Sunday, February 28, 2010
1. If you wake up at 4;45 a.m. the morning of your first triathlon because it is raining so hard that the windows are rattling, maybe you should just go back to sleep.
2. If you wait until race day to sign up and they post on the internet that only 50 spots remain, with registration starting at 3 pm the day before you plan to register, maybe you should just forget about it.
3. If you ask a friend who lives closer than you do to try to get you a bib at 6 a.m. when the gates open, and she calls to ask if you're REALLY sure you want to do this since the entire race site appears to be under 3 feet of water, maybe you should just say no.
4. If she then calls back to say she can't get you a bib because even the race registrars aren't there yet, maybe that, coupled with a rain comparable to Noah's 40 year flood, a serious ankle injury, a week of back spasms and aching legs should convince you to just go back to bed.
5. If you drive the hour+ to the race site, park a mile away and get soaked before you've even gone 20 feet from your car, stop and consider if you are mad or just stupid. If you aren't sure, ask yourself that question again once you get to registration and see just how wet, swampy and muddy everything is.
6. If you're still determined to enter a tri on this particular day, maybe you should consider training for it ahead of time. Even just a little bit.
7. If you're not convinced that this isn't the day to try something new, then at least prepare yourself mentally for calf deep mud puddles, 20 mph headwinds and the worst location to stage your gear - the end of the transition area farthest from the entrance/exit.
8. Finally, put a smile on your face and try to enjoy the experience, because you may never want to do this again... but when you finish, and you will finish if you put up with all of the above, remember that you can forever after say "I'm a Triathlete"!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Exactly one week ago I was on my way to LAX to pick up a Spark friend from the East Coast, one of 4 flying in for the weekend. A bunch of us had been on a team together all last year (some of them were actually on it since 2008) and we had become good friends, chatting daily about our journey's, our struggles and accomplishments. I think that one of the things that drew us all together was our running... so it was exciting to think about meeting for the first time and running a race together.
For lots of reasons we decided last May that we would all run the Surf City Marathon (or half marathon, or 5K) together this February. We talked about it for awhile, we each signed up for it, we trained together although apart, and we made our travel plans. The excitement kept building as the time grew near... until it was finally here! We dubbed our weekend "Sparkfest 2010 - Surf City" in the hopes that it was merely the first of many such meet-ups to come.
I have waited to write this blog with the hope that time and perspective would help me find the words to describe what this past weekend was like, and what it meant to me... I'm not sure yet if it worked, but I do know that I'm anxious to share the wonder that transpired between us!
We were originally going to be a larger group and so we decided to split up and stay in two different homes, instead of all camping out at my house. EVETROY graciously took half the group and the other half stayed with me. Unfortunately some of our original group couldn't join us ( ) and we missed them but kept them in our thoughts.
I absolutely loved seeing my dear Spark Friends in 3D (as the wise BSTAKINGACTION called it!). They were/are exactly as I have come to know them, only better. There were no surprises for me, just unadulterated joy at the laughter we shared and the hugs we gave each other.
Isn't it amazing that of all the people in the world, all the people on SparkPeople, all the people who were on this team with us, that we clicked with each other? That we formed these bonds that run so deep? We joked and laughed about how for each of us, when we joined the team and everyone posted a message welcoming us to the board, we were hooked. Just like in the film Jerry McGuire (I paraphrase): You had me at !!
The other side of this weekend for me was the race. Some of you have followed my blogs detailing my running endeavors over the last year, my injuries, my therapies, my plans for surgery... and so for you this is no surprise... but I was still agonizing over whether I should run the full marathon (which I had signed up for) or the half marathon (which my friends were running)? I have come to accept that I love to compete against myself. Not so much against others... but I definitely get a charge out of besting my previous time, pushing myself to a new distance or tougher challenge than before, earning the bragging rights that come with accomplishment. I didn't want to trade that away by running the half...
I can honestly say that I am glad that I made the choice I did. I ran the half and finished in an acceptable time (acceptable being a relative term and used only to describe my own feelings about my finish time) and still felt good enough to enjoy the company of my dear friends and running club mates. Instead of regret that I couldn't carve another marathon notch in my belt I feel deep satisfaction that I matured enough (maybe?) to make a smart decision.
I didn't run my fastest race by any means, but I think I ran a smarter race than I have in the past 6 months. I conserved my energy and I protected my injury. I didn't suffer from leg cramps, nausea or IBS; I ran most of the last mile instead of walking most of it. And I set my sights on a young runner I know who had passed me earlier but was within sight ahead of me, and I pushed until I reached her. Together (she is the daughter of a friend) we sprinted the last .25 mile into the finish! I still can't believe that I had that much kick left in me, but I LOVED the feeling! As for the "Joy at Competition" part of this blog - I crossed the finish line a step ahead of her
I have to admit that I wasn't only driven by the competition to sprint to the finish line - the knowledge that my Spark Friends were all waiting for me was a huge motivator! I knew that I was the last in the group and so I wanted to get there and join them in the Beer Garden as soon as possible! Other Sparkers joined us for awhile too, as did some of my pace group from my running club. The sun was shining after 2 days of gloomy rain, the temp. was perfect and we all had the coolest medals around our necks! What more could a person ask for?
