... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Can't... I Have to Train.

Well, week three has gone significantly better than week two, partially because my body is readjusting to the activity level, but mostly due to the fact that I am remembering how to stop making excuses. Non-exercising life, at least for me, is full of reasons why I am being sedentary. I am busy... I am tired... I need to watch the new episode of Dexter...

These things are all true, but no more true than the fact that if I don't get off my ass and train for the Lavaman Tri, I will be crawling across the finish line doused in my own tears. Last week, I let the excuses win. This week, I made a change.

Every time the thought "I don't feel like it" entered my mind, I quickly replaced it with "SHUT UP IT DOESN'T MATTER!" Busy? So is everyone. Tired? Go to bed early. Wondering if Hannah and Dexter will be able to make it work? Watch it after your hard-earned dinner. It doesn't matter.

If you are truly going to do a triathlon (and do it well, not just drag yourself to the finish), the training has to be a priority. End of story. And so I made it happen. On Thursday when I was tired, I told myself that I just had to get on the bike and ride a mile. Once I got going, it was so enjoyable that I rode 14. I started in Kawaihae and took the highway up the hill toward Hawi, riding along the water over ups and downs, looking at Maui rising out of the ocean on the horizon. I have to thank the M.S. fundraiser volunteers because left over from their bike race last weekend were words emblazoned in chalk along the roadside: "It's a hill! ... Keep Going! ... You did it!" and "What goes up? ... a BIKE!" They made me smile and kept by energy and motivation strong.

In fact, I rode until the sun was going down and it started to get dark, and when I got back to Kawaihae Harbor where I had parked the sunset was so beautiful that I was overtaken by the desire to be enveloped in the purples reflecting on the ocean; into the water I went -- bike shorts and all. Spontaneity is what makes things interesting, and the interesting and unexpected opportunities that present themselves during training are one of the things that keep me going. As I immersed myself in the velvety water, surrounded by sunset colors, I remembered that I hadn't even wanted to go on this ride. Because I was tired.

This week has been a success. On the bike, I got my mile time down to 3:48 per mile, a vast improvement over the 5:54 I started out at when I began my re-training. I took great strides in my running as well (no pun intended) running my fastest 5k since the foot injury and taking my mile time down to 12:58 -- horrible, really, but steadily improving and almost back to where I was when I first started running back in December of last year. Every run leaves me wanting more, and my foot isn't giving me any trouble.

Swimming is where I will be putting my focus in the upcoming week. My stroke feels choppy and ungainly, seemingly unable to get into a rhythm like I'm used to. I'm still using a snorkel in order to strengthen my arms without worrying about breathing, but I'm feeling like I've reached the point at which it is more of a hindrance than a help. As an added bonus, today I was stung by a jellyfish for the first time! After last week's shark adventure, I was extremely paranoid, but I was so busy looking out toward the open ocean and jumping at every shadow passing on the sand below me that I failed to see the tentacles in my path. Almost simultaneously I felt a prickly pain on my lips, then my arm, then my armpits. It wasn't as horribly painful as I had imagined and I never saw the jelly, so at first I thought that my body was acting up in some new and strange way, but as the stinging persisted and intensified I realized I'd been stung. I swam to shallow water and stood up, watching as welts raised on my arm. Somehow my face was spared despite being the first place I felt the sting.

Once I realized that I wasn't going to have horrible cramps or go into shock, and inspired by Leahi Camacho, the incredibly inspirational 17-year-old who just completed a 26-mile swim between Molokai and Oahu despite being stung by a Portugese Man of War in the middle of the swim, I headed back out to finish my swim. If she can swim for 15 hours, certainly I can suck it up and pull through for 29 minutes.

So all in all, a solid week. No more excuses, no more laziness. Want to lounge on the couch? Take a nap? Watch reruns on TV? I can't. I have to train.

Monday, August 19, 2013

... And Sometimes, There's a Shark!

My workout today was set to be an 88-minute bike ride and a 44-minute swim.

