Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pumped About Spin

My triathlon club's spin season has begun and we've had five spins now. I am really enjoying it and tonight I'm especially happy that I can say that.

We have two spin instructors. One of them runs the spins in the way that most triathletes would be familiar with - multiple sets of relatively short intervals with changes in cadence and/or gear. It's a very methodical style with hard bursts followed by short rests. Our other instructor is a road cyclist and his style is totally different. We do intervals that are as long as each of the songs he plays and sometimes as long as three or four songs. Last Wednesday, we did a series of tempo intervals that were each the length of a song. Then we did an 18 minute, 90% effort time trial! I thought I was going to puke and then die! Everyone was talking about how hard it was but after we all survived it, it was clear that we all enjoyed it in some strange way. Still, I was a little worried about going back to tonight's class in case it turned out to be an almost-puke-and-die-fest again.

Well, what we did tonight was climbing. After a series of tempo intervals, we cranked our bikes up into the highest gear and climbed a hill for 18 minutes - 5 minutes standing, 4 minutes seated (still in the highest gear), repeat. I thought there was absolutely no way that I could stand for 5 minutes. I was sure I'd be sitting down within 2 minutes. But, amazingly, I stood for the entire time he told us to and I kept up my pace whether we were standing or seated! And I stood up and sprinted for the last minute when he spontaneously decided we should do that. I was shocked! There is no way I could have done that last year. Maybe I am actually getting stronger because of my strength workouts with my personal trainer. And maybe these spins are already helping me improve. The real test will be when I get my bike out on the road next spring, which is a few months off, but I am feeling like there might be hope for better bike times next season.

Tonight's spin made me feel really encouraged. I feel like I can handle whatever he dishes out next week!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gotta Get a Grip

Yesterday I weighed myself and I was not happy with what I saw. I haven't been nearly as active this year as in the last couple of years and it has taken its toll. I have gained about 8 pounds this year and I was no skinny mini to start with. Really, I ought to lose 30 pounds and all of my fat is around the middle, making me look kinda like the Michelin Man.

I was in a yoga class on Sunday and I couldn't support myself on my arm when attempting side plank. Now, I think part of that was because I've been working on my arms more than usual this week and they are feeling it but it occurred to me that it would be a lot easier if I didn't have 30 extra pounds to try to hold up. I also find it hard to do the twisty poses. I don't know if it's limited flexibility or if I just don't have room for my fat when I try to twist myself! Cycling in aero position will be a little trickier now, too, because all the fat bunches up so I can't breathe when I'm down in that position. I feel weaker than ever, despite my increase in strength training and yoga and I don't feel like my physical appearance is congruent with who I want to be and what I want to accomplish.

I have to get a grip. Other people can do it, even people with a lot further to go than me! I am trying to figure out why it's so hard for me to commit to eating right for weight loss. I am stressed to the max right now because I am sick to death of school and still it goes on and on with endless picky revisions to my dissertation. I feel constant anxiety about it. I need to finish and get on with my life. Meanwhile, I am teaching at the university and doing research work with a professor, which gives me money but takes time away from what I really need to do - get this PhD and get a job! Sometimes, I just want to eat something easy and crappy so I don't have to stress about food, too. But, really, life will always be stressful one way or another and I have to learn to support myself with good nutrition even when times are tough and especially when times are tough. I have to learn not to rely on food for comfort.

So, today is Day 2 of yet another attempt to do this right. I don't have much faith in myself but I have to do this. It will help my poor arthritic hips; it will improve my sport performance because I'll be moving less weight around; it will make yoga easier; I will look better. Can I do this this time? I better!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coming Back

I've been on a good routine for the last 3 weeks, easing myself back into training and including some workouts that are as much rehab as they are exercise. I am feeling pretty good!

I found myself a personal trainer. She is totally wonderful. She understands my current limitations but also knows how badly I want to get back into things. It's been really fun. I go to her place once a week to work out and it feels great. (I am still seeing my physiotherapist and doing the exercise she assigns as well.)

I also went to hot yoga for the first time a couple weeks ago and I've gone 3 times now. I was afraid to try it because I'm not a heat lover at all but it turned out to be fine. I haven't had any issues with the heat (even though it was 42 degrees in the studio today!). I think, because of the heat, I stretch more than in regular yoga so I really feel it for a couple of days afterward but I can already see small gains in my range of motion. It's encouraging. Today's class was sublime. I found it so therapeutic on so many levels.

I've also been swimming and biking, once a week each. Swimming is fine. I've lost some fitness and speed in the few months I've been out of things with my hip "issues" but I've been keeping the swims at about 1000m and I'll be building up from there. Biking has consisted mostly of commutes to the university campus, which is just under 15 km return. Not a huge distance, for sure, but a good way to start over. Our fall weather has been stellar and it's been awesome to be riding outside this far into the season!

I am going to stick with this routine for the next couple of weeks. Then on Dec 1, the Edmonton Triathlon Club begins its spin season so I'll be upping the biking a bit and spinning on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I enjoy spinning and I think I'll do OK with it now that I have the arthritis pain much more under control.

It is going to take some time for me to get back to where I was and then go beyond that. I'll have to pace myself and give myself time to get my range of motion back and strengthen my hip muscles so the joints will be protected. But I am feeling very hopeful now and really enjoying what I'm doing.

I'm thinking about next year's race season. I want to do only races I haven't done before so I can broaden my experience and check out some new events. At this point, I'm thinking I'll be sticking to sprint distance races but if my training still feels good as I increase the volume over the winter months, I might consider an olympic distance race. I don't know if I can say that I'm back yet, but I am certainly getting somewhere now and it is fantastic!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Some Answers, Some Hope

When I started this blog, I never thought that the whole first year I would be talking about injury.

When I named my bike Esperanza, which means Hope, I never realized how much meaning that would have for me in the year ahead.

But, finally, I have come to a point where the hope is coming back. I have a diagnosis and I have some answers and it looks like all is not lost.

I saw my doctor yesterday to go over the MRI results and find out the plan for the future. Indeed, I do have severe arthritis in my right hip and moderate arthritis in my left hip. It turns out that good old Tylenol is the drug of choice for arthritis treatment. I am going to buy shares in Tylenol because from now on, forever, I have to take 4000 mg per day! (Compare that to the 650 mg dose one would take for a headache.) Ongoing physio will also be necessary to prevent muscle tension around the joint and to strengthen my hip muscles to better support my joints. Down the road, I will be looking at hip replacements but that's down the road.

I am going to wait a week or so to let the Tylenol get the pain under control. Then I am going to gradually and sensibly return to training to start building my fitness back up. I am not going to rush. I will listen to my body and do as much as I can but not too much. I can only aim for sprint distance triathlons next year and, at this point, I can't add running back in yet, so we'll have to see where I end up. But it looks like I don't have to worry anymore about it being over for good!

