Monday, December 27, 2010

Week Four: Ahhhhhhh, Recovery Week...

Finally I have reached the first plateau! One month down, and green is still the color of compliance! This week's workload was cut in half and truly felt like a vacation compared to the last three weeks. I was even able to move some workouts around without feeling like I was competing with myself to fit them all in. It was the best Christmas present ever!

Challenge of the Week:
  • To continue rising early enough in the morning to get it done before work, and not procrastinate and convince myself I could exercise later since I had more freedom in my schedule.
Lessons Learned this Week:
  • The more I stick to my program on the hard weeks, the more enjoyable the recovery weeks are.
  • Weight training seems to be helping my balance as well as my core. I suddenly feel more stable when challenged with one legged balancing acts (which in my circus routine I do frequently).
  • I can't skip breakfast. I should know this one by now. I CAN'T SKIP BREAKFAST! I wish I could learn this one. Maybe this should be in my Lessons I Should Have Learned list.
So, the week is done, but I am pleased to say I did recover...

Planned: 6:10
Actual: 6:30

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    Dirty Mama's Go Out With a Bang!

    Grace, Gnome, Dirty
    Sadly, the 2010 Dirty Mama's Adventure Racing season has come to an end. It has a been an exciting season filled with spills, thrills, drama, laughs, and its fair share of sweat and hard work. I have never before enjoyed being part of a "team" as much as I have enjoyed being a Dirty Mama. Over the course of our first racing season we have fine-tuned ourselves into a small but potential threat for any team that is willing to compete against us in enough races to earn more points than we do by sheer participation in the sport. Oh, and we're good too. Don't think we'll just hand it over to you if you show up enough.

    We've been interviewed by local newspaper reporters, written about by a gnome, and have even started to become recognized at our races from all of the massive publicity that three middle age mothers can generate. It's been hard to remain humble throughout it all, but somehow we've managed to remain a team and not let the celebrity factor tear us all apart.

    So for our final season's race report I have decided that I will narrate. For only I can tell it like it was...

    November 6, 2010
    New Orleans Adventure Race - Finals

    I'm going to be honest. In the week leading up to this race I was just a tad bit disappointed. After all, it was the last race of our first season and all along we had talked a good talk about how we were going to blow it out in New Orleans and really celebrate our impending victory. I had bonded with my Mama's and was really looking forward to a girl's night/weekend in the Big Easy...playing in the French Quarter, racing hard, and then playing some more. It seemed like it was one thing after another that kept us from making the road trip as planned, and eventually we succumbed to real life and decided to just drive down the morning of the race and return home afterwards.

    Other than my Alzheimer's kicking in as usual, there wasn't much to our drive down. Once I remembered where Grace (previously known as Here) lived, we were on our way for a greasy bacon egg and cheese biscuit, coffee (which Grace managed to spill all over her lap and my van), and a quick pick-up of Dirty and her gear. Packing up has become a non-issue as we are such experts now. The quick check list of "did you remember to bring your bike," and "who has the Captain's?" was reviewed before leaving the city, but other than that we trusted that we all knew the routine by now.

    We arrived at City Park and went through our preparations. The necessities were addressed first. The inhaler went into the back of Dirty's camelback so I could have quick access; the flask of Captain's went into Grace's camelback so Dirty could have quick access, and so on. It was decided that knee-highs were silly for an urban race so they remained at home. That was mistake number one (at least for Dirty who was like our bulldozer and cleared the paths through the wilderness for us).

    While we unpacked we were informed that this race would be longer than usual since it was the championship race. This made us a little nervous considering an average race could take us 6+ hours. We made the unanimous decision to not break out the Captain's until we felt sure we had made it to a point where we could finish the race. We were racing smart.

    Dirty bike check
    Knowing that we might be gone for most of the day without food, we decided to take in a little nutrition pre-race. I found some old squishy energy bars that I shared with my girls, and Dirty decided she would try and burn off some fat pre-race.

    Last minute calories

    Unfortunately for her (and us) she wasn't able to keep it down...
    We looked fine. Hot. As hot as thirty-something (cough cough), slightly overweight women can look in skin tight new Nike capri pants and super small tank tops. We had hoped to be able to cover up with long sleeves to leave a little something to the imagination of our competitors, but the weather was not cold enough.

    Grace getting a little pre-race love

    Tally Wackinhole made the trip, but at some point in the race he escaped. It was weird. One minute he was there, the next he was gone.

    As usual I exited to use the pot-o-gold about the time my team got the maps and instructions for the checkpoints. This has been my strategy all along. I am sure they have not figured me out yet. I can't find my way to my teammates house, I really feel I am doing us all a favor not trying to find my way through the woods in City Park.

    The whistle blows and we head out like a herd of cattle with young pups nipping at our feet. We raced smart (at first) by sticking to the asphalt while the younger all-female teams took to the fields. It wasn't long till the first group payed the price as someone hit a hole and twisted an ankle. This reaffirmed our strategy to race smart and safe. We never questioned as our fearless leader led us through the brambles, thorns, and poison ivy as we watched in our peripheral vision the same team that sprained an ankle earlier reach the next checkpoint by just running through another grassy field. Hmmmmm.


