Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You Will be Tested

I’ve been working on this recap of my season for quite some time now in my head, considering the last race I did was the USAT Age Group Nationals Sprint back on August 10th.  So yeah, I’ve had some time to mull things over.  Actually, the fact that there is going to be a recap, or even a blog, is something that took me a while to decide.  My 2014 season was not what I expected and there was a period during this past summer where I came very close to losing my passion for triathlon. 

I truly believe that a person’s happiness is 99% mental.  I know that terrible things happen to people that are not within their control, but there are some people who just bounce back and say, “Ya know what? Fuck that, I’m gonna slap a smile on my face and carry on.”  I want to be that person.  This summer I was so not that person.  I let little things suck the joy from my favorite sport and a lot of these little things were expectations and demands that I imposed on myself.  I felt that I was paying my dues and going through the motions and so I should expect to see some results.  I kept putting it out there that this was going to be MY year.  I set the bar high – really high.  And while I still believe that setting the bar high is not a bad thing, (I need the carrot on the stick), the problem is that I let the actions of others dictate where I set my bar.  I went to races expecting to podium or finish in a certain place.  But those types of goals don’t take into account who shows up on any given day or where I am at in my training and adaptation.  I felt that I was letting others down when I didn’t reach my goals and I carried the weight of those perceived expectations with me into each race.  I didn’t want to let down my coach/team/fiancĂ©/family – the list went on and on in my head!  I felt that because I had gone through radiation treatment in 2013, I should be so much better in 2014 because I had “nothing wrong with me!”  Well, I got my ass handed to me on a pretty regular basis this summer and I was too blind to see how lucky I was to just be out there.  I had gotten wrapped up in the RESULTS and could not longer enjoy the EXPERIENCE.

When I first did a couple triathlons on a dare from a coworker back in 2006, I was about 30 pounds heavier than I am now and my race kit was spandex shorts worn over a bathing suit from Sam’s Club.  I rode a steel hybrid Gary Fisher (with a very comfortable gel seat!).   When people asked me about triathlon I would say “You HAVE to do one!  It’s like being a kid again where you jump in the pool and then you ride your bike all over the neighborhood and then run around the block!”  I never even saw the women who won my age group at races, and frankly, they didn’t much figure into my enjoyment of the sport.  So where did that happy triathlete go?  She got crushed under the weight of EXPECTATIONS and she – I -  made triathlon into a JOB. 

By mid-summer, I was feeling burned out and I became resentful.  I didn’t want to listen to my coach, I didn’t want the “good lucks” or accolades from friends and family.  I am not worthy of all this!  I wanted to scream.  Why don’t you people just forget about it???”  I felt like a fraud, like someone who dressed up like a triathlete and had all the right gear but I couldn’t actually produce the results.  All my faults were magnified in my mind.  When people told me I was strong on the bike, I thought, “Sometimes I forget to clip out and I fall over like an idiot.”  If someone passed me on the run and said “Good job,” I muttered under my breath.  I compared myself to the “fast girls” and found myself older or fatter or just not good enough.  Repeatedly my coach and John reminded me that triathlon was my HOBBY not my JOB but still I felt I had something to prove.  I continued to go through the motions, dutifully performing workouts that felt pointless and showing up at races without my heart.  I was a miserable, tired person.  I withdrew from anything or anyone who might discuss racing.  I even shut this blog down for a spell.  By early September I decided to pull the plug on all of it and just follow my instincts.

Fast forward to about week ago, I was running 7 miles at the reservoir.  I no longer am working with my coach (through no fault of his – he is a WONDERFUL coach!) and not following any set plan.  I’m just doing stuff.   As I was running up a hill, my easy pace felt difficult.  My initial thought was This shouldn’t feel this hard!  Why am I struggling at this slow pace?  But then, from somewhere in the recesses of my brain came the words:  You will be tested.  It caught me off guard.  Yes, I will be tested.  Not once, not twice, and not always in ways that I will be ready for.  In all areas of this life, if you think about, you will be tested.  For some reason, after cancer, I expected it to get easier.  Just get a coach, lose some weight, buy the right gear and this triathlon thing is going to be fun AND I will see RESULTS!  And while triathlon in general is great fun, sometimes it is not fun at all.  Sometimes you feel like puking after running a 400 at race pace, or your crotch doesn’t want to be on the bike saddle one more second, let alone for another 20 miles, or it’s cold as fuck outside and those laps aren't gonna swim themselves. 

I guess somehow I became complacent.  It has taken me a couple months of reflection (and reading other peoples’ blogs) to understand that there is no fairy tale ending without the blood, sweat and tears.  And that yesterday’s blood and last month’s tears don’t really count today.  Today is a new day and you will be tested.  Training is hard and racing is harder.  My walls are covered with sayings like, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster” and “Suck it up, Buttercup.”  But I guess I didn’t believe it.  Perhaps I thought I would get a free pass or at least a discounted pass to the podium because I was doing all the right things?  Hey, I had cancer, Universe!  I shouldn’t have to work so hard!  Right?  Right? 

