Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tragedy and Heroes

I have been rethinking my definition on what constitutes a tragedy and a hero.

Tragedy as we would typically define it has affected us this summer as it may have also for many of you.  My brother in law who was only 56 passed away in August as well as my cousin's son who was 17.

My brother in law has had an addiction to alcohol for at least 10 years.  This addiction took him away from his wife and child and led to estrangement between both extended families.  I know without a doubt he loved his family but the disease pulled harder.  We always hoped he would hit the bottom and change his ways, but unfortunately, it didn't happen soon enough.
In just reading a post from swimbikemom, Meredith has applauded the courage of ABC News Anchor Elizabeth Vargas on sharing her story with addictions publically.  Read Meredith's post here and read Elizabeth's story here.   Both these ladies are not only fighting their demons but also want to build the courage in others to fight theirs.  Not only fire fighters are heroes people.

With a personal history of alcoholism in the family (dad and grandma) I wish they would have been that kind of hero.  As long as we keep the money coming in, as long as the family is properly taken care of, what's the problem with a drink or 2 to wind down.  Isn't this a typical suburbia take on NOT being an alcoholic.
I have very clear opinions about alcohol- and me.  We don't get along.  I saw too much and just don't ever want my kids in that situation.  It like a weasel and worms it's way into a person's life and gets hold and won't let go.  The number of lives that have been changed for the worse by alcohol is a tragedy.
Alcohol is everywhere though.  I've read a ton of race reports where people talk up the great beers at the end of the race.  Heck, on the course of Challenge Roth in Germany, racers were offered beer from the spectators.  What other people choose doesn't bother me one bit and there is no judgement.  I just think it is a bit sad that alcohol finds it's way into everything.  Guys play hockey and then have beer in the dressing room after.  Hard day at work and it's a glass of wine to relax.  Run an ultra and get rewarded with a beer that night.  It's alcohol and I that have a difference of opinion not the people who choose it.
But I do have to say with all the possibilities of heroes in the world, anyone who find the courage to walk away from something that weasels a grip hold on you- well you are my hero!

A loss of life in the physical sense is certainly a tragedy.  I really struggled after attending the funeral of my cousin's son.  A young life cut short by a terrible accident.  Tragedy.  But then how about my aunt and uncle who have had marital troubles for more years than I can remember.  Their lack of love, coldness toward each other, the pretense that everything was alright.  Tragedy also.  How about my other aunt and uncle that are struggling with his progression of early onset Alzheimer's.  How they have to move to another, smaller house.  How he can't go anywhere on his own without her, and especially how after only a couple years after retiring, their dreams and plans have been irreversibly altered. How hard it must be to deal with the disease, the disappointment but also grieve the loss of a relationship as you have always known it.  Tragedy.

Tragedy comes in many forms, stealing and plundering all it can.  Some can not be controlled but what about what can be influenced, changed or prevented?  Are we working hard on ourselves to be the best we can, to live life to the fullest.  Do we treat those we love as treasures that are irreplaceable and so very valuable?  Do we try to touch others with words of encouragement, hope or concern?  There are SOO many ways we can influence and change the course of what could be tragedy.

I used to think when I was a little girl that I wanted to do something that would change the world, something big.  I wanted to be a hero in some way.

But I have learned that the constant repetition of little things that are good, thoughtful and caring are what actually make the biggest changes in lives around us including our own. 

