Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ten Years of Tri U Mah

I'm going to take you back a bit.  To July, 2004 as a matter of fact.  One of my good running buddies, Marcia Lee, had entered the LifeTime Fitness triathlon as part of a relay team.  Her daughter would swim; her son would bike and she would run.

This "triathlon" thing was sort of a puzzle to me.  I didn't quite get how the whole thing fit together, how you'd have energy enough to finish the dang thing, and, oh yeah:  the swim.  The D R E A D E D swim in a L A K E.  With other people.  And fish. 

I'd done plenty of road races up until this point.  Every thing from 5Ks to marathons.  Didn't do them fast, but finished them.  Through them, I had found a great bunch of friends and had certainly challenged myself in ways I never thought possible.  But triathlon?  You'd have to be crazy to do one of those, right?

I wandered down to Lake Nokomis and got sucked right in by the triathlon sirens.  I watched the race and by the time my friend crossed the finish line, I was hooked.  I wanted to try my hand at this swim, bike and run thing.  I wanted it bad.

One tiny problem though: I couldn't really swim.  Oh, I could dog paddle with the best of 'em.  I did a lot of "splashy, splashy" in the pool if I was on vacation somewhere, but swim?  For several hundred yards?  And in a lake where I couldn't easily touch the bottom or get to the side wall if I got in trouble?  Not so much.

But the seed was planted and triathlon became a goal.  I started swimming.  To make it to 100 yards I'd break up the four lengths by doing freestyle, then backstroke, then breaststroke, then side stroke.  Then I'd have to catch my breath for a bit.  Then I'd do it again.  And again, and again.  

I finally figured out that I could benefit from some swim lessons and found David Cameron, Total Immersion guru, who helped me become more efficient in the water.  Sayonara, back, breast and side strokes.  Now, it was freestyle all the way.

By the end of 2004, I felt confident that I could sign up for a triathlon in 2005, but which one? 

Enter:  Tri U Mah

Tri U Mah, an indoor triathlon hosted by the University of Minnesota, debuted in February 2005.   Slightly different than other triathlons, which have a stated race distance that participants cover, Tri U Mah breaks its race up in to 30 minute swim, bike and run segments with 10 minute transitions between swim/bike and bike/run.  Participants cover as much distance as they can during the time blocks and winners are determined by the total distance covered.

The venue is terrific -- the University of Minnesota Rec Center.  Participants get to swim in a great pool AND have the lane all to themselves.  After the swim, participants transition to a stationary (spin) bike, and then finish up by running on the treadmill.   Volunteers are pretty peppy and very helpful.  The swag is always great.  (Good shirt; sometimes a bag; lots of yummy post race snacks). 

It was the PERFECT first time triathlon for me.  I signed up for the race, was nervous as hell when I started and beaming, beaming, BEAMING when I was finished.  I've done the race each and every year since 2005, making my 2014 race the first of my 10th year of triathlon. My, how times flies....

The race has become the 'season opener ritual" for me and several of my friends.  We find it to be the perfect reminder that outdoor season is coming for sure and it is time to get back to training. 

I fell in love with triathlon that February and haven't looked back since.

After that, I moved on to outdoor tris and conquered my fear of open water swimming (OWS). (Candidly, the OWS thing took me a long time to embrace.  It really wasn't until I did a training swim with my coach, Greg Rhodes, at Lake Ann Park in 2009, that I let go of my OWS fear.  He got me over it by tricking me.  At the beginning of a practice swim, he told me that, if I made it from one side of the lake to the other, I could walk back to our starting point.   Greg, who is a terrific swimmer, took off in the water.  I hemmed, hawed;  I adjusted my goggles a million times.  I stopped to bob for a bit.  I finally got over to the other side and was going to get out to walk back when he said "Oh, no.  You are swimming back and you aren't going to stop.  You can do this".  And I did.)

Sprints led to Olys, which led to half-irons, which led to Ironman.  Took me three times to cross that finish line at Wisconsin, but I did.  And I'll do it one more time this year in September.
So, thank you, Tri U Mah, for giving me something to look forward to each February.  See you in 2015.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


If you are like most Minnesotans, you are probably anxious for summer to start.


