Learning how to stop.

I had a great experience last week at a running clinic. A totally unique running clinic… we didn’t really run a whole lot.

We did a lot of thinking. We paid attention.

I have made great strides in the past five years. I have become fit and have done things I never dreamed of doing. I set one goal after another and achieved them. Earlier this year I set a goal because I thought it was the next thing to do. Something to check off the list. Goals should always keep getting bigger and better, right? We should constantly keep pushing and striving and going and going.

Until you are tired….

I can’t explain the feeling I had a few months ago. I was so tired of it all and stressed. I felt bad because, after all of this work and training, I still felt less than…

I finally stopped trying to do more (injury helped). For a while I still kept feeling a weight hang over me saying I had to set a bigger goal and do more. Vacation came and went and I certainly was not the super-hiker I “should” have been. I could have trained harder and been fitter.

There has been a nagging feeling for months that I have to do something big. I just didn’t want to. If I can’t do something big, then what is the point? How about I just do what I want? Could it be possible that I could run and play and do fun things without worry about form and pace and speed and time and heart rate and workout logs and…

Yes! We had a wonderful running clinic on Saturday with Tom and Monika of
Form Fitness & Function. They planted some seeds and I have done some more thinking. I read a blog tonight called “Learning How to Stop“. Monika talked about the same things that this article does. I started thinking about what I needed to stop. I could actually not change anything I was doing and be ok!

For the past few years I have bought tons of running books, fitness DVD’s, diet books, swim caps, goggles, yoga mats. Really… I have 4 yoga mats. Perhaps if I found the PERFECT yoga mat I would be getter at yoga. Three swim goggles. Two swim caps. Countless pairs of running shoes. What if I don’t have to buy anything else? (except new shoes, of course!)

I am going to train for my next half marathon in a completely different way. I am going to run the miles and put in the work. I am going to just run. No data. No heart rate or pace. No thought of time. I will track distance, but nothing else. This will be a fun experiment. Just run. Just eat. Just be.

Being a Triathlete

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a runner. I became one and, for some reason, decided to be a cyclist, too. Then, a triathlete. Notice… I never said I wanted to be a “swimmer”.

Swimming is part of the triathlete equation. In fact, it is first. Swim. Bike. Run. In that order. You must swim before you can do the two fun things. So, here I am… on Monday night. Swimming eve. I swim on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the YMCA. The people there are nice and seem to always be happy to see me and encouraging in my efforts. But, honestly, I couldn’t care less if I ever see a pool again in my life. Well, I would like to have a lovely pool at home to float in while I drink gin and tonics, but that is it.

Last week was rough. We had a lake swim with Coach Katie last Wednesday, May 1st. Lake temperature = 60 degrees. I had my wetsuit on, but even then it took my breath away. I was so cold. I only swam 800 meters and it took all the energy I had. It was miserable. I never felt like I could get a whole breath. I couldn’t even concentrate on swimming right.

This Saturday is my next triathlon. Clemson Sprint Tri – 750 meter lake swim, 11 mile bike ride, 5K run. Today the lake was a whopping 63 degrees and it is supposed to be raining on Saturday. I can’t tell you how much I DO NOT WANT TO GO.

But, I will. I signed up and I will not wimp out. I will suffer through it and finish. I will not let my thoughts defeat me. I keep thinking that I do not have to do this race. I do not have to go. I do not have to do anymore triathlons if I do not want do. But I DO WANT TO… if only I didn’t have to swim.

Swim, and pack and travel.

Swimming is just a portion of the time it takes to be a triathlete. The training is hard and I have only gotten to sprint distance. I cannot imagine what my summer is going to be like leading up to the half Ironman. Triathlon training takes time. These workouts are long and hard. Tomorrow I have to swim before work and do a 26 mile ride after work. Tonight I had to pack my breakfast and lunch, get my swim gear ready and my work clothes ready. I had to remember to pack my bra, underwear and make-up so I can get ready before work. (Each of these things have been forgotten at least once). Yes, it’s true. Lucky, the day I forgot my bra I had a sports bra in my locker at work, but it is hard walking around with a uni-boob all day. The time I forgot my undies I had to ask to take an early lunch to go to Target and buy some (although I did not share that info with my boss).

