Monday, December 10, 2012

A 5k and Some Backstroke!

December 1st marked the beginning of my training for 2013, but truth be told I hadn't yet finished racing in 2012! A few weeks ago I ran my running club's local 5k, and this past weekend I swam in the Masters Short Course Meters Swim Championship at Boston Universtiy.  Both were fun. (and painful. also very painful...)

First up: the GNRC Ho Ho Ho 5k. I hadn't run this race since 2008. I am never in decent shape in December, and running a 5k when you are not in decent shape is never ever pretty. This year, though, I decided to go for it anyway. Sure, I'm in lousy shape right now. Who cares! YOLO, Man! (Okay, I'm trying.)

Anyway. I'm coaching myself right now, and one thing I wanted to know before embarking on such a journey is to find out where I am REALLY at in 5k land--right now. I'd like to take my 5k PR and organize my workouts and pacing around that time--but that would be sorta dumb, now wouldn't it? I needed a benchmark--no matter how ugly that benchmark might be. You have to know where you are in order to design a way to get to where you want to arrive.

The day was cold and snowy. The roads were a tad slick. This did not bode well for my already shaky confidence going into the race. I found my friend Maria and lined up next to her for the start. I figured Maria, who is usually around my pace, would be faster than me today, but I decided that I would try to stay with her. That was pretty much my only strategy for the race. Try to stay with Maria.

The starter said Go! (rather un-ceremoniously) and off I went. Too fast.

A quarter mile into the race I realized I was leading for women. This wasn't a good moment, actually. I knew I didn't have any business leading this race given the shape I was in. Still, I held on. I knew Maria would arrive by my side soon enough! Mile 1: 6:40. Okay. Not so terrible. Not so great, either, but given the rate and force of my breathing I decided it was best not to try to up the pace at all. And then, there she was! Maria, just behind me. Maria, just at my side. Maria, stepping just ahead of me. I used her energy to boost my own and forced myself to stay with her. Mile 2, 6:35. I was definitely having trouble holding pace. I pushed ahead of Maria a bit. Could I psych her out? Convince her I could take her? She moved up with me and we ran stride for stride.

With about a 1/2 mile to go she pulled ahead. I couldn't stay with her, but did my best not to let her get too far ahead. I know she doesn't like to blast the downhill because of her knees, and there is a little downhill section within the last quarter mile of the race. I would catch her then. We hit the downhill and I kicked hard. I gained on her... I was at her heels! But then she pulled away just slightly again and WHAM! We crossed the line. She beat me by 2 seconds.

What fun! We ran 21:03, 21:05 respectively. Not bad for being in sub par shape! And what a race! I LOVE racing when it's really a race! (even if I didn't win.) I must admit I was damn psyched to stay with Maria as long as I did. Thanks for the motivation, Maria!

Last weekend I swam at Boston University in the Short Course Meters Masters Championships. I love this meet. It's a big one, so my Maine teammates come down to race. Also, because we race meters there is less *meaning* attached to whatever times I get. For example, I swam the 400 meter free, and got a 5:45. I'm not really sure how that translates to yards (there are calculators--but every calculator gives you a different number so you begin to lose faith that there is a correct way to calculate meters to yards...) and so I can just say, Well, it's faster than I swam it last month at that other little meet I did, so I must have done great! :) No comparing it to my high school times or anything like that.. because we didn't swim the 400 meter free then!

I swam seven events: the 400 meter free, the 200 meter back, the 100m back, the 50m back, the 50m fly, and then I swam on two medley relays for Maine--100 back in one and 50 back in the other.

One thing I have to say about swimming in meets: you forget how BAD swimming really hard hurts! Swimming hard in a meet is not like swimming hard in practice. Sure, when you swim hard in practice you get out of breath, you want to stop, you feel spent when you finish. But when you swim in a meet? Holy SHxx it is exhausting. Before you get in the water you think, how bad can (say) four lengths be? The first length always feel good. The second length not as good, but you are still on fire. But when you make the turn onto the third length you suddenly realize that you can't get enough oxygen when you breathe; you feel your muscles start to burn, and you honestly think--I'm dying! Yes, it can get ugly. Even if you are just swimming 100 measly meters.

The big question for me is whether my times in backstroke indicate that I can swim the yard equivalent of each event in qualifying times for Nationals. My times were fast in the backstroke (for me)--. Certainly faster than they have been in past years--even the year we all wore super fast, now-illegal suits.  But whether they are *fast enough* really depends on the online calculator you use to measure meter to yard speed. According to Swimming World, I still need to chop off 4 seconds from my 200 back, 1 second from my 100 back, and .75 of a second from my 50. If you use other calculators, I am within 2 seconds on the 200, and with .4 of a second on the 50 and the 100. And if you use one special calculator (my favorite, OF COURSE) (The Great Bay Masters calculator) I have already qualified in all three events.

I'm choosing the Great Bay calculator. Thanks.

One thing I love about these big meets is watching the super fast, accomplished swimmers who come to compete. My friend Tracy is one of those swimmers (as well as Alina, of course!). Tracy broke a bunch of New England records (many set by her in previous years!) including swimming a time of 1:00 in the 100 meter free. That's like... a :52 or so in yards! Crazy fast. Actually... all her swims were of that caliber. That swim just stands out in my mind, though. She amazes me.

On Saturday night after the meet (it was a two day meet--Saturday and Sunday) Alina and I celebrated our swims by going out to dinner at this awesome little Mexican place we like.  Included in said dinner were a few margaritas, and they were YUMMY. I rarely drink margaritas (except with Alina!) and so this was a super special treat. Probably didn't help our swimming much on Sunday, but hey--as I said, I'm all about YOLO right now.  (Right, Bean?)

Btw, I STILL WANT TO BE your faithful advice columnist. If you think of a good question--shoot me an email! ( OR you can make up a question! I'm all about answering faux questions. I *may* even make up a few of my own. Now THAT could be fun.

Happy Training.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dear Mary, Advice Column #1

Dear Mary,
For the past ten years I have always enjoyed running, while not my best it is my favorite part of triathlon.  I have always used running to kind of escape real life and enjoy the friendships it has brought me and the clear mind.  However I have never felt like a runner.  If people ask if I am a runner I am quick to say I am a swimmer or triathlete.  This makes no sense to me (Yes, I sometimes make no sense to my own self).  I can identify myself as a swimmer, cyclist and triathlete but no matter how much or how fast I run I can't identify with being a runner.  I feel like this inability to indenitify myself as a runner hurts my confidence when I toe the stating line of a run race.  When I toe the line of a run race I do not have the confidence to say to myself "I got this" like I do the other sports.  I want and feel like I need that confidence and same agressive style to be truly successful at running.  Please tell me the running secret!
Wanna be Runner  
Dear Wanna be Runner,
The other day I was skimming through updates on Face Book. A friend had posted an inspirational quotation about running on his page. 
What defines you as a runner isn't how many miles you've run or how fast you run. What defines you as a runner is the decision to lace up your shoes, get out the door, and run. 

My first thought was Oh! Just for Wanna Be Runner! There it is!
But then I thought... Oh PLEASE. What bull. I find it interesting how often I find a quotation like that at first inspirational, and then, practically in the next moment, I find it hollow.  I'm not just a runner because I lace up my shoes and head outside to run. I very MUCH think that the miles I've accrued and the pace at which I run defines me as a runner! And it defines you as one too, Wanna Be Runner, even if you don't feel like you can define yourself as such--as a true runner--as a runner who deserves to be defined as a runner.
Although I found the quote hollow it did get me to think about how we define ourselves, and also how we allow our perceptions of what the outer world believes about us to define us. This, as you know, is something I've written about many times; it's a real obsession of mine. How do I define myself with and without the labels I have used to describe myself--mother, teacher, triathlete, reader, writer? How does the world view me, and is my definition of myself in line with how the world perceives me?

