I am an adventure seeking wife and mother first! Travel, and endorphins are my best friends. I will try anything once, unless I know
I would be in danger. I have a crazy love of God, running, triathlon, the outdoors, dirt, wine, friends, good Vegan food, Yoga,
animals, happiness, and life! I truly believe the only limits in life are the ones set by ourselves. So get out there and expand the limits!!
~~Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Art of Nutrition

So I am coming into the last few weeks before Ironman.  This is the crunch time.  About 8 weeks out.  The time has flown by.  Now is the time that I will be doing my last 5 weeks of the Peak phase. Continuing to build distance, endurance and speed.  Have the last few weeks of intensive training volume buildup.  And then a three-week taper. 
This is “tweak” time.  Time to tweak workouts. Tweak the bike for comfort and power. Tweak nutrition.  Figure out what is working and what isn’t.  I am a FIRM believer in training with what you will race with, as far as nutrition.  Never, would I add something new to the plan. NEVER!  I have learned this the hard way.  Even gels are different.  They have different ingredients.  Could sit in your system different.  Could cause major distress.  This happened to me during a ½ marathon last year.  Instead of sticking with the plan, I used a gel on the course that was being handed out.  BIG mistake.  It’s funny when racing longer distances, what the mind will tell you sounds good, compared with the reality of what your stomach would say.  Gummy Bears sound yummy, but did you train with them?  What would your gut say? Those cute, little, tasty bears, could leave you feeling like they are ripping your guts out.

Nutrition has always been a mystery to me.  Being Vegan I am limited to what I can have and can’t have. Being Vegan also means I eat pretty clean. I am not a junk-food Vegan.  I eat fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters, Tofu and try to keep it Organic. Going into Ironman, I had people say I could never train for that distance on a Vegan diet.  I researched and found other endurance athletes that eat a Vegan diet.  Ironman Brendan Brazier wrote a fantastic book called Thrive, that I love.  Ultra runner, Scott Jurek, is Vegan. Track star, Carl Lewis, Vegan.  And many other, runners, cyclist, NBA stars, MLB stars and even body builders, that are Vegan and Vegetarian.  All doing long endurance races, or kicking butt at their sport, and are healthy.

So, last week during my Adventure Race, I made a few mistakes that got me thinking.  The week prior, I ate well, hydrated well.  The day before the race, I made sure, that even though we were traveling to Montana, I would not make the mistake of eating bad.  I ate often, and ate great nutritious food.  Drank a ton of H2O.  So on Saturday when we started the race I thought I was well hydrated. Drank about 10oz of a sports drink, and figured I was good to go.  I had a hydration pack on but for the first part of the race during the run I didn’t drink.  Falling back on the fact that I had hydrated so well the day before.  I finished that run, and into the kayak EXTREMELY dehydrated.  My mouth full of cotton, and sticky, pasty, lips.  I was so thirsty I was tempted to scoop in river water.  YUK!  By the time we got to the bikes, it was bad, and I downed a full 20oz bottle of Heed.  It helped, but I was still in a position of deficit and then I couldn’t eat.  Just couldn’t.  Lesson learned.  I know now, that even though I was well hydrated the day before, I had flushed all the salt from my body.  So finding that balance is important.

These next few weeks will give me the time to dial this all in.  Last weekend, I ran the 5-mile Spring Dash, and then took off on my bike for a 66-mile ride.  I stayed hydrated, felt good, used my Hammer products, (which I swear by) Figuring out what “real” food, and what liquid food I need on the bike is important.  I have found out this: Heed, and Perpetuem work awesome.  Perpetuem can give me GI issues if I drink it too quickly.  Meaning, if I mix a 2-hour bottle, I need to SIP the bottle over 2 hours.  Not look at my time, and think, ok it’s been one hour, drink half.  Not good.  Also, almond butter, and honey or jelly sandwiches cut into fourths, and eaten every so often work well.  Snickers bite-sized candy bars ARE THE BOMB!! (My ONLY non-Vegan race food, and ONLY eaten for racing in small amounts)
I do know I will gel during my swim, eat real food as much as possible on the bike and liquid only on the run. 
It is amazing to me that it is such a science. An art. A major part of racing.  It can make or break a race, especially on longer distances. The SLIGHTEST little thing can throw you off.  Something that may seem insignificant could make a HUGE difference.  You could easily have the best race of your life, or end up double over in pain, on a porta-potty, or on the side of the road puking.  It happens.
What is your best meal plan?  What products do you love/hate?  Have you had a bad experience with a product or in a race? 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Move over girls, there's a Super Model in town.

