August 23, 2012

Putting It All Out There

Today's post may be one big ramble; I'm just writing down my stream of consciousness, so please bear with me. (All images found on pinterest).  I am going to go out on a limb and bare my deep thoughts and fears here. I need to write it out....because I think it will help me process all of my emotions.

With my big race just a few weeks away (in 6 weeks; only 5 more training weekends, including a taper) my thoughts and emotions have been running the gamut. Sometimes I feel empowered and bad-ass and ready; other times I feel scared and overwhelmed and have a panic attack about it.  It's not unusual for these opposite thoughts and feelings to course through me not only all in the same day, but in the same minute.  I may start to freak out about the race, and a few seconds later successfully self-talk some positivity, or I may feel great about it and then start to dwell on my self-doubt.

The biggest doubt in my mind is my training. Have I been doing enough? I'm not sure. I've been training as hard as I could, ever since I first signed up for this half-Ironman back at the end of March, but have been plagued by some injuries that have made me pull back a bit. At the beginning of July I wrenched my back very badly, and for most of July I couldn't bike, as my back couldn't take it. I spent a lot of time resting, rolling my back on my foam roller, and going to the chiropractor.  I lost valuable training time there.  The past few weeks it felt better, but then this past Saturday morning it started to ache again (not badly, but I felt it was the precursor to it going out) so I canceled my planned long ride. I'm not making excuses; it is what it is. I'd rather go into the race maybe not as trained as I could have been than do a risky training ride (or run) when I'm in pain and put myself out of the race for good.

The bike is scaring me to death.  I am planning on taking 4 hours for the ride, and hope I don't go over.  A cursory look over the last few years' results of the race show no one took over 4 hours.  Some people took almost that amount of time, but no one hit the 4 hour mark. I really can't do more than 4 hours, else I may get kicked off the course. I know a lot of people reading this may laugh...surely 56 miles won't take 4 hours?  Well, the one time I did 56 miles in training, it took me roughly 3:55. I'm slow, very slow, on the bike.  I have had one 56- mile bike ride, and several in the 40-45 mile range. I am planning on a few more long rides--between 50-65 miles each--in the next few weeks. Will this be enough? Not sure. But again, at this point, 6 weeks out, it's all I can do. I was diligent getting my mileage up before my back injury, and also after recovery. I can do nothing about the times when my body rebels and won't let me do what I want, or need, to do.

The swim and run make me nervous too, of course, but not as anxious as the bike.  I've been doing my long swims in the pool, almost always swimming between 40-50 laps (2000-2500 yards), even doing a 3000 yard swim a few weeks ago, which I'll be doing again soon. I've done some open-water swim practices, and am now borrowing a friend's sleeveless wetsuit because I think it will be easier on my shoulders to swim in.  My runs have been increasing again (I hadn't run LONG since the beginning of June, when I set my PR in the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon). Last week I ran 10 miles, my longest run since Rock 'n ' Roll. I will do at least one more 10 miler before my triathlon. I've also done a few runs on the beach (SuperFrog has many miles run on sand) and will do more before the race.  Additionally, I've done many bricks, always trying to run at least 1 mile off most bike rides. I plan on a mega-brick a few weeks before the race, ideally a 50 mile bike and maybe a 7 mile run.

Will all this be enough? I don't know. The test will come on race day.

I think, however, that my biggest challenge is not the physical aspect. I CAN do the distance, I've covered all three distances in training, and putting it all together is going to be the hardest thing ever but I can DO it. For me, the biggest challenge will be mental.  Here's some examples of the self-talk I do to try to combat my negativity:

Thought: I haven't been training enough.
Counterthought: I HAVE been training, and hard!  Look at your training logs, both in your notebook and on your dailymile account.  Yes, you've been sidelined some with injury, and yes, you have to balance your training with the obligations of being a mother to two young kids, so given those two things, you've put in as much training as you can.

Thought: I will come in last place.
Counterthought: Well, this might be true, but who cares? You will still cross the finish line, you will still be a half-Ironman.  There's the saying, "What do you call the person who comes in last place at triathlon? A triathlete."  Plus, as my best friend wisely told me, "Hey, you're beating me, I didn't even sign up!"

Thought: I'm crazy for signing up for this.
Counterthought: Yes, I am. And being crazy is good. It's good to break out of your comfort zone, to see what you are made of.  A line in the book (and musical), Wicked, says "Those who don't try never look foolish.".  So if I look foolish, who gives a crap? I'm trying.

Thought: This is going to hurt.
Counterthought: Yes, it's likely to be the most painful thing you ever endure. But remember the pain of childbirth? The pain of having epidurals and recovering from 2 c-sections wasn't easy--but you got two beautiful children out of it.  Every cell of your body may scream during the race, but it WILL end, you WILL finish, the pain WILL subside, and you WILL cherish the memory of the race--of finishing-- forever.

Thought:  I will be so slow I get pulled of the course (I won't make their time restrictions).
Counterthought: Well, I can only do the best I can do. If I get pulled, either from the bike or run (or heck, the swim!) it won't be for lack of having tried. And I can always try again another time.

