Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ultra. Take 2.

In the last decade, since reinventing myself as a kind-of-athlete, I have undertaken some big challenges. That first half marathon. That first marathon. A half Ironman. Ironman. And oh that swim. The first time is always the hardest. A jumble of nerves, self doubt, and a little fear. After that, there is a little deposit in the memory bank that reminds you: you can do this. You’ve done it before. Oh don’t get me wrong, there are still nerves & self-doubt - my familiar pre-race house guests - but the second time is easier. Except sometimes, it turns out, it isn’t.

My first race of 2018 was in February when I set out to tackle my first 50K. I made it not quite halfway when I was pulled, having missed an aid station cut-off by 4 minutes. I was devastated. I felt shame. This foolish undertaking of a 50K by someone like me. I cried. A lot.
Scenes from a training run on-course at Deception Pass

This weekend is my last race of 2018 and as you might have figured out by now, it’s my second attempt at a 50K. And this time doesn’t feel easier than the first time. I’m peeking in that memory bank and all I see is evidence that this is beyond me. Beyond my fitness. Beyond my capabilities. Beyond my crunchy, beleaguered knees. Another foolish undertaking. I am trying to work on my mental game but man, I am having to dig deep.

Speaking of that swim… if you’re wondering how it went. I got my money’s worth. With less than 40 seconds left to spare on the official cut-off and an extra km swum - because, why not - I finished it. Here’s the post-race ugly cry as I hug my paddler and super hero friend Shelly, who guided me down the lake and listened to me whine about how hard it was. It always seems impossible until it’s done. 

Note to self.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hold my beer...

So, tomorrow I’m doing this thing. It seems kind of crazy, even to me, and especially FOR me because well… who signs up for an ultra swim when they’re not a swimmer? Well, me, it seems. Chalk it up to a chain-reaction of crazy ideas beginning with my 2019 Ultra520K application, followed by a little post-Hyack hot-tub encouragement peer-pressure from super swimmer Ann. And hey, it was so far away, surely I could become a better swimmer by then, right? 

Well, then is now, and despite spending hours and hours of time in the pool and the lake, and Sunday after Sunday (after Sunday) of early morning swim coaching, I’m no faster than I was before. Le sigh.

Speed matters because here because this race has a cut-off. If I swim straight enough, and conditions are favourable, I should be OK. Should be.

Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey to transform my body, my health, and my life. In those early years, when I was well at the back of the pack of running races and triathlons, I feared being last. And in those early years, I came close a few times. Very, very close. Like… I think I was 3rd from last once at an AIK race but although spectators warn us with signs that race results last forever, I can’t find it to confirm!  Over the years, I’ve worked my way up to the middle of the pack, and every once in a while, I’m closer to the front than the middle. It’s been a long time since I feared being the last athlete across the line.  Well, tomorrow, I expect to be the last athlete across the line. And that’s 100% OK with me. It will mean this non-swimmer who can’t seem to work her way out of the slow lane will have made all the cut-offs and hauled herself through the water over 11.8 km. Crazy, right?

No matter the outcome, I want some people to know how much I appreciate them when it comes to tomorrow’s crazy. Shelly, who took kayaking lessons to prepare for this and will paddle all day and manage my snacks… Andrew, who may tell me I’m crazy when I get these ideas, but supports me all the way anyway… my Coach Liz, who has never said a single negative thing about my swimming (and chastises me when I do) despite the fact that I am sure she must look at some of my swim workouts and wonder how the hell someone can go so.damn.slow …she always makes me feel like she believes in my ability to be successful, even when sometimes I’m not so sure myself… and my swim coach Ryan, who has yet to declare me hopeless. 

At my last session with Ryan coaching, he kayaked alongside me and shouted (he’s good at the shouting):

“Karin! Karin!! You can swim all day…” (I mmm-hmm’d my agreement) “…you need to swim faster.”

I’ll try Ryan, I’ll try.

