Where I've Been and Hope To Be

Where I've Been and Hope To Be

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Doing it All - My Master Illusion

Last night I got all of my biking gear ready.  This morning I got up early, made breakfast and coffee, and headed out to meet up with a friend and her training group for a ride.  I was really looking forward to it - not only for a good ride, but to reconnect with this friend I haven't seen in years.  I made the hour drive and waited, and waited.  When she was 20 minutes late and not answering messages I realized something must be wrong.  It was.  I was there a day early.  The ride is tomorrow.

As I drove home I felt so devastated.  Sh*t happens and mistakes get made.  But I feel like I have so much crammed into my life that I don't have time for mistakes.  I don't have time for a 2 hour round trip mistaken car ride.  So when things like this happen my brain shuts down, the tears start flowing, and I lose all ability to focus and figure out how to salvage the day.  

When I took on triathlon training, Hubby and I talked extensively about how to prioritize the family activities.  Often I get asked "How do you do it all?"  And when I stop and think about it I have to laugh because I don't feel like I am doing it all.  I feel like the whole family rushes from one event to the next all the while feeling like every available finger is in a hole in the dam and we are one mis-schedule away from getting flooded.  One day last week I came home from work, immediately worked out, took Lil Buddy to swimming lessons, and then one of the big kids to an activity (I can't even remember what it was).  The next day I biked before work, came home from work to run, then dropped one kid at karate and the other at baseball.  Meanwhile, at home, Hubby is not taking classes this summer so he's on full time house duty - laundry, grocery shopping, dinner making, Lil Buddy supervision, etc.

We sort of review each week in advance generally, but then the night before and throughout each day we review the next day's plan, in detail, to make sure everything is covered.  We probably review each day at least twice.  It's kind of insane.  But it's the only way to make sure nothing gets missed.  Everyone gets their desired activity accomplished and everyone gets food and a bath.  Anything over and above that is bonus.  Hubby's football season starts in a few weeks.  My training will drop back some and scheduling will get even more micromanaged.  It's how we roll.  But making it look like it works seamlessly is a master illusion.  It's anything but seamless.  Its chaotic and exhausting.  I told a friend the other day I feel like I live in a washing machine.  I don't try to hide the ugly, I just don't want to dwell on it so I don't advertise it.

We could make our lives simpler.  We could take on less.  But who gives up what?  And would that cause resent and regret?  Until we can figure that out, we plod on.  In excruciating hour by hour detail.

As for today's mess up?  After I sobbed half the way home, I was able to figure out how to shuffle things around a bit.  Put my bike on the trainer and got in a light ride after all.  Made sure I had time for the group ride tomorrow and scratched tentative plans for a open water swim clinic being taught in the morning.  It isn't perfect, but it gets the job done.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cleaner Eating - Part 1

Lil Buddy and I are suffering from an annoying summer cold.  And if his eating habits are any indication, I think his throat is sore too.  So Hubby and I brainstormed some soft cool foods that would easily slide down his throat.  And that is how I found myself completely repulsed by pouring hot water into a container of white powder which immediately turned green and will then solidify into something that is purportedly edible.

Jello is as standard an "I don't feel good food" as they come, yet I haven't made it myself in years.  And it completely grossed me out.  Is anyone else bothered by today's food trend of adding one chemical to another and then calling it food?  I've ignored it for years and years.  But that's also part of why I tipped the scales at 285 at one point some years ago.  And readers that have followed this blog for a while will remember when I finally swore off the evil Oreo Empire.

Even before tonight's jello episode, I have been making a very sincere effort to eat foods that are as unrefined and unprocessed as possible.  A couple of weeks ago I decided, within reason, to ditch the junk and eat cleaner.  And by junk I wasn't even eating "that bad" or so I thought.  But a lot of my diet was made up of stuff that comes out of a wrapper instead of from a plant or animal.

My first step was to replace the box of Fiber One bars in my desk at work with baggies of raisins and cashews.

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against Fiber One bars.  They are portable, taste good, and are a better choice than, say, a Snickers Bar.  But they come pre-processed in commercial packaging and I'm trying this o-natural movement for a bit, so out they went.

