Yeah….I have been kind of absent around these here parts lately. Chalk it up to starting a new job (my last post is dated just five days after my start date) and having some challenging personal issues going on.
I haven’t done much in the way of running/training since that last triathlon. True, there was a sort of 4K race at our local park that hardly felt like anything. Then there was a Zombie Fun Run last weekend which was awesome (and I really should write about it) but untimed. I’ve struggled with keeping up with exercise and training now that I am working as a substitute teacher full time.
So it was with zero expectations that I entered into this weekend, something I’d set up months ago: back to back 5Ks on both days. I’ve only ever done races back to back one other time. I wasn’t worried.
This is the third year for the Vicki Soto 5K, the race that honors one of the teachers who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary. I’ve run it every year. Last year the weather was horrendous, but this year the day dawned warm (for CT in the fall, 50 or so degrees) and cloudy. Perfect running weather.
My girlfriend and I agreed to walk it together. She has been out of training as much as I have, and so we offered to push her husband’s cousin’s stroller so he could really blow it out.
This race is a huge celebration, so much so that sometimes you forget that we are there because someone died in a terrible way. The family is deeply involved in the planning of the event, and it is well organized and put together. This year there were nearly 3,000 participants. The field was immense.
I haven’t ever walked a 5K before. It was a strange experience. Because I wasn’t listening to music, I really did take in more of the event. The organizers had done a wonderful job with signage on the course, with decorations (flamingoes, Vicki’s favorite animal, were everywhere). There were bands and cheerleaders at many of the corners, and you really felt a part of this amazing, huge celebration.
But I also was itching to go faster as we wound our way through It seemed to take so much longer (and it did!). And while it was a very relaxing experience, it seems odd to me to walk a 5K. I guess you do it if you’re in support of the cause. But for me races have always been about not just the cause, but bettering myself, my last time, feeling like I really did something out there. So while I loved walking with my friend and being a part of the Vicki Soto 5K this year, it didn’t really feel like a race. I finished in 52:40, which is slow even for a walk. To be fair, the little girl we were pushing kept wanting to get in and out of her stroller, and that slowed us down. But hey, there are a lot of people who can’t walk a 5K at all, so I’m not complaining.
The only downside to the Vicki Soto race was afterwards. Because we had walked, probably a good 2,000 people had finished ahead of us. And the lines for absolutely everything were insanely long. They had amazing food and all sorts of free stuff for everyone, but by the time I got there, the lines were just too long for me to want to bother with. It didn’t seem worth it to wait in a ten minute long line for a single cupcake. Which is a shame because they had these really awesome vendors giving away great stuff, but the logistics really need to improve if they want to accommodate that many people.
It motivated me to really try to enjoy the Colony Hot Oil 5K today.
So the Colony race is held by a pizza place in Fairfield, CT. It is a 1600 person race and sells out in a matter of days. The “Hot Oil” comes from a type of pizza they sell; thin crust pizza with a spicy jalapeno oil drizzled all over it. Apparently it is a huge thing around here. I’ve lived here ten years and never knew that.
Anyway, today dawned cooler but one of those gorgeous sunny fall days that make you glad to live in New England. I got to the race site early and listened to music in my car. Lo and behold, a friend I had no idea was doing this race walked right by. Fun! This race is so popular I ran into at least five people I didn’t realize would be there.
We lined up under I 95 and set out. I literally haven’t run more than probably ten minutes straight since my triathlon last September, so I told myself I would just do what felt good. Fortunately for me the course was mostly flat except for a few hills in the middle and the dreaded I 95 overpass. But even that wasn’t that bad. I surprised myself by not needing a walk break at all until just before the water stop, when I encountered the first hill. I walked that, and then again when I hit the water stop a short bit later, and kept going.
The course was through a beautiful area near downtown Fairfield, and the foliage is just slightly past peak, so everything was beautiful. The sun had risen and was reflecting off of everything. I marveled at how good I was feeling, and it totally reminded me why I became a runner. I love that feeling of being outdoors and just focusing on your breathing and your legs and not having to worry about anything else right in that moment. After the last few weeks I felt just so grateful to be there, enjoying the beautiful day and the energy that comes from being in a race.
