eulogy for a good girl

I met Torte when I moved into my first job and apartment after college; August 2000. What’s the first thing my apartment needed? A cat, of course. I visited a shelter in hopes of finding a cat or two to foster. And there she was, clinging to the safety gate keeping her and her brothers in the bathroom. They were all eating, they were all boys and they were all orange. Torte was the only girl, the only tortoise-shell and the only one not interested in eating, rather in escaping. A trait she would carry her whole life.

I asked the shelter folks when she’d be ready to go home; 3 more weeks. I came back and picked her little body up. She fit into my two hands almost perfectly. A cute little short-haired tortoise-shell who the shelter called “The Tortie.” I named her Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Torte (Torte for short). By the time she was 6 weeks old she knew her name and would come running when you called her.

She was the perfect companion for my new adventure into full scale adulting.

My apartment had a lovely bathroom with a nicely sized bathtub. It became my normal routine to soak in a bath and listen to hockey on the radio. Torte was so curious about this whole bath concept. She would sit on the ledge and poke at the bathwater. I’m not sure she ever understood why someone would take a bath, but she was always there on the ledge. She’d even come sit there when I showered (in between the curtains); swatting at the water as it hit the shower curtain.

My job at the time meant that there were often people hanging out in my apartment. Torte loved this. She greeted everyone who came in. I used to think that it was because of growing up with all those people that she became a people lover, but I now realize that she was born to love people.

One day I came home from work and I saw a giant ball of fluff sitting on the couch. To rewind for a bit; when I first brought Torte home she was a short hair cat. She had the cute fuzz of any other cat. Then, all of the sudden, it’s like someone just yanked on all of her hair and she became a long hair cat. And within 10 minutes (and for the next 15 and a half years) everything I owned was covered in cat hair. And cat hairballs.

Torte loved to play fetch. I would throw balls of paper for her and she would chase after them across the apartment. Each time she brought one back to me I’d rub her head and say “good girl!” At some point she’d get tired and lose interest. But I’d wake up the next morning and all the balls would be at the bottom of the bed, waiting for me to throw them and give her a head rub.

Torte was quite the master knitter. She would open whatever drawer I had stashed my yarn balls in and pull one out. Then she would carefully wrap the yarn around all the legs of every piece of furniture in the house. It was a beautiful creation. Really. I don’t think anyone could have possibly created something more unique and useful. Knitting was a hobby Torte kept up with her whole life, no matter how well I tried to hide the yarn.

The first time I brought Vince over to my house Torte inspected him. We sat down on the couch to watch a movie and Torte jumped on his lap. I know what you’ll say, “You said she loved people!” She did. But as far as boy and girlfriends went, she was picky. She often warmed up to whomever I was dating at the time, but it took a while. I can remember one boyfriend in particular that she wouldn’t even be in the same room with. But Vince? 5 minutes. 5 minutes and she was curling up in his lap like she had known him forever. I tried not to be jealous, but it was tough. I was also happy to know that I had found a good man. When we started sharing a bed, she often curled up with him. Vince was more than happy to cuddle with her and share his side of the bed. Again, a bit jealous, but also very happy that I had found a good man.

Vince got into the habit of letting her lick his cereal bowl when he finished breakfast. And his ice cream bowl. She could hear the sound of a spoon clinking against a bowl from three rooms away, no matter what time of day it was.

A year after Vince and I got married we adopted two kittens. They were so very tiny and adorable. Kai and Lani were welcomed with love by all of us. Torte  gave them their first lessons in catting. Including escaping from rooms and throwing up in public places. Kai developed quite the Mrs. Robinson crush on Torte. He would follow her around, and as the years progressed he became more and more bold with his advances. He’d wait for her to fall asleep on the couch and then curl up next to her. He’d bury his nose deep in her fluffy stomach fur and fall asleep. He’d let her play with his tail, swatting and chewing. Anything to make her happy, even sharing his food.

One of Torte’s favorite treats was whipped cream. A small squirt on the counter is all it took. It got to the point where if we opened the fridge she would be right there waiting for the can. Or if we took something out of the fridge that might sound like a can of whipped cream, she was right there. She could be all the way upstairs sleeping in the closet and if she heard that can hit the counter, she’d be downstairs in about half a second.

She ruled the house as its Queen. Everyone who came to visit had to greet her and give some sort of gift. Treats were always enjoyed, but head scratches and back rubs were preferred. If there was a hierarchy in our house, Torte was the top. Kai, Lani, Millie and Vince were all littermates. I was the alpha, but I’m sure that all saw it as being the hand of the Queen; I had no real authority. If only they all knew where all the food and toys and litter actually came from.

Late in her life, when she expected to be napping quietly through the days and sleeping soundly through the nights, we brought a new cat home. Millie was a truly feral cat when she was rescued at 6 weeks old. She was raised in a house of dogs and her feral-ness was not discouraged. She was bitey and adorable and manic. And she really didn’t know how to cat. She wasn’t sure how the litterbox thing worked (as far as burying things). She had huge mats because she didn’t understand how to bathe herself. Torte took her under her paw and taught her how to cat; the essence of blocking pathways, how to be cute and beg for food and strategic placement of vomit. Torte dealt with Millie and her wild teenager-ness like any grandmother would; with love and patience, and a swift swat on the head from time to time.

There will not be another cat like my sweet Torte. I will miss her with all my heart.

My dear sweet cat of 16 years died this morning. We aren’t sure what was wrong, but we came home from a weekend trip and she was lethargic and not hungry. Not even for butter or whipped cream, her favorites.

We wrestled with taking her to the vet. I knew it would stress her out and I didn’t want that. We decided to wait and see. We carried her to various places in the house. She’s as stubborn as her mom and no matter where we put her, she’d pull herself up, stumble a few steps and lay down somewhere else. She would lay in front of the water we put out and drink little bits. She’d dip her paws into the water and make a big mess, just like she has since she was a kitten.

Her actual dying was quiet. She had one last big full body stretch and then her breathing slowed. And then it stopped. And then I cried. Really a lot.