I do not know where this laziness of my mind came from, but I see that there is no place for it in triathlon.  Now that I have had time to reflect on my 2014 season, I expect nothing less than to suffer and to be tested each and every step of the way if I want the results.  But at the same time I don't want to lose the joy of triathlon. It is a decision that I have not yet made.  Are the results worth the sacrifices and the pain? By the start of next racing season I will have come to terms with that decision, and I hope that if I decide to go for it, then I find that deep down inside of me is the grit and the heart and the courage to battle on.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Rules

                This past weekend was the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s 75 mile (actually 80+ but we’ll get to that) City to Shore Ride that I confidently and excitedly signed up for last year when my sister told me that the doctor she works for does it every year.  In my mind I thought I would be fit from racing REV3 Cedar Point half aquabike and really, what’s another 24 miles after you’ve ridden 56?  Well, by mid-June I was praying for rain, hurricanes, or any force of nature to cancel this damned ride of doom.   It was not to be.  Saturday morning arrived and we awoke to the alarm at 3:52 and it was downright perfect weather for a bike ride.  Ugh.

                I really didn’t want to do this ride.  It seemed like just one more thing I had signed on for this year that just felt like a task, a burden, another job I had to do.  Almost as a metaphor for 2014, I dreaded it, went through the motions of preparing for it with a joyless, half-hearted attitude.  Just the Sunday before, Kathy had come over to do a long ride with me.  I had ridden the old road bike (which has never fit me) and had bitched and moaned and I’m sure made a complete jackass of myself.  We literally rode five miles and then turned around because I was so miserable.  The only thing that made me get out the door on Saturday was the guilt of having told Kathy I would do it and the money that people had donated to me for the MS Society. 

                When we picked up Kathy at her apartment, she was not exactly excited at the prospect of riding 75 miles, but John kept driving toward the PATCO station in Cherry Hill and we formulated our plan of how we’d just ride to the first rest stop and then we could say we broke down or got sick or whatever and John could come get us and drive us to the finish.  The traffic getting into the PATCO station was backed up for nearly a mile onto 295 and we sat for about 15 minutes just on the exit ramp.  We watched others unload their bikes and ride them to the start.  Hahaha, we are not doing that! We don’t really want to be here!

                Eventually though, as we got into the station, our screaming bladders forced us out of the car.  John told us to go get my number, take a pee and then call him to see where he parked.  Being John, he sweet-talked a police officer into a VIP parking space.  We had a nice clear shot at the start, plenty of room to unload, pump tires and load our bottles and snacks.  Then, it was time.  Well, fuck, it’s time to fall off my bike in front of fifty million other riders.  I’m going to look like an idiot on my tribike with my arm warmers and aero bottle.  I’m such a tool.   Oh well…  With a sigh of resignation, I swung my leg over my beautiful red Kestrel.  As I clipped in and followed a police car through an intersection I felt an instant change in me. 

                I looked at the sea of riders lined up in the start corrals.  Some were on super expensive road bikes, some were on cruisers, hybrids or mountain bikes.  There were riders in team kits, riders in sweat pants and even a tiny little Asian woman in a house dress and high heeled leather shoes!  I wanted a photo of her but she got away into another corral before I could get a shot of her with my phone.  As Kathy and I lined up in our corral I decided that I would just throw away the garbage in my head.  Am I a tool?  Maybe I am but so what?  I started taking selfies.  I started making stupid faces and taking photos of me and my big ass and my belly and I started posting them to Facebook.  When we mounted up for our start (having now clipped in like 4 times without falling off yet!!!) I felt like I was heading out to race the Tour.  I felt athletic and strong and slick on my shiny red bicycle in my beautiful race kit. 

                We stopped at every single rest stop during the day.  I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drank blue Gatorade when I ran out of my Osmo and water.  I practiced passing and being passed, drinking from all my bottles no matter where on the bike I had them.  I clipped in and out a gazillion times at red lights and intersections.  I fell in love with my bike and made it mine.  Even though I have loved that bike since the first time I saw her hanging in the local bike shop window, I now felt like she was mine.  I learned how to really ride my bike.  By the end of the ride I had no excuses left. 

                I’m not saying that the seven hours passed with no incident.  I did not pack enough nutrition with me and I started to get “cranky” the last couple hours.  Kathy cramped up in her quads, but luckily the very next rest stop was filling bottles with water and blue Gatorade.  I made sure to get a pic of myself with the blue stuff!  And obviously things got sore.  By the fourth or fifth hour my crotch hurt no matter how I adjusted on my saddle,  my feet swelled in my shoes so that my big toes banged against them and my wrists ached from riding on the flats.  But I learned that I can suffer and that I do have what it takes mentally to get through the real shitty stuff.  The ride ends in Ocean City, New Jersey.  To get into the city you have to ride over two big ass bridges and this is AFTER having ridden 75 miles.  The actual mileage of this ride is 81 miles.  Yes, it is there on the cue sheet on the ride’s website, but who reads cue sheets of rides that you are not actually going to finish???

