Sunday, December 20, 2015

All In a Day

Ever since Facebook started the "On This Day" memory feature that shows you posts from previous years, I've realized a trend over the last few weeks.

I kind of lose my mind in December.

We saw Ira David Wood III's adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" yesterday with our close friends and their children, and I seriously found myself thinking, "You know... Scrooge is right! We all spend too much money this time of year, we are all tired, the weather gets cold, everyone is sick, kids become obsessed with materialistic junk, and ... " Dang, Heather. Chill out, dude.

After a delicious lunch today with my little family, a tear-free visit with Santa, a dairy-free iced latte, and a little shopping for this-and-that, I came home and started riffling through the mail. I still need to open all of the Christmas cards and display them (and write and mail my own). I was reading some of the mail and suddenly realized something I had written on social media last week might have come across as directed at a specific person, and I felt awful. Mortified, actually.

It's not really my style to be passive-aggressive to anyone - mostly because I think I grew tired of how it felt to be on the receiving end of passive-aggressive behavior. One of the things I try to accomplish as a teacher is to never make a child feel belittled or disrespected, because I had a few teachers who seemed to disregard students' feelings on a regular basis. I vowed to remember that and never make my own students feel that way. My mom was a big believer in the Golden Rule.

After apologizing via message to this person, I took a moment to lie on the living room floor, and my daughter took the opportunity to snuggle next to me while she watched Angelina Ballerina. My husband was at the pet store with my son, and I just stared up at the ceiling fan.

Thinking about all of my shortcomings over the last few months after allowing life to derail my regular training (and life stuff) after my last triathlon in September. Skipping workouts, forgetting to send birthday and thank-you cards, not being a present friend, yelling at my kids, losing my patience, complaining about small things, little arguments with my husband, failing at eating well, getting too wrapped up in Id and not enough compassion for the outside world.

Then came the self-sabotage: Since I have been acting like ______, I don't deserve ______.

  • I'm going to drop out of Ironman Chattanooga and do a few sprints instead.
  • I'm going to stop training with a coach since I keep messing up my workout schedules. There are other athletes out there who deserve his time more than I do.
  • I'm not going to plan anymore social things because no one will come anyway.
  • I'm going to the garden to eat worms.
I thought all the bad things, and then I sat up. And I looked down at this little person.

Tears brimmed at the corners of my eyes as I brushed her hair away from her face. My lip quivered, and thankfully a ballerina pig distracted her from noticing that I was upset. I took a deep breath and asked myself:

What do I want her to see?

I remembered this picture after my first Olympic triathlon in April:

Do I want her to "look up" to a mom who just gives up when life spirals a little bit out of control? No.

I want her to see a mom who shakes off the yuck and gets out there anyway.

I never was a fan of the alleged Marilyn Monroe quote (which I think Snopes said is not actually a MM quote): "If you can't handle me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best." Um, by all means, when I am at my worst - go the f away. Please keep your distance and allow me to be a crazy lady who cries in grocery store at olives (there's a story there, I'm not that bonafide crazy). I don't expect or even want anyone else to join me in the well of looney tunes!

But, if you don't mind coming back in a few weeks when I can get into a routine again and shake off this yuck - well, you can join me on my journey of trying to make the best out of life. One day at a time. Not necessarily all days, but most days.

Happy Holidays to my friends and family - this will be my last blog post until after the new year. Much love to everyone and may all your days be merry and bright, indeed.

Monday, December 14, 2015

No, Really

I used to pride myself on being an excellent multi-tasker. I think teachers, especially music teachers, just have to be able to balance a billion things at once. It goes along with looking at a score with 15+ different parts, actually conducting, listening to the music, remembering what needs to be fixed, checking posture, making sure the percussionists who aren't playing are not destroying the chimes, etc. I think it also satisfies my "shiny object" personality - maybe the fact I can be (and should be) easily distracted is actually useful as a music teacher?

Anyway, I think I have finally realized something about my life as a sometimes-working, mother of two, trying to be an athlete, wife, house cleaner, bill-payer, appointment scheduler, etc. My multi-tasking talent doesn't really matter, because I can only do one thing at a time.

WHAT the WHAT??!?! No, no, nonononononononono - I need to do ALL the things RIGHT NOW. ALL OF THEM.

No, Heather. No, really - that doesn't work anymore.

*insert crying emojii here*

There will be a week I cook at home and the house stays somewhat clean.
This means I will not be able to do two-a-day workouts.

There will be weeks I check off every single green training peaks box.
This means we will not eat home-cooked meals every day. And the house will be cluttered.

There will be weeks I make every appointment at the doctor, take Mads to the park.
This means I will not be social with friends.

This is going to be my life for a while. We have two children - each with their own activities, their own unique needs, personalities, messes, and laundry piles. And I am CERTAIN there are folks who just don't get it, think I am lazy and unmotivated or whatever - but I just can't care about that.We are all different beings, and I am usually a great multi-tasker, but I've realized this is as close as I can get to surviving as a parent, athlete, friend, wife, daughter, teacher, taxi cab driver, accountant.

One thing at a time, without apologizing for the things that don't happen right away - I can handle that. Perhaps someday I will be able to do all the things, no one's feelings will ever get hurt, my house will be tidy, crafts completed, workouts checked off. All in one day, every day. But until I figure out that magic trick, one thing at a time - with gratitude.

Friday, December 11, 2015

No Other Option

A friend reached out to me recently and asked if I was alright. I know I share many things via social media, and I guess my slump was hidden as well as any other emotion I have... in that it wasn't hidden at all.It's this time of year, I suppose. I have a lot of stress right now - mostly little things that have added up rather quickly. I worry often about my folks and their health, and the fact they live by themselves with really no one to help when one of them is sick. My GP said something at my annual physical about my basal cell skin cancer like, "you'll probably start having that pop up more often now." Which is weird, and kind of the opposite of what my dermatologist said - but nevertheless that sucked to hear. We have some other situations that are going on and I am stuck in an incredibly difficult, unfair and hurtful position - and there is nothing I can do about it but grit my teeth and smile. I am not very good at that.

Still, in other ways we have a lot to be thankful for - and I do try to remind myself each day to take time to be thankful for the positives in my life.

I've started planning my race season for next year, and it will look something like this:

Biltmore Half Marathon
Beaverdam Olympic Triathlon
Raleigh Ramblin' Rose
Ironman 70.3 Raleigh
several century charity bike rides
Triangle Open Water swim series
Lake Logan Olympic
Ironman Chattanooga
Gran Fondo Hincapie Medio
Raleigh City of Oaks Half Marathon

Until my doctors tell me to never go into the sun again, I am going to race at least one race a year for the rest of my life.

I will not stop until there is a cure for ALS.

I will raise funds equally for the Blazeman Foundation and ALS-TDI.

It's important - especially when facing difficult situations - to remember life is bigger than you. Other people need us to stand up and be strong, and we can do that for each other. We can do it for ourselves. We can do it for Andrea.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Passing on Seconds

I love me some social media. I enjoy writing on Facebook, I love when people share inspirational, funny stories. I empathize with others when they are hurting. It's a fast way to check in with people I often think about but don't always have the chance to call or text. A quick scroll of the newsfeed tells me that family is doing ok, or needs us to call, and so forth.

But I am a read-between-the-lines kind of person, and I can't turn it off.

The last two months have been a bit roller coaster for me. In this blog post, I discussed my basal cell skin cancer diagnosis. It's been scary, and it isn't my first brush with having a cancer (I had stage zero cervical cancer in 2005). Nor is it my first atypical skin "thing," as several moles that have been removed over the last few years have come back just that - "atypical." "Good thing we got it now, it could have turned into something like melanoma some day."

