Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last, but not Least - Tri Waco Race Report

I signed up in January for Tri Waco - the Olympic Distance - to be held June 24, 2011.  I knew it would be hot, but reasoned that it wouldn't be "August Hot."  Also, I knew I needed to focus on a race in the future to get myself motivated to get back in gear after my surgery.

It seemed like such a great idea 6 months before the event.

The days ticked away on the calendar, and my training never really kicked up to the level it should have for an Olympic Distance Triathlon (1500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run).  It's not fair to say I didn't train at all; I did train consistently. BUT, I didn't train nearly as much as I could/should have.  I didn't train for the swim at all.  I did a few bike rides, but not consistently, and the longest was 20 miles.  I did a few spin classes.  I did a few run/walk workouts, but the longest was only 4 miles.  I, of course, consistently did my Curves strength training workouts 3x/week.  I didn't do any bricks. I also ate way too much.  I used Kev's working in Alaska, family vacation, business trips, and business visitors as excuses to eat way too much and train way too little.

So, when the weekend of the race arrived, I was about 15 pounds heavier than I realistically should have been, 40 pounds heavier than I wanted to be, and a lot less prepared than I had hoped to be when I signed up in January.  Besides that, it's been "August hot" in Central Texas since before Memorial Day. 

I was determined to do the Olympic anyway.  I didn't switch to the Sprint distance.  I didn't decide to just skip it.  My awesome friends Meg & Sasha were doing the race with me.  I'm entirely too stubborn to give up.  Regardless of my level of training, I'm slow.  I'm slow at the swim.  I'm slow on the bike.  I'm slow on the run.  I'm good with that.  I just keep moving forward.

Packet pick-up day came.  I was NERVOUS.  I had never done and Olympic Distance before, and I knew I was heavier than I should be and drastically under-trained.  I just kept telling myself that I could still finish even if I was super slow and dead last.  It would be hard.  It would be hot.  I would be exhausted.  I would still finish.

I got my packet and met up with my friends.  Kev and Sam came with me to Waco (Jacob was with his cousin at Great Wolf Lodge for the weekend).  After getting all settled at the hotel, Kev and I walked across the street to the suspension bridge to check out the swim course.  They had a swim clinic that afternoon, and the race director said they measured the water temp at 89 degrees.  UGH!  Even the water would be hot.  Nothing like swimming the better part of a mile in a bathtub with 600 of your closest friends.  We walked onto the suspension bridge and looked at the buoys for the swim course.  YIKES!  I almost puked over the side of the bridge. 1500m seemed like a LONG way - especially since I hadn't been in the pool AT ALL.

We went to dinner with friends, then headed back to the hotel.  Kev went out with some friends, and I went back to the room to get all my race stuff ready for the next day.  I sent several text messages to several friends expressing my concern for my lack of preparedness for the race the next day.  Thank God for all of them.  The encouraging responses kept me from leaving Waco in the middle of the night and heading home without bothering with the whole triathlon thing.

I got back to the room and started getting ready.  Then it hit me.  CRAP!  I didn't get my sports bra when I was packing and headed downstairs to get it.  CRAP CRAP CRAP!  Of all the things to forget!  My sports bra is a steel-belted work of engineering and is required equipment for this Athena to do any kind of working out.  They don't sell said sports bra in many stores - and certainly not at any stores in Waco.  So, I headed to Academy at 9:15PM Saturday night before the race to get a sports bra that would just have to do.  Great. I got one.  It wasn't as effective as my normal one, but it would have to do.

This just keeps getting better.  I'm nervous.  I'm fat.  I'm ill-prepared.  I have a substitute sports bra.  Great.

Despite all that, I slept pretty well.  I woke up the next morning, and made it down to the transition area before it got too crowded - and before getting down the hotel elevator with my bike was too challenging.

I was nervous.  I was nervous about the swim, the bike, and especially the run.  I was really nervous about finishing before the cutoff.  I wasn't nervous about being last - I knew I would be, and I was totally OK with it.  I was OK with being last, so long as I could actually cross the finish line by the time cutoff.

After setting up, the pre-race meeting, and the Sprint start (not sure why they started the Sprint before the Olympic, but they did), it was time to get this thing started.  I got in the water and started swimming.

I was slow but steady.  I didn't panic - even when all the crazy fast people were literally swimming on top of me.  They were blowing past me and kicking me, but I just kept swimming at my slow steady pace.  It seemed like a fairly long way, but I finished the swim without any trouble and actually wasn't last out of the water. 

On to the bike.  The bike course was flat, and the road surface was nice and smooth.  I wasn't fast, but I still wasn't last, and I wasn't feeling too terrible - despite my lack of training and the ridiculous heat.  However, I was keenly aware that the worst part remained.  I SUCK at the run.  I suck when I train.  I suck on race day.  I even suck when I just do a 5K, and that's all I do.  I'm slow.  I "run" 10 steps and think I'm gonna die.  It doesn't seem to matter how much I do or don't train, how much I do or don't eat, or how much I weigh.  I just flat suck at running.  But, I still do it.

I got off the bike, put on my running shoes, and put on some sunscreen.  Did I mention it was HOT?  I saw some new friends I had met at dinner (who were already done with the Sprint), and I saw Kev in transition.  He actually got up to see me off at the swim and was there for both T1 and T2.  The encouragement was helpful.  I told him he didn't have to get up super early and hang out in the ridiculous heat, but he did anyway.  It was greatly appreciated. 

