Friday, July 23, 2010

So Freaking Psyched!

I just got back from the pre-race meeting and packet pick up. I couldn't feel more ready for this race. I should say that 550 yards looks a heck of a lot longer all laid out end to end, but I can get past that.

I met so many nice people who were doing their first race, many more who were experienced. As always, there were people of every age and size, all of us excited for tomorrow. The race organizer really put us at ease as he explained that "A triathlon isn't rocket science" and "If you can swim in a pool, you can swim in a lake". We all laughed nervously at first and warmly as the meeting went on and we realized we had all been sharing the same fears.

So, off I go to try and get some sleep and imagine myself crossing that finish line. My big cheesy grin started this evening and I don't think I'll be able to get rid of it all day tomorrow. This really is one of the greatest adventures I've ever been on!

This is it!

Tomorrow's the day. The bag is packed. The bike has had a tune up. I've been drinking enough water to float a camel. Tonight is the race meeting and I still feel a little bit like I'm crashing a debutante ball, but I've put in my time and I have just as much right to be there as that spray-tanned blonde-headed daughter of an heiress....

In preparation for the race I sent out emergency phone numbers, the names of my accounts and beneficiaries and strict instructions about who is to do what if I don't survive. Morbid, but I live alone so I tend to over plan these kinds of things. Reactions were split, with some friends suggesting that maybe I shouldn't do the race and a stern tongue lashing from my sister who basically told me to shut up and get my ass out on the course.

This week has been a "taper" week with very light workouts and it's been weird . Yesterday I actually felt a little depressed, maybe because of a drop in endorphins, maybe because so much energy has gone into this race that I worry I won't be able to sustain the training and challenge level after it's over. Still, I'm already signed up for a half-marathon and am looking at a mud run in the fall. I think a century ride (that's 100 miles) might be the next big challenge. Can't say I've been looking into too many swim events. I made peace with the pool and hope I'll be OK in the lake, but I haven't become a swim convert yet.

So, tomorrow morning I'll be seizing my "fish" and doing what was once not even in the scope of what I thought I could accomplish. What's your big "I wish I could..."? And how will you get yourself to do it?

Monday, July 19, 2010

6 Days Left - Humility

With only a handful of days left before the race I am feeling reflective. In the past year I have competed in a 40 mile bike ride, run the 10 mile Broad Street Run, and have been swimming an average of 1500 yards 2 times a week, triple that of what I will need to do on Saturday.

Of course I start worrying that I haven't run fast enough during training, that I skipped too many sessions, that I haven't done enough open water practice...all of that is useless to think about now because I will be in the water Saturday morning and won't be stopping until I cross the finish line, if I have to drag myself across on my knees!

As is often the case with momentous experiences in our lives, this moment of great pride and accomplishment is being shared with grief as an old friend, the woman who first taught me how to run, is in the hospital fighting stage 4 lung cancer. She never smoked or lived with smokers, they think perhaps she grew up in an area with pollutants in the air. She is young, maybe 40 and has a daughter the same age as my son. Every breath I struggle to pull into my lungs on Saturday I will be taking in her honor and offering it as a silent prayer that she is able to beat this latest battle and earn another lap for her family.

Monday, July 12, 2010


This morning was a swim day - 1600 yards. Now that summer's here I can swim in the outdoor community pool. Not only is it bright and sunny and smells better than the gym but it's a 50 yard pool, not 25. This makes a huge difference. The swims seem shorter when I'm not turning around every 25 yards and trying to remember if this is leg 18 or 20.

After my swim I hung around and watched the swim team doing their warm-up laps. I needed to see what swimming is supposed to look like. I was glad to see that many of their swimmers also breathe every second stroke and always on the same side. I wish I could see what I look like in the water to compare my strokes. I can't find anyone willing to get up at 5:30 with me and film me in the pool!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

13 days remaining - I'm getting psyched.

I had to get up this morning at 5:30 to get a run in before the heat settled in. This was probably a mistake. I switched a swim day with a run day because of some scheduling challenges but following up a 50 minute run with another one the next day was pretty hard. And darn my Nike +! It recorded my run just fine but didn't save it so I didn't get to see what my pace was for today's run which was supposed to be run faster.

This evening I drove out to the park where the race will be. I didn't actually get to do any part of the race, it would have been nice to either do the run or the bike portion. It might have even been worth it to have done the run in the afternoon heat, just to have done it at the park, but oh well. Really I just wanted to see the lake, to stare it down. There were lots of bouys already placed but it was impossible to tell if they were for our race and if so, the course layout really didn't make sense to me. Maybe there was some other event there this weekend. The lake didn't look too scary though and I'm feeling pretty confident about the swim right now. It's not likely that I'll be able to get a lake swim in before the race so I'll just have to settle for all my visualizations of me swimming calmly and confidently across the water. It's also looking less likely that anyone will be there to watch me. I have to get through that disappointment before the race as well.

Truth be told, I'm getting pretty psyched. In two weeks I can call myself a triathlete. That's pretty cool.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

14 days to go

Today's task: 50 minute run, nice and easy

Logistics: This is a "Dad" weekend so the biggest challenge was getting out of bed.

I ran the Cooper River route today. Usually I hate this route but yesterday I biked around it three times and I think that must have finally broken my perception that the 3.5 mile loop stretches out to 15 when I run it.

During the run I thought back over the past year. Back in March of '09 I had just started training for my first 5K. I was elated the day I ran 15 consecutive minutes. I remember being so concerned about what I would wear that would keep me comfortable but not let people see my bulges and bumps.

This morning I did the run in a sports bra and shorts. Men and those women who have never struggled with their weight may not understand how momentous this is. I ran through the neighborhood with my midriff exposed. I even stopped to talk to people and didn't clutch at my middle while chatting.

Now I want to be clear, I haven't shed some enormous amount of weight this year. In fact I'm probably only 5 pounds lighter despite tripling the amount of exercise I get. I have toned up in a few areas for sure, but there's still a belly roll. The difference is that I am starting to see my body more as an engine. During a run I am so busy thinking about how to keep my legs moving, dismissing small aches and pains and resisting the urge to stop that I just don't have time to worry about what my butt looks like in these pants. We're in the middle of a heat wave here in the mid-Atlantic and I'd run buck naked if I weren't worried about mosquito bites in places nice girls don't scratch. I've started thinking about food differently too. I look at what will give me the most energy for the least effort and will last the longest (well last night I thought "Hey! There's still pie!"). At the very least I try and choose foods that won't make me need to poop in the middle of my run.

So the countdown is on and my mental work becomes staying calm about the race and making sure I enjoy every minute of it. It's been a long time coming!

T(ri) Minus 2

Well, it's really almost here. A little more than two weeks away.

The last two weeks were tough ones for training. A 40 year old man died in the swim phase of his first sprint tri in Philly in one of the triathlons I had considered entering. This happened about a week after my first attempt at open water swimming during which I had a mild panic attack.

This event also converged with a week of summer vacation and the change from the predictable (if hectic) schedule of elementary school to a week of no work, no school and full-time playing with the kid. And we had a terrible heat wave, days up to 105 degrees. Needless to say, my regimen took a small beating.

