Archive for September, 2012

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My position on Lance Armstrong

September 29, 2012

That moment when you are running down the road… it’s fall so it’s crisp, it’s raining, but you are perfectly dressed in shorts, a long sleeved tech shirt and gloves. There are cars coming towards you and you see the spray from their wheels launching directly into the path you are running, and you can see the cloud of denseness that you are about to run through…..

and you think…. bring it on.

Those are the moments that once fleeted me that have begun to return. The not how much longer to I have….. how far can I go?

Those moments that you really begin to understand that you could be the fittest athlete on the planet, yet if the distance you have trouble crossing is the space between your ears….. you are screwed. the person you thought you were, is absolutely no match for the person you actually are.

No one gets to dictate that, teach that, own that but you.

It’s an entirely new level of sport. And life.

As it continues to come around I have to laugh. I tried to read myself through it, think myself through it. Will myself through it. Talk myself through it. At the end of the day I just had to go through it. Right through the middle. You do come out the other side though and you come out clearer and you come out more focused and you come out with strength and determination you never even knew you had.

While I have always had a very clear sense of self, of who I am…… it is strengthened. I have never been one to be dictated by what others thought of me…. I have always had a very strong internal compass. I have a very strong sense of purpose. Especially this year. Especially after Lance Armstrong  taught me what it means to believe in something at all costs and go after it with everything you have.

Have I taken some shit for my association with Mr. Armstrong? You bet. Do I care? Not at all. I don’t give one shit about an investigation, Tyler Hamilton, or anyone. I ignore all of it and move forward. Those who try to engage me in the debate….. I don’t get engaged with. Have at it. I am not part of it.

Several years ago I was taking care of a 20 year old young man. He already had two children. Young children. When he came to us he was hospice, but his mother understandably didn’t know when to stop all measures. You see…. people don’t just die. Systems don’t all go at once. Hearts stop then you struggle to breathe. You drown due to pneumonia and then your heart lingers on. Pulling the plug on someone doesn’t meant here is a big golden plug in the wall that you pull and everything happens beautifully.

She has to decide what would be done for him and how long. That’s a task too much to bear for a mother. She brought him into this world and she would decide in part…. how he would leave this world.

His oxygen levels began to drop. Once his saturation went below 80% we began the silent code. No compressions. Just oxygen via an ambu bag. Instead of calling the loud hospital code one phone call was made and then the people who needed to be there medically quietly came into the room.

I stood at the head of his bed and I gave the breaths. My colleague stood across from me. Tears rolled down my face and dripped on him. His mother stood next to me. His family stood around holding one another.

Then from somewhere in the room his aunt began to sing. She began to sing “Jesus loves you.”. As his oxygen saturation dropped to 70, 60, 50, 40…… and his respiration lowered from 18 to 12….. 10……… 8, her singing became louder. Her voice was capturing, with strength and love as it was as if she were lifting him to heaven with it.

Pause. Pause in that moment. That moment between life and death. Two children losing their father. A mother losing her son.

This is the moment that defines everything for me. In this moment right here I don’t give a rats ass about doping. I don’t give a damn about the Tour De France. I don’t care about it at all. This is real life and this man dying from Leukemia. To me this is so much more important. In this moment I don’t care if they shoot themselves up with ketchup.

This is real life.

His mother wrapped her arms around me as I continued to give him breaths. She rested her cheek on my shoulder and softly said…. you can stop now. I felt like I was that last connection between his life and his death.  I released my grip. And he continued to slip into his afterlife, and there was that one last agonal breath that makes you question everything you have ever done in your life. His eyes opened wide, as is he saw something amazing above, then he relaxed into the bed.

He was gone.

That is what drives me. He was too young. The teens I work with at Teens Living With cancer are too young. Thanks to the help of Mr. Armstrong we have raised now almost ninety thousand dollars for this organization and LiveStrong.

Because we can put a man on the damn moon and a rover on Mars…… yet these kids are still the forgotten age group. They are dying.  I promise you this….. at the end of their day, of their long days of chemotherapy and radiation and surgeries and the illness that goes with it….

They don’t give a flying f*ck about the Tour De France either.

I know you’ve had relatives succumb to Cancer. We all have. But it touches me on the deepest possible level for reasons I will avoid taking the time to explain. Until you stare down the barrel of this gun….. you probably don’t get it at all.

It takes money to do research. It takes money to pay their insurance. It takes money to keep an organization like Teens Living With Cancer rolling. Money talks and we raised again….. almost $90,000. To an organization like Teens Living With Cancer….. that’s EVERYTHING. And this is an organization that is vital to these Teens. VITAL.

So I stand in the army behind Mr. Armstrong. Because he came when we asked him to, without one question or one requirement. Did you?

That experience taught me to be strong for what I believe in. It taught me that when you have a strong internal compass and you follow it for the right reasons that people will throw at you. Talk about you and scream at you. You keep moving forward anyway. Because you are not swayed by anything except what you believe in.

I believe in fighting for these Teens. Because I love them with all of my heart.

