Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Midweek Motivation: Limits

We all have limits. For instance, I know that I can only eat two of my co-worker's delicious cupcakes before I start to feel know how I know this? Because one day I ate three...not a good idea! We test our limits with easy stuff every day, like "how long can I stay in the shower before my kids realize I am missing?" or "how many post-it notes can I steal from the supply closet before anyone gets wise?" But how often do you really push yourself when it comes to a true unknown?
Last year I posted five goals on my athletic goal board. All five were things I was really going to have to push past my limits to accomplish. I had no clue if I could finish a marathon, but I did. I freaked out at my first Olympic distance triathlon, I had never done more than easy sprints up until this summer, I was doubling my mileage, could I do it? Yep. I also wanted to PR each of my sprint tri's this summer, that was a huge, scary goal, you never know what might happen on race day, but I pushed myself, and I managed to blow past what I thought my limits were. Then last Sunday came, and so did my last goal of the a sub-2 hour half marathon. I was not certain I had trained well enough, or that I really had that kind of speed in me. But I knew I had to try.
I'll make this long story short. For 10 hard fought, exhilarating miles, I ran at a pace that would put me at a 1:57 finish time. I felt amazing, I kept saying to myself, "You are going to do this! You are really going to do this!" Then mile 11 came along and....BONK! I had reached my limit. I don't know if it was my physical limit or my mental limit, but I was done, that much I knew. I slowed way down, walking through the water stop, an inkling of hope that I might be able to start up again and catch the 2-hour pace group that had just passed me. But when I tried to get back up to speed, it wasn't meant to be. I was running though, at about a minute per mile slower than I started, but I kept my head up. I had found my limit, I could run 10 miles at an 9:05 pace, and even though I wanted that number to be 13 miles, it was still a great feeling to know I had that much in me. If I hadn't gone for it, I would have been sitting here today wondering if I would ever be able to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. That goal will go back on my board for next year, but thanks to pushing my limits this year, I know it's attainable.
So don't be afraid to push yourself. Set goals that seem hard, they should be attainable, but not easy. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You bonk three miles before the finish line? I still finished, and my medal is just as shiny as it would have been had I finished in 1:57 rather than 2:06!

Monday, October 19, 2015


According to my save settings, I started writing this post back on August 17th. The fact that here is it over two months later and I'm finally getting around to finishing it proves what a crazy end of the summer/beginning to fall I had (or that I was just unbelievably lazy, whichever). Anyway, here you have it, part one of my end of summer recap...two months late!

When I last left you, I was about to head out to San Antonio at attend the USA Swimming National Championships meet. The trip was a bit of an whirlwind. I arrived there during one of the hottest weeks they'd had all summer..100+ was forecast for my entire I may not love the sub-zero winters of Minnesota that much, but equally heinous to me is any temperature that's hot enough to cook food, and I'm pretty sure you could have fried an egg on the sidewalk in San Antonio. I managed to fit in two runs and two swims (in the national championship pool no less). I also met cowboys, ate obnoxious, yet delicious waffles, and got to connect with Jill (my Ironman-sounding board-coach-mentor extraordinaire) and Susanna (who is my role model for knocking this working-mom-runner-wife-human-thing out of the park!)
Yes, this is the same pool Michael Phelps was swimming in. I was swimming slightly slower than him, but still!
Real Cowboys in the famous Gruene Hall in the middle of Texas...not sure how many Yankees they allow in, but it was pretty cool!
Yes, you are seeing this correctly. The waffles in Texas are shaped like Texas (at least the ones at my hotel). Thankfully they taste like delicious waffles, and not like armadillos or longhorns or something like that.
Finally meeting heroes in person is pretty darn exciting!