Great? Thank you? I scan over my body, skin that is covered with freckles. *gulp*

It makes me think my body just wants to get cancer. Then I do the worst of the worst and I read the internet about pH levels, and how some people have a predisposition to cancer because of their pH level - and I KNOW I have weird pH and seem to be more "salty" (which is precisely why Base salt was a lifesaver for me after I discovered it in May), and and and and...

The hypochondriac in me comes out. I don't like her.

Weight gain, being tired, being slow, feeling "weird sinus stuff" (30 Rock reference - I don't really feel weird sinus stuff, but lots of other weird things) when I exercise, heart palpitations (PVCs) - am I dying? Is this what everyone's heart feels like when they exercise? I DO NOT KNOW! WHY DID I NOT DO THIS WHEN I WAS YOUNGER DAMN IT, realizing I don't have a full range of motion in my left arm (which I suspect has always been that way, I just never did anything that required me to use it before swimming), shin pain, foot pain, hip pain, left sinus cavity always being clogged, tooth hurting that I have a crown on and I know it needs a root canal now, belly that sticks out like I am pregnant with an alien from my diastasis recti, my cesarean scar has turned into a keloid that resembles a small garden snake and...

I could go on. Which is, well, kind of insane.Worrying about my folks health. The other day I received a phone call from my brother's house, which rarely happens, and I fully expected he was going to tell me one of my parents died. So that two-minute roller coaster of calling them back while freaking out - but trying not to sound like I am freaking out because it's crazy to assume that when someone calls you, well. That was fun.

Being concerned about both of my kids and their sensory-related issues. Wondering how much I am screwing them up by being, well - me.

Wondering if taking time off teaching really was the right idea (too late for that, though). Should I have kept my career?

Friends - I experienced my first noticeable "unfriend" from someone who was actually a friend, and meh. I mean - it's all stupid, really - the social media aspect, not the actual falling out, but it starts to make you question your friendships and relationships with other people, and where you stand (alone? Shut up, Heather.)

Hating the fact my friend has ALS and that we don't have a cure yet.

Simultaneously aware that my irrational thinking (not the ALS part, that's not irrational, that just plain SUCKS) is 100% hormonal.

But it all came to a head last night when I scrolled through social media and read a tiny, passive-aggressive, quasi-hidden, mean statement by someone who is "Such A Good Person," and I just snapped.

Then I realized I was allowing someone else to control my emotions. Allowing some outside person/thing/event influence me. When I first had my basal cell diagnosis, I reminded myself that no matter what happens, it can't touch my soul - my spirit is ok.

I suppose last night I realized my spirit isn't ok right now. It's disappointed and hurt, and maybe it has been for a while. When you do your best, maybe fall short here and there, but know in your heart you are trying really hard and then BOOM. Snarky passive-aggressive junk - and it just hurts. It just plain hurts.

Hopefully there will come a day that I don't allow others to control my happiness, but it's not easy getting to that place. I suppose it's a victory that I am aware of my weakness - like my left arm - because now the work can begin.

Saturday, December 5, 2015



How many times have I said this phrase in my life, I wonder? As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than watching the light-bulb moment, and I had one of those today because of a beautifully written blog by Swim Bike Mom, "Big Picture Discipline."

In it, she describes the difference between being motivated and being disciplined. So many people will say, "I'm not motivated to exercise/eat well," etc.

Well. Truth? Nobody is ever motivated all the darn time. No one is disciplined all of the time, either.

But unmotivated people can still be disciplined.

Ah-HA! I said.


It all made perfect sense. And it places 100% of the responsibility to do or not do ON ME. (And all of this is paraphrased from her blog, please read it).

I woke up bright and early to get everything ready for my son's swim meet this morning, we drove out to it, waited and waited for his 25 yards, and then ...

The kiddo before his 8-U 25 yard freestyle

We picked up coffee on the way home. I wanted to take a nap after we got home, but instead I gave my son a shower, and moved the never-ending laundry from hamper-to-machine-to-basket-repeat. I was tired.But I knew I had two workouts today, and I also knew that I blew off two workouts this week - after a solid two weeks of green boxes.


So, I tied my shoes and ran. A pretty solid Zone 2 run, all things considered. When was I going to swim? My daughter was asleep playing in her bed when I got home from my run, so I opted to go swim right then(-ish).

Finished with the run... onto the swim

Two workouts - done. On a day that quite legitimately could have been devoted to solely spending time with my family...

We even still crafted today! Made necklaces using fine motor skills and everything.

...  and doing chores, I used the time to finish my "job." Because it is a job - I've committed to Ironman Chattanooga, and this journey is dedicated to Team Drea, ALS Research and my family and friends. It needs and deserves my attention. My coach writes me workouts - all specifically leading up to that day. Each one counts.

You will never be motivated to do all the things. But you CAN be disciplined. That's a choice, and one that leads to results. It is just plain important to do, as often as you can.

Thanks as always, Swim Bike Mom!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

NickyOD is Hiding in the Bathroom

I really, really wish I could explain the title of this post. I can't, it would just take too long. Just trust that it's relevant and it's funny. And know that I am not hiding in the bathroom today.

I went to my dermatologist this morning for my biopsy results and found out that I do have basal cell skin cancer on my lip.

Not that Basil. 

"It's the best skin cancer to have, if you're going to have skin cancer," says my dermatologist. Okee doke. I asked "is this a freaking out sort of thing? Would you tell me if it was?" I was assured - no reason to freak out. And then I did the unthinkable.

I didn't freak out.

I didn't hide in the bathroom.

It was a little over ten years ago that my doctor told me I had the beginning stages of cervical cancer. And... I did freak out. I cried. I was devastated. I was ill. I cried before and after each and every appointment before the procedure, each follow-up, and it took years before I didn't freak out before every gyne-oncologist appointment. It was exhausting.

Today? I said, ok. I called Derek on my way home and he said, "Oh my GOD, I am so sorry, honey, oh my God." Even after I explained it wasn't invasive in the way melanoma is, he was very sad for me. It was in that moment I realized how much I have changed. 

I knew A.) I didn't have a choice about skin cancer. B.) I can't do a single thing about any diagnosis. C.) I COULD choose how I react. And I had the choice to be sad and devastated, to needlessly worry, or just keep on going and be positive.

And I owe that 100% to Andrea, Jon Blais and to triathlon - all of the stories of perseverance. People who show that TRULY devastating diagnoses - much more serious than basal cell skin cancer - don't have to control how you feel. They might control your body, they might limit your physical options - but your soul is yours. 

And no one can touch that.

My soul wants to be happy. It wants to be positive. It wants to appreciate each delicate moment of life. It's not fantasy land - it's a choice to keep my chin up.

   Thank you, Andrea. <3

No bathroom hiding. I'll save that for when the kids are having a meltdown. ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Because Reasons

I've been a life-long excuse maker. Just ask my Dad - I can remember being a child and hearing him say, "YOU have an excuse for EVERYthing!" It's true. For a left-leaning liberal who likes to focus on "the feelings" in most situations, I equally relish the closure of finding concrete answers. Especially when I am feeling insecure, and there has certainly been a lot of that over the years.

If you were to ask my coach right now about my Training Peaks (an on-line schedule/calendar program that athletes use to manage workouts and data - it's how I see my detailed training plans for the week, and it's also how I "show" my coach what I did by uploading the data from my Garmin watch), he would have two words: "red boxes." Missed workouts. Workouts cut short. It's been the only constant since September, red box after red box. Not good.

Am I lazy? Without hesitation, yes. Some people don't like to sit still, I would love to sit still for a day and drink coffee, watch football, have a few beers, lazily on-line shop, play with the kids, talk to my husband for a few hours about politics, play poker... I could easily sit on my butt. All day. Of course, I also enjoy workouts. I like seeing GREEN training peaks boxes. I like hearing my coach say he's proud of the work I've put in that week. I like seeing improvement in the way I feel when I workout, faster swim times. I would ride my bike all day long, up steep hills, across flat land, fly down mountains, my bike is my favorite.