As I was running through the rain and running through the splash of the cars it became crystal clear to me. I know what I believe in. And I run straight at it. And there is nothing that can hold us back from getting to where we believe we can.

So don’t bother asking me. I have already moved forward. Cancer didn’t stop killing. So we can not stop working.

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The scoop on Cycledelic

September 28, 2012

I am super happy and excited to be back on the “teaching indoor cycling” bandwagon. Teaching at Cycledelic feels good, it feels great to be back up there as the instructor and to be able to do what I love. I am able to take what I learned from the old school spinning and blend it into the new and evolved style of what is now called Cycling Fusion. It’s literally the blend of both of the world of indoor and outdoor cycling.

I have seen a lot in terms of what is and isn’t done in the indoor cycling world. And I believe this to be the perfect blend of everything that I love when it comes to cycling in general.

I am also excited to announce that I will be teaching there twice a week!

Tuesdays at 5:45 pm and Wednesdays at 5:30am. Yes AM. You know I am an early kind of girl. Come… ride…. shower (the studio has two showers) and get home before the bus arrives.

Here are a few frequently asked questions that I have had regarding Cycledelic:

1. What kind of bikes do they use:

The bikes are Freemotion bikes, and honestly the best “spinning bike” I have ever ridden. They are equipped with power, the ability to monitor HR, cadence, and you can even take that information home with you. This is what the bike looks like (in this picture the power console is not pictured….)

Freemotion Bike

This is what the power console looks like. This cyclist has some mad power! 🙂

You can stick a USB flash drive into the top of the console there, and save your stats from your ride. You can also as you can see and track your averages, and even separate the ride into “stages” indicated by the “stages” button. For example I separate my warm up, ride and cool down into stages. If you use a Garmin it’s exactly the same as hitting lap.

2. How accurate is the power and how do I even know what it means?

I have been riding with power for several years now and I find it highly conducive to understanding how you are riding. It’s the window into my ride and frankly the way cycling has headed in general. Track progress, identify limiters….. power is amazing.

I find the power on the Freemotion bikes to be incredibly accurate. The powermeters are recalibrate frequently, which is really important.

On my tri bike I have been riding with a Quarq for a few years now and love it. It’s plug and play and user-friendly. I find that my average wattages to be incredibly consistent within 10-20 watts on the Freemotion bikes. I don’t worry about 10-20 watts in a general ride like this. As long as you know those differences you can easily work with them
.

We teach using Functional Threshold Power as a guide (and this is DIFFERENT from how I coach at QT2), which is also known at FTP. We determine FTP by performing a test. The test goes something like this:

15-20 minute warm up

5 minute hard effort

10 minutes easy

20 minutes hard effort

cool down.

We take the average power and HR from that 20 minute effort to determine your HR zones and FTP.

Check out our events page for upcoming FTP testing dates and times. Click here for that. You will get a printout with your power zones and HR zones all in one convenient place. I recommend testing every 10-12 weeks. But it’s worth it to get in there and get those zones all figured out and nailed down, even if you don’t ride outside. Give yourself something to shoot for and measure.

3. What are my class payment options?

Our payment options and prices are very similar to local yoga studios. A drop in class is $16 per class and just like anywhere else we have options that include monthly packages, annual … etc. We frequently run grupons and such so keep your eye out for that.

Click here for the complete list of class package options and don’t forget that your first ride is FREEEEEEEE!

4. Do you teach like a spin instructor or as a cyclist?

I teach a combination of both. My philosophy about indoor cycling is this…… this bike is not set up as your road, time trial or mountain bike would be. It will always be a different position. However being able to ride in different positions helps you become a more rounded athlete. Some of the best cyclists and triathletes in the world ride different bikes all of the time. Being able to adapt is part of your ability as an athlete and the positions on an indoor bike can absolutely lend to an enhancement of how you ride outside.

I don’t try to mimic the road inside. We are inside. I can’t mimic the road. What I can do however is use positions like the standing run or standing climb to help build strength for outside.

For example we might do a long standing climb in class with resistance set to allow our cadence to be 70-75. We would never try to do that outside. In fact outside we would stay in the saddle and spin up the hill (not to be mistaken for going easy up the hill…..). But…… we can use the standing climb inside….. to build our strength to spin up the hill outside. I focus highly…. highly on form, which makes or breaks the deal.

My classes are structured differently each week. The first week the profile was really a mixed bag of terrain. We did everything. Week two we focused mostly on long steady climbs. There is always a plan and always a profile.

So I teach a combination of styles….. because I am both.

5. What if I don’t like to be out of the saddle?

The rule in all of our classes at Cycledelic is this: it’s your ride. You need to make it work for you. If you have taken my yoga class….. the same idea here. I have sat in Matt’s class and done a recovery ride (HR and watts less than 100) while he was doing an FTP test. We welcome that here.

We want you to honor what’s going on in your body. Some people shouldn’t be out of the saddle or just don’t want to be. I give options for how to make it work. This isn’t my ride….. it’s your ride. The beauty of indoor cycling is that you can again, really make it yours.

6. What’s your music like:

When it comes to music I like EVERYTHING. I am Dave Matthews, to Bond, to U2, to Metallica. Here are the playlists for my last two classes…. I do share them on Facebook too.

