The (not so) Glamorous Life of a Woman and Ironman

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I am laughing at what I am about to write.  I am pre-lauging, because the words haven’t even hit my screen and I knooooow some of this will sound bad.  I laugh now as I sit, outside in my cool, shaded yard.  Listening to birds and the waterfall trickling in our front yard, eating a Schwann’s popsicle.  My workout day done.  When only days ago, hours ago, I was in misery during a workout.  Hot, sweat stinging my eyes.  Things going all wrong.  Ya know….those kind of days.  That kind of day when your mouth opens and says….”WHY am I doing this?” <again> That moment when if given a split second chance, you’d reconsider this whole thing.  That kind of day.

Aren’t we supposed to be Enjoying the Journey?

Here’s the deal; for ever bad day, there are two, three or five good.  For every day that I have overheated, sweat pouring off of me, and salt staining everything I own; I consider the cold, frozen, snowy months.  There are bad days and good, ups and downs….funny and not-so-funny.  Here are a few not-so-glamourous things about being a women (or man) and training/racing your heart out.

Just to name a few:

Let’s start with the swim.  Honestly, can my hair get ANY more like straw in the winter?  Not only are we in the cold weather, but getting into an overly-chlorinated pool..well if there was any shred of health in my hair, give it a few days once in that pool, let alone the MONTHS we in the Pac Northwest have to spend.  No amount of Moroccan Oil will help this out.  On top of it, my hair is naturally curly, which translates; naturally dry and unruly 99% of the time.  Add chlorine…well, you’re looking at a recipe for disaster.  We waiiiiit for the day that we can get in to open water, which lends its own set of problems.  In comes the wetsuit.  If I were maybe say a banana or a sausage link, I might feel comfortable adding a close-to-your-skin layer onto myself.  Wrestling a body into a wetsuit is an art. A tight, rubber skin being layered on… all while trying to be as careful as possible not to yank, pull too hard, rip a hole, dig a nail into or tear a seam.  But making sure it’s pulled up correct, high enough, pulled up over the butt (this helps if you have a friend) and zipped up the back, without it being too tight in the arms and neck.  And lets not even talk about the zipper…..  It’s nonsensical! Getting the wetsuit on is a workout unto itself, and usually leads to increased heart rate,  heavy breathing, sweating and slight exhaustion.  After all of this, you walk into our icy waters to start your swim, where you then get to pee on yourself and into your suit to warm up.  Glamourous! After the swim, if you’re lucky, you may end up with as I did today, a sweet looking raspberry “hickey” on your neck that is SURE to cause some sort of scandal when seen by people around town!  Which leads to my next glamour word; Chafing!

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I’m telling you what, if you have clothing of any sort on; you’re gonna chafe somewhere.  It is inevitable!  I don’t care how much Body Glide you use, you WILL miss a spot!  Always.  Over 140 miles in a race, something, somewhere is gonna go bad.  I have had chafing on parts of my body that quite frankly I didn’t think possible.  And unless I just figure out a way to dip my body entirely into a tub of Body Glide, it’s just gonna be that way.  Probably the worst part…..the post workout/race shower…that in all aspect should feel like the best thing you’ve ever experienced, until water hits that raw skin…..screams of agony and jumping out of the water a best-feeling-ever-shower does not make.  Along with chafing you have it’s counterpart the blister.  Blisters also have a way of cropping up when and where least expected.  I have blisters that have just become permanent residents on my feet.  They don’t even hurt anymore.  They come and go, and it doesn’t matter the socks I wear OR shoes, they appear.  Always in the same place…on the deformed pinky of my right foot.  Add the blister, deformed pinky and the possibility of black or missing toenails (this has thankfully only happened one time to me on said deformed pinky) and you have a pedicure nightmare!  Runners feet….not always the prettiest girl at the ball!  Speaking of pedicures…forget it.  Or…find an exceptional person to do them.  My girl…knows to not even go NEAR my calluses with a pumice stone.  Taking those fabulous, well worn- in, necessary calluses, off would result in more of the above; chafing and blisters.

