Wednesday 29 February 2012

February in review

-       178 days to my A-race
-       Scheduled Feb training 48.25 hrs
-       Completed Feb training 43.25 hrs
-       Issues: Illness, injury, February blahs

Boy, will I be happy to put this month to bed. I now have an appreciation for the term “February blahs”.  Like Eeyore, I seemed to have a dark cloud over my head that followed me around, day after day. I only had a few good workouts, all the rest felt like a chore. My energy was low, and my appetite was high. I think I literally ate my way through the month (which of course is now making its appearance on my ass).


I want to go on a diet but I think that would be risky, so for now I will just stop the daily binging on chocolate covered goji berries, and yogurt covered pretzels. On Friday nights, I will stop at 3 pints of beer (don’t ask) and maybe I’ll avoid eating dinner at 10pm (I am not training to be a sumo wrestler so I should stop eating like one).

I did miss a few swim workouts and for that, I am disappointed. My tendency is to over-train, but that was not the case in Feb. So I am relieved this month is over (just my luck that it’s a leap year). I welcome March with open arms, eager to suck up some natural vitamin D, hoping the days will get warmer and my Ruby’s wheels will soon touch the pavement.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Yogi (the original dog with a bone)

It was early evening. Six inches of snow had just fallen, and I was annoyed. I was fully dressed in winter wear, a down-filled coat, Sorel boots, wool hat and gloves. I rushed down the barely visible sidewalk, stressed that I was going to miss yet another bootcamp class.  Determined to lose the cruel mid-life weight that was making an early (haha) appearance, I had joined a local women’s-only club several months before.  Tonight, however, the newly-adopted creature on the other end of the leash was demanding my precious time.

I was not in a regretful mood. I loved the new addition to our family. Our American-born son had been jailed in Texas for 3 years, his only crime being that he resembled a wolf. It was little more than a miracle that our family, north of the 49th, adopted him. But this night, I was running late, and he was the cause. I quickened our pace and, as we neared the end of our street a mere 400 meters from where we started, our walk turned into a jog.

As we reached the next side street, I told myself: This will shave off a few minutes.  Maybe I will make my class on time after all. We rounded the corner, I was amazed that I was not gasping for air.  I had not run in decades, and the few times I did, it did not go well. With each step, the expectation that pain was imminent, grew in me. We circled the next block and, amazingly, we were still jogging – my toes slamming into the tops of my boots, my body overheating under my heavy coat. I was in shock. Why did this feel so good?

That was the night my dog turned me into a runner. Since then, Yogi and I have rounded many corners together – the husky half-breed pulling me to go faster and faster. His frequent need to mark his territory gave me the necessary breaks to catch my breath and rebuild my strength. I have never had a more determined trainer. To this day, two and a half years later, the original dog with a bone, still demands that we train together for a joyful 30 minutes a day.

Monday 20 February 2012

My first love affair

As a child I fantasized about making the Olympic gymnastic team. I wanted to be Nadia Comaneci. At 11 years of age, I was “in training” at my middle school. Being a member of the Golden Eagles gymnastic team was, for me, as important as being in the Olympics. I took it seriously. I would get myself out of bed at 6am several times a week, and walk to school in the dark to make my 7am practice. There was no one to push me, no one to drive me there, and no one to watch my progress. This was my thing. I was in love – that honest-to-goodness, pure as the freshly-fallen-snow kind of love.

My practices were hard. Bloody blusters on my hands were common, but I wore them like a badge of honour. Tears were also common, as many flips started with flops, a bumped head, bruised hips – it didn’t matter. Nothing could tear me away from the gym. I was scared most of the time. Falling off the beam and bars always hurt, but perfecting a move made it worth the effort.

In the end, my body betrayed me. I was not built for that sport, nor did I have the raw natural talent that was needed. But that never took away from the passion I felt. I earned a few ribbons and a mountain of understanding (about myself). Gymnastics gave me more life-lessons than I could ever put into words.

There are no pictures of that little, determined girl. Nothing to hold in my hand. But my memories are vivid and they fuel me everyday.  

Missed first place. I fell off the beam :(

Sunday 19 February 2012

Déjà vu…

… is that strange feeling that you’ve done this very thing, before. It floods you with emotion, like a powerful dream bursting to the surface. I’m quite content to have only had a few déjà vu’s. I find them eerie – especially if I can’t recall the photocopied event. This week, however, I had no trouble linking my latest déjà vu to a very vivid day in my past. The birth of Jessica.

