Friday, November 14, 2014

This Blog has Moved!

Hi all,
If you have arrived at this site, please know that I am now writing at a new address.

Please feel free to peruse the archives of my thoughts on writing and life here @ Ironmatron.

My new blog is @

jojogetback.blogspot.com


Monday, January 27, 2014

Boston Prep 16 Miler Race Report

On Sunday morning I headed up to Derry, New Hampshire to race the Boston Prep 16 Miler.
I had planned to drive to the race with my friend Melissa. But then, just as I was leaving my house, Jordan called.

Jordan (oldest daughter), Andy (husband), Noah and Lara (middle and youngest) were in Salem (one hour away) at Jordan's swim meet at Salem State.
They had just arrived.
And Jordan realized she had forgotten both her warm-up suit and her racing suit at home.

AWESOME.

So, instead of driving with Melissa (sorry, Mel!) I drove solo to Woburn, half way between where we live and Salem, and met Andy to give him the suits. Jordan had a good meet, so I suppose I did the right thing. ;) But I was sad not to drive with Melissa, since one of the major reasons I signed up for the hell that is the Derry 16 Miler was so that I could socialize with my friends before and after the race!  I tried not too pout too much since Andy had the really raw deal: an all day swim meet (not that bad) with Noah and Lara in tow (ouch--bad). Andy has raced Derry before, so luckily he didn't look at as he had a totally raw deal. If asked to switch places he would have laughed.

Derry is a really, really hard race.

Here's what makes it hard:

It's always bitterly cold. (This year, for example, it was -5 with the wind chill.)
It's always really windy--as in arctic blasts in your face-- when you reach the tops of the hills.
The hill climbing is RIDICULOUSLY steep and some of the hills (like, umm, miles 11-12.5) go on for ever.
The competition is also ridiculously steep since only the tried and true, hard-core, totally bad ass runners do this race. It's not for the faint of heart, that is for sure.

I have not run longer than 15 miles (and I have only done that once) since IMLP in 2012. I knew I could pummel through the race anyway; the question really was at what point would I really start to fall apart. My guess was around 90  minutes, since that has been the distance of my longer runs in the last 1.5 years. I was right. Things got pretty ugly around the 11 mile mark.

But I am jumping ahead!

I arrived at the race, found my friends, and we proceeded to chat nervously about how many layers to wear and how much fuel to take in during the race.  I  especially fretted about whether to wear one layer of tights or two, and whether to wear a full hat or just a headband that kept my ears warm.
I finally decided on two layers of tights and a headband.
In retrospect the two layers of tights were smart, even though I HATE running in layers as it makes me feel like I can't move. The headband was the wrong call, though. I shoulda worn the full hat. It was that cold. By mile 5 my pony tail was frozen (from my sweat) and whipping back and forth in a solid mass of ice.


Here we are before the race. From left to right that's me, Maria, Kat, Jen, Robie, Jeff, and Melissa. Most of the people in this pictures kicked my ass.

Okay, so we jogged to the start and snaked our way toward the front of the pack. This race is actually pretty large. I think there were a little over 500 runners this year. That is not a huge race, of course, but that's a lot of people if you consider the difficulty of the course and the weather! That's 500 rather insane people.

More insane--and awesome--were the volunteers. If I felt frozen running the damn race, I can only imagine how cold those on the course marshaling and handing out water were. Thank you to the Derry Running Club and to the officers on the course! That's like angel material --standing and helping for hours in that kind of weather!

I felt pretty good starting the race. For the first 1/2 mile the crowd of runners in front of me prevented me from taking it out too fast. This is a good thing; I have trouble holding back at the start. I ran near to my friends for the first 2-3 miles, but I gradually lost them since they were all moving at a quicker pace than me. I decided to shoot for 8 minute pace. Again, given the hills, even an 8 minute pace was a bit aggressive for me! But I felt pretty good, if bulky from clothing, for the first 6-7 miles. I went easy up the hills and tried not to brake on the downhills too much in an effort to save my quads. I've noticed I am a far better, and more aggressive, descender than most people. I've also noticed my climbing is really weak compared to people who run my pace. So for most of this race I would lose my "crowd" of 8 minute milers and then on the downhills I would pass them all again. Over and over.

Mile 7 snuck up on me and when I saw it I thought! Awesome! Already mile 7! And then it hit me that I was not even half way there! I had a little panic/weepy moment right then. I felt okay, but I was already starting to fatigue a bit, and I still had 9 miles -- and with the worst of the hills to come.

I love this picture because it's silly, but also shows the actual elevation profile of the race. You can see that though you do some good climbing by mile 7, the really tough hill running comes at about miles 11-13.

I was on target to run about a 7:45 pace average by mile 11--and then, as I wrote earlier, things got kinda ugly. I really really slowed down going up that big ass, long hill (the one with the vulture at the top!). Also, the wind was against our faces at this point. I did have a few moments were I pondered whether I would actually make it to the end, and if I did, how ridiculously slow my time would be. Then I had that awful thought that you get when you are suffering in a race, and it occurs to you that the current race you are running is only a tiny fraction of what you expect yourself to do at IM in a few months.

That's never ever a good thought to have.

After the hills I pulled it together a bit, although I admit that I was getting passed more in the last three miles than I was passing. I made my goal to get back that 8 minute pace I had planned on. I managed to finish in 2:07:40 or so... which means I just barely made my goal! 7:59 pace...
Right when I finished my left quad started uncontrollably twitching. I hate that! I think it's a cramp ... but what it looks like is the muscle being stimulated by an electrical current or something. It didn't stop for like 5 minutes!

But, the important thing here--I finished.

And now it was time for a beer! After changing, we headed out for a meal and a beer. That was, of course, the best part of the day!