Lets talk bike.  And throw out words like; saddle.  112 miles on a saddle not quite wide enough for Barbie to sit on.  Or maybe you’re like me and ride a split-nose saddle, which brings its own set of gifts to the party.  This thing has saved my butt though.  Literally.  HOWever…that being said, riding that type of saddle takes some getting used to.  Even though theres nothing pushing into your….nether region, you have the chafing issue to get used to on your upper legs….and sit bones that need to man-up and do their job of…ummmm sitting correctly for HOURS.  Yes, you will have bruising.  Doesn’t everyone get a bruised butt?  HA!  Glamour, right there!!   There are great conversations to be had on a long training rides with your girlfriends.  Things like… the bruising.  Down There.  Things like…which is the best butt cream.  And I’m not talking for your babies.  I am talking  Ruby’s Lube, Chamois Butt Butt’r, Hoo Ha Ride Glide……for all of that fun stuff going on downstairs for HOURS on the bike that is supposed to keep you chafe free and possibly relieve some of the goings-on atop that saddle.  I’ve learned a few things in my time of doing Triathlon;  there is no perfect saddle, not kit that will help, no butt butter that will suffice.  It’s gonna hurt at some point…and thats that!  On top of that; being hit with bugs in the face at 20mph-plus HURTS, bee stings on the bike HURT, and your butt….it’s just gonna hurt!

Let’s move onto the last piece of this fine Ironman puzzle; the run.  This is where chafing can be the worst.  Anything and everything can rub.  I have had chafing from a heart rate monitor, which is soft around my chest, that when sweated on and ran with my body for 26.2 miles at Ironman Canada, decided it just wanted to cut into my skin.  My rib cage looked like it had been in a knife fight after that day.  The same heart rate monitor that I had worn every. single. day. for training.  If something touches you…..your gonna chafe.  This is where we can get Uber ladylike….the run.  Peeing (or worse) in bushes while your running partners stand watch like sentinels.  And, OH, perfecting snot-rockets ranks right up there on the glamour factor for sure. That is some high-class glamour!!  Snot-rockets are also an art form.  Practice!  Doing it wrong….well you can imagine what can happen.  It can get nasty-gross.

PS: The snot-rocket does work particularly well when riding 20mph….those things can really fly.

PPS: You know your heavy into racing season when you find yourself <almost> blowing a rocket from your car window.

PPPS:  It has taken me years…and I still hate to do any of this in front of my husband.  This is a side of his sweet, soft, clean-smelling, perfumed, showered, wife that I have a hard time allowing him to see.  For better, for worse….I guess, right?

Add all of this to water retention, food obsessions, falling asleep the second your head hits the pillow, or before…like…as your walking in from brushing your teeth, having every calendar date, family outing, vacation or camping trip revolve around your IM schedule, sore muscles, wearing compression like it’s your job, and being gone HOURS on end for long bike/run days, laundry that morphs overnight from one shirt on the floor to a Matterhorn sized pile within hours, that continues to multiply because you never have time to catch up, dinner that’s not always on the table on time,  the intimacy that your bike saddle sees more of than your spouse, sock tan lines, bike short tan lines and tan lines across your back that look as if they were branded on you by alien life forms…and you have the glamorous life….

***I know this sounds like I’m wining, but it’s all in fun!  I honestly love every day that I get to do this.  Good and bad, short and long…..it’s love!

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Mumblings of a Crazy Person-Ironman Boulder Training

Seven weeks out from Ironman Boulder.  Training is getting…fun? Enjoyable?  Entertaining?  Monotonous? Insane?  Yep…there it is!!

hill-seekerI’m going to give you a little peek into my mind while out on my training ride today.  The ride was only 24-miles with a series of hill repeats thrown in on Fernan saddle, which is about a 6% grade, all timed, so that my legs had just enough time to “turn on” before I’d turn to swoosh back down at 34mph.…nothing to get too crazy about.

Fernan was quiet….2 cars today.  I rode from town, and out around the lake taking in its gorgeous beauty.  I have to say, that view…never gets old.  I love the winding switch backs and the smooth pavement out to the gun range, where the hill starts.  It’s serene.  Peaceful even.  I was nice and warmed up by the time I got there.  Ready to attack those hill repeats!

First repeat….this is feeling pretty easy.  I look over the hill to the gun range and take a notice to who’s out there…a dad with 2 young kids, an older, graying, gentleman and his wife.  He looks like he’s teaching her to shoot.  “Keep it aimed out towards the target, Mama” I think….OK, I’m started to get warm with my jacket on..that will need to be peeled off when I turn around.  Hmmm…is that a bone?  Yep!  That looks like an ulna.  Cat?  Dog?  Coyote?  Oh…theres a pelvis.  WOW!  Yes there are wild animals out here! Check the time…

Down…turn around….Kids and Dad still there.  Wife and husband still there.  She still hasn’t taken a shot.  There are the bones. “That’s gotta be a femur.”  I continue to climb.  A Dairy Queen straw…and the cup.  A Blizzard.  man, why do people litter.  So rude!  On this climb, of course, I start my self-talk.  Last time I made it to point X..this time, I have to make it a little further.  I’m timing 7-minute hill repeats. I am BY FAR my own worst critic.  Not the self-hating, self-punishing type of critic…but the kind of critic that gives myself pep-talks that motivate, makes me work harder, makes me pick up my cadence, sweat a little harder.  I will never work harder than when I am racing myself.  There is something that boils up inside of me, that makes me want to go the extra mile, go a little harder.  It’s me..against ME!  Last time I made it to the snag, this time I blew right by her.  Snagatha Christy!