I still managed to work out a few times but this week is the first time I'm back into the full demands of the training plan. So, back to the drowning. I scoured the details of the story as it unfolded, looking for some detail I could point to and say AHA! You see, that can't happen to me. As it was, the gentleman was younger than I am and thinner - which may not have meant more fit. I began to wonder if I should really be doing this as a single mom. I even had one well-meaning friend suggest I drop out.

As is typical for us Americans, after a few days I wasn't as concerned. I rationalized that I stood a greater chance of being killed in a car accident on my way TO the event than dying during the swim. And my swim is in a lake, not a moving river (which was, by the way, listed as code red the day before his triathlon). After much more encouragement from friends and family I calmed down and got back into my routine. The other day I swam 2000 yards in the pool (4 times what I'll have to do in the lake) and still felt great. It was the first time I actually started looking forward to the race. I have spent the past few days visualizing myself in each phase of the race, especially exiting the water.

I spent an afternoon at a lake just playing in the water. I didn't get out over my head but I just let myself have fun in the murk. Tomorrow I am heading to another lake in the hopes of getting some deep water swimming in. That is proving more difficult in this area than I thought but I think I can make it happen.

So here begins the countdown. The workouts are getting less strenuous as I enter the tapering off phase of training. I am not doing any weight training until after the race and I am not letting myself imagine any more tragedies. I've worked too hard for too long for this and I'm ready to face the challenge so I can smugly say on the following Monday: "Oh, my weekend? I did a triathlon. Oh, it was just a sprint distance, nothing much...."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The octopus in the sweater is back....

I heard it but I just didn't believe it. Everything I've read said that open water swimming was totally different from swimming in the pool. But hey, I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. I swam in Lakes Union and Washington regularly in Seattle. How different could it be?

Well those were all some time ago. I headed to Wenonah Lake tonight for an open water swim sponsored by the organization that's running the triathlon. I'm up to 1800 yards in my pool workouts and, while I don't swim fast, I swim strong so I was feeling pretty good about the 1/10 mile loop there would be at the lake.

I decided to try out my new wetsuit while I was at it. There's a good chance it won't be allowed the day of the race, if the water is too warm, but just in case I thought I'd give it a try. The suit was comfortable, though I thought I'd feel more bouyant given what I'd been reading. Actually, I felt a little heavier in it and I got tired really quickly.

I headed out into the water and made the first turn just fine but about 50 yards into the swim I was suddenly up to my neck in a panic attack. There was no wall, I couldn't touch the bottom and I was surrounded by swimmers. I paddled around for a good several minutes before I calmed myself down and remembered that I know how to swim. That got me through several strokes when I took the first blow to the head. Then a stray foot in my side. I was startled, but not as completely thrown off as I thought I would be. I made it around the loop and touched bottom for a moment. I was tired and I had only done about 300 yards!

I knew that if I didn't go right back out there just then, I would be afraid for the rest of the summer and would have real problems on race day. So, back around I went. The second time I was able to get into my rhythm and remain calm. I stayed on course when the first few swimmers went over me. At least when there's a foot in your face you know you're going in the right direction. I did have a little trouble sighting the bouys, as they were on my right and I breathe on my left, but I was going so slowly that I didn't get too far off track.

I stopped after two loops, that was just a bit longer than I'll have to do for the tri. It wasn't nearly as long as I was supposed to do for my training swim today but I know I worked twice as hard. It's frustrating how difficult it is to find a lake to swim in here in South Jersey so I'm not sure yet when I'll get to practice again, but I know I sure need to before that race comes up!

I will say again, as I have after every group event I've done, you couldn't find a nicer group of people to spend time with. I think if we could get everyone in this country active, not only would we cut down on obesity and weight-related illnesses, but I think people would just be happier and get along better. I may be pushing it, I realize it's probably the endorphins talking, but I felt like I was at one big swimming party and it didn't mind that I bulged out here or there. There were people of every size, shape and age in the water and the thing that tied us all together was that we were all there, seizing our own fish, meeting our own challenges and refusing to sit back and just watch things happen around us. And that was worth every sliver of cedar I'll be pulling out of my nether regions for the next couple of days!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things learned on a 40 mile bike ride

Last Saturday I did my first-ever charity bike ride. It was 40 miles, more than I've ever ridden at one time. The course was all flat (one of the few reasons to prefer New Jersey over Seattle) except for two big bridges over the bay to the finish line at the shore.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew it wasn't a timed event and that nobody would be left behind, a van would be available to pick up stragglers or people who just decided they had had enough. I knew I had a good bike and was in better shape than ever before so the distance didn't really worry me too much.

After the first 10 miles I thought "I could actually rest at the end and then bike the 40 miles back if I needed to". At 22 miles, or "The site of the incident (more in a minute)", I thought "40 miles is just about right for me, but I could have done 65". At mile 39 I thought "Where the HELL is the finish?" but as I pulled in I knew I would have been find with the 65 and look forward to finding a century ride after the triathlon is over.

I thought I would be riding in a pack of riders and was pleasantly surprised at how spread out we were. I was alone for nearly the entire morning and had plenty of time to learn a few things along the way.

Look for the signs : When we checked in we were given "cue sheets" with the route written out in turns and distances. I didn't think I'd need it so I stuffed it in my pack and headed out behind a few riders. That worked great for a while and I learned to follow in the paths of others Then they got away from me for a time or I would get ahead of them and suddenly I learned sometimes following a prescribed plan is not such a bad idea. I got little panicky when I couldn't see any riders and there were not a whole lot of signs up for us. In fact, after the first three intersections where I saw no signs for our ride, I got a little concerned and wondered if I might actually be able to get myself lost. That's when I learned the signs are all around you if you just look in places you hadn't noticed before. At that fourth turn in the route I suddenly realized that there were pink arrows spray painted on the asphalt and I had been seeing them all morning. On closer inspection, what I thought were little fishes were actually arrows with the initials of the race.

There's only one way to finish : I think this kind of sport, an endurance ride, is ideal for single moms. We know beyond a doubt that the only way to get through a challenge, or a day for that matter, is to just get started and keep going. Setting out on my bike I knew my car was waiting at the finish line and the only way I was going to be able to get home was to start pedaling and the longer and harder I worked the sooner I'd get there. Knowing this helped me to just sit back and enjoy the rewards of my pedaling.

It's OK to let the bike do some of the work : Admittedly this is a lesson I don't ever learn quickly enough. Life isn't supposed to be hard. Everything doesn't need to be so difficult. In the high gears, each pedal gets you a little further and you share the work with the bike. True, the pedaling itself is a little harder, but you have to do less of it to get anywhere. So, as in life, you dig in a little deeper, not so much that it finishes you off, but enough to know you're working, and you cover more ground. That said, at those huge bridges I was perfectly content to drop back into "granny gear" and remember that sometimes it's just a collection of baby steps that will get you to the top of a hill.

Take your feet out of the cage: Nothing metaphorical here. My latest injury is a 10-color bruise the size of a football on my right knee. On Saturday it was also the shape of a large orange but I'm happy to say the swelling has gone down. We came to the first rest stop about 22 miles into the ride. It was a very humid and hot day so I knew enough from the Broad Street Run that I should stop and rehydrate. I pulled into the stop and I'm sure the message "Take your feet out of the cage and step on the ground" fired from my brain to my feet, but my legs didn't quite know what to do with that information after pumping continuously for so long. I stopped the bike and gravity did it's thing, sending me to the ground and the bike on top of me. Embarrassing for sure but nothing severe.

