From Couch Potato To Triathlete To Help Make A Cure Happen

From Couch Potato To Triathlete To Help Make A Cure Happen
Oct 28, 2008 by Janice Hugener

Yes, the rumors are true: the Hugeners have officially lost their minds! We've signed up to raise $5,500 each in support of cancer research while at the same time training to participate in the Lavaman Triathlon on March 29, 2009.

Seriously, cancer has touched our lives in many ways over the past few years, and Christian and I have been looking for ways to pay forward the support that we've received. Historically, our efforts were limited to writing checks in support of various cancer fundraisers our friends and family were involved in. However, two recent events, the death of our friend Mike Chisman from leukemia and the diagnosis of our 2-year-old friend Audrey Orr with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, inspired us to do more.

So we decided to do a crazy thing, and team up with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and join Team In Training (TNT) to train and participate in an olympic distance triathon. We have 21 weeks to train to swim 1.5K (.93 miles), bike 40K (24.8 miles) and run 10K (6.2 miles), all without stopping for a nap or cold beer. Naturally, our middle-aged, sedentary life style has completely prepared us for this challenge.

We are competing in this event to honor Mike and Audrey, and everyone else who is battling a blood cancer. Please make a tax deductible donation to support our participation in TNT and help advance LLS's mission.

We'll be keeping a weekly blog journaling our training. Be sure to check back frequently to check on our progress, and pass this along to everyone you know.

Thanks for your support!

POSTSCRIPT: From Couch Potatoes To Triathletes

Easter Sunday, April 12 at 7:30 a.m. Two weeks ago right now, I was standing on the beach at Anaehoomalu Bay, listening to the starter's pistol go off and watching the first wave of swimmers start the race. Toes wriggling in the damp sand, chewing on a ragged thumbnail, wondering who had the stamina to blow that loudly on a conch shell for such a long time, I was equal parts nervous, scared, resigned and excited. Now, I'm sitting at my computer in my pajamas sipping coffee and reliving that moment when I first put my toe in the water, took a deep breath, and dived in. Not into the cool waters off Kona, but that moment at the end of the TNT information session I dragged Christian to last October, when we clasped hands, swore this was the craziest thing we had done during our 20 year marriage, and signed on the dotted line. We were wrong; it wasn't the craziest, it was the smartest. Our friends who shook their heads and rolled their eyes over the holidays when we talked about training, now look at us with mouths agape as we tell our triathlon stories and try to talk them into training with us for our next one. Yes, you read that right, our next one.

We attended a reunion party last night with our coaches, mentors and teammates. Amid the Lavaman stories (and lava flows), the same question was asked over and over ... are you going to do this again? Some might, others won't, but there is a contingent of die-hards who want to do this again. Surprisingly, we're among them. After 21 weeks of after dinner runs down to Sand Dune Park, soggy Thursday nights, and freezing Saturday mornings, we've officially been bitten by the triathlon bug. Or maybe that's my new lavaman dude tattoo singing. First, the Redondo tri in June, and then the Catalina tri in November. This time next year, we'll be in San Francisco training for July 2010 Vineman Half Ironman. After that, who knows!

Twenty-one weeks ago, I was a confirmed middle aged couch potatoe whose exercise regimen was limited to walking the half block from the parking structure to my office each day, augmented by an extra climb up the stairs at home if I forgot something upstairs. Now, I miss the ritual of nightly after dinner runs, Thursday night swims, and early Saturday morning bike/run bricks. The journey here wasn't easy and at least a dozen times I wanted to quit, but I wouldn't have missed a minute of it. What a ride ... Thanks!


4:00 a.m.: The alarm just went off, but I've been up for what seems like hours ... listening to the wind. According to the Waikoloa weather station, current wind conditions are 21 MPH, gusting to 31. At 4:00 in the friggin' morning. The birds that woke us this time yesterday morning are silent; hunkered down no doubt. We report downstairs with running shoes on and bike in hand at 5 a.m. so we can ride en masse one mile south to the start line, where we rack our bikes, get inked with our race number, pick up our timing chip, and climb into the water for a quick warm-up swim before the starting gun goes off. The race starts at 7:30 a.m. Christian starts in the third wave (he's #36); I start in the fifth and final wave (#675). We're out the door and on our way over to check in. Positive thoughts, positive thoughts, positive thoughts. Holy @#&%!!!

4:00 p.m.: We're running out the door for an impromptu post-race party down by the pool. All I want is a tray of ice cold O'Douls and something to eat. I've been walking on clouds (OK, maybe more blisters than clouds) since 12:30 p.m. when we finished the race. Yes, you read that correctly: we finished! 4:53:03. More importantly, we met our two goals: we didn't DNF (did not finish), and we didn't come in DFL (dead friggin' last).

Looking back, this day passed by in a blur. At 5:00 a.m., we met up with the team in the hotel's conference hall for a final bike check and to get our race numbers and tags filled out and attached. At 6:00 a.m., we walked out to the lagoon and carried our bikes up the Grand Staircase (one friggin' huge set of stone stairs leading from the lagoon over a high arch to the hotel lobby), through the lobby and into the driveway. En masse we rode the mile down Waikoloa Road to the bike transition area. The race organizers had a hard time reading Chrisitan's handwriting on his registration form, so they misread his birth year as 1987 instead of 1957 and had listed him as a 22 year old. Since race numbers are assigned based on age, this put his bike slot at the opposite end of the transition area from me, surrounded by 20-24 year old hard bodies, including two really cute twins from our team. "Step away from the twins," became the morning's refrain.

Once we got our bikes set up (the race organizers borrowed the transition area equipment from the Ironman triathlon) and our transition gear laid out, we went to stand in line to get our age etched into our left calf, our race numbers stamped onto both biceps (they also borrowed the stamp equipment from Ironman) and pick up our timing chips. Standing in line, in the middle of a lava field, we were graced with a beautiful sunrise staining the morning sky pink and peach with wisps of white cloud. Etched, inked and tagged, we jogged a loop around the lava field to warm up before walking down to the beach.

The swim course didn't look as big and bad as I expected and my immediate reaction was, "Hey, we can do this!" An hour later, I was proved right. Shaped like an M, each of the four legs of the course was roughly 1/4 mile long. With big orange inflatable bouys spaced every 300 yards, and dozens of lifegaurds on surfboards paddling up and down the course, it was impossible to get lost. Christian started in the third wave and finished the course in 44 minutes; I started in the fifth wave and finished in 59 minutes. As I started out, I had a terrible time sighting where I was supposed to swim to; as a result, I found myself stopping every ten strokes or so to reorientate myself to the course. This led to some serious freakage as I experienced first hand just how far 300 yards actually is when your treading offshore in 30' deep water. So much for the buddist meditative state of Plan A. As I watched a swimmer in my group give up at the first buoy and climb onto a rescue surfboard, I decided no way, no how was I going to quit and quickly switched to my top secret, emergency back up Plan B which was, essentially, breast stoke the entire friggin' course. It worked; it wasn't pretty, but for the first half of the course it worked just fine. Not only could I easily sight the far end buoys, I could hear all the of the lifegaurds chattering to each other while telling us we were doing great. By the middle of the course, my brain had calmed down enough so I could go back to a regular swim stroke. And I'm so glad I did; I saw two sea turtles, a few sea cucumbers and innumerable yellow tangs and black and white spotted puffer fish. Swimming was actually relaxing and enjoyable; the only problem was my right arm is alot stronger than my left so I kept veering off the right side of the course. On the last leg, a life guard paddled continuously along my right side until I could sight a line on the coral beneath me and swim a slightly straighter course. At 59 minutes, 17 seconds my feet finally hit sand again. But for the fact that I had an audience and there were no notive candles handy, I would have dropped to my knees in silent prayer (or exhaustion, I tend to get them confused).

I knew Christian had finished at least 20 minutes ahead of me, and we had prearranged to meet up in the transition area so we could bike out together, so I was vastly disappointed (OK, I was pissed) to enter the transition area and see that his bike was gone. Figuring that he was waiting for me along the Waikoloa Road somewhere, I took a minute (actually more like 4) to catch my breath and change into my bike gear. As I was walking my bike to the end of the aisle, the first pro racer came in to transition from the bike to the run. Basically, he swam a mile and biked 25 miles in the time it took me to swim a mile and change shoes. Telling myself that I had nothing to be ashamed about because he was easily young enough to be my son, I took a final look around for Christian, mounted my bike and headed out.

The half mile ride down Waikoloa Road and out onto Queen Kaahumanu Highway was exhilarating as it finally sunk in that the hardest part of the course was behind me. Flying down the Queen K, I passed a steady stream of riders going in the opposite direction (our route was 12 miles eastbound down the Queen K, with a turn around at the underpass tunnel, and a return ride 12 miles westbound on the Queen K to Waikoloa Road, finishing off with a ride the half mile back to the transistion area). As I passed by the advanced bikers from our team, two of them yelled, "Go Janice" out to me; it gave me wings and a voice. Yelling "Go Team" and giving a big thumbs up to every TNT rider I passed, I became a friggin' course cheerleader. Certain that Christian was out somewhere on the course way ahead of me, I kept an eye for him in the return traffic but never saw him ... until he pulled up next to me around mile 5. It turns out he was waiting to cheer for me as I came out of the water and had moved his bike so it was closer to mine so we could transition out together. Problem was with all the fluids he had taken in, he needed to hit the head while waiting for me. Naturally, he was in the head when I transitioned from swim to bike so we completely missed each other. When one of our coaches told him that I was already on the bike course, he flew out to hunt me down. We laughed and laughed through mile 7.

