Monday, October 31, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 34: Reflecting on the Un-Season and Getting Down to Business

This week I start my official training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. I've spent the week looking back on this year's "Un Season", both the bad (broken arm, lack of training) and the good (fun "Un" events like the Amazing Lake Waldo solo trail marathon, and my epic Crossing of Crater Lake with my Masters Swim Group.), not to mention getting my black belt in Karate in March (that seems so long ago!) Although it's been a very unusual year, sometimes it's good to take a step away from your routine and those things that you always do (whether it's a particular race, or a training routine, or even a favorite running route) and do something completely different.

So in that vein, I've decided to go with the Endurance Nation team and throw my hat into the "train Fast then Far" training crowd with one of their Out-Season plans for the winter. That means that instead of leisurely building lots of slow easy runs and trainer rides where I spin while watching movies, I'll instead be doing much shorter intense weeks in the coming months.

The very first workout of their plan was a 40 minute time trial. I decided to go out to the flatlands north of town to the route used by our local cycling club Time Trials in the spring. I've done these TT's before so I had a good idea of my time. The weather was looking decent, and I decided not to include my race wheels or Pointy Helmet of Speed, just use my regular gear. Typically, this route takes me about 40 minutes and change.

I guess I'm a bit demoralized now because it took me 46:30! Yikes, talk about lack of bike fitness. Then again, my Odometer on my bike computer shows a whopping 181 miles ridden this summer. And to be fair, it was very windy and rainy now in late October (the good weather disappeared about when I pulled up and a storm rolled in!), they just chip-sealed the road (which made about a 2 mph difference between that and the small section that still has the smooth pavement), and I didn't have any of my faster wheels and such. So probably the difference would be more like three minutes and not six, I'm trying really hard not to be too depressed.

The main goal of this pain fest was to extract my heart rate, which averaged 155. Honestly though, my legs hurt so freakin bad, I really couldn't push up to a point where heart rate was the limiter. So I guess I'll wait until Wednesday's 5k run (Oh Joy!) to see what that gives me for HR.

I guess I can use that as motivation to plant my butt on the trainer seat and hit the intervals hard this winter in order to be ready for IM CdA's infamous hills come June!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Prepare To Be Inspired: Lauren's Story

If you have wanted to reach out to your dreams, but been afraid of failing, read this story.

If you think that doing a triathlon is something you can't achieve, read this story.

If you want to start out your Friday being motivated and inspired, read this story.

Lauren commented on my Training Plan post awhile back and I asked her to share her story here because I just find it so inspiring. This is exactly the kind of thing I hope to be able to share on this blog - how we inspire each other to become our best.

Lauren's Triathlon Journey:

Before I start this post, there are a few things you should know about me:
-I am overweight.
-I had never completely finished anything before in my life (except pregnancy, haha!)
-I (used to!) have very low self-esteem and self-confidence.
-I’m not an ace at writing, and it takes me a while to get to the point while I tell a story.
(Brace yourself.)

I'd always been fairly in shape and fairly active, and while I've never had what one might call a "knock-out" body, I've always been pretty proud of my “Athena” curves. I grew up swimming competitively, and I’ve played soccer here and there, but I have never pushed myself to see what I could really be capable of. Basically, when it hurt, when it got tough, or when I got tired, I went home.

Fast forward to spring 2009. My husband and I were blessed to learn that we'd be expecting twins, and I took very good care of myself by watching what I ate and exercising lightly. I gained the average 35lbs with the twins and delivered them full-term. After they were born, I caught a cold that progressed into pneumonia. Eventually, I ended up breaking one of my ribs and had to be out-of-commission for 11 weeks. Finally, when the twins were about 6 months old, I was able to return to the gym and start working out. I was working steadily to lose my "baby weight", and after 3 months of diligently working my tush off (literally), we found out we were pregnant again!

As much as I wanted to be excited, I was a teensy bit sad. I went through some mild postpartum depression mostly because of the way my body looked (and because we don't live within driving distance of our family, my husband is a full-time student, and we had just moved to a new town; I really had ZERO help with the babies.) Cue the violins. Ha! Anyway. Pregnancy #2 went off without a hitch, and our precious baby girl was born healthy and vibrant on June 26, 2011.

Again, I wanted to be happy because I had this perfect, new, little baby to love, and the twins were so excited to have "their baby" outside Mommy's tummy. But because I hadn't lost all of the weight I'd gained with the twins, and then gained even more weight, my body looked like a nightmare.

My husband would tell me day after day that I looked beautiful, but how could I believe him? After all, I was carrying 50 extra pounds, my stretch marks made it look as if I'd gone 5 rounds with Wolverine, and everything, well... it just sagged. I knew I NEEDED to ditch the extra weight, but how? I began to feel myself slipping into that same funk that I was in after the twins were born. Then one night, while feeding my 5 1/2 week-old baby, it came to me: I need to do something to prove to myself that I AM worthwhile. I needed something drastic, something really far-out, something that I (and everyone else) would never expect me to do.

I was going to do a triathlon.
I researched to see if there were any in my area. I didn't know the first thing about a triathlon; I didn't know the distances, the order of the sports, I didn't even know that there was a "season" for triathlons! All I knew is that I was going to do one, and I wanted to do it soon. I found one that was about 2 months away. (It also happened to be a reverse triathlon.) And it was only about an hour or so from our town! When I looked at the distances (.25 mile swim/12 mile bike/ 5K run) I almost fainted. Again, I felt those seeds of self-doubt creeping back into my brain: "I'm not a runner; I can't run that far! I don't have a bicycle! What if I come in last place? Everyone will laugh at me!"

