Salt tablets and surrender

I was about 32 miles into a 62-mile bike trip in Northern Michigan when I noticed I didn’t feel right.

My head felt disconnected from my body, and my legs were hurting more than they should have. But I’m riding hard for the fitness I have, I reasoned, and it’s hilly.

So I pressed on. For the next 15 miles, everything got worse. My legs were cramping, and I felt empty.

“This lake is too fucking big,” I muttered to myself as I made my way around the popular Higgins Lake. Residents, smiling, took walks on the quiet roads lined with cottages along the lake shore. I alone appeared to be miserable, and I was alone.

But HOW? How was I this bad today? I’ve ridden 100 miles before and it wasn’t this hard. My body was betraying me, it seemed. Everything hurt. Everything was too much.

At about 47 miles, I whispered to myself “Please let there be an aid station.” I looked up, and there was that glorious blue tent with its watermelon slices and wonderful volunteers.

I got off my bike and dropped to the ground, utterly and completely miserable. How would I finish this ride?

This was my third appearance at the Black Bear ride, once a bike tour and now a Gran Fondo in Grayling.

The first 22 miles were beautiful. The temperature wasn’t quite 70 degrees, the wind was quiet and I was in Northern Michigan. The course treated us to spectacular views of Higgins Lake and forest dunes after difficult climbs. The smell of pine trees in warm sunshine pervaded the route. It doesn’t get much better than that.

At mile 18, a 70-year-old man passed me and said, “I’m feelin’ it!” So was I. For the next four miles, I rolled. I rode easily at 20 miles per hour, singing songs from Gordan Lightfoot’s “Carefree Highway” to Florence + The Machine’s “Cosmic Love” (a favorite of mine on the bike). The sun was shining, and I overcame my typical pre-race doubts about doing the event to feel pure joy at being out there pushing myself.

Then it got difficult. At the second aid station, I tried to eat a PB&J, but wasn’t able to finish it. I pressed on and eventually found myself on the ground at the final aid station. I staggered up to refuel, and a fellow cyclist noticed how bad I looked.

She offered salt tablets and a pack of Clif Shot Blocs, two items I should have had with me. At least, I should have had the shot blocs. But it hadn’t been hot and I wasn’t drinking enough of the Gatorade I had with me, and I hadn’t been able to touch the Clif and Lara bars in my jersey.

The volunteers offered a bottle of water and a chair in the shade. One salt tablet, four shot blocs and one bottle of water later, I felt human again. My body was coming around.

My body hadn’t betrayed me, after all. I had betrayed it with poor fueling. That’s familiar. I’ve done it before.

This was my first bonk on the bike, which is a different experience than on the run. I didn’t recognize it until I almost collapsed.

With the help of a generous woman, I rallied and pushed myself for the final 15 miles. I followed two men out of the aid station (after many thanks to the volunteers), and after four miles, took off again. I rode alone for the final miles, waving to the military police parked along the road near Camp Grayling and whooping it up on the final stretch back to the Hanson Hills Recreation Area (and more swearing, but this time I was excited and relieved).

I rolled through the finish line at 20 miles per hour, also incidentally tricking some of the spectators and riders into thinking I’d done the 100-mile ride. There’s no way I can ride 100 miles in 4.5 hours, but I appreciate whoever thought I did.

This was a humbling day because I made mistakes I could have prevented, but now I have a nutrition plan for the bike, and I am incredibly proud of the way I kept pushing past the red line. My body screamed no, and I kept riding forward. Not bad for a woman who used to think she was a wimp.

The next day, I rode an easy 20 miles with my dad, and then went out for a slow, 3-mile run.

The day after that was another tough one, though.

I set out on my favorite road for a six-mile run. It was miserable. I felt horrible, much like I have for more than two years. My running since 2014 has been just rough; I mostly feel bad and haven’t been able to find my grove. And here I was today, already feeling beat up, and my body wasn’t having it.

