Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Race, First Sprint Triathlon

In early 2010 I had started training to complete a sprint triathlon in the April of that same year.  This plan, however, was put on hold when I moved to Honduras in February 2010.  Fortunately, while in Honduras I continued working on my healthier life choices of watching what I was eating and working out at the gym.  Summer 2010 I felt really good, but knew I still had more work to do.
 In March 2011, after turning 27, I realized I needed something more.  On Sunday, March 27 while living and working in Mexico, I woke up and asked myself, “What about the triathlon training?”  I quickly got on the computer and started researching triathlons.  That same day I found a training plan on and headed out on my first training run.  I started out with running three minute increments at a time.  It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
 The next day I had my first swim train and by Tuesday I had my first bike train under my belt.  The fire was lit and there was no stopping me.  Before I knew it I was running 3 miles Saturday morning followed by 75 minutes on the spin bike.  Soon I was down to less than 10 pounds to go before getting to my goal weight.  The greatest part was that from March 27th to July 9th my goal was not weight loss.  My goal was training for the most physically grueling thing I had ever done before.  In fact, I hadn’t even realized how good of shape I had gotten in until I arrived back home to California and saw everyone’s reaction to me.
I could not believe that I, someone who would not consider herself an athlete, was about to complete something that not many have done; a triathlon.  The triathlon I signed up for was a .5 mile swim, 16 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run.  This is what the triathlon world calls a “sprint triathlon”.  There are Olympic triathlons which are double the size of a sprint, half Ironman triathlons, and the mother of all triathlons, the Ironman triathlon, which consists of a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run!  Will I ever complete an Ironman?  Doubtful, but who knows, right?
The morning came for my triathlon and I was nervous, but I knew I had done everything in my power to train.  I put in the time in the pool, on the track, and on the bike.  I had stuck with my training plan and even exceeded it.  Going into the triathlon I knew my most difficult leg would be the swim.  I had only taught myself how to swim freestyle a mere few months previous to the triathlon.  I knew I could swim the distance, but I knew that it wouldn’t be entirely using the freestyle stroke and it most certainly would not look pretty.
I went into the triathlon with two goals.  First, I wanted to run the entire three miles without stopping. Second, I did not want to come in last. I thought that there might be a possibility of placing within the top five of my category after looking at past years’ results, but I did not want to get my hopes up too high.  I decided to race in the Athena division, which is women who are 150 pounds and heavier.  My friends thought I was crazy for racing in the “big girl” division because they did not consider me to be a “big girl”.  I, however, knew that I did not have any chance of racing with the fit females in my age division.
The morning of my triathlon had finally arrived.  I was extremely nervous, but knew there was no turning back.  My wonderful and supportive mom woke up at 5am to drive me the nearly two hours to the race sight.  I tried to stay calm and positive, but it was really difficult.  Unfortunately my nerves got the best of me and I was at times a little “short” and irritated with my mom.  This is still something I am working on.
As we got closer to Rancho Seco Park we started seeing cars with bikes attached on top, clearly others who were going to same place as us.  My stomach was in knots.  I was excited, nervous, scared, and thinking, “What am I doing?!”  We followed the line of cars into the parking lot at about 6:45am, found a place to park, and started unloading my things.
I looked around me and saw men and women of all different shapes and sizes.  Some looked like professional triathletes and others looked like me, a novice.  Still I wondered, “What am I doing?!”  As I was getting marked I lost grip of my bike and it tipped over.  Other than being a little humiliated, nothing was hurt.  I had on my 80 dollar tri shorts yet still I felt as though I stuck out like a sore thumb as someone who had no idea what they were doing.  Where were my friends?  Where was my support system?
After making a quick phone call, I found them.  Biz and I started setting up our transition area.  I laid my towel down and set my shoes, my socks, my headband, my watch, and my sunglasses on top.  After that was all set up Biz and I headed over to the line at the port-a-potties for one last potty break.  I stood there and tried to act calm, but my insides were anything but calm.
I had about 30 minutes until my start time and Biz was only down to about 10 minutes until her start time.  We decided, therefore, to head out for a quick little warm-up jog.  I was willing to try just about anything to help calm my nerves. 

Next it came time to cheer Biz on as she started.  Biz’s start time was about 30 minutes before mine party due to the fact that she was racing the duathlon (3 mile run, 16 mile bike, 3 mile run) and also due to the fact that I was in the last wave to start the swim portion. 
Finally it was time for me to put on my wetsuit and head down to the water.  I went back and forth about whether or not to wear a wetsuit for the triathlon.  I did not have a wetsuit and was going to have to either buy one for well over $100 or rent one for about $40.  I chose to rent one.   Even though I had practiced putting on and taking off my wetsuit, this still proved to be difficult.  Eventually I remembered how to squeeze into my wetsuit.  Down to the water I went.
One of the fun parts about wearing a wetsuit is feeling the water as it slowly creeps in between your body and the suit as you step into the water.  I swam back and forth a couple of times trying to remember what I learned in my two open water swim classes.  I also took this time to take in my surrounds and let it soak in that I, someone who would not consider herself an athlete, was about to complete her first race, her first triathlon!
As I walked / swam to the start area with the other Athenas, women 40 years old and older, and the relay teams I still could not believe that I was really doing it.  I had been training hard for 15 weeks and it had finally arrived.  I stood there waiting and must have adjusted my goggles at least 15 times.  Bang!  I was off.
Going into it I knew the swim portion was going to be the most difficult, but I truly had underestimated just how difficult it was going to be.  I started out strong, maybe a little too strong.  With every breath I looked at the person next to me, the fury of bubbles all around, and the commotion of legs and arms everywhere.  The further out I got, the more freaked out I became.  I have a fear of open water and on this day this fear became crippling.  I no longer could put my face in the water.  I tried countless number of times, but I just could not get my breathing under control.  Sadly I spent the remaining 20 minutes “schooling”.
I rounded buoy number one and was one third of the way through.  I looked behind me and was thankful that I was not last.  The shore line was quite a ways in the distance.  Although I was breathing heavily, kind of freaking out about being in the middle of the lake, there was still a sense of calm about not being in the midst of the flurry of bubbles, arms, and legs.  As I was slowly making my way through the swim I came up on a woman who started in the wave before me, five minutes sooner.  I thought I was hurting, but she was hurting even more.  I gave her a few words of encouragement and continued on.
When it was finally time for me to exit the water I could not have been happier.  I turned to the woman next to me and gave her a high five.  Later my parents asked if I knew who she was but I said, “Nope.  I was just so elated that I had made it through!”
I tried to run my way up the muddy grassy exit, but I was already exhausted.  I quickly took off my wetsuit and slapped on my socks, shoes, helmet, number belt, and sunglasses.  I was thankful that the bike was next because I knew I had this.  I had been working hard on my bike training and knew it was going to be the easiest out of the three legs. 
If I could have changed anything it would have been having a different bike.  The bike I was using was my dad’s.  It was a man’s mountain bike and not meant to be used as a woman’s road bike.  On this day, however, it was going to be just that.  I was able to pass people on the up hills, but on their road bikes they quickly zoomed past on the down hills.  I had not practiced outside on hills which proved “fun”, but fortunately they weren’t too bad.
One thing that helped me remain constant with my speed on the bike was using the digital odometer on my dad’s bike.  It showed me the mileage and the mph.  I am proud to report that I averaged 14.3 mph and topped out at 22 mph on a mountain bike no less!  I didn’t quite meet my average mph of 16 mph goal, but I blame the hills and wind.  At the half way point I almost kept going straight because I was surprised that it was already time to start heading back.  Overall I was extremely proud of my performance on the bike especially considering my first leg’s performance.  I was hoping for an hour or less.  I made it in a little over an hour.
The encouragements I heard from the volunteers made me smile.  I especially liked hearing, “Wow!  Way to go mountain biker!”  I think they were surprised to see how fast I was able to go using the mountain bike.
My first transition was a little slower than I had hoped, but I lit up my second transition.  I was in and out of there in no time!  Quickly my bike was racked, my helmet was strung over the handle bars, and off I ran out of transition.  I was so stoked that I only had one leg left.  I was more than half way through!
As I was first coming into transition I saw Biz and thought that she had already finished, but no, she was getting ready to head out for her final run also.  About 100 yards into the run I caught up to her, checked in, but then continued trudging on.  The run, similar to the bike, was not what I was used to.  It was on a dirt road with several ups and downs.   This didn’t seem to faze me very much, however, because I was running and running strong. 
Once again I was pleasantly surprised when I made it to the turnaround point.  I was almost finished.  I felt tired, but strong.  A high like no other surged through my body and pushed me through to the end.  On the run back I cheered for each person I passed which gave me even more fuel to make it to the end.  Soon the finish line was within my sight.  I sprinted to the end.  I had every intention to raise my arms in victory as I crossed the finish line, but in the moment I forgot all of that.  I was just so filled with excitement that I had finished and finished strong.  My parents met me, gave me a big victory hug, and then we snapped several pictures. 
We cheered Biz through the finish line and then we snapped some more pictures.  Had I really just completed a sprint triathlon? Had I really just secured myself a “triathlete”?  It was so great to have Biz, Aaron, HT, mom, and dad all there to share in this experience.  Mom and dad bought me a Jamba Juice and HT bought me an awesome TRI sticker. 
My swim was much slower than expected, the bike a tad slower than expected, and the run a little faster than expected.  In fact, my run really surprised my dad.  When I headed out for the 3 mile run my dad told my mom that they had plenty of time to sit and relax before I would make it back.  My mom, however, doubted this.  Sure enough my dad was wrong because about 25 minutes later my mom spotted piggy tails bouncing in the distance, realized it was me, shouted for my dad to snap a picture, but because I came sprinting in, I beat my dad to the finish line.  It was fun to know that I surprised my dad by how fast I ran the 3 miles.
My finishing time was 2:02:05.  I had been hoping for about 1:50:00, but the swim really hurt my time.  I, however, was still very proud of myself for sticking with it, training hard, and finishing!
After hanging out for a bit at the race site, we all headed our separate ways.  Mom and I headed out for a lunch and shopping.  I stayed energized due to the high the race gave me up until about four o’clock when I suddenly hit a brick wall.  Needless to say, I slept on the ride back home. 
Have you ever heard of a post-race low?  I hadn’t until I experienced it the next few days.  I had just finished something that I had been working hard to accomplish the past several months.  I found myself asking, “Now what?” 
Fortunately, the low didn’t last long and I headed back out to improve my running.  Since completing the triathlon I have found myself starting to really enjoy running.  I ran my first 10K race seven weeks later.  My goals for the future?  Possibly a marathon in the spring of 2012 and another go at the same sprint triathlon summer 2012. 

