Saturday, June 30, 2012

what I believe in

I hope you'll bear with me as I continue to stray from my usual schtick of complaining about running and pictures of my ass.

I'm not sure where I begin telling this story, but I feel strongly that it is a story that needs to be told.  I could start it on Sunday morning, when Graham was fine, or Monday when he started throwing up or Tuesday when he stopped eating or Wednesday when he ended up having emergency surgery - actually five emergency surgeries - over the course of a very long night.  I could tell you about all the conversations we had when realized that these expenses would far exceed the limit on our credit cards and the depths of our savings account, already depleted by other financial hardship, and all the discussions we had about selling our cars and our bikes and even my wedding rings to keep our family alive.  I could repeat all the things the vet said about his lack of progress, the number of times she told us to prepare ourselves, when we realized that even if we emptied our pockets and our hearts, it still might not be enough.

I could tell you all of those things, and they would be true.  

I believe that faith, that spirituality and what you believe in is a highly personal thing.  I know what I believe in, but I would never want to force that on another human being.  I think it matters less who and what you believe in than it does that you have faith at all.  I believe in karma, I believe that there is a force bigger and grander than all of us, I believe that the universe is not an accident.  I believe that when you cut someone off in traffic and then stub your toe, you've earned it.  I believe that when your husband is offered a job in another city and two days later the city suffers the worst forest fires in the history of the state, that it is a sign you should not go.  And I'm grappling with my faith in a God that would send so much tragedy to my family in such a short time, but I'm trying to find the lesson in all of this.

When Amy and Liz asked me if they could do something to help us - and they did ask - my first response was no, especially when they wanted to use the blog and this community.  Because I feel strongly about the kind of community that has existed here for over three years now, and in no way would I ever want to exploit that community for personal gain.  It felt tasteless and sickening.  But Liz told me that the ability to ask for help when it is needed is a skill I need to cultivate - and she's right - and that the generosity of the human spirit would be good for my soul.  So I said yes to them, I said they could do whatever they liked, and I will take responsibility for any negative reactions or responses to their ask, because this is my community, my blog, and I am ultimately responsible for any content that is posted here.  

Letting my friends ask for charity on our behalf is maybe one of the more difficult things I've had to do in my life.  I'm sure many will understand.  To swallow my pride, to accept the fact that I have failed to support my family, to have to look in the mirror and face the decisions I have made that have led us to a point of such instability - it continues to make me sick.  It makes me feel small and inept and mean, it makes me hate myself, especially knowing that there are people out there that have written these things down, the worst things that I think about myself, and called them truth, have called them tasteless and shocking and weak.  But making this about me, making this situation about my failures and my inadequacies, doing that is staining the generosity, the pure love and heart that has been shown to me by so many people.  Is that the lesson in this?  I don't know yet. 

But what I do know is that there are not enough words, there is not enough time and space to be grateful enough for what has been done for us, for what continues to be done for us from people and places that I never would have expected.  Because of this generosity - a word that I am aware I am overusing but simply have no substitute - we have been able to keep Graham in the hospital for an additional day instead of being forced to make the financial decision Friday morning to bring him home - a decision that most certainly would have ended his life.  During that extra day, he got up and walked again.  And it is giving us space to continue and try to find the means to keep him in the hospital for today and hopefully tomorrow to get stronger before we do bring him home on a prayer.  

What happened to Graham was an accident, but how we move forward will not be.  Thom and I discussed this on Friday when donations started showing up, and we agreed that we would pay everyone back, no matter how long it took.  But I feel again like that is tainting the spirit that gave so freely.  Instead, we decided to match every penny donated to Graham with a donation of our own to the golden retriever rescue that I volunteer with and another one to Lost Dog, a rescue organization that Amy has volunteered with here.  If anyone does wish to be paid back, we will happily and freely give that money as soon as we are able, and all of this will be a financial priority - certainly one over running shoes and race entries and frosty drinks with an umbrella.  It may take us six months, it may take us ten years, but we will pay this both forward and back.  

You may continue to judge the decisions that I have made to protect my family, and I understand.  I would do the same.  I can snark with the best of them, although I believe that there is a difference between complaining about someone because they talk about their watts all the time and take pictures of their oatmeal and my situation, but you may not.  You may hold me accountable to the promise we have made, but I can tell you that you don't have to.  Because if Graham makes it through this, if he comes home and spends the next twelve years of his life showing me where the back door is so we can go outside, I will never forget.  And if he doesn't make it, if he isn't strong enough to continue fighting, if the time we had with him will forever not be enough, then I will be reminded by the hole in my heart that will never close, not for the rest of my life.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

for Graham

OK, internet people. This is Amy and Liz, friends of Katie's here in DC. We've hijacked her blog today to make a big ask of all of you. 