So, what has happened since September? Reasons.

  • My son started kindergarten and has daily homework. And... "adjustment" issues.
  • Carline - I spend over an hour driving to/sitting in/driving from each day.
  • My son joined a year-round swim team that practices three times a week.
  • My daughter takes swim lessons once a week.
  • We took a six-day trip to San Diego for our friends' wedding.
  • Then I went to Beach 2 Battleship with friends, volunteered a bit, sherpa'd a bit.
  • Immediately subbed for two days after returning.
  • My daughter was in preschool, forty minutes away from my son's school. I didn't have enough time to workout before or during. She has naptime, then carline.
  • Has it stopped raining?
  • My daughter is no longer in preschool, but hasn't slept well the last month and I don't like putting her in the gym's kid center when she's exceptionally cranky.
  • My son has been sick off and on for a month.
  • I have been sick off and on for a month.
  • I have probable squamous cell skin cancer on my lip (biopsy results/treatment plan pending). I assure you that I am trying not to freak out about it, but it's draining a bit of my energy trying not to.
  • Weekend social plans (kids' parties, dinners with friends, etc.).
  • Trying to put the house back in order after neglecting it since April: cleaning, organizing, purging.
  • Both children have had problems sleeping since the time change, and hadn't been sleeping well since... before birth?
  • Our cats are assholes at night and wake me up at 3AM playing with *insert loud sounding thing*.
  • Intermittent growth spurts with the kids = no one sleeps.
  • Dentist appointments.
  • OT evaluation.
  • Doctors appointments.
  • Actually socializing with friends, but feeling like I ultimately neglect friendships.
  • Feeling the same way about my parents, siblings, etc.
  • Hosted a virtual party for my Rodan + Fields business.
  • Trying to make sure your husband knows you love and appreciate him as a husband and human being, but failing miserably because you feel like you barely see each other and when you finally have a date together you feel sick and exhausted.
And when one adult gets sick in our house, it takes a solid two days to recover from the piled up dishes, mail, etc.

Just the usual stuff. And of course, when you are balancing all the usual things, a kid's scraped knee can wreck your entire schedule (which seems insane, but I assure you, it's true). Life. Or my own scraped knee.

Or scraped calf muscle ;-) Which is finally getting better.

And please know - as you read this and as I typed it - I am well aware it's a very lucky life with nothing particularly awful. I do realize that, believe me. But it's a lot of little, mostly-happy stuff and it quickly takes up my entire day leaving me to wonder... when am I going to exercise?

Yesterday I was supposed to run an hour. Because "reasons," I have been running twice in the last two weeks, I think. But, yesterday I didn't go in the morning because Alex had an early swim practice. I didn't go in the afternoon because we had to return clothing at the mall and we had lunch. I didn't go after that because I wanted to watch the Ironman World Championship. And you can certainly be assured that watching that kicked my butt out the door.

Shoes laced up, water bottle in hand, I started running on the Neuse trail.

Hmm, this is most definitely not a Zone 2 pace.
The sun is really going down fast.
It's cold.
I wonder what the kids are doing now. I kind of wish we had all come.
*Beep* Mile one complete

Ok, let's focus on form. My hands are getting too high. Elbows too far away from the body. Fix that, Heather.
I will not look at my watch. I will not look at my watch. I will not look at my watch.
I looked.


*Beep* Mile two complete

Ok - that's probably close enough and it's getting really dark, I should just turn around now.
Just gonna walk for a minute here.
That was more than a minute.
What was that crunching? WHAT WAS THAT CRUNCHING IN THE WOODS.
Things are starting to feel tired. Lactic acid - there you are. I forgot about you. *scowl*

And then the tears started. The guilt kicked in, the guilt for everything. For not exercising consistently. For signing up for a full, knowing how difficult the next year is going to be for my family. For not feeling thankful and grateful for my ability to run, to train and the physical ability I DO have that CAN carry me on an Ironman journey.

The realization that when you start thinking ANYthing negative on a run, a bike ride - or especially during a long course triathlon - you are done. You might as well quit right then and there, because you just wrote your own destiny. However, if you think, "I can do this. I will do this," well - the possibilities are endless.

I thought about Andrea's journey. Jon Blais. People who tell you, over and over again, when you are handed a death sentence - it's your choice. Their choice is do as much as possible to fund research to CURE ALS. No wallowing.

No listing out the little things that make life hard (the things that make life... life).

You find a way. Somehow, some way - each day, you find a way.

I can't promise you that I am going to have green training peaks boxes every day on my way to Ironman Chattanooga. But I need to find a way. For me, for my kids, for my husband, for Andrea and for Jon - and to show anyone who glances this way that you find a way. No matter what.

Because life.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

When Can I Tell Them?

My 5-year-old son selected his outfit on November 10. Camouflage pants and shirt - they didn't match, but he was proud of his choice and insisted on wearing it. Who am I to argue on the Marines birthday and the day before Veteran's Day? I told him he could tell his teachers that's why he chose his outfit.

"When can I tell them that, Mommy?"

I said, "Well, just mention it really quick when you come into the classroom."

His eyes left mine and he stared out the window and said in a trailing-off voice, "they don't really like you to talk to them when we are coming in."

I knew he wasn't kidding. As a trying-to-not-be narcissist, I allow myself a little bit of self-indulgence by making sweeping generalizations about people in a single second. Kind of like that show "Psych." I notice a small detail about a person or a situation and then I pretend that has given me enough information to have it all figured out. (Hey, I'm honest about my neuroses.)

When I volunteered in my son's classroom a few weeks ago, I observed him trying to tell his teacher something. She was rushed because there was a lot to do, and I could tell she wasn't in the mood for my son. Sometimes I am not in the mood for my son - like bedtime, when he stalls and wants to tell me a billion things that have nothing to do with anything whatsoever. I could understand why she wasn't in the mood to hear his babble about the Letterland Costumes. She wasn't subtle though, and she asked him, "what? what are you talking about? what?" and then did that quick shake-of-the-head thing we do when someone asks us an annoying question.

It happened so quickly - way faster than it took me to write it and for you to read it. But I filed it away, and that memory came back up almost immediately when my son asked, "when can I tell them?"

My son has had multiple assessments in Kindergarten. For at least two weeks before the end of the first quarter, the teacher did nothing but assessments with the children. It took her about ten minutes to explain ONE of the assessments to me, and she administered this to 24 children. She wasn't going on the playground with them at recess, she was doing assessments and entering the data. Constantly.

Sorry, but that's not why people become Early Childhood teachers. That's not why anyone becomes a teacher, and it sure as hell is not teaching children how to read, learn about science, math or any other topic.

But, your "earn your own paycheck/unions are bad" politicians felt that teachers were at fault for the downfall of the American education system (which - funnily enough - started the same time we took away physical education and recess). Teachers need to PROVE they are doing their job. Schools are a business, say politicians. Students are the product. The product is defective if it isn't passing tests. Pay the teachers more when the products start passing tests.

They take away recess and physical education to have more time for testing.

They take away tenure and incentive pay for highly qualified teachers.

And then they wonder why test scores aren't improving and why no one wants to be a teacher. But one thing keeps going up - the number of kids who can't sit still all day long. Or wait - maybe that's always been the case with children, we just weren't asking them to sit still all day long.

Before my son started Kindergarten, I swore up and down he would never go to a private school. I believe in public education. I believe in the teachers. I so believe it can work, because it has worked. But it's not working now. Not a drop. And it's not because of the new Common Core approach. It's not because of text books v. virtual learning environments.

It's because politicians and school boards pretend they "know" education.

