Soap Box Sunday

Two weeks down on my “get back on the fitness train” plan. I have done 95.5% of the workouts. Yesterday I was THIS close to bailing on my swim. Our complex has a lap pool which is super handy. However, for the past few weeks one of the heaters has been broken. It was a balmy 74 degrees which is pretty chilly. I dipped my toe in and thought to myself “Oh, hell to the no.” But then I remembered that two of my awesome friends completed a triathlon in Capitola that morning WITHOUT a wetsuit. I have a feeling their water temperature was a little chillier than 74 degrees. So, suck it up buttercup and do your swim.

I purposefully am not wearing a watch or uploading workouts to Strava because right now is not about speed, time, or endurance. It’s about getting my body used to the swimming, and the biking, and the running.

It’s been two years since I have been in training mode. I had a lot of fear about getting back on the bike and riding outside because Silicon Valley traffic has exploded. The idea of riding with cars again seemed daunting. People are distracted, or don’t know the rules of the road when dealing with cyclists, or they don’t realize spatially how far their car is from things.

Last week I was waiting to make a left turn on my bike. I waited for the left turn light to turn green, but it was one of those motion-sensor lights that cycles when it senses a car. I was not a car so it could not sense me. A woman turned into my lane, and I was like “Yea! The light will turn green now.” The problem was there were about 3 car lengths between her and I. I motioned for her to move closer, but she waived her hand like “It’s ok, I am good.” I think she was scared she would hit me, which is considerate I guess—but also, she needed to move up to get the dang sensor activated so the light would turn green.

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Traffic is horrible these days, and I am seeing more and more people running lights—which is a concern when you are running and have to cross the street or are biking and someone makes a turn without stopping at their light.

I understand the driver/cyclist relationship is a tense one. Just follow any article about people complaining about bad drivers and someone will pop in with “Cyclists are breaking the rules all the time.” And yeah, I get that. I have ridden my bike in the bike lane and encountered someone riding in my lane but going the wrong way. There are cyclists who ride on sidewalks, are listening to their music, run stop signs, ride at night with no lights.

So, yeah drivers and cyclists (and pedestrians) can be jerks. But in most cases, the car wins. It’s thousands of pounds of metal and can do so much more damage than my pink bike.

Yesterday, hubs and I were stopped at a light. We were turning right and there were a couple cars ahead of us.  The light turned green and not one, not two, but FIVE cars ran the light and made the left turn. One was a big truck carrying a trailer. There was a runner who was going to cross the street (he had the pedestrian light going off) he took off when the truck crossed and almost got hit by the 5th car! It was super scary and he was yelling at the driver (who was stopped IN the cross walk blocking cars from turning right and going straight). The runner took off and the car drove on. The car was in front of us and was driving super slow (they were probably embarrassed or rattled) and made a right turn without going into the bike lane—so basically if a cyclist was in that lane they could be smushed.

Right-Turn

(Image from San Francisco Bicycle Coalition)

I don’t really have a point here. Just a mild rant. Whether you are a driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian—just pay attention. I know it is super hard because we have all these shiny electronic distractions, but self-driving cars are not here yet and we gotta look out for one other.

Because there are some angry people out there.

This morning I read an article that 4 cyclists participating in a charity fundraising ride in Sonoma County were hit by a truck. Witnesses of the crash say that the truck purposefully ran into the cyclists and drove off. They arrested the driver last night.

Seriously? Seriously?!!!

Last week my husband was riding his bike in the Stevens Creek Canyon and a driver angrily drove into the shoulder into the dirt in front of him and spun his wheels to throw dirt in the air.

Seriously?

This is scary stuff—people are purposefully trying (and succeeding) to hurt cyclists.

So, my advice? When you are behind the wheel and stuck in traffic and super anxious to get home— take a deep breath. Stop at the stop lights. Don’t text. Remember that bike lanes are there for bikes.

Whether you are driving, biking, or walking—just. Pay. Attention.

uncool

Ok, getting off my soap box now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Was Going to Write a Short Letter

First blog post of 2017.

And it’s October 1st.

Wowza.

My last post was in December and was about Day 1 of Oceanside training. A race I did not do. I could not get on the training train. My motivation and excitement about training was just…gone…like Keyser Soze.

soze

About a month ago I attended a work retreat. Before the retreat we were asked to create a bio-share—basically one to two pages of words and pictures—anything you want to share about yourself. I, of course, did two pages because brevity  is not a skill set I possess (see: a majority of my blog posts).  To quote Mark Twain, “I was going to write a short letter, but I didn’t have time.”

I wrote about growing up and being Jill Hill from Morgan Hill who lived on Easy Street. I wrote about being in the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2007 and how I have worked in the nonprofit sector for 10 years.  The last paragraph I mentioned my love of kitties, cooking, and how I had a period of time where I did things like half and full marathons, half ironmans, and biked from Seattle to Portland in one day.

Everyone’s bio shares were posted along the wall and we did a gallery walk and read people’s bios. It was super cool learning about my co-workers. A few people came up to me and were like, “Whoa, “I had no idea you did those things.” And I shrugged and said, “Yeah, but that was like awhile ago. There is no way I could do that now.”

That night I thought about this previous version of myself. And she felt like a stranger. Where did she go? Where did she get that drive? I used to think people got sick of me talking about races and now people ask, “So, do you have any races planned?” And I shrug my shoulders and say, “No, I really…don’t do that any more.”

The next day I went to I Am More Than What You Sea, a women’s workshop which was also a fundraiser for the Mini Mermaid Running Club. It was so great, but also a bit out of my comfort zone.  I knew yoga would be involved, but kinda freaked out a little about meditation. That whole turning off my mind thing only works effectively while watching The Real Housewives.

The yoga instructor was amazing. She said it doesn’t matter if you are super bendy or not flexible at all. She said, “You can be really good at yoga and still be an a**hole.”  A yoga instructor who used salty language? I am here for that.

Swearing aside, the yoga was amazing. Not to be all hippie dippy, but there was this feeling of release being on that yoga mat. We were on this beautiful property in the Santa Cruz mountains, outside with the sun warming our mats. The world is so messy right now and it felt wonderful to have a small slice of quiet and reflection, to be surrounded by a 100 other women who were fully present in the day.

