Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Like A Heat Wave, Burning in My Heart

I have to say I have really been enjoying my summer and with it my training for a handful of smaller triathlons. There has been so much less pressure, externally and internally that I have experienced. I feel prepared for the distances, and am able to work on speed and strength instead of just surviving. My training consistency has been pretty poor during the week, but even that has not thrown me too much. I feel twinges of guilt over not getting it all in, but I also realize I am replacing some of my lost training time with quality family time, and that takes a bit of the sting away. I am soon going to recommit to get back onto a consistent plan, but in the meantime I am going to enjoy my erratic training schedule and my upcoming vacation at the end of June to Idaho to watch my first Ironman race in person. I am so excited!

This week I got in a few long runs with some new running partners as Lizzard was off on one of her many summer trips. It was fun trying out some new routes around the lakes and having some new company (shout out to Emily, Stephanie, and Heather). I also had a great bike ride on Saturday and we had almost the entire Fitbird ensemble together (minus our fearless leader and a few senior members) for the first time in a long time. It was great to have the old gang back together. I had forgotten how much fun it was to ride in a big group. I hope we can have more rides like that over the rest of the summer. And our temporarily fallen comrade Susan made it back onto her bike for her maiden voyage after her bike accident. Welcome back! It was great having you with us again!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Soap Box: Bicycle Safety Concerns

According to the Associated Press: "A car collides into cyclists participating in a race in Mexico's northern city of Matamoros, Sunday June 1, 2008. At least one person was killed and 14 injured when a driver slammed into a bicycle race."

In light of the recent hit and run to fellow cyclist Michael Bitton in Baton Rouge this past week I have decided to blog on bike safety in hopes that by educating fellow cyclists and motorists on bike etiquette and law that we may be able to spare a life in the future.

There has always been tension between motorists and cyclists when it comes to sharing the road. Living in a city where there are limited places to ride due to poor road conditions, heavy traffic, and a lack of emphasis placed on bike paths and cyclist's rights, it makes it very difficult for those who enjoy cycling to have a place that they can train safely. There are a relatively small number of training routes that are utilized by cyclists on a regular basis in the city. Alligator Bayou, River Road, and LSU are the most common areas for cyclists to train. Unfortunately these areas all have a history of bad accidents involving cyclists who are hit by motor vehicles. Louisiana recorded 985 traffic deaths in 2007 alone, and 22 of those were cycling related. That makes Louisiana the second most dangerous state for bicycling behind only Florida.  Much of this tragedy could be avoided if only motorists would drive the speed limit and attend to what is going on around them, and cyclists would follow the rules of the road and make themselves visible. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Demise of Year 2010

The End of 2010

Seven months is too long to continue this year
More travesty, illness, and death I would fear
I've witnessed it all
From me, Anne, and Call
The suffering of those who are dear

Brain tumors and illnesses paved a strong way
For all sorts of evil to dig in and stay
Suffering each pest
To face the next test
Was how we got through every day

Just when we think "surely its through"
Our friend and our coach turns purple and blue
Another friend dies
The first friend cries
Score another, now hand me a brew

So I put down my foot and refuse to give in
I rebuke and will tantrum to not let you win
Year 10 go away
You're not welcome to stay
Soon a new 2010 will begin

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cougar 1: False River 3 ...I'm finally on the score board!

Things finally seem to be turning around these past three weeks! I have had some good but tough training that seems to have prepared me for these last two sprint races that I have participated in. The focus lately in training has been on increasing my intensity, strength, and speed. There have been some tough bricks, some tough swims, and some long, fast, hard and hot runs. I have been sticking to the training plan and it seems to really be paying off.

This weekend I participated in Louisiana Tri, an open water sprint triathlon held at False River (my old nemesis). This is probably the first tri that I have not obsessed about in the week leading up to it. I'm not sure if it was because I was busy and tired, or that I just managed to keep my anxiety at bay. I will admit that it did start to creep in around Friday, especially when I learned the swim would not be wetsuit legal (meaning I would be losing the comfort of my floaty neoprene). I had not been in open water this year without my wetsuit. I did my best blocking out negative thoughts and whenever I thought about the race I would repeat to myself my race mantra/instructions which was to focus solely on "blast the swim". I had other goals in mind, but decided to just follow my coach's directions and not worry about the rest of the race, and just give it all to the water.