Next up: The Cape 10 Miler--and it's next weekend!
Hopefully I will be able to walk by then...

Friday, January 17, 2014

BODY FAT

This post is actually about data again, but I figured if I labeled it Body Fat you'd be more likely to open the post and read it. Am I right?

I got a new scale.  It's one of those Tanita scales that supposedly measures your weight, your hydration status and your body fat.

Okay, I know. I know that body fat scales do not work. But wait! Before you decide I'm totally dumb for wasting my money on one, let me explain my thinking. I figured the scale could provide me a ball park idea as to my body fat, and then I could try to whittle that number down over the next months until IM CDA. So, if the scale said 20% body fat, I would just try to get 19%. Who cares whether the scale is accurate; what matters is that the number decrease over time, not increase. That makes sense, right? Let me also explain that I am interested in my body fat percentage because all of these data measures I'd like to employ rely on having a good estimate of my lean body mass. To determine lean body mass I need to know my body fat percentage. Capisce?

I got the scale about three weeks ago. In that time my body fat has ranged, according to the scale, from 14.5% to 24.5%. That is no small range. What I've realized is that the percent of body fat the scale believes I have is related to the hydration status it thinks I have. So, if I'm dehydrated according to the scale, my weight might be less, but my body fat is high. If I am fully hydrated my weight is higher, but the body fat reading is lower. 

The problem here is that I don't think the scale's determination of hydration status is even right. There have been times I have gotten on the scale after hydrating like crazy for 24 hours, and it reads I am dehydrated. Likewise, there have been times that I know I am dehydrated, and it reads that my hydration status is awesome. The way the scale reads hydration seems to be more correlated with whether I am retaining water because, say, I've had something super salty the night before or because I'm a few days out from getting my period. This makes me wonder: what is the relationship between hydration status and retaining water? Are they the same? If I am holding onto water before my period, does that mean I'm hydrated? That must not be right... 
Anyone?

Okay, so why do I bring this all up?

First, because I want you to save your money and abstain from buying a bod fat scale, because they read... something, but I don't know exactly what. It's not body fat, I do know that. The margin of error between 14.5% an 24.5% over a three week span is a little too great to put any stock at all in the scale's reading. I think my body fat is somewhere in between those two numbers, but who knows exactly where.  But also, I want to bring up this frustration I have, again, with data.

In my post a few days ago I brought up the fact that the accuracy of the Training Peaks' (or WKO's) performance management chart relies upon accurate threshold numbers on the bike and run. If the FTP  (functional threshold power) is overestimated (more generally the problem than under-estimation) than the chart will be skewed, and will not accurately determine fatigue levels (not that this can be perfectly charted even with a "correct" FTP estimation), and hence things like planning peak weeks and taper are harder to manage correctly. 

This problem is also true for the determination of lean body mass, which is the key piece of data in determining both fueling needs when training and what one's appropriate weight might be for executing, say, an Ironman. For example, it's thought that a BMI of about  20-21 is the "right" number for a female  who is trying to execute (well) an Ironman. That number is different for a female runner, whose ideal BMI would be slightly less than that, or a swimmer, who BMI might be greater. The problem is, of course, that BMI is determined by height and weight--but it doesn't distinguish the type of weight the athlete is carrying.  A muscular woman might have a higher BMI than a more waif-like athlete, but that might be because the "leaner" athlete has less muscle and a more body fat than the heavier athlete. This is corrected by determining weight of lean body mass rather than simply weight, and lean body mass is determined with a knowledge of one's body fat
Which, it seems to me, is fairly impossible to reliably determine. 
There are other methods of determining body fat, but all of them have rather large margins of error--especially the use of calipers--which is how most athletes determine their body fat. 

So we use these tools--like the performance management chart--and measures--like lean body mass--which rely on one key piece of data (FTP, BMI), which is often -- well, wrong--which renders the whole tool basically useless.  

This winter I decided I would try to be more consistent in my use of measures to determine my progress and my atheltes' progress. But the door that continually slams in my face is that these measures are based on unreliable data. You name it--determining fueling for training and racing, assigning correct pacing strategies, executing training based on power or heart rate, managing body composition--all of these things rely upon having correct data--and as far as I can tell, the data we use is nearly always flawed data.

So, I am agnostic.

When I said I want to believe in data like I want to believe in God, I truly meant it. The more I know, the more I understand there are no perfect measures--there is nothing that can be relied upon as more than a generality that may or may not help one to manage training--or anything else in life. 

When I was younger I think I believed that those who liked mathematics liked it because there is little ambiguity. In math, I reasoned, answers are right or wrong.  But the more I understand, the more I realize that those who are truly involved in math know that there are really never any precise, exact, correct answers. The mathematicians must be the most agnostic of us all! Is this true math people? If you are a math person... please speak to this. 
Conversely, we language arts type people, while believing we deal in agnosticism, read because, I think, we want to make sense of the world--we want to draw conclusions that give us peace and answers. 

I still use the data. 
I have been absolutely zealous about my assignment of TSS to my workouts and to those of my athletes (as in, I assign scores to things that are not scored, I monitor scoring, try to keep "accurate" FTP and HR data plugged in etc). And I do things like buy totally useless body fat scales to help me to track my hydration and body fat, and I try to eat the exact amount of carbs for my weight, and the right amount of salt, and the write amount of liquid per hour while training... and so on---and I try to get my athletes to do the same.

And then I think, why? 
The measures could be so off... Is this even useful? 
What is that expression....?
I looked it up: George Box-- "All models are wrong--but some are useful."

