Sunday, December 30, 2012

No Winter Lasts Forever

Today while hubby and I were absolutely freezing our last toenail off on a bike ride, and cursing the weatherman who cheerily predicted high temps of 48 when it was just short of ice crystal formation, we happened to bike by an old farmhouse out in the country. It looked familiar, and in fact it was. Just this summer, we got so overheated on a ride on a 98 degree day that we stopped and soaked our heads in the sprinkler that was going on their lawn.

It's hard to believe we could ever have been that hot. Truth be told, we were probably far too close to heatstroke. But at this moment, in the frigid December air, it was almost impossible to remember what a broiling mid-summer afternoon feels like, and back in July or August I'm sure it was equally hard to remember what it could be like to be so cold.

As the end of the year approaches, and I think back on the year gone by. There were days when it felt like all the earth was spinning my way, and others when I bumped up against one frustration after another. When you're at either extreme, it can be hard to imagine the other. But all of those days together make up a year - the hot ones, the cold ones, the hard ones, and the easy ones.

As we head into the year to come, I can see some scary days ahead of me. I'm writing up a resume, something I haven't done since 1988, applying for some jobs that I may or may not get. My son is going to his first day of college in a little more than a week. My daughter is auditioning for a big role she really wants. My husband will face his first Ironman. I will prepare to test for my 2nd degree black belt. I may face a surgeon's knife if I ever want to run again. And there will be trials and tribulations that I can't even imagine right now.

On those days when it all feels overwhelming, I hope I remember this old farmhouse. How it can be frosted over one day, when not so very long ago it was a cool oasis on a long strip of blistering hot blacktop. I hope I can hold onto the knowing - that even if today is hard and the obstacles seem insurmountable, that just a little while later, the world will look completely different again.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

48 Weeks To Iron Hubby: Man on the Road

The two biggest obstacles to training for an Ironman for most people are work, and parenthood. While our days of parenting infants and toddlers are long behind us, parenting teens may just require more work (or is that just more driving them around?), and hubby has the distinct disadvantage of also traveling for his job, usually one week out of every two. Except this month it's been 3 weeks out of 4.

So how do you fit it all in when you have a family, work, and travel to account for?

Fitting in workouts when you're on the road so much makes for a challenging training schedule. Here's what we've figured out for Wayne's workout schedule to maximize his use of time when he's away from home and when he's back in town:

RUNNING: This is the easiest activity to achieve anywhere, so running stays a constant in Wayne's training plan. His longer runs will occur on weekends, since he's almost always home for those. But on the road, he can usually fit in 2 - 3 more runs a week, even during traveling weeks. Most business hotels now have a treadmill or two at a minimum, and he can use these when traveling in the wintertime. Boring, but necessary!

BIKING: Wayne's training plan will alternate between light bike weeks (Friday and Sunday rides only) when he's traveling, and heavier bike weeks (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) when he's home. We're planning on a couple of strategically placed "big bike weeks" where we pump up the bike volume in the spring and summer. Right now he's concentrating on getting as much time in the aerobars as possible, to build up his muscles before we start hitting the longer rides in the spring.

SWIMMING: When he's in town, Wayne's hitting the pool with the Masters, and steadily improving his swim times. When he's out of town, well most hotel pools leave a lot to be desired, so that's hit and miss. Still, swimming is the shortest part of an Ironman, and one that Wayne should be able to make a decent time in, even at his current skill level.

In short, training for triathlons requires a commitment, whether you're in town, out of town, have kids to get places, or whatever your circumstances. While Wayne is busy jetting to some other city and running on a hotel treadmill, I have dropped the kids off at Kung Fu class and play rehearsal respectively, and with the dogs in tow I'm fitting in my 3 mile run, sometimes in the pouring rain. That's what commitment and training is all about - getting it done, no matter where you are and how you have to fit it in. A lot of people are surprised that Wayne signed up for the Ironman, given his work schedule, but like so many Ironmen before him, he's made the commitment to get the workouts done.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Power To Transform Your Life

Hubby and I were at REI today buying him some cold weather tights so he can ride outdoors in these cold December days, and we ran into some friends we hadn't seen in awhile.

Except that we didn't even recognize one of them. But she knew us. You know how awkward that is when someone knows you and you can't even place them? Well, there was a reason. She has lost 100 pounds and completely transformed her health and her life.

She no longer has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. She no longer takes a dozen medications just to get by. She's healthy and vital and brimming with energy and glowing with good health! She was there at REI to buy some new hiking boots, she now walks three or more miles a day.

We hear the words so often, they've ceased to make an impact on our ears: diet and exercise. Exercise and diet. It sounds so simple, it couldn't possibly be as simple as that, could it? Isn't there a pill, shake weight, fat-blasting DVD or other quick fix that will do it for me? But it IS that simple. When you take control of your health, the food you eat, the movements that your body does, you can simply transform your life.

I am blessed as a coach to work with people every day who have made this incredible transformation. I hear their stories, I see the tears in their eyes, I know how grateful they are to be able to walk, swim, run, move. I know how tough it's been for them and how hard they've worked, and I know how much it's worth it. If you're waiting for something out there to transform your life, don't. Don't wait, just get started. You have the power.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

When 3 Miles Is A Long Run: The Road to Recovery

I shared a great quote on my Facebook page the other day that's worth repeating:

It never gets easier. You just get better.

It's worth repeating because many people think that athletic achievements are somehow easier for people who are athletes than they are for non-athletes. It's just not true. While it might be easier for one person to go faster than another (I will never bike as fast as Lance Armstrong, with our without the doping), it's never easy.

Let me repeat that: It's never easy. Not for any athlete. Not for the couch-to-5k'er, not for the experienced marathoner. Not for Lance Armstrong, even with dope.

And when you haven't run in six months, you come face to face with this inevitable truth because all of a sudden something you could once do without thinking becomes very very hard. A three mile run. Just a 5k. Sure, a 5k race is brutal, but to just go out and run a few miles at an easy pace? I used to be able to do that in my sleep.

Now there is no easy pace.

But. But, but, but.... I can run! 

I started with a trail run two weeks ago, just 20 minutes. Last week it was a post-Thanksgiving run on my hometown trails, and I did 30 minutes without a problem. Today I did 3.5 miles and so far so good, my knee is a little sore but no stabbing pain yet.

My current plan is to work up to 4 miles once a week, with the other two runs of 30 minutes each on the elliptical. Then gradually I'll transition each of those runs back to actual running. When I can run 3 - 4 miles three times a week, then and only then will I start building in some more mileage. If it feels bad at any point, I can back off. That's something I couldn't do for oh, a couple of decades, but I'm trying to be good about training smarter and letting my body heal.

Another thing I'm trying to be good about is to release my expectations. So I did take my watch today, but I told myself I would be fine with whatever it said. 10 minute miles, 11, 12, whatever. I was pleasantly surprised to find them all under 10, with the last one under 9.

As always, the first mile always feels the worst (unless you're in an Ironman or a marathon, in which case miles 22 - 25 always feel the worst. Always.) but it did get better and that last mile felt almost.... dare I say it? Good.

Friday, November 30, 2012

51 Weeks to Iron Hubby: Already Arguing With the Coach

While many triathletes monitor their every last watt, breath, and body fat percentage, my hubby just finally got out the HR monitor/watch I got him for his birthday  (2 months ago!) out of the box.

"Put it on" I say

"I don't know how it works, I'll just go swim" says he

"You press this button here to start it going, and press it again when you want to record a split time. Then you press this button over here to stop it" (this guy can fix or fly a $10 million dollar jet airplane, I know he can work the darned watch already)

"It's too much trouble"

(Sound of me tearing my hair out)

Finally I got him convinced to use the watch. Then it was another argument over the workout - honestly, I do get paid to write up swim workouts and OTHER people actually follow them. Eventually though, I talked him into doing a timed 4000 with a 400 yard warmup, so the total distance is about equal to the Ironman swim. In my experience, the wetsuit gives most men about a 10% bonus in speed, so a 4000 yard pool swim time is roughly what you can expect to swim an Ironman in.