Waaaaaiiiiit.....earlier this week, Fall said "Top of the morning to ya", when the entrance gates to the "foods-on-a-stick" fest (aka the Minnesota State Fair) opened up.


After last year's success (finally) at Ironman Wisconsin, I was all revved up for a terrific 2013 triathlon season. My goal was to focus on getting faster at shorter distances, trying out some new events and really getting lean and mean.


I am now getting ready for my last outdoor tri of the 2013 season, which takes place tomorrow -- (SuperiorMan Half-Iron Distance in Duluth) and I'm STILL trying to get rid of my "winter weight".

Just where, exactly,  does time go?

This year really has been a giant blur and not my most satisfying on many levels.   Not all was bad, but it does feel like I spent a lot of time waiting around for things to get "better" for me to get my head in the game.

The weather had to get "better" for me to feel motivated to train the way I really should have trained. Other aspects of my life needed to get "better" before I wanted to do more than just crawl back in to my house and eat comfort food and watch bad T.V.

Now, almost three-quarters of the year is over (Blink) and I'm finally feeling like I am getting in to the swing of things.   (Actually, this theme is not necessarily a new or different one for me.   I was went to college at 17 and was really not prepared at the time.  In what feels like a SUPER BLINK, it is oh-so-many-years-later, I am ready for college life and would gladly go back to hang at the Terrace at Memorial Union any time.  I would also actually show up for the majority of classes this time around....)

Although my triathlon year hasn't been as stupendous as hoped, there certainly were a lot of high points and I had a lot of great fun.   Truth also be told, after three years of training to cross the finish line at Imoo, I was probably emotionally, mentally and physically ready for a back off year.  (As was predicted by my very wise coach, Greg Rhodes.....).

Here are some of the highlights:

Podium Finisher:
One advantage of moving up in an Age Group category is that, at a certain point, the odds go up in your favor for higher finishing placement.   I moved up in AGs this year, and, although there are certainly PLENTY of speedier women in my AG that can kick my arse around the block several times, I did have solid, top five finish times at Buffalo Tri, Liberty Oly and Waconia.

I even was on the podium, coming in 3rd in my AG at Timberman Oly.   Now, before I get too all up in my badself, I also have to admit that there weren't too many women actually IN my AG at Timberman (or any of the other events).  Still and all, 3rd is 3rd and a prize is a prize.  Booyah.

Tried some new stuff:
Waconia was a new event for me this year.  Loved it.  We lucked out with the swim.  Although the water was chilly, it wasn't too rough.   The course was challenging but beautiful.

Ironman Racine 70.3 was also new for 2013.   After not signing up for this year's Ironman Wisconsin, I still wanted to have an Ironman experience.  Racine was a close enough drive and I thought it might be fun to swim in Lake Michigan.  (Added plus:  a fairly flat bike course.).

Lake Michigan was beeeeuteeefull on the Saturday before the race.  Calm, cool, but not cold, clear (could see the bottom in 15 feet of water). 

Race day?  Not so much.  Four-foot waved greeted swimmers the morning of the race.  The only way I could convince myself to get in the water was to promise myself that I could pull out any time I wanted to or needed to.  Then I just swam from buoy to buoy and before I knew it, I was getting out of the lake.  (It was a tough swim for many racers.  I heard about 50 people got pulled from the water and many others didn't even get in to start).  

The bike was fine, flat and fast.  The run was a bit of a slog, but I made it fun by chatting up with other runners and enjoying the course.  Great race; would do it again in a heartbeat.

Point to LaPoint (P2LaP) swim -- another new adventure and certainly a highlight of the year.  When putting together my race schedule for the year, Greg added P2LaP, which is a 2.4 mile swim in Lake Superior from Bayfield, Wisconsin to Madeline Island.

At first, I thought the event might over my head (pun intended). Not because of the distance, but the swim in big, deep, cold Lake Superior.   I also had in my head that the course was going to be long and lonely, with me paddling in the lake looking at nothing but water and hoping that I wasn't getting lost. 

Au contraire!

First, you can see the island from Bayfield (phew).  The water temp, while cold, turned out to be perfect with the help of neoprene booties and cap.  The race is very well organized and I love the sweatshirt they give to racers.