That night while laying in bed, I told my husband I wanted to do a triathlon. He looked at me in his sweet, soft, loving way and said, "Good job, baby. I believe in you, and I know you can do it!"
"Well.", I thought to myself. "That makes one of us."

I asked my girlfriend, Mallory (who happens to be 100lbs soaking wet, very athletic, and is in training for her umpteenth marathon) if she'd like to do this tri with me. (It would be her first triathlon, also.) She shrugged and said, "Ok.", as if it were no big deal. Me, on the other hand, I felt exhausted and out of breath just thinking about it!

Since I clearly didn't know anything about triathlon training, I did what every other child who was born in the 80's and became a product of the “Internet Age” would do: I googled it. I came across a blog with a name that I thought was inspirational: “Everymom to Ironmom.” I skimmed through and found a post entitled: “8 Weeks to Your First Triathlon,” and saved it on my phone and showed it to Mallory. She thought it looked good and was on board with the plan. The very next week, I had my 6 week postpartum appointment with my midwife. I told her my plan, and after looking at me like I was a lunatic, she gave me the green light to start training.

I decided I'd start the 8-week plan on the following Monday because well...I just like starting things on Mondays. I had already decided to put the twins (who were 18 months old when Baby#3 was born) into day care part time to give myself a little "Mama Time." What better way to use that "Mama Time" than to do something like workout and work on Mama?!

That very first Monday morning, I dropped them off at "school," and Baby #3 and I headed straight to the gym. (Thank heaven we belong to a fitness center that provides childcare for infants!) I cranked out the first workout (a 6-mile bike ride) in about 30 minutes and I. Felt. Great! This was my new schedule now: wake up, drop tots off at "school", and head to the gym. I had a goal I was now working toward, and I had someone (Mallory) to keep me on track. Day after day, week after week, I stayed steady on the plan. If I had to miss a day (which only happened once or twice), I made sure to fit the missed exercise in sometime later on in the week. As it turns out, Mallory and I only trained together twice throughout the whole 8 weeks, but we texted each other many, many times daily to check in and keep each other motivated. For further motivation, I actually signed up online (on my phone) for the triathlon pool-side, immediately after finishing one of the swim workouts! I was ecstatic! I even called my mom and dad to let them know I was actually going to do this! (They were excited, too, of course.)

On race day, I was jittery, to say the least. I was so  nervous that I wasn't going to be able to finish (I still wasn't able to completely run 3 miles without walking a little), and I was very intimidated by all of the slim, muscular physiques that I suddenly found myself surrounded by. I was the largest woman there! I seriously considered turning around and running back to the
safety of my car. Ten minutes before the race started, all of the participants lined up at the starting line for a little pre-race meeting. My husband and 3 babies stood on the other side of the mesh fence just watching and listening. I kept glancing over at them, and I'm sure they could see the fear in my eyes. My husband just smiled and gave me a very enthusiastic thumbs up. My sweet baby boy raised his fist and yelled out, "Gooooo Mama!" The next thing I knew, a gun shot was fired, and we were off and running. Literally. I'm not going to lie, the run sucked. I'm just not a great runner, but I want to be, so I know that's something I need to work on. The bike portion was difficult too, but only because the course was very hilly, and I didn't train for that. The swim part was a piece of cake, just as I knew it would be for me. Plus, it was in a pool, and I'm sure that made all the difference in the world.

When I climbed out of the pool and saw my precious husband smiling at me, holding our excited babies, I felt unstoppable! I had just done something I never in a million light years thought I could do. And not only did I do it, it was the first thing I've really ever completed. My self-confidence sky rocketed! I can now say that I am a triathlete, and I have done something that not too many folks have done. And that feels fantastic. I also learned to not be so hard on my body, to appreciate it more, and give it some credit! Sure, I'm not supermodel skinny, and I'll probably never look like I did when I was 18, but my body did something amazing. Just as I will always remember my wedding anniversary and my children's birthdays, October 9, 2011 is a day that I will never forget. That was the day I started and finished a triathlon. Me. The overweight, (now slightly less) out-of-shape mommy of 3, who always told herself she couldn't, did.

If you are teetering on the edge of "Should I do a triathlon? CAN I do a triathlon?" The answers are YES! and YES! I can honestly say that my life has been forever changed by this event, and I now believe that this mama can do ANYTHING she sets her mind to do. Thank you again, Robin, for your 8 week plan. I truly, truly could not have done it without you. Well, without you and the four best cheerleaders a Mommy and wife could ever have!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kitchen Makeover, Paleo Style

Who needs a breadbox when you don't eat bread? 

For that matter, why have a toaster, much less a toaster AND a toaster oven taking up space on your counter? I have a very small kitchen. The woman who designed and built our house lived alone, and apparently didn't consider that someone who had to cook for more than one person would ever inhabit this kitchen. That's why we have the smallest refrigerator available on the market (just TRY to cram enough food for a 15 year boy into a fridge that's shorter than I am!), and very little counter space. So when the opportunity comes along to increase my available food preparation area, that's something I should jump at.