I headed off on the run.  Yikes.  It was HOT.  I was tired.  I tried to hydrate at all the water stops.  I tried to settle into a 2-1 pace, but I just couldn't make my fat, not-trained-enough butt run much at all.  I finally decided to just make it too the finish, even if I walked the whole thing.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  The first half of the 10K course was relatively shaded, but it was HILLY, I mean crazy hilly.  It was just plain ridiculous.  About Mile 2, I met Sasha who was heading back in and at about Mile 4.  She looked great, stopped to give me a hug and some encouragement, and warned me that 4 massive hills awaited me on the course.  UGH!  It was hilly, but at least pretty shaded.  I ran a little, walked most of it, and kept moving forward.  I finally got to the turn-around and got to go down all those nutty hills.  Then it was off to the last half of the course that was pretty much the 5K course from the sprint.  No more hills.  Sadly, also, no more shade.  By this point, it was getting late in the morning.  The sun was blazing.  It was crazy hot.  One by one, the people who were behind me from the swim and the bike passed me on the run.  It was official.  I was last.

The race director passed me on his Gator about 20 times.  They started packing up the water stations and course markers as I trudged along.  Despite all this, and the knowledge that I was last, I was truly OK with it.  I was hot and tired and ready to be done, but I was proud to be making it, regardless of being last.

I finally made it to the path back up to the suspension bridge.  Kev & Sasha were on the bridge yelling at me.  It was awesome.  I made it up to the bridge and forced myself to "run" the entire length of the bridge to the finish line.  The paramedics were still there, and they gave me my Finisher's Medal and some much-appreciated water.  No other volunteers were there.  The awards had already been passed out.  Mine was the only bike still in transition.  There were no more free snacks.  There was no race announcer calling my name as I crossed the finish line.  I didn't care.  I finished an Olympic Triathlon.  I used to weigh 320 pounds.  I might have been last, but I still did it.  I'm a bad ass.

There might have been no volunteers or race announcer there when I finished, but Kevin was. Sasha was.  My sister was.  They cheered and took pictures and helped me get all my stuff inside to the AIR CONDITIONED hotel.  It was awesome.  I'm a bad ass.

Meg did great at the Sprint distance.  Sasha kicked ass at the Olympic distance.  Both of them have also lost a ton of weight.  We are all bad asses.

After it was all over, I felt like dog shit.  I had a raging headache and was just nauseous from the heat.  It took me several hours to finally start feeling normal again.  It took many liters of water, Extra Strength Tylenol, and a Frappucino from Starbucks before I finally felt like a human.  It was about 6 hours before I felt OK, could eat, or could sleep.

Even before I started feeling better, I vowed to lose more weight, train a lot more, and do this race again next year.  I will be thinner, in better shape, and faster. 

I've now registered for three more Sprint Triathlons this year:  Houston 8/14, Rockwall 8/28, & Austin 10/2.  I'm going to keep doing 5Ks and 10Ks and bike rides.  I'm going to keep training.  I'll be back in Waco next July.  I've also got my eye on a half marathon in Austin at the end of January.

If I can do this, anyone can.  Make a goal.  Pick an event.  Get moving.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waco coming up - for now a shameless plug to try to win a trip to San Antonio

I should be blogging about my training, but I haven't.  My first Olympic triathlon is in Waco this Sunday.  I'm terrified.  I have not trained enough.  I have eaten way too much.  I am fatter than I should be, and not nearly as fit as I should be.  All that, AND it will probably be 173 degress Sunday.  I'm worried about finishing at all, finishing before the time cutoff, not having to take an ambulance to the ER because of not being ready + heat exhaustion.  Wish me luck.  I NEED IT.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to win a trip to San Antonio.  12 different travel blog sites are each giving away a trip to SA this summer.  Each site has a different way to enter/win.  Mommy Musings gives bonus entries for blogging babout the contest, so I am now shamelessly blogging so I can get my bonus entries!


I also hope I survive Sunday so I can enjoy a trip to San Antonio if I do win...  ;-)


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

DANSKIN 2011 - Train Easy, Race Hard

First, the "Train Easy, Race Hard" title of this post is totally stolen from one of my triathlon heroes - Jayne Williams, THE Slow, Fat Triathlete.  If you haven't bought both her books, stop reading RIGHT NOW, and come back after you've ordered them.

Back?  Good.  You'll laugh out loud AND get inspired reading those books. TRUST ME!  OK, now back to the blog post.

So, I haven't been so great with the blogging lately.  I'm still stuck.  I'm not officially plateaued.  The definition of a plateau is eating as you should and working out as you should and not losing weight.  I'm not gaining weight - really.  I'm basically yo-yoing the same 10 - 15 pounds and have been basically since October of last year.  I'll eat right for a while then eat crap for a while I lose a few pounds, then gain them back.  The good news is that I'm essentially maintaining and have finally come to the conclusion that I CAN maintain a healthy weight. I'm no longer haunted by the thought in the back of my mind that I will eventually gain all the weight back that I have worked so hard to lose.  Also, more good news - even though the eating part has been kind of off and on, I'm pretty much on top of the working out.

Since my last post I ran/walked a 5K with my entire family and my super fast nephew (who won his age group), did 2 bike rides (27 miles and 30 miles) with my husband, finished the Skeese Greets Women's Triathlon on Mother's Day, and this past Sunday, finished the Danskin Women's Triathlon for the 2nd time.

I have consistently done my Curves workouts three times a week.  I've also been working out with a personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness once a week.  In between, I've done a few run workouts and managed a few weekend bike rides.  I done almost no swim workouts.  To say I've been "training" for a triathlon is a stretch.  I'm definitely consistently working out, but my diet habits, food choices, and current workout regimen does not really qualify as triathlon training.

Despite my lack of training and the continued absence of my groove, I signed up for the Danskin.  I have a special place in my heart for that race as it was my first ever Triathlon in 2008.  It's just a sprint tri - 800m swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run, but the course is HARD, especially for a sprint tri. 

So, the week before the race, it occurred to me that the Danskin was a week away and I really hadn't trained.  Oh my.  But, I'm not going to sign up then miss the race unless I have some crazy injury or illness.  I just decided that I would treat the race as a "long workout."  I won't beat my time from 2008, I won't run the whole 5K, I won't break any speed records, but I will finish.  It's just training for my first Olympic Distance Triathlon in Waco July 24.