Two other pluses were that my sister came with me to watch the race and we both met John,  the owner of Schoep the dog.  My sister and I are both HUGE animal people and the story of John and his wonderful dog had really touched our hearts.  It was sheer coincidence that we met John.... but we did and we were able to convey our condolences and to share a hug. 

Final new event for 2013 will be the tri tomorrow:  SuperiorMan.   It starts with a leap off a ferry boat in to Lake Superior, followed by a bike ride up to Two Harbors and back down to Duluth and then a little 1/2 marathon trot around the city.   It is supposed to be unusually hot tomorrow (90s', humid, windy) so, I'm just hoping for the best. 

Oldies but goodies:
The new stuff certainly was fun, but there is also something to be said for tradition.  Tri U Mah last February; Buffalo in June, Madison Open Water Swim last week.... all fun, fun, fun. 

Looking forward: 
Hubby and I are doing New York Marathon this fall (baring any hurricanes or other problems).   We'll also do the TC 10Miler and Victory 10k for training races as prep for the marathon.  

But before we lace up our shoes in November, my friend (and NEW MOM!) Natalie and I will be volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin on September 8th.   Then, early in the morning on Monday, September 9th, we'll be lining up with hundreds of others to sign up for Imoo 2014.


It will be here before we know it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's Be Careful Out There.... (thank you, Phil Esterhaus)

Spring is in the air and it it time to get the bike off the trainer and back on the road!


I write this on April 11th -- a date far enough along the calendar that we SHOULD be able to be out on the roads, but alas, in case you haven't heard, Minneapolis (and much of the midwest) has been the victim of a very lousy spring.  Rain, cold, wind followed by more rain, cold, wind and today -- yes, today, the city received 7 - 10 inches of wet, heavy snow.

What a difference a year makes.  Last year at this time, the weather was warm, lakes were open, people were out on bikes, and golfing and living large.

This year, we are all slowly going a little stir crazy and are anxiously awaiting the first real whiff of spring so we can GET OUT and get moving.

I have braved the roads and bike paths a couple of times this year....all three times were on days when the weather was somewhat cooperative.   I had to get out.  I just couldn't take the trainer any more.

Well, I wasn't the only one out there.  The bike paths were jam packed with people and, since at this time of year, bikers and pedestrians share the paths, I thought it might be a good time to send out a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder to cyclists and pedestrians (aka peds) alike focused on good and safe bike etiquette in the hopes of keeping us all safe and sane out there on the roads.

(Disclaimer:  although the suggestions below come from me and represent my personal point of view,. I make them in the spirit of offering them up to help us all avoid injury and aggravation).

Who Are You?  I can't stress enough the importance of getting and wearing a Road ID.   This handy ID will not only provide you and your loved ones peace-of-mind that you can be identified, your 'in case of emergency" people can be contacted and any allergies are listed so they are avoided if you need emergency treatment, wearing it makes you look cool.  Whether you wear the wrist or ankle band version, or use the hip, cool and groovy dog tag (like I have), you'll feel safer out there.  (And your significant others will breath a little easier when you are out there for those long rides....)

See and Be Seen:   I've gotten in to the habit of hooking a blinking light on to my back jersey pocket every time I ride.   SUPER important at night or dusk, I'm wearing one now during the day to help alert (distracted) drivers that I'm sharing the road.   Bright colors also help distinguish me from foliage and increase the liklihood that I'll be seen. 

As for front lights, I always have one if I'm going to ride at dusk or night.   Helps me to be seen aslo for me to see problems like pot holes or other obstructions in the road. 

ET, Phone Home:  If you are going to bring you cell phone with you, carry it ON you in a pocket, not IN your bento box.  Why?  On the off chance you get thrown from your bike, you can access the phone that is in pocket to call for help.  If it is in your bento box, and your bento box is on your bike, and your bike is  100 feet below you on a cliff, you have a very different set of problems. 

Call it.  Period.   I'm sure this has happened to you.  You are on the bike path, minding your very own business, when ZOOM.  Some stoked up, Super Rider zips by you so closely that you can almost feel their body heat.  Yet, you had no clue they were behind you, much less next to you until they left you in their dust. 