Off he went to the pool, returning with some great splits on the watch and a smile on his face.
That's a pretty darned nice swim split for your first timed effort, a year out from your Ironman. Yeah, I don't think he'll have much trouble on the swim.

As long as he stops arguing with his coach, that is.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Countdown: 52 Weeks to IronHubby

Yep, he did it. For years, he's been Mr. "I'll Never Do an Ironman" (sometimes I think about how wise he is, how sane). But all that changed in a tent in Tempe Arizona today. Last night we volunteered here at the 2012 Ironman Arizona, and he got to see first-hand the zombie-walkers of the evening marathon slog. That, coupled with supporting me through two Ironmans means he absolutely knows what he's getting into.

Well, almost.

No one ever really knows what they're getting into when they sign up for their first Ironman. They may think they do, but they don't. So from here on out, I'll let him tell the story in his own words. Once a week, I'm going to have him do a guest post as he counts down to his first Ironman. He's done one Sprint (10 years ago) and one Olympic (3 years ago) triathlon in his life, so he's really quite new to this sport. His perspective will be totally different than mine in what he brings to the Ironman. However, he's quite a good all-around athlete with great strength and endurance, so I have confidence that he'll do just fine.

So here, in all of his tri-newbie glory, are my husbands first words as he prepares for his 52- week Ironman Countdown:

"What the Heck Have I Done?" (Robin's Note: I'm paraphrasing here, to keep my G rating)

"The journey begins.  I'm excited for the challenges ahead. The combination of turning 50 and taking on this kind of challenge in my life is going to take some extreme commitment. The reason I'm so excited is that I've done much of this stuff on its own. I've swam 2 miles, I've biked 100 miles, and I've run a marathon. But I've never put all three of those things together in one day. I want to see what I can accomplish.

The biggest difficulty for me is going to be training alone. I'm such a social person, and I love to exercise in groups - mountain biking with my friends or swimming with the Masters. Robin is such a loner-type, it's fine for her to go out on her own for a 6-hour bike ride, but for me it's going to be extremely challenging to do some of this training just out there by myself.

Also, I'm the kind of athlete who can train minimally and finish a race. I got by doing a marathon with only one 14 mile run. It sucked, but I could finish it. You can't cheat the Ironman. I absolutely have to put in the training time. The reason that I really want to do this is that for one year of my life I will really have to work hard, juggling my training time, my work, and family."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Making the Most of a Hotel Workout

Do you know how hard it is to be down here at Ironman Arizona and not be able to run? I never thought I'd say this, because I was always a "Running Sucks" kinda gal (and I laughed out loud each time the guy wearing the shirt that said exactly that came through my aid station at IMAZ), but it's emotionally difficult to not be able to run. And to not know when or if I'll ever be able to run again. But I'm not one to cry into my morning tea, so I have to count my blessings - I'm down here in the Arizona sunshine and I have a POOL.

I've ranted here before about trying to squeeze in a workout in a hotel pool. They can be short, narrow, kidney-shaped, and full of splashing kids. Somehow, when it's your only resort, you find a way. I got lucky this week, the pool may be oddly shaped, but at least it was almost 20 yards long. I did discover that when you do a flip-turn on a curved wall, you end up heading sideways and if you're very lucky you won't crush your skull on the other wall that you're headed straight towards.

But, since I can't run, I've been swimming over a mile a day in a crescent-shaped bit of sunny water and loving it. My home state is being hammered with 60 mile an hour winds and 5 - 10 inches of rain (and no, that's not even a hurricane, I live in Oregon, that's just a typical winter storm.), so while I'm here, I'm going to love every 18 1/3 yard lap!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

The weather has been unseasonally warm and beautiful outside. Who can resist  bike rides in shorts in November?

I just finished editing and submitting the screenplay my son and I wrote to the BlueCat Screenwriting competition (deadline today! nothing like a deadline to make you work). I think I read the darned thing 20 times or more in the last 3 days.

My daughter is in a play that's 25 miles away and requires 5-night-a-week rehearsals, while my son has 5 nights a week of karate and medieval martial arts here in town (how can a mom be in two places at one time? with way too much driving and some crafty carpooling)

I'm going away with my hubby for the first time in 16 years. Mom has the kids, the kids take care of the dogs, cats, rabbit, mice, and chickens. Hubby and I enjoy the Arizona sunshine, volunteer at Ironman Arizona this Sunday and register him for his first Ironman on Monday. Yes, I'm going to have an Iron Hubby on the year of his 50th birthday.

All these are excuses for why I haven't been blogging lately. Truth be told, by the time I can have some "me" time at 10:30 at night, I'm just done in.  I'm actually writing this from the airport at 4:00 in the morning having gotten up at 3:00 am. But if this is the me time I get, so be it!

All in all though, life is good. Other than the persistent knee problem (still can't run), I'm in good health and the family is awesome, though terribly busy. I've been swimming a lot more than I have in years and am actually getting faster as a result. Turns out that two times a week is barely enough to maintain in swimming, but four times a week kicks ass. I hope to write a post up this week about my recent swimming breakthrough, a technique change that bumped me down to a 1:10 pace for my 100's in yesterdays workout.

I am woefully behind in reading my favorite blogs, so hopefully on this relaxing weekend I will get to catch up somewhat on what you all are doing out there in blogland. But not before I hit the pool with my goggles, a towel, and a paperback.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Can You Run Out of Things to Improve On?

A bunch of Masters swimmers have asked me to coach an extra weekly practice, mostly focused on technique. In swimming, improving technique is where your biggest bang for the buck comes from, since simply grinding away at more weekly yards rarely gives much of a boost to swimming performance. In the process of discussing this weekly addition, one swimmer noted that we might run out of things to work on.

Is that possible? Can you run out of things to work on in swimming? I'm guessing that Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps haven't done so, and therefore neither should we. Swimming is a game of constant thought processes and incremental improvements that add up to big performance gains. At first, when swimmers are starting out with poor technique, each thing they change can make huge differences in their effort level and in their times. Later, as the stroke gets more refined, the changes become tinier and the gains smaller, but there are still gains to be had.

One of my Masters swimmers told me this week that his fastest 50m swim of all time came when he was concentrating on "laying his armpit on the water" - in other words, reaching full extension of his stroke. Sometimes one area of concentration can produce a leap in performance that can't be built through sheer yards alone.

So, all that being said, I've been swimming competitively for 28 years now and there are still new things that I'm working on each and every year. Right now in my stroke, I'm concentrating on a couple of areas:

1) Offside breathing - moving the head turn earlier in the stroke. I realized that I was turning my head too late when I breathed to my "off" side (as opposed to the good side I normally breathe to) and that's part of why I have a more difficult time breathing to the left. I'm working on getting my head to rotate earlier and return to neutral position earlier in the left armstroke recovery.

2) Head Down - This is my perpetual problem, especially as I enter a flip turn, I tend to pick my head up and slow my momentum. But I have remnants of head-up swimming at other times as well, and since it affects body position and I tend to sink, it's important to keep the head down.

3) Turns - I'm working on coming in closer to the wall on my flip turns. I had an epiphany the other day, which is that if I take an extra stroke, even if it's a short one, I get closer to the wall on the turn, have a tighter and faster turn. I used to glide into the wall on my last stroke, thus losing momentum.

These are just a few things that I drill on every week. If you're serious about improving your swim stroke, I recommend picking just a couple of things to work on. Google those problem areas and find drills and technique instruction to help you make the changes that you're looking for. And overall, never forget the concept of Kaizen - constant and never-ending improvement. It's how swimmers get faster, from the cream of the Olympic crop down to the triathletes and Masters swimmers who are just starting out.

Friday, October 19, 2012

One Perfect Day

One Perfect Day. It's not a day when a winning lottery ticket falls out of the sky, or a movie star appears out of nowhere to sweep you away, or you get that big promotion you've been waiting for. It's a day comprised of small moments that you take the time to see clearly, to appreciate as they're happening, to savor in your memory when they're gone. Nothing spectacular has to happen on a perfect day, you just have to notice that everything you usually take for granted is, in fact, amazing.

