Monday, January 13, 2014

My really long post about my 2014 marathon

I would call my 2014 marathon a great race and a disappointing venue.

We woke up from our room at the Swan at 3:15. The first thing I did was to check the temperature and it was 60º. It had rained the night before and I was hoping it will cool down a bit more but it was 60º and humid at the start (64º and sunny at the finish). So I donned my short-sleeve running shirt and my capri running pants instead of the long-sleeve set of running clothes I was hoping I would wear.

It’s so fun to see the world through the eyes of my 6 ½ year old. Even at 4 in the morning, she squealed, “We get to ride that!” when she saw the bus that would take us to Epcot for the start. “This bus has handles on the backs of the seats; that’s so cool!” and “Look at the giant golf ball (Epcot)” and “Look at that train (monorail); I get to ride that!” And on and on as she took in all the sights. Her excitement was so contagious. She allowed me to hold her hand as we made our way to the start through the thousands of other runners. She happily smiled for the race photographers.

Even though I didn’t really need it, I wore my throwaway jacket and had hand warmers prior to the start.

I really reveled in the sight of the fireworks for each corral at the start of the race. The fireworks are part of why I love the Disney race.

When my corral, G, started we were pretty packed for the first three miles. It was tight enough that it was hard to maneuver. I found a guy with a peach sleeveless running shirt who was running right at my pace. I got behind him and put my left shoulder on his right shoulder and let him pave my way. I lost him at the 3 mile water station but by then the road had widened and the crowd and thinned out to where it felt comfortable.

I knew hydration was going to be crucial for the day. I vowed to drink water at every station. I have to say that I’m better at drinking from the open cups than I used to be. I used to splash the water in my face, scaring me that I would flush out my eye contacts, snort half of it up my nose and spend a while coughing after choking down a sip. But I’m a bit better now. I perfected my routine of pointing to the water volunteer, thanking them, cupping my hand over my iPod in case I splashed and then taking a few gulps.

Before I knew it, we were at the 5.5 mile mark and at the Cinderella Castle. I had never seen the Castle with holiday lights and it was breathtakingly beautiful. Karen and Kylie had ridden the monorail and were in the crowds. This was the only stop that Cheer Squad folks could see the runners and it was packed. I smiled and waved and the cheering crowd gave me such a boost of energy.

My running strategy was to run between 9:00 – 9:20 for the first 7 miles, then told hold to 9:20 – 9:30 pace until at least 13 miles and then as long as I could after the half. Then to make it to mile 20 before hitting 10-minute miles and then to run the fastest 10 minute miles I could manage until the finish.

Based on my training runs, I thought I would realistically run my marathon 4:15 – 4:25. I knew that I definitely wanted to run faster than 4:30. If I ran a 4:30, I knew I would cry. So when I created a pace bracelet, I debated on making one with a realistic time or a PR time. I figured, “What the heck; if you’re going to make a pace bracelet, do one for a PR”. So I created my own pace bracelet showing me what I needed to run at each mile as well as my cumulative time at each mile. I created it with the goal of running 4:11 which would have been a 1 minute PR improvement over 2012’s time of 4:12. I had made a similar one before my last half marathon and used it with great success. I had printed it at home and then made it strong and (I thought) water safe by layering packing tape over all sides. My half-marathon homemade bracelet worked great. Well, apparently, I hadn’t taped my marathon one well enough. Because I looked at it at mile 5 and it was a black inky mess. Some water had splashed inside the tape and had made all the ink run together. There was nothing to read. All I thought was “Well, that’s going to look stupid and awful for the pictures” but I didn’t stress about it. I knew what I needed to do.

Mile 6 – 13 was my strongest part of the race. We were on back roads on our way to Animal Kingdom and I could focus on finding my happy pace along with a good running form. At around mile 9, we entered the Disney Speedway. The Speedway and the ESPN center portions of the run were new to me as this course was different than the one I had run in 2012. We had to run down a very sharp driveway and then back up a very short driveway to get onto the track. I ran on the innermost edge of the track circle. The track was filled with antique cars and their owners were kind and clapped for us but overall, I wasn’t that impressed with this portion of the course.

