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Triathlon: the STUFF (or, Having a Gear Meltdown)

Wow, doing a triathlon sure involves a lot of STUFF. Stuff to keep track of, and in the right order, and… aghhhh! Want to know what’s in my pile?

  • wetsuit
  • tri suit
  • sports bra
  • Bodyglide
  • silicon ear plugs
  • swim cap
  • goggles
  • bike shoes
  • socks
  • bike helmet
  • GU chomps
  • water bottle
  • bike gloves
  • running shoes
  • hat

Tomorrow is our coached super-sprint practice triathlon. What is a supersprint? It’s more than a sprint and less than an Olympic: 1/2 mile swim, 17 mile bike ride, 4 mile run. EEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I had ordered a special Team in Training two-piece tri suit for the big event, and we found out this week that it will NOT be ready by tomorrow. So today was all about scrambling for stuff to wear. Until now, we’d been doing leisurely transitions involving locker rooms and bathrooms and such. But tomorrow we are going to be learning all about Transition (what some people call the 4th sport of the triathlon, and also what I remember as the most painful part of labor and giving birth).  We are not going to go into any locker room, we’re doing it all out in the Transition Area, just like we will for the Real Event. Coach Haakon sent us this video to study. Which made me kind of nauseated with anxiety.

First thing I need to attend to was getting a tri suit. I asked my friend Mary if I could borrow hers. She had just gotten one and WON in her age division in See Jane Tri, her first triathlon, (!!!!!!!!!!!) and I knew it had a bunch of good mojo in it. I went and picked it up around 4pm today. I held it up. Squinted at it. Hmmmm. I suddenly felt a rush of doubt. I went to my local sports store. They had NOTHING I needed. No tri equipment. No springy shoelaces. No Bodyglide. OK, that store SUCKS.

Then I drove to the big discount store (*cough* Sports Authority *cough*) about 20 minutes away. This place is huge and yet it is full of useless crap. Again, NO tri wear whatsoever. Come ON.  I brought Mary’s tri suit into the dressing room and confirmed that NO WAY was it my size. I mean I could zip it up if I did not breathe at all, but I was in danger of splitting it wide open if I so much as moved one muscle. I was getting really upset at this point.

I realized that I was used to the phenomenal thorough wonderfulness that is Sports Basement, which also gives TNT athletes a nice discount, and I could not believe the lameness of these other stores. I checked my phone. There is a SB in San Francisco (8 miles away but during rush hour! Over the bridge! NOOOOOO!) and one in Walnut Creek (14 miles away, also gnarly traffic). I felt very discouraged and overwhelmed and my sense of preparedness was out the window. I texted Lily. She recommended REI, which is in Berkeley. Brilliant girl!!! But first I called them. They were great. Not only did they have tri clothing, it was on SALE.

I went up to north Berkeley. There was a nice rack of discounted tri clothes at REI. I decided to get a 2 piece because the unitard style just looks insanely horrible on me. I also got some new silicon ear plugs and some elastic shoelaces.

I made my little/big pile. I ate my pasta dinner and drank a bunch of water as directed. I’m going to bed at 9:30pm and reading a bunch of the Mental Training book as bedtime reading. Then I get up and Do the Damn Thing, as coach says.

I was going to write about how freaking nervous I feel but decided to do some positive self-talk instead.

I am prepared.

I have been dedicated at completing my workouts as instructed.

I trust my coaches.

I am ready.

When I am in the water, my father will be with me.

I am going to DO THIS tomorrow.

This Is Your Brain on Triathlon

I knew when I signed up for this that this event was going to be as much of a psychological challenge as a physical one. I was not mistaken in this. The psychological and emotional obstacles have been HUGE and sometimes even debilitating. After my first open water swim I was not at all sure I could even continue.

But continue I have, and I have been putting as much time into my training my psyche as I have training my body. If there is ANY tool or resource I can find to help me in this area, I am trying to use it.