My life is filled with perfect days, but sometimes I'm too harried to notice them. Sometimes I'm the Busy Person that this blog post addresses so well (I'm somewhat embarassed  to admit that a friend sent me a link to this post and it took me several days to get around to reading it guessed it... I was too busy!). Yesterday I slowed down enough to notice, to appreciate, to savor. And even to document on my cell phone.

First, what's breakfast without some Emoticon Pancakes? These weren't created with any sort of intention, the faces just appeared in the pancakes like magic. There's a flaw in our cast-iron pan that caused my daughter to flip these fun little pancakes, each one cuter than the last.

As the sun peeped out from behind the early morning valley fog, my son and I went out to pick the remaining apples off of our trees to be made into fruit leather and apple sauce. He and I took a moment and sat in the sunshine with a freshly plucked bright red apple in hand. Biting into that crisp fall-flavored fruit, feeling the sun slanting in from the south on our necks, we talked about what it would be like to have been born somewhere without seasons. I know there will come a time when winter's rain will seem endless and I'll yearn for the spring, but I also love the turn of the year here in the northwest when nothing is the same for long. The cold brings on the apples, plums, and fall fruit. The rain brings the greenery that makes this place so beautiful the rest of the year.

So then why not head out on one of fall's last spectacular days along the winding back roads of the south hills of the Willamette Valley. It was a bit chilly here in the forested parts, and I was really grateful for my convertible jacket with the zip-off sleeves. This time of year each bike ride brings another layer of clothing you have to add. First the vest, then the jacket, then tights, earwarmers, and full gloves. Eventually, I retreat into the pain cave with some hardcore biking videos from The Sufferfest and maybe a season or two of Dexter and wait out the chilling rains until spring makes the outdoors palatable again. This time of year, every ride in the sunshine is a blessing.

As I broke out into wine country, I was treated to the golden-hued vines of Sweet Cheeks and Hinman vineyards. I have to admit, I didn't shoot this gorgeous shot with my cell phone (I thought about trying, but decided it wouldn't be a good idea to tromp up the hill in my cycling shoes). This came off of their website. But this is what it looked like out there: fall sunlight on the golden leaves of the grape vines. I've bicycled hundreds of miles in Italy and thousands here and I can tell you that Oregon holds its own with some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

What could possibly top such a gorgeous day, but an evening spent downing a pint with my mates while watching the Ducks stomp the Sun Devils - the Aquaducks had an informal get together at a local pub with some big screens and a Duck-happy crowd. The final chapter was then taking my son to hear Beethoven's 5th performed by the Eugene Symphony. This iconic music deserves to be heard as it literally is brought to life by the orchestra. The energy of the conductor, the motion of the bows on strings, the tympany rolling from the back of the stage, and that perfect moment in the first movement when all the sound and fury dies down and one lone oboe calls out - my arms erupting in goose bumps.

As I came home to my house, redolent with the smell of the plum/apple fruit leather in the dehydrator and applesauce in the crockpot, I washed my face and climbed under the down comforter, snuggled my pillow-stealing dog next to me and closed my eyes on a perfect day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Escape From a Mugger Shows The Value of the Black Belt

I did one thing wrong on that Wednesday afternoon - a sunny day in a parking lot in front of the pool, a non-threatening location where my guard was down - I stood in the door of my car.

I was waiting for my daughter, talking on the phone. The car was hot, I got out and stood there, enjoying a few minutes of warm autumn sunshine. I was distracted, chatting with a person in a ticket office, my credit card held loosely in my other hand as I read off the numbers.

At first, the man approaching me looked like any other young guy walking down the sidewalk. Maybe his pants were hanging a bit low, a chain connecting his wallet or keys draped across his front. The baseball cap on his head turned backwards, the loosey-goosey gangsta walk gave him an aura of trying a bit too hard to be a bad boy. But you see guys like this all the time.

So I didn't pay attention as he came towards me along the sidewalk -  until he veered straight at me. Only then did I realize the vulnerable position I'd put myself in. Trapped against the door of my car. Unable to get in and slam the door in time to shut him out. By the time the second or two had passed between him seeming like another guy walking by, and him being a guy walking towards me looking like trouble, I had nowhere to go. I had forgotten the golden rule of being a woman: never let your guard down.

What happened next probably took less than a minute. It went by so fast that only in retrospect could I analyze what had transpired between us. In the moment, it went something like this:

Thug: You're going to give me that phone and your credit card.
Me (surprised, still chatting on phone): What?
Thug (getting in my face, reaching out) Give me your phone!
Me: (to person on other end of line) Excuse me just a moment
        (to thug): No, I don't think so
Thug (getting angry) You f***ing little b*tch! What, you think I can't take this. You (stream of obscenity I won't reprint)
Me: I think you need to leave me alone now. Move away.
Thug moves away down the sidewalk uttering more curses at me over his shoulder

At first, I was simply shocked that he left me alone. He was probably six feet tall and 190 pounds. He had me trapped in a corner. What the heck happened here? But when I replayed the incident in my mind, I realized what had really occurred - a complex dance of body language and words, a moment in which years of training in martial arts had kicked in, and tipped the direction of the encounter.

When I looked back, moment by moment through the encounter, here's what happened in my mind and body:

Thug: You're going to give me that phone and your credit card.
Me (surprised, still chatting on phone): What?
I look around, realize I'm trapped. Realize I've put myself in a bad situation. Without realizing I did this until later, I slipped off my flip-flops and kicked them back under the car.
Thug (getting in my face, reaching out) Give me your phone!
Me: (to person on other end of line) Excuse me just a moment
        (to thug): No, I don't think so
I examine the thug from head to foot. His eyes look clear - no evidence of drugs or alcohol. I sniff, no scent of alcohol on his breath, and his face is only inches from mine, so I should smell it. No bulges in pockets that could be weapons. Hands are both out in front of him. He could have a weapon in the waistband of his pants but it would take him a moment to retrieve it. He's gesturing with his right hand, probably right-handed then. I have more room to his right side, so if he comes at me with an attack from that direction, I can block, move past him, and probably take out his knee.
Thug (getting angry) You f***ing little b*tch! What, you think I can't take this. You (stream of obscenity I won't reprint)
Me: I think you need to leave me alone now. Move away.
My body language shifts into defensive mode. I come up on the balls of my feet, ready to move, like a fighting stance in karate. My phone can be used as a weapon to strike him on the temple. My other hand is open, I draw in a slow breath, speak calmly, and look him in the eye. I can see this is totally unexpected for him. He expected this woman to back down and give him what he wanted. He's confused, both by my politeness and by my readiness to engage. I literally watch him evaluate, and back down.
Thug moves away down the sidewalk uttering more curses at me over his shoulder.

Now, things might've turned out differently if he'd had a weapon. If he'd been on drugs, or looked like he was mentally unstable. I might've made different decisions based on a thousand factors. But the truth is, the years of training that went into becoming a black belt helped me make all of those decisions on the fly. And ultimately, I knew I had options, I had defenses. Even though I'd originally put myself into a bad position (lesson learned there), I was able to get away from a bad situation.

This is why even on the occasional days when my kids don't want to get up and go to karate, I insist. My kids are both teens now. They bike or take the bus places without me. They're out in a world that's usually wonderful, but can sometimes turn ugly in a heartbeat. I need to know that they will have options too.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Best New Autumn Breakfast

You probably know by now that my go-to power breakfast is my Banana-Coconut Custard, which fulfills everything I need in a breakfast:

1) Easy to make
2) A good mix of protein, fat, and carbs
3) Easy on digestion
4) Whole-foods ingredients
5) Reasonably paleo or at least no grains
5) Tastes like it could be dessert

But bananas are such a summery fruit. I need something that feels like fall. Something that tastes like a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte' without all that sugar and without costing me almost $5.

Enter my new favorite fall breakfast: Pumpkin Custard.

