Ironman Countdown

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last Ten Days, Brought to you by the Letter "J"

It's the FINAL COUNTDOWN!  Only Ten Days left.  I really can't quite believe it.

But let's back up for a second.  This past weekend, I did the Dewey Beach Sprint Tri in Delaware with my sister.  I believe it is the first triathlon I ever did, 14 years ago.  Its a beautiful setting, and I get to hang out with my sister at the beach which is always a great motivation.
before the race


The ocean was unusually flat for the half mile swim.  The bike was unusually wind-less for the 15 miles bike.  And the run was through the town of Dewey as usual, which I really love.  I did my best time by about 8 minutes, and that all came from the bike.  So no matter what happens at IMMD, I have at least met my goal for the year of becoming a better biker and being more in-tune with my bike itself.  I am so much more comfortable riding, and stronger too, simply from the act of doing it over and over and over.

And now here we are.  Only Ten Days to go, and my last dedication, if you haven't guessed, is for my 3 J's:  James, Jack, and Julia.  My little family.  My people.  The center of my world.  The reason I get up in the morning (literally and metaphorically).  My joy.  My life.
my 3 J's, 8/24/11

James is the best partner I could have ever hoped for.   I think I knew that when I met him, that he would be a great person to share a life with, and I think that was a big thing that drew me to him.  I have always been a pretty independent person, and I have a mind and heart of my own.  James has always accepted me for who I am; and he doesn't seem to mind my flaws too much.

For those who don't know the story, one of the first times I met James out was after he had taken the bar exam.  He had been, um, celebrating a lot with his buddies by the time I showed up... I believe Bushmills was involved.  At one point he looked at me and said, "You know, with your height and my width, we'd have blue-eyed line-backer children."  I laughed so hard, but apparently he was being serious.  Who knew?

He makes me laugh, like hysterically funny laugh.  Everyone is his friend.  He would do anything for anyone.  He knows I'm stubbornly strong and self-sufficient, but that I need him to take over sometimes.  He is also the warmest person I know, physically and emotionally.  Its like sleeping next to a furnace, something I greatly appreciate in the winter.  But he is warm in his interactions with people, just genuinely friendly and inviting.

James is a really great dad.  He loves our children so very much.  I love watching him play with them, read to them, wrestle them and tuck them into bed.  We are by no means perfect parents; I know we both struggle with that.  But I know James works very hard to be the best father he can be to them.  And I know my children have no doubts as how much he loves them.

OBX Splash & Dash 2015

Balancing marriage and children (and work, and life, and everything else) is so much harder than either of us ever thought.   We have ups and downs like everyone else, but in the end he's always there for me.  And I am always there for him.  When I go out on my long bike rides, or take a weekend to do a race with my sister, James just takes it in stride.  He understands my goals, and he supports them.  And he never acts like I "owe" him anything... like a tit for tat thing if I am away then he gets to go away.  It doesn't work like that.  We both get the importance of being together, of being a family, but also the importance of being individuals.
running a 5K
coaching soccer - go Bugs!

Druid Hill Sprint Tri 2014
I am so proud of James too.  He decided to change things around as far as his health and lifestyle is concerned just after Julia was born.  He goes to the Y every morning and lifts, swims or spins.  He looks better now that he did the day we married; he's healthier and more fit.  I love that our kids see this from both of us, and they know the importance of being healthy.  James is very goal-oriented too, and in 2014, he completed his goal of doing a 5K every month.  He has done a few sprint triathlons.  And of course, as most of you know, he did the swim portion of Eagleman 70.3 for me this year after I broke my collarbone, swimming 1.2 miles in the Choptank River.  Just awesome!
Eagleman 2015