I ask you, Super Rider:  how hard it is to just say "ON YOUR LEFT" before you pass?  (Actually, I ask everyone, just how taxing is it for you to call this safety signal out to alert other riders or runners/peds sharing the path with you?)

Without calling this out, how do you know that I won't suddenly veer to the left to avoid pot hole, or "just because" I decide to turn left, cutting directly in to your path ?  (See SIGNAL YOUR INTENT below).  If I don't know you're on my flank, a slight move to the left could cause disaster for both of us. 

Calling out your intent is an easy thing to do, will cost you ZERO in watts, and could potentially save us both in bike repair and bandage costs.

On a related note, when you hear "On Your Left", this is not a cue for you to crank your head to look behind you, which will cause you also turn your arms to the left, which will cause you to steer the bike to veer to the left and  in to the path of the person passing.  No, no, no.   When you hear the call, you simply have to steer a little to the RIGHT of the path to help provide a little more space between you the person passing you.   It is a simple as that. 

Signal Your Intent:  Ahhh.  Another of my favorites.  I'm riding behind you on the bike path, just enjoying the day, when BOOM, you decide you are going to make a left-hand turn, RIGHT NOW.  

I don't care if you are turning left, right or stopping.  Signal your intent so those behind you have a clue as to what we need to do to help keep us all safe.  If you are stopping, we'll slow down so we don't ram in to you.   If you are turning left, we won't try to pass you at the exact same second you decide to turn your wheel.  If you are turning right, we'll just keep moving along.  We just need to know.

Bike Paths = Moving Lanes of Traffic:  Imagine this:  you are driving down 35W, when you see your best friend's car in the lane next to you.  You haven't seen your friend in a couple of days, so you both decide to stop, in the middle of the freeway, so the two of you can chat and catch up for a few minutes. 

Common scenario?  NO.  Why?  Because we know better than to stop and block traffic in a live, moving lane.

Why, then, do some riders think this is perfectly okay to do on a bike path?  Aren't bikes moving along the path when you decide to stop and chat with friends?   Bike paths are moving lanes of traffic.

If you stop on the path to chat, or to adjust your helmet, or to look at the lake, or to grab a drink of water, eat a power bar, take a picture to upload to Facebook or just to rest, PULL OFF THE PATH.   

Get yourself and your bike on to that little patch of grass that separates the bike path from the walking path and feel free to stay there as long -- and as safely -- as you want.

Oh, and, when you decide to get back on the path, look both ways before pulling back in to the moving lane of bike traffic.   I know this sounds like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised....

Rock, Paper, Scissor = Ped, Bike, Car:  I look at it this way:  When I'm walking, I need very little time or distance to be able to stop my forward momentum to get out of harms way.   I need a lot less time or distance than if I am on a bike, where my speed is greater, and if something happens suddenly in front of me that I have to avoid, I need a lot more distance to slow myself down to a stop (without catapulting myself over my handle bars), or turning to avoid a collision.  If I'm driving a car and going even faster than on my bike, I need a whole lot more room to avoid sudden disaster. 

Therefore, if I'm walking and want to cross the bike path, it is up to ME, the WALKER to wait a couple of seconds for the bike to pass before I meander across the pathway.  

Same logic applies if I'm on a bike and come to stop sign at an intersection and meet up with a car that wants to cross my path.   It is up to ME, the BIKER to give that car lots and lots of leeway to go before me.  I will let the car go first even if I have the right of way.  WHY?  Because the car outweighs me in a big way and getting hit would really put a dent in my day (and the car's fender).

Family Fun:  I'm guessing that my opinion on the following will be controversial:  it is not my job to watch out for your kid.  (Yes, I said it.).  I will also say, that I do my very, very, VERY best to not do any training rides on bike paths during peak times of the day when families want to be out for a nice spin around the lake(s).  However I will also reiterate that, it is your job as a parent to make sure that your kid is riding in a manner that keeps us all safe.

