21 December 2010

The Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon - Dec 5, 2010

This was to be the first in a series of three races for me to qualify for “Half Fanatic” status. The Half Fanatics are a group of people throughout the country who spend their children’s inheritance on half marathons. There are different levels of Half Fanatic status and I am going for the lowest, or first, level – Neptune - 2 half marathons in 16 days or 3 half marathons in 90 days. As the San Francisco Nike half marathon was outside the window for qualification, I couldn’t count it and had to start with a marathon in which I could then do one a month for the next 90 days. The Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas marathon fit my time schedule. Besides, my good friend, Jackie, was going to renew her wedding vows at this race and I just couldn’t miss that, could I? (The answer is a resounding “NO!”)

The evening of December 3rd found me frantically looking for one sock. Not just any sock, mind you. A special, $20.00 a pair sock that helped eased the sock rubbage on my foot that always seems to accompany walking any length. I needed this sock. It went with the other sock and you can’t have a PAIR of socks without two. I only had one. At ten o’clock that night, I gave up and headed to the only stores that were open at that time of night in order to replace said lacking sock. I didn’t find anything I thought would work at Wally World (there’s a shocker) so I invaded Target. Target’s selection was slightly lacking but I thought I found a pair that would work. The label claimed they were for running and that they “wicked moisture away to keep feet dry and comfortable during a workout.” I purchased the socks with all hopes for a comfortable 13.1 wrapped up in them and headed home to finish packing.

The next morning finds me trying to wake up The Boy who had to be at school to get his bus to his wrestling tournament and double-checking my bag – GU gel? Check. KT Tape? Check. iPod? Check. Charger for iPod? Check. Clothing, toothbrush, brush and brain? Check, check, check and missing. What in the world am I doing going to a half marathon? I am so not a runner. I am barely a walker. One final check of the final check and The Boy and I get in the car. I dropped him off and headed to Tami’s to pick her up. I cannot do these things without importing my own cheering section and while I know she had much better things to do, she was still willing, and waiting, for me to arrive. After telling her, “Oh, by the way – we’re not coming back until Monday” and waiting for her to throw together another day’s worth of clothes (have I mentioned how easily she adjusts to my brain farts?), we hit the road. It’s about 6 am and the sun hasn’t even thought about coming out yet. Again I wonder what in the world I am doing but like the good sport that I am, I quickly squish that thought and continue with the drive.

The drive from Grand Junction to Las Vegas is beautiful. Full of desert terrain, deep valleys and stunning mountain peaks. With only 2 passes to cross and relatively flat terrain, we made excellent time. We arrived in Las Vegas around 1 or so and headed directly to the Expo to pick up my packet and walk around the displays. In one of my earlier posts, I bragged about how excellent the goodie bags for marathons were. This goodie bag was severely lacking with just coupons and a sample of pain reliever gel the only thing in the huge, plastic, crinkly bag. The bag was to double as my race bag (held at the end of the race for me with whatever I wanted to put in it) but as Tami and I were staying relatively close to the start/finish, it worked well as a laundry bag. In any case, I digress. The expo was interesting – tons of people standing in line for itty bitty samples and hundreds of vendors praying you’d make their Christmas by buying something at their store. I succumbed to a vendor selling ingenious race belts and Tami got an excellent pair of tennis runners for $40.00. All told, between Tami and me, the vendors only nabbed $60.00 of our money. A win in our books (and wallets) but not much hope for the poor vendors. We had better things to do with our money, anyways. We had to make our offerings to the slot machine gods!

At about 4:30 pm, we head back to the car so we can make our way to Jackie and Dan’s wedding renewal at the Graceland Wedding Chapel. Jackie and Dan’s “wedding” was officiated by Elvis (a very TALL Elvis – pre-1970’s size explosion) and Tami and I got to sign their official wedding renewal certificate. I’ve never witnessed anything more funny and wonderful than their wedding. They laughed through the whole thing and their flashy wedding rings fit them more than the set they got 10+ years ago. It was absolutely wonderful. After the ceremony, we headed to our hotel to check in and get some dinner. For some reason, when Tami and I are together, we put off eating until we’re both so ravenous that we look like crown roasts to one another. We really have to work on the whole eating thing cause it will be awfully hard for me to explain to her family why I’m returning her minus an arm or a leg…

After checking in at The Imperial Palace (I told Tami she had to call me “your Royal Highness”) we decided on Denny’s. And with the decision of eating at the all-too-common restaurant, we broke our first rule of travel: never eat at the same restaurant you can eat at home. We didn’t care, though. We were both jones’n for breakfast and I was NOT going to drive on the strip to find a breakfast place when Denny’s was just a block away. Dinner was wonderful and we each ate every last bit on our way too full plates. Afterwards, we spent about 20 minutes making our offering to the Las Vegas slot machine gods and then waddled off to our room to call it a night.

The next morning, after a very uncomfortable night of “sleep” on a bed that had to have been AT LEAST 100 years old, I got up and got ready for my race. The corrals opened at 6:00 and the first wave of the race was set to start at 7:00. I put on my KT Tape, ensured the D-Tag was attached to my shoe and affixed my race number to my new handy-dandy race belt. I grabbed some cash for the monorail, a powerbar and GU, ensured I had my phone, driver’s license, hotel key and iPod and headed out the door. Tami was going to meet me at the finish and as I took one last look at her still lying in her bed, I had a moment where I almost turned around to crawl back into the sheets that covered the slab of torture that was my bed for the next couple of nights. Sighing softly, I turned around, quietly shut the door and headed to my race.

My corral was #32 – the very last group to head out. I had my Bronco Santa hat on and my One More Mile shirt that read, “I’m not slow, I’m just getting my money’s worth out of my entrance fee” – they both elicited comments, smirks, smiles and nods of agreement. 7:00 am finally rolls around and I hear the gun starting the first wave. I guessed I probably had about 30 minutes of meandering before my wave finally hit the start line and the start of my time. I began to get ready by ensuring my iPod was que’d, my Nike+ watch ready and my legs and arms were loose. I had great fun with my new handy-dandy race belt – taking my phone out and taking pictures and putting it back in. Unfortunately, a casualty of this was my driver’s license which fell out during one of my many outs and ins of my phone. I tried to retrace my steps to go back and find it but by the time I noticed its absence, my wave was picking up steam to the start line. I said adieu to my license (I needed a new picture anyways) and returned focus to the impending doom I was embarking upon.

The half marathon’s route was down the strip, starting at the Mirage, wrapping around Freemont and then turning around back to the Mirage - an “up and back” race. I usually don’t care for this type of race but this one I was ok with. I liked knowing about where I was, how far I had to go and all that. I had programmed exactly 4 hours of upbeat music to keep me going and for the first 4 miles, it worked like a dream. I was moving and passing, moving and passing and felt absolutely ecstatic. I had just passed the Luxor when I looked down the strip at all the casinos lining the way and I thought to myself, “This is fucking FANTASTIC!” I felt great, my knee wasn’t giving me any problems and the cheap socks I bought at Target seemed to be working. And then I hit mile marker 7 and the rose-colored glasses were ripped off.

In an endurance race, whether you’re running it, walking it or crawling, it’s not so much about the length of the race but rather the war that begins to erupt between your body and mind and your heart. The first thing my mind started to do was tell me that I was never, ever going to get to the turnaround point and that I was never, EVER going to be able to finish before the neon lights started to come back on again. Then my body decided to join my mind – the socks began to rub, my knee began to hurt and my arms went stiff. At this point in time, the only thing keeping me moving forward was the knowledge that it was too far to turn back – I actually had less distance to cover now, finishing the race, than I had if I quit and started to head back to the hotel with my tail between my legs – at least, that’s what my heart told me. My heart kept me going for another 2 miles solely on its own merits.

When I first started the race, I was passing people steadily. Now I was being passed and it pissed me off. Each step was agony as the sock and skin waged a war that I knew the sock was going to win. Every time I passed a first aid tent, I thought about stopping and then I would get passed and I would tell myself I would stop at the next tent. Then I passed a couple who were stopped at a hot dog vendor. They each got a fully loaded hot dog AND a beer and they were sitting down, enjoying their lunch. Did I mention that these two were IN THE RACE? 5 minutes later they pass me. They no longer have their beers but they are still munching on their dogs. And they were running. That was too much. I told my feet to shut up and I picked up my pace. I was NOT going to get passed again. I focused on a group in front of me and my goal was to pass them. And when I passed them, I focused on another group. And so on and so on.

This method worked until about mile marker 11. Every step was bringing tears to my eyes. Every step was dreaded and every step made me feel less and less strong. By this time Tami is waiting for me at the bridge to Excaliber – approximately 1 mile from the finish. I text her and tell her that I am having a hard time. I have about 1 ½ miles left and I don’t think I can make it. I keep walking. Tami texts me and tells me she’s waiting for me at the intersection just past mile marker 12. She tells me she knows I can make it there and together we’d cross the finish line.