See you at the finish line.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Race Report: Seattle Marathon

In 2010, I ran my first marathon. It was the Seattle Rock & Roll Marathon. I ran it just 11 days after my 40th birthday and when I was done, I declared that I would never run another marathon… in Seattle. That’s right, I didn’t swear off the marathon as a one-and-done adventure - quite the opposite in fact. I decided I’d run a marathon every year after, for as long as my knees would let me. But Seattle… the hill factory that it is… well thank you, but no, I’ll count my miles and earn my medal somewhere else.

Yet somehow, 2011 saw me eating those words as I returned to Seattle in November to run the Amica Seattle Marathon. On a wet and windy day befitting November in the Pacific Northwest, on a much hillier (but also more scenic) course than the RnR event, I cranked out my second marathon. Shivering cold and mentally apologizing to my knees, I said it again, this time with feeling: I will never run another marathon in Seattle.

So how is it that I came to find myself yesterday, at the start line of the Amica Seattle Marathon, on another typical PNW November day, ready to roll through 26.2 miles of a new and improved, 25-30% hillier, Seattle marathon course? Well, recall that declaration that I’d run a marathon a year every year from my 40th onward? At the start of the year, I had decided that for my 47th year, I’d run the Honolulu Marathon, but then subsequent to that I made the decision to race Challenge Aruba with my TRS Racing - Baucco Squad teammates and well, I couldn’t justify Aruba and Honolulu trips in the same year, and so …hello Seattle.

I knew going in to the race that there was no PB on the line. I’m only about 6 months out of an 18 month period that featured 7 calf strains, the last one occurring in the Spring of this year, and so I have been slowly, cautiously, (nervously) building the distance that I can run through mostly flat, easy paced runs. I added a bit of rolling hills and a couple of track sessions in the early Fall, but I have a long way to go to regain my previous version of fast, let alone aim for faster. So with the pressure off to be fast, I was feeling pretty relaxed for race day.

My chill attitude about the day had me not trying to control everything quite so much as I normally would. The night before the race, we had dinner with a couple of friends, at a cool downtown Seattle restaurant that has no set menu but just asks what you like and what you don’t, and then serves up a multi-course meal to suit your tastes and dietary needs - wine included! Happy vegan, right here. Check out Pasta Freska next time you’re in Seattle and looking for a tasty Italian meal.

The weather forecast was calling for non-stop rain and so I found myself at the Oiselle store, yes, cue the angels singing, looking for a rain jacket that would breathe, but trying on [almost] all the items I’ve ever eyed online but wondered about fit. Everything new on race day? Not quite, but almost. No, I’m not kidding - I raced #flystyle in brand new Oiselle pocket jogger tights, wazzie wool base layer and vim jacket.

Yes, I was breaking all the pre-race rules, and feeling no pressure for time. I was a little concerned about my unconventional build for this. I did most of my build in August & September, before tapering for Aruba. The weekend after we got back from Aruba, 2 weeks after the half ironman, and 5 weeks after my previous distance building long run (29K) I did my longest training run for Seattle (32K), and then began to taper. So, I knew this marathon wouldn’t be fast, and that it was going to be a tough day, but I felt like I had enough miles in me to go the distance, as long as my calves held up through the up & down of Seattle’s hills. Honestly, I hit that start line just feeling so grateful to be able to tackle a long run like this again. With no need for speed, my goal was to follow Devon Yanko’s lead from Leadville and be the happiest person out there, running with joy and a spirit of gratitude. 

And what do you know… it worked! When it was rainy & windy at the start and through the first few
miles, I reminded myself how lucky I was to be able to do this (again). When the rain stopped and the sun came out, and I got to really enjoy the beautiful sights of Seattle, the gratitude came easy. When runners cut me off at aid stations or threw their half full cups of water behind them towards trash cans without looking to see if anyone was there, I had to work a little harder at it. When the skies opened up and the rain came bucketing down so hard that the cops manning the road closures scrambled for their cars, and I struggled to get my jacket back on while the wind was whipping it and threatening to blow it right out of my hands, I laughed and reminded myself that racing in ideal weather conditions hasn’t really been my “thing” the last couple of years. Ironman Canada 2015, I’m looking at you. When the hills before and in the Arboretum were kicking my ass, I thought of a very good friend who is sidelined from 2 planned marathons next month as she recovers from a serious illness, and appreciated how lucky I was to be there, no matter what my glutes and hips were telling me.

