Do What You Gotta Do

Streetlights lit the rain slick roads before sunrise. The headache that started on Friday throbbed above my right eye, making it droop with the weight of pain. Ikaiku was already waiting on the trainer with six water bottles lined up and muffins wrapped tightly on the ironing board near the charging iPad in preparation for a five hour trainer ride. I planned to binge watch episodes of The Crown and check in with athletes racing in Lake Placid.

But, this wasn’t how everything was supposed to go. I was scheduled to ride outside for six hours on a hilly course, meeting a local group ride in the middle of my long ride that was to be followed by a one hour run. I was signed up for the NJ State Triathlon on Sunday too. But, I’m still in recovery mode from over-training. And, then the rain rolled in and spiraled around a low pressure system overnight and with that–all of my plans flew away. Plus, Phil had Navy Reserves all weekend, which left me alone with the kid and the weather. Should I have gone early at 6am and rode on wet roads up to 45 miles away from home before the rain came back? Who would come and get me if I got a flat? What if I slipped off the wet roads while going downhill?

All of these thoughts stressed me out. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but I like to have backup at home–someone to call and pick me up if necessary. So, I did what many triathletes do: I rode on the trainer for five hours in the basement, starting at 5am to minimize the time suck on the day. Because I still have a kid at home. Because I am a mom. Because Phil was gone for the weekend. Because I still had laundry to do later, the house to straighten up, and dinner to make, the kid to check on from time to time, and a movie to go see. Because like most Ironmen before me, I am not a professional athlete and need to find the time for training in my schedule and balance a life outside of the sport. I marked the hours with each episode of The Crown and moved one finished water bottle at a time from the desk to the ironing board each hour. I ate a muffin, cranberries, or a banana every forty-five minutes to keep from bonking. There are plenty of worse things to be doing for five hours straight than riding my bike on the trainer–driving a car because I fall asleep at the wheel, being stuck on a plane on the tarmac for mechanical difficulties (two hours), spring cleaning the house, packing or unpacking for a move, waiting at the DMV for any length of time…

So, even though the rain held off until late in the evening on Sunday, the roads were dry by mid-morning, and all of my other plans fell through: I did what I had to do despite the long list of “buts” filling my head because I got it done instead of not doing it at all. That’s what makes an Ironman: getting it done as best as you can.

Searching for the Light

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While wandering through the darkness, trying to find the light, my toes catch the side of the dresser; the bed stabs my knee. All I want to do is find that light switch to see everything in the room clearly, find my phone, and set my alarm for morning. But that switch is not where I thought it was on the wall, so I sit down in the middle of the room that is so dark I can’t see my hand in front of my face. I see nothing.

This is where I am in training for my Ironman in September–trapped in the darkest room during the time of year with the most light. Ironic. I am sitting on the floor with my eyes closed waiting. Waiting and recovering from the deep fatigue that has set in as evident by too high of heart rates on charts in Training Peaks–all of the analysis and science pointing to the same conclusion. Waiting to make a move and hop back on the bike or to go for another run. I can’t do any of that now, until I find the light. I’ve been jabbed and hit too many times by all of the obstacles around me. So now, I wait and visualize what the room looks like before coming out of the dark.

I’ll get out of the darkness, eventually–out maneuver the what ifs and possibilities of a DNF.  I am better than that and can already go the distance necessary. I know that. I can swim 2.5 miles easily (.1 miles longer than the Ironman), and I can run a marathon on tired legs–I’ve done that five times. When I ran Chicago three weeks out from the half Ironman, I wanted to quit at the 5K. I didn’t and kept going. I’ve been on my bike for almost five hours, so what’s a few more?

I know what I am capable of. So right now, I’ll rest and recover. I’ll enjoy the midsummer free time to garden, to read, to paint, and to do all the things I was too tired to do a week ago. Because in the darkness, I can see the layout, and I’ll follow the plan.