Blissfully unaware that the tailwind propelling us forward was building, we sailed down the first half of the course to the underpass. As we came out of the underpass tunnel and headed out on our return leg, we were suddenly met with a sustained head wind of 18 MPH that clocked around and gusted to 35 MPH as a cross-wind. Since Christian is a stronger rider than me and has a different gear ratio, he plowed ahead through the wind as I shifted into my smallest gear and tried to keep up. Losing that battle, I just focused on the road and making the next five rotations one at a time. I could handle plowing uphill at 6 MPH, but it was really disheartening to discover that I had to pedal just as hard going downhill, otherwise I would be blown sideways and backwards (the first time that happened I almost fell off my bike laughing). The last eight miles on the Queen K were the worst as the sustained wind built to 20MPH. Finally, finally, I reached the turn back onto Waikoloa where, magically, the head winds disappeared as if a switch had been thrown and were replaced with tailwinds again. Total time on the bike: 2:08:17.

Entering the transition area, Coach Pete told me Christian was just ahead of me. After a quick transition into running gear (1:59), we met up and headed out across the lava field for a 6.2 mile run. I quickly discovered that, after fighting with the wind, I had no legs left. None. So our run quickly degenerated into a walk, with sporadic and spontaneous bouts of running tossed in the mix whenever we came across a pack of cheering spectators. The route wove its way around the Hilton Waikoloa property, with the last two miles or so along the coastal coral fields. A 16 minute per mile pace, brought our total run course time to 1:38:44.

The end of the race, however, made all the pain worth it. At the final quarter mile mark, we exited the coral field and walked onto a soft sandy beach. Having previously promised to run this final stretch to the finish line, it still took a lot of prodding from Christian to get me running again, with me muttering curses the entire way. Although most of our team members had long ago finished and were on their third beer by the time we got there, they lined both sides of the final gauntlet to give us high fives and cheer us across the finish line. Final time: 4:53:03. I came in 763rd; Christian's place was a little higher (773rd) because he started the swim 12 minutes before me, but we crossed the finish line together.

Truth be told, when appropriately scored under the "good husband handicap" (i.e., running the entire course without me instead of with me), Christian would have finished in the 4:00:00 to 4:15:00 range, well in the low 600s place-wise and would have finished right up there with Pai and Quincy.

During the awards ceremony (no, we didn't place in our respective age groups but we did get a totally cool medal and pin), they announced that this year's Lavaman was particularly challenging in two respects: coldest water ever and highest winds ever. I guess that gives us added bragging rights ... right after we get back from the pool and take a long nap!


March 28, Saturday. I spent most of today totally, completely, irrevocably freaked out. We walked out to the bay first thing this morning to check out the swim course. Thursday night was our final coached swim session and we swam 84 lengths (42 laps) at the SMCC pool in just under an hour, which more than covers the total distance of the swim course. So, looking out at the bay, the rational side of my brain calmly processed that I could swim to that buoy way, way out there; unfortunately, the emotional side of my brain was screaming, "No friggin' way, are you %@$#& nuts!" Walking into the water, dodging sharp spurs of coral, I practiced breathing slowly and noted at first how cold the water was. At 73 degrees, it was way warmer than Santa Monica or Zuma, but not quite as warm as the SMCC pool. (Actually, it was about on par with the SMCC pool that night we swam in the rain.) Later, we heard that the water is unseasonably cold for this time of year, but after our prior open water swims, it seemed kind of silly to complain about 73 degrees.

I don't know what I was expecting; that some fairy godmother would magically wave her wand while I was wiggling my toes in the surf and suddenly my biggest fear would vanish? I mean, come on; I'm 2 for 4 on open water swims and I wouldn't exactly count the 2 has success stories. But I took a deep breath and, with Christian by my side, started swimming. Despite a surprisingly good start, I was halfway between the shore and the buoy when it suddenly occurred to me I was in 30 ft. of water with no prospects of having anything to hold onto. My old nemeses, Fear and Panic, crept in and slowly took over. Christian kept me going forward when ALL I wanted to do was turn around. I followed him out and around the buoy and back to shore (covering roughly 1/2 of the distance of the course), complaining every ten strokes or so that I wanted to stop, that I couldn't do it, that I wanted to quit. Finally, around the eleventieth time the wind swept waves blew more sea water into my mouth, it occurred to me that the best coping mechanism at hand was to simply shut up and swim. So I did. When we finally reached shore (I wasn't DFL, but I was definitely at the back 10 of the pack), Christian was there to give me a high five and big hug. He told me he loved me and how proud he was of me. It felt great to be back on land, but I was so unhappy that the swim wasn't the perfection I had imagined it would be, that I didn't really stop to look back and appreciate the scope of what I had just done. I just wanted off the beach.

After the swim, Dave Scott, a six time Ironman champion, hosted a clinic on race tactics. He spoke of the importance of focusing on breathing, looking at the sky, and relaxing while swimming. He also talked about the bike ride and run, but I was still stuck on the swim. How in the world was I going to do this? Should I just drop out now? While Dave was talking, the trade winds really kicked up again. Yesterday, the trade winds blew in during the early afternoon with sustained winds around 14 MPH, gusting to 38. Here it was 9 a.m., and the winds were already back at 14+ MPH, creating serious chop in the bay and whipping the palm trees back and forth. We were expected to ride in this? No way! Dave acknowledged that trade winds can be challenging and gave us some pointers for spinning through them.

Now my day was totally tanked. All I could think about was that I couldn't swim and the trade winds would ruin the bike ride. I spent the day in a deep dark, black funk that even chocolate couldn't fix. I couldn't eat, wouldn't drink. I just wanted to go home.

Until dinnertime. TNT hosted a pasta buffet billed as an Inspiration Dinner. We entered the lanai by walking through a gauntlet of TNT mentors and coaches ringing cow bells, clapping and banging thundersticks together. When we passed Pai, he stepped out to give us a hug and tell us how proud he was of us. We ate dinner listening to the "TNT Mix" that included Journey's Don't Stop Believing, and the theme song from Chariots of Fire. Opening remarks confirmed that 395 TNT'ers had raised $2 million for this event, bringing total funds raised by TNT since its inception in 1949 to over $900 million.

Dave Scott was the keynote speaker. Instead of talking about race tactics, this time his remarks were directed to dealing with fear and the mental game; he reminded us that the key is to get through the tough moments one stroke, one rotation, one step at a time, and focus on the finish line. After dinner, Coach Pete conducted a final team meeting and reinforced the theme of Dave's comments ... you can either deal with the race by complaining about everything, or hold your head up, look around, take a deep breath and say, "How cool is this!" OK, now I felt really stupid. It was like somewhere in the back of my head, my brain finally went huh, and a switch was thrown. Sort of like flipping a magnet. I realized that I had spent all day talking my out of something I have worked 21 weeks getting ready for. Silly rabbit. Game on!

WEEK 21: Get On Your Mark ...

Wow, I can't believe we're finally here. In four days, we fly to Kona. In six days, we participate in our first triathlon. While our teammates talk about finishing the race in under three hours, our primary goals are simple: finish before the course closes and not die in the process. Okay, I'm not going to say this out loud yet, but I have to admit it would be nice to finish in under 4 hours, 30 minutes (our goal: swim = 45 minutes; bike = 2 hours; run = 90 minutes, for a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes). Yesterday, I broke down and purchased my first sports watch ever (a Timex Ironman, what else!) so I can monitor our progress. I then spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how to set and use the friggin' thing; I should have known better ... I can't even set the clock in my car (it's still an hour off following the conversion to daylight savings). I think I'll just hand it over to my soon-to-be-15-year-old technology wiz and ask for the tutuorial. I probably should have him reset the clock in my car while he's at it.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday making and refining to-do and packing lists, and getting laundry started. Our dining room table has been officially anointed Packing Central (a/k/a The Black Hole) and the stack of "to be packed" gear is steadily growing. My desk is now covered with fuschia post-it notes with add ons to the packing lists and reminders of things yet to be done. Note to self: what are we going to do with the dogs? A steady stream of colleagues have started poking their heads in my office, wishing me good luck. I have a copy of the swim course pinned to the wall next to my computer, and my mind is racing just looking at it. How in the world am I going to get anything substantive done this week? Time for a Starbucks run to get centered again and shake this off.

WEEK 20.1: Two ...

March 21. We had our final Saturday training session today: an hour long ocean swim at Ocean Park and a two mile run along the Venice boardwalk. After being told last week in Zuma that that was our last ocean swim, I was friggin' annoyed Friday night to learn that we had a final ocean swim today in Santa Monica. My six year old self threw a classic tantrum, while my adult self stood by and watched, offering the sage advice, "You go girl." By dinnertime, I was convinced that I was coming down with the flu again until Christian wisely observed that I was simply stressing myself out over the thought of another ocean swim. "Don't do it," was his counsel. Problem was, "Just Do It" has become my mantra these past 20 weeks (along with the corollary chant, "Nike Sale at Dick's"), so my back went up at Christian's suggestion that I just opt out; it went against my grain.

Geez, listen to me; 20 weeks ago, I didn't have a grain. I was a certified couch potato who couldn't be pried off the sofa during an NCIS marathon (especially if there was mango moochi or double chocolate milano cookies anywhere in the house); now, with only a handful of training days to go, our DVR is full of backlogged episodes of God knows what that I don't have time to sort through, much less watch. I mean, seriously, I actually talked myself out of a Taco Bell run yesterday, in favor of raiding my secret stash of blueberry crisp Cliff Bars and cherry flavored Sports Beans.

Standing in my kitchen Friday night, craving an icy cold real beer instead of the fake ones stocked in our fridge, I slowly came to the realization that Christian was right. This week is about building confidence and, for me, an ocean swim shreds it. Yes, the Redondo and Carlsbad triathlons involve ocean swims, but I'll have three additional months of one-on-one training with my two resident water horses to deal with it. Right now, I just have to focus on the fact that the water conditions in Kona will be the polar opposite of Santa Monica and I have twice demonstrated that I can swim 1.5K with energy to spare.

