sacrificing your sacred cows

9 Nov

My first really bad running injury was a dislocated cuboid bone. I’d had shin splints, pulled muscles, all sorts of things like that before, but those all happened before I was a serious runner. The dislocated cuboid bone happened once I had fallen in love with running, and there was a period during that summer where even just walking or standing was really difficult. That only healed because I found the one chiropractor who knew how to fix this type of recurring injury.

I had many doctors, physical therapists, etc., tell me that running just wasn’t good for me. I ignored them. I generally ignore anyone when I feel they’re talking out their ass, and I just knew that there was some way for me to run. Also, these were all people who were unable to fix my foot injury. The chiropractor who did fix the injury said to me, during my first visit with him, “Let’s get you back to running.”

In 2011, I found Chris McDougall’s Born to Run. I identified with so many aspects of his story, namely that he had been told by people not to run (and that, like me, he’d had cortisone shots! Ouch!). I devoured that book. I read and re-read it. I googled the names of the people in the book. I began learning as much as I could about running form. That lead me to studying Chi Running with a Chi Running instructor, and I absolutely saw measurable improvements in my running and more comfort while running, just by improving my form.

My second really bad running injury was in 2012: a stress fracture on my left foot, 4th metatarsal. This was after I completed a 1/2 marathon. Once I had a stress fracture and looked up what causes them, I had done All Of The Things That Cause Stress Fractures. I had trained on a treadmill, then run a race on concrete. I had upped my mileage really fast, with no regard for the 10% rule. I had changed my running form shortly before the race. I did it all.

* * *

I thought that minimalism was the answer. If I was getting injured, it was because I needed to toughen up my bones. I would keep working on my form, and I would ditch the thicker shoes and go for the lighter shoes. I tried running barefoot, a few times. I wore Vibrams for walking, again all in the name of strengthening up my feet and calves. And, I continued to rack up shin splints and finish runs feeling sore.

Late last year, when I bought new running shoes, I went for slightly cushioned shoes. The sales person brought up the idea of wearing Hokas, those ultra-cushioned shoes, but I wasn’t interested. I thought that what my feet needed was less cushioning, so that my arches and all the muscles in my feet would get a proper workout.

Every run since then has felt hard, and that’s been fine. I dig hard. I can do hard.

Then I had that scare with the bruise on my foot, right before my very first triathlon. Now, I think that that bruise was just something superficial, like maybe I dropped something on my foot or bumped it, but just forgot about it. At the time, though, I was afraid that it was something serious like a stress fracture beginning.

* * *

After my first triathlon, I saw my podiatrist. “I’ll do anything. If you want me to, fine–I’ll wear those ridiculous looking Hokas,” I said.

My podiatrist smiled and held up his foot. He was wearing Hokas. Insert foot into mouth…

I left his office that day confident that I didn’t have a stress fracture, but also ready to buy a pair of Hokas. I did, and went on my first run with them, just a short, easy mile.

It was a totally. different. experience.

I had worried that they would feel like running through quicksand. But, no, they feel just like regular running but without the impact. I did a few more short runs in them, wanting to make sure I eased into the new shoes.

Over and over, I would finish runs amazed–I’d feel a little winded from all the cardio, but my legs and feet didn’t ache. After every other run I was doing in other shoes, my legs and feet would feel sore, the muscles really worked over. It never got better, no matter how much I ran, so I just thought “That’s how running is; you get sore.”

Nope. Turns out that that’s not how running is. Running in the Hokas is a totally different (positive!) experience. I’ve been in them for a month, and I don’t feel sore or tired after running, anymore. Since buying them, I’ve done training runs, a 5k, and now the run portion of a triathlon while wearing them. My run times have gone down, not up–I’ve gotten faster–and I’m having zero evidence of injury or any other negative consequence.

* * *

Sometimes, you’ve got to sacrifice your sacred cows, your dogma, your long-held beliefs about the way that things “should” be done. People recommended Hokas to me for years, and I resisted them because I was so attached to the idea that minimalism was best, minimalism was what worked for Chris McDougall and so many other Born to Run followers.

Now, I think that it’s great if minimalism works for someone–anything that gets you running. I’m all for it! But minimalism hasn’t worked, for me. These shoes feel so good. That’s something I haven’t been able to say, even after giving it a solid effort of time, attention, training, and money. I dig my shoes, because they have me running (even if I still think they look kiiiiind of ridiculous).

marin county triathlon

9 Nov

Triathlon #2!

Saturday, I completed the Marin County Triathlon. But before that: my foot is totally fine. I had a visit with my podiatrist. He said no stress fracture–maybe just a teensy “little baby neuroma” that is causing some of the foot numbness. He suggested Hokas and custom orthotics. I will offer a separate post on that, sometime.