I am furiously scanning the sides of the streets, looking for Tami. I want an excuse to quit or keep going and right now I can’t give it to me – I need someone else to take that burden. And then I see Tami. I don’t know how she convinced the police officer to let her on the race course but she did. She matches my pace and won’t let me quit. Tears are streaming down my face because I am in so much pain but she won’t let me quit. She gets my mind off my feet, talking about oh, only god knows what, but she won’t let me quit. I look down and I see that I am about to cross the timing pad. I tell her “this is the one the counts” and we both place our feet firmly on the pad and cross it. And together, we cross the balloon finish line (another 3000 miles away, if you ask me and my feet). I have finished my second ½ marathon and once again it was Tami pushing me across the line.

It took 2 hours to get from the Mirage to our hotel (which was only 5 blocks away, btw). But I had that stupid bling to prove I finished it. I couldn’t walk for the next 2 days but I finished it. And guess where we went to dinner that night?? Denny’s.

Oh, and I spanked my previous time. This one came in at 3 hours and 53 minutes.






29 November 2010

I should be committed...

Today I have registered for two Rock –n- Roll half marathons - one in January in Phoenix and the other in October in Denver. I also registered for a half marathon in February in Apache Junction, AZ called The Lost Dutchman. If I were to just look at this schedule, I would think it daring, and even a little nutso. But there’s more. This schedule is just what I registered for TODAY. Here’s what I’ve got going on from now until October 2011. And they are all paid for:

· December 5 – Rock n Roll ½ marathon, Las Vegas, NV
· January 16 – Rock n Roll ½ marathon, Phoenix, AZ (completion of these two events qualifies me for a really cool “Desert Rocks” medal)
· January 30 – Groundhog Run in Kansas City, MO – this is just a 5k
· February 20 – Lost Dutchman ½ marathon, Apache Junction, AZ (this race will entitle me to “Half Fanatic” status of ½ marathon runners)
· May 1 – Oklahoma City ½ marathon
· October 9 – Rock n Roll ½ marathon, Denver, CO

Then, I have on my “want to do” list the following:

· March 13 – Shamrockn’ Run ½ marathon, Sacramento, CA
· June 12 – Edge 2 Edge ½ marathon, Ucluelet, Canada
· September 4 – Oregon Wine country ½ Marathon

If I add those three events that I have not paid for yet to my schedule, I will only need to find events for April, July, August, November and December to have one event a month for the year. This just blows me away. In 2008, the most adventurous thing I signed up for was to be the swim leg of a Sprint Triathlon Relay Team. Two years later, I have competed in 3 triathlons, 1 ½ marathon and 2 5k races. What in the world has gotten in to me?

I don’t look now for those cheap (non-existent) weekend flights to Europe when I get antsy and need to travel. I now find myself scanning the Triathlon and Marathon listings of events. I work out whether or not I can drive to it or if I need to fly. I drool over runner web pages and swimmer sites. My Christmas wish list includes such things as a backpack, runner sleeves, under armour and KT Tape. And I keep finding myself thinking of keeping those 5 months open for different types of events so I don’t get bored.

And the only two thoughts that keep reoccurring? 1)”What the hell are you doing?” and 2)”You know, you could’ve had a plane ticket to Europe by now with all these entrance fees…”

No, I’m not a runner. But I play one on TV…

14 November 2010

Mayhem Like Me

or
Two 5-Mile Laps Are Redundant

My alarm goes off at 6:00 am Friday morning. I am supposed to leave around noon for Saint George, Utah for a sprint triathlon. But I can’t seem to get going. I’m tired. I’m not looking forward to the drive and I’m doing it on my own – no Boy there to compete with, no friend waiting for me at the finish line. All by myself. I don’t have to go. It’s just $35, not a big loss if I forfeit but it will save me the gas money and the hotel cost – a win to my bank balance. However, I’ve told everyone I’m going. I’ve plastered it all over my Facebook. I’ve told my kids, my friends, my family and my co-workers. And I know that once I get going, get there and get it done, I’ll be glad I didn’t give in to my inner battle. So I packed, got the oil changed in the car, went to the bank, secured my bike to the bike rack, loaded my car and took the dog to my Dad’s house. I plugged in the addresses for the hotel and aqua center in to Keegan and hit the road.

It’s a beautiful day for a drive. The sun is shining and the scenery is spectacular. I keep looking at my bike in the review mirror. I’m really worried about the security of its placement. Every time I look in the mirror, I think of that commercial – “I’m your favorite state flag. I’ve been with you for 14 years. In flag years, that’s about 101. And I’m barely hanging on…” I imagine a little bump sending my bike careening off my car in to another car causing a 10 car pile-up – “Mayhem like me”. I giggle as I think of my bike as mayhem and that stupid commercial keeps running through my head. It’s during this drive that my bike names itself. My bike’s name is Harvey.

St George is on the Nevada side of Utah. I don’t know what I was thinking when I thought it would be easy to get to. It’s a good 6 hours away so I have to find things to entertain myself with. I look in the rear view again and giggle. Mayhem. What a funny word. But oh-so-appropriate. I sing at the top of my lungs. I sing so much that I am actually losing my voice. I stop in Green River for lunch. I stop at Ghost Rock and take some pictures. It’s gorgeous – the fierceness of nature humbles me and I stand there, totally in awe, of her power. I take a look at my clock and realize I still have 3 hours left and I’m losing time. I have to get to the aqua center by 8 to get my packet. If I keep farting around, I’ll not make it. Then I realize that perhaps I am subconsciously trying to sabotage myself. I refuse to give in to my self-destruction, check on Harvey (and giggle) and get back in to Harrison. While driving, I remark upon the distances between civilizations. I had forgotten that there are long distances between stops and when the highway signs tell you “next stop 110 miles”, they mean it. I stop in Beaver for gas. And I giggle. Beaver has a high school and their mascot is the Beaver. The Beaver Beavers. I’m doing a lot of giggling this trip.

I finally arrive in St George and get frustrated at Keegan. I forgot I changed her language to German and she’s yelling at me to do something - right, left, straight, I don’t know. But she’s yelling and I even imagine her muttering under her breath that I am stupid American who doesn’t know her left from her right. I am getting quite fed up with her attitude and as soon as I pull in to the parking lot of the hotel (no thanks to her), I hit her settings button and turn her back to English. Yes, I had a battle with an inanimate object and I won.

I don’t even unload Harrison after checking in to the hotel. I just head straight out to the aqua center as it’s 7:30 and I have 30 minutes to check in for my packet. A humbled Keegan guides me, in English, to the appropriate place and I park and go inside. Here’s where another inner-battle begins. I am arguing with myself about switching to the Beginner Triathlon (200 meter swim, 5 mile bike, 1.5 mile run). It wouldn’t be any biggie, I’m sure, to switch. All I have to do is ask. Go ahead. Ask. I hear myself check in for the Sprint Triathlon. I don’t hear myself ask to switch. I grab my numbers, my timing chip and my sorely lacking “goodie bag”. This is one thing marathons have over triathlons – the goodie bag. A marathon goodie bag truly has goodies in it. This goodie bag had a packet of sunscreen and a “what to do in St George” pamphlet. Disappointing. Not even a tube of chapstick. I am told that I’ll get my t-shirt at the finish line and am shoo-d away so they can get to the next person. I know I’ll show up tomorrow cause I’ll have to finish to get my shirt. At least that solves that battle that would’ve occurred later.

After settling in to my room, I start sorting out all my stuff for the race: swim stuff, bike stuff and run stuff. I pack them in layers in my Girl Scout bag which has become my swim bag over the years. It’s a nice canvass bag but it doesn’t have enough room for three events plus snacks, helmet and water. I really should invest in a nice duffle bag for this sort of thing if I am going to keep it up. And all indications are that I am going to keep it up so I better invest in one soon. But not too soon. The next event I have is half marathon and there won’t be a need for all my accoutrement for that one. I’m still battling with myself over even showing up in the morning. I wonder when I’ll stop being my biggest speed bump and just do it. I know I can. So why do I keep arguing with myself? It’s no longer a question of whether or not I CAN finish but one of whether or not I’ll START. That realization blows me away – I’m no longer worried about finishing. I’m now worried about starting. It seems like I am going backwards in progression.

