Friday, August 31, 2012


I've been avoiding my blog like it's the Plague.  There's a lot percolating in my mind that I want to write about, but I haven't.  I've held on to my thoughts, inspirations and experience out of my own selfishness.  Why?   I'm not really sure.  Oh no...that's not honest.  It's because I'm in fear.  Being in fear robs me of my true self.  And I'm told "to thine own self be true."

Isn't facing my fears what this blog is about?  Hope?  I have Hope tattooed on my wrist as a reminder and I still forget.   To inspire hope and instill positive energy to those who might choose to read what I have to say is my intention.  Being completely honest and living the life I choose is my purpose.

So.....apparently I'm human.  I've let fear creep it's way into my life yet again.

Well, stay's about to get real around here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ironman Steelhead 70.3 and Me

Three days ago I completed my first  half Ironman triathlon.  I swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles all in one shot.   I feel elated, immensely grateful and a little sore.

I headed up to Benton Harbor early Saturday morning.  I took advantage of being solo, and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet (save for the loud music blaring).   Three hours to reflect and unwind.  I listened to the music I preferred, stopped when I needed to, drove the speed I was comfortable with...just me and the open road.  It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day and I was able to just enjoy the ride.  I was feeling happy and excited.  When I arrived, I met up with friends who were already at the hotel, and we headed to the venue.

The day before a big race is always a lot of fun.   There is usually an expo, where packets are picked up and shopping opportunities abound.  Ironman did not disappoint.  The expo and athlete check-in were right on the beach where the transition would take place the next morning.  The water was calm, the sky was clear blue and excitement was in the air.  Hundreds of athletes and spectators milled about talking, shopping, walking on the beach,  and checking in for the next day.  I was taking delight in being part of the excitement.  We sat for about an hour and listened to the athlete briefing, where the race director went over the rules for the swim, the bike and the run.   The announcer's voice echoed in my head.  The nervous energy started setting in.

Could I do this?

We went back to the hotel to unpack, then went out for dinner (italian of course).  Carb-loading is a tradition, after all.  Dinner was fun, but we were rather quiet on the way back to the hotel as we contemplated the next day.    I attempted to go to bed at 10:30.  Tossed and turned.  Bathroom at 11:30.  Back to bed at 11:35.  Midnight, I think I may have dozed off?  Nervous energy.  I was doing the swim in my head and it wasn't pretty.

After a very restless night, race day began at 3:30am.  I opened my eyes, got out of bed and moved in slow motion.  I couldn't believe it was race day.  I brushed my teeth while going through the upcoming race in my head.  I got dressed, packed my transition bag and pumped up my bike tires.  I looked at myself in the mirror.  Blinked.  Reality set in.  I grimaced at my reflection, then smiled and said "let's do this!!!"  I sounded more confident than I felt.  I met my friends in the lobby, and we made the 45 minute drive to the venue.

We arrived at Jean Klock Park at 5:00am.   We were in good company, as hundreds of athletes (over 2,000 total) arrived with us.  The morning air was cold and we were all wearing jackets and long sleeve shirts.  Stars dotted the black sky.  It was a mile walk from the parking lot to the venue.  As we approached the beach, bright lights and music greeted us.  As we walked I heard the melodious voice of the race announcer as he reminded us of what was ahead.  It was the same voice from the athlete briefing the day before.   The voice that had given me such nervous energy during the briefing was now comforting.    I appreciatively used the indoor restroom for the last time that day (port-a-pottys would be my friend the remainder of the day).  And of course we posed for a picture for Facebook.

We made our way to body marking (every triathlete's age is unceremoniously written in black magic marker on the calf, the race number is prominently written on each arm).  Our status temporarily tattooed on our bodies to identify us and to categorize us for the day.

From there it was to transition, where we set up our bikes and our gear for the day.  We will only return two times during the race.  Our haven in the chaos.  We learned the water temperature was 67 degrees, and the air temperature was 55.  A tad chilly!   I shivered at the thought of getting into the water and swimming.   We used the last-chance port-a-potty,  put on our wetsuits and made our way to the beach.