 Nothing says fast, sexy, agile, racy, and just down right badass, than a hot little Italian number in the form of a Kuota Tri bike.  I have been perusing Tri bikes for years now, with the serious intent to buy over the past couple months.  What a decision!!!!  Ever since I started doing Tri’s/duathlons WAY back when, I have coveted these super sleek, fast looking rockets.  And now living in an Ironman city, it is even worse.  I swear people were out riding their awesome little tri bikes, JUST to make me envious! 
            Many of you already know, the various bikes available, and the fact that no two are alike.  Not only do they not look alike.  But they feel different, ride different, and fit the body different.  You cannot just walk out the door and decide on a bike immediately.  OK, maybe some can…I cannot., and most shouldn’t.  I have done research on them all.  Ridden a few.  Know everything about them all, and finally came to a decision.  My wonderful bike guru John, at Mountain View Cyclery in Hayden, Idaho was fabulous with me.  Showing me different bikes, then I would leave to shop around, and come back to him.  Looking at his different bikes, patiently waiting for my swirling mind to be made up.  Finally I thought I had it narrowed down.  So I would come in to “visit” the bike.  Look it over.  Feel it.  Touch it.  Ride it.  Had other bike Guru friends come in and look it over, watch me ride it, see how it fit me.  You would think I was making a major life decision.  Like to have a baby, or a career change, or a move across the country. Epic. Well, it did kind of feel that way.
I finally chose.  The Kuota.  She is stunning, and perfect, and beautiful. 
I went in to pick it up yesterday, and to have my fitting.  I am not, by any means, a bike Guru, so please excuse my measuring lingo. 
 Again John was wonderful.  Everyone in that bike shop is amazing.  Very knowledgeable.  Extremely helpful, and with the down right patience of a Saint.  My fitting took about 2 ½ hours.  I road my new beauty on the trainer, while John watched me, walked around me, measured each leg, from hip to knee, knee to ankle.  Feeling my knees, my spine, and my lower back.  Having me up and down out of the aero’s.   Checking the angle of pivot from hip to knee and knee to ankle. Watching each foot rotate in the pedal after we put on my new Look Keo pedals…in red of course.  (A girl has to accessorize) And even measuring with a plumb bob from my knee to my foot.  There was so much measuring and moving it was insane.  But in the end, the perfect bike set up and fit for one Paula Nilges.  Perfect.  Fits me to a tee.  Like a glove.  There wasn’t a whole lot of moving per say, just by mere millimeters, but enough that you could feel the difference.  Also, her weight.  Like a fly.  I can lift her with one finger.  She is svelte, slender, and almost weightless. Crazy!  In the end the whole experience has been awesome! 
So here she is.  Her introduction.  My new girl. 

The evil mistress to my two old road bikes.  I could FEEEEEL the tension as I strolled her through the garage and into the house past my other two.  One sitting aside, and the other on the trainer wondering what was so special about HER that she is heading into the house. 

And there she was.  Sitting in my living room.  Looking like a Christmas present that I had begged for as a kid.  That’s exactly what I felt like.  In fact when we left the bike shop, I wouldn’t get off of her in the parking lot.  My husband, standing at the back of my suburban waiting patiently to mount her on the bike rack.  Begging me to go, as I road around like a kid with a huge smile on my face.  Around and around.  Greg glaring at me to GET IN THE CAR.  Me, cruising around the lot not wanting to get off the bike.  We’ve all been there with our kids.  Yep that was me! 

 I haven’t wanted to put her down since, and I certainly can’t keep my eyes off of her.  She’s got some kind of Italian hotness to her, wouldn’t you agree?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Grizzlyman!! What an Adventure! ~~Part Two