    It seemed like there was lots of running at first, and then eventually we made it back to our bikes. We rode through City Park until we found the canoe entrance. We showed our finesse this time as we actually put our canoe into the water with ease, faced it in the proper direction, and coordinated our paddling. Dirty managed the tunes from her Ipod in the center console, and we cruised the waterways without any difficulty. Our relaxed moods combined with our good tunes and our center navigator who responsibly dished out gels and water made the trip more enjoyable than usual. We actually felt a twinge of pity for the all-female team who was seen trying to punch a canoe checkpoint from their bikes, not realizing they had really f----- up and completely missed a leg of the race. Just a twinge, but for us that was something...

    At the turn-around for the canoe I gave up my spot in the rear of the canoe and took over navigation (to my distaste). Dirty went into Coach mode and gave me the task of returning us to the canoe exit and then on to the next two bike checkpoints. Just because it was a straight line back to the canoe exit they acted like it shouldn't be stressful. I studied the map hard and we made it back without error. I then held my ground and led my team (as the strong leader that I am) to the next two checkpoints...even arguing my directions with those who questioned me (not naming names). Once there I handed the reigns back to the team members who are better adept at reading fine print.

    The most confusing part of the navigation seemed to be City Park itself. The turns and lakes became confusing, but even with the questions that arose we still managed to maintain a decent pace and get through each checkpoint. We rode towards the French Quarter, past hobos and tourists, and then along the levee until we got to the bike drop at Heritage Park. Here we found a sea of bikes from those that had come before us (which were many). The first debate was whether to leave the camelbacks with the bikes or to carry them on our run. The second was whether to leave the Captain. He came with us.

    Bike drop
    Always time for a photo
    One last look at the map and we decided the shortest, most direct route to get to our first Mystery Challenge location, Elmwood Fitness Club, would be to run straight down the street and then take a right. So we immediately proceeded to run, criss-crossing through the warehouse district, making many turns down back alleys instead. Grace and I became a little fatigued with the pace so we slowed, but in true Dirty fashion, she just kept right on running, glancing back every so often in exasperation at her pitiful teammates. But we knew who was really in control. We had the Captain's...

    We arrived at our Mystery Challenge to learn that we had to run up 13 flights of stairs while one team member carried a 15 pound weight. Being the team player that I am, I volunteered to make the first leg  carrying the weight. I made it up about 4 flights before Dirty said, "give me that." She then left us in the dust as she mule-d it up the flights at an un-Godly speed while we were left huffing and puffing in her wake. She's a monster. Grace and I exchanged knowing looks.

    Pop a gel, puff an inhaler, suck down some cold water, and we run towards Cafe Du Monde...our next mystery event. It was fun running through the quarter and downtown New Orleans, especially because we weren't being chased by anyone. We knew the side streets pretty well so we could choose our route without too much tourist foot traffic to hinder our speed. We arrived at Cafe Du Monde to find a table with buckets of powdered sugar on them and were given directions for each member of the team to bob for a beignet, removing it only with our mouths. One beignet had to be eaten by the team, but no hands could be used. We eagerly dove for the doughnuts (as we had no problem with this), but then Grace and I stood back and watched as Dirty tried to swallow an entire beignet in a few bites. It was ugly and hysterical at the same time. Neither of us were sure how to help without making it worse. I took a bite off of it in the early stages, but as it became lodged in her throat, Grace took charge and knew what she needed to do. It was strangely erotic yet disturbing as she went in for a bite. Having gnawed it into smaller bits, eventually Dirty was able to devour what was left. I felt dirty, but pulled it together so we could move on.

    Once the show ended we were running again. Down along the levee and then onto the trolley tracks. This is where we had to make a choice. This was the one time in the race that we could take public transportation if we chose. We could sit and wait for the trolley, not knowing when it would come, or we could run along the tracks and hope that it would be worth the effort. While all the other teams rested at the trolley depot, the Dirty Mama's went hardcore. We ran. And ran. We leaped from track to track, across the gravel, jumping train ties and trying to space our footing just right so as not to break an ankle. I don't know how Grace did it, but she never fell. Dirty was enjoying it way too much. "I have found the perfect way to run on my toes!" she kept saying. I, being smaller in stature, was struggling to keep up as my legs were not quite as gargantuan as my partners. We ran forever, always looking over our shoulders to see if the trolley that we were trying to beat was coming up from behind. I felt like I was in the movie Stand By Me where the train runs the kids off of the track and they jump just in the nick of time before getting squashed by the train.

    Track Running, a new sport
    My attempt to catch up. Hey! Let me take a pic!
    Finally we get to the end of the track and decide to grab the next trolley. We had run forever. We see the trolley filled with our well rested competitors coming towards us. We get on and sit for about 3 whole minutes, long enough to take our first (and only) shot of Captain, and then the trolley lets us off at our stop. We could have saved the five dollars and run 30 more steps and been there. Lesson Number Two.