As you probably know by now, Graham (Katie's first dog) had surgery for a blocked intestine on Wednesday night, and is continuing to need critical care. Katie and Thom are doing everything they can, but this stuff is expensive and his needs are fast outpacing what they can afford. Of course Graham is their baby, and we all love Katie, Thom, Graham, Molly and Sofie, so we're committed to pulling out all the stops to make sure that they can give him the care that he needs based on the vet's recommendation. 
So, please help. Any donation of any size is appreciated and can be made through PayPal directly to Katie by using either or Every penny will go directly to the vet bill, and any excess (if we're lucky enough to raise that much) will go to a golden retriever rescue in the northern VA/DC area that Katie volunteers with.

You can always reach us directly too if you want to help in other ways at (Amy) or (Liz).

Thank you!
Amy & Liz

P.S. If you would prefer to send a check directly or contribute to the vet bill directly, please comment below or email one of us for Katie's address or the vet contact information.

Monday, June 25, 2012

you are an ironman

The before:
The after:
Details on everything in-between to come...

Friday, June 22, 2012

little droplets

Dudes, I'm here.  
I didn't feel like I was suffering from taper craziness in the earlier part of this week.  Looking back now, of course, I can see that was a bunch of crap, I was an emotional disaster.  We had a very long day of traveling yesterday, but for some reason, when I stepped off the (third) plane and out into the sunlight in Spokane, some most all of my crankiness just melted away.

I'm so happy to be here.
Last summer, for whatever reason, I felt a pull towards this race.  I talked about it when I signed up - I couldn't figure out why, but no other 140.6 interested me like this one did.  I thought about waiting another year or even a few months and signing up for a late 2012 race, but I just couldn't stop thinking about Coeur d'Alene.  I still have no idea why I feel this way, but here I am.  

I'm so happy to be here.
Not just physically here, but happy with the choices I've made to end up with my brain in this place.  I remember so clearly laying on my couch last July, clicking the final "submit" on the race registration and feeling a lot of things, but mostly scared and excited.  And then the excitement settled down into busy list-making and details, and then once all the details were worked out I settled down into the work.  But the lists are checked off, the details are completed, and the work is done.  There is no more talk of shoes and nutrition and pace and MAF and helmets.  

I'm so happy to be here.
And I'm enjoying myself.  Last night I spent some quiet time in my running shoes getting my feet back under me, and then I went out to dinner and spent time laughing and being around good people.  I built my bike in about ten minutes without wanting to fling it out the window even one time, and this morning I'm out splashing in the lake and laying rubber down on the road.  Friendly workouts with just enough pep to remind me of what's coming.  
I've had some nice little droplets of love from the universe.  Yesterday on the plane, we sat next to a woman who told us that she was coming to Idaho to see her 81-year-old daughter - Sister Madonna - race.  I have no idea how young you can be to have an 81-year-old daughter, but after some time on google last night, I can say that it was definitely her.  We rolled up to athlete check-in late in the day and when we stopped to ask directions, a security guard was kind enough to pick up some cones so we could princess park right outside the expo (I told him I'd mention him on the blog, I'm sure he was only playing it cool when he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about and ran right home to flip on the local news to watch for it).  Everything is just good.  Little droplets of good love.
I don't even feel excited or nervous yet, although I'm sure those feelings will roll in.  I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about how the race is going to play out.  I don't need to memorize a complicated race plan - I've done it enough in training that it's mostly second nature at this point.  There is nothing left to analyze, there is no data that matters.  What matters is what is in my head, my legs, my heart.

I would say that you can track me on Sunday, you can type in my last name or my bib number (282) into the ironmanlive website (good luck with that), but time matters so little to me that I'm not sure what you should look for, other than the fact that I make it over the line at some point.  The poet will be blowing up twitter and maybe Facebook with updates and pictures throughout the day, so that might be more fun if you really want to stalk (you know you do).  I'm new enough and ignorant enough about how IM training works to not really have any idea what I'm going to do as far as the clock is concerned, and I never thought that I could truly be okay with that, but I am.  I'm glad that I can't do the complicated translation of training sessions into race expectations.  I'm glad that while I have a race plan, I'm not married to numbers on a watch.  I have a lot of friends here racing, some for the first time, some for the.....dozenth? time, and I'm looking forward to seeing each and every one of them out there.  Most will probably cross the line before me, and I will high-five every one on the way.  There was time in training to be serious, to buckle down, to hurt hard, and every drop of sweat, of blood that went into those months - I am reaping now.  Because I know that I've done the work, I have respected the distance, and I intend to smile through every mile.  To blow up this corner of Idaho with explosive joy.  
I'm so happy to be here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