Because of the bruise I was not able to do my run the next day and because of my school work I lost a second day of training which I hope to make up with a double workout this Friday but I'm happy to report I was in the pool this morning for 1500 yards and the knee did just fine. Looking forward to tomorrow's run and getting back to my regular punishments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The road not taken

It's so funny. I know I've said it before, but a day really can make all the difference in a workout habit. Before I started this routine, if I had a day I didn't want to work out, it quickly became a week, then a month, then the treadmill was storing my laundry.

A few days ago I hit that wall and felt like I just had to quit. I figured out a way through it and now, only a handful of days later I'm completely re-energized about my routine and loving my runs and rides and swims again. Another sign that I've really made a life change this time.

This morning called for a 45 minute run. I have another new gadget to keep things fun, the Nike + chip. This little sensor goes inside my shoe and communicates with my i-pod. I select a time, distance or calorie goal for my workout, set the shuffle and go. Today, I let the ipod choose music from my entire library and I got to hear songs I haven't heard in a long time. Inspired by the new music, I took off for roads I've never gone down before and found a shady wooded trail along a river that I had never seen before - right in my little town! The ipod lady comes on every five minutes or so to let me know how long I've run and how much farther I need to go. Ordinarily, on a 45 minute run, I find plenty of excuses to stop and walk but this morning I didn't want to be walking when the voice came back to encourage me. I turned myself over to the music, took a long, slow pace and had a wonderful run.

Tomorrow is the 40 mile bike ride. They're calling for rain, let's hope this doesn't turn into more of an adventure than it needs to be!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where did I put that....

It is absolutely impossible for me to pack everything I need into a gym bag ever. More than once I've headed to work without some key undergarment, or with tangled hair because I forgot a brush, or sporting that "Fresh Face" look (which really doesn't work on 45 year old women) because all my makeup is still at home.

I haven't shaken those reoccurring transition dreams in which I get to the T-area to put on my running shoes only to find a strappy pair of evening shoes or puffy snow boots.

For the record, today I am wearing both a bra AND underwear. I'm wearing eyeliner, my hair could stand to see a hairbrush but it's passable, and along with my tailored pants and respectable work top I am wearing lovely gym flip-flops. Fortunately it is a desk day.

Wall scaled and I'm back on track

That run to Starbucks was the perfect thing. On the way back I even added a little more running because I felt so great. I also found a mulberry bush and had a snack and found a little hidden meditation garden that I must have driven past 100 times.

So I learned to listen carefully to what my body is telling me but don't give it so much credence as to totally derail my workout plans. I want to keep pushing myself but it has to stay fun and the routine has to allow for little miracles and discoveries along the way.

The swim the next day was great, mostly because I gave myself that break.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Wall

I've hit it. Four weeks into my 16 week training program and 10 weeks into my graduate program. I'm pooped. I don't want to train, I don't want to workout, I don't want to swim - I do still want to ride my bike (that's giving me an idea, back to that in a moment(.

Yesterday, may carefully planned schedule that would have allowed me to sneak in my 35 minute run after a full day at a street fair, a shift at the yoga studio and before dinner and a show in the city - failed when my son's father was late picking him up for the weekend. There was just not room in my carefully planned itinerary for a mistake like that and I missed the run.

And it felt great.

This morning calls for a pretty strenuous swim routine and, though I'm sitting at the computer in my suit at this very moment, I really, really don't want to do it. These are the times that I suppose separate the athletes from the rest of us. I used to think athletic people wanted to work out every single day. Now I realize that finding the motivation to go when you really, really don't want to is probably what really marks a shift to an athletic lifestyle.

So, back to my problem. I've reviewed this week's training. I can't really swap out for the bike training days because of other scheduling challenges, but I could swap today's swim with tomorrow's run and today I'd rather not deal with all the hassles of getting to the gym and using their pool.

So, that's it. Find a solution that still keeps me on track with the plan but feels like I've been able to throw a little tantrum and get my way. Off with the suit and on with the shoes! I think I'll run to Starbucks. It's two miles away and will make the run more tolerable.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Running, running, running

I am so freaking sick of running!

Today was supposed to be a swim day but since the babysitting room isn't open at the gym on Sundays I had to swap my Monday training with today's so more running today. I broke up the monotony though by taking the boy with me. I ran on the track and he played in the middle. During my warm-up he ran along-side me and we played catch, that was the best 10 minutes of running other. After that, we both got to chuckle at the name "Fartlek" while I did my speed work. There were some other runners doing their training out there and I didn't really feel all that clunky or old next to them. Later a sprinter showed up and we just sat and watched, she was amazing.

Tomorrow it's back in the pool. I suppose I'll have to take my medal off, I'm pretty sure the chlorine will not be good for the "gold".

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's all about the age group

My first racing medal!! I finished first in my age group in a local 5K and I've figured out the strategy to being a winner: choose small races that nobody has heard of yet, especially those that include a 1 mile walk.

The three others in my age group chose the walk, leaving me not only the FIRST in my age group (hello medal!) but the ONLY in my age group. I ran with a woman younger and a woman older than me and they both beat me, but thanks to the magic of the 5 year spread, I'm the only one that went home with a medal. I think I'll let them each wear it for a few days.

I've got to do better on my visualizing. The night before I was clear that this run was a.) going to be shorter than all the training runs I've been doing in the past couple of weeks and shorter than the one my training plan called for for today b.) along a mostly flat course (except for the big hill at the end!)and c.) so lightly attended that I would be able to place without much effort (OK That one worked out for me). But when I started running, I forgot all of that as the pollen took over my lungs and I had to walk twice. It's amazing how quickly I can find a reason to walk, I even get pissy about it -"I am ruining a chance to really enjoy this beautiful park, I should be strolling and instead I'm pounding along on the pavement."

I also need to remind myself not to go flying out of the starting pack every time. It feels so good to just take off but within a few short minutes, I'm done and the whole race is still ahead of me.

Ah well, earned or not, I do have my first running medal and since it was the first year for this race, I set a course record for my age group that any of you ladies should have no trouble breaking next year. You are welcome.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I have definitely fallen in with the wrong crowd

I have a friend at work who is doing her first triathlon soon too. She's doing an Olympic Distance. We've been comparing training plans and strategies, as well as sharing fears and frustrations. Today, she told me she found a mini-tri (shorter than my sprint) that she plans on doing to practice all the transitions and things. And guess who said she'd probably do it with her???

I really intended to just do this one sprint and be done with this nonsense, but the course looks pretty easy and it would be nice to get some practice at an event especially geared to first-timers.

And for the record, yes, I probably WOULD follow my friends off a bridge....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

That Smarts!

Well taking two graduate courses, working full time, parenting solo and training for a triathlon - something had to give. I just wish I hadn't been sitting on it with my feet stuck in the cages when it did.

I would love to feel cool with my first real biking scrapes, big gash on the ankle and busted up elbow, and I'd like to feel tough about the warped wheel on my ridiculously expensive but oh, so lovely bike - but I can't since I took this glorious spill out of the stationary trainer.

Things have been spinning a bit out of control for the past few weeks. I just finished one of the two grad courses so I'm hoping to get back on track but I've been feeling pulled at both ends and a little frantic at not being able to keep the house in order with all these other things on my plate.