In a few weeks, my firstborn will be 17years old (yikes). The memory of her birth is as clear to me today, as it was the day it happened. For 14 hours (before I screamed “EPIDURAL”), I endured the type of pain that can only be described as barbaric, medieval torture. The contractions were not the worst part. The worst part was the countdown to those contractions. It turns out that the anticipation of pain, for me, is harder to deal with than the pain itself – as I rediscovered in my déjà vu flicker.

Fast forward to Feb 16th, 2012. I am on my bike in my 3rd set of progressively harder intervals. This is test day, and I am pushing very high watts (much too high for my current fitness level), and I have 2 more minutes to go.  I had set my own difficulty level for this test, as I was curious (as was my coach) to figure out where I was at. Legs heavy with lactic acid, it took every ounce of strength I had to rotate the wheel and finish. I struggled, pushing harder than I ever had to date.  

Recovery… 1 minute before the next, longer interval begins.

This one minute “rest” period had me in a full-on panic-mode.  Trying to catch my breath, I glanced at the time: 30 seconds to go, and then I’m on again. Don’t panic Carmen… breathe, breathe. As this was happening, I was transported back to 1995.  Staring at the timer on my Garmin was like staring at the fetal monitor so many years before – trying to remain calm, knowing that I would be in pain, in 10, 9, 8, OMG…7, 6, just kill me now…5, 4, how did I get here?... 3, 2, here we go again…1.

The only thing I gave birth to this time round, was knowledge:

1: Pace myself (I am getting a little too cocky with the watts I think I can push).
2: Pain I can handle. Fear of pain is something I need to gain control over.
3: If I scream out “EPIDURAL” on a bike, sadly, no one comes running.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Southern Exposure

The following events are true. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.

Cyclists travel in packs and, as such, form a bond. Comrades at play, we protect one another from the perils of the road. We huff, we puff, we spit (well the guys do), we swear, we sweat, and at mid-ride, we share laughs over coffee and pastry.

As the bond grows so does the need to protect. One day on one of our long rides, “Kirk” rolls up along side me and the small talk commences. 

“How are the kids?” “How is work?” Blah, blah, blah, pretty standard stuff.

Then, out of nowhere: “Carmen, I need to talk to you about something.”  “Ok,” I said, “what’s up?”  “Well…” long pause, “you need to tell ”Sonya”… long pause… “that her cycling shorts are see-through”.

OMG. My heart skips a beat. Poor Sonya! I need to tell her now! Wait a minute… I’m wearing the same cycling shorts!!!

“WHAT?!” I say, “No they aren’t”. “Oh yeah,” Kirk nods insistently. “It’s not apparent all the time. It depends on the direction we are going, and if the sun is out. You know, Southern exposure. Ha ha ha,” Kirks attempts to lighten the mood.

Holy crap, you have got to be freaking kidding me! I have been wearing the same shorts all summer. Months and months and nobody has said a word. Is Kirk telling me instead of going direct to Sonya so that he can kill two birds with one stone? Have all the guys been discussing this? Did Kirk draw the short straw? How embarrassing.

Ya, I guess it could be worse!
 Cycling shorts are revealing enough, but this is getting ridiculous. So I head up to Sonya to deliver the message. “No they’re not,” she insists in full denial. “No way,” and off she rides. I admire her conviction, but I’m not taking any chances.  Those cycling short will never see the light of day again.  I will wear them inside, on the computrainer, where the sun don’t shine.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

When two worlds collide…

My two worlds are officially colliding. By day, I am DesignerGirl, ( swooping into people's homes, ripping out the ugly and righting the wrongs of poor design decisions. For ten years, I have been talking the talk and walking the walk. Dressed to the nines, I enter people’s homes, fully polished, to create that “perfect first impression” – my calling card of how your home should look pre-market.

By night, I AM IRONMAN (in-training).  Dressed to sweat. Gooped up not to not chafe (ok, TMI).  Overflowing gym bags brimming with multiple pairs of shoes for the multiple sports I train for.  Car full of food for my evening dine at “Chez d’Accura” (complete with heated seats).

Yesterday, I realized that my “Clark Kent to Superman” transition needs a little work.

