Sunday, November 29, 2009


Today I am thankful.
You see, I read an article in Thursday's Portland Press Herald  that "expressions of thanks promote health and happiness and give optimism and energy to the downtrodden".

I am not downtrodden, but I could use a bit of optimism and energy.

My mom clipped this special article for me after reading a post I wrote last Wednesday.  The post was, admittedly, snotty. And also a little snide. And also lacking in substance. After embracing this fact I began to fear that if you read this post you might believe I am actually snotty and snide, and not the lovely and gracious person you have come to know on this blog.
So I took it down.
Because really, I am a thankful person. Really. Very thankful. Everyday. It's like--who I am. Always. T.h.a.n.k.f.u.l.

Today I am especially thankful that I have cool parents who let my family crash at their house for the entire holiday weekend, and who also took care of our kids and our incontinent old man dog while we went wining and dining with our friends.  Thanks Mom and Dad! Sorry you had to step in Linus's crap, Dad. He just slips those little nuggets out...


I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my extremely large family (we're talking over 25 and not everyone was there). It was a pleasant ruckus. I can only tolerate the Thanksgiving ruckus for a few hours at a time, however, and then I need to escape to my chambers and read for a bit before re-emerging in all of my extroverted glory. This Thanksgiving I chose to spend my get-away-reading time with Matt Fitzgerald's text Racing Weight.

In case you were wondering, it's not a good idea to read a book about achieving Race Weight when you are in the midst of digesting a gigantic slice of dark chocolate cake slathered in peanut butter sauce. You already knew this, of course. I'm the only dumb fuck who would read such a book on Thanksgiving Day.

It is a good book. A wise book. A moderate book in which Fitzgerald uses all of the latest research to highlight the advantages of achieving race weight for one's specific sport, and then ways one can safely do this without losing muscle, without becoming a carb-starved bitch, and without becoming homicidal with hunger.  (Okay, he really only covered the part about not losing muscle.)

Much of what he discusses is counter-intuitive. For example, "using a sports drink in training may preserve muscle mass and promote a slightly leaner body composition." Or, you might be interested to know, one can help to optimize her muscle-to-fat ratio by eating protein/carb combo immediately following exercise, because fat burning increases while the carbs you take in are delivered to your muscles to replenish glycogen stores. (143) The book is full of helpful little snatches of race weight know-how such as these facts.

I especially enjoyed the section on supplements. I'm planning on upping my intake of calcium and also trying beta-alanine and conjugated linoleic acid. Has anyone had any experience taking the latter two? Beta-alanine is an amino acid that formulates an antioxidant in your body that supposedly helps fight muscle fatigue and increases lean muscle mass. CLA (the conjugated etc...) has been shown to help fight seasonal weight gain (not as in off-season--as in winter season). Taking adequate amounts of calcium reduces the production of a  hormone that aids in fat storage. (236-241) It think it's safe and maybe smart to give these three supplements a shot. And has anyone out there tried taking creatine? I'm not planning on taking it, but I'm curious what your experience has been with it if you have.

It's a good read, and one I recommend even if you could give a hoot about achieving "ideal" race weight. It's more a book about how to eat to fuel for your life as an athlete than a book on how to get thin. Still, don't read it on Thanksgiving. I hate to admit it, but after reading it I feel monstrously large and I just want to cleanse myself by eating only greens, fruit smoothies with whey protein, and lean meats for the next year.

Before I sign off I want to give a LOUD CONGRATS to Kim (Teta Equals Booby) who competed in IM Cozumel today. SHE. KICKED. ASS. 12:22--which is a gigantic PR. Also competing was Claire (Speedy) who also had a fantastic race and a PR, finishing in 12 hours flat. I'm so excited for both of them, because they both deserved to have awesome races and they did.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My daughter Jordan, age 8, had her first swim meet last Friday night. Here she is after her debut swim in the 25 free.

She started with the 25 fly. Only she did the 25 free by mistake. Luckily, this was a "practice" meet and so they let her do the fly when everyone else did the free. She raced all 25s--in every stroke--fly (free), free (fly), back and breast.
Seems to me that she may be a flyer!
She swam:
25 sec. in the 25 fly
27 sec. in the 25 back
28 sec. in the 25 free
32 sec. in the 25 breast

I'm proud of her. It was just so cool to see her up on the blocks in her little blue suit. She worked so hard. Watching her make it to the end of that 25 fly was inspirational.


