Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006 Mantras for Hire

In 2006, I had some mantras that consistently served me well. It was the year of "Heat." I am retiring these mantras and submitting them for whomever wishes to adopt them... Let the bidding begin!

You need to make your own heat. I needed to "make my own heat," light my own fire, keep myself going through the long training rides, swims and runs of IM training. That self-determination also kept my enthusiasm and belief in this alive. I did the vast majority of training on my own and had to motivate myself to get out the door and stay out the door until my workout was completed. These were the longest workouts of my life. This year was all about LONG and SLOW. I became long and slow... And "I make my own heat" struck a chord that helped me find the steely determination to just. keep. going.

Caveats with this mantra: Beware. Once the fire is lit, warmth literally spreads throughout your body, consuming everything in its path. You may wind up in the women's (or men's) locker room after some workouts prancing around naked until your body temp allows you to accept clothing.

Your heat comes from within. This statement by a volunteer at Ironman Wisconsin reminded me that I do indeed make my own heat, within me. It lead to the crowning moments (approximately 7 hours worth) of Triteacher Internal Combustion. I completed, survived - did - that cold, rainy 112 mile bike ride of September 10th. I hung on and endured, through hands too numb to shift or open a Gu. My heat came from within. NO question of it. Wasn't anywhere else it could have come from. Thanks to that heat, I am Iron.

Catch with this motto: You may meet and exceed all of your goals, leading you to wonder... what next??

BUT then you can just borrow from me at the end of next year. CUZ you bet your ass I'm gonna have some good mantras this year. I'm already working on 'em...

Monday, December 25, 2006


Do you ever get the feeling that some things are just yours?

No matter how long it's been since I've been on skis, I get on them and they are mine. The feeling is mine. Even though my quads were aching from yesterday's ski, today's drive consisted of getting out there again, to race down the hills we'd been on before and whose icy tracks now meant speed. And to hit the trails I had missed yesterday, to baptize the virgin powder with the twin tracks of my skis.

Thinking the same thought that came to me last year: I want to be buried in powder. Let its beauty surround me and swallow me up. It is a blissful feeling of oneness with the cold air, the slooshing of my skis, the perpetual motion of my body in unity with the snow, the sky, the whole world around me.

Somewhere in this happiness is the acceptance of my mortality. When I ski, I make peace with... everything. Somehow my joy in this simple mortal act of gliding forward on snow - that interplay of energy - makes me know that everything is all right. And always will be.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Click Heard Around the World

I'm sure you heard it... right around 12:30 PM CST. From my Wisconsin pool to Chicago and Cleveland, from Vermont to SoCal.


That's when I realized that I needed to be the backhoe. All of those playsessions with my nephew have finally realized their ulterior motive. You see, I now know how to catch... My arm is just like the arm of that backhoe. The more water I scoop up, the more I can shove out behind me. So I tested my new thinking on my 8 x 100s.

Just like a good little back hoe, I kept my arm nice and high and picked up a BIG - I'm talkin' HUGE - pile of water. And did I just let that water go? No! I used my hydraulics to thrust it out behind me, and then I powered into the next pile.

Result??? Ha! My 100s were all 1:25s today. I have not been able to maintain that speed - ever. And I was leading! Yay!

Thanks, Jake. I owe you one. And I suspect I know how I can repay you... :)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Yin and Yang

My brother is a Catholic priest.
I am an atheist.

He weighs 350 pounds and smuggles candy bars into his room.
I was anorexic in high school and a compulsive overeater in college.

He drove six hours to see me the night before my Ironman.
I would walk across hot coals for him.

He probably prays for me.
I invite him on bike rides and walks with me.

We love each other and will break bread on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


People fascinate me. And once in awhile, someone needs to have a post written in their honor. I met one such woman today...

There she sat, a woman stunning because of her largeness, her insane obesity. The other women flitted about her, drones around their Queen Bee. Her hands were firmly planted on her knees, her ample bottom encased in its floral swimsuit, huge breasts sagging into the part at which I only shot covert glances - her peplum draped between her knees, blocking the light coming from beneath the bench.

I found myself drawn in too, hanging on every word of the racy joke she was telling between pants, futzing with my shampoo and conditioner so I could draw out the time when I'd need to turn on the shower and lose her thread.

She was mesmerizing. As Fatima in T.C. Boyle's Water Music... or a female Falstaff from Shakespeare's King Henry the Fourth. Both are highly sought after characters whose very corpulence embodies the everyman appeal they have; they are all-encompassing.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I pull my legs tightly to my chest, eeking out the last minutes of sunlight before I'll mount my bike and head home. Drips from my swimsuit plop into the water below. I shift a bit more, finding a spot to accomodate myself on this hard board pier. I have dolphined, I have swum, I have tasted my red lake water. I am pure, holy, and relaxed.

And then I see him. The swirls in the water alert me to his presence. They lead my gaze to a small, pointy face with over-sized whiskers poking out just above the water line. He is aware of me too. Our eyes lock.

He breaks the spell, diving. Only to surface a few yards closer. Then he begins his show: swimming toward me in long s-shaped sweeps. I am shivering now, but this little being won't let me go. He pulls me in, keeps me on the pier watching his lazy arcs, dives, and teases. Sometimes he resurfaces closer to me, like the first time, and sometimes he's farther away.

I wonder about him. Is he as curious about me as I am about him? Does he love this lake, this water, the way I do? Are we cosmically linked? I smirk at the idea, but am unable to leave him.

Then he dives and doesn't resurface. Huh? Was I just ditched by an otter?

I uncoil and pedal home. Eighteen years later, I remember our encounter. And the 17 year old girl who couldn't wait to get to the lake to swim after barn chores were done. Who loved animals and solitude and sunlight on red lakes. And who was chosen by an ottter - if only for a few minutes' teasing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Come Early

Remember when you were a kid and you could just stare at your Christmas tree for hours? I have visceral memories of my brother and me sitting in front of our tree, just gazing at it. And it was more than the anticipation of presents. Sitting there awed by the lights and the way they made the garland twinkle, steeped in the piney smell... feeling warm, loved, and loving.

I remembered that feeling last night as Chris and I sat gazing at Piper. You see, Piper had surgery yesterday. Right on the heels of me posting that nasty poem about him not being manly, he had to go take on some barbed wire. To the tune of 5 stitches. And since he had to be put "completely under" (reassuring words), the vet asked if we would like him neutered right away too.

Aw, man!?! Is there any irony here? In his venture to prove his manliness, he ends up in a situation where he is going to be permanently un-"manned." Poor Piper.

So there we were without our puppy until 6:00 last night. No licks when I got home from school, no one constantly under Chris's and my feet. We needed our dog back! At 6:00 sharp, we were at that vet's office. Piper staggered out to the car with us and slept, snoring alternating with whimpering, all the way home.

We pulled our mattress into the living room and put his bed right next to it. Then we just sat there together. Looking at him. Counting his heartbeats, soothing his whimpers, being there every time he opened his eyes. It felt like those Christmases. Watching a tree where nothing much was happening. But there was a whole lot happening. And we all felt it.

Christmas come early.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pusilanimous Piper

Pugilist he is not
Barks at benches
Whimpers at fleas
Runs into trees

A guard dog he
Will never be.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Shoveling Snow

I like the feel of it.
I like the tidiness of it.
I like the systematic nature of it. You wipe this quadrant clean and then begin the next rectilinear section.
I like the power of it - whipping all that snow off to the side, watching it cascade off of my shovel, the little snowflakes joining all the other snowy crystals who've already fallen prey to my efforts. (Fear not: my fantasies of world domination end here.)
I like the satisfaction of peering out the window - frequently - and seeing that our driveway is (still) free and clear.

Eat your hearts out, you warm weather wimps; I'm not jealous at all. Not a lick.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Pretty and Popular Problem

I'll begin by saying; I've never had it. Nor would I have considered being pretty and popular a problem. But today with my fifth graders my eyes were opened. At recess, I was taking pictures of the kids so we can work with the photos in our computer class.

Enter: Katrina Van Tassel and Ichabod Crane.

Ichabod: Can you take a picture of me with Katrina?
Triteacher: Sure, set it up and I'll snap it.

Minutes pass. Ichabod returns sans Katrina.

Ichabod: Can you take a picture of me with Katrina?
Triteacher: Sure, get Katrina and I'll take it.

This goes on... and then as recess is drawing to a close, I hear Ichabod asking Katrina to take a picture with him. "Will ya? Will ya?"

"Um, not right now, Ichabod. I'm having my picture taken with someone else." She was indeed posing with a group of her girlfriends.

In the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, my sympathies have always lain with Ichabod. In real life, I felt for Katrina. Being sought after because of your looks would suck. Katrina could never be anonymous or blend in. An activity like this has all the hangers-on wanting to be reflected in her glow.

