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...."