Fever and Chills and Coughing… Oh My!

“Even when I’m sick and depressed, I love life.”
Arthur Rubinstein

trihumor

As you may have guessed, it’s another day home sick for me. The good news is I have at least made it out of bed to the couch. I also am surprisingly not very sore at all anymore, so it appears that my body has recovered from the insult of the HIM. Now I just need to kick this blasted sinus infection! (I think I’m finally winning!) I was super fortunate yesterday that my mom came to check in on me not once, but twice. She even brought me some warm, mushy foods to heat up, which was a total God send given I’ve been to dizzy and feverish to drive.  

The funny thing about being under the weather is that it’s a great eye opener to how easy it is to take for granted all the days I wake up not feeling like absolute crap. I mean, when you think about it, there are plenty of people who wake up in pain and feeling awful on a regular basis, and they still find time to be grateful. How fortunate am I to not only be healthy (present symptoms excluded), but also to live in a nice house with a wonderfully supportive husband and family, and an amazing network of friends? I wake every morning knowing I am loved. I have a good job which has given me the means and privilege of participating in a (three) sport(s) I love.  I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.  

While it stinks to be sick, at least I have the opportunity to be sick.  I can stay home from work and not have to worry about getting paid.  There are a lot of other people who don’t have the luxury of paid time off.  I also don’t have to worry about taking care of anyone else right now which would not be the cases if Adam and I had a family. There are plenty of moms who never get a day off no matter how sick they are.    

So beyond being grateful for my warm, mushy breakfast this morning (thanks mom!), I was thankful for the opportunity to stay at home curled up on the couch and not worry about anything other than getting better.

There is always something to be grateful for; some days you may just need to look harder than others.  Today I didn’t have to look very hard which is something to be thankful for in itself. 🙂

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One More Thing

“Try to look at your weakness and convert it into your strength. That’s success.”
-Zig Ziglar

dosomething

I was supposed to be back at work today, but instead I am typing from my bed. (boo!) My sinus infection has gotten the better of me, and I figured my patients wouldn’t appreciate me coughing on them for 13+ hours… Not to mention that medicine head is probably not great for clinical judgement. The good news is that at least I am home in bed and not in a hospital bed, which is a huge improvement from my last triathlon. I am hoping on the next one we can just avoid getting sick altogether… that would be just fine with me.

Anyway, I figured I would use this mandatory downtime to update you all on the one other thing I learned about myself at the Timberman that I didn’t mention in my previous post. Basically, I found out I am a complete and utter wuss on the bike. Now don’t get me wrong! I am certainly not complaining about the amount of time it took me to finish the bike course or the race overall. (I actually was hugely impressed that I broke 7 hours on my first HIM, especially being under the weather and injured)  What disappointed me was how quickly I unravelled mentally when the bike started to hurt.  

Truthfully, I knew the bike was my weakest link going into this event.  After all, of the three disciplines I’ve had the least experience with cycling.  I have been a runner most of my life and had been solidly working on my swim for almost a year.  The bike, on the other hand, I only had a few months riding beyond spin classes and time in the trainer, and even that time was limited due to injury and having surgery.  All that being said, I realize I am being a little hard on myself… buuuuutttttt if I don’t honestly examine the areas I am weak in, I won’t ever improve.  If I don’t improve, I’ll never make it to a full 140.6 distance race.  Therefore, it’s all in the name of the greater goal.

The funny thing is, I can just run for hours and hours on end- through pain, blisters, chafing, sprains, falls, and spasms. I can tune everything else out and just keep pushing. I know my when my body has more to give and just keep on grinding.  Meanwhile, on the bike, the second it starts really hurting I come completely undone. It’s just not pretty, and I hated feeling like an absolute wimp on that entire bike course.  I knew I had better speed and power in me, but I just couldn’t get my body to perform. I was having a big ugly battle the the Doubt MonsterMan I hate that biotch!  

