A first time for everything

When you become an athlete, you start measuring your progress in a sport by firsts.  Like, the first time I ran one mile at age 8.  I did not consider myself an athlete at that point.  I was in ballet and was terrible at it.  I think I had done a season of ice skating.  Not pretty. I was a green belt in tae kwon do, and was pretty decent because I was strong husky, which explains why I was terrible at ballet, besides the lack of practice.  S I could break wooden boards and knock people over.  As for running, I was forced to do that as part of PE class.  I was also forced to do sit-ups, which were as difficult then as they are now.  You see, I have what I have dubbed “Cabbage Patch Abs.”  I have a nice big hard head and a nice soft midsection like a Cabbage Patch Kid doll.  It’s genetics, I swear.  Ok, it’s probably my diet, but I’m working on it.

Eventually, I got really into swimming when we moved to Florida.  We also ran a lot as part of our cross training.  I ran my first 5k at age 10, ran my first 5k under 24 minutes at age 12, and did my first 10k at age 13.  With swimming, it went from “oh I can swim across the pool now mommy!” to “I just schooled a bunch of older girls at practice ” And that’s how it went for years and years.  First time conquering 10×1000’s in one workout, first time I beat that girl who has been dominating for the past three years, first time I did an open water swim without getting stung by jellyfish.  After college, I began running more so it went in this progression: first time running a half marathon, first time running a marathon where bands are playing- thereby annoying me because I can’t hear my book on tape.  First time  having to walk during a marathon- ugh.   First time doing Yasso’s 800’s.   *If you don’t know what those are, good.  You probably don’t want to know.  They hurt.  * First time running races while pregnant.  It’s actually pretty liberating because there’s no pressure.  If you are 27 weeks pregnant and running a 10k, it’s accomplishment enough if you can make it through the whole race without having to use one of the non-existent porta john’s.

The past month has been chock full of firsts, which is a huge confidence booster at this stage of life.  When you’re blank years old, you don’t experience a lot of firsts, besides watching your kids accomplish firsts or getting your first minivan.  Obviously, there was my first triathlon in July.  But what I am most proud of is this past week’s firsts.  As you may recall, I am not running right now because of my suspected compartment syndrome.  I am still having symptoms and putting off going to a doctor, because if I don’t get a diagnosis then there’s not anything actually wrong with me.  Right?  I decided to commit myself to strengthening my swimming and cycling.  Last Thursday night I did a tough one hour spin class then went straight into the pool for a 2,000 swim workout.  I got out thinking, “Wow, I really have only two speeds: slower than my 10 year old self, and slower than my 11 year old self. ”  I was really really down on myself.  But then I realized it is utterly ridiculous to compare myself to a version of me from that many years ago.  Could I drive a car when I was 10?  Could I afford to buy a car when I was 10? Could I run a marathon when I was 11?  Could I go to a bar and order a Bloody Mary when I was 11?  No way, so being blank years old is really awesome.  Who cares if I was a much better swimmer when I was pre-pubescent?  Plus, I swam like 20 hours a week back then.  At the rate I have been going, I log about 20 hours in the pool per year.  So I am getting a pretty good return on my investment.

I stopped having a pity party after I got a Drumstick in my system, and the next day, I accomplished a first (since 2002)- I did another pool workout within 24 hours of the last one.  Super Girl was having her private swim lesson.  She is pretty much kicking butt at swimming, and I in turn am kicking myself for not getting her private lessons earlier, because winter is coming (if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, sorry for the obscure reference).  That gave me a good thirty minutes to do a quick no-pressure swim.  I borrowed some hand paddles and cranked out 4×500’s.  I didn’t time myself, because really, was I going to get faster in one day?  I felt so invigorated and strong afterwards, which reminded me why I am doing this.  I want to set an example for Super Girl and Super Baby.  You don’t just quit because things kinda suck one day.  The next day can be pretty awesome.

On Sunday, I woke up early to meet my new tri club for a long ride.  On the club calendar, it said that there is a 50 mile and 33 mile option.  I roll up with my little female frame road bike and find that there are 6 guys there, all with souped up tri bikes, all who have completed at least one Ironman.   They had no intention of doing only 33 miles. A few of the guys were typically ride in the A group, which is 22+ mph.  Oh kill me now.  I texted my sister-in-law because I was terrified.  I didn’t want to hold anybody up, but I also didn’t want to get stranded in another county rolling around in a ditch with extreme leg cramps.  I thought I should just pack it in and go to two spin classes later in the day.  How I would accomplish that didn’t matter.  I just could not think straight.  One of the men, a gentle giant who I will call Angel Gabriel, assured me that we would only be going around 17mph. Ok I can handle that, I thought.  Actually, I had no clue if this was possible, as I had never ridden more than 33 miles and I am pretty sure I averaged about 18mph on the 18 mile bike portion of my triathlon.  I decided to just suck it up and head out with the big boys.

I can assure you we did not average only 17mph.  The first half of the ride was somewhere around 20 mph.  There were flats where we had no tailwind but were going 25mph.  I was going as fast as humanly possible, which could not bode well for miles 25-50.  Plus, I was in the middle.  There were actually two guys behind me about 1/4 mile, and then four guys about 1/4 mile ahead of me.  Do you know what that means?  I didn’t have anyone to draft off of.  The guys ahead of me took turns pulling each other, and I tried so hard to catch up so they could pull me to, but no dice.