So Saturday morning, Christian (who is fighting another bout of the flu) and I stood in the intermittent drizzle on the cold, damp sand, sipping hot tea, and watching our wetsuit-clad teammates swim what looked to be a very long buoy-to-buoy course in frigid water. We smiled at the good natured name-calling and ribbing we received, secure in the knowledge that we had made the right decision for us ... and they were nuts.

The 30 minute run up and down the boardwalk was uneventful, and we ran almost the entirety of it nonstop ... thanks in part to the new stretching/muscle strengthening regime Coach Tim provided for my right IT band injury; I'm going to fully implement these exercises post-Kona and pre-Redondo/Carlsbad. Following the run, Coach Pete gave the troops a run down on what to expect in Kona. One part travel agent, one part cruise director, two parts cheerleader ... sort of like Mel Gibson in Bravehart, except without the horse and war paint. And the hair extensions. When he got to the part where every single one of us deserve to be there, and we need to be proud and confident in our ability to handle the course, and not be shy and hide in the back of the pack, my eyes welled up. In 49 years, no one has ever spoken those words to me. Maybe no one will ever again, but Pete's words resonated; this journey has given me the power to say them to myself from now on.

WEEK 20: Who'd'a Thunk?

Thursday, March 19, was our next to last coached swim session. A combination of speed and recovery drills had us racking up the mileage again; doing the math, I actually swam 72 lengths!

After spending almost a full month out of the water due to the flu, a burst ear drum, and corrective surgery, Christian still swam faster than me. Although I initially found that discouraging, I did discover two important facts: (1) no matter how hard I swim, I really only have one gear ... slow; and (2) I really love to swim. L.O.V.E. Nothing hurts when I swim, and I can just glide along lap after lap while solving the world's problems (or, at least, the day to day ones like how to identify and eviscerate the gonzos who tried to pull my parents into a wire fraud scam this morning by pretending to be my teenage son in need of bail money; Rule 6 in The Book Of Life: Never piss off an attorney who has a law enforcement background).

I remember the abject panic I felt last November, just pulling into the SMCC parking lot and walking out to the pool for the first time; how hard it was (and how long it took) to actually put my face in the water; how I couldn't go ten strokes without stopping to touch down, catch my breath, and quiet my racing heart. Silly rabbit. Who'd'a thunk that four months later I'd have a YMCA membership for the sole purpose of having access to a pool? Thursday night I finished an hour swim and felt like I could do another hour. Maybe there is something to Christian's idea of entering the August 2 Pier-to-Pier Race: a 2 mile one-way swim, sans wet suit, between the Manhattan and Hermosa Beach Piers. Just one small detail: it entails swimming in the ocean, not my favorite venue. Yet.

WEEK 19.4: The Gift

We co-hosted a fundraiser at Harry O's in El Segundo this weekend, and invited Audrey's dad, John, to say a few words to the troops. John's comments were short and direct. He started by talking briefly about Audrey's illness, and when he got to the part about acknowledging how hard our tri team is working for a cure, his eyes teared up as he choked out the single word, "thanks." Now, I've listened to several honor member presentations since November, and, cynic that I am, I'm usually untouched. Interested and attentive, yes; entertained, maybe; motivated, no. By contrast, the impact of John's recitation was staggering. The raw emotion of his words cut to my soul. This is why I'm doing this, I thought. Not to get in the best shape of my life, not for the clothes (ok, maybe a little bit for the clothes), not for the glory in being able to add the noun "triathlete" behind my name, and certainly not for the shock factor when my friends discover that I still haven't dropped out of training. John's speech was a gift; it grabbed me by the throat and reminded me that I'm here for Audrey and Mike and Rob. It's not about working through a sore hip, or overcoming a fear of water; it's about being part of a community of TNT athletes and donors working together to make a difference in someone's life: adding one more stat in the survivor column; stemming the flow of one more parent's tears. Wow ... I'm blown away.

WEEK 19.3: Caution: Road Work Ahead

I had been dreading Saturday all week. 7 a.m. Zuma Beach. My first practice triathlon along the Malibu Triathlon course, complete with two transitions; a 250' open water swim, followed by a 25 mile bike ride up and down PCH, and finished off with a 6 mile run. In truth, between a persistent right hip injury and a truly chaotic work/home schedule, I've really only been able to train 3 days a week instead of the requisite 6. So on the drive up to Zuma in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday, I was worried that I'd DNF (did not finish); worried that I'd be DFL (dead friggin' last); worried that I just couldn't do it. A little over four hours later, I was no longer worried; tired, sore and hungry, but no longer worried.

The first part of the course was the ocean swim (thankfully, our last one). Dealing with breakers that towered over me was intimidating and I was fully into retreat mode despite Christian's reassurances, until Mentors Pete and Katie talked me back into the water, and out and around the buoy and back. They had their hands full keeping me swimming forward, but they did a great job; unfortunately, it took me 45 minutes to swim a mere 250 feet through the frigid water (about the same amount of time it took me to swim 1,650 in the pool Thursday night). But compared to last week's bolt, this was about as good as it could get. I can't wait to swim in water that is warm, calm and clear!

The swim was followed by a transition and a two-hour bike ride that was interesting. We rode a chilly 12-1/2 miles northbound on PCH (soaking wet), past Leo Cabrillo Beach and back. Funny, but the mountainous hills that tormented me on the LCB ride last time, had suddenly smoothed out for the most part. I guess after riding around Palos Verdes, my definition of what constitutes a "big" hill has changed and it has been weeks and weeks since I walked up any hill (ta-da!). Unfortunately, bike gear problems continued to plague me as my chain repeatedly fell off and the nefarious ghost shifting cut down my usable gears from 30 to 9. Oh well, at least I got to see the dolphins this time!

After the ride, Christian and I transitioned into our running gear and, true to form, walked/ran two full loops around the Zuma parking lot (1.5 miles each way) at our standard 13 minute/mile pace. Running when it didn't hurt, walking when it did, we ran from landmark to landmark as we chugged PowerAde and watched a small pod of dolphins lazily swim up and down the surfline feeding off surf perch.

After we finished the course, we dropped our bikes off in Santa Monica for shipping off to Hawaii. Since we had nothing to ride on Sunday afternoon, we opted for more road work (after our morning dose of Advil had kicked in) and logged in another five miles along The Strand, from Herondo to the Manhattan Beach Pier and back (including 1.5 painful miles along the surfline in the compacted sand). At one point, when Christian's pedometer indicated that we were exactly .93 miles south of the Manhattan Beach Pier, we turned around to gauge how long of a swim we were really looking at. Holy $#%&!! That looked a lot farther than 66 lengths of the pool! We wisely turned our backs on the pier and focused on walking the rest of the way down Hermosa Beach to the Charthouse. Looking forward, I see a lot more road work in our future as we work to keep our mileage up and get in 5 or 6 miles everyday between now and Lavaman.

WEEK 19.2: With Gratitude


Today, I met my fundraising goal. I know in this economy, things are very rough, and mortgage payments and food have far greater importance than charitable contributions, so a heartfelt and very humble thank you goes out to:

~My family, Frank & Ora Rourke, Janine & Glen Thompson, Dee Thompson, Penny Costa, and Joe & Bev Hugener for their love and relentless support and encouragement even when I was at my whiniest;

~ My colleagues at Tucker Ellis & West LLP, including Curt Isler, Kim West, J Hobart, Bart Kessell, Bill Lutz, Dylan Carson, Bill Weech, Estella Licon and Becky Stoner, for their kind generosity, and all the attorneys and staff who enthusiastically participated in the tri-tip lunch fundraiser;

~My friends, including Don & Kathy Smith, Burr & Francie Hope, Barry Anderson, Kennedy Woodruff, Wendy Doeh, Debby & Hans Helling, Bill & Judy Webster, Hana Collier, and Margaret Lane, for not saying no, when it would have been so easy to do so; and,

~ John, Darrelyn and Audrey Orr for their quiet courage in the face of a parent's greatest nightmare.

And finally, to Christian, my partner in crime. Thanks for saying yes; now we're even on the crazy-things-I-talked-my-spouse-into-doing list.

WEEK 19.1: Mile Marker One

Thursday, March 12, we showed up at the SMCC pool and Coach Pete gave us a simple assignment ... swim 200 (8 lengths or 4 laps) to warm up and then swim a mile non-stop (doing the math, that's 66 lengths or 33 laps). Yikes! Having undergone minor surgery earlier in the day to remove fluid from behind his burst ear drum, Christian had been given a pass on swimming, so I got to go it alone. Quietly acknowledging that a single 200 usually leaves me out of breath, I climbed into the pool and decided to blow off the 200 warm-up because there was simply no way I could swim a friggin' mile plus a warm-up. So, as I started my first lap, I started internal negotiations with myself ... swim 200, then breaststroke 50, then swim 200, then stop and find some water, etc. I fought my way through the first 8 as I tried to get settled in to my hour of drudgery; my goggles alternatively fogged and got water in them, my right foot cramped, and my brain started ranting that I was too tired to swim a mile because I had put in a long day at work and hadn't eaten enough lunch. Finally, around 10, my brain settled down and I realized, somewhat surprisingly, that I was enjoying the swim. My strokes lengthened and became glides (finally, after 19 weeks I get it), and for the first time my strokes per length of the pool count dropped from 32 to 23. Somewhere in the back of my brain, my mind went "huh" as it finally sunk in that I was fairly relaxed, I wasn't out of breath yet, and I could swim like this all day.

