Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Easter Bunny is finally here!

Yes, tomorrow we will finally celebrate Easter. I know, it's strange, especially since all of you did this more than a month ago. Fortunately, the "Orthodox" Easter Bunny remembered to go to Target and Walmart on Monday, March 24 to get whatever was left over for 50% off. Don't know how fresh all that chocolate and candy is since it's been sitting in the pantry closet for the past month, but I am positive my kids won't care.

A cold wave is coming through here this weekend and it's great. I was finally able to sleep really comfortably last night with sheets on. Seems like I need an ice box to get a decent night of sleep. Unfortunately, tomorrow's forecast is also calling for storms and rain. Hopefully I'll get out for my run before it hits. The egg hunt might take place indoors!

This afternoon Luka's soccer team had a "mom & son" game instead of playing another team. When the coach first mentioned this several weeks ago I was anything but excited. I didn't want to disappoint Luka since he was pretty excited about it, so I put my green shirt on and shorts and we went out there to play. Let me just say that I have only tried to play soccer one other time in my life and that was indoors about 10 years ago. I wasn't too worried about this game, after all, it was a bunch of 6 year olds with their moms, none of which I thought were former collegiate soccer players. Lucky for us (the green team), the coach was on OUR team! She's the grandmother of one of the boys on the team. Don't let that word "grandmother" fool you. She's tough! I mean, the woman has some serious skills on the field. She even had on cleets and shin guards. Like I said, so glad she was on our team. The game ended up being a lot more fun than I expected, and I actually put in more effort than I thought I would. My legs are really not used to moving in so many different directions in such short periods of time, and my eye/foot coordination is definitely not there. It's quite a surprise when you think your foot is going to make contact with the ball, but instead it goes right over it and your leg is flying out in front of you way too fast. Not to brag, but I did actually score a goal! Oh yeah, and the green team won! Not that I was getting the least bit competitive :-)

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! Jen, Bree, Kellye, and Andy at St. Anthony's. Sarah doing the 1/2 marathon in OK City, and Randy running the Country Music marathon. Hope I didn't miss anyone!

Andy swims in my lane at masters sometimes. I just found out Wednesday he was doing his first tri EVER, and it's at St. Anthony's. Here is the list of questions I asked him after he asked me if I had any advice about the ocean swim (after I stopped laughing).

Do you have a wetsuit?
Have you tried it out?
Are you getting there early to practice swimming in the ocean?


The answers to all of the above were yes, so I feel pretty confident he's going to make it out of the water in a reasonable amount of time. I might have also told him it's OK to hang on to kayaks if needed. I'll be cheering for you Andy, the only one from Arkansas at St. Anthony's! I know this will probably be the first of many more tri's to come, that's just how it goes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tour de Cure

Yesterday I completed the 100 mile Tour de Cure. Or, in this case, the 92.8 mile Tour de Cure. The weather was beautiful aside from the 16-20 mph winds that were in our face 80% of the time.

The ride started in Little Rock and headed southeast to somewhere called Tucker (I think). It was an ENTIRELY flat course, which meant non-stop pedaling for almost 5.5 hours. At times I felt as if I was pedaling up huge hills as I fought against the wind, but unlike actually going up hill, there was no down hill to enjoy and recover.

The ride was safe, I raised some money for the American Diabetes Association, and I met some nice people along the way. I also met about 6 not so nice dogs that scared the day lights out of me!

With Ironman Louisville training quickly approaching I know this was the first of many long rides I have to look forward to in the next 4 months. For my first (almost) 100 ride of the year I felt good and am recovering well, even managed to get out for my run this morning!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The race that almost wasn't

We drove to Dallas early Saturday morning. When I received the email on Friday that a practice swim would be held from 12:30-2:00 I wanted to make sure I was there. So we left Little Rock plenty early that morning. Me, Milan and the kids.