    The next checkpoint was inside Mardi Gras World on a float. It is really a cool place to walk through. I was there years ago and loved it. I did not however realize that Dirty would be freaked out by floats and life-size fake people so I did not get a chance to look around as she zipped in and out so fast I barely got a picture. She kept saying things like "Oh my God! This place is awful!". Wuss.

    We reclaim our bikes at Heritage Park and ride back through the Quarter towards City Park. Mystery Challenge number 3 involves compass navigation. I'm out. We are given a compass and a set of coordinates and we have to come back with three letters attached to trees that we navigate to. They must be in the right order. Dirty takes the compass and goes to work and within a minute we have our first letter. On to the next letter. Its about 200 yds from the last tree. Suddenly the heat must be getting to Dirty, because for a swimmer she should be able to estimate yardage, but she is football fields from where she should be but is insistent that she is right. Thankfully Grace guesstimates the proper distance and leads us to the next letter without using the compass (as it is football fields away with Dirty who is still walking in circles and arguing that she is right). We then quickly find the last letter and take our answer to the judge who checks our work and send us off to the next checkpoint. Success! And we have made up some time on some of the other female teams!

    We are almost done, and are left with just a few more checkpoints. We ride our bikes to the location of the swan boats and are told we have to paddle boat our way around the fountain in the lake in order to get our next punch on our card. Grace and I take turns paddling the left side of the boat and Dirty and her mammoth strength maintain her position on the right the whole time. It was a blast, even as we got drenched in the cold fountain that we had to paddle through. Cold and wet, we got our punch and headed out for the last few checkpoints.

    The last mystery event was at Massey's Outfitters. Once we made it to the store we had to work a long math problem in order to get the number to a lock on a safe that we had to open. Once again, I busied myself with anything I could think of to not slow my team down more. I mean, I have a state auditor and a swim coach, both should be quick with numbers. Well, after working the problem about 5 times, they got the answer and opened the safe. We then had to find certain items in the store before we could punch our card. Once done, we were off again!

    We biked back to the van and dropped our bikes so we could run to one more checkpoint before crossing the finish line. We were looking strong. Hot. Sweaty. Frothy even. Frothy? What the hell is coming out from between Dirty's legs?? Oh my God she's foaming!! She is working so hard she has worked up a lather! (I have never laughed so hard in the last 1/4 mile of a race before). Apparently it is wise to completely rinse your pants of soap before you race in them. We are going to assume that was soap.
    Cleaned up and ready for our award!

    So it ended. We finished the race in 5:08:05 and claimed 4th place. We won 2nd place overall in the series and got a lovely plaque to commemorate all of the hard work. And Dirty got to squeeze Dave, the organizer's, butt during the pictures. Overall, it was a glorious end to a season.

    Dirty Mama's Second Place Overall

    And how did we celebrate? 
    Well in true Dirty fashion of course...

    To My Mama's: Thanks for accepting me into your small and very exclusive sorority. I have had an incredible time racing with you both. Just when I think we've done it all... we have another adventure! I look forward to next season and can only imagine what laughs it will bring! 

    Your Dirty Mama,

    Yard Gnome

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Week Three: Mean Green Triathlon Machine

    One option for next season's Fitbird Tri-Suit?
    This weeks summary:

    It started off normal consistent with the previous two weeks ~ runs almost every day, bike twice a week, weights twice a week, two swim workouts. And then it happened. The gavel came down. New workouts appeared on my program. An extra swim got thrown in. There was even talk of an open water practice. Coach is starting to sneak things in on me. Apparently 11 hours of training a week isn't enough.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Week Two: On a Roll!!

    I have just completed Week 2 of 20 weeks of training. Wow. I was really proud of myself until I just typed that and realized I have 18 more to go. Maybe I should hold my enthusiasm a little longer. I was going to say that I was pretty proud of myself for completing a second week of training as written. But now it just doesn't seem that impressive. Oh well. I'll keep nipping away at the mountain ahead of me. Maybe if I face it one week at a time I will be able to look back in a few months and feel I've accomplished something. Wow. I didn't know I could let the air out of my own sail.

    So, this week's summary:

    I seem to be continuing on the build portion of training as my time investment is rising. Lots of running is still in my plan and I suppose that is mostly due to Rouge Orleans creeping nearer and nearer. I am getting more comfortable with long swims in the pool, and have even adjusted somewhat to swimming outside in the cold. I know that my hours in the pool are just going to get longer and longer but I'm trying not to think too far ahead as it could easily bring me down. I am missing my road bike as all my training this week has been on the stationary bikes at the fitness center. I hate not moving when I ride. I miss my training group and Fitbird rides. Something about "gusts of 40 mph" kept me from riding outside and I had to settle for the spin bike. Luckily I had a good training partner who tried her best to entertain me with songs from Glee and unusual Christmas tunes. It was interesting, to say the least...

