March 30, 2012

Staring Fear Down

A few weeks ago, I heard something on the radio that I've been thinking about ever since. I forget who said it, or even which station I heard it on (although I suspect it was on the Oprah Channel on XM), but someone said "right now, there are people making plans for tomorrow, not realizing that for them, tomorrow won't come." It really hit home for me. We never know what tomorrow brings. A few weeks ago, my brother-in-law's mother died suddenly. A few years ago, my 16 year old cousin was killed in a car crash. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

When I was a little girl, probably about 8 or 9 years old, my family lived in Houston. One day we went to the beach (Stewart Beach) and a new waterslide had been put in. My parents offered for both me and my younger sister (she is two years younger) to go on it. I had never been on a waterslide before, and really wanted to, but I was scared. My sister ended up going on it---alone--while I stayed back with my parents behind the fence. As I watched her through the fence sliding down the chute on her little mat, I felt a harsh pang of regret. I wanted to do it, too. Of course, by that time, it was too late. I had let fear rule me. A few years later, I had the opportunity to go on a waterslide again, and went. Of course, I loved it.

I don't want to live my life in fear. Fear shouldn't stop me from doing something I want to do. I have no clue what tomorrow will bring. I don't want to live with regret. I don't want to be one of those people saying "I could have done this, I should have done that, I would have done it.". Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

To that end, yesterday I swallowed my fear and signed up for my first half-Ironman distance (70.3) triathlon.

As I am oft heard to say in real life: Oh. Em. Gee!

Back in January, I wrote a post about my 2012 goals. In it, I wrote about my fears doing a 70.3 distance. After I wrote it, I decided not to pursue the half-ironman distance; I would stick to Olympic-distance and sprints. Two weeks ago I was supposed to do an Oly (my second) but that got canceled. As recently as a few days ago I was all set to sign up for a few sprints and do an Oly in August; that would be my triathlon race schedule for the year.

Then Wednesday, when I opened my email, I got an email that would change the course of this year. I get Schwaggle deals daily (these are similar to Groupon and LivingSocial, but geared toward athletes). The Schwaggle deal of the day was 40% off the SuperFrog 70.3 triathlon, the one that I had been looking at. It dropped the price from $195 to $117, which was cheaper than the Oly I was thinking of doing this summer. I waffled back and forth for a day, partially paralyzed by fear....and yesterday I bought the deal and signed up.

I'm registered! I am officially in training for the SuperFrog 70.3 Triathlon, which is exactly 6 months from today on September 30. It's a 1.2 mile ocean swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run. This is not an Ironman-brand race; rather, it's a hard-core event put on by those tough, amazing Navy SEALS. Per their website:

This race-course is not for the faint of heart. The swim course is a two-loop open ocean water swim in the brisk September waters. There will be multiple wave starts that will be set 5-10 minutes apart. The water temperature will be approximately 60 degrees. Wetsuits are recommended. Next, the bike course is a flat and fast 56mile bike ride of four loops on Highway 75. Safety certified RIGID helmets are required for the bike portion of the race. You will NOT be allowed to race without a helmet. And lastly, the run course is a 13.1mile course is a combination of soft sand, hard-packed sand, and hard pavement. The run is made up of two 6.6mile loops. Water will be available at all aid-stations (4 per loop). Any racer who fails to complete any part of the swim, bike and run loops will be disqualified.

I am nervous enough about the distance, but seeing how tough it's going to be is freaking me out! I read tons of race reports and everyone, from elite athletes to average age-groupers, talk about how tough it it. The swim is a double-looped ocean swim. All my triathlons to date have been in bays. I have never had to content with getting through waves and swimming with currents. The bike will have a strong headwind one way (and therefore a strong tailwind the other way) for four loops. And the run? Several miles of it are on SAND. Yes, sand. Sand is so hard for me to run on!

