Monday, December 31, 2012

Sweet Dreams

2013 scares me but at the same time it excites me. Goodnight 2012.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

I survived, and I'm not talking about the so called end of the world. I'm talking about the days become shorter and shorter. From now until June they will become longer and I can slowly come out of my hibernation. I've already noticed that the sunsets are getting later, but now we will have more hours of daylight. I've also survived my 'winter break'. Two weeks of no biking or running or any elevated heart rate exercise ends tomorrow. WooHoo! We made it. There was a time when it wasn't hard for me to take time off, I actually wouldn't even unpack my bike after an Ironman for over a month. But, something at some point switched and it became what I do, not what I have to do. So, as the days lengthen so too will my workouts. It is time to build a huge base for the year and it all starts tomorrow, but not too early because it is now officially winter and that means it's a bit cold in the morning:). Even a bear waits for it to warm up a bit to come out of hibernation and I am definitely resembling a hibernating bear right now. I have put on my winter coat of insulation and I have been sleeping lots! Hey, I figured if the world was about to end I needed some extra fat in case I became lunch for a zombie. But alas, I'm as surprised as everyone else that it didn't happen and now I have some extra fat to squeeze into my lycra.

As hard as taking two weeks off has been I know it is necessary. I need to be very disciplined this coming year and by cutting myself some slack (okay, tons of slack) I have a renewed sense of dedication. So tomorrow officially starts the road to becoming a Leadwoman in 2013. I doubt I'll feel like a leadwoman but I will feel like a lead ass and that's a start:) Today was the end for me, but tomorrow is the start. Happy Winter Solstice:)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dream Home

I want to be a dirt bag. Not the kind that says douche ball things and leers at the opposite sex. The kind that lives out of their car, or in my case van. Everyday you can pick your location and we all know real estate is about location, location, location. Of course a view follows pretty closely to the location, and how valuable is a view that can be changed? Ocean view today, mountain view tomorrow.

I know some people's dream homes are thousands of square feet with outdoor swimming pools, gardens and forests. The limits are endless for life as a dirt bag. Miles of trails right outside your door, natural hot springs, pools in creeks, ocean a few steps away. Lots of woman have lists of the top end appliances they would like in their kitchen. Well, I have a gas stove and my fridge is so fancy it can run on propane, electricity or battery! Take that sub zero:)

Of course I still am part princess so my van is equipped with a memory foam mattress, and my sheets are 300 count. I have running water, which is easily heated on the stove, so I in fact have hot water. There is a furnace, so if I choose I can have heat. There is almost always a fire place and I have a room addition on the side as well as a porch. When I am sitting on my porch watching the sunrise or sunset (cause I usually watch the sunrise from the picture window at then end of my bed) I can't think of any nicer home in the world.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Melting Down

How good would throwing a temper tantrum feel right now? A full fledged toddler in the row of a supermarket meltdown? I'll just throw my pack off into the cacti, lay down and hammer my fists and feet into the ground. No wait, my feet hurt, I'll rest them and just bash my hands and head into the dust and scream a bit. No one will see, I'll feel so much better, I'm going for it.... that was at about mile 37 of my 50 miles.

How did I get here, other than the obvious, on my own two feet. It had all started out so well. I was loving it, I was trotting along feeling amazing. I was on top of my fluid and calorie intake. I had met some interesting people and had some great chats along the way. I had summited the climb (which was described as seriously steep, and that was an understatement). But then the unexpected had happened.

I had read and been told to be prepared for the unexpected and so I was. I had immodium, bendadryl, an epi pen in my pack. I had more calories and fluid with me than I needed at any given time. I had lights in drop bags that I should be passing WAY before the sun went down. I had an emergency field foot repair kit in a drop bag. I had layers and layers of clothes in various drop bags just in case it rained in the desert, or got a snow storm. Oh yes, I was prepared for the unexpected, except I wasn't. It was unexpected that I could need any of these things, but I had thought about it. What I hadn't expected or thought about was that I might have an asthma attack. That seemed very far fetched since the last time I had used an inhaler was well over 5 years ago, but it happened. The dust, the dryness, the less then clean air quality, and breathing it in deeply for over 6 hours had caused my bronchial to tighten up and wheezing to start.

At first I just tried to plow through it in denial. I put on my iPod, cause if I can't hear the wheezing then it isn't real, right? That worked but the coughing couldn't be ignored. I had to slow down on a slight downhill. It was prime for opening it up and running, but even doing that caused me to breath deeper than I was able. In order to keep the bronchospasms from happening I was reduced to a slow shuffle. I pretended I was still running, but we've all seen those people. I could have walked faster but my pride said, I'm going to run. I got passed by people who looked like they were flying along, I'm sure they weren't since they were behind me until this point and it had been an ugly couple of hours by now. I just kept repeating, relentless forward motion. As long as you keep going forward you are getting closer to your goal.

After the nice long gradual downhill wide trail I was back onto a flat section. Once again I was walking and the frustration, coupled with being a bit tired got me to the point of the trailside tantrum. As enticing as it was I had to continue moving forward and flinging my gear and raging wasn't part of that. Thus, the whole meltdown occurred in my head. All that visualization practice put to darn good use:) I was sobbing a bit, but then realized that the gasping wasn't making my breathing any better. Someone yelled at me 'stop being such a pussy' and I looked around to see where they were, seems the stern lecture came from none other than me. So, off I set to get to the next aid station where luckily I had a light and some clothes cause we were quickly approaching darkness.

As I left the aid station I had contemplated taking a short cut back to the finish line. The short cut was 3 miles of unmarked trail compared to the 6 miles of well marked race course. I knew if I got lost out of the race course search parties would be in the right vicinity. If I got lost out on the short cut, it could be a long night. Off I went, dressed like a homeless person with various unmatched clothes and my light. Note- I probably smelled like a homeless person at this point as well so it was all appropriate. I wasn't on my own for long when a fellow racer came upon me. He became my forced companion since he didn't have a light and there was no way he could find his way on the trail in the dark. I was navigating and setting the pace since I had the light and he was following me. I told him he would be on his own when we got to the start/finish area. We had to go through there before our final 5.4 miles. When I knew we were close I was picking up the pace and running, horse towards the barn. Plus, when night fell moisture came into the air and suddenly the dust was down and I could breath better.

Running into the finish shoot felt great, I knew I was done. I told the timing guys my number and that I was pulling out. Hubby heard that, and said WHAT! You are so close. No way, you aren't stopping now. It's only 5.4 miles (easy for the guy who hasn't run 44.6 miles to say). Then he told me, I'll come with you. You are allowed a pacer now and I'm coming. Handed him my spare light ( I know, I had two lights and didn't give one to the guy with no light. Don't judge me. I didn't want to have a light die and be out there in the dark. Besides, I did help him, I lit the trail for like 5 miles for him). Told the timing guy as I ran past 'guess I'm back in' and off we went chasing down my previous running buddy.

