Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Season That Almost Wasn't

December is a good time to look back at the year—what went wrong and what went right. I had my best season…but it almost was the season that wasn’t.

My confession…I almost quit doing triathlons in 2008. I had just completed my first Trihawk. Things did not go well. I remember starting the run and seeing that the rest of my club had already finished the race. I was embarrassed, frustrated, depressed. Why was I doing this? It was only my fourth triathlon, but I had not seen any improvement in my times from my first one. “I really suck at this,” I said to myself.

I made up my mind that I was just going to quit. What stopped me? It was the Midwest Xtreme Tri Club. I love being in the club. I love being a part of something and most of all, I love the people in the club. They really are like my brothers and sisters. I knew quitting would mean giving that up.

So…I made a deal with myself. I would work really hard in the off-season and try to improve. I would have one more season…one year to prove I belonged. I worked on improving my skills. I got stronger and faster. I made the commitment to be a triathlete.

My third Pigman came around in June. I had trained hard for this moment and now I would see if it had paid off. When the dust settled I had improved my Pigman time by 12 minutes! I had a long ways to go, but I was finally making progress.

I went on to do three triathlons and five running races…and I PRed every race. I even ran my first Half Marathon, something that was unimaginable to me. It was my dream season of sorts. And when things got tough in each race I would say to myself, “there is no quit in you.” Quitting was no longer an option and I’m so glad I gave myself a second chance.

I have BIG plans for next year and I want to take my triathlons and running to the next level. Each race this year gave me greater confidence and the support of the MWX club has been a big part of that. You helped me live up to the words “Keep Tri-ing.” Thank you!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Run Like A Kenyan!

I was on about mile 11 of the Des Moines Half Marathon when a Kenyan blew by me. He was going to finish the marathon in less time than it took me to run half a marathon…talk about a reality check. “I need to run like that,” I said to myself as I studied his form.

I’m not sure what convinced me I could run 13 miles. It didn’t seem that long ago that I thought a 5K was far. This year, though, had been about raising the bar and jumping over it.

I had run the “Run the Flood” in June. It was my second 7-mile race and I thought, “What’s another 10K on top of that?” It seemed like a crazy idea, but at the Hy-Vee Triathlon Expo I found myself drawn to the booth for the Des Moines Marathon. The guy told me the Half course was flat and a good one for a first-timer. I took the information home and found myself poring over the details while in bed at night. I couldn’t actually run a Half Marathon, could I?

After weeks of indecision, I knew I needed to make the commitment or forget about it. I signed up, knowing that would force me to do it. I would need to increase my running mileage while also keeping up with my triathlon training. I followed the written schedule, which topped off at 10 miles. How would I know I could run 13 miles in a race if I had never done it in practice?

The race was Oct. 18. I traveled to Des Moines the day before and went to the expo, where I met Terry Hitchcock. At age 57 he ran 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days. The guy looked like Santa Claus and he certainly didn’t have the body of a runner. He invited me to come to his seminar. Talk about inspirational! If he could run 2000 miles, I could certainly make 13. I won an autographed copy of his book, which I chalked up as Positive Sign #1. (Yes, I believe the universe sends me signs!)

That night I headed out from my hotel room in search of pasta. It’s true what they say…there really IS a Starbucks on every corner. The only places to eat in the area were fast food so I ended up going to the Wal-Mart deli and getting chicken strips and potatoes and gravy. So much for my pre-race meal!

The next morning I headed to the race site in the dark. I always have to be at a race site early so I can use the bathroom at least four times. It was in the 30’s and cold so I sat in my vehicle in the parking garage. My legs were shaking…was it the cold or my nerves? I freak out before every race. I suddenly was filled with a singular thought…I had never run 13 miles before. I started to panic. I looked outside the garage and the building across the street said “The Kenyon Company-1907.” It was a different spelling of Kenyan, but I considered it Sign #2. A calm overtook me. “Let’s DO this,” I said with determination and I headed to the starting line.

I looked for MWX member Cole, who was walking the race with her sister, but I saw no familiar faces in the crowd of thousands. I found my place with my pace group, my heart pounding with excitement. Although it was legal to wear music, I left the ipod at home. I knew this race would be mental for me and I needed absolute focus.

The race started and we were off! I settled into a nice, easy pace and I kept repeating the mantra “one mile at a time.” I wasn’t going to think about 13 miles. I was just going to run one mile and then run another mile and then another.

At mile two I took off my nylon pants. (Yes, I had shorts on!). I had never ditched clothing during a race before, but they said the clothes would be collected for the needy. I didn’t mind losing the pants because they weren’t mine! Months ago someone had left a bag of clothing at the edge of my front yard. I don’t know if it was dropped accidentally or dumped there, but it contained a pair of nylon running pants. Maybe it was fate those pants were left there!

I had been afraid that I might not make the turn-off and end up on the marathon route. Like I could “accidentally” run 26 miles! No fear, a girl with a bullhorn told us where to turn. We headed into a park and there I was greeted by Disco Man. He was wearing bright clothing and a wig and singing “Play That Funky Music.” I was having fun now.

About mile 6 I felt a knot in my leg. Brief moment of panic. “Suck it up,” I told myself. Per Coach Rosie’s instructions, I did a 60-second walk at each water station. It kept me going mentally to know I would have that short break.

As I made the loop in the park I passed Disco Man again. He called out words of encouragement as he started singing “Green Acres.” I just wished he could follow me the whole race! At the midway point I was feeling strong. At mile 9 the music was blaring “Last Dance” by Donna Summer. It was another sign! I had sung that song in the car on the way to Club Nationals in Oklahoma. “I’m really going to do this,” I smiled to myself.

About mile 10 things started getting tough. I was feeling it in my legs. I tried to pretend I was just running a 5K, but the last few miles seemed long. I was feeling hungry and the energy chews were not doing it. As we turned down the home stretch I wanted to sprint the last quarter mile, but I could only muster a run in the final 25 yards. Thirteen miles hurts.

Like a zombie I wandered over to the food, plopping down in front of the porta potties. I didn’t care where I was at; I didn’t have the energy to move. Eating made me feel better. I went back to the parking garage to get warm clothes and was told the elevator was out. Are you kidding me?! My legs didn’t want to climb stairs.

I wore my finisher’s medal like a badge of honor for the rest of the day. I had missed my goal time by two minutes, but I knew I had accomplished something big in my life. Me, the non-runner, had run 13 miles! I felt empowered. I can do anything!! It was a great way to end my season.

Keep Tri-ing!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Triathlon Club Nationals

“Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…” Ah, the song was sung (or shouted) many times as our tri club traveled to the Club Nationals in Oklahoma City.

I was the Sherpa—that’s the support person who helps the racers perform their best. We had 10 competitors: Rosie Lee, Greg Bodeker, Roy & Deb Gaddis, Belinda Gee, Brita Loynachan, Ron &Dottie Gierut, Dennis Baier and Diane Cisewski. Bob Gee was our other support person.

I was so proud of our club! We kicked butt at our Club Nationals debut, finishing third in our division.

I had wanted to compete, but two things held me back. I envisioned that Oklahoma City would be hot and I wouldn’t be able to wear my wetsuit. I also thought that “Club Nationals” meant it would be the best-of-the-best and I would be out of my league. Basically, I was scared. As it turned out, the race was wetsuit legal and there were a wide variety of skill levels competing. I was disappointed that, as a song says, I had “let the fear take the wheel and steer.” I would have to be content being the top photographer and cow bell ringer.

Our caravan of cars left early on Sept. 18, stopping in Kansas City to eat at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ. I had to admit it was nice to just relax and not be stressing about an upcoming race. By late afternoon we had arrived.

Saturday was spent preparing the bikes and visiting the Oklahoma City Memorial. It’s a memorial to the Oklahoma City bombing. If you ever get a chance to see it, especially at night, check it out.

Saturday night it was off to the race site, where I first experienced the big, red, mucky mess. Two straight weeks of rain had turned the grounds into something resembling a cow yard. There were even people walking around in rubber boots.