Nearly every day, my son comes home with a "2" on his behavior chart. This is the public shaming tactic used by many educators to encourage positive behavior with children throughout the day. If they earn "3's" all week, they can choose a "Treasure Box" item on Friday.

Reasons my son has a "2": patting his belly with his shirt lifted up. Being playful with glue stick. Being silly in the hallway with another student. Not being on task. Shushing the classroom.

Nearly every day he comes home, at the age of 5, being told he is "not worthy" of a Dollar Tree toy because he was "silly". And each child in his class knows this about him as well. He knows which kids also receive "2's" or "1's". (Not that I ask him about it, this is just to point out the nature of the public shaming).

And in turn, I question my own parenting each and every day. Am I not being hard enough on him? What am I doing wrong? What have I been doing wrong? Does he need therapy of some sort? What are we doing WRONG?

My son rushes through assignments, such as "18." Circle the number 18 in box 2. Color in 18 boxes. Write 18 ten times. He has known the number 18 since he was two. He can read, he can write. He's bored. And I don't know how to help him not be a problem when he is bored at school, nor do I know how to encourage him to do something better with his time when they're going over a topic he has known for several years - because I am not there. I am at a loss. What am I supposed to tell my 5-year-old? I really want to know, because all he is learning right now is how to be a distraction to others, how to get into trouble and what it feels like when your teachers don't like you.

Because I KNOW they do not enjoy my child. I wouldn't enjoy my child! I don't enjoy him when he is bored. I am sure it's a real pain in the butt to try to teach 24 children the number 18 and have this one kid bouncing up and down in his seat distracting other children because he already knows the number. Because he needs to move around and it's 11:45AM, he's been at school for three hours and has not had lunch or recess yet. And he's five.

The truth is we cannot afford the private schools I would like him to attend unless I start working again. I do not want my daughter to attend group daycare, and we certainly cannot afford a nanny AND private school. So, in the meantime -

I guess I try to tell my kid he's really not that bad. But don't "be silly" at school. (And he does need to learn this, I KNOW that.)

I tell him I love him and I am interested in his camouflage shirt story.

I tell him it's pretty awesome he already understands 18, and then we move on to how cool 145 is. But please don't act silly when you learn it again in school.

Or maybe I just let him explore and run around in the front yard, just because. Not to train for a triathlon, not to fulfill the daily dose of "gross motor sensory integration" - but just to be five years old. Or is that going to make him even less prepared to sit still all day long?

I don't know anymore.

Also - I don't mean to be ungrateful for all the wonderful things our children DO have in their lives. The wonderful things our public teachers do every day. I say again and again - it's the system, not the teachers. And it's a system that is telling my child he isn't a good child. Every day. And that - well, that hurts. It eventually hurts us all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Just One of Those Days

One of my first jazz albums was Branford Marsalis' "Renaissance" album. It features a cover of "Just One of Those Things". A high school friend and I really enjoyed the recording and would quote back bits of Branford's solo to each other. (Yeah. That's a music nerd thing.)

You can listen to that song here:

It's a Cole Porter tune - a jazz cover of a classic tune, like so many others, and part of the lyrics goes something like this:

It was just one of those things
Just one of those crazy flings
One of those bells that now and then rings
It was one of those things

Anyway today - was just one of those days. After joining Team Drea, I've really tried to focus on the positives in my life. Doesn't mean that you blatantly ignore the negative stuff, but you place your ENERGY into being POSITIVE. Please know I do appreciate the positive, but today... just one of those days.

About a year ago, I noticed a tiny dot right above my lip that would randomly bleed. I regularly see a dermatologist and mentioned the spot to her at my appointment a few months later. She opted to freeze it, but... unfortunately it came back. Tried freezing again, with the agreement that a third visit would warrant a biopsy. Today was that biopsy.

While I didn't have a "traditional" birth with either of my children, I have been through most of the birthing process. I've experienced racing for nearly eight hours. Crown placement on a tooth root that was no longer numb. You get it - I can hang with pain.

Nothing compares to the agony I experienced today when the dermatologist injected numbing solution into my upper lip. It was like trying to pull out a single nose hair, but on your upper lip, and then you say, "nah - slow, methodical and deliberate removal with a razor blade would be a much better choice to rid the lip of said hair." Good times.

I feel like this picture says it all. The kids' toothpaste spit on the mirror, my expression, crazy hair - that's kind of what the day was all about.

I mean, yesterday I bent under the car to retrieve a dropped toy and initially suspected that I tore my calf muscle after I bang-scraped my leg into the edge of the van door while I tried to stand up. (Forgive the line marks from the couch.)
It's a weird camera angle, but this bruise is basically half of my calf.
Still - that pain, and the genuine curiosity if I had ripped my calf, doesn't compare to the lip stab ouch.

Anyway. Dermatologist strongly suspects a "not melanoma" cause for the lip area - a sun-exposure related form of skin cancer, like basal cell. I will find out soon enough what it is, and how we will proceed.

May I point out now, that for the first time in my life I did not read every internet detail about melanoma? I didn't google a single thing. Why? I just don't want the drama until it's time to face it. Folks - if that isn't life-progress, I don't know what is.

Then later today, I found out Alex has a cavity - a very small one, but unfortunately in between his molars. So, they will most likely compromise the integrity of the tooth while drilling out the cavity and have to cover it with a cap. A silver cap, because they don't make tooth-colored ones. Sigh. I don't like this for him - we floss his teeth each night. Brush them twice a day. The sweetest thing he ever drinks is a juice now and then when we dine out. Bleh! I just hate for him to have to go through something painful, and potentially embarrassing. I feel like I have done something wrong as a parent, not to mention I handed down crappy genes.

Ok. I could go on and on about the meh, but I will say that I did take a lot of time today to enjoy things. Like an awesome birthday party for a super sweet girl. The fact that even though my husband and I aren't in a perfect place right now, I cannot begin to imagine life with anyone other than him, because no one else could make my soul as happy. That I have wonderful friends, an awesome triathlon coach, and an amazing triathlon/running community. Being a music teacher. My beautiful kids, wonderful parents and family - my family, the center of my soul.

I'll take my bum lip. Cavity-infested children. Less-than-perfect marriage. Less-than-perfect everything else, and I will happily make do. It's just one of those things. Ya don't shut down shop for just one of those things.

Adjust, Adapt ... Overcome?

My five-year-old started kindergarten this year. When we made the decision for me to stop working full-time when he was six-months-old, my biggest concern was his social development in a school-like setting. As a teacher, I knew it was "a good thing" if kids could knock out as much social anxiety as possible before starting kindergarten. So when he turned two we enrolled him at our church's AM preschool program. He did pretty well in his 2-, 3- and 4-year-old classes.

If you don't already know, we live in North Carolina. It's not a great state to be a teacher. They've removed tenure, they have taken away extra pay for having extra credentials (masters degree, national board certification, etc.). You know - the things teachers spent thousands of dollars of their own money to not only improve their measly salary, but to have additional tools to offer students a higher quality education. And so the trickle down goes...

Our county is terribly overcrowded. There are not enough schools for students. The permanent solution to this, rather than build more schools is to offer "track" schedules. Children attend these year-round schools on one of four schedules. This makes teaching subjects like band and chorus a nightmare - concerts often happen when a track is "tracked out." There are a handful of traditional calendar schools, and I opted for Alex to enroll in one of those because he takes a while to get into a routine. I thought the least amount of disruption would be better for him.

He has mild/moderate Sensory Processing Disorder. This is a fairly new thing - SPD. Well, it was first identified and labeled in the early 1970's, but many folks think the symptoms fall into the "suck it up" or "spank it out" categories. But to thousands and thousands of people - learning more about SPD has changed their life, especially as they learn coping strategies.