We stopped at miles 20, 30, and 40 to regroup. One of the guys, whose wife is also a saint, was our “team car, ” and she just hovered around.  She opened her trunk at stops and it was full of water, gatorade, pound cake, bananas, and oranges.  I almost made out with her.  Twice.  At the 30 mile stop, I was starting to get the chills and shakes.  I chugged an entire gatorade and am pretty sure I inhaled two pieces of pound cake.  I contemplated hopping in the saint’s car and just riding around for the next hour, handing out drinks to the men and chatting about life.  But I rode 33 miles the week before, and didn’t feel particularly winded afterward, so what’s another 20 miles?

When we stopped at mile 40, everyone (except for me) thought it would be a good idea to go a different way, so we could get more hill work and tack on another 4 miles.  Huh?  I did not sign up for this.  But I had no idea where we were, and I couldn’t even form complete sentences, so I just went with it.  By mile 45, I noticed we were keeping about a 19mph pace even with the hills.  That meant only 30 more minutes! I finally started to mentally break through my fear and then I realized what I good time I’d had.  Angel Gabriel talked me through every push and he assured me I was doing great.  When I told him it would be my longest ride by 20 miles, he looked so shocked I thought he was going to fall off his bike.  I guess I did alright hanging with the big boys.  I conquered my fear of the unknown, and I got a sweet tan while I was at it.

Another first came after the ride.  I DID NOT TAKE A NAP on a Sunday.  Yes, that is not a typo.  I felt so bad about leaving Super Dad with the kids for over four hours, because I I didn’t realize that even if 50-ish mile should take about 3 hours on a trainer, we would be taking three longer stops for fuel.  Plus there are these little things called stop lights and signs which are minor but frequent nuisances when you live anywhere other than Antarctica.  Oops, duh.  By the time I got home, Super Girl was ready take a nap and of course, Super Baby had just risen from a marathon morning nap session, so I decided to forego my precious Sunday nap in order to give Super Dad a major break.   I didn’t give him enough of a break to account for my very long absence in the morning, but parenting isn’t always going to equal out.  Hmmm, maybe I can still cash in some points from carrying two babies to term and being in labor for a few days? No?

The other first I must report is that Super Baby finally walked!

Just kidding, he still has no interest in walking and I have no issues with this.  When Super Girl was a baby, we I thought it was critical that she walked by one year old.  Then when she started walking at 15 months, I was like “can you please stop moving?  For like three seconds?”  Super Baby is very curious and he loves to crawl around and cruise, but walking is not on his agenda.  I am thinking he will just take off running at 15 months but if not, I won’t sweat it because he is developmentally on track in every other area and babies who crawl a long time are supposed to be super smart. I don’t know where I read it but it was on the internet so it’s definitely not science.

Did you have any firsts this week, month, or year?  Do you have any first goals that you have set for yourself?  How many of you have rockstar spouses who will drive around in a Durango supplying snacks for your tri club all morning when he or she could be watching tv or getting a massage- or better yet, sleeping in?  Will your spouse watch your kids for four hours while you get super sweaty, then listen to you go on and on about the ride all afternoon, much like he endures listening to you ramble about every other form of exercise you perform on a daily basis? Or cook delicious  meals for you several times a week because you are pretty much useless in the kitchen?  Probably not many, but if you have such a spouse, consider yourself lucky, or blessed, depending on your religious preferences.  And if you are a single parent who can train for tris or marathons and cook and clean for your kid(s), well, then you are 100 times more amazing than me and Super Dad put together.  And you over there, if you have no spouse or kids and you do all of this for yourself, you’re a rockstar too.  Because if you are putting time into bettering yourself for yourself, then that’s awesome.  When I had no Super Dad or Super kids around, I ate a whole lot of fast food, drank a whole lot of wine, and pretty much just ran so I could burn off the calories I ate and drank.   I didn’t run for myself.   But now I do, and that’s a first.

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Temporary insanity

I haven’t run in a week. The downside: it’s making me a little crazy and unmotivated to blog because I don’t get the same satisfaction from just riding my bike. The upside: I am spending more time on my bike, which is clearly my weakest of the triathlon disciplines.

Why haven’t I run in a week? Because for the past several weeks, my left calf and foot have been getting that weird numb and tingly feeling that you get right before or after your leg falls asleep. And my foot has felt swollen to the point where if I wear a shoe that’s at all constricting, it really hurts. I thought that it was just an issue with how I was lacing my shoes, as the weird sensation would kind of go away after an hour or so. But over time, I have noticed that I have that numb and tingly sensation all the time. I asked a friend, who is the world’s greatest orthopedic physician’s assistant, about my symptoms via facebook. He immediately pointed me to this article on the interwebs about chronic exertional compartment syndrome. The symptoms fit me pretty much to a tee, which is not atypical when I google physical ailments. But since I did not initiate the googling in this case, I think I have legitimate reason for concern.

My PA friend suggested I take one two weeks off of running. I thought I could slide by with one but he called me out on it on facebook. That’s what you get when you overshare about your exercise habits. This feels like an eternity. I really felt like I was starting to make some headway improving my speed and stamina, but I’d rather lose a bit of ground that have my calf cut open. Or pay the surgical and anesthesia fees associated with said calf cutting. So far, I have not had any abatement of my symptoms.

I decided to push my international distance triathlon to October 5. It will be in Pinehurst, which is much hillier than White Lake, which I had originally intended. I want to give myself plenty of time to recover from whatever is going on with my left leg and foot, plus with all the hill training here in the Triangle, I should have an advantage over any flatlanders who come from Wilmington. Right? Right?