Race Reports and Ramblings

Confession: I love reading race reports.  All kinds of race reports not just the things I do and/or the events I am going to.  I love reading about other people's adventure, a breakdown of their plan, things they saw, what works and doesn't, things that change and how they adapt; ya know the good, bad and ugly.
Just so you know, if you choose to read one of my race reports, find a comfy spot- you might be there awhile.  My race reports are mostly all book length I think because I want to capture every moment.   Plus, I'm not a light packer nor able to give a coles notes version very easily.  A terrible flaw, I am working on it:)
There have been 2 race reports that have stuck with me the past while. The first one from Beth at shutupandrun is a report of the Transrockies Ultra held in Colorado about a month ago.  She did an awesome job retelling her adventure and I am totally inspired.  I have consulted with my calendar as well as my tent partner (the hubs) to check if we can adjust our schedules next Aug to get in on the fun.  I have never ran in an ultra event, though I have wanted to for soo long.  Heck I only ran my first marathon a month ago (it was preceeded by a long swim and a very long bike ride).  But I have a couple 70.3's in the works for 2017 as well as another Ironman.  It may be crazy but I think running an ultra 3-5 weeks after the Ironman would be good timing. Any thoughts any of you who have experience?
Anyhow, there were a lot of pictures included in the race report showcasing the amazing mountain.  Mountains are my jam- and YES I live in the prairies.  It's the farmer's fault.
My favourite part of Beth's race report was really the adventure she had and the joy she had doing the whole thing.  Oh sure, there are times that suck and are really hard for everyone but what gets you through those times is the joy of the journey.

Which leads me to the second race report which was very devoid of a love of the journey.  It was written by a gentleman who just completed an Ironman in which he had very specific numbers he wanted to achieve.  I am really just starting my Ironman journey and the idea of qualifying for Kona is a very distant dream so I get someone who is presently seeking that goal and will tie everything into those numbers.  And because the train derailed sometime during the run for this gentleman and he did not get his time he wanted, there is disappointment, anger and bitterness.  I get that.  That's now really the part of the report that sat wrong with me.  He explained in the beginning how he really doesn't love doing Ironman's but really loves competition and followed that up with anything less than a win would be a major disappointment.
It just seems so horrible to think that something that should be done for fun just isn't fun.  Life is too short to spend countless hours doing something that doesn't give you purpose and joy for life.  Gosh with all the possible choices for "free time" activities, certainly we all should be able to find something that makes us smile, takes us amazing places, makes us crawl a bit but then presents a reward that is more a number.

So not that you needed my 2 cents worth about all that but I sure hope you are all more content with the journey than the end result.  If there was no donut, there would be no place for the sprinkles; no cake then no where for the icing to sit.  If we are expecting to have yummy icing on top of our least favourite foods, maybe we should think again.

Have a great adventure today!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Northern Lights

Happy Monday

Today's post is a out-of-left-field topic.
I was reading the latest post from hungryrunnergirl here where the author shares some of her bucket list.  Be sure to check it out, great ideas that I needed to add to my list.  I left a comment and invited her, heck you are all invited to come north of the border to Manitoba Canada to visit me and see one of the seven wonders of the world!
Road trip is like chocolate mousse in my books- really awesome, melt in your mouth, can't get enough, please don't end, when can I have some more.
  Throw some clothes in a bag, fill the car up and hit the road folks.

PS  In case you couldn't tell- we are farmers! Time in a combine or tractor is negotiable (lol)

PPS Maybe we should all post our bucket lists then visit each other to check something off.  We all live in cool places with neat things to see and do.

Have a great adventure sometime this week!

Monday, August 8, 2016

I'm Back, Jet Lag and OH MY GOSH I DID IT!!

Been gone on an amazing 3 week trip to Switzerland and a couple neighbouring countries.  I will have many posts coming with some of the great things we did.

Jet lag sucks no matter if you are going from east to west or west to east.  Had to really fight falling asleep every evening after supper the past few days.  7 hours ahead time change.  I also woke up 3x at 1 am super hungry.  Guess my body thought it was breakfast time.

Know what else sucks- a back log of yard work and the war I needed to wage with the weeds trying to take over my garden.  They got a permanent vacation.

Bucket list:
1. Hike the Swiss Alps- check
2. Gran Fondo through some serious mountains- check
3. Run a marathon- check
4. Complete an Ironman - check check

I completed my first EVAH long distance triathlon at Challenge Roth- a chance of a lifetime.  Very cool story about how I was lucky enough to be on the starters list and a very amazing experience racing it.  Check back in for updates of this monumental triathlon experience.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Great White North Triathlon Race Recap

Great White North is a half-ironman distance triathlon held in the city of Stony Plain, just west of Edmonton, Alberta.  It was our first time participating in this event and with it highly regarded in our "neck of the woods" as a great event, we were stoked to experience it for ourselves.  This year marked the 25th anniversary of this event.