By 16, I hit my stride and suddenly found that the walls were irritating interruptions because they broke up my rhythm. Then I started doing the math; if 66 lengths was a mile, divide by 4, 16.5 was a quarter mile. As I sailed through 16, I smiled that I was a quarter of the way there. When I hit 30, I was pumped ... only 3 to go and I'd hit the half mile mark! However, somewhere in the middle of my 30th lap it hit me ... I was counting laps, not lengths ... I only had 3 to go to complete a mile! Idiot. As I finished a full mile, I looked up guiltily at the clock and realized that I hadn't even swum a full hour. Turning back into the pool, I committed to swim an extra 200 to make up for the warm-up laps I had skipped. Four ... three ... two ... one ... done! In just short of an hour! As I climbed out of the pool, I realized two things: (1) nothing hurt, and (2) I was totally ready to jump on a bike.

On the drive home, I smiled at the memory that, when we started this last November, I couldn't swim one length of the pool without becoming totally winded; back then, the wall was my refuge, not an irritant. What a difference 19 weeks can make! I can't say that I've exactly enjoyed the journey, and it definitely has been bumpy, but I sure appreciate the view from this side of it!

WEEK 19: Three ...

Most of the past week was spent fighting the flu bug; needless to say, between alternatively chugging DayQuil and NyQuil, popping Advil and Benadryl, and crashing early in an effort to stave off the worse symptoms, not a lot of training took place. After the swim Thursday night, I thought that I was over the worst of it, until Friday morning when I woke up in full blown flu mode and crawled back under the covers to die. Not a lot of room for self pity though because Christian came back from Vancouver Monday night with a blown ear drum after flying home with the flu.

So Saturday (March 7) I was deep in the throes of a Benadryl hangover when the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. Run Day. Even without the flu, I hate Run Day. My right IT band hasn't calmed down yet, so every time I run it feels like someone is hammering away at my hip with an ice pick. No excuses though, so we drove up to Ocean and San Vincente for our assignment ... twice around a three mile loop down along the beach and back. We made one loop, barely, on jelly legs and with pounding heads; and it's not like you really need to breathe through your nose anyway when you run. As penance, we ran/walked along Ocean down to Wilshire and back in lieu of a second lap, bringing our morning mileage to 5 miles, instead of the requisite 6. On the way home, panic quietly set as we realized we have only three weeks of practice to go until Kona. T.H.R.E.E. <Insert Edvard Munch's "The Scream" here.>

After a two hour nap, and another dose of DayQuil, I felt almost human again. Paden mentioned that he needed a ride to Palos Verdes to meet up with some friends, so Christian proposed that we take our bikes, drop Paden off, and go for a nice two-hour ride. But for the drugs, the fact that he was proposing riding in one of hilliest regions in Los Angeles County would've registered somewhere in my frontal lobe before I agreed.

On paper, Christian's proposed route looked innocuous enough: a 21-mile loop that circumnavigated PV from the shoreline to the top of the hill and back along Palos Verdes Drive South to PVD East, North, West and back to PVD South. The two mile long ride up the switchback on PVD East almost did me in with its steep 900 foot elevation change, but I made it without stopping or walking; after that, the remaining hills and bumps were fairly easy to deal with. After racing down the backside of PV, I finally took notice of the horses clomping alongside us on the trail that runs down the middle of PVD North and the heady scent of the eucalyptus and jacaranda trees that surroundeded us. Around mile 18, the endorphins kicked as I dodged bees and watched sailboats leisurely traverse the Santa Monica Bay. By the end of the ride, I was totally hooked and questioned why we had ever wasted so much of our time riding along the beach on boring, flat bike paths. This was great!

On the way home, I told Christian that I heard Mt. Wilson was an interesting ride, and asked how long of a ride it was to the top. He rolled his eyes at me, but smiled. We've been talking about doing the Carlsbad Triathlon in July (smack in the middle of our move to San Francisco); maybe we should tack on the Bay-to-Bay Century Ride too!

Sunday morning, we went out for seconds (this time with Paden) but only made it 15 miles after a pair of blown tires on Paden's bike (and spontaneous back-to-back tire changing clinics) exhausted our tire repair supplies.

Next Saturday is the acid test: an ocean swim of indeterminate length, a 25 mile bike ride, and a 10K run at Zuma ... basically, the Malibu Triathlon course. Hopefully, Christian's ear will have healed enough so we can do the swim part together. <Gulp! Insert "The Scream" here instead!>

WEEK 18: Freedom

Thursday, March 5, is hereby declared my own personal Independence Day. For the first time since I was 19, I swam stress free in the deep end of the pool. No flotation devices, no alcohol, no white knuckles, no panic attacks. Just 36 lengths of blissful exhaustion. Last December, 15 seconds in the deep end of the LMU pool left me breathless and in full panic mode. Tonight, I didn't register how deep the water was (7'6") until my third lap, and even then it was a total non-event. At the end of practice, I gave myself a mental smack on the back of the head for being such a friggin' baby. I've missed countless family snorkling, swimming, and snuba adventures because I absolutely refused to get anywhere near water where I couldn't touch bottom. And we'll just skip over that whole scuba school drop out incident 20 years ago when I nearly clocked a dive instructor who, during our very first ocean dive, tried (unsuccessfully) to insist (big mistake) that I stay on the bottom at 20' and take off my dive mask (are you friggin' nuts?!?). Been there, done that, done! Thank You Pai And Pete!!

Tonight's 90 minute swim session was an adventure in how not to drown. After warming up and completing a 2 x 200, the coaches decided it was time for us to simulate the frenzied start of a swim race. They crammed all 60+ of us into the end of one lane in the way deep end of the pool and instructed us to swim a 6 lane snake course on the count of three; all the while the SMCC lifeguard was barking her mantra to let go of the float line and everyone was trying to tread water without grabbing and sinking the person in front of them. It didn't require brain surgery to quickly figure out that I needed to start in the back of the pack, so while the coaches started their three count to the start, I methodically worked my way towards the wall where I could start the race in relative isolation, swim at my tortoise like pace, and avoid all of the mayhem. It was, I must say, a brilliant strategy; until I reached the end of the course and the coaches instructed us to turn around swim the course in reverse on the count of three. Now I was way at the front of the pack with no hope of working my way back to the wall, where all of the fast swimmers were already parked and grinning at us like a school of hungry sharks. Great.

During the first lap, I was kicked in the head, elbowed in the ribs, swum over, bumped on all sides, and I think I may have kicked someone in the nose. At one point, I took an elbow to the temple, swallowed a bunch of water and thought, "ok, that's it, screw it, I'm done!" But rather than giving into the panic, I remembered Pai's strategy to just float vertically and relax. I let the frenzy pass around me and then started swimming again. I was one of the last swimmers to finish, but I finished ... something I could not have accomplished, much less envision accomplishing, on my own 18 weeks ago!

Last November, I started this craziness in the hopes that my modest fundraising could eventually help lead to a cure for blood cancer. Little did I know, that the cure I would find, and the healing that would occur, was within.

WEEK 17: Bear Claws

Sunday, February 29. I spent most of this week in New York, so I didn't get any real training in. My first night in Times Square, I dutifully donned my sneakers and running gear and went outside to discover that it was a chilly and windy 26 degrees (according to the doorman, factoring in the wind chill factor, whatever that is, it was more like 8 degrees). Figuring that I'd warm up once I got running, I tried to jog up 47th Street, but it was 5:15 p.m. and the sidewalks were clogged with people trying to get home. I bounced into the street only to find that, unlike LA, NYC drivers have little patience or tolerance for displaced pedestrians. After almost getting hit by a cab, I dove back onto the sidewalk and slogged my way up to Fifth Avenue. Now thoroughly frozen, I gave up and sought sanctuary in Saks, where I happily logged in a mile or two of walking. Early the next morning, Time Squares was a graveyard so I put my running shoes back on and stuck my nose out, only to discover that it was an even chillier 13 degrees (-2 with wind chill factor). Call me a wuss, but I opted out. The rest of the week passed in a blur of wall-to-wall meetings and presentations in nice warm hotel conference rooms. My right IT band likely appreciated the rest.

Saturday was a disaster. An open water swim/run brick in Santa Monica was on calendar. Pai showed me the secret to swimming in deep water after the last open water swim, and I had practiced the drills he taught me in the YMCA pool, so I was feeling pretty confident that I had a good toolkit in place to deal with my fear of swimming in water that is deeper than I am tall. However, what I hadn't counted on was the fact that the waves in Santa Monica were a lot bigger than the waves I had encountered in Marina del Rey. My pulse racing, I found myself waist deep in water jumping up and over waves that were bigger than me. My big mistake was not listening to Coach Pete. As the water got deeper and the waves got bigger, he instructed everyone to dive under the waves. I wasn't ready for that yet (and having never done it before had no idea how to start), so I jumped and turned my back on one particularly big wave. Wrong move. I was immediately knocked off my feet and dragged under; one moment I was upside down in a washing machine of murky green sea water, and the next moment I was tangled in a tow-line, surrounded by churned up white water. I could taste the lake water and hear the boat's engine. Following the bubbles, I broke surface and found myself off shore in Santa Monica again.

Several years ago, I had a front row center seat at 9/11, so I knew a flashback when I saw one. I also knew that I hate them, I can't control them, and they aren't conducive to an open water swim, so I walked out of the ocean, across the beach, and got into my car, still wearing my wetsuit and goggles. I was halfway home before my heart rate returned to normal and I could get my head around what had happened. Mentally rummaging through my 9/11 toolkit, I realized that I've never really dealt with my near-drowning accident; instead, I had unwisely crammed it into a mental shoebox and long ago hidden the memory in the back of a closet because it's just too friggin' embarrassing to admit to getting dragged behind a water ski boat 30 years ago because I was too bullheaded to let go of the rope. Saturday it became painfully clear that the closet no longer had room for this particular shoebox; it was time to dig down and really deal with this.