three things thursday

1. Thanks to my ridiculously awesome training buddy Sarah, I was able to swap out my regular fancy Reynolds wheels for slightly deeper fancy Reynolds wheels.  I'm sure I just chopped an hour off my bike split because of 20mm.  Also, I think my bike is incredibly sexy.  You can judge me if you want to.  At least my helmet is on straight.
2. Ass shot with absolutely no purpose.
Adorable picture of my dogs wearing clothes (they are sell-outs) with absolutely no purpose.
3. My third Thursday thing is something incredibly annoying that bloggers do when they have nothing else to say (you couldn't tell by #1 & #2?).  No, not a list of random facts or a stupid internet meme, but a repost.  This post (copied below, obviously) was written the second month I had a blog, and it was maybe the first post that had more than one comment on it (thanks, Julie!).  I re-read it the other day, and it blew my mind a little.  See, when I wrote it, I could envision going back, what that would be like.  I could see settling into that life again - and the life I describe below isn't fiction, it was mine.  Now, I'm such a different person than I was three years ago, and my life - this life, our life - has turned into something pretty amazing.  I used to feel like I had to fight so hard for my happiness, and now I'm lucky that it comes more easily.  I'll never try and convince you that my life is perfect, but I will say: it's worth it.

I could do it, you know

"Someone asked on Twitter last night: Why do you run?

Watching the answers go by was a hugely motiving experience.  It's awesome that running is meaningful in different ways to us all.

And then I had this thought.  I could give up, you know.  I'm hurt, I'm angry, I'm depressed, I'm sad, I could just give up on running.  I've been hurt so many times, I could take this as a sign from the universe to just freakin' knock it off.

I could go back to being that 183-lb girl, full of angry discontent, constantly searching but never finding peace.  There are tons of us out there, I'd blend right back in.  It'd be easy.  

I know exactly what my life would be like, because I've been there.  I've given up before.

I'd wake up and have to try on 4 pairs of pants before I can squeeze up the zip.  Walking downstairs makes me breathe hard.  I'd eat my morning breakfast of diet coke and candy bars before driving the 2 miles to work.  

At work, I'd buy breakfast again.  "I just didn't have time this morning," I'd tell my co-workers as we walked down to the caf.  At the register, I wouldn't be able to resist the bag of gummy bears.  They'd be gone by mid-morning, plus some more diet coke, plus another chocolate-covered granola bar.  "Granola is healthy," I soothe myself, "good for me."

At 10am, we break for coffee.  I have tea and a donut - or two - which I eat standing up because I don't fit in the chairs in the caf.  I leave before my co-workers, telling them I have to get back to work, but really it just takes me longer to walk the 200 feet back.

Back in the office, some nubile young thing bounds in the door, brilliant and glowing from a mid-morning run.  "Phew," I say as I wave away the smell of sweat, "don't you know that running is bad for you?"  I'll corner people and explain that I used to be a runner, but it's too hard on the body.  I'll tell them I'm much healthier now.  As I hear the words coming out of my mouth, I don't even believe myself.

At lunch, I eat a salad, but drown it in bacon and dressing and cheese.  I feel guilty about every mouthful, but it doesn't stop me from going back for more.

I'm exhausted by 1:30pm.  I never have enough energy to get through the day.  I have a few more diet cokes, some candy as a pick-me-up.  I take the elevator up one floor for a meeting and am still panting when I arrive.

I have a stressful afternoon, so I stop on the way home to buy a family-size bag of chips and some candy.  "I've earned it," I tell myself, "today was extra rough."

At home I climb into bed and devour everything while reading.  I nod off and end up taking a 2-hour nap.  I'm always tired.

I wake up, hungry for dinner.  I order pizza, Thai, Chinese, or go out for Italian.  I eat every morsel off my plate and still have room for dessert.  

At home, I sit on the couch, panting slightly.  I see a commercial for ice cream, empty half the tub into a bowl, and suck it down.  I climb into bed, wiped out from my day.  I don't sleep well because I wake up often. 

This could be my life.  I could give up.  I could move quietly through life, not making a dent, and the only sounds that the universe would hear from me is the sound of my thighs gently rubbing together as I walk.  There would be nothing in my life that would make me feel alive, vibrant, strong.  I would just be quietly passing the days until death.

I'll probably fight injury my whole life.  My orthopedist says, some people just get injured a lot.  He's gonna put my picture on the poster.  I might never complete that half-marathon I've done 80% of the training for a dozen times.  My PR might be everyone else's recovery pace.  I may never cross the finish line before the guy pushing the triple-stroller with 90-lbs of toddler in it.  But without running, I don't know how to be alive.  I need to run like I need water, like I need sunshine and breathing, I need to push out the pavement and sweat and cuss and cry and be a champion when I cross that finish line, even if I'm last, even if no one can see it but me.  I'm not whole without it, I'm constantly searching for something, something, but I can't find it, and then I get back on the road, and the universe makes sense again.  I need to have something to fight for, to struggle against, to triumph over, I need a reason to believe that I'm worth this life I'm living.

