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Couch. Potato. Meet. Runner.

I had my first run in months on January, then I got worried that I should have probably cleared that little run with my doctor so I waited a day until my third, and final, epidural to test it out again.

Then my office re-opened after the break between Christmas, New Year’s and the Polar Vortex, which threatened us with grave danger (almost like Sharknado, but it wasn’t summer) and that put all of my running plans on the back burner.

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I’m Essentially a Hack…Orson Wells on Hobbies.

The full quote is “I’m essentially a hack, a commercial person. If I had a hobby, I would immediately make money on it or abandon it.”

Orson was my kind of guy. But maybe that’s not a good thing.

While sitting at work yesterday, minding my own business *for the most part*, my colleagues and I began to talk about things we love to do…hobbies.

I tried to think of what my hobbies are and I couldn’t name any. Not only could I not think of any, but no one believed I had hobbies. Everything feels like. Work. Or, if not work, competitive. Or necessary. But not…fun. Never frivolous and never for just no reason at all other than because.

I mean, I love to read and own hundreds upon hundreds if not thousands of books. And I’ve read all of them at least twice, if not more times, but reading is no longer a hobby. Reading is what I do to prepare for something I am working on or will work on or, in many cases, just finished working on.

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Streaking Through New York

No, this is not a post about me running, naked, through the streets of my city. Trust me. No one wants to see that. Honestly.

This IS a post about a real streak happening all over the country, hell, as far as I know, it’s happening all over the world.

#RWRunStreak

Keep that hashtag in mind because you may be seeing it a lot if Runner’s World has its way.

From the Runner’s World Website (which I read daily, don’t judge):

With summer right around the corner, it’s time for the #RWRunStreak hash to start flying around as runners take on the 2013 Summer Challenge of running (at least) 1 mile a day from Memorial Day to Independence Day. That’s 39 consecutive days of running.

Here are the RWRunStreak Details:

Run (at least) 1 mile per day from May 27 – July 4

That’s it. Yep, just run 1 mile a day for the next 39 days and you are in. Here are some FAQ if you have any concerns about whether “streaking” is right for you.

It’s open to everyone, including current streakers, past streakers and never-before streakers.

Spread the word! #RWRunStreak

I hope as many of you as possible will consider joining me, either in person, or virtually. In fact, I’m saying, we should do this together. Can’t run? Walk. Just get outside and move. That’s one of the biggest things we forget as adults…just move.

See you all outside. Oh, and keep your clothes on. Runner’s World isn’t trying to get us arrested.

Be Willing To Come Apart…Part 2.

I needed to write a post for my other site earlier today and found myself coming back to a title I had been thinking of for the past two weeks: Be Willing to Come Apart.

When I first read that sentence I was struck by its simplicity. You see, in order to grow, you had to be willing to break apart from the things holding you back. Maybe it’s fear or loneliness or anger. Maybe it’s not knowing how to start or, in some cases, not knowing when to stop. Whatever the reason, in order to grow, you have to be willing to change what you’re doing over and over again.

In many ways, 2012 was all about change for me but I didn’t notice it at the time. It seemed so normal to be filling my time with so many ‘things’ but when I had a few moments to really think about it, I was filling and filling, all the while trying to break free from some of the things I kept doing over and over again.

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The Day The Tri Died…

2012 is the first time in five years where I didn’t have a full training and race season. When I took up running in 2004 after my mom died, I thought it would be something fun to do to get out of the house. I also thought it would bring me closer to my then-husband, ‘The Runner’ and that we’d do races together. You know, the couple that runs together and all that jazz.

What happened was that I found that I liked running just for myself. I loved lacing up my sneakers and strapping on my watch and going out to run just because I could. In many ways, I think I enjoyed running so much because I didn’t look like the runners I saw – I looked like me. I still had hips and tatas and a big booty – but they were moving along against the wind and it felt good.

After ‘The Runner’ and I divorced I wrote about how I stopped running because I thought it was his thing and that I shouldn’t keep doing it – like I had to let him have it back in order to find balance in the universe. The truth was that I was afraid that I wasn’t a runner – that maybe I was only someone who ran, and by then I was also biking and swimming – I was afraid I was no good.

I didn’t tell anyone that’s how I felt because I don’t think I realized it until a couple of years later. By then I was back in training mode. Last year I had a busy season of training and races and I had already started to think ahead to what this year would look like.

