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Archive for September, 2010

On Progress…

On Friday I did a 2.5 mile run. 

I did my warming up and my stretching, and hopped on the treadmill.  A few minutes later, a wiry, blonde girl came into the room, picked the treadmill next to mine, and subsequently tried to burn out the motor on the treadmill.

As I was running along next to her, I snuck a glance at the screen.  I can’t be the only one who does this right?  Out of curiousity, I wanted to see how fast she was running.  She was running at least 8 mph, compared to my measly 5.  While I was pushing a 11 minute mile – she was running probably at a 6 minute mile.  Of course, she only ran for 15 minutes or so and then jumped off, but still, for those 15 minutes while we were running side-by-side I felt sooo frickin slow.

I was kind of depressed for a little while – it’s hard not to be – especially when 60 year olds are outpacing me, as they did at my triathlon last month.

But it’s at times like this that I need to stop comparing myself to others, and start comparing myself to me.  When I started running, I could barely run 1 mile.  I had to limit my treadmill to 4.3 mph, which works out to a 13.5 minute mile.  Now I start my treadmill at a 4.6 mph, which is just under a 13 minut mile.  And I run several portions of my run at 5.3-5.5 mph, which works out to less than an 11 minute mile. 

I also ran 3 miles on Sunday – 1 mile on the treadmill, 1 mile on the track, and 1 mile in the treadmill.  My 1 mile on the track I kept at a 12.5 minute mile pace. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s important to keep progress in perspective.  While I may not be running a 6 minute mile (yet) like the girl next to me on the treadmill, and I may not have finished my triathlon in under 2 hours like I wanted, I have still made a lot of progress over the past 18 weeks. 

And progress is not just defined in miles run, or pace, or laps swum.  Progress can be measured by how your body feels, how much weight you’ve lost, how your clothes fit, how quickly you can walk up a flight of stairs, etc.  In fact, I ran 3 miles on Sunday and I did it without any problems and without super sore shins the next day.  I’ll take that progress any day.

But I have to add– I wish more than anything that I’d made even more progress.  This Friday and Saturday is my 10 year class reunion.  Now, I’ve lost 15 pounds since I started this insanity, but I’m still 50 pounds heavier than I was in high school, and doesn’t that just suck?  Part of me wants to show up on Saturday coming fresh from the gym, all sweaty and disheveled, but proving from my attire that I actually do work out. 

But I just gotta keep remembering that I am competing against myself.  I have made progress.  I’ll continue making progress.  And I don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks of me.  I only have to worry about what I think of me.  And I don’t want to disappoint myself.

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You gain weight.

No really.

Over Labor Day weekend, post-race of course, I gained a whopping 5 pounds!  5 pounds!  Some of that was probably the result of the delightful cinnamon roll breakfasts, and the beer cheese soup, as well as the fantabulous deserts my sister always brings, but no doubt a large portion of that weight gain was the result of 3 days of drinking nothing but wine and beer.

That makes me sound like a lush.  Of course I drank other things besides wine – but I did drink a lot of wine.  And with my off week starting with wine, it only seemed right to continue the trend.  That week I think I had two or three more beers at various dinner events.

And guess what?  It is sooo much easier to put weight on than it is to take weight off.  Go figure.

So here I am, two weeks post-race, and I’ve sucessfully dropped 2 of the 5 pounds I gained from the weekend. 

And I had a bad week, training wise — life will sometimes get in the way.  But I am starting week 2 of my 10K training strong, with a 45 minute bike ride, followed by a 2 mile slow run.

Oh, and the most exciting thing to happen this week?

I’m getting a new bicyle!  A practically brand new 2009 Specialized Dolce Elite. 

Ain’t it purrty?

Can’t wait to ride it and get some clips and shoes.  I’m sure there will be some amusing posts in the future after my first few attempts at riding a road bike, and riding a road bike with clips. 🙂

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Inspiration while training for something is vitally important.  Do I want to get up and go workout?  Not really.  But will this song, or this story, or this person inspire me to want to go workout?  Sure.

There are a lot of things I read and listened to, and a lot of people I used as inspiration while I was training for the triathlon and one of the most important was music, particularly a song called “Ali in the Jungle” by The Hours.

