Tag Archives: run

Thank you once again, Triathlon

Thank you once again, Triathlon.  You are my favorite sport; my true outlet; provider of peace and comfort; my strength trainer; and my special connection to my beautiful son.

This week triathlon was there for me…once again.  Even in the off-season, this sport provided a high point in what otherwise has been a super challenging week – the first week of December.

On Sunday while running on a treadmill at my gym, I was blindsided with a seemingly innocent image on TV.  I don’t usually look at the monitors when working out at my gym.  I usually focus on my music, my zone and the workout at hand.  However, every now and then my eyes will wander up and catch a glimpse of a reality show, cooking demo, sports game or some random commercial.  Well, this time, my eyes caught a fraction of a baby commercial:  new parents walking through the front door of their home for the first time with their baby.  BAM!  We never brought Noah home.  As this joyous – for the majority of viewers –  event registered in my head tears started streaming down.  Thankfully all of my sweat from the run camouflaged my tears so any onlooker wouldn’t notice me crying.  What a trigger.  Instead of getting completely to the other side of it,  I think it ignited something in the rest of my body.  Up until that moment I was trying to prepare for this month but I think it was on more of an intellectual level.  It’s the 12th month of the year.  It has the most popular holiday of the year.  It’s the month that puts an exceptional amount of attention on children and families.  This is my second December without Noah which means my second Christmas without him; my second Christmas as an incomplete family.  And it’s the month Noah was born.  As December approached I’ve been thinking about this more and more of course.  But until last Sunday, that’s what I’ve been mainly doing – thinking.  My brain was processing this month.  After that run though I’m now feeling the presence of December in my heart and throughout the rest of my body.  Even as I type this post I can feel it in my hands, belly, feet…almost everywhere inside.

So far this week has been touch and go.  The rest of Sunday and Monday were brutal.  On Tuesday morning I did not want to get out of bed at all.  I had a lot of meetings scheduled and planned to attend a book signing event with a friend in the evening.  I had my swim session first thing that morning.  I could cancel my meetings.  I don’t have to go swimming.  My friend had to bail on joining me in the evening so I’m not obligated to attend the event.  I could have easily stayed in bed which I seriously thought about doing for a while.  But I thought back to those early days after Noah passed away when I didn’t feel like training, not because I didn’t like training but because I did not want to leave home.  I thought about how I took baby steps to get through those workouts.  Just change into workout clothes.  Just pack the gym bag.  Now put on the running shoes.  Don’t think.  Try not to feel.  Just go through the motions.  I applied this same tactic on Tuesday.  Just get out of bed.  Just take a shower.  Just collect the necessary material for my meetings.  Just get in the car.  Just get on the highway.  And that’s how Tuesday went.   During the hour between my last meeting and when I needed to leave for the book signing, I went back and forth in my head about going or not so many times that I started to give myself a headache.  Once again, just take little steps.

The book to be signed was As the Crow Flies:  My Journey to Ironman World Champion by Craig (Crowie) Alexander.  A local bike shop in Santa Cruz hosted the event.  The place was packed.  This Ironman World Champion signed books and answered questions.  It was great.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this truly amazing triathlete talk about training for and racing triathlons.  As much as I tried to avoid it, a few guests chatted with me.  Like other tri-related events my conversations were about coaches, transporting bikes, training, Nationals, Worlds and other races.  I left the store with a couple of autographed books (one for my friend, who couldn’t join me, and his wife) and even a photo with Craig.  I left the event feeling a bit lighter than when I arrived.

I still feel Sunday’s trigger but it’s not as piercing.  I have my favorite sport to thank for this.  Thank you, once again, Triathlon.

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Training Playlist #17

Here’s a pretty mellow list.  They’re great for running and indoor spinning.

  • Going to California (Led Zeppelin)
  • High and Dry (Radiohead)
  • Mercy (Dave Matthews Band)
  • Sweet (Dave Matthews Band)
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It Starts with Starting

It starts with feeling the need or urge to move, change…just do something.  It starts with putting on a pair of running shoes or a swimsuit.

It starts with running for as long as possible which most likely is not that long.  It starts with pushing to run an actual half mile or mile.  It starts with working out for 20 minutes a few days a week.  It starts with setting a goal of exercising consistently.  It starts with signing up for a 5K or finding a workout buddy.  It starts with reading nutrition articles or asking for cycling advice.

