June 28, 2008

A while back I got an email from Elizabeth asking if I wanted to go and stay with her for a week in the summer.  Even though we’ve never met, that’s not an especially odd invitation except that she added in a part about us doing some training together.  I nearly choked.  Elizabeth is a professional triathlete.  I am not.  But I barely hesitated.  If she’s insane enough to invite me, I’m insane enough to go.

Oh, and Beth will be there.

Oh crap.  Now I’m screwed.  Beth is a runner with a mean bike ride.  Elizabeth is a cyclist with a mean run.  At least I can swim faster than them.  That’s something, anyway.

And Jen will be joining us for some of it.

Shit.  Jen does 100s leaving on the 1:10.  I’m screwed.

Is there anything I can do better than these girls?  Well, putt putt for sure, but I think that’s going to be a small portion of the week.  I think maybe I can trash talk better than any of them.  Which has a lot less value if you can’t back it up with performance, which in this case I cannot.

But let’s be honest.  I’m not going to camp to see if I can do something better than they can.  I’m going to camp to learn from them.  I’m going to camp so Elizabeth can have a break from my incessant emails.  I’m going to camp for the camaraderie and inspiration.  I’m going to camp to get away from work.  I’m going to camp so I can to tough workouts and then absorb the workouts and recover instead of going about my busy day.

There are already things I know about these girls that I admire:

Beth has probably one of the most well-established and comprehensive recovery routines of anyone I’ve never met.  She knows what it is to be injured and knows what it takes to stay healthy.  And unlike so many of us, Beth actually implements these things while maintaining a partnership and having a job.  I am fascinated to watch this woman in action.

Jen has an unparalleled inner drive to be better and faster.  Not only is she really intense, but from my time with her in Vancouver I saw a quiet nurturing side too, which was both unexpected and beautiful.  This woman balances more in an average day than most people do in a week – I’m excited to see what that looks like in her home environment.

Of the three, I know Elizabeth best because she’s my coach and we email a lot.  The funny thing about she and I is that we can email long, wordy, thoughtful emails on any day of the week without a second thought.  But put us on the phone together and it is as awkward as all get-out.  I really appreciate Elizabeth’s thoughtful nature which has really given me the space to be thoughtful and intentional in both my physical and mental training.  I suppose if it turns out to be awkward in person, we can go to separate parts of the house and email each other:

Hey, it’s great to meet you!   You’re every bit as brilliant and intelligent as you seem on email.  I’m so happy to have you here.  This is going to be an awesome week and I’m really excited about it.

Yeah, you too!  This is so cool being her for a week of training.  Your house is awesome and I love your little girl-dog.  She’s so gorgeous in her little pink sweater.  Your husband is gorgeous in his little pink sweater too.

Hey, don’t diss my dog!  He’s a boy and that sweater is RED.  Glad you like the husband.  What do you want to do today?

I don’t know.  Why don’t you ask Beth?

Okay, Beth wants to ice her limbs.

Cool.  I’m going to come into the kitchen and get some frozen vegetables and a cup of coffee and do the same.  See you in a second.

Okay.  Hey, it’s really good to meet you.

Yeah.  You too.

Several seconds later in the kitchen:



Are the…uhhh….vegetables in the freezer?

Yup.  You want some coffee?

Well, I don’t want to trouble you, I mean, well, I’d like some but…only if there’s some made.

I finished what was made but I’ll make more.

Oh no don’t worry.

No, I can.

No, don’t worry.

No seriously.

No, really, it’s no big deal.

[both of us retreat back to the safety of our computers]

Well, I’m sure it won’t be that bad, but Elizabeth frequently blogs at my expense so it seems only fair for me to return the favor.  And if it is that bad, there’s always Beth and Jen to communicate for us.

I’m off to put my legs up and start my camp taper.


June 27, 2008

Things have been a little difficult at work lately.  Two of my most respected colleagues are leaving this week and I am sad to see them go.  Also things have been busy and I have not been the best at remembering to eat when I’m hungry which makes for a VERY difficult day for me and anyone who comes into contact with me.  It all blew up last night when I had been hungry all day and then finally had the big hunger crash and snapped at GB.  I do not snap at GB.  That was maybe the second time in our relationships, so you know things are up when that happens.  Anyway, I have resolved to take better care of myself when things are hectic and hopefully this will help with my stress.