The race season next year also depends on when my surgery date for the hysterectomy is. At the moment, it looks like it will be July or August 2011 so if all goes well with the arthritis management, I can probably do a couple races in May and June.

I am feeling hopeful now but there is still work to do with pain control and rehab. I'm happy to do it though because I feel like there's a point to it. I can still do triathlon and that's worth the effort!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Old Grey Mare

When I was a kid, my dad used to joke with us when we were sick or injured that he should just take us out back and shoot us. (This, of course, is a reference to what happens to old horses and does not indicate that my dad has a horribly violent personality!)

Today, I am feeling like my dad's approach might be the best one for me. I am "only" 48 but I feel like I'm 100 years old and falling apart.

I had my MRI today. There were a few theories floating around about what was wrong: torn cartilage, bony hip impingement, bursitis, all of the above. They were going to do an arthrogram, where they inject dye into the joint to highlight the structures, but after the regular MRI pictures were taken, they decided not do proceed with the dye. The answer was already obvious: Advanced, bone-on-bone arthritis. I know this because I spoke to the radiologist when they were finished re-arranging my molecules.

What the heck? I mean, you might expect a little bit of "early degenerative changes" like other x-rays of my joints have shown in the past, but honestly, bone-on-bone?

Couple this wonderful discovery with another little age-related problem I have. Not to go into alarming detail but I have to have a hysterectomy in the next few months. What I need done is sort of specialized surgery so the waiting list is longer than usual. This means I'll probably have it next spring, just in time to screw up the race season for next year!

OK. It's looking more and more like this old grey mare really does need to be taken out behind the barn and put out of her misery. But, call me stupid, I'm not quite willing to lay down and die or be put out to pasture yet. The hysterectomy may be poorly timed but I'll get over that and will actually be better off afterward. Next week, I will see the doctor at the sports medicine clinic to talk about the MRI results and, more importantly, the implications they have for my future in triathlon. I'm pretty sure that there are people with arthritis who still participate in sport. Maybe there are exercises that can be done, pills that can be swallowed, weight that can be lost that will make it possible for me to do an ironman someday. Or maybe there won't be an ironman in my future but I can still do lots of short distance triathlons. We'll see. I'm not going to totally panic until I know more. I will wait and take it as it comes.

However, one thing I am going to do right now is go and take a few Glucosamine Sulfate capsules for whatever it's worth!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


This past weekend I was in Banff for the Banff Triathlon - but I didn't do it. I went back and forth about whether I should do it but when I put my question on Facebook, I got a lot of support from my friends to let this one go this year. One friend suggested that I ask the race director if I could rollover my entry to next year and the RD said yes! I was so happy to be relieved of the stress of contemplating the race this year and even happier that I could still look forward to it next year!

I went to Banff anyway so I could watch my husband do the race. He is an ultramarathoner who throws in a tri every now and again. This was his first open water swim (in a race - his first one was in Lake Annette in Jasper last month). I was really proud of him. He is not a totally confident swimmer but he pulled off a great time in very cold water. Despite the cold, I think he really enjoyed the race. It seemed really well organized. It was exciting to watch. Part of me was happy not to be wet and cold like the athletes were that day but another little part of me really wished I could be out there, too. It was so nice to know that this year was a preview of what I will get to do next year!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I am feeling low and this post reflects it. I figure that since it's my blog I can post whatever sorry drivel I want but I do apologize to those of you who read my blog and have to see this.

I am feeling lonely, fat, and a bit poserish. I know that my situation is not the worst in the world by far. I don't have cancer or a chronic disease. Time will make all of this pass. The way I feel now is just a temporary phase in a process that will end. Still, it sucks.

I joined an online running forum and the Edmonton Triathlon Club so I could meet other triathletes, get to know them, and train and race with them. I ended up being elected as the vice-chair of the club a couple months ago. I really like the people in the club and want to be part of it. This summer they have done transition and brick workouts, Monday evening time trials and interval training, and Wednesday evening hill repeats. They are planning a rock climbing social. And I can't do any of it because of my hip. Many of my running forum friends are training with friends, racing, getting better and better, looking great, and signing up for Ironman races and I am sitting here getting fatter. I want to be part of it all but I feel like I'm on the periphery watching it all happen without me. I feel like a wannabe because I am limited in my ability to accomplish my goals. I feel like I have no friends.

Meanwhile, I am gaining weight, which, trust me, I don't need at all. I feel like an orca and now I'm embarrassed to try to get back into anything because I'm so far gone. Everyday I wake up and wonder if I'll be able to commit to eating well and doing whatever I can training wise and every day I just blow it because there doesn't seem to be any reason or much hope anyway.

Now, I know that feeling sorry for myself won't make things any better. There are some things I can do to move things forward. I could actually try to lose weight. I can do some strength training. I can ride my bike (except that I look like a cow on a tiny little aerodynamic bike). I have to do it alone, though, because everyone else is way ahead of me. No fun.

When will things come together so I am a fit triathlete with friends who run off and have triathlon fun together?

Why can't I just suck it all up and get on with it?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Swimming

I just got home from a long weekend in Seattle. My brother lives in Lake Stevens, a northern suburb of Seattle. The Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3 just happened to be on the weekend that I was there! My brother and I went down to the lake the day before the race to see how things were set up and to go for a little swim while there were other swimmers in the water. Our cousin from L.A. was also there. The plan was to do 450 metres, from the beach to a certain dock and back again. The water was really warm and we decided to go without wetsuits. It seemed like it would be a nice clean lake to swim in but I think we were in a fairly shallow part and I could see a lot of weeds on the bottom as I swam. I get a little freaked out by weeds, like they are hands reaching up to grab me. I have to talk myself out of thinking that! Anyway, I managed to get a hold of my silly self and the swim was quite pleasant. It was a gorgeous sunny day so the whole feeling was really nice.

My brother and cousin and I drove up from Seattle to Jasper where they met some other family members to go on a bike trip and I met my husband who was there to pick me up and take me home. While we were in Jasper, Dan and I went for a swim in Lake Annette, a small, crystal clear mountain lake near the townsite. It was warmer than I expected but we did wear wetsuits. What a gorgeous lake to swim in! It's just like being in a pool with a sandy bottom (except that it was probably cleaner than a pool)! We only swam about 400 metres but we stayed in the water for about 30 minutes, just bobbing and talking and doing sommersaults (hard to do in a wetsuit). It was awesome! I wish I could swim there all the time. It was Dan's first open water swim ever and it was really fun to watch him enjoy it! He didn't have any anxiety and he didn't want to get out. I could have stayed in there for a much longer time but we didn't want to leave Adam (15 year old son) sitting on the beach all alone for too long, although I don't think he was at all concerned!

It was really fun to have a couple more open water swimming experiences and to see how differently I felt about swimming in a regular, weedy lake vs. a clear mountain lake. Hopefully the swim in Banff will be as nice as it was in Lake Annette!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sarah's Adventures in Rehab

I am thinking of renaming my blog to the title of this post. I haven't had much to report in terms of training or races this year. It's just been all about the hip.

