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Event Recap: Yosemite Snowshoe Hike!

Junior and me under a Yosemite Falls rainbow

I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since returning from my TNT Yosemite event weekend, and this is the first chance I’ve had a minute to sit down and recap it. I have to do it today before the memories completely fade!

I have to say that this experience with TNT was completely unique from all of my other seasons. Instead of facing the Big Weekend with some degree of anxiety, dread, fear and adrenaline, I went into this one thrilled to be going on what felt like a weekend vacation. In beautiful Yosemite! Yay!

At sort of the last minute, Junior and her housemate F joined me for the weekend. Junior hadn’t been to Yosemite since she was about eight years old and she was very excited. We arrived just in time to get to the snowshoe fitting and then the Send-Off (pre-event) dinner.

honoree flags

The mood at the dinner was festive and relaxed. People had made flags with their honorees’ names on them and they were draped along the wall, a good reminder of Why We Were Doing This.

"Take a picture at 11:11 wherever you are"

Coach Carolyn gave us our instructions for meeting up, carpooling to the SNOW at Badger Pass, meeting up with our respective guides, and taking a picture at 11:11. We were divided into four groups based on exertion level. I was in the “Mighty Mo” or ‘moderate’ group which would later prove to be not-so-moderate, but still just right. I had just done that Tinkerbell Half, and was about to re-enter triathlon training, so I didn’t need to prove anything at this hike.

candle ceremony for honorees

We did a little candle lighting ceremony and then blew them out as a symbolic gesture to “snuff out cancer.” We were thinking about one of our honorees, my mentor’s husband, who had been planning to come to Yosemite, but was in the hospital back home following some complications. It was a reminder of Coach Carolyn’s words about life not always going as planned. Randy had grappled with deciding to come to the event weekend, but the doctors had reassured her that her husband would be safe and cared for in the hospital. This lady has been through so much.

When we woke up, these nice mats were outside of our hotel room doors:

put a little lump in my throat
my mentor Randy at breakfast

After breakfast we drove out to Badger Pass. Yosemite is so breathtakingly gorgeous, pictures can never really do it justice.

We got up to Badger Pass and there was SNOW! We put on our snowshoes… which took about half an hour of grunting, moaning and dealing with buckles and such. Finally… ta da!

Just call me BigFoot.

Then we split up into our respective groups and headed out with our guide. UPHILL. Going uphill on snowshoes at 7,000 feet elevation is… well, it’s no walk in the park. I was winded after about twenty yards.

It was also pretty darn cold, in spite of the sunny weather. Here’s teammate Dorothy holding a hand warmer packet up to her frozen nose. Nose warmer?

warming up the nose
Up hill!

At 11:11am we found ourselves near what looked like a giant flaming snow cupcake. You see how my mind works.

cupcake in the snow

Here’s our trusty guide Zach, who was infinitely patient with our sometimes high-maintenance (ahem) group of women.

poles in the shape of "11:11" Get it? LOL

We got to the top of the ridge and had us a nice lunch break on the sunny rocks. This is not something you get during marathons and triathlons!

rock sunning

It was so pristine and beautiful up there!

coyote tracks in the snow

On the way back down, we separated out to do solo meditations for a few minutes. I found a tree to lean on and just soak up the peace and quiet for a while. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole hike.

ommm...

We got back down to the lodge after about five and a half hours of snowshoeing. Which felt “just right” in terms of a damn good workout, a beautiful hike, but not horribly painful. I had gotten a good day’s work in there.

When we arrived down to the Valley we got the sad news that Randy’s husband had been transferred to the ICU and was in very grave condition. My buddy Jon volunteered to drive her down to the hospital, over 4 hours away, so she could be with him right away. This is what team spirit and our mission is about.

Jeannette, Randy and Jon

The rest of us celebrated the end of our season and our hikes, thinking of them and sharing a moment of silence.

The next morning we walked up to the beautiful Yosemite falls for some photo ops.

go team!

Then it was the amazing Ahwahnee Hotel for their insanely delicious brunch. What a way to wrap it all up.

so beautiful
mmm... dessert buffet!

With this event, I earned my Team in Training Triple Crown pin for participating in three different sports: marathon, triathlon and hike team. It felt good.

Badger Pass, Hike Team, Triple Crown!

Hike Team was very very different from other “endurance” events but it was a welcome change of pace and something I’d definitely do again at some point. They have incredible hikes to the Grand Canyon and other stunning locales.

In final news, I’m almost….. almost… almost... done with my fundraising. But not quite. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this very unique and different type of training, please consider dropping a few dollars into my Leukemia & Lymphoma fund. I’d be so very grateful.

I’m not fundraising for the Triathlon team this season because I’m mentoring the team and will be putting my efforts toward supporting my mentees. This is the last chance you’ll have to support me and my amazing team until… next time. 😉

All in all, it was a beautiful, active, inspiring experience. I recommend for anyone who is interested in being part of an active team that’s working for a good cause. Thumbs up.

 

Race Recap: Tinkerbell Half Marathon!

most ginormous bling ever!

I did not go into this half marathon race with high expectations. In fact, I was kind of dreading it because my running training has fallen short of my intentions. So I was just hoping it wouldn’t be a big, enormous painful fail, and that I would come home with one of those pretty Tinkerbell wing medals.

Originally I’d signed up for this race as a great mother-daughter bonding event. But the best laid plans, you know? Poor Junior, who had actually TRAINED for this race, came down with a gnarly flu/sore throat/feeling like hell on Friday night. She had gone down to SoCal early, and because I had my TNT Kick-Off on Saturday, and Juniorette had crew practice, it was up to poor Junior to go to the Expo to pick up our race packets and chips and all. What a sad thing, to be amidst all that wild enthusiasm and excitement, knowing she probably wouldn’t be able to do the race. Wahh! I really felt for her.

She picked up all the stuff and then we met up at the hotel where she was lying in bed looking miserable.

"hug me... but don't catch my germs"

After taking some medicine she did feel well enough to go over to Disney California for a bit. We headed straight for our most favorite ride, Soarin’ Over California, which is both relaxing and beautiful. At that point, Junior was feeling better than she’d had all day, and we entertained the idea that maybe she could walk the race slowly. But the night was a rough one, with fever and discomfort and no sleep. So when the alarm went off at 3:30am (!!!!!!!!!) it was just Juniorette and I who got up.