I headed to packet pickup on Saturday with my good friend Meg.  I got my packet, got a sweet new Danskin tri suit, checked out all the freebies, and visited with Alison - the Austin Heart Zones coach.  I contemplated signing up for a 6-week Olympic Triathlon crash course. Maybe if I really kick it in gear after the Danskin, I won't totally kill myself in Waco next month. I love me some Sally Edwards, so of course I'll go with her training group if I'm going to train with a real group rather than just winging it on my own - and so far winging it on my own isn't going so well.  After careful consideration, I have decided not to sign up.  With Kev in Alaska through the end of the month, a family vacation, and a work trip scheduled, I can't really make it to most of the group workouts.  So, I'm going to have to figure out how to do this on my own.

Anyway, after packet pickup, I was pretty pumped and feeling excited about the race despite my lack of preparation.  I got all my gear ready and got a little sleep then got up before the ass-crack of dawn to head out to the race site.

Kevin is in Alaska for work all month, and all my triathlon friends had other things going on, so I was flying solo for this one.  I've done enough triathlons, that I know what's up, and I'm OK not having a cheering section.  Besides, it's pretty boring for spectators, and it was HOT on Sunday.  So, I was OK with being alone.  I was just doing a long workout with 1600 of my closest friends.  :-)

At this point, I should give a shout out to my Mother-in-Law for staying at my house this weekend and watching my kids so I could do this while Kev is out of town.

The parking situation was a little wonky and caused a delay of 15 minutes before the start.  I hit the water just before 8am and started going.  Unlike my first Danskin experience, I wasn't nervous at all.  I had totally embraced the "this is a training session" attitude and set out with my only goal being to cross the finish line.  I had not done any swim training AT ALL.  None.  Really.  Thankfully, I just swam.  I didn't panic.  I didn't get overcome by nerves.  I just swam.  I didn't swim fast at all, and given my total lack of training, how could I expect otherwise.

The water was warm.  The water was dirty and yucky as expected.  There was the usual kicking and being kicked.  Since I hadn't really trained and hadn't really even looked at the course from the start line, I wasn't exactly sure where I was on the course or what the buoy looked like at the turn to the finish (the swim course is kind of a triangle).  Twice I passed a buoy thinking I was approaching the turn to the finish.  Twice I realized when I got to the buoy that it wasn't time to turn yet.  Oops.  Regardless, I kept swimming.  When I made it to the end, I wouldn't consider myself completely "un-tired" and raring to go on the bike, but I was also not completely exhausted.  So, off to transition.

On the way from the swim exit to the transition area, I met a woman who was lamenting that she had done so much better on the swim than she expected that her family wasn't around yet to cheer for her.  She didn't have a cell phone in transition, so I let her use mine to call her family.  She was beaming because she had "rocked the swim" on her first triathlon.  It was nice to see her so proud of herself.  Unfortunately, I didn't run into her again, so I'm not sure how the bike and the run went for her.  I hope she was as elated at the finish line as she was in T1.

The bike.  I've ridden the Danskin bike course many times.  It's a tough course, but it's familiar.  The bike was relatively uneventful - except for the little incident on one of the easier hills when my chain came off - or at least I thought it did.  I shifted gears then suddenly my pedals wouldn't move at all.  I got off the bike expecting to have to get all greasy to get the chain back on the bike, but it seemed to work fine after a few turns of the pedals.  Not sure what happened, but it didn't slow me down too much.  I even managed to get going again with no problem despite being on the middle of a hill. 

T2.  Uneventful.  Time for the worst part.  The run.

I decided to walk a little while to get my heart rate down and get my legs back then I would settled in to "2-1's," running two minutes then walking one minute.  I walked about the first 5 minutes then I headed off with my planned 2-1 routine.  Twice I switched to 2-2 when my heart rate was still off the chart at the end of the 1-minute walk.  The worst part about 2-1's is that the 2-minute runs always seem infinitely longer than the 1-minute walks.  As I neared the end of the run course, I knew a nasty hill was coming up.  I decided to walk the entire hill then run the rest of the way to the finish.

Then I crossed the finish line.  I got my finishers medal, an ice cold bottle of water, and an ice cold towel from the volunteers - God bless the volunteers.  It was HOT.  I was done.  Yea!

I didn't have friends and family there.  I've done this before.  Sure, I felt great to finish and just relieved to be done, but it wasn't quite as big a deal as previous triathlons, especially not my very first one.

Over the course of swimming, biking and running basically by myself, I did a lot of thinking about my goals, my being stuck for months, my fitness, etc.  The Danskin was both good and bad in that regard.  It was bad in that I had not trained, was not prepared, and it was a slap in the face to remind me that I really need to get back in gear not only with training, but also with eating.

However, it was also good.  I desperately needed that slap in the face, and I think it's already helped me get back on the right track.  I'm probably still not eating perfectly, but I am thinking about it more.  I'm also already working harder on the training.

Also, I officially achieved a major long-term  fitness goal.  I stated about a year ago that I wanted to achieve a baseline of fitness such that I could do a sprint triathlon whenever I wanted without having to specifically train for it.  I can do that.  I just did that.  I finished a sprint triathlon, and I did not specifically train for it at all.  I did workout consistently, and I expect to ALWAYS do that.  I didn't run the whole 5K.  I wasn't fast by any measure.  But, I did it.  My baseline of fitness is such that I can complete a sprint triathlon without specifically training for it.  YEA ME! 

So, I guess I've officially achieved a point where I can train easy, race hard.  I'm good with that.  I am going to train harder for my upcoming events, especially the Olympic in Waco, but I have a level of confidence in my general fitness I didn't have before the Danskin on Sunday.

Now, I just have to get my diet and training groove back on track 100%. 

Stay tuned for training updates and a Waco race report.