Thought: You are not ready to do a 70.3 triathlon (half-Ironman distance).
Counterthought: Oh, yes you are! You've done 7 triathlons, one of which was an Olympic-distance. While you might not be an elite athlete, you're an athlete all the same. You've been training, and all you have to do is try this. If not now, when?

Thought: This won't be so bad.
Counterthought: Don't get cocky.  It's going to be tough....but you have it in you to go the distance.

I don't know if I'll ever do this long a distance again (we'll see how I feel after September 30!) but I do know that I'll finish, and be so proud of myself.  I can only do the best I can do, in spite of injury, in spite of time constraints with the rest of my life, in spite of having to balance being a mother and being a wife and following through with the myriad of obligations I have.  I need to spend the next 6 weeks not only training diligently, but also reinforcing the above counterthoughts. I'm going to finish....and man, I'm going to be so bad-ass when I do!

August 15, 2012

The Best Years of My Life

I realized the other day that right now I am living the best years of my life.

Of course, being only 42 years old, I hope to have many great years ahead of me.....years potentially filled with travel and grandchildren and sitting on the porch looking back over old scrapbooks (of course, this would mean I need to get a porch. And take up scrapbooking again).  But right now, I truly feel these are the days.

Mostly this is because of my kids.  For my first two years of motherhood, when it was just me and my son, D, I was in bliss all the time.  D and I had a 2-year long "babymoon" in which every day I fell deeper and deeper in love with him.  I loved his infant stage, and was so happy being a mother.  Of course, soon he hit the terrible twos---and threes--and fours, etc--and while I still loved being with him, parenting got that much harder and frustrating.

When A was born 2 years later, all things went to hell.  Not to diminish my love for her, because I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her, but the first several years of having her were tough.  Dealing with hospitalizations, a feeding tube, a breathing tube, and above  all the fear of the was hard, to say the least.  All the things we had to be careful of---don't get water near her tracheostomy, avoid the beach and sandboxes,  just to name a few--put a damper on what we were able to do.  Heck, she didn't even sit up unassisted until she was over a year old, let alone walk until she was three and a half--those were tough years indeed.

Now, not only is she tube-free and walking and talking and about to enter kindergarten, but I feel like I've hit a sweet spot with the kids.  Both are so fun to be with.  They are at the perfect age and height for me to be able to take them to amusement parks by myself. A is tall enough to go on most rides at Legoland and SeaWorld, as long as I sit next to her, and D is tall enough to ride by himself.  Before, we'd have to go to these places as a family, but this summer I've been able to go alone with the two of them.

Not only are they fun to be with together, but I love doing things one-on-one with them.  D and I have been having dates over the past few years, seeing plays together at the local junior theater, going to a baseball game, even just getting ice-cream.  A has become my Starbucks buddy, my shopping companion (when I go; I HATE shopping) and my go-to girlfriend to get a pedicure with.  My husband, too, gets enjoyment out of doing things one-on-one with the kids--taking A to Costco (she loves to eat the samples) or building Legos with D, for example.  We are soaking up our time with them.  The best part is that while they are old enough to do fun things with, they are still young enough that they really need us.  Both kids love to cuddle and kiss me.  D still likes me to read to him every night, even though he is reading at a level many grades higher than he is. 

Of course, things can still be hard.  I will have on-going issues with A, especially now as related to her hearing and language and development.  Likewise, parenting an active 8 year old boy has its own challenges.  But I feel more ready to tackle these issues because they are not the overwhelming factor in my life, as they were years ago.

But these are my best years for other reasons as well.

On a personal level, I have never been so in shape.  Not that I have a perfect body; far from it. But I have never, ever been so fit.  Even when I did my full marathon, back in 2003, I wasn't this fit and healthy.  I have reached a fitness level that I have always dreamed of---not just physically, but more mentally. I "get it" now, I get that I need to work out almost daily in order to be healthy and to keep my sanity.

Additionally, I have hit that stage in life that I don't care as much about what other people think. I'm not going to lie and say that I don't care at all; of course I do, to some extent. But I don't give other people's opinions about my life the same weight I used to.  I don't try to impress people.  I'm done with the cliques that I see even now as an adult. I don't get involved with the "high school drama" that I see other moms at the kids' school do.  I'm over it. I have more important things going on in my life.

I have a great relationship with my husband, who really is my life partner and biggest cheerleader. I have amazing relationships with my family members.  And I have just the right amount of friends in my life---lots of acquaintances, several friends, a few GOOD friends and one soul-mate best-friend-forever--that my support network is stable.  I am throwing myself into ventures that are scary (training for my first half-Ironman, starting an educational foundation at my child's school, to name a few) and know that I will succeed just by trying.

I didn't have all of this in years past.  In my twenties, I cared too much about what other people thought. During a big chunk of my thirties, I was neck-deep in medical issues with my family.  But now? I feel life is, overall, great. Again, not everything is perfect, and I still have a lot of self-growth to do.  But I am finally feeling like I am becoming the woman/mother/wife/friend I was destined to be.

I don't want to discount the challenges that I still is not perfect, it's not easy, and I don't expect it ever will be. But I am grateful for how my life has shaped up to be so far, and I intend to soak it up to the fullest.  I'm in the sweet spot, after all.