70.3 miles of southern goodness. And then some.

When I qualified for the 70.3 Worlds way back in April, it was a very pleasant surprise. I took my spot, paid my money and then pretty much put the idea out of my mind.

Summer went by in a flash. My time was filled with work, training and many happy distractions.

Every few weeks, Liz and I would text each other a quick note regarding the race: sometimes it was logistics or a question about training, but usually, it was something along the lines of HOLY SHIT WE’RE GOING TO TENNESSEE.

It only really dawned on me about 10 days before the race that we were really doing this. We were going to Chattanooga to race in the world championships.

I had no idea what to expect other than knowing the swim would be tough as it was partially upriver, the weather was going to be hot and the field very talented.

Fast forward to last Thursday, and we stepped off the plane in Nashville, only to pretty much drive straight to a Waffle House.

Kicking it off in style, y’all.

The day before the women’s race (we had our own day all to ourselves, the men raced Sunday) we arrived at the race site for the practice swim in the river. The place was jammed and I wanted to vomit at the thought of fighting the current for 860m. Let me just say that swimming downstream was may more fun.

Post-swim, I was still very nervous about the whole race thing the following day, but I threw time goals out the window upon getting a feel for things and vowed to race to my ability and, more importantly, smile till my face hurt more than my legs.

I couldn’t believe how great the southern hospitality was, how kind and generous the volunteers were and what a great vibe surrounded the event.  It felt different from any other race I’ve done, and it made me feel like this exercise contest was a big deal. And ladies first? Yes, please. I am SO grateful we didn’t have to watch the men go first. Pretty sure I’d have packed up my shit and left town.

I’ll quickly break down the race itself.

Swim: 42:55 (putting me 189/230 AHAHHHAHAAHAHAHA)

It wasn’t terrible, I just swam terribly. Or, more accurately, I swam to my current level of swim fitness. I haven’t been in the water enough this summer, I’ve lost my feel and it showed. I felt fatigued when I finally made the down current turn. On the plus side? I swam straight AND I cannonballed in!

Bike: 2:54 (putting me 87/230 DO YOU THINK I LIKE BIKING?)

Absolutely awesome. And the best part? Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I heard Liz and I’s agreed upon theme song… which means that I got to ride a world championship bike course with my coach/training partner/brain twin. I am fairly certain no one else gets to do that. I loved how hard it was, even if it didn’t feel too terribly hard. I was determined to not overbike, like the good old days. I came off the bike feeling good, and ready to run. Or at the very least, strongly jog.

Run: 1:51 (putting me 79/230, I’ll take it).

Really, really hard. Never a dull moment, it was a roller coaster of terrain. BUT: I smiled my way through the entire damn thing. Coming down that final hill to the finish line, I was negotiating with my legs not to cramp, I was all emotional and giggling like a crazy person. I crossed that finish line absolutely elated.

Travelling and racing with your Brain Twin ™ is amazing: you don’t need to negotiate, you pretty much always know what the other person needs and you have a day drinking partner to debrief on the day with.

And, yes, we did very well in the day drinking department, too. Go us! I mean, our speed tour of Nashville may warrant a whole other post.

When I raced Oceanside 70.3 in April to qualify for this race, I burst into tears of unhappiness at the finish line. I didn’t have fun, or enjoy my day at all. I’ve thought about this a lot and was determined to change my mindset for Coeur D’Alene, and I wanted to race happy. Sometimes, when it hurts, you have to force the happy, but I can’t even describe how much better it makes things out there. I made friends, stupid jokes, mistakes and I had the best day.

My times were nothing spectacular. I’m used to being at the pointy end of races, so the result was, in a sense, a bit of a shock. But I don’t need be disappointed after the fact, or over analyze the results. I am so proud of the day I had.

And yes, my face hurt from smiling.

 

 

Advertisements

5 years

This is one of my favourite photos of Mum.

It’s been 5 years since we were at your side as you drew your last breath.

What’s left to be said since you died that I haven’t said before?

God, September is hard.

As soon as the calendar flips, I find myself constantly thinking back to your last days with us. Spending time with you in hospice. Sitting outside with A and N, trying to make sense of it all. Waiting. Not knowing what to expect but still, knowing you were lost to us. It was such a surreal experience.

I still miss you every single day. Is it possible that I miss you more now than I did when we first lost you? Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a minute of your guidance, even if that guidance is a simple reminder to just get on with it.  I quietly envy my friends who have close relationships with their mums.

