Saturday, April 30, 2011


I got up this morning to go swimming.

I didn't sleep well last night. I don't know why. I felt absolutely exhausted, but my mind raced.  Unfortunately, my mind didn't race with interesting thoughts--just thoughts like... Why can't I sleep? I've been lying here at least an hour. Why can't I sleep? I've been lying here at least one hour five minutes. Why can't I sleep? I've been lying here an hour and a half! Why can't I sleep? I'm so pissed I can't sleep! etc. etc.

So. Again. This morning I got up to swim.
And I felt tired. And unmotivated. And kinda pissed.

I did make it to the pool. I did get in the water. I did do a little over half the swim I had planned to do.

But it was one of those mornings during which I wondered, irritably, why do I do this? I've heard a zillion times.... It's not as if this is your job. No one is paying you to do this.

I know that. My teaching, for fifteen years, was my job. Ten years ago my job shifted and divided into two: a teacher and a mom. Now my job is to be a mom, take care of this house and its dogs, and to be support and coach to adult triathletes and runners. Those are my jobs.

Triathlon is not my job.

Except on most days, I treat it that way. My workouts are priority. I may push "work" duties aside, but I rarely shift a workout unless parental duty forces my hand. I work at triathlon on average more than 12 hours a week, year round. I force myself to complete my workouts, even though 50% of the time I really really don't feel like doing so. My thoughts gravitate to triathlon most of the day, every day. A central goal of my life is to make it Kona, to be in the top 1% of women in my AG nationally, to win local races.

Triathlon is not my job.

So what is it? To say it's a hobby trivializes it at best, but to say it's more than that risks making me appear misguided; a fool. What's worse is that I'm honestly not sure why I do it.

I don't always enjoy it, that is for sure. Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I feel so strongly that I don't want to get my body wet in the pool, or make my lungs ache when running, or make my crotch burn after too many hours, too many days in a row, on the bike. Sometimes is even an understatement, actually.

But then sometimes, when swimming, I feel smooth as my hips rotate and I cut through the water and I think, I love the feel of the water against my body.

But then sometimes, when running, I descend a hill after climbing and climbing and I feel high, crashing down the road on my strong legs--legs that only get this strong if you work as hard I have worked, for years. and years.

 But then sometimes, when riding, I experience a moment of bliss. It's beautiful, I get a whiff of the pungent, spring earth; I discover a tree, isolated from the main roads, dripping and fragrant with lush, pink cherry blossoms. I take a wrong turn and realize I have opened the door on a whole new area to ride; I come across a pasture ripe with the smell of manure, and see a donkey, his head giant atop his wiry gray, furry body, and he looks at me, and his large, brown watery eyes connect with mine as if to say, How did you find me?

And it's those moments that I know why, but mostly I don't know why.

I remember reading in some tri magazine once that you need to spend time figuring out why you do triathlon. You'll need to call upon that reason when you don't want to get up in the morning to swim, or when you go for a ride, and are two hours from home when the skies open up and soak you, and you have no where to go except through it, or when you are in a race and you are falling apart and just want to crumple to the ground and weep.

What I find interesting is that I really, truly don't know why, and yet I force myself to get up to swim, I force myself to ride home instead of calling a cab, and I push through the race, hard, and I don't cry. I never cry.

In 1997 I ran my first marathon. I remember when I decided I would run it. It was just before Christmas, in 1996. I had run with a friend that morning, and she planned to run Boston. We ran ten strong miles together, and she questioned why running a marathon seemed so out of reach to me. I remember thinking that if I could run a marathon I would be a different person: the kind of person who ran--who could run-- a marathon. I longed to be that person. That person was stronger than me, fitter, a true athlete, truly worthy (of what, I am not sure).

I trained that winter using Samuleson's Running for Women as a guide. I did all of my training alone, fearful that I would reveal I wasn't truly a runner to anyone I ran with. I needed to get through the training on my own... in my own private world of pain and triumph. After long runs I could only get through the day if I took a three hour nap following the workout. These were the days before gel--and I did my runs with water and determination, and that's it.

BUT WHY? I had to slay that proverbial dragon, that is true. I wanted to prove to myself that I was not lazy, not a slug, not fat--that I was the kind of person who ran marathons. I believed, somehow, that I would be transformed by running a marathon.

The funny thing? I was transformed. I thought of myself differently after I finished that race. I didn't have to fear that I couldn't run a marathon... that I wasn't the kind of person who could run one. And that was enough for quite a long time.

But then it wasn't anymore.