One of the VERY BEST DECISIONS I ever made was to book the hotel right at the start/finish line. So all we had to do was take the elevator downstairs, and the race staging area was RIGHT THERE. I knew that other people were having to WALK a mile or more to the start, and that just would not have been a happy thing.

When we first entered the area we were greeted by some Pirates. That was pretty awesome, and took the sting out of the fact that it was still pretty much the middle of the night.

Arrr! Pirates!

I have to say, this pretty much spoiled me for every other race. If we aren’t greeted by pirates at the crack of dawn, then I’m gonna be sad.

When it was time to go to our corrals to line up for the start, Juniorette and I had to split up because she was in C (younger faster folks!) and I was in E (the End).

I was verrrry happy to then meet up with (out of 11,000 people) two of my friends! What are the chances of that! I found Christine and Sabrina, both of whom with I’d done the Fight for Air Stair Climb last year. It was great to have people to hang with while we were waiting to make our way to the start line. It was Christine’s first half marathon, which was exciting, and it was Sabrina’s 16th! (her first this month- she’s doing a half every month!)

Sabrina, me and Christine waiting to start!

While we were waiting around, I did several minutes of calf stretches. When I had been at the TNT Kickoff on Saturday morning (which, by the way, was awesome) I met up with a foot doctor at their mini-expo. I described to him the excruciating foot pain that has been plaguing me worse than ever. I told him about this sole-stabbing PAIN that came on without fail pretty much every run, after about 1/3 mile, and which persisted until it started subsiding around mile 2. I’ve learned that I can “run through it” but man, it has not been pleasant. It always makes me think of the Little Mermaid who has these knife-stabbing sensations in her feet when she walks (I did a paper on Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid in grad school).  Anyway, he said it sounded like a case of tight gastrocnemius muscle and he showed me exactly the stretches to do. Which I did, crossing my fingers. I thought how nice it would be to not be running on knives through Ariel’s Grotto.

Finally it was time to move up to the start line. It was still pitch black, and then fireworks went off (of course) and… wooo! Juniorette texted me that Sean Astin (aka Samwise Gamgee from LOTR!) was in her corral. Squeeee! They called Corral C, then D, then it was our turn: Corral E – proceed to the starting line! Boom!

We ran around some random streets for a while and then after a mile or two (?) we were back in Disneyland. That was surreal and fun, running through the empty park, through the back lots and Secret Areas while the sun was just starting to come up.

Just as we came up around the It’s A Small World ride (fond childhood memories) I saw this big line and thought, what, port-o-potties already? No, it was Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and a few other princesses. And a heck of a long line. I knew that I did NOT want to stand there for 10-15 minutes that early on. Or maybe ever. But then, after mile 2, I saw these two guys standing there – with NO LINE! (or maybe just one person ahead of me) I couldn’t resist.

Tarzan and Hercules!!

I also could not resist the real, clean, flush bathrooms right near there. Even though there was a waiting line, it wasn’t any longer than the Port O Potties line, so I went for the flush kind. I was really happy I did that, especially early on, because it made for a much more comfortable race.

Just when I got to the 5k point (3.1 miles) I realized something. MY FEET HAD NOT BEEN STABBING ME. Thank you, Dr. Footdoctor, at the TNT expo! He had been so right. It felt so amazing to run on pain-free feet!!

Pretty soon we came upon Cinderella’s castle. How awesome was that.

I was one of few people not wearing a tutu or wings.
Feeling pretty good!

I actually felt just relaxed and great through the first eight miles. I was so happy about that. I knew that I had a mental block coming up around mile 9, because that was my longest run in the past many months. OK, my longest run since the Las Vegas Half in December 2010. So I knew I was once again heading into uncharted territory, and I remembered how absolutely MISERABLE and deathly feeling I’d been at mile 11 in Vegas. I was kinda nervous.

I started texting Mr McBody because I knew he’d give me a little pep talk. So every time I passed a mile marker I’d type in the number and word for how I felt.

I was totally psyched that at Mile 10 I was feeling GOOD.

(that's the time from when the race started, not my time!)

Up until this point I really did not have any discomfort other than what felt like a blister on my right pinky toe. I kept sort of shifting around in my shoe to avoid the tender spot. But it wasn’t like it was killing me.

The last couple miles weren’t EASY (I texted, “I’m feeling it”) but they weren’t horrible. I wasn’t suffering or praying for mercy or anything like it. I wasn’t feeling any systemic problems. I had been drinking a half-cup of water and half-cup of PowerAde at every water stop. I had a little pouch of salted pretzels which I took in steadily, and I had one packet of Gu at Mile 9. (good place for it) I felt perfectly balanced, which is pretty much nothing short of a miracle for me. No GI problems, no tingling, numbness, asthma, nausea or the like. All of which I’ve had in large amounts. I was so grateful but also proud of myself for having figured that part of it out. There was one woman running near me with her hands up, and her friend was massaging her fingers. I gave her some pretzels and said, “need salt” and she was so happy. (“Those Team in Training people are so helpful!”)

I was also really proud of the fact that I ran the entire race WITHOUT MUSIC. Which is also nothing short of miraculous, considering I’ve been pretty dependent on my tunes since day one. It was just that my phone battery was down to 3/4 even at the start line, and I was super nervous I wouldn’t have enough juice to text people at the end (or during if necessary). So I didn’t use my Runkeeper ( which really drains the juice) or ANY music. I listened to the cool high school marching bands and to the speaker music when it came around every mile or so. That was enough, and I think having music as a “special treat” now and then helped me really appreciate it. Having said that I think I need to invest in a Mophie or one of those extra battery things.

Finally we got to mile 12, back in the park again, and I was so happy about how good I was feeling. The last mile between 12 and 13 felt pretty long, but again, I wasn’t dying. Then we got to mile 13 and I was so happy. I saw Sabrina and that was great, to see her at beginning and end (and a bunch in the middle too). When we got to the finish, I did a little jump in the air (I hope Brightroom.com got that one!) and just felt so happy. Then a few feet later I saw Pauly, whom I’d run a bit with during HER Las Vegas half in December! (she is also a TNT mentor, down in LA) That was awesome.

