How Serious Do You Have To Be To Be A Serious Athlete?

This weekend we were down in LA at a wedding with a bunch of friends. It was fun and exhausting and probably not amazing Ironman prep. All weekend people kept looking at the wine glass in my hand or the piece of pizza and going, ‘OH MY GOD, don’t you have an Ironman next weekend?!’

Clearly, I should have been locked in my bedroom resting and eating appropriate amounts of lean red meat and kale.

Friday I got fried swimming in the sun. Saturday my planned long trail run + open water swim turned into 40 minutes of running early because when the groom wants to go early you go early. Duh. And, then I needed to nap and meet up with other friends and OOPS! Saturday night I had four glasses of wine at the wedding and then was suddenly very sick. It didn’t seem like I’d drunk enough to feel as abruptly terrible as I did, but I didn’t think too hard about it. Sunday, though, when I got up, I started breaking out in a cold sweat and my stomach felt like it was ripping in half. I had to lay back down until about noon — when I was forced to get up to check out of our hotel. By then, I hadn’t kept any food down in 15 hours, so I was pretty pale and shaky. (It seems the burger I had earlier in the afternoon Saturday may have not sat great and the combination of things made me pretty sick.) Eventually, I had some soup and then a sandwich, but any workouts for Sunday were out. Now, I have blisters on my feet from my shoes — even though Erin lent me flip-flops halfway through the night — and one of my ankles is twisted and my stomach still hurts a little and I could sleep for days.

This does not seem like ideal Ironman prep.

There are lots of very good athletes I know who are very, very good because all they do is be athletes. They skip going out; they eat at home where they can control the food and know what they’re getting; they go to bed at 9 p.m. and pass on social outings. They’d have worn comfortable sandals and gone home early from the wedding after splurging on one glass of wine.

There’s a degree to which you have to be serious if you want to be serious. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and setting yourself up for failure. But, in the times I’ve tried to be super serious, turning myself into a swim-bike-run machine has never gone well. It’s too easy for me to get burned out and over it. What’s the point if you’re not having fun?

The problem with this philosophy is that if you’re not the check on yourself, then who is? In the past, Steve has been the backstop, since he’s not as prone as I am to eating a brownie sundae every night or throwing ourselves a party of two for Cinqo de Mayo. Only Steve isn’t training seriously anymore, so there is no backstop anymore.

People asked a lot of questions about Ironman this weekend. (Also I asked a few people some questions about it too: like are you sure it isn’t a mass swim start?) One of the most common, though, was how did I think I was going to do? I was just doing it for fun, right? Just to finish? But, I’d definitely win my age group, right?

No, no, and no.

When I decided to do Ironman last fall and started training for real again, I was going to do it for real. Train for real, be serious about it, take things seriously. I don’t want to pay as much money as Ironman costs, go all the way to Canada, and spend all day racing without aiming to do it well. But, no, that doesn’t mean I’m the most serious or for real athlete there. I don’t expect to win my age group. That’s sort of the GOAL; winning would be winning. I expect that there will be a number of other people in my age group who didn’t accidentally drink and eat too much this weekend (or didn’t have their car break down on the way to a race last weekend, or didn’t go out the night before their last big workout, or screw up all the other things it’s possible to screw up). I know that my “serious” is not the same as other people’s “serious.”

What I don’t know is if my version of taking things seriously has set me up well enough, created a better balanced athlete, enabled me to deal with whatever comes my way, gotten me in the right spot for ME. I hope so. Because things are really about to get real. This week is serious.

Training Week: Oct. 21-27

I seem to consistently level off in my training around 10-12 hours/week. Clearly, for IM, I need to be more at 14-16 hours/week. So, that’s going to be the goal for post-CIM, because I don’t think it’s really going to happen before my marathon — which is, evidently, in like five weeks?

I also don’t appear to be hitting even my shitty goals of 1-2x swimming/week and strength work 2-3x/week. As is evidenced below.


