Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gratitude List


A wise owl recently imparted some words of wisdom to me while on a long run. It was during a discussion of future plans, goals, and dreams for the coming year that she reminded me that we so often become focused on what we hope to do better, faster, and bigger each new year ~ whether it be in regards to triathlon or in our personal lives ~ that we forget to acknowledge what we have already accomplished and we rarely take the time to appreciate that which we have worked for. Our culture seems to push us to always want more, and for those of us that are hard-wired to overachieve, we sometimes forget to reflect on where we started and who and what along the way helped us to get to where we are.

With this being the last day of the year 2011 I decided to express my gratitude to those people, experiences, and moments that have helped shape me this past year. I write so much about bucket lists, future goals, and dreams that I sometimes forget to acknowledge the here and now. This is that moment.

2011 has been the most difficult year of my 41 year life. It would be easy to focus on the negative right now. I recently have experienced a tremendous loss with the sudden and unexpected illness and death of my father. I have been caring for a mother who is grieving and suffering from one medical complication after another. I lost faith in the belief that all people in my "inner circle" were of strong character, and for the first time in my life began to doubt my own judgement in regards to friendships. I've struggled with loneliness, grief, and relationships. Tonight I am putting 2011 to rest.

There are moments and experiences in life that we know shape us into who we are and into who we want to be. When I think back on 2011 I can think of many, but have chosen to list a few that are especially meaningful to me:

  • Accomplishing my goal of an official 70.3 finish and doing it alone, without cheerleaders, as my final journey with a battle that raged in my brain for two years.
  • Participating in the Falcons Youth Triathlon Camp as Camp Director and being part of an incredible experience for all of our athletes. It reminded me why I love this sport and the people who give of their time to help others.
  • This is the year I gained confidence in swimming. Not only have I learned to control my fear of the water, I have turned my limiter into my strength, and have learned to love what for 40 years I despised.
  • Chicken Shwarma MENSA Meetings (aka World Domination Meetings) with Lizard. These are lunches where for a short while the world stands still and everything falls into place.
  • Being at my father's bedside as he passed from this world ~ the hardest thing I have ever done, but a moment I am eternally grateful for. A moment that has shaped me was standing alone at his funeral and expressing my thoughts and feelings about him one last time, and as I struggled with my words looking into a sea of friends who were there to support me.
As far as the people of this past year that I am grateful for, there are too many to list, but there are a handful that I want to publicly acknowledge. There are so many more who are listed in my heart.
  • My husband Hill ~ this coming year will be our 20th anniversary. We have had a challenging year in so many ways, but you have stood by me in my times of need. You accept me for who I am, good and bad. You allow me to challenge myself in ways you might not understand and you adjust to let me do things you know are important to me. I love you and I know we can continue to work together to set a good example for our kids.
  • My children Chase, Justin, and Ashlen ~ my littlest yet often biggest supporters. Your eagerness to experience life is contagious. You constantly remind me to appreciate the small things and to live every day to the fullest.
  • My dear friend since childhood, Fae ~ you are my rock and are always just a phone call away. I love that no matter how separate our lives may seem, in an instant you are there when I need you. You know everything about me yet still love me as a sister. You make me laugh when all I want to do is cry, you hold me up when I am down, and you kick me in the ass when I need a shove forward. I'll always be there for you friend.
  • My Coach, my CEO, and my friend Anne ~ You've taken a beating from me lately and yet you haven't run away. You are a source of comfort and direction for me, and help me to better myself in so many ways. With so many hats that we wear, ours is a complex friendship, but one that I think will stand the test of time. I am grateful for your support, guidance, and patience. You have helped me to accomplish things I never thought possible and I know you see potential in me that I don't see. Thank you for being someone I know I can trust.
  • My Big-Sis Lizard ~ You are a wise and gentle soul. You are a natural teacher, a life counselor, and a mentor. You have taken me under your wing and helped me through a difficult year. Whenever life gives me lemons, you help me make lemonade. I cherish our lunches and your friendship.
  • My FitBirds ~ You all have no idea how much you mean to me. You all in your own way have shown me support, have encouraged me, have helped me stand tall, and have pushed me to push myself. You motivate me and inspire me. You make me laugh hard, and you always offer a shoulder when needed. Your outpouring of support these past few months in particular has meant the world to me. Whether you've helped to outfit me, flat iron my hair, apply my makeup, or keep me from drowning, you are always there in your own ways. I look forward to many more adventures.
  • My long lost cousin Jill ~ Life has strange twists and turns and this twist I never saw coming. I am so glad we have re-connected. You have helped to shape my life since I was a child, and I am so glad to be entering the next phase of my life with you by my side. Love you cuz.
As the end of the year approached I found myself struggling. My expectations for the holidays have been low. I have been ready for this year to just end. These past few days in particular have been hard. Today was a good day. Why? Because it was simple. It was a "back to the basics" kind of day. It was filled with the things I love ~ exercise, friends, laughs, entertainment, and... the hope of good things to come.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of my life. 
You all have shaped me in some way. I am grateful to you all.

Happy New Year and Welcome 2012!






Friday, December 9, 2011

Bucket List Revival

We've been down this road before. The "make life meaningful" blog, the "don't take things for granted" posts, the "set goals for yourself" ideas. It's nearing the end of December, this year has been a *bitch*, and it's time to make some progress on things I want to do in my life. This brings me to the update of my Bucket List.

I've made some progress on my list since my Revisiting of The Bucket List  post in May of 2010. I am now able to check off a Half-Marathon and an "official" 70.3 distance Half-Ironman. But I have other dreams besides triathlon related items. This year I am editing my list, making my goals more specific and attainable, and less global. My plan now is to check off at least 2 items a year on my list. Enough talking, it's time for action.