But we rely on this models to be right--or at the very least to provide us insight. And with a body fat reading between 14.5% and 24.5%--can we even have insight? With an FTP number that is too high (Can you REALLY do that wattage for an hour? I will put money on the fact that you can't...) can we even specify with any kind of certainty what is the correct TSS allotment to try to hit on the bike in an Ironman?

and so on.
I actually wrote a post on this in like 2009. Here it is. It's better written than this one, I think. Just goes to show that even though I have always claimed agnosticism I keep trying to have faith.
I really want to believe in God.






Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ranty Rant Rant.

I've been thinking I kind of just want to sit on my butt.
and  I feel guilty about that.
and I feel scared about that...like, Dear GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Just last month I submitted applications to do doctoral work in English,  applied for a few teaching jobs, decided I needed to work harder to build our coaching business, and started kicking my own arse in training so I can be super human at IM CDA.
One minute I am Ms. Overly Ambitious, and the next I am contemplating whether it's worth it to toast the bread or just eat it as is because toasting requires too much effort.
What does this MEAN? I mean, other than that I am mentally ill and I clearly need lithium. or Prozac. or something like that.

Which of course I already knew and so did you, but still. Why can't I at least be consistently mentally ill in like one way? Why do I have to be all I WILL CONQUER THE WORLD and prove I am worthy--and I will do it tomorrow because I need to prove it before I die, which could be GOD KNOWS, like tomorrow. It could! and the next minute I am so over that achievement stuff and really I just want to read trashy novels, hang with my dogs, and make banana bread--except that even making banana bread seems like too much of an effort.

Yesterday I sat in my bed in the middle of the day and read Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which is such a funny little book, but the point is I sat in bed and read and I could've been doing like 500 hundred different things to help move me toward the things I supposedly want--like a PhD, or a teaching job, or to make our coaching label as prominent as like ... CTS.

I have no point in my rant. I think I'm just really trying to figure out what to do next. I realize this is getting old. Or, actually, I haven't written for like three months, so maybe it's just old TO ME, and not you. Or maybe it's getting old for you, too. It probably is. How many times can I write about how conflicted I am before you all start pleading with me to PLEASE SHUT UP and just live and work like everyone ELSE?

Yep. I mean, I even annoy myself if it makes you feel better. And I have to be with me ALL THE TIME. Can you imagine? Can you imagine what it's like to live in this brain that WILL NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT THINGS IN ALL CAPS?

Dear Lord it is hard to be me.
I jest.

Anyway, this bleckity bleck is not what I intended to write about.

I intended to write about the performance management chart in Training Peaks.
Maybe I'll do that now, because I know you are on the edge of your seat like PLEASE, Mary. PLEASE TALK ABOUT the PMC in TP so I can begin to understand my CTL/ATL/TSB and my TSS! Right? Wasn't that what you were thinking?


Okay, well, the problem with talking about all this acronymic stuff is that I don't want to explain the whole thing. (I know some of you know to what I'm referring. Unfortunately, not enough of you know to what I'm referring, and since I'm feeling LAZY, I don't want to explain it.)

So I will speak in generalities.
Let's talk DATA.
I like data. I like data, even though I'm not a person who generally likes mathematical minutiae, but I like DATA when it comes to measuring, or better, predicting, performance. I like it because it's a bit like fortune telling.

I am the all knowing coach. If you just upload all information from that handy Garmin of yours, I will interpret the metaphoric lines, design a plan that is perfect and realigns those lines, and I will get you to KONA!
The problem is, that doesn't really work.
It doesn't work for many reasons. Here are two:

1. No one always uploads data. In fact, most people get lazy and upload like 75% of it max. 75% doesn't make for good data interpretation. In fact, it makes it meaningless. So scratch the performance management chart as a tool right there --even if with all the data it might possibly sort of work.
2. FTP estimation is freaking bogus--and the whole PMC stuff relies on the correct measurement of FTP.  There are so many variables involved in the estimation of FTP that can't be controlled for by the coach, and really, things like TSS don't mean JACK if the FTP isn't sort of well, spot on.

SO, many of you are thinking. Yes... yes you can estimate FTP.
But really... let's talk about that.
Inside or outside?
How tired or not tired (how negative or positive was your TSB going... bahaha) going into the test?
CADENCE? Because if it was below like 80 rpm at any point that's kinda cheating.
Did you really do that first five minutes all out -- ALL OUT? really? you really did?

Oh, I could go on and on.
So, I know. It's an estimate.
You know what we never ever do to measure the thing we are trying to measure with FTP? We never actually go at the door and do a 40K TT.
And why? It's too stressful.

So we overestimate the FTP and then train using that magic number... and yet, that's NOT too stressful?
ahem.

This is also a rant. And why am I ranting? It's just a rant kind of day for me, I think.

But truly, I think I rant out of frustration. Because I want to be able to palm read, and I want to be able to palm read ESPECIALLY for me. What combination of training, resting, and fueling is going to get me to the finish line with my arms triumphantly raised in the air?

I want to believe in data like I want to believe in God.

For that matter, I just want to believe, People.
Can you tell me what wrong road I took to end up such a cynic?

------------

One of my dogs, Chica, is eating a raw hide bone right now. It's the happiest moment of her day, I think.
When she came to live with me she had no fur. She wouldn't let me touch her. She itched and scratched all day. She was a bloody, scarred mess.
It's taken her a long time to adjust to life here, with us. She is Floridian: she detests the snow. She wears a coat from October to May.
So since last March, when she came to live with us, I have brought her to the vet again and again. My vet, (Dr. Durso--he's the best) has helped Chica. He figured out what she was allergic to (everything) and now she takes daily anti-itch medication and also has allergy shots every few weeks. Dr. Durso also discovered she had Heartworm. We treated that--which was a bit rough for her. She's better now.
Now she's furry. And warm. And although she is still pretty shy, and doesn't like strangers much, she plays with the other dogs and when she is snuggling and I scratch behind her ears she licks my cheeks.