I found the reactions to my Going Long post interesting, although I wish more of you had piped in. I'm curious as to what everyone thinks...

I haven't changed my song when it comes to my belief system around training. I'm still more of a quality girl over a mileage girl. I still believe in carefully parceled out intensity to bring one both durability and speed. I still believe that one should err on the side of less than more. I still believe the goal is to make it to the starting line injury free and with a little vim left in one's pocket.

But I think it's important to recognize the data available to me following my 2009 season. The simple fact is that I PR'd at the shorter distances while training for a longer one. This may not be what happens to most athletes. Perhaps I am an exception. Or, perhaps I have been PR-ing because I just began triathlon in 2007, and so I'm still experiencing the first rash of PRs that comes when one starts a sport anew. 

I'm just wondering, though, if  it's the volume of my training that has contributed to the faster times--the volume of my training, combined with the fact that I have built up that volume gradually over the last three years, and my body can now handle more than it could in the past. I certainly agree that the goal should be to be as consistent as possible in one's training, and that comes when one does not overdo it in any one workout. However, if you have built up the endurance to DO more training--both in terms of intensity and hours-- in prep for say, an Olympic, AND you have the (unrealistic scenario) blessing of your family to go ahead with such hours, should you?

Because as I said in my last post, racing a 1/2 Ironman with intensity and courage, with conviction and power, was a hell of a lot easier on my way to IM, then it was when the 1/2 IM was the final destination.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going Long

I've been thinking about volume of training.

In the off season anything seems possible. It's easy to be all gung ho** about the kinds of hours you will put in next spring when you are currently rested and not training hard or long. I'm admitting this up front, because what I've been thinking about in terms of volume can really only be embraced when one is not dead tired and in the midst of heavy IM training. Also, I know I've discussed my thoughts on non-linear periodization previously, and I stick by my thinking there, so what follows may seem like a strange idea coming from me. Okay, all disclaimers are finished!

In looking over my last season's race results and training, I noticed a few things about my best races.

1. My best bike performances were preceded by (no shock here) lots of long hard rides on the bike. These long hard rides were often close to twice the distance of the bike portion of the race at which I PR'd.
2. The hours of my training were geared toward completing a race which was a much longer distance then at the distance at which I PR'd. (eg. In training for IM, I PR'd at the half.)
3. I had short tapers for my best races, and a peak week usually preceded the peak performance by two weeks.
4. I did not have specific time goals for my best races (except the end-of-the-season marathon). I simply wanted to beat everyone I could.
5. My best performances occurred when I was aggressive and did not fear blowing up.

What these observations say to me is that I race best when I'm training for an endurance event like Ironman, but I'm actually racing (with total confidence) shorter races.  While this may seem to be stating the obvious--well OF COURSE you race well at the 1/2 if you're training for a full! I still think it's worth thinking about. If this is true, then why don't we all just train for a race that is twice what we are looking to PR at? Why not train for the marathon if you actually want to PR at the 1/2? Why not train for a 1/2 IM if you're hoping to achieve glory in the Olympic?

But the truth is, that's not how we train. We train FOR the event at which we want to PR.

I wonder if this is the best idea.

The basic thinking for completing an endurance event of any kind is that you should complete workouts that are akin to what you will do in the race, but that don't actually hit that peak mileage or time that you will have to achieve in the race. For example, it's common to run three to four 20-22 milers when preparing for a marathon, but people will look at you askance if you admit to running three to four 28-30 milers in your training. Likewise, if you're hoping to achieve at IM, you don't complete an IM before you race it. Of course not! You complete a 1/2, you go for a 120 bike ride with an hour T-Run (and that's if you're really experienced at IM--I certainly didn't do that in prep for L.P.), but you never go the distance--not until the day of the race.


When you train for a marathon, many of your training runs are over 13.1 miles. In fact, sometimes you run that far (or farther) twice in a week. When preparing for a full IM, you definitely complete over 56 miles on the bike repeatedly, and often this is followed by a long T run. So in preparing for a longer race,you're more than prepared to do a race of shorter distance. You can be pretty aggressive running a 1/2 marathon or doing a 1/2 IM if you know damn well that actually completing the event is not a problem.

The thinking, of course, is that you want to spare yourself the trauma of completing the event in its entirety before you actually race it. Your body WILL be able to achieve that distance--you don't need to prove this in a trial run risking over-training and injury as you do so. Right?

