Category Archives: triathlon

Summer, continued, and triathlon musings

Well, here we are, halfway through July, and nearly a month since I posted last, ​with the “I can’t believe I’ve been out of work for 3 weeks and have no time” post. I’m wrapping up week 6 of 11 weeks off, which means my summer vacation is officially more than half over; I feel like I have nothing to show for my summer vacation – which is weird, because if I look at it objectively, I’ve done 2 trips to the East Coast, a bajillion mom appointments, and a lot of triathlon training.

I get unsettled without daily structure. Happens every single summer. Even when I know I’m being fairly productive, I *feel* like I’m wasting my life away, without really relaxing or taking time off. I’m sure my husband can’t wait for me to retire. Fortunately, with 3 kids to put through college, I will probably have to work until I die. #silverlining

Anyway, the animals have been very happy to have me home. Their favorite time of day is when I (attempt to) plank and do push-ups. They like to “help”.

I’ve been sticking to my twice-a-week strength training with the husband. For the first time in probably ever, I can see some muscle definition in my thighs.

We celebrated the 4th of July with some dear friends, and an (early) cake for my birthday.

On my actual birthday, we flew to Boston for my cousin’s wedding. It was an awesome 3 day affair with multiple parties and celebrations. My cousin married a Pakistani-American girl, so we were able to experience a piece of their culture with the festivities. It was beyond gorgeous and fun.

out celebrating my birthday at a Boston pub with my family. That’s the groom in the center, who was the most composed of all of us at that point. 

the bride’s family provided us with traditional clothing for one of the receptions. So much fun!

at the mosque for the wedding ceremony. 

I’m teaching a summer online class, and working on some “list” items of cleaning and organizing (some people do “spring cleaning” – I’m pretty sure most teachers do “summer cleaning”), but other than that, it’s pretty much daily workouts, errands and household chores.

Boring routine makes for boring blog, I guess.

I *am* brainstorming my upcoming year’s race schedule, and trying to map out a trajectory of goals and training to focus on. Other than my triathlon in September, I don’t have anything officially on the agenda. I’m currently debating whether I want to do an early November triathlon or focus on road races once my September triathlon is over. I have such a love-hate relationship with triathlons; while I love the mash-up of workouts rather than the drudgery of mostly running, the time + expense factor makes me stabby. It’s really hard to find the time to train when I’m not off for the summer, and I really should consider getting some more gear if I’m going to stick with it (wetsuit. bike that’s not a $250 Schwinn, etc) but I have a hard time reconciling the cost factor of triathlons.

Not to mention I still sort of hate the bike.

Secretly I’m hoping I’ll fall in love with the marathon in 2018 and just focus on that.

Realistically, I think the odds are better of me winning the lottery and having all the money in the world to spend on triathlons rather than loving training for and running 26.2 miles, but anything can happen, right?

I know a lot of runners and triathletes read this blog – feel free to weigh in on whether you focus solely on one vs the other (or how you balance the two if you do both), and (especially for middle class ish parents with kids at home), how you handle the ridiculous cost of triathlons. I’m pretty lowkey when it comes to racing, and I know you can do triathlons on the cheap(er) – heck, I’m doing it – but I’m wondering how you approach it. Only a certain number of races per year? Stick to sprints on cheaper/less equipment?

I’ve been approaching it with the mindset that this is just a fun off-season-from-running-cross-training-workout, but I feel like the (few) triathletes I know “in real life”, as well as those I follow virtually, are all hardcore triathletes – as in, they invest a lot more time and money on the sport than myself, and take it seriously. Wondering if there are other “casual” triathlete moms out there who are content with lowkey racing/training?

Summer

I have been out of work and on summer “break” for just over 3 weeks now. This was me on the last day of work, celebrating. Look how happy I look! How relaxed! The year of teaching 2 senior English classes and 2 online classes and a junior advisory and running a senior signature program for 103 students was finally over!

So, three weeks of no teaching might beg the question of why I have not blogged before now. Even if it doesn’t, I’m going to go ahead and whine answer.​

The mom schedule, it’s killing me.

I know when you have little ones, the days are interminable. You’re stuck at home, wondering how to fill 12-14 hours of unstructured time, scrambling to line up playdates and story times and excuses to be anywhere and do anything rather than guiltily plopping them in front of the television. I remember those days.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t get any easier at the other end of the spectrum.

