Monday, September 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, the actual race...

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

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

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

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

Onto the bike! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and then I got tired and started to shuffle again.

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

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

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

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

And smile. 
Try to smile. 

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

And I finished! 

And then I wet my pants. 

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

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

Okay, then!

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Things are about to get really crazy.

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

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

I have just started graduate school in English!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catching Up

It's been awhile.

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

I am back.

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

But it has!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, June 22, 2013

New Pee Stop

I haven't ridden my bike consistently since IMLP last year. But this week I rode my bike! Okay, I didn't ride far or fast, but I rode my bike. And as I rode my bike I realized I love riding my bike. And I have missed it. And I'm ready to ride my bike again.

This is truly good news.
Because for a very long time I wasn't sure I would ever want to ride my bike again.

I have to admit that my riding has changed, though. I'm less interested in my VI and my watts and more interested in simply exploring. This may be a phase. It's possible that if and when I set my sights on competing I become focused on that data again. But for now, I'm just riding and looking. If you ride--and look--than you know what I mean.

Because I was looking, today I found a new pee spot! You must know what I mean... If you ride your bike longer than an hour at a time you have likely established locales for your off-road peeing. Well, today I found a new spot--AND in a location that I often need a pee stop. So this is exciting. I also spotted a pretty, mustard-colored Lady's Slipper while I peed. That was a treat.


In other news, I have an injured foot. It's not a fracture--or at least the x-ray did not show a fracture. It's just inflamed, fat and stiff.
This is unfortunate, especially since I'm finally feeling motivated to train, and I am not able to run.
I'm not sure what this means about the marathon I was planning to run in late July. The injury has been labeled a "stress reaction"--which means only the foot is stressed. obviously. And the only way to treat it, like any other injury, is to rest it, ice it, and be patient.
Didn't I just go through this?
It doesn't seem very fair. Then again, nobody promised fair, and today I am 43.


In still other news...
I have been a bit stuck for the last 8 months, and I admit I have battled some pretty significant depression as I have slogged through this stuckedness. Part of this depression can be chalked up to bad luck--a genetic, neurological draw of the hand that I have dealt with, on and off, for most of my life.

Part of the depression has been circumstantial, though. I like goals. Or, I should say, I need goals. I feel, frankly, quite worthless without goals and quite worthless if I am not working toward something. But I woke up late last summer to an awareness that I had lost my way. What was I working toward? I didn't want to train, and yet --without training there was this big, dark hole.

So I spent a lot of the fall/winter and spring looking into the hole. And then, eventually, I somehow fell into the hole and seemed quite unable to get out of it.

Anyway. Enough of this half-baked, not completely coherent analogy.
What I WANT to report is that *think*  I have finally clawed my way out, and I have dug a new hole, and I'm eager to fill it right up with a new, shiny goal.
I'm going back to school!
Of course I am. I love school. I love teaching, and I love being a student. And it's time to go home--. So next fall, I'm going home. to school.

In the fall I will start work toward earning an MA in English at UMass Boston. The English Department there has been generous with me: they are paying my tuition and they offered me a stipend and a teaching assistantship. This is pretty cool... because generally Masters students aren't awarded such things. I'm really excited and I feel honored.

Let me be clear--I certainly do not need another degree. I have two Masters already. A third will do nothing in terms of career advancement. I am doing this because I truly love being a student, I truly love the study of literature, and finally, because I have been given the opportunity to do it without incurring debt or hardship. I feel lucky, and I feel happy and excited.

After I complete the Masters I will return to teaching--at a middle school, high school, or at an undergraduate level at a community college--or something like that. I'm not sure yet.

So that's my deal.
I finally have some direction, and I'm feeling good about it.
I'm also excited to be back training. On my schedule is Timberman --which I haven't raced in a few years. I'm excited to get back.

So it's all good. Or at least... it's getting good.
And a new pee stop to boot.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Let Me Just Say

I'm a woman who keeps making false starts.