My knee is coming along pretty well.  I broke the unwritten rule of athletic rehab and asked my ART therapy doctor what her predictions were for my healing time.  She predicted another month before I’m back to normal.  I’m actually very encouraged by this as it seems like the healing has been so terribly slow.  Of course, she wouldn’t put it in writing for me, but I’ll take what I can get!  I am trying to remember to be thankful that I can run at all and not get antsy and frustrated that I can’t run fast and long.  Really, a month ago I would have killed to be able to run a pain-free 35 minutes.

Sometimes I find it so difficult not to compare myself to other athletes and bloggers.  With everyone’s training schedule out there for all to read, it’s hard to trust in my own sometimes and not wonder why I’m not doing what so-and-so is doing.  This is supposed to be another recovery week for me so it’s even more tempting to want to do more and more and more.  That said, I bailed on my run yesterday because my GOOD knee was bothering me and I don’t want to go through this whole process again for my other knee.  Coach was behind me on this one and there was no mention of a substitute workout.  I was really bummed about missing my run but decided to use the time to attack my financial situation.  So I came home, organized the hell out of my finances, realized things were worse than I had originally thought during my denial period, got frustrated, got angry at myself, got hungry, snapped at GB, and then had a little meltdown.  Just as I was starting to settle in for the evening and get sleepy, I checked my email and there was one from the coach: “Since you missed your run, feel free to go for an hour ride if you want”.  Well we all know that an email like that from a coach actually translates to “I have been thinking about it and you cannot afford to miss a workout today, get off your ass and go for a ride NOW”.  Well, I huffed and puffed and kept looking at my watch and saying “It’s SEVEN O’CLOCK!!  I can’t go for a ride now!!!  I’m SLEEPY” and I sent Coach an email saying “forget it, you are off your rocker”.  But all the while I was walking around the house collecting bike paraphernalia and getting ready for my ride.  So out I went, bitching the whole time about it being late and me being tired.  It turns out, of course, that I had a fabulous ride and it was perfect out with the sun setting and not a single car on the road.  And in the last 10 minutes of the ride I saw two foxes up ahead and managed to get really close to them before they scampered away.  That in itself was worth dragging myself out after 7pm.

Sometimes the thing we need the most is the thing we want the least.  Go figure.


June 22, 2008

Happy to be racingYesterday was Saturday which was race day which was a really good time. GB played number one fan and got up with me at 3am to drive to the race. Things went very smoothly and I had somehow tricked my body into not being nervous right up until we arrived, which meant a lot less bathroom stops along the way. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get set up and warmed up but the one thing I was very focused on was getting a good swim warmup. Over the years I have learned that a warmup in the water is the key to a good swim for me. I made my way down to the water while putting on my spanky BlueSeventy wetsuit, thinking about my goal of having the fastest female swim split. It was a river swim and the water was so refreshing that I didn’t want to get out once I got in and ended up having a great warmup.

I was feeling focused at the start and I just knew that those girls would have to fight me hard for the swim lead. When the gun went off, I let rip and went like a bat out of hell. By the first buoy there were about 25 yards between me and the next few swimmers. By the third buoy I knew there was no way for them to catch me and I started congratulating myself goal number one. I could see GB taking pictures of me from the river bank and I was swimming hard and basking in the glory of being the lead swimmer and being so far out there. Of course, there’s always that thing in triathlon where ANYTHING can happen. ANY.THING. Like say, for example, your wetsuit zipper coming all the way down and the back and arms of your wetsuit ballooning out as they fill up with water. Anything, as in you realizing while this is happening that you can simply not swim fast enough to keep your lead if you don’t stop and do up your wetsuit. Anything. As in while you stop and flail and struggle and swear and yell and try to do up your wetsuit, four girls swim by you. Four girls who 2 minutes ago had no chance in hell of catching you. After a great deal of struggling, I panicked and started swimming with it open again. I grabbed the zipper leash with my teeth and tried to yank it up when I turned my head to breathe. This served only to fill my mouth with water and make oxygen hard to get. Finally I stopped again and tried to zip it up. At last after some more flailing I succeeded, put the damn leash back in my mouth so it wouldn’t fall down again and chased those girls. They had a big lead on me but nothing makes me crazy and fast like knowing that I deserve to be in front of them. One by one I chased them down until I was almost on the feet of the lead swimmer. I almost caught her but not quite although I was really happy with my effort to regain the lead. Of all the things my coach has ever said to me, the words that have been the most effective for me in racing are “you deserve to be up there at the front”. Since she told me that and since it occurred to me that she was right, I have found a whole other gear to chase with and it feels good.

