Tag Archives: 70.3

Friendly Reminder: It’s All About the Journey

I thought I had my 2013 triathlon season all set:

  • Successfully register for two Half Ironman races (which is not always easy given how some of them, especially the two I wanted to race are hugely popular and sell out within days and in the case of one, minutes).  Check: I registered for Oceanside 70.3 and Vineman 70.3.
  • Albeit somewhat last-minute, sign up for my first Ironman.  Check: Registered for Ironman Lake Tahoe.
  • Begin base building in January.  Check: Changed workout focus and drafted training plan.

But then as with everyone life happened, and my plans changed.  Because of some scheduling issues I had to back out of Oceanside at the beginning of the year.  A couple of months later I learned about a new 70.3 race that fits my schedule better.  So I signed up for it, the Silicon Valley Long Course.

Then with just over three weeks until my first 70.3, my training was interrupted with a nasty cold that put me out for five days.

This past Tuesday I worked out for the first time since getting the cold and it was hard.  It was hard for lots of reasons:

  • Knowing that I can’t truly make up my lost training days, I struggled with what I should do on my first day back to training.
  • A new serving of angst emerged since I now have less than two weeks of training before I begin tapering.  A week ago I was pretty confident I’d finish the race with a decent time; now – not so much.
  • I decided to ride 47 miles for my first workout and boy did I struggle on many fronts: cardio, strength and mentally.  Especially knowing that I was much stronger and fitter just a week ago, I couldn’t help but be frustrated.

But as with everything else in life, I learned a lot over the past challenging week.  To help get me through each day I was sick I thought more and more about what’s important this season, this year, in my life.  I should be thankful I have just a cold and nothing more.  While triathlons are extremely important to me, they are just races.  I train to help me with my grief.  And while I race to help honor Noah, I need to maintain a healthier perspective.  By getting stressed and all worked up over the possibility of  not racing, I realized I’m probably taking something away from this special time with my son.  Moreover I need to focus on the bigger picture.  And the picture is pretty big with my son in a completely different world than me.

Noah’s presence on my ride provided a constant reminder that my cold, my struggle with my breathing, climbing and even at times pedaling (which should have not been the case) are really all petty issues.  As mentioned before, digging down some to get through a hard training segment is becoming more and more natural and Tuesday’s ride and yesterday’s workout were no exception.

Seeing wildlife during my training sessions isn’t new. I rode past a deer who was leisurely snacking on the side of the road. I also witnessed two squirrels attempt to cross a relatively busy road.  After an intense 3-5 seconds of questioning if a car would truly stop for it, one of them actually crossed.  (The other one appeared to not want to play Frogger at all and stayed on the other side of the road.)  Slowing down to observe these creatures as well as take in some of Mother Nature’s beautiful lushness was part of my journey on Tuesday.  I had several moments when I appreciated this.

Who knows how I’ll do at my first tri of the season.  But this week has already been a huge reminder that this is all about the process – the journey, if you will.  I’m sure I’ll feel some disappointment if I don’t do well at my first race.  I’ll wonder if I could have dug even deeper, pushed harder, listened to my body better and so on and so on.  Even if I’m fortunate to perform well, I’ll probably wonder about the same things as well as whether I trained too much and I pushed too hard given that this race is a B race (a warm up race) and I have two more to go.  Lots of questions.   I need to remind myself of days like this past week and this time, that time, another time and others and to be open to experiencing what they offer.

I’m on a journey, (and dare I say, just like you).  Since Noah my journey will always have a travel companion.  We’re on this journey together and while I think I know what my destination is for this tri season, Ironman Lake Tahoe, it may not be.  I don’t know what next year’s destination will be or the year after or my life’s ultimate destination.  I guess it doesn’t matter.  After all I thought MLH’s and my destination with Noah was to have him down here on earth with us but go figure.  As the cliché goes, it’s not about the destination.  I need to remind myself it’s all about the journey…

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Competitive Side(s) or From Finisher to Competitor?

As a triathlete I compete of course.  However I don’t compete with others; I compete with myself.  I always have.

When I started competing in triathlons I was just trying to get into the sport.  My goal was to earn that “Finisher’s” medal which is given to each athlete who crosses the finish line.  That’s it.  If I do this then I win.  And with every race so far, I’ve done this.  I have a successful track record of finishing sprint, olympic and half Ironman distance races.

