Semper Fi

On October 26, 2014, I, along with approximately thirty thousand other people participated in the 39th annual Marine Corps Marathon. To say that this event was an “experience” wouldn’t be enough. Words escape me, but since this is a WRITTEN blog, I’ll give it a try.

I entered this race in a charity slot with the  Zero The End of Prostate Cancer organization. My dear friend and former coach was diagnosed with Advanced Stage IV Prostate Cancer last Winter, and I wanted to do something to help in the research and awareness effort with Zero . In all, there were around twenty seven  athletes on our team from all over the US that  raised money and secured an entry into the race.

After a hectic day of travel on planes, trains, and automobiles, (in that order, I might add) a large group met up for lunch and the ultimate pre-race feast at an Italian restaurant. Holy Moly, the FOOD!!! The chef was kind enough to cater to my gluten free needs, and made me a whole plate of special pasta!

Patty's pastaAnother round of trains and automobiles, and another group of us met up for a pre race dinner. EAT ALL THE FOOD!!!!

Team dinner Oh, and yes, beer and wine are part of our training.

The morning of the run came very early. I awoke at 4am so I could have my traditional breakfast of eggs, banana, peanut butter, and tea. We  took the car to the train, to the Pentagon, and then had a brisk two mile walk to the starting line. Yes, we walked two miles BEFORE running 26.2 miles! Naturally, I visited every porta potty along the way, and several times before the race actually started. Oh, my nerves!

pre race

Pre race goof balls

It was chilly while we waited for two hours at the start, so we huddled together and gave each other encouragement. (And mostly harassed each other with dumb running jokes)

A few minutes before the start at 7:55am, we made our way to the starting line. I could see dozens of men lined up “watering” the trees and bushes one last time before the big trek. I was supremely jealous of them at that moment. The crowd was buzzing with energy.

Some of the 30,000

Some of the 30,000

Coach Jeff-the reason we now know all about Prostate Cancer.

Coach Jeff-the reason we now know all about Prostate Cancer.

The energy at the start of this race was beyond electric. The Marines put on a show with fly by’s, hovering aircraft, and parachutes. This was my favorite:

One of many paratroopers displaying the flag

One of many paratroopers displaying the flag

Right on time,  the race began, and we were off. My goal was to hang with coach Jeff and plan on a four hour and thirty minute finish. With almost thirty thousand people running shoulder to shoulder, there was a lot of bobbing and weaving, just to keep up a steady pace. (When it was all said and done, my Garmin showed 26.8 miles. That’s a lot of extra steps!) We managed to keep our group together for three miles, when I had to stop and use a rest room. FRUSTRATING!!! So I dropped off and got in a line. I tried to catch up afterwards, but never saw my team again.

Running this course was incredible. I looked at the sights, smiled at people, and generally absorbed the experience. The weather was perfect, and the crowds were abundant, loud, and very supportive. After running “alone” for two hours, things started going wrong. At one moment, I was flying along, barely feeling my feet hit the ground, and in the next, my left Achilles, calf, and both knees began to hurt. I mean HURT. like, “Uh oh, what’s going on, and am I going to be able to finish this race?” kind of hurt. I ran my first two marathons with two torn tendons and a torn muscle in my left foot and that didn’t hurt as badly as THIS! I started to crumble. Just about this time, my emotions surfaced, and the realization that I was  possibly injured and not able to complete this run became a possibility. Then everything around me became a trigger. There were  Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine soldiers everywhere. American flags float in the breeze. People proudly ran with flags.

There were several groups like this that ran the whole course carrying flags

There were several groups like this that ran the whole course carrying flags

I began to tear up at the sight of this. I watched the monuments go by, and saw the soldiers-mere babies, in uniform, and cried some more. I thought of the reason I was here. Not just to run another marathon, but to support a cause that has become near and dear to me. I’ve never run for a cause. I was now a part of a purpose. It was right about this time that I came across the Blue Mile. This is a mile long stretch of the course where people hold flags and the street is lined with photos of fallen soldiers. blue mileI had heard about this, but nothing could prepare me for it. The photo  posters are on stands, evenly spaced, and they are hauntingly beautiful. I found myself slowing down so that I could touch the top of each one, and whisper “Thank you” to each one. I sobbed for these people. I cried for their families. I didn’t care who saw me. I was not alone in my public grief at this spot of the journey.

I still had miles to go. Suck it up buttercup.

The second half of the marathon was an exercise in grit, determination, extreme cursing, and involved a lot of self talk. I  hated most of it, cursed my lack of training, my lack of mental toughness, and tried to keep it together and power through. I had a bad attitude, and horrendous pain in my legs. I put my head down and stopped looking at the other runners, and ignored the crowds of well wishers. It was the darkest race I’ve ever run. When I saw the finish line, and the row of soldiers, lined up giving “high fives”, I couldn’t even muster the strength to participate. I crossed the finish line in a daze. When I finally looked up to see the young, smiling Marine that congratulated me on my finish, and put my metal around my neck, my fog lifted. I gave him a huge teary eyed smile, thanked him for his service, and thanked God for letting me be a part of this experience. OO-RAH!

There was a lot of limping for several hours after the finish. It was my slowest marathon to date. It was the biggest, most profound one as well. I met people I had only known online, deepened friendships with them, got to see our incredible nation’s capital, and raised money for Prostate Cancer research.

I will be blogging about Prostate Cancer in the future. I am excited to share that I have partnered up with Zero  again and will be participating in  Ironman Chattanooga next September. If you would like to make a donation of any amount, please do so here: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/chattanooga.aspx#axzz3HeVD6LdT.

Thanks for reading my blog.

 

One Sunday Morning in June

Unless it’s a high profile event where a group of my friends is planning to race together, or I have a family member participating,I prefer to race alone. This might surprise some of my readers, because in reality, I love a crowd, and the bigger the party, the better.In my non athletic life, I can’t imagine not being surrounded by friends and family.