Wrong. I believe this way of approaching endurance events originated during a time when people weren't actually sure it was entirely safe to run more than 26 miles or complete a race longer than an Ironman. But we know now that ultra runners and ultra IMers double, triple, and quadruple those distances (well, maybe not quadruple on the IM).  It IS, in fact, perfectly safe to run 26 miles in training or complete close to IM distances in training, as long as you've adequately prepared your body (over years, I will add) to do so. The simple truth is that people do it all the time. They just don't do it when training for a marathon or an IM--they do it when training for an ultra or a double IM.

So what am I getting at here?
Simply that it seems quite logical that if you want to PR at a particular distance, you should actually prepare for a race of a much longer distance.
That's all.

Okay. I know, I know. Most of us do not have the time, energy or youth to train for a marathon by way of atually training for an ultra. Likewise, most of us are focused on just finishing an Ironman--and we really do risk serious injury, burn out and chronic fatigue if we attempt to train over certain number of hours per week.  I think it's worth considering, however, that we are too cautious in our approach to training for middle-endurance events. If our focus is the half IM, for example, and we have a history of having completed the trianing and racing of an IM, then it seems only logical that employing similar training to excel at the half is wise. Likewise, if one has raced 50Ks and 50 milers, why not add in three to four runs over 26 in preparation for an ordinary marathon? What would happen?

A big fat P.R. That's what would happen.

And on that note, I'm off to ride my bike.

(FYI**an aside: I have been obsessed with the origin of the cliches I use so frequently, so the link on gung ho just explains that expression's derivation).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turkeys and Tri Rage

It is the time of year for Turkey Trots. This year I will not be trotting, however. My foot is still funky, and I don't want to race on it. Instead, I'll be watching all of my fellow GNRC turkey-mates trotting this Sunday. I plan to gobble at them, or throw mashed potatoes at them if they are too slow, or something like that.

It's also better that I don't run given that I am a bit out-of-shape.I'm fine with being out of shape, but I am not fine with trying to run four fast miles after doing nothing for the last month. It's just a bad idea for so many reasons, not the least of which is my oh-so-fragile ego.

Kidding. It's not that fragile.

This week I have spent applying for sponsorships from companies who will almost certainly not sponsor me. I did get a response from Sugoi. They have a group called the Sugoi Brand Champions. So, yes, I am now a BRAND champion. What this means is that I get to wear Sugoi products and be gaga over them, and in return I get discounts on some clothing. I am happy about this, but not as happy as I would be if they simply sent me lots of clothing for free. I also applied to PowerBar and to Splish.
Yes, I know, dream on.
PowerBar: me, Victor Plata and Tim DeBoom
Splish: me, Rachel Ross and Bree Wee.

One of these peeps is NOT like the other... hum de dum.
Still, you never know. I tried to explain that I have a glowing personality and a sharp wit, and that I'm sure if they sponsored me I could get y'all to buy PowerBar and Splish exclusively. You'd do that for me, right?

In other news, my friend Melissa and I are starting a new triathlon club. That's right! If you're local, if you're not already encumbered in one of those other flimsy tri teams, then we want YOU!
We will be called---.... drum roll....

Tri Rage.

RRR. I think Suburban Tri Rage might be even better... Or maybe -Middle Age Tri Rage- or something like that. But for now, we are Tri Rage. Melissa just sent in the club application to USA Triathlon, so very soon we will be official...

These are the things our very cool club will offer:
* Time spent with Melissa and Me--. Need I say more on that?
* Group rides at many different levels (or maybe one level until we get more than just Mel and me to join).
* Camaraderie at races. We'll definitely come up with a fab. racing kit, too.
* Swim workouts via Westwood Masters (which will begin this winter at the Westwood pool).
* Stroke development offered on Sunday mornings at the Westwood Pool. (I'm still working on making this happen.)
* Open Water Swimming as a club at Farm Pond in Dover. (summer months only, of course.)
* Runs with our sister club, GNRC.
* Social get-togethers at which we eat and drink!

Not sure what else. It would be nice to offer PowerBar products and Splish suits at a discount....

Anyway, it's sure to be all the rage.... bahaha.
 What are the attributes of a fabulous tri club? PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
And please join if you don't live in say, Illinois, or Hawaii, or Ohio, or Virginia, or California--which pretty much takes out most my readers, I know.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sick House and Tattoos

So far in our family--four out of five down. One little Noah, age 6, to go.

