Hopes, Dreams & Aspirations

A half marathon completed 3 months after Baby #3.

A half marathon completed 3 months after Baby #3.

OH CRAP!  I just realized something.  Maintaining intense physical activity for 6 – 7 hours without stopping is just crazy.  It is like “fall over in your grave before you make it to the finish line” crazy.  What the hell was I thinking when I signed up for this thing??  And to think that it could actually take even longer if I feel the need to crawl during the final 5 miles of the half marathon!  

Why would a part-time working mother of 3 small children do something like this?  I am not so sure about the answer to that question any more.  Why in the world would someone with thalassemia (low hemoglobin) AND hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) do something like this?  It’s not enough that being a mother makes you fatigued… let alone anemia and a slow metabolism.  Then add on 2 – 3 hours of working out.  Okay, now I know what I was supposed to say here.  If I can do this, then you sure as heck can!

Everyone has their own personal hopes, dreams and aspirations.  Running marathons and finishing (hopefully) half ironmans just happens to be mine.  I can’t let the little things get in the way of my dreams now can I?  So, you may not want to run a marathon, but what are your dreams?  Do you pursue them or do you make excuses?  I believe that you don’t really want it if you aren’t willing to go for it.

I watch my friends and family set goals and reach high.  They inspire me to do the same.  They may or may not run marathons or bike 50 miles like I do, but they take risks and make things happen.  I see the beautiful work of an aspiring photographer.  I know dedicated teachers who are a positive influence on the lives of children.  I hear about the friends that advocate for the causes they believe in.  I have family and friends that risk their lives so that others may live.  I watch stories unfold right before my eyes.  People who do remarkable things are all around us.  It might be easy to say that someone who runs a marathon or finishes an ironman is amazing because it is right there in front of you.  But take a closer look and you will see other dreams coming true.

My headline for this blog is: “my mother inspired me to run… now I am a mother inspiring others to run!”  Sure, that is what I hope to do.  But maybe they will be inspired to do something that they have always dreamed of doing, not necessarily running.  That’s okay too.

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Mental Fatigue

The hard work is worth it when I can experience days like these...

The hard work is worth it when I can experience days like these…

Now I know why only less than one percent of the world’s population has completed an Ironman (70.3 or 140.6… and I am talking the distance, not just the IM brand).  I don’t really know how accurate that percentage is since I really just googled it, but I have a feeling it is pretty close to accurate.  I mean, I do live in Colorado (supposedley the fittest state… think I read that on the internet too) and I was out riding in an area well-known for cycling.  I encountered about 100 cyclists during my 3.5 hour ride.  I was the only one on a triathlon bike.  Not sure if it is because I am the only crazy one training for a triathlon that is held in May or what the deal is.  Maybe that’s it.  Whenever I mention that my triathlon is in May (in Colorado) people assume that I must be completing the swim portion in an indoor pool.  I didn’t think it was such a crazy idea when I signed up back in December because I figured that it would stop snowing by the end of February so I would have plenty of time to train outside.  That blew back in my face.  It is April 22nd and it is currently snowing.

It is really hard (and very boring) to complete 4 hours on a bike trainer.  Even if I am watching a movie (or two).  And I don’t really push myself (since I am supposed to be relaxing while watching a movie, right??).  Sure, I can run outside regardless of the conditions, but there comes a point when you become tired of running in below freezing temperatures.  It takes way to much effort to get dressed in all of that gear.  Somehow I managed to do okay and make it through the winter months of training.  Wait, I am still in the winter months of training.  My mind is starting to deteriorate.  When I hear the weather report I just feel like curling up into a ball and crying my eyes out.  Once in a great while I manage to get out on a day where it is near perfect.  If you call 45 degrees perfect (which I don’t, especially while riding a bike with the wind chill of below freezing).  Last weekend was a rough ride because I was so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes.  It was hard for me to eat because I kept dropping the food as I attempted to bring it to my mouth while steering the bike.  The temperatures were slightly warmer this past weekend, but nature had to bring me wind to contend with.  Okay, I know that conditions aren’t always perfect, but come on, cut me some slack here!   I’m still somehow disciplined to do it, but I don’t know for how much longer.

My workouts are only getting longer as I reach the peak before the taper to event day.  I have my plan and I stick to it (for the most part).  I work out 6 days a week and rejoice when the rest day is here.   I still manage to go to work, take care of the kids and keep my house in order (okay, I may have sacrificed in that department just a little, but the kids are always fed, wearing clean clothes and smell like roses).  Sometimes I just want to turn off my alarm and hide under the blankets.  Other times I want to just drop off the kids at school/daycare and just go get a haircut.  I spent the past month trying to figure out a time when I could go buy a new pair of running shoes… it finally happened, but came at the cost of dealing with rush hour traffic.  My hair is another story.  That will have to wait.

