Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Two Year Old Totally Understands Trick-or-Treating

It all started on Thursday, which was the day they dressed up for Halloween at daycare. Moana actually got to dress up as a princess for a bit that day, which was just her style. I heard she wasn't so excited to take the pretty dress off.

She does look quite comfortable, no?

Then for two days I tried to teach her to say Trick or Treat. It was sort of anti-climactic for her to say it though because nothing would happen afterward other than me saying, "Good job."

Last night I showed her the kitty cat costume grammy bought for her and she was all about it. She wanted to wear it to bed. I managed to distract her and get her into her pajamas, but just barely.

So today when it was finally time to put it on for real, I got more excited than Moana did. YES! Let's go trick-or-treating! I have not been trick-or-treating since like the 8th grade, so I was pumped. Maybe a little too much so?

Moana let me put her costume on (ears and all!) and she even posed for a couple pictures. She repeated, "meoooooow" and it was just heart melting cute. We practiced saying "Trick-or-Treat!" a few more times too.

Just as she was putting her boots on to head out the door, all hell broke loose.



She was serious. Wailing at the top of her lungs. She was NOT going to wear this kitty cat costume out on public. No amount of negotiating was going to fix it either.

OK then. How about your dancing skirt? Wanna wear your dancing skirt?

This was much more comfortable for Moana because, well, she wears it every day. I did manage to get her little tiara on her head which made it look more like a costume rather than just every day 2 year old attire. It definitely was not as cute as the kitty cat.

So we headed down the street to Nalani's house which was our base for the evening. We were a bit early so we hung out there for a while letting Moana get used to the scene. She was afraid at first, clinging to her daddy, and would not say trick or treat at all... eventually though she loosened up and I took her across the street to house #1.

I carried her in my arms because she was 'scary'. (That's how she declares that she is afraid. "I scary!") But we approached the house, I showed her how to ring the doorbell, and a nice man came and put a piece of candy in her basket.

Hmmmm. That wasn't so bad, was it?

House #2. I carried her to the door, helped her push the doorbell, she asked to be put down, she quietly said, "Trick-or-Treat" and the nice woman put some gummy bears in her basket. It didn't hurt that a super friendly cute little dog came out to let Moana pet him as well. I opened the gummy bears to let her eat them...

...And that was the beginning of the end. After that she was running from house to house. Totally understood this concept! Walk up to the house and they give you candy? Um, okay! This is like the best night ever for kids!

Trick-or-Treating in Hawaii is awesome too. Everyone was hanging out in their driveways with big tables set up... all dressed up, decorated and happy... plenty of candy to go around. Some houses were handing out fully catered meals to the adults. It was super fun for everyone.

Now I just have to figure out what to do this this huge basket of sugar?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Evolution Of Thought During A Two Hour Ocean Swim

On the plan this morning was a 1:40 ocean swim. A couple of us met at the beach all dressed up in our matching suits and I brought the coffee knowing that we would need it both before and after this swim.

Getting in is always hard, but with the first stroke today it was obvious that the ocean conditions were just as perfect as they could be and immediately I thought, "This is going to be a great swim!" The winds were down, the water felt warm, and it was exceptionally clear. We've had conditions like this before, but it's not all that common for it to be this good.

Early on in this swim, I was just as happy as could be. Swimming in this perfect glassy water... looking at the reef and fish (I missed the turtle but Nalani and Jennifer saw it!)... my stroke felt long and strong and smooth and powerful... ahhh. This is the life. Before we knew it 30 minutes had passed. We stopped to regroup because Jennifer and Brett were going to turn around and go back early. Jennifer is on a rest week this week and Brett was just being a wimp. Lol. But at that stop Brett declared that he was having a blast so he was going to keep going with us rather than turn around. That left Jennifer alone going home, but she was cool with that, as were we b/c it was just so nice out there. I know I know, breaking rule #1 about never swimming alone in the ocean... blah blah blah... but she wasn't totally alone. There were plenty of people out swimming and kayaking and stand up paddling, etc.

So we decided to go another 20 minutes, which would put us 50 minutes into the swim, then we would turn around and go back. Those 20 minutes just flew by and all of a sudden we were half done! It was so easy! It was so joyous!

And the Double Roughwater turn-around buoy was right there. In our sight. Really. It looked very close. How could we be this close and not go touch it??

I was game. Nalani declared she was game. And of course Brett was all in at this point. So we swam. And we swam. And we swam. That buoy was a bit further away than it originally looked. Probably another 600 meters. But we got there eventually and stopped to tread water and admire our accomplishment at how far we had just swam. This is so awesome! I declared. Brett just kind of laughed ominously and said, "Well, we're only half done." Indeed. Looking back toward Diamond Head, it did appear that we had a heck of a long way to go to get back to where we started.

The problem with an out and back swim like this is that our winds typically blow east to west. And since we swam east to west the whole way out, well, we were just cruising right along with the chop going or way so we didn't even notice it. But by the time we turned around, the winds were howling and the chop was strong and we faced about 3500M straight into it.

We took our GU's (which by the way taste awful when your tongue is all salted up from ocean water) and headed back. Immediately it felt like we were swimming in a washing machine. Couldn't get a full stroke in. Slapped in the face with water when you're trying to breathe. Don't bother looking up to sight because you can't see anything anyway. Chop chop chop.

OK, Michelle, you're fine. Just relax. Don't fight it. You're good in the chop.

I stayed with Brett for a bit but then he is just so strong that I couldn't do it anymore. He declared at the end that since he's so tall he doesn't feel the chop like Nalani and I do. He compared us to boats. Smaller boats get tossed around a lot more in choppy water than longer boats do. Ok. Whatever. I couldn't keep up on the way back. Nalani and I swam side by side though so it was good to have her there, and I knew that since she wasn't pulling ahead of me that she was struggling like I was.

After about 35 minutes of this inefficient smacking of the water that we called swimming, I just stopped. I needed a break to mentally regroup before heading in to shore. Nalani saw that I stopped and stopped too. Immediately she blurted out, "This sucks."

Maybe you have to know Nalani to appreciate the magnitude of that comment. She never says anything negative. Always super positive. So to hear her say that I knew she really meant it. OK, somehow we were going to have to figure out how to get through at least 20 more minutes of this. This last 20 minutes was our punishment for being greedy earlier and needing to touch that damn turn around buoy. Had we not needed to do that, had we just stuck with the plan, we would have been done by now.