Instead of running, I have decided to concentrate on my cycling, and have done a 34 mile outdoor ride. It was my first ride over 25 miles so I feel a little better about doing 30 miles during my next tri. I think our average was 18.5 mph including stops for traffic lights, and I was not at all tired afterward, so I can’t complain. I am really just trying to figure out what gear I am most comfortable in while on the flats, and how hard I can push myself for 20 miles, 30, 40, etc. I finally had a professional fit me on my bike, had aerobars put on, and got new carbon pedals which I am in LOVE with. A tri bike is not in my immediate future unless someone would like to generously sponsor me, so I am doing the best with what I have. At least it’s not a mountain bike!

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Last night I did Insanity at the Cary YMCA. That workout seriously is very appropriately named. What kind of lunatic would/could do this every day? I seriously wanted to quit after warmup. No weights involved other than your body weight, but very little rest. I had such a massive puddle of sweat beneath me, I almost slipped and busted my face open on the gym floor. It was really attractive. This morning I could barely get out of bed I was so sore. I think it will be a nice little cross training activity that I will try to do every other week, after I have tapered for like 3 days. I just need to make sure I bring lots of towels next time. An an oxygen tank.

Tonight I have a swim/spin brick on tap. I have not been in the pool at all since the Triangle Tri, unless you include holding Super Baby in our community pool and trying to keep him from submerging himself underwater repeatedly. The kid thinks he is either David Blaine or Michael Phelps. I am not sure. For my heart’s sake, I hope he is the latter. I am giving myself the excuse that most people who do tris are just barely able to stay afloat, so I have that natural advantage. But when it comes down to it, 1500 meters two months from now are really going to suck if I don’t buckle down. Plus, the women who are beating me in my age group are super hardcore and are legit in the water. I am hoping they train at least five days a week, so that once I start swimming more than twice a month, I will start destroying them. Ha.

Getting back to my temporary insanity (Insanity workout unrelated), I am really just trying to listen to my body because if I am going to complete almost 3 hours of activity in October, then I need to be close to 100%. Granted, I have run for over 3 hours in my marathons in the past, but this is a whole new ballgame. Being unable to run, even if it is only temporary, takes away my security blanket since running is something I know how to do, and I can do it pretty much anywhere, regardless of what is going on with the weather. So I need to know what you triathletes do when you can’t run? What are your favorite cross-training activities? And how much strength training do you do? I feel like I am really dropping the ball in that area and don’t know if I should be just going to the gym and lifting or if doing a class with high reps/low weights is enough.

Hope everyone has a good weekend. I am planning to ride FIFTY miles on Sunday, just for fun, so I will let you know if I survive!

I wish I were a Kardashian…

Now I know you’re thinking “where could she possibly be going with this?” because presumably, the Kardashians have nothing to do with either running or biscuits, because they pay thousands of dollars a month for private pilates reformer lessons and thousands of dollars a week (day?) for a personal chef to make them delicious meals that are less than 1200 calories per day. Then again, I feel like the booties would be a little smaller if no biscuits were being consumed? I digress. The reason I somewhat envy the Kardashians is because I am pretty sure that most of them, except Rob- because he seems useless- have personal assistants that force them to stick to these strict schedules. I really need one of those. Because my flexibility, in areas of my life other than yoga of course, is getting a little out of control.

I used to be one of those people that was very regimented with my schedule. This is most likely because I had only 24 hours in a day to get in two swim practices, go to high school or college 6-8 hours a day, eat, and hibernate. This carried over into my adulthood, to the point where I would not go to a happy hour if I had a long run planned (LOSER) or I would get serious anxiety if I someone bailed on our plans and I had to come up with some other way to entertain myself. Or, if someone suggested doing a race together in 11.4 weeks, I would say “no, that is 4 days too short for me to complete a full 12 week training cycle.”

When Super Girl entered this universe, I continued this military precision scheduling, as many new mothers do. We were I was going to get this tiny human sleeping through the night by 19 days old if it killed me. That is slight hyperbole. Oh, you’re hungry 6 minutes before this sleep training book says you’re permitted to eat again? Sorry, hope you can get some milk out of that pacifier because the milk factory is off limits for 6… 5 1/2 more minutes. Someone wants us to meet them for a quick brunch? Not gonna happen, it may overlap with naptime by 15 seconds. I was so wed/chained to the schedule that I drove EVERYONE crazy. Including myself. Granted, I ended up with a champion sleeper, but that’s genetics there.

The second time around, I decided that I would be a lot more flexible with Super Baby’s feeding, sleeping, etc. I would head to the gym and Super Dad would say “What time does Super Baby need to eat next?” My response: “uh, whenever. anytime between 2 and 4 hours from now.” Ok I wasn’t quite that lackadaisical, but you get my point. Super Dad looked at me like I had grown a second head and was speaking in Mandarin. He was certainly not expecting anything other than “90 to 91 minutes from now. No earlier, no later. And don’t rock him to sleep, that’s a sleep prop. And no white noise, that’s a sleep prop too. So is loving him too much” (just kidding!)

