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Wandering Wanderlust

I had an opportunity recently to attend Wanderlust Squaw Valley on behalf of Fordcares.com Warriors in Pink. I wasn’t sure what to expect — I don’t do a lot of yoga, I’m not a really introspective person, but I was up for talking at a couple of yoga classes about my experience and how they could help others facing cancer.

My second day at the festival I came across some bracelets. Each had a charm with a word stamped on it. I picked up the first one I saw. Badass. I put it back and continued to look. Then I came back. Badass. I’d been hearing that word used to describe me recently. I’d been avoiding it. But there it is again. I realize that while I may not be a TOTAL badass, I can be a badass. I’m courageous, strong, smart, a role model. So I embrace the badass side of myself. I love wearing that bracelet. It reminds me to not let myself get in my own way.

Later I attend a class about meditation. The master speaks about letting go about what others think, and I realize how tightly I hold on to what I perceive others thinking about me or how they see me. I make up stories that others must be thinking — “how can she be an athlete – look at her body!” But, dammit, I am a badass. And I need to allow that to carry me. I also made a talisman to remind me to trust myself. Trust my instincts, my body and my strength. Geez. I just rode 203 miles. I must be able to do something!

So a major learning for me that weekend: trust myself, I am more than I give myself credit for.

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My first STP in the Books

Would you do it again? That seems to be the first question people ask. Then they ask if I’m sore. What hurts? I finished, upright on my bike on my own power. That was my goal. 10 hours on a bike seat on Saturday and 7 on Sunday. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I put a lot of hours into training. Many Saturdays I’d leave the house at 7 or 730 and not get home until 4pm. As it got closer to the event, I’d often go out on Sundays too. And at least a couple nights during the week. Leave work at 4, head to Log Boom Park, get on my bike and do 30-40 miles, and then head home. Some nights that was fun. Some nights it was hard.

I read recently about perceived effort. It was an interesting article. It was talking about how hard to push yourself to make a difference. The upshot was if it feels hard, don’t push. Do what you can and call it good. But if it feels easy, push. You can go harder. I have to say STP felt easier mentally and physically on Saturday than on Sunday. Sunday I was trying to change my inner voice, and get comfortable on my bike seat. Crossing over the bridge into Oregon meant only 30 more miles. But those were, mentally, the toughest miles I’ve done. But I couldn’t quit. How can you quit when you’re so close. And I hate to quit.

Training for an endurance bike ride is so different from the training I was used to. When you train to walk a half marathon, you know you’ll be done in 3-4 hours. You subsist mainly on gels and chewy blocks; maybe an energy bar. But your body doesn’t crave as much fuel. When you do a duathlon, each section is short – run 3.5, bike 12.5, run 3.5. I would eat half a banana as I ran out the chute for my second run, or eat part of a protein bar as I changed shoes and got my gear for the bike ride. But, again, my body didn’t need as much fuel. I fueled up after the event. But distance biking? Figuring out how to fuel my body before, during and after was a challenge. I realized halfway into my training that the reason my legs were giving out was that I wasn’t getting enough protein. So I started trying to eat more lean protein and added a protein shake on training days. That helped. But I need to start that fueling process earlier in my training. Now I know. And it will make a difference for my next adventure.

So would I do it again? Maybe. I know I’d train a lot differently. More hills. More back to back days. Figure out my fuel needs earlier. And get out of my head. Way out. So maybe not STP. But I will do another endurance event … just not sure what the next adventure will be. For now, I’m scheduled to do a triathlon relay in Vancouver WA in August and then Cycle the Wave in September. I might throw a couple more in there. And I’ll be back on my bike next week.

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Done.

That’s it. 203 miles. Too many hills, busy highways,  rude drivers, and stupid riders. A lot of it was fun. A lot of it was a slog. What I’m proud of? Maintaining a strong pace. Making it up almost all the hills. Powering through when I wanted to quit. Crossing the finish line. As soon as I’m able to walk normally I’ll get back on my bike. Bit not for a couple of days. More musings and photos to post. For now, rest.

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Tis the night before

This wasn’t supposed to be how my night before was supposed to go. I was going to get on a 330 pm flight back from Spokane. Instead the flight was cancelled, and I embarked on a 4 hour road trip with a co-worker down I-90. It was better than the alternative — the 5am flight they offered me for Saturday morning. So instead of a relaxing few hours checking over my packing and loading my bike, I’m scurrying around. Oh well.