My ugly secret is that I experience high levels of stress with my training and racing. Supernova type stress! On race day, I am usually one  panic attack away from needing a couple of Valium and a whole bottle of Kaopectate. I know it makes no sense, but I can rarely avoid the pre dawn hours pacing the house, making frequent trips to the Loo, always praying I’ll settle down. It doesn’t matter how well prepared I am, or how well my training has gone. Last Sunday was no exception.

I am a beginner Triathlete. Technically I might be an intermediate, but I don’t want to set any expectations. I’ve done four Sprint Triathlons, so far. Sunday, June 22nd was my fourth, to be exact. While they have all been fun and exciting, this one ended up being very special. I have been training all Winter and Spring, but these past few months have given me a wee bit of a challenge. Running isn’t smooth like it used to be. Cycling seems to have gotten harder too. My swim workouts in the pool have gone well, but I’ve only recently had the chance to get out in the river and do open water workouts. Have I mentioned my fear of cold open water? Plus, that shit’s COLD! And murky, and filled with floaty things, and gucky stuff on the bottom!

Don't let the smile fool you

Don’t let the smile fool you

All of these things don’t matter, however, when the calendar shows you signed up for a race. So, Sunday morning, I got up early, (Did I REALLY sleep at all?) ate my customary breakfast, and waited for the nerves to die down. On this day, I was to compete in the Clackamas Cove Triathlon. A short 10 minute drive down 99E and I was there.

It's important to overdress for a triathlon. It keeps you warm and calms the nerves.

It’s important to overdress for a triathlon. It keeps you warm and calms the nerves.

I love small races of any kind. They are usually pretty well organized and people are friendly and helpful. The Portland Triathlon Club sponsored this event and they did a fantastic job. I arrived with plenty of time to spare, set up my bike and transition area, and visited the rest rooms a half a dozen times.

I like to set my bike up as close to the exit as possible.

I like to set my bike up as close to the exit as possible.

Once set up, and with about forty five minutes to go, I drank my GenUcan chocolate protein shake, made with Coconut milk and a banana.

Come on, energy! Let's do this thing.

Come on, energy! Let’s do this thing.

The call went out for the athletes to make their way to the starting point of the swim, which was a five minute walk down the street, along a paved bike path, to the beach. I donned my wetsuit, grabbed my goggles, neoprene cap, and designated green bathing cap, took a good hit off my inhaler, and headed off. At the last minute, I decided to put on my swim booties instead of shoes, knowing that it might cause me to lose time in the first transition (T1), but did I mention the yuk factor of the river bottom? I was glad I had them.

The race started with waves, every thirty seconds or so. It went very quickly, and before I knew it, they called for the Old Bags to get in the water. I’m kidding about that of course, but really, when you are in the LAST age wave, what else would I call it?

The water was cold. I knew that. I was ready for it. According to the Oregon Water Scientist Center, the temperature in  the “Cove” section was around 63 degrees, but once you exit the spill into the Clackamas River, it droped to around 57 degrees. OK, that’s cold. Before my wave started, I did a few dives underwater to acclimate myself and see if I could  breathe with a relaxed rhythm.  It worked! Before I knew it, my 800m swim (Just under a half mile) had begun. I found myself in the middle of a pack, with people bumping me, kicking me, and swimming half up my legs, before I kicked THEM in an effort to tell them to “GET THE HELL OFF ME!” At one point I had someone in front of me going back and forth like she was trying to prevent me from passing her. This ticked me off, so I veered off to he left and gunned it.

Going through the “Spill” into the actual river was a shock. I knew it would be colder, but this hit me like a brick. Several people panicked here and couldn’t go on. After two or three seconds, I took it in stride and kicked up my pace. Now as I turned left  I could see the exit point. It got very shallow suddenly, and some people crawled along on their hands and knees. I knew that would slow me down, so I altered my stroke and flew through the shallows. I got to the exit rather quickly and ran up the ramp. My body was doing a bit of a slow motion run, which was hilarious, but given the fact that it was half frozen, I didn’t complain.

It was about a forty yard run to my bike, where I quickly removed my wetsuit attire, took another hit off my inhaler, put on my socks and bike shoes, sunglasses and helmet, grabbed my bike and ran for the exit., Once I mounted my bike, I held nothing back. It’s an interesting thing what happens to me on the bike. I am not sure who that woman is that inhabits my body, but I would never want to meet her in a dark alley. The ride was an out and back, with a total distance of twelve miles. No big deal…unless you are living it moment to moment. Trust me. No matter WHAT the distance, you feel every inch of it. I was fearless. I got up to twenty five mph on that freaking bike. I yelled, “ON YOUR LEFT” more times than I remember.  The psycho woman in my head screamed (silently of course) “YOU’RE MINE, ASSHOLE”,  as I dug deep and passed people.The sound of  my loud “grunting” alone must have scared the crap out of them.  I sailed into T2 and quickly grabbed my water bottle for the run.

3.1 miles seems like NOTHING. Unless you just sheared all the muscles in your legs riding your bike harder than you’ve ever ridden before. It’s actually pretty funny to see people hobble off the bike. I was no exception. My feet were completely numb. This has never happened before. I assumed they would eventually get feeling again, so I ran. And I ran. I ran close to my fasted 5k ever. It hurt. I passed people, and didn’t let anyone pass me. (except for one 15 year old boy). I finished with a sprint, and knew I had given my all.

Once I got my breathing back under control, I went over to get my results. It turned out it was my best triathlon, and I took second in my age group. I was thrilled beyond words.

   Nice Microbrew prize!

Nice Microbrew prize!

I hung around and cheered for the last of the athletes to finish and then went home to eat volumes of food and take a long nap. It was a great day. I hope to learn from this, and not be as stressed the next time. (One can hope, can’t she?)

Do you get nervous when you train or race? How do you calm yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for stopping by.

 

Heart of Rock and Roll

Attitude is everything. Don’t I know it? I had a BAD one going into the 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This was to be my third half marathon in five weeks and I was TIRED! Two weeks prior to this event was the Tacoma City Marathon. I ran that one with my daughter Dede, and had a lot of trouble on the hills. I pushed too hard early on and paid for it later in the race.

