eat, move, think, feel


March 2012

Triathlon Turnaround

not my car

I went into this training weekend for the Wildflower Tri with a great amount of trepidation and maybe some (?) dread. It was already conflicting with a conference that is very important to me and that only takes place every two years (and in California, which never happens!). My buddy Lily wasn’t going to be there because she was in Phillly accepting this huge award. (GO LILY!)

I performed at the conference on Thursday and got to see a friend/author give the keynote speech. Then on Friday morning I had to hit the road early so I could get to the campground while there was still daylight. Yeah, they call Wildflower the “Woodstock of triathlons” because there are thousands of people camping out foot to nose, and there’s a ton of mud and maybe rain and no hotels for miles. I mean MILES. It just isn’t feasable.

I thought that the campground place was only 3 hours away from where the conference was in Southern California (MAN do I live in a huge state!) but it turned out to be six hours away.

Luckily I got there in time to set up my tent while it was still light out. I was feeling just a teeny bit cranky because I was so sad to leave the conference, but I guess I’m one of those “love the one your with” people because pretty soon I was able to shift gears/transition (haha – puns intended) into being with the team and my mentees. We all chipped in to make a group dinner and then we had a meeting with all the other Bay Area TNT tri teams who were there for training weekend. There were a LOT of folks there! I got introduced to the two (TWO!) other people doing the Sprint/Mountain Bike distance, along with Coach Tom, who was going to be our personal coach for the weekend (nice thing about doing sprint, you get a ton of personal attention!). Everyone else was either doing the Olympic or the Half Ironman. I was not wishing I was in either of those groups.

Group TNT meeting
home sweet home

Our coach Dave is a real joker. Even though our swim practice was not supposed to begin until 10:00am, he woke us up at 5:30am by blasting the Darth Vader theme song and walking around the campground with his boom box. NICE. I took my sweet time opening my eyes to the darkness and crawling out of the tent. It was freezing. BOY it was freezing. Like, 37 degrees freezing? And we were going to go swimming? Right.

We did manage to get out of the tents, make some coffee, blink in the sunrise, and get a good breakfast in in plenty of time. I guess that was the point. Coach wanted to make sure we had ample time to go to the bathroom (always very important on race morning!), get all our gear organized and get our heads on straight.

We headed down to the lake around 9:15 for a little pep talk and swim clinic and to get our wetsuits on. I met up with Coach Tom and the other sprinters. He pointed out the orange buoy which we were to swim around. The mile buoy was pretty much out of sight. I was very glad that was not my destination. I wriggled into my wetsuit and swim booties, my Squid Lid and goggles, and hoped that I was not going to have any major panic attacks or breathing issues. Then we waddled out to the pier and jumped in the lake two by two.

It was cold. But it wasn’t PAINFUL cold. People were shrieking and freaking out all around me. I just bobbed around, got my bearings and started in on my “gentle-kind” swimming routine. All I can say is that it wasn’t impossible, and it wasn’t easy. It just was. There were a few moments when I got a little ragged around the edges and I could hear myself struggling a little, breathing wise. I got to the buoy okay. The trip back to the pier seemed to take freaking forEVER. I could see the little figures of coaches standing on the pier, and for the longest time they didn’t seem to ever get any bigger. But I managed to get there and clamber back onto muddy land.

I stripped off my wetsuit, put on a dry top, helmet, got my bike and was ready/nervous to start out on the mountain bike part.

very nervous under that smile

It was just about 10 miles, but.. mountain bike. Hills. Bumpy stuff. Ack. Coach Tom met up with me and the other two women and he was just so reassuring and calming. He’s a big tall bearish guy and very, very calming. He said, “we’re just gonna go out there and have fun.” He was going to be our personal tour guide of the Mountain Bike route and just show us all the turns and changes. I was so so nervous and anxious about this part. In my head I was thinking, if this doesn’t go well, then I’m done. I’m just gonna drop out of racing altogether (for the Wildflower) and I’ll come back as a cheerleader only. We took off. The first part was nice and flat, along the lake, very scenic. OK. Good start. Then we got to this pretty steep hill. I went to switch gears and… switched in the WRONG DIRECTION. Um. Which ground me to a complete halt and I had to get off and push, panting. Boo.