I overslept this morning and didn't get to do my bike ride. After work, and home from the kid's karate class, and after making dinner I tucked the boy in to introduce him to Monty Python. I figured we could search for the Holy Grail while I rode the trainer (By the way, 7 is old enough to get the slapstick but most of the jokes went right over his head).

Somehow I let the air out of the front tire but figured out how to pump it back up after a few false starts - and it appears I bought the wrong size of CO2 cartridge pumps so this was all by hand with a little tiny pump. Not to be stopped by this minor set back, I popped the bike back in the trainer and pedaled away.

When I first started using the trainer I was afraid of falling off of it but all the manuals and videos assured me that I was as stable as could be - or it was at least. So, when on my second acceleration I felt a tipping sensation, I figured it must just be because I was in a high gear and maybe working one leg harder than the other. That is, until I hit my head on the floor of the treadmill.

I'm still not sure what happened, I must not have had the bike in the trainer properly, maybe not tightened all the way, I don't know, but over I went and now my back wheel looks like pizza dough when it's flying through the air. I'm going to guess that isn't cheap to fix.

And here's the funny part. The old Sarah would have kicked the cat, had a good pout or just watched a bunch of TV for the rest of the night. Instead, I sat down with my calendar, figured out how I could schedule in a trip to the bikeshop before Friday and adjusted the rest of the week's workouts to make up for this lost session.

I still plan to just shrug tomorrow if someone asks about my scrapes and say "Oh, just a small bike accident". Please don't tell anyone it happened in my guest room under the watchful eyes of Michael Palin

Monday, May 17, 2010

I've been thinking this week about all the women from my highschool and college years who have had cancer. In my family, it's not a question of "If" I get cancer but "When". My mother, her sister, their mother, my father's mother and any assortment of aunts and cousins have all had one form of cancer or another. Every year, after another clean mammogram and PAP smear I think "Hah! you Bastard, you missed me for another year!"

I suppose I think of Cancer in sort of the reverse of how my Christian fundamentalist friends think of Jesus. I remember them telling me that they consider their actions because "If Jesus shows up, I want to be sure he'll be pleased with what I'm doing".

Lately, as I've been running or swimming I think "If Cancer shows up today, do I want him to find me walking? Or shoving that big muffin in my face?" I know that if I'm genetically predisposed to have cancer, it's not likely that all the exercise, good eating and good deeds I do are going to keep me from it. But we do know that cancer is linked to unhealthy weight and sedentary lifestyle. And, as my doctor once so breezily said in response to my concerns about cancer "Oh, you're much more likely to die of heart disease at this point in your life" (They teach that bedside manner in schools, I think).

If cancer shows up in July, my plan is that he'll look for me in the lake just as I'm getting onto my bike. And when he jumps on his super-fast carbon alloy bike, I'll be racking up mine and taking off the run. And if that Bastard makes it to the finish line I'm sure hoping he'll be moved by my accomplishments and maybe sit that one out.

Cancer, if you're listening, this Saturday I'll be running with a bunch of terrific people. Every step I take I'll be picturing you being ground into the sidewalk. Why not just take a vacation for a little bit? you're looking a little tired.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Alien Invasion


Task: 40 minute run

Logistics: Blissfully simple. This was a "Dad" weekend so the hardest part was deciding when and where to run. I even fit in a morning yoga class. I wouldn't trade my life as a mom for the world, but a day with no scheduling and planning is surely a treat.

Not much to say about the run. Each "Day 6" the runs are going to get longer. I can do the sprint length run in 32 minutes so I knew that today I'd be running longer than what I would need for the triathlon. Of course I did this run after sitting in a chair, not biking and swimming. I didn't map my run to see how far I actually ran and I didn't set out with a particular route in mind. I just enjoyed the gorgeous day and took streets I'd never been down to admire the houses. Next weekend is a 5k, running with two friends who are doing it for the first time. I'd like to beat my time, really I'd like to finish in under 30 minutes but if I do, I'll still have to run another 15 minutes to meet my training goal! I suppose I could run home from the race - Good God! Aliens have taken over my brain!

Friday, May 14, 2010

OK so it isn't sandbags


Off Day - Which, I've learned, in the training world doesn't mean "Lie around and eat chips and drink beer" day. It means, do some other physical activity. I chose to work out with my trainer on my triceps until I could barely turn the steering wheel to get out of the parking lot. When is Lie Around and Eat Chips Day???


Task: This is the day when I do the 45 minute bike ride followed by a 10 minute run again (Note to self: Remove helmet before run!)

Logistics: Kid to neighbor's house. Bagel with cream cheese this time and practice spelling words on the way over. He can spell "numerator", but "comb" gets him every time.

So, last week I said that doing the run after the ride was like tying 20 pound sandbags to your hips. I think that's not quite right. It occurred to me today that it was a lot like taking an epidural. Sorry guys, you're going to have to take my word for it. I could tell I was jogging because things were moving past me on both sides and I was no longer on my bike, but I did not feel my legs at all.

For those who have not gone through the thrill of childbirth, after the epidural, the lady who an hour ago was your nice, attentive nurse is now a furious drill sargeant yelling "PUSH" but you can't feel a damned thing below your belly button so you just make what you imagine must be a "pushing face" and hope you can fool her.

My labor was really only about a half an hour (I know ladies, you can kill me later) and this run was only 10 minutes. A few more of these training ride/runs and maybe I can undo some of the effects of the other labor of love!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who invented the swim cap anyway?


Task: 1250 yards in the pool, some speed work

Logistics: Kid to neighbors before school. I tried to book a session with my trainer and the lap swim for the same morning, thinking I could knock them both out in an hour. Thank goodness the trainer didn't show, the swim took me a good 40 minutes!

If you've been slacking on a routine and then feel like you can't start up because you'll be far behind, I have good news for you. It really only took two times back in the pool before I was back up to where I left off, in fact, because I'm now adding speed drills to my regular, boring back and forth across the pool, I am actually stronger than where I left off.

I still hate the whole process of changing, swimming, showering, changing back. I wonder if I could skinny-dip at the gym?

Also, if anyone knows how you're supposed to put on a swim cap without pulling out all of your hair, please let me know. I would like to formally apologize now to all the young men I forced to put on condoms in my youth. Getting that tiny little cap of rubber onto my dry hair is enough to make me insane. And after it's all done, and I look like a little pencil eraser in the water, my hair still gets wet anyway!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Task: 35 minute run: 15 minutes easy, 10 minutes alternating faster minute-long runs, 10 minutes easy

Logistics: Change into running clothes at work. Debate for 20 minutes over whether to run on treadmill at office fitness room or go home and run outside. Remember that I hate the treadmill and don't have windows in my office so I have no idea how beautiful it is outside. Drive home, park at the house and run the long way to pick up child at daycare.

This run was not as successful as Sunday's. I thought it would be a piece of cake as I had had an unpleasant email exchange with the ex-spouse that I was eager to run off. I think kick-boxing would have been a better choice. I did the faster runs with great enthusiasm, but they left me sucking for air and I had to walk in-between them to catch my asthmatic breath. Then, distracted by my wheezing perhaps, I took a wrong turn, adding 3 extra blocks to my run. Not the zen-like moment of letting go I was looking for.