It also was my first glimpse of a real, live Ironman-distance race. It was at the 12-hour mark and these athletes were out running in the dark, fighting exhaustion and mental fatigue. I knew by midnight some of them would still be here, trying to beat that 17-hour time limit. I couldn’t even imagine.

Rosie hosted a “Touching Party” in her hotel room. Actually it was a “Tattoo Party” where everyone received their MWX temporary tattoos, but some people misheard the name and it became a running joke for our group.

Sunday was race day! Seeing our three Sprint distance athletes (Brita, Dottie and Diane) in their wetsuits I could feel their nervous energy. I SO wanted to be out there! I grabbed my camera and headed to the beach, walking on rocks so I would not sink in the mud, which was now like quicksand. The weather had moved the buoys overnight so they had to re-do the race course. The swimmers would swim out-and-back, parallel to the beach. The water was so shallow many of them walked a long distance in the water.

This is the part where “Lori fought the law and the law won.” I was trying to get into position for photo-taking so I was walking on the sidewalk to avoid the mud. I suddenly noticed that there was red fencing on either side of me. A voice came over the loudspeaker telling the person on the run course to get off! Yes, that would be me. All of the people in the grandstands turned and looked at me. I lifted up the fence, but it would only go up a foot so I was going to walk back the way I came. Too late…the first finisher was racing towards me! All I could do was dive under the fence and into the mud.

I set up to photograph the finish, but I could hear that the Olympic swim was starting. This would be tricky trying to capture two races. They announced that they needed “wetsuit strippers”—volunteers to help the athletes out of their wetsuits. I was tempted…but knew I had made other commitments.

I photographed our Sprint finishers, then headed to transition to catch the Olympic bikers, then off to the bike course and then hustled over to the run course. This was hard work! It was great seeing Ron beat all the younger athletes or Belinda fight through pain or Deb light up the run course. I rang my bell, while trying to take photos and yell out words of encouragement. I had to stop myself from running along side them, because the adrenaline was definitely pumping!

We were competing in Division II (130-249 members). Points were awarded in descending order from first to 10th place with all finishers past 10 receiving one point. We had 6 of our 10 competitors place in the top 3 of their age group. Amazing! I couldn’t believe we came all this way and took third place as a club!! Imagine what we could do with more participants. MWX had not been defeated by the Red Muck! Go Green Team!!

Keep Tri-ing……..

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sept. 2009-Last Two Tri's of the Season

Tri season is over for me, but I'm already making plans for next year! Isn't it crazy how this sport gets in our blood?!

In the last three weeks I’ve done two triathlons. After concentrating on running races for the past two months it felt good to be a triathlete again. It had been a productive year for me and I wanted to finish strong.

On Aug. 23 I traveled to the Hickory Grove Triathlon near Colo, IA. I rode over early that morning with fellow club member, Brita. Having someone to talk to really calmed my nerves; it was the most relaxed I had ever felt at a race. Normally I feel like I want to throw up right before a tri!

That morning a raccoon had crossed the road on our drive over and I consider raccoons a good luck charm. Temps were in the 50’s so the water actually felt warmer than the air temperature. Race organizers had broken up the tri into essentially two races with a 30-minute delay between waves 3 and 4. I guess they wanted to avoid congestion on the looped bike course, but I wasn’t too happy about the change. They also switched from an out-and-back swim to a counter-clockwise triangle.

I got this brilliant idea that I would race as an Athena. It’s not that I thought I would be any more competitive in that group; it just seemed like Athena’s started earlier. Days before the race I found out that the Athena’s would be in the last swim wave! I didn’t want to be the last one out of the water so I requested to be moved into my age group. So much for trying to buck the system!

I started the swim and tried to get around the corner of the triangle before the next wave came up behind me. They were coming hard and fast and somebody whacked me in the back of the head! I made it out of the water and headed to T1. Organizers had also decided to move the transition area to a gravel parking lot. Were they trying to make me mad?! They laid a rug down, but it still felt like you were running on gravel with bare feet.

I was off on the bike. I couldn’t seem to find the right gear. I knew I was working a lot harder than I should be. “Okay, your legs are going to have to carry you on the bike and your heart is going to have to carry you on the run,” I told myself.

I like the Hickory Grove run, which is partly on grass. I passed a 20-something girl, which always makes my day, and I zeroed in on the triathlete who was walking in front of me. “Blood on the water,” I said. I then saw she had wrapped her knee. As I pulled up behind her she started running and pulled ahead. We did this several times. She would walk and I would pass her and then she would run and pass me. I finally decided I was going to pass her for good.

At one point I looked back and saw Gimpy Girl was being passed by another runner who had now set her sights on me. I tried not to look back, but I could feel her getting closer. I couldn’t hold her off and she passed me with half a mile to go. I hate that! Fortunately, I heard the sound of the MWX cowbells and it carried me home.

I bettered last year’s time by six minutes, plus Brita and I stopped at Dairy Queen on the way home. It was a good day.

The 3 Amigas were at Hickory Grove. If you haven’t met club members Kristi Hupfeld, Laura Platner and Laura Greif, you will soon. They do a ton of races and most of the time they race together. They are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s so three different age groups, but they found a common bond. They really epitomize what teamwork and support in this sport is all about. Laura won the drawing for a free entry to next year’s Bluff Creek Tri (which she had predicted would happen) and said they would all do the race together.

Well, I wrapped up the season on Sept. 13 at the Cy-Man Triathlon. I try to do a race each year that I have never done before and this was it. My sister and her boyfriend from Rochester, MN came down to support me.

I didn’t enter the water until 10:15 AM so I didn’t like the late start, but I figured maybe the Iowa State students running the thing had to sleep in! During the bike I could feel my legs shaking, which had never happened before. I think my body knew it was the end of the season and I just felt tired and worn down. “Is this how you want to finish the season?” I berated myself. “Are you gonna punk out?” That was enough for me to lay the hammer down to get through the bike.

Temps were heating up by the time I started the run. I thought, “I could really use some cowbell!” My sister was there to cheer me on; support means so much when you are trying to push through to the end. “Finish strong,” I said (I have a lot of conversations with myself!). I ended up with my best overall time and best swim…a good starting point for next season. I was most happy that I got my T2 under one minute—a goal of mine.

Now it’s off to Club Nationals in Oklahoma City to cheer on my fellow MWXers! Go Green!!

Keep Tri-ing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Aug. 2009-Magical Running & the Bix 7

Last month I ran the Bix 7 race in Davenport. I think I wore that medal for two days! It was the 35th anniversary of the race so everyone got a medal. I felt like I was in the Olympics.

Do you ever wonder if being competitive can be a negative thing? It sometimes feels like it takes away the joy I should experience in just being out there.

A co-worker recently asked me why I wasn’t doing RAGBRAI. “It’s not a race,” I replied.

“So you won’t do a bike ride unless it’s a race?” she asked.

I was caught off-guard. I tried to remember the last time I had biked for fun. Biking for me was training. I was always focused on my distance, speed, cadence or hillwork. Did everything always have to be about competition?

I’ve always been competitive. Whether I’m playing sports, a board game or taking on a 2-year old in Whack-A-Mole, I want to win. It even caused me to go crazy (a little) at the Bix.

This year was my second Bix and I convinced my friend, who lives in Davenport, to run the race with me. She had never run seven miles before, but the cool July weather made conditions ideal.

The night before I read the “Magical Running” book that Rosie had given me. I was trying to tap into positive thoughts, but severe storms and tornado sirens did not make for a restful evening.

I was up early, trying to properly time my food and hydration. Even though it would be 68 degrees at race time, I am always concerned about hydration. I get really hot when I am running. I don’t really understand this phenomenon since I am the same person who gets cold walking by the refrigeration section in the grocery store!

I had bought a new fuel belt at Running Wild with the water bottle that attaches to the back. What do they say about not trying something in a race that you haven’t practiced with? I did some jogging before the race, but the bottle bounced around too much. My friend and I tried tightening the belt and wearing it lower, but I knew it was not going to work. We took the bottle back to the car and I started to freak out. My whole plan would be thrown off.

“I’ve never seen you like this,” my friend said. “You need to relax.”

