Sunday, June 19, 2011

St. Thomas in a Bottle

We finally arrived on Wednesday at lunch time.  The airport is outdoors and the sun is intense.  Our friends, Jessica and Keith, picked us up and we were on our way.  The condo overlooked the bay and was absolutely gorgeous.   
After we changed out of our airport clothes, we jumped in the car to sight see.  St. Thomas is a rollercoaster ride with breath taking views of the Caribbean and lush green forests.  The drive was a little nerve wracking as everyone drives on the left hand side of the road, so this is opposite of what we are used to in the mainland.  Which is not that nerve-racking, really, until one adds blind curves and vertical hills. Need I say more?

Our first stop is called Coki Point and here is where we visit Coral World, a zoo of marine life.  Here is where we rubbed the bellies of Starfish, fed beautiful birds nectar from our hands, watched playing sea urtles and gazed at multi colored fish in an aquarium.
Beautiful birds (forgot their name...Loo Keet-Keets maybe?)

Charlie at Coral World
Yours Truly at Coral World
Next we went to one of the top 10 beaches in the world (#7) called Megan’s Bay.  It certainly lived up to its reputation.   First thing I noticed was a certain silence about the beach.  No air-conditioner humming, traffic or white noise, so it truly felt peaceful.  There were no big waves, so the water was still and a stunning turquoise  blue.  You waded into the water into a soft sandy bottom with no rocks and or debris.  You can even see your toes in neck deep water.  You are protected by mountains and lush tropical forest.  It felt like all the weight of the world fluttered away in an instant.  I was completely content.
Okay, so I mooched this photo from net till I get the actual photos from the other cameras.
I took a day off of working out, unless you can call my attempt at swimming in the ocean a workout.  Oh wait…the elevator was broken at the condo when we arrived.  So we had a climb six flights of stairs, so this means I earned some bonus points. 

On Thursday, to celebrate Keith’s 40th birthday, we all climbed aboard a beautiful yacht and went island hopping for the day. Captain Scottie and our beautiful stew named Catherine took such wonderful care of us.  They started us out snorkeling and for the first time in my life, I was completely relaxed in the water.  All my life, I have been a weak swimmer so even snorkeling has always secretly freaked me out. I used to spend the first 10 minutes hyperventilating until I could finally relax and enjoy the nature.  Not this time, I jumped in the water and was at peace.  I really felt like I absorbed the sea world around me and saw wildlife I had never seen before. It was amazing.

I still don’t like touching stuff though…so I tried to avoid the shallow end.  When I was climbing out of the boat I had a stare down with a 3 foot Barracuda that was hanging out under the boat.  Even though it was creepy, there was no reason to worry since he did not even move an inch toward any of us. 
Our next stop was an island called Tortolla, for shopping and lunch.  This was one of the British Islands.  We ate outside on the dock at a restaurant called Pussers.  I had a homemade veggie pizza.  It was DELISH! 
Almost The Whole Gang in Tortolla (Keith is taking photo)
 Up to this point, we had overcast weather with 70 percent chance of rain, so thankfully the sun was not an intense.  After lunch, the sun slowly plays peek-a-boo behind the clouds.

Just in time for our beach stop.  Sadly, the name of the island was too long for me to remember, but this island is famous for its popular beach bar which serves the famous Vanilla Painkiller, and it truly was the best alcoholic drink I have ever tasted. 

We lounged in the sun, and floated in the water.  I had another feeble attempt at practicing my open water swimming but the surrounding boats kept freaking me out so that was short lived.  I kept imagining I would bonk my head into a propeller.  It was very distracting.

I also was reunited with my old friend Hammock.  We bonded under the coconut trees.  We had a lot of catching up to do.  I miss him already.

Sometimes when you are on vacation, you feel time going by so fast that you want to be sure to stop and drink in every moment.   

Try to freeze time so to speak.   

I sit there and watch and try to use my powers that be to capture the moment in a bottle.  I see laughter as two sons bury their mom in the sand.  My husband is snorkeling around the bay in his own world.  Keith and Jessica’s parents are sitting on the beach half immersed in water with permanent smiles on their faces as they tease each other and joke around while holding their cocktails.  And Keith, probably the friendliest guy I know, is chatting it up with Captain Scottie while the other Yacht Captains eyeball the babes at the bar in sexy bikinis. 

