Sunday, September 28, 2008

Moon Valley Grasshopper Bridge - 5K

Pre Race: It’s been six weeks since Lilac and I had a race. It was starting to feel like forever, especially since we were going to races every other weekend over the summer. This also starts a four week span of a race every weekend, and some of them are big ones, so I was starting to get a little anxious for the fun to start.

The Moon Valley Grasshopper Bridge 5K raises funds for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and since PCH saved Lilac’s sister’s life from a 5% chance of survival many years ago, it was something that her family wanted to participate in. Lilac’s sister, “Vibrant”, and her mom, “Larue”, decided to come. Now Lilac’s family is chock full of gorgeous women. At a svelte and willowy 5’11 – 6’0, the girls would be totally comfortable on the runway. And Larue displays how nicely they will mature. I’m grasshopper green with envy over her 50 year old legs. However, since I’ve been a part of their clan for 10 years or so, I’m over my jealousy of their amazing metabolisms and bone structures (mostly). :)

I had fished at Lilac a couple of times to see what the expectations were with the ladies running with us – were we running straight through? Run/walking? Walking? She didn’t seem nearly as concerned about it as I was. I was waffling between being terrified of those long legs taking off and leaving me in the dust, and annoyed that my “prep” race for Run for Congo would become a nice leisurely walk, and I wouldn’t be mentally ready for that first 10K.

Race: The race takes place inside the Coral Gables neighborhood, which is built up against the mountain that creates Moon Valley (Moon Mountain?). It’s relatively flat however, and has many, many, many turns. We set off at a trot (immediately after a picture at the starting line – Larue cracks me up) and Vibrant quickly established that we’d be running landmarks. As a former track star, she said she couldn’t run if she couldn’t see the end of where she was going. Worked for me! So we started the “we’ll run to that corner”, “Ok we’ll start running at that white car, no that’s too far, at the blue trash can, and then we’ll stop at that yellow sign”. We just went with it. They were shorter intervals – maybe 3/2’s, but it was good to be moving.

During our walk segments we talked about how much nicer it was outside (it was almost cool) and how great it was to be supporting Children’s Hospital. Vibrant decided that when we do this next year (wow, we should probably finish this race before we start about next year) she wants to make t-shirts for us that say “Miracle Girl” to commemorate the day she made the front page over Barry Goldwater. Interacting with the girls reminded me that although my relationship with my mom has gotten much better, we still just don’t have that unbelievable connection that Larue has created with her daughters. I could not even innumerate the great Frederick’s panties, and “girl discussions” that we had openly and willingly that would NEVER have been discussed with my mom. It was great to be included and open and girly with the girls. Sometimes I need that more than I need a PR.

About halfway into the race, Larue’s hip started to tighten up, so we cut out the running. That was fine with me – I was having such a great time with the ladies that I didn’t want the race to end. We went over the grasshopper bridge (another picture opportunity) and when we saw the finish line, we ran in as foursome screaming and cheering like we had run the whole thing!

Post Race
: 54 something, no idea where I placed and I don’t plan on looking it up. Today was about enjoying a good time with a great family, and supporting a cause that means a lot to them. I can worry about PR’s and placement next week!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Juggler

A million small things can add up! At some level, many of my small things make me happy – I’m extremely excited to be volunteering and working on the Ops committee for GOTR. I’m also feeling really good about my training on all three events – they are coming along and I feel totally confident for the Mission Bay Tri.

At other levels, small things can take a toll. There’s work – which is a major juggling act on it’s own – with flaming tennis balls that keep trying to light my hair on fire and make me run around screaming for about 12 hours a day. And to top it all off, I’ve decided to implement the 30/5 plan, where I actually try to complete more house work than the daily dishes and laundry, feeding the dogs, and making J’s coffee for the next morning. My plan is simple: There are five rooms in our house that we actively live in – our bedroom, our bathroom, the living room, kitchen, and the house bathroom. So, I’m trying to spend 30 minutes a day on one of those rooms during each day of the week. Hence 30/5. My thought is that eventually I’ll get through the standard mess, and be able to handle things like window shutters, and baseboards. And yes, the 30 minute time constraint is to keep me from going off the OCD deep end, where I find myself ironing my shower curtain and wearing toothbrushes out on corners and tile grout – help help!