You know when kids fall, and they are totally fine until they see their moms and then they burst into tears? Sometimes, I wish you were still here simply so that I could have that luxury when I most need it. To pick up the phone and burst into tears with no preamble.

I know that the memory of you has faded for the kids. They were so little when you died. But we talk about Omi often enough that they’ve created their own little memory bank. Real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. You are still a presence in their lives, and I’ll continue to add to their memory bank as much as I can. I wish I’d taken more pictures, written more down, captured more memories.

If you were alive today, I’d like to think that you’d be proud of the mother I am to 3 strong-willed children. I’d like to think you’d still be scolding me for the silly things I do. I’d like to think of you with your grandchildren, teaching them the things that I can’t.

Here’s to you, mum.

Summer footnotes

Is it possible to experience FOMO for a season, even if you are still technically in the midst of said season?

That’s how I currently feel about summer, and its impending end.

I’m not ready.

I feel like there are still many adventures to be tackled. I don’t want the kids to go back to school. I wish the days weren’t getting shorter.

Anyway. There’s not much I can do about the changing seasons… except maybe be more diligent in planning the adventures.

Chicks in the sticks, anyone?

I’ll be participating in the 70.3 world championships this weekend. Note that I stated that I was participating, not racing. That upstream swim has made me rather nervous. I have images of swimming into a firehose, then playing catchup for the rest of the day.

But at least we have plans to check out the Grand Ole Opry!

Everyone needs goals.

I spent 10 days working in Penticton with Team Canada at the ITU Multisport World Championships

When I arrived, I didn’t know my colleagues. By day 6, my stomach hurt (in a good way) from laughing and we joked that we’d pretty much either push each other in front of a moving bus or take a bullet for each other. You know, depending on the day.

Events are funny that way.

When I was in Penticton, I had a lot of flashbacks to my first triathlon: IRONMAN Canada in 2004. I had no idea what I was doing, and little did I know then that I would end up, in a very roundabout way, turning my hobby into a career.

Life is weird, isn’t it?

It’s official: riding bikes with my kids is my favourite thing ever. I have my own biker gang, and I love watching them try things that I don’t have the guts to.

The tables have turned, and there’s no going back. It’s a good thing I can still smash them on the climbs, because Mom doesn’t “get sendy”.

The kids are home again after a long month of adventures, trips and family time. I am a loner for certain, but my world feels off axis when they aren’t here with me.

The house is sparkling clean and quiet when they are away. I get a lot done. And I kind of hate it.

They came home yesterday. It was loud, messy and chaotic.

It was perfect.

I blinked and now it’s August.

I’m on the deck, trying to see Mt. Currie through the blanket of smoke that has settled in the Valley. It’s a few days post-Ironman, and I’m now recovered enough to be antsy, already looking forward to what’s next. Go figure.

Safe to say that the month of July was a total blur and revolved entirely around triathlon and children. I suppose that isn’t unusual for me, but it was intense.

The kids have shown me just how patient and awesome they can be. My mom game certainly wasn’t on point, so they were left to fend for themselves. A lot. But they handled it just fine. It helps that it meant eating out a few nights a week and a few nights of pancakes for dinner, too.

We did prioritize some days of summer fun, though. If not, I think we’d all have gone bonkers.

I also raced a few times. So that was neat.

X-Terra Victoria was a bust, race-wise, but a total win, fun-wise. Swanky resort, pool time with the kids and some quality time with friends.

Squamish triathlon was a super fun return to grass-roots racing. Good vibe, nice people, and a good way to kick off the next few weeks of crazy.

I successfully race directed an IRONMAN. I still kind of can’t believe it. It was hard and scary and awesome. And really, really tiring. Our crew at BCC live made me look good and captured my “why”. Sometimes, I find it hard to explain why I like to do what I do. I think this offers a good glimpse.

I consider myself fortunate to work with a group of people who are not only talented and relentlessly hard workers but also fun, kind and great to be around. And they put up with my dumb jokes.

And now somehow it’s August.

I predict that it will be more of the same. Triathlon and kids. With more play and some work. And hopefully, with a little less intensity.

Time to be an athlete again… 6 weeks to Chattanooga, y’all!

                                                                Bring it on, August.