...But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.  
<my favorite quote from the movie American Beauty>

As we head back to St. Thomas again, we were all filled with glee.  In fact, it was the fastest 8 hour day of my life.  And to think, Captain Scottie and Catherine create happy memories like this for a living.  Wow.  What a job!  What a life! 

Now it was time for Keith’s birthday dinner.  Jessica, who has this amazing ability to make a person feel like the most special person on earth, put together a top 40 list of things that remind family and friends of Keith.  I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.  Nothing could touch such a perfect moment, not even the wailing Karaoke in the background, as Keith recited each item out loud pausing for the group to reminisce and laugh over each one.  The Karaoke DJ sang happy birthday and we topped it off with a delicious lemon cake.  It was truly a beautiful ending to a fabulous day.

Cheers to the Fabulous Birthday Boy: Keith
Friday was a recovery day.  We rested, swam and played at the beach at our condo in Marriott Frenchman's Cove.  Later we took a ride up to Paradise Point for dinner which usually has a ski lift to take you to the top of a mountain.  Unfortunately it was under construction so we had to make the long scary hike via rental car.  Once at the top, the view was amazing.  We enjoyed dinner and a fire show by a local entertainer dressed as a pirate.   
Fire Dude
 He ate fire and did an amazing dance routine with fire sticks.  There was only about 10 of us up there but you can tell he gave it all he had especially for the kiddos.  Another moment I just wanted to capture and save in a bottle to bring a smile when times are tough.
The view of the island was breathtaking after sunset.

Saturday morning I woke up early.  I could not leave here without capitalizing on conquering the open water swim.  Here I had the perfect opportunity, a quiet bay, protected waters and floating buoys to practice my sighting.   

First I go down and just stare back and forth…first at the pool and then at the ocean.  I want to do the pool swim so badly.  It is in my comfort zone.   
But it is now or never so I slowly make my way down to a beach chair and proceed to watch the people already in the water like a hawk.  I want them to get out.  I don’t want them to see me flail when I have my little panic attacks.   

One by one they drop out of the water like flies.   

Finally my moment arrives and the water is mine.  I slowly wade into the water.  There is a trampoline and giant floating mountain.  I decide to use these as my targets instead of the buoys so I could stay near shore.  Since there is a slim possibility I may get a cramp and drown since no one will hear me from shore.   

Yes, I actually have these weird thoughts.   

So my goal is to do 5 laps.  First one, I start out relaxed and feel pretty good until I round the corner around the floating mountain and I see seaweed. Suddenly I freak out, and have to stop to catch my breath.  Why?  It is only seaweed, more like sea grass. 
You know how powerful the imagination is?  When I was a kid, I was afraid of sleeping with the closet door open (damn Poltergeist!).  So if I ever forgot to close it and I was already comfy in bed, I would try to forget and ignore the fact the door was open.  But after a few minutes every sound and shadow would freak me out so much that I would leap out of bed and slam the door shut and fly back into bed. 
So I see the sea grass and think of creepy deep sea creatures and even worse, sharks.  This causes me to breathe heavily and have to stop and catch my breath.  I have lost all logic now.  I was all at peace 2 days before when snorkeling in the deep sea.  What is so different about this moment?  

I try to calm myself down and I continue on to complete the first lap.  I get back to my home base in the shallow waters and stare back at the floating mountain who is now taunting me.
See the trampoline?  Now see the floating mountain? Can you see the evil seagrass in the water? 
I have come to the realization that my freestyle swimming skills are just fine.  I am kicking butt.  It is the mental monster in my head that I have to deal with.  And so I do, each lap at a time.  And although I want to quit at 3 laps, I force myself to do 2 more, and eventually do them without stopping every time I see the ugly seagrass.  

It is now one little victory at a time but at least I know now what I am truly up against. It’s my mind. 
I finally picked out a swimming song.  It came to me today while swimming.  It has the lyrics,  “Let’s see how far we have come” except I have changed the words to “Let’s see how far you’ve come”.  Yes, I am referring to myself in the third person.  (*goofy grin*)

After my swim, it is time to pack up for the return home.  The trip could not have happened without the kindness and generosity of the Baxter family.  We will forever be grateful for including us on such a special celebration 