Our weekend didn't even end there... we spent the next day recovering and enjoying each other's company at the Spa... but I think I'll leave that for someone else to write about
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
[*Thanks to my dear friend SORGIN for coining the phrase "Sparkfest" to describe an informal gathering of SparkFriends, particularly when centered around an athletic event.]
This past Sunday I ran my 3rd marathon, my first without any race course support. I flew to Phoenix by myself, and while many of my friends from Spark People and my running club were running the 1/2, I didn't know of anyone else running the full. To say I was a little anxious would be an understatement! Add to that the stress of arriving in Phoenix at 4:30 pm the day before the race, with the expo closing at 6 pm and the fact that I had recently learned that I need surgery on my foot and ankle and you might say I was not feeling terribly centered.
I had vacillated all week long between doing the full, the half or not going at all (OK, I only considered the last option for an hour!). My husband wasn't crazy about my going, my son kept calling me an id**t for even considering it, but those of you who run know that the drive to compete is so strong... I just couldn't imagine backing out.
My orthopedist put me in a walking cast to rest my ankle as much as possible leading up to the race. While it was awkward, it certainly seemed to help.
The other reason that I really REALLY wanted to go to Phoenix was to meet some other Sparkers I had been chatting with since June! I met RUN.OR.RUST in San Francisco before we ran the SF 1/2 together; she is part of the CA Dreamin' Team... and I was excited to meet BOILERINAZ and GLOBALKEEWEE who have been inspiring me for the past 6 months!
Run.Or.Rust saved my day on Saturday when she offered to pick me up at the airport and take me to the expo. Talk about stress busting!! She brought her adorable son Alec and together we made it shortly before closing. I got my bib and my shirt, but they were already out of goodie bags . Most of the exhibitors were already packing up for the night but I made sure to get my beer wristband . Our plan was to then go by my hotel to check in and then head out to meet the others for dinner. Again, I don't know how I would've managed without Run.Or.Rust, since the expo was in Phoenix and my hotel was in Tempe... its not like I knew my way around either, having only been to Phoenix once many many years ago.
Much to my delight, our dinner group had grown to include CHELLELEIGH and LIL_BUCKET24, as well as 2 spouses and a friend... we were 10 all together!! As soon as I saw GlobalKeewee and BOILERINAZ I just had to give them big hugs - I felt like I was seeing friends I had been missing for a long time!
After dinner I went back to my hotel to get my race gear ready. Again, those of you who race know this can be an ordeal... Short sleeves or long? Shorts or tights? Gloves or not? Arm warmers or throw-away shirt? I had packed lightly so my choices were minimized, but it still took me 30 minutes to get myself together! I went to sleep at 11 pm, and set my alarm for 3 am. I had no race packet since I had no goodie bag, so as best as I could remember the marathon started at 6:30 a.m. and we were told to get to the busing area 2 hours prior to start time... I figured that meant I needed to catch a hotel shuttle to the busing area no later than 4:15 am. Holy cow, that was early! If I were superstitious, I might have quit before I started... I got into the hotel shuttle and took a big gulp of my coffee, only to cough unexpectedly and spew it all over the dashboard. OMG, I was so embarrassed! I wiped it clean with my shirt and apologized profusely. The nice driver assured me it was no big deal, but what a way to start the day .
As it turns out, I sat on the school bus waiting to leave from 4:20 until nearly 5. The only other people showing up at that hour were the Ultra runners. It was actually their race that started at 6:30, the marathon didn't start until 7:40! When we got to the start line village they were still setting up water, bagels, bananas and coffee. I was the first to get a pre race massage though - there are some perks to being early LOL
My massage therapist:
I wandered around a bit looking for the starting line... it was so early that they hadn't even put up the corral signs yet! I finally found it...
and found my corral soon after
Here I am in my coffee stained throw-away shirt (good thing it wasn't my race shirt!)
I chatted with a few people at the start and ran into some Lopers who I knew as well, and then we were off! I hate to admit it but in spite of my best efforts, I was desperate for a porta-potty those first 3 miles. I couldn't decide if I wanted to stand in line or try to run to the next one... but the lines were long and in the end the "next ones" turned out to be few and far between... so as I passed some spectators I started looking for open doorways to their homes... I actually asked a woman if I could go inside and use her bathroom! Bless her, she said yes and I was in and out as fast as I could be, and then on my way again.