We also did a warm up exercise before our run/walk that included thinking of a mantra for the day. I thought about it and how I was frustrated with not being in the shape I once was—that running a mile without stopping sounds impossible. But, being on that yoga mat felt great—that movement is therapeutic.

My mantra was:

“I am strong today. And I will be stronger tomorrow.”

My goal is to change this internal narrative, not beat myself up for not being what I once was.

In July of 2007, I finished my first triathlon. And I caught the bug and did…well…a bunch of stuff. Like a bunch.

athlinks

And also met some incredible people along the way and have seen some pretty cool things on my bike.

It’s also been a little nice to have my weekends free though. To not have that constant feeling of what event is next, am I training enough, where will I ride? Just all that noise.

But, am I ready to break up with endurance events? Will I look back on my 30s as the time I did some crazy things and leave it at that?

And I decided, no. I have invested so much in these sports (financially, physically, time, and emotionally) that I am not ready to walk away.

So, I signed up for something crazy. Again.

 

active

But, right now my fitness is pretty much a disaster and all over the place. So, on the advice of Coach Gina, she sent me a 4 week training plan for first time triathletes. Basically, baby stepping through swimming, biking and running…then the next plan is off season training…then in January, the training begins.

I just completed the first week. My body is a little confused and sore from, well…moving.

But it will get there.

After all, I am strong today. And I will be stronger tomorrow.

 

Day 1

Today  marks the first day of my Oceanside 70.3 training. I was supposed to start two weeks ago with my trusty “Super Simple Half Ironman” plan from Competitor.com, but the busy holiday season made it next to impossible to get into the training mode. So, I found a 14 week plan on Training Peaks.

Today was an hour on the bike. I spent maybe an hour trying to determine the perfect accompaniment to my ride. Carol? Room? Watch old episodes of Felicity? I decided on Little Women—a movie that passed the holiday movie Bechdel test. It’s such a great movie. I was team Winona back in the day—and Christian Bale (AKA Batman) was so dreamy. Though at one point as I was spinning my legs I started crying at an especially sentimental Beth part. Maybe crying and cycling can be the new Soul Cycle?

And as I struggled to unclip form my pedals after completing my ride, I realized something.

I am not strong.

2016 has been a blah year for a few reasons, and one of them includes my total lack of motivation to race. I have walked more races than ran them. I bailed on the swim part of the Oakland triathlon. I tried using Pokemon Go as an incentive to run. This is the first year in 10 years that I have not completed a half marathon. I have lost my fire.

And no, this isn’t a pity party. It’s a reality that I am acknowledging. I recently started listening to the audio book “The Subtle Art of not Giving a (expletive)” by Mark Manson. From the book’s Amazon page: “Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.”

I am a couple chapters in. It’s pretty good.

Back to strength. I am not strong.  Right now.  And that is ok. I have been strong before. I have been fast before. But chasing after the me that I was, and thinking that is the key to happiness is just…unrealistic. And dumb.  Maybe I am not a triathlete any more. Maybe 10 years (my first race was in July of 2007) is enough. Who knows.

But, I am making this commitment to myself to try and tri. The  Oceanside race is on April 1st—and today it seems so very daunting.  But, I turn 40 five days after the race, and what a kick a$* way to give my 30s a proper send off. I am going to do my workouts on Training Peaks. I am going to ride my bike outside. I am going to get myself in the pool even though winter training is the worst.

I am not going to make unrealistic expectations that this race will change me.  I won’t bemoan myself for being slow…or squishy, or not as hardcore as other people. That is all just stupid noise that will get me in the way of what needs to be done—training.

So, here we are. Day 1 done.

I may not be strong today, but I am stronger than I was yesterday.

Also, things that are making my tri training fun: a new medal rack and obnoxiously pink bike shoes.

 

 

 

Where did you go, Mojo?

So, in the past year, Facebook has launched this “On this day” notification with posts of things that happened on that day 1 year ago, or two years ago…pretty much to the year you first opened a Facebook account.  It’s kind of cool. Some fun memories and pictures pop up and make me smile. It’s funny to see what Facebook posts first looked like. In 2008 on June 25th, I posted, “is wondering where to run today.” Hmmmm, ok, that’s nice, I guess.

The past month, the memories have not been so great.

I mean, not anything depressing…quite the opposite. Yesterday this picture popped in my memories:

dr.jpg

It was from the Death Ride Training Camp I did in 2012–it was a preview of the Death Ride course that I would be doing the following month.I arrived Friday night at the campground in  Markleeville and was stoked to see Dennis there. He had a sabbatical from work and used his time for a solo motorcycle trip to Alaska and back. He was gone three weeks–which was brutal for me, but probably for the best as I was in full on Death Ride Training Panic Mode. The timing worked out well that he was able to meet at the campground on his ride home.

The next morning Dennis headed home, and the adventures began. The camp was good—but man was the riding difficult. In two days we covered a little over 100 miles and 12k feet of climbing. I remember riding up Monitor Pass on the second day and feeling like my brain broke as I made my way down the other side of the pass. Monitor pass is 8,300 feet above sea level and going down you just see everything. It didn’t seem right to be so high up on a bicycle. So much to take in. I had to stop a couple times because my nerves were frazzled from the downhill. And then once you hit the bottom, it’s not over. You have to go back UP the mountain. It was one of the most challenging –mentally and physically–things I have ever done. I probably cried three times that weekend. (ok, an exaggeration, but at one point there were tears

But I did it. Mainly because I was ready for it. My friends Nancy and LaRee and I put our everything into training for Death Ride. Every Wednesday morning we would head out for a bike ride at 5:30 am (yeah, we were idiots)  to climb Montebello road. We road Mt. Hamilton and Mt. Diablo. My friend Lisa and I did the Sequoia 100 miler and climbed Tunitas Creek for the first time. We ate hills for breakfast. We were climbing fools.

We were kind of awesome.

And today? Me? Yeah, not so much.

In truth, I haven’t really done anything since the Vegas half marathon last November. I have participated in 2 races this year (Hot Chocolate 9 miler and a 5k in Santa Cruz) and walked both of those. I stopped going to my workout group. I have ridden on my bike trainer, but not outside. I have swam in our pool a bunch, but haven’t swam more than 1,700 yards. I am eating like I am training for a half ironman, though not burning the calories that would go with that training. I haven’t posted on this blog in over 5 months.

