Mommy Wants a Timeout

In which I contemplate absurd moments in parenthood, occasionally attempt to refer to myself as a “triathlete” while keeping a straight face, and maybe post some random pictures of stuff I’m knitting

Archive for the tag “training”

10 Reasons Why…

10 Reasons Why I Can’t Run My First Olympic Triathlon Tomorrow:

1. My back has been aching like crazy for over a week.
2. I’m afraid of drowning in the Willamette River
3. The water will be cold.
4. The weather will be terrible.
5. I’m afraid I won’t be able to take in enough calories without feeling sick to have the energy to complete the 10K run.
6. What if I fall off my bike in the transition area?
7. Speaking of bikes, what if I get a flat tire? I’ve still never changed one entirely on my own…My husband has always been there to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and take over when I get frustrated.
8. Speaking of husbands, mine has to work that day, so he won’t even be there to cheer me on.
9. Did I mention it will be raining, with a possibility of thunder? Seriously, who schedules a triathlon at the end of September, anyway? (A bunch of Oregonians, that’s who!)
10. I’m burned out from all the training I’ve been doing, and VERY ready to veg in front of the TV for a while.

10 Reasons Why I WILL Run My Olympic Triathlon Tomorrow:

1. I’ve swam in cold water before and it didn’t kill me.
2. For that matter, I’ve swam in the Willamette River before and it didn’t kill me (though I might be growing some mutant parts…)
3. I’m an Oregonian…I don’t let a little inclement weather spoil my plans.
4. Gatorade, Shot Blox, gummy fruit snacks…They’ve all sat well enough during my training, and no one ever starved in 3 and a half hours, so even if I don’t eat much, I’ll probably live through it.
5. I paid a lot of money for this race…And there are no refunds. (I’m a total cheapskate.)
6. I’ll earn a cool finishers’ medal to put on my wall.
7. Swimming under my favorite bridge in Portland and then running over it should be pretty awesome!
8. Lots of people have supported me in my training so far: my mom and dad have babysat my son while my husband worked so I could fit in a group swim; my friend brought her kayak out to the river to paddle alongside me while I swam; and countless other friends and strangers have given me words of encouragement and support. I can’t let them all down!
9. As a coach said to me last weekend, “You’re as strong as you want to be.” And I want to be just strong enough to finish this race with a smile on my face.
10. I’ll feel SOOOOOO much less guilty about spending 90% of the next week sitting around and doing nothing if I can tell people “I’m taking it easy for the week…I just did my first Oly tri!”

Yep, unless circumstances beyond my control intervene (like a cancellation due to thunderstorms) tomorrow at 7:48 a.m. I will be running into the Willamette River. I hope I will be tough enough to deal with whatever comes after that, but I know at least that I am tough enough to get to the starting line!

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My Big Year…(Or, A Post About Birds and Running)

You know, as in “The Big Year,” that movie with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black? About birding? This is my post about birds. Birds and running, actually, or how birds make running interesting (to me, anyway) and therefore much more tolerable.

The reason I’m thinking about this topic is that I received a round of applause from motorists along my running route last week, and it had nothing to do with my attire, my speed, or the fact I was NAILING my tempo pace just a day after a long, hard bike ride. No, they were clapping because I stopped running to jump off the sidewalk into the busy street, stop traffic, and herd a crowd of ducklings across the street after their mother. (I’d tried to talk her out of crossing a moment before, but she was determined. “Don’t do it, you stupid duck! The lake is on this side of the road! Think of your children!” She didn’t listen, she just quacked in agitation and tried to waddle past me.)

I’m sure we were a comical picture, me trying to hustle along these ducklings who were so tiny they kept falling over trying to run away from me. Once I got them safely over the curb on the far side of the road, (Have you ever watched very small ducklings trying to hop up on a curb? It took each of them at least three tries.) I looked up and saw drivers and passengers clapping for me. I gave them a wave and started running again with a smile on my face that lasted the rest of the run, even as I tried to salvage my tempo pace.