And so 4 hours and 51 minutes after starting, I cruised across that finish line, feeling joyful, grateful and more than a little bit soggy. Not my fastest (by a long shot), not my slowest (by an even longer shot) but still one to smile about. Isn’t every finish line? OK, maybe not those sub-2-half quests that I kept missing by seconds (seconds!), but we don’t talk about those. In the warm indoor finish area after (yes Seattle, you do that right!), they were selling finisher gear and "vintage" race shirts. I always wondered who would buy a race shirt from a previous year, no matter how good the bargain? Wondered until yesterday when I saw the 2011 finisher shirts for $2. When I ran this race in 2011, I had to squeeze into an XL. It's um, maybe a little too big now?  I still wear it, as pyjamas (hella sexy no?) but yesterday I thought it was a good opportunity to "downgrade" to the S. And hey look, my boobs magically got bigger!

Thanks for marathon #6 Seattle. Now don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before, because I really mean it this time: I will NEVER run another marathon in Seattle! It’s not me, it’s you. You’re just so damn hilly! And does every step need to be on pavement?

Next marathon? The run at IMC in 2018. Next open marathon? I signed up for Portland less than 24 hours after hitting the Seattle start line. Hoping to find a little more speed for that one, but just as much gratitude.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

And then this happened...

Liquid courage is a thing. (Just go to any karaoke bar.) And liquid courage following on the heels of some exercise endorphins is a potent, perhaps dangerous thing. Before I tell you why, let me take you back in time.

It was the August long weekend in 2014. Do you remember what you did that weekend? I do. I was training for Challenge Penticton. It would be my first iron distance race and I was on a training weekend with some of my best girl friends. It was my first time riding the bike course in its entirety. And it was also Ultraman Canada race weekend. 

For those who are wondering what Ultraman Canada is, it's a 3-day multisport stage race:
  • Day 1: 10 km swim + 150 km bike
  • Day 2: 275 km bike
  • Day 3: 84.4 km run 
On Day 1 of the 2014 race, we would be sharing a part of the Ultraman bike course with athletes while we were on our training ride, though I don’t think we realized that when we set out. I remember stopping in Oliver for water and the clerk at the store asking if I was doing the race… “ha ha no… but thanks for thinking I could be!” 

Later, when the Ultraman course branched off from the Challenge/old Ironman Canada course, one of the volunteers was signaling to me to turn on to the Ultraman course. Again, I remember feeling flattered that someone thought I could actually be competing in that race.

That weekend got my Ultraman curiosity piqued. I spent a bit of time perusing the race website and discovered that to race Ultraman, you had to race a qualifying iron distance time, and then apply for entry to a small field of athletes. A qualifying iron distance time is 14:30 or better. Heading into my first iron distance race, I was worrying over making that 17 hour cut-off. The idea of getting under 14:30 was laughable. Well, no need to spend any more cycles thinking about Ultraman anymore! That’s a level of racing well beyond me!

And then a few weeks later, I raced my first iron distance event. And finished in 14:15.
Challenge Penticton Finish Line. 3 years ago today.

Suddenly, the idea of racing Ultraman “one day” wheedled its way back into my brain. So then what happened?

Well I was in no rush - I thought I’d work on getting faster, buy a tri-bike, save some money (this race isn’t cheap!) but it was on my list of things I wanted to do “one day”. Firmly on my Bucket List. In the years that followed, Ultraman became Ultra520K Canada and then last year, they announced that 2018 would be the last year for the event. The qualifying ironman needed to be in the previous calendar year and mine wasn’t.  So I took the Ultra520K Canada logo (paired with my believe/fierce ambigram), off of my vision board and thought “well, it was a long shot anyway”.

So then what happened?