    Lessons Learned for the week:

    1) I am capable of training solo when it is required, although it is not my first choice. Stray dogs can be nice to run with when I am desperate for companionship.

    2) There is something disturbingly nice about freezing in cold air and then diving into a heated pool to swim...except when the lifeguard calls you out in front of everyone for diving into the pool.

    3) I like the way it makes me feel when I enter my daily logs into Training Peaks and the blocks turn green.

    4) I am somewhat relieved that the three days of utter and complete exhaustion I felt mid-week was not 100% due to deconditioning. I can account some of it to a wayward stomach virus that seemed to be floating around the hood. This makes me feel hopeful about facing future weeks of true utter and complete exhaustion.

    5) I am learning much about what some call "runner's trots". I shall say no more (except thank you EBR Parish Library for your location).

    6) I am learning a lot about proper nutrition this time around. I am far from mastering it, but I like when I know what works and what doesn't for me before and after a workout.

    7)I am visualizing success. Whenever I am running, biking, or swimming all I let myself think about is that damn race and how I am going to destroy every obstacle it presents to me. I picture every aid station, landmark, and competitor along the way and watch myself go flying by and think about how good it's going to feel. I think about my Coach at the finish line handing me the peanut butter shake I should have earned last year.

    Planned Time: 11:00
    Actual Time: 11:27:33

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Week One: Making Friends With My Garmin

    Training Week One ~ Completed as written! First time EVER I have actually stuck to the entire program and gotten all my time in as instructed. My plan for this season is to actually follow my coach's written program with as little deviation as possible. I have come to the realization that I may not know quite as much as I think I know and maybe, just maybe, the one I pay for the expertise could know more. AND considering my fantabulous results in NOLA 70.3 last year, I am thinking it might be a good idea to get on board early.

    The weeks challenges? Lots of running on my plan. The distances weren't bad, but there were lots of run days. Re-introduction of a strength and conditioning program to get my 32% body fat down to a 24%. Hence my screaming calf muscles from calf raises and running. Keeping focused on the program. I had to battle through the discomfort and fight the urge to stay in bed on those cold mornings and choose to get up and run in 32 degree weather in the dark...which was even more difficult when certain teammates bailed or threatened to bail on me (I will not name names, but you know who you are!). Fighting the urge to puke when I run. Discovering that when my heart rate jumps with my increased speed I want to puke, and trying to learn how I can control that.

    Lessons Learned for the Week:
    1) Do NOT drink a beer before a race, even if it is a fun "Reindeer Run".
    2) Do NOT run in exercise pants or long sleeves no matter the temperature. I overheat and would do better just being cold to start out with.
    3) Keep my cold weather gear in a logical spot at the end of the winter season so when the next season starts I can find it easily.
    4) Early to bed makes early to rise so much more pleasant.
    5) Lube my bike chain before a test ride...especially when I haven't ridden in a long time.
    6) Appreciate the long hours adventure racing ~ they have really helped my endurance and strength.
    7) Stretch, stretch, stretch. Bio-freeze. Epsom salts. Stretch again. Keep moving. It will eventually stop hurting.

    Time planned: 9:37
    Time completed: 9:53

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    One Last Bowl of Ice Cream...

    Four hours, forty-five minutes and the off-season officially ends and the rituals begin: the early rise ~ early to bed, the achy muscles, the fatigue. The black toenails, the chafing. Frozen fingers and toes. Ridiculous yardage in the pool. Hours on the bike. The mental roller coaster that goes with it all.

    How I truly look forward to it.

    Yes, training begins in the morning.

    Same goal as last year, different outcome. New focus, new fervor, new determination.

    NOLA you are going down. See you in April.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    The Presentation of the New Nickname...

    Today is a special day. After much deliberation and thought, a nickname has been earned. This one has been very difficult to establish considering the multitude of nickname possibilities (Bruiser, Clutz, Liability ~ are but a few), but the recent demonstration of clumsiness and her lack of finesse has finally secured her a nickname.

    {drum roll}

    From this day forward, Here will be known as Grace.

    The straw that broke the proverbial nickname camel's back happened last Saturday when she was doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred and she sprained her ankle doing jumping jacks in her living room.

    Three days prior to this episode she injured herself falling down my stairs.

    Prior to that she fell on the boardwalk in Santa Rosa.

    And before that there were numerous mountain bike injuries that left her muddy and disheveled.

    So please join me in welcoming our dear Fitbird friend, Grace!

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Back on The Wagon...

    I've been a bit lazy these past few weeks with my blogging. Seems the end of my off-season has impacted all of my life by maximizing any and all spare time for "other" things. I have been trying to do as little as possible that is triathlon related in hopes to clear my mind, refuel my fire, and rest and rejuvenate my body. I have been trying to stay mildly active with adventure racing, mountain biking, and running. I haven't been in the pool in a long time. I haven't woken up early on a regular basis in an even longer time. All that's about to end.

    Welcome NOLA 70.3 training November 29th, 2010. Time to fit in one last major holiday food fest, one more quick trip to the beach, and a few more lazy mornings. And's over. Back to a focused effort to destroy the race I struggled through last year. I am ready to give it all I've got. Come on NOLA!