Remember when we used to make spin TAPES? I still have 60 tapes. So much work went into making them! But here is the iPod list!

This was week 2 I forgot to include the artists, but the 1812 is by Bond, which is a very cool piece!

Week one. I stuck to more popular music for these two weeks.

I do take music suggestions, but the music does have to resonate with me in order to “sell it”. But feel free to pass along some good music….. most of what I have on my iPod comes from what people have recommended to me over the years.

Cycledelic is the first exclusively indoor cycling studio in Rochester. It’s like a yoga studio but for indoor cycling. These are all over the place on the East and West coasts….. and they are a great place to be. It’s a small atmosphere. It’s cozy. I have been asked if I would consider teaching at a larger gym in the future……. right now I don’t know. Anything could happen. I am open to anything.

What I will say is this… for as long as I teach yoga I will teach yoga at Breathe. For as long as I teach indoor cycling I will teach at Cycledelic. I thought I was done teaching but Kathy and Matt are persuasive and have a great place. If I did teach anywhere else it would be in addition not instead of.

But one thing at a time!

Right now I am pretty psyched to be restarting my indoor cycling career at Cycledelic. I believe in the studio, I believe in the amazing owners Kathy and Matt and I believe this is the strongest indoor cycling team I have ever worked with. They are all amazing.

Come in for a ride! first ride is FREE! Located at the 12 Corners in Brighton! Reserve a bike HERE!

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The art of swimming

September 27, 2012

You are driving down the road. It’s warm enough to drive with the window rolled down, your elbow resting on the car windowsill. You “dolphin” your hand up and down like it’s surfing the wind. Sometimes … depending on where your hand is or the tilt of it…. the wind feels very resistive. Like it’s pushing from the bottom up. Other times it feels like it’s coming over the top and driving your hand down.

And there is that sweet spot. That one little place where your hand just glides through the air, cutting through it seamlessly.

That is what swimming is. It’s finding that sweet spot in the water with your hands. It’s feeling the water push up, press down against your body…… allowing yourself to move around and feel it out. until you hit that spot.

Maybe you were a runner growing up, or you started swimming in your 20’s or 30’s. You grew up rotating differently than a swimmer did. You are accustomed to stepping forward with your right foot and your left arm or shoulder moving forward. Opposite arm to foot.

Then we put you in the water and told you to rotate with the same shoulder and same hip. Connect them! We tell you!!

That’s why most runners turned swimmers wiggle when they swim.

Trust me…. the same thing happens to swimmers turned runners. Their whole life their right hip and right shoulder have been connected. Then we put them on land and have them twist. It’s why many swimmers run so boxy with their elbows out to the side.

I consider cycling and running to be more of a science … while I consider swimming to be more of an art. The biomechanics of cycling and running are more straightforward. In the water we take away gravity, put you in water…. where your body awareness is challenged.

Back to our first example. The hand out the window. Everyone who comes for a swim analysis wants to know exactly where to put their hand, the angle in which to do it and how to stay there. It’s like we tell you to shoot for this target…. yet the target is in a different place for everyone and you’ve got a blindfold on.

Then we give you drills and times and T times and make you chase the clock. We band your feet and say swim faster! We throw huge paddles on your hands and say don’t hurt your shoulders!!!!

At best for many runners swimming can be maddening.

I tell my swimmers to relax. Play with hand entry. Just like in the example above. Sometimes the water pushed up, down and if you quiet yourself and relax just enough you are going to find that sweet spot. Where it just glides right on through. You have to feel it.

The sweet spot for me….. someone who who has very flexible shoulders and has swam her whole life …. will appear different from another athlete, who might have had rotator cuff problems in the past. They are going to be tighter, their range of motion different from mine. Therefore…. our strokes will look different.

More than anywhere else….. in swimming we can’t ask swimmers to all be the same.

We have to teach and encourage them to relax, feel the water, and turn off the head. Forget the underwater radio. Underwater is the only place the world shuts off for me. The only place where I can get lost in the sound of the water.

Let that turn off your mind and turn on your senses. Feel the water around you. Feel it. Don’t fight it. I can promise you that fighting it won’t get you anywhere.

When accepting stroke advice, get it on video rather than from someone who swims in the lane next to you. Many athletes I have worked with, when I show them what a dropped elbow looks like…. they say “So THAT is what that means. Sally in my lane at the Y always tells me that but I don’t know what it looks like.” Never take stroke advice from someone who either doesn’t watch you swim regularly, or who can’t show you on a video.

That’s Wheeler and I!

Pounding out 100’s isn’t always the answer either. You have to read the athlete. With Jennie we’ve been focusing on long repeats at certain paces by perception. This 600 should feel zone X. In a race we don’t look at our watch in the water or a HRM. And swims are very very variable. On the road a certified 5K is a set distance. In the water there are more elements that come into play. Current, other people, etc.

So learn to FEEL the effort.

More often than not when you give that instruction….. the athlete matches it. They feel successful and instead of always chasing a time on a clock that ultimately becomes a moving target, they then build on success.

