About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Confession time.

I have been freaking out for the past couple of weeks.  I didn't really share it with anyone because I didn't want other people to be freaking out as well. Besides, I knew it was probably all in my head. A little seed of doubt that is always present, exploited by the enemy to steal away my peace of mind, and dare I say it, my joy. Even though I knew that, I couldn't help but freak out.  I filled out a prayer request form at church a couple weeks ago and knew people were praying for me to have peace that passes all understanding. I even met with one of our pastors yesterday for prayer. I would have some periods where a few hours would go by without my worry. But it would inevitably return.

You see, it is October. Every October, I am due to "check in" with my oncologist, Dr. P.  I've noticed a pattern leading up to the appointment of increased anxiety. It seemed to be at its worst this time around. What do you do when you're freaking out in the middle of the night? Thinking that you are feeling tumors in your body, that really are your rib cage and sternum?  Are they really that bumpy? I guess without breast tissue they are.

Two and a half weeks ago, I started serious training for my first marathon in January.  The reason I bring this up is that I've been feeling the effects of the longer runs, especially in my lungs. It's not pain, just a sensation that they are being used, stretched.  But that didn't help my peace of mind at all.  After all, maybe that sensation was cancer in my lung tissue.

I wasn't really freaking out about how a recurrence would affect me. It was more playing out the scenarios in my head about how it would affect my family. I imagined Dr. P feeling around and coming to a bump and pausing with a concerned look and palpating. Then recommending further testing of some kind that would confirm my worst fear. It was back. I wondered how I would tell the kids that the cancer was back. I wondered how they would get to all their activities and school without me in the picture.  How long could I make it with mets?  Would it hurt? Would I be around for Olivier's high school graduation? What about poor Jean-Marc? What about Isabelle? To be the only girl in a house full of Jamois men. Oh la la. This is macabre, I know. But I even thought about what kind of memorial service would be held once I had gone to be with the Lord.

What a waste of energy and emotion. I knew that, but couldn't help but be drawn into that vortex of "what if."  It sucked.

So today was the big day. I went on a 14 mile training run this morning-my longest run ever. It was on my schedule, and I figured why not?  Can a sick person really run 14 miles? No. But maybe?

The appointment itself was pretty uneventful. Dr. P knows I like to run, and I mentioned that I started doing triathlons this year. He told me 3 years ago that he does tris, so we chatted about what races I had done this year as he started his exam. He felt the lymph nodes in my neck, checked my lungs and heart. Then he had me lie back while he did the palpitation part of the exam. He felt around on my chest, abdomen,  internal organs, etc.  Unlike my freak out scenarios, he did not stop. It was all over pretty quickly.

He wants me to take another estrogen level blood test to see where my levels are. As usual, I asked for a Vitamin D test too.  He recommended a pap test-I haven't had one of those for 3 years. He also said to keep popping the tamoxifen, which I'm happy to do. He said recent studies recommend taking it for 10 years. That's fine with me.

Then he said, "Well, it has been over 3 years now. That is a milestone."  Really? I didn't ask for specifics, but I'm assuming that its a milestone in the whole survivor dance.  Maybe I should have asked about it. Does that mean my chance of recurrence goes down?  Maybe I'll e-mail him and ask. Not that it really matters, but maybe it will make me less anxious come next April when I have to do this all again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Race report

My first triathlon season was supposed to be capped off by my first Olympic distance race on September 7th-the San Diego Tri Classic. But as my last post described, I missed my run goal on the final leg of the race. I finished, but did not perform how I knew I could. I can make lots of excuses-heat, humidity, hilly bike course, whatever. The bottom line was that I didn't do what I had set out to do. I was kind of bummed to end my first season on such a note.

As I was loading up my car after the race, there was a small postcard that had been stuck on my windshield, along with all the others in the parking lot.  Great. Another publicity ad that I'll toss. I looked at it as I threw it into the car and saw that it was advertising a race just two weeks away-Tri Rock San Diego. Why not? I'm already in shape to go the distance. Racing on September 22nd would give me week to recover before I needed to start training for my first marathon in January 2014, so I wasn't going to threaten the next goal on the agenda.

So I signed up. 1,500 meter swim; 22 mile bike; 6 mile run.

In the two week interim, I focused a lot on my running. I did a lot of "brick" workouts where you combine two disciplines, with one of them always being the run. Honestly, I had a lot to overcome mentally about my run. I had signed up for a Half Marathon much earlier in the year-America's Finest City. It was in August. It is the third race in a 3 race series known locally as the "Triple Crown." I had already done the first two. (Carlsbad and La Jolla)  The problem was, I was so into triathlon, that I let the long runs slide. I figured I was in good shape, I could eke out 13.1 miles decently. WRONG. After 8 miles, it started to hurt. I finished, but my time was pretty bad. 

I was hoping to have a confidence building 6 mile run the Monday before this race.  I did it the run, but I ended up walking a little the last mile, and the heat made it really unpleasant. Fortunately, a few days before the race, I had a great run-bike-run brick where I was able to keep a sub 10:00 pace.  That was my goal-to keep my run at 10:00 or less.

I felt good going in. 

I got to the race in plenty of time. The transition area had already been divided up by bib number, so getting there right when they open wouldn't have made a big difference. In the parking lot, I saw another athlete that I kind of knew from my summer ocean swims with the Tri Club. That was nice to have someone to talk to as we walked over.  I knew from our workouts that she was a strong swimmer. 

The race got a late start. We were in the 5th wave, females 40-44. The race organizers said they were waiting for the tide to rise over the steps that led down into the waters of San Diego Bay. It was fun to chat with the others in the corral.  Finally they started sending the waves out. There were red, orange, yellow, and green swim caps that went out before we did. Behind us was powder blue. We had to swim out about 25 meters to get to the start line for an in-water start. 

My swim strategy was to get on the outside and not worry about being in the front. I really don't like having to fight for my space in the water. Even if I had to swim a bit farther to have the water to myself, it would be worth it. The horn went off, and we were off. For the most part, my strategy worked pretty well. I was able to focus on my swim rather than avoiding getting kicked in the face. 

The course had us swimming out to the far buoy, which was red/orange. We were to make a right turn and then keep the buoys on our right until the very end when we would make a left turn and head back to the dock. As I got farther into the swim, I found myself passing other colored caps. Cool!  I liked that. But, at the same time, there were a few powder blues that would pass me.  

The swim seemed to take forever. I can usually swim 1,500 meters in about 35 minutes. This seemed to drag on and on. I would pass a buoy with the mileage marked and see that I was not as far into the course as I felt I was. Whatever. Just keep moving forward.  It was a beautiful race course. When I would raise my head to breathe on the left, I saw the Coronado Bridge arching over the bay to Coronado Island. When I would breathe on the right, I would see the beautiful downtown San Diego skyline through the multi-million dollar yachts anchored in the bay. At one point, I saw a silver cap. Silver cap?  That must be a swim buddy. (They allow experienced swimmers who aren't racing who want to volunteer to give encouragement and tips to nervous swimmers). Another breath and I realized he looked kind of familiar. Sure enough, it was a guy I met over the summer during our morning ocean swims. He was instrumental in getting me over my fear of surf entries. (To see how that fear was developed, you can read about it here.)  I lifted my head and yelled, "Hi Chuck!" He responded, "Hey! I thought that was you! Have a good race!"  It was cool to know someone and get a thumbs up. 