Truth? I once thought it was BS. I just labeled some kids as naughty and disrespectful that was that. (some kids are, plain and simple. But I now realize many of them probably also had SPD). I am completely ashamed and embarrassed that I once felt that way. I hope I still taught those students fairly over the years - that was always extremely important to me, to be fair.

Having a child with SPD was a game changer. Maybe some day I will write about the process of my child's diagnosis. But know it was a lot of research, a LOT of research, a lot of recollection ("THIS is what those EC teachers were talking about") and frustration until I finally found an amazing OT who taught us so much and helped our child immensely. I am eternally grateful for that woman.

If you ever know anything about SPD, I want you to know this:

Kids with SPD know they're different. And so do other kids.

Can I say that again?


Adults might not think he seems different, and kids older/younger might not either. But their peers know it, and more importantly THE KIDS WITH SPD KNOW IT. I do have to say - some adults know. There is a particular type of person that is downright nasty to my child. I've seen it. The owner of Lumpy's ice cream comes to mind. Alex wasn't wrecking the guy's store. He just wanted to talk about how ice cream was made, the building, etc. Alex was only two, and I could see it - but Alex couldn't. I guided him away and said "I think he's busy, buddy" and led him away. Situations like that have occurred a handful of times over the last two years. Alex doesn't see he is bothering people though, and it's hard - as his mother - to know that someday he is going to get punched in the face (or worse) for being annoying. Because I know that's not what he is trying to do, and he doesn't realize it, either. He's just talking, or - usually - just trying to feel like a normal person.

And more than anything, SPD-ers don't want to be different. Not at that age. It's basic biology. What happens to the animal who sticks out in a herd? Ka-pow. We instinctively know this when we are young, but we learn to think otherwise as our ability to reason and general knowledge improves with age.

His first parent teacher conference was last night. The teacher told me repeatedly how bright he is, one of the best readers, understands complicated math, etc., doesn't like writing (his fine motor stinks, very common SPD trait, so of course he hates holding a pencil. Legos - he love, though. Go figure.). But he has problems sitting still and getting into other children's space while working at tables. His "work ethic" is sloppy. Thus, he isn't a "good citizen."

His "work ethic" was fantastic when he was being pulled out of class to do AG activities, but they don't do those around assessment times. So, the last few weeks haven't been great behavior-wise. He's been bored. He has had several incidents with the assistant in his classroom, one where she said, "it's a good thing your mom is taking you out of school" when he was being silly with some other boys before lunch. He didn't eat his lunch that day. I would probably lose my appetite, too, if an adult said that to me.

I asked his teacher for work before we left for our trip out of town two weeks ago (which is a lot of work for teachers to do, I know this and mentioned it along with my thanks in the letter). I was surprised when he didn't have any work, and when they also didn't collect the homework assignment we did on the trip. But I was plain old upset when I arrived to his conference last night and saw this outside his classroom.

He attended this field trip and could have easily completed this project. Instead, his space outside his classroom has just been empty.

And that pretty much summarizes all of it. Why all the memes about "helicopter parenting" irritate me. My child has a REAL disorder. He also happens to be extremely bright. EXCUSE ME FOR INVESTING TIME INTO MAKING SURE HE GETS THE BEST SHOT POSSIBLE AT THIS THING CALLED LIFE. That he learn coping skills. That he is challenged. Flipping excuse me, you meme-sharers who try to shame folks who give a rat's behind about social programs and public education. Shame on you.

All any parent SHOULD want is for their child to have the best opportunity possible. Whether that is access to education, or even those with cancer wanting to survive another day, hoping for a better white blood cell count. We want the best OPPORTUNITY for our children.

I am not ashamed for wanting this for my children, and for all the children in this country and world. Opportunity.

Please note that I have all of the respect for his classroom teacher. She does recognize my child's needs - AG and otherwise. She has experience and always takes the time to communicate with me. I appreciate her very much. The constant assessments are the culprit. And maybe I am also displeased with an adult who says things like "good thing your mom is taking you out of school."

Monday, November 2, 2015

City of Oaks, Part One

Part One
"The Old Reliable 10K: Race Report"

I am going to write two blogs about the City of Oaks weekend and Team Drea - this first one will be solely about running in the race, and the next blog will discuss the experience of the weekend, Andrea and Team Drea.

Earlier this summer, I was considering signing up for the Richmond Marathon. I had already completed Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, but I knew I had Ironman 70.3 Steelhead waiting for me in August, and I really wanted to have a solid race. My coach didn't seem to mind one way or the other, but ultimately I decided training for a full marathon might interfere with my ability to really buckle down at Steelhead (for me, for my ability level, especially considering I have never run more than 13.1 miles at all) and a few other training/recovery concerns as well.

When Andrea mentioned City of Oaks, I wanted to be a part of it in some way, and ultimately it worked out that my husband and I both registered for the 10K. It's the only distance you are allowed to have jogging strollers. This is a really nice aspect of the City of Oaks - the option to relay the half marathon and the full marathon, run the half or full as individuals, and the "Old Reliable 10K" - which is a great distance after you feel comfortable with 5K's, doesn't require hours of training nor will you really hurt the next day (unless you pushed 90 pounds of kid up hills. :-) Thanks, honey!).

Thanks to daylight savings, we had an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. This is the awesome aspect to running races. Transition area doesn't close. You don't have bags of equipment, you don't have to pump your tires - you just show up and run! Of course, this strange routine for me meant I didn't have the chance to, uh, take care of "other" morning routines before we started running.

We literally arrived at the start/finish line less than five minutes before the race began! We made our way to the back of the line where we met with the rest of Team Drea. Wished everyone luck and we were off! It took several minutes to get to the actual start line, and we tried to keep up with Andrea for a bit, but she is pretty speedy, so we eventually found our pace and stayed there. I was pushing the kids to start, and glanced down at my watch after the first mile to see a 10:30 pace, which is a little fast for me on a long distance. My pace was easily adjusted by handing off the stroller, right before the first hill. ;-) There is so much adrenaline on race day, and it's important to not get carried away too early on. You will find yourself running out of gas - I did NOT want that to happen today. I am slowly learning these things!

The neat thing about starting in the back meant you could see this OCEAN of runners going up the first hill. I get choked up about things like this, because I know each and every single person has invested hours and hours of hard work. Many of them are doing something they never dreamed possible. I don't think even the greatest writer can accurately articulate how awesome it is to be a part of that.

The first aid station was at the end of mile 2, and I briefly considered using the portajon because, well, I needed it. I took a sip of water, glanced at the line for the potties and decided, nah - I'll just use the next one if I need it. Well, as soon as we finished the next mile, I knew there was no way I could make it to the end of the race without stopping!

I have to say - Derek and I were both doing really well the first three miles. We had a nice and easy 11:15 pace or so, the kids were completely pacified by their Leap Pads, I took a few Quick Discs and some Base Salt, weather was perfect. But, uh... PORTA-POTTY WHERE ARE YOU?!??!

We finally came to mile four, and the line for the portapotty (there were two) was about seven people deep. This wasn't optional at this moment, though. I sent Derek walking and I waited, waited and waited. Looking at my chip time v. my watch time - it was a five-minute break! Took care of things and ran to catch up with Derek, who was about a half mile ahead of me at that point.

We ran the rest of the way to the finish line. My legs were starting to feel pretty heavy at this point. I was using BRAND new shoes, which I would normally never do for a race - but they seem to be a great choice so far. I am a Brooks Running person, have been wearing their Adrenalines for quite some time, but tried out the Glycerines and really like the way they feel. So, going to give them a shot during the off season and see how they hold up, along with my running form. Before we knew it, we turned onto the last street. Clark is a pretty big hill, but we ran up together, and I grabbed Derek's hand as we ran down the chute. I was ecstatically proud of my husband and happy for his accomplishment, as he had never ran more than five miles in his life - and certainly not while pushing a double stroller!

