Past, Present and Future

Reflections on my first tri and wondering what the future holds.  Here we go:

Crossing the Chicago Sprint Triathlon finish line was both exciting and a let down.  Let me explain.

Exciting because I did it.

Let down because a LOT of people do sprint tris – even kids.

I wanted to shout my accomplishment from the rooftops, yet I know the physical act of completing a sprint tri isn’t shout-worthy.  Granted overcoming my fear of swimming and learning how to swim a 1/2 mile is, but that’s too long to shout from the rooftops! 🙂

I have one friend, that whenever he sees me asks me how I’m doing swimming and when I give him an update he’s always very supportive.  He makes a special point to ask, “do you stop and appreciate what you are doing?”  And most often than not, the answer is no.  And for that reason, I’m left in a weird spot emotionally.  I am excited for what I’ve done, yet I can’t always appreciate the magnitude of it.  Instead I focus on the fact that even kids can swim.  So while I did something pretty cool – it’s not like it’s some great feat.  Actually it’s something I should have been able to do decades ago.  So unlike running marathons or even running 50 miles – those are feats that not a lot of people can do – it’s weird to get excited about doing something most people can do – swimming.

I know I’m overly critical and hard on myself and I need to appreciate how hard I worked – because I really did work hard.  But I want to do more – bigger, badder and better.  I want to challenge myself again – because apparently I need a good challenge to distract myself from this crazy thing called life.  And that’s why I have already signed up for the 2018 Chicago Tri – and here’s the kicker – I signed up for the Olympic Distance.  Woot!  I figure if I can go from not being able to put my head under water and crying at the sight of the harbor, to swimming a 1/2 mile; the jump from swimming a 1/2 mile to 1 mile won’t be as hard.  At least I hope not.  So next year I will be doing a 1 mile swim, a 25 mile bike and a 10k.  I think that should be a pretty good challenge for year two!

Here are other random thoughts on my training, my first tri and what lies ahead.

