This is a blog for the strong, the determined, the wild. In the past ten years more than 100 have joined the triBE on a journey to BE strong, to BE fierce, to BE triathletes. We are dedicated to the belief that anyone can BE a triathlete and support each other in every endeavor. Our team members are all sizes, speeds, and ages. This is our story.

"When anyone tells me I can't do anything, I'm just not listening any more." ~Florence Griffith Joyner

If this isn't enough you can read more from me here:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

You Look Marvelous

So I'm watching a bit of random television.  I think it's Rizzoli and Isles... Angie Harmon and that other girl are out running.  They're wearing cute little running pants and tight zip up jackets and they look, frankly, adorable.  And most notably, they're not even sweating. 

Let me be clear.  when I work out, I sweat...  a lot...  like crazy...  and I get red-faced and look terrible.  Like really wretched...  like I have the plague.  I treat the fact that a single decent picture of me actually running exists in the universe as a major miracle.  It's featured on this site, and I will probably use it forever.  Even when I'm 92.  Come on...  it's the internet.  Who will know?

But I do have a legitimate question to ask, mostly of women.  When we are working out, why do we care how we look?  I'm really just interested.  There's a whole industry of fashionable workout clothes designed to be worn while we are sweating.  There are matching outfits and bright colors and running skirts featuring the tag line, "It's me time."  (Seriously a running skirt?  I don't even like to wear skirts that much when I'm not running.)  These clothes are made of the newest high tech materials.  They are also designed to be "cute."  For example, consider this pair of running shorts by well known retailer, lulumon.  They're made of  "coolmax" and have a "luxtreme" waistband.  They cost $54.  (Seriously?  $54!)  Running shorts range in price from $11.88 at Target  to I'm guessing infinity dollars if you're crazy enough.  I'm wondering if it's possible that $54 shorts are 4.5 times better than $12 shorts? 

I am sure the lulumon shorts are great running shorts.  I don't have a problem with lulumon in particular.  I just look at their shorts and I think, well shoot, why aren't they black? (They do come in black of course.)  I ask because, if I buy them in a blue pattern, then I have to think about what I am wearing on top so that I don't clash.  And I hate that about myself.  I hate that when I open my drawer of workout clothes, there are some things I won't wear together...  because they'll look bad.

I want to be clear.  If I am running, there is a 1% chance I look good.   If I do, it's because I just started 300 yards earlier.  By the end, I look like a drowned rat, and I have to wonder, why would I care for even a minute what my clothes look like? 

Let's just ignore the rest of the world and run as joyfully as Phoebe and Rachel...

Author's Note...  I started this post a few weeks ago, before lulumon exec Chip Wilson decided to tell women that they are too fat to wear lulumon yoga pants.  I don't own any lulumon clothes because I actually am too large for their clothes.  In general I would suggest to all my thinner friends that they might think twice about giving money to a company that tells them and their friends that they are fat. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Yesterday I left work early and went to home to take a nap.  I told some people and they were jealous...  seriously envious.  I climbed into bed and went down for two hours.  TWO HOURS!  I set an alarm so I could get up and do carpool.  I thought I would pay last night and be unable to sleep.  Not so.  Went down like a stone and slept seven more.  Wow...

I have sleep issues.  I wake up in the middle of the night often and have trouble going back to sleep.  Stress at work sometimes adds to this issue.  There's nothing wrong with me physically and this is a pretty common occurrence in women my age, so I'm not worried.  I'm just tired. 

Really tired.

I'm trying to get to the point where I am fit enough to push myself hard for 4+ hours.  It will mean I am ready for that aquabike race in March...  1.2 mile swim, 56 on the bike.

I have the ability to do about two hours of really hard labor in me now.  After that I can keep going, but I'm pretty worthless.  I am positive that I'll have a better shot at this if I can get more sleep.  Maybe that means one day a week I skip my workout after school and go home for a nap.  Sounds like heaven, but will it work? 

Is this an actual plan or am I just kidding myself?  I welcome your thoughts. 

Photo Credit

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What's your number?

I'm 48 years old.  People say that age is just a number.   I call bullshit.

When I was 15, a friend told me she was doing a charity walk the next day.  I think it was 25 miles.  She asked me if I wanted to do it with her.  Sure! I didn't even think about it.  We walked all day.  I bet my feet hurt, and I was tired, but I don't really remember.  I just remember it was a fun day.

Ask me today if I want to walk 25 miles on a whim, and the answer is hell, no.  It's not that I couldn't finish.  I probably could.  But the recovery would suck.  My knees don't come back quickly and 25 miles on my feet will result in 25 hours on my rear.  A couple of bananas and a good night's sleep don't solve these problems anymore.

Long training days have an impact.  Saturday's 40 mile ride meant a vague feeling of weary nausea for the rest of the day.  I decided to skip the Sunday morning charity 5K because my knees won't run without consequence after a long ride.   And I have things to do. 