Next hill, I knew better, so I was able to grind up the hill, really hard breathing, but I made it. YAY! More ups and downs, trail riding, bump bump, rocks and holes and sticks and stuff, but I dealt with it. Then there were the hills. They looked like this.

You can see that there are two really big uphills there. They were… intense. But I just set my bike into the lowest gear and counted. One to ten, over and over. I really tried to dig deep. I knew that if I stopped, or got off, my legs were going to protest and that would be the end of it.

And you know what? I stayed on the whole time, through both those big hills and then the final one at the end. See the super steep downhill? That was crazy steep DOWN at the very end. I bawled my face off on that whole downhill. I couldn’t believe I had done it. And I realized that doing the Mountain Bike Tri was not the wimpy thing I had thought. It had taken pretty much all I had. By the time I got down to the parking lot finish I was a huge blubbery mess.

I really have to thank big Coach Tom for seeing me through that day. He was patient, and reassuring, and kind, and I knew that he believed in us. He was a real Ito-Whisperer and I was so amazingly grateful. I found him by his car and bawled some more. And then I felt like I could really do it, and that it was just right – not too hard, not impossible, but not a piece of cake either. It was a pretty overwhelming feeling given all of my doubts and fears this time.

coach Tom, aka the Ito Whisperer

Yeah, my teammates ended up doing the Olympic and Half Iron distances. They’re a bunch of rockstars. But it doesn’t take away how good it felt to be doing the race that felt right for me right now.

It felt awesome to go back to camp and take a lukewarm (brrr) shower.

Yay! Clean!

Getting through that bike ride/swim combo was soooooo huge for me. Huge! The hugest! I am now really looking forward to the tri on May 5th. It’s gonna be awesome. I am also realizing that maybe the Sprint is “my” distance. I don’t have to worry about bonking or getting super dehydrated. (plus, I did remember to hydrate and fuel well this time) I can really challenge myself without half dying. I can feel proud of it.

I had the opportunity to talk to quite a few people this weekend about my “downgrading” to Sprint distance and I’ve come out feeling so much more positive and confident about it. It’s not a stupid wimpy thing for losers. It’s STILL A TRIATHLON. It’s still a challenge. It’s still freaking badass. I had just lost sight of that when I got all caught up in comparing myself to others and even to my own self. But this weekend proved to me that it’s still a real accomplishment and something to be really proud of. I want to thank all the people who reiterated this to me, who showed me kindness in all of my uncertainty. It has meant the world to me.

On Sunday morning we had our practice run. My race distance is only 2 miles, so a mile out and back. When I got to the turnaround arrows I just wasn’t ready, so I kept going, including a big gnarly hill. I did a total of about 4.5 which felt good. On race day I will definitely just do my alloted 2 but it felt good to push it a little on Sunday. I left the race course feeling good and excited about what’s coming on May 5th. Woo!

here I come Wildflower!

My Achilles Wrist, My Achilles Mind

Ah, I’ve been gone a long time, haven’t I? People have been noticing. I’ve been getting emails and also in-person inquiries of “How ARE you? You’re not blogging!” It’s true. I have been gone a long time. And I now understand how people can sometimes just evaporate from the blogosophere.

It pretty much started during my Yosemite snowshoe weekend. (actually it started much earlier, but the most current issue started then) I woke up the next morning with a pain at the base of my thumb, near my wrist. I didn’t really give it much thought. But it pretty much persisted for weeks and it kept getting worse. Finally it was keeping me up at night and I was yelping in pain every time I tried to do ANYthing with my left hand. So I went to my good friend who also happens to be a hand physical therapist (handy, huh? no pun intended). She confirmed my suspicions that I had a raging case of DeQuervain’s Tendinitis (see, I *was* paying attention in class 30 years ago!!). I had a “double positive” Finkelstein’s sign and my left wrist was measured to be swollen. She made me a nice splint to keep it in a good neutral position, and prescribed 2 weeks of NO SWIMMING or BIKING. (or anything else that aggravated my condition)

Two weeks of no swimming or biking! But… but… but… I’m training for a triathlon! That was the start of it. At the end of two weeks, my wrist was only about 20% better. AND I came down with a horrible nasty cold thing which had me in bed for a week, and then after that, I was well enough to work but then not well enough to do any kind of workout AFTER work. Two weeks + two weeks = a month.

