March 30, 2011

Triathlon Improvement!

Yesterday they finally posted the splits from Sunday's sprint triathlon. Overall I am very pleased with my times! To show how much I've improved, I am going to compare them to my first sprint triathlon that I did in October. (I can't compare it to my second triathlon, which was a double mini-sprint and therefore not similar distances).

The Mission Bay Triathlon, from the beginning of October, was a 500 meter swim, a 15k bike ride, and a 5k run. Sunday's Super Seal Sprint Triathlon was a 500 meter swim, a 20k bike ride, and a 6k run. So, while comparable, my latest tri was about 3.75 miles MORE than my last one. And I finished this one in about 1:57......roughly 6 minutes slower than the previous one. I think that's great---that means it took me overall only 6 minutes more to complete an additional 3.75 miles. Progress, progress, progress!

So, let's take a look:

Swim: My swim time was about 13 minutes...a full minute FASTER than my previous time! I thought I was way slower...especially given my panic attack in the water, not being able to breathe for a little while, and taking several breaks in the water just to tread water and calm myself down. In fact, in my age/gender group, I came in 3rd place for the swim! Not too shabby!

Transition 1 (T1): This was about 6 minutes, which was average for my group. Some people were a few minutes faster. I don't know how they did that! By the time I ran up from the water (about 1/8 mile trek), got my wetsuit off, rinsed and dried my feet, and got my shoes and shirt on, so many minutes had already gone by. The only way I can really see to shave this time would be not to rinse and dry my feet....but really, that isn't a good option for me, as the bottoms of my feet always have sand and pebbles on them from being on the beach. Who wants to put on shoes and RUN with sand and pebbles under your socks? Not me!

Bike: The 20k took me about 55 minutes. This is five minutes slower than my first triathlon, but with an added 5k! I know this is still slow, and I was one of the slowest bikers (but not the slowest) in my group, but for me this was lightning fast! I think having a new light road bike is helping me; my old heavy, clunky hybrid slowed me down somewhat. Plus, I've been working on my biking, and while I have a LONG way to go, especially on hills, my improvement is right there in the numbers!

Transition 2 (T2): This was about 2 minutes....average for my group.

Run: My run was about 40 minutes, which included a bathroom break (I also took a bathroom break during the previous triathlon, so that's good for comparison's sake). As usual, my run was one of the slowest in my group. But my previous 5k took me about 38 minutes, and this one only took me 2 minutes more with an extra 1k to run. Sounds roughly the same to me. As always, I'm a slow runner....and gosh, it's so hard for me to find my running legs after biking!

All in all, I am very pleased with myself. The proof is in my times: I am improving! All of my hard training is paying off. And since my last triathlons, I have added a consistent strength training schedule (with weights) into my routine, which I think is also helping me. Best of all, regardless of my splits, I truly loved the experience this time, finished strong and smiling, and can't wait for my next one!

March 27, 2011

Super Seal Sprint Triathlon Recap

Today I completed my third triathlon, the Super Seal Sprint. It took place in Coronado (an island off of San Diego) and was held in conjunction with a longer, international distance triathlon. However, I did the sprint, which was a 500 meter bay swim, a 20k bike ride (about 12.43 miles) and a 6k run (about 3.72 miles).

I had a lot of trepidation going into this triathlon. Frankly, I was scared to death. I'd only done two triathlons before, both last October. My first one, the Mission Bay Triathlon, was hard but fantastic. But my second one, the Fearless Triathlon (which was a double mini-sprint) was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do both physically and mentally. Ever since then I've been terrified of doing another one. However, I have signed up for FOUR triathlons in 2011 (including one that is a much longer Olympic length one) so I knew I'd have to face my fears. I have been training diligently. My swims have gotten long---I can now do 2500 yards, nonstop, in the pool. My running, while always slow, is at it's peak (I even just did another half marathon two weeks ago). And my biking? Well, the bike has always been my nemesis, and while I have a long way to go to feel super confident on it, I knew I could handle the 12 mile flat course today. So while I have been nervous about this triathlon I have certainly been putting in the work and training.