This wasn't always the case. But it has been the case for quite a bit of time now. I simply can't trust myself to create a course of action and stick to it. I've created some absolutely wonderful courses of action. I'm quite adept at that part. But execution seems to elude me at this point.

One very good thing did happen this week.
Andy bought a new vacuum.
This is good news, because I own five dogs (all of whom shed except one) and previous to owning this new vacuum, I owned a very very very very old and crusty vacuum. Really. This mofo was my mom's vacuum. It has been around since the mid 1970s, I KID YOU NOT.

Here is photographic evidence.
My previous vacuum.

Then again, when you believe the one good thing that happened this week is that you acquired a new vacuum, you are in trouble.
It means something.
It means you are old and you have no life, and also that you are a woman who keeps making false starts.
Among other things.

Early this week I had a good run. It was a breakthrough of sorts. I finally ran a decent pace; I finally felt pretty strong; I finally felt as if maybe, if I stick with it, I will be able to complete a marathon by the end of July.

That night, the night after my good run, my foot begin to swell.  It hurt where it always hurts--at the second metatarsal, on top of the foot. Not my left foot, though--the foot in which I developed a stress fracture last summer. Same site, but opposite foot.

And I have to think.....
there is a message here.
The message is: Quite trying. Give it up. Give in. Stop believing it will come back. Just stop.

Focus on the vacuum, Mary. Focus on the vacuum.

What do we do when we feel the universe is asking us something, asking us to look differently--to stop trying the same thing and expecting a different result--but we can't figure out how to do that?

That is the million dollar question, and perhaps the origin of my false starting problem.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Open and Live Again

I'm back.

I applied for an English teaching position in a school system I very much like, but I did not get the job.
Oh sadness!

  • On the good side, I did get an interview--and I was one of only a few who did.
  • On the good side, getting an interview and pursuing the job made me think carefully about my marketability as a teacher, and also where I want to work, and also what I want to teach, and how.
  • On the good side, I became clearer about current trends in education (hello edtech!) and what (public) schools are currently looking for in teachers (knowledge of and alignment with the National and State Core Standards and a willingness to work collaboratively with other teachers around this).

  • On the bad side, I put myself out there, and though I was in the top six of applicants, I was not numero uno applicant. I hate rejection. 
  • On the bad side, I was confronted with the fact that shifting from middle school to high school teaching will not be easy, at least in terms of getting hired. I am "expensive" because my Masters degrees and my 15 years of middle school teaching experience, but I am not experienced in the high school classroom. Expensive and Inexperienced are not a great combination when you are trying to get hired. That said, I have no plans of trying to get hired as a middle school teacher again. I want to teach high school.
  • On the bad side, I will not be working in a school next year, despite that I am ready, after my four year break, to return to the classroom.

On the good side, I will no longer be using this place to discuss matters of teaching and education! I have a new blog for that.
Here I will just post about .... life.
And training. And racing. Or lack of it, as the case may be currently.

So onto training and racing!
That's tough. I haven't been doing much!

I have been running. I'm slow these days, but I am running. One day I hope that whatever speediness I once had will return. But for now, I'm just running slowly, and trying to appreciate that my body can run.

I have been thinking about this because of my feet.

I have really bad and sexy bunions, and as a result of said bad and sexy bunions, I have problems with my feet. I have arthritis along the second and third joints of the metatarsals; there is a lot of scar tissue in that area. I developed a stress fracture late last summer in the second metatarsal of my left foot, but truth be told, I have had fractures at that site on both feet -- many times-- and I have just not done anything about those fractures save to stop running for a bit until the pain is not so acute that I can stand it again.

Anyway, it's hard to flex my feet these days. They don't work well, as far as feet are concerned.

I've been wondering what will happen. Someday, will I simply not be able to run any more?
So I am trying to appreciate my running. I will continue to run until ... until I can't run. And when I say I can't run I don't mean I will stop when it hurts to run. I mean, when I CAN'T run. But you knew that already.