In the first three weeks of June, I have had no less than 15 appointments for my kids, not counting the daily pick-up and drop-offs for the 17 year old at his lifeguarding job (yes he has a license, but no, he doesn’t have a car. I told him I could buy him a car if he wanted to do his senior year at the local public school instead of his $$$ private school. Mom taxi it is!), the counselor-in-training camp for the 14 and 13 year olds (happening on opposite weeks), or the community service camp (14yr old) or dance camp (13 yr old).

Basically I (literally) spend my days in the car, or in waiting rooms.

Except for the first week of June, when I was in upstate New York and Ohio doing the college tour thing with my oldest.

current top choice: University of Rochester. Also happens to be the most expensive school on his list. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams! (on a McDonald’s budget)

We also hit up Niagara Falls during the road trip which neither of us had ever seen.

The trip was over 1000 miles of driving in 4 days with 4 different college tours (5 if you count the separate engineering tour at one), an admissions interview, and hours upon hours of information tossed at us. It was not exactly a “relaxing” start to the summer.

With that said, it was definitely a mother-son bonding experience I will never forget. Without his laptop and fortress of solitude (aka bedroom), he was forced to able to have heart to hearts with dear old mom.

As for me, I tried to quell the mounting panic that my manchild is for real, seriously, ready or not, getting ready to leave the nest in the blink of an eye.

Senior pictures: check. But also OH MY GOD SENIOR PICTURES.

Fortunately, I still have my 2 littles to keep me from getting too sentimental. Except they’re not so little anymore. The middle child? Starting high school this year. The “baby”? 8th grade. The boy is already working on his learner’s permit class (September birthday) and the baby took a drill team prep camp last week. To prepare for the high school drill team tryout in the spring. The high school drill team.

The counselor-in-training boy helping to check in his little sister for her drill team prep camp.

So this is all to say that even though I’ve been off the “teacher” clock for 3 weeks, the mom job has been kicking my ass. Granted, I’m trying to get 2 months worth of parenting duties done in 4 weeks, as they will be with their Dad for the month of July.

I would much prefer a more balanced timeshare of parenting in the summer so I’m not running around like a crazy lady in June taking care of all the appointments, and then again in August with all the back to school and work events and obligations, but it is what it is.

In other news, I’m coming out of my training slump and looking towards a fall triathlon (separate post about that to come). I’ve been saying for years I want to do better with the strength training (it’s the one part of my training plans that I’m always haphazard at best with), and as luck would have it, my husband has said for years that he wants to work out with me (he hates running. Even though he can smoke me).

So, for Father’s Day, I gave him the gift of coaching me in the gym (that wasn’t his only gift, but definitely the one he was the most excited about). I’ve told him I’ll do 2 days a week with him, so he can keep me accountable.

 

No it’s not a lot of weight. I told him if he made me too sore to train the next day, he was fired. 

 

Me: “That looks heavy. Is it a lot of weight?” Him: “They say if you can benchpress your own body weight, you’re in good shape.” Me: “Is that your body weight?” Him: “It’s about 30lbs more.”  Show off.

So that’s the summer update. I’ve been busy. But I’ve also been getting back into a training cycle (yay me!) and working on some upcoming school year goals.

2017

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Happy New Year!

I think there are a lot of people exhaling that the dreaded 2016 is finally over, and looking forward to a fresh calendar year. The stroke of midnight like a tangible exorcism of last year’s demons, albeit with champagne instead of sage and resolutions replacing incantations.

Meh. I’m not all that excited for 2017.

Now, lest you think I’m just stubbornly clinging to the pervasive 2016 Debbie Downer mentality, I have my reasons. Sure, there are some exciting and anticipatory events on the horizon. We have a family spring break trip planned for March. I’m trying to work out the details to return to Yankee-land in July for a family wedding. I do have a pretty scary exciting fitness goal for 2017 (more on that in a minute).

But I have a hunch, somewhat reasonable and partly intuitive, that 2017 is going to bring the winds of change. For better or for worse.