Granted, the bike course was extremely congested making it hard to pass or ride at my own pace, and I was injured, and sick, and it was significantly more windy than the previous time I road it, but none of that makes me feel any better about just how mentally defeated I was by the bike. My inner critic was on heavy metal volume, and there was no tuning her out. I sang songs and counted miles, but mostly I thought about how improbable it was that I would ever make it through to the end. That Doubt Monster completely had her way with me, and that is totally unacceptable- sick and injured or not.  

Yes, I am still proud that I stuck with it and got it done, but I also realize I have a loooonnnngggg way to go to improve. Bottom line: I need to spend more time on my bike. I need to get more comfortable with riding in general and knowing my limits.  I need to get more God-awful rides under my belt so I am accustomed to what normal hurting feels like. I need to work on climbing hills and getting the hang of rocking. I need to get more confident in my handling skills and actually learn to drink and eat while riding. I need to get to a point where my mental grit on the bike is on par with running. At the end of the day, it’s confidence that I am lacking. The only remedy is more time in the saddle.

Timberman may have been an eye opener as to how far I still have to go before taking on a monster Ironman, but it is also a testament to how much closer I am to getting there than I was a few months or even a year ago.  I am literally half way there, and that is kind of a big deal… especially when you consider all the setbacks and fact that this is only my second triathlon ever.  

For those of you wondering how it is that I was able to grind out all those miles on the bike despite being racked with pain onemileand filled with doubt, the truth is I went into “Ultra Mode”.  I refused to think about anything beyond the mile I was in.  If I allowed myself to think of the whole 13.1 mile run at the end, it would have undone me.  I recognized the Doubt Monster playing her evil games, and I told myself to just get through the next mile… a whole bunch of times (just like in an ultra! Ultra Mode!) 

It is so much easier to set a small goal than try to digest the entire magnitude of what lies ahead.  Every time I race a new distance (first half, first marathon, first ultra, first triathlon) I have to fight the impulse not to get overwhelmed by the task ahead.  Each time I fall back on focusing on one mile at a time and then set a simultaneous larger goal (ie. “get to the next aid station” or “just get through this segment”).  

I know from experience that the worst part for me psychologically always falls in the middle of an event.  For Timberman, that did not bode well for me and the bike.  The thing is, I have learned to recognize that about myself, so I am prepared when it happens. I also try to remind myself that usually the races where I feel the worst are the ones when I’m doing my best because working harder means more discomfort and the miles seem longer (even if you are moving faster).  

Another tactic I use is simply to remind myself that the pain will get better and a second wind will come.  I know from experience that this is generally true.  The trick is to just hang in there long enough and focus on my form in the meantime. I also try to sort out whether I’m actually in pain or just bored because when it comes to running, many times it’s the latter.  Plus, I find it also helps to smile and remind myself that I’m doing something I love (though frequently it’s in the “I love you, but I don’t like you right now” sense). I take time to be grateful. Then when all else fails, I remind myself that every pedal stroke and step are getting me one step closer to the finish, and that as long as I don’t quit I will eventually get there.  One step, one minute at a time until there are no steps left to take.

That, my friends, is what works for me.  What works for you?

#thriveon

Lessons Learned From Timberman 70.3

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream,

not only plan, but also believe.”

~ Anatole France

cosby

Instead of sharing a standard recap of the Timberman 70.3, I thought I would change things up a bit and impart some of the wisdom I obtained during my first HIM experience.  So without further ado, here are my Lessons Learned at the Timberman 70.3:

  • Not every race day is going to be a good day.  You can train. You can taper. You can hydrate. You can do everything you are supposed to do beforehand and still have a crappy race day. I went into Timberman knowing I would not be at 100% due to my recent knee injury; however, I was not prepared to wake up race morning with a brewing sinus infection. Despite feeling pretty crummy, I had an okay swim.  However, I suffered miserably through all 56 miles of the bike.  My knee had blown up and was swollen by mile ten; and my legs felt like they weighed 100 lbs each.  Even worse, my entire body ached so badly (think flu-like body aches) that all I think about was to curling up into a ball and sleeping.  I truly wanted to enjoy the experience, but instead I spent 3 and a half hours literally counting down every mile.  I played songs in my head, I thought about places I’d rather be, and desperately tried to distract myself from just how much I dreaded the run.  I thought about quitting, fantasized even.  Then I reminded myself that I have been through worse runs, worse rides, and worse pain.  I worked too hard.  There would be no quitting.

