Friday, April 25, 2008

Why tri?

In a recent conversation, the whole Ironman "thing" came up. Someone said to me, "You finished an Ironman? Wow - you must be really hardcore."

But, I'm really not.

I am not particularly coordinated or athletic. I get very nervous before any race of any distance. I panic in open water (and even the pool, on occasion). I don't like riding my bike on busy roads. I have a love/hate relationship with my aerobars. And even while running (my favorite part), I sometimes ponder what it would feel like to just....walk.

That's me.

So why do I keep signing up for these races?

There are a multitude of reasons, including: staying fit, enjoying the camaraderie of my training friends, and the spiffy trigirl gear.

But, there is something else that keeps me going.

It's the simple of act of not giving up. Hanging in there. Pushing on and forward when you really just want to turn around and go home.

I find that every time I finish an open water swim, I feel a little elated.
I didn't let my scaredy-cat thoughts get the better of me. They sure do try - and it can be a struggle to keep going. But I do it anyway.

For me, triathlons are not about the product (which would be a certain time goal). It's about the process.

The process of setting a tough, often scary, goal - and sticking with it. No matter what (with the exception of injury of illness, of course).

It's for this reason that I don't set time goals for myself in triathlons. I set attitude goals.

So, here are my goals for White Lake:

1. Relax during the swim. Try to draft off of someone. (I have never managed to swim close enough to anyone to draft - for Pete's sake, they might splash me - so this would be a major accomplishment).

2. Relax on the bike. Use my aerobars. Hydrate.

3. Thank all of the volunteers on the run - if I can't be pleasant to the volunteers, I need to stop being a triathlete.

4. Cross the finish line with a smile.

Goal #4 may be the most important one of all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boston Marathon Report

Wow. What a weekend!
Rick and I headed up to Boston on Saturday. Mother Nature cooperated as we arrived in Boston with plenty of time to check-in to our hotel prior to our trip to the race expo. After a quick trip on the T (Boston's subway), we made it to the Hynes Convention Center. The expo was absolutely packed with marathoners. While it was easy to grab our race numbers and other free goodies, the search for a "super cool" t-shirt or wind breaker proved to be more of a challenge. Everything in a size medium was out. After much searching, we did find a small men's windbreaker that fit me. Thankfully, Rick had enough patience for both of us during this mini-shopping trip.

We returned to our hotel to bundle up for the Red Sox game. This time, the T ride over was a bit different as every single subway was jam-packed with fans heading for Fenway. I used to think I was claustrophobic. Well, I think I got over that after that ride. Even though the T would sometimes lurch to an abrupt stop, I had no fear of falling over as I was wedged into place by other people around me.

We hopped off the T and followed the crowds up to Commonwealth Avenue. As we turned the corner, I told Rick that he was about to see the mecca of baseball: Fenway Park. Despite its grungy floors and somewhat nasty bathrooms, it's a fantastic place to watch a game. We sat right along the first base line. New Englanders are absolutely crazy about their sports team. We took in the whole atmosphere. It was especially wild when Manny Ramirez smacked a towering home run to give the good guys the lead.

I did have to translate the "Baastin" accent a few times for Rick.

And did I mention that Lance Armstrong threw out the first pitch?

Rather than try to fight the crowds on the T or for a cab, we walked back to our hotel. It was probably about a 40 minute walk, but it was a night for walking. We strolled down Commonwealth Avenue - catching glimpses of gorgeous interiors (and a few non-so-gorgeous ones, too).

The next morning, we woke up relatively early to catch the first mile of the women's Olympic trials marathon. They flew right past our hotel - and they really looked like they were flying. I tried to spot Deena Kastor or Joan Benoit (or Joanie as they call her Boston) but they were too darn fast.

We spent most of Sunday relaxing and hydrating. We did head to the North End for authentic Italian food. Yum.

On race morning, we only had to walk a block to catch the shuttles that would take us to the start (in Hopkinton). We did have the misfortune of getting on the one bus that somehow got lost on the way. Yup - we were heading east while everyone else was going west. After a 20-minute detour, we were back on track. By the time we arrived at the start, the first wave was getting ready to go. We barely had enough time to hit the port-o-johns (how lovely) before we had to head to our own corrals. The start was simply a mass of runners.

I had heard that the course starts on a major downhill. That is no exaggeration. As Mark B said, people who like running downhill have never run the Boston marathon. The downhills take a tremendous toll on your quads early on in the race, so it's best to start conservatively.

My goal was to try to keep around a 9-minute pace, so I was pretty happy with my pacing throughout the course (average 8:58). The course is lined with people - and they never stop cheering. It's amazing. The course is also quite hilly. You are either going up or down for most of it. Miles 16-21 are especially hilly, with mile 21 being the infamous "heartbreak hill."

It helps that Boston has so many colleges since those undergrads know how to make the race feel like a party. The girls of Wellesley scream but so do the BC and BU students. During the last few miles (as I ran by Fenway Park), I had one person after another on the side high-fiving me like I was an Olympian. I wish I could thank all of those strangers for giving me a lift when my legs were ready to rest.