I write this because just watching Chica enjoy her rawhide gives me peace.
And I wonder if I could just stop chasing the dream that if I can just write the right paper, or hit the right FTP, or find that magic unicorn that will allow me to think I am doing just fine, then I could spend the rest of my life just helping and loving Chica.
or the metaphoric Chica.
and that would be enough.




Saturday, January 11, 2014

Here I am


It's been so long since I have posted that I don't know where to start.

In my last post, in September, I wrote about how things were about to get really crazy. I started graduate school in English.
And so things did get crazy-so crazy I wasn't even able to write a sentence in this blog. I did write quite a bit, though--in terms of writing papers and writing comments on student papers.

Even though I was busy and pretty stressed out, I liked the work. I wrote an interesting paper (to me--and maybe to those who like Henry James) interpreting Isabel's destiny in The Portrait of a Lady.  Maybe I should post all 20 pages of it here?
Just kidding....  

I need to admit that I have no idea what I'm dong right now... I mean, in terms of my next step. Or, I know some things. Like today I will take my youngest daughter to ballet and my son to a karate belt ceremony. In terms of the next few months, I'm signed up to take a class on Dickens and Eliot. I'm also training for Ironman Coeur D'Alene in late June. I also may take a sub position teaching 5th grade history and English.

Or I may do none of those things. Or just one of them. I have quite a few competing voices in my head telling me what to do. It's getting pretty loud in there, and the louder it gets the more I want to just shut down and do nothing but stare at my dogs as they play.

I find that soothing. Watching dogs play is a good pastime, I think.

In the last few years I've started and stopped so many projects. I have an appetite for taking on big goals and seeing how far I can get with them. The problem I think I'm having right now is twofold. First, I have three children and five dogs. I thought as my children got older that I would have more time, but that's not the case. The time is allocated differently, but it is the same amount of time as when they were younger, despite that they are in school during the day. I keep thinking that NOW is the time to get back to my a professional life--isn't that what other mothers do at this point? But when I try, I become so harried and stressed that I no longer enjoy the pursuit of the professional--and I shut down and throw the professional goal to the wind.

The other aspect of the problem is that at middle-age, I'm starting to battle myself in terms of my over-achievement. There is a voice inside now that whispers, Mary, you do not need to be the best at what you love, you just need to pursue the things you love.
My modus operandi has always been that if you love it you should master it.
So, it's not enough to read James. I must write a dissertation on James; it must be published; I must teach James. Or, it's  not enough to compete in triathlons. I must do Ironman; I must get to Kona; I must be a coach to those doing Ironman. and so on. Apply that thinking to virtually anything I decide I love to do.

I figure... I'm writing to the long course triathlon crowd. Right? So most of you must know what I mean? Because I know you are like me. Any advice or commiseration is welcome.

But let's talk about training!
Because too much of that schlock above is tiresome. We both know that.

The truth is, I actually HAVE BEEN TRAINING! After taking a long time off, and then executing an extremely short season, and then taking MORE time off, I have started training. I am working with the ever-patient Kurt. I'm trying very hard to be a not-quite-as-high-maintenance- athlete as I have been in the past.

On January 5th I ran a 5k in Maine with Jordan. She almost beat me. Things are getting close at this point. I ran a 21:09. She ran a 21:40. I have been running 25-30 miles a week in training; she has been running 0-5 miles a week in training. Anyway, I placed 3rd overall, and Jordan was 4th overall. I'm sure it annoyed all the hard-working age group women that a 12-year-old sprinted ahead of them--and then stayed ahead of them. But I'm proud, because she is MY little peanut. Or she was a peanut. Now she's nearly as tall as me.

Here we are post-race.
Jordan finishing.
























And me finishing.





















It was a slushy, icy day. The footing on much of the course was not good, and neither Jordan nor I had the appropriate shoes for those conditions. But we still had fun. After the race we took Noah and Lara out for a big pizza lunch. Andy missed the fun... because he was in Massachusetts taking care of all our pooches.

Next up is the Boston Prep 16 Miler in Derry, NH. Locals know this race! It's a super hilly course. A bunch of us from my running club are racing it.

I've been loving the training lately. It feels so good to be back at it.

It's been so long since I have posted that I don't know where to start.

In my last post, in September, I wrote about how things were about to get really crazy. I started graduate school in English.
And so things did get crazy-so crazy I wasn't even able to write a sentence in this blog. I did write quite a bit, though--it was just writing papers and writing comments on student papers.

Even though I was busy and pretty stressed out, I liked the work. I wrote an interesting paper (to me--and maybe to those who like Henry James) interpreting Isabel's destiny in The Portrait of a Lady.  Maybe I should post all 20 pages of it here?
Just kidding....

I need to admit that I have no idea what I'm dong right now... I mean, in terms of my next step. Or, I know some things. Like tomorrow I will take my youngest daughter to ballet and my son to a karate belt ceremony. In terms of the next few months, I'm signed up to take a class on Dickens and Eliot. I'm also training for Ironman Coeur D'Alene in late June. I also may take a sub position teaching 5th grade history and English.

Or I may do none of those things. Or just one of them. I have quite a fe competing voices in my head telling me what to do. It's getting pretty loud in there, and the louder it gets the more I want to just shut down and do nothing but stare at my dogs as they play.

I find that soothing. Watching dogs play is a good pastime, I think.

In the last few years I've started and stopped so many projects. I have an appetite for taking on big goals and seeing how far I can get with them. The problem I think I'm having right now is twofold. First, I have three children and five dogs. I thought as my children got older that I would have more time, but that's not the case. The time is allocated differently, but it is the same amount of time as when they were younger, despite that they are in school during the day. I keep thinking that NOW is the time to get back to my a professional life--isn't that what other mothers do at this point? But when I try, I become so harried and stressed that I no longer enjoy the pursuit of the professional--and I shut down and throw the professional goal to the wind.

