Monday, June 30, 2014

Becoming real

For all my bluster and blogging and Facebook fa la la, for all my exuberance and enthusiasm and excitement, the truth is that most of the time I feel like a big fat faker. OK, not quite a faker, because I'm being honest about how I feel, and I'm reporting my training truthfully. But I feel like I got a job from someone who hired me because she liked me but never called my references or checked out my qualifications.

I have not been able to shake this feeling that I'm not a "real" athlete, that what I'm doing here doesn't really count. I'm not in good enough shape, I don't push very hard in training, I'm still 10-15 pounds heavier than I want to be, I don't have any kids to take care of, any partner to consider, I don't understand all the nuances of glycogen and lactate and VO2 max, and I don't have a power meter. I don't know what kind of shifters are on my bike. I run only a 10-minute mile on my very best day. I was never on swim team. I'm not a natural athlete. I'm so awkward. The training doesn't actually feel that hard--I must be doing something wrong. I feel too tired--I can't possibly be ready. Someone really qualified for this just goes and does it and isn't a big neurotic mess about it, doesn't have so much doubt, doesn't want so much attention.

There are also all these people I know who are serious athletes, who are the real badasses out there, who are quietly doing insanely challenging things with no hoopla. And then there are the people who are facing profound challenges that aren't of their choosing, my friends and family who are dealing with life-threatening illness, with the loss of a loved one, with injury and hardship and struggle that makes this silly race look like a self-indulgent fandango. 

While I am more grateful than I can say for every kind word of encouragement and support, for every "like", for every anonymous page view of this blah-blah blog, I feel like kind of a fraud. I am just this big goofy normal person, and I happen to be lucky enough to have the good health and the time and resources to attempt this challenge. That's it. While I appreciate any congratulations I get, I feel pretty damn sheepish about it.

So yeah. I know full well how absurd that all is. I also feel really proud, super excited, a little brave, and really, really lucky. I am working hard and achieving amazing things. I just want to offer up the dark side in case it resonates with anyone out there who's thinking "I could never do that" ( with "that" being anything, not just an Ironman), I am here to tell you that you may well be wrong. I sure as hell never saw it coming.

One year ago, I finished a Half Ironman.

Two years ago, I first thought hmmm, maybe I should try to do an Ironman before I'm 50 (just last year, during my training for the Half,  I realized it wasn't going to get any easier, so I'd better just get cracking.)

Six years ago, I decided to honor my 40th birthday with a significant physical challenge-- a sprint-distance triathlon. At that point I was using the elliptical at the Y for 30 minutes and lifting weights 2 or 3 days a week, and that was it. I bought a one-piece swimsuit, got a bicycle, and a pair of running shoes. I took swim lessons, started training, and finished the Hope Tri (a 1/4 mile swim, 13 mile bike, 3 mile run).

Twelve years ago, I was smoking a pack of cigarettes every day and drinking the better part of a six-pack every night.

With the exception of my conscious decision to do that first tri, there was no watershed moment. I never set out to become an athlete (in fact, I keep erasing that as I write now--it feels strange to say "I'm an athlete"). I didn't wake up one day and declare that I was going to get healthy. The change was incremental, and it was a long and involved process. But at some point I started loving myself enough to tip the balance, and I chose feeling well over feeling shitty.

In my experience, if you're not totally happy with where you are (literally or figuratively), you don't have to set a massive goal for yourself to make change-- in fact, that can be the least effective route. Even if it had occurred or appealed to me at the time, there's not a chance in hell that a goal like "I will do an Ironman in 12 years" would have motivated the Shannon of 2002 to put out my cigarette and go for a walk on any given evening.

So pick one very manageable thing that's not serving you--some behavior that has outlived its useful purpose--and observe your habits around it. Don't try to will it away. Just notice how it feels when you think about it, when you decide to engage in it. Catch yourself in the act and feel it in your body. Do the same thing when you're practicing a behavior that's positive. Just observe yourself, feel into it, see where it takes you.