I realized as I saw the last buoy on the long part of the course that we must be swimming against the current. Many swimmers were not able to keep that last buoy on their right side and were cutting the corner. I fought to make it around correctly, but the current pushed me into the buoy. But I did it right!  We had maybe 150 meters of going with the current before we headed to the swim finish. 

I was glad that the swim was over. I looked down at my watch as I got out of the water and was dismayed to see my time was over 52 minutes. I felt like I was going as fast as I could, and yet this was a pretty bad time for what I knew I could do. But no matter. Keep moving forward. 

The distance between the water and the entry into the transition area was pretty far. Wet concrete is pretty slippery, so I decided to play it safe and walk rather than run. The last thing I needed was to slip and fall and hurt myself and not be able to finish. 

When I got to the transition area, I was happy to see that most of the bikes were still there. My friend's bike was gone, but I expected that-she's a strong ocean swimmer. For me, this was a great sign, and a first. The past races I have done, I'm the last one to get there. They have you rack up in your age group, so these are the people I am competing against. Even though my swim was slow, others were slower! As I peeled off my wetsuit, I commented to another athlete that the swim seemed to go on forever. She agreed, and that was the general consensus among everyone at the end. We were swimming against a strong current for a majority of the course.  

I dried off my feet, put on my socks, cycling shoes, threw on my helmet and tried to get my bike out. Here is where I regretted not setting up differently. My stuff was set up at the rear of the bike rather than at the front. The two women on either side of me had done it that way before I got there, and to make the bikes fit, I had to put mine in backwards. I didn't have room to put my stuff at the front, because they had already set up that way and there was no room. Lesson learned-even if transition spots are assigned, get there first so you can set up the way you want. I didn't have enough confidence to point out to the women that it made more sense for us to move our stuff to the front of the bikes. Once I had my stuff on, I had to squeeze my way through the bikes under the rack to get my bike out, costing me several seconds of T1 time. 

Fortunately, our spot was near the bike out, so I didn't have far to go in the cycling shoes. Real legit triathletes hook their cycling shoes to their pedals and run with their bikes barefoot. They jump on the bike and slip their feet in their shoes as they ride. There is no way I'm ready for that. I just click and clack to the mount line and get on.  One other guy wasn't ready for it either, because he had fallen over on his bike in the middle of the road! I got past him and was on my way.

The bike course was pretty bumpy with lots of potholes. Once we were onto the San Diego Naval base, there were quite a few turns. It was a 2 loop course for those of us doing the Olympic distance. In the beginning of the ride, I would get anxious when I would have someone pass me. Then I realized that as long as they weren't females with a 40 on their calf, it was no big deal. I wasn't racing these young dudes on super aero tri bikes.  So I stopped worrying about that, and when I would creep up on someone in my group, I would do my best to pass them! 

Many in the the tri community are very nice. At one point, one of those guys who passed me complimented/encouraged me by saying, "You're doing great." How nice! There were lots of sailors out along the bike course cheering for us as well.  At one point on the base right before I took a right turn, my front tire got lodged into a crack in the road. DANGER! It nearly made me fall over. Thankfully, I was able to get out of the rut and go on.  I had a Gu energy gel taped onto my bike frame and took it as I was finishing up the first loop. I wanted enough time for it to hit the system before I started the run. In the end, my average speed was 17.2 mph.  Not bad, considering all the turns.

When I got to the dismount line, I started to click/clack back through the transition area with my bike. But the bike-in area was far from my spot and that was going to be slow, not to mention hard on my cleats. So I took of my shoes and ran in my socks, holding my shoes in one hand and guiding my bike with the other. 

My transition spot greeted me with another good sign...most of the bikes were still on the road.  I slipped on my running shoes, grabbed my belt that had my race bib on it and tried to pull my visor on my head. Unfortunately, my visor strap was a bit funky since I had washed it earlier in the week and was twisted. It took me precious seconds to untwist it and put it on. But then I was off on my most dreaded leg...the run.
The finish line

The run was a 2 loop course around the Embarcardero Park and Seaport Village. The turnaround point was at the historic aircraft carrier, the Midway. The people doing the sprint distance just did one loop.  It was hard to start out slow with all of the spectators cheering. I ran just to my feeling for the first mile, not looking at my Garmin. When it beeped, I saw that my first mile was 9:06. Woah! Slow it down and save some for the end. I didn't want to run out of gas.  There was a guy in a "Team in Training" jersey that said "Embrace the Suck" on the back of it. I like that expression, but as I passed him (yes, I did!) I realized...this does not suck!  But it was early on, so I wasn't going to be claiming victory yet. 

The view was amazing. At one point we were running in the grass of the park overlooking the bay and I saw a neat old ship cruising in. There were amazing yachts anchored there. It was a gorgeous day.  San Diego truly is a beautiful place. I thought how absolutely BLESSED I was to live here, to be able to do what I'm doing. My heart was filled with gratitude as I pressed on. Thank you Lord!  I stopped a couple times at aid stations to walk through and get a drink. But nothing like my last race where I was so hot I was dumping entire cups on my head.  
About 50 yards from the finish line, there was a final aid station.  I was a bit thirsty, so I took a cup to wet my mouth without slowing down.  That was a mistake. The water went down the wrong tube and made me gag the last bit of the run. No matter. I was able to cross the finish line strong!  In the end, my splits were 9:09, 9:23, 9:18, 9:34, 9:43, 9:24. Goal attained!  I got my medal and waded into the crowded post-race expo area. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Eric had brought the kids down and they were looking for me. They didn't get down there fast enough to see me race at all, but it was still nice that they made the effort. 

I was pretty happy with the official results. My overall time was 3:13:49. I was 13th out of 35 women in my age group. When I looked at the women who came in 11th and 12th, I saw that #11 beat me by 36 seconds, and #12 got me by 33 seconds! Less than a minute!  The time I fiddled with my bike facing the wrong way, and with my visor would have more than made up for that! Sheesh! No wonder they call transition the 4th discipline! Every second counts!  The women at the top were simply amazing. I'm pretty sure at least one of them (who I've seen before) is sponsored by a local shop. Racing is her job. She looks like it. 

All in all, I am thrilled with my first season attempting the sport of triathlon.  I ended up doing three USAT sanctioned triathlons, one sprint and two Olympic distance.  I also did one duathlon. I now am going to focus on my running during the off-season. I've signed up for my first marathon, which is in January 2014. I want to do a solid 4 month training program for that so I am healthy, confident, and able to do it. So that is the next goal on the horizon. I hope to do some more triathlons next year. Who knows...maybe the year after that I'll be able to do a 70.3 (also known as half Ironman)! 

Just keep moving forward!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

This is how I survive

I know it has been quite awhile since I blogged-a whole season has passed! Summer was busy and all too short. We didn't go on any vacations, but the kids kept me busy with all of their activities. I took advantage of the longer days to really get into my triathlon training. After that disaster at the Encinitas race last May (described in my last post, "Live to Race Another Day"),  I had a bit of anxiety about open water swimming, particularly surf entries. I took advantage of the San Diego Tri Club's standing biweekly workouts on Tuesday and Thursday mornings here in North County. Lots of practice going in and out of the water. I was really blessed by a few of the other members who took the time to really teach me about surf entries, even to the detriment of their own workouts!

