When All Else Fails, a Good Attitude Will See You Through

What an interesting weekend. Several days ago, I was basking in the afterglow of seeing several of my “team mates” conquer an assortment of races across the country. I got  caught up in their victories, trials, struggles, and achievements, and found myself desperately seeking the adrenaline high’s they were experiencing. What can I say, I’m a lemming.

I went online and found a Triathlon nearby in Eugene, Oregon. This race offered a Sprint distance with a 700m open water swim, 14 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. I have been training in open water for the past few weeks and thought it might be a good idea to do this one for a trial run, in preparation for my Sprint Tri in Montauk, New York in September. I immediately signed up and booked a hotel room for the night before. I sent a Facebook message to my coach telling him that I put a Sprint Tri on my calendar for the following Sunday, and his response was: “Ugh”. Hmm, this concerned me. He doesn’t like when I throw things at him that are not in our plan. After three months working with me, I thought he would be used to this by now.

So, good coach that he is, he adjusted my workouts and we both pushed on. I was feeling in good spirits until a few days before the race when I received the email that said:

“The swim segment of Triathlon Eugene has been cancelled. The race will convert to a run-bike-run configuration. Working Friday afternoon with the Oregon Health Authority and Lane County Parks, and after reviewing data compiled during the week, Pacific Sports has made the decision that it is in the best interests of the participants to eliminate the swim portion of the course. We will be announcing the final details and course by Saturday afternoon once we have an opportunity to establish the course and coordinate with the timing company. The Olympic distance first-segment run is 5K and the Sprint distance is 2.5K.”


While I am very happy that Pacific Sports decided that exposing participants to God knows what kind of algae, I was, nevertheless, disappointed. The event website was very clear from the beginning: There would be no refunds or transfer of registration, under any circumstance. Well, this was just great. Here I was, preparing for and stressing out for an event that wasn’t going to be the “real deal”. I was signed up to drive two hours,  spend money on a hotel room, and participate in a triathlon that wasn’t a triathlon, and there was nothing I could do to get my money back. Being the “adventurer” that I am, I decided to go through with it.

The packet pick up was at a CrossFit club in Eugene. While I don’t do CrossFit per se, nor do I have any objection to it, I do have one question: Do they purposefully make these clubs filthy and disgusting? I wanted to get a Tetanus shot after spending 20 minutes in the place. Whatever. Be tough, be a bad-ass, but at least make it sanitary.

While at the pick up, I stood for 10 minutes before anyone helped me, and there was only one other athlete there signing in. I was tired from my drive, so I didn’t speak up, I just kept smiling at the volunteers and hoping they would help me. (Totally disorganized) I managed to get my bib and bag, and was temporarily perplexed when they asked me what color swim cap I wanted. I laughed and said, “Oh, I’ll take the purple one, even though it’s not really a Tri anymore.” The volunteer looked at me and said, “Yes it is. You’re doing three legs.” Oh my! With a chuckle, I went back to my car and headed to my hotel.

I arrived at the Red Lion, (and I must admit, my attitude was less than perky) to find the  Hotel Display sign as follows:

Do we really want the stoned out people of Eugene, Or carrying?

Do we really want the stoned out people of Eugene, Or carrying?

My hotel room was actually pretty good and I felt great settling in. I drove out to the triathlon location to do a little trial run and ride, just to get familiar with the place, and ended up pretty much getting lost. The event website wasn’t exactly clear on the location of the start! I drove to three different parking lots before I found the right one. My nerves were starting to get to me, but I ended up having a nice little run and trial ride for about a half hour. The streets were wide, and the hills seemed to be manageable. All was good in my world.

Before the start

Look how confident and happy I am in my new short haircut!

The next morning, I got to the start early enough that I secured a great parking space, got checked in, and had time for several bathroom trips and about 1/2 hour of a warm up. I wasn’t too keen on doing the 1.5 ish mile first leg, in lieu of the swim, but I had no choice.

When the starting horn went off, I ran like crazy. I was determined to get this first segment over with as soon as possible. I am NOT a fast runner and I am certainly not a sprinter, but I knew this race was going to be set up during this first segment. I ran 8:18 minute miles for the 1.5k, which was pretty good for me, and hopped on the bike to do my 14 miles. I was NOT prepared for the hills! Holy MOTHER, they were tough! I said more than a few bad words in the first half of the bike ride, wondering why in God’s name I chose to do this, until I finally got a hold of my nerves and just RODE LIKE HELL! Several elite type cyclists passed me as well as some “regular” people, and each time, we shouted encouragements to each other. That was pretty cool.  The scenery was gorgeous and the volunteers were fantastic. Just about the time I was heading back into the transition area, it started to rain slightly.

