Friday, January 25, 2008

Spirit of the Triathlon

Last night, a group of TriGirls and some spouses (pardon me, man-candy) attended a special screening of the movie "The Spirit of the Marathon" that chronicles the journey of 6 athletes in their preparation for the 2006 Chicago Marathon. Two of them were elite, world-ranked runners, the rest ranged from Boston-qualifiers to novices just hoping to finish the distance. It was a very well-made documentary, inspirational in that it showed how marathon is such a unique event--one that is not just reserved for the gifted athlete.
Triathlons are the same way--even those famed Ironman events are open to anyone, from elite to joe-blow athletes, willing to put in the training and attempt the distance. Before I started triathlons in 2004, I assumed those events were for reserved for truly "serious" athletes, people that ate, slept, and breathed their sport. Over the past four years, the races I've participated in have included some rare athletic talent, but I'd say the great majority of racers were people like me, just out there to have fun and do their best.
Before 2004, it never occured to me that I could complete a triathlon or marathon--just signing up was a daunting thought. I considered myself in decent shape--I attended the occasional aerobics or body-shaping class, or spent the odd 30 minutes on an elliptical or stair-master machine. But my dear friend Heidi, herself a triathlete, put it in perspective for me, blatantly stating that my cholesterol level of 203 was not healthy and, oh by the way, my ass was getting fat. (My husband and I now refer to it as my frump-mom period.) Another friend in Richmond had finished a sprint tri the year before, so I latched on to the "if she can do it, so can I" mentality and signed up. Luckily for me, I was able to join a great training group and that summer finished my first sprint. One tri was all it took--I had so much fun during my first race, I couldn't imagine just stopping there.
Some of the things I love the most about my sport are the camaraderie of the transition area pre-race (minus the rare schmuck who takes up more than his fair share of space along the bike rack); the way total strangers greet each-other along the course with a "looking strong," "good job," "way to go;" how may pass the 20-something year old in front of you, only to get passed by the 60-year old behind you; and finally how everyone cheers the loudest for the last person into the finish chute (God knows it may be you one day!)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Workout of a Different Kind...or Walking in New York

So I missed Thursday and Saturday spinning, but instead I walked (and ate and drank) my way through New York City with grad school friends Molly and Vanessa. My quads are still burning from yesterday--we spent the whole day walking through museums (Cooper Hewitt and MoMA), then some shopping on 5th Ave on the way home, and salsa dancing till 2am in the Village. It's a tough life, I know. This morning, from our balcony overlooking Central Park--see the picture--I watched what looked to be about 30,000 people run through the park in what had to be an organized road race. Had I known, I would have packed my running shoes. (But honestly, I couldn't imagine running at 8:30 after getting to bed at 3!) It was an awesome early 40th birthday weekend. On to Vegas with the husband!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"What is your Antarctica?"

The beautiful Susie Q sent out an intriguing post from Kristin Armstrong's blog about Lynne Cox's book, Swimming to Antartica, in which Armstrong asks her readers "What is your Antarctica?"

As endurance athletes, we encounter pain in many forms, both physical and mental. There is the pain of pushing ourselves during our 1/2 mile repeats, the pain of tight IT bands, the pain of failing to conquer a longer distance race, and the pain of having to drag yourself out of a warm bed at 6 on a Saturday morning to face....more pain. There is also, like Fave's recent post, the happy pain of sore arms after conquering a particularly grueling weight training session, or in Susie's experience, the joyful pain of becoming an Ironman and qualifying for Boston both in the same week!

Maybe our coaches Mark and Ed are on to something (but don't tell them that): how we incorporate pain into our training is what makes us better athletes. Kristin says that in her experience, "resistance to pain is such an inhibitor to actually being in the moment (pain and all) and enduring" through long races such as a marathon. Since 2004 when I started running triathlons, I have struggled to meet my pain threshold and overcome it. I am more likely to back down, walk a bit, skip reps, or just pack it in and go home. As I go through this year, I'll have ample opportunity to meet that threshold--I hope I can cross it and learn to use it to build my strength, both mental and physical. TriGirl Shawn's fortune cookie said it all: "The pain you feel today will pay rewards in the future." We will PERSEVERE.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Back in the Water

Last night was my first night back (not as if I was ever a regular attendee) to Master's swimming at the Y, coached by John Pace. I had not been in the pool for a workout since, like August, and was wondering if I would remember how to swim, much less stay afloat. I plunked myself down in the slow lane and set off on the 300m warm up. What do you know?! I didn't drown, and actually kept a decent enough pace that when it came time to do the main set, John cut the intervals by 10 seconds.
I kept my 100m pace to an even 2:00 throughout the workout, feeling good that I didn't slow down towards the end. I thought I did just fine, so when I was leaving the workout and stopped to chat with John, he called me on the carpet for messing up the intervals. Oops. I guess next time I should wear goggles that don't fog up, in order to better see that clock. I also need to bring along my Tums since swimming laps gives me such bad heartburn, especially in the evening before I've eaten dinner. (Should we put this one down as wierdness #8?)