I’ve gotta say, there were HUNDREDS of TNT runners, spectators and coaches through this whole race. It is so great to have people call your name and say “Go Team!” just because you’re wearing this purple shirt. Toward the end, maybe Mile 12, I think I may have been looking a little ragged, and this TNT coach ran with me for a while. He talked to me about drinking water in the last mile, and he was just so encouraging and coach-y, it was as if he’d been training me all season. That made a big impression, the huge community that TNT is everywhere.

I was super stoked to get this giant gorgeous medal!

Yippeee! Look at this beauty!

Then I found Juniorette, who’d been waiting for me OVER an HOUR (she rocked it!!!). We went up to the hotel and pretty much crashed. It felt so awesome to take my shoes off. Junior had slept through the whole thing. Poor baby!

The afternoon was pretty much a blur of napping and lying around, and then later on we went back to the parks to play before Junior’s plane ride home. Juniorette and I had an awesome dinner at Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen then stayed out super late playing on the rides. She convinced me to go on the Tower of Terror, which WAS terrifying but actually really fun and well done. We also did the new 3D Star Tours (AWESOME!) and Indiana Jones and a few others. Finally dragged back to bed around 11 and crashed hard.

This was my second half marathon and I have to say it was one of my happiest races. I’ve had a lot of pain and suffering in many  of my events, and even though I was glad to have finished them, they were hard won victories. This one just felt good from beginning to end. (is there something to running a race in the “happiest place on Earth?”) It was slower than my first half marathon by seven minutes, but it felt 100% better. So I’d call it a personal best of sorts. (and I know that time difference was for the Tarzan and bathroom stops!)

I just feel so good about all the things that went RIGHT for this race:

  • The hotel location was PERFECTO. Nothing sucks more than having to walk 1-2 miles back to a hotel after you’ve just run 13.1.
  • Salt, water and sports drink ratio were just right. Yay for salty pretzels, water, PowerAde and Gu, all in just the right amounts at the right time. How awesome to not feel SICK.
  • No painful feet! The calf stretches were amazing, and I wore my ankle brace and orthotics (and compression socks) but didn’t overdo it with tape and extra stuff. I felt well supported but not strangled. It was great.

I feel really good about this race, considering that my training was less than stellar. It made me think, wow, what could I do WITH some good training? Maybe my next adventure will be a TNT half or full….

But for now, my next schedule race isn’t until June, the South Maui Triathlon. I want to feel as good about that as I did about this half marathon, so I’m excited to dive into training with my new team and my new coach. WAHOO!

Have I Been Hiding?

It doesn’t really FEEL like I’ve been hiding – more like, “I’m really busy,” or “Time just got away from me,” etc. Stuff you’ve heard before. But you know that conventional wisdom says that If a fitness blogger seems to, er… disappear, then chances are high that something is not right. That they’ve fallen off the wagon, or gained weight, or lost their fitness, or all of the above.

I’ve had some pretty big gaps in blogging recently and although I have all these Excuses, it probably has come down to the fact that I was in a fair bit of struggle. Mostly with myself. And it’s only now that I am able to come back the blog because I feel like I’ve made it out the other side (I think). I wish that I had been able to be more open and to have shared some of that struggle here, but clearly – that just wasn’t happening.

During the time I’ve been gone, my 3rd healthaversary/blogaversary came and went. It’s a first for me not to note this with a commemorative, celebratory blog. But this anniversary had me feeling more sober than other years. Realizing, I guess, that this is a lifelong journey and that there’s no guarantee that it’s going to just Happen. In several ways I was feeling like I had let myself down and that I had been in a period of failing. It wasn’t a good feeling. But having the healthaversary celebration to celebrate my intention was a good thing, I think, and it helped get me back on my good path. Here are some of my friends doing our annual Walking of the Labyrinth on a cold and drizzly Sunday. Then we came back to the house for a nice brunch that made me feel all nourished, both physically and socially.

walking the labyrinth

On Monday, the next day, I had a little mini breakdown/meltdown. I reached out to a friend who really helped me. Until that point, I had not felt like I could share my struggles with anyone. In retrospect, that is just so sad and dumb and wrong. I know that I have SO many people who would so gladly “be there” for me, but my disappointment in myself was just too huge. As it turned out, I reached out to exactly the right person and it was a major turning point for me.

Somehow over the past couple of months I felt like I lost the me I wanted to be, and it was hard finding my way back. I had a bunch of setbacks including a break-in (busted back window) of my car with a purse robbery included. That wasn’t much fun. But first through walking the circles of the labyrinth, and then through opening up to one friend and then more (and now to all of you) it has made a huge difference. Things have lightened up considerably (including me, no pun intended).  Today I ran 9 miles in the rain, something I have been attempting over and over the past few weeks and just could not accomplish.

Next weekend is the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in Disneyland, which I’ll be doing with Junior and Juniorette. I am in nowhere near the condition I had hoped to be in, but judging by today’s 9 miler I think I can survive it. I hope we’ll have some fun together and then I’ll be turning my direction toward the new triathlon season. I can’t even begin to describe how excited, nervous and thrilled this makes me.

So, with much relief, I feel like I am “back.”

Have you ever “gone away” from fitness for a while? What helped you come back?


Hellooooo 2012!

I decided to bring 2012 in with an active bang. On New Year’s eve day, the hike team went for a hecka long hike up and down Mount Diablo. It’s only an hour away, but in 25 years I’ve never been there. The views are pretty amazingly beautiful. However, I was not feeling my best. I think we hiked about five hours and the last couple were a real weird struggle for me. Straight uphill. First I was getting shooting pains in my right ankle. I was wearing my old ankle brace as well as using an orthotic in that shoe. My ankle really did not feel happy going up steep inclines. I was a little freaked out when the pain started because we were a good two hours from the parking lot (uphill). But after a while it subsided, and then the other stuff started. Nausea, stomach cramps, light headedness. Oh man. It was really one of the worst hikes I ever did, physically.

pretty views
Nature Guy found the world's biggest pine cone!