I walked a few times, and I shed a few tears of anger and frustration. Why, why, WHY is running SO HARD RIGHT NOW? Why can’t my body just…run?

At the turnaround, I took a deep breath. I knew this was my ego yelling because it was bruised and hurting. In that gran fondo? I beat nine riders out of 57 in the 100K. But I don’t do any of this to feed my ego, I do this because I love it. I set my ego aside and listened for the quiet voice within me. It always knows what to do, and I know the consequences of not listening to it from years of not listening to it.

“Everything I need is already inside me,” I reminded myself. And I listened.

“Stop fighting,” the voice said, kind but firm. “Surrender.”

I did. I surrendered to that run, to how I was feeling right then on that dusty stretch of road. I let go of the ego that was angry at how slow and hard this run felt, how slow I had been feeling on the bike and in the pool and how my shorts felt like they fit too tight this summer. If it’s hard, I thought, I’ll let it be hard.

I started trudging forward. You know, I didn’t feel good on that run, but I realized I didn’t feel bad, either. I kept on and my stride opened up a little.

The road took me into the trees, up a hill and down it, across another field, back into the trees, past secret streams and up and over two more hills. My stride opened up a little more. I felt OK. Sometimes feeling OK is better than feeling good.

The only time I slowed was to try to avoid scaring a doe and her fawn because I brake for animals. I kept running toward a silly young buck who walked toward me without seeing me. I kept running until I made it to the driveway, and I stopped, but I was different. I felt lighter and stronger and OK.

“Strength is going through the darkest depths and simply not giving in to the darkness.” — Devon Yanko

Learning how to surrender has been one of the toughest challenges of my life. We grow up in a culture that teaches us to fight and force our way toward everything, but the things we fight fight us back. Acceptance is the only way to start moving forward.

Surrender and acceptance are lessons I keep having to learn again, but it’s getting easier each time I remember, close my eyes, quite fighting and listen to the wisdom I have.

“The Road goes ever on and on
down from the door where it began.”

Two months after InsideTracker

Am I Wonder Woman? ‘Cause I think I might be Wonder Woman, you guys.

It’s been about two months since I’ve purchased my InsideTracker Ultimate plan and gotten the most detailed, complete blood testing I’ve ever had.

You can read about what’s been bothering me and what the results showed:

I’m sick of being tired, so I’m trying something new 
My InsideTracker results are in and not what I thought

In short, I have been increasingly fatigued in the past seven years, and the tests showed my Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D levels are pretty low.I immediately started supplementing with B and D vitamins to get my levels up. While I typically prefer to get my nutrients through whole food, I needed to give myself that boost. After spending five years as a pescetarian, I still don’t eat a lot of meat to get the B vitamins I needed.

Slowly I noticed I wasn’t feeling that bone-deep fatigue I’ve had for years. My seasonal allergies give me a lot of fatigue, but underneath that, I could tell things were changing. One day in early June, I realized I felt amazing.

I might be slow, but I’m stronger than ever.

Before I started taking the vitamins, work and training would take everything I had. That meant I left dishes and laundry undone for longer than I would’ve liked. After a workout or work, I’d collapse on my couch and either watch too many episodes of a TV show or fall asleep, and then sabotage my training and sleep. I didn’t have the mental energy to do a lot of writing. I couldn’t focus to read books, which is one of my favorite things. It wasn’t that I was lazy; my tank felt empty most of the time. It was a fatigue sleep couldn’t cure. In time, part of me started to think that’s just the way I was and I’d have to deal with it.

But on this day in early June, I swam a mile, biked a hard 15 in the heat and then ran 2.5 miles, and I still felt fine after a little recovery. The next day, I biked 27 miles on a hotter day, took a rest and a trip to my apartment pool for a dip, and then started to clean. That ride didn’t deplete me.

The next weekend I rode 40 miles, the longest of the season. Got done, felt good. Sure, I would’ve felt tired if I’d gone running, but I could do my training and still be a person who does other things.