Fun wins.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a very informal poll on Facebook:

This is but a sample of the answers that were heavily weighted in favour of happy = success.

I’ll admit, I was sceptical. Doesn’t anger fuel you? When you are in a bad mood, don’t you just want to smash things? And by things, one could argue that smashing oneself on the race course totally counts.

With that in mind, I thought back to the last few races I’d done and while I was motivated to do well and put my heart into it, there was a certain joy in the execution that was lacking. I *always* dreaded the 4am or earlier morning alarm, and I just felt like I was going through the motions and ticking the boxes:

eat ✅ swim ✅ bike ✅ run ✅ go home ✅

For Coeur d’Alene 70.3, I really didn’t have anything to prove or high expectations. I’d secured my spot for World’s in April; my training was sporadic since spending a month in Baku. So I updated my goals for the race to a) take risks and b) really, truly have fun.

Making these goals easier to achieve can be attributed to loading up the Shaggin’ Waggon ™️ with a few of my favourite people and heading south to some great weather and a fun little town. Not to mention the great house, complete with lovely housemates.

I was so relaxed all weekend that not only did I forget to collect a timing chip at athlete check-in, I also forgot my cycling shoes race morning. I almost panicked but pulled it together, sprinted back to the house and made it back to transition before anyone really noticed I’d gone missing.

I squeeeeeeeezed into my wetsuit, all the while making terrible jokes with the girls and wandered down to the start. Those fasties headed to the front of the pack, while I happily dropped back and hung out where I belong (rather than near the front, which is where I’d been starting the past few races, and really had no business doing so).

Well, what do you know… I not only enjoyed the swim, I swam in a straight-ish line, didn’t barf and I got out in respectable (for me) time.

Well hello there.

And then I totally killed it in transition.

The bike ride? It felt oddly effortless. It gives me tremendous pleasure to pass men on super bikes. True story.

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

And then I killed it in the next transition, too.

The run was through the ‘hoods of CDA, and I got to run most of it with Jordan (very famous race announcer and Oh Canada singer). There was chatting, high fives, smiles, we built this city on rock and roll, bagpipes, Christmas carols and finish chute that was pretty much perfection.

Jazz hands

All day, I had a smile plastered on my face.

Here’s proof, courtesy of the awesome team at BCC Live (minute 5 to see just how nerdy I can get).

So you know what? Fun wins. Race happy.

Just the facts:

Swim 38:18 35/138

T1 2:54 #winning

Bike 2:49 13/138 Bye boys!

T2: 1:59 #winning

Run 1:48 12/138

#allthefun

Now, I hang up the TT bike for a few weeks and play in the dirt.

But what if.

Last night was a fairly low point in my young parenting career.

It had been a long few days of go-go-go. I haven’t been sleeping much, so by the time the bickering had reached an all-time high on the drive home, my patience, not to mention nerves, were shot.

I slammed the car onto the side of the road and unleashed. I was done and they could walk home, as far as I was concerned.

No, I didn’t make them walk 34kms home. I’m not a total monster.

We drove home in silence.

Me, seething and full of regret, knowing I’d overreacted but too stubborn and angry to apologize.

Them, well, who knows what they were thinking.

As I lay in bed that night, all I could think was “but, what if that outburst is all they will remember of the day?”

When I can’t sleep, the but, what ifs bounce around my brain like pinballs.

I want to let all 3 kids have all the freedom I feel they can handle.

But, what if all they remember is me not being by their side, somehow missing out?

I’m finding that one of the hardest parts of single parenting is not having that partner to bounce all your thoughts regarding these humans you are responsible for off of 24/7. On your own, the littlest things can take up an abnormal about of brain space.

There’s no question that I feel like we’re a team, me and the kids. A unit. When I’m away from them, I don’t feel whole.

But, what if that’s too much pressure for them?

The eldest is (was? he seems to have tapered off) on a “health kick”. He claims to be on a diet; he does a mini-workout that he saw on YouTube and has been biking every day.

I ask him why and what prompted him. His response is that he “wants a six pack and to be a faster runner and biker.”

A big part of me is proud of him for making healthy choices.

But, what if this is because of a negative example I’m setting? That time I teasingly poked his little belly? All those times we joke about my “jelly bum”… How many times have I told him that I love him just the way he is?

I want them to have the summer of their dreams. To have the freedom to make their own choices, to make mistakes, to skin their knees, build forts, embrace boredom, ride their bikes, live on popsicles.