Here's how you make it - super easy! And just see if this doesn't fuel your next early morning swim or afternoon bike ride through the turning leaves to perfection:

- Whisk 3 eggs until frothy
- Add 3 Tbs Milk, Coconut Milk, Almond Milk, or whatever substitute you want
- Add 1/4 cup of Pureed Pumpkin (I used canned, but I'll use some fresh cooked/mashed once I pick some pumpkins)
- Add cinnamon and some pumpkin pie spices to taste (nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc.)
- Add maple syrup to taste if you want it a bit sweeter and need some extra carbs

Put in microwave for 3 - 5 minutes until it puffs up and cooks all the way through. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back to the Pool: Today's Workout

All good things must come to an end, and that includes open water lake swimming season. So it was with a heavy heart that I returned to the pool this week, and I needed a good workout to see me through it. This one goes by fast, and challenges you with lots of different speeds and times. So if you're in need of a little indoor lap swimming boost, try this workout on for size:


300 Swim
6 x 50 Kick - focus on keeping your feet close together and touching your big toes together with each kick
6 x 50 Drill/Swim - touch toes every kick and feel your rhythm (also helps eliminate any scissor-kicking)

4 x 75 Build each (get faster each 25)
12 x 50 Drill/Swim in IM Order

This set is continuous, no rest other than what is in the intervals. Go through all five rounds of the set without stopping. The 25s and 50s should increase in speed from a Distance Pace in the first round to All Out in the last.

5 X
2 x 25 @ :30
1 x 50 @ 1:10
1 x 100 - Distance Pace @ 1:30
1 x 200 Pull - Smooth @ 3:20

200 Cool Down

Total: 4000 yards

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Great Waldo Crossing of 2012

As open water swimming adventures go, it was top of the heap. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite as dramatic as last year's traverse of Crater Lake, but our group crossing of Waldo Lake last weekend, one of the clearest lakes in the world, was breathtaking from start to finish.

When we started swimming, the lake was so smooth it was like a blue mirror of the early morning sky above. Water temperatures around 60 made it pleasant, if slightly chilly near the shore, and only a few degrees colder out toward the middle. We started off with ten swimmers, plus our support crew of a kayak and paddleboard. Three of the swimmers planned to do a shorter out-and-back route, while seven of us had signed on to swim from North Waldo Campground to Shadow Bay in the south, two of the only three places on the lake's rim where a road comes into the lake. The rest of the lake is surrounded by forest and wilderness, a unique and beautiful place.

While I typically post a photo of us in wetsuits about to start swimming, I thought I'd prove that we are actually normal people who wear real clothing most of the time. Okay, we're mostly normal people who wear neoprene a lot of the time, but here we are in our warm clothes on the beach before the swim.

So this is where I say something about the water clarity at Waldo. It's simply stupendous. You can see a hundred feet or more, making it feel more like flying above a submerged topography than like swimming. As you can see, we weren't above taking a break to clown around under the water. When you're swimming with a group, you could literally look around and see the other swimmers next to you like they were hovering in thin air. I spent at least fifteen minutes of the swim tripping out on all of the swirls of light on the bottom beneath me, the prisms created by colliding waves. The soundtrack in my head played "Right here right now, there is no other place I want to be" on an endless loop.

At a couple of spots, we got out and sat on the beach to warm up. The silence at Waldo is pristine, and for a moment we sat without speaking, listening to nothing more than the slight sighs of the water against the rocks at the edge, looking out over the unspoiled beauty of the clouds reflected around us. Although some wind and chop picked up in the last mile or so of our 6.2 mile swim, most of it was calm and lovely and I felt strangely like it was over all too soon.

But of course, then came a big barbeque, potluck, campfire, and an evening of friendship and fun. Once again, I find myself one of the luckiest people on the planet, because I get to experience such beauty and share it with some amazing people.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Open Letter to Male Cyclists

Drafting behind an unsuspecting female cyclist: just don't do it.

There's no nice way to say it - following a female cyclist closely enough that she can hear your heavy breathing in her ear is Creepy. Creepy with a capital C. Now if you know her, and you're rolling in a pack on a group ride, or you're in a draft-legal race, that's different. But when she's toodling along the bike path and she unexpectedly hears you huffing and puffing behind her.... yep, creepy.

For clarification,


For the second time in as many weeks, I've passed another cyclist on the path only to have him latch onto my rear tire like a blood-starved leech. Now normally I try to maintain a very sedate pace on the path. For one thing, I don't think it's safe to go over about 16 mph when there are kids on trikes, dogs on invisible extend-o-leashes, drunks weaving all over the path on their bikes, and people riding while doing all manners of things from texting to kissing their girlfriend. Yes, I saw ALL of those things on my ride today. Really.

Now I know there are roadies and triathletes out there who think that the bike path is the cosmic proving ground where they can show how awesome they are by riding 25 mph on their drops or aerobars, but I'm not one of them. I usually use the path as my warm up or cool down and wait until I hit the open road to unleash the quadriceps. So when I passed Creepy Bike Commuter Guy with his corduroy pants tucked into his white tube socks and his coolio fixie with the straight handlebars and loaded messenger bag, he must've been going no more than about 12. A casual "on your left" from me, and he was gone in my rear view mirror, or so I thought.

Two minutes later, I hear this odd sound, like a rasping noise. I think it's coming from my rear wheel - maybe a candy wrapper or leaf got stuck to it? I look down and back, don't see anything. Keep going. Now I hear another weird noise, like a whale surfacing in the ocean with a big wet blast of air. What the heck, have I blown my tire? Look down again: nothing. The noise starts coming regularly, and I just about grab my brakes to pull over. Lucky for me I don't because this time when I look back, I notice something odd: another tire about three millimeters from my own. Yep, it's Creepy Commuter Guy, taching himself out to the redline to keep on my back tire. Ugh.

Luckily, this wasn't anything that a quick acceleration to 25 mph couldn't fix. A few minutes of putting the hammer down and he was gone like a bad dream. But the point remains, that if you're a woman it can feel kind of eerie to have a guy following that close behind you. Oh I know, if you're a man you might be rolling your eyes right now. The guy was probably just trying to get a draft, a free ride. Or perhaps show he fast he could be by hanging onto a triathlete's wheel for awhile. I'm sure there was some rational explanation. But the problem is, when you're a woman, you inevitably run into creepy guys at regular intervals in your life. This blog post by UnWinona sums up what many women face on a daily or weekly basis. If you think she's exaggerating, I can assure you that she's not. This stuff really happens. And guys really do follow you or keep pestering you, even when you've told them you're married or asked them to leave you alone.

So if you're a nice guy, and I bet you are if you've read this far, pass that draft on up and wait for the next male cyclist to come your way. Or if you really want to race, find a local time trial or crit and test your legs that way like a real man. But leave my rear tire alone. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Just Another Day in Paradise

Just got back from our annual pilgrimage to Waldo Lake, camping for the last five days. More on that later, but here's just one beautiful picture of heaven on earth. This is me with my sister Marisa and brother-in-law Nick, about to go for a swim.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PT Banned by the Geneva Convention??

"If you feel your flesh melting or burning away, you'll want to take this off"

That's what my Physical Therapist said to me as she hooked up this strange electrically-charged bandaid thingy. Okay, well, that's not exactly what she said. But is sure sounded like something close to that. And then my knee was attacked by a small swarm of teeny tiny bees. Well, maybe not, but that's what it felt like. In reality, it was Iontophoresis at work. Technically, iontophoresis is "a non-invasive method of propelling high concentrations of a charged substance, normally a medication or bioactive agent, transdermally by repulsive electromotive force using a small electrical charge applied to an iontophoretic chamber containing a similarly charged active agent and its vehicle" You can also use reverse iontophoresis to actually suck someone's molecules right out of their body. Sounds like a scary Dr. Who episode to me, but fortunately we weren't using the reverse kind today.