I asked Vince to come home from work, even though he had just gotten there. I had some coffee. I cried some more. And then more. My housemate hugged me and rubbed my back and cried with me. Vince came home and we went upstairs to see Torte. We held her. We cried.

We tried to figure out what to do next. I was worried that if we buried her in the backyard we wouldn’t be able to get deep enough to stop another animal from digging her up. Plus, if we ever moved, I would want to take her with us. Cremation became our choice. And our amazing vets said they could handle all of it.

We’re sitting quietly at home now. It was weird to feed just three cats tonight. Kai, Lani and Millie know something is up. Milllie doesn’t know where to lay, or how to. Kai is hiding and wants nothing to do with anyone. Lani seems like she’s OK, but we think she might be trying to figure out how to take over the throne.

Everyone is stumbling around now. Trying to find our place in a house that suddenly seems so very empty, so very quiet.

Safe journeys my dear girl. I hope they have whipped cream in heaven.

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there is crying in triathlon

In the world of triathlon (or at least on my team – http://www.triteamz.com ) there is a tradition of writing a race report after each race. You spell out what your goals were, if you achieved them, what worked, what didn’t, etc… It serves as a reminder to yourself for your next race, but also as advice for other athletes. At least, that’s what I take it to be. I’m sure for some folks it’s just all about bragging, which is also OK, because there might some of that in this report.

I’ve written two race reports.
This is the big one. It is filled with goals and times and strategy and what worked and what didn’t, as well as emotions and philosophical thoughts, wanderings of the mind and all the times that I cried (spoiler alert, it’s 2. Might be a new family record for crying during a triathlon.)
If all you’re interested in is times and goals and strategy, may I suggest you click over to the Rock Hall Sprint Race Report. It’s will be just the facts and nothing but the facts. Maybe 1 joke. No emotional stuff, and certainly no crying stories. I won’t be offended. Promise.
For a real treat, you can read both.

Ladies and gentlemen, those of you who don’t identify as either, aliens, cats, dogs and other sentient creatures,
I present to you

the Rock Hall Sprint 2016 Race Report

Goals:

My goals were very “philosophical.” It wasn’t about times, it was about following the advice of those who came before and staying sane.

1. Finish, legitimately. That meant coming in under 2.5 hours (the only time related goal).
2. STAY IN ZONE 2!
3. Don’t get thirsty.
4. Stop/slow down if it hurts.
5. Be confident in transition.

First we’ll break apart the goals, then we’ll get to the story telling.

Goal 1: I finished legitimately. With a time of 2 hours 21 minutes and 34 seconds. A Personal Best!
Swim- 19:05. I finished 6th in the Athena division. This is slower than I thought it would be, but the marina was really choppy and I fought the current the whole way out. I had to breaststroke to be able to keep on target with the buoys and to be able to breathe and not drink salt water. Once I turned the outer buoy and started heading in, I was in good shape. An excellent negative split (that means the second half was faster than first). I averaged 2:26m/100 yards; about 20 seconds slower than my pool average. But a Personal Best overall! By contrast, when I did the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim, my time was 41:46 for 1.18 miles; an average of 2:10m/100 yards. But that swim was a walk in the park compared to this swim. Lesson- I need more open water practice time. In the story part of this report we’ll talk about how nervous I was.

Bike- 1:07:21. I finished 17th in my division. This is much faster than I thought I would do. I was calculating an average of 10mph, but this turned out to be 13.1mph. What a difference no big hills makes! Another Personal Best! Not for pace, but for a bike leg in a triathlon. The course was nice and flat, but the few rolling hills there were really messed me up. I’m so used to shifting for big big hills (and killing them), that when the littler hills came up, I mis-shifted and ended up spinning like a dervish and wasting momentum. Lesson: Practice on flat and rolling. Not every training weekend has to be Haymarket and Culpepper (or weekday at Haines Point)!

Run- 45:33. I finished 15th in my division. Oh running. What a fickle beast you are. I averaged a 14:50min/mile, but at one point I was flying at 9:37. Can you guess when that was? Yes, the last .3 mile when I was crossing the finish line. I’ve been plagued with a hip injury since November, and I had a bike accident just three weeks ago. The combination of the two led my left knee (the good one!) to start acting up. My physical therapist said that if my knee or hip started to hurt I HAD to stop running. Period. I could walk and see if it got better, but if it didn’t, no more running that day. Same went for my hip. My hip was a trooper; she didn’t bother me at all. My knee started acting up around mile 1. And that really slowed me down. Then it was run/walk for the whole course. However, I estimated I would take 45 minutes on the run, and I did. Not a Personal Best for a 5K, but a Personal Best for the run leg of a triathlon.

Transition (the fourth sport of triathlon)-
T1- 6:12 minutes. I finished 17th in my division. This transition included a run from the dock over to the transition area. This run/walk took me about 1 minute. Once I was at my bike I followed my steps (that were printed out and clipped to my transition crate) almost to the letter.
Dry off my hair and a little of my body, sunscreen (which I did skip), put on my helmet and sunglasses, dry off my feet, put on socks and shoes, put on race bib, get bike, get going. What slowed me down was trying to get my feet dry. I think I have to just deal with moist feet in bike shoes, especially if it’s humid.
T2- 3:21 minutes. I finished 14th in my division. Again, I followed my list.
Rack bike. Take off helmet, put on sunscreen, put on hat, take off shoes, put on shoes, pick up water belt, start walking and put on belt. Kill it. This was a good transition, but I know I could shave off 30 seconds or more but getting some Yankz for my shoes. I don’t like them for running, but I think I’m going to have get used to them; in a rush, I don’t think I tied my shoes tightly enough, and that made my uncomfortable for a bit. I know Yankz will help with that. I’ve also got to get rid of my hydration belt. That thing was a pain in the ass. The bottles kept falling out when I was putting it on. I’m currently searching for a replacement concept.