Race Report:

Lizzard and I decided to get to transition super early since we knew that Linda ("FreeBird") was planning on departing Baton Rouge by 5:15 am. As she is our senior team member, we follow her discretion in matters of race strategy and planning when Coach is not around. There was actually quite a bit of grace in getting to transition before it was even set up...there was definitely no rush to get our gear organized, there were no lines to the Pot-O-Gold, and it was too dark to see the water thus reducing any anxiety that might come over me by driving in and seeing white-caps crashing up to the shore.

As the sun came up, the athletes began to arrive. The sky was overcast and it was windy ~ chilly almost. The water appeared relatively calm which was a huge relief. We explored the transition area and the in/outs, and talked to the race director and volunteers to get tips on the course and a good lay of the land. FreeBird and Ann H. showed up and our FitBird team was complete for this race.

Their were three waves to the swim start, which entered at the boat landing by Satterfield's restaurant. Between each wave there was a three minute gap. The first two waves were the men and the last was all the women and relay members. The course was an 800 yd swim set out in a triangle formation, with three orange buoys marking the turns, around which we swam clockwise.
An aerial view of my swim

Unlike the 70.3 race just a short time ago, this time I waited in my wave with my teammates which was rather comforting. And this time I remembered my timing chip. I positioned myself in the center/right of the pack so I would have people to sight off of. When we entered the water, there was no running like there was in New Orleans. It was an immediate "get in and swim". I started a second or two after the racers in front of me so I could let out one last breath of anxiety. Once in, the pack took on a life of its own and there was a lot of kicking and jostling for space. It took nearly to the first buoy, about 150 yds, before I felt like I had room of my own and was not climbing over someone or being climbed over. That first part of the swim was the most difficult as my adrenalin was racing and I had to fight my brain to ignore the other swimmers who were trying to get a good position.

Occasionally I would see FreeBird or Lizzard off to my side. It was comforting to know they were close. At one point I was afraid that Lizzard might be holding back intentionally to make sure I was doing okay, but then I realized that she was stuck in the pack too. I had to fight the urge to flip over onto my back many times. I wanted to swim this race freestyle the entire way. I had practiced other strokes in the pool during training this week, and it reinforced to me what I fool I was in New Orleans trying to side stroke, breast stroke, and back stroke 1.2 miles. Freestyle may require putting your face in the water, but it is the least fatiguing stroke. In the pool I was wiped just side stroking 2 laps. What was I thinking? No wonder I was done for before I ever got onto the bike in New Orleans.

So, around the buoy I went on my stomach. This was the long stretch. I found who I thought was FreeBird and kept her in my sites and tried to match her pace. I had trouble sighting and staying in a straight line, so I wasted a bit of energy popping up every so often to see where I was going. My breathing turned into a one breath per stroke pattern and I worried that I would exhaust myself that way. I tried to correct it but couldn't maintain a three to one pattern. At least the water was comfortable and surprisingly I didn't miss my wetsuit like I thought I would.

Ann H., First Female Out Of The Water 
Last turn and heading to shore. I'm starting to get optimistic that not only will I finish the swim freestyle, but I might even be able to claim that I "blasted" it. I felt fast. Clumsy and awkward, but I still felt aggressive with my stroke and fast. I knew in the pool I could hold around 4 minutes for 200 yds so I figured best case scenario I could finish it in 16 minutes. Last year at Meat Pie I swam 800 in 20 minutes and part of that was on my back. So going into the swim I was hoping for 18. I felt at this point I might even have beaten that.

The last 100 yds were tough. I lost sight of FreeBird, and my sighting got more erratic. I was tired but tried to keep myself calm as I could hear my breathing get harder. I could see the shore but couldn't seem to get it to come close fast enough. Unlike New Orleans, I couldn't put my feet down early and walk it in. I had to swim all the way onto the boat ramp before I could stand. But I did. And it felt good to finish and meet my swim goal.

I struggled a bit coming out of the water and had to walk/jog into transition. I went right to my bike and unracked it after donning my helmet and shoes. I had no cheerleaders at this race except for my teammate's husbands, but I heard a few "Go Coug"s and it pumped me up. The mount for the bike was at the base of a steep hill, so I ran my bike to the top and then mounted.