We had a tough race but finished happily, together

We had a tough race but finished happily, together

My body had some “bitch slapping” to do as payback no doubt, and I ended up getting very sick for the next two weeks. Full blown, in bed, sinus infection, aches, and exhaustion; you know the drill-pure YUK.

During this time I tried to fit in some recovery workouts. Yoga, stretching, easy spins on the bike, and a few shake out runs. Despite WANTING to feel like I was getting stronger, it was pure torture to even run 4 miles. I pretty much had a two week rest period. So, when it came time to ramp up to run another 13.1 mile race with 10,000+ other people, I was less than enthusiastic.

I was honored to have been asked to run for team Salvation Army, who sponsored my race entry. I was thrilled to be running for them, but I still was not feeling up to the task.

Salvation ArmyLat year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Portland had left a sour taste in my mouth. I paid way too much money, felt like a prisoner at the Expo, the live music along the race route was horrible, I ran injured, and had a slow, painful run. Perhaps I still harbored some resentment toward the whole RnR concept and this contributed to my bad attitude.

Going to the race Expo this year, I kept an open mind. Let me say this: it is easier to go through Customs in a foreign country than it is to get through the packet pick up at this event. Show ID. (translation: no group packet pick ups-EVERYONE has to show up in person to get their packet. AND, they don’t let you leave by the same way you enter, so you HAVE to go through the Expo to get out) I had to fill out a form telling them where I lived, how was I going to get to the race, did I own a car, how long I was staying in Portland, bla bla bla.I’m surprised they didn’t take blood samples.

The gear bag was this quazai-paper-kinda-like-a-reusable-grocery-sack kind of bag.

bagThe instructions were to use this as your gear check bag and they included a zip tie. Dear Rock ‘n’ Roll organization: this is Portland, Oregon and you are hosting this event in May. Do you know that it rains here in May? Do you know that a zip tie will not close a bag of this type? How do we ensure our checked items will stay dry and remain inside this stupid bag while it is thrown into a truck with 10,000 other bags? Oh brother!

To their credit, RnR put on a great Expo. I let go of my bad mood and fully immersed myself in the festivities, even laying down some cash for these bad boys:

glasses

Just wait until I wear these on my bike. BAD ASS!

Sunday morning arrived in typical Portland fashion; overcast, cool, and threatening to rain. I debate what to pack for weather protection and decided it was most important to pack warm dry clothes for AFTER the run, since I knew there were be a lot of standing around and socializing when we finished in all of our glory.

Thankfully, my friend, Suzanne was way more prepared than me and had some extra ponchos. This is how I looked just before the race.

Patty B's rainy startLiquid sunshine was in abundance that morning. Thank God it was warming up!

If you’ve ever run in one of these types of mega races, you know that you have to have a sense of humor and never expect to PR. You start running shoulder to shoulder with every skill type of runner and it takes a mile or two before you even have room to bob and weave around people. This day was no exception. Suzanne and I had planned to just run together until one of us decided to drop back or run ahead. There was no pressure to go fast or necessarily stay together. “Let’s just see what happens” was our motto. We stayed together for most of the race. Things went well for the first three miles or so and then this happened:

Train stop

What well run Portland race doesn’t include the obligatory train stop along Front Ave?

Train stop! You have to have a sense of humor when running in Portland! After this, I just had to laugh. We got going again rather quickly and decided to make a potty stop. I usually try not to stop during races unless it’s an emergency, but on this day, we ran for fun.

The music this year was a far cry better than last year, and my mood started to lift as I found my recently rested body feeling strong and loose. The hills on the course that wrecked my injured tendons last year were a breeze for me to conquer this year. I got into my rhythm and focused straight ahead. At one point I felt so good and checked in with my Garmin, to realize that, despite the train stop and potty stop, I was not too far off from possibly finishing close to my PR time. This set me off running at a faster pace and I was determined to finish as fast as I could. My spirits SOARED…right up until the traffic stop. Yep. Portland Police stopped us to allow traffic to cross the route. Twice. During a race. Seriously. I may or may not have cursed at a cop. I’ll never admit to anything.

After the last stop, I flew to the finish. My official time was five minutes slower than my PR, but with the FOUR stops along the route, I was thrilled with my performance. My IT band wasn’t so happy, but that’s a price I pay for negative splits.

Afterwards, I got to pose with some of my Honey Badger friends.

We are so silly. I love these women!

We are so silly. I love these women!

I also got to play with some of Portland’s Urban Goats!

Portland goat sceneThis turned out to be a fantastic race and a stellar day. I limped to the medical tent and got a massage, managed to walk the mile back to the car, and later met up with Amy, one of the girls I ran with, and had a foot soak and reflexology at Feel Good Feetfoot soak Later that evening, I rested my legs in bed with a good book and a great dog.

doggy loveSo, despite my bad attitude going into this race, I had a spectacular day. I spent it with friends, had a lot of laughs, played with goats, and ran for a wonderful organization. Now it’s time to  take a few weeks off from racing, keep training, and get ready for my first triathlon for the season in June.

Thanks for stopping by my blog again. Subscribe if you’d like to follow along.

Let’s all Take a Chill Pill

I am a news junky. I read several different news websites daily, and scan the comments at the bottom of most stories to see what peoples’ reactions are. Here’s mine: Holy Mother of God. What’s wrong with everyone? Seriously, I have about had it with all the verbal attacks, whining, name calling, and negativity out there. Yesterday I was driving and witnessed more than three different episodes of “road rage” within a half hour. Does anyone have any coping skills anymore?

What gives, people?

What gives, people?

Short and sweet:

Today I have decided to write a post that doesn’t have anything to do with  running or triathlon training. My blog is about how I navigate through my own challenges and how I am seeking to do positive things as life “throws stuff” in my way. Well, damned it, people are bombarding my world with crap and I’m sick of it.

