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!