Race Report: Pumpkinman Half Ironman Triathlon

 First of all, we went straight to Trader Joe’s in Portland on our way to the race, which is important because that means I got to stock up on Trader Joe favorites like chia seeds, dried mango, mediterranean flat breads and all the awesome snacks they have for my kids’ lunches.

But what is really important about this photo is that Susan took it, which means that not only did she support me all weekend throughout the race, she also was thinking like a blogger and she documented everything.  Now, that’s a good friend.

We arrived on Saturday evening at packet pick up and learned I was in the yellow-cap wave at 7:23 am.

I got my stuff (see?  She documented it all!) which included a cute women’s cut tech shirt and a backpack, as well as all the bib numbers and stickers to cover me, my swim cap, and my bike.

Then before checking into our hotel and having dinner, we went straight to the beach in York.  It was such a gorgeous spot and just what I needed to do to calm my nerves.  The weather was kind of wild and windy and the waves were awesome.  Yes I did have surfing pangs.

I ate a huge bowl of veggie pasta primavera and one beer for dinner and we settled into to watch a bunch of episodes of Chopped on the Food Network.  I think I fell asleep at 10.  I slept really well until 4:30 when my phone, the hotel alarm, and the wake up call all went off at the same time.  Take no chances, right?

And we were up and out the door by 5:15.  The only fail of the morning was that I never had any coffee, which came back to bite me at about mile 6 of the run.

All of the forecasts for stormy or rainy weather were wrong, because when we got to the race site, this is what we found.  So beautiful.  It was a perfect day in terms of weather.  Between 60-70 degrees, no humidity, and partly cloudy.  Thank you, thank you, universe.

We had over an hour to wait after I got my bike racked and all of my stuff set up in the transition area.  But we enjoyed watching all the volunteers heading out in kayaks to set the buoys.   Everyone was so nice and it was all so organized and smooth.

Pretty soon, all of the athletes were down by the water and ready to go.

There were 8 waves and I was in wave 7.  Once the Elites took off in wave 1, the whole thing moved really quickly.

Do I look nervous?  I actually was so calm and focused.  It was weird.  I was just ready to get started.

Susan went up the huge hill to take this photo of all the waves lining up.

Right before it was our turn to go, we walked out into the water.  I positioned myself over to the left about half way in.  I wasn’t sure how I would compare to the other swimmers, so I wasn’t positive where to go.   I am #408 in the back of this pic.

Each wave was started by a man on a loudspeaker yelling:  “GO GO GO GO GO GO!”  It was intense.

It only took me from the start until that first buoy to find a good place.  I hung to the left, never got kicked once, and only got nudged by a few bodies.  It was surprisingly easy to find a pocket of clear water.  I was totally calm and collected.

The course was 1.2 miles and included two loops of .6.  I liked how it was set up.  I just swam from one buoy to the next and didn’t over-think how far I had to go.  I paid attention to my breathing and tried to keep it even.   My favorite part of the swim was when I started passing swimmers from the earlier waves.  On the last straight away of the 2nd loop, I came up to three men in orange caps, which meant they left 10 minutes before I did.  I thought “Excuse me while I swim past all 3 of you.  Bye!”  The swim is the only part that I’m even slightly competitive, so I have to have my fun here.

All done and two minutes faster than I’d ever done it before. Now it was time for the hill climb up to the bikes.  Some people run up the hill.  I just walked and caught my breath and started to peel my wetsuit down.  Is this hill a little bit cruel?  Yes, I think so.

T1:  I got my wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses on and was off.  The only thing I should have done differently is to have a long sleeve shirt or arm-sleeves.  It was chilly and I was (obviously) soaking wet.

The bike was 56 miles, and included two loops.  It was such a pretty ride through the rural countryside of Berwick, Maine.  Corn fields, old New Englandy cemeteries, sunflowers, lots of trees and lots of shade.   Just awesome.

On the bike I ate one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one peanut butter Gu, and one marathon bar plus 2 bottles of Nuun.  The ride was long, yes, but mostly uneventful.  My body started to hurt around mile 40 and I started to worry about the run.  My legs were tired, my back and neck ached, and I was just ready to get off the bike.  During the last 20 miles, I passed and was passed by the same 15-ish people over and over again.  One guy in a yellow jersey and I leap-frogged probably 20 times throughout the whole bike.  It was funny because at mile 40 I was sure I had passed him for the final time, as I caught him on a hill and felt like I flew past him.  About 10 miles later he came up to my left and I said:  “YOU AGAIN?”  He said:  “I know!  Sorry!”    It was very amusing and kept my mind off my aches and pains.

Okay!  The bike was over!  I was way ahead of schedule at this point, and as I headed into the bike transition, I was kind of mushy-brained and could not compute how I was doing so well.

Let me back up a second.  Going into this race, I had a three-tiered goal.

A Goal “In a perfect world if everything goes just right”:  7 hours.
B Goal “If I have the kind of day I think I will”: 7:30
C Goal “If I fall apart and things go badly”:  Just please let me finish before the 8 hour cut off and please don’t have to scrape me off the road.

So, wasn’t I surprised that as I headed out of T2 to start the run, that my time so far was 4:09 when I thought it would be 5:00?  I know now that is because I averaged 16.6 mph on the bike, which is slow in the triathlon scene, but for little me?  It’s the fastest I’ve ever ridden.  And for 56 miles.  Whoa.  I was in a really good position.

