Friday, March 27, 2009

Brick, German, Ice, Fun!

My day started like this...

And (thankfully) ended like that...

In between, I did a little of this...

And afterwards, put on these...

I rarely, if every, cry "UNCLE!", but yesterday with 10 minutes left on my T-run, I was done. Toasted. Game over, man! Jen's workout had done the trick, and my legs were feeling the accumulation of tough effort over the past few days.

And before my northern counterparts made disparaging remarks about my bike being on the trainer, in my defense the bike part of my workout called for me to hit specific wattage. And while biking in Southern California traffic WILL get my heart rate up, it doesn't do much for the watts. Stop and go, go and stop. And wait. For. Lights.

So, the trainer it was!

The T-run was just funny. Really. At least I found hilarity in the situation, if anything else. 10 minutes to go, and I was thinking evil thoughts about my coach. She had done it: I was done. Yes, I'll happily bike up Mt. Palomar, hang on to Spencer Smith with all my might, do track work to my heart's desire, and swim with freakishly fast German ITU people - but run for 10 more minutes?

No way.


My swim was pretty much on the same page. I took it as easy as I could, coasting in the draft of people who shouldn't swim so fast on a recovery day, doing everything I could to keep up. Fins, paddles - all the swim toys you could think of became my new friend. Who cares if all the Germans gave my bad looks when I grabbed the zoomers for our kick set? I couldn't understand what they were saying anyway.

And then they (without said zoomers) dropped my sorry ass.

Oh yeah, well (and this is taken from Fawlty Towers, so please don't be offended) - we still won the war.

But the effort was well worth it! As my last HARD or LONG day before my official Oceanside taper begins, I gave it my all. And then I was done. Seriously.

A quick trip to the store, and I emerged with 40 pounds of ice for the ever-so-important-but-chilly ice bath. The clerk who joked about 'all the beer that ice would hold' had no idea. I didn't even bother explaining it was for me to sit in. Yeah, better to let people think I'm doing if for something normal.

I did have a few friends with me...(Not the most flattering shot of Tabbitha, I agree. But my big girl was being careful to avoid slipping into the tub).

(And of course, Anabelle just had to 'pop' up to see what was going on.)

The best part though? Enjoying dinner, dessert, and wine with friends! Super Sassy Shannon and her One-of-a-kind Sidekick Stephen came over for Tofu Pad Thai. Even Nathaniel enjoyed the tofu (what a good boy!) I was more than happy to cook the meal, so long as they provided dessert. Yum!

So all it took was a little perseverance, a sense of humor, the will to survive, high tolerance for cold water, and the promise of yummy food and beverages with friends. If only every day could be so fun!

Now, off to Lunch time Masers. Today is Friday, therefore "sprint" day. Does anyone else find this funny? Sprinting, me?? Ha ha ha ha ha. I think I'll try to just hold on for dear life - it can't be tougher than anything else right?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Target: track!

So an interesting thing happened to me yesterday at the track. Now don't go and get your hopes too high - my life isn't that interesting. But upon later reflection, it made me laugh.

Or perhaps it was because in my post-workout-induced-haze (yes, we all go there from time to time, especially when running 1/4 mile circles a la lab rat), things just seemed 'funnier'. Yeah, that was it.

Yesterday morning, I headed out towards one of two running tracks (that I know of) on Marine Corps Station Camp Pendleton. I figured the scenery would look great (mountains in the background - yeah!) and that running on base would give me a little *extra* motivation to go *fast*, (as portions of my next race take place on base).

Wow. It rhymes!

Actually, (and here's the kicker), I was hoping to reward myself with some post-track-workout-sushi from the commissary. Out of all the places that we've lived, I've gotta say that Camp Pendleton's grocery store does the best sushi. Nothing erases the pain of track repeats like shrimp, tuna, and salmon nigiri! (At least that's what I kept telling myself as I huffed and puffed my way around the damned circle).

After parking, walking half a block to the track sporting my bright pink compression socks (yeah - on a Marine base, that certainly got a lot of looks), and completing my 2 mile warm up, I was ready to go.

Nothing too exciting to mention about the workout. Um, it hurt? Aaand - I pushed it? I felt steady and strong...? Not really *fast* per se, just 'steady'. And 'strong'. I'm realizing that with Ironman training, fast just isn't the adjective of choice. But steady and strong - perhaps solid would be a bit more appropriate. Yeah - that's it. I felt solid.

(Let's just hope I feel that way at mile 18 of the run during Ironman CDA! Yikes!)

One of the things I DID notice though, were all the helicopters flying above and near by. The helo squadrons and runway were a few miles away, and I figured the choppers above were just part of the flight pattern. I amused myself by trying to figure out which models of helicopter were flying.

Remember: Nate does this for a living. At LEAST I should be able to identify the type of helo he flies. After all, he's pretty darned good when it comes to triathlon-lingo.

I was pretty darned proud of myself when I noticed the two different types of Hueys flying: the "N" version (1980s model, smaller engines, two rotor blades, makes a whomp-whomp-whomping noise) and the "Y" version (2008 version, huge engines, four rotor blades, and makes a loud humming noise...due to the four rotors instead of two. Nathaniel flies this one). Gold stars for me!

Later on, I noticed more Hueys, a few Cobras, one CH-46, and a Shitter. Yes, in the Marine Corps, there is actually a helicopter called "The Shitter". (The CH-53 referred to as this, because it 1) drags its rear tail rotor and 2) expels a cloud of yucky-looking smoke.) Every time I see one, I think to myself, "There goes The Shitter!"

Come to think of it, I think I know a few people who share this quality as well... hhhmmmm.....

Insert your own comment here_____________________.

Well, one thing lead to another, a few more *solid* runs completed, warm up finished, sushi picked up (along with a few other necessities), and I was on my way home.

Later when Nathaniel got home, he mentioned that in his SIMULATOR, he was working on target practice. I guess its a good thing that they make him practice his shooting before he goes out in the helicopter, right? Kind of like attempting to do the fancy ITU-style bike mount without practicing. Disaster, otherwise.

Trust me on that one, folks.

"So where did you shoot?" I asked, while paging through my book.

"Actually, we were initially taking fire from the Hospital, but later we noticed it was coming from the track. So I blew up the track."

That got my attention. The book (Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" - I'm on round 2) was put down.

"You do realize I was running on that track today, right?" I replied, wondering what he would say.

He just grinned.


And that was our interesting coincidence. Right around the time I was running my *solid* track workout and seeing all sorts of helicopters overhead, my husband was simulating his heart out, blowing up the same track I was running on. Excellent.

Good practice for us both, I suppose. Solid training all around. And an interesting coincidence. Like we were BOTH tearing it up. Well - he was in the simulator, and me - well, "tearing it up" as much as any person training for Ironman can.

Maybe just a little *solid* tearing up, though.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Epic Climb(s)

Um, ouch?

I can safely say that I’m toasted. My legs are fried, cooked, done, end-of-story.

But for a good reason, of course.

Saturday’s bike ride was, in one word, epic. The first time I have ever, ever climbed Palomar twice in one day. The hardest part? Getting to the top of South Grade Road, and willingly descending 12 miles down East Grade Road, knowing that I would soon be re-climbing this exact road I was biking down.

FYI: I did let a few curse words fly.

There was, of course, an opt-out option at the bottom of East Grade Road. I could have turned right on 76 and looped around the base of Palomar, leisurely making my way back to Harras Casino (where I parked). But the lack of shoulder, Saturday mid-morning traffic and the desire to push myself beyond what I thought possible were key in my second ascent.

