Onward in Havana

Long time, no blog. oopsy. I’ve had some insane writer’s block. Plus I wasn’t sure what to write about. To say that 2016 was a disappointing race year to me is an understatement. It’s like saying “Trump’s tweets are a tiny bit of crazy”. I started 2016 with a DNS (did not start) at HITS Naples due to injury. My big Olympic Tri moment in Boston was over with the swim and some hypothermia (sweet!), then I ended 2016 with a DNS at TriKW (bronchitis).

To sum up: “blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine” Oy. Now you know why I’ve barely written anything in the last few months. Mentally and physically, I was DONE with triathlon. Was sick of training, sick of the routine, sick of not trying, good lord, I’m whining again. Apologies.

Basically going into Havana Tri last weekend I hadn’t raced since September 2016 (my beloved Escape to Miami). I was nervous as hell. Not only haven’t I raced in awhile, but I was racing in a foreign country. There were many logistical things that could (and did) go wrong. But that weirdly took the pressure off the race. I was heading to Havana to experience some of Cuba and whatever happened with the race, happened. whatevs!

The biggest worry about heading over to this race was getting the dang bikes there. It was such a hassle to figure out the bags and the flights and the…zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Yeah, was gonna go into details about the whole race, but gawd. How boring. Here’s what really stood out to me about the race. It was the most fun I have ever had from start to finish. Why? It’s probably many different things. Not to get all Stuart Smalley but it was pretty much the first race I ever did where I felt like I deserved to race. What?! You see, the mental game is always a struggle. For me, it’s the fact that I’m always last. I am always so slow and (so far) I always have to walk a good portion of the run. I always felt like a phony. I would say the most awful things to myself throughout the entire race. Like if I tried too hard than people would be like “look at her, like she shouldn’t even be out here, why is she pushing it” (which people have actually said to me in some form or another on the course). But this time was different. I was full of self love (relax pervert, I mean mentally). I was giving myself daily affirmations that would make Oprah be like “PREACH”. How did I flip this around?

Back in November, I reapplied to be on the BASE Performance Race Team. I wasn’t sure if I’d be accepted nor was I sure that I would accept. This team is chock FULL of Ironman finishers and triathlon rock stars. How would a (slow) Sprinter like me be worthy? But I got on again. And when I expressed shock and hesitation, the CEO and dudes in charge very vocally gave me their support. And have continued to do so.

The other thing? It was a book. Diana Nyad’s “Find a Way”. I was lucky enough to see her come ashore in Key West after her historic swim. When I saw this book, I had to read it. I started it in the airport on our way to Cuba and finished it the night before the race. I couldn’t put it down. One word of hers kept me going through the race. Whenever I started to flail, I just told myself “Onward”.  So when we had to swim 200 yards to the start and swim in a not so clean canal? “onward”. When I had to do the 6 miles of climbing in my big ring because my gears were broken? “onward” (ok, maybe some four letter words in there too) and when it was hot as hell during the run and I was DONE? “onward”.  When I was tired and done drinking that night in Old Havana? “on-hiccup-ward”.   And onward I went.

I managed to PR on the swim and the run for this race by a lot (when compared with the same distance of TriKW. Ok, you can never compare like that. Yet we do).

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FINISHER

And I missed the total PR by only a couple of minutes thanks to me stopping during the bike to see if I could fix my bike. Which was insane of me considering I have absolutely zero mechanical skills.

This race was fantastic! I came out of it feeling great and am trying to build upon it so that I can go into SoBe Tri on April 2nd and finally, finally, make that damn race my bitch once and for all.

photos by Kathleen O’Dowd kathleenodowd.wordpress.com

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Afraid? Do it anyway!

My childhood dream was to be on Saturday Night Live. I heard you needed 3 characters to try out so I constantly invented them. I loved going to stand up comedy clubs, I love funny movies and I love to make my friends laugh.