Instead I slept in and feel better for it.  I am enjoying the day in my pajamas cooking and putzing around the house and will be ready to hit the gym hard again tomorrow.  Every week I have to decide how much physical soreness and sleep deprivation I can manage in addition to my regular responsibilities of work and family. 

I think this aging thing is more complicated than we admit.   Age is definitely a number.  It's the number of years you've been on the planet.  But it's also the number of responsibilities you've taken on and the number of lessons you've learned.  It's a measure of physical development and decline but also of intellectual growth and emotional commitment.  Being 48 isn't just about bad joints and extra pounds.  It's also the value of two teenage boys and a 20 year marriage.  It's a 27 year career and all the accompanying gifts that come from 48 years of being a daughter, a friend, and a citizen.

Age can be just a number.  I can devote the time, energy, and money required to be the best triathlete I can possibly be.  Or I can devote myself to doing the best I can to balance my hobby as an athlete with my real life as a wife, mother, friend, teacher, and citizen.

Yesterday I rode 40 miles, did the grocery shopping, house cleaning, 3 loads of laundry, made dinner, and drove my kids to a party.  It was a long hard-ass day.

Today I baked banana bread, wrote this post, and watched the Bears game. I'll make some dinner and go to bed early. 

Tomorrow I will be well-rested and ready to give my best to my job, my family, and my workout. 

48 is just a number.  It's my number.  It's my life.

Photo Credit

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Slide

Photo credit here
You know how when you’re at the top of the water slide getting ready to go? Your heart is racing, and you inch your rear forward slowly. You want to go, but you’re a little afraid. You scoot a little further down, toes curled, gripping the sides of the slide, fingers clenched tight to the rail until suddenly, amazingly, the water grabs you and starts to push you down. You go faster and faster, and then there’s the big drop… down, down, down, whoosh… 

What a thrill! 

Sara Dowdy is the perfect combination of awesome and evil.  She asked me to do a race with her in March, and she knows I’m only doing aquabikes these days so she said, “You could do a whole one.”  What’s a “whole one” you ask?  She and I both knew she meant the whole ironman distance for the two events…  2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on the bike.  Whoa…
I love that she thinks of me.  I wish she didn’t think so well of me.  I know what this would take in terms of training time, and I don’t have it.  But even if I did, I’m not sure I want to spend this much time in the saddle.  It did get me thinking about doing a shorter race.  Last May I was thinking I should work toward an Olympic race, but maybe the half is possible…  6 months, 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles of riding…  hmmm.
The longest triathlon I ever did was a sprint.  The longest race I ever ran was a 10K.  I may have been a distance swimmer in my youth, but back then the longest race I ever swam was the 500 free.  The hardest race I ever swam was the 400 IM… This would be a BIG step...
So I have some time.  Early registration closes at the end of November.  I can start training now.  A couple days a week in the pool, a couple on the bike, a couple in the weight room.  I didn’t ride or swim much this summer.  It’s going to be a long road back.  Swam a mile yesterday, slowly, not all freestyle.  Didn’t die.  Rode 20 miles last weekend, not my best, but it felt good. 

I can sense it.  My rear is inching forward.  I’m still hanging on, not sure I’m all in yet, but every season starts out like this.  The slow scooting into the training, the doubts, the excuses. I can still get off the slide any time.  

And then suddenly I’m moving.  I’m in the groove, flying through practices, streaking down the tube. My free time becomes more and more focused on the big five...  eating well, hydrating, sleeping, stretching, training.  Faster and faster. Down, down, down until race day… 

Whoosh!  What a ride!
 “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” Tina Fey

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strong is Not the New Skinny

For as long as I can remember, women have wanted to be skinny.  As a six foot woman, I have spent most of my life feeling too big.  In 6th grade I was the tallest kid in my elementary school.  In high school I joined the varsity swim team and subjected myself to the weekly team weigh-ins.  Everyone had to lose weight, so when I weighed in at 140 pounds at 5’10”, my goal was to lose 10 pounds over the season.  I got down to 125 one year, mostly by skipping Tuesday’s dinner and Wednesday’s breakfast and lunch so I could be weighed at 2:15 on Wednesday afternoon.  Then we had a 3 hour practice.  Then I went home to dinner.