And she is automatically assumed to speak out of and as representative for the pretty people of the world. Ichabod today concluded that Katrina was "stuck up." Aren't most good-looking people assumed to be stuck up? Jocks? Preps? Is she, or did she just want the anonymity that looking nondescript can provide? I have always taken this comfort for granted. Hmm...

More school... 5th grade love. They blow me away. They want so much to please. Sixth graders wanted to please for about the first 2 weeks of school. These kids want to please me even now in December. They aren't just a year younger - they're a whole different species. And, they're starting to think and speak more maturely now too - moving into the analytical, reflective thinking I enjoy. We laugh about the characters in the books we read and how they are reflective of our character traits. We had a thoughtul discussion of vanity this week and kids shared insights into their own vanity. Seeing them step outside of themselves to observe their own behaviors... wow.

Move over swimming; I might just be falling in love with my 5th graders.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Anatomy of Prince Charming

I'm floating on top of the water, smooth, effortless...

I look forward just enough to see my down-turned thumb lead my arm into the water. I catch with my pinky, doing a semi-circular sweep of the rim of large bowl that ends at my belly button. Then I push that water out from my belly button to my upper thigh, exiting the water as though taking my hand out of my back pocket. Then relaxed, relaxed, relaxed on the recovery 'til my thumb enters the water again. Repeat, breathe, glide...

Prevents crossover = I look forward just enough to see my down-turned thumb lead my arm into the water.

Keeps my elbow high = I catch with my pinky, doing a semi-circular sweep of the rim of large bowl that ends at my belly button.

Thrusts me forward = Then I push that water out from my belly button to my upper thigh.

Keeps me straight in the water, elbow out first = Exit the water as though taking my hand out of my back pocket.

Get the most glide out of my effort and conserve energy for the underwater effort = Relaxed, relaxed, relaxed on the recovery.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Swimming Infatuation

Once upon a time, there lived a runner. That runner did 5Ks and 10Ks, 2 milers and 26.2 milers. Then she started doing triathlons. Now this runner was very pleased with her performance in the biking and the running portion of her triathlons, but found that her rank in swimming sucked. Her fairy godmother waved her magic wand and the Triathlete lived happily ever after.

Oh, were it so!

Now for the true story. The above is all true - up 'til the wand part. I have been working on my swimming for the last 3 years. And - sacrilege - sometimes I love it almost as much as running. It offers a unique set of triathlete temptations.

#1. If done right, provides a runner's high. I never thought I could get that from any other sport, but now I do. Intervals are the key. My recent discovery of 8x100 on 1:45 (or 1:40 if I'm with my ballsy partner) have put me into a whole new realm. I'm addicted. It is a high. I have the same feeling as I do with running intervals. Nervous dread/excited anticipation before I go, chest-pain effort during, and blood-pumping, gelatinous body exhilaration when we're done.

#2 Braininess of it all - technique is so important and you have. to. think. Some sort of crafstman in me likes it that form matters in swimming. Much more than in biking or running. I like concentrating on the different aspects of my stroke and perfecting them.

#3 It's the one of the 3 elements that I consistently do socially - it gives a whole new aspect to this individual sport that I pursue. I've hit it off with a group of people who love what I love and we've clicked pace-wise. Our coach is a successful, inspirational triathlete. Never hurts.

So right now Swimming is my Prince Charming. I'm looking for a fairy tale finish next season.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thankful - At Last

I'm back. Don't know how. Just the hazy veil lifted. I think it's chemical, not my fault (the result of too much sugar and other bad living) as I had earlier concluded.

But I'm willing to forgive my brain & its playful chemistry because that same brain allows me to:

1) Read Shakespeare and reflect on the nature of Kate the Shrew, unable to play until Petruccio calls her to it. That's the interpretation proposed by the lecturer I'm listening to. I want that to be Shakespeare's intent else Katherine's last speech is too terrible to bear after her earlier beautiful show of wit and will.

And the story resonates with me at a personal level. Am I, with my irascibility, a Kate? And is Chris my Petruccio? Refusing to engage with my anger and sulks but rather biding his time until they pass. Then we can laugh at my tirades and point out how ridiculous they are - and play as Kate and Petruccio do. (I'm glad he doesn't steal Petruccio's methods wholesale. Being out-shrewed and hoisted around would wear thin pretty quickly.)

2) Enjoy the nature of being human - as felt by me and as I observe it lived in those around me. That's why blogging has come to mean so much to me; it's another lens into how others view their world and their training. And I find us interesting. Athletes have a frame for their worldview unlike other bloggers. I have become aware of the frames we share: the pattern of diurnal training-thinking, our general "granola" nature/love of outdoors/ environmental awareness, our goodness, our drive, and our need to share this with like-minded people.

Yet even within that frame, there is infinite variety (have to steal from Darwin while I'm robbing Shakespeare) among us. That is harder to name, but I think it comes down to brain chemistry and our resultant personality, of which gregariousness is a part. Some of us are very sociable, while others of us are introverts.

Even how we write, some with unsurpassed eloquence, and others with less eloquence and more need to just put the words on the screen, is revealing. Some write deeply, giving us a "window to their soul," while others write the numbers - a training log. And there is everything in between.

I am thankful for all. And for the ability to one day appreciate the training log type and get out the door and run; and the next find my inspiration/salvation in the deeper soul blogs that get my brain out the door for a run.

I am thankful to be back to this spot where I can be grateful, where life feels good. I think I'm even ready for more hugs and stories from my fifth graders. :) Maybe I just needed a break, and this 4-day vacation came at the opportune time. I told Chris that I felt I needed to get outside of myself. But now I think I was too outside of myself: too into school and my projects there, too worried about keeping my chin up and presenting the person everyone expects me to be. (It's a paradoxical kind of self-absorption and exaggerated sense of self-importance, isn't it?)

These last 4 days, I have been able to go within myself: I've found Shakespeare (again), played piano, run a 10K (50:43 for the numbers-folks), and written. Maybe that was the remedy for my depression. Or maybe it was just the changing chemistry of my ever-playful brain.

Whatever it was, I am thankful - at last - today.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


In the pink dusky light of last night's hike, I realized what I had been reaching for all day. And that it was a metaphor for how I've been living. Clawing to push aside the cobwebs that cloak me. All day, I had been longing to take pictures of the hike, but the light just wasn't right.

All this week, I have been longing to feel good, pushing myself to keep acting the part, grasping for thankfulness, gratitude, warmth. Cursing my perversity when they wouldn't come.

Then, finally, after a full day of hiking, the pink light began and I captured it. It is patience, it is biding, the opposite of straining and surging. Some things need to come of their own volition. Some things need to be endured, lived through, and then the appreciation of the pink light is all the keener.

I am a shallow pool, like my mother. I look so inviting on the outside. You can dive into this smiley, friendly teacher. My fond 5th graders hug me and tell me their stories and cling to me. And I hug back and comment and encourage. But, as I now understand my mother, the hugs become cloying, the comments and encouragement grow stale and rehearsed. I feel a need to cleanse myself in the cool, deep pool and I swim until I am free. As I wished for my mother when I was a girl, I wish for me now; I wish I were deeper.

I am irascible like my father, I am SAD like my Sweet Sister. I am obdurate like my Strong Sister.

Yet I love all these people. Can I love myself?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Age Group

I have officially passed into the next age group: 35-39 year olds. I debated on taking this step, but when my parents drove 3 hours to surprise me on Wednesday night bearing Mom's homemade Heath Bar cake (my very favorite birthday cake since I was a wee girl), I pledged my commitment to the 35 year-olds of the world and joined their ranks.

Other birthday perks? Chris told me that this year he was really going to do a good job on my birthday. So, did he force me to work out after Parent-Teacher conferences like I told him to do? Nope, he cooked me up a triple-fatty meal and got me drunk on expensive red wine. Which may be good for endurance athletes. Maybe there's hope for this guy yet. :)

Can You Die from Cramps?

On yesterday morning's run I was convinced I could. The Spanish say, "Me duelen los riñones," (literally: my kidneys hurt me) and it became my refrain as I slogged on - up the hill, around the curve. Me duelen los riñones.

I remembered Ironman and how I conversed with and convinced myself, "No one dies from the cold." And I didn't.

I slogged on, thinking of the night before IM, eating with my family. My parents asked Chris what he thought of all this. I had already coached him, "Under no circumstances are you to let me quit this race! I don't care how tired, or hurt or sad or defeated I am, tell me I've worked too hard for it and have to keep going."

He told my parents that, as a dutiful husband, he was honor-bound to leave me at the side of the road should I be lying there.

You see, I had fought these demons already - the fatigue, the boredom, the pain, the nausea and even injury. You don't do 2 hour swims and 6 hour bike rides without learning. My family received strict instructions too: they were to leave me at the side of the road.

They all had a good laugh at that imagery. But they knew that I - at least - meant it.

Me duelen los riñones.