Goal 2: I was unable to keep myself in zone 2. At least according to my watch and my pre-loaded zones. I think that now I’ve been doing zone training for 6 months, it might be time to get retested. And I think my bike and swim are different than my run. Looking back at my swim, I was in zone 4 (you can’t see it during because water and bluetooth and transmitting don’t all play nicely together). But I wasn’t tired (other than from fighting waves), and I wasn’t out of breath when I finished. I feel like I could have gone another mile. Which is the big indicator of being in zone 2 (that you could go forever and ever). Once I got on the bike I was in high zone 3. I kept my RPM at 80, but put things in an easier gear and breathed really deeply. I smiled and sang a little, and I got back into a high zone 2. Then I upped the gears a little so I felt like I was working instead of cruising, and I ended up into low zone 3. Crap. But I felt GOOD. I felt like I could go forever. So I stayed at 80 rpm and right around zone 3.3. On one or two of those rolling hills I found myself dervishing and then had to make up for it I shot up to zone 4, but on the “downhill” I brought myself back. On the run I never got below zone 3.6, except for the half mile when I walked near the end. No matter how I tried, once I started jogging/running I shot right up into high zone 4. Even when I walked, unless it was for more than 3 minutes, I couldn’t keep it down. I told myself I was almost done, and gave in to a high heart rate. I stopped looking at my watch and started listening to my body (and my knee).

Goal 3: I did not get thirsty. After seeing people barely making it across the finish line on Saturday (the humidity and surprise heat were killer), I added Nuun to my water for the bike ride. I also had Skratch, and I swapped in the Margarita Shot Blox (which have extra sodium). I killed this goal. I was never thirsty. I followed my hydration plan. I also had a BIG pee after I finished. A great sign that I did that right.

Goal 4: As I noted in the run section above, I stopped when my knee hurt. I also adjusted my swim when my shoulder started to hurt; it was because I was getting lazy and not keeping my form up, but still. The big problem was that my hip didn’t hurt while I was running. But it did after, and for quite a few days. Somehow I have to find a way to listen to what it’s telling me during the race. And keep up my “Glutes of Steel” workout.

Goal 5: I felt great in transition. Really really great. They weren’t fast, but they were right. And now that they’re right, I can work on fast.

One slightly emotional note to the “Just the Facts” report.
I take it very seriously that when I’m in my Team Z gear I represent the team. If I am rude, mean, disrespectful or otherwise a terrible person while I’m wearing the green that reflects on my team. On the flip, if I am upbeat, encouraging, kind and thankful that also reflects on the team. I love Team Z a hell of a lot. And I want us to be known for a good long time as the amazing folks we all are. So I went a little out of my way to be the most encouraging athlete out on that field. Everyone who passed me on the bike or run got a cheer of encouragement ((even the DC Tri folks)). Every volunteer and police officer got a Thank You. The cheering and energy I got back from all of it more than made up for it in the long run.

I had SO MUCH FUN. This race was my litmus test. To discover if I liked training, if I liked competing, if I wanted to make my life about triathlon. And the answer is a very loud and resounding YES. I’ll be around for a while. I’ll be out on the course cheering whether I’m racing or not. You won’t be able to get rid of me. Kona, here I come.

Now let’s talk about the race and how I felt. The touchy-y feel-y stuff. Go get the tissues. I’ll wait. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

On Saturday I had the chance to go out on the course and cheer all my teammates during the International/Olympic distance. I put on the banana suit (incorrectly, but still fashionably) and walked around the swim start with a bag and collected my teammates flip-flops. I also scoped out the swim start. This was all good.
I met one of my friends as she came out of the water and handed her her cane and shoes. She recently had knee surgery, so she needed these things to make it to the transition area. This allowed me to see what the swim actually looked like, up close, as well as the exit. This was SO fortunate because I had an idea in my head of what the exit would be, and it was NOTHING like what it actually was. Steps, yes, but the last step was a big one. And they had volunteers there pulling people out of the water. I watched as people slipped on the deck, fell down with major muscle spasms in their calves and generally has a SUPER hard time getting back on their feet. This would not be me; I had a plan. I would get my legs working in the last 100 yards and be ready to pop out and go for it.
We also went out to mile 16 on the bike course and cheered everyone going by. What a great feeling! I need to figure out how to do this as my job, because I LOVED it. Everyone was super happy to see someone out on the course, ringing a cowbell, blowing a vuvuzela and shaking some pom-poms. Many people thanked us for being out there, and after the fact so many people came up to me (from my team and not) and thanked me for cheering them on. Wow. Just wow.
I got to see that the bike course had no aid stations (which I already knew), very few volunteers directing traffic and that it was open to traffic. In my head, I expected that there would be a rolling road closure so we wouldn’t have to worry about cars. I realize now how silly that would be, but still. At the intersection where we were cheering cars were turning left across bikers. And cars were jerks. At least twice I was very scared for the bikers. This helped my brain prepare for a mentally challenging course, since I would be sharing the road. The same was true of the run. No roads were closed (save for one that was runners on both sides, and it was only for a block or two) and the traffic direction was only half of what I thought it should have been. Fortunately running with cars is slightly less scary than biking with cars, to me, so it wasn’t awful.
Here’s the big thing about all of this: it’s my first triathlon. Maybe this is the norm and I’ll get used to it. Having run a LOT of races in the past 18 months though, I found the lack of on-the-course support at this race staggering, compared to my experience with running races.