Do I have everything? Am I ready? I’ve trained. I’ve made lists. I’ve studied the route. If I forgot something, I’ll get it on the road. I might be making a stop at a Starbucks down the road for more caffeine, but I think I’m set.

I have everything staged in a corner of my living room. I have my luggage tags set. I have my STP numbers in place. My bike is on my car.

My strategy? 25 miles at a time. The rest stops are strategically every 25 miles. I may only stop long enough to get more water or hit the rest room. But it’s a mental game. So 25 miles at a time.

I’m nervous. But I usually am before a race. So, yes, I’m ready. Now off to set my alarm for 430. We’re going to be on the road before 6am.

I’ll post pictures and notes as I can. See you soon …

Seattle To Portland

Dealing with anxiety

What do you say when everyone asks “are you excited, are you ready, how are you?” I’ve tried responding about how I really feel – nervous, excited, ready, not ready, not sure – and people look at me like I’m nuts. I was actually told that I need to sound more confident about my bike ride this weekend. Of course, it’s not just a bike ride. It’s the STP – Seattle to Portland on a bike. 203 miles over two days on city and county roads. With 10,000 other riders.

I know I’m ready. I’ve done the seat miles. I’ve done the hills. I tested out more hills this last weekend just to be sure. I’m mostly packed and have my snacks and food set-up. I’ve looked at the course. But it’s still a big unknown.

How do you deal with the unknown? I’ve recently taken to visualization. When I was doing a ride with 2800 feet of elevation gain recently, I visualized myself riding up the hill. I was panting. But in my mind, I made it to the top. So when I did the actual ride, I knew I could make it to the top. Why? I had pictured it in my mind. Athletes do this all the time. They visualize throwing a perfect pass, making a perfect basket, hitting the ball. For the STP, I’m visualizing riding up the hills; stopping at the rest stops; cruising into Winlock on Day 1 after completing 120 miles and being tired, but happy. I’m visualizing 25 miles at a time. That’s how far apart the rest stops are. I know I can do 25 miles at a time. And I know I can do these hills. I’m visualizing success each mile.

So if you ask me how I’m doing, I still might say I’m nervous. But I know I can do this. And I’ll finish in Portland on Sunday upright on my own power.

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Making new “accountable” friends

irongrirl2015After hearing Diane Keaton sing “Make new friends, but keep the old …” it made me think about where my friendships have gone the last couple of years.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery and later when I was going through chemotherapy, I had to learn to sit and allow other people to help me.  It was humbling to have friends rally around when I needed them most.  When my daughter graduated from high school and went off to college, I realized (as do many parents) that I suddenly had no life.  Or friends.  Or any of my own activities.  (Those of you with young children can laugh now, but just wait!).  I realized that my activities and friendships revolved around my daughter’s activities and school.  The realization hit me a few weeks after she moved into the dorm – I needed to make new friends, and renew my old friendships.

Friends=Community and Accountability

The last few years have been about proving that I can do it – even if I didn’t really enjoy it (hello swimming!).  And I proved to myself that I can do it.  My focus this year isn’t just about seeing how many miles I can log.  It is more about finding people who enjoy being active.  This helps hold me accountable to getting out and moving – given a choice, I would much rather sit on my couch and watch Downton Abbey.  But being of a certain age, spread happens.  And I not only want to be healthy and active as I go forward, but also manage that dreaded spread.    My challenge this year is to find things that help me build a community and keep me engaged in an active lifestyle.  It really is all about finding things that you love and doing them … and not being afraid to try something new (with your new community) because you just might find something new you love. 

I’ve been instagramming my journey the past few years.  It’s a fun way to be accountable, document the fun I’m having, and see the milestones I hit along the way.   My goals are small:  do an event a month, run my first 5k, find new friends and activities, and encourage others to begin their own journeys.

 

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Are you allergic to exercise?

philosophyAccording to Holley Mangold, her recent ouster from “The Biggest Loser” was because she was allergic to running.  Let’s look at some of the core symptoms.  Do you break out in a sweat when you exercise hard? (that means you are exercising your heart!)  Do you have hat hair after exercise? (this is an easily remedied issue – don’t wear a hat!)  Does your nose run when you exercise?  (mine too!  I just bring extra tissues and measure how hard I worked based on the number of tissues I used)  Does the cold make you shiver?  (layers, people, layers)  Does the rain make you wet?  (and you live in the Pacific Northwest?  See hat hair and layers; if you don’t exercise because it is raining, you might as well not exercise at all)

For me, the real issue is that we are led to believe that unless we run, we aren’t exercising.  And that’s just not true.  I have walked 5 half marathons in the past 2-1/2 years.  Didn’t run.  Walked.  And there were a lot of people that walked with me.  And walking that half marathon made me feel like I could do anything!