I became sick of swimming, so I am on a swimming break, except for some open water swimming, which is lovely except when one drinks pollen.

I am on a complete bike sabbatical.
I would like to compete in a few races at the end of the summer, but I'm not pushing myself.
I've finally, completely given in. I'm taking this year "off" in terms of training. Will I train still? Of course! But not according to rhyme and reason. Because I love training and racing. And I want to love it as much as I once did. So I need to let it go, so my love for it can come back.

In other news, we finally went to San Diego!
You may remember I was supposed to compete in Oceanside 70.3
But then I didn't train for that race.
And then I inherited three dogs.
And then my mother-in-law became very sick, and died.

And so that trip was put off. But we finally made it!
The landscape is hilly there. I ran every day, but my pace was pathetic, and my quads ached the first few days because of all that hill climbing and descending!
It was a beautiful trip.
Here are just a few pictures.

 Sea World. It's not Shamu... but definitely Shamu's long lost second nephew.
 At the zoo. Yes, that's a lion.
 That is how she was sleeping. Made me laugh hysterically.
 We forced the kids to go to the San Diego Botanical Gardens. I enjoyed it anyway...
 At Torrey Pines
At La Jolla

 Torrey Pines
 La Jolla
Torrey Pines

Ernie didn't come with us, but I thought I'd include him here anyway. He was really sad we didn't take him.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sudbury Sprint Race Report!

I think the big news here is that I raced! Aside from swim meets, the last time I raced was well, last week--that 10k.  But I haven't raced in a triathlon since last August.

I wouldn't have raced on Sunday if it hadn't been for Jordan. Jordan raced the Sudbury Sprint last year, and she really wanted to race again, and she wanted me to race, too. It's not great modeling to say, Gee, Jordan, I'm not in great shape right now, and I really don't want to place any lower than top three, so I think I should just bail. 

Right. Not good modeling.

And in truth, I'm glad I didn't have the opportunity to skip. I had fun! I really did have fun. In fact, I had more fun racing than I have in a long while. I think this is because it mattered, but it also didn't. I didn't have a lot at stake. I hadn't poured hours and hours into my preparation. I could relax. I would work as hard as I could, and get as much out of my body as possible, but the result would not be a reflection of my work over the winter. It would just beeeeeee.....
There was a certain release in that.

Jordan and I arrived on the late side, and by the time we were ready to warm up it was close to go time. We swam about 300 yards together, and then found our place in the long line of competitors. At Sudbury you snake up and down the pool one at a time. They determine the order of athletes in the pool by seed time. Because Jordan and I are both swimmers we were seeded closer to the front. That was nice. It meant we could race hard and finish early--and then watch other competitors finish.

There's not much to report about my swim. I had to pass two people, which is a pain. MAN I wish people would seed themselves correctly! Jordan was luckier; she didn't have to pass anyone, and she also didn't get passed. We both had decent swims. I finished up in about 5:30 (for a 400--plus the zig-zagging) and Jordan finished up in about 6:00 minutes. Neither of us took the swim very hard. We had talked about this. I didn't think it was worth it to go 10 seconds faster and deplete myself going into the bike. I have been on the bike (and I'm not lying here) a total of 2.5 hours in the last 2 months. Jordan hadn't been on the bike since cross season! So we thought it best to save it for the bike...

This was smart, at least for me. I got on the bike and for a moment thought... wow. Do I remember how to ride a bike FAST? But it came back to me. I rode as hard as I could. I had on my Garmin, so I know my average wattage was about what I have done in the past for a half ironman (and this was a 7 mile bike leg... cough cough.) But oh well. I just put my head down and allowed myself to suck wind. I smiled for the camera and tried to relax!  Jordan was a bit more leisurely about the whole thing. She focused primarily on staying upright and not forgetting to unclip. Still, she finished up the 7+ miles in about 30 minutes. Not bad for a kid who basically doesn't ride bikes! I finished in a little over 21 minutes. This is more than a minute slower than I have biked that leg in the past. Oh well. It still felt good to be out there!