From the transition, it is a mile+ walk down the beach to the swim start.  As we walked I glanced at the water, and eyed the buoys which identified the sections of the swim.  One large red, followed by what seemed to be 100 orange, then in the far distance a large number of yellow, then finally another red buoy.  All in one long straight line.  The second red buoy looked so far away.  The walk to the start seemed endless.  My stomach was doing somersaults.  The sand was freezing under our feet.  I eyed the water again.  Holy shit, we had to swim past all of those buoys!!  Gulp.

We finally arrived at the swim start, and warmed up.  (I didn't know how I was going to swim with my stomach filled with bouncing balls.)  I was so nervous.  The first two waves of swimmers (the elite athletes) lined up, received final instructions and the gun sounded.  I watched as a hundred or so swimmers ran at top speed into the water, then dove into the deeper water and the swim was underway.  As I watched each wave go (they are separated by age group after the elite waves) it seemed crazy to me that I was soon going to be in a mass crowd of swinging arms and kicking legs in the frigid water.  Our turn came and off we went.  I hurtled myself through the air and then dove into the water.  It was madness as everyone around me jockeyed for position.  Every few seconds I was being kicked or bumped, and splashed in the face.  But I told myself to stay calm and just swim.  I moved slowly, trying to keep panic at bay.  One stroke at a time.  I rounded the first red buoy and headed for the first yellow.  As we progressed, the wave spread out and the water calmed.  So did my nerves.  I just swam.

After what seemed to be an eternity, I saw the second red buoy in the distance.  A feeling of elation came over me.  Holy shit I did it!  My hands finally touched sand and my feet touched and I started running (ok, stumbling) out of the water toward the beach.  There were huge crowds of people on either side of the chute cheering as we all made our way to transition.  It was amazing!

I found my bike, struggled out of the wetsuit (gracefully of course), pulled my helmet on, attempted to rinse the sand off my feet (I later learned I should have tried harder) and put my bike shoes on.  I grabbed my bike and was off running toward the bike exit.  At the bike mount area I clipped in and started pedaling.  I didn't even notice the cold as I raced down the hill and out onto the course.  I was on my bike, and for me this is home.  56 miles lay ahead of me.  I felt great.

The ride was fast, and fun.  I saw friends out on the course, and reveled in the crowds along the way.  The hours seemed to fly by.   The only thing that marred the wonderful experience was the thought of the 13.1 mile run which would follow.  I was not looking forward to it.

As we returned to Jean Klock park, we rode through a chute that was made up of Ironman banners.  I literally had goosebumps and a huge smile as the gravity of what I was doing hit me again.  Crowds were lined up and cheered as we rode the slower pace through the chute to the dismount area.  Then it was off of the bike, jog into transition, find my spot and get ready for the run.

The run is my least favorite of the three disciplines of triathlon.  This transition was a bit slow, as I procrastinated the run and changed into my running shoes.  You're not supposed to procrastinate in transition.  The main goal here is speed (hello, it's a race).  I know, I know.  I put on my visor and sunglasses and started jogging out of transition.

It was no longer chilly, and was getting very warm.  The sun was high in the sky and the cloud cover that had been present on the bike was gone.   The thought of what was ahead was daunting, but I just started running.  The first two miles was mostly uphill, and was really tough.  I stopped at the second aid station to use the port-a-potty and to grab some water and Gatorade.   Back to running.   The time seemed to pass slowly, and I was looking ahead for the mile markers.  Every marker I passed was a small victory and I smiled.  At about mile 6, I started cramping in my legs, and I felt several blisters forming on my feet.  It occurred to me at that point that I had not eaten very much, or had enough fluid.  The blisters were apparently caused by little bits of sand that were still on my feet.  Good times.  The miles passed slowly, and I was dizzy.  Slowed at every aid station and drank water and Gatorade and ate what I could.  Kept going.  I passed the 10 mile marker, and my heart soared!  I was almost there!  Suddenly it hit me that the finish line was just 3.1 miles from me.  The last miles were a bit of a blur.   I entered the park and could hear the music, the wonderful soothing voice of the race announcer and cheering!    I entered the chute and ran the narrow path between the Ironman banners with the onlookers urging me on and yelling "you're almost there"!!!  I had a huge smile on my face and my heart was in my throat.  I could see the finish line.