We silently treaded water for about a minute and tried to regroup. OK. I said, Let's each say one positive thing and then we'll swim the rest of the way. I said, "I'm not cold." She said, "It's really clear." And without another word we resumed swimming.

Those last 20 minutes are kind of a blur at this point. I tried to remind myself of how positive I felt during the first half of the swim. That I wasn't cold. And that the water was clear.

I'm not cold. The water is clear. I'm not cold. The water is clear... 

And then I just tried to turn my brain off. Stop thinking about how much longer. Just shut your brain up and swim, Michelle.

Eventually we made it to shore. Phew. At least we had good hot coffee waiting for us. I think Nalani's face here says it all.
In the end, I'm glad it was that hard today. Had it been easy, I think we might have lost a little respect for the distance. Being humbled can be a very good thing sometimes.

And now I need to go pass out on the couch.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Birthday Cake!

I was giving Moana a bath tonight and looking at her splashing around in the tub and pretending to swim... she was all stretched out and I swear was almost as tall as the whole length of the tub. I had this flashback to two years ago when we first brought her home and she was so teeny tiny and I wasn't even allowed to give her a real bath because her umbilical cord hadn't fallen off yet.

Now she's TWO. And loves birthday cake. And clothes. And shoes. And flowers. And stars. And her duck. And her blankie. And rainbows.

She is such a little girl.

We've had a fun week. I've been in 'spoil Moana' mode, which is not my normal M.O. But it's a fun week with birthday and Halloween all wrapped into one week! I hear two year olds get the hang of trick-or-treating quite quickly. I bet! Have people tell you how cute you are and hand you candy?? Yep. I bet she'll dig that! We'll see on Sunday.

My calf is feeling a bit better today. I had a massage and that really seemed to help, mostly because Jennifer is really good at it. I've been taking care of it the best I can all week and then today was a bit of a breakthrough as now I am able to do eccentric calf raises. Maybe you PT's out there can tell me exactly why eccentric calf raises are so good? I don't know the physiology behind them, but I know they work and I know that up until today I have not had the strength in my calf to do them. But after my massage I was able to do them. Jennifer must have released something in there and I think I'm on my way to getting better. It'll still be a few days until I can run, and even then I'll have to be super careful that I don't rip it again, but I'm feeling inspired and know that at some point, I'll be able to run again.

Jennifer also had a bit of work to do on my shoulders. I warned her ahead of time that I've been beating myself up good in the water, especially with being unable to run this week... While she was working on me today she was like, "You weren't kidding about your shoulders!" They were a mess. But now they are all fresh and loose.

Now that I'm getting regular massage I'm trying to figure out how I survived years and years of not getting it?? I've come to depend on Jennifer and I think sometimes I allow myself to beat myself up more than normal knowing that she'll come fix me. Lol.

The beauty of being a triathlete is that we have three sports to train for, so when an injury takes us out of one, we still have two more to do. Yep. I got back on my bike this week! I've ridden twice this week, both a cruisy 90ish mnutes and really am enjoying being back on two wheels. This morning my ride served as my 'Michelle time' to just be by myself and think. I found myself forming all my triathlon goals for 2011. I came up with so many that I figured I will to have to sit down and prioritize. But it's good. I'm feeling inspired!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Koko Crater Classic

We finished our second (and final) day of filming for Hawaii Five-0 today. I think today was a bit more fun than Wednesday was, but maybe that was just because I was more prepared for the Hurry Up And Wait theme of the day. It may also have been because the scenes we filmed were just more exciting.

The first scene of the day was a triathlon swim start. Running from the beach. Which, um, was not especially fun for me after hurting my calf yesterday. I had to sort of limp it in, trying to land on my heel and not push off my toe at all. The problem really was that they had the 'swimmers' lining up toward the front of the pack... while normally I would be quite happy with that, this morning it wasn't so fun because everyone was sprinting by me before we even got to the water. It was messy. Especially because they sort of encouraged us all to swim right by the cameras (and consequently on top of each other) for special effect of what a triathlon swim start really looks like.

In reality, this wasn't so bad for most of us. I have been in much much worse. But you know who hadn't? The real Hawaii Five-0 actors. There were four of them (the diamond robbers) in this scene and the producers had them lined right up at the front with us for each take of the start. I think they were afraid before the first time we did it. Then having experienced it once, they were really afraid before the second time. Before the third time, well, one of the gals just had these freaked out wide eyes and all she could say was, "You guys are crazy!! You guys are crazy!!" and another one of the guys was asking for stunt doubles.

You know, the very worst part of any triathlon is the first 50 meters of the swim. And that was what we did over and over this morning. Good times.

Well, I was feeling pretty significant pain in my calf after filming that scene so many times (don't laugh if you see me on TV limping through the sand toward the water!). I actually sat out the next scene which involved the swim finish. I just couldn't imagine running/limping up the beach all the way to T1 while being filmed. So I was just an 'on-looker' for this part. Everyone else swam out to the first buoy, then swam/raced back in and then went through T1 like a real race. Lots of people fumbled a lot, mostly because of nerves bc of those big cameras in your face exposing every mistake you make on national television. That would be really tough. But good T1 practice!

Next scene involved biking out of T1. In this scene the good guys are trying to catch the bad guys biking out of transition, but they can't tell who the bad guys are so they randomly stop a couple of triathletes. Lucky me, I got to ride toward the front, and there's a good chance I'll actually make it onto TV with this scene because every time I rode by just as the two hot cops were running into the picture. I lost count of how many times we filmed this one. A lot.

The last scene just involved us riding circles around the parking lot. They wanted us to go fast and simulate a race, but there were too many riders and the circuit was too short to go too fast because we would catch up to the slower riders every lap... so we would hold up and wait, then race around in front of the cameras and then slow up and wait, then race in front of the cameras again. We did this for about an hour and I think we were all dizzy by the end. It was fun though to ride next to some different friends I haven't seen in a while and catch up on things. Right, Roz? ;)

Yay! Nalani and I at the start of the inagural Koko Crater Classic Triathlon! We are guessing that someone is going to put on a real triathlon called this in the next few years. I will have to race it for sure if they do!