We took the 10 hour drive and divided it up into 2 days as it made sense to drive part way in the evening on Thurs to make the drive Friday easier to make package pickup/check in later that day.  We took our camper with us despite a lot of indecision about it.  There is a lot of work involved in getting the camper ready for the first time of the season and it wasn't time we really had available.  However, we dislike staying in hotels more than we disliked being squeezed for time, so camper it was.

I am a teacher so my last day of work was last Thursday.  We left for Edmonton right after I got home from work Thurs so it feels really nice to be home this week and be able to set my own schedule.  I am slowly making piles of things to pack and will probably get my last bike ride in Friday morning to get my bike packed up that afternoon.

First night was at a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Walmart parking lot, along side about 4 others who had the same idea.  The nice thing about staying at Walmart is that you get started early in the morning.  If you like to sleep in and mosey on when you feel like to it, Walmart won't be for you.  Between traffic, garbage trucks, people with loud mufflers and possible trains you may be up before the sun.
On the road early on Friday with great driving conditions getting us into Edmonton by noon.  We decided to make a few stops (MEC- for hiking boots and socks and Sport Chek for Nuun) before making our way to Stony Plain for athlete check in.  The parking lot was empty as we were almost an hour early so we cranked out a couple chairs, cooked some supper and enjoyed some fresh air.  There was warnings of line ups for check in and indeed their was.  Not crazy long but certainly a wait.  We got our bags, chips and looked around the few booths, bought nothing and left.

We spent the night  at another Walmart parking lot at nearby Spruce Grove.  Wished we would have seen the railroad tracks in the bush right behind the store.  Not much sleep that night.
Saturday morning, 5 mile run followed up by a leisure oatmeal at Starbucks.  It was great to have no big rush.  We showered, then spent an hour sorting all our gear into their appropriate bags. This race has 2 transitions so we took our time to plan well.  Our bikes got dropped off at T1 which was at Hubbles Lake where the swim was taking place.  It is a private beach  so it was a drop and go with no swimming.  We tried to get up to the lake for an open water swim before coming to the event but it didn't work out so we were hoping we could have a bit of a swim here.  Oh well.

Next was the running bag drop off at T2.  We were staying that night at a campground right across the road from the pavilion which was the location of T2, the run start and finish and the post race festivities. We spent the next couple hours browsing for nothing in particular just picking up a few camper things; a broom, extra fuses, bowls.  Supper was one pot sweet potato with chicken and spinach back at the campsite along with a few hours of kicking back, reading and resting.  Tattoos applied and alarms set ready for Sunday!

Up at 5, showered, breakfast of oatmeal, hair braided and off with our 2 bags to catch the bus at the pavilion.  Transition was busy as usual.  Only needed age marked on one leg.  Found a bike pump to borrow and set my things up.  I choose to bring along all my nutrition that morning rather than leave it with my bike yesterday.  Extra to carry but worth having it fresh and cold.  Porta potty line was pretty long so by the time I was out of there, it was time to get ready.  I drank 1/2 bottle of UCAN,  Body glide, tri slide spray and wetsuit on.  A bit of sunscreen on my face and arms then off to the beach.  Morning temp was +15 with rumour of water temp being close to +20.  Seemed very unlikely in my opinion because nothing is warm yet this far north yet and I was told the lake was clear, deep and spring fed. I was determined to get a good practice swim in though so in I went.  To my surprise it was very warm.  No complaint from me.  The bottom was very murky and spongy for a ways but the warm up went well.  I concentrated on relaxing, breathing easy and not panicking.  Seems to be something I do well at the beginning of each swim; panicking that is.

We were all marshaled to the start corral and so far my only complaint would be that there was confusion about where exactly we were swimming.  The first buoy was around the corner and we couldn't see it or where to go from there.  I guess that is the hardship of being up front- you need to know where you are going.   Not going to be my problem today.