Coming out of T2 to start the run.  Just one little half marathon to go.  Yikes!

Look how happy I was.

My legs were pretty stiff, but the initial downhill got me going right away.  I was just so happy to be off my bike and so happy to have made it to the last part of the race.  My back felt better once I was upright and I started to find my legs after about 1/2 a mile.  I ran two 10-minute miles and then two 11-minute miles, and then I got to the part of the run route that I knew nothing about:  the HILLS.  Holy smokes.

The rest of the run course went like this.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Big loop through a great neighborhood and then do it all again.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Giant hill up.  Giant hill down.  Repeat the big loop through the great neighborhood.  And then… just 2 more giant hills.

I was hurting.  Like, mile-24-in-a-marathon hurting.  But Susan found me at the half way point and ran the last 6 miles with me, which was a Godsend.  I think I was moaning a little.  I walked through all the aid stations.  I ate a lot of pretzels, bananas, and drank a ton of water, gatorade, and flat coke (it’s a triathlon thing, and it tasted like manna from heaven).

My two other favorite things about the run course were the signs and the sponges.  One stretch had signs every few feet, and the best ones were:  “You are so smart and pretty”  and “Your ass looks so fantastic.”   There were several places on the run that handed out cold sponges.  It was amazing.  I would take 3 at each offering, squeeze one on my head, wipe all the salt off my face, and stick one into my bra.  So divine.

So, I kept moving, and mostly ran, but kept slowing down, taking walking breaks up the biggest hills and through the aid stations.  All the athletes were kind to each other.  Everyone I ran past on the constant out-and-back would say:  “good job, girl!” or “nice work, ladies!”  It was such a supportive vibe.  But still, I was hurting.  Ouch my hips, ouch my legs, ouch my lower back, ouch my pounding headache, and OUCH the raw skin under my arms.  Susan talked cheerfully to distract me.

Then, all of a sudden we were at looking at the mile 10 marker.  And then 11.  And then 12.  And then one last mean uphill brought me back to the starting area where I entered into a finish-line chute at the top of the hill, and ran all the way down.  My legs were killing me and the downhill was brutal on my quads at that point, but the whole idea of coming down this big grassy hill to the bottom where you see the finish line and the clock and the volunteers holding medals?  It gave me chills.

My time:  6:44.  16 minutes faster than my “in a perfect world” goal.
1.2 mile swim:  37 minutes
56 mile bike:  3:22 (16.6 mph)
13.1 mile run:  2:37

And so, yes.  I’m still smiling.  Thank you, thank you to my friend Susan, and to all of the amazing staff and volunteers at the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival.  I can’t recommend this race highly enough.  It was perfect for a first-timer and seems also to be a favorite of the more experienced and elite athletes.  It was a day I will never, ever forget.

I have my finishers shirt on right now, and outside on my car, one of these:

AND I NEED TO GO TO BED!  Goodnight!

Great Day Report: MDI Fun Run and 10K

Sam and I took the opportunity of Saturday’s perfect weather to make a family day trip to the island (That’s MDI, Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park). I had initially planned on the kids running in a local fun run in Bangor, but then I found that there was a 1-Mile Fun Run on MDI, so I signed them up for it. Then, on a whim, I signed myself up for the 10K that happens right after the fun run. Why not?

We were up and out early and ready to go. Here is Skyler lined up for the start.

Sam ran with Skyler and I ran with Reed.  Reed is the funniest runner.  He’s all elbows.

At about 1/10 of the way into our 1 mile run, Reed said:  “WHERE IS THE FINISH LINE?”

At the half way point, after much walking, he asked to get on my back.  As soon as he settled into his piggy back ride, he said:  “Now we are definitely going to win.”

When we got in sight of the finish line, I put him down and told him to run for it.  He did!  And as he ran, he said:
“Mom.  Tired.  So Tired.”

He was one of the last ones across the line so everyone went crazy and cheered for him.

Both kids got ribbons and were so proud.

Soon I lined up for the start and head out for my 10K.  I was again in search of coming in under that pesky 1 hour mark.

I worked hard for it and again missed it by seconds.  Remember you need a 9:40 pace to get under 1 hour.  Miles  1-3 were very hilly but my pace was perfect.  9:25, 9:35, 9:21.

When I ran past Sam and the kids at about mile 3, Skyler was jumping up and down shouting:  “MOMMY!  I WON MY AGE GROUP!”

Mile 4 I walked through a much needed water stop and then hit a very steep uphill and it slowed me down to 10:15.  Mile 5 my legs were just tired and it was more gradual uphill:  10:15.   Mile 6 I was hanging on as best as I could: 9:59.  I kicked it into high gear for the last stretch, crossed, looked at my garmin:  1:00.10.

My official time was 1:00.25 but that is without a chip. That is still 30 seconds better than my last 10K.

Phew.  Getting closer.  I should maybe try it on a flatter course next time.

At the finish line, Skyler was waiting for me.  I was a little tired, can you tell?  She was so proud!

She joined me in the food tent while I rehydrated.  I was really hot, can you tell?

So yes, Skyler won her age group with a mile time of 11:05!  We cannot confirm how many people were actually in her age group, but she won a prize nonetheless.  And do you know what the prize is for winning your age group?  It is a miniature skateboard key-chain.  Yes it is.