When a good friend of mine and her boyfriend decided to bring comedy to Key West, I thought “ok, here’s my chance”. Well, it took me 2 months to get up the courage. I’m very comfortable on stage. I have emceed various events for work and fundraisers. I was just worried about being funny “on demand”. Last week I prepared 3-5 minutes of material. Well, “prepared” is a bit of a stretch. I prepared an opening and thought of things I thought would work. I made an index card of words that would prompt me to remember different bits and off I went! I loved it! I plan on doing it again and really hope I always play to an audience made up of like 80% people I know 🙂

Here’s the video. Moral of the story? it’s in the title above. Afraid? do it anyway!!! (kind of my triathlon mantra)

stand up comedy

 

enjoy! or, not. CAUTION!! LOTS OF CURSES! Apparently I swear like a sailor when nervous.

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Time to Roar

These times that we’re living in are causing me some emotional distress. The treatment of women is getting worse rather than getting better. If a woman is sexually assaulted, she is victim shamed. If a woman is fat, she is fat shamed. If you’re “pretty”, you’re stupid. Women are being told to “smile”. Powerful women are being told that they dress too nicely or not feminine enough. And the wage gap! Oh the infuriating wage gap. We also have the most powerful male political figure completely degrading women while those that support him (men and women) justify it as acceptable because it’s just “talk”. As if what you say to people and how you treat them doesn’t matter deeply.

 

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’ve had to deal with a lot of fat shaming. And there are some who have let me know that I’ve brought it on myself because I “let” my body continue to be overweight (as if it’s not something I struggle with, to some degree 24/7/365). I’m gonna go ahead and assume those folks no longer read my words and that’s fine. Part of what makes America (already) great is the fact that people can choose to read or not read what they want. Unless you’re in 8th grade and dammit, you have to read Johnny Tremaine no matter how badly it bores you to tears.

 

And the lovely fat shaming doesn’t just happen to me who is obviously obese. A good friend of mine, who is one of the most physically fit people I know (I can feel her shaking her head as she reads this. STOP IT) got fat shamed by her DOCTOR. That’s right. The person who is supposed to be looking out for her physical and emotional wellbeing. She has run like 6 marathons for f’s sake and works out like a fiend. Does she fit the stereotype of a whippet like runner? Nope. But guess what? She can out run most people including that damn doctor. And she’s beautiful inside and out.

 

I belong to a couple of private triathlon Facebook groups. One is for Athena athletes past and present. There are stories like the one above on there EVERY SINGLE DAY. The leader of the group is an amazing athlete. She lost 100 lbs and just the other day someone in her life gave her a hard time about what she USED TO LOOK LIKE. Totally ignoring how far she’s come and the badass athlete she is (and was!). The other Private groups have women and men alike shaming the Athena and Clydesdale athletes for competing in what others think is an easier category at races. Ummmmm…excuse me, we do THE EXACT SAME RACE. And on and on and on….

 

I was raised by an incredibly strong and capable Mom. And my male role model was (is) my Dad who always believes in my 100%. I was always brought up to believe that I could do anything I wanted. There were no specific gender rules to follow. I was a tomboy through and through. I grew up in a neighborhood where for the most part, girls and boys played on equal footing. I was the only girl on my Little League team, I played basketball, I swam, I had friends that were boys and friends that were girls. Sure, I had Barbies and liked to wear pink and had crushes on boys and experimented with makeup and hair. But I was never treated like I was “less than” because I was a girl. I’m so grateful for all of that.

I was also physically, emotionally and sexually abused as a child by a close family member from the ages of 6-13 (estimated ages. I can’t really remember the start or end and I’m told that’s common for the level of abuse). I seriously contemplated suicide on more than one occasion. I essentially split into two different people. One was a confident person who had zero problems making and keeping friends. I excelled in school and sports. I joined any club that would have me after school. Anything to avoid going home. I had (have) a great relationship with my parents and never really majorly rebelled (though they’ll tell you that me registering as a Democrat broke their hearts) In a sense, the abuse fostered some of my best traits. The other person was a terrified child that was afraid to be alone in the house and afraid to go to sleep. This manifests itself even today. I can’t sleep if I can’t be aware of everything going on in my apartment. (I could never live in a house by myself) All doors open. And at least some ambient light to see what’s what. Anyone that shares a hotel room with me knows that I can’t sleep closest to the door (though they would also share that my snoring will keep any attacker far, far away).

