Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Y" Me?

The other day, Gary mentioned that I just didn't seem myself the last couple of days.

Now, over the years, I have developed a keen sense of quickly determining what the root of my current emotional state is, good or bad. My sometimes pensive or taciturn dispositions usually needed to be explained away to friends or family, lest they misinterpret what's really going on.

After he mentioned this, I paused for about five seconds - my thoughts scurrying about for the explanation - and proclaimed: "I really think it's the cold weather. It's just so much harder for me to get going, to get motivated."

He listened to my diagnosis, smiled broadly and announced, "Well, Baby...your Christmas present from me is a membership to the Y."

I turned my head to face him and said, "Really? I can go ahead and get it today?"

He said yes. He was going to wait until Christmas-time, but it was clear to him that now would be a better time to gift-give.

I called the Y to see what all they needed. The lady on the phone said, "You can come over today and someone can take care of you as long as we're open. But, we're starting a membership drive on Monday and if you wait until then, we'll waive the activation fee."

As excited as I was to get in a pool immediately, I am practical and decided to wait until Monday to save the money. I had waited this long. What's another 6 days?

I'm most excited about being able to swim. That is the sport with which I struggle the most, but it is easily the most enjoyable.

I'm also excited about being able to run indoors, and about having access to the equipment to start Crossfit strength training.

I'm just thrilled about it all, really.

Thanks for my early Christmas gift, Gary. You...are...AWESOME!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh...I'm One of THOSE People Now

I heard recently that a neighbor said about me to someone I know, "Oh, my gosh. That woman is way too active. She's always running or riding her bike somewhere."

In many ways, I feel like a triathlete. It's become such a part of who I am. I'm traveling over the holidays and would feel sick if I didn't at least bring my running shoes.

In other ways, I still can't believe that I am.

I'm pretty embarrassed to admit this, but I used to make fun of runners. "Hey, look at me. I'm a runner. Yeah, yeah, I'm a runner," was a stupid little song I'd chant to myself as I'd pass by. (I don't know what's more pathetic: that I was making fun of people or that my song wasn't even creative.)

Oh, and bikers? They didn't get the honor of a song. They just annoyed me, taking up that perfectly good road space.

As I have become known as a runner and biker, I feel compelled to reassure, somehow, the people out there who are Old Loras.

For example, I joke that if my bike had room for a bumper sticker, it would read: "Yeah, I hate people like me, too."

A part of me wants them to know that I know how they're feeling. I'm still going to run and ride on their roads, but if I can make them chuckle instead of anger, maybe today's Old Loras won't be as harsh to the New Lora.

Just for the record, I never honked, sped around in anger or yelled harsh words out the window. No, I just muttered to myself, much like the dad in "A Christmas Story" does when the furnace goes out.

As I look back at my attitude, I was jealous. That sounds like an easy pop-psychology diagnosis, but it really is true. I didn't have their motivation or determination, and making fun was just a nice way to pass the time and forget about my own lack of fitness.

It's so funny the way this story in my life has turned out; me becoming the very thing I used to dislike. But, since I am "one of those people," I've no choice but to just embrace it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Snow is Welcome Here

I'm one of the few people who absolutely love snow.

Gary cringes if the weather reports include it. I can't wait to glimpse the first sign of the harmless white invaders.

When it snows, it's as if the fast pace of the world is put on hold. There's a loud quiet in the air, demanding that our lives move slowly.

For the first time in my life, I went running in the snow the other day.

Of all the things that I can do to be a better runner (run more, run faster, eat better, hydrate better), I wasn't prepared for the sudden spring in my step for which the snow was clearly responsible.

I'll be frank: it was just fun. I wasn't focused on my heart rate or how fast I was going. I was just enjoying the descension of my wet, white companions. It was, quite simply, a very calming experience.

Snow has always been special to me. Now, as a triathlete in winter training, I've got another reason to love it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Forgotten 5K Memories

I was Googling myself the other day on Yahoo. (Yes, I meant to say that.) I found a link with my name associated with results for a 5K back in November 1998 at my university.

Since I started training for tris, I've often wondered how I did in that race. I've thought about calling the university to see if they had those results by some odd chance, but just never did.