Last week I had a sore throat and a headache. No big deal, except that I passed it onto Jordan (8) and Andy (old man), who then passed it to Lara (4). And each of them got hit so much harder than me...
Ouch. Bad Mommy.

The result is that I have been shut up in this house for the last week tending sick people. Jordan is finally back at school, but now Lara has hit peek sick-ville. Her little four-year-old breathing sounds way worse than that of Darth Vader. Plus she's stressed out b/c she feels so lousy, and when she's stressed out she tugs at her hair.  In the last 48 hours she has created a nice little bald spot on the right side of her head. Sigh.
I did just give her more Tylenol, though, and she's pepped up a bit. Right now she's sitting next to me, playing with my I-Phone and jamming out to Michael Jackson's PYT, which she somehow found on U-Tube. I love watching 4 year-olds jam.
Except. Oops. Jamming stopped.
It's 30 seconds later, and she just asked if she could take a nap.
It's 9:00 a.m.

Three stories later and I'm back. I will shoot myself in the head if I have to read that Sealed with A Kiss Ariel book one more flipping time. Ariel is so damn perky and annoying--always playing with cute little seals and that stupid yellow fish.

Yesterday Andy stayed home from work because he felt so crummy, and I was able to escape for a bit and go into the big city (or sort of big city--Cambridge). 

In the big city I went to a snazzy tattoo parlor...

I always imagined getting a tattoo to be something I did with a few girlfriends, late at night, after a night of partying. Apparently, however, you can't get inked with alcohol in your blood. Also, I don't generally go wild with my girlfriends at night in the city these days...quite unfortunately, I will add.

So it didn't go like that.

Instead I set up an appointment last week when I went to check out the tattoo establishment--Redemption Tattoo with Marathon Mama.  We met some of the staff, chatted with the recommended artist, Mike, about what we wanted done, and then I made an appointment. The date of inking was set to be noon on Thursday. My tattoo man would be Josh. Josh seemed warm and friendly, and looked a little like he came straight out of  ZZ Top. He took the sketches I had ineptly scratched out, and promised to improve upon them before I arrived next week. Then MM and I left, and went to drink some vino and eat a little Cambodian chow at The Elephant Walk. yummmmmm.

I spent the week quizzing every tattooed friend I have on the level of pain I would experience, what I should expect, and whether I should go for the hip, the back, the ankle, all of the above, or none. Thank you all of my tattooed friends.

Heading into my appointment with Josh felt a little like I've felt before going to get a bikini wax. I knew it would hurt, and I was scared. In fact, the ambiance of Redemption Tattoo and that of Elizabeth Grady (my spa of choice) aren't entirely dissimilar. Yes, at Redemption heavy metal music played as opposed to the music of guitars, waterfalls, and Enya, and the tattoo clinicians wore intricately designed sleeves instead of little white coats, but in both places you lie atop a cushiony bed, you're told to relax while they fiddle with their instruments, and in both places you lie there, waiting for the torture to begin.
(Just in case you're wondering, I now know it hurts more to have your pubic hair ripped out with wax then it does to get inked.)

Josh began with the ankle. I was told by numerous folk that getting the ankle tattooed hurts a great deal more than other parts of the body. I will tell you now, though, that having one's ankle tattooed does not hurt as much as having the hip tattooed. At any rate, I turned on my side, took a deep breath and he turned on that scary needle zapper. bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

It felt at first like a sting, and then, as he continued, like he was boring a hole into my skin and trying to reach for bone. The outline took the longest and was the most painful. When that was done he asked exactly what blue/green shade he should use for the inside of the tattoo. He held out his arm so I could use it as a palette, and I selected the prettiest blue and green I could find, which I found on a majestic dragon breathing fire into some sort of symbol I didn't' recognize.

Here she is! The W is a play on the M dot. I like it because it's strong, but the colors are cool and soft. The dot I turned into a triple moon. It is a Goddess symbol that represents the Maiden, Mother, and Crone as the waxing, full, and waning moon. It's also associated with feminine energy, mystery and psychic abilities.

Onto the hip. Holy MAMA did it hurt. It was very hard not to squirm, and I winced the whole freaking 1/2 hour it took Josh to complete it. That said, I'm glad, naturally, that he didn't rush.

I chose to place it on my hip because, to be honest, it's close to my left ovary, from whence my eggs were released (and yes, I know they leave alternately between the right and the left ovaries) and my uterus, where, obviously, my little tots grew from little tadpoles into actual human babies.