The run on the other hand? OUCH.
I have been running a bit, so I thought the run wouldn't be so bad. But yes, if you never BIKE than the run will be bad! ha! It took me about 1.5 miles to actually feel decent, and by that time I had only .7 miles until the finish. Jordan, on the other hand, had a stellar run. She has been training for track, and she didn't take the bike hard at all, so she was ready to rock it. She finished up the run in a little over 17 minutes.  (18 minutes including her transition.) Not bad for 2.3 miles off the bike! I was impressed. That's about a 7:25 pace!

Okay, so all told we both placed well. We were both 2nd in our respective age groups. I was 4th woman overall. Here are our fabulous podium shots.  I'm on the 1st place step b/c they gave me first since one of the top 3 women was 40-44. (But I was really second, of course.)  The 1st place 0-19 girl was missing. I wish she had been there, because then you could see that Jord's competition were girls much larger and older than she is!

So, what else.
For those of you curious, I made my blog private because I am applying for a few teaching jobs right now. This doesn't mean I will go back to teaching--but I will go back if I find and get the right job! Most jobs I am looking at are part time, and if I do take one, I hope to still spend time coaching for TriMoxie.

Here is a picture of my vet's dog:
Isn't he awesome?

I spend a lot of time at the vet, as you know, so I feel like this guy is now my buddy.
I'd get a puppy like him, except, well, I have five dogs already.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I've been reading old posts on this blog.

I'll be honest, there is a reason for this.
I've been reading through posts culling them for unsavory bits--swearing, moments of being crass. This is not because I'm reformed in the swearing and being slightly crass department.
This is because I hope to go back to teaching.
Maybe not today.
Maybe not even next fall, although there is a position I would really like to try if given the chance.

For now, I'm just culling.
But if I started teaching again, well. I'll have to just take the blog down. or privatize it. If I did privatize it, please know that if you have any interest in continuing to read, I would certainly invite you to do so!

But access to the internet is ubiquitous--of course. It occurred to me just after submitting an application last week that this blog says it all! Any prospective employer could just google my name, and voila! You have the last 6 years of my uncensored blather. If you are a prospective employer reading this, welcome. And know that of course I would not keep a public blog if I were hired. Just saying.


Onto other things.
Like Training.

Or wait, I can't really talk about that because I haven't been doing any.

I did go for a nice 8 mile run the other day in the warm sunshine. That was lovely.
And I attended Masters yesterday, and lamented how I am an athlete who can't hold her speed and power in the water unless I'm swimming a great deal. But I still enjoyed practice. I just had to go last in my lane.

My daughter, Jordan, is running track this spring. I love her track coach. He's taken an interest in her and believes in her. I can tell.
He has decided she is more likely an 800/mile type of runner, and not true sprinter. I knew this already, but it was nice to have him confirm it. She did the mile last week, and finished in the middle of the pack of girls who did it, finishing in 6:35. When she finished I wondered whether I could run a 6:35 right now. It truly is a question.
Yesterday she did the 800 in 2:58, which qualifies her for the middle school Invitational/State Meet at the end of the season. She is one of only a few sixth graders who has qualified for the meet at this point.  I'm a super proud mama. I love to watch her run.

Back to my blog.
One thing that culling through it has allowed me is a chance to witness how my perspective and insights have evolved over the last few years. Reading it has been informative and interesting, and actually also made me a bit sad. We are never done journeying, of course. Having a blog, or a journal-- it is a bit like leaving bread crumbs along the paths you have taken. Although, didn't the birds eat Hansel's crumbs? So that is likely not a good analogy.  I mean only that we grow older each day, but we only have clear insight into the paths we have chosen in retrospect.  This blog charts a difficult and somewhat tumultuous last few years of my life. It may not appear tumultuous to an outside eye--I don't know. But it has been, and it's interesting to see how I handled the movement through this period of middle-age.