I have had Chris bail me out in the past. There was a marathon I was walking with his mom and sisters - early in my marathon career - and at mile 21, I hopped into the car with him and didn't look back.

I have wanted Chris to bail me out at other times. My 2003 BQ attempt. I knew I wasn't going to make it when I bonked at mile 16 and had everything I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I told him to meet me at the finish line. He snuck back and took pictures of me from the bushes, but he didn't let me quit. At the end - and only there - I felt I had finally earned the right to say, "Take me home."

Me duelen los riñones.

Chris's words to me later that Ironman Eve, "You tell me you're hurting 3 times tomorrow, though, and that's it. I'm scooping you up. Ironman or no Ironman. I'm taking you home."

But I didn't. I didn't even say it once. I didn't hurt, I was ready for it. I wanted it and I did it.

No me duelen los riñones.

I had pushed, slogged - lived through it. The cramps had subsided. I felt my beautiful, beautiful legs take over and the surge felt like what I live for. We rounded the corner into a stiff head wind.

"Piper, did we beat the cramps just to let a little cold wind push us around?!? NO! Let's go..."

is what I will remember next year when every breath hurts, when my quads are screaming at me to slow down, when my piriformis snaps at me. Trying to qualify for nationals will hurt, setting a HIM PR will hurt - shit - my interval workouts are going to hurt! But I know I can do it because I have faced these demons and...

I didn't die from the cramps.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To tenderfoot snow dog.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Top 10 Reasons to Hate your Spouse

(Don't worry, Honey; it's the sugar talking)

#1 Leaves me a pan of Chicken Alfredo in the fridge that I take out to find that there's all Alfredo and no chicken.

#2 Teases the cat, the dog, and me mercilessly, but when I tease the puppy just a little bit "doesn't even want to look" at me. Aargh, I'm gritting my teeth.

#3 Insult upon injury of starvation: I open the microwave to find its walls spackled with exploded bits of chicken and Alfredo sauce. He does this all the time -repeatedly sullies the microwave because he puts his food on top of the microwave cover. The effort it would take to lift up that little piece of plastic and place it over his food... Sheesh, we can put a man on the moon, but think we could teach him to cover his food pre-microwaving??

#4 OK, losing steam... at least I got the big 3 though.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Section 1: New Name Needed

So what should happen last night, but into master's swim class walks the woman whom I affectionately call Hell-on-Wheels-Coach -- and she did something nice. I'm feeling awfully shame-faced as I write this cuz I've taken her name in vain more than once.

Well, she sauntered in - woops, walked in like a normal person - and sat in the hot tub. The rest of us plebeians started the workout and were about 10 minutes into it when She came over to stand at the end of my lane. She asked if I had a minute.

Oh bother, what's wrong with my stroke now??

I ordered my face muscles into neutral-at-all-costs position and said, sure I had a minute, and told my swimming partners to go ahead without me.

"Would you like to travel to races together next season?"

Wait, troops! Neutral position! Neutral position!

I nearly guffawed. Shock does that to me sometimes. Elicits really inappropriate responses.

So the outcome?... I said yes.

But now I've been in a dither all day. She (who needs a new name now that we're friends) wants to qualify for nationals. She tried 3 years ago, got injured, but now thinks she's back on track. But what about me?

Section 2A: What Does a Woman Want?
I'm not sure I'm cut out for nationals level competition for many reasons...

#1 Obvious - I'm not sure that I'm fast enough.
#2 I'm not sure that I'm mean enough, and, according to my GENTLE swim coach who's done Nationals, Worlds, Kona, you name it, you have to be kick-'em-while-they're-drowning driven and competitive.
#3 In a word, I'm sorta lazy. I don't know if I want to work that hard. Yeah sure, stabbing-breathing pains are OK once in a while, but I'd be signing myself up for a whole season of that. And I currently love this sport. Would I love it after that?
#4 I currently do this sport on a pretty meager budget. Most of my budget is spent on tri toys/gear. I would have to add travel expenses to the roster. And I'm not sure I can reconcile myself with that. This is a hobby. I love it, but it's a hobby.

In a nutshell? What's the cost/benefit analysis for this?

Prior to this, my plan was to do local races and set a HIM PR next year. Maybe throw in a marathon to mix things up. So laid back and easy... I get uptight just thinking about nationals. Do I want stress in my hobby too??

Section 2B: On the Other Hand
Yet last year's IM caused me a lot of stress and I truly thrived on it. Now that it's gone, I appreciate the focus it gave me - not to mention the guaranteed adrenaline rush and happy endorphins every single day. I was a nicer person. Without it this fall, I've reverted back to my old rhythm of happy-for-5-days/depressed-for-5-days routine.

So, yeah, I'm a little f'd up, but I'm willing to look at it honestly - or at least practically. Isn't it a lot cheaper and better for all concerned for me to be chasing a triathlon goal than to be swinging from the trees? As my brother-in-law put it, "Ironman is a lot cheaper than therapy."

Section 3: Unresolved, but I think the end of this post
Whew! I needed to get all this off of my chest. I've been wanting to blog all week, but never found the time, so here it spews. Any and all input is welcome, and if you've made it this far, why not put your 2 cents in? (Make my decision for me, please!)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

2006 Turkey Trotter Triumphs

How did my legs learn to do that? I didn't do speedwork or hills in preparation for Ironman. Where did they learn this??

Scuttle, scuttle, scuttle up the steep hill I went, quick-stepping it just like I was running up steps. And then, click, at the top - I opened up to let those self-same legs carry me loping down the other side, passing people. Me, passing people, and feeling good.

I had an excellent race today. It almost wasn't. I slept for 11 hours last night only to wake with thoughts - not of racing - but of cleaning the house, doing some lesson planning, walking Piper. And then I remembered that, oh, yes, I had signed up for a race today. Hmm... should I go? Yeah, I'll go.

Hmm... what should I wear? (SO different from Ironman - remember the lists made months in advance and tweaked daily until the hour before the race started? How far I've come.)

When the time came, I hopped in my car, drove an hour, and checked in to the race. I hadn't read any of the literature closely because I'd done this race before (2 years ago) and thought I'd remember all the basics. I didn't.

Thinking that the 5K & 5 Mile races started consecutively, I lined up with the 5k-ers. I even started to run, but overheard a conversation that lead me to conclude that my race, the 5 miler, actually started an hour later (11:00). I stopped my watch - and as inconspicuously as possible - slunk off the course.

So I waited around for an hour, watched the 5k-ers finish. At 10:50 I headed to the starting line. And had my second, "it sorta feels funny" sensation. No one else was at the starting line.

Being that my stellar memory hadn't served well so far, I decided to follow my hunch and look for a different location for the starting line. I had an ah-ha moment when I saw it - about a quarter of a mile away on the other side of the registration building and over a bridge.

After verifying this with approximately five people, I queued up to the starting line and checked out the other runners. Fit, young, yet more seasoned than the really young-looking college kids that had populated the 5k. Then the gun sounded, and I started my watch for the second time today, and was off. Right from the start, I knew that my earlier worries about having lost my competitive streak were in error. I wanted to go fast and hang as far toward the front as I could. And it felt good. To be breathing hard, to be pumping strong.

I swore I was working so hard that my first mile would be a sub-8, but it was 8:06. OK, I thought, 8-minute miles might be a stretch today, but goddammit, I told blogosphere that I'd be close to that, so I will be!

Mile 2 was slower; my split was 16:25. Then I went up that hill. The steep one that allowed me to pass people going up and coming down the other side. And I felt my legs take over. They drove my breathing and instructed my eyes to pick the shortest distance through the curvy forested path. I cut to the inside of those curves whenever possible and lauded myself on my intelligence, all the while also registering how hard I was working. Tightness in my chest, throat and between my shoulder blades. Also I felt my piriformis (AKA butt muscle).

I am working hard and it feels good. Be it resolved that I will leave nothing on this course today.

3 miles: Trisaratops is somewhere doing her 5K today. I wonder how she's doing. She's almost done now.

And I thought - 2 miles to go. I can do this. I decided that I'd hit my watch at the 4-mile mark and open myself up for a final push at a sub-8 split. I passed many people in this mile and found myself marveling at how even my breathing was - theirs sounded so ragged.

4 miles. I began the push. Up a hill, down a grassy knoll, up one side of a creek, down the other end and into the curvy woods for the final time. I had passed everyone easily-passable and was alone. The next people were all in a pack about 50 yards in front of me. I knew I couldn't catch them, and felt myself wanting to slow down, to alleviate the pressure in my chest and throat, to slow my now ragged breathing.

Don't you dare let up! Letting up is not an option. You have this distance in you. You should have another 22 miles in you! Don't you dare let up!

I didn't. I rounded the corner out of the woods and saw the finish chute ahead of me. 39:52 and counting.

I need 40:00. Go!!!