Ran 6 miles very slowly with the high school kids. Was so messed up. SO. Messed. Up. My back was all pinched and I couldn’t turn my head. My right calf was cramped up. Things hurt from Nike Women’s — even though I hadn’t run hard. It was all I could do to run 6 miles slowly.


Had to take a rest day because of all the hurting.


Rode two hours in the afternoon, probably only about 24 miles because I went straight uphill. Didn’t feel like riding out to West Marin or doing China Camp or going through town, so I just went up the hill for awhile and then turned around.

Ran 6 miles-ish slowly with the high school kids.


Rode the hour from Mill Valley to cross-country practice and then to Steve’s parents.

Ran about 6.5 miles with the high school kids, which included 10 x hill repeats. Mostly we ran them easy (and I was tired), but a couple were hard. Did not do core because I had to leave.


Ran 8.5 miles with 2 x 15′ at half-marathon pace. I was really skeptical this was going to work out. I was pretty sure there was no way I would be able to run 6:40 pace, especially since I was running 9:00s to warm-up. And, without a coach to be responsible to, I was almost definitely sure I was going to bail.

But, I didn’t. I ran 6:38s for the first 15′ and then 6:32 and 6:34 for the second 15′ — which I really cut down to 14:45 because I promised myself if I made it to the end of the road before the 15′ was up I could be done. I ran 6:25 pace for that last little bit after the two miles and made it to the end. Then, I felt so proud of myself that I was pretty sure I deserved to not have to swim in the afternoon.

Swam 1,400m in the afternoon. And, did about 20′ of really intense weights and squats and strength.


Rode 19 miles with Steve, much of it on dirt. We intended to ride more, but my legs felt like shit after Friday. The beautiful thing about being in Sacramento, though, is that I had hella weak wattage and was riding super easy, yet we covered 19 miles in 1:20. Flat roads are crazy.


Ran the 17.5 miles to China Camp and back. It was pretty awful. I wasn’t going to go into detail about why it was so awful, because I’m working on trying not to fill the internet with too much stuff that makes me look bad, just so I don’t give future jobs extra ammunition to reject me. But, then I remembered I don’t care what people think about the truth. Especially when the truth is just life.

We had our last wedding of a long wedding season Saturday night at a winery. They had very good wine. You’d think after this many weddings I’d have the whole thing down, I’d have a system. But, there was a fatal flaw in my system Saturday: after I decided I’d had enough to drink and switched to just water, I started to feel great and decided to switch back to wine. I did not feel so great at about 11:30 p.m. It was a rough bus ride back to the hotel. By Sunday morning, I was fine, but moving very slowly. I pretty much just felt like the last thing I’d possibly want to do was run 17-18 miles in the afternoon.

I had a Subway sandwich on the way home and eventually got moving a bit after 3 p.m. By then, though, it was cold and very windy and the sky looked like the beginning of a storm. The last six miles were all into the wind. It was slow-slow, like a new kind of slow, and hard and my Subway sandwich started to come up at one point. And, then, I got home and read everyone’s status updates about how amazing their weekend long run was and how they held 6:50s or 7:30s or whatever for 20 miles. Yeah. Mine was just like that, but not.

TOTAL: 11:40

Weddings and Working Out: When to Just Give Up?

I suppose before you tried to guess where I am this weekend, I should have given some clues, like:



Less pretty.

Though, really, yesterday was 13 hours of traveling, so it looked a lot more like this:


We’re on a farm outside a town outside of Asheville. Or, at least that’s how it was explained to me. And, then we got here and there are banks and shopping centers and a 24-hours grocery store and I was like, “Have y’all never been to the country?”

But, it is still country-ish (especially after you drive all the way to the farm). And, it is Steve’s sister’s wedding. Which means regular training plans have been *some Southern euphemism for thrown* out the door.