Sunday morning we went out to the dock/swim start. Vince put on the banana suit (correctly AND fashionably) and collected flip-flops. I looked out over the marina and started to panic. Waves. Wind. Strong current. NOTHING like Saturday. I started to cry. Honestly, I don’t know if it was excitement (yayayayay race!), joy (wow, look how far I’ve come!), panic (holy shit the waves), abject terror (someone got stung by a jellyfish yesterday and now I’m going to die) or Aunt Flo and The Hormones showing up to join the party. I kept my sunglasses on, even after I put my cap on, so no one would see the tears. I had a quiet reassuring moment with Vince where I really let loose. He had words of love and encouragement and looked hilarious in the banana suit; it helped.
Then I was in the water. In a sea of women and pink caps. Treading water nervously. Almost regretting not wearing a wetsuit (I’m glad I didn’t. I got hot without it, and it would have been one more piece of gear to wrangle. And an annoying one at that. And the water was 77 degrees.). And I looked around and realized how strong and brave each and every woman was that was in the water. And maybe they needed to be reminded of it. When I need to find my strength, I succeed by helping others find their strength. So I cheered all of us.
“We got this ladies!”
“Yeah, let’s get it!”
And everyone started cheering too. And my nervousness melted away, mostly.
But man, I wish they had been playing “Girls” by Beyonce. It would have been perfect. Take note future Race Directors and DJs.
And then the race started.
Breathe every stroke. Sight the buoy. Breathe every stroke. Sight the buoy. Adjust course. Don’t get kicked in the face. I started doing breaststroke because the waves and swells were not consistent and I couldn’t get a good rhythm for breathing, sighting and surfing. Breaststroke allowed this, as well as constant sighting, which turned out to be important because of the current. As I was going along I passed a few folks who were treading water. I asked them if they were OK. One guy didn’t have goggles and I asked if he’d like my spare pair. He declined, saying he didn’t need goggles. What a beast! Most everyone was just fine. I helped one person grab the attention of a course monitor/boat/canoe so she could hang on and get some rest (she was having trouble treading water and getting her hands up. I reminded her to lay on her back and try, but I also threw my hand up). I turned the outer buoy (wow, the waves were intense at this point) and started in.

Aside- Saturday night I went to the pre-race briefing. It being my first race; I wanted as much info as I could get. Someone asked about the swim course and a pair of orange buoys we were to swim through. The Race Director said “Forget about those buoys. Once you round the outer buoy, just sight the dock and head straight in.” Excellent. Less sighting means more winning. But not everyone was at the pre-race briefing. And you couldn’t hear at the immediate pre-race briefing. And I don’t think they talked about it, honestly.

So I rounded the outer buoy and headed straight for the dock, a large portion of my fellow racers were headed towards an orange buoy that would take them unnecessarily off course. So the crowd I was swimming in really thinned out. Which helped with folks trying to draft off of me and my sighting. I had a clear view to the dock. I put my head down and got into my freestyle rhythm of choice. Counting strokes: breathe, two, three, breathe, five, six, breathe, sight, nine. Over and over. I slowed a few times to breaststroke to adjust my sight (the current was pushing me to the right), but otherwise I rode it all the way in. About 150 yards out I started breaststroking again, but really shaking my legs and getting a lot of blood and movement back into them. When I got the dock and got out, I only had to pause for about 2 seconds once I got myself out of the water because my legs felt strong. I walked the first part on the dock, then began a nice jog towards the transition area. I was feeling great. I had been concerned about getting light headed (especially after the concussion), but I honestly didn’t even think about it during the transition jog. Just at the end of the dock, Vince was standing with a sign, “Sorry Mario, your race is in another format.” I laughed so hard. What a perfect sign for this race.
In the transition to the bike I rinsed my face and my mouth. I could not get my feet dry. My socks were not going on correctly and it was frustrating. It’s probably because it was humid, and I probably just need to let go any hope of having actual bone dry feet at the start of the bike. By the time I got back and switched shoes, my feet were dry though. And wet feet while running would be far more of a problem than while biking.
I had a great bike ride. Lots of people passed me and to each and every one I said
“Good job! Keep it up!” I think I missed maybe one person, but that was because I was having a conversation with someone who was passing me (who was complimenting me on my beastly calves). Every Z’er that went by got a “Go Team Z” and some of them I knew by name, so I cheered them by name. All the DC Triathlon team members got a “Go DC Tri!”
A lot of people said thanks, a lot of people gave me encouragement too. Every volunteer and police officer and course person got a big Thank You! And many of them said thanks back. It all made for a great ride. I sang some songs, I danced in my seat. I stretched my legs. I ate my nutrition with glee and wished for a real margarita.
I realized I have a drinking problem. I can’t pull my water bottle out of the back carrier and drink it with my left hand. Somehow I hadn’t practiced this. I’ve got holders in between my legs, and I knew I could switch the left handed back bottle to a middle holder and then be able to use my right hand exclusively. I had a plan.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with Mr. Bean? Imagine he’s in a bike race and has to switch his bottles around. It was like that. So freaking funny. But I did it. And I sort of learned how to ride for a few seconds at a time, without holding on to the handlebars.
I had plenty of time to contemplate life, its problems and some possible solutions.
A cardinal visited me several times. It’s possible it was the same cardinal, but it’s more likely it was 4 different cardinals. So to all my dead friends and family, thank you. I saw you, I heard you. You helped. You are always welcome to visit.

I also had plenty of time to embrace the agony of my vulva.

Aside- I will not call it “lady parts” or “down there.” I will call a vulva by its anatomical name, because it’s important that women take charge of their bodies and know that they can discuss their vulva and its pain from a bike seat, just as they would discuss their calves and its pain from a crappily paved street. There is little difference.