Yesterday, my curiosity was mollified. I excitedly clicked on the link and found my results - after all these years:

Overall: 108/123
AG Overall: 22/25
AG Female: 12/15

Time: 29:12
Pace: 9:24

Here's how I, a certified non-runner, ended up doing a 5K...

I, along with my friend, Jacki, had decided to join the newly forming women's crew team. We soon found ourselves in a Catch 22. We could not get a coach until we got a boat, and we could not get a boat until we had a coach.

Our captains decided that doing a 5K would be a nice team activity in the meantime. As someone who couldn't run 50 feet without wanting to collapse, I cringed when that idea was tossed out, but I was up for the challenge.

Jacki and I trained with the girls a couple times, running the entire 3 miles. I must admit, I felt really, really good after each run. The biscuits and gravy I had for breakfast afterwards never tasted better.

Race day came and I started off with the team, but the "real" runners soon left me behind. No problem. I expected they would.

The race run was just as much of a pain as the training runs, but at least I'd get a nice long-sleeve T-shirt when I finished. (My friend, Melody, with whom I am no longer in contact, had it eight years ago. That's the last time it was seen. Can you tell I really liked that shirt?)

When I turned the last corner, my teammates who had already finished were cheering me on. That was really cool. I talked with some of the girls for a while afterwards, and then left town for the weekend.

Completing that 5K 10 years ago was cool. I finished it, was proud of myself for a while, but quickly went on with my life.

Completing my first triathlon this summer was a life-changing experience. It was extremely difficult, physically challenging, highly emotional and incredibly, incredibly rewarding.

The Danskin women's triathlon series has a saying that goes something like this: "The woman who starts the race is not the same one who finishes." They are so on the money.

Finishing a 5K is cool. Finishing a triathlon is pure bliss.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

R.I.P. Little Fella. I'm So Sorry.

The darkness had already settled-in for the night and it was only 6:00 p.m.

The road home from work would be a long one, but driving is very soothing to me and I really didn't mind.

Out of the darkness and in a split second, I noticed a Basset Hound mix from the right walking obliviously and directly into the path of my SUV - about 5 feet in front of me. I was horrified because I knew instantly the outcome of his very poor decision.

The impact forced my SUV to fishtail into the other lane and I quickly got back on course. I was very grateful to the Lord above that oncoming traffic was far away and the cars in my lane were well behind me.

I put on my right blinker and pulled off into the shoulder and put on my flashers. I kept muttering through the tears, "Oh, my gosh, I hit a dog. Oh, my gosh, I hit a dog." I got out and started running in the grass trying to find him.

I did find him. He was in the shoulder, laying deathly still on his side with no life in his eyes. I put my hand on his side, hoping to feel or see a breath. I thought I saw one, but my tear-filled eyes could have been misleading me as I was never to see anymore that night; if I had even seen that one.

I knew the little guy was dead, but I just couldn't leave him. He had on no collar so I couldn't contact any owners. I called Gary. No answer. I called again. No answer. I called my boss, Jim.

Jim and his wife, Carol, take in feral cats in their neighborhood and at least get them spayed or neutered if they can't keep or find homes for them. They also just lost their dog, Fergus, about 3 years ago. I knew he would care.

To make a long story short, Jim called the Animal Control office and conferenced me in with them. I did my best to calmly tell the lady what happened and where the dog was. She reassured me that it wasn't my fault, that these things happen, that I had done everything possible and that someone would be on their way.

Gary called me back. We agreed that it really was unsafe for me to be parked along the side of the road. Who knew how long Animal Control would be? I called the kind lady back and she said it would be Okay if I left, especially since the little guy was dead and just needed to be picked up.

I spent the next half hour of my drive sobbing. The thought of hitting something else because I was too emotional helped dry my eyes after a while.

I called later on to confirm they picked him up off the road. The very compassionate voice on the other end informed me that they had. I cried a few more times that night. I apologized to Gary, "I'm sorry. I know it's irrational."

He said reassuringly, "Actually, it's very rational. You love dogs and it's too bad that of all the people who might have run over him, it ended up being you. It's very understandable why you're so upset."

If this little fella would have been alive, I would have rushed him to the vet ER. Frankly, since his owners didn't care enough to keep a collar on him and keep him fenced, we would have had another addition to the family.

Sadly, things ended much, much differently. My two pups below are definitely getting some extra attention this weekend. As if we could give them anymore.