My son Jack amazes me everyday.  He can be so like James one minute, and so like me the next.  Becoming his mother was the best thing I have ever accomplished.  When he was born, I had these strong polar opposite feelings of love and doubt.  I loved that baby so much, but I was totally questioning what the hell we had just done?  How do you even raise one of these?  How do you know what to do?  Where is the instruction manual?  I still have those feelings.  I love that boy so very much.  I am so proud of him.  He is funny, and sweet, and smart.  He is artistic, will try any food you put in front of him, loves to read, and loves playing sports.  But there are times when I still search for the instruction manual; and I worry incessantly that I have totally messed this whole mom thing up.  When he is acting up or mouthing off, especially on a really bad day, I think maybe I am raising a serial killer and I'll be that mom on the news that everyone blames for raising a horrible human.  Then I see his blue eyes looking at me, smiling, and I know we're doing o.k.   He has his moments, as we all do, but he is such a good person.  My heart is so full since becoming his mom.  He makes me try harder, do better, and love more. 
Jack's first morning home, Dec. 2007

soccer skillz

Julia rounded out motherhood and our family completely.  I can't imagine us without her.  She is ridiculously cute and funny.  She is strong willed and opinionated.  She will talk to anyone about anything.  She loves the Disney Princesses, but refuses to wear dresses herself.  She is a total love-bug, wanting to snuggle and hug all the time.  Her imagination is incredible, as lately she has taken to calling all of us by names of characters from the show "Wild Kratts."  Julia challenged me so much during her first three years.  She was a terrible sleeper, and her tantrums were epic.  And despite sleep deprivation and frayed nerves, I loved her so much.  That capacity in parents is astounding, how much we can love these little people who push us to our limits.  Julia is such a happy girl.  She is sweet and kind; she cracks me up.  She makes me so aware of being a girl, of making sure I show her she can be anything, do anything, that she sets her mind to.
my little "graceful" ballerina

running her first race, "like mommy."

Jack and Julia,
I hope you both are proud of me.  While Ironman is something I am doing for myself, I am also doing it for you.  I want you both to always know that if there's a will, there's a way.  You both can accomplish anything you set out to do, if you put in the work and never give up.  Thank you for always loving me and forgiving me when I am not being the best mom that I can be... for those times when I fail you or lose my patience with you.  I promise to always love and forgive you too.  Always.  You two are the best thing I have ever done.   I will be thinking of you my entire race, as you are always in my heart and mind.

And so my Three J's, these last Ten Days are for you.  Ironically, I will be tapering which will mean more time to spare and more jittery nerves.  You guys ground me.  You make me whole.  I love you more than I can ever say, and more than you will ever know.  I will think of you during these Ten Days, praying for us as a family.  I will be grateful for our health, for our happiness.  I will keep you in my heart, as always.  I can't wait to see you when I cross the finish line on October 3rd. 

During these final Ten Days, I have:
3 Miles of Swimming
100 Miles of Biking
20 Miles of Running

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Strong Roots Make for a Strong Tree

Happy Sunday to you all.  I will be heading out with my family to do the annual Howard County Police Pace 5K and Family Fun Run.  We're all going together, so it should be a fun morning.

Today also happens to be Grandparents Day.  Not a major holiday by any stretch, but something the schools seem to recognize, which makes it catch my attention.  I find it ironic, because today marks 20 days to go until IMMD, which means I'm at my second-to-last 10 Day Dedication.  And this one goes to my Mom and Dad.


Mom, honeymoon in the Bahamas
just hitched!

Dad, at the track in the Bahamas

I met them both on February 2, 1975, and it was love at first sight.  I was child #5, and their second daughter... the youngest of all.  To that end, in hindsight, I was definitely spoiled with their time.  Because the older four were so close in age, my parents were just busier and probably a bit more financially strapped during their childhood and teenage years.  By the time I became a teenager, I was the only one left to tend to, and they had a lot more time on their hands.

Martha's Vineyard, 1992

They have been married for 51 years.   And they still genuinely like each other.   Now that I am married and have children, I grasp what it must have been like for them when they were my age, raising their family.  It is hard to put the needs of your children first all the time.  It is hard to balance children and marriage.  As their child, I never saw that struggle... I mean, I heard them argue and disagree about any variety of issues.  But I never sensed what I now know:  that this is all much harder than anyone could ever tell you.  And I certainly never fully understood the level of selfless-ness it takes to be a parent.   I have a much deeper appreciation for all their sacrifices for us.  They are amazing parents

My Mom and Dad have always been there for me.  They attended countless swim meets, piano recitals, band concerts, school activities... they celebrated my victories.  They wiped my tears.   They instilled in me a sense of accountability for my own choices; they created in me a fear of ever disappointing them.