My story is not unique.  It’s not even as unhealthy as some.  But the fact that it’s even close to normal for a teenager then or now is a disturbing cultural phenomenon that has plagued women and girls for years before I was a teenager and every year since.  We’ve swept some men up into the insanity as well.
As a reaction, a new slogan has been circulating amongst women, both through the media and at our local gyms.  Strong is the new skinny.  The idea is that women are replacing the desire to be model thin with a desire to be physically strong.  Pictures of lean women with biceps and six-packs are everywhere in motivational posts, throughout social media, and on fitness magazine covers.  I asked my own Facebook network if strong was the new skinny and they were resoundingly in favor.  Women do want to embrace the idea of strength, of fitness, of the ability to carry their own groceries, or a couch if needed.
But I wonder if women aren’t replacing one unattainablephysical ideal for another, encouraging the world to continue to judge us by our physical selves rather than by our intellect, our leadership, or our character. The women featured in these ads are definitely strong.  But they are also incredibly lean, not an ounce of fat in sight, nowhere near what normal, fit women look like.  And the ads don’t feature pictures of whole women, but often just their parts.  We get to stare at torsos, calves, and backs.  For all we know, it’s the same woman, featured piece by piece, photo-shopped and well-lit in thousands of pictures. 
My friends beg to differ.  They don’t think about being strong as a means to beauty.  It’s about taking care of yourself.  It’s about improving health, about doing more in life, not just eating less.  Those hours spent picking things up and putting them down are a journey, a process of becoming not just stronger, but better, more confident, more centered.  And if weight training sometimes leads to being sore or a little bigger, women don’t seem to mind.  The alternative is weak and hungry, and the final results say it all. The end of skinny is death.  The end of strong is stronger.
Strong is not the new skinny.  It is not a means to beauty.  It is not about fashion.  Lifting weights doesn’t make women prettier, it makes them healthier.  Strong is simply what women are and have always been in one way or another.  Strong is giving birth, facing a defiant teenager, comforting a suffering parent. It is building a relationship, a family, a home, a career, a meaningful life.  Strong is about lifting, a loaded barbell, ourselves, a broken heart, or a sofa.  Strong is simply that. Strong.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Angela Brown Oberer

"Well limbo is not a good place to be."  ~Bill Joy

I have a secret.  I’m lost.
I’ve been lost for a while now.  I had the knee surgery in January.  The rehab was rough.  I was supposed to be able to run again by March.  I couldn’t.  So I rehabbed some more and tried again in June.  I couldn’t run.  So I tried other stuff all summer to try to rest my leg.  I did strength without the impact.  Weights.  Elliptical.  Walking.  Cycling.  Stairs.  I still can’t run.

 I’ve been trying out the phrase, I don’t run any more.
I keep saying it out loud to people, trying it on like a coat to see if it will fit.  It’s not that I love running.  It’s that I need to wear the coat in order to create a new identity. 

I was a triathlete.  Now what am I?

People ask… 
Can’t you have a knee replacement?  Yes…  But do I really want that?  I’m not sure. 
Can’t you just do the swim and the bike or do a relay?  Yes… But do I really want that?  I’m not sure.

In order to move forward, to make new plans, to forge a new identity, I have to accept my reality.  Or is it that I have to create my reality?  I’m having a hard time with this.  I struggle with the difference between quitting and accepting my limitations.  I’m not sure what’s true anymore.

 Am I just not trying hard enough?

I don’t run any more?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


So I noticed a Facebook friend, Cat Melnyk, posted a workout on a website I’d never heard of, FITOCRACY.  It’s a site that allows you to track your workouts, no matter what you do.  I started to check it out using the phone app, but it’s really hard to edit workouts.  By the time I got to the website a week later, I was unable to edit the first workout I posted, even though it was wrong.  Frustrating.

Since then I have logged a few more workouts.  They have a pretty comprehensive list of weight lifting exercises which is really nice.  Each one has a description so you can tell if you’re choosing the right one.  To be fair, thus far it seems a lot easier to earn points from lifting weights than doing cardio.  I had to ride two hours to earn a thousand points, but my twelve exercise weight routine scored about the same and only took 75 minutes.  I have yet to log any swimming, so I’ll have to see how that scores.  Walking is worth much less unless you record your heart rate.  
To be fair, I think you can log almost anything you do.  I searched for anything I have ever heard any of anyone doing for exercise and it's all there.  You can track yoga, yard work, P90X, cross fit, spin class, dance, canoeing, mountain biking, or playing sports.  For each workout you log, you earn points, badges, and props.  It’s kind of like a game.  You can easily track your progress against your friends and strangers, join groups of like-minded athletes, and read articles on a wide variety of topics.  It’s a pretty slick program.  I’m going to stick with it through the summer and see how it goes.   I’d love to have some friends join me and see what you think.  We can even have duals though I’m not sure exactly how that works yet. 
Check it out.  My name is costelloland on the site.  Follow me and I’ll follow you.  This could be fun! 

Postscript:  I just logged in swimming in the ocean for an hour, and it gave me a ridiculous number of points, so if you are a swimmer, Fitocracy is going to reward you mightily!  