So while all that was fun, the best part of the day for me was that my massage therapist, Jennifer, was there and she worked on my calf a bit. I also met another Jennifer who is a PT at a local club. She also offered to work on my calf a bit. Nalani caught the image of pain on my face as PT Jennifer found the sore spot and dug her elbow into it. OUCH!

In good news, she seemed pretty confident when she told me that it was just a muscle strain and with the right treatment I'll be fine and running again soon. Phew!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You Know What Sucks?

I thought it was funny that three people told me this week, "I saw you and Nalani running..." It's kind of a small town that we live in and there are only so many roads... so when you're running a lot, well, people see you. Then yesterday I saw one of Scott's friends at a soccer game and the first thing he said was, "I saw you and your friend running the other day..." I guess there's no secret training around here. Lol.

My running has (had) been going really well. I had a couple of solid weeks and nailed my key workouts and went easy when I was supposed to go easy and took a day off here and there... seemed pretty perfect. My calf started feeling sort of tight/tender on Friday, so I didn't run... then yesterday morning it was still a bit tender so again I skipped the run... I didn't think it was anything serious because it just felt minor and I figured a day or two off of it would be the cure. No big deal.

But this morning was the 30K.

I swore to myself that I was NOT going to leave my marathon out on this 30K course. But then that other part of me just really felt like I was going to have a good run this morning. Having nailed some recent pace workouts and then having a few days rest... well, it was going to be a good day! I told Nalani as we were driving to the race this morning that I thought it was going to be a good day. If only my calf would behave.

We started off pretty conservatively and I had no calf pain. Phew. It took about 4 miles to get on pace (have I mentioned it takes me forever to warm up??) but then I just started feeling like a metronome. Nalani and I were running side by side and clicking off the miles a bit faster than we were even planning. I felt my calf start to tighten up about 5 miles in and it crossed my mind that maybe I should stop? Think big picture Michelle. Don't leave your marathon out here on this 30K course. But I just could not make myself drop out. Not when I was feeling so good otherwise! Somewhere mile 6ish Nalani stopped to use the bathroom so I was on my own. I got to mile 7 almost 30 seconds ahead of plan. Probably too fast but I was having a hard time slowing down because I was feeling so machine-like. Well, I hard time slowing down until I stepped on my foot just the wrong way and felt a sharp pain and BAM. End of race for Michelle. UGH. I should have stopped at mile 5.

You know what sucks? Having a hurt calf and getting a ride back to the finish in the back of a truck.

I've iced it a couple times already and it feels better than it did. Now I have to be as diligent about healing this calf as I have been about hitting pace in my workouts. I'll be super bummed if this takes me out for weeks... the marathon is 7 weeks from today. Seems like plenty of time to heal, but is it plenty of time to heal and get a decent amount of training in? I don't want to slog through another marathon just to finish. I need to be ready if I'm going to get even close to 3:30. Time will tell I suppose.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What A *Production*

I think now I know where the phrase, "What a production!" comes from.

An email went out to the local triathlon community that Hawaii Five-0 was looking for some "real" triathletes to be extras in an upcoming episode they were filming. Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but I have never seen Hawaii Five-0.

But whatever! A chance to maybe be on TV?!? Count me in! :) Lol. Actually, it was my boss (I have a super cool boss) who encouraged me to do it. He got the email too and told me to go and to wear my Coffees of Hawaii suit and give coffee to the production crew. Um, ok!

So a bunch of us showed up this morning at 6:00AM (yes, they start early) and seriously had no clue what the day was going to hold. It was still dark out but we met at the prescribed location and first thing were told to see 'Wardrobe'. Apparently they weren't going to allow anyone to wear any logos and give free advertising on national television. Bummer. BUT, that just means that they gave me a new tri top and shorts so that was cool.

All set up in our new non-logo'd outfits, they directed us into a big room to go fill out some paperwork. They had a bunch of good food and some bad coffee for us (I seriously need to find the person in charge of that and fix their coffee problem. People were talking. It was bad.)

Then we started to wait. And we waited some more. Nobody knew anything. So we waited. Eventually they sent us on our bikes to downtown Chinatown where they were going to film a triathlon scene. Hmmm. Downtown Chinatown. Really? At rush hour? It was about 8:00AM at this point but yes, we rode our bikes to Chinatown and blocked traffic for several hours while we rode circles around one city block. They filmed us riding by a short section of the block for about 20 seconds at a time. We waited. Then we did it some more. We had a little friendly bet going on about how many times we would do this? The guesses ranged from 7-70x. We all lost count at some point but in total I think it was on the lower range of that scale. It was pretty fun though! I was right up front and made it my mission to always be first to round the corner. Not because I was racing, but because being first around the corner is the safest place to be when you're riding with a huge group of triathletes who may or may not have good bike handling skills.

At some point they apparently got the footage they wanted and told us to ride our bikes back to the main building. It wasn't too far away. We all arrived there and then sat around and waited. For like an hour. This will come as no shock to anyone, but, um, triathletes are not good at just sitting around and doing nothing. We are planners by nature. Just tell us the plan, Danno. And don't waste time. Unfortunately, this is not how film production goes. SeriouslySomebody must know the plan. Somebody must see the big picture. But whoever that person was did not share much/any of that with us minions. And the rest of the people really did not know the plan so as much as we tried to press them for it, it was no use.

Looking around the scene we were all amazed at how much stuff has to be moved from place to place for all these different scenes. Truckloads of stuff. Hence, the hurry up and wait theme for the day. Every time there was a set change it was at least an hour of wait time for us while a whole bunch of crew members scurried around transporting their truckloads of stuff. Our only entertainment during this time was keeping our eyes peeled for the HOT guy. All the girls were talking about him. Seriously. Everyone was like he's perfect. He's so hot...

I guess the lead actor is supposed to be the specimen of specimen when it comes to men. I don't know. I don't watch the show. But I wasn't blown away. Sorry. But that was entertaining to say the least!

