... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

50 Miles Toward a more Badass Me

Today marked an exciting milestone- the 50 mile mark in my running quest!

I celebrated the only way that one can celebrate such an auspicious occasion: I busted out my new spandex racing shorts and wore them proudly! I never thought that 50 miles was all it would take to make me feel confident about my butt in spandex. Maybe 100 will be the magic number at which I can reveal where the spandex hits my hips without cringing at my love handles.

Whether it was a little extra push from my sassy outfit or excitement about my milestone, I ran my fastest 5k time and finished my run with a 10:31 mile, my best mile time for a run since I was back at 1.8 miles. I enjoyed my run and was really pleased when I looked back over my run logs and realized how much I have improved. It was a good day to run.

Hoping for a continuation of my exercise good luck, I headed to Ala Moana to swim. It was drizzling lightly as I arrived, just enough to dust my skin with  water so it could catch the breeze and freeze me thoroughly before I made it to the water. Damn. Unfazed, I donned my excessive amounts of head gear and dove in. It didn't take long to realize that my earplugs were not inserted well as I felt cold water rushing deep into my ear with every turn of my head. Determined to power through, I made it to the turn-around point at 250m before stopping to readjust the plugs- no small feat in 20 feet of water with three levels of head coverings. The fix was by no means perfect, but it allowed me to keep going. In an effort to avoid moving the earplugs around within the ear canal, I tried to breathe while moving my mouth as little as possible. Rather than taking huge, gaping breaths, I focused on opening my lips just enough let the air slip through without moving my jaw.

And then, something amazing happened. Within a few strokes my breathing became smoother, my arms motions faster and more steady, my kick was left uninterrupted by each turn of my head and my body stayed flat instead of buckling. My pace sped up without any effort and I felt like I was gliding through the water instead of jack knifing. I felt like a real swimmer!

These are the moments that make triathlon training incredible. How opening my mouth less results in a smoother kick, I cannot explain. How the placement of my jaw affects the pace of my arm pulls is beyond me. Feeling my stroke smooth out, speed up, and gain grace, however, was magic! Making these discoveries urges me on and pushes me forward- what else is there just waiting to be discovered?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Searching for the Trough

Well, I have officially reached 500 meters in the swimming portion of my training. It took what seemed like forever to complete, but I have to admit I was fairly relieved at how I felt during the workout. I didn't drown, didn't pass out, and only swallowed about a cup of salty ocean water. All in all, I am counting it as a success.
It seems that now that the running has been cranked up to 35-45 minutes, it's time for the swim lengths to start climbing quickly. As I look ahead in my schedule the distances creep steadily upward at a faster pace than in the past month. After my initial post-snorkel panic, I am feeling pretty confident. I have to admit that for about a week I played the excuses game, coming up with all kinds of convincing reasons why swimming shorter distances with a snorkel was still okay ("I'm just practicing for speed, which will help me with distance long-term." "Swimming against a current will make up for the shorter distance." "I need to focus on my form, not just my breath." I'm a great excuse-maker.) before finally admitting my wimpyness and committing to swimming only at Ala Moana from now on, where I can cover the proper distance and not use the snorkel. 
My new focus is my kick to arm stroke ratio. I find that left to my own devices I tend to fall into a pattern of glacially slow arm movements oddly contrasted by spastic, almost seizure-like kicks. This is not going to cut it if I'm going to swim half a mile efficiently, so I am trying to concentrate on speeding up my arms and slowing my legs to create a more balanced rhythm. Combining this with gasping for air, which I have still not mastered, is challenging. 

My swim area at sunset
I have read about the mythical "trough," the indention in the water caused by your face that allows you to breathe easily with correct head placement, but said trough is elusive and just when I get confident in its location and take a nice big breath, it disappears and I get a lung full of salt water. 
At any rate, my swim technique is my current focus and I am using every resource the internet has put at my disposal. This site has been helpful so far and I remain hopeful that with consistent work and no more excuses, my technique will keep improving. 
Despite my bad technique, I am still thoroughly enjoying the swimming. The beach park is beautiful, I love the lack of impact on my joints, and the half hour of swimming flies by in comparison to my running workouts. 