And now, I am forty... forty-one in a few short months. I have run 8 marathons. I have run a marathon in 3:15... and Boston at that. I have completed two Ironmen, both in respectable times. I have ranked as an All-American in triathlon for the last two years. I have won a few 5ks; I have won a few local triathlons. I coach others to do the same.

And all of that feels good to say, to write, but I know you don't really care. It doesn't affect who you think I am. So why do I do it? Why do I keep getting up to swim when I really don't want to?
Is it the fear that I will undo all that I have done if I stop?
Will I not be the person I created anymore?

And is the person I created really any different than the girl, single and alone with her dog, who trained for the marathon in 1996?
I think so. I also think maybe not.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We are Insane

Today I rode outside.

It was really fucking miserable outside.

The start of the ride was okay. It was raw, yes, but it wasn't so bad. I had on wool socks. I figured I'd be okay.

An hour into my ride the skies opened and it started to pour. Ten minutes later sleet began hammering against my helmet. Ten minutes later I began to fantasize about getting windshield wipers for my sunglasses. The icy rain drove against me. It. sucked.

Soon my wool socks weighed about 500 pounds. My hands (in cotton gloves, yes cotton) were frozen and I couldn't shift. I rode in one gear for the final 10 miles of the ride. That was fun.

I didn't exactly feel sorry for myself. Honestly I just felt like an idiot. I could've completed the ride on the trainer, but I didn't because I felt so sick of the trainer that I thought (stupidly) that anything would beat it. I spent the remaining time of the ride contemplating how I must certainly be the only one dumb enough to be out on a day like today. I did see a few runners out, but nary a cyclist. Of course I didn't see a cyclist. Only someone who is borderline insane, like me, would ride in this.

By the time I got home I was so cold I could not remove my clothing. Andy had to pull it off me before I got in the shower. Fortunately he remembered how to do this. When I got in the warm shower my hands and feet started to throb. Thawing hurt. It hurt very very much.

But finally I did thaw. Then I toweled off, dressed and went to log into Training Peaks to admit what a fool I had been to ride outside.

Minutes after I logged in to report the workout Kurt emailed back to say that he had been riding in the rain, too.
He had?
Really? In that cold rain?
And he had been out there longer than me.
And he was talking like it was no. big. deal.

Then Ange emailed to say she had just experienced the worst ride ever... that she couldn't even undress herself she was so cold upon finishing it. It was driving snow the whole time.... she could barely make it home. But unlike me she had STILL gone on her transition run whereas I had selected to strip and get in a hot shower.

AND then, a little while later, I learned that my  friend Mike had been out riding too, along Sebago Lake in the driving snow.

Wow. I'm definitely not the only insane one.

I didn't think I was a bad ass, really. I just thought I was crazy for even thinking of riding in that kind of weather. (Of course I am just coming off a case of hypothermia, but still.) But the truth is most of my friends are as crazy as I am. They really are. In fact, they are sometimes more crazy than me.

And I guess that's the rub, isn't it? You don't get good in this sport by deciding it's too wet and cold, that getting in the ride outside is not worth the risk of dying from hypothermia. You get good by training insane amounts in sometimes insane conditions. If I was the only one crazy enough to ride in shit weather like today, then I would probably be winning race after race. But I'm not. I'm not because Kurt, and Ange, and Mike....
are out there training in that shit, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Let's Get This Part-A Started!

Yesterday I had the most indulgent day ever. It's vacation week, so I have the kids home all day, but yesterday my in-laws took them. They did wholesome things like play charades, and then they went to the library. I kid you not. They really did both.

Anyway. While they were being treated to wholesomeness instead of another episode of Good Luck, Charlie, I was out spoiling myself. First I got a really good massage from my masseuse, Margaret Karg. She is the BOMB of sports massage. She stands on you and uses her feet using this technique called Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy. After my massage I got a pedicure and manicure. My feet are nasty on a good day: post-marathon they are nasty squared. I'm always grateful when the pedicurist even agrees to deal with them at all. Now my toes are painted grape, and so are my short fingernails. I feel very.... grape. I then went to my very favorite consignment shop and bought several stylish, adorable, inexpensive used items of clothing. Oh, and I also bought a funky pair of jeweled flip-flops and some cool earrings. I then trotted off to Starbucks and had a large hazelnut latte. I then went home to finish a super book I was reading (The Paris Wife--a story narrated by Hemingway's first wife. Absolutely brilliant. So good. Made me want to go to Paris and drink and write.) Finally I took the dogs for a very long walk in the woods.

The only bad part was that it ended, and the kids came home.
That was a bummer.