 

I also gained a crap ton of weight when I was younger as a result. I wanted the insulation to protect me. I also got myself a super cool emotional eating habit. Sweet! Now, this abuse took place like 35 years ago (oy, I’m old). I’m not using it as an excuse by any means to justify my obesity. That is merely a result of the coping mechanism to stress and emotion that I’ve honed so well over the years. These patterns take a long time to break. I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten way better at it and improving all the time. I tell you this, dear reader, not to try to garner sympathy, more just so you know where I’m coming from!

 

It is so easy for us to believe the worst about ourselves. It makes zero difference that my friend’s doctor is a flipping idiot, it makes no difference that my abuser had severe mental health issues (doi), it makes no difference what other people say, right? Well, it does. The credibility of the person that make a ridiculous statement like “how are you so fat?” or “you’re not going to catch a man if you like that” or “you’re lucky you have a pretty face” and on and on and on…. Doesn’t matter at all. When you hear your worst fears about yourself or situation parroted back to you by someone, it is truly devastating. It’s very hard to get off the mat after it happens. But we do. We soldier on and hopefully the words don’t keep chipping away at us.

 

It’s hard not to let our own voices stop or stall us on our journeys. Running. Oh god, the running. Why can’t I do it? Well, I can do it. I do, do it (heh, do do). I just don’t run as fast or as far as I think I should be able to at this point. Why is that? Well, maybe I’m just slow to improve? Or maybe (more likely) is I let the voices in my head tell me that I can’t do it. It’s all the people that have told me I can’t. And the loudest voice is my own. I know so many people that do this too. I’ve let this voice win all year this year and it aggravates the piss out of me! Even when I’m doing well in a race, I back off. Like I don’t want people watching to think that I think I deserve to finish the race. What in the actual F is that?! I mean, I’ve encountered some vocal haters on the course and in training but really, I have so many people (friends and strangers) rooting for me. Why is it so easy to believe the bad voices in your head? I have another friend who is just an amazing mom to two girls. She’s also a great triathlete. She spends a lot of time training and racing and CONSTANTLY beats herself up for spending time away from her girls. Instead of focusing on what a positive role model to them she is! Makes me crazy. Another friend is crazy Crossfit strong and still picks apart her body at times.

 

And I could go on and on and on…..What’s the point of all this? I don’t know. Maybe just to let any person reading this that gets plagued with self doubt know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!! And also maybe to let people that say shitty things to women about their appearance or perceived athletic ability to STOP IT!!! Words do, in fact, hurt. A lot. You ain’t saying anything that a woman hasn’t already told herself. Don’t reinforce it.

 

Now let’s get off the couch and out there everyone and KICK SOME ASS!

 

<climbs off soapbox>

baaHalf

I am Super Runner! (just a slow one 🙂

 

 

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Local Races Rule!

We have a little race here in Key West that happens twice a year. It’s the FKCC Sprint Tri and it takes place every September and March. It’s (allegedly) a 600 yard swim (I got 440 on my watch this year), a 10 mile bike (8.6) and a 5k (close!). You get the point. But I LOVE this race. For many of us here on the Rock, this race was our introduction to Triathlon.

Though it was my first full Sprint 4 years ago, I had done it as a relay twice prior. And oh my god. Was I terrified. I still get nervous, but nothing like the first couple of times. I mean, race day is a bit like having the flu isn’t it? The night before the race is in bed early, tossing and turning, fitfully sleeping. Then up in the dark, fumbling your way to the bathroom feeling nauseated and sweating. You try to take in some food but really, solid food just makes you more nauseated. And you basically spend some hours living off of just electrolytes. You hope you’ll make it to the end but you’re afraid it won’t ever end. But, you finish! Sweaty, salty and happy to have survived! If you’re me, you probably had one last spectacular vom at some point during the run.