The best miles of the entire race were the ones where my husband ran with me. It was awesome. He was wearing regular clothes and shoes. He led the way and I just followed. I put my brain on off mode and just let my legs move. I was able to breath again, I felt better than I'd felt since mile 30 or so. I was actually back in this thing. We caught and passed the only guy even in the same zip code and kept going. I made it to the finish line, I can't say I ran 50 miles, but I did 50 miles on my own two feet and beat the time cutoffs. I thought about quitting but I didn't (well, I did momentarily but I took it back so it doesn't count) I went through the valley of doubt and ran out the other side. If you melt something down you can reshape it into something stronger and better.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

One Step at a Time

This coming weekend is my first 'official' ultra run. Yes, I have run a few 50km training runs, but this is the real deal. Last night I had a bit of a freak out, okay, maybe I panicked a bit and my eyes might have gone a little glassy and misty. I suddenly realized that I have to be ready, there is no more preparing. Luckily, the voice of reason, in the form of my husband, stepped in. I was prattling on about how far 50 miles is and I wasn't sure if I was ready. He told me that I was as ready as I was going to be at this point. Mostly what he said that stuck with me and is going to be my mantra is that I had decided that I was going to do this so I was going to do it. Sometimes it becomes that simple. I will be out there and at times there will be low points but I chose to be out there and therefore out there I will be. To me this is like a midterm exam. See what material you have mastered and what areas you need to work on for the final exam. (unlike many of my real midterms, I've actually been attending class:)) So, I am heading out onto the trails with the intent of learning as much as I can. I probably won't hand my exam in first, but I will get it done. I will be learning from myself but I also will be looking over the shoulders of the more experienced people out there learning as much as I can from them. If I wasn't a little intimidated then I'd be concerned. It is when we are challenged that we truly rise to the occasion.

I will control what I can while I am out there and I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. Relentless forward motion will get me where I need to be. When the race starts I will choose to take my first step and I will just keep on going one step at a time.

"the longest journey begins with a single step".

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Bike

I thought about getting a new bike, or two. I even put my road bike up for sale. After all it is 11 years old now, a guy was coming to buy it, but then I panicked. You see, it fits me perfectly and there is nothing wrong with it. Apparently, there are lighter and better bikes out there but there are also lighter and better riders out there and the bike isn't trading me in. So, I am keeping my workhorse road bike who has never seen a race but has seen plenty of open roads and lots of scenery. That led me to consider a new mountain bike. There are way lighter fancier mountain bikes out there. I started doing some research and even was set to buy a friends fancy racing machine. I mean, I am going to be 'racing' some this coming year. The lighter and faster the bike the less work I would have to do. I could drop at least 4 pounds from the bike for about $2000 in upgrades. But I could drop 4 pounds from my frame and save money by buying and eating less food. So, I am not buying a new mountain bike either. Seems that I have longer relationships with my bikes than most people relationships last. I'd probably still be riding my banana seat bike if it still fit.

I did purchase a new bike thought and I encourage all of you to do the same, or at least some parts. You see there is this fantastic program called World Bicycle Relief that supplies bicycles to people in Africa. They put bicycles in the hands of students, health care workers and entrepeneurs to improve their lives. So, while a shiny new bicycle might have made it a little easier for me to get up the Columbine climb in August during the Leadville Trail 100, it would not improve my life nearly as much as it does for these people. Not to mention for just $134 you can purchase a whole bicycle! Still not sure it is something you want to do? Check out this awesome contest over at Fat Cyclist Through his contest you can donate and buy a bike for a really good cause and have the chance to win a new bike for yourself, or someone you love-hint hint:) Just think about how much easier it is to stay in school if you don't have to walk 2 hours each way. How about how many more patients a health care worker can see in a day if they don't have to walk. You can bike at least twice as fast as you can walk.

This is the holiday season and people are making their wish lists for gifts. If anyone is looking for ideas on what I would like here's a hint. I'd like a new bike, or a tool kit, or part of a bike for someone who I don't know in Africa. Then when I am spending hours and hours over the next year riding my 'old' bikes, I'll have the pleasure of picturing a young girl experiencing the thrill of riding her new bike. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 Year Plan

Just over 20 years ago I was sitting in my professors living room at a wrap up party for both my nursing education and our women's health course. During the evening she asked us all where we pictured ourselves to be in 20 years. What was our life plan? As I listened to the others and waited my turn I got a feeling that the girl sitting in that room would no longer be around. I couldn't explain it, but I knew that the person I was at that time wouldn't exist. When it got to my turn I wasn't able to articulate what I was feeling, this was really new to me. It was like an aha moment. I didn't have to know now what I was going to want to do and be in 20 years. In a weak response, I informed everyone that I thought the girl before them would be dead. Now, I didn't mean literally, but it shocked many people. I tried to explain, who I am now is just a fraction of who I will be then. Really, the thought of making a plan that went 20 years into the future freaked me out. After all I had only lived 23 years at the time.

The other graduating students all seemed so sure in their life plan, and I hope that it worked out for many of them. For me though, I wanted to be able to take experiences as they arrived and let my life be shaped as I went along. If the me then had made the plan for the me now I would have missed out on so many opportunities. I was told at the time that if you don't have a plan then you will let your life slip by without accomplishing what you desire. I made a plan then and there that I would try to go with the flow. When things presented themselves I would take advantage of the chance. My only real 'plan' was to have no regrets. When faced with a fork in the trail, to pick one and carry on.

It has now been over 20 years and that girl who was perplexed by the idea of a 20 year plan wouldn't even recognize much about herself. Funny thing is, I still remember her and I am grateful that she had the courage to know that there was so much out there. She isn't dead, she is strong and the driving force behind me still taking on new challenges. Although, she'd fall over dead if she heard that she was training to run 100 miles! If I could go back in time and answer that question now I would tell my professor and all my fellow students that my 20 year plan was to live a life where I don't keep a bucket list, instead I live the bucket list all the time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

More than a Number

She steps on and then she steps off and back on, she looks around and then she glances down at the number. It's a scene played out over and over again in locker rooms and bathrooms, women stepping on the scale. Too often, that number flashing back at them determines who they are. More times than not, I see her step off with a grimace, letting that number tell her she is not good enough. Someone has determined what number is good enough and for her today, that is not good enough. As athletes we are obsessed with numbers almost as much as an accountant.

We are a society that is constantly measuring. Power, miles, pace, time, weight, how many races and placing. You hear it in conversations all the time. You did what race, what was your time? Did you podium? What were your splits?

Some people say that you are only as good as your last race. Do you really let a race or a number or a placing define you? There is almost always going to be someone faster, stronger and better than you are at anything, anything except being you. No one can be as good at being you as you can.

Currently, I am in the countdown to running my first ultra race. I am running a 50 miler. According to the race website I am a zero. A big fat ZERO is next to my name. I am at the bottom of the entrants list, I practically do not exist in their world. I am choosing to think of this as a blank canvas. So many possibilities.

Instead of fixating on the tangible numbers let us be defined by the intangible. Don't focus on heart rate, instead focus on heart. How much heart you have is way more than a number!

Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running. -Julie Isphording, 1990 LA Marathon winner”

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Light the Way

The path in front of me was illuminated showing me the obstacles and ways around them. To the side and back of me was pitch black. I could not see a thing. The silence was calming and I found myself heading in the direction I wanted without worrying about where the paths I did not take ended up. I was on the path I was on, and it was lit for me.

If only we could go through life with a headlamp showing us the way and the distractions around us being cloaked in blackness. Riding and running with only my own lights to show the way, I only see the obstacles that are directly in my path. I do not worry about the giant rock off to my left, I can't see it so I move on by it without a care.

I have taken on a huge goal for the next year. One that will present me with enough bumps in the road, I do not need to worry about the ones others are encountering. I need to stay my trail, choose my line and go with the flow. When you have enough lumens lighting the way it is easy to trust the course. My suggestion to everyone is to strap on a headlamp and head out into the world looking where you want to go. If you don't shine your light into the bushes, the monster eyes won't be shining back at you and you won't even know he's there.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Monster

A monster has taken up residence in my life. He can show up anytime, anywhere. He is big, hairy and scary. He likes to taunt me and put doubts in my head. The only way I know to silence him is to run and bike.He mostly has me running though.