My day started early, but no complaints. After a 60+ minute drive to Harras Casino, I parked, set up the trainer, and hopped on the bike for a solid 30 minute warm-up. In the past I’ve either ridden to the mountain, or have biked in the valley below. But the local wildlife (ie scary dogs, whose owners think it highly amusing if they ‘run free’ and chase cyclists), and lack of flat road made the trainer seem downright fun.

I have no desire to climb Valley View Hill before doing Palomar, thank-you very much. Nothing about having my heart rate in zone 5xxx screams “warm up!”. A few friends had suggested that I spin on the trainer and then climb 5 or 10 minutes to the Taco Stand at the base – so I did just that.

A few minutes into my warm-up, three other cyclists pulled into the same lot and gave me a crazy, “what the hell-are-you-doing” kind of look. One of them offered to let me, “jump on their train…”, but I politely declined. They looked at me as though I was nuts – spinning at 100+ rpm on the trainer, water bottles, carbo-pro 1200, power gels, arm warmers, wind jacket, and a vast array of other crap that I had prepared just in case – shook their heads, and rode off.

I wanted to spend this day, this incredibly hard climb, alone. And while I do enjoy riding with others, for some reason I really wanted to endure my 5th – and as it turned out fastest – climb on Palomar to myself. Something about being alone with myself, my thoughts, the suffering and pain, I guess. The solitude, the hard effort, pushing beyond what I thought possible, making myself suffer but growing through the effort – different, I know. But sports (and life) aren’t always butterflies and sweet-smelling roses.

Warm-up completed, I tossed the trainer in the car, changed my top out, huffed my way over some bushes to the main road, and was quickly on my way. I knew I would have to stop at Jilberto’s (traditional start of the climb) and use the rest room. No squatting on the side of the road like I’ve done in the past. No today, anyway. And though I really wanted to be on my way climbing, the stop was more than necessary. Besides, I couldn’t – for the life of me – squat in a busy parking lot to do my thing. Too many people and cameras for my liking.

A final inspection of my bike, making sure my gels were in the correct back pocket (left!), I re-set the bike computer and then paused for a moment to watch two cyclists slowly pedal up the road. They reminded me of the snail I had watched move from one side of the parking space to the bushes during my 30 minute warm-up.

“Good morning!” they shouted, extending their arms in greeting. “How are you?” one of them asked. They looked very comfortable, wearing full tights, vest, jersey, and gloves.

“I’m great! Excited to climb!” I yelled, oblivious to the early-morning taco people just behind me.

They laughed, probably thinking that this was my first time up the mountain. Ha!

But as I waited for the computer to re calibrate, I realized that I WAS excited. I really wanted to go after my watts, get redemption from my previous less-than-stellar climb, push myself out of what’s comfortable, discover how hard I could work while suffering, and (at the very back of my mind) – beat my time from last year when I first climbed Palomar (and pre-crash).

I waited for the two riders to be out of sight, grabbed a quick sip of water, reminded myself that this was IT, and took off (as fast as anyone climbing can – 9 mph was great!).

Right away I found a good rhythm. “Push pull push pull push pull” – Kate Oliver’s mantra for her Mt. Lemmon climb became something I focused on. THANK YOU KATE! My goal was to focus on leg turnover while keeping an eye on my wattage. Jen had specified xxx watts that I should aim to hold (her words – xxx watts should be EASY!), and I forced myself to glance at the computer every few seconds.

Last time I climbed, I switched the thing off – too disheartened by the numbers. But today the power meter was a tool I planned to use to my advantage. Today the numbers would be my friend – assets used to substantiate the work output I was producing. I wouldn’t define my performance by them, no. Instead use them to push harder and validate the work I was already doing.

My heart race corresponded and eventually settled into the upper 160s – not too high, but still in that zone of OUCH that we reach every so often.

And then I just went. Climbed up up up. I enjoyed the beauty of the day, the fog on the lower slopes, and bright sunlight on the upper. Time seemed different, minutes ticked off faster than any previous climb. One minute I was 13:30 in (a point where, in the past, I’ve thought that the climb would be impossible, but today I refused to acknowledge that idea), and the next I was hitting the false flat section at five miles in just over 30 minutes.

Watts were good, heart rate was great, and I was feeling physically strong. But the key today, I discovered, was how much I wanted to succeed. The hunger, the drive, the passion – were all there. If it’s one thing I’ve discovered, is that if my heart isn’t in a task – racing Timberman in 2007 or even climbing Palomar a few weeks ago – it doesn’t matter how physically prepared or strong I am. The heart, the head, the mind all need to be in the game for the desired performance to be achieved.

Soon I found myself turning left onto South Grade Road, and I knew the HARD PART – the 7 or so miles of 8% average gradient – was rapidly approaching. But for the first time that I’ve climbed Palomar – I attacked. I ignored the desire to downshift to an easier gear, and instead, remained in my 23 (or was it 21?). Yeah – the cadence was slow, but I just focused. Focused on the numbers, on the ‘remaining steady’, on the feeling that I WAS GOING TO SUCCEED.

After a while I checked my watch, and realized I had been climbing for just under an hour. I was so focused on the task at hand that I only briefly noted the beauty of the overlooks (it was VERY sunny above 4,000 feet, and I could see the thick marine layer draped over San Diego and the valley below), and just made an effort to PUSH around every hairpin turn. I noticed that through a few of the turns, my watt output would decrease as the slope leveled out: so I turned it into a game of either downshifting or upping my cadence in order to keep the power up.

Slowly the miles ticked by… 41.2, 41.4, 41.6…44.8, 45.0, 45.2…4000feet…46.4, 46.6, 46.8, 47.0…

And then it hit me.

Oh. My. God.

The legs just wanted to stop, and my watts dropped a good 30 points, in spite of my best effort. I played mind tricks – ‘It’s only .8 miles to the top – don’t give up now’, and ‘You’re RIGHT there!’ But the lack of energy persisted. Then a thought hit me – one I had tucked in the back of my mind:

“If you push it now, you can beat your pre-crash time.”

And somehow, that thought got me going. For the final half mile, I pushed MORE than I had for the previous climb. Simply put, I bore down on the pedals, gritted my teeth, put my head down, and bashed up the final half mile. I thought that by beating my old time, it would be like I had never crashed, had never been through the pain, and fear, and sadness of the previous year. If I could beat my old time – well, it would feel as though I was released from what I once was, and instead could move onto what I was meant to be.

I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of explaining. It’s just that the first time I climbed Palomar – 48 hours before I crashed and my life changed – was so monumental. I spent a lot of time in physical therapy thinking about that ride, that fantastic ride – wondering if I could ever bike again, let alone climb Palomar with the speed that I had on March 15, 2008.

Suddenly, curving towards the left, I saw the STOP sign – where I’ve always finished my climb. With a few more fierce pedal strokes, I crested the top, chest heaving, legs burning, heart racing. It took me a few moments to collect my thoughts and glance at my watch. I was too concerned with NOT hitting the motorcycle enthusiasts and car about to descend to register the clock.

And then, I saw my time. And I was a full minute and a half faster than my previous best. I would have cried – except my lungs felt as though they were on fire, and really – the legs hurt too much. Instead, I coasted to the Mountain Store, refilled by bottles, and did the second most difficult thing of the day.

I descended East Grade Road, with the intention of climbing up again.

And I did.

The second climb was a lot easier than the first. East Grade Road is very different than South Grade Road – not as steep, but still 12 miles long. I would know, as I watched the mile markers go from .2, .4, .6 to 3.6, 3.8, 4.0, 4.2…8.2, 8.4, 8.6….so on and so forth. I didn’t pressure myself to hold a certain watt output, or keep my heart rate in a specific zone. Instead, I enjoyed the scenery, reveled in the fact that I was “charging” (as fast as anyone can “charge” at 8 mph) up this hill for the second time, and figured that with each foot of elevation gained, I was making myself that much stronger. East Grade Road was my icing on the cake.