 So I totally get your problem, Wanna Be Runner. I totally get how you can define yourself first as a swimmer, cyclist and triathlete, and not at all as runner, even though you spend a lot of time running and have run for many years. I get it because how we define ourselves often has little to do with what we actually DO on a daily basis, and more to do with who we have been, who we hope to be, and who (we believe) the outer world says we are.
I remember when I first started running I did not own a running bra. I also didn't own running shoes. I decided one day that I would try running... and as I ran it occurred to me. Hmmm. It is certainly not comfortable running in this under-wire bra. And when I got home from my 9 minute jaunt I noted that the skin trapped underneath the underwire had been rubbed raw. It was my first experience with chafing. What did women do about this? And then there was the problem of shoes. I knew at once that the very old tennis shoes I had used for this inaugural run would not suffice if I were to take up running in earnest.

 I asked my mother soon after for a running bra and running shoes as a Christmas present. (Being a rather poor college student at the time, I didn't not have the means to buy such things with my own meager savings.) She got me a pair of Reeboks which she learned from the clerks at Lamey Wellahan were designed for running, and an extremely unattractive, white, grannyish bra that fit more like a girdle than anything I had worn before or have worn since.  I wore those shoes and that ugly, granny-ish bra for a full year before I invested in another bra and another pair of running shoes. I'm not sure I realized at that point that runners replaced their shoes often, or that real runners had many more than ONE running bra.

Do you remember, Wanna Be Runner, your first running bra? Do you remember your very first pair of bona fide running shoes? And where are they now? Do you remember your first run--the run you took before you became a runner? Do you remember how, early on, you couldn't escape the shin splits so common to those who have just taken up running? Do you remember the very first time you ran more than 3 miles and realized, DEAR GOD, I just ran 3 miles? Do you remember? Do you remember finishing your first 5k and the feeling you had that WOW! I can do this! I ran a race!

I ask you to remember because I think your answer to whether you can consider yourself a runner resides in the answers. My guess is that you have now run through dozens and dozens of running shoes, and that you have far more than one, lonely, grannyish running bra. My guess is that not only do you have more than one lonely bra, that each week when you do the laundry you have to wash several running bras, because you have gone on far more than one silly run. My guess is that you have been irritated, at times, that your favorite bra is not clean for your long run, or that you've lamented that they have discontinued (as they always do) your very favorite pair of running shoes. My guess is that it was a long time ago that you realized, with joy, that you could actually complete 3 miles. My guess is that when you run 3 miles now, you think of it as a short little run.

The fact that you have this history with running means that if nothing else you have done your fair share of running. And isn't that, in the end, what should define you as a runner? That you have run, that you still run, that you will continue to run, barring catastrophe, in the future? That, just as the platitude says, you lace up your shoes and run out the door? You have done that for years--you have accrued miles and miles and miles. Yes, Wanna be Runner, there is no doubt you're a runner.
 But it seems that what is more at issue here is not whether you are a runner, which you are, but whether you a runner who feels she deserves to define herself as such.

And so you must ask yourself, what would it take, in your mind, for you to DESERVE to be defined as a runner? What kind of speed does it require? What kind of mileage per week? Do you need to be a person who can run a 5k in a certain amount of time? Do you need to be a person who has run a marathon? A person who has earned a BQ? What, when asked whether you are a runner, is CAUSING you to recoil and then not allow yourself to say--Why yes! I am!

Perhaps you are thinking, but that's just it! I don't know why I do not allow myself to say I am a runner -- to believe I can run! But it's in there, Wanna Be Runner! Somewhere, at some point, you got in that head of yours a particular definition of what a runner is and should be. You are holding yourself to that standard, even if you currently can't even say what that standard is. You are holding yourself to that standard and it is sucking the energy out of your otherwise confident racing self. You are taking away your running power by not granting yourself the status of runner--a status you can only earn by meeting the standard you have in your head.

So the first thing you need to do is to figure out exactly what that standard is that defines you, at least in your head, as a runner or not. After you figure out what that is you have to decide, am I going to try to talk myself out of that standard, or am I going to try to SLAY that mofo of a standard? For me, the standard was running a marathon. I remember distinctly sitting in my bedroom in my little apartment on Nottinghill Road in Brighton thinking, Now, if I could run a marathon.... THEN I would be real. I would be a real runner. If I could run a marathon I would be the real deal.

It took me several more years before I did run that marathon. I ran Boston as a bandit in the spring of 1997.  I remember how astonished I was every time I did a long run leading up to Boston that I had actually made it that far---10 miles, 14, 20. But it was not until I crossed the finish line of the race that I actually believed I could run that far--that I could be a person who ran 26.2 miles.

I also remember that after the race I felt strangely unsettled. I had done it! I had run 26.2 miles! I WAS a person who WAS a runner! But yet... I was still me. I was the same Mary I had always been. My friends and family, my boyfriend (Andy) who had run the final miles of the marathon with me, all viewed me as .... Mary. Just Mary.  I had not magically transformed. I did not wear a label that said, LOOK! I am a person who can run a MARATHON!

And then I knew... I hadn't run that marathon so that OTHERS would view me as a runner. Or maybe I had--but others, especially those close to me, would not think of me differently if I ran a marathon, or two, or ten. I would still be... Mary. I had run that marathon to show me that I was a runner. I had to do it to prove to myself that I had it in me. I had to slay that mofo of a standard. And then I would allow myself to call myself a runner. Only then.

Is there something like that for you, Wanna be Runner? Is there a standard you need to conquer before you allow yourself to define yourself according to your running? Because the secret to running, which I think you already know, is to believe yourself a runner. In my eyes, and in the eyes of others, you already are one. But what will it take for YOU to believe you are one? My advice is to figure that out. Figure that out, and then go for it. Figure that out, conquer it, and then return to the starting line, knowing that you are the real deal. Go out and prove that you are the REAL DEAL--the real deal that, ironically, you already are.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear Sugar,

Last week I went to Maine for Thanksgiving. When there, Alina gave me a copy of Cheryl Strayed's book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar.  Strayed writes an advice column entitled Dear Sugar for an online site called The Rumpus. The book is a compilation of her favorite letters and her responses to them. 

What makes the Dear Sugar advice column different from other advice columns like Dear Abby and the like, is that Strayed crafts responses that call on her own experience and life story. She opens herself up completely and puts it all out there. She's wise, but also vulnerable. She's smart, but she has done some very un-smart things. She's incredibly insightful. I highly recommend the book; I read it in three sittings, and didn't want to put it down at all. I recommend it, but that isn't the reason I'm writing about it. 

I write about because I have this idea.
I want to be Sugar.
And of course I can't be Sugar.
She is smart, funny, tender, pretty, and most importantly, she gives excellent, thoughtful advice in response to (often) extremely complicated problems.  Also, she's like-- famous. And she has published books, articles, stories...And she has a real life story with really complicated and distressing and sad and frightening parts to it that she had to overcome and did-and she can allude to these things in her responses to the super complicated problems presented to her.
She is the real deal.

Still, as I read her book my vain self thought, DEAR GOD! This is what I was meant to be! My destiny was to be an advice columnist! All these years and I didn't know my true calling...