In July, I successfully completed my first triathlon. It was a sprint distance course: 1k swim (ocean entry), 20k bike, 5k run. I did the race with a fellow breast cancer survivor, so it was really cool for us to do it together and stick it to cancer in that way!

Nancy and I show off our body markings in July
I had decided early in the year that my goal distance for triathlon was going to be the Olympic distance. Sprints were a bit short, and Ironman or even half Ironman distances were nuts. (Although the more I do this, the more I wish I could do those longer courses!)  An Olympic distance race is typically 1,500 meter swim, 40k bike and a 10k run. So that was my goal for the year.

Earlier in the year, I signed up for an Olympic distance race, the San Diego Tri Classic.  My training going into the race was pretty good. My goals were to do the swim in about 40 minutes, 90 minutes for the bike, and maintain a 10 minute mile pace on the run.

That race was today.

I got to the transition area at around 4:45 a.m. Yikes! Early, isn't it? I woke up at 3:15 a.m. to get there in plenty of time. On my way to the racks, there was a guy doing athlete body marking. I figured I might as well get it done first, so I showed him my bib number so he could get to work.  They typically mark your biceps, quadriceps, and put your age on your calf. He went to mark my left bicep, but saw my compression sleeve.  "You can't mark that." I said. I suggested he do my shoulder instead where there were a few inches of skin between my singlet and compression sleeve. A girl was standing there in line and said to me, "You're a breast cancer survivor."  I looked at her and said, "Yes. Yes, I am." She was really nice and congratulated me.

I racked my bike and made small talk with another woman in my age group who was competing.

At 6:00 a.m., they let us get into the water for a warm up before they started sending the waves out at 6:15 a.m.  My wave was scheduled for 6:27 a.m.  It had been a few weeks since I had done any open water swimming and the wetsuit made me feel really buoyant.

The swim leg was okay, although it is kind of hard to swim with hundreds of other people in the water. There were moments where I got kicked, swam over, splashed in the face while trying to breathe, but these are all parts of the sport. I was happy to have the swim over with so I could get to the bike.

The bike course was a challenge-pretty hilly. But I live around hills, so I managed it okay. I felt bad for those competitors that I saw on the side of the road with mechanical issues. I'd be hard pressed to fix a flat, although I could with time. But one guy had a more serious problem and ended up pushing his bike 6 miles at the end!

The run was the tough part. I had done a training session with a 40k bike and 10k run. But it was really hot and humid today. I ended up having to do a fair bit of walking. After 4 miles, I decided to do an "empowered walk." Rather than see it as a defeat, I started to walk as fast as I could, swinging my arms and feeling like I was racing with it. As I did, I started to gain on one lady who was ahead of me, doing a slow jog. As I got closer, I saw from her calf that she was in my age group. I decided that MY race today was going to be to beat that particular woman so my name would be above hers in our Female 40-44 standings. I kept up the walk, and then picked up a run here and there, making sure that once I passed her she did not pass me back. A lot of people were walking-it was pretty hot. Even young, fit looking people were walking. I saved some mojo for the last .2 miles so I was able to run it in across the finish line.

My official time was 3:22:41. I pretty much met my swim and bike goals. My swim was 35:08, bike was 1:30:58. The run faltered a bit, and I came in at 1:09:47, an 11 minute mile. But whatever. I did it!!

My post-race included a lot of water, some orange wedges, 1/8 of a bagel and more water. I got a free massage from some physical therapists that were there. That was awesome.  Then I made my way over to the beer garden. Yes, the popular races feature a complimentary beer garden for competitors. I got myself a cold one (Stone IPA) and made my way over to the stands to watch the other racers who were still finishing the course.

A girl struck up a conversation with me while we were sitting there. This was her first triathlon, her boyfriend had done a few Ironman's and that is how she got into the sport. Then she asked me what got me started doing triathlon.

Hm.  Why indeed? Why did I start racing at all? Not just tri, but half marathons?  Why AM I doing this? It can be physically painful, time consuming and expensive.  I told her that it seemed like something really hard to do. Then I confessed...that a few years ago I was going through treatment for breast cancer. Of course, when you say that you usually get a shocked expression. But it is true-pushing the bar to the next "hard thing" is how I survive. It is how I move on, making a new kind of life. Leaving cancer behind, pushing my body that has been cut, poisoned and burned beyond anything that I ever thought it was capable of doing.  This is how I survive. Strongly. Always looking to the next thing to tackle. By the grace of God, this is how I survive.

This was all confirmed for me while I was driving home. I was listening to a local pop station which usually plays contemporary songs. Then they played Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Woah!  They always play that song at the end of closing ceremonies at the Susan G. Komen 3 Day. It's quite an emotional moment, because you are physically tired and you are there celebrating with hundreds of other survivors. It really is something. Well, today, I celebrated by myself on Interstate 5! I cranked up the volume and sang at the top of my lungs with tears running down my cheeks. Yep. I will survive.

And this is how I do it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Live to race another day!

Today was supposed to be the day of my first triathlon.  I've been sporting a "Tri Club of San Diego" sticker on my back window and an "I'd Rather Be a Triathlete" license plate frame on my car for several weeks. Time to prove it.  I trained for distances much farther than I was supposed to do today: 750 meter swim; 10k bike; 5k run. No sweat, I figured.  Granted, I'm a novice when it comes to open water swimming. But I have gone to a few sessions of the Tri Club's open water swim workout, and I did complete a aquathlon last week that consisted of a 1,000 meter swim and a 5k.   I knew that I needed to get out in the water before the race start to warm up and get over that initial panicky feeling I seem to get at first.  Bike and run? Snap! No problem!  I wasn't overly concerned about time. With this being my first tri, no matter how fast (or slow) I was, it would be a PR. I'm here just to finish the race. No pressure!

With it being my first triathlon, I had a lot of stuff to put together to get ready. I have a great new transition bag from DeSoto Sports that is flat out amazing. I had to figure out where to put all the race numbers I got in my packet yesterday. I packed my gear and my bike into the van last night. I was ready! Transition area opened up at 5 a.m., my race start was 7:20 a.m.  I had a crazy dream in the night that I woke up at 6:19 a.m.  No way was I going to make it to the transition area before it closed before the race!  I also remember snippets of a dream about duathalon and my fellow cancer survivor friend (and co-racer teammate).  In any event, I woke up 10 minutes before the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and was ready to go. I even got out the door 15 minutes earlier than my planned time! Things were rolling smoothly right along!

I got to the parking area at the Solana Beach Coaster station and was bummed to find that parking was pretty much full. I managed to squeeze my van into a dirt row between two SUVs. I got my bike wheel put on, hefted my cool transition bag onto my back and started out toward the transition area. On the way, I saw several athletes riding their bikes there.  Good idea, but I'm so short with the big bag on my back, it would have created drag on the back tire. So I walked it.  When I arrived, they pointed me toward the area where my age group was racking their bikes. I found a spot, and set up my stuff. I was glad to see someone had brought a big helium Angry Bird mylar balloon at the row right in front of my bike. It is so easy to get lost in a transition area if you don't have a landmark. All I had to do was look for the red Angry Bird!