Down, turn around.  Dad and kids are loading up to go home….the older couple…she’s ready to fire, gun held up..he’s out fixing the target.  Oh man…that doesn’t look good.  I say a prayer.  The bones…man, what’s the story with those bones?  And why? are they in the road?  There’s the DQ straw…oh man! a Blizzard sounds so good right now.  Does it though?  I haven’t had a Blizzard in years!  Honestly 2001 was the last Blizzard I had.  But this little gem, laying on the side of the road….perfection!  Pink toothbrush..Oh that’s new.  How does a toothbrush find its way to the side of the road?  Was it tossed from a car?  Fell out from someone’s belongings on the way to a camping trip?  Hmmm that would make for a weekend of bad-breath.  Was that a couch cushion?  There’s that big, beautiful snag…See Ya Later! Snag!

Down, turn around.  It’s like a slow dance.  Slow it down, turn around, repeat.  The older couple…granny is poppin’ em off like lightning now.  Yeah!!  She’s got it!  It quiets as I head up the hill.  Bones, check.  Blizzard straw, check. pink toothbrush, check.  Yes, that IS a couch cushion, check.  Snag….hmmm there you are you broken and gnarly piece of tree….”were you struck by lightning?”  I think my legs were just struck by lightning.  Dear Paula, you decided to sign up for yet another Ironman….this is part of the pain.  Hit it girl!  I giggle to myself.  It is so quiet now.  No cars, no fire arms, no bikes, no wind….silence.  Me and my breath.  My toosh hurts….(this is another blog-post that needs to be written)  Oh my BUTT!! “Do I have my pepper spray in my Bento box?  Sooo quiet.  And beautiful.  The mountain and trees are magnificent under the sunshine.  I am always so in awe of this place we call home.  I feel blessed.  31525_20130124_125818_good_morning_quotes_06

Down.  And up.  Grams & Gramps have left the range now, seemingly satisfied with her firearm prowess.  It’s just me.  Last repeat.  Last time to make it outstanding.  I am dying to stand up….coach says, “keep the climb in the saddle.”  Make this strong and remarkable Paula….again, being my own worst judge.  Don’t think about the fire starting to escape through your muscles, and burning through your shorts.  This makes me think of the Fantastic Four and the Human Torch…my legs could quite possibly catch fire!  Think of how you’ll feel if you give up now.  Finish this last repeat like a boss.  Do not look for your distractions on the ground.  Look up.  See the snag?  She’s waving you by.  She knows that she was a one-time deal and that you would never stop at her again.  The sound of my breathing is a great sound.  It reminds me how alive I am.  It reminds me that my lungs are strong and healthy.  Capable and competent.  My mind drifts….”your great grace..”  I am WAY past my first attempt of this climb.  Past my second and third attempt.  It feels GREAT to continue up.  Further than the last.  A silent prayer escapes my lips….”Thank you for this.” photo

Time!!!

Look at that yellow mushroom!!!

I am WAY further up the hill!!  Nice work Lady!!  Take a selfie!

“Get your butt home before whatever drug those bones to the road, comes out for a visit.”

Enjoying The Journey

It has been months since I posted a blog. It’s always in the back of my mind, with the greatest intentions to do so, and then…life. Gets. Moving.

I have had so much going on and have a lot to catch up on.

I am about 2.5 months out from Ironman Boulder, and while I’m excited for this inaugural event, I have days of feeling like I wish it were over. I think oftentimes when I read training blogs, whether it be for running marathons, or triathlons, Fondos or 5k’s, all I see is the fun side of training, which is awesome. This is not going to be a blog about the happier, fun, excitable part of training. Not this week.

This week I rolled into a rest week, which I was looking forward to but ended up having one of the worst weeks since starting this training. I’m not sure if it’s BECAUSE it’s a rest week, and kind of like a taper that makes you a little “off” but wow!! This week I cannot wait to kiss goodbye.