Let’s face it.

mojo

My mojo is gone. I am officially not a runner. Not a cyclist. Not a swimmer. Today, at least.

Where did my mojo go?

The past few months have been super frustrating as I try to grapple with where my motivation went. I used to love to obsess over races and training plans. But every time I try to go on a run, it feels like a struggle. Of course, my fitness went away like THAT so every run feels like an elephant is sitting on my lungs and kicking me in the shins. So, the past 5 months have been a big mopey pity party, where I lament on where I am now. And now I have stupid Facebook flooding my feed with all the awesome things I used to do when I was in training beast mode.

And of course, the ironic part is  back when I was in training beast mode I always felt inadequate and like a fraud. There were way stronger triathletes out there attacking races and I would never measure up.

Ugh…sometimes things would be so much easier if we didn’t invite our brains to the party.

So, rather than continuing this downward spiral of beating myself up about not being in shape and looking to outside factors to blame for the demise of my triathloning life (which, let’s face it, is more than a tad self-indulgent given the crazy state of the world today), it’s time to snap out of it.

Which starts with writing this post. When my head is in the game, I have looked to my blog as a way to reflect on all the things that happened. And those posts were more frequent than once every 5 months.

On July 31st I am doing Oakland triathlon. It’s a sprint distance—a distance I have raced 12 times. And yet, here I am, scratching my head trying to figure out how to get to that finish line. But, I do have 5 weeks to figure this thing out.

Let’s go.

 

The Long Short

Ok, this is a super long blog post, so halfway through I promise I will insert a cute picture of my cat Kiki because you will definitely need to take a kitten break

Last night hubs and I finally saw “The Big Short.” We have been trying to see this movie for a month and kept getting deterred. One time we were stuck in crazy traffic. Another time we were almost at the ticket window when he got a work call. Somehow last night the stars aligned and we were able to see it at the Pruneyard in Campbell which meant a yummy dinner at Orchard City Kitchen, poking around at Sports Basement, and then the movie. This is considered a pretty exciting Friday night in our world. #LateThirties

The reason I was dying to see this movie is I sort of lived it. Back in the day I worked for a sub prime mortgage company. I saw firsthand the whole thing crash and burn. It was a little surreal seeing this movie at the Pruneyard because 14 years ago I got my first job for a mortgage company that was literally in walking distance to the theater. I got a temp job when the market was hot (not sub-prime market). My job was to log in loan applications, pick up lunch for the department  (people were working non-stop so we got lunch catered every day for a while there). I eventually moved to loan set-up, entering loan application in the system and sending them to the underwriting department. It was not an awesome job, but they let me work 20 hours a week with benefits and a flexible schedule. I decided I needed to nip it in the bud and finish my B.A. I was working part-time and taking 18-20 credits a semester. Finally, in the summer of 2003 I graduated. It was such a relief, because I finished something that I really didn’t think I would finish.  And now, employers would be lining up to give me a job and pay me the big bucks, right? The diploma was the magic ticket, right?

BAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

It was not.

This was 2003 and the job market was not super awesome for someone with a degree in English and no desire to teach. Things started slowing down at the company I was at and it was clear to me there was no growth potential. A former colleague said there was a position at the place she was working at—a sub-prime mortgage company. I had no idea what that meant, but applied anyways

In 2004 I started working there. It’s funny because when you think of all the ugliness of what happened after 2008, I have great memories of that job. It was a good company, with good people. They threw me a Hawaiian themed bridal shower because I was getting married in Maui. Our boss had epic Halloween costume contest. One year, my department decided to be cops and inmates and my costume was Martha Stewart.

I saw myself having a future there. I started in loan set-up, then account management, and eventually became an underwriter. When it was good, it was good. Profit sharing, bonuses, 401k matching…And the Account Executives were making bank. In the back of my head it was a little tempting to think the next logical step would be becoming an Account Executive. I could make A LOT of money.  I was in my late 20s, newly married and had a clear idea of what my future had ahead of me.

It was spring of 2007 and I was in New Delhi for business. We opened up an offshore office there and I was there to help with the office going live. I felt like such a grown up, on business overseas with an expense account. I was staying at the Radisson and had access to their business lounge.  I worked the night shift and one morning I got back to my hotel room at 4am, checked my email and saw a message from my boss.

Just one line.

“Can you call me immediately?”

I felt a stabbing sensation in my gut. I was ready for this. There were signs. We started cutting way back on the types of loans we did. Our competitors were dropping like flies.

So, I called her and she told me that corporate made the decision to close our office. She said there may be opportunities at the Pleasanton branch.

I got off the phone. I was not in shock. But I felt numb. And alone. And thousands and thousands of miles from home.

Ok…I think it may be time for a

kitten break

Ok, back to the post.

I did get a position at the Pleasanton branch, but it was a sinking ship. We closed that office in the fall and the company eventually went under. I was 30 at this point and the future I so clearly saw ahead of me the past few years had faded away.

So at this point you are probably thinking, “Um, I thought this lady writes about running and biking and the Real Housewives. What is with this Debbie Downer story?”

Ok, ok. I do have a point–I will get us to triathlons. Seriously.

The past two years have been challenging in my tri-life. In 2014, I did some events but my heart wasn’t in it. In 2015, I started with a bang training like a boss for Oceanside, but after that race it was hard to get my focus and momentum back. For so many years, I had this vision of who I was going to be. I would be faster, I would get closer to a sub two hour half marathon. I would be a cycling beast. I would have rock hard abs. But, I was none of those things.

I felt lost. What happened to that person who did endurance events? Who signed up for events called the Death RIde, or jumped off a boat at Alcatraz to swim to shore? Who was I if I wasn’t this person any more?

Over 8 years ago when the industry in was no longer in existence, it was very much a “what now” time? It took some time…but I knew what I wanted to do.

