Friday, February 24, 2012

What I Know

These photos don't have much to do with my post today. I just felt like adding them to spruce things up a bit. This is pretty much how I've been spending my winter. On the Mountain, on skis, with my boys.  We cruise up there as early as we can on Saturday morning, get home late after fun with family and friends Saturday night, and then turn around and it again on Sunday. I love it. My boys have become impressive little ski bums (definately taking after their Daddy on this one) and it's awesome family time.  We're out in the fresh air, being active, seeing friends, and well, what more is there to say! We're lucky.
Somehow, I manage to train a few times over the weekend too.

How about Training? The end of February is only days away and the spring races are coming up before we know it season is right around the corner.
How did That happen? Wasn't I just in Hawaii?? Wasn't I just taking a little time off to recover and regroup from my double Ironman year? Yea, time goes fast.

I've learned a lot about myself in the last year of training. For some reason, things have just clicked in terms of understanding myself and my training needs. I am also coming to grips what I need as an athlete.
Here's what I know.

  • I am in fact, getting older. I decided to finally admit it. What does that mean?
  • I need to stretch, daily.
  • I need to go to bed earlier. Or else.
  • I am very creaky when I get out of my bed at 4:00 a.m. Joints creak, muscles are tight, and it takes a few minutes before I am walking normally! Sad but true.
  • post-workout recovery is Key!
  • Pre-workout fueling is also key.
  • It is not easy for me to lose weight. 5lbs, 10lbs, or 2 little lbs. I struggle. Every day. Even with hours and hours of hard training all the time.
  • I Like to eat well. It makes me feel so much better than even one day of laziness and gluttony with food.
  • I will always be able to swim with ease. However, in order to go fast and then maintain that speed, I truly need to swim a lot. And often. Perhaps more than some since I have been swimming for so many years of my life. -this can go into a post of itself so I'll stop here. For now.
  • I don't mind the trainer and I am even ok on it for hours at a time. I feel lucky that I can do long / hard workouts on my bike in the winter even though I live in Maine. I am happy to be able to do long hard bike workouts in my home while my kids are home from school.  I like the trainer.
  • That said, I am excited to ride outside again and every spring, when I get ready for my 1st outdoor ride after a long time, I wonder if I'll be able to balance. Really?
  • I love my long quiet ride to the pool at 4:15 a.m. I prefer talk radio, not music at that hour though.
  • I am addicted and dependent on coffee.
  • Coffee is the 1st thing I grab when I get out of bed. Every.single.Day. 
  • I quit coffee creamer. And I'm very proud of that.
  • I respect the importance of consistent quality training. 
  • There is nothing more  amazing than a run out the roads where I live. It's quiet, beautiful, and hilly.
  • I could run every day and never get sick of it.
  • I need to train. I really do need to train.  Just ask my kids.  :) Or, my husband.
  • If it is written in Training peaks, I will do it. No matter what. Ok, not if I'm sick. Or if my kids need me. But otherwise I will do it.
  • If I can't log my workout in training peaks Immediately after I do each workout, it drives me nuts.
  • I plan my  long workouts days ahead of the actual day. I plan the route, the time of day, and make sure I eat properly the day before. 
  • I love feedback. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • I didn't realize how much I needed that feedback, but I really really crave it. 
  • I will admit that I am getting older, and yet I do not intent to give in to the fact that I am getting older. Not yet. I still plan to get faster. Come hell or high water.
  • I have an insanely wonderful support system. I am very lucky. My husband bends over backwards to help my training schedule work. My kids are totally cool with it all and have fun at my races. They love to tell me which races are their favorites to 'play at' and they wear all my race shirts and hats around after. And how about my parents? After ~34 years competing in things all over the country, they still attend and cheer for me at every race they can get to. Amazing.
  • I couldn't do all this without my friends. I love my friends and their support means everything too.
  • I know why I do this. I know why it matters. I may never be able to articulate it to others but I've stopped caring. I no longer have the need to justify it. 
  • I can and will work very very hard to reach my goals.  If I set my mind on  something, it's pretty hard to convince me not to go for it. 
  • I am grateful that I can compete in this sport. A lot of factors go into making all of it work and I feel very lucky that I'm ready to go for 2012.