After losing Noah another competitive side emerged.  I’m competing against my old self.  I’m competing against the confusion, emptiness and sadness I have from losing my son.  Yes I’m competing against the bitterness and anger I still have as well.  I’m competing against the mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed.  I’m competing against the pain and challenges Noah experienced during his way-too-short-of-a-life.  I’m competing against all of those cardiac arrests.  I’m competing against the screaming-in-your-face-reality that life is not fair.

And now I’m sensing a third competitive side developing.  As I’ve focused on improving speed during my training for Nationals, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this actually means to me.  How much more can I improve?  How much faster can I go?  How much deeper can I dig?  How much more can I take on?  

What is this?

I’ve been reviewing my past race results.  Hoping to PR is a great goal but it’s rather ambiguous.  Am I trying to shave 10 seconds, one minute or even more off my time?  Also, each race is different, even if the distance is the same.  The terrain is different.  The climate is different.  Even the logistics can be different.  Then what sort of PR should I aim for?

Before my last race, California Sprint Triathlon, (which I raced two weekends ago as a warm up for Nationals), I looked up the 2011 results.  Over the past month or so I’ve also been studying the top 10 age grouperssplits from last year’s National Championship.

I’m beginning to think the real questions to ask AND answer are along the lines of:  How can I improve my rankings with each race?  How much time do I need to shave off to finish in the top 10, 5 or even 3 within my age group?  Am I no longer competing with just myself?

Tagged , , , , , ,

I’m a Triathlete. I’m a Bereaved Mother. I’m Both.

This is Susan.  She’s joining us for the first time; she’s training for Nationals.

Welcome to our first Women’s Triathlon Summit.

Yep, this past weekend was very much a social one for me.  And yes, it involved interacting with other endurance athletes.  On Saturday I joined my coach’s Saturday group workout for the very first time.  And thanks to a good friend I attended a women’s only triathlon panel discussion on Sunday.

I was a bit anxious about Saturday’s group training session and admitted this to my coach.  Aside from knowing we’ll swim, then bike and finally run, I told him I really didn’t know exactly what else to expect:  What do I need to bring?  Will I have time to change from my swimsuit into cycling clothes or should I wear a trisuit for the swim?  Should I bring my fins?  Is there anything else I should know?

What I didn’t tell him but, of course, fed my anxiety was having to meet new people and engage in conversation with them for a few hours.  My strategy consisted of staying under the radar.  I figure I’ll most likely swim in the slowest lane and ride at the back of the pack.  As for the run, I’ll just push myself so I’m breathing really hard.  Then I won’t be in a position to talk.  Well, I did in fact swim in the slowest lane.  Interestingly though I made an attempt to swim in the next lane over because the only other person in the slowest lane was a pregnant woman.  (Great start, I know.)  However, I felt as though I slowed down the other lane so I moved over to share the lane with the pregnant woman.  (By the way, the fact that I qualified for Nationals while consistently finding myself swimming in the slowest lane bewilders me!)  I ended up being so focused on my workout I barely saw her and her belly.  And when I did I immediately looked away.  It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t really horrible either.

We did have time to change in the locker room where I met another member of Pete’s team.  As we changed into our cycling clothes we talked about riding and Honu 70.3‘s horrendous crosswinds.  So far so good.

I grabbed my bike off the top of my car and rode it over to join the rest of the group.  My coach introduced me since it was my first time.  And he announced I have Nationals coming up.  Gulp!  So much for staying under the radar.  For the two hours we rode folks talked about racing, training and technique.  Woo hoo!

I quickly learned everyone doesn’t run off the bike during these sessions.  (Officially Saturday’s workout plan does include a run though.)  Unless I’m nursing knee issues or other injuries I make a point of running after biking.  (It’s great brick training.)  So I ended up running with only two other athletes.  We talked about how each of us found Pete and his training group, Honu 70.3 and training for Kona (aka Ironman World Championship).  One of the athletes who ran with me is training for it!

I managed to avoid the topic of children and made it through the other end of the trigger caused by swimming next to a pregnant woman; not too bad.  And the icing on the cake was I enjoyed the conversations I had with everyone.

On Sunday for the Women’s Triathlon Summit, MLH and I were running late from a previous appointment so I rushed over to where the event was being held. The organizers had a pretty nice spread of food, and I was incredibly hungry.  (I don’t think I ate enough after my long run earlier in the day.)  Everybody else was chatting in their chairs.  Nobody was eating.  (The event was running late.)  So while more polished, lady-like women would make their way gracefully over to the food, I dropped my purse on a chair and made a straight shot to the table where I filled a plate up with goodies.  I know, it wasn’t just hunger; I saw this as a way to avoid people.  But then I had to make my way back to my chair to eat.  And eating I did but then a couple of women introduced themselves to me.  Oh well.  We proceeded to talk about our upcoming races.  That’s it!  Once again, I really enjoyed the conversations.