I found the piece below interesting. It is only tangentially related to what I am saying here. But the feeling it conjures when you go through it captures how it felt to read through the last years of my life, on this blog.

Sisters, one picture a year for 36 years... photos by Nicholas Nixon

Monday, April 29, 2013

What to Say

I guess the problem with failing to update my blog at all frequently is that when I go to do so there is both nothing to say and also way too much. I haven't been training, and so in that sense I have nothing much to report. On the other hand, a great deal has happened in the last month. My cousin was killed, I adopted her three dogs and now have five, my mother-in-law passed away after a very long illness, the bombings at the end of the Boston Marathon occurred--which shook me completely and ignited an anger and despair I haven't felt in some time.

By way of update:

  • The dogs are doing well. 
  • My house is not doing so well. It reeks of pee (the old guy has a bit of an incontinence thing going on) and in general this place just smells powerfully of DOG. 
  • I'm grieving--or something--many things right now: the loss of my cousin, the loss of my mother-in-law, who I loved, and the loss of my old, steady, committed to her goals self, who is nowhere to be found.
  • I just started training for a July marathon. I want to qualify for Boston so I can run it next year. (A common sentiment, so I'm hoping I will be able to get in!)
  • After all that talk of swim Nationals, I'm not going. I haven't been able to train in the last month, and I just don't want to go to such a competitive meet without feeling ready to race at all.  Local events, fine. Big scary National meet? no.

I definitely feel as if I have been turned upside-down and shaken in the last month, and this is not entirely a bad thing. Sometimes we need to be shaken in order to get ahold of higher meaning and purpose. I love to train, I love to race. But I have been shaken out of those loves, and forced to contemplate  death, what it means to have a full life, what it means to care for people both in life and after they are gone. I'm not going to say I've experienced this is a slap so much as I've experienced it as a realignment. Today I am healthy; so is my family. I have all my limbs; so does my family. I can run, and bike and swim, and I love to do these things but how fast I do them or for how long seems of little consequence right now. And the battle to better my performances each year feels hollow and never-ending, too.

It may not always feel that way, but it does right now. And I'm not sad about that--but I am keenly aware of it.

Yesterday I raced a 10k. I signed up last minute. Last week at this time I had no idea I would want to run a race. Hell! I haven't been running nearly at all! And I was going to jump into a 10K?

But it seemed just the thing. Can I race and just RACE? Not better my former self--not even match my former self--but just relish that my body can move and run, no matter at what pace it manages to do so? Will that feel good? Will it feel sad?

So, I ran.
And I was happy. I was happy while running, I was happy when it started to hurt, and I was even happy when in the last mile I slowed way way down and wondered whether my poor little out of shape legs would allow me to finish! What really surprised me was that in letting go of performance, I actually performed okay. I ran the first 4 miles sub-7, and the final 2 miles much more slowly, but still IN the seven's, and I finished in :44:14. This got me 2nd AG, which I found shocking. But it makes sense upon reflection. The race I did was the James Joyce Ramble, and this year that race was also the USATF Masters Championships. All of those women who are somewhat competitive and Masters athletes ran in that event--(the same event, but in a separate category). Had I raced in the USATF race I would have finished 6/7, which makes a lot more sense for a time like that.

The point is, I didn't feel bad. I felt good! And I was happy to hang out and chat with my friends at the finish. Progress.

The real test is next week. I will race in a tiny sprint that I like to do every year as a benchmark. Only this year it will not be a benchmark! I have biked only a few hours (total) in the last two months. I have only been outside on my bike once, for 26 minutes. So when I say I am not in biking shape, well, I'm really not lying here. And I'm not sure what that will look like next weekend! Certainly I have to let go of the idea of being competitive, but you know, it's time for that. This year, it's time for that.  I need to start enjoying each day because I am privileged to live, and not because I have a chance to improve upon the person I was yesterday. The latter is unending, and ultimately, unsatisfying.

I'm so glad it's finally spring here. It feels like things must finally be turning around.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Just Call me the Dog Lady

It's hard to keep a training blog if you don't train. You know?