The symbol is Celitc and called a triskele. I like the symbol because it appears to be in constant forward motion. Its meaning, according to the Celtic symbol book I used, has to do with motion, action, revolution and moving forward. The three protrusions (legs, angles, branches) vary in their meaning depending upon the era, region, culture, or mythological history one uses to define them. To me this means those branches can mean whatever the hell I want them to mean. The meanings I like best are:  the spirit, mind and body, the father, mother and child, the past, present and future, and creation, preservation, and destruction.

The number three has many meanings, but I personally like that it points to the measure-marks of the phases of the moon. An interesting side note is that lunar creatures are depicted as only having three legs in early European esoteric art.  When you add lunar meaning to the triskele you bring to it mystery, the feminine, intuition, the subconscious, hidden desire and illumination. Nestled into branches of the triskele I had Josh inscribe a J, an N and an L--my own magical number three.  The open space in the middle of the triskele is in the shape of the uterus. J, N, and L are connected to me, but now in my three branches as opposed to inside me.

If you made it through all that meaning mumbo-jumbo than FANTASTIC. If not, I still like you. I just don't think you're very deep. KIDDING!

The end.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


When I was a girl I remember making lists for the parties I wanted to have. These lists were mostly comprised of people I would invite and food I would make.  Very few of these parties actually happened. The happening of the party was almost beside the point. It was the planning I loved.

A good party plan always began with a dessert list, because the only thing I loved more than boys as a girl was dessert. (Actually, quite frankly, that hasn't changed much.) I remember combing through my mother's cook books, scratching out lists of elegant dessert possibilities to serve like English Toffee, Petit Four Cakes, Ice Cream Puffs, and Dutch Cocoa Cream Cake with Caramel Icing. I seldom included non-dessert foods in my planning , with the exception of deviled eggs, which I positively loved.

The guest list always comprised both girls and boys, because, as I have said, I was boy-crazed from a very young age. I didn't actually have a party that included both boys and girls until seventh grade, of course, and that party wasn't entirely successful. I believe there was too much dessert food, not enough spin the bottle, and a general feeling of fraudulence since I invited all of the "popular" kids in addition to my actual friends, in the hopes that the popular kids would fall in love with my winsome personality and invite me into their sacred ranks.

I no longer plan parties. I have learned that I don't like hosting, I don't like cooking (except for baking desserts), and I can no longer flirt with reckless abandon, so what's the point? (Andy would argue that I still flirt with reckless abandon, which perhaps is true, but whatever. Some habits just never die.) At any rate, I've replaced my party planning desire with other types of planning. I plan my next career move, I plan my next writing project, and best of all, I plan my next racing season. (Notice I never plan things like how I am going to systematically clean the house.) Just like my party planning, whether the career move, the project or the racing season comes together as I have planned is entirely unimportant. It's the mapping out of the future that I love. If things don't work out as planned it is almost better. When one plan fails--it's time for a new plan-- and voila! I'm right back at my favorite part of any project.

I write all this just so you know up front that I will relish the planning and re-planning and re-planning and re-planning of my next season excessively over the next--well, year.  A fantastically new plan is like nature's first green, and as you know, nothing gold can stay. My approach to this problem has always been to re-plan once a plan loses its luster. With the race season, I just keep adjusting until the season is over. It works for me.

So, what follows is my very first rendition of the 2010 Racing Plan!

1. Go really fast.

Just kidding.
Let's start again.

December 11-12, 2009: Short-course meter championship at B.U.  I hope to swim such fabulous events as the 100m I.M., the 50m Fly, the 100m back, and the 500m free.  The fact that my event choices may change goes without saying, except that I just said it. Goals: to not be the last person to finish in any of my chosen events.

Jan. 24th, Derry 16 Miler. I just like this hilly monster of a race. Plus, Andy claims he will run it, so I simply must do it this year because I know he will drink lots of beer with me after the race instead of going straight home. Goal: To make sure I take a dump before the race. I didn't last year. And well, that just wasn't fun.

Feb. 7th. Cape Elizabeth Winter Classic 10 Miler. It's in my hometown. I insist on participating in all hometown races.  Plus it's a hilly, great race and Ange, Mike, Steve, Stacy and many other fabulous friends will likely be there and so I simply can't miss it. Goal: to go sub 1:11.

Cape Swim Meet. In February some time. I have no idea if this meet will even happen, but it did last year so I'm hoping it will happen again. Goal: To do every single event. I know that sounds daft, but really, it's what I'd like to try to do. I think you get a prize for being stupid enough to try it.  If this meet doesn't happen I will compete in the Distance Festival at Bowdoin College (a swim meet) on Jan. 31.