I first heard this song as part of a Nike commercial during the Winter Olympics early this year and it was then that I first found inspiration to do something active.  After I heard the song I immediately downloaded it to my mp3 player, created a playlist of workout music, and began swimming and working out more frequently.  Of course, it wasn’t until May that I made an active and actual decision to do the triathlon, but I give this song credit for inspiring me to action.

“Ali in the Jungle” lyrics:

It’s, not, how you start, it’s how you finish,
And it’s, not, where you’re from, it’s where you’re at,

Everybody gets knocked down,
Everybody gets knocked down,
How quick are you gonna’ get up?
How quick are you gonna’ get up?
Everybody gets knocked down,
Everybody gets knocked down,
How quick are you gonna’ get up?
Just how are you gonna’ get up?

Like Ali in the jungle,
Like Nelson in jail,
Like Simpson on the mountain,
With odds like that, they were bound to fail
Like Hannah in the darkness,
Like Adam’s in the dark,
Like Ludwig Van, how I loved that man, well the guy went deaf and didn’t give a damn, no…

No, no, no

It’s, not, where you are, It’s where you’re going,
Where are you going?
And it’s, not, about the things you’ve done, it’s what you’re doing, now,
What are you doing, now?

Everybody gets knocked down,
Everybody gets knocked down,
How quick are you gonna’ get up?
How quick are you gonna’ get up, now?
Everybody gets knocked down,
Everybody gets knocked down,
How quick are you gonna’ get up?
Just how are you gonna’ get up?

Like Ali in the jungle,
Like Nelson in jail,
Like Simpson on the mountain,
Well with odds like that, they were bound to fail
Like Hannah in the darkness,
Like Adam’s in the dark,
Like Ludwig Van, how I loved that man, well the guy went deaf and didn’t give a damn, no…

Oooh, ooh, ooh
No, no, no
Oooh, ooh, ooh
No, no, no
Oooh, ooh, ooh

It’s the greatest comeback since Lazarus,
The greatest comeback since Lazarus,
It’s the greatest comeback since Lazarus,
The greatest comeback since Lazarus,
It’s the greatest comeback since Lazarus,
The greatest comeback since Lazarus,
The greatest comeback since Lazarus,
The greatest comeback…
It’s the greatest comeback…

(Radio Commentator) This, is the most joyous scene, ever seen in the history of boxing, this is an incredible scene, the place is going wild, Muhammed Ali has won, Muhammed Ali has won, by a knockdown! By a knockdown! The thing they said was impossible, he’s done!

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So about a week ago I completed my first sprint distance triathlon.  I finished 16 minutes slower than I wanted to, but I learned a lot from the experience.

By the time I completed the triathlon, I had lost almost 15 pounds, and none of my clothes fit.  I had to buy new pants and several new shirts.  I cleaned out a lot of my closet. 

The weekend of the race was Labor Day weekend, and so I spent the rest of that weekend at a cabin with friends and family — drinking, eating, and drinking more.  When I came back home and weighed myself in the middle of the week, I had unfortunately gained 4 pounds back.  And the new clothes I had just bought were a little too snug for comfort.

But I don’t feel particularly concerned about that, because it only took me a few weeks of training to lose weight, and I know that once I get back training I will start to see the weight come off again.

But what to do next?

I need a goal in order to get me moving.  I noticed right away after the race that my motivation was seriously lacking.  Should I go to the gym?  Sure.  But maybe not today.  I mean, seriously – I can’t believe that this was the same person who went to the gym or an outside run or bike every day for 3 months! 

Besides the obviously benefits of weight loss, I found that the triathlon provided dozens of other benefits.  First of all, exercising consistently made me feel good about myself.  I was in a better mood.  I had more energy.  I am much more flexible now – in fact, I can now lay my hands flat on the ground in front of my toes where before I could barely touch my ankles.  I also found that my story was inspiring and motivating to others.  People on my facebook page started mentioning training for runs as well. And I think that’s kind of nice; when was the last time someone said I was a motivation for them?  Finally, people were proud of me – genuinely proud.  Which was surprising for me.  In fact, the night before the race, the hubby was listening to me worry about the race; he leaned over and hugged me and said, “I’m proud of you no matter what.”  He was just impressed that I had stuck with it after all this time!  His words almost put tears in my eyes.

