Sunday, July 31, 2011

One Mile in the Lake

Today wasn't our usual Sunday. It was modified by our training schedule for the Olympic distance triathlon we are doing as a team with another friend. My Love started the morning by pedaling out of our driveway for a 26mi bike ride just before 7am. It went fairly smooth. It would have been perfect except he missed a turn and ended up having to backtrack up a gigantic hill. He made it home safe and pretty tired.

Then we went to church! After lunch, a short nap for me with my smallest fella and my Love and big guys went for a bike ride.

Now for the big deal... swimming a mile... it was like eating an elephant... one bite at a time... but you're super hungry when your done even though you have a belly full of lake water!

I write this with aches and exhaustion like I haven't felt since I finished my last tri. Even more so, I think.

It was a warm gorgeous day today, the beach had sunbathers, kids playing and parents watching. My friend met me on the beach, she swam a few hundred yards while waiting for me. Iron Alicia works very hard at her personal fitness. Today, she slowed down her super speed swimming to slowly crawl a mile, about a hundred yards at a time, wait for me, check on me, and swim back toward me when she saw me stop. Her consistent encouragement made me believe I was capable of eating this elephant one small bite at a time.

The water was choppy, just shy of white-caps. Every 10th breath I'd take I would end up with a mouth full of wave. Sometimes I'd spit and sputter it out, other times, I'd have to stop, cough and gag a bit. It seemed to take forever to get my breathing to regulate and get my heart rate to something similar to normal.I think I swam over 700yds before that happened.

I wish I could tell you I received some kind of major spiritual revelation. But I didn't.

I wish I could tell you I didn't cry into my goggles. But I did.

I had to work for it. REALLY HARD. Most of you who follow my blog know I am no stranger to hard physical work, but today was different. I couldn't shake the head games "I can't do this", "how am I going to finish a mile within the one hour time limit?" "Ironman? What was I thinking?!" "I want to quit". And the list goes on. I would chatter to myself that I can do this, I can do this, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.... etc. but deep in my heart, I kept doubting myself.

No worship songs could keep me focused,  no fixing my head on what I am capable of. I struggled the whole way, complete with poking my head up every few strokes looking up to see how far I had yet to go, saying "Sh%$!" out loud, then tucking my head back in, swimming a few strokes and looking up again.

Inside I chuckled to myself, laughing that if I was expecting something spiritual to pop up in the midst of my swearing, I was likely crazy. But, it has happened. So glad God "gets" me.

I made it. The pressure on my eyeballs from my goggles, cramps in my calves, crying, and all. Iron Alicia greeted me with her cheery smile and a great big hug as I teared up again. Iron Randy met us at the beach to say "You made it! Good job!"

"Now you know you can do it", one of them said. Honestly, I am so blurry about the rest of it because it took all I had just to get my wetsuit off, dry off, get clothes on and get back to the truck.

Where I sat. Called my Love to let him know I did it. He said I was breaking up, I said, no, I am crying again.

By the time I was headed to get my dinner, I was contemplating my ability to complete the mile in the tri. I was reasoning that if I hit it hard in the next two weeks, swimming almost daily, I should be fine. No need to fear eating elephants, swallowing lake water or giant waves.

After all, I've already done it once, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Letdown and Tired of Waiting

I have finished well my second triathlon. I know what comes next. The physical, emotional, mental letdown. I know that to some degree everyone does it. Except maybe those folks who can just bust it out and jump to the next event. But for me, the letdown is big, again.

When I am training I am pushing through my body image issues to get the WORK done. I barely focus on the mirror (except to make sure nothing is hanging/falling out) but fix my gaze on the goal. I see myself in my mind's eye as strong, efficient, powerful.

I want to see the pictures of the event, I really do. But when I look at them I see them two different ways. It's not like I look at them and see it one way and then another, I see both of these things at once. I see the joy on my face and the fat of my butt, I see the strength and cut of my triceps as I hold the handlebars and the cleavage of tons of boob shoved into a cage-like sports bra. I see the belly that held my three miracles and the leftover skin and fat that remains, I see the squishy covering over the hard earned muscles that propel me to the finish line.

I know the heart behind the eyes of the woman I am. I ache for the body I've worked hard for to show instead of the lumps and bumps. I wonder if when people call me an "inspiration" is it because I am pushing past the size of my body to do something big or because, even though they are less than half my size, they would never be seen  in public wearing cycling shorts and a sports bra, let alone around a bunch of skinny and super fit people and random strangers looking on, or ?? (you fill in the blank).

My answer to myself, even today, was to write this poem, maintaining my transparency and the truth I choose to walk in.If it means looking like this, I will continue to do what He's asked me to do, solely because He's asked me to do it.

 Tired of Waiting

It is so hard.
   I am tired of it being so hard.
     All the time.

Pushing through
   Wanting to cry
     Smiling anyway.

Speaking life
   Learning not to shout
     But needing to get the grumpy out.

Changes longed for
   Motions gone through
     Still waiting.

Tired of waiting for my body to change
   Hard to find the beauty
     Looking, looking.

In Faith, believing
   In Truth, knowing
     In Hope, walking.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Triathlon # 2

There are many more pictures. I will post them when I get them all from my friends. But for right now, here's the story...

I had such a great day!

The freakouts earlier in the week paid off for a peaceful wake up Saturday morning. I set my alarm for 4:30am and was only tempted to hit snooze for about 10 seconds. I climbed out of bed and wandered around my quiet house.

The sun was beginning it's morning rise and I thanked God for a beautiful day. I hummed a tune in my heart, happy to see how the day would turn out. I showered, got dressed in my cycling shorts, sports bra, and tank top only glancing in the mirror for a second. I did not want to dwell on the lumps and bumps, only a quick flex of my biceps and a giggle.

My Love woke up and started his process for departure. I wanted to chatter my excitement with him but I could see, he would not be amused by my banter. He admitted some nerves and I left him alone.

We headed off to the event in his truck, all parts and pieces accounted for. I reminded my Love, being up this early is like going hot air ballooning (something we used to do all the time together) but a lot more work. He rolled his eyes and said A LOT more work!

As we pulled into the gravel pit to park I looked around at all the fancy bikes owned by the serious triathletes that would cross the finish line LONG before me. I thanked God for them, praying for a great race for all.

My Love efficiently loaded his bag on his back and rode his bike up the road. (We agreed earlier we didn't have to be together every minute. It was our race day as individuals, we are different in our preparation needs.)

Since balance is not my best skill, I determined I'd be safer to lug my wetsuit, push my bike and walk to the beach. It wasn't my favorite part of the day but I did like the smell of the fresh morning air. I would have taken a picture but I had already passed my camera on to Nana so she could use it during the event.

There were many athletes already filling up the transition area. Bikes hanging from their seats suspended from long metal bars. Preparations were made for each transition, swim to bike, bike to run. Iron Tony taught me how to set my area up, my Love followed the example of the guy next to him. He came over and helped me get into my wetsuit after I made a quick trip to the restroom.

It takes two of us to put my wetsuit on. I laugh every time. I can get it up most of the way, but with my generous behind, he pulls it up from the back and everything gets stuffed into the suit. He chuckles too. But we both look forward to the day I can do it by myself and my rear isn't so big.

I wander over to the swimmers volunteering to be "swim buddies" for triathletes who want a little extra coaching during the swim. I though it was a good idea when I was sure I didn't need it. I felt a nudge in the wee hours of the night, I need to have a buddy. My pride and even my training said I could make it just fine. But, standing there on the beach, I knew I needed to ask for help. So I did. Just at the right time.

Let me tell you a little bit about my randomly selected "swim buddy". Amy is a wonderful young woman I met at the Kroc when I had a question about child care. She is the supervisor over all the child-watch personnel. We had a great visit and she was able to help me with my concern. Then, there, on the beach, she is! Ready to be my swim buddy! I was thankful. She swam beside me, coaching me on how to slow my anxious breathing, distracting me from the awkward discomfort of swimming in my wetsuit and counting my strokes with me between buoys. Swimming this way kept me focused, pushed me forward and moved me beyond the race day nerves that were threatening to overtake me. By the time we hit the beach I felt mentally ready and in great shape to strip the wetsuit and hop on my bike.