I liked my newfound flexibility as well. It was very liberating at first, but then it sort of morphed into this hippie meets ADD-ish attitude. What should we have for dinner? Oh, whatever (I became that girl). Should we go out of town next weekend? Yeah, I guess. Or we could not. We could just “play it by ear.” Should I run a marathon? Sounds good, maybe…

But here is where my flexibility really got to me, as an athlete and now, as a member of this family. I have run precisely three races since Super Baby was born 13 months ago- an 8k, 5k, and 10k. This is because I could not commit to the schedule required to train for a half marathon or full marathon. I don’t know if it’s because I was scared to start really getting into the training, only to run the race and be disappointed in myself as I have so many times before. Or maybe it’s because I just wasn’t willing to sacrifice spontaneous trips to the park, or ice cream after work, or going with my tried and true calorie scorcher (and social hour) at the YMCA in Charlotte. It’s most likely a combination of all of these things. Ultimately, it resulted in me achieving basically zero of my goals for the first year after Super Baby was born, besides fit back into pants that have zippers.

Since we have moved to Raleigh, scheduling really has to be a necessity in our lives. We don’t live as close to daycare or work as we did in Charlotte. Granted, we could walk to daycare and work (but didn’t, because we’re the world’s worst commuters like that), and the Y was just over a mile away. Here, we spend significantly more time in our cars than we used to. Again, this is a very small fraction of time compared to what the average American has to spend getting to and from their place of work. Point being, the amount of time we are sitting in the car is time that I used to spend just kind of farting around after work or actually spending at the gym or running. Getting to the Y now by 6pm takes an act of Congress. We also don’t want to take the kids to the Y as much because overall, we are spending probably 30 fewer minutes per day with them so we want to be at home with them when we can. This poses quite a quandary for my triathlon, and eventually marathon (!) training.

Recently, Super Dad bought a white board so that we could map out our family schedule each week. The board still has not been mounted on our mud room wall, so I just pretend that I don’t actually have to commit to anything until it is officially on the wall. Most weeks I spend quite a bit of time trying to decide what days I will ride, what days I will run and what workouts I will do, and which days I will swim (almost never) or do strength work. Then, I spend even more time not sticking to that plan. I have been applauding myself for my ability to be flexible and continue to get what I presume is an adequate amount of training in despite my having to change up the plan at the last minute. If I have planned a morning run and I decide to sleep in, which is 95% of the time, I don’t beat myself up because I have already given myself a backup plan of two other times during the day to run.

The problem with this flexibility is that it is all inside my head. So while I am patting myself on the back for getting my workout in when in the old days (post sleep training breakdown, pre-newfound dedication to training) I would have just called the day a wash and decided I would just do “extra” the next day, I am messing up someone else’s plans. Yesterday, I was going to get up at 6am to do a tempo run. Story of my life, I just gave my iphone alarm the old “get real” and slept in another hour-ish. I then worked through lunch, planning to leave work early to get my run done on the treadmill before picking up the kids. Of course, things didn’t work out quite so perfectly, so I headed home and set out for a run just after 5pm in the sunny, 90 degree weather.

I was so angry with myself for not being able willing to stick with my original planned morning running. It was hot, humid, sunny, and I was just annoyed. I knew I would likely be slower because of these conditions, so I set 8:15 as my goal pace. Mile one went by in 7:37 I think. Ohhh, this isn’t so bad. At 1.4 miles, I heard a lot of thunder and noticed the skies were getting a bit dark. At 1.5 miles, it started pouring. Like, horizontal rain sheets attacking my face. I just kept trucking, knocked out a 7:24. Then mile 3 was all uphill, heavy shoes, wind, and frustration that my headphones broke from all the rain. 7:50. Back on the flats the rest of the way- 7:34, 7:36, 7:34 I think. I stopped at 6 miles because Super Dad was bringing the kids home and he had a prior engagement, which had been scheduled well in advance of 5pm that day, and I needed to make sure I was there when I said I would be home.

I was feeling pretty smug about my ability to get in a really solid workout despite sleeping in and presumably heading out to run in the worst conditions ever. I was expecting heat exhaustion but I got a nice brisk run in, and bonus- people couldn’t tell if I was soaked in sweat or acid rain! I told Super Dad that I planned to go to a strength and conditioning class at the Y tonight so I could work on getting my upper body muscles back. Although I lamented my gigantic lats in my youth, I now wish I had at least half of a bicep or maybe even a quarter of a pec. And abs, well a 2 pack would suffice. We agreed this would work with our family’s commitments for today.

Then around 3:30 this afternoon, I find out that my favorite gym in Raleigh, which is a bit too steep for my budget, had a free class at 5:30 tonight. Score!!! Sign me up. Problem: I talked to Super Dad soon thereafter and learned that this time probably wasn’t going to work for the family because I would need to pick up the kids from daycare. Problem solved: call Super Mother-in-Law and then I can still go to the 5:30 class. Psych! Although this allowed me to get my workout in, I was selfish and put someone else out, all because of my classic spur of the moment “I do what I want” attitude. Hmmm, and I wonder why Super Girl does this

Anyway, although no kids were neglected, no puppies went without dinner, and no world peace pacts went unsigned because of my not sticking to the previously agreed upon schedule (it wasn’t in writing though, so it’s not really legally binding right? oh wait, I should know the answer to that one) I still messed up. It’s really not that difficult to wake up at 5:30 to run a couple times a week. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t go to a free gym class immediately after work, when I can go to an equally free class two hours later when Super Dad is available to watch the Super Kids. And it’s probably a pretty good idea, if I have actual goals I want to achieve, that I stick to some sort of training plan, or those goals will just end up as more registration fees that have vanished into PayPal cyberspace.