So here I am, one week post-race, and searching for something else to do.  I want to train for an Olympic distance triathlon starting in January – not because I want to do the Olympic distance but because if I train for longer distances, my endurance and time will improve for the Sprint.  I plan to do the MedCity Marathon Relay in May, the Rochesterfest Triathlon in June, and the St. Croix Valley Sprint Tri in September again.  But what to do between now and January?  I needed another goal. 

So I started searching for new races to do.  I picked 10K as the distance I’d like to run because then I know I’ll be able to do the relay in May.  Unfortunately, finding a 10K in the middle of winter in the midwest is kind of difficult to do.  But I finally came across a race that looks perfect: the Groundhog 10K in Kansas City, Mo on January 30, 2011.  It is a race that takes place entirely underground, so I don’t have to worry about cold-weather problems.  And, I have family in Kansas City, so travelling may not be as big of a problem. 

Doing this race January 30th will actually be a great goal for me because it will help me get through the Holidays without putting on too much weight or getting lazy.  And, it will also help me get through the cruise I’m going on at the beginning of January without eating through the entire buffet. 

And guess what?  I think I’ve convinced my mom and my sister to join me for this little race.  I guess we’ll see what they all think of running with me!

Stay tuned for more.  This time I will definintely be updating as the computer problems that were my excuse before seem to now be fixed.

Now all I have to do is my training schedule!

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Computer problems.  Is this kind of like the “The dog ate my homework” excuse?  But, yet again, here I am, weeks of training later, and I never once posted anything about my journey.  However, I am here today to say that I actually did complete the Triathlon.  And I actually did everything I planned on doing.  And I actually did 14 weeks of training, consistently and without excuses.

Here’s my post race report, that I put up on Facebook to share with friends and family.

I told myself a lot of things during my first triathlon, the St. Croix Valley Sprint Tri, on September 4th, 2010.  Some of those things were positive and uplifting.  Others…. Not so much.

“I am not your typical triathlete.”

I felt old and fat when I went to pick up my race packet the afternoon before the race at the Running Room in Woodbury.  Two young women were in line in front of me, both thin and probably at least five or six years younger than me.  However, they were both handed the same swim cap color that I would be receiving a few minutes later.  It was impossible for me not to think about the fact that I was not your typical triathlete before I started the race.  I decided to do the triathlete after I cheered on the runners at the MedCity Marathon in Rochester in May.  The runners going by were young, old, thin, fat; they were running fast, running slow, and some of them were walking – but the point was, they were all doing it.  And I thought, “If they can do it, I can too.”  Running not being my strongest sport, I decided to do the one race event I’ve always wanted to do: the triathlon.  But as the day came closer, and I saw who my competitors would be, I realized that a marathon relay or even a half-marathon was not the same thing as a triathlon.  Most of the people I would be racing against would be much thinner than me and in much better shape.

“I can totally do this.”

It’s funny how your brain works.  Here I was, staring at a 4% grade hill, much longer and much steeper than anything else I had ridden up to this point, and telling myself that it wasn’t that big of a deal.  I thought that I could just put my bike on a really low gear and just plug away at it.  As we drove the route the night before the race, I just kept telling myself, “I can totally do this.  This isn’t so bad.  Here’s a hill I get to go down.  This isn’t that long.”  Even the morning of the race, as I stared out across the St. Croix River to the buoys that marked the swim portion of the race, I thought, “That doesn’t look so bad.”  Sure it looked intimidating, and sure it would take me a lot longer than most of the other people there, but I found my brain telling me that it wouldn’t be that bad.

That sucked.”