One of the mentors gave me some pita chips to get some salt into me. I think after a few hours I can get really sensitive, hydration wise. Even if I’m drinking a lot of water (which I was) if I don’t have salt and electrolytes, I can get really messed up. I was trying to be conscientious about the water but clearly it was not enough. I felt crappy the rest of the hike and when I got home, I had to just hop in the shower and into the car and over to San Francisco for my NYE dinner date and to work at friends’ comedy show. (which was awesome)

When I got up (at 6am!) on New Years’ Day, I was still kind of running on empty. I was feeling kind of tentative about doing the 10K run I’d signed up for, but I was meeting my Hike Coach (who was racewalking), another friend, and a bunch of buddies from my Tri team. I didn’t want to miss that! I promised spouse and self that I would rest, turn around or quit if I felt yucky.

GO team! Yahoo!

I didn’t really have any huge goals regarding the race, other than finishing without feeling like death. It’s a good thing that I didn’t have a good look at the race course before starting, because it would have scared me a LOT. The middle of the course was just one giant hill. Steeper or as steep as Mount Diablo.

Wow that was one heck of a hill.

I ended up walking pretty much all the way up and most of the way down. I saw a lot of runners FLYING down the hill and it scared me to death -you could break your neck so fast like that! So I was pretty cautious.

The awesome thing is that they had a great aid station at the top of the hill, which was the 10k turnaround. Sports drink and all kinds of edibles – including my favorite, salty pretzels! I took a big cupful and a big handful of pretzels. And you know, the second half of the race felt fantastic. I felt like my body was in perfect balance with fluids, salts and nutrition. The magic combo, once again!

I sure didn’t beat any speed records (especially due to the hill) but I finished feeling strong.  Coach Carolyn cheered me into the finish – she had walked that 10k twenty minutes faster than I did, running! She is a real force of nature. I met up with my other buddies and we got our medals and our (YUM) Haagen Dasz ice cream bars (what a great post-race treat!). We then discovered that Katherine had come in first in her age group – how awesome is she!!

Yahoo! Medals!
Go Katherine! Won her age division!
we all scream for ice cream!

So it turned out to be an awesome way to start the New Year. But man, I was pooped. Last night I went to bed right after dinner. I wasn’t sure if I was exhausted from the dual workout, or partly sick, or…

Today I barely moved. I spent the day paying bills and filing stuff and generally keeping a low profile. I think I need to learn a little bit about pacing myself. 🙂

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I’d say that 2011 was overall very positive for me, health and activity-wise. Here’s a peek at what went on last year:

January:

first snowshoe adventure, New Mexico
2nd year as Weight Watchers leader
2nd “Healthaversary” Party

February:

I took my first of two trips to Baltimore last year!

running in the snow
meeting the awesome Roni for the first time!

March:

The “Fight for Air” Stairclimb with Sabrina
View from the top: 110 flights up!
Oakland Running Festival Twilight 5k THE NEXT DAY!

That was quite a weekend.

featured in story in Oakland Trib about running after injuries

April:

Trip to London (here on Abbey Road)
and Paris (Notre Dame)
Good thing we walked a lot because typical breakfast = croissants and cheese

May:

My first Bay to Breakers. CRAZY!
Yeah, people run naked. Why??
100th Anniversary medal was pretty nice

Major highlight of 2011: Fitbloggin!

MizFitOnline herself! I love Carla.
Best. Roomies. Ever.
Thank you Roni!!

June:

Nia dance party for my friend Audrey's Bday

July:

NorCal Fitbloggin' Local Meetup
of course there was tons of awesome food
signed up for Team in Training to do my first triathlon!
met the best training buddy EVER

August:

started riding a bike after 20 years
started swimming after 18 years

September:

A few bumps and bruises
Learned how to put on a wetsuit
Look, Ma! No hand!

October:

Dealing with the mental game
"Stories of the Body" Retreat at Santa Sabina
giving the course a test run
practice "mini tri" with paper medal

November:

Featured story in local paper
Holy moley, I did it.
Joined the TNT Hike/Snowshoe Team
Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot with WW folks

December:

Las Vegas Santa Claus 5k!

Looking back, I have to say I feel good about it. That was quite a year. I kept pushing myself and finding new and different things to do. I think that’s the name of the game. Keep going. Keep improving and challenging.

What’s in store for 2012? I’m starting out with a New Year’s Day 10k run. Then I’m doing the TinkerBell Half Marathon in Disneyland with my two daughters (fun!) on January 29th.  February 5th is the TNT Snowshoe Hike in Yosemite (prettty!) and then I’m diving into a new season of triathlon training, this time as a mentor. I can’t wait to get back to training again!! Would you like to be on my team and become a triathlete in 2012? Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!!

What did you do in 2011 for health and fitness’ sake? What are your plans for 2012? I want to know!!

I’m Ba-ackkkk!

Wow, I did not mean for this hiatus to take this long. I didn’t mean to take a hiatus at all, but it just happened – due to holiday overwhelm, work work work, a little laziness, and little funk. All of that together means a very long gap since my last blog post. I’ve missed blogging! But I just haven’t felt like I’ve had even a minute to get my thoughts together, let alone post. So this is going to be a catch-up post of all that’s happened since I wrote last.

When we were last together (virtually), I had just started hiking with the TNT Hike Team. I’m still on the team! and since then I’ve done some amazing and beautiful hikes around the Bay Area, all on trails I’ve never hiked on before. Which is pretty amazing, considering they are all within an hour drive of my house. Most of the hikes have been in the 3-4 hour range, which is pretty substantial.

Nature Appreciation Moment
Nature appreciation moment
Sunol Wilderness: breathtaking!
lunch break at Rodeo Beach hike
me and buddy Jon at Rodeo Beach
Can you see the Pacific Ocean? Wooo!
Inspiration Point hike

I did a couple of goofy events, including the Weight Watchers Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot (my third in a row). It was POURING rain that morning but it felt good to get out and do a wet little 5k walk with some other leaders and members.

trotting turkeys

Another thing I did was go to Las Vegas over the first weekend in December. I’d originally booked that weekend for the Las Vegas Marathon, but at the time I hadn’t known I was going to do the triathlon. I knew I wasn’t ready to do a half marathon quite so soon. But I went for a fun weekend anyway and ended up participating in the Great Santa Claus 5k, which beat the Guinness World Record for the most running Santas in one place! Ten thousand Santa Clauses was pretty surreal and hilarious (and very Vegas). The Santa suit (including beard) was included in the registration fee. It wasn’t my best run by far, but I did finish and it was a great way to get back into it. Sort of. Ha.

