My Lucky Break

Posted by on Mar 19, 2017 in News, Pam's Blog |

No one wants to get injured. Yet it’s something we all experience at some point, whether it be something minor or some significant and serious injury. Last September, thankfully after my race season had ended, I had the unfortunate experience of breaking my elbow. It was an otherwise minor fall on the bike – going almost zero (no, I wasn’t trying to unclip). I landed squarely on what we know as the “funny” bone, and heard a crack. Off to Emergency, where an x-ray confirmed what was one piece was now two. Surgery would be required to wire it back together. As I sat in the Emergency room waiting for the bandaging and plaster splint, I faced my new state of immobility with a perspective of how things could be worse. My thoughts immediately went to that of my friend, whose husband – a competitive triathlete and cyclist less than four years earlier – was in the final, merciless stages of ALS. (Sadly, his strong battle ended in December.) I drove home (safely, with one arm), and once I was finally in bed, exhausted and uncomfortable, I wanted to cry. I shed about six tears, and that was it. I told myself that I could have that one cry, that one little pity party, and then it was done. I knew my injury was recoverable. It was a temporary situation with a fix done by many orthopedic surgeons these days. I WOULD RECOVER. As I’ve mentioned before, my Road I.D. bracelet includes the phrase, “Be Positive, Be Grateful.” It was definitely the time for that mantra. Being positive isn’t always the easiest thing to do (yes, I’m talking to you, last 20 miles of the bike Ironman Canada!), but at least for me is an ongoing goal – sometimes achievable, sometimes not. The weeks that followed would include a previously planned trip to Kona a few days later to watch the Ironman World Championships. If I had a dollar for every person that asked me if I’d injured my arm just before the race, my plane ticket would have been covered! Despite not being able to run, bike, swim or hike aggressively while there, I still relished the time on the island. Within hours of my return, I was in the operating room getting the hardware. I was extremely sedentary in the days following the surgery, but just over a week later got some sunshine with an easy walk on the bike trail. From there, it would be weeks of recovery, ultimately beginning physical therapy to bring flexibility and strength to the injured and atrophied arm. In December I was able to resume easy running, some spinning on the bike trainer, and easy, short swims. I was thrilled. On New Year’s Day, I did my first (very short!) outside ride. I was nervous with handling, but it felt great...

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Surf’s Up! Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3

Surf’s Up! Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3

Posted by on Sep 18, 2016 in Pam's Blog |

Santa Cruz is a surfing city. They even have the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which resides at the base of a lighthouse that sits on the IM Santa Cruz 70.3 bike and run courses. I typically try to avoid races that have really cold water, as I tend to get ridiculously cold, even with a full wetsuit. So what was I thinking signing up for Santa Cruz? Apparently my memories of basking on the warm Santa Cruz beach in my 20s had tricked me into thinking this would be a nice idea. Arriving a couple of days earlier, I did a short practice swim and knew it was going to be a gamble on whether or not I would get “the claw” (the involuntary resemblance my hand(s) take to a claw when I get super cold in the water). But I was there, and going for it. On race morning, I stayed on shore rather than doing a good swim warmup, hoping to minimize the effects of the cold water by limiting my exposure to it. I jogged a bit on some hard-packed sand, did a bunch of arm warmups, and even jogged in place. The National anthem played before the male pros started. As I stood with my hand over my heart, it was a reminder of the tragic events in New York City that occurred exactly 15 years earlier. I felt fortunate to be alive, healthy, and able to swim – the coldness would be temporary. We had a beach start – my first ever. When my group started, I ran into the water, timed a breaking wave, dove under it, and was into the relative calmness. The breaking waves were only a few feet high; not too bad, but enough to push a swimmer back if timing was off. I stayed steady as I navigated the course along the pier. Some gentle swells sometimes interfered with sighting and the colorful bobbing swim caps ahead of me added to the challenge. It was a right turn around the end of the pier and then we’d be halfway through. Unlike some smarter swimmers, I swam into a patch of seaweed, some of which latched onto my arm until it finally dropped off after several strokes. Another right turn and it was just about a half mile to shore. A few minutes later the claw finally caught up to me. Thankfully I had only about 500 meters to go before reaching the beach. I exited happy to be done and a little bummed about not seeing any seals! From the sandy beach to T1 at Depot Park it was about a quarter mile of painful barefoot running. It wasn’t all smooth cement! My feet were cold enough to hurt, but not cold enough to be numb! I spent too long in T1 drying to dry off a bit and...