Voila, one day recently it hit me: I don't need any of these bread-altering implements, because I no longer eat bread. What a freeing concept. So away the appliances went to a bottom shelf somewhere and suddenly I have a whole lot more counter space than I've had in the 12 years we've lived here. NICE. Since I spend a lot more time cutting vegetables and meat these days, it's great to have the extra space to do so.

Paleo Update:

While I'm at it, a paleo eating update might be in order: I'm still eating mostly paleo, I say mostly because we buy local raw goat's milk and I occasionally put that in my smoothies or coffee. I will also eat rice from time to time, especially if we go for my favorite Thai restaurant and their salmon-pineapple curry. Yummmm.....

My kids don't eat paleo, but they recently transitioned to eating gluten-free. Realistically, although they do eat some bread substitutes (I might have the only kids in town who love rice cakes), this also means they eat a lot less grains than they used to.We simply haven't replaced all the bread, cereal, pasta, etc. that we used to eat. That also means that they eat more veggies and fruits as filler in meals instead of grains for an overall Nutrient Win.

Only Two Meals A Day?

I finally figured out a meal plan that works for our crazy family's schedule. I cook breakfast in the morning when we get up, and then I cook supper at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Those are our two main meals each day. The kids can get themselves snacks at around noon, and then we're all out of the house or busy from 4:30 - 8:00 most evenings for stuff like karate, robotics, swimming, and dance. So when we get home, it's another snack time. Two main meals and two main snack times seems to work best for our family. Otherwise, I was always stressed trying to cook dinner at 8:00 at night, and no one was really hungry for a big meal then anyways. I can't tell you what a relief it was to figure this out!

These days, with everyone worried about kids, nutrition, and childhood obesity, it feels good to have a plan in place to keep our kids active and eating well. As a parent, the number one lesson I've learned is it really doesn't matter what you say to your kids, it matters what you do. The example you set is what they learn from, so having our entire family eat nutritious meals and snacks, and get out to exercise every day, as well as walking and biking for transportation has been the key to raising healthy, happy, energetic kids and now (ulp!) a teenager.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blast From the Past

My old grade school teacher posted some photos online. So here's my 5th grade blast from the past. I'm on the left. Love that "Dorothy Hamill" haircut. Cheerleader for the Jacksonville Pioneers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 35: Getting the Ugly Womanly Stuff Out of the Way

Gentlemen, you can avert your eyes now. You have been forewarned. This is the IronMOM blog after all.

I remember in 6th grade, when we had "The Talk". You know, the one where the boys went to one room and the girls went to another. Mrs. Brown was in charge of the girls, a five foot tall fireplug of a woman from Corpus Christi, Texas. I can remember this scene vividly: at one point in her little speech about "The Change" that was coming for us, she was holding up a Maxi Pad in front of the room, and Scott Whitely came barging in the classroom door at the back, clutching a message from the office. Mrs. Brown turned white as a sheet, Scott Whitely turned beet red. She hissed at him to get out and get out he did, double-time.

The message was clear: Maxi pads were scary and embarrassing things that men must never, ever see.

That message persists into adulthood. Just take a man on a basketball court who gets hit with the ball. He gets a bloody nose, mops it up with his shirt, and goes over to the sidelines holding a towel against his nose. You'd think the bloody towel was a badge of honor by how he treats it.

The same amount of blood coming out of a woman's coochie is like the scarlet fucking letter, right? Shameful, to be hidden, not even mentioned. Not even when he's your husband. If he sees a tiny bit of blood on the toilet seat, he might go faint, meanwhile the same man farts with abandon during episodes of The Family Guy, never thinking that gasses emitting from his butt should be equally...well... concealed.

Which is all to say that writing a blog post about what it means to be a woman and a triathlete, what it REALLY means on one of "those days", is culturally embarrassing. Yet, because we don't talk about it, none of us knows how anyone else deals with it. No one knows that the reason I didn't have a bigger PR in my half-Iron distance race last year is that I spent all those precious minutes in a porta-potty line that I couldn't avoid. What does a guy do? He pees on the bike. Changing your womanly supplies on a bike would require the skills of a circus acrobat and be a good deal more messy. And no ones knows that I went on the pill for four months the last time I did an Ironman just so I'd know for sure I wouldn't have my period that day.

Wouldn't it suck to train for a year, spend $500 plus travel expenses, and not be able to do the race due to your @#!%! period??

So, what happens when you're signed up for an Ironman at age 46 and you're a woman? Women's bodies at 46 are not the same as they are at 36 or 26 or 16. To put it bluntly, they're starting to do weird things. Periods come at odd times when they're not expected. They're either really light or so heavy you might as well pitch a tent in the bathroom for a day or two. Sometimes you end up wondering whether you got pregnant without knowing it and are miscarrying something that looks like Eraserhead. Don't go squeamish on me, I told you I was going to be blunt. So doing an Ironman in the middle of that? It can be difficult.

Luckily, a couple of my women friends clued me in to this procedure called a Uterine Ablation. Yes, that's about as Un-Fun as it sounds. Actually it's way, way less fun that it sounds, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Basically, they burn the shit out of your uterine lining and it never comes back. A few days of painful recovery and you're free of The Curse for evermore. Or at least semi-free of it, or probably free of the worst of it. There's no guarantees of course, but it sounds better than the current uncertainty and mess. Sign me up Scotty!