I don’t like change. I would rather stay entrenched in known and predictable misery than face the unknown. True story: when I was a child, my mother would ground me*.  Only, she wouldn’t tell me how long I was grounded for. It might be 2 weeks. It might be 2 days. I didn’t know. This was far, far worse than the actual moratorium on Atari or television or sleepovers. I used to try to bargain with her that she could add on extra time to whatever number she had in her head if she would only tell me when my time was up. It was the purgatory that made the hell.

For a woman who, still, to this day, likes to call me her “brilliant Georgetown girl”, she’s clearly no dummy herself.

Anyway, most of these possible changes, I can’t blog about, for various reasons. I can say that my oldest will be applying to colleges in 2017, and will in all likelihood (fingers crossed) already have an acceptance or two under his belt by this time next year. That situation is particularly difficult for me (above and beyond the usual oldest-flying-the-nest hurdle), and I’m still hoping that there will be an amicable, non-litigious, resolution.

But I’m prepared for the alternative.

So, count me in the camp of giving 2017 more of a suspicious side-eye than celebratory squee.

With that said, I do have two goals for 2017.

One: train for a marathon. I have been saying for a couple years now that I would cross the 26.2 threshold in 2018. It seemed like a safe and comfortable horizon back in 2014. I blinked, and here I am, starting 2017, and realizing that the once far off shore is the next port of call. Since most marathon training plans are 3-4 months long, and I’m looking at marathons in the first month or two of 2018, the majority of my training will most likely take place in 2017.

So. 2017. Time to step up my running game.

On a smaller scale, I still want to do some sprint triathlons and shorter distance races in the meantime (I have a 15k in early February, and a triathlon on the books for the end of April).

Two: write more.

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I’ve always written, in various forms and fashions. I journaled as a tween and teenager. As an English major in college, I was always writing. I did the mommy blogger gig before it was even deemed “mommy blogging”. I’ve written for my eyes only, and, once upon a time, for an audience of several thousand viewers a month (in my previous incarnation).

I’ve always written. Except not so much the past few years.

So, I’d like to return to that. Some of my writing will appear on this blog, natch. If you’re interested in reading my ramblings, especially once I figure out my marathon plans (gulp!), feel free to subscribe (top right), especially if you’re visiting from Facebook. I’m not planning on promoting most of my blog posts on there in 2017.

But some of my writing will not be published in this corner of the internet. This is not a resolution for public consumption. Not yet, anyway.

Happy 2017, everyone. May it be bigger, brighter, and filled with more hope, love and optimism than that stinker 2016.

 

*a lot. All the time. I spent approximately 67.4% of my childhood and adolescence on restriction.

Sayonara

So, how about that 2016?

If you’re on social media, or heck, sitting around kvetching with family or friends, you have probably heard, even declared yourself, that 2016 was the worst. year. ever. Don’t believe me? See here.

Here’s the thing, though. It wasn’t. I mean, it hasn’t been a banner year. Certainly for some people I know, who have endured personal grief, loss or challenging circumstances, it has legitimately been one of the worst. I’m sure there are people out there, maybe even reading right now, whose 2016 was their version of my 2010.  I’m not talking about those versions of 2016. Y’all go ahead and give 2016 the trophy for the biggest loser.

I’m talking about this.  How our access to information, and groupthink catastrophizing, has led us to this mantra. Yes, many celebrities died. Yes, the election was a clusterfuck. Definitely, the violence, both domestically and abroad, is tragic. But we still have it pretty good. By we, I mean those of you (myself included) with internet access reading from your comfortable First World abode. For the record, I’m in pretty good company with this assertion.

So can we agree, on this last day of 2016, that while the year set the bar relatively low for 2017, it wasn’t a total wash?

Personally, when I look back at my resolutions for 2016, I discover that, beyond completing my triathlon and continuing to eat healthy, I didn’t really make any grand goals. This is a relief as I prefer apathy to failure.

I kid. Well, not really, but my lack of resolution making last year was purposeful. Still, I had a fairly productive year.

  • Miles run: 683 (much lower than last year’s 835, but #triathlon)
  • Miles biked: 898
  • Miles swam: 38 (okay, this number makes me giggle. Really? Remember when I won my OWS AG by 10 minutes.  If only running and biking came to me as naturally as swimming. I could be a triathlon SUPERSTAR).
  • Races: 2 half marathons, 2 triathlons, 1 15k,  1 5k, and 1 open water swim race.