We arrived at our hotel just a little after noon. I didn't realize that our hotel actually sat right on Lake Carolyn about a 500 yard walk to the transition area and start of the swim. So convenient! I grabbed my gear and walked down to the lake. Let me just mention now, for the first time of many to come, how friggin' windy it was. What the heck was going on this weekend around the country with the wind? Gee's! I looked at the lake and it didn't look "that bad". There were several other people there for the practice swim as well. The guy in charge told us we could swim down to the 3rd yellow buoy (which was not visible), but not to swim under the bridge. Bridge? Yes, bridge. Dude, no worries, I'm not swimming under any bridges alone. I actually had no plan as to how far I was going to swim. I just wanted to get acclimated to swimming without a black line to look at.

To get into the lake you had jump off of a little ledge (for lack of a better word). I immediately asked how the start was going to take place because there was no way in hell I was diving into the lake to start. I was reassured it would be an in water start. Good, so I proceeded to, as gently as possible, let myself down into the water, which was not easy, I had let go of the ledge and go under a bit. After a minute or so I was able to catch my breath and compose myself and get used to the idea of being in a lake, again. I mean really, it's been since last August that I was in a lake, and that was lake DeGray - clean and calm. I waited a bit until some other people were coming down to swim. I had already missed my chance to join one group. I ask this girl how far she plans to swim and if I can "tag along". She says she's going to swim no more than a mile. Then I ask, "Are you fast?". She says, "No, are you?" to which I quickly reply, "Heck no". Turns out I am actually faster than her (imagine that) and I am actually feeling comfortable being out there swimming in the lake. It helped that this lake is not very big and the entire perimeter was close by where I could see benches and buildings and even people walking by. So comforting!

This is where things get bad. I reach that 3rd yellow buoy where I'm not suppose to swim past. I did feel a little more "tossled" by the water as I approached it, but nothing I couldn't handle...until I made the turn-around at the buoy. At this buoy the lake intersects with another portion of the lake making a "T" formation. The race course was to turn right here, go under the bridge, turn around at the green buoy (for OLY distance) and then go back. Let's just say the chop was at it's absolute worst at this intersection and I was oblivious to this until I went up to take my first breath of air (after turning) and got a mouthful of water! Getting a mouthful of water makes me stop swimming, which makes me realize how bad the conditions are. This freaks me out more, especially when I realize I am the ONLY one out there! I flip onto my back and try to calm down, but I'm hyperventilating basically and more water is just coming up over my head. Next thing I know I'm screaming for HELP! I see a woman on the shoreline sitting at bench. She hears me and walks over. By this time I have managed to make it back to the buoy and am hanging on for dear life. I have no idea what to do. There are no swimmers in sight. This woman has no way of getting to me and I have no confidence of getting to her. I see that the wall has a 2 foot area that is shorter and I know that if I can make it there with just a little help from her I can pull myself out of the lake. I tell her to go there. I do a compromised backstroke to get myself to that wall. By the time I got there a man walked a long so he helped pull me out. He was looking at me like I was some kind of freak. Trust me, I felt like a freak.

I sat on the edge of this wall just looking at this stupid lake. Cursing the lake. Cursing myself for getting into this sport and for putting myself in this unnecessary situation. Crying because I am so disappointed with myself for my lack of courage. Knowing that I have the physical strength to swim, just like I did in Wisconsin, and knowing that my mental fears have won again. And after Wisconsin I swore they never would again. I just sat there, not knowing what to do next. Getting back into that lake was not even a consideration. Not at that position with no one around in case I got into trouble again. Eventually the girl I started swimming with showed up with her friend. They stopped at the buoy to see me sitting there on the friggin' wall like an idiot. I gave them the heads up that the way back is a lot more choppy. They went on. I had the thought to swim back with them, but decided I suffered enough embarrassment for one day (I had to leave something for Sunday). I figured out I could walk up the steps and over the bridge and back down the other side to get back to where I started. I also decided that once I got back I was getting back into that m-f'in lake and was going to stop being a - I can't use the "p" word, but you know what I'm talkin' about. OK, so those were the thoughts I had after I cried and told myself what a loser I was and that I was never ever doing another stupid triathlon again and I should just go back to running...but wait, I have a kick-ass bike, OK so I'll stick to running and duathlons and just forget this swimming shit because I just hate it and it freaks me out in the open water and why I am stressing myself out like this for a HOBBY. I mean, I will never be good or elite or pro, and this is NOT FUN!