But first: Triathlon #2! Triathlon numero dos! The second triathlon!

The Past Month

The past month has kind of sucked, training-wise. I’ve felt borderline sick. I haven’t gotten my ass into the pool. I only got in one really good road ride. I’ve been doing more running–which is awesome–but overall, I’ve been disappointed with myself for not pulling it together to get more training in. I’ve let busyness creep in, and when I’m feeling really busy, I feel resistant to what feels like another “have to,” another “appointment,” which is showing up for a training session.

I kept with it, though, because of this: I want to feel like a triathlete. One triathlon, does not a triathlete make. That was really the only thing that kept me going.

I was sick the entire week leading up to the race. Nausea, a head cold, the works. I had been told that there were places that rented triathlon wet suits nearby, and it turns out that they had stopped doing this. I was really busy with work, and didn’t feel like I had time to research triathlon wet suits and actually make an informed decision about it.

But, with 24 hours to go, I decided I just needed to get a freaking wet suit, so I went to a local triathlon store. What luck! They had one, used, for $100. That was fine by me, because I felt like for a first wet suit while I’m figuring out what I do and don’t want, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, anyway.

Race Day

I headed down to Marin, only about 30 minutes away, and had an easy time setting up at transition. There was only one thing I hadn’t realized, for some reason: this was going to be a bay swim. Like, a legit bay swim, in the San Francisco bay. For some reason, I had thought that it would be more like a slightly enclosed harbor type of area that fed out to the bay, not literally swimming out in the ocean.

Also, it was really cold. Even with a wet suit, I kept thinking that my hands, head, and feet were going to be freezing. I was having thoughts like, “What if I get hypothermia?”

The swim was the thing that I’d felt most resistant around and most afraid of. I hate being cold, and I’m such a shitty swimmer, it’s not even funny. The day before the race, I kept telling my husband, “If I could just finish the swim, I can do the rest.”

Much to my surprise, the swim ended up being a really lovely part of the day. For one thing, I was a much, much stronger swimmer than the last time that I did a triathlon–not so much stronger from a physical perspective, as I was stronger from a mental perspective. It was a lot less jarring, because I understood that once the gun went off, I’d be in the “wash cycle” of arms and legs and splashing. I started off with strokes that kept my head above water and this was a good idea, because I got oriented in what I was doing.

By the time I rounded the first buoy, I was feeling better. A few times, I flipped on my back and fluttered my feet to take a break, and looked up at the sky and had the joyful thought: I’m swimming way out in the actual ocean! How cool is this? How amazing is it to be doing this?

I exited the swim feeling good, even smiling. I went to T1 and changed out of my suit and into my biking gear, fueled up, and headed out for the ride.

My mentor/spin instructor/friend Holly had told me that the Marin County Triathlon was a hilly course. She was right–but again, I felt grateful for spin classes. These were hills that I could handle, and I know it’s because Holly has us rocking out in class. I pushed my pace as much as I was able, but more than anything, I was in awe of the views–the course was running along the coast, the air smelled sweet, the roads were closed to all traffic so we had them completely to ourselves. Wow, wow, wow. Absolutely stunning and gorgeous.

When I rolled in to T2, my legs had that tired, rubbery feeling again, just as they had in my first triathlon. I fueled up more and changed into my running shoes. Just as I did with my last triathlon, I reminded myself that this is just how it feels, and my job was to push the mental game and keep my feet moving.

There were more hills on this run course, and those were hard, but I kept moving as best I could, took only a few walk breaks, and…

…rolled into the finish chute with a final time of 1:48 and some change. Not bad! It was technically a faster triathlon than my last, which was 1:55, but this course had a longer swim, yet a shorter bike ride, so the times probably average out to be about the same.

What was different

I ended this triathlon feeling genuinely happy and genuinely proud. Knowing that my feet were okay and not having just tweaked my neck, I felt like I had more time to just enjoy myself. My run time was a bit faster, which I’m super proud of given that this was a course that had some big hills, and given that running is my favorite of the disciplines.

Like my last triathlon, I experienced very little muscle soreness that day and felt a little tired the next day, but otherwise completely recovered. That feels like another success, as well, because it points to my overall fitness.

I’m ending this triathlon season having lost some weight (about six pounds) and needing to hike up the waist of my jeans. I’m injury-free. I’ve made some incredible new friends, and I’ve been proud of myself for the times when I did follow through on my training plan.