A beautiful scene on a recent ride.

I thought back to high school when I’d get up early, spend the day working hard at school and then training hard at cross country and track practice and not feel like I had nothing left at the end of the day. There’s a difference between being pleasantly tired in the evening and having nothing in your tank.

InsideTracker says “Knowledge is power.” It is. Blood data tell you what you’re doing right and how you can improve. I spent too long telling myself I just had to deal. If you feel like there’s something going on with you, there just might be. It’s far better to know than to guess.

Now I can train for my goals confident that I’m doing everything do achieve them.

I hate mornings. I have to be a morning person.

I now have to do double workouts before work. This is really hard.

Also, I work at noon. Does that now seem less hard? Maybe. But not to me.

This is a new change. My work schedule recently changed from starting at 7 a.m. to starting at noon.

I’m not a morning person. At all. Mornings are hard. I can get up when I need to get up, like for work or a race, but just getting up at 6 a.m. is so damn hard I don’t understand how people can do that. I managed the 7 a.m. shift because it didn’t require me to have to do anything physical. My body had plenty of time to wake up, and I could run and workout in the afternoons when my body was ready to go.

Time management is a constant struggle of mine. I like to wake up and go slow and putter. When I’m rushed, I get frazzled and forget things and make more mistakes than usual. When I know I have to be somewhere, I get anxious about being there on time and being prepared. All I can think about is what time I need to shower, eat and get out the door.

If I have 20 minutes to do something before I need to leave, that’s not enough time for me to do much. When I try to read, I just end up skimming pages until it’s time to go. Or I end up on twitter.

Flow is important to me. Getting into a groove and being able to grind away is how I roll. That’s why I prefer the marathon to the 5K, and that’s why I want to go straight toward a half ironman instead of sticking with shorter races. I’m too anxious for that kind of intensity.

I’ve been quite lucky in my schedule that I’ve gotten out of work at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., giving myself what feels like a nice chunk of time to do something.

Of course, I have the same amount of time as I did before, but it feels different this time.

The secret problem with my old schedule was that I’d take so damned long with things that I would go to bed late. I deprived myself of sleep so I could do the things I wanted to. Now, I don’t have that luxury. The pool hours don’t allow me to swim after work, and I want to bike and run in the daylight.

That presents a new challenge: getting my ass out of bed at 6 a.m. to give myself plenty of time to run, bike, swim and be a person.

This is the second day of week three. Today, I got out of bed and ran and swam before work. This was a big victory, you guys.

The change also has forced me to stop shaming myself about not being a morning person. Ideally, I’d get up between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. daily. That’s what my body seems to want, and after 29 years, I don’t think 6 a.m. alarms are going to be any easier.

But I am a runner. I do hard things. I push through runs when I feel like shit, as I did this morning. I’m giving myself some grace and love. This is a major change for my routine and my attitude. It’ll take some time. That’s OK.

I can run a lot faster

Running a 3:30 marathon has long been a dream and goal of mine.

My PR is 3:54.

Running has long been a struggle for me. If I’m being very honest, much of that has been of my own making. I get in my own way all the time. There are many reasons, which I detailed in this blog: Today is a good day to die and this one: My InsideTracker results are in and not what I thought.

And then some of it hasn’t been my fault, like my severe seasonal allergies.

For so long, I dreamed of running a certain time and dreamed of doing something without really believing I could do it because of my past failures. Then the other day I thought, “I can run a lot faster” because I can. My heart tells me I can run a lot faster; I can feel it in my bones.

Self-belief is a process. Realizing how I was hindering myself from my best was the first step. Since then, I’ve still struggled, but I also completed my first triathlon without a lot of fitness.

This is what its all about.

That race changed me. Doing new things shows you what you’re capable of. We slowly learn what we can do and the confidence growths little-by-little or sometimes in leaps and bounds.