That's what I know!!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Finally figured it out.

At the risk of sounding like an Oprah groupie, I had an "Aha Moment" the other day. 

Have you ever wondered, "W hy am I doing this? or  Why did I bother? What is my point? This is a waste of time. Or money. Or energy." Or... you fill in the blank.

I'd like to keep this post short and simple and I'm going to do my best to avoid getting too detailed with the personal side of it all.

A long long time ago, I graduated from College. I took a few years, explored the country, lived on the other coast and then, dived head first into Graduate School in Boston.

I worked very hard. I studied and studied. Tuition, books, and rent were of course, expensive.  Finally, I graduated. I passed my State Licensing exam. I passed the National Boards and I completed all my internship hours. I had my degrees and all the little letters after my name to proove I was ready to jump into the work force.

So that's what I did. 

Meanwhile, Mark and I were dating. For years. Then, we got married. Next, baby boy # 1 was born. Twelve short weeks later, I went back to work.
And I was missssserable. Miserable. Sad. Distracted. I was not where I wanted to be. My life had changed. I had no idea before he was born that I would feel that way. After all, I wanted  this job. I wanted to work. I found it satisfying and interesting and intellectually stimulating. I enjoyed working! I had loved school and then I loved my job.
And yet, I loved this baby much much much more. As we all do. I just didn't realize before he was born that my brain would not allow me to shift back into that old job when I left him each day.
This is all off topic.
The point is, when baby boy #2 was on his way, I resigned. I left. A big huge life changing decision was made and I have never looked back. 
Soon thereafter, we were holding baby boy #3. 

I have never once regretted leaving my work to stay home with these boys. It has worked for us. It has worked for me. And it has worked for the kids. This type of decision is personal and I do believe there is not a clearly defined right or wrong. It's just personal. For me, this was just right.  

However.....all that work. And time. And money. And knowledge. For what? I'd lie if I said there wasn't a little bit of guilt.

Twelve years later, and I am still certified. I still pay my dues. I  study different topics annually.  I go to conferences and read articles online. I take tests. I wonder.... will I ever? Will I ever return? Who knows.  It is not on my radar right now, that I know.

After all, so so much has changed. I know have 3 boys. No longer babies needing to be held, they are boys who need constant guidance and attention. I find this age to be much more challenging than their wee little years.

I have also changed professions.  I followed my true passion and skill and became a coach. I feel more than solid in this decision as well. My life has been about sport and competition and health and fitness. This is where I belong.  It is who I am.

My Aha Moment? Are you wondering?

Well.... baby boy #3 was born in a much too exciting way.  I alwasy tell him that he and I had a little angel looking out for us the day he was born.  She convinced me not to reschedule a check up that I almost walked out on. Twenty five minutes later, after being rushed to the OR for an emergency C section, my preemie baby with the Heartrate of 50bpm was born. 
Two weeks later, we left the NICU.
Wondering... would he always be ok?
Only time would tell.

My baby has grown up beautifully.  He's almost 8 and smart as a whip. However, there are struggles that we haven't seen before.  Things are beginning to emerge. After all these years, the words, "he was a preemie, he was born emergently" are finally becoming relevant and explanatory.

Sitting in a conference on Friday, bored, there only to obtain the critical CEUs necessary to maintain my unused license, I found myself with tears welling in my eyes.

It all became clear. He is why. My baby is why I am here.  I hadn't made the connection when I registered for the course. At the time it was just 6 credits offered at the rigth time of the year.  But as I sat listening to our instructor and reading the pages of handouts, it became clear.

If you believe in things like this. I have never known if I did or not. But maybe now I do.  All these years and I keep studying and learning. Every year I wonder, "why am I still doing this?  Will I ever really go back? I have my new job and it's made for me. My children are bigger but we have many years left before they move away and I intend to be rigth here."

I sat in class on Friday feeling excited and in a way, newly important. I spend a lot of days  feeling unappreciated and ineffective.  But now I know.... I can help him!!!! The struggles my little guy is having are things that I have been taught how to fix! THIS IS WHY! 

I got home late that evening and hugged my guys feeling even luckier than before for the life I have.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

There's a 2nd Time for Everything... Right? Sometimes. Race Report #2 of 2012. Or is it #1?

