Thursday, August 31, 2006


Race #2 was a triathlon sponsored here at work for employees. So yesterday afternoon at 5:40pm, 42 individuals and 22 teams were gathered for the event with plenty of awesome volunteers and families. This was the first time I was racing with my family there to cheer me on and I really wanted to do well with them there. My husband and the boys drove over with me and my parents came to help watch the kids so my husband could see some of the bike course. I think there are a few minutes before any race I have ever done where the nerves really kick in and I wonder how stupid I am to be putting myself through this voluntarily- having paid money to feel like that seems crazy.

The course is listed as a 0.3 mile swim, 12.6 mile bike and 3 mile run. That 0.3 miles for the swim is the most generous measuring I have ever seen. That course was more like 300 meters, not 500 meters. It was a beach start and I was a little nervous about that since my first race was a start out in the water. I donned the cheap-o wetsuit, got a kiss from the kids and husband and paced around on the beach a little. I saw my husband grab the camera and I wanted to yell that fat-chick-in-a-wetsuit pictures were not allowed but I figured I can just delete them later. I stayed pretty wide right since it was a left hand turning course so I'd avoid the major scrum. The beach start was no problem, my goggles stayed on even when I dove in and I was off. I do love to swim. I didn't quite feel the same perfect rhythm I found early on in my first race but I felt pretty good. Thankfully it was high tide so I could see the eel grass below me but didn't have to swim through it like the practice swims. After the second turn on the way in I got stuck behind 3 people that I just couldn't get around. It slowed me up a little but I wasn't annoyed or aggressive enough to swim over them. I just hung back until one stood up, way too early, and I swam by to the shallows. I was the 4th woman out of the water and I felt good.

Then I hit the transition area. I couldn't get my socks un-bunched. My shirt was sticking to me as I pulled it over my head, and then my bike gloves were inside out and got stuck on my ring. Not a good transition.

The course is 6 laps of a 2.1 mile loop that has one small hill on it. The first two laps it was quiet, I didn't see any other bikers and it was going along fine. The roadway is awful with lots of potholes and debris but traffic is light enough that I could ride a few feet off the shoulder with no problem. I remembered to take a drink at the same spot each lap and I was maintaining about 16 mph which is pretty good for me. Then the leaders and the team bikers caught up with me and there was much passing to be done, none of it on my part. A few bikes that cost more than my car passed me, I think they had riders but they were sort of a blur of color so I can't be sure. At the end of loop 3 I took out my chocolate 1x caffeine PowerGel to get some sustenance before the run. I forgot that the consistency of the gel is such that for a minute it blocks off all air from your mouth and nose and I nearly choked on it. I realize that's why you should practice with these things but I never had anything other than water on my other rides. Once I got it down I noticed an improvement in my energy in about five minutes. Maybe it was in my mind, but it was quick. I had debated whether to go with the caffeinated gel or not. I don't drink coffee or soda so my caffeine consumption is pretty low. I had a few minutes of the caffeine shakes, I seem to be very susceptible to caffeine, but it passed and I kept drinking for the rest of the loops. The bad thing is that I got gel on my bike handle so my right hand was sticky and chocolate, I need to wear a bike shirt with pockets to stash stuff.

