Monday, July 27, 2009

So what's on your handlebars?

Strange question? Sure it is....but if you're a triathlete, you might just know what I mean.

One of my FAVORITE things to do is to walk around a transition area prior to a race and look at all the bikes. It's amazing to me how different people are and what equipment people deem ABSOLUTELY necessary whether they are doing a sprint distance triathlon or an Ironman.

From walking around the Ironman Florida 70.3 transition area last year, I found a bike with the Speedfil bottle system on it and knew it would be perfect for me. It has a straw in your face that runs from a 40 oz bottle shaped in a triangle on a bracket on your downtube. From walking around St. Anthony's I got ideas on how to set up an efficient transition area and what people use for nutrition.

But what fascinated me the most was what people used on their bikes to motivate them. Not all bikes have something on them but there were those that used that opportunity of staring at your handle bars for hours to motivate themselves to go go farther.

So here are a few that I have read over the years:

At the Navy Seal Triathlon in Coronado CA: DON'T RING THE BELL!! (Ringing the bell three times at the Seal Team's Training Base means a Seal candidate wishes to quit the program)

At St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg, Fl: This is better than a hospital bed and chemo

At. Ironman Florida 70.3: FOCUS!! Don't forget: this is your dream!!

At Ironman Florida: Pain is temporary...Quitting is forever.

At Memphis in May Triathlon: A small replica of Thomas the Train hung from his handlebars with the words"I think I can..I think I can"

On my friend Rick's bike at every race: A piece of Lego building block with his son's name etched in the side hangs from his seat. He lost his child to Leukemia at age 8. Christian loved to build ANYTHING with Legos.

So what motivates you? For me...its so many things. This race is very symbolic for me. Tell me. What would you write on YOUR handlebars? Would the race be in memory of someone? Would you write your loved ones names that you will see at the finish line? A special quote that motivates you?? Your comments would help me decide what's on my handlebars.

Going the distance...

When I opened my Training Peaks this week, I knew that we were in the thick of the training schedule. It has become a tradition for myself and two other friends who are training for Ironman to compare what we are doing that week. One of my friends has another coach while the other is following his own plan as he has already completed Ironman Florida in 2007.

I shouldn't call it a comparison session...I should call it a bitch session...because that's what it is!! Bring on the cheese to go with the "whine" you hear from me as I stare down my weekend.

UGH! 12 mile run and an 80 mile bike!! Holy Saddle Sores Batman!! I'm happy to report I was not the only one enjoying the long distance workouts this week...the others were doing about the same.

It's hard training alone but I have made the revelation recently that this might help me at Ironman. There are going to be other racers and spectators but in the end, it's YOU. That's all. Just you and your thoughts and the battle of the mind vs. the body. So as much as I love my bike pedaling and road pounding Ironman dreamers, I headed out on my own both days.

5am...Saturday morning. I slam down the alarm clock and groaned. Immediately, the battle began. I could sleep in!! I could go get a wonderful breakfast with my husband while he is home. I could....and then reality sinks in....Ironman is in 105 days.

I struggle out of bed, make some coffee and get organized. Today will be a unique running day because Ill be running to my husband. This Saturday morning he is putting down the pilot hat and putting on the flight instructor hat as he teaches my middle brother how to fly. The plan was for me to run 12 miles from my home near downtown to the Orlando Executive Airport.

As the sun rose, I was on the pavement, Ipod on high and a goal to run at a steady pace for 12 miles. This means running 5-1's (5 minutes running 1 minute walking). The routine fell into place with no problem the first 9 miles. The next 3 miles were harsh. I don't know if it was lack of salt, the 87 degree heat or lack of nutrition but the engine just felt like it was not running on all the cylinders. I made it to the airport and sat for an hour while Steve finished the flight. I got some interesting looks because I certainly didn't look like I was getting on a plane ...and I definitely didn't smell like someone who would be boarding a private aircraft.

Steve arrived and laughed. "Oh my...we are sight to behold now aren't we" he said with a giggle!! I grumbled as I eased my weary body into the car. All I wanted was an ice bath and a nap.

I got home, took my ice bath, then my shower and settled in to watch Lance battle for 3rd place. I never made it all the way through the race before I was hard asleep on the couch. So are my weekend days now. Early morning LONG workout...and sleep in the afternoon.

My husband left on an evening flight for work and I had dinner with friends. They were all heading out for a wine tasting party, but I headed home. I had a long bike workout on Sunday.

Sunday morning at 4am arrived...and the process began again. I completed my ride but my legs were not as strong as they could have been. I made it 70 miles before I scampered for cover from another round of scary storms in the area.