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Pride is the mask of one's own faults. ~Jewish Proverb

It’s the start of summer, a good time to make a goal or two.  A few years ago I used the summer to train for a running race in July, the Bix 7.  I started running when I was 37 and found it to be far more challenging than biking or swimming.  I worked at it for a couple of years and managed to reach the point where I could pretty effortlessly run 12 minute miles.  I know that sounds pretty pokey to the regular runner, but for me, it was a real accomplishment.  I genuinely felt proud.
Once I reached that point, I decided to try to run the Bix.  Over that summer I focused exclusively on running, doing nothing else.  I did a lot of speed and hill work and by the end of the summer, was able to run 10 minute miles pretty consistently.  Man did that feel good.  It was measureable progress.  It was clear that the work had paid off.  It was a testament to a good training plan.  I was really proud.  I remember thinking on one really good run in late August, "Man I’ve got this running thing under control."  I said to myself, "I feel great and I can honestly say, I will never run a mile slower that 12 minutes in my life again."
Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves. ~Emily Bronte
Fast forward 4 years.  Knee surgery and osteoarthritis have slowed me considerably.  Yesterday I ran a third of a mile at a 13 minute pace.  It wasn’t the lack of cardio strength that has slowed me down, but the twinging and swelling of a dysfunctional knee that stopped me after 300 strides.  I came home, took my meds and hobbled around.  Today it is better, but I have no illusions.  The road back to running may take longer than a summer.  I am taking no chances this time.  I will go slowly and carefully.  And if and when I run a 5K again, it will be with true gratitude.    
I have let my stubbornness and pride overrule good sense for many years.  I have been willing to work out to excess, to ignore legitimate pain, and to face doubts with no more than a momentary pause. But in the end, this stubbornness was stupid.  This year I have learned that my pride, something we all experience in accomplishment, is also a double-edged sword.  Pride is the emotion of the past.  It is a reward for work well done.  It is an emotion of the present.  It keeps us going and helps us overcome adversity.  But pride does not live in the future.  It does not make the days to come somehow easier or more successful.  Pride makes no promises.
So today I am grateful for this lesson.  I now know that my ability now says nothing about what I will be able to do tomorrow.  It is this knowledge that motivates me to go to the gym without procrastination.  Because today is all I have.  There’s no promise of tomorrow.  And if tomorrow is somehow better, I will greet that gift with humility and gratitude. 

This video got me out the door today: 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013


"Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don't shoot their husbands.  They just don't." ~ Elle Woods, Legally Blonde 
After a long day of chores and paperwork that I had been avoiding, I sat down to supper with my bears.  The cubs were cranky from a long day of studying for exams, and when I started prodding as to what had been done, my youngest exclaimed in irritation, “Why do I talk to you? All you do is rave.”  I had a brief moment where I thought, I’ll show you raving, but I came to my senses and let him be a tired, frustrated kid.  I put on my sneakers and headed out the door for a walk, hoping to get my head and heart back in order.

I left my headphones behind, determined just to think and for the first half mile, my thoughts centered on how messed up my knee was.  I could feel the hitch in my step and wallowed in self-pity until I saw a family approaching.  Three boys under ten rode bikes while dad pushed a stroller and had a large grey dog on a leash.  “Dad, race me, race me.” And they were off in a burst of yelling, the boys outpacing dad, the stroller, and the dog.  Mom followed behind, walking slowly in yoga pants and a tank top, literally barefoot and smiling. A beetle zoomed through my hair and then settled on my neck for a quick bite before I swatted him away. 
A half a mile further down the road I broke a sweat, and a pair of runners crossed my path.  I heard the one coming from behind because she scraped her feet with her step.  She made that squeaky sneaker noise that comes from leading with your toes, and as she passed, she hiked up her too big running skirt and drifted to the right to avoid the woman approaching.  The second wore a bright green running bra and was leaning forward as she ran.  I wondered if that form was what the Chi Running was talking about.  Maybe if I’d found my Chi a couple of years ago, my knee wouldn’t be so messed up. 
The setting sun began to turn the sky pink, and I realized this was probably just about the last cool evening before the heat of Florida set in and cool temps only lived between midnight and dawn.  Two men in their twenties played catch in the street, comparing their spirals while their children romped in the front lawn.  A little dog in a blue sweater escaped his leash and ran up behind me yapping ferociously until I turned to meet him, and he ran away again.  I heard a cracking sound that turned out to be a man trying to knock down cans with a leather whip.  I wondered, what kind of life do you have to lead to make that skill useful?
As a rounded the last turn of the route I have probably run a thousand times, I lifted my feet to run a little, even though I knew I shouldn’t.  A hundred strides in I felt a twinge and the aching began so I slowed up at my driveway as a pair of ducks floated down to my front lawn.  The mama was so pale.  An albino, I realized as she waddled off into the bushes for the night.  I waddled into the house as well, my head on straight, my heart at peace.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals. ~Lou Holtz