Walking into my house, I faced my family and my failure. I candidly talked to them for the first time ever about my accident. Finally, they understood all those times I freaked out in Hawaii and why I have so many shell collections in the house. At the end of our discussion, I observed that it wasn't fair that, just as I was fighting back a fear of deep water, another fear had taken its place. My soon-to-be-15-year-old son, Paden, wisely commented that bears have teeth and claws, and now that I had fought off the teeth, I had to deal with the claws.

So Sunday morning, Paden and his surfing buddy Joe took me back to the beach. A nice, fairly isolated slice of Manhattan Beach down off 15th Street, where they could catch a few waves and I could take my time getting used to the water. After five minutes, I signaled to them I was done and would be looking for shells along the beach. They promptly came in and, using Paden's surfboard as a security blanket/flotation device, took me back out into progressively deeper water. They taught me the mechanics of wave action, showed me how to find sand bars to stand on and how not to freak out when suddenly encountering holes, and patiently demonstrated time and again the correct technique for jumping a wave. After awhile, my death grip on the surfboard relaxed, and I was jumping up and over progressively bigger waves first with, and later without, the assistance of the surfboard. Finally, they showed me how to dive under a wave. It took another 15 minutes of jumping over waves, and Paden telling me I was the bravest mom he knew, until I worked up the nerve to dive under one. It was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating, but with each subsequent dive the terror subsided. After an hour, we left the water tired and cold, but confident that solid progress had been made towards de-clawing the bear.

WEEK 16: Calgon, Take Me Away

I spent most of this week attending partner meetings at the Biltmore resort in Phoenix. On paper, it looked like the perfect set up ... a large fitness center, gravelly paths tracking alongside miles of canal, on site bike rental, and eight pools. With morning sessions that didn't start until 8:30 and a two hour window between the end of the afternoon sessions and dinner, I calculated that there was plenty of time to squeeze in a morning run, and afternoon bike rides and swim sessions. However, what I didn't count on was that I was so sleep deprived I slept in every morning, leaving me just barely enough time to dash downstairs, grab a s'mores granola bar and two Cokes and slide into my first morning meetings. So much for sunrise runs along the canal.

Rationalizing that I could squish a mini tri into my two-hour afternoon break, at the first opportunity I grabbed a Coke and ran down to the bike center, only to discover that they only stocked mountain bikes. I'd never ridden one before but figured it couldn't be all that different from the road bike I've been riding, and headed out for a 25 mile ride along the canal with two of my partners who regularly ride centuries and one of whom is in training for a 6 day, 110 mile a day, leg in the Bike Across America Ride (and I thought we were nuts). Riding with advanced riders left me winded and thoroughly bonked by the end of 12 miles (note to self: one s'mores granola bar and three Cokes doesn't count as adequate nutrition). Plus, riding on loose gravel with no clips, and the way the seat was angled back, my bad left knee became symptomatic for the first time since we started training. So much for bikes.

I really meant to swim. Really. But the pool closest to my room was next to the spa, and I had a $150 credit that was just begging to be used and a concrete filled right hip that was screaming for attention so ... you get the picture. Afternoon swims and runs were quickly replaced with spa packages. Totally not my fault; I was simply followng directions ... honest! That first afternoon, the sports massage therapist observed that, my shoulders were a mess, my left knee was inflamed, and with the amount of scarring built up on my right IT band and the number of bruises and abrasions extending from my right hip to my right ankle (she gently inquired whether I was being battered; I responded, "No, I'm just learning how to ride a bike with clips"), I should consider taking three weeks off to give my body a rest; when I explained why that wasn't an option, she gave me a stern lecture and booked afternoon spa sessions for the rest of the week. And that facial and mani-pedi ... well, pool water can be very damaging to the skin and nails!

Sunday brought me back home, where Christian regaled me with stories from the team's mini tri over the weekend at Zuma Beach, before dragging me out for our Sunday ritual of a long bike ride with Paden. Tomorrow I fly to NYC to attend a conference. I wonder if the W Times Square has a spa?

February 17: T-Minus 40 Days To Kona!!

WEEK 15.1: Polar Bears And Angels

Saturday, February 14, Valentine's Day. You've got to be kidding me! Today should be about chocolates, flowers, cherubs and romantic dinners for two. Instead, it's 8:00 in the morning and I'm standing with Christian in the parkette at Pacific and Via Marina listening to Coach Tim as he instructs the troops on how to put on a wetsuit and apply BodyGlide. The air temperature is 42 degrees and, according to NOAA, the water temperature is a seasonal 56 degrees (so not the unseasonal 65 degrees advertised by our coaches earlier this week). Today is our first open water ocean swim; we were supposed to be in Long Beach, but this week's storms washed too much gunk into the harbor, making swimming an ultrahazardous activity, so we're in Marina del Rey instead (where Christian and I lived on our boat for four years). I know the area well, but I've been dreading this morning for months. Last night, I made the mistake of watching the drowning scene from The Abyss and spent a restless night dreaming of sharks; yeah, I'm totally ready for this.

As we walk towards the surfline, I can hear my heart pounding, "just breathe" becoming a silent prayer. Walking to the water, I practice the relaxation exercises I've been working on in the pool: fists unclenched, arms loose, shoulders relaxed, neck ... holy @#$%*&!! This water is friggin' cold! While I'm standing there waist deep in water, literally frozen in place and looking for ice floes, Coach Pete starts Christian and everyone else running through cold water acclimation exercises. I've just about convinced myself that they're all nuts and any sane person would turn around and go stand like an idiot on shore, when Mentor Pete materializes out of nowhere at my side. He calmly gets me breathing again, and as everyone swims/walks back to the beach he talks to me about the importance of getting my face in the frigid water and blowing bubbles. I'm just offering up silent prayers that it's over.

No such luck. As Coach Pete talks to us about salinity and buoyancy, Baywatch arrives on scene to supervise and two coaches set up on station; floating 50 yds offshore on surfboards, they form an equilateral triangle swim course. Shooing Christian away because this water-phobia thing is embarrassing enough to deal with on my own, I walk back into the water with Mentor Pete (even though all I really want to do is make a Starbucks run). I don't know how Pete did it ... one minute I'm standing there talking to him, then I'm in the water blowing bubbles, and the next thing I know I'm swimming towards the first mark.

Once I get started, the first leg isn't that bad. I haven't swum locally in ages, but even with goggles all I can see beyond my outstretched fingertips is tons of churned up sand dancing in murky green-brown water. Surprised by the total lack of fish and sharks, as I reach the first mark I touch down onto the sandy bottom to catch my breath and give myself a mental smack on the back of the head for thinking this was so tough. Mentor Pete, who swam right next to me, congratulates me on finishing the first leg in fine form. Smiling, I turn right and take a couple of steps to push off for the next mark ... and promptly freak out as the sandy bottom suddenly falls away. Unable to touch bottom, frantically treading water in who knows how deep of water, I suddenly can't breathe, I've forgotten how to swim; I'm convinced that I'm having a heart attack and am going to die. Two more mentors, Pai and Carrie, are immediately at my side. With Pete, they encircle me physically and mentally as I struggle to make it across to and around the next mark, and start back on the final swim to shore. When I finally touch down again on the sandy bottom, I'm flooded with relief and gratitude. I don't remember much about the last two legs of the swim except that every three strokes or so I stopped, wanting to quit, and these three talked me through it, each and every single friggin' time. I don't know where they got the patience. My pulse still racing, comedic relief is provided on shore, when Coach Pete asks if I'm ready to go out for a second lap, and Pete, Pai and Carrie collectively cry, "no."

After the swim, we transition into our run gear and, soaking wet, run a three-mile loop down Pacific to Washington, over to Via Marina, and back to Pacific. Never have I been so grateful for a run. It takes a full mile for feeling to return to my feet, but only a dozen feet or so before concrete refills my right hip.

Pai is going to teach me some deep water drills on Tuesday to assuage the panic, and Pete and Carrie assure me that, having completed the open water Marina del Rey course, I've gotten over the worse of it. All three promise that the secret to cold water swimming is to pee in my wet suit. Just shoot me now.

WEEK 15: Water Wings

Last night was enlightening, brutal, but enlightening. Colder than usual pool water, kick boards, and strictly enforced 30 second breaks between exponentially longer sets made for a very long 60 minute coached swim session. Plus Christian and I were in Coach Tim's lanes again.

Don't get me wrong; Tim's a great guy and, like Coach Pete, an Ironman Alum, but he has the annoying habit of standing exactly on the wall where I want to rest between lengths and then verbally stepping on my fingers to make sure I don't park there and keep going. The kinder and gentler Coach Pete tweaks our strokes and gives us verbal pats on the head while gently prodding us to get off the wall; very comforting and necessary stuff when you're swimming in three feet of water and are absolutely convinced that you're about to drown. In contrast, my interactions with Coach Tim are usually limited to him barking at me to get off the wall and me plotting his demise. Last night, however, we had a break through. He had us swim 56 lengths (doing the math ... that's 1,400 yds), 10 lengths short of a full mile. But he didn't bark and I didn't stop swimming. Maybe it was because I didn't park on the wall, or maybe it was because, for the first time in 15 weeks, I stopped acting like a friggin' baby, complaining about water getting in my nose, and swam lap after lap without touching down every ten feet (in fact, I didn't touch down at all, a first!). Either way, for the first time he squatted down and talked to us between sets about strategy, gliding, and taking active rests in the middle of 4 x 100 and 2 x 200 sets (each set is 16 lengths). It made me realize that I had quietly graduated from the beginner to the intermediate class; it made me feel for the first time in 20 years like I was a swimmer; it gave me wings.