I’ve got to tell you, it’s not as easy as it sounds. As someone who absolutely cannot procrastinate, I find myself constantly anticipating the cleaning that I have to do that evening. I drive myself crazy thinking about what needs to be done, even though the actual process isn’t as terrible as I always remember it to be. You’d think that I could tell myself “You know you’re going to do this at 5pm, and not a minute before, so stop worrying about what you have to do!”. Somehow it doesn’t relieve my stress.

I try to keep it fun by clamping my Shuffle on my shirt, and dancing around as I clean – loosen up the hip flexors, and get myself moving after a long day of mental fugue. Every day I tell myself that it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, and yet the next day (like today) I’m stressing!

Sometimes I need to step back and look at things a little bit more realistically, though. I recently read one of those chain emails that turned all of your “stressors” around and showed you how truly blessed you are. Yes, I have agreed to work full time, volunteer, attempt to manage my house, and train – but I am lucky that I have a job to be stressed about, that I have the opportunity to make a difference, that I have a house (that I have no fear of losing, like so many right now) to clean, and that I am healthy and motivated to train! It really made me realize that things could be a lot worse!

I’ve been trying to use a personal litany to remind myself to calm down – especially the way things are at work right now (to be another post) and not letting anxiety take hold.

Here are the top 5 things that I say to remind myself to chill:
- No matter how this project goes (good, bad, or ugly) I’m still not going to cure cancer with the end result.
- I am grateful that I have the ability to train without pain, and the wisdom to enjoy the process and not just the results.
- I haven’t had to deal with snow on a daily basis for 10 years.
- Chances are likely that regardless of whether or not my cleaning happens, the sun will shine again tomorrow.
- I have people who love me, and an opportunity to make a difference, what more is life about?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Decision Time

OK so the bike issue.

Basically, prior to starting up my “tri” career, I hadn’t ridden a bike in about 15 years – and I’m not even 30, so it had been a LONG time. I rode my bike almost everywhere as a kid, and loved everything about it – except trying to get it into our 2 feet above the ground raised shed in the side yard. I must have ruined more derailleurs trying to pull my bike up into that shed… fortunately we didn’t care! We were just having fun.

When I bought my lavender road bike, I did it the wrong way. I said “well I’m not sure I’m going to be much into this triathlon thing, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a bike at first.” I bought it online. I didn’t know what size I was, and all I looked at was “Well Lamborghini is a good company, and European, they must make decent bikes” and “Ooh I really really love that lavender one!” $250 later… I had a road bike.

A completely useless road bike, that is. Although I loved the color, I soon learned that I should have stuck with a name brand I knew – provided of course that I knew the names of any bike companies, which I didn’t. Basically, I couldn’t do anything with my bike. I could put in a trainer, but I couldn’t get a training wheel, or tire, oh or replace the tubes in my tires because they were some weird long schraeder (sp) valves, and I couldn’t put aero bars on it because of the location of the shifters, and I couldn’t change out my pedals. Oh, I also couldn’t ride the bike for 5 minutes without my hands going painfully numb, and I couldn’t reach the breaks, and I couldn’t reach the ground, and I couldn’t grab my water bottle. After I was run off the road I basically lost all interest in ever touching it again.

Whew, it felt good to get all of that out!

So my options were –
1. Ride my totally unsafe bicycle until the tire tubes pop, and then quit the sport.
2. Buy a new geeked out road bike, at a small sum of $3K+, which I’ll be freaked out about because I already HATE my current road bike
3. Go back to basics, and buy a decently priced mountain bike to build riding confidence, leg stamina, and enjoyment back into my biking life, and let the future happen as it will.