I feel like that is a decent year, although in retrospect, it doesn’t seem like many races. I would love to do more, but I try to limit the impact of my midlife hobby on my family’s budget and weekend time.

I’m ending the year at the same weight I began (actually maybe a couple pounds lighter. I think. I’ve orbited the same 5-6 pounds since 2011, but I’m currently on the lower end of the range).

In other ways, 2016 had many other achievements, tangible and measurable, and otherwise. I completed my first year running a new program for the senior class, and it went as well as could possibly be expected (which is to say with 91 out of 93 completing it on time, which is statistically successful but not up to my 100% or bust standards).  I saw my girlfriends more than in previous years, and considering we have 19 kids between the 6 of us, that’s no easy feat (we even squeezed in a weekend getaway for a 40th birthday celebration. Not mine of course. I’m older than 4 of them. Bitches.). My kids continued to flourish and celebrate their own achievements, and my husband is wrapping up his year-long administrative leadership training program, and considering potential career trajectories.

There was a lot accomplished in 2016, despite the year’s bad rap.

Still, I’m not sad to say goodbye to 2016.

 

 

2016 TriRock Austin Olympic Triathlon Race Recap

So how about that first Olympic triathlon?

Lessons learned:  1. I can do an Olympic triathlon, 2. I will never again put myself in a situation where I am racing for 3+ hours in 90 degree heat and 3. I am a sprinter, and my body is not happy with me when I try to pretend I am an endurance athlete.

But let me back up.

I think I was more nervous for this event than any other race, including my first half marathon, and first (sprint) triathlon. Not only did I start having waves of really strong anxiety beginning Friday morning, but I began having trouble engaging in casual conversation by Saturday night. At one point on Sunday, as I was once again giving monosyllabic answers to questions, my husband said, “So, uh, you’re kind of nervous for this race, huh?” I shut down when overwhelmed.

It’s not that I didn’t think I could do it, rather I knew how much it was going to hurt. The weather forecast showed it would be in the upper 80s by mid-morning when I would be running (with the heat index higher), and I have never raced that long. I trained in all 3 components, and did several BRICKS, but the actual Olympic distance in all 3, back to back? I am not a good runner under ideal circumstances. It was dread of the impending pain, rather than fear of actually failing.

I can take it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it (which begs the question why I decided this was a good idea in the first place, but whatever).

I also knew it would be a “big” race, meaning there would be a lot of athletes to contend with, and they would all be *racing*. Don’t misunderstand – this didn’t concern me on a “I won’t place well level” (I’m used to coming in somewhere in the middle to lower third for my big road races – I don’t enter races with delusions of grandeur), rather “I’m going to get in the way of people who should be on that course, and screw them up.” Remember how scared I was in the bike at my cute little local backyard event?

This fear was confirmed when I arrived at the mandatory bike check-in on Sunday afternoon, and saw thousands of bikes stretched across Auditorium Shores in Austin. This triathlon contained “3 races in 1” – the Olympic distance began at 7am, the sprint distance at 8:30am, and the super sprint at 9am. That’s a lot of athletes, going different distances, funneling through the same course.

The Olympic distance, as I soon learned in looking at the results (although I guessed as much beforehand) is for the more serious triathlete. Or middle aged moms of 3 who decide on a lark to make it their second race.

this is about 30 minutes before my wave hit the water. I’m smiling, but if you look closely, you can see the abject fear behind my eyes. 

The swim waves started at 7am; according to my Weather Channel app, sunrise occurred at 7:09am. The open water swim began with athletes jumping, one by one, off a dock into Lady Bird Lake to complete the 1 mile rectangle loop.

Lady Bird Lake. In the dark.

I don’t want to offend the people of Austin by saying their beloved lake is disgusting, but the muck don’t lie, people. The sun was rising by the time I leaped in (at approximately 7:35 – kudos to the Tri Rock people for such an organized wave start – exactly at the projected time!), but it was still a little…unsettling…for this open water swim rookie (only 1 practice swim under my belt).

Fortunately, once I hit the water, I went on automatic pilot and didn’t think about the water too much, with the exception of when we swam under the bridge and the water was pitch black and the air was pitch black and I sprinted while holding my breath and shutting my eyes because it was so scary.

