Thursday, April 30, 2009

Strength and Courage

“Do you think your legs will be able to handle Palomar tomorrow?" Nathaniel asked me last night as I made my final preparations for Thursday’s bike + run workout.

I paused for a moment, debating on how to respond. How DOES one respond, knowing the work, suffering, and pain that lay ahead…? It would be easy to make an excuse – I’m tired… I’m at the end of one of the most intense 3-week build cycles ever… I ran 2.5 hours the other day… it’s windy…it’s cold… it’s too sunny… it’s too cloudy… Ironman training… blah blah blah… Yes indeed, the excuses are endless.

So instead, I went for another tack.

“Well – the thing I’ve learned about Palomar is that it’s not so much the physical challenge, as it is the mental effort. My legs could feel great, but if my head isn’t in the game, then it will never happen.” I finished with a flourish, tossing my (just washed and folded!) bike shorts and jersey on the couch.

And then I tried to explain Molly’s awesome quote, but did it no justice. But for you – dear readers – here it is:
This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain

But sadly for Nathaniel (last night), I think I fell short. But he seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

This morning dawned bright and early – I naturally woke up at 4:44 am. Very very wrong. Yeah, the alarm was set for 5, but I was a mixture of nervous energy + hard-workout apprehension, and an extra 15 minutes or so of tossing and turning wasn’t going to help. A quick breakfast, check of the weather, and quick face book update, and I was wheeling my bike out the door by 5:25.

Very very wrong – too early.

But hey – if I know that I’ve got a really tough workout on the schedule, I would REALLY prefer to get it done early. No sense in waiting around and…thinking…about what…lay….ahead… Besides, it takes a good hour or so to drive to the base of Palomar. And by the time the bike is set up and I’m spinning on the trainer (because I really DON’T want to climb OUT of the valley floor for my warm up. What point is there warming up at zone 8 heart rate, pushing the smallest gear and maintaining 55 rpms? Yeah – not so good. Give me the trainer, good old 90-100 rpms, and my ipod and I’m all set), its 7 am.

Plus, I got to see a beautiful sunrise while passing through the Cleveland National Forest. AND enjoy an early morning cup of (strong) coffee with breakfast. So life was good.

(taken from the car...note the 1) early morning traffic and 2) dirty windshield)

After 30 minutes on the trainer while listening to random I pod music, I stashed my gear sans bike back in the car, took in a vanilla power gel, bid farewell to the Harras Casino Parking lot, and was off. Climbing out of the valley was, well – hard. I enjoyed about 3 minutes in The Big Ring, and then found myself spinning UP a big hill, crossing a cattle grate, and passing an empty flower stand. All in heart rate zone 8. 9 minutes later, I pulled into Jilberto’s Taco Stand parking lot and did my last-minute-pre-climb check.

Thankfully, I had already availed myself of the facilities in the Harras Parking lot (nope – it wasn’t pretty, but the bush + my car + parked truck almost kept me mostly hidden), so a bathroom stop wasn’t necessary. Instead I checked the brake pads (to make SURE they weren’t rubbing the rims. 6 mph is slow enough as it is), ensured that the rear water bottles were steady, and mentally prepped myself for the tough ride ahead.

Last time I rode up Palomar, I had a mission. The 4th attempt had been completed in a less-than-stellar effort on my part, and I was bound and determined to make up for it on the 5th. As it was, I got angry, I got fierce, I got determined – and I rocked my way up to a new personal best. The disappointment from my previous climb and mental weakness motivated me to work HARD and GO FOR IT.

Today was different. I wasn’t angry, didn’t feel upset, and certainly didn’t have anything to prove. I just wanted to climb. Plain and simple. Jen had given me a 3-hour brick workout – which included a 2 hour ride + 1 hour run. However, she specified that she wanted me to “bike in the hills in ALL zones…” Yep, Palomar would be perfect.

Therefore, I was the one to request it.

I knew though, that the climb would be hard. It always is. Moments pass where you feel great, like you could keep the watt output and tempo all day, followed seconds later with the feeling of I’m-never-going-to-make-this-you-go-on-ahead-while-I-curl-up-on-the-side-of-the-cliff-and-try-not-to-die. For those tough times, I wanted to keep my focus on the work being done, not on the pain.

I used the words “STRENGTH” and “COURAGE” to help me up.

Strength, because last time I climbed Palomar I bought a rock with the word written across it. A cheap tourist trinket at the General Store? Perhaps. But to a girl who had just tackled a mountain in an all new post-crash personal best, it meant the world.

Courage, because I heard an interview with Boston Marathon 3rd place runner Kara Goucher, who mentioned that her “power word” was COURAGE. The link to the interview on Universal Sports didn’t work – but here’s another site that had a similar quote:
"I love power words," says the runner, who selects one she'll think to herself throughout practice and then repeat to focus during the race. "At the Olympics I used the word 'fighter,'... and for Boston it was 'courage.' Have the courage to run your own race. Have the courage to want it--and to not be afraid to say it!"