It was the second run in a week that was slowed down by my fascination with birds, especially baby ones. On Thursday I stopped in the middle of an 8-mile easy run to take this picture of Canada geese with a big group of goslings; 8 or 9 if I counted right.

Not the best quality picture...My eyes were still dilated from the ophthalmologist's that morning.

Not the best quality picture…My eyes were still dilated from the ophthalmologist’s that morning.

I’m lucky enough to live and run near greenspaces that are filled with different creatures that entertain me. Here is my “Big Year” list of birds I’ve seen during this year’s training:
1. Red-tailed hawk
2. Great Blue heron
3. Red-winged blackbird (these guys sing to me while I run…I love it!)
4. Mallard duck
5. Northern coot
6. Spotted towhee
7. Flicker (These woodpeckers are one of my favorites)
8. Robin
9. Scrub Jay
10. Junco
11. Sparrow
12. Bushtit
13. Crow
14. Seagull (They must be a little misguided, since there’s a mountain range and at least 60 miles between here and the ocean)
15. Anna’s hummingbird
16. Goldfinch
17. House finch
18. Chickadee
19. Wood duck
20. Barn swallow (While I was running along a path beside a blackberry hedge on one side and soccer fields on the other yesterday, a couple of these guys started swooping in circles around me. They stayed with me for over a quarter of a mile, crossing right in front of me. At first it was kind of fun. Then it got a little creepy…What was their game, anyway? I never figured it out.)

I’ve also seen a few other species I haven’t identified, since my Field Guide to Birds of North America is too heavy to fit in my hydration belt pocket.

All these birds, along with the occasional rabbit, raccoon, deer, or gopher entertain me while I’m running and cycling, and help me appreciate the surroundings I get to train in. And if a photo opportunity or a chance to do some animal rescue interrupts a workout, I’m okay with that. I’m doing my best not to take my triathlon hobby TOO seriously!

Dogwoods in bloom...Another beautiful sight captured while on a run!

Dogwoods in bloom…Another beautiful sight captured while on a run!

Back to Reality…

But reality kind of sucks right now…Can’t run, can’t bike, and the kiddo is really sick of hearing me say, “Mommy can’t chase you right now…She has an owie on her foot.” So instead of reflecting on my current reality, I’ll sit on the couch eating caramel-macadamia nut clusters and reflect on our week in Maui.

How’s this for an auspicious beginning to a vacation? I’d already made the unfortunate trip to the podiatrist that earned me an immobilizing boot and an admonition that “You’d better come back from Hawaii with a tan that ends just below your knee!” Then we get to the airport and learn that our flight has been delayed 15 hours, until 1 am, because a bird flew into the plane engine. (In the midst of the adults’ discussion of this inconvenience, my sweet little guy pipes up, “Did the bird die?” Oh, that innocence just about breaks my heart sometimes.) Many hours later, we find ourselves in Maui in the middle of the worst storm to hit the islands all winter…Flooding! Wind! Lightning! Welcome to vacation!!!

But it did get better from there. Maui’s winter rain is, at worst, a heckuva lot better than Portland’s. And after a couple days, the rain slacked off, and though the seas were still choppy, I got some great ocean swims in. Nothing too demanding, though; when this is what you’re seeing underwater, it’s tough not to slow down and check it out:

By the way, all those pictures were taken by my husband…He had the benefit of snorkel gear. (Actually, I rented gear too, but when it came down to it, I trusted my own breathing apparatus more than that tube thingy that kept filling up with water.) Here he is, showing off his superior grasp of all things technical and complicated:

The orthopedic boot didn’t slow me down too much. (Partly because I only wore it when we weren’t on the beach, which was about half the time we were there.) I hiked down to here:

But not up to here:

And I probably shouldn’t have walked out here:
But I did it anyway, and managed not to trip over the lava rock or into a tidepool.