In January I had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.  As I was contemplating this event, I was also thinking about some long-term goals, as we are wont to do at the beginning of a new year.  Not knowing the outcome of the surgery and hoping for the best, I decided to make my goal 300 hours of working out, 25 hours a month.  Instead of setting speed goals or mileage goals, neither of which I could predict, I set a time goal, something completely within my power.  I decided to include walking, and I have done a lot of that, and physical therapy, which I did almost exclusively in the first month after surgery. 
It’s been an interesting journey thus far.  In January, I completed only 10 hours, making getting caught up a priority.  February allowed me to add swimming and biking again and my totals jumped up significantly.  In March we had terrible weather, rain and cool temps uncharacteristic of Florida, but I went to New York and literally walked hours and hours, saving a month that would have been dismally short on time.  April was focused on prepping for a race, and it was the most balanced of the months thus far.  May was short on time, as the distractions of finishing the school year put me behind again.
In the first 5 months I have worked out 116 hours.  I have ridden 400 miles and swum 23.  I have walked 57 miles and spent 16 hours in the weight room picking things up and putting them down.  The rest of the time was spent in physical therapy.  I am still behind on time, 9 hours, but it is summer, so I am hopeful that I can get back on track.  I have several people on this journey with me, checking in with me every month and holding me accountable.
What I love about this goal is that it is an exercise in long-term discipline.  Even though I do not race in the summer, I know that I have to show up regularly.  It is easy to blow off the gym when there are so many other fun things to do.  But I’ve taken to walking after dinner a couple times a week, a practice that was a regular part of my life when my dog was a pup.  It’s been a great opportunity to think, to get my head on straight again.  This goal has been a constant reminder to keep going, for even a poor hour wandering the neighborhood or a jaunt around on my bike is better than nothing.  And I like these lower intensity workouts. 
As you think about the rest of the year, I wonder if you’ll consider a long-term goal like this one.  I like the idea that there are goals in life that are not pie in the sky, but are rather the result of long-term commitment.  This is a promise I have made to myself, one I intend to keep.  It is possible that I’ll get further behind and my December will be an endless series of workouts.  With all those cookies lying about, that’s probably a good thing.  But that’s not my intent. 
June, July, and August are great opportunities to get outside and enjoy a round of golf, to take up roller blading, or to join a softball team.  Summer is a time of long, well-lit evenings, where there’s nothing but reruns on TV.  There’s time to get out there and shoot some hoops, to walk the dog, to throw a frisbee.  You can go to the beach and swim or ride your bike around the neighborhood. There’s plenty of yard-work or house-cleaning that will make you break a sweat if you’re so inclined, and if you’re not, you can at least walk to the 7-11 for ice.  Drag out that old badminton set.  Play some bocce.  It’s summer.  Have some fun. 
Think about what you are doing today and make a goal.  It doesn’t have to be crazy hard.  It’s about doing the right thing for a long time.  Find someone to hold you accountable.  Develop a means to track your progress and then get started… Your heart will thank you. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

I Want to ...

A couple weeks ago I did a little race.  The emotional and physical aftermath was typical.  First exhilaration (so I took pictures.)  Then thirst (so I drank some water.) Then dirty (so I took a shower.) Then exhaustion (so I took a nap.) Then hunger (so I ate like a wolf.)  It was my last race of the season.  In the summer I do not race.  I work out. I travel.  It’s really hot.  I could race, but I really don’t want to.

My two weeks leading up to this race were a study in negativity.  There wasn’t a single workout I wanted to do.  Two weeks out the workouts are long and exhausting.  I did most of them with little to no enthusiasm, focused solely on finishing.  The final week, meant to be easier, was no better.  The week was focused on short, intense workouts.  I was focused on the short part.  I should have been eager to do the easier training, but I didn’t want to.
After the race I took Sunday off.  Monday I went for a ride with a teammate.  It rained half way through, and we cut the ride short.  I was disappointed.  I didn’t have to ride.  I wanted to.  Tuesday I went down to the pool with nothing in mind.  I just thought I would swim for a while.  It turned into my longest workout in months.  I felt great.  I didn’t have to swim at all, but when the warm Florida sun hit my shoulders and I jumped into the cool clear water, I wanted to.
I think it’s easy for athletes to get caught up in “have to” instead of “want to.”  I’ve gotta go for a run hides the words “have to.” There’s this feeling of obligation inherent in the sentence, a feeling of unwelcome requirement, effort, or work.  “Have to” is like my least favorite chore, weeding.  And if running is weeding, then it’s only a matter of time before I stop doing it. (You should see my garden.)
We create structures to help us through the “have to” moments.  We join a team or club so we have company.  We go to classes at the gym to provide variety (triathlon is a study in variety.) We hire trainers to motivate us.  My personal favorite is scheduling training with friends so I can’t skip a workout. And we sign up for races to provide goals and a natural finishing point.  All this is just a means to get our heads in the game, to turn “have to” into “want to.”
In the end, we “want to” reach our goals, but in order to do so, we “have to” do some unpleasant things.  Sometimes working out is actually work.  Sometimes it’s really fun.  Finding a way to flip the “want to” switch is the key to turning work into fun.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing how we talk about training.  I’m going to stop saying “I have to…” and instead say, “I want to…” 
I want to go for a swim, a run, a ride.  I want to go to the gym.  I want to sweat.  Wanna join me?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rest in Peace, Nate