100’s in the pool versus a 1.2 mile swim in a pond versus a 2.4 mile swim in an ocean are three different entities. Yet we get stuck on them being the same. Instead I want to know …. what was the effort? How did it feel? If they wear a Garmin 910XT I get a HR and a map out of it which tells me their effort…. and their sighting.

Instead of swimming faster per se we need to work on swimming smarter. Straighter. Keeping the effort at this perception. Keeping our head in the game. Accepting a slightly off course turn and using it to our advantage instead of allowing ut to cause us to swim upstream.

Think of the hand out the window. You can be told where it is. You can have it described to you. But until you understand what that is exactly….. until you find it for yourself…… no amount of swim analysis, instruction or coaching is going to find that for you.

And that’s where the art of swimming begins.

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Oh yes we can

September 25, 2012

It’s been a while since you and I have talked about special education. Part of that was because we were embroiled in a legal battle with our home school district, and part of that has been due to the increased readership of this blog. With kids you have to be careful of course.

Luc began classes at the Norman Howard School a few weeks ago. Prior to that he attended BOCES I. We loved BOCES I. Loved it. Not everyone who is there is happy here but for once in his life Luc got lucky. He was placed there emergently at the end of the school year in 2009. He went there with a 1-1 aide and a behavior plan. If you live in this world you know how difficult it is to  attain a 1-1 aide for your child and you also know how difficult it is to graduate from one, and a behavior plan.

Honestly….. all they did at BOCES was meet him where he was. They took a broken kid and gave him tools to succeed. Within a year they tore up the behavior plan, dropped the 1-1 aide. He was performing in the school chorus and the school black light show. I remember crying…. literally crying when I came to school to watch him read the Pledge of Allegiance on the morning announcements.

A few weeks ago Caurie Putnam wrote a beautiful blog on what it is like to be the parent of a special needs child. I can’t find it at the moment online but check out her site right here. One of the things she wrote spoke about……. meeting milestones you never thought you would, and celebrating them.

Our son didn’t ride a two wheel bike until he was nine years old. We went to an amazing program called Lose the Training Wheels by UNYFEAT. Check out the  video here. Those of you who followed along with us that week remember how emotional and wonderful and amazing it was.

You celebrate the milestones you never thought you would have. You learn to cherish each victory because these kids don’t have them all that often. By the time these kids are 10 years old they have been doomed by the world and doomed by our system. And we have to keep championing them along.

The only reason we left BOCES I was because Luc outgrew it. We loved every single person there… teachers, classmates, everyone. They got him at the ground level. The woman who served him lunch in the cafeteria … she got him.

The Norman Howard School isn’t for every kid, and it’s difficult to get into. As you remember the process began just about a year ago and our home school district gave us the fight of our lives. We hired a special education attorney and …. let me tell you it was a brawl.

It came down to the district admitting that thy had failed him in his placement way back in kindergarten, and now we were behind. I paid my life savings to a lawyer for the district to finally admit that. Worth every penny.

That first day I dropped him off, and my heart about stopped. Would he make friends. Would he fit in. We had fought this fight for so long. We fought it long and we fought it hard and…. here we were. A few hours later I got an email from one of the teachers that he was doing just fine.

As we are in week four things are settling. We are adjusting. He comes home happy. He’s learning. He’s making new friends. He’s dreaming. He’s being an 11 year old kid and last night for the first time in our lives we fought the “I don’t want to do my homework” battle. It was my first battle with that, and believe me I was grateful for it.

You take these little moments that seem so ordinary to those with children who don’t have special needs….. you tuck them into your heart and you cry and smile and hold it tight. Learning to ride a two wheeler. Buttoning your own shirt for the first time at age 11. Figuring out how to operate a lock in 6th grade. Those are the things we celebrate. Those are things most parents don’t even think about.

I am my father’s daughter. My parents taught me well and you don’t realize how well you were taught and prepared for life sometimes, until you are the parent. Once we got the acceptance to the Norman Howard School….. I knew it was the right fit. To me it was so crystal clear and to our home district…. it wasn’t. That ignites something inside of you that is completely unexplainable.

I never yelled. I never screamed. I never threatened. I put everything I had on the line. Because I believed it was right. It’s how I was raised. I looked at it factually. Objectively. If you can do that and if you can go after it with every bit of your soul then you have to.

I have one shot at raising this boy. We have one shot to teach him how to be a good man. There is no room for wrong placements in education. They did it once and they won’t do it again. I told you that if I had to spin this earth backwards to make this happen, that I would.

So I did.

A system does not always know what is best for these kids with special needs. A system that’s proven to fail and a system that gets another kid to make it right by.

Not my kid.

If you live in this world then you know the fight. If you don’t….. you look at us as people who can’t control our children or people whose kids won’t amount to anything. You go ahead and keep thinking that. If you know anything about me you know I thrive on being the underdog. Tell me we can’t. Tell me it’s impossible. Tell me it can’t be done.

And I will show you exactly how it can be done.