  • I enjoyed the variety tri training provided.  Now I know why Brian always liked it so much – keeps the boredom at bay (somewhat).
  • I realized that I equate the difficulty of my training by how much I sweat.  I would do 30 minutes in the pool and feel like I didn’t work out, so then I’d do another 30 minutes of cardio and sometimes strength training too.  When I would bike, I too felt like I wasn’t getting a good workout in because I didn’t sweat.  The built-in breeze provided by the wind during biking kept me relatively dry, even on hot summer days.  But when I got off the bike and did a short 1-mile run, I would be a sweaty mess and I felt that 10 minute run was a better workout than 60 minutes on the bike.  Ridiculous I know.  But apparently in my mind, sweat = a good workout.
  • I hate to admit it, and I NEVER thought I’d EVER say it – but I kind of miss swimming.  Yikes!!  Did I really just say that?  I got back in the pool Tuesday night and it felt good and it felt more normal than not.
  • I need to learn how to bi-lateral breathe and as I swam the other night and thought about trying to breathe the opposite of what I’ve been doing, it gave me major anxiety.  I know I have to learn sooner, rather than later so it doesn’t get even more awkward and uncomfortable.  But honestly, I don’t even know where to start.  It seems so unnatural as if I were writing with my opposite hand and writing from right to left!
  • I also have to work on my biking.  It amazes me how hard it is to get up even baby hills.  I just have to find a way to put these big ol’ thighs of mine to good use and get up those damn hills!  Anyone have better tips or pointers than Brian’s advice… “I don’t know, just do it”.  I’m looking for advice on what gear to be, how often to shift or do I need to not shift at all?  Should I be in a higher gear and power through or lower gear and spin?  Anything helpful would be appreciated.
  • When swimming – especially during the tri itself – it’s almost impossible to take in your surroundings.  You can’t focus on other athletes, you can’t soak in the scenery, the atmosphere and “buzz” of the event are non-existent in the water.  It’s very dull and mundane.  It’s hard to appreciate the experience of it all from the perspective of the swim.  Jolene had asked me about the race and when I was talking about it, I was talking more about the bike than the swim – even though the swim was the bigger hurdle for me.  But the reason I couldn’t talk much about the swim is because it’s such a confined part of the total experience.  It’s hard to elaborate on things when all you do is see dark water, then you see the horizon, then dark water, then the horizon.  Maybe the occasional seaweed or other swimmers, but that’s about the extent of the experience.  And for someone like me that thrives on the full experience, – swimming is hard both mentally and physically.
  • If you want some indication as to how bad my emotional state was race morning, both Brian and Jolene (I found out later) thought I might not get in the water.  Brian’s literally seen me at my worst when it comes to events – he’s seen me hyperventilate and cry on the side of a road during a hot 6-hour run, he’s been with me when I hit the wall at mile 6 of a marathon and I wanted to fake faint to get out of running and he’s seen me before the Fall 50 when I was just numb at the thought of having to run 50 miles and I told him “I don’t want to do this”.  Same with Jolene, she’s been at most of my marathons and saw me sweat it out before the start of the Fall 50.  They know I’m too stubborn to quit – and yet they thought it was a possibility that I do just that.  I had no idea I was that bad!
  • And here’s the funny part about them thinking I may not make it into the water – it never occurred to me to NOT do it.  Never.  I didn’t want it to suck and I was scared.  But I was going to do it.  Even at the Fall 50, when I said I didn’t want to do it… I didn’t say that about the tri.
  • I’m glad my first tri was Chicago – it’s the countries largest tri, so if I can manage the logistics of it out of the gate – the smaller, local ones I want to do next year should hopefully be a piece of cake.
  • But because Chicago was my first and all that come after will always be compared to my first – I hope the local ones don’t disappoint.  I mean there aren’t many in Wisconsin that can compete with the scenery of the Lake Michigan harbor, the Chicago Skyline and city landmarks.
  • A co-worker asked me if I am in love with tris.  I said no.  It’s too early to be in love with them.  I can’t say I love something that freaked me out to the point where I cried uncontrollably in front of friends, family and strangers.  But will I come to love it?  Maybe.  But maybe not.  I don’t think I have to love it to do it.  I have to love the challenge – not necessarily the sport.
  • And since we’re on the topic of challenges – I can’t tell you how many people have predicted I’ll do an Ironman and/or asked me when I’m signing up.  I’d be lying if I said the challenge wasn’t intriguing.  But I’d also be lying if I said I’m up for it.  I’m not at least not now, and I’m smart enough to admit it.  Probably not for a long, long time.  Let’s not forget that up until 3 months ago, I couldn’t swim longer than 1 lap in the pool.  As of now, I wouldn’t even make it out of the water before the Ironman cutoff – I’m too slow.  And I’d be damned if I would go through training and not even make it onto the bike.  And then there’s the bike… I could NEVER get up the hills of an Ironman course. NEVER.   And it would also be pretty difficult to gut through a marathon after a 112 mile bike ride when I have no desire to run longer than 3 miles right now.  I’d have to get my running mojo back before being able to tack on a marathon at the end of 2 other sports.

BUT as we all know – never say never.  So who knows what the future holds.  I’m not getting any younger and the body doesn’t bounce back from overuse and sports injuries as easily as it did years ago (wait, did I ever bounce back easily?).  So deciding to go for it – may not be a choice in the future.  But if my body holds up and if my mental game can rise to the challenge, who knows.  You all know I thrive on challenges.  I eventually cry, make myself sick, have an emotional breakdown and feel like jumping off a ledge from them too… but I thrive off of them before and after all the other bad stuff.  So god willing, if I stay healthy, if my job and other lifestyle choices I’ve made stay status quo – who knows.  I can’t say never.  Because we all know that saying never will eventually come back to bite you in the ass.  So while I’m not saying never, I’m not saying yes either.  I’m saying…. I have a lot of work to do before next year’s Olympic tri and for now, that’s what I’ll be concentrating on.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim and bike)

 

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The Great Ivy Outbreak of 2017

Seriously, I can’t make this shit up.

If you saw my last post you know that I contracted poison ivy.  But what you may not know is that it’s gone from a few little outbreaks to the MOST WICKED CASE OF POISON IVY EVER!!!!!!!!

I am COVERED.  Literally covered from head to toe.  I had one blister near my eye and another on my ear and I have them as low as my ankles.