Maybe it’s that government shut down that had everyone on edge. Maybe it’s the fat ass hypocrites we voted into office. Maybe it’s the change of seasons, the economy, the fact that you can’t get a decent cup of coffee for less than $3.10 anymore. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Stop treating people like garbage because your world isn’t perfect!

As I write this, I have just come from being with a friend that has cancer in just about every major organ of his body.Chemo has caused his hair to fall out, and his coloring is different every time I see him. Guess what? He was smiling  and making jokes. The only negative thing he said was that the Chemo or Radiation makes things sound  like he is in a wind tunnel, and his eye sight was weird. No complaints. No bitching. Just facts. He wasn’t angry. His smile was radiant.

So here are my questions: Is the world going to be a better place if you scream at someone? Is the person on the receiving end of your criticism deserving of your wrath? Do you need to step back and made the DECISION to be  positive?

Take a chill pill once in a while. At least switch to decaf.

 

Facing My Fear Part Two-Race Day!!!

 

Race Day, Montauk Might Many Sprint Triathlon

The alarm went off at 4:14am, not that I needed it, because I had been awake most of the night. I wondered if any other participants were as worked up as me.

Like most athletes, I have a specific morning routine that I follow, down to the smallest detail. I drink a cup of tea with honey, a toasted gluten free bagel with almond butter, jelly, and Chia seeds. I have to get up early enough for this to digest, so I can…ahem…leave a little of it at home, so to speak. With the race day jitters I am a frequent user of all-that-is “toilet”.

My race day equipment was packed. I had a bucket filled with towels, a plastic garbage bag, bike and running shoes, socks, extra water bottles, 2 swim caps, goggles, gloves, a jacket, bike helmet and glasses, inhaler, Vaseline, my phone, and God knows what else. It didn’t all fit in the bucket. I WAS going to put on my wetsuit at the house, since the starting line is just a half a mile away, but I opted against that…..I knew I would need frequent visits to the Blessed porta potties before starting. I arrived at 5:45am and the transition area was already about 75% full. The grass was wet on my flip flop clad feet and my sweat pant legs were getting damp. This pissed me off way more than it should have. (STRESS) I methodically set up my transition area, positioning everything I would need for the two changes. My helmet was perched upside down on my handlebars, with my glasses inside.  My wool socks were rolled down to the toes; my towel was ready, water bottle to wash my feet off was ready, and my bucket was turned upside down. Next to all of this were a jacket and my running shoes, and a small water bottle filled with an electrolyte drink for the run. Taped to my bike was a plastic bag with a small protein bar that I could shove  down at the start of the cycling. All that was left was for me to go to the bathroom six more times and put on my wetsuit.

Good morning athletes! Do you like my fake smile?

Good morning athletes! Do you like my fake smile?

Approximately thirty minutes before the scheduled start of the swim, I took a long pull or two on my inhaler and proceeded to encase myself in black rubber.

The time came for all athletes to move over to the shore line and assemble in our “waves”. I was in the 4th wave: females, 40 and older. We all had white swim caps. They assigned MY group of WHITE CAPS? BORING!!! Anyway, we lined up and nervously chatted.

White cap? Yes, but I think the purple adds a little fashion. Oh, and notice the look on my face!

White cap? Yes, but I think the purple adds a little fashion. Oh, and notice the look on my face!

One by one the waves of swimmers entered the water, for their “chest-deep” start. (I assume we didn’t do a beach-run start because they didn’t want people stomping on all of the snapping turtles.) As I  moved toward the water, I felt like a cow going to slaughter. The voices in my head laughed  and told me I was going to die. Then the shivering took over. As I moved further into the lake, I looked around and had what I can only describe as an out of body experience. The only thoughts I had were: 1) Oh my God, I am really going to do this, and 2) Oh my God, I wonder how many of these people around me are peeing in this water?

There was no time to worry about pee because the next thing I knew a gun went off and my wave started. SWIM PATTY! I took a few strokes and found myself playing a water version of Twister with four other swimmers. My goggles fogged up and I couldn’t see. All I could do was TRY to swim, which was impossible because a group of us were seemingly staying in one place, wrestling. This did not please me. I tried zig zagging, looking for a way out of the churn, and I realized I wasn’t breathing at all.  CALM DOWN! Since I couldn’t see out of my goggles, or stop shivering enough to get a good breath, I flipped over on my back and did some kind of messed up version of sculling. Embarrassed by this, I flipped back over and did some breaststroke. Then for some reason, I started side stroking. SIDESTROKING?!!! Who the HELL sidestrokes??? Oh, and I was barely 25 yards from the start! I  considered giving up right then and there. Yep. BUT I DIDN’T. I decided that no matter what, I was going to finish this God forsaken swim and get out of that lake. I never warmed up enough or calmed down enough to do more than ten to twenty crawl strokes at a time. I swam on my back a lot, inventing ways to move my body through the water. I breast stoked a TON, and did my best not to drink any of the lake’s blackish green water. I wondered: “WHERE THE HELL DID ALL MY TRAINING GO?”  I kept going. I stayed on my belly all the way into the shallow water, and jumped up when it was only two feet deep because I heard that is faster than trying to run through waist deep water.

This is how I WISH I felt after the swim....hahahahaha, silly girl.

This is how I WISH I felt after the swim….hahahahaha, silly girl.

I stumbled, exhausted, out of the swamp. As I gathered what remaining strength I had left, I unzipped my wetsuit and ripped my goggles off. I found that my entire face was covered in slime. I thought it was seaweed, until I realized it was coming out of my nose and mouth. I was a phlegm factory. It took several attempts before I was able to rid myself of that shit.

By the time I ran to my bike, the swim experience was completely behind me and I was READY! I had a little trouble getting my left leg out of the wetsuit because of the bulky timing chip on my ankle, and I started to panic. I stopped, took a calming breath,  and pulled my foot out. I put my glasses and helmet on, ripped open the bag with my snack in it, and shoved the protein bar in my mouth. Never underestimate how dry those things are! I was in the very back section of the transition area so I had to navigate around several people before I exited the area. I clipped right into my pedals, headed down the street, and spit out the protein bar, for fear of choking on the damned thing.