I bounded off my bike, determined to finish strong and sprinted out for the 5k run. My legs were numb and my lungs were heaving by this time, but I managed to keep up a good pace. About halfway through my run, the skies opened up and it just poured. I thoroughly enjoyed the rain, until it was coming down so hard that it was streaming down my face. Thankfully, it was a warm day. When I saw the finish line, I tried to give it more gas, but realized I was already at capacity. I finished strong and with a huge smile on my face. I also let out a few loud “WOOHOO’s” and “YEAH!’s”.

Can you see that rain???

Can you see that rain???

By now, the rain was coming down in sheets. It was ridiculous! I quickly changed into my dry clothes and full rain gear and went back to check on the results and cheer on the other finishers. To my complete shock, I found out I had gotten 2nd in my age group and 12th overall female finisher. SERIOUSLY? WOW, I was stoked!

2nd place AG

OK, I admit it. I took off my rain gear to pose for this one.

Shortly after this photo was taken the shivering commenced and I decided to go back to the hotel and take a hot shower. I had a 2 hour drive to make and I was pretty beat.

This event turned out to be a fun time, despite all the weird twists and turns leading up to it. Would I do it again? No. Not this one. I’d prefer a more organized event. I hope my next one is better run and there’s no algae to ruin the swim. We shall see….in about 3 weeks. Stay tuned.

Have you done a triathlon? Ever thought of one?

I Tried a Tri

It’s a funny thing when you accidentally venture into uncharted “waters”. Last December, when I was diagnosed with 2 torn tendons, a torn muscle, and a few other torn things that I can’t pronounce, I anxiously awaited my first Physical Therapy appointment. I was told to immediately stop running, and in fact, “Don’t walk any further than you have to.”

Once PT started, I was both devastated at the fact that I was done running for several weeks, and elated that I could at least bike and swim. Thankfully, I could “feed the beast” that was my need to exercise! I rushed off to find an indoor pool that had a temperature I could endure. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to being cold, so there was no way I was going back to my old 24 Hour Fitness Club. THAT water was frigid!

UntitledI found a pool that had nice warm water, and started working out once or twice a week. Boy, it felt good to swim again after so many years. I also go t my bike out of the garage and figured out how to ride it after several mishaps. Being January and all, I would have to say that the first several weeks of riding was a bit of a challenge.

January bike attire in Oregon for the "Non-cyclist"

January bike attire in Oregon for the “Non-cyclist” Yes, those are snow pants and boots.

Oh yeah, now, THIS is a fashion statement. I rode 19 miles round trip to a Pt appointment in the freezing rain. I was smart enough to bring a change of clothes for the ride home.

Oh yeah, now, THIS is a fashion statement. I rode 19 miles round trip to a Pt appointment in the freezing rain. I was smart enough to bring a change of clothes for the ride home.

Let’s just say that I was desperate enough to do anything that would get my blood pumping, and since running was out of the question, I got out and did what I could do! A few weeks into this cross training, I had a crazy thought and started researching Triathlons. What the Hell? As of one year earlier, I hadn’t run more than around 6 miles at a time, and by now, I had 2 marathons, and numerous 10K’s and half marathons under my belt. Why not a tri?

I searched online and found a Sprint Triathlon in McMinnville, Or. This event was on June 1st, so I had almost 5 months to train for it. I signed up immediately, without a second thought. Off I went to the Sporting Goods Store to find a legit swim suit, and managed to buy one that I didn’t hate. (Have you ever tried those swim suits on? They are tight, short, and torturous)

My tri training went well for a few weeks, until I was able to start running again, Then the obsessed runner emerged and swimming and biking went out the window for about 2 months. I dove (hehehe) headfirst back into running and ended up completing 4 half marathons in 6 weeks. This was not the smartest thing I have ever done, because by the last one, I was barely able to walk the last few miles, due to the recurring injury I had exacerbated. Stupid over training again. Oh, when will I learn?

Fast forward to the weekend of the tri. I had studied up on the methodology of preparation. I had researched all the things I needed to bring, prepare, have on hand, and I packed my transition bags so that I would look like a pro! Well, not really. I had plastic grocery bags and a large “pine scented” kitchen garbage bag holding all of my transition items. HEY, at least MY area didn’t stink! The only thing I didn’t prepare for was getting sick. I caught a nasty cold 6 days before the event, and was pretty much in denial the whole week.