At the “Stories of the Body” retreat last weekend, I utilized several of the guest artist activities to help me in my tri efforts. At Bethany’s “Bodymindfull” workshop, I created a triathlon dance in which I danced my way through the swim, bike and run. I envisioned them happening with ease and joy. Then in the collage workshop I made a triathlon collage with random pictures I found in magazines and calendars. I LOVED the image of the nuns rowing on the water. It just gave me immediate comfort. I won’t be alone out there. Some holy presence will be there protecting me.

My wonderful retreat participants blessed and gifted me with a little Quan Yin figurine which I immediately took with me on my tri course bike ride. Another source of protection and support. Knowing she was in my bike pouch really was calming and reassuring.

One of my Team in Training teammates recommended a booked called The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training– I ordered it on Amazon within about 30 seconds! and have read about half of it already. The chapters on Confidence, Emotions and Intensity are really helping me. (thank you Katherine!)

Yesterday, Lily and Vince and I went out to bike the tri loop again. It felt really good. I felt strong and I loved the course – hilly but not too steep. It felt so reassuring to get out there and feel what it’s actually going to feel like. I can do this!!

Today was the first big coached workout I’ve had in two weeks. We did about 90 minutes in the pool which included some fascinating tri open water “simulation.” First they had us warming up, all bunched together in two lane lines. All the thrashing bodies smushed together in the water. It did indeed bring up, even in 4 feet depth, the anticipated anxiety. But then we got through the next phase, of pushing hard to get out of that crowd, then finding a race pace that was sustainable, and finally a push toward the end. It was so helpful.

Then we had a six mile run. My last attempt at running six miles (after the open swim) was NOT a happy experience, and I was determined to find redemption on this run. I challenged myself to run for the FIRST TIME EVER without my earbuds and music. I love running with my music. It calms me, it keeps me at a good pace, and it keeps me from hearing the sound of my own panting (which just makes me upset and nervous). But I know that earbuds are most likely going to be prohibited during the race itself and I wanted to get used to doing without. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

Incredibly, as soon as I began running, the music started going in my head. I’ve listened to those songs over hundreds of miles and you know, they are so hardwired into me at this point. I don’t know every single song lyric, but I was able to hum/sing most of my repertoire through the majority of my run. Which included a bunch of hills and challenging trail stuff. I walked up the hills and ran the rest of it. When I was coming down the hill toward the group at the end, I was so excited about finishing 6 miles (race distance) that I was all set to hold up six fingers for the camera. The camera guy was not aiming at me when I finished and then I heard coach Haakon say, “That was about 5.5 miles.” WHAT?? I didn’t finish my six? Teammate Alison said, “let’s do the last half mile.” She was sorta kidding sorta not, but I said “YEAH let’s do it!” and we ran out and completed the last half, just so we’d know we could do the whole six. YEAH! HIGH FIVE! (high six?)

When the workout was done I was pretty overjoyed. I was jumping up and down. I didn’t feel depleted or sick or horrible. Which meant a couple things: one, my bug from last week must be GONE from my body, and two, I think I’m getting better! I’m going to be prepared!

Seeking the Comfort Zone

It’s no exaggeration to say that last weekend’s open swim REALLY FREAKED ME OUT. It had me to the point where I was seriously questioning this whole triathlon idea. I was in Doubtville, big time.

So this week I have been treading a fine line between trying to take care of myself psychologically and emotionally while still trying to prepare myself physically.  After tiptoeing into little Lake Temescal on Monday, I gratefully took a rest day on Monday. I needed to rest my psyche.

Tuesday we were supposed to go back in the pool. I was a little perplexed by this but I am an obedient athlete so I did what the coach said, which was:

 I just wanted to make a plug to continue to do your pool workouts, even as we transition to practicing open water. You *really* must continue to get in the pool and do the full workouts, as it will help your stroke and will help you get in more distance. (When you are not used to open water, you often just do less than you need to). Practicing out there is awesome and great, but don’t neglect the the pool!

