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!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Dam Loop

If you're from Austin and you're an avid cyclist, you know "The Dam Loop."  There are a few minor differences between various routes people take.  There are several different starting places.  But, generally speaking, "The Dam Loop" is an Austin cyclist route of passage.  If you haven't done it, you aren't a real cyclist.  Until last Sunday (9/19), I was not a real Austin cyclist.

I have a friend at work (GT) who is an avid cyclist.  He's a total nut.  He completes multiple century rides every year.  His normal Sunday bike ride is commonly over 100 miles.   He often rides the Dam Loop as a leisurely "off day" workout after work.  He has all the bike toys and gear and averages in excess of 20 mph over crazy hills and even crazier distances.

GT has been pestering me to ride with him for YEARS.  I've never done it.  My standard excuse has been that there is no way I can ride those Austin hills or keep up with him on my hybrid bike.  I finally got a new road bike.  Excuse gone.

I've still put off riding with GT.  He's fast.  He's in killer shape.  He's got 15 years on me, but he can totally smoke me on the bike.  I knew he'd stick with me if we rode together, but I hated the idea of holding him bike while I struggled up the hills around Austin.  I kept coming up with excuses.

After much badgering and my learning that my boss had finally joined GT on the Dam Loop excursion, I decided I needed to bite the bullet and make the trek myself.  I need the time in the saddle.  I need the workout.  I need to log the miles.  I need to get better on hills.  The Dam Loop is the perfect way to improve my overall fitness and my performance on the bike.  I need to do this ride.

I didn't know the exact route we would take, but I knew we'd be biking on 360, FM 2222, 620, Bee Cave Road, etc.  We'd bike across Mansfield Dam over Lake Travis.  I've driven on all those roads.  I've seen many cyclists on all those roads.  There are tons of hills - long hills - steep hills.  40 miles is a pretty long way on a bike - especially for me.  I have ridden 40 miles on my bike - once- three years ago. 

I was pretty nervous about the whole endeavor.  I wasn't looking forward to being slow and holding GT and MK back.  I wasn't looking forward to the possibility of not making it up a hill and giving up to walk.  I'm not comfortable standing up and pedaling up a hill - which is pretty much required over these hills.  I vowed that I would make it up all the hills and through the entire ride or die trying - I would fall over before I would pop out and walk up a hill.  I'm a little on the stubborn side.

I was pretty worked up about the whole thing. I'm reasonably sure I was more nervous about this normal Sunday ride with a couple of friends than all the races I've ever done.  Pretty silly.

At some point I had the conscious thought that maybe this wasn't quite the humongous deal I was making it out to be.  Maybe I had it built up so much in my mind that it wouldn't be all that bad.  Yeah.  That's it.  I'll keep telling myself that.  I made the mistake of reading this article before the ride.  Not smart.

So, I got up before the ass crack of dawn Sunday to meet everyone at Steiner Ranch Blvd and 620 at 7am.  I had to leave my house at about 6:15.  I don't do early.  I think that might have been the hardest part.

I parked my van on the side of the road, met GT and MK and we headed out.  This is approximately the route we took:

The Dam Loop

At the end, we detoured into my boss's neighborhood, stopped briefly at his house, then got back onto the main route and headed back to my car.

We stopped at a nice convenience store about 12 miles in and got Gatorade while enjoying the amazing view from the patio.  We stopped again at MK's house about 30 miles in.

The total route was 40 miles.  So, here's how it went.  I was SLOW.  The hills were hard.  We avoided "Tumbleweed Hill" on 2222 by way of River Place Blvd.  I was happy to avoid a steep downhill with lots of traffic and no shoulder, but the price for that was one REALLY steep hill in a residential neighborhood that got my heart pumping.

The views were spectacular.  It was a beautiful day.  The hill going up 360 to the Bee Cave exit was pretty tough, but I just kept moving my legs as fast as I could to try to keep my cadence up and make it up the hill.  I was feeling really good - smug and confident - until we detoured to MK's neighborhood.  Those residential hills winding from the main road to his house were brutal.  Stopping at his house took away my momentum and really slowed me down.