Without hesitation, I loaded up The Cervelo (that's right, it gets capitals), gathered my swim stuff, and hit the road as soon as Sean left for work. My plan was to drive to Hapuna Beach, ride toward Kona as far as I could get in forty-four minutes, ride back, then jump in the ocean and do my swim.

The "cycling" went as planned, and I made it just under 18 miles. Slowly but surely, I am getting my times back down to where they were! My first ride back after the injury I clocked a pathetic 5:34 mile pace. Kenyan guys could run twenty-six miles at a faster pace than I could bike. Sad. Today I'm down to 4:14. Still not great, but definitely on the right path. Once I got warmed up my legs felt strong and even the up-hill portions didn't phase me like they have been doing. In fact, I stayed on the big sprocket for the entire ride! Not bad.

I do have to say that there is nothing like the wind on the Queen K Highway. Much like the two-sided hills of North Kohala (a horrible phenomenon in which you ride uphill for miles, then turn around and instead of finding a downhill, the other direction is inexplicably uphill as well), the Queen K winds seem to come from every direction so that no matter which way you ride, you are fighting buffeting gusts and trying not to let it tip your bike over. It's an adventure.

I also tried using the Charity Miles app for the first time. In theory, this app tracks your miles via GPS and donates 25 cents per mile of running and 10 cents per mile of biking to a charity of your choice. No idea how to verify that they are, in fact, donating the money, but it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just the same.

After this decent length ride, the longest since I started training again, I was pretty excited to get to the water. Back at Hapuna Beach, I put the bike back in my car, carefully covered anything resembling a logo with towels so as not to attract attention, and proceeded down to the water. It was immediately noticeable that there were not very many people on the usually crowded beach, and no one at all in the water. I was a little confused by this but attributed it to the fact that it was somewhat late in the afternoon.

I googled "Tiger Shark Hawaii" and this is what came up...
As soon as I stepped into the water, however, the chorus of "no, no, NO!"s and the crowd of people running toward me alerted me to the fact that perhaps there was some other reason for the beach's unusual lack of occupancy.

Turns out, there was a SHARK.

Apparently a 10-15 foot tiger shark was sighted this morning and this caused beach closures for the rest of the day. For some other reason that I do not yet know, the signs and tape were all down by the time I got there and no one, including the gate guard, had bothered to inform me that there might be a giant set of teeth waiting for me when I did my swim workout. Obviously, the swim got postponed.

There is always something interesting going on when training in Hawaii, at least it never gets boring! For the (very short) official news story about this shark sighting, check out the local coverage. At very least. check out the comments at the bottom of the story. Should make you chuckle.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week One Pleasures, Week Two Blues

After my initial false starts, my first week of training went swimmingly. (Get it? Get it?) I swam several miles, biked three times, and did my somewhat pathetic yet still satisfying run-walk combo with great success. Some observations on starting the new training schedule:

1. I love being outside.
Beautiful Waimea run
Sunset bike ride
I have this strange thought each time I gear up for a workout in which I bemoan how little time I have to just enjoy beautiful Hawaii due to hours spent training. This is stupid. I spend at least three times more times in the great outdoors when I'm training versus when I'm not whether it is swimming in the water, cycling on the road, or running on the trails. Plus, I get to enjoy not just the sunshine (and sometimes rain) but a feast for all senses -- the gorgeous landscape full of colors so saturated they hardly seem real, smells of the earth and the flowers, the feel of the wind and water on my face, the sounds of the breeze rustling through the grass and the birds singing, and even the taste of the many fruits that I find along the way (right now it's guava season!). Each time I go out I find something new, things that I never noticed before despite having driven past them countless times. There is something to be said for slowing down and experiencing the outdoors in a more intimate way.

