Wednesday, September 21, 2011

100 days

Tomorrow marks the last 100 days of 2011.  For some reason, this resonates with me this year.  At first when realizing that I had my business/trainer hat on and thought of 100 days of 100 push/ups day or 100 exercise challenge each day. But this is a different year. 

Maybe because I just realized that last year on the 100th day till 2011, our lives were forever changed.  We began living a journey full of medical terms, ICU's, being stretched so thin, hearts so full yet so broken, and trying to squeeze every ounce of hope and faith each day had to offer.  Last year at this time I was in Portland, Oregon, visiting girlfriends and at a business conference for The Power MOB. While laughing and having fun, it was a rare time I was away from my family by myself.  Wednesday, September 22nd, Makenzie got ready for school and threw up in the bushes in front of Mom and Dad's house. On day 99, I rushed her to the ER. That began our wild ride...on the 100th day to the end of 2010. 

This year will be DIFFERENT!  After I finish writing, I am going to come up with a list with Makenzie, Emerson and Jack for what our family can do for the last 100 days.  For us, these 100 days signal that we made it. We have had the odds against us as a family.  Last year, many shared with concern that hospitalized kids, job loss, and relocation alone are cause for families to break up.  We experienced all of those in 9 months time. And now, come 101 days from this moment, we will have survived the post year mark with love and understanding.  That, to me, is HUGE!  It has been a journey I don't wish to repeat, but am forever fortunate and grateful for. The 4 of us learned how strong our family unit is in a much deeper level than I thought possible...because of it. 

100 days means: 
100 days to say I love you to my family
100 chances to do something great for someone
100 days to embrace all the emotions of the past year
100 days to allow myself to grieve the "normal" time I did lose last year with my kids, and fully appreciate the last 100 days I have with them right now to play all day long
100 days means 100 x to try new exercises
100 days to write 100 letters to friends & family
100 days to run at least 3 miles/day  
100 days to enjoy each sunrise and sunset
100 days to call friends and family to hear their voices
100 days to send Jack love letters at work
100 days to dance out loud, laugh hard with deep belly laughs, and have pillow and water fights with my family
100 days to laugh with my girls as we do the running man like nobody's business
100 days to appreciate all that is around and take it in....truly take and embrace all the joy, challenge, love, emotion, differences, peacefulness, and precious moments that life gives us

What are you going to do for your 100 days?

Cheers to the last 100 days of 2011!  Muah! Stoller Vineyards, Oregon 8.28.11

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Porta Potty Pacific Grove

My number 824 - 9.10.11
The Olympic Distance  Triathlon at Pacific Grove on Saturday, September 10th, was my first Olympic Distance Triathlon since I was 23.  Yep, 12 years from the last time I did the distance of 1.5 K( .93 mile) swim, 40K (24.8 mile) bike and 10K (6.2 mile) run. To say I was nervous the week before was an understatement.  I always get butterflies before racing, but I had full blown nerves for the week leading to the race.  My bike decided to have issues 10 days before and the back tire fell off.  My wetsuit is sleeveless and a bit dated. What to do!?  ACCEPT- that's what! Accept what happens "happens" and have fun is all I could think.

The arch to the swim
I feel grateful as I "did" and got my equipment together the week before. I had the bike from Gene at Alameda Bicycles, borrowed a long sleeve new wetsuit from Meredith (my dear friend and training partner), and got some new, wider lens goggles at Sport's Basement on... Thursday! I got one swim in them to at least figure out if they worked well with my face and phew, they did.  The girls were set to hang with my parents before Jack got back from work so I could drive to Pacific Grove on Friday, and they were joining on Saturday to cheer me on.  I think the drive down by myself was one of the best things...I got to think. Or maybe it wasn't a good thing...ha ha I tease.  Truly though, I was thinking while driving about; transitions, the swim AKA The Kelp Crawl, biking on a new bike, and how the laps work with the run.  Visualization is key, especially if you are me. I need to visualize to focus and feel I can take on any event.  And the word that continued to pop through it accept 

Accept the race for what it is. Have fun with the race. 
Accept that I can't control conditions, accept that a good attitude gets me(you) through anything. 
Accept that the training is done and what will be will be.  
Accept there will be someone faster and be someone slower, but push your limits ...and have fun.  