One thing I really like about the triathlon community is just how nice everyone is. As women started to gather and get their gear ready, we all chatted. So nice.  Most people turn out to be members of the Tri Club of San Diego, which is cool.   I found my friends, Nancy and Matt, who were also going to be racing. We were ready to go!

I got into my wetsuit and went over to the start line to watch the first waves of athletes. The announcer commented about the surf pulling you one way or the other. That wasn't a big surprise, usually the current will do that to you. Several people had worried looks on their faces. I wasn't too concerned-the buoy that we were to swim to didn't look that far away. I'm a pretty strong swimmer in a pool, and besides, I had just done that duathlon.  I got out into the water and got used to the temperature, and even felt I was okay with the surf.  Granted, it was stronger than I had gone through before. But once you get past the crashing waves, its fine.

When it got to be my age group's turn to go, we all lined up in the corral. There were several volunteer "swim buddies" there for people who were anxious about the swim. I didn't ask for one, but there was one standing near me and he told everyone that he had been out a few times already in the morning, and that anyone who wanted could basically stick around him.  He commented that the announcer was saying one thing, but he wasn't in the water feeling the currents. He suggested that we actually run a bit up the beach diagonally as we entered the water.  He also suggested walking as far as you could (as opposed to dolphining and swimming in shallow water) since the currents were so strong. Since he had already been in the surf,  I followed him into the water as the gun sounded.  Experience counts for something!

As we went in, I heard the announcer saying, "Don't make the same mistake that they are making!"  Well, that could be bad, but like the swim buddy had said, the announcer wasn't actually OUT there doing it. So I was fine. Besides, the surf was going to pull you all over the place. So be it.  

As I got out there, I looked around and recognized someone from the Tri Club in a light blue swim buddy cap. I yelled over to him, "You're Ian, right? I've been to a couple of your beginner open water swim sessions!"  He smiled and said, "This isn't anything like the Bay is it?"  I yelled back, "Hell no!" (Sorry!)  I decided to stick with Ian as we went out there.  He was great and encouraging, telling me to dive under deep (and grab sand) as the big waves came.  The thing was, the waves came one right after the other.  Ian kept yelling something like, "Look out for the follow up!"  At one point, I heard him yell to another woman, "Go back, switch to the duathlon!"

It was exhausting. I dreaded diving under the waves because they crashed to the bottom and buffeted me around. But standing firm against them was equally bad because you are being pushed back to shore in such a violent way.

So I kept going, I was determined. I knew that once I got past where the waves were breaking it would be fine. But the waves were such that the entire "swim" out to our buoy was all in crashing waves. One big one hit me and tumbled me around like a rag in a washing machine, and I got separated from Ian. I kept going. But they kept going. At one point, I thought...this is going to totally exhaust me for the bike and the run.  At one point, when I was panicked, I remember a quick prayer-God help me!

It was exhausting. I remember a panicked moment where I thought, I'm in trouble. Fortunately, there were lifeguards in the water. All I had to do was yell "HELP!" and wave my arm and out of nowhere, a good looking angel came and asked if I needed help. I said "YES!" He grabbed me and together we made our way back to the shore. It took awhile. He would coach me through each wave and pull me back. He asked if I was okay. I said, "Yes, but I'm pissed."  And I was. I was really mad that I couldn't do the swim. On top of that, my awesome new Zogg goggles got separated from my head and lost.  When we got back to shore, he asked if I needed a medic. No, I said. I'm okay.

But really. Thank GOD for the lifeguards today. They were kept very, very busy. As I limped back on the beach, I saw many other women in my age group who also were conquered by the surf. More of us than were able to finish the swim from my point of view. We all were going to switch to the duathlon. Run-bike-run.  While it felt pretty bad not to be able to do the swim, at least we all were in like company, and were able to share in each other's misery.  A fellowship of suffering.

So duathlon it was. My friend Nancy also switched to the duathlon. We went back and got out of our wetsuits and into our running gear.

The first leg was a beach run. The bike was the super sprint bike course-one lap up coast highway to the turnaround point and back. The second run was likewise the supersprint run-one lap on the run course on coast highway.  

So on the bright side, I was able to improve on some issues that I had in my first duathlon. I managed to work my Garmin correctly. My transitions were faster, and I managed to do the course.  I was pleased to see my bike speed was over 15 mph and my second run pace was 8:30.  So it wasn't a wasted day at all. I met a lot of really nice people, most of whom are part of the Tri Club. I just can't call myself a "triathlete" at this point. Sure, I got into the water, thrashed around, rode my bike and ran. But it wasn't legit.

Afterwards, everyone was talking about the swim. My friend Matt managed to get out there and do it, although he said it was really hard. He related to me something he heard some guys saying who had done full IronMan triathalons saying that this was among the worst/hardest swims they had ever experienced.  That made me feel better to think that guys who could swim 2.5 miles, bike 112 miles, and then run a full marathon felt that this was really tough.  In any event, it was in no way a "swim." It was fighting the surf.

So, I live to race another day. I'm signed up for another sprint triathlon in Carlsbad in July. I've also singed up for an Olympic distance race in September (San Diego Tri Classic).  I also hope to participate in some of the Tri Club's beginner races to hone my transition skills in the meantime. Triathlon is a great sport, I'm having a great time. I just kinda feel a bit like a poser still...

Friday, May 3, 2013

I can do this!

Last night I made my second attempt at open water swimming with the Tri Club.

And I did it.

Big time.

I may not have been the fastest, but I did it.  I swam about a mile, and could have gone farther. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that the workout was over and that my wetsuit was chafing the back of my neck.

I still have a lot to learn, (like putting Glide on the back of the neck.)  But after about 15 minutes, I managed to get rid of the panicky feeling that I had before. I started being able to breathe every three strokes bilaterally like I do in the pool. I got into a zone. We weren't breaking any speed records, but that wasn't the point. I wanted to get to a point where I felt like I was actually swimming rather than flailing around like a freak.

I started to feel like....I will be able to do this after all! I wasn't so sure after my first attempt a couple weeks ago.  I'm getting my bearings in the open water. I was "sighting" much better. Rather than lifting my head up and out of the water, I was able to just peek with my eyes forward on the object in the distance I was sighting on. In this case, it was the Hyatt Islandia in one direction and the Belmont Park roller coaster in the other. If you don't sight, you end up swimming crooked, off course, and end up swimming way more than you have to. Sighting is open water swimmings version of that darling black line that graces the bottom of the swimming pool lanes.

This is where the swim was. The cove is behind that row of palm trees-if you look you can see the line of white buoys we were swimming around to make a "lap."

I even felt like I was getting it in relation to coordinating my gear and stuff. I got a large plastic bin to transport my wet wetsuit which worked like a charm. Bonita cove had showers, so I was able to rinse my suit (and myself) right there.

My first triathalon is 2 weeks away. The swim portion is off of the beach in Encinitas. I need to practice some beach entries! Fortunately, the race organizers are hosting a course preview next weekend. I'll probably go to that so I can get a sense of it.  I've done some scuba diving from the beach in La Jolla, so I'm hoping that it won't be too stress inducing for me to get out there.