Just Another Day

I often run the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia for my long runs. It’s flat for the area and has plenty of water stops; the trail follows the river into the city, past Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and ends near the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Rowers dot the smooth waters of the Schuylkill, and the trail attracts runners, walkers, and cyclists alike. I love this trail.

I usually park just north of the Falls Bridge in East Falls, Philadelphia since Kelly Drive has lots of traffic right next to the trail. I take time to hide my stuff before leaving with my keys and phone, and I typically have a bag with a towel and a fresh shirt for after the run. I had been looking forward to a run on the SRT all week to escape the hills of my neighborhood–the air was crisp, and I ran fast.

Upon finishing my twelve miler, I looked at the front passenger window of my car and immediately thought I had left my window open in my post-run delirium. Then, I noticed the spiderweb of broken glass clinging to the door and peered inside. Crap. My bag was gone with my wallet, clean shirt, and towel. Glass littered the passenger seat, the cup holders and even the back seat of the car.

I was cold, hungry, and pissed off. All I wanted was for Phil to come and get me and bring me lunch, but he was at work, and my car was still in good working order, minus a window. I had to pull up my big girl panties and handle the situation. I think the thief would have taken my bag with or without a wallet inside in the hopes that there would be. A driver with a sweet bike on the back pulled in next to me. I advised him to park elsewhere since my car was just robbed. He stayed.

I texted Phil and called my bank. Sure enough, the thugs already tried to use my card at Home Depot. Why is it always Home Depot? The last time a skimmer swiped my card information, the crook went straight to Home Depot. Not Lowe’s. Home Depot. I cancelled my cards, called the police to file a report, and spoke with my insurance company. The cards and my driver’s license can be replaced, but I’m more angry about the long-sleeved tech shirt from the Atlantic City 70.3 and my Mile on the Sand beach towel from VA Beach that I lost. Losers. I hope the shirt doesn’t fit and my useless stuff ends up in some dumpster.

Despite all of this, it was still a good day. I remember listening to NPR’s Invisiblia, and how they interviewed a women who couldn’t feel fear: bad events like a robbery were just events that happened, neither good or bad, and didn’t influence the rest of her day. I thought about that and felt lucky that I wasn’t mugged because that would have been much worse. Even though I can feel fear, I’m not afraid. This was just something that happened, but I will be even more cautious if I park there in the future. I won’t even put my towel in a bag.

Taper Week Cravings

I chug some milk chocolate chips from a small bowl. Most of them make it into my mouth, and the one that falls to the floor? I eat that one too before my fat cat, Neko, sniffs it. Five second rule. I’m waiting for water to boil for my hot chocolate, but my chocolate chips won’t last that long. I get some more and hide them back in the pantry. Who am I kidding? Everyone in the house knows where I keep the chocolate chips.

I need a safe place like my dad has for his stash of chocolate. He keeps his secret dark chocolate snow caps in an air tight Tupperware container on top of the refrigerator. My sister and I were too short to reach it, and it one of us tried to move a chair, my dad would know. Chocolate is sacred. And goes best with orange juice (don’t judge).

I don’t buy expensive chocolate from Malley’s in Cleveland like he does, but heaven forbid if there is no chocolate in my house–especially during taper week. I don’t know what it is about taper week that causes me to crave all of that milk chocolate goodness. After my ride on the trail today, I actually talked myself out of going to Starbucks for lunch and a mocha. I must have looked at Bia (my bike) hanging on the back of the car, and I didn’t want to leave her alone on the rack while I went inside.

What was I thinking? I no sooner got home and grabbed my chocolate chips and boiled water for hot cocoa. That’s not enough for lunch, but I didn’t want a salad with some random protein and nuts. I didn’t want fruit on the side. Hummus and carrots were out of the question. I wanted a burger and fries or pizza before downing all of that chocolate. I compromised and made a black bean and cheese quesadilla to go with the homemade guacamole.

No. I didn’t take a picture of my food. I’m not ashamed of consuming so much chocolate. In fact, for my next mini bowl of chips, I’ll eat them one by one. No chocolate chugging.