Something happened to me as soon as I got my feet spinning. I turned into a combination of Godzilla and Jim Carey in “The Mask”. I approached other cyclists with the screaming voice; “ON YOUR LEFT!”, “PASSING!”, “On YOUR LEFT!” Oh my God, I was actually embarrassed. (Well, not really) I was a mad woman throwing my head in the air and cackling!  “You’re MINE, I tell you!”

GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!

GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!

The course has a bad ass hill about a mile into the start, that sneaks up on you and never lets go.  My lungs were in my throat half way up. I crested the top and shifted into high gear. I usually brake a little on the downhill, but this time, I just let it go. WEEEEEEEEEE. (“Oh God, please don’t let me crash, please don’t let me crash”) The ride is an out and back and the usually fierce Montauk wind behaved on this day. I rode hard, although my legs were protesting the whole way. At one point I looked down at my computer and it read 30 MPH. WHAT? The last hill was a killer and I slowed down to 11 MPH for a portion.

This lady scares me!

This lady scares me!

Before I knew it I was back in the transition area and in short order, I changed into my running shoes and grabbed my water bottle. My feet took off faster than I thought possible, and for the first mile, I had no feeling in the front half of either of them. The course circles the lake and the views are stellar. Now that I was no longer IN the lake, I enjoyed its beauty. I got a little fatigued and in an effort to avoid an asthma attack, I took a few short walk breaks. I passed a lot of people on my run and finished with a sprint.

Coming down the home stretch

Coming down the home stretch

I put it all out there that morning. When I finished, I was heaving, and wheezing, and within about a minute after the finish, the tears arrived. Like I said in my previous post, they always do. There’s a mixture of: joy, exhaustion, wonder, elation, and accomplishment that I just can’t describe. I did it. I did well. I gave my all. I didn’t die. I didn’t shit myself.

2013-09-28 10.27.41

My bike shop buddies: Pierce and Lenny, and me, enjoying our age group awards!

To some, a Sprint Triathlon is like an easy walk in the park. They could do one in their sleep. For me? It was my biggest physical and mental accomplishment since I did my first marathon last year. But in many ways it was harder. I loved it. I hated it. I laughed and I cursed. I know I will do another one. Will I ever make it all the way to an Ironman? Oh boy…. time will tell. For now, I will enjoy this memory, and keep on training.

How Did it Come to This? (What am I doing picking up a new sport at my age?)

This past year and a half, I have transformed my normal “habit” of working out, into an all out “commitment”. I’ve had high’s and low’s, but for some obsessive reason, I continue to push myself and explore new ways to challenge my body to it’s limit. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have done so, to the degree that I didn’t recognize when the “No pain, no gain” issue got out of hand, and I found myself with some serious injuries. I hope I have learned from that. I honestly don’t know. (Insert crooked smile)

For the most part, the people in my life appear to support my new commitment, and applaud my efforts to be stronger, healthier, and more fit. But there have been a few sideways glances, raised eyebrows, and full on: “What the Hell are you killing yourself for?” questions aimed at my sweating, heaving, self.

Brutally hot runA particularly hot and difficult run in August

On the surface, all is moving ahead in what I assume is a normal progression. NOT that I have the patience for normal progression. I (of course) half expected after the past two and a half months of intensive training, that I should be able to complete an Ironman. So far, I am not exactly ready.

Case in point: Two weeks ago, I took the plunge (gotcha) and bought a wet suit so that I could start training in open water. Why, you might ask, would one need a wetsuit in August, just to go swimming? HAHAHHAHAHAHA, well, the sad truth is that in Oregon, believe it or not, our mountain fed rivers never really warm up. (And don’t even get me started with the temperatures of the Pacific Ocean! ) So there I was in  The Athlete’s Lounge, stuck in a dressing room trying on wetsuits. Nobody had ever told me that this experience is like trying to put a Champagne cork back into a bottle. Seriously! I was making loud grunting noises. I was falling over, hitting the wall, breathing hard, and sweating like a pig, and it sounded like a porno movie was being filmed! At one point, I seriously considered giving up the sport of swimming, just to avoid having to try these sausage casings on! I got stuck in the legs twice and had to sit down just to catch my breath. That’s when I took this very flattering selfie:

My God, I need my inhaler and a shower!

My God, I need my inhaler and a shower!

I am sure the people that work there have to endure months of training so they can learn NOT to laugh, roll their eyes, and generally ignore all the newbies like me that come in all pumped up and “green” announcing to everyone that they “ARE TRAINING FOR A TRIATHLON.” Oh brother.

After an exhaustive session of profuse sweating, I finally bought the damned suit. The way my mind works is this: if I spend more money than I currently have laying around the floor, doing nothing, than I have to justify it big time to myself. I made promises in the car that day that no mortal human being could ever expect to keep! I guess I’m a cheep skate with my money and like many women my age, I don’t think I deserve to spend money on myself. (I’m working on that)

So back to my new sport-the Triathlon. It seems that if you really want to call yourself a triathlete, you HAVE to compete in open water. While that doesn’t sound so bad, consider how many times you have had the opportunity to really swim in open water. How about training? Year round? Nah! Pools are great for drills and off season, but in some areas, the minute the ice melts……Polar Bear Plunge

The time had come for me to get it done. There is a group swimmers that do an open water swim in the Clackamas River, about 4 miles from my house, every Wednesday evening. I had my newly purchased wetsuit and warm summer temperatures, so I had no excuse not to join them and see how I would do. I was a tad bit overwhelmed!

It looks a lot more daunting when you have to swim in it.

It looks a lot more daunting when you have to swim in it.

There are minutely visible buoys in the upper right corner of this photo. The first leg, you swim to an orange buoy. It is not visible to my naked eye when I am standing on the shore,  securely crammed into my neoprene second skin. Time to  get ‘er done. The first time, I wasn’t prepared for the panic. The claustrophobia. The: “Oh MY GOD, I can’t even see my hands underwater-it’s so murky.” sensation. Then there was the: “Shit!, people drown in this river all the time and what if a bloated body surfaces and bumps into me?” random thought. Suffice it to say, I survived. A little shaken, but I did it. I pretty much hyperventilated the entire 1000 yards, but I didn’t embarrass myself, or drown.