I’m not lying.

My mantra as I swam was “not too fast not too fast not too fast” because I can swim fast and it’s fun to swim fast and pass people, but you don’t want to go too hard the first 25 minutes of a 3+ hour race.

Despite that, I was out of the water before any other hot pink caps (my age group) after passing several orange caps (women 35-39) and even some blue caps (men in the last wave before women).  This sounds badass. Remember that when we talk about the bike and run.

that’s me in the hot pink cap passing an orange cap and blue cap. This was roughly 50-75 yards from the finish (you see me passing the final orange buoy indicating finish area)

Swim split: 30:32 (exactly where I wanted to be. 3-4 minutes slower than I can race a 1500m, but given the current in the lake, and pacing for the bike and run after, that’s about where I planned to split).

Once out of the water, I had to run along a grass path, around to the Olympic transition area, and then allllllll the way down past racks and racks of bikes to mine (which was the closest rack to transition exit). This was a lot more running than my other sprint tri experience. I expected a poor transition time, given all the running (which I was doing at a very slow jog), and then I plopped down on the grass to put on my socks and sneakers (no fancy clip in pedals to slide into for this teacher mom!). Despite all of this, my T1 time was 2:35, which put me up with (or ahead of!) most of the women in my AG. I have no idea how I did all of that in only two and a half minutes, since I was not frantically rushing, but I’ll take it!

The bike. Oh, the bike.

I am still so slow on the bike. I really don’t get it. I mean, yes, I am showing improvement from when I started biking a mere 6 months ago. But still, I must be doing something wrong to go so slow. I was one of the slowest mph paces in my AG. Even the women that I beat, they were still 1 or 2 mph faster than me on the bike. I’ve played around with gears, and I did all my long bikes and mid-week shorter, faster mileage …

Anyway, let’s focus on the positives. Like, how I googled a tip for storing my GU gels in a rubber band tied around my bike frame, and when I hit the first corner, I heard a “plop”! and looked down … and realized I lost my GU on the street.

And then pointed it out to my husband as I passed him (you want the sound for this one).

fuel? Who needs fuel for an Olympic triathlon?!

Any time I’m on the bike and don’t crash, I count as a victory.

The course looped around downtown Austin, and to hit the 24.8 miles needed for the Olympic distance, we completed 4 loops. As we looped, the Sprint, and then Super Sprint distances, also joined us. As they said in our pre-race meeting, it was a “tight bike route”. That’s tri talk for: watch out, there’s a crapload of cyclists out there.

The best moment of the entire race (maybe even better than finally crossing the finish line) occurred towards the beginning of the 2nd loop. I’m pedaling along, courteously staying to the right as fast, talented cyclists blew by me, when a young guy (20s?) passed me, then turned, pointed right at me, made eye contact, and called out “I hope I’m just like you in my 40s! BADASS!” (remember, per triathlon rules, we have our ages marked on our left calves).

I’m pretty sure he was just trying to keep my spirits up since I’m sure I looked ridiculously slow and tired, but it TOTALLY WORKED YES I AM BADASS SIR!

Bike split: 1:36.11  avg speed: 15.47mph 

As I returned my bike to the transition area, I realized that my initial plan to not need a water bottle on the run (relying solely on aid stations) was very, very stupid. It was creeping towards 10am at this point, and it was hot and while I drank most of my (1) water bottle while on the bike, I was still feeling dehydrated.

10k left. 6.2 miles. Are. you. kidding. me.

My game plan was to follow a 3/1 run-walk interval. While I can comfortably run 6+ miles, I knew that running 6+ miles after racing for 2 hours would prove nearly impossible under the best of circumstances. In training, I discovered that I could pace somewhere around a 11:15 min/mile while doing the 3/1 intervals on tired legs, and I would be happy with that for the third leg of my triathlon.

Because of the simultaneous sprint and super-sprint distance races occurring, the run was set up in a 3.1 mile loop. That means for us doing the Olympic distance, we not only had to pass the finish line (cue the agonizing, longing glance in that direction) and complete another loop, but the (much fresher, less exhausted) short distance triathletes were on the same trail as us, happily bouncing by us. Or at least, it seemed that way.