Fast forward to this year. The August long weekend. Ultra520K Canada race weekend. During the race, the organizers posted to social media that they had decided they would do a 2019 event, and that they’d “relax” the qualifying standard, and that those interested should get their application in ASAP. Now, this might have gone unnoticed except a friend tagged me on the post... Shelly, I'm looking at you.

I posted on their Facebook…

So then what happened? 

I went for a swim. Then a run. Then a ride. Had a few post-ride drinks with the hub and one of my best bitches (who did nothing to discourage me... Diane, I'm looking at you). The next thing I knew, I was at home, filling out an application form and hitting submit.

I’m not gonna lie, the next day, I was freaking out… What have I done?! But, I’d thought with the Ultra520K Canada window opening, it really was now or never, and that I shouldn’t let the opportunity pass. As I waited for the official word on my application, I wondered if I’d be relieved or disappointed if they declined my application. As it turned out, the official word was that those who had expressed interest race weekend, should officially submit (or in my case, resubmit) their application. An opportunity for a sober second thought! So what did I do? Of course I applied. Bucket List, remember?

And then this happened:


I'm not kidding. Let that sink in. If you're going to call my crazy, get in line. I've already heard it a couple of times today! 

Today, the race organizers issued a press release that the race will continue for the foreseeable future and I briefly wondered whether I should have waited but then... waited for what? I'm not getting any younger. In 2019, when I toe that start line, I'll be 49 years old. What a fabulous & fitting start to the last year of my 40s given that I started them by running my first marathon, 11 days after my 40th birthday, not even halfway through my weight loss journey. Can I do this? In the words of the inspirational Chad Bentley: You will only know if you try. So I'm going to try.

Left: summer 2006. Right: summer 2017

The woman on the right tackles challenges that the woman on the left never would have contemplated for herself... not in her wildest dreams. Applying for Ultra520K represents more of that dreaming big, leap of faith, embrace the journey thinking that has been so transformative over the last decade - transformative in so many ways, all positive! 

Huge thanks to friend and phenomenal athlete Ann Barnes for reaching out and being such a voice of encouragement and support these last few weeks. She has me believing! 

I'm not exactly sure what the next 2 years of preparation are going to look like (and by not exactly, I mean I have no clue) but I do know that they begin with a cork popping tonight.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy new year! The Goal Post. 2017 Edition.

I’ve written before about my goals. So when I sat down tonight to articulate in black and white the goals for 2017 that had been forming in my mind as 2016 came to a close, I took a moment to revisit my previous goal declarations. Some of them are still out there waiting for me… like swimming 2000m “unassisted” in the pool in 50 minutes. Some are goals I’ve achieved and set year-in and year-out …like that marathon-a-year thing. And some I look back on fondly as I remember how hard-fought they were… like that sub-2 hour half. Oh yes, I finally crushed that goal. It was in the 18-month blog silence, after missing three times by seconds… yes, SECONDS…  I knocked that monkey off my back with a 1:57:39 at the Vancouver Rock’n’Roll Half in October 2015. I should have posted about it… about the emotional turmoil race morning where I ducked between two buildings on the way to the start, to cry, sobbing to the hub “I keep telling myself that my worth as a person isn’t dependent on whether I can run this under 2 hours but… but… but I just don’t believe it!” Oh yeah… I was in fine form. Anyhoo…

The 2017 List

1.      Post on the blog at least once a week, every week. An intention declared in my last post, when I turned the lights back on here. I’m going to stop writing them in my head. I’m not promising that they’ll be interesting, funny, or insightful… but there will be something!

2.      #17in17.  17 new experiences in 2017. I’ve set a similar goal before, focused on new experiences in the year, but never this many. Last year, a good friend was pursuing a goal of 50 new experiences before her 50th birthday. I joined her for many of these… some terrifying & crazy… like trapeze school. Yes, I’m serious.

3.      Ride >= 8000 km
No, not in one go! Normally I set a run mileage goal but after an injury plagued last year, I’m inclined to set myself up for success by focusing on bike mileage instead… something maybe a little less likely to land me on the injured list right out of the gate. Last year I rode 6144 km, which was a big jump over 2015 (4530 km). Well, this girl’s got a new bike and she’s not afraid to get out on the road with it! Just kidding… that was tough talk. It’s snowy and cold outside. But between the road and my Kickr, 8000 km is the goal.