The other thing I am scared about is the time cutoff. Most 70.3 (at least Ironman-branded) have an 8 1/2 hour time limit. This race has an 8 hour cutoff. I'm just not sure I can do this in 8 hours. I'm estimating an hour for the swim (my Oly swim time was 40 minutes, and this swim is not too much longer, but the waves and current should set me back, so I'm padding my estimated time). I'm estimating 4 hours on the bike (1 lap of this same course took me 55 minutes in a sprint triathlon I did, although that was a year ago, and I should be stronger and faster now, especially with my new clipless pedals). And while most half marathons take me between 2:30 and 2:45, I am estimating 3 hours, since I will be exhausted from the swim and bike, plus the sand running will be horrific. That adds up to 8 hours right there---it could even be longer depending on how tired I am--and that doesn't even include transitions!

Of course, I could surprise myself and be much faster. I just want to give myself a lenient estimate. And, even if I finish in under 8 hours---that is 8 HOURS OF CONSTANT MOVING! How exhausting!

I emailed one of the race directors, and asked if the 8 hour time limit was strict. I got an answer right away.

The time limit for the SUPERFROG Triathlon is 8 hours. Our main concern is that Hwy 75 must be re-opened by 1:00pm. This means that you must be able to complete the swim/bike portions of the event in 6 hours. While we do try to enforce the 8 hour event time limit- if you have completed most of the run by the 8 hour cut-off, we will still allow you to finish the event........If you still have a few miles (3,4,5?) You will definitely not be swept from the course. At that point, you will be on the run course (which is not part of the Hwy that has to close). If you are still on the bike course at that time- we will have to pull you off the course.

I was also informed that the slowest time last year was 8:06.

So, here are my two fears, and how I'm addressing them:

1) I am afraid of coming in last. Well, this may very well happen. In fact, I'm expecting to come in last place. But I really don't care. By the time I cross the finish line, I will have swam, biked and ran 70.3 miles. I am not in competition with ANYONE except myself. I will be so proud just to finish, last or not.

2) I am afraid of training for six months and being so slow that I get pulled. After reading the those emails, however, I don't think that would happen. At the 8 hour mark, I should be done, or close to done. Heck, even if I'm 5 miles out (an hour or so) it seems they'll still let me finish. But if worse comes to worst and I'm pulled, it'll be okay. I'd be sad, and really bummed, but if I train hard, and do my best on race day, that's all I can ask of myself. I can only do my best, which I will do.

The kicker is that I am registered to do a half marathon the weekend after this huge race. If it were a local race, I'd blow it off---but it's the Portland Half Marathon, a race I'm doing with my dear friend Krista (I convinced her to do her first half marathon with me!) and I really want to do it. My new plan is to take it easy the week between---lots of rest, compression, massage, and ice---and on race day in Portland just run easy, have fun, and not worry about pace at all. After Portland, I am racing AT ALL until January, so I will have lots and lots of time to rest and recover from the 70.3 and the half marathon after that.

So, I'm officially in training for my first 70.3! What I need to concentrate most on is increasing my bike mileage. To date, my longest ride was about 32 miles, and that was last summer. I need to be able to ride for hours. I don't need to increase my swims too much, as I can do 2500-3000 yards already, but I need to practice swimming in the ocean and dodging waves. I also intend on signing up for a sprint triathlon this summer that's in the ocean to give me some extra practice. And while I don't need to increase my running (I'm already in training for several half marathons) I do need to practice running on sand. And, of course, I need to do bricks. Lots and lots of long bricks (doing a long bike ride followed by a long run).

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I have exactly six months to train, fret, worry, and get excited. I WILL do this distance. I will NOT let fear stop me. I will climb to the top of my proverbial waterslide--and gleefully ride down.

March 26, 2012

San Diego Race for Autism 5k Race Recap

This weekend I ran the San Diego Race for Autism 5k with my son, D. It was his second 5k (his first was this past Thanskgiving Day, and we had an absolute blast doing it.

Let me back up to why I did this race in the first place. I don't usually do 5ks. There's nothing wrong with 5ks; in fact, when I first started running 12 years ago that was the only distance I did. But now, when I sign up for a running race, I prefer it to be a half marathon, my favorite racing distance. To me, it's not worth paying to do a 5k, especially since my usual weekday run is 3 miles, almost the 3.1 distance of a 5k. My race budget is tight, so I'd prefer to spend my money on half marathons (and triathons).