                When we came around a curve and the only thing ahead of us was the bridge, I decided there were two ways I could feel about it.  Either I could say “Oh no.” or I could yell “Hell YES!” and hammer it up the bridge.  I chose the latter, shouting “On your left!” the whole way up!  The descent got my blood pumping as the wind caught me and my carbon fiber steed and took us for a wild ride but holy shit it was fantastic!!!!!  I waited for Kathy afterwards, made sure she was fine (she was) and raced balls to the wall up the second bridge “Don’t lose the momentum!” I shouted to my fellow riders (some of whom were off and walking their bikes and I am sure saying What a fucking tool!) but I had found my joy and it didn’t matter what anyone thought anymore.

                After the final totally excellent scary descent, I waited for Kat at the toll booth and we rolled slowly with the crowd into town.  I have often watched European bike races on television and thought to myself, I could never ride so closely in a group like that.  Bullshit.  I did and I loved every damned minute of it.  The final miles I felt like I was part of a conquering army being thanked and lauded by the townspeople.  It was magnificent and just frigging beautiful.  The finish line was booming with music and everyone was clapping and smiling and I unclipped for the zillionth time that day and I did not fall over.

                We celebrated with salty food and Stellas and lying around and laughing in our dirty little Jersey Shore motel and life was simply wonderful.  I felt like I had learned a lesson that day that I had known all along.  But this time I really LEARNED it.  Every day we choose how we want to live our lives.  It is our choice to live our life happy or miserable.   We can either piss and moan about the big hills or we can scream up one side and tear down the other like a lunatic.  I learned that I prefer to be the lunatic. 

                I found my joy again:  the easy laughter, joking with strangers, poking fun at myself, giving myself the freedom to be a jackass.  Age and illness and just the ol’ crap shoot of life can make you a bitter and boring person if you focus on only the negatives.  I built up “rules” in my head about what I could NOT do.  I could NOT ride my bike on the roads where I had to clip in and out because I would fall over.  I could NOT do long distance races because I am a terrible runner.  I could NOT do an Ironman because I am too busy and I don’t have the life that those people on the Facebook or the Twitter have.  I should NOT wear sleeveless tops because my skin is saggy and I don’t have enough muscles.  I should NOT have a beer because I will eat and drink too much and stay up too late……….!!!!  What the serious FUCK?????   So many frigging rules that I simply built, like walls around myself - walls that  for some reason, in the itchy, sweaty, wonderfully sore aftermath of  81 miles on my bike just seemed so silly and arbitrary that, as a (reasonably) sane person, I wonder how I had ever come up with them?!?!?

                So somehow, for some reason, this is where I am now.  I feel calm, even in rush hour traffic.  I crack jokes with my fellow coffee addicts in line at Wawa.  I sleep without the help of drugs.  My long-suffering coworkers who have had to watch me withdraw into a seething ball of nastiness over the past year now stare at me in disbelief when I smile at them and engage them in conversation.   But I’m ready for the stares, even the ridicule if that is what comes my way.  I have to just not give a single fuck anymore what others think of me. 

                I’m breaking down walls and questioning everything.  When I feel impatient or bristle at a comment or something that happens at work, I ask myself, “Why?  Why so angry?  Why feel so put upon?  Why allow yourself to feel like a victim?  There is no good answer; no good reason to let in the dark clouds of negativity.  I have no time for that bullshit.  This is my life and I choose to focus on the bright shiny bits!  



Wednesday, September 17, 2014


                Today was “Tempo Day” for me.  I had scheduled a 2x1 mile tempo run and was excited about getting out there and running this morning.  I’ve been embracing my “runner” persona lately.

                My head started to ache yesterday afternoon at work.  It was relentless.  I found myself eating sweets to try to quell the pain.  At home I laid on the sofa, waiting for the pain to dissipate.  Everything irritated me.  The noise of the traffic outside our door seemed louder than just the day before.  John’s constant texting made me feel bitchy and everything  caused the throbbing in my temples to increase.  Finally, around 6:30 pm I broke down and took 2 ibuprofens.  About 25 minutes later I took two more and went to bed.   Because it was cool outside I had the bedroom window cracked open about two inches.  The trucks driving by were so loud I had to close it and put white noise on the iPhone to drown them out.  The traffic has been the source of a lot of complaining on my part this year and it has increased exponentially since Amazon opened its warehouse.