I wanted to work in nonprofit. So, similarly to 2001 when I started my journey in mortgage, I got a temp job for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. And 8 years later I am dedicated to this sector. Writing this and just thinking about that cocky 20-something drooling over all the dollar bills she could make kind of sickens me. And then watching the movie last night and seeing how much money people made while things were falling apart…I just can’t even. I love the nonprofit sector. I love being surrounded by passionate people dedicated to righting the wrongs in the world.

So, back to triathlons. So, if I am not going to do a crazy, bananas event, what is the point? Then I got an idea. What if I trained for something I have never done before? What if I trained for a sprint triathlon? I have done plenty of sprints, usually untrained, or they are part of my longer distance training. But I have never trained solely for a sprint. And it feels like I can stop holding my breath. The weight may be off my shoulders, Training for a sprint is do-able–consistent workouts, but not hours and hours of my time spent on my bike or running. I have not really consistently worked out since the Vegas ½ marathon in November, so it will be a great way to get my fitness back.

Wildflower 2016, I am coming for you.

So, I am not quite sure what the moral of the story is here. I guess, try to cut yourself some slack. Don’t get wrapped up in what that perfect, ideal version of you is and just find what makes sense for you.

Hmmm…this was kind of a long blog post related to such a short distance event.

 

Barb’s Race: The End of an Era

This week the Vineman triathlon made a big announcement. Their race was bought by Ironman. There homegrown 140.6 mile race is now a legit Ironman branded event, sure to bring lots of people in to do the event.
Cool, right?

I don’t know. It makes me a little, sad.

See, the Vineman also puts on a couple races during the same day: a full and half iron-distance aquabike (swim/bike) and Barb’s Race, an all women half-iron distance event. Barb’s Race is also a big fundraiser for women’s cancer nonprofit’s in Sonoma County.
Vineman announced that with the turning the event into an Ironman event, they will no longer have an Aquabike or Barb’s Race.

Why am I sad? Because, Barb’s Race holds a special place in my origin story of being a triathlete. I have told my tale many times, but here is the brief recap: in 2007 after being traumatized by racing a marathon (not really, but I do not recommend driving to Eugene Oregon, running 26 miles, driving home the next day, and then getting on a plane to India once you got back to California. My legs were pretty much toast and being on a plane for 17 hours did not help much), I bought my first rode bike and decided to try a triathlon out. The sport confused and excited me. It was like nothing I ever experienced. I did two sprints and an Olympic distance. This was in the space of two months, and I had no clue what I was doing.
In between the races, I also lost my job. Well, a bunch of people I knew did. See, I was in the sub-prime mortgage industry and if you remember anything about 2007, you know how that little tale ended. So, here I was, searching for whatever the next step in my career was, and this little sport called triathlon was right there with me. I heard people chatting about half ironmans and to me that sounded super bananas. Like swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run a half marathon? In one day? Hell no.

So, obviously, I Googled “half ironman’s California.” I can’t explain what drew me to do it. I was a little lost. What happens when the industry you were working in goes poof? I knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector so I got a temp job with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while also working a holiday position with Pier 1. (FYI if you ever work at Pier 1 during the holidays, know that you will be covered in glitter by the end of your shift because of all the holiday décor). I needed a challenge. I needed something that I was not 100% I could do.
I found Barb’s Race and before I knew it I hit “submit” on the registration page. It was such a blur. Once I got my confirmation email, I could feel my heart race. What did I do? I was so scared. I signed up for something that I could not wrap my head around doing. And it felt amazing. Signing up for that race lifted me up out of the fog I was in. It gave me strange sense of purpose, of something to work towards.

I trained hard for that race in 2008. Blood sweat and tears. And come race day, I was ready. And, as the origin story goes, I crashed my bike on mile 22…spending the rest of the day in the Emergency tent waiting for my hubby to come get me while being super bummed I didn’t meet my goal. I knew one day I would attack that course again. Sure enough, in 2013 I crossed the finish line. I had done tons of races before, but crossing that line was the first time I really cried after finishing a race. It just felt like a chapter closed. I have cheered on many friends on that course. Seen them suffer through the heat to push themselves to finish. I remember cheering on my friend Melissa as she dominated the aquabike, all of her friends at the finish screaming our heads off. Melissa passed away in 2012, and that is one of the many amazing moments we shared with her through this crazy sport.

Best of all, Barb’s Race introduced me to a wonderful group of women. Once I signed up for the race, I knew I needed help. I found an all women’s training group (something that usually would have no appeal to me. I am infamous for signing up for gyms and then remembering, “oh yeah, I belong to a gym. Oops.”). I met the fantastic Heidi Boynton who coached me through many races. I discovered the importance of finding your tribe, and being surrounded by women who build each other up and share our love and frustrations for running, biking, and swimming. Seven years later I would say the women I met through this group—and continue to meet as it expanded into lovetomoveproductions.com— hold a special place in my heart.
All because of this little event called Barb’s Race.

So, thank you Barb’s Race. I will miss you a lot, and know that you helped me when I was in a standstill. You kinda changed my life—you rock.

…and P.S. Ironman, increasing your full distance entry from $400 to $750 is kinda rude. My two cents.

Why Do You Tri?

Today at dinner, hubby asked me what was wrong. He said I seemed subdued.

I just mumbled it was Monday, and went back to my Adobo chicken fajitas.

On the drive home I said, “I guess I am just bummed that I am not into this race.”

And then he asked the question that I didn’t have the guts to say out loud, “Maybe you shouldn’t do the race.”

Because it has been a million years since I last posted, that race I am referring to is the Santa Cruz 70.3 Ironman. I signed up for it for a couple reasons. One is that Ironman bought the Big Kahuna race, and I was curious about how they would “Ironman” it. Also, unlike Oceanside, I would be able to train on the course. Plus, since I have done the race in the past, it would be a great opportunity to try and PR on the course. I signed up in May, I think. And some stuff has happened since then.

The big event was I got a new job. I started full time in June, and it is amazing. The organization does fantastic things for the community.

But, for some reason I feel like my heart hasn’t been into training. I was trying to replicate the drive I had for Oceanside, because I was soooo driven in my training. I loved that feeling. I hated agonizing over the race, but it also felt good to know that I had done the work to get me there for race day.

But, I really don’t have that fire. You can’t force the fire.