Unfortunately, traveling for free has its downside. We were denied our flight home due to an unexpected  weight restriction.  So here we are flying to Charlotte, to hopefully get home tomorrow.  Luckily, I have an absolutely amazing husband who rarely stresses when traveling.  So we are both able to take it in stride and make the best of every adventure.  We made friends with a pilot and his wife who were on the same flight as us.  We pooled our resources together to help us find alternate routing. 
Note about the Immigration and Customs at the St. Thomas airport.  Make sure you allow enough time.  It is a long process and Charlie and I were so grateful we did not check our bags.  Because of our carry-on only status we got to go down a hallway with our own private security with no line.  That saved us at least another half hour of standing in line.  The reason I have to mention this is because it was here where we met the neatest TSA guy ever!  He called Charlie and I by name and made us feel so comfortable despite the stressful security process.  I have traveled quite a bit and rarely receive this kind of treatment.  And bonus points  that he remembered us the second time we went through. 
We were super lucky to meet Senida, the gate agent that helped us find our way home.  She also went above and beyond her job to explore all flight alternatives.  It is the kindness of strangers than can truly make or break your trip.  St.Thomas truly has some gems working at their airport. 

All right, enough of my mushiness.  Sunday is recovery and Monday is back to business again.  I am so grateful for the break.   Whenever times get stressful again, and they will with no doubt, I will just have to pull out my memory bottles from St. Thomas.   

Happy times.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Promise Yourself You'll Never Give Up

Think about it! How long should a baby try to learn how to walk? How long would you give the average baby before you say, “That’s it, you’ve had your chance”? You say that’s crazy? Of course it is. Any mother would say, “My baby is going to keep trying until he learns how to walk!” No wonder everyone walks.

There is a vital lesson in this. Ask yourself, “How long am I going to work to make my dreams come true?” I suggest you answer, “As long as it takes.” --Jim Rohn

Tonight, I was listening to a seminar called "The Challenge to Succeed" by Jim Rohn on my MP3 player while running. If you didn't know this about me, I am a motivational speaker junkie. I figure if I am going to saturate my subconscious with what I listen to, it might as well be words that will change my life for the better and I need all the positive motivation I can get, especially with a Half Iron man in 133 days (in 4 months, 13 days).

I daydream all the time of being a motivational speaker. I love telling stories. I really like those kind of stories that you really have to flail your arms and illustrate points with body language. I was going to Toastmasters once a week until I got the triathlon bug. I still plan to go back one day. I want to be one of those grannies one day that is known for her great stories. One day I tell ya...I have not given up on that yet.

So I am on vacation this week, trying to get to St.Thomas. Flights are full all across the board so that plan is delayed just one more day. In the meantime, training is going well. I am back to working out 5-6 days a week. I have had 2 back-to-back solid runs. When I have days like these, it makes me wonder how much improvement would I see if I ran every day. Would I get faster? Would it feel easier? Part of me wants to try it for my next race (August 7, Bridgeland Triathlon). Right now, I currently run 3-4 days with a long run as one of those days. I could increase that to 5-6 runs a week.

Would this put me at rock star status? Hmmmmm?

Here is another Jim Rohn gem I have collected on this trip:

"We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment."

Oh, how true this is for me. I wanted to get up early and swim/run Monday morning before heading to the airport. I did not do it. All day long, I worried about how I was going to fit in my workout. I beat myself up all day until I finally squeezed a run in at 7:30pm that night. Each way I choose to go, it will hurt. Either I deal with the struggle of being sleepy, or I deal with the pain of my mental beating when I am wide awake. So I should be picking the option that will get me closer to my goal instead of the self defeating option.

Doesn't that sound like a no brainer? Sigh.

Unfortunately, as soon as the word vacation comes into play...all healthy eating habits go out the window. Pizza, ice cream, lasagna, hot dogs, cupcakes and soda have all come to party in my stomach the past few days. So although I am working out like crazy, I am not doing much to curb the appetite. Again, that quote above comes into play.

This needs to be my new mantra.

It will start when I get back from vacation, of course.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bike Assement Round 1

We met out in Huffman tonight for my timed bike assessment. 

I had never rode out there before.  Last summer, I went to a girls night out with the ladies from the Kingwood Triathlon club and they all had stories to share about how when they bike in the country, there are dogs that come out and chase them.  One of the ladies took a pretty bad fall due to one of them.  Granted, the dog only licked her face after he knocked her down, but it was still enough to scare me from going out there.

So again, I was secretly hoping the event would cancel and as usual it was only wishful thinking.

I can be such a scaredy cat sometimes.

Of course, once I got going, I really enjoyed myself.  (Shaking head.)

