Friday, January 30, 2009

January is almost over

I will have to admit that my last entry was slightly more than a "little" backstory. The scary thing is that I could've gone on longer. Now I've probably thoroughly scared many away for fear of reading paragraph after paragraph, but I can assure you that will not often be the case. The fact of the matter is that I am coming to the end of a recovery week and I need something to do with the extra free time that is normally swallowed up with endless swimming, biking and running.

So now that I've gotten my apology out of the way I can get on with it. It is January 3oth and the coldest month of winter is almost over, not to be confused with December, which is the darkest. I was actually amazed yesterday when I saw the fading daylight out the window and glanced at my watch to see that it was nearly 5pm. Yes, nearly 5pm and still light out! It is amazing how your perspective can change on things. It was just around Christmas when I had to finish all of my runs by 4pm or wind up running in the dark. Not only that, but the sun is going to start coming up just before 7am, which will also be a nice change. Not that any of it really matters that much since it is still going to be just plain cold out.

Now, I don't hugely mind the cold. At least I don't think I complain about snow and winter quite as much as others I know who live here in New England and just love to whine about it. Seriously, anyone who lives here should know what they are getting into. Although I will admit that it seemed like years where we were blessed with milder winters and certainly a lot less snow, recalling plenty of days when I would be heading up to the mountains to go skiing and not pass a single spot of snow-covered ground on the way, only to be saved by those snow-making machines. It also seems like even when it would snow it would usually have a chance to melt between each storm so at least maybe I'd be able to see the driveway, but that has not been the case recently.

I spent the winter of 2007 living and training in Phoenix to escape the cold. The funny part was that for the first few weeks in January when I was there I would talk to my parents and it was actually warmer in New Hampshire than it was in Arizona. There were a few mornings below freezing, a couple of long bike rides in drizzly rain and temperatures in the 40's and even the slightest bit of wet snow on Superbowl Sunday. That all changed starting sometime in February when winter finally showed up in NH and the heat showed up in AZ. In fact, in March we nearly set some record highs in the upper 90's, but you know, it was a dry heat.

Then last winter it snowed more than it has since something like 1880 and I got to live through all of it. I also got to shovel all of it. Well, at least until sometime in late February when I wound up with some sort of weird back spasms after trying to chip away at about 6" of ice on the front steps for 20 minutes and barely making a dent. When I woke up the next morning, I decided that I was done for the year on clearing the front walk. The garage door was going to have to be good enough.

This winter is not nearly as bad as last winter thus far, but it is also snowier than most winters I've experienced here. It snowed in December and we haven't seen the ground since. It hasn't gotten above freezing really either, and I don't remember what the driveway looks like. We had some much colder days this year, the worst morning I saw was -18, but in all honesty, without wind, once you get down around 10-15, it doesn't tend to feel that much worse. I'm not kidding, either. So far I've gotten in one day of skiing and hope to squeeze in some more in between a demanding training schedule. But I am definitely getting sick of winter.

One thing about it, is that if you are running outside, which I always choose over the trainer except for one particular day in December when an ice storm knocked down about 50% of the tree limbs all over the state, you are going to have a heck of a lot of laundry. I mean, run in the summer, shorts and a t-shirt. Run in the winter: tights, winter socks, hat, gloves, base layer, jacket, maybe a few extra things here and there depending on just how cold it is. I've actually run on a couple of days that were so cold that I wore an entire load of laundry for that one excursion. At least I wasn't cold out there. Swimming doesn't change, it's just colder walking to and from the pool at the gym and obviously no open water. But biking is reduced to entirely indoors.

I don't really mind riding in the cold, but I won't do it if the roads are likely coated in ice and snow, as they have been consistently now for about 6 weeks. So I've been on the trainer in the basement. A lot. This has some advantages, such as being able to line up all of your nutrition and fluids next to you and not having to worry about carrying them, having a bathroom right there and always knowing what the temperature is going to be. You also get to watch a whole lot of TV and movies. That can actually be the hardest part for me, deciding what I'm going to watch. This year has been a bit easier because I joined Netflix thanks to a gift certificate from my brother, so it's obvious enough just to watch whatever the latest movie is I've received. Mix in the DVDs of "The Office" which I had never watched but now find hilarious and I'm pretty much covered. It'd still be nice to actually get somewhere in when I ride though.