When did I first see this monster? The first glimpse of him was a shadow in the woods in 2009 outside a little mountain town in Colorado. He crossed my path again a few times in 2010 when I returned to the same town. Maybe it was just the hypoxia from the lack of oxygen in the air at that altitude but I promised him that we would become good friends. We would share many hours together and I would tame him... one day. We have been silently courting each other since the end of July. As of this morning the time has arrived to make our relationship public. As of tonight he will take up residence under my bed, in my closet and in my head. His name is Leadman and today begins my journey in domesticating him.

Right now, I am trying to keep him caged while I develop the skills to take him on. So far the cage isn't working very well, I might need a muzzle too and a stun gun. He already gloated at me when I had to fill out the part of the form that asked how far is the furthest I have ever run. Ha- you think you can run 100 miles in under 30 hours and you have only run 50km before. At first he had me almost crying but then I silenced him by saying when I signed up to ride 100 miles on my mountain bike I had never ridden over 50km on it and now I've run that same course- twice. Zing, he was quiet for all of  2 seconds. Then he reminded me that I had actually ridden a bike further than that though. That didn't leave me crumpled enough, he bared his teeth and pointed out that I am still going to have to ride my bike 100 miles in the dirt one week before I run 100 miles. Oh and throw in that little 10km the day after the 100 mile bike. But I won't even be able to go into those battles if I first don't complete the trail marathon and 50 mile mountain bike ride within the time cut offs. Yes, this monster comes with an army of scary friends.

The best way to defeat an enemy is to know them well. So, I am going to cuddle up to my monster, spend hours and hours with him and maybe just maybe come June 29th when I line up to begin the first battle of the war my monster will have become my ally.
A unicorn doesn't care if you believe in it anymore than you care if a unicorn believes in you.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Two Left Feet

The trail was flowing beneath me, we were partners completely in sync with on another. That was one minute and the next minute we were in a domestic dispute. That trail up and walloped me, left me battered, bruised and shocked. So why do I keep going back for more?

I remember the good times, the times where we could read each other and how it felt to dance together and I want to recapture that. Only problem is, I've never been much of a dancer, or very good at any choreographed movement. When I was in college I attended aerobics classes for fitness. I learned which teachers kept things simple. If the moves got too fancy (meaning we moved two body parts at once) I was lost. I would inevitably run into the person next to me and end up in a sweaty red faced mess on the floor. Classes that had the word dance in the title were therefore off limits. I like to dance, I'm just not under the illusion that I am any good at it. Of course when Jack or Jose are at the party I become a much better dancer. Smooth and flowing and most certainly in time with the music;) At least those party boys think I can dance, otherwise why would they encourage me so.

I have been told that running trails downhill is more like ballet than running. I'd be all for it if that meant simply that I had to wear a tutu. As it stands, I keep stepping on my partners feet. Instead of pirouetting I end up stumbling forward like I'd spent a few hours with Jose or Jack and landing in a heap. It seems I always manage to gracefully clear all obstacles with my left foot only to be caught up by my right. Making me the only dancer pining for two left feet:0

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sweating Courage

This past weekend I saw courage flowing out of women. I was at the SheRox triathlon as a mentor and as I was out on the course I was in awe of so many of the competitors. There were super fast ladies on the latest and greatest equipment at the front of the race but they aren't the ones that really impressed me. No, these front runners all looked like athletes and were racing against the clock.

The women who were most impressive to me were those who were riding whatever bike was in the garage, whether it fit them or not. The gals who were buddied up with their friend and encouraging them along the way. The women whose bodies didn't resemble what society associates with a triathlete but they were out there. No matter how slow they covered the course, they did it. They put themselves out there and to me those women had more strength and inner fortitude than any winner had.

This race is excellent for the support all the women give each other but one thing I noticed as I was out there cheering the last finisher home was how few spectators were left. I suggest that in the future at this race everyone heads back out and brings every last lady home in style. We have women only events as a way of supporting and encouraging women to enter the sport in a nurturing environment. The biggest superstars of this race are the ones who keep going and bring it home last. Let's get out their and lighten their load in the home stretch, they've been carrying that suitcase of courage a long way.

Welcome to the sport athletes!

Monday, October 15, 2012

True Grit

I have a sweatshirt that I got in the 11th grade. I still wear this sweatshirt all the time. It is the most durable piece of clothing imaginable. The cuffs aren't frayed, there are no holes in it and the graphics are still clear. The only thing is I lost the string from the hoodie, but I lost that before it was 2 years old. this sweatshirt is still super comfortable and there is nothing I like pulling on more after a good workout than this. It is in the wash almost every week. Why am I telling you about my sweatshirt? Well, I have been thinking lots about durability lately. It is on my mind when I am out running trails for the better part of the day trying to coax along some lastingness into my legs.

This weekend I ran up and down and back up and back down a mountain. I was enjoying the up way more than the down. I thought I was a good descender- boy was I wrong. Just like I am led to believe I have mad bike skills when I compare myself to triathletes, I was tricked by all the same triathletes I fly by any time the road dips down on the run. BUT, ultra runners, now they really are good at downhill running. Instead of a downhill lasting 1-2 minutes, these last 45 minutes or more. That is a long time for me to relax, let gravity take over and not fight it. I start to feel like the trail is just taunting me for a face plant. My legs just don't have the moxie for it - yet. It is getting better though, my persistence is paying off. The true test of how much sturdiness my quads have developed is that night I was able to get on and off the porcelain throne without using my upper body I'll keep plugging away at it and maybe one day my legs will have as much true grit as my Russell Athletics sweatshirt.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Muscle Head

Strength and endurance are two areas that are so important in undertaking physical challenges. Luckily, there are areas that can be trained and toned over time. Everyone knows that you need to do workouts to build your muscles and get your cardiovascular system to handle the load you are going to put it under. Most people focus on specific training and workouts to develop the muscles that they are going to be using during their chosen activity or event but there is one muscle that can pull you through anything if it is trained appropriately. That muscle is the mind.

People talk about mental strength like it is either something you have or you don't. I have heard it said 'she is so strong mentally' but where does that come from? Is is something you are born with? Or is it something that you train and develop just like any other strength? I personally think mental strength is something that is developed and honed like any other muscle. Those who go out and go through the physical motions without doing the mental training are the ones who are going to fold when the going gets tough. No matter how strong you have made your quads or hamstrings, they are not going to keep you going when you are hit with adversity. That is when the mental muscle takes over.

Growing up I was taught that no matter what you don't let someone break you mentally. I remember when I was taking horseback riding lessons, the instructor was extreme and he made all the girls cry. One of my friends came out of the ring after her lesson one day red faced and tear streaked. My dad looked at me as I was heading in and said 'do not let him break you down, do not cry'. I remember that during my lesson he yelled at me, called me names and told me I was basically useless on a horse. The more he yelled the harder I dug in, I left the ring that day not having cried. To this day I am not really sure what he though he was gaining by making young girls cry but it was a lesson I never forgot. My mind can be powerful, I had decided that I would not cry and so I did not cry. 

With mental toughness people also lump will power. I do not think will power should be in the equation. If you are doing a race and you are relying on will power to keep you going and not quitting then you are having to go through the decision process over and over again to keep going. No, you make a decision before you are even at the race that you are not going to quit and therefore remove that option and then will power can be left at home. Making firm decisions, black and white decisions means that when it is tough you just move through it. If you have removed the other options it really isn't that difficult. BUT, you have to train this just like anything else. So, you decide you are eliminating potato chips from your diet (I use this because this is my vice). You make a firm decision you will not eat potato chips, not a soft well I'll try. NO a firm decision that you don't eat them. Now when you are faced with potato chips, you don't have to use will power to make you not eat them, you just don't eat them because you don't. This may be an over simplified example but if you make these kinds of firm decisions often enough, your mental fortitude gets strengthened. 