I have an e.e.cummings quote tattoo'd on my back, and it's the best and most important thing I've ever done for myself.  But there's another quote that I keep telling myself:  "To be nobody-but-yourself, in a world which is doing it's best, night and day, to make you somebody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

This is why I run.  Because I'll never stop fighting."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

my puppies do not shit rainbows

The "puppies shitting rainbows" shirts showed up in mailboxes everywhere this week.
Of course I can't let an event like this slide without taking a billion pictures and generally making a huge production out of it.
Who am I kidding, I'm a blogger, everything I do requires a billion pictures and a huge production.
My puppies - who, incidentally, do not shit rainbows - think the shirts are fabulous. 
And while ten minutes of barefoot running in the backyard is not on my schedule for the week, I figured I could add this short session without worrying about destroying my race.
It was worth it, I think you'll agree.
A huge and endless outpouring of thanks to Jared at Kompetitive Edge for putting this together in a really affordable way for me.  KE, you continue to rock my socks. 
We have about....two spares laying around, if anyone belatedly wants one.  It costs extra if you want Graham to walk around in it for a while first.
Happy Wednesday, and by "Wednesday," I mean, "day I finally realize I need to pack."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I decided, for no particular reason, to unplug myself this weekend.  I had such a lovely time living my life instead of talking about it on twitter that I extended my weekend into Monday, which is allowed when you are unemployed and tapering and therefore have very little to do.  I erased TwitBot and Facebook from my phone, shut my computer down and for the most part ignored my electronics completely.  

It doesn't mean I did anything particularly special.  I've been living like a bit of a hermit for the past week, trying to avoid germs and anxiety and large objects falling from the sky and anything except pure relaxation.  I put all the good mental training books away so my brain can taper too, and spent Saturday afternoon hanging out poolside with a friend and filling my mind with garbage.
I cooked (am exceptionally talented in the kitchen).
Attempted to teach Graham how to rest so his injury can heal (the spaces between training are important, GRAHAM).
Drank tea in the backyard and read more porn.
Reminded myself how much I like my husband when we spend time together while awake, painted my soon-to-be-an-Ironman-toenails and barely thought about triathlon at all.
And now race week is here.  I don't think I'm going to do a pep-rally-go-Katie-go-goals-post this week - it doesn't feel necessary as I think I've said just about everything I need to say, but don't hold me to that.  I might dig up some of my older crankier archives to distract myself - and all of you guys - from what the clock is ticking down towards.  I only have to make it five more days without falling down the steps or getting hit by a bus and then I can finally say that I've made it.  Hang onto your hats, friends and neighbors, I'm gonna be an ironman.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

random friday facts

1. I have peed on my bike in a race, once.  It was disgusting and my ass has never been so chapped in my entire life.  

2. I only like chocolate flavored protein powder/muscle milk.

3. The name of our wireless network is "that of a giant sloar."  If you don't know what that means, I'm not sure we can be friends.

4. No, I haven't started packing, or even thinking about packing.

5. My feet do not match each other.

6. Being unemployed is hell on my scented candle addiction.  

7. Trying to speak another language - in high school, French - makes me feel super awkward for some reason.  

8. I'm trying really hard to merge my work voice with my real voice.  It's not going well.  

9. I have always hated running with things touching my head, but I started wearing a visor a few months ago and I really like it.  Plus I feel like I look extra serious.  

10. Yesterday at the pool, the lifeguard was mopping the pool deck with a bleach solution.....and pushing the dirty water into the pool.

11. My weight has stayed in the same 5 (7?) pound range throughout IM training.

12. I am the person on the bike ride who will pop a squat on the side of the road without even bothering to check for cars or go behind a tree.

13. I used to be such a night owl.

14. I can do a lot of 1-minute planks.  

15. I really like bourbon.

16. I am a really bad dancer, but I do it all the time.

17. This morning on my ride, the "I got dick for days you got ass for weeks" song was stuck in my head.  You're welcome.

18. Googling the lyrics to make sure I was singing it correctly in my head - not recommended.

19. I'm pretty sure I know what I want to do with the rest of triathlon season.

20. I've been eating a lot of bacon recently.  Remember when I gave up meat?  

21. Race day showed up in the 10-day forecast this morning.  Holy shit, you guys.

22. I think I'm getting the pep back in my step, finally.  I can tell because on the graph of my life, the sarcasm line is going up and the serious line is going down.  

