Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hello my name is Amy and I'm a Triathlete!

Holy crap I completed a triathlon! I am a TRIATHLETE! Whoo hoo!

I slept horribly last night after going to bed way too late and fighting a "destabilized" stomach. I woke up at 4am and was aware of every pain, tight muscle and ache. I took a long, hot shower then ate toast with peanut butter. Joe and I loaded up the car and away we went. We left the house at 5:30 and it was still raining so I was just a tad grumpy and nervous. We got up there right after 6 which was my plan, giving me 2 hours to get ready without feeling rushed. Being early was great: we got a fantastic parking space, got my timing chip without waiting and had my numbers marked on both arms front of one leg and my age on the back of the other in permanent marker. I set up my transition area in the mist and was all set up by 6:20. I was feeling good and just worried about the now heavy falling rain. The last hour and half FLEW by. I really don't know what we did but all of a sudden it was 7:45 and we were listening to the announcements, National Anthem and lining up in the pool area.

My start time was 8:26 so I was in the first group to go. All the things that I had worried about seemed to solve themselves and I got in the water feeling confident and excited. I knew I could do this. I started swimming.....and sucked. I don't know why but after lap 3 I was exhausted. I alternated freestyle to breast stroke to side stroke. I mentally calmed myself down, knowing I still had a run and a bike ride to come. I let people pass me, those "have fun, just finish" comments finally hitting home. I was going to have fun, damn it!

I finished my swim, still thinking it sucked (actual time was 7:06) and ran to my transition area. It was still misting a bit so getting into wet clothing really didn't matter. I sat on my beautiful bucket and really took my time getting ready, brushing my hair, blowing my nose and taking some sips of water. I got on my bike and was off, feeling good. I waved to Joe, smiled for the cameras, made it through the first turn, yelled thank you to all the volunteers, got mid way up the first hill and promptly puked all over my bike and arm. Luckily there was no one behind me. A couple more gags and I felt fine and continued on my way.

Of all the three areas the biking is the thing I enjoy the most. I crave it. I kept up my "have fun" attitude, thanking all the police and volunteers, cheering people as I passed them, high fiving other Tri team members. I made it up the horrible hill at the end, cleared into transition and puked. Yep, again. This time at least I had made it past the crowds and was off to the side. I was able to stop so I didn't hit my arm or bike. A volunteer came running over to ask if I needed medic but I just said "Nope, I'm a puker" and she walked away. I really need a shirt that says that! I had anticipated my bike time to be 45 minutes. It was actually 30!

My transition to running was also faster than I thought and my legs also felt stronger; I was able to run right from the start. I still walked a large majority of it, but I finished strong and felt incredible crossing the finish line. There was music, a man calling my name, pictures being taken and I got a necklace that says Swim Bike Run. I had tears in my eyes and really felt incredible. I am a triathlete. I was hoping to finish in two hours; my actual total time was one hour 15 minutes!

My mom's start time was almost an hour and 30 minutes after mine so as I was finishing the run, she was getting on the bike. I saw her off and then cheered on other runners. Sandy and Miller showed up which made me so happy to see them. I had told them to be there by 10 but since I finished early, they missed it, but hung around to cheer on "Nana Kathy". My mom's biggest challenge was the bike, so I grew anxious waiting for her. After 50 minutes she finally turned the corner and walked up the horrible hill at the end. She walked into transition and I knew she was in pain. I ran back, helped her change, fearing she might quit. But she didn't.

We started walking; her hematoma from her July fall still bothering her. I threw my jacket to Joe, hugged her and told her we could do it. This triathlon had a staggered start so people compete against the clock. A person might cross the finish line first, but have a slow overall time so someone crossing the finish line 456th might actually win. My mom's start time was so late and her bike ride was a bit long, so it ended up that she was one of the last 4 people. We walked the entire time, me obnoxiously making pointless chatter to keep her mind off the pain. At one point she hugged me and said "Thank you for doing this with me." I hugged her back and thanked HER for doing this with ME.

The last mile of the walk was brutal for her I could tell. I'd ask her if she was OK and she'd nod and say her leg hurt. She fought back tears at points but kept walking. As we rounded the bend to the last quarter of a mile, a group of Tri It members started cheering for us and actually joined the walk. We had a little pack, all of them cheering for her to keep going. At this point she was the last one...but she wasn't quitting. As we neared the finish lines the entire place was packed and everyone started screaming. All the Tri It members were there screaming and I looked at my mom and smiled. She looked at me and said "I'm going to finish". I grabbed her hand and we took the final steps across the finish line together as she too became a triathlete. The entire Tri It Team gathered around her, everyone hugging her and congratulating her. Sandy was crying, random volunteers were crying. It was absolutely the most wonderful feeling I have experienced.