It had been raining all week in San Diego, so I wasn't surprised on Thursday when I got an email from the race directors saying that there would be a possibility that the rain would cause too poor water quality to swim. The call would be made on race day, but we were to be prepared to compete in a duathlon instead (run/bike/run). I was truly bummed, as I wanted to compete in all three sports. I hoped that the rain would stop and the water quality would improve.

Yesterday I went to the expo to pick up my bib, timing chip, t-shirt and swim cap. I was a bundle of nerves. I kept thinking that the triathlon would be terrible, just like last time. I had to do a lot of self-talk, telling myself that it would be ok. After coming in third-to-last during the last triathlon, I was scared about possibly coming in last this time. And I had to be ok with that. After all, as long as I finished, I would be a winner.

After checking and re-checking my gear last night, I finally went to sleep. The alarm came too early at 4:45, but I was dressed and in my car by 5:00. I got to the race site, parked, and walked my bike through the darkness to the transition area. When I entered transition, I was told that the water quality was good, so there would be a swim after all, which made me happy. I went to go set up. In triathlon, you rack your bike by wave number. I was in wave 4. I found a rack that had plenty of room on it, but a few younger girls were already there and told me that it was really for wave 3. Ok. I found a spot on what looked like wave 4, racked my bike, and carefully unpacked my gear onto my towel. I left for a few minutes to get body marked (and by the way, I have to say that I love getting body marked....nothing makes me feel more like an official triathlete than having my race number in black marker on my arm and leg) and when I returned to my bike all the other bikes that had been by me were gone! One of the women called over to me that someone had told them that rack was for the relay. Yikes! I had to scramble to find a spot on a wave 4 rack...and those seemed to be filled. I finally found a spot and unpacked again...only to want to move further down the line and had to do the whole thing over for a third time. Ugh! Finally, though, I was unpacked with my gear organized. I put on my wetsuit and swimcap, grabbed my goggles, and headed down to the start of the swim.

The beach was packed with triathletes, all wearing their wetsuits and with different colored swimcaps on their heads (each wave had a different colored cap). The sprint started first, at 7:00, but since the international distance started at 8:00, and they were closing transition soon, most of those athletes were there too. I got into the water halfway just to feel how cold it was (a balmy 58* I was told) and to dip my face in to make sure my goggles were sealed tightly. They were. I stood on the beach for a while, when suddenly I noticed someone looking at me. She told me I looked familiar, as she did to me. It turns out that it was one of my Twitter and dailymile friends, Monika, whom I'd never met in person but chat with online. It was awesome to meet her, especially right before the race start, and with all of the people on the beach it was truly a coincidence.

Soon the race started. The first, second and third waves took off, and finally it was my wave's turn. It was a beach start, meaning that we were on the sand behind a start line and had to run into the water. The horn blared, and we all ran in. The water was cold, but my wetsuit kept me warm. I kept my head out of the water for the first part of the swim; there were so many people that I didn't want to risk not seeing and getting kicked in the face. Soon, however, I put in my face in the water. And there, I ran into trouble.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I have become quite good in the water. I swim twice a week, and have worked my way up to doing 50 laps, which is 2500 yards, non-stop. This swim was only about 1/5 of my usual swim. I thought it would be pretty easy and straight-forward. I did have some trouble on the swim of my first triathlon (an open-water swim is so much more difficult than a pool swim), but since I've improved so much since then, I thought I'd be fine.

For some reason, I was having a horrible time in the water. Awful. I couldn't remember how to breathe! The water was so cold that although my body was warm in my wetsuit, it shocked my face. I put my face in the water, but couldn't make my body exhale into the water. I started to freak out, and inadvertently started to gulp water. I started gasping out loud, trying to get some air and calm myself down. People started swimming into me, and over me. I tried again. Still, I couldn't exhale in the water. Now I was really panicking. For a moment, I thought that I might drown out there, although I knew I would be ok. I even had a brief second of thinking that I should look for one of the lifeguards (there are always tons of lifeguards in boats and on paddle boards, just in case), thinking that I would never make it. But then I got stern with myself and told myself to HTFU (harden the f*ck up, in triathlon terms). Even if I had to doggy-paddle the 500 meters, I would finish the swim.