Getting suited upTa-daa! Ho ho ho!
Wow, that's a lotta Santas!
Greatest cheerleader ever
Run, Santas, Run!

Even though I wasn’t running the Las Vegas Half, I knew a lot of people who were, so it was the first time I went out and cheered for a marathon. That was an amazing experience. I made a sign and stood out in front of our hotel. There was a water station so I immediately got to work passing out cups of water. The crazy thing is that it emptied out in less than an hour. That was rather unimpressive. Having to tell people, “One more mile to water!” Ugh. I also heard some nasty rumors about many many people puking after the race, and that the water we’d been handing out had come from fire hydrants. I hate to think that was true.

Sadly empty water stop

I got to meet the fantastic Paola who started running with Team in Training in LA this year. She’s got the bug! She’s hooked! I got to see her both coming and going, and when she came back around on her return loop, I got to walk with her towards the finish. It was great to finally meet her after being blog/Twitter buddies for so long. I was carrying my favorite “If your feet hurt, it’s because you are kicking butt!” sign. I have to admit, after seeing all the cold runners out there in the dark (it was the first nighttime marathon) I was kinda glad I hadn’t signed up myself. Kudos to all those who finished!!

Did I mention it was FREEZING?

The other thing that happened is that I was officially invited to become a mentor for the Summer TNT Triathlon Team! Me and Lily! YESSSS! We are so excited. My awesome mentor from last season, Annika, is now going to be one of the training coaches (and she will ROCK it). The team is going to be training simultaneously for the Wildflower Tri (which sounds hecka hard to me, very hilly!) and also the South Maui Triathlon (YES). I think my plan is going to be to do the Wildflower Sprint Tri in May, as well as cheer on all my teammates for the Olympic, and then do the Olympic Tri in Maui. Good plan? I think so. I am so pumped!!! And I really do feel like I need an Olympic triathlon do-over. Doing the Marin County Tri was an incredible experience, but I learned a LOT and I am ready to put that learning to the test. Plus I am so, so, so ready to train with the team again. I am ready and excited to be a mentor. We will have a new coach this time, who sounds scary. “He’s intense.” More intense than Haakon? OMG!

Our tri team had a little reunion/holiday party a few weeks ago and it was so awesome to see everyone again, tacky sweaters and all. I miss them!

Go Team Holiday Sweaters!
Lily with our team honoree, Izzy Faith!
Coach Haakon and Vince both have impeccable taste.

These weeks since the triathlon have convinced me that I really do need a team or group of some kind to keep me going. I’ve had some workouts, but they have been few, far between and wimpy. I give up way too soon when I’m alone. I have a hard time starting and a tough time going if I feel the slightest ache or twinge.

Today I tried out a new group: the local WOW team. I met them through Coach Michelle and they’re really cool – about helping women to be fit, mostly through running and walking, for their whole lives. I like their philosophy a lot. Today I met up for a group run. There were about 15 women there at the Berkeley Marina (foggy but pretty). Anyway, the plan was to run for an hour. We started with a 5 minute walk to warmup, then people were going to run 30 minutes out and back. When people started running, I immediately had this thought “I’ll just walk” but then I remembered that I’m allegedly doing a half marathon in a month. I started running too and one woman just happened to be at exactly my pace. How awesome is that! We ran together the whole way and it was really pleasant and distracting. For the first couple miles my feet were SCREAMING at me and I know that if I’d been alone, I would have just plain quit. But I noticed the second mile, they were hurting less and by the third mile they felt just fine. We ran just a hair under 5 miles at a pace I hadn’t run in many months. I was so excited and felt so good when I finished, that I came home and signed up for a New Year’s Day 10k. (wanna come with me?) Yay! I’m ba-ack!!!

Onward! With the Hike Team!

oooh pretty!

I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to wake up in the dark, run around the house searching for a whole new kind of gear, eat my whole wheat muffin with peanut butter, and drive over to meet my carpool (my workout buddy for this season is my friend Jon). It all felt so giddily familiar and yet new at the same time. Man, I have missed my team workouts! Has it only been two weeks?

I remarked to Jon that one thing I LOVE about what TNT does to/for me is that it gets me to do way more than I would normally do on my own. Take this morning. It was early. There was a threat of rain. But TNT workouts happen “rain or shine” and I was excited about this. If I were just, say, meeting up with a friend (sans team) for a hike, we’d probably cancel or postpone because “it’s probably going to rain.” In fact, a couple of people were going to join me since it was “bring a friend” day but they passed on the experience for various reasons. It’s harder to pass when you’re on the team. Or, you’re just not gonna make that choice.

We got out to the trailhead parking lot in PLENTY of time and I got to re-unite with my Walk coach from 11 years ago (!!) and to meet my new mentor, Randy. Randy was sporting a brand new Camelbak, and new hiking poles and I think a new jacket, too. She had store tags hanging on all of it still. LOL.

Randy with her new duds, and coach Carolyn

After the requisite pre-workout speech and announcements (no matter what team, these always take forever while we freeeeeeeeeze) we set off into the Briones Park trail. It was beee-yoooo-tiful, but super muddy. In no time we had added about ten pounds of mud to each foot, which significantly increased the level of intensity of workout. Man! It was a huge effort to take each step.

East Bay MUD

The thing that is very awesome about the hike team is that we get to explore incredibly beautiful spots near where we live (where I have never been!) and we can literally stop and smell the roses. Or the mud. Or see the cormorants. Coach Carolyn’s husband, Steve, is the Nature Guy and he stopped to explain to us what a “watershed” is and also to point out some birds. Whose name I can’t remember anymore, other than cormorants.

Nature Guy

Overall, it was a great hike, even after it started to rain. It just felt great to be out there. Especially with the mud and a few hills, it was a pretty kick-ass workout, especially since I’ve done basically nothing in two weeks. We went for two and a half hours, which was quite respectable. Another thing I liked was getting to TALK to other team members, which doesn’t happen so much if you’re in a pool or on the bike. A lot of the hike team are alums from other sports, like Century (100 mile bike ride) or various marathons. One woman has done something like 15 marathons and 9 halfs? What? So that was pretty awesome.

