Sunday, June 26, 2016

ENELL Ambassador Race Review: Quarry Ridge Triathlon

Note: I am an ENELL Ambassador, which means I get free merchandise and sometimes comped race entries. I paid for this race myself, and all opinions here are my own.

This is the second time I have done this race (previous review) and the second time I wondered if the weather would keep me from racing. There are no refunds, and I was also really looking forward to some midweek racing fun, so I was watching the weather report with concern.

Luckily, the weather cooperated, and this time we did not have to race with soaked gear. There was heavy cloud cover but no rain or thunder. Just like in Grand Rapids, I wore my Team Endurance Fusion kit and my Biscay Green ENELL This time, instead of an Olympic Distance Aquabike, I did a sprint triathlon.

With my teammate Michele
I have been doing a lot of swim training, an adequate (barely) amount of bike training and very little run training. I wasn't taking this race very seriously -- I was thinking of it more as a timed workout than as a real race.

These steps are killer!
I killed it on the swim, coming out of the water in just a few seconds over 10 minutes, though my official time includes the run up from the beach. I finished in the top half of the field for the swim.

I did pretty well on the bike, especially considering the wind, and finished just behind the middle of the pack.

Then there was the run. My feet were cramping as I got off the bike and my legs felt tight. I think this is a consequence of doing a midweek race after a day at a desk job where I spend a lot of time sitting. I was having a very hard time because my legs felt stiff and painful. I was toughing it out the best I could until the last half mile, where I must have hyperextended my knee on a downhill -- I felt something pop and was in a lot of pain. I hobbled in the best I could, convinced I had ruined my season. Not surprisingly, I was in the very back of the pack when I finished. It was a sad end to what had started out a fun evening.

After a few days of resting and recuperating, I think it's going to be okay, though I'm going to have to take it easy at first. I don't think I'm out for the season like I feared. I'm proud of myself for finishing despite the challenges.

This look says it all: Pain and determination
Finish line
With my teammates Megan, Michele, and Rebecca

Added my pretty new medal to the collection

Friday, June 17, 2016

Long-overdue mojo reset

It's coming up on one year since I made my leap from my academic faculty position to the corporate world. It hasn't turned out like I had hoped so far.

When I took a job as a contractor, it was with the belief that it wouldn't take me long to find something more permanent in the company, or somewhere even better. I was sure I'd land an important position with a big salary and prove myself right for leaving a position that I once loved, but was starting to change in unacceptable ways. That didn't happen. I've had some great job interviews with other employers that seemed like great places to work, but nothing has panned out so far.

In the last few weeks I had been really second-guessing myself for leaving my faculty position behind without more commitment that I would get a salaried position. This is, after all, what we're all told never to do. I was also focusing on the things I missed about my old career and all the things I'm not liking as much about my new job. I was feeling like a failure and a loser.

Racing this weekend helped me to reset a little. Somehow I gained some new perspective on the situation. Maybe the best thing I can do right now is to stay available until the right thing comes along. I have a paycheck, but I am not tied down to my position. I've learned a lot of new things and have met some great people.

Racing also helped me to remember that there is more to life than just work. I have worth no matter what I do for a living. I really am grateful that I can participate in triathlon. It lets me show that I am determined and focused and gets me out into the beautiful world. I love almost everything about my life, and eventually I'll get that last piece of the puzzle in place. I have a lot to offer, and someone will realize that.

Let us imagine that life is a river. Most people are clinging to the bank, afraid to let go and risk being carried along by the current of the river. At a certain point, each of us must be willing to simply let go, and trust the river to carry us along safely. At this point, we learn to “go with the flow” — and it feels wonderful.

Once we have become accustomed to being in the flow of the river, we can begin to look ahead and guide our course onward, deciding where the course looks best, steering the way around boulders and snags, and choosing which of the many channels and branches of the river we prefer to follow, all the while still “going with the flow.”

This metaphor shows us how we can accept our lives here and now, flowing with what is, and at the same time guiding ourselves consciously toward our goals by taking responsibility for creating our own lives. 
-- Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization

I'm going to let go for a while and see where that takes me, watching along the way for a better path.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Enell Ambassador Review: Olympic Aquabike at The Grand Rapids Triathlon

Note: As an ENELL Racing Ambassador, I receive race entry fees and merchandise, but I genuinely love the brand. All opinions here are my own. 

I was originally signed up for the Olympic Distance as part of the Athena National Championship at Grand Rapids, but I didn't feel ready for the run, so I dropped down to the Aquabike, which is the swim and the bike, no run.  
For once, my husband was not able to travel with me and be my sherpa, time cop, photographer and navigator. I am very lucky to have such great support for races most of the time, and I definitely missed him. 