I’m normally not that nervous before a running race. It’s not like I had to go jump in a lake. I was suddenly putting all this pressure on myself. This was a competition and in my mind, I had a time to beat.

Soon the race started and we were heading up Brady Street hill. When you look at the hill it looks like it goes straight up. During the race, though, you are among 15,000 people and you can’t even see the hill. You are so concerned with weaving in and out of the crowd that before you know it, you are at the top.

My friend and I were running a good pace, but after a few miles I started to drop back. I waved her on. Despite my hill training, my legs felt tired. The weather was cool for the Bix, but I felt so hot. I put ice cubes under my hat, but all that did was freeze my skull! I poured water down my back and on my head and then I would shake my head like a dog. I couldn’t get hydrated with only water on the course and I really wished I had my electrolyte drink.

As I started to head on the final leg I could feel my heart start to race. A voice in my head told me I needed to stop, but I kept looking at my watch. I could still make my goal time; I couldn’t stop now. Was I really willing to sacrifice my health in order to finish in a certain time? “You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself,” I said.

I made myself stop in front of a group of gospel singers. Maybe God was trying to tell me something! I eventually finished the race and beat last year’s time by nine and a half minutes. I should have been ecstatic about the improvement. It was a beautiful day and I was running with a good friend. Life was good…but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

My “Magical Running” book said that when you get worked up before a race your muscles tense and then you get muscle fatigue and you don’t run well. I really need to change my mental approach to racing. I need to get the fun back!

Time to switch gears…it’s back to triathlons. I’m doing Hickory Grove on Aug. 23. This is the race where Lori gets her groove back!

Keep Tri-ing!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 2009-Land of the Free Food at the Hy-Vee Tri

I’m “on a break” from triathlons right now. I don’t do another tri until August. July is my month for running races. I feel that running during the hottest time of the year will not only make me a better runner but also increase my endurance for triathlons. In theory, anyway. More on that later.

I recently attended my first Hy-Vee Triathlon (as a spectator). This race is quickly becoming a premiere event for triathletes—not just for the pros and elites but for all of us. I always considered Kona the crown jewel of triathlons, and it still is, but I think the Olympic-distance Hy-Vee carries its own badge of honor. When people hear I do triathlons they invariably ask “Have you done Hy-Vee?” I suppose it’s like marathon runners who get asked “Have you done Boston?” It’s just something I need to do to join this elite fraternity.

I traveled to Des Moines the morning of June 27. My first stop was the Product Expo at the packet pick-up. There weren’t very many booths. I stopped at one and they assumed I was one of the athletes. They asked me how many tri’s I had done and before I knew it, I was saying “but this is my first Hy-Vee.” I wasn’t lying; it was my first, but I felt like a fraud. How could a triathlete just stand on the sidelines?

I felt angry with myself that I wasn’t brave enough to undertake Hy-Vee. I had never done an Olympic distance race and I knew I didn’t have the swimming ability to do 1500 meters, especially without a wetsuit. As I looked at all the cool Hy-Vee gear, a voice told me, “You can’t have any of that! Until you complete the Hy-Vee Tri you are forbidden to wear anything that says Hy-Vee Tri on it!” If I wanted to wear the badge of honor that was the Hy-Vee Triathlon, I would have to earn it.

I drove over to the shopping mall, which was a meeting place for the shuttles to the race site. While my fellow athletes were gearing up for the next day’s race, I was riding around in an air-conditioned tour bus with a camera around my neck. I was excited for that day’s events—seeing the pros race.

I watched the women warming up in the lake prior to their race. One woman exited the water. A man quickly ran up to her, put a towel over her head and handed her a bottled water. “That’s what I need,” I thought, “a personal assistant.” I then saw that it was Emma Snowsill, Olympic gold medalist. I wanted to fall down on my knees and cry out, “I’m not worthy!”

I saw the world’s best triathletes coming up the beach—Laura Bennett, Sarah Haskins, Emma Moffatt. I couldn’t believe I was seeing them in person, right here in Des Moines, Iowa! Soon the women’s race began. They did two loops of the swim course and it was so cool to see them run out of the water, race down the runway and dive back in!

I moved to the bike course. The pace was fast and furious and I didn’t know how they could race so close without crashing. I saw club members Roy and Deb Gaddis and they beckoned me into the Land of Free Food. Several vendors of Hy-Vee were giving out free sandwiches and water. I had packed a sandwich, expecting to see crazy food prices. I by-passed the free deli and BBQ beef and went for the Spam burgers!

I watched the womens’ and mens’ races, wandered around, collecting much free stuff, before meeting the MWX competitors for dinner. Afterwards we returned to the course since they would have to put their bikes in transition the night before. I so wished I was going to be out there, especially when I practiced running down the blue carpet of the finish line!

Rosie, Greg and Kat let me crash in their hotel room so 3:30 AM came early. I returned to the site and when I saw the swim course I no longer wished I was racing! I couldn’t even imagine swimming that far. I positioned myself at the swim exit and got ready for my job as photographer.

There was definitely something special about this race. You could feel it in the air. My fellow club members were awesome! What a thrill it must be to run down the carpet, surrounded by grandstands full of people and have them put a medal around your neck. I would somehow have to learn to swim so I could be here next year.

Now on to the running races…I ran the 7-mile Run For the Flood on June 13. As sad as it was seeing the abandoned homes, there was still a sense of hope and recovery. It was so gratifying having flood victims along the route thank me for raising money.

I always start out slow so I was quickly passed by the entire race field (at least it felt like it). I then had to stop at the 2-mile point to use the porta-potty! I definitely need to time my hydration better. I feel like I get stronger the longer I run so at the 5-mile point I was running hard and now I was the one to pass people! In the last three blocks it became an all-out race to me and I sprinted to the finish. I had my best 7-mile time.

On July 4th I ran the Fifth Season 8K in downtown Cedar Rapids. It’s a tradition to me. I had to do the whole race in the rain, but I ran with MWXer Cole Stepanek, who got me started at a faster pace. I knew I had to start faster and maintain the pace, then finish strong. I bettered my time by five minutes! A week from my 44th birthday my new mantra became, “I’m not getting older; I’m getting faster!”

Next up…the brutal Bix 7 in Davenport. I better start running those hills…….

Keep Tri-ing!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 2009-Best Pigman Ever!

As I stood at the awards ceremony following the Pigman Sprint, I thought about how badly I wanted to win one of the little pink pigs. Maybe some day when I am 80 years old Rosie (our club president) and I will be the only ones competing in our age group and we will both get pigs!

A short time later they were doing the drawings for prizes. I had always hoped to win, but you don’t expect they will call your number out of the hundreds entered in the race. So when they drew my number for the Zipp 808 wheels I just started jumping up and down and screaming. I didn’t know anything about wheels, but I knew Zipps were fast and used by the big-time triathletes.

I knew this was going to be my lucky day. I’m not usually superstitious…okay, I always use my lucky Scooby-Doo towel in my transition area and I cross myself before I start the swim, even though I’m not Catholic. But when living legend Ron Ottaway parked his vehicle next to mine in the parking lot, I knew it was a sign. Ron asked to use MY bike pump and he felt my bike tire and declared it was good. It was like Ron had blessed my bike!

“I need you to be fast today,” I said to Black Thunder, a.k.a. my Felt. “Faster than you’ve ever been before.” I looked around to make sure no one saw me talking to my bike. I walked over to body marking. “Are you an elite?” the body marker asked me. I laughed but felt flattered nonetheless. I look like an elite, I told myself. It’s a sign that today is my day.

The body marker saw that I written on my forearms. On my right arm it said “Dom” for my niece’s 7-year old stepson, Dominic, who has a terminal brain disease. On my left arm I wrote “Leave Nothing” as in leave nothing on the course, give 100%. He took me over to show his wife, another body marker. I need all the motivation I can get, including doing my own body marking.

I felt the excitement and nervousness of race day. No matter how many times I had practiced the course and how ready I was, my stomach was still in knots. We were soon heading down to the beach. It looked like the rain was going to hold off…yes, the triathlon gods would be shining on me this day.