All the words I say to my kids are what I continued to repeat to myself, like any parent.  How often do you do that...repeat to yourself what you would easily say to your loved ones, but have to repeat it to yourself 3x as many to have the words "stick". I know I am not the only one, and yes being Type A does affect in wanting to do everything well, but I also feel it gives me a focus and discipline too. 

I got to Pacific Grove and checked in to the race. I forgot how gorgeous Pacific Grove is and how chilly it can be! The fog was starting to roll in, and the water looked very cold. But it also looked manageable for an open water swim. Oh yeah, I didn't mention I have never raced in an Olympic Distance ocean swim before. Nope, never, but I LOVE swimming and grew up a mermaid.  Even being a mermaid shifts when a is mermaid in cold, wave filled water, swimming with hundreds of others in the same direction, like salmon swimming upstream.  "Accept, Erin, Accept".  I LOVE swimming, especially in warm ocean water like Kauai, and will LOVE doing the swim in a wetsuit.  If you repeat it enough you do believe it, right? 

Thank you Alameda Bicycles!
After checking in, I got to visit with my Uncle Kevin and his girlfriend, Jeannie. They are both wonderful and incredible cyclists. I did the Death Ride with Kevin when I was 22 and have always loved talking races with him.  Jeannie is actually a retired Ironman Triathlete and quite the accomplished Tri-gal pre knee surgery.  We enjoyed dinner and got to talk the nerves out. Kevin and Jeannie shared the course logistics and also the "shark logistics". My darn Uncle decided to tease me about the sharks the night before a race...following up with "Don't worry, you're small meat for them anyway so you're not a good meal". Lovely visuals as I thought of myself looking like a seal in a wetsuit, swimming with a pack of triathletes, and a shark looking at me than turning away since I am not big enough. Once a fun uncle, always a fun uncle.  I slept on their couch and get was some of the best sleep I have had in the past 7 years!  The past 9 months since we've been back from the hospital I have been up with kids a lot through the night and on Friday night, I got to say good night to them over the phone and konk out fast.  But wait, wake up was at 5:45 am.  Not to bad for this early riser, and I had already been up visualizing how I would race when the alarm went off. 

Incredible Uncle Kevin chillin' at 7 am
Kevin brought me down to the start, I racked my bike and got situated. Upon getting settled and body marked, I found out my wave didn't start until 9:15 am, so I had 3 hours until my race start.  Looking around at all the fancy bikes and equipment I repeated Meredith's comment in my head:
"Gear is only 10% of the triathlete. Physical condition and mental state is the other."  
Good and bad with all the bonus time- go figure- but 9:15 was my start time and I had to run with it.  The water looked cold, the fog was over the bay, and the nerves and excitement were flowing amongst everyone.  I got body marked, had to age up  (dude I am 35 not 36 yet!), jogged along the beach path, and chilled.  We sang the National Anthem, paid respect to 9.11.01, bang went the gun and I got to see the men start! After the men was the wave of veteran athletes who always humble me. I am blown away by their determination and focus.  After the 2nd wave, there was another wave every 15 minutes. While watching the men in the water, you can see the kelp looking to break up.  A channel between the kelp looked to form, or did it? I would soon find out. 