Today I pay tribute to the approximately 20 trillion gnats that gave their lives on my ride around the lake last night.  I know each of them was deeply concerned about my well-being and rushed to check on my status.  Unfortunately, they all underestimated the speed at which I was approaching and slammed into my face at velocities that made their survival impossible.  My sweaty countenance held their bodies throughout the ride and allowed me to transfer them, en masse, to their final resting place in the drain of my shower.

I want to acknowledge one special gnat, Nate, whose sacrifice is duly noted here.  Nate determined that I lacked protein and not only flew to my side, but directly down my windpipe in a futile suicide mission to fuel my ride.  It only took me about two miles to cough him back out.
I tip my helmet to these brave soldiers.  Rest in peace, Nate.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What are you Afraid of?

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." ~Jack Canfield

Once again, at a race this weekend, one of my teammates mentioned that she was really struggling with the question, “Why am I doing this?” on the morning of the race.  She was worried and afraid.  It wasn’t the first time someone had mentioned this feeling. I find myself writing about and thinking about fear a lot these days.  I know that the end of the race always reminds us why we do this, but lots of athletes have moments of doubt, dread, or fear on the morning of a race.  There are some good reasons why this happens and definite strategies for dealing with these emotions.

Why are you afraid? 

Fear of the unknown:  The conscious or unconscious understanding that events in a race are not within our control is a source of fear.  We want to be in charge of our own fate, but in a race, many elements are outside of our control. 
Inadequate training:  Experienced athletes know what it takes to be well-prepared for a race and they also know when that preparation didn’t happen.  No matter the reason, inadequate training usually leads to poor performance and disappointment.

Fear of pain: When we train there is a cycle of easy and hard days, pain and relief.  Not every training day is painful.  On race day, if we do our best, there will be pain, guaranteed.   
Forgetfulness and mistakes:  In a sport with seemingly endless equipment and steps to success, there is always the chance you will forget to do something important, especially as you become increasing “race drunk” and your brain is less and less functional.  It is in this state of exhaustion that we make mistakes.

Fear of the swim:  Do I need to explain this?

So what can we do about our fears on race day?
Embrace the unknown:  It is the unknown that is exciting, that is challenging, that is the point.  The only person you are racing is yourself, and part of being successful is managing the unknown.  Without the unknown, you are doing the race alone, in a pool, on a trainer, and then a treadmill.  Winning isn’t just about finishing first.  It is about dealing with the person that kicked you, the flat tire, the blisters.  This is racing.  Abandon your fear of the uncontrollable.  Love the unknown.

Embrace the learning experience:  If you know your training is inadequate, really feel this race.  At what point did things start to go badly? What parts of the race still went well?  Yes you’re disappointed that it didn’t go perfectly, but there is value in every race if you look for it.  Figure out what hijacked your training.  Learn something from your experience and adjust next time.
Embrace the pain:  As triathlete “Cort the Sport” says at her blog, invite the pain.  Every hard workout is an opportunity to practice dealing with pain, and I encourage you to work on this.  But on race day, accept that endorphins will only come through pain.  Satisfaction is the result of pain.  Accomplishment is revealed through pain.  The road you must walk to achieve your goals is Agony Avenue.  Accept it fully.

Embrace the errors:  I can’t ever remember a perfect race.  This weekend I forgot to leave out my socks and ended up racing sockless.  (Actually it wasn’t too bad, but if I had ripped up my feet, I would have been kicking myself.)  On race morning take out your plan and double check it.  (Don’t have a race plan?  Write one!) Rehearse your plan, over and over.  Make it so much a part of you, that transitions are mindless.  And when you recover, later that day or the next morning, review the race again, revise the plan, and never make those mistakes again. 
Embrace the water:  You were born from water.  It is your mother.  It is life.  You do not need to swim faster than gators or sharks.  You just need to swim faster than one other person.  Just keep swimming.  Period.
I have played a dozen or so sports in my lifetime, and whether it is swimming or volleyball, bowling or ultimate frisbee, the key to success on “game day” is less about physical ability and more about what’s happening in your head.  The final hours are the ones that seem to mess up our heads the most.  We don’t sleep.  We feel sick.  We doubt ourselves and our abilities. We panic.  But if we can just get started, the fears drop away, the doubt disappears, and we are in it.  Our minds are consumed with the task at hand and our fears are destroyed by our reality. 