It starts with feeling good after a hard workout.  It starts with looking forward to that yoga session or kickboxing class.  It starts with feeling “off” when a workout is missed. It starts with missing the sweating or hard breathing.

It starts with picking a bigger, more challenging goal than before and then immediately breaking it down into smaller, manageable milestones.  It starts with celebrating swimming 10 laps more than a month ago.  It starts with passing another runner or crossing the finish line for the first time.

For me, it started way back in high school as a rower who barely made the team.  It started again when I joined a dragon boat team during the few years I lived in Hong Kong.  It started again about 11 years ago when I trained for  a marathon but couldn’t complete it because my left leg tightened up so much it couldn’t move.  It started again when I decided to try half marathons.  It started again when I signed up for my very first triathlon after failing (once again) to complete a marathon.  And it started one more time when I desperately needed some way to deal with the biggest blow to my life – losing Noah.  And this is my start or I should say starts.

We each have to start somewhere.  It starts with starting after all.

What was your start?  Or what will be your start?

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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.

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Honu 70.3 Finisher!

I crossed the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii (AKA Honu 70.3) finish line! Since then I have had and continue to have so many different thoughts and emotions about this race. I imagine I’ll post at least few times about it. For now I’ll share my race results and sort of recap each leg of the race.

The results:

Swim (1.2 miles) — 50:56

Bike (56 miles) — 3:20:04

Run (13.1 miles) — 1:58:35

Overall (70.3 miles) — 6:20:21

Swim

I definitely struggled with the swim. I have a hard time sighting the buoys and swimming in a straight line. I’m sure I swam more than the necessary 1.2 miles because of these shortcomings. (I don’t know my actual distance because I don’t use my Garmin in the water.) I was pretty late coming out of the water. Oh but the water, the water was absolutely beautiful! I could see the bottom of the ocean! The sky was blue and the temperature was practically perfect.

Bike

The bike was extremely challenging. The place where we mounted was on a very steep incline so I (along with lots of others) had a hard time with the start. In fact for a couple of seconds I thought something was wrong with my bike because I couldn’t seem to pedal! Then at some point way too soon — I can’t remember when exactly — I began dealing with the notorious crosswinds. I do know I felt them as soon as I made it to the famous Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway — we actually ride part of the Ironman World Championship course — but I seem to recall encountering them almost as soon as I got past the steep incline. Whatever actually happened, these crosswinds are a big reason why this course is one of the hardest in the world. The winds are so strong bikes will slant over to one side while going straight. There were a few times when I truly felt like the wind was going to blow me off the road. (Seriously, picture scenes from “The Wizard of Oz!”) And they don’t seem to give any warning when they’ll blow. At times right when I think it’s relatively calm enough and I’m stable enough to grab my water bottle or a Clif shot, they hit me, and wham or even double or triple wham I’m holding on tight! Proper hydration and nutrition are so important while racing. The heat and humidity make these components even more critical for Honu 70.3. I’m not the most coordinated person either so trying to:

  • drink,
  • down an energy gel or
  • actually eat a Clif bar

while:

  • balancing myself on my bike,
  • bracing for winds,
  • navigating among other cyclists (without breaking any rules)
  • maintaining somewhat good form,

and oh yes shifting gears and pushing myself as hard as possible is “somewhat” challenging for me.

And WOW! I actually saw Lance Armstrong! I like to say, “I passed Lance on the bike!” Granted he was riding in the other direction well beyond the halfway point, and I was at something like mile 15. The cyclist right next to me yelled, “he makes it look so easy.” I completely agree. To see him in action was very, very cool. He’s truly impressive!

Run

The run was hard but not for the reasons I imagined while training. I thought once I put on my running shoes, consume a Clif shot and head out of transition I would feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to run 13.1 miles. The distance didn’t bother me though. I told myself, “I’ve got this run down. Just tick off the miles.” And the miles didn’t seem long until I was around mile 10.5, that is. That’s when my mind and heart wanted to go faster to finish strong and hard but my legs didn’t cooperate. I was able to pick it up but not nearly as much as I’d like. What made the run hard was the brutal wind and sun. My hat blew off at least once, and I had to hold it down with my hands a few times — not the best form for running. I felt the sun beating down on my arms and its intensity seemed to increase over time.

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