The other aspect of the problem is that at middle-age, I'm starting to battle myself in terms of my over-achievement. There is a voice inside now that whispers, Mary, you do not need to be the best at what you love, you just need to pursue the things you love.
My modus operandi has always been that if you love it you should master it.
So, it's not enough to read James. I must write a dissertation on James; it must be published; I must teach James. Or, it's  not enough to compete in triathlons. I must do Ironman; I must get to Kona; I must be a coach to those doing Ironman. and so on. Apply that thinking to virtually anything I decide I love to do.

I figure... I'm writing to the long course triathlon crowd. Right? So most of you must know what I mean? Because I know you are like me. Any advice or commiseration is welcome.

But let's talk about training!
Because too much of that schlock above is tiresome. We both know that.

The truth is, I actually HAVE BEEN TRAINING! After taking a long time off, and then executing an extremely short season, and then taking MORE time off, I have started training. I am working with the ever-patient Kurt. I'm trying very hard to be a not-quite-as-high-maintenance- athlete as I have in the past.

On January 5th I ran a 5k in Maine with Jordan. She almost beat me. Things are getting close at this point. I ran a 21:09. She ran a 21:40. I have been running 25-30 miles a week in training; she has been running 0-5 miles a week in training. Anyway, I placed 3rd overall, and Jordan was 4th overall. I'm sure it annoyed all the hard-working age group women that a 12-year-old sprinted ahead of them--and then stayed ahead of them. But I'm proud, because she is MY little peanut.

Here we are post-race.


It's been so long since I have posted that I don't know where to start.

In my last post, in September, I wrote about how things were about to get really crazy. I started graduate school in English.
And so things did get crazy-so crazy I wasn't even able to write a sentence in this blog. I did write quite a bit, though--it was just writing papers and writing comments on student papers.

Even though I was busy and pretty stressed out, I liked the work. I wrote an interesting paper (to me--and maybe to those who like Henry James) interpreting Isabel's destiny in The Portrait of a Lady.  Maybe I should post all 20 pages of it here?
Just kidding....

I need to admit that I have no idea what I'm dong right now... I mean, in terms of my next step. Or, I know some things. Like tomorrow I will take my youngest daughter to ballet and my son to a karate belt ceremony. In terms of the next few months, I'm signed up to take a class on Dickens and Eliot. I'm also training for Ironman Coeur D'Alene in late June. I also may take a sub position teaching 5th grade history and English.

Or I may do none of those things. Or just one of them. I have quite a fe competing voices in my head telling me what to do. It's getting pretty loud in there, and the louder it gets the more I want to just shut down and do nothing but stare at my dogs as they play.

I find that soothing. Watching dogs play is a good pastime, I think.

In the last few years I've started and stopped so many projects. I have an appetite for taking on big goals and seeing how far I can get with them. The problem I think I'm having right now is twofold. First, I have three children and five dogs. I thought as my children got older that I would have more time, but that's not the case. The time is allocated differently, but it is the same amount of time as when they were younger, despite that they are in school during the day. I keep thinking that NOW is the time to get back to my a professional life--isn't that what other mothers do at this point? But when I try, I become so harried and stressed that I no longer enjoy the pursuit of the professional--and I shut down and throw the professional goal to the wind.

The other aspect of the problem is that at middle-age, I'm starting to battle myself in terms of my over-achievement. There is a voice inside now that whispers, Mary, you do not need to be the best at what you love, you just need to pursue the things you love.
My modus operandi has always been that if you love it you should master it.
So, it's not enough to read James. I must write a dissertation on James; it must be published; I must teach James. Or, it's  not enough to compete in triathlons. I must do Ironman; I must get to Kona; I must be a coach to those doing Ironman. and so on. Apply that thinking to virtually anything I decide I love to do.

I figure... I'm writing to the long course triathlon crowd. Right? So most of you must know what I mean? Because I know you are like me. Any advice or commiseration is welcome.

But let's talk about training!
Because too much of that schlock above is tiresome. We both know that.

The truth is, I actually HAVE BEEN TRAINING! After taking a long time off, and then executing an extremely short season, and then taking MORE time off, I have started training. I am working with the ever-patient Kurt. I'm trying very hard to be a not-quite-as-high-maintenance- athlete as I have in the past.

On January 5th I ran a 5k in Maine with Jordan. She almost beat me. Things are getting close at this point. I ran a 21:09. She ran a 21:40. I have been running 25-30 miles a week in training; she has been running 0-5 miles a week in training. Anyway, I placed 3rd overall, and Jordan was 4th overall. I'm sure it annoyed all the hard-working age group women that a 12-year-old sprinted ahead of them--and then stayed ahead of them. But I'm proud, because she is MY little peanut.

Here we are post-race.

Monday, September 9, 2013

And the Moral of the Story is...... Pumpkinman!

OH, I really love this race. A few days before the event Ange asked me why I liked it so much. There are many things to love about Pumpkinman. Among them: the venue is gorgeous, the course is fair but pretty fast, the race director, Kat, puts a lot of time into the details of the race, the post-race food is amazing--better than any other race I have every been to--, the booty is awesome, and the entire volunteer/organizing party is incredibly friendly and helpful. But my favorite thing of all about this race is that it is a big, MAINE race. So I know a ton of people. I love it when I know a ton of people!

