Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rodd, Tracy, Justice and June

A few months ago, I invited my Dad – Rodd – and his wife, Mary, to Chicago to watch me in my first Olympic-distance triathlon at Big Foot State Park in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Six days ago, they arrived.

The oldest of his three biological children, I have a unique relationship with my Dad. The differences are many, the similarities few – and volatile.  I inherited my excruciatingly short-temper from him. And while we’re both fighters, we’re also pretty sensitive, so it doesn’t take much for either of us to get our feelings hurt in situations where feelings need not be damaged. We have a hard time letting go of hard feelings towards the people that have hurt us. We’ll both claim to have grown from the situation, but if the offender’s name comes up in conversation, we have no problem rehashing the many ways we were wronged as if it happened just the day before.  And as of Thursday, June 23rd, the short-tempered, overly sensitive, grudge-holding father and daughter were cohabitating in a 2,200 square foot apartment.

Within less than 24-hours, I had burst into tears and walked out of my apartment, leaving a confused Dad, Mary, husband and two children behind me.  The morning started out rough – Dad woke up feeling ‘claustrophobic’ and I – with only 3 hours of interrupted sleep under my belt – woke up cranky and stressed about the race that was three days away. Dad and Mary took the kids to Target for a little bit of well-deserved spoiling (guess who came back with a Wii?) and I headed downtown with a friend to pick up my race packet (he not only got to drive, but he also got 30-minutes worth of tears). Carlo had to put in his two hours of time teaching summer school in the ‘burbs. We all arrived home at roughly the same time, and all still fairly tense.

Checking in with Carlo in the bedroom, I learned that his mother had a stroke early that morning and had been transferred from her assisted living facility to the hospital. The severity of the stroke was unclear, but he was told that her left side had collapsed and she was unable to talk.  While waiting for a call from his sister (who was going to get some time with the doctor), Carlo joined me downstairs to fix what I thought was a squeaky brake pad. Neither of us have any mechanical skills, but based on the sounds the bike was making, I decided a trip to the bike shop was in order. Within minutes, we advised the family that we were taking a quick trip north to have the bike looked at.

I’ve been taking my bike – a ‘vintage’ (that’s code for two-days-older-than-Christ-piece-of-crap) Panasonic DX-2000 – to this shop in Evanston for about 3 or 4 months, and they’ve managed to never burst out laughing each time I’d roll Lorelai (that’s my bike’s name) in.  This time, one of the guys at the shop told me my back wheel needed to be ‘trued’ up and that it could be done by tomorrow. At the sound of the word ‘tomorrow,’ my teeth clenched and my signature deer-in-headlights look took over my face.  I explained to the guy that I was headed for Wisconsin by no later than 1 pm tomorrow and that my bike – the only bike I owned – absolutely, positively HAD to be ready by that time.  The look must have been convincing, because he told me he’d try to have it finished by the close of business that day.

We had a confusing conversation with him about spare tubes and whether or not the CO2 pump I bought would work with my tires.  I left the shop more anxious than I had arrived and compounded the anxiety by talking about Carlo’s ‘exit strategy’ so that he could drive 300 miles south to see his mom and then drive 300 miles back so we could drive 90 miles north to get to our hotel near the race site.   By 2 pm, it was clear that my well-made plan for that day had just taken it up the ass. 

Returning home, my dad – innocently enough – asked how my bike was and I was barely able to speak. Within minutes, there was a misunderstanding, which, on any other day, would not have been that big of a deal. But on that day, at that time, after the aggressive fisting of my daily plan, I lost it. Tears welling in my eyes, I calmly stood up and announced that I needed to take a walk.

“Tracy,” my dad pleaded, “this isn’t anything to be upset about.”

Me: “I need to take a walk.”

Carlo (standing at the door): “Hon. I have to go to Champaign now.”

Me (tears pouring out of my face): “Yeah. That seems about right.”

And then I walked my ridiculous, crying ass to the lake and sat down for a fantastic cry.

Once I returned home, my dad followed me into my bedroom and suggested we talk. And we did. We had it out. What had been sitting on my chest had actually been sitting there for some time, so our conversation was concise and honest. It turned out, we were both on the same page, but until the tears and subsequent conversation, we didn’t know it. And saying the things that had been in my heart and in my brain for so long felt like an amazing burden had been lifted.  The phone rang. It was the bike shop. My bike was ready for pick-up.