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 Smiling through the pain. Just a few more miles to go! 

  • Things can always turn around. For as awful as the bike was, that is how awesome my run went.  I had dreaed those last 13.1 miles, but actually felt the best I had all race.  Just as easily as things can go downhill, they can also turn around for the better.  That is the secret of endurance sports.  If you can just hang in there long enough (and eat/hydrate properly), a second wind will come.

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 Starting the run. Happy to see my hubby cheering.

  • It’s supposed to be fun.  Thankfully, it’s hard to forget that fact when you’re assigned to the Whoopee Cushion Swim Wave.  I may have hated every second on the bike, but I still smiled and tried to have fun the whole race.photo 3-5

I know you’re jealous…

  • You are only as good as your support network.  I never would have gotten to the start line of my first half without an amazing network of people to help and encourage me. From my husband and family to my tri club, friends, and fellow Toughies, I have been extremely blessed with some great people in my life which makes all the difference when you are taking on larger than life goals.

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 I had the angel my mom gave me almost the whole way

(it would have been tough to wear it on the swim)

  • The rules in triathlon exist for a reason. This may seem common sense, but it has never been so apparent to me as to why these rules are in place as in racing at an event where no one followed them. Now while I understand that with over 2000 athletes the bike course was crowded, that was still no excuse for teams of athletes riding in packs three or four wide.  Not only was it dangerous (especially considering the course wasn’t closed), but it forced everyone around them to travel at their pace and further congest the course.  Not to mention, with all the wind it gave the drafting riders a HUGE advantage.  The other thing people kept doing which was both hugely inconsiderate and dangerous was riding to the left when not passing.  This meant other riders had to pass way out in the road to get around them. If you are going to participate in a triathlon attend the safety briefing and follow the rules.  They are in place for everyone’s safety, including yours.
  • There’s no need to be rude. The one other negative lesson I learned is that I never want to swim ahead of a men’s wave EVER AGAIN.  I get that triathletes are competitive, but is beating on a woman half your size in the water really going to improve your time that much? We ladies have more of an understanding.  Sure there are women who will plow over each other, but for the most part we get that we aren’t there to win. Getting run over by a bunch of dudes in the water is not my idea of a good time…  And by the way guys-who-don’t-understand-personal-space, I swim way out to the side to avoid the contact nature of triathlon swimming, so if you are over in my turf chances are you aren’t winning your age group either.  On that same note, there’s no need to be rude on the bike or run either.  I have never done any running event where I have been elbowed or shoved. It’s completely unnecessary.  “On your left” is generally sufficient to get people out of your way.  Plus, I go out of my way to be out of the way (I like personal space), so if you are crashing into me you are really working at it.  We are all out there trying to do our best, let’s try to be courteous of each other.  It’s called sportsmanship, and I’m pretty sure it’s in the rules too.
  • There’s always someone more miserable than you are. When you are suffering in your own circle of hell during a race, it’s hard to think of anything else. You feel like you’re in worse shape than EVERYONE else, the worst athlete out there even. The truth is, there is always going to be someone suffering more than you. I thought I was in terrible shape on my bike and couldn’t imagine making it to the run. Everyone around me seemed to be struggling so much less than I was.  Then when I was on the run and able to see much more of the race field, I realized I was not as bad off as I originally thought.  Yes, I was tired and having some pain; but I could still hold a steady pace.  Many of the people I crossed paths with were walking, moaning, grimacing, and limping. It was a quick reality check as to just how lucky I was to feel good at all on my run.
  • It’s all worth it when you cross the finish.  All the training, the sacrifice, and suffering is 100% worth it when you cross that finish line.  There’s not much that can compete with the sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving your dream.  The setbacks and pain don’t matter.  They become a distant memory.  It’s all sunshine and rainbows at the other end.