So the race started with a bang.  Literally.  And off we went.  Black Bear racers, which was the Sprint version of this race veered to the left and Grizzlyman to the right.  We headed out behind the Paws Up Resort, which is where we started and finished. We headed straight into the woods, and started up and down a pretty nice trail.  A little rock and muddy, but nothing too crazy.  About 10 minutes in, I started to feel this tightness in my chest.  I tried to just focus on watching the trail, enjoying the view a little, but it kept getting worse.  I felt like someone was sitting on my chest, and squeezing my throat.  I could not for the life of me, get a breath.  I slowed down a bit, thinking maybe I wasn’t quite warmed up, and went out to fast.  The asphyxiation grew worse, and all of a sudden I thought, “What am I doing?  I cannot breathe, and there are 10 hours left of this race” I am out!”  The thing that was hard was when you are racing with a partner, you can only have a distance between the two of you of 10 meters running, and 30 meters biking.  So I had to keep slowing down and calling out to my race partner.  Finally, I had to stop.  Pulled off the trail and stopped.  I called out to Dave, who pulled over, and I told him, I could not go on.  I was going to have to stop my race right here.  Finished.  This made me almost cry.  Dave and the others we raced with have done several adventure races, and qualified and went to Nationals in Texas last year.  To let Dave down like this was killing me, but I could not take in any air.  He stopped and VERY quickly (time is ticking) said, “No, you can do this!”  He told me we would slow a bit, and it was probably the altitude that was making me feel so bad.  But he said, “You have this!!”  So off we went.  I think it may have been altitude, mixed with my nerves of a new race, and the adrenaline that spiked in my body pre-race.  After a couple of miles, I seem to calm down.  We could not wear our Garmin’s, due to the GPS capability, so I had no idea what my heart rate was.  Maybe that was a good thing.  We kept going, and found our 1st checkpoint.  That made me smile.  Made me know I could keep going.  We kept running, checking our maps for the next checkpoint, which was nowhere near the trail we were on.  Up into the bushes and weeds we went to find the 2 nd one.  After that I knew we had just a straight run to the river.  Meaning, no stopping for checkpoints until we got to the riverbank.  We took off.  Up and down rolling hills.  I was happy to have been wearing my trail gators, with all of the thorns, sagebrush, mud and gravel that we were running through.  Finally we found the small road that lead us to the river, and our kayaks.  Down the bank we went, punched our passport at the checkpoint, and rushed to get our clothes changed.  Side note: going into this I knew that I was going to have to be changing in and out of wet clothes in front of God and everyone.  Again…not your typical transition.  I figured for the kayak portion I would take off my running tights, and put on the wetsuit.  Seriously?  I thought I would be shy, and embarrassed.  When we got there, however, and Dave (my race partner) yelled out, “Let’s get naked!!” I didn't even think of the fact that I would be in front of tons of people changing.  I knew I was WAY too sweaty, to be able to take the tights off, and pull on a wetsuit.  It would have taken forever to get that tight sucker on.  So I pulled my wetsuit over my tights.  It went on easy.  Well, as easy as they can.  Put on my Seal Skinz, helmet, stuffed our packs onto the dry bag, stashed our trekking poles, and put my bag with my map/passport in the best stashing place ever for women, down the front of my shirt/wetsuit.  I knew I wouldn’t lose it there.  I took a glance over at Andy and Jeni who had come in a few minutes behind us, and she was pulling her shoes over her sealskinz.  We had talked about doing this, and thought it would be a good idea, but once in the “thick” of things I decided against it.  MISTAKE!

I made sure Dave’s dry suit was zipped up, and pulled the kayak into the river.  THANK GOD I had run this river 2 weeks ago, or I would have probably been sick, due to fear of white water for the first time.  Off we went paddling into the freezing Blackfoot River.  I realized then how thirsty I was.  Despite hydrating so well the whole week, and day before.  My mouth felt full of cotton, my lips were sticky.  Everything I owned was in the drybag at this point, and on the river, there is no stopping to grab stuff.  We paddled on, having only ONE, uh, oh moment, when we came upon a sleeper we didn’t see, and got the kayak lodged up on top, sideways.  UhOh!!  I was so hot, that the water rushing into the kayak felt good, but I knew, this water coming in was not a good thing.  Paddle HARD!  We got out, and kept on a few miles (maybe 6-7) until we say the take out spot.
Dave and I on the Blackfoot River

  Paddling river left, I jumped out and pulled the kayak to shore.  My arms were toast.  I knew I wasn’t paddling right in the kayak, with my torso, and not my arms because they were getting sore on the river.  When we pulled that kayak out of the water, OH MY was it heavy, and my arms were like noodles.  We had to carry the kayak UP the short, but STEEP, and VERY rocky (this is where I made the mistake with my shoes) riverbank.  The rocks were killing my feet.  And the freakin’ kayak felt like it weighed a ton.  I kept, stopping and starting.  Poor Dave.

Hiking those kayaks!!

