Sunday, December 20, 2009

From Triathlons to Trimesters

It is time for a different kind of transition--a life transition--one that will last for nine months:  Pregnanacy!  My husband and I are expecting our first child on or around July 4, 2010.  And in the spirit of tri, here are three thoughts regarding my first trimester (which, thankfully, ends on December 26!)

First is change.  Life as I know it will never be the same.  Some of the changes are bitter while most are sweet.  Since becoming pregnant, it's sort of like I've been given a new pair of glasses that enables me to notice things I've never really noticed before, things like how unique each person in this world truly is, or the miracle of a baby, or how seemingly significant things in my life really aren't as important as they once were.  And all this after just eleven weeks of being pregnant!

Second is humility.  This one actually makes me laugh at myself.  Before I even knew I was pregnant, I did exhaustive research on the effects of exercise during pregnanacy; I wanted to make certain I didn't hurt my chances of getting pregnant, or harm the developing baby once I did if I were to exercise too much.  I laugh at this now because once "morning" sickness (such a misnomer!) set in, the last thing I wanted to do was exercise.  I could barely even walk a mile without losing my breath!  Considering the amount of training I've been doing, this was quite humbling indeed.  It was a rather difficult adjustment, and I had to keep reminding myself that there was a reason for it and it would likely pass after the first trimester.  I just need to do the best I can in the circumstance I find myself in.  Plus, pregnancy is in and of itself similar to high-altitude training:  There's less oxygen to work with, and it takes time for the body to adjust.  But once my body does adjust, my lungs will be more efficient than they've ever been before :)  Also, even though much of what I do affects the developing baby, it's humbling to realize that most of the growth and development is beyond my control.  There is only so much I can do; the rest is in God's hands.

And third is fear--not the kind that frightens (though there is some of that, too), but rather the kind that leaves one in awe, blows one's mind, or take's one's breath away.  I am in awe of what's happening inside of my body, at the baby being formed.  In Psalm 139, David writes, "You [the Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  As I write, the fetus inside me is likely developing a unique set of fingerprints, unlike anyone else's in the world!  The things that appear ordinary--people, snow, sunsets, etc.--become extraordinary when we open our eyes to see just how unique God creates each person, snowflake, and sunset.  No matter how many there are, there is never a duplicate--even identical twins have different fingerprints (and no, we aren't having twins!)  Of the billions and billions of people from the beginning of time, we are each "fearfully and wonderfully made."  It blows my mind.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On My Knees

Shortly after running my first marathon in June of this year, I began having pain in my right knee.  I assumed the pain was normal for post-marathon trauma and that my knee would heal within a few weeks.  But alas, that was not to be the case.

Now, four months and five visits doing active release therapy with a chiropractor and one visit with a sports medicine doctor later, I am still unable to run more than a few miles without pain in my knee.  The sports medicine doctor came up with two working diagnoses ("working" since we couldn't reproduce the pain at the doctor's office, much like a car that won't make the noise it was brought to the mechanic for.)  The diagnoses are:  1) an atypical iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, or 2) a strain in the popliteal tendon, a tendon attached to the popliteus muscle on the back of the knee.  Both diagnoses have to do with the tendons in the knee joint.  The doctor referred me to a physical therapist, who will hopefully be able to further identify and treat what is causing the pain.  It is all very frustrating to say the least, especially since running helps me de-stress from the chaos of life, and is one of the ways I worship the God who created me, tendons and all.

I feel a bit like how Jacob in Genesis must have felt when he wrestled with God--Jacob was so strong that he overpowered even God, until God injured a tendon in Jacob's hip.  It was a hard lesson in humility for Jacob as he learned that God can both enable and disable at will according to his good purpose (though it may seem anything but good at the time.)  Likewise, I am humbled because of an injured tendon in my knee, and I am praying for God to enable me to run once again, not for my glory but for his.  I have hope yet that through God, I will have the strength to stand.  But for now I'm on my (injured) knees.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marathon Cheerleader

I went to cheer on a good friend at the Bellingham Marathon this past weekend, and had such a blast.  It was a small marathon, with 281 finishers (compared to 5647 finishers at the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon I did earlier this year.)  The course was beautiful, and included some trail running alongside Chuckanut Mountain, which is way better than the streets and buildings of a city.  If I do a marathon next year, this one will certainly be under consideration.