                I knew when I woke up that it was not going to be a great workout.  My head had stopped hurting but it felt foggy and heavy.  I dawdled around, drank my cup of coffee and then some more coffee before doing my chores of making the bed and lunches.  I just felt “blah.”  Even knowing that it would be an “easy” day at work because the attorneys were all out of the office didn’t buoy my mood.  Still, as John got ready for work I put on my running clothes and fiddled with the Garmin.   Suck it up, Buttercup.  How many times have I told myself that this past year?

                Down the road I run, dodging beer trucks and thanking cars that do not veer directly at me.  I hit the Garmin’s start button only to realize after about a quarter of a mile that I don’t have the GPS on.  I turn the Garmin off and then back on.  John rides up beside me on the motorcycle and asks if everything is okay, as I am now walking and waiting for GPS to find its signal.  There is a LOT of traffic today and there seems to be a lot of distracted drivers as twice I have had to give the “use your eyes!!!” signal to cars.  I tell him to move along before he gets hit and off he goes to work.  Another car steers right along the white line at the edge of the road and I scream at the driver and decide to get off the main road so I cross the highway and dive into the development.  I feel defeated.

                And then for some reason it hits me.  I am fucking scared to death that the doctors and technicians will find more cancer in my body on Friday.  I have no control over my body.  No more control over whether I have cancer lurking in my abdomen or chest than I do that 35,000 cars and trucks run up and down the highway that I live on.  I have no control over the work that I do or in what environment that work is performed or during what hours of the day.  I have no control over how other people see me or perceive me or what they think about me.  And I am angry.  I am so fucking angry I want to knock the shit out of things.  I want to hide in a cave or in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere.  I don’t want anyone’s sympathy, or prayers, or healing thoughts.  I just want to curl up in a ball of anger.

                I know, Suck it up, Buttercup.  I’m a “survivor.”  Last spring they found the lump, removed it, and irradiated the area where it grew.  Now I’m a survivor and I should be grateful.  Instead I’m angry and frustrated and I realize how very little control I exercise over my life.  I want to move away from this busy road.  Some days I just want to move a mile away into town.  Yesterday, I heard someone on the radio mention Bend, Oregon and I was Googling jobs and rentals there.  Most days I repeat the phrase, “I hate my job” like a mantra.  If I could come up with ONE SINGLE POSITIVE MANTRA to match “I hate my job” I would be one Zen bitch.

                I walked home.  Yes, I walked.  Tempo day turned into a fucking walk.  But some revelations came to me during that walk.  First and foremost, I am afraid.  Everyone tells me how strong I am but in reality I only appear that way.  I’m scared.  Many times I’m so scared that I think I am simply paralyzed with fear.  I don’t know what to do so I simply do nothing.  And I am resentful.  Yes, I have resentment about using my PTO for doctors appointments and radiation treatment and surgeries.  I KNOW that people get cancer and are homeless or go without treatment because they have no insurance.  I KNOW this and I GET THIS and I KNOW how lucky I am that I had cancer that was treatable with radiation and no need for chemotherapy.  I KNOW ALL OF THIS.  And yet, I resent that I didn’t get a break.  No one told me to “take as much time as you need” like they do on t.v.  No one really said anything at all.  

                I’m not really sure where this is going.  It’s a lot of mental trash that I’ve been carrying around and I believe it is poisoning my thoughts and ultimately, my actions in how I am living my life.  I want to be strong and I want to make decisions for my future; decisions that I can believe in, no matter the consequences.  But how can I do that if my thoughts are tainted with all this anger and resentment and jealousy?  It’s more work that I need to do.  Perhaps it was worth a missed tempo run to get to this place instead.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hammonton Sprint Triathlon - May 24, 2014 - Race Report

This was my first triathlon of the season and I am happy to have that monkey off my back!  Over the course of the week leading up to race morning I went from "Oh, this will be fun!" to "Am I ready?" to "Oh man, I still have work to do!"  But it is in the books and (spoiler alert!) I grabbed me a podium finish. 

Race morning was too nervous to even eat the peanut butter on a bagel.  I did finally eat a Picky Bar when we stopped at Wawa for coffee so at least I did have something in my belly.  We arrived at the park nice and early and scored a super parking space and an ideal transition spot.  I am nothing if not the Queen of Arriving Early.  All those years of racing and showing horses and dogs pay off here. 

As always, once I got set up and got my race number and chip it was time to check out the swim.  I'm not going to lie, the big reason I jumped in this race was because I heard that it was a quick, short out-and-back swim and upon inspection this was true.  The water was pleasantly cool but not cold.  I've been wearing nothing but my $129 Neosport sleeveless wetsuit this year.  It is just like me that I bought the TYR Freak of Nature and have attempted to swim in it twice and yet both times I have stripped it off mid-swim to put the Neosport on.  If it doesn't work for me I won't put up with it.  That's just me.