I sprinted, watching the clock and the precious seconds tick away... beeeep, I crossed the mat.

Time? 40:01!

But, I'll give myself that second. I worked hard! Last mile? 7:44. This was not an easy race and/but it felt so good. I'm back. My running is back. This is the new baseline from which I'm starting. It can only go up (well, down time-wise) from here. I'm a racer. That is what I learned today. My body, no - more specifically - my beautiful, beautiful legs love to run. They've been running for so long that the muscle memory just takes over and carries the rest of me right along.

I was prepared to be happy with that time and the euphoria of racing, but then at the end of the chute, I got hardware too. A volunteer pressed a medal into my hand - 1st place female, age 30-39. I got lucky to place with that time, but I'll take it.

Signing off: Triteacher who is a runner again!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Here Comes the Sun

More vacation pictures - do you detect a common thread? Things that bring sunlight:
  • Swim Repeats: In my masters swim class, we did 8 x 100 on 1:50, then on 1:45 the next time, and at Sunday lap swim, just one other woman and I threw our all into it and did 4 x 100 on 1:40. She's usually in a faster lane than me, but we decided that I have more stamina so I'm defecting to her lane starting tonight. Yahoo!
  • I'm running!!! Monday's run felt good - no ankle issues. I think I'm all healed up. I may do a 5-mile race this weekend. My Strong Sister won the women's race 2 years ago. I wouldn't be in the running for that, but shit, I'll take even 8-minute miles after the no-running I've been doing.
  • Halloween parties planned by 5th grade students.
Speaking of which, have a good one, everyone! I am personally avoiding candy; my pants are not quite fitting... perhaps due to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream covered with cooked chocolate pudding that I consumed last week. And that was only one night... I'm very thorough in all that I do. :)

Monday, October 30, 2006

I'm Back

Hello! I'm fresh back from vacation. Thought I'd get a chance to blog before we left, but that never materialized. We had a great trip to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan. Beauty abounded. Pix explained:

Left: Chris and Piper by one of three waterfalls we saw on the Presque Isle River before it emptied into Lake Superior.

Right: My husband, the artist inspired by nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. It's really funny this new hobby of his. I walk on the trails that we tend to frequent and find little traces of Chris... my favorite one was a picnic-table sized serpent he made by sticking hundreds of burdocks together. I've always played detective with him (does anyone else do this??) by looking at the dishes in the sink when I get home or checking the fridge - hmm... what did he eat while I was gone?

Now I find evidence of him outside... leaves twined together into a cornucopia, sticks placed in a meaningful way, mossy rocks chipped into a boat shape and set on edge.

Then I think about our relationship. What's in a marriage? Sometimes I feel like our fire has fizzled - or more aptly put - like he's gone in one direction and I have gone another. I am sort of crazy about triathlons and he, to put it gently, isn't. And there are a million other examples of this drift, and quite frankly - lack of support on his part.

Yet, I'm still into him. For many reasons. Looking at these pictures, I know at least one of them - I love the artist in him that feeds the detective in me. I wasn't going to write about this, my marriage, yet it is a compelling subject that has absorbed me of late. In other words, it's one of the boxes I need to unpack. So bear with me, there's probably more to come on this topic.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Let It Snow!

Visions of snowflakes dance in my head...

Anticipation... Forecast of one inch of accumulation tonight and perhaps more tomorrow. I'm waxing my skis today!

So it might not look like this photo of my nephew and me last winter, but I'll be ready when it does.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Please Let This Be PMS

6:45 AM Not going to blog today. Way too depressed. Nobody wants to read that.

6:55 AM OK, maybe I will post. Just this.

Unsure of my husband.
Unsure of myself.
That about does it.

7:00 AM Gnashing of teeth. Battle plan: Silent treatment. Let him come to me for once. I'm always the one who has to tap my reservoir of happiness and buoy us both. NOT TODAY. And if that's the beginning of the end, so be it.

7:40 AM Happiness and smiles and yes, even some words.

Default position: Wish I could just crawl out of my skin for awhile. Put myself out there free-floating. Tried medicating with cookies and TV last night. (Cuz that has always worked so well in the past. Snort.)

I am prostrated before this beast. Bare naked, yet cringing and covering my face, wanting to preserve some dignity. Yes, I've done the Ironman, but I still have myself. Didn't outswim, outbike or outrun me. Yet, am I better than I used to be? Used to take days for this. To be able to laugh at myself and see the gross hyperbole.

Box, please.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fat and Happy

I feel as though I'm committing sacrilege here, but I'll feel better if I get this confession off my chest...

I'm happy to be in recovery season.

There, it's out. This little discovery dawned on me (literally) last Friday when I woke up at 5:30 AM and went for a fun run with Piper. Usually, that time would have been unacceptable for a workout. (Too late to do a long workout and get to school on time, and I never work out in the morning.) And, more critically, when I was training for IM, there was no room for variance from the schedule. Every workout was carefully spliced into my day, and walls caved in if I strayed from the plan. Last Friday morning though, I woke up, felt like running, and went for a run. Bing, bang, done.

That's not to say that I'm such a perfect person that I've caught myself feeling like working out at odd times every day. In fact... I didn't feel like working out last weekend, and I didn't. (Gasp.) I ate Combos and cookies and apple bars and felt only slightly guilty. :) I like this. It feels like I'm being easy on myself, and also like I'm trusting myself.

Hmmm... trusting myself. That's a new one. Usually, I worry to death that I'll start this spiral of sweet treats and no workouts and be 200 pounds before I can turn around. (Sorry to any 200 pounders out there; I'm not indicting you. It's just that 200 pounds is not a healthy weight for me.) Now, I just know that I won't do that. I just know that generally, my body feels better making healthier choices even without my big, compulsive brain getting involved. By god, I think I'm at peace!!!

Ha. Better savor this moment, cuz knowing me, how long can it last?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I have now officially forgiven myself for not qualifying for Boston at the 2003 Mad City Marathon. Thank you, September 10th, 2006.

It took not bonking in that IM marathon to make me appreciate that I just wasn't mature enough to run that marathon back in 2003.

I didn't know the first thing about nutrition. I drank water sparingly. I had not met GU or Clif. Even Gatorade & I didn't have a meaningful relationship.

I overtrained for it. I was anxious to get started and so started the 18-week program 27 weeks out. How did I do this? I did the first 9 weeks and then re-started the whole thing all over again. This had the unhappy result of a peak in late April/early May - which I was way too high to recognize.

Then race day came and I screwed up again. I wanted it so bad. I was sure I was going to have it too. I counted on it. I went out fast. I ran a lifetime best half-marathon and then bonked at mile 16.

This race report is being written 3 years after the fact, but it isn't late. This is the first time I can really see that event. My confidence as an athlete was shaken. I finished that race, but crossing that finish line, I felt as horrible as I've ever felt in my life. I was 12 minutes too late. And it was my fault.

I coached myself to be stoic, to take it in stride, to learn from it. Read: I boxed it up. I never allowed myself to admit that I was angry and hurt and downright defeated. But I was.

That 2003 ghost haunted me as I ran during Ironman. I kept waiting for the hammer to fall, for me to feel like shit and hate the day I'd signed up for this thing. For it to cost too much to just finish. But it never came. I got stronger instead of weaker.

I don't know what ever gave me the chutzpah to sign up for Ironman, but I'm so glad I did. Cuz it has given me yet another gift.

I did an Ironman. In Madison. And I didn't bonk during the marathon.

I am forgiven.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pandora's Boxes

I like boxes. I like to organize things and put them in them so that they're all neat and tidy and tucked away. Only thing is, sometimes a little piece will sneak out of the box and tug at my sleeve, singing, "You're not done with me yet!" Here are a few of the sneaky little petes:

1) Eating Disorder: Re-reading my own blog made me realize that I still have issues. I thought I'd packed away my eating disorder and the associated mess about 13 years ago. But I wonder sometimes. Why is weighing myself still a taboo? Why do I criticize pictures of myself? My ideal me would not do that. And, perhaps even sicker, I chastise myself when I do think a positive thought about my appearance. Like, "Wow, I can sorta see my abs" has to be balanced with, "But look at what's around them..."

2) This post-traumatic stress disorder we're all going through called Ironman withdrawal. Again, I've boxed it up and patched my new goals over the top of it.

3) I am not the lone "box"er: A colleague whose father-in-law died last week was back at school the day after the funeral. My heart broke looking at her puffed-up eyes and listening to her tell us, without a quaver, the brave version of events. One look at her was enough to know that the box wasn't containing all of her grief yet.

Sometimes I wonder if we're all in too much of a hurry to get on through the painful things in life by boxing them up. Would we be better off going the way of Zen and just feeling them/living through them? I have never been patient enough for this; I always jolly myself out of it... Am I an incurable optimist?