But, what if it’s not enough?

I don’t believe in helicopter parenting. I want them to make smart choices and be accountable for their actions.

But, what if they aren’t? What if, by giving them these inches, they are taking yards?

But, what if, you never know, it all turns out ok?

Home stretch

In approximately 56 hours, I’ll be flying home. Home sweet home. I can’t wait.

It’s feeling a little like the last few kilometres of a race: I am so ready to be done, and I can’t really remember too much about the start.

At home, one of my favourite things to do with the kids is to play “apples and oranges” over dinner. Or highlights and lowlights. We try to do this daily, when we remember. It’s applicable to my time here, I think.

So, herewith, are my apples and oranges from my time in Baku. In no particular order, some small, some big. I won’t assign a high or low, I’ll let you infer.

**

The weather. One day it’s humid, hot and sundress weather. The next I’m in 3 layers + a down jacket.

And the wind. Oh lord, the wind.

**

Our soviet-era dwelling, complete with faint smell of sewage and a stairwell that can only be compared so something from the set of “Lost”.

**

The constant, never ending, for no apparent reason, fucking honking.

**

Runs through narrow backstreets, dodging cars and stares, laundry, stray cats, random holes in the sidewalks, aiming to get lost, zigzagging my way through the old architecture mixed with new construction.

**

Re-connecting with some wonderful people. Meeting new ones who will remain friends. This month would have been vastly different without them.

**

Working through a language barrier that, at times, felt insurmountable. Never in my life have I used more hand gestures, scribbles and Google translate to muddle through both my day to day and my job.

My unique brand of Canadian humour didn’t always fly here.

**

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of sick of walking. I rarely get in vehicles here, walking just seems less complicated.

**

I want: fresh vegetables. Fruit that isn’t mealy. A giant salad. A grocery store I can make sense of. My regular, happy little comfy staples. I’m kind of done with rice cakes.

**

Why does construction have to go on all night here?

**

I’m quite surprised I haven’t taken up smoking. Or spitting on streets, for that matter.

**

Oh, to be in my bed, my glorious bed. In which I do not feel springs.

**

I miss nature. And green space that isn’t man-made. That I’m allowed to walk on.

**

Pantyhose. Nylons. Tights. Whatever you want to call them, it’s a wardrobe staple here, no matter the footwear. For that reason alone, I could never live here.

**

Constant noise. The quietest place I’ve found has been underwater.

**

I’m amazed that I’ve only witnessed 1 car accident. The drivers here are terrifying, and those are the good ones. I look back and can’t believe I considered bringing a bike #nochance

**

It’s been an experience here, no question. But it’s time for this homesick Canadian return to her people, and plan the next adventure. Maybe somewhere I speak the language.

A manicure in Baku: 20 simple steps.

  1. Decide you want a manicure, because your nails bear witness to your anxiety in this place.
  2. On your way home from the gym, walk into a place that, while there is no signage whatsoever, you know to be a nail bar because your friend figured this out.
  3. Realize after much gesturing, a few words, that you can’t just walk in and need to phone in for an appointment. Niet way that will happen.
  4. Google “nail salon near BulBul”; a search which proves fruitless due to your lack of Russian and poor sense of direction.
  5. Ask your local coordinator to find you a place to go. Feel badly for having her do such a menial task.
  6. She books an appointment, you conquer side streets to find your way there (10 minutes late).
  7. Upon arrival, heavily made up women glare at you, shoo you in the direction of “manikur”.
  8. Meet manicurist. She doesn’t speak a word of English; my Russian is lacking.
  9. Try to explain that I want “short nails”. Blank stares, gestures, an English speaking person brought in to help.
  10. “Ah, you are the Canadian, yes?”
  11. Short nails, I am told, are ugly.
  12. I win the battle for short nails.
  13. My delightful Russian manicurists aggressively files down my nails, “tsskking”, all the while.
  14. I pick a colour.
  15. There is more “tsskking”. A very firm, “Niet.”
  16. Manicurist gets up, rummages around in a drawers, produces 3 colours to choose from, paints them on my nail. None of them resemble what I chose IN THE SLIGHTEST.
  17. I go with the least offensive. “Da,” is the response.
  18. Manicure ends, manicurist gets on the phone, hands me a scrap of paper with “17” on it,  gives me the hand gesture to shoo.
  19. Turn in paper, pay 17 manats (roughly $15).
  20. Leave, with nails that are short and bright pink.