But I signed up for this race for two reasons. First, and most importantly, for my son. We had such a great time at the Turkey Trot in November that I wanted to do more 5ks with him. He's only 7, and he likes to run, so doing a 5k with him is pure joy for me. I want to build on his enthusiasm and hopefully raise a runner. The second reason is that I had several friends (four, to be exact) who, all separately (they don't know each other) told me they were inspired by my running and wished they could run too. To each of them I suggested doing a 5k and they all seemed excited about the idea. I chose this particular race because it was a few months away, giving people time to train from literally no running to a 5k distance, and also because the proceeds went to a great cause, autism research.

I tried to run with D over the past few months on weekends. We didn't train as much as I would have liked, but he did get up to two miles (doing a run/walk). During the November 5k he walked almost the entire second half, so I really wanted to get his endurance up. Meanwhile, two of my four friends never signed up for the race in the first place, and two did.

Race morning came way too early for me. I was on the planning committee of the silent auction and gala for my son's school the night before, and was physically exhausted from the long stressful week leading up to it, not to mention the fact that I didn't get home until after midnight. Nevertheless, I woke up D and we headed down to Balboa Park. Once there, I parked and we went to find my friends. One of my friend texted me that she hurt herself and wouldn't be joining us; that left one friend to meet. D and I got our t-shirts and bibs, and found my friend W, who watched D while I ran back to the car to put our shirts away (this race didn't have a gear check, unfortunately).

Don't mind how blurry this picture is; it was taken by my 7-year old
The race itself was great! There were lots of walkers to dodge, but once we got around the initial clog we were good to go. He wanted to hold hands for most of it, which was kind of annoying in terms of running, but of course I let him; I mean, for how many more races will my son want to hold my hand for 3.1 miles? Just like the last race, he took a lot of walk breaks, but not as many as before. The weather was perfect--overcast and cool--and everyone running was in such a good mood. It was also fun to see so many kids; I'm not used to kids on the racecourse, as children don't usually do half marathons.

We crossed the finish line with him shaving about 3 minutes off his 5k race time. I was so proud of him! I was also proud of my friend, W, who did his first ever 5k (and, in fact, his first race ever!) He finished about 6 minutes after us; we waited with his family, who had come to cheer him on, and got to see him cross his first finish line. I was so proud of him, too, for this amazing accomplishment!

I am already looking for more 5k races to do this year with D. Who day he might do a half marathon with me!

March 21, 2012

Superseal No-Race Recap

This past Sunday, I was supposed to race in my 7th triathlon (and second Olympic distance), the Superseal. I was excited about the race as I had done the sprint distance last year and had a great time. I was eager to up the ante to the Oly distance.

Spoiler alert: the race never happened.

I had been training for the Oly, and the week before felt confident that I would do okay on the 1500 meter swim, 40k bike ride and 10k run. I had even done a brick a few weeks ago of a 25 mile bike ride immediately followed by a 10k run, and performed well, so I knew that while I may be slow, I would not only finish the Oly but would finish strong.

The week before the triathlon, the weather forecast showed severe storms for the weekend ahead. We had gorgeous weather all week, but sure enough at the end of the week it started to turn bad. On Saturday, I drove through the rain all the way to Coronado Island (about 45 minutes away) to pick up my packet. The website had stated that if there was 0.1 inch of rain they would have to cancel the swim portion (most likely due to bacteria that would make the water unsafe) and turn it into a duathlon (turning the swim into a 1-mile run). So when I got to the packet pickup, having driven in the pouring rain, I asked one of the race crew if the swim was called yet. He said be prepared to swim.

I got my stuff (t-shirt, race numbers, swim cap and timing chip), came home, and started packing up all my triathlon stuff, including my wetsuit and goggles. Soon afterwards, I got this email:

Latest Update: It’s now official. Our lifeguards just pulled the plug on the swim due to a small craft advisory (double red flag). We wanted to take the decision point to tomorrow morning. Our apologies. The race founder , Moki Martin, will send an email out to all racers this evening addressing the issue. Stay positive!

So I unpacked my swim stuff, and started to psych myself up to do a duathlon. I've never done a du before, but while I was a bit apprehensive, I was glad I wouldn't have to swim in cold, yucky water. I read some things online and talked to a few friends about things I could do to make biking safer in the rain (I've only biked in the rain once; actually that was in a triathlon too!), like lowering the tire pressure in my tires to create more friction, avoiding cycling on the white lines of the road which would be slippery.