4.      Read 25 books. According to Goodreads, I read 11 books in 2014, 17 in 2015 and 22 books last year (short of my 30-book goal). You can follow what I’m reading on Goodreads… currently Siri Lindley’s book “Surfacing”. If you’ve got any must-read recommendations, I’d love to hear them. My favourite read of 2016: The Choices we Make (Karma Brown).

5.      Continue my streak of running a marathon at each age of my post-40 life. If this is going to be a 2017 goal, then I’ll need to run that baby between June and December of 2017. I’ve got my eyes on the Honolulu Marathon in December. (On an unrelated note, I’m also hoping for a visit from the money fairy.)

6.      100 hours of yoga. 55 hours of yoga in 2015. 82 in 2016. I think 100 hours is totally doable, especially without the time burden of Ironman training this year. Shout out to Believe, my epically fantastic yoga studio. A beautiful space and wonderful teachers with enough yoga variety to host you on your mat, no matter what you’re needing.

7.      Master crow pose. I’ve been wanting this for a while. Not enough to actually do the work and be intentional. But that’s probably just because it was waiting to help round out my 2017 list at 10 goals, right? #Believe.

8.      Crack 25 minutes in a 5K. I wanted to avoid focusing on outcome goals (and yes I know mastering crow pose is an outcome goal) because man, they can really eat at me. I don’t want to find myself crying before every start line because I think I’m going to fail and make my own “people who suck” list, but… I also want to push myself. To feel hungry for something. And this something means I have to get back to the run shape I was in before the 5-calf-injury-year (yeah I didn’t write about that either) and find 12 seconds over 5K. I’m up for it. And I’ve got 6 5K races already signed up and waiting. Oh, and just in case you’re on the edge of your seat, this is more likely to happen at the 6th than the 1st race. You might want to get a snack.

9.      Really, actually train, with focus and see where that takes me. I’m not sure I’m articulating this very well. I’m really good at following my training plan and checking the boxes next to the workouts. Yup, did it all. I have not been so awesome at listening to my body. If it tells me it doesn’t want to do something, I will usually tell it to stop trying to be a slacker, and I do the workout anyway. Even if it means running on a calf that was torn that morning. Hashtag stupid. And I have shied away from sessions where I feel “less than”… like coached swim workouts, where I felt self-conscious for being the slowest person in the pool, electing to swim on my own, without the watchful eye and needed instruction of a swim-coach on deck. This year, I will listen to my body and try to train smart (I’m experimenting with an app called HRV Training which I’ll post about another time), to avail myself of opportunities that can make me a better athlete (no matter how scary), and to make the hard workouts HARD and the easy workouts easy. And then there’s the whole sport fueling thing. I’m going to pay attention to that too.

10.   Give meditation a go: at least once/week for 20 minutes. I’ve tried meditation a time or two and honestly have joked that for me, it’s facilitated napping. But there’s so much out there espousing the benefits of meditation that I’m going to be approach it this year with an open mind and a willing heart. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Another 17 hours of sleep this year? Not a terrible thing.

Well there they are. I’ll check in throughout the year to update you on my progress. And with this post, I’ve got #1 well in hand. 51 to go. I hope you’ll still be here!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Are you talking to ME?

I think the Universe has been trying to tell me something. For a while now. It started as a bit of a whisper. Some time in late summer I discovered podcasts. I know. I’m a bit of a late adopter. Whatever. I’m not sure how I got turned on to the Running on Om podcasts but somehow I found my way there, working my way backwards through episodes. Early in that discovery, I listened to one of the regular recurring episodes: Ask Lauren Fleshman. And I’m not gonna lie, it was the birth of a girl crush. I then became selective in my walk backwards through ROO podcasts, listening in reverse order to all of the Ask Lauren Fleshman episodes. And I thought I heard the Universe whisper: you should start writing again Karin.