And then the Poconos happened. And I lost something.

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Open Water Swimming and Other Scary Things…

And other amazing feats of daring and wonder.

Such hyperbole, right? I know!

It was 2005 and I was just about to turn 33.  I had been running for about a year at this point and my ex-husband, ‘The Runner,’ suggested I consider adding some longer distances to my running repertoire.

I signed up, out of new runner excitement, to run the New York City Marathon, having spent the previous year racking up qualifying races and going out at all hours of the day and night to ‘get my run in’ regardless of weather or amount of sunlight available to us East Coasters.

November came and it was time to do my best work – over the Verrazano and through the streets I ran.  And, quite a number of hours later and I was a ‘Marathoner’ with a medal and aluminum heat sheet to prove that this turtle could go the distance.

I slept for two days after that race.  When I woke up I had two immediate thoughts:

Must. Find. Chocolate. Shake.

And ‘what’s next?’

And that is how this native San Diego, who had never learned to swim, found the sport of Triathlon.  I wanted to do something that would just be my thing because in our household running belonged to ‘The Runner’ and he always gently reminded me of that whenever I got too excited about my newfound sport.

I scanned the race listings for something that was both local and a short distance and found that Danksin had an all-women’s race in Sandy Hook, NJ.  My excitement took over as I printed out that first race entry form, filled in all the information requested, including naming a next of kin – such an odd thing to happily list, right? What the hell?

Then I wrote out a check, mailed off that envelope and strutted around the apartment. I was going to do a triathlon! Once that euphoria subsided, the mild panic kicked in. Um, Bubbles, there’s that little thing about knowing how to swim…

And forget about the fact that I hadn’t actually been on a bike in about twenty years. Yeah, a small bump in the road, right?

Once I regained my senses, I did what any normal person does: I begged someone to let me borrow their bike. In my case, it ended up being a Mountain Bike that is just a tad too big for me. His name is “Bike Mike” but I couldn’t tell you why.  I took him out to the North Country Trail and pleaded with him not to let me fall in front of all the little 3 year-olds on their trikes.  “Bike Mike” and I got along great – and up until race day nine months later, I had no idea how slow I was.  But for those nine training months, I was a speed demon – a real Top Gun level cyclist. Forget the fact that I knew nothing about that bike – just forget that part. It’s not important. What’s important is what happened right after my first ride…

I signed up for swimming classes at the local middle school.  Now, to paint a picture of this class you’d have to understand that it was filled with 30 – 50 year old people who had never even learned to float.  Ha! Suckers! I could float. I could float on my back and I could float on my stomach. I was already Bruce Jenner years ahead of those ‘babies.’  What I couldn’t do was put my face in the water, while moving my arms, legs and torso at the same time.  Right, I couldn’t swim. And that’s when the real panic hit. What the hell was I thinking? I wasn’t a swimmer let alone a triathlete. How was I going to take these non-skills and bring them to an actual ocean?

I thought about quitting for about a week – then something really strange happened: I just kept going back to class.  Once the class was over I started going to a local outdoor pool and became friends with the teenage lifeguards. They’d let me go to the pool early and practice my laps and by the time July came I could swim a mile without stopping. A whole mile! Imagine my horror when I finished my longest swim ever and came up out of the water to see three dead frogs floating in the water!  Yeah, I did what any seasoned swimmer does…swam as far away from them as I could.  Back to my mile.  Me! The girl who grew up practically on top of the ocean, but never learned to actually go into it, had learned to swim in Yonkers, New York, of all places.

September rolled around and I swam, biked and ran myself to a finisher’s medal and made my own history book entry – I’d gone from a woman who was afraid of swimming to a woman who had just swum a half mile in open water. And I lived to sign up for another race.

What helped me get through that first summer of training? My family, for one. They really did believe I could do it.  My swim coach who explained two me that I had two things that would help me float well – and no, he didn’t mean my arms…

My swimsuit. I went out and got the most awesome Tyre racing swim suit and used the hell out of that poor thing. It got me all the way through the swim and then a few more months of weekly swim workouts.

My wetsuit: For some reason, my first attempt at putting it on went much better than my most recent attempt.  I blame that on my love life.

Sunscreen: There is something to be said for carrying sunscreen with you wherever you go and I learned that during my virgin season of training.