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Running straight at myself

September 20, 2012

I woke abruptly at 3am with one gasp. That feeling again. Breathless but in a bad way. I don’t remember having a bad dream, I don’t even remember being restless. In just one swoop I woke up with that feeling of terror again. That feeling of loss. That feeling of grief. About Gary. About Heather. And then began the parade of memories and thoughts of lives that have been ripped from us far too early. Far too young. Far too many good people just wiped away.

As I walked into the gym I had a hard time saying hello. I smiled and waved to all the usual people with the fear that if I opened my mouth I would just begin to cry. Again.

I had some PPT’s on the bike to do and I knew that would help me through this feeling. PPT’s on the bike are a special kind of hard and for me that’s what walks me through the middle of the fire. It lessens the pain in the heart and allows me to smile. It helps me move forward. I can never say past…. but forward.

Sometimes  I like to ride the spin bike on the gym floor. It’s not in the spin room, just out on the floor. I have a perfectly good spin bike in my home gym, I have a beautiful bike and a computrainer. Sometimes I just need that big open space and people around me. That change of scenery helps me.

I shed some tears on that bike. But by the end of the ride…. when it was time to get off and hit strength class….. I felt better. I felt like I moved forward (never past). Like a good hard effort settles the soul.

Later that afternoon as I was finishing up a run, my neighbor was out working on his lawn. He waved and walked to the sidewalk.

“You workout a lot. Are you trying to avoid or run away from something?”

This was my answer, and it’s the God’s honest truth:

“I am not running away from anything. What I am doing…. is running TOWARDS something. With everything I have.”

That is the ONLY way I can explain it.

“Interesting.” He said, he might have even sort of understood it. “I also notice that you tend to leave your house fully clothed and come back half-naked. What goes on out there?”

I smiled. “A whole lot of awesome.”

As I walked inside I thought about that question. Not the half naked one, the first one. It’s valid. If you look at small windows of my life (any triathlete’s life) you see us training. A lot. It’s not uncommon for us to do three straight hours. Heck there are days we put in 8 hour training days.

The thing you don’t see or realize is that we are very structured in training. Here at QT2 our workouts are essentially laid out for the season. We never wake up and think: what shall I do today? We know the schedule. We have planned rest. Active recovery. We fuel those workouts with 50+ carbohydrates an hour.

We only do certain workouts at hard intensities. Most of our training is very steady aerobic work.

And I can see how it might appear that we train to hide from something, avoid something….. or even ourselves.

When I look at a body builder what I see is something I do not understand. I see them putting hours into lifting weights in front of mirrors. I think that’s insane. But wait….. that is not ALL they do. In fact it’s just the window that I see. I don’t know what goes on after that last rep. I don’t know what they do at home. I don’t know what they even do for cardio.

See what I am saying? Just because I might pop off three hours at a time doesn’t mean I am doing that all of the time. You don’t see the ice baths. You don’t see the recovery runs and rides. You don’t see the days off. You don’t see what I do after 8am. You just see that small window of me leaving the house to run or that few hours at the gym.

And many assume that’s all I do and I do it because there is something seriously wrong with me.

Which I suppose could be debated.

What I can tell you is this. I am the way I am….. and I have been this way for the past 18 years. It’s the direct result of a pretty big event in my life (too long to write and most people know…. just ask… I am very open about it). I am really comfortable with who I am. I shoot straight from the hip. I don’t try to fit in  so I just fit myself in anyway. I don’t have an agenda and I don’t have a plan. I don’t play games and I don’t …. this is not going to sound how I want it to….. I just don’t care. If I am upset I will tell you I am upset. If I am sad I will tell you I am sad. I am at baseline….. even in these times of sorrow…. I am a baseline happy person.

18 years ago I got a second chance at life. Because of that I live every single moment. I live the sh*t out f it.

I am running away from nothing. If something is not the way I want it in my life… I change it. Simple as that. No bullshit.

I have lost this sport once. I lost the ability to be an athlete. I was okay. I didn’t lose my mind. What I did was grow a deeper appreciation for what my body is able to do. I am able to do races that last 10-11-12 HOURS. I have that kind of health. THAT kind of durability.

What a GIFT.

I swim, I bike, and I run because I am heading towards something. My 7th (or 5th? 8th? I forget) Ironman finish. I am heading towards personal goals that I set for me and I have the capability of achieving.

What a GIFT.

I am running towards that. Not away from something. Before the event of 18 years ago that changed everything…. I did run away. I stuck my fingers down my throat from age 10 to age 20 and I ran away from everything. Now I run straight AT. This isn’t my first rodeo. This kind of volume is not new to me. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Welcome to the life of Iron.

I have to realize and accept that to the outside eye that seems completely crazy. Just like body builders might seem to me (I actually don’t think they are nuts, but you get the idea). Explaining the nature of endurance events like 70.3 and Ironman sometimes feels as natural as explaining why I want to nail my finger to a table.

But it is what I love.

I love the feeling of being on my bike for 6 hours. I love the journey I get to take. I love… as much as I hate….. swimming 2.4 miles with 3,000 people grabbing ass. I love being at mile 20 of that subsequent marathon with my teeth stinging from too much power gel and my hair hurts and knowing I have just a 10K to go. I love that feeling of turning myself inside out. I love that feeling of coming through the finish line of a race. I love that feeling of chasing.