So my commitment for next week is to be both a Kardashian and a Kardashian assistant. I will force myself to stick with my training plan, including the actual start times for my workouts. Not just getting them done within 24 hours of when I had planned, but doing a morning run if that’s what the schedule calls for, etc. If someone gets sick or work runs late or a neighbor needs us (to drink wine with them on the porch), that’s understandable. Life happens. But it’s time this not so Super Mommy started making her Super Family’s life a priority rather than her sweat life. I think the result will be happier kids, happier man chef hubby, and ironically enough, happier me. My, how we have come full circle grasshopper.

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Race recap

I have meaning for some time to do a product review post, because I am a product junkie.  Ok, I’m a shopaholic.  There, I said it.  I will get to the review later this week because I wanted to do a quick tediously long race recap.  It may take you 98 minutes (the length of time of my race) to read it.

My first triathlon was this weekend.  It was the Triangle Triathlon in Apex, or maybe it was Holly Springs?  I am not sure.  Anyway, I have the White Lake International distance triathlon on September 7, but felt like this would be a good tune-up race since it is significantly shorter, i.e., I have not been in the pool nearly as much as I should, so I wanted to gauge my fitness (or lack thereof).  Also, as mentioned earlier, my friend Sherman, who has done a handful of Ironmans, basically forced me into doing it.

Last week I had one good workout.  I had been battling a stomach bug for over a week, and the old me would have used that as the perfect setup to excuse a poor performance.  Instead, I decided to just take the bug head on by overdosing on Imodium and Pepto.  After a good 72 hours of medicine, which apparently is contrary to manufacturer recommendation, I felt more than 50% normal.  I did not do any workouts on Wednesday or Thursday as that was when I felt like death was warming over, but apparently this made for a decent taper.  On Friday, Sherman and I did about 10 quick miles on the bike and a fast mile (well, rounding up significantly) after work.  I felt like a pile of warm sludge.  This could not bode well, right?

I made a list of all the things I needed on Thursday night, and packed my bag Friday.  I painstakingly selected a tri suit, oh wait, I only have one kit.  I also set a reminder on my iphone to bring my USAT card or else I would have to pay $12 at the race venue in order to pick up my packet.  I guess I missed the memo about bringing my ID as well.  More on that later.

Super Girl also chose Friday to get some sort of illness, and naturally, she woke up three times in the middle of the night.  Super Dad, as per usual, woke up with her the first time, so as to give me some extra rest.  The other times, I took one (two, three) for the team.  Basically, by the time the alarm went off at 5:15, I felt like I had gotten maybe 39 minutes of shut-eye.  Awesome.

Sherman and I swung by McDonald’s and had a nutritious breakfast of egg and cheese biscuit for me, and sausage and egg platter for him. Oh yeah, we had pizza the night before. Apparently this is some thing that triathletes do?  I guess I really was destined to get into this sport.  How ironic after my last post on nutrition.  We got to the race venue around 6:00 and the race was to start at 7:30.  Plenty of time, right?

By the time we lugged all our stuff from the parking lot to the transition area, met up with some of Sherman’s friends, and went to check in, it was almost 7:00.  I just needed to get out my USAT card and ID to pick up my bib.  Oh wait, I didn’t have either.  I left my USAT card in the truck (one mile away) and my ID at home.  They let me use my facebook page to authenticate my ID – wow, really? And I had to borrow $12 to pay the one-day fee.  Of course.  By the way, I owe Cameron Simmons $12.  Better set a reminder on my iphone.

Fast forward to the swim start.  I was in the 6th wave, so I had to wait about 24 minutes to start.  We warmed up before the swim, at which point I learned the temperature of the lake was 90 DEGREES.  What?!?! A 90-year-old would get hot in that lake. Not good.  I warmed up then stood around more nervous then you could ever imagine.  I seriously almost tossed my cookies.  I had not been that nervous in over a decade I would guess.

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We lined up in the water and I realized it was on.  These girls were hardcore.  I had heard about fighting during the start of the swim, and people drowning and punching each other.  I didn’t drown anybody and managed to escape with no bruises, but I had a minor panic attack when I was trapped in a pack for about 50 meters.  Eventually, we evened out and I was out in the lead with two other girls.  I got really really warm about halfway in (400m), and when we caught up to the wave in front of us, there was a lot of water gulping going on because these were not the most fluid of swimmers.  I just kept my eyes on the girl right in front of me, and perhaps drafted off of her a tiny bit.  Kept me from having to do all the navigating.

Came out of the water tied for second.  I looked down at my Garmin and almost laughed when I saw how slow the swim was.  Yikes.  Maybe time to start training in the water some more. T1 went uneventfully, though I was shaking as I put on my shoes and helmet.  Still nervous!  Got through to the bike start and it took what felt like 4 minutes to get clipped in.  Oy, I should have just tatooed “Novice” on my helmet and back.

The bike went as well as I could expect.  I feel like I know my bike pretty well at this point.  I got passed by quite a few girls on what appeared to be $5,000 tri specific bikes with $2,000 race wheels (that’s what I am telling myself) but I passed a lot of men on hybrids if that’s any consolation.  I am a pretty decent climber but need work on going fast on flats and dropping down to get more aerodynamic.  I can say I was probably the only person with a road bike that did not have aero bars.  So I put an order in for those already.  I am sure I looked like a goon sitting up in spin class as I came down those hills on my aerobar-less bike.  Oh well, it was a learning experience.

