Paula and baby

Paula and baby

Dara and baby

Dara and baby

Lance and baby...separate entities?

Lance and baby...separate entities?

GB and I had a fabulous weekend up at the family cabin last weekend. Northern Wisconsin is really quite impressive and I did some of my all-time best bike riding up there. The roads were smooth and wide, and there was barely any traffic. There were also a lot more hills than you might expect and I was pleasantly surprised by the scenic, rolling terrain. It was great to reconnect with each other and with the Great Outdoors for an extended period of time.

From time to time in our relationship, we hit a bump in the road that I like to call “triathlon takes up too much relationship space”. GB starts to get the sensation of playing second fiddle to my love of triathlon and I have to look pretty closely at life to see things from a different angle. GB has always been completely in support of my athletic pursuits and it was no secret when we met that I had big dreams that would not be achieved overnight. I have felt so blessed in our years together to have such a supportive partner in that sense. When GB says “when” about triathlon, I slam on the brakes and listen. For GB and triathlon to go head-to-head would be the worst thing both for my athletic life and my relationship, so I do whatever I can to avoid that from happening. The moment there is even an inkling of resentment, I am all ears and immediately move into problem-solving mode. GB uses the ixnay so rarely that I know better that to ignore it.

If I miss a workout because of my relationship, it has very little effect on my training if any. The problem is that if I give up a workout, then GB worries that I will be resentful. The fact is, however, I could not be the athlete I am without all the support that GB gives me. If nothing else, just the countless hours of talking out loud about the psychological aspect of training and racing is worth a major Partner-Support Award. I joke that GB is the team manager because truthfully, I would be Team Flat-on-my-Face without her. It’s not just the training that takes its toll. I’m sure that sometimes the clincher for GB is my level of physical fatigue, or the $35 I spent on sports drink, or just ANOTHER conversation about how fast or how slow I feel.

It’s a funny balancing act and it makes me wonder how much more difficult it will be in parenthood. Triathlon is such a selfish pursuit and parenthood is such a selfless one. I guess I have at least a few years to figure that one out before it’s our reality. In the meantime, I will continue to work to strike a balance between my relationship and my love for triathlon.

GB and I went out for an awesome date night in Hudson, WI last night. Talk about a gem of a town. I had biked there once, but never spent any time there. We had a wonderful dinner, were treated to live music in the park, and then had ice cream while walking on the beach. Not to mention the spectacular sunset.

One of our conversation topics was around double standards in sports, since there was something on the TV in the restaurant about the ESPY awards (although there was no sound, so we could only watch). We were talking mostly about how sex sells sport for women and about how women’s performance as athletes is so often tied up with how they look in as few clothes as possible. I was waxing lyrical about Dara Torres and this occurred to me: Dara Torres is a mother – a fact I don’t think anyone is unaware of. However, Lance Armstrong is in the middle of what is undoubtedly one of the biggest comebacks in sports history and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THE FACT THAT HE HAS A SIX-WEEK OLD BABY!!!! In fact, it seems like most people I ask, don’t even know!! Never mind the 3 children he has from his first marriage. Not that being a parent and a professional athlete are (or should be) mutually exclusive, but how did we manage to gloss over Lance’s newborn? How is it major news that Paula Radcliffe and Dara Torres have babies and not that Lance does? I get that in Paula’s case, a big part of the media hype was her instantaneous return to an elite physiology but still. The expectation is that having a baby is a life-changing event in a female athlete’s life, but it’s fascinating how it’s a non-event for Lance (at least in the media’s opinion).

My hat is off to Lance’s partner Anna who is no doubt doing a fabulous job of parenting her first newborn while Dad storms the Alps for a few weeks. I think they should put her on the Versus commercials about what it takes to be a great athlete.

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Lifetime RR

July 13, 2009

Yesterday was one of those days when I was in the perfect mental space to race. I woke up alert and ready at 4.15am, had my coffee, and rode my bike to the race site. I executed my pre-race plan to the minute, and felt loose and relaxed when I started the swim. Because it is a staggered-start race, I didn’t know it at the time, but I had the fastest swim in my age group, which was already enough for me to call the day a success.

I had a frustrating transition with some wetsuit struggles and one of my shoes falling off my pedal when I unracked my bike, but I kept my cool and managed to not get crazy about it. Then less than 3 miles into the bike, I heard the sound of a waterbottle falling out of my cage. I reached around to realize that BOTH my bottles were gone and yelled out “SERIOUSLY???”.  All of my racing energy got channeled into me being pissed off about losing my carefully-planned nutrition and hydration planned.  Fortunately, I collected myself quickly and began formulating a plan.  There was no way I was going back to get them so I decided to relax and go with it, promising myself I’d take time to rehydrate in transition if necessary.  I prepared to let go of my running goal of feeling great, knowing that would be hard without proper hydration and calories on the bike.

Lucky for me (and unbeknownst to me at the time), just a few miles down the road there was a water stop where they were handing out bottles, so although I had lost my sports drink, dehydration was no longer a necessity and I had a vehicle with which to digest my gels.

The bike went fairly well.  It’s a pretty technical course with some deceiving inclines and lots of ninety degree turns, so I was not expecting anything spectacular on the bike.  I was, however, THRILLED with how my new bike performed and very glad I took the time to get it repaired the day before.