This is my friend Nancy who also ran the 10K and dropped her time from last year by a whopping 9 minutes!   What you need to know about this picture is that when Reed realized that he was not also going to get a miniature skateboard key-chain, he completely fell apart and was sobbing.  You can tell by the sympathetic look from the woman behind us in pink. I guess they didn’t have a “Mom carried you on her back” age group.  Live and learn.

The crew of friends at the race:  Anne Marie, Alan and Nancy.

The kids got t-shirts and gift certificates for ice cream cones at Ben and Bill’s in Bar Harbor.  You can see Skyler holding her age-group prize.

And now that Reed had some bubble-gum ice cream, all was right with his world.


We spent the rest of the afternoon eating our picnic lunch at Echo Lake.  I got out of my running clothes and into bathing suit and flip flops and kicked back on the blanket.

While I relaxed and drank a lot of water, the kids did this:

And Sam did this:

And went out for about 30 minutes of lake swimming.

Yes I do very much appreciate that we have places like this in our life.  Echo Lake is another slice of Maine’s best.  The whole time we were sitting there, I kept repeating to myself:    We are so lucky.

Our great Maine day ended like so many others:  Red Sox game on the radio while we drive home, and then dinner on the patio with a camp fire with good friends.  High five, life.

Race Report: Vermont City Marathon

I thought I’d have to work so hard to stay awake on my 6 hour drive home from Vermont tonight, but I think I still had a lot of adrenaline coursing through me because I basically sang to music at the top of my lungs the whole way home, with some breaks to listen to the Red Sox game.   I also drank 3 cups of coffee and a cappuccino.

I am flying right now.  I am not going to sleep for hours.  Looks like I’ll write a late-night race report!

marathon outfits ready, overlooking Lake Champlain

Here are lots of details about today’s race:

The humidity was 90% and the temps were low 70s when we walked up the hill from our hotel to the starting line.  A few minutes before the start, it began to rain which felt so good. We lined up with the masses of runners and pretty soon people were moving forward.  About 5 minutes later, we crossed the starting line.

The first part of the course is 3.5 miles, all of which felt great.  There were some nice downhills on brick streets, it was still raining, and the rain was keeping the temperatures reasonable.  It was indeed very humid and the air just felt thick and stifling, but I still felt pretty good.  Christine and I were only together for the first couple miles, which is what I’d anticipated.  I knew I needed to stay at my own pace in the beginning and not overdo it, and I had completely mentally prepared to run this race alone.

Right from the start, I knew I was in a better mental place than I was last year when I ran the same marathon, where I pretty much struggled mentally the whole way.  I kept comparing notes with myself and realized right away that I was feeling lighter, happier, more open to whatever the day was going to give me, and best of all, I was so much more aware of my surroundings.  The crowds are electric in Burlington, and I was looking around at all the supporters, hearing the cowbells, and just loving it.

Part two is the dreaded out-and-back on a closed highway, miles 31/2 to 8.  I hated it last year, and this year it kind of sucked too.  As I started this part, the rain stopped, the streets started to steam, and the sun started to shine through.  I could feel it getting hotter by the minute.  This stretch is basically a gradual downhill for 2.5 miles and then back.  There is nothing enjoyable about a downhill when you know you have to run back up.   As it warmed up, I felt myself slowing down.  That part couldn’t end soon enough, but I still stayed calm and in control.

The day before at the expo, we had learned about the 4-tiered Alert system that would be in place to let the runners know how to proceed through the race.  These play a big part in my race report, so check this out:

When I ran down the highway, the water stops were holding green “Low Danger” signs and when I ran back up, they had switched to yellow “Moderate.”

Part three of the course:  I ran back up the hill and into town, ran past the spot at mile 9 where Sam was waiting for me last year (he ran 6 miles of the course with me), and I mentally ran those same 6 miles with him this year.   During this stretch of miles, it just kept getting/ feeling hotter.  When I’d stop to grab water, my face was kind of throbby hot.  I started a routine at this point that I kept up for the entire race;  at each water stop, I’d grab 3 cups of water, drink one, dump one down my back, and dump one on my head.  It felt so good every time.  I was also drinking gatorade out of my camelbak the whole day.

As hot as I was, I felt okay.  I ate a banana that I had carried under the flap of my camelbak.  Aid stations had orange slices (wow… so good) and salty pretzels to help with all of the sodium lost through sweat.  I was going slowly, but I was smiling, talking to people, thanking volunteers, and feeling very present in a really wonderful way.  I got the halfway point which swings you down onto a bike path along the edge of Lake Champlain.  Instead of the cool breeze I expected, it was even hotter down there.  At the next water stop, the signs switched to the red High Alert.  Oh boy.

I remembered that the directions for High Alert said “Slow Down” and “Consider Stopping.”  So from about mile 14 on, I went into self-preservation mode, and began to alternate between running and walking.   So here I am on this very hot and humid day, and I’m running a little, walking a little, and I’m telling you that there was nothing pathetic about how I felt.  I felt happy and strong and totally in control.  I just knew I didn’t want to overheat and end up in an ambulance, so I did what I had to do to stay in control.