This year's focus? Adventure. I plan to (1) sky-dive as a birthday present to myself while in Virginia this summer.  I plan to (2) get my first passport and travel outside of the country (albeit not very far away) to Canada to broaden my horizons and I plan to (3) work towards my 2013 Bucket List item of completing a full Ironman by completing two 70.3 distance races this year as part of my training.

So, now (drum roll)... the unveiling of Bucket List 2012:

Items that have already been achieved are listed in blue. Some items from the past have been rejected as Bucket List items. Items in red are planned for this year. New items are in green.


  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. Go camping alone for a weekend.
  10. Get a cool tattoo I design myself to symbolize #7.
  11. Own a black Jeep Wrangler that I can put my road bike on the back of!
  12. Own a convertible.
  13. Run a half-marathon.
  14. Run a full marathon.
  15. Sail a boat around an island.
  16. Make a significant, life-changing difference in someone's life.
  17. Ride a horse on a tropical beach at sunset.
  18. Go on a mission trip in a foreign country.
  19. Swim with dolphins.
  20. Go to a Joan Jett concert.
  21. Converse in adequate Spanish in a foreign country in order to be understood and to understand conversation.
  22. Travel outside of the U.S. (in particular: Canada, Italy, Caribbean, Belize)
  23. Open my own business (and build it enough to financially cover my hobby expenses)
  24. Find my biological family.
  25. Climb a mountain and watch the sunset with friends.
  26. Rock climb and rappel a moderate size cliff.
  27. Go snow-skiing on real powder snow.
  28. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
  29. Snorkel around a tropical island.
  30. Scuba dive on vacation.
  31. Save someone's life; respond to an emergency situation.
  32. Watch a baby being born (got to watch my daughter's birth).
Life is short and as this year has taught me can be very difficult. There are so many pleasures that God has awaiting me in the world it is a shame to not work to experience as many of them as I can. I hope that by participating in these activities and by achieving my goals that I will gain self-esteem, confidence, and learn to rely on myself for affirmation of my abilities and become less emotionally dependent on others. I pray that 2012 brings me good health, peace of mind, focus, sanity, and the ability to achieve what I have set out to do.

And to my readers, again, I ask you... what's on your Bucket List?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Desperately Searching for Mo...

He's gone. I've been looking everywhere. I'm about to put an ad in the lost and found section of The Advocate. I've seen glimpses of Mo, but as soon as I reach out to catch him he flies away, brushing the tips of my fingers just long enough to remind me how good it is to have him with me. It is making me really sad that I can't get him back and I don't know what to do about it. I have about one month before he absolutely has to be contained and in my possession or I fear that I may never see him again.

I've been searching all over. I've ridden through the woods with my mountain bike, I've run to the top of a "mountain", I've swum in a familiar river thinking he may have returned there to roost. I've tried to borrow other people's Mo but it's just not the same as having my own.

I've been reading the internet for tips on getting him back. It's not helping. Instead, I find I throw myself into bowls of ice cream,  frozen mugs of Michelob Ultra, and bags of salt n vinegar chips to cope with his absence. I talk to a counselor, I take anti-depressants, I pray, but yet he won't come back.

I've made big plans for 2012 and I won't be able to achieve them without his help. I really really want him along this coming year.

Please, can someone help me to find my Mo? There will be a huge reward to the one who does.





Monday, November 14, 2011

The Adventures of Larry, Mo, And Curly


Susan "Larry" Hayden, COOg (Curly) Pearson, and Koko "Mo" Menson
This weekend was spent with some new traveling companions: "Larry" Hayden and "Mo" Menson. With my newly acquired nickname "Curly", we combined to form the Three Stooges, a kick ass mountain biking, trail running, food inhaling, and car key losing entity. Whether we thought of ourselves as the Three Amigos or the Three Stooges, one thing was for sure - we got along great and we chalked up another adventure for the books.

The plan was simple enough for the weekend: participate in a 6 hour "Just For Fun" mountain biking relay at Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama on Saturday and then on Sunday morning either do a 10K trail run (Larry and Mo's choice) or a Duathlon (me). But as usually happens with simple plans, they become complicated when Murphy and his Laws intervene.

All seemed well as we entered the Mothership around 2:30 Friday afternoon. The gear and bikes were loaded according to value (Larry's of course being tucked away gingerly on the inside) and orientation to the Mothership was provided free of charge. The strange grinding noises were explained away as the engine was started up and the antenna tried desperately to extend. The possessed radio was channeled so the sporadic full volume blast of music wouldn't frighten me away. Rules of the road were established and the dire consequences were given to the riders if the driver of The Mothership was pressured to partake in the ingestion of any lactose based foods. This was followed by emergency instructions on how to lower the (sometimes) automatic windows.

Eager to set out, we rushed out of Larry's driveway to sit on College Drive for 45 minutes before finally making it to the interstate. The trip up was relatively uneventful ~ gas (not lactose induced), frequent potty stops, Arby's, conversation, and six hours later... hotel check in. Larry drove and, as I frequently noticed, spent quite a bit of time testing out the rough treads on the edges of the pavement. I thought that it must be her attempt to get me acclimated to the uneven and annoying terrain we would be experiencing over the next few days.

Since Mo had graciously provided us the room, I decided she deserved a bed to herself so I bunked in with Larry. It was an early to bed, early to rise plan. Unfortunately my roommates chose to rise much earlier than I did. I eventually joined them downstairs at the hotel buffet and gorged on eggs, sausage, muffins, and I even hid a few bagels for a snack later during the day.

Holly, Debbie, Dave's daughter, Koko-Mo
The race was being held in a beautiful state park and from what I could gather was well attended. Mountain bikers are earthy and there were some pretty scruffy guys and few women there. Our event was a 6 hour relay and we discussed the order in which we would ride. Mo wanted to follow me (basing her decision to ride on whether I returned from my 8.5 mile loop in one or in many pieces). In turn, I decided to use the same strategy and requested that Larry lead the expedition as she was a seasoned mountain biker.