Did I? No. Of course not.

I had a bunch of conversations with myself about why I’d stopped. Why I hadn’t resumed. And it really didn’t have anything to do with not having things to say. I’ve written many, many blog posts (in my head). No, I wasn’t writing for deeper, more uncomfortable reasons. Reasons with louder voices than those whispers from the Universe.

Here’s the ugly truth of it:
  1. I'm embarrassed.
  2. I feel like a fraud.
Yup, it’s not writer’s block or a fear that people won’t like my writing - or even that no one will read it. It’s about those two feelings in the context of this blog about …about what? Weight loss? Fitness? Health? Transformation?  Let me attempt to explain.

What am I embarrassed about? Well having lost the significant amount of weight that I have, I feel – at least to some extent - like that has defined me. Who I am. The most important thing about me. I’m Karin, who lost 120 lbs. Karin, who used to weigh 255 lbs. Sometimes I’m OK with that and I contribute to using that as my label - as my defining characteristic. When you sign up for an Ironman race, there’s a box where you’re supposed to say something about yourself. “I’ve lost 120 lbs” is what I usually type. And you know what? The crowd freaking LOVES that at an Ironman finish line. And I love the finish line rah-rah. 

But sometimes I feel burdened under the weight of who I used to be. I was at a party a friend threw 
Worst Photo Ever Taken. Ever. Like, ever.
where I knew very few people. I knew with certainty when my host was having a conversation with someone across the room, nodding in my direction, that it was about my weight loss. Do you remember the Bridget Jones movie, where she introduces people with an interesting tidbit about them? "This is so & so, he’s a top lawyer in his field." And "This is so & so, they climbed Mount Everest!" "This is Karin, who lost 120 lbs." Like it is the single most interesting or notable thing about me. Maybe it is. But so often, when that’s the first thing people know, I feel like I’m that woman again. That that is how people are seeing me. As that 255 lb woman. That woman whose skin I still inhabit. And I’m just so embarrassed. Embarrassed to have ever let my weight get to that stage in the first place. I mean, who does that? And if YOU did that, I don’t judge you. But I do judge me. Does that make sense? It doesn’t have to. It just is.

So that brings me to the fraud thing. That’s multifaceted. One aspect: well that 255 lb woman? I’m still wearing her skin. And so you know what… no matter how hard I train, or how little I eat, or how clean my diet is, I am never, ever going to have a great body. I will never be comfortable in a bikini on a beach. I will never achieve that mental picture I had of what I was working towards. I will always have a muffin top. Gaining that much weight leaves a mark; a friend once asked me if I had loose skin and said she wondered what the point was in trying to lose the weight, since she’d just have loose skin. [Sigh] I understand. But do I regret the weight loss? No. I regret the weight gain. Big difference.

And so if I’m trying to think a little less shallow - and point out that there is more to life than having a great body, and that this new life – all this training and racing – that’s where it’s at. That there’s value and meaning and reward in all of that, that is so much better than the number on the scale or the size of your jeans… Well, yeah! Woohooo.... Get on board! 

But here’s the thing: Yes, I’m still training, Yes, I’m still racing. But... each Ironman is slower than the last. And I don’t understand that. And if I’m not waxing poetic here about racing and challenging myself, and getting better (because I’m not getting better), then I come back to all this eating well and exercising stuff as the means to an end: how big (or small) I am, and how I look and damn if I am not STILL battling my weight. Yup. Currently about 10 lbs heavier than my typical off-season weight. Maybe more. This never-ending f&*ing merry-go-round. How can I write this blog when I’m only 110 lbs lighter than I used to be? When I’m racing slower? When I don’t have that triathlete/fit chick/super awesome body of my dreams?

But the Universe kept whispering. Often through the podcast Tea with a Titan, where host Mary-Jo Dionne interviews people who are masters of transformation, inspiration, authenticity, and bravery. I listened to her interview her husband, ultraman athlete and friend Chad Bentley, who spoke of his own physical transformation. I didn’t hear embarrassment about where he had come from – and what’s more, I didn’t see any reason why he should be – but I was encouraged and inspired by the possibility that his transformation demonstrated.