This race–the Marin County Triathlon–is the one that has officially hooked me. As I was heading out to my car, I overheard two people talking, assessing their performance and trading notes. I had been thinking of just the same things. The air in my bike tires was low, this race, and I know that that slowed me down a bit, as did the fact that I still haven’t installed my clip pedals (I know, I know, I know). I don’t have a proper triathlon kit, and that slowed me down at transition (I wore a bikini under the wet suit, and put running/cycling clothes on over the bikini, rather than just stripping off the wet suit and heading out on the bike).

It was the swim that did it for me, in this race. All this time, I’ve been thinking about how much I hate the swim, and yet the memory of flipping on my back for a moment, floating in the San Francisco bay, looking up at the sunshine, is a joyful one. The gorgeous views from the coast–wow.

All of this will prepare me for Vineman.

Because after such a great triathlon, I registered for Vineman 2016.

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my first triathlon

29 Sep

Kate Swoboda runner triathlon

The last few weeks have been a blur. They’ve been a blur of training, and disappointment, and not training, and injuries laced with anxiety. Here’s the whole story.

Shortly after my last post, a suspicious bruise showed up right over my fourth metatarsal (that’s a toe bone) on my left foot. That’s the exact location where, back in 2012, a bruise showed up that indicated a stress fracture.

I freaked. For about 24 hours, I was in total victim-mode. Why me? Why, when I had been so conservative in my training approach, not cheating and running more miles than I should, following my training plan exactly, wearing great shoes, etc., etc., was I getting another stress fracture? Why, why, why?

My husband told me to chill, reminding me that it could be a random bruise. There was no pain when I pushed down on the area, the way there was whenever I had had the fracture back in 2012–that had clearly been a fracture, and even a light touch hurt like a mother. So far, it was just a bruise that I’d noticed on my foot. No pain.

I decided, right then and there–I am DOING THIS TRIATHLON. I had four weeks to go. I would stop running for the next four weeks, but continue with my swim and bike training, and if game day arrived and I had to walk the 5k portion of the triathlon, then I was walking the 5k portion. I would stay off of my foot until then, but I was DOING THIS TRIATHLON.

Within 24 hours of making that decision, the bruise was inexplicably gone. Gone! This indicated that maybe it wasn’t a stress fracture, after all. Stress fracture bruises are kinda gnarly and tend to hang out for awhile.

Nonetheless, I was not taking any chances. No running! I’d go about my daily life with the usual amount of walking, but that was it.

* * *

If I’m completely honest, while my decision that I was DOING THIS TRIATHLON was powerful, emotionally, not being able to run (my favorite of the three disciplines) was a total bummer. Some of my enthusiasm for training died down a bit, then.

It also coincided with starting to both attend a class and teach a class, both of which fell on the nights when I usually did Master’s Swim and then spin class, so I didn’t have the community that I so loved connecting with. This was temporary, only during the month of September, but still–I was doing all of my training, alone. It again reinforced how important community is to all of this.

For the next month, my foot didn’t hurt in the metatarsal area, and I didn’t run, and I saw no bruises. And then…

…about ten days before my triathlon, my cuboid bone felt kind of sore one night. Years ago, back in 2006, I had a slightly subluxated cuboid bone and took forever to get any help for it, and then it didn’t want to stay in place when I finally went to the doctor. That injury took something like two years of stops and starts before I finally found a chiropractor who knew how to fix it. I hadn’t had any issues with this since…maybe 2011? 2010? So to feel that dull ache in that area, especially when I wasn’t running, again had me feeling totally irritated and victim-ey.

Then it went away.

Then, on the Thursday morning before my triathlon, I sat up in bed, and–bam–my entire neck muscles were all spasmed out. I could not turn my head from side to side, nor up and down. All of the muscles between my shoulder blades and on up into the occipital region were irritated and tight.

Thursday night, I hit the wine bottle, hoping it would relax everything. Nada.

Friday, determined that I was DOING THIS TRIATHLON, I called up my doctor and asked for muscle relaxers. She obliged. I took them Friday night before bed, and woke up Saturday feeling about 50% better and able to move my neck from side to side (important when you swim, yes?).

I had enough of a prescription for Saturday night, so I packed up all of my gear and headed to the hotel where I was staying so as to be close to the triathlon location (otherwise, that would be a really, really early morning).

Saturday night, I had a glass of wine at the hotel, and a few hours later, I took the Rx, again. I woke up Sunday morning, triathlon day, feeling about 90% better.

* * *

Sunday morning, I headed out to the triathlon with all of my gear. I was totally nervous. I had just learned how to take my bike tire on and off of my bike, the day before. Getting it together in the parking lot before I got inked and set up my transition area was a little nerve-wracking, but I stopped and said one of my favorite mantras: “There is a solution to this problem. There is a solution to this problem.”

