Sunday, January 26, 2014

One day at a time

Last year was a pretty rough year.  It was amazing, inspiring, filled with people who were supportive and fun and encouraging.

But it was rough.

I got sick three separate times within two weeks before races.  In April, I broke a finger, which got me stuck on the trainer for five weeks...  During the build for Ironman Texas.   After five hours on a trainer,  I wanted to chuck it out the window.  After Ironman Texas,  I wound up with an abcess in my armpit. I had hit my race weight in March, but was unable to stop losing weight.   In November I had a medical issue that keep me from the sport for six weeks.  

Which means I've been back at it now for just a few weeks.

Oh my.  The last few weeks have been more demoralizing than anything ever in my athletic career.  My running speed has fallen so much I can't even begin to approach what I was doing in October.   My weight has climbed,  and as a former fat girl,  the terror and depression that this invites is horrifying. It was only in the last few days that I found some groove in the water again. After that swim,  I was so exhausted that I pushed back a long run so I could get a rest day.

So why am I posting this?  I've spent the last year focusing on the positive in my life and refusing to dwell on how hard things get sometimes. So if the positive is the only thing that I try to give focus in my life,  why am I even putting this in writing?
Because I've learned that this kind of thing happens to everyone.  Statistics indicate that roughly 10% of athletes are injured in any one year.

I'm kind of hoping that someone will read this and know that he/she isn't alone.  I'm hoping that someone will read this and realize that even at rock bottom,  you can choose to only let the positive gain traction in your mind.

As for me,  I'm working hard.   I feel like I've lost a lot,  but I refuse to let it be for long.  I'm going back to dealing with the negative but emphasizing the positive changes and events.  One day at a time,  one workout at a time.  I will not dwell in despair,  but focus on each small accomplishment, one at a time,  until they pave the way to larger goals.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Superhero

Dear Marvel,  DC,  and all the other comic book makers,

And mostly to all the movie producers -

Today I was blessed to be able to see Diana Nyad complete her what-will-become-legendary swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys.

As far as I know, one news channel carried the finish live.

Why?

Is it because female superheroes are supposed to be stacked?  Is it because a woman who is strong enough to complete something so rigorous should not be hailed?  Rather,  instead, we teach our sons and daughters to fear what isn't beautiful,  and ignore the truly amazing and inspiring people that should represent what Truly Is Possible?

Or is it because we've conditioned a society to pay money to see what 'perfect' and even 'ideal'  is?

I have an idea.

Let's base a new generation of superheroes on the men and women in America whose superpowers involve selfless acts of courage, feats off incredible emotional strength, and the rarely found magic of creativity.

It is an act worthy of superheroes when someone does something amazing for someone else, then stands on the sidelines.

There are no newspaper articles.  There is no news coverage or paparazzi. There is no makeup, CGI,  or plastic surgery.  Years down the road,  someone might ask "Hey didn't you..." 

The tragedy of all this is that there is no recognition, no accolades...

No honor conferred to a task worth remembering.

You (the movie producers and graphic novel writers) don't put these amazing men and women THAT ACTUALLY EXISTED in front of our sons and daughters to aspire to true greatness.

Instead,  the news focuses on the bombers and what latest Hollywood movie we can expect.

No truth in inspiring things.

So,  in closing,  Hollywood I challenge you. Bring me a heroine that I can point to a on the screen and tell my daughter "See her,  baby? She was a real superhero. Let me tell you about the amazing things she did. She.  Was.  Strong.  In every way a woman should be.  She was inspiration." 

Hollywood,  give me a superhero that I can show my son and tell him "See that?  Powerful does not mean rich or politically allied.  It means that you always treat others with respect, and live to lift others up when they fall. But that most of all,  you are a gentleman."

True power is not a magical gift.  It is victory over incredible odds,  then taking that victory and helping others in their own struggles to achieve their own victories. Without seeking accolades.

So,  in your anticipated silent response,  Hollywood,  I will continue to find the people who are everyday extraordinary and teach my children that's what it means to be a superhero. Not some pretty boy with a team of support that turns stories into reality,  or some stuffed shirt version of the perfect woman, who doesn't do anything without screaming or crying.

I will teach my children that the real superheroes are the ones who turn reality into a story to be told to our children and our children's children. The legends in my own time,  whose faces are rarely known.

Mommy (struggling superhero to two amazing children)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pre Race Thoughts

At the risk of my post coming out wrong...  Just some thought processes going into tomorrow.