Bottom line: It felt JUST RIGHT for where I am right now. Good choice, good decision. Yay hike team! GO TEAM!

Hiking! I like it!

And my ankle/foot? It held up pretty well. I could feel it, meaning it didn’t feel PERFECT, but it wasn’t like killing me and I didn’t feel like I’d overdone it afterward. So that was good. All in all, a great day, and it felt so good to be OUT there again. Yay!

Getting Antsy

Ants on a leaf by Aarthi
Ants on a leaf, a photo by Aarthi on Flickr.

So, last week I was feeling pretty much like a slug. I was sore and tired and emotionally wrung out. I did have one little swim session but other than that, I laid low and didn’t do a whole lot other than sit around with fake frozen peas on my foot.

This week I was feeling better! and ready to rejoin the world. It reminded me of times that I’d traveled to other countries for long trips. Re-entering my own country was often a disorienting and shaky experience. I’ve been off in triathlon country since July and coming back has been strange.

But this week I went back to work. I was feeling pretty good. I was excited to be back in the world again, using my brain and my body. I think maybe I was moving a little quickly because when I was calibrating my big machine, I dropped a 15 pound steel weight -yeah – on my LEFT FOOT. The bad one! The one I’ve been icing all week!

This time I dropped it right square on TOP of my foot. My other injuries are on the sides (ankles). It’s a good thing my foot has so many different surfaces to injure. Ay.

Yesterday I could barely even wear a shoe. Today it’s doing a little better. But I’m getting impatient, because after a week+ of really no working out to speak of, I am READY. I need to do something! Argh!

This weekend I’m going to join my new team (Hike/Snowshoe) for a nice long hike. I pray I can keep my feet intact until then. The forecast calls for rain but I don’t care. This is what I love about Team in Training -it’s that commitment, and we go out and “do the damn thing” regardless of weather or what. I’m ready to roll!

Marin County Triathlon 2011: The Race Recap

So finally – here’s my race recap. It isn’t exactly a replica of my idyllic visualization that I wrote a few days ago. It also took a long time to gather up all the pictures (click on any of them to make them bigger). When you train with Team in Training, you pretty much have a papparazzi gang following you everywhere! It’s good that I had some reflection time, too. Two days after the fact I can say now that I feel good about it. Sunday night, not so much.

Here goes, in probably excruciating detail, but this is kind of how I process stuff (in case you haven’t noticed, LOL!).

Woke up at 4:10am. Actually woke up at 12:59am, 3-something-am AND 4:10am because Mr. McBody (Dr McBody to some) was on call, and get calls he did. (note to self: if spouse is on call night before a race, sleep in separate rooms)

I was WIDE awake though. This was helped by the switch back to Standard Time, which felt like a gift from the universe. So it only FELT like 5:10am, which I’ve done before! Got dressed and had mini-mini meltdowns due to 1) someone at the last whole wheat English muffin and left the EMPTY PACKAGE on top of the breadbox! So I was left without my Eng muffin and peanut butter breakfast which I have gotten very attached to. Instead I boiled a couple of eggs and ate some weird Chai-flavored instant oatmeal. They both felt unfamiliar and kind of wrong, but what choice did I have at 4:30am? Not much.

eating my egg in the car

Picked up Lily. Yay! Her sweetie and parents and dog were all waiting down on the street to load her bike in my car. We had an awesome drive over to the tri site. I am really going to miss driving to workouts with her in the wee hours of the morning. (snif)

We arrived at the park in plenty of time. It was actually really beautiful there in the predawn.

pulling the giant buoy markers out to place

I ate my hard boiled egg, we used the restrooms and picked out our transition spots. Since we were there so early, we had a good choice of spot and I got to use the fence as a coat rack.

Lily: "Move your bike closer to mine, I don't want anyone to get between us." Me: "That's never gonna happen!"

Coach Haakon taped up my foot. Which is supposedly not in the regulations, but I really appreciated it.

We went and got our bodies marked with our race numbers and our ages. 52, baby!!!! I always wonder why they do that – so that if we die on the course we have ID on our bodies?

Go, # 505!
52!! Yeah!!

Teammate Monica was celebrating her 50th by doing this tri. WAY TO GO GIRL!

Our mentor Annika gave us a visual preview of all the ins and outs and showed us where all the buoys were for the swim course. I’d say we’re looking fairly concerned. Teammate Vince calls it “game face.” LOL.

"Wow, those buoys are REALLY FAR out there!"

We started walking over to the swim entry area, led by an awesome bagpipe player (very dramatic!). My heart was pounding like a jackhammer. Then I stepped in this crazy HOLE in the parking lot (like six inches deep and the width of a coffee can) – my foot went RIGHT IN and I fell down. Bam! Not an auspicious beginning. I could feel something bad in my knee (which is still feeling pretty twisted, by the way). But we kept going. I was feeling pretty psyched, and pretty ready.

good to go!

We TNTers got to go in the first wave and that was a really good thing. We got in the water (brrrrrrrrr!) and got the water in our wetsuits and floated around while we waited for the starting horn.

Can you believe it's me out there in 40 degree weather and 60 degree water?
waving at J, who's trying to pick me out of all the other green capped creatures

We were being led out on paddleboard by Coach Neil, the guy who had led my semi-disastrous last open water swim a few weeks ago. I told him I was feeling good about the swim and he seemed pleased but also surprised because I think he really had me for a goner in the open water department.

And... we're off! That orange buoy on the horizon was our first marker!

So we swam. I know that I was swimming really, really slowly. But I was relaxed. I kept up my “gentle-kind” mantra pretty much the only time, except when I was daydreaming about pleasant things, which was a pretty nice way to pass the time. I noticed that each time I lifted my head to sight on the big orange buoy, it kept GETTING BIGGER! which I found very encouraging. I was making headway, even though virtually everyone was passing me and leaving a large gap between them and me. I was OK. I made a few little “bobbing” stops to get my bearings and take some extra oxygen in, but they weren’t like panic stops, more like, “let’s see what’s going on.”

I am pretty sure one of these is me.