Anyway, it went on like that... ride bikes a bit, hurry up and wait for the truckloads of stuff to be moved... ask about what we were doing next... nobody knows... finally someone gives us instructions on where to go and we start the process all over again. Eventually later in the afternoon we got to hear (a rumor of) the plot of the episode. Spoiler Alert!! Apparently a couple of bad guys go steal some diamonds and then use the local triathlon as a cover up to hide. So they jump into the race on their nice brand new carbon Felt bikes and with their TT helmets, carrying the diamonds with them in their fanny packs. Then the good guys figure it out and start running through the triathlon trying to catch the bad guys. Eventually somebody rolls an ice chest from an aid station right out in front of one of the thieves while she is riding and she does an endo over her bike. Ouch. They handcuff her and take her away. (This endo scene was actually pretty cool!)

Realistic for a triathlon, no? ;)

Monday we go back for one more day of filming. Apparently we are going to be coming out of the water and in bike transition on Monday... What? You don't do the bike leg of the triathlon before the swim/bike transition? Well that's how we do it on Five-0.

Coming home tonight Nalani and I were discussing our thoughts on the day. Here's what I came up with:
~It was a super cool thing to be a part of.
~I'm glad I decided to go.
~If someone offered me a full time job doing this I would turn it down. The lifestyle is not for me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Moana Chronicles

(This post is really for my mom- we haven't chatted for a while and I figure she's going into withdrawals not knowing what Moana has been up to so I'm taking a little break from writing about my training/racing for a blog post about Moana...)

I love this stage with Moana. She is just the best right now. And what's not (for me) to like? She's trying to be a little mini me! :)

It's pretty flattering when someone thinks you're so great that they want to be just like you. Maybe that's the secret reason why some of us actually have kids? Ha! I doubt this phase lasts much past toddlerhood so I'll probably eat those words at some point, like when she's a teenager and hates me, but it's pretty fun right now.

Yesterday I went out for a run. She watched me go. When I got home she was wearing her own little Nike running shoes and asking to drink mommy's 'running juice' (my recovery drink).

The run was kinda long and my legs were feeling the pounding so later in the afternoon I took an ice bath. At first she was just watching and helping me fill the tub with ice. Then it started. "I wanna take it OFF!!!" She said, pulling her shirt up over her head... she then removed her shorts and started climbing in the tub. I tried to tell her no, that's it was too cold... that ice baths aren't for babies... but she insisted. She got as far as sitting on the edge of the tub with her feet in before she exclaimed, "OH THAT'S COLD!" and removed her feet. But interestingly, she didn't just let it go. She put her feet back in several more times during the ten minutes I was freezing my legs off to try to be more like her mommy. It was quite funny.

I typically eat salads with chop sticks. I just find it easier than trying to stab spinach leaves with a fork. Thanks to Regina, Moana has her own set of chopsticks, which she uses sometimes when we are at home... but the other night I took her to a local health food store for dinner and she saw a set of wooden chopsticks next to the forks. "I want chopsticks!" She exclaimed. I looked at the food on our plate... lasagna mostly, and thought, there's no way she can eat this with chopsticks, though surely she was going to try! And wouldn't you know it, she would not take a single bite off the fork, but she was surprisingly successful at stabbing flat pieces of pasta with a single wooden stick. She's persistent, that one. And she knows what she wants. I wonder where she gets that?

But she doesn't always think I'm the greatest... Funny story. The other day we went to the playground after I picked her up from day care. She had previously insisted on wearing her purple tutu over her shorts, which to her, looked exactly right. Interestingly, there were a couple other young girls there (6-7 yo) and one of 'em came up and asked me why Moana was wearing a skirt and shorts at the same time? Well, Moana heard her ask that question and immediately and passionately exclaimed, "I WANNA TAKE IT OFF!!" referring to her tutu. Amazing that her peers can already have more influence over her than her mama. I could have told her that tutus don't go over shorts, but that would not have changed her mind. An older girl who she looks up to says it though and immediately she changes her tune! I guess I can be glad that she apparently has a bit of social awareness.

Unfortunately we're in the middle of some sleep issues at the moment. She's napping really well, but regularly waking up with sleep terrors in the very early morning hours. It's horrible to hear your little daughter wailing out in fear, though honestly, she mostly sleeps right through them (if I let her). Most nights I've been jumping up and going in to make sure she's okay. Sometimes I wake her up in the process to snap her out of the bad dream. And I've even brought her into our room to finish off the night's sleep with us. That actually turned out to be a big mistake. Mostly because she just would. not. sleep. in our bed. Must have been the novelty of it all because she always sleeps in her own crib. But in our bed she was just awake and kicking and talking and rolling over and talking some more... touching my face and trying to play. Eventually, after 90 minutes of this in the middle of the night with no sign that she was the least bit tired, I marched her back into her room and put her back in her crib, where she wailed solidly for 30 minutes before finally drifting back to sleep. I was actually okay with listening to that wail, because that wail was just her I'm not getting what I want cry, vs her I'm terrified cry. The problem is that now she knows that if she wails just right, I'll bring her into bed with us. So sometimes now she tries to fake it. I'm smarter than that of course, but that still means there's a good bit of wailing going on while she's testing it out.

I think I've found a decent fix for some of her whining. She resorts to whining quite a bit these days, which I find annoying and don't want to encourage. Mostly I just make sure that she never gets what she wants when she's whining. I point it out to her when she's doing it and give her an alternative. Like when she's whining about not being able to do something, I'll tell her, "Say, 'help, please'." Then she'll immediately change her tone and calmly say "help please" and I'll help her do whatever she needs. So now that she understands the difference between whining and asking for what she wants, I totally poke fun at her whining by mimicking her when she's doing it. It's quite funny and makes her smile and laugh and then she changes her tune.

On Saturday we went to a birthday party for a 1 year old. It was a big indoor party with tons and tons of toys and other little kids. Moana was actually one of the oldest kids in the room so it was interesting to watch her interact with the littler ones. She was just a complete ball of energy! I don't think I have ever seen her so animated. It was super fun for everyone involved though and of course she especially loved the birthday cake. Oh, she wanted to blow out that candle so badly! They actually lit the single candle several times and let a couple kids who wanted to try to blow it out. Of course Moana wanted to! Super cute to watch her puff her cheeks out and give her full effort.

Last night when I was putting her to bed I was telling her that her birthday is coming up soon. In 10 days she'll be TWO. Wow. So I was showing her how to put two fingers up and teaching her that the answer to the question, "How old are you?" is "two". When I was pretty sure she had it down, I tested it out.