By the time we got back on 620 from our little detour, I was tired and my legs were feeling it.  GT warned me that the worst hill was yet to come, but I blew him off.  I had no idea that I had parked my car in the absolute worst possible spot.  My van was at the top of the longest, steepest, most grueling hill of the entire route.  I just kept moving my legs and tried to keep going forward.  There's no granny gear on my bike.  I was in the lowest possible gear.  I still couldn't make my body work correctly to pedal out of the saddle.  I just kept moving my legs.  I contemplated popping out and walking, but I could see my car - I'd come way too far and was way too close to stop now.  I just kept moving my legs.  I slowed down to the point that I was briefly afraid I was going to just tip over from sheer lack of forward momentum.  But I kept moving.

Thankfully, the last traffic light was green when I got to it.  If I'd had to stop, I'm not sure I could have made myself keep going forward on that incline from a dead stop.  I made it to my car.  Then my brain completely shut off.

I was tired.  I was shaking.  I couldn't think.  GT had to hold my bike and help me get off.  Then I couldn't find my keys.  I couldn't really talk.  He help me get in my car, load my bike, etc.  He headed home.  I just sat in my car a little while, not really trusting my brain enough to pull into traffic.  I finally got it together and drove home.  It seemed like a really long ride home.

I'll do the Dam Loop again, but I WON'T park my car in the same place.  I'll get that worst hill out of the way early rather than at the very end.  I'll keep riding and hopefully get faster.  I might never be as speedy as GT, but even as slow as I am, I feel like a real Austin cyclist.

Now, I've just gotta log the miles in the saddle, get faster, get better on the hills, and get ready for my very first century ride - I'm thinking Spring 2011.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Running Sucks

I suck at running.  I've worked at it.  I've tried.  I've used "positive affirmations."  I still just plain suck at it.

Some of it is physical.  Some of it is mental.  All of it is frustrating.

Here are the facts.  I have a total mental block about running.  As soon as I take the first "running" step, my heart starts pounding, my lungs start burning, my legs feel 4 times as heavy as they did while I was walking, and I start thinking about how long/far I have to run before I can stop.  That's the mental part.

The physical part:  I'm fat.  I'm short.  I'm slow.  Now, I have lost a ton of weight.  I'm not nearly as fat as I was 6 months ago, but no matter how you slice it, I'm still technically "obese."  I'm making progress. I'm getting closer. 

I'm really not sure, given my muscle mass, size, bone structure, body type, etc, that my healthy, reasonable, sustainable weight will ever be what is considered on the "one size fits all" chart as "normal."  I'm pretty sure I'm destined to always be considered at least "overweight" if not "obese."  Now, I'm totally cool with that.  If I'm healthy and fit and happy with my size, I couldn't care less about some dumb chart that doesn't take into account at all a myriad of stats such as body fat percentage, muscle mass, resting heart rate, bone structure, etc, etc, etc.  BUT, my predisposition to likely always weigh more in pounds than is considered "normal" doesn't really bode well for my running future.

The reality is that even though I've worked out A TON since February 1, and even though I've lost 103 pounds in 32 weeks, I'm still fat and still tip the scale at just over 200 pounds (getting dangerously close to conquering that milestone - but that's another post for another day).  "Runners" (at least of the female variety) generally don't weight over 200 pounds.

Even though I know in my head that I'm fat.  Even though I know in my head that I'm short.  Even though I know in my head that I am making progress, and I am getting better, I'm still REALLY frustrated about the whole running thing.

I started the "Couch to 5K" (aka C25K) running program June 26.  I am registered for the Texas PurpleStride 5K in Austin September 25 - raising money for Pancreatic Cancer research and support. I've been registered since March 24.  I decided I could certainly complete the 9-week C25K plan and actually be ready to RUN an entire 5K in 3 months - especially since I'd been working out and losing weight since February 1.  I wasn't really starting from "the couch."  I'd already started a little walk/run training on my own.  I had already lost some weight and was confident that the pounds would continue to come off as I trained and the calendar got closer to my first 5K since 2008.

I took it really slow with the running/walking training.  I followed the C25K plan, but I didn't "run" all that fast.  I actually did Week 2 THREE times because I didn't feel ready to move on, and didn't want to take it so fast that I sabotaged myself.