Happy Friday!  Let me know if you did any version of RFF today!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

three things thursday

1. I don't have any taper crazies just yet because I still feel incredibly exhausted.  The fatigue has been pretty slow to drip away this time around.  However, the post-peak-training inflammation I was carrying around in the form of water weight has disappeared and I'm back to normal there.  I'm still carrying some deep muscle soreness but I can feel it getting better all the time.  And while I feel slow and sluggish, the clock is telling me that I'm close to normal, which is about the most bizarre thing yet.  It's the worst in the pool, I feel as if I'm swimming through mud and can't get a deep enough breath, but then when I pop up and eyeball the clock, it's right around normal for me.  I also have been sleeping really well, hard and all night long without waking up to pee, so I know that there is still some pretty deep healing going on.  I don't drink coffee (I know), but the past week or so I've felt like I could use some - I'm really groggy in the morning, like I just can't shake off the sleep.  It was pretty interesting to watch how my body reacted to all the heavy training, but I'm finding it even more interesting to watch how it is handling recovery.  All I can really do is just keep rocking every recovery trick I know, which includes tons of greens (I believe spinach is magic), good proteins and whole grains and ice cream before bed and keeping my stress levels low by maximizing puppy snuggling time.

2. Speaking of puppy, this one ended up in the vet's office yesterday because we were pretty sure he had broken/sprained/strained/dislocated his shoulder.
The vet agreed that something was going on with his elbow/shoulder area, but since they would have to sedate him to take x-rays we decided against it for right now.  We left with a painkiller/anti-inflammatory (Graham hasn't been eating his spinach) and strict instructions to keep him quiet for a week or two.  He doesn't understand any of this, he just knows that he isn't allowed to go outside with his bitches and play tennis ball right now, and it breaks his little heart.
3. I haven't talked about shoes in a while, but I've been safely running in these for over a month now.
I've been a good girl this time around, I started with 5 minutes and have been working my way up from there while being careful to trade off and stretch properly, but I just love how happy they make my feet.  They might be the final piece to this puzzle:

The answer to the puzzle being, "crap I'll be wearing on race day" for five hundred points.  And I don't want to hear single cranky little word about it.

Happy Thursday!  Roll call for tapering cranky pants folks!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

wordless wednesday

I'm not sure there's room for two of us in the house, but the poet has decided to defect from running marathons (briefly) to train for a sprint.
It might get real ugly up in here, but at least I finally found a use for the enormous paddles.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

believe it or not

The poet, he says I've changed.

I'm not someone who likes change, who embraces it.  I like the safety of a routine, of creating a schedule, of knowing exactly what is coming and when.  But I have changed.  I look at myself a year ago, at a silly girl fussing with shoes and yogurt and mph averages, fussing fussing fussing.  Always comparing myself to everyone around me, never coming up good enough, strong enough, fast enough.  It's been such a process, training for this race, and so much of it hasn't been about the swimming, biking, or running.  It's been a process of working on my mind, my life.  Figuring out how to be more accepting of who I am right now.  Figuring out how to identify the things in my life that are (and likewise, are not) important, because those are the things that are still here.  The things that matter.  And a lot of the rest has just fallen away.

I almost don't want to talk about how I'm feeling right now (but I'm going to, obviously, so sit down).  I definitely don't want to talk about my training and what I did on which day for how long and with how many pops at race pace.  I don't want to chat about nutrition or who is wearing which helmet and why.  The time for all of that has passed.  I am tapering, I am recovering, I am letting my body heal from the mother of all destruction.  And just like my muscles are knitting back together, just like my glycogen stores are filling, are plumping with water and turbo fuel, so is my mind.  I'm coming out of hell, and it feels so peaceful.

I remember feeling this way, sitting on the plane coming back from Colorado in April.  I felt like I had put the tip of one finger on the way I wanted my life to be, and then a bomb was dropped on it later that week and it all blew out the window.  Now it's here again, and I want to hang onto it.  It's so easy to look back on my life and see the happiest moments - to see those times where I was in balance: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual balance.  And there was never perfection in these moments, but there was joy.  I feel like I'm there now.  My life is not perfect.  But I feel like the way forward from here is so clear.  

Other times in taper, I've experimented with restriction and with carb-loading and with shoes and clothes and all kinds of things.  I'm not disrupting my life with any of that this time around, I'm keeping the peace.  I'm continuing to eat the way I've been eating for months.  I'm continuing to drink the same fuel out of the same water bottles.  To swim in the same suits, to run in the same shoes.  And other times, in taper, I've gone out and spent time with friends again, I've been social and remembered what my life was like before peak training stole every minute of every day.  This time around, I don't feel that pull.  I feel the pull to do it in July, I am already planning the raging party which will probably only be one of many, many celebrations, but between now and the race, I want to save that energy.  I want to store it all up for June 24th.  