Having read books about triathletes and endurance athletes all of these years, I felt like I knew a lot, going in–as if I’d studied for the event for a long time. Setting up my transition area, I felt pretty relaxed. I tested the water and it was bath-water warm, so no wetsuit needed. I saw some of the other women who were doing the same triathlon and said hi.

Then, it was time. We all headed over to the reservoir where the swim was taking place, and the gun went off. The reservoir had some seaweed-like stuff at the bottom, which was weird to walk through, but then I dove in.

For the first several minutes, I felt completely thrown off. I couldn’t get into a rhythm with my swim. When I’m in the pool, I count off a “stroke, stroke, breathe” in my head, but my arms and my impulse to breathe weren’t timing up. I knew from all of these years of reading about other triathletes that the most important thing in the swim is to control your breathing. If your breathing is out of control, your heart races, and you can’t get your wits about you to keep swimming. So, a few times, I rolled onto my back and lightly fluttered my feet and focused on my breath. That helped, and finally I found my rhythym with it and was able to complete the swim. I finished the 400 meters in about 12 minutes. Funny, the swim feels like the longest portion of everything, even though it’s really the shortest.

I was in T1 for an insanely long time (11 minutes). I felt really disoriented after the swim, and wanted to be sure to get all the sand off of my feet so as not to create blisters and problems while cycling and running. I didn’t feel like eating, but I had a gel and a Luna bar, anyway, again because of all of the triathletes I’ve read about who shared anecdotes about how they didn’t fuel at transition and later regretted it.

I felt much more confident once I was on my way on the bike. I got going, and then decided that I was going to push my pace for this race. (I was feeling a little fatalistic, frankly, thinking things like, “You never know; this might be the last race that I can ever do given that my foot keeps acting weird, so I’m going to go for it.”)

The benefit of all of those spin classes really showed when I was on the bike. I really wasn’t tired, and I finished the bike in 44 minutes and felt strong once I was off. I spent a lot less time in T2 (5 minutes) and again I didn’t feel like eating but I did another GU and plenty of water, anyway, and then it was time for the run.

Again, because I’d read all of these other triathlete stories over the years (seriously, reading about other people’s experiences has been so helpful), I knew not to freak out about the fact that my legs felt like lead. Even though I felt really good coming off of the bike, I knew that it’s common for your legs to not go as fast as you think they should be able to go. I started the 5k portion off with just walking, and then once I did that, I got to it with running.

The run was HARD. It was hard because I hadn’t been running for a month, and it was hard because I’m not a really great runner even on the best days and much less of a runner when I’ve just done a swim and bike beforehand.

Mostly, it was mentally hard.

Sometimes, when I’m biking, I get what’s referred to as “hot foot.” It’s a numbness in the foot and no one really knows exactly what causes it other than it being related to bike position. When it happens, it always happens in that same old area where I had a stress fracture years ago; the same area with the mysterious bruise.

I was getting “hot foot” while running. My head started to go wild. Was this a stress fracture? What was wrong? Why was this happening, now? Should I stop? Would I do more damage if I kept going?

And then, I went back to: I AM DOING THIS TRIATHLON.

If a stress fracture was emerging, then, well–too late for me, anyhow. Not finishing this triathlon wasn’t going to change that. I’d rather end the day a triathlete with a stress fracture than a DNF with a stress fracture, if that was how fate was going to play her cards.

By the end of the run, the numbness had stopped. As I approached the finish chute, I upped my speed a bit and arrived, red-faced, at the finish line. I had finished the run in 33 minutes. My overall time? One hour, fifty-five minutes.

* * *

For the hours following the race, my biggest feeling was one of disappointment.

Yes. Disappointment.

I felt briefly happy when I took pictures with friends and cheered for them (three women I knew hit the podium for their age group!), but heading home, I felt tired and disappointed.

Again, the mental game: Why the issues with my foot? What were they? What was going on?

I hadn’t gone to a doctor before the race because my podiatrist had said that a stress fracture wouldn’t show up on a bone scan or x-ray for a few more weeks–so I wasn’t going to get any new information about my foot, and it wasn’t hurting, so there wasn’t much that I could “do” about anything.

Part of my frustration is that I had a hint of what was going on: I have auto-immune Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, and while Western medicine is very reductive and focuses only on one thing at a time (thyroid), the reality is that my whole endocrine system is out of whack. When your endocrine system is out of whack, you’re at greater risk of bone fractures.

My disappointment was that yeah, sure, I had finished the triathlon, today. I had willed myself through, despite injury, and that’s great. But–was I going to now have to quit? Was I, again, going to have to go back to the drawing board with injuries? And was I, again, going to feel the frustration of going to doctors and saying, “What’s going on, here?” and as per usual, they don’t have answers, so I’m again on the internet for hours trying to figure out who’s a quack and who’s legit with alternative approaches? All of that, again?