I’ve been “oozing” for a week.  Most of the blisters have since dried up (THANK YOU JESUS) but the rash isn’t going away.  I either have a systemic case of poison ivy that developed and actually traveled from the inside of my body and is causing the rash on my stomach, sides and back, or I’m allergic to the medication.  Not sure what’s going on, but I do know is that this is absolute bullshit.

I can’t sleep at night and I pretty much want to scratch my body raw.

I did manage to get back on my bike yesterday and go for a ride.  It was my first ride since learning that I crashed into poison ivy and since I realized my bike had the ivy oil on it and got me re-infected.  I was VERY skittish on the bike and I’m obscenely aware of all possible places poison ivy could be lurking.

When is this whole triathlon training thing going to start getting easier?!  I think I’ve paid my dues.  I’m ready for it to be smooth sailing from here to the tri.

Until next time,

Gotta run (and stay out of the ivy)

 

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These pictures aren’t even the “worst” of it.  😦

Cross another first off of the list

So remember when this happened?

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Well, now this happened.

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Yep, I went ahead and got myself a nice case of poison ivy!  I got it when I crashed in the ditch.  And to think I thought I was lucky landing on the weeds because it helped break my fall.  Little did I know the weeds were poisonous.

Seriously, how do I manage to do this shit?  I grew up in the country on a farm and never once had poison “anything” on my body.  I played in fields, ditches and woods most of my adolescence and I never got anything worse than bug bites.  Now as an adult, while tri training, I get poison ivy?!?!!  Seriously!

And yes, of course I’ve itched it and it’s spread.  And to some not very appropriate places.  I’ll leave it at that, no need to elaborate!

So until next time,

Gotta run (and stay out of the poisonous weeds!)

 

Man down!

So this happened on my training ride yesterday.

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When I said I can’t bike in a straight line, I meant it!

So far this whole triathlon training thing is not going as smoothly as I had hoped.  Basically it’s kicking my ass.

I think I need to stick to running!

Until next time,

Gotta run (or bike and swim)

 

Swimming, biking and running – Oh my!

Well, I’m swimming.

How’s that for a surprise?  I’m guessing it’s 3 words you probably never thought you’d read!

I’m not swimming well and I’m not swimming far.  But I am swimming.

One day it just happened.  I’ve even done 3 open water swims.  I have my husband swimming next to me and I have a life buoy around my waist, but I’m swimming!  I’ve even been in open water, and water where I can’t touch the bottom.  And that’s in part to the magical wet suit I’m borrowing.  Man, that thing is buoyant and I LOVE it.  Long live the wet suit!

While I have done open water swims, I can’t go more than 20 yards without freaking myself out and popping out of the water.  I can’t seem to break through the mental hurdle that comes with swimming anything longer than a pool length.  It’s very frustrating.

And my lack of swimming endurance is also very frustrating.  I just ran a half marathon on Sunday, yet when I got in the pool on Monday, I could barely swim one length of the pool.  I complained about this to my Trainer and he said, he’s been there.  Apparently cardio strength in biking or running doesn’t translate into swimming cardio strength.  Great!  The one thing I thought I had going for me (cardio endurance) is now shot to hell.  So I have to start from scratch and start building cardio strength in the water.

My Coach, is still having me practice drills in the pool twice a week, but the other two days I  need to work on my endurance.  One day I have to do laps with rest breaks.  The other day I have to do laps with continuous movement.  He doesn’t care what strokes I do but I need to keep moving.  I can do the backstroke, side stroke or a crazy doggie paddle, if need be – he doesn’t care – he just wants forward movement.  This will not only help me gain endurance, but will also help me feel more secure on race day – knowing if I get fatigued I can flip over to the backstroke until I can lower my heart rate.

My Coach has also been talking to me about the fact that I only breathe to my right and what will happen if I’ve got another swimmer next to me splashing me or if waves are coming at me.  He’s trying to get me ready for the “what ifs” that come with a triathlon.  I’m extremely grateful that he’s talking me through these scenarios, but it’s also scaring the crap out of me.  I can’t even swim longer than 20 yards and now I have to worry about someone taking away my ability to breathe because they are splashing water in my face.  He also mentioned, “what if you get hit”?

What if I get hit?!?!  WHAT?!?!??!