After my perfect day I decided I was ready to face the music:

It is time to focus on IM training. Bring it on, Baby!

I got up this morning and had a decent swim workout. I was slow, but at least I completed it, which is more then I can say for my swim workouts in the last week as I anticipated running Boston. Then I had kids over all day b/c it's school vacation week and they BEGGED to have friends over and well, I caved. By the time said kids had gone home (actually one was still here) I finally got on the bike for my second workout, and did... oh..... not quite the whole thing.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat start.

Okay.... so maybe I start TOMORROW.
That's it. Tomorrow I will execute it all perfectly. I know it.

I leave you with a few Boston Marathon pics.
What have I to say about these pictures?
(Other than, yes, I know I stole them and they say proof all over them as a result.

But really, my first thought upon seeing them?

Dear GOD I need a dye job. My hair looks like shit! As soon as I saw the pics I scheduled a hair appointment for a cut and color. It's orange for crying out loud! When did this happen? How long have I had horribly disgusting orange hair????
Also, I think it is very curious that my lips appear to already be BLUE. Remember the hypothermia? What was going on? Had my body temp. already dropped? Very very very interesting, I say.
I know I am not smiling in any of these pictures. Frankly, I was working too damn hard to smile. Frowns and grimaces are much more becoming, anyway, don't you think?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Marathon! The RR

I had a great run.

Don't get me wrong....
It did not feel great, especially at the end, but it was still a great run.

This is the short version of my RR:

I felt GREAT for the first 10 miles! Then I felt pretty good for the next 6 miles. Then I really did not feel very good for the next 6 miles after that. Then I really wanted to collapse on the ground and cry and have someone carry me home. Then I saw the end and it looked about five thousand miles away and I ran like a wild woman with hands and legs flailing all over the place and spit coming out my nose and eyes and mouth and then I was there!! And I crossed the line! And....And....

WTF! They so don't catch you like they do in IM. I wanted a catch! Instead. I staggered a bit and then some very stand-offish dude said, Nice Job. Now keep walking.

Isn't that just about the essence of the marathon???

****GREAT!/  Good.../not so good/  Dear GOD end soon or I will die for sure/....THE END THE END THE END! Stagger.****

______ Long Version of RR:

The pre-race festivities were lovely... until about 10 minutes before the start.  I was hanging with my friend Zac (who went a 2:54!! GO Zac!) and my new friend Teresa. We had a leisurely stroll to the athlete village, and then a leisurely pee after waiting in line at the porta-potties, and then we went to drop our bags off at bag check. Except.... where was bag check?  Too late we realized that bag drop off was like a mile away. And it was 10 minutes til go time....
Oh yeah... there was a big OH FUCK right about that point.

Zac took our bags and ran them out to the baggage check.
He is a God.
I will be eternally grateful to Zac. You are the man. I owe you like 500 Guinness. Thank you.

Meanwhile Teresa and I started jogging to our corral. We kept jogging. And jogging. We were in corral eight of nine. There were 8000 people in front of us. We had to go like a mile down to the road to get to our starting point. Then, once the gun went off, it took us more than five minutes to get back up the road to the starting line. Insane!

The first miles were very difficult... because I am  not patient. Boston is an insidious course. It starts downhill for the first 4 miles. I ask you, who needs 4 miles of downhill at the START of a marathon? And more importantly, who needs four miles of uphill starting at mile 17? That is like a super cruel joke. Really. It is.

I tried to hold back, but I felt like I was running on air. It felt SO easy. But I had to hold back. You can't jackrabbit a marathon--even if it does start downhill. My patience was further tested because there were, well, 8000 runners ahead of me, and there was literally no room to move. Between trying to keep a reasonable pace and continually getting boxed in, I felt like a caged animal.

This feeling pretty much lasted until mile 10. I felt super, but I also felt pissy. I knew I could fly, but I couldn't.grrrr. Get out of my way!!

By mile 13 I no longer felt boxed in, but there were still people all around me. However, at this point I was no longer holding back anyway. I was just holding. I felt good, sort of... but certainly not quite as super as I had been feeling at mile 10. Still, I had no doubt I could keep pace. And I did. For four more miles.

I saw my mother and father in-law at about mile 15, and that was a boost. Then I saw Andy and the kids at mile 15.75, and that was a huge boost! My kids had this sweet sign Jordan had painted... Go Mom! Keep Running! SO adorable. I will keep it forever.

Unfortunately, the sign did not prevent me from the feeling the inevitable. Soon after I passed them I started to no longer feel good--at all. In fact, I felt barely tolerable. I knew I could continue on indefinitely, but frankly, I wasn't too psyched about what the next 10 miles might hold.