Up to this point I haven't talked a whole lot about the biking portion of the triathlon, mostly because I have been doing the workouts at the gym and they have been uneventful. Starting this week, however, the mileage is getting too high for me to fit into my normal gym time of half an hour or so and it's going to be necessary to get my bike fixed (for real this time!) so that I can embark on my training of 8 miles and up in the great outdoors. I am excited about this not only because I think biking outside will be more enjoyable but also because I have been missing out on my normal gym routine of strength training and weights. I've lost another pound, to total five pounds gone in the past five weeks, and I can't imagine what is going to happen when I add an outdoor bike workout and get back to my gym practices. Those spandex shorts I bought are seeming ever closer!

It has been a good week so far. Solid 3-4 mile runs, good swims, and easy bikes. I am excited to kick the training into high gear in the coming weeks!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Small Joys and Summer Rain

How has it been a week since I've written? Somehow the time flew by this week, and although I didn't manage to get anything written I certainly learned several things worth writing about.

As I mentioned last week, my motivation had been dragging a little. It wasn't that I was no longer excited about the idea of doing a triathlon, simply that I was getting frustrated with my lack of running proficiency. Much to my delight, I am discovering that my training schedule pushes the time up on the running rather quickly for a week or two, then allows a week or two to adjust, catch up, and improve. Weeks four and five pushed quickly from twenty-five minutes to forty, but week six (which I am finishing up now) hovered comfortably around thirty minutes. Alright, "comfortable" may be an exaggeration but "doable" is accurate. This reminded me that I am within the normal training demographic and not a hopeless lumbering elephant incapable of improvement.

This is running looks like when you get a migraine 
Unfortunately for my rediscovered motivation, I was struck down on Monday by a new kind of enemy. Perhaps I should have seen it coming when I saw patterns of light swimming in my field of vision, pain snuck in behind my eyes, and my stomach felt like it was going sour, but since I have never experienced what I would soon learn was a MIGRAINE I didn't know what to look for. Despite not feeling 100% I was determined to brave my run. I made it about a mile before it hit with a vengeance. Oddly enough, the headache itself actually abated a little when I was running, but the dizziness and nausea were unbearable. When I gave in and walked, the pain behind my eyes made the world seem like it was far away and surreal. There was some sort of huge barbecue happening in the park (a curse of Hawaiian good weather) and the smell of smoke was enough to make me double over. It didn't take long before I was crawling along, urging myself forward with each step and wondering how it would be possible to make it over a mile and a half home. I tried to run several times to ease the pain in my head, but the nausea took over and forced me back to a walk. I continued this walk-blinding pain-run-falling over nausea pattern and it only took me 30 minutes to make it a mile home. Dear God. I was officially on my ass, and I have a new level of compassion for people who deal with migraines on a regular basis. On the plus side, after lying down in a dark room for four hours, I was as good as new. 

Migraine aside, I learned a lot of good things in my running this week. First, I am figuring out how to control my breath in order to increase my running longevity. I realized that by breathing in fully I eventually end up gasping for breath, but that if I decrease my inhale to a two count and hold the last count before exhaling three counts (back to my waltzing breath theme) I can preserve my air and run longer and more comfortably. Stopping my inhale before my chest is full seems counterintuitive when exercising hard but I've tested this method in three runs now and can't believe the difference it makes! If your'e having trouble with your breath while running, it might be worth a try. 

In fact, it has made such a huge difference so far that this morning I ran four miles with only one short walking interval. It was pouring rain, the streets were nearly empty, and the only sounds were the swoosh of the rain and squish of my sneakers. Memories resurfaced of running (one of many failed running endeavors in my past) in a park in Bellingham, Washington around a glassy pond, surrounded by greenery and quietly falling rain. I was transported to days when life was straightforward, when my family was whole, when the house I grew up in was still home. It was peaceful. When I made it home 45 minutes later, soaked and dripping, I felt like I did when I was six years old coming in from splashing around in summer rain puddles.  

Yet another surprise, another wonderment that has come from this training: a peace that I hadn't felt in years and a reconnection with some exuberant corner of myself that I thought was lost. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Days Off

Days off are a wonderful thing.

