fitness and nutrition

Taking the Plunge

One of 2020 goals was to complete a triathlon. I registered and started training and then, you guessed it, COVID. Postponed until 2021.

A lot of life changed between mid-2020 and now. Still, I kept that race on my calendar and wondered at times if I should still give it a go. The swim was the weakest of my weak spots and I had not really done anything to train it. I happened to be at a lake the week before the race and swam for 20 minutes without touching bottom. It was slow, but I did it. I also completed a 10K successfully the week before the triathlon was scheduled. With those things in mind, I decided to give it a go.

A triathlon is a strange race. So much different than a show-up-and-lace-up-and-get-running 10K. There’s so much equipment, so many rules (a 24-page rule book!) There’s transitions to think about and plan for. There are referees, penalties, even disqualification. All this made me incredibly nervous. I read, made lists, planned, packed, and off I went. Brought my precious facebook marketplace bike in from my car and tucked it in. I was up half the night wondering if my decades-old helmet would meet the standards. Finally, 5:00 am came.

I double checked my list, had some hotel room coffee and off I went. Transition is such a madhouse. By the time I arrived there were already hundreds of bikes hung from racks. A lady saw me in my confusion, forcefully grabbed my bike and told me where to put my towel and transition setup. Everything was tight. You get about 12 x 18 inches to lay out your running shoes, socks, running belt, clothes, and anything else you need. If your space is too big or you block someone else it’s a penalty. Nerve wracking. Timing chip on my left ankle. Race number in permanent ink on both my biceps. My race age on the back of my leg. Now the long wait to start.

One of the reasons I chose this race was the waterslide start. Yes, you waterslide one at a time into a river then start the swim. This made for about a 30 minute wait after the first person started. But, it is better than the scary start-in-a-pack situations I have read about. There were maybe 50 people behind me. I met a couple of other first-time-tri-ers as we waited. We shared out nerves, our whys, and our training for the race. Finally, it was time for me to jump in and hit the course.

I confess, I can move in the water but I only kinda know how to swim in any systematic stroke. I can’t freestyle so I alternated between a sort of breaststroke and backstroke. People passed me many times as I made my way down the course, passing one buoy then another. Just keep going. I finally got out of the water and made my way to transition, being careful not to get hit by bikes on their way out.

I was one of the last to pick up my bike, so it wasn’t very crazy. The first people were already returning from the 14 mile bike. Helmet on almost first thing (that’s a disqualification if you get on your bike with no helmet.) Shirt, shoes, race belt with energy chews, water bottle, etc. etc. Finally I cross the mount line and I am off.

Bike riding is a peace place for me. Just gliding along. Had some energy blocks and hydration. Tried to keep it around 12 miles an hour which is a good pace for me. Looked around. Thanked police and security. Glide glide glide. I missed having my phone but taking pics would have slowed me down. Playing music or having headphones in is cause for disqualification – this was one of the hardest parts!

Finally, the run. This transition was much simpler. Just hang the bike and helmet, grab a water and go. Seeing people who had already finished was sort of hard but also motivating. Just keep going and it will be me, too.

Well, this second transition was logistically simpler, but physically this transition is rough rough rough. Trading the speed and relative ease of biking for the slow plod of running is a shock to the system. I just had to pace it out and keep going. This was hillier than I had anticipated and I just walked up the hills and didn’t worry over it. I met several people who were just walking the whole 5K. It was an out-and-back so I cheered on every one who was still on the course. I passed my two friends from the start line on my way back to the finish. We were going to do it!

Finally, I came up the hill and saw the finish line, so I broke my rule and jogged in. I jumped and slid down the finish slide and got my medal. After a minute to regroup, I went and waited for my new friends at the finish. I cheered them in. What a great feeling, to be a triathlete!

Did I place? No. Do I care? No. I didn’t specifically train, although I am active…but I was still just thankful to have made it through. Completion was the goal. I cheered for the winners. I gathered my things and slowly made my way back to the car.

I have never smelled as bad after a race as I did after this triathlon. It was a long 4 hour drive to the farm. Everyone who saw me in town and on the road seemed to know what I had done. Was it the medal? The numbers on my arms? (The smell?) Who knows. But lots of congratulations. Lots of reasons to smile and feel accomplished.