I think I was laughing when I crossed the finish line!   Correction, the Ironman finish line.    The feeling of sheer joy and accomplishment washed over me and I forgot the pain.  I was an Ironman (well half an Ironman anyway).  I had accomplished something that 4 years ago I would have thought was impossible.  So many changes have taken place in my life and brought me to this point.  Crossing that finish line with tears in my eyes was not just about that race, but it was so much more.  It was a new beginning.  Happy destiny was at my feet.  I knew as they placed the finisher medal around my neck that I could do anything I set my mind to.  That day forward.

After the celebration, and the painful couple of days that have passed,  I sit here feeling that same unbelievable feeling I felt on Sunday.  And after 3 days I'm finally writing about it.  The pain has subsided and I'm back to "normal" (as normal as I'll ever be) but the feeling of accomplishment and power remains.

Today I feel powerful.

I made mistakes in this race.  I did not practice good nutrition during the bike and the run.  I did not clean the sand from my feet well enough causing blisters.  I did not mentally push myself as hard as I should have.  I will benefit from these mistakes in the long run because I have learned from them.  The cool thing about being human and making mistakes is the growth achieved when we learn from them and push on.

Did I mention I'm doing it all again in 2 1/2 weeks?  Cedar Point Rev3 Half 9/9/ I come!

Think I'll go for a run...

I want to thank my family for their support with all of my training and for putting up with me when I was crabby and for being patient during the time training took me away from them  I want to give a shout out to my coach, my training buddies (you have no idea how much you mean to me) and all of my friends who supported me.  It definitely takes a village!   

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Going it Solo

It's Thursday, and the race that I've been training for all summer is on Sunday.  Three short days away.   Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in Benton Harbor, MI.  This will be my first long distance triathlon.  A half Ironman!  For me, it's a big deal!  A lot of time and energy have been put into getting me to this point.

I should be nervous, shouldn't I?  I'm not.  It's very strange, especially for me (control freak, remember?)  Maybe this is a sign that I'm changing, and letting go of my need to control a little more.  After all, these are the facts:  I've trained hard, I've paid for entry to the race and for my hotel room, and I have no control of the day itself (weather, road conditions, injury etc.)  So why worry?   In effect, I am ready.  All I have to do is pack my stuff and drive the three hour drive to Michigan Saturday morning.   If I stick to the facts, it takes the guesswork and control out of it.

The swim comes first.  A 1.2 mile swim in Lake Michigan.  Then the bike, a 56 mile, hilly ride through the Michigan countryside.  Then finally, the run.   13.1 hilly miles.    But after all of that comes the finish chute and the Ironman finish line!  Crossing that line will be like nothing else I've done before.  I know regardless of any pain or tiredness I might feel, I will be smiling.  Even if I'm crawling or someone is dragging me.

But that won't happen!  (I think dragging is against the rules.)  I'm going in with a very positive attitude and no fear (yet).  I have confidence in my training, and in the nutrition guidelines I've followed.  I'm ready.  After that, I just have to let go.  And hydrate.

This is a big step for me.  I tend to be a worrier.  About everything.  It has always been part of me.  In childhood I had a worry stone that I always kept with me.  I rubbed it so much it became smooth and shiny.  But today I can choose to be worried, or I can choose to be confident.  I have choices.  I am attempting to make better choices in my life.   And today I'm choosing to not be debilitated by worry.

I am going to the race alone.  My family has other obligations over the weekend.  When I tell people this, the reaction is usually a gasp and "Oh No!  I can't believe no one will be going with you for support!!"

Before I started writing this morning, I was feeling a little sad.  I'll be honest.  I was feeling "poor me, no one is going to my big race with me."    But in writing this out, I feel stronger.    I'm okay with me, I'm confident and I'm alright being alone.   In the end, nobody can cross that finish line for me.  I will be crossing the finish line by myself on my own two feet with only a smile.  And that is OK! 