Shouldn't these be banned by the Geneva Convention?
But the killer-bee-swarm-electrocution-bandage is just one of the many fun and varied torture devices that my PT is inflicting on me in hopes of helping my knee get better. This one followed the Ice Scraper Guy. That's what I call the PT assistant who uses a variety of ice-scraperish implements to get my muscle and tendon fibers to stop adhering to each other. It's a really exciting process that is probably used in places like Guantanamo Bay once the Barney Song torture stops working. Now technically, this process is called "Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, or IASTM and "is a system of manual therapy that uses tools to diagnose and treat skeletal muscle and connective tissue disorders. Practitioners use the tools, which typically vary in size and shape--and which often incorporate a beveled leading edge--to palpate the affected area and reduce any adhesions in the muscles, tendons and connective tissue. The scraping action of the tools stimulates healing at the cellular level and enhances blood flow to the problematic area, which further stimulates the healing process"

That all sounds fine and dandy until someone actually applies it to your badly adhered IT band. Then the fun and games are over.

All joking aside, I love my PT. She's totally amazing and aside from inflicting various devices of torture on me is actually helping my knee feel a lot better. Not good enough to actually compete in the half-Ironman I had scheduled for next week, mind you, but better. Good enough for a 60 mile hill-climbing bike ride is good enough for me, right now, today. And that's why I won't be turning her in for violating the Geneva convention after all.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ironmom to IronGrandma??

Yeah, it's true! Not sure I'm ready to get used to be called "grandma" yet, but it will be at least a year before she's talking, so I have time to get used to it.

That's our daughter holding our first grand-daughter (and those of you keeping track, it's my step-son and daughter-in-law's baby, not either of our teens', thank heavens!) The new parents and world's cutest grand-baby are doing wonderfully and hopefully getting some sleep. We get to spend a couple of days adoring her before we have to head back home.

It seems like such a long time since we were at this point with our own babies, yet holding this little sweet thing it also seems like almost yesterday. What an adventure they are in for!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

For Olympic Athletes and Harried Housewives, the Prayer is the Same

Many of my friends are having a tough time lately, for one reason or another. They're beating themselves up over things they did or didn't do, words said or unsaid, choices taken or left behind. Looking at the Olympic athletes struggling for victory, you have to realize that many of them are going through the same thing. Most of them will never see Gold or stand on the podium with tears in their eyes. For most, it's a game of almost-ran, and the personal recriminations may be hard to avoid: If I'd done more intervals, eaten differently, used more video analysis, trained harder, I could've been there.

The media doesn't help. I'm sure glad in the wake of my own personal Ironman let-down that I didn't have cameras in my face as I puked or walked or struggled with my inner demons. How many of us could endure our personal athletic or inner struggles being exposed to public scrutiny? I think it shows amazing strength of character that the Olympic athletes can put themselves out there for themselves and their country and sport, and most of them are incredibly gracious, no matter the outcome.

Regardless of whether we win or lose, whether our life path feels like it's headed in the right direction or not, we all have pause to second-guess ourselves and to worry about our life's decisions and actions. In times like this, I like to remember the word Grace. I think it's no small wonder that the hymn Amazing Grace is one of the most enduring and well-loved of all time. As a matter of fact, when I chugged up the hill at the end of the first leg of the Ironman bike course, a group of bagpipers were playing just that tune, sending goosebumps up my arms. Allowing ourselves to experience Grace through all of life's turmoils is not always easy.

That's why my favorite prayer is very short and simple: "I am doing the best I can today. Lord, grant me your Grace." I don't even think it matters if you're Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Sikh or Buddhist. A prayer for Grace is the best gift we can give to ourselves and to the world. For when we act with Grace, whether it's doing our family's laundry or missing the medal stand by a fraction of a second, we bless ourselves and those around us.

Monday, August 06, 2012

You Might Be A Triathlete If...'re going to an important meeting and you accidentally put Glide under your arms instead of deodorant. I wondered why my pits were so slippery! Must keep them in separate drawers from now on.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Swimming Long: 10K National Championships

The only thing more fun than swimming several miles around a beautiful lake on a sunny day is doing it with a bunch of your good friends. And once cannot have better friends than the Aquaducks, my Masters swim group.

I have never swam a 10k in my life, nor can I say that the thought of doing so ever crossed my mind. But the Aquaducks have been venturing to ever greater distances and events, and this year the 10k National Championships came to a lake within spitting distance of my hometown, so how could I resist??

How do you pace a 10k swim? I had no idea. I asked around the more experienced competitors, some of whom had traveled from the other side of the country to compete. The consensus seemed to be "Go out slow on the first lap (2.5k), go a little faster on the 2nd, a little faster on the 3rd, and on the 4th lap, give it what you have left." Sounds like a good plan. My personal goal was to finish feeling strong, so I planned to pace the first lap accordingly. I hoped to finish under 3 hours, but had no idea how reasonable that was (or wasn't).

Most triathletes would run screaming at the thought of swimming 10k, especially when the words "No Wetsuits Allowed" are appended. But swimming in lakes is what I love best, and I'm always sad in a triathlon when I have to get out of the water. My only real worry for this race was my left arm, broken twice at the elbow in the last two years. The elbow especially tends to fatigue, and the wetsuit acts as a sort of neoprene brace that holds it together for longer. Not having swum this far without a wetsuit, I was just hoping it wouldn't give out on me before I was finished.

The swim start was a dream, especially after the mosh pit of Ironman Coeur d'Alene just a couple weeks back. As it turns out, open water swimmers are quite polite compared to triathletes. They all swim straight, kick neatly behind themselves (instead of doing big scissors kicks that knock the triathletes to the left and right) and pace themselves correctly. So the swim start goes off without a hitch, everyone just surging forward at the appropriate pace. I concentrated on swimming smoothly and evenly, with a good steady but non-aggressive pace. The first 2.5 loop went great. Water temperature was ideal, probably about 76. The loop was an odd shape, following the shoreline and had many turns. This kept it more interesting than the standard triangle or rectangle that I'm used to. It also meant you had to be good at sighting, and at distinguishing which buoy you were aiming for.

At the end of the loop, you're back near the swim start and you have your nutrition out on a table, so you swim up and take your drink mix or gels, then swim off again. First loop time was 41 minutes for me, but I had a pretty good draft from the big group at the start, so I figured the next few might be slower. As it turned out, the next 3 loops all took me 44 minutes and change, leaving me with a time of 2:56. I was very happy to have broken 3 hours, and my left arm held up through the whole thing with no problems. My only regret is that I didn't strategize and get into a good drafting group. There was a big group that finished just a few minutes ahead of me, but I let them get away from me in the first loop. Considering the time difference wasn't that great, I should've been able to hang with them. As it was, I swam almost the whole thing by myself. Next time I will strategize better!

Overall, my time was 2:56: 35, good enough for 15th overall in the women's field - at the National Championships! I'm happy with that, my first time at the distance. I will definitely do this again, it was much more fun than I anticipated, and strangely easier than I had imagined it would be. It was great fun camping out by the lake with our group, and you can't beat the scenery and camaraderie of this event. Highly recommended (if you don't mind swimming a long long ways without a wetsuit, that is).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Proudest Ironmom

When my kids were younger, I was sure that as they turned into teenagers I would have so much time. I would be able to fit in my long workouts easily, my kids would essentially be self-contained little mini-adults. Instead, this weekend I found myself on a forest trail pinning togas on Greek guards, and fitting swords into scabbards. You see, I'm currently employed as the costume designer and props manager for my son's movie shoot. He's filming a live action trailer for a role playing game that he just wrote and published.

His game is based on Greek mythology, and he put a lot of thought into what he didn't like about current role playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, et. al) and decided to fix them by creating his own. Here's a photo of him with his book, Path of the Oracle. If you're interested, it's available in paperback on  and also in Amazon Kindle formats.

I think what impressed me the most is that at the age of 15, he took this project from a thought ("What if role playing games were more like this....") to creating a solution, to building the game, getting play testers to use it, writing it into a game manual in book format, and then now developing a marketing plan that includes his live action trailer (hence the Greek costumes) and setting up meetings with retailers to carry his book (so far he has it in two locations in the first few days in print).

After writing the script for the trailer, he met with a fellow local moviemaker who helped him sign on cast and crew to shoot it. Most of the cast came from Craigslist or were friends of friends. They all stepped up to the plate and did a wonderful job in character. My hubby even makes a cameo appearance as a Greek guard. Without any prior directorial experience, Mackenzie choreographed fight scenes and gave the actors direction to create the scenes he wanted. Don't worry, I'll be linking to the finished product as soon as he finishes filming the scenes with Zeus and it goes through editing and sound production (all things he's also learning how to do on the fly).

