Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Away...

Last weekend, SJV and I went to St. Joseph, MI - which is also where we got married, and where we have raced Steelhead, and where we love to train. In general, we *heart* Michigan. We love the commercials, we love the lake, we love the woods... Love! So, because Saturday was our six month wedding anniversary (which falls conveniently close to our three year dating anniversary) we celebrated by going up north and by eating everything we never let ourselves eat. With WILD abandon. And true regret. We had veggie burgers and fries, pizza, ice cream, wine - you name it, we ate it! I, of course, am now paying the price.

But I digress.

We also went out and visited a few wineriesaround St. Joe. In the offseason, we've gotten interested in wine, so it seemed like the perfect little afternoon thing to do. We had a lovely time trying the wines...

And just generally hanging out.
On the way, SJV saw the vineyards and had an idea. "Photo shoot!" He said, already reaching back for the new fancy cam. I have created a monster...

Now, we were very respectful of the vines - I'm from Nebraska, after all. But we had a total blast "posing" like models and making funny faces. Here's me in eagle pose...

And here's SJV posing, very seriously, amongst the vines. What emotion! You can see the pain in those eyes...

And here's me posing per my photographer's suggestion, in the middle of the street. Don't I look tough? ;)

We got back to the hotel, and decided to go down to have pizza at Silver Beach Pizza (which has beer glasses called "Schooners" that are the size of your head). We had one of our rehearsal dinners there, and the Amtrak runs right past it. I was excited that the train was stopped right next to our table...

And SJV was hungry but adorable...

After dinner we went to South Bend Chocolate Company, where a father/daughter band was playing. I had totally forgettable ice cream (we think it might just be the off-season and they don't "circulate" the ice cream as often... We'll see) but we did enjoy the show.

Oddly, I have no photos of us on our 7 mile run along the Steelhead course the next day... But we stopped at the beach where we got married and had a very schmoopy conversation about our luck at finding one another and what we were thinking the last time we were in that same spot.

And then we continued our run, doing what it is that we do. Gosh I'm a lucky girl...

All in all, a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Three years ago today, SJV and I went to the packet pickup for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. It was our first "date," although neither of us knew whether to call it a date or not at the time. I remember being nervous, and thinking that was silly - because this guy was just taking me to a packet pickup, right? Well, sortof... it was the longest and most wonderful packet pickup ever. We got our race bibs, then scoured the expo, talking and walking slowly to extend the time. We went to lunch. And ate slowly, and ordered too much to extend the time. And we talked. Then after lunch, we walked around. Slowly. And we talked some more. Then we had ice cream. More talking and moseying around. By then it was time for dinner. Off to a wine bar (the night before a race! UNHEARD OF!) for more talking, some wine-sipping.... All in all, it was 12 hours of first-date-bliss.

And now here we are. Three years later, still running side-by-side (but now also biking and swimming), still eating ice-cream too often, and still stretching out every delicious minute of time together. Happy three-year dating anniversary, Sugar!

Love, Belly.

Extremely Late Spectator's Report - IMAZ 2009

Yes, that's right. 2009. Eeegads I'm a procrastinator.

Spectating is a bit of a sport (and an art) as I learned while watching Ironman Arizona in 2009. Some thoughts, then a great story and some cool photos. The story is most excellent, if I do say so.

First: Arizona can be COLD in the pre-dawn hours. Really, really cold. Two shirts, two jackets, jeans and knee-high compression socks (I know, I know, I'm a dork), hat and gloves don't do enough to keep you toasty while waiting for your Sugar to start his (or her) race.

Second: Ironman racers are super cool people, full stop. I spent all day yelling and screaming for people that I didn't know -- and all day I heard their messages of thanks (sometimes spoken, other times not -- particularly late in the race). If you haven't gone to spectate and Ironman, you really should -- it was eye-opening for me, and I felt like I could really help people have a better moment by encouraging them.

Third: Ironman AZ is great for spectators on the bike and the run. I lost SJV before the swim (so I never got to see him get in) but I was able to see him go into T1, come out of T1, during each of the three loops on the bike both coming and going (total of 6), during each loop on the run both coming and going (total of 6) and the finish. Not bad! I had good positioning, but the key was to find a good spot and stay put.

And now, the story.

*Ahem.* As I mentioned above, I lost John before the sw
im. *Sigh* So there I was, all alone, freezing my tail end off, looking around in the dark, trying to figure out what to do with this time before the race. I saw a semi-celebrity (Tara from the Biggest Loser), so I sculked around "celebrity watching" for a bit until I decided that was boring (and a bit silly), and then shuffled off to see if I could get a good spot to watch the swim. Tempe Town Lake has a nice path that you can walk along, and I started walking in the direction the swim would go, thinking I would find a break in the wall of people (great spectating minds think alike, obviously) and stop there to watch. It was packed pretty tight, so even after the gun went off, I kept walking down the shore.

The sun was coming up now, and the crowds were thinning a bit. Right then I saw a floating dock with about 20 people on it. I'm not normally a pushy type. Really, I'm not. But I'm (relatively) small, and there was plenty of room, so I just jumped down there and sortof nosed my way to the edge. Very politely, of course. Only one elbow was used... (I kid! I kid!)

Just then the swarm of swimmers was starting to come up and pass the dock, and a fellow swam to the side of the dock and frantically started pulling off his three swimcaps and neoprene cap (did I say that the water was 61 degrees?). He was obivously overheating and panicking, and there was a flurry of activity on the dock. One guy crouches down next to Unfortunate Panicky And Hot Swimmer and tries to help him put his official swimcap back on, but then doesn't for some reason (I don't truly recognize until later that the crouching guy only has one arm) and asks for help. Another woman comes forward, puts on the swimcap, and Unfortunate Panicky And Hot Swimmer swims off. We all, having witnessed and taken part in said panic, stand together, shaking our heads and saying "oooh - he's panicking. Not good." "Yea. That water's awful cold. Super murky, too. Smell that stench when they swim through? Ugh." "Tough swim, yeah?" And that's when I hear it.