Feb 19-21: Ange and I fly to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend a USA Level I Tri-coaching certification clinic. That is, if we get it in.

March 7th. Stu's 30K. Love this race. It's like a hilly nightmare just like Derry. Goal: don't know yet.

March 20. Short-course yard Championship Meet at Harvard U. I want to swim the 1650. I've never done it in a pool.

March 25-28: Okay. This isn't a race, but I'm flying to Tucson with Ange and Mel C for Tri camp with Jen ! (so excited.)

April. train train train. Watch all my friends run Boston and cry because I have to watch.

May 16: Harriman Half Iron in Harriman, NY. This is the smallest race ever. I think like 10 women did it last year. My goal is to win it.

June 5: Rev 3 Oly. I'll be honest here. I wouldn't do this race except it is a huge TriManiac race (that's the name our new club will have. :) I hear the course is impossible. Still, it will be so fun to watch the 1/2 Iron the next day and cheer on Ange and co.

June 27 IM CDA. Goal. To be Super Mary. To P.R., to place in my AG, to qualify for Kona. You know, small, easily achievable goals.

Okay. That's all I know right now.

In addition to developing the best race schedule ever, I have other more exciting plans in the works--like how I'm going to write a book, start a new business, get a puppy, create a Masters swim program at the pool, and other little things that I'm sure I can easily accomplish while training for IM, racing incessantly, keeping up with all of my friends, keeping up on FB and the blog--oh, and continuing to bring my three babies up in a warm, stimulating environment that smells of freshly baked cookies. Oh, and also pay attention to Andy--you know--at least sometimes. Basic upkeep translates to once every three weeks or so. Oops! Just kidding. I didn't actually just write that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Have You Noticed...

that almost nothing is what it seems?

I pride myself on being supremely insightful. I first realized I had the gift of grasping the inner nature of things at at an extraordinarily deep level in high school. (Yes, I am being facetious.) Really, though--since then I have honed my insight to the point of near-mastery. I get people, I get how systems and organizations work, and I  believe when it comes to these things, I am never wrong.

Except that lately I seem to be wrong all the time, which is more than a little disconcerting.
How could I have lost my noesis--seemingly overnight?
The only explanation I can think of is that I actually never had it--or I have it and yet it betrays me.

I don't mean to be cryptic. It's just that lately people--relationships--organizations who I thought I understood keenly, aren't as they've appeared.  I idealize someone else's marriage, and then discover the couple is divorcing. I judge someone as righteous or arrogant, only to discover they are generous and humble, or conversely, someone appears to be self-deprecating and weak, and I discover she actually doesn't take shit and has the will of an ox. I think I get the inner nuances of the mommy neighborhood dynamics, only to find I'm way off and I'm not on the outside as much as I thought--or another mommy who I have viewed as central in neighborhood hoopla actually is on the outside, too. Even my husband and kids seem to be different than I have understood. My son seems charming and funny, yet it turns out he is a hellion/class clown at school. My daughter, who seems to be such a confident performer, is terribly shy once I leave the room.  I even seem to be lacking insight into others' insight of me. I think I appear to be a certain way, only to discover I am not viewed by others that way at all.

This weekend I learned that the tri shop I consider the hub of my triathlon community in Maine shut its doors for good. I can't tell you how shocking this was to me. The shop was at the center for most of Maine's triathlon world. The owner had built up the store, buying out other tri shops, expanding its offering of classes and services, and building a community of athletes around an all-inclusive club, Nor'Easter.  I loved that shop and all the people who worked there. I loved being a part of Nor'Easter. I lamented that there was nothing akin to it where I actually live, in Massachusetts.

I don't really know what happened. There is plenty of scuttlebutt, but of course no one has the whole, true story, even those who worked there. The owner simply came in on Friday morning, told the staff it was over, and gave them a bit of time to collect their stuff and leave. This action seems so uncharacteristic of the owner,  this man I thought I knew. But as I said, my intuition has been off, I guess. I do not believe for a moment that this man intentionally hurt those who worked for him. No one intentionally loses control of finances, wrecking everything he worked so hard to build in the process. No one.