2. It's time for me to start calling it "cycling."

New friend
Having spent the first portion of my triathlon-related life training for a sprint still a newbie and although I now know how to change a tire in theory, I have the distinct feeling that if and when it happens out on the road I will still be completely at a loss, but now that I am training for an Olympic-length tri and riding a fancy bike (more about that in a moment), I am trying to be a better, more "proper" athlete.
triathlon -- the bottom of the triathlon barrel -- and riding a "vintage" road bike

three times as old as I am, I felt somewhat ridiculous talking like a serious endurance athlete. I didn't know how to change a tire, I didn't own a pair of bike shorts, and I didn't know whether the harder gears were "high" or "low." I was a newbie. Now, let's be clear -- I am

3. Fancy bikes are fun.
Another new friend -- my new Cerv
I had grown quite attached to my old Peugeot, and although it was by no means fancy, it represents my first step into the triathlon realm and the fulfillment of a long-term goal. I was all about seeing what my body could do, not what some fancy equipment could do, and while I still subscribe to that mindset, I certainly could not say no when my wonderful employers gave me a gorgeous Cervelo P2C tri bike. I still haven't gotten cleats or shoes to match its fancy Speedplay XR clip-in pedals and thus I am riding using little stubs that look like lollipops for pedals (something that I'm pretty sure flies in the face of everything I said in #2, above...), but it has been really, really fun to experiment with this beautiful piece of cycling engineering. I
still love my old bike, but I am truly enjoying my new toy.

4. My body returns to its pre-broken foot habits very quickly once I restart my training. My pants are immediately looser, my appetite is immediately bigger, but most importantly I immediately have more energy and feel better. My cravings for junk food have already disappeared and I am back to eating like a bottomless pit. There are not enough raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, green beans, and salmon filets in the world to satiate me -- and I love it!

5. I love the surprises that present themselves during my workouts.
First, I met a very sweet dog who did my whole run with me, then hopped into my car before I could protest, forcing me to drive her home to where she first joined me over a mile away. Then I found an absolutely beautiful road that takes you through rolling, deeply green fields full of sheep and horses before turning a corner and running right next to Mauna Kea. I have seen humongous crabs walking on the ocean floor and I nearly inhaled a full lung of ocean water when I was suddenly surrounded by a gigantic school of fish, at least 1000-strong. Since then, I have also met and made friends with several cows, horses, and goats along the roadways. Today I discovered a road that takes me up into the very hills that I have been lusting after for the past four months. Every day of training is a new adventure, and I can never underestimate what a gift this is.

Despite my first week going so well, however, the changes to my schedule caught up to me quickly. Whereas I would usually make a quick trip to the grocery store on my way home from work, now I must change into running clothes in the office bathroom and find a place to run before it gets dark. When I would normally be cooking, I am swimming, and during the time that I had set aside to write these blogs, I am taking long bike rides. Moving my schedule around caused a chaotic, disorganized feeling that overwhelmed me, resulting in poor diet (not bad food, just not enough food), a messy house, and a very tired me. After fighting it all week, I took Thursday and Friday off to go home and directly to sleep. Starting fresh today with a 12-mile bike ride and 2.5-mile run felt like the two day hiatus did its job. My legs no longer felt like lead and my brain felt  clear and focused. I know that making such big adjustments to both schedule and activity level will take time to get used to, so in the mean time I will listen to my body and try to stay organized.

Week three promises good things.

Friday, August 9, 2013

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

After a long ( and possibly frustrated) hiatus, I am back! I could rationalize and explain why it took so long but the truth is that I simply don't work well when not under pressure, and so between the injury and having a lot of time before my training schedule officially began, I just slacked off.

I won't say that I regret it, because during the past two months I have gotten to spend time with my wonderful boyfriend, his mother, and my lovely mom. I have gotten to explore the island, relax, settle in at work, and I am coming back rested and really excited about getting back to training. My foot still feels a little stiff and creaky if I push it too hard, but it is almost, almost back to normal.

True to form, two out of my first three attempts at a come-back were horrible failures. I spent a week pumping myself up for August 4th, the first day of my new training schedule, and had even received more gear from apparel companies like DeSoto and Salty Coconuts that I was really looking forward to testing for the magazine. The day came, I pulled out  my carefully-picked sassy spandex outfit, and the problems began.