With a couple dozen Sprints under my belt, my pre race/race feeling is less horrific bout of flu and more like slight motion sickness (excited to be on the water! but a little nauseated). And though my nutrition is pretty on point, I occasionally have some GI issues (usually right in front of a friend. sorry Josh).

We just had the FKCC Sprint last weekend. It was super fun. I love racing with all my friends. It’s usually a pretty small field and I like it like that. It makes it way less intimidating for newbies. For the most part, everyone has a “let’s just go have fun attitude”. Sure, there’s some competition. But it’s mostly friendly and for pride. For awhile though, it wasn’t very fun. There are quite a few very talented triathletes on our island that would talk down about the race for a couple of years. They would , loudly, make sure everyone knew that it was “just” a training day for them. They’d want everyone to be aware that after the race, they were still going to go out and get their 50 mile bike in. They would definitely mock the “everyone gets a trophy” (even tho some don’t) aspect of this race. It was super disheartening for those of us who felt like this was an Ironman. We trained and pushed and this was (is) the extent of the distance we could do. It turned off newbie to the race, it caused a whole lot of discontent among the community. I have to say though, that in the past few months, that attitude has shifted. And I’m proud of our amazing Triathletes for that. It’s super important for all triathletes, no matter the skill level to go out and support the local race. Whether you race it with grace or you volunteer your time. These local races build our sport!!!

I no longer stand on the dock crying at the FKCC Sprint like I did that first time. But you better believe that I remember that feeling! Remember that the next time you do a “little local race”. Somebody next to you is probably a first timer and is fighting back the tears and nerves. All it takes is some encouragement and a smile and you can be the difference in the race for them! I can’t wait for the next FKCC Sprint!

(and I get down off my soapbox…)

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a Tri-ing memory

ahhh…Facebook memories. You are a fickle, bipolar Son of a Nutcracker. Sometimes it’s all “Look! look what fun you had!” or “Look! Look at that trip you went on”. And other times it’s “Look! you are boring as F! Nobody, and I mean, NOBODY gives the tiniest rat’s ass about that show, game, ocean smell, pasta, workout, fricken tree that you felt the need to share with the people that haven’t unfollowed you yet”.

And then today there was this:

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so proud, so hopeful!

This was 4 years ago today. My first Triathlon. I had done a couple of relays but this was the first time I did all 3 events. For the most part, the race was a pretty horrible experience. (You can get bored all over again read all about it here https://diaryofafathlete.com/2012/10/09/hello-world/

But I have never felt more accomplished about anything than when I finished that race. And I wanted to feel that again and again. That’s why I keep going back for more.

I had super high expectations back then after finishing that race. I figured within a year I would: write an award winning blog about how I lost weight and became the fittest me ever, get a book deal, go on Ellen, get sponsors, design a workout line for plus sized gals, complete an Ironman and run the Boston Marathon. yeah……like none of that happened in a year or even 4 years later.

What has happened? Lots of lows, lots of highs and lots and lots of sweat. I am way fitter! Though the weight part has definitely been a struggle (how can something so high make me feel so low? ba dum, dum). The training has been predictably up and down. It’ll be weeks and weeks of motivation and breakthroughs and then a few days (weeks) of self doubt, terrible self talk and zero motivation. I am nowhere close to running the Boston Marathon or doing an Ironman. Running has been such a brutal mental struggle for me. I know I can do it! I just can’t seem to shut myself up and just run! I’ve made improvements big and small in my swim and bike. My body image has vastly improved. You can’t wear this much spandex in public and continue to give many F’s about what it looks like. My bank account has been seriously depleted. But I’ve had a ton of fun on race road trips! I’ve made some really close friends and made stronger bonds with old friends. And I’ve learned to manage my expectations a bit. I’ve done about 20-something Sprint Triathlons. I’ve attempted 1 Olympic and crawled my way through a Half Marathon. I’m usually towards the back of the pack but my only goal is usually just to finish a tiny bit faster than last time.  I still have dreams of becoming an Ironman and running Boston. It’s just taking a wee bit longer than I thought. But I’ll get there! Eventually. And I’ll be rocking the spandex.