Yes, it was Kara’s word. But it’s a hell of a word.

The bike looked good, I felt strong, and with a few swift pedal strokes and starting my watch – I was off!

Immediately, I turned to my mantra. Strength courage strength courage strength courage…all in time to my cadence. Have the strength to be courageous, from the courage comes strength… I repeated the words over and over again. Occasionally I pulled from Kate Oliver’s Mt. Lemmon mantra of “Push pull push pull” in order to add some variety to my riding vocabulary.

Riveting, I know.

In addition, I wanted to keep a watchful eye on my wattage. No – I wasn’t going to live and die based on my power output. But – I wanted to average a specific average watt output for the climb. Last time I was six watts lower than where I wanted to be. This time – using STRENGTH COURAGE and PUSH PULL to help – I wanted to hit that number. Or higher, if possible.

Strength, courage, courage, strength…Push pull push pull push pull…Courage in Strength….Strong and courageous…

But it’s what I focused on. And it worked.

I passed through the citrus groves and plant farms that were dotted along the base, and into the two sweeping overlooks on the way to the false flat 1/3 of the way up. Strength courage, courage strength, push pull push pull. A quick glance at my heart rate confirmed that I was well into zone 4, and doing a great job of staying within the ball park of my desired watt output.

Strength courage courage strength push pull push pull courage in your strength…

Hitting the false flat, I was about a minute ahead of where I was last time. But I knew the hard stuff lay ahead, and I pushed back the thought of blowing out too early. And what the heck? If three quarters of the way up I fell apart – well, so be it. I didn’t have anything to prove…it was just a beautiful morning and I felt lucky to be on my bike.

I’m not going to lie: South Grade Road was hard. There were times when I didn’t want to glance up, because the grade and the enormity of the mountain seemed almost overwhelming. At one point I caught a glimpse of South Grade Road 300 feet – and plenty of switchbacks – above. For the briefest moment, I wished that I were at that spot.

But then I surprised myself…

If I was up there, I found myself thinking, I would be 20 minutes ahead…and would therefore loose the valuable lessons that I’m learning about myself right now. Now I’d much rather be here…right here, right now.

The really cool thing – is that I completely believed it. Sure, I would finish sooner and gain a few hundred feet – but the lessons of the climb, the mental battles, the suffering, the hard part and the easy part combined together – would all be lost. And the experience wouldn’t be worth it in the end…

Courage. Strength. Courage. Strength.


And I just kept climbing. Kept a watchful eye on my watts, using my goal wattage as a benchmark, and just kept going. Slowly the mile markers clicked by, though I refused to let myself really count them until I hit 45.

And because South Grade Road starts somewhere around 41…it was a long way until I let myself count down the miles. Yes, I still glanced every .2 miles at the markers… 42.2, 42.2, 42.6, 42.8, 43, 43.2….and trust me when I say that biking at 7 miles per hour with a cadence of 55 or 60 rpm, well – it was a long time.

But I just kept going, mantra running through my head. Whenever the pain felt unbearable, whenever I found myself entertaining the idea of getting off the bike and chucking it off the mountain, whenever I felt myself growing weak, I returned to those words. And. Just. Kept. Going. Eyes down, there were times I refused to look up ahead. Instead, the watt output, the mantra, and the white line painted on the side of the road became my company.

I had nothing to prove, no one to impress (heck, no one was out that early, save the 4 cars that passed me going up on South Grade Road), and was simply in my element on my own.

Before I knew it, I was passing my favorite sign: 5000 elevation and mile 47 marker. This is where I find myself…I recalled asking myself during my drive over ‘what will you learn today while climbing?’ My answer? A resounding STRENGTH and COURAGE.

Out of the saddle, I took a power 10 pedal strokes for mile marker 47 and the 5000 elevation sign, and “powered” up the road. At 6 miles per hour. It was brilliant.

47.2, 47.4, 47.6…and then the final bend. I could see the stop sign, could see the end in sight. For the first time since starting my climb, the road didn’t stretch endlessly off into the distance. I smiled, stood up on the pedals, and crested the top. I was in so much agony, so much pain – but it was all overshadowed by the sense of accomplishment. When the going got tough – I pushed through. When the road looked impossibly steep, I focused on my mantra. When my body said no – I responded: STRENGTH COURAGE PUSH PULL.

Looking down, I was happy to see I had surpassed my goal wattage by… a grand total of 2 watts. Hey – I’ll take it ANY day! But better yet, I had beaten my old personal best by three minutes. Sure – my average heart rate and max heart rate were separated by six beats. And yes, my arms were sore from gripping the ends of my handlebars so tightly for the ride up. But I was ecstatic, and felt like yelling from the mountain top.

A chocolate gel would have to do instead.

I quickly refueled, had some water, and zipped up my wind vest. The temperature was a crisp 47 degrees, and I knew that I was in for a chilly descent.

Chilly doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.



And because I’m a wimp when it comes to descending (ie – I don’t pedal and I grip my brakes TIGHTLY), it was a long journey down. I pulled over not once, but twice to prevent my hands from cramping. And now – 10 hours post-ride – I think my lats and triceps are just as sore as my legs from holding on so tightly.