So that's what I had done this week. Of course, me being me, nothing ever goes quite according to plan. I have this really weird body that has a pretty high pain tolerance (good) coupled with the fact that anesthesia and medications don't work all that well on me (bad). Novocaine has so little effect that my dentist always wants to pull his hair out when he has to work on me. Given all of that, I maybe should've chosen to use general anesthesia for this procedure, but that freaks me the heck out. I keep remembering people like Olivia Goldsmith, who died during general anesthesia for plastic surgery (one more reason I won't ever do THAT for sure!) Thinking about my kids being motherless, the answer for me and general is NO WAY. But then again, I've never had experience with anything like this (even my babies were not born in a hospital) so how would I know what would happen?

So it was some Valium and some Percocet, some injection of an ibuprofen-like NSAID, and we were off. I wish I could tell you that my experience was like all of my friends who have had it done. For most women it's pretty much a walk in the park, for me it was not. I won't scare you with the gory details but it hurt. A lot. Like if it was a mob movie and a torture scene, I would've told them anything. I would've sold my mother upriver just to make it stop. My doctor (and probably the entire waiting room) got to hear every curse word in my personal arsenal, and then some. It was like The Sopranos in there.

Luckily, I'm now on the other side of the River Styx, after the first day of agony with some upchucking thrown in just for kicks and grins. Several days later, I'm just taking ibuprofen and will hopefully be back to training sometime in the near future. I'm hoping this bet pays off, the pain and suffering were worth it, and I have an Ironman to look forward to where I don't have to worry about taking Aunt Flo along on my bike with me.

And because I'm not Mrs. Brown, and this is not 1976, I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guest Post: Laura's Iron Girl Story

 I got the chance to meet up with Laura at the Lake Tahoe Iron Girl race. She's an inspiring mom and athlete, I thought you would enjoy hearing about her Iron Girl experience. It's a great reminder to get out there and live your dreams!

Laura's Iron Girl Wrap Up

We arrived in Tahoe Friday. I was hoping our early arrival would allow my body to acclimate somewhat to the altitude before the race on Sunday.  I was very unsure what it would be like to swim, bike and run at 6200+ feet. 
Saturday afternoon my husband and I went to the pre race talk, packet pick up and bike racking.  We met up with Robin who is truly one of the coolest people I have ever met.  She was so easy to chat with and very helpful with all my silly little questions.  After our meeting, hubby and I walked down to the swim course. There is a long distance between the swim and transition area. The Iron Girl organizers told us there were going set up an optional shoe transition area down by the water.  Running barefoot didn’t sound like much fun.  I decided old tennis shoes for the jog back to transition would do the trick. After feeling satisfied I knew where I was going race day, we headed off for dinner and bed.  With the race starting at 7:30AM I had to be up by 5:00. Ack. Early mornings are painful.
My sleep was not good.  I woke up at 3:00AM in a panic. I dreamt that I overslept.  In my dream it was 7:15. I was yelling that transition is closed. I kept saying my race is over before it had even begun! My hubby patiently rolled over, looked at the clock, told me I was dreaming and encouraged me to go back sleep.
5:00AM rolls around and we get up and eat breakfast. I had quinoa with cinnamon and coconut milk, a hardboiled egg, small cup of coffee and a banana.  I checked the weather report and was a little nervous the temperature was 36 degrees!  I dressed in layers and headed out the door to the race site.  Got in the car hubby cranked the tunes. A sense of excitement washed over me!  I wasn’t sure if my happiness was because I wasn’t crazy nervous or because I was being afforded this opportunity.
At the race site I immediately set up my transition area, don my wetsuit early for warmth and met up with Robin again. I had to decide if I was going to swim with my bike jersey on or just a sports bra under my wetsuit.  I didn’t love the idea of wearing wet layers on the bike course. I figured they probably were not going to dry quickly in the crisp mountain air. My final decision was to swim in just the sports bra and shorts.  I would throw my bike jersey and light weight riding jacket on after the swim. This was a good decision.
Transition closed and we all walked down to the beach.  I took another look at the swim course.  It looked a little different with the big buoys in place.  We waited for about thirty minutes for our wave to begin. Again, I wasn’t sure how cold we would get during that wait time.  Luckily I wasn’t as cold as I feared. Having my wetsuit and cap on really kept in the warmth.  Although my naked feet were chilled.
At 7:30 we watched the first wave take off.  Robin zoomed away. I stood around a bit longer waiting for my wave to begin.  Cheered on some first timers and encouraged another gal who looked scared.  When my wave began,  I tried to hang back and let others go in front of me.  This plan had worked the other two times. Not so much this time around.  The swim course seemed a bit narrow.  I found myself swimming through bodies anyway.  Grateful I wasn’t feeling frightened by the other ladies just kind of annoyed that I kept having to stop, look around a figure how to maneuver around the crowd. I felt I could have done the swim better if I knew how to get throw people.  I need to work on being a bit more aggressive.  I don’t want to be obnoxious but I do want to figure out strategy for staying my own course.  I found that I was having the same issue on the bike too.
The water was crystal clear and gorgeous!  The temperature was certainly a lot warmer IN the water than out.  Overall I had a great swim.  I kind of wished it was longer!!  My only other issue in the water was sighting the exit.  The sun was peering over the mountains. The glare was making it difficult for me to see the exit.   Once out of the water I jogged over to shoe transition.  My feet were sandy so I made a lame attempt at brushing it off.  My hands were really cold so tying my laces was an issue.  Once my shoes were secured, I jogged back to transition in my wet suit, with hubby jogging a long side.  
If I were to change how I did anything, I would have had a quick slip on shoe to wear.  No laces. My hands were too cold to tie them and I think I wasted a lot of time. Also, I would not have bothered with trying to dust off the sand. I think running in the wetsuit was a good idea. It helped me warm up for the next leg of the race.
Once in transition, I peeled off my wetsuit, put on my bike jersey and jacket.  Got my biking shoes and helmet on and headed out.  The course was beautiful!! They shut down the middle lane of highway 50 just for our race. What a treat! Not many people can say they safely rode down that part of highway 50.  When we drove the course the day before I wasn’t sure how prepared I would be for the hills. To my relief they were not a problem.  My only issue was not knowing when I could pass people.  I felt like I was hanging back, trying real hard to follow the rules but I knew I could push harder on the bike.  Overall the ride was wonderful. The only thing I think I would have done differently is maybe put my bike gloves on.  I didn’t realize how cold my hands were until I was in T2.
T2 went smooth. I had issues tying the laces of my runners.  My hands were not cooperating with my brain. I think I need to get some of those quick laces or something.   As I was leaving transition, I could see Robin coming across the finish line.  At least I thought it was her!! Before the race began I forgot to take notice of what she was wearing or some other identifiers.  I could have let out a cheer!
The run course was two loops through a neighborhood.  There was some elevation gain but I didn’t think it was too bad.  As I began my run, I realized my legs and feet were numb.  I told myself, no worries the feeling will come back somewhere along the way.  Ah I was wrong. I ran the entire run portion of the race with no feeling from my knees down!! HA!   I wasn’t in pain or anything it just felt really weird. The upside to all that is I ran a lot faster than I normally do!! 
As I approached the finish line with a huge grin on my face, I could see my family standing on the sidelines cheering me on.  It felt so wonderful!!  I loved that our boys could see that there Mom is more than just that lady always doing the dishes, helping with homework or driving the family bus. 
Overall I did better than I thought I would!! I told myself I would be happy if I finished the race under two hours.  Turns out I finished in 1:47. My division I was 49/102.  (I was astonished there were so many in my wave. It didn’t feel like it)  My swim time was 10:30, T1 10:00 Bike time 54:39, T2 2:31 ad run time 30:08.  I was also a little surprised at the T1 time.  I guess they must time you from the minute you get out of the water until you are o your bike. Which in this case is a long distance.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 36: Sacrificing the Gift