THANK GOD we chose that order. Larry took off with the mass of riders (which I thought was pretty impressive until she told me that Leadville had like 1500 cyclists starting at once, not just 50).

video

We relaxed with Debbie E. and a few others until the expected time of Larry's return. Jeff came in first and said the course was tough at first and that there would be a little hiking with our bikes required to make it up some of the hills. J-Boy came in next and said it was the worst trail he had ever ridden, even worse than Columbine. I readied myself for Larry to come around the bend. When she arrived, I grabbed my bike and waited for the exchange of the timing chip. Instead I got a head shake "no" and a "I'm not letting you guys go on that course." Apparently, what had been billed as a trail appropriate for all abilities was really an expert level course full of steep cliffs, rocks, loose dirt, and extreme climbs and drops. Although Larry was feeling guilty about shutting us down, I was grateful for her making a decision that might just save my life and body. This is the race trail, including Blood Rock:


In exchange for the loss of our six hour ride, we elected to ride some of the other trails in the park. We chose the Lake Trail with the Rattlesnake extension loop. It wasn't long before I earned another new nickname. I am now the "Queen of Over-Compensation". So I rode a little tense. Rigid even. Big deal. My little corrective movements while riding got a tad exaggerated as I tried to stay upright on my bike on the trail. In my defense, there were trees and roots and jagged rocks everywhere! And hills! Who knew that what we have in Louisiana are really not hills?

It didn't take five or ten minutes before I had my first hard fall. I'm going to blame it on my new clipless pedals. Now the second and third falls had something to do with my desire to take a well-needed rest in a bed of thick fall leaves.  Shortly there after, I felt that when my cleat got stuck in my right pedal it was a good opportunity to rest on my side again for a little while.

Queen of Over-Correction and Mo
At this point it was apparent I was amusing my riding partners, as Larry insisted she wanted to carry my iPhone so she could catch me on video the next time I fell. Koko-Mo somehow was managing to stay upright and was surprisingly fast on the hills.

Once I got my foot unstuck from my pedal, I rode clipless on one side for a while. When I thought I heard the jingle of my cleat flying off  and hitting a rock, Larry graciously helped me look in the leaves for it. We gave up after about 5 minutes of searching. I found it later stuck in my pedal. Patient as always, Larry turned into McGyver and fixed me up while Mo checked out the scenery.

The course was a blast but challenged my skills and my lack of fitness. There were fast downhills, big logs that had to be jumped at full speed, and sharp rocky turns. Larry was a great teacher and I learned to ride "smooth like butter", to read the trail, and to shift ALL of my gears. She forced me to slow down as I tend to be a wee bit fearless...dangerously so.

Repair Larry
Sorry Mo we're hurrying...
At one point the trail presented a wooden bridge that once on it, giving the choice of a beginner level "out" or a more technical challenge of an even narrower bridge. By the time I came upon it my teammates had left me in their dust and failed to tell me to go to the left on the easier route. Flying out of control at full speed I Hail Mary-ed it through the obstacle. Success!! I laughed so hard when I got over the bridge I almost fell off my bike again.

My final full speed out of control descent landed me in the middle of a paved park road luckily absent of oncoming traffic. I was whipped but exhilarated. We returned to the start of the race in time to meet up with our remaining Baton Rouge friends who were still riding the Course From Hell. Debbie had gotten her fill of expert riding and was up for a laugh and agreed to ride with us. My second loop was better but I still ended up on my ass a few times. This time even Mo bit it and took a boulder straight on her kneecap (but in her defense it was her only fall of the day). This is some of the trail we rode:



After a full day of riding (12 miles for Mo and I, and like 20 for Larry) our appetites were ravenous and we wanted protein. What kind of restaurant says "MEAT. HERE." more than one with a pig over it's door?

We ate. And ate. Baskets of cheese muffins. Ribs, pulled pork, chicken, potato salad, green salad, beer and Firefly. And then we went and bought more food at CVS. And then we stopped for cupcakes. It was a Food Festivus.

And then it happened. I became the CHOSEN ONE. The DD. The Captain of the Mothership. She purred when I started her. She responded to my touch. It was like we were meant to be together. We had an understanding. There would be no forgetting her keys on my end. No running her over those rutty grooves on the side of the highway. No ill words about her short-comings. No handicapped parking spots for her.

Day Two:

I have softball sized lumps and bruises on my right buttock down to my knee. Mo has ice packs on half her body. And Larry... well she has a smug "look at these amateurs" grin on her face.

Today is going to be the real test. The "Can we HTFU" test. Mo wants to PR a 10k she has been looking forward to all year. I want to survive my first real off road duathlon. Larry? Well, she wants to win the whole thing.

The trail runners head out 30 minutes before I start my race. Mo looks strong, but it's early and she is still on the paved roads. Her knee and ankle hurt and she has a long way to go. I cheer her on. Larry was at the front of the pack and I never saw her pass by.

video

I set up transition and wait. When we start the 3.3 mile trail run I am ready. As usual I shoot out a bit too fast for my pace but there is comfort in staying with the group. When we leave the park road the trail starts off as rugged single track and it gradually begins to incline. It takes all my focus to not trip over roots and rocks as the leaves cover the obstacles. And then it begins. The steady stream of the longer distance trail runners coming up from behind merging into the shorter distance runners pace line, requiring me to stop, pull over, or speed up to get out of their way. Then the ridiculous climbs begin. The ones that are not runnable except for the most fit runners. The rest of us trudged up them, grabbing branches, resting on trees, and sucking wind. The downhills were break neck. It was way harder than I expected. I completely re-thought my desire, motivation, and plan to do the Half-Marathon Trail race in December. I'd like to be able to walk in January.