I got home, talked to my husband a bit about how I was feeling, got some more post-race nutrition, and as the day went on and I looked at the pictures from my race, I began to feel happier. More grateful. It felt like a stretch, on some level, but the more I stretched to “feel into” the happiness and the gratitude and the pride in my accomplishment, the happier I did start to feel.

Then I really got how much I had been up against: the injuries, the lack of time, the lack of confidence, and all of the things that I had to get over in order to do this. I’d been up against all of that, and I hadn’t quit.

That, I felt really proud of. When I tapped into that, I could really celebrate the day fully.

* * *

Now, I’m a few days post-triathlon. I haven’t really felt sore, which becomes another thing to be proud of–it points to my overall fitness that I could do an endurance event with minimal soreness. My neck continues to get better. My foot is still a big question mark, but I have an appointment with my podiatrist.

And more than anything, I’m excited about doing another triathlon. I’m excited about getting back into spin class with my peeps. I’m less excited about swimming (that’s still a meh for me) but looking forward to it, nonetheless.

Given the foot issues I’ve had, I think it’s probably always going to be sprint triathlons, for me. Then the run distance is kept to a minimum. But I like the idea of improving on my overall time and staying fit by cross-training among the different disciplines. I love the community. I think I’m sold!

5 weeks to go

21 Aug

I added up all of the training hours that I put in during an average week, the other day: eight to ten hours. Usually more like eight.

My first thought: “Really? That many?”

I’ve never been someone who worked out that much. When running was exclusively my thing, I’d do half-hour runs with longer weekend runs, 3-4 times weekly, so maybe 4-5 hours weekly of running when I was training for the half-marathon that I did in 2012. Maybe.

The report:

I’ve stuck to a routine. This is really great news, for someone who has resisted routine with workouts.
I’ve been struggling a bit to figure out how to keep myself fueled without eating those junk granola bars that are so quick and handy, when I’m moving between one workout to another.
I tweaked-ish my back a little over a week ago. I think a tight hamstring tugged at the wrong moment when I was bending over, and this caused some issues with my lower back. Fuuuuuuuuuck. Luckily, it healed quickly. Wine is a powerful healer (and muscle relaxer). I’m paying attention to trying to get that hamstring to chill out; I’m not sure why it’s so tight.

Triathlon is in five weeks. There are more things that I want to say about it all, but not enough time. I’m going to be late for a master’s swim workout!

the triathlon community

24 Jul

I had always heard that the triathlon community was pretty welcome, inclusive, amazing. When I started going to spin class at my gym (the class lead by an instructor, Holly, who has actually won her division at several Ironman and 70.3 races), I immediately saw that the people were friendly. Very cool. If there’s one thing I’m not a fan of in life, it’s when that Mean Girls high school attitude shows up among grown women.

Holly knew that I am doing my first tri in September. She told the entire class and started organizing people to join in, and now several people are registered to participate–meaning, I’m not doing this alone. Then I became Facebook friends with a few people. Red gave me training tips. Debbie saw me in the locker room before I was heading out to the pool. “Are you coming to Master’s swim?” she asked. I told her I was not a great swimmer, couldn’t possibly, but she let me in on the secret: “Master’s” just means that you’re older, not that you’re actually a master. She introduced me to the instructor and offered to share a lane, knowing that I am a weaker swimmer and would be intimidated sharing a lane with someone really fast and good. I’ve been invited to a party celebrating Vineman. We’re all going to head to Sausalito to watch a running documentary in two weeks.

The inclusiveness of this community has been a motivator several times when I felt like bailing on a scheduled training. But instead of bailing, I went, because of the community effect. I want to be ready to hang with them in September at this triathlon. I don’t want to miss the conversation in spin class. I have only attended a few of the Master’s swim classes, and already I can see how helpful it is to see better swimmers in action, not to mention the drills and having other people around makes swimming laps way, way more interesting.

I had no idea that I’d meet really great people who would be so warm and welcoming and open. I also had no idea that it would be such a motivator around accountability or just staying inspired.

I now understand that having a community to interact with is actually a huge part of success. Wanting to do a triathlon isn’t the same as actually training for one. There’s a lot more soreness and schedule juggling and feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing with actually, truly training! I don’t think I’d be hanging with this in the same way, without them.

why do this

21 Jul

The voice in my head, the ego/inner critic/fear stuff, was going crazy about two weeks ago.