When I first started this triathlon adventure, I counted the hours until my weekly day off. I ached for it, fantasized about it, and imagined it in excessive detail as I did my running workouts. The week seemed to drag by in slow motion and it felt like years since I had a day free from the tribulations of training. Lately, though, a funny thing has happened. The six days of training during the week seem to have sped up, and it feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in my living room resisting the urge to work out and reminding myself that rest is a very important part of strengthening the body.

That’s right- on my days off, I am craving a workout.

What has happened to me? Just five weeks ago I was sitting on the couch eating red, silver, and green Christmas edition Hershey’s kisses and bemoaning that my boyfriend was going to drag me to the gym, and today, after working out hard six days in a row, I can barely bring myself to sit still. I have also lost four pounds with no special effort, an added bonus that I am truly grateful for. Triathlon training is amazing.

However, since it is my day off, I placated my exercise urges with a trip to the beach and a very leisurely albeit long swim out to the deep water and abundant reefs hiding beyond the shallow waters where most people splash around. I used different strokes, and I took pictures of anything that sparked my interest with my underwater camera. It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, the waves were minimal, and the water was surreally clear. Keeping a sharp eye out, we saw butterfly fish, needle fish, a plethora of uhu, tang, angel fish, wrass, humuhumunukunukuapoa’a (Hawaiian state fish, check it out!), the largest boxfish we’ve ever seen, and a sneaky eel coiled and ready to bite our faces off. Upon our return to the sandy bottom near the beach, I floated face up and let the water rock me gently back and forth. Then I floated back to shore, focusing on the perfectly clear turquoise blue enveloping me and the sun dancing on the sand beneath the water. This is what a day of should be.

So here is what my triathlon training has taught me today: love your days off. If you feel like exercising, do so, but very moderately. Let your muscles and your mind relax and enjoy doing whatever will make you feel at peace. Do not coast through them, but be mindful of the rest you are getting and allow yourself some extra pleasures.

Tomorrow, fully recovered, I’ll be back to hitting the bike and water with renewed resolve!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Growing Pains

Okay, while I would love to tell you that my enthusiasm and motivation level never drop and that I am always thrilled to lace up my running shoes and head out the door, I have to admit that I do have moments (and even weeks) when I falter. After riding the train of energy and motivation that has carried me through the first four weeks of training, something shifted in the past week and I have found myself dragging my feet a little. The swimming sounded overwhelming instead of relaxing, biking was tedious, and the running was just plain old painful. I was dreading each workout and feeling sluggish. After examining my mental state and what exactly it was that I was dreading, I came up with a couple of possible culprits for my training depression.

First, I realized that I had made significant jumps in the two of the three disciplines. The schedule had called for increases in running time from 20 minutes to 35 minutes in a very short period, and I had quickly gone from being able to run the entire distance with little trouble to needing to walk twice during the interval. Frustration was sneaking its way into my psyche. In the same amount of days, the swimming distance has been increased by over 200 meters. Distance alone would not be an issue for the swimming, but combined with the introduction of my super sexy Ear BandIt and snorkel-free stroke it dawned on me that I was feeling overwhelmed. 

Second, I have to admit that my diet has been less than ideal in the past two weeks. After the food poisoning incident I was unable to eat much besides white rice and applesauce, which somehow evolved into reducing my fruit and vegetable intake and increasing the amount of starchy foods I consumed even after my appetite returned. Once I could eat again I was ravenous, and satiated my empty stomach with anything and everything it could possibly desire. Unfortunately, few of those things were healthy. It has now been two weeks since I got sick and I have failed to return to my former healthy eating habits resulting in poor digestion, lack of energy, and a generally bloated and uncomfortable feeling. 

Third, I have been modifying the training schedule quite a bit in the past week and a half. I haven't skipped any workouts, but I have moved them around and rearranged them to fit what I feel like doing at the time. Some of the reasons for the substitutions were valid- unexpected shifts at work, a strained calf muscle that needed an extra day before stressing it again, but others- getting drunk at the beach or trying to watch all 30 episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia that I hadn't seen before they take them off Netflix, can hardly be described as necessary. As I ran today in the pouring rain, mud soaking the backs of my legs and sweat-laced water running down my forehead and stinging my eyes, I realized that if I hadn't switched my schedule around I would have completed my run yesterday under a clear sky and could be sitting inside, happy and dry. Damn. 