I feel different than I used to when I think about a fall marathon. I feel excited rather than scared, and not just for the race, but for the training.

I’m coming out of the fog I’ve been in. My anxiety is almost gone, my allergies are abating for the season, I’m taking vitamin B12 supplements, I’m sleeping more and I have more energy than I’ve had in a long time. It’s time to train.

I can’t wait to run faster.

Note to self: Eat more food

After my triathlon yesterday, I had a nasty headache for 24 hours. It’s still lurking.

I often get headaches after races, which I attribute to dehydration, not getting in enough food immediately and the hard effort. Usually, however, the headaches don’t last a day and defy Aleve and three Tylenol.

Although I drank a bottle of water and SOS hydration immediately after the race, it took me 45 minutes or so to get food in. I have such a hard time eating right after races because my stomach is quite sensitive. Even if I’m hungry, food just doesn’t sound good.

On top of that, I haven’t been eating enough during the past few weeks. My poor immune system has worked in overdrive and that takes away my appetite. It’s like having a cold for six weeks. I feel shaky and nauseated.

Today I bought $60 worth of groceries and forced myself to eat a vegetable-filled wrap and a jug of chocolate milk for lunch. I’ll need to focus on eating a bigger lunch and more snacks throughout the day to keep my calories up with the training I’m getting in to.

My plan is to keep around food such as superhero muffins, homemade oat and nut butter energy balls, hard-boiled eggs and nuts for a boost between meals.

I’ll also make sure I eat and drink more during the race and shove some food in my face right after big workouts and races, even if it’s the last thing I want.

The headaches have been so bad, they can take away the joy of racing. Discomfort during the race is good, but I don’t want to suffer even more because of a fueling problem.

Race report: I did my first triathlon and did not die, which was awesome

You guys! I did it!

I’m a triathlete.

That’s so much fun to type. I thought about doing triathlons for years before I actually got serious about it.

Today I did the Island Lake Triathlon at Island Lake State Park in Brighton, Michigan. It’s close to home and in a park I often train in, which was a great setting for my first triathlon. The swim was freaking me out plenty.

I arrived at the park at 5:45 a.m. so I had plenty of time to get my gear into transition, get marked and all that awesome triathlon jazz. Plus, I like being early. It’s less stressful.

Fellow athletes were excited and supportive when I told them it was my first triathlon, which is one thing I love about the endurance sport community.

Going into the race, I was worried about making it through the swim (I knew I could go the distance, but worried that it’d be insanely hard) and feared making dumb mistakes, especially during transition. There were wasps in my stomach most of the day Friday, and I didn’t get much sleep. I listened to melancholy Johnny Cash songs on the way to the park to even me out a little.

Seeing the sunrise over Kent Lake was definitely worth the 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

But getting to the park and getting everything set up in transition was calming. I got my wet suit on quite easily (no alligator wrastlin’ today!), and once in the water, I felt that perfect mix of calm and excited.

“I can do this,” I told myself as I looked toward the buoys. For the first time, I believed it.

Although I’d planned to stay at the back of the pack, there weren’t a ton of women in the sprint wave, and I threw myself in there. Typical.

The first 200 meters were semi-panicking, which I expected. I choked on some water, had a few people crawling over me and saw insanely intimidating weeds that I was half sure might try to kill me, but I made it through. No signs of Lindsay-eating piranhas, which was quite a relief. I also survived the alpha male Olympic triathlete who ran me over without slowing my stroke.

About half way to the first buoy, I started having fun! This is why I wanted to do this. I’m swimming in a smelly lake before 8 a.m. which a bunch of other crazy people. The swim, 750 meters, suddenly seemed shorter.

I need to work on my sighting, but I was pleased with how I did considering I’d never done that before. Spending many summers camping and swimming the middle of a river where the water was well over my head was great mental preparation for the swim, and that wet suit was a huge source of comfort for me.