Why bother doing this? It’s not like you’re working for world peace. No one gives a shit whether or not you complete a triathlon. It’s going to be a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of time. You’ll have to negotiate more child care. You’re going to feel busier and more pinched for time. Why do this?

My interest in triathlon started after I was waylaid by a stress fracture in 2012. The fracture happened because I ramped up training for a 1/2 marathon, way too quickly. Stuck on the couch and jonesing for some cardio release, I ordered You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg and was immediately hooked. I started going to my gym’s pool for aqua jogging shortly thereafter, at which point I realized that I couldn’t swim a single pool lap without my heart rate going through the roof. I didn’t know how to swim. Next came a few swim lessons.

Then I got this big idea in my head that I wanted to do a half-Ironman. Then came infertility, and sadness, and then came re-committing to triathlon training, then came baby, then came total overwhelm.

So when that voice piped up asking me, “Why do this? Why bother?” I searched myself for a good answer.

What I came up with, was this: I just want this to be the summer that I trained for my first triathlon.

For nearly the past two years of my life, my mind has been focused on pregnancy and baby-baby-baby. I don’t regret that, and I wouldn’t have chosen differently, but I also see how within the past few months, I had arrived at a little tipping point where something had to shift. Life could not be waking up, childcare, work, childcare, cramming time with friends or husband into the nooks and crannies, go to bed and get up the next day and do it again, all while I was feeling like I had less energy.

Whenever I thought of training again, I’d just feel tired and overwhelmed. It didn’t feel like the right time.

Then, about six weeks ago, I started really realigning my priorities with my vision. I decided that the “Big Stuff” needed to come first–point blank, no excuses, no negotiations. I asked myself what went on my “Big Stuff” list, and it was family, writing, unstructured time, and triathlon. Of all the things I wanted to put on that list, triathlon training was there.

I realized that I had to stop waiting for it to be the “right time.” I had to stop waiting for when life would “feel normal again” after having a baby.

If a triathlon was something I wanted to do, had longed to do for the past three years, then it was time to just train for it.

So why do this? Why bother?

I’m doing it because I want to be fit and healthy, and running alone has clearly run my body into the ground a few times, so the cross training helps to keep me active.

I’m doing it because already, even only a few weeks in, I feel like a happier, saner person just from the catharsis of all of that exercise.

I’m doing it because it reconnects me with something that I felt pre-baby…like my life could be my own, and that could be okay.

I’m doing it because I want something in my life that isn’t career or family, something just for me.

And mostly, I’m doing it because for several years now, I’ve wanted to, and I’m tired of longing for something and being fascinated by people who do the something, and watching documentaries and reading books about the something. I want to do the things I long for.

Really, you gotta figure that there’s something to this for anyone who trains. It’s not like sitting on a bike saddle for a long time is exactly comfortable. Swimming is a pain in the ass. Running is the thing I like best, of course, but even I get annoyed with little aches and pains, and don’t want to make time for the foam roller.

Point blank: I believe that if we want to do something, we owe it to ourselves to give it a try when it’s something that keeps coming back and coming back.

I don’t have a lot of time. I feel guilty when I’m at spin class and don’t see my daughter before bed. I make trade-offs around housework. There’s always another plate spinning in the air.

And yet, I’m happier and less overwhelmed and far better able to deal with any kind of stress, because I’m doing something I’m excited about doing. That’s worth it.

excited and happy

14 Jul

I am doing things that I didn’t think that I could do. Like last week, when I swam that half-mile followed by a one-hour spin class, and then running the next day. Or yesterday, when I went to my Godawful Yet Crazy Effective Weight Lifting Class and then topped that off with a run when I got home. After typing this, I’m going to head to the pool and theoretically cap off another swim followed by another spin class.

I say “theoretically” because I feel like I’m always kind of looking out for a potential injury. This means that I’m both being very careful, as well as feeling very paranoid. The threat of injury feels like the monkey on my back. Last week, my inner knee felt a little wiggly-strange-sore, and it was hard not to catastrophize the entire thing, projecting into the future where I’d require surgery.

(Oh, hey–drama!).

But also? I’m excited and happy. I’m sore, I’m tired, and not a single day goes by where I don’t think, “Can I actually do this?” But alongside all of that, I’m excited and happy. Also, really purposeful. It’s not that my life didn’t have purpose, before, but it’s so cool to me, to be evaluating my day and asking myself what training piece I’m fitting in that day, and then executing that piece and feeling good about the fact that I finished. When I sleep, I’m thinking about recovery, and when I eat, I’m thinking about fuel.

I love this!