Thankfully, there were no dogs on this stretch of road that we chose.  And I was able to hammer on the open road.  I only had the wind against me, and even that wasn't too bad, until I took the right turn into the wind tunnel.  I burned my legs and lungs to the max.  I wanted to know that I gave it all I got.  So when I take the test again in 3 weeks, I can see how much I really improved.  The course was 8 miles.  The route was 2 miles going East, then you turn South and go 2 miles and then you return going the other way.

2 Miles East: 18 mph/7:15
2 Miles South 14mph/7:45
2 Miles North 21mph/7:00
2 Miles West 18 mph/7:15
Total:  17.5mph/29:15

I took off yesterday after the triathlon.  Tomorrow I start the strength training.

Week one assessments with the swim, bike and run are over.

It is time to take off the gloves and get dirty!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tejas Triathlon Race Report

Triathlon Post Race Report
*questionnaire format sent to me by my coach
Race Name:
Tejas Triathlon (Sprint)
June 5, 2011
All week we have had record breaking temps surpassing 100 but the morning started out in the high 70's and progressively grew warmer. No rain this morning.
Time Start: 
Course description:   
In a subdivision of Sugarland, Texas called New Territory.  Pecan Park.                                            
Start type:
Personal Information:
Age group:    
35-39 Year Old                                         
What did you wear?     
Tri Tank/Tri Shorts                                       
Would you wear it again?
Oh yeah.  Super comfortable. 
What would you change about your gear?
Nothing.  Except fix a malfunctioning shoe lace.
What was your pre-race routine?
I try to have everything prepared the night before.  So all I have to do is get up and get dressed.  A friend texted me with an unexpected situation and this threw me off schedule.  My coffee maker did not brew so I skipped the coffee. Then the dog decided he had to friggin' poop before I walked out the door. And since it was 4am, it was a slow motion groggy search for the perfect place for him to take his dump.  I wanted to scream.  In the end, I had to eat a quick protein bar for breakfast instead of the oatmeal I had planned.
Event warm up:
A few arm stretches
What did you eat and drink before your race?
Water and  NUGO Dark Chocolate Protein Bar.  2 Endourolytes
 Swim- describe your swim: 
The swim was in a man-made lake and it was out and back.  I tend to start near the back of the pack to avoid all the feet and elbows to the face.  We were the last wave to start and I could not keep up with the pack.  I started my freestyle and I felt pretty calm and happy, but then my goggles started leaking and I kept having to stop to fix them. Everytime I stopped, I would get further away from the group.  So I started speeding up to catch up.  Then my breathing became heavy.  So I started to breaststroke. Everytime I tried to go back to the freestyle, my plastic eyeballs would fill up with water.  My group pulled farther away and this is when I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself.  
What am I doing here?  Why am I doing this?  Just when I think I am getting better, here I am last again.  Last out of the water.  And I want to do a Half Ironman?  Shouldn't you at least master a SPRINT TRIATHLON first before you tackle an Half Ironman? 
Seriously, what are you thinking?  
I must be crazy.  Yes, insane.  I wish they gave refunds for those who are not mentally sane. 
Why, oh why, did I sign up again?  It sure looked good on paper.  
That's it.  I am done.  I'm retiring from triathlons forever.
But I blogged to the whole world about it and I hired a coach.
Think they will notice if I just hide and pretend like this Half Ironman idea never happened.   
Sigh. (Shaking head)
Oh Lord, help me.                                                              
What was your swim distance and time:
600 yards; 16:34; placed 23 of 23
 What would you do the same /differently?
Buy new goggles.  Swim more.  Much more.  Work on my drills.
T1: comments: 
Uneventful.  Grass covered feet was icky.  Not fun to put sock and shoes on. 
What was your T1 time?
What would you do the same or different?
I'm slow.  Need to practice more. I would like to knock my T1 time to under 2 minutes.
Bike:- describe your bike ride:
Bike was 2 loops.  This is typically my strongest event.  Except the second loop was poorly marked and I missed the turnoff and was headed toward the finish.  
Yikes!  I had to U-turn.  
Thankfully I did not kill any one in the process.  
Took a little wind out of my sail as I was making up some time out of being in last place.  
What would you do the same/ different? 
I would study the bike map ahead of time instead of relying on volunteers.  After all, it is my responsibility.  I do not want to sound like I am coming down too hard on the volunteers, as they were only trying to help.  And I am just grateful they are willing to wake up early on a Sunday morning just to make the event happen.                                  
What was your bike distance and time?
37:50.1/11 miles/17.4 mph/placed 14 out of 23
 T2 comments:
Went pretty smoothly.  Garmin was already on, race number did not tear off.  I ate a Hammer Gel on my way out.
What would you do the same/ different?   
Keeping my running gear simple is working.  No changes needed to my T2.                        
What was your T2 time?
1:11.1 ( cool numbers!)
Run comments: describe your run-                                                                 
The run was my favorite.  It was in a neighborhood shaded with Pecan tress around mini man-made lakes.  I felt good although it was starting to get quite warm.  I sped up slowly and I finished strong.  I was happy with my 9:53 pace.  I was able to run the entire time except for mini walks the water stations. This was a breakthrough for me since I have taken more walk breaks in the past.
What was the run distance, time?
3 miles/29:53:5/placed 20 out of 23
(Can you tell I was in a competitive group?  Only 3 runners after me had greater than a 10 minute pace-sheesh!)
What would you do different?
Eliminate walk breaks, period.  Not even through water stations.  Every second counts!
Do you think you had any limiters today? (Things that prevented you from doing your best?)
Leaking googles and taking the wrong turn.  Yes, definitely my limiters.
Do you think there was anything that made your day superior?
Supportive friends at the start and finish line.  Loved that!!!
Are you remembering to celebrate YOUR success?! 
Total time: 1:28:06.9
I have recovered from my swimming meltdown.  After analyzing my times, I have come to peace with my slow swim.  Yes, I was a little over dramatic with being the last one out of the water. I need to look at the big picture.  I did not come in last place overall.  I placed 326 out of 389.  It was just a mental obstacle for me to overcome being the last one out of the water due to our age group starting last.  This happens.  Someone has to be last.  I need to build a bridge and get over it. 
No, I am not hiding and I am not quitting on my Half Ironman race.  
Instead, I will focus working on my weak areas.  There is still plenty of time to improve as long as I stick to my training program.  After all, I have to remind myself that this is an initial assessment.
These initial tests have to be taken, but they don't have to be pretty.  It is all part of my "You are here and want to go there" master plan. 
The moment will only be sweeter when I see how far I have come, right?  
Agreed. Pushing on.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It Is EASY To Do It...