  We got our passports punched at the next CP, and preceded to carry the kayak to the transition area about 150 to 200 yards away.  Again feeling like it was a mile. Finally we got to transition, dropped the kayak and the craziness started.  This time I was in my undies, and T-shirt.  At one point my partner was on the ground, having me pull off his dry suit.  I am yanking the dry suit…STILL in my undies.  HAHA didn’t even cross my mind until much later.  We got changed, got bottles on the bikes, bike shoes on, and another pack, and off we went. 
Bike transition in the middle of no-where, Montana

The mountain bike portion was the longest.  And it was steep.  We climbed for HOURS on our bikes, sometimes getting so steep, we were off the bikes and pushing.  Through mud, snow, ice.  Checkpoint after checkpoint.  Dave and I got to the part where we needed to make a decision about going for an “extra” CP.  It would require us to drop our bikes, and climb/trek to the highest peak in Lubrecht.  Morrisson Peak at about 5600 feet.  I had left my trekking poles in the kayak. Another mistake.  We decided to go for it.  Mind you, this was a climb that we would be doing in our bike shoes.  Dave put me on a tow, from the back of his pack to the front of mine, and gave me one of his trekking poles.  It took us 30 minutes to get up and down, and the bonus, was 30 minutes added to our time.  A wash!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  This is where I started to get tired.  I couldn’t eat.  My legs felt like they were going to fall off.   They were weak, and tired, and a little stiff. I was almost in tears, telling Dave, I just don’t think adventure racing is my thing.  He said, “Are you whining?”  I yelled, “NO!!”…and mumbled, “Ok, just a little.” He said, “Just wait until we do a 3 or 5 day expedition race.”  I said, “THIS is NOT the time to be talking to me about a 5-day freakin’ (but didn’t say the nice word) adventure race!!!”  I was trying to drink and eat, but just couldn’t.  I knew if I didn’t get something in my system, I would eventually bonk so hard I wouldn’t be able to keep going.  I tried sipping my Heed, and eating a bite sized Snickers.  After a few minutes, when the sugar hit, I was feeling better, but still wondering how we would ever finish within the 10-hour time cutoff.  Back down the mountain we came, to grab bikes, and head for the next CP’s.  Climbing, climbing, climbing.  The climbing was endless!  There were no trails, some parts we were hike-a-biking,  (carrying our bikes) due to the conditions.  Through trees, sagebrush, bushes.  Anyone who has ever hiked through the wilderness, you know what I am talking about.  Until we finally got to the last CP, that would take us pretty much screaming down hill until the finish.  This is where I heard the Hallelujah Choir.  Off we flew.  Man, this felt good.  I knew we were almost done, and my body was ready to cross that finish line. I pulled on that last bit of determination, and “guts” you get to push yourself over the line.  Flying down the hill across a big flat section of bumpy dirt road.  We stopped, looking for the last CP.  Where was it?  We were on the road, next to the highway, with the river to our left.  Just as the map said.  WHERE WAS THE CP?  All of a sudden, Dave yells.  YELLS! (#%&*!)  We missed a turn, and took the wrong road.  No checkpoint.  We had to backtrack.  Oh my gosh.  My last burst of finish line energy was wasted.  I was out of  Perpetuam, out of H2O, and was running low on my Heed.  How far would we have to back track?  Luckily it wasn’t far.  But it did cost us a ton of energy, and about a ½ hour.  We found our road, and Dave said, “Let’s bomb this last part.”  It took every ounce of my being, every energy draw I had, every mental thought I could conjure, to finish this part out.  When I could see the finish, I about cried.  In fact I am sure I did.  We came blazing through to the finish.  Our spouses waiting there, our friends, and race buddies, Andy and Jeni there.  We were tired, sore, caked in mud (yes, at one point I was unable to unclip out of my peddles, and the mud was so thick, I fell) sweat, thorns, weeds, blood, you name it.  Having that complete exhaustion but euphoria at the same time.  That feeling is amazing.  Extraordinary!  Finishing, what in the beginning, I thought I could not.  Something so agonizing at times, I thought I could not go on, but ending up with that undeniable sense of joy of finishing something outstanding.  That is why we race.  That sense of accomplishment, to see just how far our bodies will take us.  How hard we can push them.  How determined can we be?  And in the end, it is SO worth it.  Through everything, even feeling tortured it was worth it.  My partner was amazing.  Through the slow times, crying, whining, he really held me up.  Even when I thought I would sit down and cry, or when I wanted to KILL him. Team Mates!  He was encouraging, motivating, and really, literally pulled/pushed me along at times.  Thanks Dave (Team ASW2)
We finished fourth.  Andy and Jeni (Team ASW1) third, and 15 minutes ahead of us.  Good job guys!!  Our time, 7 hours, 6 minutes.  We made all of our checkpoints and got one of the extras.  Greg and Dave D (Team ASW3)  at about 6:16 for their 1st Sprint. Not too bad for my first 10-hour race.  Already can't wait to do another!!!

All smiles at the finish 

Greg and his race partner Dave D finishing Black Bear.

         Link               Link                 Link

Crossing the finish line!!

Jeni doing her finish-line handstand!