Vineman 2015

12 Jul

First, an announcement: this past week, I swam 30 laps in the pool. I did four laps at a time, with resting in-between. Oh, and great news: my arms did not break off. Only after getting out of the pool and calculating things did I realize that this is just shy of a half-mile. I’m feeling much more confident that I can manage a 1/4 mile swim in eleven weeks. (Totally aware that unless you actually know me IRL, you couldn’t care less about this little factoid. But me? I’m doing the happy dance!).

* * *

But the bigger story: for the second year in a row, I went to Vineman as a spectator. I watched some of the later swim waves, and watched everyone moving from the swim to bike transition. I took copious notes: Walk bike to the top of the hill before clipping in; pour a little water on feet before putting on socks to remove any sand; don’t bother accelerating out of T1, because there’s a stoplight and cars and it’s dangerous and the cop directing traffic will probably make you slow down, anyway.

I went to get a cup of coffee, and when I returned to T1, I was shocked by how many people had already left. The swim portion of the race was almost over, and the thought occurred to me: I wonder who’s going to be last–and how being last will affect them.

Someone always has to be last, you know? Even if everyone was pulling a blistering pace, there’s always going to be the last person to exit the swim, the last person to exit transition.

The thought occurred to me that I very much desired to clap for the last person, just as much as I was curious as to what he or she would be feeling.

The last person to exit transition was a woman. It turned out that there were a lot of us who didn’t know her, who stood along the course sidelines (which were already being dismantled by the volunteers) to cheer her on.

I had wondered if she would feel demoralized, look sad, look hurt or tired.

It was none of those things. She just looked happy. Excited. I watched her pulling on her bike shoes and un-racking her bike, and she was chatting with a friend the whole time, a big grin on her face.

* * *

There’s a woman in my spin class who is completing Vineman, today. She just decided, much like I did a few years ago, that she was going to do a triathlon and that Vineman would be her first, and she started training. She has a kid and a full-time job.

As I was surveying the race, I kept feeling like I wanted to follow this rush of, “Yeah, this is what I want to do!” and then reigning that in. For now, I hold that feeling in check. I’d like to finish this sprint in a few months and see where that leaves me.

But there was this moment when I heard, very clearly, the voice in my head going, “You’re a mom; you’re running a business; if you decide to start training for this race, it’ll just be an empty promise. You’ll start, but then you’ll quit.”

Then I thought of this woman in my spin class. I looked around at the other spectators, many of whom were family, many of whom were toting around babies. When I was getting coffee, a woman with a three-month-old was behind me in line; her partner was somewhere out on the course.

That’s when it came to me: “Duh. Parents and people with full-time jobs run these races.”

You know how something can be completely obvious, but when it hits you, it feels like this life-changing OMG kind of realization? It felt like that.

I’m still keeping myself in check. I’m pretty sick of being injured, and throwing myself full-force into a training plan for anything has been my kryptonite. Though back to that half-mile that I started this entry with–I didn’t realize that I was going for that long. I just swam a comfortable pace, with a few breaks, for a set amount of time. No pushing, no trying to “get better.” Just getting out there, and putting in a decent effort, for a set amount of time. Keeping it simple, no pressure. Sounds like a legit plan for me.

twelve weeks and counting

7 Jul

This always (!) happens to me: I make up my mind that starting on X day, I’m going to ramp up my training.

Then I get sick.

I also, by the way, have an uncanny predisposition to getting foot injuries right after I buy a new pair of running shoes (and not injuries from the shoes. Last time I bought running shoes, I tripped in the driveway as I was getting out of the car to bring the new shoes inside, and sprained my ankle).

The fact that I’m currently getting over a cold is your tip that I must have recently said to myself, “I’m going to get super consistent about my training.” However, I haven’t recently bought any new shoes, so my feet and ankles should be fine, for the time being.

This scares me to type: I have twelve weeks to my first triathlon.

Adding to the pressure accountability, some people in my spin class might be doing this triathlon with me. This means that bowing out would be very public.

This is the training schedule I’m trying out for the next few weeks:

Monday: attend godawful highly effective muscle/cardio class at my gym; evening run
Tuesday: late afternoon swim followed by evening spin class
Wednesday: running day–low effort to build in a bit of recovery
Thursday: late afternoon swim followed by evening spin class
Friday: running day, with evening vinyasa flow class
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

With everything, right now I’m going for time more than anything specific or structured. Go to the pool, do laps for 20-30 minutes. Finish the spin class. Get moving for the run.

I’m using the app 10k pro to manage my runs; it calls out start and stop times for alternating walking and running, which keeps me honest so that I don’t over-do it.

* * *

Actually, wait. There’s something else to share, here.

I’ll share that I feel completely stupid typing every single sentence that I’ve just typed. My fear is having a field day.