I finally get back down to the start to find Milan and the kids there. Luka and Milan are playing with his lightsabers and Nada is holding her American Girl doll watching the athletes. Oh yes, tears were really flowing now. "What's wrong mom?" How do you reply to this? So I tell Milan what happened. He tells me to get back in the lake here and he'll watch me. Thanks, honey. And you'll save me too? So in I go again, this time just to be in the water. Milan took some pictures, the kids thought it was cool, and I swam just a little more to get used to not having the black line.

Needless to say, I felt like crap the rest of the night (so I had a maragarita with dinner, because really, at this point, I just didn't care and needed something to chill me out). I was just going through the prerace motions of picking up my packet and driving the bike course, not convinced that I was actually going to do the race or survive the swim. I called my coach to tell her about my horrible experience and lack of confidence. I knew she wasn't going to tell me to bale out. I thought she might want to ring my neck for being such a (insert "p" word). She tried to encourage me and reassure me, but I was still in my own low self-esteem world.

Surprisingly, I did manage to sleep some that night. I got up at 5:15 and turned the coffee pot on (with my own Starbucks grind in it). Then, as I stood at the curtains about to open them and look at the lake, I said a prayer to God that he would be kind to me today. From the 7th floor of the Marriot the lake really didn't look bad. It definitely looked better than it did the previous afternoon. Now I just had to pray it stayed that way for the next 3-4 hours. Maybe the wind was over! Yeah, wishful thinking!

It wasn't until I was in transition doing my set up that I noticed the wind was still the same. Once it got light out I walked over to take a look at the lake. Oh, holy hell! What have I gotten myself into! I hate Dallas! This is only my second time in Dallas and the first was a horrible trip (not for a race) and this one isn't turning out any better. For the next 2 hours I bit my nails (what was left) and asked any person in my close proximity, "How choppy do you think the lake is?" Then I whined like a baby about how I didn't want to do this race, that I was never going to make it through the swim, that it was going to be so miserable. And you know, every one of those people just kept telling me that I was going to be fine, the lake wouldn't be bad, to relax, and it would all be over in a few hours and I'd be happy I did it. I wasn't convinced by one of them, but I just needed to keep hearing the positive reinforcement.

I left a note for Milan at the hotel with what time my wave started, what time I expected to be out of the water, done with the bike, done with the run, and asking him to pray for me in that lake. I didn't know what time him and the kids would show up. To my surprise they were there at 7:40 (my wave started at 8:15). This was good, and bad. Good, because he could take my fur lined Crocks that were so wonderful to have on my feet as I waited for an hour to start my swim. Bad, because now I had to swim because I couldn't let my kids see their mom be a quitter. I cried more telling Milan how much I didn't want to do this. Had he said to me, "OK, go get your stuff and lets go have breakfast" I would have been OUTTA there! Instead, he told me, "You can do this. Just take your time and relax. You'll catch everyone else on the bike and the run." Wait, is this my husband? Did Jen call him and coach him in race support? This is so unlike him. Milan has never really been into this racing of mine from the day we got married. He didn't get the marathon obsession and now the whole triathlon thing is even more demanding. Wow, this was big. Well crap, if my husband is telling me to get out there and do it, and he drove 5.5 hours to come with me and take care of the kids, then I better at least make an effort. So I told him that's what I'd do, but it might be a short race so he might want to stick around.

I hear them calling for green caps, which is my wave. My wave was the second wave, the first after the elites. I start walking over (with hesitation) to the start area and I see all these tall, lean, muscular males wearing light purple caps. They are the wave going right after us. I look at the race guy (who was there for the practice swim) and say with astonishment, "The guys are going after us? I'm going to get swum over!" He says, "You'll be OK." I'm thinking, "Yeah, right!" The lady says something like 1 minute to go. All the women are in the lake. I am still sitting on the ledge looking at the water, saying I don't want to do this. When she says something like 45 seconds I actually get into the water, but just around to hang onto the ledge still saying I'm not going to do this, I don't want to do this. The women in my wave are telling me, "You can do this. Just go slow, take it easy. You CAN do this!" I know Milan is watching, along with the other 100+ of spectators. I know my kids are watching. I am hating myself for signing up for this race. For getting into this sport. For signing up for the other 3 big races this summer, including a friggin' Ironman with a river swim. For all time and money I've invested into this sport and for being so uncertain about myself. With 15 seconds to go I decide, screw it, I'm just going to take it easy, swim easy, and if worse comes to worse, there are kayaks out there and it won't be the first time I call out to one for rescue.