I finished feeling better than I imagined I would have with pretty much hardly any training over the last few weeks. The net time was 37:47 which honestly isn’t terrible for me.
But the best part of the race isn’t the course, even though that’s pretty awesome. It is the after party.
They have a live band, as much beer as you can stand and pizza. And water. That’s it. No granola, no apples, no healthy things anywhere. It was so awesome. The music cranked and I just soaked it all in. I was grateful to be there, and I will definitely be back next year.
So after my last tri, which I did not finish with a smile and pretty much hated once I sat on my very wrong bike, I was determined to find redemption. It came in the form of another sprint triathlon that another girlfriend was doing just two weeks later (yesterday).
The distances were much shorter, and a girlfriend offered me the loan of her much better bike, and I just knew I had to do it. The only downside was the swim: it was the same distance in the much more worrisome Long Island Sound. Which has waves. And salt.
I asked my girlfriends if anyone wanted to join me, and wouldn’t you know, the woman who inspired us all to do the first triathlon, offered to do it. My friend Rebecca, whose fierce will to overcome the death of her son at Sandy Hook by creating healthy living programs for kids, was in. Mostly. Actually she mostly agreed that she was just trying to help me out, but I know somewhere in there she wanted to do a second tri as well. I reasoned that since we were already trained from our tri two weeks ago we really didn’t need to do much to prepare for this one.
Except maybe try to swim in the Sound. We went out last Saturday and were shocked at how much harder it was than the lakes we were used to. The waves and current made it much more challenging. I asked her if she wanted to back out. She doesn’t do that. She said we had to do it.
So we showed up at Compo Beach in Westport, CT yesterday morning at 6am. We pulled up and were greeted by crazy wind that had kicked up from overnight showers and storms. The weather forecast was for the rain to stop, and it wasn’t currently raining, but the skies were ominous. We started worrying about the waves that were higher than anything we’d even imagined. My girlfriend who clued me into the race started nervously texting me: this was her first race and she was ready to get back in her car and go back home. Together Rebecca and I convinced her to at least set up her stuff in transition (it closed at 7) so that she could make that decision herself rather than have it made for her.
We purposely put our stuff close to the bike out of transition. These racks weren’t numbered like our last tri, so I tied one of the purple ribbons I brought to the end of our rack. I brought a garbage bag in case it rained, but it didn’t look like it was going to, so I put it under my towel to keep it clean and dry. Tracy finally agreed to do the race, a few more people we knew surprised us and showed up, and finally it was time to go down to the beach.
The waves were incredible. We walked slowly down to the one end of the beach to the race start. We were in the second wave (only three waves at this tri) so we watched the first wave wander into the water, out to where it was deep enough to swim (but also not too deep so they could stand if they got in trouble) and the race began.
We were into the water next and followed the same procedure. We heard them call us to swim and off we went.
The waves were insane. Buffeting and pushing and crashing around us. I veered out a little more so they wouldn’t crash on me but soon found the energy to keep up and move forward draining. I backstroked like it was my job and looked behind me: men were actually walking through the water. Big men! I wasn’t going to whiff my tri like that, but I did go to where it felt like I could touch in case I needed to. A big wave crashed over me while I was backstroking and after that I did walk the water a bit. Breast stroke, my rest stroke, was totally impossible in the waves. I just did what I could to keep moving forward, and finally we reached the final buoy. I went around it and headed for the shore.
1/2 mile swim: 18:29
To be honest, I can’t quite believe that’s a full half mile. I did the last half mile swim a full ten minutes longer. Everyone’s times are significantly less than I would expect. But no matter.
Into transition. I spotted Rebecca and Tracy both in there, so I wasn’t too far behind, which made me happy. I rinsed my feet, mopped off as much as I could, pulled on my socks and shoes, then my shirt and race belt. I paused to take a big swig of water and get some gum for the salty taste in my mouth. Finally put on the helmet and got the bike down (so much lighter than my bike) and it was go time.
The bike was a dream. The bike was so much easier to move than my other one. I took the opportunity to catch my breath and just enjoyed the ride. There were hills but they weren’t the challenge at all that they had been in my last tri. I happily passed people on lesser bikes. It was the best feeling. We entered the golf course where I knew was the end of the course and before I knew it we were back at the beach.