All of this cold or indoor training is a pain, but I actually think it can give me a bit of an advantage. I think it can help prevent burnout. I'm doing a lot of training right now and it will only get longer later on, but instead of being sick of it when the time comes I'll likely just be so excited to actually get to ride outside that I won't even care that I'll be gone for 6 hours. It also feels like lifting off a huge weight when you no longer have to wear so many clothes when you run. These are the things I try and tell myself, anyway, to make it easier to get through.

It's supposed to be in the 40's on Monday, it might as well be a regular heat wave. Excellent.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A little backstory

Now that I've given a list of random things about me, I'll try and weave some things into a more coherent narrative that will give you an idea about where I'm coming from in my day-to-day ramblings. I'll try not to go on too long, but I can't really make any promises.

I grew up an athlete, always enjoying being outside, riding my bike, playing games, and doing anything to exert myself. I think the problem arose when I started to join some organized sports in which having fun was not the main priority. Don't get me wrong, I had some great fun on soccer, softball and basketball teams where we just went out and played and nobody really cared what the score was. I mean sure, winning was always better than losing, but I could shrug off a loss a lot easier than I could a screaming coach who threatened you after the game with all of the laps you were going to have to run at the next practice or wouldn't let you set foot on the court even though it was painfully obvious your team was going to lose anyway. So I got a little lazy, and I sometimes wonder if it was partly just to spite those coaches who demanded you give your all, but made it seem like it was more for their benefit than your own. The funny thing is, looking back now I think I'd screw up at practice on purpose and spend the extra time running as punishment instead of doing stupid drills.

The good news is I was able to have fun playing in college and the laziness went away. Organized sports became my outlet. The bad news is that college ended, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. Sports had been my outlet and the source of many of my best friends. What was I supposed to do now? I had started running on the treadmill in my final semester just to get in shape for the season and for the first time had built up to running 4 miles in a row. Before that the furthest I had run was the mile in gym class in high school, and once a mile and a half as a fitness assessment when I got to college. The guy told me I was going to do a mile and a half and I laughed at him because I didn't think he was actually going to make me run that far. I really wish that I knew how long it took me that day.

So I decided that I would keep on running because I liked how it made me feel and I was finally dropping some of the extra weight I had been carrying since I was about 11. That was the summer of 2001, when I decided I would just keep running and doing anything to stay in shape. I worked at a gym and took some spin classes, rode my old mountain bike I had gotten in 7th grade and just generally tried to stay in shape. Close to a year later I signed up for my first triathlon, the Danskin sprint. A month after that I suffered through the Timberman half ironman. It was awful, but I felt that I had found what I needed to fill the void.

I had a couple of years of steady improvement while figuring out my own training from books and the internet. I did my first Ironman and found that distance was definitely more my thing, and managed to qualify to go to the world championship in Kona on my second try. For the 2006 season I had applied to be on a team to be coached by the Mark Allen Online program. Now, I had applied for all sorts of random online sponsorship opportunities, teams, grants or anything, but I had never been chosen. This time I finally got the call and I had a coach. I really had no idea what to expect, but things seemed to be going well.

I showed up to Ironman Lake Placid in 2006 in great shape, but totally unsure of what to expect. I never had any specific goals going into my races. I usually just wanted to do better than last year. And in that case I also wanted to break 11 hours for the first time. Well, I did. By quite a bit, actually. After my slowest swim ever I blew through the bike course, took the lead from the lone female pro in the race coming out of T2 and never lost it. I fully expected to lose it, counting the miles so I could keep track of how long into the marathon I got to lead the race, but I never got caught. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to win a race like that when going in you actually think you have a chance at winning it. I have never been so shocked and elated. I also came in well under my goal at 10 hours and 11 minutes.