I've been worried about tomorrow's race for some time.  It's the race that I usually qualify at.  Qualification really hasn't been a priority to me, until they announced Chicago for nationals 2014 and worlds 2015.  I really want to go to worlds and be part of Team USA.  It isn't likely that I'll be able to travel to China or wherever they do worlds after Chicago, so this is really my best chance.

The first year I did the race, I placed 1st in my age group, 4th female,  17th overall, and did a 1:32 time.  Last year I placed 1st in my age group, 2nd female, and 10th overall.

So I kind of feel like I have something to defend and something to prove, even if it's only to myself.

I've definitely learned that it's more who shows up to the race at this point.

I almost didn't sign up.  I'm still trying to recover from my bout with strep this week - I'm completely exhausted.

BUT - I'm going out tomorrow with one specific goal in mind - do better than last year - even if it's only by a few minutes. That would be a great race.  It's such a technical course (garmin reports 4000 feet of gain over 16 miles on the bike, and 400 over less than 4 miles on the run.

A perfect race would mean faster splits (all 5) and defending my podium without any technical issues.

Last year's race report is here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Triathlete Moment #53759462

That moment when you catch sight of your face in a mirror after a swim.

Holy goggle rings, Batman!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Playlist Thursday 7/25

I found myself watching one of the Barbie movies recently while on was on my trainer.   Mostly because the kids had been put to bed an hour before, but hadn't stayed there.  And mostly because I wanted to finished my workout.

What I came across was a pretty good song that I've since added to my playlist for my indoor rides and my runs.

On Top of the World

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Playlist Thursday

This is one of my favorite songs from my playlist.  I find that training gives me time to think, recover from the hard times, and helps me to find the best version of myself.  This song has a good beat and a great message that I can feel - running makes me come alive.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I'm a little bit jealous...

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  I'm finding myself in a position where people look up to me.  I don't mind, but I'm not always the successful, confident person that people have sometimes taken me for. I have my moments of bravery and success, and the rest of the time usually revolves around epic failures, laughable screwups (no really - I do some of the dumbest things sometimes), and hard work that sometimes results in ohmygodicantdothis tears before I actually finish.


I'm a little bit jealous. I saw this woman the other day with a beautiful manicure. My nails are broken and chipped. They are cut short and usually unpolished, and I frequently have grease under them.  I paint them in colors that look like they belong as traffic vests or paint stripes on the road when I do paint them (usually having something to do with my daughter).

I'm a little bit jealous. I saw this woman with beautiful skin the other day. I have crazy tan lines, scars from falls, chafing, wrecks, and I'm almost always breaking out.  Looking at my tan lines might remind you of the maze from the movie Labyrinth.  You could play connect the dots with my scars (I'm sure it'd form a giraffe or something similar).  I even have one scar now that looks like an epic tramp stamp fail.

I'm a little bit jealous. I saw this woman the other day with skinny legs. My legs will never fit into skinny jeans, and some outfits are entirely out of the question.  I feel like I'm trying to stuff sausage into its casing when I put some of my clothes on.  I SWEAR the dryer shrinks my jeans!  And skirts?  No, I'm still sporting the giraffe on my leg where my kids connected the scar-dots.

I'm a little bit jealous. I saw this woman the other day with long beautiful hair. I keep mine short and in a pony tail. And it's almost always a mess from working out. There's just no reason to style it because I'm going to be in the pool or pulling it under a helmet in a few hours anyway.  It looks GREAT when I get out of the pool! Then it dries and I'm back to a pony tail.  Any other time, I resemble a tribble, a porcupine or like I stuck my finger in a light socket.  What - you mean frizzy ISN'T in style?

I'm a little bit jealous. I saw this woman the other day in some cute running clothes, and they were very flattering. I wear things that keep me from chafing, show every bulge, and rarely show me in my best light.  And my post race high is usually ruined by that e-mail telling me that my pictures are available.  Oh YAY!  I can order pictures of me grimacing in pain while the parts that aren't stuffed into revealeverythingspandex jiggles around visibly for the camera!

I'm a LOT jealous.  That woman over there is a LOT perkier than me - and it isn't the coffee.  The most I can hope for now is a good sports bra during training, and something when I'm not training that gives me a shape somewhat resembling normal female anatomy. I'd be flattering myself if I said  my training bikini had much to support.  At least I have a place for ice to keep my core temperature cool for the longer, hotter races.   I admit it, I stuff my bra on race day!

The list goes on.  Sadly.  I haven't even gotten into the fact that I managed to trip over my bike while it was on the trainer and bash my head on a shelf.  I'm a pretty creative klutz like that.