Vietnam

Vietnam

I just got back from Vietnam a couple of weeks ago (which is a WHOLE other post) just mourned the loss of our beloved Golden Retriever, Tucker and spent this last week with my daughter visiting our son in Los Angeles. It was a blast. Not restful AT ALL, but exactly what this mama was hoping for; a lot of sunshine, shopping, eating, and laughter! My kids are seriously the greatest. It is so exciting and enjoyable to see your kids grow up, get out on their own, and really soar. Our son moved in January and this is the first time I’ve been able to visit. LA is always so fun! I think we slept 10 hours over the period from Thursday-Sunday. And because of the modern miracle of flight, I was able to actually spend Mother’s Day with ALL three of our kids; leaving LA that morning, to come home with our youngest daughter for the afternoon/evening. I can say one thing (well maybe not just one) of my trip; I am SO glad I am in shape!! This thought lingered in my head during this trip. No sleep, over-indulging in food, and literally hitting

Running in Runyon Canyon

Running in Runyon Canyon

the ground running…I kept thinking how grateful I was to be in shape. It’s something I will never take for granted, and never let slip. My kids who are in their early 20’s are…well…. in their early 20’s, which means, we WENT HARD!! I was so thankful that I could easily keep up, as we were up early, and going to bed LATE…as in, some nights, we could’ve just stayed up and went straight to breakfast! We also hiked/ran Runyon which was incredible! And again, I thought….I am so happy to be able to do this!! Moral: Keep it up at any age!! You won’t regret it, but will if you let it go.

My last day with Tucker

My last day with Tucker

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These Kids!!

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Days Like This…Zuma Beach/Malibu, CA

Onto this week. A rest week for training that I was looking forward to. It’s. Been. Hard. It’s interesting how bad workouts can affect you. I called my training partner bawling on Tuesday. I had just come off of a horrible run, and was feeling so defeated.  You know the kind of day you are looking forward to and within minutes, all goes south?  I felt heavy, and like I was a new runner just starting out.  It was an easy run, that was a disaster!  She talked me off of the ledge. Only for me to do the same for her that very evening. At one point I thought, “we shouldn’t be training together (kidding) and good thing we have our breakdowns at different parts of the day or we’d never make it to race day ” I literally said to her “what am I doing? I don’t want to do this Ironman!” Hours later she says, “OK, if you’re out I’m out” Thankfully, my sobbing had subsided and I was back in a normal frame of mind at that point.

And we continued on….

Great training partners are crucial. No matter what! I have days that I am fine doing workouts alone, and even look forward to them. The solitude of a nice long run is indescribable. But some days….you need a partner, or a few. Because some days…you’re gonna fall without them. You’re going to tail spin unless they are there to set you straight. You’re going to sob, and second-guess yourself, and feel inadequate. You’re going to want to throw in the towel and give up. Hang up the wetsuit and running shoes and sell the bike. But then….in steps these “angels” and all is right with the World.

Yesterdays ride made up for my week of sadness and defeat. I met my training partner for a ride. She comes over as I’m preparing my bike with a little gift…Enjoy The Journey. She looks at me and says, “this may suck some days, but darn it, we are going to enjoy the crap out of it!” Greatest words ever spoken after a week like this!

We took off and soon ran into another friend who was out training. We stopped and chatted briefly, and took off on a great ride together! The sun was shining, it was quiet, aside from our chatter, and the woods smelled amazing along our route. We laughed and rode and just had an amazing ride. There is something so magical about training girlfriends. They are invaluable. They are so real. So authentic and solid. They are the ones that know and understand your peril and insecurities. You can be so vulnerable with them, because they GET it! They’ve been there. There’s no judgment. And the frankness you can share is unparalleled. These friends understand your tiredness, moodiness, your aching crotch, your food addictions (eat all the food now!) your blistered feet, your saddle sores, you dilemma with on course nutrition, your fear of open water, your irritability and frustration and they still love you anyway. They help you “embrace the suck.” They make you laugh, hold you up, hold you accountable and hold your bike when you pee. They allow you to wallow…but only for a short time. They allow you to cry it out, then wipe your tears, give you a slap on the butt and get you moving again.

So out of a bad training week, comes the silver lining. Everyone has bad days/weeks. Chose your friends and training partners wisely and it makes all the difference in the world. Because trust me…. they’re going to need you as much as you need them, and for me, I feel like it’s an integral part of my training. Sometimes, you just need loved on and a little reminder to Enjoy the Journey.

Gift From My Training Partner….great reminder!

Gift From My Training Partner….great reminder!