The problem is that with traveling weekends, particularly traveling weekends that involved weddings + drinking + some self-generating number of wedding activities, it’s easy to not do anything, or to fit in ONE short easy run and feel really good about yourself when everyone at the wedding is like, ‘hah, hah, I guessed you earned that cake.’ But, really, you know the truth: no, no, you didn’t — even though you don’t even believe in the concept of earning food, because it is, afterall, food and no one earns it or doesn’t; it simply is.

This week was one of those weeks for me.

Tuesday, work came up. A certain (insane) number of things had to be finished before I left Thursday morning and one of them popped up Tuesday afternoon when I was going to swim + core. So, I didn’t swim + core. Sometimes, that’s just how that works. Then, Wednesday, I only fit in a 40′ swim before staying up until midnight to finish work. Then, Thursday, we drove + flew + laid over + flew + drove all day. Now, it would be really easy (and I sort of want) to just give up and learn to love the laziness. Is it even worth trying to salvage the week?

Not doing stuff when you have these busy weeks + travel + weddings (which, pretty much always come together) is good sometimes. To a degree I can’t make up what I missed and trying to cram tons of training in would be 1. stupid and 2. piss off a lot of family. Not doing stuff would also be completely fine if you have no concrete goals or are just lifestyle-running. But, if you actually want to be ready for races and you happen to be 28 and have weddings or wedding-related activities every weekend until the end of October, then taking off every one of those is a bad idea.

So, today, I ran along the river outside Marshall, North Carolina. And, it sort of sucked, because running in a straight line for 30′ and then turning around — especially when you don’t know the area and don’t have any kind of landmarks — is pretty much the equivalent of running, like, three hours. In a sauna, because of the humidity. I don’t love the feel of my hair sweating. But, it also didn’t suck, because the river was nice and I did it and now it is done. Who doesn’t feel better after something is done than after it is not?

(I really do want to hit up some cool trails around here on Sunday, so if anyone has good suggestions…)

And, here is a picture from Tri for Fun #3 for no other reason except that I was excited with how fit/skinny I looked, particularly given that is not a flattering outfit. And, well, we all know: looking like you know what you’re doing is half of knowing what you’re doing.

SO FAST(looking).
SO FAST(looking).

Visiting Kauai: Hiking, Biking, and Vacation-ing

OK, we’re back. Our flight landed at 6:30 a.m. this morning next to what’s left of the crashed plane that’s still on the SFO runway. Yes, it turns out a red-eye flight going from West to East does mean I slept for three hours in a plane seat — I didn’t quite do that math well before we took off.

The Super Big Vacation Week of Weddings started last Friday with a six-hour drive to Tahoe that was mostly us sitting in a non-moving car outside Vacaville for a few hours. Then, I got crazy sunburned, which led to dehydration right before Wedding #1 — a dangerous condition going into festivities. We got home from Tahoe at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and left at 11 a.m. Monday morning for Hawaii for Wedding #2.

I really just wanted to swim, finish my 1,000-page book, and see a waterfall. Kauai, though, is too active for that. Well, except the waterfall.

We hiked for five hours to a crazy hidden waterfall, which is pretty much five hours more than I’ve ever hiked, since the only thing I can tell that separates hiking from walking is how much supplies you bring with you. It was pretty. It was also evident that I am not so good at “hiking” when people barefoot and wearing only bikinis passed us. (I wore actual shorts and tanktop over my swimsuit on the trail.)

Yes, we swam in the waterfall pool.
Yes, we swam in the waterfall pool.
Rainbows, and rainforest, and stuff.
Rainbows, and rainforest, and stuff.

It was also hot and muddy. You’d think that if something was hot and sunny, it wouldn’t also be wet and muddy. Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai. The night before our hike we were at Pre-Wedding Dinner #3 or something and every adult there was planning on hiking this trail or had hiked it or regularly hiked it the multiple times a year they summered on the island. This led me to think it couldn’t be that challenging, since there were some, um, elderly individuals in the crowd. Clearly, it would be easy. Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai.

Almost back to the beach we started at.
Almost back to the beach we started at.