This morning I woke up to discover that the concrete that has been firmly entrenched in my right hip and thigh since Saturday's run had broken up and was down to a dull ache. Maybe there is something to this swim thing after all.

Tomorrow we have our first ocean swim in Alamitos Bay, Long Beach (weather permitting, since a storm front is supposed to move through today churning up the silt and washing who knows what into the bay). But that's tomorrow. Today is all about basking in the glory of 56 lengths and a pain free hip.

WEEK 14: Exhaustion

Water is steadily dripping from the bill of my baseball hat as I trudge up the final hill. Living up to its well-deserved creds, my sailing jacket is sheeted with water, but I'm still warm and dry. In fact, I'm sweating. The leggings I'm wearing underneath my running pants have done the job, keeping my legs dry notwithstanding the fact that my pants are fairly saturated with rainwater. The only thing driving me nuts is my soaking wet right foot, the result of a misjudged step into a puddle; well, that and the fact that my friggin' husband is sprinting up the hill.

I had an epiphany towards the middle of this six mile, 90-minute run, up and down the hilly terrain spanning Ocean/San Vincente, through Rustic Hills (it should be called Rustic Canyon), across Sunset and up Mount Will Rogers State Park Road to the WRSP Polo Field and back: I really hate to run. It's not so much that I can't catch my breath (I can) or that my right hip and thigh are killing me (they are), it's that I'm truly, totally, seriously bored. Christian is still in much better shape than me, so he's up ahead chatting and singing choruses from undecipherable Aerosmith tunes with our mentors. Back here, iPods are forbidden, and I'm too shy to talk to anyone about much beyond the fact that it's raining. There is nothing to do but stare at the back of the jacket in front of me, and not focus on the Starbucks craving that set in four blocks ago.

Cresting the hill and making the final sprint (ok, it's more like a slow jog) to meet up with the rest of the team at our space in the park for a quick post-run stretch, I hear laughter. Clearing the bushes I see them ... the summer triathlon team. This is their first coached session, the one where they get to learn the fundamentals of running and then jog for 20 minutes up to 7th Street and back. Bouncy and bubbly, they think being out in the rain is fun ... of course they have a big green pop-up tent to stand and stow their gear under. Suddenly, I feel every square inch of my sodden 49 years; their journey is just beginning, and mine is clicking down to closure. Limping to my car, I remember the thrill, the excitement, the utter exhaustion of that first weekend when I could barely run half a block, a four mile bike ride left me totally winded, and I had yet to put my face in the water. Fourteen weeks later, I can run six miles, bike 22 miles and swim 48 lengths in a 25M pool without drowning, but a bone-numbing weariness has set in. I just want to be done.

WEEK 13.1: Skinny Jeans

Friday, February 6 (T-minus 50 days to Kona!). During last night's swim session, we swam 1,200 yds. in an hour (for the record, that's 48 lengths), in the rain no less; our coaches correctly pointed out that we were wet already so it shouldn't matter how hard it was raining, although it made breathing between strokes a little challenging. As I climbed out of bed this morning and took inventory of the various muscle groups groaning in protest, I muttered an oath as my inventory-taking extended to my closet and I discovered that the only jeans not heaped in a pile were my skinny jeans from three years ago. Ugh. I think every woman over 30 has a pair of these: great looking five or ten pounds ago, but impossible to get into now without fasting for three days and lying down to put them on.

But today is National Wear Red Day. That means wearing red and making a $5 donation to the American Heart Association allows you to wear jeans to work. Historically, this is one of my least favorite days because everyone in my office participates (no pressure there) and all of my regular jeans are this much too small. I can usually survive Wear Red Day if I hide behind my desk with my top button unsnapped and my shirt untucked, skip lunch, and minimize my coffee runs. Sighing, I realized that there was little chance of making it through the Day unscathed if I couldn't get into my two-sizes-too-small skinny jeans.

Armed with an ice cold fake beer and a handful of Advil (no one should have to face their skinny jeans first thing in the morning), I slunk into the bathroom to try to put them on. I stood there for a solid five minutes staring in the mirror with my mouth agape; not only did they fit, they're too big! Running back to my closet I dug out my favorite belt from five years ago and discovered that it finally fit again provided that I stand up very straight and stay away from Jamba Juice. Maybe there is something to this training thing after all! Woo-hoo!

WEEK 13: Lessons Learned

Historically, Super Bowl Sunday is a day of sloth, I mean rest, in our house. The morning is spent drinking mimosas and reading the Times in our pajamas, and the afternoon and early evening are devoted to either hosting a Super Bowl party or attending one. This year we decided to shake things up a bit.

On Saturday, January 31 we biked 22 miles up and down the coast along PCH from Leo Carrillo Beach to Pt. Mugu and back. Christian (who's the serious biker in our family) assures me the ride was invigorating and the view was spectacular (he even saw dolphins); I wouldn't know since I spent the entire time either trying not to get freaked as cars whizzed by us at 65+MPH or staring at the payment as I concentrated on not stopping while pedaling up some of the longest hills I've ever ridden (at the beginning of the ride, the coaches assured us that the ride was flat with a couple of small hills; we need to revisit their definitions of "flat" and "small").

After the ride, we used the back seat of our monster rental truck (don't ask) to transition into our running gear and then walked/ran two loops around the LCB campgrounds (we're guessing that two loops = around a mile). This was the first time we transitioned together. Christian missed our transition clinic a couple of weeks ago when he was in Argentina, so his bike/run transition technique needs some work. It reminded me of when he used to start changing Paden's diaper by first dumping everything in the carefully organized diaper onto the counter and then digging through the heap looking for wipes. Adhering to his time-tested philosophy of "if it works, don't mess with it," Christian's bike and running gear was strewn all over his side of the back seat and floor. He insists that this technique works for him; I can't wait to see him try it during the next transition clinic when he is elbow to elbow with other riders and his work space is limited to a bath towel.

On the drive home, we agreed that, although we were both sore (he's fighting a pulled left groin muscle and I'm still fighting IT issues in my right hip), we could've clocked a few more miles and should've ridden with the advanced group on the 28-mile course (Christian is definitely an advanced rider while I continue to hold my own in the intermediate group). But we knew that we had a full plate on Sunday, so it was better to err on the side of caution.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. Christian promptly reminded me that this was my stupid friggin' idea as we packed up our running gear and headed out on our bikes. A short 5-mile ride down to King Harbor (gee, remember 12 weeks ago when a 4-mile bike ride left me completely winded and with spaghetti legs?!?), we did the bike/ride transition for the second time in two days (this time on our boat) and walked up to the start line for the 31st Annual Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K/5K race. The race is a local pre-Super Bowl tradition; I've lived here my entire life and this was the first time I ran it .

An estimated 10,000 people took part in the run. It was mind blowing. After the gun went off to start the race, we had to walk awhile before the pack loosened up to the point where we could actually start to run. Some people were running in costume and others ran with their dogs (we swore we wouldn't come in after any of the dogs; we were wrong and did).

We dealt with water stations for the first time (note to self: it's more effective to simply pour the water on you rather than drink it since it's just going to land there anyways), learned the importance of carrying full bottles of PowerAde (especially when trying to eat expresso flavored Gu, yech), picked up some new runner etiquette (do not bend over to tie shoe in the middle of the race course), and discovered for the first time how far we can acutally run if we push it (let's just run to the next light, no the next light, no the next light).

Hoards of RB residents lined the route clapping and shouting encouragement as we ran past (one thoughtfully provided a Bud Lite beer station, which I sadly passed up, while others blasted Led Zeppellin and Van Halen from their stereos). At one point, we crested Catalina Avenue, which gave us a clear view of the next mile or so of the course, and all we could see was a solid sea of people filling the street for as far as we could see. It was amazing!

We completed all 6.2 miles at a solid 13 minute pace, finishing in 1:21:18 (we would have finished a little earlier, but for the five minute stretch break we took at the halfway mark). Remarkably, the winner's time was 30:46:6, which means a little after we passed the 2-mile marker, he was finishing. I'm still trying to get my brain around that one.

Aside from crossing the Finish Line, one of the best parts of the race was the Inspirational Bananas, two women dressed up like Chaquita bananas who started the race next to us. One was a serious runner, the other wasn't. Between bouts of running, they laughed and danced and skipped their way along the course; we used them as our benchmark and kept pace with them. During that last mile, when the course got hilly and all I wanted to do was stop running and go search for the closest mimosa, the Bananas kept skipping across my field of vision, reminding me that I wasn't quite done running yet. I don't know these ladies, but they taught me the importance of enjoying the experience (something I definitely forgot during the Saturday's bike ride along the coast), and not to take the whole thing too friggin' seriously.

However, the best part of the race was running the entire course with Christian. We took turns giving running commentary, being the strong runner, and mentally dragging the other along the top of wall to the Finish Line which, amazingly, we were able to sprint to! For the record, I finished 3,425 and he finished 3,426.

After the race, we transitioned again (this time alot slower) and rode out. The 5-mile bike ride home felt alot longer than the ride to the race (we now know why the bike ride is in the middle of the triathlon, instead of at the end). But when we got home (and after we admired our new event t-shirts and dug out the Advil), Christian and I high-fived each other on a job well done. Bring it on, Kona!

January 28: T-minus 60 days to Kona!

WEEK 12: GuiltFest '09

Saturday, January 24 the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I looked out my window to see pouring rain. Not the gentle patter that you get to enjoy guilt free because it's not raining hard enough to trigger mud slides in recent burn areas (gotta love that recumbent Catholic guilt); no, this was the kind of pounding downpour that causes you to pull the covers back over your head and groan as you realize that, no matter how well you try to bundle up, you're going to be completely soaked through by the time you walk from the front door to your car. Not to mention that it's still dark out and the temperature outside is hovering in the 40s. My 49-year-old brain yelled, "No way!" and hijacked my hand into turning the alarm off, as I rolled over and went back to sleep. The snoring dog burrowed between me and my sleeping husband confirmed this was the right choice.