I plugged away at the first loop, doggedly picking up the pace to a slow jog with every beep of my watch. It was so hot. The little half cups of lukewarm water at the mile stations were not refreshing.

Come on Tracey. You can do this.

Mile 1: 10:31 (that a girl!)

Mile 2: 11:25 (okay, on pace, that’s okay, just keep this up)

Mile 3: 12:07 (oh dear)

As I began the second loop, many runners around me were now walking. I have never seen such a staggering group of exhausted athletes in a race. I tried giving myself pep talks. I did my mantras. I sang Beyonce’s Lemonade album to myself. When my watch beeped, I sternly said to my legs “run!”

They did not run.

does that look like a woman that got this? No. Not it does not. I do not got this.

Mile 4: 13:47

Mile 5: 15:15

Mile 6: 14:22

Final run split: 1:19:54 (please God, let this be the slowest 10k I ever “run”)

if you watch closely, you can see me trip and recover as I enter the finishing chute. 

Because even if you place 15th out of 20 in your AG, you still get a medal (there were some HARDCORE athletes in this race!). And still feel proud for doing the damn race in the first place. 

Final thoughts: If I ever had any fleeting notions of doing a Half Ironman, this race settled those questions. This race was miserable (physically and emotionally) for me. Yes, it was a hot race, and I don’t do well in heat. Yes, my fueling and hydrating was compromised (from now on, GU gels are stuck in my tri suit. And there will be an extra water bottle laid out just for the run). But really, that 2nd half of the 10k was just demoralizing. I can’t even imagine what a half marathon would feel like after DOUBLE that bike (and oh, the bike. *shakes fist at cheap Schwinn*).

Will I do another Olympic tri? I don’t know. Part of me thinks I should just focus on sprint tris (which are fun. And so quick! And short!), but part of me does not want my one and only Olympic tri time to be 3:31. I’m better than that. Or I want to be better than that.

I’ll play next year’s tri season by ear and see what comes up.

at Kerbey Lane Cafe for a MUCH deserved post-race meal. With my medal. Natch.

205 miles

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Yes, I’m still training for next week’s Olympic triathlon.

No, I haven’t done a training update in awhile. I’m going to condense the month of August training updates (did I really last update in July?) and say that I covered 205 miles in August running, biking and swimming. If you count the 2 days left in August after I post this, it should go up to 221 miles.

If I’m sick of dragging my butt out to do these 1-2 hour workouts day in and day out, you can imagine how I feel about spending the (very limited) time I have left in the day to write about it.

Despite heading back to work early this month, and the kids back at school last week, I’ve followed the training plan almost to the letter. I only dropped 1 workout entirely, a swim, because it’s just so dang hard to find the time to get to the pool. Since the swim is far and away my strongest element, I’m pretty sure missing one swim workout is not going to impact me.

I’ve shortened a few other run or bike sessions here and there, by a mile or two, but overall I’m really proud of how I’ve managed to stay the course with the insanity that is back to school.

Fear. It’s a powerful motivator.

If I’ve been a model triathlete-in-training with the actual workouts, my attitude could definitely use some improvement. Back to school is just a brutal time for teachers; it’s hard to adequately explain the bone-weariness that accompanies not just frantically preparing for the influx of students, but going from zero (summer vacation) to 200mph (there may be teachers that work less than 60-70 hours a week during August and September, but I’ve yet to meet them) literally overnight. Add in three kids heading back to school themselves and the litany of “mom, I need this bought TONIGHT” and “mom, I know you just worked all day but I need you to spend the next 60 minutes signing eleventy bajillion forms even though we’re in the 21st century and should be able to do this on a GOOGLE FORM FOR THE LOVE OF GOD” (okay, so maybe that second one was not a direct quote), and stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Teacher moms, you hear me.

So getting up at 5am to get in a 60min workout before school, or likewise driving up to the pool at 7pm after a 13 hours-and-still-going day has been … tough.

However, if memory serves, this point in a distance event training plan, meaning the point where I am most trained and just heading into taper, is always when I am exhausted, cranky, and wondering why the hell I thought this was not just a good idea, but something I paid to do to myself.

And then I taper, and start feeling a little better physically, and totally anxious mentally, and then the race is here and I am okay.