In endurance races we are physically out on the course for hours, but the most important place we are is in our heads. What is your inner voice talking about while you are out there and are you listening? Do you listen to strangers when they talk negatively to you? Then why do you listen to that inner voice when it has something negative to say? You can try to change what it is saying, or you can choose to not listen. I have found that if you don't listen, most people, including your inner voice, shut up or go away. 

What drew me to endurance sports in the first place was not the physical training and seeing what my body could do. No, like most people I was fascinated with what the mind is capable of doing. When the body appears broken down and at the end, the mind has the ability to keep it going and when you are physically fine, your mind can shut you down. A good training program addresses your physical strengths and weaknesses but a great program turns you into a muscle head.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Backing It Up

In all my research for ultra running training I have read that one of the most valuable workouts that can be done is the 'Back to Back' (B2B).This means that you do a long run one day and go out and do another one the next day. If I wanted to play with the big boys I needed to step it up.

This weekend I did my first B2B. I had no idea what to expect but I did know that I had done plenty of long runs on tired legs in the past. I was just more use to having done a long hard bike ride the day before. They say that the purpose of the second long run is to learn to run on tired legs and to keep on going when you aren't feeling it. Sounds fun doesn't it?

Amazing Views

For some reason I was looking forward to my first B2B weekend. Not because I was excited about feeling how tired my legs were. No, I was looking forward to it because I like spending time with that girl. The girl who digs in and doesn't quit. The girl who sets her mind to something and executes it. The girl who gets crazy songs stuck in her head that make her smile. I like to peel away the layers and spend time with the girl at the core of it all. Sure, sometimes she can get whiney and needy but most of the time she just proves to me that she loves to be outside testing her limits.

The first weekend of B2B went well. The second run my legs were tired and going up hills my calves informed me that they had done a boatload of work the day before. I managed to eek it out and finished what I set out to do. It was fun, in that no fun fun way that we all seek.

Tana was about this impressed by my feat

For some reason no matter how far I run Tana still expects me to take her for an afternoon walk. She is never impressed by my athletic prowess, quite the contrary. Luck for me, she was up for a walk at the beach that afternoon. She thought we were there for her to do some swimming, we were really there for me to soak my legs in the therapeutic pacific.

I can see the reason the back to back is considered the bread and butter workout. I felt like I had been backed up over by a semi truck Sunday night.

Bracing myself for the initial cold shock
"The greater the obstacle the more glory in overcoming it"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lean On Me

It seems that in ultra running as in life it is best to choose your running partners wisely. You are going to be spending hours and hours together through better and through worse. There might even be some sickness involved.

On Saturday I got to tag along with a great team. Along the way I learned many lessons. We ran up and over and back up a mountain. Luckily for me both of the guys were facing their own struggles. I didn't want to rejoice in their suffering but it did make it a more even playing field and I was able to keep up. One of them had the remnants of a flu bug. He puked trailside but refused to turn around. According to him this was most excellent training for the late miles of a long ultra when anything could happen. Due to his leaving extra fluids out of the trail he managed to run out of water. His partner was able to share some of his. While I watched the sick guy sucking on the straw of the other guys camelback I couldn't help but think that was true caring. I am not one for sharing straws with well people so that would have been stretching my limits. I did have a contigency plan if he needed water from me, I could put it into my hand held from my straw and no straw sharing would occur. Yah for me, I could still be an asset to the team.

When sickie was feeling better and only coughing up small amounts of phlegm to leave on the trail he was called upon to be the strength of the team. Cramps were setting in to the other guys legs. Lucky for him, his chosen running partner is also his chiropractor/ART therapist. Talk about picking a good partner! Anyone can give you salt tablets and a bit of water but trailside body maintenance is pretty hard to come by! I was able to take a bit of a break from ascending and descending a mountain while the appointment was being conducted, during which time I sucked on some nice fresh water out of my camelback and had a snack.

Prior to starting the run the guys made sure to email me to bring plenty of food and water. Sounds like they didn't want an albatross around their neck. Even starting out they were looking at my pack concerned about the amount of water I was carrying. I assured them that I had 70 oz and was prepared with food. I kind of felt a bit guilty as they were rationing water and I arrived back at the base with extra. Not guilty enough that I was sharing my straw voluntarily though, I had just met them after all!

When you are running up and down mountains it is good to be self sufficient but it is nice to know when the going gets tough, and it will, that you have someone to lean on. I just hope that at some point I will be strong enough and experienced enough that I can say 'lean on me'.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome Back Mike

Sunday I had the most emotional finish of my life, and I wasn't even racing. I had the honor of witnessing the most inspirational person I know complete his comeback to triathlon after being hit on a bike ride by a drunk driver over 7 years ago. He has done a few swim/ bike events in the last few years but this was his first triathlon and he chose a tough half ironman. I wouldn't expect anything less from him than picking a tough race because this guy is one tough dude. I still tear up now 5 days later when I think about seeing him crossing that finish line. When I tell Mike that he inspires all who know him and his story he responds with 'Nah, I'm just doing what I do'. We should all Be Like Mike and do everything we do with an infectious positive attitude. Mike was a triathlete prior to his accident but it is with pleasure that I say Welcome Back Mike, it's nice to have you home and out on the race course is where you belong!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fallen Tree 50km

On Saturday I completed the Fallen Tree 50km trail run. It was hot and long and this is my race report.

A little back story. I have never run over 26.2 miles at one time before. That is to say the farthest I have ever run in one day is a marathon. Some people who run marathons run further than the marathon on the day because they do a warm up and a cool down. I do not. I get to the start line and use the beginning to warm up and I cross the finish line and I stop. Therefore this was completely uncharted territory. I have been doing some training runs in the mountains with ultra runners (which is what people who run further than a marathon are called) in preparation for races they have coming up. I even am on tap to pace one of them for the last 19 miles of her 100km event but I have felt like an impostor out there with them. The Fallen Tree 50km on September 15th it would be, I would be at the starting line and I would lose my ultra running virginity.

On Friday the weather was fore casted to be very hot and very dry on Saturday. Some lesser people might have decided it wasn't a good day to do their first ultra run, the hottest day of the year. I was not that person. I had committed to the event and from what I know of ultra runners a little heat doesn't stop them. (they have this 135 run that starts in Death Valley for crying out loud, these people are the original honey badgers!).

At 7:01  on Saturday I crossed the starting line. Official start was 0700hrs but chip time had me at 0701. I had my new camel back LR vest with 70oz of fresh water in the bladder and food to survive a long time. The time cut off was at 1600hrs 9 hours into the event. (we had a dinner party to attend). I also carried a hand held bottle with electrolyte mix in it. As I clicked off the first miles I noticed that it was already quite toasty out and the sun was out in full force. I like the heat so just needed to make sure I stayed on top of my hydration. Carrying your water on your back makes you want to drink it, the more you drink the lighter your load becomes. I concentrated on pacing myself but two miles in I made my first pass. She wasn't in my event, was doing a much shorter run so I found my head playing games with me. My internal dialogue went a bit like this 'you are going out too fast, you shouldn't be passing someone, but I feel like I am basically crawling I'm going so slow, okay make sure you don't push too hard on the uphills, remember the experienced girls walk the hills even at the start'.