Turns out, I have found the secret to a happy marathon:  High Alert signs at every water stop.
There is nothing more liberating.  I knew I had nothing to prove to anyone, and that I was just going to do what I had to do to stay up on my feet.  The difference in how I felt this year in Vermont compared to last year is astounding.  I was a different person out there.

At the bottom of the huge hill at Mile 15, I once again totally loved the Taiko Drum Group, the sound of which I could hear and feel about a quarter mile before I got there.  It was just as awesome as I’d remembered it.  And, I was happily surprised to hear my name and see Christine’s husband Keith at that point.  A familiar face is always a boost.

After mile 16 begins the last big loop of the course.  Knowing where I was going and being able to anticipate all that was ahead of me was very helpful.  Alternating between running and walking, knowing now that I officially had no time goal, was a perfect strategy to get me through the next section.  All the aid stations were still advertising High Alert.  Ambulances were passing me every couple minutes.  Each mile I’d see one or two runners collapsed on the grass.  It was disconcerting to say the least.

My friend Jeffrey and his wife Kim were visiting their family who live at mile 17.5.  I had asked Jeffrey to have some things for me and as I got closer, I was really ready to get there.   It was another great boost to find them; Jeffrey refilled my camelbak with beautifully COLD gatorade and gave me a banana.  They said sweet things like “You look great!”  (my beet-red face and crazy hair?).   I chatted for a few minutes (no time goal, remember?) and then carried on.  Their neighborhood was the best because every other house had hoses or sprinklers going and I just zig-zagged around the road to make sure I hit every possible drop of water coming my way.

Between miles 18-20,  I had some cramping in my calves and in my stomach, but it was all alleviated when I came to an aid station that had more salty pretzels and orange slices.  Seriously, these things have never tasted so divine.  I could still hear a lot of sirens from the ambulances buzzing all around, and we were still at High Alert.

At Mile 21.5 is the downhill turn onto the bike path, the point last year that I was begging for death.  This time, I was feeling hot (like temperature hot) but still in control, and was ready for redemption on the bike path, the last 5 miles of the course.  Everyone around me was walking and suffering.  I walked beside a woman who was audibly sobbing, put my arm around her, fed her pretzels, and promised her she would get to the end.  I felt so happy to offer some assistance to others and to not be needing it myself.   I started to run more consistently at this point, the temperture felt a little cooler, and the signs switched back to Moderate Alert.  I was home free.

For the next 4 miles, I mostly ran with walk breaks just through water stops. Before too long, the sun came back out strongly, the temperatures climbed into the 80s, and the signs switched back to High Alert.  It turned out to be the hottest part of the course.  But I was so close that I didn’t let it get to me.

Because hardly anyone was running on this stretch, I passed a lot of people, and just focused on that as a way to keep me occupied.  My legs were tired, yes, but again, it was a different world.  I never once wanted to die, and I never once doubted that I was going to finish.  When I got to mile 25, I could hear the music and the crowds at the end.  I saw the fences with people lined up along them, cowbells ringing, and I smiled at everyone and just brought it home.  I crossed the line in 5:28.06.  Considering the conditions of the day, I had absolutely no problem with that.

I got my beautiful medal, made my way through the maze of finishers and found Christine (who ran 2 strong marathons in 2 weeks.  Just awesome).  I felt great.  I was not dizzy or confused or in any kind of distress.  I was soaking wet, my fingers were super swollen, and I had basically turned into a walking salt-lick, but I was still standing and still smiling.

Have I mentioned that feeling this light and happy in a marathon is a miracle for me?  I’m telling you, run a hot, humid marathon with High Alert signs all along the way, and you too can experience such joy.

Marathon #3, check.  I am honored and privileged to be able to do this.  I am incredibly happy, and still rather alarmingly caffeinated.  Thank you for reading!

Meet The Sole Sisters

Jen, Amy, Christine, Susan, Emilie, Suzanne

Most of the questions I get regarding the blog have to do with running, how to get started running,  finding the time to train, or ideas for treadmill workouts (because I love treadmills).  Another question I get frequently is how I got hooked up with such a great running group.

This group of 6 has evolved into one of the best parts of my life, so I thought I’d tell you how it all happened and who they are.  Turns out this is kind of a long post.

A few weeks after Reed was born, my mom and I started taking Skyler to Kindermusik class, where I met both Christine and Amy for the first time.  Christine was very pregnant with her second child Kristian and Amy was very pregnant with her second child Timothy.  They had their boys a few weeks after the class ended.

Here is little Skyler from that class.

While I was busy with infant Reed, Skyler was quickly attaching herself to McKayla, Christine’s daughter.  They were instant friends, so Christine and I exchanged numbers with plans to get together, which we did often.

It was around this time that I was just starting to do a run-walk program.  A few months later, Christine and Amy started to walk and then run too, and they soon were joined by Jen, whom they met at the preschool where they were all taking their kids.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009 when I was training for Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.  Christine, Jen and Amy, with a half marathon under their belts too, had signed up for the MDI marathon on the exact same day as my marathon.  We started doing our long runs together.  I was very aware how lucky I was to have their camaraderie and support to get me through that training.

The four of us completed our first marathons on October 18th, 2009:  I was in San Francisco and they were on MDI in Maine, but our times were ONE MINUTE apart.  How crazy is that?

Meanwhile, I was already running some with my friend Susan, whom I have taught English with at the same high school for ten years.