And we all know how much I love sheet cake.

Second time I crested the top it felt unreal. Truly, an epic day, if I do say so myself. The backs of my legs felt a bit fried – the sun had been beating down for the previous hour while I climbed, and the calves, especially the left, felt a bit toasty. After cracking some jokes with a few British Riders at the store (mostly about how I couldn’t fit a small bag of Salt & Vinegar chips in my back jersey… Mary Bradbury, I blame you!), and buying a 20 oz coke and pack of starbursts, I made my way down.

It didn’t matter that no fewer than 30 riders zorched past me during my descent. Yes, my name is Marit and I ride the brakes while descending Mt. Palomar – I couldn’t care less. The hard part was done – I had climbed, set a new personal best, but better yet – had come full circle on the mountain for the first time since my crash.

And then climbed again.

After loading the bike in the car and making a quick change of clothes (discreet – very discreet!), I set off for a 40 minute transition run. 5 laps around the Harras Casino never felt so good. I think the casino workers were bemused, the poker players confused, and bus drivers that I passed after each subsequent lap had serious doubts about my idea of physical exertion. Nope – I didn’t look all that great, then again it was 80 degrees and I had just climbed Palomar X 2. No one would look good running.

Trust me.

So that was my epic day. Now – two days after the fact, I’m feeling pretty good. Sore and tired, yes. But I attribute that to Ironman training in general. A little more fatigue, a little more hunger all around. I’m REALLY excited about Oceanside 70.3 in less than two weeks, and can’t believe that my season is just around the corner.

Let’s make it a good one!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Open Letter to Mr. BIG Ego.

Note: this is not the happy-go-lucky post I was intending on publishing. This morning I swam at a different master's program (Carlsbad has no Sunday Masters). And while for most of the 5200 yard workout (yes - it was long), everything was great, I had quite the violent encounter during the final 200 of our last 800. The subsequent shouting by the offended party did not help matters.

Additionally, before swimming, I made sure to check with the coach on where to swim, and introduced myself to my fellow lane mates (there were 10-12 of us sharing a lane). When no one volunteered to lead, I said that I would. So I did - for the first 4000. At that point, I felt great, was making all the send off times and looking forward to the 400s and final 800. And then someone else decided that he should lead instead...

The final 800 was broken down into two segemtns: the first 400 at a cruise pace, and the last 400 at 1:xx average 100 pace. It was fast, but I had was already coming in ahead of the send off times - so I figured no biggie. The four remaining gentlemen in the lane (remember - LONG set) all strapped on paddles and pull buoys in order to make the split. As I was having no problem, I didn't bother...

Guy # 1 took off. Guy # 2 took off... then me.

First 400 - not a problem. The pace was slow, but I wasn't going to tap on anyone's toes during the slow set.

Second 400 - the pace increases, but I can still do more, still go faster. After the first 100, I notice that we're under our assigned split and I figure that the two guys ahead of me are toast. I'm literally, right on Guy # 2's feet. After a quick debate, I decide to tap his toes - in swimming etiquette, the polite way of letting the person ahead of you that you're ready to pass. No response... I tap again... and again we flip turn and he pushes off.... hhhmmmmmm.

So I decide to do something that I've seen done at Carlsbad: I let guy #1 flip turn, and I make a quick turn to get on his feet, while guy #2 flips off the wall.

Apparently Guy #2 didn't like this... And this is where the drama began.

So, without further ado, I give you: Open Letter to the Jerk in my Lane.

Dear Mr. BIG Ego:

I know that you're getting up there in years, but for late 40s, early 50s, I think you're a decent swimmer. You managed to hang on my feet for the first 4000 yards of our set. And when you decided to take the lead for the final bit, I had no problem with it. Being the new gal, I didn't want to step on any toes.

But then - for the final 400 of our 800 - you faded. Maybe it was the paddles that you had been wearing for the past 2000+ yards, perhaps it was the slightly too-tight speedo. I'm not really sure. All I know, is that suddenly I was looking at your feet. They were ugly. And I really really don't like feet.

So I politely tapped on your toes - any swimmer worth his salt or who is interested in swim etiquette would realize that I wanted to pass you. You were fading fast, and I didn't want to wast the final 250 of my swim at a cruise pace - when I could have been pushing myself a lot harder.

But you chose to ignore my taps. For 25, then 50, then 75 yards. Finally - and believe you me, I thought a lot about this - I made a quick u-turn just as you were hitting the wall in order to move up. Yes, I realize that we had only 150 left, but there was still time for me to salvage the set and get my heart rate above 80. I quickly caught the first guy in our lane and was about to tap HIS toes - because he was having a hard time as well, when I felt your paddles crash into the back of my legs.

I'm not a violent person by nature. Trust me. I look away in movies where there's a lot of violence. And really, I don't expect to encounter much anger (or violence) in my every day life. But when you violently bashed your paddles into my feet for 25 and then 50 yards without letting up, I have to admit, that I was 1)scared and 2) shocked.

I didn't realize - Mr. BIG Ego - that you would be so upset if someone - lest of all a girl - passed you when you were so obviously slowing down. Do you enjoy hitting people with your over sized paddles? Does it make you feel better about yourself? Is it really necessary?

I did what any normal person would do at the wall. I waited briefly for you to flip, let you get ahead, and then cruised the final 100 of our workout.

I was unprepared for what happened next. I knew there would be a confrontation at the wall, but your voice, and the tone at which you yelled was downright frightening. I'm not one to burst into tears in public - and I take great pride in the fact that I can hold just about anything in while in the company of others. But you - Mr. BIG Ego - took me by surprise. I don't really remember much about what you yelled - something about not passing? I'm not really sure.

But it was bad. The other two guys made jokes and tried to placate you. Obviously they have to deal with you on a daily basis.

Later, after you had left, one of the guys who had witnessed everything mentioned that you have a hard time being passed by other people, have a bit of an ego, and are getting slower but don't want to admit it. Well knock me over with a feather!

Here's the thing, Mr. BIG Ego. Though you scared the living daylight out of me with your aggression, yelling, and hateful voice, I feel sorry for you.

I repeat: I feel sorry for you.

I can imagine that life must be difficult. You're probably very insecure, and if anything doesn't go your way - well, you just don't deal with it very well. And now that you're getting older AND you've got a bad attitude, your swimming is probably starting to suffer. The big paddles aren't helping either.

So even though you deliberately hit me and then yelled at me, I forgive you. I can move on, and I realize that this was a one-time deal. Because next time if I choose to swim with your program, I'm going to the fast lane - because I know I'm good enough. But you - you'll have to live with yourself, your actions, your ego for the rest of your life.

And that's just sad.

I wish you all the luck in the world - the rest of your life will be tough if you don't change and face the facts as they are (even though you made me cry).


Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Foggy Pictures

(Cliff's edge. Most days you get a clear shot of the ocean and horizon)

I've been meaning to share some incredible fog pictures...taken Thursday morning after Master's Swim practice. But one thing lead to another, which lead to another. And then today it was sunny, and therefore fog pictures weren't really appropriate...but tomorrow it's supposed to rain and be really windy.

So the fog pictures will be fitting after all. Sort of, right?

Here they are, just to prove that it's not always sunny in Southern California... (but mostly, I wanted my Dad to be able to see them - he LOVES fog. While growing up, it was always a big deal if there was fog...)

Bottom of the hill I do repeats on. It was so foggy that I couldn't even see the top!
Top of the "Big-hill-repeat-hill", appropriately named 'Highland'. How fitting.
Nothing other than high cliff with a foggy ocean below? I know, I know - I'm soooo creative when it comes to titles. Especially after a long Saturday of training. Toss in a 6-beer sampler from a local tavern, and I'm toast. Not that I HAD six beers. Believe you, me - I would NOT be writing at this point if I did. Nope, instead I ordered the min-sampler, because I can never make up my mind. Beer is beer. And somewhere, my husband just dropped his pint!