Things that help: 

  • If you have little riders with you, keep them in front of you, so you can see what they are doing and how they are riding.  (Are they swerving, are they staying on the right side of the path?).   If you ride in front of them, you have no idea where they are on the path, how far they are behind you or if they stopped because they got tired. 
  • Make sure your kid knows "right" from "left", so they know to move to the right when being passed (and hearing the call), and that they know how to signal their intent.  Good biking habits start early!
  • Speaking of kids, the other thing that scares me is when I see a family walking back to their car and needing to cross the bike path.   I see a lot of grown-ups that let the kids run in front of them as they are moving toward the street and the kids just don't realize that they need to LOOK before they cross on to the bike path.  I might be moving like a snail on my bike, but if your kid runs in to the path and I can't stop, it is will be a very unhappy end to a day at the lake.
Little things -- like the suggestions above -- can go a long way in helping keep all of us safe on the roads.   Once the weather cooperates enought so that we can get back on the roads, that is.

Happy riding, everyone!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Real butter, real cream, real cheese....

I'm a Wisconsin girl. 

Yes, I know I live in  Minnesota, but that doesn't dispute the fact that I was born and bred in good, old Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Land of the free, home of the bratwurst.

I love all things Wisconsin -- from its cities to its cows and all things in between.   I always tell people about our favorite state motto:  Come smell our Dairy Air ( get the joke on this, say the motto out loud, but slowly...... now get it?)

I grew up the child of a father with German and Polish heritage and a mother, with roots from Sweden and Ireland, so my love of potatos (and all foods considered to be hearty) is more than likely in embedded in my DNA. 

Well, maybe not potatoes, but certainly frozen custard -- a Milwaukee staple. 

The story goes that, on a warm summer evening before I could walk, my parents drove the Oldsmobile convertible to the local drivein to enjoy a refreshing cone of frozen custard deliciousness.   My dad thought it has high time that I had my first taste of the wondrous treat and pushed his cone towards my lips.

Apparently, I licked the cone, swallowed and then my eyes widened.  I grabbed on to the cone and held on for dear life, as I buried my face in to the custard, and literally COOED, and went to town on the custard.

This explains so, so much.

My love of food has never waned, but it has, at times, been a very complicated love affair (think Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger). 

I also have the unfortunate luck to not understand the concept of "rich" when it comes to food.  You know, the type of food that is typically high in calories (and goodness) that people taste, then push away the dish and say some to the effect of "Ooooohh...that is toooo rich for me'.

I say "I'll have it!" and could not only finish their portion (including the licking of the plate) and then ask for more. 

Left to my own devices, I could very well become one of those people you read about, where they have to cut a hole out of the side of the house to extract them to get them to the hospital.

Except for two very important things:  Vanity and Triathlon.

The biggest influence for me and my eating choices was running.  I started to run when I was in my late 30s and when I was training for my first 10k, the light bulb went on.  I finally made a connection between what goes in my mouth and the results that come out of my feet. 

I gave up all fast food that year, with the exception of Subway.  That was probably 12 years ago.  I've pretty much converted off of white bread and white rice, opting instead for whole wheat, pumpernickel (see, those German roots are never too far away), brown rice and quinoa.

I gave up all soda about the same time as I gave up McDonalds.    The only time I've had soda over the last couple of years was on the runs while doing Ironman Wisconsin.  Nothing like a few sips of real Coke to get you to the next water stop.

After spending a few summers riding my bike through the hills around Dane County training for the big race and mooing at the cows I'd pass, I finally decided that it was bad form to eat my friends, so I quit eating beef and pork about 15 months ago.

I did fall victim to the "fake" food fad for a little while and ate no fat, crappy substitutes for things like cheese, butter and cream.   No taste, no flavor, too many chemicals.   I now am a firm believer in the benefits (and flavor) of the real stuff, but don't go too crazy when I choose to eat them.

I'm a significantly healthier eater today than I was when I was a kid or young adult.   My pants size(es) fall in the "normal" range and haven't had to shop Lane Bryant for decades......

So you'd think I'd finally overcome this whole weight/food thing, right?

Well, not so much. 

Every summer, by the time I get to my "A" race for the season, I finally get to a "great" weight for me.  (Other athletes will know this as their "racing weight').   This comes perfectly timed after months of training hard and burning lots of calories.   I get to race day, get on the scale and am IN LOVE with that number.  I race and then forget about the scale for months.   But I don't forget about changing my "hey, I'm in training" eating patterns.  And, oh by the way, the season changes from summer to fall, then winter; days get shorter, meals get heartier, I get lazier. 