I will say that as one can and should expect — when planning to attend I somehow didn’t think completely through this unfortunately — some of the topics at a woman’s triathlon event will touch on juggling children/family with training.  I didn’t experience very strong triggers when these topics came up.  I felt a little bit of emptiness inside but it wasn’t an overwhelming feeling.  Perhaps this is because I was in such awe of these women who have children, challenging jobs, partners (who either are endurance athletes and/or have challenging jobs as well) AND are top athletes in their divisions!

It’s kind of weird.  I’m so glad I attended both events and most importantly enjoyed talking to the people I met each day.  I still feel anxiety and automatically put up a wall because I never know when I’ll be asked about children or encounter a trigger.  I don’t know if this will ever truly go away.  However, during this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to talk to fellow triathletes about setting PRs, working with coaches, technique, swimming, bike fits, nutrition and race goals.  I got to meet some amazingly accomplished athletes who’ve qualified for Kona, turned pro, completed 26 Ironmen and earned their way onto the podium several times over!  I almost felt like another person at these events.  I was more social at both of these events than I’ve been at any other event over the past two years.  I actually hung around after the summit to chat with a couple of participants!

Aside from the handful of times children were brought up during the summit and dealing with the pregnant woman during the swim, at these events I felt like just another triathlete training for her next race.  I don’t think it’s like I live a double life:  One moment I’m a triathlete and when I’m away from the sport I’m a bereaved parent.  I think it’s more like I have a couple of layers or dimensions inside.  At both of these events, the triathlete who wants to improve, learn and share is dominant and the bereaved mother, while very much present still, takes sort of a backseat with my wall surrounding all of me.  When I’ve had to attend purely social events, my wall is a lot thicker with the bereaved mother and triathlete switching positions.  And I feel like most of the time when I train both layers are evenly present.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Honu 70.3: Thoughts & Feelings

It’s been almost two weeks since Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.  And I’ve been struggling with writing down my feelings and thoughts about racing Honu 70.3.  I feel overwhelmed and intimidated.  I question whether I’m capable of appropriately articulating what I experienced during and right after this race.  Nevertheless, I believe it’s important to write down as much as possible.  Doing so is therapeutic as well as a way to record this.  So here it goes…

A wedding determined the location of my first Half Ironman race.  (A couple of good friends married on Oahu the following week.)  Nevertheless Noah inspired me to compete in a Half Ironman.  While in Hawaii during race week I found a great deal of comfort from this.  I had a lot of time to think and just be.  With the beauty of the Big Island and many opportunities to be surrounded by calm and quiet except for the sounds of waves, birds and far away muffled voices, transitioning into a peaceful state was relatively seamless.

As mentioned before, race week is also taper week so by the time I arrived in Hawaii my training was over.  In addition to resting and completing lighter workouts, I shifted my focus to preparing mentally and emotionally for race day.  I still had some anxiety (about possible flats, GI issues, etc.) going into the race but I also had some confidence, more than I thought I’d have.  I had confidence in my coach, his training plan and support.  I had confidence that I would push myself extremely hard during the race.  I had confidence that whatever happened on the course I’d somehow get through it.  I had confidence in my support system, most notably MLH.  I had confidence that the reason I was racing was the best reason I will ever have.  And I had confidence that Noah would be with me.

During the swim I didn’t really think about Noah because I was so focused on making sure I was swimming the actual course.  However, during the bike, I spent a lot of time thinking of Noah and in fact I found myself talking to him.  I had a couple of moments when I thought about stopping because the crosswinds were so bad; I was scared. But I managed to move past these moments by thinking back to Noah in the CICU.  I felt silly, a little pathetic and then immediately emboldened.  “So what if I’m blown off the road,” I thought.  “I’ll probably get some scratches and maybe a bruise or two and even more severely injured but that all can heal.  It doesn’t compare at all to having a congenital heart defect, struggling to breathe, constantly dealing with throwing up or pangs of hunger because having food in the stomach before surgery or a test isn’t allowed.”  Yep, once again I was greatly humbled.

I had moments when I knew I needed to push harder.  It’s almost as if I trained for this because digging deeper and deeper came very naturally; I seem to have developed a switch.  By flipping it “on” my mind, heart and spirit knew exactly what to do.  And I dug down.  Riding hills were actually fun; I embraced such opportunities.  (I’m not saying I’m really good on hills; I just like them!)  I remember passing many folks as I climbed.  My attitude was: “bring it on – the steeper the better!”