I was shaky walking to my bike, aware that the water-laden wetsuit really taxed me more than I anticipated. My Love was almost ready to head out on the bike and I was glad to see personally he made it out of the water just fine. Good friends were waiting for me, Iron Tony was stocking my bike with a spare tube and CO2 cartridge in case I needed it, and I felt blessed.

I grabbed a gel, sucked it down with all the grace of a starving horse, removed my bulky rubber suit without falling over, dried my feet, socks and shoes on, sunglasses on, gloves on, helmet on, checked with Iron Tony on what I had and what I needed and began walking my bike toward the line where I could get on. Roughly 50 people were watching. I wondered if I would fall over in front of them. My legs still felt like jello, but I managed to get my feet in the pedal cages and ride out to the course.

As I was riding out, the super fast guys are dropping their bikes off and starting the run. Just like last time, I will do most of the race alone with almost every racer ahead of me. No problem. Then they won't hear me singing!

As I turn the corner onto the street I will ride the majority of the 12 miles on, my legs are weaker than ever. I keep down shifting to make the pedaling easier so I can just keep moving. I cry out to God, questioning what was happening with my body, knowing I have MUCH more ability than what is coming out. "It's not you" I heard in my heart.

Ugh! Then what the HECK is going on??!!! I looked around, desperate to figure it out! The wind was whipping through my helmet but it seemed to be blowing to the east, pushing on my left side. That should not be slowing me down that much. People who have already made it to the turn around are headed my way, some deeply focused on their speed, others looking up and cheering me on. I just felt slow and pathetic.

So, I did what I do. I sang. It sounds silly. It kinda is. I don't care. I don't remember what, some little Sunday school chorus that popped into my head. I told you in my night before blog that I would worship all the way.

Side note: I told my Love and our friend that the most important thing about finishing a triathlon is knowing what you will say to yourself when you want to quit. What I do - I sing. Focusing on the Joy in my heart shifts my gaze from the challenge before me to the greatness of God within me.

I briefly indulged the question about whether I could make it through to the turn around point when my Love, coming right toward me, gave me a big grin, a fist pump and a "whooo hoo"! I grinned and hollered back "great job!" and kept going, still slower than my normal speed, but spinning those pedals around regardless. I kept praying, "where is my high gear Lord, my strength, my power on the pedals, I KNOW I have it!!!" A few minutes later our friend comes toward me, saying "You got this! Its all downhill once you turn around!". I took him at his word and kept going.

More cyclists passed me and after what seemed like forever I made it to the turn around. Now, this is where I fell over into a ditch last time so I was feeling a bit tense about turning, my balance issues giving me pause. Thankfully there was a nice wide turn available and I took it. And WHOOOSH! The wind was at my back!

I started pedaling, shifting up, gear after gear until I was averaging about 18mph. That is my main solid "go time" speed. Once I get to the turn around on any ride I feel a little like a barn-sour horse ready to run back to the stable. I cranked the speed up even faster and buzzed my way back to the transition area waving and whooping it up when I passed Nana and the kids again, and then, more friends cheering and screaming my name! How energizing is that! It was great!

Pushing hard on those pedals to make up for the slow first half of the bike ride.
When I arrived back to the "barn" I had to dismount my bike in front of even MORE people. I felt pretty good. My heart rate was up pretty high so I slowed it down by chattering with my friends while removing helmet, gloves, putting on my running hat, drinking from my bike's water bottle (balance issues prevent me from reaching it while riding) and some kind stranger helped me get my bike back on the rack. I carried my gel with me as I high-fived Iron Tony on my way out to the run.

My legs felt like tree trunks as I jogged past the cheering section. Great friends and strangers propelling me forward with their "Go Girl! You got this! Go Jennifer! You can do it!" I ran on, greeting a gal who was walking/jogging/walking in front of me. I caught up to her and tried to encourage her to match my slow steady pace. She didn't want to. So I ran on.

 Around the corner there are my boys, yelling and running right to me, they ran beside me several feet and Nana snapped a few pictures. Again, energized by my precious fellas, I relaxed and got into my groove.