Tri Club also is starting a weekly beginner swim at La Jolla Cove that I would like to go to as well. Once I feel more confident, I think I'll be able to participate in some open water swims that happen in Carlsbad off Tamarack beach....much closer to home!

This triathalon stuff is a ton of fun! A totally new challenge.  It feels a little strange not to be running 5 days a week, though. I'm trying to get at least 2 swims (1 pool, 1 open water), 2 bike rides, 2 runs and a bike/run brick workout in each week. A brick is when you ride your bike and then immediately run afterwards.  I've signed up for an olympic distance event in September-the San Diego Tri Classic. (1,500 meter swim, 40 k bike, 10k run). Before that, I've got my first sprint distance race in 2 weeks. I'm also going to do a second sprint in Carlsbad in July. Whee!!

Thanks for all of your support!

Friday, April 19, 2013

But I LIKE the black line!!

I would consider myself a pretty strong swimmer. I've been increasing my time/distance in the pool over the past few months as I consider participating in triathalons. Well, more than consider...I've signed up for a sprint tri next month!  In my loose "training" I've worked up to a workout that is about 3,100 yards and takes me about 80 minutes to complete.  I'm even the proud new owner of paddles and fins to make some of the drills more effective! (It also adds some spice to the back and forth!) 

But, as you know, I've decided that 2013 will be the year I break into the sport of triathalon. Living in San Diego is a great opportunity for this sport. We have great weather and lots of water. The only catch is this....that water isn't a pool with tidy black lines on the bottom. It's either the Pacific Ocean, or a Bay that is right off the ocean. 

That's right. OPEN WATER.

If I'm going to ever make myself into a triathalete, I'm going to have to get used to swimming in the open water. The first step was to get a wetsuit. Even with the warm weather, the water can be cold. A wetsuit really is necessary.  I got a pretty good deal on an Xterra suit through the Tri Club of San Diego.  I was thrilled when it arrived at my house all squeaky clean and rubbery smelling. Smooth and nice. Aaahh.  I'm one step closer. I tried it on, admired myself in the mirror. I even ordered myself a cool pair of polarized goggles that should arrive any day.  I'm almost there!

As the date for my first tri approaches, I have this nagging reality that I really need to get into the open water.  I'm even too chicken to try a club triathalon without some practice first. (Especially if it was like the duathalon where I showed up and it was all young guys in their 20's! I'd be sure to be the slowest of the slowpokes!) 

Fortunately, the Tri Club hosts several different swim, bike, and run workouts throughout the week. On Thursday evenings at Mission Bay, they have a beginners open water swim. The only requirement is that you have a desire to get out of the pool (check!) and can swim at least 50 meters without stopping (check!)  It was a little bit of a challenge to arrange the family dinner and rides for the two older kids for their evening activities, but I managed to go to make it to my first session last night. I was a little nervous, since I knew I wouldn't know a single person there.  But...this is what I have to do to get to where I want to be.  

I figured with my strong skills in the pool, it would be a snap to transfer into the open water.  But I'm such a newbie, that I'm not even sure how to put ON my wetsuit, much less swim in it!

As I found my way to Ventura Cove in Mission Bay, I saw all of the preparations for a big triathalon that is in San Diego this week, the Omega Wave World Triathalon.  How exciting! As I pulled into a spot by the Cove with my TriClub sticker on my car, I felt like...yep! I belong here. I saw athletes in the water, swimming back and forth between buoys. That would be me soon!  I was anxious, but excited too. 

I had my wetsuit in a bag, and was wearing sweatpants and a 3 Day shirt over my bathing suit. I walked over to the group assembling on the grass and saw a lady with the same wetsuit as me. I introduced myself and we chatted a bit.  I was relieved to see a wider range of ages, sizes and abilities at this session. This wasn't going to be too bad.  After all, I can do 3,100 yards in the pool! 

I struggled my way into my wetsuit, trying to look like I kind of knew what I was doing.  As I looked around, it was funny that at least 80% of the swimmers also had XTerra suits. Yep...I fit right in all right!  The group was fun, one guy in particular was a jokester. It helped for me at least to break my inner tension.

The coach came over and got into his XTerra suit and gave us all tips. A few of the participants were going to be racing this weekend, so a lot of his tips were about getting in and out of the water during a race. I learned a lot.  One of his tips was to always warm up before the start. Get in the water to get over that initial chill and do a few dozen strokes at least.  So he told us....Get in!

Gulp.  Okay, its now or never. I ventured in and it was pretty chilly on my feet. My legs felt okay since the suit covered them.  The others and I waded in up to our thighs and the coach yelled, "START SWIMMING!"  

I launched forward onto my belly.  Or, perhaps more aptly, into the abyss. 

It was cold, but I knew it would be. What I didn't expect was that my breath would freeze up. I literally could not exhale.  In the pool, I breathe bilaterally every 3 strokes. I had to breathe every stroke, and even then, felt like I was dog paddling.  It induced a kind of panic in me.  Even worse, the goggles just protect the eyes from salt water and that's it. Because it was murky and dark. Kind of freaky, actually.  You take it for granted in the pool that you can see underwater. That comforting, familiar black line is there to guide you where you need to go.  I found I was squinting my eyes, which made the seal on my goggles break and water seep in. I don't know if my extreme eye squint was because of the cold, anxiety, fear, or a mixture of all of it. I did several "strokes" and then turned around with the rest and went back to shore.  I described this to Eric and he thought it sounded like claustrophobia. Perhaps.

The coach had us jog down the shore about 40 meters to where our imaginary start line was. Actually, it is where the start line is going to be for the official races this weekend. We practiced getting into the water in a supposed race situation.  I was not looking forward to getting in the water again, but I knew that it had to be done.

It did get better this time. We all swam out about 100 yards and met out in the middle of the cove. They talked to us about "sighting" an object on the shore to keep going in a straight line.  Sounds good in theory. At this point, I was just trying to survive! Another thing I learned was that triathalon is a "full contact sport." We were bumping into each other all over the place, but that is normal. The coach told us that is to be expected, so don't stop and say "I'm sorry." It will only slow you down and annoy people.  We then swam a longer route to practice getting out of the water, sighting on one of the race tents that was set up.  The key to exiting efficiently is to wait until you are in very shallow water to stand up. It should be below your knees. Even if you are pulling yourself along the bottom, you are faster horizontal than vertical.  Then we practiced getting in again, swam a longer bit to the original shore where our gear was.  All in all, we swam a little under a half mile. Actually, I was surprised it was that far-it did not seem very far when I looked at the area from shore.

The longer swims did get better. For awhile, I was able to calm down enough to bilaterally breathe. But swimming in a wetsuit was more difficult for me and I reverted back to breathing every stroke. While it was nice to be more buoyant, the effort to get my arm up and around took more energy. Perhaps I didn't have my suit pulled up all the way?  Perhaps I should try some Glide next time.

We all got out and stripped out of our wetsuits. The group was really nice and I didn't feel out of place at all. I mentioned to a few people that I had just had my very first open water swim EVER. They were very supportive and said I did well-they had no idea how inexperienced I really was. 

I made it back to my minivan and was able to get out of my bathing suit and put the dry clothes on. It was really neat to be down in the pre-race atmosphere with "USA Triathalon" emblazoned all over the place.  Although it was not pretty, I did make it one step further to really fitting in. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mind games

It is April. 

