The Ups & Downs of Triathlon Motherhood

That is my youngest daughter trying to sneak into the transition area as I trasition from the swim to the bike.

That is my youngest daughter trying to sneak into the transition area as I transition from the swim to the bike.

Time is a tricky thing.  Most of the time, moms feel like they don’t have enough time in a day to get it all done.  Whether you’re working or taking care of the kids 24/7 there is a long to-do list that never seems to get shorter because you always need to add an item even if you are lucky enough to cross one off.  Some moms are fortunate to have help while others are doing it all on their own.  It can be a battlefield at times, but also very rewarding at other times.

Let me talk about one item that should be on every mom’s list: “Doing something for yourself.”  Everyone has a different idea of what this is: reading a book, going for a run, chatting with a friend on the phone (people still use those for talking right?) or maybe relaxing in the tub.  I believe that this item must be checked off every day in order to maintain the flow of harmony and love.  If mom is happy, then everyone else is happy.

Well, my daily item involves training for my triathlon.  This is something that I am doing for myself and I immerse myself in it almost every day.  I don’t get paid to do it.  I don’t get recognized for doing it.  I just do it because I want to.  I must admit that my committment to train for a triathlon does have its ups and downs.

What is so great about being a mom who trains for a triathlon?

1.  I am a positive role model to my children.  I show them what it takes to have courage, discipline and intrinsic motivation.  I am letting them know that it is okay to express yourself and make your own choices.  They should not be afraid to take giant leaps.

2.  My family is leading a healthier life.  We follow a mostly vegetarian diet, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole wheat products, and avoid processed foods.  We go for walks, play at the playground and get involved in local sports.

3.  It is the greatest feeling to accomplish something so challenging.  I love pushing myself to the limits and I am a much happier person when I workout on a regular basis.  The happiness and self-esteem I gain from my triathlon training and racing translates to my role as a mom.  I truly believe that a happier mom is a more loving mom.

4.  I have a chance to meet other moms just like me.  I finally found my niche and have had less difficulty finding friends who share similar interests.  We support each other through the rough patches and applaud each other on our successes.  It is great knowing that I don’t need to be a room mom or soccer mom in order to achieve mommy greatness.  My friends have taught me that I can be a great mom just by being who I am.

What is not so great about being a mom who trains for a triathlon?

1.  It takes away precious time.  It is not like reading a book for a half an hour before bedtime.  I commit a minimum of 2 hours a day, 6 days a week to working out.  I get up early, go to the gym before or after work or just lug my kids with me to gym so they can be supervised in the daycare while I workout.  That is less time that I have to spend with my family in addition to the time taken away while I am at work.

2.  Criticism from other parents (or even spouses) for #1.  They assume that you don’t want to spend time with your family and that you are selfish for choosing an activity that would take away so much precious time.  Fortunately I have a very supportive husband who understands how important fitness is to me.  There are some moms out there who do not have that kind of support.

3.  Pure exhaustion.  Between getting the kids ready for school, transporting kids to school and activities, going to work, cooking dinner, doing chores and training for this triathlon, I am one exhausted mom.  If it weren’t for my husband’s help I would be even more exhausted.  I have somehow managed to train for marathons while my husband was deployed… not sure how I survived, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

4.  In #3 I mentioned something about doing chores.  Yeah, that doesn’t really happen.  Chores are considered very low priority so don’t be surprised when you enter my house.  I am lucky if I can get the dishes done on a daily basis.  And of course the laundry… there is a lot of laundry when you are training for a triathlon (and when you have 3 girls).

Every path we choose will have its ups and downs.  I know that I am on the right path even though it took me awhile to get here.  I love being a mom AND a triathlete (along with all of the other roles I play).

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Running and Facebook

Like it... or not

Like it… or not

Yes, I will admit that I often talk more about running on facebook than I do about my own kids.  There are certain things about my life that I feel are nobody’s business.  However, there are also the things that I can yack about for days and have no problem disclosing every last gory detail.  I have chosen to “tell all” when it comes to my fitness goals.  I figure that if I can at least inspire one person through all of this then I have done what I was meant to do.   I know half of the time it sounds like I am bragging or trying to prove to the world that I am some kind of athletic goddess, but that is definitely not the intention (and even though I am proud of my own personal accomplishments, I know that I am not better than anyone else… well, except for murderers, rapists, thieves… okay maybe I am better than a few people out there).  Actually, there are people out there who could care less about fitness.  I am definitely not “cool” in their eyes nor would they even glance at my facebook posts or blog.  The great thing about it though, is that I am not trying to impress anyone.  If someone doesn’t want to read my post, then they don’t have to look at it.  If someone doesn’t want to be my friend because they are sick of reading about my running adventures, then they can defriend me.  No worries.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really love it when my family and friends post about a success they had with running or while doing some other type of exercise regiment.  I could care less about what their kid ate for breakfast (just kidding… or maybe I am not).  The bottom line is that everyone has their own interests and there is nothing left to do but appreciate each other’s uniqueness.  Some of my friends are interested in discussing parenting issues and I can totally relate because I am a parent myself.  I am not one for much discussion in that area, but I appreciate their views.  Some of my friends are interested in posting recipes and I often find some that are quite appealing.  Some of my friends like to discuss politics… I just read and move on (I am not very political).  A few of my friends enjoy writing about fashion.  As you all know by now I am very lacking in that department so I find that I can always learn a thing or two from my fashionista friends.