I was somewhere between buoy 2 and 3 (out of 4?) and a couple kayakers were yelling and motioning at me to “pull it in toward the shore!” I think I got kind of drifty toward the right and ended up adding a couple hundred extra yards to my swim. I had a few moments of “Well, that’s a drag” but I didn’t freak out. Pretty soon a huge wave of red-capped swimmers took us over. They were churning up the water like a hundred sharks in a frenzy. A couple of them slapped at my feet and bumped into me. Thank goodness that is ONE thing that doesn’t freak me out. I just kind of got out of their way.

The swim felt long. By the clock I think it was around 40 minutes, which was shorter than I’d planned for but still I was near the end of our group. No matter. I was relaxed the whole time, and toward the end I was almost regretting it was going to be over. I was sort of enjoying thinking my nice thoughts and just stroke, stroke, stroke. The last bit between the final buoy and the red finish arc felt reallllllllly long. But I didn’t panic, didn’t float on my back, didn’t hang on any kayaks or people, and pretty much DID the damn thing! After all the struggle I had these past months? I was ecstatic.

I was pretty darn happy when I got out of the water.

final strokes toward shore
Yeah!! I made it to land!
YAYY! This was a happy moment

I headed to T1. (Transition 1) When I got there I was suddenly overcome by lightheadedness. I felt super dizzy and suddenly insanely COLD. So I was just focused on trying to get warm and put on some dry stuff. It seemed to take forever to put on my socks and gloves. My feet were this wacky white/red color. Finally I felt ready and I pulled my bike down and got out of there.

heading out of transition with teammate Katherine
freezing cold, sopping wet, but feeling good

Ha! Forgot this very Special Moment during the tri until teammate Katherine sent it to me. Right after this last picture above, it was time to “mount the bikes.” I got on and then… OOPS! Seems like Katherine wanted some team togetherness. 🙂 Neither of us actually fell over though, and it was all good!  This is now one of my favorite pics of the event.

"Now that's team togetherness!" LOL

Important note for subsequent events: I was really kind of a woozy space cadet during this transition. I wasn’t thinking clearly. ie., I looked at my huuuuuge bottle of Gatorade on the ground, and a littler bottle. But I didn’t drink any. Nor did I eat any of the salted pretzels I’d so carefully baggied up. I took a little swig of water and then put the water bottle in my bike’s holder. I ate a half of a Kind bar. (sweet flavor)

I go back and back to this moment. In the past months I learned that the combo of Gatorade and salty pretzels is like the PERFECT combo recovery/fuel for me. The electrolytes/carbs/salt combo. This combo has given me like superhuman energy and really surprised me. So WHY didn’t I eat/drink it during this transition? One, I was dying from salt overload from the swim and I couldn’t deal with the idea of pretzels. Which is why I chose the Kind bar. Two, I remember kind of glancing at the Gatorade and I may as well have been looking at a doorknob. Like, “Hmm, that looks familiar like something I’ve used in a past life.” It just didn’t click to me. I took that one little sip of water and then I was starting to get really concerned about sitting there having a picnic while everyone else was clearing out to bike, so I just wanted to hustle and get out of there. I MAY have thought, “I’ll drink when I’m on the bike” but I also thought there would be some water/Gatorade stops on the way.

I got going out of transition and up the hill. This is a really steep kind of hill of doom thing, but I set it in first gear and just got up it. It wasn’t so bad. I was feeling pretty good. My feet were absolutely NUMB and I had noticed when putting my socks on they were a freaky white/red frostbitey color. They never thawed out the whole time I was on the bike.

Then we turned out of the park and it was so exciting! People lining the streets!

photo by Annelies!

I saw Annelies and my coaches and a whole ton of people. It was so cool. Then we had ANOTHER long climb but I felt OK.

Love this: "Susan whizzing by," by Annelies

I got through the first loop, turned around at the campground and headed back to the park. Fewer people standing around this time because a lot of people had transitioned to run. I was still feeling OK I thought.

I started coming up the long climb for trip number two and right away, my chain slipped. Damn. And as soon as I got off the bike, my head started swirling and I just felt… NOT GOOD. This guy came over and helped me with the chain. I continued up the hill and then I just had to stop. By complete coincidence, I happened to stop in front of this orange-shirted volunteer guy who had this first aid kit. It was a medic! Wow! He asked me how I was doing. I said, “Um…. not so hot.” He told me to rest a few minutes and I did and then I decided to walk to the crest of the hill. But I was feeling really wobbly.

I got on the bike again at the flat and went a little ways longer and then damn, my chain slipped off AGAIN. This time my teammate Art came to my rescue. He fixed my chain and at that point I just started crying. And finding it hard to breathe. And shivering like nobody’s business. I was SO COLD all of a sudden. Then I felt nauseated.  I drank a little more water but at that point I felt like I was going to puke. Then the orange-shirt medic came trotting up and he told me to sit down and I told Art to keep going. And then I REALLY fell apart.

(edited to add: I was dehydrated. I was SO DEHYDRATED! Because I hadn’t really had enough to drink beforehand, and I FORGOT to drink during transition, and I thought there would be water stops on the bike route so I didn’t drink while I was riding either.)

When supervising the medical care of athletes, it is important to recognize the basic signs of dehydration. These include thirst, irritability and general discomfort followed by headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, heartburn, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations and decreased performance. 

I felt like I was dying. Like all of my internal systems were just going haywire: stomach, lungs, brain, circulation, the works. The medic took my blood pressure. It was high. He said my heart rate was “pretty fast.” I started crying even more, and gasping and death-rattling, not unlike what I’ve done in open water. Except here I was now by the side of the road.  Meanwhile I was getting colder and colder and all I wanted was my big fake-fur parka back at transition. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t get warm. The medic gave me his fleece jacket but it didn’t cover my whole body and my teeth were just chattering like a skeleton dance.  I knew that I had two choices at that moment: I’d have to throw in the towel, or I’d have to rally and keep going. I had been sitting on the ground there for probably more than twenty minutes (no, no exaggeration!). I was feeling in a desperate state. He said, “Maybe you will feel better with some wind in your face, or we can call the car to come get you.”