There were gazillions of little tadpoles in the shallow water along the shoreline and that occupied me for a time until people came along and wanted to talk about some damned race.  I tried listening to my pre-race playlist on my iPhone but I am not really good with not paying attention to the guy with the microphone or the bull horn.  Once again, when you grow up racing and showing critters you learn to listen to the announcer. 

Once a few more people came over and had their wetsuits on it seemed like a good idea to actually get in the water and swim a little bit.  If nothing else, 2014 marks the season when I can say I ENJOY swimming.  I love the feel of the water on my arms and how strong I feel as I propel myself through it.  It is at once so graceful and yet so powerful... the closest I will ever come to either of those things.  I swam out to the next to last buoy of the 400 meter course and then headed back in toward the finish flags on the shore.  At this point I always get a little butterfly in my belly when I remember last year at Stafford how I got caught flopping around out in the lake when they let the first wave start.  I checked and then double-checked to be sure that the shoreline was not a mass of blue-capped men ready to jump into the water and then swam back in.

Some more idle chit-chat and discussion as to why I had a blue cap rather than a pink cap like all the other women in my wave.  I decided that I would just forget what color my cap was and that seemed to be just fine.  There was the typical pre-race meeting, then the first wave and second wave of men were sent off.  I had noticed that although the course was an out-and-back, it actually hooked to the left which indicated to me that every MOP female swimmer would be hung out on the right side of the hook. Therefore, I positioned myself with a few other women all the way to the right so that if we theoretically could swim a straight line we would end up right at the farthest buoy.  And then BOOM we were off!

My Masters swimming has moved me up in my swimming ability enough so that I am now a pretty solid MOP swimmer but luckily (and probably much more importantly) it has made me a very confident and comfortable swimmer.  So yeah, I can take a licking and keep on ticking out there in the chaos.  There was a little bit of contact, I made some attempts at drafting (which literally make me giggle while I was swimming) but before I knew it, it was turnaround time and I took a wide berth around the gals who seemed to be having a bit of a rest at the buoy and then I just headed for the shore line.  The sun was behind us at this point so sighting was glorious (when I remembered how to do that).  Before I knew it I'm running up the sand and unzipping my wetsuit. 

I had a decent transition - the Neosport slides off just beautifully! Helmet and glasses on and grab the Kestrel - I'm outta there!  As soon as I get on the bike I feel nervous, first about sliding my feet in my shoes which is not normally a problem but today I seem to have forgotten how to do it.  I never do fasten the Velcro on my shoes which is just sloppy and irritates me now when I think about it.  The devil is in the details!

My bike ride was "meh" for me and I am usually an animal out there.  No kidding, I have been known to growl and yell at myself while racing the bike.  A little bit of crazy goes a long way.  I did not realize until a few miles into the ride that I had neglected to start the computer.  Hence, I had no idea how far I had travelled and how far I had left.  My legs seemed dead and I was having trouble getting my breath from the swim.  Usually within a mile or so I am over the swim and into my rhythm.  Nonetheless, I told myself to suck it up and get on with it.  I passed quite a few people but still I felt like I lost momentum even over a bridge overpass.  Well, just get through it now...  Some guys passed me.  They must have been duathlon guys and man they were blazing.  I was slipping into a sense of malaise and nausea when finally the turnaround arrived.  I made the U-turn and tried to see who was behind me.   Were there other chicks in my age group coming up behind me?  If there were I couldn't find them and I was having my hands full in the increasing wind and the 30-something chicks that kept wanting to pass me!

Heading back into the park I slipped my feet out of my shoes and dismounted, almost falling over my own feet.  I recovered and ran to my rack where I hung the bike up and took off my helmet.  I have to wear socks with my shoes and when I picked up the first powdered sock I made the decision right then and there to just plop down on the ground and get them shoes on properly and that is what I did.  All shod, I grabbed my race belt and was on my way.  Maybe someday I will do the fancy things that the Big Girls do like the Flying Mount and the attain ability to stand on one foot and put on shoes and not fall over - but this was not that day.

As soon as I started running out through transition to the Run Out I thought to myself, "I have no run."  Then I was mouthing it.  Oh my god, I have no run!  I yelled it to John as I wobbled past him "I have NO run!"  He replied something to the effect of "Give me a good run, Cooter!" and then I was off around the little league field and out onto the run course.  The run course was guess what?  An out-and-back!  Apparently that is the theme to this race and usually I am a huge fan.  Not so much when (a) I did not bother to peruse the course prior to the race so that (b) I have no idea how to pace my "out" and therefore my "back" is on its own.