We gathered for a group shot and then packed up our stuff and headed home. On the drive home Joe asked me what I thought. I can't explain why, but I love it. I'm hooked. Everything about it is SO not me. I don't like to walk barefoot outside, yet today I RAN across an entire parking lot. I hate being wet, but today I was soaked and got onto a bike, dripping wet and it didn't bother me. I HATE throwing up, yet today I did it twice, once all over myself and my bike. Normally that would totally freak me out but for some reason I just wiped it away and went on with things. I hate running, yet am encouraged with my opportunity to see visible growth results. I can't wait for my body to recover to start working out again. I want to register for a longer co-ed tri in March. I am hooked. I asked my mom as she finished if she would do it again and she said no. By the end of the awards ceremony it was "I don't think so". I just talked to her and she said "She'd think about it". So I give her another week and she will be in too.

The Ramblin' Rose is a women's only triathlon sprint and is perfect as a first time triathlon. I don't know if is the woman thing or the first timers thing, but I was blown away by the support. People in the neighborhood came out and cheered. There were so many people yelling support for race numbers. Every time I heard a "Great Job 276!" I perked up a bit. A group of people stayed and cheered on my mom as she finished the bike ride and the support at the end was surreal.

I have always felt like I have a strong support system but usually I think of Joe and my immediate family. The triathlon experience showed me what support really is and how vital it is. I am eternally grateful to Margaret for sending me fruit on Friday and starting the weekend off. Random people cheering made me smile every time. I was so happy that Sandy and Miller showed up, when they didn't need to and probably didn't enjoy it; it was pretty boring for spectators. I got home and had so many facebook postings wishing me luck, then telling me congrats. About an hour after we were home the doorbell rang and there was a care package from my friend Sarah Waterrose; roses and awesome home made chocolate chip cookies. I almost cried. My phone and email has been inundated with people thinking of me and congratulating me. I have rarely felt more loved in my life.

People keep asking how I feel and I think they are wondering if I am sore. So how do I feel? I feel empowered that I finished, thankful for encouragement of strangers, the Tri It Team (, and my fabulous group of friends. Most of all I feel incredibly lucky to have shared this experience with my mom. In the movie of my life, this was a tear jerker, and even better than I could have imagined.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movie Reviews- Hippies, Dead People and Zombies

I haven't been able to see as many movies as I would like lately. I hope to pick up more in the next few weeks.

Taking Woodstock-(Demetri Martin and Liev Schreiber) ***
This movie was released a few weeks after the anniversary of Woodstock and I was pretty excited to see it. I had so many questions about Woodstock and how it was planned and the logistics of making an event like that happen. This movie did not answer any of them. I didn't know this going into it, but this movie is really about one person, Elliot Tiber, who at the time was an in-the-closet gay man living with his parents in upstate New York. He holds a permit for an annual music festival and when he finds out that the neighboring town that was supposed to host Woodstock pulled the permit, he steps up and offers to help. This movie is a coming of age story that happens to occur the same weekend as Woodstock. The details of the concert are a bit hazy and is really secondary to Elliot's story, which some key people involved in Woodstock have even said is inaccurate. So this movie was OK...disappointing because of what I thought it was going to be. I still don't have the answers to my questions about Woodstock and don't think I will. Apart from that, it is a well acted, often funny, sweet movie worth checking out on DVD. The best part is Liev Schreiber, who plays a drag queen and is absolutely hysterical. I have never been a fan of his, but this role made me a believer.

Love Happens - (Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart, Martin Sheen) ***
For some reason I thought this movie was going to be an updated version of Sleepless in Seattle. It isn't. I actually really enjoyed this movie and would recommend it for a night where you feel like shedding some tears. I know you probably think this is a love story but it is so far from that I think the previews and name do it a disservice. This is a movie about grief, how people handle it, or don't handle it, and how they continue living life without the one they love. Jennifer Aniston is her usual beautiful self but the role really isn't a stretch for her. Aaron Eckhart is likable and as the main character does a good job of balancing grief and public "fineness". Dan Fogler provides comic relief and helps further along the story. I cried in this movie...not the eyes leaking crying...but hard, trying not to sob loudly crying. The story is sweet and there is a scene with Martin Sheen and Aaron Eckhart that is heartbreaking. It feels weird saying that I enjoyed this movie, or even that I liked it. I was moved. It is a love story in a way, but not with Jennifer Aniston. Grab your tissues and cuddle up and watch this on DVD. You won't walk away feeling sad, but it isn't the feel good hit of the year either.