5.5 mile bike: 20:47
Back into transition, I again had trouble figuring out how to get the bike back on the rack between the ones already there, but I figured it out. I was out of breath from pushing it on the bike. I took off the helmet and grabbed my water bottle. I didn’t feel like I did much else, so most of my transition time was walking my bike in, I guess.
Onto the run. I slowly headed out for the run, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast one. I was passed by my friend Tracy and marveled at how fast she was. She finishes a 5K ten minutes before me so I knew that was where she’d smoke me.
No matter. I wasn’t wrecked, and this was a flatter, shorter course. I alternated running and walking and did what Rebecca calls “smile pace”. It totally worked. I was loving the run. OK maybe not loving, but not hating either. We rounded back towards the beach faster than I expected and I was grateful. But then the guy shouted out to me: 3/4 of a mile left! What? We were already back there!
Yeah, it was a major tease. We ran next to the finish, down the parking lot, and then rather than turn there toward the finish, you made a right and did another whole leg down the parking lot before turning around. Cruel! Still I saw most of my crew here, high fived them and found the juice to make the final dash in the sand toward the finish.
2.2 mile run: 25:20
We did it. And I was so much happier than the first time!
Finish time: 1:10:01
We were all kind of delirious with the endorphins at the end. I got a little teary eyed, actually. I never in my life would have thought I could do something like a triathlon. And because I am doing this, I have crossed paths with some amazing people that are bringing so much energy and light into my life. These woman are kind, inspiring and beautiful inside and out. They push you but also pump you up. I’ve always had girlfriends but this somehow feels different. The level of affirmation and enthusiasm everyone has and shares with everyone is really astounding.
So my second triathlon is done. A few of the girls are ALREADY looking at a third, although it is a much bigger one than this. I’m not sure I’m up for it (it is next weekend and I’m already signed up for a 5K the day before) but I love the spirit. Who knows. That’s the beauty of it. I really don’t know what I’m capable of. And I’m loving that.
Well, I did it. I completed my first sprint distance triathlon. Hear that deadpan? Yeah, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much I thought I would. What? I thought I would enjoy beating myself to a pulp swimming biking and running for over two hours? Yeah, silly me.
We arrived in town the afternoon prior to go to packet pickup and the “first timers” clinic. Not before my girlfriend and I hoped that we’d loaded the bikes on her husband’s bike rack properly (they didn’t fall off on the highway) and not before we realized we hadn’t thought about bike locks (we miraculously “found” one next to the bike in the garage that I didn’t even know was there).
I’m glad we went to the first timers clinic. Even though I read the twelve page rather intimidating information packet before the race, all of the “rules” about biking really were not very clear. The woman who ran the clinic made everything very clear. Was I nervous? No. Probably should have been, but no.
My girlfriend and I checked into the hotel and went to dinner nearby, taking the opportunity to carb load (wine is a carb, right?) by eating way too much. Back to the hotel afterwards for an early bedtime.
We had agreed to wake by 4:45am and leave by 5:15, with the goal of being early enough to find parking easily and navigate our first timer selves through all of the unknowns that lay ahead. We made it to the race site and found it buzzing already even though it was still dark. It was go time.
We unloaded the bikes. First up: to label the bikes with “bike tents” with our race numbers on them. These are big sticky two sided numbers that go on the bike so if someone can’t see your race number while you’re all hunched over riding, they still can figure out who you are. After a few tries, we got it well enough and went to get body marked.
At our tri they marked both arms and our right hands with the last three numbers of our race number and then our left calves with our age. This became really useful later on when I was seeing people pass me…were they older or younger? Shit, that one is over 50. Ha.
Once we had our bodies marked it was time to get into the transition area and set up our bikes. We had to load in certain racks by our race numbers, so my girlfriend and I were no where near each other. I went about my business and so did she. Before long our little areas were all done, and it was still dark out.
Slowly our other friends started to show up and before long it was time to head down to the beach. I was in the fourth wave of swimmers, so we watched how each group would line up, get corralled and then walk over the timing mat and into the water.
The horn blew and it was go time. As with running, I positioned myself in the back and started out slow. It was harder than my training swims; I had to drop into breast stroke more than I had planned. But I plodded on and just got it done. About two thirds of the way through I saw some new colored caps coming up from behind; the next wave. Oh well. No one said I was here to set any records.