I need a new bike seat. This is so very clear to me now. My vulva “hangs” and they make seats for that. The tri pants I was wearing have almost no padding, so relying on that cushion was not going to happen. And I don’t want to have to change pants in transition. You can’t be naked in transition in the United States, and you shouldn’t wear underwear under bike or run shorts. So I’d have to rig up some sort of changing room thing, or use a towel, or a James Brown-esque robe.
I also need a seat that doesn’t rub my butt bones/joints as much. Look for a more positive vulva report after the next tri (July. Rev3 Williamsburg. Twice the swim, twice the run, almost twice the bike. #excitedbutterrified)
Around mile 11 we rode into a portajohn. Not literally, but it smelled like it. Holy Shit. I mean, for real. Someone had just freshly turned their field with manure and so many people passed me because they just had to get out of it. I was committed to energy conservation, so I muscled through, but towards the end I sped up a bit because I couldn’t take it anymore. I was enjoying a chew as I started into it, and I had to spit it out. It was that strong and that gross.
Vince was at mile 13 with a vuvuzela and some pom-poms (but not the banana suit). Afterwards he told me that people were so excited to see him out there, and they recognized him as the banana man from that morning. I’m going to have to buy him his own banana suit, just in case the Team Z one goes missing. Because this is now his role at all races.
For the last mile or two I put my bike in an easy gear and spun. I stood up and eased my coccyx/sacrum into a not-sitting position. I stretched my calves and my quads. I followed the advice from those who came before, and remembered my coach’s wise words.
I rode in from the bike and dismounted. I can’t do this gracefully yet. So it was a full stop and clipping out and jogging into transition. One of these days I perfect a flying dismount, but that day is not going to be anytime soon.
I have got to find a solution for my hydration belt.
I walked/jogged out of transition and there was Jason in banana suit with a vuvuzela. He was blowing and running and finally said, “I can’t keep this up!” I thanked him and laughed and started trying to find my run legs. It was painful. It was like I’d never run before. Like there was concrete in my calves. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get three miles done. I’m sure you could see it on my face, because a random woman standing on the side of the course said “You can do it girl. Find those run legs. Squeeze your butt, bounce off your feet, lean at your ankles and find it. You got it.” It was like my physical therapist was right there. I did what she said and within 2 minutes I found my legs. I don’t know who this person was. I think she was walking a dog so maybe a resident of Rock Hall out to enjoy the festivities. Whoever she was, she saved me.
I came around the first corner, and there was the team, cheering their hearts out. That gave me a needed mental and emotional boost to keep going. Not that there was any doubt I wasn’t going to finish this, but still.
I started walk running because my knee was acting up. I followed my goal and stopped/slowed down when it hurt.
Every person who passed me got a “Good job! Keep it up!” As people came back the other way, same thing. Every volunteer and police officer and course person got a Thank You. Same as the bike ride. It’s hard work doing what they do, and many do it as a volunteer job.
At mile 2.25 I saw a woman in front of me who was walking. I jogged up to her and asked if I could walk with her for this last mile. We walked and talked; it was amazing. I can’t remember her name, but she had some piercings and an Elon shirt and she was funny and fun.
At around mile 2.8 you could hear cowbells. And cheering. And I said my goodbyes to my walking friend and took off. At the last corner I saw Vince. I ran up to him, kissed him something fierce and then sprinted off to the finish line. I was running so fast. My knee was screaming and I ignored it. I turned it all the way on as I came down the chute. I couldn’t hear anything but the screams and cheers of my team. I heard the announcer call out my name and bib number, but only barely, because the Z’ers were SO LOUD.
I got my medal and a cold wet towel. Both felt amazing. I wandered around the finish line and headed back to the Team Z tent. I realized I was alone and realized I needed a moment to myself. I took the opportunity to have a seat in the grass and cry.
I can’t tell you what I was feeling. Pride? Joy? Exhaustion? Overwhelmed? All I know is that it felt amazing, sitting in the grass, cold towel on my face, tears streaming down my cheeks. It felt real. I felt more connected to myself emotionally, mentally and physically than I have in a long time.
Then I stood up, walked into the team tent, hugged everyone and poured myself a beer. I drank that beer in about 10 minutes (Personal Best!) and stood at the finish line cheering for another hour or so. I had a big pee at some point. I ate a sausage (so delicious) and later about a pound of grilled chicken.
The last person finished and the whole team was there cheering. She wasn’t even on our team. That’s how Team Z rolls. We cheer everyone.

When things started wrapping up I grabbed all my gear and we headed to our rented house. We stopped at the grocery store and got freezer pizza, tater tots, cookies, Klondike Bars, and BBQ potato chips. We spent that afternoon in bed (so I could relax my hip) drinking a celebratory bottle of wine and eating all that food. I slept like a rock, wearing my medal, and dreaming of the podium at IronMan Kona.

there’s no crying in triathlon

In the world of triathlon (or at least on my team – http://www.triteamz.com ) there is a tradition of writing a race report after each race. You spell out what your goals were, if you achieved them, what worked, what didn’t, etc… It serves as a reminder to yourself for your next race, but also as advice for other athletes. At least, that’s what I take it to be. I’m sure for some folks it’s just all about bragging, which is also OK, because there might some of that in this report.

I’ve written two race reports.
This is the big one. It is filled with goals and times and strategy and what worked and what didn’t, as well as emotions and philosophical thoughts, wanderings of the mind and all the times that I cried (spoiler alert, it’s 2. Might be a new family record for crying during a triathlon.)
If all you’re interested in is times and goals and strategy, may I suggest you click over to the Rock Hall Sprint Race Report. It’s will be just the facts and nothing but the facts. Maybe 1 joke. No emotional stuff, and certainly no crying stories. I won’t be offended. Promise.
For a real treat, you can read both.

Ladies and gentlemen, those of you who don’t identify as either, aliens, cats, dogs and other sentient creatures,
I present to you

the Rock Hall Sprint 2016 Race Report

Goals:

My goals were very “philosophical.” It wasn’t about times, it was about following the advice of those who came before and staying sane.

1. Finish, legitimately. That meant coming in under 2.5 hours (the only time related goal).
2. STAY IN ZONE 2!
3. Don’t get thirsty.
4. Stop/slow down if it hurts.
5. Be confident in transition.

First we’ll break apart the goals, then we’ll get to the story telling.

Goal 1: I finished legitimately. With a time of 2 hours 21 minutes and 34 seconds. A Personal Best!
Swim- 19:05. I finished 6th in the Athena division. This is slower than I thought it would be, but the marina was really choppy and I fought the current the whole way out. I had to breaststroke to be able to keep on target with the buoys and to be able to breathe and not drink salt water. Once I turned the outer buoy and started heading in, I was in good shape. An excellent negative split (that means the second half was faster than first). I averaged 2:26m/100 yards; about 20 seconds slower than my pool average. But a Personal Best overall! By contrast, when I did the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim, my time was 41:46 for 1.18 miles; an average of 2:10m/100 yards. But that swim was a walk in the park compared to this swim. Lesson- I need more open water practice time. In the story part of this report we’ll talk about how nervous I was.