I would definitely do another one. I’d even train for it. Maybe even take swimming lessons. I have some people I’d like to do one with so that gives me something to look forward to. It was amazing and strange and memorable all in one. And I’ll always be able to say I have done it.

fitness and nutrition, friendship

Six Miles of Smiles

I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it this year. The Peachtree Road Race. An Atlanta tradition on the Fourth of July. It would be my seventh in a row. I do like streaks but I still wasn’t sure.

It would be different, of course, just like most of life these days. They spread the event over two days. Much smaller crowds. Vaccination checks or virus screenings. I did it last year solo (virtual) and it was not so fun. But I had a friend ask me to join her so I jumped in. I chose July 3 since I figured it would be different anyways, and it worked better with my travel schedule.

The day-before number pickup event was a disappointment. The usual convention hall of shoe and running pouch vendors, waffle samples, music, and ebullience was just a handful of folks with official merch and the public transportation folks to ease race day travels. I left feeling sort of glum.

Waking on race morning is always hard. It often follows a night of broken sleep, anticipating the event and challenge to come. I made it to parking and on to the train. It was so much easier to park and ride, but I did miss the usual crowd of runners we participate with. I made it to the start line and saw my friend, a ray of light! I took my traditional start line pics and we were off and running.

I hadn’t trained in running much so I had no expectations for my performance. The energy was totally different in the race with dramatically fewer people on the course. But it didn’t take long for me to start feeling lifted. The people on the side of the course seemed especially excited. I made eye contact with many of them and smiled. It was more personal this time around.

And then I smiled for the next six miles. My friend was often ahead of me but we still connected a few times. It was surprisingly cool out. With fewer runners there was far less of the usual bobbing and weaving around the different paces. Smooth sailing throughout, really.

It actually felt a little emotional to be there, running and smiling after the grueling mental marathon of Covid-19. I nearly cried at times, but I still never stopped smiling. I thanked the police, the volunteers, the people who came out to hand us water, even all the trash collectors who line their trucks up across the cross streets to keep the runners from being plowed down by anyone who would wish harm on the runners of the World’s Largest 10K.

I watched the miles and milestones tick by. My legs ached. I thought to myself, I am creating the future. I am putting my steps in and my votes in for hope. For health. For persistence. For triumph.

I crossed the line just under 4 minutes faster of my time two years ago. I felt so great for having done it. The one Coke I allow myself each year tasted as sweet as it ever has. It is wonderful to be out challenging myself and participating again. May the miles we still have to go be as joyful.

dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Sense of Direction

It’s true, I’m getting older.

As I age, I notice that certain things are starting to deteriorate. Today’s example: my sense of direction.

When I was young, I would read Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper every Thursday or Friday. I’d check out the list of festivals, events, art openings, even new music releases, and make my weekend plans. I’d pull out my mom’s Atlanta road atlas and set on my coordinate spree to map my weekend adventures. From these jaunts week after week, year after year, I got to know my way around Atlanta inside and out.

These days, I can hardly find my way around my little suburb without waze or google maps. If I’m somewhere without service, I get nervous and often guess the wrong direction. Such a change. It may not just be due to aging. Maybe more a combination of getting older and over reliance on technology. Still not a change I like, no matter the cause.

I spent the past week in a confusing condo building. Actually there were two buildings connected by bridges and corridors. There was also a parking garage. None of the connecting floors had the same number. Walk through a hallway from one building’s first floor and suddenly, without stairs or elevators, you’re on another building’s third. The garage was a totally different mess. I felt lost and disoriented much of the week.

After a couple of morning condo workouts, I went to the gym one evening to make sure I could find it from our room. The next morning I spent a half hour with dumbbells in the gym. After I was done, I decided to test myself and make my way back to the condo from the gym using stairs instead of the path I already knew.

I walked into the stairwell. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find an old man, slightly hunched over, standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was short with groomed gray hair. He wore a cotton t-shirt, athletic pants and tennis shoes. He was there to exercise. He smiled at me.

Good morning, I said.

Are you still moving every day? he said,

Yes sir, I replied. I want to be sure I can move for as long as I can, so I try to do it first thing every day.

Good for you, he replied. I do the exact same thing. Keep it up. It’s so important.

And with that, one floor up, I walked out of the stairwell. He kept walking up the stairs. Up. Up. Up. Moving. Ascending.

It was like the (living) ghost of Christmas Future. Letting me know that taking time to move, for me, is what will keep me moving long term. I can feel confident when I get up and make my physical and mental health a priority each day. What others think of it is none of my business. My approval is what is required.