I share that I’ve been sick and fear goes: “They’ll just say that that’s an excuse.”

I share that I have twelve weeks to triathlon, and fear goes: “Everyone knows you’ll never make it. You’ll quit.”

I share that I’m attempting a particular training schedule, and fear goes: “Everyone is going to look at this training schedule and see all the problems with it, all the places where you aren’t planning it right.”

I share that I’m going for time rather than anything specific or structured, and fear goes: “That’s a lame way to train; your training should have a focus.”

This despite the fact that I know that every choice I’m making is just simply this: me, doing the best that I can.

The truth is that I feel a little sick to my stomach with sharing any of this. It all feels overwhelming and impossible, and quite out of control, like I can plan all that I want and even be consistent and put the time in, but I still might feel like a failure again in just a few weeks. Every time I get an injury, I feel like I’m weak. Every time someone trying to be helpful says, unhelpfully, “You probably got injured because you were pushing too hard,” I want to snap at them, “You have no fucking clue. I was taking it slow. I was pacing myself. Then I tripped in the stupid driveway.”

But here’s what I know: I’m going to go for this. I really hope that in three months I’ll be writing my first race report, sharing all about how awesome it was. I also hope that in the weeks leading up to the race, I’ll be sharing about how good I feel as I get progressively stronger.

I won’t have expectations about that, however. I’ll just keep staying with this: I have hopes for where this can go, and I won’t give up.

Um, you have to actually sign up.

20 Mar

In my last post, I talked about how fear can keep people from copping out and fully showing up. They’ll say they don’t have time for things, and really they do–they just aren’t making the time, because they’re afraid.

Well, first things first: since my last post, I have been training. I’ve focused on running because that’s where I’ll get the fastest cardio gains that will benefit me with the bike and the swim. That’s also what’s easiest. Lacing up shoes and hitting the pavement is easier than special shorts and helmet and gloves and checking the bike tires onandonandon, and definitely easier when time-crunched than driving to the gym for a pool work out.

So that’s the good news. I’ve been training, regularly. I’ve even thrown in vinyasa flow pretty regularly and have been taking a new approach at my studio, going as fully as I am able into every pose rather than deciding to sit out the hard ones (ha!).

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way (whew! thank goodness that I’m not coming back here to report that yet again, I fell off the wagon with doing any training!), there’s the part where it hit me today that, “Um, you have to actually sign up.”

If my goal is to one day do a half-Ironman, then at some point I’ve got to actually do a sprint triathlon, and then an olympic. Back in December, I was all over the online boards that post triathlon events, thinking about all the training I’d do and how by April I’d be so ready for a sprint triathlon (I had my eye on the HIITS series in Napa Valley).

And now it’s March 20th and I know that there’s no way I’d be ready for a sprint triathlon in three weeks. I can definitely swim 750 meters in a pool. I can definitely bike 12 miles. I can most probably run 3 miles, and my only hesitance in claiming that comes not from a cardio perspective (I know I’ve got the cardio) but as someone who has been injured something like, oh, fifty MILLION FUCKING TIMES, I would hesitate to run three miles in combination with those other activities all on the same day, for fear that it would tip me into the injury zone.

All of those activities as separate events would be an effort, but do-able.

It just probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

Moving in increments

I’ve moved in increments. I’ve gone from no training, to haphazard training, to training regularly and not copping out on myself about it.

Now, if I actually want to do this thing, then I’ve got to actually sign up for an event. (Why sign up for an event, rather than just enjoy training on my own? Because I LOVE events. I love the racing environment, all those people together and the nervous tension and the cheering and the 10-second countdown and the camaraderie).

Next step: sign up for some freaking sprint triathlons.

I’ve just spent some time online and have identified three triathlons that I could do this year. Two are sprint distance, one is olympic, and all give me a few months more to get my bearings with training.

Next step: telling my husband I want to do them (which is sort of making it official even more than registering for them, because hey–child care. Critical).

I’ve also identified a few 5k races that I can participate in between now and this fall, just so that I’m not jonesin’ too hard for that race environment. It will be fun to do a few short fun runs in community with other people.

Speaking of moving

I alluded to something in my last post that I wasn’t yet able to share details on. The deets? We bought a house! A little more than a week ago, we moved! It’s kind of a crazy experience to have gone through the whole mortgage process and become homeowners, all while juggling my business and being a mom.

Some great news in all of this? The garage is huge, and we don’t really need to use it for our cars. I’m thinking about bike trainers. Also, the new location of the house is closer to some more bike-friendly avenues that are less heavily trafficked than our old house.

I’m excited about what is to come, this year. I feel like finally, the path is cleared for me to dive into training the way that I’ve always wanted to.