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 I see you finish line, and I am coming for you!

  • There is value in bad race days.  Sure it’s great to wake up feeling fantastic on race day and know you did your absolute best.  After all, it’s the only time you really get to see the absolute limits of which you’re capable.  However, it’s unfortunate that people often overlook the value in the horrible racing days– the ones that you struggle to survive let along finish.  While great race experiences demonstrate to us what we are we can do on our best days, the bad ones remind us of just how strong and resilient we are under the absolute worst circumstance. After finishing the Timberman 70.3 I don’t just know I’m tough enough to finish a Half Ironman, I know I’m bad ass enough to do it with limited training (thanks to surgery), a knee injury, and a sinus infection on next to no sleep.  Not to mention that I stuck with it despite how absolutely miserable I was the entire bike and still hammered out the whole 13.1 mile run without walking.  In fact, I blasted through the run in under 2 and a half hours… after a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and feeling like death.  That is how far sheer will and determination will get you in life.  My calves and feet went into spasm the last 2 miles of my run, but as long as I could physically keep my body running, I was going to keeping moving.  I didn’t stop to walk because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to start again.  Instead, I pressed forward and prayed my muscles didn’t seize completely and cause me to face plant.  I can’t remember the last time I wanted something as badly as I wanted to see that finish line.  At the end of it, I was most proud that I pulled that run out after such a horrific ride on the bike.  To go from 3.5 hours of misery on the bike to running a pace that was faster than the second half of my marathon and not far off from some of my stand alone half times was just mind blowing to me, especially given how terrible I felt in general.
  • Smile through the pain.  Not just in racing, but in life.  Smiling will not only make you feel better, but also attract positivity.  When I smile during a race it reminds me of how lucky I am to be there.  I’m not only healthy, but also doing something I love. I am happiest when I am outside and physically active.  That is why I race.  I smile because I’m happy and grateful to be there.  Guess what else… I get extra cheers from the spectators for smiling!

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 So happy it’s over!

  • You have to REALLY want it.  At the end of the day, it’s going to be your drive and motivation that carry you through to the finish.  You have to want it enough to get through the training and the setbacks along the way.  There are so many opportunities to get derailed on the path to our goals and dreams.  It’s so much easier sometimes to quit than stick with it.  That is why you have to want it with every ounce of your being, so when the pain and suffering come you aren’t tempted to give in.  It doesn’t matter how much support you have if you aren’t 100% committed.  Once you get to a point where every pedal stroke, every step hurts and you hurt everywhere, the only thing that is going to keep you going is how badly you want it.  

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 Some nice bling for my effort 🙂

  • There is always a way.  Regardless of what your goals and circumstances are, there is a way to achieve your dreams if you are willing to put in the work and never give up.  If you stick with it eventually you will get there.  It may take years or a lifetime, but as long as the drive is there it will happen.  Keep dreaming.  Keep working toward your dreams.

It’s Almost Go Time

“Fear is gradually replaced by excitement and a simple desire to see what you can do on the day.”

-Lauren Fleshman

chasedreams

As I type this post, I am waiting for my husband to get ready for our trip to New Hampshire.  I figured this would be a more productive use of my time than nervously drumming my fingers while breathing down his neck.  My original hope was to be on the road by now; however, my hubby works second shift and runs on what I affectionately term “California Time”.  Thus, I expected when he agreed to come that we would get a late start.  It’s a small price to pay to have his undying support. (At least that’s what I tell myself when I start to feel stressed…)

At this point, I have packed, unpacked, laid out all my gear to double-triple-quadruple check I have everything, and re-packed.  I am pretty sure I will still forget something, but at least I know I have the essentials.  Plus, it’s not as if we are traveling out to the middle of nowhere.  Anything I’ve forgotten beyond my gear (which we’ve established is all accounted for… 4 times) we can replace when we get there.