What bothers me more than anything is that I viewed Peak Performance as a rock--something stable and secure. I had no reason to believe this was so... there were signs that things were not all what they should be. But still, I just had this faith in it. And I'm left doubting that I ever really know what's going on with anything or anyone. I even think this about me, believe it or not. For the last year I haven't been able to trust myself, my intentions, my actions, my beliefs.  Maybe it's something about hitting mid-life. I simply don't know.

On to something more positive:

Last week I started training again.
Thank. fucking. God.

I'm slow in the pool, I tire easily on the bike and can only push like 110 watts without slipping into zone 3, and yesterday I struggled to hold an 8:40 pace on my run. Yikes! But still, it feels great to be working out again.

I have been lifting and doing core/functional work, and I'm really excited about this. One of my limiters is my muscular endurance and strength.  I seem to look fit, but that doesn't translate into actual strength. I cannot do ONE pull-up. Not one. I can't push more than 240 pounds on the leg press. I can only bench the bar, without any weights on it. You get the picture. I'm not sure how I am as fast as I am given how weak I am. The only thing I can think of is that I just don't have a lot to carry around, because I'm so short and small.

Finally, in other terribly exciting news, I am getting my little ankle tattoo on Thursday morning. !!!! I also might get a small tramp stamp. I will post pictures later in the week.  I love these little 40th birthday presents to myself.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Looking to Write a Few More Chapters

Recently I read Dara Torres' biography, Age is Just A Number. My friend Liz wrote the book and maybe it's for that reason I liked it so much. I like Liz, of course, but she is also a fantastic writer. For those of you who have read the book, I know it reads in the first person. That makes Liz's feat in writing it even more impressive, doesn't it?

Anyway. You should all read it because, like me, many of you are parents, no longer spring chickens, and mature enough to truly appreciate being an athlete.  Many of you are also old enough to remember when Torres went to her first Olympics at age 15, and then her second, and her third, and her fourth, and most recently, her fifth, at age 41.  The names I associate with Torres--Tracey Caulkins, Rowdy Gaines, Steve Lundquist (I had magazine cut-outs of him all over my high school bedroom walls), Matt Biondi, Janet Evans--all retired years and years and years ago. (You must admit Lundquist was rather smoking. I felt the need to travel down memory lane here...)

And yet here is Torres. She is not only still a force, still  unbelievably strong, still winning. She has actually improved at every Olympics in which she's competed.  In 2008 she won her first individual silver medal  in the 50 meter freestyle--and she was just shy of taking the gold by 1/100th of a second.
And she was 41.
And she is a mom.
And no, Ted, I really DON'T believe she doped.

In the past I've felt that speed and endurance are wasted on the young.  They take speed for granted, use it nonchalantly, view it as a given.  The younger athlete is pissed when his speed or endurance fail him and he doesn't win, or place, or beat the old dude out there. The older athlete, on the other hand, expects his speed and endurance will fail him. He doesn't expect to win anymore--or even place, except, perhaps, in his age group. He doesn't expect to beat the young dude with the attitude and the lean body.

But I'm not sure exactly WHY this is true.  It certainly hasn't been true in my case. I was a fairly good swimmer in my high school years, but I am a better swimmer now--at least in terms of endurance swimming. Further, in high school and college I couldn't run at all, and I considered it an amazing success that in my mid-20s I completed my first marathon in around 4:10. Just recently I took 51 minutes off that marathon time--and I'm not nearly as proud of that accomplishment as I am of that first 4:10, which seemed positively miraculous at the time. At any rate, I wouldn't want my current self to compete against my young self. Mentally and physically my seasoned older self would kick the shit out of my self as a girl.

And it's not just me who has improved with age. Do you know the average age of the top two women runners at this year's NYC marathon? 39.5. In fact, every one of the women in the top five at NY this year was over 32; the average age for the five being 36. And did you note that the gold in the last Olympic marathon went to Constantina Tomescu-Dita, who happens to be a 38-year-old mom?  And this year at Kona, every one of the women in the top ten was over 30, with the singular exception of Mirinda Carfrae, who is 28. DeDe Greisbauer has been in the top 10 at Kona for the last several years running, and this year she celebrated her 39th b-day. Even among we non-professionals I can cite examples of the older athlete kicking the younger athlete's ass. My friend Alina, a state champion in her high school years in multiple events, is now bettering the times she posted back then, and she's nearly 40. My friend Melissa, too, keeps getting better with age. She has PRed over and over again this season, and she's been competing as a runner all 44 years of her life.