Did I find my way back to the condo? Happily, yes. And taking that different path gave me unexpected landmarks and signs. I’m heading in the right direction. It was a roadmap to the future I am heading toward, nimble and purposeful.

dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Have Fitness, Will Travel

“It’s okay to live a life others don’t understand.” -Jenna Woginrich

The older I get, the more that quote rings true. Today’s example: Time away from home. Vacation, business trip, whatever it is. Many use this as a break from their regular exercise routine. Not this girl.

With fitness, consistency is the name of my game. I rarely go a day without intentional exercise. Some might scoff at this. But, I know I am happiest when I get it done, first thing in the morning if possible. It improves my stress level and mental outlook immensely. Those things need to be on point whether I am home or not…(even vacation travel is stressful!)

How do I make this happen? First, I pack exercise shoes. For a recent road trip, I packed CrossFit shoes, running shoes, and hiking shoes. Second, plan for some equipment if possible. On this stretch, I knew I had several nights in hotels with fitness centers. I packed a 25# dumbbell for other days. That’s about all I needed. The rest could be improvised.

Fast forward to my first night on the road. Reliable Hampton Inn. Saturday morning. Up early for coffee and a quick sweat before my daughter’s lacrosse games.

Walk to the hotel fitness center only to find it is closed for COVID. But the sign on the door says we can get in to the LA Fitness next door. Score, since I have my swimsuit and need to train for a triathlon anyway. Until….LA Fitness doesn’t open until 8:00 am on Saturday and we need to leave for the field by 7:30. What to do…go back to bed? Pout? Nope. Open up the Compass trunk and grab a dumbbell, start a timer, and away I go.

Pulled up a “travel” workout from Street Parking that I hadn’t done before. Pushups on pavement or overgrown grass were a no go. So, elevated pushups against a light post would do. Goblet squats with the dumbbell and some taps against the curb. Got sweaty. Got my heart rate up. Did something. Forty-five minutes later, I am good. The next morning, another parking lot workout with hang power snatches and some air squats. Is it perfect? Nope. But I moved and made myself a priority. Mission accomplished.

The rest of the week was a hodge podge. 5 bike miles to a local coffee shop, then back. Kayaking, running, and a couple of actual hotel workouts with pretty nice equipment to boot. Moved every day and felt much better than I would have otherwise.

Would this work for everyone? Surely not. But making my health a daily priority through movement is one of the ways I honor and love myself. Although some in the hotel lobby or parking lot might raise an eyebrow when they see me, perhaps there are others who feel inspired or encouraged to do what others may not. No matter what, I’m doing what feels best in my own skin.

fitness and nutrition, health

Aches

Oh my quads. 

Oh no my pec muscles.

Geez my triceps hurt too.

Oh my traps.

Oh my hip flexors are undeniably tight.

Oh my hammies. Yes, my hamstrings hurt too.

Oh my ass and all those fibers in the gluteus maximus. They all hurt. A slight bend or shift and I feel them all.

The hinge. The doorway stretch. They help but they show tightness that one can’t see. What would my body look like under my skin?

No joke. Everything seems to be achy this Tuesday morning. Was I hit by a car? No. It’s the after effects of the Murph Hero WOD I did on Monday. I’ve been doing this workout for the past five years and I never remember being this sore.

Is it old age?

Did I lack preparation?

Did I not warm up properly?

Was I sleep deprived?

I am sure there was a combination of all of the above. I also probably didn’t fuel my body as well as I could have the weekend prior either. Now I’m suffering.

I had a nap late Tuesday. My body said it was a requirement. I didn’t fight the urge. It helped my recovery. I slept in Wednesday. Something I hardly ever do. My body said thank you. I’m getting less sore by the minute.

Why suffer? Why would I even think about doing this workout again? The irony is I will probably do this again for many more years to come. Maybe not for the aches afterwards but for the tribute to those who are no longer able to do the workout. 

Soldiers lost in the line of duty. Soldiers suffering with a lifelong injury. Soldiers suffering in silence. Veteran near and far whom I honor.

My pain is temporary. I’m able to write about it and get on with my life even if I move slower. I’m still moving.

This years pain and suffering was an honor. A badge of courage. Another tribute year in the books. As I end this post I will most likely head to bed early again today for yet another round of rest!