We have only a limited reserve of willpower--a finite supply, and when we use it up forcing ourselves to change, it's gone. That's part of why why new year's resolutions, or diets, or other changes that depend on willpower often fail so spectacularly. Real lasting change happens when we adjust our habits. If you want to change a habit, break it down into totally manageable pieces and change one piece until it becomes habit. If your goal is to exercise, find a behavior you can totally commit to, no matter how small it seems. Don't set a marathon goal if it requires a tremendous act of will. Instead, commit to putting on your sneakers and workout clothes every morning and walking for five minutes. If you feel like walking more, great. But walk the five minutes every day until it becomes a habit, and then you'll know when it's time to up the ante and set a new goal.

I'm starting to believe this is really happening, that with a few more weeks of good luck and good health I'm actually going to race. I'm riding and running distances I never dreamed of, and I feel damn good. My instinct is to explain it away. Yesterday I caught myself thinking, "This isn't a REAL 12-mile run because--"

But there was no reason there. It was for real. This is for real. I am for real.

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. -Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Lake Placid preview

It's 7 am on the last Friday in June. Four of us load up the trusty Subaru with a big pile of carbon candy and hit the road for northern New York. Mara and Don and I are all aspiring Ironmen/women, and our instigator and guide is Owen, a Lake Placid Ironman finisher who's trained there several times.

Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and it's the site of the second oldest Ironman (topped only by the world championship site in Kona, Hawaii). It's a surprisingly tiny town tucked away in the Adirondacks, and as you wander through town, you look up and there's the speed skating oval where Eric Heiden swept the men's events, there's the hockey arena where the good old US underdogs prevailed over the evil Soviets in 1980's Miracle on Ice. It's hard to imagine that such a quaint, humble place could contain an event of such magnitude. Of course, it no longer could--the broadband connection alone couldn't sustain it. Lake Placid was the home of the last small town Olympics that we'll ever see.

The hotel parking lot is full when we arrive, and most of the vehicles are plastered with triathlon stickers. Ordinary-looking New England tourists wander the streets, along with hundreds of lycra-clad athletes on bicycles and on foot. After checking in to the slightly shabby (but friendly and perfect, in a just-wheel-your-bikes-through-the-lobby kind of way) hotel in the center of town, we walk over to Mirror Lake, where dozens of swimmers in wetsuits and spandex are checking out the course, 4 lines of buoys that stretch most of the way across the lake.

I am intimidated as hell. Oh God, I think, what am I doing here? These people are professionals. There isn't an ounce of extra body fat on them. Their bikes are incredible. They are fast and strong and they all know what they're doing and oh oh oh. We get in to swim, and I'm discouraged. I'm tired and slow and the goddamn course seems to go on forever. Swimming is so lonely and my head can be so mean. But then, just past halfway through the first loop, a guy turns into my lane and matches my pace for the rest of the circle. The company is a drug--even though we don't speak or even look at each other, the silent companionship of this stranger energizes me and turns my mood around. He gets out with a quick "thanks" and wave at the end of the loop. Don and I take turns drafting each other on the second loop, which helps when my calves cramp to the extent that I can't kick. By the time we finish, Mara is waiting for us on shore, surrounded by a half-dozen half-dressed, handsome 40-something men in Ironman condition. I start to realize this is all going to be OK.

Lake Placid reminds me of Camden with triathletes. It's also like the middle-aged olympic village edition of With the knowledge of our shared experience and interest, there are no barriers to open conversation--it reminds me of meeting the only other foreigner in a small town while traveling--you just start talking to each other. It's an athletic flirtfest. By dinner time I'm pretty much in heaven.