First off, spandex does not fit me like it did the last time I graced it with my curves. There were bulges and rolls in places I had never worried about back in April, and although I know this is a temporary situation, it was still frustrating to see how out of shape I've gotten in my three and a half month sport hiatus. Oh well, I told myself, now I get to watch the transformation happen all over again, and let's be honestit's pretty exciting to see new muscles popping out in places you had previously assumed were composed solely of jelly. Just to give myself something to look forward to, I weighed myself and took some measurements (hips, waist, arms, etc.) so that the night before the triathlon in November I can look back on today's wimpy measurements and feel like Superwoman in comparison. I won't share those gory details, but I will admit that I have gained ten pounds since I broke my foot. I'm pretty sure this has something to do with my staunch insistence on continuing to eat as though I was training full time while doing nothing but sitting on the couch. Just a theory.

Ignoring my fat rolls and somehow still feeling sporty I found my helmet, put on my shoes, and rolled my bike out from under the house where it has been exiled for the past three months. Sean was planning on coming with me but somehow misplaced the key, locking his bike in the garage. Nevertheless, I was ready to head out alone to bike and swim. As I went for my keys and wallet, I realized that the latter had been MIA for at least 24 hours. I had no idea where it was. Normally I would say "screw it" and drive without my license in the car, but given that the beach I swim at is 25-30 minutes away, I didn't want to risk driving without it.

Oh well, I thought. I guess I'll just skip swimming today and bike from my house! The hill I have to brave in order to go anywhere from home is huge and terrifying, but hey, who needs to be able to walk the next day anyway, right? I walked the bike out to the driveway and loaded it into the car, only then realizing that the tires were completely flat. No problem, I thought, I'll just go grab the pump.
No wallet. No pump. No clue.

Out of the garage.

Which is locked.

And missing a key.


Fail number two happened on Tuesday, which was supposed to be the day I made up for the stupidity of Sunday, but ended up practically a repeat. Once again I put on all of my gear, got everything together (including the previously absent wallet and bike pump), and enlisted Sean (and his previously absent bike!). When I attempted to pump up my tired, however, I could not for the life of me get the pump to latch onto the valve on my tire. Please note, I have done this exact same thing with this exact same pump at least three times in the past. It felt like I was hallucinatingdespite all logic, it simply wouldn't fit. Annoyed and feeling like I was in the Twilight Zone, I finally gave up on my flat tires. As it were, I was literally in the twilight zone because while I struggled to do the basic task I've done many many times with no issue, it got totally dark. Ugh.

The funny part of these experiences, however, was that while they were frustrating, they brought back a sense of familiarity and a torrent of memories from my first few weeks of training back in December. I may be wise enough now not to buy Walmart goggles or try to swim over reef in two feet of water, but The Great Triathlon is still much smarter than me and determined to prove it at every turn, and I have reached the point where I revel in the knowledge that these mistakes and mishaps mean that soon I will be making great improvements. Working through these challenges gives me a sense of accomplishment, even if the accomplishments themselves are small.

Unique cows checking us out
Luckily for me, I did manage to get a semi-functional "run" in between these disasters. By run, of course, I mean ten minute intervals of running punctuated by three minutes of a slow, deliberate jogging. "Running" is really too generous a word for what I am doing right now, but despite that I have to say that after three months of limited motion there is little else more satisfying. It felt good simply to feel my muscles working, to fully inflate my lungs, and to stretch out my insides with each breath.

As an added bonus, we ran on a trail that hugs the hillside overlooking the ocean, guiding us past an ancient Hawaiian temple (called a heiau), the birthplace of King Kamehameha (who united the Hawaiian islands as one), and a huge assortment of the most interesting-looking cows I've ever seen, grazing contentedly in seemingly endless fields. Although my running can barely be called that, it reminded me of all of the things I love about training that have missing and I am extremely happy to be back!