Hmm okay. So we went back to the pool. Oh my goodness. It was so warm! and clean! and clear and well lit! The lines were so straight and visible! It was like plunging back into the arms of my mother. On one hand, it felt wonderful. On the other hand, I was on the verge of a little tantrum the whole time, saying, “But open water doesn’t feel like this! It’s not faiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir!” I was upset about all the weeks of training, when I’d been feeling so much more comfortable and then BAM! I can’t swim five strokes without having an attack. I felt like I’d been duped, tricked by the pool and that all I had done was build up false confidence. So I swam in the pool, and it felt good, but inside I was feeling dubious still.

The next day was hill repeats. I did the steeeeeeeeeep hill right near my house. I got it over with as quick as I could. Enough said.

Thursday I was tired. I looked at the next 4 days’ workout and got kind of overwhelmed. We were supposed to do a one hour 11-15 mile bike ride followed by a 20 minute run. I came home from work to get my bike and I was soooooooo tired. SO TIRED. I took a little nap. I really could not fathom doing this workout, let alone doing it alone. But we were having house guests so it was a “now or never” situation. I went down to the Estuary Bay Trail where Juniorette was practicing crew. Going along the water where she was rowing brightened me up immediately. I knew that she was in one of those boats and it just made me feel happy.

I took the same path that Mr. McBody and I did the first day I got on a bike in a gazillion years. I went all the way to the end and was like, WOW that was a long ride! But my BikeMeter app said it was only 3 miles. Oh man. So I got back on and just did major loops all around the Bay Trail. Finally I got back to the boathouse and it was at 11 miles! Part of me felt like a super wimp because I had just rode on a pancake flat trail with no traffic, but part of me was like, it’s OK, you kept your butt on the seat for an hour.

I realized it had taken me an hour to ride 11 miles. Which means I was averaging 11 miles per hour. Which is insanely slow. Then I did some more math and realized if I doubled that to the distance of the bike portion of the Olympic tri, then, um, yes, 22 miles would take TWO HOURS. Then I mentally added in the swim and the run and I had the extremely sinking feeling of realizing that this race could very well take me FIVE HOURS. Oh. My. God.

Okay, I can’t think about that now. If it takes me five hours, so be it. I just want to finish. But that was a sad little reality check.

Now it’s today. OPEN WATER SWIM. (cue “Jaws” soundtrack) Part of me was anxious and part of me just wanted to get back IN again, this time in the Bay, and see what was going to happen. I was feeling bolstered by my Lake Temescal swim and my pool swim.

First there was awful traffic. Then I got lost. Finally I got to the beach and there were 3 team buddies there. I wriggled into my wetsuit and jumped in. Man! Cold. For just a minute though. It wasn’t so bad.

We started swimming parallel to the beach, in not-so-deep water, just to get the feel of it. Suddenly it felt verrrrrry different. For one, I felt SUPER buoyant. Yay salt water! Yay rubber wetsuit! It was almost like wearing a life preserver, I felt so floaty. THEN it was that salt water taste. It’s not yummy, but for me it was… childhood.

Miami Beach. Every summer since I was a baby. My father and mother and grandmother swimming with me back and forth. I didn’t mind the salt.

I just relaxed. I could feel my father with me. I just swam and swam. The breathing was easy. I went in a straight line. No hyperventilating. No fear. I just swam.

Ahh.

first dip in the ocean with my dad

 

Decision

Today, I was running, I was listening to this. It brought a lump to my throat it was so true.  I’m not going to let the fear steer me.

“Drive” (by Incubus)

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It’s driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I’m beginning to find that I
Should be the one behind the wheel

Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
With open arms and open eyes yeah

Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
I’ll be there

And so I came home and:

In Which I Biked On Hills, In Traffic, Without a Bike Lane, With Huge Wind and Hairpin Turns!

me and Tree

Yesterday was really special. I got to get together with my beloved workout buddy from my 2000 TNT marathon training. Back in the day, she and I were stuck together  like peanut butter and jelly. Treeeeeeeee! I just love her. I hadn’t seen her in like seven years  but something about being back in the TNT mode just made me miss her so much. So yesterday  we got together and tried to smush 7 years of conversation into about 90 minutes. It made me realize that even though I like being on the team, I need my One Person. Y’all know who that is for this time, because I don’t go anywhere without her!