Bike- 1:07:21. I finished 17th in my division. This is much faster than I thought I would do. I was calculating an average of 10mph, but this turned out to be 13.1mph. What a difference no big hills makes! Another Personal Best! Not for pace, but for a bike leg in a triathlon. The course was nice and flat, but the few rolling hills there were really messed me up. I’m so used to shifting for big big hills (and killing them), that when the littler hills came up, I mis-shifted and ended up spinning like a dervish and wasting momentum. Lesson: Practice on flat and rolling. Not every training weekend has to be Haymarket and Culpepper (or weekday at Haines Point)!

Run- 45:33. I finished 15th in my division. Oh running. What a fickle beast you are. I averaged a 14:50min/mile, but at one point I was flying at 9:37. Can you guess when that was? Yes, the last .3 mile when I was crossing the finish line. I’ve been plagued with a hip injury since November, and I had a bike accident just three weeks ago. The combination of the two led my left knee (the good one!) to start acting up. My physical therapist said that if my knee or hip started to hurt I HAD to stop running. Period. I could walk and see if it got better, but if it didn’t, no more running that day. Same went for my hip. My hip was a trooper; she didn’t bother me at all. My knee started acting up around mile 1. And that really slowed me down. Then it was run/walk for the whole course. However, I estimated I would take 45 minutes on the run, and I did. Not a Personal Best for a 5K, but a Personal Best for the run leg of a triathlon.

Transition (the fourth sport of triathlon)-
T1- 6:12 minutes. I finished 17th in my division. This transition included a run from the dock over to the transition area. This run/walk took me about 1 minute. Once I was at my bike I followed my steps (that were printed out and clipped to my transition crate) almost to the letter.
Dry off my hair and a little of my body, sunscreen (which I did skip), put on my helmet and sunglasses, dry off my feet, put on socks and shoes, put on race bib, get bike, get going. What slowed me down was trying to get my feet dry. I think I have to just deal with moist feet in bike shoes, especially if it’s humid.
T2- 3:21 minutes. I finished 14th in my division. Again, I followed my list.
Rack bike. Take off helmet, put on sunscreen, put on hat, take off shoes, put on shoes, pick up water belt, start walking and put on belt. Kill it. This was a good transition, but I know I could shave off 30 seconds or more but getting some Yankz for my shoes. I don’t like them for running, but I think I’m going to have get used to them; in a rush, I don’t think I tied my shoes tightly enough, and that made my uncomfortable for a bit. I know Yankz will help with that. I’ve also got to get rid of my hydration belt. That thing was a pain in the ass. The bottles kept falling out when I was putting it on. I’m currently searching for a replacement concept.

Goal 2: I was unable to keep myself in zone 2. At least according to my watch and my pre-loaded zones. I think that now I’ve been doing zone training for 6 months, it might be time to get retested. And I think my bike and swim are different than my run. Looking back at my swim, I was in zone 4 (you can’t see it during because water and bluetooth and transmitting don’t all play nicely together). But I wasn’t tired (other than from fighting waves), and I wasn’t out of breath when I finished. I feel like I could have gone another mile. Which is the big indicator of being in zone 2 (that you could go forever and ever). Once I got on the bike I was in high zone 3. I kept my RPM at 80, but put things in an easier gear and breathed really deeply. I smiled and sang a little, and I got back into a high zone 2. Then I upped the gears a little so I felt like I was working instead of cruising, and I ended up into low zone 3. Crap. But I felt GOOD. I felt like I could go forever. So I stayed at 80 rpm and right around zone 3.3. On one or two of those rolling hills I found myself dervishing and then had to make up for it I shot up to zone 4, but on the “downhill” I brought myself back. On the run I never got below zone 3.6, except for the half mile when I walked near the end. No matter how I tried, once I started jogging/running I shot right up into high zone 4. Even when I walked, unless it was for more than 3 minutes, I couldn’t keep it down. I told myself I was almost done, and gave in to a high heart rate. I stopped looking at my watch and started listening to my body (and my knee).

Goal 3: I did not get thirsty. After seeing people barely making it across the finish line on Saturday (the humidity and surprise heat were killer), I added Nuun to my water for the bike ride. I also had Skratch, and I swapped in the Margarita Shot Blox (which have extra sodium). I killed this goal. I was never thirsty. I followed my hydration plan. I also had a BIG pee after I finished. A great sign that I did that right.

Goal 4: As I noted in the run section above, I stopped when my knee hurt. I also adjusted my swim when my shoulder started to hurt; it was because I was getting lazy and not keeping my form up, but still. The big problem was that my hip didn’t hurt while I was running. But it did after, and for quite a few days. Somehow I have to find a way to listen to what it’s telling me during the race. And keep up my “Glutes of Steel” workout.

Goal 5: I felt great in transition. Really really great. They weren’t fast, but they were right. And now that they’re right, I can work on fast.

One slightly emotional note to the “Just the Facts” report.
I take it very seriously that when I’m in my Team Z gear I represent the team. If I am rude, mean, disrespectful or otherwise a terrible person while I’m wearing the green that reflects on my team. On the flip, if I am upbeat, encouraging, kind and thankful that also reflects on the team. I love Team Z a hell of a lot. And I want us to be known for a good long time as the amazing folks we all are. So I went a little out of my way to be the most encouraging athlete out on that field. Everyone who passed me on the bike or run got a cheer of encouragement ((even the DC Tri folks)). Every volunteer and police officer got a Thank You. The cheering and energy I got back from all of it more than made up for it in the long run.

I had SO MUCH FUN. This race was my litmus test. To discover if I liked training, if I liked competing, if I wanted to make my life about triathlon. And the answer is a very loud and resounding YES. I’ll be around for a while. I’ll be out on the course cheering whether I’m racing or not. You won’t be able to get rid of me. Kona, here I come.

two weeks ago today

It was a gorgeous Sunday morning. Sunny with a cool breeze. A great spring morning.

I had just finished a fun open water clinic with my favorite swim coach.
I was all set to ride my bike for 1.5 hours and then take a nice 30 minute run. My first real brick (bike then run) workout, a great chance to practice transition, and a good practice for nutrition planning and hydration.