Half mile swim: 28:32.
I left the water feeling pretty good. It was a long slog but I felt I’d done what I could do. It was a fair distance from the beach to the entrance to transition; at first I was trying to walk it to save energy but it was taking forever so I started to jog.
I got into transition and felt calm. I grabbed my towel and mopped off and put on my shirt with my race bib on it. It took a little tangling being wet but I managed. Next up shorts over the suit. Then I quickly rinsed my feet and grabbed a swig of water before drying my feet and putting on the socks and shoes. I put on my helmet and walked my bike out of transition in what I felt was a decent amount of time.
Onto the bike and ready to go. Within a minute I felt something pulling hard on my left shoe; I realized my shoelace was wound around my pedal. Shit! I pulled off to the side and tried to unwind it. I could just feel the precious seconds ticking by as it wasn’t unwinding. Finally I had to pull off the entire shoe and slowly unwind it. I managed that, and then retied both shoes in double knots. I was frustrated at the time I lost, but no matter. I had to get moving.
Once out on the course I felt good. I knew all along I didn’t have a racing bike; it is an old bike that I now know is a hybrid road/mountain bike. It is built for tough trails and can take anything. What it doesn’t do well is hills. And when the first one hit, I could feel my energy sap. Oh well, I told myself, the course was supposedly pretty flat so I should be fine.
Yeah, no. There were several pretty decent hills within the first few miles and I was breathing hard through them. It was a struggle even in my lowest gear and I could feel my energy and enthusiasm drain out of me with every person that passed me. While I knew I wasn’t going to be speedy, I had trained enough for this to want a respectable time and I could feel it slipping away with every rise in the road.
But I pushed on and tried to talk myself into a better head space. I was working as hard as I could to move the bike and the course was beautiful. Quintessential New England; historic homes, beautiful landscapes, farms. Finally, finally, I entered back into the park and smiled for the camera as they snapped my picture.
11.5 mile bike: 58:51
I ran into transition and went to rack my bike. As I had feared, the rack was completely full because I’d been so slow. I found a spot a foot or so down from my stuff and went to lift the bike. Damn, this sucker is heavy! I couldn’t get it up facing one way so I had to stop, turn it around and try again. Success! Then I just rummaged through my bag for my hat (easy to find) and my handheld water bottle (not easy). After getting both, I tried to jog out of transition dreading what I knew lay ahead on the hilly 5K course.
Immediately I knew I was in trouble. All the effort keeping my heavy bike moving had turned my legs to jello. I couldn’t believe how hard even shuffling into the slowest jog felt. I sipped on my handheld bottle and tried to just keep moving forward. As we left transition, I saw the first hill loom in front of me.
I slowed to a walk. I had just no juice left in me at all. I felt completely spent and ready to burst into tears. I told myself that I would just keep moving forward. I would walk until I had enough breath to run, and I would run until I couldn’t any more.
The 5K was on a trail course. It was very hilly, sandy and rooty. It would have been a challenging 5K without having done swimming and biking before it. I absolutely hated every second of it. I had so wanted to enjoy this race but by this time it was everything I had to just keep moving forward and not collapse onto the ground in tears.
It seemed to take forever but finally we left the trails and fortunately for me, the finish line was only about a quarter mile or so beyond. I started jogging and ran as fast as I could towards the time clock, noting gratefully that it said 2:29:30. I had hoped to finish under 2:30 and since my wave started 12 minutes after the first in the water, I knew I’d beaten that by a fair amount.
3.1 mile run: 44:22
I’ve beaten myself up in the time since about finishing last of all of the women in our group doing this triathlon. I couldn’t believe I’d trained so hard, put so much time in and I posted such a poor time. My friends were all lovely even though I was stealing everyone’s joy out of finishing our first triathlon. “Comparison is the thief of joy” and I totally let it suck the amazing accomplishment out of the moment for me. I did the best that I could, I tried to tell myself. But my inner mean girl felt like a fat loser who just couldn’t push herself hard enough.
I now know, after having talked to my local bike shop owner, that my bike was my handicap. He said that the bike is so heavy it is not supposed to be used for racing, and that it simply is harder to move. He congratulated me for completing the course as well as I did considering how much that bike must have taken out of me. He told me I should shave at least ten minutes off of my time to get a truer sense of how hard I’d worked to complete the race.