And it is in the end, as we cross the finish line, that we remember why we signed up in the first place.
We should not judge people by their peak of excellence, but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.  ~Henry Ward Beecher
From the Humans are Awesome Series. Fear.  Some profanity.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pictures Say a Thousand Words


Jill and Lori
This weekend was a fine one for the triBE and friends.  In Baldwin Park, Jill Cousins did her first full tri and Lori Hoover was back again this year along with Donna Walker.  Sara and Jonathan Gray were out at Jekyll Island doing their first full tri.  Each can probably tell you stories about their training and race.  Jill can regale you with the tale of a practice tri in the rain with a swim in a pool where she had to duck under lane lines.  (Um what??)  Lori can explain how her bike was stolen a week before the race and her new one arrived on Thursday, and despite the chaos, she was 2nd in her age group!  And Donna was out there in her knee brace again this year, unsure whether she could run at all, but finishing strong, second in her age group as well!  I have yet to talk to Sara and Jonathan, but I am sure they too have some stories to share about their first tri journey.

Donna and students
It was such pleasure to see my friends and not a few students compete this weekend.   I ran into acquaintances from other teams volunteering in transition, and I was again struck by this tight little triathlon family that we all are a part of here in Central Florida.  I was reminded of why I still race once again, and I’d like to take some time to write up a decent post on my thoughts on this later in the week, so for now I let these pictures stand as testament to the happy day that we shared.

Congratulations to all that raced this weekend.  As always, your journey inspires me. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tell Me a Story

Nicole Kanouse and Sara Dowdy
If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today. ~ Lou Holtz

What a difference a year makes.  Mother’s Day 2012 had 25+ triBE members out in Clemont racing their hearts out.  For many it was a first race.  For others, too many to count.  For all of us it was a day to celebrate, to remember, to learn. 
Today Nicole Kanouse did her first triathlon with Sara Dowdy, the Tomoka Triathlon out at the coast.  This race was a little different in that it included a quarter mile swim in the Intercoastal Waterway, a 15 mile ride that took you over the causeway twice, followed by a 5K back and forth over the causeway again.  There was a little wind along with the causeway hills to challenge them.  I hope Nicole knows the feeling of accomplishment that completing a challenge like this deserves.  I am proud of her.  She, like many of us, conquered her demons and crossed the finish line to earn a new title.  Triathlete.
I pause today to look back on the past year.  Last year the team was strong and united, and we made so many new friends.  So many of you finished your first race and supported each other so honestly and completely.  It was exactly what we had always hoped this could be for so many women.  If you'd like to relive last year's fun, you can check out the video.
This year is not the same.  There is no common purpose, no focus to unite us all.  But when I look at you, there is so much good in your lives.  You each continue to write your own stories, to live your own adventures.  True, there have been losses and injuries, hardships and discouragement.  But there have been milestones and victories as well, and as always, life’s seemingly endless supply of “learning experiences.”  

Returning to the present, I realize that today is a very different Mother’s Day for me.  It’s hard not to be racing on this day after so many years.  I did do some riding this morning, and I feel pretty good.  And I get to race a little next weekend with a few of you, and that will be fun.  I headed out to my mom’s. It’s been a while since I spent time with her on Mother’s Day.  It’s the least I can do in exchange for a lifetime of her support and encouragement. 
It was easy for me to look back on this year.  The chronicle of my racing life is right here in this blog.  I hope you will pause for a few moments and reflect on your adventures.  Please realize that you have so many amazing stories to tell, and that wherever you are in your life’s journey, it is these stories that make your lives rich and wonderfully worthwhile.  
But after you spend a few moments reliving your past, you have to return to the present.  Today Nicole made a story, the awesome story of her first triathlon.  My story of today was time spent with my children and my parents.  I am grateful for my story today because I know that I will not be able to share Mother’s Day with my family in this way forever.  Whatever your adventure was today, I hope you made a good story.  And if you didn’t, remember we get a chance to do it again tomorrow.
Happy Mother's Day.  Happy every day.
I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter 'til they bloom, 'til you yourself burst into bloom.  ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Head Game

Photo credit:  Nicole Kanouse
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
—John Wooden

A few weeks ago I changed my profile pic on Facebook to my favorite one of me racing.  It’s the same picture of me that is always on this website, but I only use it on Facebook during tri season.  I posted it pretty late this year, as I have had a lot of challenges this season.  In fact, have posted it several times over the years, so it’s nothing new, but this year when I posted it, it got a couple dozen “likes” as if it were brand new.  It was like an instant cheering section and that response flipped the switch in my head and put me on track to race.  I could literally feel my focus switch in a matter of hours.  A training plan emerged from the ether and working out moved a lot higher on my list of daily priorities.  This single act got my head in the game.

