Friday, July 29, 2011

Water sounds

The lesson of the day? When you hear the sound of water that just seem a little odd, you really should investigate sooner than later.

It sounds like the bathroom sink, but louder.

It's just the bathroom sink, right?

Well, kind of. What that noise is is the bathroom sink when a milk jug has been forced under the spigot by a 2 year old, turned on at a high rate of fill, overflowed the jug, and is now shooting up onto the mirror, filling the countertop, and flooding the floor and the cabinetry under the sink.

That's what that sound is.

Oh, and don't forget the sounds of the 2 year old running around with a sopping wet hand towel saying "I'm cleaning it up, mama! I'm cleaning it up!" At least he tried...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chisago - The Half Ironman

Well, check it off the list!

I am, officially, a Half Ironman finisher. And you know what? It wasn't that bad.Now don't get me wrong. I don't know if I will ever do it again! I might, once I have fewer small children in my daily routine, but not soon. It's gonna be a long post, but here is how it all played out.After the kids race (see below), the kids all head home and Jon, Nathan and I headed to our hotel rooms to start the long wait until game time. We hung out in their room, talked about the race and other things, and just generally tried to stay low key. We had dinner at the local "supper club" which was characterize not only with steak and mashed potatoes, but also potato skins and jalepeno poppers. Nathan's "gravy" could be best described as being a member of the Jello family, but we all left with full bellies and a need to try to get to bed early.

The alarm went off at 4:20 after a fitful night of sleep. We headed towards the race at 5am because Jon is a little nutty about getting there early. It turns out this was wise, because we got a little lost. We set up all of our stuff in the transition area and donned the wet suits.



We were all ready when the games began and I stood on the beach at 6:50 trying to just remember the basics: stay calm, race your own race, don't go out too fast.

At 7:07, I entered the water. It was incredibly foggy. I knew what the course looked like from the day before, but for the entirety of the race you could barely see the very next buoy, nothing more. So after a while, I started saying to myself "the next one is the turn around..." and then I realized there was one more. Rinse and repeat 4 or 5 more times. FINALLY we were turning around, and the rest of the swim went quickly. 42 minutes after I set in, I was running up the beach toward my bike. I felt great.I set out on the ride in what was still a cool and gray morning. I wasn't cold, but any cooler would have been bordering on uncomfortable. This was FAR preferable to the scorching heat that had been leading up the race. Around mile 13 I saw a sign for one of the Chisago county roads and just seeing the word "Chisago" made me have a complete reality check. This wasn't just some practice ride. THIS was my half Ironman. I was THERE. I was doing this, and felt really good! Then I burst into tears.I pulled myself together and carried on. I had to stare fully in the face of the fact that I am not a fast cyclist. I was passed again and again and again. And I just let it go. I had to ride MY race, not anyone else's, and I still had 13miles to run. If I started trying to bust out some fast bike split time, my goose would be cooked on the run. So, I just kept on pedaling. Nathan came up behind me around mile 17, and it was great to see his smiling and ever-positive face. By mile 28, I could tell myself it was half behind me. There were some hills in the 30's, but nothing terrible. Erika was screaming cheers unexpectedly at mile 37. And once you are in the 40's, its just a short ride to 56. This is when I started singing the internal praises of Chamois Butter (if you don't know why I say this, you probably don't want the details), and looking forward to seeing my hubby back at the transition area. As I headed up the hill I could see Omar, Adam and Erika cheering me on, and in a total of 3hr 22min, I climbed off my bike and started the run.

My coach had told me to consciously hold back for the first 6 miles. I have run 8:50's for 6miles in the past, but there was no way I could hold that, so I pulled back to 9:30's even though 9's were what I was leaning towards. This is when the money for a coach pays off! I felt great for the first 3 miles, started getting a bit tired for the next 3, hung tough for the next 3, and then really wanted to be done. The problem with splitting a 13.1 mile race into 3 mile chunks is the final 4.1! At mile 9, that 4 more just got in my head. I was tired, took a little more walk time at the water breaks, but just wanted to get to the school. The school, you see, is the turnaround point for the must shorter Sprint race that I have done 3 times before. It means you are only 1.5 miles away from the finish.

Omar was waiting at ~3/4 miles left and ran the next 800 yards with me. At first he was asking me questions, and I just said "Talk to me. Tell me about our kiddos this morning..." So I listened as he talked. He had to peel off as I entered the park, and Jon was yelling awesome encouragement from the sidelines. As I rounded the corner, I could hear the neighbors see me and start yelling. I was then running a path that I have envisioned SOOO many times while training: round the playground, up the hill, hairpin turn and to the finish line.

Then I burst into tears again.

I did it. 6:26:07. Mary was on top of me immediately, hugging that incredibly sweaty body of mine and giving me so much praise. It was a truly spectacular feeling. After some post race hanging out, a Smitty's burger and a FANTASTIC shower, we all headed to Mary's to rest our sore bodies, eat pulled pork, slaw and cake, and celebrate. Thank you Mary! You are such a wonderful friend and inspiration to us all.

So much work, so many hours. And I did it. In some ways I almost don't believe I actually did it. I have always felt like a dabbler in this whole sport. But I guess I can officially say I am a triathlete now, straight up.

For more photos, link to:

Chisago - The kids edition

Ah, the Chisago Kid's Triathlon. It always seems like such a good idea...