Until I read Coach Pete's e-mail praising the cadre of teammates who showed up that morning and slogged up and down hills in the pouring rain. "Warriors," he extolled; "Friggin' idiots," I proclaimed. But it was no use, the Catholic guilt had taken a toe hold as soon as I read Pete's e-mail: I'm no warrior triathlete; I'm just a couch potato with a set of really cool Nike outfits.

So, by Monday I was in a black funk. The dark, twisty kind that requires serious amounts of chocolate to pull out of. To make matters worse, I spent the day locked in a mediation with a certifiably crazy plaintiff who was making stupid, unreasonable demands on me and my client. During one of the plaintiff's more idiotic rants, I started making a grocery shopping list. But my list quickly mutated into a series of annotated flow charts addressing how, for the next (and final) nine weeks of training, I can run everyday, swim three times a week, bike twice a week and make coached training sessions, while at the same time working full time, being home in time to help Paden with his homework, taxi him to and from lacrosse practice and games, and eat dinner with him, get the middle school lacrosse team up and running, and still carve out time each day for Christian and to walk the dogs. By my math, doing everything means crawling into bed at 11 p.m. and waking up at 3 a.m. That sound you're hearing is the balls I've been juggling these past 11 weeks hitting the floor. Exhaustion trumps Catholic guilt.

As I walked out the mediation late Monday night searching for the closest Godiva's, I recommitted to not missing any scheduled training sessions (regardless of adverse weather conditions) and getting up at 5 a.m. so I can get the running and biking out of the way before Paden wakes up so it doesn't interfere with my time with him after school. As for the rest of it, I accept that I'm not a triathlon warrior, just a working mom with one wicked work out wardrobe doing her best in a seriously crazy situation. Besides, I just bought the jumbo size bottle of Advil; it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

WEEK 11: Mommy 'n Me

Saturday, January 17 we preceded a coached bike/run brick at Zuma Beach with our first serious clinic on how to transition from one event to another during the race. The point of the session was to stress the importance of staying organized so you don't end up starting the bike race with your helmet on backwards and your shoes untied. Important stuff. After a lecture and demonstration on how to set up our bike and run gear in a minimal amount of space, the coaches had us sprint across the parking lot barefoot, put our bike gear on, simulate the start and end of the bike race, change into our running gear, and imitate the start and end of the run. I was surprised when I finished second. The second time around was the same drill, this time from the surf line. Although I was in the back of the pack coming off the sand, I still finished in the top ten. As I stood there gasping for breath in utter amazement, it occurred to me that I had a totally unfair advantage over most of my teammates. I'm a parent. That means I'm used to digging through stacks of stuff looking for an errant sock or shoe on the fly, and am relatively unfazed when surrounded by complete chaos. By comparison, dealing with my own stuff bundled in a towel while being bumped and jostled by people who weren't crying and repetitively yelling "mom" was a piece of cake.

To be honest, juggling being a mom with training has been challenging: I've missed mid-week coached swim sessions because I needed to help my son study for tests, I've skipped every Thursday night team happy hour because I want to be home in time to tuck him into bed, and I've yet to make a Saturday team breakfast because I promised not to miss any of his lacrosse games. (BTW kiddo, congrats on making the All Stars Team at this weekend's San Diego tournament!) During Saturday's clinic, the experienced mommy in me was glad to finally be able to step in and lend the burgeoning athlete a hand.

WEEK 10: Arrogance

Five mile runs, 15 mile bike rides, and 26 lap swim sessions this week left a solid deposit of concrete in my right hip and thigh that even repeated applications of Advil, fake beer, ice packs, and Burn Notice reruns couldn't break through. As I was limping around my office, one of my partners asked how training was going. I told her we were in the process of building our base but, given the week I was having, I was wondering why I had signed up for this. She nodded sagely, replied that it was pretty arrogant of me to think that I could do a triathlon at my age in the first place, and walked away. Arrogant? I haven't had anyone call me arrogant to my face in, well, ever, so I went to look it up. Arrogant: adjective: "having exaggerated self opinion." I double checked the thesaurus. Nope, its synonyms did not include Stupid, Menopausal, or Harebrained (the three words I most commonly use to describe my decision to go through this). However, the one synonym that did catch my eye was Audacious: adjective: "recklessly bold in defiance of convention." I liked that one. When I was growing up, girls weren't "allowed" to do anything athletic, and a diagnosis of leukemia or lymphoma was essentially a death sentence. Today, girls rock on and off the field, leukemia and lymphoma survival rates have doubled or even tripled, and 88% of the children with the most common form of leukemia are cured, thanks in part to a bunch of audacious people (including old chicks like me) who decided it was time to do something more than write a check, and joined up with Team In Training. I'm proud to be one of them. If that's arrogance, so be it.

January 7: T-Minus 80 days!

WEEK 9.1: He Said, She Said

In response to Christian's recent fundraising e-mail, our friends Jodi & Mike made a contribution (thanks!) and posted the following question: "[H]ow do you start training for this? Did you just stand up one day and start running?" I've fielded this question a lot lately and I thought Christian's response was so on point it was worth cutting and pasting here:

"Thank You Thank You Thank You. Regarding how to get started & First, you wake up one morning with your spouse in Mid-Life-Crisis telling you she wants to run the New York Marathon by the time she is 50, by the way that does not give us much time. You bide your time and hope it goes away, or at least wait until she decides she doesnt like to run & that worked, but she still wanted to do something. Because of the loss of friends and family and wanting to something more, your spouse drags you to a Team in Training meeting and gets hooked on the concept of a trip back to Hawaii to do a Triathlon (beats running 26 miles) & it seemed like a good idea at the time. Bad Idea! You meet with the team and start training swimming, biking, running, it starts slowly enough and you think how hard can this be? But now is crunch time, t-minus 83 days. This weekend we ran about 4 miles on Thursday (including the stairs at Sand Dune Park), took off Friday (slugs), ran from Santa Monica to Del Rey and back on Saturday, and yesterday biked from our house to the base of PV and back, then walked an hour (we tried to run but it hurt too much). We both feel better, if constant pain and the smell of Tiger Balm is better, and are dedicated to at least finishing & we started with a goal of not being DFL (Dead [Friggin'] Last) but that does not seem as important today. It is fun and we are enjoying getting into better shape, besides it is a shopping opportunity for Janice. Thanks again for the donation to LLS!"

WEEK 9: Epiphany

In our family, the first weekend in January is significant. It's the weekend the Christmas lights come down (if we got around to hanging them in the first place) and the Christmas tree gets dismantled (unless, like this year, we didn't get around to putting the darn thing up until the 23rd) during and in between back-to-back-to-back football games. It's also the weekend we celebrate the Epiphany, the day the three wise men reportedly arrived at the manger bearing gifts. Usually this celebration involves more football and a renewed commitment to get our Christmas cards out before Easter.

This year, the first weekend in January brought us a new kind epiphany. On Saturday, January 3, Christian and I showed up for our 8 a.m. coached running session in Santa Monica, where Ocean Park meets the beach. Our coaches tasked us with the assignment of running 30 minutes out and back along the Venice board walk which, by their estimation, should take us all the way down to Marina del Rey and back. Yeah, right. By my estimation, a 30 minute run would take us almost, but not quite, to the nearest Starbucks over on Washington. Although we quickly acknowledged that there was no way we could keep up with the die hard run-only group, and we could probably only sporadically keep pace with the run/walkers, we were persistent in our methodology. We stopped, walked and stretched when our bodies told us to, and we negotiated with each other how far we'd run next: to the next life guard station, the next tree, or that blue building way down there. At the end of an hour we were amazed to learn that not only had we passed Starbucks without even noticing, we had run 5 miles (ok, more like run 4.5 miles and walk half a mile). Nine weeks ago, we were lucky to make it to Live Oak Park (1 mile) in half an hour; now we're eating up the mileage at a blistering pace of 13 minutes per mile (alright, maybe not blistering, but if I'm doing the math right in 9 weeks we've shaved 17 minutes off our old 30 minute per mile pace, not bad!).

Then came Sunday. According to our homework e-mail, we were to take a 60 minute bike ride and then run for an hour. We rode all the way out to the base of Palos Verdes and back (14 miles) and finished our ride feeling strong and confident that we could easily do another ten miles. Until we put on our running shoes and tried to replicate our 5 mile run from the day before. As we walked/limped down to Sand Dune Park and back (a hilly 2.2 miles), we realized that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we realized something else too: that we can do this. It may take 5 hours, but we can finish a triathlon. Nine weeks ago, the first weekend of January was earmarked for classic couch potato activities; but we realized this weekend that patterns can be broken and change can be effected. In 83 days, we'll see how far this journey can take us. We can't wait!

WEEK 8: It's A Brick House

Well, we've reached another milestone: the first eight weeks of base training are officially over. These weeks were devoted to the basics: how to run when you're totally out of shape; how to ride a bike without falling down or getting hit by a car; how to swim without drowning; how to get off the sofa during an NCIS marathon and go run/walk 4 miles when it's freezing outside; how to find and open the bottle of Advil when you're so tired you can't make a fist; and how to enjoy the simple pleasures of frozen vegetables and ice cold fake beer when you have shin splints. However, with the end of base training, it's about to get real serious.