Just over two hours in after I made the creek crossing on slippery moss covered rocks without slipping and falling in the water (score one for keeping dry feet) I hit the first water station. A quick fill of the hand held at the water fountain and stop in the porta potty (yes, I was on top of my hydration) and I headed up the 2 mile climb. I made my second and fifteenth pass of the day in one swoop as I went by a large group at the base of the trail up. (it was a boy scout troop). The whole way up the switchbacks I kept checking down to make sure that they weren't gaining on me. I have read many ultra runners talk about the importance of getting out of sight with the pass so I made sure I did that. There must have been another event using part of the same course, or the other runners I saw had gotten lost and off course because as I was heading up, they were heading down. I knew that the Fallen Tree 50km did not do any backtracking. Smuggly I carried on.

At three hours in, my pack had gotten fairly light and my hand held bottle had less than a half left in it. As the day heated up I was needing more and more fluid. I had just come down a very steep, very exposed trail with no breeze and I knew I was going to need more water soon. Prior to the event the crew station locations were a little vague so I pulled out my phone and called my support crew. No answer. That's okay, he's probably driving to meet me and is going to surprise me early. I held on to the belief for the next 4 miles. I saw several mountain bikers through this section and they all were very encouraging. I got to where I thought my crew would be and they were not there. A guy who had just finished his mountain bike stepped in and gave me the two mouthfuls of water he had left in his bottles. I tried calling my crew again, still nothing. I started to look at the lake I was passing and wonder how sick the water would make me and why I was not carrying purification tablets like a seasoned pro would have been? Still have so much to learn! Suddenly my phone rang and my support crew was on the way.

I plugged along, running when I could and walking the steep uphills. I was starting to find the flats a  little tough. Suddenly I turned a corner and there in the distance was the crewing station. I picked up my pace with thoughts of cold beverages and fresh squeezed OJ. My crew was awesome. He totally took charge. Slathered me in sunscreen, filled my pack, insisted on filling my hand held when I said I didn't need it since I had no electrolyte to mix in it and he wet me down and put my hat on me. Off I went completely refreshed and in disbelief. I wasn't sure it was true that me hearty had actually touched my disgusting, salt encrusted sweaty body but the evidence was there when I looked down and saw the sheen of sunscreen on my arms and legs.

The next section of the run saw me enter the hottest part of the course. The trail was lined with vegetation and deep in a valley so there was no breeze. It was sweltering and I was beginning to have lots of self doubts. Really, who was I kidding, I had barely trained for this thing, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I was fairly familiar with this trail from mountain biking it and knew that soon I would be going up some switchbacks out of the valley. Just around the next corner for sure I would say. Amazing how much faster you get there on a mountain bike. Finally, I saw the climb and rejoiced in the fact that I could walk up it. About an hour after I left my crew I noticed that my pack was surprisingly light and the hand held he made me take was dry. I still had some time to go and this was not good. I may have just climbed out of the valley but I was now in the proverbial valley of the run. It was not a good place, things started to hurt, I started to dread the downhills. I called my crew and arranged another meeting.

When I had been running with the veterans they had told me that they use music when it gets rough to motivate themselves. I poo pooed that idea as not being purest. Well can I just say I have never been so happy to have a speaker on my phone and pandora available. I pulled out that crutch, put it on the 80's hair band station and suddenly my legs came to life. Nothing like a little ACDC to turn me into a fast machine. I may have been shuffling, but I was making forward progress and then suddenly I took a huge pull from my straw and got the dreaded dry sucking sounded. I felt back and sure enough my pack was empty of water. I told myself it was okay, my awesome crew would be there in no time. Once again he appeared like an oasis and this time he not only brought me water and electrolyte but an ice cold coke. I let him take charge and did what he said and was out of the crewing station in no time and on my way to the finish. I was buoyed for the remainder of the run by two things, first the charge I got from the caffeine and sugar and second as I headed out me hearty told me he was proud of me for getting it done.

As I started up the final climb into the home stretch the words coming out of my speaker were 'you may be right, I may be crazy, but it just might be a lunatic you're looking for'. The universe made me smile with how fitting the songs were that came out of that little piece of magic. As I crossed the finish line in first place I had a wash of overwhelming relief and pride. I had accomplished what I set out to do. Does it make me an ultra runner? I don't know, they say if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it that it doesn't make a sound. Even without a witness though, the tree still goes from standing to being fallen. It may not have been a sanctioned event, but I still covered 50km with my own feet in one shot and I hold the course record for the Fallen Tree 50km.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Go Go Girls

This past week I had the great opportunity to test ride and Elliptigo. The last time I received so much attention going down the street I was wearing a go go girl costume in bright daylight. Everyone was very curious about the machine we were on. Originally, we weren't sure that we had blocked off enough time to get in a good workout but the 90 minutes that we had them out on the roads were plenty. Immediately I noticed how high it got my heart rate and I was working hard. These machines mimic running and are great for the injured runner or someone who wants to put in more running miles without getting injured. You can also cover way more territory on one of these than regular running. We were able to keep up with some bikes on a slight incline, and we didn't really know what we were doing. With a little practice we could have chicked them!

I had to concentrate quite hard on not trying to make the circular movement that I do while on a bike and try to mimic the running motion more. By the end I was getting more comfortable with it. The Elliptigo balances easily and I never felt like I was going to tip over, but I never got to the point where I would have been comfortable one handed riding either. (not surprising since it took me years to ride a bike without hands as an adult). They come in several different models with the high end one having more gearing and carbon parts. The ones we were on had 8 gears which are in an internal hub. When asked about maintenance we were told it is pretty easy. Clean and lube the chain, keep the tracks clean and adjust the gearing with a hub on the cables. Since the gear cassette is internally housed it doesn't get dirty and apparently lasts at least 1000 miles before it needs any kind of maintenance. My final take was if you love to run and can't anymore this is the tool for you. If you love the be outside and live in a climate like I do then this is a great cross training tool year round. They can be put on an indoor bike trainer as long as it accepts smaller wheel sizes, so you could have it indoors as well. Much better than a stationary close hanger, er I mean elliptical. How many people can say they ride their close hanger. All in all it was a great workout, and a great social tool. You are guaranteed to meet people while out riding one of these, everyone had their interest piqued! Next time I might just don my go go girl halloween costume and really give them something to see:)


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dusty and Rusty

In my attempt to put the dirty back in dirty hundy I have been out on the trails quite a bit lately. I have come home dusty and noticed that I am also a little rusty. I squeak a little too much when I am attempting to roll over things on my mountain bike that I have had no problem clearly in the past and like a rusty tin man I am not moving as quickly with my joints to counter my crappy choices in lines through the rock gardens. One thing that my poor choices in places to roll my tires has shown me is that the path of least resistance does not always lead to where you want to go. On the mountain bike trail and in life sometimes you have to go over or through obstacles to get to where you want to go. The trail that originally looks easy and obstruction free may end up being strewn with debris and dead end. So when you are faced with the choice, sometimes pick the tougher way to get there. I have learned that you feel really good about yourself when you actually clear the boulder and get to the other side. It may take a few tries but overcoming a challenge is very rewarding and the views when you get there are usually spectacular.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hard on the Body

Yesterday during my run I overhead a couple of gals having a discussion about how much they love running. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop but as I was coming up from behind I could hear them for a long way and once I passed them their conversation switched (just to be clear, I wasn't able to hold a conversation at the pace I was going and they were talking non stop, which is why I was able to pass them) to how everyone tells them how hard running is on the body. Both of these gals agreed that they wouldn't give up running until their bodies gave up running. When I was out of ear shot of them my mind kept thinking about this statement. We are told all the time as runners that running is hard on our bodies. We are even told that it isn't natural.