I tried to take baby steps.  I tried to focus on the progress and stay positive.  I still suck.  There are 13 days until the Texas PurpleStride 5K.  I really don't think I have a chance in the world of actually "running" the whole thing.  It's only a freakin' 5K!  I've been working out since February.  I've been specifically training for a 5K since June.  I've lost 100 pounds.  WTF?!?!?!?  It's not like I have my sights set on a marathon.  Is it really too much to ask to be able to run an entire 5K in 35ish minutes and not feel like I'm being tortured from the first step until the very last?


While I'm trying to stay focused on all my accomplishments over the last few months and on the positive things, I'm still really bummed about the whole running thing.  I thought for sure I could get myself in a state by now that I could run a 5K in a relatively respectable time.  35 minutes is barely respectable.  I'd really love to accomplish 10-minute miles, but that is such a pipe dream considering I can't even run the whole thing at any speed at this point.  UGH!

And, I'm talking about just a 5K - I just go to the starting line, run 3.1 miles, then cross the finish line.  I'm not even talking about the 5K part of a triathlon that happens AFTER I've swum 800 meters and biked 12 miles.

My goals for 2010 are modest:  the PurpleStride 5K and the Trek Women's Series Triathlon.  That's it.  I might do another 5K or two, or a bike ride if one comes up.  I might even do another triathlon if I can find one.  But generally, those 2 events are my official goals for 2010.  At this point, it's doubtful that I'll be able to run the 5K on 9/25 or the 5K portion of the triathlon 10/3.

My 2011 goals are a little loftier, but we're still not talking about a marathon or anything completely crazy like an Ironman Triathlon.  I'd like to complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon (1500m swim, 40K bike, 10K run) in 2011.  I'd also like to complete a 100-mile bike ride next year.  I'd LOVE to do a half marathon, but I haven't officially made that a goal yet.

Every second that I'm "running" and struggling and feeling like crap that I still totally suck at it, I think about the fact that the end of an Olympic Distance Triathlon involves running a 10K (6.2 miles).  I think about the insanity of my actually running a half marathon (13.1 miles).  Given my current progress, I have a LOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNG way to go.  UGH!

I will keep training.  I will keep trying positive affirmations.  I will keep losing weight.  I will do some research about various running techniques and clinics.  I will even consider finding a running group and/or a coach/personal trainer.  I've conquered other obstacles.  I'll "beat" running.  It's just taking longer than I hoped.  I am strong.  I am not patient.

For now, Running SUCKS!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hitting the Century Mark - REDUX

So, I've lost 100 pounds....again....

In April of 2007 we went to Disney World.  I was SUPER FAT.  It was miserable.  I worried about fitting into rides.  I got winded walking around the park.  My ankles ached with every step.  It was my turning point.  It still took me a while to get started.  Finally, I started a medically supervised, meal replacement diet in June of 2007.  I had a doctor's appointment and a weight loss meeting every week and stayed in the HMR "box" eating only foods I bought from the doctor. 

I also slowly started exercising.  I went to Curves 3 days a week at first.  Then I started adding cardio little by little.  The first time I got on an elliptical machine I made it a whopping 5 minutes and thought I was going to die.

After 40 weeks of strict dieting and intense training, I was down 140 pounds and going 60 minutes on the elliptical with no problem.  That's when I completed my first ever Triathlon - the Danskin - June 8, 2008.

During the Spring and Summer of 2008 I completed a 5K, a 4-mile run, a 25-mile bike ride, a duathlon, 4 triathlons, and 1 marathon relay (I only ran 5K of the 26 miles).  I never did lose all the weight I wanted.  I was still officially overweight, but I was in the best shape of my life and could fit into the dress I wore to high school graduation.  I was getting there.

Then, I got pregnant.  It wasn't really an accident that I got pregnant.  We were planning Baby #2, but we were expecting that to come a little later. Anyway, I went abruptly from hard core diet and exercising to hard core puking and sleeping.