And of course I jest. Except not really. I really think I was supposed to be an advice columnist. Now, you ask, what makes me think I am qualified for such a job? Oh, whatever. I'm not. Who ever IS qualified to be an advice columnist? I still think it  is my calling, qualified or not.  The question is how to fulfill my calling. And here is where you come in, Reader. You can help me to achieve my dream of becoming an advice columnist! I see it now... All these years I blogged, and all these posts have led me to this: Dear Mary.
(Can't you see it?)

(Yes, I am being sarcastic. Except again, not really. I really want to be Sugar! or rather, Dear Mary!)

But my column, naturally, would not be advice on love and life. (Although I certainly am willing to answer questions on love and life, having made my own fair share of missteps that I'd love to write about to make you all feel better about your own lives, and so on.) No, instead my column would be Dear Mary (or Dear something... you will all have to help me with that), Advice on Triathlon and Life. 

Now, you need to understand that Sugar does not answer your every day run of the mill life questions. She answers some tough, murky shit. (Can shit be murky? Perhaps just the toilet bowl is murky with shit? You know... after your son leaves it and without flushing, and the dogs have their way with it? That is certainly murky.)

Anyway. My point is that the letters to her are complex and confused, and the letters she writes in return are detailed and provide clarity. Here's a good example of an exchange:
Advice Column #96: The Dark Cocoon
(just click on the title above, Mom.)

I provide this example see you can see that what I'd like to undertake is a writing venture as much as an advice venture. So the responses I give would be part memoir, part advice. I'm not expecting that you will write me letters like this, although if you did that would be quite fun. Instead, though, I am asking for letters, or even short questions, that ask about triathlon and life. Or the triathlon life, or just the life of someone who happens to be a triathlete. I'm not sure what that means or looks like because so far I have received no letters. However, when I do, or if I do, I will let you know what that means.

As with Dear Sugar, your letters, or questions, can be anonymous, and should include a pseudonym at letter's end as opposed to your real name. Of course, I will likely know who you are if you email me, but whatever. My point is that I would not publish that information. You can ask silly quesitons or serious questions, and they can be about whatever you want them to be about. In short, that's what I'm trying to say here.

So yes, I am asking you to write to me.
Here's my email address:


Monday, November 26, 2012

Okay, I'm Ready.

Yesterday I followed Ironman Cozumel online.
I checked two age groups pretty consistently--W40-44 and W45-49. I looked at 45-49 because my friend Robin was racing. She kept me on the edge of my seat, that Robin. She swam well, biked better, and ran her way up to 4th where she stayed. But I could tell by examining splits during the marathon that she was edging closer and closer to girls in positions 2 and 3. And then final result came in: she had stayed in fourth but was only 1 minute off third and 2 minutes off 2nd. Amazing performance. But DAMN!

I also looked at W40-44 because.... I was supposed to race in 40-44. My name sat sadly on the bottom of the list, a bunch of zeros following it... because I did not start. Instead I watched the race from my computer in Massachusetts. Becky, a local athlete to me, dominated the 40-44 field. She lead out of the water, was second off the bike, and then reclaimed first and held it for the whole run. It was fun to see--especially because I was  not trying to race her!

I had many a pang as I watched the race unfold online. I felt simultaneous relief and torture. I should be there and I want to be there--but thank God I am not there. 

I have been really taking it easy the last month, and I needed to take it easy. I needed to let the previous season leach out of me completely. In the late summer and early fall I took on the project of having fun in order to start that leaching. That worked for awhile. I did Masters swimming and took flying trapeze lessons and competed in cyclocross races. I bought fun swim suits and swore off Gu and sport drink and salt tabs, and I didn't run for 10 straight weeks. And then I was done with that. I was ready to be quiet and ready to stop trying so hard at forgetting. So I just stopped and read books for awhile. I started to run a bit. I didn't get on my bike at all.

And here I am.

I was supposed to be there, and I wanted to be there, but Thank God I was not there.  The 2012 season needed to leach out of me, and I needed to let it. I needed to let it leach out of me as I allowed its lesson to seep into me. I needed to let my disappointment morph into wisdom.

And I did that. I'm ready to train again.

Today is the day that marks the beginning of the training that will prep me for racing in 2013. I've created my own plan through to my first race in late March, and I'm excited about it. I'm also looking forward to manipulating the plan as I execute it! I love making plans--and I love tweaking plans, and sometimes I love totally changing the plans I have made!

This morning I swam Masters. I wore my pink-polka-dotted suit, my pink cap, and used my pink pull buoy during our pull sets. I nestled down in my lane with my lane mates Ian, Tod and Randy and I worked. And it felt awesome to work! And I can't wait to get up tomorrow morning and work again.

Rest is important, etc, and so on, blah blah blah. You know what? I guess it is. But rest is passive.  I didn't need rest, although certainly I have literally rested. What I needed, and what ahteltes often need, particularly after a very disappointing season, is much more than the passive inaction of rest. I had to fight to let go of last season. I had to fight to get beyond the disappointment of working REALLY hard and having things not go right. I had to let myself heal both actually (I did have that damn fracture) and mentally by forcing myself to try new things that might bring back some of the joy I once found in training and racing.

That wasn't going to happen in just a few weeks. I needed months. Sometimes we need months! And frankly, I will not be the same ever again. Disappointment can change us. I believe when we learn from that disappointment it can change us for the better.

2013 SEASON. 
Both little races and big races. 
Both new races and races I do every year. 
And best of all, everything is subject to change... 

  • Jan. 1    New Year's Day 5k, Needham MA
  • Jan. 20  Jimmy the Greek's 4 Mile Race in OOB, ME
  • Jan. 27 Wellesley Masters Meet
  • Feb. 3  Cape 10 Mile Road Race, ME
  • Feb. 16 Metrowest Valentines Swim Meet
  • Feb. 17 Foxboro 10 Mile Road Race, MA
  • Feb. 24 Casco Bay Toughen UP Challenge (swim meet) ME
  • March 17 Quincy Half Marathon
  • March 31 California 70.3
  • April 14 Wellesley Masters Meet
  • April 21 Run for Charlotte 10K
  • April 28 Cape Swim Meet
  • May 5 Sudbury Spring Sprint
  • May 10-12 Masters National Championship (swim), Indianapolis
  • June 9 Holliston Sprint
  • June 15 Patriot Half Iron
------------------ BREAK
    • July 26 Ocean Park 5k
    • August 18 Tri For Preservation Sprint
    • August 25 OOB Half Iron
    • Sept. 8 Pumpkinman Half Iron
    Sept/Oct/Nov--lots of cyclocross! 

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Running in the Dark

    Last Sunday I started my run late in the day. It was 4:15 when I finally got going. I had on shorts and a long-sleeved shirt, and about 10 minutes into the run I decided I had made a mistake by not wearing tights and slipping on a pair of gloves. I also realized that if I wanted to finish my run, I'd be finishing in the dark.

    I don't exactly like running in the dark, and I'm definitely not used to it. As darkness fell I felt increasingly tentative about each step, worried I might trip, and I was alarmed by how bright the lights of the oncoming cars were. As I ran I kept thinking that running alone in the dark--and not realizing the dark was coming so soon--was metaphoric... for something. Or maybe not a metaphor; maybe an omen? But that's as far as my brain got; I was too focused on not getting hit by a car to allow my thinking to get even a little complex.

    Once done with the run I contrived a couple quite apt, (if cliched) metaphors for my running as the night came on. But the only thing that really stayed with me of those metaphors had to do with the very basic LIFE metaphor.  We try so hard, in life, to refrain from running in the dark. It makes us uneasy; our footing is not secure. And we worry that a car, with its bright lights and careless power, will plow us down as we try to get home.