We were gradually building up to becoming runners at the same time, and we started doing races together here and there.  In the above photo, we had just finished a 5-mile race and it was the first time we had run that far.  We finished that race in 58 minutes and got passed by 60 year olds during the last quarter mile.  True story.

When I was training for my first marathon, Susan was very interested and supportive, and we talked about running a lot at work, but said she was not interested in running a full marathon.  I started to work my magic and made her think otherwise.  *rubs hands together*

It worked.  She is now fully addicted to running and is the fastest runner in our group.

ALSO meanwhile, my friend Suzanne was just getting interested in running and was quickly surprising herself with how far she could run after never thinking of herself as a runner before.

We first met Suzanne and her partner Sandi in our child-birthing class when I was pregnant with Skyler and Suzanne was pregnant with Ella.  We became instant friends and have now basically raised our kids together.

Here she is holding Reed when he was 6 months old.  (and oh my god, look at Reedo)

Sandi and Suzanne are Reed’s godmothers, and Sam and I are godparents to their Maya.

So… when Jen, Christine, Amy and I decided to sign up for the Vermont City Marathon, Suzanne and Susan were clearly ready for a marathon, and were very easily convinced to join us.  Everyone met everyone else, we all started running together, and everyone got along famously.

We have, over the year, become much more than a running group.  We do all love running and have the same draw to races and race medals, but we also just love each other and share a bond of friendship. Our running group also includes offers to help when kids are sick, phone calls of concern about injuries, or deliveries of food when times are hard.  I am so incredibly lucky to have them.

After I made the MDI marathon relay video with that song “Hey Soul Sister” at the end, Christine named us Sole Sisters.  We’re kind of a big deal.  We even have our own stickers that Christine made us for Christmas.

(I’m going to put it on my car right next to my 26.2 once my car isn’t covered with snow, ice, and salt.)

Things you need to know about the Sole Sisters:
Susan:  She is fearless and undaunted by distance and speed.  She sets a mean pace and can STILL talk non-stop while running;  she just gets the job done as if it were no big deal.  All of us in our group have things that make us nervous or that we obsess over about running and races, except Susan.  She just shows up smiling and says:  “Let’s go.”  We are also all a little jealous that Susan can leave her older kids home alone on long-run mornings. We’ll get there someday!

Amy:  She’s a machine with an on and off switch.  She sets one pace and can hold it all day.  Amy is totally even-keeled and positive.  At the end of every long run, including the marathons, ask her how she feels and she says:  “Great!”  She also makes amazing home-made jams and is a gifted photographer.  AND, she helps us out by taking Skyler one morning a week.  And she takes pictures of Skyler and her son Nick waiting to get on the bus and sends them to me at work.

Suzanne:  Calling her “the most enthusiastic” sole sister doesn’t even touch it.  Suzanne has boundless positive energy.  Whenever she shows up for a long run, the rest of us are usually sleepy and reluctant to start.  Suzanne drives up and starts beeping and waving from a block away, rolls down her window and yells:  “GOOD MORNING, GIRLS!  HOMEMADE BANANA BREAD FRESH FROM THE OVEN!”  She also loves my children as if they were her own, takes Skyler to school 4 mornings a week, and redefines what it means to be a good friend in so many ways.

She does her signature “two-thumbs-up” that we all try to mimic.

Jen:  Jen is the one who plants all of the seeds for running races.  She is famous for emailing us links to races we had never considered and asking:  “who’s in?”  She is calm, cool, and collected as a runner, but deep down, she has a mean racing streak and can pull out an impressive pace that surprises everyone, including herself.  She is a strong and dependable athlete who is up for anything,  as well as one of the most generous people I know.  She does things like this:

Rent a giant, carnival-sized bounce house for her back yard and then invite us all over to play:

She also does things like this:  Sends me flowers at work after I had a terrible week.

 Christine:   Christine is so full of personality and so funny, that I can’t capture her in writing.  She is a caring social worker who is an expert advice-giver.  From now on, look in the group photos and you’ll notice Christine as the one in the always matching outfit, almost always Nike top with coordinating Nike bottoms and matching running shoes (yes, she does have running shoes in different colors to match her outfits).  She is the queen of clean to the point that if Christine is coming over to my house, I clean differently, not because I am afraid of being judged by her, but because I want to make her proud.  Christine and her habits of being so well put together made this race especially funny (but see, under the mud is a coordinated Nike outfit).

I don’t want to focus too much on the wardrobe thing, becuase there is so much more to Christine, but I have to share this funny message she sent us this week:

“In order to properly represent ourselves at Sugarloaf I think we should get thinking about color/style of shirt.  Running Warehouse has some Nike shirts in Mega Blue.  I think we’d really stand out in blue. It might be a nice contrast to the surrounding brown and green of the scenic Carrabassett Valley in spring time… And we will match the Sugarloaf Logo!”

And there you have it.

So, you are welcome to run with us.  You just have to let us coordinate your outfits, bring fresh-baked treats to long runs, love talking while running, not mind hearing details about bathroom stops, and offer to watch our kids if they are sick.

We are planning to run about 6 or 7 races together in 2011.  Watch for our matching outfits!

Action Time

After weeks of testing, waiting, more biopsies, more waiting, more results, we have a first step plan for attacking my mom’s breast cancer.  At first, we were choosing between several options for surgery, but further tests revealed that it really wasn’t a choice after all.  Tomorrow my mom will undergo a bilateral mastectomy.