The problem with that kind of performance is that you start to want more of it. I got a little Ironman greedy and wound up doing three in the 2007 season. I started in Arizona, where I lived and trained in the 4 months leading up to the April race. The wind all but destroyed me on the bike and left my legs too exhausted to run the kind of marathon I should've been capable of and I was deeply disappointed in my performance. It was the first time I felt that I had really let myself down. I did win my age group though and qualified to go to Kona again, but first I had to do Lake Placid again. The smart thing in this case probably would've been to skip it, but if you had won a race one year, wouldn't you want to go do it again the next? So I did. I was burnt out and pretty tired, but I lined up at the start line anyway. Things were going great until halfway through the bike when I skidded to avoid a guy who had fallen in front of me and I managed to flip over the handlebars on a particularly treacherous downhill. I can remember going through the air and imagining that I was about to scrape most of the skin off my body as I slid to the bottom of the steep hill. Except I didn't. After hitting my head, or helmet, on the pavement and thinking that part wasn't so bad I somehow executed a movie-stunt-like shoulder roll and came to a stop with minimal blood.

I will tell you right now that if you are going to pull of a spectacular fall in the middle of a huge race, you might as well do it where everyone can see you. Especially if you are all right. Oh, and make sure to do it in such a spot where Paula Newby-Fraser and Greg Welch can help you up. That's what I did. I fell at transition just before we head out for the second lap, and where most of the spectators are, as well as the commentators and announcers. So had you been watching from home, you would've seen me fall live. I still wish someone had a copy of that.

I stood and assessed the damage. Anyone who rides will tell you what is the most important thing in this situation: the bike! The bike looked ok, save for some scratches on the shifters and the fact that the chain had come off in some convoluted way that I couldn't see how to get it back on. I saw Greg and Paula rush over and Paula grabbed me by the shoulders and looked at me and said, "are you ok?" I thought for a second. Surely if I had just flipped off my bike something must be broken, a collar bone, a wrist, there had to be blood seeping from the side that had hit the pavement, maybe a concussion since I did in fact land on my head first. But the thing was, I really did think I was ok. My head ached for about 30 seconds after I had hit, but that seemed to have been gone already. All I saw was a thin streak of blood trickling down my shin from where some part of my bike must've gauged me. "Surprisingly, yes," was all I could manage.

In the meantime, Greg had picked up my bike and held it while I tried to get my chain back on, which proved to be far more difficult than I imagined. I twisted the cranks, looped it around the pedals, just generally started to panic. All in all it probably took 90 seconds, but in the middle of a race like that, it felt like an eternity. I finally got it on and a volunteer came over to see if I needed medical. I had no idea. I asked Paula to look at my shoulder, where I knew I had hit but wasn't sure if I was bleeding. She said it looked ok and I opted to continue. Greg pointed out that the next age group woman had just come through on the bike and I should still be fine. So I hopped on and took off again, after having averted what could've been a terrible accident.

My parents attend most of my races, or at least the big ones. They had seen me about 30 seconds before I crashed but missed the excitement, which I was glad about because from their viewpoint I knew they would miss it. I had several friends at the race though who without my knowing were right there to witness the whole thing. After I went off again and they saw my parents, they didn't know whether or not they should tell them. They decided not to, but here's where it becomes a problem if you fall in front of the video stream camera. People at home know. So my aunt called and told them and my poor friends had to confess their lie, or at least their withholding of the truth.

Anyway, if anything is going to take you out of a race mentally (and certainly physically) it is crashing on your bike, especially when literally nothing is at stake. People had told me I was there defending my title, but I never saw it that way. There were plenty of serious pro women there that year that surely I would have no chance of beating. I already had my Kona slot. Why did I need to have a great race? I'd rather have not crashed again, so I took it a whole lot easier on the second loop of the bike and wound up walking some of the marathon because there didn't seem to be much of a reason to push through the pain. I certainly lost a lot of time there, but I still reached the finish line and only spent a small amount of time in the medical tent while they bandaged me up. They are surprisingly unprepared to deal with cuts in the medical tent. They only really like it when you are dehydrated.

After that race, and getting ready to train for my third Ironman of the year I was just plain burnt out. It wasn't fun, I was tired, I was beat up and I had lost all confidence since I was just getting more and more disappointed with each passing race. Kona proved to be no different. I showed up unenthusiastic and for the first time in a long time I didn't feel like I was really ready to race. I mean, I knew I'd get through it, I just didn't feel like I had prepared as adequately as I could've. I had let myself down, and it wasn't a good feeling.

I began the winter of 2008 determined to have a better year and get back to where I knew I could be. What I did not anticipate was being out on a very typical run, not long or fast, and suddenly getting some pain way in my lower back on the right side. I slogged through the rest of the run, because as any runner knows, if you hurt yourself you are bound to do it when you are as far from home as possible and you don't have much choice but to get back. By the time I was out of the shower I could barely even walk. I had no idea what was happening to me and it scared me to death. For all I knew I'd never run again. That was a week and a half before what was to be my first race of the season, the California 70.3 in March. I still went to California, told my friends that maybe I'd still race, but in my heart I knew it wasn't going to happen. So for the first time ever, I had to watch a race I was supposed to be doing. It was devastating.

The worst part was having this strange injury that I didn't really know how it had happened or how long it would take to go away, or even if it would go away. Week after week went by without running and I got more and more depressed and upset. It was like I had lost my identity, and instead I started eating too much and putting on weight, which is never helpful in that situation. Finally I started seeing someone who could help me and pinpointed the issue with my sacroilliac joint, a joint I never even knew I had. We had to work out the tightness and it took a while but finally, after about 2 months of not running, I could do it again. It still hurt for a few weeks more, but I could at least get out and do it. The bigger problem now was that running felt harder than I had ever remembered it being. I had a very tough time building up to my race in Lake Placid and hoping somehow I'd be able to run a marathon.

But first I had to get through an awful half marathon race, that I was at least glad to have gotten through at all, and then the Mooseman half ironman, that was incredibly hot and just tore me to pieces. I didn't feel like myself at all. I couldn't run, I could hardly fit in my tri uniform and I just felt like I didn't belong there. I never looked at my watch the entire race because I was pretty sure that would depress me to no end. As though finding out at the end of the race wasn't bad enough. In short, I was embarrassed. That is the best way to put it. Embarrassed by what I had become, by what I had let happen. And I didn't know how to fix it.

You often read a lot of stories about people who are great athletes and they get injured and can't run for weeks or months and still somehow show up to a race and pull of some incredible race time. Well, that is not how my story went. I had never really been injured before and I didn't know how to deal with it. I went from feeling invincible to fearing every step I took on the run because I didn't know what might suddenly start to hurt and put me on the sidelines again. When I started running again I had 11 weeks to go before Lake Placid, and I was incredibly scared about how things would go. Every run I went on seemed to just reiterate that I was not the athlete I once was. Routes were taking way longer and running still felt like an out-of-body experience. It felt like it used to feel when I was forced to run laps around the gym in high school while my team lapped me. I didn't like it. But I kept going.

Sometime in the months leading up to the race I developed some pain in my left foot when I ran but I did my best to ignore it. It usually hurt the most in the beginning but would be fine once I warmed up, and it never hurt when I ran right after biking, so that was a positive sign. Race day dawned and I had never felt so unprepared for a race in my entire life. I knew deep down that it was not going to go well. I had a lot of family expecting a trip to Hawaii and knew it would take a miracle for me to be able to give it to them. Like if some massive pile-up on the bike occurred and took out at least 20 from my age group. Of course, you never want to win that way anyway. You want to win because you're faster, not because someone else had an accident or was sick that day or got too many flat tires. I was actually kind of scared, but I went out to race.