A few weeks ago at Timberman I had an awesome race, and the week after that I had another great race at the REV 3 OOB Oly. Both performances were sweet and special gifts from the Triathlon Fairy. Yes, the Triathlon Fairy: She's the one who allows you a great race even though you have been super lazy and unfocused for... like a year.  Unfortunately, this weekend the Triathlon Fairy decided to spray her magic fairy dust on some other lazy soul--not me. I can't complain. She showered me in that dust for two whole races, right?

So. The race was a tough one for me from the moment my face hit the water. But you know what I always say-- When the Tri Fairy doesn't show up, at least I have my grit on which to fall back.
Or that was what I was trying to tell myself over and over again as I plowed through my race on Sunday. It sort of worked. Sort of.

Yep. I needed grit yesterday. My freshness has given way to a bit of fatigue, for starters. And... take away both that freshness and the magic dust, and what was I left with? Sadly, not a backlog of fitness to count on! Nope. Just ... grit. And also some joy, despite the need for grit. I'm still pretty psyched to be racing these days. So I had that too. Joy can actually take you farther than you might think.

One thing that made the race joyous - (okay, I know the word is corny. How about... made the race fun? special? awesome?) was that some of my favorite people in the world were there. Alina came down to watch, and brought with her Maria (her daughter) and my Jordan. Thank you, Alina! xo Kurt was there--and that always makes me happy and makes me race better, and my good friend Mike was there too, taking pictures and supporting and making me laugh. And of course, Ange was there.  If you haven't yet read her race report it is here.  I love it when Ange and I are able to race together. There's nothing more reassuring than seeing her on the course as I work to stay tough.

So, the actual race...

I was hoping for a quick swim. I have felt pretty good in the water all summer. But alas, it was not to be! I knew within about 15 strokes of starting that the swim was not going to be easy. My breathing was labored, and I lost the lead girls almost immediately. After I caught my breath I did gain some ground, and swam with another woman from my AG for the whole first loop. Then the waves got all mixed together (it's a two loop course, so new waves joined us as we swam on) and I lost her. The rest of the swim I spent weaving around other swimmers.  I did not feel bad, exactly--but I knew I didn't have that feel-good-fire of my last two races, either. I was just sort of... swimming. I'd push, and then pull back, then push, then pull back.

I stumbled getting out of the water, but by the time Mike took this pictures I was smiling.
Of course I was smiling! Even on a tough day I love to race !


I was first in my AG out of the water, but not the first to exit out of my wave. We were mixed with the 45-49 year old women, and two of them beat me -- by a few minutes I will add!  

There is a large ski hill that we had to climb coming out of the water. In a twisted way it's fun. Kat, the race director, gives out a special award called "The Hill Climb"-- awarded to the athlete who is able to ascend that bad boy the fastest. I was not that person! I really wanted to keep my heart rate in check, which was already beating wildly as I exited the water. Unfortunately, no matter how slowly you run it, running up a steep, grassy hill in your bare feet after a long, hard swim will jack your heart rate. I tried to remind myself that I wasn't the only poor soul who had to climb that mofo ... even though the whole time I kept thinking... I'm so tired! Poor me! I  need to save myself for that bike! 
and speaking of.

Onto the bike! 

As I mentioned in my last post, I dropped from elite to age group so I would have people around me as I rode the bike. I hate racing the bike all alone. I  need people around me to push me--people who I can catch and snake around and well, race with!
But alas, moving to the AG ranks did not really help.  I was still alone! I was in one of the early swim waves, and because I am a decent swimmer I beat a lot of the athletes in the first three waves out of the water. The result... there were very few people on the bike course when I got there. This never really changed. I spent a lot of that ride alone. Some of the faster men were about--but they usually just sailed right on by me. No chasing allowed if you must ride 100 watts higher to achieve that chase... 
There were a few women I would pass and lose, who would then catch up and pass and lose me. One was this 55 year old woman with a QT2 kit on who I later learned was Janet. HOLY MOLY if I can ride like that in 12 years I will be thrilled! She was awesome. There were also two Cyclonaut women with whom I played some chase. I later figured out it was these women who beat me out of the water. They then went on to beat me on the bike. 
and then the run. 
ouch.

For the first part of the bike I was working hard. 
I was working hard... but my speed sucked! I reasoned this could be for one of three reasons. 

1. I had a flat.
2. A brake pad was rubbing against the panel of one of my wheels
or 
3. I was super out of shape and had no business attempting to do a second 70.3 in a three week period. 

Naturally I figured it was number 3. I would KNOW if it was a flat, and I suspected that a brake rubbing was wishful thinking on my part. But the longer I rode, the more I thought... Okay. I know I am in lousy shape, but I am literally not moving! WTF!  So, I finally got off my bike 58 minutes into the ride, spun the back wheel and GRRRRRRRRR observed that my rear brake pad was hitting the wheel, and then realigned the wheel so the offending brake was free. 

argh! I was pissed. 
but then I got over it.  
my bad. 
my fault. I should have spun the wheels as I racked the bike. Etc. 

Things after that point got a little better. I was faster, and not using as much energy as before. I still wasn't feeling super awesome and speedy, though. And my joy was definitely subdued. I admit I felt a bit pissy thinking of the speed I had lost and the energy I had used to push a bike with a slightly rubbing rear brake. But eventually I got over myself. That is racing! Things go wrong--and often those things are your own damn fault. So... you try to fix them. Then you keep going. 

And then I had another snafu. When I came close to ending the bike I slipped out of my shoes and carefully began to place my feet on top of the empty shoes. Except suddenly one of my shoes twirled and scraped the ground and my bike leaped, stopped short, and I fell to the side. 
I know. 
I am so cool. 

Mike snapped this picture right before my debacle. I couldn't get my feet back in my shoes, and I couldn't even get them on top of my shoes without falling! (ummm. hello embarrassment.) 
So I jumped off my bike and ran the final eighth of a mile or so to transition. DOH. 