This was the bike trans.  The peak behind the bikes...one we climbed.

The Start!

    Link               Link

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grizzlyman!! What an Adventure! ~~Part One

 Many of you know that alongside training for Ironman, I have been training for my first adventure race.  Trying to wrap my mind around two very different types of training has been interesting to say the least.  Going from long miles on the road bike, to short but intense mountain bike climbs and single track.  Long runs, to shorter, steep, rocky, trail runs.  Not to mention all of the other training involved in two different kinds of racing.  So the day finally arrived.  Here’s how it went down.  My first adventure race.

We packed up Wednesday and Thursday night.  Going over and over the contents of our packs.  We were going to use a 3-pack system, dropping off backpacks as the race progressed. First run pack, kayak pack, and bike pack.  So I was packing 3 packs and a duffle of clothes for post race.  I think I may have gone over the packs 50 times.  Concentrating on what I would need for each leg.  Plus getting together my “Race Essential” bag, which are a few small items that are required to be on you at all times. 
Race Map/Passport (provided – one per racer), Compass, Headlamp with EXTRA batteries, Water carrying capacity of at least 64 oz. (can be combined between containers) Emergency Space Blanket, Fire starter (i.e. magnesium block w/striking flint; chemically-treated fire sticks, etc. Matches in waterproof container, Whistle (emergency type: pealess Oar/paddle/flipper powered watercraft Wetsuit or Drysuit, Type I, II, or III PFD, Bicycling helmet, Mountain Bike, Bicycling helmet.>  

We drove over to Missoula, MT and checked in for the race.  We then received our maps showing us how the race was going to run.  Up until this time, we had no idea what our race was going to look like.  We knew we would be running, white water kayaking on the Blackfoot River, mountain biking and doing orienteering and navigation, but didn’t know how long, how far, and in what type of order. Our boundaries were 50 thousand acres of Montana wilderness.  (Not a typo, 50 thousand acres) Can you imagine?  This was a hard pill for this Type-A gal to swallow.  NOT KNOWING!!! We took the kayaks over, blew them up, and staged our dry bags/and one pack. This pack was different from the first packs we would have.  Having things we would want coming from the run to the boat, and eventually onto the bike.  Wet/dry suits, paddle jackets, seal skin socks, helmets, and paddles.  We then took the bikes, dropped them at transition, which was a few miles from the kayaks, along with our transition tub with another pack, clothes, and towels, anything we would need for getting out of the water and onto the bike.   Also, once we dropped the kayaks…they were moved to an undisclosed location.  Another gulp!

 Later that night, we had a race meeting and they gave everyone their passports.  These are the cards that you have to stamp at every checkpoint.  We had 13 checkpoints and 2 bonus checkpoints.  (Checkpoints are spread out all over and miles apart.  They are not always visible from the roads, trails etc, and you have to navigate your way to them with compasses.)  We THEN could plot our courses.  We knew we were going to run 1st and then white water kayak, after that the teams would spread out for the biking portion in any direction they saw fit.  We had a great dinner that night, plotted our courses and headed to bed to TRY and sleep.  HA!
Map after we plotted out course in the Lubrecht 
Coming from the Triathlon world this was so foreign to me.  Usually having ONE transition area, you know where you are coming and where you are going.  Not really the case here.  I lay in bed wondering how this was all going to work out.  Feeling kind of out of control, and nervous, about what the day was going to bring.  But trying to embrace the new challenge, the amazing experience, and allow myself to be ok, with that feeling of not being in control.
6am the next morning we were up and at’em.  Grabbing gear, getting ankles taped up, ATTEMPTING to eat some breakfast.  We headed to the START with our main pack full of our essentials and enough food, hydration, supplements etc. for the WHOLE day.  We could not leave food in the transition areas overnight, due to the bears wandering though who would find all these treats very satisfying. Gulp.  Also in the packs, extra jackets, gloves, socks, anything you “think” may come in handy for any weather.  Because we were climbing some pretty good-sized mountain peaks, you never know what you will encounter.  Luckily our weather was gorgeous, but there was also a lot of snow, ice, and mud on several of the trails, roads, etc. Also along for the ride, Yaktrax, trail gators, trekking poles which we would use on the first leg, 70 oz of H2O, and anything else we could think of, but not too much to make our packs overly heavy. 
When we lined up, and that shot gun blasted (yes, we were in Montana) I had no idea, the day I would be in for.  The amazing adventure I would have, the panic I would face, and the pain, agony, sweat, tears, joy, and accomplishment I would obtain during these next 10 hours of racing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fifty-Six Miles in the Peloton