Im making it through the workouts and Im trying very hard to envision myself at Ironman with every foot strike and every pedal stroke. I found that I talk to myself ALOT telling myself to push a little hard...a little faster...a little farther. I argue, I cry sometimes...but Hector is right. The person standing between me and my me!!!

I swear I need my head examined. Most people that talk to themselves as much as I did this weekend usually end up in a psych ward!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The fortune cookie...

Mend the first heartbreak, kill the doubting snake, conquer everything you undertake..

As my husband and I finished up eating at our favorite little Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar in our neighborhood of College Park, the waiter brought our bill and fortune cookies. "Cool...Dessert" I thought to myself as I ripped open then cellophane like a woman posessed!! A 25 calorie cookie is the perfect ending to a little sushi and hot tea.

The fortune stopped me dead in my tracks. My husband looked at me and he said I had this look of utter shock on my face. Combine the above with the fact that I redid my wall calendar for the next 120 days today and there was my red letter Ironman Day staring me in the face and this was all quite profound.

I WAS heartbroken last year. I tried so hard to put a positive spin on it but depression got the best of me for a little while. Through the months, Ive made peace with that. I've learned so much from the experience of another year of training. I am a better bike handler, a little stronger and a little more experienced at the longer distance workouts. It has all been good.

The "doubts" that still follow me around are like the snake in the grass. Time to exert some "pest control" and get rid of the negative forces in my head and in my life. Hector has told me that the one obstacle standing between me and my me!!

I do wanna conquer this distance and move on to other challenges. As I made out that wall calendar, it hit me that I haven't thought much beyond Ironman. I need to do planning beyond that spot in my life so that I KNOW I will accomplish this.

Tomorrow is a 12 mile run. Sunday is an 80 mile bike and a 5 mile run. Its going to be a tough weekend!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The face of determination...

I admit it ... I am a Lance Armstrong Fan.

Nope. That really doesn't quite capture how I feel about this particular person. I am an admirer of this man's determination, strength, focus, consistency and desire. His passion to find a cure for cancer is a passion we share. His abilities and talents are legend.

Here's the other great side of this guy: he's human. He's not a machine, he's not a doper. He's fought a cancer that many thought would take his life. Hell, even his Cofidis Cycling Team back in the day dropped him like a hot potato because they were certain he was going to expired.

He didn't.

I have met Lance. We have ridden together 3 times. He wouldn't know me from any other fundraiser except for the photo I brought him of my Godson, dressed in his favorite yellow cycling jersey and autographed for Lance. I told Christian that I was going to go see Lance and get him his autograph. Christian didn't think it was fair that Lance wouldn't get his autograph so we printed out his picture...complete with yellow jersey and the IV pole with the bags of chemo entering his veins....and he signed it.

Lance told me "that was the smiling face of determination."

The next year Christian was gone.

Lance remembered him. He remembered that face and signed a yellow jersey directly to Christian. That jersey is still on a teddy bear that sits in my workout room as a reminder.... You gotta fight!!

Today I ran 12 miles. So many things were on my mind. Running is so difficult for me but I am improving. I thought about Lance in his 8th tour clawing his way onto the podium and up one of the few mountaintop stages he has never won in the tour. There would be no yellow jersey for him today...but his determination was inspiring. I thought about how hard Christian fought to survive. He told his father he wanted to "live forever"..and he does in all the work that many of us do to find a cure so no family has to go through what his family endured.

I thought about how easy this Ironman is compared to fighting for your life. When you put it in that perspective...a little pain is temporary.....

Hope rides again...Livestrong!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Emotion and Focus to begin here. The girl with a big mouth and swift typing fingers usually has no loss for words. This morning, however, its all just emotion.

Being an emotional eater, I can tell you that I have done a lot of work of trying to deal with stress and emotion in my life. As a child and a young adult, I used food to deal with the problems of the day. Get a bad grade on a report card-stuff down the disappointment with a cheeseburger. Don't make the team-tear up a bag of chips and indulge. As I have gotten older and recognized those behaviors, I have learned other means to deal with them.

Now don't think this is a blog entry about a recent binge. Surprisingly enough, I have kept my food intake under control for several weeks with no emotional eating to speak of (ok...the bites of birthday cake ice cream from a friend don't count :) ). What I have been dealing with is conflict between two friends and getting caught in the middle.

These two people in my life are very important. Both have ties to my triathlon life. Both are very important to me. I could even go so far as to say that I love them both very much but when they lock horns and I get stuck in the makes things very difficult. I don't want to ever see conflict with anyone but I especially don't like to see it with people I care about.