Oh, and no pictures this time - I was by myself, so the Danskin race has no picture documentation.... 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Have you seen my Groove?

So, I'm back at it - sort of.  I had my crazy surgery.  My plumbing is mostly working properly.  I spent the better part of 2 months "on the bench."  I officially got released by the doc.  Now I just feel like I've lost my groove.

I ate too much over the Holidays and gained back a little of the weight I lost during 2010.  Then I had surgery.  I had delusions of losing all that Holiday weight by the time I had my post-op appointment.  I didn't do that.  BUT, the good news is that I didn't GAIN any weight while I was recovering and spending a couple of months feeling sorry for myself.

Now it's been a full month since my post-op appointment and I STILL haven't lost all that Holiday weight.  I have lost some.  I haven't gained more.  I'm back to working out pretty much every day.  Still, I'm just not feeling it.

My head isn't in the game.  I'm doing OK with the food.  I stay mostly "in the box" most of the time, but the weekends are hard.  I make excuses to add veggies to the box or to eat a salad or something when we eat out.  I haven't been able to suck it up and get 100% in the box with no "real" food.  I know that if I do that, I can break through this plateau.

I stay sort of in the box.  I work out every day.  The scale just kind of hovers.  I debate with myself.  I give myself pep talks.  I still just kinda half ass do this.  The scale still hovers.

I'm stuck.  I don't know what to do.  No one else can motivate me.  No one else can inspire me.  This is up to me.  I have to suck it up and drop these last 50ish pounds.  I know if I would just get 100% in the box for several months I could do it.  But I've done the HMR thing for so long, the thought makes me a little sick.  I'm tired of HMR.  Also, a little voice in my head tells me I'll have to learn how to maintain a healthy weight and eat real food. 

Lately I find myself in this constant internal debate about the speed and "ease" of HMR vs. the logic of eating meal replacements and the fatigue of continuing to do the program.

I have loads of friends doing Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem or the latest low carb (Atkins in a different package) diet.  I have loads of friends doing well and loads of friends struggling.  I know that there is an answer.  I know that everyone has an individual answer.  While WW works for some, it doesn't work for others.  I know HMR works for me.  I guess I'm typing all this in hopes of motivating and inspiring myself.

I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up 50 pounds lighter.  While I feel loads better than I did a year ago, I don't feel as good as I did 4 or 5 months ago.  I was hoping I'd bounce back with the workouts by now.  But, after my little sabbatical, I've been back a month and still feel like I'm miles away from where I was pre-surgery.

I feel tired and fat and sluggish and unmotivated.  UGH!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Catching Up!

Wow!  It's been a while since I blogged.  Sorry for that.  Quite a lot has happened in the last few months.

In November I ran my very first 10K with my awesome nephew Kendall.  I survived.  I ran every step.  It was not easy.  Kendall won his age group.  He was a sweetheart and walked back to find me after he finished and helped me run in the last half a mile or so. 

I'm a long way from being fast.  I'd like to do a half marathon soon, but I'm a long way from that too.  Even so, I'll keep plugging along.

I ran yet another 5K with Kendall at his high school later in November.  He won his age group again.  Show off.  I ran it all.  And, I PR'd.  It was awesome.  5K's are getting easier.  I like that.  Sadly, I'm not sure that is going to remain the case.

Then, on Thanksgiving Day, I decided at the last minute to get up super early, drive to Ft Worth (from Mineral Wells where we were spending Turkey Day with Kev's family), and run in the Ft Worth Turkey Trot.  There was a 5K or a 10K.  I decided to go for it and run the 10K.  I also decided that I wanted to try to improve my time from my first 10K in November.  I had a race plan this time.  I ran 5 minutes and walked 1 minute for the whole race.  I tried to concentrate on running faster during my 5-minute runs and recover during the 1-minute walks.  I did improve my time a little, but not a lot.  I really need to just work and work and work on running.  I'm not good at it.  I'm not fast.  But, I will keep running.

Then the Holidays were in full swing.  Thanksgiving, my birthday, tons of Holiday Parties, Christmas, New Year, etc.  I pretty much went off the reservation with my eating from November - January.  I did maintain my Curves workouts 3x a week, but didn't do much else in the way of working out.  I gained a little, but not a ton, and I got pretty much back on track at the beginning of January.

Right now I am benched for at least 6 weeks and it SUCKS!  Here's where the TMI begins, so if you don't want to know TMI about my girly insides, stop reading now.

Thanks to vaginally delivering 2 precious boys, my pelvic floor muscles are shot.  My insides were literally falling out.  The official diagnosis is pelvic organ prolapse.  Basically my uterus, my bladder and my rectum were falling out.  This was exacerbated by my triathlon, 5K and 10K escapades.  My urethra was also "sagging."  All this didn't necessarily hurt, but it was quite uncomfortable, and I basically peed on myself all the time.  Not fun.  I told you it was TMI.  You don't have to still be reading...  ;-)

I discussed various options with my regular OB/GYN doctor.  I lost weight and exercised hoping that would lessen the prolapse.  It didn't.  I went to 4 months of pelvic physical therapy and did everything as instructed.  After 4 months, I had made ZERO progress.  In fact, it just kept getting worse and worse.  So after losing the weight and doing the physical therapy, I went back to the doctor.  She referred me to a specialist - a Uro-gynecologist - an MD who specializes in both urology and gynecology. 

After a thorough exam, a second opinion, and lots of research, I decided to have surgery to correct my pelvic organ prolapse.

My surgery was originally scheduled for 12/7/10, but my doctor got sick and had to have surgery herself.  I was given the choice to change doctors and have my surgery in January, or wait until February for my original doctor to do the surgery.  I changed doctors.

So, I spent our 15th wedding anniversary (1/13/11) having a hysterectomy + uterosacral ligament cuff suspension + anterior and posterior repairs + TVT midurethral sling + cystourethroscopy.  FUN! 