First wave started! 7:30am 9.10.11
I Body Glided and wetsuited up at 8:45 am, looked around for Jack and the girls but couldn't find them. I heard my uncle and Jeannie yelling my nickname,"Burfel".  Knowing they were there, even at the age of 35, was a reassurance that it was all good. I lined up right under the arch at 9:12 am, ready for my take off. 13 years ago I would have held back a bit, but not now. I feel more confident being up in front and taking on my space...but it wasn't quite my space. The kelp hit us quick, as did the 57 degree water.  Kick Kick, knee, fist, punch, slap, pull all popped through  my mind as the sounds of the swim.  I felt good but got a few gulps of salt water, ugh. I kicked harder to get some space and turning around the 1st buoy I got some. Then a gal about one foot taller than me started swimming alongside me to where she seemed to be fighting me for water the ocean! Continued on, buoy two approached fast and swimming back to the beach there was a kelp channel. I developed a pattern of pulling the kelp behind me with each stroke. I tried to use the kelp as if I was pulling myself up a wall, or slithering for up down relays in the boot camp drills I teach.  Fellow 35-39 swimmers started to thin out, people were tiring a bit, but I kept going. My arms weren't tired yet and I felt good. Boom, at the beach, popped out to run around the marker for lap the same time of the next wave of swimmers! Dang, another big group to swim with but in Lap 2 I knew what to expect kelp wise and stayed to the left of the group.  I pulled forward and got to the first buoy.  I looked to my left to the girl kicking water in my face and gained speed on her.  We were side by side and I noticed she was in the same wave as me. I peaked out of the water and saw just a handful of light blue caps, my wave's caps. Yeah, it meant I was in the front of the pack and this girl knew it too. She decided to swim tight on my left, literally face to face each breath as we pulled forward through the kelp.  To say it was "fun" is not how I would describe that portion of the swim. There was my inner athlete who decided to kick hard to get out of the water before her... so I did. I blasted my legs, got to the sand and ran out...or attempted to. My toes were frozen! 

Running up the ramp was a rush. Kevin and Jeannie were in the front, cheered and snapped a photo as I was pulling at my wetsuit. Mental mantra, "Fast transitions Erin, fast transitions".  Slipped down my wetsuit, slapped on my shoes over incredibly numb toes and ran to the start of the bike. Whew, one leg down and two more to go. I was feeling good, invigorated, and like ME again! The rush was there! 

Pass, pass, pass on the bike. I started to fly by people.  The natural coach, trainer and cheerleader in me couldn't help but support everyone when passing to encourage them.  Tight turns on Lap 1, but 1 lap was done.  Onto Lap 2, already playing "cat & mouse" with a few cyclists, looking at their calves the entire time for their age.  Saw a few more in my age group the second lap and had my eye on a few in front.  Hmmm....I think I could be in a good spot but didn't know since the bike portion was 4 laps.  Lap 2, eeek, I felt my bladder and that I had to go pee.  I really had to go pee and kept peddling fast. I met a woman and rode with her for a bit named Joanne. We laughed about having to go pee and our kids that changed our college I would pop the seal and keep going but I couldn't do it as easily now.  I tried but my mind was worried about the person behind me and feeling I'd have to offer him/her some disinfectant towels.  Triathletes do it all the time, I used to, but I couldn't really let go and "go".  Yes, triathletes pee on their bikes when riding.  If they are in it to win it, you gotta pee while on the bike or in the water.  Lap 3, still flying, feeling good, but gotta PEE! Break the seal a bit, can't do it, keep peddling.  Lap 4 slam through it with legs feeling strong and blast to transition. Put on my running shoes, waist belt and hat admiring the porta potties. The green oasis of comfort...but gotta run. I head out to start my run to Jack running along side me. Smiling from ear to ear seeing him and the girls, hearing them cheering I yell to Jack " Having so much fun but I gotta go pee!!!".  The runner in front of me started laughing out loud.  I think I can run through it, I am an athlete, I have raced the majority of my life now, but I also had 2 beautiful babies who shifted some things. I do try to defy the odds but some things Mother Nature decides. 

Jack caught me starting my run leg...
3 laps to run.  3 looooong laps if I don't stop at a porta potty. Yes there were the tri-monkey's on my legs, yes my glutes were tight, yes my toes were still frozen from the swim, but I couldn't feel any of that since I was focusing on finding a porta potty. I start passing people and a beacon of green is in front of me, I check it- locked! Seriously, who is playing a joke on me.  I continue running, passing some people who were most likely on their 2nd or 3rd laps.  I decided I had to stop at the next Porta Potty and just pee fast. It would only be a few seconds, I can go fast and then I would be able to run faster  Yeah, I found it at the turn around and 24 seconds later was back on the run but this time feeling much lighter. I can't tell you how great I felt now, I took everything in.  The sun was shining, the Pacific ocean looked incredible, the energy powerful and I felt strong. I finished lap 1, saw the girls, Jack, Kevin and Jeannie to all of them cheering. Heart was happy and filled, Jack gave me the solid "Erin, you got this", and I could feel my athlete self pulling through. My time looked like my last PR could be broken. "OK Erin", I think, 's "try to pull 7:10's and you can average out the first two slow porta potty miles."  Lap 3 came, I picked it up, knew what to expect and kept passing people. It felt good, I felt good, the race felt good.  The last two corners were in sight and my legs started getting my last bit of energy surging through them.  