The halfway mark was at Animal Kingdom and there were some good crowds cheering for us. At this point I was pretty disappointed by the lack of Disney characters along the route. However, I did enjoy the bands along the route. They performed well, they smiled danced and really gave me a boost of energy. At mile 14, I was still going strong. At mile 15, we were running on the hardest concrete in the world. Granted, at home on training run, I run on sidewalks not on pavement. My body is used to concrete. But whatever concrete was used on mile 15 overpasses was a killer. My right hip and right groin area started to really complain. “Hang in there! You just hang in there!” I screamed to my muscles. We when got off the concrete and onto pavement again, I could immediately feel the difference in my hips.

And then came mile 16. I had studied the course map and saw that at 16 miles, there was what I call an “out and back”. This was a part of the course where half of the road was taken up by those of us heading into the ESPN complex and the other half of the road had runners who were heading for the finish line. From my first marathon, I knew that this was mentally depressing. It’s just hard to see thousands of people who are so far ahead of you. I had prepared myself but I still took a hit. And I had to look at the ground instead of ahead and around me in order to keep going. When I look at my splits, at mile 16 I dipped to 9:42 instead of the consistent 9:20’s I had been running. I ran a full mile looking away from all those thousands of runners ahead of me.

But then I entered the hell of the ESPN complex. Oy! I hated this part! We entered the complex and then ran a three-mile circuitous route (miles 17-20) around the various baseball fields and tennis courts but the majority of these three miles we were running on pea gravel. Pea Gravel! All along, I knew that miles 15 – 20 would either make or break my marathon and that I needed to run my best and my strongest. But damn, pea gravel is hard to run on! It kicks back at you from the runners in front of you. It makes your footing uncertain. It skids your steps. I spent the majority of this run screaming, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!” over and over.

At the start corral, I passed a 20-something boy who was running on blades. I thought of him and worried about his footing for this part of the course. I worried how the wheelchair people had made it. Plus, in addition to the pea gravel, the turns into the various fields were very tight. Each time, we had to squeeze into a new turn, runners were bumping shoulders and sliding together. I was bumped and jostled numerous times as were the people running all around me. And since I was at miles 17-20, these little bumps, hitches and tight turns caused pain.

Finally, at mile 20, I was back to the out-and-back. I heard Meryl Streep’s voice in my head from the movie, “River Wild”. When she had successfully negotiated the white-water gauntlet she had yelled, “We’re through!” And that’s what I thought as soon as I was away from the ESPN complex.

I had planned on having two Gu Chews every three miles. But I actually had 2 chews at miles 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 16, 19. At miles 13 until the end of the race I usually had a gulp or two of Powerade and then a whole cup of water at the water stations. I was drinking way more than I ever had at a race but I figured I needed it and thankfully my belly tolerated it very well. And the Powerade consistently gave me a sugary boost. Sweet heaven bless all those fabulous water station volunteers. There were so many of them taking care of us throughout the race. I’m so very grateful to them.

Miles 20 – 26 were filled with running my best through pain in both hips and knees. I remember at one point my right foot starting yelling with pain around my ankle. “Wow!” I thought. “That feels like a big blister has ruptured and is rubbing”. And then I thought, “Well that’s just a blister; no big deal.” And, this is hard to explain but I mentally “leaned” into that one point on my right ankle. I focused on that pain in order to block out all other pain. And dang it, if that didn’t work! I felt like I did when I had focused at a picture on the wall in order to get through birth contractions.

I should also report that I had noticed that I was “gaining ground” throughout the marathon. I had pressed my Forerunner start button when my foot crossed the start pad, not a second beforehand. And I had prided myself on keeping my head in the race by being aware of all the tangents. Yet still, I finished the marathon with 26.70 on my GPS. Over half a mile of extra running. I was painfully aware of this those last 6 miles. I looked at my GPS when I hit mile 20 and thought, “This could be close; getting a PR isn’t impossible. You could be close to your previous time.” But this was my GPS mile 20, not the actual mile marker 20. And this realization hit me hard in those last six miles.