I love my bike. I may not be the fastest or the strongest rider, but I love when I feel fast and strong. Hitting the first part of the road I was quick. I easily got into the low 20's and started passing a few of the cyclists that had me on the swim. Then the road turned and the crosswinds hit. The speed dropped quickly into the mid teens. But unlike New Orleans I was able to rally and push through it. The wind died down and I pushed hard when I had the chance. The roads were terrible and I wondered if cycling in states where the infrastructure is a priority is dramatically different. It wasn't long before I heard a "Hi Janie" and saw FreeBird whizz past me going at least in the low to mid 20's. I was confused because I assumed all my FitBird teammates were ahead of me out of the water, but somehow I must have pulled out just a short time before her. I was encouraged that my swim might be even better than I originally thought, knowing that FreeBird always gets out before me. No matter, back to focusing on the bike.

Even with her helmet on backwards initially, FreeBird manages to fly by me just minutes later

Susan Hayden getting FreeBird turned around (literally)
I may have to rename Lizzard "Chrissie Wellington" because I find she is always smiling. She just ran up a flight of stairs out of T2.
I hit the turn around and quickly discover that the worst of the winds are now coming straight at me. I glance to the side and see that the river has some whitecaps and I think how grateful I am that I am not swimming through them. I focus on a blue shirt up ahead that I am convinced is Lizzard and I make her my rabbit. It takes me a while but I catch up to her and realize it is not her. Bummed that I can't harass a stranger I choose to pass instead. I play leap frog for a while with a male rider, and we laugh that neither of us can maintain our lead for very long before switching places. He pulls ahead one last time before we get to the dismount, but I burn him in transition and he acknowledges it. Under a minute into my running shoes and I'm off.

Unfortunately Lizzard was tied up the last mile with calf pain that took her out of the "running"
I hate to admit it, but all the brick work I've been doing lately has really paid off. I bound up the steps onto the road and wait for my heartrate to get wild on me and it doesn't happen. I manage to slip into a good steady pace, although my strides are short. I make it without rest to the first water stop and then walk the station to get some fluids. After the second mile I start to feel cramps in my shins and try to push through but stop every so often to walk. Finally I see Lizzard ahead and give it some effort to catch up. She has had to stop and walk due to injuring her calf, but she is in good spirits. I catch a breath with her but she encourages me to push on and be there when she finishes. I manage to walk/jog the final half mile to the finish. Total time: 2:00:37

The best part of it all is that I actually place 3rd in my age group. I finished slower than I had hoped, but was satisfied considering most of my goals were met. I survived the swim with a time of about 22 minutes. I was surprised I was that slow, but decided it's just too hard to determine my speed when I'm in a race. I'm not sure if I can take credit for "blasting" the swim, but I did finish freestyle without panicking. I'm happy with it.

My bike time was a little over an hour with an average of around 17 mph. Satisfied. My run pace was 9:44 which surprised me considering I had to add in a little walk here and there. My hope was to keep it under 9:30, but I knew I didn't meet that when I had to walk. I was happy that I got close though.

Linda "FreeBird" Adams, Ann H., "Coug"
Overall, the FitBird Team rocked. Freebird and Ann H. placed first in their age groups. Lizzard had a great race but had to "walk it out" the last mile due to her calf. But in true Lizzard fashion she managed to dance it in through the finish shute. Got to love the attitude.
The Lizzard "walking it in"... ok, she danced it in FitBird style

So things are looking up. I finally get to claim a victory against that damn river. I can't say I enjoyed the swim. I never do. I want so badly to love it. But I don't. And I still don't know that I'm ready to take on a longer distance again. Yet...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Topic Of The Week: Revisiting the Bucket List

About 10 years ago I sat down and wrote out a "Top 10 Things to Do Before I Die" list. I actually started checking things off over those first few years, but somewhere during that time the list got lost, the children came along (check), and I stopped focusing on the items that I had put down as future goals and incentives and instead just returned to making my way through life. I've been thinking about that list a lot lately. Call it a mid-life crisis, turning 40, or just inner-reflection. I've had many opportunities to think about my life and the direction that it is going. I am blessed with a career that exposes me to people who are faced with their mortality due to sometimes seemingly insurmountable battles with cancer. I have learned so much from them as they immediately prioritize their lives and maximize every moment that they have. I have lost some dear friends and family members over the last decade that have given me pause about how I live my own life. I have watched as their spouses and families pick up the pieces after they are gone. I have watched how the loss of a loved one changes those that are left - and they begin to make every moment memorable. I wonder:  Do I cherish every moment? Do I live life to the fullest? The one thing I would hope people would say about me when I do depart this world is "she never took a minute for granted and she lived every day as if it were her last." If there is one thing I hope my kids learn from me is that they should not be afraid to follow their dreams, to take risks, and to get out and explore and experience the adventure called life.