Coming in off the bike I still felt good but I knew the run was coming up. Transition there was uneventful at least. Grabbed my shoes, put on my hat and we're off. Less than a quarter of a mile into the run my left calf muscle completely balled up in a knot. I looked down and I could actually see the knot and it hurt. I tried picking up my heels and my toes and trying to work it out. Right there I thought to myself "You read all these stories about the Ironman, you think you'll ever do that if you can't even run a quarter of a mile?! Nice dream, idiot." But then I told myself that everyone that's done an Ironman had to start somewhere, so maybe I'll just have to work a little harder than some to get there. A few hundred yards later the cramp thankfully stopped screaming at me and stayed at a whine the rest of the course. I'm fortunate that having a 3-year old has taught me how to ignore whiners. I allowed myself to stop for water at the one mile mark, also the top of the crappy hill. I only walked from the station to the garbage, maybe 50 feet and then I took up the slow jog again. I was passed by 2 individuals and 3 team runners but as I came in on the loop I could still see that there were people behind me. The only annoying part of the run was that a few volunteers said "it's all downhill from here" and it never was. I even know the course but to hear that it's all downhill made me happy, until I turned the next corner and saw the hill I had conveniently forgotten about in that moment of bliss when they said "all downhill". They all meant well, but a hill is a hill so I'd rather they just said "good job" than tell me there's no hill. My family was a few yards from the finish area and the boys clapped as I came in, waving to them and I was so happy to be done. I know I've decided to do this mainly for me but it's so awesome to have the support of my family. I hope I'm going to show the boys the importance of being healthy and active, I hope that my husband and I will get to race together so we have something more to share again that we both enjoy and I hope they all know how much I appreciate that they'll come to watch a rather unexciting spectator event just for me.

In the end I was the 39th finisher out of 40- there were 2 DNFs.
Swim (the generous 500meters, more like 300)- 6:36 29/64
Bike (12.6 miles) 46:20 16.6 mph average, 58/63
Run (3 miles) 31:07 10:18 pace, 62/62
Transitions were pretty poor, 58th and 57th ranked based on time
Total time : 1:27:49, my initial goal time was anything under 1:30, so it was a success.

Also- Athena Division medal winner! 2/2, the winner was 3 minutes ahead of me.
I think my eventual goal for the course will be under 1 hour 20 minutes, with more time on the bike and running I'll get there. We hung around for some food, said good-bye to grandma and grandpa and then headed off to home.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


It’s amazing what 18 years can do to clarify things in your mind.

My husband maintains that cross-country isn’t really a sport. He, and other people I’ve heard, refers to cross-country as the refuge of the nerds that wanted to feel like athletes but couldn’t do anything athletic, so they ran. I maintain that many of the people that run cross-country are true athletes. I, on the other hand, was not. The summer before we entered high school a friend and I were trying to figure out what we were going to do to fit in for the next 4 years. Neither of us had been successful in sports to that point and when we heard there was a cross-country meeting at the high school in a few days we thought we’d go find out more. I had always wished I was better at team sports. I played softball in the rec league but then I never made the junior high school team. It couldn’t have happened as many times in my life as it has in my mind but my softball memories are always of me coming up to bat in the last inning with tying runs on the bases and me striking out, ending the game in defeat. I was always the catcher. At the most junior leagues when you have a player that’s not really good at throwing or catching and can’t really move fast- you make that person the catcher. I spent most of my time walking to the back stop to pick up the balls that the pitcher pitched that I couldn’t catch. I don’t have many memories of enjoying it, just hoping that I wouldn’t make any really big mistakes to call attention to myself. Running by myself sounded like something I might like. One thing I didn’t really take into account, however, is that I was always one of the kids that would nearly die doing the one mile run for the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. In retrospect I’m glad I never put enough thought into it because I would have talked myself out of joining that team.

I remember my mom driving me and Missy down to the high school for the meeting that started at 5pm. Good thing we lived only 5 minutes from the school because by the time she got home I was already calling and asking her to bring me some shorts and shoes because this wasn’t just a meeting, it was a practice. We were going to run THREE miles! I had never run more than the mile for the fitness challenge and that generally took me 15 minutes or so followed by a long recovery period. I went to a small high school and there were about 10 people there for practice, the boys and girls teams practiced together. Off we went along route 1, I didn’t really have a concept of just how far 3 miles was but Missy and I were just hanging out together, pretty far behind the other runners. We turned and went through the neighborhood and we could just see the runners ahead of us as they turned the corner to the beach. We were about half way at this point and physically we were both done. We made a half hearted attempt to run on the beach but ended up walking most of it and then a good portion of the route back to the school. As we reached the parking lot the coach was just driving out to come and find us. Apparently he didn’t quite grasp that we were serious when we had said we had never run before. Never. The other members of the team had gone home, I think some of them might have had their dinner already because that “run” took us at least 45 minutes. We were hot and we were tired. But, holy cow we had just run THREE miles. We were awesome. We decided to join the team.