Somewhere between mile 23-25, I saw the 4:15 pacer and I held with him as long as I could. And my time improved from 10:50 at mile 23 to 9:51 at mile 24. Having the pacer pull away from me when I was running my absolute hardest was heartbreaking. My legs were filled with pain but at least I didn’t experience the “hit the wall” feeling I had in 2012. People were flying past me and I shuffled painfully along. “Just run your best, Wendy.” “You are doing fine; just run your best”, I told myself over and over as I struggled to just pick my feet up. I barely noticed anything around me throughout those Magic Kingdom miles. Who knows what those race photos will look like.

But then, there was the 26 mile sign and there was the fabulous finish-line gospel choir singing their hearts out. And a lump built up in my throat as I turned down the finish shoot. And there! There was Karen and Kylie, waving crazily at me from the bleachers. I saw them. They were cheering for me! I had done it! I had finished! And as the volunteer placed my medal around my neck, I let myself have a few happy tears. And I was completely at peace. No PR but one hell of a great run. I knew I had run my absolute best at every mile. When you know that without a doubt, there is nothing but pride in what you have accomplished.

So that’s my happy story! And here are my splits: 9:08, 9:02, 9:06, 9:13, 9:19, 9:25, 9:09, 9:14, 9:12, 9:12, 9:14, 9:13, 9:23, 9:22, 9:20, 9:42, 9:36, 9;52, 10:04, 10:20, 10:08, 10:33, 10:50, 9:51, 10:36, 10:49, .70-7:33.

If you wanted just the running details, see above. But if you want to know more details about this year’s race at Disney, read on. I ran the Disney marathon in 2012 and loved it. I’ve been fiercely loyal to it. I’m a person who likes to put a positive spin on things but I have to say that they disappointed me this year. Here’s how:
In comparison to my 2012 race, there were no characters for pictures at the pre-race party.

There was a lot more talk from the commentators instead of pumping music at the start corrals.

My biggest disappointment was the lack of characters along the race course. It seemed at the 2012 race there was a character at every half mile. And the characters had beautiful backdrops and props. This was what made my race so enjoyable because I loved seeing what was around the next corner. It really pulled me along the race. At this year’s race I saw the Pirates of the Carribean characters (that was the first one and it was great with a ship as their background), a few Animal Kingdom performers on stilts, then Peter Pan and Wendy(no background), then Dug from “Up” stationed with Bolt and later, Princess Jasmine (no background). To go from 20-30 characters to just these few was a huge disappointment.

And if you read above, you'll know that I did not like the course change to include the ESPN complex.

Cheer tent for Karen and Kylie—last year Karen enjoyed a full breakfast with warm dishes like scrambled eggs and bacon served. This year it was cold bagels and fruit and that was it.

In 2012, at the finish line we received a box of food that a runner would want to eat after a marathon. I remember eating a delicious bagel with peanut butter on the bus trip back to the hotel. This year’s box was filled with stuff I definitely did not want—rice cakes, potato chips, and skittles.

The Disney race was very well organized. Everything from the race expo, to the race busses, to the water volunteers was handled very well. The marathon photo folks were plentiful and very friendly. But I have to say, I’ll may be looking for another race venue for next winter’s race. We’ll see.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Tossing the fat girl clothes

This Sunday, I'm running my second Disney Marathon.

I ran my first one on January 8, 2012. That marathon had so many high-points and so many interesting memories. One interesting memory occurred right before the start of the race. Racers all around me were bundled up in thermal blankets and throw-away sweatshirts and jackets. As the minutes counted down before the fireworks went off to signify the start, thousands of runners took off and wadded up their throw-away clothes and blankets and tossed them over to the sidelines. There were so many people doing this that it looked and sounded like like a scene from a movie where battle arrows fly across the night sky. I think my eyes got as big as saucers and I quietly squeaked, "Wow!"

I was so very cold before the start of that race.

I just had on my running clothes. No sweatshirt, no blanket.

So this year, I am determined to be better prepared.

I bought hand warmers for myself, Karen and Kylie (who will be cheering for me). I have a thermal blanket.

And I picked out a jacket. But this jacket has such a history. I have loved it. It is the perfect weight and proportion of softness and ruggedness. I have worn this jacket so many times.

Here is me and the jacket at Niagara Falls in 2004.

And me and the jacket at the Grand Canyon in 2005.

And as you can tell, I was quite a bit heavier then.