With the race taking place along the Kohala Coast, I had the ocean on one side of me for a good chunk of the ride.  I made a point to look out and take in the ocean view as much I could anyway.  During these moments I talked to Noah.  I found myself talking out loud to him.  Who knows if others heard me; I really didn’t care.  I wanted to enjoy the amazing setting with him and I did.  The notion that water brings peace was reinforced.  Even as I fought heavy winds, climbed hills, navigated amongst other cyclists and managed my body and nutrition, my moments when I enjoyed the view with my son were moments of peace and comfort.

The run course was not as beautiful as the bike or swim.  The ocean was not in sight until around the last quarter-mile.  While the wind, heat and humidity were very challenging, I felt like my entire body knew what it needed to do and it did it.  Once again I connected with my son to help me dig way down.

After the race I felt a major high.  I still can’t believe I actually raced 70.3 miles!  And it boggles my mind that I did this for a little over six hours.  It’s not that it took about six hours but that I actually lasted this long!  I felt proud.  I felt proud to finish.  I felt proud to race for my son.

Looking back on my race week I now sense something shifted ever so slightly in me then.  And almost two weeks later I still feel this shift.  Perhaps it’s permanent.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it.  All I can say at this time is when I think back to Honu 70.3, I feel good.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Social Interactions

I don’t know how good my social skills were before Noah.  Back then I did consider myself an extrovert though.  Since Noah’s passing I really don’t like interacting with people, especially strangers and even acquaintances.  I’ll do it if I have to.  For example I’ve attended weddings, professional events, birthday celebrations and other gatherings.  I’ll go.  In fact I genuinely want to go to support the friend who invited me.  However at these events I try to balance between being in the present and in a celebratory mood with shielding myself from conversations about babies, work, really anything that would touch upon my life over the past 22 months.  I feel that everything that happened during this period is very personal.  I don’t want to share this with strangers and acquaintances.  Also I don’t want to be a downer at a celebration.  And of course these topics are most likely to cause triggers.

I had to interact with a lot of people at Honu 70.3.

Right away during athlete check in, I dealt with a trigger.  The volunteer reviewing the waiver for me to sign joked that the document says I have to give over my first-born if anything happens.  I didn’t say anything at all and worked really hard — lots of times it’s truly an effort — to focus on completing the simple task at hand.  (Of course he didn’t know about Noah and was just being friendly.  Before Noah, I’ve made similar jokes.) Then he looked at the volunteer to his right and said, “I guess I shouldn’t make jokes like that with a lawyer around.” (Perhaps the other volunteer is a lawyer.)  And then I blurted out, “and my first-born died so it’s not a relevant comment.  Hence my reaction.  But you didn’t know.”  I immediately felt bad because the volunteer felt bad.  Yes, it was awkward.

A couple of times I grabbed lunch at the hotel pool bar.  The first time there I managed to get away with not talking to anyone.  The second time I found myself talking to the woman next to me.  (Her husband was talking to a couple on the other side and she was just sitting there, so we ended up chatting.)  We talked about triathlons.  She’s been racing triathlons for 30 years and raced Kona (the Ironman World Championships) nine times!  We talked about the crosswinds on the bike course.  We talked about all of the other Ironman races she’s done – she’s raced a lot.  I actually enjoyed talking to her.

I joined my coach and other members of his group for a swim in the ocean on Friday morning.  I briefly met only a few members when I swam with the group in March so leading up to this Friday group swim I mentally and emotionally prepared to meet people.  I tried hard to be social and easy-going.  I think I did ok.  We pretty much talked about the race, training and bikes.  My coach has quite a large group at this race, and many of them wore team clothes during their stay in Kona.  I saw them everywhere – on the race course, at the finish line, the next day at breakfast.  I felt bad for not reaching out and introducing myself to them but I knew I hit my limit for socializing.

I know I’m less of an extrovert now.  I don’t know if I’ll stay this way or if at some point I’ll feel more comfortable interacting with others.  Because I work hard to avoid triggers and talking about almost anything that occurred over the past 22 months, I find myself experiencing awkward moments.  I often feel socially inept.

I also know I prefer being around only MLH and my close friends.  I’m not up for meeting new people which isn’t good since we’ve just moved to a new town.

I’m thinking if I have to meet new people, I can focus on meeting other athletes.  I have a better shot at talking about just training and racing which are safe topics.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: