Losing weight — A weighty issue

I’m just going to spit it out: Weight will (almost) always be an issue for females.

“I feel fat.” We’ve all thought it. (The men out there, too). I’m sure most of your friends are guilty of verbally shedding a pound or two on their drivers license.

Being an athlete — if I recreationally run, play ultimate and do the occasional marathon, I can call myself an athlete, right?? — I’ve never had an “issue” with being overweight. My BMI has always been in the normal range my whole life. Sure, looking back at pictures of myself in fifth grade, I do look a little, er, round. (But, weren’t we all at that age?)

I run because I like running. I like being outside — in the sun, in the rain, in it all. Also, I know if I didn’t exercise, I would gain weight. Example: I came home with five extra pounds three months in Cambodia with no running one summer.

When I did return that summer with a small amount of weight gain. I did “freak out” a little bit. But, it was nothing. Once I started running again, my weight went back to its normal number.

This summer, the opposite has happened.

I lost weight.

My “normal” weight of 126-127 pounds went down to 119-120 pounds. I’m 5’3” and this new weight is still within the “normal” BMI range but it still — again — freaked me out. I shed those pounds quickly, too.

Forget about all those dieting and weight-loss regimens, I have discovered one that actually works. It was the triathlon training. I think it was the swimming that really did it.

People usually “like” losing weight. It makes them feel better about themselves. Other people will give them compliments.

When other people — my friends and family — started noticing my weight loss (and mentioning it to me,) it started to alarm me.

Does that mean they thought I was overweight before? Am I going to look “fat” once all the weight returns after the triathlon is done? 

“I didn’t lose it on purpose!” I would quickly answer back. “It’s the training!”

The triathlon was two-and-a-half weeks ago and I’m still at my “summer weight.” I think for the first time in my life the weight listed on my drivers license is actually more than it is in reality.  I weigh approximately the same as when I graduated high school seven years ago.

For me, it’s not gaining or losing weight that is troublesome. It’s the change. I think runners especially notice when their bodies change (for better or for worse).

And, I’m not quick to go on a shopping spree despite all my pants being too baggy now. I know my weight will return to “normal” again soon. (You just better not say it to my face!)

The story of a runner’s first triathlon

[Note to reader: This was originally written a few hours after finishing the race. This entry was posted three days later.]

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I’m pretty darn excited right now.

It could be the adrenaline rushing through my veins — three hours after I crossed the finish line.

It could also be because I just did something I thought I could never do. 

(Moral of the story is we all need to listen to more Justin Bieber — and never say never).

I completed my first triathlon this morning.

I swam, biked and ran consecutively — and with no mishaps! I didn’t have to stop during the swim and hold onto a nearby paddle boarder or man-in-a-kayak that they had scattered all over the lake for our safety. I didn’t crash my bike during the second leg or have to walk my bike up the hill connecting to I-90. I didn’t get a flat tire. I didn’t mess up my transitions too horribly. I didn’t have to walk during the run.

I did cramp — a bit.

The open water swim was what I was fearful of the most. But, all those horror stories we hear about other participants swimming on top of you or kicking your goggles off … I didn’t experience. The water was pretty calm. It was overcast out. The water was warm. After I passed the last buoy and was on my way back to shore, my right foot however started to cramp. I was slightly alarmed and didn’t know what to do.

I hopped onto my back and backstroked the rest of the way. I even passed a number of people doing this! (But, that didn’t matter. I didn’t care about beating other women, I just wanted to get back to sweet land).

This is what I look like about eight seconds after swimming 1/2 mile.

Once I did, my heart was pounding extremely fast. I was worried about my foot. I yelled at Bryce that my foot had cramped. He said something back — what exactly, I can’t recall. My family was there cheering for me. My mom ran along side me with her iPad — trying to take photos (yes, she is one of those people) — as I walk-jogged over to the transition area.

Getting out of the wetsuit wasn’t as bad of an operation as I thought it would be, too! But, having seven family members – yeah, I had people fly in to watch me 🙂 — and Bryce on the other side of the fence cheering directly at me can be a bit intimidating. It was really nice to have all the support though.

Finally I was on my bike and had 12 miles ahead of me. And let me disclose that prior to the race, I had never biked a consecutive 12 miles. I always did an out-and-back ride during my training where I would stop and take a water break. What would 12 miles continuously feel like? It was fine.

Until the last two miles came and that darn right foot started cramping again.

This time it was worse than when it cramped in the water. And, since I was on a bike it wasn’t like I could just go on my back and let my arms do all the work …

I started applying less pressure with my right foot and pedaled vigorously with my left foot.

“I may not be able to run if this doesn’t stop,” I thought to myself, slightly defeated.

Everything was fine though.

Smiling because I am approaching the transition area — and see my family.

I was out of the transition area in a minute and it was game time. My body was ready for this leg of the race. Once a runner, always a runner.

A quick wave to my admirers as I start the 5K.

The three miles were a cake walk. (I did cramp — not in my foot but just above the knee on my right leg. Cramping seemed to be the theme for the morning).

No matter. I was passing everyone! OK, I’ll be honest. I passed everyone (mainly because a majority of the participants were either walking or jogging) with the exception of one woman. A few meters before the finish line another woman sprinted by me. (I’m not bitter).

Just like Bryce had said earlier in the morning, I was doing a running race — I just had to swim and bike first to get to it. And, I did.

Mad dash to the finish — can’t remember if this is before or after that woman passed me!

Many people are too scared of doing things not because they will fail at it, but because they tell themselves that they just cannot do it. Once I decided to do a triathlon, I knew that I wasn’t going to fail at it. I knew I would finish. I even surprised myself by finishing in under two hours! I can do a triathlon faster than I can run a half-marathon. My total time with transitions: 1:44:42.

The biggest challenge for me was to override the “I-can’t-do-this” thought. Because as cheesy as it sounds (and I sure know it does,) we can all do anything if we just decide to actually do it.

This runner, is now a triathlete. 

Danskin Triathlon Seattle 2012

(And, hey, I knocked off one of my New Years Resolutions!)

Tri transitions — and conquering fears

My triathlon is in one less than a week.

I practiced my transitions Sunday afternoon. Like, I swam, bike and ran all in a row. I had to transition from the lake to land, out of the wetsuit and into normal clothes.

Seward Park was my headquarters.

We picked out a nice shady area under a tree. Yes, the tree was very helpful — I leaned against it while struggling to take off the wetsuit. It also may have taken me five whole minutes to get out of my wetsuit, put a sports bra over my swimsuit top, take off my swimsuit, put on a tank top and hop on my bike. (I wore tri shorts under the wetsuit so I didn’t have to worry about changing into shorts or anything like that, thank god).

It was tiring. And, I did only (maybe) a quarter of the distance of my real race. I’m doing a sprint triathlon but I have a hard time calling 1/2-mile swim, 12-mile bike and 3-mile run a “sprint.”

I feel (somewhat) comfortable swimming in a pool (after two months of practice) but the lake is entirely different. There is swampy stuff down there. It’s dark. At one point I stuck to backstroke because the slimy plants kept hitting my face when my head was under water. But, I’m not sure if it felt any better when my feet and hands got caught in the plants and I really felt like I was a fish trying to escape a fisherman’s net!

The bike was fine. My right foot started tightening up a bit and it’s the first time it did that. I hope it doesn’t happen during the race, but whatev, it’s the least of my worries …

You’d think the switch from bike to running would be easy because you just hop off the darn thing and let your feet — run! Well, I felt like I was drunk running the first five minutes. My body was heavy. My legs felt heavy. This race will be really fun, I thought to myself.

After practicing that whole sequence Sunday, I feel a little prepared for my race. But, honestly, I am quite terrified.

I didn’t stick to any real training plan (but, that’s my fault).

I have all these bad thoughts that bad things will happen during and/or before the race. Someone’s going to steal my bike. I’ll get a flat tire. I won’t be able to swim 1/2 mile in open water. My contact will get knocked out of my eye (after my goggles do) and I’ll have to swim with half of my vision. I’ll be “too tired” to run and will end up walking the 3 miles. The thoughts are never-ending …

Throughout my training, I kept questioning why I am even doing this. Several years ago I never would have dreamt of doing a triathlon. Knowing I’m a runner, people suggested it all the time. I always shrugged their comments off with a, “oh, but I don’t bike or swim well.”

Maybe it’s because my marathon times have progressively just gotten slower.

Maybe it’s because I want to challenge myself.

Maybe it’s because I want to try something new.

Maybe it’s because we aren’t supposed to make any decision based on fear.

Three months ago I decided to sign up for a triathlon. I was scared.

In five days, I’m going to tri.

(And, I’m still scared).

From pool to lake

I’ve gotten “pretty confident” swimming in the pool. And, by that, I mean that I am no longer gasping for air after one lap. Nor do I feel like I will drown during every stroke.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this runner can actually do 36 laps straight! (Of course, I am not doing those fancy flip turns and I kick off the wall each time, but that is besides the point!) I can swim now! A month ago, it was a different story.

But, let me clarify: I can swim in the pool.

Friends and other people I randomly talk to about training for my tri have advised me to swim in the lake at least once before my race because it is much different from in a pool. I am glad I listened.

When I went out in Lake Washington Sunday morning, I started having that sinking feeling in my stomach (ha ha, yes, pun intended) that I would not be able to do a triathlon. Open water swimming is quite difficult.

1. You can’t see anything — even with goggles. The water is just murky and dark and things like seaweed float around you. The darkness makes it kind of scary.

2. It’s open. You can’t see an end.

3. Because of all the boats out, the water was choppy. The currents forced my head to come up for air way more frequently than I would have liked.

To solve my lack of confidence in lake swimming, I immediately decided I would need a wetsuit for my race. (You’re more buoyant with the suit and therefore if you get tired of swimming you can just kind of float there, plus it will cut a few minutes off your time because you will be faster).

I had a mini-crisis for 24 hours because apparently every woman who is about 5-foot-3 reserved wetsuit rentals for the weekend of my race (July 19) at all Seattle-area stores.

My last hope was trying on a men’s small-sized suit at a store in Kirkland last night. And, thank goodness it fit. It may have taken me about 10 minutes to put the darn thing on — sweat may have been dripping from my forehead in the dressing room — but it fit. And, I coughed up the $80 to rent it for 13 days. Better to pay now than with a medical bill 20 times that amount from drowning in the race …

I’ll head out to the lake tomorrow after work to practice with the wetsuit. Then, if I still have problems swimming in open water, well, I’ll pretty much be a lost cause.

Can’t stop won’t stop

Now that my triathlon training is in “full swing,” my running mileage has decreased to make room for the two other sports in my life (swimming and biking, obviously).

Being a runner, this feels weird. And, it’s not that I was running a ton of miles before I started training. My marathon was done more than a month ago. But, what I have noticed is that my days do not feel complete without a run.

I swam the past three days in a row and I also ran on those days. And, the thing is, I know that I am getting a “good enough” workout swimming and biking. I actually think I may be in “one of the best shapes of my life” (it’s up there with the time I was training for my first marathon) — I stepped on the scale today and was shocked to find that I weigh the same as when I did freshman year of college. This was seven years ago, people! I’m not quite sure where those five to seven pounds disappeared to, but I am sure they will appear after I’ve completed my tri!

But, enough about my fluctuating weight.

Running.

There are those people in your life who make your life feel complete. Running is like that for me. (Don’t worry, I do have people in my life, too!) If I have a bad day, I run. If I have a good day, I run. If it’s pouring rain out, I run. If the weather outside is sunny and warm, — hello upper 70s in Seattle on the first day of summer! — I run. If I am stressed, I run. Even if I am tired and only got three hours of sleep the night before, I run. I just run way slower.

And, maybe I’m not doing them correctly but, I just don’t get those same endorphins from swimming or biking as I do running.

Today marks the beginning of summer. And with that, summer running. Enjoy it.

Help! I can’t swim and I’m going to do a tri!

I finally got my act together and went to the pool Friday. I’d like to say that I swam but really it was more of an attempt.

OK, yes, I can swim. But, not very well. And, it has been made clear to me that I have no swimming endurance. Or, because I was born premature, my lungs never fully developed and that is the reason why after nearly every stroke, I felt like I needed to gasp for air. (Oh, good clean, air!)