It took me a while to work up the nerve but back in 2011, after losing 70 pounds, I took almost all my former fat girl clothes to Goodwill. There are only a few pieces left. And this jacket is one of them.

But it is time to let it go. It doesn't fit and hopefully it never will again.

This Sunday, I will thank it for it's many years of providing me with warmth. I will thank it for warming me on Sunday's race morning. And then I will happily chuck that jacket away and go run a marathon.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Book list for 2013

In 2013, I read 35 books. 31 fiction books, 2 memoirs and 2 non-fiction books. I also listened to 22 audiobooks.

My favorite books of the year were these first four. The Penny & Hobb books were continuations on a series that I have read and loved for a while. The Simsion & Semple books were marvelous in their odd and and wonderful characters.
How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny
Blood of Dragon by Robin Hobb
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe
Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe
The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
The Elite by Kiera Cass
Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Divergent by Veronica Roth
This One Is Mine by Maria Semple
Dead Ever After Charlaine Harris
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Family Pictures by Jane Green
Farewell Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
Death by a Honeybee by Abigail Keam
Illuminations by Mary Sharratt
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Home Front by Kristin Hannah
The Good House by Ann Leary
Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
Little Bee by Chris Cleave

This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

The New Rules of Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald
The Wisdom of Compassion by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

I got so lucky with awesome audiobooks this year. I have greatly enjoyed all of these!
Jumper books by Steven Gould, 2nd book Reflex, 3rd Impulse
Iron Druid books by Kevin Hearne. Books in order: Hounded, Hexed, Hammered, Tricked, Trapped, Two Ravens and One Crow, Hunted, Grimoire of the Lamb.
Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
The Spirit Thief and The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel Aaron
Fingal O’Reilly Irish Doctor by Patrick Taylor
Inferno by Dan Brown
Calculated in Death and Thankless in Death by JD Robb
The Witness by Nora Roberts
Flanagan’s Run by Tom McNab
You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg

If you have some favorites of 2013 you would like to share, or your own list on the internet, please share with us in the comments! I'm always on the lookout for good books.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

One Little Word 2014- Confidence

Image courtesy of Ali Edwards.

This will be my seventh year with the One Little Word project.

I first read about this from Ali Edwards blog. She encouraged me to pick a word that would be a guiding force for the year.

My first word, in 2008, was Create.
I loved that word. For that year, I was ALL about creating. I created new experiences for my baby Kylie. I created a lot of love with Karen. I created a loving home in Portland. I created tons of scrapbook pages. I created lots of knitted projects. It was a fantastic word that truly motivated me throughout the year.

My second word, in 2009, was Choose.
This was an interesting word for me. The thought behind it was that life with Kylie was so encompassing that all lot of other things were starting to slip. Like my health/fitness. Like our finances. Like anything that wasn't Elmo-related. It was easier to go about the day-to-day stuff and not think nor work on the bigger goals. So picking the word "choose" was like a light slap on my cheeks encouraging myself to wake up and start working on my life. I was partly successful. But my memory of the word "choose" was that it wasn't much fun.

My third word, in 2010, was Steer.
"Steer" was "choose" on steroids.
I did steer my family to our new home in FL. I did steer my but to the gym and steered my attention to our budget. But "steer" was heavy in responsibility. It was my least favorite word.

My fourth word, in 2011, was Triathlete.
For the entire year, I ran. I learned to bike. I learned to swim. The process was fear-filled yet exhilarating. And I fell in love with the training. I believe that in a non-competitive sense, I did become a triathlete.

My fifth word, in 2012, was Cultivate.
As Becky Higgins writes on her blog: Cultivate a good life and record it. I fell in love with this phrase. It was a great touchstone for me as I worked to create memorable moments throughout the year. I think I was most successful when I created our Summer Manifesto. I had so much fun posting that list on our fridge and ticking off the items.

My sixth word, in 2013, was Manifesto. Manifesto was very similar to Cultivate as my OLW. The idea of the manifesto wasn't so much a "to do" list to stress over but rather a list of things that are seasonal and important and fun. Once again, our Summer Manifesto was our best. And I'm very proud of the 8x8 book filled with pictures and stories that documented our 2013 Summer.

My seventh word, in 2014, will be Confidence. So let another year with One Little Word begin!