Maybe I should just box up this whole post and label it "The Quest for Perfectionism; So Last Year."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Off-Season To Do List

  • Plan 2007 Race Season: includes researching times, places and training plan
  • Decide whether or not to hire a coach (leaning towards yes)
  • Decide whether or not to buy a tri bike ($$$)
  • Find a biking partner who can push me; ideally they'll live within 30 miles
  • Give up soda (I've been drinking a ridiculous amount - 3 cans of Diet Pepsi a day!)
  • Research triathlete nutrition even more thoroughly and plan healthier meals/find healthier recipes.
  • Finesse my blog - add pictures (I meant to add IMWI ones but honestly, that fat lip is UGLY plus I have hips and thighs! Someday I promise I will get over this 7th grade girl mentality.) Add other bloggers' links, PR list, maybe build a personal template. (Help!)
  • Training for now = focus, Focus, FOCUS on swim stroke and weight training.
  • In the next month or so, formulate a more specific off-season training plan that will build my base for next season.
  • Write thank you notes for IM. Guilty wince. Especially when I picture TriSaraTops with her sore wrists -- and she was doing these how many weeks ago??
Note: I still haven't been able to run. My ankle swelled up the day after Ironman and is still achey. I want to run but am also not in a rush. I know that this is the perfect part of the year to give my body a full recovery. So I will.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Go Jump in a Lake

I did just that last night. And the water was... not exactly warm, but then, I did not expect it to be. Yet it was exhilarating. I was so proud of myself for just getting out there. You know you're "crazy" when a complete stranger pulls off the highway to ask what you're up to. You have to admit - the whole "crazy triathlete" thing does have its appeal. And that was just in the parking lot when I was putting on my wetsuit, swim socks and skull cap. Cute.

Then I dove into the water. I'm guessing that the temp was around 62 degrees. My face and hands recoiled a bit, but the rest of my body stayed toasty warm. Wetsuits are amazing. I'm so glad I went with a full suit; I knew that I'd be wanting to maximize my time in the lakes.

I have a long history of this; I remember swimming in May one year. I was a kid and those were my pre-wetsuit days. It has long been a point of pride in my family about who takes the first swim in my family's "lake" - really a glorified pond. And remember, the setting is Wisconsin: home of the icicle. Now, with my wetsuit... look out siblings. We're re-writing the records book.

Last night there was a fine chop going on. Kind of reminded me of... oh where was that??... Oh yeah, Lake Monona on September 10th. EXCEPT I was alone so I had that water all to myself to swallow. Which I did. I also was alone to soak up the autumn sun - truly a precious commodity.

I settled into that swimming rhythm, thoughts of school alternating with thoughts of my technique and Ironman memories, Chris's birthday coming up... and lasted a very comfortable 45 minutes. As I exited the water, a couple on the beach stopped necking long enough to stare at me, then give a little wave in response to mine. Isn't joy that way? You just can't keep it bottled up inside. It leaks out of me all the time!

Now you have some of it too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

Healthy Numbers: Heart rate, workout times & distances, workout rate numbers, e.g. MPH, minutes per mile

Evil Numbers: Weight, pants/swimsuit... clothing sizes - shoe size OK with me (not OK with my mother-in-law though.)

Healthy mind games: Umm. I don't know - Name that Tune??

Unhealthy mind games: The "Perfect" Game - requires only one player, one mirror, and one twisted mind.

Someday I am going to give myself permission to have hips and breasts - and maybe even thighs if I'm feeling really generous. Until then, my ground rules are: 1) stick to the healthy numbers and, 2) watch only my form when lifting weights in front of the mirror.

Today's HEALTHY numbers
21 minutes on Elliptical - Av HR 139
21 minutes lifting weights - core & upper body

Hey Tri-Men, do you have body image issues??
I know other Tri-Women have 'fessed up. (What's with us??)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Here's to New Beginnnings

I sit here with my first glass of wine in I-don't-know-how-many-months and raise it to so many possible beginnings...

Sweet Sister offered to climb a mountain with me.
Strong Sister wants to get me to Boston.
Husband thinks I should take up fishing. And baking cookies.

What do I want?

Last night as I was biking and lifting weights for the first time (nirvana!), I was sure that I would do whatever it took to get to an IM in 2007. But today, after a long trail ride with Puppy Piper and his friend, Bailey, I think hey... wouldn't a PR at a half-ironman be just peachy? Also, wouldn't it be nice to have that shorter distance training schedule, allowing Piper & Bailey to come with me at least some of the time?

I will be a part of the IM Wisconsin '07 though. I will volunteer on both Saturday and Sunday and be there for those athletes (lucky dawgs!) just as this year's volunteers and spectators were there for us. To those of you doing it, I'll be the volunteer toting all the extra pairs of long johns. :)

On September 10th, then, I'll be first in line. Look out '08; here I come.

Sometimes I think I'm more than the sum of my compulsions. This Iron Inside can be put to more use than seeing me through rainy races; it can see me through this - no THAT - postrace depression.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Crash, Bonk, Bang - Damn

I did not crash on the bike. I did not bonk on the run. But I'm doing so now. Discontinue reading now if you want to avoid a whole lot of self-pity cuz here it comes...

What do I do now??? I look at myself and see a junkie. I function fine all day at school but then I come home and in the hours that I used to train, I now surf other people's tri blogs. It's bad. I make lists that never get done. The first few nights I thought, hey, OK, I'll kick back a little bit. But it's Friday night now! I need to get on with my life. I am so sad that I didn't sign up for IM Wisconsin in 2007. I had promised myself, my husband, my job that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime distance for me and now that it's done... I'm bereft.

I really need to think this through. I can't just do a knee-jerk, run out and sign up for another IM. I entertain thoughts of somehow scraping up the cash for a community fund slot - on a teacher's salary! (Sometimes I do have a fair sense of humor.) I know that's not possible, but I do need to really evaluate; could I do another one, at another location? What are the hurdles?

  • Promise to husband: Taken care of. He's given his blessing on another one. He saw me at mile 23 on Sunday.
  • Promise to job: Last year, I had to say "no" to so many things because my training schedule just wouldn't allow me to participate in the afterschool activities that presented themselves. BUT, now that this year is underway, I see that I've been provided with the perfect opportunity to continue training at the level I did last year. I have some "extra" time for administrative tasks that I used to do last year on my own time. Implication? I can get my schoolwork done or nearly done during school hours, have time to do some of the extra-curricular stuff, and train.
  • Promise to self. Ooh, that's where the rubber hits the road. In Promise to Self, I have categories...
1) Can I do another IM? Would my knees tolerate it? I've been medication-free now since Sunday and my knees feel great. I really haven't done anything to test them - and I won't for awhile because my ankle is swollen - but still, it's a good sign that they're OK now.

2) Will I resent myself for inflicting another round of such LONG training sessions on myself? That one is so hard to call. There were times when I absolutely loved my training and times when I didn't. Now, of course, in retrospect, it all looks like it was rosy fun. Yet, I know of at least one occasion when I told my husband that it would be great to just go out and make up a workout as I went, not have it written in stone 3 months in advance and compulsory.

3) Then, I wonder, will it mean enough to me? I really wanted this Ironman. Will #2 be as special? Will I give it my all? I refuse to sign up and then end up losing heart and doing a half-ass job of it. It's all or nothing. Do I have the grit/the drive/the desire to do this again? How can I ever know that? That today's desire will last me through 5 months of training with a big ol' race at the end?

4) The Guilt. Training for IM took a serious amount of time. I had to sacrifice on family time and, really, mental energy. I know I was less present, less patient than I wished to be at times. Now, some of that is just plain old character flaw, but some of it was a direct result of being tired. Yet, on the flip side, at other times, I was nicer to be around because I was generally happy. Hmmm... another one that's pretty difficult to quantify.

5) I know that I told myself that once IM was done, I would branch out -pick up my guitar again, read more, be more involved with my nephews and afterschool programs. If I give this empty ache some time and restrain my urge to sign up, will those interests seep into the cracks? ("NO!!!" the Iron Inside is yelling. "They could never replace me!")

The gauntlet has been dropped.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ironman Wisconsin 2006 Race Report

I want to begin by saying - it was so worth it. All of the training, all of the family and work sacrifices, the aches and pains... all dribbled to nothing at about mile 20 of that marathon on September 10th, 2006. That's when I knew that I was going to make it, that I was going to be an Ironman before the end of the night, and that life is not just good; it rocks. Now on to my race report....

The Swim: A Contact Sport
Largest swim start in IM history and I believe it. Anyone out there that day felt it. I've been doing triathlons for 8 years and this was by far the most brutal swim. It wasn't even a swim race so much as a quest for survival. Now with that out of the way... I did survive it and even managed to do a bit of drafting. I have no idea how my sighting was because the waves made it hard to consistently see the buoys. Early on in the swim, I got behind a breast stroker whose very powerful kick caught me in the upper lip. I felt and heard my brain thud against my cranium and panicked, thinking, "Oh no! I can't continue if I have a concussion." Fortunately, within 30 seconds or so, I was able to evaluate that I was probably still in the race, but with a fat lip. (My husband later told me that he thought I had edema from over-exertion when he saw me.) At that point, I re-resolved to stay calm and as smooth as possible, no matter how many people crawled over me, side-swiped me, or that I inadvertently did the same too.