So I have to admit that this weekend's training suffered due to the emotion in my life. The multiple hours of training are taking a toll in my family life. Although my husband Steve is very supportive, there are times he feels left out and lonely especially when I am gone on 4 to 5 hour bike workouts.

I was suppose to go to Panama City and do a bike workout on the course this next weekend, but Rick, my training partner, found out his high school reunion is this weekend. Steve has a heavy flight schedule this week and he really wants to be home so we have pushed the Panama City workout to August.

We are just 16 weeks to Ironman and, although I feel stronger, I don't feel ready. I try very hard not to think about 17 HOURS but try to think about each individual event and sections of that event. It is very easy to let the volume of this race overwhelm you and I think I have been thinking about that too much.

Marathons have always put the fear of God in me. I've done 3. None of them were pretty and ALL were painful. In Panama City, the Marathon is 2 laps. In my head, I have broken it down into 4 - 6.5 mile segments. Running 6 miles for me now is very comfortable. In my head, that is doable.

The other mental element I practiced this weekend was "the loop". At Ironman Florida, you will face the finish line at 13 miles and have to go back out for another lap. As I did my 10 mile run this weekend, I looped back to my car and my friends. They were doing a shorter workout so they were socializing and i had to still run. I know this sounds silly, but it was hard for me. My car was there, I had run 5 miles, and my friends were celebrating a birthday with cake. It would have been easy just to stop and call it a day but I went back out for another 5.

My thoughts are scattered right now. We are coming close to the 100 day prior to the race which is a milestone that makes me nervous. I feel like there is so much work left to be done!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An "Ott" Experience

I learned a long time ago that when you are offered the opportunity to learn from someone who has "been there" take it. You don't hesitate to grab at the chance to learn..and to grab every ounce of information possible!!

Today...I got that chance with an Ironman triathlete named Susan Ott.

She wrote to me late Friday afternoon on my favorite Tri Site: and asked if I was up for a bike ride at Van Fleet Trail. I gotta tell ya, this is my favorite trail because its long, its usually pretty windy, its hot and its JUST LIKE Ironman Florida. It goes for 29 miles with very little interruption of traffic and at the hour I usually like to ride, there are very few people out there.

Not EVERYONE has my appreciation of an early morning workout so I was kind to Susan as she called and told me she had gotten up at 4am and was already at the trail by 610AM. This trail is about 40 miles from my home but its worth the drive. I rolled up at 615 and we were on the trail right at sunrise.

Susan is a great cyclist. She is skilled and very fast. She was incredibly kind to me as we paced together the first 10 miles. She slowed her pace to about 17 for me..and I kept up...but as the minutes and mile went by, we realized that i had a hard time pacing myself and holding form and speed. One of her suggestions was to go our a little slower so I would be sure to have enough energy at the end to get me through.

Susan is also a Doctor and she gave me a lot of information on nutrition and what she eats during the Ironman. We talked about the mental game and how you combat the hours on the bike. To say she was a good resource would certainly be an understatement.

I finished up my workout morning with a short run...but I felt bad for Susan. She was headed home to do her own workout at a much faster pace!! Isn't it nice to know that there are people in this world that still wanna help someone who is struggling to attain a dream??

Thanks Susan...You're a pretty amazing lady!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Fantastic Weapon in the war of weight loss and healthy eating

Ok guys and gals!! If you haven't experienced this website yet (and I may be the only one lagging behind), it is AWESOME. Talk about a wealthy of nutritional information!! Its all right there at:

Since my last stay at Structure House, I have been religious about imputing my food logs. I was using another site for this task but The Daily Plate truly has it all!! From putting together your own recipe and counting the calories and nutrition to how many calories that Burrito from your favorite Mexican restaurant will set you back in your calorie count, this website will have just what you need! I have moved my logs to this site as of this week. You can make your logs public or private (mine are private...are you kidding...I might not want you to see the Malted Milk Balls I ate with my husband during a movie)!!

Check it out sometime!!

Lucky's Lake Swim & the help of friends!!

I know for an absolute FACT that we are blessed here in Orlando with the mostly beautiful weather and some very UNIQUE opportunities as triathletes. One of those benefits is : Lucky's Lake Swim

I know I have posted about Lucky's before but this morning I really had a special appreciation for the place. For those
that don't know, Lucky Meisenheimer is a physician in Orlando who has a love of many things (including yo yo's) but one of
his passions is swimming. He opens up his home every weekday morning at 630am for people to use his dock and lakefront to do open water swims. Lucky is a legend in these parts. He has indirectly helped hundreds of triathletes and many more swimmers throughout his years here. Even his pool and hot tub are open to those who finish the 1k over and back swim in Little Lake Cane behind Universal Studios.