This year, as last, made me wonder why I continue to invite my kids to this brand of crazy, but at least 25% of my children really enjoy it! Here's how Saturday unfurled itself 24 hours before my own race:

I insisted on Friday that every kid show me they were competent enough on their bikes to be safe to race. This meant show me you can turn, brake and pedal without putting yourself of anyone else in danger. I knew Cal was a lock already, Max was pretty darn solid but I mostly just wanted him to practice, and Spence was the question mark. Maybe, maybe not. He mostly just likes to ride down the hill on his Stryder (pedaless) bike and stop with his feet Fred Flintstone style. He was doing so so well at first with the pedals, but then had a bobble, a melt down and a refusal to try again, screeching "the bike doesn't work!!" His brothers continued for ~25 more minutes, but I couldn't convince him to get back on.

So, after offering to put the training wheels back on for the race and being instantly dismissed, Spence was out. This didn't stop tears that night or the next morning, but when 7:30am rolled around, Max, Calvin and I were out the door. We had heard there might be a storm, but it looked great when we left and the whole neighborhood decided to go for it.

By the time we made it to registration at 8:30, they take my money because the weather had taken such a turn that they had to close up the tents. As we all took shelter under the picnic structure as the sky blackened and the winds started scaring the children. We were then evacuated to the local Community Center while they postponed the race. This was EXACTLY the way we all hoped the day would go!

After an hour or so, they announced the race was being postponed until noon, and we were free to leave and come back. So, all 24 neighborhood kids and parents took our damp selves over to a local restaurant for brunch.

By the time noon rolled around, it was perfect weather. Sun, cool-ish temps and kids ready to go.

Thankfully, they did the young kids first this year, so Calvin was off shortly after noon. He, as he did last year, had a BLAST. He was focused, determined, and came home with the 3rd place trophy in his age group.

I had cheered Cal to the finish line and turned around just in time to see Max running up the hill from the beach, done with the "swim" (otherwise known as a short run in waist-high water) and was heading for the bike. After age 7, parents can't help. He was on his own to find his bike, put on his socks (which he ended up skipping) and helmet, and get out of the transition area properly. I couldn't see what the hangup was, but he was one of the last out. He did the bike, which is a major accomplishment, then BOOKED out of transition on the run. It never occurred to me to discuss pacing with the kid. He literally left his bike in a dead sprint, little arms pumping up and down, face steely. The problem? The run for his age group isn't short. I think it was half a mile. The next time I saw him, he was walking, clutching his side stitch and when I got next to him to encourage him, he felt like he was going to barf. He was also very well aware of the fact that no one was behind him. I walked the last 300 yards with him, and tried to not let me heart break as he walked over the finish line near tears.

But he finished. He did it. He was part of the group shot at the end that eluded him last year. It seems like the main purpose of sports for kids, whether it be team or individual, is a safe place for some pretty tough life lessons. For Spence: If you give up, you can't move forward. For Cal: Work hard and you will be rewarded. For Max: You finish what you start, even if the end result isn't what you were hoping for. Watching his bro and many neighbors get a trophy was tough on my eldest. But in an interesting twist, every family from the 'hood had one (or more) kid walk home with a trophy while another in the family didn't. Sometimes life is like that. And that's ok.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

All that's left...

... is the race.

I just wrapped up my last real exercise before I try to kick the Chisago Half Ironman in the teeth on Sunday. A little dip in the lake tomorrow and then nothing but nervous energy as I pack my things up and try to make sure I have everything I need. Saturday, the kids are doing the little-people triathlon (let's hope it goes better than last year), then Omar scoops up the hopefully joyous children, takes them home, and I stay there to stew in my juices until morning. Thankfully, Nathan and Jon will be there with me, and I am very much looking forward to dinner with these wonderful friends, ruminating over our shared 1st journey to this point. Our spouses will be overjoyed to not be subjected to this full-frontal triathlon talk-fest that is going to ensue (as they have been for the last 5 months).

Due to the fact I have a watch that tracks my every movement, I can tell you what it takes to get to this point. I have biked or run my body 1398.9 miles since 3/1, and this doesn't count swimming (the watch has a little trouble logging those miles). For fun, I just looked on mapquest, and that's 46 mile MORE than it would take to get to my brother's house in Worcester, Massachusetts from my garage. I have spent 109:38 hours accomplishing all of these tasks.

I have tried not to drive Mary crazy with my questions or my intermittently foul attitude about this entire brand of mental illness. Mary, who I both thank and blame for all of this! She, by the way, qualified last weekend to go to Las Vegas and compete in the Half Ironman World Championships. My goals are a little less lofty, but we'll see if I come home with anything.

So, wish me luck! Think good thoughts as I swim 1.2, bike 56 and run 13.1 miles. I swore I wanted to accomplish this once in my life, and basically, I have.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well, I have just crashed my browser about 7 times trying to upload pictures of our trip, so you will just have to take my word for it that it was beautiful and FANTASTIC!

Omar, myself, Christopher and Pam all headed to Geneva on June 20 for a drive to Chamonix, France and our start of the Tour de Mont Blanc. We trekked for 12 days and traveled completely around Mont Blanc, hiking from France into Italy, on to Switzerland and back to France. We would basically hike all morning to get to a mountain pass, sit at the top around 1:30 and eat lunch, then descend a few hours down to the next valley were we would find our luggage and a bed.

The views were simply spectacular and our guide and group of 10 was just as good as you could possibly hope for. All the other people were nice, some VERY funny, and our guide has been doing this for 20 years. I learned more about wildflowers, cows, and cheese than I ever thought I would. We all sang the graduation song as we returned to the spot we had started at 12 days before.

I will try to get some photos up and then try to jump start the basic daily nonsense of the Surly Crew. My half Ironman is at T minus 13 days. I am looking forward to regaining some semblance of my old life when I am no longer exercising for 3-5 hours out of each day!