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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Inspiring? Who me?

Two people in the past 5 days told me that I’m an inspiration.

Huh.

Really?

Me?

I’m an inspiration?

I’m not saying this as an, “awe, shucks, you’re too kind – I’m not an inspiration”, while secretly thinking… “hell yeah, I am”!  And these folks aren’t good friends where they would have said it to try and make me feel good.  I’d call them acquaintances and I really only interact with them through social.

I’ve been called a lot of things over the years, some good and some bad.  I’ve gotten compliments – usually about my hair; some people think I have good hair – but I’ve never been complimented by being called an inspiration.  And I think that is probably one of the nicest compliments I could ever receive.  I don’t take being an inspiration lightly, because I know how much I value those who inspire me.

I don’t have kids, so it’s not like I’m inspiring my kids to do anything  I don’t even have a big blog fan base (but I do love the fans I have!!), so it’s not like I am blogging to inspire others.

When I started blogging, and sharing my training updates on social, I did it first to keep my family in the loop and to also, on occasion, give someone a good chuckle,  I mean come on, you can’t tell me you haven’t been following the Great Poison Ivy Outbreak of 2017 and haven’t chuckled to yourself and thought, “better her than me!”

I blog and share my journey because it’s fun for me and I hope it’s somewhat fun for you. But I never, ever, expected it to be inspiring.

As I always say, I have NO athletic ability and the only reason I am able to run marathons or complete an ultra is because I’m basically just too damn stubborn to quit.  To me that doesn’t make for an inspiring story…. but I guess to some it does.

I’ve watched marathons, ultras, triathlons and Ironmans and I’ve been so inspired I’ve been brought to tears.  I’ve signed up for more than one race as I was coming off an “inspiration high” from watching someone else do something incredible.  And I’ve been known to share videos, pictures and posts of strangers doing incredible things just to feel a bit more motivated.

But I never thought I’d be on the other side of this story.  I never thought I’d personally help motivate people.  I never thought someone would actually take up running because of me.  I never thought I’d get people inspired to try something new or go for it.

I’ve been really surprised at how my journey into triathlons has been received.  I’ve had a lot of people tell me they can’t believe I’m learning how to swim and how incredible they think that it is and how they give me credit for conquering my fears.  (And FEAR it is!)  People who I never realized were following along on my quest to learn how to swim, have been secretly cheering for me.  It’s pretty cool to not only know I have their support (I believe everyone’s positive energy and positive thoughts help!) but that it’s gone the next step and I’m helping inspire them.

There may be some of you out there where this is old hat.  Like I said, as a parent, I think you inspire your kids all of the time.  Or as an athlete, if you’re repeatedly kicking butt and/or winning…. that inspires so many people.  But I don’t have offspring looking up to me and I don’t win.  I don’t even have a good “comeback” story to help inspire others.  I’m at the back of the pack and I have no delusion I’ll ever be any place but the back.  Each race I run, my time gets a little slower and I’m pretty sure the letters “PR” are gone for good.  But that’s okay, because what the past few days have thought me is that you don’t need to cross the finish line first to inspire people.  Sometimes the best stories and the most inspiration aren’t coming from those upfront.  I guess the view-from-the-back-of-the-pack can be filled with inspiration too!

Who knew!?

Until next time,

Gotta run (and swim and bike)

 

Why do I do it?

I had the most random and unexpected compliment yesterday.  I had an appointment with my Nurse Practitioner who I’ve been seeing for probably 15+ years.  So while I’ve seen her a long time, we only see each other once a year, so it’s not like we have this big deep relationship.  But she does know that I’m a runner and whether she remembered or read it in my chart, she also knows I not only run but have done multiple marathons and completed an ultra the last time I saw her.  She asked what I had planned for 2017 and I said that I’ve really scaled back on my running and I don’t have any major endurance events planned.  I added that I planned on doing a triathlon this year and she gave me only a half-enthusiastic response (like a tri was small potatoes compared to an ultra).  That is until I told her that I don’t know how to swim.  This intrigued her.   She spun around on her little wheeled stool and wanted to know more (thankfully I was not up in stirrups at this point!).  She could not believe I am taking on this endeavor considering I don’t know how to swim.  She thought it was just amazing.  Her enthusiasm took me by surprise and I must have looked it because she went on to explain. She said she sees young women every day with no goals, no enthusiasm and no desire to try – try anything.  She said it’s sad.  She thinks I’m an inspiration. She even said that whatever is motivating me to try new things, the drive to set a goal and do what needs to be done in order to reach that goal is what makes a person successful at life.