 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Only 3 days to go...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Couch to 100 miles in 3 months

I can not believe that a mere 3 months ago I was just an average gym attendee doing basically the minimum that would make me feel as though I was doing "something".  When I started training for my first sprint triathlon, that all changed.  I started running on March 27th, 2010 and today, June 23rd, 2011 I have completed 102 miles total in running alone.  The picture above was taken right after my three mile jog with my marathoner friend.  It was a rough one this morning and I wanted to stop, but I made the choice to keep picking up my feet.  A big thanks to Marissa who helped to keep me going. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Three More Weeks

Thanks to two wonderful ladies, this morning I ran the farthest and longest I have ever run! I ran for a total of 64 minutes! I’m guessing it was about 5.5 miles (perhaps a little less). Although this wasn’t my first time running with others, this was my first time to talk and run. It was so enjoyable to have the distraction of talking / listening while running. It kept my mind preoccupied so that I wasn’t able to focus on, “I can’t do this. I’m tired. I want to stop.”

I woke up this morning quite nervous about the run. I thought that their pace might be too fast for me, I wouldn’t be able to go the distance, my breathing would be off, etc. Surprisingly, however, just the opposite was true. Their pace was quite nice, I was able to nearly double the distance I am use to, and my breathing was so spot on that I was able to join in on the conversation!

On top of the high from running, I biked for 80 minutes, and then saw a number on the scale that I hadn’t seen in about 10 years! Last Saturday I was feeling a little discouraged since there was a gain of a pound (I blame it on the previous night’s long “happy hour”). This week’s 3.5 pound loss, however, more than made up for it!

Three weeks from today and I’ll be in my gear swimming, biking, and running in my first ever sprint triathlon! I can’t wait to cross that finish line and call myself a “triathlete”!
Biking around Isla Mujeres in April 2011.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Triathlon Training