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The Ups and Downs of Ironman Canada

Posted by on Aug 14, 2016 in Pam's Blog |

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes.” I read this quote from Pico Iyer before my trip to Whistler for Ironman Canada. The trip would be my third to Canada in thirteen months, each time for a race (Mont Tremblant and Victoria were the other venues).  My goal for this race was to get on the podium in my division. Winning the age group is a sure Kona slot, but I knew the competition was strong and experienced. In the days before the race, I had a few swims in Alta Lake, the swim venue. I also took a few short rides on portions of the bike course. On my first training ride, I got to see my first Canadian black bear! I drove the notoriously hilly last 20 miles of the bike course and had confidence I could handle it. Of course I hadn’t ridden more than 90 miles by then! Race morning brought clear and calm conditions. I enjoyed every minute of the swim and made sure to take in the huge, snow-capped mountains and forests of pines that surrounded the lake. I felt relaxed and fit, and while satisfied with my time, felt like I could have pushed harder. What did I learn? Practice pacing for the long open-water swims and take advantage of my ability to ramp it up a bit. What was I thinking during the swim? “I am blazing through this! Passing men, women, people younger than me. This is going to be a PR swim!” What did I think later? “Not a PR. No wonder that swim felt relatively easy. It’s a race, not a sightseeing tour. Sheesh.” The bike course took us from the lake to the Sea to Sky Highway, onto the road where I saw the bear. It was about seven miles of climbing to get to the turnaround at the Olympic biathlon center. No bears this time, but lots of great opportunities to see the pros flying on their way back, along with the age-groupers. After descending, it was back for dozens of miles on the Sea to Sky Highway to reach the town of Pemberton. We passed lakes that had the color of blue tourmaline. I’ve never seen water like that. We had some climbs, including a good one on a section a volunteer said was “Suicide Hill” and finally descended to Pemberton, with its miles of flat road. While it was great to be on the flats, it also coincided with the increasing discomfort I was feeling on my bike. I spent a lot of time shifting position, and wasn’t able to take much advantage of aero position. Many miles out and back brought us back to the highway for the infamous hills back to Whistler. It was here that physical and...

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Swim, Bike, Run, Hula

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in News, Pam's Blog |

My Road ID bracelet, in addition to having all of the pertinent contact and medical info, says, “Be Positive, Be Grateful.” That sums up how I approached Ironman Hawaii 70.3 (“Honu”). Roll back the reel to the beginning of April, when I badly strained my Achilles tendon. I’d end up not running a step until five weeks later.  I’d signed up for Honu months earlier, and I faced the prospect of possibly having to walk some or all of the run portion due to my injury. In my prior blog post I wrote about the value of pool running. That “aqua” running, along with a great PT who was a triathlete himself, got me to Hawaii with a few pain-free miles on my feet. My longest run in May was just seven miles! In the past I’ve typically started triathlons with a somewhat anxiety-focused vision on the end result. That mentality added to the incumbent stresses of race day. Although I’d had some gratifying results, the stress sucks up energy needlessly. In the week prior to Honu, a friend (and fellow Honu competitor) shared a Mark Allen article about “The Connection Between Mind and Body.” It talks about how to let go of negative thoughts during a race, focusing on the present without self-judgment. I also read about race-day mentality in Matt Dixon’s great book, “The Well-Built Triathlete.” The strategy is to focus on the race-day journey, task by task (e.g., T1 prep, swim start, swim and finish, T1 tasks, bike miles, T2 tasks, run mile by mile), not on the desired outcome. The Honu swim is at beautiful Hapuna Bay, with the typical clear, warm Hawaiian ocean water. I’d arrived a week before the race to prepare, and I learned that I loved swimming in that ocean! While it was some of the typical race congestion, it was a relatively stress-free swim, followed with a run up the sandy beach to the showers (rinse off the saltwater!), sunscreen (lots!), then onto the bike! The bike miles are on the legendary Queen K highway; part of the same course the athletes ride in the October Kona IM World Championship each year. On this day, the infamous crosswinds were virtually non-existent. We rode up toward the turnaround near the little town of Hawi, passing through the pleasant petrichor of a recent rainfall. We were either ascending or descending; no flat sections here! We often had views of the beautiful Pacific, and I was constantly reminded of the spectacular place I was experiencing at this race. The last miles brought us to the grounds of the Fairmont Orchid (this is a split transition race), where the half-marathon in the heat and humidity would take us onto the golf course grounds. Thirteen miles is a long way to run at any time, and with the heat, humidity, and limited miles on my...