All that notwithstanding, my primary goal this weekend is to find out what kind of speed I can expect on the bike route.The Lake Placid Ironman is famous for being especially hilly, so I've been worried about my pace. On Saturday we head out into the perfect summer morning. There's about a 10-mile descent right out of town-- a couple miles of which have me going a thrilling 40 MPH. Zooming past glacial lakes with mountain backdrops, passing and being passed and sharing hellos, it's a bluebird day and everyone on two wheels shares a shit-eating grin. There are several triathlon training camps happening this weekend, and there are hundreds of people out on the course. It's Adirondacks 101 as we travel through horse farms and past fly fishermen in trout streams.

I spend some time riding with a cycling coach from one of the camps. It's the most helpful and disheartening ride I've ever had, and I realize yet again that I don't know anything about anything, and also that I have to do this again next year. This year it's enough to log the hours and the miles, and do a good job at work and stay healthy and have a good time. Next year is the year I get the power meter and I pay attention to the heart rate monitor and I learn how to really ride a bike and do drills and set time goals and and and.

There are very few women out there, and we offer each other special acknowledgement and encouragement. I meet a guy from Brooklin who doesn't intend to ever do the race, he just likes riding here. The locals are not all thrilled with our presence, and I'm sympathetic when I consider how bad it would be if Camden were overrun not only with the usual crowds, but also with thousands of Type-A athletes focused on only one goal.

I've been hoping I could swing a 15 MPH pace for the course, which is two 56-mile loops. I manage 15.8 miles per hour on the one loop, and I've got gas left in the tank. I'm confident I can achieve 15 in the race.


The next morning is equally beautiful, and I take off to run on my own because my pace is slow and I'm wary of this pulled hip flexor that's been keeping me from running. I'm really scared that's it's going to stop me completely. But I head out of town into the crisp morning sun, and I'm thrilled that I have no pain and I'm running a 10-minute mile, a pretty good pace for slow old me. At about mile 4, I'm so overcome with joy and gratitude that I just break down, sobbing so hard I have to stop. I can't believe I get to do this. I can't believe my body is cooperating, that I've got this much health and grit and privilege. I pull myself together enough to run a very satisfying 12 miles, but I'm a weepy fool for the better part of the day. 

I'm totally inspired. See ya in a month, LP.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm not scared at all

A couple of weeks ago somebody generously congratulated me on my efforts and said, "I can't believe you're doing the Ironman--you're not even afraid or anything!"

Which left me speechless, because of course I'm terrified. I AM TERRIFIED, people. Of getting injured now, of getting sick, of not being able to go for some sad reason I can't even contemplate, of going and not finishing. I'm afraid of having perimenopausal hot flashes all night before the race, of not pooping before the race, of pooping during the race, of breaking my bike, getting kicked in the face by other swimmers, ripping my wetsuit, turning an ankle, forgetting my food, wrecking my kidneys, getting a flat tire, breaking a chain. You name it, it frightens me.

Mostly, though, I'm not scared of catastrophe; I'm just scared of being that scared. I'm afraid to be that uncomfortable for that long. I'm terrified that even while my body may be strong enough, my mind might not.

So let's just watch what happens when the mind prevails over the body:


Ohbytheway: slump week is over! Recovery/regeneration week feels wonderful.
Bike: 60 mins
Run 30 mins
Packing for our Lake Placid preview this weekend. Ordering supplies for the race. Hard to believe it's only a month away. Excited, grateful, disbelieving. Terrified.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

I rode my bike to a wedding

Boothbay by way of Warren, Jefferson, Nobleboro, Damariscotta Mills, Alna, Pittston, Wiscasset, and Southport. An espresso at Treats in Wiscasset at about mile 65.
Bike: 84 miles, 15 MPH.  
Run: 4.5 miles, my fastest run of the whole year. 
Definitely trying that espresso trick again. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

The sublime and the ridiculous

Mara and I met at Fernald's Neck at 6 am, wetsuits on, watches ready. The sun had just cleared the mountains to the east and already blazed white, blinding me with every other breath. Loons called as we made our way across the flat water to the dock on Fang Island, our turnaround point for the first of two loops. A bald eagle soared above. The water was clean and clear, the air fresh, my body warm and buoyant in my wetsuit. How lucky I am to be immersed in this beauty, I thought.