My first race was a pretty big invitational and out of the 278 runners that finished I was #278. I was a little disappointed when I heard that, but I got used to it. A few weeks later we had one of our only home meets and I came in last again. I had spent a good amount of time over the beginning of the season realizing I just wasn’t meant to be a runner as I watched the pack pull away at the start of every race and practice and I was getting discouraged. After that race I was asked whether I was going to quit because I really wasn’t very good. I’m not sure why I didn’t just take the suggestion but instead I decided to stay on the team. For the next 4 years I was the last runner for our team in every race, except if another girl was injured or unconscious or something. I was often the last runner to finish the race. I never got faster than a 10:00 mile and I was never really given any instruction on how to get better. There were times when I got frustrated and my mind would give in to my body, a little overweight and out of shape, screaming at how stupid I was to think I’d ever be any good at running. That’s when I would get hurt. They were legitimate injuries, I’d twist and ankle or pull something, but I think they were just my way of my mind giving my body an out for why I wasn’t better. I often thought it wasn’t fair that the other girls on the team didn’t have to work as hard as I did and they got better while I didn’t. On long run days they sometimes got picked up by boyfriends after they were out of sight of the school and then they’d get dropped off at the same spot and run back as if they’d run the whole route. But I was out there. It just didn’t seem fair.

I’ve realized that back then I was looking for something external with running, to beat a time or to beat another person and when it didn’t happen I would beat myself up. This time around, it’s just me. I still have days when I give in and don’t work as hard as I should, maybe training for more events will kick that weakness out of me. I’ve just got to maintain focus. I’m doing this for me. No one else would care if I walk up that hill, if I cut the run short or if I go for the lazy swim. But finally it’s not about them. I’ll never be the fastest, I’ll never be competing to win the race but as long as I keep competing with myself, I’ll win. All I’ve got is time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Life gets in the way

This morning is the first morning in months that I missed a regular scheduled workout and I'm really annoyed with myself. I am so lucky to have 2 healthy, happy little kids but the one issue we have with our boys is sleep, or a lack thereof. I was up last night from before 1am until after 3am trying to get C. back to sleep. In a small ranch house the cry-it-out method doesn't work well since I can't sleep anyway with him in the bedroom next door yelling. I tried it last night and for 40 minutes I listened to "Mom! Mom! Momm-mm-yy! Dad! Mom! Mom!"- you get the idea. I finally went and sat in there until he fell asleep, got back to bed around 3:30am and when my alarm went off at 4:05am I didn't hear it. I woke up about 5:40am, realized I missed running and I wouldn't even get to weights class on time so I just grabbed my stuff, showered at the gym and got to my desk.

Oh well, maybe an extra day of rest before Wednesday's race will be helpful.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weekend non-workouts

I think the biggest eventual change I'll have to make in my training is that weekends will become long workout days and not rest days. I did get on the treadmill yesterday afternoon and ran one mile in 8:57 followed by 1 mile walking at 15:00. I had intended to make it a longer workout but after about 10 minutes C. found the vent in our room directly above the treadmill and started yelling and yelling and yelling. "Mom! Running? Done? Mom! Done? Mom! Upstairs? Mom! Mom! Mom-m-m-y-y-y!" I can ignore him for only so long and then I decided that I was not going to get the whole workout done. The original plan was 2 miles under 9 minutes, if possible, with a 5 minute walk recovery in between. One mile under 9 minutes is about as fast as I can get right now and it's right on the border between feeling good and wanting to throw up.