Transition
Finally the run came to an end and I made it back to transition where Larry was already waiting to cheer me on as I transitioned to my bike. I was so glad that the run was over for an instant I forgot how challenging the 11.7 miles of bike trails were going to be. The race course for the bike was practically the same course we rode twice the day before and this was a huge mental relief. At least I knew most of what to expect. It was hard to find my bike legs and I felt clumsy and awkward as I started to ride, but I held my focus and tried to remember what Larry had taught me about being smooth like butter. I spent a lot of time pulling over to let the good riders pass for fear they would run me off the trail never to be seen or heard from again. Luckily today I was able to pull over, not fall over. I was exhausted and my legs were shot from both Saturday's ride and the hard trail run. I thought I might just call it off after the first loop and not risk injury due to fear my fatigue and lack of bike skills was a recipe for disaster.

Eventually I made it back and dismounted to go over the mat in transition and then found myself back on my bike for the final loop. I decided to keep at it as it was about learning and improving my skills and completing the race not worrying about setting course records. I did make one really Epic Fail. I forgot completely about taking in nutrition on the bike. Oh, I packed it, I just forgot to take any in. I was white knuckling the handlebars so tightly I never thought to put anything of nutritious value in my mouth. I barely could get the tube from my Camelback in while I rode much less food. I paid for that about an hour after the race when I hit the "wall" hard. Big lesson learned.

I felt the last loop was much more successful than my first and am pretty sure I had a good negative split (my results weren't posted before we left). Since I was one of three riders I saw still out on the course I never had to pull over for that last loop. I enjoyed the ride, passed three riders (two of whom were men), worked on my technique, and allowed myself to absorb the experience. And then I returned to find that Larry had, in usual fashion, locked her keys in the Mothership.

It was truly a fun weekend. I learned a lot about Larry and Mo. I learned a lot about trail running and mountain biking. I met some great people and shared some challenging endeavors. In closing I want to make a few shout-outs:

"Larry" ~ thanks for the transport, team building, mentorship, and laughs. You my friend are a bit absent minded but have a heart of gold. Your wit makes me crack up. I will be your travel companion any time! And it's nice to know someone else can put down some food like me! And congrats on your 2nd Place Overall win on the 10K trail run! Impressive!! (and for the record she was only 16 seconds behind 1st place!)

"Koko-Mo" ~ your hard work this year is paying off both in your physical and mental strength. I'm so proud you toughed it out and pushed through your injuries to run hard. You have a brilliant business mind and I learned a lot just listening to you. Thanks for the room!

The Gang ~ thanks guys for taking me in as one of your own! Had a blast learning from you all. Holly you rock, thats all I can say. I'm so impressed with your skills. Jeff, don't ever tell me you run slow and then leave me in the dust. Rude. J-Boy, thanks for the pedals I am a master now! And I forgive you for tossing my favorite FitBird shirt out onto the road to be run over by cars. And for making us turn around to bring you a battery when we were almost home... Debbie, you crack me up and I would LOVE to ride with you anytime. Thank you for not laughing at me too hard.

I'm motivated to get better at mountain biking. I'm realistic in my need to make more obtainable goals for my trail running. I'm going to focus on speed and getting my shorter distances under control before I take on the Half-Marathon Trail run. Next off-road goal will be the Moonlight 6K.

Here we come to save the day...!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The FitBirds Dabble in Black Magic

The moons aligned and the FitBirds sold their souls to the Race Director in exchange for a sweep of awards at this weekend's Vo Doo Duathlon. It was a beautiful morning for a race, cold enough to break out the long sleeves and running tights, but still warm enough to not blow smoke rings while exhaling on the run. There was a good size group of Birds in attendance and an assortment of races to chose from. There was a two mile run, a 5K, a 'Lil Vo Doo Duo, a Big Vo Doo Dou, and even a Dirty Doo Dou!

I had decided to partake in a little Dirty Doo in hopes to work on my mountain biking and running. It was more challenging than I had anticipated. All of the events began at the same time, but some turned right on the levee, some turned left, and some turned around before ever reaching it. It was a little unnerving for those of us who don't listen well or retain information. I really didn't want to run or bike more than I needed to.

I had hoped to draft off of Lizzard in my first two miles, but that thought quickly went away as she left me eating her asphalt from the start. I settled into my slow but steady pace and watched as most of my FitBirds passed me by. I was actually quite pleased to see that I was running about a 10 min pace and wasn't completely miserable doing so.

Pre Race: Lizzard, Coug, Recruit Bush,
Crash, Kitty, Smiles, Dr. Roboto
When I made it back into transition I slowed long enough to toss my hat and replace it with my helmet... and to look over to see Lizzard with a bloody nose from her over-exertion of pushing for a sub 9 minute mile. Impressed, but not deterred, I set off on my mountain bike hoping to make up some time. I was fine until I reached the hill that led to the levee. Halfway up I had to get off and push the bike to the top. I laughed at my unimpressive beginning then re-mounted to try again. The gravel was more brutal than I had expected. The vibration from the path became really annoying and I couldn't get any real speed up. I decided I much preferred the more technical trails at Comite than riding on this flat, gravel surface. I thought about the friends who offered up bike support to aide our team in our upcoming 126.2 mile run from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. I decided that they are crazy for riding that distance over 24 straight hours on this surface. It would be miserable. (But if any of you are reading this, we are so glad to have you along!!)

New MTB shoes, waiting to be worn
I kicked myself for not being more organized this week. I had just gotten my new mountain biking shoes, but it took me all week to get around to trying to replace the pedals on my bike. I couldn't get the platform pedals off the night before the race, so I didn't get to try out my loaner clipless pedals. Although I knew it was the right decision to not try them out on race day, I knew that it would have been a huge help to have had them on. If I'd been better prepared I would have had it done earlier in the week. Oh well. I was slow, but I wasn't sure just how slow I was because the field of racers for the Dirty Doo was so small. So I just kept at it and looked forward to the one downhill section that would take me quickly back to the paved road.