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"  -- Steve Prefontaine

In every competition, I learn something about myself. If that wasn't true, I'm not sure I would want to compete any more. Even though this weekend we traveled to a karate competition and not a triathlon or running race, the learning component is the same. When you arrive at a competition, you should be prepared to do your best, having trained to the best of your abilities.

This then is what I learned this weekend that I want to take forward into my Ironman training: I must be 100% committed to my training in order to feel good about the way I compete. For this competition, I had hemmed and hawed about whether or not I was going to compete. My arm isn't at 100% yet (still some weakness at the elbow joint), which means I can't really achieve the same intensity of movement that I will be able to once its fully healed. Plus, I had some niggling worries about my left knee with the kata I had learned for competition. There's one move that puts a ton of lateral stress on that knee, but I've performed the kata dozens of times in the last few weeks without it giving me a problem. Still, I knew the problem was there.

Finally, I decided to wear my knee brace for the kata and do the competition. Problem was, I forgot to bring the knee brace. Still, the chances were small of something going wrong....

Except that it did. My knee locked up at that point in the kata and I couldn't get it unstuck. All I could do was to sit down in the middle of the floor in the middle of the arena and move it around in circles trying to get it to snap back in place. Finally, after what seemed like forever, it did. I wanted to die of embarassment. The judges graciously allowed me to start over, but my knee was now weak and shaky and I definitely was not able to do my best. Although I placed third in my division, I knew that I had not been able to perform at the level I should have.

The high point of the competition of course was watching my kids compete. Seeing everything that they bring to their karate is always inspiring to me. I especially loved the fact that they entered the synchronized kata competition with a friend and did really well, taking second in their division. Seeing them working together toward a common goal made me very proud of them. Meanwhile, I entered synchronized kata as well, with two of our teenage black belts and thankfully that went very well and we took second in our division as well.

The other wonderful thing about going to this competition was being part of the team effort of our whole dojo. We're only a year old this month, but we were able to take a great group of competitors, everyone from little kids to adults, from colored belts to black belts. Our teen black belts took home some amazing honors including having the Junior Champion Black Belt in kata and sparring. Our youngest competitor took home a first place, and our synchronized team of brown belt moms, the "Mama Sans" also brought home a 1st place.

So when our sensei asked me how I felt about the competition and how I placed, I was very happy overall with having come to the tournament. Although I didn't do as well as I personally hoped, my efforts still added to our team's amazing accomplishment of being the highest performing team there overall. That's pretty great stuff.

But having said that, when I look forward to my own individual competitions like the Ironman next year, I know that I need to make sure I'm able to put in 100% when I get there. That means I have to train the hardest that I possibly can, while making sure I avoid the traps of overtraining and injuries. If I can just get through this year without breaking any more bones, that would be a great start. But I also need to critically look at my weaknesses and make sure that I have a plan for overcoming them. My performance in this karate competition could've been dramatically changed if I had just put my knee brace into my bag. Sometimes everything rides on the smallest details, and Ironman is nothing if not managing the details.