Now that I have identified these issues, I feel refocused and ready to tackle their solutions. The answer to the first problem is simply to accept the frustration that comes with adding new distance and gear to my workouts and allow myself to feel it while staying positive and remembering that I will not always feel overwhelmed. Feeling discomfort is normal and does not mean that I am not making progress. The only thing that can keep me from making progress is giving up, and that is something that I won't do. Uncomfortable is okay- this too shall pass. The second issue is a little more difficult to tackle, simply because I really love pasta, pizza, and weird things like rice cakes with melted butter. Luckily, I also really love mangos, blueberries, apples, and kiwis, so I went to the store and filled my fridge with brightly colored and delicious fruit. Between willpower and mangos I know I can get back on track with my eating. The schedule problem is just stupid. No excuses, no more allowing myself to choose what I feel like doing, because when I mess with the schedule I feel disorganized and lazy. The schedule is the schedule is the schedule, and unless I break a hip I will stick to it. 

I learned this week that identifying what is causing your dwindling motivation and facing it head on is the first step to overcoming it. Here's to next week- optimistic, healthy, and organized. I can always be better.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Five Mile Marathon

The past few days have been interesting. 

Cool mountain. Too many hills.
Following the bidding of the All-Powerful Training Schedule, my running time increased over the last week from 25 minutes to 35 minutes, bumping the distance up by about a mile. Suddenly my previous routes are insufficient, and I feel as though I am going through awkward running puberty in which my run routes can no longer fit into training bras but don't quite fill out a normal one either. I tried to add a few loops and detours but it wasn't increasing the time enough and so, armed with my GPS tracker and way too much optimism, I decided to run from my house up and around Diamond Head (that's a MOUNTAIN, in case you are not familiar with Oahu's topography), down to Kapiolani Park and back home. To get an idea of how stupid this was, check out the gorgeous aerial photo of Diamond Head that I've included- but keep in mind that an aerial photo does not show the horrendously hilly nature of this path. As I left home I had mental images of the sunset over the water as I came down the mountain, the flowers along the road, and I imagined the thrill of running a new route; I conveniently estimated the distance at around three miles- exactly what I've been looking for!
As I trudged up the first (extremely long) hill, I was feeling good. I made it to the top with only one short speed-walking break and took off running the first downhill. As I came around the curve and faced the second hill I was still feeling strong, and in fact I made it almost all the way up before stopping to walk again. When I checked my GPS, however, I knew I was in trouble. I was already at three miles, and Diamond Head was parked squarely between me and home. Determined and holding on to my faltering optimism, I trudged on. I focused on my surroundings- the waves speckled with surfers far below the road, the light playing off the water as the sun dipped toward the horizon, and the paper-thin blossoms of Hawaiian bourgainvillea (see photo) lining my path. 

Bourgainvillea nestled in the greenery
I made it all the way down the mountain, around the park, and up one last hill before walking again, this time as I turned toward home. As I picked up my legs to run the final stretch, I realized that I could hardly feel anything in my legs at all- very little strength but also very little pain. As I gimped into my driveway I pulled out my GPS tracker and sure enough, I had been running for an hour. What felt like  a marathon was only five miles, but since I was at it for nearly twice the time my schedule called for, I felt pretty proud. 

Although this run was a little excessive (and trust me, I paid for it the next day) it taught me a valuable training tool. The hardest part of a run for me seems to be the first five minutes, during which my muscles are in shock and my lungs are trying to asphyxiate me. If I can win the battle with my body and wait it out, it gets significantly better, at least for twenty minutes or so. After that, I hit wall number two and once again feel like I'm dying. What the multiple starts and stops on this run, followed by the numbness in my legs taught me is that if I can push through that horrible first few minutes several times, eventually I can hit a new level in which I feel much less pain. Although it isn't pleasant, it's a discovery that I find interesting. 

So lesson learned. This route can be filed away under "50-minute-or-longer" and saved for the day when I am a little further along in my training. At some point, I have faith, five miles will no longer feel like a marathon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Little Turn on the Catwalk, Baby!