My swim ended up being 3 minutes faster than I anticipated. As I approached the beach, I was so incredibly relieved and emotional. Got a little teary. I did the big scary thing. I unzipped my wet suit like a pro and came into transition with a smile like Chrissie Wellington.

The first transition was smooth, to my surprise. I didn’t try to hurry myself unnecessarily, but worked steadily to shed my swim gear and get ready for the bike.

The bike was hard. It’s a hilly park, and I’m not in great shape. But I know how to hurt. At one point, I thought about a trail run I did a few months ago and then remembered “Oh hey, I’m going up a steep hill and this hurts!” Discomfort is fine. It’s nice to have the mentality when it comes to pain.

Toward the end, I went to a higher gear and started spinning faster to get my legs ready for the run, and made another smooth transition (who am I?) to the run, which went almost immediately up a hill.

After about a half mile of jelly legs, I got my running legs back and started to feel like Craig Alexander. Head and shoulders up and driving forward. Slow-mo Crowie mode lasted for about a mile to the turnaround, which was on a hill. My asthma was acting up and I had to “air up”, in equestrian parlance, and I walked a few times in the back half of the race.

It went something like this: “Activate Slow-Mo Crowie Mode”. gasp, OK, a quick walk. “REACTIVATE SLOW-MO CROWIE MODE!” gasping, walk, walk, walk “CROWIE MODE, GO!” The knowledge that I’d shortly be able to call myself a triathlete was really helpful in this section of the race.

I pushed hard for the last half mile and ran strong to the finish. And then I was a triathlete.

I did a new thing! I didn’t die!

Lack of fitness got to me on the bike and run, but I’ll get there. Today wasn’t about going fast, it was about learning, being smart and finishing.

I feel stronger than I did this morning, not least for overcoming a lot of fear.

There’s also the identity factor. Before I ran my first marathon, I wanted to have the identity of the marathoner. That was really important to me. Triathlon was the same. It’s awesome that this is a thing I can do.

I like the numbers in sharpie on my arms and legs. I like taking my bike to and from transition and standing around in the water in a wet suit and hot pink swim cap. I love the way I look in my tri kit (it feels almost more right for me than a running kit, and I love the hell outta running). I like that I can swim, bike and run in one race.

Can’t wait for the next one.


Running, we’re taking a bit of a break

Running, we’re taking a bit of a break.

My last good race was in October 2015. I’ve struggled with running since. There has been a few good races and workouts since, certainly, but overall, it’s been akin to banging my head against the wall.

There many possible reasons; and I’ve written about them. Now I want to look forward. This is the summer of triathlon.

I felt like I made it official with the purchase of a wet suit. It’s hard to believe I’m now a person with a road bike and clip-in shoes and a wet suit. For years, that seemed so far out of reach for me, like it was something I couldn’t do until I was in my 30s, and yet, here I am.

My first triathlon, a sprint distance race, is Saturday.  I’m planning on Olympic distance triathlons in July and August, and then a half ironman in September because why not? I can do hard things.

I haven’t felt this excited about athletic things in a while. Or scared. More on that later.

Triathlon is a fresh slate. There are no PRs hanging over my head. My expectations are lower for myself because I’m wiser than when I started running marathons in 2011. No time goals going in; I want to finish and have a great experience and push myself.

With something new, you improve in leaps and bounds. There are so many small victories, and that’s exciting. I’ve been running for 18 years, and it gets more and more difficult to get better.

As a bonus, triathlon training will me a better athlete overall, and I think it could help when I try for a marathon PR in November.

For now, it’s a new adventure. And I’m scared. The kind of scared that might leave me sleepless tonight.

I believe in myself. I believe I can go the distance. That doesn’t change the fact that my lizard brain doesn’t want me to go swim in a smelly, fairly shallow lake with a bunch of other people in a buoyant wet suit.

It’s OK. Races are supposed to be scary. The best thing we can do with this kind of fear is walk right to it. Fear can be refreshing.