In spite of my injuries I had set my usual 3-tiers of goals for this race: #1 - Finish (preferably in under 6 hours); #2 - PR, preferably breaking 5:45; #3 - Break 5:30 (my ultimate marathon goal). I was feeling pretty good and following my 1:1 intervals, trying to maintain a 12:37 m/m (5:30 pace) up through mile 9. I started thinking this could really happen... I could actually run a 5:30 marathon... but alas, it was not to be. I lost 5 minutes at the porta-potty stop at mile 9 (those of you who have experienced this KNOW just how awful this feels... to be on track for the race of your life only to be sidelined by someone else taking a long time to pee!). By the time I left my average per mile pace had dropped to 13 minutes, and I was never able to get it back below 12:49 . OK, I have learned on SP that if you don't reach your goal don't quit, just revise your goal! So I figured I could still break 5:45 and maybe even make 5:35 if I just keep pushing...
The sun came out and it started to get warmer. I kept looking for "Army girl" as I came to know her, another runner who had been pacing alongside me for miles before my potty break at 9, and finally I saw her as I approached mile 13.7 (she's the one in the blue shirt and black skirt). I pushed past her and never saw her again... Between miles 14 and 19 I kept pushing for my 5:45 goal, but I found myself slowing down. The pain in my ankle was getting worse, my calves were getting shocky-cramps and I had developed quite a few blisters on my right foot. I could feel them burning as they filled...
My husband texted me at mile 19 saying he had not had a good run that morning and wondered how I was doing... I told him I was on pace for a 13 m/m but that I was hurting and would have to start walking more... GlobalKeewee promised to meet me at the finish line and I kept texting her with my progress. It made me sad to think she would have to wait even longer for me to get there, but I just didn't think I could push any harder at this point. I had gone out too fast, had been too ambitious with my goals given the condition of my body, and I had seriously HIT THE WALL.
I thought of sitting down by the side of the road and having a good cry but I knew that if I indulged myself I wouldn't even make my 6 hour goal; THAT was not acceptable, so I kept going... "One minute at a time, one mile at a time" (my mantra from San Diego) kept me moving forward. I swear, those last 8 miles felt like an eternity. I had never before been so discouraged during a race . I had to accept that my dreams were not going to come true today, and convince myself that it was still OK. At mile 21 I took a picture of the race clock (unfortunately the time doesn't show up) so that I could always remember that I was still on track for goal #2 at this point, even if I didn't make it. I had STILL managed to get close to it...
My spirits were temporarily lifted near mile 23 when I came across a HASH** (**Hash House Harriers, a drinking group with a running problem) support stop. I just had to take a picture to honor my HASHing roots but I declined the traditional beer "down-down".
I knew I only had 5k to go but believe me when I tell you that it was the hardest 3 miles of my life! My pace had slowed to a virtual crawl and it was all I could do to keep moving... I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King whose birthday was being celebrated this holiday weekend... he famously said "If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving." So I kept moving. My interval timer would go off telling me it was time to run and I would increase my pace from a hobbling stroll to a shuffling jog (trust me, there wasn't much resemblance to a jog, but at least I tried!). One foot at a time, one minute at a time, one mile at a time, until I knew I was almost there.
GlobalKeewee texted me that she would be waiting just past the blue balloons on my left as I approached the finish line, and SORGIN texted me that she was watching the finish live on the internet and waiting for me to get there and wave at her... To you both, I say It is because of you that I started running again at mile 26. I vowed to myself that I would finish strong and not let my temporary pain derail my efforts to break 6 hours! Final time: 5:54:03 (18 seconds longer than my last marathon in San Diego).
I immediately got ice for my ankle and then GlobalKeewee and I headed over to the beer tent LOL.
GlobalKeewee was a good friend and walked me back to my hotel before going home, and BOILERINAZ met me for breakfast before my flight Monday morning, insuring that my Sparkfest/Marathon weekend ended as it started ~ with my Spark friends!
Monday, January 11, 2010
One year ago I joined Spark People. I had joined a weight loss challenge at my gym and was looking for a way to track my food without writing the same thing down over and over again. An internet search for online food trackers brought me here, and for that I will always be grateful!
In the past year I have lost over 25 pounds and gained so much - self esteem, athleticism, a healthy SUSTAINABLE lifestyle and best of all, some extremely dear friends. I have not yet reached my goal weight nor have I reached all of my athletic goals yet either - but that's the beauty of my new Sparked life; I know that this is a journey and there will always be new goals to strive for.
What I have lost, in addition to body fat, is fear. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of stagnation.
The tools I've been given through The Spark are going to be on my tool belt for life. They are getting used often and in varied situations, and they are developing the patina of a favorite personal treasure. How appropriate.
This community of fellow Sparkers has made the difference I was looking for in my life. I have been to convention, I have met up with some Spark friends, I have talked to many others outside the parameters of SP.com - but even as people come and go in my life, I know there will always be Sparkers out there to walk a bit on this journey with me, and with their company, my life will only get better!
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