 

Walking doesn’t require a lot of fancy gear or equipment or a special location.  You can walk your neighborhood, walk the mall, walk the dog, or find a trail.  I feel inspired when I take a walk with an amazing view or a new neighborhood.  My favorites include Alki, Discovery Park across the Magnolia Bluff, and the Sammamish River Trail.  All are paved with lots of other people.  A good rain-resistant coat is a must.  A hat or umbrella.  And a good pair of shoes.  That’s it.  You just walk out your door and start.
If you aren’t up for a major walking adventure just yet (you do need to work up to the mileage), start with the mall.  Do a lap or two around an indoor mall.  Park far away at work or at the shopping center.  I try to add in an extra set of stairs whenever I get up to get tea.  And the weather.  Do you ever feel like the weather is always better when you are working?  If you can carve out 30 minutes in your day, get outside.  Keep a pair of shoes in your desk (also good in case of natural disasters) and go out around the block.  I have a standing walking meeting with a co-worker every week.  Sometimes we just walk stairs.  But we try to get outside and just catch up.  I used to have a twice a month date with a friend and we would walk the high school track for 30 minutes.  It wasn’t long, but having that date made me a lot more likely to get out there.

So suck it up and deal with your ‘allergy.’  Set a goal – walk around the block in 15 minutes; walk the dog for 30 minutes at a fast pace (choosing some good music can help keep your pace up!).  Find a buddy and walk.  Sing my favorite holiday song from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”:  ‘Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door …’  That’s really all it takes.

To be honest, I wish there was a real reason I struggle with exercise … but let’s call it what it is – I’m not allergic, I just don’t always like it.  But part of living healthy is not just eating right, but staying active.  I have learned to wear layers, bring lots of tissue when it’s cold, and get outside whenever I can.  And you know what?  The more I get outside and walk or run or trot or wander, the more I want.  I can see why people call it an addiction.  So here’s to a healthy addiction to activity!

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Tri-Tri Again

danskintri2012 

So admittedly I am not an athlete.  I walk – fast – but I walk.  I’m not really sure what came over me when I announced in front of a group of women cancer survivors last February that I was going to do the Danskin Triathalon in 2012.  It felt great to make that statement.  And then fear creeped in.  This post is about that fear – recognizing it, acknowledging it, fighting it, and doing it over and over again.

I didn’t realize just how big a commitment a triathalon was when I went to the first group meeting in May 2012.  I was one of two newbies and sat next to a 70+ woman who does one a month.  Talk about intimidating.  Still, I felt I could do anything.  I made it through surgery and chemo – a triathalon should be a piece of cake!  Wrong idea number 1.

 

Wrong idea number 2 was thinking that my 20 year old Sears bike would be just fine for my 15 mile rides.  I wasn’t willing to spend a lot of money on something I wasn’t sure I was even going to make it through (fear is starting to creep in).  But biking was an incredible high.  I loved it and felt in control, except in traffic, on sharp curves, or steep hills.  But still … I made the commitment and bought a lighter bike.  Still not high end, but it made a difference to me.

Wrong idea number 3 was the one that almost put me over the edge.  Swimming.  I know how to swim.  I swim.  Just not very often and not very far.  Jumped in that lake in mid-June and swam out to the kayak and grabbed a float and went right back.  Made it one lap.  I thought okay, I can do this.  Tried it again.  Started having a hard time getting my breath.  Especially on Monday night swim practices and Saturday full practices.  After a month of total stress, I acknowledged that I was not going to make the swim.  Total relief.  No more pounding heart.  No more struggling to get my breath.  Just relief.

But I still wanted to do the triathlon.  Another training partner just found out she would not be able to run or bike due to injuries, so we partnered – she handled the swim and I did the bike and the run/walk.  I felt so powerful and alive when I crossed that finish line!  It didn’t matter that I ‘only’ did two of the events – I did it, I wasn’t last, I didn’t crash, I felt incredible!  And I committed to doing it again in 2013.  And this time, I would swim!