Sometimes I find that things are more likely to be undertaken and achieved if they are put out there for the world to see. With this thought in mind, I give to you my new Bucket List. I expect to add and delete occasionally as my interests change over time. For the sake of showing progress I am including past Bucket items that have already been achieved (in blue).

  1. Write and publish a book.
  2. Remain happily married to the same man (ongoing).
  3. Have children (took a while and did it a different way, but same outcome... headache)
  4. Skydive.
  5. Obtain the rank of Black Belt in a martial art.
  6. Officially complete a Half-Ironman.
  7. Officially complete a Full-Ironman.
  8. Go to Kona and watch the Ironman Championship.
  9. Get a cool tattoo I design myself to symbolize #7.
  10. Own a black Jeep Wrangler that I can put my road bike on the back of!
  11. Own a convertible.
  12. Run a half-marathon.
  13. Run a full marathon.
  14. Learn to sail.
  15. Make a significant, life-changing difference in someone's life.
  16. Learn to ride a horse.
  17. Go on a mission trip in a foreign country.
  18. Get backstage passes to a Joan Jett concert.
  19. Speak fluent Spanish.
  20. Travel outside of the U.S.
  21. Open my own business.
  22. Find my biological family.
  23. Climb a mountain and watch the sunset with friends.
  24. Save someone's life; respond to an emergency situation.
  25. Watch a baby being born (got to watch my daughter's birth).
Sometimes I wonder if it is selfish to list out the things I would like to do in life, but then I think "what's the alternative?". I am a writer, a thinker, and an analyzer. If I don't write it down, it's likely never to get another thought. If I write it down it becomes real and tangible. Obtainable. The alternative? Never chasing my dreams, being content with the drudgery of daily life, never taking a risk, never pushing to see just where my boundaries and abilities lie. Why is this important to me? I have no idea. I've always been this way. I have always focused on being an "achiever". I used to be afraid that it was tied into my self-worth and esteem, but as I get older I really think I focus on achieving mostly because I like the challenge to see what I can do. I like obstacles because they give me an opportunity to test myself, see what I'm made of, and push the envelope. I think life would be so boring if it was just mundane and easy. That would be my hell.

For those that are reading this and are willing to share, post up some of your Bucket List items. I would love to know if anyone else has physically written or mentally written out a list...

Putting Another Brick in the Wall

New Orleans is starting to seem light years behind me and I am putting my focus and attention on the races and training ahead of me for the summer. So far I am planning on another few sprint triathlons, an olympic distance, and well...we will see if another announcement is imminent before the summer is through.

I have really felt strong this week with my training. I have decided a lot of the reason for that is that when you compare what you are doing with the hardest thing you have ever done, suddenly it seems easy(er). As tough as this week has been with long fast swims, crazy bricks, and long runs it has been....awesome. Yes, I have actually enjoyed the sufferfest this week. I continue to learn what my weak areas are and I am plugging away at fixing them. Every training session I think about that race day and how it could have been better, and what in my training it will take to make it time. Hmmmm.

This weekend Lizzard and I had a good taste of brick work, an area that I usually hate but need badly. We spent close to three hours Saturday biking and running, running and biking, rinse and repeat over and over again. It was tough but satisfying to know we survived it. Some better than others...

Today we ended the week with a long run in the misty morning fog around the lakes. It was hot, humid, and we squeezed a quart of water out of our clothes when it was over, but again in a sick kind of way it felt good. What has happened to me??

This coming weekend I take the plunge back into the open water as I have signed up for LA Tri at False River ~ my old rival and nemesis. I am planning on attacking and destroying this enemy of mine once and for all. I am tired of the battle.