You can read more about the One Little Word project here. And for inspiration, you can see Ali's list of words here.

If you've picked a word for the year, please share it with us!

Monday, September 16, 2013

First weeks of first grade


Here is a summary of some notes I’ve taken over Kylie’s first weeks of school. She loves her new school. And Karen and I are very happy with the curriculum and her teachers.

Journal writing.
Kylie’s favorite part of the day is the first 30 minutes in the morning when she gets to write in her journal. The teacher has a journal prompt on the screen/board each day such as “My favorite sport is…” Kylie writes first and then gets to draw a picture and color it with crayons to illustrate her journal writing. We would love to see her journal but it is a part of her schoolwork that stays in her desk.

Plus on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Kylie gets an additional 45 minutes where she gets to write fictional stories.

Kylie has an hour devoted to reading every day. The first 15 minutes consist of a reading lesson, then 35-40 minutes of reading time, and then a 5-10 minute close. Mrs. Lenhart either puts a bin of books onto the table of four desks for the children to choose from or she has books in each of the children’s individual bags. Once the children have their books, they are allowed to sit on pillows or beanbags in their classroom for their daily bit of reading. During their reading time, Mrs. Lenhart works individually with some students and does assessments. Her school follows the Fountas and Pinnell language arts curriculum.

Spelling and Word Study.
Kylie has 20 minutes devoted to spelling every day. Although Kylie hasn’t brought home a spelling list to learn, she has had several spelling tests where the teacher is getting an idea of the spelling skills of her class. The children put up privacy shields around their workspace when they are taking a test. The children also have 20 minutes of word study each day. So far, they’ve worked on learning about each other’s names such as how many syllables in their names and the beginning and ending letters.

Karen and I really like that Mrs. Lenhart corrects Kylie’s backwards 4’s, 5’s, 7’s and 9’s in her math work. Kylie didn’t get any corrections for that in kindergarten. Kylie has an hour of math each day. So far her math work has included counting to ten, identifying what comes before and after numbers to ten, and reading and writing the number words zero to ten and number bonds up to ten. Her school follows the Singapore Math curriculum.

Her school uses D'Nealian style of handwriting which is different from “Handwriting without Tears” form of writing that Kylie learned in kindergarten. Fortunately, there is a handwriting guide on Kylie’s desk for her reference. It’s a bit of a change for Kylie to switch to this more cursive style of printing but she’s learning it well.

Other studies:
Computer and French
On Mondays Kylie has an hour-long computer class. She loved the class where she used a computer to draw a circle, fill the circle with color, take a picture of herself using the computer camera, resize the picture to fit in her circle, and print the picture. The children’s pictures were put on a bulletin board outside their class. Kylie loves her computer class.

On Mondays Kylie also has thirty minutes of French lessons. She is a little behind her classmates in this topic because her kindergarten school emphasized Spanish. But I’m sure Kylie will soon be up to speed learning how to speak French colors, numbers and sing French songs.

Library, Art and Science
On Tuesdays, Kylie gets to spend 45 minutes in the Library and gets to check out 2-3 books. Following the library time, she gets 45 minutes of Art and later in the afternoon, she gets a 30-minute Science lesson. For Science, she gets to go into the other 1st grade classroom and learn about that classroom’s pet teacup pig named Priscilla. Kylie loves Priscilla. She came home and drew a beautiful Priscilla picture and made her a snack of Cheerios. She got to feed her a Cheerio the following day. Later in the Fall, they will study different Science topics but right now, Kylie loves learning about Priscilla the pig.

Music, Social Studies and Drama
On Thursdays Kylie has a 40 minute Music class. The children has created their own musical rhythms using characters like hearts or squares. For example a heart shape could symbolize at “ta” sound and a square could symbolize a “sh” sound. Kylie’s favorite pattern was two slow ta’s and 3 fast sh’s. Kylie has a 40 minute Social Studies class. Right now that class is studying a character development piece "How Full is Your Bucket". It’s all about being kind and helpful and not being mean. Kylie has really enjoyed the fact that the children have individual classroom mail boxes where you can send nice notes to one another. She has written several notes and received some too. And in her 30 minute Drama class, the kids have been paired up in two’s and practice being mirrors for one another—where one child moves slowly and the partner tries to copy it precisely. There are no words during this exercise, but I’m sure there are lots of giggles.