30 or 40 minutes later, I arrived at my car, safe and sound in the casino parking lot, quickly stashed my bike gear in the car, and set off for my (prescribed FLAT) 60 minute transition run.

Where does one run on a flat course for 60 minutes in a valley surrounded by mountains?

Good question! Glad you asked!

I ran seven times around the Harras Casino Parking lot. And if you think I’m joking, I’m not. Seriously. Seven times…plus and extra two minutes out and back (to make it an even hour. Because if you think I’m going to stop at 56 minutes, you’re wrong my friend). The bus drivers were amused, and who knows what the casino workers thought. It was the construction crew on the West end that had a field day.

Every time (for the first four or five times) I passed them, they shouted or yelled. I tried to smile or wave, but in the end I think they felt sorry for me. They probably though I was nuts – running circles around a Casino for who-knows-how-long. And perhaps I was.

Because in this sport – to do what we do – you have to be a little nuts. You have to be a little crazy. You have to be willing to say the same damn words over and over again in your head as you climb a never ending hill for seemingly forever. You have to push aside embarrassment and discomfort, and run in circles for an hour.

At the end of the day, I was spent but felt great. I’m grateful for the really good training days, happy when I feel strong both mentally and physically. And I realize that this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes our head is in the game, but our body just doesn’t respond. And others, the body, the legs, the arms are all there – but the heart just isn’t.

Sometimes it takes courage to be strong, and we find strength in our courage. And others, well, we just need to put our head down and push pull push pull push pull. Because in the end, we have the ultimate decision in what kind of day, what kind of workout we’ll have. Today I found the words that worked for me.

What are yours?

A few photos from the day - mostly after the workout was done. Enjoy!

The roses that I ran by 7X during my hour run around the casino. I didn't notice them until after my run - go figure. But when I finally did...they were beautiful.

ME - post workout! DONE!! Hooray!!! WOW - it's hot. And that was a boring run. wow.

Beautiful California scenery. I LOVE living here!

And more...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hang in there - you're doing great!

Last weekend during my LONG ride, I received support from a very unexpected source. 3:48 into my ride, and I was this close to throwing in the towel, getting off my bike and chucking it onto the nearest tank trail on Camp Pendleton. All while praying that a Marine Tank would come along and crush it (luckily for me, they weren't out on Saturday). I don't normally hate my bike, mind you, but for some reason, Saturday's ride was tough.

Welcome to Ironman training!

There will be good days, bad days, days where you wonder if you'll ever be able to do it, days where you question your sanity/drive/emotional stability/happiness/feel-free-to-fill-in-the-blank-with-your-own-choice-word, days where you wonder how you'll ever get through xx workouts - and then you do... There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Yes, I am in full Ironman training mode.

Some days are great. Others are, well, not so good. But hey - that's life. We ALL have good days, bad days, in-between days. And let's face it: then there are those special days, where all you want to do is curl up on the couch with your Other Half, sipping early morning coffee and watch...South Park.

Yes - that was last Saturday.

After eating my pre-long-ride breakfast of oatmeal + wheat germ + brown sugar + dried cherries + greek yogurt, I headed back to bed for an hour or two of shut eye before my ride. BIG MISTAKE.

Because when I finally woke up, the single though racing through my mind was: I don't want to ride! I don't want to do this! Why? Why today?

There was no reason for it, absolutely none. Friday was an easy day of training, with just a swim. And I was actually excited about the long Saturday ride... Blue skies, the wind in my hair, going out and just riding for 5 hours with no worry of watts, heart rate, pace, time in zone x...enjoying the sport at its finest and in its purest form.

But I realized that IN NO POSSIBLE WAY could I bag the ride. Because there's no hiding in Ironman.


If you don't put in the effort, complete the workouts, honestly prepare to your full capacity - the Ironman Monster will get you. I don't care how you phrase it: without proper preparation, you are preparing to fail. And fail to you is different that fail to me. Yes, I realize that I will never cross that line first - and I'm okay with that. But skipping workouts, not training when I don't feel like it, slacking off when I'm tired - that's certainly NOT going to help me succeed.

Honestly - its one thing to skip a workout when training for short course races, miss a 2 (or even 3) hour ride on the weekend...but its another thing to skip your long ride when training for an Ironman. Saturday morning, when I was gathering my gels and nutrition for the ride-that-I-didn't-want-to-do-but-had-to-do, that realization was all the more real.

It was especially tough because in all of my training thus far (knock on wood), I've never been so adamant about not doing a workout.

Which was all the more reason for me to keep gathering my ride clothes, gels, water, salt, helmet, shoes, glasses, etc...keep my head down, and get out the door. And yes, I could hear South Park on in the background and smell the freshly brewed coffee...but I still kept going.

My motivator?


What if I'm not prepared for my race? What if I'm just not ready?? Skipping workouts, especially a key one like my LONG RIDE for the week - well, that's just not going to cut it.