I don’t give in because I want to succeed.  I want to be ready to finish that 70.3.  I want to finish it in good form.  I want to cross that finish line and still be able to drive home.  I am getting tired (mentally and physically), but I do see the end in sight.  Wait, is there an end?  Maybe I don’t want an end.  What will I do without my crazy routine?  Get a haircut maybe?

My mind can start to play tricks on me when it is in fatigue mode.  I often put things in places where they do not belong and I forget to do things that need my attention (fortunately my kids are smart enough to remind me that I need to fasten their seatbelts before we start moving).  I consider just throwing my phone across the room when the alarm goes off or driving to a place where I can just walk.  Then my senses kick back in and I am off in overdrive again.

Maybe I should do one of those fitness apps where you can get paid for completing your workouts.  Wouldn’t I be rich by now?

Even if this race is the crappiest race ever because I nearly drown, get a flat tire, acquire some road rash or finish in last place, I will still be able to say that I have succeeded.  With all of these training hours, I have already done at least 10 Ironmans (or close enough).  I am proud of the fact that I DO wake up early to go workout, that I DO stay on my bike for 3 hours, that I DO keep running on tired legs, and that I DO swim countless boring laps in the pool.  Why DO I DO it?  Well, because I secretly love it.  And, above all else, it has given me strength to persevere through the mental and physical fatigue.  That strength will be required later on down the road and I will be ready.

Like a Popsicle

Yeah, I know I was supposed to write about my ride in Grand Junction.  Sure, that was memorable.  I found out that the course had a few rolling hills, was covered in some cow poop, smelled awfully fowl of manure and nearly touched the Utah border… but that is probably all I need to say for now.  I will let you know more when I ride it during the race on May 18th so stay tuned for those details.

Today’s ride was a tad more interesting.  I had already planned to wake up early and endure a bike/run workout (also known as a brick workout to you triathletes).  I must say that I was rather accustomed to waking up to snow on the ground or maybe a fierce wind blowing across our backyard, but I was not really prepared for the layer of frost on our lawn chairs or on the windshield of my truck.  The weather report stated that it was just above freezing (maybe right at 33 degrees) so that was relatively warm in comparison to what we had been experiencing.  Needless to say, the frost did not make me feel any better.  As soon as I stepped outside I knew it was going to be a bitter cold kind of day until the sun decided to show its happy face (and that took longer than expected thanks to the clouds hovering in the sky).

Yet, I was already prepared and ready.  I just hoped that it would warm up a few degrees before I reached Boulder.  Well, that didn’t really happen.  I was one of the few stupid idiot cyclists who decided to start riding too early.  And who would’ve thought that 8:30 was too early?  It definitely wasn’t too early for the runners who were already out, but cyclists must endure a bit more wind due to the increased speed (unless you are a super fast runner who can attain a speed around 20 mph).  I am truly serious when I say that it must have been a “feels like 10 degrees” kind of morning out there.  My fingers and toes were about ready to fall off before I even started my ride.  As I finally mustered up the courage to get going, I thought about turning back, getting in the car and turning on the heat to high.  But that didn’t happen.  I am much too hardheaded for that kind of crap.  I kept going even if it meant losing my fingers and toes.

I became a human popsicle.  I was basically frozen to the bike.  I couldn’t move my arms (they were stuck in the aero position) and my toes were already somewhere in hypothermia land.  It didn’t matter if I even wanted water because I couldn’t be bothered to get it.  And forget trying to open a package of gel because that most definitely wasn’t happening.  I was frozen in place.  I was lucky that I could continue pedaling.  I kept thinking about my 52 degree swim last week and it didn’t even seem to compare because I knew there was a quick end in sight.  There appeared to be no end today because my bike ride was set to last at least 3 hours.  Three hours might as well have been an eternity.  An eternity in a freezer.  An eternity as a popsicle.

After an hour I had to stop so I could attempt to pry open a bag of gummy chews.  My hands could barely work, but the rest of my body was actually warming up.  I thought that maybe I could take off the full face mask (one that covers your entire head) so I did so.  Then I rode for a minute and decided that was a mistake.  I had to put it back on so I could feel my face again.  It took another hour of riding before I didn’t need it anymore.  The rest of my clothes, however, remained intact until I reached the truck after 3 hours of riding.

Running is another story.  I am a hot runner.  And of course I don’t mean “hot” like “HOT MAMA,” but “hot” like the overheating type of hot.  It is kind of ironic because I am such a cold person.  And maybe you might take that in the sense that I am a “COLD” human being, but that is probably true too so it doesn’t really matter either way.  All of a sudden I was in tights, biking shorts, a thermal long sleeve shirt, jersey, rain jacket and gloves converting to shorts and a thin long sleeve shirt.