I felt good finishing up the 17.5 mile bike, which is perhaps a sign I didn’t push myself hard enough. Or so I thought.  I had a pretty quick T2, slipping into my  laceless Zoots.  Housed a few Stinger energy chews and chugged some water on my way out to the run start.  Feeling pretty good… until about 1/2 mile in.  That’s right people, I pretty much hit a wall at that point. I didn’t have my Garmin on gps mode because I was using it on stopwatch mode during the swim.  I had no clue how fast or slow I was going, and there wasn’t a mile marker until mile 2.  Oh, and at what I presume was the 1/2 mile mark, we went from a paved surface to a trail.  Not like a single-track, break your ankle trail.  But gravel, sticks, and mud puddles.  What?  I really need to spend less time watching Bravo tv and more time reading course descriptions.   I wanted to cry.  I was so tired and hot.

The only thing keeping me going was “only 18 more minutes- assuming I am running an 8:30 mile pace, only 15 more minutes, only 10 more…” Plus, I wasn’t getting passed by very many people.  There was a girl right in front of me who was also in my age group and I remember her passing me on the bike.  She had an Ironman tattoo on her right calf.  I was thinking “wow, she is really struggling and she has done an Ironman.  I don’t feel so bad about myself anymore” and “there is no way I am ever doing any Ironman.  Those people are crazy!” Sorry Sherman and random girl, who I ended up passing.  Woo! At the 2 mile marker I got my 13th wind.  I looked at my watch and realized I was somehow well under an 8:00 mile pace.  I felt like I was speed walking at that point.  Suddenly I was at the 3 mile marker, and then I was done, having finished the run portion in 23:30.  Not too bad after a 750 swim and 17.5 mile bike.

As soon as I finished all I could think was “I am NEVER doing a triathlon again.  Ever.”  And then I thought “Oh hey, they have free Mountain Dew and Papa Johns?! I am definitely doing another triathlon.” Usually you get little pieces of bagel and half a banana after a marathon.  Maybe some beer if it is a St. Patrick’s Day race. But these triathletes do not play around with the pizza and soda. I limited myself to one slice and waited for my buddy to finish.

I finished 6th in my age group and realized that with just a little extra effort in the pool, better form on the bike, and some more strength work, I could actually get on the podium next time.  Hey maybe I could even win if someone wanted to pay for private coaching lessons and a Felt tri bike for me.  And pay my mortgage and daycare so I can quit my job and train full time. Ok, I guess that isn’t going to happen, so I will just buy a book about triathlon training, get the local tri shop to tweak the geometry on my bike, and have them slap on my new aero bars.

My goal this week is to get in the pool twice and do at least one strength training session. We are already on Tuesday and I have done neither, so I guess there may be some doubles in my future. Ouch!

Do you have any favorite exercises to increase leg power?  Any suggestions for positioning on the swim, other than taking up Kung Fu? Anyone else race this weekend?  How did it go? Any triathlons I need to put on my bucket list?

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You are what you eat

People always say, “you are what you eat.” I never really got that. If I eat steak, that doesn’t make me a cow. Cows don’t eat other cows- they eat grass, hay, pulp, and other stuff humans toss out, but they are still cows. Note: A lot of googling went into figuring out what a cow’s diet consists of. Likewise, if I eat broccoli, celery, and garbanzo beans, that doesn’t make me a vegetable (or legume if you want to get technical). So I always figured I could just eat what I wanted because the saying didn’t make any sense.

A couple friends recently sent me a link to The Oatmeal’s comic about running. There’s a slight chance very high probability that I annoyed several coworkers laughing out loud as I read the post about the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances, particularly Part 2 “the feeding.” This comic could not more aptly describe my eating habits. As a swimmer, I trained up to 5 hours a day over the course of two workouts. I was always hungry. And I ate whatever I wanted. We’re talking a Croissanwich AND French Toast sticks from Burger King after morning practice, curly fries with cheese at the high school cafeteria at lunchtime, then a DQ frosty and six powdered donut gems from 7 Eleven before afternoon practice. Looking back, it is truly a miracle I did not develop type II diabetes or high cholesterol as a teen. And the only reason I was not obese is because I was burning upwards of 5,000 calories a day.

In college, I did not binge quite as much but really, who did not indulge in late night Domino’s? Plus, I continued to swim so the calorie burn continued. I noticed though that I was always tired despite taking two naps a day, and my metabolism wasn’t quite what it used to be. Shocker right? To think that your metabolism might decrease as you age, it is such a novel idea.

As I took up running more after college, I somehow fooled myself into thinking that my diet was appropriate for ANY LIVING BEING, including a super calorie burning athlete like Lance Armstrong or a 600 pound gorilla – also googled that one- that has nothing to accomplish in life. Wrong. Not only was I failing to come even remotely close to offsetting the calories going in, I was also just putting trash into my body. And I felt like trash. I had no energy, could not focus on my classes in law school, and I gained a lot of weight.

So, lesson learned, right? False. I thought that if I just ate fewer calories, I could still eat whatever I wanted. I convinced myself that the reason I ran is so that I could eat tons of Bojangles. When I was pregnant, I ate French fries with ranch dressing like I had just come off of four weeks competing in Survivor. I gained less than 30 lbs each time, and the Super Babies turned out healthy, and not large, but I only think it was because I ran a lot, or am just predisposed to making smaller offspring (until they turn 4 months old, then all bets are off).