How is running not natural? I'm not a scientist but I think being sedentary is not natural. Yes, people do get running injuries and yes sometimes joints do give out but go to any orthopedic surgery unit and see who is getting joint replacements. I haven't done a true study on this but I worked in this setting long enough to say that the majority of hip and knee replacements were on obese patients, not on runners. I personally know people who have never been runners who have bad knees, bad hips, bad backs and are hobbling around. I'm not saying that runners never hobble, of course they do I'm just saying that I don't think running is any harder on a body than living.

I have yet to see someone who's body doesn't start to break down as they age. There comes a point when you just aren't getting any younger. I have seen people who have had knee problems prior to running eliminate those so called problems when they become runners. I was one of these people. I had reconstructive knee surgery when I was 10 years old. I had what they referred to then as ruptured my knee capsule and everything that was suppose to anatomically under the patella was sitting out to the side. I was a figure skater and it was on my jumping leg. They 'fixed' it but I had troubles with it inconveniently dislocating at random times after that. I just had to have someone pull my leg straight and it would pop right back in. Surprisingly, once I started running regularly in my 20's this little inconvenience disappeared from my life. My knee has never been a problem since. Running seemed to provide some structural strength that I was  missing. I have had a few running injuries over the years but never has my knee been one of them.

My whole run yesterday I was thinking how I agree with the ladies I overheard. I love running and will keep doing it. I might be told it is hard on the body but it sure is easy on the mind. Our bodies are like cars, if we leave it sitting in the driveway and don't drive it, it will still rust and the engine will still need work. If my body is going to break down and age, I'd rather drive it there.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Get Rolling

One of the things I hear the most from people is that they just can't find time to exercise. It isn't about finding time, it is about making time. Make a decision that you are going to do it and schedule it in. In the beginning it is hard for all of us but once it is a habit for long enough it becomes who you are and what you do. No longer is it an option, it is just part of your life and you will get it done no matter what else if going on. We all started somewhere, but just like the boulder once it gets rolling it is much easier to keep it rolling and harder to stop it. Get out the door and get rolling.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Designated Driver

One of the things that I love about being a coach is that I get to be part of so many journeys. When someone comes to me with a destination in mind it is my job to make a road map to get there safely and on time. I think of myself as the designated driver at the party. Like any good New York cabbie will tell you though, there are many ways to arrive at the same point. Therefore, along the way I need to make sure I know of alternative routes and detours for when roadblocks present themselves. At the same time, like a celebrity limo driver it is my job to get my stars to the red carpet at the correct time. I need to time it perfectly so that they can make a grand entrance, showing up early and having life time best workouts in training only akin to walking the red carpet before the photographers have even set up.

As the chauffeur to the athlete it is my responsibility to remain sober throughout the party and be the voice of reason. It is very easy after they have an amazing workout for them to want more, but I learned in college that more isn't always better and I'd prefer to avoid the hair holding incidents of over indulgence. In the midst of a good party though the revellers can often lose sight of reality, how many guys did I see put their head through glass doors (when is that ever a good idea), so it is up to me to keep sight of the large picture.

I want my athletes to have trust in my tour guide abilities. Therefore, I spend hours pouring over all the details of their trips and stops along the way that best serve their purpose. Sign up with me and you get a personalized itinerary, no two trips are the same. Sometimes along the way we might visit the latest trendy spot but we also spend plenty of time on the classics. Most importantly I make sure that everytime we travel to a destination even if it is one we've visited we don't take the same route there. Every trip can be improved on, even lifetime bests.

Right now I am driving a party bus of amazing people to several different destinations. I am super excited to have been included on all of their journeys and love to see them flourish along the way. Being the designated driver at this party is way better than it was in college:0

Who's in your cockpit?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nothin's Worrying Me

It's been almost two weeks since I travelled up to the beautiful emerald green pacific northwest to the Lake Stevens 70.3 triathlon. I was super excited to head up because I love that area in the summer and I was going to get to hang out with some great friends. There are lots of race reports out there that describe the course and the beauty of the region. My race report is not one of those. It was a fabulous race but what I remember the most about the race is the Super Awesome amount of snot and golden nuggets that my sinuses and lungs produced. It was impressive! That would explain the pressure in my head the last 4 days. I swear there were buckets of extra body fluids being stored in my sinus cavities.

At the start line I knew I wasn't primed to race well. When you start coughing uncontrollably during a light swim warm up it is a pretty good indicator that your lungs aren't going to tolerate much heavy breathing. Thus, I settled in and had a comfortable swim racked only occasionally by coughing. Let's just say the lake water was clear when I started, not sure how it was for the waves behind me.

Onto the bike and I started to feel the sprinkle of some rain. No problem, if you are cold just go harder. Whoops, that doesn't work so well when an increased effort means an increased oxygen requirement. Look how fun it is to ride in the rain, at least it helps wash away the copious amounts of sinus drainage all over your snot rags-otherwise known as arm warmers. I saw a few crashes while on the bike ride, luckily they were in front of me so I didn't feel responsible for the slippery roads. Throughout the whole bike ride raindrops kept falling on my head, and I did me some talking to the sun, begging him to come out and warm me up.

I got off the bike, cause that is what you do in a triathlon. In transition I chatted with a few girls and then I decided to give the run a try. Right away the rain let up and it was dry. I knew on the first slight incline that my lungs were not going to tolerate an elevated heart rate but I had travelled all this way and I wasn't going to stop. Plus, I had an athlete out on course and what kind of example would I be by complaining and whining. The good news is, I wasn't dizzy, I didn't bonk and I finished the run course with a pocket full of unopened gu packets that I picked up out on course. It is pretty evident you aren't really racing when you ask what flavors are being offered and you get yourself a nice selection to take home. It was not the race I had hoped for, trained for and travelled for but cryin's not for me. I wasn't going to stop the rain from complaining. It was what it was and I still managed to have fun because I'm free and nothin's worrying me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stories to be Told

When I was younger in one summer I devoured the entire Adventure series by Enid Blyton. Perhaps I was particularly found of the story because I felt I was a part of them. They had a parrot named Kiki, who was particularly clever and saved the foursome from many a mishap. To this day I believe that it is our adventures that make the best part of our individual novels. All of our escapades do not have to involve castles and strange lands, sometimes legends can be created at home by facing our fears and conquering demons that reside in our minds. In the past week I was able to once again be Kiki the supporting character in an adventure series.

Lizzie's Grand Running Adventure

In December of 2011 my client Liz set the goal for herself of running six half marathons in six months. Not only was she planning this impressive challenge but she set mini challenges along the way. Her first half marathon was a trail run with quite a bit of elevation gain. Prior to this race, Liz was not a trail runner. That quickly changed and she knocked it out of the park. In February she decided to do a local hilly road race as her run of the month. She could have taken the easy way out and run a flat course but she wanted to test her limits. Dragon number two slayed. March brought another road half and it went off without a hitch. In April she set her sights on another hilly half with the mini goal of running up the big hill. Some practice sessions up an even steeper hill and she arrived at the starting line with a full arsenal of weapons and killed the beast. Not satisfied to just to 6 half marathons in 6 months the May half was exactly one week after the super hard hilly April one and she managed to run it in almost exactly the same time. Five down and just one more to go. June didn't quite go as planned. Sickness set in and one thing led to another. No official races fell on the calendar on dates that Liz could make but that didn't stop her, I wouldn't let it. So on July 4, 2012 we did the first official Run Lizzie Run half marathon. Liz has some great friends who came out to support her and run with her. We combined a little bit of everything she had in her other races, hills, trails, flat sections. Since this was an official race there was even a sprint to the finish line. We had an official cheering section and most importantly we got it done. SIX in SIX. So proud to be an accomplice in Liz doing something which back in December she wasn't sure was possible. I have to say I always knew she could do it and I wasn't going to let her let herself down. Looking forward to being along when she slays her next monster.