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Pool Running – Make it Your Fitness Savior

Posted by on May 9, 2016 in News, Pam's Blog |

You know you’ve done it, too. Felt a niggle during your training. Maybe a bit of a limp after your run. Some specific pain you thought you could run through without being out of the game. So, with big races on the schedule this year, I committed all of those athletic sins. I ran in a 5K race in early April, feeling some pain in my Achilles in every step during my two-mile warmup. I’d never had an Achilles injury, and knew that they could be pretty bad. So of course I lined up at the start and got ready to run hard. You’ve already correctly guessed the outcome. The pain worsened, and by the end, it was excruciating. I continued with my brilliant good judgment and didn’t drop out, really wanting that age-group win. To get that win, I paid a big price. I could barely walk when I finished, and rather than being something that a few days off would resolve, it was five weeks later until I ran my first steps. So what did I do to maintain running fitness? Pool running. To mention it brings eye rolls and the inevitable comment about how boring it can be. Yeah, it’s not as stimulating as running outside where I can enjoy the Parkway, the wildlife, and often see friends. But it sure is effective and can land you back on terra firma with as much running fitness as before your injury. Some elite runners even incorporate it into their routine when they’re NOT injured (gasp!) just so that they can add non-impact mileage. I read that Neeley Spence-Gracey, first American woman at Boston this year, does pool running to increase fitness – when she’s not injured! The cool thing (I’m not talking about the water) is that you can do hard intervals during every pool workout. It doesn’t require the same hard-easy pattern that we need to follow on land (you’re salivating at the potential PRs dancing around in your head about now). I found some great workouts online from Olympian and running-book author Pete Pfitzinger. The intervals aren’t too long, and doing them throughout the majority of the workout not only keeps you fit, it helps mitigate that boredom. (You need only a short warmup and cooldown, maybe five minutes each.) You can also have your coach modify your workouts for the pool, adding intervals and perceived tempo efforts. If you’re lucky enough to have waterproof headphones, then loan them to me. Kidding (or maybe not). But if I had them, being in the pool is definitely a place where you can use them without compromising your safety (or that of others), as can sometimes happen on land. One other thing I do to keep myself motivated is to employ visualization. If you’re in a pool with backstroke flags, they’re the finish line of that race you’re...

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Into the Cosmic Tree

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Pam's Blog |

That spade. That Freeplay spade. What does it mean? A quick Google led me to a definition of a leaf representing life on the cosmic tree. Other meanings were strength and wisdom. And then there was death. Geez, let’s forget about that last one! Now I need to read up on cosmic trees… Last week was the kickoff for the 2016 Freeplay team. The plan was for a run, swim, and team meeting. I showed up for the run at Sac State (my alma mater!) and immediately met Mary, who had made the extremely-early-morning drive from Monterey, a favorite place of mine. Soon others showed up. Dang, there are some fast women on the team. I was hoping for a reasonable pace (reasonable on MY terms!) and thankfully that spade – which can also be a symbol of luck – was on my side and the group (about seven of us) kept it to a conversational pace. During that out and back along the Parkway bike trail, I got to learn more about Erin’s formerly hardware-filled wrist, saw that Kelly can throw in some nice butt kicks (note to self: get flexible and do some plyometrics!), heard about Marsha visiting a podiatrist I know from high school, and couldn’t get over the fact that Sara had already put in a three-hour training ride – starting at 3:00 a.m.! – then driven to Sacramento for the team shenanigans. Sara, one of our I’ll-make-you-feel-like-a-slacker teammates. Most of us headed from the trail to the pool. I arrived first and was happy to see 2015 Freeplay pro Robin Pomeroy was joining us. Robin’s humble, kind, generous personality makes up for the fact that I feel like I’m dog-paddling through mud when she’s in the lane next to me. When some of my other new teammies showed up, Kelly decided to throw in a little main set for us. Sara – she of the three-hour ride and 90-minute run – had done 6,000 yards the night before, so she held to an “easier” pace. Still fast. I’m betting chasing four young kids around is part of her training regimen. I hopped in the hot tub after the swim. For just a minute. Okay, maybe two, because it felt so good. Well, what’s a few more minutes…I’m sure Stephanie is busy getting the meeting set up anyway. Next stop on this scavenger hunt for fun times was a short drive to the first 2016 team meeting. The official greeters were Smyth, Slevin and Elise, the Freeplay pups. Upon arrival we each got a cool shirt from sponsor Folsom Bike. Ace team photographer (and Freeplay cofounder) Sean took some photos; Elise had a dogged determination to not be left out, although she stopped short of hounding us. Team Director Stephanie kicked off the meeting with a fun quiz (leave it to a teacher), along with...

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