I kicked it up, what I have been known for, am still smiling ear to ear and push it.  The shute is in front of me and I ran through it looking at my watch with big eyes. The announcer says my name as I crossed the finish line and I was full of excitement! My family rushed up and the hugs were incredible. Emerson was screaming "Mommy you did it. You won!" not knowing that I didn't win the entire race, but knowing I won to her was great fun.  I haven't felt this good about an athletic event for a while, even at See Jane Run when placing 1st or 2nd in the 5k the past two years or doing the 2 sprint triathlons. I was "back".  My Erin, Tri-Girl, self was back in action. I beat my PR from age 23, when I was a National Qualifier, by 8.5 minutes!! My time by the clock was 2:43:55.

Incredible Jack- best better half!
We chilled out and the girls were beyond cute. Makenzie said she wants to do a triathlon with me, Emerson said she wants to run fast, and Jack said he was so proud.  It felt sureal since Jack never knew me when I raced at Cal Poly and he got to see a different side again of me with racing Olympic Distances. Jeannie and Kevin were beyond great and excited to be there. To have that moment of finishing feeling so good was something I want to hold onto. I never felt I could have pushed faster, I just wished I didn't have to go pee but accepted that my body was my body.  A body I have trained hard through teaching a lot over Summer and has the ability to push faster now than when I was in college.  My racing was more efficient and not only that, the entire race was so much fun and enjoyable! 

Future Triathletes & the best cheerleaders
As we were about to pick everything up from my station, we checked results.  I placed 3rd in my age group!  It didn't have my splits but I placed third and the awards were at 3 pm. Rock on- my mantra is "If I don't place I didn't race", but I was nervous about that phrase this race. I was worried that maybe being on a new bike, using the unknown wetsuit, having had August be a decent training month but one full of travel and great food and wine, could have shifted my racing.  Makenzie was beyond excited too, telling the women next to her "My Mom just came in 3rd at 35!". I felt lucky and so proud. 

Back at Kevin's everyone was sharing how great the race was, the girls all excited to race in their futures.  Jeannie, Kevin and Jack said they want to do a relay team next year and race against me time vs. time. The time with Kevin and Jeannie was special too, rarely do I get time just with my uncle or solely my family with my uncle. Often we are all in big gatherings of our big family and this was memorable time together.  

Emerson excited with my 2nd place finish
The four of us Shireys' headed back to the awards at Lover's Point. Girls and I played in the sand and then all of us glued to the awards.  The elite athletes fab to watch! Future Olympians in front of us. Aged 22-39. These athletes inspire me living a great tri-life and having fun.  A few of the women are in their late 30's and have little ones.  To say I was inspired is an understatement...the same as my girls.  Then it came to the age group awards. Makenzie couldn't wait, she wanted to walk up with me. I wish I had her come, but had never done a podium award for a tri in a bigger tri before. Small tri's sure, but not a Tri California event, and didn't know if it was appropriate. 3rd place name said, not me. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe there was a mix up and I didn't place...and it was I placed 2nd place in my age group and was the 12th female overall in the whole Triathlon.  Then the 1st place winner was announced... with a time just 15 seconds faster than mine.  Darn porta potty, but so worth those 15 seconds! I was waiting for the other women to join the podium, but I was the only one there. I was standing by myself on the block for the 35-39 awards and looked at my kids and Jack.  The real athletes who inspired me to do longer tri's again are Makenzie and that moment I fully wished I had them come up with me. Smiled for the photographer, teased by the announcer and pro-triathlete Julie Moss that I was so clean with fancy hair (Normally ponytail clad me laughed since Jeannie told me to blowdry it post shower since I was still so cold still from the darn ocean), and ran back to my family.  Makenzie asked for the award and I put it around her neck...I think she was as excited as I was.
Future Triathletes- Incredible Daughters-Loves of my life
After the awards we celebrated. We had a great time and I accepted that with any race what will be will be.  I look forward to the next race with more time on what will be my "bike" and having more sleep the weeks before. I am ready to train even harder and get back on a Tri-Team again.  Training has to be respected, but also respecting your body and where it is in life is powerful. Believing in yourself and what you can do physically is beyond powerful.  Carry that power with you for everything you do.  Look at what your body is capable of, challenge it, and believe in it.  Back to the word accept. Accept that anything is possible when you put yourself out there to believe....