Task: 45 minute bike ride

Logistics: This is the morning that a neighbor's child comes to my house before school in exchange for the days I send mine over there. This means that I have to do any workout in the house at 5:30 while my boy sleeps. So I popped the bike back into the trainer (not as easy as they show in the videos but nothing a little cursing can't fix) and settled in with 45 minutes of "Ugly Betty" episodes. I know I should have done a spin routine or something more challenging, but I broke a sweat and got caught up with pop-culture (if a year behind). A side benefit of this approach: The trainer woke the kid up early so he showered, dressed himself and packed a lunch all before 7, leaving us time to sit down to an actual cooked breakfast together before his friend arrived.

I may not win the triathlon, but I'm sure winning this whole balanced life game!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Task: 37 minute run: I don't know why 37 minutes, I just follow the plan.

Logistics: Deny myself soggy cereal served in bed on Superman tray and send kid to neighbor's to barge in on their Mother's Day breakfast. The food is likely to be better over there so this isn't as cruel as it sounds. Plus, I spent the rest of the day just hanging out with the kid.

Today was a great day for a run, it was cool outside and I had gotten some good rest thanks to some muscle relaxents I was given for the jaw (which is still FUBAR, by the way). I ran without tunes and found it easier to keep running without stopping. Maybe because the previous week had been so incredibly crazy that I was just grateful to be thinking of nothing but the pavement.

I ran the route for a 5K I'll be running in on the 22nd. There was a giant tree down in the middle of the path so the run took on some trail-run dimension as I had to climb through the downed tree to keep going. It never occurred to me to just turn around and go back the way I came. There's a moral in there somewhere but it's too late to go fishing for it now.

Tomorrow's run calls for some speed drills, I think that will be fun. No, really, I do.

Injuries to date: one missing toenail; one sprained jaw (unrelated to training, and don't ask); cramped up right foot

Task: 1200 yards in the pool - no rolling around, just hard swimming

Logistics: Take kid to babysitting room at gym. Bribe him with long bike ride after. Buy him full drum kit instead. Consider regretting this decision.

The swimming was easier today and encouraging. I don't think it will be long until I'm back to where I was before I started "forgetting" to do my swim workouts. There were some good swimmers in the pool today and it was helpful to just watch their swimming styles for a while. Especially since they were both broad-shouldered, fit, young men.

I spent the evening chatting with a friend who is now training for her first triathlon. It was helpful to hear her thoughts on the whole process and fun to hear how much she is enjoying it. I can see how this can all start to feel like drudgery after a while and listening to her talk made me realize that if I hope to keep up with this fitness commitment after the triathlon I'll need to make sure I'm always training for something - always with a goal in mind so I can be clear about my improvement.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Task: 45 minute bike ride followed by a 10 minute run

Logistics: Kid to a neighbor's, with a granola bar in one pocket, an orange in the other and a bagel in his mouth. This is good parenting!

The purpose of today's task is to get a sense of what it will be like to have to run after a bike ride. This same sensation could be experienced by tying a 20 pound bag of sand to your hips and running around the block.

Actually, I sort of enjoyed the feeling. It didn't feel like actual running at all. My legs felt so disconnected from me that I really just focused on my arms and my breathing and dragged the legs along for the ride. Half way around the block I realized that I had forgotten to take the bike helmet off. Ah well, extra protection if I had fallen and it probably gave the neighbors something to wonder about.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who gets seasick in a swimming pool???

Injuries to date: Right pinky toenail fell off two days after the 10 mile race.

Today was swim day. It should have been a day off, but I just couldn't get it together to do my swim last night. It was a perfect storm of unfinished homework, shortage of milk in the fridge, and a forgotten triathlon training book. I gave up and headed to the grocery. So tonight it was into the pool.

Task: Well, I forgot the training book again but I guessed and did 200 yards nice and easy, 600 swimming harder and then 150 yards swimming and practicing drills. It was supposed to be 200 yards of that, but more about that in a minute.

Logistics: Kid to a friend's house to play. I met him there and we had a neighborhood picnic - 3 boys, 3 single parents, great fun.

I think I may be the only person in the world who can get seasick swimming! The laps went fine, though I couldn't do a consistent hard swim for the 600 yards like I wanted to. Remember, I have been forsaking my swimming so there were lots of recovery laps in there. I just kept moving, and that will have to do.

When it came time for the drills, the last one called for a constant series of rolls. Take one stroke on your stomach, let your body roll over, breathe while you're on your back and continue the roll over. It's supposed to help you feel balance in the water and learn to roll from your hips. I made it through 4 rolls before I was instantly nauseous. So, running sets off my asthma and swimming makes me seasick. Yep, this race is going to be a piece of cake!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Task: 45 minute bike ride

Logistics: pack all lunches, backpack, purses etc. the night before. Get up at 6 AM to make breakfast for child. Shout at child at 6:15, 6:30 and 6:45 to come down to eat the breakfast. Take child to neighbor's at 7:00.

The ride: I rode the Cooper River loop which, from my house and all the way around is 5 miles. Too long still for me to be able to make it 3 times around in 45 minutes but not quite long enough to fill the time so after two loops I biked through my neighborhood and admired all the yards of people who don't work full-time, raise a kid on their own, go to school at night and train for a triathlon in the mornings. My yard, in case you're wondering, is sporting a beautiful harves of wild mint and dandelions.

The great news is that today's ride was probably just about the distance I'll have to cover in the sprint triathlon and it was a piece of cake. I'm no longer afraid to ride in the street and can get my foot into the cage while I'm moving. I still haven't done a group ride, so I don't know how I'll feel with bikers all around me.

Yesterday, as I swam, I thought, I'll give this up after the race and just stick to running. Today, as I rode by all the panting and sweating runners on the dreaded "loop" I thought, maybe I'll just be a biker. Wonder what's next? That roller blader sure looked like he was having fun!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I do it because it feels so good when I stop.

And we're off!

Yesterday was Day One of my 16 week training program to prepare me for the triathlon. The plan called for an "easy, nothing strenuous" 30 minute run. I chose to interpret this to mean "Sure, you can run a 10 mile race in record-breaking heat and humidity, go for it!". I think, at 45, I will just resign myself to Tina Turner's adage "We never, ever, do anything nice and easy".

What a thrill! The Broad Street Run had 30,000 runners. Along the route we were treated to gospel choirs, bands and open fire hydrants to run through to keep us cool. Here's what I didn't know about races until I started running them:

  • Many people don't actually run the entire course, many employ the "run and recover" method of running for a certain amount of time and then walking to recover before running again. This is how I made it through 10 miles and I was in very good company all along the way.

  • People of every size, shape, age and ability make up the racing community and what most of us share is a love for being active and getting others active. I was encouraged all through the race and cheered others along as I went. All around me were people coaching each other, offering phrases like "only 3 more to go" and "keep going, people are watching!" and "You're stronger than you think!" Truth be told, second to how good it feels when I stop, the second reason I have for loving this sport is the amazing and supportive community.

If you've been following along on this journey, you'll remember when a 5K seemed impossible, the thought that I entered into a 10-mile run without any real training beyond my normal fitness routine is still a little amazing for me. And if you're wondering, yes, I picked up some paperwork for a half-marathon in the fall after the triathlon. I think I might be experiencing my midlife crisis. This looks so much better than the combovers and little red sports cars the men of my age are sporting though.