It started with a typical morning from hell. Drive kids to school, check. Dog walked, check. Gear packed for evening workout, check, then double check.  Lunch and dinner packed, check.  Lastly, pack bike in car, check.  Phew, done. Oh crap, I was late for my first meeting and I needed gas.

I pulled up to the nearest gas station, frazzled, I jumped out of my car in my usual designer getup: high heel boots, funky three quarter length snug-fitting white wool coat, uber cool fedora hat. The guy at the next pump started staring at me, after awhile, I shot him back a look.  No not that look, I’m happily married. The “what the &*^% are you looking at” look.  As I returned to the business of filling my car with gas, I caught my reflection in the window of my car. Ohhhh.  

Earlier that morning I had looked unsuccessfully for my everyday sunglasses so I grabbed my very strange-looking, somewhat alien-like, but very fashionable-in-the-cycling-world pair.  These blue-tinted, white- and red-rimmed glasses looked extra fetching with my gray plaid fedora. I also had grease all over my super-funky coat, from having put my bike in the car. To top it off, I had somehow gotten grease all over my cheek and nose.  Oh ya, and I have an injury-related limp. 

So, there I was, two worlds colliding. Drew has a new name for me: “des-athlete” (where designer, athlete and disaster come together). 

Monday 6 February 2012


Maybe is it because it’s Monday, or maybe it’s the full moon. It is February, so maybe that’s it…. Who here is feeling blah… in need of a vacation? If you hate listening to people whine, then you need to bail from this blog. Bail now. I am about to have a pity party that is not only self-indulgent, but is completely unwarranted when you consider how many people out there have real problems. 

However, if you enjoy hearing other people wallow in misery, then you’re in for a treat. I don’t like to complain (much), but I am getting very frustrated with my body at the moment.  Let’s review the list:

Planter Fasciitis (left foot)
Achilles pain (right ankle)
Ball of foot pain (right foot)
Shoulder pain (right side)
Hamstring pain (right side)
Neck stiffness
Flu bug
Loss of appetite
General crankiness

This is the current list of aches, pains and wide-ranging crap plaguing me.  Some of these have side-lined me from running, others are affecting the intensity of some workouts. The last remaining aches are just pissing me off. I am in a fowl mood, and it’s my body’s fault, and there is nothing I can do about it except listen to my coach and my trainer and their modified activities to keep me on the path. I won’t quit. It is not in my DNA.  I just need to WHIIIIIIINE!!!!! :(

Sunday 5 February 2012

The wall

There is a term in the athletic world, “hitting the wall”, which refers to the moment when you find yourself depleted of all your energy. It happens to everyone in endurance sports. It happened to me today. Most often it occurs on a long run or ride, but today it happened at 2pm in the afternoon while I was sitting on the sofa. 

Sometimes the body makes decisions the brain cannot override, so as someone who rarely takes naps, I found myself giving in. I laid my head down and within seconds it was lights out. Naps are funny.  Mini sleeps full of dreams. This nap was, without exception, the most exhausting I have ever had. 

You see, I pushed off my scheduled workout due to the lethargic mood I found myself in when I woke up this morning. I made a promise that when I woke up from my siesta, I would hit the gym.  As I drifted off to sleep, my thoughts were of my club. I had many strange dreams over the next two hours, but the most vivid one was of me waking up, driving to the club and jumping in the pool. This workout was as hard as any I have ever had. It was as boring as any pool session I have ever had.  When I woke up I was exhausted.  Did I just work out...? Wake up...! Did I go to the club?

OMG, I can’t escape training. Not even within a nap.

What a buzz…

I spend 3-6 hours in my car everyday. Sounds gross, and it is.  I commute to work, and that takes 2.4 hours round trip. The rest is driving from client house to client house. I did a quick calculation, and get this… at the rate I am going I will spend over 9 years of my life in my car. Yikes.

My ugly drive to work.
So what, right? What does that have to do with the Ironman? Well, nothing. But I have discovered that my favorite time of the week occurs in my car.  On Tuesday and Thursday nights I do a long spin and a short run at Absolute Endurance, which is about an hour from my house.  After my workout, I quickly shower and jump in my car as fast as I can. I check in at home to let them know I am on my way, I then shut my phone off, sit back and I let the endorphins flow.