At the ocean's edge. I swear there were three or four people no less than 100 yards away, running towards me. Very eerie.

My back is to the Pacific in this one. The shot is taken looking up towards a Lifeguard stand just off PCH 101. I think a car was driving by as I got this shot, but I can't be sure. Can YOU see it?

Twain Twacks (Mom - that's for you! I've still got the book, you know)...

Another ocean shot - I tried to get the timing of the waves just right. But with the camera, that was (seemingly) impossible. But look! Fog!

Overlooking our back deck towards the lagoon, power plant, and ocean - today of which you can see none.

I seriously think it was the fog - or else Tabbitha was half asleep and didn't realize Anabelle was right there. small sigh. The kitties DO get along, for the most part. They just don't realize it yet. Something about Anabelle wanting to play, and Tabbitha thinking that the little one, with her funny gait, is out to get her. As though anything so mini could get the best of our 20+ pound House Monster!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Utah in May 2010? Sounds loveley!

So... I realized how much I wanted to do Ironman St. George (UTAH!) when, while completing the weekly grocery shopping, I noticed I was buying things that Nathaniel really really likes.

Like ingredients for Turkey Loaf.

Yes, I am happy to announce, that the way to my husband's heart is through my TopSecret! Turkey Loaf recipe. Well, that or a coconut ritter sport... Yeah, he likes those as well.

I've been contemplating IM St. George for a while, but through the ins and outs of daily life (you know how it is), the thought was (conveniently) pushed towards the back burner. Then - thanks to Ryan - I realized that registration had opened.

And suddenly, I knew I had a big decision to make.

Because as we've ALL learned, Ironman isn't only about the individual. Its the friends and family who also sacrifice for us to (literally) chase down our dreams. The financial obligation is just the tip of the iceberg. And while it definitely hurts to click the $550 "submit" button, that's nothing compared to the early morning rides and runs, endless laps at the pool, the early bed times, and so on and so forth.

After a frantic email to Jen, I called Nathaniel and left a long, long, L-O-N-G message.

It went something like this (the stuff in italics was kept to myself):

Hi Sweetheart! How are you? How was your flight??? I bet that 29 Palms looked great! (can you tell I was buttering him up??) I'm okay - just something came up. Really, don't worry. Um, you see - there's this Ironman...(that should have raised the warning flag right then and there)... and it's in Utah - only like 6 hours away from here... (meaning CHEAP because of no airfare and we won't need to stay as many nights)...and I've been thinking about it for a while... (but too scatter brained to mention it due to the already completed long rides, runs, swims, etc)...and Jen said that it was okay... (as long as the coach gives the all-clear, right?!?)... but I just wanted to double check with you, because this would affect you as well. So, even though I think I really want to do it... (this thought will probably change at mile 18 of IM CDA to 'what the hell was I thinking signing up for a second ironman before I completed the first!???')...I want to wait to sign up for it until after we can discuss it together... (I deserve an award for calling him first before mobbing the computer to submit my entry...)

And then I hung up.

And waited...and waited...and waited...

Sheesh?!!? How long can it take to get the message??

So in between the 6 other calls I made, I went grocery shopping, and paced. Literally paced. Because it was only when Nathaniel didn't call right away that I realized how upset I would be if the race filled up before I was able to gain entry.

Call me crazy (as I'm sure some of you will), but so far (knock on wood), I'm really enjoying IM training. I love the long rides, the challenge of running far, swimming extra laps after Masters. And though I CERTAINLY realize that the training is extremely different than the race (because as many of you know I missed Arizona and have yet to do Coeur d'Alene), I just get a lot of enjoyment out of what I'm doing right now.

Finally, Nathaniel got back to me... I think I jumped about three feet when the phone buzzed. After a brief conversation, Nathaniel simply asked if doing this would make me happy.

"YES!" I yelled!

"Then, there's your answer..." he replied.

About ten minutes later, after filling out the standard information and then staring at the SUBMIT button for eight minutes thinking What-am-I-doing-what-if-I-decide-during-CDA-that-I-hate-ironman-and-that-I-never-want-to-do-it-again.... I hit ENTER and was confirmed as an official entrant.

I figure that if I really hate it that much, well, then I just won't do it. But I would rather loose the entry than regret never going for it in the first place. Besides - the M-Dot corporation (think of them what you will. I love the little guys and support as many smaller races as I can! I don't like the expensive entry fees - but then again, I just willingly paid for an entry. So there you have it...), seems to be doing a good job with this race. And I DO love Utah...

So there you have it.

Fingers crossed and knock on wood I'll have the opportunity to race in St. George on May 1, 2010. And I'm so excited - I can't wait!

Now - time to go train. Functional Lift and some bike work is on the schedule. Hooray!

Oh yeah - and Turkey Loaf, as promised. Can't forget about that one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A year of growth

March 16, 2008 I looked like this: Happy-go-lucky, training with great friends in California (but living in Pensacola, Florida), loving life, confident in my ability, and excited about my race season.

Then, on March 17, 2008 (as many of you know), this happened: Believe me - it's a good think I'm NOT showing you scar pictures from a few days after the crash. I like the PG-rated version much better.

Then a year went by...

Lots of things happened...

A lot of growing occurred...through some hard times, some sad times, some downright depressing times...

But with the support of Nathaniel, my family, friends, people who read my blog, total strangers who had heard of my story and wished me nothing but the best, I grew. I got better. I became stronger, healthier, and in the long run, a much happier person.

I figured out more about myself than I had ever though possible, why I feel the way I do, how my thoughts and ideas affect my psyche, and how to let go of the things that were holding me back. (FYI: I've also discovered this is a lifelong process - one that requires constant attention. For example - if I have a bad feeling or bit of self-doubt, I need to FIGHT that belief and immediately think of something positive. It used to take a lot of effort, but now I've become pretty much used to the process. Do I still have negative thoughts? Absolutely - but I have a much better understanding of why and subsequently how to deal with them.)

It wasn't always easy, but I was reminded that sometimes we have to through some tough times before we see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, it's through our journey that we learn the most. Once I figured out that it was the process NOT the result that I was going after, life became easier and I returned to my (generally) happy state.

Lots of things happened...

Even more growth occurred...

And I made even more friends than I thought possible. There are simply too many to thank. I will forever be grateful to all of your love and support.

March 14, 2009 I looked like this:Happy-go-lucky, training with great friends in Arizona (but living in Carlsbad, California), loving life, confident in my ability, and excited about my race season.

But so much better because of where I've been, the family and friends that I have, the support I've received, the journey I've taken, and the knowledge of who I am (and what makes me happy).

Thank you friends.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tuscon Campers & Coaches!

I don't really know where to begin. Except to say that Tuscon Camp was awesome. Really really fantastic. The setting, the coaches, my fellow campers, the training... Simply Fantastic doesn't begin to describe it. Somewhere between the jokes, laughter, good times, cold and hot pools, and food we managed to squeeze in some great training.

But we all had so much fun in the process.

Where to begin?

With the campers, of course. So without further ado, I present to you vignettes about my fellow Tuscon campers!

The Campers:

Kellye: Roomie extraordinaire. If you don't already know it, Kellye Mills is a powerhouse. Determined to do as much as she can, Kellye amazed me with her ability to roll up her sleeves and get the work done. Even if it required running laps around the resort parking lot and cacti to finish a 2:00 run while the rest of us sat in the shade. She did it! Additionally, I was amazed at 1) how much diet coke this girl drinks and 2) that she ordered JUST bread and chicken from Subway (NO veggies or anything on the sub. Just the chicken). Kellye's Southern accent kept the group entertained, and her smile was contagious. I couldn't have asked for a better room mate!