Today's scheduled workout was a 30 minute walk/jog and a 200 meter swim with a 100 meter cool down. For the run I added a short jaunt to my usual route to bring the distance to 2.62 miles and make me feel like I wanted to die. It doesn't matter how many times I run, it is always shocking how bad I am at it. That said, my average mile time while running has improved so dramatically in the past three weeks that I am amazed. When I started running in December I could run for about 18 minutes at 11:42 per mile. Now my running mile time is hovering around 9:50 and I can run with a couple short walking breaks for 30 minutes and average the same 11:42 pace I started running at. So while I may feel like each step is just as painful as the last 20,000, I am reminded that I am in fact making progress.

Ear BandIt Chic!
Since I have been dreading trying to swim without the snorkel, I elected to swim approximately 125 meters using the headband, incorporating breathing into my stroke and 125 meters with the comfort of the snorkel. After thoroughly geeking out and inserting my earplugs, putting on my mask, and topping the ensemble off with the headband, I was feeling optimistic and oh so cool. In case you were having trouble picturing this lovely ensemble, I have included a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. I know, I'm irresistible.

Despite my fears, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the first part of the swim went. My meditative, rhythmic stroke was long gone, replaced by an unfamiliar, somewhat choppy and spastic series of movements, but my ears stayed dry, I only swallowed about two cups of horrifically salty ocean water, and by the time I made it back to the starting buoy I had almost established a comfortable stroke. The keys to this, I discovered, are breathing on the same side (every other arm stroke), breathing out slightly before raising my head out of the water, and switching breath sides every three minutes or so. It seemed that the greatest challenge was simply holding my breath while exerting myself. My speed was not nearly as pathetic as I had anticipated, although I did have to remind myself to keep kicking every time I took a breath.

It really accents your eyes...
After swimming in to shore and trading my headband for a snorkel, I was back in the water and feeling very relaxed. The free breath feels like gift after working so hard for it, although I soon realized that in order to train my breath correctly I should time it so that I hold it and breathe coordinated with every other arm stroke as if I didn't have the snorkel. This added challenge proved to be a perfect balance between my relaxing swims of days past and the new challenge of breathing on my own.

The last few meters I allowed myself free breath and sliced through the water easily and smoothly. I can fully admit it- I am totally addicted to the feeling of the water rushing over my skin. It is magical.

While I didn't make it to the bike shop, I did take advantage of a fantastic Christmas gift from my wonderful mom- $70 to spend on triathlon apparel. I spent nearly two hours in and out of all different colors of spandex and dri-fit, squeezing my "curves" into every imaginable article of tight, skimpy clothing Sports Authority could come up with. I finally settled on a coral colored sports bra capable of doubling as a swimsuit top and matched it with a pair of navy blue spandex booty shorts trimmed with bright coral and currently accentuating every ounce of superfluous fat present on my posterior. Judging by how quickly the weight is falling off of me, I am estimating that I will be able to wear them without cringing at how my love handles overflow over the waistband in approximately two months. Despite the delayed gratification, I am in love with my new outfit and can't wait to spend the remaining money on more fabulously neon spandex.

On the menu for tomorrow, biking and swimming! I am definitely going to bed tired each night, and I've got to say it feels good.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Charisma in Ear Band-Its

Well, my waterproof headband, aka my Ear BandIt, has finally arrived! After my regular swim- which, by the way, was all the way up to 400 meters!- I put in my earplugs, covered them tightly with my Ear BandIt, and floundered around for a while. The headband actually does make a huge difference in how much water gets into my ears! I think that with some experimenting I can actually make it work, so I am both pleased and relieved, and although I cannot say that you will look cool wearing it, I can tell you that its ugliness can be overcome because I got hit on as I was coming out of the water. Nothing like earplugs, snorkeling mask, giant headband and swim cap to make you feel sexy. What does make me feel sexy, however, is that my boyfriend told me that he can see a difference in my legs and booty, a fantastic victory for only three weeks of training. It's hard work, but the rewards just keep on coming!

