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………