The telltale Aussie accent.

I turned to my right. And. Standing. Right. Next. To. Me. Was. MACCA! OHMYGOD!

"Macca!!" I blurted, hands now covering my mouth, eyes the size of dinner plates.

"Yeah!" Big grin from Macca. I fumbled for my camera and asked for a photo, which he kindly obliged.

I turned to see that none of the other people on the dock seemed to recognize that they were standing feet from an honest to goodness celebrity! (He had not yet made the Wheaties box, but he was still a champion!) Good grief.

As it turns out, I had an audience with not one - but TWO celebrities. The man with one arm goes by One Arm Willie (photo of Willie and I up top) - a paraolympian and amazing triathlete, who has bested Macca at Kona (which he told me in a hushed voice after saying "I should never say this out loud, but..."). He has a great gift for a story, and an infectious sense of fun. Plus, he's tough as nails, which I learned in our HALF HOUR of chatting! That's right! I got to chit chat with two triathlon greats for a good half hour. Amazing.

We talked about races, and places, and swim times, and Rudy, and prosthetic limbs, and challenged athletes, and Ironman and relationships (and how great my Sugar is at balancing the two) and One Arm Willie's wife (who is a doctor and was apparently in a bad mood for most of her residency), and about a med student friend of mine who hates med school, and about all the things you could imagine yourself talking about with a few cool people with similar interests and lifestyles. Soon after we started talking, Macca was recognized as Macca, and so he was pulled away to take photos and exchange pleasantries. But I continued chatting with One Arm Willie. And it was amazing. I wish I could have tape recorded it. Of course, the only thing that topped it was cheering SJV in that night.

Ultimately One Arm Willie and Macca had to leave and take their triathlon spectating somewhere else. So I was left on the floating dock by myself for a spell before heading out to find SJV at T1, basking in the fact that I had just hung out with some really amazing folks. It solidified my belief that the people that participate in this sport - present company entirely included - are pretty cool folks, and are just the kind of folks I want to surround myself with.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


It's easy to forget how hard it was to start being active. As an ... *ahem* ... "adult-onset-athlete" myself, I can relate... but I still forget.

I was reminded of this the other night when I attended a gala for the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution -- cool mediators getting together and knocking back a few. Anyhoo... I was chatting with a few of the ladies about my "crazy" race schedule (which is decidedly normal for most endurance athletes) when two of them told me in fast-paced-high-pitched-oh-my-god-i-can't-wait-to-tell-you voices that they had just signed up for 8ks and they were getting ever faster -- which they said I had something to do with. See, they had started a running program a few months ago, and were running fairly consistent 12:30 miles. They were dejected, depressed, and totally convinced that they were somehow failing at running. Then I came along, and introduced them to the idea of "beginning" something.

As adults, we forget how to begin.

As kids, we were used to falling down, both literally and figuratively. We'd try stuff and stink at it. All the time. That's what beginners do. There are very few that start something and win right off the bat. Most beginners fall off, fall back, fall down... But at least beginners try.

As adults we kinda forget (or refuse) to try stuff that we think we'll suck at, just because it's painful for your heart and your head to fail at something. But running a 12:30 pace is not failing.

Not getting off the couch is failing.

I remember telling them about beginning, and how they should be patient, and have faith in themselves. That they should just get out there and enjoy, and move, and feel what it's like to let their bodies do what they're supposed to do -- and to feel what it's like to let their bodies (rather than their expectations and mental demands) tell them what is possible from day to day.

I remember that conversation, but was surprised that they remembered it, too. And I'm really flattered that they used that conversation as motivation over the past few months, taking heart in the fact that I, too, was a beginner not so very long ago.

I'm happy to report that these ladies are now running at 10:30 and faster pace. I'm sure they'll continue to get faster if that's what they want. But no matter how fast they end up going, they're winning.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's all in our heads

So, by this point in the season (in the midwest, at least), we've spent hours planning out our training schedules. There are base periods, builds, peaks and valleys. We've got hours blocked for bricks -- runs with swims, and bikes with runs. Our muscles are strengthened, and stretched, and built and broken down with training over the course of the season. So at this point, we're planning for that, and starting the "training" in earnest.

We've done our research over the long, dark, dreary winter. We've read about nutrition being the "fourth discipline" and have added protein, or more carbs, or more natural foods. We've decreased drag, increased efficiency, added a powermeter to track wattage, and have ditched the running shoes to have lighter feet and a shorter stride. We've got heart rate monitors and footpods, pace calculators and spedometers -- holiday gifts, or gifts to ourselves. Something to look at during icy runs to remind us that yes -- summer will come back and there is a purpose to the training.

But all too often there's something missing from our arsenal. Something essential to any racer's success that's far more important than most would admit, and often overlooked or dismissed.

Our brains.

It's strange to think of, but from what I can tell, most of us spend very little time training mentally for the races that we prepare our bodies so methodically for. I mean, how many of us log into Trainingpeaks to add in a "workout" for "Mental Visualization"? I don't think anyone discounts mental preparation, but it's just not given the same marquis treatment as tempo runs, or swim stroke training. And I think it should, because I think it matters just as much. Maybe more.

So, in a few blog posts, I'm going to advocate that we become better self-coaches (really, self-parents) and start prepping our mind as well as we prep our bodies, and talk about how we can make our minds as tough as our quads.


Idgy the Cat

Idgy the Cat