Me: "Moana, how old are you?"
Moana: "Birthday cake!"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Embracing The Ocean, The Unabridged Version

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the webmaster of asking me to write an article for his website on open water swimming. I had a gazillion things going on at the time but what the heck, right? Sure. I'll add that to my list... He didn't give me much direction about what he wanted... Just asked me to write an article on open water swimming. After I wrote and turned in my first narrative article on my personal experience with ocean swimming, I figured out (because he, um, told me) that what he actually wanted was a safety check list for people relatively new to ocean swimming. That wasn't the direction I originally went but after he asked me to edit it to include some safety tips, I did. But I still wrote my own story about ocean swimming and how I came to love it. I knew when I turned in my second draft that it still wasn't likely what he was looking for but I submitted it in anyway. He's the editor and before he published it on his website, he cut out the narrative part that made me sound like an idiot. Lol. But at the risk of not being asked to write a follow up for his website this is my blog and I'll publish what I want here... and you, my readers, know me better than the 1Vigor readers do so you may appreciate this version more than the one that actually got published. :)

(Sorry about the formatting and all the points being 1. Not sure how to fix that? I guess that's why I'm not a real editor.)

Embracing The Ocean
Michelle Simmons
A long long time ago, when I was young and naive and knew a lot less about the ocean, I didn’t think twice about getting in and swimming, alone, in unfamiliar murky water. Not even in foreign countries where I knew no one. 
Here’s an example. I was 26 and hanging out by myself on a little Malaysian island named Langkawai for a few weeks. I really wanted to swim, but there were no pools (that I could find) on the island. What the heck, right? The ocean was warm, some might even say too warm, but we’ll just go with warm. I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language but given my young and carefree outlook on everything,  it never really occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t the safest or smartest idea to just jump in the ocean and swim. Ok, I will admit that some creepy thoughts did cross my mind while I was out there swimming, mostly because the water was an interesting opaque green color and I couldn’t even see my hands pull underneath me. I wondered if there were any large creatures out there that might be hovering around. I wondered, given that I was alone in this foreign country, how my mom would know that I died if something came and ate me while I was out there. But interestingly enough, that did not stop me from swimming. Shoot, even the sign posted on the deserted beach that said, “Caution, Strong Current” didn’t stop me. (Can I tell you how fast I crossed that bay on the way in?? They weren’t kidding about the current!)
I guess the moral of that story is that sometimes we just get lucky. Ten years later I think back to those times and think, “Man, I was nuts.”
Today I find myself to be a more rational adult. Living in Hawaii gives me ample opportunity to swim in the ocean on a regular basis, and I take advantage of it. Though I will say that I have been lucky in finding other awesome ocean swimmers who have taught me a ton about ocean safety. Not the least of which has been, “Swim with a group.”
If you’re young and naive like I was, you might disregard these rules, but seriously, some ocean swimming safety tips should just be a given. 
  1. Swim with a group, or at least one other person. Ideally that person will be about the same speed as you so you don’t have to be stressed about swimming fast enough to keep up. Besides the obvious benefit of this, there is a less palpable feeling of swimming beside your training partners that will make you feel more at ease while you’re in the midst of such an enormous body of water. Plus, when you stop to tread water and look around, you’ll have someone to listen when you say, “Wow! Isn’t this great?!?”
  1. Swim in water you ‘know’ or are familiar with. If you are new to ocean swimming, ask around about where the best places are to swim. Local swimmers will know. Ideally the best places to ocean swim will have sandy beaches that make it easy to enter/exit the water, and won’t be known for their strong currents and/or surf. Sometimes the time of year makes a huge difference. Here on Oahu we wouldn’t even think of swimming on the North Shore during the winter because of the world famous surf, but in the summer, it’s typically like a clear calm lake up there and the swimming is the best on the island!
  1. If you’re not confident in your swimming ability, be sure to swim only in lifeguarded areas, and stay out of the ocean completely until you can swim at least 800 meters non-stop and comfortably in a pool. There are no walls in the ocean and in all likelihood it’ll be too deep to stand up, so the only ‘rest’ you’ll get while you’re out there will involve treading water or floating on your back. If you can find one, a kayaker would be great to have along while you’re adjusting to the feel of the ocean.
The following rules may be a little less obvious if you don’t have a lot of ocean swimming experience.
  1. Be on the lookout for signs of little animals that might sting you while you’re in the ocean. Some jellyfish infestations are predictable, like the box jellies that invade Oahu’s south shores about 10-12 days after each full moon. If there are signs on the beach that say, “Warning! Jellyfish!” you might want to find another beach to swim from or just skip it altogether for a few days until they make their way out to sea again. If you’re desperate to swim on a jellyfish day, do it mid-day when the sun is warmest (but wear sunscreen!). Box jellyfish tend to want to be where the water is cooler so as the sun heats the surface of the water, they sink lower. If you’re swimming at a beach known for Portuguese Man-o-War, know that they typically get blown in with the wind, so if it’s a windy day, look carefully on the sand for washed up man-o-wars. If you see some, you might consider skipping your swim that day. Man-o-War tentacles can wrap around you and sting pretty badly. I’ve never known anyone who has been hospitalized by a man-o-war sting, but I’ve personally had some pretty bad ones and they are not fun. It can feel like an electric shock through your whole body and then you’ll end up with itchy welts that can last for several days.
  1. If you’re a confident ocean swimmer, it can be quite fun to swim where there are some waves and swells. The trick to getting into the water is timing your entry right with the shore break. Your best bet is to wait until a white water wave breaks on the sand, then run into the water and dive in as soon as it’s deep enough to do so. Typically, once you’re past the shore break you wont have too many more issues. Though you should be aware that when there is a swell, waves will break when they hit a shallower ocean floor, which isn’t always near the shore. So pay attention to where you see white water waves breaking and know that there will likely be some shallow reef right there. If you’re not interested in getting toppled by the wave or washed up on shallow reef, avoid that area all together. But if you’re up for a little adventure, swim right through it and duck dive under as the wave is breaking (be careful that it’s not too shallow to do this!). Better yet, take a little break from the swim and body surf! Getting out of the ocean where there is shore break can also be a bit tricky. Your best bet is to let a wave carry you in. As the waves are retreating back into the ocean, it can be useless to try to fight against them. Just let them take you out a bit and know that in about ten seconds another wave will come escort you to shore. Let it!
  1. Make note of your surroundings and pick something big that will not move for your siting. Mountain peaks, tree lines, pink buildings, and churches with big steeples all make for good siting when you’re ocean swimming. Sometimes swells can get quite large if you’re out far enough and in those cases you might have a hard time seeing anything other than something very large on shore.
  1. When it’s windy, if you’re swimming in the ocean, you’re likely going to be swimming through wind chop. When I first moved to Hawaii and started ocean swimming regularly, I found myself quite annoyed that I had to change up my stroke (shorten it) to battle choppy waters. I would get irritated as I would try to breathe but instead got smacked in the face by white water wind chop. I remember specifically one afternoon, about a mile off the coast of Waikiki, complaining to my swim partner about the chop. I was just OVER IT and irritated that I couldn’t just relax and swim. Instead of consoling me, he laughed at me and said, “Then go swim in a pool.” And he was right. Time to stop complaining. I took a look around, at the Waikiki sky line and Diamond Head in the background, fish under my feet and the challenge of the chop and current... That was a defining moment in my ocean swimming career. At that instant I changed my outlook on the conditions and began to embrace them. Bring on the chop! I can swim through it. Learn to relax and enjoy the conditions rather than fight them.
Let’s focus on the positives for a while, shall we? If you’re smart about it, ocean swimming is an awesome adventure. Pool swimming, while at times providing a nice challenge if you’re trying to nail a set of threshold 100’s on a certain interval, can be rather boring. That same black line all the time and those walls that require flipping before you hit your head on the concrete... No wonder so many swimmers resort to alcohol post workout. The ocean, on the other hand, provides quite nice scenery most of the time (at least here in Hawaii where the water is usually clear and fish and turtles and coral are abundant). Sometimes we actually rate the success of our ocean swims based on how many turtles we saw. “That was a THREE-Turtle swim!!” And on occasion, dolphins will come by and swim with us. Those Spinner Dolphins are amazing. They are playful and fun and total show-offs with their tricks. They’re like little kids. “Hey! Watch me! I can jump out of the water and do TWO full spins before landing on my back in the water!” Good stuff.
And so it goes. If you want to swim in the ocean, you need to be prepared for what the ocean is going to give you that day. Pay attention to your basic safety issues, but don’t let wind chop or swells deter you. Sometimes the ocean will grant you perfect, warm and clear water with dolphins playing nearby. Other times it’ll hand you nasty angry water and you might get yourself wrapped up in a Portuguese Man-o-War. But regardless, with the right mindset, you might just find it more appealing than that boring black line.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Becoming Durable