HELL NO. No car! No car! I felt like I would die a thousand deaths of shame if I got toted back in a car. (worse than a kayak?) So I walked the bike shakily over the next rise and then got on again. I was about 20% into the 2nd loop at that point. I started going verrrrry, very slowly and grimly. I felt like death. I was so cold it was almost unbearable, and I was still kind of hyperventilating. I pedalled. Finally I got out to the turnaround where my friend Mary was waiting with another support person. I was feeling pretty miserable right then. I made my way back to the park and my plan was to ask coach Haakon what he thought I should do.

But there was pretty much nobody there at the park entrance at that point. People were FINISHING the race (I could hear the loudspeakers) and the guy waved his orange flag and flagged me back toward the entrance. They were starting to take down the bike course. I knew that about 4 of my teammates were still out on the course, doing their 3rd loop, because we’d passed each other. But they were past the turnaround and I hadn’t even started. I thought about the big hill and the time. I felt like I had no energy to do another loop, and no time to do it in, and that it would pretty much finish me, physically and emotionally.

I turned into the parking lot and headed down to Transition again.

Here, dear readers, is what is LITERALLY a turning point in the story. Where I made that decision, for better or worse. On one hand it felt like the only tenable choice. On the other hand it felt TERRIBLE. I knew that if I started the run portion I would still be way behind 99% of all of the participants in the race.

So I went down to transition, put on my running shoes and hat, and headed out again. As I passed a lot of people yelling my name, all I could think of was, “If you only knew! I just did two loops!”  I also knew I had to keep going and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

starting the run portion -- 6 miles to go!

In spite of my wonky knee and foot, I managed to “run” (ie not walk) more than half – maybe even 75% of the six miles. I did a walk interval with Art, who had saved me with my slipped chain during the ride. It was great to have him for company during that final piece.

running with Art

He finished up his 2nd run loop (my first) and I ran the majority of the last one. Two of the highlights of the run portion were seeing my beautiful Juniorette appear. She ran up and gave me a kiss and I got all weepy. Then I got to pass my awesome trainer, Doug, who had set up camp with a cup of coffee and a folding chair. I could hear his huge booming voice, “Here comes SUSANITO!” from blocks away. It was amazing to see him out there. (I wish I had a picture of this!)

Meanwhile, the vast majority of participants and spectators were passing me on the road as they headed out of the park, beeping and cowbelling out their windows. I think a hundred cars must have passed by and while it was nice to be cheered I was also wondering if there was going to be ANYbody left in the park when I got down to finish.

As it turns out, my whole beautiful team was there. I got down to the finish chute and my beautiful mentor Annika and her husband ran in with me.

If it hadn't been for my Team, I would have been completely alone here.

The whole team was yelling my name. The announcer goes, “What an entourage! They’re all yelling for Cindy!” and everyone yells “SUSAN!”

Getting closer…

FINISH: I put my arms up, but I was actually on the verge of falling apart.

I passed over the finish and got all hugged by everyone and I was a sobbing, weepy MESS.

LILY put my medal around my neck! Sob!
Group hug!
My buddy to the end
Coach hug: "You did the damn thing!"
Hubby hug with Juniorette

The announcer boomed out, “Yes, sometimes there are a few tears.” Which made me cry more. I was just freaking SPENT at that point.

Then the last bunch of teammates came on in a while later and then everyone was done and I walked around feeling super fragile, and a combination of triumphant and completely fraudulent and awful. I told Mr. M what had gone on, and of course he was not the least bit disgusted or concerned. (he was, however, quite dismayed by my lack of hydration)

Came home. Took a hot bath (I was STILL cold!). Passed out into a fitful nap then had soup for dinner.

I read the gazillion Facebook accolades and “you are so awesome!” comments. I started writing this recap but at that point I was drowning in feelings of guilt (over not doing the 3rd bike loop) and feeling like I had somehow cheated. I didn’t want to think of myself as the kind of person who takes the bus to the finish line. I was really agonizing over it and felt like I needed to return all the congratulations that had come my way.

I sent a confessional sort of race cap email to my coaches. It was really eating me up. Their responses made me bawl even more, but helped me see that I really did have something to be proud of and not ashamed about.

Coach Stephanie said:

I knew that you hadn’t finished that last loop. You are still a triathlete. Nothing takes that away from what you accomplished this season. I don’t know too many people, myself included who could have the tenacity to get back on that bike after the very emotional moments and sheer physical discomfort that you experienced and decided to carry on. Well done to you!   Live to fight another day…Forgive yourself for any feelings of defeat. You are a warrior and a Triathlete!

WAHHHHHH!

Then Coach Haakon said (and he was who I was most worried about because he is such a BAD ASS!):

You do not have anything to be ashamed of. I hope with all my heart that what you take out of this experience is that you accomplished a hell of a lot more than I think even you thought you were capable of. Plenty of people start and don’t finish completely. You toed the line and you battled through more obstacles than just about anyone else out there. You have trained diligently and hard and have contributed in a big way to the personality of our team. You deserve that medal and many more. I am none the less proud of your accomplishment today than I was yesterday and I would be shocked if anyone else was either. Everyone has a story and everyone has their reasons for doing things. What I see here is someone who struggled enormously yet pushed through despite every part of her body telling her to stop. I can imagine that the decision to cut it short was not an easy one, but it also sounds like it was the right one. Be proud of what you accomplished and celebrate the small victories that you made along the way. Some times it is good to “fail”. It teaches us where our limiters are. Notice I did not say limits. Recognizing our limiters gives us the opportunity to focus our attention in areas that will in term make us better, faster and stronger.

Be proud of what you did, I know I am. Your story will be very inspirational to many and there is no need to paint it any other way. Hang your medal proudly on the glory wall and use it to stay motivated and continue to push outside your comfort zone. Thank you so much for your participation this season and for sharing your story. I would love to see you come back for another go at it some day.

DOUBLE WAHHHHHH! I hope they do not mind posting these emails, but receiving these made me really feel what it has meant to be part of Team in Training. Where they took me in and encouraged me and believed in me to the very end, and beyond the end. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my LIFE.

Thank you team, thank you teammates and friends and donors and supporters who have followed this journey since July. I know I’ll never be the same.

buddy for life
favorite piece of jewelry other than my wedding ring

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