I gained WAY more weight while I was pregnant than I should have.  Then Baby Sam came.  He is certainly worth all the trouble.  I continued to gain weight after he was born.  By the time I finished breastfeeding I had gained back just about 130 of the 140 pounds I lost before I got pregnant.


On February 1, 2010, I went back "in the box" on HMR and back to working out.  Again, Curves 3 days a week at first, then added cardio.  I still consistently go to Curves 3 times EVERY WEEK and I'm back in the swing of the triathlon training. 

Last Monday, on August 30, after 30 weeks, I got on the scale and saw a number 100.2 pounds less than the number on February 1 (which is a little over 110 pounds less than my fattest ever).

YEA ME......sort of....

Don't get me wrong, I'm THRILLED to hit the century mark.  I'm proud.  I'm happy to have said goodbye to those 100 pounds (again).  I'm happy to be a triathlete again.  I'm confident I'll actually make it all the way to my goal this time (whenever I figure out exactly what that goal is).  The thing is, it's a little anti-climactic to hit the century mark for the 2nd time.

I already lost 100 pounds, and then I gained it all back!  I remain continually worried that I will gain it back again.  It's a constant worry.  Not one day goes by that I don't think about how awful it would be to step on the scale and once again be in a place where I needed to lose 100+ pounds.

Anyway, I feel like hitting the century mark is worthy of a blog entry, but I really don't know what else to say.  I'm guessing I have between 40 and 65 more pounds to lose.  I really don't know.  I want to be a reasonable, healthy, maintainable weight for my size and body type, but because of my fitness level and muscle mass, and because I've never really been a healthy weight as an adult, I really don't know what that weight is. So, I still have a long way to go, and I don't even know exactly how much farther.

I'm still "in the box."  I still work out just about every day.  I plan little "vacation" days out of the box and try not to go too nuts eating non-HMR food.  I'm hoping to be eating HMR food + fruits and vegetables in a few months.  I might even be on HMR maintenance by Spring.  That would be nice.

I probably should have started this blog in 2007 when I started the journey the first time.  I could have blogged about my progress as I was losing the weight (both times).  But I didn't.  So, now I'll blog about hitting the 100-pound mark for the second time and about my journey from this point forward.

I'm really struggling with this post, so, in the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."


Monday, September 6, 2010

Tri-Rock Race Report

So, I'm getting to this a little late as the race was August 22, but I am getting to it.  This is my first ever official race report!  It's probably too long.  Hopefully I'll get better at this blogging thing.

First, a little explanation of how I came be be completing this race in the first place.  If you know me, you know that I went to SMU, I was in the Mustang Band, and some 15 years after graduating, I'm still a total Band Geek and a die-hard Mustang. 

The last weekend before classes start it's not unusual for the Diamond M Club (Mustang Band Alumni Association) to have some kind of event for the current band members.  They usually watch a rehearsal then have an informal gathering with hot dogs or something and get to meet the current Band members.  We talk about the old days and marvel at how much younger the college kids seem to get every year. 

Kev was scheduled to head to his brother's for the weekend to do his Fantasy Football Draft (a weekend of talking football, eating, drinking, smoking cigars, etc.).  Since I wasn't planning on partaking in the eating, drinking and smoking and I was still just on the waiting list to be in the League, I decided to pass on Draft Weekend.  I sent a message to a few of my Diamond M Club friends and asked them if the Club was going to do anything for the Band.  I thought I could head up to Big D for the weekend, hang out with friends, do general Band Geek stuff, let my kids run around campus.  Good times.

Well, I'm still not sure what's up with this, but the Diamond M Club didn't have anything planned.  However, my friend Jennifer responded to my message that while she didn't know of any Band activities over the weekend, she and her husband were participating in a triathlon in Rockwall and I was invited to join them.

Hmmmmmmm.  A triathlon. In Rockwall.  In late August.  For which I was completely unprepared. 

I thought about it for all of 30 seconds, then thought, "Sure, why not?"  Before I had much time to think about it, I had renewed my USAT membership, scheduled a tune-up for my bike, ordered a new tri suit, and signed up for the race.