It was the most frustrating swim I've had in a long time. Mara swims much faster than I in the pool, but the wetsuit improves my form enough that I can almost keep up with her in the lake. I realized that if I could stay close enough to her to draft, I would stay with her. Drafting a swimmer is legal in the race, and well worth it, if it works--you can save as much as 5 minutes in an iron distance race with a good draft. But it's not without its challenges. You have to find someone the right speed, stay the right distance away (touching those toes in front of you too often seems rude and also invites getting kicked off, hard), and trust that your draftee is going to swim a straight line.

Mara was swimming at a pace that required intense concentration to match. If I spaced out and relaxed for even a moment, I found myself slipping back out of her wake and sprinting to catch up. We're also fairly squiggly swimmers without the line on the bottom of the pool (see the course my GPS tracked below)--so every time she went a little to one side, I'd lose her again, either by mistake, or because I couldn't bring myself to intentionally swim any extra yardage, so I'd keep going straight(ish), breathing hard and wondering how the hell I would hold this pace for 2.4 miles.

Mara got ahead of me, but I knew that when she turned around, I could get right on her toes and, with enough concentration, stay there. This plan was keeping me going. The only problem was that I didn't see her turn, and suddenly she was flying by me in the other direction. I yelled and yelled, a bobbing little orange dot in the middle of the lake. HEY! HEY! Of course she didn't hear. I pounded the water and nearly cried.

This has been the hardest week of the whole training program, and I was tired and irritable going in, so all this sent me reeling. The mean thoughts in my head hurled invective, ugliness that shouted in sharp contrast to the beauty around me. There's a thing from my childhood that provokes powerful feelings of anger, frustration, failure, and desperation when I feel like I have to catch up, or keep up, and I can't. I get a little panicky, like a two-year-old spinning out of control into a full-blown temper tantrum. It's huge, way out of proportion with everything my intellect knows. It's visceral and defeating and horrible. It's also one of the things that kept me from doing anything athletic for years, and it limits me now--I would work harder with faster friends if I didn't feel such intense anxiety about trying to be keep up. It doesn't happen with much faster people, when I don't even try to stay with them.

But I stuck by Mara most of the way. Not close enough to draft, but close enough that my time was 1:10, which exceeded my expectations by a full ten minutes. If she'll let me, I'll try it again next week to see if I can stay a little closer. I'll let my inner 2-year-old leave the histrionics at home, too.

Swim 2.4 miles, more or less, 1:10
Bike 1 hour

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Slump Week

Dear Slump Week,

Oh, thank God you finally arrived! I've been wondering where you were, and eagerly anticipating your arrival. Without you here, the last ten weeks of training have been a terrifying flood of endorphins, self-confidence, energy, strength, and unmitigated joy. I’m sure that all that genuine enthusiasm and boundless optimism was starting to wear on my friends, and I’ll admit that I was getting a little worried myself. I’m really glad you’re here.

Because it’s unnatural to go more than two months without shouting FUCK YOU, ALARM CLOCK! at 3:45 in the morning. Only the truly morally corrupt would feel any sense of normalcy—much less pride—about riding a bicycle at dawn in 50-degree rain week after week after week. And what kind of particular mental instability do you think it takes to get in a swimming pool three times a week to resolutely track back and forth several hundred times, like a hamster on a wheel sent to its watery grave? Fortunately I've been complaining about the running all along, so I haven’t lost any ground there.

Relentless heartfelt cheer in the face of a training regimen that would be considered completely fucking evil by any objective measure is surely a sign of a broken moral compass. Thank goodness you’re here so I can hate every goddamn minute of it and restore my karma.