Today I went to see the sports physician again. I saw her in June and we made a plan but I wanted to check with her again since things are really no better. She was a little less than impressed that I tried ART with a chiropractor instead of going to physio; I was just trying to find something that would work and the previous physio experience hadn't been terribly effective. Oh well. What's done is done.

Over the last two weeks, I have had pneumonia, which had the effect of making me stop all activity. What was surprising was that when I stopped everything, my hip got noticeably better. All of the incredible protective tension in my quads, calves, glutes and lower back went away. I was still left with the deep joint pain but it was much easier to discern and describe what was happening there. So today, the doctor re-assessed the situation and gave me a more accurate picture of what is happening.

Based on an x-ray report from my previous visit with her, I have an abnormal thickening of my right femoral neck (you'll have to google that for a picture!). That means that when I move my hip a certain way, the thick part hits the joint socket and can't move quite as far as it could if the bone were normal. I was probably born with that. It also appears that I have a tear in the labrum, which is the cartilage around the the hip joint. This is causing clicking and catching and shooting pains. A labral tear doesn't heal but it is possible to reduce its effect by strengthening the muscles that support the hip. If that doesn't work in the next three months or so, we will have to discuss whether I should have surgery to trim the tear away. If I did that, they could also shave the thick part of the bone away. I am waiting now to have an MRI, where they will inject dye into the joint and see if it leaks out. That will indicate whether there is actually a tear there.

She told me today that I should not do the Banff triathlon on Sept 11. She seemed to be especially concerned about how running would aggravate the situation. I am wondering if it would be OK to do the swim and bike and then DNF on purpose. At least I'd get something out of it.

I had a little moment there at the clinic where I felt a little overwhelmed about this. A few tears leaked out. I am probably looking at several more months of pain, significantly reduced activity, and physiotherapy. It's also looking like this is going to be something that has an impact on next year's plans as well.

As I walked back to my car after the appointment, I figured that I better get a grip on myself and stop crying. There is nothing I can do about but deal with it. I will have to be faithful with my physio and do everything I can to make that work. I will have to think differently about what activity will mean for me. I can't really think about how I'm training for triathlon. I will have to do really short little workouts and try to think of it as simple daily exercise. I will have to keep myself from thinking about racing for now, too, even next summer. I am just in a different mode now and I'll have to make the best of it.

I can scarcely envision the end of this. I feel like I might never recover but I suppose that's silly. It's not looking good right now but I guess it won't be forever. One step at a time and things will turn around. Right?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Enough, already!

This is me feeling sorry for myself:

I am sick to death of my hip injury. It's been 7 months now and there is no overall sign of improvement. I did seven weeks of physio and a month of anti-inflammatory meds to no avail. I have tried doing little or no activity and that just makes me stiff and I've tried light to moderate training and sometimes that's OK and sometimes I can't walk afterward. Now I've done two weeks of ART. It seems to be improving my range of motion but the pain is still always there and I am limited in my daily activities because of it. I find it hard to get dressed, go up stairs, get in and out of my car, and, worst of all, paint my toenails!

Everyone has told me that this will be a long process but I had at least hoped to see gradual improvement over time. Instead it seems I am just stuck where I am, spending heaps of money on rehab and getting nowhere. Back in March, when I finally realized how bad my situation was, I never imagined that my planned sprint triathlon in Banff in September would be threatened by this. When I registered for it, I thought I'd be in great shape after a season of training for Great White North (which of course did not happen). I have been doing some biking, which is sometimes OK, and I will get back in the pool this week. But running is still out of the question and I feel like I'm starting at square one (or negative one) with my fitness. It won't be the race I had hoped for.

All in all, I am feeling pretty ripped off. Poor, poor me.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Watching Great White North

Today was the Great White North half iron triathlon. This great local race was my first and, thus far, only half iron. As you know if you've been following my blog, I had planned to do it this year until my hip flexor injury changed that. Because I couldn't race it this year, I decided to volunteer and then hang around and watch my friends race.

Last night, my daughter, Chloe, and I went to the volunteer dinner. The food was OK but we met the people who would be working at our aide station and they were friendly and nice. We also both won door prizes, which was a little bit exciting. This morning, we reported to the first aide station on the bike course, about 10K from the lake where the swim takes place. It was really fun! The athletes are still fairly close together at that point so it all happens pretty quickly. I managed to see some of my friends go by but missed a few, too, in the pandemonium. After our shift, we drove over to transition so we could settle in to watch people come and go.

It was interesting to watch the race, having done it last year, and see where the pack is compared to where I was last year and where I might have been this year. Oh boy! Do I have work to do! With an 8 hour finishing time, I knew I was nearly last but I had no idea just how far behind the pack I was. Many, many people finish at the 5:30 and six hour marks! There are still plenty of people out there after that but it really starts to peter out at 6:30 and 7 hours. Amazing! What I really need to do is work on my bike time. I still don't really get why I'm so slow on the bike. My dad, who is 72 years old and a bit overweight and rides a 40 pound recumbent bike, can do 90K in under 3:30! So why does it take me 4:00 on my road bike? I rode 1300K in training prior to GWN last year including time trials, high intensity spinning, and long endurance rides. Perhaps I am still weak. Maybe I really need to do more strength training. Losing weight couldn't hurt either (although there were some chunky racers pulling in some pretty good times). I'm sure I can cut a few minutes off my swim time and improve my run time just with another year of training but my bike time is my main mission for this next training year.

The hip flexor is not much better at this point. It comes and goes but right now it's fairly troublesome. I am going to go get some ART and exercise therapy and see if that gets me somewhere. I want to be healed in time to commit to serious training for next season. This season, I still have the Banff sprint tri in September. Swim training will have to wait a couple more weeks until the tattoo is healed and running will have to be minimal. But I can still focus on the bike. Generally I have to try not to embarrass myself in Banff!

Watching GWN was a good learning experience for me. I feel a little overwhelmed but I am also very motivated to do what I can now and commit to another solid training season in the coming months. I still have big plans and my revenge on GWN is one of them!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Adventures in Vancouver

This past weekend, I drove out to Vancouver with my sister to see her daughter, my niece, who is a triathlete. It was a very impromptu trip for me; I decided to go with my sister so I could be there when Stephanie (niece) saw her new bike. But I have to back up a bit here. Stephanie had been looking for a good used road bike for a while and I had been helping her. Both of us had been searching kijiji, pinkbike, and craigslist for several months and then I happened to find one here in Edmonton. We decided to go for it and then worry later about how to get it to her. After it waited in my garage for a few weeks, my sister decided to go out to see Stephanie and planned to take the bike with her. I couldn't resist going along!