And I love going after it with every piece of my soul.

I am an athlete. I have been all my life. I chase competition and I chase a clock. Sometimes when I am in the grocery store I call out “On your left” and I time how fast I can go from pool to being dressed and ready to go. When we do running drills in strength class I like to beat that one guy. I don’t care who it is or even their gender I love to be neck and neck and gunning for it.

I get off on that kind of stuff, I will admit.

It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I am touching every part of my soul. It wakes me up. And sometimes….. shelling myself and my body helps my heart grieve for people who have left here far too soon. It’s me moving forward. Towards. Never away from and never avoiding. I am too old for that sh*t.

As I walked out of the gym that morning I felt so much better. I felt settled. I felt like I moved forward a little. I felt relieved. I felt a bit shelled. When I finished my fifth hill bound later that afternoon I relished in the way my legs ached. I have an ability that I will never waste and that I will never take for granted.

This ability and this sport has also given me a platform in this community to make a difference. Which is the most important thing of all. I owe a lot to this body. It’s been around the block more times than I can shake a stick at.

When I do get to those pearly white gates….. what’s that saying….. I want to slide in on my mountain bike, dirty and bruised to the bone. I want to wipe the sweat from my brow, grab a drink and say….. “wow! WHAT A RIDE!”

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See…. I rest!

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Only the good….

September 18, 2012

“One way or another Mary, this is going to have to get done this morning.”  I smiled. It’s always amazing to me how people will say the right things and not even know it. He was just an acquaintance and was referring to swimming. I had been sitting there on the pool deck drinking coffee staring at the glass like water, wondering how the hell it is …. that we are here again.

Less than 30 minutes prior I had received word that a friend who had crashed his bike 3 weeks earlier, had succumbed to his injuries and passed away. His accident had nothing to do with a car, or sharing the road….. it was an accident. That almost made it harder. But there is was again. That feeling of my breath being taken away and not in a good way. I sat and stared at the dark pool and all I could do was let the tears come. I wanted to scream you have to be kidding me GOD you have to be kidding me!!!

Who am I going to fight on this one? Gravity? God? Don’t think I haven’t thought about it.

I still remain in the back of the pack when it comes to faith. I am still in line but I am shaken… yet again. We don’t get to know the “why” in all of this. Do we ever? Because if we do I sure have some questions.

Why only the good God? Why only the good? My friend Sr. Rosemary will assure me that this is not God punishing us. And as hard a time as I have believing it….. I will. I will. I know.

A loved husband, son, brother, father. A loved swim coach, triathlete. One of those guys who would do anything for those he cared about. seems we are writing the same story again here. A man who was loved and who loved. Who did the right things. Who treated people like family. Who cared and cared big.

Why him?

What’s the point of taking him?

To say that he’s left behind a community that’s been devastated is an understatement. I can’t tell you how many tears have been shed, how much hope has been held and how many people held his wife in their prayers for the past 3 weeks. She was in the impossible position as she was forced to walk the line between miracles and science. I don’t think I know a stronger woman.

As I sat there on the pool deck I knew my friend was right. Somehow, someway this was going to get done. Not the swim, although that was the metaphor. Somehow … someway…… we will all walk through this and we will do it together.

I am not good with grief. I am not good with loss, and you think at this point in my life I would be. The only way I know to deal with it is to head straight on through it. It gets worse before it gets better. You get burned and it gets painful for a while. At some point ….. and it often takes a long time….. at some point you get to the other side. But there is a hole in your heart that never heals and never gets less painful.

It just feels like it gets further away.

Gary Grant and Dan Szajta. Gary taught me how to say Dan’s last name, every time I announce it I get it wrong. Szajta Oneida he would tell me!

In times of tragedy we have two choices. Allow it to overcome us, or come together and walk through this together. The beauty of social media is that it gives us all somewhere to connect when we are not in the same place. It gives us a place to come together.

And that’s exactly what is happening.

Grant’s Gang has formed on Facebook. Please friend them and stay tuned for some of the things they have coming up to both remember Gary and to fund raise as he has left behind a wife and three sons. You can find that page here. Calling hours and funeral service information are on that page.

You can order a T Shirt. Visit Blue Bison Sports by clicking right here and look for Grants Gang in the left hand column.

Gary loved Swedish Fish. Anyone who knew him knew that he always had a bag with him at swim meets. So this weekend at the Pain in the Alleghenies race…. a race he was supposed to be in…. I will have swedish fish for all. Come over to the announcer tent and grab some.

As my friend said …. one way or another this is going to have to get done. There is no script to follow when it comes to this. We just make it up as we go along. We hold each other’s hands and keep walking and keep the faith even when we have none. We are told that the afterlife is better… I think right here is pretty damn awesome so let’s hope that as Gary made his journey from this life to the next…. it was through a great big finish line with a great big bag of Swedish fish. That he’s resting peacefully now, and that his family will be watched over. His wife guided and his sons given what they need.