Lacking any real problems to speak of, my life was feeling horribly out of balance until you showed up. Now I’m free to hate anything and everything with abandon, at least while you’re here. I can take offense at a friend’s invitation to have dinner, in a restaurant, after 5 pm. I can feel horribly misunderstood when someone suggests we go dancing. I can watch an extra episode of Orange is the New Black. Since you're here for a special visit, I'll make sure to eat those oatmeal cookies close to bedtime so I wake up at midnight like cocaine on fire. I can hit the snooze alarm every nine minutes for an hour and a half, and then feel like crap all day, and still have to ride my bike and run at night after work when I'm truly tired. While you’re here, hygiene, housekeeping, and nutrition can go right out the window, along with my running shoes and my training plan. I feel so much lighter, so much freer already! I’m getting so much more sleep, and mmmmm….nachos!

Fortunately, now I don’t have to go through all the emotional turmoil I experience while envisioning my triumphant finish, when that guy on the loudspeaker announces my name and congratulates me for being an Ironman, in front of thousands of cheering spectators. Seriously, that shit makes me cry every time, and I don’t have the energy for it. Now I can focus all my thoughts on renal failure, intractable vomiting, spraining an ankle, crashing my bike, getting repeatedly kicked in the face by men aged 60-65 doing the breaststroke during the swim, and staggering in at 12:01 a.m., 17 hours after I started, for a “did not finish” result.  It’s just so much easier to concentrate on the things that can go wrong, you know?

I know you can stay only a little a while – in fact, it would probably be best for us both if you leave by Friday—but we’re going to have such a great time while you’re here.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Baby got back

"If you finish this thing," said my physical therapist, Dave, "It's because we did a good job training your butt."

Ah, my butt. My poor abominated butt.

It wasn't until I was 12 that I even knew that a butt was a thing.

Remember Private Benjamin, the blockbuster hit of 1980? On her wedding night, Goldie Hawn's new husband tells her that she has a great ass, that he loves her ass, something like that. This was a complete and utter revelation to me: 1) Men love asses! 2) There are asses that men love and there are asses that men don't love! My highly impressionable, generally self-deprecating pre-adolescent mind quickly put 1 +2 together to form 3) My ass is not good enough!

Just like that, a whole new belief system about my butt. Before Albert Brooks even had his heart attack and the scene ended. Honestly, I think it's kind of a miracle that I made it to 12 without hating my butt...I bet few girls today get that far. There are so many layers in this discussion, so many injustices that break my heart.

Not long after my discovery, I was cutting through Poppleton Park on my way home and some college-aged man yelled "nice butt!" What inspired him to pick on a young innocent stranger, I don't know, but he and his friends laughed when I croaked "thank you" back, the best I could come up with in the moment while my face burned, even though I was still unsure of whether he was making fun of me. (He was.)

Thus launched a life of butt loathing. The first glimmer of hope came, funnily enough, 20 years ago today, which I only know because it was also the day of OJ Simpson's legendary Bronco chase, while I was traveling solo in Mexico. "You have a bery beeg butt!" a young man said to me. Before my horror took hold, he leaned in close and winked. "Eet's GOOOOOD!" And I knew that he meant it. Which was a new revelation: I just need to find a culture that celebrates a little more junk in the trunk.

And later, much later, the revelations that it doesn't matter one speck what my butt looks like, that what men think has no bearing on anything, that my distorted body image holds me down, that my physical appearance is of no consequence, and so on ad nauseam ad infinitum. Do these jeans make my butt look big? A work in progress.

I mean, seriously. It's not that big. I mean, it's a little big. Actually, I have no idea. At this moment all I care about is that I did hill repeats again this morning, and my big old butt is getting stronger and firmer and it jiggles less, and it also happen to be the very engine that powers me all the way up Chestnut Street, eight times.