The funny thing about me and running is that I'm not a runner but I really want to be one. There have probably been six times in my entire life that I've gotten to that great running feeling where I'm going along and I feel as though I could go forever. Like I might just be flying because that's how effortless it feels and I feel like I am a runner. Usually I'm just chasing that feeling while I wish I was doing something else. Since C. is taking a nap it's probably the best chance I'd have at hitting the treadmill today so maybe I'll give it a shot. Or maybe not, after all, it's the weekend.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Timberman Sprint 8/19/06

It was almost exactly this time last Saturday that I heard the "go,go,go" to start my first triathlon. I've been reliving different details in my mind since then and I can't wait to do it again. Here's the whole story.
We got up there Friday afternoon and went for a quick swim in the lake before driving the bike course. The water felt great- I could live in the water. Driving the bike course completely freaked me out. All along I have felt that my swimming would be the strongest, followed by my run and finally the bike. I was not prepared for the hilly New Hampshire course. The first 1 mile out of transition is up a hill. I was sure I'd end up walking my bike somewhere along the way. But the run was supposed to be flat so I figured all I had to do was survive the 15 miles on the bike and hope for no flat tires.
We went out to eat and didn't get back to the hotel until after 9pm. I usually don't eat that late, I ate fried eggplant with pasta so it was heavy and the air conditioner in our musty hotel room didn't work so it wasn't going to be a good night. Surprisingly I fell asleep almost immediately after we turned out the lights about 10pm. Then about 1am I woke up and didn't get back to sleep until somewhere around 3:45am. Then the alarm went off at 4:20am and we were off. The team met in the lobby at 5am so we could all drive over together.
Saturday morning I was practically in a panic and sure that signing up for a triathlon was the dumbest thing I have ever done. I was pretty convinced that I can't actually swim as well as I initially thought, there was no way I'd survive that bike course and maybe I can jog three miles- but after the bike and run- no way. We got to the park about 5:30am to set up transition. As we were hanging around I saw Sarah Reinertsen (! She's the female amputee triathlon that finished Ironman Kona in 2005. I got my picture taken with her and I ended up chatting with her before the start. That was amazing and she is incredibly nice. After the race she saw me and actually came over to see how I did!
Anyway, I was in the final wave for first timers. The race was supposed to start at 7:30am but about 7:15am they announced there was a truck out on the bike course that needed to be towed so we would be delayed. A lot of people were really cold waiting around the starting area. Being a well insulated Athena I didn't have that problem. The first timers wave went off 30 minutes after the start, 5 minutes after the athena/clydesdale/relay wave. As soon as I heard "Go" the race felt great. There was some initial bumping and jostling but I had no major problems or panic. I felt so strong in the water and the swim was perfect. I ended up swimming quite wide left to avoid the crowd so I think I swam a little farther than necessary. I never looked back but I think I was near the front end of my wave coming out of the water. I passed a few people from the wave in front of me and my time (10:17) put me in the top 1/3 of the racers! I was psyched at that point even though I had to get on my bike.
Transition was awesome and before I knew it I was on my bike. It was the best I have EVER felt on a bike. Even up the hills I felt great. I actually passed people, which I never thought I would do. The course was beautiful and I came in just under my goal time of 1 hour with a 59:43, 15.1 mph. I liked being towards the back of the race, there were many nice racers out there and I exchanged smalle conversation with a few. It usually consisted of "are we almost at the top of this hill?", and most people were nice and just happy to be out there. I saw a few grumpies, but that's their problem. When I got off the bike I looked down and realized I had forgotten to drink anything or eat my Gu as I had planned to do at the half way point. I took a swig of water and left because I still felt great.
I made it through the transition area out to the run course and then I hit the wall. I think the lack of hydration/ nutrition caught up with me. I managed to run (uphill!) to the first mile marker and then between 1 and 2 I ended up doing some walking. I jogged it in from mile 2 to the end and still came in under my goal of 30 minutes with a 29:45, I was happy with that considering I had walked a little way.
Initially I thought I'd take 2 hours but I told my coach my dream time would be 1:45. My total time: 1:45:52. Overall I was very happy and I learned some valuable lessons for next time. I came in 745 out of 949 finishers and 9/13 athenas. My next sprint is August 30th and the bike and swim and slightly shorter so I'm hoping for under 1:30. We'll see.