There are so many things to remember. The workouts themselves are complicated… all with a series of various intervals of hard efforts and recoveries… times to be met, heart rates and speeds to be reached. No longer to you just run or swim or bike. There is a purpose for each.

I am so lucky to be able to do this… I know. I have the time, the energy and the money it takes to be a triathlete. But, at the same time, I wonder if it would be easier to go back to just being a runner!

Charleston Sprint Recap

Yesterday I raced the Charleston Sprint Triathlon. 500 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. No big deal…right? This is basically the same distance that I did last month. The difference is this:

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A lake swim.

Luckily last summer I spent a good bit of time swimming in the lake with my friend Cynthia. The open water itself didn’t scare me, but my history in races did. During the Parris Island pool swim I panicked. I couldn’t catch my breath and had to be coached every lap. Katie was there for me every 50 meters telling me it would be ok. Breathe. You can do this.

She was at the lake – in the middle of it. Standing up on her paddle board watching for people in need. She was not there to focus on me. There were other kayaks and lifeguards. I knew I was safe if something happened, but there were no panic rest stops. No walls to hang on to.

Check in was Friday night and I had a chance to look at the lake with Katie and she told me how it was going to go. It was a wave start – I was in wave 10. The 70.3 people would start first – they had to swim two big laps, 1.2 miles. We had to swim a triangle shape from the shore, around two green buoys and back

Run up a hill, strip off the wetsuit, and transition to the bike. Easy enough.

Race morning started early… the alarm went off at 4:20 AM after a night of fitful sleeping and dreaming of swimming in waves. To top it off it was raining. Cold rain.

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After standing in the cold rain for nearly an hour it occurred to me that I had a wetsuit that might help keep me warm. Sadly, my wetsuit is sleeveless and my jacket was saturated. I was shivering like crazy. There was no warming up. The lake was not inviting. People were leaving. It was so tempting to just disappear into the cold, wet darkness.

It was finally time. We had to head down to the lake. I was so nervous I could barely speak for fear I would cry. I really wanted to bail, but I had to face my fears. Every wave has a swim cap color. I was a in the lime green wave…. females 39 and YOUNGER and Athenas. Lovely. I was with a bunch of young, non-wetsuit, tri-bikini wearing girls.

After the last men’s wave took off we were summoned into the water where we waded in and had to tread water for a few minutes. The water was warm and nice. MUCH warmer than the air so I was a bit relieved. I found my place at the back, left of the wave. I just wanted to find my space and do my thing. In the water the buoys looked farther away then they did on land. The horn sounded and we were off.

I stuck my head in the water and went. Not fast but steady. I found my pace and focused on swimming straight. I sighted a few times and stayed on point. Nearing the first buoy I heard the horn again… that meant the next wave started. Within a few minutes they were upon me. WOW – fast. Luckily they just passed by. Nobody bumped into me or had to swim over me.

I rounded the second buoy and I felt home -free. A few more meters and I could finally see this:

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A short run up the hill and I was in transition and on the bike.

I felt so good! I can’t even explain how wonderful I felt getting out of that water. The worst was over.

Until

Hmmmm,, what is that weird feeling? A flat tire at mile 5. I had just passed at least 30 people and I was flying. I pulled over and immediately went to work. I know how to change a tire. I took a class two year ago. Ugh. It took me at least 15 min to get the tire off (since I forgot to notice that the little tire tool wasn’t in my bag). Got that done, got the new tube in…. low and behold… no air.

How could this be? I had a CO2 canister. It was empty. Last week at the Assault on Carolina ride I was a good sport and let a poor stranger with a flat use my air. I forgot about that. Now I had no air.

More time passed. More people passed. I was alone, greasy and airless. I called Katie for some reason, but she was on the lake. Besides, she couldn’t help me anyways. Those are the rules – you cannot take aid from anyone on the course.