I started futzing around with things in the apartment. After all, it was almost 3:30 pm – I had 2.5 hours to pick up that bike. Time was on my side. Things with Dad were good. The sun was peaking thru the clouds. 

10 minutes later, the phone rings.  It’s the bike shop. Again. Oops. Mechanic #2 looked at my bike. And something is wrong.

I tried to explain to Dad what the mechanic explained to me, even though I honestly didn’t have a fucking clue what he was saying. As soon as the mechanic said, “it’s not as simple as we thought,” that hot, humming sound took over my brain as my shoulders reached up to hang tight to my earlobes.

“Well, Tracy,” Dad asked. “Is it off by 1/1000th? Or 1/2000th? What’s the degree? See… when I build a gun…”

I saw more words working their way out of my Dad’s mouth. Words that implied the bike dudes may have had their heads up their asses and that he’d get them to give us a solution to this problem. And the reminder that he makes guns.

“I’ll come with you,” said Dad.

Driving back to the bike shop – my second trip in less than 3 hours and this time, with a different man – I couldn’t help but wonder if my Dad was going to go Troutman on their asses.  “Troutman,” you ask?

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my Dad … but you can call him Rodd … took me to the local amusement park and at my request, put me on the Kiddie Roller Coaster. Within the first lap, I was horrified, screaming for him to get me off that ride. He calmly walked up to the guy that was working the machine and said, “My daughter is afraid. Stop the ride and I’ll take her off.”  The douchebag operating the machine looked my dad square in the eye and told him that he wouldn’t stop the ride (which involved pulling a lever and turning a key) until it had completed three more laps. Rodd promptly picked the guy up by his neck and told him he’d kill him if he didn’t stop the ride so I could get off the coaster. 

I never made it to lap three. And I’m assuming, the guy lived.

Years later, Rodd took me and my bestie, Brenda, on an all-day fishing/swimming/picnicing extravaganza on the Susquehanna River. We were about 12- or 13-years old that day, in our swimsuits with our awkward 12- or 13-year old bodies and at the beginning of our launch into the river, we followed two guys in a rental boat that had nothing but some fishing rods and a cooler full of cans of Bud.  We know they had a cooler of Bud because we spent most of our day picking their empties out of the river (Nothing pisses Rodd off like jackasses that don’t respect his space. And if you didn’t get the memo, the Susquehanna is Rodd’s space). 

Later that day, as we were leaving our swimming hole and headed back home, the guys in the rental boat, now completely shit-faced, passed us while yelling, “We want to fuck your daughters.” Brenda and I looked at each other in shock, as Rodd stood up and yanked the power cord of the engine in his bass boat and we raced towards the drunks in the rental.

What I’m about to say will sound like an absolute lie, but if you know Rodd, you’ll know it to be true. And if you don’t know Rodd, I’m confident that if Brenda reads this blog, she can verify everything I say.

Within minutes, our boat was next to their boat. Touching it, in fact. Seconds after that, my dad cut the power to our engine, planted his right foot in their boat (while his left was still in ours) and grabbed the first guy and screamed “Who do you wanna fuck now? Who do you wanna fuck now?” while punching him in the face.  And then he did the same to the other guy. No. Shit.

Their boat took off and all we were left with was my dad who returned to the seat at the back of the boat to start the engine and the really weird silhoutte of the family about 100 yards away who only witnessed us ‘ambushing’ the other boat.  Scorcese couldn’t write this shit, friends. It. Was. Real.

So now, I’m in my car, driving to a bike shop with guys I trust – with Roller-Coaster-Boat-Beating-Rodd in the passenger seat. All I’m thinking about is, “what’s the next nearest bike shop for me to go to after Rodd kills this relationship?”

We get to the shop and the mechanic I met with originally explains the problem. I’m under the impression that while my upcoming 23.6 mile bike ride on Lorelai won’t be a joy, it can still happen. So I’m interested in getting the right tubes and making sure I have the right CO2 pump in case Lorelai gets a flat. As I’m at the back of the shop, I can hear Lorelai: my dad is moving her back and forth and her back wheel sounds like a seal that is being gutted with a dull, dull spoon. The sound is annoying and I’m 30 feet away, wondering why he won’t stop making that bike make those horrifying sounds.

I return to the front of the store and a different mechanic – Justice -- walks up to me, Dad and Lorelai.