** Link to finish on youtube

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 4 of Aloha Challenge

I have decided to do a fun Challenge this month. Why - just because I want to feel the ease of Hawaii, yet the inner physical and mental challenges I know I can accomplish.  I wrote a blog about it on one of my business websites 

So far, I have been doing good!  It is interesting because when running on Friday I was a bit anxious, but also not letting the stress truly bother me like I have in similar situations months before.  I was training earlier on my road bike in a great zone and pace... and my back tire fell off.  Grrr...I checked the chain rings, the gears and the bike trailer attachment. Then a nice guy, John, rode up on his electric bike. He looked straight out of Portlandia- boombox attached to his bike playing some Grateful Dead, long gray beard, and uber chill voice.  He got down to help me, was generously kind and as I rode off with a working bike again he yelled, "Keep the biking real Erin!".  We bonded and I wouldn't have met him if my bike didn't breakdown.  I rode my bike to Lucy where I teach a 12:15 boot camp, switched training gears and got a 5 mile run in before I taught class. As I attempted to push my legs I couldn't. "Come on now Erin, you can go faster" I repeated to myself.  A bit of anxiousness started a bit wanting to make sure I got a quality run in.  Then I decided to just roll with where my body wants to be right now.  And I did and gradually loosened up to push it on my returning 2 miles.

While I was running thought, "What do I do?! I have Pacific Grove Tri on September 10th and need a working bike".  Hmmm.....joys of wonderful Alameda Businesses I called Gene of Alameda Bicycles when I got back. Played phone tag and he ended up leaving a message that I could rent his wife's bike for a few weeks and could pick it up over the weekend! Sweet- this can work out and I can still race!  On Sunday I picked up the bike, it fits great and is a smooth stress, nice components and I am ready to push it on the bike.  Plus I get to see what I really want to get on my new bike that I am ordering next month by riding vs. just looking through in the catalog. So cool!

Anxiousness and being able to step back and just "breath" is part of my Challenge.  I realized that a reason for this is my own focus on taking advantage of every minute of time.  We lost a lot of "time" last Fall with Makenzie and Emerson. Time for them to feel "normal" (whatever that is!), time together as a family, time for me as a business person and athlete, and time to just be stress free.  While I know we can never make up that time, some days I feel if I haven't gotten 1:1 quality time with my daughters and Jack, all of my to-do's done and tackled all my goals, I haven't used my time well. Is that right to feel that pressure- nope! Is that fair- not really to myself.  But when I realized the significance it made sense.  Being aware of when time flies and things don't get done, it doesn't mean the time is wasted and that's ok. If it is a task that can be done tomorrow, the day isn't ruined or a bust.  Be realistic with goals and checking things off. 

When doing this Challenge, it is for me to make me feel good about how I use my own time, not as if I am lacking focus. Does that make sense? I feel like I am pretty good about using time and aware of living in the moment yet I also have high expectations for myself.  I am sure you have felt that at times too, and maybe it's more relevant to us since we've experienced moments when time has stood still and you are scared for it to move forward. Who knows! But I know that the Aloha feeling, the feeling of chillaxin' like the Grateful Dead when my bike broke down, combined with the feeling of physically pushing my athletic limits is what makes me feel good.

Bike that made me smile...San Francisco is "under" the shifter ;)
Right now, Jack has the girls on an adventure at the Zoo, I finished some work goals for the day and now am about to ride on (thanks to Gene).  I am using time in the best way and relishing the bumps along the road...literally and emotionally.