In fact, it's believed that our butts evolved specifically to make us good at running. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body, but it basically does nothing when we're just walking around. We need it for running. Here's a quick look at some of the running adaptations seen in homo sapiens (butt talk starts at 1:44):

And finally, the real reason I wrote this. I really just wanted to re-post this video of Sir Mix-A-Lot with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Shake that healthy butt, baby.


What I've been up to:

Thu: Swim: 3 x 800, 30 seconds rest, first 800 out 300 very fast, second 800 negative split, last 800 easy. Bike: 2 hours
Fri: Swim: 16 X 25, 10 seconds rest, 16 x 50, 15 seconds rest, alternate easy and fast. Bike: 30 minutes. Strength training.
Sat: Run: 2.5 hours
Sun: Bike: 5 hours
Mon: Rest
Tues: Run: Hill repeats, 8 x hill. Swim: 25x100

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The price of good company

Bike: 27.88 miles (at 4:45 am)
Run: 45 minutes

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gasping and wheezing and beating the boys

My training plan told me to start doing hill repeats every other Tuesday about 10 weeks ago, but I've been behind on the whole running program, and the sciatica is worst up hills, and, well, who doesn't want to skip hill repeats?

But yikes, I'm 46 days away from Lake Placid. So here's how they go: Warm up for 15 minutes or so. Find a hill 400-800 meters long. Run up it as fast as you can. Go down it slowly enough that your heart rate gets back down to Zone 1. Repeat. In this case, repeat 8 times. Cool down 10-15 minutes. Try not to puke.

So there I went. Left a water bottle at the corner of Limerock and Chestnut Streets and bolted up the hill, grateful for the cool air and empty streets. I intended to go all the way up to Penobscot Avenue, but was wheezing so hard at the top of the beast at Highland Ave (a mere 250-meter stretch) that I chickened out and decided that would be good enough for my first hill session. I trotted back down to do it again. And again and again.

I had to laugh when I saw the Garmin data. See the nearly imperceptible little ripples in the middle of the top graph? That's my monster hill. See the huge spikes of effort in the bottom graph? That's my heart.

But I was granted a victorious ending. Coming down the hill on #7, I passed four men running up. I reached the corner, turned around, and as I started my final climb I realized that if I really pushed, there was a chance I'd catch them, maybe even beat them to Highland Avenue.

Now, let's just not say anything about how old they were, or how long they had already been running, or how far they still had to go, or whether one of them is currently experiencing a major medical challenge. Little details like this are irrelevant to me when there's a chance to beat the boys. It makes me happy every single time, no matter what reality-based little pesky details stack the deck in my favor.

I gave that last hill everything I had, and they never saw me coming. I came lurching from behind to slap the telephone pole at the top just a foot ahead of the first guy, heard a couple exclamations of surprise and something sounding vaguely congratulatory about "hill work." I gasped a "thank you, guys" and took an extra slow trot back down.

Run: warm up, 8 x hill, cool down
Strength training
Swim: Alternating fast/easy,
2x25, 2x50, 2x75, 2x100, 2x150, 2x200, 2x150, 2x100, 2x75, 2x50, 2x25

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A running playlist and a treat

I ran the multi-use trail in Camden Hills State Park this morning, from Lincolnville to the campground in Camden (water bottle refill!), past the ski hut twice (pee break!). It was 10 miles total, my longest run this year. Extremely slow pace, slower even than the black flies. It was all about the mileage.

I don't always listen to music, but today I was glad to have it going, and a few of these kicked my ass right up some of the steeper hills.