I hit the first hill. Ewwwww. Then that was over and I was all good again. I saw my athlete, Kelly. Big Boost. Then another hill...and ewwwwww. Wow. My pace was really dropping. Then it was flattish, and I was okay, but really, well, hurting. And then there was Heartbreak Hill... ewwwwww

At this point I drew strength from my two marathon IM experiences. I had felt so much worse during those marathons. And here? Well sure, I hurt. But was I barfing? no. Was I shitting? no. Was I about to pass out? no. Okay then. I was fine. Just run and stop your bitching, self. Just run.

By mile 21 I was feeling maybe a little loopy and definitely achy, and I had definitely slowed down, but I noted that I was passing many people, so even though my pace had slowed considerably, I was still doing better than some others. That is always a boost, don't you think?... I may feel like crap, but I'm sure I don't look as bad as that dude... 

The last miles of the race were really a blur. I hurt. I hurt everywhere. I was being passed, but I was also passing people. I really had to talk myself through... Okay... only 5k. You can do a 5k. Okay... only 2.5 That is nothing. Only one mile. Mary... you have this. Just don't crack. etc etc. Until the very last step.

I crossed the line at 3:15:54. I had hoped for as fast as a 3:13... but I was still very very very very happy with a 3:15... (no matter how high that 3:15!) I had to run 6:55 pace for the last .3 to get that 3:15, so I am so giving myself credit for squeezing in under the 3:16 mark!

Ahhhh ... finished.
After I finished things weren't so good, though.
I felt ... cold. Like immediately. And they make you walk and walk and walk and walk. My bag was so far away...
By the time I had found my way to baggage claim I was shaking--really quite badly. I got the bag, and then tried to find Sharon, my ride home and also the person who would take me to my friend Jeff's (Sharon's husband) office, which was walking distance and I could get changed there.

The only problem was that along with shaking I started to get disoriented. I could not figure out how to get where I was to meet her. And then I couldn't remember her name.
And then I knew I was in big trouble.

I found an EMT and tapped him. I said, shaking, I'm really cold. He looked at me and then everything went very fast. I was in a wheel chair, and then the medical tent. I saw my friend Mark Scribner when I entered and he told me he would find a way to call Andy. And then there was a thermometer in my ear and a group of people putting me on my back and piling blankets on me. I was shaking so hard that I was convulsing, my jaw was so clenched I couldn't really talk, and the woman pushing me in the wheelchair said my facial coloring was blue when they had found me.

A little while later they asked me questions. I don't remember them really. I just know I could not remember Sharon, still, and I couldn't remember Andy's phone number! My temp had climbed to 91 degrees but it wasn't budging. Then they put this super cool blanket thing with a hot air device that blew up like a raft type thing over me. They put my head under it, and wouldn't let me out to peek unless they were pulling it back slightly to take my temperature.  Soon after I was able to give them Andy's number, and I was also able to tell them where I was, my finishing time, my race number, and that my friend's name was Jeff. A+ for me! 

At about 5 pm my temperature finally got to 97.5 degrees and I was set free. It was a happy moment, although to be quite frank I was slightly worried about leaving that super cool air blanket thing and getting chilled again. The doctor began to give me instructions, then changed his mind, turned to Andy and gave them to him instead. If she gets confused... and her temperature falls below 94... emergency room. 

Okay then!
Isn't that an exciting story?
I am such a sucker for drama...
My temperature stayed fine, btw. I almost roasted Andy and my kids out of the car... but it was fine.

The important thing is that it wasn't my running that put me in the med tent. It was my post running situation, which I blame on the BAA for making the baggage claim a mile away from the damn finish. I love the Boston Marathon. But I won't be checking a bag again, that's for sure!

Congrats to all my friends who ran. The conditions were perfect, and I know many people had a great day. I had a great day too.
Thanks to Kurt. You are the best!
Thanks to Zac. Thanks to Mark. Thanks to ANDY for coming to save me!
and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I haven't been writing lately, and I haven't been reading blogs. This isn't really on purpose.

I just am not getting all da shit done these days. I won't list da shit. It would be boring for you, and depressing to me. But suffice to say da shit is getting in the way of my blogging and spending quality time in the blogosphere.  But onward.

Let's talk about my ride yesterday, shall we?
It's April in New England. Daffodils. Birds chirping. No place to hide and pee because the leaves aren't on the trees yet.
Springtime also means it's time to clean off all that winter sand from the roads. No one likes sand, especially road cyclists, so generally I like to see those sand sweeping trucks out and doing their thing.
Except when I am actually riding. Today was the ride of the sand sweepers......they were out in droves and they were blowing that fucking sand at ME, baby.