I traveled with my friend Rebecca instead, who was also doing the Aquabike.  Another friend, Angi, was doing the half, and she recommended a hotel a little off the beaten path. It was definitely old-school -- actual keys and exterior room doors -- but it was clean and comfortable for $70 a night.

The night before the race, after a great dinner with some fellow Athena athletes including the impressively accomplished Leslie Battle, (who won the Olympic-distance championship again yesterday), I did the traditional obsessive packing and repacking of the gear until I got into bed exhausted at 11 pm.

My kit matches the Biscay Green ENELL Sport perfectly!

I was sound asleep when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. I was a little crabby about eating a peanut-butter sandwich with a lukewarm bottle of water and crappy hotel-room coffee when I wanted to go back to bed.

But I managed to get a smile on my face for a hotel-room selfie before racking our bikes and driving to the race site at 5 a.m. Getting there early paid off -- I got prime parking while my friend stayed with our bikes and fought off airplane-sized mosquitos.

In transition, Rebecca and I ran into one of our local triathlon celebs, Joyce Donaldson, who co-owns Elite Endeavors, a Toledo-area race management company. She also travels the world as a USAT official, which is why she was there yesterday.

I took the "God Light" in this photo as a sign that we would have a good race.

After this photo, I stowed my camera in my backpack and headed to the beach.  I was not taking this race as seriously as I usually do, but I still wanted to do my best. We missed our friend Angi's start and we had to start swimming ourselves before she got out of the water. Once I was out on the course, I was all on my own, other than the great support from all the volunteers and fellow racers.

I felt strong in the swim, but I knew it wasn't going to be my fastest time.  The water was cold but after I got used to it, fairly pleasant. It felt like there was more room to spread out than usual, so I didn't get kicked and swum over as much as I usually do in these races.

The swim course map
This guy greeted us at the end of the swim.
There were two brawny guys helping people out of the swim. They had to be exhausted at the end of the day. I really appreciated the lift as the steps were a little slippery. There was a fairly long run to transition, which was longer and narrower than most -- it was a tight squeeze for me to get by the athletes who were leaving with their bikes.

The long and narrow transition area. 
There isn't much to say about the bike. As usual, my bike computer decided not to work, so I couldn't figure out how fast I was going or what my cadence was, so I just had to go by feel. I felt like I was going pretty slow -- I hit the 5 mile mark and was really disappointed that I wasn't further. I also felt like I got passed a lot. There was a headwind at times and a few steep hills. Then it felt like I was suddenly at the finish -- and because it was an Aquabike, I was done. My time stopped when I crossed the bike in mat, and I could take a leisurely mosey to the finish to run across the line, get a photo taken, and collect my medal.

I took dozens of selfies to get one I liked.
  I felt a little guilty being done while everyone else was still racing. I went to watch for my friends to come in on the bike. I didn't notice Rebecca until she was right at the finish because she had added a purple tank to her outfit, and then I lost her in the crowd. I got to see Angi come in on the bike and leave for her run. I went in search of Rebecca, couldn't find her, and so returned to take more medal selfies.

You can see my mint-and-white bike in this picture.
Rebecca wasn't as lucky as me -- they had run out of medals by the time she finished. All I can figure is that a lot of people switched from the Half to the Olympic at the last minute.  They apologized and were taking names and phone numbers to get them their medals later, but I know from experience how disappointing that is, so I loaned her my medal so she could make her finish Facebook Official.

Her first race of this distance! It's easy to underestimate the step up it is from a sprint. 

Got Rebecca to take a picture of me in my ENELL gear. Note the excellent support...
We had a long time to wait for Angi. We packed up our stuff, changed clothes, and moved the car.
We were able to get some post-race food and check out the afterparty, which was already starting to wind down.  I found the results and was pleasantly surprised that I had hit 16.6 mph on the bike -- I thought I was going much slower.
The first 12 Aquabike finisher results.
I love these results printers.
 We even got to meet 1988 Olympic Racewalker Gary Morgan, who had brought the torch he carried in the Salt Lake City torch relay for the kids to see and take photos with.  I couldn't resist -- I knew I would never be this close to an Olympic torch again.

Watching my friend Angi finish her first half was very emotional. We got word that she was very close to the cutoff so they let her finish, but that everyone after her got picked up by the sag wagon. She got to run with a police escort. I teared up as she finished. 

Totally staged medal photo. Then they realized they gave her the wrong medal...
The race management was great -- even though she was about 15 minutes past the cutoff time, they didn't rush us. They got things done, but they let her have plenty of time to take photos at the finish and generally made us feel like rockstars. I would definitely do this race again.

With the proper Athena Nationals race medal
This was such an emotional day, plus a physically demanding one. It felt like an extra leg of the triathlon just to drive home, not to mention unloading the car. I was ready for bed at 9.

