticed the abundance of ice, and threw in a few Heinekins for the Packer game. Also note the Tikis in the bottom right corner of the photo - can't see their ugly faces, but they gave me inspiration to stick it through. Plus, they provided a great perch for my cool drink. And finally, I found the perfect book to read while sitting in my 32 degree tub, titled "Ice Master."

Enough said!