I immediately sent a Facebook message to Coach Gina asking for insight and we both agreed it would be good for me to start writing about it, find a way to sort my feelings out and what was really going on. I told her I needed help getting started, so if she could just ask me a question to answer that would be great.

So she asked me, “Why do you tri?”
“Oooh, good one.” I responded. Then I realized, crap, I have to start thinking about why.

There are the obvious reasons –setting a goal, challenging yourself, bragging rights…blah blah blah blah.

The main reason is…I want to be a better me when I finish.

When a race is good, when I put my all in the training and cross that finish line strong…it feels good. I wish I could articulate this better. Basically, when I was training for Oceanside I found my groove, I talked about it a lot, I logged my workouts…thinking about the race took up a lot of mental real estate, but in the end it was a great day and I had the wonderful support of my tribe.

This race—which is in 5 weeks—is fighting for mental real estate with other life things. And the mental real estate being used is not being used in a positive way. I am thinking about how I am not fast, how my bike rides are not awesome…and that there are too many sharks in the water right now.

Brains are weird.

Last week I ran a half marathon put on by Love to Move productions. Most of the people signed up for the 5k and 10k, and about 20 of us were doing the half marathon. I was so excited that they added the half because I had a 13 mile training run on the calendar.

We were the first racers to start—and it was pretty cool that it was such a small group. With some races (rhymes with “bikey smarathon”) it can take 20 minutes after the race starts before you even cross the start line. I was approaching it as a training run and my goal was to finish. Sometimes I feel like I may take the half marathon distance for granted…I have done 25 half marathons in the past 9 years. They are always hard, but some faster and slower than others. I have gotten to the point where I feel like, yeah that distance is not crazy.

But, it kind of is crazy, right? As I was waiting for that race to start, I overheard a woman say, “Wow. I can’t imagine doing a half marathon. That’s incredible.”

I wanted to find her and say, ‘Oh my gosh you can TOTALLY do a half marathon! If I can do it YOU certainly can—you are awesome!”

But then the race started. Plus, that would probably be kind of weird for a stranger to yell at you out of the blue.

So I started running. It immediately started with a hill, which was challenging. I was still wrapping my head around running 13 miles. Granted, I have done the distance plenty of times, was I prepared today?

The course was gorgeous—in the forest. But with a small group doing the half marathon, about 4 miles in I was by myself. No music. Just me, alone with my thoughts. Yikes.

I took more walk breaks than anticipated. I was losing my motivation, Maybe I should just turn around.

I kept going and finally hit the first turn around. I ran another mile and a half and then something incredible happened. The 10k people were on the course. People!

And then it turned into a big old love fest. People were cheering me on and I was cheering them on. I ran past a bunch of my friends and they were high=fiving me. My energy came back. I was racing. I turned around again and was super excited because I would get to see everyone again!
It was a long day out there. Though because I took so many walk breaks and wasn’t doing my race pace, I noticed that I did not have the pain I usually get at miles 8 and 11. Once I saw the finish line I decided to go for it and I sprinted as fast as I could. A strong finish felt good.

My friends cheered me on as I came in. I was ecstatic for the support and It felt great to be a part of this TOGETHER.

Hmmmm…maybe THAT is the reason I tri.

It’s Like Spring Break, But With Water. Oceanside 70.3 Race Report.

I can’t believe it! I actually completed the Oceanside 70.3 triathlon! Actually, the biggest shocker is not the finishing of 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running…it is that I managed train for this event in the winter (granted, we hardly had a winter in the Bay Area this year, but typically the months of December, January and February are reserved for hibernating on the couch and watching Bravo). But, thanks to Competitor.com’s Super Simple Half Ironman Training program and the many, many people by my side while I trained, I completed 92% of my workouts. For a girl who typically slacks on training plans, this is pretty good.
So, on with the race report.

Hubby and I arrived in Oceanside mid-morning Friday. We drove partway to Palmdale Thursday after work, and headed out to Oceanside the following morning. Our plan was to check in at the motel and the head to race registration. We got to our motel and the room wasn’t ready. I booked on Priceline and the woman at the front desk said, “We have you for two nights in a smoking room.” I said something to the extent of “Esqueeze me?” and thought, “Yes, give the triathlon girl a smoking room. Of course.” I said, no I didn’t want a smoking room. She said, “Well, that’s what you registered for one you booked the room.” (Side note: I just checked my Priceline request. I did not request a smoking room. But I will save that for my TripAdvisor review.).They were able to get me a non-smoking room but it wouldn’t be ready for a half hour. We drove to the expo and Dennis waited with the bikes while I navigated the expo to get to Athlete check-in. I signed three waivers. Got my bib. Got my shirt. Got my timing chip. Got way freaked out by all the hardcore athletes in there. I have never done an Ironman branded event and oh my those peeps take their triathlons seriously! Time trial bikes, aero helmets, zero percent body fat…
We headed back to the room dumped our stuff and walked to the harbor for lunch. We then walked over to where the race start was so I could visualize the race. They were setting up a ton of racks in the transition area and the buoys for the swim were already placed in the harbor. I scanned the harbor—those buoys went way out there. 1.2 miles is a long swim. Just breathe. We headed back to the motel and I tried to get out of my head.
My amazing friends came down for the race to support me. They picked me up at our motel—which was great for Dennis to have a welcome break from my nervous chatter. We headed to the expo again so I could buy some water bottles and Gu. Then we went to the Pier and went for a little swim. I did more splashing around because the waves were pretty crazy and I just wanted to see what the water was like temperature wise. I wasn’t wearing my wetsuit, and the water still felt pretty great.

We enjoyed some apps and drinks (lemonade for me) at this cute restaurant that had an upstairs patio with amazing views of the water. The weather was perfect and it felt like summer—not late March. I felt very fortunate to be surrounded by these amazing women in such a beautiful environment.
They dropped me back off at my motel and then I went into full on crazy triathlete mode. I laid out all my stuff for the race to make sure I had everything. Wetsuit, running shoes, bike shoes, nutrition, water bottle, socks, hat, sunscreen…just a bunch of stuff. I took a picture of it and posted it on Faceook with the caption “Coach Gina, did I miss anything?”. Coach Gina was one of my friends who was down there to support me and she has been an amazing coach for me the last few years.