“Is this your bike?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say sheepishly, knowing inside that something really awful is going to be said soon.

“This bike is not safe to ride.” he replies.

Every voice in my head … I think I’m up to… um? 47? Yeah… all 47 voices started screaming. Loudly. I overcame a husband that headed south to see his ailing mom, an argument with my dad, the bike tire/tube/CO2 dilemma and now…someone was telling me my bike was dead.  I had nothing left. Until Rodd, moving the bike back and forth so Lorelai made that nails-on-chalkboard sound said, “You can’t ride this bike, Tracy. You can’t ride this.” “You can’t race this. This bike can’t be ridden.”

I know I said some stuff, and tried to rationalize the situation with both, but that is all foggy now. I do remember feeling like my eyes were about to pop from my head, and I had seriously considered calling my coach to tell her that I was going to pull out of the race, but we moved to the south of the store and started looking at bikes, my dad leading me and Justice. 

Foggy, foggy, foggy. Try this. Sit here. Swing your leg over. How much space is there? How does that feel? Words, words, words. 

My dad bought me an entry-level road bike. With carbon something-something. And blah-ditty-blah-blah-blah. This bike is BEAUTIFUL. 2 lbs lighter than Lorelai and something I could wheel onto a tri-course and not hear the mockery. That hateful, shaming mockery.

I’m 39 years old, and my Dad bought me a bike. Something about it causes me shame (I’m 39. Why can’t I buy my own damn bike?) and extraordinary happiness (My dad can help me, even if I don’t ASK him, he can help me if I need it). 

While in the store, I came up with 10 ideas of how to pay back my Dad. Carlo and I were knocking ourselves out the rest of the weekend, picking up the tab for the hotel Dad and Mary had the night before the race, and even including desperate attempts at paying their tolls on the highway getting to the race.  I have a hard time asking for help (another thing I think I have in common with my Dad), so this puts me in a weird place. It also puts me in a motivating place … I need to work. Market myself.  Get work. I’m fan-fucking-tastic at what I do.

The bike, is beautiful. A Cannondale CAAD 8. I’ve named her June.  She isn’t a magic bike – I learned that while I was on a 23.6 mile bike ride on Sunday. I need to figure out her gearing and how to work myself so I can get the most out of her.   But in the two years that I’ve been competing in triathlons, this is the first time I’m excited to get on my bike.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been closing the door on the possibility of a 70.3 (a Half-Ironman).  Since Friday…since Rodd… since Justice…since June, the door to the 70.3 in 2012 is slowly opening.  Just a crack.

I’m still in awe over the entire experience. From spazzing on my dad, to getting the bike, to racing my first Olympic-distance triathlon.  I don’t know when all of this will make total sense. But I do know that at 39-years old, my Dad came through for me when I needed help. And if I continue racing for another 1 or 100 years, I’ll always think of my Dad every time I’m on that bike. 

Cheers, Dad, to the next 1,000 miles!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Olympic Distance Triathlon: Check!

I can’t say that today was the easiest of days – physically or mentally. But I can say that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and came out smiling. Today, I finished my first Olympic Distance Triathlon – a 0.9 mile open water swim, a 23.6 mile bike ride and a 6.2 mile run.

The past two weeks of my life have been pretty hectic and I brought a lot of additional ‘baggage’ to today’s race. Admittedly, I was a more than a little anxious about the distances of today’s event. I was super stressed about how I’d perform in water that wasn’t 74 degrees or warmer. I started to regret inviting my Dad and his wife, Mary, to an event that I wasn’t even certain I could complete. And to top it all off, I couldn’t poop.  It’s 5:46 pm and I STILL haven’t pooped.  No idea what is up with that.

While my only goal today was to FINISH the race – and I achieved that goal – I’m a little disappointed with my times.  I felt like my swim should have been about 6 minutes faster. That may not even be a realistic goal --this was my first ‘real’ open water swim of the season, and my first race where men twice my size were grabbing my ankles (WTF?) as we raced to the swim finish. I’ll need to work on sighting over the coming weeks – I zig zagged all over that course and probably added a full 1/4mile to my swim (so maybe 37 minutes wasn’t so bad after all!). Leaving the water, I was EXHAUSTED and unlike the triathlon two weeks before, where I sprinted out of the water and thru T1, this time, I walked.