Now I feel proud of what I did, but also guilty for taking away everyone’s high with my own insecurities and frustrations when I finished the race. I will make it up to them when we repeat this experience again. Because there is no way I will let that experience be my only experience doing a triathlon. I put a deposit down on a new bike today, and I’m already trying to decide when the next one will be.
Tri training is nearly over and I can’t even believe it. Then again, yes I can. It feels like I’ve been training for this thing forever, and it in reality was the entire summer. I will have trained for 11 weeks officially for this event, just about as long as I’ve ever trained for any of the halfs I’ve done (you know, all two of them).
Week 9 was done in Spain and while I think I did a pretty darn good job staying active there, it still was extremely difficult to stay on top of training while on vacation. I swam four times in a super cooled pool (because it is so hot there in the summer, they cool their pools the way we heat ours to keep them warmer when it is cool outside. I rode a bike once for half an hour before I popped the tire; we never were able to get it fixed. I walked nearly every day but only ran once (between the weird later schedule we kept there and the heat it was hard). What threw me off more than the lack of training however was the food and drink that got way out of control.
Week 10 has been alright but I’ve been battling jet lag and just generally feeling over the whole training cycle. We did another mini triathlon training session last Saturday with my girlfriends, including a half an hour in a pool, 8.7 miles on the bike and a 2 mile run/walk. It was longer than our previous tri run through, and considering I’d just gotten home from Spain, I thought we did well. I’ve done a long walk, two very slow runs and this morning, a 8.25 mile bike ride.
I feel at this point that I’m as ready as I can be. I’ve done a lot of “bricking” in the last three weeks and so I think I know how my body will respond on Sunday when the time comes. I’m wondering what the swim will be like with everyone all around me, but I know I’ll get through it. I know I start out tired on the bike but I loosen up around Mile 4 so I will keep telling myself that. I know the first mile after getting off of the bike is going to suck, but I will slog through.
A few weeks ago I had time goals but at this point I have set all of that aside. I just want to enjoy the experience and get through it without hating it. It helps that I have a big group of women doing this with me; I am not sure I would have ever tried this on my own.
At this time on Sunday I should be nearly done with my race. Wish me luck!
Finally a week back in the game last week. I’ve been battling a cold all week but still managed to be active every single day doing at least something. Here’s what it looked like:
Tues: 3.6 mile walk and 1 mile swim
Wed: 2.8 mile walk
Thu: 60 min yoga
Fri: 60 min bootcamp class
Sat: .4 mile swim, 5 mile bike, 1.7 mile run
Sun: 4.3 mile run (ridiculously slow)
Mon: 60 min “challenge” class which included 1 mile run and kettlebell/weights/other crazy stuff
It was a solid week that I feel good about, especially our “baby tri” run through on Saturday. Several girlfriends who are doing this triathlon and I all met up at 7am on Saturday at our local park. The park has a lake and bike trails and it is where we hold our kids’ triathlons. I knew it would be a great fit for a lower distance run through of our race (frankly we could have a full one there if we wanted to….it is linked to a long enough bike trail).
One of our group wasn’t interested in swimming in our little lake, so she took this shot of the rest of us going towards it for our swim. I honestly love this shot. It really encapsulates everything about this process that I love…not worrying about what your body looks like but celebrating what it can do.
We swam for about twenty minutes or so back and forth between those two buoys you see. Beyond there, there’s a lot of plant life in the water and it just feels gross. But otherwise, the lake swim was beautiful! It was calm and clear and the sun was just rising. I loved it.
From there we came back up the beach to transition to the bike. This was the part I wanted to practice. I had packed an extra water bottle to “wash off” my feet. Then I wiped them with my towel and laid down a little washcloth for my clean feet to rest on while I put on my socks. It worked perfectly! I put on my socks and shoes (a challenge with wet feet), then I pulled on my shorts and shirt over my suit and headed for the bike.
All in all, not bad. Hoping for less than 5 minutes in transition there, we’ll see.