I went to bed and woke up several times to the sound of high winds and hail. When my alarm went off at 4:30, I was not happy. At all. However, I decided to go down to the race site, in case the weather let up. I got dressed and, since I always pre-load all my gear in the car the night before, was ready to go in no time. I drove down to Coronado again, in the rain, hoping for the best.

Transition opened at 5:45, and I got to the parking lot at 5:40. I sat in horror as my minivan started to rock back and forth due to the high wind. I opened my car door, and the wind was out of control. I made my decision right then---even if the race was on, I wouldn't be doing it. There was no way that I could ride in gusts that strong. I'm a novice cyclist, although I suspect even elite bikers would have issues.

I noticed everyone getting out of there cars and walking to transition, all without their bikes. I got out too and got to transition just in time to hear the race director announce that not only was the swim canceled, but so was the bike portion. The winds, which were 35-40 mph, made it too unsafe for the triathletes. Also, they couldn't keep their signs up and if one blew across the highway and hit a driver that would be very bad too. The director said that maybe, possibly, they would do a 5k run, but he wasn't sure. I didn't stick around long enough to find out. Yes, I had paid $140 for the race, but I wasn't going to wait for hours, whether alone in my car or outside in the terrible conditions (it later started to hail!) just to run 3.1 miles. I went home, got back in bed, and took a nap.

It turns out that they DID do a 5k later, as the weather let up a bit. The Oly triathletes didn't start running until 8:00. I'm glad I left...I would have had to wait 2 hours and 15 minutes! An announcement on their website said that this was the first time in 34 years of running triathlons that the race director had to cancel any part of any race. Although it was not their fault, and they indeed made the right decision to cancel, they are generously giving a 25% discount on next year's Superseal (and this year's 70.3 Superfrog, which I am not doing).

Now I need to choose my next triathlon---I have no more on the schedule!

March 7, 2012

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Last night I started my daughter, A, back in dance class. She had been going for about a year or so, then stopped at the beginning of last summer because the dance studio didn't do summer classes, only camp sessions. I meant to wait until she got acclimated in her new school in the fall and then sign her up again, but time just got away from me and I never did. Last week I checked back in with the same studio and found that there was a class that not only seemed appropriate, but fit perfectly in our hectic schedule We audited it last night, and I ended up signing her up.

As I was watching her in the class, I had mixed emotions. She had a hard time with many of the moves, partly because they were new to her but mostly because of her balance disorder. Even though she's 5 1/2, she still can't jump, let alone hop on one foot, skip, or do any of the moves that require her to be in the air. But she tries so darned hard, and adapts the moves to what she CAN do. I've never seen a little girl try harder, nor have so much fun. That made me so proud. I get filled with so much PRIDE when I see her try so hard and do so well!

While I have pride, however, I also get a little sad. It's still hard for me sometimes to see her around other kids her age who are typically developing and see how far behind she is. She has come so amazingly far, yet she still has a long way to go, especially with her gross motor skills. So when I see girls her age pirouetting gracefully around the room, I am proud and happy that she is walking and indeed TWIRLING, albeit a bit clumsily and off-balance...and I get a bit sad and wistful for what we'll never have.

While watching her dance, it occurred to me that A and I are similar in some ways. While she has a hard time keeping up with others in dance class, I have a hard time in yoga. I recently started taking yoga, and am still so tight and inflexible that I need to adapt some of my poses. In my class Monday night, for example, we were doing a leg stretch where we were asked to place our hands as far down our leg as we could (while we were lying on our backs with our legs in the air). I could only place my hand as far down as my knee, but others in the class were grabbing their calfs, their ankles, even their toes.

I'm not in a competition with the other class members, and in fact the teacher always reminds us to listen to our bodies and do what we can do and adapt the rest. I do what I can, and know that with practice I will improve. The same goes for A. She can only do what she can do, and it doesn't matter what the other little girls can do. She is doing her best too. We can only work with what we have---I have tight muscles, she has no semi-circular canals, the part of the inner ear that control balance--but we both have drive, spunk, a sense of fun, and a desire to improve.