    But for now let me enjoy my last week...

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Fuel For My Fire!

    Lizzard's View of Lake Ponchartrain - Sunrise
    It won't be long now. The beginning of another long five months of intensive training. I said I wouldn't do it, then I said I'd consider it, and finally I committed. What I was calling another "attempt" at the New Orleans Half Ironman, I will now call my plan to not only finish officially, but also in doing so I plan to destroy my pitiful time from last season's race.

    I'll be honest. I was starting to get cold feet. Even after having such a good end of season open water race in Santa Rosa, there was still some lingering reservations about getting back into Lake Ponchartrain.

    It's been kind of interesting really. About a week ago I had the sudden realization that I was no longer "afraid" of the water. Had my fear finally been conquered? It just hit me out of the blue. I actually looked forward to our open water training swims. I actually enjoyed swimming in the ocean in Florida. The panic I used to feel...the dread that came even before arriving at the swim site...was suddenly not there. And I hadn't even noticed at first! My anxiety "scale" wasn't being used anymore and I wasn't thrashing to get out of the water. I was even starting to feel confident in my swimming abilities (I realize I still have a long way to go with my technique, but I am light years from where I started).

    With my new-found realization, I told my Coach my fear was gone. I told everyone. And then I saw a picture of the swim at the Big Cajun Triathlon in New Roades, LA (during which I was , thankfully, out of town) that some teammates were competing in. I felt sick. It was still there - that panicky, queasy, sick feeling I used to get. I couldn't imagine being able to swim in water in which I couldn't even see the buoy much less two feet in front of me. My confidence started to shake.

    Big Cajun Swim - Fog City
    Add to that the stress of a new job, an active family, a husband that will be taking the brunt of the childcare, and the guilt of again doing something for myself, and I began to question my ability to undergo the training required to meet my goals for New Orleans.

    Subconsciously I think, I picked up my running hours these past few weeks to see if I still had the longer distances in me. I did. I even got motivated by a dream I had in which I slayed the swim and the bike during the 70.3, and at mile seven on the run I felt great. I was so psyched by the dream that I went out and ran 6 miles the next day with no problem. Check that off the list. Thirteen miles - doable.

    My bike has been sitting dormant since Santa Rosa. I've been on my mountain bike some, but I've been skipping out on spin classes in order to claim a little extra sleep - as I know sleeping late will be coming to an end very soon. I questioned whether I could still make myself wake up at 4:15 in the morning to go exercise, especially with a new job that has different hours and is not convenient to where I work-out anymore. Even with the poor focus on my cycling, I know that I can get it back. It is one of my limiters, but I still continue to improve and am sure I will get plenty of time to do so. Fifty-six miles - tiring, but doable.

    So the swim. Let's admit it. I have been completely ignoring it. I haven't been back in the pool once since Santa Rosa Tri. I depend on my groupies and they are either in specialized classes, or get up too early for me to be motivated to join them (that sleep maximization thing again). I could find time if I really wanted to. But I'd rather run. Or pluck my eyebrows.

    So this weekend I planted my flag with some of my training buddies for a six mile lake run. Instead of getting offers to join me, I got an offer from Lizzard to join her in New Orleans to run. Sounded like a nice change of scenery so I agreed. And in zealousness I suggested that we could throw in an open water swim in Lake P for good measure...and if we got there and decided it was too cold (or I wussed out) then we would travel with our bikes and ride instead (ahead of choosing to pluck eyebrows, but behind swimming).

    I accomplished many things today. I managed to get out of bed at 4:20am. It's been a while since I've had to do that. It wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. I even started a fire in the fireplace for the kids on the way out the door. I drove solo to New Orleans and felt great. Motivated even. I crossed the Ponchartrain and looked at the water. No worries. (I did have to make an extremely urgent stop at McD's as I neared the city limits, but admitted to myself I was a little nervous - understandable as I hadn't been back in that body of water since that day.)

    Coach and I were communicating some during the ride via text, and she offered up some recommendations for the swim - a "workout" of sorts if I wanted one. I started feeling anxious as I thought about a long swim in that water. By the time I got within a few blocks of the swim hole I was having a pretty severe anxiety attack and couldn't control the tears from running down my face. I rated myself as an 8/10 to Coach. She calmed me down and re-focused my panic - I wasn't afraid of the water anymore. I had a bad experience. It was bad conditions that day. I could swim. It was just a bad experience and I could overcome it.

    I arrived at the hole and met Lizzard and her sherpa Kevin who was kindly going to remain on shore and watch us as we swam. I glanced at the water and was disappointed to see that it no longer looked like the calm body of water that Lizzard's early am picture portrayed. It was choppy. White-cap choppy. Subconsciously I was so nervous I brought my running shoes down to the water's edge and didn't even realize it. I donned my wetsuit and shared my anxiety with Lizzard because I figured she would think I was depressed over something when she noticed the tears streaming down my face. In true Lizzard fashion she took charge of me and slowed the pace down, allowing me to acclimatize with the water before getting in.