I've been making it a taper project to either re-read or finish for the first time several books I've started since December.  Some of them were recommended by Sonja as good mental training and some I've just picked up along the way.  During peak training, all I could deal with was trash with a hot pink cover for 10 minutes before I went to bed.  I didn't even want to think about the sport for one more second.  Now that I'm a week into taper, there is nothing better to do with my time than read.  I'm trying to absorb it all.  I finished Chrissie's book, Macca's book, Mark Allen's hippie crunchy Zen book.  The yellow book.  The grey book with all the visualization crap in it.  All of them.  I've been pulling bits and pieces out of everything, letting it all marinate in my head.  Planting seeds.  

When I think back through other training cycles, there have always been more races lined up after an A race.  More steps down the road, the path forward has been already laid.  The fact that I haven't done that this time, that right now life after ironman is a blank space, has an interesting twist on my mindset.  I can't think of a time in my life when I've been so singularly focused on one event.  On the one hand, this isn't the high point for triathlon in my life.  There will always be more races, and the only thing I am certain about going into this race is that it will not be perfect.  I'm sure that little things will happen throughout race day, my shoe will come untied, I'll flat on the bike, I'll rip my wetsuit again, whatever.  On the other hand, I know that physically, my body is as ready as it can be.  In the past six months, I can only think of 3-4 workouts that I've flat-out skipped.  A handful more that I've completed not in the spirit of the session.  But in general, I've been a mule pulling a cart around.  I do not feel concerned about my physical ability to complete the race, and because of that, I don't want to waste my day worrying about paces or numbers or other athletes or the time on the clock.  There will be time for that, in the future, there will be other races to chase all of that.  But this is it.  I only have one chance to race this distance for the first time.  When I think back on some of the great races of my life, they have nothing to do with time.  Overcoming adversity, allowing myself to be joyful, being surrounded by love and friends - those are the races I will be thinking about when I'm standing at the starting line, and you can be sure of it, I know better than most that there are no second chances.  

I feel like I am drawing in the quiet before the storm.  Like I am climbing the long long ladder to the platform, alone.  I will turn my back in the silence.  Wait for the moment to explode into the water.  

The tuck in, before the push.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

four things friday

1. I had a little bit of hard running to do on Tuesday morning at the end of my long run and it seems to have woken up my pissed-off-posterior-chain.  My left hamstring has been sympathetic tight the last few days.  It calmed down yesterday after some nice easy swimming while the pool closet was on fire, but I took ten steps out the front door this morning and it woke right up again.  So I shut it down.  Taken directly from my not-panicked-at-all-email to Sonja: I'm not that worried about it, but I'd rather skip a short run now than be annoyed by it over the next two weeks.  I've been doing light stretching and foam rolling, but mostly I'm just trying to let it chill out.  

2. I was thinking, in my head the way I do, about starting to put together my race plan for CdA.  Just like I've said a hundred billion times, I don't plan on creating goals for the race based on time.  I did this for Knoxville and I think it served me well, mentally, when I started puking my brains out.  However, I'll put together a plan for the day, and I think the overwhelming theme needs to be "perceived effort rules all things."  Or maybe even, "if it feels too hard, it probably is."  I know that there are probably a lot of ways this day could go down.  There's the "magic unicorns are magical" plan, which means I constantly flirt with the line called "too hard" and slip through the finish line in the fastest time possible with my current fitness without blowing up.  There's the "good lord what were you thinking you idiot" plan, which means I constantly flirt with the line called "too hard" and it runs me over like a squirrel (I hate squirrels) and leaves me to die on the side of the road.  And there are a million plans in between these two, but if I had to pick, I'd pick that one that leaves me drinking beer with a medal around my neck thinking, "Wow, I had more to give.  Can't wait for the next one!"  I don't want to get off the bike thinking "WOW AMAZEBALLS BIKE SPLIT YO!"  I want to get off the bike thinking, "Okay, yes, I can run now.  For a long time."  I'm sure all the experts on the internet that spend all day every day giving advice about things they know basically nothing about will agree, and probably even have some extra tips for me.  I've got a great place you can store those tips.

3. That said, I don't actually feel like I'm tapering quite yet, I just feel like I'm not in peak training any longer.  I still have hard workouts showing up on my schedule, but they are starting to get a little bit shorter and there is more recovery time.  So maybe that is tapering, I don't know.  Either way, I've been able to cook dinner four nights in a row and I'm about to do some laundry without being completely out of sports bras so it seems like things are calming back down a bit.  I've also finally been able to spend a tiny bit of time with the poet this week, although I think going to a baseball game was a presumptuous idea so early in the taper because I spent most of it falling asleep with my eyes open except for when I was being jarred awake by his extremely loud cursing yelling encouragement of the Mets.