Even though Stephanie is only half my age, she and I get along like friends. She is so fun and happy and so enthusiastic, especially about triathlon. It's great to spend time with her. I took my bike along, too, so we could ride together there. On Monday morning, we went for a wet but wonderful ride from downtown, along the seawall in Stanley Park, continuing up the north side of False Creek to the science center. The clouds were very low and it was raining but it was warm and just so pleasant to be riding such a beautiful route in my most favorite city. Just before we got back on the Skytrain to head home, we saw a hot dog vendor outside the station and decided to "refuel." It was the most delicious hot dog ever! While eating, we had a nice conversation with a homeless man about bikes and how much he loves his and depends on it and the time he rode over ice and fell and broke his hip. After eating, we headed toward the station. Stephanie looked at her bike and said, "I don't think I've ever loved a thing so much!" I am so glad she's happy with it!

Much later that day, Stephanie and I went out for gelato. While standing on the sidewalk licking our cones, she just casually mentioned that her favorite tattoo place was open until midnight and that maybe we could go down there since we were already halfway there. She knew I had been talking about getting a tattoo for some time. I agreed to go and take a look at books and maybe get some ideas or advice. Well, I ended up finding exactly what I wanted in one of the books and they just happened to have one last opening to do my little tattoo so at 11:45 pm I finally did it! It's a little lime green daisy with five petals and three leaves coming off the stem. I love daisies and it's just a cute tattoo but it has some symbolism, too. The daisy represents simplicity and lifelong growth. The five petals represent the five members of my family. The three leaves bring in some of the threes that I had been thinking about (and wrote about in a previous blog entry) - three kids, triathlon, and three (almost) degrees. It is totally the right one for me and I am so happy with it.

I flew home on Tuesday and waited a couple hours at the airport for my daughter to arrive from her month-long trip to India. It was so nice to see her and to be home again with my little family. My heart is wherever they are but I would love it if someday we could live in Vancouver.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MS Bike Tour

I did the Leduc to Camrose MS Bike Tour for the fifth time this past Saturday and Sunday. Here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (in reverse order) on the weekend:

The Ugly:

* 26 km/h headwind on Day 1
* Fresh tar on the road and construction that we had to be bussed around, cutting the Day 1 ride short by 14K. We felt ripped off but didn't want to ride our bikes over the tar.
* Me in the pictures of the tour. Seriously. I'm not being attention seeking here. I looked awful. So fat. When will I ever get a grip on myself?

The Bad:

* Pounding music at dinner after a long, hard, windy, hot day of riding. We all just wanted to chill out and chat and we had to scream at each other just to talk.
* So many people riding two and three abreast making it very frustrating and dangerous to try to pass.

The Good:

* A little bit more money raised that might help some people live a better life.
* 170 kilometers of riding on my trusty road bike, which feels so perfect for me.
* The massage at the end.
* The sore hip I started with feeling better at the end. The ride did it good.
* Quiet, comfortable dorms.
* Doing the tour with nine wonderful friends and family members - Kim, Ken, Tracy, Becky, Frank, Larissa, Dan (husband), Thom (brother) and Les (Dad) - so much better than doing it alone like I did the first year!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Was That a Good Idea?

Yesterday, I did the Vulcan Tinman Triathlon - a 500m swim, 15K bike, and 5K run. It was my fifth time doing this particular event.

Because of my hip injury, I wasn't sure if I was going to do it this year. Besides the fact that it hurts quite a bit, I haven't trained much at all for the last two months. I tried to sell my bib but there were no takers so I took my stuff with me just in case I decided to do it when I got there. I was going anyway because Dan was doing the race, as were several members of my extended family.

With five little nieces and nephews doing the kids' race and six other members of my family doing the adult race, it was a long and crazy day of running around and cheering for everyone who was coming and going. My swim heat was at 2:40 pm so by the time that drew closer, I was already having trouble walking and almost decided not to start. But I had already picked up my souvenir race hoodie and I wanted to earn it if I had it. That may have been a stupid reason to decide to do a race with an injury but that's exactly what I did.

The swim was just about the worst swim I have ever had in my entire life. It sucked royally from start to finish. Halfway through, I was about to tell the volunteer that I was getting out but instead she said to me, "You're halfway!" in such a cheerful voice that I couldn't tell her I was quitting so I kept swimming. My time was 15:15, a royally sucking time. I had predicted 12 minutes for my swim. That time includes about a 100m distance to the timing mats at the transition, which I walked half of in a totally demoralized state until I pulled myself together and got on with the race.

The bike, on the other hand, felt totally exhilarating. The soul sucking wind is pretty much par for the course in Vulcan so it was an effort just to keep the bike upright but I still really enjoyed the ride. I love my new tri bike! It is such a pleasure to ride! When I arrived back at T2, several family members were there to watch me and I shouted out, "I love this bike!" when I got there. They laughed and then I felt silly but I was just feeling the love at that moment. My time was 42:59 (including T1 and T2), which wasn't as fast as I felt like I was going but I can live with it considering the wind and my sore hip.

When I got off my bike, I found it very hard to walk because my hip had stiffened up on the bike. I hobbled to my transition spot and changed into my runners, deciding that I would see how far I could make it on the run. The run actually felt OK. I jogged slowly, taking it easy on my hip, but it was pleasant. It was my slowest 5K ever but it was faster than I thought it might be and I did make it to the end in 39:51 for a total time of 1:38:04.

After the race, my whole family met at my dad's trailer and we had a BBQ and visit. It's a nice part of the day. My family is pretty stats oriented and loves to analyze and it gets to be a little much for me, especially when the non-triathletes start analyzing your race for you. But I try to stay away from that kind of conversation and just enjoy the visit.

Today, I am evaluating the day and the race in my mind. I am in quite a lot of pain today and feeling quite disabled so I'm not sure that I was really good about followng my doctor's and physiotherapist's instructions to "let pain be the guide." I definitely overdid it in terms of my injury. But I am not enjoying these months of being sidelined and so limited in what I can do. I'm not happy that I sucked so bad at Vulcan when this was supposed to be my big year. Once again, I'm not happy that everyone else in my family can do their annual triathlon, barely train, and still go faster than me (except Dan, who did train and did do really well, even though he ran 100K the weekend prior). I keep wondering when my time will come when I actually get fit and fast(er) and have a great year. In some ways, doing the race made things worse from a physical and mental standpoint.

On the other hand, despite the suckage on the swim and the sore hip, I did get to go out there and do a triathlon and I was reminded yesterday about how much I love it. It renewed my desire to aim for bigger things when I am able to return fully to training and it made me happy to see how other members of my family have come to enjoy it, too. In a couple of days, when I can walk again, I'll probably think it was worth it!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Patience, Grasshopper

I just thought I should provide an update to my faithful followers, although, sadly, there isn't that much to report.

I am still in physiotherapy for my sore hip and am a bit discouraged at the lack of progress there. I am being faithful with my exercises and obedient about my training restrictions but recovery remains elusive. It seems that I am OK if I do very little but if I try to do very much at all, I get into trouble again. Oddly, enough, walking seems to be the worst thing I can do. I went for a 1K walk on Wednesday night and paid for it the next day. That, together with walking around campus more this week because I started teaching a spring course, has set me back quite a lot.