    Choppy Lake P - At Swim Hole
    Coach had instructed me to swim 1-2 warmup laps, rest, and then swim 3 laps as a main set. Down and back is a 1/2 mile. I'd never swum more than that distance in my training last year because my anxiety and panic prevented me from doing so. Kind of funny looking back considering that the race distance is more than double that.  Now I was supposed to swim 1.25 miles. And do it within my 1:26 minute New Orleans 70.3 disaster worst-case-scenario time. The goal was for me to just keep moving. Backstroke was even allowed (backstroke is never allowed).

    I finally got the courage to jump off of the steps and breast stroke out to the first pile-on, where I proceeded to tread water while trying to figure out what to do next. Lizzard came to my rescue again and helped me make the swim more manageable.

    "Let's just swim to the first pile-on. Can you do that?" she asked.

    "Yes, I think so." I managed to get through the heavy chop to the first pile-on.

    "How was that?" she asked. "Can you do it again?"

    And so we slowly made our way, leaping 1 at a time, then 2 at a time, then 3. I came up to the next pile-on and couldn't express my thoughts to her because I am choked with emotion. "I think I'm doing okay and then I flash back to that day and it makes me panic and I get upset - which makes me panic." I started to get tearful. "The thoughts just creep in."

    "Okay. Let's count strokes. See who can get to 2 pile-ons from here with the least strokes. Ready? Go." I swam and counted and the thoughts stayed away.

    "Your turn, " she said when we got to our mark. "You name the game." I thought for a second. "I am breathing every stroke. I won't be able to do that the whole time. Let's see if I can still breathe to the right but do it every fourth breath." I did fairly well but veered off course and reverted to single stroke breathing. We got halfway to the end of the first lap and paused to talk. "I think I can do it. Let's go all the way to the end." I swam, freestyle, focused on counting and breathing and trying to stay straight. We made it and I felt encouraged.

    Lizzard encouraged me to swim back to the start. "Do you think you can go to the half-way point?" We tried, and I did. I made it back to the start and decided that it felt good and my goals were met (even though Coach's plan for my swim wasn't) - and I was fine with getting out of the water. We treaded water and talked about it for a few minutes.

    Suddenly we realized that Kevin (GNO-Tri Coach) was on the shore yelling to us - coaching us. Apparently I was not reaching out far enough and was not pulling efficiently with my stroke. I should let my wetsuit do more of the work, and rotate more. He explained how to adjust my arm position from what I do in the pool to a different position for open water swimming and it would help block the waves in my face as I breathe. Keep them in closer to me, don't reach up so much. He encouraged us to keep swimming. At least to go a few more pile-ons and try the different approach.

    So with both Lizzard and Kevin's encouragement, I kept going. This time with a new sense of calm and confidence. If I made it around once, I could do it again and do it better. I thought about my technique and found myself riding the swells, not fighting them so much. I watched myself speed by some of the pile-ons and it felt good. My shoulder's burned just as Coach told me they would from the wetsuit and my not having been in the water for a while. I was glad she warned me of that because it would have made me panic, afraid that was getting exhausted and might not make it back.

    I swam that lap without stopping, caught a breath at the end, and swam back without rest. It took me about an hour to do that mile workout. Far from great, but way better than I expected. Overall I was thrilled that by the end I felt relaxed in the water and was without the fear that had crept in when I had started. When we got out I was surprised to hear that Kevin (sherpa), who had been at the New Orleans race, felt that the water today was worse than it had been the day of that race. It didn't feel that bad, and if that was true then things really had improved. That boosted my confidence immensely. So much so that Liz and I changed clothes and ran seven miles along the water as a reward (?) for our work-out.

    Lizzard, Coach Kevin, Coug
    I am in. One hundred percent in. I will find a way to make the training fit into my hectic schedule. I will figure out how to get organized. I will have to make sacrifices, as will my family. This race is so important to me. I have something to prove to myself now. When I come out of that water on race day it's going to be with a different mind-set because I will have squashed that bad experience to death. It will be the end of my fear once and for all. It will be the proof that I need that I can do anything I set my mind to. I will race New Orleans and do it right this time.

    Hold on readers because you are in for a ride.

    Training starts November 29, 2010...

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    The Dirty Mamas Light Fountainbleau On Fire...

    Hello there! I would like to introduce myself. I am Tally. Tally Wackinhole. I am what you humanoids refer to as a "gnome". I have to write quickly before I am discovered by the one you refer to as "Garden Gnome" (although I think "Yard Gnome" is more appropriate due to her lack of couth). In fact, I really don't like the fact that you humanoids even associate her with our kind, but I have to admit, I do see the similarity so I will accept the analogy.