FitBird Molly-Ween: Crowe, COOg, Koko, Polly, Karin
Smiles, Walsh, Kate
I actually forced myself to eat my least favorite flavor of Gu, strawberry banana, in hopes it would give me some energy for the run. I unstuck it from the walls of my throat with a few sips of water, and rode towards transition. I was still suffering the after-affects of the FitBird Molloween Adventure on Friday night, and had waves of queasy mixed with fatigue hit me during the ride. When I turned the last corner I was confronted with a spattering of FitBirds and Coach Canada cheering me on. It made me smile as it has been a long time since I've been cheered for in a race!

Transition only consisted of removing my helmet and running out, but for some reason that seemed to take much longer than it should have. I passed by my cheering squad one more time and tried to focus my thought on anything other than my tired legs. I didn't fare as well over these last two miles and found that I had to walk at times. The last mile wasn't as bad as I had finally found my legs again, but there wasn't much left in the tank to sprint to the end, even with a cheering section.

The FitBirds cleaned up ~ winning pretty much every award short of the free mountain bike door prize. I actually was pretty confident someone would get that too just by the sheer number of us present at the end. It was a fun day, a great race, and we are already working on the next group adventure.

Docs in A Box/Doc Duo: Crash and Roboto
2nd Place Relay 'Lil Voo Doo
Wild Thangs: Lizzard and Kitty
1st Place Relay 'Lil Voo Doo
Joyce Ryder
Grand Master 2 Mile Jack-O-Lantern Run
1st Place 60-64 'Lil Voo Du
Andrea Talley
2nd Place 25-29 Big Voo Du

Mary Winette
First Place Masters Dirty Voo Du
COOg
1st Place 40-44 Dirty Voo Du

FitBirds In the House:
(top) Recruit Ellen Bush (2nd Place 50-54 'Lil Voo Du), Dr. Roboto, Crash, Smiles, Joyce
(bottom) Migrated Mary, COOg, FitDix Jay (1st Place 44- 49 Big Voo Du), Lizzard












Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Sweet Trail Run on the Plantation

Margaret Plantation, Port Allen, LA
I am learning quickly two important things, which may already be obvious to those of you who are runners. Training is a lot more fun a) with friends and b) when you use small races as part of your training plan. Hence my registering for the Cane Field Classic Trail Run in Port Allen, LA this weekend. As it seems lately it has just become par for the course for me to barely make a planned event, once again I was able to slip away from the latest family emergency long enough to get a quick training run in. I am so glad I made the extra effort to do that!

Maddy, FireFly, COOg, Lizzard (not pictured: Koko who got lost)
It was a beautifully crisp and sunny morning, the sugarcane field locale was unique and filled with new running challenges and I had plenty of FitBird buddies to run with. With my new approach to off-season training in full effect, I put on my headphones, cleared my mind of any expectations, abandoned my Garmin, and set out for my four mile run in the back of the pack.

From the start of the run I had to adapt to a different terrain than I was used to running on, different even from when I have run off-road. The ground was rutted from heavy machinery and it was difficult to run without one leg being consistently higher than the other on the uneven dirt. There were cane husks littered in piles along the paths that obscured holes and ankle-spraining crevasses. It required focus and at first most of my attention was on the ground five feet in front of me and not on the scenery. Once I got my footing and became more comfortable with the obstacles I was able to look up and around to take in the greens of the sugarcane, the freshly burned and still smoking fields that had just been harvested, and the winding line of runners that weaved ahead of me through the brush.

As usual I wasn't fast, but my intent was to manage my pace and to just keep moving; to control my breathing, to clear my head, to focus beyond the cramping in my shins. I spent my time thinking about how much more mentally tough I have become these last few years, about the races I hope to one-day attempt, and about how I need to remember to enjoy what I am doing so that I will continue to want to do it.

My group of FitBirds quickly disbanded as some moved ahead and some dropped behind. I saw the first aid station at about 1.5 miles but elected to pass it as I didn't feel the need to drink and didn't want to risk stopping or slowing down. I was pleased as I hadn't had to resort to walking and wanted to maximize my run as much as possible. I plugged away and was challenged by some deep and finely textured dirt that my feet would sink into as I ran along the path. It was not coarse like a beach and the lack of traction made it hard to gain much of a push when I would progress my legs forward.

My run technique is bad and I am highly aware of it. I strike with my heels, my hips are weak, and I have a short stride. I took the time to think about my technique and tried to correct some of the glaring mistakes. As my legs became fatigued and my muscles felt heavier, my technique would return to what it knew best.

There was a Weirmaraner that must have been owned by the property residents as she seemed to know the course, and she loved to run. She easily cruised the paths, dodging runners, and would wait patiently at each turn in the field for the runners to catch up to her. At times she would retrace her steps and meet the slower runners for a while to help encourage them along the way. We spent quite a bit of time together.

I stopped to walk at the last aide station so I could rinse some of the dust out of my throat, but then I resumed my pace to the finish. I had been leap-frogging with a lady that I have seen on some of the Forge Trail races, and refused to allow myself to come in behind her, so I managed to put in some speed at the end to cross the finish just ahead of her. It wasn't impressive, but it gave me some self-satisfaction.

Overall I kept a pace around 11 minutes, which for the terrain and where I am right now in my fitness I am satisfied with. This run did reinforce to me that I need to increase the time and frequency of my running over these next eight weeks or I will be in a world of hurt for the half-marathon trail run.

I am thrilled to have been able to run with some of my buddies. It is always nice to have people at the finish cheering me in and encouraging me during the process. We received a finish line award of freshly cut cane to suck on, Greek food, jambalaya, and cake balls and a symphony of live Cajun music.

video
Lizzard explaining the nuances of "bagasse" in relation to both racing and sugarcane


It is nice to start to feel some of my motivation and "mojo" returning. Mixing it up and cross-training has been a good choice for me. It helps to have people in my life that inspire me: Linda "Freebird" Adams who just demolished her very first full Ironman distance race, clenching a first place in her age group and Susan Hayden who is competing in the Xterra World Championships in Maui as I am writing this. Both of these women are mentors and give me the hope that one day I can compete in these kinds of races if I just keep persevering.