I went back a second time and it was much better. The third time, I was actually kind of cocky…..for about a minute. This time, I had already done a workout in the morning that consisted of a 20 mile bike ride and a 1 mile run. By the time 6:00pm came around, I was beat. But I went anyway, because it was Wednesday night, and I am a “triathlete!” It was a tough night. I was fatigued and sore from the workouts I had done this week, and I took a few breaks. I swam breaststroke for a while, floated on my back, cursed a little. (I enjoyed that part) BUT, I finished the swim! I didn’t panic or cry, which is a good thing.

As I cooled down with my new friends, I realized that a few months ago, there would have been  no way I could have, or would have done this. But, today, I walk tall and proud. Tomorrow, I might not get out of bed, but that’s irrelevant. I wondered how it came to this and I decided it doesn’t matter. It came. I’m conquering. That’s it. Oh, yeah, and let me tell you. There is NOTHING like the badass feeling I have when I am strutting back to my car in my wetsuit!

Oh, who's that bad ass chick in the wetsuit?

Oh, who’s that bad ass chick in the wetsuit?

So, how did it come to this? I have no idea and I don’t care. I’m just taking this journey one step, cycle, and stroke at a time. What new adventure are you trying? What would you like to try? Share your story. Thanks for visiting, and please subscribe to my blog.

 

 

Quit Whining and Make a Decision

I sure hate when it feels like I am beating my head against a wall and nothing is going anywhere. I had a run last week that ended halfway through my planned time, because of painful unplanned blisters. Talk about frustrating! Just then, I looked up and saw this:

Talk about hitting the wall!

Talk about hitting the wall!

So here’s the deal. Some days the obvious is staring you in the eyeballs or slamming you in the head, like a wine hangover. It’s right there. Relentlessly knock knock knocking, until you want to run to a hilltop and scream: “OK, I GET IT! NOW LEAVE ME ALONE.”

I had one of those “aha” moments this morning, while talking to one of my coaches. I have coaches for just about everything I do. Sometimes I actually listen to them. (Although I would venture to say, they wouldn’t always agree with that) Just in case you are curious, here is my list of coaches:

Marathon Running coach, Triathlon coach, Business coach, Voice coach, Acting coach.

Depending on my level of participation in all of the above,  my commitment level varies, as does the frequency of meetings, calls, and evaluations with these very patient people. This morning I had a call with my business coach, who I speak with every two weeks. (Cringing with the knowledge that I might not have done the work he assigned to me during the previous call) This morning’s call went something like this:

Coach: “So, tell me what’s going on in your business. How many calls, notes, and client visits have you done?”

Me: “Oh, I meant to, but,  bla bla bla bla…”(Sweat drops forming on upper lip)

Coach: “Patty, RIGHT NOW, tell me what is stopping you from doing… A, B, C?”

Me: “I’m afraid.”

Coach: “Afraid of what?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Herein lies the problem. We talked about the fear of failure, of success, of everything in between, and then he helped me come to the conclusion that the reason I am meeting less that 100% of my yearly goals is because I lack confidence. (Do you have this fear? Do you ever admit it to yourself?) It’s certainly not something I advertise, but it is something I know, deep down inside, and carry around shamefully.

On the outside, most athletes and competitive people exude confidence, bravado, and grit. Inside, however, at least SOME of the time, we are not feeling that at all. It’s kind of like my Chihuahua: all tough and “in charge”, until you get too close.

Hi world. I might bark at anything that moves, but when it moves back????

Hi world. I might bark at anything that moves, but when it moves back????

We talked about roadblocks to success and it all boiled down to the ability to make decisions. Lack of confidence hinders that ability. Confident people make decisions faster, and without fear. Think about it. The next time you think of some goal you would love to achieve, how will you respond? Will you commit immediately and set the wheels in motion to go get it? OR will you hem and haw about how there’s not enough time, it’s too big of a goal, or maybe you will think you are not ready, good enough, strong enough? Here is another excerp from my coaching conversation:

Coach: “Patty, when I tell you to act now on your goal, what does that mean to you?”

Me: “Well, I guess it means to start today.”

Coach: “Ok, write down this definition of NOW.”

Me: “ok.”

Coach: ” NOW means EFFING NOW!”

OK, I got it. (Knock knock knocking) He’s right, of course. It is so obvious.

When I decided to run my first marathon, I immediately called a coach and got a plan. When I saw some issues with my improvement after coming back from a sports injury, I got a Triathlon coach. I have all these coaches, but I am the one that has to make the decisions and take the action necessary that will assure I will reach my goals.

So, here, now, today, I am pressing the REGISTER button on the MightyMan Montauk Sprint Distance Triathlon. This will be my second sprint tri, but my first open water experience. My competitive nature wants me to do the Olympic Distance, but I am taking the safe route and seeing how I do in open water. (There’s that confidence thing again.)

Oh, and coach Billy, in case you read this, I have scheduled a lender lunch and am writing an offer today. I heard you. Thanks for being my supporter and “hit me over the head as many times as you need to-er”.

So my advice today is to make decisions, learn from them, and do something to move yourself forward this day, NOW. Think of the rewards.

Are you a good decision maker? Have you jumped into a huge goal that brought you to a stellar achievement. I’d love to hear your story.

Keeping My Sense of Humor and Learning Something

No Pain, No Gain? Whatever! Sure, working out consistently is hard, makes me sweat, stink, moan, and curse, but it also makes me laugh my head off. Ever since I made the conscious decision that I was going to become a legitimate athlete, I have learned to wallow in the fact that I  have a very sick and silly sense of humor. Sometimes (well, more than sometimes, actually) it is very ill timed and inappropriate, too. Hey, if you can’t learn to laugh, you’re doomed.