The pre-race meeting a few minutes before the race was to start told me that perhaps I had been kidding myself about that 4% grade hill.  The race director told us that the hill would “kick your butt” and if it didn’t, to come meet him after the race because, “I want to meet you.”  And it didn’t take very long into the swim for me to realize that my tune needed to drastically change.  This was going to be hard.  Very hard.  I ran into the river and dived in after my fellow competitors in the first wave of the race.  I swam freestyle for what seemed like ages until I had to stop to catch my breath.  The other competitors were jostling for position in the water and hands, legs, and feet were hitting me on every stroke.  The water was calm, but in any open water situation, the water isn’t going to be glass – especially with 80 other people in the water at the same time – so every time I came up for a breath, a blast of water would hit me in the face.  When I looked up and out to the buoys, I saw I had only gone about a quarter of the way out.  I still had ¾ of the swim left and I was already beat!  I flipped to a back stroke, then a breast stroke, then a side stroke, treaded water for a bit, then back and forth between a side stroke and a breast stroke.  This was taking forever.  I was already being passed by the elite swimmers who went in the water after me and the shore looked like it would never come.  I finally made it though – 3.5 minutes slower than I expected – and as I climbed the steps to the transition area, I saw my mom in the crowd and sputtered out, “That sucked.”  The crowd around her chuckled.  I’m sure they’d all heard that before from their triathletes.

“You’re half-way to the half-way point.”

After that brutal swim and what seemed like a fast transition, I was off on the bike portion of the race.  It took me more than 2 miles on the bike before I finally caught my breath.  The morning had started out chilly but the sun was out by now.  On my way out of Hudson, I slowed practically to a crawl.  That’s when people started passing me.  Before the race, your age is marked with permanent marker on your calf, so as the riders flew by, I started noticing their ages.  First a 35 year old woman, then a 40 year old man, then a 60 year old man.  In fact, two 60 year old men flew by me on their titanium framed racing bikes as I struggled through the hills on the bike.  At mile 3, I started to climb.  I told myself that I only had 2 more miles before I got to turn around.  And then I got to go downhill.  My pace slowed even further.  I got passed by more and more people.  At mile 4, the “aggressive” hill I’d read about in my race research began.  At this point, everyone slowed to a crawl.  But my mountain bike didn’t do me any favors in this portion of the race, so I joined several other people in walking the bike up the hill.  I can’t be sure, but I think I could actually walk up the hill faster than I was riding it, so I kept up the walk until I reached a plateau, then hopped on again and pushed myself up the last .5 mile to the turn around point.

A volunteer on the way up the hill had been shouting, “What goes up — must come down!” as we struggled up the hill.  As much as I had looked forward to coming down that hill, I have to say it was rather scary going down, navigating hairpin turns all the way back into town.  Afterwards, I was asked how fast I was going down the hill and I realized I had forgotten to look!  I was concentrating so hard on not wiping out that I never even looked to see how fast I was going.

“Keep it going.  Now you’re almost done.”

There was a straight-away on the way back into the transition area that gave me some time to mentally prepare myself for what I thought would be the weakest leg of my race: the run.  I realized at that point that I was more than half way done with the race.  I’d already completed two legs and I only had four miles left to go before I could cross the finish line and officially call myself a triathlete.  But I was beat.  I mean totally fried.  As I pulled into the transition area, I practically dragged myself to my spot on the racks and took a staggering 4.5 minutes to change into my running shoes and head out on the run course.  Compared to the 45 seconds it took the first place finisher, my transition time was epic.  I finally pulled on my shoes, took one last swig of Gatorade, turned on my MP3 player and walked out onto the run course.  I already knew I would never finish in under 2 hours, which was my goal.  It had taken me 16 minutes to do the swim, 2 minutes to transition to the bike, and 55 minutes on the bike portion, so I was already well past the 1 hour mark that I needed to leave by in order to complete the run and finish in under 2 hours.  At that point, I was just telling myself that I just needed to finish.  I staggered out on the run with “Ali in the Jungle” blasting in my ear.  That song motivates me to push myself, but on that day, after all that I had already done, the song did little to move me along faster.  Again, I told myself at mile 1 that I was half-way to the half-way point.  And I only had 3 miles left before I was done with this stupid race for good.

“That river looks sooo inviting.”