My alarm goes off Saturday morning at 6:00 am. The triathlon starts at 9:00 am but it’s a shotgun start. This means, the first to get in line are the first to go. No heats. No setting up by previous times. A free-for-all. I had thought I’d get up early after getting a good night of sleep and get out there to get set up with a primo endcap for Harvey and towards the front for the swim. But I didn’t get a good night of sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I kept worrying about the race. I kept arguing with myself about going. I worried about The Boy who was at snow camp and I hadn’t talked to him. I kept wishing I had someone there with me to egg me on, to be the physical presence I needed to actually show up. I wondered about my knee. I wondered about the swim. I worried about the run. I did everything but sleep. So when 6:00 came, I was not anxious to get out of bed. I just wanted to sleep. I just wanted to pretend I hadn’t driven 411 miles for a 3 hour race. I wanted to be at home.

But I wasn’t at home. I was in St George, Utah. I had already invested time and money in to this so I got up. I got showered. I braided my hair. I double checked my race bag. I re-packed and reloaded Harrison. I secured Harvey to the Mayhem Bar (what I started calling the bike rack). I got a brown-bag breakfast from the hotel and stopped and got my diet Dr. Pepper. And I got in Harrison and headed to my race.

I get to the race parking lot and start unloading everything for the race. Parking is about ½ a mile from the race start so I double check my bag, load it on my back and hop on my bike. And I am STILL arguing with myself about starting. In the bike transition area, I find that my lateness might actually work in my favor. While I won’t get an endcap, there are so many bikes on the rails that I can pick basically any spot I want to lay my stuff down. So I do. I spread my blanket down and start setting up my stuff in the order that I’ll need it. I slide off my Uggs and my shirt, grab my goggles and ear plugs and head inside to the pool.

This is where my lateness hurts. There are around 400 swimmers and the line wraps all the way around the pool. There is still 15 minutes until the first swimmers hit the lanes and I find myself all the way at the end. And this line does nothing for me. I am still debating with myself about switching to the beginner tri. The check in for the beginner tri is right where I’m standing. I’m sure I can switch. All I have to do is ask. But I don’t ask. I stand there watching all the groups talk and laugh amongst each other. I’m by myself. No one to talk to. No one to laugh with, to commiserate with, to encourage. I sort of force myself in to a group of three women in front of me. It’s their first triathlon and they’re nervous. I tell them that this is my third and that it gets addictive. They hold my place in line so I can use the restroom.
9:00 on the nose the first swimmers hit the lanes and the race begins. I’m still thinking about switching. At least, until I pass the check-in point. Now I’m in it to be in it. And I think I’ve quelled my inner demon. I’m here and I’m gonna race. At about 10:15 am, I am finally getting to the front of the line. There’s a lane open in the shallow end. No one wants to go in the shallows. I don’t care so I take the lane. My cap is on, my ear plugs are in and I pull my goggles down. I’m ready. I mark the time I jump in the water – 10:35 and I start my swim. I am on fire – pulling, breathing, pulling, breathing. Every three strokes I breathe. I use only my arms and I’m pulling strong. In fact, I think I’m making my best time. The counter tells me how many laps are down, “1 down, keep going!”, “6 down 2 to go! You’re doing great!”, “You’re done! Good job”. I pull myself out of the pool and mark the time – 10:45. 10 minutes for a 400 meter swim. Not my best time but definitely not the time I had at my first tri that I did as a relay of 18 minutes in 2008. I’m improving.

I head to the transition point to get ready for the bike. Dry off, cap off, earplugs out. Pull on the bike shorts. Dry off the feet. Pull on socks and shoes. I get my gloves and helmet on, grab my bike and head out. I’m excited now. I know my transition time was long but I don’t care. I’m ready to go! Out of the gate, pass the timer plate and hop on my bike and I am immediately confronted with a friggin mountain. Who in their right mind puts a mountain as the first obstacle on a race? It’s just outside the gate and I REFUSE to get off and walk my bike up it. I know that if I make this, the rest will be a breeze. I make it to the top and am anxiously waiting for the downslope of the mountain. But that’s not going to happen. No downslope for me, just even ground followed by a couple more hills. And these people expect me to do this twice??? I kept wondering why the bike wasn’t getting any easier. I kept wondering why it was so hard for me when everyone else made it look so incredibly simple – no heavy breathing from my co-racers, no one walking their bike up the hills like me. Why am I not getting any better on the bike? My inner demon came back and came back strong. 1 lap of a 5 mile circuit is enough. 2 are redundant. I ended up walking 2 more hills. There was one really nice downslope but that was at the end of the 1st lap. You then had a little flatness while you did a U-Turn and headed out to do the lap all over. I came to that U-Turn and my inner demon won. Instead of staying to the left to do it again, I went to the right. I headed in to transition for the run. Instead of a 10 mile bike, I did 5 miles. I felt guilty, ashamed and a little rebellious. I failed at the bike but I didn’t let it win. I went on to do the run.

The run was like the bike – 2 laps of 1.5 miles each. I had the argument with myself that if I didn’t finish the full 2 laps for the bike, why should I finish the full 2 laps for the walk? In answer, I turned on my iPod to the music I had selected for this race and I turned it on loud. I concentrated on the scenery and my music and before I knew it, I was making the U-Turn to head back out for the second lap. I was making good time for a change and I was enjoying the walk. The kinseo tape was working its magic and the music was keeping me pumping. In fact, I was feeling so good that I actually ran the last .75 mile to the finish line. And my knee didn’t hurt. And I didn’t hurl. And I didn’t jip myself as I did with the bike. I marked my best time with this run and it felt good. It gave me confidence that the bike took away. I didn’t run all of it but I did RUN and that’s a big thing for me. And I RAN across the finish line.

At the finish line, I turned in my timing chip, collected my shirt (which is actually quite nice), grabbed some ding dongs, peanuts, yogurt and 2 cups of chocolate milk and headed back to my bike. It was time to go home. I loaded up Harrison, secured Harvey to the Mayhem Bar and headed out. While I only did half the bike, I did finish another triathlon. And just that knowledge had me saying, “See – I can do it and you’re an idiot” to that inner voice that doesn’t have faith in me. And for now, it is subdued. At least until the ½ marathon in December.
Official Times:
Swim (400 meters) - 11:08
Bike (5 miles) - 41:59
Run (3.1 miles) - 48:35
Transition 1 - 8:19
Transition 2 - 5:27

07 October 2010

Black Canyon Sprint Triathlon

Leg 1 – getting out of the house

After turning my alarm to snooze 3 times, I finally get out of bed. I drag to the bathroom. I drag to The Boy’s room. I drag back to my room. I keep coming up with arguments to not attend the race. I keep coming up with arguments to attend the race. I drag to the fridge and I see my bumper sticker. The final argument has been argued – I will be in that race and I will finish. I get my suit on, my sweats and my shoes and I attempt to get The Boy going. He doesn’t understand why we have to get up so early. His heat doesn’t start until 8:41. It’s 6 am now – why am I bothering him? Explaining to a tired, grouchy hormone filled teenager the law of distances and that they take time to traverse (ie – we had an hour and half drive to even get to the race and then the headache of finding parking) is not an easy task. I finally told him that if he wasn’t up and ready to go in 5 minutes I was going to leave him. While I am letting him make the decision, I load our gear into Harrison (my car) and load our bikes on to the rack. I double check both my gear and his. I’m pretty sure I’ve got everything we need; now I just have to get The Boy – if he’s going. Lo and behold, he’s up, dressed and grouchy. Yep – he’s going to be a fun one to be around. So much for relying on him to push me - I know he was just waiting for me to say, “you know, let’s not go – I’m tired”, but I didn’t. And I think he was a tad upset at me for not quitting before we even started.

Leg 2 – The Swim

The Boy slept the entire way to the Montrose Recreation Center. By the time I finally find a parking spot (not too far from the transition point for the bike), he is almost chipper. Almost. He is in Heat 4 which is scheduled to start on or about 8:41 am. I am in Heat 14 which is scheduled to start on or about 11:15 am. The discrepancy in time is discouraging. The Boy will end up waiting around 5-6 hours for me to finish - a thought which sends his almost chipper mood packing. I didn’t think I was that much of a drag but apparently, to a teenage boy who has to wait on his mommy, I was. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t thrilled at having to wait 4 hours for my heat to start and I was a little worried about getting to work on time that evening as I was doing the math in my head, so I was trying to figure out how to get in an earlier heat. After talking with the race organizer, I was given permission to join the same heat as The Boy – Heat 4. The Boy and I were both happy with that.

I notice that The Boy is starting to get a little nervous. He admits to me that he’s worried about the swim, he knows it is his weakest event. I just nod my head and stretch his arms – he doesn’t want platitudes from me, he just wants to vent. I let him vent. Meanwhile, I am thinking to myself, “You’re going DOWN Boy! I’m gonna swim past you so fast your suit will fly off!” But I’m a good Mom – I continue to keep those thoughts in my head. And he’s not paying attention to me anyway or else he’d ask what was up with the smirk.