Kylie has 30 minutes of a PE class on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in addition to her daily 30 minutes of recess. The PE coach has lots of very creative, team-building games that use balls, beanbags, cones and flags for props.

Other items I don’t want to forget:
Classroom Treasure Chest. Kylie’s teacher rewards good behavior by giving out pennies to the children. On Fridays, the teacher opens the treasure chest where the kids can “buy” small items like yo-yos, stickers, or sticky hands. The items all cost differently so the kids can buy something with the 1-2 pennies they have earned that week. Or they can save their pennies to buy an item that costs 5-25 cents. Kylie was thrilled with this until she learned that the pennies were plastic pennies. Instead of buying something with the pennies, Kylie just wanted to keep the money which cracked us up. Still, she has chosen to buy something each Friday and is pleased with her rewards.

Classroom roles:
Each week, Kylie gets assigned a new classroom role. The first week is was floor monitor—checking to make sure the floor are cleaned. The second week it was pillow piler—one who returns any pillows back to their correct positions. But for both weeks, Kylie didn’t get to “do” anything because the floors and pillows were tended to by the other children. But I love how conscientious Kylie has been about her role.

2 Moms
Lastly, I want to write how impressed Karen and I have been with the school’s communication with us. All of their school forms have “parent” or “guardian” instead of “mother” and “father”. All of their letters to us have had the correct salutations. The teachers and the principal have been as warm and welcoming to us as they have been to the other parents. But we haven’t experienced that “let’s be extra nice to the gay family” vibe. It’s been perfectly equal which has been perfectly lovely.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kylie's classroom

I thought you might like to see inside Kylie's classroom. On the morning of Friday, August 16th, we had a "meet the teacher" event at the school where we dropped off Kylie's school supplies.

This is the entry.

Kylie gets to wear a backpack to carry her homework and lunch. The children have wooden cubbies outside the classroom to store their belongings. Kylie's cubby is the first on the left of the classroom door.

This is Kylie's teacher Ms. Lenhart. Several of her previous years' students stopped by to tell her about their summers. Karen and I took this as a good sign.

There are 16 students in Ms. Lenhart's class. 8 boys and 8 girls. You can see that there are four groups of tables made up of four desks. Kylie's desk is at the table closest to Ms. Lenhart. Kylie got the far left desk which is fortunate because she is left handed.
There is an opening under the desk for a little box that holds pencils, glue stick and crayons along with Kylie's daily journal.

Kylie gets to visit the school library on Mondays but I love how many books there are in the classroom. There is an hour of reading time scheduled for every school day. I also love how Kylie has a view of the outdoors from her classroom.

Sweet little nook.

Kylie has an hour of technology once a week. This computer lab is next to her classroom.

Kylie was very impressed with her gift of Smarties from her teacher!

First day of first grade

Tuesday was Kylie's first day of first grade at her new school. I asked Kylie if I could take some pictures and she readily agreed. Our little girl likes to strike a pose.
And while she looks lovely and I love it when her little-girl belly shows, this pose was just too forced for my tastes. I've found that I can get a more natural look from Kylie but it usually takes me behaving like an goofball. So I quickly started bouncing up and down singing "The Wonderful Things about Tiggers" song.
Singing and acting silly got me some lovely giggles.


And there's that full-out laugh that I love so well.

This is probably one of the last photos with all her upper baby teeth. Her two front teeth are loose and her left one is so loose, it could go any day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The triathlon race

The August 17th morning of the Believestrong triathlon in Orlando, FL was perfect. It had rained the night before which cooled the temps to a pleasant 78º. It was still dark when I set up my bike and stuff in the transition area and I got my arms marked with my race number 35. 35 was Karen’s high school and college basketball number. She and I thought it was lucky and kind of cool to have this number written with a large sharpee on both of my arms. I had a T for triathlon written on my left calf (there was also a duathlon that day) and my age on my right calf. After setting up and getting marked, I wanted to go to the lake. There was an awesome sunrise over Lake Mary Jane.