Julia: My Minnesota Soul Sister! Every time I listened to Julia speak, it reminded my of home! It was fantastic having her next to me during one of our long bike rides - her cycling strength and ability to push to bridge the gap was great! But the best part (and the one that made me laugh the most)? Julia and her roomie (Tri Girl Kate-O) showing up for swim practice sporting the Hotel Robes and pink compression socks. I was quite impressed! Julia earns extra points in my book because she's staying in Arizona for MORE training for another week. There was even discussion of her riding to Mt Lemmon again....Like I said before: she's a hardcore biker! I wouldn't put it past her...

Tri Girl Kate-O: My cupcake queen! I felt so honored to have my FIRST cupcake booty call. Friday night after dinner, Kate inquired would I be interested in a cupcake? Is the sky blue? Seriously! It was delicious. I had the chance to sit next to Kate at dinner just about every night, and although she joked that I was just a tad older than her oldest son, this girl is NOTHING like your typical Mom. The pink and gray bike are just a facade for the determination and grit underneath. I knew this girl was after my own heart when she was drinking a Corona with lime after the first day. Then she ordered one for me... Kate - I still owe you that drink! Next time its on ME!

Jon: Newer to the sport of triathlon, Jon really impressed me with his ability to push through the tough spots. And why wouldn't he? After all, he was in the Marine Corps for a while, stationed at my favorite desert oasis of 29-er Palms (I really DO love the high desert!). Every time I saw him out there - running or cycling - he was giving it his all. In the pool, Spencer joked that Jon needed to be a bit more aggressive, especially while practicing his 25 yard sprint starts. Jon replied that he didn't want to hurt his pregnant wife, sharing the lane with him. What a gentleman! He was so sweet that on the last night, he (and wife Allie) gave each camper a box of fudge (shipped especially to the resort from New York). YUM! I think we ALL know who's getting the first invite back next year.

Allie: Jon's other half, who didn't let pregnancy stand in her way! Not only did she serve as Camp Sherpa - driving our gear, bottles, nutrition, and warm clothing to the very top of Mt. Lemmon - but she swam and ran as well! And yes, I think she did clobber Jon while practicing sprint starts in the pool... :) This girl was even willing to ford a small stream in her SUV somewhere near the top of Mt Lemmon for me. I was a little lost, not knowing exactly which way to go. Allie patiently drove down a steep hill, across a stream, and asked a local if we were in fact at the top. Long story short, we were. But I would have been much colder and 'loster' without her there. Oh - and Jon and Allie's little-one-on-the-way? Bound to be kind, determined, talented, and steady - just like his/her parents.

Jenny (camper Jenny, not coach): Outgoing and hilarious, Jenny was a powerhouse on the run and shared funny details about her bike saddle that I will never forget. Poor Jerome, the token male running with a bunch of girls: I think he heard more about "lady bits", "soft tissue" and "sensitive spots" than he was planning on. Jenny's tenacity is matched only by her willingness to go out and explore the word. She's just moved to Colorado and is about to embark on a new adventure. And believe me, this girl will be successful! Anyone who can run a sub-40 minute 10k off the bike has got what it takes. I watched her bound up a hill and marveled at her ability to make it look easy!

Renne: A world AG champion, this incredible woman gave me so much more than just a great training partner and awesome training runs. Confidence is sometimes hard to come by, especially when you haven't raced much in the past year or so. Renne continually assured me that I would do GREAT at IM CDA, and having done the course before, she said the rollers were perfect for me. I was especially impressed with Renne after she came back from a (near) bonk on the bike. A wrong turn and extra 10 miles didn't deter this gal, as she fought through to the very end. Through the long workouts, she hung in there with each and every one. Then again - earning the Rainbow stripes of world champ takes a lot of determination! I'm excited about her upcoming season, as I know she'll do great!

Mary: The uber swimmer of the group! But Mary is SO much more than a swim stud, and she proved it over and over again during camp. After dropping her water bottle over one nasty stretch on the bike, she retrieved it at the bottom of a big hill, and then picked off everyone in her group, putting her head down and time trialing to the front. Later in the ride, I looked next to me and there she was - right on my shoulder, matching me pedal stroke for pedal stroke. This girl is tough - and has just the nettle to prove it. I was honored to share her swim lane, and bolstered by her quite confidence in my swim ability. Steady and consistent, she has the ability to push through all the way to the very end - and proved it one tough workout after another. Come race day, she'll be ready and fighting. And I can't wait to cheer for her as she sprints through to the finish!

Kari: She calls herself "Running Yankee", but this girl is fierce on the bike and better than she thinks in the water. I saw her running with Spencer Smith on a few different occasions, and I knew she was fast! I had the opportunity to run with her on the final day of camp: up the telephone pole trail in Sabino Canyon with Spencer. The three of us ran up a never-ending rocky hill, dodging roots, boulders, and plantlife in the process. When Spencer dropped back to pick up the second group, Kari and I pressed on. When I asked her which was worse, "Mountain Lions or Spencer Smith?" she immediately replied, "Spencer. Because at least with the Mountain Lion, we've got a 50-50 chance of getting picked off. One of us WILL survive! If Spencer catches us, we're both toast." I nearly tripped and fell over a ledge laughing. She was right, though. Thanks for the good times and great runs Kari!!!

Ben: A gentleman through and through, Ben didn't want to pass me riding up Mt. Lemmon because he didn't want to be "that guy" (who drafted off a girl and then dropped her when it got tough). Without hesitation I told him that he WASN'T, and that he needed to get his butt in gear and GO if he felt good. After mile 7, I didn't see him until the refueling spot at mile 14. He did GREAT! The funniest moment at camp, though - was the image of Ben running with Spencer. During the final 30 minutes of our long run, I was desperately trying to bridge the gap to the two of them up the road. It was hot, the middle of the day, and we had been running uphill for forever. Seriously - there was a LOT of uphill running.

Somehow, Ben gave Spencer his water bottle and Ben - who had been running fast all day - was clearly DONE. I swear - Spencer (who's heart rate was probably well below 100 at this point) was running sideways, holding out Ben's water bottle, and just chatting away. Ben - in a feeble attempt to drink - was running with all his might towards the water, arms outstretched. At the time is looked hilarious - because we've all been there. Spencer kept telling Ben to 'run for the yellow sign'. And Ben - to his credit - finished the run and got his water in the end. Ben is signed up for his first Ironman at Wisconsin, and after running a 3:19 marathon and training the way he did this pas week, I know he'll do great!

And now - the Coaches!

Spencer Smith
: A world and Ironman champion. Wow. This guy had done it all in the sport and was more than willing to share any and every bit of information that he could. And he's got a 'quirky' sense of humor to boot. Something about being British, I guess. I thought he was hilarious, even when he did the same thing to me as he did to Ben (offering to hold my water bottle during the final transition run of camp). In an effort to keep the pace from getting too fast, I peppered him with as many questions as I could think of and learned a lot in the process. (And yes, he did tell me to run towards the yellow sign).

But the highlight of camp with Spencer was biking. During Saturday's ride, there was one point when he told me to ride with him - and through some sort of miracle I managed to not only hang onto his draft, but exchange the lead and take turns pulling. All I could think of was, "ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod, I'm biking with Spencer Smith...Spencer Smith is drafting off of me, ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod... hang in there until that cactus...the next cattle grate... ohmygod we're going FAST...and he's telling me that I'm doing a good job and to keep it steady!...I'm biking with Spencer Smith!"