 

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Never Gonna Give You Up

July was a tough one for me and Racing. We did not get along at all. We fought, we didn’t communicate well, we stopped speaking. Ugh. I said some things I didn’t mean, Racing got very snippy with me. It was just awful. I even thought about breaking up with Racing and it’s partner, Training forever once they brought their friend Failure to the party.  I felt ganged up on and just wanted to be done. And not only done with Racing and Training, but I didn’t even want to see anyone remotely associated with them (which is about 90% of my social group these days).

So what happened? Well, injury, overtraining, not training enough, mental breakdown, excessive whining. At some point or another, all of the above and occasionally all at once. I headed into July feeling pretty good overall. I was clocking longer (though not very fast) distances on my bike and in the water. The run was still vexing me as it does. But even that was as good as it had ever been. I had been having some lower back issues that I just couldn’t shake for a few weeks. I didn’t tell anybody how badly it was bothering me and just continued on with my training. I was signed up for the Mack Cycle Trilogy July race and (against my coach’s wishes) decided to give it a try (try/tri, ha!). Why Tri? Cause race weekend is fun! I wanted to get away, with friends, and just laugh and have fun. And racing is fun. Especially when it goes well. I went into this one with zero expectations. Was just going to see how things went. No pressure. I wasn’t even necessarily doing it to finish. I promised my coach that I wouldn’t push it too much and I’d stop if I was in serious pain (other than the usual everything that hurts during a race that you ignore). Swim went well, hopped on the bike, up the steep bridge, dropped my chain. Felt a tweak in my lower back. Whatevs. Put my chain back on and went down the other side of the bridge. Quick turnaround and back up the steep bridge. And didn’t feel right at all. Back was killing me so when I got back towards transition, I turned in and called it quits. Hung out, watched my two friends come in like the bad ass women they are and then we went and ate and drank and laughed all the way home. Race fail? Not at all. It was an intense training session that told me where I stood with my back.

Two weeks later it was time for Boston Tri. My first Olympic. It had been my focus for months. I’m sure to a nauseating degree to my friends. I was a ready as I could be with my back issues. In the two weeks leading up for it I spent oodles of money on massage, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, cupping, stretching, creams, etc. I did everything but sacrifice a virgin (couldn’t find one). I went in with a pretty good, realistic attitude. I knew I could swim a (slow) mile, I knew I could bike the 21 miles and as far as the run? it wasn’t ideal, but I knew I could walk it when I needed to. My back had been bothering me at the beginning of the swim and when I got off the bike. I could deal. I was pretty excited to race and headed home with visions of shiny finishers medals dancing in my head.

Race day dawned pretty cold and rainy. And yada yada yada cold water, couldn’t breathe, ouch my back, finished swim, took too long, DQ (not Dairy Queen, sadly). Ugh. Most expensive swim ever. 2 days of mourning, then the sun came out and I continued on vacationing it up!

I’ve started this post like a dozen times (ok, twice) and just, ugh. I’m sick of myself!! I wrote the above paragraphs last night and blech! Can’t imagine you’re enjoying this boring ass wrap up. I tried to do my first Olympic Distance and couldn’t. I spent 2 and 1/2 weeks all depressed and whiny about it. Very dramatic “don’t know if I’ll ever race or train again” moments. Me, wearing my tri kit and wading into the ocean holding a cinder block while a slow, sad like Nine Inch Nails  version of “we are the Champions” plays. I mean, really. Just STTAAAHHHHPPP!