In actuality I debated on #2 vs. #3. I really thought that I “should” go with option #2 – it was the right option if I was “serious” about triathlon. I was going to need to get used to the geometry of being uncomfortable 100% of the time. If I spent enough money maybe I could get over most of that, at least I’d be able to customize it. I even had it all planned out – use my bonus in February, deal with my current bike until then, work hard to build endurance and speed as I could using alternative methods (spin and stationary bikes).

The problem was that I really struggled with the idea of throwing around big money (for me at least) on a bike that was so similar to the one I hated and felt so uncomfortable riding. I had never ridden a road bike before the lavender one, and frankly, those tires are pretty thin. I couldn’t ride that on the road without fearing a fall – even without cars driving at lightening speeds.
Then I went for trail ride with my brother in law on the Cape, on rented mountain bikes, and it started to change my feelings about the options. When I was on the Rail Trail, I felt the uninhibited joy that I felt as a kid riding my bike around my neighborhood. It was natural, it was free, and it was totally comfortable. We rode 20 miles, which was WAY longer than what I was riding on my road bike, and I felt great afterwards. I can honestly say that it was the best part of my trip this summer. I wanted to feel that way every time I got on my bike.

So, I started weighing my options – are mountain bikes as expensive as road bikes? Not hardly! Are they slower? Yes. Are they heavier? Yes. Do I really think I’m ever going to be a “fast” cyclist? No. Will the extra weight make me fitter? Yes. Will I feel confident enough to actually ride on the roads and the canals? Yes. I asked my family what their opinion was (I was afraid to talk to the “real bike riders” because I thought they would unanimously say road cycling was the only “real” option). Lilac bought a bike to use to train for the Mission Bay Tri, and it was a mountain bike. She wanted to ride with me – and I didn’t want to touch my bike. Then Lilac and I went to a women’s only bicycle clinic at Landis on Sunday (highly recommended if you need leverage to do things like change a tire) and talked to Stacey about my dilemma, since she knew about my bike issues – she had been there when one of the Landis guys said “Just buy a new bike Eileen. This one is useless.”

She surprised me a great deal by telling me to go with what I’m going to enjoy, and not to worry about what kind of bike it is, but if it makes me want to get out there and ride. She even told me that she had done triathlon for many years, and that she spent most of her time riding her mountain bike, because it made riding so much more enjoyable for her. I went and saw her today, and she spent a lot of time talking to me, counseling me, listening to me, and finally letting me ride a couple of bikes around to see if she could find something that would fit my uber long legs, with my rather short torso. As soon as we had the right mountain bike we both knew. She actually told me as I was swinging my leg over that all of a sudden it looked totally natural – like a kid swinging her leg over, rather than a nervous and stressed and uncomfortable adult. I took that bike for a spin, and it was amazing how great it felt! I got that exact same feeling, I could zig zag with ease, I could go no hands again. It was a pretty amazing transformation. I also think she was genuinely happy that I came in there so frustrated and left feeling absolutely great – which made me feel even better. The coolest part about my new bike (being assembled today) is that the color is brushed silver – which means I have great options for names – Sparkles? Shimmer? Speeding Bullet? It will name itself before long.

I am so glad that I made this choice, though I know it’s not the one that most people make. I can always by a super duper road bike down the road, but for what I need right now, this is the perfect fit. I want to get out there and ride right now! That’s not something I’ve felt in a long time. I tacked up my Maricopa bike route map on the wall, and I feel ready to GO!

Here’s hoping for many enjoyable miles on the road and the trail!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Becoming a Princess

For the last few months, I have been thinking about my continued training, and what my semi-long term goals are - i.e., beyond the Mission Bay Sprint Triathlon, and the Run for Congo Women 10K, which are my current training goals. They both occur in October, and I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go from there. I’m thoroughly enjoying both running and tri-ing, and as my training plan progresses, I’m starting to move to higher distances. The question is really what I want to focus on next.

I’m all about slow and steady progression. I don’t make outrageous goals, and train like crazy to get there – because all that I’ve gotten out of that path is injury and frustration. Rather, I try to see where I will be if I continue with my current training plans, and see what might be an option at some point in the future. I want to still be running and tri-ing when I’m 80 – so why should I rush to run a marathon this year? I want to enjoy the process that comes from training for each level, and enjoy the success of completing each level – without saying “well it’s only a sprint” or “it’s only a 10K”. Each one of those milestones is a big deal – and I want to celebrate each of the successes.