He’s next in line for a lane. The swim monitor points him to a lane and says, “Go!” and off he goes. 5 other people go after him and by luck of the draw, the next lane that opens up is one that The Boy is in. I am jumping up and down in glee at this – I’ll actually get to SHOW him how much better of a swimmer I am than him. Na na na na boo boo! When I’m told to go, the boy has 8 laps down with 12 more to go. I get in and swim – not too fast, I want to pace myself – find my rhythm and forget about the childish desire to beat my offspring in this watery contest. Honestly, I am impressed with how I am swimming. I’m not stopping and I’m not exhausted. I just keep going. Occasionally I look up at The Boy’s lap marker and say “hooray” each time I’m a lap closer to him – yea, I’m going to beat him, he just doesn’t know how badly. The Boy finishes up, drags out of the pool and I have 1 lap to go. At the conclusion of my remaining lap, I get out, grab my sweats and birks and head to the bike transition point. I feel amazingly good at this point and I think to myself, “I can deeewww eeeet”. Yes, I even use accents when talking to myself.

Leg 3 – The Bike
Man, to be a boy. It would make these sorts of things so much easier. I may have closed the gap on the swim between The Boy and me but his 15 second transition time has my 5 minute time beat and crying for mommy. He rips off his trunks, throws on a pair of socks and his shoes and is out of the transition gate before I even can say “hi”. Guess he doesn’t want me to rub in the fact that I took his swim out and gave it a good solid spanking.

When I got out of the pool, I figured I had a new personal record (PR) with a time of around 11 minutes. That thrilled me. That’s a good time – especially since my last recorded time was 13:46. I keep thinking of my PR while I was changing for the bike. Towel. Pull on compression shorts. Pull on bike shorts. Pull on shirt. Pull on bike shirt. Towel feet. Put on socks. Put on shoes. Put on bike gloves. Click on fanny pack filled with gloop, protein bars and camera. Put on helmet. Try to click helmet locked. Try to click helmet locked. Try to click helmet locked. Helmet finally locked, head out the transition gate. I think I had a better time this time. Not the 9 minutes I had at Highline, at least, and anything is better than that.

I really should pay attention to the course maps that they send out – they are filled with information. Like where a water station will be, how long on a particular road, what roads will be crossed, etc, etc, etc. The information I gather from the map – 1) that the water station is about ½ way in and 2) that it’s a round trip, not there and back, route. I also identify that I will be making a large square. That’s it. That’s all I get from the map. Once again I am relying on the race committee to ensure I don’t veer off course.

It’s a beautiful day for a bike ride. The sun is shining, there are a few fluffy clouds in the sky and the autumn air makes the colors more vibrant. There’s no rain, no thunder, no lightening and I’m doing pretty good on the bike so far. It’s a level road with minimal rise and falls and no rain (did I say that already?). I think to myself that THIS is the way a bike race should be – level. But I could do without the bugs. There are tons and tons of bugs. And they all seem to find their way in to my mouth. No need for protein bars, I’m getting the fresh variety on a minute-by-minute basis. I’d prefer to not get the fresh variety so I close my mouth but that doesn’t help because, regardless of the flatness of the route, I am breathing hard. The Drill Sergeant hasn’t shown up yet and I wonder if she’ll even be needed. I’m doing good, still peddling, haven’t walked my bike yet, wondering where the halfway point is. I keep trying to remark on something funny, something unique, something worthwhile to write about but my mind just keeps going blank. It will focus on something for a fleeting moment and then blissfully zone out. Aside from the protein bites, nothing fantastic, remarkable or interesting happened on that ride.

Until I came to the water station. I was already at the water station and I couldn’t believe it! According to the race materials and map, the water station was the ½ way point. It was so amazing that I had already rode 7.5 miles that I had to stop and take a picture. It was the first time I had stopped and I was about 30 minutes in to my ride. Which was amazing to me – I was making some good time! I might even catch up to The Boy at this pace! (Not really - but it’s good to have goals) I am so excited that I ride up to the water station, which was being manned by the Montrose Fire Department and their ambulance, and asked them for confirmation – “This is ½ way, right?” Dude in the ambulance, “No Ma’am. We’re only about ¼ of the way in.”

Shit. 30 minutes and I’ve not even gone 4 miles yet. Ugh. This is going to take some time. I thank the ambulance people for the water, take a picture of my befuddled face and head back out. I am not quite as bouncy as I was when I saw the water station. It’s starting to get hot and I start thinking about rain. I eat more bugs and I think that at least when it’s storming, there are no bugs. My left knee starts to hurt and my right foot goes numb and my left shoulder is twitching. In fact, it’s twitching so much that when I raise my arm to take a drink out of my water bottle, I hit myself in the eye. But I’m still peddling. And I’m wishing for a hill to walk up so I can coast down. And my mind is still blank, not holding on to any one thought for more than a fleeting moment. I keep getting passed and I keep thinking to myself, “As long as I keep getting passed, it means I am not last.” Not the most sound of reasoning but it worked for me.

There were 3 big hills of which I walked all 3. The scenery was beautiful, the workers friendly. And not one single volunteer said to me, “Way to go! You’re almost there!” Not one. And it was so nice to not be lied to. The only lie I got on a regular basis was, “You’re doing great!” cause I wasn’t doing great, I was just making it. And just making it does not “great” make. However, I came to the conclusion that all of the volunteers that work on the race course need to get their distance judge-o-meter fixed. They’re all off by about 4-5 miles. One of the last volunteers I talked to told me I had about ¼ of a mile left. He was wrong. Way wrong.

I started down a slight hill in to a residential area and I knew I was coming to the end of my route. I actually started to pick up speed. Not much but it was more than I was giving. My knee was still giving me issues, hurting every time I extended, but as long as I didn’t think too much about it, I was able to continue peddling. I finally crossed the railroad tracks that led back in to the rec center and I knew my time on the bike was coming to an end. I pull in to the transition area, hop off my bike and hobble in to the rack. My knee, when I stretch it out, is ok but hurts like a big ole goat head in the sole of my foot. I look for The Boy’s bike and see it. I figure he’s out on the run. I put up my bike, rip off my helmet, gloves, bike shorts and bike shoes and start putting on my running gear. A pair of yoga pants, a light shirt and my fancy-dancy running shoes. And then I see The Boy. He’s done. He’s finished all 3 legs and I’m just starting the 3rd leg. But at least this time they weren’t putting the timing devices up as there were still people out on the bike course. I ask The Boy if I should do the last leg. He asks me how my knee is cause the hill is steep. I tell him it hurts. He tells me to get it done.

I put on my iPod and head out for the last leg of the Tri.

Leg 4 – The “run”

I’ve put together good music for the last leg of my race and my knee stops hurting and my right foot is no longer numb. At least, I don’t recognize these as issues any longer. My music is getting me going and I’m a walkin’, just a walkin’ to the beat. I am wondering when the sock rubbage is going to come in to play but for now I’ve no issues. It’s a little bit of an incline but nothing that is worth all the chit-chat I heard about in the transition point. I wonder what people are talking about, this isn’t a hill, it’s just a rise. Puzzled, I keep walking on – past a pond with the most ducks and geese I’ve ever seen and off on to a dirt path. And then I see it. “The Hill”. And it’s a hill, all right. I look straight up and see the top and realize that I am about to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro. And I have to go up it. I have to go up it to go down it to get that bumper sticker on my car. New aches are showing themselves. It feels like my thigh muscle is always constricting around my kneecap and the shoulder twitch is back – making taking a drink quite a humorous action. But I keep on walking and eventually I make it to the top. There’s water and cookies at the top and I take a moment to drink and eat and talk with the volunteers. I tell them thank you and head back down. No turning back now, I am definitely going to finish this Triathlon.

I see the end of the race and it’s in shade. I see the cones leading the racers to the finish line to get their time marked. And I see my Boy, waiting for me. He’s got a smile for me but it doesn’t match the smile I am wearing myself. I am going to finish this race and I did not die. My Boy tells me he is proud of me as I collapse at the other end of the finish line. I finished. And as stupid as I feel for it, I’ve got tears in my eyes. I EFFIN FINISHED.


My Official Time:
Swim: 9:53.9 (I REALLY blew The Boy out of the water!)
Bike: 1:49:58.03
Walk: 1:03:22.2

The Boy’s Official Time:
Swim: 20:51.96
Bike: 1:19:24.86
Run: 28:11.6

The Boy placed 2nd in his age group (I won't tell him that there were only 2 in his age group) and 91 out of 126.

I finished 13th in my age group out of 13 but I EFFEN FINISHED and I was first in the swim in my gender (and I beat a lot of boys, too!).