It was a brisk day, so long pants and a jacket were called for. I clipped in and was off. There was a pretty strong headwind so I figured it would be better to go 50-55 minutes out and then 30-35 minutes back, since it would be easier on the way back. Plus, if I went just a few minutes more I’d be at Green Lizard. They could take a look at Rosie and figure out where that crazy clicking was coming from.
They did take a look and I had a nice 15 minute break. She was still clicking, but the gears shifted much smoother now. I decided not to head back for the clicking. I’d just come back out in the next week or so.
I was feeling good; the headwind was now a tailwind and things were just peachy.
I passed a few pedestrians, always calling out “on your left” and then thanking them.

I was in Reston and going down a nice hill under a road. I saw a woman up ahead and I called out. Within a split second she decided to turn left and cross the trail, right in front of me. This is the last memory I have. It’s burned in my brain. I’ve spent hours thinking about it and trying to see what happened next.
Here’s what I know about that image. She was holding something. She was wearing headphones. Her head was down. She did not look before she turned to cross the trail. She was standing two steps to the left of the middle line.

The next thing I remember is Vince’s voice saying ‘I love you’ on my phone and hearing the ambulance sirens in the distance. Then the next thing is a female EMT asking me all sorts of important questions and asking me to move my feet and legs. She was so kind. Somehow the EMTs put on a cervical collar and rolled me on a backboard. Then I was in the ambulance. The female EMT asked me who she could call. I told her not to call my mom because she was out-of-town. I knew Vince didn’t have a car, so I asked her to call my father-in-law (who lives in Springfield and has a car). He didn’t answer. So we called Vince. He was already on his way. At the time I couldn’t figure out how he knew; the details and timeline were sketchy until I started thinking it through later. It was because we had already called him, of course.
The male EMT put in an IV, and I didn’t even notice. In what felt like minutes we were at the hospital.

Then things got really interesting. But I don’t remember most of it. Lots of questions. Tests of my brain and my reflexes. Questions about what happened. I asked 3 separate times if the woman I hit was OK. I was told I didn’t hit her. I let everyone know I was wearing a heart rate monitor and PLEASE not to cut it off (it was new and expensive).

All of the sudden Vince was there. And Pat, our friend who lives 5 minutes away and gave Vince a ride when he called. And I was sobbing. And then my sister was there. And I really started crying.

Over time people came in and out. They did an ultrasound of my abdomen. Probably to rule out any internal bleeding, but also, I suspect, because I said I had surgery three years ago. They sent me for a CT scan and when that came back clean I got take the cervical collar off. Then they got to cleaning up my wounds, which was the worst. By now things had clotted up nicely, and I had plenty of road rash where there weren’t big scabs. Dr. Admiral Ackbar (not his real name) decided I needed stitches for my eyebrow, but that everything else would be fine.

There were moments when there were no doctors. Just Vince holding my hand and saying nice things while I silently sobbed. I kept trying to get out one sentence, and only one sentence, but I just couldn’t.

“I’m so….. I’m so….”
I couldn’t finish it. I just couldn’t.

All I wanted to say is “I’m so sad.”

Because all I could see was my first triathlon season going up in smoke. All my hard work and training, gone. 4 races for the summer, gone. My first race in 3 weeks, gone.
I was inconsolable. I couldn’t even get out the words.

Later, in talking with Vince and telling him why I was sobbing so uncontrollably at times, he said he knew. And he did the best he could. Held my hand, stroked the not-blood-clotted part of my hair and head and whispered kindness and love to me.

At some point they gave me some good pain meds for my headache. Which went to 11 by this point. I also realized I needed to pee. Really a lot.
By now, Pat and Richard had already gone to get my car from Vienna and it was in the parking lot. So my sister and her husband took Rosie out and put her in the car. Along with all my stuff. Since it was quiet and just Vince and I, I decided it’d be a good time to take care of the pee situation, before the stitches.
They didn’t want me up and walking around, since I hadn’t even sat up yet. A bedpan was in order. Hooray? Better than a catheter, I suppose.

Having never actually used a bedpan, I asked for the nurse. We were all good to go, but then I couldn’t go. So she turned on the faucet. Thanks mom for training my bladder/brain connection. I filled the whole bed pan and then some. Thank goodness they put a pad thing under. Then it was time to get dressed. But I was pretty… wet? I definitely needed a wipe. But between the IV and the bed edges and everything else I couldn’t do it myself. Cue the video of Vince and I in our old age. Me, lying in bed, Vince doing the loving husband part of cleaning up his wife after a pee. Touching, really.

The absolute worst and most painful part was getting the numbing medicine for the eyebrow stitches. Oh. My. God. I think I broke Vince’s hand squeezing it while Dr. Admiral Akbar was injecting me. And I’m so glad I went through everything to pee. I would not have been able to hold it.

I got 9 stitches and now hold the family record. At least 3 times Dr. Admiral Ackbar told me to keep out of the sun for 2 months if I didn’t want a scar.
Out of the sun? In the summer? In tri season?
I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a scar. And, honestly, who doesn’t want a scar? Dudes (and chicks) dig scars!

Then I got to sit up. Oh sweet joy! By now I was feeling more myself and aside from the searing pain in my head and the throbbing on the entire right side of my face, I felt pretty ok. More hospital people came in and there was talk of sending me home. And then there was a wheelchair and we were headed to the door. And then we were walking to the car. And then we were driving home. And then we were home.
And I sat down on the couch and cried some more.

Vince stayed home from work on Monday and we spent the day doing nothing. Eating soup and ice cream. Drinking everything through a straw. Listening to a lot of TV (because I couldn’t take screens or lights).
That’s how most of the week went. Along the way I picked up a coloring book and some markers from somewhere in my craft stash. And went on a walk every day. And slowly slowly started to eat and chew food. And feel a little better.

On Thursday we had a follow-up appointment with my regular doctor that turned into an all day adventure at Kaiser Tysons Corner. I had an MRI and they didn’t find anything that was caused by the accident. But there were two pockets of “unusualness.” All that means is that I have to have another MRI in 3 months.