Race horn off and I was in the water in the back 1/3.  Good news was no panic, bad news was it took so long to find my rhythm with so many people around.  I didn't hear the exact number of participants but around 600.  Once I got into the groove, it was so much better.  So much so that I was surprised when I was almost back at shore.  Wetsuit strippers were there to assist and unfortunately my watch got hit in the process and messed my time up but I adjusted.  I also didn't anticipate the full sand beach and dirty feet that would result.  Duh.  The only thing I had to rinse them was a little bit of extra water with Nuun.  Dried them well before putting on my socks.  I get blisters easily so I am very caution.  Still a beautiful sunny day, with no wind yet in this sheltered lake area.  It was an absolutely perfect swim.  Couldn't get any better.

The bike route was 2 loops from town north.  Lots of people cheering on the streets in town but pretty quiet on the out and back.  My husband so badly wanted a coffee this morning and with nothing open I was wondering how hard it would be for him to ride past Tim Horton's 2X without pulling through the drive thru on his bike.

We rode the bike course Friday evening so we had a good sense of where the turn around was and the topography of the area.  The course starts out pretty flat and then has a gentle incline for maybe 4-5 miles with a couple bigger hills to follow.  The next few miles were really fast down hills where you can get some serious speed.  I was in the biggest gear and could not pedal any faster.

Obviously then after the turn around, it was uphill for quite a bit but then cresting the hill brought the gentle downhill section where you could really push.  Roll into town to a lot of spectators cheering then off on lap 2.  Stopped at the porta potty a few miles down the road and ate my UCAN bar.  Mentally I was in a good spot, no negative thinking and was really enjoying the ride.  The bathroom break and bar really ramped up my energy.  Sometimes a short break brings real renewal and energy.  The ride course follows highway # north of Stony Plain and it is mostly through forest.  The slight south wind helped with the out sections of the bike and there did feel like a bit of a headwind returning to town on lap 1.  A few miles left in lap 2, it became apparent there was a wind shift more toward the west.  The tree line was very sheltering so we were mostly untouched by the wind's effects.  A few miles from town, things open up and you could feel the side push of the wind.  The weather was predicting a thunderstorm today and though the day had been near perfect so far, a few cracks of thunder and a now cloudy sky indicated things might change.  I looked to my right and there was a massive wall of dark cloud with what appeared to be a down pour coming from it.  My legs went into high gear as it looked like I may be just on the edge of it.  5 minute downpour and I was out of it.  Felt really bad for all those behind me.  They would have been riding through interesting conditions.  So just after 3 hours in, I was back in transition.  No rain here at all.

T2 is a gravel parking lot.  They put long carpet runners along the middle of each row so it is easier to roll your bike to its spot.  There were a lot of volunteers helping each racer find their spot in transition.  Quick change of socks and shoes and lids then hit the run.  I encountered my first mental struggle as my watched beeped 1 mile.  I thought oh man, 12 more to go- that's so far away.  It wasn't that I couldn't do it, it just seemed so far.  Almost each long workout has a time where you sternly tell yourself to turn the brain off and this was the time.  No thinking just running.  I had a gel flask bottle in my back pocket of my jersey with a scoop of UCAN in it.  Just needed to add water around the 5-6 mile point.  It was quite sunny and warm, at least +25.  The run route had lots of twists and turns.  I usually like to divide my run into section but it became apparent to me that this would be too hard to section off because I couldn't keep track of all the switching of roads and turns.  Just run.  There were few spectators along the run course.  Soon I saw hubby running toward me and not long later, I was at the turn around point and heading back to transition.  It is always VERY hard when the loop splits to finish line this way and second loop this way.  You can hear the announcer, the cheering, smell the food, see the others heading to the finish line and you are needed to run the loop again.  I actually planned to take my fuel at the aid station just prior to the finish/turn around area knowing that I would need to be at my best to mentally handle the wall.  Second loop went well really.  I think I was in autopilot, just running the same 9 min pace with 20 second stops through the aid stations for water on my head or a mouthful.  It is a silly thing to say that I could have ran faster because if I could why didn't I.  My heart rate was right in the 146-152 area and I felt good.  If I pushed it, I would be uncomfortable and I just didn't want to.  I thought it was a better plan to run the same pace really consistently than to do what appeared many others were doing which was the surge then walk routine.  I thought I passed a lot of riders during the bike leg, but I passed way more on the run especially the second loop.  Saw my husband again just before the turn around.  He told me to catch him.  It seemed he should have been a long ways ahead of me so I thought he might be having an off day.  I did pick up the pace to about 8:45.