That’s it. I’m addicted. I’m addicted to the excitement, the high, the people, the joy, the thrill, the unknown, etc. What is it that I’m addicted to? It’s the world of triathlons. Have I completed my first triathlon yet? No. But the moment I cross that finish line on July 9th, 2011 I know that I will be a full-blown addicted triathlete.
I have toyed with the idea of completing a triathlon ever since winter / spring 2010 when I found out that some of my friends had successfully completed triathlons of their own. I thought, “I could do that!” I didn’t get the motivation to start training, however, until March 27th, 2011 when all of the sudden I asked myself, “What are you doing? What are you waiting for?” That same day I joined, found a training plan, and headed out for my first training run.
To start I was only able to run for about 8 minutes before feeling as though I was going to die. Yesterday, however, 10 weeks into my training I ran for 34 minutes straight for a total of 3.26 miles. The wonderful part of it all is this was completed after my 45 minute swim training. During the run I felt calm, comfortable, and in control. Three months ago I never thought this was possible.
Websites I now regularly check include,, and of course I read articles, join forums, and watch videos all related to the triathlon world. I’ve learned so much, but know I still have so much more to learn.
One of the things I enjoy about the sport of triathlons is that there are three different events involved; swimming, biking, and running. This allows me to mix it up throughout the week so that I do not get bored doing the same thing day in and day out. Someone once asked me which event I enjoyed the most and my response was, “It’s hard to say because each event has its pros and cons. I like them all.”


I am so excited and nervous about my upcoming Triathlon (exactly one month away), so much so that my dreams have been taken over by triathlons. Last night I dreamt mostly about the open water swim portion. I dreamt that the swim course was a straight out and back. I did not have a wetsuit, but still found myself quite calm and smooth in the water. The swim went very smoothly and so did transition 1. This was all that I remembered.
I feel more confident in my body than I have in a very long time. I have my training to thank for that. With running, biking, and swimming I do not have a choice about eating healthy or not. Whatever I put in my body is how my workouts are fueled. A year and a half ago I was out of shape, obese, and not very happy in my own skin. Today I have shed 43 pounds, am starting to see some definition, and am feeling quite confident. I look forward to seeing where else my triathlon journey takes me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Exercise Makes ALL the Difference

Waiting at the bus station for our bus to Monterrey, Mexico.

First of all, what better way to blog than to blog on the balcony of a beach-get-away condo?! Currently my friends and I are on a two week vacation in Cancun. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to take this opportunity to get a little blogging in. Now on to the true point of this blog…
First day in Cancun.

Last week I weighed myself at the gym and I am now officially the slimmest I have been since I graduated high school. It feels so good! I am now more confident in my body than I ever have been. My question is, “What has made the difference.” The answer in my experience thus far is, “Exercise!”

I enjoy eating and do not take pleasure in restricting myself from eating the things I want to eat. We all know that in order to lose weight one must burn fewer calories than they consume. Therefore, I must burn calories in the form of exercise in order to create a daily caloric deficit. Over the last three weeks I have been training for my first sprint triathlon. Therefore I have been swimming, biking, and running at least two times a week. On top of my triathlon sports training I have been having dance practice for the talent show (see video below), going to the occasional Zumba class, and strength training at least three times a week. Needless to say, it’s no wonder I am the healthiest I have been in quite some time.

Has my eating changed that much? I would say a little, but not as much as it could. Here’s a typical day’s meal:

1 Yakult
1 banana
1 granola bar

½ prepared bag of Caesar Salad
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 string cheese
½ cucumber
1 diet coke

1 cup edamame

½ prepared bag of Caesar Salad
1 cup of white rice
3 scrambled eggs
8 cherry tomatoes
chopped green onion

Some of the biggest differences in my diet would be an increase in vegetables and a decrease in processed foods and sweets. I have learned that I cannot say that I will never eat another sweet nor processed food ever again because this is unrealistic. Also, when I restrict myself from eating the things that I want to eat I then binge on those foods. But, if I allow myself a little here and there I am less likely to binge.

Another part of my healthy habits lately is my ability to control my compulsive overeating. I am not hiding food. I am not binge eating. I am not starving myself. I am not obsessing about food. I am eating when I am hungry and stopping when I am full. When I go out to eat I do not finish my plate just because it’s there. Will I never have to worry about compulsively overeating again? No. But, can I go into the future confident that I am now more educated and prepared to deal with my compulsive overeating? Yes.

I am in the best shape of my life and am enjoying every moment of it. For the first time in a long time I can confidently walk on the beach in my swimsuit knowing that I have worked hard to look like this and I look good. Will I ever be the skinny gal flaunting her thong bikini? No, because it’s not in my genes to be skinny. (Also, I would never wear a thong bikini.) But, will I continue to look good and look even better when I get to my goal weight? Absolutely!