Name Artist
Ain't Too Proud To Beg Temptations
All Good Zeroleen
Always Like This Bombay Bicycle Club
American Idiot Green Day
Baba O'Riley The Who
Barton Hollow The Civil Wars
Basket Case Green Day
Bedlam Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Beercan Beck
Brick House The Commodores
Calamity Song The Decemberists
City Livin G. Love And Special Sauce
Could You Be Loved Bob Marley
Diane Young Vampire Weekend
The Distance CAKE
Domino Van Morrison
End of the Line The Traveling Wilburys
Give Peace A Chance Aerosmith featuring Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars
Gypsy Girl Nate Currin
Hanuman MC Yogi
Happy Pharrell Williams
Heaven Los Lonely Boys
Heavy Soul The Black Keys
Home Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Hooked On A Feeling Blue Swede
I Don't Give a Fuck Boss
I Fought The Law Colin Farrell
I Got You Mocean Worker
I Like To Move It Will.I.Am
I Love You Like a Madman The Wave Pictures
I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like) Michael Franti & Spearhead
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers
I'm Too Sexy Right Said Fred
Impressed by You Spouse
The Impression That I Get The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Kick Drum Heart The Avett Brothers
Kondaine (Dixon) The Very Best
Let's Go Get 'Em Rebirth Brass Band
A Little Less Conversation Elvis Presley  (JXL Radio Edit Remix) 
Little Lion Man Mumford & Sons
Little Talks Of Monsters And Men
Lonely Boy The Black Keys
Ma Ya Hi (Dragostea Din Tei)  Dan Balan, Lucas Prata & O-Zone
Magic Carpet Ride Steppenwolf
Mr. Mastodon Farm CAKE
Murder (or a Heart Attack) The Old 97s
Mysterious Ways U2
Nadas Por Free Ozomatli
None Of Your Business Salt-N-Pepa
On A Night Like This Buckwheat Zydeco
Paris Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Peace, Love and Happiness G. Love And Special Sauce
People Don't Get What They Deserve Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings


And now about that treat. 

Every week I make a batch of raw bars--super delicious treats that include some protein, lots of carbs, healthy fats, and all kinds of valuable micronutrients. I keep them in the freezer and grab one when I need a quick snack that's nutrition dense and delicious. They're different every week, but they all have a date base and some combination of nuts and seeds. This one is my new favorite...It might be a little too good. I ended up not eating dinner tonight because I snacked so hard on this during production. It's like cookie dough. It might also be illegal except in Colorado.

Cherry Chia Hemp Bars

Adapted from Gena Hamshaw's no-bake cranberry almond snack bars

1 lb medjool dates
2 cups california walnut halves and pieces
1 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1 cup crunchy almond butter
2 cups rolled oats
3t coconut butter, softened (check out Artisana brand)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
12 oz dark sweet cherries, cranberries, or other dried fruit
1T vanilla
~1 t salt, to taste

Soak dates for a few hours or overnight. Drain well. Chop walnuts very finely in food processor; remove. Coarsely chop the pumpkin seeds in food processor and remove. Pit the dates and puree them in food processor. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Press into a 9x13 (ish) pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Freeze, then cut into 36 bars. Or form into little bite-sized balls and freeze. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Eating to win on the ride to the Clyde

The plan called for a four-hour bike ride and a 35-minute run, so I mapped it out and set my sights on Port Clyde, with an Owls Head loop on the way back if I had time. My challenge for the ride was to run the first test of my preliminary nutrition plan--in short, to consume 250-300 calories an hour on the bike. I loaded up my bars and gels and filled my water bottles with sports drink, counted up the total calories and thought, this is my kind of challenge, baby. Consume 1200 calories by 10:00 a.m.? It's a noble goal.

I've got liquid nutrition on board in the form of EFS Electrolyte powder (three 32-oz bottles), plus Vega raspberry flavored gels, and Vega energy bars. I love these Vega products because they're all natural, they're tasty good, and they give me the nutrition I need. 


I head out at 5:30 a.m., the sun already strong and warm. After weeks of riding in cold and rain, it's heavenly. The air is silk scarves on my skin, and everything is gold and smells like clean clothes. I'm riding fast, and I'm pretty sure I'm the happiest person on earth.