Wow, a success at life!  That’s a heavy conversation to be having in a medical gown, but please go on!

She said that no matter what the outcome of my trying to learn to swim or how the tri goes, she said that she’s proud of me and she wishes me luck.

Again, wow!  All of this from a lady I see once a year!

She asked me where the drive comes from and what it is that makes me want to tackle new goals and challenges.  I didn’t have an answer for her but I really wanted to find an answer for myself.  So I’ve been thinking about nothing else since she asked me.  And while there isn’t one clear-cut, easy answer I do have some thoughts as to where my drive comes from.

I have to give some credit to my parents. And while they never did anything like what I’m doing, they passed on some qualities that make me who I am and the person that signs up for an ultra even though I’m not a very good runner or the person who signs up for a tri even though she can’t swim.  My stubbornness to not quit came from my mom, and I don’t say stubborn as a negative.  I’m definitely my mother’s daughter when it comes to that.  Being stubborn is the only thing that got me across many finish lines and it’s what helped my mom raise 7 kids.  Stubbornness is a good thing – my husband may not think so – but I do!

I got my dad’s drive.  He was a self-employed farmer and he did what was needed in order to get the job done.  No excuses, just do it.  So once I sign up for something I will do what it takes to reach my goal (thanks dad), i.e. training, lessons, practice, early morning workouts, etc. and even if it gets tough and I want to quit, I won’t – because I’m stubborn (thanks mom).

But why even sign up for a race or take on a new challenge?  When I was asked what in me made me want to sign up for these things and to push myself like this… it really got me to wonder the same thing.  I think a lot of my desire to try to challenges and set new goals is that I’m extremely aware that life is short.  And I want to make the most of the one I have.

I want to try new things and have adventures.  I always say I want to live not for “things” but instead for “experiences”.  And while a lot of really cool experiences and adventures that I want to embark on cost money – these really don’t.  Okay yes, there are entry fees and gear, etc.  But it’s not the same as saving up to go on a European vacation.  Brian and I aren’t wealthy and we work extremely hard for our money and it takes time to save for some of the big things we want to do and see.  But signing up for events and working towards those goals are more short-term goals that I can control and have nothing to do with money.   It’s a way to make sure I experience life, not from a couch doing nothing more than binge watching Netflix (but I do enjoy the occasional binge weekend) but instead in the “thick of it”.

And lord knows I wasn’t always like this.  I spent most of my twenties and even a portion of my early thirties on the couch.  Probably because it’s hard to go for a run when you’re hung over!  But thankfully that was a phase and once I grew up, I grew out of it.  (Sort of!)  I enjoy setting goals.  I enjoy working towards them.  I enjoy reaching those goals and getting that sense of accomplishment.  I was talking to a friend who is currently training for his first marathon and I was telling him that it’s the feeling of accomplishment that makes you come back for more.  It’s addicting.

Maybe that’s what the young women who have no drive are missing.  They need that sense of accomplishment that will push them to try again.  Maybe all they need is to set one goal and once they achieve it – no matter what it is – they too will be hooked.  They will realize to live life is to experience life.  Not from a comfortable spot on the sidelines, but instead by being part of the game.

Until next time,

Gotta run (or swim)

 

 

What’s your “Movie Moment”?

We’ve all seen the movies where one moment in time – some words of praise from a boss, a teacher’s encouragement, a delayed flight or a missed phone call are the cause for the way the person’s life turns out, as they know it.  The person can trace back in time the reason they are – for good or bad – who they are.  Where they are in life can be attributed to some thing or some event.  I can actually trace back a “moment in time” for my husband’s career.  His participation in the music industry from being part of the crew for local bands, to booking bands as an agent and then transitioning out of that field and into radio and promotions can all be traced back to one incredibly innocent moment in time.  I believe it’s incredibly rare to be able to look into your past and find one moment that defines who you are today.  It’s not normally one moment but instead a collection of all experiences, good and bad that form who we are.  And I do believe this, but when one “moment” was the catalyst, that’s kind of cool.

I’ve always thought about my past and how it shaped me into who I am today and I always wished I had one Hollywood movie moment to thank or curse for who I am and where I am in my life.  My life is pretty boring and pretty low-key so a movie moment never jumped out at me.  Until now.

While I don’t know the exact day and time it happened, but the day I decided to try to run a few minutes is the day my life changed.  And I don’t mean this in a light shining from the sky, the world gives me new meaning and  I’m an all around better person, awe-inspiring way.  I’m still me for gosh sake, I’m not going that spiritual.  But I mean, a lot of really cool things in my life have happened because I started running.