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Lucy would like you to know that she helped. She’s such a good girl!

The hubs is currently installing a new derailer on his bike.  No, he’s not racing, but he’s bringing it with him to spectate.  Therefore, it obviously needs to be in PERFECT working order.  Yes, this is the best time possible to fix it.  No, I am not freaking out.  Instead, I’m distracting him with awesome videos like this:

Aside from being behind on our scheduled departure, I am ready to go!  I went to the chiropractor yesterday and got stretched out and taped up.

photo-27Having a good chiropractor is my Ace in the Hole! 

I also had my parents over for dinner last night to celebrate both their anniversary and my Dad’s birthday (which happen to fall on race day… Is that a good sign or what?).  I surprised them with fresh cut flowers from my garden and they surprised me with this:

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Having an awesome family also helps…

Then before I went to bed, I completed my triathlon pre-race ritual and made sure I had some fire on the outside to match the fire within…

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Sky Above, Earth Below, Fire Within… Ready for Go Time!

All that being said, I am set to go!  I have put in the work, now it’s time to reap the reward.  Sure, I didn’t expect to go into my big day with an injury, but I am certainly not going to let it dampen my mood or detract from the experience!  I earned my spot at that start line, injured or not.  I am ready to take on those miles and enjoy every wonderful/awful minute of it.  I am an endurance athlete.  This is what I do.  It’s what I love.  I get to spend an ENTIRE day outside swimming in a beautiful lake, riding my bike, and running my favorite (running) race distance.  I honestly cannot wait to get out and start!

This a dream that has been over a year in the making.  It’s required more grit and determination than any race I’ve taken on to date.  A year ago I didn’t know how to swim or even own a rode bike.  I had to grow tremendously as a person and athlete to become a triathlete.  It’s been an amazing journey which has been a roller coaster at times. (Triathlon mirroring life..)  There were so many points when I felt so close only to have one set back after another.  Yet, I stuck with it, and now it’s really happening.  This will truly be my biggest physical challenge to date, and I feel 100% ready to take it on.  

The great thing about chasing a dream like this is how much it forces you to grow and change.  The person who arrives at the start line is not the same as the one who started training.  Nor is she the same as the person who crosses the finish.  The whole process is a crazy metamorphosis.  I know I will finish that race a different person than when I started.  I am already so far removed from the runner who dreamed of an Ironman.  I am now a swimmer, cyclist, and triathlete.  Tomorrow (God willing!) I’ll be a Half Ironman.  It a huge step on my journey to Ironman.

The best thing about chasing a huge (and at times insurmountable) dream is inspiring other people to do the same.  I never hid how much I struggled with the swimming or cycling or how terrified I was.  I wanted to show that it’s ok to suck and fail as long as you don’t give up on your dream.  Failing is part of growing.  It’s a sign that your are truly challenging yourself, and there’s a lot of value in that.  

There’s a chance that I may fail tomorrow.  I could get sick or crash or have my injury get the best of me, but I won’t give up.  I’ll find another half.  I’ll keep chasing my dream, and I will get there.  Regardless of how the day goes, I’ll be grateful for the experience.  I’ll be thankful for the opportunities triathlon has given me and the personal growth that has happened as a result. 

More than anything though, I’lll be delighted to be finished tapering!  I miss all the high volumes of swimming, biking, and running!  Plus, I have a great game plan to get Ironman ready. 🙂

 

 

No Room For Fear

“It’s less about the physical training, in the end, than it is about the mental preparation”
-Jimmy Smits

trust

I am officially less than one week away from the biggest race of my “career” and one of the biggest challenges if my life (thus far anyway). With the recent set back of my IT bands/knees acting up and the knowledge that I will likely not be 100% by race day, I feel fully entitled to be completely freaked out right now.

However, nothing useful has ever been accomplished by getting all worked up over stuff that can’t be controlled.  I mean it’s certainly not going to enhance my performance!  Rather, it will just exacerbate the situation and make for a miserable racing experience… which kind of defeats the purpose of signing up in the first place… unless you’re a masochist, which I am not (contrary to popular belief).