Part of being in fear for so many years was never going it alone.  I always had to have someone there to lean on.  I lacked the confidence to do anything by myself.   Going out of town, staying at a hotel, facing a big race....these are things that I NEVER would have done alone before.  Never would have even thought of attempting this long endurance race, and (gasp) go without a hand to hold.  But today....I'm going in with strength.  It's another challenge for me to face and conquer.    I'm looking at it as a time for reflection.  Another opportunity to grow.

I will have friends who will be in Benton Harbor for the race, don't get me wrong.  I certainly will not be by myself on race day!  Good friends, fun friends.  I have plans to meet some of the gang on Saturday to go to the Expo and to the athlete meeting.  We will most likely have dinner together Saturday night.  We will probably find a space in transition together on Sunday.  The wonderful thing about this sport is, I've gotten to meet so many fantastic people.  Training partners and friends I share a common bond with.  We are definitely a community.

You know what?  From this point forward I don't think "alone" is an appropriate word for me.  It's too sad.  I'm replacing it with "solo".  There's strength in that little word.

After the race and after crossing the finish line solo,  I will find my friends, and I know they will be ready to celebrate our accomplishment!

Steelhead, here I come.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Things I Observed on My Bike Ride....Sunday

Being a female cyclist is...awesome.

Even the girliest of girls toughens up and becomes almost immune to eating bugs.

Chapstick is my friend.

Immunity also applies to passing road kill in close proximity.  And learning to breathe through my mouth when doing so.

Speed is almost better than sex.


It takes a lot of practice to open, eat, fold up and place a gel back in my bento box while continuing down the road at 20+ mph.

Same applies to pulling a bottle from the bottle holder, drink and replace it without dropping it.

I am simply not capable of doing the fast nose blow towards the side of the road.  I see guys doing it all the time.  I've tried.  It was not pretty.

Other cyclists always wave back.  We are a friendly bunch.

Never look a barking dog in the face.

I will never, ever pee on my bike.  No matter how long a ride I'm on.  I'm told it's common practice (by guys I'm sure) in long distance races.  Never. Going. To. Happen.

There are a lot of pig farms in Indiana.  Again, breathing through one's mouth is a very useful  technique.

Good stuff.  Think I'll do it again tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Mental Aspect

I have been training all summer for the half distance Ironman triathlon.  All summer.   Lots of swimming, biking and running.  Would have been a perfect subject to blog about.  But there was that fear thing.    Since I'm working on putting fear behind me,  I figured now was as good a time as any to write about it.

I have been feeling burnt out lately.  Big time.  I've been wondering if all the blood, sweat and tears was really worth it.  Training for a long distance race(s) takes time, a lot of time.   Schedules have to be adjusted to fit the training into the mix of everyday life.  I'll mention balance again, because it's key.  Work, family, daily activities, etc.  The training had been taking me away from my kids and time with them is precious to me.  I'm not the most organized girl on the block, and finding balance was stressing me out.  As I was trying to be more in control, I was really losing control.  In all areas of my life.

At the beginning of this week I was burnt out from training, stressed in life and feeling like I was being pushed to my breaking point.  I was crabby, irritable and was taking it out on people I care about.   (I was sending texts before pausing.)  Basically nothing was going my way and I wanted to quit and take the easy road.

But the easy road is boring.  I like my life to be a little more interesting.  So I asked myself "what is your problem?  What's holding you back?"

I thought about it, and it came down to the mental aspect.  I tend to over think, over analyze, worry about pretty much everything.  It holds me back.   It's part of my make-up.  But just because something has always been a certain way, doesn't mean it has to stay that way!

I looked in the mirror and thought "enough".  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  I decided to change my outlook, and instead of white knuckling through control I decided to let go.  Let go!  What a relief!  When I made the decision to relax and let things happen as they happen...things started to change.   I felt a sense of peace.

Why hold on so tightly to what's actually holding me back?  Why am I trying so hard to control situations, people and things?  The only thing I can effectively control is me.   And I think it comes right back to fear.  Fear loses it's power if it's stared down and dealt with.