I made transition REALLY FAST to try and make up for my "dismounting" fiasco. I also hoped that maybe Mike was my only friend who had seen my blunder. But then I commented on this acquaintance's post on FB, and he said, Mary- were you the one coming into T2 w your feet out of the bike pedals when you stopped on the hill?

Ummm. yeah. That was me. 
Hello I am a dork!

Okay, so onto the run!
Mike caught me coming out of T2. Happy face!


In Ange's post she talks about that little devil that sits on your shoulder and tries to convince you you can slow down, that you don't really care--that you don't mind if that chick ahead of you kicks your ass. Usually I do some battle with that devil. But alas, not this time. This time that devil totally HAD ME! 

One of the Cyclonaut women came off the bike with me, and we started the first mile together. She passed me; I passed her; she passed me... 
I ... let her go. 

My reasoning went something like:
I don't care.
I don't care. 
I don't care. 
I don't care.

I would have brief flickers of YES! I care! But they would fade... and hence Cyclonaut women faded into the distance. I did have one great moment when Alina and the kids drove by in the car and honked and said GO MARY! And I smiled! And I waved! And I picked up my flagging spirit and RAN! 

and then I got tired and started to shuffle again.

I ran the first mile in 7:30. I told myself... Mary. Just keep them at 7:30s. I ran the second mile in 7:46. I told myself Mary, just keep at 7:45s. I ran the third mile in 8:06. I told myself Mary, just shoot for 8:10s. I ran the fourth mile in 8:16. 

I stopped making deals with myself and flicked my watch off. 

Sometimes you just have to turn the fucking watch OFF. You know? 

And then, I saw Ange! And she read my mind, or maybe she was reading her own, and she said, STAY TOUGH! 
And she was right. I needed to stay tough. So I did. I kept running! The only deal I made with myself was this: Don't stop pushing and do not, under any circumstances, stop running. 

And smile. 
Try to smile. 

So that was my game plan. I admit I nearly wept in self pity on this small (but it seemed mountainous!) hill in the last quarter mile of the race. But other than that I kept smiling! and I kept running! And I kept pushing! 

And I finished! 

And then I wet my pants. 

I was really nice, though, and told the young dude taking chips off that he should probably wait to take my chip off until I finished pissing. I  mean, it's not like I MEANT to piss. It's just I've had three kids and when I work really hard and I'm really tired... well. The old bladder just goes.

The boy looked at me askance and than called over to this girl, also taking off chips, who had on rubber gloves.

Okay, then!

I finished in 4:59: xx. A few years ago I finished this same race in 4:52--so it wasn't exactly a stellar performance for me. But I must say it's not a bad performance given that I am no longer fresh, but I am also not exactly fit. 

And also, I'm proud. I gutted that sucker out! And I was ninth overall woman. And I was first in my AG by 15 minutes. So that's good. I'll take it! 

(Thanks for the picture, Jeff!)
(Just so you know I changed my shorts before this picture was taken. Just saying.)






Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Things are about to get really crazy.

I will be honest. Things are always crazy here.  As most of you know, I'm Type A, pretty neurotic, slightly OCD and more than slightly ADHD. Lots of labels there. In short, I'm generally an uptight and anxious person.

I'm told this makes me a *bit* hard to live with. :) And I'm super crazy when things get as crazy as they are about to get!

I have just started graduate school in English!

At this point I'm not quite sure how I will squeeze in all that I need/want to do this semester. I am a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course entitled The Monstrous Imagination--Monsters in Literature. I will lead a discussion group on Fridays, and I have quite a few responsibilities (more than I expected) in terms of planning, grading, and even some lecturing. I'm excited. Also a bit ..... well, anxious and uptight. I am also taking a nineteenth century/early twentieth century American Fiction course. I think ultimately I'd like to focus on the works of James or Wharton (in terms of future Master's thesis), so I'm glad I'm starting with this course. I'm also taking a reading/writing novels course which involves a great deal of writing, and some reading of contemporary fiction and memoir.

My real problem is not fitting in the class time, but fitting in the work time necessary to do well in these courses. My kids are at that multiple activities which each meet several times a week age. They all need homework supervision and help--like every day. And I still have my coaching job. And I have those five dogs. Somehow this will all work out...

Anyway! Enough on that.
This weekend I race!
I'm racing the Pumpkinman Half Iron, which is my favorite 70.3 ever.  I did this race a few years ago, and had a great day.  In reading over the post detailing that day, however, I remembered how much I dislike racing elite.
This is mostly because I am not elite.
So after talking with Kurt I decided to drop to the age group ranks. Yay! This means there is no chance of winning some money, but that's okay. I just want to be with my people, and my people are not the elite people.
In order to prep for the race I decided I should return to Masters swimming this week. Yes, I know that doesn't actually prepare me for this race. The hay is in the barn, etc. But oh well. I still wanted to head back to Masters.

Here is what I learned.
I am really out of pool swim shape.

I really believe there are different swim "in-shapes." You can be super speedy in the open water, but suck in the pool. I'm not really super speedy in the open water, but I am definitely more speedy there right now than I am in that pool! Holy Moly did that workout tire me out! Towards the end I could feel myself getting slower and slower and slower. I actually got out before the end of the workout, because I feared I was moving so slowly I would sink to the bottom of the pool.

More after the race!
Happy Back to School Holy Shit Crazy Time of Year to all of you!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catching Up

It's been awhile.

I decided not to write until I had something positive about which to write.  And I've actually had plenty of greatness to write about in the last few months, but I didn't want to declare myself "back" until I was absolutely sure I was actually back.

I am back.