Bricks. No, not the kind that you build houses with but the double work-outs you do to build a solid foundation for triathlon training.

Gu. Lots of freaking Gu. I went with chocolate. “The Runner” tried to get me to take along vanilla flavored ones but I think my projectile vomiting on the South County Trail taught us both to go with what works.

Books. Lots and lots of books. I read everything I could get my hands on, some of it specific to multisport and some of it reminder reading from my early lessons at running.

My favorite reads, even now:

The Courage to Start by John Bingham.  For anyone who has read this book, you get it. This guy motivates like few others. For those of you who haven’t read the book – go, run, get it. It will change your life.  I promise you.

Swim Training by Steve Tarpinian. Oh. My. Gawd. I couldn’t swim before I carried this book around with me everywhere. If this book came in a water-proof copy, I’d have taken it into the pool with me and practiced my drills while holding it.

Triathlons for Women by Sally Edwards.  I’ve met Sally twice and each time I was more motivated than the first time. The only athlete who motivates more right now is Diana Nyad. Love her.  Sally is the official ‘final finisher’ at Danskin races, or at least she was at the ones I’ve done.  Their slogan is ‘the woman who starts the race is not the same as the woman who finishes’ and Sally managed to instill that little reminder in me after my first time meeting her.  Hold on while I go get a tissue. I’m ferklempt.

The Slow Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams. Okay, I love this book.  I was a slow fat triathlete for sure. Hell, I’m still slow and a little zaftig, but so what? This book, and actually finishing races, taught me that the only person who cares about your size when it comes to running or triathlon is the guy who has to order all those thousands of t-shirts because no one wants to be stuck with thousands of t-shirts after a race.

I still peek through all of these books now – years after first getting them – I’ve added books to the training arsenal over the year – including the Triathlete Training Bible by Joe Friel. My library is just as important to me as my swim fins and Honey Stingers when it comes to ‘must have’ training items.

What am I training for now? You’d never know it because I’ve let life get in the way, but I’ve got an Eagleman 70.3 and Pittsburgh Tri that I’ve just re-signed up for a National Harbor 70.3 and a Danskin to close up the season…Unless I get greedy and add a Poconos 70.3 in October.

Zoe, the wonder bike, and I are heading out tomorrow after a swim – we thought we’d get in a workout before Easter services.  Seems like a great time to start fresh.

I’ll have to come back and tell you about my open water swim hypnosis CDS.  They really have been the magical answer to my not panicking in the water.  Yeah, that’s a swim story for another day.

Wait! What’s so scary about the sport of Triathlon? Everything! And at the same time, maybe it’s not so much scary as it is a lot to learn and grow comfortable doing. So let’s all go out and do something scary and then come back here and tell me about it.

Until then, happy Swim, Bike, Run or whatever ‘scary’ thing you’re thinking of doing.

 

70.3 Training: Getting My Booty In Gear

There’s something about trying to do too much that creates nothing but chaos and leads to getting absolutely nothing done.

For months I said: I’m going to train…tomorrow.

I’ve been tired since the Poconos – both mentally and physically.

But it wasn’t until Thursday when I mentioned a new race to my most favorite triathlete that I realized: I need an assistant to just track race calendars.

I was about to book an Olympic Distance race for July, not realizing it is exactly one week earlier than another 70.3 that Tri-guy and I were talking about doing.

Damn it all to hell!

How on earth did the time fly by so quickly and how come no one told me?

Oh, um, they did. Right. I just kept thinking: No big deal. I’ll get out there tomorrow. Seems like tomorrow has come and gone and now its next week.

So, what say we get my butt out there and start training?

‘What’s on the calendar, Bubbles?’ you ask?

Well, let’s see:

Eagleman 70.3 is on June 10th in Maryland (and I even booked a hotel! Okay, I’ve waited too long to get a good rate, but that’s what I get)

Then we have Harbor National 70.3 in Maryland (what is it with Maryland this year) on August 5th. (Yep, just booked a hotel for that one, too!)

And we wrap up the season (so funny for this moderate triathlete to have a ‘season’) with the race that started it all a few years ago, Danskin in Sandy Hook, NJ on September 18th. Thankfully, no hotel needed for that one since it’s a ‘local’ race. This is the race that always makes me cry.