Fear can be good. No, fear can be great! It's that little bit of extra that we sometimes need to get our rear in gear.

Barely 30 minutes after I roused myself from bed, I was rolling out the door, yelling to Nathaniel (who was intent on his South Park) that I would be back, "IN EXACTLY FIVE HOURS!"

It was 5:02 to be precise, but 1) not that I'm counting and 2) I'm getting ahead of myself.

From there, I just rolled with it. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fast: then again, it didn't need to be. I just needed to do the time... Screw the wattage, heart rate... just get out and enjoy the ride. Hell, focus on the favorite pair of pants that I can finally pull on again for the first time since my crash last year (post-crash swelling combined with weight gain from not training = a favorite pair of pants gathering dust at the bottom of my closet)...anything to keep you going.

And slowly but surely, the miles and the time, clicked off... It was NOT easy, and there were certain points while riding up Del Dios Canyon and again through Elfin Forest that I questioned why I was doing this. But any and every time negative thoughts or questions crept into my mind, I tried desperately to squash them away. Nope - it wasn't with the usual vigor that I'm used to. But at least I was able to quiet my mind and just focus on the road ahead.

Even if it meant looking to the nearest tree, boulder, or road sign.

Yes, it was that sort of ride.

One of the hardest parts? Passing within 5 blocks of home when I still had two hours left. THAT was tough - but I wanted to head up into Camp Pendleton for a bit, and riding through Carlsbad was necessary in order to do so. Let me tell you...that was tough, but I made myself do it...reminding myself that '3 hours is NOT NEARLY enough time in the saddle on a long weekend ride for Ironman training'...

The second most difficult part of the day? My pit stop at Starbucks a mile down the road from my house. It was my designated re-fueling and bathroom stop...I was giving myself 3 minutes max to do my business and get back on the road. The scones and coffee smelled delicious...and Which Creek Winery was RIGHT next door...

Hhhhmmmmm..... I could kick back, enjoy a free wine tasting, and then consume large quantities of baked goods all washed down with lashings of hot caffeinated beverages...

But I didn't.

Passing through Oceanside and then onto Camp Pendleton was easy. Once on base, that's where things got difficult again. I was alone, off the main beat of 101, away from the sights and sounds of a bustling sea-side city on a beautiful Saturday early afternoon. Instead, I was looking at dusty tank trails, endless stretches of land, and the occasional military vehicle.

And that's when it hit me: I don't think I can do Ironman. I'm scared. It seems overwhelming. And if I can't even get through a stupid bike ride, then how the hell am I supposed to finish 140.6 miles of swim-bike-run? And then the tears started to fall.

I was scared. Really, really scared - of the possibility of failure. What if I can't do it? What if its too much? Suddenly, the grassy fields looked extremely inviting, and I was pretty close to pulling a Norman (circa Ironman Hawaii flat tire), throwing my bike, throwing a temper tantrum, and then calling Nathaniel to come pick me up. I had one chocolate powergel left...not quite the same as a scone, but it would work in a pinch.

And then, something amazing happened.

Without realizing it, I had happened upon Camp Pendleton's first annual marathon. A part of the run course ran adjacent to the road I was biking on, and I had a clear view of the tail end of the field. With 6 miles to go, the few souls that were still out, had probably been running (and walking) for well over 5 hours. I was biking so slowly, that one guy was able to tell that I was pretty upset.

"You're doing great - hang in there!" he shouted as I spun by.

This - coming from the guy who was three places ahead of last place.

But his words stuck with me... you're doing great - hang in're doing great - hang in there...

I looked back, and could still see him in plain sight. No - he wasn't going fast, and in fact, he had slowed to a walk. But he was still doing it. He was hanging in there. He was doing great.

And if a random stranger, who could so clearly tell that I wasn't feeling very good, and who was half running, half walking a marathon could keep going - then so could I.

My pace didn't really change - my 15 mph remained...15 mph. But my attitude certainly did. The tears dried up, and I realized that all I had to do was hang in there - I was doing great.

We can't all have great workouts, we can't all even have good workouts. And heck, we certainly can't choose when we're going to feel like shit and hate our bike. But during Saturday's long ride, I gained something much more valuable than time in the saddle or miles on my training long. I discovered what its like to 'hang in there - you're doing great.'

It's not always pretty...but as long as you hang in're doing great. And sometimes, that's simply all that we need.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A day in photos

Today was singlehandedly one of the most difficult training days of my life. No - it wasn't super long, and there definitely weren't a lot of difficult intervals. However... However, the two hour trainer ride (2 X 20 min at watt xxx) followed by a long (90 minute) run with another 20 minute zone 3/4 interval was enough to leave me laying in a dazed stupor on the hardwood floors, surrounded by recovery drinks and two curious kitties.

Let me show you...

My bike was set up, waiting to go.

And in the next room, my run gear was ready to go.

Once I was on the bike, this was my view.
And yes, for those curious onlookers, the mixing bowl on the floor to the left IS there to catch any bits of breakfast that decided to show themselves again. Luckily, it remained (mostly) unused.