As for me, sometimes my workouts just have to wait. Whether I'm helping out by shooting the photo for the book cover, formatting the PDF files for printing, scrounging the local thrift stores for footwear ala 150 B.C., or creating shields by painting our old snow saucers bronze, I've found that this Ironmom is busier than ever. Lucky my Ironman is done for the year!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why My Online Friends Make Me See Green

With the advent of the internet, news is no longer just news. Whereas before I might've read about the drought in our country, now I have online friends who are worrying about their cattle, or talking about how their vegetable gardens are withering or their lawns are dead brown. The internet puts a face on news and makes it real to me, even if I will never meet some of these friends in person. Although as a side note, I'll have to say that every single time I've met someone in person whose company I treasure online, they have been just as wonderful, if not more so, in person.

So yesterday when I got to do a short trail run with my dog, I saw the greenery around me with new eyes. I don't take it for granted, because I know so many of my friends would be happy to see it right about now. And when it rained last night and I had to rush out and pull all of my laundry off the line, I didn't mutter ungrateful phrases under my breath, not even a little bit.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What It's All About (not the Hokey Pokey)

The Ironman is behind me now (or should I say for now). All of the build-up, the 52 Weeks To Ironman posts, the training and nutrition and gear and stress all came down to one pinpoint day. Then poof, it's gone. I enjoyed a lot of it, and some of it I didn't. The only real regret that I have is that I allowed myself to become disappointed in me. Because of what?? Because I didn't do as well as I thought I should? Because fate got in the way (again)? Because I didn't make some arbitrary timeline in my brain?

Writing the last part of my race report yesterday brought all of the feelings I experienced in the race back to me, both the joyful bits and the horrible bits. Today I was left feeling wrung out.

Then a very cool thing happened: I went to see my doctor. Nothing special, just time for the yearly physical. My doc is great, he took almost and hour with me, went over every bit of my health from bloodwork to the year's history to a physical exam. And you know what he had to say? I'm in perfect health. Perfect. My heart rate, blood pressure, liver, kidneys, lungs, cholesterol, skin, red blood cells, brain, all of it. It's all good. Yes, I've still got the thyroid condition, which will never go away since I only have half of a thyroid gland. But other than that, no worries.

And that folks, that's what it's really all about. The Ironman finish line is a place in time. A moment that flashes by. But your good health, that's with you your whole life. It sets you up for being able to climb mountains or swim between the islands of Greece in your retirement instead of sitting in an easy chair popping pills and wheezing when you have to stand up. It affects every moment of every day when you feel vital and young, whizzing with energy and so very alive. Now I can't control everything that will happen to me in the future, but I know that these 52 weeks leading up to the Ironman have been a time when I did good things for my body. I exercised (a lot!), I ate well - fruits, veggies, good meats and nuts and seeds. I slept 8 hours a night. I stretched and relaxed when I needed to.

All of that got me across the Ironman finish line, yes. But more than that, it gave me a moment where my doctor said "Well, there's nothing more I really need to talk with you about. You're in great health." That's what it's all about.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

RACE REPORT: Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Part 4 - The Run

I'm sure this is probably the most drawn-out race report in the history of time, but hey, it's summer. You know, that time of peaceful relaxation, long afternoons on the hammock with a novel and a glass of iced tea.... ha ha ha...not in my family!  In reality, I was at the National Open Water Swim Championships this week, swimming my first ever competitive 10k, but I'll have to write that up some other time.

I guess I should finish up my Ironman Race Report, but to be honest, I don't have much desire to write up my running experience. Let's just say it wasn't pretty. It didn't start out too bad though.  I had a good transition: just over 3 minutes, and that included making sure the sunscreeners really coated me up good. I decided to wear my Zoot IceFil arm coolers, which was a great idea given that the day was heating up. Yes, I wore arm warmers in the morning and arm coolers in the afternoon - such is the mercurial temperatures at IMCdA. I also decided to wear my Nike Free shoes, putting my Vibram Five Fingers in my special needs bag in case running in the shoes was bugging my feet too much.

Out of transition, I ran up through town with all the cheering people. Even though it was uphill, it went by fast. I got to see my family and get some encouragement there, and then headed down through the part of the course that winds through the pretty neighborhoods along the lake. This is nice and shady, and people have lawn sprinklers and hoses out so it's easy to stay cool.

Originally I'd aimed to hold a 10:30 pace on the run course, but given the way I'd been feeling so far, I bumped that up to 11:00 per mile. For the first six miles, the plan was to add another :30 per mile and just take it easy. That worked out fine, and left me able to walk through all of the aid stations and make sure I dumped cold water on my arm coolers, got some nutrition in, and then grabbed a cup of ice on the way out and held the biggest pieces in the palms of my hands to help with cooling. This worked really well and my temperature stayed cool even as the day got hotter. The run course is really, really, really beautiful and it's easy to distract yourself with the lovely views of the lake. I can't recommend this course enough!

After six miles you encounter the big hill on the run course. On the bike it doesn't seem like much but it looks a whole lot bigger when you're running! This is a new addition to the IMCdA course from '11 on, and it makes the run course more challenging. Coming back down the hill, my bum knee was giving me some fits, but thankfully it didn't feel bad on the flats. Now it was time to dial the pace back to 11:00 per mile, and it seemed to go okay for a few miles but then my stomach started feeling worse and worse and worse. The mild nausea that I had been experiencing all day was worsened by the running, the fatigue, and probably the warmer temperatures and somewhere around mile 12 it bubbled over and I started throwing up.

Shit! This is not how I wanted to spend my IM marathon! I also remembered my time in the med tent after IMFL and had no desire to see a repeat performance of that extreme dehydration. So here I was leaning over a porta-potty toilet, somewhere right before heading back through downtown and I'll have to say this was my "dark night of the soul" moment. I didn't even want to see my family, I felt so bad. I skipped the next aid station, knowing whatever I put down was going to come back up and I didn't want to throw up in front of all of the people downtown or especially in front of my kids and hubby.

I did decide to stop for my special needs bag and get out my IceFil t-shirt. I changed my singlet out for the t-shirt, knowing it would help keep my core temperature even lower and that might help with the nausea. I didn't need to switch out my socks or shoes, everything else was fine. I took the chewable ginger out of the bag as well and started eating that to help my stomach out. I was also having some chafing down in the...erm...neither regions, due I think to pouring water over my head at the aid stations and having it drip down my back. I did have some Glide in my special needs bag, but I hadn't counted on the Special Needs station being right in front of the crowds! How the heck do you put Glide down your butt crack in front of hundreds of people? Ah, such are the questions you are forced to answer at an Ironman. At least I didn't throw up on anyone.

To make matters even better, as I was debating the Glide/posterior problem, hubby runs up and starts snapping pics with the camera. Now that's a moment I did not need memorialized for posterity! He asked how I was doing and I told him my stomach and my knee were for shit. I'm sure he probably guessed from the look on my face as I tried to put on a brave smile that I was pretty much in trouble. But what's there to do at that point? Keep on running. I saw my kids, and then my step-sons and daughters-in-law cheering wildly. It's amazing how important that becomes when you're facing the dark moments. They brought a smile to my face, and I kept on picking up the feet and putting them down. Coming that close to the finish line and then turning around and running back out of town was so very hard to do. But what's the alternative? Quit in front of your family and friends? Or dig deeper? I dug.

Just out of town I hit up the next aid station and decided I better get some fluids since I skipped the last one. I was hopeful since it had now been almost 3 miles since I threw up. Maybe things would be okay. I poured water on my IceFil shirt and arm coolers, got my ice in hand, and started running. So far so good..... but nope. Half a mile later I'm barfing again. The next couple of miles were basically trying to run, throwing up, walking, trying to run, throwing up, walking. This sucked!