For those of you who were with me in Florida, I did not have to spend time in the medical tent. Yay me! Unfortunately, Rick did. He had major cramping in this legs right around mile 24. But, he finished it. It was about 25 minutes off of his PR, but he was happy to be a finisher.

We walked ever so slowly back to our hotel. I'm sure anyone watching us hobble home, sweaty and tired with salt plastered to our faces would question why we do things like run marathons. But, anyone else who has ever crossed the finish line of a tough race knows the reason.

We enjoyed a relaxing dinner (and ice, cold beer...ahhhhh) with Liz and Amy. We all talked earlier about how we were going to be so "wild" celebrating...but we weren't. We were tired.

Last night, I quietly watched the Red Sox game from the comfort of Rick's house, I felt a sense of melancholy - kind of like how you felt as a kid on December 26th. Our marathon getaway to Boston was over.

Of course, we still have Brazil.


Friday, April 18, 2008


I have to admit that I am rather nervous about the Boston Marathon. I've downplayed this race all along because it's actually part of a larger training program for Ironman Brazil. I am not going to think or write about IM Brazil right now. The focus is Boston.

The fact that I somehow qualified for Boston is still something that I don't completely believe - except that I have an official acceptance letter from the Boston Athletic Association. So I guess it is real. Just thinking about it chokes me up. I remember calling my mom and dad to tell them I had qualified. I (of course) left my mom a teary message. And she returned an equally teary one.

Isn't it funny what a simple road race can do to a girl's emotions?

When I am about to start a triathlon, I know why I am nervous. Open water is a little scary. Staying aero can be a real struggle on a rough or hilly road. And then there's always the question of nutrition.

But running doesn't typically make me nervous. So what is making me nervous now?

Maybe it's the fact that there are going to be a LOT of fast runners. Being as I qualified by a mere 30 seconds, I am one of the slower of the qualifiers. But that's okay. I will run my own race.

Maybe I am afraid that I will bonk.
But, if I run the way I should, I ought to be okay. And, I'll have my trusty flask of perpetuem with me, too. The last six miles will hurt, but that's how it goes with a marathon.

Maybe I am afraid that I will fail.
Sometimes, the most ridiculous thoughts pop into my head. Fail what? The simple act of trying can never be considered failure.

Instead, I'm going to just....relax.

Rick and I just bought tickets to see the Red Sox play the Rangers on Saturday night. Jon Lester is schedule to pitch for the Sox. He came back at the end of the season (to help them win the World Series) after battling cancer. And I am worried about a road race?

Our hotel is right on the Women's olympic marathon qualifying course. So, we will step outside Sunday morning with coffee in hand to watch the fastest female American marathoners glide by. I hope to see Deena Kastor (who has already won an Olympic medal in the marathon) and my all-time favorite, Joan Benoit Samuelson.

And then we will experience the Boston Marathon on Monday. I will try not to cry as I trot along, but I won't promise that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More blogs to read!

I just realized that Trigirls Allison and Kate G have blogs, too. Thanks to Fave for guiding me to their links. Enjoy the reading!

FYI: Allison is an awesome swimmer and Kate is getting ready to become an Ironman finisher in November.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our training is....

sexy and intriguing - at least that's what Grandison wrote to me in an email last week. I was describing myself as being a bit boring since my life consists mainly of working and training right now. Luckily, Grandison always has a way of seeing things in a positive light. This called for an investigation. Were my Friday & Saturday workouts actually sexy & intriguing?

Friday: What a gorgeous day! I arrived at work prepared for quick get-away (time & work responsibilities permitting) to the good ol' West Creek area. My bike was packed, my nutrition was packed and my oh-so-cute trigirl shorts & pink bike top were packed. I wouldn't describe myself as sexy in those shorts. I can say that a few students were undoubtedly intrigued (or more likely horrified) by the sight of their professor in a trigirl biking ensemble. As I drove out to WC, I figured that I could get about 5 hours of riding in before it got too dark. Riding in the dark? Hmmmm....that's intriguing, but I have no desire to do that. Anyway, the weather was quite cooperative, albeit quite windy at times. The gates to the Capital One were open - intriguing! Almost like they were welcoming me back after a winter's absence.

In case you were wondering, it gets pretty lonely riding for that long by yourself. But, I figure I will be riding longer than that by myself in Brazil, so I hope it helped reintroduce me to the whole notion of mental toughness.

I wasn't so smart with the nutrition. I had eaten lunch 3 hours in advance of my workout, and I started the ride feeling a little hungry. My perpetuem, heed and a bag of sharkies got me through - but I definitely needed more food prior to starting my ride.