I swim easily telling myself over and over to relax. I'm doing high elbows and catch up, trying to glide as effortlessly as I can in this lake without elevating my HR too much, knowing that the worst is to come. After analyzing and thinking about (all evening and morning) how I can avoid getting water in my mouth I decide I am just going to throw all the technique of the pool out the window and roll onto my side more than I ever would and stroke bigger than I ever would, just to make sure my head is facing rear and away from any wave that might be heading my way. Seriously, these were small waves in comparison to an ocean swim, but for my first race of the year and a fearful swimmer it was more than enough for me. I survived the swim under the bridge fine. It was reassuring with all the other swimmers around me and that I could see people standing on the sidewalk under the bridge. I reached the green buoy and made the turn around. Half done, half to go. I just kept telling myself to go easy, stroke big, get my head up and stay calm. Sure enough we reached the "T" and it was as choppy as the day before. I could see one green cap next to me and I decided whoever that woman was she was now my best friend. I would just stay next to her and go with it. Would have been even nicer if I was behind her and on her feet. I did that for a while then decided I was making the left turn to head back as soon as I could. I knew I had to be careful because I knew there were other waves still heading out and I really didn't want to collide with someone head on. I just kept telling myself it would be over soon and as soon as I made the turn the water would be calmer. It was calmer once I got out of the "T", but the wind was definitely still pushing the water against me. I hung in there. I knew I was home free and I was going to survive this swim. I didn't think about what was next.

The rest of the race is minor compared to the swim. Yes, the bike sucked because of all the head wind, which was almost at us in every direction. Otherwise, there were no major hills to climb and I'm certain I would have had a much faster time in better conditions.

The run started out really well. At the first mile marker my watch read 7:05. I just don't know how accurate that mile marker was because on the way back at the mile 5 sign my watch read 35 minutes and something and I was thinking, "Wow, I am kicking ass even in this head wind." I know that last 1.2 miles did not take me 12 minutes and 16 seconds. The sign was either off or for the 1/2 IM runners.

I passed about 4 women on the bike course and about the same on the run. There was a nice 2 mile stretch on the run course, miles 4 and 5 that the wind was at my back. It was heavenly. The last mile sucked, all into the wind. I looked back to see if anyone was on my tail. When I saw there was no one in sight I just thought, "Screw this, just run at whatever pace and finish this miserable race." There was no hurt box, there was no HTFU at this point. It was all about being finished.

I went back to the hotel and showered shortly after crossing the finish line. We had a noon check out. We went back to the race site to get my bike and see the results. As I waited for the outcome Milan told me, "You have nothing to complain about today. You almost didn't do this race so don't be disappointed with the outcome." He was absolutely right, and I promised I wouldn't be. Naturally, I did ask him and Nada as soon as I finished, "How many women finished ahead of me?" Nada said not many. Milan said it was hard to tell with two races going on, but he didn't think too many. I had hope that something good might come out of something I dreaded so much.

If you read my previous blog post you know the results, and you know how pleased I am considering my mental state of mind at the start of the race. It wasn't a race I had high expectations for, not one I was really looking forward to a whole lot, it was a "training" race. I am hopeful that this experience helped diminish the fear I fight so hard at a lot of races. I am almost certain the conditions at my next tri, and probably the other 2, will be better, even if it's 40 degrees warmer! I'm realizing that my fear is from the unknown, from leaving my comfort zone. I have to remember that's why I signed up for this race to begin with - to get out there early and become familiar with what a triathlon is all about.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Weekend and Race Report