And we will start that healing process knowing it never really ends.

Rest in peace Gary. You are missed more than you can possibly imagine.

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Nickel City Sprint Triathlon Race Report!

September 16, 2012

Monday morning I woke up and reviewed my training schedule for the week. I knew I had a 5K on Sunday, and I knew where I was going to run it and I knew what our goals would be. And suddenly I had the urge to race a triathlon. Knowing that the Nickel City triathlon was this weekend in Buffalo….. I quickly conferred with Coach Michelle and it was on.

Why would I run a 5 freaking K when I could swim bike and run! I pee eight gallons before a race and every triathlete knows it’s much easier to do that in the water than in a porta potty before a 5K.

Plus swim bike run is much more fun. However…. my specialty distances are races that last 5-12 hours. A sprint is 75 or so minutes. This was going to hurt. But that’s what short course is.

I awoke race morning with this strange feeling in my belly. BUTTERFLIES. I have been an athlete all my life and butterflies are the best pre competition feeling on earth. it means you are alive, eager…. it means you care. This season for the first time in my life…. I hadn’t cared. I thought back to April 1st sitting in the lawn with my colleague Tim Snow. I had a bit before my wave went off at Texas 70.3 and I confessed to him that while I was happy to be there….. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t eager. The butterflies were just not there and that’d been the case for a good year.

He encouraged me after that to not be afraid to step back. It was normal to go through a period of burnout. Lucky for me my burnout came during a time where I was struggling with a health issue, but more so that my burnout was that I didn’t care. I still wanted to train. I still wanted to be out there. The fire was dim but it wasn’t gone.

So I took that step back. Best thing I have ever done for myself. Because THIS MORNING morning the butterflies had returned. I was eager and I cared. And I could not wait to get to the race.

It was 49 degrees and as I looked outside I was hoping for rain. No such luck. I might be the only athlete on the face of this earth that loves…. and I mean LOVES…. to race in cold, wind and rain. The harder the conditions the faster I go.

I will take 49 degrees. YES.

Saturday was the USAT Elite Men’s National race, which meant that there were development athletes in town. Sure enough at the start I spotted a young 15 year old from Guatemala. Typically kids of this age can swim and run, and they really begin working on their bike (hence…. development). Although I was old enough to be her mother….. I knew I had a shot at outbiking her.

My goal for the race? It was a sprint…. so establish the red line and HOLD IT. I knew I would swim and bike well, and I knew my run would as always be my limiter. I knew what I ran at Musselman (not good!) and my goal was to keep my heart rate on the run higher than it was on the bike. At almost 10 pounds lighter that was not going to be an issue.

Everyone wants to know where you swim in Downtown Buffalo, so here is where we swam.

The buoys looked like candy corn. I LOVE candy corn.

The gun went off and I stuck right with Guatemala (you give people names in races!) and ended up 2nd or third out of the water. I did lose her after the first candy corn, as we caught up with some of the men before us. I felt like I was swimming as well as I could of. I have more speed, it’s just not here yet, nor do we need it here yet.

Onto the bike my friend Diane and I got to play some cat and mouse for a bit. It’s always so much fun when the girls get to do that. A guy got in between us and I sat back a bit to stay out of the mess. That was an error on my part. Once I realized I did that I scolded myself. I can do that in an Ironman but not in a sprint.

I liked the course. It was very turny at the beginning and I found myself braking through corners when I should have been accelerating through them. Two seconds lost on a turn becomes eight seconds and then becomes a deficit you can’t make up in a red line effort. I am really good on long windy straightaways and I need to continue to improve those technical skills, which become a casualty of Ironman.

I caught up to Guatemala and was able to hold her off until the end, knowing full well it wouldn’t take her long to run me down. My bike was good…. not the best I have ever ridden but on par for where we are in the season. My Quintanna Roo…… is amazing. Absolutely amazing. It’s light, handles well and is responsive. This is by far the most awesome bike I have ever ridden. It was nothing but bike and bike shop drama this season, but whew…. worth it to have this bike as the end result.

Wheeler gave me sh*t for there being a visor on my helmet. There is not a visor on my helmet! Get some glasses Wheeler!

Here is the bike course…..


I love maps.

One onto the run I was able to run hard enough to improve my pace per mile from Musselman by about 20 seconds…. although to truly rock this out I need to peel a good 90 seconds off my run pace per mile  for a sprint triathlon. I was able to keep Diane in my sights for the entire run, I just couldn’t bridge the gap. I felt very good, very strong. I can feel that along with my training progression, my strength work with Steve is really taking effect. No right SI joint pain and I am able to…. I can’t even explain it, I feel stronger.

Four people complimented my run form during the run. MINE! Mine? yes mine. Since 2009 I have been working on that. No one had EVER complimented my run FORM before. No one has ever complimented my run…. ANYTHING BEFORE!!! (I grew up a swimmer). Did I relish in that? Hell yes I did.

At the finish line if someone had said….. Mary this is actually a 20 mile run…… I would have cheered. I felt good, I felt like that was a pace I could hold for a few hours. Three miles? Good GOD that’s a slow pace. But as I said…. it will come. Ten pounds are down, ten before the marathon and then we will work on getting to Ironman body comp. The thing you must understand with this sport is that everything CAN come with patience.