I got off the bike with a big smile, feeling like I was on target for my goal for a feel-great run.  I kept an eye on my HR and tried to keep a lid on things for the first loop.  Every time I passed the throngs of in-law relatives that had come to cheer me on I got goosebumps – it was such an awesome feeling to have them all there.  I got passed by two girls on the run and resolved to stay with my plan of holding back for the first loop.  Then on the second loop I opened it up and started hauling.  I nearly exclaimed out loud when I saw that I was reeling one of those girls back in – I have NEVER been able to come back on the run after being passed.  Sure enough I chipped away at the gap until I was right behind her.  Then I took a deep breath and surged past her as we exchanged encouraging words.  The thrill of being able to hunt someone down on the run has always eluded me with my formerly very weak run, so you can imagine my elation at the feeling of passing people!

I finished strong and was over the moon at having felt so good on the run.  I still have a lot of work to do on my running, but I really feel like I’m on the right track now.  It’s easy to look at the times for the elite girls and feel like I was a snail out there on Saturday, but I need to remember that I did achieve all of my race goals and that I am on my way to where I want to go; I’m just not there yet.  Chipping away, chipping away…

For some unknown reason, I am experiencing a dearth of water bottles.  I think we probably trimmed down our collection when we moved our stuff to MN and have somehow lost the rest since.  I know that there is one in the bushes on one of my ride routes, but other than that the rest are a mystery.  Get this: I was forced to BUY a water bottle yesterday!  This is something I am morally opposed to because a) there are already too many bottles floating around the planet and b) I get so many of these free through racing that I should never need to invest in one.  But alas, I did.  And wouldn’t you know?  It doesn’t fit in my bottle cage.

On Saturday I am racing Lifetime in Minneapolis (with an ill-shaped waterbottle crammed into my cage).  This is not an ‘A’ race for me and I am not expecting big things given my recent surgery recovery time.  However, I’m really excited for the race.  My training has been extremely solid and I have followed my workouts to the letter.  I am well-hydrated, I am rested, I am fit, I’ve been eating well, and I have a family fan base here in Minneapolis to cheer me on.  And what’s more?  For only the second time in my racing career, I’m going to sleep close enough to the race to walk there in the morning.  This is a huge load off my mind since I do not relish the pre-race drive, and I am very grateful to my sister- and brother-in-law for offering me a bed.

Last night I ran one loop of the run course to familiarize myself with it.  I have been trying to visualize a speedy and comfortable run since I have in the past had slow and painful 10k runs in races.  I raced Lifetime two years ago when GB’s Mom was having her brain surgery.  There was so much stress around that week and GB and I were exhausted beyond measure.  It was almost silly of me to go out there and race when I was already feeling so taxed, but I had registered long before we knew about the surgery and GB’s Mom was adamant that I race.  Thankfully the brain surgery was successful and I somehow finished the race.  I remember a painful, slogging feeling from the run and had the sensation of it being uphill even though it was totally flat.

I am not too caught up in time goals for Saturday.  I have banned myself from doing any predictive math.  Mostly what I want is my usual strong swim, a decent bike with good nutrition, and a run that feels magic.  I have been working very hard (especially mentally) on my run and I think I am probably due for a little time in the Zone.  Of course, this breaks the rules of measurable goals, but I’ll know if I achieved it by how I feel.  And besides, I’ll have GB and the many in-laws watching and cheering – what could be better?

Stateside

July 2, 2009

I am very happily residing in Minnesota once more.  When I wake up in the morning, GB is beside me, and when I come downstairs, Finn and Jack are there, so life is as it should be.  Of course, my in-laws are also there, but that’s because we are living in their house.  Lucky for all of us, we get along quite nicely.

We had a wonderful road trip here from New England and got to see some of our good friends (albeit very briefly) on the trip.  We were surprised to realize that while we miss our friends there, we don’t actually miss Massachusetts as much as we expected to, so it was not the sad trip we had anticipated.  So much has changed for us since December and I think we have associated moving towards our long-term plan with moving away from Massachusetts.  Funny how that happens.

Anyway, we are back in MN and very happy about it.  GB is working and I am playing housewife.  Mostly this involves sitting around drinking coffee, reading blogs, swimming, biking, running, lifting, resting, laundry, and cooking.  You will notice that a small minority of those items involve the betterment of the house, and most involve the betterment of me.  But hey, this is my summer vacation so I’m a half-assed housewife.  I don’t know anybody in the Twin Cities and quite frankly, don’t really know where or how I will meet people.

I spend large (frighteningly large) amounts of time at the gym but no-one seems to talk to anyone else there.  It’s an amazing gym and unlike any place I have ever been except for the gym Fedofsky goes to in Chicago.  There are seemingly hundreds of cardio machines and two giant rooms of weights.  There is a steam room, a dry sauna, two hot tubs, free towels, millions of lockers, a cafe…its’ like going to the spa.  Don’t tell anyone, but yesterday I went there at 11am and didn’t leave until nearly 3pm.  That place is worse than Facebook.  Like Facebook, but without the friends.

Other than that, I finally bought a new triathlon bike, the picture of which I will post in the near future.  It took us a few days to get acquainted, butt I’m now very happy with my purchase and I think it will make a big difference riding a bike that is ten years newer.

Training is going extremely well and since I recovered from my surgery I have had two very solid weeks and am feeling amazingly healthy and strong.  I am not expecting big things from my race next week but I am really excited to be racing.  I think it’s probably a little early in my season to be expecting huge improvements so I am focusing on August, September, and October for my A races.  Lifetime is my favorite race ever and I’m really excited to be back here for it again this year.

That’s all the word from the Midwest.  Maybe now I’m settled into my housewifely life, I’ll blog more.  Less to say and more time to say it.

It has been three weeks since my surgery and it is now a distant memory.  I did not recovery nearly as quickly as I initially thought I would, but I was back training within ten days, so I was hapy abo