At one point I almost laughed because the guy next to me and I were doing synchronized swimming with our arms following each other's through the stroke. I'd say that I crawled about 90% of the time, breast-stroked or treaded water about 5% (logjams) and side-stroked the other 5% (pinched between other swimmers). When I think back on it, I am just amazed at how many of us made it out of that water at all.

T1: A Learning Experience
Out of the water to the peelers. I saw a guy just standing there and asked, "Are you a peeler?" He jumped and said yes, grabbed my wetsuit and yanked it down almost violently. Being an IM newbie, I was just standing there when he yelled, "On your butt!" Confused for a split second, I looked around at the competitors around me and thought, "Oh, he wants me to sit down and stick my legs in the air so he can pull my suit off." I had thought I would just step out of it. So I complied and had my wetsuit in my arms within split-seconds.

Up the helix I ran. It was exhilarating. The spectators were yelling, the other athletes were running, my heart rate zoomed up to 161, and I felt my face beaming. I tried to slow myself down a little bit, but man, it felt good to be doing this race finally!

Into the ballroom I went and grabbed my gearbag and then proceeded to the changing room. All of the volunteers were busy so I pulled on my clothes by myself and just asked a nearby volunteer if she'd repack my bag for me. On to the bike!

The Bike: Heat Comes from Within
I ran out to the bike racks and quickly spotted my very tall brother-in-law and Strong Sister. I waved madly and they spotted me, grabbed my bike, and thrust it into my hands. "You're beautiful!" screamed the Strong One. I pulled her to me and gave her a huge, wet, Lake Monona kiss right on the cheek and ran toward the mounting area. Sweet Sister and her husband were outside the bike area and screamed at me too. I waved and shouted "I love you guys!" Then I was at the mounting area. A volunteer held my bike while I flipped off my sandals and fumbled with my velcro bike shoe straps. "Ah, my hands are shaking," I said. She said, "Take time to breathe. Your heat comes from within. You'll warm up." Those words were to stick with me (as well as my sister telling me that I'm beautiful, of course.)

The ride out to the double loop was mostly about getting myself into a zone. My mesh bottle top plopped out about a mile into the bike and I had to turn around and get it. (I cursed that blasted thing and wondered how many times I would have to retrieve it that day!) I got out to the loop and there began the shivers. The whole first loop was, in a word, cold. Sometimes the rain misted onto us, and at other times, it showed less mercy and pelted us. For the record, I hadn't believed the weather report and optimistically had stuck to my planned apparel of a short-sleeved shirt and no gloves for the bike ride. Ouch. Or rather, brrrrr. One rider came up on me and said, "Look at those goosebumps." Ha, I wanted to say, don't you know that your heat comes from within??

Then I debated the logic of that comment for a long time, and convinced myself that if I just kept taking in calories I really would be getting warmer. I think I was kind of picturing a polar bear building up a layer of fat. With that thought, I plowed into my pretzels (absolute manna!), Clif bars and Chocolate Outrage GU. I stuck to my nutrition plan of:

On the 15s: GU and water
On the 30s: Gatorade and Endurolyte
On the 45s: A solid (Pretzels or 1/2 Clif bar) and water for the first 4 hours and then substituted GU for the solid after that.
On the 00s (top of the hour): Gatorade

UNTIL, my Endurolytes started falling apart. I had taped them to my frame and they just couldn't take the rain. I ended up taking about 4 of them when I had planned on taking 8.

Eating was a challenge because numb hands don't work as well as warm ones do! Instead of being able to follow my little GU ritual...

Detour for GU ritual: To eat a GU, I squeeze it into my mouth little-by-little by folding it from bottom to top like you do a toothpaste tube. When it's gone, I unroll it and then re-roll it from the top so the sticky opening ends up rolled up inside the clean part. Then I tuck that neat little package into the rubber band that holds my aerobar bottle in place. Takes some practice, but then you don't end up with (as much) GU all over your hands, bike, clothing, etc.

Back to the main story: Instead of being able to follow my GU ritual, I found that my hands would not obey my "Open GU" command so I had to rip the package open with my teeth. Then my hands wouldn't do the fine motor skills folding, but they would do the caveman clutch... Me squeeze whole packet in fist. I also had a hard time shifting and found myself batting at my shift levers at one point. Eventually, I succeeded in both endeavors. Phwew.

I saw my husband and puppy twice out on the course: right before the Garfoot Road Hill, and then at a corner somewhere. Both times I yelled to him that I was feeling great and smiled so hard I thought my face would split.

And I peed on my bike. Yes, I tried something new on race day. It was so easy that day. I was already drenched and knew that any fluid I produced would be outnumbered 10 times over by the fluid being dumped on me. And, I hate to say it, but it was almost fun. I think I'm a closet incontinent-er. After the first few tenuous times, I let myself go. Every little bump and bluuurp, there went another squirt. I could say more about warmth coming from within, but I won't.

The second loop of the bike was a little bit warmer. At about mile 62, a fellow rider had a flat and hollered out for a spare. I dismounted for the third time (1 was the mesh bottle top, 2 was to check what had felt like a flat earlier but wasn't) and gave him my spare tube. As I rode away - farther from special needs and my only other spare, I wondered about the wisdom of that generosity.

The notorious hills were as good on the second loop as the first. Yep, good. The crowds were amazing. I was seriously looking forward to doing those hills again just because the spectators were so encouraging, inspiring, and into it. They were with us. Some of my favorite comments were:
"I see the determination in your face; you know you're an Ironwoman!"
"Way to stay aero!"
"You signed up for Ironman, you must love this!"
"This is what you trained for!"
"Keep up that smile!" (I didn't have the heart to tell them it was a grimace.)
Even now, my stomach does flip-flops as I remember people leaning into us from both sides, dragging us up those hills.


When I reached mile 80, I reminded myself that this was a race and I should go fast. My heart rate had been lower than I had planned. However, I was feeling good nutritionally, and my only concern was a bit of tightness in my quads. But I was cold or something. I just couldn't make myself consistently go faster. I'd go faster for little bursts, but then my quads would freeze up and I'd back off again. Finally, at mile 90, I felt warmed up and told myself to take it home. I passed quite a few people at that point - quite a few of them men - and thought of Papa Louie's demotivator.

At mile 100, I began to visualize my transition to the run AND to anticipate warm, dry clothing. I reached the top of the helix and who should be there to take my bike but my brother! My dad was there to take the next person's bike but grabbed me for a quick hug and "I love you." (My family rocks.) I wouldn't have said that I was out of it or anything, but I remember just standing there, with my brother holding my bike, and me saying, "So, am I off of it now?" He fired transition directions at me and I finally thawed enough to run into the T2 zone and grab my bag.

T2: Fluff
This time, there was a volunteer available and she lead me into the changing room. I ripped off my soaking wet shorts, top, helmet and race belt while she arranged my sw-eeeet dry stuff. In no time I had on dry shorts, socks, and shoes. I kissed myself for having put a long-sleeved shirt into that bag and put it on under my short-sleeved running top. The dry socks were the winner though. Warm, fluffy, dry...mmmm. I wished I could change my heart rate monitor bra and my bandanna, but had packed no extras. Dumb. Lesson learned: always pack extras.

I thanked my volunteer and saw myself out the door. (One advantage to having volunteered there last year.)

I felt my bladder aching for release and considered pulling a double-header, but thought better of it and hit the porta-potties right outside of T2. My family was yelling for me; I could hear my name amidst the din, but couldn't really distinguish voices. The spectators at this point were again outstanding.

The Run: When a Marathon Isn't Long Enough
I head down State Street for loop 1 and another woman pulled in next to me and began to chat. I talked for a little bit, but then just couldn't anymore. I felt bad but realized that my mental energy was at a low point. I just focused on running, checking my heart rate every few minutes. It hovered right around 135, which I was happy with at that point. The next thing I remember is seeing my sister-in-law and she validated my thinking, telling me to keep it slow and steady, I'd worked hard for this. Then, a while later, I saw my husband and our puppy. He asked me if this was my first or second loop and I honestly, replied, "I have no idea." I started paying attention to mile markers after that and soon saw that I was at mile 8. I saw my sis-in-law and her family as well as my mother-in-law shortly after that and told them where I was mile-wise and asked them to tell Chris.

Somewhere along the way, a volunteer shouted that every step was one step closer to the end. In my blurry yet running-centered mind, I kept thinking of this, and forward I did move. Strong Sister & her 3 kids, my MOM, Sweet Sister & husband were volunteering at the aid station near the turn around. Happiness.