My run was equally successful. Distance-wise I was back down to 2.18 miles, but I ran my fastest mile yet (9:51, shut up I know I'm slow) which came as a great surprise! I had immense amounts of trouble cajoling myself into getting out of the house because it was gray and drizzly outside, but after bribing myself with the thought of post-workout mint hot chocolate and a hot bath with spearmint and lavender, I managed to get my butt out the door. As always, my efforts were rewarded as the sun broke out to turn the water a gorgeous turquoise just in time for my swim. I swear, I have never regretted completing a workout. It seems that there is always something beautiful in store once I get started.

The swim felt long- 400 meters is a quarter mile!- but steady. I told myself from the beginning to just relax and keep swimming, and once I got into a rhythmic stroke it felt almost meditative. I know, however, that this wonderful, relaxing feeling will be gone as soon as I stop using the snorkel and start trying to incorporate breathing into my stroke. I am dreading this upcoming event but I can only remind myself that this obstacle, too, will be overcome.

Today my workout was a simple four mile bike ride which was accomplished with minimal effort. My project for tomorrow is to buy a bike helmet and get my bike into the shop so that I can move from the gym to the great outdoors.

Happy training!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Body Bliss

I am privileged to be training in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each time I run I realize how amazing it is that I am complaining about running in a place where people are taking wedding photos. That's right, I usually see at least one couple in suit and frilly dress taking photos that they will treasure for the rest of their lives in the location I drag myself to each day. Both Ala Moana Beach Park and Kapiolani Park offer ocean views, grass, and a plethora of tropical trees. The ocean remains swimmable all year round, and running and biking paths criss cross and surround the parks providing a perfect training facility for me. No indoor pools, no chlorine, and no treadmills.                                            

This week, however, it has been raining. Much of the inclement weather coincided with my food poisoning, during which training was out of the question, but after three days of being confined to the couch eating nothing but soda crackers, my body was itching to get moving again. Immersing myself in the ocean, even in the rain, sounded like heaven, and so I donned my swim gear and biked through the deluge to the beach.

I was estimating the bike ride at a mile and a half, but according to my exercise log app, it was actually 2.72 miles. Excited to sneak my 5 mile bike ride into my swimming plan, I was ready for the cool water by the time I made it to the beach, already soaked. The water has a different feeling when the weather is bad- rather than a chilly bite as you step in it feels like thick, heavy velvet, and although the sky was dark the water was beautifully clear. Although the rain was hardly a sprinkle, I could see the downpour coming toward me across the water.

After my swim 150 meters out and back, I floated around feeling the raindrops tickling my back, then flipping onto my back to let the ocean rock me back and forth while my muscles relaxed. Upon flipping back over so that my face was once again submerged, I noticed this bad ass little guy on the ocean floor (later identified as a Devil Scorpionfish).

Look close, he's well camouflaged.
The sounds were muted and I couldn't help but enjoy the thought that only myself and the fish were enjoying the beach today. There is something to be said for solitude.

Today, it is still raining. My boyfriend Sean and I went to the gym (where I did my biking workout, 5 miles) and then to Kapiolani Park where I ran for twenty-five minutes. Just as my muscles began to truly protest, we went to the beach and caught 5 minutes of sun before the rain returned. Although it wasn't on the training schedule for today, we jumped in the water and swam at least 250 meters. My scorpionfish friend didn't seem interested in showing himself, so we went home for a shower. 

I have to say- each time I exercise I forget how wonderfully relaxed and warm my body feels afterward, as if each muscle is relieved that it has been used fully. Combine that feeling with the chilly rain followed immediately by a hot shower, and you have a recipe for complete body bliss and as we sit on the couch afterward, I am reminded once again why I am doing this. My body feels warm from the inside out, and my mind is at ease knowing that I have pushed my limits for the day. I am motivated and craving more, all the while melting into the cushions in complete relaxation. Allowing yourself to feel discomfort also allows you to more fully feel its counterpart. Work hard, then let the bliss envelop you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolve


I am now on day four, week three of my twenty-two week training schedule. I have been writing retroactively because I started this blog two weeks after my first wobbly steps toward training, but I've decided that rather than continue attempting to catch up I am simply going to summarize the past few weeks and go on from today in real time. 