Next, I went to the library and checked out the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald.  The book lays out a plan for endurance athletes to get lean so that their bodies will be in optimal racing shape.  However there is so much in this book that makes sense for everyone.  You want to look better in clothes?  You want to shed some excess fat?  Instead of jumping on a diet bandwagon, losing, and then gaining it back when it is unsustainable, just make better and more wholesome food choices.

Trust me.  I have tried and failed on almost all of the diets over the years.  I wouldn't be doing this book justice if I tried to lay out the 6 step plan, so you'll have to check it out yourself, but the general premise is.....drumroll.....eat basic foods.  Meats, veggies, fruits, whole grains, dairy.  Cut out sweets and refined garbage.  Allow yourself a treat occasionally, but don't let the treat get you off track.  And obviously, exercise.  Duh.

Listen, none of this is new.  None of this is rocket science.  It's doing what we ALL know we should do, but think we don't have the time, motivation, or energy for.  Let me tell you this.  In the three weeks that I have made a concerted effort to eat cleaner, clothes already fit differently.  Better.  And while I've only lost 1 pound, all of my pre-baby clothes fit despite me being 17 pounds heavier than when I got pregnant.  I'm leaner.  A lot of it was from the training I've been doing for months, but I noticed a significant slimming around the waist in the last couple of weeks.  And, for me, the point is not what I weigh when I step on the scale, but how my clothes fit and how I feel.

And I'm feeling better and better each day.  Today my training run wound up being 4 miles at an 11 minute/mile pace.  And it felt GOOD.  This past March it took me almost 49 minutes to run 4 miles in the Four Courts Four Miler, and that was putting forth a race pace effort.  And it did NOT feel good.  In my blog entry I said "the whole thing hurt and felt ugly."  I'm finding that my body is responding positively to less chemicals and crap being pumped into it.  Does this mean I'll never have a cookie again?  Of course not.  Never grab something out of the vending machine in a snack pinch?  Of course I will.  But I'm going to do my best to keep it to a minimum.  Pack my lunches and snacks.  Find simple fruit based desserts that can be thrown together with my minimal kitchen skills.  It's actually not that hard once you get started.  And the results are almost immediate.

Part 2 of this train of thought will follow along soon.  Hubby has been cooking dinners almost exclusively out of The Feed Zone Cookbook, but I want to give that book an entry all to itself.  However, here's a fun family teaser - the kids LOVE the new "healthy" dinners.  WIN FREAKING WIN!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Biggest Fear: Open Water

My entire life I have been afraid of open water.  Morbidly, I have long predicted that someday my death will be due to a car crash where I wind up trapped in a car in a body of water and can't get out safely.  This is such a well known fear that one year, as a gift, my family gave me a little hammer to keep in my car glove compartment that is specifically for shattering a window when a car is underwater.  Creepy huh?

So when I decided to take on triathlons as my sport and hobby, this was a fear I had to look directly in the eye.  My first open water tri was in beautiful Lake Anna.  I prepared for the swim by getting in an open water practice three nights before the tri at National Harbor.  When we arrived at Lake Anna the night before the race it was somewhat windy and there was a fair amount of chop on the lake (picture below doesn't really do it justice).  I was terrified.  But the next morning the water was very calm and I had a very successful swim without getting scared.

Fast forward to Rock Hall.  This time the swim was in a protected harbor that was an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay.  The water was very calm and the only distraction (other than the other swimmers) was the distinct smell of gasoline from the boats.

I had such successful performances at both races, including the swim leg of each, that my confidence was way up and my excitement for future races was at an all time high.  I went a little registration crazy.  The first I pulled the trigger on was Nations Tri on September 7.  I registered for this one specifically because of the swim.  The swim is in the Potomac River right in the area that I cross every day when going to work.  For years I have stared out the window of the metro train at the Potomac in fear of the strength of the water, always thinking I would never have the courage or the opportunity to swim here.  With all of the courage in the world, and plans to conquer my fear, I slapped down my credit card and boom - I was registered!

Shortly thereafter, a Team Tri360 teammate posted about the Wildwood Triathlon in Wildwood, NJ.  A weekend of triathlon, staying in Cape May, and hanging with friends?  Don't mind if I do.  Credit card info entered again and a weekend of fun planned for August.  Except.......I didn't look at the course route info.  At all.  And didn't realize that I had just signed up for an OCEAN SWIM AND BEACH RUN!  What the &%$#!!  This was sloppy planning on my part.  So off to the ocean on vacation I went to train.