We headed out on our bikes, all four of us:
We intended to go somewhere between four and six miles. It was less about the distance than worrying about the transitions to be honest. That said, the bike felt tougher than I had hoped. I hadn’t biked in over a week at this point and my legs were feeling it, even on our mostly flat trail. The girls were really hauling it too…my app said that it was my fastest bike ride yet, which might have been why it felt tougher to me. We nailed five miles in just under 28 minutes. The girls think we can do our 12 miles on race day in an hour or so, but I’m not so sure. We clocked this one in at 10.78mi/hour and it felt fast to me. We’ll see.
Second transition was obviously much faster. We opted to throw our bikes in our cars which took a few minutes to navigate, and then grab some water before heading around the lake for a run.
There were four of us and as always happens with me, I worried that I was too slow for the group. Two of us broke out ahead right away, chatting all the while. The other woman and I held back (I think she was just trying to keep me company and could have gone faster) as the two who don’t talk and run. Normally I run with headphones, but apparently that’s out for this race, so it was good practice to just run. The scenery is lovely around our lake but it is a bit hilly (which apparently is exactly the terrain for our tri run so good practice). After one lap I was out of breath and really ready to stop. We took a break and two of us went back on their bikes while two of us opted for another lap. Because I believe in torture, I decided to do a second lap.
I had to walk some of that second lap, around the big hill on the trail, but otherwise, it was a much faster run than I would normally be able to turn in after biking, I think: chalk one up for friends who run faster pushing me along. In the end it was still less than two miles but I still felt good about bricking all three together. It was great practice and I’d like to try it again one more time after I return from vacation.
All in all a great week of solid workouts. Hoping to keep it up even while traveling….wish me luck!
Yeah, I have missed a few weeks of posting. It’s been a crazy time with two full weeks of family visiting, a quick trip out of town myself and two local musical productions that the entire family is intimately involved in. Put that all together with ten days of being computerless and I haven’t had a chance to post about my tri training.
And to be honest, the training has suffered because of all of that too. I’m not terribly worried about it at this point because I’m still working on it but I certainly haven’t been nailing six days a week of exercise as I had been in the early weeks of July. That said, I have done:
1 awesome 14 mile bike ride
2 amazing open water swims at a local lake, .6 and 1.0 miles respectively
yoga and bootcamp classes
1 “transition” training session consisting of 1 mile hilly bike, .25 mile run, repeated six times
lots of walking and running
…and now I am fighting off a cold, so while I had the best of intentions this week of getting back on track, I ended up walking instead of running and choosing yoga over cardio yesterday. I am going to try for my regular kickboxing class this morning and fill the weekend with solid workouts each morning.
We will be leaving for our vacation on Wednesday so I know the workouts will suffer there too. But the rumor is we will have access to a pool and a gym, and if that is true, I can really get at least a few solid workouts in, even if the weather is hot and the terrain is hilly. I get back eight days before the race so hopefully that’s enough time to get back on track even if things go terribly south.
I do think I will be ready but I don’t want to just be ready. I want to rock it!
I haven’t posted for several weeks, and it’s not for the reason that people who are trying to lose weight usually stop posting. I had a major computer malfunction that caused me to have to take my computer in to be repaired. I dreaded leaving it on that Saturday at the Apple store, not knowing what would happen.
I had no idea that it would be more than ten days before my computer was functional again. Between the much longer repair time than was quoted and then issues with restoring my data from backups, it took a huge amount of time to get back on track. Add into the mix family visiting from out of town and things were just a mess (hence no real tri training posts either, have to get back on that too).
Anyway, things are just finally settling in and of course they will get thrown all off kilter next week for our summer vacation, but I’m not going to complain about getting away. I know that is a good thing, despite how it will make tri training and weight loss a challenge.
That being said I actually am down over a pound from my last weigh in, which is a good thing because the numbers were getting downright frightening. Like “haven’t seen this number on a scale in over a year” frightening. Plus I hate that awful feeling that comes when clothes don’t fit and I am unhappy about what I see in the mirror. I mean I’m never super happy about what I see there but when I get into this area it is much, much worse.
What have I been doing? Nothing too terribly different, trying to pull back on carb consumption. Unfortunately the workouts have taken a hit in the last few weeks with family visiting but I’m doing what I can. But I’m still here, and I’m still trying.
+/- since last weigh in: -2.2 lbs
Pounds to Goal: 15.2