Anyone who knows anyone who raced there this year knows that it was pouring rain. And not just some of the time, I'm talking from sometime while we were swimming and it began until probably 9:30 that night it was absolutely pouring. I recall a brief let-up sometime when I was out on the marathon course, but for the most part, it was torrential, and I have never experienced such relentless rain in a single day at any other time in my life. It's not ideal for racing, but I will say that I'd rather race on a day like that than spectate. Of course coming the year after my bike accident when I managed to skid out on dry pavement made me quite a bit more cautious on the turns and such this time. I decided to go for it on the bike and not worry if I didn't have anything left for the run, because I knew my run was not going to be there for me that day. I was right. The bike ride was wet, cold at times and fairly miserable, but considering my less-than-perfect training leading up and my inability to really let it fly on the downhills left me short of my typical performance - although a tad faster than the year before when I decided to do some acrobatics mid-ride. I got off the bike amazed that it was still pouring but mostly completely unsure of what the marathon had in store for me.

I remember on that first loop realizing that so far, things weren't going too badly. I believe I was second in my age group, although I knew I was not going to be passing anyone, it was just a question of how long I could hold people off. Surprisingly, that lasted a while. But not because I was running blazingly fast. In fact, within only about 6 miles it became painfully obvious that I did not have enough run training in my legs. My quads were screaming at me, and I still had 20 miles to go. I started getting passed as I headed back to town to finish my first loop and I saw my parents and my friends who still looked optimistic. Me? I knew it was about to come crashing down, I just wasn't aware yet of how hard. I finally checked my watch at the halfway point and saw something like two hours. My slowest marathon to-date had been my first Ironman when I did a 4:04. This did not look good. I still felt like I was running, but suddenly was noticing the people passing me as I was "running" back out for the second loop. They looked like they were moving in slow motion. You know, the kind of movement that is only a step up from walking and includes only a tiny fraction of a second where both feet are off the ground as they shuffle forward. Many of them were elderly, and they were all moving faster than I was, and yet I was "running." That's when I knew I was in serious trouble.

The burning pain in my quads continued to rage and I ticked off each mile at a ridiculously slow interval. I stopped counting the people in my age group who had passed me and knew that it was over, now I just had to get through it. The rain was perfect for my mood. I was walking the aid stations in an effort to keep my legs moving slightly faster between them, but it didn't seem to help. Then, out of nowhere at mile 23 that weird foot pain came back, only about 100 times worse than it had ever been before. I was reduced to walking the rest of the way. Well, limping, really. The spectators looked on at me with pity saying things like, "hang in there." I reassured them that I was at least on my second loop, not my first, so my misery would soon be over.

At the time, I actually wasn't that upset. I think I knew it was going to be a bad race and I had come to terms with it before it even started. I had higher hopes briefly early on in the marathon, but reality came back to get me in the end. The rain had started to come down harder again, and although I had spent the first 10 hours feeling warm enough, once I started to walk I got cold. Very cold. All over the place there were racers clad in garbage bags as makeshift ponchos they had stolen from aid stations. Who would've thought garbage bags would become more coveted than Gatorade? At one point as I was walking up a hill with my arms wrapped tightly around me a guy ran by with a long-sleeved shirt tied around his waist and offered it to me since he was already wearing a rain jacket he must've picked up at special needs. I declined since said shirt was completely soaked through and didn't particularly look like it was going to offer me any warmth.

I continued to limp away the miles, watching the mobs of people passing me. I had been recognized a few times as the winner from a few years ago, but given my current situation I didn't want anyone to know who I was. I walked the last mile and actually managed to smile a bit, knowing it was almost over and excited to tell the spectators. I swear in that last mile I must've been passed by 150 people. I had no clue how long I was out there. I didn't want to know. A couple of times I tried to run again but the pain in my foot wouldn't let me. I finally turned the corner onto the olympic speedskating oval where the finish line is and I knew it was almost over. I saw 11-something on the clock and at least knew things hadn't gotten too terrible. I somehow managed to sort of trot the home stretch across the line, but I don't even want to know what that looked like. I think my final time was 11:37, my slowest Ironman time ever, capped off with I think a 4:50 marathon or something along those lines. Ouch. My parents jokingly chasthised me and told me that of all the years to be slow, why did it have to be that year, under the monsoon?