I cancelled the trip to Pentiction that I was planning with Jordan and Sara. We were going to do some cycling on the Ironman course. I am also going to have to get rid of my entry for the Vulcan triathlon in June. It's not an A race for me but it's something I do look forward to so it's a bit of a disappointment.

I am trying to be patient and approach my situation as an opportunity to set new and different goals for this summer. My plan was to focus on weight loss and strength and flexibility training. It's hard to lose weight when you can't burn any calories, though. I am working on my upper body but can't work on anything below my upper abs at this point - even though that's what needs the most work! I wanted to go to yoga, too, but, honestly, my hips are so tight I can hardly get a stride going just to walk from the front of the house to the back! I'd look ridiculous in child's pose, with my butt way up in the air!

I do worry a little about things. I have to keep telling myself that injuries heal and that I won't be like this forever. Sometimes I feel like a decrepit old woman and I wonder if I'm kidding myself to think that I can ever be a long distance triathlete. I am trying to enjoy what I can in the short term and have a longer term vision of the future, after this is behind me. I've had to talk to myself a lot to keep it all in perspective.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I haven't done any workout longer than 10 minutes for the last month and I was starting to go stir crazy. I decided to go for a bike ride today and deal with whatever fallout there was.

Dan and I went out to a quiet secondary highway by Half Moon Lake. I was pumping up my tires before we left and broke the valve on my rear tire so I had to change the tube before we could go. While putting my wheel back on, I must have bumped the sensor for my computer because it wasn't registering anything. I couldn't figure out what needed adjusting to make it work again so we just got on with our ride.

There was a pretty serious crosswind, which felt like a headwind both out and back, but I rode in aero for most of the ride so that made it easier. My hip was burning a little bit into the ride so we decided to turn around at that point. I wanted to ride but not totally undo all the healing that has taken place so far.

After we got back, we clocked the distance in the Jeep and it was 15.4 km.

I love my bike! A couple weeks ago, I rode it about 3K, just lollygagging around the neighbourhood, so this was almost its inaugural outside ride. I felt like it was easier to go faster but of course I don't really know what my speed was.

Anyway, the flat tire, sore hip, non-functional computer, and wind were nothing at all compared to how wonderful it was to do this ride. It was very, very good for my mental health.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Coming Along

Well, it's been a few weeks since I a) smelled the coffee and b) got told by my physio. Things are coming along slowly. I had my little cry and pity session about how my race season was all screwed up but I am really OK with all of this now.

I have officially informed the race director of Great White North that I will not be racing this year so this makes my spring and summer very different than it might have been. What I'm hoping now is that I will be able to do a lot of biking this year, as things improve, and maybe a few sprints.

I have plans to go to Penticton in May with a couple of friends to do some riding on the Ironman bike course. I'm not sure that will happen now but I'm holding out hope! I'm also clinging to my plan to do the Vulcan tri in June. My swim times are faster than ever right now and I think I'd do OK on the bike. The run would be nasty since I'm not allowed to run at all right now but I could get through it. We'll see how things go and how smart it is for me to think about racing there.

In August, I am going to ride my bike from Jasper to Banff with a few members of my family. I sure hope I'm all better by then. I'm pretty sure I will be. That will be something new and fun. Then there's the new Banff triathlon in September. I know I'll be ready and raring to go by then!

The early part of the season is still iffy because my hip continues to be very unhappy. But I'm being a good girl - taking it easy, doing my exercises - and I know this will turn around soon.

I think I'll be able to salvage the year and still have a lot of fun. I'm going to do all that I can but not go crazy. I have to get back to injury free status so I can tackle the 1/2 iron next year and then start preparing for my first Ironman in 2012 - or maybe the fall of 2011. My husband said he'd be quite willing to go to Cozumel and cheer for me. :)

I'm getting ahead of myself again. One step at a time - but things are coming along.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Stern Talkin' To

I went to see a sports physiotherapist today about my hip flexors. She listened while I recounted my 2009 race season. I was mostly injury free last year, except in the fall, when my right hip flexor tore. I took a lot of time off when that happened, although I did run a marathon at the end of November. Things seemed OK after the marathon, though, and I rested well before ramping up my training in January again. That's when the issues re-surfaced. As I said in my last post, I tried to work my way through the injuries and keep up with the training and the 100 day challenge until it became clear that that wasn't working.

Well, apparently waking up and smelling the coffee was far too mild a response to my injury situation. She told me that, while she admires my perseverance, I have to stop everything right now or I am heading down a pathway toward total annihilation. She actually used the word "annihilation." She said she wanted to put the fear of god into me so I would stop what I'm doing and let this heal. I almost cried right then and there. It's really my entire hip joints that are inflamed - I just feel it where my hip flexors are. I am overwhelmed by what I've done to myself. I have been so set on my goals that I ignored the signs that things were changing - even as far back as last fall.

There is absolutely no way I will be able to do Great White North. She told me not even to think about it. There is to be nothing else in my mind except recovery. Only when I'm better may I permit myself to think about training and racing again. It's the right thing, I know it, but I am really sad.

Hopefully, I will see good progress in my recovery and the season won't all be shot. But here I go thinking about racing again. I am supposed to be lying on the couch.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Waking up and Smelling the Coffee

If you look back over my last few posts, it might seem like I have a personality disorder! I am alternately planning for another race, committing to being determined, or skipping my workouts and feeling pathetic. Overall, although it might not seem like it, I have been really pumped about the upcoming season and so excited about where my training might lead this year. I have good friends and good support and lots of reasons why this should be a great season.

Sadly, though, I have had some injuries that have been nagging at me from the background and affecting how I've been feeling about my training. I have tried to ignore them to some extent and I have also tried to do what I could to relieve them. In February, I had a lot of trouble with general leg stiffness and soreness, which I was able to get under control by stretching, having massages, and pacing myself as far as training goes. But my hip flexors are now a growing threat to my triathlon success this year. They have been bothering me off and on for a few months but I've pushed through it and held off any major issues - until now. About two weeks ago, I went for a swim and was very surprised to have hip flexor pain afterward, from something as seemingly innocuous as flutter kicking. Then, last Monday, I went for a 10K bike ride around my neighbourhood and found that I truly could not walk that evening. My hip flexors had totally given up, even though the bike ride was so short. I had to hold onto something just to take a step. I took a couple days off and now, for the last three days, I have been swimming with a pull buoy so I don't have to use my legs. Still, I am having trouble walking normally.

It has slowly started to dawn on me that I can't continue this way - the proverbial waking up and smelling the coffee. I am nearing the end of the 100 day triathlon training challenge, which I don't want to give up on. And, it's finally spring here and I'm dying to get outside on my bike. But I can't deny the situation anymore.