I listened to the interview with Danielle Krysa, the Jealous Curator. Who talked about her passion for art and her need to be in that space (I’m paraphrasing) and who she began writing, and continued writing, even when no one was reading. And this time when the Universe whispered to write, I had an a-ha moment about the need to write being about the need to write. Not necessarily to be read. But if you’re reading, I’m glad you’re here!

I listened to the interview with Susanne Biro and her admission that she’s afraid in almost everything she does… I’m totally paraphrasing. I should have written down the quote because she made the comment while discussing a face to face conversation with Richard Branson, and being brave enough to ask a question, and I was stunned. I thought it was just me who felt that way! How she said it was perfect. How I said it is not. If I wasn’t on a self-imposed deadline to get this posted today, I’d go replay the podcast. Instead, I’ll suggest you just go listen to it yourself. It’s worth your time.

Then Oprah whispered to me. Kind of. I saw a commercial for Weight Watchers and could not believe she’s their new spokesperson. I mean really. She is arguably the most successful woman in the world. And she’s still battling her weight. This woman who could pay someone to slap the food out of her hand! I’m in good company I guess. Weight struggles: the great equalizer.

And then – since I still wasn’t writing – the Universe got a bit more direct. Out of the blue this past Thursday, in the middle of a workout, my trainer Scott asked me if I was still blogging. And he said I should be. That I had a voice. And things to share that could help people on their journey.

So I’m back. My 2017 goal: one post a week.

If you’re still here: thanks for reading.

And thank you to the ladies who let the Universe whisper through them: Julia Hanlon, Lauren Fleshman, Mary-Jo Dionne, Danielle Krysa, Susanne Biro, and Oprah!

And thank you Scott for the nudge of encouragement. And for your commitment to getting me #laf. Seriously, make it happen bro.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Race Reports: Challenge Penticton Festival Events

So hey, about that Ironman… Yeah, I did it. And there will be a race report. But not today. As I write this, I’m up in Penticton, on the eve of Challenge Penticton. Yeah, like the very same race that was my first iron distance race last year. Only I’m not racing it this year. The Hub is. It’s his first real triathlon and he’s doing the Half distance. I’ve been winging it as his coach and this weekend I’m faking it as a deferential, supportive type instead of my usual high maintenance diva self. I’m very good at the latter. The other? Well…

Anyway. So I’m not racing the Challenge this year. I’ve actually taken August “off” – which was supposed to mean taking a break from structured training and just doing what I wanted. That’s not quite how it’s worked out …but more on that in another post. Since the month has been low key, and I’m feeling left out not being able to race with the rest of the free world my triathlete friends, I decided to make the most of having to sit out, and take advantage of some of the Festival events that I wouldn’t ordinarily get to do. Like a 5K fun run and the Ogopogo Swim Race. I know. Swimming.

Thursday, we rolled into smoky Penticton a couple of hours before the Feed the Valley 5K Fun Run. Time to unload the van, change, and then stroll down to The Peach. We watched the kiddies 1K fun run, while trying to figure out who’s-who among the pros handing out medals.

Even though it was a “fun run”, no bibs, no timing chips, and I wasn’t looking for anything particular from this race… it was +30 degrees, smoky, I’d been sitting in a car for 5 hours, and this was my month off… I was still nervously sizing up the “competition” and worrying with this small field, it was not out of the realm of possibility that I would be last. The route was a two loop out & back along Lakeshore, running right past our hotel 4 times. I told my family that if I was last, I was ducking into our hotel on the way back from the second loop. Screw the finish line.

And then we were off. As I approached the first turnaround, Jeff Symonds was making his way back, leading a pack of speedy peeps, all of them looking comfortable. There weren’t a ton of people ahead of me, and once I made the turn and was on my way back, I saw that there were plenty behind me. Good. I’d gone out a little too fast, and my pace was slowing a bit, it was hot and I felt the smoky air stinging the back of my throat. At the turn to start the second loop, I stopped to grab water – something I wouldn’t ordinarily do in a 5K - walking a few seconds to gulp it down, and then off for loop number 2.
This time, well before I reached the turnaround on the 2nd loop, Jeff Symonds was running by. All by himself now, and running effortlessly with none of his trademark Ugly, he offered some words of encouragement as he ran by.