For the last few weeks I had been letting my as-yet-unsuccessful search for a permanent job get me down, but today I felt content. Permanent marker seems to have mood-lifting qualities. I went into work today, strategically wearing long sleeves and a long skirt to cover my numbers, but I still knew they were there.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Le Tote: First Tote Review and Comparison to Gwynnie Bee

Note: This is an unsolicited, uncompensated review. I got a discount offer on Le Tote that went out to their mailing list but otherwise paid for my own subscription. I was also a paid subscriber to Gwynnie Bee. This is my honest comparison of both services.

I still miss my Gwynnie Bee subscription. I cancelled it when I was worried about my work contract ending, and to try to get our budget into line, I decided to wait to consider resubscribing until I have permanent employment (I'm still a contractor). I was paying $79 a month for three items out at a time, but now the new price is $95 for the same plan, and by canceling, I lost my price lock.

In the meantime, I missed the fun of having something new to wear all the time, so I decided to try Le Tote when I got an offer for a discounted first month. Their regular monthly price is $59 for three clothing items plus two accessories.

The two services are a lot different. So far, I think Gwynnie Bee is a better value if you're a size 10 or up. How could three items a month plus two accessories for $59 not be a better deal than three items for $95? The difference is in how the two services work.

With Gwynnie Bee, my box of clothing came with multiple return envelopes, so I could swap items one or two at a time. I was able to get something new almost once a week as a result. With Le Tote, all the items have to be returned at once. Everything that does not go back in the prepaid envelope would be charged to my account. I just returned my first tote, so I'll have to see what the turnaround time is, but I doubt that I will squeeze three totes into my discounted month.

I also didn't like any of the items in this first tote as much as the average Gwynnie Bee item. The printed jacket was fun, and seemed high-quality, but the orange shirt was just a thin cotton tee, and shorter than it looked in the photo. I wore the jacket and tee together to work on Friday, and wore the black and white top on Thursday, but I didn't get compliments on my clothes like I did when I wore GB. The earrings were beautiful but bigger than I thought they were, which made them too heavy for my ears. And the scarf, which was pretty, was a weird fabric that all stuck together, so I couldn't get it to look right.

Finally, I'm guessing Le Tote doesn't have a large selection of clothes in my size. I was able to customize my tote, but I didn't see a lot of things I loved in the choices. I suspect because I am at the top of the sizing range, there just wasn't that much that would work. GB is made for women size 10 and up, so almost everything came in my size. I also realized when browsing the clothing that the models in the GB photos also gave me a better idea of what clothes are going to look like on me. Plus the customer reviews helped me to know when something was going to look different than the photo made it seem.

I'll check in again after I complete my first month on Le Tote, but so far, I'm Team Gwynnie Bee.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dooby Du 2016: ENELL Ambassador Update

Before the race, well-supported in my limited-edition Biscay Green ENELL SPORT
ENELL paid my entry for the Dooby Du and has given me some great merchandise as part of the ENELL Ambassador program. All opinions here are my own. All photos were taken by my one-man support crew, Jesse.

I'm listening to a great audiobook: The War of Art: Break Through Your Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles (not an affiliate link). Despite the title, the book applies not only to creative pursuits, but any activity that requires us to do what is easy instead of what is hard. A lot of the book is about resistance -- that inner force that keeps us from trying to achieve our goals so much of the time.
“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of sh*t.” 
I definitely experienced some resistance out on the course today, and I used quotes from the book as part of my mental battle to keep pushing forward.

The Dooby Du is, like the name implies, a sort of double duathlon. It's a 2 mile run, a 6.5 mile bike, a 2 mile run, a 6.5 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. The race organizers describe it as "fun," and "low-key." In my experience, this is a serious start to the race season, and most of the people who show up are the local age-group superstars. In terms of Toledo-area triathlons, it's small, and the people who stay home are the back-of-pack people like me. This is my second year doing it and my second year of being a little concerned that I would end up in last place. This year, there were three women who did it together and actually treated it as a fun, low-key race, so I was saved from being the final finisher. They were the only three people who finished after I did. You can see the results for yourself if you'd like.

But I knew all of that going in. I was hoping to shave some time off my previous year's finish. For me racing is about challenging myself, not winning. I also think this race is a good way to check in and see what mistakes I'm making, and correct them before any of the bigger races that I care more about.

I lined up toward the back, and heard the women I mentioned before talking about their time goal of 2:30, and felt a little relieved that I would probably not be last. You can see me in this start video: I'm the one in the blue headband.

You can also see what a beautiful day it was. Last year it was cold and windy. This year, it started out a little chilly, but by the finish, it was 70 degrees. As we started the run, I noticed two hot-air balloons overhead and it made me really happy to see them. My first run was pretty good. There was one woman who had started near me that I talked to for a while, but she got ahead of me on the run. In transition, I saw her run out with a mountain bike and thought I'd probably be able to catch her. I didn't, though I came close. She got further ahead of me on the second run, and on the second bike leg, I didn't even see her.