After my varying experimental successes during the grace week before I began officially training, I started the training schedule on December 15, 2012. The first week continued to be a challenge for swimming, as I struggled with my cap, ear plugs, and stroke. Despite buying good plugs and using a swim cap, I continued to have problems with water in my ears, which due to childhood ear infections and multiple surgeries can cause major issues for me. The temporary solution was to use a snorkel so that I don't have to turn my head to breathe, (the motion that allows water to sneak in too deep), but the first time I tried I found that using the snorkel while breathing hard made me feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I was beginning to get truly frustrated when I found a product called EarBandIts. This tight-fitting neoprene headband blocks water from entering the ears, hopefully eliminating my problem altogether. I ordered it via Amazon and am waiting for it to arrive. Until then, I discovered that if I allow myself more time to acclimate to the cool water and pace myself more while swimming, the snorkel does actually work quite well. I am now up to a warm up, a 150 meter swim followed by a 100 meter cool down.

Amazingly, once I worked these solutions out, the swimming quickly became my favorite part of the training. I love the rhythmic motions, the lack of impact on your joints, and the feeling of the water sweeping over your body. I can't believe that I actually look forward to the swim workout each day. 

The biking has been somewhat of an afterthought, mostly because I feel that if push came to shove I could bike the 12 miles today with very little problem. I am still using the stationary bikes at the gym, and as soon as I get the swim headband figured out my next priority will be to get my bike to the shop so that I can start riding on the road. My mileage, consistent with the training schedule, is 4 miles per workout. 

Running, I'm afraid, is where I find the most challenge. Although the training schedule says to walk rather than run, it seems like a cop out, so I am running (jogging) every bit of the scheduled minutes that I can. I am up to 2.20 miles now (in approximately 24 minutes) and every second of that feels like a struggle. I've found a route that I like which goes around the park near my house, down along the beach, and through a cute little neighborhood and allows me to at least enjoy the scenery while I trudge along. If I am feeling like it is impossible I make myself at least get out there and alternate running and walking, reminding myself the whole time that I am still doing better than what the training schedule dictates. Certainly I can't be the only person who has trained for a triathlon who hates running. 

Another tool I have discovered to make the running portion a little more bearable is the Nike+ Running app in iPhone. It tracks your run via GPS and keeps track of your mileage, time, and other stats. It is full of fun little pictures and details and I find myself motivated by the prospect of logging another workout and seeing the summary at the end. For example, here is a screenshot from my last run:

Whatever keeps me going, I'll take it. 

I have been really amazed with the journey that has taken place in such a short time. I feel like each time I do a workout I expect to simply hammer it out and get it over with and instead find that I have a unique and memorable experience. I discover something new- about the activity, my technique, or about myself, and I feel more connected to the outdoors and what is going on around me. I have incredible amounts of energy compared to just a month ago, and I am already noticing less jiggle in my upper legs, more definition in my calves and butt and strength in my triceps. Instead of dragging myself to the start of each workout I am looking forward to tomorrow's, and my overall outlook on life feels reinvigorated. It always amazes me how much of a difference it makes to push yourself a little. 

Some thoughts, observations, and lessons-learned over the past three weeks are as follows:
- Frustration is part of the process. You're doing new things that you are not familiar with. Feel the frustration, accept it, and remind yourself that it will be overcome.
- Be flexible. Some days it may just not be possible to do the workout you're scheduled to do. Look at the next few days of your workout schedule and see if you can flip flop a workout, make a substitution, or fit in an extra session somewhere in the coming days. Don't get down on yourself, things happen. 
- Realize when you have to take a break. I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning three days ago. It took me almost throwing up as I strapped on my running shoes to realize that it is counterproductive to fight your body. I'll be back to workouts tomorrow.
- Don't make excuses. Busy later? Work out now. Raining? Do it anyway. Tired? Run, then melt onto the couch for a nap. Relaxing will feel better when you know you've accomplished something.

And, last but not least:

- BEING UNCOMFORTABLE IS OKAY. This is probably the most important thing I have learned so far, and it's the mantra that keeps me from stopping during a run. Being uncomfortable is what is necessary to make you stronger. Welcome that this feeling is caused by pushing yourself, improving yourself, and expanding your body and mind. We spend so much of our lives avoiding it, but once you accept the discomfort, it is empowering.