Today I spoke to an accomplished and experienced triathlete who has a lot of knowledge and wisdom about training. She is concerned for me and, although she gave me a lot of very good ideas about how I can deal with this, she suggested that I re-think my race plans for this year. She said out loud what I have been trying not to think about for a while: A half iron may not be in the cards for me this year.

This saddens me terribly. I very much want to do Great White North again. Still, there is no way that I can deal with my injuries and ramp up my training at the same time. I have come to the realization that I will have to rollover my entry to next year.

I am learning that triathlon depends very much on strength and flexibility and that it is supported by good nutrition and a healthy weight. I think I have to address these things, which have been neglected aspects of my training until now, before I will be healthy and ready for success. I am going to take a break from biking and running for a couple of weeks and focus on swimming with the pull buoy. I will finish the last three weeks of the 100 day challenge this way. I'll gradually add biking and running back into my training but I am going to focus especially on strength training and stretching so I build the foundation I need for harder and longer training in the future.

This is the way it has to be and I am coming to terms with it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cultivating Determination

determination (noun): 1) the act of coming to a decision or of fixing or settling a purpose 2) the quality of being resolute; firmness of purpose 3) fixed direction or tendency toward some object or end.

I often think back to my race results at last year's Great White North (1/2 iron) and think about what it will take for me to be faster this year. I want to have a better time this year. But I have been asking myself if I am determined to achieve that.

Clearly I need to train for the race but I wonder if cultivating a spirit of determination won't somehow be even more important to my success this season. I'm not what you'd call a "natural athlete" so, as much as I love triathlon, I sometimes feel like I'm out of my comfort zone. In academics, I am totally comfortable. I work hard and do well. I don't have to "dig deep" to find what it takes to get things done. In sport, it's a different thing. I am much more aware of the work it takes for me to be successful and I know that I don't always "bring it" like I should.

I was talking to Jordan the other day and she said that she makes sure she's suffering during a race. I don't really do that. I go at a pace that I think I can sustain for the entire race without suffering. What if I were willing to suffer for the cause? And, besides race day, how would my training be different if I found a way to push harder?

This morning, I asked Dan (my husband) about how to cultivate determination. He said that it's a matter of pride, competitiveness, and responsibility. He works hard during workouts so he doesn't feel regret afterwards. If he's running with someone faster than him, he vows not to lose sight of them; if someone else is slightly slower than him, he vows not to let them pass. He feels that, as someone who's been running for years, he has a responsibility to demonstrate that he has continued to grow and improve over the years and, in that way, to be a good role model for new people.

I usually work hard during workouts so I feel like it was worth it but I know I could work harder. I am easily overwhelmed and demoralized when people are faster than me so having people around me who could push me ends up having the opposite effect that it should. In races, I worry that I'll burn out before the end if I push too hard so I don't give it as much as I probably could. I need to find the determination and competitive spirit that will make me step up to the plate and do this like I mean it!

My friend, Dave, put this quote on his Facebook page a while ago and I loved it:

Dissatisfaction is a great starting point, for it is right there that we have the most power, strength, and energy to push change through. ~ David DeNotaris

I enjoy the training and the races and now it's time to take this to a new level. It's been too easy for me to let my disappointment tip backwards into feeling demoralized and unconfident rather than using it as a motivator for change. This season is about so much more than physical training for me. I need to develop the psychological outlook of an athlete. I need to be determined.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vulcan Tri

Today was registration day for the Vulcan Tinman Triathlon and I signed up to do it for the 5th time. As I mentioned before, this was my very first triathlon. It's a short sprint - 500m swim, 15K bike, 5K run. A lot of people do it as a first one or just to have fun with a tri once in a while. It's a very family friendly event so it goes on all day with adults, youth, little kids, and teams taking their turns. Although I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, I do tend to take this race quite seriously. It's early in the year (June 5) and it's often the first race of the season for me so I use it as a sort of time trial - a measure of how my training has been and how my season is looking. I tend to get quite anxious about it because it's an important test for me!

It's been quite hot most of the times I've done it (close to 30 C) but last year it was really cold - around 1 C. The swim (in an outdoor heated pool) and the run were really nice in the cold but the bike ride, with hail and soul-sucking winds, was a little much! I had hoped for a PB last year but the weather took care of that for me! Oh well. That's the way it goes but maybe this year the weather will be a little nicer and that PB will happen!

Friday, March 12, 2010


I planned to swim today but it's 8:00 pm and I still haven't gone. I think I'm skipping. I don't want to go alone. I don't feel like another back and forth boring swim. I swim at the same speed no matter how hard I try so I can't bring myself to do any hopeless intervals.

Maybe I'll go for a short run just to get a workout in for the 100 day challenge. I'm on day 56 and I have to stick with it now. Challenge or no challenge, I have to workout everyday anyway.

I feel like I'm just going through the motions of training but not having any fun.

The warm fuzzy I felt when my physio told me that I inspire him is gone.

I've been swamped with school work - marking, writing, job applications - so I've just been cramming lonely workouts in without a plan. I haven't made it to spin class for a couple weeks. I think about going to group swim training but that hasn't happened either. I feel cut off and afraid to go back because everyone else has probably made progress without me.

The stress has made me eat poorly because I don't take the time to shop and prepare good meals.

I am sad. If I'm going to do it, it should be fun. Right now, it's lonely and pointless.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ordinary Inspiration

The winter Olympics are over now but while they were on last month, they consumed a lot of my time. I couldn't tear myself away. Those athletes are so amazing - so fit, powerful, beautiful. In some distant way, they were inspiring to me, reminding me how important it is to get out there for each and every workout. In other ways, though, they are so far removed from me that I don't always make connections between what they do and what I do.

At spin class, we often watch recorded Ironman races on the big TV while we ride. The coverage tends to focus on the elite athletes at the front of pack. Like the Olympic athletes, the elite Ironman racers are also amazing and I admire their tremendous ability. I love to watch Crissie Wellington race. She is a British triathlete and three time winner of the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii. What's so great about her is that she smiles for the entire race! Still, I don't feel like I have much in common with Crissie; she is in a completely different league than me. What I always watch for are the back of the packers, the ordinary people who are out on the road way past dark, making it to the finish line just inside the cut-off time. These are the people I can relate to. I can see myself doing what they do and I want to be like them.

I have some friends in triathlon who inspire me, too. They may have been overweight or sedentary before but they are hardcore athletes now. When they make huge improvements in their times or take on great challenges like Ironman, I am motivated to raise myself to a new level, much more so by them than by someone who has always been athletic.

I think, in some small way, I've been able to pay this "ordinary inspiration" forward. There is something to be said for being at the back of the pack. Being a slow, fat triathlete has been good in some ways. People who are curious about triathlon can relate to me. I am pretty far from being intimidating! I think that triathletes like me are proof that this sport is for anyone who wants to try it.