The 10K race was a success for Milan. He didn't walk and he broke an hour. Actually, he finished in well under an hour, his time was 55:12, a 8:54 pace. He said he started out running with his co-worker (who happens to be like the CEO of the company!) for the first 3 miles. His friend was starting to fade a bit by mile 3 and told Milan to go on ahead. Fortunately, Milan didn't hesitate and took off. He said their pace for the first 3 miles was somewhere around 9:15 so he actually did pick it up once they seperated. Naturally, I was on the internet all afternoon waiting for the results to be posted so I could tell him where he placed and what his official time was. He ended up 15/21 in his AG, 110/250 males. Not that he cared. On Sunday morning when Milan was on the phone with his brother in Serbia I purposely interjected asking if he told his brother about the race. Because Milan is the last to brag about anything he accomplishes he finally spoke up and told his brother there was a 10K race here and he completed it. His brother asked, "How did you place? Were you the first Serb to finish?" I laughed histerically! Next time I race I not only can classify myself as F35-39, but SERB F35-39 (I am 100% Serbian). I am sure to get 1st place in that category!

My training weekend took a surprise turn for the better! The Tour de Cure that was suppose to take place on Saturday (therefore leaving me without anyone to ride with) got cancelled because of the tornado and flood damage. I received an email from David Friday afternoon that he was riding at 11am. Perfect! So I took Luka to his first soccer game at 8:30am, almost gave his grandma of a coach a piece of mind, and then came home to get ready to ride and let Milan have the pleasure of taking him to game #2 at 11:30. Milan wasn't going to take him to the game after I expressed my dissatisfaction with his "new" coach. But I convinced him he had to make Luka go because Luka was complaining all morning about going to the second game and I didn't want him to think he won and we were letting him getting out of it. I also made Milan promise that he would keep his mouth shut no matter how outrageous this lady got with these 6 year olds. Turns out the other team didn't show up so they just played each other. I'll have to tell you about the plans this coach has for the April 26 game later.

Back to my wonderful weekend training. It was me, David, Jo, Lisa, Charlie, and Doug. We were doing the "Keo express" route. This is basically a flat TT type course where if the wind is just right you can have some kick ass fast mileage. Saturday was not one of those days where the wind was cooperative. As a matter of fact, when we started it looked like we could hit a rain storm at any moment, and it just got worse the further south we rode (into the wind). Even when we turned around to head back, it was STILL windy. The only bonus was that the clouds finally cleared and by the time we got back to our cars to run it was totally sunny and about 70 degrees. I think I even got a bit of a tan during the 30 minutes of running. Best of all, I was able to hang on to whoever's wheel was in front of me for the entire 55 miles we rode. It's a bit scary when I see David get down in his aero bars and go by me because I know the intensity is about to increase dramatically. As anticipated he did this after about a 20 minute warm up and I was determined not to get left behind. We rode at about a 22 mph pace for at least 8 miles, which at the end of that burst David pretended there was a finish line he was headed for and bumped up the speed to about 25mph. My quads were absolutely screaming, but I was determined to stay on Lisa's wheel and not get left behind. Who knows what my HR was? Somewhere in zone 5 I'm sure. I think David was surprised to see me there when he slowed down to make the turn onto the highway. He didn't have to wait for me to catch up! After a short recovery we were on again down the highway to Keo. Jo did a fabulous job of pulling us into the wind and Lisa was right behind her. I was behind David who was making sure I was keeping up. I was, no problem. For a change. I had told them I was going to turn around at the gas station since I was only supposed to ride 1:45, but when we got there I decided JH probably wouldn't mind that I rode an extra hour+, especially since I took an unauthorized day off on Friday. And I felt good! So on we went down the highway another 4 miles and then turned around. For me, it was a really good ride because I didn't get left behind and I had a really decent average speed for the entire 55 miles. Not to mention I ran off the bike at a 7:15-7:25 pace!

Sunday's tempo run wasn't bad either, but I have no numbers to gage my performance. My watch battery died after 4.8 miles. For some reason I seem to think I am qualified to change the battery on my Ironman Timex bodylink watch so I did. Now the watch works, but the GPS and HR monitor don't. One of the biggest benefits of living in Little Rock is that the Timex factory is HERE! So on Friday when I get off work early I will be at the outlet store trying to get a reasonably priced replacement. If not, I'm already eyeing the Garmin 405 that is suppose to be available April 24. Now that Milan has seen how cool the Garmin 305 is, I don't think I'll have much of a problem convincing him "we" should get the new 405. Hey, I don't mind sharing with him once in a while.