But it is just as easy not to do it.

I started my training this week and the hardest part was also easy...I just had to do it.

In order to know where you are going, you have to see where you are at.

Ever try to find yourself on a map without a "YOU ARE HERE" marker? 

It may not be pretty, but I want to measure my fitness level, take measurements and (gasp!) take photos.  

So this week is a testing week to see where I am at.  I had a swim analysis tonight. I am with the coach that taught me how to swim.  Tonight she was going to time me doing a 200 meter freestyle swim and shoot video to capture my form in slow motion. 

Okay, so maybe my head swelled a few sizes tonight.

When I finished, she ranted and raved on how far I have come from a year ago.  Granted, I could not swim a single stroke last year, but still, the praise sure made me feel like the bomb.  After she filmed me, she was able to give me drills on what she saw right off the bat.

I noticed improvement immediately.  I am actually excited to get back in the pool and keep practicing.

I just love instant results.  Sigh.

I did my running test yesterday.  I ran an 8:45 mile at the track.  I was supposed to run an all out 1.5 mile.  My final time was 13:13.  I also had to run a slow 1.5 mile.  I think this is to improve my slow endurance pace as well.  It felt weird to time myself at the same time as limiting my heart rate.  I completed this set with a time of 16:32.

I have not tested on the bike yet.  I will do this Tuesday. Instead I went back to spin class.  As usual, my favorite spin instructor had me motivated again in no time.

I have a sprint triathlon this Sunday.  The Tejas Triathlon.  That will a great test to see where I stand to start my training season.

I am still trying to figure out my nutrition plan during the training process.  I am at a loss on how to approach this.  I will be doing more research in the near future.  I know I have to stay away from dairy.  I have a love affair with cheese.  Since I now am aware of how much sodium cheese contains, I can see the bloating results after every "cheesy" meal.  By just cutting out excess sodium, you lose extra water weight overnight.  On the other hand, I am noticing more toe cramps during my swims.  So I can not cut it out completely. I know I want to go toward a heavy fruit and vegetable base.  Now deciding how much meat and/or animal products I want to add on a daily basis; this is where I am still on the fence.

Next week, I start strength training.  I am expecting to be a big baby about it because I know I am going to hurt all week. A necessary evil to get to where I need to be.  I will have to just suck it up, cupcake, because that starting assessment is not going to be pretty.