I already discussed my ocean swims a bit in a previous blog, but not with a ton of detail on the swims.  They paralyzed me with fear.  My stomach was rolling from the motion of the water, my lungs were desperate with air gulped in fear, and my body was kicked around like I was in a washing machine.  I didn't like it one bit.  At the end of the second of three swims I literally fell to my knees getting out of the water and sobbed.  I went up to our condo and looked up the race to see if there was a duathlon option (bike and run only).  There isn't.  I became an expert on the tides, spending a ridiculous amount of time watching the waves and trying to figure out the best time to get in my final swim of the week with the least amount of crashing waves.  These are just a few photos I took one evening when the waves scared me all the way up on my balcony.  Fun to play in, perhaps, but for actual forward motion swimming?  No thank you.

My last swim was, by far, the most successful of the three.  The waves weren't terrible, but they were there for sure.  I spent more time focusing on staying calm then I did on the actual swimming which, I guess, is just as important.  I practiced floating through the waves instead of fighting them.  The swim was cut short because of a thunderstorm that rolled in, but I got out of the water feeling something less than completely defeated - I call that success.

I'm still really apprehensive about this race in a month.  And I wish I could get in a few more ocean swims in the meantime, but distance to a beach makes that logistically unrealistic.  I've also worked on embracing the small waves created by lane mates during swim practice thinking that even the smallest splashes prepare me more than a calm pool can.  All I can do is give it my best.  I hope that the adrenaline of the race and the company of the other racers will help distract me from the power of the ocean.  Only time will tell.  But in the meantime I have to keep working toward my goals and tackling my fears.  I do not want to live my life with regret.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June Recap and Mid Year Review

Believe it or not, the year is half over and so it is also the unofficial mid-point of triathlon season.  I thought I would recap my stats for June like usual, but also take a look at the goals I set for myself in the beginning of the year to see how, if at all, I am meeting them.

Run 34.03 miles.  Wow!  I wouldn't believe it if I didn't have the Garmin data to prove it.  That's a lot of miles.  More than double last month.  I think it might be my highest monthly mileage to date.  I've been really down on myself for how slow and miserable my running feels, but maybe I need to take another look and get a better perspective.  

Bike  224.2 miles.  Seriously?  I had no idea it added up to so many.  And most of it was outdoors which is my strong preference.

Swim  8.24 miles.  I'm kinda speechless.  And that doesn't count the ocean swims at the beach last week.  Ironman here I come!  (someday in the very distant future).

Races Rock Hall Sprint Triathlon, Air Force Cycling Classic, and NC Blueberry Festival 5K.

As for the goals I set for myself this year, here they are along with a comment on my progress:
  • Set a personal record in every repeat race this year (any race in which I have previously participated).  Surprisingly, I haven't run a single repeat race yet this year.  This will change in the fall when some of my favorites pop up.
  • Run a 5K in under 30 minutes.  No dice.  Not yet.  Still haven't broken 32 minutes.
  • Complete at least one sprint distance triathlon (750 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run approx distances).  Done.  Double Done!  And I am registered for two more.
  • Not chicken out on any of the races I have listed on my race schedule (does not include dropping a race for legitimate injury, illness, or training redesign).  So far so good.  Instead of getting nervous and backing out of races, I've added to my original list.
As for fitness goals that could possibly make this year but are more likely for years to come, I came up with:
  • Complete a full century bike ride (100 miles).  If this happens it will be in September at Seagull.
  • Complete a half marathon (13.1 miles).  Registered for Rock and Roll Vegas in November!
  • Complete an olympic distance triathlon (.93 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run approx distances).  Not this year, but a definite for next year.
  • Climb a 14er (mountain with elevation over 14,000 feet - Colorado here I hope to come).  I've done nothing toward achieving this.  But some friends of Hubbys just moved from Florida to Colorado.....I see a mountain visit in our future!
I had completely forgotten the goals I set back in January so its really nice to see them again as well as the progress I've made.  I can guarantee you that when I wrote the half marathon one in January it was with zero intention of pulling that off this year.  We'll see how it rounds out, but I'm pleased with my progress.  As for other modified goals, my buddy Jen K and I have some exciting scheming in the works for sometime in 2015.  For now we'll just say it involves longer distances and sharing the workload.  And hopefully an awesome travel destination.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vacation Week Workouts