    My run on Sunday aside, I generally avoid running in the dark. For years I still did so; I was teaching, and to get my running in I had run in the early, dark hours before school began.  To combat my extreme dislike of running alone in darkness I found a group of runners who also ran early and glommed onto them. (I'm still friends with these people. We eventually formed a running club, GNRC.) I still didn't relish getting started in the pitch black, but when chattering away with friends I'd soon forget that we could barely see where we were going.

    Running in the dark, especially when done alone, requires courage and it requires faith.  You need to believe that you will keep your footing even if you can't exactly see where you're landing; you need to believe that others, driving in their all-powerful cars, will notice and respect you.  I don't trust my footing that much, and I definitely don't trust other humans that much.

    Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately, I'm not quite sure) we go through stretches in life where we simply cannot avoid running in the dark. But what I wonder is if those periods of time aren't bad at all. Do those times actually do us good by pulling us out of our complacency? When we run in daylight we move without really paying attention: we know where we are going, we can see the road ahead, we know our pace because we can see the face of our Garmins.  It's all good. But is it? Because just when you think you have this run thing figured out, you then have a run that starts out well, in the light, but  half way through that run you realize you haven't prepared correctly--you are totally under-dressed for the conditions--and you are far from home, and the sun is fading from the sky. We are forced, at those times, to call on our courage and faith, and if it's been a very long time since we ran in the dark, that can be tough to do.

    This seems to be turning into a post in which I advocate just getting out there and running in the dark. Develop your courage! Have faith! Put on those running shoes and boldly step into a pothole and get hit by a car while running in the dark!

    The command is trite. I know.

    I think what I am really after is not the idea that you must put yourself in the dark so you can be awakened, but rather the idea that without running in the dark, we fail to develop our courage and faith. I know faith conjures the religious, and that's not what I mean here. What I mean is that it requires faith to remove ourselves from comfort and declare what we are after. It takes courage to believe we can achieve something if we have no proof we can do so.

    The other day a friend of mine posted his belief--online--that he would make it to Kona in 2013. My reaction upon seeing this was something along the lines of WOAH, Bold statement there! What makes you believe that you have what it takes to get there when you haven't yet even completed your first Ironman? But I realized, soon after having that thought, that my reaction had more to do with me, and my struggle with having faith, than it had to do with his declaration. He KNOWS that he must really believe--or it won't happen. To declare it to the world is a way of making it real. I know, and he must know, that he will be running in the dark to get there. But if he believes he will make it through, he just might. That is the way faith works.

    I wish it was as simple as deciding on faith. I'm a cynic, and that cynicism extends to my belief in my own ability to achieve. So I'm thinking maybe what I need is to run in the dark--you know--sort of symbolically. Maybe I need to act like I have the faith that I won't step in a pothole or slip on leaves or get hit by a careless driver who could care less about my faith--or my lack of it. 

    Between now and my first race of the season, California 70.3 in late March, I am designing and following my own training plan. I don't feel like this is running in the dark. I certainly have done my fair share of designing effective training plans for others and for myself. Still, this move requires faith on my part. My plan is different than anything I have ever done before--and therefore it's both exciting and risky. I have had Kurt look at my plan, and he has offered up that it's not totally insane. I'm taking that as endorsement.

    Here's to faith and courage.

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    The Classics Club

    I'm somewhat of a school addict. If I could take on as my permanent job that of STUDENT, I would be quite pleased. Being a student is actually similar to being a triathlete in training.

    When training, you are working toward something great. You are working toward betterment, toward achievement, toward glory, toward greatness. Your training has a purpose outside of just being a way to keep thin, to keep in shape, to stave off mortality. Being a student is similar. Your reading, writing and insight have purpose when you are taking a class. They are attached to a goal--that of getting a good grade and that of being more articulate, better read and more knowledgeable than Bob who is sitting next to you in class.

    A grade--A race. Same idea.

    I get to work toward something--and that thing, though contrived, is also real. You really do compete in a race; you really do receive a grade. Once that carrot (the race/the grade) is taken from me, however, my effort seems without purpose--just a silly self-indulgence. Of course, you and I both know that even attached to a race or a grade, training and reading/writing is just as much a form of self indulgence. I'm not out to better the world; I'm out to "better" (read indulge) me. I could get all nihilist on you and explain how since the world is inherently devoid of meaning except that which I ascribe to it, I need these contrivances to get me up in the morning. But that's probably a bit much for 11:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning.

    Anyway. Often in the off season I start hankering for goals. Usually this results in me starting a bunch of big projects that I can't execute properly once my training and racing picks up again. Nevertheless, I can't seem to help myself. This week, after my work and short workouts were done, I spent time building a list of classic literature I want to read in the next five years. I've set goals like this before (that is, to read a set amount of a type of literature in a prescribed period of time), but, as explained earlier, when the goal isn't attached to something outside of me--like a race or a grade--I have trouble sticking with it. But this time... this time I found something--a lovely contrivance to keep me working! I am joining a blogger group called The Classics Club. On it you post a list of the 50+ plus classics you plan to read in the next five years. As you read through the list, you blog about each book.  Here is my list.

    I did something similar to this in my late 20s. I didn't join a group, but I did make a list of classics I wanted to read. These classics had to have  had movie versions made of them, however. I'd finish a classic and then reward myself by viewing the movie. I remember I made Andy watch all the movies with me. At the time I kept a journal of my thoughts--whether the movie did justice to the book, or not. I'll be damned if I can find the journal now, of course. Another awesome project alive only in my brain... and not on paper. Of course, even when you have written or photographic evidence of a successful project, it still really only exists in your brain as a fragmented and imperfect memory.

    I'm posting this in my reading blog, where I will detail my classics reading, and on my tri blog just IN CASE any of you triathletes are also closet classics lovers and want to journey over to Reading It to read about my adventures in Classics reading.

    I finished Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meaning this week. Can you believe I hadn't read that one? I know. Me too. I loved it... but honestly I loved Cider House and Garp more. Owen slides into the number 3 spot of best loved Irving books for me. I also just finished Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers. You know, I really did NOT think I would like that one. The premise, that a huge portion of the world population vanishes into apocalyptic air, irritated me. Was this going to be like Left Behind? But I knew Perrotta does not espouse any one particular religious view, so my curiosity was peaked. The novel is more of a character study -- imagining how individuals would respond in the wake of an apocalyptic occurrence.

    Okay, triathletes. Enough on books.
    Next post will be back to our regularly scheduled programming.
    One point five weeks until I begin actual TRAINING again!

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012


    November is almost always a quiet month for me in terms of training and racing. In a few weeks I will officially begin training for next season, but for now I am lazy. Sometimes I do my workouts; sometimes I do not.

    Lately I've been doing a lot of this:

    Hazel is less happy about this development than I am. Here she is trying to communicate with me telepathically: NO more reading, Mom! Time to take me running in the woods! What's the deal here!!

    When I'm not lounging in bed reading, I've been swimming and running a bit. My swimming is going well because I have been swimming with a Masters group that has me swimming more and swimming harder than I have for a long time. Running--not so much. I'm enjoying running, especially since it was taken from me (because of the stress fracture) for eight weeks. But my running is slowwwwwwww. Partially this is because it's supposed to be slow. It's November! Partly this is because when you don't run for 8 weeks you lose some (or a lot more than some) run fitness.

    It's okay.
    I'm keeping the faith that it will come back.

    I haven't been biking much at all lately. I had a ton of fun with cyclocross, but I can feel that my mind and body want to shut it down for a few weeks now, before they have to gear up for real training again. So I'm letting them shut down. See how much wiser I'm getting in my old age?  I know. It's kind of stunning, really.