This month has been a bit of a disaster/challenge/nightmare month. I would have posted earlier, but I have been mired in life muckity-muck.

First things first.
I now have five dogs.

Before I get into the why of this, I will post pictures. This is because I think each of my dogs is super cute. You might not want to visit this house, though. It's smells a bit like a dog kennel.  In fact, if I keep all five dogs, I will have to apply for a kennel license. I had no idea the paper work that dog hoarders must deal with. Now I know. Anyway:

 This is Bowser. He is a 12-year-old mostly deaf and blind mini-Schnauzer.
 This is Bear. He is a one-year old Sharpei.

This is Lara snuggling with Bowser. Bowser enjoys a good snuggle.

 This is Hazel hanging out with Bowser.

 This is Bear sleeping. He looks a bit like a furry wart hog.

This is Chica, a four-year-old Sharpei. She is shy.

And this is Ernie, our Boston Terrier, sharing his dog bed with Bowser. 

The story behind how I became the owner of five dogs is not a happy one.
My beautiful cousin Barbara was shot and killed by her estranged husband two weeks ago. I've always believed no one benefits when our country makes access to guns so easy--for anyone--even the criminally insane, like Barbara's husband. Now I feel even more strongly about this. The loss of Barbara has been devastating to those who loved her.

Barbara was an animal lover. She lived in south Florida with her four dogs and three cats, and her son, Robert. (She had two sons, but her other son, Daniel, didn't live with her.) Barbara loved her pets. Because she loved them so much, I felt it was extremely important that we find her animals great homes. My cousin Rick, Barbara's brother, and his family took one of the dogs. My cousin Shirley, Barbara's sister, and her partner took one of the cats, and Daniel and his fiance, Steph, took two of the cats. That left three dogs. I took in these three dogs. At first I thought we'd just keep Bear and look for homes for the other two. But that won't be happening. I love them, and I can't give any of them away and feel okay about it--so I am keeping them all. Just call me the crazy dog lady. (and just call Andy a saint, I know...)

The kids are thrilled. They have bragged to all of their friends that we have FIVE dogs. Their friends think that is cool. I'm sure their parents think I am completely insane and have warned their children to STAY AWAY. 

In other news, my mother in law is very sick, so we postponed our trip to California--you know, the trip we were to make so I could race Cali 70.3..... 
We are hoping for a good outcome with my mom-in-law, but nothing is certain right now. It is a hard time.

I have done some training in the last month--but not much and mostly swimming. I competed in a Masters meet at Harvard last weekend--though because of circumstances having to do with dogs and hospitals, I only competed for 1.5 days out of 3. I did well, though! The first day wasn't so great. I did the 50 back in 35.03. I seem unable to break 35 seconds in that event. I also swam the 200 free in 2:26. I took the first 100 in 1:08--so yes, the second 100 was pretty sad and ugly. The next day I had a few really good swims, though. I swam the 100 IM in 1:14, which is a 3 second PR for me. I swam the 200 back in 2:38, which is a six second PR, and I swam the 100 free in 1:05.03--which is faster than I have swum that event in my ENTIRE life. Yay me! I also swam the 50 free in 30.28. This was sort of a bummer; I really really want to break 30. I'm not much of a sprinter....

Anyway. That's my story. 
Swimming, dogs and a postponed trip to California. 
I plan to run a fall marathon in honor of Barbara. I will raise money for animal rescue or for an organization which fights domestic violence. I am still researching and deciding what to do. Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cali Here I Come!

Last week I received an email from my friend Keri. She planned to write a post contemplating what might happen when and if she decided that intensely training for triathlon was not a top priority anymore. She asked me and a few other competitive, women triathletes we both know the following:

If and/or when the day arrives where you can no longer race competitively (for any reason: injury, burn out, something else in your life gets in the way,etc.) would you still enter races "just to finish" or just to experience it (even though there would be no chance for an award/podium finish -- no nothing but you completing the race)? In other words, would you be able to be happy just being involved even though your results would be a mere shadow of what they used to be? Or, would you rather just walk away from the sport altogether?