I can't work out for at least 6 weeks.  And that's just the half of it.  The recovery has been WAY more than I bargained for.  Again, TMI on the way.  You can stop reading at any time.

I'm now 10 days post-op and still basically popping pain pills as soon as the clock says I can have another one.  My bladder didn't function at all until yesterday.  It still only sort of functions.  I have to use a catheter to completely empty it.  I'm not complaining though.  That it's able to funciton on it's own at all is huge progress.  I wanted to call local news outlets to report to everyone that I peed on my own yesterday afternoon.  If I didn't hurt so bad, I would have jumped for joy.

My bowels didn't function until Monday after surgery Thursday.  Then they shut down again for several days.  They're sort of working now, but only because of the moutains of meds I'm using to make them function.

Let me tell you - don't EVER take for granted the ability to perform basic bodily functions.  It has been very very painful, and literally a pain in the ASS!  ;-)

Anyway, I'm mostly on the mend, and despite the fact that this is way worse than I ever imagined, I am getting better every day.  I'm also counting on being a lot more comfortable when I get back to triathlons, runs and bike rides in the spring.

I signed up for my first Olympic Triathlon July 25 in Waco.  If you're so inclined, feel free to come participate with me or just cheer me on.  The more the merrier.  I haven't picked the race yet, but I'm also hoping to do a half marathon and a 100-mile bike ride at some point in 2011. 

Right now, during my post-op recovery, my eating is somewhere in between doing great and off the reservation.  I'm not being as diligent as I should be, but I'm not eating everything in sight like I'd sometimes like to.  I'm walking a little every day - trying to gradually build up.  I'm just trying to not gain, be reasonable, and wait until I have the doctor's go-ahead to resume workout craziness.  I'm starting to go a little stir crazy.  It's really tempting to lie on the couch all day, feel sorry for myself, and use all this as an excuse to eat mountains of crap.  I'm working really hard at resisting that urge.  I take it one minute at a time.  Sometimes I'm better at resisting than others.

I'll try to get back on the blogging band wagon and keep everyone posted regarding my post-op recovery, getting back to working out, and training for the various events that I decide to do in 2011.  I figure I need to lose at least 40 - 60 more pounds, and I really hope to do that this year by continuing to train for triathlons, runs, and bike rides.

Please join me on this journey.  Send me messages.  Share your successes and challenges.  Focus on making healthy food choices.  Find a workout that you love and get obssessive about it. I want to hear your story.  Inspire me.

Hopefully I'm officially back to blogging.  Stay tuned.  :-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trek Women's Triathlon Race Report

I registered for the Trek Women's Triathlon in February.  At the time, the race was scheduled for May.  I knew there was no way I would be in decent triathlon shape by May, but I wanted to get back into triathlons, and I prefer to do races that involve my triathlon hero, Sally Edwards.  I registered anyway.  Just days later, I got an e-mail indicating that the race was postponed until October 3 - DIVINE INTERVENTION!  I could be ready by October.  WOOOOHOOOO!

After learning that we had 5 extra months to train, I pinged several friends who had either done other races or expressed an interest in doing races and asked them to join me in October.  Several said no right away, a few said yes, and a few said maybe.  As the months progressed, everyone but my good friend and fellow Mustang Band sister Jennifer Yelton Henry bailed - you'll remember Jennifer from my Tri-Rock post.  This would be my 6th race, Jen's 5th race, and our 3rd race together.

Just over a week before the race, I got a message from Jennifer that Kyle's grandfather had passed away, and the memorial service was scheduled for Saturday, October 2 in Charleston, SC.  But, Jen was undaunted buy this little wrinkle.  She planned her trip to SC and included a return trip to Austin Saturday night.  She confirmed that she could get her packet Sunday morning, and we made arrangements with a friend from San Antonio who was going to the SMU game to transport her bike from Dallas to Round Rock the weekend before the race.  We were still a go.

The race was originally scheduled to be at Decker Lake - the site of the Danskin Triathlon - the first course I ever raced.  I'm not exactly sure when it changed, but some time between when I registered in February and when I was checking out the website the Tuesday before the race, the location of the race was changed to Pace Bend Park.  I was pretty bummed.  I know the Decker course well.  I've ridden the Decker course several times.  I was looking forward to my 2nd race on the same course so I could compare my time from my first triathlon to this one.  Decker is about 30 minutes from my house.  Pace Bend Park is about an hour from my house.  Great.  Double the travel time for an early morning race.

Despite all this, I was still bound and determined to make my way to Pace Bend Park with Jennifer and have a great race.

So, after 8 months and 105 pounds, packet pick-up day arrived.  I headed to Bicycle Sport Shop on South Lamar.  Packet pickup went off without a hitch, and I was in time to sneak into the end of Sally's race overview and "pep talk."  As this wasn't my first triathlon, and I was feeling pretty good about my preparation, I didn't really "need" the pep talk, but I was interested in the unfamiliar course, and I'll pretty much never miss the opportunity to hear Sally speak and hopefully score a photo op with my triathlon hero.  I was able to briefly speak to Sally and get my picture taken with her.  YEA!

After securing my packet and buying a little triathlon gear, I headed over to the greatest bike shop in the world - Jack and Adams - to have a quick 100-mile inspection of my bike before race day.  I picked up a few bike supplies then headed home. 

We got a sitter and headed to Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie.  It's been a long time since we had a "date night."  We had a nice time - I even refrained from checking the SMU/rice score on my phone every 30 seconds. 

Just as the movie ended, I got a text message from Jennifer that she had managed to get on an earlier flight and would be flying in at 10pm instead of 11pm.  Not only would we get to bed an hour earlier than originally planned, but the timing was also such that we needed to leave from the movies and head straight to the airport.  A little over an hour after we got out of the movies, we had Jennifer from the airport and were headed back home.