Here’s me and Lily working out on our weekend vacation last week. (“triathlon means bike, run, and… hot tub, right?”) ANyway, it was awesome to have this little mini reunion from my BFF from TNT ’00.

I wasn't ACTUally drinking wine while training. I swear!

Today, many of our mentors headed down to participate in the Pacific Grove Triathlon (where they rocked it! Go team!!!!!!!!!!!!) so we had a smaller group do a “captains’ workout” of a bike and run.

Yesterday I prevailed upon my every kind and generous friend Mary to help me fix my flat tire. She was working at Weight Watchers all afternoon so I hauled the whole shebang over to the center and we got down and greasy in between people walking in to get weighed. I have to admit, after doing this process now for the 2nd time I’m probably more intimidated than ever. It involves so many intricate moves and decisions. Right away I jammed my finger in between the frame and the tire and I don’t know what I did but it is all bruised and swollen. (note: if you’re doing bike sports, don’t EVER EVER get a manicure because it is so not worth it. It will go to hell in about an hour) Even after the tire clinic, and watching the Youtube video half a dozen times, I still feel like if this ever happened to me, like in the middle of an event, (please NO) I would just sit on the curb and cry and wait for the SAG vehicle to come pick me up. (SAG = Support and… Grapefruit? Gummy bears? Giggles?)

Anyway, I got the new tube in my tire and got pumped up and I was all ready for this ride today. Again, I was sort of dreading it. OK, not sort of. I was really dreading it. I feel like every bike ride has had some new unknown bad thing I hadn’t even dreamed of before. So what was in store today? I had no idea what the course was like or how long or if there were hills or anything.

We met up at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon. From the chatter in the parking lot, I just picked up on random words like, “narrow, treacherous, rollers (rolling hills).” Uh HUH. Okay. I just love that word “treacherous.” NOT.

But what choice did I have? I clipped into my pedals (go me!) and we took off. At first we were on this bike trail (sort of nice, but also sort of an obstacle course around little kids with training wheels, strollers, runners and dogs) but pretty soon we were on a Real Road (stomach churning) with some semblance of an actual bike trail (OK nice!). That was good for a while. It was flat but there were also more cars than I really like to be around. Then we headed into some other area where there was: 1) no more bike trail; 2)fewer cars; 3) MORE HILLS, 4) hairpin turns, and 5) Wind! So windy! Like a few people almost got blown over it was so crazy windy. What was THAT.

The first big hill damn near killed me. I actually had to stop about 3/4 way to the top because I was panting and hyperventilating so hard and getting That Pukey Feeling. It was kind of ridiculous how short of breath I was. The sweep person stopped and hung out with me and said that maybe I was on too much of an easy gear and spinning my wheels (hahah) too much. So I took off again.

I swear, this road is exactly the kind of road that would turn Mr. McBody’s hair white if it wasn’t already. It is the kind of road we drove on to go out to the beach last weekend (ie DEATH TRAP) where we were cursing the cyclists at every blind turn. But it was different, and I mean way different doing it on a bicycle. For one thing, there’s not much I can do. I can stay as close to the edge of the road as I humanly can. Other than that, I’m just focusing on getting up the damn hill or getting around the hairpin turn or not flying out of control on the downhill. I am focused on the BIKE.

It is much, much harder and more annoying to be a car driver on a road than it is to be a cyclist. I pretty much seethe at all the bicycles who have the potential to ruin my life forever when I end up KILLING someone. But when you’re the one on the bicycle, there’s really no energy for being afraid. It’s the car’s job to stay away from you. They had these huge banners on the street poles that said, “Spandex is not armor.” Tell me about it.