While the 10K
was not a PR for me (neither the race chip time nor my "moving" time) - it was a wonderful experience. Starting with Team Drea, running as a family, to be able to run *at all*, and to run with only two short walk breaks - I felt very strong, and very thankful.

Official Race Time: 1:16:00, 694/921 OA, 367/540 F, / AG (age group results forthcoming)

My watch race time: 1:11:07

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dramatic Theatre, 101

“When a person shows you who they really are, believe them.”
                                      -Maya Angelou

The Velociraptor of Irony (thank you to Jennifer Stewart for this term) comes to eat me from time to time. I admit it 100%. I am not perfect. I know sometimes I write things that come across (and are?) very sanctimonious, but really I am just a person with strong beliefs, strong convictions, and a desire to try to make the world a little bit better for friends and strangers alike.

I was thinking about my blog to do with "Queen Bees." I had a major a-HA moment about a week ago. I was discussing Queen Bees with my mom, and rather than call them Queen Bees, she referred to them as manipulators. I usually associate manipulators with jealous spouses, domestic violence - that sort of thing. I had never considered that a Queen Bee was anything but a strong, fun personality (and they usually are), but they become that way through very calculated manipulation.


Then I read this article. I was floored. (all italics are referring to this)

"No matter what happens, with many twists and turns, this emotional manipulator becomes the victim."

Although the constant victims instigate tension and fights, they manipulate the situation so that they can be perceived as the victim. After their partners or others are engaged in emotional battles with the constant victim, the constant victim seeks sympathy from others involved and turns people against each other in order to gain control and power."

They create alliances (usually with themselves in charge) and attack others who might stand in their way. At first they are friendly with their victims and use compliments and ego blustering techniques in order to facilitate a bond between themselves and their victims."

Queen Bees are not just the popular ones - they're incredibly talented manipulators.

And here is where the Velociraptor of Irony eats me.

I hate it because I used to be that way - Hard. Core.

When I was a teenager and during college, I thrived on manipulation. I was totally unaware that I was doing it, though. I had no idea. But others did. I burned some bridges with a few friends and a boyfriend. I was drawn to drama, drawn to other manipulators, and I don't exactly know when I started to stop - I think I slowly started to mature out of it around the time my husband and I were dating, and it's pretty much gone (I think I can safely say that) now. And other than everyday neuroses, I am in a pretty healthy mental state these days.

Having children certainly drove it out of me - I do not want a single ounce of drama in my life, because I deal with it all day long. Hell - pouring a cup of milk into the wrong glass can instigate a meltdown on any given day, so the last thing I want to deal with is an adult trying to suck me into a web of whine.

But as a teenager, I struggled with depression and self-esteem. Chicken/egg - was it because I was manipulating, or was that a side effect? I really don't know. But I do know that manipulators are hurting, substantially.

The Velociraptor of Irony eats me again.

Wait - so the bleeding heart-er who seems to excuse criminals for every reason under the sun can't forgive a manipulator? How does that work, exactly?

I don't know. Self-preservation? My cup is just full. "I just can't" - Madeleine Scott. And it isn't that I couldn't forgive one - they don't ask for forgiveness. They don't think they need to because they've won. They're the victim, remember? And maybe they are, but not the way they think they are.

So, anyway. I really don't think Queen Bees intend to be mean, they're just manipulators. And I don't think they mean to be manipulators, they're just hurting somewhere and stuck in a cycle of not-great mental health.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Slice of Humble Pie

A little over a year ago, I did a nice 50-mile ride with my friend Rob on our San Diego vacation. We did two Cat 3 climbs and I really enjoyed it - started out very overcast and cleared up as we made our descent to Fiesta Island for a lap where the sport of triathlon was born.

This year, things were very different. It's unseasonably hot - high 90's, relentless sun, and very dry. Our plan - lots of climbing, including one of San Diego's more challenging climbs called "The Purple Monster."

Naturally, I slept horribly Thursday night after our long day of travel, and - in hindsight - not enough to eat or drink. 

Rob and I met at our hotel around 8:00AM, and as we climbed Nimitz Boulevard to leave Point Loma, I could tell it was going to be a sufferfest for me. Not that the climb was hard, but the heat and dry air were already making my sinuses hate me.

Part of the ride goes through Mission Valley, and that's when I realized the bike was not shifting well. Everything was Ultegra components and should shift instantly. It wasn't. Frown face. While I was thankful I was only having difficulty shifting into harder gears (Lawd knows I'm gonna need the easy ones!), it was really aggravating and annoying to not have the bike respond. 

We stopped for water early on because we were going through it fairly quickly. Plus, next up was Mission Gorge - and I knew what was coming. We refilled waters and I ate a handful of sunflower seeds in addition to the waffle I had eaten  a bit earlier. Then it was time to climb.

I noticed right away everything was harder than it was last year. Now, I haven't been riding as often as I was a year ago (I was doing 60+ mile rides every weekend in preparation for Beach 2 Battleship full as the relay rider), but come on! I was very frustrated at how difficult the climb felt. I was in the easiest gear, but pedaling so slowly. What the heck?

Finally we reached the entrance to the Mission Gorge Trails, where we cut through to avoid the rest of Mission Gorge. It was a lovely descent and easy climb through beautiful mountain and desert scenery. We could even see hikers at the top of one of the mountains. Next up: CA-52.

This climb is a little longer than Mission Gorge, and you can see it all coming.  That's pretty intimidating. I glanced down at my watch a lot because I was frustrated with my performance again. 7mph. The sun was just brutal. My stomach starting cramping up, weird cramps like someone was squeezing my intestines. I kept grinding up the long climb and finally reached the top, where Rob had waited for me. I took a second to take some salt, drink and shove a bit of a waffle in my mouth.

I didn't have a good feeling as we descended and started to make our way toward Scripps Ranch. Plus the shifters were acting up and I really needed them for this section. Wasn't helping my mental state.

We made a pit stop where I was able to get ice water and try to get my stomach settled. I bought a sweetened green tea, thinking I needed sugar - a few swigs down, that was NOT what I needed. Finally, after a few minutes, AND after seeing this "sign" (note the price)

I knew I needed to keep going. 

Riding through Scripps Ranch was nice, I forgot how many trees are in that area. I started to feel a bit better until we started the climb to Scripps Poway Parkway on Pomerado Rd. My heart rate was getting pretty high. I was nauseous. I started thinking, I think I can do this. I can climb it. Rob had assured me his fiancĂ© (now wife!!) could pick us up along the way if it became too much. We made a right turn onto Scripps Poway Parkway and ... boom. 

The bonk. I could barely pedal anymore. I told Rob I was done and we climbed up a bit to a shopping plaza to sit and wait. Well, I sort of climbed. I could smell the tires on the bike, it was so hot. My butt was on fire - not the sitz bones, but the butt cheek where the sun was hitting it. I got off the bike twice and walked. Decided walking felt more awful than riding and got back on. I did this two times before finally riding the rest of the way.

Donna, Rob's wife, graciously picked us up and we dropped her off for her salon appointment, then Rob took me to the bike shop where I mentioned the rear dĂ©railleur needed to be adjusted. As they removed my saddle and pedals, I noticed the cassette for the first time. 

The set-up on the bike was more of a racing configuration and not great (for a person like me) to attempt mountain climbs (as opposed to rollers back home). My personal bike has a compact crank and generous cassette - great for climbing. The bike I rented last year was a Giant that has the same configuration as my bike.

Well. That explained some things!

It was really nice to spend time with Rob and to ride, but the weather was brutal. Relentless. If I rode that configuration and in that weather on a regular basis, I have a feeling I would either quickly become a MUCH stronger athlete or drop dead immediately. 

Anyway - here's a comparison.