I soon realized that my mouth was bone-dry.  I am not sure whether it was due to lack of hydration or if it was fear/nerves.  But I was focused on my cotton mouth and watching the 20 and 30 year olds fly by me like I was standing still.  It is hard to feel like a badass in this situation and so I chatted with myself, "So, you have a little work to do on your run."  A little further along, a 60 year old woman passed me.  I reminded myself to keep up my effort (now I was developing a side stitch) because this was going to be excellent training in the bank.  I passed the mile marker and then ran into a little neighborhood where finally the turnaround cone sat like an oasis in the desert.  Little boys were holding out cups of water and I grabbed one and thanked him. 

Now that I was on the "back" portion of the course I tried to keep myself in the moment and told myself to relax and let my legs move a little.  I passed someone I knew and we cheered each other and that gave me a little energy.  The rest of the run headed back into the park I just prayed that a woman with a number between 45 to 49 did not run up along side me because it was going to get ugly.  When I heard the cheers of the finish area I quickened my strides and finished it up strong.

At first I was rather disappointed with my time.  I knew that in order to think about a podium I would have to go sub-1:20 and the clock read 1:23 and some.  Then John and Tom reminded me that the clock started when the first wave went off.  Duh!  I ended up with a finishing time of 1:17:33 and a second place in my age group.  I was very happy with the results and I am always amused with DQ Events' awards.  This day it was a beer glass, some days it is a visor or a coffee mug.  If they gave me a tissue that said I'd earned an award I'd be happy.  A woman standing behind John during the awards ceremony pointed out that she had passed me (during the run I assume) and she didn't "want some damned glass with a stupid sticker on it anyway."  Well I do and I will be back next week to race for another damned glass (or hat, or medal, or beer cozy)!

All in all, definitely will do this race again.  The weather was perfect.  Not too hot and not too cold.  You know it is good weather when you don't even think about it.  I'm happy with my results but I can feel that I am lacking some fitness and just basic raciness.  I have a long season ahead of me and it will come.

Bassman Half Iron Relay Race Report - First Report of the Season!!!

This was my first experience being part of a triathlon relay team and my first attempt at the 56 mile distance.  Holly, who is a strong swimmer in my Peddie Masters team, had asked me to ride the bike portion in late February,  and once I cleared it with Coach Jim I was on board.  Somewhere she got the idea that I was a strong cyclist.  Apparently Holly has not seen my clipping out "difficulties," nor my attempt at the flying mount.  We needed a runner, and the fastest runner I know is Tom,  who was on track to run a 1:30 half marathon anyway, so we texted and inboxed him until he relented and then we officially had a team! 
On race morning, John and I we were confident about how long it would take us to get there, as we had been to the race site three times previously (once just to scope out the course and then twice to ride it),  and so waking up, having some coffee and setting off on our way was smooth.  I had packed the Kestrel in the car the night before.  Since all I was doing was the bike leg, it was strange to not have to pack swim or run gear. 