After I saw them, it was another game of every step is a step closer, and think how much closer I am than I was the last time I thought of that. I also (sort of) stuck to my nutrition plan for the run which was:
Each quarter of the marathon: 20 oz Gatorade, 8 oz water, GU, Endurolyte.

This "quarter" idea made it easier for me because I knew that I just had to empty my palm-holder, take 1 Gu, and 1 Endurolyte by each turn-around. I didn't even really watch my time. Only flaw: the Endurolytes were undone by the rain. I had taped 1 to each gel packet and salvaged what I could by pouring bits of them into my bottle, but to this moment, can't tell you how many of the 6 I managed to consume.

Shortly before mile 12, I saw TriAl v 2006 in the oncoming runners, but his number was hanging off sideways and I only realized it was him for sure when he was too far past me to shout. He looked strong and I daresay, the legs are as good in person as in photos. ;)

At mile 12, I got a bloody nose and stopped to sit on a curb, head between my knees, and made myself count to 30 before getting up to trudge again. I stopped numerous times (5 or so) to go to the bathroom and although I thought I was going to have diarrhea, I never did.

Mile 13 presented a tough decision. You run right up to within sight of the finish line and there are two signs. One says "To finish" while the other says "To 2nd Loop." I surprised myself though by thinking, "I'm not quite ready to be done with this thing yet. I want to do the 2nd loop." Then I fell in with another runner who was revving up the crowd - it was awesome to be next to somebody with spare energy and I told him so. We carried on a conversation for a long time and I realized that I was starting to feel better rather than worse! I dropped him when he stopped to walk through an aid station. I stuck to my resolution to run the whole marathon - even that awful hill through the university where only 3 people around me walked the first loop, and all but 3 walked the second time.

My thoughts of my family being at the turn-around kept me going. I wanted to see those guys so bad, but their shift had ended and they were gone. I consoled myself with thoughts of seeing them in a little bit, and clutched my water bottle tighter in my palm. By this time, Gatorade was a thing of the past for me, as was GU. Yep, I left 2 of my 6 packets high and dry on my fuel belt. I had had to force the 16th one...

Self-talk: You're making a deposit, you only feel good so far because you've re-fueled. You're going to want to make more withdrawals at miles 16-26. Keep eating.

However, I did make a deal with myself after that sixteenth GU; no more GUs provided I stopped for chicken broth or cola at the aid stations. Consider it done.

Finally, I reached mile 20 and I started to think, hey, I'm going to do this. I am going to finish this race and I'm not going to bonk or die. By midnight, I will be an Ironman. My pace may have even picked up.

I finally saw my husband again at mile 23 and by this time, euphoria was setting in. I told him I loved him and this was fun and I might have more of these in my future and that it was so good to see him and the others out on the course. I hadn't said that many words total all day! He cut across a parking lot to listen to the end of my discourse and then told me where to see his mom (mile 24) and that he'd see me at the end.

Those last miles were long, yet not long enough. I wish I could relive them, but you only get one chance. I wish I would have soaked up more but I was anticipating the crowds and then the finish line. Soon, they were there. My family picked me up at about 1/4 mile out and Strong Sister came out to check on me and said some more really embarrassing stuff. It must have also been motivating because I began to sprint it in.

Right before I rounded the corner to the finish, I heard my brother yell, "Laney, you rock! Laney, you rock!" The crowd picked up my name and started yelling it too. I poured on everything I had left and it felt beautiful. I slowed to let the man in front of me finish and then I had my moment - or rather capped all of the other moments of the racing, training, and planning of this last year - with this final moment of elation.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

To Thine Own Blog be True

OK, I admit it. I'm starting to get a little freaky. Today was roller-coasterish. I announced to our whole staff that I was doing IM so everyone who didn't know about it earlier knew about it today and IM was suddenly inside my school bubble in a big way!

So on this wild ride, I felt proud to be doing it, but nervous because my quads were still sore from Sunday's long run and then that made me -- dare I say it?? (To thine own blog be true, Triteacher!) It made me dread Sunday. I haven't felt that way yet! I've been excited and fearful, but truly, it was dread, my friends. I dreaded the pain that I know I'm going to experience. I let the thoughts of that L-O-N-G bike ride start to creep into my pores. My stomach started revolving around thoughts of 25+ packets of GU - revolting.

And then...

I dragged my negative old self to my workout tonight. Just a 20 min. bike, 15 min. run, 15 min. swim... and there lay my salvation.

Out there, I found myself. I love to bike, I love to run and I love to swim. It is me. I am it. I am Triathlete.

So, I conclude... Right now, I may not talk a good IM - I may not even think a good IM - but dammit, when it comes to the doing part, count me in!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Important Stuff

So how am I going to pee next Sunday? I know all you men have your fancy little water pistols, but how does a tri-woman do it? While training, I've stopped as much as every 25-30 miles on my bike. However, I found it impossible to make myself stop at my 1/2 IM earlier this year - which made for a quite uncomfortable, obsessed last 20 miles. (Oh man, did my heart leap at every copse of trees I saw, but then my head would say, nope, let's hold out another 10 miles...)

All this thinking today lead me to formulate the following resolutions.

Next week at IM, I will:
  • SWIM: Pee freely and rinse my wetsuit on the way out of the water. (Sorry everyone else, but I bet you're doing it too.)
  • BIKE: Stop as needed, promise to stop at least at mile 56. I will not wet myself. Not because of any personal squeamishness, but because those poor transition area volunteers really don't deserve exposure to all of my body fluids.
  • RUN: EZ-PEEzy, force myself to stop at porta-potties as needed. I know that I won't want to, but at least there will be legal spots available. I'm not so sure about that availability on the bike course.

As before, writing it = I'll do it.

OK workout today, but I felt more fatigued than earlier this week. Afterwards, I fell onto the couch and slept deeply for 40 minutes. I woke up refreshed, but I'm not going to go out and do a marathon or anything.

I swam 45 minutes (on a popular lake on Labor Day weekend. Hmm... kind of more prepared for our mass swim start next week). I ran 90 minutes, but broke my negative splits record held this week. Oh well, can't win 'em all.

And, by the way, it's t-7. (Sigh, shudder, shake, flutter, smile...)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Taper at Work

So here we are - 10 days out from Ironman!! And I think my taper is feeling the way it should. I start my workouts feeling leaden, but by halfway I'm starting to wake up. Result? Negative splits all week. Absolutely lovely.

My running continues to feel the very best, which is nice because of my knee worries. Even when I signed up on September 12th, 2005, I remember saying to people that I'd do this thing even if I had to walk the (whole) marathon. I continue to have pain-free knees and the running. feels. great. If I go into my marathon feeling the euphoria of these workout runs... well, I just can't be held responsible for the speed.

School is going well; I have a new job this year as a specialist (half-time) and teacher (other half) and that is going to be interesting. I have three different versions (3 different bosses) of what I should be spending my time on. All 3 hold their own promise. My old worries of what to do post-IM are a thing of the past. I'm actually becoming enticed by the new opportunities this position will afford me. I have a lot of passions!

But, fear not. I know that I will always be an athlete. How could I not be?? Running = breathing. So tri goals post-IM:
  • Get fast again. I'm going to do shorter races that won't challenge my knees. (I won't allow ibuprofen to be a food group after September 10th.)
  • Win first female in a small-town 1/2 marathon that I won 3 years ago.
  • Place in the top three women in an Olympic distance tri that I've been doing for 8 years.
  • Have fun on the track again. I actually (masochistically?) enjoy interval workouts. My favorites: Mile repeats with 800s to recover in between.
Yes, I can picture my future - and it's looking good.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Please

I can't get enough Ironman. I've read everyone's blogs and it feels so good to be a part of this family who does triathlon. I smile as I read about the goals others have set for themselves, the tris they've done, the ones they're still dreaming of doing. And then I savor this sensation. I love being in this spot. I'm trained, a fine-tuned swim/bike/run machine. And I have what it takes mentally. If September 10th comes hot and muggy, I'll have the fortitude to slow down and keep myself hydrated. If I flat or start chafing, I can handle that too. I have what it takes to do this.

School started today and people asked lots of questions about IM. I felt like some exotic bird on exhibit, but proudly so (cue strut and preen)... they were very supportive. My family too this last weekend... my mom thinks I'm nuts, but doesn't she see that she's the one who's inspired me? I told her that she still outworks me. Then we talked about my sisters - all take-charge kind of girls we are. Hmmm, Mom, wonder where we get that?

And they'll all be there for me that day. That's scary. The expectations of others often scare me more than my expectations for myself. Or living up to what I imagine their expectations are. OK, enough already. I started this post all cool and calm and now I'm getting all worked up. Ugh, writing is supposed to have the opposite effect!