Tri-ing in my own back yard!
I got back in town two days before my next Olympic distance triathlon was scheduled. I felt woefully under prepared for this race since I hadn't been on my bike for a week and I had only managed to swelter through two 3-mile runs in Texas. I was also planning on trying my wet suit for the first time in a race and using the new tri bike my friend Heidi had lent me, so I was a little nervous. The exciting thing about this race though, was that it was in my neighborhood! We are fortunate enough to live near Turtle Lake, the sight of the self-described "first triathlon in Minnesota". While I am not sure about that status, I do know that the Turtleman Triathlon was a hugely popular race for many years. Then, about three years ago, they had to cancel the race due to the water level in the lake being so low. This year marked the race's return to Shoreview, and I was geeked to be a part of it.

I packed up my transition bag, which was a bit overstuffed thanks to my wetsuit, and hopped on my bike for the two mile ride to Turtle Lake Park. I was wearing the fancy aero-helmet Heidi lent me to go with the fancy bike. If you aren't familiar with aero-helmets, they look like this:
See that tail in the back? It's supposed to make you fast. It is not, however, designed to be worn when you have an overstuffed backpack on your back. I had to ride with my head turned to the side. I'm sure I was quite the sight tooling around my neighborhood with a crooked neck in my tri suit, giant backpack, and fancy helmet at 6:30 in the morning! Thankfully I made it to the park without falling, or being heckled, and checked in for my bib and body marking. The field was small for this race, less than 70 of us, but that was okay by me. I'm not great riding in a crowd, and knowing that I wouldn't have to jockey for position with hundreds of other racers the first time on my new bike was reassuring. I got to transition and found a rack in the front. I wanted to get set up quickly so I had time to practice riding out of T1. I knew the transition was going to be in the lower parking lot of Turtle Lake Park, but I wasn't really thinking about the massive climb it was going to take to get my bike out of there and onto the course. I mean, we literally get out of transition and on to a giant hill. My first practice run did not go well. Instead of starting low, I tried to shift down right away and immediately dropped my chain. The volunteer who was standing at the dismount area smiled at me and said "I'm sure no one saw that". I said "Yeah, I meant to do that, I need practice fixing my chain". After popping the chain back on I tried again, more successful this time around. I came back down and did it again, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, and then re-racked my bike. We were still about 20 minutes before the start, and I took a look at my wet suit. I really want to love swimming in a wet suit. Not only does it supposedly shave several seconds (even minutes) off your swim time, it provides buoyancy in the water that can help with fatigue, and it keeps you warmer for potentially chilly lake swims. I had only done one training swim with the suit on this year, and it went fine...except for the getting into and out of it. Wet suits were meant to be tight and this baby was like a second skin. Wriggling myself into it wasn't too hard, but getting out of it was a whole other story. I really wanted to wear it today since it was a 1-mile swim, and the water temp was in the low 70's. So I headed over to the beach and started the lengthy process of squeezing my assets into the neoprene.