I waved and smiled at people cheering for me as they drove by, goofy grin stuck on my face. Just one foot in front of the other from now on, I knew I was going to make it. I chased a gal for a while, eventually catching up to her. She was 65 and she completed her first triathlon the weekend before! I did pass her and kept my stride solid and strong.

Once I made it up the hill, it seemed to take forever, I saw a volunteer. I said "Holy Bucket's Batman, am I there yet?" He laughed and said, "Almost!" Then, a few minutes later, my new friend and swim buddy Amy walked up to me. She walked beside me while I ran thanking me for her experience with me. I thanked HER profusely and kept going. I turned the corner on the shady lane, I was almost there!

Twenty feet ahead of me there was a young man cheering for me, telling me "You got this" "keep up the great pace!" When I was even with his position he began running beside me. I asked him why he was there and he said he hated to leave anyone running alone at the end. I asked him if he was an Ironman. He said yes. I told him of my plans for Ironman 2016. He was impressed and said I had plenty of time to get ready. His pace was faster than mine, so I matched it. I told him about my Angels in Spandex blog from my last triathlon and he was my "angel in spandex" this time. I thanked him for the extra boost. He stopped at the base of the hill while I ran on. I could hear him cheering loudly as I ran for the finish line.

I picked up my pace, determined, as before to not leave one drop of gas in my tank. I came to expend every bit of training I worked so hard for! I ran faster, cheered on by so many strangers it gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

In Lake Stevens last year, strangers cheered me on, but this time, it was my community, supporting me, cheering for me and driving me ahead with their encouragement. It was powerful!

Even more special, my Love, and then our sons, joining me on the last bit of my run, jogging with me all the way to the end. Precious friends, Nana and the kids, all hollering and cheering, blessing me with their presence and their words, I felt empowered as I crossed the line.

I hadn't been across the line for 20 seconds before my boys were asking me questions. "Can I have a drink of your water Mommy?, Can I have a cookie? Why can't I have a cookie? What are we doing now Mommy?" I kept saying the same thing, "ask your Dad!" all the while cracking up, knowing, I am first wife, then mommy, then athlete. It took me about 5 minutes; a whole bottle of water, and a protein bar before I could answer their questions. We took several pictures and I hugged them a lot. They were so excited. I was too.

Someone told me I beat my time from last year. That was super exciting! I got goosebumps again, but they quickly dissipated as little boys needed to go potty, friends were saying good bye and we needed to pack our stuff up and get back to the truck.

I know that ending sounds a little anti-climactic. But, for me it's not. Relationships are the most important thing to me. Cheering on my Love and celebrating with him, his big finish within the time I was sure he'd make, hugging Nana and thanking her for being willing to wrangle our three busy boys so we could do this, thanking dear friends for making our big day important to them too, and most of all, resuming my beloved job as Mommy, by holding my three year old up high enough so he could go pee pee in the potty before we headed back to the car, and the big boys helping Daddy and I push our bikes for the long walk back, chattering about whatever crossed their minds.

What a great day!
One of my favorite pictures. I missed my Love crossing the finish line, but the boys were there to greet him!
Three Amigos!

My Love bought us Subway after the race, then we went to a triathlete and family BBQ in the afternoon, then we had our celebration dinner! Nana brought champagne and I cooked Costco salmon and bell peppers on the grill. It was Yummy!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ready, Set, GO!

Okay, it's the night before my triathlon and I have a full load of kids clothes to fold on my side of the bed.

I have been pondering all day the point of all this and really it's this:

Completing a triathlon is an extension of my fitness. Its a fun workout with a bunch of people. I am not competitive so it's not a big deal how fast I go. I just want to do my best workout thus far.

My right hip is sore tonight and that is making me a little nervous. Saying a prayer about it now.

I watched a memorial procession for a fallen soldier today. It was quite moving. That really matters.

In the grand scheme of things, this event is one more step of my fitness plan. A significant one, since it is longer than the one I did last year. But, a step nonetheless.

My Love and I are at peace with each other. Nana is sleeping on the couch and prepared to get the boys rolling tomorrow on her own to cheer us on to the finish.