But back to what interests me most: fitness.  Well, running specifically.  I know how challenging running can be so I am always thrilled when a friend or family member posts about their new running experiences.  I send them virtual high fives and words of encouragement.  I love reading about how they ran 2 miles one day and then pushed themselves to run 3 miles the next day.  Sometimes this continues and I find out that they have run their first 5k or started training for a half marathon.  Other times it just goes away and I assume that they have fallen off the running wagon for one reason or another.  In any case, these are my all-time favorite posts and I never let one slip by without hitting the “like” button or adding some positive comment.  My friends and family can always count on me for that.

Obviously if you are actually reading this blog then you must have some positive affinity towards fitness and don’t mind me yacking about it 24 hours a day.  Yes, this is my interest and field of expertise (okay, so I like to think I am at least some sort of expert).   If I would have been writing a blog 10 years ago, then I probably would have been writing about other adventures that had nothing to do with running (because I really didn’t think much about running 10 years ago).  It’s funny how people’s interests change over time.  I am always hoping to convert a few walkers.  Let’s get running people!

A Wintery Half Marathon

It is just nice knowing that you have friends out on the race course... it doesn't matter whether or not you eat their dust.

It is just nice knowing that you have friends out on the race course… it doesn’t matter whether or not you eat their dust.

I admit that I often complain about the weather.  It is either too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too snowy or too humid.  It is never perfect.  In the days leading up to this half marathon I found myself complaining once again.  It had been so nice (almost perfect) all week long and it was suddenly going to drop in temperature, increase in winds and dump snow just in time for the start of the race.  I mean, really, I should have totally expected this a month ago when I signed up for the race!  It is not like I hadn’t been training in these conditions already.  Sometimes I can be such a baby!

Well, maybe it helps to be all whiny and complainy (I’m sure that’s not a word, but I like it).  I approached the starting line with thoughts about having fun and doing this as part of my triathlon training.  I didn’t expect to get anywhere near my Personal Record (PR) even though I had a goal of completing it in under 2 hours.  At least that was a reasonable goal because I have been running 10 to 12 miles every Saturday at a decent pace.

My friends and I stood at the starting line in anticipation.  And then they all took off while I slowly meandered through the crowd.  Sure, I would’ve sprinted to keep up, but I know myself too well (one great thing about having a bit of half marathon experience).  If I started off too quickly then I would die before I even made it to the finish.  “Run at your own pace” is what I often tell myself during these races.  It usually works very well in my favor.  We strolled along the creek on a trail that I was quite familiar with.  I knew what to expect around mile 6:  the start of a gradual incline that would lead to a steeper switchback at around mile 7.  I wasn’t too worried, but I did do something that I NEVER do during a race.  I grabbed one of the gels that were being passed out.  One that I had NEVER tried before.  I put it in my pocket and continued on up the hill.

I just love when I pass someone and then they pass me a quarter of a mile later and then I pass them again another quarter of a mile later.  When someone is coming up behind me I glance sideways and take note of who it is: “Oh, it’s that dude in the gray pants suit again.  He was walking when I passed him and now he decided to start running again.  There he goes.  I bet I can pass him on the hill.”  Or: “It’s that guy again.  He is the one who elbowed me when he passed me before.  I better steer clear of him this time.”  Of course there is always: “Oh no, that chick might be in my age group.  I totally can’t let her pass me!”  This is the kind of stuff that keeps me entertained during a race.  Seriously, the miles just fly by!

It was real annoying when I had to be ultra conservative while running on the ice-covered patches.  As time ticked by, those patches became slushy and even more slippery.  I couldn’t risk slipping.  No way would it be worth hip replacement surgery at my age!  I let people pass me on those stretches and then I kicked it up an extra notch when I reached the dry pavement.  Do you ever watch how the person in front of you runs?  At one point I was marveling at a girl who totally runs just like me.  She had the whiparound legs that flapped out to the side as she ran.  I suddenly became very attuned to my running form and I reigned my own legs in.  During the long incline I was stuck behind a guy with very bright shoes who was running at my pace.  I stared at those shoes the entire time so that I wouldn’t know how much further it was before I finally reached the top.  Next thing you know, we were there!