Recently I had a terrible bike accident. While this wasn’t funny at the time, I found it to be both fascinating and humorous later on. And because of it, I learned a valuable and useful lesson!

After the pot hole, the skid

After the pot hole, the skid

Two weeks after this happened, I rode back to the exact spot to do some forensics. I was actually proud that my skid mark was still there! I even was able to see the trail I took that lead to my flop over the embankment. EPIC!!! Of course I took several photos because I am a sicko.

My trail to the crashYou can kind of see my tire tracks as they lead to the abyss. I wish I had a video of my going over that cliff-it would have been hysterical. (Except for the Stinging Nettle part) I’m certain that I looked like a rag doll flopping through the air. No “tuck and roll” for me-I was flat out flying and landed in a splat; upside down and tangled.

Two weeks later, I returned to the same bike path to test my nerve and re trace my ride. As part of this memorial training ride, I added additional miles and stopped at the Information Center at Stub Stewart State Park. I learned that if you get Stinging Nettles in you, you can use the underside of a common fern to ease the pain. Who knew? (Apparently the Ranger knew)

Brush the brown leave-underside of the fern on the pain.

Brush the brown leave-underside of the fern on the pain.

I have decided to add fern leaves to my fuel belt-just in case. I suppose if I wrapped myself in them, I could have something to cushion my fall the next time, too. It was too coincidental that the Park Ranger was talking to someone about this just as we rode up to the Center. HMMM, maybe it’s a common problem in these here parts.

I learned another thing that that day that I probably already knew.  Working out makes me STINK. I mean, really! Sure, it was a warm day and I rode 22 miles at a Tour de France pace and all, but I shutter to think what is going on inside my body to produce such vile stank! I remember when I was a newbie runner four years ago. Sometimes I actually showered before going to training runs and races. HA! Now, I see the idiocy in that. Maybe it’s the Dry Fit clothing? Could it be the Tapitio Doritos that I am having an affair with? The hummus I consume by the barge full? Who knows? Who cares, it’s funny! (Oh don’t turn your nose up, you stink too) Thank God most of my workouts involve the outdoors and fresh air or I would have no friends.

I actually Googled this and found out that sweat doesn’t really stink! It’s the bacteria that bacteria that feeds on your sweat that causes the stink. Or so the experts say. I may have to start re-evaluating my diet. Naaa.

Today on a run, I learned that the shoes I have been experimenting with are not going to make the cut. Recurring blisters suck big time. This is not funny. I have spent 5 months looking for the perfect running shoe that will work for my Shrek feet. If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs, you can learn about my darling feet. Fat, gnarly feet. Athletic shoe companies do not use feet like mine for their fit models, trust me. I have run my way through four different brands this year and am pretty sure I have found the one shoe that will be my favorite. I just need a little more time with them before I tell you about it.

Do you have challenges with athletic wear? What have you learned during your training sessions? I’d love to hear what you have overcome. It inspires me. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

Saved by a Bicycle Helmet

Life is precious. How many times have we heard this before? As cliché as it may sound, it is true. Just ask anyone that has experienced a close call, and they will echo this sentiment. My recent brush with death, (or at least with a world class maiming) happened on July 5, 2013.

Like many people, when the 4th of July Holiday weekend rolled around, I sought the solitude of a good vacation spot, to get away from the rigors of my daily routine. For me, there was no doubt but to head to our “cabin” on the Nehalem River, in Vernonia, Oregon. The weather  promised to be warm, sunny, and beautiful, so we packed our trusted 4 legged companions in the truck (along with everything else we could fit) and headed out to paradise.

Lizzy looks like a ghost here

Lizzy looks like a ghost here

Mid morning on July 5th, Tony and I headed out for a nice training ride on our bicycles, along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. This is a beautiful 21 mile paved bike path with 13 wooden bridges, lots of hills, trees, streams, and glorious scenery. We warmed up and started riding strong as we approached the planned turn-around point at Hill Top. For the next three or so miles, we flew along at a steady 20 mph pace, having the time of our lives. By now we were 9 miles into our ride, and COOKING! I had just moved into the lead position a mile back, and was in the zone. I’d never ridden this fast for any sustained period before. Well, things changed in a heartbeat. (And could have ended there)

I hit a hole in the asphalt that I didn’t see because we were in a shady area, and I think it was covered with a thin film of moss. My front wheel exploded to the right, and the bike started zig zagging back and forth at an alarming and uncontrollable pace. I quickly realized that there was no way I could regain control and I knew I was going down. I knew that if I went down on this asphalt, there most certainly would NOT be a good outcome. I do not like pain. I especially do not like when my bones are sticking out of my flesh. I took immediate evasive action!

Berry bushes, Nettles, and fallen branches make a nice bed.

Berry bushes, Nettles, and fallen branches make a nice bed.

I managed to steer the momentum of my bike toward the outside of the path and onto the softer shoulder, so that when I fell, I would be on a more appealing surface. What I didn’t realize, however, was that the surface contained plants that were covered in thorns, nettles, and every prickly thing you could imagine. PLUS, the thick growth hid the fact that there was a cliff and a ravine under those vines! Like a rag doll, I flew off my bike, into the foliage, and over the ravine. As I was tumbling, hitting my head, and more or less waiting for whatever the outcome was, I heard (aside from my own cursing) a skid, crash, thump, and load moan from my husband. What the HELL???? Why did HE fall?

Upon hearing his crash, I jumped up to get to him and see if he was alright. Of course, I forgot that I had just careened head first over a cliff and had to stop myself for a few seconds and let the dizziness subside. Plus, I had to take stock and make sure all my bones were still encased safely inside my skin. Thankfully, they were. The prickers and thistles had their way with me though.

OUCH, talk about painful. Look at all the swollen bumps and scratches!

OUCH, talk about painful. Look at all the swollen bumps and scratches!