I pedaled along, minding my own business, when I'd see one in the distance, coming toward me, roiling up the road, the earth, the dust, the SAND.

And there was no where to go ... no where to go.... but straight through it.
You can imagine what I looked like at the end of this ride.

It was also the ride on which I became reminded that I do not particularly enjoy riding longer than 2 hours. To be frank, I get sick of it and I just want to go home. Today this was exacerbated by the fact that I was covered sand and grit, of course.  I need to increase my biking  mental endurance. I remember this is the case every spring... I am so excited to be out for the first part of the ride, and then I am miles from home, and just want it to end.

I have developed my pacing plan for Boston. The plan is to go BIG or go .... into the medical tent. One or the other. I am taking a risk with this one. My running has been going well, but not so much better than it was going when I PR'd the marathon last time, 1.5 years ago. For that marathon I trained similarly... similar mileage, similar pacing. And I ran an easier course to get that PR. SO, am I being a fool to run harder on a harder course this time around?

But why not risk it... I have nothing to lose here. Boston is not my A race this season. I am not trying to qualify for it for the future; I am not particularly worried about seeming the fool if I fall apart; I am not terrified of falling apart in general. If I do, I do. I will still make it to the end unless I pass out or something.

So, that's my plan. Run the first 16 at constant, manageable, but not easy or slow pace, and then hang on for dear life. Sound good?

Meanwhile, this week should be taper. Only it doesn't feel like taper. I am certainly tapering the run; I think my total mileage this week before the marathon will be under 20 miles. But I am still biking, and I am still swimming. My bike yesterday took me over three hours, which is normal for IM training at this time of year for sure, but not normal in terms of tapering for a PR marathon. Oh well.  Still, the priority, even though I want to run well at Boston, is Lake Placid, and I simply can't afford to stop biking right now in service to the marathon.

Two days ago my dogs got into the kids' crayons and yesterday they shat multi-colored poops. The colors were pastel, and I had this urge to shape the poop into Easter eggs, put the shaped poop into an Easter basket, photo it, and then have you guess what the eggs were made of.

But I didn't do it. Next time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's Going ON

Hi. It's been awhile. And there's lots to write about. And not.

Let's see...

Boston is about a week and half away. I am number 7986.  For those of you out on the course, this means I will have on a red bib and I will start at 10 a.m. I will likely be wearing a Tri-Bike shirt (red, white and black with a big bike on the front that frames my non-existent boobs). So cheer me on if you see me. Cheer really loudly. Thanks.

I'm excited to race. I'm still not exactly sure what my pacing plan is, but it is forming. Boston is tricky because the first 15 miles are a net downhill. And then you have those nasty hills that come at such an inconvenient time in the race... Still, I hope to get a personal best time.

Last weekend my family headed up to Maine to hang out with Ange and her family. We had an awesome time. On Saturday morning Ange and I got up early to go for a run. I had my last long run before Boston... a 17 miler, and Ange agreed to do it with me. The night before Ange had made sure I understood what I was getting into. The area in which she lives is mountainous. I knew this... yeah yeah yeah. I can do hills. I will be fine....

Oh MAMA! I'm not sure how much climbing we did, but it was A LOT. My pace was a good 30-40 seconds slower on average than it is when I run around here, and we have hills here, too! I'm not sure I would have completed the run if Ange hadn't been with me; I'm fairly certain I would have found a reason to cut it short. But we did it all.... I remember during the final 1/2 hour we began climbing a steep hill. I made the mistake of looking ahead... and could see how this hill went on and on and on... winding and winding. I wanted to cry. I was so trashed already! But we trudged up that hill... and like all things, eventually it did come to end!

After the run we headed to Sunday River to go skiing. Well, my family and Ange and her family skied. I stayed inside and read all day! (And oh... it was lovely...I'm reading Tom Perrotta lately--just finished The Abstinence Teacher, which was excellent.) But the kids definitely had fun.

After skiing we went out to eat with Ange's family and some of their  friends, and let me just say, I am NOT in good drinking shape!After just a few drinks I wanted to go to bed... it was rather pathetic. Mark (Ange's Mark), however, WOULD NOT LET ME go to bed. So up I got... and rallied... sort of. :) I used to be such a partier! Oh sad sad sad...

This weekend I'm off to Maine again to hang out with my Bates friends. We will shop and eat out and chat. I can't wait. And of course I will squeeze in a few runs. Boston ... so close. Can't wait.