27 September 2010

Backpack

I spent almost 2 weeks in Germany in July. I love Germany. I don't know why. I get off the plane in Frankfurt and I sigh with contentment. I just "fit". I speak enough of the language to get me in trouble, but not out of it, and that doesn't stop me. In the States, I don't do well in the congestion of the big cities - masses of human flesh tend to send me into panic attacks. But in Germany, the masses of people are the oxygen in my air - it brings me alive and I relax - I am home.

When I take my backpack on my travels, it's like putting on my shoes - it just naturally fits against my back. All I need in my backpack is my camera, passport and a little cash. The rest, while nice, I can do without. The stories my pack can tell - about misreading train schedules, getting on and off the wrong train, carrying the essentials in the hopes (yes, I said "hopes") that my suitcase would get lost. It could tell you of the speeds traveled, the people met and the sights seen that my camera just cannot capture. It has been drenched in the rain and in my sweat. It's protected my camera, gave me a second set of arms and carried my pillow. It could tell you of the Coca-Colas hoarded because of the early closure of German stores and it could tell you the kilometers it carried those empty bottles just to get the 5 cent pfand (deposit) back.

My backpack is my wallet, my adventure, the proof that I'm going, that I've been and that I'm living. It's not fancy, just a cheap ole school pack, but it suits me well. And I've gone through several. My first pack, on my very first trip to Europe, was just my school pack. I emptied it of all the papers and pencils and pens about 2 hours before I left. Back then I wasn't as careful with my pack - it held all I needed plus. By the end of my 2 month trapse through Europe, I had gotten the art of the backpack down. It then held only a book, a passport, a camera and, since I was coming back Stateside, a ton of chocolate. The first pack that I took with me to Camp Lachenwald in 2003, I still have. A mouse ate through it to get to the chocolate, it was threadbare and wanting for wear but I can't dispose of it. It's got too many memories attached, too much sweat, too much German rain. I swear I can still smell the fields of Hommertshausen in what remains of the threads holding it together. Much too precious to toss.

My latest backpack is grey and still has some mud from a deluge of a summer storm in it. It carried the first aid kit for my girls, my knee brace when my 42 years started to show and yes, chocolate. And of course, my "essentials" - passport, cash, camera and Eurail ticket. I've added two new items to my pack - a fanny pack (thank you, Digs) for the times when a backpack is just too much and a journal. The fanny pack can hold everything but my camera and allows me the freedom to go in and out of places that have bag check and when it's just too hot to have anything else near my skin. The journal is so I can work on my writing. I've a lot of writing from my latest trip - all still too raw and unrefined to do anything with. But my journal represents my potential, a goal, if you will, of taking those raw thoughts and turning them in to something that will be worthwhile to read.

I take my backpack with me on my travels throughout the States as well as on my trips for business. But it isn't the same creature then. It's a product of convenience, not a close friend who shares my adventures. I just came back from Germany and yet, I long for the chance to go back. For the opportunity to take my dear friend out, go through the last memories in it and prepare it for more. I name almost everything of importance to me - my car is 'Harrison", my GPS is 'Keegan', my camera is 'Howard' and I even named my children - and yet, I haven't named my backpack. Perhaps, before my next adventure, I should name my pack. But that just doesn't sound right. Somehow, 'my backpack' fits. And it fits ever so wonderfully in Germany.

13 June 2010

Still not a runner

Yesterday I participated in the Highline Hustle Sprint Triathlon. 500 meter lake swim, 16 mile road bike and 3 mile trail run. I am still recovering from said participation.

The morning started out foreboding - gray skies, lightning off in the distance, sprinkles of rain foreshadowing impending soakage. Part of me wanted the lightning to get closer and more frequent (with the hopes of canceling the swim) and part of me wanted the lightning to go away. With a calm that surprised me, I double checked my gear and took it out to the front porch to await my ride. I then sqooshed into my rented wet suit and gathered my bike from the garage, double-checking the brakes and tires and putting my frozen water bottle in the holder. As far as I knew, I was ready.

Tami pulled up right on time. Man, I really love my friends who are as anal with time as I am. We agreed at 5:15 am and she was there at 5:15 am. I didn't have to wonder if she forgot, was running late or what have you. She was there - right on time. We loaded my bike in her truck, my gear in the cab and off we went. The rain was slowing turning from a sprinkle every now and then to a continual drizzle. Lightning continued its play in the sky and I still remained calm. I really don't know what got in me cause on the inside I was boiling over with an anxiousness that I don't often experience.

We pulled in to the Highline Lake recreation area at 5:45 am. Needless to say, we were really early. But, we did get primo parking and I was able to get an endcap for my bike in the transition area. It was a little intimidating to see those who do triathlons all the time. They have hooks on the back of their seats to keep their bikes on the poles, they have blankets to lay down so they can place out their gear in the order that they'll need it and they have this confidence that comes only with experience. Me, I had a bag with my gear in it. I tried to place my gear in there in the order that I'd need it with my running stuff on the bottom, biking stuff in the middle and swimming stuff on top. It was here where I discovered that I didn't bring a towel. It was here that I discovered that while I had a pair of shoes for the bike and a pair for the run, I didn't have a pair of socks for the run, just one for the bike and run. And the rain was coming. Talking with the guy who placed his bike next to mine, his advice to me was to relax and just have fun. Then, with an awareness that comes only with the mentally insane, he told me it was going to be wet but it was better than heat. I tried to take his advice to heart, did one last look over of my gear and then wet back to the truck to sit with Tami. We had one hour before the start. Staying in the transition area, watching all the "pros" with their gear and confidence was doing nothing for my mental state.

At 7:20 am, all the racers were called over for pre-race instructions. They told us where the swim started, where it ended and the rules while swimming (you can touch a kayak or a boat but you couldn't move forward after touching or you'd be disqualified; you had to keep the buoys to your left but you couldn't touch them or you'd be disqualified; you had to make sure you ran over the blue pad or your chip wouldn't register and you'd get disqualified; no non-racers in the transition area or you'd be disqualified). What I took from the instructions - be careful or you'll be disqualified. They also discussed getting out of transition - don't touch the bike without your helmet on, don't ride your bike until you pass the line - all for fear of being disqualified. Same for the run - walk your bike once you get to the line, pass over the blue pad, etc, etc, etc. At the conclusion of the instructions we were told to head over to the start of the swim - heat one would go at 7:30, heat two at 7:35. I was in heat two.

Heat one got off with a bang. This must be the heat with the ones who do triathlons all the time. They got in the water and got out in a blink of an eye. Watching them and their lack of reaction when entering the water gave me a boost of confidence - it can't be that bad. After all, I'm a swimmer. I've always felt just as comfortable in the water as I have on land and I've really been swimming a lot. I even got my 500 time down to 13:45. I was fairly confident I would be one of the first ones out of the lake of my heat. What's the old saying, "pride goeth before the fall"?

I stand towards the outside of the lake with my feet in the water. It's cold but it felt about as cold as the pool did the day before. And I had a wet suit on. Nothing to worry about, right? The horn goes off and my heat starts. I wade in and am immediately in shock of how cold the water is and how freaky it feels for the cold water to be seeping in through the suit at places where it's not quite so tight. It takes my breath away. And then the second surprise hits - I can't breathe as freely with the wetsuit on. It constricts my lungs and doesn't allow me to take the deep breaths I was used to. Something I read about preparing for a triathlon keeps running through my head, "don't try to use anything new on the day of the tri". Well, the wetsuit was new to me. And I was using it. And I wasn't trained for it. Yes, it gave me a little more buoyancy but that was only if I kicked and used my arms. I had been training this whole time with only my arms - using my legs too made me want to breathe more. Which was more difficult because I had to breathe more because my breaths were more shallow and the velcro around my neck felt like it was choking me. I started to panic. I never panic. I know how to swim, I know how to stay afloat, I shouldn't be panicking about a little bit of cold water. I sited the buoy. I hadn't even gone halfway to the buoy and I was already exhausted. Which caused more panic. I flipped over to my back, and tried to relax. It's not easy to calm yourself down. You are your worst enemy and my enemy was telling me to just turn around and go back - no one would fault me. Afterall, compared to all the others in this race, I didn't belong. Out of shape, no previous racing experience and oh-so-huge. No one would fault me for quitting. And then the Drill Sergeant showed up. I flipped over and started a modified breast stroke. I couldn't put my face in the water, it was just too cold for that and it caused irrational panic. So the modified breast stroke it was. And the Drill Sergeant was ok with that. She told me that I could doggy paddle, for all she cared, as long as I finished the goddamed swim. My Drill Sergeant is a cuser. But it worked. By the time I worked all of that out, I was rounding the second buoy and I could see the shore. I kept putting my foot down in the hopes that I would find ground I could stand on. And finally I did. I stopped swimming and walked myself out of the lake. There was a group of people on the shore telling me that I was doing great and to keep going. And then I saw Tami. She had a smile a mile wide and I knew that was for me. It's great having strangers on the shore rooting you on but there's something to be said about having your own rooting section - someone who knows you, wants you to succeed and who is happy for you. This was Tami. Tami gave me the extra omph to get out of the lake and move on to my bike.