Granted, he could have dropped my rear in a heartbeat, but the experience was absolutely fantastic. I learned so much from him - while riding, and especially during the running - and the confidence he instilled and advice he gave was worth its weight in gold. I can safely say that I'll be a better triathlete this season because of what I learned from Spencer. And the British phrases (cheeky, dodgy, and such) only add to his charm.

: Jen's hubby and athlete extraordinaire! After nearly taking his head off with an ill-timed snot rocked going up Mt. Lemmon, I made sure to look behind me before I let one loose for the remainder of camp. Jerome was so patient and supportive of everyone - especially during one tough moment for me. Just before hitting the turnaround point on Saturday's bike ride, our little group was churning up a short (but semi-steep) hill. Suddenly, his back wheel pulled away and I felt myself slipping. "I've cracked!" I yelled (hearing Phil Ligget's and Paul Sherwin's voices in my head...never a good sign while riding), and Jerome slowed down and calmly replied, "Get back on my wheel."

And I did.

Serving as much more than the bike mechanic, Jerome rode with all the groups and kept everyone safe and as comfortable as possible during the long run. I felt better just having him near during the training - like an older brother who doesn't throw spit balls or shove you over. He was always there, willing to lend a hand and help anyone who needed it! AND he and Jen make a the cutest pair ever. :)

Jen Harrison: Undoubtedly the BEST coach that I've ever had. The compassion, caring, and the attention that she gave to her athletes and campers was wonderful. Jen feels like my triathlon "mom" (but would probably kill me if I said that), so more like a big sister. Her attention to detail - fuel, sag support, pink recovery socks, resort, workouts, and everything in between - was at the highest standard. At one point, while watching Renne, Jenny, and Jerome bound up a steep hill and away from my sorry rear, Jen waited for me and calmly stated, "Okay Marit, let's bridge the gap!" And we did.

I was ready to give up, let the Mountain Lions get me, let the group run ahead. But Jen wouldn't let me quit. Her ability to see our strengths, and the athletic potential in all of us is unlike any other. Plus, can you really go wrong with pink socks? Absolutely not.

Tuscon camp was wonderful! I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone interested in great training with wonderful people and top-quality coaches.

As for me? Well, I made it home safe and sound late Sunday night. No - I didn't eat a piece of pie on the top of Lemmon, but more than made up for it with cupcakes and fudge. I don't really know if I have a favorite part... the entire experience really was wonderful. Challenging both mentally and physically - but exactly what I needed going into Oceanside 70.3.

Thanks to Jen, Jerome, Spencer and my fellow campers! You guys were ALL great and I had SUCH A FUN TIME with everyone! Here's to NOT getting eaten by mountain lions, giving Spencer our water bottles while running up hill, pink recovery socks, good bike saddles, a million pictures being taken by one random person, cold pools, core work and laughing while balls are bouncing every which way, a million stars visible at night, bagels and bananas in the morning, Miss Daisy getting hungry, plush robes, seeing a really REALLY long (and poisonous) snake, climbing a really big hill and seeing SNOW at the top, Powerbar recovery bars, diet coke (Kellye that's for YOU), 8000 elevation sign X 4, and much much more...

I could write a book about it, you know... But I won't.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Cupcake Booty Call

You know that you're working hard when you get invited for cupcakes at 9 pm after eating a full dinner of sushi and udon, and without hesitation or pause, respond with a resounding "YES!"

Thank you Tri-girl Kate Oliver!

Tuscon Camp has been great. Fabulous coaches (Jen, Jerome, and the legend Spencer Smith), lots of training, oodles of great people, beautiful weather, and lots of funny things being said. Though the workouts have been tough - physically and mentally at times - the strength built from such an exertion is unlike any other. There's something so satisfying about grinding up a mountain at 80 rpms for just under two and a half hours.

Seeing the 8,000 elevation sign was great. Biking down a big hill on the mountain and then climbing yet again - only to see another 8,000 elevation sigh - is priceless. As though you needed that "extra" reminder. My ragged breath coming out in gasps was enough, thank-you-very-much.

Suffice to say, Mt. Lemmon was spectacular. Great views, wind-swept highway, a desert landcape of cacti and rock at the base that slowly changes to pine and snow towards the top, hot coffee, and the satisfaction that accompanies reaching the end result (finishing and surviving!). Thursday's climb was truly spectacular.

And Elizabeth was right: Mt Lemmon and Mt. Palomar are extremely different. Lemmon feels like 2:30 of big ring work - grinding and constant, keeping the rpms at 70-80 the entire time. No segement seems impossibly difficult or too steep. Palomar is downright cruel: much steeper, but a good 60 minutes shorter.

And there's no pie at the top. Although - the (allegedy crazy) Mt. Lemmon pie lady was NOT open on Thursday. That's okay though, as I wasn't interested in paying $12 for a piece of pie. That works out to something like .45 per mile. I think. Worth it if you REALLY need it, but overpriced in any other scenario.

Given the two (climbs), I'm not sure which one I would choose. Both are fantastic in their own right and should be respected for the incredible climbs they are. I love the elevation of Mt. Lemmon and the constant grind. But Palomar is practically in my own back yard - and is really like no other climb in the area.

Today was a long swim, followed by core work, followed by a 2-hour run in Sabino Canyon. I knew I was in for a tough one when Jen told me to run with Jerome and Spencer. "Don't worry - they'll go at your pace!" she assured me.

Then they took off and according to someone's Garmin, we were running a pace that I reserve for my half marathon race pace. Yeah, good stuff. I was afraid to look at my heart rate monitor for fear of seeing the numbers. There are some things better left unknown.

Upon entering the canyon, one of the first signs that I saw read: DANGER! HIGH MOUNTAIN LION ACTIVITY! Excellent! Now when my heart explodes from the pace, my sorry carcass will be picked off by Mother Nature's own. Lovely!

Actually the run felt really good, and I was happy that 1) My legs didn't die 2) I managed to pretty much hang with my group 3) I wasn't picked off by something resembling a really REALLY big House Monster and 4) I got stronger for the final 25 minutes or so. Really, I think I got my "second wind" when it became apparent we were returning to the resort. Nothing says "RUN FAST!" like stopping and then jumping into a cold pool.

Because really - there's a COLD pool at the resort. Right next to the really HOT one. And honestly? I've never been envious of 8-year-olds in the hot tub until today, when I was shivering in 58 degree water up to my abdomen. They looked warm.

But hey - I had just run 2 hours and NOT been eaten by a Mountain Lion. I had nothing to complain about.

Tomorrow we've got another long day in the saddle + transition run. Jen assures me (because I'm doing Ironman) that I'll be running long. And I'm totally okay with that, oddly excited...

So far Tuscon has been absolutely fantastic. I'm really enjoying my time here, the training, the camraderie, the cupcakes... They were delicious. And when Kate inqured if anyone would be interested in cupcakes, I couldn't turn her down. Because me + baked goods (sheet cake in particular) are like 'this' (my fingers are crossed).

And who knows? Perhaps it'll give me that little bit 'extra' to hang with the amazing Spencer Smith on my ride. I highly doubt it - but at least I'm willing to try. That's what its about anyway -right? Putting yourself out there, doing the hard work, and discovering what you're made of along the way.

I'm sad that Camp is half over, but will relish every last moment of it.

Now - to bed. I'm exhausted, ready to crash, beyond tired. My roomie - Kellye Mills - is already asleep. Tomorrow's another big day. Hurrah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

To the Desert (or dessert?)


My bag(s) are packed.

The bike is ready (bottle cages, tools, chamois cream and all).

My lunch (for on the road) is prepared.

And tomorrow I hit to road for sunny Tuscon, Arizona. I've never been there, but I hear its nice. I'm a fan of the high desert, so I'll fit right in. Something about endless cacti and rocks, high plains, deep blue skies, and a Martian landscape that really gets me going.