4. One of the many things I've been doing in my downtime, other than rewriting my cover letter 268 times a day to fill it with buzzwords of a job listing so no one can call me back, is learning to use the nice camera my mom so generously lent us two years ago.  So far, all we've done is put that sucker on automatic and take millions of pictures of my ass, but I feel like all those buttons and settings are probably not just decorative.  Yesterday I watched the first thirty minutes of the "this is what that crap is for" video that came with the camera and then spent time in the backyard stalking my favorite subjects.  I took over 400 pictures and got about six good ones, which I think is how it works.

You can click on them to make them bigger, which makes them much nicer to view PLUS it means you love me because everyone knows page views equal love.  I'm going to go swim and eat my hamstring feelings for a while, you bitches all have a lovely weekend.  Anyone racing I should be stalking or have we all finally decided that it's too effing hot for that crap? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

on recovery

If you knew me a year ago, which most of you did, you'll remember that I hated rest days.  It's even documented all over the history of this blog: a controversy, a random friday fact, and a 3TT.  When I was just a runner, back in the early days before I had a blog so people could yell at me, I mostly ran every other day and did nothing on the days between.  Then I joined a gym, and went through PT a few times, and started lifting regularly to address the many bizarre imbalances in my body.  And to be honest, the amount of (stationary) biking and (treadmill) running I was doing was so little - roughly 30-40 minutes a day at a slow pace - that I didn't really ever need any recovery.

But then I bought a bike, and joyously realized that I had finally found a way to be active for longer than 40 minutes without breaking all my bones and tearing all my muscles.  The rides started to get longer, and harder, but I still never really considered the fact that I might need rest.  Then I decided to make a pretty serious commitment to half marathon AND half ironman training, and there weren't enough days in the week to do all the training I needed to do.  So I welcomed the idea of the "fake" rest day - for example, I'd get up early on Wednesday, ride for 2 hours, and then do nothing until Thursday evening.  24 hours have passed!  I have rested!

When I started working with a coach, I smugly told myself that I had been doing the right thing, because in triathlon training, there aren't a lot of complete rest days.  But what I found when I discovered that of course I was wrong, what I had been missing, was the idea of going easy.  Of doing a ride or run or swim purposely in the name of recovery.  The mistake I had been making, before being coached, is incredibly common.  I was going far too hard on "easy" days and not hard enough on "hard" days, which meant that I was putting out a generalized amount of effort across all days and all disciplines.  I wasn't letting my body recover from my effort before stacking more effort on top, and in general was just wearing myself down slowly over a matter of months.  I can remember so many rides last summer where I left the house with the intention of riding easy, but then got mad at the 15.3mph average pace showing up on my watch and would hammer hard to make sure it said 18 when I rolled back up the driveway.  That's not how to build long-term fitness, and it's not being honest about where I am and what my body needs.  That's letting ego climb into the driver's seat.  

The first time I heard from a coach, "you've been running far too hard all the time," I was indignant and cranky.  Why was working too hard a bad thing?  I've been working TOO hard?  What about all the couch-surfers eating Cheetos?  Or the "oh man someone make me go run today I don't wannaaaaaa" twitter whiners.  Go yell at them!  

But I listened, and I went ridiculously easy and I do mean, RIDICULOUS.  There were days that my recovery spins were well under 15mph.  I regularly run in the 11s on easy days (i.e. most days).  At some point, I ended up taking all that info off of my watch screen and ignoring it after uploading it, because I was crabby about how slow it was and I figured I was better off just not knowing.  During a warm-up, recovery, cooling down - I don't think there really is such a thing as "too easy."  It started to sink in, just a little, that I wasn't training for paces, I wasn't constantly digging my body into a hole just so I could run in the 8s.  I was training my engine, and my engine knows better than my sports watch what it needs.

The first few times through a training block with Sonja, I still had traces of the old rest-day-hater in me.  I didn't like taking an entire day off, or only riding/running/swimming for X amount of time on the weekend when everyone else was riding/running/swimming for 4X.  I wanted to do more, lots more, and I left cranky notes in Training Peaks after my training sessions.  But then the blocks started to get longer and harder, and suddenly I was really appreciating the "90 minute easy spin" that showed up the day after a hard run.  I'd drape my tired body across the trainer and watch 2 episodes of Grey's Anatomy, keeping one eye on my Garmin only to make sure my cadence stayed (sort of kind of) close to 90.  And then when I had hard intervals of some sort the following day, for the most part I'd be able to go pretty hard, I'd find a tiny spark, even nearing the end of a block where I had to run sub-3 minute pace or something just as ridiculous to get my HR up.  The magic of recovery.