The most challenging thing for me about this race was that there was no one in sight for most of it. There were some out-and-back stretches on the run, but on the bike legs, I saw two people on the first loop and was able to pass one. The rest of the field was out of sight, and on the second loop, the only people I saw were all the wonderful staff and volunteers who were out there to keep us safe, hydrated, and on course. I really appreciated seeing them and made sure to thank them for being there.

I struggled with resistance all the way through, from the first run when the pack pulled away from me to the second bike leg when my bike computer stopped working and I had no idea what my speed or cadence were. In my case, resistance suggests I should either quit the race or at least not push myself too hard. I kept repeating lines from the book, "resistance is always lying and always full of sh*t," and my own mantras, like "finish what you start."

The last run was murder. My toes were giving me some trouble and I just was running out of gas. The heat was getting to me too. I probably should have taken salt tablets, but I had no idea it was going to be so hot when I finished. I was hungry and tired. I couldn't run the whole last leg -- I had run the first two, only walking at the water stop so I didn't choke. On the last leg I did a walk/run routine, and just kept moving forward the best I could. I was pretty sure I was not going to beat my time after all, and that made me feel discouraged. I said, "resistance is strongest near the finish line," and added my own geeky touch, "resistance is futile."

Post-race, sweaty and relieved!
Once I could hear the noise of the finish line, I was able to push a little harder. I sprinted the finish, just happy to be done. I had several friends at the race but I wasn't much of a conversationalist -- my mind kept wandering. I was just glad not to be moving anymore.

I finished in 2:14:25, last year was 2:13:18. My rough splits were 24 minutes, 26 minutes, and 29 minutes on the runs and 24 minutes and 23:30 on the bike. I had transitions of about 2 minutes each.

I didn't eat much of the post-race lunch, a few pretzels and some chips. All I really wanted was salt. I could feel the salt on my face and neck and I know that I need to do better on hydration next time. I have been taking it easy since then. I'm proud that I finished and that I pushed myself the whole way. Thanks, ENELL, for supporting me through this challenging day!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Sometimes it snows in April: ENELL Ambassador Update

My first multisport race, the Dooby Du duathlon, is a week from tomorrow. Last night Toledo got the biggest April snowstorm in history -- almost 8 inches of snow.

It's pretty snow, though. My nephew, my mom, and I made a "snow lady," and it was the most perfect packing snow. I'm not sure when the last time I made a snowman was, and my nephew, who is 4, had never made one before, so it was fun. We also were going to have a snowball fight, but he didn't like having snow thrown at him so we did target practice instead by throwing snowballs at the shed.

In Toledo, we rarely get snow and sun at the same time, so it was a treat to go out and run on a snowy day with the full sun shining, no wind, and relatively warm weather. I am guessing that if the weather cooperates, I'll have a better time than my first time doing this race last year. I have ridden that bike course dozens of times since last year, and I have been doing more running than I was last year at this time, mostly in walk-run intervals. I know that I walked quite a bit of last year's runs, too.

ENELL is sponsoring me for this race, so I'll be in my cool new gear, including the new Biscay Green ENELL SPORT. Like all limited edition colors, when it is gone, it's gone, so if you are a green fan like me, you should get yours while you can. Besides the ENELL site, you can find them at online retailers like Bare Necessities (currently having a 25% off sale) and other online retailers, as well as some in-store locations. Green is one of my favorite colors, as evidenced by my favorite running jacket.

I'm hoping for dry roads and low wind -- both of which would mean the weather this year will be much better than last year -- but I have to be ready for anything between 70 degrees and sunny and 27 and windy. Toledo weather is like that.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Hashimoto's Update

After talking with a friend, I realized that I had paid a ridiculous amount of money out of pocket to my alternative practitioner (who was also an MD) for less-than-stunning results -- I didn't need to see my "witch doctor" to go gluten-free and she never did change my meds to include T3, which was what I wanted when I went to her. I only saw an alternative practitioner in the first place because of my dismissive mainstream doc, I was always skeptical about it.

So I quit seeing her and got a referral to a new endocrinologist, with assurances that he was less rigid than my original doctor. He put me on Armor, which did seem to help normalize my body temperature and improved my skin. Armor is expensive and the tablets are huge and hard to swallow. My doctor also wanted me to take a half dose once a  week, so now I'm taking Nature-Throid now, which is about 1/3 the cost, and it seems to be helping. I will know for sure when I get my tests in a few more weeks.

I wish I had asked for a referral to another endocrinologist instead of wasting time and money with the alternative practitioner. I thought I'd post this to help others going through the same thing.
"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07