The SAG wagon finally appeared and I fully expected to be taken back, but he started pumping up my tired. Another man pulled up and asked for my number… he assumed I was out. The other guy told him that the officials said he could help riders, as long as he helped them equally. the other guy finally decided it was ok and said I could continue. Actually at this point I almost wanted to quit. It was a lonely road ahead. Most people were probably finished with the run already. It was going to be embarrassing rolling in and this point and starting my run. I heard John in my head saying, “suck it up”.

I got to transition and most were packing up their gear. It was horrible getting ready for the run. I felt like a failure. I felt like every spectator I passed while running was thinking “oh, poor fat girl… bless her heart she is so slow…”

I ran a decent run. I kept a good pace, but certainly didn’t “race” like I was planning. I finally finished.

1:59 (my goal time was <1:30)

I was proud for being brave and finishing. Katie was proud. She said, "Part of triathlon is dealing with what is dealt on race day. Every race you learn something new."

I will save what I learned for another post…. there is a lot.

My Race Shirt

Today I wear my race shirt… not the one I earned by participating in an event, but the one I wear to my big events. The shirt I am comfortable in and that gives me confidence. The ones my family and friends can recognized me in. The one in all my happy race pictures.

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charleston half medal

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For the past two days I have been sad thinking about the three people that lost their lives cheering for their friends and families at the Boston Marathon. I have been sad for those who were seriously injured and maimed. Those lives are forever changed.

I am also spending a lot of time thinking about the runners. The ones that finished with PR’s or the ones that were still an hour away from finishing. I am sure they are conflicted. You know they are sad and angry that this happened to these people at this race, but also for themselves. It takes months to train for a marathon and a lot of hard work. If they set a PR on Monday, can they be happy about that? Can they ever talk about their race without feeling guilt. If they didn’t get to finish can they be disappointed without thinking “well, at least I am alive”. Are they forever going to feel selfish for being sad about their race being ruined while others are now missing limbs?

It is just a horrible conflict of emotions.

Those people got ready in their best race gear and put on their race shirts. They never got to celebrate and take pictures with their medals at the finish line. Their race reports will always be tainted with the devastation at the finish.

I am going to continue wearing various running gear this week in honor of those whose lives were forever changed on Monday. It isn’t much, but it is my way of remembering.

Run strong.

What I CAN do!

I have to admit, it has been a rough year so far for me. I have been getting sick after each race, pulling muscles, and generally tired. There are some theories behind this… my yoga instructor believes it to be adrenal fatigue, which, after reading about it, could be true. I am investigating and trying some easily things to do to try to fix it. Namely, reducing caffine (noticed, I didn’t say eliminate!) supplementing with magnesium and an adrenal support mixture. Also, trying to keep things in perspective.

I was so excited at the beginning of the year to set grand challenges and BE A TRIATHLETE. I got exicted looking at the race calendar – I wanted to do it all! And, therefore, signed up for QUITE A FEW races. Three of which all happen in consecutive weekends this month.

After Parris Island I was on a high. I planned on making my workouts better and faster. Four days post race I woke up feeling miserable. It lasted nearly two weeks. Just as I started feeling better I pulled a hip flexor. I was ready to hang in the towel. This is now the THIRD time this year I have been sick. hmmm… three races so far and three illnesses. Is there a pattern? My body clearly does not like racing. So, last week I started to panic. If I have three races in ONE MONTH what the heck is going to happen to my body!? Clearly I am not made for this sport.

I said these words to my coach. The note I got back was thoughtful and caring. She confirmed that most of us at one point or another have these thoughts. If I stop now I will always wonder… what if…

So, those are the words I needed. After lots of thoughts about “retiring” from my brief stint as a triathlete I decided to banish those thoughts. I am moving forward to the ultimate goal this year of the half ironman in September. I am going to participate in all these races and ENJOY them.

I had the notion that I wanted to RACE and be COMPETITIVE. This is very unnatural for me. I still want to do my best, but the stress of trying to be fast (faster than other people) is mentally exhausting for me. I think I felt better when I was doing it for a fun experience.