Eventually I figured out that I only threw up once my heart rate started picking up, so I developed a strategy of starting to walk a minute before I got to the aid stations to lower my heart rate. Then drinking some Perform or some chicken broth, and then walking for another minute out of the aid station to keep everything down. At that point I could run to the next aid station and everything stayed down. It slowed my pace down to about 12:45, but I could keep going and at least I wasn't walking the whole thing. At that pace, I figured I could come in just under 13:30. Not what I hoped for, but in my mind it was in the realm of not too awful either.

So that was the whip I used to keep myself going for the last 10 or so miles - I knew if I stayed under 13:00 miles, I could beat 13:30. I know that's pretty arbitrary, but at that point you have to go with whatever works to keep you going. I'm not going to kid you, those miles were hell. I was just teetering on the brink of barfing the whole time and I absolutely stinking hate throwing up. I was just not a happy camper. I hated watching people pass me. I hated knowing that even though I ran my last IM marathon with a dislocated toe for pete's sake, this one was going to be slower. Waaayyyyy slower.

I will admit here I got pretty down on myself. I forgot my personal mantra: that it's a gift to be out there doing this. Not many people can even do this, so why was I busy comparing myself with my own arbitrary goals and with what other people were doing? I let myself get in a bad head space, and couldn't seem to pull it out. This is pretty unusual for me, but there it was.

The final insult was that I had spent all this time calculating out my paces so that I could beat 13:30, but as I passed the 26 mile marker, a volunteer told me "The finish line is only 10 blocks that way!" Ten blocks? I only had a few minutes to make it, and no way is 10 blocks equal to .2 miles. So I didn't even make my own stupid completely arbitrary goal of 13:30. I finished in 13:30:59 instead. I don't know why I let this create a black cloud over my head, but I did. I should've been busy enjoying my accomplishment, but I didn't give it the appreciation that it deserved. Only as I neared the finish line, came through downtown with all of the cheering crowds and all of the excitement, and as I saw my family again that it dawned on me - I was going to actually finish my second Ironman. Suddenly the black clouds were gone and I was just so happy to be done.

Unfortunately, it was a second Medical Tent experience for me. I wish I'd waited to get my photo taken until I emerged from the Med Tent because honestly, I won't even post my photo here - I look positively green, and my expression can best be described as "take the damn picture already before I throw up!" I was in the tent for about an hour and a half until I could get my stomach back under control. Wayne took the kids back to the hotel room so they didn't have to wait around for me.

So my biggest goals for my next Ironman are: 
1) Arrive at start line healthy
2) Stay healthy through the race
3) Don't end up in the Med Tent!

I haven't had good luck with the Ironman. IM #1 (Canada) was a DNS due hospitalization for ulcers and severe anemia, IM #2 (Florida) was an in-race injury with my toe dislocated in the swim, IM #3 (Coeur d'Alene) was food poisoning the week of the race. Surely the fourth time will be a charm? I feel like I have unfinished business with the Ironman.I have raced well at other distances, but never at IM. I want a race where I feel like I live up to my own potential, whatever that may be.

BUT... but, but, but, but.... I am a finisher. I didn't give up. I didn't give in. And really, my time isn't even that bad, even though much slower than my last. More than anything, I will remind myself that I Am An Ironman. I have earned it, and I will enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

RACE REPORT: Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Part 3 - The Bike

Yeah, this race report is slow in coming together. Just been too busy since we've gotten home to sit down at the computer! But here's the bike portion...


There is no feeling on earth like riding through downtown Coeur d'Alene, streets lined with screaming people, cowbells clanging and horns blowing. You feel like you're doing something totally epic (which, of course, you are), and the energy is mind-blowing. Then a few turns later, you're out on this beautiful road by the lake, and you can't help but feeling euphoric at this point. I especially loved the bagpipes at the top of the hill on the first part of the course, harkening back to my Scottish roots and raising the hairs on the back of my neck. Then you're at the turn-around and ready to zoom back into town and through the crazy mob again. Overall I felt okay through here, but for some strange reason my heart rate was really elevated - 30 beats higher than it should've been for this level of effort, according to my race rehearsals.

I knew Wayne and the kids would be on the overpass leading to highway 95, but just as I was blasting up the on-ramp, I dropped my chain, luckily managing to miss getting hit by the people behind me as I came to an abrupt stop. Then I saw my lovely cheerleading daughter screaming her lungs out and my hubby smiling, and their energy sent me out onto the harder part of the course. At this point, the adrenaline of the swim had worn off, and my heart rate was still really high. I had no idea what was going on with my body. My brain panicked and remembered my swim from Friday where I had to sleep for several hours afterwards. I was worried that my body was just not recovered enough from the food poisoning to hold out for this race.

Somewhere before mile 20, I broke out in a total body sweat, even though it was still really cold outside. Now I don't sweat much in the best of circumstances - a mild sheen is all you'll see on me on the hottest days of the summer. But sweat was pouring out of me, like I had just eaten a bowl of tabasco sauce or something. Then abruptly, it was over, replaced by a crushing fatigue that had me about ready to cry. Mind you, this is on a flat part of the course, before you face the hills and the wind.

At this point, I was filled with despair - this was it. I was going to DNF at mile 20 of the bike. All of my training, all the sacrifices from my family, all of the support from everyone, it was all going to end here. I wanted to throw my bike off the side of the road and just lay down and sleep. I was wrung out. But somehow I just kept cycling. Kept turning the pedals over. I didn't even know why I was doing it, I just did. One of my goals for the race was to just stay "in the box", per Endurance Nation's racing strategy: "the box" is what you can control this moment. At this point, that's all I had. I figured I would keep biking easy until I either felt better or simply had to stop. Eventually, I did just start feeling better. The sweat had dried and the fatigue lifted, I began to feel like I might actually make it.

So this is the point in the race where you look up and see the first of the big hills on the bike course. Damn! Psychologically, I was not so ready to face this. But I remembered what I set out to do when I pre-rode the course a month back, when I had mentally prepared myself for this moment. I looked around and found the peaceful green valley off to the side of the road, letting it fill my mind with a feeling of serenity. I vowed to look for it again from the top of the hill, because I knew I'd have a gorgeous view down into the valley from up there. That was it, time to grind upwards!

The nice thing about this course is that the hills really aren't hard. No terrible grades, and at this point in the day no searing heat. It was a pleasant temperature and I just put my head down and headed on up. At the top, I had some anxiety about the descent. As I mentioned in my pre-race write-up, my race wheels felt sketchy and developed a speed wobble when I pre-rode the course. I just took it easy on the downhill and yes, I rode the brakes. Yes, people passed me flying down the hill while I gave up my free speed and braked. But it's my race darnit, and I wanted to feel safe.

Of course, I regretted that the instant the hill ended and the winds began, because I had to work harder into the wind and up the next hill than I should've, but at least I didn't crash and burn and that was something! I did hear later in the race that a couple of people had bit it crashing on the hills, so I think for myself that decision to take it easy was a good one.

The rest of the first lap was a grind into the wind. Wind, hill, wind, hill, wind, hill. The turnaround seemed to be a distant possibility that came all too slowly. My time at the turnaround had me thinking I was in for a 7-hour bike ride. Ugh! I did NOT want that. But I had underestimated how much wind there had been, because once I turned back toward town, we were flying along with a good tailwind. Nice!


I figured that my family would've gone back to the hotel by now - I told them they didn't have to cheer me for the whole bike course. So imagine my surprise when I saw them there at the overpass. As soon as Asa saw me, she started yelling and cheering. I got lots of appreciative comments from riders around me about her enthusiasm. That was a great way to start my second loop.

I was looking forward to going through town and out along the lake again, and it didn't disappoint. Wow, this has to be one of the world's best Ironman courses for the crowds and the views. The bagpipers were still there as well, and I thanked them as I went past. The only moment of frustration in this section was a male cyclist in a bright green jersey who would not let me pass him. I had been coming up on him for awhile, but as soon as I passed him, he didn't even wait to drop back out of the draft zone but immediately re-passed me. Then he zoomed ahead, and after a few minutes he sat up, stretched, got some nutrition, slowed down again, and I had to over-take him again. This scenario repeated itself so many times I was getting mad. Ride your pace dude! I consoled myself with the thought that after his quads blew up, I would pass him on the run (I did). Other than that though, this part of the course was highly enjoyable.