It is midterm week at my school and grades are all due, so I will be sitting in the waiting room tomorrow with (literally) boxes full of student work and trying to stay focused enough to keep up with grading.  I will try to get on the blog to update when surgery is over and when I know she is awake and doing okay.  Thank you in advance for all of your positive thoughts and prayers.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this poem. My friend Erica sent this to me to pass on to my mom.

It’s so good it brought me to tears, which, let’s be honest, is not that hard to do these days.  The poet is Irish and the title means “blessing.”  For my mama.

On the day when
The weight deadens on your shouders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the church of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

What’s for Dinner? And Dessert!?

I know I should be more ambitious than this since it is summer, and I will have some more interesting dinners coming soon.  In the meantime, this is actually my very favorite kind of meal:  Baked sweet potato, baked beans, and a huge pile of crispy kale.  Holy fiber.  Delicious and easy.  (Scroll to the bottom of this post where there is more info about the power of kale).


I have never actually made Strawberry Shortcake before.  Not sure why.  But after we picked up these babies at the farm, plus the fact that we are going strawberry picking on Friday so there are many more on the way, I wanted to try it out.

Reed wanted to help, but I wanted to get the dough done without him and then have him help me cut out the biscuits (I used a glass which worked fine).  I told him I had to look up the recipe and to come back in a few minutes.  He offered to write out the directions for me, and went off to find a marker.

Thanks, bud!  That looks very complex!
After dinner last night, I gave each kid a plate that looked like this:

Skyler said she wanted me to “scrape the whipped cream off” and Reed just wanted a biscuit beause the whole thing was “too messy.”  Oh brother.  Well, I enjoyed every bite.  The super sweet strawberries and the warm biscuit and the fresh whipped cream?  Seconds, please.

I used this recipe from Bon Appetit, but added 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger and 1 tsp. lemon zest to the dough, which I recommend.

*If you forgot how to make crispy kale, or are ready to try, just rough chop some kale, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.  Sam doesn’t like kale (darn!) so when we get some, I eat the whole head in one sitting.  It’s so good.

If you are still not conivinced, read this:
“Kale absolutely rich and abundant in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in Vitamin C not to mention the much needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans. The “Icing on the Kale” are the natural occurring all important phytochemicals sulforaphane and indoles which research suggests may protect against cancer. Let’s not forget the all important antioxidant Vitamin E.

The naturally rich sulfur content of kale deserves a bit more discussion. Science has discovered that sulforaphane, helps boost the body’s detoxification enzymes, possibly by altering gene expression. This is turn is purported to help clear carcinogenic substances in a timely manner. Sulforaphane is formed when cruciferous vegetables like kale are chopped or chewed. This somehow triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer causing chemicals, of which we all are exposed on daily basis. A recently new study in the Journal of Nutrition (2004) demonstrates that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer cell proliferation.”  (source)

CFC: Day 2

First, some business:

Don’t miss the photography giveaway from yesterday over here.

Also, the first newsletter for Sparrow Magazine went out today.  If you didn’t get the newsletter, please add your email to the mailing list right on the magazine’s website.

I have some funny Reedisms coming soon, so for those of you who could care less about all of this food, stay tuned!

Okay, onto day 2 of the Clean Food Challenge:
For the sake of commiserating with some of my fellow CFCers who are not having the easiest time, I thought about telling you that I had a really hard day today, but I’m actually still feeling good.

I find it amazing how well I respond to setting such strict rules for myself.  I like controlling myself, I guess.  I like that if I have a passing thought about wanting a bagel or some chocolate, I say to myself:  “You can’t have that right now.”  And myself says:  “Oh yeah, right.”  And then I move on.  Makes you wonder what other changes we could make in this manner?  I know it’s not fun to always have rules, but sometimes I just find it to be an easier way of going through the day.  There aren’t as many decisions to make when you are “on plan.”

Here was my food day:

Breakfast:  (same as yesterday)
Oatmeal with blueberries, coffee with coconut milk and agave.

Snack:  Dried Mango
Another snack:  rice cake with almond butter
Another snack:  banana

Lunch:  Huge salad with grated carrots, beets, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans and cukes, balsamic vinaigrette.

After workout:  Smoothie made with carrot juice, banana, and a mango.

While cooking dinner:  A handful of cashews

Dinner:  Tempeh, onions, broccoli and cashews.  Baked sweet potoato

Dessert:  About 10 strawberries.

Water:  4 bottles, still sipping my last one.

I’ve been trying all day to come up with the right words to explain how differently my body feels when I eat this way.  It started even yesterday.  My whole abdominal area feels differently.  The words that come to mind, though none of them are quite right, are:  open, unrestricted, relaxed, even, clean, comfortable, light.

I don’t feel not good the rest of the time, but I definitely feel better now.  Clearly, it’s hard to describe.  The best benefit that I can see is that my blood sugar is steady and even all day.  No dips.  No valleys.  No sleepies.  No need for coffee in the afternoon, I swear to you.