I’m seriously not ready for these conversations yet.  Even though I’ve been having them with myself for months, the fact that my Coach is now bringing them up makes me realize that we are getting closer to race day, that not only could these things happen, but that they most likely will happen and that THIS SHIT IS REAL!

I am terrified to swim a .5 mile in calm, open water with no one around.  I don’t know how to swim .5 mile in choppy water, with people around who are splashing me, hitting me or swimming over the top of me. I want to vomit just thinking about that.  And even though I plan to start my swim at the back of my pack, I know the wave that starts after me will catch me and swim over me and I’m actually guessing more than one wave of swimmers will catch me, probably 2 or 3 of them.  How the hell do I survive?  When I’m not a confident and am not a strong swimmer, how do you get okay with getting hit in the water?  I am getting sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

UGH!


Because I’ve made progress swimming and have officially decided that there will not be a deferment this year, I figured I should actually get on my tri bike and get some miles in on Freddie.

OH HOLY HELL….

If you want to see something comical, you need to watch me on my tri bike.  Who knew biking in the aero position would be so fricken hard?  I CAN NOT bike in a straight line.  And it’s not just that I can’t bike in a straight line, I make sharp, unexpected and sudden swerves to the left or right for no apparent reason.  I can’t seem to transition from my aero bars to the regular handle bar position without almost wiping out.  The first time I road Freddie outside, Brian was with me and at one point he said, “just stop before you wipe out and hurt yourself”.

And speaking of hurting myself, I’m not even going to get into the fact that I was on a training ride yesterday and I was three miles away from my car (I went biking after work so I had my bike on my car and went biking on a nearby paved trail) when the tornado sirens starting blaring.  Let’s just say that was the 3 fastest miles I think I will ever ride in my life.  When I got to my car I had a hard time getting my bike on the rack because of the strong winds and when I a tree branch snapped and landed 20 yards behind me… I couldn’t help but think of the irony of the fact that I had just watched The Wizard of Oz two nights earlier.

So long story short, I need to work on my biking and I need to believe the weather reports when they say there’s a chance of storms!


So I’ve talked about my swimming and my biking – all that remains is running.

Brian and I did a marathon this past Sunday as a 2-person relay.  It was fricken hot.  Too hot for me.  I’m not warm weather runner and I haven’t been heat acclimated this year so I was not looking forward to the run.  Add in the fact that I’m still having problems with my sciatica pain, and I really wasn’t looking forward to the run.

Thankfully my hip pain was manageable, during my run, but what wasn’t manageable was the heat.  I was overheating and it came on quickly.  I was going downhill and fast.  When I saw Brian at mile 4 (yes, I overheated in 4 miles.  Actually it happened in two miles – I guess overheating rapidly is just one of my few gifts) I called an audible and asked him if he could be ready to run at mile 6, the first relay exchange.  Thankfully he said yes and he took over for me.  Our original plan was for me to run legs 1 and 2 back to back and run 13.1 before passing the baton to Brian.  But I knew I wouldn’t make it.

I’m happy to report that breaking up my run and instead of doing two legs back to back, that running legs 1 and 3 saved me.  I had an hour to cool down in the AC of my car, I got a lot of fluids in me and most importantly I ran the 3rd leg into a headwind and that helped cool me down.

A trick I learned while training for my ultra two years ago was to wet towels and freeze them and use them to cool down with while on the run.  Brian had given me one towel during leg 1, I used a second towel while I was resting during Brian’s leg and I had one more towel waiting for me during my final leg.  Brian was ready and waiting for me with the last frozen towel when I had 3 miles left to run.  But a few miles earlier a marathoner had started chatting with me a bit and I felt too guilty having a nice frozen towel when I only had 3 miles left to run and he had 9.  I gave him my towel instead of keeping it for myself and I think I made his day!  I can’t tell you have many times he thanked me and how he said it was a godsend!  He even thanked Brian when he saw Brian at the next relay exchange.  So I felt I did my good running deed for the day! 🙂

So, that’s where I stand with my swimming, biking and running.

I have a lot to do in 2.5 months but I’m going to keep trucking along the best I can, and hopefully I can find a suitable level of comfort with all that I yet need to do and learn.  As my Coach said to me on Wednesday, “you are head strong enough that I know you’ll find a way to figure it out and make it work”.

Never have truer words been spoken.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or bike and swim!)