I may be in the minority, but I don’t like the time trial start. I missed being part of a group, standing on the beach, hearing the countdown and entering the water together. I knew I would be the slowest swimmer in my wave, but at least I knew we all started at the same time and I could gauge where I was in the pack. Now we were all starting at different times; it took the competition out of it. I also liked knowing exactly how many minutes behind me the next wave would start.

The Pink Caps…the 25-39 female age group had long been a thorn in my Pigman side. They are young and fast and no matter how much space I give them, they insist on swimming on top of me. Since there was no gap between waves, they were on me like a swarm of pink bugs.

Just keep your rhythm, I kept telling myself. There’s no one out here but you. As we neared the shore I saw people standing up in the water, but I remembered that club member and USAT coach Jody Rausch had told me to keep swimming until I could grab sand with my hand. I must remain patient. I was soon out of the water but nearly got run over by elite cyclists entering the transition area.

I was off on my bike. I could see Apryl and the other elites on the run course. They were sprinting the run. How is that possible? I can barely move my legs by the time I get to the run.

I headed down the first hill, but got held up by a camper. Then a strange thing happened…I started passing bikes, and not just hybrids, REAL bikes. I wasn’t used to this; I was actually going fast. I found it was a lot more fun when I could pass other bikes and feel like I was part of the race, not just out here riding.

We hit Palo, I downed my gel and started back towards the park. “This is where we separate the men from the boys,” I told myself. (It sounded better than the women from the girls). I was passing more bikes and feeling strong. As I neared the hill I shifted gears and felt my gears lock. I had to pull on to the shoulder.

I remembered that the night before I had told myself three things: (1) There are NO perfect races; (2) Something WILL go wrong; and (3) Expect the Unexpected. I wasn’t trying to be negative…just preparing myself for what race day brings.

As the bikes I had passed went by me on the road I felt an utter sense of defeat. Things had been going so well. My bad attitude only lasted a few seconds. I checked my chain and hopped back on the bike. “We’ll just have to pass them all again,” I said.

I went over the hill and was cruising down the other side when I came upon a girl riding in the middle of the lane. I had to brake. I couldn’t get around her. Would it be poor etiquette to tell her to get over? My question was answered when a male cyclist went by and yelled at her. Lane Girl got over and I started to pass.

“What’s with the green shirts? Are you a team?” she asked me. “It’s a club,” I yelled as I went by. Unfortunately, I did not have a club application with me.

I did the turnaround and headed off on the final leg. Out of nowhere Lane Girl went by me. No, she didn’t! Lane Girl was in the middle of the lane again. I had enough of this and decided to leave her behind once and for all.

Even with having to stop, I knew I was having my best bike race. “If you don’t screw up the run, you can PR this thing,” I told myself. No pressure. I had to weave through vehicles inside the park, but I made it back to transition. As I hopped off the bike I said “Be like Barry” so I could imitate Barry Breffle, who has awesome transitions. Other than running my bike into the bike rack, it went smoothly.

The run was tough and the going slow. “The pain will go away,” I said. “Just keep moving.” Everyone was passing me on the run course. Long gone was the elation I had felt in passing people with my bike. As I neared the road that led to the finish line, someone passed me. “Hey, it’s you,” she said in recognition. It was Lane Girl. She had caught me on the run.

Don’t let her pass you, I pleaded with myself. I looked down at the “Leave Nothing” on my arm. I really felt like I had nothing left. Then I heard it. It was the distinct sound of cowbells. Standing at the top of the transition area was the MWX club members. They were cheering and ringing in the runners.

I looked at my arm again. “You can take her,” I said. I felt my legs start to churn beneath me. I broke into a sprint heading down the hill. The crowd was yelling. Just feet from the finish line I passed Lane Girl. “Good race,” I told her. “You must have been saving up for the end,” she replied. Who knew I had a kick?

I was quickly drawn to the pizza. It took me some time to go get my results. What if I hadn’t improved? I nervously pulled the little slip of paper that held my time. I almost started crying. I had bettered my time by 12 minutes! That was HUGE for me. I had bettered my time in every area, including transitions. I felt like I was finally seeing some improvement.

I had told myself that I could achieve anything if I was willing to work for it. Driving out to Palo four times a week to train, early morning runs, overcoming fears and doubts, it was paying off. Of course, a little luck doesn’t hurt………..

Keep Tri-ing!

Friday, May 15, 2009

May 2009-Adventures In Training

With the Pigman Tri less than a month away it’s time for “Adventures in Training.”

I recently created a new type of bike training I like to call “Beating the Sun.” On a weekday evening I decided to bike out to Alburnett to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. We got to talking and the next thing I know, the sun is going down. Of course, I am unprepared for this; my bike has no lights and I am dressed in black.

I hauled butt home, glancing to the horizon as the sun crept closer and the sky darkened. This is a good workout, I thought, as my legs burned. Greg Bodeker would be happy to see that I am increasing my cadence. I can see the flashing lights of County Home Road. Can’t let up now. I just hope I can avoid becoming road kill.

I reach Robins as the sun disappears and I finally get back on the trail. It’s a short distance back to the Boyson Trailhead. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a family of raccoons would wander onto the trail and they would be the ones to take me down? I reach my vehicle, tired and much wiser for the experience. I think I’ll stick closer to home on my weekday rides…or at least wear a watch.

I had another training setback. I went to lap swims on Saturday and started feeling a sharp pain in my ear. I tried to “swim through it” but it began to feel like a knife was being driven into my head. I had to cut the workout short.

It was off to MercyCare where I was diagnosed with an ear infection. My only question to the doctor was: “Can I still swim?” Typical triathlete to care more about training than my health!

One of the things I have learned in this sport is to “listen to my body.” Your body will tell you when you have overtrained or when that soreness is turning into an injury. We seem to have a need to push ourselves to the limit, to almost revel in punishing our bodies. We always want to go that extra mile.

During the season I am sleep deprived, always hungry and I know my immune system is compromised. I also know that sometimes it is far better to take a couple days off and get healthy than to risk further injury or to give less than 100% because my body is weakened.

My ear still fills full and I can’t hear from it, which can throw off my balance, which makes training especially challenging! I tell myself that the more obstacles I have to overcome, the greater the rewards!

The Pigman will mark the beginning of the racing season for many of us and a first-time experience for the newbies who have recently joined our club. My advice to our new triathletes: relax and have fun!

I know I was terrified at my first Pigman, certain I was going to drown or crash my bike. This was before the MWX Club existed so I was self-taught and pretty unsure of what I was doing. To our first-timers: take in the whole experience, enjoy being out there with your fellow triathletes. You will find they are some of the most supportive people in the world! Don’t worry about your time, just focus on finishing. It’s a tremendous accomplishment and something few people get to experience. And when you cross that finish line, if you are like the rest of us, you will be hooked for life!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

April 2009-The Tri Maniacs & the Polar Plunge

Last month the MWX Tri Maniacs participated in the Polar Plunge out at Pleasant Creek. As you can see, I was a duck hunter and other members of our group were “ducks.” More on that later…

I bought a new pair of running shoes a few weeks ago. It’s a rite of spring…new shoes, new beginnings. Anything seems possible.

There is a bond runners have with their shoes. You don’t need a $3000 bike to be a runner. You just need a pair of shoes (and hopefully some clothing). You just grab your shoes and go.

I ran my first Pigman with a pair of cheap department-store shoes. After I joined MWX I made a trip to Running Wild to get my first pair of “real” running shoes. They were Mizuno brand. I had never heard the name, but they were bright and shiny and when I put them on, it was like they had magical powers. My body made a transition whenever I switched into those shoes.

The Mizuno’s braved snow and ice, hot pavement and soft grass. Alone on a dark, cold morning, the only sound was the rhythmic pounding of my soles on the street. They were trusted friends who listened to my rambling thoughts as I covered the miles.

My shoes sat on the bedroom floor each night. If I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, they beckoned me. The shoes had a purpose and it was to run. It was hard to ignore the shoes. Whenever I went away for the weekend, they went with me.