I loved this lake. It was so pretty and warm and it wasn’t weedy at all like Lake Butler where I had practiced. I waded right in and did some warm-up strokes. I felt completely calm. These next two pictures are two of my favorites. All morning, Kylie kept hugging me and telling me she loved me and wished me luck over and over. It was so sweet. After we had our short race meeting and the race started for the men, the women were instructed to wade in to our ankles. Kylie wished me one more good-luck and I turned to blow her a kiss.



In the picture, you can see the closest large orange buoy. If you look to the left side of the picture, you can see another buoy. And there was another buoy on the far right. The three buoys made a triangle. And for this race, we would swim two loops around the triangle. I started off strong and was so glad that I didn’t get hit or kicked in the initial rush. But when I took my first sighting, I was way off course and veering too far to the right. This happened over and over as I went around the first two buoys. I would think I was swimming straight and I would sight and I would be far to the right again. After rounding the second buoy, I got a bit better. I started pulling with my left arm more and holding my head so that in my mind it seemed like I was swimming in a diagonal. And somehow this kept me swimming straighter. I was pleased with how calm I stayed but it was disconcerting to keep loosing my bearings. I did more breaststroke than I thought I would. But my breaststroke was really strong. I actually passed another swimmer as I was breaststroking and she was freestyling. I ended up sighting about every 2 breaths and I was worried that this was slowing me way down. I was also worried at one point about the timing chip strapped to my ankle. I thought it was falling off. I reached down and touched it and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to tighten it up. So I just prayed that it would stay on for the swim and luckily it did! When I had done time trials in the pool, I consistently swam 1500K in 34-35 minutes. I didn’t know it when I left the lake, but I had completed this part of the race in 31 minutes.


After leaving the lake, there was a .18mile run down a beach, onto some grass, onto a road and back onto the grass of transition. If you look in the distance of these next two photos, there is a small orange flag. That’s where our transition area was located. After tightening my timing chip on my ankle, I started running barefoot and chatting with Karen a bit as she took some pictures. She smiled, gave me a big thumbs up and reminded me to “Go, run!” I laughed because I was so proud that I had just swam a mile that I could have jogged and talked with her the whole way. I ran this part of the transition in 2:10.


When I got to transition, I used a sports water bottle to squirt the worse of the dirt and sand off my feet. And I put on my socks, shoes, tank, race belt, bike gloves and helmet. I thought I was moving as fast as I could but I was actually in T1 (transition 1) for 5:40. When I told my awesome trainer Joy my T1 time, she laughed as asked me if I had gotten a massage while I was there! I’m shocked that I spent so much time there! Almost all of the bikes were gone from T1 when I left but I was prepared for this. I knew that there were some really fast athletes out there. And I just stayed focused on doing my race and not worrying about coming in last.


Then it was time for the bike ride. I did my best to walk/jog my bike up to the mount area. Karen snapped this great picture as I mounted my bike and then….paused. My head was screaming, “Go, go!” but my body just sat there and took it all in. The race volunteer yelled “Mount, mount!” and Karen yelled, “Mount!” and that was enough to get me going. Off, on the bike, I went.


The first five miles were so hard. Little did I know that I was on a long, slow incline. It seemed flat to me. I only knew that I was only biking at 13.5-14mph. I was fussing at myself thinking, “This won’t do. You’ve got to go Wendy! You must go faster!” Finally, at 5 miles, I crested the hill, leveled out and flew. I looked down and was going 17mph. “Oohhh….I was on a hill. Well no wonder I was going slow. Ok. It’s going to be ok now!” I was so happy that I wasn’t going to end up with a 2 hour bike ride that I really enjoyed the rest of the 25 miles. Most of the race course was loops through neighborhoods but all the turns had volunteers with flags, showing us the turns. The turns and the u-turns were much easier than the tighter turns I had practiced. I smiled and spoke with the other race participants I saw. I smiled and thanked all the volunteers and police officers.

And I was so tickled to see Karen and Kylie at the halfway point u-turn. They hollered and cheered and I was so happy that you can almost here my “Wheeee” in this picture.


My goal was to finish the 25 miles in 1:40. But I actually finished in 1:29. I just knew that I was sooo happy pulling back into the transition area to begin my run. For me, the hardest parts were over.