My bike was just about what I anticipated it to be time wise – 1 hour  44 minutes and 30 seconds, and before the race, I thought I’d be on the bike for about 1:45.  Although my new ride was sweet and infinitely less effort than Lorelai (more on this in an upcoming blog post!), I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get into the right gears. This will be easy to correct over the next 5 weeks by getting out for group rides and spending a ton more time on an actual bike, not that damn crotch-beating stationary bike at the Y.  I've slacked on my bike training -- I need to change this.

My run was where things fell apart – I walked most of it. After the bike, my legs were rubber and I had NOTHING left to give. NOTHING. It never occurred to me in all the weeks I thought about this race that I might not run the run.  I came to terms with the possibility of running slowly, but never walking. And I think the reason I’m feeling a little blue about this is because it’s solely my fault. In the busyness that has become my life over the past two weeks, I’ve missed Thursday night run club and my long runs. My legs and lungs were able to carry me through a 5k at the end of the Sprint Tri two weeks ago, but they weren’t as forgiving today. I need to take them for a run as soon as possible and get on better terms with them again.  Perhaps I’ll buy them a glass of wine to smooth things over.

Best things about today:  Seeing my family … husband, kids, Dad and Mary … shouting and cheering for me at every transition.  Seeing Madison and Craig at various transition points cheering as well (funny thing: I hear Madison long before I see her and I see Craig long before I can hear him). Chatting with Amy and Pam before the swim (so calming!).  Chatting with Pam DURING the swim (that was just funny). Watching my coach take the podium (she took 3rd in her age group, and this was her first triathlon in three years!). Not freaking out during the run while I was walking instead of running; I told myself as long as I was moving forward, I was still in the game. I used this … ahem…’down time’… to think about what worked, what didn’t, and what I need to do be stronger for the next race.

I’ve resolved to sign up for that damn Crystal Lake open water swim challenge in two weeks. It’s a mile-long swim, but after the swim… all I have to do is get in my car and drive home. I’ve also resolved to sign up for a 30-mile bike race. Again…once I’m done with my 30 miles, all I have to do is get in my car and drive home.  I’m hoping these single event races, comprised with more group biking and more open water swim lessons, will make my 8/14 race a little easier on my brain and my body.

I wasn’t the last person to finish the race, although, I was damn close to last. I guess that just makes it easier to improve, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The A-Word

I’ve had – and expressed – mixed-feelings about referring to myself as an athlete for as long as I’ve been training. In fact, when explaining to friends or new acquaintances how I’ve spent my weekend racing or why I feel like I live at the local YMCA, I usually stammer something like, “Well, I … do … some… triathlons in the summer.” To use the phrase, “I compete in triathlons,” seems laughable, because let’s face it, there is no podium time earmarked for me anytime soon; I am not really competing.  For the most part, I’m just trying to cross the finish line before the 70-year olds and pregnant women and ideally, without relying on any kind of medical attention in the process.

That’s it. That’s my overall goal: Beat the elderly and/or the knocked-up to the finish line and to the best of my ability, avoid an embarrassing cardiac incident.

Yesterday, on my 39th birthday, at about 7:55 am, that all changed as I was standing in front of 50 or 60 other 39-year old women in the warm and murky water of Centennial Beach in Naperville, Ill.

The first triathlon of my racing season, I felt confident enough (after months and months of training) to put myself at the front of the pack and be the kicker, not the kickee.  The water temperature was actually warmer than the air temperature but even so, I squatted down in the water and allowed it to seep in through the neck of my wetsuit, so it wasn’t a shock when I started the actual swim.  I splashed the water on my face and arms. Two friends (one of whom was going to be racing) were on the sideline, screaming and clapping for me (having peeps is nice) – and then the gun went off.

I didn’t run any farther into the water – I plopped in, headfirst and started to swim.  From the get-go, I focused on my catch and my breathing – I didn’t want to be exhausted before I rounded the first buoy. And because I didn’t have people bumping into me (I swam on the far left since the less-confident swimmers somehow gravitate towards the right, where the ropes and swim buddies are; it’s a clustercuss of elbows and feet and I worked to avoid it), I was moving at a fairly good clip. While I admittedly don’t know how to sight, I did something that resembled sighting, found my buoy, and moved towards it. I stuck to my plan and took the buoy wide and slow.  Because I was in a wet suit, I was buoyant when I wasn’t moving, so I used my buoy time to catch a 3-second breather while I looked forward to find the clearest path to swim on the straight stretch in front of me.  I did this for 750+/- yards. I navigated around each subsequent buoy with ease and at the end of the swim, I launched myself out of that pool like I had somewhere to be. No walking this year.