That said, there are certain manners that I think most cyclists do not adhere to. Like there’s this thing on narrow, twisty, hilly windy roads called PULLOUTS. They are designed for slow vehicles (slow cars as well as two wheeled vehicles) to PULL OUT INTO when there is someone on your tail who would like to go ahead. We never, ever EVER witnessed a bicycle using a pullout on Highway 1. They just act like they own the place.

But I pulled out. I pulled out plenty today and I felt like in doing so I was being polite to cars, AND I was potentially saving my life.  And I noticed that the faces of the drivers passing me looked infinitely more upset/distraught/annoyed than I felt.

I couldn’t believe that I was actually riding a bicycle with my shoes clipped to the pedals, and I was going up and down hills and around crazy sharp turns on a narrow road with no bike lane and cars going past about six inches away. I managed to do the whole 90 minute ride and was feeling very “OMG I did that!” when I rode into the parking lot, all proud of myself and then promptly fell over. Right in front of my car. Niiiiiiiice!

After I got semi cleaned up I put on running shoes for our little (20 minute) run. Again, my feet and calves felt like absolute concrete. It was torture. I felt like I was about 90 years old and just shuffling, one foot in front of the other. And a few times I had to actually slow even more to a hobble (ie walk), it was so ridiculous. Only when I was close to being finished (about a mile plus) did my feet and legs start feeling like I might be able to run anywhere. So. Note to self: don’t freak if you can’t run. Hopefully this will come at around mile 2 or so.

So in spite of the embarrassing owie at the end, I feel insanely proud (and kind of shocked) at the ride I did today. It’s not something I could have even imagined a week ago. Or yesterday.

Next week: Wetsuit distribution! OPEN WATER SWIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sprint or Olympic???

I’m really really trying to make a good decision regarding if I should do the Sprint or Olympic distance of the upcoming triathlon in November. I know that most of my teammates and coaches from TNT will say “Olympic! You can do it!” because they want to be encouraging etc. Mr. McBody is voting strongly for the Sprint because he wants me to enjoy it and not struggle too much. He looks out for me in that way, and he’s seen me reallllllllly crash and burn after several of my long distance events.

These are the factors I’m trying to weigh right now:

  • The Sprint is on Nov 5th and the Olympic is on Nov 6th. The vast majority of my teammates are doing the Oly and I really want to be in it with them!!
  • Just FYI: the Sprint distance involves a 500 meter swim, 8 mile bike and 5K run. The Olympic distance is a 1.5K swim in San Pablo Bay; followed by a challenging 22 mile bike course through China Camp State Park; concluded by a 10K out and back run course along the waters of San Pablo Bay. (“challenging”: shudder)
  • I could probably do the Sprint distance today, at my current level of training.
  • If I’m going to train for two more months, won’t I be ready for the Olympic?
  • I DO want to feel triumphant and not like I’ve half killed myself.
  • I DO want to feel like I’ve really accomplished Something.
  • I have to decide by next week because TNT is officially registering us. From what I understand, it will be possible to switch later on from Olympic to Sprint, but not vice versa.
Will I feel “less-than” if I do the Sprint? But if I feel relaxed and confident doing it?
Will I feel stupid and like I got in over my head if I struggle too much in the Olympic? Those distances are NO FREAKING JOKE, especially all tied together. I had a really rough time in the Oakland Marathon when I JUST did the 10k part of the relay. The Olympic tri will involve running a 10k AFTER swimming and biking.
What do YOU think I should do? Please vote AND leave a comment!

On My Own

photo credit: leoschmidt08 via Flickr

I’m up at the beach for a little holiday this weekend, so I have to miss out on the team workouts. I had two good swims with Lily this week – one at the fancy shmancy Claremont Resort & Spa (thanks to my buddy Mel who is a personal trainer there- we had a very luxurious swim and Jacuzzi afterward!) and one at Mills College pool. These were both new venues for us and it was good to get out and experience other pools.

