Monday, September 2, 2013


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.


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.....

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Harassment at a Half Marathon?

I recently read this post after being asked my opinion of it.

I'm appalled.

Not at the signs, or at the fact that random men were paid by a corporation to hold them out there.  To me, that seems like it's actually a pretty brilliant marketing scheme by a makeup company.

I'm shocked by the fact that a spectator (also someone that a quick search on athlinks reveals has not ever run a race) would believe that they have the perspective to complain about such a thing.  The author of that post called it "sugarcoated and corporate sponsored street harassment."

She complains about the signs and states that they objectify women, and asks if we we see these signs at a men's marathon.  Her answer is no.  (I giggled about that one.)

Now I've been at countless mixed gender races, and I can tell you that a sign saying "Hello Gorgeous" would be pretty damn cool at mile 24 of a marathon when I'm digging deep for every last bit of what I've got.  I can also tell you that the signs get better. They are one of the best parts of racing.  Years down the road, we laugh about what some of the signs say.  My favorite (I forget the race now, but it was during the run of a mixed gender half iron distance triathlon) said "You have stamina, Call me."  At whatever point of the race I was at, I laughed.  And at that point, I needed it.

The author of the linked post has no perspective on what those signs out there mean to endurance athletes - and yes, you would find something VERY similar at a men's half marathon.  You'd probably find signs that you'd consider worse.

If you continue this rabbit trail, you might endanger one of the best parts of our races.  The signs from our kids, our husbands, our wives, our parents.  The ones that say "Hello Gorgeous,"  "You're beautiful when you sweat," or "Cute Running Shoes."  The ones that keep us motivated because someone is watching.  It gives us the strength to dig deeper in ourselves.  To find strength when we thought we had none.  Guess what? Our families that are out there to cheer us on are all random people to all but one person.

And you, you may think you've done something wonderful.  Stood up for women that you think are being harassed.  But thousands of racers will resent that their families can't put signs up for them because one spectator once, with no perspective on what a 24 inch by 36 inch piece of cardboard meant, took offense to something that is part of a culture they couldn't possibly understand.

And don't even try to school me on feminism, sister.  I've been entrenched in a patriarchal career for almost as long as you've been alive.   This is one female keeping your assumptions in check.

Those signs?  They were brilliant.  Women are gorgeous at every point in their athletic path.  They are beautiful when they sweat.  And running shoes - well - the good ones are getting cuter.  So dig your panties out of their twist and lighten up.  Go for a run.  And at 13 miles - see if you wouldn't like some random stranger encouraging you.  Because that is what that sign is.

If anything got objectified out there that day, it was the guys holding those signs.  Thanks, Bare Escentuals - and also thank you to the guys that held those signs for all those beautiful women.  A half marathon is hard.  You probably made it just a bit easier for them.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston and Texas

The events of the last week are heartbreaking - first Boston, then West - both equally terrifying and personal.  Personal because after the titles of mother and wife, I also carry the label of firefighter... athlete... paramedic... 

At first I had something to do: make sure my entire team and their loved ones were all right.  In the chaos that ensued after the explosions in Boston, it took some time. So we waited...  And we talked...  And we started the healing process.

Then, before we could begin to really understand what had happened in Boston, another tragedy, this one much closer to home for me.

When I first read that email "explosion,  firefighters were onscene when it happened" my heart went cold. Over the next several hours, we began to find out the staggering enormity of the event, and how hard the first responder community had been hit.

Texas is a big state,  but as a firefighter, it's a very small world.  Everyone knows everyone or one of their friends in the fire service. We feel each loss personally.

I spent the next day getting involved in small ways from a distance.

It wasn't until Saturday that I found out that the Westboro Baptist Church had announced on twitter that they were planning on being at the funerals here in Texas.  All I could think was " Oh no you don't.  Not my family!"

That's probably when all the emotions, all the stress, all the activity, and the grief of the past week overflowed.

Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, to wax spiritual... 
I firmly believe that when I stand before my maker, I will be left with two things: the intent of my actions while during my life, and the results of my actions. Not results as in I did well in a race.  Results as in how I affected people, how I made them feel.
I pray that on the day the people who picket funerals meet their maker, they feel the anguish - the horror, hurt and helplessness -that they have caused in other. That is Hell.  An eternity of perfect knowledge of the pain caused to others.

Today I saw a picture of Bostonians blocking the roads to anyone that would cause more pain to those who have lost, and I applaud you, Boston.

Texas - we just finished one awful, traumatic week. But I think we will find strength in our brotherhood to shelter those who have lost from even more pain.

A few observations from this week...
The bombings in Boston were aimed at spectators and runners.  But runners and their families, especially marathoners, and most especially those at Boston  know how to rise from the dark places.

We saw some absolutely amazing people rise above the call of being human: several people leapt into action to save a another's life, a police officer brought a family in Boston milk when the city was on lockdown, a city banded together to protect their own. 

And while there were still people making dumb statements on social media, or insulting police or first responders, many people got a glimpse via social media into a world that isn't all glory.

But there will always be a need for fire and police, just as there will always be a need for communities to come together in times of tragedy.

And there's one more label I should add to the ones I listed at the beginning of this post- American. This week has brought out the best in Americans in reacting to immeasurable challenges.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meanest Mommy EVAR 2013

I'm proud to announce that I've been nominated for the Meanest Mommy *sniffle* EVAR Award for 2013.

The whole family is suffering the effects of a cold and the preceding grocery store trip did little to improve our moods.

I'd seen the pictures on the internet of the kids in their "We Will Get Along" Shirts.  Unfortunately my kids are pretty different in height, so even my husband's biggest shirt didn't work out safely.

So...  I improvised.  I let them know that they had to get along for five minutes before I'd set them free, and if they argued or if I heard anyone crying, I'd restart the clock.

See the belt around them?

I'm honored to be nominated by BOTH my children.  I believe it means that I'm getting this parenting thing right.  I mean, without the parenting manual and all.  I'll make sure and remember to mention my mother when I write my acceptance speech - she did wish that I would have one just like me someday.  Maybe I'll pass that along to my kids too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

That woman at the gym...

With the weather getting colder, I tend to do more of my workouts in the gym, or at the house on my trainer.  I'm not a fan of being cold.

But I'm also a parent AND an athlete.  Which means that some of my workouts happen on a treadmill or a trainer out of necessity.  But if you're a parent, you know that bathroom time is more valuable than all water in Texas right now.

So, basically, I'm that woman at the gym that takes twenty or thirty minutes in the shower because I can.  Because I know that the daycare people (who are a gift from god in her infinite wisdom) can't find me won't look for me there, and there's no fighting outside the door, no coloring books and crayons being handed to you under the door, no kids raiding the pantry for snacks while you pee, and nothing getting broken the second you turn that lock.

You could call it hiding from the destroyer of worlds who is walking this earth as the damn cutest little boy I've ever seen.  And you could call it avoiding the independent little girl that is going to ignore what I tell her and do it her own way (which, I imagine is a product of my own "There isn't anything you can't do if you set your mind to it).  You could.

I call it maintaining my sanity.  It's the only way I get to wash my hair and my armpits without slipping on the floor out of the shower to breakup the "MOMMY (S)HE STOLE MY TOY/SNACK/UNDERWEAR!" that comes about 3.2 nanoseconds after I step into that glorious hot water.

I honestly can't figure out how a 45 minute run on a treadmill turns into a two hour visit to the gym, but I come out of there with a good workout and my ability to smile while the three year old throws a tantrum because the six year old has her fingers in her ears and isn't listening to him but is yelling because he is crying.  Seriously, I laugh at that crap because it's damn funny even if it frustrates the living hell out of me when it happens.  There isn't a whole lot you can do in public nowadays to discipline them except lean over and whisper in their ears about what's going to happen to them when they get home. 

But going to the gym and taking my time gives me that ability to maintain my calm.