Then all that was left was The Big Grind (or so I nicknamed the 2nd half of the course). This time I knew about the wind (although it had picked up some since the first loop), and was feeling better about my wheels and my ability to ride them on the course. So all that was left was just to go head-down and get 'er done. I had a little scare at the turn-around when I started heading back to town and had a headwind. WTH??? If I was going to have to battle the wind both ways, I would lay down and cry right there! Fortunately it was short-lived on a section that curved in the other direction. As soon as the road curved back, my friend the tail-wind re-appeared and ushered us back toward town.


This was the only sticky spot of the whole bike ride. My stomach was playing not-very-nice, which gave me a little frisson of fear for what was coming on the run. I felt slightly queasy on and off through most of the bike. I was very grateful that I had a solid and well-rehearsed nutrition plan. I had a 6-hour bottle of very concentrated Infinit in my Speedfil on the bike frame. It was like drinking sludge, but Infinit's ability to customize your drink formula let me dial the flavoring way way down, so it didn't taste bad at all. I had water in my Torhans 30 bottle on the front, and made use of the aid stations to grab a bottle and refill on the fly. I'd never done that before, and was happy with how easily it worked. I could grab one early, dump it in, and toss it to the side before leaving the aid station area. Slick! Other than that, I took a Bonk Breaker bar with me for 2 hours into the ride, and one more for 4 hours in. I had other fun stuff to eat like Sport Beans, but with my stomach acting up I decided to stick to a very simple plan and give it very little to have to work on digesting.

So far so good, everything I put in stayed down. I had to pee a few times so I knew my hydration was fine. I decided to stuff my arm-warmers in my back pocket and not stop for my special needs bag. That saved me a few moments of having to get off the bike.


The night before the race, I gave Wayne a piece of paper with my estimated split times - where I would come by his spot on the Hwy 95 overpass. I based this on a pretty conservative estimate, given what I was feeling like this week. I had hoped I could go faster than this, but 'twas not to be. On my sheet, I predicted that I would go past him for the last time at 7:50, and it was actually 7:49 and change. Pretty darned close. One thing I know is that I'm good at estimating what my body can do in any given circumstance. I played the bike pretty darn conservatively, but at this point I figured that was the best thing I could do to set myself up for being able to actually run the marathon. In retrospect, I'm happy with the way my bike went. I think if I'd pushed it harder, I could've looked at a DNF either on the bike, or later on the run. So although I'd like to see a faster split sometime in the future, this is what I could accomplish on this day.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

RACE REPORT: Ironman Coeur d'Alene: Part 2 - The Swim

How can you describe the swim start of Ironman Coeur d'Alene to someone who hasn't been there? Two-thousand athletes, shoulder-to-shoulder. A narrow stretch of sand. Two thousand hands hovering above the buttons on their watches. Without warning, a cannon fires. Two thousand voices collectively say "Oh shit!", press the start button on their wrist. Two thousand tiny beeps emit as we start running toward the water. The word "terrified" doesn't begin to cover the emotion of the moment.

In this life, some luck gets handed to you, and some you make happen. In this swim start, the luck that got handed to me was from an experienced CdA athlete from Endurance Nation who told us about "the pole position". You see, there's this big telephone-pole-like thing sticking up from the water about halfway down the beach. Naturally, no-one wants to swim into it. So people don't like to line up behind it, and when they start swimming they give it a wide berth. I lined up right behind it.

The luck that I made happen was that I turned to the people around me and asked them if they were all in the correct section of the beach. I told them that this was the "nice people zone" and that everyone standing there was going to be kind to their neighbors during the swim. I said we would be swimming under an aura of rainbows and unicorns. I believe that when you plant an idea like that, it takes on a life of its own. The people around me were smiling, and as the "oh shit" moment arrived and we ran into the water, they really were quite nice.

I aimed right for the pole, with the intention of skimming just beside it on the left side. This is where my straight swimming skills come into play because fortunately I didn't run into it and knock myself unconscious. As predicted, other swimmers gave it a wide berth and so it was that just after the photo taken above, I found myself in a giant bubble of clear water for the first 150 or so yards of the IMCdA swim start. Not a bad way to begin!

Soon though, I saw to my right a converging mass of humanity, all of whom unfortunately seemed to be still swimming my speed. I know for a fact that almost none of them would be swimming my speed at the end of 2.4 miles. I know this because only 98 other people did just that. But the several hundred folks around me all felt that this was their pace, and so it was up to me to keep up with the blistering charade until they all petered out somewhere around the point where they said to themselves "Shit, I'm really out of breath, I ought to slow down before I expire out here in the lake!"

This was about the time that I took a hard blow to the head, Rocky Balboa style (can you imagine the water flying in slow-mo away from my swimming face?). This was also about the time that the first of the wind-inspired whitecaps reared its ugly head. Now I'm not saying that this swim was any IMSG 2012 or anything, or even as bad as IMFL when I did it in 2006, but the chop was formidable. I took in a nice big mouthful of lakewater after the headshot and boom! Panic set in just like that. Frantically I took a breaststroke. Big mistake! People in back of me, not appreciative, kept on swimming right over the top of me. Only thing to do was to go head-down, swallow the lake water, and as Dory says, keep on swimming.

After that, it was just battle-the-chop for a view of the buoy, head down and swim, battle-the-chop, head down and swim. Rinse, repeat. Fortunately, I got some big patches of clear water along the way, mixed with times where I was shoulder-to-shoulder. After we turned the 2nd buoy and headed back for shore, the waves were coming from behind us now and it almost felt like body surfing in. Swam right up to the beach, jumped out and ran through the timing gate. 29 minutes. Nice! Run back into the water and head out for round two.

The second time around was better, and worse. Better because there were far fewer people around me. Worse because the wind picked up and that meant the waves were worse. Sighting was pretty much a joke, but I could see there were bright colored swim caps in front of me so that was probably the right direction to be going. Through the entire second lap, I had two swimmers flanking me, probably pacing off of me - one off of my left shoulder and one off of my right. At first I was a bit annoyed, but then I realized that these were my guardian angels. As long as they were there, no one could run into me. That made me smile and I enjoyed the second lap with my angels in place. Wayne got this shot of me swimming with my two angels, me in the pink cap and them in green. Isn't this awesome??

By this time though we were starting to overtake the swimmers who were still on their 1st lap. These are the dangerous people: the zig-zaggers, the breast-strokers, the panicked flailers. A kayak zoomed in front of us towards someone in trouble and we almost ran into it. Halfway to the beach heading straight in and a swimmer came out of left field swimming perpendicular to our course. I have no idea where they were headed but it wasn't remotely in the right direction. We wove around the obstacle course of the first lap swimmers and with the wind (and choppy waves) at my back, I realized that the part of the day I love the most (minus the Rocky Balboa part) was rapidly coming to a close. Oh when will they start the Ironman with a 10k swim? Sigh.

That was it for me. 1:01:47, 98th person out of the water. Not as fast as I had hoped, but with the wind, waves, and mob, I was happy with that!

Then it was on to being gloriously spoiled by the race volunteers. Lay down, let them peel your wetsuit off. Someone else goes and finds your bag. One of the best things about being one of the fastest women swimmers is that the changing tent is pretty empty when you get there. I got my pick of chairs and volunteers and I got a good one. If I knew her name, I'd say a big thank you! My transition bag had exactly what I needed and no more, I went through my items just as I had practiced, although I dithered over whether or not to put on the arm warmers or not. My volunteer said "it's pretty chilly out there, better take them", Thank You O Wise Volunteer! I was very glad to have them when I got out on the course.

As I mounted my bike, I saw Asa and Wayne right at the bike exit yelling my name. Asa had made bright blue shirts that said "Team Robin, go Ironmom!" and that girl has some theatrical lungs on her so they weren't hard to miss. I was so happy to see them sending me on my way, out onto the prettiest part of the Coeur d'Alene course.

Next Up: The Bike!