I knew I wasn't going to Kona that year, but in a way I knew that long before the race started, so I didn't cry or get upset. Instead I spent the next couple of weeks not running again while I tried to figure out why my foot was killing me. I participated in the Timberman half ironman four weeks after the disaster in Lake Placid and that was definitely my lowest point. I had run 6 miles total since that dreadful marathon and was now supposed to do 13.1. Again, I "ran" the first loop of the run but was unable to continue on the second. Not finishing never crossed my mind, but I just started walking. And not speedwalking, just walking along in defeat, not caring if it took me all day to finish, which it felt like it did. I also cried. Let me say right now that I am not a crier, and I'm not just saying that. On average I'd say I cry about three times a year, and certainly not in the middle of sporting events. But that day I just couldn't help it. I had no idea how I'd fallen so far, so fast. All that kept going through my mind was that surely there had never been another athlete in the history of the sport who had had such a sharp and fast performance decline.

By the time I reached the finish, my friends weren't waiting for me anymore, which in this case I considered a good thing because about all I wanted to do was disappear. My run split was longer than my bike split - by a good ten minutes - which is pretty incredible. I was glad that my parents had opted not to come and watch that day so I only had to be a disappointment to myself. It was my worst half marathon ever and very nearly my worst half ironman ever, only about 7 minutes faster than my first one when I had been woefully underprepared. I had a whole season of setting new personal worsts, and I was just plain tired of it.

I finished out the season by doing a couple of sprints. I actually won the first one, which may sound incredible until you know that not only was the run only 2 and a half miles, but the entire race had roughly 100 people, most of whom were doing their first triathlon. I did manage to have fun that day. I did another sprint a few weeks later and faced some actual competition and quickly remembered how out of shape I was. I was supposed to do one last sprint but it wound up getting canceled due to a hurricane, so my season came to an unexpected halt in the middle of September.

So what next? Why not go to Kona? One of my friends had qualified and they had some room in the condo and invited me to go. Why not? I'll admit that on the days leading up to the race I enjoyed myself, except maybe for feeling out-0f-place in my current, soft state and running into people I knew and spending most of the time wondering if this was running through their heads: "Wow, she got fat." However, when race day dawned and we marked our spot on the wall and I saw the finish line I was never going to get to cross, it really hit me that I had not earned the right to race there that year and I had missed an opportunity. I'm not even 30 yet but for some reason I have become painfully aware that life is a pretty fleeting thing and I do not like to miss opportunities or waste any of it. But I had screwed up and lost a year. I didn't particularly enjoy race day. I hated not being a part of it. The only cool thing was finally getting to see the pro race.

So that was the end of my season. I basically felt like things couldn't have possibly gotten any worse. Somehow, in spite of it all, I was able to secure a new coach. Some people are still seeing some potential in me even if I can't. I'm still not sure it's there, but I'm going to give it another shot. I started training again in November and have a full slate of races lined up for 2009. I'm not injured, still have a lot of weight to lose and I have no clue what the next season will bring. I'd really, really like to start to be competitive again but I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to do everything I can to try and make it happen, although admittedly I'm still a little worried that it's gone forever. We shall see. So that's how I got to where I am now. A has-been trying to come back and see if she can get anywhere close to where she was. I used to want to do better, but right now I'd settle for at least close. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I am now an official blogger

After over a year of blogging on myspace, it has finally become clear that nobody goes there anymore so maybe I should try something a bit more official. So here I am. I suppose the easiest way to introduce myself here would be to share something I wrote as part of a facebook post, 16 Random Things About Me. Since I wrote it and others started playing it somehow ballooned to 25 random things, but since I am long-winded you are sure to get enough out of the 16 things I'm adding here. So here it is:

1. I grew up on what we affectionately refer to as "the compound" which consists of six houses all next door to each other, some even sharing a driveway, where many of my cousins, ants and uncles lived. It was like growing up with all of these extra brothers and sisters without the hassle and pretty much made every day like summer camp.

2. I think that may be part of the reason why I am having such a hard time becoming an adult, because I had so much fun as a kid. But we still see each other plenty an love to reminisce about pool baseball, all day bike rides, various broken bones and late-night games of flashlight tag. We can also all accurately quote all of the same movies.