More than anything, when my Ironman day is over, I want to know that I have done my absolute best, that I have not sacrificed the gift.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why To Eat Your Facial

Let me state for the record that I am not a foofy girl. I don't do my nails, get perms, go to the mall, obsess over shoes (well, unless running shoes count), or know how to tell a Coach handbag from any other purse. So when my daughter said we were doing a Spa party for her birthday, and I would be doing facials and "mani pedi's" (whatever that is) and henna tattoos for a gaggle of girls, I was, let's just say, a little trepidatious.

However, she found some good natural recipes for facials, and I actually do have an Art Degree so I figured I could probably handle the henna designs, so away we went. We mashed up a bunch of avocados and bananas, added some almond oil and honey, and smeared it on all the girls' faces with the requisite cucumbers on the eyelids. The trouble was, she misread the recipe by about a factor of ten and we had gallons of the stuff left over.

So I did what any self-respecting smoothie-chugging athlete would do: I froze the rest for my smoothies. I'd heard that avocado was great in smoothies but never bothered to give it a try until now.

They say that beauty comes from within. As long as "they" are not a cosmetics company, that is. Or a "women's magazine", or an advertising firm. All of those theys are dependent on making sure we think beauty is a thing that we apply to our face in order to firm/shape/diminish/accentuate/hide some feature or another.

But there's another kind of "within" that's important, and that's what we put into our bodies in the form of fuel. And that's exactly why a facial is better off being something you eat than something you smear on your skin. Ingredients like avocado, coconut and almond might show up on a beauty product label, but when you put them in your smoothie or salad, they do a lot more good.

So here's my recipe for a Smoothie Facial:

2 bananas
1/2 avocado
1 tsp honey
2 Tbs almond oil
2 raw eggs
1 Cup coconut milk or almond milk
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
10 ice cubes

Blend it all up and drink it instead of applying it to your face. If you really do feel like gooping your face up, omit the ice cubes and bring out the cucumber slices.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I am Every Mom, You Are Every Mom

I was sniffling back tears when I read my email this morning. The reason I started this blog is that I wanted to reach out to moms (and dads, and regular folks) everywhere and let them know that if they just start down this path, start putting one foot in front of the other, they can do amazing things. We are capable of not only transforming our bodies, but our spirits and our souls by challenging ourselves to do more than we think we can.

So when my email notified me of a new comment on my Training Plan blog entry, I read it with excitement, knowing it was probably from someone who had questions or comments about the plan. The comment I found there brought tears to my eyes. Go read the comments section now and tell me if you're not inspired! If that doesn't leave you with a feeling of "I can do this", I don't know what will. I think I will be smiling all day after reading that!

It also motivates me to keep adding to the training resources on this blog, so you might notice a new tab at the top, Everymom's Training Resources.  This link contains the essential posts to starting your journey to your first triathlon. I will be putting up an Off-season training plan soon, and this next spring I will be adding an Olympic distance training plan, for those of you like Laura who raced with me at Iron Girl  Lake Tahoe, who feel so confident from their Sprint triathlon experiences that they want to try something longer.

As always, please comment with questions, feedback, and anything you want to see here on the blog. It's called "Everymom to Ironmom" for a reason,  I want it to be about our journeys together.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 37: Training Buddies and Getting Psyched

What triathlete doesn't feel their blood stir while watching the Kona IM Championships? Even total couch potatoes have been known to rise up like Lazarus swearing "I will do that!" and for some, the Iron Fever is strong enough that they do, transforming their life in the process. For me this year, it's all part of the building excitement of my own coming Ironman. Although I do go through entire days where I don't think about the Ironman (not many, mind you), once you sign up for one it's never far from the front of your mind.

This weekend I got to watch the start of the Kona race down at our local triathlon store, The Multisport Advantage. Just the fact that a town our size (130,000 people) even HAS a triathlon store is a real blessing. But this one has some very cool stuff, including a Computrainer MultiRider setup with eight bikes all connected to one Computrainer screen. While they were having some technical difficulties with the computer on Saturday, I still got a taste of how fun it would be to train all winter with that kind of triathlete fellowship and fun. I already knew several of the folks there from training and racing here, and I think that would be the perfect antidote for trying to train in our cold and rainy winter weather. This photo is from their website so you can see their cool setup:

I'll definitely be hauling my bike down there as often as I can to get in some indoor miles without the typical drudgery of the trainer in my basement. They even have the Ironman Coeur d'Alene course so I can see exactly how much torture I'll be in for ahead of time (and hopefully be adequately prepared).

In other news, my swimming is starting to come back. While even a few weeks ago I found it hard to turn a 100 yards in less than 1:35, we did some sets on Saturday of descending 100's in groups of four, and I posted 1:28, 1:23, 1:20, 1:17 as my splits for each descending set. And that was leaving a full five seconds after my lane mate (even though he has the best draft in the pool, so it's mighty tempting to hug his toes). Toward the end of the workout, my left arm started fatiguing out, especially on the pull sets, but all in all it is holding up better and better each time. There are some days now when I forget it's not fully recovered yet in terms of strength, and those days should get more numerous over the winter, leaving me back to full force by spring.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs' Words for Living

As a young computer science student in the early 1980s, Steve Jobs was one of the great icons. I vividly remember watching Apple's 1984 commercial launching the Mac, and the impression it made on me. The first home computer I worked on was a Macintosh (a 128k jobbie that you had to switch a floppy disk on a thousand times to do anything) and I spent many long nights in the Macintosh-lined computer lab programming in Pascal and being ever so grateful that we no longer had to program on the VRT screens of the mainframe, or even worse - as our professors reminded us - on the punchcards that loomed in the not-so-distant programming past. Though I eventually ended up working at Microsoft and entering the world of Windows,  I have always been impressed with Steve Jobs' work and his vision.