Cherry's Adventure at Sea

One of the things I love the best about my friends is how activity is entwined in most of their lives. For my friend Cherry's birthday she wanted to do a group ocean swim. Now that is celebrating life. Less than a week ago reports were that a great white had been spotted in that area. Some wondered if we were afraid. I didn't think he'd still be swimming around but I also know that sharks live in the ocean. I'm so glad that even those among us who were harboring a slight fear were brave and jumped in. It was a spectacular day for swimming at the cove. The water was clear and a nice temperature (for us wetsuit clad seal imitators) and the sea life came out in force. We started out swimming to a yellow buoy, but it moved. Might have been a dive float. Brought back some memories of race buoys being blown away but all was good. Once out there we chose another buoy, and then another, and another to swim to. Rather than doing a birthday pub crawl we coined it the buoy crawl. Along the way we saw schools of Bat Rays, lots of pretty fishes and just as we were heading in a gray fin made it's appearance. WHAT? Oh, good there are three more. Don't panic, it's dolphins. Of course we all had the same initial reaction and therefore there were also some turtles out there;) After a fabulous tour de buoys we headed in for an amazing picnic with absolutely delicious food. Can I say another thing I love about my friends is that they take such good care of me and there were fantastic vegan dishes! Such a lucky girl. Fabulous company and lots of laughs and good times. The dolphins were a sign that the heroine of this tail is going to have an amazing year.

La Jolla Cove
'Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn't long before I actually wasn't afraid'. from Cheryl Strayed's 'Wild'

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canada Day

Today is Canada day so happy birthday Canada. Even though I haven't lived in Canada in a long time, I am still Canadian as evidenced by my passport that needs renewing every five years. While I was out running, wearing my Canadian flag socks of course, I was reflecting on the things I miss most about living in Canada. Here is some of the list.

1) Curling. I was first introduced to the curling rink by my grandpa and I fell in love with it, the smell of ice and the smack, smack, smack of straw hitting the ice as someone yelled 'Sweep, SWEep, SWEEP'.

2) Hockey night in Canada. Mostly to make fun of Don Cherry's outlandish suits and crazy comments.

3) Long summer nights with the sun still up (of course I do not miss the opposite, long dark winter nights!)

4) Being served vinegar when I order chips (french fries).

5) Bumping into someone by accident and having them apologize. 'sorry, sorry'. So polite!

6) Being close to family and friends so that I could spend a long weekend with them.

7) Okanagan fruitstands. The best!

8) Coloured money, the loonie and the toonie. At least I could carry a couple bucks around on a run without having to wring it out afterwards!

9) Interesting reading on cereal boxes. My french may be limited to Raisin Bran.

10) Nanaimo bars, proper Scones, Smarties, but most of all Old Dutch Dill Pickle potatoe chips. Oh how I miss those!

So all you Canadians who were at the local pancake breakfast having real maple syrup, or at the local parade or just eating delicious old dutch hope you had a good day 'eh!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sonic Boom

Yesterday there are many reports of a sonic boom that was felt and heard all the way from California to Nevada. I did not experience this phenomenon as at the time I was in the water swimming. Swimming the fastests 100's of my life. Coincidence?

I apologize for the scare everyone. I will be swimming again tomorrow, consider yourself forewarned:)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

National Running Day

Today is national running day and the question is why do you run? My reason for running today is so different than it was when I began. Over the years I have learned that running is a great way to explore new and old places. Some of my favorite travel memories involve running. Here are a few pictures that I have taken on runs over the years (at least since I've had a digital camera).

 Cottage in Hyde Park London

 River in Patagonia Argentina

 Early Morning on the Seine in Paris

 Catalina Island

 Virgin River in Utah

 Oak Creek Sedona Arizona

Sunset Cardiff by the Sea- there really is no place like home:)

Hope everyone got out and got their run in today in celebration of all that running brings to our lives. I know my life has been greatly enriched since the day I became a runner. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Girlie, Tough Ain't Enough

Off the bike, quick transition into my running gear and I head out for round three. Starting the run at Ironman never feels great but I take stock and my legs feel good, I feel strong and I am still going tough. The streets are lined with spectators and the energy is amazing. I am getting lots of shouts out for my unicorn kit and I feel like all my preparation and hard work has paid off. I held strong on the swim and the bike and now all that is left is to run the marathon....

Bamo Whamo, not two miles later I am not able to focus my eyes, I am experiencing severe dizziness and I am listing left and right. Of course this is just as I come across my super awesome cheering squad and I have a complete mental breakdown. I am not sure what is going on, but I want to cry. Where is the tough girl from 2 miles ago? Has she completely vacated the premises. I go over to me hearty and try to hang onto him, but for some reason he is keeping me at arms distance and barely patting my back. Are you telling me I am not super sexy and hot and you don't love the smell of me right now? Even in my disoriented haze I recognized the lack of physical attraction he was experiencing. Ever the voice of reason he tells me to slam calories. I respond that I have been doing nothing but all day, I really need to learn to listen to him! I take stock of my current condition and instinct takes over. Perhaps it is dehydration? Skin turgor good, no tenting. Mucous membranes, remain moist. Urination has happened at least twice on the bike (oh, that's why he doesn't want to have me touch him!). I have to pee again. Dehydration ruled out. So dizzy though and doesn't that patch of grass look like a great place to have a nap?
I feel like I am drunk. Maybe that last water bottle on the bike was spiked? Why else am I having to concentrate so hard to run straight (oh yes, I am back to attempting to run). Maybe it's a salt thing. I have been taking in electrolytes and salt but I'll try some more. I am pretty caked in salt from the wind whipping the sweat off my body. Okay, how long before I know if that worked? It's pretty hot out here maybe it's the heat, but I already have ice in my hat and my top and that isn't making me any less dizzy or foggy headed. Yes a rational person at this point would consider calories, but I had been taking in WAY more calories than normal the whole bike ride. I couldn't believe my diesel engine was burning that hot. You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.

This continued for until mile 4 when I found myself off the side of the road almost running into a lamp post. Whoops! Switch from attempting to race to attempting to survive. Walk now and regroup. Look at that, I am walking a straight line. Don't think I could touch the tip of my nose though but I am making forward progress without detours to the left and right. My stomach is flat, I am taking in calories and I seem to be absorbing them but not it is just a matter of making the finish line. I don't have a watch but I know that I can walk the whole thing in just over 6 hours and I have until midnight so I will finish at this rate. I wish I could say that I tried to fight when I saw the race moving away from me, but alas the only fighting I was doing was to keep my eyes open.

Along the way I made some friends and we formed a little walking club. Just like the kind you see at the malls:) We chatted and we walked and we passed people who were jogging and then walking. I named one guy the Hare because he would pass us only to be passed again when he was sauntering along and we were briskly walking. During this time I got a full can of coke from a little boy at an aid station. He actually chased me down with it, I must have looked really desperate. I hugged him (yes, he let me touch him. in all fairness he probably isn't as aware of what we do out there as me hearty is:)) I carried the can of coke and nursed it for about 3 miles. Somewhere at the end of my second of three laps of the run course I finally came around. I wasn't dizzy, I felt good and my legs were still ready to run. Thus, I started to run and I felt fabulous. I was running how I spent months training to run. I was passing people who had been running and were now walking. People who had seen me casually walking for almost 2 laps were yelling 'you go girl' now that I was FINALLY running. I was loving it, of course I was no longer really 'in' the race but I still had a finish line to get to. The best part was when I went by my own personal cheering squad and they did a rendition of 'She's Got Legs' for me. That lifted me up and carried me for miles!