    My favorite aspect of November is that it is generally a planning month.
    I love planning.

    I plan the garden for next spring, I plan my winter list of books to read, and I plan my next triathlon season.  I've officially decided that I am not training for an Ironman in 2013. I want to train for an Ironman, don't get me wrong. I love that training! But I think my body and mind need a break from it.  Lake Placid this year was hard... hard physically, of course, but mostly hard mentally. I wasn't in the game at all, especially for the run. Then very soon after Lake Placid I was diagnosed with the stress fracture.  I want to be one of those people who bounces back after a bad race and a bad injury; someone who triumphs by moving right on. That has been me in the past... but not so this time around. Maybe that's aging too?

    I spent the fall playing--doing cyclocross--something totally new for me, and I think I'm going to keep up that idea of play during 2013.  That is not to say I am blowing off training or racing... not at all.  But I'm doing a few things I haven't done before, and I'm leaving the Ironman until 2014.

    So, here it is! I know you have all been waiting with baited breath... my 2013 Racing Schedule!

    January. a New Year's 5k. That should be interesting. Wellesley Masters Swim Meet
    February. Cape Elizabeth 10 Miler. (some things never change) and the Foxboro 10 Miler (never done that one!)
    March: Quincy Half Marathon and California 70.3
    April: Break
    May: Sudbury Sprint, Masters Swim Nationals in Indianapolis
    June: Holliston Sprint, Patriot Half IM
    July: Break!
    August: OP 5k, Tri For Preservation Sprint, OOB 70.3
    September: Pumpkinman Half IM
    Sept-Dec: CROSS!

    I like the 70.3 distance, so I'm kind of psyched to be racing four of them next season. I'm also super excited to venture to Indianapolis in May for Masters Swim Nationals. I'll be swimming 50/100/200 backstroke (the only events I can qualify in!) but I'm MORE excited to just view the scene. I love watching really gifted swimmers, and this is the venue for that! And, of course, I can't wait to tackle cyclocross again next fall.  I plan to move and shake my way up from the bottom of  cat 4. Woot!

    Friday, November 9, 2012

    Who are you?

    Last month I met with a Jungian analyst to talk about Myers Briggs Typology. The goal was to determine my personality type so that he could recommend an appropriate analyst for me to see. I've always wanted to give Jungian analysis a shot--and mid-life seems an appropriate time to embark on such a trip.  I've known people who have gone through analysis and I think it sounds difficult, but rewarding and interesting.

    That said, I've tried to get through various Jungian texts numerous times--and I never really succeed. I want to have read Jung more than I want to read him. Most of what I know about Jungian analysis and theory I have learned not by actually reading Jung's work--but by reading about him and his work. This makes me a bit of a Jungian poser, I'm afraid.

    Soooo.....I haven't decided if I am going to pursue analysis. It's costly in terms of time and money--and I don't have a lot extra of either. And I really think I need to make it through at least one of his texts before I decide such an endeavor is a good choice for me, don't you?

    Anyway. The meeting with said Jungian analyst did re-peak my interest in personality type--and I had my MB type revealed to me once again.  I test as an ENFP.

    This is probably not shocking to you if you know me at all and you know anything about the MBTI.
    I have also tested as an INFJ and and ENFJ in the past. But mostly and most often I test as an ENFP. I just don't want to be an ENFP, so I think on occasion I have purposefully answered questions so I would not come out as that type.

    I will make the distinction for you:

    Bill Clinton is (supposedly) an ENFP.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. was (supposedly) an ENFJ.
    (The supposedlys are especially for you, Zac! :)

    See what I am saying here? I actually adore Bill Clinton, but it would feel slightly more noble to share a personality type with know?

    I write all this because I have been thinking about coaching, and the personality types of those who decide to coach. I don't think it's a stretch to say that there are certain types who gravitate toward coaching--just like there are those types that gravitate toward swim/bike/run. And the intersection of the types that choose to coach with the types that choose to compete... I find that interesting, and also worth study.

    It seems to me that knowing your own type and knowing the type of your prospective coach might help you understand each other, which might make working together easier and more productive. For example, if you are an NF, like me, and you are working with an ST, like I am, it might be that you clash a bit (or more than a bit) and you need to understand the other's perspective in order to stay in a working relationship. NF's are gushy and like to be gushed over. ST's think gushing is truly annoying and don't bother with it, assuming that you understand they think you are doing just fine unless you tell them otherwise. So an ST coach is not going to say Super job on that workout! You nailed that! when you do, in fact, nail a workout. He assumes you know you nailed it, and so what is there to say? The ST coach is more likely to clue you in to what you are doing wrong so you can correct it than to praise you when you have done something right. An NF may correct you too... but they will be gentle about it. ST's can be a little... harsh.

    I think most people have more of an idea of who they would like to be as a coach or an athlete than who they actually might be. For example, I am a cheerleading type who has disdain for cheerleaders. I admire and would like to be like those who are cold and scientific. What ends up happening, though, is that I cheerlead in my comments to my athletes, and then do my analysis of their workouts behind the scenes. Because I like to be praised, I assume others require that, too. I assume less often that they need to understand how I am using the data they provide from their workouts to determine their future workouts.  I'm sure this frustrates some of my NT or ST athletes, who really could give a shit if I tell them they did a good job. They just want to know what they did wrong so they can fix it.

    This is probably the MOST boring post ever if you do not know anything about MBTI and you don't know your type.  Here is a link to a quick test that will give you an idea as to what you test as. It's a short version of the test--not the actual MBTI--but it still works pretty well.
    Click here to take the test.

    Personality theory is enjoyed and utilized by some types (like most NF's) and thought of as a sublime waste of time to others (STJ's and STPs.)  I would argue that whether you like it or not, however, it is worthwhile to understand who you "are" and who your coach "is" so you can better understand why certain aspects of your relationship seem to work, and why others don't. Likewise, it's important to know what you require from a coach before you decide on one. Joe or Bob or Sue might be the best coach out there--but not if they don't provide what it is you need and want from a coach--no matter what that might be.

    Okay, now that I have blathered on and on, can you just take the test and tell me what you are and what type you think coaches you--if you are coached? AWESOME! Thank you. Good job. Well done. You nailed that! (No need for you to know why or how I will use the data... ;)

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Macaroni and Cheese and So On

    About two weeks ago I had a gynecological appointment. I won't get into the details of it; it involved what is usually involved in an annual--a fair amount of wincing during necessary medical procedure(s) and an uplifting conversation surrounding aging and its effects on one's reproductive system.


    At said appointment they took my "vitals".  I usually do well in the vital department, which is to say my vitals raise no red flags. In fact, usually they inspire a few mutterings of "excellent" and "super" from the mouth of the nurse in charge of taking them.  My blood pressure is super, my pulse is good, I can make the little plastic do-hickey in the small plastic pipe they ask you to blow into go up high enough to not cause alarm.

    And my weight is fine.

    Except I, like every other woman I know, have issues when it comes to weight.  So although my vitals are quite good, my psychological state is not quite so good when it comes to the issue of poundage.
    I talk a good game. I'm just fine as long as the correct number appears on the scale. When the number is acceptable I can actually be quite blithe about it all. What's to worry about? I look fine, you look fine, we all look fine! Thank GOD weight is just not an issue for me anymore. I love my body!

    And I do love my body. I just don't like it quite so much when the number on the scale does not say the correct number, which in short means, that yes, I am full of it and I actually have just as much of an issue with my body as you do. (That is if you have an issue, which you likely do. Just saying.)