So I will be okay. Once I get through this last week. And survive next Monday.

 

 

 

Cocktail conversation

On Sunday night, my boss hosted her annual New Teacher dinner, when she invites all new faculty and staff to her home, along with their mentors, administration and other significant players in the day to day life of the school, for a casual meet and greet before professional development begins this week. Since I hold a leadership position (not to mention serve as a mentor to one of my English dept colleagues this year), I get to tag along with my husband, big britches Academic Dean.

It’s always fun to catch up with my friends who I haven’t seen for a couple months, and as we sat down to dinner, a few of us chatted about our summer workout routines. Several of them are renewing their commitment to the exercise bandwagon, and as we compared notes, one of my other colleagues, listening to our discussion, asked me, “So, wait, what do you do?”

Me: “Triathlons. You know, swim, bike, and run? I’m doing an Olympic length race on Labor Day so my summer workouts have been kind of crazy.”

Her: “Wow. That seems like an awful lot to juggle with everything else. Why do you do that?”

Her question was sincere, with absolutely no mockery or snark intended. She looked at me quizzically, genuinely wanting to understand why a middle aged mom of 3 would voluntarily spend the time, money and agony energy on a hobby that didn’t, to her understanding, score well on the investment-return ratio.

I picked up my wine glass and took a sip, stalling, while I looked across the table at her. My colleagues paused, waiting for my response.

I thought about my health in 2010, a period in my life that sometimes seems like a lifetime ago, and some days feels like yesterday. How I didn’t sleep at all for months, and then only intermittently for a couple of years after that. How my doctor prescribed Lunesta, but it didn’t touch my insomnia; she prescribed Ambien, and still my body refused to wind down from high alert, always ready, even at 2 or 3am, for the next bombshell. How my doctor looked at me and said, “Tracey, you have to figure something out because I can’t give you something stronger than Ambien.”

I thought about how I couldn’t bring myself to eat, and lost 40lbs in a matter of months. How a well-meaning but misguided colleague worriedly spoke to several individuals at our 2010 class retreat, saying she believed I had anorexia, after witnessing me in the dining hall over the course of 48 hours, plate untouched at each meal. I tiredly and resignedly dispatched a trusted friend to spread the word that, no, it wasn’t anorexia, just a divorce.

I thought about how, after months of weekly therapy, and the ongoing panic attacks and flashbacks and crying jags, my therapist gently said that she believed I had PTSD, that it wasn’t uncommon with women blindsided with massive betrayal, that the recovery for my circumstances was significantly more complex and arduous than your generic, run of the mill divorce. I remember thinking I would always be broken, that I was now damaged goods.

I thought about how I started Couch to 5k in 2011, because my narrative was always, always, even as a Division I athlete, that I couldn’t run. How I was desperate to prove, even if only to myself, that I could succeed at something hard. How I couldn’t control being a failure at marriage, or as a mother (because my 2011 self very much believed I had failed as a mother), but maybe if I could run, there was a sliver of redemption. I thought about how at first, it was just about running 2 minutes, and then 3 minutes, and then at some point it wasn’t about running more minutes at all (although that rapidly increased) but the meditative rhythm that calmed me.

I thought about how with every goal accomplished, with every training plan completed, a tiny piece of my soul falls back into place. How the sweat of a long, hard workout, when I am literally gasping for air and my legs shaking and my muscles aching, feels like a baptism, washing away the wreckage of my former life. How I felt completely, utterly worthless, foolish, the joke of an entire network of friends and acquaintances, but now feel strong, competent, invincible.

I considered my answer as I peered at her over my Sauvignon Blanc, and flexed my leg muscles, knowing without looking under the table the definition that was now there, for the first time in my entire life. I thought about how I couldn’t remember the last time I cried, or suffered a panic attack, or felt victimized; I considered how, as athletic and strong as my body now is, my mind was the real warrior, losing the battle but winning the war. I thought about how I used to avoid some events as a mother, unable to stomach the confrontation, the inevitable PTSD triggers, and now I stand my ground, triumphant, victorious.

I carefully set my wine glass down, flashed a dimpled grin, and in a light and playful tone, replied, “I do it for the medals. Who doesn’t love a medal?!”