Once in the suit I got into the water to swim a bit, basically to see if I really wanted to go through with wearing it or not. It really is a strange sensation to swim with all that buoyancy when you are used to just swimming in a regular swimsuit, but after a few strokes I felt okay and decided I would keep it on for the swim and not worry about my transition time. By this time all racers had made their way down to the beach. One of the fun things about Turtleman is that instead of a "Long Course/Short Course" set up or "Elite/Age Group" divisions, we were divided into "Classic" and "Modern" groups. The "Classic" racers were not allowed to wear wet suits, needed to ride steel-frame bikes with no "aero" equipment, and couldn't wear any sort of GPS device. We had a short pre-race meeting, where the race director thanked us all for being part of the Turtleman "comeback". She asked for a show of hands of those who had raced Turtleman before. I was one of the few newbies. Several folks were here doing the this race for the 20th plus time! The Classic racers got to line up first, after that it was time trial starts for everyone else, so I lined up in the front ready to knock this swim out. I ran in right behind the guy everyone was referring to as "Speedo" since he was planning to do the whole race in his teeny tiny green brief...classic indeed :) I started to stroke and immediately felt like my wet suit was choking me. I started to panic, I had a mile to swim, how was I going to get through this?!? I treaded water for a second, thinking I could just unzip the suit a bit, but it wasn't budging. I was having trouble catching my breath so I looked for the nearest lifeguard or boat. I was pretty sure I was going to have to pull out of this race. I finally spotted the closest lifeguard, he was hanging at the turn buoy. I was gonna have to swim. I breaststroked for a minute and tried to relax. Several swimmers had passed me, but I could see I was still well in the middle of the pack. If I could just calm down, I might still be able to knock this swim out. I started swimming again and my breaths came a little easier. The water was calm, and the other swimmers weren't too crowded together, I put my head down and got into a good rhythm. Soon I began passing a few people and felt a renewed energy as I went around the first turn buoy. This was my second tri of the season, and my second panic attack on the strongest leg. Not sure what this was all about, but hoping it wasn't going to turn into a trend. I made it quickly up to the buoy and made the turn for shore. I was trying to stay in a straight line, but there were only two buoys on the course in, so I had to lift my head often to see the swim out flag on the beach. We swam through a weedy patch and at one point my hand brushed a huge boulder on the bottom. The lake level may have been high enough to bring the race back, but it was still pretty low! Finally, I hit sand and stood up to run in. The distance from the beach to transition wasn't very far, so I really had to be speedy getting the top of my wet suit down. I got it to my hips by the time I reached my bike, the hardest part yet to come. I got to my rack and pushed the legs down to my calves, then I tried stepping out of each leg. The right leg came out without too much force, but the left leg was timing chip the culprit. I finally had to give in and started to tug it off with my hands, wasting a lot of time. But, it eventually came off without knocking me over.

Since getting out of my suit took so much time, I didn't fuss with the rest of transition. I slipped my shoes on, clipped my helmet and ran out of the racks onto the bike leg. Getting on my bike was not easy as we were already pointing uphill in the mounting area, but I managed to get on my seat and started to pedal, I was desperately trying to clip in as I started to ascend, not a great combination. I got my left side clipped, but my right side was being stubborn, so I just tried to push to the top of the hill with my food on top of the pedal. It was not pretty, but I made it. We turned onto the main road and I finally heard the "click" of my right cleat connecting with the clip. 24 miles ahead of me. My second longest ride of the season so far, and the longest on my new bike. I had put my old saddle on the new bike, which was much more comfortable than the one on the bike originally, and I had adjusted my seat position and height so I felt pretty good. I dropped down to the aero bars and got into a good pace. The field was spread out and since the course was not closed, I made sure to stick to the shoulder. I'm still not 100% confident riding in aero but I also wanted to see what this bike was capable of. The course was two-loops on roads I am intimately familiar with. I knew every climb, every down hill, and every rough spot I had in store. The loop also passed within one block of my house, so my family was planning to come out to cheer me on. I was alone for most of the first half of the first loop, when I got passed turning into my neighborhood. I picked up the pace a bit as I didn't want my kids seeing people blowing by me. I turned the corner onto the main road to our house and there they were, pajama-clad and messy haired, but screaming for me with all their might. Even our dog Sully made the trek out. I thought of stopping for a minute, but this was only the first loop and I had a good momentum going. I yelled out "see you in 20 minutes" and kept going. We passed by the entry to the park and all the volunteers were out on the road cheering us on. It was a nice little boost to take into the second loop. I managed the climb that greeted us as we turned onto Lexington, and even managed to pass someone at this point. My back was a little sore (along with my unmentionables) but I knew I was in the home stretch. I turned on to County Road J and hit the rough patch, almost losing my water bottle in the process. As I came up to the turn to take me back into my neighborhood I decided I wasn't going to stop, I really just wanted to get off this bike and start running. So when I saw my family, still cheering in their PJs, I just waved and told them I loved them and biked on.