I turn down Route 131 and pedal down through St. George. At one point there's a huge dark object in the middle of the oncoming lane, and I see that the fishermen who just passed me in their pickup truck have pulled over next to it. I slow the bike and circle around to investigate. The passenger gets out with a lit cigarette between his teeth, and says, "Gotta move that turtle or he's gonna get himself hit." As he picks up the 18-inch snapping turtle, it unleashes a violent stream of urine. "HA!" he snorts through his cigarette. "Little fuckah pissed on my sneakah!" He gently sets the massive creature down next to the roadside pond. I tell him he gets big points for stopping, and he informs me that after getting pissed on, he deserves a goddamn award. I thank him for saving the little fucker and roll on down the road.

I'm not in the habit of eating during exercise. On long bike rides I'll bring a snack, but I don't eat it until I'm really hungry. Today I'm sipping sports drink and taking a gel or bar every 45 minutes. I make Port Clyde village earlier than I thought I would.

I leave the Clyde feeling strong, a little amazed at how un-tired I am. Is it the nutrition? Am I really this fit? Last week was a "recovery" week, with a scaled-back 12 hours of training vs. this week's 16--is that it? I get back home and run for 35 minutes, and it's one of my best runs to date.

Honestly, I'm a little flabbergasted. Of course I'm thrilled, and proud, and so, so grateful. But mostly I'm stunned--am I really capable of going for a 4-hour bike ride like it's recreational? Like it's what I do before 10:00 am, just for fun? YEP, yep I am. YES. Part of me says, well, yeah, what did you think? You're working hard for this. Another part of me is still this big insecure lump who can't believe it's all really true, like there's a catch and my true pathetic self will be revealed.

While sometimes I feel like kind of a hot shit on the bike, I am always really self-conscious when I'm running. So much so that (for example) when I'm running today--even after I kicked so much ass on that bike--a dump truck driver pulls in to the parking lot at Rankin's and parks in my path, fairly close to another car, and the driver leans out his door and very kindly asks, "did I leave you enough room?" And my first thought is HE THINKS I'M FAT. HE THINKS I CAN'T FIT. HE THINKS I'M TOO FAT TO RUN. HE IS MAKING FUN OF ME.

OK, yeah, right away I get how ridiculous, and how sad, this is. My grownup successful Ironwoman self steps in almost immediately, and she laughs and she cries a little for that little girl who somehow got that horrible idea in her head, and she sweeps it all away and runs three and a half miles at a ten minute pace after a 62-mile bike ride and she feels proud all day. It's all in there, and this training program is a microscope (or a magnifying glass, too tired to dissect the metaphor) trained on all the weaknesses, all the flaws, all the strengths. It's all turned up to eleven. 

Later in the day, I run into a friend and his 7-year-old daughter. Her eyes grow wide as I explain what the race would entail: first I'll swim for more than an hour, then I'll ride my bike for 7, maybe 8 hours, then I'll run a marathon for I don't know how long, maybe 5 hours.

"Will you get money at the end?" she asks. 

"Nope, no money." I answer, watching new layers of disbelief mask her face.

"Well, cake, then?" she asks. "Will they give you cake?"

We all agree that I can probably get some cake at the end. Now that's my kind of race.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Varsity Girls

I ended up on a bike ride this morning with four women I admire immensely. They're all amazing athletes. They're strong and beautiful and smart and interesting. A few years ago this would have scared the shit out of me, and not only because I wouldn't have been able to keep up on Moody Mountain. But today I did just fine, and I felt so grateful to be part of this talented group. It was like the varsity girls let me hang out with them, but in a grownup way built on mutual respect.

Brick: Bike 1:34, Run 0:47
Lifted weights

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes

Oh I used to be disgusted, and now I try to be amused

CHRHS track, 6:00 am

Elvis Costello playing here!


Run: 2x800, 2x400, 2x200 plus warm-up and cool-down
Swim: 26x100, plus warm-up and cool-down