In T2/transition 2, I stowed my bike, downed 8oz of Gatorade, took off my helmet and put on my running hat and re-tied my shoes. But unfortunately, I did not strap on my Garmin. My Garmin battery was completely dead. I had charged it but then stowed it in my transition bag and it must have gotten bumped and turned on and somehow run down. Regardless, it was dead. And headphones and music are prohibited in triathlons. I was warned to not even try to get away with wearing music because it could cause a time penalty. So here I was without Garmin and without music, two items I always use when I run.

I ran out of T2 in just 1:58 and started the run. The run was held in the Moss Park campground. But I was not prepared for the fact that the entire run was on a dirt/sand road. The dirt and sand was fairly loose. As my ankles and knees wobbled I thought, “Well I didn’t prepare for this. Let’s see how it goes.” Overall this surface was easier on my hips but harder on my knees and ankles. And the run course wasn’t marked for mileage. So I had no idea how far I had run. I only knew that I had two loops to cover. I was so happy to see Karen at the halfway mark of the run. And Kylie ran out to high-five me. Isn’t that a great picture of she and I running together?!




As I passed Karen and Kylie, I could hear the cheers and music of the finish line as people were finishing. That part was hard because I still had 2.8 miles to run. Plus the temperature was 84º and it seemed more humid. But I settled in with the knowledge that I was almost done. For the entire run, since I didn’t have my Garmin, I had to ask myself, “Are you running as fast as you can but not flat out sprinting?” and I kept answering yep, going as fast as I can. On the last loop, I passed three other runners and there was some satisfaction in that. But for the entire run, my feet were squishing in all the sweat pooled in my shoes. And some grit had embedded above my left heel and caused a huge blister that I thought was bleeding it hurt so badly. My right knee started twinging pretty badly and I was in marathon flashbacks with that pain. But I kept pushing on until I saw the finish shoot.

As soon as I entered the shoot, I was filled with all-consuming pride, joy and happiness. I started wiggling my butt as I danced/ran around with my hands thrown over my head screaming out loud, “I did it! I did it! I did it!”




And the fabulous racers who had finished and were lining the shoot cheered and laughed and celebrated with me.



As soon as I finished, I leaned against a tree as my family brought me water and Gatorade. I peeled off my shoes and socks and was relieved that I had many angry blisters but that none were bleeding. And then I asked Karen my time and she told me the clock time was 3:04. I was blown away. I thought this triathlon would take me 3:15 – 3:30. I was prepared to be very happy with anything less than 3:30. Karen ran over to the timekeeper and was told my official chip time was 3:01:35. I was so astonished that I actually said, “I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t see how I could have been that fast. Please check again!” Dutifully, she checked again and then announced, “The timekeeper said you need to stay for the award ceremony. You won your age group. You are going to get a medal.” Oh my heavens! Now I was dumbfounded.

When I found out a few weeks ago that most triathlons don’t give out medals to all finishers, I was crushed. I really love my race medals. I couldn’t believe that they give out medals like candy at 5K’s and 10K’s but that they wouldn’t give a medal for an accomplishment like a triathlon?! But now, Karen was telling me that I was actually going to get a medal. I was overwhelmingly happy.


Someone had asked me which was more difficult—the marathon or this Olympic-distance triathlon. My answer was that the marathon was physically harder. But the triathlon was mentally and emotionally harder. It’s just harder to balance all three sports. I’ve had such a huge learning curve with regards to swimming and biking. Literally coming from not being able to swim but one lap and not knowing how to ride a bike at all to this triathlon race has been such a long, laborious, hard, and magnificent journey. I’ve had my share of crying meltdowns about it. Do you know why I cry and worry and obsess? Because under it all, I love this sport and this training. It means sooo much to me. It’s hard to convey how much it means and what an epic goal this has been. I feel so blessed. And I’m so grateful to my Karen, my Kylie, my trainer Joy, my swim coach Gus and many others as they have helped me along my journey.


Here’s the official stats:
15K/.932 mile swim: 31:49 (2:07 per 100m or 1:56 per 100 yards)
2:10 beach run, 5:40 T1
40K/ 24.85 mile bike: 1:29:58 (16.85 pace)
T2: 1:58
9K/ 5.6 mile run: 46:53 (8.22 pace)
Total time: 3:01:35