Soon I rounded the first buoy, and this is when things finally got better. The crowd had thinned around me, and I was warmed up sufficiently to put my face in the water again. Magically, I was able to breathe! I completed the rest of the swim with no trouble at all, even doing my bilateral breathing. I was ahead of tons of people in my wave, and even passed people from wave 3, who had entered the water ahead of me (and two people from wave 2!) I was tired, even more tired than doing 2500 yards, but I think that the cold water makes my muscles more exhausted. I finally reached the finish, got out of the water, smiled for the photographer, and ran to transition.

After getting out of my wetsuit, rinsing my feet with water, putting on my socks, shoes and long-sleeved tech-shirt, I was ready to ride. This was the part I had been dreading: the bike. I put on my helmet, walked to the mount line, and got on. It was game-time.

Amazingly enough, I had the best bike ride! The course was almost entirely flat. There were lots of people on the course, but it wasn't at all crowded. Although people passed me, as usual, for the first time I actually passed a few riders myself! I kept my cadence nice and smooth, and my legs felt fine throughout. The sun was shining, and the view of San Diego and the bay was spectacular. I passed a flock of seagulls squawking, and I remember thinking to myself what a glorious bike ride it was. I even named my new bike on the ride (I finally got a road bike a few months ago, after months of riding my old hybrid). My bike is now officially named True Blue (yes, she's a pretty blue color). I had my Garmin on, which was so helpful. This was my first triathlon using a Garmin, and it was good for me mentally to see how far I'd gone and how far I had yet to go.

One moment of levity happened at this point: as I headed to the last U-turn before going back to transition, the volunteers were trying to direct me to head a certain way through some cones. I said ok...and kept going straight! They yelled after me that I was going the wrong way. I had to stop, get off my bike and come around the right way. One of the volunteers said, "I hear there's some nasty bacteria in the water today, it probably caused you not to think clearly, don't worry about it." Say what? He started laughing and telling me he was joking. Whew! For a minute there I thought the water really HAD been unsafe!

I ended my ride, got off the bike at the dismount line, and went back into transition. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and went out for the run portion. First I made a stop at a bathroom (and it was a real bathroom, not a nasty port-o-potty), since I had swallowed so much nasty bay water! The run was pretty uneventful. I had some pain in my left hamstring and calf, so I did more walking than I had wanted to, but at that point I just wanted to finish. And even though I did some walking and had a pit stop, my running pace was actually pretty good. Soon enough, the finish line was ahead of me and I was done! I was officially a triathlete for the third time!

I am so happy with myself. I really needed a good triathlon after the last one...and I had a great one! And despite my fears, I came in FAR from last place. I was also far from first place, of course, but I was not the slowest person out there. My confidence is boosted from my bike portion. I know now what I need to work on: more long bike rides (especially hills) and more open-water swims.

Next up on my race docket is the Spring Sprint triathlon in May, and the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon in June. And since my huge, Olympic sized triathlon is in September, you can bet I'll be working very hard this spring and summer so that I do well.

March 22, 2011

Medi-Cal FAIL

I am so frustrated.

I am once again having issues with A's Medi-Cal. She has had Medi-Cal since she was about 7 months old; we applied for it when she was 4 months old and had just gotten her tracheostomy. We don't qualify for Medi-Cal in the standard way. Most people who are on Medi-Cal are low income with no other insurance. We are blessed that J has a good paying job with great health benefits. However, A qualified for Medi-Cal based on her medical needs; that is, she was institutionally deemed, and qualified for a waiver via in-home support services. Basically, what this means is that our family income can be $1,000,000 or $1000 a doesn't matter. What matters is that her medical issues qualify her.

Medi-Cal has been a blessing to us. Yes, we have great private health insurance through J's work, but we have high co-pays (most visits have a co-pay of $30-$40). Now, for my son, D, that is nothing. He goes to the doctor about twice a year: once for his yearly well-child visit, and sometimes once more if he is sick. We can easily afford those few co-pays. But with A, it's a much different story. At the height of her getting all her medically-based therapies (as recently as January before she was discharged) she had 3 therapies a week. That would have been $120 A WEEK just for therapy! Plus, she has multiple doctor visits a year with a gazillion specialists. And that doesn't even take into account all the equipment we used to have to get for her (monthly supplies for her g-tube and tracheostomy). Of course, she no longer has her feeding or breathing tubes, and her doctors visits and therapy sessions are much less, but we still have them. Medi-Cal pays the co-pays on all of these visits. It has saved us thousands and thousands of dollars, which we really don't have.