For many, vacation week would be a time to skimp on workouts and sit around spacing out.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that option, for me, this week was perfect for really nailing some workouts while I had nothing but time on my hands.  Instead of jamming a bike or run into a small time slot between kid activities, I am able to do it without stress or worry about interfering with someone elses requirements.  It feels like a luxury to be able to train this way, and I'm enjoying almost every minute.  Here's a glimpse of the workouts this week:

NC Blueberry Festival 5K and Tour de Blueberry.

My first ocean swim.  Terrifying is not a strong enough adjective for this experience.  I was so scared I could barely breathe.  While I've largely overcome my open water fear in lakes and protected bodies of water, the strength and power of the ocean remains very overwhelming to me.  I was able to complete 30 minutes out of the scheduled 45, but was panicked for all 30 of those minutes.  The swim left me completely exhausted.

18 mile bike.  Hell of a ride.  The first 9 miles south from our condo were awesome and I was cruising at about 18 miles an hour.  Then I turned around to head back and was immediately riding into the mother of all headwinds.  Took me forever to get back.  My "easy" ride turned into a serious workout.  And as an added bonus, we are on the third floor of this condo.  So each ride I get to carry my bike down the stairs to start and then up at the end.  Yay crosstraining?

45 minute run and a 30 minute ocean swim.  First, the run.  Wow, it was awful.  My legs felt like cement the entire time.  I could not get into a good pace and just slogged through the entire thing.  I probably could have power walked faster than I ran.  I got up and out at 7:30 am so that I would beat the heat of the day, but it didn't seem to matter.  It was like running through soup.  Not my finest effort.  I don't suppose it had anything to do with the fact that a good 75% of this slice of cake was in my belly from the night before.

The swim.  That was awful too.  I waited until close to high tide to try to minimize the breaking waves.  But even so, I got tossed around like a rag doll.  Hubby walked along the shore while I swam parallel for about 200 meters then turned and went back.  I did that loop 3 times.  When I finally climbed out of the water I dropped to my knees and sobbed.  Ocean swimming is absolutely terrifying for me.  The waves make short distances completely exhausting.  The salt water dries out my mouth and the waves make my stomach slosh so much that I'm sure I'll be sick.  Deep breath.  I hate that I hate it so much.  I hate that I can't gain the mental advantage over the ocean.  I need to figure out an answer to this issue and quick.

Rest day.  After the two terrible workouts from yesterday, coach and I decided that I needed a rest day and to resume the workouts on Thursday.  I'm exceptionally good at rest days.

My training plan was to ride for an hour and a half.  20 minute warm up followed by 10 minute fast efforts - basically all out sprints - followed by 5 minute recovery periods.  Four times.  Then a 10 minute cool down.  After 90 minutes on the bike I was to run for 15 minutes.  After the rest day the BEAST WAS BACK!  Awesome 23 mile ride followed by 1.3 mile transition run.  And that includes carrying my bike up and down those three flights of stairs pictured above.

I love my bike.  I love working hard on my bike.  This workout was not easy when I was sprinting into a headwind, but it feels like flying.  I look forward to every bike workout and enjoy them even when they are brutal.  I just need to get hypnotized into feeling the same way on the run.

Another swim run day.  The swim, while short was a triumph.  I was scheduled for 30 minutes, but unfortunately an afternoon storm rolled in and cut it short.  However I was able to float through the waves instead of fighting them and finished without hyperventilating or tears.  I call that a huge success.

After the storm I went for a 40 minute run.  It was a real slog because it was so humid out, but I pulled off 3.1 slow miles to round out the day.