That switchback hill was not fun.  Not fun at all.  But, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  It took everything I had not to slow down.  I kept pushing for my pace to overcome it.  And that I did.  When I reached the top I just wanted to lay down in the snow, but I knew that wasn’t an option.  I still had 5 more miles to go.  What did I do instead?  I closed my eyes (well, maybe not completely, but they were partially closed).  I know it may sound funny, but I almost fell asleep.  I was at peace for that short moment.  And then I remembered where I was.  I looked around at the amazing view and I pumped my legs faster as I flew down the hill.  I had to play catch up for lost time on that uphill battle.  Yet, I couldn’t overdo it.

At that moment I realized that it was probably very dumb of me to push it so hard.  That seems to be a common scenario.  I kept thinking about how I needed to do my swim/bike workout the next day.  I couldn’t put that off just because I wanted to finish a fast half marathon.  My triathlon was more important than this race.  But then you just get in the racing mindset and there is nothing left to do but push as much as you would in any race.  My legs were tight, my hips were out of tune and my lower back was cringing, but it was nothing that warranted a slower pace so I continued on.

As I neared the bottom of the hill, I thought about that gel in my pocket.  I knew I was going to need more fuel than what I had, but I wondered if it was worth a possible gastric attack.  If I was going to continue at this pace, then I would need more fuel.  I opened it up and swallowed.  Hmm, not too bad.  I always wondered what those tasted like and they weren’t bad at all.  And it must have agreed with my stomach.

Another measly 5K and I would be there.  It wasn’t until I got to this point that I realized I would definitely finish in under 2 hours.  There was even the chance that I would be very close to my PR of 1:49:57.  There were a few times during the last 5K that I considered slowing down, but I forced myself to stay on pace.  Every little hill seemed harrowing, but I set my mind to passing people (a little competition always gets me motivated).

I made it a point to sprint to the finish even if it made my finishing picture look very bad (if it isn’t bad then you are obviously not working hard enough).  I finished in 1:50:05, just 8 seconds more than my PR from a very flat, very sea level race back in Jacksonville.  I really don’t know how it happened, but I do know this:  if someone says they are probably going to have a bad race day, are complaining about the environmental conditions or say that they haven’t really trained, then they will most likely kick some serious butt!  Don’t believe a word of it!

And the best part of it all:  I had fun!  The weather didn’t scare me, the trail conditions didn’t scare me, the competition didn’t scare me and I didn’t scare myself (well, not too bad).

Top Ten Most Annoying Things That Happen During A Bike Ride

Biking on a country road without a shoulder can be scary if drivers decide that they don't want to give you a wide birth.

Biking on a country road without a shoulder can be scary if drivers decide that they don’t want to give you a wide birth.

Okay, so when I first started riding my bike on the road I was a very passive rider.  I realized that I was the idiot who didn’t know anything about cycling.  I did my best to stay out of everyone’s way: cars, pedestrians, other cyclists and even stationary objects (those seemed to suddenly pop up out of nowhere).  I couldn’t even stop and get my feet off the pedals without falling over.  I tried to find roads without a lot of traffic and I only road during times of the day when traffic was lightest.

Now I have no choice but to get out there and ride whenever I can and wherever I can.  I actually enjoy riding and I am definitely more confident about what I am doing.  I am even to the point where I get annoyed by the little things.  Here is my list of the top ten things that annoy me.  Obviously this is based on my personality so you may or may not agree, but feel free to comment and share what annoys you the most.

#10:  Thinking you are prepared to ride for a certain temperature until you get on the bike and actually start pedaling.  Lately, I have been underdressed for freezing wind.  I think it will be fine after I ride for a mile or two, but then after 10 miles I realize that I should have gone back for warmer clothes.

#9:  Realizing that you forgot something halfway through your ride.  I almost always forget to bring tissues and I really need those during this time of year.  My gloves are the tissue replacement so they are covered in snot by the time I am done with the ride.

#8:  Dropping your water bottle mid-ride.  Yeah, they don’t exactly make it easy to put your water bottle back in the bracket while you are trying to keep your eyes on the road.  A few times I have had to stop and go back for a dropped water bottle (luckily they have managed to stay intact and avoid being run over).