2300 feet of climbing at the Raleigh IM70.3 course. Where I averaged 15.8mph, never stopped and then ran(ish) a half marathon after it.

And 2300 feet of climbing over 40 miles in San Diego, where I averaged 13.4 mph and walked up parts of the last hill. And did not run anywhere, at all, after!

I don't really have super confidence about my abilities. I am not cocky. But this ride also handed me a slap of reality that the following is important:

1.) Adequate sleep
2.) Hydrating properly the days prior to a ride
3.) Fueling properly the day before a difficult ride
4.) Figuring out nutrition and sticking to the plan. No. Matter. What.
5.) Understanding that going from a bike with a compact crank and climbing cassette (that you have been riding in an aero posiition) to a road bike configuration with a larger crank and smaller cassette is going to take some adjusting. Maybe not even rent that bike - but find one that has a configuration you're used to, so you can enjoy the ride.

Last - I WILL get you some day, Purple Monster.
     This is a screen capture of the QOM's attack on a segment of the Purple Monster - note the grade during the highlighted part!

You may have won Friday, Southern California - but I WILL have the last word. Not the last laugh - because I have nothing but respect for these hills and the people who climb them.

Monday, September 21, 2015

FS Series Rex Wellness Sprint Race Report

Almost two years ago, I participated in my very first triathlon. It was sort of a whim. I started running in April of 2013, then we purchased a bike in September. As much as I loved it, I wasn't comfortable at all - and started googling saddle discomfort which led me to Swim Bike Mom. After I digested the tips for saddle comfort, I thought - hmm. A triathlon, eh? Always wanted to do one of those. I remembered wanting to do one in high school - mostly because I loved riding my bike. My brother - in the throes of a "big brother sarcasm" moment - said, "those are for people who actually work out! They're not just something you do." Always gotta prove big brother wrong. ;-)

Well. Maybe I will try one "next year." (I am a Cubs fan. That's what we say.) Better start training, though. Someone on a Facebook forum referred me to a local triathlon that had a very easy pool swim. "You can do it now." And that's how I found my very first triathlon in 2013.

     After the FS Series Rex Wellness Knightdale 2013 finish.

I actually did alright for a first-timer. I was proud of every effort and ... I was hooked.

     My results from 2013.

Fast forward to yesterday, where I was excited to race along with my husband and several friends (who all received their "Three-Peat" medals for having completed all three sprint triathlons in the series).

Race Morning:

It's just not easy getting kids and two grown-up racers ready at 5AM. I woke up early and did my little routine. I still had my usual breakfast - oats and peanut butter with a cup of green tea. It's just my thing.

My friend Melissa and her daughter Katherine agreed to watch the kids while we raced, we were so thankful!! Shortly before I warmed up (ran a few strides), I ate a Honey Stinger waffle. Sipped water and headed to the pool.

My other friend Melissa was on the same rack and we briefly chatted before the swim. I also talked to my friend Alan about the mental games of triathlon. It's strangely comforting to know most triathletes feel the same way toward the end of a long season.

Swim: 250 yards, 00:06:03, 2:25min/100yd

While I was standing in line for the swim I started to space off. I was just staring at swimmers and the water, all I could think about was how I wish I had been swimming more often. I had a secret goal - I wanted to podium. Last year I finished in fourth place in my age group, I had even been in third for a bit before the 1st place 40-44AG finisher was bumped out of overall.

I felt confident if I swam strong, and never walked, I had a chance.

But something wasn't right in my head. If my coach had been there and could read my thoughts, he would have smacked me across the head - hard. "Worry about one thing, Heather. How your hands enter the water!"

When it was my turn to go, I had a nice long streamline and started steady, even strokes. Right before I touched the first wall, I felt someone touch my toes. Seriously?? I thought. Was I swimming THAT slowly?

This guy said something weird to me but didn't try to pass me at the wall (I paused for him), so rather than ask him "whuuuut????" I just took a breath and pushed off under the lane divider and kept swimming. I was really happy with all of my streamline push offs going under the dividers. Anyway, Michael Phelps passed me nearly immediately after our staring contest.

I only had one other person on my toes, but he declined to pass me when I offered. Derek saw the Michael Phelps guy and told me he passed several people after me, so I don't feel too badly. Clearly he didn't seed himself correctly.

I didn't swim well, I just didn't. It happens. That's all I have to say about it. When I saw 5:48 on my watch as I exited the pool, I muttered an f-bomb under my breath and just ran to my bike. Gotta keep going, ya know?

Bike: 12.5 miles, 00:42:42, 17.6 mph

This is a challenging little course. There is one substantial hill at the beginning, and a few other steady grades. My coach had given me one goal for the bike course: don't you dare stop pedaling. 

I was passed by one person, and that was it. She is a strong triathlete and does these races as a relay rider with her husband and son (an amazing high-functioning autistic child. She has organized several large fundraisers and golf outings over the years for autism awareness and research). I didn't mind getting passed by her!

I didn't stop pedaling. I pushed hard up every hill, shifted into big gears going down and pushed as hard as I could. I don't have a power meter, but when I felt myself letting up, I kicked it back up. I used a slightly easier gear the last block or so to the transition area, so I could spin faster and prepare my legs to run.

Nutrition on the bike: 3/4 bottle of water and three Quic Discs.

Run: 2 miles, 00:21:39, 10:49 min/mi

Coach had one goal - negative split the run. Sounds easy - just run faster the second half! Well, this is the elevation profile for the run:  

Well. Time to dig deeeeeeep. Don't walk, Heather. And don't look at your watch. Just run. Run. 

A few men who I passed on the bike, passed me on the run. But that was it. I never walked. And I was never passed by any of the women. I had a few licks of Base Salt and sips of water at the aid stations.

And I did negative split. If only by a few seconds!

Then I was all done. I truly felt like I ran exactly how I was supposed to in a sprint. Slowly but surely, I am trusting my coach and discovering what my body is really capable of doing as an athlete.

Race Time: 1:12:24, 107/268 OA, 26/105 F, 6/17 AG

The 6th place hurt a little. Frankly, I don't know that I can ever run as fast as the top four finishers in my age group. Never say never, though. Maybe someday I will crank out seven minute miles. LOL

My coach knew about my secret goal. And he was very honest with me. 

"Your training needs to reflect your secret goals."

I went into the post-70.3 sabotage the same time my son started kindergarten and year-round swim team. It's been rough. But training doesn't care about that. If I want podium finishes in my age group, my Training Peaks can't look like this:

Not for three weeks in a row.

But overall, I am pleased with my progress. And I am thrilled to have many awesome people and friends in my life from this sport. 

Always appreciate the journey!! Congratulations to my friends who completed the three peat, friends whose little ones raced yesterday and to everyone who pushed themselves out of that comfort zone this weekend.

FS Series hosted yet another wonderful race.

    This handsome guy did all three this year!!  Congrats, my sweet hubby!

And thanks to my coach - for everything.

Monday, September 14, 2015

FS Finish Strong Half Race Report

In case you haven't noticed, I like triathlon. ;-) It's changed my life, from adding wonderful friends to being more physically fit to introducing me to Andrea Peet and The Blazeman Foundation. The training process itself has been a lifesaver - I recharge during my solitary workouts, and I appreciate the camaraderie when I workout with friends. I have been trying to encourage both men and women to give it a shot - because there is nothing quite like crossing the finish line at a triathlon.

I wanted to sign up for the FS Series Half Iron with a few friends and was extremely happy when my friends Jennifer and Alesia agreed to join a relay team. I owe a ton to Jennifer - she invited me on my first group bike ride almost two years ago and introduced me to many local triathletes, runners and cyclists. Alesia is one of those triathletes.