Maybe I better go back to reading others' blogs...

But the numbers first:
Monday = 90 minute bike, 30 min. swim
Tuesday = Off
Wednesday = 90 min. bike
Thursday = 40 min. run
Friday = Off
Saturday = 180 min. bike, 45 min. swim
Sunday = 90 min. run

8-9 hours of sleep every night. Period.

Ah... back to something calming...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Credit Card Refuses to Taper

OK, so we're in taper here, and today was a day off, so why is my credit card all sweated up?
  • Did I really need to try yet another method of stashing my Chocolate Outrage GU on my bike? (Air Box $12.95, 24 Choco Gu $25.20)
  • And who but me is still entertaining thoughts of carrying their own hydration on the run? (Ultimate Direction Fast Draw $13.95)
  • Do I really think I'll ever want to get on my bike again after September 10th - much less ride in cold weather? (Louis Garneau shoe covers $44.95)
  • And the goggles, OK, I'll use the goggles. So at least I can rationalize $5.95 of this order. Yeah, that's not too bad. I did all right...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rain II

Alright, already! I'm prepared should it rain on September 10th. Today I got completely drenched on my run. By 30 minutes into it, I was wringing out my pigtails. I also realized that I am not done learning. Does anyone else have that voice inside their head that says, "Ah, you're at the taper. Your race is already written. Kick back. You could probably even forget everything you've learned and be juuust fine. Shoot, you'd be fine even if you didn't do another workout until that day." HA! Don't listen to it!

So what did I learn today? I learned that I STILL could wreck my marathon. I did an out & back course for my two hour run, but took only 20 oz. of fluid. I heard the logical, sensible me saying, "Turn around at 1/2 hour and refill your bottle, then repeat that route for the second hour" while the illogical me prompted, "Keep going. You'll be fine. And the scenery is so much prettier when you only run over it twice instead of four times. Plus, think of all the raindrops splashing into your mouth. You're plenty hydrated."

So Peacemaker Me compromised; I turned around at 50 minutes - and was rationing fluids with 30 minutes left to go. Will I ever let this happen again? Nah...

Then I have my whole heart rate dilemna. I reworked my race plan today, updating it with all I've learned. On my run then, I was thinking that I should add my target heart rates for each portion of the race, something along the lines of...

Miles 1 - 80: No higher than 135 beats per minute
Miles 80 - 100: Can get up to 140
Miles 100 - 112: Up to 151

Miles 1 - 25.2: No higher than 145
Last mile: Give it everything I have left

So I had this all worked out in my head, when I thought, "Na, I'll just trust myself. I won't get carried away. Why write the numbers down?" With me, writing = sticking to it. So some evil part of me doesn't want to stick to those low heart rates... Does anyone else get the impression that I want to sabotage my race?? I learned the "too fast" lesson 3 years ago... Ouch, painfully.

I was training for a marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston. I needed to run a 3:40; my best time to date had a been 4 hours flat. That spring I stuck to the training plan like glue too, and was in fabulous shape - the best of my running career. I was even first place woman at a couple of smaller races. So the big day came, and I was bawling at the starting line. I went out at the gun and ran a 1:30 half-marathon (lifetime best). I thought, who needs a 3:40 when I could get a 3:00??

Do you see the handwriting on the wall?

I bonked. Hard. At mile 16, I told my husband to go to the finish line or I'd make him take me home. At mile 23, eight-minute miles would have still allowed me to qualify. But I didn't have them. I finished in 3:52 and told Chris to NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES let me EVER sign up for anything like that again.

So here I am... I need to remember the humility I learned that day. I have been my own worst enemy in the past, a traitor to my hard work and training. On September 10th, I vow to smell the roses that come at a slower pace - OK, it won't all be roses even then - but I will stick to those heart rates above. And finish. That is my goal.

End of story.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rain Doesn't Frighten Me

I did my bike ride in the rain today and thought - whooeee... I'm glad I had a chance to do that before the race. At the beginning of summer, I did every workout for a week in the rain, but by now I was a bit rusty.

...As I realized when I was cornering and hit a paint strip. My rear wheel fish-tailed and I shook, then recovered. After that I was a little more cautious (at least at first). It'll change the whole tenor of the race if we get rain on September 10th. Now I can visualize myself proceeding calmly, collectedly, and quickly!

My swim was interesting too. I couldn't get my wetsuit zipped by myself and ended up asking the custodian to help me. (Made his day.) Then I realized that I'd forgotten lubricant, so I had to improvise in order to prevent the "wetsuit kiss." I remembered a swimming drill where my coach had me swim with a tennis ball tucked under my chin. If I could swim like this, that would decrease the rubbing, I figured. Well, when my coach had me do it, the tennis ball popped out every stroke. However, today I must have done better - I can happily report that I have no wetsuit kiss.

Stats for today:
1 1/2 hour bike ride: 30 miles, Av. heartrate 119 - felt strong
30 min swim: Av. heartrate 104 - arms and shoulders felt tired, but OK
Calories burned: 1300
Nutrition: 1 Gu, 1/2 PB&J sandwich, 40 oz. Gatorade

Of note - 2nd day without knee pain!!

Tomorrow's a longee - bike 1, run 2. (hours) The true test for my knee...

Classroom looks great! Whitewash your brain of primary colors and picture instead...
- Muted, cool colors with some of our unused wallpaper used to brighten up the darker walls
- Strings of lights on the walls, lamps located in little nooks throughout the room
- A couch & recliner; I'm trying for a homey, curl-up-with-a-book feel

What tween would not want to walk into this room and spend 8 hours of quality learning time??

I'm starting to be OK with school starting. At first I wasn't ready to blunt my IM passion/share my time & energy with anything else, but maybe there's enough of me to go around - especially with taper. (And hey - who'm I trying to kid, school's gonna start with or without my approval!)

That's it for now. Happy training!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mutual Embrace

I go for a run
In the morning sun.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

End in Sight

Here goes... first post... and so near the end of my Ironman training. September 10th is the big day and I'm so excited and scared and... confident. I printed off my little training plan from BeginnerTriathlete and stuck to it like glue. Now I feel good. I feel like I'm ready for anything. Just as long as they let me race...

I just found out - at least I'm almost sure I found out - that athletes need to register and do packet pick-up on Friday. I thought it was Saturday. I wouldn't have known but was surfing and saw on BeginnerTriathlete that all IMs require a 2-day prior check-in. I sent a question to the IM Wisconsin contact email and got a nasty reply stating that I wouldn't be allowed to race unless I picked up my packet and registered from 9:00-11:00 AM. Hmm... guess I'm still not sure on the DAY that I need to show up. Am I missing communications from the organizers? I got a volunteer email, but that's it. And the schedule on the website says nothing about packet pick-up. Anyone out there in the know?

Also, what next? What are you doing after this? Training for Ironman has been such an all-consuming project. How do you top it? I was truly a newbie on my bike and nutrition. I've learned so much! My longest distance prior to signing up was Olympic, although I was first a runner, so I've done marathons. Then I did a half-IM this spring just to try out nutrition and pacing. I looked at my list from the beginning of the summer and "purchase aerobars and front hydration system" were where I was at! My wetsuit was new to me. I have became (way too) intimate with Clif, Gatorade and Gu. For the first time in my life, I've chafed. I just REALLY found out about (read: bought) CO2 cartridges & pumps last week. I have a race belt now, quick laces (not yet laced into my shoes), a heart rate monitor, a tri suit and Endurolytes. And I know how to use all of it. What a learning curve.

But I'm also amazed at the training distances. This is actually the first triathlon I've followed a training plan for and it has challenged me. Now with the longest distances done, I grow nostalgic, but I remember grumbling though those 5 & 6 hour bike rides thinking - now why am I doing this again?? Turning around yet again to pick up the mesh water bottle plug as it popped out. (Now I have that down too - ask if you want to know how to rig yours up so a) your mesh doesn't pop out and, b) you can purchase just the Profile Design bottle and not the mounting bracket.)

My long runs were mostly OK - I was happy just to be doing them because my knees very nearly forbade it. Even now I'm taking plenty of ibuprofen to get me through to Ironman. Plus, running has always just felt good to me. At my half, I remember popping off of my bike and thinking, "OK, now I'm where I should be. I was born to do this."

But, ugh, the long swims... anything over an hour and I should make sure I do it with my masters swim class! I remember a 2-hour session out on open water that I thought would never end. How come I'm such a clock-watcher when I swim but can run without time ever occurring to me? I say that on the heels of a very satisfactory 1-hour swim today. I tried my wetsuit for the first time in months and absolutely loved the feel of it. It took me 6 1/2 minutes to swim a distance that I swam yesterday (wetsuitless) in 8 minutes, so that helped too - knowing that I was going faster. Get a wetsuit! Just for the joy of it.

Hmmm... that about does it for my first post. Happy training!