 I just love runners, and Triathletes.  There is a certain camaraderie that we all share.  This past Sunday I had the privilege of meeting up with 5 people whom I had never met in my life, and a few of my current training partners, for a 56-mile ride on the Ironman course here in CdA. 
 Along with the awesome Running Mom’s group that I belong to, I also belong to a similar one for Triathletes, namely Ironman Triathletes.  So through discussion boards on a website, we share our training, tricks, plans, nutrition advice, aches, pains, triumphs, goals, and dreams.  So this Sunday, some of us from the group got together for a training ride.  And it was awesome!   There ended up being 12 of us on the ride.  Some I knew, and some I didn’t.  Three from here in my hometown, one awesome woman from Oregon, a great guy from Canada, mixed in with the friends that I currently train with.  It was fun to ride, and get to know everyone.  The best thing, the majority of us, first time Ironman’s.  It was great to talk to them about training, about how nervous we are some days about taking on this huge race.  I found out I am not the only one that has broken down crying after a long training day/week, and thought to myself, “I just can’t do this.”  We talked about nutrition, and what is working for some and not for others.  It was amazing riding in this peloton of cyclist, feeling like we were racing the Tour de France.  Wheels buzzing, gears shifting. It was just an amazing day.  No one was overly competitive, although a few could have been and were AMAZINGLY fast cyclist, but were just out for the training and friendship.  We rode at all different levels, and I am sure that no one felt left out or left behind.  We talked about our fears of cycling, wet roads, drafting etc. As well as great rides and races that we have all done. We shared funny stories about Chamois Butt’r and my new obsession, Hammer Seat Saver, which I am ordering today, and I hear, is the bomb!! 
I will let you know. 
It’s funny, I wonder if all sports are like this? Is there that automatic connection that we feel?  Passing someone running or riding that you know looks like they are struggling....you KNOW that feeling, you FEEL it in your gut for them, and you give them a little nod, or a "great job!" knowing that every step they are taking might be agonizing.  Or passing someone that is having a great run/ride, and giving them the little wave to acknowledge they are looking good, and to keep it up, as well as to say "Hello."  I know in meeting these people, it was like we had known one another forever.  I feel the same way with my Running group.  I have only had the pleasure of meeting one of them so far, but it was the same thing…like we had known one another forever.  I used to find it funny, that you could meet people online, and really connect with them, but you can.  I have! I look forward to meeting more women from my Running group, and more of my Tri group.  I love that the simplest things like riding a bike or lacing up a pair of running shoes, can enable you to make wonderful, life-long friendships.  It’s great to have people that can relate to you in a way that so many others can’t.  They understand the triumphs and tragedies, the highs and lows, and are able to pump you up when needed, and empathize with you, even if it’s about saddle sores, and shin splints.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Always On the Run