So this month:
4/13: Assualt on the Carolina 37 mile bike ride.
Original Plan: I had some time goals for myself and I wanted to make it up the big hills without walking.
Current Plan: enjoy the day and push the bike if I have to.

4/20: Charleston Sprint Tri
Original Plan: Try to be faster in the swim and get another Athena award
Current Plan: Swim calmly and make it through. Push hard on the bike and run and not worry about the outcome.

4/28: Diva Half Marathon
Original Plan: Half PR – RACE IT
Current Plan: Run/walk if needed. Have fun and enjoy the run with my friend

Through these last few months with the illness and injury I have missed a lot of workouts. I have spent some time feeling sorry for myself and thinking that if I can’t do my workouts RIGHT and HARD and INTENSE then I should not do them at all. I should sit on the couch and eat. Right? Makes sense. Finally I had an awakening… maybe it was Easter? Who knows. But I decided I was at least going to do something from now on, even if I am not feeling well or my hip is hurting. I have to keep moving forward.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

Sick Again!!!!!!

For the second time this year I am SICK. At this point it is very annoying. I have all of these events line up… they DO NOT train for themselves! I made some real fitness gains these past few weeks only to be side-lined again. This weekend I missed an 8 mile run and a 35 mile bike ride. I did manage to do one hour on the trainer, but it was not enough. I just didn’t have any more in me. Besides the sickness, the weather has been terrible. So much for spring.

Whoa is me….

I guess I am happy I do not live in Wisconsin – this is what they dealt with on the first day of spring!

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Instead of feeling too sorry for myself I went shopping and bought some new summer riding outfits.

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A skirt, two tops and two pairs of socks. The shade of pink matches my wheels perfectly!

I needed to get sleeveless tops lest this condition get worse…

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This is my arm after the tri last weekend and a long ride the next day. Very unfortunate tan lines and markings! Not a very attractive look!

It Takes a Village

Honestly, I have no idea what I would do if I actually competed for a LIVING. What if my livelihood depended on my race results? Every time I finish a race I feel like I have to give thanks to all that supported me. Like I am some sort of Academy Award winner or Olympic Medalist! Seriously, if I need this much help to finish a sprint triathlon what the heck do these people require!?

My parents were here with me this weekend and were awesome. Aside from carrying my stuff around they are a constant source of encouragement.

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John was not at the race today, but the man puts up with so much. He sees all the doubt I lavish on myself and still has the energy to tell me that I can do it.

Katie. My coach. How do people even do these things without a coach? She tells me what to do and I try to do it. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. I can’t imagine the energy it takes to get all of her athletes across the finish line each race. Certainly I can’t be the only one with “issues”, can I ?

Michelle. My yoga teacher and friend. Helping me find that voice and learn how to set my intentions. Who knew this stuff actually worked? On Saturday morning I took a few minutes to “go within” and set my intentions for the race. They were “swim calm, pedal hard, run fast”. Swim calm… not so much… the the rest worked!

My friends. Gosh, so many! I will not name anyone for fear of leaving them out, but I cannot believe the people that care about me! They have been there while I was training, while I had meltdowns… during training swims, bikes and runs. I am so lucky.

My sweet daughter. I am not sure she knows all of my crazy race schedules, and I don’t expect her to.. .she is the reason I can do all I can do. My biggest victory.

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Race report for those who wish to know the gritty details….

When I signed up for this race in January it seemed so far away, as do all races. When you sign up for triathlons you have to state which category you are going to race in and how fast your swim will be. Categories are: Open (FAST people), age group, Athena, Novice. Athena is for women 150+ pounds. Although I am probably a Novice, I signed up for Athena. I am not shy. I weigh over 150… there, I said it!

Athena class gets points. I want to get points. Novices do not.