Anyway, I was a little worried that it would make me sad to watch other people running, since I can't run very far right now due to an IT-band injury, but I got over it and was able to cheer wholeheartedly for Andrea.  I cheered for her in a few spots, but it was at mile 23.5 that my eyes started to well up as she passed by.  There's just something poignant about watching someone fight so hard to reach the finish line, after they've worked so hard to get there.  She finished in just under four hours, achieving her goal.  Way to go, Andrea!  You are awesome.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Park

I went for a 24-mile recovery ride today and felt great.  I rode from home to Marymoor Park via the Sammamish River Trail, smiling and nodding to people as I passed them along the way.  I even saw a few teammates out enjoying the nice weather, too.  After I returned home, I cleaned my bike up and put everything away.  It wasn't until then that I noticed I still had my race number from the Black Hills triathlon on my helmet.  Oops!  I wonder if anyone noticed?  :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Black Hills Triathlon

When choosing which races I was going to do this season, Black Hills was not even under consideration.  But things did not go quite as planned, and after taking myself out of my A-race in August, I needed another one to look forward to; my body was craving a race.  My coach suggested Black Hills--with a longer bike ride (which I've been working hard at) and a shorter run on trails (good for an injured knee), it seemed like a perfect fit for me.  So I signed up, and I'm so thankful I was able to run this race.

It was a very small race, with a total of less than 200 participants in the triathlon and duathlon combined.  There were 58 women, eight of which were in my age group.  I seem to enjoy the smaller races because they feel more like a community and less like a crowd, and I tend to get lost in a crowd (and no, it's not because I have a greater chance of placing, though that may also be true).

With the exception of my wonderfully supportive husband, I went to the race alone, not expecting to see any familiar faces, but as it turned out I ran into a few people I recognized.  There was a family there--a mom, dad, and two daughters--who belongs to the same gym I belong to.  The dad and two daughters were all racing (congrats on finishing your first olympic triathlon, Lindsey!).  There was also a Team FASTT teammate who decided last minute to run in a relay.  Their relay team was called Kick-Ass Moms, and they really kicked ass by taking first place in the relay division.

Aside from my very first triathlon, I've always worn a heart rate monitor (HRM) to gauge my pace.  It's a really helpful tool, especially when training.  This race, however, I did not wear one because mine had stopped working and I never got one to replace it.  Furthermore, my bike does not yet have a spedometer, and I don't even own a watch.  So I ran this race without any gadgets or gizmos, and it was kind of freeing.  I know that there are many benefits to using such gadgets--they can encourage us to go faster, but sometimes they can also become a good excuse to go slower.  Either way, I was able to focus more on having fun and doing my best without the distraction of numbers.  Besides, after training so long with a HRM, I had a good sense of my zones by perceived exertion.

During the swim, I felt great.  In the beginning, one swimmer unintentionally zig-zagged her way across my path (she even apologized).  I eventually swam around her, and caught up to the white-cap swimmers in the group ahead of me that had started five minutes before my group.  I even felt that gliding feeling you're suppose to feel when swimming in the water, thanks to a master's swim class I went to where I was the only one who showed up--the swim instructor worked with me for an entire hour just on my swim technique.  It was just what I needed, and seems to have paid off already.  I finished the 3/4-mile swim in 19:15.

This was my first race with my new tri bike, and with the carbon wheels I borrowed from my coach, I was ready to soar.  I passed several people, all of them in the group ahead of mine.  I kept my eye out for anyone in my age group (our ages were marked on the back of our right calf), but didn't see any.  And it's always a good sign when the only people around me are men--only one girl passed me on the bike.  It made me think of growing up with four very athletically-inclined brothers--they taught me how to keep up with "the guys" (though now they're trying to keep up with me :)  I finished the 30-mile bike ride in 1:25:16.

At the end of the bike course, I got to test out my new transition technique, where I take my feet out of my shoes while on the bike and dismount bare-footed without stopping to get off.  My husband caught it on video using our camera, and maybe I'll put it up on this blog if I can figure out how....

My stomach felt a little uneasy as I began the run course, which is often where people feel sick.  There's something abrupt about running right after being in the aero position on the bike for so long.  But I finally adjusted, and then my knee started to hurt, as expected (it started hurting after a marathon in June).  I had decided that I would push through the pain for this race and then let it heal during the off-season.  It was a little frustrating because I knew I could have run faster if it wasn't hurting.  But I went as fast as I could, sprinting especially hard at the end.  I had a lot of energy left because the run was actually a bit shorter than advertised (I highly doubt I ran five miles in 32 minutes on trails with a hurting knee).  I'm assuming it was closer to four miles.

I finished strong at 2:21:41, which placed me first in my age group, and third overall.  I was very inspired by the woman who placed first overall--she went up to claim her award holding a 3 1/2 month old baby in her arms.  So it is possible to do triathlons while raising young kids...not that I've been thinking about that or anything.