Close enough, da?

Baku Half Marathon “race” report

Alternative titles:

“The race where my inner Race Director died a little”

“Baku Julie Miller Invitational”

“#AzerbaiZFG”

I should explain, first.

I’m in Baku, Azerbaijan (a former Soviet republic north of Iran) as a part of Baku 2017, a small multi-sport games for this region.

I’m here for a month.

It’s going to be a long month.

Anyway.

Before coming, I found out online that there was a half marathon happening while I was here and quickly figured out that some colleagues were also planning to run. Excellent, I thought.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find previous results online, or much information in general. No matter, it will work out. Right?

Online registration involved putting in my passport number.

No, thanks. In person sounds good.

This registration process may be why I can’t find results from 2016:

“Supposedly”, there were 12, 000 entries. That’s a lot of handwriting.

I was handed them my $30 (or so), they handed me a sticker, instructions in Azeri and sent me on my way.

Instructions include:

  • No plastic bags
  • No luggage
  • No pets
  • No folding chairs or tables

Also: buses will follow the runners en route should they wish to stop and take transport to the finish line.

Huh.

See those buses?

We meet and walk to the start line, which happens to be barely organized chaos and a sea of people. Almost no one speaks English.

We are dressed as runners (shorts, tees, runners. Pretty standard stuff). Wouldn’t you know, this put us in the minority, surrounded as we were by jeans, leather jackets and completely inappropriate running footwear all ’round.

We head towards the start arch, with a vague sense of which direction we should be facing.

Pretty soon, we’re in a crush of people — personal space, be dammed – and the police are gesturing us to move backwards more. There’s nowhere to go, we can only laugh and try not to touch people inappropriately.

With 5 minutes to go (by my watch), suddenly it appears that we are off and the jeans and leather jacket brigade are off and flying. We’re talking full, zigzag, sprint to… where exactly?

Since there were no course markings, no barricades, and, the best yet, no timing mats or timing chips, it would appear that so long as you made it across the line at the stadium, doesn’t matter how you get there, CONGRATULATIONS!

I saw the first person pull the pin at 1.98km in.

There was a roughly 5km out and back section. I was pretty lonely out there, just trucking along and minding my own business. From what I could see, there were maybe 35 people ahead of me, total. I couldn’t spot any women (I tried).

The men in this group didn’t appreciate me passing. I’d run by, they’d surge. I’d run by again (having maintained pace), they’d surge again and then eventually give up. Over and over. So that was… interesting.

As we rejoined the course at the start of the out and back, suddenly the pack got way larger once again. With men in cargo pants and Keds. Who weren’t sweating.

What?! Where did you guys come from?

Oh. Right.

I suppose that out and back maybe wasn’t mandatory?

And on and on it went. I’d come upon people running in dress shoes, casual outfits, from seemingly nowhere. Or, you know, subways.

I crossed the line and was given a little card that said “12”. I assume this means I was the 12th woman. No matter that I only ever laid eyes on 2 women ahead of me. Cool, cool.

I signed my name on a piece of paper, was handed a water bottle and shooed away. Literally.

I wandered around the finish area looking for food and more water, and got to cheer on Marco and Kara as they crossed the line together. We searched in vain for bathrooms, walked another 2kms or so for Marco’s gear. Listened to yammering in Azeri. Could have purchased a carpet, chose not to.

As you do, in race expos.

In the end, we got medals.

Actually, scratch that. We have to go get our medal between May 5-9, passports in hand.

Naturally.

Mysteries of Baku – Volume 1

It’s windy here.

I’m not talking easy-breezy. I’m talking old-man-hold-on-to-the-building windy. Unpleasant, hurt your ears windy.

Easy breezy

If I’d done my research before coming, I’d have known that Baku is also known as the “City of Wind”.

Anyway.

One of the first things I noticed here was the abundance of little old ladies, sweeping. Sweep, sweep, sweep. With no real sense of purpose. Just sweep, sweep, sweep.

Most peculiar, is that they seem to sweep on the windiest of days. It appears really they are just swirling stuff around. The other day, when it was so windy that I literally had to lean into the gale to walk, they were everywhere.

The last 2 days have been calm. The little old ladies with their brooms? Nowhere to be found.

Mystery.