Yesterday I saw my physiotherapist, whom I have not seen for several months. Every time I see him, he tells me that he has signed up for another race because he has been inspired by me! He did his first triathlon because I told him how fun it was. He did a 1/2 iron last summer, after hearing me tell him about my experience with Great White North. Now he is going to do a marathon because I did one last fall. This amazes me. He is thin and fit and I seem like the last person who would inspire him. But I seriously think that he looks at me and thinks, "If she can do it, so can I." And that actually thrills me.

Several members of my family have tried triathlon because they knew I was into it. My brother, Paul, and my niece, Stephanie, are very into it now and we have done some races together. My husband, Dan, the ultramarathoner, has done a triathlon, too, and is signed up for his second one this year. The Vulcan Tinman Triathlon, in southern Alberta, which was my very first triathlon, has now become an almost annual tradition for my extended family, with several family members signing up and the rest of them cheering for those of us who are racing.

I think it's natural that when you find something that you love, that makes your life better, that makes you feel good about yourself, you want to share it with others. And it's my "ordinariness" that has actually made it possible for me to inspire others to give it a try. I find that so satisfying because it gives triathlon new meaning for me and makes it something that I can share, rather than something just for me. I have noticed now, too, that what has happened is that the new triathletes I have inspired have turned around and inspired me all over again. They are so keen and enthusiastic. They keep me pumped up. Now, the downside to all of this is that all them end up being faster than me! But I guess that's inspiring it its own way; I better get out there and train so I can beat at least one of them!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Right Tattoo

I have been wanting to get a tattoo for a while now but I can't seem to decide on exactly the right one. And I mean "exactly." I am nervous about getting one and I don't really want to have a lot of them. The first one might be the last one so it really has to represent me and my interests and values in a way that is not likely to change significantly over time. Tall order, eh?

Here are the ideas I have considered:

τρία This is the Greek word for "three." There are some threes in my life. There is triathlon, of course. I also have three kids and, when I finish my PhD program, I will have three degrees. Growing up Lutheran, I would say that the Trinity featured prominently. And, although I am not what you would describe as "new-agey," I also like the idea of "body, mind, and spirit" as the three dimensions of life. Trouble is, what if I imprint this on myself and then the idea of "three" doesn't hold up in some situations? I only have one husband and he's pretty important and I don't plan on having two more! What if there are more than three dimensions to God or life? Somehow I feel like if it doesn't capture everything, I can't make it permanent on my body.

Anima Sana In Corpore Sano This means "a sound mind in a sound body." It happens to be the slogan for ASICS running shoes but I just like the phrase. It represents something important to me. I am working hard on training my body and keeping it healthy, while at the same time, I am developing my mind through my education. The trouble with this one is: What happens when I'm old and arthritic and senile? It will sound pretty funny then and that probably isn't all that far away for me! Also, after thinking about the idea of "Body, Mind, Spirit," something seems to be missing from this one. It's also pretty much all about me and doesn't represent my family or other values to any extent.

Body Mind Spirit (It's becoming clear that I'd like a text tattoo, isn't it?) I like this one because, as I've said, it depicts the dimensions of life. I've covered the body and mind aspects with running, triathlon, and education. It's the spirit part that has me worried. I don't know what I've done with this. What does it mean? Is it faith, values, beauty, love, relationships, drive, passion, culture, music, art? I would feel like a "spirit" poser if I put this tattoo on my body without knowing if I'm doing it! Should I take more piano lessons, learn to speak another language, develop my competitive drive, or keep loving my family?

On a completely different note, maybe I should wait until I've done an ironman and just get that accomplishment inked. But then there are issues with that - even that won't be the only or greatest thing I will have done or the only thing that matters to me (except on that day!).

Clearly, getting a tattoo requires a tremendous amount of analysis and introspection! How can you capture it all in one image or phrase?

Maybe I need more than one.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not Feeling the Love

Today is Day 34 of the 100 Day Triathlon Training Challenge and I am on track. It's also Week 1 of my 20 week training program for the Great White North half iron triathlon on July 4. I am very excited about the upcoming race season and pumped to train and prepare.

There's just one little problem: My body is not enjoying it. My legs are painfully stiff and sore - knots in my quads, twitches in my hip flexors, permanent charlie horses in my calves, and tender spots in my IT bands. As well, I seem to have very little power when I run and ride. At least swimming is OK if I don't use my legs.

I am being sensible, giving myself rest days and recovery weeks. I am eating well now and drinking enough water. So, I'm trying to figure out what the problem is. Someone suggested that I have "dead triathlete legs" and another thought maybe I started back into things too quickly after the marathon I ran at the end of November (with almost no training so it wasn't pretty!). Of course, I always wonder if it's my weight and I'm sure the extra pounds don't help. I also wonder whether I am experiencing more aches and pains now because I am aging or because this is what being a woman who's heading for 50 will be like for me. Maybe it's all of these things or none of them.

I am trying to work my way through this. I am taking care of myself and pacing myself so that I don't lose training time or make my situation worse. It's very frustrating. I want to manage this so that I can keep my focus on the excitement I feel about this summer's races. My mind and spirit are totally into it so I'm going to have to coax my body back into feelin' the love.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lonely Bikes, Loved Bikes

I have just recently become aware of the number of bikes that I see outside, locked up to stop signs, abandoned now for several months. I'm sure I've driven past them hundreds of times but now that winter is growing long, I am realizing how long they've been there and I'm starting to feel sorry for them. I don't understand how they came to be where they are. Don't their owners have backyards, basements, bedrooms, balconies, or garages? Don't they worry about their bikes, out there in public for months on end?

OK. So you say, "Silly Sarah! What's the big deal? They're just bikes." Well, I suppose these sad bikes have just piqued my interest because I love my own bikes so much. I baby them. I worry about them when they're out in the cold garage.

Last summer, while I was riding my road bike, I had to slow down to negotiate a sharp turn onto a steep decline. I hesitated just a split second too long and fell right over to the left. I fell with my head slightly on the roadway and I felt the gravel under my skin as I went down. But, once I got myself back up, my only thought was whether my bike was OK! As I stood there oblivious to the bleeding from my arm and leg, I inspected the tear in my brand new handlebar tape and lamented about the damage.

Later in the summer, I accidentally tore a small hole in the seat of my commuter bike when I leaned it against a nail in the garage wall. It's very small and of no real consequence but it made me feel sick to my stomach for a little while.

A couple days ago, I was about to back my car out of the garage when my snow-covered shoe slid right off the clutch. The car lurched forward a couple feet, stopping just short of my new triathlon bike, which was leaning up against a cabinet at the front of the garage. My heart skipped a beat! Never mind that it would have scratched the hood of my car. Any damage to my bike would have been much more tragic!

Bikes are expensive and, more than that, they represent fun, fitness, freedom, potential, and power. I can't quite fathom just abandoning them to the elements. I'm pretty sure that other triathletes feel the same way about their bikes and probably have an affinity and respect for bikes in general. I think we notice beautiful bikes and appreciate how important they are to our sport. And the fact that we name our bikes sort of says it all!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fat and/or Fit?