We had our first brick work-out on Saturday, December 27 (T-minus 91 days to Kona). A brick is when you combine two events into a single training session. Saturday, we biked 14 miles up and down San Vincente Blvd. and then immediately ran for 20 minutes up and down Ocean Avenue, 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back. Eight weeks ago, that would've meant walking to the corner and back; now it means running/walking almost 2 miles along the ocean with Catalina in full view. (We'll just skip over the part that it's still only 39 degrees out and we're layered with leg warmers, jackets and gloves.) When we first climbed off our bikes and started to run (ok, it was more like a slog since I couldn't feel my feet) we laughed at how many different muscle groups were singing. At first, their singing was disjointed, but by the end of our two miles (we wound up running/walking 15 minutes each way), our thigh, calf, and hamstring muscles were in fine voice and had latched onto the chorus from Twisted Sister's We're Not Going To Take It. Happily, we have a couple of weeks to change their tune back to the Commodore's Brick House.

WEEK 7: Baby, It's Friggin' Cold Outside

Our unseasonably cold weather is continuing this week, but our coaches remain unfazed. Saturday brought a coached 14 mile bike ride in 38 degree weather; and, with more artic rain forecast this week, they continue to extoll the virtues of running in the cold and wet. All I know is I can't remember the last time I was warm. Whose stupid friggin' idea was this?

December 18: T-Minus 100 days!

WEEK 6: Singing In The Rain

On Wednesday, I was on a conference call with a bunch of East Coast folks. In response to their complaints about frigid winds, black ice, and slushy snow, I blithely reported balmy weather, adventures in outside dining, and sun-soaked bike rides along the beach. The Karma gods wasted no time wreaking their revenge on me.

On Thursday, the venue of our swim practice moved from the warm waters of SMCC to the chilly waters of LMU (note to self: purchase wet suit before next swim practice). By Friday, I knew I was in trouble when I opened the door for a morning run only to discover that it had dropped 20 degrees overnight to a frigid 46 degrees. Citing my parents' entrenched position that exposure to cold or wet weather immediately results in the spontaneous development of cold and flu symptoms, I wisely went back to bed. Saturday morning it was still cold out, but missing a coached run session wasn't an option so I bundled up and slogged out to the westside where it was .... wait for it ... raining! Subscribing to the concept that running in cold rain builds character, our coaches set us out on a 4 mile course. By the end of the first mile, my run had degenerated into a trudge; by the end of the third mile, I was on my 29th internal chorus of Singing In The Rain. By the end of the fourth mile, I had concluded that I wouldn't need to apply ice when I got home because I was already chilled to the bone. However, two days later the flu/cold my parents direly predicted I'd develop still hasn't appeared so, although cold temperatures and rain are forecast for the next several days, I'll be out there running and singing in the rain.

WEEK 5: 40 Minute Miles

Christian is somewhere off the coast of Chile (where the seasons are reversed so its early summer) on a cruise ship en route to Rio. He assures me that he's working very hard, and is squeezing in work-outs whenever he can. Uh-huh.

Back on the home front, I'm getting used to our new work-out schedule (our second block of four week training sessions). Was sad to say good-bye to Wednesdays as a day off; now we're doing something six days out of seven, with Monday as our only day of rest.

Also new starting this week, everything has jumped to 40 minute training sessions; but I'm starting to get the math down: 40 minutes on a bike = ten miles and slightly sore legs that can be fixed with a good stretch; 40 minutes in a pool = 400 yds (16 lengths) with moderate water inhalation that can be fixed by just getting out of the frigging pool; 40 minutes of running (with a healthy dose of walking thrown in) = 3 miles and near cardiac collapse that can only be fixed with an icy cold fake beer and reruns of House. I am so not a runner; my couch potato roots are showing.

WEEK 4: Treading Water

The opening of deer hunting season meant Christian and Paden were off to Alabama this week, leaving me to my own devices for training. Coached swimming was cancelled due to Thanksgiving (yea!), which meant all I had to do was run one night and bike another and not miss the coached bike practice.

Somehow I wound up shoppping instead. Who'd've thunk? It started out as a quick trip to Whole Foods to stock up for Thanksgiving dinner before my run, but Dick's was having a sale next door and I had to stop in since all of my boat clothes (a variety of t-shirts and sweat pants) are made out of cotten, thus putting them in the "not recommended" category for training; so, technically, I had a valid excuse (finally!) to shop for new running shoes, work out clothes and accessories. I knew there was something about training I'd like! Shame shopping isn't a triathlon sport; it's the one thing I can beat Christian and Paden at and the training sessions would be alot more fun.

As penance, I let Paden drag me out for an 8 mile bike ride on Friday (the kid is a friggin' machine on a bike) and set my alarm for early Saturday morning to make sure I didn't miss the coached bike session. (In addition to two coolers of venison, Christian returned from Alabama with a nasty case of the flu which meant he had to stay home and watch football Saturday morning.) Held my own in the intermediate bike group, but made the mistake of going to Mapquest afterwards to see how far we'd ridden. Three laps around a two mile stretch of Westchester Parkway, 12 miles! Woo-hoo, a new personal best distance-wise. Must have been the shoes.

WEEK 3: Water Torture

Thursday, November 20 was my 49th birthday. Last year, I spent my birthday having a relaxing dinner with my family at my favorite restaurant. This year I spent it in the dreaded Santa Monica Community College swimming pool. Don't get me wrong; SMCC is a great facility, but I absolutely hate to swim. H.A.T.E. A near drowning accident in college has kept my face out of the water for the past 20+ years. So on my birthday I spent the longest 45 minutes of my life in a pool with my face most definitely in the water doing my best not to panic (with mixed results). Great, not only am I the oldest and slowest person in my group, I'm also the craziest. Thank God Christian was there! Truth be told, I'm tired of this fear of water thing. Christian and Paden are fish so our family vacations usually involve being near, on and in the water; but, while they're in the water, I'm usually on the beach reading or collecting shells. No more; I promise that by the time of the tri, I'll be in the water with them!

Saturday, November 22 was our first bike training session. Of the three events, bike is the only one I feel remotely competent at, even if I am totally winded at 4 miles. Christian was in Alabama, so this was my first solo practice. I surprised myself by holding my own in the front third of the intermediate group and even caught up with the advanced group for awhile (we'll just skip over the fact that they had slowed down for a red light). But I can't figure out how to drink water without stopping, so I finished practice very thirsty and with more water on me than in me. Something else to work on.

WEEK 2: Starting To Get In The Groove

November 17-23. I spent most of this week in Dallas and Cleveland in what will hopefully be my last cycle of serious business travel between now and the March 29 triathlon.

Speaking of cycling, is there anything more mind-numbingly-boring than being stuck on a treadmill or stationary bike for 30 minutes? With on-the-road work days running non-stop from 8:00 a.m. breakfast meetings through 7:00 p.m. dinner meetings, I didn't have time (or the energy) to do much more than drag myself into the hotels' fitness centers for a quick post-dinner run/bike before collapsing into bed. I have to admit though, I kind of like getting into the groove of a daily workout (even if it's only for 30 minutes and leaves me breathless and with spaghetti legs). Who knew that sweat was a natural make-up remover!

Although we couldn't work out together this week, Christian and I officially kicked off our fundraising effort by starting to pass the word at work and on the lacrosse field regarding what we are doing. We came up with these crazy little "Team Hugener" business cards that Christian now carries around with him wherever he goes and passes out to anyone who nods in support (instead of rolling their eyes in disbelief) when he starts talking up TNT and the triathlon. I have a secret stash of these cards in my wallet and am working up the nerve to start handing them out as well.

Up to now, I have always been the behind-the-scenes organizer for fundraisers; now I find myself in the unfamiliar territory of being on the front line. But I had coffee (ok, he had water and I had juice, but we bought them at Starbucks so it counts) this week with Audrey's dad, John. He and Darrelyn are very supportive of our effort and made the first donations on our websites. Very cool. John and I have known each other for years and he knew exactly what I needed to hear to get this job done.

Take a deep breath ... here I go!

WEEK 1: Kick Off-Week & Training Begins

Saturday, November 2 was our Kick-Off Event at the Culver City Senior Center. Billed as an opportunity to meet for the first-time our teammates, mentors, captains and coaches, I was blown away by the shear volume of people packing the center. Well, that and the fact that Christian and I were probably the oldest people there. But what a great group! Everyone has a story, everyone knows someone (or IS someone) battling a blood cancer.

Thursday, November 6, was our first swimming training session at the Santa Monica Community College. Christian had to go by himself because I was in San Francisco on business. These first few weeks are devoted totally to technique, so Thursday night (after swim drill torture) Christian tried to convince me how hard floating is and how sore his legs are already. Yeah, right!

Saturday, November 8, was our first running session at Palisades Park in Santa Monica. Beautiful weather (you could see Catalina), huge turn-out, sharing turf with several teams training for the LA Marathon. I couldn't wait to get out there, particularly when our coaches told us this would be an easy session in which we'd simply focus on the fundamentals. Twenty minutes later I was ready to collapse in a heap; did I mention I haven't done any running since college? Until yesterday, my idea of exercise was having to walk up our stairs twice because I forgot something upstairs. To make matters worse, it turns out Christian is in far better shape than I am, so he had to drag me through the 2.5 mile course. Is it too late to sign up for the 100-mile Century Bike Race?

Sunday, November 9. I can't get out of bed. Seriously. My legs and hips feel like they're filled with concrete. But it turns out we have homework. I thought we just had two training sessions per week (swimming on Thursday and running or biking on Saturday). But no; Christian broke the news that we have to ride a bike today for 30 minutes. How hard can that be? Hard! Fifteen knots of headwind that seemed to clock around each time we changed direction, I thought we'd never finish the six mile ride to Pier Avenue and back. When we finally got home, my legs felt like spaghetti. How in the world am I going to ride 24 miles and then run a 10K when I can't even feel my feet? Is there a kid's triathlon I can sign up for?


My Fundraising Total

Raised: $5,726.00 | Goal: $5,500.00
104 %

Make a Donation

We are sorry donations are no longer being accepted for this participant for this event.