I've just signed my youngest up for preschool, so in the fall, I'll have a half dozen hours a couple times a week without the hellspawn.  I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with myself, but I imagine I'll be able to get outside more to workout, and use my own shower more, rather than take all my nice shower products to the gym.  I imagine I'll get to shave my legs more than once a week.  I imagine that I'll get to see some of my friends again, go running or riding with my friends again, and I won't have to figure out what to do with the kids so I can do it.  And then, I'll be able to shower or pee without world war three starting outside the bathroom door.


Ya know?  The three year old is almost always doing something that has me laughing, and the six year old is so curious about everything in the world that it's fun to learn with her.

I sure will miss them.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 in review...

2012.  Where do I begin?  This is likely to be a long post, so grab some popcorn and a comfy seat. 

This is part 2 of the last post.

I knew going into 2012 that I had something totally crazy that I was planning to do.  THE marathon.  I knew that it was likely to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I remembered from running my first marathon that everything was about perspective. 

So on a slight whim, I signed up for Bandera (50k).  I'd heard good things about this race.

Yeah.  About that.

Bandera stands as the most painful race I've ever done (for me).  Hills, cactus that I was holding my hands over my head to keep from getting stuck (because it was as tall as me), rocks, steep slopes, and trail running.  *Shudder* 

I know someday I'll do longer running races, but I'm not sure if I'm prepared for Bandera again.  But I accomplished what I set out to do.  I set out to learn to hurt.  I set out to find out how bad it could get, so come February and a marathon, I could put that hurt in perspective and keep going.

February rolled around, and I thought I was ready. Ten days before the marathon, I rolled my ankle and wound up with a sprain. But I wasn't going to be "the woman who WAS going to run a marathon in firefighting gear." So I sucked it up, buttercup, and did it.  I'd been watching the weather for weeks, and it promised to be a beautiful warm day.  Not a great day to be running in firefighting gear.  But, with the help of a random stranger from the internet (who is now a great friend, with a super awesome wife that puts pavement runners like me to shame on the trails), I finished.

I met some great people through that process.  A fellow blogger, and initially a member of the media (whom firefighters trust about as far as they can throw them) has become a good friend.  I definitely don't get out to ride with her as much as I should.

In March I was invited to join Team Firefighter, a non-profit group of firefighters, nationally based, that race and train for a cause.  These guys are all in different places in their athletic careers but they are all great guys that work hard, train hard, and help each other out.  I've found my place with them and look forward to seeing where the team goes from here.  There are some really amazing people on the team, experience in all levels, and passion for firefighting and racing.

I'd have to call January and February "perspective setting" months.  What followed was a whirlwind of "oh crap" moments and "I can't believe it."

March 17, I drove down to ride the Ironman Texas course to be familiar with it ahead of time.  I officially had my first "I-didn't-just-fall-over-because-I-didn't-unclip-fast-enough" wreck.  I took a concrete ledge wrong and got a pavement sandwich as a result.  At mile 3.  Of 100.  The next 97 miles were miserable, but I wasn't going to make the friend that I had driven three hours down with waste his day and the trip.  Keeping up was another story though, and it hurt my confidence.  Two days later I found myself getting my right side x-rayed to rule out any breaks.  I sprained my right shoulder, and bruised my right femur.  And left a small amount of skin on the pavement.

Two weeks later, I was racing Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston.  I almost bonked during the ride because I hadn't prepared appropriately and wasn't as familiar with my nutrition as I should be.  But the worst was that my hip started hurting during the ride, and every step on the run was painful.  I came away not having realized the effect that my wreck had on that race, and was pretty frustrated with the result, even though I did get a slightly better time for the distance.

I met someone at Galveston that has become a really great friend and mentor.  She's about a year or two ahead of me in racing, and in the same age group.   She's given me some really great advice, and been there when I've been clueless.

Finally, the injuries healed, just in time for Ironman Texas in the middle of May.  After everything that had happened during the Spring, it really did seem like a really long training day. A long training day that may have been mentally hard, but wasn't nearly as painful as some of what I'd done previously.