Getting her on the Medi-Cal waiver was easy; keeping her on it is the hard part. Why? Because the state of California has failed for the last FOUR YEARS IN A ROW to send me the renewal packet. At first I chalked it up to a glitch in the system; but now, four years later I am convinced it's their way to get rid of families. I have to be pro-active and call months before I *think* we are due for renewal and ask for the packet. And inevitably, when I call, I get someone on the phone who doesn't know what the waiver program is (it IS pretty rare, but still!). It's very frustrating and time-consuming.

This year I didn't call pro-actively. Why? I don't know...I should have. I didn't want to deal with being on hold forever and having to talk to a million people before I found someone who knew what I was talking about. I know, I know, I should have known better. But I decided a few months ago not to call and to see what happens. So....this weekend I got a letter in the mail from CCS (California Children's Services), which is a government program that we have for audiology only (they pay for any hearing aid repairs). The letter stated that there "may be a change in our CCS services because there is a change in our Medi-Cal services". Gah! Yesterday I called Medi-Cal and found out that, sure enough, A's Med-Cal expired at the end of January.

Of course, not only had I not received a renewal packet, but I never got a letter, email, phone call or ANYTHING saying that she had been discontinued! The communication is just terrible. However, when I called Medi-Cal yesterday I hit the jackpot: I got someone on the phone, on the first try, who was a seasoned worker and knew what I was talking about. She said that because it was "county error" (uh-huh) she extended A's Medi-Cal through May, which gives me time to get the renewal packet (which I picked up yesterday), complete it, turn in and have the county process it. Hopefully all will go well, and her Medi-Cal will again be okay. If not, the worst case scenario is that she no longer has it, and while that will be costly to us, we'll make it work (it wouldn't be NEAR as costly as it would have been in years past).

I know it's a minor thing to worry about it the scheme of things, but money really IS tight and this helps so much. Hopefully all will go well and she'll be renewed again past May. And if she is, you can bet I'll be pro-actively calling again this December. Lesson learned.

March 18, 2011

The Swim

The alarm goes off at 5:20. That's a.m. My alarm, which is the theme song to the "Harry Potter" movies, interrupts my dream. I push snooze and snuggle back down into my warm blankets. I almost drift back off to sleep, then realize that if I don't get out of bed now, I won't have time to swim. Reluctantly, I get out of bed. It's still dark outside.

I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, scrape my hair into a ponytail, get in my bathing suit, and pull on some old sweats. I do this in the dark, trying to be quiet as so not to wake J. Of course, he's up, as he heard the alarm too. "Have a good workout," he calls as I tiptoe out of the room. On the way downstairs I grab a towel from the linen closet. Although I've been swimming early in the morning, twice a week, since July, I haven't yet learned to take the towel out the night before.

I get in my car and drive the half mile to the gym. It is dark and cold outside. I enter the gym, let them scan my gym pass, and go to the locker room. There, in the bright lights, I take off my sweats and pull on my swimcap. Locking my clothes and purse in the locker, I head out to the pool, taking my goggles and towel with me. On the way out, I grab one of the gym's little towels and four Q-Tips. The Q-Tips will help me keep count of my laps.

I walk out to the pool. Even though it's only 5:45 and still pitch-black outside, most of the 10 lanes in the pool are taken. I am always amazed. I used to wonder who these crazy people were, showing up in the wee hours of the morning to swim. Now I am one of the crazies. I find an empty lane, and breathe a sigh of relief that I won't have to share a lane. A glance at the white-board shows the temperature of the water to be 82 degrees. "Not bad," I think, "not bad."

I set my big towel down on a table and head to my lane. I put my little towel on the ground, and place my four Q-Tips on it. I sit and dangle my feet in the water. It feels cold, although I know it's not. The water is warmer than the air outside. There is actually steam coming off the water. I pull my goggles over my eyes, press them in for suction, then lower myself into the water. I push off and begin my first length.