When I woke up on the morning of my inaugural triathlon, I had a sinus headache and was coughing up thick green crap. (Sorry). For several moments, I sat in my hotel room and contemplated driving home. BUT, I rallied and thought, “What the Hell.” Off I went.

Fortunately, the parking was easy and there were only about 200 athletes in this whole event. The facility was fantastic, and I never even had to wait in a bathroom line! It was raining when I arrived, so I was glad I had the handy plastic bags to lay out by my bike in the corral.I met some great people while waiting for my heat and the friendly conversation kept my nerves at bay. I had this picture taken about an hour before the race began.2013-06-01 08.19.04When I got in the pool at 9:35am for my start, I was in a lane with 3 guys. The rules say that if you want to pass a swimmer, you are supposed to tap them on the foot and they they should wait at the end of the lane so you can pass. We started our swim and warmed up in the first 100 or so yards. Once we found our own rhythm  our paces started to differ. Someone tapped my foot, so I waited and let him pass. Then I tapped the foot of the slug that was in front of me and he must not have wanted the only chick in the lane to pass him because he never did stop and allow me to pass. There was no way to pass him while swimming because there were people coming the other way, so I just hung back and followed him. I nearly drowned from having to swim so slowly. There were moments when I fantasized about grabbing his legs and pulling him under, but I kept my cool. I started stopping in the shallow end and waiting until he got a ways down the lane, just so I could get a few legitimate strokes in. LESSON: If you are going to enter an event where you are asked to estimate your swim time, PLEASE make sure you actually KNOW that time, and put yourself in the appropriate lane! 11:56 had passed by the time I got out of the pool.

The transition to the bike went pretty smoothly, once I got my socks and shoes on. Off I went for the supposedly flat out and back. The “OUT” was mostly flat and downhill, and some of the hills were long and more steep than the description read, so I was not looking forward tot he ride back. I threw all caution to the wind and just barreled through the ride. I ended up averaging almost 17 mph, which is faster than I had ever trained. I felt strong and unbeatable! A few times the voices in my head told me to slow down, because I was going to burn out my legs for the run, but I kept screaming back at those voices, “Who cares, I can walk the 5K! I’m on FIRE here!!!”

Back at the corral, I slapped my bike back into place, and tore out to do the run. This part was tough now, because my throat was closing and my lungs finally felt the morning’s effort. “It’s only 3.1 miles Patty. You can do this in your sleep.” I kept giving myself pep talks all the way. I knew there was water at the turn around, and in my haste, I had forgotten to grab the hand held water bottle I had packed. This was not good. I managed to keep a steady pace all the way through the run and finished strong, despite the fact that I now felt like I needed a hospital, or at least an oxygen mask. I had these two pictures taken just after I finished.

Feeling strong and so elated that I did this.

Feeling strong and so elated that I did this.

2013-06-01 11.07.37

Never miss the chance to “Badger up” at a race.

I had to hurry up and leave right after the race because of another commitment, so I didn’t stick around for the fun festivities. The next morning, I got an email with the results, and to my all time shock and awe, I had taken first place in my division! I can’t wait for my medal.

I will definitely do another triathlon. Next time I hope to be healthy, so I can see what this old body is really capable of! Go ahead and sign yourself up for one of these. Woot woot, it is a blast!


Have a Heart (But Don’t Take Mine)

On Valentine’s Day, hearts are everywhere. Chocolate mostly, although I did actually see a bacon heart this morning on Facebook. For the record, I think bacon smells good, but I would never eat it.

THIS is more like it.

The-heart-sign-dogSpeaking of hearts, I had an interesting thing happen to mine this week. It’s funny how, when you are in your 50’s, you start thinking about keeping yourself on this planet a little longer, and paying attention to “little things”. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I never thought about stuff like blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, and all those boring things old people talked about.

This past weekend, I was laying in bed and felt a strange sensation in my chest, like there was a fish flopping around in there. It lasted a few seconds and then stopped. A few minutes later, it happened again. Being the dutiful Catholic that I am, I said an Our Father, and an Act of Contrition, just in case I didn’t wake up in the morning. I didn’t really think I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. As it turned out, I did wake up, went about my day, and that was that. Until it happened two more times. Then once again, while watching TV the next night, that flounder was back in there, flopping around. I mentioned it to my husband, who, glued to the TV as usual, grunted something and held his blank stare at the flat screen. Deciding that I needed something to drink, I got up and wooohooo, the dizziness hit and I floated across the floor, like a drunk, all the while, watching the little stars blinking, and the blackness closing in. I managed not to pass out, and continued my evening of TV watching.