Instead I’ve decided to make “No room for fear” my mantra for the Timberman 70.3. Why? Because it’s absolutely true. There is no room for fear when you are taking on the biggest challenge of your life. Fear is a distraction and a hindrance. Ain’t nobody got time for that!  Not to mention that fear will suck every ounce of joy out of what otherwise could be an amazing day!  You can’t simultaneously live in the moment of race day while worrying about all the horrible things that might happen… or the terrible pain you may be in… at some point… probably hours from now…

That’s not to say I’m immune from the nagging fear and doubt that looms in the pre-race period. Tapering is enough to make anyone question your sanity, let alone tapering while nursing an injury. The thing is, while I fully acknowledge their presence, I refuse to let the pre-race jitters undo me.  I know I am going to be uncomfortable at some point during my HIM.  There is also a good possibility I will be in a fair amount of pain on my run.  It is even probable that I will be absolutely hating life by the time it’s over.  Of course, it is also possible that I may have a mind blowing endorphin rush and one of the best racing experiences of my life.  The best part is, they are not mutually exclusive.  I could have a gloriously miserable race experience and still come out as a win. (I may have lost a lot of you there, but I know my fellow ultra runners and endurance athletes understand what I’m saying… or maybe you don’t because it’s late and I’m rambling…)

The good news is my knee issue conveniently started at a point when I was supposed to be tapering anyway.  With just about all my training behind me, the most useful thing I could do was get it taken care asap and trust the work I put in over the past relaxyear. I was fortunate that a fellow Tri club member happens to be a chiropractor. She managed to squeeze me in almost immediately (Did I mention it was a weekend? How lucky am I to know great people!?!). Within a few visits she’s been able to break up the scar tissue along my IT bands and stretch my uber tight hips and hamstrings. With her help and lots of rest, ice, and elevation my knees are now pain free, but they aren’t 100%.

There is a good chance they still won’t be 100% on Sunday, but that is okay.  Yes, it is a set back.  Yes, it really stinks to have worked so hard and avoided injury so long just to blow up my knee on a short, flat run.  Absolutely yes, taking extra rest time pre-race completely sucks; but it also beats the alternative.  I would rather risk being undertrained the last couple weeks than overtrain and potentially develop a real injury.

Plus, there is always a silver lining.  Going into this event not 100% has actually given me an opportunity to step back and allow myself not to expect my absolute best.  Instead, I plan on being in the moment on race day.  I want to savor the whole experience and revel in just how lucky I am to be able to spend an entire day enjoying the outdoors while doing a sport I LOVE. So while I could wallow in how awful it is to have a setback two weeks out, I’d rather say ‘How lucky am I that I get to just race this one for fun?!?’

At the end of the day, it isn’t about the time or PR for me.  It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on a challenge SO BIG that I had to take on TWO NEW SPORTS to even attempt it.  It’s about pushing past my fear of swimming and cycling and failing and growing into a person strong enough to get to the starting line.  The real victory won’t be crossing the finish line.  The real victory came from overcoming every obstacle along the way.  To me, the Timberman 70.3 may be the biggest challenge yet on this journey, but it is also the icing on the cake.  It’s a whole day of doing something I truly love in good company with tons of support.  What could be better than that?

Now let me ask, when’s the last time you allowed yourself to race with no pressure?

 

What I’ve Learned From Triathlon

 “One can acquire everything in solitude except character.”