#7:  Following a nice road with a nice bike lane that suddenly ends and turns into a road with no shoulder.  I have to make the last minute decision to either continue on and let cars go into the oncoming lane in order to avoid me or just turn around and find another bike-friendly road.

#6:  Crappy roads.  Bumpy roads are not good for biking.  Cracks are hazardous and hurt my rear.  And who had the idea to put manhole covers in the middle of the bike lane?

#5:  Dogs without leashes roaming the neighborhoods.  They may act like they are going to stay in the yard, but not when they see some fresh meat cruising by.  Hey, if I crash into your dog it ain’t my fault.  I was just trying to defend myself.  The same goes for squirrels.  They really do like to play chicken.

#4:  Pedestrians that insist on taking up the whole width of a multi-use trail.  Besides having to yell loudly, I usually have to slow down because of course it will be my fault if I crash into them.

#3:  Drivers who insist on getting as close to you as they can even if no one is in the oncoming lane.  Come on, how hard is it to move over??  I always give a wide birth to cyclists!

#2:  Street sweepers that push the gravel and salt into the bike lane instead of all the way to the curb.  Then drivers get upset if I am not riding in the bike lane because of all the rubble in the bike lane.  Either I ride next to the bike lane or you get a rock flying from my tire to your windshield.

#1:  Stoplights.  Most stoplights are not bike-friendly.  Meaning that if you sit at one of them for a very long time they will not change unless a car is present.  This is soooo very annoying to me because people expect you to follow the rules of the road like a vehicle yet they force you to get off your bike to push a pedestrian button!   Screw that, especially when I am in the left hand turn lane.  I am not getting off my bike and walking over to the sidewalk just so I can get across the road.  It is just my luck that I go through all of that trouble when a car suddenly pulls up out of nowhere and the light changes before I can even get back on my bike.  I just stop and look both ways.  If I don’t see any cops in sight, then I bike through the red light to get to the other side.

Too much exercise

Yes, I did count the one hour of ice skating as a workout because I was holding our 4-year old just like this for the entire time!  I nearly passed out with exhaustion!

Yes, I did count the one hour of ice skating as a workout because I was holding our 4-year old just like this for the entire time! I nearly passed out with exhaustion!

Is it really possible to exercise too much?  Yes, I think so.  I answer this question based on my own experiences during the month of January.  You see, my number one goal for the month should have been to focus on my triathlon training.  Instead, I was sidetracked by a little competition.  I tried to do both, but my need to compete always seemed to overpower logical reasoning.

The competition involved tracking your total number of workouts for the month of January.  Of course these had to be real workouts that lasted for a minimum of 30 minutes.  I only considered real workouts those that involved an elevated heart rate.  As mentioned in my last post, I couldn’t even succeed at a simple walk.  Luckily for me, my triathlon training involves running, swimming, cycling and weight training.  So, I focused on those 4 types of workouts for this competition.

Typically, my training does involve more than one workout per day.  For example, on Mondays I always follow-up an interval swim with a bike ride.  On Wednesdays I need to do a ride followed by a run.  On days that I go to the gym, I always do at least 2 workouts because I have 2 hours (thanks to childcare) so I typically do a swim or run followed by weight training.  However, there are days that I will do my long ride or my long run and may  not include another workout.  Additionally, I am SUPPOSED to take one rest day.

Well, there were times during this competition when I only did one workout in one day.  That was not sufficient for my competitiveness so I was forced to do three workouts on other days.  Usually I would add-on a weight training session on these days.  During the entire month of January I NEVER took a day off.  I didn’t want to have to play catch up on another day.  And, all of a sudden, my goal changed to beating the number of workouts  of last year’s winner: 60!  I wanted at least 61.  But 61 didn’t seem like a lucky number so I opted to aim for 62 if I could.

So, I did it.  I got my 62.  Not sure what that means.  Some people think it means I am a bit of an overachiever or maybe just slightly crazy.  It sure as heck doesn’t mean I am hardcore.  If anything, maybe less smart than usual.  I did sign up to complete a 1/2 Ironman in May and I nearly overtrained myself.  Worse case scenario, I could have injured myself.  Stupid competitive nature.  Why can’t I be a soccer mom and find solace in bringing the best snacks to the games or driving the most fabulous minivan?  Okay, I know you are laughing now.  I would never own a minivan.

Oh, and I have no idea whether I even made the top 5.  I know I don’t really win anything, but bragging rights would actually make this all worth it.  Okay, there is always March Madness.  Yeah, I better not even mention that right now.

You know what pisses me off the most about all of this?  I didn’t even lose more than half a pound!  Seriously people.  I must have consumed whatever calories I burned.  And that’s a lot of freakin’ calories.