Back to the subject of my training burn-out.  Tuesday was a scheduled swim.  I will admit, I am a decent swimmer...but I don't love the swim.   But this Tuesday I decided to just get out of my head and do it.  Just taking the mental pressure off myself did the trick and I had a great workout.  This lifted my spirits.

Wednesday was a run day.  An hour 15 minutes of hill repeats.   Running is my nemesis.  I will procrastinate the run to death!   This most likely stems from the fact that I've had numerous ankle injuries which sidelined me the last two seasons.  My orthopedic doctor suggested that I give up the sport.  I don't give up.  Not without a fight.  But lately I have been running a little scared.  Can't get the fear of injury out of my head.  But Wednesday I did.  I put it out of my mind and let go and had a good run.  My spirits lifted more.

Friday and today were days that I am reminded of why I love my multi-sport training.   I had a complete mental shift.    I just let go.

Friday was a run day.  Perfect weather.  Slightly overcast with peaks of sunshine, and cool.  I had an hour and a half run scheduled.  I felt great.  I set out with a smile and a new playlist.  Something just felt different.  I wasn't dreading it!  I was about 4 miles in when I noticed the sky ahead was darkening.

But I kept going, because for the first time in months I was enjoying the run.  I was on a runners high, and I think I was even smiling!  Listening to Talking Heads '77, and Radiohead and Eminem I kept going.  Of course I got rained on.  Understatement, it poured!  But it was awesome!  I was the only one on the trail, I was soaking wet and I felt like I was literally running from all the stuff that had been bringing me down.  Just left it all on the trail.  I felt completely exhilarated!

Spirits were soaring!

Today was a bike day.  Now, to say I love cycling does not give my feelings for the sport justice.  I have deep respect for it.  It's dangerous, fast paced, fun and I have had the privilege of meeting some really great people.  Every time I saddle up I experience joy.  I would ride my bike all day if I could.  Everyday.  But I I was meeting several of said special people to go on a 4 hour training ride.

Apparently I missed the memo that said to wear green.

Unfortunately, two hours into it, we experienced some technical difficulty, and had to cut the ride short.  This is one of a few of the downsides of cycling, mechanical problems.  But we still had a great time.  We were all able to get the remaining two hours in later.  

In a nutshell, I had a little breakdown this week, as we all do from time to time.  But once again, in writing this out I am reminded that this mini-burnout/breakdown was another opportunity for growth.  Every day is a new opportunity!

This afternoon as I write, I am smiling.  I am not feeling burnt out any longer but renewed.  Both in training and in life.

P.S.  Just in time for Ironman Steelhead 70.3 which is a week from tomorrow.  I'm ready!  Bring it on baby!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pause...Think...Before Hitting Send on Tuesday

Have you ever sent a text (or two) to someone only to read it after you sent it and thought "oh shit"......

You intended to come across one way, only to have the person receive the text in the complete opposite manner?  Instead of conveying love the reader senses anger or stress.  Instead of conveying hope, doom instead is interpreted.  Instead of sending a note of apology the recipient is left more angry or confused. If only you could go back, rewind and delete.  But, unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

In this day and age of technology, social media is the way most of us communicate.  We text, email, tweet or share.  Face to face contact is not our main form of communication.  Most of us send a quick message instead of picking up the phone.  Or (gasp) meeting face to face.

After all, a text is easier.

But a text can be misconstrued.   A text cannot get true emotion across to the recipient.  A text could change the course of a relationship.  A text can hurt.

However well intentioned it was.

Assumption takes over, and from there it snowballs.  The original thought or feeling is lost in translation.

Sometimes I'll send a text because I think the other person absolutely needs to hear what's on my mind immediately!   I'll type out a long, rambling (in some cases ranting) text outlining my feelings so the other person gets where I'm coming from.   The other person receives the text and thinks "what the hell?"

This is where the act of pausing should come into play.  Type the body of the message, then don't send.  Let it sit for awhile.  Do something else.  Then come back and re-read what was typed.  Think about it some more.  Chances are you won't send it.  All of the confusion, anger or possible hurt will be averted.