Out of the water, my husband and kids cheering me on, I asked Carlo for my estimated time: “15 minutes, give or take” he shouted as I ran past him. By the time that registered – that I had trimmed 1 or 2 minutes off of last year’s time – I  reached my coach, Alicia, and Craig, who taught me how to swim three summers ago, at the top of the hill where we were to run into T1.  Alicia’s hand was in the air, ready to give me a well-deserved high-five. She couldn’t see me swim from her post, but she could tell by my smiles and by the fact that I was running out of the pool that I had a strong swim and that I was very, very happy with whatever happened in the water!  Craig might have been confused. I’ve never been a confident … or happy … swimmer, so seeing me run out of transition with a maniacal smile on my face caught him off-guard. I had enough time to shout “15 minutes” to Alicia and Craig as I moved into T1. 

T1 is a long-ass haul from the pool to where my bike was racked.  Running barefoot, I wasn’t exactly breaking any records for speed, but it allowed me to take in my accomplishment. The 15-minute swim, combined with the two- to three-minutes of standing with my wave in the water sank in, and I felt like that swim alone, not even the year’s worth of training and oodles of dollars spent on gear, but that singular swim, earned me the title of athlete.  And that gave me the confidence and courage to run out of T1 with my shoes clipped in and rubber-banded to my bike pedals, so I could attempt a pseudo-flying mount.

Pseudo-Flying Mount --  there was no flying. Since this was the first attempt during in a race (I’d practiced that week at tri-clinic and on my own in the alley behind our house), I wanted to balance my new athletic ambition with the good common-sense caution of a 39-year-old mother, so I pulled my bike to the side (far left is the way to go) and slipped my left foot into the shoe first. I swung my leg over the saddle and placed my foot on top of the right shoe and pedaled a few strokes so I had some momentum. Better than any of my practicing, I managed to slip my right foot into the shoe, get a few more strokes in, and bent down to secure the Velcro strap that keeps my shoes on my feet. My husband saw it all.  I didn’t swerve. I didn’t fall. Before I hit the first turn on the bike course, I felt my athletic pride swell: I pulled off a move that I had watched professional triathletes do on televised events.  I didn’t do it as fast or as effortlessly as they do it, but I did it! And lived to tell!

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful.  I said “on your left” more during that race than I did in the three races combined from 2010. The last loop of the course was a bit windy, but I pushed through it, managed a traditional dismount (I unclipped both feet and rolled to a slow stop, then got off the bike, shoes on feet) and had a lot less hustle in my barely-perceptible jog thru T2. My race mates racked their bikes sloppily, so I ended up placing my bike near a tree instead of racking it (I lost time there; bad decision), put my running shoes on, grabbed a hit of water and my Garmin and made my way out of T2 and onto the 5k run course. 

I struggled to find a comfy pace while I struggled to get the Garmin working, all while trying to drink the water that I took right out of transition. Carlo and the kids cheered me on and I became very aware of how tired my legs were from the bike ride – they had little interest in running even a measly 3.1 miles. I didn’t pull out any crazy-fast speeds for the run, but I did manage to finish in less than 30 minutes, a first, so it wasn’t anything to undo my accomplishments earlier in the race.

Within minutes of finishing, I was with my family and the ladies with whom I’ve trained, beaming with excitement at how great I felt my race went (all this after we lost, then quickly found, my 10-year-old daughter). This year, we reviewed the course with a little more analysis than we did the previous year, where we just seemed to be thankful for crossing the finish line.  Clearly, this wasn’t the first time we’d been to this rodeo. We came in with goals and expectations of ourselves and with more training under our belt this year, we weren’t just better athletes, but we had also acquired the tools to gage whether or not we’d achieved those goals long before the race results were posted. 

I’m not sure if my tri-friends struggle with the a-word and if they have, I hope they’re struggling with it less today. We all earned the rights to the title athlete yesterday.

Cheers, athletes!  Until we race again…

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I wrote my first race strategy today.  Well, most of it. I got distracted and ended up tidying the kitchen a bit. But 90% of the race strategy is done.  The kitchen, however, still looks like shit.