My 5K PB is 25:11. Set January of this year at the Athletes in Kind New Year’s Day Generation Run. I didn’t expect to beat it, and told my family as much as we were walking to the start. My daughter asked how long it would take me… My PB is 25:11. I won’t beat that but it’ll be something under 30 minutes. She was surprised – and impressed – that I could run 5K in under 30 minutes. Yeah, that used to impress me too. So I ran in to the finish at 24:54. My daughter ran over and said “Mom, you PB’d!” I knew I wasn’t running PB-pace – I’d been checking pace from time to time and watching it creep slowly up. I glanced down at my Garmin when she said that, seeing a 4.76, and dismissed her congrats… “Yeah, but the course was short.”

“Don’t DO that!” she replied.

Oh, in the days before Garmin, we would have been none the wiser, taking that PB at face value and celebrating it. But I don’t know… is a PB still a PB, even when the course is short?

We waited a while at the finish, then started walking back to the hotel since we had family waiting on us for dinner. The final two runners were still making their way back and as we neared them on course, I would stop, put my shoes down, clap and cheer. Feeling inspired and impressed by these women. I’m not sure why the idea of being last feels embarrassing or shameful when it’s me, but a mark of determination, spirit, and triumph when it’s someone else. When the final runner passed by, a bike volunteer who’d ridden out to check on her told her she had some friends coming out to run her in. I turned to see pros Jeff Symonds and Nathan Killam jogging out to finish with her. Like the final finisher in an Ironman, there’s a lot of support for the last one in. No, last was not a bad place to be.

My big brave move had been wearing a top that exposed a bit of midriff. A counter to some self-esteem bashing “picked for you” pins that Pinterest had been taunting me with. All bones, flat stomachs, and thigh gaps. I was trying to embrace strong, fit, and powerful and be a better role model for my girly. But mostly it just made me hate all the race pictures. And then the next morning, when I went for a short swim, I ended up in a conversation with a teeny-tiny super-fit and lovely woman, also heading in for a swim. She’d won her age group at IMC in a previous year. She’d been to Kona. And she described it as terrible because the Island shuts down and is overrun by triathletes… all these teeny-tiny super-fit women. Hmmm. Are any of us comfortable in our skin?

Today was the Ogopogo swim race. Three distances to choose from: 500m, 1K or 2K. 500m hardly seemed like struggling in to the wet suit, and 2K seemed like work, so I’d signed up for the 1K and was actually looking forward to it. I’ve done very little swimming since IMC… this will be fun I thought.
Walking to the Peach, I watched the lake churning in the wind, listened to the waves crashing on shore. Gross. I texted my friend Jenn who was swimming the 2K: I’m not sure I’m going to swim. I told her the water was rough, and this was supposed to be fun. So drop down to the 1K she said. Ha.

After some expert bodymarking, I wriggled into my wetsuit (in its last season I’m afraid), and waited for the start. Two 500m loops, swimming mostly across the waves… darn it. At the start, I struggled to get my breathing right. And I don’t think it was the slightly choppy lake as much as it was the absence of time spent in any lake this last month, but it was a rough start. I was aware that pretty much everyone was swimming away from me, leaving me thrashing about pretty much on my own. I had a “yeah, what else is new” feeling, but other than that, didn’t really care. I knew that with a bunch of people doing the 2K, it’s not like I’d be emerging 20 minutes after everyone was done. So I just settled in and swam, taking a moment at one point to acknowledge that it was fortunate that I was a bilateral breather and could choose which side to breathe on given the rough water. 

I finished in 26:11, with a 2:19/100m pace. Not fast by any standard but 1 second faster than any of my previous open water swim race paces. Go figure. 

I’m glad I didn’t bail.