Anyway, while this whole wetsuit disaster was taking place, GB was on the beach watching me comfortably lead the swim and then stop swimming and start flailing. It didn’t occur to me at the time of course (and why would it?) that GB would think I was drowning and would start frantically trying to find a lifeguard to rescue me. Luckily by the time a lifeguard had been located, it became apparent that I was not in fact drowning, but I think I might have caused some serious panic.

I emerge from the water to see GB and I say as I run by “MY WETSUIT CAME OPEN CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?”. GB yells something about focusing and I keep running into T1, perturbed that I have no-one to commiserate with me about my misfortune. The bike ride was hilly and tough. I was holding the lead for a bit since the first swimmer turned out to be in the relay, but there are girls out there who make me look like I belong on a tricycle. One of them blew by, pushing me into second place and I knew that without a motor, I had no chance of chasing. Then the guy in front of me somehow throws himself over the outside median while still attached to his pedals. I know I can’t just ride on by since he could be hurt. So I unclip and say something intelligent like “DUDE!!! Are you okay?” when I really should be putting hands on stable to protect his spine instead. He gets quickly up and seems more embarrassed than injured. He says he is fine and appears to be fine, so I start riding again. Of course, once again, while I was standing still during a race several girls have blown by me. My podium spot is gone and I know I am not biker enough to chase it down.

The ride goes by slowly and painfully and I am thrilled to arrive back in T2 for the run. My transition is quick and I blow out of there like I mean business. The first 5k loop is awesome and I feel like the real thing. I attack the hills and nobody catches me. This is unheard of for me on a run and I am thrilled. By the second loop I am once again aware that I have a knee injury. It starts to really hurt so I baby it a little by landing differently. This creates a pain in my ankle that is no more productive than the knee pain, so I try to go back to normal running. I see GB on the loop and yell out that my wetsuit came open on the swim. I am still looking for sympathy on this issue and I am still in disbelief at my unlikely bad luck. GB yells at me “I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. RUN!!!!”. Some spectators laugh at our exchange.

Everyone on the course is very friendly. Some guy tells me as we are running side by side that his crank arm fell off on the bike. I excitedly tell him about my wetsuit but he doesn’t care. Two girls run by me and I see a girl on the out and back who is closing in on me. Finally she catches me and says “you are CRUSHING your agegroup”. I say “I am???” and she nods. “Bigtime”. “Cool” I say as she starts to pull away. I have a mile left and I know I am fit enough to go with this girl so I try, but my knee will have none of it. And honestly, I make the decision to ease up. If I am crushing my agegroup and have no chance of an overall podium finish then it’s not worth it to wreck my leg over chasing this girl so I let her go. I am annoyed at my knee for being a limiter when I know I have more left, but grateful that it has let me go this far this fast.

Finally I can hear the announcer at the finish line and I speed up a little with the energy of the finish line. A strong finish but I know I have lots left. This is nothing like my last race where I couldn’t breathe by the end. I feel like I can go out and do that one again so I know I have lots more left in the tank. Either way, my time is much faster than last year – not even in the same league, so I am happy with my finish.

I go straight to the massage tent. My masseuse whose first language is obviously not English asks me to take a deep breath and then “expire”. She obviously means exhale, but I almost pee myself trying not to laugh at her grammatical misstep as I happily expire on the massage table.

Triathlon racing is almost never what you think it’s going to be. But ain’t that half the fun?


June 17, 2008

Seriously, I simply do not have much to report on the training front. But I will say that my knee tolerated 25 minutes of running yesterday and THAT, my friends, is exciting. Also, this morning I drafted some farm machinery on my bike ride AND achieved a season record of 48.1 mph on the downhill (although not while I was drafting farm equipment, don’t worry). Who needs coffee when you can start your day like that?  (Okay, I do).  GB is pissed about the 48.1 mph part but I will continue to ride kamikaze style until some people who will remain nameless learn to change the toilet paper roll.

In other news, our vegetable garden is coming along nicely and we have had fresh salad every night for a week now. There is no substitute for eating food that you grew yourself, I tell ya. And also no apparent way to get the dirt out from under your fingernails.


June 14, 2008

The coach says I am getting feisty and it’s time to get back to training.  Once I start cursing in my emails, she knows it’s time for her to kick my ass again.  I have enjoyed the rest, but I’m ready to get back to it.  GB has no doubt enjoyed having dinner prepared nearly every night since I got back from Vancouver, but that luxury is over now.  Even so, I think GB agrees that its training time.  My feisty-ness has not gone unnoticed at home either.