This morning, the weather looked horrible. One of my boot camp classes had to be cancelled because their location was getting lightening and rain (our programs are done outdoors). As I arrived at Lucky's, the rain began to fall but no lightening. No worries..Im gonna be wet anyway!!

Swimming the lake is another mental issue for me. One lap over and back and I wanna head home. Not today. Today I was determined to do at least 2 laps with one .5k being with hand paddles. I am trying very hard to improve my strength in the water and..of course..the battle cry for every triathlete...get just a little faster.

I wasn't alone in my morning quest for swim fitness. About 25 other swimmers were ready at 630am as Lucky exited his home to get us going. Most of those folks were part of my Team in Training team-past or present-including Coach Beth and Assistant Coach Geni from the TNT Marathon Team.

My first crossing (.5K) was the fastest I have ever done at Lucky's shaving off a substantial 57 seconds. I was excited!! As the rain got a little harder, I returned to a slightly slower pace. As I approached the dock to complete my first 1k lap, the argument began in my head: Just jump out and head home!!

Coach Beth had other ideas and I am so glad she was there. "Another lap don't you think!!" she said. Instead of exiting the water, I headed back out-this time with paddles. I made it to the other side and handed off my paddles to Kim, a staff member at the Leukemia Society. She wanted to experience what "fun" the paddles can make in your swim.

Second lap completed. Beth turned to Geni and myself and suggested a "1/2 lap!!??" A what?? Ive never considered going half way across the lake and then returning but we did...and I took it easy.

I left today with a sense of satisfaction. Put aside all the medical garbage going on with me, I got across another mental roadblock today. There is no doubt that I can complete 2.4 miles. I did it last year..and I know I can do it again. The difficulty has been getting it done in TRAINING so my body can get stronger and faster. This is KEY to making the cut offs happen in Florida.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reality Check...

As good as I was feeling earlier in the week about my training, my body decided to give a reality check. One 3 hour bike trainer workout, 2000 yard swim, another bike trainer session and a two hour run left me feeling fatigued but strong....well...that was until my body reminded me that I have Thyroid disease and a gastric bypass.

Tuesday night, I decided to get my nails done. I figured this was a good reward after weeks of consistant training. The nail tech was just finishing putting on my top coat...and then...from nowhere...I start to shake. I can't keep my hands still. Suddenly Im ice cold and shaking as if I were in a blizzard.

One odd look from the nail salon personnel and I am out the door. I figured I just had not eaten enough that day. I went across the street to meet friends at a restaurant for dinner...and the shaking continues. I sit down at a table and ask for some bread and some soup right away. I figured this would help my body calm down..

My friends arrive and my shaking has stopped to some degree but I am still absolutely frozen. I order some hot tea but it doesn't break the chill. I eat a little more but leave the table early for home.

I called my friend Beth who is a coach and an Ironman triathlete. I tell her my symptoms and she assures me that I probably haven't had enough calories in the last two days and my body just needs food and rest. I head home and get under 14 blankets and fall hard asleep. My friends from dinner come to check on me because they know my husband is gone and they have a key to my house. They can hardly wake me from my sleeping...but I was awake enough to acknowledge them.

Wednesday morning I wake up at the regular time (4am) for work and feel ok but by 10am, my body is jittery and fatigued. I call the doctor. I don't have a fever and show no other signs of illness so he calls me in for a blood test.

The results??

My thyroid has slowed down to almost shut down. He has added two additional medications to get me through the next few months of training but he is uncertain of my ability to lose weight prior to the race or to be able to continue with the rigorus training that an Ironman requires.

After the new medication and a few more calories, today I feel great. Hector and I took my workout session to chat about my situation. We are upping my calories and taking the day off before the attempt at major brick workouts this weekend.

The "unknown" in my nutritional world is how many calories my body is actually processing. My doctor suggested that if I REALLY want this goal of Ironman that I will need to remove as much processed food as I can from my diet and no more diet soda (which is a major addiction for me). My physician feels that my ingestion of Diet Coke may be one of the factors that is hindering my metabolism. This has not yet been proven in humans but it has been in lab animals.

So...I now have some choices to make and some things to consider. Just how BAD do I wanna be an Ironman?? Am I willing to give up the addictions of food and Diet Coke for a dream?? My gut reaction is HELL YES. The reality of a person with an eating disorder won't be perfect but you can give it your best shot possible.

God I love a challenge...and I have definitely found it in Ironman!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In The Zone...

Zones play a huge role in training. Heart Rate Zones...Perceived effort zones ... all a part of getting better and faster.

