Trying a Tri

image.jpegSo, anyone who knows me knows that I am now a full-fledged runner. The running is in my blood and I have no plans of stopping. In order to support my running, I started lifting weights, practicing yoga, and lap swimming. All of these things are done in an effort to improve my strength and recovery and ultimately make me a better runner. I find that the swimming helps flesh out the junk in my muscles from all of the running and it has the added bonus of making me feel like a mermaid, and what girl doesn’t love that feeling? So, over several months, my Instagram account has begun sharing a little of its focus on swimming in addition to my running. I have been fortunate enough to forge connections with triathletes in my area and all around the world. I am always open about the admiration I have for them. The notion of doing three sports in a row in a race setting is mind blowing to me. Because of my swimming and running many have asked me the question, “are you considering a triathlon?” I always reply, “well, I am always kind of flirting with the idea of trying one, but no, I don’t think I’ll be doing one any time soon.” Well, I just completed my first sprint triathlon and I am kind of freaking out over here!

So, I’ll back up. I was able to meet three local triathletes through social media. One of them I met in person for the fist time recently as we volunteered at the Texas Ironman race. He and I have had several poignant online conversations regarding juggling our spouses, family, work, and pursuing our passions. it truly is a juggling act, and it’s nice to have a friend that can relate. The other two social media friends I had met in person prior to our volunteering at the Texas Ironman race. Bryan serves as a Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador with me, and Rachel serves as a Nuun Hydration team member with me. I met Bryan in person for the first time at last year’s Chevron Houston Marathon, and then again at our 2017 ambassador meeting. Rachel and I were both selected to run for Team Nuun at the Ragnar Trail Atlanta Relay Race, so we actually got to spend a weekend together. All four of us volunteered at Ironman Texas and it was decided that I needed to participate in a local sprint triathlon. It was settled. I would borrow Rachel’s extra road bike. I would tackle the race. Yikes! I don’t have any real biking experience! I had never been swimming in open water with a bunch of other people in a race situation. How was I going to pull this off? Could I really do it? I told them I’d think it over. I told them to let me go do some lap swimming right before a spin class at my gym and see how well it would go for me. I told them I wasn’t sure I could do it.

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Over the course of a few days I tried to visualize myself completing the triathlon, but I still had so much worry about it. The truth is, I was scared about falling flat on my face. I was scared that I would be really bad at this triathlon. Doing something different is uncomfortable, but along with that fear of the unknown, comes the undeniable thrill of taking a risk. So, I vowed to give this the old college try. I went to my gym and swam a 500, then attended an hour long spin class. The swim was nice, short, and felt great. The spin class was challenging, but I felt in control the whole time. I realized that I am fit. I am capable of doing so many athletic things since I am fit. This feeling is so empowering for me.

The next step was to borrow the bike and trainer from Rachel, lower the seat (Rachel is a little leg-gier than me, much to my chagrin 😉), purchase clip-in shoes, and a helmet. My next course of action was to put the bike on the trainer, don my shoes, and practice clipping in and out of the pedals a million times. Next, my aforementioned friend Bryan hooked me up with a group in my area I could ride with. I rode with them one Saturday morning and I was keenly aware that two of the six guys were sacrificing their rides by hanging back with me. I felt pretty bad about that and told them so a half dozen times. They assured me that they had a race the following day and weren’t interested in a super hard ride, so that made me feel much better. I was so very nervous as we pulled out of the driveway, that I fell and skinned my knee right there on the driveway. It was quite embarrassing, but also quite expected, so I shook it off and we set out on our ride.

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I learned a lot on that ride. I learned how to ride in a pack and how to clip and unclip from my pedals with much more ease than I had while practicing on the trainer. I was intensely aware of how vulnerable I was there riding along that feeder of a major freeway. I was honked at while riding under an overpass with my group, and the horns echoed so loud there under that overpass. I realized that if every driver were to brave that very road by bike they would behave differently when driving. Riding a bike amongst drivers makes a person incredibly vulnerable. Once you’ve experienced that kind of vulnerability, you are much more sensitive to others in that same situation. I thought a lot about this on my twenty something mile ride averaging 15-17 miles per hour.

Next, I needed to practice the open water swim. I’ve swam laps in a swimming pool countless times, but I had never swam in open water with a pack of people. My newfound biker friends hooked me up with a ladies group that rides and swims in open water together. So, I met up with the ladies group for a bike, swim, bike. This was a great experiment leading up to my first sprint triathlon. The bike to the lake was 20 miles, and while I certainly was riding in the back, I wasn’t hurting too terribly bad. Next it was time to swim. I had never tried to swim in open water, so this was a first, for sure. The first thing I noticed was that the stairs leading into the water were slimy and this creeped me out just a little. Once I started swimming, I felt pretty good. I wouldn’t say I’m a fast swimmer, but I am definitely a strong swimmer. Needless to say, I swam back to the steps faster than I’d gone out and got the heck out of that lake! At this point I had to ride the bike for 20 miles to get back to my car. The bike back was very difficult for me. I learned that I hadn’t taken in enough calories and I spent that afternoon a little sick once I was back home.