GB and I went to a movie last night.  A very wild and crazy adventure for us country-livin’ types.  We ended up seeing Young At Heart, a documentary about some octogenarian rock n’ roll singers.  It was a really great film and I recommend it to anyone who has ever complained about feeling old.  It turns out that they are based very close to where we live, so we’re hoping to see them in concert sometime in the future.

Life is very exciting once you send out your wedding invitations.  It’s like you’re suddenly popular and every day you get a pile of RSVPs in the mailbox.  Not to mention we already got a wedding present!  What is the protocol with this?  Can you use it before the wedding??  We decided yes.

The knee is feeling mostly good so I’m looking forward to some running next week [fingers crossed].  Not to mention I have a race next Sunday.  Last year I won my agegroup and got a free entry to this year’s race.  I was hoping to repeat the same for next year but this race now has a significant prize purse so no doubt there will be women coming out of the woodwork to fight me for a podium spot.  Ah well, all in the name of raising the bar.  I’m excited to race again so soon after worlds.  The competitive flame has been ignited for the season and I can’t wait to pour a little gasoline on it (at the low, low price of $4 a gallon….).

Lazy Day

June 11, 2008

I had the most wonderful lazy day today.  I worked this morning and then got to come home to relax.  I did one or two slightly productive things before collapsing on the couch for a much-needed nap.  I am still jet-lagged from my trip and tired from missing a night of sleep during my travels, so I’m trying hard to catch up.  After my nap I fetched the mail, walked the dogs a bit, and then got inspired to go grocery shopping.  We have a new co-op in the area so I took the dogs for a drive to check it out.  We agreed (me and the dogs) that it’s a pretty decent co-op and we were impressed with their selection and pleased by the fact that it was small and did not trigger my usual grocery store panic.  I got crazy and bought salmon which I then proceeded to come home and cook.  And for once, I got it PERFECTLY RIGHT.  Usually I overcook it a little, but tonight it was absolutely moist and delicious.

No training today, so nothing to report in that department.  I hope everyone is enjoying the summer now that it’s here.  Remember when we were all so miserable this winter when the world was coated in ice???  Seems like years ago now!

Old Lady

June 10, 2008

Well, it has been three days since worlds and I am still walking like an old, old lady.  I have a very relaxing training week with practically nothing on the schedule, so I’m sure my legs will be back to normal in no time.  I guess after weeks and weeks of only running in the pool, my legs were a little surprised to run a hard 10km on Saturday and they are still pissed about it.  Fortunately, though, my knee is giving me surprisingly little grief so I perhaps did not damage it by racing.  Or maybe the cortisone is working.  Or maybe it’s still numb from the cold swim in Vancouver…

It’s hot as all get-out here right now and I am LOVING it.  I love the kind of weather where you sweat just from sitting still.  My office, however, is in an attic with no AC and only a teeny tiny window and I could do without the 9 hour-a-day sauna to be honest.  I love the summer because it makes the dogs tired all the time so I don’t get mauled when I come home from work.  In fact, I can barely coax them to their feet!

Today we booked our honeymoon.  We are staying in a cabin on a lake for a week.  Lots of canoeing and swimming and we can even bring the dogs!!  Last time we stayed in a cabin on a lake with the dogs in Maine it was just about the most fun we’d ever had, so we decided to repeat it.  I think we’ll be ready for some serious quiet time by the time the wedding is over.  It’s a little funny because we live in a cabin on a lake, but there’s something about Maine that we love.  And besides, being at home would be just like an ordinary week.

Well, I’m off to drag these dogs out for a nice hot walk.  Out of the cabin and down to the lake (okay, really it’s a pond, but it’s kind of the same thing).

The Chick Who Smiles

June 9, 2008

Well, the deed is done.  World Championships are over for this year and I am officially wearing a smile of accomplishment.  Certainly this race was a test of flexibility (the mental kind) and I think I passed that one.  With the swim being shortened I knew I would probably lose a bit of my edge but I thought I might gain that loss back by the fact that I was feeling okay about whatever course changes were made.  I love to race.  It makes me tingly and happy and full and alive.  There is simply no substitute for me than standing on the start line knowing I have done so much work for that moment.  Short swim?  Cold, rough water?  Windy day?  Bring it.  I will take it all for a chance to cross the line after a couple of hours of hard racing.