Right arm, left arm, right arm, breathe, right arm, left arm, right arm, breathe....I concentrate on my bilateral breathing as I glide through the water. I'm a bit chilly, although I know I will warm up soon enough. I reach the end of the lane, 25 yards later, and turn around. I swim some more and suddenly I am back, and have completed 1 lap. Only 49 more laps to go.

The sky stays dark overhead for most of my swim. This is how I prefer to swim. I love the black sky above me, stars out, no sounds except for the splashing of my neighbors in the next lane and the sound of my own breathing. Unlike running, no music accompanies this workout. For the next hour, I will be alone with my thoughts in the water.

Swim, swim, swim....soon enough I have completed 20 lengths, which means I have 10 laps done, or 500 yards. . I move one of Q-Tips over to the edge of my little towel. This means I can start over with my count. It's easier for me to keep track this way. I can easily keep count up to 20 lengths....I would lose count with anything over. My Q-Tips count for me.

Swim, swim, swim. My arms start to get tired. I will myself to go on. I MUST do 2500 yards today. HTFU (harden the f*ck up), I tell myself, are you a triathlete or what? Soon my arms aren't tired anymore, and the swim gets easier. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes I get too tired and swim a length doing side-stroke instead of freestyle, although that rarely happens anymore. I've become a decent swimmer.

Swim, swim, swim. My goggles start to feel tight on my orbital bones, but I can't worry about that. I'd rather have a bit of pain around my eyes than leaky goggles. I notice the swimmer in the next lane using a kickboard. Another swimmer does flipturns. I stare at the black line underneath me and continue with my swim.

Soon enough, I'm done with my workout. 100 lengths. 50 laps. 2500 yards. Over an hour has gone by. The sun is now up; I swam through the sunrise. I get out of the pool, throw away my Q-Tips, wrap myself in my towel and head to the locker room. I quickly dress in my sweats and head home. I have to get my kids ready for school. I have a full day ahead of me. It's only 7:00 a.m. and my workout is over.

March 13, 2011

Safari Park Half Marathon Recap

Today I ran the Inaugural Safari Park Half Marathon. This park in San Diego is more commonly known by it's former name, the Wild Animal Park, and is owned by the San Diego Zoo. I was excited about this race, as some of the route was through the park itself. However, as recently as a few days ago, I wasn't even sure I'd be doing it.

I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis for a long time now. Usually I just have heel pain first thing in the morning (I hobble out of bed each day!) but the pain is always gone by the time I get into the shower. This past week I've been in an immense amount of pain. I wasn't even able to run this week, due to the severity of the pain and the fact that it was lasting most of the day. I've been icing and stretching all week, hoping to aggressively treat it. On Thursday I bought a Strassburg sock, and have worn it for the past few nights. My first plan was that if I didn't feel like I could run the race, I would drop down to the adjunctive 5K Walk. But then I nixed that: I don't do 5ks. So I decided I would at least start the half marathon, and if I was in terrible pain I would walk to the next aid station and take a DNF (did not finish). At least, if I had to quit, I would have tried.

I woke up early this morning NOT in the mood to run. Last night I was at silent auction/gala for my son's Educational Foundation...I was on the planning committee and am exhausted by all the work leading up to the gala. I didn't get to bed until around midnight, and set my clock for 5:00, which was really 4:00 (given that today was daylight savings!) So I was utterly exhauted. But my feet didn't hurt! I really think those Strassburg socks helped! I got dressed and drove to the Safari Park. Luckily I had everything packed and ready yesterday afternoon, since I knew I was going to be out late last night, and just had to grab my fuel belt and go.

I left myself plenty of time to get to the race, as was advised, and I'm glad I did: I sat in traffic forever! The winding one-lane road leading into the Park was packed! But I got a parking space with lots of time to spare, and walked up to the main area. Amazing enough, I ran into my good running/ triathlon friend, and soon after that ran into new friends from dailymile (I had met them for the first time yesterday a quick meet-up at the packet pickup). The race finally started with an elephant's roar instead of a gun, and we were off!