-Stendhal

triclub2

Today I applied to be an ambassador for the 2015 Swim Bike Mom Team.  I think my heart may have actually skipped a beat when I saw this post on my Facebook feed:

Screen shot 2014-08-08 at 8.43.27 PMSince it is a goal of mine in life to be just like Swim Bike Mom when I grow up (ie. a badass triathlete and author inspiring woman to “keep moving forward” and chase their dreams), I jumped at the chance to join.  Plus, I figured I would be perfect for her team since I already tell everyone how awesome she and her book (and blog) are every chance I get…  Oh and I’m into that triathlon stuff too 😉

As part of the application they asked how triathlon has changed my life.  I spent a lot of time putting together my response because the truth is, it has dramatically changed my life.  Given that this was a topic I have been wanting to write about anyway, I figured I would share my answer:

I have never considered myself an athlete. Even when I became an avid runner, I still never identified myself as athletic. I’m about as uncoordinated as they come… downright clumsy actually. I have been plagued with all sorts of knee and joint issues, and even when I ran, I wasn’t able to really excel at it because I was limited by pain.

After extricating myself from an abusive relationship, I found myself again through my love for running. I discovered the minimalist movement and built my way up to running ultras. That is when I first felt the pings of desire to enter the world of triathlon.

From day 1, the goal was never to do A triathlon, it was to do THE triathlon– an IRONMAN. At the time I didn’t know how to swim or bike, so I would say the first way triathlon changed my life is by making me a swimmer and cyclist.

Unlike people who learn to swim or bike simply for the sake of triathlon, I have learned to LOVE both swimming and cycling. I now have two more forms of retreat from the everyday stresses of life. I have two more sports that help me feel connected and centered. Everyday I am grateful for that simple gift for triathlon has given me.

Beyond that, learning to swim and bike have taught me some lessons in humility and perseverance. I was kicked out of my first swim class because I couldn’t rotary breath, but I didn’t quit. I had anxiety every time I went to the pool, every time I had to put my face in the water. I was THE WORST SWIMMER EVER, but I still wanted to be an Ironman. I practiced everyday until I was invited back to class. Then I graduated up a lane. Now I swim at an open water swim group.

It was the same story with the bike. I was TERRIFIED. I rode with white knuckles and braked down every hill. Then I discovered group riding. I felt so much safer. Instead of worrying about going too fast, I was engaged in conversation. I enjoyed the company and almost immediately the fear dissipated.

Through those first attempts at swimming and cycling I LEARNED THE VALUE OF COMMUNITY IN SPORTS.

Running is an individual sport. You train and compete alone. Yes, there are running groups and the whole running community- and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my running community– but you don’t NEED other people to run. Triathlon is different. There is SO MUCH technical skill involved in swimming and cycling, let alone the rules and logistics of racing.  It’s near impossible to pick it all up on your own.

In triathlon you need other people to help you navigate the sport. You need people to talk you down when you are hyperventilating on your first open water swim and teach you how to grab your water bottle while riding in a straight line. Plus, there’s a ton to learn not just about swim and bike technique, but about all the bike maintenance and the gear. It’s a whole foreign world which is much easier to understand when you have other people to guide you through it.

They say “it takes a village” when it comes to raising a child, but I think the same applies to entering triathlon as well. One of the best things I did getting into the sport, was join our local YMCA tri club. Those people have changed my life. What they have done for me is on par with teaching me to walk. They have stood by through every struggle, crash, fear, doubt, and meltdown. Their support has been unwavering and unconditional. They truly are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met and not just based on their athletic achievements (which are both impressive and endless). Everyone is so willing to share what they’ve learned. They are humble, kind, and without judgement. Above all, they genuinely love the sport.  It’d be hard not to enjoy training in their company.

So by far, one the best ways triathlon has changed my life is by giving me an amazing community to both support and inspire my dreams… Not only the amazing people I have met and trained with in person, but also the online communities like the Swim Bike Mom Army, Team Tough Chik, blogs, and Facebook pages.

Finally, triathlon has forced me to realize that I am, in fact, an athlete. I am a clumsy chicken of an athlete, but an athlete none the less. I swim, I bike, and I run; and that makes me a pretty tough lady… and yes, a triATHLETE.

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Just about one week from today, I will be taking on my first half ironman.  There have been plenty of setbacks along the way, including a recent knee injury, but I am determined both to finish and have fun.  Above all else, I know I’ll be appreciating the journey, the places it’s taken me, and the people I’ve met along the way.