This was my first race in my Coeur chevron tri kit and the seamless chamois was divine.  I have had a few saddle sore issues which were the result of not-so-very-good shorts and long trainer rides during the winter months, but the closest I come to true comfort on the bike is in my Coeur tri shorts.
I ate an Ezekiel English muffin with nut butter with my coffee before leaving the house and I carried a cinnamon Pop-Tart with me to eat later.  I would be drinking tropical fruit Cytomax and eating Apple Cinnamon(omg delicious!!!) Hammer Gels (one every loop or so) on the 3-loop bike course.  We arrived at the park right on schedule with Wawa coffees in hand.  There were already a lot of cars in the parking lot but we found a good spot out of the way in the second lot and started unloading and looking for transition.  I hopped on the bike for a quick ride down and back in the parking lot just to be sure things were in order.  I don’ t usually do this and it just recently struck me as probably a good idea for a pre-race check of the equipment. 
Booger and I made our way to the pavilion where registration was taking place and waited for Tom and then Holly to arrive.  I figured we would need Holly to check us in, as she was our team captain.  Once she arrived we quickly found out that the company that runs Bassman is woefully disorganized.  The woman “in charge” thought Holly was there to volunteer and when we explained that we were a half-iron relay team she seemed puzzled and wandered off.  We would come to find out that this is sort of CityTri’s M.O. with questions and organizational issues.  In any case we did get numbers to affix to ourselves and the bike and then I set about explaining to the body marking  volunteers that I should have an “R” on my calf, as I was part of the relay and not really racing for age group placement and finally after more confused looks we were ready to set up in transition. 
Transition was a bit willy-nilly but I found a spot to park the Kestrel, and being that all that had to be set up was bike-related it was pretty condensed.  With my helmet in place, shoes rubber-banded to pedals, aero-bottle filled with Cytomax and plain water in the frame bottle, I made my way to the beach of Lake Absegami to watch Holly do her thing.  I will admit, it was rather chilly and with my pre-race jitters I had a good case of shivers going on and was so thankful I was not jumping in for the 1.2 mile swim on that day!  But Holly is a swimming professional and with nerves of steel and the suit to match, she was off and I ran to the transition area to await the timing chip and try to decide if I should chance a jacket over my tri kit or just do arm warmers.  In the end I choose the jacket and learned a lesson from that.  Start cold - you will warm up!
About 39 minutes after entering the water, Holly came flying into the transition area and I grabbed the Velcro strap from her ankle and strapped it on mine and then I was on my way.  It is such a FRIGGING RELIEF to finally be racing, isn’t it?  I know that I for one just get myself so keyed up and pensive in the days/hours/minutes leading up to “go” time but once I am underway it’s like I’m actually living now.  “Just do your job.”  I tell myself repeatedly.  Apparently that is my mantra because that is what runs through my mind when I get a bit too rammy during a race or lose focus.  “Just shut up and get to work!”  So I got to work and did my job.  I had prepared myself and had reasonable expectations to finish in under 3 hours. 
Coach Jim had told me to take the first lap easy, build the second and then balls to the wall third lap.  Okay, Coach Jim is too polite to say “balls to the wall” but I know he meant it!  So first lap is a lot of talking myself down.  I wanted to get racy and chase down every rider I saw on the horizon.  At some point during that first lap I came up on a young man (28 years old according to his left calf), riding an ISM Adamo saddle in the Italian flag colors and wearing a black jacket.  Like me, he had gambled on the jacket.  As I approached him I told myself to stay calm and keep him at a legal distance and perhaps just pace myself off him for a bit.  He maintained a nice steady cadence and pace and he seemed to be eating and drinking about the same time I was.  I ended up using him for my "legal draft" for almost the entire race. 
On the first turnaround in the park a young man in a baggy t-shirt who seemed to prefer riding in the hoods rather than the aerobars passed me on the right side.  I barked to him something like "You don't do that!" but as we got out on to the main road he pedaled at a furious cadence and I had no intention of giving chase.  I could see my black jacket fellow up ahead and I was content to keep my radar focused on him.  At one point during the second lap he put a fair bit of distance behind us and then a few other of the Olympic racers tucked in between us, but I always kept him in my sight, as if there were a thread connecting us.  It was reassuring to have a pacesetter so to speak and someone to gauge my effort and performance by.
I worried that on the second lap the quad cramps would appear as they had the week before but apparently staying focused on getting calories and electrolytes into me did the trick and I felt okay in my legs.  My saddle sores were there but manageable.  All there was to do was to keep pedaling, stay aero and do my job.
On the third lap I felt a bit of a thrill as the volunteer at the out and back part of the course said "Last lap!" and I called back "Just gotta get home now!"  There was probably 10 miles left and this was the fastest part of the course, and I just started to let myself burn.  I started reeling in my jacket guy and with him baggy shirt guy.  Right before we reached the general store and the super sharp turn onto Leektown Road I caught and passed them both and then I rode like I'd stolen their lunch money!  I just ground it out and stayed as aero as I could and kicked the Kestrel in the ass.
The worst headwind is always on North Main Street headed back to the main road and the park.  There is ALWAYS a goddam headwind and there are rough stretches of asphalt that you need to look out for.  By the third lap (and my third time on this course including practice rides) I had my belly full of this road.  Over the two wooden bridges and up the ever so slight hill towards the park and my crotch was on fire as were my legs.  I am sure I had that smile-grimace look on my face when I heard the hum of a bike on my left.  Shit, someone was coming.  I glanced over as he passed.  It was black jacket guy.  I didn't begrudge him that pass one tiny bit.  He had done a great job that day.   But I looked behind me to make sure baggy shirt guy was no where in sight because I would have blocked that bitch.
Into the park, I unstrapped and pulled my feet out of my bike shoes and as I approached the bike dismount I prayed my legs would hold me up.  They did, and I ran-wobbled into transition where Holly grabbed the chip off my ankle and now put it on Tom's ankle.  Off he went into the woods for 13.1 miles of crazy circle running from all reports.  Our goal had loosely been to beat 5 hours overall.  In the end we did that.  In the end we also got some fancy trophies by hook or by crook.

Just a quick touch upon the disorganization of this event.  We were the only relay team registered.  For any distance.  After the RD had given out some of the sprint awards and the Oly results were posted we explained that we were his only relay team and could we collect our hardware and get a move on as it was now well into the afternoon?  He asked if we had done the Oly distance relay.  Nope, there was no Oly distance relay - just us, the half-iron relay team.  Hm... and he walked away.  When it became apparent that no trophies or medals or even damned glasses with stickers on them were forthcoming, we fashioned our own little Half Iron Relay Podium Presentation and then we high-tailed it out of there.