Today was bike/run day. I felt myself putting it off all day. I even managed to take a crazy two-hour nap this afternoon that I could NOT pull myself out of. I kept dreaming that I was getting up, walking around the house, but in reality I was sleeping hard the whole time. I guess I really needed it.

Late this afternoon I took myself over to a big parking lot for Stinson Beach Park. There were a bunch of teenaged guys hanging around their car and I was all embarrassed that they would laugh at me for doing loops around on my bike. But finally I just decided to get over it. I went to a little corner of the parking lot. I clipped my shoe onto the pedal. I did this many dozens of times and it was interesting – sometimes it just went “click” right away and sometimes it took up to a minute to get it in there right.

I just wanted to feel like I could stop, start, clip and unclip without having a heart attack or standing there like a deer in the headlights for half an hour while the rest of the team pedals off into the distance. So I practiced. And practiced and practiced.

It was really, really good to do this by myself. I think I have worked myself into a froth of self-consciousness doing this while other people were watching and waiting.  So it was good to just do this with no eyes on me, just me and the bike. I needed it. And after a good period of this practicing I think I can safely say I feel a lot more comfortable, especially with the stop and start. I’ve been watching YouTube videos about bicycling this week and one of them really impacted me – this guy said, “Put down your favorite foot.” Now that made sense to me. I DO  have a favorite foot (my right!). And I realized that I’d been attempting to stop on my Unfavorite Foot last weekend, and that may have been a factor in my extreme discomfort and discombobulation. At any rate, I think I have a few more of the basics down.

Since we were supposed to go for a longish ride and a shortish run today, I switched it up. After my remedial parking lot self-taught bike class, I went for a run. At first it just sucked. I had to go to the bathroom after about 50 yards. I stopped at the house and took care of that. Then my feet and calves felt like they were made of concrete. THAT wasn’t very good. My Runkeeper was telling me that my average pace was a 27 minute mile, which made me laugh it was so ridiculous (this is because of the bathroom break which I took AFTER I started the app).  But finally, finally the achiness and stiffness went away, and I got into my stride, and it felt good good good and I ended up going a total of 3.6 miles in 55 minutes. When I checked my mile splits, I saw that I’d done mile 3 at a 12:15 pace. Not bad, little turtle!

fogged-up glasses

So it turned out to be a very good, very productive and very tailored-to-me workout. I posted about it on our team Facebook page and our head coach commented: “This was the perfect workout for you. It’s not always about fitness, it’s also about confidence and skill. Well done.” YAY!

Breakthrough!!!!!!!

Yesterday was a huge day in tri-training land for me. It was a workout I’d been anticipating with a fair amount of fear, especially considering my meltdown last week. I was very low on the confidence scale and just not sure of my ability to do this.

Set the alarm for 5:30 because we were traveling way up to Napa wine country for our bike/run. Picked up Lily (who had just returned from Mexico hours before, yayyy!) and we headed up.

First we had a little talk from our coach. See how serious everyone is?

I was feeling kind of wimpy when I read this.

So our bike plan was to go about 15-30 miles depending on experience. I was feeling kind of anxious-but-determined about the shoe clip thing. We headed out the parking lot and we were maybe half a block away, at the first stop sign, when coach Mark called out my name and remarked on my less-than-graceful stopping and dismounting style. Uh-oh. Busted.

He then proceeded to give me a private tutorial on balance, stopping and starting right there in the road (actually, the bike line) while the rest of the group rode off into the horizon. Without us. 😦

I had somewhat mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I felt very grateful for the private attention and help. On the other hand, I was so aware of being left behind (and last) and also of being in bicycle remedial school. It was kind of embarrassing. And as we did these drills I felt like I  was almost getting worse instead of better. It was the opposite of my session with Mary, when I was OK with the stops but awkward with the starts. Yesterday, I was starting out fine but then I was regressing back into my “slam on the brakes then leap off the bike like it’s on fire” method. No matter what Mark said, it was not sinking into my reptilian brain and I just kept reflexively doing the “jump off while bike is still rolling” thing. It wasn’t pretty.