I ended up taking one more walking break before the finish when the dizzies returned but I ran the last few miles to the finish. People are saying it was the hardest Ironman conditions ever and I can say that the athletes that were doing the walk of shame with me were not off the couchers, these people were the real deal and we were all fighting the battle. I proved I was tough out there but I didn't recognize a full blown bonk. First time ever I haven't slammed a red bull heading out onto the run course, and the LAST time ever! It's true, the stuff may taste nasty but it does give you wings and lots of sugar:)  Sometimes, tough ain't enough, you've also go to fight smart and when your brain isn't working, listen to your husband!

PS: The volunteers and spectators at this event were amazing. Special thanks to the boy who chased me down with a FULL can of coke- you saved me, the ladies who zipped me through both transitions and were so encouraging but most of all to the Team Super Awesome support crew for being out there ALL day for me! You guys rocked-literally!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Winds Day

Once on the bike the reason for those swells in the lake became apparent immediately. It was windy out there. Super windy with cross winds for the first few miles that were blowing people all over the road. I knew it was bad when I saw people stopped on the side of the road with fear in their eyes within the first 3 miles. Somehow I managed to convince myself that as soon as we left the town of Hurricane, we would leave the wind.

Starting the bike course

I don't really know what to say other than it was windy the whole 112 miles. Sure it would change up and be a headwind, or a cross wind, or both and sometimes even a tail wind  but there was never a time it wasn't blowing. As Winnie the Pooh would say, it was a winds day. There were many piglets out there who weren't very happy and were getting blown away but I found it fun. I mean I didn't sign up to do this race to be shown that I was soft and weak. I wanted an answer to how tough I was.

Many a time during the long ride (cause I was out there a LONG time) I would hear guys complaining. They would say things like 'I'm tired of fighting the wind and getting blown around'. I couldn't resist saying to one grouchy guy 'It's windy over there? I heard it was going to get windy today and I've been waiting for it to show up.' At least he laughed and lightened up a little.

Part of my Super Awesome cheering squad- notice that some are napping

I felt strong throughout the bike course and was holding back on the climbs. I passed several guys who had gone by me in the first lap and even passed a few of them who were walking up a hill. I also lapped a few riders who were on their first lap. I kept taking in calories and took in at least 1.5 times what I normally would for this distance. I was super psyched when we got a tailwind on the massive over 10 miles downhill, but seeing how far we got to ride downhill showed how much climbing we had done. It was a fairly straight downhill where you could really maximize your speed and there was no chance of a log suddenly appearing or a 3 foot drop so I let er rip. It was  blast to fly by big guys who were limiting their speed and sitting up. The little time I lost taking the last climb up the wall 'easy' was made up almost instantly on the descent. I finished the bike feeling strong and happy. I got an answer to my question if I was tough enough, the answer was blowing in the wind on a winds day. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hills on the Swim

When I decided to to return to Ironman racing after a six year hiatus it was with a few stipulations. I didn't want to do a race I had already done and I wanted to do a tough race in a scenic environment. Oh, and it also still had to be open for registration. This landed me on Ironman St George in Utah. This race would only be occurring for it's third time and it already had a reputation of being a difficult course and race. Woohoo, sign me up. With this race being tough it meant that the field would be smaller, more like when I started out in this sport, and it would have more experienced athletes racing.

Race morning dawned bright and early (who am I kidding, it hadn't even dawned yet the moon was shining brightly). Morning preparations went super smoothly and before I knew it, it was time to don the super flattering giant rubber suit and head to the water.

Pure excitement:)

I headed down to the swim start with my triathlon hero Jason and we entered the water about 15 minutes before the start of the race. We got a little warm up and then selected our starting position. We were on the front line on the right and using our aqua jogging skills to keep warm. The crowd kept getting pushed forward by what I thought was a bit of current. The kayakers were having to work to keep everyone back on the line and just before the start gun went off the entire field was drifting forward about 25 metres. We were fighting to stay back but it was requiring huge effort. Didn't think anything of it and when the cannon sounded we were off. Immediately, I thought to myself this is the best Ironman swim start I have ever had. I have never lined up at the front before but have been feeling very confident in my swim abilities and the work I have put in. (my first Ironman for example I waiting on the beach until everyone was swimming and away from shore before plunging in- I ended up passing lots of people). Just like the time I started dead last this time I had a clean start without anyone hitting me. We were cooking along and I felt relaxed and smooth. Several times I though to myself, 'wow, this is an amazing swim, I feel so smooth and I am getting a great draft'. Best swim I've ever had, just keep enjoying it and living in the moment! Then I reached the first left turn buoy, about 1000 metres into the swim.

As I made the turn I thought like everyone else probably did, 'who's the jerk driving the power boat out here'. The swells were pretty big and coming at us from the side. Nothing crazy, just like a boat had driven past. I looked up and saw no boat and saw that the swells were not going away. 400 metres swimming with the swells coming at us from the left saw people getting tossed around pretty good. It was still not too bad and you could see the buoys that were marking the course. The rocking side to side was nothing I haven't experienced in a ocean swim. I did notice a few other swimmers were starting to stop and tread water and was concerned that they weren't feeling very comfortable out there. I also realized at this point that the next left turn would have us going directly into the swells. Since the swells had just started out at this buoy line I was able to convince myself that they would end as abruptly as they started and we would be back to smooth lake water.

found this online, the pros had a 15 min start on us, apparently it was worse when we got there

I was wrong. We swam the whole way back, over 1 mile directly into the swells. Big giant swells that were pummeling people. I was getting very worried for the swimmers around me and we seemed to develop an unspoken buddy system out there. There were times when I couldn't see another swimmer anywhere and then wham, we'd be slammed into each other. It was so ridiculous that I was laughing. I know that many people were very scared out there, but I was having fun. I mean, I wanted tough and mother nature was finding a way to deliver. I remember thinking, I heard this was a hilly course but I've never swam uphill before, this is awesome. Bring it on. Test me, let's see what I am made of. I also reminded myself to keep swimming and stay relaxed, the more relaxed I could stay the less energy I was burning and the safer I was. I stopped a few times and asked swimmers who were stopped if they were okay and they all told me they were, they were just trying to sight. It really was mayhem. Buoys were being blown away and at one point I saw a buoy that was way off to my right in the middle of nowhere, luckily it wasn't a turn buoy so I could stay on the buoy line.

sometimes it felt like we were swimming into this!
Finally I got to the final turn buoy and made the turn. Now the water was pushing me. Unlike the swells in the ocean though there was no rhythm to the action. There were no lulls between waves and you couldn't predict when another big swell was coming. I kept thinking in my head, thank you coach for all the head up drills you make us do, now I see the point. I also was thanking him for the times he makes us swim with minimal breathes because I knew I could miss a breath and survive. It was also nice that it was clean lake water that we were swallowing instead of salt water. Mentally, I was doing what I had trained to do, I was having fun, staying in the present and keeping a good attitude. Oh, and I was passing tons of people body surfing into the finish chute. So fun!

yes, it was a lake!

My 13th Ironman swim is my most memorable by far, it was the roughest open water swim I have ever done and it was in a lake, go figure! How many people can say that they literally were swimming uphill?