It was a very cool experience and I appreciated the opportunity to do it.  I have even more respect now for the athletes that train and race for 70.3's and full 140.6's.  I must admit that at this point in my athletic life I cannot even entertain the notion of doing a half or a full-iron triathlon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

We Interrupt this Perfect Life…


               I have to admit, I have a pretty excellent life.  I have a partner in John who exceeds any dream of romance or love that I ever envisioned for myself.  We don’t worry about where our next meal will come from or if our kids can take care of themselves (thankfully they do!) or if we can pay the bills.  Some weeks my biggest worry is why I don’t swim as fast as I would like or what GPS device I want to buy next.   Okay, we have had some major shit happen in the past three years, and perhaps that is why we have become so chill.  Between John’s motorcycle accident and my breast cancer, I think we have learned not to sweat the small stuff. 

                And there is the perfect segue to the current interruption to my otherwise perfect life – sweat.  Oh man, do I sweat.  Not only when I’m running or biking or swimming (yes, I sweat in the pool).   Oh no, now I sweat suddenly and sporadically.  I am experiencing an early onset of menopause due the estrogen-blocking medication (Tamoxifen) that I need to take to prevent a breast cancer recurrence.   While the hot flashes are not painful or uncomfortable, they are sudden and surprising.  I’ve been having night sweats for several months now and my totally awesome gyno prescribed me sleep tablets as soon as she heard that they were disrupting my sleep.  (I thank Dr. Saha every night when I drift off to sleep!)

                But perhaps the most disconcerting part of this phase for me are the mood swings.  It’s the loss of control that causes me panic.  I’ve lost my temper a few times in the past weeks when it was (maybe!) unwarranted.   I feel myself tearing up when I try to recount a touching story to John.  It’s so unlike me - me, the Ice Princess! - and it rattles me to my core.  Lately I feel like all my emotions are magnified for better or worse.  I feel like my mouth gets ahead of reasonable thought and I literally blurt things out.  It’s an out of body experience and I  am aware of myself thinking, “WTF did I just say?   I’ve been strapped into an emotional roller coaster and I’m just along for the ride.

                I know I am a broken record but I am so thankful for triathlon.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again – triathlon has saved my life and continues to be a metaphor for my life.  I know I will only get out of it what I am willing to put into it.  Having goals for myself and working every day to achieve them is huge for me.  Scaring the shit out of myself and then conquering my fears gives me a purpose and strength I otherwise did not have.  And I know it will help me through this crazy time.  Now is the time I have to lean on John for his patience and understanding and also on the kindness of others to get through it.  Now excuse me while I go change my shirt.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First Time I Ever...

As I embark on my 49th year on this planet, I am amazed at how many things are going on in my life that are "firsts."  This past Sunday I did my VERY Firstest swim meet!  This was not only my first swim meet that I competed in, but the first swim meet I have ever been to.  I  can see how swimming could become a bit of an obsession.

I'm not gonna lie, starting off the blocks was total badassery and I loved it.  My team mates, Donna and Holly, found it hilarious how much I loved diving off the block.  After Coach Peter talked us into a relay at the end of the day (the man has an amazing way of persuading one to do things previously considered impossible) I found that jumping OVER your team mates for the start of your relay leg is even more fun!  If there is ever a competition just for swim starts, I am totes on the podium.

Hand in hand with this being my first swim meet was the fact that this was my first time competing on a team - the Peddie Masters Swim Team.  Holly (in her awesomeness) even had team fleeces made up for all of us to wear just in time!  I have to say, being on a team with like-minded people really made me try harder.  The whole mentality of not wanting to let your teammates down is a real thing, but to me there was even more.  When Coach Peter arrived and handed us each a Peddie swim cap and encouraged us to wear it, I felt like I was part of a family. From that point forward no matter what, I knew I was part of a team and I was gonna make my team proud.

And speaking of teams, this will be my very first year competing in triathlons for a team, this being Team Coeur Sports, as an Ambassador.  To say that being part of this team has been motivating is not even CLOSE to how extremely lucky and truly blessed I feel.  Every single morning when the alarm goes off I remind myself that I am training to make my team proud and to get the Coeur brand and spirit out there to the masses.  That may sound cheesy to some but I embrace being part of this team and I am constantly impressed by the women at the helm of this company and my fellow athletes.  Just knowing I am part of Team Coeur has given me a drive to excel.

Although endurance sports like triathlon are often very solitary, the advent of social media like Facebook and Twitter have created a network where us crazy folks who wake up at 4:15 in the morning to swim, or enjoy an hour and a half threshold ride on the trainer can commiserate, congratulate and just know that there are fellow crazies out there who understand and are part of the same crazy family.  I love checking in to see what my other Coeur girls are up to, whether it is what their workout consisted of that day or what amazing piece of Coeur gear they are rocking!

So although this may be my last year being a 40-something, and my last year in the wicked 45-49 Female age group, I embrace this season as a season of First Time Evers!!!

Here is Coach Peter Park's article from the Peddie Aquatic Association's website: http://www.peddieaquatics.com/NewsShow.jsp?returnPage=/News.jsp&id=310021&team=njpaa