Stranger on the shore, "Good job!!!! Get out of the lake!!! Go to your bike! You did it! 1/3 of the way there!"
Me to the stranger, "These people are CRAZY!"
Stranger, "Yea, you are, aren't you?"
Tami to the stranger, "You have NO idea!"

I made it through the swim. On my way to transition, Tami walks with me. Just mindless chatter but just the stuff I need to move on. I walk to my bike, she walks to the exit to wait. At transition I wiggle out of the wetsuit and use a shirt to dry off. Which is kind of ridiculous because the rain is just a step away. I pull on my bike shorts, my bike shirt and pack my shirt pockets with a Cliff Shot and a Singerz Power Bar. I put my helmet on, well try to. I can't get the friggin' strap to connect and I spend at least 3 minutes trying to get the little clicker to click. Finally it clicks and I use my shirt to dry off my feet to put my shoes on. Everyone else just uses sandles. I use shoes with socks. I pull on my gloves, grab my bike and head for the blue pad to head out to the bike path. Tami's there with words of encouragement and a camera. Documenting this attempt. At the line, I hop on my bike and head out of the recreation area for the 16 mile ride.

If you want to test your endurance, try a bike ride where you can't see the finish, you don't have anyone around you and you really don't know the route. I, of course, was the last one out of transition of the group that made it in with me from the lake. I couldn't even see people way in front of me so I was relying on the race committee to ensure there were directional signs and people there to direct me. There were strangers on the road, rooting all of us on and it was appreciated. It's nice to get encouragement, whether it be stranger or not.

The beginning of the ride is a gradual, very gradual, down slope. Fairly easy and it was just enough to get me to think I might actually find the bike to be my best event. I don't know how far I went before I hit the first hill but it felt like forever. And I walked my bike up that hill. I had a little conversation with myself too:

"Who the hell put a hill out here? It's supposed to be flat! This whole frickin area is flat! What did they do? Go out and find the only hill possible?"
"It's ok to walk your bike. It's ok to walk your bike. It's ok to walk your bike."
"Ok, you're at the top. Get on and ride. You can do it."

My inside voice then became an outside voice. The entire route, I had full fledged conversations. Outloud. And I didn't care. There was no one around me. I could talk to myself if I wanted and no one was near to roll their eyes at me. Then came another hill. And this just wasn't a hill, it was the Zugspite. I walked that one too. And then I got passed. And I was convinced I was the last biker on the route. That thought was cemented when the safety car was behind me. And then the safety car passed me. Wtf! The safety car was passing me! And as far as I could tell, I wasn't anywhere near the 1/2 way point turn around. Eventually I came across a worker at an intersection - he was making sure people stayed on the right route. He told me, "You're almost there!!!! Keep going!!!" Yea! I was almost there! With renewed vigor, I peddled. I was almost to the half way point and I hadn't died yet! Wahoo!

But he turned out to be a liar. I passed 4 more workers saying the same thing. I began to dread those workers. Standing there, in the pouring rain, nice cups of coffee in their hands, rain jackets and umbrellas. All chipper as they spewed out their lies to me. Almost there my ass. I was never going to get there. I was going to prune into a little raisin and 10 years later they'd find my body in some ditch with a Cliff Shot gel pack in my hands which I was unable to open cause the little f'er was adult-proof. It was then that I began to entertain the thought that no one would know if I just turned around. All the other bikers probably already finished (never mind that I had yet to see one passing me on the return trip) so they would never know if I didn't finish it. I could just turn around and no one would be the wiser. I had that discussion with myself for about 2 miles (or longer, it's hard to say) and then I began to see the bikers on their return trip. I MUST be close to the turn around point now. I MUST. Of course, I never thought about the fact that they were probably an hour ahead of me, I just wanted to be close to the turn around point. I saw a group of bikers up ahead and I could've sworn that they had just turned around. With renewed energy and the Drill Sergeant yelling in my head, I threw all thoughts of just turning around out the window. I was going to make it.

2 more big hills, a cramp in my right calf and my left knee starting to complain and I hadn't come any closer to the turn around point. The safety car kept passing me. The driver would spout out some faddle about doing great and I just ignored her. Each biker that passed me would either say something encouraging or "woot woot" at me. Sure, they could be excited. They were on their way home. Me, I wasn't even close. Again the safety car passed me, again she gave me some encouragement. This time I asked her, "where the hell is the turn around?" And she tells me, "You're almost there! It's at the top of that hill! Keep going!"

Top of the hill? Wtf?!? I was ON a hill and I saw no turn around. And then I looked up. There was indeed a hill. And it was a long way off. And it wasn't a hill. It was Mt. Everest. These people really need to learn the reality of what "almost there" really means. "Almost there" means 3 minutes, 5 minutes TOPS. Not 8 more miles. But I could see the top of the hill. I had a destination and semi-end goal. Make it to the top of the hill and all these hills I climbed would be downslopers on the way back. And I could rest my knee on those down slopes cause my knee wasn't doing so great. I found new energy to get to the top of Mt Everest. And the Drill Sergeant even came up with a wonderful cadence to keep me going.

I make it to the top, turn around the cone, smile for the camera and head back down. It was wonderful to coast. My knee thanked me. I knew I was the last one on the bike trail but I didn't care. I had just biked 8 miles and had only 8 more to go. I put it in terms I could relate to. Work is 3 miles away. I bike to work in about 25 minutes. I had a little more than 40 minutes until the finish line. I could hang for another 40 minutes. Especially if it's all downhill. And then I passed, while I was on my return, a biker who had yet to make it to the turn around. Wahhoo! I wasn't last!!!! I threw out some of those platitudes other bikers threw to me and I found renewed energy. I managed to open the stupid Cliff Shot and I guzzled that disgusting gel like it was manna from the gods. And then I came to another hill.

With my knee complaining loudly, the knowledge that I still had hills to surmount and energy waning again, I began to think I would never make it back. And then I came across another one of those workers at a crossroads. He told me I was almost there. I looked at him and yelled, "Don't you lie to me!!! I am not almost there!" He didn't know what to say in response and I kept peddling on.

By this time, I'm guesstimating I was about 10 miles out with 6 miles left, I was soaking wet. My shoes were squeeshing, my hair was dripping in to my face and every last ounce of clothing was wet. My fingers were pruned, I'm sure my feet were pruned and I had a sneaky suspicion that my scalp was pruned too. And then, that gal that I passed that made me not the last rider on the trail, passed me. I was now, officially, the last person on the bike trail. Believe it or not, that actually freed me. I knew I had 2 more hills and a gradual upslope on the final mile. So I decided to have fun with the last 4, 5, or 15 miles I had left. I had to do something, tho, cause my knee was protesting quite loudly. So I began to sing camp songs. When I walked up the last 2 hills, I drank my water and finished my power bar. I continued to sing camp songs. And I finally saw the tree line of Highline Lake. I was going to make it.

As I am peddling that last 1/2 mile or so, people are leaving. People who have already done all three legs of the race. They're leaving. And I still have one more leg left. Lightning is becoming more frequent, my knee is hurting so much that every extension of my left leg sends a shower of pain from my spine to the tip of my toes. I finally make it in to the red line and I look for the blue pad to cross so I can get my time marked - it's gone. They are already taking all the timing devices down. And that takes the last little bit of resolve out of me. If they don't have faith that I'll finish, why should I?

And there's Tami. Smiling for me, waiting for me, encouraging me to finish. I cross where the blue pad should be and let go of my bike. I can't walk. My knee has said that it has had enough and I decide to listen. I decide to not do the last leg of the tri. I tell Tami that I am disappointed in myself but I don't think I can do it. She gives me a big hug and tells me that I have already done enough. That she's proud of me and that she thinks what I have done is incredible. So I use Tami as a crutch, walk to her truck and put my bike up and then walk to my stuff to gather it all up. I turn in my timing chip and I hobble to her car.

In a moment of foresight, I had placed my after race clothes in her car to stay dry. It's a good thing I did, too. Cause every last ounce of me is dripping wet. But I also forgot the underclothes for after the race. So while I had dry sweatpants and a dry shirt, the underware was wet. C'est la vie.

So I am not a runner. I am not a triathlete. But I did finish a swim and a 16 mile bike ride. While I am still disappointed in myself for not even attempting the run, I know I did quite a lot. And now it's time to recover so I can try to do it again. I don't think I would do the Highline Hustle again - the lake swim was just too much - but there is a Tri in October where the swim takes place in a pool. I think I will train for that one. October 2, 2010. The Black Canyon Sprint Triathlon. Yep - I think I'll do that one.