I will say that this particular swim was definitely the coldest and also the most physical I have ever been in.  My face is bruised and sore today from the hits I took in the eye and nose.  I am used to being out front away from the pack in the swim.  I am not used to swimming with some of the world’s best who are ALL strong swimmers and ALL grappling for a place at the front.  Lately in my pool swimming I have experienced the odd phenomenon of choking while swimming all out.  It seems to be happening lately when I go flat out because maybe my stroke is less smooth and I seem to take on water.  Well, pretty early into yesterday’s swim I laughed to myself about that being PERFECT training for this race.  I choked countless times during the swim and even vomited up something I was sure I hadn’t eaten which was a little disturbing.  My goal was to be in the top 10 out of the water and there were moments where I had that nailed, but alas, I stumbled out of those frigid waters in 15th place.  Not too shabby though, and I was pleased.

T1 was a comedy of frozen errors as I tried to grasp my wetsuit leash.  I thankfully had borrowed gloves from my hosts which was very grateful to have on the bike.  My bike split was decent and I was happy with the way I rode, although I lost quite a few places on the ride.  It was, however, possibly the most fun and spectacular bike route I’ve ever raced.

T2 was equally hilarious trying to get my frozen solid feet into my shoes.  Knowing that the run would likely be hard on my knee, I had left nothing in my legs from the bike, so I was surprised I could even stand coming off the bike.

I was thrilled at how strong I felt on the run and immediately started grinning as I ran out of T2.  People were going nuts because I was smiling (I guess not many people out there looked very happy) so I was getting tons of enthusiastic cheers which really bolstered me along.  It was actually pretty hilarious because my legs were numb from the cold, so my knee was a complete non-issue until about 6km in when the feeling came back into my legs.  And boy did it come back.  That knee was NOT happy and I had to several times tell it to shut up and calm down.  There were no mile markers out there so I really didn’t know what my splits were like, but I felt strong and just kept on trucking to the sound of people cheering.  Once I got close to the finish line I pretty much hauled ass as I ran past my friends who flew all the way out from Massachusetts to watch me!!  GB and family were watching the internet coverage and they said the camera was on me for ages down the finish chute, so they were all excited to be seeing me finish all the way from Maine.

Although I did not finish anywhere near to where I was hoping, I am happy with my times and feel like that was a solid start to the season.  I thought about lots of you bloggers when I was out there and about all the encouragement you have offered me leading up to this race.  Also, on behalf of all the bloggers I screamed for Jen we passed each other on the out and back.  Unlike me, she had her game face on and was completely oblivious, but I told her about it later.  People commented a lot about my smiling and how wearing a big grin while running suggests that I was not trying my hardest.  I used to have a coach who would scream at me: “STOP SMILING!!! IF YOU’RE SMILING YOU’RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!”.  I have thought a lot about this and I don’t know if it’s true or not.  I just friggin’ love racing.  I physically cannot help smiling when all those feelings are moving through my system.  Maybe I need to try harder.  Or maybe I’ll just one day be the pro who smiles.

Oh, Canada

June 6, 2008

It has been a busy few days and I made it here safely and uneventfully in spite of the teeny tiny plane I flew on.  I do not remember reading anything in the fine print about riding in a plane that small.  I have ridden in vans with more passenger seating that the plane had!

Vancouver is every bit as great as I thought it would be and every bit as rainy.  It’s so good to be back in the company of Canadians, eh.  They are so ridiculously friendly and so completely oblivious to their own friendliness.  It’s as if everyone on the street is just waiting for me to need help or directions or a new kidney.  They just want to help out.  It’s very refreshing.  I love them.

As you can read over on Jen H’s blog, I spent the day yesterday with her and the infamous Sally.  They are both pretty much exactly what I thought they would be.  Jen is every bit as bubbly and energetic as I anticipated and Sally is really sweet and sort of “fresh”.  Not fresh like rude, but fresh like a daisy.  Really open and alive and just oddly passionate about construction equipment.  It was definitely the first time I had heard the phrase “Oh that is my favorite piece of construction equipment.  It turns around 360 degrees and is just so neat” from anyone over the age of seven. 

Sally and Jen were awesome and drove me to the bike store to pick up my rental for the race.  We had a fun day and certainly accomplished a lot.  I am, however, a little sore in the legs from walking around the city all day.  I have big plans to rest today and to make a day out of shaving my legs and drinking coffee.

Whatever tomorrow holds, I’m excited to go out there an do the thing I love to do most.

C, eh. N, eh. D, eh.

June 4, 2008

Off to Canada today.  To parts of it I have never seen  before.  I have surprisingly little luggage (although thanks, Marit –  I did remember my pedals) and GB was expressing concern last night that I might have forgotten some things.  I did a quick brick last night which went pretty well although I am looking forward to the rest of the taper fatigue working its way out of my legs.  Other than that there is not much to report.  I guess my next post will be from Vancouver!