My family belonged to the neighborhood swim (and tennis) club ever since I was a little kid. That is where I spent most of my summers, just going to the pool. I was jumping off the diving board — may it rest in peace. Apparently diving boards are a safety hazard now. I was just hanging out with my friends. I was playing on the jungle gym. I was going to the ice cream social. I was playing pool basketball. I definitely was not swimming laps.

My family still has membership to the swim club — we are alum status now for being members for 20 plus years or whatever — so I still have access to the pool.

I forced my friend Mo to go with me. She’s a pretty strong swimmer and does laps several mornings a week. I needed her to 1. Re-teach me how to swim efficiently. 2. Teach me lap swim etiquette. (Now I know what “splitting the lane means!) 3. Make sure I didn’t drown? Those lifeguards look like they are 16! I don’t think they would be able to save me should something bad happen …

I was winded after one lap. Yes, after one lap of freestyle, I was tired. Mo asked me what part of my body was the most tired. I responded with “everything.” Besides my legs though, it was my lungs. I need to really work on my swimming. I am doing a sprint triathlon in mid-August. The length of the swim portion is a half mile, which is equivalent to 35 laps at the pool. Thirty-fives laps! I can only do one before I have to touch the wall!

Humans were born to run. That’s why I am a runner. You just put one foot in front of the other, and go. It’s really as simple as that. Swimming is not like that. We were not designed to keep our heads under water for an extended period of time! And, it’s not that my swimming form is that bad, my problem is that I slightly start freaking out in my head when I am under water.

As soon as I started getting “close” to the other side of the pool in my laps, I would think, “Ah, I can’t breathe! All these bubbles! What is happening?” And then that last quarter of the lap seems like forever.

If I knew I would freak out this much while swimming, I don’t think I ever would have signed up for a triathlon. I have nine short weeks to get myself to not freak out in the water and to get my lungs in check.

I’m nervous.

On your left!

As a runner, I always get a sense of “I’m better than you” when I pass others on the trail.

But, you know, really, I’m probably not.

Today I passed all the runners on the Burke Gilman Trail. It’s because I was on a bicycle.

Yep, I am finally attempting to fulfill one of my New Year Resolutions. I signed up for a triathlon about three weeks ago. The race is mid-August. Since I already know how to run, it’s the swimming and biking I now need to focus on. I kept putting off the two though. I don’t have a swimsuit appropriate for lap swimming, so I can’t swim yet. Plus I need a swim cap and goggles, too. Until last weekend, my bike “wasn’t in shape” to use. I finally got new tires and pedals, so there was no putting it off.

Monday afternoon I went out for my first ride. My friend, Doug, helped me pimp my ride and made me aware that my seat had been situated too low all this time. But now, with the “high seat” I felt uncomfortable getting off and on the bike. I was fine riding but what would happen if a car doesn’t feel like stopping for me at an intersection and I need to come to a complete stop? The thought made me nervous. My mom told me I should wear knee pads.

But the ride went well! No mishaps with vehicles, I didn’t even have to come to any complete stops — yeah, avoiding the problem, right? It felt really good to be able to go fast and pass everyone, well the runners. I didn’t really pass many bikers, but whatever, I’m a “beginner.” My butt wasn’t even that sore the next day after the 9-mile bike ride.

Today I went for another ride. I went a little further, maybe 10 or so miles (and my time was even faster than the 9-miler!). But, maybe it was the fact that I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and I worked all day, but I was pretty tired. I really had to talk myself into “keep-on-pedaling.” It was hard. It was uncomfortable. I was sweating a lot. I had a new respect for cyclists. I didn’t let myself coast though. I even had some awkward passing when I had to pass two young women with their children in strollers while they did different stretches and took up both lanes of the trail.

It wasn’t over when I parked the bike in the garage. I had my run left to do. Yes, I ran after I biked. I ran 5 kilometers. My legs and arms felt really wobbly. Suddenly I got a bad feeling in my stomach. The feeling that I made a huge mistake by taking on a triathlon. If I feel this uncoordinated and wobbly just after biking, what am I going to be like after swimming and biking?

Well, I guess that’s what training is for. I’m now the crazy person practicing three sports and you know, attempt to play ultimate every so often. And yes, I’ll buy a swimsuit so I can start swimming — soon.

Passing, on your left!