A month of barely any training other than some jogging put me into a serious funk. I felt awful, and wimpy, and sorry for myself, and pathetic and all sorts of other things. I ate things that seemed to help for about half a second and then made things two hundred percent worse. I spiraled into yuckitude.

I thought about quitting. But I’m a MENTOR. Which makes things so much harder. I think as a regular participant I would have felt fine saying “This is just not my season to do this” and I would have bowed out. I’ve done that with other races in the past and it hasn’t been the end of the world. But I really really struggled with being a horrible role model and bad mentor and blah blah blah.

It took me a long, long, long time to come around to the decision to scrap the Maui Tri plan altogether (complicated by the fact that my buddy Lily had also decided that Maui was not a realistic option for her). Then what was left? Wildflower! The steepest, hilliest, biggest and baddest triathlon around (except for maybe Escape from Alcatraz, which I would not consider under hallucinogenics). I never wanted to do Wildflower. EVER. I was never even the teeniest bit tempted. But guess what? Maui does not have a Sprint distance option. So it looked like it was down to the Wildflower Sprint (otherwise known as “Mountain Bike Course”) or nothing.

When recommitment week came, I sat and stared at those papers for hours. I cried over them and paced around and just did not know what to do. Finally I signed up for the Wildflower Sprint and that’s where we are. I am one of 2 people from our team (2 out of 50) who is doing the sprint option. When it’s that much of a minority, I can’t help feeling kind of out of it, kind of not really part of the “real” team. And so on and so forth.

It’s been a freaking struggle. And it’s been hard to blog about because I’ve just been in this bad place in my head.

But recently things changed sufficiently for me to turn things around a little. One, I realized that Life is Short. This was accentuated by attending two memorial services this weekend, for two men/husbands/life partners of women friends of mine. One passed away after a decade of illness and suffering. The other died suddenly and unexpectedly. Both events were MAJOR wakeup calls. You never know when you will become extremely ill OR when you will be healthy, exercising and eating organic and then die suddenly anyway. So why suffer needlessly?

Last week I realized how much I was dreading certain things in my life. One of which was various aspects of tri training. I decided to stop beating myself up for a million reasons in a million ways. I realized that nobody was holding a gun to my head and MAKING me train for a triathlon. And that the person most responsible for my suffering was ME. (um, duh)

So I decided to cut myself a break. For one, I didn’t force myself to get on the bicycle when my wrist is still hurting. It still hurts me to pick up a cup of coffee, to wash my hair, to pull up my pants. The conservative treatment I’ve been following so far has helped, but not enough. So I’m going to a hand doctor and see if a cortisone shot might not help. It has its risks, but I am ready to move on and try it now.

Last week I went back to my beloved trainer for two workouts. I almost cried it felt so good. I was able to fully use 3/4 of my limbs and I got a crazy workout in. I was a very happy sweatball. I remembered that working out can feel good.

I also realized that there is such a thing as fit. I really like the people on my team, but I also think that the fit is not the best one for me. I am constantly feeling (through my own doing, not theirs) so slow, incapable and wimpy. I am always the last. And while I am not competitive so that I need to WIN (hahahaha), but I also really dislike people having to wait for me to finish while they are standing around. I like being middle-of-the-pack.

This coming weekend is Wildflower Training Weekend. Which is a big wild camping trip in which we get to test out the course, but instead of doing it as a tri we will do the swim/bike on Saturday and the run on Sunday. It is really going to be a test for me, in which I decide, OK, the mountain bike tri is going to be just fine. Or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, I’m just going to let it go. I’m going to be a good mentor and cheerleader and not cry about it anymore.

So this long absence has been a huge learning experience for me. I’ve had a really rough time but I’ve also had some major epiphanies and there’s a lot of change coming, not just with the triathlon training but in other areas of my life. Transition is hard but it gets you to the next place, and that’s a good thing.

I hope that some of you are still around to read this! I’ve missed being here.




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