But the zone to which I refer is very different from that. Its the feeling of being on the right road, with the right plan. Its the knowledge of being with the right coach and doing what needs to be done.

I think in the last few weeks, I have grown up a bit. A few months ago, I desperately needed Hector's supervision at my workouts. I felt like I needed that accountability to be able to accomplish my goals. I needed someone to kick me out of bed to get me to that 5am ride or that 6am run or to get me to the pool on time.

This week feels different: I feel like I am in the groove. I feel like I am settling into a routine. Don't get me wrong. I KNOW for an absolute fact that the next few weeks will increase in mileage, hours and intensity as I make my way towards Ironman. I still worry about speed and the ability to get across the line before midnight but feels like its a part of me and not something foreign to me.

What has helped in a huge way to achieve this feeling is my husband's support. He has been home the last 10 days and has cheered me on so much. There have been times in the past few months that he was frustrated with the time I have spent training but, for now, he has been supportive and that has helped my mental game.

I still struggle with the HOURS ON HOURS of training. I still want to get out of the pool after 1500 yards and call it a workout but I have more mental strength now to push past those barriers and go to the longer distances. The mental game is starting to come together. Now...if I could just get a little lighter and faster!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Balancing Family Vacation & Long Ironman Workouts

Looks gorgeous doesn't it!! Believe me. This isn't just a photo I pulled from a travel magazine. This, believe it or not, it taken from where my parents live part of the Abaco Bahamas.

I got the pleasure of spending the July 4th holiday with my husband and parents in Marsh Harbor on the Eastern Shore at their home there. It is quite a beautiful, peaceful, quiet and relaxing environment where there are more hammocks per square yard then just about anywhere in the world. We arrived on Thursday and, I have to admit, I was lured into that hammock by Thursday afternoon!! Napping was the call of the day.

Friday morning, however, was a totally different story. Since cycling on Abaco would have been next to impossible (aside from the roads, getting my bike in a Cessna 172 is simply impossible), I had to rearrange my workout schedule to have my running and swimming fall over the weekend. A 10 mile run was the order of the day so I got my gear together and hit the road.

I should get extra credit for this run. The roads are rocky and full of potholes. The last two weeks have been nothing but rain every afternoon so puddles and potholes became common place as I made my way into town from my family's home on the Eastern Shore. I was amazed by the ocean views but had to remember the traffic comes the OPPOSITE way in the Bahamas. Very few sidewalks made the run pretty tough.

As I approached my second mile, I got two running buddies. Two young mutt puppies who were so happy to see someone up this early on the road escorted me as I made it through the one and only stop light in town and made the turn toward the airport. These dogs are called "potcakes" in the islands because they are like what is left after you make cornbread in a skillet. Whatever is left, you mash together into a "potcake". These dogs are a combination of god only knows how many breeds but they are always so sweet and were great company.

By mile 7, it was warm, humid and no wind as I avoided the mud along the side of the road. I got some strange looks from the locals as they made their way to work. I was ready to get back near the water and the breeze across the Sea of Abaco would bring the temperature down a few degrees.

Back into town and past "Island Bakery" where the smell of fresh bread was intoxicating. My new found puppy friends almost detoured from our running workout at the possibility of scraps at the bakery but continued by my side through town. By mile 8, I was down to a walk run but was proud of my 7 miles of constant running. Even in these unusual conditions, I was getting it done.

Past the marinas full of multi million dollar yachts and fishing vessels getting ready for a day of billfish adventure made me pause for a moment and take it in. Wow!! This is some amazing place.

At mile 9, my husband met me to walk and run the last mile. This has become a tradition for us. He worries about me (aren't I blessed to have someone that cares) so he walks until he finds me. On this day, he found me tired, and sweaty and pretty much out of water and endurance drink. I made it back to the house where my mother was cooking pancakes. My running buddies followed us up the driveway and I couldn't just send them away. I went inside and grabbed two pancakes and a little water and made sure they refueled before they headed out on their next adventure.

The beauty of this day was I was able to cover 10 miles and spend the rest of the day exploring the various towns and cays nearby with my family. This is not unfamiliar territory for me. I was raised in the Bahamas every summer of my childhood. In those times, we lived on a boat that my father took throughout the various Bahamian islands. Now, my parents have settled here and enjoy the views and the peacefulness of a paradise they have known for over 40 years. It brought back so many memories as we visited Hope Town, Man O War Cay and the Abaco Inn. What a great way to spend a long weekend.

The next day included a open water ocean swim from our beach to a reef marker and back. I kept swimming back and forth until an hour had past but it felt good to be in saltwater instead of a pool.

Finding the balance and getting it all in...that's what this weekend was about.