My list of things to do is two pages long so clearly I should just resort to blogging.

This week just flew by. I think because Monday was a holiday and since I'd been away from Moana all last week, I didn't work at all and we just played all day. In the afternoon I took Moana to the beach where we met Zach and Angela and their family... The whole time in the car on the way over Moana practiced saying, "Hi Zach!" and then of course when we got there she put her shy hat on and wouldn't even look at him. After a few minutes though they warmed up to each other and then it was the funniest thing- Moana was completely showing off! She would look to make sure Zach was watching and then she would just run fearlessly into the waves and then look at him again to make sure he saw. Crack. Me. Up.

Tuesday evening before dinner Moana got to meet Zach one last time at the park... it was cute to watch them interact again. Zach was practicing football drills but Moana just wanted him to smell the flower.

They attempted a hug goodbye but it didn't really happen. They did get a High 5 in though. :)

It's been fun to read a bunch of Ironman Race reports. And then to get some phone calls from eager triathletes wanting to qualify for next year... Putting my coaching hat on, it can be hard to strike a good balance between being realistic without completely squashing someone's goals.  What do you say when someone calls you out of the blue and enthusiastically says, "I really want to qualify for Kona next year!!!!" Well, ok, tell me a bit about yourself and your training/racing history... and then you have to gently explain how competitive it is to qualify... more and more every year... but 1800 people do it every year so it's not like it's impossible, but it doesn't just happen because you want it to... For most its years and years of consistent work... I feel confident in my ability to help just about anyone finish an Ironman.  But finishing and qualifying for Kona are two completely different ball games and the chances of qualifying your first time out trying are, well, slim. But not impossible. It happens. But rarely. Anyway, it's been an interesting week on the coaching front.

On the training front, things are going fairly well. It's tough b/c I'm training for a marathon that is 7 weeks away... and the Double Roughwater swim which is 8 weeks away... so while in my head I don't feel like I'm doing all that much training (it only feels that way bc there's no biking involved) in reality I'm actually doing quite a lot... My shoulders are barking at me for sure! My swim volume is not normally super high... I normally try to keep it at about 10,000 meters/week year round, then when building for a key race maybe up it to 12,000 meters... but this year we're actually training for the Double Roughwater (vs doing one or two 5K swims and calling it good) so weekly volume is now up in the 16,000M range, which really is a lot for me! This morning we were finishing up our swim and as I was flopping around in the cool down I had this flashback to high school days when I was swimming a ton and always felt like my arms were just as useless as wet noodles. I don't think all this extra swimming is going a long way toward making me any faster, but I do think it's making me more durable, and that's really what is required when training for a 7K ocean race.

Same thing with marathon, right? The key is to be durable. And since I'm not spending any time on the bike right now, I have this extra time to put into running, so I'm keeping my run volume 50-60 miles/week, which again is a lot for me. I've been able to string several 50+ mile weeks together before and I swear something magical happens for me when I do that... I actually start to feel really good with the higher run volume (I know this is not the case with everyone but I've noticed it for sure with myself). I like running a lot. So I'm sticking with it and becoming good friends again with my Trigger Point system. Trigger point is like magic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ironman Spectating

Wow I'm tired. That week of working in Kona took a lot out of me. Don't get me wrong- it was a ton of fun- but exhausting at the same time. Part of that was the lack of sleep... and just being out of my routine... And now that I look back on it, I think part of it was the overwhelming social aspect of the week... being 'on' all the time talking to so many people. While I am certainly quite the social being (and I LOVE that part, don't get me wrong!) I need my down time too and I just didn't have much opportunity for that last week. I don't mean to complain about it or anything, just an observation.