    Anyway, she appears to be asleep now so I thought I would sneak up here to write my version of the "Dirty Mamas" (as you call them) latest adventure race. You see, I was there the whole time. I think that I can probably give a much more enlightened version of the trip than any reporter can. I have seen things no one else should see, and heard things with my own ears that no one else should hear. For my protection, please keep this record public so everyone will know I exist. You see, I have just recently been released from bondage and fear I may be returned. I have spent the last 5 years hidden away in a box in the home of the one they call "Dirty". I do not question that nickname at all. You people have no idea what I've had to overcome to maintain my sanity there.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Nope, Just Can't Walk Away...

    I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to put you through another race report. What can I add to it to make it different from all of the others? It's still Swim, Bike, Run. I am sure it gets old reading about it. I just can't let this one go though. It's too good. It would be unfair of me to not write it. After all, you have followed me through the season, you followed along with training camp, you've read the struggles and the challenges...surely you want to know how the season ended? I'm going to give it to you, but only the race report, not the weekend antics. That story is for another day, in another way, and for a select few. So let's begin the story of the Santa Rosa Triathlon.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Life on a Sandbar

    I can count the times on my fingers that I would consider so memorable in one way or another that they would make it to the list of My Greatest Life Memories. This list contains big items like my marriage, adopting the twins, witnessing the birth of my daughter, and reuniting with my birth-parents ~ but it also contains other special moments in my life like a trip to St. Marteen with some college buddies, and highschool antics with my friend Fae. I am adding to my list today. Officially I have to say that this past weekend's trip to Santa Rosa Island was one of the best times of my life and I am going to tell you why:

    A combination of factors created the perfect blend for an awesome trip. The weather was pleasantly cool crisp and sunny. Add to that the most beautiful white sugar beaches, calm crystal clear water, and tropical scenery dotted with palms and sea oats and you have yourself a picture perfect postcard for a triathlon vacation weekend. Throw in a great group of women, add some of the funniest people you know, toss in a dash or two of alcohol and the after-effects of an awesome end of season triathlon, and it is inevitable. You will have the time of your life.

    It's been a long triathlon season for me. I started this training a year ago April and really have not taken much time off from training since then. I've had many ups and downs with my races over this past spring and summer. I've failed and I've persevered. I've set Personal Records and I've embarrassed myself by some of my performances. I've struggled trying to swim, and finally I have completed a swim in a race in open water that I am proud of. I've come a long way.

    It's been a long year in general for me. I've recently changed jobs, the kids are back in school, and there is the stress of daily life that hovers over my head. I don't know what I want out of life and I am still searching for the answers. I enjoy what I do, but am not fulfilled by it anymore. I am still on a quest to find how to balance the needs in my life with the needs of those around me. I admit that I truly believe I am in what some would call a full-blown mid-life crisis. I prefer to think of it as making sure I have no regrets when I hit my golden years. Life is short. Too short. I hope to fill mine with as much joy, adventure, action, and laughs as I can before I can't.

    I was going to write an enthralling race report about my best race ever, but I'm not. I was going to give a play-by-play of the events of the Fitbirds at their end of the season blow out weekend, but I'm not. I am going to say that I am grateful for the group of friends that I have that allow me to be me without judgment. I am grateful for the support of the women I train with as I completed my last race of the season and met my goal of doing it with a smile on my face. I am grateful for all of the belly-laughs and the stress relief that I felt over those four days. I'm grateful for the stories that I can recant with those who were a part of them when we reminisce about old times years from now. I am grateful for being able to break out of my box for a while and play unhindered by the real world. There is always time to be serious and burdened in life, but not much time to truly break free of it.

    So, to those who were there ~ Thank you. Thank you for letting me have one of the best times of my life.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    I Was Assassinated at the X-Trail Shootout!

    What do you call a 40 year old woman careening down a steep slope at high speeds on a mountain bike? 

    You call her an ambulance to take her to the insane asylum! The mid-life crisis has gone too far...

    I was all prepared to enjoy a nice run today until a last minute change to my weekend training plan turned me into a registered athlete for the X-Trail Shoot-Out at Comite Park. If you are wondering what a "shoot-out" is, so was I as I was driving to it this morning. Apparently there are groups of mountain bikers who think riding as fast as you can on a 1 mile loop of treacherous trail is cause to compete with others of like mind. Each rider gets three attempts to ride the course for their best time, and that time is ranked against the other participants to determine the top three finishers.

    You're Going Down, Canada
    A mile sounded really small to me as I pulled in this morning. I mean really ~ I am used to riding 30+ miles on a regular basis. In fact, I rode 18 just yesterday morning. One mile? Sheesh. Please. I rode 6 on my mountain bike last weekend during an adventure race. No brainer. Hand me my trophy please.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    The Dirty Mamas Do Sam Houston...