The only hard part of my day was that I had a hectic day at work finishing everything for the end of the school year, and then rushed out of the building in time to eat my salad in the car before driving to the Y where I met Susan for a run/ swim.  I was starving at lunch, and ate fast, and then the energy of my salad hadn’t caught up to me before we started our workout.  We only needed to run 15 minutes and swim 30 minutes, but I don’t think I felt like I was energized until the last 20 minutes of the swim (we ran first because it was hot today and then getting in the water felt sooo good). Luckily I found my swimming arms by the end and felt strong.  We ran about a mile and half and then swam about 1400 yards.

You know what I DON’T HAVE TO DO tonight?  Pack anyone’s lunch.  Or grade any papers.  Or plan any lessons.  I’m going to watch a movie now.

CFC Blog Roll:

Kelly in Ohio:  Perched to Fly
Sandi and Suzanne in Maine:  Casa De Carver
Brooke in Arizona:  Action Mama
Joanne in Pennsylvania:  Miller Journey
Kirsten in Wisconsin:  From Inside to Outside
Jen in Maine:  Running With The Girls
Maria in Maine:  Swarbles
Kristin in Iowa:  Home Sweet York

Post Race Thoughts and Lessons.

Immediately after returning home from the race, I picked up my kids.  I was riding pretty high still, but it turns out that Skyler and Reed were more interested in telling me about building a tree fort and going roller skating than basking in Mommy’s glory.  Understood.

Nevertheless, we’ll call Sunday night “T3,”  my third and final transition, back into role as mother.

I do a lot of post-race processing and (if it goes well) glowing or (if it goes badly) stewing.  That is why I stayed up late writing my race report after the kids were in bed.  I didn’t want it to all be over.  And I hardly slept at all that night.

I was pretty sore the day after, but some advil, compression sleeves, and a soak in the UMaine hot tub while my kids went swimming on Monday night fixed me right up.  I wasn’t sore at all on Tuesday, just hungry.

I had a wonderful 4 days with my babies.

Some thoughts and lessons after my 70.3 mile journey:

1.  How hard was it?  Triathlon vs. Marathon:
I’ve been asked many times how exhausted I felt at the end, or how it compared to running a full marathon.  Here is what I think.  I would say that I needed to be (and was) in better overall shape to complete the half ironman than I ever was for a marathon.  I needed to come out of the water feeling strong, and I’m proud of how strong I did feel.  I know that swimming with the masters 3 times a week all summer helped me immensely, because in the past when I’ve trained in the pool on my own, I get very bored quickly and tend to think:  “That was about 1000 yards… enough.”  Instead, I swam further and pushed myself harder thanks to swimming with a team.

I also felt prepared and well trained for the bike distance, but I think I could go faster.  I want to work on that (see #5 below).  When I got to the run, I wasn’t totally exhausted overall, but rather just had specific places that hurt.  The best I can describe it is that on the run, while I was in pain, I had energy to thank volunteers, cheer on passers-by, chat with Susan once she got to me, and I never ever once thought I would die or not finish.  That is not my experience in a marathon.  I never had one of my typical low-moment super freak outs; I was very calm mentally throughout the race.  In a 26.2 mile run, I have moments of almost near panic that I can’t go on.  Thanks to the 3 distinct stages of this race, I felt focused just on what I was doing at each part, but was thankful for the transitions to let my body do something different.

I guess I’m saying that I think triathlon is a healthier sport than marathoning.  The training felt better, I never got bored or thought the training was tedious, and in the race itself, I had more fun and felt less beat-up at the end of it.

I never thought I’d have to buy one of these stickers for my car.  And yes, they sold them at the expo.  Yikes:

2.  What’s Next? 
Many people have also already asked me what is next.  I tend to ask this too of people whom I know are race-obsessed goal-oriented.  But I’m not quite ready to decide yet.  Kind of like when you have a baby, and people ask you about plans for your next baby before you’ve even left the hospital.

First, I just want to enjoy this baby that I birthed:

And wear this a few times:

But of course, there will be a next goal.  I want to keep swimming (I went this morning and it felt great) and biking and running, and try to maintain my fitness levels over the winter so that I can train anew, because I do believe I’ll do Pumpkinman again next year. I am also looking at all the different possibilities for Ironman 70.3 Races.  This website makes me drool a little.

Other events on my radar for the upcoming year:

Century ride (100 mile bike ride).  Maybe this one.
200-mile Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod with my friend Kristina
Trek Across Maine (3- day, 180-mile bike ride from the west of Maine to the east)
Various half marathons around the state.

Marathon?  Not anytime soon.  Not feeling it right now, anyway.

3.  YOU could do this.

There were men and women of all shapes and sizes doing this race.  If you think you have to fit into some crazy athletic category and have zero body fat, then you are wrong.  Anyone can triathlon.  One of my favorite blogs is Swim Bike Mom, written by a smart and hilarious and totally inspiring mom who also just wrote a book called:  Triathlon for the Every Woman and encourages readers to start as you are, and not wait for your body to be “perfect.”  She is now training for a full Ironman.  Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind.

In terms of training, it really was not that challenging to get ready for the half-ironman, probably not as hard as you might think.  Granted, I had a good running base after coming off of a spring marathon, but still.  I never made all of the volume recommended by my training plan, but was fairly consistent in getting in equal amounts of swimming, biking, and running each week.  If you can find a good place to swim that works with your schedule, then the rest you can totally get in.