So, the Black Hills triathlon was a great way to end the racing season.  And as autumn approaches and the leaves begin to change, I am looking forward to the off-season training and what lies ahead.  If there is anything I learned this year (besides triathlon technique), it is that "in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).  God will guide our steps and enable us to run the race marked out for us, which may be a different course than the one we had originally planned.  It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it in the end.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Tomorrow I have an olympic distance triathlon, and it is gearing up to be a perfect race day!  Today, however, was less than perfect (though the weather was beautiful).  I had a really light workout to do, an easy spin on my bike just to prep my body for the race tomorrow.  I rode with my friend Louise on the Sammamish River Trail to the Velodrome at Marymoor Park where I planned to practice a few transitions.  Before arriving at the Velodrome, however, an unfortunate incident occurred--I fell!  We were about to pass some other bike riders, making sure to say the obligatory "On your left" to let them know we were passing, when they decided to turn off of the trail right in front of our path.  Louise came to a quick stop in front of me, and I wasn't paying close enough attention to follow suit:  I crashed into her and then fell to the side, partly on pavement and, thankfully, partly on grass.  It was the worst fall I've had so far on my bike, which is quite the feat considering this was a really easy ride.  Nonetheless, I survived with just a few scrapes and bruises, both on me and my bike.  Everything else seemed to be in good working order.  I got up and brushed the grass off of myself, and we continued onward to the Velodrome.  Later, after I got back home, I looked my bike over in more detail and discovered that one of the chain links was chipped.  I grunted in frustration and then drove it to the local bike shop where they put a new chain on my bike.

Why is it that bad things seem to crop up at the most inconvenient of times, often right before some important event or something you've been looking forward to for some time?  Another example of this happened the day before my husband and I were to leave on vacation--the battery to our only car died.  In the end it worked out, but it definitely caused a lot of stress.  In some ways, it's similar to spiritual battles.  When there is something that God wants us to do--perhaps read the Bible, or call a friend just because, or invite someone out for lunch--sin and Satan are right there to tempt us to turn away, causing our downfall.  Perhaps the phone rings just before sitting down to read, or we can't think of a good reason to call that friend (even though we don't really need one), or life is just too busy to ask someone to lunch.  It's not that any of these circumstances are inherently wrong, but we must be prepared to battle that which gets in the way of doing what is right, to put on the armor of God.  We could silence our phone, tell that friend we were just thinking about them, and make room in our schedule for lunch.  One of my current downfalls is checking my email before going to bed, making it next to impossible to fall asleep.  Equipped with the armor of God, I would be able to resist checking my email, knowing I will be better off if I don't.  Yet we all will fall at some point in our lives, and when we do, we just need to get back up, brush off the grass, and keep going.  Afterwards, we'll have scar stories to share and encourage others with!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Rainy Day Swim

I awoke today to the sound of rain, a sign that fall is not too far away, though I was hoping summer might linger just a little bit longer.  But not to worry, for I would be jumping into a lake to swim 1.2 miles anyway--what's a few more drops of rain?  And since this was only a swim race, I needn't worry about biking or running on wet pavement, so bring on the rain!

I arrived at Martha Lake in Lynnwood for the inaugural Team FASTT swim race.  There were three distances to choose from:  1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and 1.2 miles (half-Iron distance).  I opted for the half-Iron distance--as did the majority of the other swimmers--because I wanted to compare my time to last year's swim at the Lake Stevens Half-Ironman (40:47).  Would all of this year's training really pay off?  I was a little nervous that it wouldn't, and all of my hard work would have been wasted.

Anyway, despite the gray skies and rainy weather, everyone was in good spirits about the race--who wouldn't be stoked about putting on a wetsuit at 8:00am and jumping into a lake with a bunch of other crazy-like-minded people?  I didn't get a count of all the swimmers but I would estimate there were about 50 total.

The countdown began, and we were off as heart rates and adrenaline levels soared.  There wasn't as much kicking and shoving as usual, which was nice, and we all spread out after the first buoy.  I ended up swimming the majority of the race by myself, a few minutes behind the fast cluster of swimmers ahead.  I was very pleased with my sighting--I didn't veer off-course much at all this time.  I also felt strong most of the way, even though I had stayed up late swing dancing with my husband the night before (the race didn't start until 8:00am, which is practically sleeping in when it comes to racing).  However, after looking at the pictures on the website, I realized that I really need to work on my swim stroke.  Here is a picture of how NOT to swim:

Yikes!  Hopefully this was only because it was the end of the race, and I was tired.  I can't say I'm proud of this, but at least I know that there is room for improvement.