3. I played organized basketball from third grade through college. I nearly quit after 7th grade because of a horrible coaching experience, but reluctantly continued. My high school experience wasn't much better, and although I probably could've, I didn't seek out scholarship opportunities for college but instead just wanted to go to Emerson for the education and play basketball for fun. We spent the first season begging people to play so we'd have 5 for the game, but I had fun. The following years we actually had some players. I set a school rebound record in my first game, was the NCAA leading shot blocker my junior year, scored by 1000th point my junior year and got invited to pro basketball camp, but I didn't go because I didn't think I really belonged there. Even got a call from Sports Illustrated for Faces in the Crowd but I didn't make it to the magazine. I had a blast playing at Emerson even though we were never that good. In fact, I never played for any really good basketball teams. I have tons of softball and even soccer trophies, but only 1 basketball trophy.

4. I went to Emerson because I wanted to direct movies. I spent many days growing up with my cousins and my video camera making little movies, whether they be simple music videos or scripted films that took months to shoot and edit. I moved to Los Angeles a year after I graduated and was a production assistant on the TV movie "The Pennsylvania Miner's Story" which was directed by David Frankel, the guy who directed "Marley and Me" and starring John Ratzenberger who is Cliff Claven of Cheers and voices some animated character in every Pixar film, the guy who played the janitor in Die Hard 2, and Tom Cruise!.....'s cousin William Mapother. I also worked on the feature film "The Rundown" with The Rock, Rosario Dawson, Seann William Scott and Christopher Walken... who was never there when I was. I got to do such fun things as give the crew high water pants for scenes filmed in a giant water tank, stand in the background of a shot hidden behind something to make sure nobody walked into it, writing down when the union guys went to lunch, staying out of the way while they tried to make the cattle stampede (fact: they don't really have much interest in stampeding) watching my step after they went by, getting The Rock his blueberries and yogurt for breakfast, but only getting to give it to his assistant at the trailer, walking around with a walkie talkie in my ear and saying things like, "What's your 20?", and watching stuff blow up. It was fun for a bit, but then one of the other PA's told me that it was basically like joining the circus, and I realized he was right. And I never wanted to join the circus. I don't necessarily want to be on the crew of a movie, but I am still interested in the prospect of writing them. I am also grateful that my brief stint in LA worked out so that I was able to see Kermit the Frog get his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And I still love movies and believe that going to see them in the theater is the best way to enjoy them.

5. The hardest, most exhausting job I have ever had was ski instructor. It sounds easy until you do it from Monday-Friday from 9am-6:30pm and are given 13 6-year olds at a time who have never been on skis before and spend much of the time dead-lifting them. No matter how many times you tell them that they have to turn their skis sideways on the hill in order to get up, they will continually spend most of the time sliding down on their butts. It was also one of the warmest winters ever and I was amazed at how many people still go get lessons when it is 60 degrees out. You also never know who is going to be a great skier. I had a couple of 4-year olds who could ski the entire mountain. I lost two kids on the chairlift but only got one angry parent phone complaint. The other just laughed. It was incredibly satisfying though that a few of the kids actually learned from me. I lost 20 pounds that winter and couldn't feel my big toes afterward for about 6 months because they were cramped up in those ski boots all winter. I also don't think I've ever slept better.

6. When I graduated college my parents gave me rock climbing for a gift and my sister gave me skydiving. I am still not sure if they were trying to kill me. I did four days of rock climbing and wish I could do more. Skydiving was fun, but I don't feel any pressing need to do it again, mostly because by the time the chute opened I thought my head was going to explode due to the intense pain in my ears.

7. I was taught to hate running by my high school basketball coach who used it as punishment. I was by far the slowest one on any sports team I was ever on. I was way too tall to control my limbs, being 6' since I was 14, and I was also overweight. I only started running on purpose when I was a senior in college and needed to get in shape for basketball after missing the first semester since I was interning in Los Angeles. I never stopped after that. My sister had run the Boston Marathon a couple of times and I didn't even think I could run 4 miles, let alone 26.