My heroes are the ordinary people in lycra chasing their dreams.  The everyday people who step outside their comfort zones and take on great challenges.  I am beyond fortunate to have met so many new ordinary heroes in the past year.  Hopefully someday I can be as inspiring as they are.

No What ifs, ands, or buts

 “The only limits in life are those you impose on yourself.”

ohwell

It’s official! I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for the Ironman 70.3 Timberman!

There was a time after my surgery when I thought (and feared!) I would miss out on my dream of taking on a half ironman this season.  With the setback in training, I just didn’t think I would get where I needed to be with the bike in time.  However, after spending some quality time cycling with my hubby on our vacation (ie. chasing after him…), I started making some serious progress. We even did my first half century ride together!  

The real turning point, though, came when we got back from our trip, and I was invited on a road trip to the Timberman course.  One of our fellow tri club buddies was signed up and looking for company on his preview ride.  I thought it would be a good opportunity to get another long ride in and see what the course was like for possible future reference.  Plus, I figured any time I could spend on the bike will bring me that much closer to really getting the hang of it.  

As it turned out the ride went really well. Better than I had expected, in fact. Doing all that cycling with the hubs helped tremendously in building my skill level, even if I never had a chance to notice while I was working so hard to keep up with him! This was my first opportunity to actually see all my hard work pay off.

Going into it I was worried about keeping up because I have historically been slow on my bike… and clumsy…  My nerves were somewhat alleviated by the fact that my riding companion for the day was the mild mannered minister I had ridden with (behind) on the Daffodil Ride a few months back.  I knew that he wouldn’t mind waiting up or stopping for me, which was a good thing given I am not coordinated enough to drink/eat and ride at the same time.  

To both of our surprise, however, it ended up that I was the one slowing down and waiting on him!   He said he couldn’t believe how much I had improved since we last road together.  The truth is, neither could I!   I was especially pumped because he had done the course last year and whole heartedly encouraged me to do it with him this year.  Given that this is a man who knows what it takes to finish the Timberman, who I am to argue with his faith in me?  

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I’m not going to lie, it felt really good to get a nod from a more experienced rider, but it was even more amazing that I did the whole course loop and still felt great at the end.  It was the longest ride I had ever done, and I finished it feeling better than I did on the half century just a week prior.   Better still, despite all the stopping and waiting, we still finished in under 4 hours.  It felt pretty darn awesome to know that even if I road at a comfortable, easy pace that I could finish well within the time cut off, not to mention have an opportunity to go into the run feeling strong instead of drained.  It was honestly the first time since before my surgery and the dreaded 6 weeks of restriction that this dream I’ve been carrying around for over a year seemed possible again.  

That little nudge was all I needed.  I texted the hubs to let him know I was in on the way home.

To celebrate, he took me for a particularly brutal ride the following day.  (Side note: He and I have slightly different ideas about what a “fun” ride entails… mostly because he’s a sadist on the bike.) While I take fullphoto 1 responsibility for suggesting we take on the REV3 again together, I never expected him to pick the day after my 56 mile ride AND that he would add an extra 16 miles of hills!  As much as I hated him for most of it, I was happy to finally conquer the course that had defeated me a few months back.  I may have had to stop 56 miles in at a gas station to get food and ibuprofen, but I finished; and, more importantly, I finished strong.  We covered over 72 miles and 5500 ft of elevation gain in just over 5 hours.  It was absolutely brutal, but it was also the first time I’ve ever felt like an actual cyclist.  

It only took conquering TWO half ironman courses in one weekend (plus some extra)! 

It’s actually kind of amazing when you consider that less than a year ago I didn’t even own a road bike or know how to ride one.  

Can you believe I also didn’t know how to swim yet a year ago?  Now I am signed up for my first half ironman!  It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you simply refuse to give up.  

Little by little, this dream is becoming a reality, and what seemed impossible is suddenly more than just possible- it’s within reach!

So that is my big news.  I’ll have to save the rest, including our awesome Michigan road trip, for another post.  I hope you all are having a terrific week full of adventures!