But my priority is to set a good example for my children.  Which means that the things above - just aren't that important - in the scheme of things.

True beauty isn't genetic.  It is learned.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bad Ass Women

I started my blog to be able to talk about triathlon and the road to the ironman.  Somewhere along the way I learned that it wasn't the goal but the journey.  And the best part of the journey was the people I met.

So recently I convinced a few others to do a 30 day challenge with me.  Sit ups, crunches, leg raises, calf raises, push ups, planks and squats.  And the women who did the challenge with me saw a variety of changes.

But it was near the end of the challenge that the magic happened.

Some time ago, I'd seen a photograph of a woman holding onto a heavy bag with her legs, doing a sit up.  I wanted to do that.  So I told the others that I wanted to do it, and found that one of the other girls wanted to as well.  So we worked hard.  And without further comment, I present to you the magic:


 

 

 

 

So these women did several sit ups (all tried to find heavy bags, not all had access) from the equipment they were hanging from.  Pretty amazing feat if you ask me.

Every woman on here has a full time job, responsibilities, and commitments. Their lives don't revolve around fitness.

Every woman on here managed to do something difficult and amazing.

Every woman on here is on a fitness journey all their own.  They are at different points, but each displays the same dedication and drive to achieve difficult goals.

Every woman here is a bad ass.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nutrition and Hydration at Ironman Texas

I've been working specifically on nutrition for 18 months now.  After a nutrition disaster at Ironman Austin in October of 2011, where I had to abandon my plan and rely on flat coke and water to finish the race, I needed a change.

So, I turned to Infinit.  I'd heard about them, and at this point, was up for anything.  Eighteen months later, it's been successful.  But it did take some work.

At Ironman Galveston in April of 2012, I nearly bonked on the bike.  We discovered that my heart rate runs too high for me to make use of the protein that was in my bike mix.  We switched the mix to higher carbs/lower protein, and raised the calories a bit.

When Ironman Texas came in May of 2012, it went like a dream.  After that, I kept the calories the same, and made tweaks to my hydration system.

At first, I was using multiple water bottles, which I really didn't like.  Some time last summer, however, I found FlexrSports, and their remote water bottle kit.  Basically?  A water bottle with a really long straw.  I went through several variations of the remote kit setup on my bike.  Finally this year, I settled on this:


There are two 28 oz bottles behind the seat, and one long flexible straw that connects the two then comes up along the top tube to the aero bars.  I recently overhauled my bike, and when I put it back together, I wasn't really happy with the way the bottle cages sit - so I changed that too and wound up with this:


You'll notice the bottle cages sit upright, and there's a water bottle on the aerobars.  Right now I use a bungee cord to hold that bottle on, because that bungee is pretty damn useful for lots of things - including keeping the straw in place.

So, my nutrition plan (trained, tested and proved) goes something like this:

Breakfast is coffee and oatmeal about two hours before the race starts

About an 30-60 minutes before both half iron and iron distance races I start sipping 12 ounces of water mixed with a 1 hour serving of my bike mix - I finish this about ten minutes before race start.

I start drinking my Infinit bike mix right out of T1.  For half iron distance races I mix an hour and a half in each bottle, and for iron distance races, I mix three hours in each bottle.  I know exactly how much to sip every 15 minutes to get exactly the right amount of calories for however long I'm on the bike course.  I take water bottles from the aid stations and rest them on the aerobars with the help of that bungee cord.  Depending on how hot the day is, I'll drink a minimum of 20 oz per hour.  Ironman Texas 2013 was a whopping 40 oz per hour!

Once I get back to T2, I have a flask set up with Infinit's Napalm.  I drink one ounce every 20 minutes.  This year at Ironman Texas, I had an empty plastic water bottle that I reused for my special needs bag.  I put six extra ounces of Napalm in that bottle. I take water and ice from all the aid stations if it's pretty hot, otherwise, I drink to thirst.

One other thing that I do - I carry an extra hour of my bike mix on me in a plastic baggie, and I pick up a bag of gu chomps from an aid station and put them in my pocket - just in case.

As far as nutrition goes - after breakfast - I don't have anything solid until after the race is over.   And I don't notice getting hungry at all.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ironman Texas 2013

Wow, what a difference.

Another year of experience behind me. Another year of training. What to expect no longer a mystery.