Dennis and I headed to Theresa’s house in Carlsbad (that was where everyone was staying) for pizza. We realized that pizza was not the best choice for me. My friend Wilma said, “NO CHEESE BEFORE RACE DAY!” I said, “What you are crazy, I can totally have cheese.” Then they reminded me of that one time we did a bike ride and I had a grilled cheese Panini at the lunch stop and spent the next 30 miles doubled over in pain on my bike. Fine, fine, no pizza. Gina then went in full on Coach mode which was awesome and we went to the grocery store. We got my breakfast items for the morning, Gatorade for the bike, a sad Lean cuisine for dinner, chicken tortilla soup, and stuff for Dennis before his bike ride in the morning. We went back to Theresa’s and I longingly watched them eat pizza while choking down my pitiful lean cuisine spaghetti. We headed back to the motel after and I packed all my stuff in my tri bag, got into bed and read a trashy tabloid before falling asleep. I had two alarms set for 4:45. I was wide awake by 4:15.

It’s RACE DAY!

The morning was a blur. Shoveling oatmeal into my mouth at 4:30 is not the easiest thing in the world. I put on my race clothes. I drank some coffee. I kissed Dennis goodbye and rode my bike and gear down to the start. Dennis was meeting up with Theresa’s husband to do a bike ride while I raced.

I got to the MASSIVE transition area. Seriously, over 2,500 people were racing this event. I found my bike number on the rack and put laid out all my stuff. Oh my gosh I was so nervous. I got body marked and then found a porta pottie with no lines. Then a woman said, “These are porta potties for the professionals.” Rats. Had I had more caffeine in me, I would have made a joke like, “Do you mean professional athletes or professional porta-potty users? Because I have been using porta potties since I was 4, not sure if that would make me a professional per se but you see where I am going with this?” But I just mumbled out, “Oh ok, sorry.”

The transition area was closing at 6:30, so I started to put my wetsuit on and head to the swim start. There were like swim waves and they literally had us lined up in a corral. I had my phone with me (I had a bag you can drop off before you start the swim that has your post-race stuff in it. I would put the phone in that bag.) I texted Wilma, “Where are you guys?” She texted back, “We are by the bike racks.” I texted “I am by the bike racks. I am holding my hand up.” She texted, “We are holding our hands up!” I looked around but saw no hands, then turned around and saw on the other side of transition these two crazy ladies jumping up and down. So I started jumping up and down! “Can we come over there?” She texted. “Yes.” I wrote back.

THE SWIM

The swim corral had an area where spectators could watch and Gina and Wilma found me. It was AWESOME having them there. I was REALLY nervous about the swim. My fear was that I would get in the water and decide that I did not want to swim and then POOF all the hard work and time and getting everyone’s support and love would have been for NOTHING. So, yeah, I needed to do that swim. Waiting for our swim wave to go off was like waiting for a ride at Disneyland. It was such a long line. Finally it was our turn. I stared at the water and immediately felt that wave of panic. “No. Don’t do this.” That inner voice said. I felt a cold sweat trickle down my forehead and thought about bailing for a second. Then I looked up and saw Gina and Wilma’s beaming smiles and told that stupid voice to just SHUT IT DOWN.

We got in the water. It was 67 degrees and felt incredible. We swam to where the start was and I tried to get in the zone. The air gun went off and we were off! This was happening! My friend Diane gave me advice to count every three stroked and blow bubbles in the water. I counted every two strokes. I did that for awhile. Then I started singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall in my head. I could feel the panic settling in so I started saying every name of every team mate who has supported me the last few months. I saw their smiling faces in my head. I remembered ridiculous trail runs where we burned more calories giggling than running. I started singing songs from Grease. The swim was feeling pretty good. Not super crowded. We hit the turnaround buoy and then things got bananas. The sun was out and we were swimming right into it. I literally could not see a THING. The only things I could see were other swim caps and the faint outline of safety kayakers. I just started following the sounds of splashing and hoped I was going the right way. And then all the swimmers behind me came. I basically felt like I was in the spin cycle in a washing machine and not sure how to get out of the cluster of swimmers. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. I finally found a spot where I could swim by myself. Still couldn’t see. A stinking thing. At one point I took my goggles off to see if that would help with visibility. I could see part of transition and then I heard “Is that JILL?” Holy cow, I picked the perfect moment to pop my head up because that is when Lisa, Theresa, Gina and Wilma spotted me and screamed their heads off. Gina yelled, “You are doing great!” and I gave them the thumbs up sign and kept on swimming. I finally hit the finish and got on dry ground. YAY! I FINISHED THE SWIM.
I ran the long run to transition and found my bike. My friends were there the whole time instructing me (Did you drink water? Did you have a gu?).
And then I headed out on the bike.

THE BIKE

The bike was the biggest blur. Perhaps because it was the longest leg of the event. I was hoping to get to under 4 hours on the bike, but wound up at 4:10ish. Oh well. The bike went through Camp Pendelton. I read that the first 20 miles were flat and that it was recommended to take it easy so you have energy for the hills coming up. I felt good on the first 25 miles. I read there was a hill around mile 29. There was a short steep hill and then a rest stop. I slathered on some sunscreen and asked if we already did the hill. A girl said, “I don’t know…that didn’t feel like a hill but my boyfriend said it was at mile 26.” I felt pretty self-congratulatory because I totally rocked the “hill.” I got back on my bike feeling super smug for the next mile until I saw the big wall of a hill up ahead. Oops. Guess that was the “hill.” I steadied my breathing and clicked into my granny gear. Let’s. Freakin. Do. This.

I slowly climbed up the hill. A lot of people were walking it. That was not an option for me. I can get to the top. Slow and steady. I started singing “I Will Survive.” Maybe in my head, maybe out loud. Not quite sure. I hit the top and let out a big whoo! And yelled out “We did it!” and then headed back downhill. The next 25 miles were rollers and some headwind. The wind was not too bad (thank you, headwind training rides on Santa Theresa) and was at least cool. I had five miles to go. The last five miles of the bike are the most mind boggling because it feels like it should be quick, but really five miles is still a lot. Oh, I forgot to mention since the bike is on Camp Pendelton there are lots of military people out there volunteering. There were a ton of marines volunteering close to the bike finish and yelling at us to go fast! One guy yelled out “GO PINK BIKE GO!” I burst out laughing and sprinted. The finish was coming! I heard ,”JILL MITSCH! JILL MITSCH!” Yay! It was Gina and Wilma! Whoo hoo! I headed back onto the transition area racked my bike and put on my run gear. And tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I had to run 13.1 miles now.