Why, then, am I always so surprised that, when I finally get brave enough to get back on the scale, the number reflected back to me isn't even close to that race weight number?

I'm a smart girl.  I understand the concept of portion control (notice I said CONCEPT, not daily practice).   I also understand that it is easier to right the ship when it is slightly off course (aka 5 pounds) than when it is when it is more off course (like double digits). 

But, every year, I seem to be here -- again -- looking at the beginning of training season with some extra lbs and an internally screaming fat-self that says "HEY -- don't you be thinking of taking my second helping away!!"

But away it must go, along with my "friend" sugar.  I've given up a lot of stuff, but the white stuff has always been my nemesis.  It is puzzling to me why....

I had a long conversation with my coach about this weight thing....he reminded me that race weight is one thing (and not a sustainable thing) and what I should really be striving for is my "every day" weight (which is not my "2nd day of February" weight. 

He understands that weight fluctuations are a part of every athletes life (right, Kent Hurbek?) but doing our best to not let the high number too high.  (He says a good number to track for is about 8% above your "best" weight).

When I look at it that way, I'm not too far out of the (weight) ball park.

But it is time to get back on the pony (or in my case, tri bke and trainer) because spring IS coming. 

And so is my first race!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Yin and Yang that was 2012

December 29th, 2012

Another year draws quickly to a close. 

Thank heavens.

I, like many, many of my friends, am plenty happy to see 2012 end.    It was an "interesting" year for many of us.

While I have to say that the good stuff outweighed the not-so-good stuff, I am glad to be closing the books on the year, and I'm nothing that hopeful and excited about 2013.

The great things that happened this year:

  • I finally, finally, FINALLY became an Ironman.  The third time was definitely the charm and I got to finally cross that finish line in Madison at 11:06 pm last September 9th.  I had a great year of training and participated in a number of new and fun events to help me prep for the big race.   These included the five-hour Y rides, Hillfest, the Nature Valley Grand Prix spectator crit, Tour De Tonka, Timberman Oly tri, the Madison mini marathon and many, many, many visits to Madison to ride that bike course.  
  • I had the support of some great people, including my Hubby, who ran a lot of late night long runs with me.  My friends Marcia and Gary, who also joined me for a lot of runs.   My best bud, Natalie, cheered me on from afar (aka Lisbon, North Dakota), and I had a lot of other friends from my old running club and from work that encouraged me along the way.  That made the journey (and the long hours of training) a lot of fun.
  • I went back to work with my first 1/2 iron coach, Greg Rhodes, which was a very, very smart decision.  He knows and understands me and my abilities; he sets up workouts that challenge me and encourages me. I can't recommend him enough and I'm looking forward to working with him in 2013 as he helps me become faster and stronger with Olys and 1/2 iron distance tris.
  • I was very lucky to have been able to take some great trips with my Hubby.  We were lucky to take not one, but two cruises (January and December).   We both just R E L A X when we are at sea.   We were able to do some fun stuff on those journeys:  golfing in Cozumel; biking in St. Maarten; snorkeling in St. Thomas.   We hit New York for the Marathon that wasn't; we celebrated our anniversary in Las Vegas; we spent Thanksgiving with my family in California.   We are very, very, very fortunate to be able to travel and we've stored up lots of memories from these trips.
  • Hubby and I have both been blessed with health.  The biggest gift of all.   Without it, all the rest is bupkis.
  • Hubby had a great golf season this year.  He won a number of his tournaments and moved up in his rankings.  He played in the Golf Channel Amateur Channel's national tournament again and had a blast.
  • Our kitten Oscar, who was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and given two months to live back in November 2011, is still here and purring loud and proud every day.  He has to take medicine twice each day, but we are so thrilled that he is doing so well.   We are thankful every day that he, and the other three furry friends we live with, are all doing well and are happy cats.
  • We got to attend some happy events in the lives of our friends:  weddings, graduations, birthdays and more.   We are lucky to be able to take part in celebrations and to give lots and lots of hugs.

I did make some dumb decisions, though.  One in particular was very short-sighted.  I made a move that, in retrospect, I'd make differently if I had the chance to do it again.  It may not have made the best decision, but it is one I've learned from. 