To many, April means springtime, flowers, sunshine. Summer is right around the corner!  For me, it is these things too, but I have an added event...my six month checkup with my oncologist, Dr. P. 

I am going on 3 years since my diagnosis in June 2010.  It was in April 2010 that I had my first mammograms that were declared "all clear." Ironic now that it just happens to be the same month of my biannual checkup. 

In the past, Kaiser had called me in advance to schedule this appointment. This past Monday, we were a week into the month and I still had not heard, so I called. They were able to get me in today. Goody. 

I realized this morning what a head trip this gives me, even if I don't recognize it at first. My workouts since making the appointment have been tough. I was supposed to run 12 miles on Wednesday. I knew that I wasn't going to get that far, since I had taken a week off to nurse a shin injury a week or two before. I had done 10 miles on the dreadmill  treadmill the week before. But it had been awhile since I had attempted 10 outside. So I was aiming for 10-11 miles.  The first hour was fine, but it was a hilly route and I lost energy around mile 6.5. I ended up jog/walking the last few miles. Grr. I have a hilly half marathon coming up at the end of the month-I NEED to be able to do this. Anyway, yesterday was a bootcamp class at the gym. The regular teacher was on vacation and there was a sub. It was a tough workout. I stuck it out, but man. I just did not have that feeling of inner strength that I usually do. Today was supposed to be an easy 4 mile run. Because I cut my mileage short earlier in the week, I did 5. The first 3 miles were great, but the last 2 were hard. I kept my overall pace under 10:00, but still. It should not have been that hard.

As I was taking Jean-Marc to preschool, the teachers all asked me the typical greeting question, "How are you doing?" I had to admit I felt kind of tired, and blah.  The problem is, when I feel kind of tired and blah, that little voice in my head pipes up and taunts me with...."Psst....this isn't normal for you. Maybe its cancer!" 

Why can't I just have an off day?

Then it hit me. I've been feeling this way since I made that oncology appointment on Monday. On paper, I should be feeling fantastic. I had a great 5k race last Sunday and ran my fastest time ever-I even scored a top 250 medal! I'm excited about my upcoming race plans-I'm getting into triathalon and am motivated. I've been doing great on my nutrition this week, I even weighed 3 pounds less today than I did a week ago! I've been getting 7+ hours of sleep each night. Spiritually, I've been spending more time in prayer and devotion and reaping the benefits of drawing near to my Abba.  Yet despite all of these positives, I've got this oppressive "thing" hanging over my head.

Now that I recognize it for what it is...spiritual attack, I will address it head on. Yes, I'm going to see Dr. P today. Big deal. We'll talk about how to get my body to stop producing estrogen, and he'll do his exam. I'll let him know I'm getting into triathalons, too. (He told me awhile back that he does them.) It will all be fine.  Not exactly like visiting an old friend, but not a meeting with the grim reaper, either. 

I'll look at a silver lining of it too. At least I was able to get my appointment within a few days. Imagine if I had this appointment hanging over my head for several weeks! Getting it in a few days is a blessing!   

I'll get this appointment behind me for another six months, and tomorrow I will KILL my planned run of sub 9:00 speed intervals around Discovery Lake! 

If anyone out there wants to pray for me, you still can. I need all of the help I can get to deflect these attacks. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thorn in the flesh update

So after throwing myself a pity party on Monday night, I got a good night of sleep. Things definitely felt better in the morning, even if my arm was still puffy.  It helped to go to bible study the next morning and be supported by my sisters in Christ there. I realized that lymphedema is my thorn in the flesh. We all have one. This one is mine. It's a bummer because it reminds me of the fact that my body has been forever changed by what happened three years ago. I can run miles and miles, do things I never thought I could physically do. But I will forever be changed because of breast cancer.

I've been pretty aggressive about staying wrapped in my full set of bandages most of the time. I let my arm out for air for a few hours in the late afternoon. Otherwise, I'm all wrapped up, or at a minimum I have my compression garments on. It is hard to move the arm all wrapped up, but I think that is what helps move the fluid through-the combination of compression and movement.

Is it working? I think so. I just had Eric re-measure my arm. This is now 48 hours since the last measurements.  Here is where I stand as of this afternoon:

goals best 03/25/13 03/27/13
Knuckles under 20.0 19.2 19.2 19.3
Wrist under 16.0 15.8 16.5 16.1
5 c.m. under 17.5 16.5 18.8 19
10 c.m. under 21.5 21.3 23.5 24
15 c.m. under 25.0 24.5 28 26.5
20 c.m. under 26.0 25.5 27.3 26.5
25 c.m. under 26.6 26 28 27
30 c.m. under 28.5 27.9 29.4 28.7
35 c.m. under 30.0 29.7 31 30.6

Numbers in black means that the measurement is on target. Numbers in orange mean that it has improved (gone down), but still is too big. Red means they have increased.

At first I was bummed to see a couple of reds, but when you look at it, they are only up .5 cm at most. My physical therapist always said that a change of 1 cm was the threshold of being significant. So a .2 and a .5 increase isn't a huge deal-in fact, it can be attributed to variances in the measurement. (Yeah...let's blame Eric for bad measuring, lol!)  But when you look at the orange numbers and compare them to the reds from 2 days ago, the decrease is significant in several places.

So we are going in the right direction. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing for awhile longer. Ideally, I'd like to be back in the black in all spots. I'm not sure where I started, honestly. I had gotten lazy about taking care of it and I know my arm was bigger in some places.

I appreciate everyone's prayers and support. I have been blessed this week with so many friends showing concern and love. Thank you so much.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I guess this is why it's called "chronic."

Well, my lymphedema has decided to rear its ugly head. Sigh.  I don't really know what triggered it. Perhaps it was me riding my bike more last week?  (I took a week off of running to let my right shin get rid of some discomfort. I rode my bike over 84 miles last week.) Perhaps I jammed my hand during my duathalon? Perhaps the weather? Who knows. It is what it is.

It has been quite awhile since I've had a flare up. Sure, my arm and hand would swell a bi† while I was training and doing the 3 Day. Walking 6+ hours a day will do that to anyone. But aside from my ini†ial flare up back in December 2010, this is the worst it has ever been.

I think I've been kind of slowly swelling in my arm. Nothing major, and I just decided to live with my left arm being a bit bigger than my right. But then about a week ago, my hand started puffing up. I started back up with the manual drainage massage at night and bandaging. I didn't see a whole lot of change, but kept it up. Last Thursday night, I was particularly tired. Rather than bandaging, I used my Juxta-Fit sleeve and glove. The next morning, my hand was like someone had blown air into a surgical glove. Not pretty.

Last night, I decided to give it a rest overnight and see what happened. I dreamed that my arm blew up like a balloon. When I woke up, it didn't seem too bad. I went on a 10k run and was feeling good, not focused on my arm at all. (I always wear compression sleeves when I work out, by the way).

My in laws are visiting from France right now. I thought it would be fun to bring my mother in law with me when I picked Jean-Marc up from preschool today. I figured she would enjoy seeing a slice of his little life. I was right. He enjoyed showing her around his school and introducing her to his teachers. They took a picture of his teacher and us in his classroom, it was really sweet.