From a triathlon perspective, the Mission Bay Tri will be my fourth sprint distance. Although it seems like most people move from the sprint to Olympic distance within a season, I feel like I still have a lot of opportunity for improvement here. I specifically want to improve my cycling speed which is atrociously bad (and becoming unafraid of my bike would be a good start). I’d also like to do a bigger race, maybe tackle Tempe Town Lake, and participate with my tri club in a club race. I don’t really want to move up in distance until I feel like I can get through the sprint and it’s a piece of cake. My training has me very confident for the Mission Bay Tri, because I’m doing longer distances than the event is basically every day, including stringing all the events together on Saturdays. The bike thing is a problem though – something I’ll probably be blogging about at some point soon.

Since I’m running 6 miles on my “long” runs now, I’m fairly confident about the Run for Congo Women event as well. I have complete confidence that I’ll be able to finish the race and feel good about it….which is probably part of the reason that I’m starting to look beyond the race to think about where I want to go from there. We all know what the next step is – the half marathon, but it’s a big leap, and in order to prepare myself for taking that leap, I’ve thought a lot about when I think I’ll be nearing that point in my training and what would inspire me to keep growing my distance.

My first thought was the P.F. Chang’s 1/2. I mean, if you’re going to get out there, it helps to have a zillion other slow runners, bands at every mile, and cheerleaders pushing you forward. However, the race is in January, and I think it would be too much of a stretch physically. According to my calculations, I’ll only be at about 8.5 miles for my “long” runs. Because I know myself, that will make me panic, and I’ll start pushing the mileage buildup, and will wind up injured.

If I couldn’t do P.F.Chang’s, I wanted to get involved in a charitable organization that meant something to me, and would give me the incentive to train for a ½ marathon that would be out of town. I knew that programs like Team in Training come with HUGE price tags, and although I wanted to support a charity, I did not want to go door to door to beg for money, and I certainly did not want to put a credit card number down for $3,000 - $5,000. I was thinking that I wanted to personally donate somewhere between $200 - $500, and feel good about why I was running the event. What I found was that even local charities have four digit fundraising requirements. I was pretty shocked by it. You’d think non-profits would be looking for money wherever they could find it… but apparently that’s not the case. I have a lot of respect for anyone who is willing to do fundraising for something they are passionate about – I just haven’t felt strongly enough about an organization to make that kind of commitment.

And then I found Team Tiara.

Team Tiara is actually the fundraising leg for Girls on the Run. I found out about them during my coaches training last Saturday. 80% of donations goes directly the the Maricopa County chapter, which is great. Even better, their minimum donation is $262, with incentives for raising higher dollar figures – which means I can do it out of pocket, and actually SEE the results directly. My company has a matching incentive program, so even with the minimum donation I’d be able to help 5 girls join the program on full scholarship next season. They also do not have an official race, so you can participate in ANY event for them – any distance, anywhere, on any date. I like that kind of flexibility. It took me about 12 seconds to decide that this was going to be my charity. The only thing to find was the right race.

I got home from the coaches training just buzzing about this opportunity. I was telling J all about the training, the lessons, and Team Tiara as I started mindlessly flipping through the new Runners World that had come in the mail – and within the first 5 pages, without even looking for it, I found my race: The Inaugural Disney Princess ½ Marathon. Is there are better event for Team Tiara?