Everything reaches its end and it was time to retire the Mizuno’s. I went to Running Wild and tried several different brands. The new Mizuno’s felt familiar, but I finally went with a pair of Brooks. The salesman said my body would have to adjust to wearing a different brand of shoes. My feet would know the difference.

As I pulled the clean, shiny shoes out of the box, I thought about all the miles we would cover together. There would be triathlons and running races, light jogs and hard workouts, extreme temperatures and miles and miles of pavement before us. Welcome, my new friend.

Now, the Polar Plunge…to state the obvious, it was cold. With air temps in the 30’s and a water temp of 46, I had to remind myself that this was to benefit Special Olympics. This was building toughness. This was promoting camaraderie with my fellow club members.

All was forgotten as I raced into the lake. It actually wasn’t too bad. Your body immediately goes numb and you are oblivious to the cold. It was only later, when my body began to thaw, that I became chilled. I spent the afternoon under my electric blanket, snuggling with my Golden Retriever.

Another event I had wanted to do was the Doughnut Run 5K in Ames. It didn’t work out schedule-wise, but I liked the idea of being able to eat Krispy Kremes during a race. I wonder if there is a Pizza 5K…

March 2009-Finding Redemption

I recently Googled myself and there it was, staring me in the face—my time from last year’s Freezefest 5K. Sometimes a bad race sticks with you. I remember sitting in the back of the room after the race, feeling dejected, not wanting to see or talk to anyone.

Greg Bodeker had told me that every time I had trouble getting up early in the morning to go run, I should remember how I felt on that day and use it to motivate me. I never forgot that. Thanks, Greg.

The morning of this year’s Freezefest I scribbled the word “redemption” on the palm of my hand. I often write a word or phrase on my body before a race to motivate me. I knew I shouldn’t put such emphasis on a 5K race—a fun run for most people—but this race had become significant to me. It really was about redemption, redeeming myself, proving that what I did last year wasn’t me. I could be stronger, faster, better.

Earlier that week I had gone on a run before work. I had a 4-mile route mapped out. Somehow I headed down the wrong street and got turned around in the dark. Okay, I was lost. I eventually found Oakland Road and my way back home, but my 4-mile run turned into 5.43 miles. Was this a sign of things to come?

Freezefest morning had finally arrived. I put on my lucky SpongeBob boxer shorts. As the race drew closer, I began to pace like a caged animal. I couldn’t wait to get out there. Soon I was standing among a group of people and we were off!

My legs felt tight and I couldn’t get in a rhythm. “Just keep Rosie in your sights,” I told myself, ignoring the fact that our club prez has a pace two minutes faster than mine. Soon she was a spec in the distance. Okay, how about that speed walker or that old guy? There had to be someone out here I could beat.

“Just concentrate on yourself,” I told myself. “Go faster.” My legs weren’t listening. As my fellow club members ran by, they yelled out words of encouragement to me. It meant so much that they supported me. I wasn’t out here alone.

As I began the last mile, I pulled off my glove and looked at the “redemption” written on my hand. “If you want to redeem yourself, then you finish strong,” I ordered myself. There was a guy running six feet behind me and I decided he would be the one I would beat, no matter what. In my head I imagined that he was just waiting to make his move and try to take me, like we were racing on the beach in “Chariots of Fire.” As I headed into the parking lot, I made one last glance behind me. Victory was mine.

I bettered last year’s time by three minutes. I had hoped for six, but maybe that was overly ambitious. Baby steps, Lori, baby steps. There would be no moping this year. I knew my time wouldn’t impress anyone, but I had improved and that meant something to me. I had not given up or let setbacks prevent me from trying to be better. This was my first event of the season and I had a whole summer to prove I belonged here. I found my redemption.

Feb. 2009-The Devil's Hallway at the USAT Training Center

Last month I got a chance to do a 2-hour training session at the USAT Training Center in Burlington. I should have known what I was about to face when I found out one of the instructors had the nickname of “The Devil.”

We started out by doing stretching exercises that caused me to contort my body in ways that were not natural. I was told these were triathlon-specific movements. We would stand in lines and have to do the movements across the floor. I would wait for the row in front of me to go, having visions of the “killers” we had to run during high school basketball practice. You know the ones…where you run to a line on the floor, run back, run to the next line and back and so forth, until you are wheezing for breath. It was conditioning back then and technically not a race, but you felt the need to compete with your teammates. If you were an upperclassman, you better be leading the pack. I was feeling that again, the need to get from one end of the room to the other, faster and better than the others. “It’s not a competition, Lori,” I told myself. “Life is a competition,” I replied back.

Meanwhile they were setting up an “obstacle course” in the hallway. How hard can an obstacle course be that only goes the length of a hallway? We would all soon learn to dread the hallway, to fear the hallway, to call it the Hallway of Hell.

There were mini hurdles to jump over, cones to run around, We had to jump back and forth like we had skis on. We had to get on the floor in the push-up position and move our bodies with our hands. Throw in some jumping jacks and instructors yelling at us like Marine drill sergeants. The adrenalin was flowing, but my competitive spirit was replaced by a desire to just get through it. Pacing myself became more important than being the fastest.

In between there was time spent on bikes and a room full of different stations. We did each station for just a minute before rotating, but it seemed like forever. We might be on a machine or lifting a medicine ball or walking with resistance bands tugging at our ankles. I knew my body was going to be hurting the next day.

Soon it was back to The Hallway for the third time. I capitalize “hallway” because it had taken on a life of its own. I soon began to pray for the sweet release of death. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but by the time we were doing our final stretching, I was ready to leave the training center and never return.

We headed out to lunch and I could feel my body already starting to stiffen. I don’t think I even took time to breathe once they put a plate full of food in front of me. My body wanted food, rest and recovery. I knew there would be no cycling class the next day.

The USAT coaches know their stuff and they have improved the performance of athletes who have trained there. It would do me good to step up my game, learn what I was doing wrong, work on my technique, take it to the next level. Sounds good, but I would have to wait until my brain forgot about The Hallway.

Jan. 2009-Focus-Visualization-Mental Toughness

Last month I talked about mental training. I recently watched a documentary called “Running the Sahara.” It was about three guys who ran across the Sahara Desert. They ran every day for almost four months, covering over 4500 miles. They battled extreme temps, sandstorms, injuries, illness and exhaustion. Talk about mental toughness!

One of my favorite athletes is Tiger Woods. I’m not a big golf fan, but I love to watch him play. The one thing that is always said about Tiger is “the strength of his mind.” He is tremendously focused and you can see it in his eyes. He keeps the same focus whether he is ahead or behind.

Work your mind. Visualize what you want to achieve. Visualize your race, every transition, every movement. See it and believe. Let the vision become reality.

Just like you work your body, you have to work your mind. You can make your body stronger, but you also have to make your mind strong.

I think a test of your mental strength is how you respond to adversity. Returning to Tiger for a moment…he was devastated by his father’s death in 2006. His first tournament back was the U.S. Open on Father’s Day weekend. It would have been perfect if he had won and could dedicate it to his father. Instead, for the first time in his career, he missed the cut in a major. Some questioned if he could be the same again or if he could come back. Tiger won the next two majors. He had to find a way to refocus, to get his mental strength back.

Things are not always going to go your way. You may not get the outcome you are looking for, or it may take longer than you thought to reach your training goals. You may even have an injury or something that sets your training back. How do you respond when you face adversity? Does it make you stronger? Or do you allow it to shake your confidence and affect your performance?

There has to be something inside you that makes you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. That’s mental toughness. Think of your mental strength as an actual person inside you—that inner monologue. That person for me is like my own internal personal trainer, yelling at me and telling me the things I may not want to hear. A typical monologue from my inner personal trainer would be this: “So, is this how it’s going to be? You’re gonna punk out. Did you come this far to quit?” The answer is “No, I won’t go quietly into the night!” You grit your teeth, you focus on your goal and you push on. Your body will want to quit; your mind will say Don’t Quit. Your mind has to be stronger than your body. Mental toughness gives you the ability to persevere, face any adversity.