Danskin’s motto is ‘the woman who starts this race is not the same as the woman who finishes’ and they are so right. You see every shape and size at this all-women race and it’s like being with thousands of your best friends and sisters. I honestly feel that it is one of the best races out there – of all time. No, really.

Now, for a favor, these races are fun, sure, but they also serve a purpose: They remind me that even when I think I can’t, I can. Um, so do you think that I could ask for your help? No, you don’t have to swim, bike or run with me, not really. But if you’d just remember to push me along a little, that would be super sweet, but more importantly, it would be really helpful and I’d be grateful for the push, pull, poke, whatever.

Now, I’m out of here. It’s time to get Zoe, the wonder bike, into the car for a ride later.

And maybe it’s time for me to go find one of the swimsuits I stuffed into the back of my closet in October.

Clipless Pedals…Argh!

I think it might be time to get a new pair and practice falling for a couple of weeks. Anyone have an extra Ace bandage or two that I can borrow?

See you out there. I’ll be the one with the bright blue helmet and goggles hanging from my rearview mirror.

 

 

 

Reasons To Tri…Escaping Zombies For One Thing…

First, let me admit that I have a slight love affair with pain. Oh, not the kind of pain you might think. No, there will be no Marquis de Sade references in this post, unless you consider the masochism that goes along with training for any endurance race.

While I am making admissions, however, I should admit that I have been very lazy since October. Oh, sure, I think I have been to the pool at least once, I even went for a run. Once. Then there was that time I took my bike out of, um, the car. That felt like a workout, trust me. I wouldn’t lie.

Well, I would, but I don’t need to. Not with all of you, right?

I’m lazy. There! I said it. I don’t want to get up at 4:45 AM when it’s cold and dark outside. And if I don’t want to get up now, what will I do when winter finally decides to descend on New York? Cower, that’s what.

Meanwhile, I’ve read every new gear suggestion printed over the last few months. I’ve read Triathlete Magazine and Triathlon Plus and Bicycling and, and, and…

I’ve gone to Danny’s Cycles and picked up fancy new gloves and awesome new socks and I’m ready to do some damage out there on the South County Trail. Well, as soon as I actually get over to the Trail. I’m also ready to practice flutter kicks and drop arm drags or any number of other swimming workouts with my Master’s  group. That is if they will let me back in since I’ve been gone for so long.

I feel like a Tri version of Rip Van Winkle. Like I fell asleep under a tree and woke up and it’s training season, except it isn’t – not really. But then again, it is.

My first tri is only a few months away! ‘Eagleman 70.3 or Bust ‘ is what my calendar says and I mean to go outside every single time I see the reminder. And then I sit down and I start to write and then hours go by and I wonder what happened.

Well, no more. I am going to hit the streets in about an hour and find a running groove. I once heard a story about a runner who found her sweet spot one day on North Broadway and I want to see if that runner is, indeed, ready to get back to the hustle of triathlon training. Oh, wait, that runner is me!

Nike may have it TM’ed, but ‘Just Do It’ needs to be in full mental affect for any of us lazy-day athletes.

In other words, no more excuses. At least not from this girl.

In fact, while I was procrastinating, I came up with a top ten list of reasons to get outside and train:

  1. Fartleks can only help if I ever run into a hoard of zombies.  Of course, they can’t be George Romero zombies because those are way too fast.  I’ve heard that athletes aren’t that tasty (low body fat and all that), but I’m not willing to test out zombie taste buds;
  2. I can’t refer to my ‘On Golden Pond’ friends if I am not actually at the pool with them on Tuesday evenings;
  3. The caterpillars on the South County Trail will go back to being unnoticed if this slow runner doesn’t get out there;
  4. My bike, Zoe the Trek, has a mind of her own and I doubt she will tolerate sitting in a bike trainer for six months;
  5. If I don’t get back into a training rhythm, I’ll be able to recite all the lines from 30 Rock *not that this is a bad thing*;
  6. My butt. Has anyone seen it lately? Exactly;
  7. I cut off all of my hair because of ‘training’ and now I am thinking of growing it out again, which is silly because I’ll only want to cut it again in the Spring for training;
  8. Paris…the whole reason I get to go to Paris is because it is my treat to myself for sticking to a training plan;
  9. Keeping small businesses in, er, um, business! No training means no shopping and that can not be good for the economy!
  10. All of those water bottles in my house are filled and ready for when I go for long rides or runs…or to be used in an emergency. Like a zombie attack.