The three generations of my family that took this trip with me did a great job of distracting me from my injury, and they forgave me for staring wistfully at the dozens of runners along the beach paths and highways. But now we’re home again, there are no tropical fish to swim with, and the boot is still firmly secured to my foot…Whatever will I distract myself with now? These macadamia-nut clusters are pretty good, and it’s only a week until the Mad Men premiere, so I’ll do my best to muddle through. But what I wouldn’t give for a teensy, weensy little five-miler right now…

The whole family (boot included)

I am an ATHLETE!!! (Just don’t ask me to climb a flight of stairs.)

Ouch…That’s about all I have to say right now.

Ha, ha…Just kidding. This is my blog, and my race report, so I definitely have a few things to say. But now that I am a half-marathon finisher survivor, the biggest thing on my mind is, “Wow. I hurt a lot more the day after than I thought I would.”

If you read my earlier angst-filled post, you already heard me whine about my injured foot, and knew that it was no sure thing I would run Sunday. But dammit, I paid the entry fee, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s the idea of paying for a race and then denying myself the pain and suffering of participating.

So before the crack of dawn Sunday morning, I strapped on my motion-control shoes, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and headed to downtown Portland for the Heartbreaker Half. It was a brisk 34 degrees outside, but luckily I had many blocks to walk from where I had to park the car to get myself warmed up. And I managed to time things just about right…Enough time to get through the porta-potty line and line up for my race without too many extra minutes to freeze and/or freak myself out.

Not that it mattered…A combination of nerves and the Gatorade I slurped down as I left my car gave me a horribly queasy stomach for the first 5 or 6 miles of the race. But I kept my breakfast down, and kept telling myself the nausea would pass eventually, and on the bright side, my foot didn’t hurt yet! But although they were flat and unchallenging, those first miles were the worst part of the race for me.

Just before mile 6, the course started climbing up hill, eventually getting pretty steep. I learned later that the course climbs about 500 feet betweeen miles 6 and 10. (Glad I didn’t know that ahead of time!) Ironically, this was when I started relaxing a little and chatting with the other runners. Misery loves company, right? Something about running hard and still only achieving an 11:30 mile just makes you comfortable striking up a conversation/complaint with a stranger. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, I know I’m not fast, so I might as well be a cheerleader for others!

After this grueling uphill section, we ended up running on a bike path bordering a beautiful wooded park…Still pretty hilly, but with enough twists and turns you couldn’t really see what was coming next. All the better, in my opinion. My legs were getting pretty tired, but I’d only felt a few twinges in my foot, (Seriously, my Brooks shoes are like a walking cast!) so I was beginning to feel like I might actually be able to finish this thing. And the nausea was gone by now, so I was able to eat an energy chew every couple miles, which kept me from burning out altogether. Interestingly, throughout this section of the race, I traded leads several times with a racewalker who was maintaining a pace that was so steady I could have set my watch by it. Yep, I’m not even ashamed to say it… I was averaging about the same speed as a walker. But hey, what normal person walks at and 11-min. mile? She really was amazing, and I told her so.

Eventually we left the park and began to head downhill, back to the city center and the finish line. With around 3 miles to go, I was now pretty sure I would be able to finish, and man, I couldn’t finish soon enough. I picked up the pace, finally said “see ya” for good to my race-walking buddy, and did my best to ignore my rubbery legs and twinging ankle.

In the last couple miles, I mentioned to another runner that this was my first half-marathon…She congratulated me, then pulled ahead…But just as we passed the 12-mile mark, she turned, jogged back towards me, and said, “Sometimes the last mile is the hardest.” “You want to keep me company?” I asked, and we ran the last mile together, sharing her stories about running all over the world, and mine about being a beginner triathlete. The last mile flew by, (at least in part because I ran it about 2 minutes faster than my average for the previous 12!) and pretty soon we were coming up on the finish. Sharon, my new friend, told me she was going to back off so I could have the finish to myself, and I made it across the line in 2:23:39…21 seconds faster than my projected time.