    I deal with this issue by simply not getting on the scale in the off season, and actually during most of the in-season as well. Voila!  Problem solved. I am a big proponent of the idea that what you don't know can't hurt you. But if for some reason I MUST get onto the scale in the off season, I certainly do not do so unless I have just come back from a double session of yoga in a super hot studio.  That is not neurosis; that is simply common sense.

    But the doctor, dear GOD, the doctor... She puts you on that scale in your clothing (and I was wearing jeans for God's sake!) and then blithely announces the number to you, as if you can't see it, staring you right in your fat face. And so I see the number, and I am told the number, and suddenly I start having palpitations right there in the office. I begin to breathe in short, sharp breaths and I wonder whether I should perhaps ask for a paper bag to blow into so I don't start hyperventilating.  That's an exaggeration, of course. But barely.

    Anyway, since I saw this number on the scale--which, I will add, is a fine number, a perfectly good number, a number which probably would have had me running in gleeful circles and cartwheeling and doing a snarky little victory dance had I seen it staring back at me when a porky college freshman--that number has me in a tailspin. Of course it does.  And I know it's "just a number" and I know my body looks fabulous for 40 (ahem +) and I know that I am healthy, and I know that I shouldn't complain, and I know you are going to say in your comments something like, OMG, don't you have better things to think about than the 5 pounds you must lose to make you look too skinny anyway? Or worse still, You have a GREAT body! etc and so on and I know I know I KNOW! And I also know that is entirely beside the point. And you know it too. Admit it. You do know that. You know it because you likely suffer from the same craziness, and if you don't you either did not grow up in this countryor you're a liar and I'm calling you on it. right. now.
    Dear God.

    I need to tell you that although I have copious books on nutrition, sports nutrition, eating paleo, eating gluten-free, eating like a saint, eating for a green planet etc; even though I am extremely well-read on the topic and advise my athletes accordingly (or try to), it still has not affected my actual eating that much. For example, Jordan decided to make macaroni and cheese tonight after I threatened to make a vegetable stir-fry, and so naturally I allowed her to and then ate several extremely generous portions of it along with a small bowl of green peas.

    Even when I try very hard to be perfectly perfect I seem to fail. For example, while trying to fix myself a healthy snack the other day I decided on carrots and hummus--seemingly benign--seemingly a good choice, right?

    I had four enormous carrots. I'm not kidding--these carrots were like mutant carrots--thick and about a foot long. And with these four monster carrots I ate the entire container of hummus, which I realized, upon completing it, contained 500 calories. An 8 inch carrot has about 30 calories, so multiply that times 8--and I had 240 calories worth of CARROTS, which combined with the caloric intake of the hummus amounted to roughly 750 calories. For carrots. and hummus. 750 calories. I could have had a Whopper for God's sake! Except of course I couldn't have; that's not the same... but you get what I am saying. I am a woman capable of consuming 750 calories of carrots and hummus for a snack.

    In the past I have lost weight only by running. When the weight doesn't come off I simply run more. and then more. You can see how I came to running marathons, and then to completing Ironman. I'm in awe of people who can keep their weight without running a billion miles a week. It's simply astounding. It is a discipline I admire and have never attained.


    In other news. Jordan, super-daughter, and I got out for a cross race this morning. It was our first race that was not a total mud-fest, and I must say that courses without mud are almost more difficult than with mud. This is because there are no breaks. You simply must hammer the entire time, and there is no excuse, really, for slowing up at all. Of course those proficient at riding in mud would argue that mud doesn't not present a "break"of any kind--but I am not proficient in mud, and so for me, it does. At points in the race I was breathing so hard my throat felt that burn-- you know that burn? , and certainly my quads were screaming. This felt fabulous to me--and also horrible.

    I'm not sure how I placed because we left before the results were posted, but I think I may have actually beaten more women than usual! It's possible, anyway. Jordan beat two young boys, so she was quite thrilled. We celebrated by going to Dunkin' Donuts. And so my post comes full circle. I'm afraid I'm in need of a few thousand running miles....

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012


    Because I'm new to cyclocross, I don't know if it's normal to have nearly every race be a total mud-fest. Every weekend since my first cross race has been rainy on one or both days, making conditions on the courses extremely slick and muddy. Plus, I've realized, the Cat 4 people always race in the morning, when conditions are at their muddiest and slickest. No fair, I say. Shouldn't the very best racers race on the course when it is at its worst? hmmmm? Of course, I kind of dig racing in the mud like that. It makes it more crazy and stupid, and lately I've been all about crazy and stupid.

    In the last few weeks I've competed in two muddy cross races and a swim meet. Luckily, the swim meet was not muddy. But it was cold. The AIR temperature was cold. This made for a rather unpleasant meet, actually. I had to dress in sweats, Uggs, and my down coat between events. And I still turned blue.

    I swam the 400 meter free, the 100 meter back, and the 50 meter back. I usually don't race in meters, but Masters swimming in the fall/early winter appears to be short course meters season. Because I practice in yards, I have a much better sense of what I can do in each event IN yards. Times in meters seem like a foreign language to me. As soon as I finish swimming an event I have to try to convert the time in my head to yards to get a sense of how I did.

    And in this meet I did pretty well! Remember when the super fast suits were legal--way back like two years ago? Well, my fastest recorded times in meters were done in one of those suits. I have to tell you, those suits really did make you faster. I have been unable to match any times I got while wearing one of those babies -- until now! In 2010 I swam the 400 meter free in 5:53. At this meet I swam it in 5:48 without the suit! Woot! Psych! I was less psyched about the fact there were only two heats of the 400, and I got placed in the faster heat, with all the crazy fast men. Those crazy fast men lapped me. But, hey, I got a personal best time, so I was cool with it.

    Approximately 2 minutes after I finished swimming the 400, it was time to swim the 50 meter back. These little meets go SO fast. Two minutes ain't enough time to recover from a 400! Anyway, luckily there is no getting lapped in the 50 meter back, since it's only a 50. I also wasn't put into the fastest heat for this event, Thank God, so I would have been fine anyway--at least in terms of getting lapped.

    I worked on my backstroke start with Carlos, my hot swim coach the day before the meet. (Did I mention he got married last weekend? So sad for all those young, single women...) Anyway. Carlos worked with me a bit on my backstroke start the day before the meet, and hence I actually DID NOT do a back belly flop. That was thrilling in itself. (The trick is to kick up your feet. Who knew? Okay, all you swimmers knew....) I swam as hard as my not-yet-recovered body could swim, and finished in 39.5. Yes! My goal had been to break 40 seconds. I haven't had the chance to swim 50 meter back in a meet before, so I'm counting this one as PR, too.

    About a half hour later I swam the 100 backstroke. The time to beat-- a 1:22.6, obtained in 2010 with one of those damn suits. I'm sad to say that I did NOT best that time. I came in at 1:24 flat. (This is still much better than my 100 meter back time from 2011, which was a 1:28...) I have one more meet this fall to try to break that 1:22...

    Okay. Onto Cross. As I mentioned in a previous post, I convinced Andy and Jordan to give cross a try. They love it! Yah! So I'm all obsessed with making this a family thing, now. Noah can race next year, and Lara in two, so soon we can all just go and race. It's a given that someone in the family will decide cross is NOT his/her thing. But I am hoping that doesn't happen. Currently it works great in that Lara and Noah tool around on their mountain bikes while we race, and Andy and I never race at the same time, so someone is always there to watch them.