And finally, some people don’t believe zombies exist and I get it. I get it. I really do. But honestly, if there is a zombie survival guide…how can I risk not being prepared?

Just one more reason to Tri.

**Photo Caption: Getty Images, reproduced on www.triathlontrainingisfun.com (2012)

The Courage To Attempt: Ironman Pocono Mountains

True stories from this weekend:

Triathletes have a lot of heart. You have to in order not to get intimidated by swimming, biking and running all on the same day.

Unless you’re under the age of  10, of course.

I spent my weekend with the world’s best training partner and 2,000 other athletes. We all gathered in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania for the inaugural Pocono Mountains 70.3 Ironman Competition.

What can I say about the race? The swim had been canceled 48 hours before we arrived because of dangerous conditions and the bike course is hillier than the Bear Mountain loops I had done over the summer and I never got to the run.

That’s right…never got to the run.

My bike chain housing had decided it had done enough at mile 40 and ‘snap’, it was not only down and out but the bike guys couldn’t repair it.

I have never seen the SAG vans at races and yesterday I rode in one with other athletes. When I heard my race number radioed in with “athlete #xx, DNF’, I started to sob.  I tried to hold it in, but I couldn’t.

You see, I started training almost eight months ago and never let up. I think I gave up dates and time with friends and sleep. Oh, the sleep. The Delicious Sleep.

And to not be able to finish just made me so sad. Then I looked around at the other people in the SAG van with me and we were all there for similar reasons: Broken bikes.  This competition felt a little like being on Survivor, minus the cameras.

I joked at the start of all of this training that I was entering a new lifestyle, but the truth is, I did. I cut off all of my hair, I changed my diet,  I learned to go to sleep and, in the most amazing feat of ‘change’, I started to simply remove things from my life that were no longer working.

And it’s been so empowering and amazing and I am grateful to the Ironman Competition organizers for giving me a reason to focus my energies on important things.

My tri partner (the greatest tri partner in the world) finished strong and looked great with his medal. He gave me a big hug the day of the race, then found us another competition for the Spring of 2012.

That’s right….we do this again in eight months. Training for him starts in a few weeks. For me? Last night. And it felt great.

I do have to thank all of my friends and family for their love and support. Let’s play it again in a few months. ;)

 

 

The Science Of “You’re Alright”…

I’m not the world’s best swimmer. There, I said it.

I have now done two triathlon events and each time I just needed to get through the swim. I don’ think that will cut it at this week’s Pocono’s Ironman Event.  Yeah, I don’t think it will cut it at all.

I have to count strokes. And I have to remember to breathe. And I have to remind myself to keep my heart rate down and even with all of that, I still intend to get out there this Sunday and compete. And not die trying.

A few of my friends suggested I try a little bit of hypnosis to get me to learn to relax even more during the swim. They are so very smart.

So I downloaded a series on visualization and have been listening to it all week before I fall asleep. Now I have started to incorporate a quick listen-to during the work day.

My co-worker said she thought God was talking. Or a really great parent. You see, the science of telling someone they are okay is exactly what good parents do, right?

I tell the lovely ‘A’ all the time that she is awesome. She is the greatest. Just like Muhammad Ali, but without the boxing gloves.

This series of affirmations coming out of my computer speakers has been telling me I am amazing. I can do this. I can beat my own fears. It’s one thing to have ‘heart’ during a race and another to have skill. But if your mind tells you that you can not finish, then you won’t unless you fight against that negative spin on your chances.

A few weeks ago I was in the middle of the swim portion of a race and my mind said: Seriously, what are you doing?

My body kept going until I could hear my mind getting annoyed with me. And then it caught up with the fact that we weren’t planning to stop.

You’re. Alright.

What a powerful statement. And it’s one that will not always comes from the people around you, even if it should. But, it must always be a statement you’re able to tell yourself. You’ve got to remember to say it even when you aren’t so sure it’s true. You’re alright. You can do this. You are powerful.

I think that most people forget to love themselves and it’s the one thing that, when done right, can truly change your outlook on life.

So on Sunday at 7:02 AM, I will walk out into a body of water and tell myself that it is okay, because it is. Why? Because this isn’t about competing against anyone but myself.

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