So for now I will continue to plug away at the smaller scale. Next week's adventure is yet to be confirmed, but I am considering the Voodoo Duathlon so I can get some more trail running and mountain biking experience under my belt and do it in a race situation that may motivate me to push a bit harder than I would on my own.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Woman Versus Wild

Right now I am so sore it hurts to type, but I am energized and eager to get back out to the trails and explore! Yesterday I ran the Battlefield 5 Miler at the Port Hudson Civil War Site and then followed it with a mountain bike ride at Comite. The weather was perfect and it was just what I needed to jump start my off-road off-season adventures.

I had not set any expectations for the run considering the last time I ran was the three miles at the Santa Rosa Tri at the beginning of the month, and before that, well...

I put myself in the back of the pack of the second wave and for the most part stayed in the back of the pack. I wasn't dead last but I was close. I finished in around 49 minutes but learned that the course was marked short so that explained why the pace seemed a bit unrealistic for me right now. It was a beautiful run and quite a nice change from seeing cars, roads, and houses. I ran across wooden bridges, up and down dirt hills, and across the green grass of a battlefield. I broke all previous training run rules and listened to music the entire time. And when it was over, I was greeted with a cold beer, live music, and hot food. I came in third in my age group and finished 7/13 for the series (I'd forgotten I had already done one trail run earlier in the year - when I actually was training).

I had been tossing around the idea of doing the Thunderbird Half-Marathon Trail run in December, but was undecided as to whether I could manage that distance over hard off-road terrain by then. My hesitance was put to the test after the race when I found I had won a nice headlamp and free entry into both the Moonlight 6K (the night before the half marathon) and the Thunderbird Half as a door prize. I'm taking that as a sign that I am to do both and will now have to get my self moving so I can complete them.

The Comite trails were challenging and I wasn't sure if after having done the trail run my legs would hold up, but I found that once I began to ride I forgot about the soreness and just enjoyed the experience of the ride. Koko had agreed to ride with me and it worked out well and we were able to push each other to attempt some of the more technical challenges and in doing so improve our skills. For a while I felt like I was adventure racing, just without the canoe portion. It was nice. I really missed those races this season.

I am trying to work out a plan that can include my off-road runs and rides and allow me to train with the few people I know who can tolerate my level of skill. If push comes to shove I am just going to be creative about where I train so I can go solo if need be.

I'm pleased that I can hardly walk, sit, or squat right now. It's okay today that my jeans don't fit and most of my clothes are too small. I know I'm on the right track to getting back to me. It feels good to feel again, and not be so numb to everything. I have hope today that things are getting better.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Sum of All Things = Disconnected

Every so often I have to stop, reassess, and refocus my life. I am an individual who has many dreams and passions. I want to fill my life with "moments" that will make me smile when I reflect on them in the years to come. I want to fill my life with positive people who share my sense of adventure and who can share the journey of life with me. People I can laugh with and step out of my box with. People who aren't afraid to try new things and push their limits.

It's cliche I know, but life is short. Carpe Diem. With this in mind I am spreading my wings to venture into a new territory - off road triathlon. By no means have I maxed out my passion for triathlon. There is still much uncharted territory to discover. I still have goals and bucket list items that have not been obtained. At some point there will be an attempt at a full Ironman, but for now the time is not right. I need a break from the roads and the asphalt.

These past few months have shaken my soul and I need to find some peace with my life. I feel disconnected from everything and everyone. Disconnected to the point of struggling to get through my day, my relationships, my career. I am desperate for focus, for enlightenment, for peace. The one place I seem to find that is off-road. Although I am new to trail running and still consider myself a novice mountain biker, the one thing I have learned is that I thrive in nature. Whether it is the calm I acquire at the beach, or the positive energy that soothes my anxieties when I'm in the woods, it is something I can count on. It's the only thing I can count on right now, as everything else feels unstable, unsure, and undependable.

I have much to learn about off-road racing and training, but have some good mentors out there that I hope to pull as much advice from as I can. My first obstacle is going to be finding some reliable and consistent training partners that can handle a newbie. Off-road is one place that solo training is not the best idea.

First event - Port Hudson 5 Mile Trail run next weekend. I have no expectations as I have not been running, and especially have not been trail running lately. My goals are completion with as much running as possible, to enjoy the experience and to gauge whether an attempt at a Half- Marathon Trail run in December is doable.

I hope my desire for new adventure motivates some of my followers to get out there and try something new!

Monday, October 3, 2011

She's Back....!

I'll admit it. It has been a ridiculously long time since I have entered a post, but I have had a multitude of good reasons. To be honest, the blog originally was set up in 2009 to document my journey to an official 70.3 finish. Two years and three attempts later, finally that happened. And then... well... I wasn't sure what to blog about anymore. I lost my focus, life began to intervene, and I wasn't sure if there was anything of interest I could offer to my readers, so I just stopped.

I'm not sure what my 'focus' will be as I try and pick back up my blogging. I do know that I missed the therapeutic benefit I got from doing it. I wanted to go back and blog about Santa Rosa training camp in August, my sprint races from the summer, and my experiences this summer with multi-sport, but I think it is going to be more realistic to just start fresh from where I am now and see where it leads to. So I will start with my race report from my end of the season triathlon, Santa Rosa:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Santa Rosa Training Camp Promo Video 2011

video

Time is running out! Register soon for Training Camp in Santa Rosa, Florida! This is great race preparation for the Santa Rosa Tri on October 1st, which just happens to fall on Coach Anne's birthday! (another reason to celebrate). Santa Rosa Triathlon consists of a 600 yard swim in the Gulf, an 18 mile bike along the beachfront, and a 3.1 mile run through some lovely neighborhoods. The swag is great, the food excellent, the setting serene, and the after party is, well... you have to see it to believe it.