Focus…visualization…mental toughness. Focus on what you want, visualize what you want and then let nothing stop you from going after it. Keep Tri-ing!!

Dec. 2008-Positive Attitude, Positive Results

Positive attitude, positive results. That’s what I tell myself. In the off-season I like to work on my mental training as I work on making my body physically stronger for the season ahead. Like many athletes, I believe that mental preparation is as important as your physical training. It may be even more important to the triathlete, because we need our minds to keep our bodies going during a tough race.

Part of being mentally strong is having a positive attitude. You have to be positive, believe in yourself. I may not be the fastest, but I have to believe I have done everything I can to prepare and I CAN DO THIS.

It’s hard to compartmentalize your life—make your training separate from your job and your job separate from your family time. Stress and negative thoughts in one area can affect another area. If you have a bad day at work you can yell at the kids or lose your enthusiasm to work out. It pervades your whole life.

Now, we can’t control what happens outside of training, but when you get to training you have to be able to let those emotions go and put yourself in a positive frame of mind. If you are feeling stressed, take some time before your workout to center yourself, what I call “finding your happy place.” Do some deep breathing and get your focus. When I am working out I imagine that with each breath I am breathing in the positive energy and expelling the negative energy. New age, I know, but if you can get your mind to believe it, your body will follow.

Use your training accomplishments as a way to keep positive. Don’t focus too much on what you lack. Appreciate what you have achieved. Look back at your training log and see how far you’ve come or check out your race times from a few years ago. Next to my autographed photo of Tony Romo I plan to hang my photo from the Bix. It’s not that I had a great run, but finishing that race was something I am proud of and it reminds me that anything is possible. It’s the same reason I hang on to the #32 I wore in my first Pigman. Each of these races was a step on my journey.

Sometimes in the morning, as I get ready for work, I stand in front of the mirror and flex my little muscles like a bodybuilder. “You are strong,” I tell myself. I know I am not talking about my body; I am telling my mind to “be strong.” I need to start out the day in a positive frame of mind.

Attitude affects performance. Kick those self-defeating thoughts to the curb. Stay strong, stay positive and always keep tri-ing!

Nov. 2008-Triathlon Drill Sergeant

We recently completed a “Biggest Loser” weight-loss contest at my workplace. I had volunteered to be the person who weighed the competitors each week. I was the only one who knew what they actually weighed. It was a lot of power.

I became known as “coach” and “drill sergeant.” I would e-mail motivational messages. I would bring a whistle and bullhorn to weigh-ins. I would challenge people to become the “Biggest Loser.”

A strange thing happened. I became a role model. People said they were inspired by seeing me run during my lunch hour or ride my bike to work. They came to me for advice and when they got frustrated, I offered them encouragement. (On the negative side, I was never allowed to bring fast food back from lunch). It felt good to help people, even though I was certainly no personal trainer or weight-loss guru.

We can do the same thing as triathletes. I mentioned Erin last month. She is the 24-year old who sits in the cubicle next to mine. Last winter she wondered what all this triathlon stuff was about so I got her into the sport, had her join the tri club and became a mentor of sorts.

Erin signed up for the Pigman. She had a ton of questions and I tried to tell her what to expect. I helped her buy her first wetsuit, loaned her my bike and my old tri outfit and showed her the Pigman course. We trained together and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with her. It’s surprising how much I had learned about the sport and I felt an obligation to pass it on.

Of course, it was annoying that Erin was a superior swimmer and that with 20 years on me, she pretty much kicked my butt. Even though we raced in different divisions, we “competed” against each other, trying to best one another in time.

Erin also had the irritating habit of wanting to know which races I was doing and signing up for the same ones. I couldn’t blame her. I wish I had known someone at my first race or had someone to help me. Before my first Pigman everything I knew about triathlons had come from a book!

Now, Erin would say that sometimes I was too hard on her or I pushed her too much. I called it “tough love” and I said I wanted her to reach her full potential. Results come from hard work and dedication (okay, the “drill sergeant” in me is coming out again). But as I found out with my Biggest Losers, each person has their own level of commitment. Sometimes they just need someone to support them.

I consider the people in our tri club my mentors and role models. I learn from them and their support keeps me going. By the way, our 15 Biggest Losers lost a combined 256 pounds. They rewarded me with a gift certificate to Running Wild. I was touched that they thought I helped them in some way. As I told them, it’s not about losing weight; it’s about making healthy life choices.

As triathletes we can make a difference by setting an example. I hope all of us can continue to promote a healthy lifestyle and be someone people will want to emulate.

Oct. 2008-Keep Fighting

“Keep fighting!” the volunteer yelled to me as I struggled on the run at the Trihawk Triathlon last month.

That’s kind of what a triathlon is about—fighting through challenges, adversity, pain. His words helped me. “You’re a fighter,” he yelled to me. “See that guy in front of you? You go get him and pass him!”

I don’t know if this volunteer had drank too much Red Bull, but he had made it his job to spur on the racers that day. His words got inside my head and I was suddenly fixated on Canadian Molson Man in front of me (he was wearing a Canadian Molson shirt). I followed this man through the woods and as he faltered heading up the trail, I passed him. It was a small triumph, but I wished I could let that volunteer know I had risen to his challenge.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…a series of events made me think I was cursed that day.

I always get to a race plenty early. Somehow I lost my hair tie that morning. My hair is not that long, but it was the idea that something was throwing off my routine. It was just another reason for me to freak out.

Then…fellow club member Julie and I did a warm-up bike ride around the parking lot and made sure our bikes were in the right gear to get up the first hill. Julie headed back to transition and I decided to ride around some more. I somehow lost control of my bike or my balance or my mind and over I went. As me and my bike slammed to the ground, my first thought was “Is my bike okay?” Second thought: “Did anyone see me?”

Please don’t let Julie turn around, I thought. Too late. She rushed over to see if I was okay. “Hey, your back tire came off,” she said. It’s always good to lose a tire before a race. I picked up the wheel and saw all the chains and was suddenly afraid I would put it on wrong. Julie called to Ethan and David and they came to my rescue, but suggested I take it over to the bike tent. “You don’t want the wheel coming off when you are going down a hill,” said Ethan. Yeah, that would not be good.

I was really freaking out now. Bike Dude checked out my bike and said it was fine. I then was approached by the boyfriend of club member Erin. Erin is a co-worker and friend and I got her started in the sport this year. She wears my old tri suit and uses my hybrid bike. Boyfriend reported that her bike had extremely low tire pressure and they had decided to try to buy a bike pump the night before and it didn’t work so they returned it and…well, it’s a long story. I gave the boyfriend my keys and instructed him to get my pump from my vehicle. I pumped up her tires and saved the day. Another crisis averted.

It was time to head down to the beach. There was John from the club. Why wasn’t he competing? He proceeded to tell me about all the bacteria in Coralville Lake and that people got sick last year and it would probably be worse with the flood, but don’t worry. “Just don’t swallow the water and you’ll be fine,” he said. Kind of hard to do with people kicking you in the face. The Freak Out continues.

I’m off on the swim, envisioning flesh-eating bacteria entering my body. At some point I am aware that I am rubbing up against the rope holding the buoys. “You’re too close,” I tell myself. “The real swimmers are going to be on top of you. Get over.” I try to go wider, but it’s too late. Swimmers are everywhere. At least they were polite.; I received several “I’m sorry” and “excuse me’s.”

I finally am out of the water, but it feels like my wetsuit is glued to my body. I can’t get out of it and I suspect little bacteria on my skin are the culprit.

I now hope I have enough energy to get up the first hill with my bike. I had struggled getting up the hill during the Trihawk Workshop the previous weekend. Andrew from the Trihawks took me out on the bike course and worked with me on my gear shifting. Me and the bike are still not one. I head up the hill and I have to weave between two other bikers, but I make it! Now I only have a gajillion other hills to conquer.

Did I mention I have a fear of crossing bridges over large bodies of water? My heart races when I am driving a car—imagine how I felt crossing the dam on a bike! It’s all part of the mental challenge for me.

When I had fallen on the bike the seat had slammed against my upper inner thigh. That same spot was now rubbing against the seat and I had some major chafing going on.