So I did. Suddenly starting getting the itch to train. I kept my exercise streak going (236 days as of today) even in the darkest mental moments which was either OCD or knowing deep down that I couldn’t really give Tri up.  Watching the Olympics really inspired me as has keeping in eye on what my fellow Key West Triathletes and Athena Badasses are doing. I’ve run a couple of times in the past few days, got on my trainer, have made obsessive training and food lists. And am officially back! Going to do Escape from Miami (whoops, its actually “to Miami” but none of us understands that) as a Sprint and I’m gunning for TriKW as my Olympic.

Hell, July wasn’t even all bad. 4th of July, my birthday, I jumped out of a freaking plane! Didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but boo freakin hoo, so what?

Time to put the Whiny Pants away and get back on the horse that threw me. Or something like that. Thanks to all that have inspired me to get out out there again!

DCIM100GOPRO

now THAT was fun!

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I Ran, I Ran So (not) Far Awaayy..

Time to answer that all important question that literally nobody has asked “What have I been up to since SoBe Tri other than avoiding my blog?”. Quite a bit actually….

BAA 5k

After my victorious (last place) race that was the glory of the SoBe Tri, I had another race I was really looking forward to a couple of weeks later. The BAA (Boston Athletic Association) 5k on the Saturday of Marathon weekend has quickly become one of my favorite races despite the fact that I’ve only done it once before. Patriot’s Day Weekend is my favorite weekend in Boston and I always try to go back for it. The 5k gives you all the excitement of the Marathon but you don’t have to run 26.2 miles! Last time I did this race there was a lot going on and tho I didn’t have a fast time, I definitely loved every minute of it. This time I was more prepared. I ended up getting a PR! and I can’t wait to do it next year. It was a fun race! and I totally deserved the two donuts after.

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everyone stops for selfies at the finish line! the 5k finish line is another 1/2 mile down the road

 

The Longest Mile

May found me heading to Texas to support a friend who was doing an Ironman. An Ironman. That’s doing a 2.2 mile swim, then a 112 mile bike and THEN run a marathon. 26.2 miles. after doing all of that! what?! I can’t even imagine it. I can imagine climbing Everest. Without oxygen. In flip flops more than I can imagine myself doing an Ironman. So kudos to those people! (btw, my friend killed it like it was nothing. Jerk face). One of our stops on the way to Texas,  I found myself having to do a run. It’s funny what being around someone who was so utterly prepared to do an Ironman does to your own psyche. If I were on my way to do an Ironman I’d be curled up in a ball softly moaning. Just moaning? Well yes, I’d be all cried out, vomited out, pooped out by the time the race was that close! I’m sweating a little bit now at the thought of it! But my friend was just all chill and though a little nervous, it didn’t really show. He carried himself mostly with an “yeah, I’ve got this” attitude. And it rubbed off on me just a little. I headed out of the hotel with my run/walk plan in mind and started running. And then I just kept going! and going! I ran a whole mile! was it fast? hell no! was it easy? hell no! Did I want to just run into the Buffalo Wild Wings whose parking lot I was running through and shove some wings down my gullet? Hell YES! But I didn’t. Suddenly I just thought of my friend doing his Ironman and I kept going. It seems so silly given how long he’d be running (after swimming and biking insane distances) but I was so proud of myself. And I cried (such a dork). This huge milestone was completed. Only took me like 3 years but whatevs. and then BAM, I ran a marathon! just kidding. I just gradually (and I do mean gradually) just keep building on that. Some days are for sure better than others!

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so not a good picture lol. but that’s the picture that happened. sweaty, freckly, wrinkly, HAPPY me.

 

so, my mile is done. It’s been almost 4 weeks. I’d like to say that it’s gotten so much easier and I’ve run SO much further. But that’s not the case at all. Some days are good, some days are bad but I just keep moving forward. One awkward step at a time 🙂 Hey, maybe I’ll even do an Ironman someday….(oh god, I need to vom)

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