I have written a lot about my Dad through this blog and through my "spotlight" piece for Swim Bike Mom.  (in case you missed that, here's my SPOTLIGHT)  He is one of my major inspirations for doing IMMD, and certainly for tying my race into fundraising for The Little Things for Cancer.   My Dad was an incredible athlete growing up, primarily in baseball though he played football and basketball as well.  As many have already heard me say, at 80 years old he is still an active runner, and has been since college.
Dad, age 12
Dad, his 14th birthday, with his parents

He grew up in the Bronx, NY.  He was an only child of Irish immigrants, and by all accounts was the apple of his parent's eyes.  He was a good student, a talented athlete, and really good to them... he basically walked on water, as far as they were concerned.  His best friends were the boys from his neighborhood or from his school days.   They are still his best friends, and they make him laugh harder than anyone else.
Daddy's girl
My Dad is such an amazing man.  He is profoundly religious, but in a private way that doesn't make non-religious people uncomfortable.  His Faith is so strong, but he doesn't try to force it on other people.  He simply tries to live a good moral life, therefore setting a good example for those watching.  He most certainly isn't perfect, something he'll be the first to tell you.  He instilled in me a sense of priorities, starting in childhood, the order of which were:  God, family, schoolwork, athletics/swimming, and then friends/socializing.   His propensity towards neatness and preciseness in all things probably lended itself well to his career as an engineer.
5/15/04:  at Camden Yards on my way to get married

I guess you could say he was strict with us.  I don't know any different, but it seems to me, now that I am a parent, he really just wanted us to grow up to be respectable.  Back-talk was not acceptable, most especially if he heard it directed at my Mom.  He never disagreed with our teachers or coaches, at least not in our hearing.   He was always ready to help us study, to get us ready for tests and reports.  I fondly remember a few projects from grade school and high school history classes where Dad gladly took me to Antietem and Fords Theater so I could actually see the places I was writing about.
my first marathon, 2013
40 & 80

Dad also loves a good time.  He really likes people, and, like my sister, he can talk to anyone.  He is well known for the somersaults he does across many a dance floor at weddings and other occasions.  He loves when a pickup game of basketball gets started at family events; he enjoys going to baseball games and watching his grandchildren play their various sports.

My Mom is truly the most beautiful person I know.    She was the #6 child of 7 total; she lost her own father when she was only 8, so was raised by a single mom for much of her life in Brooklyn and Queens, NY.  I know that her childhood was not perfect, but I think that only made her a better mother.
Mom, age 7

dancing with Dad

Mom stayed home to raise the 5 of us.  My Dad traveled a lot for work, so Mom really was the day-to-day parent in our lives.   On any given day in the early 1980s, my Mom did the following:  made 5 breakfasts, ironed/laid out my father's work clothes, packed 5 school lunches, packed up 5 booksbags, oversaw the dressing and teethbrushing for school; drove a carpool of children to/from school; cleaned the kitchen; vacuumed; made the beds; did laundry for 7 people; managed the banking and finances for our household; volunteered at school; made afterschool snacks; drove a carpool to swim practice (or baseball or basketball); made dinner; cleaned up from dinner; made desserts; oversaw homework completion; dealt with whatever complaint one or more children had that day; ushered 5 children to bedtime at a reasonable hour; and tried unsuccesfully to stay awake to watch an episode of "Dynasty."  I'm pretty sure on most days, none of us said thank-you.   My Dad got the luxury of going to work each day or traveling for a few days and returning home the hero.  My Mom had to slog through life as the parent who really got the brunt of life with five children.
Mom with her five babies, 1977