I used to be a faster runner, and I definitely can be again. But it takes time. Because of my background my swim and bike can come around very easily. Running has always and will always take more for me. Kind of like Jennie. I could take away her run for 3 weeks and she’d be fine. Take away her swim for that long and we’d have an issue. We are all different and we need to understand that with consistent work, these paces will come.

As I approached the turnaround…. I saw Graham. Heather’s brother. He was so far in front I couldn’t see anyone behind him. I knew this could be his first win. I knew Heather was second overall female here last year. I knew what this would mean to him.

I got choked up.

I get choked up whenever I think of Heather. Which is several times a day. It comes in the form of taking my breath away…. but not in a positive way. For a moment I can’t breathe, then the tears come, and with it often comes anger.

At the same time I glanced over the horizon over the city of Buffalo. Knowing in the hospital just a few miles away another friend, also a cyclist was fighting for his life, with his wife at his bedside. His status is touch and go. After the race his wife and I were going to try to connect for coffee and a visit to see him. If she was ready.

For the next mile the only way out of that feeling was to run. It’s the only way through that kind of pain. It got very emotionally hard at that point. Not the…. wow this distance is hard will I finish …feeling…….. but the……  I feel faithful but faithless, these two people should be out here right now…… kind of feeling.

Tears were there. for sure. for both of them.

Carry the fallen Mary. I told myself. If they were here they would do that for you. That’s what we as athletes do. We work towards our own goals and we bring one another along with us.

My mind snapped back to the look on Graham’s face. The smile. I thought about his strength through this whole thing. He’s been strong, he’s smiled. he’s on the roads racing and living. And that brought me around. I wanted to get to the finish line to celebrate. What a feeling.

As I came through the finish line I felt good. Really good. USAT’s Tim Yount was announcing which was a big treat. I finished and immediately found Graham who was just over the moon. I soaked up his and his family’s excitement. I remembered that together we will all bring one another though this horrible tragedy. And we will bring Heather with us in the ways that we all can.

Graham Frazer. Champion. Photo by his lovely wife Barb. This victory was MUCH MORE than swim bike and run. Heather Strong.

I finished third overall female. The 15 year old took it, and my friend Diane finished 2nd. I felt so victorious. Not because I laid down some world record breaking time…. but because I wanted to be there so badly that it ached. I’d rather be slower and want to be there than win by 10 minutes and feel like I hate it.

I looked at my results which I would normally just hand over to Michelle. I cared about them. Power on the bike was good but could have been higher. I should have cornered better, I should have not let the guy get to me like that. My run looked so slow….. but it was 20 seconds faster per mile than at Musselman. I am ten pounds lighter, a bit stronger and that run will come back.

Instead of the negative, I felt hungry. I felt eager. I felt like I wanted the improvement. Rather than I wish I could be faster…. I felt….. okay this is the next starting point. Next training block begins tomorrow and I need to tighten a few things up. Actually I have a lot of things to tighten up, and that leaves me with incredible desire.

Incredible desire. That’s what’s been missing. That right there.

It’s was a small race in size and distance but a big deal to me….. for reasons I don’t even talk about. Some understand, some stand back and say …. what? But that’s ok. I am elusive about some things and I am only because I don’t make them a big deal. Big deals are only as big as you let them become.

This journey I am on is never possible without the help of some really fantastic people. To become the best I can be I have carefully surrounded myself with the best of the best. And on a daily basis I need them to know how much I appreciate them… I don’t think in this world we say thank you to ANYONE enough. And mean it. I mean it.

Thank you so much to my amazing coach Michelle of QT2 Systems (yes…. we at QT2 coach each other!!!). Michelle is direct, yet she understands life. She’s realistic and helps me reach for it. Thanks to QT2 ‘s Tim Snow for encouraging me to take the break in the first place! Thanks to Rachel G from the Core Diet (which is also part of QT2). Rachel told me what I needed to eat, helped me drop ten and is incredible. Thanks to Steve Lopes from Midtown Athletic Club. In jus a few weeks he’s helped to identify imbalances, and help me become stronger. He’s also teaching me to think less move more! Thanks to Quintanna Roo….. my unbelievable bike rides like a dream. Thanks to Nootca for my awesome goggles (a big post for that coming soon!). Thanks to PowerBar, Fuel Belt, Breathe Yoga, Cycledelic…… and there are some I am forgetting.

The biggest thanks always go to the Eggers boys. Curt let me borrow his Reynold’s wheels (love these) and to Luc who is always always always the wind beneath my wings. I am lucky that we do this as a family.

Also big thanks to Eclipse Multisport for putting on such a great race! to the volunteers who give up their Sunday morning to help make the race safe for all of us, a GIANT THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!  And to Score This for your awesome timing. No one does it like you guys!

Thank you for believing in me, and for helping me to believe in myself again. The comeback…..has begun!

Can we put an age limit on these kids in my races? That lil Guatemalan girl was a snapper!