Swim time. There are four waves – according to Set-Up Events website:

Below is a listing of swim times in MM:SS format for 100 yards. Read over this prior to submitting your swim time.
0:50 – 1:20 : Super Fast (In contention to win the race and you swim competitively)
1:21 – 1:45 : Fast Enough (still starting in the first 1/3 of the event)
1:46 – 2:10 : Average Swimmer (Swim well enough and don’t need to stop at the end of each lane
2:11 – 2:44 : Novice (Still getting used to this thing called triathlon)
2:45 – 4:59 : Complete beginner/I want to start at the back

In January I figured I would at least be in the “novice” swim time wave. 2:11-2:44

Sadly, I was not. After weeks of practice, I just could not get any faster. Thank God Katie was there to find out that I could move back into the “complete beginner/I want to start at the back” category.

And, good for me…. the start was supposed to be a running JUMP into the pool. NOT NOT NOT going to happen. I walked across the mat, sat on the edge an eased myself into the pool… with Katie by my side telling the timing person to “give me some time” before letting the next person in. (Again.. who doesn’t need this support!?)

And support at the end of every lap:

I actually made it through the swim… despite how I may look. Out of 98 women I finished my swim in 94th place. Lovely.

Thank God for the bike. I was smoking fast! Well, for me. I THOUGHT I finished my 10 mile bike leg in 36 minutes so I was flying high. It was against the wind the entire time, but I got low and just pedaled hard. So hard, in fact, that I missed a turned. I flew right by a right hand turn. Luckily I figured it out pretty quickly!

My transitions were fairly smooth. I could shave some time off of them, but overall I was very happy. I decided to take some extra time before the run to put on running shorts and my Tryon Running Club shirt. I remember being very self-conscious about running in my spandex last time so I thought I would fix that… it worked. I ran stronger than ever!

I finished the 5K in 28:37 (9:12 pace!)

In the last quarter-mile I passed one of my competitors and that is the chance I needed to get my third place trophy! My run saved me!

My final time was 1:29:46. My original goal was <1:40 so I am VERY pleased. Now I just need to focus on my swimming!

The countdown

In a few short days I will be lined up at the edge of the Marine Combat Pool at Parris Island. I have been training hard and I am ready, despite a near breakdown in the pool on Thursday. We had “race simulation” as a team… there were about 9 of us. I started first. I had the option not to, but I wanted to see for myself. The others were faster than me so I was going to get passed A LOT. And kicked.

It started off fine… well, the 15 seconds I had the pool to myself before the next person started swimming! Mercy me. 1..2..3..4…everyone gets in the pool in 10-15 second intervals. All at once they were on top of me, around me, behind me. Water was splashing everywhere. I finally just stand up in the lane. Katie yells for me to keep swimming (if that is what you can call it at this point!) They are finally moving on but by this time my stupid head is away from me. I start thinking about the race on Saturday, the river swim in September… blah, blah, blah… here we go again. I stop at the edge “I am done”. ” I am not finishing today and I am not going to race next week”, I declare.

Katie looks at me calmly and sweetly and tells me to finish one more lap. “Do the catch-up drill” she says. I do and by the time I finish another lap my breathing has returned to normal. She says now do another lap. Yes, and you can imagine, she talks me through the rest of the 500 meter swim.

I finish the workout in a slow time, but considering I stopped for a little pity party my time wasn’t hideous. It won’t win me any prizes, but there should be a few people behind me on race day.

Fast forward to Saturday. I had a 28 mile bike ride in which 10 of those miles were “time trial” effort. I had to go as fast as I could for 10 miles, no stopping. I picked a hilly route, not flat. If I could do decent on a hilly route maybe I could be ok on race day. 41 minutes – that puts me happily mid-pack.

The last legs is the run – a 5K. I would like to think I could run it in 30 minutes, typically what I can do 3 miles in… but I just don’t know. I think I have decided to not put that pressure on myself (hahaha) and just go with it on race day. I can push through the discomfort. I just need to be calm and focused.

I have a full week this week with lots of pre-race tasks. Clean and check the bike and some “zen swims”.

Luckily, another tool I have on my side is yoga. Tonight we “breathed into our back body” and “behind our heart”. This was a very powerful visual tonight for me for some reason. I am going to try to use that focus in the pool tomorrow. If I focus on the back side of my heart, maybe I will get the back side of my head on straight!