I finally emerged from the water and crossed the finish mat with a time of 36:25, over four minutes faster than last year (though this was a different lake and a different race).  Even so, I was pretty happy with it.  I was even more thrilled when my friend Louise told me there were Erin Baker cookies for post-race food.  If I had known that beforehand, perhaps I would have swum even faster! :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pass With Care

Roads can be a scary place for a cyclist.  When training for long-distance triathlons, it can be a challenge to find a good and safe route for cycling:  Where can one go on a 4-hour bike ride without encountering heavy traffic, or roads with no shoulders, or even vicious animals (a friend of mine once encountered a black bear!)?  On more than one occasion, I've been on a ride where cars have passed by much too close for my comfort, whether the driver was simply not paying attention or was frustrated at having to slow down because I was in his way.  I've had one man in a truck honk at me as he approached from behind, and then pass by me as close as possible even though no one was coming from the opposite direction.  I felt wronged and violated.  As I rode the rest of the way home, I came up with a new design idea for a cycling jersey:  it would be road-construction-sign-orange, and on the back there would be a black-and-white image of the road sign that reads, "Pass With Care."  Yet, the truth of the matter is that many drivers simply don't care, making it a dangerous place for those of us on bikes.  It doesn't seem fair, but then again, few things are.

It's much like life, actually.  For example, the world practically runs over people with physical or mental disabilities.  I've spent time with people with mental retardation or other special needs, and keeping up with the pace of life is overwhelming and often impossible.  They have to learn how to navigate the same twists and turns as everyone else, only at a much slower and harder pace, all the while getting passed by people who aren't paying attention, or worse, people who get frustrated because they have to slow their own pace down.  It is a sad truth, indeed.  But if people with disabilities are given the space they need to succeed, it is amazing the things they can do.  Just watch the Paralympics!

There are plenty of other examples, too, including but not limited to those who are elderly, or poor, or mourning the loss of a loved one.  When we encounter people in situations such as these, we should remember to pass with care, because life is not fair.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Future Career

I taught an aerobics class today, which was only my second time teaching.  I started substituting for a friend (who also happens to be my coach) a few weeks ago.  I never imagined myself teaching aerobics--I prefer to do my workouts outdoors--but I've been enjoying it immensely.  Plus, I get paid to do what I love, which certainly helps to support my triathlon "habit."

There was a lady in the class who was new to the gym, and it was a joy to help her get started on her fitness journey.  Afterwards, she came up to me to say she had a great time and then left with a smile on her face.  Another person who has been going to the class for a long time also came up to me and asked if I had taught before.  She was surprised when I said no, and then she replied, "You should consider making it a career."  That certainly boosted my confidence level, and I told her that I recently began studying to become ACE certified as an instructor.  It is my hope to become a fitness instructor and a personal trainer.  This has been a new development for me this summer, but it just seems to make sense.  I graduated in biology, with an emphasis in physiology and biochemistry, and being healthy is a hobby of mine (much to the chagrin of my husband, sometimes!).  It's interesting to see how the pieces of life fit together.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


My name is Tracy, a name that means "warlike" and "fierce" (among other meanings, none of which sound nearly as good).  Most people who know me might consider this ironic--I'm anything but hostile when it comes to people and relationships.  But when it comes to life, I am in the front lines battling the Enemy that does whatever he can to kill our dreams and desires, keeping us from living life with passion and purpose.  It is a fight for freedom that involves not guns and bloodshed, but truth and surrender.  It is a war against the unseen forces of this world for a King who gives us the strength and courage we need, one who is worthy of our devotion.  It is for him that I fight.  I am his quiet warrior.

However, once upon a time and not so very long ago, I was a prisoner of the Enemy, who had enticed me with food in the form of an eating disorder.  I battled a mild form of an eating disorder all throughout high school and college, and it kept me from "running the race set before me," both literally and figuratively (Hebrews 12:1).  Only when I met the King did I finally learn how to overcome the Enemy's power over me.  The King trained me how to fight, equipping me with all I needed to defeat the Enemy.  It was a long and strenuous process, but it taught me how to be strong, courageous, and fierce.  Since then, I continue to fight for freedom, and one of my favorite weapons is the sport of triathlon.  I have been training and racing for three years now and it is amazing to see how much the King has changed me.  What's more, I now have a vision of completing an Ironman triathlon one day, something I never would have thought possible a few years ago.  It will be a lifelong journey, and I hope you enjoy reading about it--and other life passions--in this blog.  Welcome, and Godspeed.