A few last minute fixes
A week or two out I had that feeling. It happens less and less now.  The "what did I get myself into?" feeling.  Where I'm not sure that I really want to do the race I've signed up for.  The feeling didn't last very long, but race nerves started a few days early.  By the time I left town on Thursday, my race nerves had peaked.

Thursday evening after athlete check in I put in a short swim - after that, the race nerves were gone.  I'd put in the training, logged the hours, the miles and the meters.  There didn't seem much of a reason to worry.

The race comes without permission, and happens - with or without me.  The weather would be what it would.  We were expecting high eighties, high humidity and about half cloud cover.

Bike check in.  Hot.  Few clouds.
Race day came.

I was more forgetful this race than for any of my others.  I had the essentials, but also had to arrange things differently than planned. Everything set up, then off to the swim start.

Age groupers piled into the water - where the pros were getting ready to start.  The pros started, then time for age groupers to line up.  We tread water for about ten minutes, and it got crowded.  Very crowded.  We were bumping into each other, getting kicked, elbowed, grabbed.  Finally, it was time to go, and.....
 HAND TO FOOT COMBAT!!!

The washing machine
The swim felt like it went on forever.  And I felt like I wasn't going anywhere.  At first, everyone was packed tightly in and it was hard to get in a groove.  But in comparison to last year, I had a stronger pull with a slower cadence, and better endurance.  The overall swim was faster for me.

Into transition - that went better too.  Better planning and more experience lent itself to getting out faster.

Onto the bike.  I remember last year, it felt like I was flying and I had to hold myself back.  This year, no such feeling.  My body felt worn out going into the bike.  But still, I had a good pace, and consistent power.  In reviewing the files later, I can see that the power and cadence remained consistent throughout the ride.  But that's where the good news stopped.

The aerobar slipped
As soon as I got on the bike, my aerobar started slipping.  By the time I reached the first aid station, I had slipped enough that it would no longer support a water bottle.  I tried anyway, but dropped it.  So I couldn't start hydrating until I reached the second aid station, when I started putting the bottles in my kit pocket.  Long before then, my stomach started cramping.  But I did the best I could to get nutrition and water in. Fortunately, I'm completely liquid with my nutrition, so there isn't anything solid in my GI system to draw fluids away from the rest of my body.  The cramps got progressively worse, and by the time I got to 70-80 miles, they were so excruciating that I could not remain aero for more than a few minutes at a time.  AND, starting as soon as I could, I was drinking about 40 ounces of water an hour, keeping my kit wet, and dumping water through the vents in my helmet.  As with last year, around 80 miles is where it just got purely miserable.  And it was hot.

I was so glad to see the chute leading to transition.

This transition is where is started to become clear just how hot race day was.  I remember sitting in the tent and thinking "Where is everyone?"   I stayed in the tent long enough to get more water on and in, cool off and make a bathroom trip.  But it still took a while.

Then onto the run.  Once on the run, the stomach cramps eased up, and in reviewing the run file, cadence and pace stayed about the same for the entire run.   On the flip side...

It.  Was.  So.  Hot.


I'm really not sure how I kept going.  By the time I was nearly done with the bike, I was dizzy.  Later, I found out I hadn't had enough calories before I got to the run.  I hit the run dizzy, cramping, hot, and much more miserable than I expected.  My calves started hurting at some point, and I got to the point where I was afraid to eat or drink anything that I didn't have to.  I didn't want a spectator to catch a picture of me urping up my toenails.

 But I focused on what training had taught me: cadence - keep it mid to high eighties, pace - keep it steady, get the nutrition in, drink water, get ice in my kit, and try to figure out how to cool off.  Focus on one foot in front of the other.  One at a time. And again.  I knew sometime during the second lap that I was likely to need more after the race than several bottles of water.

I remember thinking "It must have been this hard last year."  I remember wanting to quit.

But I didn't.  Something in my nutrition plan helped me stay functional until the race was over, and some part of me - one of my defining characteristics - kept me going.  I don't quit - that's just who I am.
Just before my hugs

Race day turned out to be 95 degrees according to several, and mostly sunny.  It takes it's place as the hardest race I've ever done - mentally and physically.  I wound up in the medical tent becaust I was dizzy and nauseated. They gave me a bunch of fluids, massaged my lower legs so that I could walk, and let me go.

But I will be signing up next year.

The best part of my race was seeing my kids.  It always is.  My family is my best support crew and my motivation.  They braved the heat to come see me and to cheer me on.  And six miles into the marathon when I was miserable, I came around a corner and got the best hugs in the world from the two best kids in the world.
And finally, the finish