Now, I've been working out consistently since February.  I've sort of been training for a triathlon.  I've had the Trek Women's Series Triathlon in Austin on October 3 on the schedule for MONTHS.  I've done triathlons before.  It wasn't my first one.  But, the Trek was supposed to be my big comeback, and I wasn't really physically or mentally ready to do a triathlon just yet.

Regardless, I was signed up, and I'm not one to sign up and not follow through without a REALLY good reason, so I decided to go ahead with it.

I got new pedals and shoes, got my bike tuned up, got my USAT membership, got my new tri suit, got all my gear ready to go and worked out child care with my Mom and Dad so I could go north by myself and not have to worry about the kids before, during or after the race.  I headed out to Big D Saturday morning.

I had to go straight to Rockwall for packet pickup.  I was AMAZED by the Rockwall High School Aquatics Center.  It was really nice - 8-lane Olympic-sized pool, diving pool, nice stands, nice locker rooms - just amazing, especially for a High School. 

I had been warned that the Tri-Rock race director was a little hard core about the whole triathlon thing.  I walked into the natatorium with my photo ID and my USAT membership card to pick up my packet.  I handed my ID and membership card to the lady at the registration table.  She had a master list that indicated my name, bib number and division.  I registered as an "Athena."  For those of you that don't know, "Athena" is triathlon-speak for "fat girl."  But, in the world of triathlon, Athenas weigh 150 pounds or more.  Now, I would be over the moon if I weighed 150 pounds.  As it is, I still weigh over 200 pounds! 

The lady looked at my name, told me my bib number was 290, then moved her finger along the line until she saw that I was registered as an Athena.  She then matter-of-factly said, "Please step on the scale," and pointed to a $19.99 bathroom scale on the floor next to her.  WTF?!?!?!  A scale?  Are you freakin' kidding me?  The Athena limit is 150.  My boobs probably weigh 150 pounds!  I kind of giggled nervously and complied.  I was so dumbfounded by the whole thing that I put up no fight and didn't even make a witty comment.  I just stepped on the scale and told myself not to be embarrassed because A) I didn't know that lady, and she didn't know me, and I didn't care if she judged me based on the number on that scale; B) It's doubtful that she gave a rats ass about the number on the scale; C) That number was significantly lower than it would have been 6 months ago; and D) I was going to complete a triathlon the next day, so screw the dumb scale.

After proving to the packet pickup nazi that I was, in fact, fat enough to be an Athena, I was guided down the line to pick up my bib, t-shirt, etc.  Packet pickup done. 

My friend Jennifer who got me into this mess in the first place was kind enough to let me stay at her place the night before the race.  I went to her house.  The day and night Saturday before the race were lovely.  I visited my Aunt and Uncle in Richardson, visited with Jennifer and Kyle (and their adorable daughter Evelyn), my lovely hosts for the weekend, and had a FABULOUS pre-race dinner at Ali Baba in Dallas.  It was HEAVENLY.  I can't wait to go back and eat there again.

Jennifer, Kyle and I got all our race gear together, set our alarms and eventually made our way to our respective beds to try to get some sleep before having to get up about and hour before the ass crack of dawn to get to the race.  I didn't sleep all that well.  I don't know why I get pre-race jitters, but I do.  It's not like I'm really "racing."  It's more like an organized workout.  I'm slow.  I'm fat.  I'm hardly a professional.  I don't compete for prizes or against anyone.  I participate to finish, to get the t-shirt, to have a goal so my workouts are about something other than just losing weight, and most importantly, because it's fun.

So, I woke up several times during the night, had goofy dreams about various triathlon disasters, and actually didn't have much trouble when 4:45 came and it really was time to get up and get ready for the race.

We all ate breakfast, got all our gear, and headed out to Rockwall.  It was a pretty easy drive since it was crazy early - the only cars on the road had bikes on the back of them - headed to the same place we were going.  Everyone else had the good sense to still be in bed.

The race nazism continued as everyone had to have their number written on their bodies by race officials at the entrance to transition.  There were race officials at transition checking bib number, checking for stickers on bikes and helmets indicating that they had passed safety inspection and then writing our numbers on us.  That made for quite the bottleneck into the transition area.