Just before bed, the old lady in me-the one that has turned into a hypochondriac, decided to email the doctor, just ‘cuz. I managed to wake up alive the next morning and received a call from the Dr’s office, telling me to come in today. Ho Hum. OK, sure, fine.

Fast forward to the appointment. My regular doctor was off that day, so I had the “pleasure” of seeing a first year intern. No offense to this guy but really? What, are you 12?

Doogie had the technician take my vitals sitting, standing, and laying down….three times. They did an EKG, and low and behold, aside from a First degree AV Block, which I already knew about from a previous EKG, there was nothing unusual or concerning.  The doctor asked me if there had been any changes to my life recently that might be a contributing factor to these episodes. Normally at this stage of an exam, with my regular fantastic doctor, I would have had a chance to discuss what is going on in my life, the stress issues, my injury that has prevented me from running for 9 weeks, female issues, daughter getting married stress, how my big toe hurts, the migraine I had last week; you know-normal stuff. But this guy didn’t want to hear any of it. For some reason he decided he wanted to focus on how much I drink and what kind of drugs I take. I told him that I regularly enjoy a glass of wine at night and that can mean anywhere between 1 to 3 glasses, but that several weeks ago, after the holidays were over and I was taking hold of my senses again, I had curtailed my alcohol intake by about 80%. He then said that “Sometimes in people with such excessive alcohol consumption, withdrawal can cause these symtoms. I looked at him like he had three heads. Then he asked me what type of stimulants I was taking. This is when I started getting pissed. I sat up and looked him straight in his teenage eyes and said. “One or two cups of English Breakfast Tea per day.” He didn’t seem amused and asked me to hold my hands out in front of me. He wanted to see if I was having tremors. Now, I have a good a sense of humor as anyone, but this was not funny anymore. Who IS this guy? I attempted to “gently” explain to him that I am not a heavy drinker, I do not take ANY drugs or daily medications, I work out 5-6 days per week, currently swimming a mile or more per week, bike 30+ miles per week, PLUS work out at a kettlebell gym twice per week. When running, I routinely run 35-40 miles each week, AND I run my own successful business. I eat primarily vegetarian and seafood meals, and don’t eat a lot of junk, plus I drink somewhere between 30-60 ounces of water each day.

At this time he suggested that I wear a 30 day heart monitor so they can track whether or not I have recurring symtoms, and evaluate them. He left the room and asked the tech to do my vitals again…sitting, standing, and laying down. By now, I felt like I WAS going to have a heart attack. For the record, my blood pressure was something like 90/60 and my resting pulse was <60. It didn’t change much in the three times they checked. I had a feeling by now, however that they were going to be higher. (They weren’t) 

While the tech was checking these things, she said the doctor wanted me to fill out a questionnaire, because apparently they thought I was crazy and suicidal.


After filling this out I asked the tech to go get the doctor and ask him if I could do a 48 hour heart monitor as opposed to the 30 day one. I was trying to imagine wearing this wirey, bulky contraption in the pool, or while swinging a kettlebel, while wearing my business clothes, or anything else for that matter. A short time later, the baby doc returns with a more mature, seasoned doctor, and I  thought, “Thank God she’s here to change his diaper and let me go home.”

She started out just wonderful! She explained my AV block in such a way that I fully understood it, and also explained the symptoms I was having, and how they are very common, bla, bla, bla. Just as I was about to pull out my car keys and leave, she stopped, got all serious, and said, “But more importantly, I want to talk to you about your excessive alcohol abuse.”  I really thought Ashton Kutcher would pop in at any moment with the “Punked” crew. I thought about arguing with her, but then she would probably think that was the alcoholic talking, so I just shut up and nodded. I had had enough. I guess they must have just had some kind of seminar on substance abuse and their reticular activators were on hyper alert!

I managed to leave there with a smidgen of dignity, WITHOUT the heart monitor, because they were out of stock, and went home. I vented my frustration with this experience to numerous people and went on with my life. I am waiting to speak with my regular doctor, to see if she wants me to wear the monitor. I will be a good girl and listen to her. I will not let prepubescent medical residents examine me in the future. I will continue to be an ADHD, running obsessed maniac. AND, I will find ways to manage my stress.

I think I will start with a nice Valentine Lobster dinner and a glass of La Crema ChardonnayDSCN0114

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope it’s a good one. Take great care of your health.

Patience, you say?


Runners can be very impatient people. I wasn’t exactly born with the “Patience” gene. This is not a revelation to me, however, as I get older, it is increasingly more frustrating.