So now I'm sort of resting and stuff for my first tri this weekend in Dallas (OLY distance, but with a 22 mile bike instead of 40K). I'm trying not to think about it too much. Especially trying not to think about how friggin' cold that water is going to be to swim in (even with a wetsuit) and how cold the air is going to be hitting me when I'm smokin' it on my bike. I have no idea what the course is like, but it takes place in Irving, Texas so my guess is it's pretty flat. We've decided the family will make the trip with me. I wasn't really looking forward to driving 5.5 hours alone Saturday morning so I asked Milan if he'd like to come along with the kids. He is fully aware of what to expect and what not to expect. The kids will just be excited to take a road trip and spend the night in a hotel. It's a lot of time in the car for 2 days, but it will be a change of scenery. Plus, I'll really appreciate having a cheering crew for me there (if the kids are actually paying attention!) and someone to share the drive home with!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tornados

Things were pretty wicked in Little Rock last night, and not just at my house. But we were oblivious to all the tornados ripping through the area. Fortunately, they didn't hit our part of town and we are all safe. And as far as I know, all of my friends are safe too, even the ones who live in Cammack Village, a Little Rock neighborhood, that got hit bad.

We all went to bed at 8:30pm. Since Lost was a rerun AGAIN there was nothing worth staying up for. I saw some storm warnings, but thought it was just thunderstorms. We really did have severe thunderstorms here that lasted all night long. Clashes of thunder so loud that it shook the house and set car alarms off. When my alarm went off at 4:45 for masters I didn't even bother getting up. I could still hear the rumble of thunder in the distance and wasn't sure if it was coming or going. It was both. Masters would have been cancelled regardless. The club was without power and is located pretty close to the area of Little Rock that got hit. So, I stayed in bed, guilt free, and just listened to more of the storm. It wasn't a very restful night, even if I didn't know how severe things really were out there.

It wasn't until I dropped the kids off at school this morning that I started hearing about school closings because of flooding and power outages. The kids' school bus never showed up this morning and since I hadn't worked out I was actually ready for work, minus having eaten my already cooked oatmeal, and able to take them myself. I was so early that I even had time to get Starbucks on my way to work. Then I had a brief glimmer of hope that maybe the preschool was without power and I would have the day off! No such luck.

Another week is over at the preschool. Four more to go, 20 days to be exact. My weekly "meeting" with the instructor went OK. I managed to remain professional and keep my mouth shut and not tell her what I really think. That in itself is quite an accomplishment for me. And I didn't get any unexpected or unpleasant feedback from her either, so that's all good.

Tomorrow morning Milan is running a 10K race. He's been training for this for the past 6 weeks and it's been kind of funny. I'm not used to him saying things like "long run" and "speed work" and tell me how cool Dan's Garmin 305 is and all the functions it has. Milan even ran 8 miles one day. That's huge for him! Initially when he brought this race up I was annoyed that he chose a Saturday race and that it interferes with my weekly long bike ride. I thought he was just going to do it just for "fun", you know, for the t-shirt, so I was really glad when I realized he was serious. He's just not allowed to race again until after August 31. Plus tomorrow is the Little Rock Tour de Cure and I wouldn't have been up for a 100 mile ride at this point any way. So this Saturday Milan will go to race and I will take care of the kids. Luka has 2 soccer games, one at 8:30 and another at 11:30, so I'm glad I'll be able to be here for those. I would love to go to the race and be a spectator, and to see who in my AG is there, but that's OK. I like that Milan's the one stressing out about racing tomorrow and not me (it'll be me next weekend). He's stressing because it's the longest distance race he's ever done and he's hoping he can finish in under an hour. He even asked me if he needed to carry water? I love it! I feel like such a pro! I keep telling him to run hard and set a good time, but he's going to run with his friend from work and he doesn't want to appear competitive. Boy, he has a lot to learn! Now I'm just wondering what's going to be next and if he's finally going to catch the bug? I'll have to post a race report tomorrow!