    Anyway. Our first family race was in Lancaster, MA--the Minuteman Club race. It was mostly muddy grass, very slick, and super duper turny. It was a small enough race that all the women--cat 1-4--raced together. This was slightly un-fun, because I knew the chance of getting lapped was much higher if cat 1/2 shared the race course with we slow pokes in cat 4. To make matters worse, the cat 1 and 2 riders started a minute before us. How very uncool! The chances of getting lapped were now greater STILL!

    So, I tried. I tried to go fast around all those grassy, wet, muddy turns! And it was fun! And I only fell once. (Both Jordan and Andy fell more than once, so I see this as a Mom victory.) Still, as I neared the end of my race, low and behold, two cat 1 women passed me. (Catherine, coached by Kurt too, was one of them. She is super awesome at cross and tri.) Anyway, I was a wee bit sad, but also glad knowing that I had not finished DFL, yet again. Three for three races and no DFL!

    Jordan raced right after me, and she had a blast until some kid clipped her back tire and she went flying. She got a rather nasty, bloody cut on her knee. But she was a trooper about it, and she was psyched for more. (That's my girl!)
    Here I'm about to go onto the wood chips.

     Jordan--first race.
     It was muddy!

    Lara playing on the podium, acting like the winners with arms in the air. Woot!

    This last weekend was Noah's birthday. First, Jordan and Lara made an awesome breakfast for the family to celebrate.

    Jordan is really into making our house the next Pottery Barn or William Sonoma or something, so she loves to put out these spreads. She and Andy watch This Old House together, and she's constantly making designs that show how she wants to renovate the kitchen. All this is good with me. I am completely and totally not into home decor, and she can take it on as her domain! (But I'm not re-doing the kitchen. No way. ) The other day she noticed that some of our door knobs are brass, and some brushed silver.  Apparently this is not good. Ummm, aren't you eleven? Who gives a shit about doorknobs at eleven?

    Anyway. Back to the weekend. After the breakfast Noah, Lara and Jordan took a flying trapeze lesson. (Jordan and I liked it so much we decided Noah and Lara should get a class, too. ) I have cool pictures from this, but I can't find the zip file right now, so that will have to wait.

    We drove up to Maine that night, and the next day raced in New Gloucester at the Downeast Cross Race at Pineland Farms. Okay, the Minuteman race had been sloppy, but this was crazy! It had really rained the day before and everything was just MUD. There was a 50 yard stretch of 2 feet deep mud/water that everyone just rode right through. Jordan, poor thing, lost her sneaker in it! (She doesn't have clipless pedals yet.) So she's trying to get her sneaker from out of the depths of the mud, and women around her are screaming, On your right! On your left! (She did find it, though.)

    Truly exciting for me was that I did not get lapped, AND I made it to the top of the bottom quarter of Cat 3/4! I was 29 out of 39.... movin' on up! (You have to celebrate every little victory, right?)
    Here are some photos post-race.

     The race was at Pineland Farms, and so we also got to see the cows!

    Noah and Lara found the food pellets and fed every cow in the barn like 5 cups each, so the cows totally loved them.
    Okay, the end to the longest post ever. Up next: Canton Cross!

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    It's Hard.

    to take a break.

    It's equally hard not to. And I think that's the rub.

    I have this conversation every few days with my coach. It goes something like this:

    Him: You are doing too many quality sessions.
    Me: Are you kidding me? I'm doing nothing! What do you count as quality?
    Him: Master's, strength classes, cross races, swim meets...
    Me: That's playing! That is not quality!
    Him: You shouldn't be doing this much as you trend toward the off season.
    Me: TREND toward the off season? Dude, I am IN THE OFF SEASON.
    Him: Good, then stop doing so many quality sessions.

    I'm not kidding that we have engaged in some form of this discussion at least 3 times a week for the last month and a half. When I look for sympathy from Andy this is what happens:

    Me: Kurt thinks I'm doing to much.
    Him: Kurt's right.
    Me: What do you MEAN he's right! I've gained 7 pounds!
    Him: You're supposed to gain 7 pounds. Plus, I bet it's not 7 pounds.
    Me: It is 7 pounds! What do you think I'm doing that is too much?
    Him: Master's, strength classes, cross races, swim meets....
    Me: This is a conspiracy.
    Him: Why don't you just let up a bit? Take a nap. This happens every year. Do we have to talk it through like 10 times a week? You always freak out, you always gain weight, you always fight it. Then you get back in shape and lose all the weight. EVERY YEAR.
    Me: silence.

    I'm just writing this out for all of my athletes who I have asked to take a break.
    Here is my message:
    I GET IT.
    and I'm sorry.
    But you have to.

    It's really freaking hard, and I fight it, too.
    God Bless the Obsessed. You have my deepest sympathy.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Keeping Crazy

    This week I got the green light to run. Within minutes of receiving this oh so welcome news I laced up the running shoes. I left the podiatrist's office, went home immediately to collect the dogs, and headed for the woods to run trails.

    The only problem.... The foot still hurts a bit. And it still hurts a bit to run.

    Apparently it's not the site of the fracture that hurts, though. It's the second metatarsal joint above the site of the fracture. I have scar tissue in and around the joint and some arthritis there, too. (This curtesy of my super sexy, really pronounced bunions, which displace a lot of pressure to the second metatarsal joint). Apparently that's where the bulk of the pain has originated from all along. Awesome. So, I'm having some PT work done on the foot and using ultrasound to break up some of the scar tissue. Hopefully this will help. However, between you and me, (entire blogging world), I will be running whether there is pain or not. Eight weeks is way too long to be without running, and I'm done waiting. Plus I've gained (seriously) over 5 pounds in the last 8 weeks. Sweet Jesus it's amazing how fast that happens.

    As much as I'd like to, I'm not running every day. In fact, I've only run a few times since getting the green light, and all these runs have been short. Running, it turns out, is quite hard if you have not run in eight weeks (and you are five pounds up).  My brain wants to go out for an awesomely long run. But my body isn't ready yet. Sadly.

    Luckily, I have Project Bring Back the Joy to keep me occupied as I inch my way back to some run fitness. I did two kick ass things this week to contribute to that campaign.

    First, I took a trapeze lesson.

    My friend Marisa (and fellow kick-ass TM athlete) suggested it, and though I was reluctant at first, I finally caved and decided it fit well into the JOY thing. I brought along my intrepid Jordan. She loves shit like that. I knew trapezing would be right up her alley.

    And I was right!

     Jordan gets ready to jump

    I contemplate whether it is a good idea to let go with my arms, like I'm being asked to...

     My first jump... (arms are supposed to be straight... oops.)

    Jordan flips over getting ready to dismount

    This is my favorite shot. She is one happy trapeze flyer!

     Here I attempt a connection with the teacher. (It looks like I will make it, but I didn't quite! One second after this shot was taken I flop into the net.

    Here I realize that flying like this is so freaking cool!

    Jordan makes the connection on her first try. Something about being a kid makes this easier, I think.... That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

    Anyway. We had the BEST DAY. We trapezed, we bonded with Marisa and Sean (Marisa's boyfriend who also took the trapeze class), and we ate huge ice creams after the class finished. Thank you Marisa and Sean for convincing us to go! We loved it so much that I signed Noah and Lara up for a class, too. We will go on Noah's birthday in a few weeks.

    Also in keeping with Project Bring Back the Joy I competed in my second cyclocross race! Guess what? I still suck quite profoundly. But it was just as fun as the first time I tried to race, so I'm psyched!