Dumb decisions aside, here is the thing about time and life: unlike golf, we don't get mulligans.  

We do, though, get to make other decisions. Make next moves.   Turn another corner.   Change direction.  And that remains the beauty of January 1st.   The proverbial "new leaf". 

I enter 2013 with a lot of resolutions and goals, including work with an nutritionist specializing with endurance athletes.  I already have lots of fun triathlons and other events on the calendar and paid for, including some new ones for me:  SuperiorMan (what fun it will be to jump off a boat in to Lake Superior!) -- Ironman Racine 70.3 -- the Point to LaPoint swim -- just to name a few.  

While I'm really looking forward to my 2013 race calendar, I'm more importantly looking forward to my LIFE calendar and to finding ways to REALLY take the road(s) less traveled.

I also have high hopes and wishes for all of you:  That 2013 will be better than 2012 (even if 2012 was your best year ever).  That we won't fall off the fiscal cliff; that the economy will continue to rebound;  that you and yours will find health and happiness and love and PRs (if that is your thing). 

In short, happy new year everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I am Delusional...

One word:  Triathlon.

Let me explain.   I am coming up on (yet another) birthday.  The odometer, as they say, is turning over – again.   While this birthday isn’t a milestone per se, it does represent an increasing digit that seems to happen faster and faster every year.

A funny quirk about the governing body that oversees all things triathlon is that participants must race as the age they will be on December 31st.   My birthday falls in November, so for most of any giving racing season , I race under the age category  I’ll only actually be for 42 days of the year.  
On the one hand, this makes it very easy for me to adapt to the increasing number.   For example, I’ll be 54 soon.   I’ve been used to saying I’m that age and having the world see it (in the form of the age group identifier number that gets temporarily inked on my calf when body marked at triathlons).   So, 54 doesn’t bug me so much.
What bothers me a little bit more than I have cared to admit until now is that on January 1st, 2013, I’ll have to race as a 55 year old (the age I’ll be on December 31st, 2013).  Fifty-five is one thing.  The other – and more frightening thing – is that I also move up Age Group categories next year.  
Sayonara, Age Group 50 –  54.  Welcome(?) to Age Group 55 to 59.
So why is this such a frightening proposition?  It comes back to my being delusional. 
You see, triathlon tricks me in to thinking that I am much, much younger than I really am.  All that swimming, biking and running, along with some yoga and strength training thrown in, provides for me a little “cover” of agelessness.
When I’m in the pool or on my bike or trotting down some path, I believe that I’m just as capable – make that more than capable – than my 15, 20 or even 30 year old self.

My best and most treasured friend and triathlon partner – Natalie --  is 20 years younger than me.  I never, ever feel a difference in our age when we are training.  (I do usually feel a pang of envy when she kicks my butt by running , pedaling or swimming faster).   
How can it possibly be that I’m going to be 54?  How can it possibly be that I’ll be racing against other women between 55 and 59?  (And, how, how ,HOW can it be that I’ll still be finishing mid-to-back-of-the pack thanks to some incredibly strong and fierce athletic machines with names like Jan and Helen, among others?)
Thanks to triathlon (and eating well, not drinking (anymore) and trying to get enough rest), I feel totally ageless, fully strong and luckily healthy.   Unlike many of my non-athletic friends, I’m not on medication (except for occasional use of an inhaler used to address some very minor asthma issues); I’m not winded when I have to walk up a flight of stairs and I’m not wearing mom jeans or appliqué shirts.   (Not that there is anything wrong with that….). 
What triathlon can’t help though, is some of the wonders of nature wrapped in the aging process like sagging skin; more jiggle than not; and the need to see my hairdresser every six weeks to wisk away the grey.   The external changes – and the rapid pace of them -- are the things that shock me the most.
I sometimes ponder the fact that, when Natalie is my age, I’ll be 74 – going on 75.   And that these next 20 years will undoubtedly wiz by faster than the last twenty.
Nat will undoubtedly still be racing in 2032.   If I’m lucky, I might be able to squeak out some sprints or may be an Oly or two. 
I sure hope so. 
Triathlon has given me so much.  Besides physical strength, it has given me a huge sense of accomplishment and self confidence.  I’ve made great friends.  I’ve had the luck to train and work with a couple of wonderful Coaches; I’ve raced some great venues;  I’ve experienced the beauty and wonder of seeing the world from the middle of a lake, out in the middle of farmland, and in the heart of a big city – sometimes all in the same day!
I know myself better though.   In twenty years, the likelihood of me looking okay in a wetsuit (or not getting slowed down by my non-aero batwings flapping in the breeze), is pretty slim.  I may just have to watch my friend race, while I just stand on the sidelines ringing a cowbell.
That is when I hope my delusion keeps up its pace with me.  I hope I can “trick” myself in to believing that what I look like out on the course matters less than how I FEEL out on the course. 
I’m just not a “sidelines-bell-ringing” kinda girl.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The New York Marathon that wasn't....