Oof.

THE RUN

The run was hard. Running 13.1 miles is always hard. My plan was to walk every mile for 30 seconds, or the rest stops. And the hills. You basically do two loops. As I headed out on the run I saw the turnaround and it said mile 7. All my friends were there yelling at me saying I had a good pace and I thought, man, I gotta wait 7 more miles until I get to see them again. But, I kept running. I hit mile 1. Mile 2. Drank Gatorade. Ate a banana. I really had no coherent thoughts. It was just…move…just keep moving. I hit mile 3 and thought to myself, “10 more miles. That’s a lot.” Fortunately there were tons of spectators on the course as you literally run through people’s neighborhoods. People were spraying us with water from their hoses, blasting “Uptown Funk.” It was a party. Our bibs had our names on them so lots of “GO JILL!” which was awesome.

I finally hit the turnaround and heard Gina yell out, “GO JILL! YOU ARE KILLING IT!” I smiled. I think I smiled most of the day. At mile 9 we hit the pier and I saw Dennis! Yay! I tried to have a conversation with him while running. It basically went, “Hi baby! How was your ride? I should be done in an hour! I love you!” Seeing him was an awesome part of the run.

My pace started slowing a bit. The heat was coming. I hit a rest stop where volunteers were spraying people with water. If you wanted to be sprayed you had to lift your arms up. “It’s like spring break, but with water!” I joked to the volunteers.

I could feel myself going to the dark place once I hit mile 11. This was stupid hard. But just keep running. I thought to myself, “this I what you do Jill. You are maybe not fast, but you are good at suffering for a long time, pushing through this…just do it. The finish is almost there. Just. Go.”

So I hit mile 12. Man my body was on fire. My feet were howling and my ankles felt cut up (side note: that is because my socks slipped down and my shoes cut up my ankles and I was bleeding!). Oh my gosh—there it is—the finish! I was going to finish this. I was close to the finish and I saw all my peeps cheering me on, even Dennis was “Woo-ing!” and he is so not a woo-er.

I crossed the finish line. The announcer said, “Look at that smile.”

LIFE AFTER OCEANSIDE

Phew. This was a long post. I am so glad I did this race. Granted it was not my fastest half ironman, but I had never done this course before. I definitely want in next year. And my fire is fueled to kick some butt once Death Ride training starts after this rest/recovery week.

It feels great to accomplish something that was daunting to me. But perhaps the greatest feeling of this whole experience was the feeling of support from my friends. From every step of training to race day, I had a whole community supporting me, running with me, biking with me, swimming with me. I am truly lucky to be a part of this group where we all support one another. This would have been a very different experience had I not had my tribe.

My tribe rocks.

The Tina Effect

I am a BIG Tina Fey Fan. I love Tina and Amy Poehler pushing the envelope while hosting the Golden Globes. I love the Tina and Steve Carrell banter in Date Night. I love more of Tina and Amy in Baby Mama. Perhaps, most of all, I love Tina as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. I think I have quoted Liz L. a million times on this blog because that lady is FUNNY! AND REAL! And she loves sandwiches!

How is this Oceanside training related? Well, the other day I was chatting with someone about my panicky experience in the water last weekend, and they suggested I have a mantra. Like, “Just keep swimming.” Or, whatever will keep me going and not let my brain totally wig out on me.

So, I thought about what could be motivational for me…it would be all butterflies and rainbows to drag me out of whatever darkness was taking over my thoughts.

But, I really don’t want to be all sentimental…what is it that I want to think? And then, I heard the voice of my anti-hero Liz Lemon whisper (ha, more like YELL) those magical three words:

“Shut it down.”

If you are a 30 Rock newbie, Liz says “Shut it down” when something totally ridiculous/appalling/hilariously inappropriate happens in her work or personal life.

Here is a little montage of that.

So, I tested out my new mantra this weekend. Some friends and I swam in the ocean. I went out and could feel the panic setting in, that feeling of not being able to control my emotions or the waves or anything…my brain was freezing up…why was this happening, and then I put on my Liz Lemmon pants and thought to myself, “Shut it down.” And I swam a mile.

Like, seriously, why is it so hard to shut down that inner chatter? I was trying to be all introspective last week on why I am having Open Water Swimming Anxiety (OWSA) and I just can’t nail it down. And then I realized that the reason you fear something is because someone tells you it is scary. There have been countless times i told people I was swimming in the ocean and I could see the look of fear in their eyes. Initially, I thought, why are they scared? it’s just a swim.

I think back to 9 years ago when I did my first triathlon –which happened to be my first open water swim. I was a lap swimmer and did not really think that swimming in a lake would be different. It was. It was super bizarre swimming in the open water, but I distinctly remember NOT being scared. More puzzled by what was going on with all the limbs flailing around.

Since that race I have completed —-or attempted—28 triathlons. 3 Alcatraz swims. I swam 2 miles in Lake Tahoe without a wetsuit. A bunch of splash and dashes and practice swims. I swam 3.6 miles in the Lake Mead Slam the Dam. I am not backdoor bragging—it’s more to convince myself that these thoughts of not being able to swim—they aren’t well substantiated. I can swim. I swim open water. I am a swimmer.

But then, there was that time I swam in Hawaii when the red flags were up and my world got turned upside down a bit. Sometimes when I am in the open water my thoughts drift to that time I was bobbing around in the water, so close to shore yet unable to just SWIM there…

And you know what I have to say to those thoughts?

JUST. SHUT. IT. DOWN.

And if I can dispense advice to you, do the same. So often I encounter other people who have doubts about their awesomeness, they don’t realize the fantastic things they accomplished and they still think they aren’t worthy…that because they don’t fit the mold of whatever unrealistic ideal society has shoved down their throats, that they should not just GO FOR IT. Like, Carpe Diem and all that jazz. Let me tell you something, you ARE amazing and YOU need to see that. When those thoughts of inadequacy creep in, take a deep breath, squeeze your eyes shut, exhale and just…shut it down.