When I got the email I thought, Oh timely. This is exactly the question I am trying to answer these days.

My drive to train and race triathlon waned little for five straight years, beginning in 2007, when I first took up the sport.  It wasn't until last spring that my drive wavered a bit, and it wasn't until late summer, when I developed a stress fracture in my foot that I really lost my drive.   I stopped working with my coach. I stopped running for 10 weeks. I took up cross and did not get on my triathlon bike or road bike for nearly three months.

With the loss of my drive came a loss of self.  Who am I if I am not that Mary--driven, consistent, and unwaveringly obsessed with training and racing?  But I didn't seriously contemplate Keri's question. My drive might be missing, but I kept the faith  it would return if I just rested a bit.
I wanted my fire back. I did not want to ponder what might be if that fire never returned.

But tomorrow I turn the calendar's page to March, and my drive for triathlon hasn't returned. Not yet, anyway.

I spent a good portion of this winter depressed--and not just a little depressed. It became increasingly obvious that my lost drive wasn't just a temporary phenomenon; I was making a life transition. I began to contemplate new goals--goals that had nothing to do with triathlon. I planned my garden for the spring and ordered seeds, flats, and grow lights. I took (am taking) classes. I read. I wondered about going back to teaching. I wrote to my friend Liz, and asked her to help me make writing my daily focus.

Meanwhile, California 70.3 stared at me, the printed words on my calendar searing and definite. One day I'd feel determined and I'd go over my next weeks of training and think, I'm going to do this. The next day I'd feel tired and unmotivated, and decide to write, read or take a nap instead of getting on the bike. I'd read about others training on blogs and Facebook and the posts of my athletes in my inbox and think, that used to be me--so jazzed and focused and determined to conquer the triathlon world. That person is gone now. Will she ever come back?

I haven't done the training to compete at California 70.3
And I could still race it. I've been swimming a great deal, and I have a backlog of biking and running that certainly would allow me to finish the race.
And that brings me to Keri's question:
Would I still enter races just to finish?

I wanted that answer to be yes.
But that's not the answer. The answer is no.

I love the journey toward a goal. I love making the plan and executing, and on "race day" -- whatever that may be, whether it be triathlon or something else, I enjoy giving it everything I have and seeing where I stand.  With some goals the "race day" is more gradual--like with a garden, or with writing. But  no matter what the race day looks like, I don't want the arrival without the journey. I've lost my drive for triathlon, at least for now,  but I have not lost my drive.

This winter the journey has been about figuring out who I am and what I'm going to do if I I'm not training. The arrival of this journey is not racing California 70.3. The arrival is going to California and NOT racing it. It will be hard to watch it--and I will watch it because I want to cheer on Ange. It will be hard to watch in the same it is hard to watch an x-lover going out with someone else. But it must be done. Worse would be to race it, and spend intimate time with the x-lover that I have rejected all winter, and don't really want.

So, what now?

I felt such relief when the decision was made, and this week I have just been relishing that relief. And I know a few things.
I know I'm going to continue swimming, and I will go to Nationals in Indianapolis in early May. I know I'm going to get my seedlings going, and tear up the front lawn this spring to make a vegetable garden. I know I'm going to continue to write, and I'm 99% sure I'm going to apply to low-residency MFA programs this fall, for entrance in the winter of 2014.

I still have triathlons on my schedule, and I may do none or all of them. The only thing I know for sure is that I won't be racing big events, like a 70.3, unless I've trained for the race, and I'm only going to train if the desire to train for something long like that comes back.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013: Year of the Swim Meet

Well, at least for me it is the year of the swim meet!