She will probably read that paragraph and be a little embarrassed by it.  She would say to you, "Oh, it wasn't that bad.  I loved being your mother."  That's how she is.  Now that I am a mom who does the laundry and cleans and cooks... I totally understand the flip side of it.   It is hard to be doing all of those things and sometimes be invisible... even though I love being a mother.  Just like my mom, who I know loves being our mother, she was not really seen by us at the time for the giving person she is.  It takes becoming an adult, I think, for us to fully appreciate our parents, especially our mothers.
at a Paint Night

lucky girl with her parents, Jack (18M) -- 2009

And 5 children?  I really have no idea how she did it, and maintained her sanity.  I barely hang onto mine with the two I have.  If I am half the mother my Mom was, I will be doing a great job.  

at a wedding 2010
I know how lucky I am to have my Mom and Dad.  They still do so much for me, and my own little family.  And I know that my own sense of confidence, my belief that I can do anything that I set my mind to, comes from them.  They are the roots that made me strong.
Nags Head, 1984

Mom's 70th birthday

one of my favorite photos, ever

So thank you, Mom and Dad.  These next Ten Days are dedicated to you.  I am so proud to be your daughter.  During this time, I will pray with gratitude for all that you have given to me.  I will pray for your continued good health and more happy times to come.  I will remember everything you have taught me about not giving up, about always pushing forward, and about being thankful for every breath that I take.  I love you both more than I can ever say.  I hope I make you proud on October 3rd.

For this block of days, I have my last bit of long training, and I begin my taper.  I also have a race with my sister at the Dewey Beach Sprint Triathlon on September 19th.  I am so looking forward to that!

During these next Ten Days, I have:
4 Miles of Swimming
175 Miles of Biking
24 Miles of Running

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Indian Head 100 Mile Ride

Labor Day weekend proved to be a busy one in IMMD training-land.  I got in my longest run (18 miles) on Saturday at the lovely NCR trail in northern Baltimore County.  Had to start early at 6 a.m. because that sun was coming up fast!

not too hot, but super humid!

And Monday, I completed my second century ride, doing the Indian Head 100 Mile Ride in Indian Head, Charles County, MD.  When I started to organize my training plan, I knew I wanted to do two centuries prior to race day.   Having never gone more than 56 miles before, I thought it would be important to get to that 100 mark at least twice.  So I found a list of organized rides around the state and picked the two that worked best.  The first was last month on the Eastern Shore with my friend Sara.  This second one was done in the southern part of the state, in Charles County.  I went alone, as I felt it would be good training mentally of what race day will be like: me, the bike, and 6 to 7 hours to sit in the saddle and deal with it.  Why "organized rides" instead of just doing the mileage on my own?  Well, organized rides are mapped out well, have SAG support (call them if you break down or get hurt or whatever, they come pick you up), usually are in safe locations in as far as traffic is concerned, lots of other riders, and the food.  Yes, food... at the rest stops where you can re-fill your water bottles and grab a granola bar or PB&J.  Its so nice to have those little break areas built in.

So the Indian Head 100 is put on by the Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club.  You can do a shorter route, including a metric century (60 miles).  The Club had a strong presence at the ride, and they seemed to be a pretty neat group:  older members and a few teenagers, men and women, black and white... all shapes and sizes.  I enjoyed that.  Sometimes, with triathlons, you get way too many elite fitness types who weigh as much as my leg... and they seems to sneer at us regular folks for getting into the fray.  So a diverse group of normal folks was definitely fun to see... many of whom were zooming!!   There were one or two tools with their aero helmets on and race wheels, but I just made fun of them in my mind!  And it was spread out enough that I could use my aero-bars, which I will be doing almost exclusively at IMMD, so that was cool too.

Indian Head is about an hour and twenty minutes away.  I wanted to start the ride as close to 7 a.m. as possible, so I was up before 5, fixing coffee and breakfast, loading up the car, etc.  I headed down to Charles County and got there around 7.  After I checked in, I got my helmet and shoes on, loaded up provisions on the bike and headed out.
beginning and end of the ride

Charles County, for those who don't know, is very rural.  It starts south of Washington, D.C. and is flanked on the west and south by the Potomac River.  You can cross into Virginia from Charles County, and bypass all the Capital Beltway traffic.  Charles County was the last county in the State to get indoor plumbing... someone told me that one time and I tend to remember useless trivia.   For example, President Taft had a size 52 waist and once got stuck in the White House bathtub.  See?  Useless trivia.  I also remember dates and song lyrics really well... but I digress.