A few hours later, I saw the picture. My left arm is front and center and my lower arm/hand especially looks foreign to me. Oh my gosh.. that's how it looks? Really. Look at my wrist/hand. Thankfully, the worst part is cut off in the photo.

I need to do something. Now.

I had Eric help me measure my arm. I have always kept track of my measurements on a spreadsheet. When I opened it, the last time we measured was September 2nd.  I started the spreadsheet back in early 2011. We measure at various points on my hand and arm: knuckles/palm and wrist. Then from the wrist, every 5 centimeters up my arm. For each measurement, I have an "ideal" that my physical therapist and I set way back when. The bottom line was that I am up significantly in all but one measurement....my hand.

goals best 7/11/2011 09/02/12 03/25/13
Knuckles under 20.0 19.2 19.8 19.7 19.2
Wrist under 16.0 15.8 15.6 16.1 16.5
5 c.m. under 17.5 16.5 17.2 17.7 18.8
10 c.m. under 21.5 21.3 21.6 23.2 23.5
15 c.m. under 25.0 24.5 24.5 25.8 28
20 c.m. under 26.0 25.5 25.2 25.5 27.3
25 c.m. under 26.6 26 26.2 27.2 28
30 c.m. under 28.5 27.9 28 29 29.4
35 c.m. under 30.0 29.7 29.8 31.2 31

I went upstairs at 5 p.m. and did massage and wrapped my arm up. I was a little disappointed not to feel the tell-tale "tingle" that the massage is actually moving the lymphatic fluid. But whatever. I'm going to either wear the bandaging or compression sleeves for a few days and then re-measure to see if its helping. If not, I guess I'll give the physical therapist a call.

So your prayers would be appreciated. Frankly, it sucks to have to wear bandaging when I'm not sleeping. Poor me, pity party. Sorry. Lymphedema is something that is part of my life. I've had a stretch of several months without being symptomatic, but it looks like that is over. At least for now. I guess that is why its called a "chronic" condition.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Poser no more!

I know it has been quite awhile since I blogged. In a way, its a good thing. While not a day goes by where cancer/recurrence does not cross my mind, I have been able to kind of move on and be busy with life. God is good!

One of my goals this year was to get into doing triathalons. As part of that, I joined the Tri Club of San Diego (TCSD).  I first heard about the Tri Club when I bought my bike last fall. The guy I bought it from recommended it since they have group workouts, practice races, and was full of nice and helpful people to a newbie like me. I went to a informational meeting last January and joined that night. At the meeting, I got the cool "Tri Club of San Diego" sticker and put it on my car. Time to start thinking of myself as a triathalete, right?

But I felt like a poser.

I wasn't a total slug-I was training for my first half marathon of the year after all. Who had time for the biking and swimming. I finished the Carlsbad Half Marathon on January 27th at a respectable pace. Not a personal record, but not too bad. (I still would like to break the 2 hour mark-this time was 2:08 and change).

Then I took a daring step and signed up for my first sprint triathalon. That is coming up in May-the Encinitas Sprint. I'm doing it with another survivor friend of mine, one that I met doing the Komen commercial awhile back. (Hi Nancy!)

Time to seriously think about training, even though I still am focusing a lot on running, since I have the La Jolla Half Marathon in April-a notoriously tough race. Those who have done the San Diego 3 Day-it is basically that first half of the first day up Torrey Pines from Del Mar to La Jolla Shores.  But I still needed to start doing more biking and swimming. (Don't even get me started on my need to get used to swimming in the OCEAN....)

One of the cool benefits of TCSD is club races. They are free to sign up, they are timed, and its a way to race/practice/work the kinks out. This morning, I participated in my first club race-the Carlsbad coastal duathalon. A 2.5 mile run, followed by an approximately 12.5 mile bike ride, finishing up with the 2.5 mile run again. On paper, it didn't sound too bad.  And honestly, on the road, it was doable. My main goal was not to be last.

I learned a lot from it!

I showed up early-they said to check in between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., with the race starting at 7 a.m. I am always early to stuff, being late stresses me out. So I showed up at 6:15 a.m. They aren't even set up. I didn't know a soul, and they all looked like serious athletes. Intimidation!  Not that they had attitude, not at all. They just knew each other and did this a lot.  I felt my goal of not wanting to finish last and not totally humiliate myself slipping through my fingers!  I felt like a dork just standing there, so when everyone started helping set up, I went over too. They were unloading these long wooden boxes with pieces to put together. It reminded me of a challenge you would see on "Survivor." Turns out they were racks to put bikes on. It was kind of funny to be putting it together, when I had never even seen one before, but I just faked it and did what everyone else did.  When they were open for signups, I checked in and got my timing chip. You're supposed to wear it around your ankle. Cool.  But the note that came with it said it needed to be activated online. Okay--I have an iPhone. So I entered the code and all on the TCSD site, but it didn't recognize it. Sheesh.  Okay, well, I have my nifty new Garmin 910XT that can tell me my time, and this is just for practice anyway, right? So I left the timing chip in the car.

Matt and me pre-race

My friend, Matt, showed up with his wife and one of his kids. It was great to have someone to talk to. Matt helped me program the Garmin for the duathalon so I thought I was all set. After a quick trip to the bathrooms, we were ready to go!  There were not that many women-I would say 10 or less. And most of them looked uber-fit as well.

The first leg of the race was fine. I actually did a pretty awesome pace for me-in the 8:30 range. That made me happy.  I came back to the transition area to get ready for the bike. I hit the button on my watch and started changing my shoes.  My bike shoes are easy to get in/out of, no problem. Helmet? Check. Sunglasses? I didn't wear them for the run, but I like to wear them on the bike because it protects my eyes from the wind. I put them on and they instantly fogged up. Ugh. That'll go away-just keep moving. Gloves? I start to put them on and THEY ARE INSIDE OUT! Argh! So I'm messing around with turning them right side and sticking my hand in one. I'm halfway into putting on my second one and I realize I have them upside down! That is, the palm is on the back of my hand. Too bad, so sad. I'm not taking the time to change it now. So lesson #1:  MAKE SURE YOUR GLOVES ARE RIGHT SIDE OUT!

Struggling with the gloves
I hopped on the bike and took off. I was glad for wearing long sleeves because it was cloudy along the coast.  I wasn't a half mile into the bike ride when my Garmin beeped at me, signaling a lap. Wait a minute....its not supposed to do that when you bike. Did I hit "stop" instead of "lap" at transition? What does Garmin think I'm doing? Still running?  I started pushing stop/pause/lap to try and get Garmin into sync with what I was doing. Not a good idea while riding a bike. First of all, its dangerous. Second of all, it slows you down. After awhile, I just figured, to heck with it.  Which leads me to lesson #2: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "LAP" AND "STOP." MAKE SURE YOU HIT THE RIGHT BUTTON IN AND OUT OF TRANSITION!

I was a little concerned that I would get lost on the bike course, so I made sure to keep up with the couple in front of me, the woman was wearing fluorescent yellow.  Not much to report on the bike course, other than marveling at how fast people can go on bikes. I was pushing it for me, and people still passed me. Of course, by now, I felt like I was probably very near the rear, but I didn't take the time to look back-I just kept pedaling.  One of the participants had some kind of accident-I'm not sure what happened, but one of those fit looking dudes I saw in the beginning ended up being tended to by paramedics by the side of the road. I hope it wasn't serious.  As I was coming up near the end of the ride, I saw that guys were already out on the second run lap. Not too surprising, but still. I didn't want to be last!