I feel like lately I am constantly on the run.  This week is no exception.  I know you are thinking, “Duh…Paula, you are a runner, a triathlete.  OF course, you are running!”  I don’t mean the physical running. 
  Coming off of Spring Break with my kids, we are back hitting the ground running.  Back to school for my kids, which means Homeschooling with Alli.  This year, I have tried allowing Alli to have some more responsibility.  Which some days have gone great, others, not so much.  Some days I guess I have a feeling of being out of control with her school this year.   Something that was very consuming over the past 6 years of homeschooling our kids, has become another thing I feel I am almost trying to “squeeze in” Everything this past year has felt “squeezed in.”  Greg and I had a talk last night, and discussed the craziness of our schedules this year. These last few months.  We are not a crazy, busy, on the fly type of family.  We are very relaxed, very peaceful. Do not over-schedule ourselves.  And that peace still rings through our household, some-days, thank goodness.  But just in shorter time frames.  I used to be one of those Moms’s that was crazy on the schedule.  I would WAY over-book myself.  Could never tell anyone, NO.  Running kids to soccer, gymnastics, swimming, golf, ski club.  Time with friends, family, church activities.  The list was long.  A few years ago, when I felt like I was going to fly off the merry-go-round, I said, “Enough!!” Tapered my life down considerably, and it was good.  It was great!  I felt ok telling people no because I was too busy, when before I would have squeezed them in.  I re-prioritized my life.  Everything calmed down, and it was the best thing we ever did.  I took time with my kids.  Took time to “smell the roses”  To read.  I realized, that life is so short, and time with your kids in your home even shorter.  Play with them, laugh with them, be crazy with them.  I didn’t want my kids looking back when they are older, and wondering what we did as a family, like I did with my parents.  I wanted them to have wonderful memories.  And not feel like we rushed through life.
Now I feel that craziness sneaking back in.  I knew Ironman would bring along with it LONG training that I would have to make time for.  My time with my family is compromised; time with friends no longer exists.  Time for homeschooling is done on the run.  In the car some days.  I am always getting Alli’s assignments ready, explaining them, and am out the door for a swim.  For a bike.  For a run.  Every time I leave, she asks, “Going for a run, Mom?” 
Even as I am writing this, I am thinking about what training I should be doing.  And reading it back to myself, I get teary-eyed, thinking that I HOPE I am being motivational to my kids, husband and friends. An inspiration, and not selfish for taking time away from them.  When my family thinks back on this year, will they feel proud of me, or will they look back and see it as the year I didn’t exist? 
As a stay at home Mom, my whole day was always wrapped around them.  I waited for Ironman, for my kids to be older.  They don’t “need” Mom as much now.  But then I wonder if I am just talking myself into that?  Our oldest daughter is a senior this year.  Graduation around the corner.  Prom this Saturday.  Her and I are very close.  Does she still feel my closeness?  Or am I hasty with her.  Hasty when shopping for prom items?  Do I take the time for our talks about her life?  Boys? Friends? College?  Our son, who has always been older than his years, is in college, working full time, starting up his own company right now. Does he know I proud I am of him?  Have I taken time to tell him?  And Alli.  Is she learning enough?  Reading enough?  A lot of time I am so tired at night when I have to pick her up from practice, that I will ask one of the older kids to get her.  That is time I am missing with her.  Talking to her.  Even if it’s talking just for a few minutes, in the car ride home. Have I baked enough cookies with her these past few months?  Which she LOVES to do with me.  Have we cozied up with our jammies on and her stuffed animals around us, to read a good book, and laugh?  Maybe next week, she won’t want to cozy up anymore, and I would have lost that moment with her, forever.
And then there is Greg.  MY GOSH that man deserves a medal.  He has been my rock.  My cheerleader.  Through ALL of this never complains.  He listens to my worries, my stresses, my aches, pains, agonizing thoughts.  Cooks dinners, cleans up, helps where he can.  Our relationship has always been top priority.  To both of us.  We have ALWAYS had "date night"  usually at the least, every two weeks.  We've always been committed to that.  Our kids have grown up with that.  And they know how important that is for a marriage.  We have taught them, that we were first husband and wife, and it is always important to nurture that part of our relationship.  Which in turn makes us better parents.  Our date nights....well.....they too have been pushed back.  And still, Greg never complains.  Never.  The man has never had a negative thing come out of his mouth since this all started.  We try to schedule date night, but something is always coming up, or there is training, or something I need to do, because I had to put it off due to training.  Or somedays, some nights, I am frankly, just too tired.   I just want a date with my best friend.  
Ironman is hard.  Hard training.  Hard on your time.  Hard on the family, and marriage. Hard on your friends.  Hard on your life. It is one of the most selfish things I have EVER done for myself.  Learning to be a master juggler has been interesting.  Juggling everything.  Everyone.  All the time.  On the run.
How do you all do it?  How do you juggle careers, family, friends, pets, parties, training, quiet time, prayer time and still have small piece of Peace for yourself?   How do you do it all…..on the run????

Monday, April 5, 2010

Birthday of Champions!!!

Of all the ways I thought I would spend my fortieth birthday when I was younger, the way it actually played out, was never in those thoughts. I was thinking a big fat NYC shopping trip, maybe some Broadway, or an amazing Vegas vacation, maybe a Caribbean beach bash, or a trip to the Eiffel tower. It’s funny when I was younger and looking ahead to forty, the person I was in those thoughts, also, is not the person I actually am today. Forty seemed old. Forty seemed FAR away. I saw myself in my big beach hat, giant sunglasses, on a beach cruiser. Gray haired, and feeling a little bitter that my youth had passed me by too quickly. HA!! I am happy to report, that forty is not even close to being “old” I am nowhere close to gray-haired, and I am in the prime of feeling youthful. I may not be a “youth” but can probably run circles around a lot of them.
April 2nd, 2010 started with a gorgeous drive over to Missoula Montana. A quick trip into REI, and off on an 18-mile mountain bike ride. Followed up by a quick run up the “M” hill (about 1 ¼ miles) then off into the Lubrecht Experimental Forest outside of Missoula. It was dark when we arrived at the campsite, so donning our headlamps, we set up camp. Tents, Thermo-rests, sleeping bags, and campfire. I could hear the roar of the river just next to us, but the night sky in the middle of nowhere, Montana was so incredibly dark, you couldn’t see a foot ahead of you, let alone, down the riverbank. The four of us gathered around the campfire, started up our jet-boils, for a wonderful birthday dinner. On the menu for the evening, Chicken Polynesian for Greg, Forever Young Mac and Cheese for Dave, Leonardo de Fettuccine for Jeni, and Pasta Primavera for me. All ready in 8 minutes. On the dessert menu was the great Raspberry Crumble for four. And of course a round of hot cocoa’s with Buttershots. MMM!! We said “Cheers” and laughed about the falling snow, and wondered if there was a better way of ringing in the big 4-0?? No way!
                                                        Dave, Jeni & I