In case you were wondering how the weekend went….

As many of you know, Warren (my husband) and I were on deck to run the New York Marathon last weekend.   I got in via the lottery and Warren was running via the charity runner program running for UNICEF.

It would have been Warren's second marathon and my 11th.  We spent the summer and fall training together (Warren ran with me as I was getting ready for Ironman Wisconsin and then continued to train after Imoo was over….)   Our goal was to run the race together, not worry about our time and to just have fun.

Enter Hurricane Sandy.

After the storm hit the east coast, we debated for a long time about going to run the race.   Race and city officials assured us that the race would go on, but we weren't sure that this was the right time to run the race…. That if the race did in fact happen, there would be a cloud over it.  

We finally decided to go (everything was already paid for; we'd either run or not, but either way, we'd have a very interesting experience).

We arrived in New York on Friday afternoon.  We stayed near Times Square and, from our location, you would not have known there had been a storm.  Everything above ground from 39th Street up  was running smoothly.  There was power, food, water, cell coverage. 

The local news was very much 24/7 Sandy coverage.    The areas hardest hit were lower Manhattan, Staten Island, and parts of Queens/Long Island.   It was hard to imagine the water, the sand and the damage unless you saw the footage.

We were just leaving for a UNICEF-hosted dinner when officials announced the cancellation of the race.   Warren and I just looked at each other and shrugged.   What was there to do?   On the one hand, we were disappointed but on the other, much bigger hand, we both understood this was the right decision.

Now on to Plan B.

We went to the UNICEF dinner and met some really incredible people from all across the world that had trained and raised money.  About half of the runners were doing New York as their very first marathon.  Again, people were disappointed, but everyone understood the reasoning for cancelling the race.   The organizers let the runners know that the money raised was already being put to good use, funding projects aimed towards immunizations and providing clean water.   During dinner, NY locals filled others in on volunteer opportunities available throughout the city where we could help those that had been impacted by Sandy.

So on Saturday, Warren and I walked down to lower Manhattan and volunteered for several hours.  We helped provide food and water to people (mostly elderly) that lived in high rise apartments.  Their electricity had just been turned on that morning, so they could finally get out of their apartments.  Again, we met some really terrific people -- other volunteers and those in need -- who were kind and generous and only wanted to help. 

Sunday, the UNICEF team met in Central Park, where we joined thousands (literally) of other runners that created an impromptu run.    We ran loops of the park (which was the original marathon course, back in the day).    Runners from all across the world, along with wheelers and Achilles Runners (those who are disabled) and their guides were there.   We also had many, many spectators along the course that cheered us on and provided water (on their own dime).  It was a very special event.

While not the race we expected, Warren and I were able to accomplish what we set out to do:  we ran together, we didn't worry about time; we had fun.  It was a very interesting experience indeed. 

We also had one additional benefit we didn't plan for, but which made our weekend:   we had the chance to give back a little, providing a little time, some kind words and a little cash (in the form of donations to relief organizations).

Thanksgiving is coming up.   Personally, this is my favorite holiday.   I get to spend time with family, have a meal I love, and still usually find some time to reflect back and to be grateful for the gifts that have come my way:  health, friends and family, a warm house.    I'm thankful that I have the means to help others in need and I encourage you to give back in ways that you can to the people/places/organizations that are meaningful to you.   I'm willing to bet that you'll receive much more in karmic returns than you ever could have expected.

You will all be on my gratitude list this year….   Just so you know.