I have had a couple of runs this week that were really, really awful. Sometimes workouts are just awful because some days are just off days. Still, given my penchant for analysis, I can't help but reflect on what went wrong when a workout falls off the rails.

It could be that my runs this week have been difficult because I'm still not quite over the bronchitis I had earlier this month. Or maybe I'm getting used to working out every day after having had a fairly unstructured and leisurely autumn. The question that always comes to my mind, though, is how much of my trouble is because of my weight. Is it possible for me to achieve the fitness I want and still carry this extra 25 pounds?

I searched the web for some insights into the fat vs. fit question. Generally, it seems that it's better to be overweight and fit than thin and idle, although carrying extra weight still puts a person at higher risk for weight-related health issues. Also, fatness and fitness aren't black and white categories so the relative impacts of weight and fitness are quite individual.

So, what about for me? I can probably survive if I continue to carry these extra pounds and probably accomplish some good things in triathlon. But, I don't really want to be like this and I would really like to see what might happen if I got the weight under control. I would look and feel much better and I might pick up some speed if I didn't have to drag this flab around!

The old adage "you are what you eat" is so true. This is the one thing I have yet to get a good handle on. I have tried before to focus on good nutrition and I do last for periods of time, full of enthusiasm and zeal that just seems to fizzle out over time. It is just going to require discipline, the same kind of discipline that it takes to get the run, bike, and swim workouts in. Maybe eventually eating right will become a lifestyle for me, too. Today I am going to commit to giving it a try again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


January is the time when I am especially thinking about training. Which training plan will I use? Where will I go to train? Who will I train with? Race season may seem far away but it has a way of sneaking up, especially if you're not ready!

I have really wanted to do more group training this year but that is proving hard to do so far. I feeled pulled between groups. I want to do it all but, of course, I can't. I am trying to rotate myself around and stay in touch with my usual spin group at Element triathlon store, my new Edmonton Triathlon Club (ETC) group, and my "maniacs" group. I have been swimming and running more on my own so far, although I have done some group swim training and a few runs with Jordan. Trying to work social time into training makes me unsure about what training program to follow. It's hard to stick to a defined plan while also being spontaneous about where to train and with whom! I may be overthinking it, though (not that I would ever over-analyze anything). I will just take it as it comes and work hard when I work out and I'll probably be OK.

Right now I am doing the 100 Day Triathlon Training Challenge with a group of triathletes who are all connected to Element. We are going for at least 100 swim, bike or run workouts within 100 days. This is Day 11 for me. It's very motivating. Slacking off means owing workouts and I don't want that. I have to keep plugging to meet this challenge. I am hoping that I'll see some improvements by April 25, which will be Day 100 for me.

I plan to do a few tris this summer but my big race is the Great White North half ironman on July 4. I did it last year for the first time. It is a super race - well organized, nice course, awesome race director - and it's local so that makes things easier. I am hoping for at least a 35 minute improvement over my time last year. Every workout I do now is part of getting me there.

There are always days on which I feel less motivated to train than others but I have noticed something this year. I used to force myself to train so that I could complete a race and have the race day thrill. Now I understand better why people call triathlon a "lifestyle." I am actually starting to enjoy the training journey as much as I enjoy the race experience. I enjoy swimming, biking, and running and feel like something is missing if I don't get out there and do it.

One thing that excites me about the upcoming race season is that I will get to ride my new tri bike. I know that I have to work hard to be race-ready but I do hope that my bike will help me achieve my goals this year. The Maniacs have a tradition of naming their bikes, which I think is cool. My bike is a Quintana Roo, named after the Mexican state that includes Cozumel. One Maniac (Carla) suggested that I give my bike a Spanish name to fit with the brand name. I decided to name my bike "Esperanza," which means "hope." I am, indeed, full of hope about what this year will bring and what I can accomplish if I train hard and smart.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We're in this together

I am a triathlete - a slow, old, fat triathlete but a triathlete all the same. I have never been last in a race but I've come close. I wish I had found triathlon earlier in my life but I didn't discover it until I was 42. I don't look like what many would expect a triathlete to look like. I'm a little bit soft and chubby. But here I am, in love with and committed to triathlon, with lots of plans for the future.

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog about triathlon in my life but recent thoughts and occurrences have brought me to the point of readiness. What has really struck me lately is the importance of having each other for support, advice, encouragement, and motivation. My hope is that, through this blog, I will be able to share my experiences and impressions so that I can get feedback from others and, more importantly, offer some support and encouragement to other triathletes like me (and maybe some not like me).

Here are some of the things that have brought me to this point:

This week, a Facebook friend became a fan of a group called "Making Drug Tests Required to Get Welfare." I couldn't resist taking a look at the group's postings. What I read overwhelmed me with distress. This group seems to be founded on contempt for others, a lack of compassion, and ignorant assumptions about people in need. What motivates people to be so scornful and unsupportive is beyond me. I wondered if the people posting such mean-spirited comments had stopped to think about how much support and encouragement they had received in their lives that allowed them to be successful. I'm not sure that any of us can claim to be completely self-made. Even though we may be ultimately responsible for our own lives, we all get by with a little help from our friends. When I need help, I appreciate support moreso than judgement. And I believe that when we give, we benefit rather than lose.

Last night, I went out with my good friend, Jordan, whom I met a year ago through an online running community of which we are both members. She is an experienced and accomplished triathlete and a supportive and sensitive person. I always feel good after a visit with her. When I feel lacking in confidence, she builds me up. When I am celebrating a success, she gets more excited about it than I am! She is also a workout buddy and a source of terrific training advice. Meeting her coincided with my desire to get serious about triathlon and to take on some new challenges; she has been a pivotal part of the growth I have experienced this year.

In my efforts to improve over the last year, I have also sought connections to groups of triathletes so that I can learn from them. The online running community - the "maniacs" - has been a great source of advice and encouragement. No matter how elementary my questions were in the beginning or how slow my race times are, they have always been helpful and positive. Some of them live here in Edmonton and I have gotten to know them. We are workout buddies and general cheerleaders for each other. As well, my spin instructor extraordinaire, Elise, also the owner of my favourite triathlon shop, has pushed me to improve and has always treated me like a "serious" triathlete, which sometimes surprises me because of how I see myself.

Groups of triathletes have always intimidated me but I am getting over that. Recently I joined the Edmonton Triathlon Club so that I can get even more connected to the local triathlon community. I went to my first activity with them just before Christmas and I was amazed at how welcoming they were. I am going to enjoy being part of that.

There is no doubt that there can be elitism in triathlon but I have decided to ignore that. I don't think that makes triathlon or triathletes any better. I have surrounded myself with positive, helpful, fun people who make me feel good and help me get better. There is room in this sport for everyone who wants to do it - even someone like me. I will be so pleased if what I write in this blog is helpful to someone who isn't sure they belong, who doesn't know if they can do it. This is an adventure for all of us!