It was to be a pool swim, so our bib numbers were in the order we would start - based on our estimated 300m swim time when we registered.  My friends and I were both in the high 200's out of almost 400 participants, so we were pretty much at the end of the pack.  We found our bike rack and got our stuff ready.  Then we checked in with the USAT official to make sure our bikes were racked in the right direction so we wouldn't have our bib numbers called out at the race meeting that our bikes were turned wrong - like I said, race nazis.

We got our timing chips got all set and got ready for the start.  I was nervous.  Again, there's no real need for this.  I just can't help it.  I was totally prepared to be last overall, but I was still nervous about getting through the race, the heat, not really being ready to do a triathlon just yet, etc.  We finally had the race meeting and got way more instructions than we could possibly remember.  Then we filed into the natatorium to start the 300m pool swim.

Since I was number 290, it was a while before I got in the water.  When it was my turn, I hit "go" on my HRM watch, jumped in and started swimming.  I hate the pool swim.  It's hard to pass.  It's depressing to get passed.  Just about the time you get into a groove with your stroke, it's time to turn around.  I never thought I'd get to this place, but I definitely prefer open water to the pool swim. 

During the very first 50m length, the guy who started behind me passed me.  I tried not to let myself get too discouraged by that.  "Just keep swimming," I told myself.  "You aren't racing.  This is for fun."  I just kept swimming.  I tried to focus on staying calm, breathing, looking straight down, having good form with my stroke, being efficient in the water.  I was feeling pretty good.  As I headed for home on the last 50m length, the guy who had passed me was fading, and I passed him and got out of the pool before he did.  Though I was doing a good job of staying positive and focusing on finishing and having fun rather than racing, I still felt pretty good about catching up and eventually passing him.

I had also been worried about getting out of the pool as we were supposed to hoist ourselves out of the water - no ladder.  There were volunteers there to help, but I WEIGH OVER 200 POUNDS!  It's not like those volunteers have any chance in the world of heaving my fat ass out of the pool.  To my surprise, I made it out of the pool without looking too much like a beached whale - at least I don't think I did.  If I'm wrong, I don't want to know.  Ignorance is bliss.

Then to transition.  I'm not racing.  I'm not racing.  I'm not in a big hurry. Just get on the bike and get moving, no need to go nuts.  My friend Jennifer was #297 so she got in the water slightly after I did.  She got to transition while I was getting my bike gear going.  I'm not racing.  I'm not racing.  I'm so damn competitive.  I couldn't help but try to hurry to stay ahead of her.  Remember, I'm not racing.  I got myself all transitioned and headed out.  It was a long walk from the bike rack to the transition exit.  It sucked to walk so far in my bike shoes.  I always feel like such a goober walking in my bike shoes.

Then I tried to get on the bike and really looked like a goober.  I couldn't get clipped into my pedals.  I finally got going then almost fell flat on my ass trying to get clipped in and going.  I said a foul word - probably beginning with an "F" when I realized that I was right next to a family with young kids.  Nice.  I didn't look up, and kept going.  I finally got in my damn pedals and took off.

This is my favorite part.  I love the bike.  Even on my hybrid, I'm pretty good on the bike - especially for a fat girl.  Really, I'm slow, but I feel fast.  Like I said, ignorance is bliss.

The bike had some really moderate hills - really just slight inclines - but with my hybrid bike and my fat ass, any incline is pretty tough.  It was an out and back course, and I was pleased that I mostly kept the speedometer over the 15 mph mark up to the turnaround.  I was feeling really good about myself.

At some point on the bike - I think before the turnaround, Jennifer passed me.  I'm not racing.  I'm not racing.  Yeah, right.  I kicked it up a notch to pass her.  I really don't want to be competing with anyone other than myself, but I can't just turn off that competitive instinct. 

Then I turned around.  Whoa, the back part of the out and back seemed much harder.  Again, the "hills" weren't all that much, but I could feel it, and that smug feeling about my 15mph mark quickly faded.  I tried to stay positive and just keep pedalling.  I also tried to avoid the voice in my head that kept reminding me that finishing this 20K bike route only meant that the last, most dreaded part of the triathlon remained - THE RUN - just a 5K, but sister, I SUCK at running.