But I did run into Michelle again, and she put me in touch with her coach, Jeff, at Apex Endurance.

This is when the magic started happening.  Jeff agreed to coach me, and he started teaching me all the things that I'd been guessing at when I was coaching myself.  All of a sudden, I started learning the things I was capable of doing, rather than guess at what I might do, and I started to have confidence in myself.  I was learning how to pace better, what pace to run specific distances at where I could hold it for the entire distance, and most importantly, to trust myself.

Under his guidance, I started to see some big changes where I'd been nearly stagnant before.

Race after race I started to see major PR's.  Tri season culminated with a 3rd place AG win at a half iron distance race, and the last running race of 2012 was a half marathon with a 3rd place AG finish.   The last race is a well known race on the Austin circuit.

I've also completed my first stand alone bike race and swim race.

To really think about it, I'd have to break 2012 up into two parts.  The first, leading up to, and including Ironman Texas, and the second, beginning about a month after.

The time leading up to and including the Ironman taught me a lot about myself, about others, and about relationships.  I've met some really great people, online and in person.  People talk about the Ironman - and in training it's about the race, the race, the race.  But after the race, at some point, you realize it was the journey.  For me, the journey brought a group of kindred souls into my life.

After the Ironman...  I would say I've started to push my limits, but I haven't found those yet.  So instead, I'll say I'm pushing ME. 

I do have my husband and kids to thank for such a great year.  They've been patient with me and my crazy racing/training schedule, listened to me when I was trying to figure things out and needed to bounce things off of someone, and been my cheering section the whole time.  I can't imagine a cuter cheering section than my beautiful kids.

Best moment of the entire Ironman
2013 is a mystery. But I look forward to what this year will bring.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I remember when...

I've been thinking about this post for a while. It's the first part of a two post reflection on the last year.  2012 was a wild year for me, but success isn't anything more than just a finish line if you don't remember where you started.

So... In no particular order:

I remember seeing the picture of my fire chief on his desk from when he crossed an Ironman finish line.

I remember thinking, "Maybe I could do that."

I remember thinking, "I never want to do this again!"

I remember when three miles was a daunting task.  Texas heat and humidity were excuses.  Rain, cold weather, and darkness were good reasons not to go.

I remember when I went and just ran.  I didn't have any idea how to train, and I couldn't understand the notes on many of the training plans that I tried to use.  I just ran.

I remember when getting faster seemed impossible.

I remember when I didn't know how to carry water, didn't know anything about nutrition and finished so many of my runs weak, sick, and swearing I would never run again.

I remember running again.

I remember signing up for races and looking at the previous year's times to make sure I wouldn't be the last person across the line.

I remember hurting during my runs and afterward because I was wearing the shoes that I thought were pretty, rather than the ones that were right for me.

I remember when an hour run was my long run, not my usual training runs during the week.

I remember my very first race.

I remember running for health (well, 'cause I figured out that running meant I could eat more), running for stress relief, and running because I finally saw improvement.

I remember wanting so badly to win.

I remember finally placing for the first time in a small local race.

I remember realizing that it wasn't about winning.

I remember when my priorities changed.

I remember being so overcome with emotion that I might actually finish my first marathon.  And somewhere in that 26.2 miles I realized how great of analogy the marathon is for life. I also realized in that 26.2 miles that I was just beginning to learn who I might be and what I was capable of.

I remember telling my husband that I was never running a marathon again.

I remember letting go of expectations. And finding out that I was better that I'd been letting myself be. 

I remember finding myself out there.

I remember finding some great friends that teach me so much about life, the universe and everything. (42)

I remember being in dark places. During races, during training runs, during life. But I remember there isn't a dark place that a pair of sneakers can't help me get out of. 

I'm sure there's more.  I've finally gotten the kids (including the big one) to bed, and I'm typing this out on my phone.

But I look in the mirror sometimes and wonder who the athlete is that's standing in front of me.  Because I remember.