    from the American Press
    Interview by: Ivy Itchmebad

    September 11, 2010

    My colleagues in journalism have given me a lead on a story that they promise will make me famous, or if nothing else, at least provide a few laughs along the way for my readers. It is about a group of three middle aged mothers that have been working their way into the world of adventure racing through their team's, The Dirty Mamas, participation in the Gulf Coast Adventure Racing Series that ultimately culminates in New Orleans in November of this year. Since their first race last June, they have been followed and interviewed by the local newspaper closest to each event to see just what Adventure Racing is all about. My peers encouraged me to continue this trend as the Dirty Mamas entered into my journalism territory of Lake Charles, Louisiana where they were racing at the Sam Houston State Park. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when I agreed to take on this assignment. As part of my research, I had read my colleagues work Dirty Mamas Beat The Red Stick Hard and Dirty Mamas Take Over The Spillway to gain some insight into these women. If you are not already familiar with their tales, I encourage you too to read up on their journey into Adventure Racing.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Putting the Muse in Amusement

    I am starting to see a trend. The more fun I have with training, the more I want to continue; the more inspired I become, the greater and deeper my motivation to succeed is. I am slowly accepting the fact that Elite Athlete I will never be (I know, it is a slower self-realization than it is for those around me). I am just one of many age groupers out there. One of many average athletes. I do have something going for me though. One of the few things that may set me apart from others in my age group is my desire to continue with this well into my old age. Why? Because I am having fun with it. The fun is what keeps me motivated. The ability to socialize and to share experiences with others that I train with is one of the main reasons why I do this. I still want to improve my skills, and initially that was enough to drive me forward, but lately I realize that training is just something to do to fill my spare time, and if it wasn't enjoyable, I probably wouldn't want to do it. After all, I am really not that good. And let me just be brutally honest with myself... I will never make a living as a triathlete.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    No Spills on the Hills, but a Slight Quiver on the River


    It's been quite a while since the Fitbird's hit the road for group training away from Baton Rouge, with the exception of Training Camp of course. This weekend we gathered on Saturday to ride the Starhill Loop in St. Francisville. It's a good 26 mile ride through some stunning scenery and fairly challenging hills. I'd forgotten how ridiculously beautiful it is compared to riding on River Road, and even though St. Francisville still has its share of crazy drivers, overall it is a much more "experiential" ride to partake in.  It was also a good chance for strength building, working on keeping a high cadence and pushing fast and hard up those hills.

    We had nine Fitbird's make the ride, with no major catastrophes and only a few near misses. They say bad things happen in threes, and for this ride that seemed to hold true. I unfortunately was responsible for the first near miss within the first few miles of the ride when my jug of Gatorade bounced out of my water bottle cage into the line of bikes behind me. Luckily, Shell's managed to avoid the erratic rolling of the bottle, instead choosing to swerve towards an oncoming car. Her cat-like reactions pulled her back, out of the way of danger, and I learned my lesson: next time I forget my water bottle just go without one instead of risking the lives of my teammates by trying to force a Gatorade bottle into a cage it's not designed for and then riding the bumpy roads of Louisiana. Bummer though as it was my favorite flavor of a newly purchased Gatorade and I never even got a chance to open it. Hope you enjoy it raccoons.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Hashing - An Experience Like No Other...

    This has been the most difficult post to write since I started blogging. Just coming up with the words to describe what I experienced yesterday is only a part of my challenge. Fear of repercussion from some of the "Hashers" I met is another issue. I am not sure how much of a rule "What happens at (Hashing) stays at (Hashing)" is. From what I experienced, I kind of hope that is a rule. I will however attempt to describe my experience and hope that by keeping names and places vague I won't get Down-Downed if I ever go back. I would say that I would give fictitious names to protect people's privacy, but they already do that. And the names, well... I will describe those later. On the other hand, even with it having been such a bizarre experience, it kind of had a strange draw on me, and I think I want to give it another go sometime. I was reminded of my recent team's mantra ~ Life Begins When You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Oh. I was way outside my comfort zone for this adventure.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Like Moths To A Flame...

    Like Moths To A Flame...
    Fitbird Fitness Spring Training Camp 2K10

    Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

    Hi. My name is Katie, and I have a story to tell you. I have received an honor that to date no one else has received. I am what they call an honorary "Fitbird". You may not understand what this means now, but hopefully by the end of my story, you will grasp the magnitude of this title. With this title comes special privileges and insider knowledge of the intricate mind of the Grand Master of Ceremonies. I am inside the Circle of Trust and my "first string" status allows me insight that others are not privy to. My story of the inaugural Fitbird Fitness Training Camp is unique because I was able to observe it without judgment, to comment on it without fear, and to participate in it fully, but without repercussions. So hear me as I tell you the tale of Training Camp Santa Rosa 2K10...

    Hi. My name is Coug, and I’m going to tell you how things really went down at Sufferfest 2K10. I am what you call a “second string” player. I fill in for support when “first string” isn’t available. Unfortunately this position does not have the same perks as the primary one. I occasionally get glimpses behind the curtain, quick views of the methods to the madness, but I am pretty much as in the dark as you are. I, unlike “Honorary Fitbird”, have to be very wary of repercussions from making public comments. I have created turmoil in the past for the team by opening my mouth and inserting my foot. My innocent comments have led to me being told to get my "panties out of a wad" and has brought me harsh criticism.  I will, for this post however, face my fear and tell you how things really went at camp.