Even if your season's goals do not include the Santa Rosa Tri, this camp will help build your base, teach you to swim in open water, improve your technique, and make your stomach hurt from laughing. If you've never experienced this kind of focused training, don't let it intimidate you. It is open to beginners and advanced athletes alike. Come challenge yourself, see how far you've come, and push beyond your perceived boundaries. There is no limit to what you can do!

For more information, or to register, contact Anne at 225.246.1731.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Vini, Vidi, Vici: 2011 Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3

Panama City Beach
 SWIM 1.2 MILES - BIKE 56 MILES - RUN 13.1 MILES
I Came. I Saw. I Conquered.
There is nothing sweeter than setting a goal for yourself that seems so unobtainable you repeatedly fail at achieving it, but instead of quitting you keep plugging away at it, attacking it, trying to wrangle it... and then one day you actually accomplish it. That is the taste of success, and let me tell you ~ I have never experienced anything like it. The high that I am riding right now is indescribable. After two years of trying to get an official 70.3 distance triathlon under my belt, I finally did it. And I did it in a way that surprised even me.

The purpose of my original blog (December 2009) was to allow others to follow along on my journey from being a couch potato to becoming a Half-Ironman. After what I considered to be an Epic Fail at my first attempt to conquer New Orleans 70.3 (although it did have some good points and I did learn in the process), I jumped back on the band wagon of race redemption with goals of destroying New Orleans 70.3 this past April. When the event was turned into a 69.1 because of the weather, again my goal was shattered. Two years of training, and visualizing, and pursuing that race... gone with the wind. Literally.

As soon as the race was over, my Coach suggested I sign up for the Gulf Coast Triathlon three weeks later and try once again at completing the distance. My response? I am done. D-U-N, dun. Don't even talk to me about another race this distance anytime soon. It's not meant to be.  I am dun.

Obviously, my ability to rebound after a disappointing race has improved, as last year it took about two months before I could even consider doing the distance again. This time it only took a day. By the time I returned home from New Orleans, the decision was made. I just decided that I wasn't going to advertise it. I'll admit I was wavering outwardly, but inside I knew I was going to do it.  My approach however, was going to be different. This race was personal now. My inability to accomplish my goal had gone on too long. I was going to do the race, and I was going to race it alone. No support, no family, no friends, no distractions. No need to explain myself afterwards if once again the goal wasn't achieved. The less people who knew about it the better. The thought of going to Florida alone for such a huge race made me very uncomfortable, as it was putting me far outside of my usual mode of operation, and I questioned my decision many times leading up to it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 New Orleans 70.3 Race Report (aka 69.1 Race Report)

It's a very simple relationship really. It's just taken me awhile to accept it. I am coming to terms with the fact that New Orleans 70.3 hates me... and I hate it. I don't mean to take any of its power away. It's a mighty beast of a race, and always seems to throw curve-balls, I just can't help but think it has it out for me personally.

The good news first? I finished officially! YAY! Main goal accomplished. The bad news is that I finished "officially" a 69.1 race, not a 70.3 race as the swim portion of the event was cancelled at the last minute due to strong winds and waves that were unsafe for the swimmers as well as the water support.

SO, now you know the gist of it. If you want the gory details read on. If not skim to the end and maybe by the time I finish typing this I will have decided what happens next, as I find blogging a very therapeutic way to deal with my race frustrations. This will likely be a long blog as I haven't gotten any posts out in 8 weeks and my head has a lot to say, so hold on...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Final Days

I'm not sure even how to start this post. I am eight weeks behind on my entries, and so many things have happened during that time I am not sure how to go back, or even if I should. The "race" is in three days. It has all led up to this moment, and the last two months were so critical to it all. So what will I do about it? Well, for the sake of trying to save this seasons blog, I will hit the highlights and then after the race go back and recount the big events, and there were lots!

So my excuses for poor blogging are the following: the unexpected death of my mother-in-law, the Rouge Orleans Ultra-Marathon, numerous small running races, and the first triathlon of the season ~ OxBow. Oh, and then there is my "new" job (in addition to my regular job) - I am now the "Chief Operations Officer" for FitBird Fitness. SO, there has been limited time for blogging.

Training has been incredibly challenging and time consuming, but I feel very prepared for Sunday. I have had some good open water swim training sessions, and a few that I wish I could erase. I've been in the water with the suit, without the suit, in the calm, in the chop, in the fog, in the sunshine,... I think I've hit almost every scenario possible. I still have my struggles but I am confident that I can get my **** together and pull it out in the end.

I am confident this year, but hesitant to be over confident with public predictions about my performance. This year its personal. It's about me and my brain, and what I can do. Finishing officially is the ultimate goal. True time goals are close to the chest this year, and expectations are high, but guarded too.

Tonight the pre-race whirlwind begins. Last season I spent a lot of time blogging about it as I went. This year I'm going to experience it and blog later. I hope to not be "blogging" in my head on the run, and rather be focusing on what I am supposed to be accomplishing. God help us all if I have another blog written at the end of a long day. You may never hear from me again.

So, for those of you who have been patiently awaiting a posting, I am sorry for the delay and hope you understand my need for focus right now. I hope to be able to post a life-changing race report (for me) next week. I hope...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Week Twelve: Fitbirds Go To Tampa...


What an awesome week! Training camp was an absolute blast as well as an absolute challenge! I was taken to my breaking point and was faced with some mental challenges, and although I may have failed at some, I learned in the process. There are still so many mental obstacles that throw me and that I have not yet figured out how to overcome. If I don't learn to control my emotions when I am tired and hurting I will be faced with some serious consequences come race day. I think that the mental aspect is still my biggest hurdle.