Although I’m not really a big Disney fan (I don’t dislike them, I just also do not particularly identify myself with Snow White, or Tinkerbell), this ½ is perfect for several reasons:
- It’s a women’s only race
- It’s a perfect event for Girls on the Run and Team Tiara, and getting in the spirit of why I’m running the race
- It’s in March, at which point I’ll be consistently around the 10 mile mark (knocking on wood), which I think is close enough to push through the end on that day, without stressing too much beforehand
- My step-daughter, Little Tova, lives in Florida, and we’ve wanted to take her to Disney forever – she’s all about Disney Princesses!
- There’s a kids race where she’ll get a t-shirt and a medal for a 200 yard dash
- It would be good for her to see women celebrating their activity and healthy lifestyle

If all goes well with the Run for Congo Women, I’m going to sign up for this race. And when I finish it, I’m going to feel great about the accomplishment of stringing 13 miles together, of being a good role model for my step-daughter, and of making a difference for girls in AZ who could benefit from Girls on the Run. Oh, and for becoming a Princess!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Girls on the Run

As I alluded to over the weekend, I’ve recently gotten involved with an after school program called Girls on the Run. I’ve participated in the program as a Running Buddy (see Wondergirl 5K race report to laugh about that experience), but I wanted to get more involved with the program.

Basically, the program is for girls from 3rd – 5th grade, two days a week, for 1.5 hours per day. Though many of the activities revolve around running, the program actually uses running/walking/skipping/activity as a way to promote self-confidence, teamwork, friendship, and success in girls before they enter the dreaded teens, and all of the emotional and physical changes that come with it. One of the crazy stats that I learned in training class on Saturday was that 90% of kindergarten girls consider themselves confident when they enter school. By 5th grade, it’s down to 60%, and by 12th grade it’s down to 5%. Every woman reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. This program works with girls of all shapes, colors, and backgrounds, and instills in them the confidence in themselves and their social skills. At the end of the 10 week course, all of the girls race at the Iron Girl 5k – and they are all winners once they cross that finish line.

My father raised me, and though he was absolutely excellent at keeping me focused on school, getting involved in music, teaching me the rules and the joys of watching football and baseball, and creating a loving home environment, we had neither the time or the money to participate in group activities (other than playing in the neighborhood) or team sports. And, as much as I love him, when it came time to learn about periods, makeup, style, and how to interact with other girls, I was woefully behind schedule. Unfortunately, I was also sensitive of my father’s feelings about being inadequate as a parent, so I didn’t even bring home the permission slips for “girl’s video day” or “health class” – to save him from feeling like his parenting wasn’t enough for me.

We all go through those things, and as an adult I have found the love of running, racing, and tri-ing. These sports have given me so much! Not only am I fitter and healthier, which were my initial goals and reasons for getting into sport, but I radiate confidence. My relationships are better because I not only spend these awesome moments with my good friends, but also because I’m no longer tightly wound. I’m calmer. I’m more centered, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I even feel like a girlie-girl, and I love it – thank you Running Skirts!

I think that because of the awkwardness that I felt as a teenager, the lack of relationship that I had with my mom, and the unbelievable and almost indescribable benefits that I have received from running, I want to give back. I want other young girls to be exposed to the peak experience of having a dream, working hard, and succeeding at something that sounded impossible just few months before. I want girls to get outside of the “girl box” and not always evaluate another girl head to toe before even saying hi. Most importantly, I want to give an opportunity to the girls who really need some extra love and support from a mentor. I want to be able to be that person for someone who needs it.

I’m even looking forward to interacting with the 5 other female coaches for my school – and that’s progress!

Girls on the Run is so much fun! Girls on the Run is #1! Woo!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Just Checking In

For those of you who are interested, my lack in posting this week was not due to a successful holiday disconnection - I did make it to Saturday morning though. I was traveling for work this week, and adequate sleep and some semblance of training was more important than posting the “I’m Tired” blog, which was all I could wrap my head around. :) Thankfully, next week's trip has been cancelled due to all of those hurricanes which are potentially going to hit the Carolinas, so I’m already on the road to recovery!

I will say that I had a great speedwork session on Thursday, and it must be time to take it up a notch, because I felt more comfortable than I should have - which is a great feeling!

I have an all day training today (Saturday) for a volunteer program that I've commited to - Girls on the Run. I'm extremely excited about this program, but I'll save it for another day, because my jet-lagged brain needs to be on point for the long day of knowledge absorption.

Have a good weekend all - I'll be back in form next week!