Most of the course took us around the perimeter outside of Park. It was a gorgeous day to run; cool, mostly overcast, breezy. A runner's dream. We started down San Pasqual Valley Road, and were soon in some neighborhoods. I ran into an acquaintance of mine; her daughter was in A's preschool class last year. She and I ran a few miles together, and it was great to catch up with her. Soon, though, I was ready for a walk break and let her go on ahead.

The course soon had some killer hills and I was walking more than I'd wanted. My calfs were getting tight, so the uphills hurt. As my goal was to simply finish the race, I didn't really care about the time. I was happy that my feet weren't hurting! Still, I tried to walk as little as possible. I always try to do my best. After we crested a big hill, it was a run downhill into the Park itself. I was very excited and took my camera out of my pack.

I needn't have been so excited. Although we ran through part of the park, I didn't see any animals! None! We did get to run through the cheetah run, which was fun. We ran through a corral with signs that had a cheetah on it saying "Speed Limit 70 MPH". Soon enough, we were out of the Park again, and back to the perimeter. Finally, around mile 12 we were back in the park and I saw my first (and only) animals: a mother and baby rhino. Just a final push, and soon I crossed the finish line.

This was the inaugural year of this race, and it had a lot of hiccups. I wasn't thrilled that the snacks were quite a walk from the finish line---I wanted a banana NOW! They also had a line set up to take a special, commemorative photo with your medal---that you could later purchase at the Park's exit. As I didn't have any money on me--who carries cash during a half marathon?--I passed on that. And I later heard that many people who had paid their entrance fee didn't even get to race, as the traffic snarl in the morning prevented them from getting to the Park before the road closures. I sure was glad I left when I did!

My final time was less than two minutes more than the personal record I set a few weeks ago at the Carlsbad Half. I was very proud of myself: I pushed through, finished the race pain-free, and set a great time. Next up on the race docket is a triathlon: the SuperSeal triathlon in two weeks. I plan on continuing my treatment for the plantar fasciitis and hopefully will improve even more.

March 4, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my birthday. I am 41 years old.

I remember my 21st birthday, which was 20 years ago today. Twenty years. Two decades! That milestone seemed so far ahead of me when I was a teenager, but now twenty years have passed since I became "legal". I remember having a party (my mom and sisters sent me a stripper!) and chipping a tooth on a beer bottle while drunk that night. Today, at age 41, that tooth is still chipped. I remember a few days later going out to a bar for happy hour and ordering my first legitimate drink. I ordered a Midori Collins, and felt so grown up.

41 is not a big milestone; last year was a lot of hoopla for me. Yet being well entrenched now in my 40s is certainly reason to celebrate!

I used to be scared of getting older. I couldn't imagine being over 30! I was fearful of the aging process: wrinkles, sagging skin, losing the appearance of youth. Now, at age 41, I have yet to get my first wrinkle. I am often told that I look like I'm in my early 30s....and I certainly feel that way. In fact, with all of my exercise that I have been doing, I have never looked better---even when I was 21!

A few weeks ago, Oprah had several ex-supermodels on her show. One was Paulina Porizkova, and she said something that really hit me hard:

"Aging is a privilege, not a birthright. "


I know so many people who didn't get to age. So many people who died when they were in their 50s; in their teens; in their infancies. It is not assumed that any of us will get old. So I am incredibly grateful that I am 41....and when I get those wrinkles, I hope to embrace them.

This past year has been incredible for me. In the last year, since I turned 40, I have completed 3 half marathons, 2 triathlons, and re-committed (for life, this time) to a lifetime of fitness. I helped to launch an educational foundation at my son's school, an endeavor that has been very time-consuming but well worth the effort. I have become even more comfortable in my own skin, and not only know who I am, but am learning how not to sweat the small stuff.

I am incredibly blessed; a very, very very lucky girl. I have a husband who loves me deeply; a son who delights me daily; a daughter who makes me so proud with all that she's overcome. I have a very supportive family, and feel the love of my mom, dad, step-mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews across the states. I have a wide network of friends, including some friends who I am extremely close to and I know I can depend on, including my very, very best friend. I have a nice house, live in beautiful San Diego, and really want for nothing.

I am excited to see what my 40s bring. I am ready!