Finally he realized I wasn’t going to improve all that much and we took off onto the Silverado Trail, which is this long mini-highway that goes through dozens of vineyards in the Napa valley. I kept praying I would not get hit by a giant limo filled with drunk people at 9 in the morning.

Once my feet were clipped in, it felt pretty good. There was a nice wide bike line, the road was pretty much flat, and it just went on in a straightforward way. But I was very aware of coach Mark behind me and even though I was pedaling as fast as my legs would rotate, I wasn’t sure if I was doing the bike equivalent of walking.

There are a few things I need to figure out still. No, a lot of things. But one of them is where to put my butt. If I just sit down “naturally” without thinking about it, I know I am way far forward and it’s all very painful and squishy. But if I really sit BACK on the cushy big part of the seat, it feels weird and strange for my back and arms. Actually, none of it feels super comfortable. So I played around with that for most of the ride.

I was starting to get kind of tired and I could feel my legs aching when YAY we got to the water and fuel stop. YAY!

This is when I made one of the best choices of my workout life. There was a fair spread of snack and beverage choices and I took a big cup of Gatorade (good choice #1 – yay electrolytes) AND a big handful of salty salty pretzels. (BRILLIANT CHOICE) I was in deadly fear of dehydration which has taken me down so many times in the past. I remembered something right then. I remembered that when I have suffered from dehydration (and Junior too) the BIG THING to bring us back from death’s door was — chicken soup. Salty salty chicken soup. And I remembered the cyclists at the Century ride snarfing down the boiled potatoes sprinkled with salt.

I think this made the hugest difference EVER.

Got off on the second half of the ride. Made it back to parking lot. Had to run into the giant food store to go to the bathroom and then changed my shoes.

We were to run a mile out and a mile back on this trail right off the parking lot. I had already psyched myself into accepting that I was going to do run-walk intervals. I was OK with it. I told myself there was no shame in walking, and I just needed to get through the two miles.

I started running. The trail was really beautiful, along a little creek (or was it a river?) and it was nice and woodsy and there were all kinds of people walking and running, including another TNT team who was doing SIX miles before their final tri next weekend. (gulp, one day that will be us!) The run went just fine. I noticed that I was not having any need to walk. I just kept going, and I was so happy to be passing (going the other way) other members of my team. We all slapped hands and gave each other encouragement. I felt so glad to be part of it.

Finally I realized I was only about 1/4 mile out. And I hadn’t walked yet. My Runkeeper told me that my average pace was a 11:40 mile. I was astounded because remember at our first mile, I pushed to a 11:33 mile and thought I was going to DIE? For this one I felt like I was just sort of ambling along at a pretty easy pace. When all of this came together in my head – the fact that I hadn’t walked, that I had done this AFTER a 15 mile ride, and that I had done it at this pace – I got totally overwhelmed. I hit the parking lot and just burst into sobs. I couldn’t stop crying for about five minutes. It was happy tears though.

After everyone got back, a bunch of us went out for breakfast. Normally at this point in a workout I’d be almost catatonic. I’d be shaky and woozy and ready to keel over. Not yesterday. I was soooooo full of energy and just feeling good.

yay team! That's Rachel!

For EVERY SINGLE team workout this season, I’ve had to come home and take a big nap – because of the early wakeup AND because the workouts just knocked me out. But yesterday I came home and did a little Rocky dance and then went out to take care of other stuff. NO NAP. No meltdown or wipeout.

It was the salty pretzels!!

I really feel like this was a HUGE breakthrough, physically and psychologically and even intellectually. I finally understood something about what my body needed. Electrolytes and salt! and it made such a difference in my workout (and POST workout) I can hardly believe it. Whew.

I still have a LOT of practicing to do on the bike with the clips and the on/off. But I feel so much more confident than I did just a week ago. It’s beginning to feel possible.