Jen and I reasoned that we needed to try to leave between 5:15 and 5:30.  UGH!  We hit the sack as soon as we got home with our alarms set to wake us up in a pretty short time.  I slept pretty well.  I was pretty confident, prepared, and relaxed.  I did not have the pre-race jitters that normally make the night before a race pretty restless.  I also managed to roll out of bed shortly before 5am without much trouble.  I got myself ready, made sure Jen was up and moving and headed downstairs for breakfast.

We ate a quick bite, made sure we had all our gear and hopped in the car for our hour-long excursion to the (new) race site.  I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something.  I even stopped just before we got out of the neighborhood to double check that my running shoes were in my race backpack.  They were.  About halfway there I realized that I had forgotten my heart rate monitor band.  Oh well.  I was disappointed that I wouldn't gather heart rate data for the race, but at least I was forgetting something that wasn't crucial to swimming, biking or running.  We charged on.

The drive was every bit of an hour, but we made it to the park by our target time of 6:30 without a problem.It was obviously still dark and pretty chilly when we got to the race site.  The temperature was in the low 60s.  Jen and I just had our tri suits on.  We didn't have any other clothes with us to wear before or after the race.  Everyone we saw had on jackets and/or long pants.  We kept reminding ourselves that the sun would be out soon to warm us up, and that we would be loving the cooler temperatures by the time we finished the race.

We made our way to transition, Jen secured her packet, we set up all our gear, got our numbers and ages marked on our arms and legs, and even had time to pose for a pre-race photo before heading down to the water to get ready for the swim.

The swim set-up was a little weird.  It was about 0.3 miles down a steep hill from the bike transition to the water.  They set up a mini-transition just out of the water so we could put on our shoes before running up the hill to transition to the bike.  The good news was that that 0.3 miles was deducted from the 5K run at the end.  The bad news was that the set-up was just weird, and the hill we were going to have to run up was STEEP (and part of it was gravel).  Oh well, everyone would have to do it, we would suck it up and be fine.

Since Jen and I are both Athenas and both in the same age group, I'm not exactly sure how this came to be, but we were in different swim waves.  Jen was in the 3rd wave.  I was in the 4th.  After a little waiting, some pre-race fanfare, and the national anthem, the Elites were off.  They only waited 30 seconds between the Elites and the next wave.  After that, there were approximately 2 minutes between waves.  This part always amazes me - by the time my wave started, the Elites were getting out of the water.

When it was time for my wave, I took off.  This was my 5th open water swim.  I did 2 full triathlons in 2008 that were open water swims and the swim leg of 2 triathlon relays in 2009 that were in open water.  The wave wasn't even exceptionally large.  Despite my previous experience and the size of the wave, I had the toughest time I've ever had starting an open water swim.  The shore from which we started was pretty rocky.  Everyone stayed clustered together for a while.  I got hit and kicked A LOT.  I even got kicked pretty hard once square in the face - knocking off my goggles.  It took me what seemed a long time to get out of the crowd. 

Unlike my very first triathlon, I did not panic when the swim started.  I felt good and had fewer race nerves than ever.  I tried to go a little faster than my normal slow, steady workout pace, but I wasn't sprinting or going terribly fast.  I just kept swimming, thinking about my stroke, thinking about keeping my head down, thinking about spotting the buoy and not getting off track.  I certainly wasn't the fasted orange-capped swimmer, but I was by no means the slowest either.  About halfway through the swim, I started noticing a few yellow caps.  Despite my comfort with being a "slow fat triathlete," it's still disheartening to see the faster swimmers from the wave behind me start catching up and passing me.  I just kept swimming.  I did pass a few blue and green caps (from waves who started before I did) along the way.

The swim was in a river - in kind of a triangle - that meant that we had to swim upstream at some point.  The current wasn't too bad, but there was current.  The upstream part was at the end of the swim and wasn't all that long.  It wasn't terrible, but there was a point where I felt as if I was swimming and swimming, but the swim finish didn't really appear to be getting closer. But, eventually, I got to the finish and tried to make my way out of the water.

Getting out of the water proved to be the trickiest part.  There were LOTS of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  I had a really hard time getting up, maintaining my balance and walking out of the water.  I fell a couple of times before I finally made it out of the river.

Then to the weird mini-transition.  I put on my socks and running shoes and headed up the steep hill to the bike transition.  The hill seemed even steeper at this point.  I got a great mental boost of confidence at one point when I looked over and noticed a 60-something year old couple of spectators who were running up the hill cheering on one of the other athletes.  They were faster than I was going up the hill.  Nice.

I got to transition, changed into my bike shoes, put on my helmet and made my way out of transition.  I got passed the mount line and tried to get going on my bike.  This has become a problem for me and is now a mental as well as a physical obstacle.  I had problems getting started at the Tri-Rock Triathlon and in front of my boss's house when we rode the Dam Loop.  The bike start was on a small incline.  I have a total mental block about starting, getting going, and getting clipped in if I have to go uphill even the slightest bit on a start.  I estimate I spent a good 2 or 3 minutes trying to get going on the bike.  I finally pushed my bike over to a curb and managed to get myself going.

Then off to the bike course.  It was a 6 mile loop.  We had to make the loop twice.  I really prefer one big loop to multiple loops or an out and back.  The course was advertised as having "rolling hills."  I had no knowledge of the course at all.  I pretty much assumed it wouldn't be as hard as the bike course at Decker.  I'm not so sure of that.  There were a few decent downhills, but the uphills were nothing to sneeze at.  There was one particularly nasty hill at the end - of course.  I noticed a bunch of riders walking up that hill - even riders on road bikes - even riders that weren't Athenas.  Of course a lot of my fellow triathletes who don't exactly fit into the typical triathlete body type and pretty much everyone riding a mountain bike or a hybrid was walking up the hill.  I was determined to ride up the hill or fall over in the process.  I made it up the hill (as did Jennifer, I might add - though I didn't ever see her on the bike course since we were in different swim waves).  Here's where doing a loop multiple times comes into play.  The entire time I was riding the loop the 2nd time, I was thinking about the prospect of having to ride up that last hill AGAIN.  I made it up that last hill the 2nd time then headed back to transition for the part I dread - the run.