I turned into transition and had to slow way down on the decent into the racks, I barely got my feet out off the pedals before the volunteers were yelling for me to dismount. My legs felt like jelly and I was a little wobbly getting into my running shoes. It also didn't help that the run started on a grass path since the paved driveway was how the bikers were getting in and out. I slowly started the climb, being careful to watch my step on the grass. Five miles left, on a trail I run regularly, piece of cake, right? Wrong! Man, my legs were TOAST! After biking 24 miles and running uphill out of transition I thought I was going to have to walk when I got on the paved trail. But I promised myself if I kept going I could walk through the first water stop that was just past mile one. I made it there and thanked the volunteers profusely as I chugged my cup of water. I started back up at a slow run and just tried to focus on the fact that I was running on familiar trails, I knew every turn, incline, and decline. I passed a couple of racers, and got passed by a few more. I smiled at the people out on the trail walking their dogs or biking by, no doubt a bit surprised to see all these folks with race numbers running by them so early on a Sunday morning. I trudged along to the four mile mark when I decided I was going to try to pick up the pace and finish strong. This was my home town race after all, and I wanted to be sure to put on a good showing. So I gritted it out as we turned into the home stretch, a volunteer on the corner cheering "the finish is just around this corner, you've got this!" We hopped the curb and ran up a small grassy incline to the finish arch. Man, was I glad this was over. I was tired from my travels, tired from lack of training, and all I wanted to do was get home and give my pajama-clad cheering section some hugs. I grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of chips from the finish area volunteers and headed into transition to pack up. There, I ran into Judi, the race director whom I had met a week or so before. She asked me how it went, and I told her the race was awesome, not my best showing, but the course and the support were wonderful. I told her I could have used one more spotting buoy on the swim in, and she told me that they had accidentally left two of the buoys back at the shop. It was fun to chat with her about the history of the race, and before we were done talking, several other "Turtleman veterans" had joined us to relive stories of races past. I am constantly inspired by the folks who have been in this sport for so long, and keep their passion for it well past what would be considered their "prime" by anyone else's standards. I truly hope that one day I can stand in a circle with a "young" triathlete and share stories about races past and how much this sport means to me!

Finally it was time to hop back on my bike and make the ride back home. I considered for a second not wearing my helmet since it was such a hassle to ride my bike with my head tilted to the side, but I figured "safety first" and strapped it on. When I got home, the kids were very excited to hear about the rest of my race, and whether or not "I won". I always feel just a little disappointed when I have to say "no, Mommy didn't win". But Kayley always puts it into perspective for me..."Mommy, you were going really fast on your bike, so that's good!" Yep kid, it's all good!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Midweek Motivation!

This one is for all you "just" people out there (i.e. I "just ran 3 miles", "I'm just running an 11-minute per mile pace", "I just run once a week").
I used to be the queen of the "justs". As a competitive person, calling myself a runner was really hard for a long time. I was used to winning, I was used to being really good at something before I would be seen doing it in public. Running did not come easy for me. When I started I couldn't run for 2 minutes straight without wanting to quit. I was afraid to run with other people because "other people" were runners, not me. In my very first race, I came in 831st place...I thought "Yeah, I'm not a runner". But I kept going, and I soon realized that running was making me happier, stronger, better than I used to be. I cared less about who was running further and faster than me and more about pushing my own limits, seeing what my body, at my age, in this phase of my life, was capable of. And you know what, it's a pretty amazing body, able to do pretty outstanding things when I let it. I had a race this past weekend, and came in 4,772nd place. I probably could have run a little faster, I might have been able to "beat" a few more people, but I didn't care. I was running with friends, I was enjoying a perfect fall day, I was embracing the things that running has taught me. I didn't "just" run 10-miles, I ran for 1 hour and 37 minutes, which is 1 hour and 35 minutes more than I would have ever thought I could do!
So stop comparing yourself to others, take the "just" out of your vocabulary. Be a better you today, that's all that counts!