For some reason, this made me decide I needed a bigger adventure. Perhaps it was the rush I felt having succeeded at walking — I mean hiking. On 4th of July I got it into my head to rent a mountain bike and bike across the Powerline Trail, which runs from the middle of the island-ish (you can’t really get to the actual middle without a machete and/or a Jeep Wrangler or donkey) back to where we were staying. Rachel had suggested running it, but I’m trying to rest my foot since it’s been hurting again ANNOYINGLY.

A Google search will tell you that people are mixed on whether it is a super awesome hike/bike trail OR it is completely impassable and terrible. These are very different opinions, but again I figured it had to be somewhat do-able, probably the people who couldn’t do it just weren’t in shape enough.

Hah. You’ve never been to Kauai.

It was impassable.

This was quite a bit cleaner, after I'd gone through a stream a few tiems.
This was quite a bit cleaner, after I’d gone through a stream a few times.

A guy at the start of the trail told me he’d just come from the other way and I shouldn’t do it. I didn’t believe him. I started out. It was a few inches deep in slippery mud the whole way — the kind where you can’t get traction. The mud built up on the wheels, so the wheels were covered in a couple inches, and it built up in giant clumps where the wheels spun through the frame, making them stop spinning, so that you were just kind of dragging the bike along. Most of the trail was also rutted with giant holes and puddles. The ride went like this: slip, slide, bike really hard to make it about 50m, skid out, stop and pull giant clumps of mud out of the derailleur and cranks and wheel until it’ll spin again, push the bike out of whatever puddle/mudpit I had gotten mired in, pull the mud that has now built up during pushing it, get out, ride about 50m sliding all over the place.

About six or seven minutes in, I was trying to ride through a narrow patch of slippery mud, but it had eroded and the only patch of actual trail was giving way into this big puddle. I couldn’t maintain traction and slid down the slope, falling into this thick, deep puddle of mud and water that smelled like wild boar shit. I tried to put my foot down to push myself up, but it just sunk. There was no bottom to the boar shit puddle.

And, for some reason, I went on. I thought, well, that guy made it the whole way. After 30′, I stopped to check how far I’d gotten on my phone’s GPS. I figured if I had made it a couple miles, then I’d be able to do the whole 13-mile trail; it would just take awhile. I had made it just less than a mile in half-an-hour.

I turned around and took another half-an-hour to get back to the start.

By Friday, I had 65 mosquito bites and one crazy bite that spread in a giant rash across my side. I stopped sleeping because of the bites. I also spent over three hours trying to drive across the island in the heat. This was not very pleasant when everything itches and my spastic fit in my car as I sat in traffic might have freaked out some people. There was some discussion about whether or not there are ticks with Lyme disease in Kauai, since it looked sort of like a tick bite. It is still unclear. But, since I haven’t had exhaustion, joint aches, or a fever (more than would be expected given the situation), I don’t think I have Lyme disease?

After all that, it was time for the vacation part of vacation. We went to the wedding. We went to the beach. We walked to these kind of crazy tidal pools near our condo.

That's Steve way over there.
That’s Steve way over there.

We did another “hike,” since I’m basically a professional now. On that hike, we visited a swamp and a canyon.

It turns out it's hard to define a swamp. But, you know it when you see it.
It turns out it’s hard to define a swamp. But, you know it when you see it.
My anti-mosquito outfit.
My anti-mosquito outfit.
Ooh. Aah.
Ooh. Aah.

We went to some more beaches. I’m on page 720 in my book. I did no working out — but also not as much eating as I had intended, so I don’t know if that counts as going full-on in my break. Now, it’s back to work tomorrow (I mean, really, sort of today). And, then, back to being a serious athlete. Maybe.

OH, and I almost forget — so there’s no good transition, I can see why transitions are hard for Whoopi on The View — my favorite thing I learned from Hawaii. If you don’t know how to swim, don’t use the rescue device, just don’t go in the water:

Pearls of wisdom at Polihale.
Pearls of wisdom at Polihale.