Brian and I took trips to San Diego, New York (twice), Vermont, Boston and this fall we will be going to Maryland and these trips are all directly tied to running.  We’ve seen scenic sunrises, metro streets that are normally loud and busy quiet and vacant, we’ve run past luxurious indulgence and pretended to belong in places we had no business belonging, but as a runner we were tolerated. And we paid for these trips with money we made working running and endurance events.  Events we participated in as runners and then transitioned from participants to organizers.

I’ve met Olympians and Sports Legends.  I made new friends because of the runs we take part in and the events we work.  Friends who make me laugh and are always a good time.  And nothing beats the good times had with friends while running.  Some of the silliest conversations happened while running.  And some of the best belly busting laughs occurred while logging some miles.

And it’s not like I wouldn’t have had laughs with friends if I didn’t run.  But I wouldn’t have had NEARLY the amount of great and unique experiences and memories to look back on.

So the day in 2003, when I decided to try to run on the crappy treadmill we had in the bedroom of our duplex, set off a chain of events I NEVER would have expected.  I never dreamt I’d go from huffing and puffing and having to stop in less than 2 minutes, to training for a 50-mile solo run.

So thank you cheap treadmill and my 2003 self for being part of a defining “moment” for me.  I like what’s it’s done for my life so far and anxiously await to see what’s next.

Until next time,

Gotta run

12 days and counting

The marathon is less than 2 weeks away and I’m ready to run it.  This part of the training is so tough.  It’s the taper and it should be the “easy” part of the training because our miles are cut down drastically.  But in reality, I’m still running 5 days a week, still cross training on the 6th day, still trying to fit in training with my 1 full-time job, 1 part-time job, yard work, house work, social obligations and everything else I have going on.  Because the marathon is right around the corner and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it makes the last few weeks tough because my motivation is really lacking.  I’m antsy, I’m unmotivated and I’m ready to run.

I want to run and be done!

Until I have to start training again in June, that is.

Until next time,

Gotta run

 

It’s fall marathon time

I’m heading to Chicago to watch a friend run the Chicago marathon.  Races are so exciting.  For those that have never cheered someone you know, or a total stranger for that matter, on during a race, you have no idea what you’re missing.  Being at a race when people are in their zone and are warming up and then watching them run, step after step past you and then to follow them through the finish line, is just an incredible experience.  The things you see during a race are somethings straight out of the movies.  You see the young and old do things that sometimes quite frankly a human body was never designed to do.  Running 26.2 miles, I’m pretty sure is something the body wasn’t originally set up to do.   But just watching a marathon, or any race for that matter, without knowing the back story or knowing the training that went into it, can be a bit anti-climatic.  If you don’t know the stories of the training in the rain, running through a heat wave, the ice packs on the knees, the Flex-All on all the other body parts and the countless social occasions missed due to a training run and you won’t realize the sacrifice and effort that’s put into what ends up being a 3 to 5 hour marathon.  It’s not about the marathon itself.   It’s about the 5 months leading up to the marathon.

That’s why I chronicled my first marathon and why I’m going to do it again.  It’s about what it is that gets me out the door 6 days a week to run.  It’s about the “why”, not about “the run”.  I don’t know what my “why” is yet for this marathon.  The first marathon, my way was “to see if I could do it”.  That coupled with the fact that my mom had passed away just as I had started to run and when running 3 miles was a big deal for me and she told me to “keep at it”.  So, I did.   There was nothing that was going to stop me from running that first marathon.  Not even the expensive advice of some highly trained medical professionals that told me I couldn’t run anymore without the pain I was experiencing getting worse.  I had the “nothings going to stop me from achieving this goal” attitude.  But now that I’ve already done one marathon and the thrill is gone can I still do it?  Now that I know how incredibly hard this really is, do I have the grit and determination to do it again?  Ignorance was definitely bliss the first time around.  Not knowing how hard it truly was going to be, was a godsend.  But now I know.  And now I’m scared.

So, I’m really hoping to use the Chicago marathon as an energy booster for me.  I am excited about training for another race.  But will I still be excited in March when I have to log 50 miles for the week and it’s below zero with 30 mph headwinds?   I don’t have the answer to that at this time.   But rest assured, when I get that answer… I’ll let the rest of you know.  I’ll also let you know which neighbor’s don’t shovel their sidewalks, what the best technique for spitting in sub zero temps is, how to sneak out ahead of the training group to give yourself the illusion of being somewhat speedy and how to accessorize to compensate for a lack of speed or athleticism.

I don’t know what this training holds, but I hope you stayed tuned.  It could be an interesting 500 miles!