Today was a bit humbling after the high of finishing yesterday's race. W2D2 of the plan called for swimming and I confess, I've been completely neglecting my swimming for the past month. I went to the gym and found there was only one swim lane open as the senior water aerobics class was meeting in the rest of the pool. I blame them for how out of shape I felt in the water. When 20 senior adults start running in a circle in the pool, it actually creates a whirlpool. I had to swim against the current every other lap! I figure it was good practice for open water swim. Hopefully my next swim will be a little easier. I'm always amazed at how quickly your fitness level can drop and how quickly you can regain it.

That's my message for today: Get moving. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish and at how quickly you will feel that you've changed your life. And it's so much easier than changing all the chuckle-heads around you!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here we go again!

This Saturday begins my official 16 week training plan for the triathlon and I'm more than a little nervous. The plan says that I should be at a base level of fitness, which it defines as 30 - 45 minutes of running, biking, or swimming each day. I'm a little behind on the swimming but the other two are pretty good. It's going to take some major schedule Tetris to fit in the increasingly longer workout sessions during the week but I will figure it out somehow.

Last weekend I ran a 5 mile race through Valley Forge. It was a beautful run but let's just say that if General Washington were counting on me to outrun the British, we'd all be going to the "loo" instead of the crapper. Boy those were some hills! To motivate myself I chose a man who was running just slightly ahead of me on the trail. He was a good bit heavier than I so I could easily pass him. I'd run ahead of him for a while and then let myself walk. When he caught up to me I'd run again. This did not turn out to be such a good strategy. First, it felt a little mean. But more importantly, that bastard never stopped running and those walking breaks of mine got shorter and shorter until he finally passed me for good and probably beat me by a good 5 minutes! I suppose I have learned a lesson here.

This weekend I am supposed to start the plan out with a "nice and easy" 30 minute run, which I will do on Sunday, except that I'm doing it in the middle of the Broad Street 10 mile run. I figure I can get a whole month of runs in on one day and then just skip that part of the plan (kidding!).

I have learned something about how the body adjusts to a fitness plan. I thought that by mixing up my running with swimming and biking that would be enough to keep from hitting a plateau. Turns out the body can even adapt to that kind of rotating schedule. I know this because a year after starting out with running I am still running at basically the same pace and fatigue at about the same time. So it is not enough to just mix up the TYPE of exercise, but within each type I have to find ways to mix it up. This plan has me doing all sorts of new drills in the water and on the road. I'm hoping that will push me to a new place. Why is it that my body is so damned adaptable to fitness but I have to take a sweater off and on a thousand times if I'm in a hotel or mall?

So Happy Spring and here's to your big "fish" - go get them!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Caution: Crisis of Faith Ahead

What the hell was I thinking?!! A triathlon? I'm no athlete, this is crazy!! I am never going to be able to finish it and I'll be laughed out of New Jersey (and that takes some doing, have you SEEN Jersey Shore?).

OK, let's back up a bit. Yesterday was my first day of commuting to work on my bicycle. To be exact, I took the train into the city, then rode to the bike trail, took the trail into the neighborhood where I work, rode the mile straight uphill to the street where my office is and then on to the office another half mile away.

The ride was beautiful. I loved it so much I bought a train pass and scheduled in the next few times I can do it again. The ride along the Schuykill river was flat, smooth and populated with runners and bikers, I felt like I had entered a foreign country.

So why the crisis? The last leg of the commute is a long, long steady hill. I thought I would have to walk it but it turned out that I was able to put the bike in "Granny Gear" and pedal my way all the way to the top. I was thrilled. I felt great when I got to work, a little sweaty but energized and proud of my accomplishment. After I got changed I sat down to look up the mileage of the ride.

IT WAS ONLY 8 MILES!!!! The triathlon is 17 and is preceeded by a swim and followed with a run! With no scone break in between! How on earth am I going to manage that? So, I started thinking back to when I started training for the 5K. I'm still no speed demon and may never actually place in a race, but I have never finished dead last and have never been laughed off a course. I start my training plan for the tri next month. These past few months have just been about getting a base level of fitness so the training doesn't do me in. And I know that, just like that couch to 5K training, I will be amazed at my progress as we get closer to the race.

Still, I anticipate a few more panic attacks before this thing is over.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking the bike on the road

In the spirit of this blog and of my comittment to doing things that frighten me, I decided it was finally time today to take my beautiful new bike out on the road. Oh, and, they probably won't let me do my miles for the triathlon sitting on a trainer.

I used to be a bike commuter in Seattle but biking in Southern New Jersey is not for the timid! First of all, there are very few designated bike lanes, none on my route to church today. If you are fortunate enough to be on a road with a shoulder (or "right-hand passing lane" as they seem to be known as here), you will find it riddled with potholes from this winter's madness. These are not your ordinary potholes either, they are more like caverns, many shaped exactly like the imprint of say, a bicycle tire. In the nicer neighborhoods the potholes have been filled but all the loose, spare gravel has been swept into the shoulder. Here is where I would like to point out that road bikes do NOT handle entirely like mountain bikes.

Still, it being Easter, and a time for new beginnings, I strapped on the helmet, shoved my church clothes into a little backpack and took to the roads. I used Google Bike Maps in the hopes of finding a way to avoid Route 70, a monstrosity of a highway that cuts right through a neighborhood, making most streets around it unusable as through streets. Of course there is no bike lane on this road and the sidewalks (Yes, I rode on them. I'll stay off your sidewalks when you make your streets safe for me to ride on!) are covered with broken glass in lots of areas. None of this stopped me.

It took some time to master getting my foot into the toe cage while I was moving, this is much easier on the trainer and I did take a spill that I couldn't avoid because my foot was caught in said toe cage. I was shaken up, wobbly knees and all, but a quick assessment told me that I was just dusty, not injured and only half way there.

On the way home I decided to ignore Google and take a route that would avoid Route 70 the whole way. It meant sharing some narrow but busy neighborhood streets with cars but I guess they were patient given the spirit of the day. I managed to get lost for a bit but the weather was great, I had no place particular to be so I just enjoyed the ride. And when I wasn't cursing at the potholes or panicking over the gravel I felt terrific. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to feel wind on your face as you ride and hear the sounds of the outdoors instead of the morning news.

Tuesday I plan to ride in to work. It's an hour bike ride (will take me more than that) plus a train ride, and includes a pretty healthy incline but I'm looking forward to it and hope to make it a regular part of my commuting at least once a week.

Happy Easter! What new thing will you try today?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What a difference a year makes!

A year ago today I went to watch my first 5K. At that time I was not even contemplating running one myself and it would be another 2 months before I actually did one. Of course, this year, when that race came around again, I had to run in it.

What a difference a year makes. The night before my first 5K I couldn't sleep. I was a basket of nerves all morning, I thought the butterflies in my stomach would keep me from even being able to start. This morning, with at least 7 races under my belt, was just another morning, punctuated with a nice run to start it off. What once seemed like an insurmountable distance is now my bi-weekly workout run. Where a year ago I hoped I would just finish, this year I had a target time to beat (and did, by 2 minutes!).