Warming up...
Ever since my rowing days (a long long long time ago), I've always had a mirror close when I'm stationary on my bike (or back then, erg). Something about checking form...

One last pre-workout shot. Clearly, ignorance is bliss.
I had no idea of the suffering that lay ahead. Well - maybe I did. I just didn't want to think about it.

Good feelings gone.
Right about now, I think I almost hated Jen. But I didn't...even though I HURT. At this point, I had embraced the pain, made peace with the suffering (thanks for the post Bree...)

Gearing up for the second piece. This one was the hardest, by far.
But going into it, I though a lot about what I wanted to do and carried a lot of confidence with me (thanks for the post Liz...)

I DID IT! The elation that I felt was beyond words... The final 10 minutes were some of the most difficult (mentally) that I had ever endured on the bike. Giving up DID cross my mind, as did easing off the pressure. But I didn't...Arms wide open, I flung myself over the edge, chased the nut, became the wizard, threw down the read bear, and all other things epic about these once-in-a-while workouts.

You would be smiling too...

Next up - the run!

And who would I see when I "ran" into the bedroom to change?
It looked soooo inviting. A cuddly kitty in a made up bed. (small sigh). But I had a 90 minute T-run to do...

No pictures for this one...I was too focused to run with a camera! But trust me when I say that it was ALL I could do to NOT jump into the Pacific. The waves looked perfect for surfing, and I couldn't help but smile at all the surfers on their boards.

I did run by this spot though - the lifeguard station just north of South Carlsbad State Beach

But today the weather looked more like this
But I swear that I didn't head to the beach...I just ran along side of it.

After I finished, I gathered my post-workout recovery essentials
Yes, that is a diet coke and no, I didn't drink it first. Chocolate milk, powerbar recovery bar, water, and THEN the coke. But I was craving a regular classic coke for the final 12 minutes of my run.

Along with Tomato Basil Wheat Thins, a cheeseburger, and Salt 'n Vinegar chips. Go figure. But mostly the coke... Yeah - the only thing we had was the diet coke. So there you go.

And finally! Me - on the floor! DONE!
BIG smile and a thumbs up. I think I stayed in this spot for a good 20 minutes. I am NOT kidding.

Oh look - a friend came to join me!

And another on!! Yeah!

Okay...time to stretch. (small sigh).
This should at LEAST help the hamstrings. At least that's what I had all my fitness classes do when I taught aerobics. Yes - I taught aerobics...but no more!

Speaking of torture...
Time to stretch, roll, squeeze, press, and work out the 1)knots and 2)lactic acid.

Yes - the foam roller (along with quadballer and tennis ball) is my friend!
Or is that "are my friends"...?

Who knows?

Tabbitha wants in on the action -

Keeping me company? Some good music on i tunes... ;)
Yes - the little pony in the corner of the screen is from the dirty pony song. Stupid song is REALLY stuck in my head now.

Ice bath time! Off to the store.

Oops...slight detour...

Back on track! Mission accomplished...

Can you believe that I paid money to do this? I could have had sushi instead...but I go for the ice bath. Well - my legs will thank me, even if my tummy doesn't.

The kitties kept me company though - Tabbitha right next to me, but wary of the Mini Monster peeking up from the floor. Did you know that Tabbs is afraid of Anabelle? Ha!

Anabelle is VERY curious.

And BOY - that ice is cold! I swear - the socks help. Even if only a little...

Tabbitha, watching from the hallway. She had enough of Mini Monster.
And I was bored, cold, and trying to pass time as quickly as I could.

Time to recover! YEA!!!!
And the BEST post-workout sandwich EVER... I present the Peanut-butter & Honey on Whole Wheat Toast. Best when the PB melts, of course...

Almost gone...
Note the pink compression tights... You can't see much, because I'm WEARING TIGHTS under my snowmen pjs. Yes, the ice bath will do that to you!

Joined by a friend, who wants to keep me warm.
Or else was after the PB. Not really sure on that one...

Hot tea! You should have been there - absolutely fantastic.

Finally - joined by the best friend of them all.

It was an epic day...thanks for coming along on my journey!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monsters, Mainsets, Music

And no, NOT House Monsters.

Life is riveting, I tell you. I blame it on the general fatigue that's been ever increasing day-by-day. Last week, I gave myself until Thursday the 16th before I started feeling it, and then the weekend before it hit me full on. At this point, I'm nearly used to the constant-needing-of-a-nap. I keep reminding myself, though, that there are no easy days in Ironman training. Only days with less work...and the only reason there is less work is because the previous day(s) were hard.

Circle of life, my friends.

Errrr, wrong analogy. But something like that.

Because this is about survival, enduring, pushing past the hardship and beyond what you though possible, into the impossible. I guarantee you that the herds of wildebeests sweeping majestically across the plains are thinking something along those lines (ie: survival). Sure, they're being chased by a lion or some sort of hungry animal - but they're still fighting for survival.
Tabbitha has clearly lost that flight or fight ideal. She's got the right idea, though.