That’s what I plan to do. I know that when I get in the water in just under a couple weeks, I will be nervous. I will be scared. My plan is to  imagine a little Liz Lemon on my shoulder yelling at me to shut it down. And probably when I am on mile 10 of the run she will be screaming at me.

(Writers Note: literally as I was writing this post getting ready to publish it, I have Scandal playing in the background. Olivia Pope’s monologue went something like this: “If there is a scandal, I do what I am supposed to do. And that is SHUT IT DOWN.” Whoa. it’s a sign.)

Everything is (maybe, not always) Awesome!

There are so many challenges when training for an event. Obviously, the actual physical movement is a biggie. I found my training plan online and took some time to add each workout to my Google calendar. Every morning I get an alert to what my workout is: “swim 1800 yards” or “run 2 miles easy 2 miles race pace 2 miles easy” or “bike until you puke.”
Ok, that wasn’t on the plan. It’s a lot though. I feel like this training plan is a lot. I have 3 weeks until my race. This year- per Strava- I have biked 400 miles and by the end of the week I will have ran 200 miles! Lots of sweat. But, perhaps even more challenging than the actual doing of the sports is the thinking involved. In other words, I probably spend 1 ½ more time on thinking about my training than actually training for my event. 35% of those thoughts may be “Yay! This is awesome! I am awesome! Everything is awesome!”

The remaining 65%? I don’t know the exact percentages, but I think it is 15% hangry, 22% tigh tigh sleepy go nigh nigh, and the remainder is…definitely not awesome.

It is quite scary how much power your mind can have over your performance. A couple weeks ago I had a BAD week. It was a “recovery” week after a particularly challenging week. The Saturday before I biked 60 miles and ran 14 miles(!) on Sunday so the recovery week had a lighter load. And, boy, was my body shot! I slogged through my workouts and made it to Saturday—my bike was a short ride, “only” 45 miles. We also had rain in the forecast. Saturday morning I looked at my bike on the trainer and I knew I had to make a choice—3 hours on the trainer or ride outside. Three hours on the trainer without a good TV plan in place sounded miserable. I decided to “suck it up buttercup” and took my bike for a ride outside. And it was a disaster. My body was tired. I just had to get through the ride. Then the rain started on me at mile 20—-seriously. Fortunately, I have a super recognizable bike and when I turned on a popular road, I heard a familiar voice call out, “Jill!” It was my friend Mai on her own bike ride with other people. Yay! Company! My mood was instantly lifted—it felt nice to get out of my own thoughts and be social. After a few miles we parted ways and I headed home. I rode down Foothill and the rain came back…soggy socks…getting chilly…and the bad thoughts came…I can’t even remember what the actual thoughts were but the overall theme was disappointment. I was disappointed with myself because I honestly felt I would rock my ride because I have been super consistent with my training. I read my calendar each day and I SHOW up at my workouts and put the effort in. Why couldn’t this ride happen? And the ugliness escalated…I am not an athlete…I am not hardcore…I am not worthy of this beautiful pink bike…I have no business signing up for any big race…

And then it gets super ugly. As I rode in the rain, dejected, tired, feeling like a failure, I started thinking about other failures…maybe it was personal…maybe it was career related…maybe my cats don’t love me…none of the thoughts were entirely cohesive, more like little bubbles popping in and out of my mind. Little bubbles of failure. And then I realized I was crying…on my bike…in the freakin’ rain. Ugh. Seriously? Let me just pull out a tiny violin from my bike jersey pocket to play for you.

anchor

I mean, seriously, there are some ugly awful things going on in this world. There are people fighting for their lives, people struggling to make ends meet and I am weeping over –a bad bike ride? Pull it together lady!

really

So, I finished my ride. Fortunately the next day I convinced two awesome friends to meet me for a run. We went to my favorite trail and had a blast! We gossiped, we laughed, we swore at the hills, we screamed when we saw a salamander…and, like that, I ran 9 miles! Then swam 2000 yards after.

I don’t have all the answers to really anything, but I do know that your mind may be the biggest muscle to train for events. Your mind plays a big role in if you can succeed in your goals and even a bigger role in how you accept and move on from your failures.

Tonight’s post was a struggle to write because I am not exactly sure what it is I am trying to convey here…mainly because it is my own struggle with my mind versus my body. Today I attempted to race a triathlon—a sprint one. And I quit it. My mind got the best of me…there were a bunch of small factors involved in me bailing after swimming for less than 5 minutes (I am looking at you 60 mile bike ride yesterday—and YOU daylight savings time making my 5am really 6am!). But it was really my MIND that made the decision about turning around, because my HEART was not in it. I was not present in the event. I hadn’t given any thought to this event and just figured I could muddle through it. The problem is if you aren’t feeling it, triathlons can be SUPER annoying. You are surrounded by nervous chatty people and trying your best to not soak up their energy. It took me 15 minutes to find space on a rack for me to set up. I was too lazy to rent a full sleeve wetsuit so decided to tough it out with my sleeveless. A couple people were chatting about the cold water, and remarked upon my sleeveless wetsuit. I started getting nervous. Could I swim in cold water? What would the swim look like? Why haven’t I swam in open water this year? I walked the half mile to the boat ramp where the swim started and got in to warm up. Brrr! Oh boy! I got out and then got back in when my wave was starting. I have done a lot of triathlons before so I know the drill…wait for your wave to start and soak in the nervous energy of everyone waiting to start. But today I just did not have the bandwidth to deal with that energy…we took off and I started swimming and did not feel like I was swimming. There was a safety surfer next to me. I could feel my nerves bubbling to the surface and I knew what this swim could look like: “Get nervous. Struggle to breathe. Pull through and get back on track. Just. Keep. Swimming.”

But my mind was all, “I just can’t even.”

So I told the safety surfer I wasn’t going to swim anymore and headed back to the start.

The rest of my day was a big old mental pity party…which is fine. My big fear is having this happen again on March 28th. But, that is not an option. So, it is time to dig deep, be present, face my fears, and really, truly, SHOW UP. It is about aligning my heart, my mind and my body together to know that, “Yes. Yes we can and we will do this thing.”