I've been thinking about the run quite a bit over the last weeks.  After my epiphany during the Pan-Can 5K that my whining about running is really pathetic considering all the other obstacles and health problems I could be forced to overcome, I was particularly determined to really run the whole 5K - even if I was super slow.

Right out of the gate I was hating the run.  My legs felt like jelly.  My heart was pumping from the bike ride (though since I forgot my HRM, I don't know exactly how much my heart was pumping).  I was tired and wanted to walk.  I kept running. 2 things kept me running - 1. My goal to run the whole thing. 2. I had caught a glimpse of Jen leaving the bike transition and knew she was just ahead - I wanted to catch her. I'm not "racing" though.....really......

The course wasn't exactly an out and back, but it was set up such that I saw many runners who were heading for the finish on my way out to start the run.  At the first water stop, the runners who were heading back were giving encouragement about how we were almost to the turnaround.  They were lying.  I grabbed some water and rounded the corner.  That's when I saw a long, steep hill that I was to run down.  That's all fine and good except that I knew I was eventually going to have to run back UP that hill.  That nagged at me for the whole run.  I was slow and not doing so well with the positive affirmations.  Rather than thinking, "I love to run.  I'm light on my feet," I was thinking "Oh crap, I'm going to have to run back up that hill.  Where is that damn turn around anyway"  I kept running.

I caught up to Jennifer on the way down that big hill.  We ran together and talked a while.  She shared with me that she had "pulled a Kellie" on the swim.  She had gone a little off course and swam a little more than she had to.  I did that at our first triathlon together - the Iron Girl in Dallas in 2008.  At some point, while we were running together, I realized that I was running and talking.  I usually train by myself - especially my run training.  The few times I have trained with someone, there was NO WAY I could talk while running.  I was always panting and struggling and couldn't talk.  It occurred to me that if I could talk, I wasn't going as hard as I could.  It also occurred to me that I really must be getting better at this run thing since I could talk.  I sped up a little.

There were lots of ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and levels of fitness on the road.  I gave high-fives to some of them as we met on the road.  Some ladies passed me.  I passed some.  I even passed a few who were "running."

I finally made it to the turnaround.  Then it was time to run up that hill.  I kept running.  I knew there was a water stop waiting for me at the top.  I was actually starting to feel a little better. My legs were a little less like jelly.  My heart was pounding a little less than usual.  My lungs weren't on fire.  Wow.  Maybe I am getting better at this even though I am still slow.  I made it to the top of the hill, grabbed some water and kept going.

After the hill, the run was GREAT.  It was mostly downhill to the finish.  I was coming to the realization that I was feeling better.  I knew I was almost done, and I really was going to make it - RUNNING the whole 5K.  As I ran, the smile on my face got bigger and bigger.  Just before the finish there was a pretty steep downhill.  The grade was such that I naturally sped up.  I kept running, kept smiling, and kept picking up speed.

I actually finished strong - not exactly a sprint kick to the finish, but I did pick up the pace slightly.  I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and a volunteer slipped a medal over my head and told me I was a triathlete. Then another volunteer handed me a cool Shiner Bock water bottle filled with ice cold water.  Awesome!

I walked around a little then made my way back to the finish line to cheer Jen into the finish.  She came in just after I did.  We got bananas and cookies and walked around the finish line area a little.  I was a little disappointed by the pre-race amenities.  No breakfast tacos.  No muffins.  No bagels. Just bananas and packages of Chips Ahoy cookies.  The Shiner Bock water bottle was cool though. 

Then we went right to the finish to have the Brightroom photographers take our picture.  They obliged.  And, the best part, Sally Edwards herself walked up as we were posing for the picture and said, "Can I get in this picture."  That MADE MY DAY!  I can't wait until the race day photos are posted online.  I will SOOOOO be buying that one.

We wandered around a little then made the trek back up the hill to transition to get our gear and head home.  Sally was there again.  She was there to cheer on and run/walk the 5K with the last athletes to finish.  She graciously posed for yet another picture with us.

We were tired and hungry and decided to head on home rather than wait to cheer on the final athlete to cross the finish line.  This is where post-race dummy head syndrome set in.  We were totally oblivious to what we'd done until we got all the way back home.  We pulled into the driveway and opened the back of the van.  That's when we discovered that Jen's bag wasn't in the van.  Neither of us is really sure how this happened, but we managed to leave Jen's bag on the ground outside the van and drove away.  Remember, the site is an hour from my house.

We called the office to the conference center near where we had parked, and they actually found her bag and were holding it for us.  YEA!

Here's the problem.  Jen was going to rent a car to go home.  She needed her ID to pick up her car.  Her ID was in her bag.  It was 12:45.  The rental car place closed at 3.  We had to drive back to Pace Bend Park, get the bag and drive back to Round Rock to pick up the rental car in just over 2 hours.  We loaded up the kids and quickly headed back to the park.  No time for showers.  No time for food.

Kevin drove like a maniac.  We made it to the park.  We got to the office and got the bag with no trouble.  Kevin drove like a maniac back to the rental car office.  Despite the long drive, traffic, lights, and many opportunities for things to go wrong, the drive went off pretty much without a hitch.  We made it back to the rental car place at 2:50.  Whew.  Jen got her car then we finally made it to Rudy's for our long awaited post-race victory meal.

I love barbecue.  I love Rudy's.  I've also been doing this HMR Diet thing for a LONG time.  I haven't splurged very many times within the last 8 months.  All those factors plus the fact that our meal was delayed 2 hours by post-race dummy head syndrome made for the most delicious barbecue meal I've ever had.  It was GLORIOUS.