I came to the end of the bike, dismounted and walked like a goober in my bike shoes to the bike rack.  I was careful to rack my bike correctly so as not to get penalized by the race nazis.  Again, as I was making the bike to run transition, Jennifer came in from the bike.  Remember - NOT racing!!!  I took off my helmet, slipped on my visor, put on my running shoes, and headed out to "run."  UGH!

Did I mention that I SUCK at running?  I'm fat.  I'm slow.  And, to top it all off, I have a total mental block with running.  As soon as I take the first "running" step, my lungs start to burn, my legs feel like lead, my heart races, and I start thinking about how long I have to run before I can stop and walk.  I'm not big on all that "positive affirmation" BS, but lately I've been trying to constantly tell myself "I love to run.  I'm light on my feet" while "running."  Please note I use the term "running" VERY loosely.  My running is not significantly faster than the walking speed of most people, but it sort of qualifies as running and I'm working really hard to get faster, build up endurance, and get over the mental block about the whole exercise.

I started running straight away out of transition - immediately contemplating how long I had to go before I wouldn't seem like a total loser for starting to walk.  I wish I'd planned the run better.  I should have had some sort of race plan - Run 4 minutes, Walk 1 minute.  Something.  I had nothing.  I was just winging it.  I was resigned to walk the whole thing if I had to - at least that's what I told myself.  But, the reality was that I didn't want to walk the whole thing, and I was way more motivated by Jennifer being right behind me than I ever wanted to admit.  HELLO!!!  I'M NOT RACING!

So, I settled into just winging the walk/run alternating.  I would run to that light post then walk to that mailbox and so on.  I walked more than I would have liked, but I kept plugging along.  I even passed a few people.  I was also amused by all the people who passed me and offered me encouragement.  It was nice - most triathletes are really good about encouraging fellow participants.  But, I just kept thinking about how fat I was and that I was the token fat girl completing a triathlon that everyone felt obligated to encourage.  I could imagine them thinking, "Bless her heart."  After they passed me, smiled, and cheered me on.  Now, I'm not remotely self conscious about this.  I'm fat.  I'm completing a triathlon.  They mean well.  I'm not self conscious or embarrassed.  I was just amused by it.  It was helpful to be cheered on by all the various strangers passing me.

Like the bike, it was an out and back, but there was a little extra out and back.  You had to go down a street and around a cul-de-sac on both the out and the back.  That part I didn't love.  When I got to the first turn off to go around the cul-de-sac the first time, I met someone who was heading back for the last time - she was almost done.  I was trying not to think about how far I'd gone - or worse, how far I still had to go.  The lean, fit runner who didn't seem remotely spent and clearly didn't have lungs that were on fire like mine were smiled and clearly felt obligated to come up with some encouraging words for the token fat girl on the course.  "First mile done.  Great job."  CRAP!  Only 1 mile!  Dammit.  I don't want to know that.  Thanks a lot. 

There was a water stop in the cul-de-sac.  I grabbed a cup and kept going.  I took a drink, then poured the rest on my head.  That was dumb.  The water was really cold, and I kind of gasped when the cold water hit my head.  This caused me to aspirate the water I was still swallowing.  Great.  Now I'm hot and tired and trying to make it through the worst part of a triathlon while gasping for air and coughing.

I kept on.  The out and back + the cul-de-sac thing gave me the opportunity to be continually reminded me that Jennifer was still on my heels.  She was running the whole thing - no walk breaks for her.  While my "running" pace is slightly faster than hers, her endurance and ability to go the whole 5K without walking certainly gave her an edge.

I love to run.  I'm light on my feet.  This isn't working.  I'm hot.  I'm tired.  I suck at running.  UGH!

I finally made it to almost the finish line and forced myself to run farther than I wanted to - not wanting to seem like a big loser walking at the end.

Then, I crossed the finish line.  I did it.  I'm a triathlete again.  After doing 4 races in 2008, getting pregnant, gaining back 130 pounds of the 140 pounds I lost, having a baby, breastfeeding, eating way too much, not working out, getting totally out of shape, having wicked postpartum depression, then spending 7 months dieting and training and losing 95 of those pounds again, I completed another triathlon.  I'm back!