Isn't my title fun?? I spent time ( something that I don't have enough of, like most of us) writing my detailed ( too detailed?) race report on Tuesday.  By that evening, it was gone. GONE! My title was there, but no body. What IS that?? Where did it go? Who took it???  I searched and searched and hit "Undo" 200x to no avail.
Deep breath.
Yes, I am going to write it again.  I wish I had a fancy machine that allowed me to think the words and it would magically appear on the paper. Ok, screen. I grew up with a pen in my hand. Yes, I am that old.  haha
Until I race. And then I fight that age thing So hard it makes my head spin every time.
So here goes!!
As if it never even happened. 

Sunday was the Cape 10 miler!!!  That is my name for it because somewhere in my head I think that is what it used to be called.  Mom? Is that right? My Mom and I used to run this race together waaaaaaaay back when only 50-100 people ran in it. That number may even be too high. It was small anyway.  I was maybe in my late teens? Early 20s? I can't remember but I do have photos that document my Less than svelte, sleek, fashionable running style of today. ( oh you just Wait to see my 2012 ensemble.) Back then I proudly donned my oversized gray Champion Cape Swimming Sweatshirt to toe the line! You know those huge sweatshirts we all wore that weighed 10lbs but made us feel so cool because we were on the swim team.  That is what I wore one year. Unreal.

My point is, I've been running this race on and off for many many years.  I have fond memories of it and since it's my hometown, I love it even more. Also, so so many great friends show up to run this race. I live up in the woods a bit so I do not see many of my Tri friends at all this time of year. For some reason, nearly all of us love to run this race if possible. It's a great way to kick off the year.  It definately wakes you up so to speak and makes sure you're paying attention to your training!!! This year, I even had 2 athletes running the race! ( They kicked butt big time, by the way!)  To make it even more fun, a handful of my best friends that were unable to race due to injury and a few other reasons, but they showed up to cheer us on!! It's a blast. And, I have great friends. Since this race is in 's in the middle of winter ( hence the race's proper name: Maine Track Club MidWinter Classic), the weather is totally schizophrenic.  It could be freezing cold, windy,  40s and sun, snowing , sleeting,  raining,  or 55 and calm. You name it, we've seen it. That's how Maine is. I remember running in 2005 side by side with my brother Jeff.  I had a 9 mo baby and 2 toddlers at home. The two of us ran in some kind of sleeting, freezing, snowy, messy, cold, windy mix and managed a 1:15!! We were pscyhed!

But now....... Flash forward to 2012.... I was aiming to break 1:10.  Why certain times become a road block, I don't know.  But breaking 70 min for this 10 mile race has become a time to beat. My PR heading into Sunday was 1:10:06. So close. But it was 2008. A LOT has happened since then. 

Sunday's  race was a bit different than any other race, for one reason. 

See those two???
Yes, the two dorks!!  The guy  with the XC ski earmuffs and the girl tagging along with him wearing, um, a few colors? ( Ok, I admit, I'm grasping to make fun of Mark but still....up close the earmuffs are silly.)

I ran this race WITH my husband. I mean WITH him with him. The ENTIRE 10 miles!!!!
We have started many-a-race together but never, ever ever have we stayed together. Sometimes I lost him and other times he's smoked me, and occasionally we just split up on purpose because, well, you know. Sometimes one of us just had to move away. 

Not this time. We had a plan. 

Originally, I told Mark I was going to use him for my wind shield. Coach Kurt advised me to sneak behind a group to protect myself from the winds. I immediately knew I had the perfect guy for that!! my big tall husband would be just right!! Making dinner one night, I jokingly told him my plan. "Hey babe, I'm going to sneak behind you and draft until mile 7 at which point you will be dead and I'll blow by you for the last 3 miles." (Nice huh?) I was kidding. But Mark, in his typical manner of always trying to help me out agreed wholeheartedly. "Sounds good to me! You certainly deserve to run a lot faster than I do with all your training!!" 
Um? Mark!  No way. I was kidding with him ( sort of  ) and at that point we decided to work it together. 

So, the plan was similar to what I came up with except we did hope neither of us would die after mile 7. 

Race time!