image.jpegSo, I’d practiced everything, and now it was time to prepare for the race. I had never felt as unprepared for a race as I did for that triathlon. The bike portion is what mostly worried me. Before I knew it, it was the night before the race. I packed all of my gear and I went to bed, waking every couple of hours nervous with anticipation. On race morning I arrived early, got my bike in its slip, and met up with my biker friends. Everyone was so lovely. They offered me well wishes and tons of advice and I could tell that they genuinely meant it. I always say that runners are the most positive, encouraging people, but I learned on race day that triathletes are just as positive and encouraging. I guess all athletes are positive and encouraging.

imageAs for the actual race. I did well in the swim, getting eighth place out of 23. The run was amazing and I got fourth out of 23. The bike, well, let’s just say I wasn’t last place. I was 22nd out of 23. Clearly, I need to work on the bike. But I also learned that the world is a truly beautiful place filled with beautiful people. Every time an athlete signs up for a race, trains, and shows up to toe the line, they are better. They are inspiring. Athletes build each other up with good vibes because they are paying forward what some athlete did for them once upon a time. We genuinely want others to succeed because it’s an amazing thing to see others going after their goals and it inspires us to continue to do the same.

Let’s all go out there and crush our goals! Who’s with me?

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Monthly Mileage

imageI have gotten into the habit of posting my total running miles to social media each month. I don’t pay any attention to my monthly mileage as the month goes on, but I do like to sit down with my running app and view my total monthly miles on the last day of each month. It’s nice to reflect on each month of running. The months leading up to my yearly marathon contain more miles than non marathon training months, and rightly so. I know many people can run tons of miles all year long, but I’m certain I’m not one of those people. I tend to start suffering from overuse injuries once I get really high in mileage, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay. Additionally, I don’t feel that I am a born athlete. I have to work hard at maintaining what I’ve already got going, and I always feel like I’m on the verge of potentially burning out, and the idea of not having running in my life scares me. I bet that must sound kind of weird to the casual acquaintance, but I know my running buddies out there understand this completely. For, preparing for each run is a struggle. More often than not, as I lace up my running shoes and prepare for my run, I contemplate skipping it. My brain starts to tell me that it won’t matter much if I skip my run. My brain tells me things like, “Hey lady, you’re no olympian, here. You’re not qualifying for the Boston Marathon any time soon. You’re a wife, mother, and librarian. Nobody really cares whether you go on this run. Just skip it.” But, I tell that brain to shut up and I push myself out of the door, and I run. Sometimes I instantly feel better and I think, “I love this. I love running” but sometimes I think to myself, “This sucks. My legs hurt. The air is thick. Why am I doing this?” The point is, no matter the outcome of my run, I stick to my plan and I run. I allow myself pre determined rest days, but other than that, I’m running. Every mile I run is a success and I want to celebrate it.

imageSo, I keep on running each month, despite the fact that many days I really want to skip my workouts. I know that this is a struggle for many others besides myself. This is why many out of shape individuals fall prey to the “get fit quick” programs that inundate the marketplace. The promise of an easy, quick fitness solution? Yes, sign me up. But I digress, the point is that I know I must persevere, even when I lack motivation, and so I soldier on. I am disciplined with my running. Many months I hover between 80 and 100 miles. In peak marathon training season, I will average a bit more, between 100 and 140 miles. For the month of May, I ran 97 miles. That’s a good solid non marathon training month for me. After noticing my May monthly mileage total, I created my little graphic that I always make that lists my total miles for the month. As I went to post it on Instagram, I thought to myself “I bet you that total of 97 miles would really drive a lot of people crazy. I bet you they’d go out and run three more miles so that they’d have a nice round 100 miles for the month.” So, in my Instagram post I posed the question to my IG friends, “Do you make sure you end your month on a nice rounded number?” Most of my responses were resounding yeses, and it was a fun question to discuss with my running friends. I mean, ultimately, if we’re running every month, than that’s a good month, right? If I’d skipped my three mile run that morning my May miles would have been 94. If I’d skipped that three mile run and the four mile run the day before, my total would have been 90 miles for the month. 90 miles would have been a nice rounded number, but is it better than 97? No, because I would have skipped three good runs and it might very well have led to skipping a fourth good run, which could have led to me quitting running, and that would be a travesty.

imageUltimately my goal in recording my monthly mileage is to celebrate whatever running I’ve done that month. Whether it’s a big miles month or a smaller miles month, it’s really all good. I know that my friends weren’t suggesting that my monthly mileage wasn’t good or anything, they were just saying that ending the month so close to a nicely rounded number would trouble them enough to go run a second time that day to make it to 100. I can understand that, certainly. I have had many a run where I have pushed myself to stay under a certain pace simply to see those splits recorded on my running app. I have pushed myself at races to make qualifying times for the front corral at my beloved Chevron Houston Marathon. I can see the thought process there, I just for some reason don’t fret about my monthly mileage. I love to see how many monthly miles my fellow runners get in and I like to reflect on my own monthly miles. Just thinking about all of the problems that were solved, fights that were avoided, and logistical work puzzles that were worked through on those runs is magnificent. Posting my monthly mileage forces me to pay close attention to how very far I have come in these last four years of running. There was a time, not long ago, that I could not run one mile without stopping to rest. It is truly amazing what the human body and the human spirit can accomplish when we believe in ourselves and we don’t give up.

Keep running and recording your miles, friends.