I see all the bikers down on their aerobars. Do you mean aerobars are not just for holding your drink bottle? Note to self--must actually learn to use aerobars in the off-season. I make all the hills and then I’m off on the run.

The first hill was tough for my tired legs. “Push through it,” a fellow racer yells to me. Club member Jody, who was working as a volunteer, was also there to keep me going. I knew this wasn’t going to be my day. Whether a triathlon curse had been placed upon me or not, I needed to finish strong. As I came to the finish I saw club VP Greg and I crossed my arms in the sign of the “X” for Xtreme. Another tri in the books for me.

A lot of things can go wrong during a race (or in my case, before a race), but as the volunteer told me, you have to keep fighting. The fight may be with yourself and your own perceived limitations, but you have to keep fighting. Never quit on yourself.

Sept. 2008-The Legs Of A Runner

I think the best thing about our tri club is how we support and encourage each other. You never know what effect you can have on another person, just by reaching out to them. Such was the case when I had a chance meeting with a stranger…

A couple years ago, before I was a triathlete, I went to downtown Cedar Rapids to watch the Alliant Energy Fifth Season Race on the Fourth of July. As I walked to the race site, one of the competitors walked up next to me.

“Why aren’t you running today?” he asked.

I laughed. “Oh, I don’t run. I could never run an 8K.”

“You could do the 5K,” he said. “That’s not very far.”

At that time the idea of running three miles sounded like an impossible task. “I don’t know,” I said.

“Next year you should definitely run the 5K,” he said. “You have the legs of a runner.”

With that, the stranger walked away and I stood there, staring down at my legs. “Legs of a runner,” I said to myself and I imagined racing like a Kenyan with six-foot strides and the speed of a cheetah. Maybe I COULD be a runner…

The following week I threw on a pair of shoes and started running in my neighborhood. I didn’t get very far and I absolutely hated it. Why would anyone WANT to run?!

But, for the same reasons that keep me doing triathlons (stubbornness and an unwillingness to quit), I kept running. I made a schedule and increased my distance by a little each week. I gradually hated it less and I started to look forward to my runs. It gave me time to think and clear my head. I felt free on my runs; it was just me and the road.

The first time I ran 2.5 miles I came home and cried. You would have thought I finished a marathon. “I never thought I could run that far,” I said to my Golden Retriever. (She told me “Good job, Mom.”)

The following spring I ran my first 5K race and my first Pigman. That July, like the stranger told me, I ran the Alliant Energy 5K race. I had come full circle.

This year I totally went crazy and did the BIX 7-mile race in Davenport. I didn’t have the legs of a Kenyan, but I proved to myself that I could keep pushing the limits of what I thought was possible. It was the toughest race I had ever done, but for the first time, I truly felt like I had learned to love running.

This month I returned to the Alliant Energy race and ran the 8K. I dedicated it to the stranger who told me I had the legs of a runner. Because he had given me encouragement, I had achieved what I thought was impossible. You never know how you can touch someone else’s life…

Aug. 2008-Overcoming Injuries

Sometimes the biggest opponent you have is yourself. Injuries, time constraints and self doubts can all work against you.

It’s more than being physically ready; you have to be in the right frame of mind for a race. I had definitely lost my confidence after the Pigman. I was planning on returning to action on Aug. 24 at the Hickory Grove Triathlon. A week before the race, though, I strained my hamstring. I couldn’t believe this was happening to be me again, since I had missed the 2007 Trihawk due to injury.

I didn’t want to drop out after training for months, but with an 8K running race and the ’08 Trihawk on the schedule, I wondered what would be the best course of action. That week I rested, used a heating pad and tried to rehab myself. By the weekend I felt good enough to go.

I traveled to the Hickory Grove Park on Saturday. I decided to camp at the "primitive
campground"--a decision I would later regret. I set up my tent and then went to the race site to check out the run and bike routes. It was then off to Ames to pick up my race packet and fill up on pasta at Applebee's (and no, I don't want to eat at the bar because I am by myself!).

I returned to the campground where my fellow campers watched me mix up powders and
gels for the next day. They probably thought I had set up a drug lab. I was bored so I went back to the race site and sat on the beach, mentally going over the swim (those buoys always look so far away!) and visualizing strong transitions. I tried to make it an early night, but a group of campers next to me decided to party until 2 AM! I got up at 5 so I would have to go on a couple hours sleep.

It was a cold morning, but the water felt nice. I found out I was in the second to the last wave. I had a sinking feeling. I am normally the slowest swimmer in my wave and the wave behind me usually catches up to me at some point. What if I was the very last person to leave the water?

Finally at 8:30 my wave started. I was in trouble right away. I was in good swimming
condition for the Pigman, but the flood had thrown off my training. I felt tired early on and I knew the whole swim would be a struggle. As I neared the shore I looked back and breathed a sigh of relief that there were still people behind me.

The bike route was three loops of the same 5-mile route. As I came out of the park all
of these bikes on their second and third loops were racing down the hill and I was supposed to "merge" with them. I felt like I was on the Tour de France! It was fast and furious and I never knew what loop the other bikers were on.

By the third loop I saw a girl ahead of me and I mentally put a target on her back. She turned around and saw me coming for her. She started to pedal harder, but I would not be denied. I passed a few more people on my loop, including three 20-somethings a mile from the finish. I actually felt stronger on the third loop than I did on the first and I wished I could do another loop rather than run!

It was back to transition and off on the run. The run was a mix of grass inside the park and pavement. Unfortunately, the three young girls I passed on the bike passed me on the run. My legs were feeling really tight, but I told myself it would get better. The run then went on the pavement of the county road. I looked back and there was the first girl I passed on the bike, maybe 200 yards back. I couldn't let her catch me. In my mind I would think I could hear her footsteps behind me and I kept wanting to turn around. I remembered the "Runner" song that says "don't look back, you've been there." As in life, what is behind you is in the past so there is no need to look back.

I saw a woman ahead of me who had started to walk so I set my sights on her and
forgot about the one behind me. I passed her and then I was all alone on the road.
Running gives you plenty of time to think so I started going over the swim and already
planning on what I needed to do in the off-season to improve. Soon the route went
back into the park on a mowed-grass path for the last mile and I was heading towards
the finish line.

I knew the only one I was racing against was myself, but when you can overcome injuries and your own doubts, you gain confidence. You start to believe in yourself. I learn from every race and improve in some way (hopefully my time). What doesn’t kill me, DOES make me stronger. Bring on the Trihawk!

July 2008-Conquering the Brady Street Hill

I did my first Bix race this month. I figured the running race would give me something to focus on in-between tri’s. I’m not much of a runner and I had never run seven miles in my life.

That Friday I drove to Davenport and as I turned onto Brady Street, I saw the infamous Brady Street Hill for the first time. I’m sure my mouth dropped open. It looked like it went straight up. After getting my race packet I walked to the foot of the hill and stared at the street, wondering why I was doing this.

The next morning I found my spot in the “blue” section, one step ahead of the walkers. I thought about a shirt I had seen the day before that said “In my mind, I am a Kenyan.” Today I would run like those Kenyans who win the race every year (okay, I probably would not have a four-minute pace).

As the race started I watched the elite runners start up the hill. They got to the top of the hill and I was still standing there. We finally started walking towards the start line. I asked the person next to me, “We do get to run eventually, right?” I finally got to take on the Brady Street Hill, remembering that a friend told me to just look at my feet and not at the top of the hill.

The Brady Street Hill didn’t seem as tough as the hill I met after the turn-around point. This hill seemed to go on forever. At some point during miles five and six, I really wanted to stop and walk. That annoying coach in my head, though, said “we didn’t come here to walk.” I saw a giant blow-up Twinkie man. “If they are going to have a Twinkie blow-up, they need to have Twinkies,” I thought. Sure enough, there was a guy with a plate of Twinkies. As good as it sounded to me, I didn’t know if I should be consuming Twinkies at this point.