I stopped the stop watch on my HRM and noted that I had finished in about 1 hour, 50 minutes.  YEA!!!  I was really hoping to make it under 2 hours, and I did it!  300m swim.  20K bike.  5K run.  1 hour, 50 minutes.  Not bad for a fat girl on a hybrid who wasn't really physically or emotionally prepared for a triathlon and only signed up a week before the race.

I got some water, wandered around a little, then went to transition to find my iPhone and post on FB that I was again officially a TRIATHLETE.  I was hot and exhausted and a little emotional.  I didn't cry.  I didn't totally lose it like I did when I finished my very first race, but I did think about how hard it was to make this comeback.  YEA ME!

I was also VERY hot.  I don't know how hot it was, but in the 90s (at only 10:30am).  There was no shade.  The heat really started to get to me.  I found some food and some water and just plopped down on the ground under a tent.

Jennifer crossed the finish line shortly after me.  As it turned out, there were only 6 Athenas registered for this race.  Jennifer finished FIRST among them, and I was SECOND.   Although I crossed the finish line before she did, her delayed start on the swim meant that her overall time was 30 seconds faster than mine.  I would loved to have won. I really wasn't racing, but I am competitive, and having her on my heels for the entire race did keep me going.  Still, I'm not sad at all that we left with her getting a kick ass First Place trophy and my getting a cool Second Place one myself.  If someone had to beat me, I'm truly glad it was Jennifer - who has lost some 85 pounds herself and is also making a triathlon comeback.  I'm thrilled with my Second Place finish.  There might have only been 6 Athenas, but 4 of them were slower than I was, for sure one of them was younger than I am, and probably none of them have lost, gained and lost again over 100 pounds, had a baby, and battled back from postpartum depression in the last 2 years. 

Overall, the race was great.  I'm so glad I did it.  I made fun of the "race nazis," but Ironhead Productions put on a great race, and the Rockwall Kiwanis volunteers were AMAZING.  The race support was great.  The post-race food was plentiful and excellent.  The course was well-marked.  Even the t-shirt was cool.  It was a terrific day.

First and Second Place Athenas  showing off our hardware!

We collected our hardware and headed back to Jennifer and Kyle's.  Oh, I should mention that Kyle finished and did really well too.  Yea Kyle!  We got home, showered and headed out to the best part - the post-race victory meal.  We ate at Angelo's.  It was a really good Italian buffet.  I somehow managed not to eat a mountain of food.

After a nice meal and visit with Jennifer, Kyle, and their sweet daughter Evelyn, I loaded up my van and headed south.  It was a terrific weekend. 


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I've been threatening to do this almost as long as I threatened to do a triathlon

So, here I am - on the blog bandwagon.  I talked about doing a blog for a long time.  I considered doing a blog about family stuff, about baby stuff and breastfeeding, about triathlon/weight loss/fitness, etc.  I might actually someday start another blog to talk about my kids, post pictures, etc.  For now, this blog is about triathlon/fitness/weight loss.

I'm fat.  That's not news.  I've been fat basically forever.  I vaguely remember not being fat before about 2nd grade.  I remember being fat in 2nd - 6th grades.  I lost some weight in Junior High and was a reasonable weight through High School, but at the time, I thought I was enormous.

I've lost significant amounts of weight as an adult 3 times now - over 100 pounds twice.  I've never been at my "goal weight" as an adult.  At this point, I have absolutely NO IDEA what my goal weight is.  I've never been this fit before.  Muscle weighs more than fat, blah blah blah.  Presumably, I should have more lean muscle mass and less fat and be able to weigh more but still be a "healthy" weight.  Who knows.  I would LOVE to be a single-digit size.  I would LOVE to be at a size where I can walk into any store and potentially buy clothes.  And, of course, the ultimate goal is health and fitness.  SOOOOO...I'm on this journey towards some unknown goal.  Hopefully I'll know it when I get there.

In the meantime, I'll post about challenges, struggles, victories, tips, training, races, etc.  It inspires me to read the blogs of others with similar goals, similar struggles, similar accomplishments.  I hope my blog can inspire someone as well.  Join me for the ride!