Oh it feels so good to hear the announcer as you are heading to the finish area!

Strong finish with a medal immediately put on my neck.

Saw my husband waiting for me right there and we hugged and headed into the building to find some shade.  I went back out to claim my finisher shirt and buff then back in to sit for a bit.  Stood in line for our hamburger, chips and beer.  The beer is from a local company with a special edition made just for this event.  We searched for a friend we knew was also at the event but was unable to find her so we picked up our 2 bags from the morning and headed out to transition to get our bikes.  Very windy now outside, quite appreciative it wasn't like that during the bike.  Showered up at the camper and packed things up to leave.  On the road by 4 with a stop for more special edition beer and a coffee from Starbucks.

Bouquets of race:
-amazing swim site at Hubbles Lake  It was clear, clean, warm and well protected.
-fun bike course with shelter from the trees but not completely flat and boring
-great volunteer and guidance especially at T2
-really nice tec shirt, great medal and buff as swag (though with the 25th, there was the indication there would be more)
-more organizing with 2 transitions but I liked it
-great bus service from the pavilion to the lake

Beefs of race:
-very little volunteer support during the swim in terms of kayaks etc.
-confusion about where to swim
-run course was on roads, trails, grass, gravel which kept thing busy but with little fan support, it was harder
-not really clear at the finish area where to find things or where to go.

Now the exciting news for me- my official time gave me an almost 35 min PR.
swim time- 46:39 (which place me 25% with in my age group)
bike time- 3:12 (about 50% in my age group)
run time 1:58 (about 75% in my age group)
Finish time 6:06
Boy does it feel good when my body is working right!!

Hubby also got a PR and he had an off day!  I can only imagine the damage he could have done if it was a good day.  It is very assuring to see that hard work produces results and improvements. Very happy to see we only need to make small adjustments to our nutrition plan.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Taper and Time to Pack


Taper is here.  Not sure if this means I will be moving from the crying, annoying, overwhelmed state into the moody, irritable bear territory.  And with 2 of us in taper right now, it may be a sad state of affairs in our house right now people.  Our poor children needing to put up with us.  A bit of a pay back for them from the teenage years on us.

I did have a rocking 70.3 this past weekend which has really helped my mental and emotional state of mind.  Hubby and I went to Edmonton, Alberta to race Great White North.  Great race.  Recap will be out soon.

Also helping my mental state is my sense of freedom.  I love my job don't get me wrong, but I sure look forward to summer holidays and a change of schedule.  I am a teacher so my last day of work was last Thursday, June 30.  We left for Edmonton right after I got home from work Thurs so it feels really nice to be home this week and be able to set my own schedule.

 I am slowly making piles of things to pack for our trip and will probably get my last bike ride in Friday morning to get my bike packed up that afternoon.  We are driving to the airport Sunday and our flight leaves on Monday.   I find it hard by nature to pack "light."  My husband could leave for the weekend with a toothbrush, extra socks and underwear and a clean shirt and be good.  I would have a suitcase.  I like to be prepared for everything.  It will be a challenge to whittle things down to the essentials and hope I have covered all bases.  We are going for the triathlon, hiking, visiting friends and a wedding so that is a pile of kinda different things that will need to come along.  I think the lowest shoe count I can possibly go with is 6.  Glad there will be lots of room in my bike bag for some extra things.