I'm so sorry, little buddy. Rest in peace.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Infuriating Bike Ride

I decided to ride along the road here at home instead of hitting the trails. I just didn't have two hours to spend driving. My goal was 24 miles.

It was the coldest bike ride I've done and I had plenty of gear to keep me warm; probably too much actually. This would only add to my discomfort...and to my fury.

From the beginning, I knew this ride would be "off." You know what I mean. There's a different feel to the air...a different feel to the world even. Perhaps it felt that way because that's exactly how it was.

The first day of truly colder weather was accompanied by its rebellious friend, The Wind. I felt like it was taking out its frustration on me, as if the lack of severe weather this summer had left it pent up and only today could it finally unleash its force.

I felt like I was biking through mud instead of through wind. I felt sluggish and angry, angry and uncomfortable, uncomfortable and...hopeless.

So many times I yearned to turn around. I was just utterly miserable. I kept on telling myself to get my head in the game, like my old high school softball coach used to yell out to me in the field from the dugout. But I was so mad because I was so miserable, and memories of Coach Savilla's leadership just couldn't shake the negativity.

So many times I thought to myself, "That's it. I just cannot and will not do this anymore until I get a road bike. Forget the challenge, forget the training. I hate biking. I'm done."

For whatever reason, I made it to 11.5 miles and turned around. As soon as I did, the head wind was gone and my ride felt somewhat back to normal.

I finished up at 10 mph. My slowest ride ever.

Maybe I needed to have this rock-bottom experience. I've yet to feel so frustrated in this sport, and I'm pretty good about getting in a slump and coming back even stronger.

Here's to hoping that's the case.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Last Nice Day of the Year

I wanted to take advantage of this last nice day of the year by putting in some more miles on my bike. Once again, I loaded up my SUV, drove an hour and hit the trail.

To my surprise, about 3 miles into it, I was growing weary. Twenty-four miles seemed so far away. I thought, "Well, maybe I'll just turn around and that way I'll have done 6 miles."

Luckily, my strong will persevered. There was no way I was going to drive 2 hours round-trip for 6 miles of biking.

I just kept plugging along and I eventually got to a point where I began to enjoy my journey. Instead of forcing myself to bike hard, I decided to just take my time and enjoy the sunny day and bright trail before me. That made all of the difference.

I ended up biking 27.5 miles at a 13 mph pace. That's very dismal but still better than last week. It had been about a month since I'd been on a bike last time, and I've come to realize that I simply cannot go that long without it affecting my endurance.

Now, if I can just get the motivation to bike in the cold this winter, I'll be golden.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Long Bike

My mentor group on BT is doing a challenge for November to run 40 miles, bike 98 and swim 2.4 (or do 5 hours of strength training if you cannot make it to the pool).

So, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather yesterday and start my bike goals.

I have really gotten spoiled riding those trails and my usual route from home just doesn't seem satisfying. So, I loaded up my bike in my SUV and began my hour-long drive to the trail.

Because it was such a beautiful day, because I had nowhere to be and because this trail has many, many miles on it, I decided to push myself and ride 24 miles. Plus, that would knock out 25% of my goal on day one.

It truly was a gorgeous day, a lot like the above picture but with more sun. Every now and then, and only when I was by myself, of course, I'd hear some sort of animal rustling the leaves near the path. I wondered what it was. A snake, a squirrel, a mountain lion? I never found out and I think that's a good thing.

It took me 2 hours to get in 24 miles, putting me at 12 mph. I got passed by a few people who just seemed to effortlessly speed by, as if they weren't even using their legs to move them forward, but had made a secret deal with the wind to make them bike heroes.

I continue to encourage myself by insisting that when I get a road bike, the wind will make me an offer I can't refuse, and I can join their club.

Of course, I know a road bike won't solve all of my problems. Getting better and faster is all about time in the saddle, but being more aero and having a lighter-weight bike will help.

So, here's to a wonderful day of being outside, enjoying the crackling end of a beautiful summer and to having biked 24 miles.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meeting the Goal - Just Barely

So, I had a goal to run 63 miles in the month of October. On October 31, I met the goal. In fact, I went over it by a quarter of a mile.

Next month, the goal is to do 75 miles. As of today, 1 down - 74 to go...


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