When I started on this journey, I was obviously not running for kale, for health, to set a good example for my children, or for me. I ran for biscuits, plain and simple. I ran because I wanted to eat. I have learned that eating is a major crutch for me. It is how I cope with stressors in life, it is how I celebrate, it is how I bide my time, it is how I bond with friends and family. Because eating is such a huge part of my life- other than the obvious, that everyone has to eat to survive- I figured I would just run to support my habit. Well, that’s just not cutting it anymore.

I really felt that I had stalled out in my running, and not just because I have been either making babies or feeding babies on and off for the past four years. I thought I had tried everything, from doing more strength workouts, to cross training, to doing interval work. I think I knew in the back of my mind that I was avoiding the most obvious thing: my diet. Not diet like Weight Watchers or Paleo or 80/20 or Atkin’s (does anybody even do that anymore?) or anything with a label. Just my nutritional needs.

Lately, Super Dad has been majorly into cooking. He has always taken the reigns in that regard, but he has upped his game from Master Griller to Master Chef. We aren’t talking Joel Robuchon, but just simple yet flavorful and healthful meals. We want to make a concerted effort to eat more whole foods and to instill an appreciation of the earth and our bodies (not in a touchy feely crunch way, though it is totally cool if you are into that) in our kids. Now, Super Girl still digs her Drumstick ice cream cones, and she comes by that honestly, because I ate approximately 193 of those while she was in utero, but last night while I was juicing, she asked for blueberries and apples for dessert. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if she is actually mine. Or maybe she is already angling for a car. Her 16th birthday is only 13 years away.

Since we have been eating a more balanced diet and significantly less takeout and/or processed foods, I have noticed an uptick in my energy and improved endurance and speed. I have had days where I typically would have dragged through a workout, but last week was able to knock out mile repeats faster than I imagined possible a few months ago. I enjoy running too, and I am not just thinking about what I am goig to stuff my face with after finishing a run.

I also find that I am craving better foods. I used to get the shakes if I didn’t mainline Nutella, but now I can go weeks without eating half a jar. I now crave my green juice, which is about five leaves of kale, a handful of spinach, three green apples, one cucumber, and two handfuls of grapes. It is glorious, and both Super Baby and Super Girl approve.

That said, I don’t get excited by beets or coconut milk or chia seeds. I like my carbs, they make me feel happy sometimes and in moderation, provide me with the energy I need to get through a long workout. I know I know, beets are probably better for energy and are a super food. I still think they taste like dirt. I also still enjoy my Bojangles, mainly for the sake of this blog, because I would hate to have to change the name 🙂 I still eat cheeseburgers more often than I should, and I still get my Drumsticks, but I get the mini version instead. So I guess if you are what you eat, I’m now mini version of my old self. And a little greener.

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I suck at yoga…

I also suck at anything involving balance. For instance, a balanced diet, balancing my checkbook, balancing home life versus work life (I am not entirely to blame for this one, as Super Dad and I work at the same place), balancing on my road bike well enough to merely lift a hand to signal to my other cyclists that there is a pile of glass or a pothole they should avoid, and the biggest balance issue facing most runner/triathlete moms: how do I balance my bizarre exercise needs with my family’s schedule? I don’t want our family schedule to revolve 100% around me- 75% would suffice- but I also want us to have some flexibility to enjoy the pool or go out to dinner just because.

DISCLAIMER: This is a REALLY, REALLY, obnoxiously long post. It’s not for the faint of heart. I have 7 months worth of venting to do, so grab some Nuun hydration and read on if you like.

Ok, let’s back this train up. When willrunforbiscuits started, I was all about running. Otherwise the blog name wouldn’t make much sense. I have been all about running pretty much since I graduated from college and decided I would be done with swimming FOREVER. I was that burned out on the sport. I dabbled in some kickboxing and pilates, but realized that my diet of biscuits and gelato were probably better suited to fuel a long distance runner. Cue five marathons, zero swimming, zero triathlons, zero cycling.

I made it a goal to run a marathon between each baby. After Super Girl (formerly known as Super Baby) was born, I ran the Kiawah Marathon in 2010. But then I had the shoulder surgeries mentioned in previous blog posts, which basically left me in the shape I was in freshman year when I quit swimming for 6 months. Round, floppy, and out of breath. I was no good at balancing recovering from my surgeries with finding appropriate but challenging workouts, so I just gave up.

I finally started getting back into shape with the help of my beloved Athletic Conditioning class at the Y. Those were my people. Some of my closest friends that I have developed over the past several years. Check them out, they are a good-looking group.

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Finally, I was ready to start training for “something.” I hit the greenway with my friend Kevin for long runs, and he would join me for interval work on the indoor track at the Y. I would push Super Girl around in her jogging stroller, which definitely helps gain strength and speed. I finally felt like I had the balance thing down. You can be a mom to one kid and still find the time to train distance.