Anyway, like I said, it was a fun week! So many athlete friends of mine were there... some of them racing, some of them watching and cheering... I was out in Keauhou most of the end of the week taking the USAT Level 1 Coaching Clinic. Much of that was very valuable. (Some of it notsomuch. As you can imagine, it really depended on who the presenter was.) But like I said, some of it was very valuable and I have some good stuff I plan to change/implement with my own training as well as that of my athletes. I think the big stuff, the basic training plans, most of us understand and do. It's the little things we do that will set us apart.

Race morning came and I won't lie. I was not happy to be on the sidelines. But there was nothing I could do about it except bottle up the feeling and tell myself to remember it next spring when I'm building for Coeur de Alene. And that's all I'll say about that.

It was an exceptional atmosphere at the start. I love that stuff. The drummers were drumming and the tension in the air was palpable. People were lined up all over the pier trying to get a glimpse of the athletes in the water. Then the cannon went off, the athletes started beating each other up in the water, and the spectators stormed over to the Coffees of Hawaii tent to grab another cup of joe.

The rest of the morning was pretty quiet. Our tent was right down the road from transition so we got to hear Mike Reilly calling out the names of the athletes as they got out of the water. We heard him call out the name of the COH owner early on so I checked the splits online and yep, Albert was out 1st in his age group at 54 minutes. Amazing. We were super proud!

Ironman spectating is pretty darn boring while everyone is out riding. I hung out at the tent, sold some coffee, sold all of our COH bathing suits- boy those Germans love their speedos! (final call on that by the way- we're placing one more order this week then we probably won't place another til next year so if you want one let me know ASAP) and then eventually jumped in the water for a little cool off swim. It was pretty hot, totally sunny, and there was no wind in Kona all morning. Luckily the clouds rolled in pretty thick just as the top age groupers were headed into T2.

I pretty much abandoned the coffee tent then for several hours while I watched the pros start their run... was still there watching when the top age group women came through mile 1... then checked in briefly at the tent but escaped again to watch the pros finish. That was seriously AMAZING to watch Macca round the corner onto Ali'i Dr surrounded by like 5 motorcycles, a hovering helicopter over head, and pumping his fists in the air with a look on his face that was just priceless. I didn't know who would be winning at that corner b/c I'd heard he was running stride for stride with Raelert for the last bit of the marathon... but he must have just completely dropped the hammer in that last mile because Raelert wasn't even close on Ali'i Dr. I was psyched for Macca. I know he can be a bit brash but I like the energy he brings in to the sport by putting himself out there instead of holding all his cards so close to his heart like some athletes do. Anyway, I started tearing up when I saw him, not because I'm in love with him or anything, but just because the feeling of watching someone have all his hard work pay off like that, well, it's just super cool and somewhat emotional.

It went on like that the rest of the day. Pros finishing that marathon looking like they were racing a 5K... seriously, some of them were running faster than my 5K pace all day long... then age groupers streaming in one after another... The marathon seemed to go by really quickly (opposite of the bike) and all of a sudden everyone was finishing. I know it didn't feel like that for the athletes, but for the spectators, especially those of us who knew a lot of people, it was just one after another of people to cheer for running by.

It probably would have been more interesting to be out in the energy lab cheering for people... Where I was (basically mile 1 and then the finish) everyone looked super happy. Of course everyone looks happy at mile 1... you finally got off that damn bike and you're surrounded by screaming fans and your stomach doesn't hurt yet. And at the end, well shoot, you're on Ali'i Dr and living the dream so even if you spent the last 10 miles wanting to puke your guts out you're going to be smiling and in all likelihood happier than you've ever been during your triathlon career. But out there in the middle of the marathon, well, that's where the real Ironman is taking place. That's where you have your mental and physical battle with yourself... that's where you pay the piper if you didn't train enough, or if you trained too much, or if you started the bike too fast, or if you started the run too fast, or if you didn't eat enough, or if you ate too much, or...

Anyway, super congrats to all my friends who finished out there on Saturday!! I am incredibly stoked for you. You earned your finishes. That is for sure.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Floating Coffee Bar: The Experience

Last year when I was here in Kona I made a point to swim out to the floating coffee bar every morning. I just thought it was so cool! Floating in that clear blue water with a bunch of other athletes drinking hot coffee...  I had no idea that this year I would actually be working for the company and ON that canoe serving up a smile to athletes from around the world... But that is exactly what I got to do this morning!

(I'm updating via my phone here so you'll have to excuse the lack of pictures... They are up on Facebook. And there are a ton more on the Coffees of Hawaii FB page now too. Become a fan and you can see them all!)

So I'm staying up the hill a bit in a house with the 3 other 'Coffees of Hawaii Girls'... They all live on Molokai and are the ones who keep the coffee plants on the plantation healthy and harvested... The beans fresh and roasted... And they are the ones who make sure your order gets mailed out correctly, asap. They are awesome!  This morning they got up at 4AM to start brewing coffee for the boat. They had to fill 3 big cambros full of the black gold that we would be serving to about 500 people in the 2 hours the Floating Coffee Bar is open... It was nice of them to let me sleep in. I didn't get up until 5:15, which gave me just enough time to put my suit on and eat breakfast before we headed down to the pier will all our stuff.

It was a beautiful morning... Blue sky (read: hot!) The sun was just coming up as we paddled this massive canoe out from the beach near the King Kam. We anchored down maybe 500M into the swim course. As much as Kerrie would like to believe that we actually moved the boat out near the turn around buoy, well, it just wasn't the case. ;)

Swimmers were anticipating our arrival and actually waiting for us as we threw the anchor. We immediately started pouring cups of hot coffee... Milk or sugar? We got it! We made lots of people happy this morning!

You can just imagine, this couple who told me that they flew out from Germany... "It is winter where we come from..." they said as they treaded the warm clear water and sipped their 100% Hawaiian coffee. Being a part of their happiness was incredible for me.

Lots of people knew we were going to be there and were eagerly anticipating this fun morning activity. I heard stuff like, "This was the only reason I am swimming this morning!" and "I swam all the way out here with my camera tucked in my suit. Will you take my picture?" and "THIS was the experience I wanted in Kona. Even more than finishing the race!" (Personally I think that was going a bit far, but whatever!)