8. I signed up for my first triathlon in 2002 once my father told me he would buy me a new bike (other than my mountain bike I got in 7th grade) and we could ride together since he was a cyclist. Then we went to the bike shop and he decided instead to buy himself a new bike and let me have his old one. The first time he took me out to ride 28 miles I thought I was going to die because it was so far. He was my riding partner that entire first season and I think it is a big reason as to why I improved so fast, because we went as hard as we could every time. My first race was a Danskin all women's race and I had to walk a little during the 5K run, but I loved it. My second race was the Timberman half ironman where I honestly thought I was going to die since it was 96 degrees out with oppressive humidity and I was totally unprepared. I swam off course, biked with gloves and a camelback and walked much of the run while I thought about curling up under a tree and going to sleep. By the time I finished there was no food left aside from maybe some bagel halves and empty peanut butter jars, but my parents took me out for ice cream after and I still think that is the best brownie sundae I have ever eaten. I was disappointed in my time, but already plotting how to do better the next time. My best since then was an hour and 40 minutes faster.

9. I signed up for my first ironman one year after my first race and completed Ironman Lake Placid in 2004 for the first time. I spent the entire year leading up to it being scared out of my mind, but when the cannon went off, I just suddenly felt ready. I had only wanted to break 12 hours for that first one and did it in 11:23, placing 7th in my age group. My second one the following year I went 11:08 and qualified for Hawaii by coming in third in my age group. I treated that first time in Hawaii as my reward for qualifying and fully expected to go much slower than I had in Lake Placid, but wound up being only 8 minutes slower. I am not sure I have ever enjoyed a race from start to finish so much.

10. I won Ironman Lake Placid in 2006. It was a fluke because there were no women pros that year, but I did it. It was totally unexpected. I took the lead right out of the tent starting the run and spent the entire marathon convinced I was going to get caught, but I didn't. That year I only wanted to finish under 11 hours and finished in 10:11. I still can't figure out how I pulled that off and ever since I have been afraid that I will never be able to top that performance. So I have spent the last couple of years burning myself out and getting injured, wondering if I will ever get it back. I didn't qualify for Hawaii this year after going the last 3 years and instead went to spectate. I hated race day. I also spent much of the time wondering if every time someone saw me who knew what I had accomplished wondered, "What happened to her?" when they saw how out of shape I was. I spent this entire season injured and setting new personal worsts for triathlon times. I had never started so many races feeling so unprepared.

11. I HATE being the center of attention, which thankfully doesn't happen very often. I'd much rather blend into a crowd and not be noticed. This is why I have already decided that if I ever actually do get married, I will not have a big wedding because I can't stand the idea of spending the whole day with people looking at me. I will save my parents a fortune.

12. I love my niece and nephew but I am 99.9% sure that I don't ever want to have children of my own.

13. I have played the guitar since I was 14 and have not improved much, but I still love it. In high school I was in a band called "The Potato Heads" with my brother and two of my cousins. We had exactly 3 gigs: a family reunion, a family friend's Memorial Day BBQ, and filler at my sister's wedding while the DJ took a break. We weren't any good but we had a ton of fun. My mother suggested at one point that we get a van for our stuff and a vanity plate that would read "POTHDS" We determined that was probably not the best idea for a license plate.

14. I didn't really eat any fruits or vegetables until I was about 21 and it sure did show. I was also addicted to Pepsi and Doritos. I have since managed to lose my taste for red meat, super-cheesy, creamy things and fried stuff but I can't seem to get over my love of ice cream and all things sugary, although I avoid them as much as possible because I will forever be trying to keep my weight down after years and years as a fat kid.

15. I get along very well with my family and none of us ever really yell or get upset because it just seems like more trouble than it is worth. I am not sure I have ever heard my father yell, although he is intimidating to a lot of people. I don't understand people who get mad all of the time and have a great need to yell.

16. I am still not sure if the best years of my life are behind me or in front of me, and that thought scares me. But I guess there is only one way to find out...

So there is a little bit of insight into who I am. Much of my focus is on being the best triathlete I can be after a season full of injuries. But I'm also just trying to figure my life out.