Back in the Saddle

So after my meltdown I’ve been slowly making my way back. I got advice that I shouldn’t attempt to “make up” any missed workout, but just to pick up the next workout. The next scheduled workout was a swim for Friday. It turned out to be an unexpectedly busy work day for me, so I didn’t actually get to the pool until 8:30PM. I’d never been there so late before. I was the only one in the whole pool. It was dark, but the pool was lit underneath the water and the whole thing was kind of surreal and beautiful.

I didn’t end up having time to do the entire “Fitness” level workout, but I did do the Developing workout and it felt just fine. I just felt relaxed and it was so peaceful. I could see the lit-up bubbles underwater with every stroke – something I can’t see in the daytime – and it was like this very artistic, pretty feedback on how hard I was pushing through the water. Pretty awesome!

So that was reviving. Then today I met up with our regional group for a “Captain’s Run” which happened to be taking place just a few blocks from my house. Yay! I got to walk there. It also started at 9am which I considered very civilized.

These runs are often just timed runs – no matter what pace, we go 30 minutes out and 30 back in, so everyone finishes at roughly the same time, even though some people go a lot farther.

Captain Matt: "Just run that way until your lungs explode."

It was interesting how the run went, and how I felt about it. I was absolutely the last one in the group. I did walk/run intervals. There were a lot of hills and some of them VERY steep, especially coming back. It just seemed to go up and up and up. But you know what? I felt okay. I ran when I could, and I walked when I couldn’t run. End of story. I didn’t worry about keeping up with other people. I was in my element, in my own neighborhood in a place I knew well. Sometimes it was so misty/foggy I couldn’t see feet ahead of me, and other times it was HOT and sunny. The fog just kept going in and out. Like the underwater swim on Friday, I found it kind of peaceful. I just wasn’t worried about it. In the end I did a 4.88 miles in 70 minutes, which was just fine.

In the afternoon I was going to meet up with my awesome buddy Mary V, who has coached those 500 mile AIDS rides. She had offered to help me get used to the new pedals on my bike. I felt like I really needed to figure them out before our long big ride in Napa tomorrow. She suggested that we just go practice at one of the BART station parking lots which is usually empty on weekends.

So I met her out there and tried to clip on my shoe to the pedal. It wouldn’t go and at first I just thought I was being super uncoordinated. But then I tried to sit on the ground and just clip my SHOE (without foot in it!) to the pedal, and it still didn’t work. Then Mary tried to clip her own shoe in and no go.

Back to the bike store! Third time in three days! They’re going to have to paint my name on the floor in the spot where I stand and wait. Mary was nice enough to help me and help them and explain the issue. They loosened up the clip then let me get on their trainer (bike stand) to practice. Mary coached me in the in-and-out. I got my right foot pretty quickly but the left one was a lot more awkward. After about 15 minutes of this everyone seemed satisfied that it was working, I could get my foot in and out and I was deemed ready to go. The bike guys were like, “You want to go take it for a spin?” “NOW? HERE?” Um, no, thanks.

Mary took me up to the trail nearby where I’d practiced a bunch with Lily. She was so patient. (and believe me, standing in a parking lot and then in a bike store and then riding about 20 feet was NOT her idea of a fun bike ride!) She was so kind and yet firm. “OK, get on now.” She had me get on and off the bike and ride a bit (“Now stop!”) maybe about ten times.

And guess what? I RODE A BICYCLE with my FEET CLIPPED ONTO THE PEDALS!!!!!! CALL THE NEW YORK TIMES!

I only rode a little ways, and I’d say that I had two really awkward ugly starts, and two really nice graceful ones, and a whole bunch of them that were somewhere in between. But I DID NOT FALL DOWN once. And that was a huge victory. And even though I wasn’t what one would call “comfortable,” I DID It. and I hope this will translate into a not too humiliating or painful experience tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are riding up in Napa. Which is over an hour from here. And we meet at 7:45. IN NAPA. So I’ve got to get to bed now, y’all!

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