The first two-thirds of the route went along the west and south sides of the county, hugging close to the Potomac River.  It is very wooded, so there was a lot of shade which was really nice.  Kept the temperature under control until about 11, while the sun was mostly below the treeline.   Then, it just got HOT!
smooth sailing

The first rest stop, at around mile 20, was at Smallwood State Park... and they were serving up bacon egg and cheese muffin sandwiches.  It was AWESOME!  I mean, I did eat breakfast, but I love breakfast sandwiches!  Yummo.  Apparently, this bike club and this ride are known for this food stop of egg muffins... I can see why.

The course was mostly rolling hills... a few good climbs but only about 3200 feet total.  After the first rest stop, I passed some guy, and he got all up on my wheel and drafted for the next 15 miles or so.  I do not draft... one, you can't in triathlon anyway; but two, I am not a talented enough cyclist that I feel comfortable being up on top of someone and not freaking out if they shimmy one way or another.  So I would rather not.  But this dude, he was sneaky.  I was going along after passing him, and all of a sudden I could hear gears changing, and I looked to the right and could see my shadow and his basically on top of mine.  I sped up; he sped up.  It was so annoying.  I finally caught up with another group and we had a stop sign.  So he pulled ahead and mooched off them for awhile, but not after I yelled "you could at least buy me dinner."

At another point, they sent us down a steep hill that bottomed out then climbed back up.  At the top of the hill, starting to head down, there was a road sign that said BUMP.  Bump?  Where?  What the heck?!  I don't like downhills... or rather my collarbone doesn't.  PTSD anyone?  And BUMP is not good while careening at high speeds... and this hill was steep, so speed could not be avoided.  And I'm a nervous-nelly.  I kept watching for a bump and trying to keep my heart from leaping out of my chest... then at the bottom-out part there was this huge metal joint in the road...oh, THAT bump.  It jolted me so hard, my water bottle behind my seat went flying out.  I had started to ascend the hill but had to stop and get the bottle.  I was going to sacrifice it but still had about 70 miles to go... and could tell it was just getting hotter.

I road through Port Tobacco, which is where John Wilkes Booth first tried to cross the Potomac into Virginia while escaping after assassinating Lincoln.  The Lincoln assassination is one of my favorite aspects of American history, so I pulled of in the historic section to see the old courthouse and the historic marker. (Nerd Alert!).  There was also Rose Hill, the sight of the Legend of the Blue Dog and the homestead of Thomas Stone, hero in the American Revolution.  You can read more, if you are a history nerd too, by clicking here:Port Tobacco & Blue Dog Legend
the old courthouse, before the county seat was moved

always time for a history stop, even at mile 75

My last rest stop was at Mile 78.  By then, it was 92 degrees, and the sun was well overhead and beating down.  I tried to keep my breaks very short, because it is not like I'll be taking breaks like this in IMMD. But I really wanted to sit in the shade with everyone else for a spell.  There was one last stop at mile 89, but I blew by it.  By that point, I just wanted to be done.  I was so hot.
Charles County courthouse (because of course I took a photo of it)

 The last 5 miles were on the Indian Head Rail Trail.  It was a really pretty paved trail for bikers and runners, and it is apparently 26 mile long from end to end.  There were mile markers there, but those markers only seemed to taunt me as to how close (and yet so far away) I was to finishing.

the last part of the ride, on the Indian Head Rail Trail

And then it was over.  They had a big picnic afterwards with subs, watermelon, lemonade and iced tea.  It was nice to sit at the picnic tables with other riders.  I met a woman who did the 100, and it was her 69th birthday.  Pretty cool!

I would recommend this ride for sure.  It is well marked, well organized, well stocked in food, lots of opportunities for rest stops as needed, and outstanding volunteers. Oh, and there were some neat history things to look at too.  I felt strong, and I was proud that I got through it on my own.