Zombieland - (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg) *****
There are some books and movies that I love so much, that resonate to my core, that if you say you don't like them or don't get it, I will question our friendship and judge your intelligence. It might be wrong, or snobby or whatever, but that is the truth. There aren't many that affect me like this, and I know we are all entitled to our own opinions, but it happens and I am just being honest. Zombieland is one of those movies for me. This movie is fantastic. It's funny, it's cool, it has zombies (!), it's gruesome, but mostly it is laugh out loud funny. Woody Harrelson is awesome and Jesse Eisenberg nails the sweet dork role (very similar to his role in Adventureland). There really isn't a lot I can say about this movie because until you see it, it will sound ridiculous. Just go and see it. If you don't like it or don't think it is funny, do us a favor and lie to me.

Triathlon Update - TICK TICK TICK

My triathlon is tomorrow. Yikes. I am amazingly, surprisingly nervous and I really don't know why. I have trained for this since April. I did the mock tri two weeks ago and finished feeling strong and good. Yet I still feel nervous. I am almost finished packing up my bucket that Joe lovingly decorated and strapped. I am on my 6th powerade and about to have pasta and chicken for dinner. I know I am I just need to perform.

The past two weeks have not been very active for training. I did the mock tri on the 12th and did well. The swimming was faster and easier than I thought and my time was 1:59, which actually places me in the top quarter of the 1000 person race (double yikes). The bike ride was OK with the exception of the last hill which was brutal. I got to the top and threw up. I am a puker so it didn't surprise me, but everyone came around like I had lost a leg. It took me longer to get my legs feeling normal after the ride, but I did a walk/run timed on my watch and finished strong. I got home that day and felt great, woke up the next morning hardly feeling tight. Monday I got up to go swimming feeling pretty damn proud of myself, got in the water and WOW. It took me 2 minutes to do one lap!!! My mom was also tired too so we cut our workout short and took a few days off to recover. Lesson learned.

I had Miller last weekend and it rained so I didn't do anything. This past week we stopped working out on Wednesday to conserve energy. All combined, I feel a little undertrained. I am hoping muscle memory does its job!

Friday morning I kinda freaked out. Seeing the swim times somehow made it way too real. But throughout the day I realized what an amazing support system I have and it took all my worries away. My mentor called me and reassured me that I am more trained that half the people there. My best friend Margaret sent me an Edible Delights fruit bouquet because she will be out of town. She talked to me for about an hour, calming me down and acting significantly impressed when I told her my 1:59 swim time. I didn't have the heart to tell her Michael Phelps time for the same distance is :48 seconds! My co workers hugged and high fived me, offering tips from their marathon or latest run, all telling me they know I can finish strong. Shelia and Adrienne are coming and Sandy and Miller are going to try. I got countless emails, e-cards and calls wishing me luck and I can't tell you the difference that makes. Jen Gaddy just emailed me and asked how she can support me and I am writing back - you just did. Just offering put a smile on my face.

As I have written this I finished my race bucket and have attached my race numbers (and gone to the bathroom 8 million times - hydration is a bitch). I am up too late but somehow I feel excited. Tomorrow at this time I will be a triathlete. A year ago there is NO WAY I would have ever imagined it was a possibility. Now I am looking at longer distances and thinking - I can do that. Biking 25 miles in Asheville? No problem.

My training group has a poem from Nike circa 1991 they read frequently. I have heard it several times now and never really thought it applied that much. I realized that this poem does pertain to me...but the "they" and "them" are actually me; my negative self talk, my negative feelings. So I read it again tonight with that perspective and it made a difference and really meant something to me. Here 's to ME for becoming a triathlete!

All your life
You are told the things
You cannot do.

All your life they will say
You're not good enough
Or strong enough
Or talented enough.
They'll say you are the wrong height
Or the wrong weight
Or the wrong type to
Play this or be this or achieve this.

A thousand times no
Until all the No's become meaningless.
All your life they will tell you no,
Quite firmly and very quickly,
They will tell you no.

And you...
YOU will tell them....YES!!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I Did On My Labor Day Vacation - Movie Reviews

Joe and I were big lazy slobs this weekend. I won't share the details with you because I would like to still have a bit of your respect, but one highlight was an abundance of movies. I LOVE going to the movies and lately Joe has been appeasing me and going with me. So in case you are thinking about hitting the theater, here are my reviews of the movies I saw over the Labor Day weekend.