Mile 1   It's hard, oh so hard, for me NOT to take it out too fast. This has been my problem since I was very very wee.  Mark and I are different atheletes. There is no question about that.  He also has a new toy, his garmin. While I know very well I need to keep it in control those first few miles, he planned to put "money in the bank." We "argued" about this on the way there.
Result? Compromise. 6:38. Faster than I planned, slower than we often do on mile 1 at this race.

Mile 2 The fogginess of mile 1, before you even know you're running, wears off on mile 2. The mile starts with the up down up down up down of the "Spurwink Hills." These hills aren't too big or too steep. But they Are hills and hills are taxing on the body when trying to maintain a sub 7 pace. So I ran them cautiously. Small quick steps and....
On our drive in I reminisced about XC practice back in High School. My old coach, Paul Jackson (former coach of Joan Benoit Samuelson I must add-isn't that cool?), used to stand on the top of the hills yelling, among other things, "Use your arms!!!" 
So, again, in true, Mark style he started talking to me. "Ange! Use your arms!"
I chuckled inside.

Speaking of arms.
Starting somewhere around .25 into this race, Mark and I first connected.
With our elbows.
He was running on the left and I was on his right.
We probably bumped into each other 3-4 x before we hit mile 3.

mile 3
I was beginning to get agitated.  My body felt good. My breathing was under control.  My legs were steady.  I was fine.
But all of a sudden, without really knowing I was going to do it, I snapped, "STOP Hitting me!!!!" and then, in the same breath, "I"m sorry. It was me. My fault."
Was it? Maybe. Not sure! But I felt bad. 
We just stepped apart one stride and ran on.

Mile 4
I was doing periodic 'system checks.' I was in control. I was definately working hard, but I was in total control and felt very good about our pace.
Our pace. Yup...still with Mark!!!  We only run together for training every once in a long long while. I like my quiet time on the roads. I need to run my own pace. In addition, he is tall and I am short. And that equals big long 'boom....boom....boom" strides for him and quick "boomboomboom" strides for me. It throws me off sometimes.
But on Sunday, it was fine! I don't know why but I was determined NOT to let him get away from me.
In 2011 the race didn't happen. Too much snow and the town called it off for safety reasons.
In 2010 I didn't race. Stress fx in foot. He DID race and battled it out with some of our friends.  He broke 1:10 that year.
So this day, I was down one. I had to try to keep up with him. So far, so good.

But one change was necessary. "Can I have the left?"
"I need to move over..."
We switched sides. No more elbow bashing.  My body was pulling to the side of the road. I hated being in the middle. This was much better.


Mile 5

The hills were creeping back into the race.  You can't 'fake' a 10 miler race. It's not too far and yet it's also not short!!  At mile 5, things get real. You've been running a while and you've been using a lot of energy. And yet, you're only half way there.
Time to turn on the focus. Keep the head in the game. Otherwise, you can kiss that PR goodbye. 

I knew it was make or break time. 

We hit the 5mile clock at 34:09. Perfect!

I felt good, Mark seemed fine and together we acknowledged quickly and quietly that we were right on pace. 

Mile 5 in to mile 6 is a lot of climbing. Long gradual climbing.  We kept our head down and kept going. The hills are fairly easy for us because live in the land of mountains. Seriously, my runs are extremely hilly at home. I'm lucky if I can run up some of them sub 12 min/ mile pace.  So on these mild hills, we worked at keeping our strides quick and easy and not letting the pace drop too much. 

This is the mile we get to see our family. Yay!!! Our buddies were already out at  mile 2 and 5 and now my parents and our kids would be coming up around mile 6. Without talking about it, Mark and I each started shedding layers.
Poor Mom.
I was hot and took off my Orange ( yes, orange! ) sweatshirt. Mark was ready with gloves.  At the Exact same time, we both threw them at Mom and Hit her!!!! Ahhh!! Sorry Mom!!!!  It didn't phase her.

Ten steps later, our boys. :) 
I heard  Cameron chuckle and say, "haha, they're together!" I gently tapped Nick on his head as I ran by.

And then!
Dad went into action. 
There we were cruising up the hill at 7 min miles ( trying to cruise at least) and Dad started running along with us 'blasting' ColdPlay's Clocks out of his iPhone!
Thanks Dad!! 