Dara Torres, via Liz, put it this way:

Lifestyle, not genetics, is the primary reason older athletes tend to slow down. Most people as they reach their thirties, place more priority on their jobs and families, as well they should. But as a result they downgrade their workout goals from achieving personal bests to staying in shape. This might be the right decision for many. This might even by the right decision for you. But if you still have athletic ambitions, if you still want to compete and win, there's no reason you have to give up. Your body can still perform if you put in the effort--if you still do that 10 mile run or that long, hard quality set. You just need to be smarter about training and more time-efficient. But chances are, if you're an older athlete, you're smarter and more time-efficient anyway.

If you guessed that this whole post is just a pep talk to myself about the fact that I'm entering a new AG next year, you are right.

But it's a good pep talk. Because the more I look, the more I find examples of how peak performance often doesn't occur until our later years. The most competitive age group in triathlon is NOT 20-29, as one might guess. Often people ask if I'm excited to move into the 40-44 age group, since presumably the competition will not be so fierce. But, in fact, the 40-44ers are MORE competitive than the 35-39ers. I will actually have to improve my performance next season if I want to continue placing well in my age group.

Sometimes I find myself wistfully looking back. So many of the big chapters of my life seem finished. When you are growing up (as a girl, anyway) you often wonder about the mysteries life holds for your future: who will I marry? What will I be? How many kids will I have?  Where will I settle down to live? You don't think of questions beyond those chapters. It's as if those chapters are the only chapters. Certainly when young you don't ponder when you will start your second, or third career, marriage, family, or home. You don't think about whether you will enjoy a comfortable retirement. You simply don't imagine the later chapters in life. It's hard to even fathom what they are. I think this is why 40 seems so ominous, so mortifying, so well, OLD. We haven't imagined the chapters after 40--and so it seems that the book must end when we get there.

But now I'm trying--trying very hard to embrace that over 40 holds incredible possibility, because I have no idea what chapters have still to be written. Life certainly isn't over. It's called MID-life because one is half way there.

And isn't it usually the second half of the race that holds all of the meaning and excitement--pain and joy? Isn't that where the shit really happens? Isn't that where the ones who have not given up show their stuff and pass all of the young bucks?

Well, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I think our pumpkins should be titled "The Moods of Mom". 

It was a good Halloween. It was warm, so I could sit on the steps to divvy out the candy. (I force Andy to go trick-or-treating with the kids.) My strategy was to say to each child, "You can take two!" making it appear that I was generous without having to reprimand those who decide to take a freaking handful if you say nothing.  Another benefit of the warmth was that I didn't have to battle it out with the kiddos as to whether they would wear long underwear etc under their costumes. Lara went sleeveless in her fairy outfit, and she didn't get frostbite. Very cool. Or warm. whatever.

I managed to get rid of all of the candy I intended to give out. The only remaining problem is the candy that was brought in. The kids got butt-loads of it, and it's taking a will of steel not to hoard their supply. I need that shit out of here. I can't seem to stare a fun-sized Snickers in the face and not partake in the "fun."

The holidays. Do they have to come right in a row? I just recover from Halloween and Turkey Day hits. Then it's Christmas season--which is really just one long month of indulgence. Thank God training started again this week.

Speaking of....I got into the pool yesterday, and miracle of miracles, I did not sink. I was, however, slow. Like beyond slow. Like so slow I wanted to cry slow. As it should be, I know, I know. I also went to the gym to lift and do functional stuff.  It's extremely comical trying to balance on that damn half-ball and do the exercises Jen has prescribed. I don't actually do any of them. I spend my time just trying to balance in the required position to begin the exercise. It's pathetic, really. Still, I must have done something, because I'm sore this morning. Ah, thank God for that. I'm not sure I could stand another day of sloth-dom.

Today I get on the bike for the first time in.... a long time. The last time I rode Mrs. Z was at my final tri of the season. I pumped her tires this morning and lubed her up. She looks very pretty, but I still don't want to ride her. One of these days I'm going to fall in love with riding--I just know it. It took like 8 years to learn to love running--so I figure I just have five years to go before I'm proposing to her.

Five years.
This reminds me of aging, which is the topic of the post I'm working on now. As you know, I'm haunted by the BIG 4.0. which is galloping toward me at lightning speed. I'm determined to be at peace with it by the time the birthday hits, which will be just a few days before IM Couer d'Alene.

In 1996 Linus was a puppy and I was 26 years old. When I pat his grey muzzle and smell his ancient doggy breath, I marvel at how fast time passes.