I climbed up the hill and onto the bike path and ran to Tony, who was still laying on the side of the path. Not moving. Still. Immobile. I asked him if he was ok, and he said he didn’t know yet, but still wasn’t moving. Finally I saw him move his arms and legs and I knew at least he wasn’t paralyzed! At this point, I started running around in circles. This is what I do when I am on the verge of panic. “What can I do for you?” “Can you move your legs?” “Can you speak?” “Can you talk?” “Do you want me to call an ambulance?” I am sure if he had his wits about him, he would have told me to SHUT UP A MINUTE!

I ran back to my bike, and retrieved my phone, just in case I needed to call 9-11. As I ran back to him, I had this (rediculous) thought that I should take his picture in case I needed it for evidence or insurance…..huh? Really??? I know this makes no sense, but I did just fly off my bike and hit my head, so I am not judging my actions in any way. Her’s what he looked like:

He landed more than 12 feet from his downed bike and rolled off the asphalt

He landed more than 12 feet from his downed bike and rolled off the asphalt

For what seemed like an eternity, he laid there, waiting for his body to tell him it was ok to get up, and I helped him take off his helmet and sit up. We both sat there and took stock of our injuries. We were both bleeding and dazed, but overall, we could stand up, walk, and pretty much function. I was amazed. I ran back and got my bike out of the bushes and saw that, other than a broken front brake, it seemed to be rideable. His was too. Since we were still four miles from our cabin, and we couldn’t spend the rest of the weekend on the bike path, we decided to ride back. It was not the most comfortable ride, to say the least.

Once we got back, we both showered and that’s when Tony said he needed to go to the hospital. It is a 40 minute drive to the nearest Urgent Care facility, and after waiting there for an hour, we got in to see a doctor. He started examining Tony and decided that he needed to go to the Emergency Room at the FULL hospital down the freeway. SO, we packed up our aching bodies and headed out. AGAIN.

Five hours later, after X Rays and exams, we left, armed with prescriptions for Valium and Oxycodone, and a bottle of Lidocane. Diagnosis: concussions, and a cracked clavicle (Tony). I had the remnants of all those nettles in my, so for about 9 hours, I had the sensation of fire ants crawling all over me and biting me. FIRE! The whole day seemed surreal to me.

The meds helped us sleep (Oh boy, did they!), and the next day, we both felt a lot better. Then I looked at our helmets.

Glad I was wearing this!

Tony's cracked in two places.

Tony’s cracked in two places.

Suffice it to say, we were both very happy to be alive, recovering, and saved by our helmets. We spent a lot of time over the next few days recounting what had happened, and how “lucky” we were that things didn’t end up differently. In a heartbeat things can change. We still don’t quite know how we managed to walk away so unharmed! All I can tell you is that if you ever go for a bike ride. Wear your helmet!

Emotional Workouts

To describe the events of the past few weeks would require many hours and countless visits to the online Thesaurus. I don’t recall a time when so many things happened in such a short period. The good, the bad, and the BEST! Through it all, I managed to stay alive, although my composure suffered a bit.

To spill the beans on the source of all the excitement….MY DAUGHTER GOT MARRIED! This was a good thing, no, A GREAT THING! I couldn’t be happier.

Best kiss eva

Best kiss eva

To celebrate the event, my entire clan drove or flew into Portland from 7 different states. This is the first time we have all been together-all at the same time in 17 years.DSC_0465We are a damned good looking family, if I do say so myself. The wedding went off without a hitch, which was a giant relief. We all had so much fun, and the party afterwards was memorable, to say the least. With all the dancing, my feet hurt for days.

The weeks leading up to the wedding were full of emotion, activity, details, and all sorts of stressful moments. I wouldn’t have changed a thing, though, except for the gallons of my shed tears. I often wondered how Mother’s of the Brides survived the ceremonies without large doses of prescription medications. I opted against that plan, although I did stock up on “mother’s little helpers” just in case. I chose to let my workouts do my therapy. Let the good times roll, baby. There’s nothing like a grown woman, sobbing while running her zone 2 work out. Yep, it happened.

One week before the wedding, I was completely out of my mind. I thought I was keeping a level head about the whole thing, but I still had to make my daughter’s veil, print the programs and seating cards, organize the balloon decoration delivery, fill 140 bags with candy, fix the hem on MY dress, make all of the flower centerpieces, AND the 7 bridal bouquets. All of this while working 10-12 hour days, and trying to fit in my workouts. Did I also mention that my large family started to arrive? Bodies in every bedroom? Washer and dryer running around the clock? Family members ages 4-80 crawling all over my house? Woohoo, Calgon, take me away.

I had one particularly difficult run that pretty much turned into my emotional breakdown of the century. I was out for a 1 hour run, in a zone 2 heart rate, with surges every 20 minutes. The first 20 minutes went fine. The next 10 were horrible, and by 35 minutes, I found myself on the bike path near my house, in full out sobbing mode. We’re talking hiccups and everything. there was no stopping me.

Oh yeah, full on, snot bubbling, choking tears

Oh yeah, full on, snot bubbling, choking tears

I didn’t even care what I looked like. People started swerving around me-it was that bad. This lasted until around 40 minutes, and by 45 minutes, I had given up all hope of running, and walked the last mile or so home. I repeated this one other time that week, much to my disgrace and embarrassment. I survived that day, and enlisted the help of my numerous sisters to lighten the load and get things done. Thank God for sisters…and mothers. My mom was always there asking what she could do to help. My family is amazing.

This week, I can feel the stress moving further away from me, as the wedding is over, the bride and groom are happy, and everyone traveled safely back to their respective homes. I did take 3 days off from my grueling work out schedule, but I am back now, abusing my body with Kettlebell, swim, run, and bike workouts. Today was a particularly hard run, but once it was over, I celebrated my success with a trip to the farmer’s market. Fresh Raspberries will always make you feel happy to be alive.

There are so many more things to write about regarding this wedding and the visit from my family, but right now, I am still basking in the utmost satisfaction of all the love that filled my house last week. That kind of love is  meant to be swallowed up and hugged tight. The memories are many, the tears still come, but they are tears of the overabundance of gratitude and unconditional love for a very large group of eccentric, silly, and wonderful people.A big THANKS to my mom and dad for having all of us!