By the time I reach the first set of lights I am in a full-blown high. This is the only occasion I feel fortunate to be confined to my car… nobody asking me to do anything, nothing to kill this buzz. I push the auto-pilot button and zone out.  Tunes cranked, I test the limits of my Bose speakers. I can’t tell what’s louder, the music or my singing. Oblivious to everything around me, I am sure I been the source of a few double-takes.

In my intoxicated state, I careen down the road, ecstatic to be going faster than my usual commuting crawl. So fast actually, that I now use my cruise control as a safety feature.  My door-to-door buzz comes to end as I pull up to my house. Like sand in an hourglass, the last grain slips through the narrow and, poof, it’s gone. I exit my car, open the front door and reality returns:

”Mom you’re home! Can you drive me to…?”

Ok, new calculation. Make that 10 years in the car.

Thursday 2 February 2012

I’m a what…?

I have been called a lot of things (lol), but an athlete? You must be mistaken. I am a middle-aged, working mother of two, who has a passion for a few sports – not an athlete.  My belief is that an athlete is someone who makes a living doing a sport.  So, if I’m not an athlete, what am I?  My kids call me obsessed, and they say this (of course) in the most loving way – or is it in an accusatory way, I get confused.

Don’t get me wrong, every time I hear “Athlete”,  I LOVE it. 

“Let me introduce Carmen, she is one of our coached athletes.”

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think.  But is it true?  I Googled the word and here is what it said:

athlete [ˈæθliːt]
1. a person trained to compete in sports or exercises involving physical strength, speed, or endurance
2. a person who has a natural aptitude for physical activities
3. a competitor in track and field events

So, do I qualify? Let’s see…

1. I do Triathlons - check
2. I am pretty good at cycling - check
3. I train on a track, does that count?… Pretty close.

So I was wrong, according to this, I am an athlete. I guess I could have figured this on my own, if I just looked at the changes in my life. So I created my own checklist:

 athlete (female)

1. a person who… no longer cares what her hair looks like and even considers cutting it all off, but her husband would divorce her. So, she lives in a ponytail.

2. a person who… no longer puts makeup on in the morning because it just sweats off at the evening workout.

3. a person who… no longer cares about what she wears to the gym because if she doesn’t care about her hair or make-up, nobody is going to look at her anyway.

4. a person who… does twice as much laundry, and if she gets a little behind her laundry room smells like a locker room.

5. a person whose… magazine collection changes from fashion and decorating tips to sports and equipment comparison guides.

6. a person who… eats more in her car or at the gym then she does at home.

7. a person who… when working out, people at her club start asking her questions because they think she works there.

8. a person whose… main vacations are now centered around race events.

9. a person whose… family doctor tells her that he not qualified to help with her problem and he will refer her to a sports doctor.

10. a person who … when she works out for one hour, it means it’s a recovery or down day.

12. a person who…goes shopping for a new pair of shoes and most often buys them at a sport store.

13. a person who…feels like she is always taking a shower.

14. a person whose…water bottle collection is getting out of control. She even has made a special drawer and/or shelf for them.

January in review

A good start overall…a few hiccups but really pretty good.  I always like the bad news first so here we go…I am currently suffering from planter fasciitis (heal pain) so I am unable to run for a few weeks. I am also sick at the moment, so I have been off work and workouts for the last few days.  That’s it.  So… not bad.

The good news is, the planter fasciitis will go away and I am already feeling well enough to go back to work. The training has been fairly easy so far.  I feel pretty strong at the moment, especially in cycling.  After re-working my swim stoke with Murray, I am optimistic that I will be exerting less energy on my multiple km swims. My new mid-foot running is coming along, it caused the planter fasciitis but I was running faster and with more ease before the injury.

My bike issue was resolved yesterday. I went back to the store and they promised to order me a smaller bike for the same sale price.  I spent much more time with them trying out both sizes. I even asked Drew to come with me. (Funny, I can buy a car by myself, but I needed some sort of support when I buying my bike…weird.) I unfortunately won’t get my bike until the end of March.

So for my first official month of training I would have to say that it was a 4 on 10 for difficulty.  An 8 on 10 for learning new techniques, and a 9 on 10 for effort exerted in re-wiring my brain. I listen completely to my coach, no exceptions anymore, and I am slowly learning to roll with what is thrown at me.

February, I expect, will be more workouts when I don’t feel like it.  More pushing when I want to stop. More stopping when I feel like I can do more. And of course eating right when I feel like binging on beer and potato chips. (OK, I will still do that, I am only human.)