This speech of his is worth watching (or re-watching) for the insights he brings to the business of life and the wisdom that comes from facing your own death.

RIP Steve Jobs, so few people can truly say they changed the whole world, but you were one of them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My Escape From Vegetarianism

I've been meaning to write about my transition from vegan/vegetarian to omnivore to Paleo for awhile, it's such an important step that I took for my own health. Yet at the same time, it's a very personal decision and one that for many people approaches a religious or spiritual level. To other vegetarians, I know that any time a former vegetarian speaks about their negative experiences with vegetarianism, it can feel almost like an insult to their own beliefs. Which is why people like Lierre Keith who have spoken out publicly (and in her excellent book, The Vegetarian Myth) have been violently attacked for doing so. So it's not easy finding the right words to describe my own personal experience.

In a way, it was watching the graphic elk hunt scene in the documentary I, Caveman on the Discovery Channel's Curiousity program that sparked me to finally sit down and write about my own experience. Watching that scene would've been impossible for me as a vegetarian. The idea that something beautiful and sentient like that majestic elk would have to die in order for a human to eat was a reality that was too painful for my animal-loving sensitive brain to handle. I was the kid who turned off Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom when the lions started hunting the zebras on the African plains. I didn't know then that any time we eat, we are creating the death of something, whether we know or acknowledge it or not.

Like so many soft-hearted, tree-hugging, animal-loving idealistic young women, my journey into vegetarianism started as a teenager, that age when our emotions and our logical brains are so intertwined as to be inseparable. And herein lies the rub: all of us who have been vegan and vegetarian are doing it for all the right reasons. At least we think we are. We love the planet, we adore animals. We save stray cats, we rescue spiders from our homes and move them carefully outside in glass jars, we pick up snails off the sidewalk for heaven's sake. My running partners in Seattle used to threaten to stop running with me if I didn't stop rescuing worms after a rainstorm.

I was a vegetarian for twenty years. So how, and why, did I stop?

It's not everyone who hears their doctor begging them to eat meat. In this day of cholesterol-fearing frenzy, that's a rare enough thing in itself. But my blood iron levels were "lower than a cancer patient's". My thyroid had gone haywire and my health was in the toilet. You'd think it would be an easy decision, given all of that. Yet leaving vegetarianism behind is anything but simple.

To stop being a vegetarian is very straightforward: all you have to do is start eating meat again. But vegetarianism is as much a part of your soul as it is of your body. It's as much religion as it is nutrition. It's been several years now since I made the difficult decision to reclaim my health and to start eating animals after 20+ years of vegetarianism, but it's something I find that I rarely talk about. In some sense, when you're part of the vegetarian and vegan culture, you're made to feel like you've personally failed some great moral test if you can't make it work for your body. You just haven't tried hard enough. Perhaps you need to eat more raw foods, or juice more, or eat more tofu for protein, take more B12 and supplements. As I struggled with my health, I tried and I tried and I tried, so many different things. And I got sicker and sicker and sicker.

I could not complete my first Ironman because I was so anemic my doctor was considering a blood transfusion. So years later when I decided to try again to become an Ironman for real, I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't know how I could bring myself to do it.

The answer for me, at first, was all-natural humanely raised lunch meat. Thinly sliced stuff that tastes bland, doesn't bleed, doesn't have to be cut or prepared, and looks nothing like an animal. This worked fine at first. I could start healing my body without really facing what I was doing, what I was eating. Very slowly over time, I started branching out: a pound of hamburger, some pre-roasted chicken from the supermarket. And then eventually, a steak on the barbeque.

That was it then, at that point I had to face up to it for real: I was eating an animal. Don't call it pork, Robin. Call it what it is: a pig. It's not beef, it's a cow. Let's really look at what we're doing here. My mind was drawn back to a trip that hubby and I took to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. We spent over a week on a camping safari afterwards, one morning watching hyenas stalking the wildebeest at the watering hole, another day spotting a battle between vultures and wild dogs for the remains of a lion-shredded zebra. This is real life. This is what happens every day. Death happens in order for life to happen. That got me thinking about my previous pristine diet: what had died in order that my "textured vegetable protein" shaped like a hot dog arrived on my plate? Insects, mice, voles, or other creatures that once called those mono-crop soybean fields their homes?

There is no living without death, and therefore there is no eating without death. That truth is a big one. It took me a long time to look it in the eye, and to make my peace with it. I saw that I had never truly been a vegetarian and most especially not a vegan. Even as I saved a spider from my home, I ran over another one when I backed my car out of the driveway. Even as I avoided eating the cow, I ate a mouse's home burrow in my soyburger.