Running seems so much easier to me.  Less clothing and gear required.   I can just go at a moment’s notice and not really even have to plan my route.  I took off like a flash and was happy with my half-marathon pace.  Yeah, that lasted about 3 miles.  Then I started to slow down.  I let a dude pass me.  I just couldn’t keep up.  I was getting slower and slower.  I was moving in slow motion and couldn’t do anything to speed up.  It was like hitting that damn wall at mile 20, except it was happening at mile 4.  Obviously I need to eat more.  EAT!  How often are girls told that they need to EAT MORE!

Well, these training workouts are trials and tribulations.  I know that I can only hope I don’t have to race in 33 degree weather, but I can work on the nutrition factor.  Four hours today.  I guess I only need to tack on an additional 2 hours… or maybe 3.  That just seems like a freakin’ long time.

Colorado Lake Swimming in April

I tried to keep my face out of the water, but figured that wasn't the best way to swim freestyle.

I tried to keep my face out of the water, but figured that wasn’t the best way to swim freestyle.

I truly have a very supportive family.  We decided to pack up the camper and drive 4 hours to Grand Junction mainly so I could scope out the HITS Triathlon Course.  I am getting pretty nervous about my race in 6 weeks.  The training time has gone by so quickly.  I always feel a bit relieved when I can preview the course of a race before I participate in the actual event.  I usually do events near my home, so this was quite a journey for a course preview.  Yet, my family was excited to gain a weekend of camping in the process.  And we were fortunate to have awesome weather!

The drive over the mountains was not so pleasant.  The battery light on the truck came on and then the lights inside the truck died out.  That was definitely not a good sign.  Fortunately we made it to the nearest auto parts store.  I gathered the girls and took them on a tour of Costco (the only building nearby) while my husband inspected the truck.  Turns out, the alternator was fried.  It only took about an hour, but that brought us to our campsite at dusk.

We were lucky enough to find a campsite right at Highline Lake, the state park where the event will take place.  I had already been in e-mail communication with the park manager regarding my desire (maybe that is a bad word choice) to swim in the lake.  He had told me that the swim beach wouldn’t open up until May, but he instructed me to find him when I arrived so he would help me out.  The next morning I went looking for the park manager.  He told me where to swim and he also reminded me that the water was 52 degrees.

I went back to the camper and pulled on my wetsuit while wondering if I had the nerve to actually get in that dreaded cold water.  My family walked down with me to the beach.  The girls were going to play in the sand while I did my thing.  We saw a man in waders out in the water.  He was using a metal detector to search the sand in the shallow water.  He told me the water was cold… not like I needed the reminder.  I put on double swim caps and just started walking towards the lake.  My family and the wader guy were watching me so I suddenly felt the pressure to get in the water.  I couldn’t chicken out.  So, I just walked in until the water was at my chest.  I put on my goggles and dunked my head in.  Oh geez!  That was freakin’ cold!  My face was numb almost instantly.  It didn’t matter if I could feel my hands or feet, but my face was a different story!

I knew I had to start swimming in order to warm up (okay, the warm up never really happened).  I did the moves with my arms, but I kept my face up out of the water.  Okay, that’s not how you are supposed to swim freestyle, but my face was about to fall off!  I was there to swim so I finally put my face in the water, but made the extra effort to breathe with each stroke.  I swam from one side of the swim beach to the other side.  I had to float for a second in order to warm up my face.  Then I swam back across and stopped to float for a minute.  I thought about the backstroke that I just learned during one of my swim lessons, but that is my least favorite stroke.  I would keep my face out of the water, but I would end up splashing water all over my face anyway.  And I would probably swim the wrong way and get hit by a boat.  I opted to continue with the freestyle.

At one point I realized that I wasn’t moving my legs.  I don’t know if that was because they were frozen or if I just couldn’t concentrate on too many things at one time.  I felt claustrophobic in the wetsuit and was trying to pull it away from my neck.  When I focused on my legs, I lost control of my arms.  The cold water was making it much too difficult to get in a proper swim.   I had no room in my brain for worrying about what was lurking in the lake.  Most of my anxiety stemmed from thoughts about getting hypothermia and drowning as my family watched from the beach.

I’m not sure how long I swam back and forth… maybe 20 minutes?  I was starting to get worried because I would feel fine (and even a tad warm) when I stopped to float.  I wondered if that meant I was past the point of hypothermia.  I decided it was probably best just to get out.

As I wrapped my body in two towels, I looked at the lake and imagined that it should be a nice lake to swim in when May rolls around (I don’t recommend swimming in the lake until then).  I will still need a wetsuit, but I have no doubt that it will be much more tolerable.  With the exception of the passing speed boats, the lake is relatively calm.  When I looked at it in the morning it was perfectly flat and glassy.

After the relaxing swim in the lake, I decided to hop on the bike and explore some of the bike course.  Stay tuned….