Some days I feel like the wildebeest, and others I feel like the lion. On the one hand, I'm chased by the Ironman Fear Monster; Coeur d'Alene is less than 65 days away (or something like that. I prefer NOT to know, thank you very much). On the other hand, this is my choice! I signed up, I want to do it...its something that I'm working my literal and figurative butt off for. I'm hungry for it, in every sense of the word. So I embrace the challenge, the hurt, the fatigue, the self-discovery...the rewards. And press on, knowing that in the end I'll do the best that I can.

Luckily, at the end of the race, the participants don't get eaten. Yeah - that's another good thing.

Other happening bits of my life? During Monday's Masters swim, I lead 2850 of the 3000 meter main set. But with 150 to go, I felt a tapping on my toes. My wheels had come off - I was spent. 9 X 300 had me toasted, and my arms decided to stop. I paused at the wall to allow two guys to pass, and then as best as I could, jumped on the back of their train. Staying on feet (and we all know how much I hate feet) became my mission, and I fought as hard as I could to remain in the bubbles of a friendly draft.

It wasn't pretty, but I did it. Its Wednesday now and I'm swimming in a little over 3 hours. And my arms still hate me.

In happier news, I organized my gear closet, put away all the triathlon-related crap, errr, stuff that was cluttering our house (read: living room, dining room, front entry, kitchen), and finally found the song on i tunes that was repeating itself over and over and over again in my head during yesterday's 3-hour ride. I'm ashamed to admit that "Hot Little Pony" by Far was the culprit.

Don't judge me (too harshly) - I swear that I only heard it once on the radio...and then wham! It got stuck.

But that's life. We do what we can with what we've got available. And if raunchy songs get stuck in our heads, well, at least I can learn the lyrics and sing along. Because there's nothing worse than having a song stuck in your head than having a song stuck in your head that you don't know the words to. That's just annoying.

Circle of life, my friends. Let's push on, endure, and grow together. Hopefully a little better than my tomato plant though.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day at the beach

After Saturday's long, long, long workout, I was due for an easy day (small laugh. why? Because in Ironman training, I'm finding there are no easy days. Only days with less work.) And thankfully on Sunday's schedule was (only) a small swim and easy run.

So, for the FIRST time since moving out to beautiful Carlsbad, California, Nathaniel and I packed up towels, drinks, beach books, slathered ourselves with sunscreen, and headed to the beach. A 10-minute walk later, we were trudging through the sand.

And yes, SPF 50 DOES work to prevent sunburn. I can attest to that, as my stomach has not seen the light of day since...since...well, gosh. I don't really remember when I last wore a two piece. Even during Masters swimming, I'm partial to the one piece, as I don't know how the bottoms would stay on. I mean - let's face strong push off the wall and there go the bottoms...

So I made a special effort to keep the whiteness of my abdomen from becoming red. Sunburn is not fun, and tummy sunburn is simply awful.

The beach itself was great. Lots of people, plenty of sun, low tide but some nice waves, and even a few dolphins past the breakers. Nathaniel and I spread out our towels and books, dipped our toes at the water's edge (holy COW that's cold!), and settled down to read and relax.

At one point I asked Nate to snap a few pictures, "...for the blog!"

"Okay...hold on," he replied. " wouldn't like this angle...or this one....oh, you'll hate this shot...."

Before he could finish the task, I had snatched the camera back. "Clearly, if it takes you THAT long to find a decent shot of me, either 1) I'm unattractive or 2) your camera skills suck. You be the judge."

No more individual shots were taken after that.

But the rest of the day was great. The sound of the surf lulled me to sleep, my book covering my face, occasionally awakened by shrieking children or the guys a few meters away playing Frisbee.

It was quite the contrast from Saturday's ride. I was grateful to Shannon and Stephen for joining me in the first three hours. We set out from my place (they were super great, willing to drive from La Jolla and ride at 7 am!), cruised down the coast to Solana Beach, rode up through Rancho Santa Fe and up Del Dios Canyon, pushed through Elfin Forest (where we saw the Swami Ride coming from the other direction - absolutely incredible how fast and how hard they were riding!), past San Elijo Hills, down La Costa, and back to Carlsbad...Then I dropped them off and (gulp) did the loop in reverse.

It was long, and at times I wanted OFF the saddle, OUT of my shoes, and to be DONE with the ride. And believe me when I say - that biking 100+ miles in the hills of California is VERY different from biking along the Florida Panhandle. But in the end, the miles were covered and I spent the required time in the saddle on the bike. The run afterwards was interesting - after 5 or 10 minutes I found my feet and my legs no longer felt like jello.

And the hardest part? NOT detouring into the ocean during my T-run along the beach. Those who read my blog on a regular basis know that I'm (slightly) afraid of sharks - so I'm not one to voluntarily jump in and swim out unless totally necessary. But Saturday afternoon, believe me when I say that stopping and wading out into the cool waters, felt necessary. But I held back, marveling at my own restraint, and finished my run.