I got to see a bunch of my friends out there this morning too! That part was awesome too. If I saw someone I knew I took their picture and posted it on FB for them. Chit chatting with blog friends I haven't seen in a while totally made my day. :)

The Blue Seventy reps were out there with us on the boat... They are crazy and super fun! Hamming it up and challenging people to go pick up a handful of sand from the bottom of the ocean in exchange for a free pair of goggles... It was 30ish feet deep... Though quite deceptive bc the water was so clear. Time after time athletes came back up empty handed and said "That's deeper than it looks!" But 7 or 8 people (including a woman!) actually did it and there were big cheers all around when someone came up with a handful of sand. It was a great atmosphere!

We also had boxes and boxes of GU on the boat, including their new Island Nectar flavor. I haven't tasted that yet, but I did snag a couple of 'em before they disappeared into the hands of all those eager swimmers looking for free stuff.

Tomorrow they'll be handing out Erin Bakers Breakfast Cookies and Infinit drink as well. It's been interesting for me to get a bit of an inside look into how a lot of these smaller companies work together to support each others marketing efforts in Kona. Every company that sees triathletes as their market are trying to get a piece of the action here... Whether they are walking around at the pier handing out free stuff or finding a bit of retail space on Alii Dr, they are here and doing whatever they can to get their name and product in front of the athletes. Some are allowed into the expo, many are not. But they are all here and it is quite interesting to watch the marketing efforts.

Anyway, our Coffees of Hawaii bathing suits have been hot sellers. I wore my bikini on the boat this AM and lots of women were asking where to get one. Those German women weren't kidding around and went and bought them all up in the first few hours they were for sale. Clearly we underestimated what the demand would be for these suits! I am super proud of that though since these suits were my little pet project. Turns out they're a great memoir of the floating espresso bar that can be taken home and enjoyed all winter. :) We'll be placing a third order next week to accommodate all those who want one but missed out today.

So that's the update from Kona tonight! Next up? USAT Coaching Clinic tomorrow. It's a big week!

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Do I Even Call This Post?

One busy week leads into another busy week and before you know it it's Friday... and October!?! Oh my. I've got so much I could write about but am not going to invest the time so it's a bullet point kind of thing today...

~Some asshole stole my wallet out of my car last night. Ok. My fault for leaving my wallet in my car, but still. Parents- teach your kids not to steal. I know it's like I'm preaching to the choir telling you guys this, but apparently that lesson is not taught well here in Hawaii. There is actually a sign at our pool that says, "Do not leave valuables in the locker room. Items have been stolen in the past." My first reaction to that is to post another sign that says, "Hey! How about we don't steal each other's stuff???"

~I spent my whole morning canceling credit cards and debit cards and gathering paperwork to prove my identity so the DMV would issue me a new drivers license. Kind of in a rush to get that done since they won't let me on my flight to Kona on Sunday without it. The worst part? The thieves also stole my make up bag (ok yes, I leave that in my car too) so the new picture they took for my license is not nearly as flattering as my old one.

~The make-up they sell at Long's is crappy. Too bad I didn't have time to get to The Body Shop today to replace the good stuff I actually like.

~I doubt I'll be wearing much make up in Kona anyway. I don't have a car or any other means of transportation other than my feet. I think I'm going to be doing a lot of 'run commuting'. So if you see me there in Kona, I'll probably be nice and sweaty. Then again, you probably will be too. So it's all good.

~I'm going to get my USAT Coaching Certification next week. Phew. I'm sure all my athletes will be quite relieved. Lol. Though in all honesty, I'm really looking forward to the course. I eat up any and all info Triathlon so I'm sure I'll pick up some good stuff while I'm there.

~After several weeks of craptastic swimming, I finally had a good swim this morning. I haven't had much time to swim the last few weeks because work has taken up more mornings than usual... I've found that I must swim at least 3x/week in order to maintain my fitness. 4x/week if I want to get faster. Anyway, the combination of lack of swimming opportunities and a deltoid muscle that somehow got all locked up had me swimming horribly earlier this week. It was actually quite depressing. Not that it is important for me to be swimming fast right now, but the swim is my thang, you know? When I'm not swimming well the world is just not as bright. Anyway, I managed to get a massage yesterday and she unlocked my shoulder and TAH-DAH! Michelle can swim again. Phew.

~I sure hope Yasso is right about his 800's. If so, I can forget about that sucky 25K last weekend and I'm back on track to reach my marathon goal. I also think that since I ran a total of 4 miles at damn near my 5K race pace yesterday, I'd also like to race a 5K right now.

~I have a new method I'm working on to help eliminate my stress while Moana has one of her massive lay on the floor arch your back and scream as loud as you can tantrums... Ready for this? I pick her up, carry her to her room, and tell her to keep screaming as loudly as she wants. And when she's done, she's welcome to come back downstairs and join me in whatever I'm doing. Shockingly, this actually works! It was hysterical (to me) when she quietly came back downstairs the other day, all red eyed and splotchy faced... I asked her if she was ready to go outside and play now and she said, "Yeah, okay." Then she was back to her cute little self.

~I haven't worked out how I'm going to handle these tantrums when she starts doing them in public? It's probably less acceptable to just let your kid scream it out in the grocery store, though I might let her do that a few times in hopes that she comes to the realization that she never gets what she wants when she throws a major fit.

~Last night Moana was awake for a couple hours in the middle of the night, and I heard her calling from her crib, "Hey Scott!? Hey Scott?!" Too funny.

~How the heck is Scott going to handle everything next week when I'm gone for 7 straight days? Seriously. I am worried. I'm not worried about Moana's safety or well being, but I'm pretty sure she won't be wearing matching clothes, she won't have her hair washed and combed, and she won't get to bed on time. I guess in the big picture those are little things. But still. It really is best if her hair gets combed every day because those knots don't comb out themselves. I try to tell Scott these things, but he is a "confrontation avoider" and since Moana protests with all her heart and soul when she sees you even approaching her with a brush, well, he's a push over and just doesn't force the issue. Hence, she uses her sticky dirty hands to push hair out of her face and it just knots up even further. Enough of that. I'll just shave her head when I get home. Natural consequence, right?

~Ok, further updates will come from Kona next week via Facebook! Stay tuned.