I am still quite anxious about whether I am prepared for the distances of the 3 disciplines of the Ironman but I am also realistic enough to know that nothing I do right now is going to improve that. I know it will be very hard but I can taste the accomplishment of being able to cross the finish line.  It is more exciting than scary and that is a good thing.  My 2 kids are very excited to be able to join us when we run toward the finish.  It will have a very big impact on them I think.  My swim wave is 1 hour before hubby so there will be a good chance we will be very close together by the end of the run.  I am still trying to figure out what pace to be riding at.  My first event this year was a bike distance of 12 miles.  It was balls out.  This past weekend of 56 miles was hard but with common sense.  Hubby says I need to back off for the 112 miles to set myself up for a good run.
I know a majority of triathletes are number/tec people.  I have a garmin with a heart rate monitor and I have used trainer road for my bike training but I mostly train my perceived effort.  I couldn't tell you what my watts are or power numbers or what speed I can hold on my bike for any length of time.  I have come with history of my body mostly not able to do what I want it to do.  While comparing my past weekend time with that of my 3 previous 70.3 distances, I was dismayed to see that last year I raced 5 separate events and felt horrible for all of them.  I think my body is in a better place this year.  I have been happy with the results from both of my races. I need a strong body for 1 more event so I am doing everything to boost my immune system and keep my hormones and tummy happy.  Extra sleep has been a nice perk to the taper.

Any advice or hints for completion of a full distance triathlon, please send my way!!

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Rollercoast ride of Endurance Sport

I hate roller coasters.  Like really really hate them.  I know that life is a bit of a roller coaster and I have gotten pretty good at staying consistent.  I have discovered that training for an endurance sport (like an Ironman) is like a crazy scary roller coaster.

It started out pretty well, a bit scary to look at the big picture but I kept my head in the day to day workouts and everything was fine.  The workouts were manageable with good recovery.  It was pretty easy to keep positive.  The event is still a few months into the future (20 weeks) and the thoughts around it are basically ones of excitement with a few drops of trepidation.

The weeks roll by and now in the middle portion, the workouts are taking more time.   Adjustments are needed to keep the commitments of everything else in my life on track as well as the training. Social life starts to take a dive.  Workouts are harder, longer and I am happy for a recovery week to reset.  There is still a positive outlook around as I was able to get in some times and distances that were positively confirming and I am still taking things day by day.

Home stretch-I am now a crying, hot mess with no confidence, little excitement and a lot of anxiety. Workouts are hard and long.  I feel like I might as well be sleeping in my bathing suit with my runners on and will I ever have a break from that darn painful saddle?  Nagging soreness comes and goes.  I'm close to falling asleep MANY times throughout the day.  My crying fits have exceeded even the craziest hormonal pre-menstrual level.  I think of quitting or pulling out at least 100 times a minute in almost every workout.  I get the event athletes guide and have a major freak out.  The thought of me in the water with 2000 friends send me into a full blown panic attack.

What the heck has happened to me????

This is new- I don't know what to expect when training for a long endurance event. What's normal?  I don't know if this reaction is typical.

I see 3 predominant ways of dealing with a huge training workload and the companion anxiety.

  • The comedian- laughs and jokes, sometimes at the expense of themselves.  Appears like they are so cool with everything but it is a  bit of a mask at dealing with some of the fear and concerns they have. Handling things with a smile and good humour which is very effective with calming the nerves.
  • The tough guy- game face on and ready in a second to knock out anxiety with a kick or punch.  Can appear very intense but also has a great ability to stay focused with an eye on the goal.  Has huge mental strength but needs to ensure the small details are taken care of (ex how is your nutrition plan)
  • The worrier- gets panicky at every thing as event draws closer, confidence is high or low depending on mood. Looks at the details of the event and is well planned.  Has the deer in the headlights look about them race day, wishes to climb into a hole the 3 weeks leading up to race day.  Finds a new strength once the event is under way.
NO surprise- I am the worrier.  I am also a list girl so I am starting my list making.  Lists about everything.  I need a list to get me to the starting line in 1 piece, a list to keep myself calm, a list to remember the important things, a list to identify WHY I am doing this.  At 3 weeks out, it will be a true test for me to find strategies to keep it together and more importantly, find ways to keep the journey fun.  Will keep you posted.

Happy Monday!

**An after note to this post- A great blog post found it's way into my inbox shortly after I posted mine.  If you need confirmation you aren't a crazy endurance athlete, you should read here!