What I mean by that is not that I am back to some former glory. I just mean I love training and racing like I did before the 2012 season once again. I did some great swim training and racing over the winter, but aside from that I really did nothing from about this time last year until about mid June of this year. I just did not want to train, and every time I started to train again I slacked off nearly immediately. I wasn't sure my love for training would ever come back.

But it has!

It started when I hired Kurt back as my coach. The truth is... I know what I need to do for training. The problem I have is that I simply don't do what I know I need to do.  I enjoy making plans for myself and for others and I relish keeping up to date on the latest training know-how. But I have learned that I can't be my own coach. I need someone to tell me what to do, and I need to be held accountable.

I really like to be in school, and I think it's for the same reason that I like to have a coach. I find it *fun* to be told what to do, and then to try and prove that I can do what's been assigned better than anyone else. This might be viewed as immature. It also might be viewed as a character flaw--and maybe even a flaw worthy of disdain. Shouldn't a competent, well-educated, middle-aged woman be beyond needing such carrots?

Probably. But I think it's time I just name the trait and then make provision to deal with it. For me, this means having Kurt tell me what to do. And he's good at that. He really doesn't give a shit that I think I know what's best for me to do. He just ignores me and assigns what he thinks I need to do.
It works. (Well, it works for me. I'm not sure how well it works for him!)

After I hired Kurt again, he put me to work. Neither of us knew how the remaining part of the season would go. I had some weight to lose, and I obviously was not in stellar shape. I also couldn't go from 0 to 60 overnight, so I would have to do less training than I had in the past as I tried to get back into real training again.

But the thing is, I felt great when training despite my lack of "fitness!" I could write a big, long hairy post on my thoughts, now, on rest. I trained for many years pretty consistently. Of course I didn't log the hours that some age groupers and most pros log. But I logged a lot of hours nevertheless, and I did so while working and raising three kids. I think after last season I was actually just really, really tired. My body was tired (and injured), and my mind was tired, and I just need to let go of all of it. I didn't want to let go. My identity is all wrapped up in this triathlon thing and not having training made me feel anchor-less and bad about myself. But I still needed all that time off. I have often thought that women who have babies come back stronger after giving birth, and I hold to that. I think it's because of the FORCED break. The body and mind are able to mend, and then the new mother can get back at it, often with more power and passion than before.

After just a few weeks of training under Kurt, I raced a small sprint in Norway, Maine. Ange was there, and a bunch of other good friends, and that made the day really fun. It was also fun because I enjoyed every moment of racing. I placed third overall, and I was pleased with that. My time wasn't great, but I didn't much mind. I just felt great being back at it.

Ange won the race, and my friend Anne placed second. (She later qualified for Kona at IMMT. Go Anne!) Here we are:

After this race I continued to train. I felt good. I spent a week in Maine with Alina's kids, and then a week on the Cape with my family and my father-in-law. When I got home I got caught up on business. Part of this business was having a mammogram. Over the last few months I have developed a lump in my right breast. It is a painless lump. Painless lumps are not good. This was taught to us at some point in the class "Having Boobs 101."After I had the mammogram my fear was confirmed. I was told I needed a needle biopsy to determine whether the lump contained cancerous cells.

I found the procedure mostly painless, but still absolutely terrifying. Still I hoped, and assumed, I would be told a few days later not to worry--that the lump was simply a benign mass. A few days later, however, that was not what I was told. Instead I was told that the mass was large (5cm) and apparently growing, and it had tiny cysts surrounding it. Though the samples they took from the biopsy were benign, the doctors and my OBGYN wanted me to go to Beth Israel for consultation.

At this point my training did not stop, but it took a back burner. They had me in at Beth Israel within the week. The urgency they showed in getting me to BI frightened me a great deal. I tried to remain calm and balanced. I'm not so good at calm and balanced. I was really scared.

The doctor with whom I met at BI thought the mass should come out, and soon. However, she decided it was prudent to bring her opinion to the whole oncology(breast) "group" at BI. I guess they have weekly pow-wows at which they discuss difficult or strange cases. I was such a case.

A week later I was told that the group consensus was to keep watch, but not to take the mass out--right now. I will have to have quarterly mammograms, and I will have to return to BI every 3 months for a check with the oncologist who first saw me.  I'm, obviously, relieved. I'm also still a bit scared, though. The mass is there, and it is not small. It's hard to forget its existence.

BUT ONWARD! Sorry, I have a lot of catching up to do here!
After hearing the news I resumed training (in earnest) again. My hopes for doing well at my next races were not dashed, but I was careful not to have great expectations.

I will write separate posts on my next two races.
Here is a very short recap:

I did Timberman 70.3 two weeks ago, and I had so much fun and I did really well (for me). I placed 3rd in my AG and I pulled off a five minute PR for that course. I was stunned. Really? After doing so little, how could I have had that kind of a breakthrough?

Then, last weekend I toed the line at the OOB REV Olympic Tri. I was still tired from the half the week before, but I was also just so thrilled--to be alive. to be racing. to be racing on my home turf. I was filled with so much appreciation and joy the morning of the race. I really feel words can't capture capture how I felt diving into the cold ocean water by the Pier--MY ocean by the Pier! And I was alive! And racing!

 I raced hard, and had a great swim, a great bike, and a *fine* run. :) I almost caught my uber fast and amazing friend Carrie on the run -- and I ended up placing just behind her (okay, by a good 50 seconds, but still! I'm proud! She's really, really good!). I placed 4th overall for amateurs. It was quite a day. As I was just finishing the run I saw Ange coming out of T2 for her 13.1 run for the half. (She destroyed the half--seriously. 4:45). Anyway, we saw each other and it was just awesome.  Our friend Mike caught us in the same picture.


Again, I'll write more about Timberman and OOB in separate posts, but here are a few pictures. 
Happy
 Happy
 Happy

Happy

Happy.