Reading Lierre Keith's book The Vegetarian Myth was like looking in a mirror. Like hearing a beautiful sermon that explained everything. Like being delivered from a heavy mental weight that I didn't know I was still carrying. Like getting a big hug from someone who understands exactly what you've gone through. I could finally stop beating myself for "failing" at vegetarianism, and start celebrating the newer, stronger, healthier body that I now had.

I no longer had a cupboard full of supplements that I had to make sure I took. I no longer had to take so many iron pills every day that my stomach burned and hurt. My thyroid was irreparably damaged (I personally believe it was because of all the soy I ate, soy being a known thyroid and endocrine disruptor) but I would just have to make the best of that. My constant sugar cravings and subsequent battles with candida and yeast infections were gone. I got up in the morning with energy, and could complete even the longest hardest workout without breaking down. My restless leg syndrome and pica were disappearing (both are tied to severe anemia) and my insomnia was on its way out, for good.

Continuing my journey from vegetarian to omnivore, to locavore, to Paleo locavore, I have felt my health, mental health, and energy increase exponentially. It seems funny to me, but I probably eat more vegetables on a paleo diet than I did as a vegetarian (especially in my fat-phobic, Snackwell-munching days). For sure I eat far less sugar. Somewhat counter-intuitively, my cholesterol is down from 220 as a vegetarian to 175 as an omnivore. Probably a side effect of the decreased sugar consumption. Also interestingly, my weight has stayed exactly the same - from vegetarian to vegan to pescavore to omnivore to paleo. From low fat to high fat from high carb to low carb, my scale doesn't budge an inch. But then again, I feel like I'm at a healthy weight, so it doesn't really need to. I just think that's interesting given the hype that the proponents of each diet dish out.

I also eat more locally, and more sustainably, contrary to what most vegetarians believe. My meat, eggs, milk, and vegetables all come from the valley that I live in. Only my luxury items like bananas and coconuts are shipped in from far away. I'd hate to give them up, but I don't depend on them to thrive.

So the other night on the Discovery channel when I saw that beautiful elk heave its last dying breaths while the modern-day caveman hunters who had slain it with an atlatl gathered around for an emotional and teary moment to thank it for giving up its life for them, I was not repulsed. I did not have to avert my eyes, my heart was not sad. There is no living without death, it's something I can fully face now. And therefore I myself can fully live.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Countdown to Ironman, Week 38: Rest and Regroup

There are millions of people who struggle to motivate themselves to get off the couch and go out to exercise.

Then there are triathletes.

We have the opposite problem: getting ourselves to stop. This week hit me from both sides:

On the one hand we had some of the last of the warm weather: gorgeous 85 degree days, but with rain coming in the forecast. Who would not want to get out and ride or run as many miles as possible knowing that the drizzly grey days will soon be here?

On the other hand, I had done a triathlon two weeks ago, and the 24-mile trail run two weeks before that. As soon as I got home from those events, I dove back into karate with a vengeance, training myself into some serious muscle soreness. I was fatigued, not sleeping, clearly needing to back off and catch up. I needed to rest, not ride.

Since I'm not quite as stupid as I was a couple of decades ago, when I would often manage to over-train myself out of any kind of decent race day performance, this week I managed to placate my sun-loving self with a trip to the outdoor pool for some last sun-soaked relaxing yards, and I did go out on the bike, though not for as long as I would've liked. Throw a nice trail run into the mix in a sunny forest that still smelled of rain-soaked fir needles, and I made a good week of it.

I can feel that I'm anxious to get on with it, to get started on the Ironman preparation. But I also need to let myself relax a bit and continue to heal up. My arm got sore this week from the contact in karate and I have to be careful not to push it too hard there or in the pool. The off-season might only be a few weeks long this year before I dive back in, but I need to take it nonetheless.

It's too bad I couldn't just hand all this motivation to someone out there on a couch who really needs it right now, and swap it for the ability to just sit still for awhile, something I find darned hard to do. But I can hear the rain starting to patter down on the trees outside, and that might just make it easier.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

All Intervals and No Play Make Jack A Dull Athlete

The Game Was On. It was serious. The "older folks" (those of us above the ripe old age of twenty) were pitted against the youngsters. It was war. Well, it was Ninja Stars, a variety of dodgeball played by flinging square karate "focus pads" at each other. No way were we going to let those whippersnappers beat us. Of course, it helps that several of the dads in class have deadly aim and speed throwing those pads. Me, I'm pretty worthless at throwing, but I managed to stay in the game by dodging well. I'm sure none of us thought about the fact that we were working on agility, speed, dexterity, or stamina, we were just playing.

Playing is something we do a lot of as kids, and often forget to do as adults. True play brings a component of joy to our workouts that can be missed if we're just counting the miles or tracking the splits and heartrate data. One thing I really value about our karate classes is that we do take time to play, laugh, have fun, as well as to get serious, punch, kick, and spar. I also like to include other forms of play in my life, everything from innertubing with the kids to early morning pick-up Volleyball games at the club. Most of these could be considered a workout, but somehow they never feel that way to me.

Our game of Ninja Stars was a great reminder to include more play in my workouts, especially as we head toward winter. If you have a group of people, you can include some fun, even in traditional workouts like running. Last year's muddy buddy run was a great example of how to shake things up. Everything's more fun when you do it in the mud. Even if you're like me and typically work out solo, it can be worth it to enlist some friends and go have a game of whatever. I guarantee you'll get a great workout, but you won't even think about it.