Before I started, I thought 2 workouts a day sounded insane and impossible.  It really isn’t.  If I swam or biked early in the morning, I actually would feel like doing something else by the afternoon.  I had a lot of energy, and felt healthy and strong throughout the training because I was always using different muscles.

Looking back over my 3 months of training, it wasn’t too bad.  July was a typical training month, and you can see below that I still had days off, or sometimes only did a 45-minute workout.  Of course I could have trained harder, but my point is that it’s doable (and fun) to train for this kind of race.  I know:  being a teacher and having the summer mostly off does help.

So here’s my point:  You can do it.  Whatever race or event or distance seems crazy to you right at this moment?  Whatever scares you but also sort of calls your name, even if it’s just a whisper?  You can do that.  You seriously can. 

4.  Triathlons and hot women

If you are my age and have even the slightest fear of getting older, entering your 40s or 50s, you should go watch a triathlon.  The women, particularly in the 40-50 age group are some of the most athletically beautiful, toned, and confident women you’ll ever see.  Period.

The elite men aren’t too shabby either.

5.  I want a new bike.

It won’t happen for a while, but I would like a lighter and faster tri bike.  Sponsors?

 6.  It’s in my blood now.

Training and completing endurance events is such an important part of my life now.  I don’t know what I would do without it.  Like, I literally don’t know what I’d do with myself.  Would I knit?

And getting medals still does not get old.

7.  Last but not least:  SMILE.

When I imagine myself crossing a finish line, I always imagine I’ll be bursting with joy, hands up in the air.  In this photo, I was incredibly happy, I swear.  I guess I was also just focused on getting the job done, as when this was snapped, I had about 10 steps to go.

You can’t really tell how much joy I get out of this whole process in this photo, but I do.  I love it, and I walked away from this race as I always do:  medal around my neck and thinking:  more, more, more.

CFC: Day Three

Moving right along!  I don’t know exactly why, but this is the easiest time I’ve had doing this cleanse. This is the way we were meant to eat.

It feels so good to be taking such good care of myself.   When I pack my lunches, I feel like I’m giving myself little present each day.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking about foods I CAN’T have right now, but I just change that sentiment in my mind to I CAN.  I CAN have any fruit, veggie, nut, or bean on this planet.  That’s a lot of variety, people.

Breakfast:  Oatmeal, blueberries, maple syrup, coffee with coconut milk.
Orange, mango, apple smoothie.

Snacks at work:  Orange, pear, handful of almonds.

Lunch: pureed squash and Sesame broccoli (leftover from dinner) and
Spinach, carrot, cuke salad with a hard-boiled egg.

Pre-run snack:  Banana with almond butter

Post-run:  Chamomile tea with coconut milk and agave.

Dinner:  I was STARVING after my run so this dinner tasted extra, extra good.

Roasted sweet potatoes, sliced avocado, black and mashed pinto beans mixed with zucchini, onion, mashed sweet potato and fresh salsa, and one egg over medium.    I’m ready for daylight savings time so I don’t have to take dark, crappy photos of my dinners.

Before I set out on my run today, I posed so I could show you my hair cut.  You are not required to cut off all of your hair during the CFC, but it does feel pretty good.

My run felt good even though it was cold out there.  I thought about all the good foods powering me, and wished I had one of those vegetarian running shirts that says “RUNS ON PLANTS.”  Today I had SIXTEEN servings of fruits and vegetables.  I love that.

Keep up the good work, everyone.  I love hearing from you about how it’s going!

Let’s Talk About Skiing.

I have been skiing since I was 7 years old, and I have always loved it, always thought it was one of the purest kinds of fun.  Now when I ski, it is still pure fun,  but it also feels bigger to me.  I just take in the fresh air, the wind, the sunshine, the open views from a place of total gratitude.  I appreciate the fact that because skiing is so expensive, it is a total treat to experience it.   I appreciate my body feeling strong and able as I cruise down the mountain.  I appreciate the fact that my body knows how to ski in such an ingrained way;  my muscles remember how, and even if I only ski a few times a year, I pick it back up instantly and it feels totally natural to me.   I want to shout and sing and hoot and holler at the views.  It also just feels magical to fly down a mountain like that, past the pine trees and aspen trees and breathing the clean air;  it’s a treat for all the senses.   I even love the way the snow smells.    I don’t want to get all spiritual on you, but skiing to me is, well, spiritual.  I feel deeply relaxed, happy, and fulfilled on the mountain.  A full day of exerting my leg muscles like that, wind and sun-kissed cheeks all add up to that satisfying whole-body buzz and a sense of calm.

You know how when you’ve been skiing all day and you lie in bed at night and you still feel your body gliding down the mountain?  Yeah.  Like that.  That’s the stuff.

In other words:  Skiing?  You complete me.

I get to go AGAIN on Friday.

Here are my favorite still shots from our day on the mountain.

mountains make me giddy too.
I can’t get enough of Reed with those goggles.
Liesel and Sam on the way up up up.
Reed looking tough and confident.
apre ski glow
who looks cuter in a helmet?  nobody.
magic carpet ride.
the view:  dumb, boring, and ugly.
“Mom!  Take my picture on the ice couch!”
After I said “no, I won’t carry you,” Uncle Craig said “YES.”
aspens, blue sky, snow, tracks.
Skyler feeling satisfied by the fire pit. That whole-body buzz?  She’s got it.