Stars are on a 5 * scale.

All About Steve (Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper) **** 1/2
Overall I LOVED this movie and walked out of the theater smiling and wanting to hug strangers while simultaneously yelling "I LOVE ME!". Yes, I am a geek (who had a glass of wine right before the movie) but this movie is for geeks (and wine always helps). Plot summary is basic - geeky girl who creates cross word puzzles for a newspaper lives at home and has no social life. Her parents set her up with the attractive Bradley Cooper, she shows her true geekiness, madness ensues until the happy ending. Sounds boring and cliche' right? If you have ever wondered if there was someone out there who would love you even though you (fill in the blank), it isn't. There are many laugh out loud sections and I can honestly say that there are parts that I see myself, or several different friends doing. There is a part at the end that is so hysterically me that it STILL makes me laugh almost a week later. Sandra Bullock looks HORRIBLE, with a weird hair color and even worse clothing, but for anyone who has ever sat a little, or a lot outside the "in-crowd", this movie is adorable and will remind you that there are people who love you because of (or in spite of) your quirks.

Extract (Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck) * Disclosure: I did go to see Extract less than 20 minutes after leaving All About Steve so I was a bit on a happy high.
The first time I watched Office Space was painful because it was so true to life, but with every watching since, it has become absurdly funny BECAUSE it is so true to life. The same directors did Extract so I am trying to be open minded about this movie but in truth, it just wasn't good. I love Jason Bateman and think Arrested Development is pure genius. He was OK in this movie but I just didn't really care about his character. Ben Affleck was the best part of this movie, playing a stoned, laid back bartender who gives Batemen all the wrong advice. There were some slightly funny parts, but really I'd just recommend skipping Extract.

He's Just Not That Into You (HUGE cast including Jennifer Aniston, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore among others) ** 1/2
So there was this book that Oprah talked about...blah blah. I am NOT an Oprah fan, and never read this book. But I love Ginnifer Goodwin and I'd heard this movie was cute so we watched it. Maybe it was because I was in the mood for a feel-good chick flick, but I was not a fan of this movie. There are a few happy endings, but overall I just didn't care enough to be glad when he finally proposed etc, etc. Ginnifer Goodwin still is adorable in it and each of the actors do a decent job, I just think there were too many of them to fully develop and really, I just wanted a happy ending for all. Sometimes I see movies to escape reality, so when they are too real, I am disappointed. Check it out on video, but lower your expectations to enjoy this movie.

500 Days of Summer (Zooey Deschannel) *****
Go see this movie. Do not pass go....go straight to this movie. Bring a friend, a spouse, a neighbor or bring me because I will surely see this again. This movie is sweet and adorable and innocent and funny. It also has a fantastic soundtrack.

Inglorious Basterds (Brad Pitt) ****
A lot of press has been devoted to the latest Quentin Tarantino flick. While some of my friends are calling it the Picture of the Year, I disagree. I liked it. It was entertaining. You wish it happened that way and Brad Pitt is hysterical. I am glad I saw it, if anything to understand the hype. I walked away surprised at the lack of violent deaths shown (a hallmark of Tarantino films) and wondering if all the people that spoke multiple languages knew how before or learned it for this role. That caused me to think about my own inability to speak a foreign language and that made me really like the actor who plays the bad German dude. Go see it, like Pulp Fiction, you will be glad you know what people are talking about.

I Love You Man (Jason Segel, Paul Rudd) ***
I wish I could get a grant to study the effect of movie expectations vs reality of enjoyment for movies. We LOVED Forgetting Sarah Marshall, written and starring Segel, and really like How I Met Your Mother. So this movie was cute, but not the laugh riot we were expecting so we were disappointed. I think had I gone in with no expectations I would have liked it more. It is a solid, watch-at-some-point-on-DVD movie.

The Proposal (Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds) ****
Joe and I LOVE Ryan Reynolds and have followed him since he was a skinny kid on Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place (what a show-starring our other favorite man- Nathan Fillion). Mr. Ryan Rodney Reynolds has buffed up thanks to roles in superhero flicks and he is yummy. He is also funny with a great delivery which is why Joe likes him. He takes his shirt off in this movie and that alone is worth the $10 movie ticket. Wow, is he hot. OK...enough about him, but seriously...positively lickable. I was very happy to see Sandra Bullock's hair back to a normal color and in this role she reminded me of what a beautiful woman she is. She also has an almost naked scene and in all fairness, is pretty amazing looking. This is your standard, predictable romantic comedy (do we call that a rom-com?) but it is worth seeing. The lusty Reynolds has a unique timed delivery and he is able to project so much with just his expressions. There are some laugh out loud parts and Betty White is hysterical as luscious Reynolds' grandmother. Come on...Betty White! The action takes place in Alaska so the scenery is gorgeous. Is this movie going to change your life? No...but it will make you smile and what can be wrong with that?