Today, though, was about much more than a time or a distance. Today's race was all about what is most important to me about this journey. A friend of mine ran her first race today and as I plugged along I felt her presence on the course the whole way. It was such a thrill to see her approaching the finish line with a smile on her face and run with her up to her big finish.

I re-learned a second lesson today too. I'm usually the one who gives encouragement and am not so good at asking for or accepting help (though I'm getting better). Today, another friend I didn't expect to see was doing the race and ran the entire course with me. I do all my training on my own, in fact, I do most everything all on my own, so I wasn't sure how much I was going to like this. I was ready to sink into my tunes and just do the race. He asked me at the beginning what time I was hoping to do. And at every mile marker, he'd calculate where we were and say "Oh yeah, we're going to make it for sure." A few times, when I was flagging, he'd say "Come on, you have a time to beat! Let's go!". Now he could have done the race much faster without me but he was determined that he was going to help me reach my goal. He didn't get up planning to do it, he didn't know I was in the race, but once there, it was just the right thing for him to do...and the right thing for me to accept. I learned a lot more than how to pump my arms going up a hill today. I learned to use my strength to pull someone else along, and to let myself receive the same.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ennui? There's an App for that.

South Jersey has been under seige for most of February. Three back-to-back snowstorms have had me snowed in with work and school cancelled and a compelling argument for doing nothing but drinking whiskey and baking cookies. It had gotten so bad that yesterday, when the flurries started, my first thought was "Where's the cake?!".

Before the storm, or BS, I was pretty good at keeping a 5-7 day a week schedule of workouts. Since the great hibernation I've stretched the term "exercise" to first include sledding and building snow forts, to shoveling the walk, then to doing laundry and finally to listening to the radio instead of the tv. Thank goodness for the treadmill and trainer or I might have completely calcified.

To combat the sloth, I started looking around for new workout podcasts. Santa brought me an i-pod Touch for Christmas and I've been having a great time (much to the pleasure of the fine accountants at itunes) loading all sorts of diversions.

I have found two free podcasts that are helping me through the grey days. The first is called Motion Traxx: Fuel for Fitness. It's free to subscribe. I'm not sure how often they upload new episodes but I've downloaded about 5. They are workout routines set to music with the beats per minute calculated so that you can choose a workout to get you to the speed you want. There are tracks for walking, jogging, running and cycling and some sprint workouts as well. All you have to do is keep up with the music, the sets are organized to increase your speed according to the workout type. The next is called Indoor Cycling Podcast. I've downloaded a few episodes but confess that I haven't listened to them yet. They are advertised as spin workouts though which is great because I can't seem to get to the gym at the time of the spin classes. I also downloaded a program called BeaTunes which calculated the bpm of all my own music stored in itunes (why itunes doesn't already include this feature is a mystery to me). Then I was able to use the Playlist feature of itunes to create playlists of my own music within a certain range of bpm. I also made a list of songs that just make me smile for the days I really don't want to be out there.

Despite yesterday's amazing yoga class, it had been a couple days since I had done anything to really get my heartrate up and today was looking like it would be another lazy day. I found at least 6 sound reasons not to go for a run and paced up and down the stairs unable to settle on anything to do. Clean the house? Read? Watch a movie? Sew something? Nothing seemed to hold my attention and then it dawned on me. Could it possibly be that I actually wanted to run? Or even stranger, needed to? As soon as the idea crossed my mind I realized that of course, that was it. I missed the endorphins. Before I could talk myself out of it, I threw on my shoes and running clothes and turned on the podcast. I'm back, feel great and might actually be able to tackle folding laundry after all. And they're saying we won't have any more snow for at least four whole days!...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Courting Three Lovers

Preparing for a triathlon is a lot like juggling multiple lovers. I know this because I've been doing on-line dating off and on for seven years, but that's probably a topic for another blog. Anyway, during the pre-training phase, which apparently I'm in, I should be able to bike, swim and run each for 30 - 45 minutes. That is to say, by the time I reach May 2nd I should have that level of endurance built up to start the training. Swimming is the sport where I haven't quite reached that goal yet.

So the multiple lovers - all the folks I've spoken to and read about who do tris have one sport that is their weaker sport, their "third man". That's the date you always mean to call but you wait and see if a better offer comes in first. Before you judge, check your own history... The temptation, at least for me, is to keep doing the sports I feel confident in because they tell me I'm pretty and make me feel all giggly. Oh wait, that's the dates again.

Seriously, I'm currently most in love with my new bike. I haven't had it out on the road yet, way too cold and icy, but it's in the trainer and I could ride it every day. I love it and sometimes will do a morning and evening ride because it's just sitting there waiting for me. Before I got the bike, and when I first started swimming, the pool was the only place I wanted to be. Oh sure, I'd give old "running" a chance now and then but swimming was my "Saturday Night Date" and I'd find a million reasons not to get on the bike.

Swimming is now getting neglected and its starting to get a little pissy about it. Before "Bike" came into the picture, I was swimming about 1250 yards in a workout. Today, after only 10 minutes and only 300 yards, I was complaining about the cold water, the water in my nose, the boredom of the laps, you name it.

Here's how I juggle things to get the workouts in as a single, working mom during the cold weather:

Monday - run on the treadmill or bike on the trainer. I have both of these at home. I get up at 5:30 and do a half hour or so before it's time to get the Boy up for school. When the weather gets nicer, I will squeeze an outdoor run in instead, I run a 3 mile loop that ends at the afterschool program, which closes at 6:00 so I can pick up the kid and get home to start dinner.

Tuesdays and Thursdays - These are usually bike or treadmill days but one becomes a swim night if I haven't fit two in. If it's a long night and I can't get up in the morning, then I put in the half hour after the Boy is tucked in for bed. He's getting used to falling asleep to whirring and pounding machines.

Wednesdays and Fridays - These are mornings that my son goes to a friend's house in the morning before school. He goes twice a week and then their kid comes to my house once a week so we both get some morning time without kids. These mornings I either have a weight training session at the gym, which is preceeded usually by about a 20 minute ride or run or if the weather is nice I might do a morning run and schedule the session with the trainer for the evening. The gym has a child care center and the Boy loves it because he gets to have some kind of take-out for dinner.

Saturdays - are tricky. When I can arrange morning childcare I go to a morning yoga session. If there's time I'll get a swim in, or a ride or run, depending on which sport hasn't had two dates that week.

Sundays - are the same and often end up being "off" days, unless it's a "Dad" weekend or there's a playdate scheduled that buys me an hour or so to fit in something.

You can see how crazy-making it can be. Every Friday I look at the next week's calendar and based on meetings, events, sitters, etc. I plug in 2 rides, 2 runs, 2 swims and 2 weight sessions. I have gotten religious about it. I have to be or else it won't happen. I suppose some people would plug in the workouts before scheduling all the other things but I am trying to keep a balance between the fitness and all the other things in my life that are important so this way works for me. I'm finding that the weekends are the most challenging though, mostly because there isn't school or daycare to cover. When it gets warmer, we'll hook the tag along to the bike so my son can ride with me and Santa brought a new scooter that I'm hoping will allow him to come along on the runs. I don't go that fast!