21 May 2010

Day 148 til 1/2 Marathon and Day 24 til Highline Hustle

I went to Denver yesterday to take a "10 Steps to a Federal Job" class presented by two of my fellow Vet Reps at the Arapaho Douglas Workforce Center. It was a pretty good class. I went to see how it was done, in the hopes that I could bring it to Mesa County to benefit my Veterans. We shall see. It also worked out well to go up because I needed new shoes and I wanted to go to a real running store. And The Boy qualified for State with his 4x4 relay team - I would get to see that. Bonus.

This morning I plugged in the address of The Runner's Roost in to Keagan (my GPS). She got me there lickety split from my hotel. I talked with a very helpful young man about what I was looking for and that I had absolutely no idea what I needed. This young man was incredibly patient with me and told me about pronation, subnation (I can't remember if that is right) and neutral. He then brought out 5 different shoes for me to try and put me on the treadmill, with a video camera trained on my feet. He told me I have a beautiful gait. Yes, he said "beautiful". He said I walk straight down the middle of my foot - from my heel to my toe. He did notice a little pronation when my pace picked up so he recommended a lightly supportive shoe for the times I am walking (and he didn't laugh when I told him I was doing a Tri and a 1/2 marathon). With his guidance, I got the perfect shoe for my foot - an Asics something or another. We discussed sock rubbage and he suggested 2 different types of socks. We also discussed compression socks that, according to "them", help improve circulation. I got the shoes and the socks. I'll have to do some research on the compression socks. As I was checking out, a sticker caught my eye and I got that too. It was a sticker with a person swimming, biking and running. I'll put that on Harrison (my car) after I finish my Tri. And I have to finish for Harrison to wear it. A DNF will not do.

Loaded down with my goodies, I head out for The Boy's track meet. I knew it was a state-wide meet. I knew it would probably be well attended. What I didn't know was HOW well intended it would be. It took me 35 minutes to find a parking spot at the ill-planned JeffCo stadium. And then it took me 20 minutes to walk to the gate where I had to pay $8.00 to watch my Boy run for 1 minute. His race started - he was leg 1 of the 4x4 and I got some good pictures. And good pictures of feet. But that's for another post. His team was doing well and then the third leg came around to where I was sitting and tragedy struck. A runner from Arapaho cut off another runner causing him to fall. Which then caused someone else to fall. And someone else. And then the third runner of my Boy's team. And the runner of the other local team, Fruita. Everyone was able to get up. Everyone finished their leg. With the exception of Fruita. He couldn't get up. It was heart-wrenching. My Boy's team finished last - but they did finish. Arapaho got disqualified for an illegal lane shift. Everyone else didn't finish with a good enough time to make it to finals on Saturday. With the exception of Fruita, who did not finish at all. I do hope that young man is ok. I tried to console my son but he was beyond the point. I offered to bring him home with me but with an admirable bit of loyalty, said he would stay with his team. My words of comfort - you still have next year, you guys finished - that's important - went unsaid. I told him I loved him, I told him to be good and respectful and then I came home.

As soon as I got home, I got my suit on, packed my bag and headed to the gym. I had grand designs to complete an indoor Triathalon tonight - in the order in which I'll be doing it on June 12. It sounded good at the time. It sounded a little nuts at the time, too, but I was determined. I completed my 500 yard swim (arms only), changed and went to the bike. I was feeling pretty good after my swim. I had no idea about the time but it felt good. I was thinking to myself that the 16 miles was going to be a breeze. Not so much. After 4 miles on the bike, my feet went numb. And it wasn't because of my shoes. I think it was because of the type of bike I was using. I used the bike where you peddle in front of you, instead of beneath (like a real bike). I couldn't finish the whole 16 miles on the bike. My feet were hurting way too much. I'm thinking I should probably use the more traditional stationary bike for my indoor training from right now. More realistic and might actually help me build up my ass-bone - which is still sore from last week's ride. I was going to go home after the bike. I was discouraged. I stopped at the counter of the gym to get a bottle of water and talked with the young man there. I don't know how we came to the discussion of why I was there, but I told him I had intended to do an indoor tri tonight but just couldn't finish it. He told me "bullshit" and told me to go finish up. I think I was in shock but I went and finished up. A good movie was on the screen so with my music and the movie, it went by in no time flat.

Things I learned tonight - I should probably increase my yardage on the swim, I should use the traditional stationary bike and I can actually finish what I start. Go me.

  • 500 yard swim - 14:27
  • 8.88 mile bike - 28:39
  • 3.13 mile walk - 58:55
  • Total time - 102 minutes, 2 seconds (give or take)

11 May 2010

Day 157

After much foot dragging, I got to the gym tonight. BIG thanks to my friends who yelled at me to go. You guys rock! (I am, of course, assuming you're reading this)

I started off on the treadmill tonight. I walked at an average pace of 3.0 for 52 minutes - a total of 3 miles. I really need to pick up my pace. If my math is correct, that's about 17.33 minutes per mile. Assuming I can keep that pace up for 13.1 miles, it's going to take me 3.79 hours to complete. I have no idea what a good goal is for walking a 1/2 marathon but I'm thinking that almost 4 hours is not a good pace. For pete's sake, there are going to be people running a full 26.2 miles and they'll finish before me. I guess what I should be focusing on is just finishing the damn thing.

After my walk, I hit the pool. I swam for 500 yards, using my arms only. I then put on those shoes and swam another 100 yards. I did the arms only because with the triathalon, I need my legs for the bike and run after the swim. I actually do better with just my arms - why is that?

Tomorrow is going to be a light workout - perhaps only 30 minutes on the ellip and 5 miles on the bike. I have a photography class tomorrow night (so I can learn how to use my camera) and will hit the gym afterwards.

  • Treadmill: 3.0 pace, 3 miles, 52 miles, 345 calories
  • Swim: 500 yards (arm only), don't know how long because I didn't wear my contacts and I couldn't see the clock

Day 158

I don't know what has gotten into me. I signed up today for the Highline Hustle Sprint Triathalon. 500 meter swim, 16 mile bike and 3 mile trail run. June 12. Less than a month away. AND I don't have a bike. Ok, so by the end of the week, the bike issue will be rectified but still - what in the hell am I thinking?

I know that registering for that Tri has been a motivator. Now I can't say, "I've got 158 days to the marathon, I can slack tonight." By registering for that Tri, I get bonus points for my Biggest Loser team at work - if I compete. Just signing up won't do it so I can't let my team mates down. I know I'm tired of not liking to look in the mirror. I know that this is one thing I can be selfish about - no one else is going to take my health into concern and make it number one priority. I know that I am tired of being the "fluffy friend" to both men and women. I'd love to turn a head or two. I know that I am tired of hiding behind big shirts and humor - I'd really like to date again. I'm tired of seeing the look in people's faces when they realize that I am sitting next to them on a plane and I'm tired of having to extend the seat belt all the way and cross my arms so I don't explode on someone else's space.

I think I've discovered many very valid reasons for the recent insanity I've explored. I think I'll do ok. That is, as long as I have ridiculous tests of physicality to work toward.

I got off the fun job around 9 tonight. I had to watch "Castle" and then the news. Just HAD to. I then changed in to my suit, packed my swim bag and headed to the gym. I love that the gym is open this late during the week. I love that the gym is basically deserted at this time of night. Being open 24 hours does not allow me to use that favorite excuse of mine, "I'd go but the gym is closed." Nope. No excuses. Bag packed, new water shoes on the feet, off to the gym I go.

I got a new pair of water shoes. I originally purchased them for the Bahamas (in 2 weeks!). They have vents in the soles so that the water will drain. They're light. They'll protect my feet from the (hopefully) hot sand. When I signed up for the Tri, I also thought they might be good swim shoes because this Tri takes place in a lake and all I need to do is cut open my foot on trash or rocks which would then lead me to a DNF (did not finish) as I'm rushed to the hospital with a blood trail following me. Ok, so I tend to wax fanatical when I picture injuries. So I hopped in to the pool with the swim shoes on.

Note to self: If I am going to wear the shoes, I must remember that it changes everything - my stroke, my kick and my buoyancy. You wouldn't think I'd have a problem with buoyancy, what with my fluffiness and all, but the shoes changed it. I had to work to keep the rest of my legs on level with my feet, which kept flying up. And my kick - wow. Talk about a workout. After 50 yards with the shoes on, I rethought the whole thing. I'd have to work UP to wearing the shoes. Off they came.

I finished 500 yards in about 15 minutes. Not a stellar time. Not awful. Just about average. So I did another 50 with the shoes on and a 100 using just my arms. Not bad. In to the changing room to shower and dress out in to my exercise outfit - sweats, big, baggy shirt and tennis runners.