Later, the ice bath was not too horrible, and the sushi that Nathaniel and I enjoyed absolutely spectacular.

And the rest, as they say - is history.

It was a long weekend, with lots of great training, time spent with friends, and some quality R&R on the beach.
(I guess Nate did get a picture of me at the water's edge. Wow - if you look closely, you can see the tan lines. But really? I'd much rather spend time swimming in a one piece than lounging around in a two...)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mish Mash of Hodge Podge

Which is really all that this blog is. I've had several running blog topics or 'ideas' running through my brain, but somehow haven't committed to any single one yet. Blame it on the IM training, because that's what I'm doing. And while I'm at it, I need to thank Mary Bradbury for the 'Hodge Podge' idea in the first place.

Without further ado...

1) I haven't killed any plants yet. But the tomato is looking a little less-than-stellar. Note to self: watering daily is important...

2) I was hit HARD by a case of the grumps Wednesday morning. Don't ask why or how - I can't explain. Only while driving to the pool, when I made myself list a few positives, did they go away. I have a home, a roof over my head, a family that loves me, enough food on the table... Yeah, that will put things into perspective quick!

3) It only took 45 minutes to swap out the race wheels and re-hook-up the power meter. My biggest obstacle? I couldn't get the stupid zip ties to work in order to secure the bike computer mount to the stem. Instead of the 2 that are required to do the trick, I've got 4. Don't ask.

4) But I rode my Scott for the FIRST TIME yesterday since Oceanside. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and more. The cross winds weren't too horrible, the hill repeats didn't seem too hard, and I loved the feeling of not-having-trashed-legs-so-I-can-still-feel-strong-while-doing-the-workout. Good feeling will be gone in a few days, I imagine. I am, after all, still in the first week of IM build.

5). OhMyGosh! I'm at the FIRST WEEK of IM build! And there are (something like) 65 days left before Coeur d'Alene. Not that I'm counting...

6) I refuse to be bullied into leading the lane. I'll do the pull set - not a problem. I don't mind sharing. Heck, I'll even take turns for the mainset. But when I can barely make the interval for a killer 18 X 100 and there are faster people there who are just cruising in the back, I am MORE than willing to take my paddles and shove them, well... you get my point.

7) I will be spending as much time physically riding my bike and running on Saturday, as I slept last night. I'm riding 6+ hours (or until I hit 100 miles... the real kicker? I MUST stay on my bike a MINIMUM of 6 hours, and I must ride a MINIMUM of 100 miles. If I get the miles before the six hours are up, I have to remain on the bike...), and then running 40. Wow. I think post-ride sushi will be appropriate.

8) I don't like driving in the car for 100 miles. It seems so...long. And takes for-ev-er. Thankfully, I'll be on a bike!

9) I am in Peanut Butter Egg withdrawal. Yesterday when I had a chocolate gel, I wondered where they had hidden the peanut butter before I realized it was just a gel. small sigh.

10) Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent". Simply amazing and the clip made me tear up. If you've got a few moments, its worth checking out.

11) After watching 3 past episodes of "The Office" on the web last night, Nathaniel and I are caught up. Wow - a lot has happened... For our viewing pleasure, I made a really good lentil dish and Nate cracked open a bottle of wine. Its nice when he's at home and not flying night flights!

12) There's a construction sight right next to the pool, as the high school is putting in a new stadium complex. Or something of the sort. Now I don't have a problem with that...the chocking diesel fumes from all the machinery that have been blowing into the pool, on the other hand... Nothing says 'Excellent' like coming up with a lung full of diesel fumes when you're trying desperately to make the 18 X 100 on x:xx pace.

13) Even though the hot tub isn't the best thing for me post-workout, man it feels good. After Saturday's session though, it'll be the ice bath - I'm sure. Nathaniel even volunteered to have it ready by the time I return from my run...

14) New swimming suits make me feel 1)fast 2)happy to swim 3)not naked - as my old ones were a little, errr, threadbare...

15)The House Monster and Mini Monster have decided to co-exist. Nope, they're not friends. But I think they accept each others presence. And Tabbitha growls while Anabelle chases her around the room. In case you're wondering, this extra dose of exercise has not prompted the Fat Grey Cat to loose a few pounds. The only time that they're close? When Tabbitha is asleep and Anabelle curls up as close as she can without touching Tabbitha.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Sub Zero Poopin' Hero

Need I say more?

Absolutely not.

Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words.

(And yes, those ARE jelly beans. I think...)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I thought that I exhibited exemplary restraint when I passed by the Giant Reces Pieces Peanut Butter Egg in the checkout lane. Although the second one, a few feet down had me pause for though. Two Reces Pieces PB Eggs in such a short space...and I'm not even looking for them...Is this a sign from some Two-Floppy-Eared Higher Power showing me that I should toss one OR BOTH into my cart?

And then I kept going. There is, after all, too much of a good thing. I simply love PB eggs too much to eat many more. In the past when I've really liked some particular food item - I've never actually stopped myself from enjoying it. Try eating two trays of Ferrero Rochers in one sitting. I guarantee that you'll never eat another rocher again. Trust me.