On Saturday I swam at a local meet. I've been working hard in the pool, so I had great hopes for some fast times. When I arrived, though, I noted there were no touch pads! For those who aren't swimmers, let me explain. Touch pads are electronic large, usually black timing pads that attach to the finishing wall in a meet. They are good for two reasons: first, they insure your time is accurate, and second, they offer a good gripping surface off which to perform backstroke starts. Without the pads, backstroke starts are extremely difficult because the tiled wall off which one pushes is slippery. For those people good at starts, not having pads is a bummer. For those of us who have quite terrible backstroke starts already, not having pads is pretty much devastating in terms of a time suck.

My heart sank and my backstroke goals immediately went flat as soon as I learned of the NO touch pad situation.
But then I got over it.
My goal became to match my backstroke times from my last meet despite not having a true start.

I had a good warm up and tried practicing a few starts. In short, it did not go well. SO, I decided I would simply push off the wall without a start for the 100 back, my first event. I definitely lost mucho time doing this, but I ended up nearly matching my time of a month ago in a 1:14.9. Okay, not my dream time, but I'll take it. On the 50 back I attempted a start, but I think I may have lost even more time trying than if I had simply pushed off the wall. I swam a 35.15, which is .06 off my time from last month, so I'm taking that as a win, too.

Then, backstroke was over. Phew!

Andy came to the meet to cheer me on. I say Andy, because even though he brought the kids, I think they missed all four of my swims. Jordan was somewhat interested, but mostly she wanted to play Queens with her sister and brother. But hey, they were there, right? haha!

Anyway, I then swam the 100 free in 1:06.4. That is a good time for me! I haven't swum a 1:06 since I was 17 years old.  I swam a 1:07 with the high tech suits we had a few years ago, but I haven't glimpsed 1:06 for 25 years. My goal at Harvard Champs in a month is to break into the 1:05s. Wouldn't that be amazing? To best a time from high school? (I didn't swim in college, so I have no times to best there.) My last event was the 50 fly. I swam a 33.8. That's the same time I swam last month, and I'm sad I wasn't a wee bit faster, but I was pretty tired after the 100 free, and the 50 fly came literally like 5 minutes later. (These small meets are hard that way; not much rest between events.) Andy snapped a picture:

What I see here is that I'm bending at the knee, and not the hip, and I am too high out of the water. But hey, at least my back looks strong, right?

Last night I went to a butterfly and backstroke clinic at Harvard. It was incredibly helpful. Of course, I HATE doing drills because I get so freaking cold. I literally tread water while our lane coach talked to us after each 50 in hopes it would warm me up, but by the time we got out I was completely blue and shivering. Anyway, I learned my turnover on both strokes is way too slow, that my dolphin kick needs to speed up and I need to move from the hips, not the knees, and that my timing is off in the breaststroke pull. At practice this morning I tried to implement what I learned. I have a ways to go. Yikes.

Okay, boring swim entry, I know!

Other than the swim, which I am having SUCH fun with right now, I haven't been doing a lot of training. I waver between thinking I should go to California and just ride the 70.3 course and jog the run, to thinking that is stupid, and that I should just turn the whole trip into a vacation and screw the damn race. I still haven't decided what to do. If I do race it will NOT be fast or pretty given I haven't biked or run more than a few hours a week since last summer, but I just seem unable to muster the umph to do the required work to do well at the event. I fought valiantly for awhile, but then I just decided the fight was making me miserable, so I'd just swim a lot and try to forget there is a 70.3 on my calendar, and now just weeks away!


Last week was a vacation week for the kids. Jordan ended up getting sick toward the end of the week, and then Noah. arghhhhhh. But before then, they had fun making me crazy.


Stacking cans! (random)

Lara got her ears pierced.

And Jordan had a swim meet. She is now a billion times faster than me in the breaststroke, and will soon kick my ass in the other strokes, too. I'm thinking I have about six more months on top. Maybe fewer.  

We also get a visit from Alina and company, which was awesome! (Margaritas! Woot!) 

And Where is Noah? Good question. He played video games all week and played with his neighbor, Michael. What can I say, I provide a totally wholesome environment here at the Casa de Wilson.