I do not regularly practice what I preach.  This is another flaw (I'm discovering I have more than I thought I did or would like to have) of mine.  It's so easy to talk about pausing, but not so easy for me to do in the heat of the moment.  I tend to be impatient (have I mentioned that before?  It may come up from time to time.  But I'm working on it!)  I want what I want when I want it.  I admit it.  I'm not good at pausing.  I am on a bit of a learning curve in that arena.

I was reminded yesterday afternoon that "happiness is about the journey....not the destination".

I'm learning the hard way that I need to slow down, enjoy the journey, and pause before I throw my immediate thoughts, wants and needs out there.  Texting deep feelings, needs or wants is selfish.  Since I have not exercised the art of pausing enough in the past, I see that now.

The good thing about this journey, is I can learn from my mistakes.  And I make many.   Every day is a new chance to start over, and every day is a new chance to grow.  

And I'm reminded that in the grand scheme of things, I'm not that important.  Seriously.  So today I'm going to remember to pause...think...before hitting send (at least from this second forward....)  I think I'll save texting for fun, and for more meaningful conversations.....I'll pick up the phone.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Memories of a Near Death Experience and Gratitude on Friday

Four years ago, I had a near death experience.  I was in the Dominican Republic on vacation.  It was an all-inclusive resort and was absolutely beautiful.  The buildings were pristine white, the grounds lush green with bright pink and purple exotic flowers and foliage.  The beach was beautiful.  The ocean was clear blue and was breathtaking.  On one particular day, my husband and I decided to take a catamaran rum trip (emphasis on the word rum).   All you could drink, snorkeling, dancing and dinner upon return.  We enjoyed our day, definitely enjoyed the rum and the merriment.  All day in the sun and nothing to drink but rum punch.  The next morning upon awakening, I stumbled to the bathroom feeling very ill.  When I looked in the mirror, my face had swollen and my eyes were almost swollen shut.  I had a raging headache, the worse I've even had, and was very cold.  It was somewhat difficult to breathe. We got dressed and rushed downstairs to see about finding a doctor, as I thought I was having an allergic reaction.  We were told where the nearest hospital was, and were placed in a cab.  As soon as we pulled out of the driveway and the beautiful resort was in the rearview mirror, we were reminded that we were in a third world country.  The cab driver didn't speak English.  During the ride to the hospital I went into anaphylactic shock and my husband had to perform CPR to get me to breathe.  We arrived at the hospital and I was immediately rushed to the Emergency Room.  I awoke in ICU.  I spent four days there.  Four days in a very rustic hospital in an ICU where no one spoke English, there was no TV and the bed was child's size.  In short, hell.  Turns out I had an allergic reaction to an unknown source, was severely dehydrated and was very sick.  I almost died.  However, after four days of said hell, I made a full recovery.  After leaving the hospital, I was determined not to take anything for granted ever again.  I was happy to return home to the US.

As the years pass, I sometimes forget this experience.  I forget how precious life is.  I forget how very short our journey is.  I was reminded of it today.

This morning when I woke up, I wasn't really thinking about gratitude.   I had a lot on my mind....a lot of good, some sad, some worrisome.  Typical day actually for me.   There are some things in my life that are not going the way I would like.  That's frustrating.  There are other things in my life that are wonderful and going well.   I made the decision to focus on the positive.

I've been told that writing a gratitude list is a good way to put myself into a positive mindset.  So I did so.  I wrote down all that I am grateful for today, and I had a very long list.

Today I am changing the phrase "I have to...." to "I GET to".  I am in gratitude.

Today I get to do laundry.  Today I get to ride my bike.  Today I get to train for a half Ironman.  Today I get to write.  Today I get to submit an article to my new boss, ahead of deadline, that I will be paid for.  Today I get to watch my son play football, today I get to hand my teenage daughter a fist full of dollars to go to the mall.  Today I am grateful for people I love, for clean water to drink,  a sky that is blue, my family (including Frank the dog), and for happiness.

I have choices today.  I can choose to be happy or I can choose the alternative.  I am going with the happiness option!

The power of gratitude is freaking amazing!   Try it!  And my wisdom for the day....don't take a single second for granted.  Don't take people in your life who matter to you for granted.  Because what we take for granted today might not be there tomorrow.