On my way out of transition and onto the run course, most of the people were already coming back from their run.  One man coming into the finish reached out and high-fived me.  The course was still lined with spectators and volunteers at this point, so there were plenty of people there to cheer me on.  My husband, always the motivator, yelled out to me as left the trail and headed out onto the city streets, “I want to see you finish strong!  Sprint from here to the end on your way back!”  I wasn’t thinking about the end at that point.  At mile 1, I walked up a slight hill.  Again, I was passed by a 60 year old.  A woman I had met in transition, Patti, herself a plus-sized athlete and first time triathlete, passed me around mile 1.75.  As I ran around the cone and headed back towards the finish line, I told myself I only had 2 miles left to go.  But at that point, those 2 miles seemed like 20 miles.  The course quickly emptied, and I felt like I was the only one out there.  The music wasn’t helping at all.  Crossing over a river at about mile 2.75, I contemplating jumping in.  It looked inviting.  And cool.  And best of all, it didn’t require any effort to float along.  But there was no way I was going to turn back now.  Not after everything I’d done.

“You’re almost there.  Look at what you’ve accomplished.”

After my brief moment of insanity on the bridge, I looked up and saw my mom walking down the path.  She had seen Patti go by on the course earlier and had asked her if she’d seen me.  Patti indicated that she had passed me a ways back.  So my mom came out, I suppose to make sure I was still coming.  I was walking when I met her on the sidewalk and she asked how I was doing.  “I’m tired,” was about all I could muster.  She told me I only had a mile left.  We walked for a while and then we started running – two plus athletes side by side.  She asked if I wanted her to run with me and I told her no.  I wanted to finish on my own, with my own motivation, my own willpower, under my own strength.  She shouted out that I only had ¾ of a mile left and jogged off down the path.  Now I was literally all alone.  With only ¾ of a mile of blacktop between me and the finish line; ¾ of a mile between me and saying I could do anything I put my mind to; 3/4 of a mile between me and calling myself a triathlete.

I’d read that the last little bit before the finish line could be emotionally taxing.  I’d read that it takes a lot to control your emotions and make sure you don’t turn into a crying mess before you cross the finish line.  But during that last half mile, all I could think about was that the finish was almost there.  As I came around that last corner, my family was there cheering me on.  I ran as fast as I could up the slight hill and crossed the finish line.  Finally.  Two hours and 16 minutes had gone by, but I had finally done it.

“What’s next?”

It took a few days for everything to sink in.  At first I was really disappointed in my time.  I was 16 minutes slower than I had wanted to be.   The swim was horrific.  I had failed miserably at that.  My transitions were slow.  But everyone kept telling me how impressed they were, how proud of me they were.  And I started to feel proud of myself as well.  Just three short months ago, I couldn’t even run one mile.  My journey had been documented on Facebook and I remembered typing a status update when I was finally able to run 2 miles.  Now I had run 4 – after swimming for .33 miles and biking for 10.  When I first started, it took me 30 minutes to swim .33 miles in the pool.  Now it took me 13.  And though my swim time was 3 minutes longer than I had hoped, I still swam the length in half the time it had taken me in May.  I had dropped almost 15 pounds since the beginning of my training, more weight than I had ever been able to shed before.  But most of all, I was proud of the fact that I had committed to something and stuck with it.  This was 14 weeks of training.  That could have been 70 excuses for why not to go to the gym.  Instead, I was walking away from the St. Croix Valley Sprint Triathlon without injury and with a race t-shirt that I could wear because I had actually completed the race.

It was hard, no doubt about it, but it wasn’t so hard that I could never contemplate doing one again.  In fact, a few hours after I had crossed the finish line, I was already thinking about what I could do to lower my time: hill workouts on the bike for sure, a faster pace on the run, endurance training so I wasn’t so tired, practicing the transitions, a new bike, and 20 more pounds off my frame.  At the end of this week I’ll start doing pace workouts to lower my minutes per mile on the run, with a goal of running 9 minute miles by January.  Then I’ll start the Olympic distance training schedule for a new round of triathlons come spring.  In May I’ll do a relay leg in the MedCity Marathon (6 miles) and then the Rochesterfest Sprint Triathlon in June.  And then finally, next September, I’ll do the St. Croix Valley Sprint Triathlon again.  There is no way I’ll underestimate open-water swimming or that 4% grade hill again.  And I’ll finish in less than 2 hours.  I promise.

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