After Rudy's, we went to a new Cupcake place in Austin and topped it off with cupcakes.  YUM!  After all our running around and eating, Jen headed for home.  It's a long way from Austin to Dallas after a triathlon - especially after post-race dummy head syndrome prevents you from getting to take a nap...

It was a great day.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  The water temperature was in the 80s.  The air temperature was in the 70s.  It was perfect racing weather.  I had a great race.  I still want to improve my times.  I'm going to keep doing the Decker and the Pace Bend courses until I can easily complete a Sprint Triathlon at both locations in under 2 hours. 

I'm also officially mentally ready for an Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to do the CapTex Tri on Memorial Day 2011.  A friend recently reminded me that Lady Bird Lake will still probably be pretty cold in May, but if I don't do that one, I will do some other Olympic Triathlon at some point in 2011.  I'm ready to take it up a notch.

I'm so happy Jennifer came to do the race with me.  She's ready to move on to Olympic too.  We had a good time and look forward to more races together. 


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Little Perspective

Saturday, September 25, I participated in the Texas PurpleStride 5K benefiting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  I signed up in April, sent out e-mails requesting donations, recruited others to run, and trained with the goal of actually running every step of the 5K.  It wasn't my first ever 5K, but it was my first one since gaining back and re-losing 100+ pounds.  I was running in memory of my dear friend and co-worker Mark H-H who was ripped from his friends and family and lost his battle to Pancreatic Cancer in January 2008, just 3 months after diagnosis.

For months I focused on dieting, exercising, training, running, losing weight, etc.  For months I focused on ME.  I got frustrated when the scale didn't move in the right direction or didn't move fast enough.  I complained about running and how hard it was for me.  I whined and complained and bitched and moaned.  I even cried a time or two as I struggled to lose weight and get in the physical shape such that I could "run" and entire 5K.

Saturday came, and I wasn't really sure if I was going to be able to run every step or not.  I drove to the race site in my newly acquired purple shirt, easily found a place to park, and located some of my friends that were doing the race with me.

There were tons of people in purple shirts, vendors, a silent auction, food, coffee (from none other than John Dixson, Retro's very own "Coffee Guy"), etc.  There was a wall with paper and markers for people to write messages in honor and memory of friends and loved ones.  There were signs participants could fill out indicating for whom they were running.  There were survivors and family and friends of victims of pancreatic cancer.  Mark's lovely wife Melanie and his adorable children Emma & Rachel were there as well.

It was pretty much your standard 5K.

I've done 5K's, bike rides, triathlons, etc.  I've raised money for said events.  I've just paid my entry fee and participated in said events, skipping the fundraising part.  I've sponsored friends and family members in many such events.  I've never been so directly touched or so deeply moved by such an event.

The day was, of course, filled with thoughts of Mark.  I was not really prepared for how emotional running this particular 5K would be.

It wasn't as hot as it had been, but it was still pretty warm, and there was no shade on the course.  There were lots of participants who were walking, lots of participants with dogs and/or strollers.  It was pretty crowded - especially getting started.  I crossed the starting line a few seconds after the starting gun, clicked the start button on my HRM and started running.

I'm slow.  That isn't new.  That isn't different.  I kept repeating my running affirmations to myself:  "I am light on my feet.  I love to run."  That still doesn't really work.  I kept moving one foot in front of the other.  As usual, about 2 minutes into the endeavor, I was already tired, already panting, and already wondering if it would be OK to go ahead and walk now.  I kept going.

At about the 1 mile mark, I felt better than usual.  Maybe I am getting better at this.  I kept going.

The course was a loop around the Hill Country Galleria.  We had to run around the loop 2.5 times.  So, there was a point where I could have totally cheated and gone way less than 5K.  I didn't do that.  I kept going.

Sometime before the 2 mile mark I started fading.  That's when it hit me.  Mark is dead.  I'm here running.  I have a great life, a great husband, two great kids.  I'm tired and sweating and struggling to get fit and lose weight, but I'm alive.  Mark is dead.  This is nothing.  Mark's final days were spent in intense pain - all the while knowing that the end was near and he was going to leave his wife and young girls behind.  Wow.  What am I doing complaining about running.

Then, suddenly, I was crying.  Then I was trying to run with my heart pounding and my lungs on fire and gasping for air from the tears, not just from the running.  Still, what I was enduring paled in comparison to what Mark and his family endured almost 3 year ago.

I kept running.  Suddenly I had way more motivation to "run" the whole thing than just some stated personal fitness goal.  Suddenly I really was running for Mark.  I could stop and walk at anytime.  I could cheat and go less than 3.1 miles.  I could have a banana and Gatorade when I got to the finish line.  Mark had to face the reality and the pain of pancreatic cancer and ultimately his own death.  There was no stopping.  If Mark had to endure that, I could surely run every step of a 5K - what a small feat by comparison.  I really have no idea what struggle and pain really are. 

From that moment on, there was no way I was going to stop and walk.  I kept moving.  I was slow, but I was "running."  It was for Mark.  Whenever I thought I just had to stop, I thought about Mark.  I thought about how lucky I am.  I thought about how easy this was compared to what Mark went through.  I kept running.

This was great motivation, but it resulted in quite a few tears as I slowly finished the 5K then crossed the finish line.  I was really glad that, despite the fact that I had several friends with me participating in the run, I ran the whole thing basically by myself.  It was nice to have that epiphany by myself and to cry my way through a 5K by myself.

I'll run other 5K's.  I'll participate in other races, bike rides, triathlons, etc.  I'll raise more money for charity.  I'll sponsor more friends and family members in similar charity events.  I'll never forget how lucky I am to have the opportunity to run and bike and swim.  I'll never forget that my struggles are nothing compared to the life and death struggles of others.  Oh, I'm sure I'll still occasionally whine and complain and bitch and moan about running, the scale, etc., but I'll also try to frequently remind myself that sometimes we all need to step back and get a little perspective.

That was for you, Mark!