Mile 7

Now we're running along by Crescetn Beach. Ahhh, the beach. I grew up on that beach. I worked there and I played there. I was starting to wish it was summer and I Laying ON that beach. Snap out of it! Too much daydreaming.... 

I thought it was getting real at mile 5. Ha! Mile 7 was pretty honest. Time to dig.
Hey, isn't this where I was going to blow by Mark?
ok. Maybe not. I was enjoying our togetherness in this race for the first time. We both admitted after that we Undoubtedly pushed each other through.  There were certainly times when I eeked ahead of him and forced him to fight a bit more and other times that I had to concentrate and consciously decide Not to let him go. He had a habit of Surging ahead of people when we came upon them. He didn't let the pass occur on it's on at the pace we had been running. Nope. He felt the need to Speed way up and surge right by them. This bugged me. But there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't talk after all. I was too busy breathing. And if I let him go, I might not get him back and I feared I would drop the pace if left to my own devices.
I just did not know what I would do.
My training is focused on my summer Triathlon season. Therefore, specific pace work for this race was very scarce.  I had to fight deep inside to hold onto the speed I wanted.
I needed Mark and his natural hard to figure out how he does it with such minimal training speed to push me.

Go faster!

Mile 8

All I remember is Mark busting out a funny comment that he and I had joked about earlier in the week. At least it was about running! I ignored him. How can he talk?
Mark always talks.
He was talking 2 min before the start!! I had to rush back 30 rows where he was chit chatting with an old buddy and grab him. "Time to go!!!'
A few years ago, in a triathlon, he started in the wave ahead of me. When I passed him in the water, he recognized it was me and Stopped and tried to Talk to me!!!!! There he was smiling and waving with his mouth moving away.
Seriously hun??? NOW???

So when he started talking I was not surprised and just let him go. He expects me to ignore him. All was good.

I was struggling. I should have had more of that gel. I only got a few tiny sips in. It was all over my gloves instead. I convinced myself I didn't need it in a 70 min or less race. But I think I did. Lesson learned.

Run run run run run.
Aren't we done yet?
I am not sure how Mark was feeling. But I was drawing inward.
I was reminding myself why I cared. Why I wanted to do well.
It's very easy to decide it's not so important.  It's easy to say, "oh well, I gave it all I had. I didn't train specifically for this race anyway. I'll just focus on my first Tri in May. It's ok.....just get to the end."
Yup. It's soooo easy to do that. I remembered the last 3 miles on the Queen K back in October. I remembered just how painful and hard those miles were. If I could get through that, of course I can do this with more zest than I seem to have right now.
I was grasping.
Because the 10 mile "all out" road race does not = Ironman Hawaii. They both have their own and very different kind of  "pain."  I needed to find a little pocket of energy to RUN faster those last few miles and my memories from the lava fields weren't helping unleash the speed I needed on Sunday on the cold Maine roads.

Then, in the midst of my gasps for air and attempts to keep my body from crumbling onto the pavement,  I heard:

"I love you."

what did he just say?

I just looked at him wide eyed?
Mark...he's sweet.  But seriously, I'm in my own little world of hurt and he is able to speak a little pre-Valentine's message to me?

I'm a lucky gal....

7:00 was mile 9. I think I'm missing a split.
Doesn't matter.
Mark and I were close.
We were running with all we had left.  I knew we were on target but how does that last 1/2 mile get SO long ???? 



Both of us.

I've hung on this feeling before but I'm going to do it again. I'm thrilled. As I said, I've been running this race for as long as I've been a runner. Last weekend, at age 42, with my kiddos watching, I ran as fast as I ever have before. And I did it with my husband. 
Can't beat that. 

at least not 'til next year. :)


One final note----back to this picture.
My colors were not thought out. I took some warm hearted ribbing for my fashion sense at this race. (Even likened to Punky Brewster! It  cracked me up. No hard feelings, I promise Kelsey. :) )
 oops. Guess I run alone way way too often. I grabbed my favorite gear and headed to Cape! I made a pact with myself that from now on I will make every attempt to look at stealth-like and badass while racing as those speedy women who flew by me on Sunday.  Because clearly it works!!  I must say though, I was appreciated by parents and photographer friends who were waiting for us to go by!! You can't miss me coming from a mile away!! haha!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012