I came back into the transition area after the ride, and saw that many of those fit dudes were already done and were snacking on apples and bananas!  I got back into my running shoes as fast as I could, put my ball cap back on and took off. As I was taking off, I heard someone yell..."The first female finisher is in!"  Oh man. I don't want to be last, I don't want to be last!  At that point, I didn't see anyone behind me. Oh well. Worrying about it isn't going to do me any good. Just keep going.

Well.  I have never run immediately after biking. It is a sensation that is hard to describe. I wouldn't say your legs feel like jelly. More like wooden. I felt like I was clumping down the road at an incredibly awkward gait and slow pace. I hoped that after a half mile or so it would go away. It did kind of, but was exchanged with an overall "my legs are really tired" feeling.  I know that feeling, I can work with that.  I was happy to be able to pass a couple of men on the run, one of whom I know was just taking it easy. He was one of those fit guys from the early morning.  (He actually is one of the ones doing a "real" triathlon tomorrow in Coronado.) But who cares? If I could stay in front of them, I wouldn't be last!  As it turned out, I was going about a 9 minute mile. For me, that's pretty good. Not as fast as my first run, but still decent for me.

As I came in, there was a TCSD volunteer who asked me for my chip number. Chip? Uh, yeah. I left it in my car because I couldn't activate it. Turns out, he was recording times and I could have been "official" in the race. Lesson 3: WEAR YOUR CHIP NO MATTER WHAT!   By that time, I figured...whatever. My times are all screwed up anyway. This is all about learning lessons so I don't make the same mistakes in a "real" race.  My friend Matt and his family were there to cheer me on over the finish line, which was nice. His son hi-fived me as I crossed the finish. And it was done!  We made our way over to the snack table to get some water and stretch. After a few minutes, I realized I hadn't stopped the Garmin. Oh man! Lesson 4: STOP YOUR GARMIN AFTER YOU CROSS THE FINISH LINE!

I am happy to say, I saw at least 3 people (all men) come in after me, so at least I wasn't last.  Boy, I have a lot to learn. And a lot of room for improvement in my fitness. It was a pretty fun event, and I'm glad I did it.  There is a club practice triathlon in April that I would like to sign up for.  Lord knows what kind of goofy mistakes I will make trying to transition from swim to bike!  Not to mention that I'm not that experienced in the open water swimming department.

I got home, and Garmin uploaded my data to the website. As I looked at it, it thought I did an hour and 32 minute run that went 16.88 miles. What?  Just a run? Which brings me to the final lesson 5: MAKE SURE YOU SET GARMIN FOR MULTI-SPORT! I had programmed it for run-bike-run, but never actually switched from just run to the multi-sport. At least I know my total time, although it did take me a few minutes to stop the watch after coming in.  So my time was probably around 90 minutes.

In any event, I can sport the sticker on my car now without feeling like a total liar. Maybe just a little since I haven't actually done a "tri" athalon. But I am no longer a complete poser!  In the coming months I'll make it all the way. I may be near the back of the pack, but I will cross the finish line, Lord willing!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What ifs

I've been training for my first half marathon of 2013, which is coming up this Sunday in Carlsbad. I use a training app from Runner's World called "Smart coach" which tells me which days to run, how far, and how fast.

Getting back into running after training and doing the 3 Day last November hasn't been easy. I felt like I lost my "base" of running fitness. The first few weeks were brutal, but I stuck it out. After a month (late December), I started to feel pretty good again. I was no where near as fast as I was last Spring, but at least a run didn't feel like torture!  For the past month, I've been doing about 30 miles per week, with my longest run being 11+ miles. By all measures, I am ready for 13.1 miles on Sunday. I know I won't set a personal record (PR), but I should be able to at least be competitive with my times from last year. If I could maintain a 10 minute mile, I would be thrilled, but I think 10:30 is more realistic.

But this week I feel like lead!  The training app had me run 4 miles Tuesday and Wednesday, then a tempo run of 5 miles today. Tuesday's run was great. While I wasn't really trying to run fast, I did. (Which made up for a bad run on Sunday that I have legitimate excuses for: it was hotter than normal; I had eaten lunch just an hour before; and it was a hilly route). But yesterday's run was tough. Then today at the gym, I barely hung on for the 3 miles at a tempo pace.  When I finished, I was beet red and annoyed at myself. What the heck?  The trainer is telling me to run an easy 4 tomorrow and rest on Saturday. I think I'm going to rest tomorrow instead, although it will be hard not to run because I have a new Garmin to try out.

I've been getting plenty of sleep and eating very well this week. Actually, better than most weeks. I've been drinking more water. I would have expected to be feeling on top of the world instead of dragging myself through workouts. I should be wanting to run MORE because I feel so strong, not less. What's up with that?  I was hoping to end this race training feeling like I could kick some serious bootie.

The point of this post isn't the nitty gritty of my training, though.

It's the mental skirmish that has started because of it.  You see, I just can't have a bad day or two.  My mind instantly goes to....am I having bad workouts because I'm sick? Could I be fighting one of the myriad of viruses that is going around right now?  Olivier did comment about feeling a little "off" this morning. Or even worse....has cancer has come back?  Is my body using its energy to fight evil mutating cells??  I have enough energy to get through my day otherwise.  But what if....what if....what if....

I hate the what ifs.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 by the numbers

I really enjoy my Garmin GPS watch. Not only does it give me my pace and distance information, I am able to upload it to Garmin's website and track my workouts and progress. You can really "geek out" on some of the data you can get.

In short, I covered a total of 1,631.09 miles! (It took 350 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds....over 2 weeks, lol!)

For data geeks like me, here is how Garmin breaks it down:

Count:158 Activities
Distance:834.99 mi
Time:148:48:23 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:45,602 ft
Avg Speed:5.6 mph
Avg HR:153 bpm
Avg Run Cadence:--
Avg Bike Cadence:--
Calories:54,968 C
Avg Distance:5.32 mi

Count:77 Activities
Distance:478.06 mi
Time:148:39:47 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:60,078 ft
Avg Speed:3.2 mph
Avg HR:99 bpm
Avg Run Cadence:--
Avg Bike Cadence:0 rpm
Calories:28,081 C
Avg Distance:6.21 mi

Count:19 Activities
Distance:289.33 mi
Time:29:42:05 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:19,111 ft
Avg Speed:10.2 mph
Avg HR:119 bpm
Avg Run Cadence:--
Avg Bike Cadence:--
Calories:11,084 C
Avg Distance:17.02 mi

Count:25 Activities
Distance:28.71 mi
Time:23:05:00 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:--
Avg Speed:1.2 mph
Avg HR:--
Avg Run Cadence:--
Avg Bike Cadence:--
Avg Distance:1.15 mi

For Christmas, Eric gave me a Garmin "upgrade," which I haven't cashed in yet. I've pretty much decided on which model I want-one that will track swimming better, I just haven't made the purchase yet. I can only IMAGINE how much data I'll have for 2013!!