I also try and have at least one race on the calendar each month to keep me movitated and pushing myself. Up to now they've all been short running races. After the expo though, I've decided to add a couple duathlons to practice multi-sport events before the tri. Now, I have to fit in a part time job or freelance gig to cover all the costs of my multi-sport "dating"!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Year of the Triathlon

Well here we are, already a month into 2010 - The Year of the Triathlon. This will be my big goal for the year. Yesterday I went to a triathlon expo for the South Jersey Triathlon club. I'm really big on clubs. I talked to all sorts of athletes, trainers and vendors about my biggest fears, training plans and more.

I can't say enough about how important it is to surround yourself with other active people when you're trying to change your lifestyle. When we were kids, our parents tried to make sure we had good friends and caring adults around so we'd grow into good adults. The same is true for the fitness convert. If you're trying to change your life but all your friends are avid couch potatoes it's going to be very easy to give up first one day's workout, then the next and soon you're right back in front of Maury Povich with a half a pizza and a bag of stale Doritos.

I used to be intimidated to go to active groups. I thought that at my weight and skill level, I wouldn't be welcome. What I've found again and again in the race communities is that I share with the other members a passion for getting active and a desire for others to feel the same satisfaction and joy I've found. People at the expo were encouraging and their enthusiasm was impossible to ignore. And yes, there were people of every age and size there too - all of them radiating energy and excitement. My new people.

I came home from the expo with all sorts of flyers for upcoming events and races. I signed up to volunteer at a few tris to see how it's all done before I get out there. This week I will plot out the next several months to make sure there's at least one race of some kind or another on the calendar each month and to build in my 16 week training schedule for my tri. It really isn't that different from all the goal setting and scheduling I have to do when I'm in school or planning for a big training event for work. You have to make it a priority and I have to make sure I don't give myself any kind of excuse to give up.

Today's inspiration: Stage 4 of the 2004 Tour de France while I chug along on my bike trainer. I'm working my way through the whole race. So far, I've finished with Lance (or before him) on every stage.

Monday, January 18, 2010

10 days and counting

The countdown has begun to my 45th birthday. 10 days. I won't have reached a weight goal I set for myself but I will be saying hello to an entirely new way of living for the second half of my life.

When I first started this blog, it was to encourage people to try things they thought were too scary, to unlike them, the things the always wished they could do...if they were braver, younger, thinner, taller etc. For me, that turned out to be living a more active lifestyle.

This year, I'll be competing in my first triathlon. Up to now I've been focused on just adding fitness to my life. Now, I either run, bike or swim every day, practice yoga and lift weights several times a week and try to have a race on the calendar every month.

The real training for the tri begins in a few months. What scares me most right now is swimming in a pack of people, biking in a pack of people and being able to do both of those things on the same day with a run thrown in for good measure! I've joined a triathlon club and will go to their first event this month.

For Christmas, I got the book "The Slow, Fat, Triathlete". I recommend this book to anyone who thinks they're not able to get fit. You don't have to think of yourself as fat to get something out of this great book. You'll still be inspired by the author's reclaiming her right to move, to sweat, to get out and have fun.

So, with the first warm day (50 degrees) in a LONG time, and a 5 mile gentle run to celebrate, I get this year started with training for my next great challenge. I can't wait!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year's Carol

With Apologies - no, screw that, I'm done with apologies. With THANKS to Charles Dickens

Sarah Mello was fat. Quite fat. It is crucial that you understand this point or nothing beautiful can come from the story I am about to relate to you. Now I can't work that Marley bit into my metaphor and frankly, I always thought that was a slow and somewhat confusing part of the story anway. (Three ghosts will come, each one on a different night but at the end it's all been one long spooky night - was someone asleep at the editing table?)

So, let's jump right to that ghost of the past. There are two scenes she'll show us tonight. The first, wow, 20 years ago. Can that be right? Let me check the math. Yep, 20 years ago. Sarah has just moved to Seattle for the adventure of a lifetime. She knows noone but manages to get an apartment halfway up one of Seattle's many formidable hills. Without a car, she must walk up the hill to one job and 5 miles down the hill and across the city to the other (which means an uphill walk home if you're having trouble staying focused). This was Sarah at her lowest and healthiest adult weight. A size 8. We'll have to guess at the numbers, she was too poor to own a scale.

Now we all remember that the Ghost of the Past didn't only deal in happy memories so lets skip ahead a bit, perhaps another 10 years. This is Sarah at her lifetime heaviest. Unhappily married, her 5'3" albeit broad-shouldered frame was sporting a remarkable 210 pounds. No amount of shoulder breadth is going to hide that much acreage. At her sister's wedding, her own father didn't recognize her, asking where Sarah was. "No, I mean the Sarah that is R's sister". Sarah herself didn't know who the fat, old woman wearing one of her dresses was when she looked at the wedding photos a few weeks later. Sometimes, that old Specter Sarah still pops up in the mirror today, and it can take several trips to the scale and glances at the clothing labels to chase it's shadow away.

OK, the bells start ringing madly, Sarah is summoned from her bed again by a booming voice - the Ghost of Sarah Present. This ghost comes largely in the form of a certain Dr. H. who saw this year in Sarah a spark of stubbornness and resilience - which he convinced her could be the makings of a true athlete - a word as previously foreign to her as brain surgeon (ok, 2 words) or physicist. Dr. H. reasoned that a woman who could survive rape, divorce, death of a parent, and many other more trivial challenges, and do so with laughter and joy could hardly be held captive by the fear of 3.1 measly little miles. With a wave of this ghost's hand, you can see Sarah running her first 5K, then 4 mile race and 10K this year. In fact, Sarah finishes out 2009 stronger, healthier and more fit than ever before.

Now the metaphor (or maybe this is a simile, probably really a parody) is getting a bit flimsy but we've got one more ghost to go to round this thing out. I choose to tell this part of the tale with two Ghosts of the Future.

"Spirit of the Future, I fear you most of all"

The haunting, Dickensian version of Sarah Future is found in every woman I meet who says "I wish I had done more of that when I was young" or "I wish I were more like you". These possibilities of the future are women and men who already given up on the chance at something new. Theirs is a future of regret.

I am more inspired by hope than by fear so let's see the other Ghost of Sarah Future. It is July, 2010 and Future Sarah is just sprinting across the finish line of her first triathlon. An idea that seemed at one time in the not-too-distant-past as ridiculous, the stuff of some other person's life. She is smiling, nearly shouting with joy as she raises her arms in victory through the chute and collapses into the arms of her tall, dark and handsome boyfriend (hey, it's a fantasy, give me some leeway!) who is waiting with her newly svelte and strong best friend (who has recently completed HER first race.....) and ever-adoring son. This Sarah bears the tired, sweaty smile of a champion unafraid to face her biggest doubts.

Alright, the night is getting on and I've about milked this thing for all it's worth. Sarah awakes today, New Year's Day to find that "it's not too late! I haven't missed it! I'm alive!!!". I will turn 45 in three weeks and I am stronger, happier, fitter and more full of life than I have ever been. Less than a year from the start of this blog, a 3 mile run is now a light warm-up. I've taken Dr. H's prescription of "Run, bike, swim, lift, repeat for the rest of your life" to heart. I am registered to race a triathlon. I have inspired others to face their own goals. Fitness is no longer an activity I fit into my life, it is a part of who I am and it offers a never ending supply of challenges, goals and rewards.

And so as we begin this new year, you know I had to stick it in....."God bless us, everyone"! Now get off your ass and move before I sic a ghost on you!