Tri time in two weeks!

In two weeks I will RACE in my first triathlon of the season. I am training hard and trying to stay focused each day on what I need to do. Just FOCUS on each day and not think about all the challenges ahead…. like in the pool the other day when I was doing a 500 yard time trial… instead of focusing on swimming hard for those 500 yards I started thinking about how I was going to swim down the Savannah River in SEPTEMBER!! Again, reminding myself to stop the madness.

I have been working hard at running faster and it paid off on Saturday. The day started off cold and wet – a bit of rain mixed with snow. I was running it regardless and so were my friends. Several of us piled in the cars and headed south. As always, it is fun hanging out at the start talking to other runners. We were all huddled under awnings and anywhere dry and warm that we could find. We were all wearing our
Tryon Running Club shirts and got some conversations started about our club and race.

The race started in typical fashion – a slow walk/shuffle through the crowd for the first few minutes. Once it started thinning out we were able to pick up the pace. The first couple of miles are gently downhill. Free speed. Scarlette and I were running together at a nice pace. When the first water stop came I was ready for some fluid, but didn’t want to stop and walk and waste the speed we were running. I didn’t tell her I was going to keep going :) I wasn’t trying to ditch her… promise!

The next couple of miles were through a narrow park trail with lots of twists and turns and small little uphills. It was hard to maintain pace and get around people. Once we were finally back on the road it was nice, but then the uphills started.

We were settled back into a good pace and started heading up a gradual hill. Out of no where our friend Kathryn came up behind us. We thought we dropped her long ago… but she was stalking us…. waiting to attack. Naturally we all had to pick up the pace. The last mile was uphill and I had to focus and push through. My heart rate was pretty high and breathing was heavy.

There was talk of how fun it was to finish together. All crossing together in our fancy club shirts. Nice photo. I had to remind myself that I wanted to RACE. We can’t just jog across the line. We have to finish strong. Closer to the finish we were going to sprint. I had a plan.

My plan abruptly changed when I saw John at the corner. He had already finished the race and waiting for me. But, he wasn’t just going to wave and cheer…. he was there to push me hard. He came out on the course and told me to pick up the pace. Harder. Push it. I was running so fast. I could barely breathe and it was still a quarter-mile to the finish. I planned on sprinting LATER,,,

I didn’t think I could hold the pace. He was running with me and told me they were coming. I needed to beat my friends. This was totally out of my comfort zone mentally and physically. Then he was picking out other people for me to over take. I didn’t have much more in me but I tried.

I finally crossed the line in 1:04:31. Scarlette one second behind and Kathryn one second behind her. It was amazing and fun. It turns out that a bit of friendly competition is good for all of us

Back at it!

After being sick with a stupid virus for nearly two weeks I am finally feeling well enough to get a decent workout in. John said it was time for me to get off the couch… so I did and followed him up a mountain on our bikes. I am so happy that he is cycling now! It will be good to be able to train with him and ride the hard roads around here. He will get me out there… no excuses.

The ride was 5 miles up to Hogback Mountain. There were some really tough parts about 3/4 of the way up. I had to stop once to catch my breath and focus. I could not NOT make it up. There was not going to be any walking. It was hard getting started again since I was going uphill. But, my legs are strong and they got me going.

I was so happy when I made it to the top. I have to admit I did struggle with mental issues this morning when John told me the plan. I have not been on the bike in a long time and I have been sick for two weeks. The excuses where swirling around in my head and I was convinced I just needed to stay home and ride the trainer. He wouldn’t let me and gave me the normal speech about how I beat myself up before I even get started. Will the madness ever end? Hopefully soon. This ride was a big confidence booster today. It was the toughest climb that I have ever done. Much harder than Saluda Grade.

The view at the top was awesome!

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The road ends at a gated community.

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The unfortunate part was that now I had to go back down. I HATE going downhill. Yes another issue I need to get over, but I feel so out of control. It seemed so much steeper on the descent. My hands and forearms where nearly crippled from braking by the time I got down!

It was fun… can’t wait for our next ride.

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