Morning broke, and it was cold. Not that typical, roll out of the sleeping bag cold of a camping trip, but COLD. It had snowed though the whole night, with a little hail at the end towards the early morning. I couldn’t wait to get out of the tent to see the river. But then, the thought quickly crossed my mind, that within an hour, I would be IN the river. White water kayaking. Something I had never done. I looked out at the water. Had it been any other day, this river would have looked so beautiful. And it was. Breathtaking. From the bank. I looked up and down, scanning what was lying before me. Huge boulders, white water, “sleeper” rocks just under the waters surface, that at any given instance could send me sailing right into it’s icy depths. It looked angry. I was nervous. We ate a quick breakfast, had some MUCH needed coffee (thank you Starbucks Via) and loaded the kayaks to the put in spot along the river, a few miles from camp. At this point I was starting to have that adrenaline rush through my body. Nervous, and jittery. Shaking from the cold, and the nerves, and really needing a “potty break” but wasn’t willing to climb out of the partial warmth of my wet suit. 
                                               YEP, that's me, freezing my watootzy off!

 So, off we went. Jeni and I carried our kayak to the riverbank, while she gave me a little schooling. My mind was reeling. Thinking, if we flip, make sure I keep hold of the paddle, feet first and on my back. Don’t get stuck in a swirling “eddy” and if need be, hold my breath, sink under the water, and let the rushing current pull me out of drowning danger. The guys put in first, and just seeing Greg and Dave leaving into the water made my stomach flip-flop. Then we were off. Pushing off the shore into the Blackfoot River. Here I am, sitting in a kayak, and I was breathing as if I was at mile 25 of a marathon. Heavy, panting breaths. Heart pounding out of my chest. “Calm down, Paula” “Don’t think about the bad, enjoy the experience.” I tell you, the first part of curling, cold rapids that we hit, I thought I was going to pass out. All I could think about was flipping that kayak over into that cold water. I was in the front, and trying my hardest to see where we were heading, and what we were getting into, while water was rushing all around, and splashing into my face. Jeni was so good at calming me down, and things got a little less stressful after a few minutes. Still, though, I was just into surviving these few miles. It is amazing the force of water. It is fierce. You have to be on your toes, at all times. Watching, carefully what is up ahead of you. Not a lot of margin for error. That water can carry you anywhere it wants. And it was our job to not allow that to happen. Every time we would hit some calm water after the rapids, I would have to start my heart back up, and remind myself to start breathing again. 
                                      Put in for our kayaks on the Blackfoot River

We girls did great! And after a couple of miles I got the hang of things, and then was able to take in some scenery. The Blackfoot River is stunning. The riverbanks at this point still frozen with ice and snow were something out of a movie scene. We finished our paddle at about 3 miles and hiked the kayaks up the bank back to camp.
                         Jeni & I smiling at this point and singing, "Fat Bottomed Girls!"

 My legs felt so wobbly. I was obviously holding them tight in the boat. I felt like I could barely walk or stand. I was happy to be ashore, but loved (eventually) the “rush “of the river. Definitely a wonderful thing for this adrenaline junkie. The thrill of going down that river was intense.
The rest of our day was spent mountain biking, trekking some fabulously steep mountain ranges, running, and navigation.

 The weather was all over this day. And the saying of, “If you don’t like the weather in western Montana, wait five minutes” held true. We had sun, rain, snow, wind, and pounding hail with a head wind on the last part of the mountain bike. By the time we got back to camp, we were thoroughly spent. Bodies were worn. Greg and I broke camp that night and headed home, making a stop in Missoula for Easter goodies. I am sure we looked like zombie bikers, as we hunted for candy in Target.
That night I slept like a baby in my down comforter. Warm. The demanding workouts, plus the mental “fear factor” of being in that river all drained away from me. I woke up Easter morning feeling refreshed, happy and grateful for a healthy body, a strong beating heart, wonderful friends, an amazing family, the beautiful part of the country we live in, the endless adventure in my life, and laughing about a birthday I am sure I will never forget!!!