The other magical piece of recovery has less to do with rest and more to do with the holistic view of training that's been thankfully rubbing off on me.  Rest isn't just staying out of the run shoes.  It also has a lot to do with all the things you put in your mouth (heh), and how much sleep you get, and the level of stress in your life, and how you treat your body outside of triathlon.  When Molly got sick in December, I spent a couple of days being really worried and sad....and then had an incredibly shitty run, one I called "the worst in my life to date."  It's not a coincidence.  I'm still learning about all of this, I'm just a baby here, but stress = cortisol = body all out of whack.  And when your body goes out of whack, you know it through your heart rate, right away.  So despite the fact that training through HR makes me run real slow, especially here in the swamp, I am trying appreciate the feedback that it gives me - feedback that I can't ignore and hammer over like I can a pair of tired legs.  

So I've changed my tune.  I've embraced the spaces between training.  When I checked my phone on Saturday afternoon after five hours of climbing a mountain, I was so grateful to see Monday marked as a rest day that I almost started crying right there in Spelunker's over my bacon cheeseburger.  Months of good and thoughtful training has allowed me to go pretty hard for three weeks, to load my body far into new territory, and now it's time to start unloading.  To let my engine heal stronger and faster so my fitness can put down deeper roots.  It's not just about ironman, it's not just about this race.  I expect it's going to take me quite a while to really build the strength and depth of my fitness.  It might take years, I might grow older faster than I can build it.  But in figuring out what does and doesn't matter, I can tell you this.  My body might be a little battered right now and my mind might be even worse, but by the time I'm done unloading in 2.5 weeks, I will be ready.  Not injured, not overtrained, not worn down by training mistakes, but instead in one piece.  Whole.  And that's worth so much more than a stack of pages in my training log covered in 19mph rides and 8 minute miles. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

may: in which I fill the barn with hay

It's probably fair to guess that I missed all of my May goals before I even look back...

May Goals
Use the time off from working wisely.  Doctor's appointments, sleep, errands, doing workouts in new places.  Actually, this happened. 
Do core work more than once a week while lifting.  Ugh.  No.
Learn a second way to eat quinoa.  "Learned" but did not "cook."
Use the foam roller even when things aren't cranky. A little bit...maybe.
Discover and keep more healthy snacks in the house to avoid the 4pm "EAT ALL THE THINGS."  Total failure.

I'm three weeks out from ironman, which means I'm right where I should be: as loaded as possible, and now it's time to very slowly roll downhill towards the race.  Swimming took a bit of a backseat this month - I feel like mostly what I was doing was either maintenance, to keep up with all the good hard work I put in this winter, or recovery, to give my legs a little gift to help ease the pounding they took day in and out. I saw three weeks of more cycling volume than I've done since last summer - or maybe ever.  I'm pleased to be able to say a month later than my saddle and crank situation didn't even cross my mind with all the riding I did this month, which means that drama-rama can finally be laid to rest.  I got multiple opportunities to practice my ironman nutrition, and I feel good about what I've finally settled on.  And the most notable thing about running is that I'm still doing it.  I made it.  I'm not injured or nursing any injuries right now, I did the longest long run of my life, I ran a ton of miles and I'm still standing.  That's gotta count for something.

The rest of my life took a major backseat during this final build.  Up until this training block, I hadn't really been surprised by the volume or how I felt.  This block was different, and I expected it to be different but I can say now that I really had no idea what to expect.  It was tough on me, but it was also tough on my friends and especially my family, and I'm glad to be coming out the other side.  I'm still in a pretty deep fatigue hole but I'm excited to feel like I'm getting excited about this race.

Looking down into June, I'm not planning on making many goals.  I've still got three weeks of training left, and while it's tapering, it's still going to be volume.  I've got my fingers in a lot of different ears right now about jobs, and I am desperately hoping that by the time I write the next recap, I've got something lined up.  Because as much as it may be nice to not work, it's causing me a lot of stress financially and honestly, I'm bored.  I need more stimulation than this and my puppies need brown circles and tennis balls.  

Miles run: 112.4
Miles run in the neon shoes: many several more than 0
Miles cycled (I'm almost afraid to look): 659.55
Containers of EFS consumed: almost 5
Outdoor swims: 1
Days I gave up on trying to make sure I had adequately refueled: 6
Days that contained IM-training meltdowns: 3
Days that contained confidence-building long rides/runs: 5
Packages of double stuf Oreos eaten: 1

June Goals
More outdoor swimming.
Now that the peak block is over, get back in the weight room.
Continue to steer clear of all things that cause IM anxiety (people, places, online training calculators, etc.)
Make plans for July that include the words "beach" and "margarita" and "grill" and "drunk" and NOT the words "bike" or "train" or "heart rate."
Enjoy every single damp sweaty sticky second of race day.

What are your goals for June?  Any big races?