I have good friends that will be there to cheer me on, my Love will pass me and I will wave and smile, celebrating all his hard work that got him here too.

It will be a good day. I am so thankful for a body that can move, for the strength of mind and spirit to work super hard and the joy of the Lord in my heart to worship Him from start to finish.

God bless YOU tomorrow, whatever you do with it! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pushing Past Fear

I swam in the lake tonight with my Love. His Mom and our kids watched from the car.

I felt okay in my new wetsuit. It is a little big on me. But it's much better than what it could be considering it's a men's suit cut down for this short girl.

But here's the deal. I am afraid this time. Last time I did a triathlon I had a book that I worked through. I read it and diligently did every single workout faithfully. When it came time for race day I knew I was physically ready to do the race.

This time my fitness level was already beyond the book so I did different workouts, added some classes, and focused more on my nutrition. I haven't spent as much time swimming, biking or running as I would have liked. I got sick a couple of weeks ago and spent most of it resting instead of getting in several more good workouts. We also went camping, did fun family stuff, and listened to the kids when they said they were sick of going to the Kroc (where I work out).

I was talking to a friend tonight I told her I was struggling with acknowledging that this triathlon isn't going to be much different than last year. I am just going to have to focus on finishing. Why? Because I have a life apart from biking, running, and swimming. My three little boys need their mom. I want to be there for them. When I push hard in my training like I have the last few days, I have SO much less energy to attend to them and I hate it. I have already decided that the majority of tomorrow will be spent snuggling, playing cards, and generally hanging out with them. Same for Friday. I have a bike ride to do tomorrow morning but other than that, and a few more loads of what seems like endless laundry, THEY will be my focus, not this silly race.

They are the reason I do this stuff. It sounds a little wacky, but as a former executive secretary and couch potato I knew I wanted more for my kids and I than a sofa-surfin' life. I want to run with them, kick the soccer ball around and be generally able to race them and at least keep up! Sure, I could have just picked one sport, but really, I get bored with exercise fairly easily. I don't find it terribly fun. With cross-training like this plus strength training I am always doing something different.

I really thought I would weigh less by the time I did another triathlon. I thought I would just be smaller and therefore faster than I was. I am not. Not much has changed. I believe I am stronger and more confident in my bike and swim. My run is just what it is, a slow steady pace for a girl who has half her body weight to lose.

Someone asked me today if I was bothered about it being here locally. I said no, but now that I think about it... nope. "I yam what I yam" to quote Popeye. I have nothing to hide and nothing to bare. I am just me. Working hard for fitness, completing a goal and pushing past comfort zones (mine and the people watching my curvaceous self).

Back to my messed up head...
What the heck is my problem? The negative self talk is pounding at me like a hammer. Like Energizer bunnies the questions and fear bang in my head: Will I be able to do this? My anxiety is literally off the charts (went to bed last night almost shaking), the fear of wiping out due to exhaustion, and the questions in my head about is this all worth it?

These "bunnies" that I would normally shoot down with scriptural bullets are evading destruction. So, on some level I am agreeing or entertaining them still.


If I take a deep breath, I look at the over 900 minutes I have spent training in just the last 5 weeks (about 15 hours) I am well aware that I can do this race. Would I love to be more fit and more trained sure, but I already gave you the reasons above why I am not.

Bottom line: I have not reached my own expectations of where I thought I would be in fitness or weight/size. I am disappointed and because I didn't do it "by the book" this time, I have no real concrete thing I can point to that says "You're ready!" (insert big fake grin here)

I will push past the fear because I KNOW I CAN.

I need to spend the next couple of days hunkered down in what/who I know God has called me to be as a wife, mom and athlete. Like my friend Iron Tony (Ironman 2010 finisher and my coach on bike and swim) says, "Freak out now! Go on, get it all out! Now....relax. Breathe. Reflect on your training. The race is nothing more than a 2+ hr training day. You've put in the hrs. You're golden!"

He's right.

Now I have to go shoot the "bunnies".

If you want to help me shoot the "bunnies" leave me a note - anonymous or otherwise letting me know if I have encouraged you at all in this crazy journey I am on!