Food Mysteries

At least alligators don't have to worry about what to eat... they just grab whatever slithers by...

At least alligators don’t have to worry about what to eat… they just grab whatever slithers by…

Food is just a mystery to me.  I can’t seem to figure it out.  I came from a meat and potatoes family and it was almost funny that I turned the tables and refused to eat certain foods that I was raised with.  At first my family just made fun of me and then they started making me BBQ chicken when the entrée was pot roast or beef ribs.  They didn’t raise their eyebrows any more if I opted to only have the salad or passed on the bacon.  It was obvious that my tastes were changing.  Not only my tastes, but also my views on food.

I pretty much always knew that fast food was a fast way to heart disease.  Yet, that thought never stopped me from consuming crap during my twenties.  Hey, it was fast, easy and very tasty.  My three pregnancies were an excuse to eat whatever and whenever until I finally started to realize that my unborn baby was eating exactly what I was eating.  Yeah, that might have screwed them up a bit, but I somehow ended up with a child who isn’t a fan of french fries (totally not my response to fries), two that absolutely love seaweed (not my favorite delicacy) and one that loves baked goods (okay, she might have gotten that from me).  As parents, I suppose we still have a chance once they come out of the womb.  They obviously see what we eat and eat what we feed them.  It is up to us to do the right thing.

Just over one year ago I decided to cut out all poultry, beef, pork, lamb, buffalo, kangaroo, ox, snake and deer (okay, so maybe I never even tried half of that…but it is true that I have tried kangaroo).  What I am trying to say is that I sort of became a vegetarian, but I can’t really say I am a true vegetarian because I still eat seafood.  If I try to tell someone that I am a “pescatarian” they just give me a strange look and say that they never heard of that religion.  Seafood is a mystery to me.  I love my omega-3s (my healthy fish fat) and I trust that the Mediterraneans know what is going on.  I also somehow believe that my mom’s family has roots in the Mediterranean region.  And you know what?  I love me some seared ahi and couldn’t commit to giving it up.  Plus I figured that this is MY diet so I can eat whatever the hell I want.

That’s why I can say that sometimes I feel like being a vegan.  I know I am not a vegan in the definition that vegans have for vegans, but remember that this is MY diet so I can take a little bit of veganism if I want (just like I took a little bit of vegetarianism).  Maybe I could just call it pescavegarian.  I tend to bake things that are dairy-free because my husband is lactose intolerant.  That means that I buy tofu sour cream to make that chocolate cake or use almond milk mixed with vinegar to add a bit of “buttermilk.”  Then there is that little known fact that I often order soy lattes and drink almond milk in my cereal.  I choose to eat the soy or coconut milk yogurt.  I thought I was doing the right thing for my health.  It didn’t seem like too much of a mystery.

Then the matter of soy came to light.  Soy has become a new mystery.  And darn it, I like soy lattes better than non-fat lattes.  I tend to include tofu on our weekly menu at least 2 times a week.  Those soy beans are pretty darn good too.  Then I recently became diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  I learned that certain foods (including soy) may have a negative impact on thyroid function.  Of course soy is a discussion of debate, but there is no point risking additional thyroid issues with overconsumption.

This is MY diet and I will do what I see fit for my body regardless of what anyone else says.  I am pretty darn open-minded, so I often do my own research and then decide what will work for me.  And I don’t need to label it vegetarianism, veganism, paleoism, or whatever other terms mainstream society is using these days.  I will just call it the “Heidi diet” and I am set.  This “Heidi diet” is always in a state of flux because I am constantly learning new things about food.  Some of these new ideas only make food more mysterious, but sometimes it does make sense (like avoiding McDonald’s at all costs).

Did I mention that when you include fitness into the mix that there is an entirely new mystery to be resolved?  It is called what to eat while on the run.  Um, I am talking literally here.  How many calories to consume before a run, during a run and after a run.   I have to figure out what will keep me satisfied and what won’t cause tummy troubles.  They tell you to eat sugar, but then you wonder if you will go into a diabetic coma from eating so much sugar.  Make sure you are getting those electrolytes too!  Sometimes I get it right and I feel great.  Other times I slam into a wall (not literally) and feel like I am a sputtering engine trying to chug up the street at super slow speed.

Fortunately my family doesn’t mind my compulsive need to solve these food mysteries.  They try the chocolate mousse made with tofu (even my meat-loving father was impressed) and aren’t taken aback when my daughter asks my stepmom with surprise:  “you have never had tofu before??”  My husband just goes with the flow and tries everything I put on his plate, while my daughters aren’t always so laid back.  Yet, we encourage them to try and then move on from there.  Eventually I hit a home run (for some reason my baking experiments seem to have more success).  It is definitely a learning process and new mysteries are often sparked by new ideas.  I don’t know if I will ever get it right, but what exactly is right?