The ellip went smoothly tonight. Partly thanks to Dusty who kept up a conversation with me via texting, partly because there was a really hot guy in front of me. Before I knew it, 2 miles had passed along with 35 minutes. I briefly entertained the idea of hitting the stationary bike for a 3 mile ride but that didn't last long. I sanitized my equipment, gathered my shit and hit the door. Dragging myself up the steps to my home, I realized that I was pooped.

And that, my friends, is the sign of a good workout. No matter what time of day it occurred.

  • Swim: 650 yards, about 20 minutes (give or take). No calorie estimation as I didn't have my heartrate monitor on.
  • Elliptical: 35 minutes, 2 miles, about 220 calories (according to Precor).
One last thought - I'm starving. I need to rethink my nutrition intake.

08 May 2010

Day 161

Treadmill

3.13 miles
1 hour 4 minutes
418 calories

A long way to go to be ready for Oct 17.

06 May 2010

Day 162

The last time I was able to get to the gym was Day 169. Ok. So that's not exactly right. The last time I made it a priority to get to the gym was Day 169. That's right - a full 7 days since my last real work out. Day 168 was a regular work/day night with no exercise other than at the fun job. Day 167 I worked a massive double. Day 166 I used to recover from said massive double. Day 165 was a regular work day/night. I could've made it to the gym after work but I didn't. Day 164 I picked up a shift and didn't get done until midnight so, while I could've swam afterwards, I didn't. Day 163 was spent in the car to get my oldest DNA thief. I could've used the gym at the hotel but I "forgot" to pack work out clothes. That brings us to tonight.

The Girl Child and I got home around 6pm today and unloaded the car of all her college belongings. She had so much crap. It was amazing - and she had a storage shed in Boulder which was full. I couldn't believe she was still bringing so much home. After our show, "Bones", we had a crap dinner and I tossed back and forth going to the gym. I was too tired. I needed to go. I could "make it up" tomorrow. I needed to go. The Drill Sergeant came back and she kicked my ass to the gym. It wasn't the best workout I've had. It wasn't the worst (is that even spelled correctly?). I worked up a sweat. I stayed moving. I put on different shoes tonight and the difference between them and the Reeboks that I've been wearing was amazing - so light and no numbness. My mom is going to get me a new pair of shoes for my birthday. I can't wait to get to a real running store to get them fitted. I go to Denver May 20 for business and will find a running store then. I need new shoes. I need something that is not going to keep my mind beating my heart with the feet issue.

The kids and I leave for the Bahamas in 2 1/2 weeks - my goal is to be up to at least 1 1/2 hours walking/elliping/biking by then.

Tonight's workout:
  • 21 minutes ellip, 120 calories, forgot to get the distance
  • 25 minutes walking, 140 calories, 1.2 miles

29 April 2010

Day 169

I've counted the actual days until I leave for San Francisco. I leave Oct 14 and started Apr 28. That equals 170 days from yesterday until 10/14. For encouragement, I am going to count backwards. So yesterday was day 170. Today is day 169.

  • Treadmill: 1.6 miles; 32.15 minutes; 178 calories
  • Elliptical: 1 mile; 16.12 minutes; 120 calories
  • Expresso Bike: 2.3 miles; 9.51 minutes; 68 calories
  • TOTALS: 4.9 miles; 57.78 minutes; 366 calories

The treadmill was better today. Perhaps it was my frame of mind, perhaps it was fear of the Drill Sergeant returning. Whatever the reason, I probably could've done 2 miles tonight. The ellip is what I struggled with tonight. I don't know why. I usually love the ellip. I can get in to it very easily and I can stay with it. But not tonight. The bike was odd tonight as well. I must've got on one that needed some serious calibration as steering was a challenge. But I did 2 miles in under 10 minutes. That's not too bad. Now, if only I could use the Expresso Bike during my Tri...

Tomorrow is my day of rest. If you can call it a day of rest. I work the fun job tomorrow night and always work up a sweat.

No expansive diatribes tonight. I'm tired.

28 April 2010

Day 1

At the beginning of April, I entered the random drawing for the Nike Women's Half Marathon on October 17, 2010 in San Francisco. I'm not sure if I was asked to join by Dusty or if I just decided to jump on the band wagon. What I do know for sure is that there was not a reasonable, logical thought jumping around in my head other than, "I probably won't get picked anyway" while I filled out the registration form and entered my credit card number. For the next couple of weeks, I'd occassionally think about it and then quickly put the thought out of my head. Until April 23. That's when I discovered that my name had indeed been selected.

Oh shit.

I haven't run a 5k since I got out of the Army. Hell, I've not even WALKED a 5k and I signed up for 13.1 miles? Why? For a Tiffany necklace? For the spotlight pulling conversation? For the chance to use it as an excuse to go to San Francisco? I don't really wear jewelry, so that wasn't the reason. I enjoy the look on people's faces when I tell them I'm going to be doing a half marathon (only because the look on their faces is that of sheer incredulousness) but that wasn't the reason. I've proven to myself over the past few months that I don't need an excuse to travel - if I want to go, I go - so that wasn't the reason. So why, in the name of anything, did I agree to this? I think this will be what I try to figure out over the next 6 months while I attempt to "train" for this event.

I've researched training programs for half marathons over the past few days and the one I liked the most is a 16 week program. Which, if I started on May 3, gave me 8 extra weeks. I told myself I would start on Monday and would be "serious" and "dedicated". For some reason, I started tonight. Maybe because I know myself. Maybe because I know that if I keep putting it off, Monday will never come and it will be Oct 14th before I know it. So I started tonight.

Why do gyms have to have mirrors all over the place? Is it supposed to be motivational? Because for me it's not. It's discouraging, depressing, deflating and all the other "de" words you can think of that express utter dispair. I've become an ace at not looking in mirrors. I can walk in a bathroom and avoid looking at anything other than my eyes in a bathroom mirror. But at a gym, I can't. I take full stock, compare myself to the well-proportioned humans moving purposefully through their exercise routine and I want to turn right around and curl up in a dark corner, in a tight little fluffy ball. I feel like everyone's eyes are on me, summing me up and wondering what in the hell am I doing there. My head knows that, for the majority of patrons, this is not the case but my insecure soul leads the way on this one. I almost left. Almost.

I had an inner-dialogue going on that kept me there. Much like a Drill Sergeant with a new recruit. Only I cussed at myself. Called myself names. Used such things as "wuss" and "fake" and "spineless". I got so mad at my Drill Sergeant! She doesn't know me! She doesn't know what I can do! How dare she call me those things! I'll prove her wrong!!!! With a face of determination and my iPod blasting in my ears to drown out the Drill Sergeant, I stepped up to the treadmill. I had thought I would walk 3 miles tonight at a 15 minute pace. Not so much. 1 mile at a 20+ minute pace and I couldn't feel my feet. This is not the first time this has happened with the numb feet. I've brought my concern to my doctor, only to be told that I just need to exercise more and lose some weight. It's very disconcerting to not be able to feel your feet. Believe it or not, it hurts. I think I need to get fitted for some good shoes. I don't know where to do that here in town other than the shoe stores where some pimply-faced teenager is supposed to be an "expert" but I need to find some shoes. 1 mile killed me. What's 13.1 miles going to do?

The Drill Sergeant was back. Telling me that I should try to find someone else to run in my stead in October cause if I couldn't even do 3 miles on a treadmill set on a flat level, how was I going to do 13.1 miles in San Francisco that is known for its hills? I yelled at the Drill Sergeant. Told her to cut me some slack, I just started for crying out loud! I think this dialogue might've even happened using my outside voice - I got some looks. I can't be sure, tho, Seether was screaming at me the song I love, "Fake It". So I did. I faked it. I moved to the Elliptical.

The Ellip was a little easier on my feet and a little easier on my knees. Good music going and the Drill Sergeant only piped up every now and then. But at a mile, my feet went numb again. At least I had a better pace - closer to the 15 minute pace I wanted while walking. Why can't I do the Half Marathon on an Ellip? I had been moving consistently now for 30 minutes. Not too bad. The wuss in me told me that 30 minutes was all the government recommended for exercise per day so I could stop and come back tomorrow. Then Drill Sergeant Bitch came back. Man, can she be a rude, stubborn, mean little woman. The only way I could shut her up was move on to the stationary bike. And fake it. I think I'm going to be doing a lot of faking it.

But the bike was great. It's one of those "expresso" bikes - that has routes and scenery and everything. You have to steer and you have to switch gears. I rode that bike around the Lost City for 2 whole miles and completed the first, beginner, race. Sweat streamed down my face, my back was soaked and my legs were shaking. But I finished it.

All told, I walked, elliped and biked for 4 miles. 1 mile more than my original intent.

Day 1 of training down. 111 left to go. I do hope the Drill Sergeant comes back. As much as I despised her tonight, she sure did kick my ass in to gear.