There were many awesome photo opportunities in Tampa and I was disappointed that as team photographer I was not able to shoot as many pictures as I would have liked, but Coach seemed to think training was more important than art, so I spent more time in the pool, on the bike, and in my running shoes than behind the lens. We have big plans for some of the great shots that we got, so for now I will just post a taste.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week Eleven: Styling in the Big Girl Panties

What a week! I am giddy. I wasn't sure exactly how this week was going to end when last Monday rolled around to start it. I was still hobbling on one foot as my cellulitic toe was pretty tender and sore. I only managed to get one four mile run in since the infection started over a week ago, and that run left me doubting that I would even attempt the half-marathon that was fast approaching on the upcoming Sunday. I accepted even more red on my schedule this week and dealt with the replacement of runs with swims. I managed to sit on my trainer and spin in endless circles, going nowhere, for two days in a row. The last of those spins was for 3.5 hours of misery. That was the day before the half-marathon.

I surprised myself this week and I learned more about myself in the process. I was pressed to make some tough decisions regarding my training. In doing so I realized that I could rely on my intuition, that I had the inner strength to do what needed to be done, and that I had again seen a jump in my confidence.

Challenge of the Week:

Deciding whether to race in the half marathon. I went back and forth all week long and had pretty much decided against racing by Thursday. I wanted to have a good training camp and not risk more injury that would affect my training when I got to Tampa the following week. What was my struggle? It was going to be a beautiful day. And I actually love to run now. And I wanted to race. But I didn't know if I could pull out of the race if I needed to. I had been instructed by my coach to not let my pain go above a 5/10. I was told not to start the race unless I knew I could pull out if I had to. I didn't know if I could.

I thought about it long and hard and finally decided that because I had to run that day whether it was in the race or on my own (as a run was still on my program), I figured it would be a lot more fun in a group of 17,000 people than alone. In New Orleans there would be food and beer after, and I'd claim my technical race shirt that I had paid for. I was in.

I made it to NOLA Saturday afternoon, picked up my packet and did a short walk of the expo. By the time we got back to the car, my foot was hurting enough to make me question my decision. I decided to stick with the program and see how far I could get, knowing I'd have to pull out if it got to be too much. I ran my pre-race facilitation that evening and carbo-loaded with Lizzard, FBI, and our husbands. After a lemon drop at the SYC, I wolfed down an entire pizza and then topped it off with some pastries from the doughnut store across the street. I love pre-race meals....

Coug and the Lizzard at the SYC

My Pre-Race De-Hydration
View from the SYC
Early to bed, early to rise. Lizzard and Kevin were gracious enough to allow us to stay in the boathouse with them. We got a good night's rest, popped a bagel and some water for breakfast, and rushed to the start line. I was eager by the time I got to my corral. I found myself standing in a long line for the last minute port-o-johners and watched my corral move ahead without me. Priority one - Port-O-John. Priority 2 - catch up to my corral. I managed to catch them just in time to start my Garmin and cross the timing line to begin the race. I had planned ahead just in case my race was cut short by carrying 40$ for cab fare (and for drinks to numb the frustration), and my cell phone to notify my finish line observers if I wasn't going to be there as planned. Figuring I had enough challenges I gave myself a break and broke a cardinal training rule... I listened to my music while I ran. I had enough going against me, I decided I'd at least be comfortable.

My coach had called me the night before to wish me luck... and to tell me to go out fast and strong because I probably wouldn't make it past 3 or maybe 6 miles. I gave her a hard time for her "negativity", but looking back at it during the race, I'm glad she laid it out there for me like that. It took the pressure off of having to complete it. It was just a training race, and I had to remember that. Knowing that I wouldn't be viewed as a "quitter" made it okay to walk away if I needed to.


I did what I was told and started out with a pace that I usually save for short distance testing. I felt great. I looked around this year. I looked up and not at the ground. I enjoyed running with a mass of people. I realized that sooner than expected I had crossed over the mat at the 3 mile mark... then the six mile mark. I threw my jacket to Lizzard's husband as I ran by smiling. I was passing people this year and not breathing hard at all. My foot felt great. I kept moving. Nine miles in I was getting tired, but still running hard, still not breathing labored. My legs were getting heavy. The long bike ride the day before was taking its toll. I slowed at the water stations but kept moving. Esplanade. Only 3-4 miles left. I knew I could do it, but I said a prayer that either I finished strong, or if suddenly the foot kicked in that God would give me the strength to walk off the course when I was so close to finishing.

Mile eleven was hell. I tried not to think. I just kept my legs going. I was looking at the ground now. Eminem started playing "Like a Soldier" in my ear and that got me going a bit faster. I wanted to stop so badly but I couldn't. I knew my pace was better than last year and I wanted to finish ahead of my time. I wanted it.

Mile twelve. I slowed and almost stopped but forced my legs to keep going. And then out of nowhere it happened. I stopped to walk. I was whipped. It wasn't long - at most - five seconds of walking passed before I felt someone grab my arm and pull me forward. I looked up to see Grace running beside me now. We didn't say anything to each other but I thanked God for putting her there at that moment. It was all I needed to get moving again. It was a struggle. I still wanted to walk, but I was afraid that if I did Grace would slow down to get me moving again. We trudged together towards the finish and I found a little bit left in my engine to speed up at the very end. I was ecstatic. I had finished with a new Personal Best. I dropped my time by over 3 minutes and ran a 10:03 pace.

Saving Grace and Coug

Lessons Learned:
  • Never say Never. Where there's a Will there's a Way. Just Do It. Mind Over Matter. (Or whatever over-used cliche you want to fill in here). 
  • Believe in Yourself.
Grace, Lizzard, Coug, Ellen, FBI (not pictured Koko)

So what's next? Training camp in Tampa, Florida is this week. I am excited, nervous, and ready.

To all of my Fitbird teammates that will be joining me I want to say this: I will NOT be earning the Put Your Big Girl Panties On Award this time at camp. I'm already wearing mine. Someone else can have that honor bestowed upon them...



Bring it Coach.