Saturday: For the first time in months, I didn't get up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday. I woke up around 6:30 a.m. to check in with Rick before his 90 mile ride. Then, I ate a delicious breakfast of eggs, an english muffin and coffee. Ahhhh....such a treat on a Saturday. After a few household chores, I headed out on my 8-miler. I had mapped a route down Grove, through the U of R campus, up to Forest (just a bit past 3sports) and back. Would I be able to negative split this hilly course? Rather intriguing, don't you think? Okay - maybe only I thought it was intriguing. I love running around U of R. I tend to check out the lawns and the varied architecture. I will admit that I was intrigued by a large addition being put on a sweet little bungalow.

For the record, I did manage a negative split - by a mere 30 seconds.

After a quick refueling at home, I had planned to head straight to the Y for a 2-mile swim. Wait a second? Was that THUNDER I just heard? A quick check of the radar confirmed that a line of storms was heading our way - and most disturbingly, right towards my buddies out on route 5. As my dog (poor sensitive girl) hid under the bed, I watched the storms move very quickly through the area. I had hoped that most of the White Lakers & Brazilians had made it back in time, but I knew that was unlikely given the distances they were riding.

After learning that they had all made it safely back, I was intrigued to learn how it went. And really, let's be honest, anyone who can ride in that weather is sexy. Maybe not immediately after the workout, but that kind of bravery and perseverance is to be admired, celebrated, and honored. Here's to you, my sexy, intriguing training buddies!

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Monument Ave experience

It all started so innocently.

The plan was to ride for 1.5 hours and follow it with an 8-mile negative split run. We opted to ride indoors as the forecast was grim - and we hoped to see our friends begin the 10k.

Indoor cycling was a great way to wake up - 1.5 hours at tempo will do that to you at 6:00 a.m. on a dreary Saturday. After cycling, our group was a bit disorganized since some people were running the 10K - and some of us weren't. Rick and I decided to run down to the Y and back. We figured we could take in some of the race - cheer on our friends and even catch a glimpse at some of the elite 10Kers.

How terribly awry it all went.

We started off down Monument Avenue. It was incredible to be able to run right down the middle of the road without a worry about traffic. We checked out some of the amazing tailgates set up along the route. I'm thinking that to live on Monument, one must be a professional tailgater. Seriously.

Anyway, along we trotted past some of the familiar sites: Maury, Ashe, the Boulevard intersection, Lee. As we ran closer to the VCU area, we spotted small people in yellow shirts. Most were accompanied by an adult.

Me to Rick: "Looks like the kids race."
Rick to me: " What makes you say that?" - yes, that was a sarcastic response.

We kept right on trucking - smack into the middle of the yellow wave of little guys. We did our best to stay off to the side - and even cheered on some of the children (as we so cruelly passed them - with an evil laugh - wait, that's not true.) Suddenly, we realized that we were part of something far more important than us.

Yes - we spotted the Brightroom photographers. Up above us on some kind of crane thing - snapping away with their enormous, and possibly dangerous, cameras.

And there we were - in the way, completely ruining triumphant pictures of small children as they participated in the one-mile race. Nice.

Rick turned to me, and said "How did we get into this mess?"

Me: "I don't know. Let's blame it on Mark. And, let's run back on Grace."

We figured we would anonymously shuffle down the finishers chute (despite towering over the other participants) and get the heck out of there.

Not quite.

Who should be there at the finish line but the one and only Cyndi D! Totally and completely busted. She even found video on the internet that captured the moment. Darn her technological skillz!

In case you are wondering, the finish line area is almost as secure as Reagan National Airport. We had to wade our way (with the small children) to the exit.

Yup - we followed the signs for the 5-7 year olds.

Apparently, I did not learn everything I need to know in kindergarten - or even in teaching kindergarten.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My new closet

Last night after swimming, TGs Kate B, Molly and I were talking about how cozy & comfy our Toughgirl outfits really are. If we could, we would wear them to work. (Actually, I think I did wear it to one faculty meeting). Our conversation made me think about my closets - and what resides within them. I have always been somewhat of a "girly-girl" and consequently I have never shied away from shopping for new clothes. It used to be standard for me to get an Ann Taylor or Nordstrom gift certificate for Christmas. One friend, while helping me move, quipped that I may have had the entire spring Ann Taylor inventory in my closets. He was not far from the truth.

But, those days are over, my friends.

You know you have made the switch from being a clothes horse to a workout beast when you...

1. Linger over the various deals on I am a huge fan of the Speedo endurance line. Those suits don't quit! I just ordered a new one (for the first time in 2 years). Black with pink trim, of course.

2. Choose to spend your spare cash on yet another adorable trigirl piece. (Grandison should be in marketing). Really, I will be riding my bike a lot, so I can easily justify my recently ordered skirtsport biking skirt-thing.

3. Rather than buy a needed new pair of work pants (seriously, my basic black pants are starting to be too basic), you opt for prescription cycling glasses. Yes, I plan to be able to see where I'm riding this year. (I thought it was a good idea). Who really cares if my work pants are threadbare?

It's all about priorities. My priorities have clearly shifted - and I am thankful.