Finishing was awesome, the strawberry shortcake they served was awesome, I’m told that they announced my name when I crossed the finish line, which would have been awesome if I’d been paying attention…The only part that wasn’t so awesome was not seeing my husband and son cheering for me at the finish. Apparently DH got mixed up and ended up along the 10K course finish, which came in from the other direction. Poor guy had been waiting there for half an hour with camera at the ready. If he hadn’t heard my name over the loudspeaker, he might never have realized his mistake! So no finish line photos, but that’s just fine.

As for the recovery, my muscles were so sore the next day that walking down stairs was nearly impossible. Tensing my quadriceps sent waves of pain throughout me. And I was reduced to waddling around the house in the posture of a geriatric duck. Oh, and my foot hurts too. Time for a few days off from running, I guess. And maybe a trip to the podiatrist.

So I can check it off my list: half-marathon, complete. Building an endurance base to help me through an Olympic distance triathlon: complete. Plans for another half-marathon? Not anytime soon, that’s for sure!

Seriously, I’m Not Crazy…I’m Inspirational!

It occurred to me while reading another triathlete‘s blog post about suffering from C.B.F. that I might have the opposite problem. You see, I smile at EVERYONE I see when I run. If you’re someone I see every day, I’ll give you a little wave. Sometimes, on an easy run, I have enough energy to say a few friendly words to a passing dog. And I’m an equal-opportunity bringer of good cheer…If I’m in need of encouragement, I’ll even speak a few words out loud to myself.

And just as someone else might assume that someone with C.B.F. isn’t very friendly, it occurred to me today that maybe some of the people I see on my runs and rides might possibly think I’m a little crazy. Especially if they think I’m smiling and talking to myself because I love being out in the cold and rain, huffing and puffing in the name of fitness.

Why do I do it? Not because I’m crazy, obviously. (Wait a sec…I think I can hear my husband arguing with me about that, even though he’s not home…Hearing voices isn’t a symptom of anything, is it?) I think I do it out of a sense of goodwill, and maybe a sense of shared experience with other people who are braving the elements to get out and get moving. I know from personal experience that it’s not easy!

Are we having fun yet???


I came to a realization when I was doing my first triathlons last summer that despite my best efforts, I will always be a middle-of-the-packer, which is really and truly okay with me. As long as I’m having fun and achieving my personal goals, I don’t mind where I place. I do, however, have a the potential to be inspirational to others. As I lined up in my wave at my first tri, I calmed my nerves by leading a group cheer for all the first-timers. On the bike leg, I tried to shout a few words of encouragement and/or admiration to everyone who passed me (and the one or two people I passed.) My exertion level precluded speech by the time I was running, but I did smile at everyone I passed on opposite sides of the turnaround.

I kept up that crazy cheerfulness the whole summer, and I hope I’ll keep it up for the rest of my triathlon career. If I’m ever too tired to give a smile and a wave to a fellow athlete, I doubt I’ll be having fun, and right now, fun is what it’s all about for me. Even if I look a little crazy sometimes.

Full of good cheer!

Photo credits: http://www.unausaeastbay.org/runforpeace/about_run.html; http://www.cheergiver.com

On relaxing…(or at least, trying to!)

Type A. Anxiety-prone. OCD. Rigid. Afraid of change. All of these are terms I’ve either used to describe myself, or have been described as by my (long-suffering) husband. For this reason I spent the first few months of my son’s life in a near-panic state. (Don’t turn the TV on while you’re holding him! You’ll give him ADHD! And make sure you talk to him while you’re changing his diaper, so his language skills develop properly!) It’s also why I started training for my first sprint triathlon over a year in advance…You can’t be too prepared, right?

Awww, he's so perfect...BECAUSE I CONTROL EVERYTHING HE DOES!!!