And for the dessert part of the title? Rumor has it that atop Mt. Lemmon (all 9000+ feet of her), there are baked goods galore. Actually, last year Sherpa Thomas mentioned (once in passing) that there was a woman who sold homemade apple piess at the top. Little did he know that I would store that nugget of information like squirrel stashes his nuts.

(Bad example, I know. Mind out of the gutters, please!)

Hey, if it takes 26 miles of grinding up a hill to reach the mecca of baked goods, well then, count me in. Sometimes that's all we need to do something spectacular. I should know: last climb of Palomar, I focused on a Classic Coke at the top. And boy, it tasted good!

(small pause to remember how good that tasted....aaahhhhhh)

And while I'm not a huge fan of pie (something to do with the fact that every Thanksgiving while growing up, my grandmother made a pumpkin pie that tasted oddly metallic. So whenever I eat pie, I think of Babi Val. They were GOOD memories, though!), I realize that beggars can't be choosers. On the other hand, if it were sheet cake awaiting me at the top, well - some sort of record would surely be set.

But I'll tackle that mountain when I come to it. Literally. And that should be sometime Thursday morning. Excellent!

If you can't already tell, I'm super excited about the Tuscon Camp that Jen, along with her hubby Jerome, and coach extraordinaire Spencer Smith are putting on. The training promises to be challenging, the company fantastic, the times good, and the weather beautiful (knock on wood).

I'm ready and raring to go! Looking forward to the excitement of fantastic training, seeing old friends, making new ones, and remembering all the while how LUCKY I am to have the opportunity to do this incredible sport.

Tomorrow: Tuscon awaits. And it only gets better from there! Cheers!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Lost 50

Today I lost a 50.

It happened at the pool, so I was swimming. At least that's what I think I was doing at the time. Because I was so far in oxygen debt that I really had no idea. I was beyond the point of no return, and coughing up a lung would have been a blessing. At least I would have known that my lungs still existed.

Because when I stopped - at 200 meters into our 400 - I thought I was on the verge of collapse.

I blame it on the Germans. Apparently a few of their ITU-people (read: really really really fast professional triathletes!) are spending the month training in sunny Southern California, and just so happened to show up for Carlsbad Master's Lunch practice.


I knew I should have dragged my sorry butt out of bed when the alarm went off at 5:25. Instead I muttered the words, "There's no way in hell I'm getting up to go swim at this hour." (meaning it really felt like 4:30 am. Duh).

I think Nathaniel just laughed.

My payback was a new pr in my 400, while trying desperately to remain within sight of the pro directly in front of me. On the "easiest" interval. In fact, the workout instructions had the words "base pace" written directly next to the 400. And we still had another 1600 to finish.


Were the instructions 'lost in translation'?

Who knows. (Sentence, not a question)

And before you give ME any odd looks or funny winks, in my defense I was swimming in the proper lane. I just never realized people could go SOFAST!

After the German guy jumped in lane 1 and lead the pull set, one of the guys from lane 1 moved into lane 2. And it was at that moment, that exact moment, that I realized I was screwed. Up shit's creek without a paddle. Sianara. Goodbye, good evening, and good luck!

No need to elaborate. You get the idea.

We made space: me, two other Lane 2 regulars, and two girls I had never seen before (Germans!). Lane 1 guy said he would lead the lane, and the German girls looked - dare I say it? - determined to stay on his feet.

I gulped and tried not to shit myself. Something like that doesn't go unnoticed. And though it may have gotten me out of a painful workout, I doubt that in future, I would be permitted to swim Carlsbad Masters.

Before I knew it, Lane 1 guy took off, and about two seconds later, first German girl left in his wake. We were swimming a 400 (supposed to be "easy", but no one but myself got the memo), and no one wanted to be lapped. Since I was third to last - swimming in the middle - I felt safe. But there was one German girl behind me.

Not much was remembered after the first 200 into the set. I know that I set a pr for my 400, and that the girl behind me tapped my toes in the last 25. I let her go ahead. The 100s were hard, and the final 200 of the first set was nightmarish. Another pr was set, and I hit the wall.

Literally - in my haste to get to the wall before Lane 1 dude started on the second set of the workout - I crashed into the wall. Sweet! I was breathing so hard that I didn't even realize he had taken off. No time to groan or cry. There is, after all, no crying in baseball! Why should swimming be any different?

For the first 100 I remained in contact as much as I could. Then, I lost sight of the feet in front of me, and soon there were no bubbles drifting under and next to my person. I peeked a glance ahead during a turn, only to realize that I had cracked.

I was done. Toasted. Burnt to a crisp. The damage was done, line had been broken. And there was nothing I could do to prevent my demise. Phil Ligget would have had a field day with my performance.

"Oh look, this doesn't look good for our girl now! The elastic has snapped and she's gone off the back. Almost like she's going backwards Paul! Oh no, oh dearie me, this does not look pretty!"

And then Paul (Sherwin), being the professional sportscaster that he is would reply, "No, and you know what? When someone has cracked this badly, you know their body is beyond repair. The lactic acid has built up and can no longer be flushed from the system. This does not bode well for Marit at all. If she wants any hope, any chance of getting back in this race, she's got to stop the damage and stop it soon. Otherwise I don't know how she'll be able to carry on..."

Thanks guys.

So I hit the wall. Again. Only this time - and for the first time ever during a Master's swim - I stopped. I paused. I took a break. And the one guy who had been swimming in my draft, flipped and continued on.

My arms were shaking, my legs convulsing, and it sounded as though a train was trying to escape from my lungs. I gasped for breath and did what I could to remain calm. Bloody f*cking hell! This was supposed to be an easy 400! Why the hell are we swimming at x:xx pace?

But there was nothing I could do. I was only a small part of Lane 2. And if I wanted a chance - any chance at all - of remaining calm and rejoining the set, I would have to accept the fact that the pace was fast. Really really fast.

Before I knew it, Lane 1 dude had returned and flipped off the wall. Followed by German girl 1, German Girl 2, and then a fellow Lane 2-er. Without thinking (my saving grace), I jumped right back in, figuring I could do anything for 150 meters.

Somehow I finished the remainder of the workout without having to pause on the wall. I'm not exactly sure how, but I did. Then again, I have little recollection of my time actually IN the water, simply because I was in so much oxygen debt.

I think what saved me today was my lack of thought. When it got really really hard, I just zoned out. Pushed beyond where and what I thought I was capable of, and simply swam. It wasn't pretty, and I was far off the pace of the fastest people. But I did it. Aside from one missed 50 - where had I NOT gripped the wall for half a minute or so, I'm sure the lifeguards would have needed to jump in and retrieve me from the bottom - I swam every single meter on pace and within a reasonable amount of the girl ahead of me.

And I'm incredibly grateful for this workout. Sure, it's neat swimming with ITU people. They are Stupid Fast - not just SuperFast! - but stupidly fast. And they make it look easy. But going above and beyond the comfort zone, past the breaking point, and into the level of (what I refer to as) 'functioning survival', is the key to personal growth.

Besides - if we never push our own limits, we never really discover how high we can go.

And today I found that I can swim for 1200 meters at a stupidly fast pace before clinging to the wall in panic. Maybe if I'm lucky, in a few weeks I'll be able to stretch it to 1400? Who knows? The point though, is that I tried.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

3:36 am. Ugh.

It's early. It's dark. And I just ate a bowl of oatmeal with eggs. Literally with the eggs. Eggs did not go on the side in their own separate container. Or with a cheery amount of bright red ketchup. No eggs were on the oatmeal.

Because when you eat breakfast at 3:15 am, presentation doesn't really matter, right? Besides its all going to the same place, anyway.