    I traveled to Providence on Sunday morning to ride in the cat 3/4 women's race. I became just a tad freaked out, however, once I got onto the course to sample it before my race. First off, this race was much much bigger than my first race had been. HOLY MOLY were there a ton of people there! There were 70 women racing cat 3/4--compared to the 23 in my first one. Also, this course was oh so much harder than the first race I did. (Also more fun...) There were tons of turns and off-camber stuff, a fly over (now THAT was fun), obstacles in two places (one going uphill--I didn't like that so much) (I noted the really good cyclists were able to bunny hop those barriers... amazing), a really scary downhill, uphill, turn, downhill, turn uphill thing, stairs you had to dismount for and run up, and a few really good straight-aways on which you could sprint.

    Here are a few pictures of the race on Day 1. (by Wil Matthews taken from the Velo News site). This is the men's elite race. (I was actually there on Day 2.)

    and this is the elite women jumping over the hurdles going uphill.  (Helen Wyman, in the white, won the race.) This was taken day 2, when it was a bit more muddy and wet!

    This is a picture of the flyover. Fun! I loved that thing.

    And here's a link to a fun video showcasing the men's race on Day 1. The elites are SO FAST. I find it fascinating.

    The biggest problem I had occurred during warm-up. When attempting the scary d/u/t/d/t/u thing, I FELL, quite hard. It had taken all my courage to attempt the thing, (I'm not sure what to call it other than THE THING), and then WHAM, I was on my side, and skidding down the hill, still clipped in on both sides. It was quite astoundingly ugly and certainly a little painful. Also embarrassing. Of course, I'm pretty used to being embarrassed-so that part was okay. But I did I bang myself up rather excellently. A goose egg fast appeared on my shin that was large, purple, and super duper painful. Also, my chain ring sliced into my calf, creating lovely, dirty puncture wounds.

    Yep. And I hadn't even started racing yet!

    I got into the race and every time I hit that one section I freaked... got off Winnie (my bike), shouldered her, and ran the area instead of trying to ride it. I lost TONS of time doing this...
    plus it is super tiring to run down, and up, and around, and down, and around, and up, carrying your bike. sigh.
    but hey. I'm forgiving myself.
    Next time. Next time--next year--I'll do that thing. I'll ride that thing!
    (Also maybe I will know what to call it next year!)

    In the mean time I am proud to say that although this race was more competitive (in that it was a BIGGER more BAD ASS) race than my first, I still did NOT PLACE LAST! This is very exciting. I also didn't get lapped. This is also huge. I'm proud.

    Next up:

    Saturday-- Swim Meet!
    (In which I try to go really really fast in the 100 meter backstroke while wearing a super shiny, gold bathing suit.)
    and then

    Sunday- Cyclocross Race #3!
    (In which Jordan and Andy come to the race and race with me!, because they just got cyclocross bikes, too! Woot Woot!) (I can be very convincing, you see. It only took me a small amount of time to convince my family that Cyclocross needs to become a family activity!)

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    I'm getting good.....

    Last night I traveled to Marshfield for my third foray into the world of CYCLOCROSS. 

    But before I get into that, let me just get you up to speed. Last Wednesday I attended a clinic run by Helen Wyman and her husband, Stefan. Helen Wyman is a super stud-ress Cross racer. She is like 4th in the world or something. So I went to this clinic on Tuesday, and then Stefan and Helen lead us through the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross course in Lancaster, MA on Wednesday. Then, a few hours later, I raced my very first, real, bonafide Cross race. 

    It was fun. 

    AND I didn't come in last! Au Contraire! I finished ahead of six other women in Cat 4! (One was an eleven-year-old... but I'm still counting it as a WIN for moi.) Anyway. I fell only once when racing, while trying to turn over wood chips. I also had a bit of trouble jumping back onto my bike after jumping over a hurdle on foot. The hurdle was set going slightly uphill--that was the problem.  I believe the spectator bike man watching from the sidelines said, after I missed hopping on my bike for a third time..., Wow. After that last fail I didn't think it could get any worse for you, but it just did!

    I'm not kidding. He really said that. This actually made me start laughing, and then he was laughing, and this was all just very bad in terms of being fast, I'm afraid. 

    So anyway. Last night I traveled to Marshfield for a training series race.

    I got a sitter. I drove an hour in traffic. I got there and....
    the gates to the Fairgrounds were shut and locked.
    There was a sign:

    WHATTT????? Cancelled because of a little Equine Encephalitis? Really? Wimps.

    I felt quite incensed. I had traveled an hour! I had gotten a sitter! I would not be deterred! Not fence, nor mud, nor EEE infected mosquitoes would stop me!

    I began to look for an opening in the fence. This is me puzzling as to how to get inside the hallowed grounds of the Marshfield Fair. It became clear to me quickly that I'd have to climb over the fence. With my bike.
    *Note, that is a splotch of mud on my face. Before I even tried getting over the fence with my bike I got muddy...*

    As I started to lift my bike over the fence, a man emerged and approached me. He looked a little miffed and he walked with a swagger--a swagger that said, I'm official.
    I gave him my best, I'm not doing anything! I'm just a happy, innocent, somewhat cross-eyed looking woman wandering around in bike shorts and a dorky helmet look. (Generally I do not look cross-eyed. I was going for doe-eyed... didn't quite get it right.)

    Said official-looking man informed me I had to leave. The race had been canceled. Had I seen the sign? 
    I tried to look pitiful. I tried to look sad. Then I told him my story--how I had traveled so far and so long and had gotten a sitter for my three little children-- ALL so I could ride here in this great town of Marshfield. 

    I saw the man soften. I had him.
    His name was Leonard. He is the head honcho at the Marshfield Fair. He took pity on me, and led me to the super secret entrance. (Actually, it was a fairly obvious entrance, but I hadn't skulked around enough to find it. I was super focused on scaling that fence--that was the problem.)  Anyway. He gave me his card and said that I could ride around on the Fairgrounds until dark, and that if anyone gave me shit I could show them his card and send them his way. 

    Thanks, Leonard! You are the BOMB.

    So I entered the Fairgrounds, and to my great  surprise and pleasure, the whole course was set up! It was actually sort of sad. It was overcast and gloomy, and this lovely Cross course was all alone, ready to go, no one there to ride...

    So I got on my bike and decided to rectify that situation.

    It was sandy. Really sandy. Did I mention it was sandy?
    I fell so many times, I lost count. This lovely scrape resulted from a fall going down a sandy bank. 

    Here you see I have a cleat mark on my calf. How I managed to do that, I'm not sure. It is black and blue and raw today. You can also witness my extraordinarily muddy ass in this picture. The course was set up, but definitely wet and sloppy.

    Because I was all alone I felt the need to narrate my final loop of the course before I left for the evening. What can I say... it made me feel just a little less lonely out there on the wet, drizzley Fairgrounds to talk to you all while I rode. The video is really not much of a video. But if you have five minutes to kill (and I mean kill), you can click on said video below.  It's basically just me videoing the grass and sand as I ride. Still, you should watch it, because it's a really great way to procrastinate for five more minutes. (I know you are procrastinating, btw. Why else would you be reading my blog?)

    On a totally different note! Ange and I have decided to limit our TriMoxie roster this year so we can provide maximum attention to the athletes we choose to take on.
    We are both close to full for the 2013 season, which is a good thing! Except not for you if you are considering applying to be a TM athlete and you haven't yet emailed us about it. We probably won't firm up the 2013 roster for a few more months, but if you are on break from TM and you are thinking  about coming back, or you are a first time interested in TM athlete, shoot us an email: so we can chat!

    Oh, and I promise you I am slightly better at coaching triathlon than I am at riding Cyclocross. Just saying.