Thankfully, the PB eggs will not meet the same fate as the Rochers. That I guarantee. Next year, though, all bets are off.

In other news, I'm back on the bike. Not the TT bike, just the converted-cervelo-into-a-road bike. Today's ride was meant to be an easy one, and I figured the lack of aero bar end-shifters would keep me from gunning it up the hills or chasing down riders on Pacific Coast Highway. Yeah (small laugh) right.

The wind, hills, headwind, cross-wind, more hills, (and did I mention wind?) kept me from going "fast". My ride turned more into a "cruse": enjoying Elfin Forest, pedaling DOWN Canyon Del Dios (ahem - MORE headwind), sightseeing through Rancho Santa Fe, smelling the Dill and other herbs at random moments, and finally receiving a well-deserved tailwind on my foray back into Carlsbad. If 25 mph could feel so easy ALL the time. I may not have even been pedaling (much) -

Trust me when I say I was a happy camper with the wind on my back.

Honestly? I'm giving myself until Thursday afternoon for the Ironman training to really start hurting. So far, I'm doing okay (knock on wood and famous last words, right?). A little sore from lunges yesterday... But as the work builds, I know the fatigue will really set in. By next week, any semblance of "normal", "springy", or "fresh" legs/body/fill-in-your-body-part-of-choice will be long gone.

The good news in our house, though, is the start of Season 5 of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch". The small things in life, eh? Nathaniel's love for the show got me interested; and last year during my recovery, I spent many hours in bed watching reruns and previous seasons.

I (read: he) enjoyed the show so much that Northwestern coffee mugs arrived on our doorstep one day... He loved them so much that he refused to take one to work, claiming it would be gone before the day's end. And while I don't agree with the logo "I'd rather be crab fishing" - the mugs feel great to drink coffee out of. Even if I do color mine with a skirt (read: coffee creamer).

And with that, I'm done. Off to eat dinner and enjoy a show about crab fishing. And while it seems wrong to eat Turkey Loaf while watching incredibly hearty souls fish for crab, well, that's what's on the menu. And maybe, just maybe, a PB egg.

You never know.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The end of R&R...

Well, it's been a great week. Relaxing, calming, no pre-race nerves, or post-workout fatigue. No epic rides, long runs, or German-ITU-style swims. (Small sight of relief. Was it that audible? Through the computer? Wow). Recovery mode has been, simply stated: fantastic.

Even the kitties are loving it, enjoying to the max. Then again - they always. do. Now, if only Tabbitha could fold the laundry in addition to sleeping on it...

I've alo had time to take care of my Jasmine plant, which I've so aptly named "Jasmine." She's a bit needy, this girl. Constant dead-heading and trimming; but its very satisfying at the same time. Gardening will do that, I guess.

The very best part though? Spending time with Nathaniel. We actually enjoyed two weekend mornings in a row of having breakfast and coffee on the back patio. Saturday and Sunday. Seriously - not joking, folks. I think this must be some sort of record. Yes, he teased me about my love for coffee creamer (his quote: "You drink coffee with a skirt!"), while I joked that I NEED my coffee with a skirt because I make it super strong. Two entire mornings!

Later on we enjoyed lunch in La Jolla and a stroll through the Scripps Aquarium. Um, yeah - nothing gets me going like marine life and the unmentionables with really big teeth. Yeah. We even saw a few of those. And after that?

Wine tasting! We're members of Which Creek Winery, and enjoyed a sample of fantastic wines. We may even crack open a bottle to go with our pizza and "Amazing Race"-watching date tonight. You never know... Top off the afternoon with the Carlsbad Farmer's Market and just-picked strawberries, and I think I was walking on air.

But it ends tomorrow.

Not the plants, no. Or the wine... The R&R, that is.

Tomorrow I begin my IM Coeur d'Alene build. I'm excited, really I am. But in addition to that excitement, are a little bit of jitters and nerves. Kind of like those we all get before a big race... I know that the weeks ahead will be tough...filled with new challenges, long days, sore limbs, and a mind that grows stronger from all the time spent training. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting up and out the door. Others, its pushing through to the end of a ridiculously long workout.

Regardless, I'm reminded that I do this sport, because I love it. It's my choice, to swim-bike-run. And all the training that goes with it. And yeah, sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming. But more often than not, I'm grateful for even the chance to participate.

Because just over a year ago, I didn't know if that was possible or not.

So tomorrow, I jump back in. Excited, happy, and (slightly nervous) about the road that lies ahead. Back on track, ready and raring' to go.

But for the rest of the night? I'm chilling. Relaxing, living it up, soaking it in, enjoying the calm before the storm. And if some pink compression socks, comfy hooded sweat-shirt, wine, Margarita Pizza, Amazing-Race TV-date with Nate, and (oh, ghee) a Peanut Butter Easter egg happen to come my way...? You bet I'll take it for all its worth. I'm well on my way already!