Ahh the last day of vacation.  Always so bittersweet.  I hate to leave the beach and a really relaxing week behind, but I was so eager to get home to my own bed, my own pillow, and most importantly, Lil Buddy.  (The big boys are in Georgia for another week).  Before we pulled out for the very long day in the car I ticked off 16 relaxed miles on the bike.  Goodbye Topsail Island, NC.  We LOVED our first visit and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Race Report: NC Blueberry Festival 5K and Tour de Blueberry

I had not raced a 5K in a while so Hubby got online and looked to see if there were any races near where we are vacationing this week.  He found the North Carolina Blueberry Festival 5K in Burgaw, NC this past Saturday morning.  Along with the 5K was a bike tour where you could select the distance of your choosing to complete - 9, 13, 21, 32, or 64 miles.  I signed up for the 5K and we both registered for the 21 mile bike ride to follow.

I was really hoping for a PR on this 5K.  I've been working so hard and training so smart with the help of my coach, Speed Sherpa, that I really wanted to rock it.  I figured that if I could stay ahead of a 10:30 a mile pace that I would just beat my previous best time of 32:12.  I even put my Garmin on the virtual partner setting that allows you to track your pace against a fixed one so you know if you are running ahead or behind.  I stayed ahead of the pace the entire time while making sure to reserve energy for the end.  The course was fast and flat, but HOT for 7 am in the morning.

Approximately 600 people were said to have registered although it didn't feel like that many.  I tucked in behind a woman about my age who was also about my size and about my pace.  I figured I'd follow her for a while and let her set the pace so I didn't have to think too much.  About a quarter of a mile in she pulled away from me.  I was tempted to stick with her, but knew that it was too hot to push that hard and I'd blow up in the end.  I decided to stick to my own game plan and just continue on.  Good thing I did because just after I passed the mile 2 marker I saw her again.  Walking and spent.  I was able to stay strong and steady past her and into the finish with a smile.

As I tore across the finish line I knew it was going to be close.  I was completely spent, heaving for air, and grasping for a cold bottle of water.  In my recovery time, I forgot to turn off my Garmin so I didn't get my own starting line to finish line time.  No big deal, that's what the timing chips are for, right?  Well, this particular race didn't capture times from the time I crossed the start to the finish.  They captured the time from when the gun went off to when I crossed the finish.  So the precious seconds it took the mass group of people to sort themselves over the starting line in the beginning is reflected in my final time.  Very annoying.  So while I was close, I'll never know if I PR'd.  Final time 32:47.*

We walked back to the car and got ready for the Tour de Blueberry.  Since this was a fun ride there was no timing or racing, just distance accomplished.  I sucked down as much fluid as I could between events and ate a bagel.  Changed from one sweaty shirt to cycling jersey and was ready to rock.

The bike ride was memorable to say the least.  The pros: light traffic, flat roads, high cadence, strong legs.  The cons: dude, I just ran a 5K!, Hubby is faster than me even on a mountain bike without having been on said bike in a year (ANNOYING), not enough liquid in the world to keep me hydrated after the run.  And when I got hot and cranky....well lets just say that we didn't finish this ride all happy and cheerful.  But we were both glad we had done it and learned valuable lessons about how to ride with each other (which we never do).  I'm just glad we snapped a pic together BEFORE we got on the bikes.

Overall a great sweaty start to a week of vacation.  Helped put some fitness in the bank before the pigging out that inevitably takes over on one of our vacations.  Stay tuned, because later in the week I'll post a photo of the worlds biggest slice of chocolate cake.  It should be illegal.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kid Free Vacation

Let the kid free vacation begin!!  Lil Buddy is with my parents and the big boys are in Georgia.  Hubby and I are staring down 8 nights and 9 days of just us for the first time since kids.  Wow!  So exciting and...oh wait, just heard somones little one scream and I'm crying again.  Why is leaving the kids so hard when for weeks all I could think about was getting away?

I know everyone is in good hands and when we are back to the grind I'll wish I could escape more often.  In the meantime, we are about to embark on a week of sun, surf, and, of course, swim bike run.  Yep, the bikes are with us, transition bag stuffed to the gills with running and cycling clothes.  I'm even going to work in some ocean swims this week.  And lest you thought that I wouldn't be racing - think again.  I managed to find a race to squeeze into the week as well.

I don't know how much I'll actually blog while I'm away, but for those of you, like me, that need instant gratification, follow me on my various social media outlets for photos and random nonsensical thoughts.

Instagram: wannabetriathletemom
Facebook: Wannabetriathletemom
Twitter: @jenmconnor

Hope everyone is getting some good relaxing in this summer as well.  We've all earned it.