It seems kind of funny to me now…Did I really think my son’s emotional and cognitive development was so fragile that I had to do everything just as the experts recommended, every moment of every day, or risk turning him into a juvenile delinquent? And did I really need to read, plan, schedule, and train with that much dedication in order to cross the finish line in a race that only lasted an hour and a half?

Yeah, probably not. My son seems to be turning out just fine, except for a few little personality quirks, like stubbornness, that I take no credit for. And all my races last summer turned out far easier (and more fun) than I expected. So I’m feeling lots more relaxed about my parenting skills, and pretty chill about the triathlon stuff, too.

Oh, but now my goals are getting loftier…I have, in fact, emphatically stated before that I would never do anything with “marathon” in the title, and here I am preparing for a half-marathon in just one short month. And true to form, I’m convinced that my ability to complete the race is contingent on me being able to adhere strictly to an expert-approved training plan. My biggest concern when I was hit with the mother of all GI bugs a few weeks ago: How was I going to make up for the runs I missed? And today’s snowstorm, rare for Portland, got me worried about what I was going to do if weather threatened to get in between me and my upcoming long runs of 10 to 12 miles.

So I’m telling myself, just chill. Missing a couple runs isn’t going to make or break me on race day. If the weather’s bad on the day I planned a long run, it won’t ruin my training to postpone it for a couple days. Hear that, inner voice of panic? It’s your inner voice of reason talking: everything’s going to be okay. You’re going to do just fine. No worries here.

Now excuse me…I just need to do some stretching, go over my prerace checklist, make sure the items I need to pack are listed alphabetically and cross-referenced by color, and create a driving route with a contingency plan in case of any Sunday-morning race-day traffic. I’ve only got a month, people, so I’ve got to get started!

If only I could be as chill as this guy...

An Average Jane Contemplates the Ironman

I never used to be a sentimental person. In fact, I’ve always been uncomfortable around people who cry at the drop of a hat. But something shifted inside me when I became a mother, and now I find myself choking up at things I never thought I would have before; just get me in the same room as something inspirational or sentimental, and wait for the waterworks to start.

Which is why yesterday afternoon I found myself choking up watching coverage of the Ironman Kona on NBC. It’s not the Chrissie Wellingtons or the Craig Alexanders that move me (they both won this year), but the “everyman” characters they always feature on TV…The guy who’s racing to raise money to feed kids, or the woman who may be terminally ill with cancer but wants to finish an Ironman before she dies. Then the stream of average-joes and janes, who look just like me except they just pushed themselves through 15 or 16 grueling hours of swimming, biking and running to cross the finish line of what I consider to be one of the greatest athletic challenges an everyday person could hope to participate in.

It just got me thinking, as I slogged through my run this morning…A year ago, I had just finished my first 5K, and wasn’t sure I could ever swim the distance required for the sprint triathlon I was hoping to do the following summer. Running more than 4 miles seemed inconceivable to me then, as inconceivable as doing an Ironman does now. But alas, I finished my sprint triathlon, and the next one after that, and I’m reasonably sure that my goal of an Olympic tri is attainable for the upcoming summer. Baby steps have brought me to the point that running 5 or 6 miles is no big deal, 7 or 8 is doable, and hey, when that half-marathon rolls around in February, I should be ready for it. Which just goes to show, baby steps can take you a lot further than you ever thought possible.

Never Thought I'd Be Here!

Will I ever do an Ironman? My answer to that question hasn’t changed from the first time I was asked it, and it won’t change right up until the point I cross that finish line: “Never in a million years.” The level of training required, the time commitment, and the amount of sacrifice I would have to ask my family to make are just too daunting to consider right now. But if you had asked me a year ago if I would be where I am today, I would have said “no.” So who really knows where I might be next year, or the year after? Crying my own sentimental finish-line tears, maybe? You never know, but for now I’ll grab a box of Kleenex and settle in front of the TV to live vicariously through some other average, everyday Ironmen and women.

No Tears Here! (No Ironman, Either!)

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