Till the next movie.....

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tri Training Update - 3 weeks to go! Hello Stress!

I hate the saying 'I'm stressed out' because it seems so cliche. For the most part I feel like I handle stress pretty well. As long as I work out daily I seem to be able to keep things in perspective and go with the flow. I work in an industry where change is constant and this year has been a doozy. In January my company had a 'Reduction in Force' and 59 of my co-workers here in Charlotte were let go. My boss was fired in February, I picked up three new job responsibilities and got a new boss. Then last week THAT boss was fired and I have another new boss. The new guy seems OK. He has a decent, dry sense of humor that I like and so far our interactions have been positive, though I am pretty sure that in a few months I will not be doing the job I am doing now.

I will admit, I walked out of my first meeting with the new guy more freaked out than I think I ever have been. I went to Shelia's office, shut the door and cried. But I am a good problem solver and by the time I made it back down to my office I had a plan and a list of things I can do; even joked about launching a "Save the Mann" campaign with co-workers.

On Saturday morning I got up and felt a slight twinge in my back. I tried stretching to no avail. My face also decided to break out in a nasty way and coupled with the braces I felt positively ugly. I knew a workout would help so I ignored the pain and got in the car to drive to a class. I couldn't even make it into the gym; my back was spasming and would not let me do anything. I have a great relationship with my chiropractor so I was able to get right in to see him on Saturday morning. I couldn't remember doing anything specific that threw my back out of whack so he asked me if I was stressed. I laughed. I guess I am.

I don't know why it bothers me so much to say, 'YES I am stressed'. My job in up in the air, Joe and I are in a transition phase of our marriage, I have the triathlon that I am training for, my friendships are in flux, I am concerned about money, have gained 30 pounds and while generally happy, I have a lot of changes happening in and around me. I feel like it is weak to say I am stressed, or to admit that things are bothering me. My body had other ideas though.

I spent the entire weekend, on the couch. It was beautiful, sunny and not too hot and I longed for a decent bike ride but since I couldn't stand straight, a tv-athon was all my day held. Monday I went into work. I wanted to call in sick, but it was the new guy's second day on the job and I didn't want to be "that girl". By 3PM I could hardly move. I left early and called in sick on Tuesday. I ended up working from home but it was much better to not be locked into a chair all day long. By Wednesday morning I was feeling much better and berating myself for not calling in sick on Monday.

I am a firm believer that the body communicates with you if you listen. I try to be in tune to what my body is telling me to make sure we get along well. But the past few weeks I have ignored the many signs it has been giving me because I didn't want to admit I couldn't handle it. Dear Body, I am so sorry.

I took all last week and even Labor Day weekend off and I feel better now than I have in a bit. All of those things that were stressing me out are still there but I think a few days of down time, mentally and physically, made all the difference. I have a couple different options as far as a job goes and I am more curious than anything about how work is going to pan out. I am going to get back on the bike tomorrow and do the Booty Loop. Taking just a few days to get some perspective was exactly what I needed, shame on me for not listening to myself sooner. This morning when the alarm went off I felt rested and excited to get a work out in. I drove to the gym with the windows down and the radio blaring my current favorite song "She's Got You High" by Mumm-Ra and felt happy. I walked 3 miles and then swam for 30 minutes. My back feels good and it felt right to get active again.

I still hate saying "I am stressed" and want to be seen as a strong person who can make it through anything. Change, smange. I guess to be that strong person I need to admit that sometimes I'm not that strong and somewhere in there, I get the strength to carry on; the peace I need to have the right attitude. I have been so concerned about training for this triathlon that I think I forgot the process of it, the pleasure in taking each step slowly and growing steadily. When I look back at my first training session, I could hardly do 6 miles on the bike and you couldn't have paid me enough to run afterwards. Now I am sure I can finish, just wondering about time and thinking about next year and possibly a longer triathlon.

Instead of worrying that I set my training back I am going to praise myself for taking a week off when I needed it; for nursing my body by listening when it called for sleep, sleep and more sleep; and nurturing my soul by enjoying a lazy weekend with Joe, full of hand holding and nuzzling and just being ourselves together. I've got three weeks to go til the triathlon and hopefully will still have a job, but no matter what, I'll be OK. Bring on the stress - I can handle it!