My 5yo recently started kindergarten and also joined a local year-round swim team - they started the same week, and my daughter started preschool as well (it's a 30-minute drive from my son's school).  The swim team meets three times a week and meets near downtown Raleigh (but he JUST got into the closer site - YEAH!). The last two weeks have been all about figuring out how on EARTH I can make this all work. Needless to say, my workouts were shoved to "low priority." Lots of red Training Peaks boxes. 

Race Morning: 

Very early day - the race is at Vista Point at Jordan Lake. I have been trying to change up my diet but I went to my usual breakfast - oatmeal with a dollop of peanut butter and a glass of green tea. Intended to eat banana before riding, but I skipped that.

Made the drive, parked, pumped my tires (I brought my headlamp to this race! Really came in handy!) and rode my bike to the transition area. There were not a lot of people racing the half, nor the "odd" distance (.6 mile swim, 35-mile ride, and 6.2 mile run). I suspect it's because there were several other popular triathlons in the region this weekend - including Outer Banks and White Lake. Or maybe because this is one challenging race! Ha!

Met up with Jen and Alesia, also saw my friend Sara who was using the race as a practice run for Beach 2 Battleship 70.3 next month. My friend Kathleen was doing the Auqathon as a warm-up to Ironman Chattanooga, and my friend Ana was doing the Half Iron as an Ironman Louisville warm-up. Took pictures with Inside-Out Sports club members. Then it was time for Alesia to head down to the water to swim two laps of the .6 mile swim course.

Swim, 1.2 miles: 00:45:02

Alesia felt a little panicked at one point, but really pushed through. She had hoped for under 45 minutes and rocked it!

Bike, 56 miles:  3:23:15

This course is difficult. I posted on my tri-club's private Facebook group - "Can anyone tell me what the FS Finish Strong bike course is like?" A friend replied, "Yeah - hard as $#%&." He was not kidding. I had ridden the "Odd" distance with Sara and Caryn last weekend, but wasn't sure what to expect on the 56-mile course. It wasn't terribly hilly, but had several railroad tracks and chicken farms (OH the smell, ugh) along the route before connecting back to the shared course.

I didn't take enough nutrition and frankly have been having issues with Tailwind. I just get nauseous around 40-45 miles. I started out the first hour with 200 calories of Tailwind, then started eating my PB&J Rice Cake from the "Feedzone" cookbook. It's around 250-300 calories. Problem with a rice cake on the bike, rice likes to stick in your throat when it has peanut butter on it. Then you try to breathe through your mouth because your nose is snotty and well - you end up coughing and snotting and dropping bits of rice cake all over you. Not good - so I put it away.  Started drinking my second bottle of Tailwind and just felt so gross, so I stopped and just drank the plain water I had dumped into my aero bottle from the bottle hand-off on the course.

I also didn't bring salt. I sweat - kind of a lot. This was a mistake, as using Base Salt when I have long workouts has been magical. So yeah, Heather - just leave it at home. Fantastic idea and enjoy your ride to Idiotville.

Anyway - the course itself starts out with steady grades, both up and down, then has a few challenging rollers over the last ten miles. Very similar to the Ironman70.3 Raleigh course in concept - so I was careful not to blow out my legs until the very end. I honestly feel like I gave everything I had in me on that bike course - but I haven't felt 100% since my son started school and I started slacking off on my workouts. I have felt sluggish and soft. So, sluggish and soft Heather was able to crank out a 16.5mph pace on that course, and "A"-zone Heather could have probably knocked out 17.2. I need to work on that.

My coach wanted me to ride 19.2 on the course. I don't know how to feel about that. Does this mean he thinks I am stronger than I am? Or is that where I should be? Did I slack off? It's definitely a goal, and one I think can be attainable if I put in the work.  AND stick to my nutrition plan, both on and off the bike.

Run, 13.1 miles: 02:39:34

Jennifer had hoped to finish the run under 2:30, so she was a little disappointed in her time. I reminded her that being a relay runner on the long course is extremely challenging. Everything needs to be perfect - your rest, nutrition, warm-up, etc. It's very hard to guess when to do all that. The course is quite hilly - and might be hillier than any half marathon Jen has ever completed. I am extremely proud of her time and our overall time as a relay team!

Overall Time: 6:48:49, 2nd place Half Iron Relay Team

I really enjoyed being in a relay team - I would love to do at least one triathlon per season as a relay. It's a great way for swimmer friends to get out there if they can't (or don't want to) bike, and the same for runners. Yes - that's right, I really have no desire to do a relay as a swimmer or runner. LOL!

Also - the course is really beautiful and FS Series does a good job. If you want a challenging half-iron course next year, consider adding this to your bucket list. Very little hoopla during the race, bare bones support, but it gives you the chance to really dig deep and see what you can do without large crowds cheering you on. You just might surprise yourself!

Thursday, September 10, 2015


What a powerful, yet simple word. "Why." Every child's favorite word from 2-years-old until mostly-financially-independent-old. Every triathlete's question during, well, during every workout and race. A parent's plea when told their child has a serious illness or disorder.


I had been tossing around a blog post in my head that detailed out - with sources and data - why I think the way I do about political topics. I know sometimes my right-leaning friends roll their eyes, and perhaps not quite as often, my left-leaning friends do the same thing at other times. And of course - I am quite aware most people don't really care if I picked my nose and posted a picture of the boog. We are all a busy people. :-)

Yesterday Swim Bike Mom linked to a program that is featured in Runners World - We Finish Together. "All medals are donated by a community of runners, swimmers, singers, traithletes all across the US to be given with a handwritten ribbon message and handmade tag to someone who needs to know they have the support and care that they may need to get them through whatever challanges face them. No "need bar", other than keep the medal close, know that we are always holding your hand."

Just. Wow.

It may not make sense to a healthy person why "Running for a Cure," the Ice Bucket Challenge, War on ALS and so many other awareness programs are worthwhile - but to a patient fighting for their life, or the family members of that person - it makes all the difference in the world. Setting aside the important of raising money to fund research programs, it keeps alive the spirit. It says "I am thinking about you." "You are NOT alone." "Your loved one will NOT be forgotten."

Your illness is not fair, but you are loved. You are remembered. You are important.

Suddenly, my opinion on same-sex marriage (a truly important topic, but my thoughts don't really matter) seemed ridiculous to continue pondering. It's a blessing to be able to worry about such things, really. It means everything else is idling just fine. First world, as they say.

My own body is getting tired. I can't begin to tell you how busy we have been - my son is swimming with a local year-round swim team, he has started kindergarten and we spend well over an hour each day in carline. My daughter attends preschool 30 minutes away (I will find a different preschool for her next year). Adjustments have been a challenge for everyone. Growth spurts, lack of sleep, red training peaks boxes - I wonder how I will manage to train for a full Ironman next year. I am quickly realizing that the "free time" I had imagined I would have once the kids were both in school is eaten up by travel time, carpool, and never-ending errands. I really can't believe I thought stay-at-home-mom's had free time. It seems to fill in immediately with appointments and errands.

So, I asked myself "Why." Why? Why do I even want to try a full Ironman?

And it hit me like a 10-foot wave (which hopefully will not happen during any of my open water swims). Remembering Meredith Atwood running down the finish line chute of Beach 2 Battleship holding her kids' hands, the vision of sweet Andrea Peet's hair flowing behind her as she triked in the Blazeman Run 5K, seeing the paratriathlete ride up Optimist Farm Road with artificial legs during the Ironman70.3 Raleigh race in 2014.

I know why.

Because life.
I remember writing a song on the keyboard when I was a child, sixth grade or so. I played it for my mom and she cried. I thought "wow! I must have written a really good song!" :D Not really. (I mean, it was ok, but we aren't talking Beethoven).

She cried because it was raw, it was real. It was from my heart. It was life. These are the moments that make life.

No matter what it is, embrace the journey. Fiercely. Because life - and you just get the one.