So here I am, 7 weeks into Physical Therapy, NOT RUNNING,after ripping a few tendons and a muscle because I didn’t want to be a good girl and listen to my body. All runners hurt, don’t they? “This must be normal.”, I thought. (Well, not really, but somewhere deep down, I kept thinking the pain was going to stop if I just kept icing, heating, elevating, etc. Dumb idea.)image

Oh yeah, this is what I did after long runs while I blow dried my hair. Before I went running, I’d soak my foot in this  pot full of hot water. Then I’d add ice when I got home. Don’t worry, I washed it out before I made my famous home made soup!

I was anxious to stay on my 5 day per week running routine, but you’d think the fact that I was limping constantly, wincing while training, and eating Ibuprofen like breath mints, I would suspect something was not right.


My Physical Therapist told me that I needed to find something to “feed the beast” while not running. Haha, I love how he “got” me right off the bat. He said I could swim, bike, and walk. It was December in Oregon. Running in the cold, wind, and rain I can do. But, bike? Swim? Seriously? Sigh. OK, well I’ll give it a try.


My first bike ride started out as a disaster. The tires on my much neglected bike were flat, it was covered in cob webs, and I couldn’t figure out how to use the bike pump. After 3 attempts, I finally got the tires somewhat full of air, and hopped on, hoping to feel the thrill of the wind in my helmeted hair. I started pedaling, and WHAP, the chain fell off, my foot spun around, and I fell flat on my driveway.Thankfully, I was clothed in so many layers, that I came away physically unscathed.  A few curses later, I fixed the chain and off I went. It was 40 degrees out and I was already sweating from the effort and frustration of simply getting out of my driveway.
I ended up having so much fun on the 9 mile ride and even thought, “wow ,I  AM in great shape; I barely felt that!”  I sang along with my ipod, with wild abandon. “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”, Oh Yeah, baby, watch out for me. Woohooo.I’m a CYCLIST!

Fast forward to the next day, and I could barely lower myself to a chair or toilet without grunting in pain. OK, well pain is good. LOL, I seem to love it. If you’re going to exercise outdoors in the Great Northwest, you have to be prepared for all types of weather. I have great all weather running gear, but CYCLING GEAR?

bike image

Yep, that’s me on New Year’s Day, wearing ski bib overalls, snow boots, countless layers of dry fit, fleece, and a water proof jacket, plus numerous neck and head coverings. I needed the basket to carry all the discarded clothing, as I warmed up along my ride. Hey, after all the money I have spent on running gear, I wasn’t about to jump down the money pit and do it in the bike shop….yet.

So, back to the patience thing. My second bike ride that week was when I decided to ride to my PT appointment. I mapped it and saw that it was approximately 9 miles from home. Not having stellar math skills, I thought, “Oh, I can probably do that in about 30 minutes. Don’t even TRY to figure why I thought that. I tried to leave a little early just in case, and after donning lots of layers and even packing a change of socks, shoes, and gloves in a plastic bag, I headed out. It was a cold 39 degrees, and by the time I got to the end of my block, it had started to rain. Hmmm, for about a nano-second, I thought about turning around and getting my car, but then I was worried it would take too much time and the clock was ticking! 10 minutes into the ride, it was now pouring, I was freezing, and I knew I was going to be seriously late. When I finally made it to the Springwater Corridor-the bike path that follows the Willamette River, I was pushing those pedals as fast as I could, but the frigid rain and wind was a killer. I could see downtown Portland, and knew I was close, so I gave it everything I had, all the while screaming at myself for being such an idiot.( There were a lot of bad words in my “self talk” on that ride.)

I finally arrived with rain pouring off of my and walked my bike into the facility. They had a bike rack inside, and the nice receptionist helped me stand my bike in it, and then I proceeded to try and peel my gloves, helmet, and extra clothes off. The only problem was that my feet were numb, my frozen snot was leaking, and my hands were too cold to unsnap my helmet. What a sight. I managed to survive, thawed out, and begged God for mercy for the ride home. Luckily, I had brought the extra dry clothes and shoes, and when I left, the rain had stopped, it was a tad bit warmer, and the ride home was a blast.

I learned a tough lesson that day. Think before you act. I know, that sounds really elementary, but when you roll like I do, you pretty much DO, and then think. I laughed about this experience once I knew that I would live through it. That’s the trick to this whole thing. With new experiences, you are going to make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up about what you did wrong, or not perfectly right. For me, I look back and say, “Wow, I rode my bike 18 miles in the dead of winter, in Portland, Oregon, in the rain, in 39 degree temperature, with a bad ankle, at 53 years old, after not having ridden a bike for several years. THAT, I could celebrate.