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.