Developing a written strategy for a 17-mile race may seem a little unnecessary, but writing down what worried me ... and strategies for coping with those worries ... was a great process.  This will be my second 'real' season of racing and it started off with a great success: completing a half-marathon within 9-seconds of my target goal (official time = 2:10:09).  Since this isn't my first time at the rodeo, nor my first time racing the Naperville course, I have a very good idea of what will cause me anxiety. And this year, I have a pretty good idea of how to deal with each of those anxieties.

Pooping: My fear of pooping during a race is overwhelming. I did learn tho,  that if I eat dinner early enough the night before, I can easily poop by 4:30 in the morning. I think half the success of my half-marathon was owed to my pre-race, crack-of-dawn poop.

Saturday, June 11th: Finish a sauteed chicken breast, pasta with red sauce and an apple no later than 6 pm.  One glass of wine with dinner is okay.

Sleeping: Anyone that knows me knows that I'm a failure at sleep.  And lots of athletes get a bad night of rest before a race. I've been taking melatonin supplements for a few months now. Partnering the melatonin with a glass of milk and the rest of my daily vits and supplements, I more frequently than not get at least 5 hours of sleep.

Saturday, June 11th, approximately 1 am: Don't panic. Remember that you raced the Glenview triathlon last year on 2 hours of sleep and managed to take 18 minutes off your overall time from the previous year. Adrenaline is an amazing thing.

Race Day Nutrition:  I'm always overthinking this one. In the past two months, I've had two, crazy-good swim workouts on nothing more than a cup of coffee and a glazed donut.

June 12, approximately 4 am: Eat Old School PB&J Pro Bar and Glazed Donut in the car, en route to race.

Getting there: Carlo is famous for printing out Google Maps directions to a place, and then deciding to abandon them half-way through the journey. This makes me crazy.  And I wake up pretty tightly wound on race day morning, so any diversion from the original plan is just poking the bear.

Saturday, June 11th - 8 am: Print out directions via Google Maps and use them to get to the race packet pick-up with Carlo. Make Carlo promise to adhere to the exact same route on race day morning.  Hold a lighter to his first edition of "Ulysses" to drive the point home.

Water temperature: I can't control this at all, so obsessing about the potentially bone-chilling water is a waste of time and energy.

June 12th: Remind self that it's not The Channel. Get. The fuck. Over it.

Swim Jitters: I will be overcome with a hot-wave of nausea when I'm standing on the beach, waiting for my wave to get in the water.  It's the kind of nausea that makes you seriously consider pushing your way out of the crowd and hiding in the car until the race is over.

June 12th, approximately 7:30 am: Look at all the women around me and remember how many of them are first-time triathletes.  Remember how many of them didn't train as much as I did.  Confidently position myself in the front of my wave, so I'm the kicker and not the kickee.  Repeat Mantra...Tracy likes the water.

Biking: I'm not a confident biker. Yet. I have not found my bike love. Yet. I lack bike zen. For now.  That said, I'm still a hell of a lot better than I was last year and I know I can push harder.

June 12, approximately 8 am: Allow self 5 minutes warm up for heart and legs to adjust to the bike. Then grind the shit out of the 6 working gears that Lorelai offers.  Repeat Mantra ... Tracy leaves it all on the field.

Run: Last year, I had just barely completed running 3 miles as a single event. Getting off the bike and walking through transition (no walking this year!), I didn't know that I'd have enough left to run three whole miles.  In the past few weeks, mostly due to some killer workouts at run club, I've decided that I'm a runner. I'm a runner that has sliced two to three minutes off my pace (depends on the distance) and I'm a runner that has run 13.1 miles without walking through an aid station. I am a runner that is going to continue to get faster.

June 12, 2011, approximately 8:55 am: Run like Alicia is right behind me, hand on my back, physically pushing me, while telling me to dig deeper.  Repeat Mantra ... Tracy is strong. Tracy is fast.

My strategy for the Olympic-distance triathlon at the end of June will be much different, I think. But having visited that race site today with some racing friends and my coach, my anxieties are already at a manageable level. This year, the workout of the race will take more energy than worrying about it beforehand and that alone is enough to bank on a good night of pre-race rest.

On my way home from Wisconsin today, with two racing friends passed out in the car, and no radio to distract my thoughts, I started my positive visualization for this Sunday: it's a world of difference from being trapped in the whirling vortex of 'what-if's'.  I'm going big this weekend. And then I'll go home and celebrate my 39th birthday.

On, Naperville!