Finally, I know that God has played a big part in helping me to become the “healthy” me. It is Him who has helped me with my compulsive disease. It is Him who has given me the motivation to work out. It is Him who is helping me to feel more confident with myself. God plus exercise = health. Thank you God.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Before and After

"Before" November 2009
 I stepped on the scale yesterday at the gym and was elated.  I currently weigh the same that I weighed back in October 2006 when I lost about 25 pounds very rapidly in a very unhealthy way.  This time around I have lost 38 pounds and have done it slowly just with exercising and trying to be smarter about the food that I put into my body.  I am currently the healthiest I have been in my adult life.  I am very proud of myself!
"After" February 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chinese Influence

What have I taken from China?  A lot.  Tonight's Chinese influence, however, came in the form of food.  One of my favorite meals while living in China consisted of scrambled eggs and tomatoes over rice.  There was a fast food place about five minutes from my house.  I would go and order this meal at least two times a week.  Tonight I made it myself, changed it up a bit, and it was SO delicious!  I used cherry tomatoes which gave it a bit of sweetness.  I even asked my roomie to snap a picture of me.  And yes, I did indeed eat with chopsticks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Glittered Thoughts

I sometimes wonder why in the last 7 months I have not written very much. Is this a good thing? Is it because I am being more of a “social” person? Is being a “social” person good? Are there too many thoughts in my head with no escape? What changes have been made from last year to this year that has caused the decline in writing?

I have, indeed, been spending more time with people and less time alone. When I’m with others I am not able to be alone with my thoughts to be spewed onto paper. My roommate is awesome, which is good, but instead of writing in my bedroom I would rather spend time with her in the living room talking. Also on the weekends I am always busy whether it is attending soccer games, going to the movie theatre, hanging out at Starbucks, etc. The good part is that I have found time to record a few songs. I will, however, try to find more time to write because it is something I love to do and it feels good for my soul.
Can you tell that it is "mis-match" day?
With this being said, I will write a little about my experience teaching here in Mexico. One of the joys of teaching EFL students is the amount of deciphering one must do. (Not just with EFL students, but I can imagine with all young students.) For example, I just had a student come up and ask me, “Up and down, or like this (while pointing from side to side.)” With this question alone I had no idea what he was trying to ask. Therefore, my thought process went something like this:

"What is he referring to? Okay, it is a math test. What is he trying to do on the math test? Okay, he is trying to solve a word problem and write a number model. He must want to write the number model vertically similarly how he would solve the problem on paper. "

I answered, “Side to side.”

With this he was satisfied, thanked me, and walked away.
Celebrating our "100th" day of school!
On this same day I assigned them a Thursday “work day”. Essentially it was 40 minutes worth of centers, but sometimes I prefer changing the name from “centers” to “work day” so the students know that they are suppose to work instead of just play. One of the five stations was to finish their Mardi Gras masks from Tuesday. This involved students putting glue on their construction paper masks. On Tuesday I controlled the glitter by staying next to them, but today I figured I would see how they would do on their own. Boy, I had no idea what kind of mess they were going to create!

About 30 minutes in to the “work day” I walked over to the glitter station and was flabbergasted at what I found. It looked as though the glitter had exploded and then a tornado came through. Very calmly I called for an emergency halt to all activity and asked all students to gather around the glitter station. Before speaking I took a few deep breathes in and repeated to myself, “Calm, calm, calm.” I then proceeded to ask, “Why have I called all of you over here? Please raise your hand to answer.”

I was surprised by how solemn the students were, my ability to remain calm, and in the end, the students’ genuine look of remorse. I explained to them how I had bought the glitter and it upset me that they would disrespect and waste something that I had bought. I understand that most of my students come from wealthy families and don’t understand the concept of money, but I also believe that they have the ability within them to try to begin to understand the concept that items cost money. In the end I assigned a handful of students to clean up the mess and try to salvage as much glitter as possible. We finished cleaning up the mess, the students packed up their things, and left for the day.
Showing off their St. Patrick's Day art project.

A mere 10 minutes later while sitting at my desk waiting for students to come in for after school tutoring a little sister of one of my students ran in through the open door and said, “Ms. Stephanie!” She ran up to me with arms open wide, swung them around me and gave me a sweet kiss on the cheek. Her name is Viviana. She wears glasses, has long brown hair normally in pig tails, and the cutest smile ever! It’s moments like this and little girls like her that make me love my job.
This student misspelled my name.  I shouldn't be surprised, however.  She misspells even her own name!

I hope to write more soon. Until then, enjoy every moment and take time to stop and appreciate the little things.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Better Than a Hallelujah

Enjoying a beautiful song on a beautiful day while on the roof.