Final stats:
Swim- Time: 10:17 Rank: 313
T1- 3:50
Bike- Time: 59:43, 15.1 mph Rank: 741
T2- 2:19
Run- Time: 29:45, 9:55 pace Rank: 820
745/949 finishers
326/476 females
9/13 Athena division

Friday, August 25, 2006


In April I celebrated the loss of almost 40 pounds with the decision to train for my first triathlon. My younger son was born in January of 2005 and since his arrival I'd worked pretty hard to get myself back into some sort of shape. I was at the gym five mornings a week for one of various cardio or strength training workouts and I had started running in January. I remember riding my road bike about 10 years ago and about 16 years ago I used to swim on a summer team. What made me think that was good enough for a triathlon I'm not sure, but I'm here after finishing my first sprint last weekend.

I've never been an athlete. I ran cross country and did the high jump and javelin on the track team in high school. I was quite large compared with most cross-country runners or track team members and I always felt a bit out of place. I spent all four years of cross-country as the last runner for the team- more often than not I was the last runner in the entire race if I remember correctly. I was never able to break a 10:00 mile pace and sometimes I was bitter about how little the other girls had to practice in order to be faster than me. I was pretty decent at javelin and I would have been good at high jump if I had a little less weight to propel over that bar. I swam on a summer swim team for about 3 years until I was old enough to get a summer job. I wasn't great at that, either, but I was okay. After high school I went to college and worked out at the field house or gym with friends, managed to keep my weight reasonably constant but I was never in great shape. I worked for a year before going back to graduate school and that's when I finally got into shape. I took my personal trainer's license exam and I assisted with teaching aerobics at the local YMCA. I worked out pretty hard at least 5 days a week and finally got into decent shape. Then I got married.

Over the next 5 years I gained over 50 pounds and had two children. The pregnancies really weren't the problem, I was fat even without pregnancy weight, but I guess it didn't help either. After having my son I was tipping the scales about a Snickers shy of 200 pounds NON-pregnant and that's when I realized something had to be done. I joined the gym and started working out and four weeks later I found out I was pregnant again. I kept going to the gym throughout my pregnancy but I wasn't working too hard. After my younger son was born I went back to the gym as soon as I returned to work. I started taking classes, keeping track of everything I ate and I did manage to lose weight. My goal weight was 140 pounds, but I stalled out at 165 for a long time. It was about a 6 month plateau until January 2006. I managed to lose 9 more pounds for a total loss of 38 pounds and then I hit another plateau where I've been hanging out to this day. I signed up with Team In Training to do the Timberman Sprint Triathlon in Gilford, New Hampshire on August 19th. I didn't do as much of the training as I had thought I would, life just got in the way of my plans. I wanted to get to a point where I was pretty sure I would finish and I did. I told myself that the time wouldn't matter, just finishing would be good enough. I did finish and I was really thrilled with the time but as I think it over more I know that I could have done better. I know I'll do it again and now it's time to get serious.

From a non-triathlon/training perspective, I'm the mom to two boys, M. was 3 in April and C. was 1 in January. I work full time as a research scientist while my boys are lucky enough to be home with my husband who's an awesome dad. I'm not very good at down time and I like to have constant plans or projects which I think will be the nice thing about triathlons and training because there are always races and events around to work towards. I'm fortunate to live near family and friends, except my sister, whom I miss because she lives far enough that I don't get to see her as much as I would like. She's happy, though, so that's important. Overall I'm incredibly lucky to have all the things I have and life is good. I'd just like to go through it with a little more speed and a little less size. Thanks for joining me on this ride.