Tag, I'm It

This post has absolutely nothing to do with Ironman training, but Fave tagged me to reveal seven weird things about myself. So, here they are:
  1. I too sort my M&Ms and Skittles by color before eating them, preferably in pairs.
  2. I always end up shirtless at indoor cycling. I understand from Lynn that this is becoming a topic of conversation at Maramarc, but hey, I get hot and sweaty and I don't like feeling like my skin can't breathe.
  3. I've always wished I could be 5'5"-6" tall. It's a chore finding trousers long enough, or men tall enough (I've only dated one man who was over 6' tall). Luckily my husband doesn't mind when I wear heels, but if we're having our picture taken, I still kick off my shoes and squat down a little bit so I don't appear to be too much of an Amazon looming over him.
  4. I hate big purses, and I can't understand what the hell women carry around in them. All you need is a wallet, Cell phone, keys, Carmex, a pen, and a jump drive which are the only contents of my purse. That said, I am breaking my own cardinal rule since my current purse is a BIG zebra print thing that is quite empty--I bought it hoping it would be big enough to carry my laptop.
  5. When I cook chili, I will either make vegetarian black bean chili or texas-style, all-meat chili. I can't stand the hamburger and kidney bean variety and I refuse to make it. Blame my mother for that one.
  6. I have been known to wear a hair scrotum (aka a snood), so named by the 6' man I dated. I've now owned that particular snood for almost 20 years and I can't bring myself to get rid of it, even though my husband hates it and wants to burn it.
  7. I am a bit fanatical about the way the dishwasher gets loaded. Blame my grandmother for that one.

Who is next? Susie Q?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


For the almost 15 years we've been together, my husband has always been the one to take time in the new year to set goals for himself personally and professionally, and review his accomplishment toward of the previous year's objectives (or lack thereof) in a very systematic way. I have never been so disciplined, but instead stuck to what until now have seemed pretty generic "life goals," such as "this year I want to get pregnant" (1996 and 1999), "this year I want to go back to school" (2006), or "this year I want to finish Eagleman" (2007). On the whole, I guess my resolutions were achieved without what seemed like an inordinate amount of work on my part: I guess you could call me fertile-Myrtle on the pregnancy front; I was pretty confident that I could get into grad school again; and training for Eagleman in good company and with good coaches made it possible for me to finish.

Now it's 2008 and I do have two major goals looming on the horizon for this year (thus the blog for one of them). However, I feel there are several important aspects of my life that could use some improvement. I hope that by declaring those goals here I will not lose sight of what's important in my pursuit of either my MFA or an M-dot tatoo. To it, they are:
  • To be a good friend, head cheerleader, and active listener to my husband, children, fellow grad students, and TriGirls. There is more of me I can give to them, despite the every day issues (school work, grocery shopping, etc) that can take over my life.
  • Over the past year I have lost touch with or become distant from friends that don't fall into the "grad student" and "TriGirl" categories. Many of these women have seen me through some hard times and I miss them. I feel that I could lose their friendship entirely. I haven't figured out how to fix this yet, but it is something that bears working on.
  • I have always been one to skate through school and still manage decent grades. The first half of this past semester was a bit of a wake up call on that front. This spring, I have the opportunity to push myself academically. Maintaining a light race schedule is only the first step, much harder will be to become more disciplined with my time in the studio.
  • And finally, to apply myself more to my athletic training. Like the beautiful Susie Q, I need to take joy in what my body can accomplish, but also ask what more I can do. I need to face those workouts without whining and without complaint (which will take some of the fun out of it!), but with a serious sense of purpose and a "what can I learn from this?" attitude. Anything less and I may not earn that tatoo.
Per TriGirl40's blog, our coach has asked us to think of a word to motivate us and help us attain our goals for the coming year. I think mine will be "persevere," which Webster's defines as "to persist in any purpose or enterprise; continue striving in spite of difficulties, etc."

Happy New Year!