I wasn’t moving very fast, but I wasn’t walking, and as I turned back onto Brady Street, I knew I could do the seven miles. I saw a woman with a Super Soaker on top of a platform over the street and I motioned to her to squirt me. She didn’t get me very wet so a guy, who was handing out water, threw a whole glass of water on me!

As I headed down the hill, I just looked around, taking in the whole experience. The day before Randy Pausch had died. He was the college professor who, after finding out he was terminally ill, gave a speech (and later a book) called “The Last Lecture.” Randy said “brick walls in life are only there to separate those who really want to do something from those who just say they want to.”

I was going over (or at least around) my brick wall and accomplishing something I had never done before. Sometimes it can take you longer to get there, but you can reach your goals by putting one foot in front of another. Never stop tri-ing!

June 2008-Pizza and the Pigman Triathlon

This is one woman’s experience at the Pigman Triathlon…

Rosie said I had to share the dream I had before the Pigman. In the dream I arrive at the park super-early so the transition area is not open yet. They tell me I can go watch a movie in this big tent while I wait. I apparently get into the movie because the next thing I know, it’s after 7:00 and the transition area is closing! I sneak to the back of the transition area and throw my bike over the fence. I then realize I don’t have my race numbers with me. Talk about waking up in a cold sweat!

This year’s Pigman was only my second tri ever (I was signed up for last year’s Trihawk but I got injured during an incident with some raccoons, but that’s another story). I was determined to better my time.

As I stood on the beach with the old ladies group (over age 39) I tried to channel the inner dolphin (or other sea creature) inside me. Things were going fine (although slow) until the next wave caught up to me. Suddenly a group of young girls in pink caps were all over me. One girl came over top of me, grabbed my shoulder and pulled down. Maybe she wasn’t trying to drown me, but I was about ready to lay the smackdown right there in Palo lake!

Next I jumped on the bike, where I would “ride like the wind.” Men in tri bikes went flying by me like I was standing still. On the way back I was actually passing people going UP the hill, which I didn’t understand but I told myself I must have powerful legs (a theory that would be disproved on the run). I topped the hill and was passing someone going downhill when a SUV going the other direction decided to cross the centerline. I envisioned “she died at the Pigman” being written on my headstone. I held on for dear life and went between the SUV and the other bike with precious room to spare.

It was back to transition. I hopped off the bike but my once “powerful” legs felt weak and wobbly. I had to sit down to put on my running shoes. The voice in my head was screaming, “No! You are taking too long in transition. Get up!” The other voice, known as my body, said “Shut up! I need a minute.”

I knew the run was not going to be pretty. As I ran by my friends I yelled out “Shoot me now!” only half-joking. I tried to think about the ice cold beer that was waiting for me when I finished. It was getting warm out and I felt dehydrated and weak. “You can pass out but you are not stopping!” my inner voice said again. I’m starting to hate that inner voice. Whenever I would feel like stopping I would look down on my arm where I had written in marker “Never Quit.”

The thing I wrote for the announcer was that I just wanted to finish in time to get some pizza. This year I got pizza! Okay, it looked like they had more pizza this year, but it’s the little things that make me happy.

Final results: I did better on the swim and the bike, slower on the run and T2. I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t show more improvement. Time has a way of changing your perspective, though. I thought about all my fellow club members I saw on the route and how they waved and yelled encouragement to me. I thought about how proud I felt wearing my green team jersey. Things WERE different this year. I was part of something. I had a group of people who were supportive and who shared a common goal. I may never get to win a pig, but this sport has allowed me to meet a great group of people. They constantly inspire me and motivate me to “keep tri-ing.” For that, I already feel like a winner.

April 2008-No Failure, Only Feedback

What divides people who quit from people who never quit? They certainly both go through failures and set-backs. What makes one person give up and another keep going?

Fellow club member Margo took photos at the recent Freezefest 5K. There’s a picture of me after the race. Let’s just say, I wasn’t a happy camper. I had a bad run and afterwards I just wanted to be alone, questioning why I kept trying to do this crazy sport.

The voices of negativity in my head can be pretty loud. It's easy to get down on yourself when you don't get the performance you want and think, "maybe I just can't do it."

I know I have a right to be disappointed. I have a right to feel bad when things don't go the way I wanted, or I feel like I failed. However, I give myself a limit on how long I can feel sorry for myself. After a certain amount of time, I say, "Okay, the pity party is over. What are you going to do to fix this? What are you doing to do to have better results?"

The following is a quote that I have often read in fitness books. "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

It's better to take a risk, to try and to keep trying, then to wonder why you never took a chance.

One of the quotes that has always stuck with me throughout my life is, "I don't regret the things I've done, only the things I haven't done." I've made my share of mistakes and it's easy to say I would have done some things differently. The mistakes you make in life, however, shape who you are as a person. At the end, when you look back at the history of your life, your real regrets will be the things that you didn't do. I don't want to think that I never tried, or that I quit when I should have kept going.

One of the great things I have read is that "there is no failure, only feedback." You don't "fail" you only get results. People who don't quit know that when they try something and it doesn't work, it is not a permanent failure. They say, "I produced a result and it's only temporary." They mentally process what happened as a learning experience and as feedback, not failure.

If you learn from the experience, don't repeat what doesn't work and keep trying, you will eventually find what does work and you will succeed. That can apply to your training and to anything you try to achieve.

As you head into these final weeks before you begin your season, remember that. The obstacles and set-backs are only temporary. They are just a crook in the road until you find the real path you need to take. No failure, only feedback.

March 2008-The Trifest Expo

We all know the triathlon can be an expensive sport. There’s a lot of gear to buy. I admit it, I like stuff. I’m fascinated by the technology of triathlons and whether a certain piece of equipment or supplement or training aid will magically enhance my performance.

On March 2 I went to the Trifest Expo in Tucson, AZ in search of such a product. Two canned food items got me in the door and I was handed a canvas bag full of free stuff. Inside there was a tent with different vendors.

My first stop was Muscletrac, where a buff man asked if he could run a plastic tool across my legs. I “reluctantly” agreed. The Muscletrac had plastic wheels on it and by running it across your muscles it helps your warm-up and recovery.

A German company told me about the wonders of compression sports socks. They come up to your knee and increase circulation and supply of oxygen. The guy told me about the scientific studies and “physiological performance.” All I could think about was how goofy I would look running in knee socks.

There were plenty of healthy beverages to consume. I received Elixir and Zym electrolyte tablets that promise superior hydration. The Vemma booth offered a liquid dietary supplement that is full of fruits and vegetables. By drinking 2 oz. a day you are supposed to have a healthy heart, more energy and scavenge free radicals, whatever that means. The “Mangosteen Plus” drink was an orange-brown color and I was a bit scared to drink it, but it was actually pretty good.

The local tri club had a booth there. Their rep said they had 160 members. They like being able to train outside year-round, but that they sometimes can’t run outside in the morning because it’s too cold. His idea of cold was 40 degrees. I explained that we just had a Freezefest run where we thought 30 degrees was balmy!

Another booth was promoting The Battle at Midway Tri in Soldier Hollow, UT. When they found out I was from Iowa they asked me lots of questions about the Hy-Vee Triathlon. I tried my best to be a promoter for our state.

It was on to the eSoles booth where I stood on a digital scanner that did a reading of my foot and created a custom insole (in a computer anyway) to “increase my power output” and give me proper alignment. At $200 I had to pass on the footbed.

There were plenty of other booths—from bikes, shoes and wetsuits to Polar heart rate monitors and swimming aids. (Do I really need a swim mirror on the bottom of the pool so I can watch myself?)

The store (the site of last year’s Great Wetsuit Adventure) was across the street so I headed over there. I wanted to get some black tri shorts to go with my new and exciting MWX uniform. I tried on the large size and it felt tight. Are tri shorts getting smaller or is it an evil plot by clothing manufacturers to freak out women? I ended up getting the extra large. To be honest, the 2X fit nice, but I could not bring myself to buy something with two X’s in the size! (It’s a female thing.)

I called my sister (a Tusconian and my chauffeur) to come get me before I spent outrageous amounts of money in the store. I must curb my need to have tri stuff! At least my goodie bag had two water bottles. I can add those to my collection………