After a week I was feeling pretty down. I still couldn’t drive (the headaches would get dramatically worse when I was behind the wheel). I was still having pretty bad headaches, even with pain meds. My body still hurt, though my face was getting better. I went to have my stitches out and talk to neurology. Both were ok, but not great or motivating.
That same day, as if by divine intervention, my coach called me. He gave me a great pep talk. I made a plan. A series of plans, actually. Each one based on a different situation. Would I race on June 5? Just swim? Just bike? Just run? No race at all? I set out a plan of action for each situation. Then I called my mom and asked her to drive me out to the bike shop and the triathlon store. I got my bike fixed. My mom bought me a new fancy helmet. I rented my wetsuit for the next two weekends. This was part of the “I’m going to race on June 5” plan.
All of the sudden, everything turned around. Now I knew what I was going to do. No matter what, I knew what I was going to do.
By Wednesday I was able to drive. On Saturday I went out to the Reston Lake swim and open water clinic. It was great. This morning Vince and I went for a leisurely bike ride out on the Mt. Vernon trail. It was wonderful.
I’m amazed at how wonderfully my body is coming back to itself; how strong it was, and continues to be.

My parting words?
Wear your helmet. Make everyone you love wear a helmet.
Pay attention on busy roads and trails. Teach your friends, your family, your children, how to be responsible trail and road users.
Give a hug to all the EMTs you see. Whoever took care of me deserves a big thank you, and I don’t know who they are, so just hug them all. I’m sure it’ll get back to them somehow.

Be safe. Make good choices.

Items of interest:
-At one point we were going 93mph in the ambulance. I was wearing my Garmin and they didn’t turn it off until we were at the hospital. Tracked the whole thing!
-Apparently I asked the woman at the scene not to use my Team Z jacket to wrap around my head, but to use my long sleeve shirt that was underneath. This feels very unlike me, as I would say to use whatever the hell you want to put compression on my head wound! Also, how the hell did I get my long sleeve shirt off? It goes over my head. Somehow, with magic. #shakeshead
-Rosie, my bike, got to ride in the front seat of the ambulance! And she was in the ER with me the whole time. These EMTs were really the best.

the curse OR why run a race

This year I made a commitment to myself, a challenge rather, to run a race every month. 12 races this year. And to run at least one 10K, if not more.

It’s a big challenge, and one I’m gladly accepting (having run 3 of them so far, one when it was raining and cold, one when I was sick and one while it was REALLY cold and snowing.)

So far I’m registered for 2 10Ks, an 8K, a 4 miler and a bunch of 5Ks.

Some of you might wonder what makes race day so different than any other day. I mean, I run 4 or 5 miles every other day, so why should 3.1 miles (a 5K) be any different? ((And my goal is to get to 8 miles, as my long run, so why would 6.2 miles (a 10K) be any different?))

I wonder that too. I wonder how it is that I’m often totally exhausted even 24 hours after crossing the finish line, but on a normal run day I’m often out the next day circuit training, swimming or vinyasa-ing. 

I think it’s because, when I’m racing, I’m really pushing myself. My best times have been during races. My biggest achievements (running the whole thing, running up all the hills, beating the old man I started with) have happened during races. For some reason, being in a race helps me push myself beyond my comfort zone. I want to win. Even though I know I won’t, not even in my category (women, 35-44).

((For the record, there is a woman who also runs almost all the same races as me, and she’s 42, and she always wins with amazing times. I hope when I’m 42 I’m half as fast as she is. I would like to meet her, but unfortunately, I never know her bib number until after the race. And I’m certain that she starts way at the front with all the fast people. I’m always blissfully in the back with the dogs and strollers. For now.))

But I race against myself. Remember when I said that? The last time I wrote a blog post… which was almost a year ago? You only compete against yourself. Just like in life.

And with one exception, I’ve beat myself every. single. time.

Knowing that I’ve got a race coming up forces me to lace up my shoes and go for the run, get to the gym, head to the pool or do those extra vinyasas.

I think this is why: there is still a fear in me that I’ll end up embarrassing myself at the race. I’ll be last. I’ll run out of gas. I won’t be fast enough.

I know these things won’t happen. I know I’ll finish, and I won’t be last ((there are always folks walking. I’m at least a little faster than that.))

But there will always be inside me a 15-year-old girl who was ALWAYS last. A chunky spunky teen who laughed at herself as others were laughing at her for not being able to finish running a mile in gym class. The girl who was always picked last for just about anything physical. I was fat, and fat was such a curse then. And, really, it still is. We’ve come a long way with body acceptance in our culture, but I’m certain there is still a girl in gym class, right now, being picked last for something, because her classmates don’t want a slow fatty on their team. There’s an overweight pimply guy somewhere, trying to run the mile, but struggling and trying not to cry while the kids snicker behind his back.

Most of the time we are really trying. At that age puberty hits us like a ton of bricks, and our bodies go all weird and we gain weight. Or we lose it. And we get emotional. And we don’t know how to deal with that emotional crap. So maybe we eat too many cookies or ice cream or chips, because we feel good when we eat, at least temporarily. Or we find solace in TV, movies, video games, YouTube, books, or knitting and crafting. And we don’t have anyone to tell us, “Hey, go outside and go for a walk. You’ll fell better.”

Or maybe, no matter what we do, our bodies still backfire. And our hormones go crazy. And we get frustrated that we can’t get to a comfortable body size. So we give up. And give in. And find solace in ice cream or XBox or a skein.

My fellow former fat teen comrades will most likely agree that we carry that fear with us our whole lives. That fear of humiliation. Of being laughed at. Of being rejected for something we don’t have much control over.

No matter what I do, no matter how skinny I get, I’ll always carry that deep fear, of essentially, rejection.

Maybe that’s why I run. To run away from that fear.

When will I realize that I’m only running from myself?

Hopefully not until I get to 8 miles away. Even though I’m running away from myself, it’s really getting me places.

((I’m always going to be scared of the humiliation of pooping my pants in public. I don’t think anyone is strong enough for that. That’s why you should NEVER laugh at someone who poops their pants in public. NEVER.))