Then I got pregnant with the new Super Baby, and I kept running. All the books I read about exercising while pregnant were totally common sense. “If you have been active, then it’s okay to stay active.” And “listen to your body.” What does that mean???? I need real answers. I was very bad at balancing logic and emotion during early pregnancy. The basic takeaway from everything I read is this: If you are at least moderately in shape and NOT an idiot, then just keep doing what you’re doing, keeping your heartrate in check and taking stock of any other warning signs like cramping, chills, obvious signs of dehydration, etc. If you have jogged one 5k before, probably not a good idea to sign up for you first Marathon, set to take place when you are 34 weeks pregnant. Having already been doing long runs upwards of 9 miles when I got pregnant, I went ahead and signed up for a half marathon which I completed in January 2012, when I was 15 weeks pregnant. It was a really pleasant race because I was able to balance my baby’s safety against my desire to be the fastest pregnant runner out there. I ran a 5k at 24 weeks and a 10k at 28 weeks. It is fair to say that by the end, I had gotten really good at balancing my fluid input/output because there are usually no porta johns on a 3-6 mile course. Yikes!

After new Super Baby came along, surrounded by much drama that I would talk about if this were yet another birth story blog, I initially dove back into the group exercise thing that I so loved. I was unable to balance my desire to train for another marathon with my desire to hang out with my friends and go to classes which I knew would push me and leave my on the edge of vomitus, just the way I like it. So I fell into a bit of a rut.

I ran a few local races at the end of 2012, with my eye on a marathon in 2013.

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But then we moved to Raleigh. So the months of late December to late February of this year are a total blur of boxes, tears, more boxes, house hunting, eating garbage (not literally), and not running. No balance could be achieved in that phase of my life. And quite frankly, it has taken about four months to get back on track.

I really wanted to find balance in my workout regimen upon moving. As I have mentioned a thousand times, I had such a great group of instructors and friends at the YMCA in Charlotte. I wanted to try to replicate that here. I toured probably 6 different gyms. I was like Goldilocks. This gym was too expensive. This gym was too dingy. This gym too far, this gym too boring.

So I decided that instead of trying to achieve in Raleigh what I had in Charlotte, I would create something new. Like a Phoenix rises from the ashes, so too did my new training goal. I decided to sign up for a triathlon. It is definitely a symbol of balance- having to balance your time to train for three different disciplines. My goal race is the White Lake Olympic Distance Tri in September. Before that race, I have a sprint distance- the Triangle Triathlon- this weekend! And I really have no idea what I am doing or what to expect, so it won’t be that different from becoming a mother.

In order to get in triathlon shape, I have spent less time in group exercise classes and taken more initiative to find group runs, go out on long morning runs before my kids get up (which I never would have done before), find group cycle rides, and swim just to get my shoulders stronger and hopefully wake up some muscle memory that’s been covered in cobwebs for the past 11 years. I have finally been able to strike a balance in all the three disciplines, and I am actually having a lot of fun doing it. The issue is just figuring which workouts to do in the morning before Super Girl and Super Baby wake, which to do at lunch (too much work involved in getting re-coiffed for work) and which to do after work, as that calls into play either taking the kids to the Y or SuperDad piling up the parenting points so I can go on a bike ride after work. We haven’t quite figured out how to make it work, and we have to take it on a week-by-week basis, which is difficult.

Raleigh  Trail Runners at Umstead Park.  They look fast.

Raleigh Trail Runners at Umstead Park. They look fast.

Which leads to the final straw that led me back into the blogosphere. My family may be done with 2 kids and 3 dogs, but we may expand- ya never know, we could add a guinea pig to the mix. Whatever size our family ends up being, we will have more and more commitments as our kids get older. Super Girl is in gymnastics and will likely start ballet and music lessons in the next year. Super Baby will probably be entering eating competitions so we need to balance those commitments into our family schedule. My exercise also needs to be balanced out against my family’s needs.

Last night, I planned out this week’s workouts. I planned to do an easy steady-stead 7 mile run before work. Well, off went the buzzer this morning, and I said “let’s get serious iPhone, you know I’m not getting out of this bed.” End of discussion, no agonizing, just went straight back to dreaming about Robin Thicke.

The result of this 100% selfish decision was that I completely threw off our family plan for the day. The morning routine went fine, as I would have been back from my run and showering at the same time I ended up rising. Because we are so earth-conscious, Super Dad and I decided to carpool. Then I would pick up Super Baby and take him to the Y while Super Dad took Super Kid to gymnastics. After my quick little swim and run, I would swing by to get Super Girl from gymnastics. Wrong. As I checked my phone post swim and run, I notice that Super Dad has called and sent an urgent text, something to the effect of “my darling wife, I forgot to remind you that my car is at home because we carpooled to work. As such, our beloved daughter is stranded at daycare, I am stranded at work, and she will not be able to get to the gymnastics class she was so looking forward to. In no way are you to blame, but I wanted to let you know that I will get this taken care of in the approximately 6 minutes before daycare closes. Love Always, Super Dad.” As you can imagine, the text was not quite so polite. Oops, mommy messed up. No really, mommy threw off our family’s balance today in a big big way. One that inconvenienced many people, including Super Daddy, Super Uncle and Super Neighbor, who let Super Girl borrow a leotard. When I got home, Super Girl had a MAJOR attitude. Our conversation:

SG: That was NOT COOL mommy! You don’t leave Daddy at his office. It’s not cool to leave people at their offices. He was lonely.

Me: I’m sorry, I messed up.

SG: Yeah, you did. Now Daddy and I are going inside, but you can stay out here with Super Baby.

…proceeds to lock me out of the house. [end scene]

Moral of the story: if you are going to be lazy, which is warranted every now and then (unless you are Shalane Flanagan and you’re trying to win Olympic Medals) try not to upset your whole family. I need to work on balancing my obligations to my family with my training. Anyone else have trouble with this balancing act?