But I digress. It's early, the temperatures outside are (currently) in the upper 40s, and I'm staring at my bike - ready for another long (and hilly!) day in the saddle. Take that people in the Midwest: you had highs in the 60s, but I get to climb hills! Ha!

Somehow, I don't think that's fair.

But all's fair in love and triathlon, right?

Today for my long ride, I've decided to do Elfin Forest. Twice. As though once wasn't enough. Purportedly, the road has been repaved, which bodes well for my water bottles: I won't loose any while hitting any numerous pot holes. Excellent for bottle retention and (just as importantly) for the saddle area.

Actually, a few hill repeats in San Elijo hills, followed by a forray into the Forest of Elfin, down Del Dios canyon, through Rancho Santa Fe, and then hitting up Fletcher's cove. And then I turn around and go backwards. Because you never really feel the "love" for a place/route/ride/run unless you backtrack. At least that's what I'm telling myself. And I don't know about you, but going up Del Dios and then up up Elfin Forest sounds just magical.

Really - I am excited. I'm just too stuffed of oatmeal and eggs to be able to think too much. Hopefully I'll remember to either 1) pull up the arm warmers and keep them on at all times or 2) remove them completely from my person. Last week's look of biker-tan was super! Now that the sunburn has peeled, I'm left with some very interesting tan lines.

I think they're here to stay - but don't quote me on that.

Because the season is long, the skies are bright, the winds are (hopefully) calm, and I'm excited and ready to go. I'm looking forward to a long day of biking, riding up (and down) hills galore, and enjoying all that beautiful Southern California has to offer. And really - on a Saturday morning what could be better than that?

Oh wait. Don't respond.

I already know.

Post-ride breakfast at The Daily News Cafe with your Significant Other. Yeah. That's it. Hopefully there's French Toast left. No eggs, but I'll have plenty of coffee and some ham, please. No need to worry about presentation - just give me the food. It all goes to the same place anyway.

Happy training!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gone Catting

Tonight Nathaniel went "catting for fish" - or something like that. We're still trying to work it out. Regardless, fun was had. And the kitty enjoyed it too!

There's just something so fun about watching the Mini Monster stalk the fish

Go after her "mouse" (Tabbitha's old toy, which the House Monster has since relinquished to Mini Monster. Tabbitha thinks that she's too "grown up" to play with her mouse. She's moved onto the green faux tail. What a big girl!)

And "pop out" from behind the pile of bike clothes on...The Ugly Green Recliner. Cue scary music.

Yes, the thing still exists. And it has now made the voyage from Wisconsin to North Carolina, NC to Florida, and FL to California. I'm starting to think we won't be able to EVER get rid of it. The other three members of our family would simply not allow it.

Well - maybe Tabbitha would be okay with no recliner. It seems that she's found another spot.
Easier to "prop" herself up, I suppose.

And when she tires of that, she can always fall back to the sink.

Yeah - she really loves that spot.

And now - now I've completely forgotten what I was going to write about. Something about having fun and living life like a cat? No - that doesn't sound right. Because then you'd spend 18+ hours per day sleeping and wash yourself with your tongue. And that's just bad - on both counts (if you're not a kitty).

But kitties are super relaxed, generally have a good time, and - as long as they're fed - are on their "best" behavior. (Although we still tell our friends and family to beware of Tabbitha and her attack antics).

Other things? You may notice that I have pink pedals. And pink detail on my bike. I blame Jennifer Harrison - as my coach and friend, she's got quite the influence. But as long as you're going for one (detail), you might as well add another (pedals). Toss in the pink seat - and I've got the troika of pink-ness on my bike.

Too much you say?

I think not. Besides - spotting my bike in transition will be super easy. I'll be the only one out there with the pink seat. Super!

In the end, Nathaniel's kitty got away. She caught the fish, nabbed the mouse, and is now well on her way to harassing the House Monster.

No - she's actually "hiding" on the recliner.

As for the House Monster? Apparently her position from a few days ago has since been abandoned for this:
This is just so wrong on so many different levels. But she's the House Monster. What else can I say?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A few interesting things...

You know it's going to be an interesting weekend when you wake up to this:

Actually, Tabbitha in the sink was my view on Sunday morning. But it was still an interesting weekend nonetheless.

A few other tidbits, for your pleasure:

-While walking along the beach Sunday afternoon, I overheard a Dad ask his four young children if they wanted to, "jump off a cliff." I turned and looked, just in time to see the youngest whippersnapper sporting a Charlie Brown shirt and "jumping" off a shelf of sand. But seriously, how many parents get the opportunity to "jump" of a cliff with their kids? Not many.

-For some reason I couldn't find the spinach in the fridge. Low and behold, Sunday afternoon I located it. In the freezer. Last time I remember handling it was after Saturday's ride. Perhaps I was more fatigued than I realized. Or maybe Anabelle was the culprit. After all, she does enjoy leafy greens.
Yes, she did finish her lettuce. Spinach isn't her favorite. She prefers red leaf lettuce. We've tested.

-While riding for long periods of time in the bright California sunshine, it's important to remember that what you wear matters. Shorts and jersey weren't the issue. It was the arm warmers. I wore them (and gloves) while descending and throughout most of my ride. Save for the climbing and last hour or so. Then they were peeled down to about here.
It's pretty hideous. And I think the striped shirt only accentuates the red sunburn and white skin.


-If the waiter at dinner on Saturday night noticed my stripes, he made no comment. Instead, he was surprised at the amount of food I ordered (and consumed). Though I am (somewhat) little, I eat. A lot. And after spending 5+ hours in the saddle and climbing in excess of 7,500 feet - I was hungry.

So I ordered spring rolls to start. Then lots of nigiri sushi (smoked salmon, tuna, and shrimp). And then the large soup (because small was also an option) with tofu and extra veggies. Our waiter - assuming I had ordered for Nathaniel and myself promptly walked away.

He was pretty embarrassed when I called him back and made him take Nathaniel's order. After all, I was hungry and wasn't planning on sharing. Plus Nathaniel really wanted the Yellow Curry Chicken. Good call on his part. I had a few samples.

-I ended up using my Vanilla Powergel as a stress ball during the 15-minute "hard" part of my long run. It was pleasantly squishy, and as my heart rate rose and breathing increased, mashing the sealed gel pack in my fist while trying to run really fast! made me feel slightly better.

-I have great self-control when it comes to cookie dough. Most of it made it onto the cookie sheet (I made cookies for my ride companions).
However I forgot to pack the baked cookies into my jersey and was thus unable to enjoy them atop Palomar.


-WE have little self-control when it comes to homemade, day-old, chewy with extra chocolate chip cookies. Before Sunday arrived, they were gone. Not really sure how many I ate, or when exactly. I know two were gone almost as soon as I turned onto Palomar Airport Road in San Marcos. Three more were enjoyed after dinner. And my other half must have been responsible for the rest.

Or maybe it was Anabelle?

-Couldn't find the compression socks. But the wool socks felt just as good, if not better. Add them to boxer shorts, and I had quite "the look" going.

-I returned from my long run - after fantasizing about walking to the Daily News Cafe with Nathaniel and ordering French Toast - only to discover he had eaten breakfast 15 minutes before I got back. Bummer. Timing is everything!

-Nathaniel made STRONG COFFEE, which made up for us not going out to breakfast.

-I saw either a really big fin or a seal in the water while I was on shore. But because the surfer dudes (and dudettes) were so relaxed, I figured it was the latter of the two. Then again, surfer-people are some of the most relaxed people I know - so who knows?


-You know you've had one too many gels when you find a wrapper stuck to your wool socks. I swear that the gels are following me!

-I'll leave you with this shot. Because really - who can resist a cat in the sink?