I have worked with a lot of triathletes over the years and every one of them has concerns, doubts, and worries about doing her first triathlon.  The primary concern is usually the swim, with finishing being a close second.  Lake swimming is a particularly difficult challenge for some, an experience like no other.  The utter blackness, inability to touch the bottom or sides, the extra people, and the creepiness of weeds and critters contrasts sharply with the antiseptic experience of pool swimming.  Some take to lake swimming like literal fish, but most find it to be a startling and scary experience the first time.  I know even the strongest, most experienced swimmers have moments of concern, especially when conditions are rough or the race is aggressive.   Some find it grows easier over time.  Others never really feel comfortable in the lake, but either way, facing these fears and concerns is a real part of the challenge of triathlons.

I could list the dozens of worries and concerns I have had over the years and a hundred more that team mates have struggled with, many of which never occurred to me until someone mentioned it.  The reality is, you can create as much fear and concern as you want and make yourself literally sick or panicked if you are unable to get things under control.  It’s a real head game, and I offer a few suggestions for facing and overcoming your fears.

1.      Figure out what you are actually worried about. Make a list if need be.  Get a clear view of what’s really bothering you.

2.      Figure out if your fear is something you can do something about.  Here are some examples.

·        I am worried that the water will be dark and cold. You CAN’T do anything about that. 

·        I am worried that I am not strong enough to finish the swim.  You CAN create a training plan that gives you more confidence about this.  (Longer, more often, more lake swims)

3.      If your fear is something you can work on, do it.  Train differently, improve your equipment, ask for advice. Doing something feels a lot better than doing nothing.

4.      If your fear is something you can’t control, talk to someone.  The best way to stop yourself from climbing Crazy Mountain is talking it out.  It’s good therapy.

5.      Accept that the day itself is not completely in your control.  Things can happen.  There’s a lot of people, equipment, and moving parts involved in triathlons.  You can do everything in your power to prepare, but then you have to let race day be what it is.  Just as some training days are awesome and others are frustrating, racing works the same way.  The best you can do is learn from your experiences, good or bad. 

6.      Decide that no matter what happens, you will race again.  There is nothing more worrisome than putting all your eggs in one basket.  Decide before you start that no matter what, this isn’t your final race.  Take the pressure off by committing to a future race, even if it’s a long way off.

7.      Remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun.  It is, you know.  Win or lose, the only person you are really racing is yourself, so if you have a disappointing day, only you will really know it.  Decide to enjoy the day, even if it’s not a great one.  Every day you are racing is a gift that so many cannot do.  Be grateful for this awesome opportunity.

"Courage is not absence of fear; it is a control of fear, mastery of fear."
—Mark Twain
Perhaps we should do a race like this! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Just Plain Awesome

We only have what we give.  ~ Isabel Allende
One of the things that makes me successful in my life is that I have surrounded myself with awesome people.  Some of them are positive and enthusiastic.  Some are brilliant and knowledgeable.  Some are role models and leaders.  Some are excellent training partners.  And some simply “get me” and can talk me down from Crazy Mountain.  And then there’s that one person that is all of these and more.  For me, that one person is my friend, teammate, coach, leader, training partner, and all around awesome human, Sara Dowdy.
Last fall Sara knew I was struggling to train and asked me to do the swim on a relay at MiamiMan in November.  It was exactly the purpose I needed to get in the weight room and the pool three days a week and put me in the best swim shape I had been in since high school.  She could have chosen any of the many swimmers faster than me, but it was exactly the thing I needed, and it was a fantastic weekend with Sara and her family. 
This spring Sara organized the Trinity Team for the IOC 5K.  I was happy to join as a walker, and it was exactly the right thing for me at a time when walking was the best rehab for my knee.  There were plenty of runners, but making a place for me on that night turned out to be inspirational and exactly right.

To be fair, Sara does this all the time.  No matter what race she is training for, if someone needs her help she is there.  She opens the pool and does all the open water swims with our newcomers.  She runs with anyone that asks and will do a workout or a race with anyone, no matter the pace.  She trains with her parents, her husband, her sister, her friends, her students, and in fact, any random stranger I recruit to our team.  She has single-handedly dragged me out for so many rides, despite the fact that at best the ride will be is tough.  On a “great” day she will break me, exactly when I need it. 
This past week was typical Sara.  On Monday she rounded up folks for a run/walk for Boston.  On Tuesday she discovered she had a wicked ear infection.  By Saturday she was out in St. Petersburg helping her own kids become triathletes.  On Sunday she competed in her own Olympic length race, once again qualifying for nationals.     
I have learned more that I can ever explain from Sara, but for me the big lesson is clear.  Surround yourself with people that move you forward.  Find those folks that inspire you and attach yourself to them like barnacles to a boat.  Let them lift you as only they can do.  And when you achieve your goals, turn to the newcomer, the neighbor, the friend, the child, and do exactly the same.

There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.  ~John Holmes