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Commence crazy lady weekend

Today kicks off what I dub my crazy lady weekend.

I will be doing two, yes two, races this weekend as part of the annual Musselman Triathlon weekend.

First on Saturday is what's known as the mini-Mussel -- a sprint-distance triathlon. This is a 750-meter swim, 16.1-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run.

Then I return on Sunday for the Aquabike of the Musselman. The Musselman, in its sixth-year, is a half-Iron distance race meaning it's a 1.2-mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run.

("Ironman" is a trademarked word so those not part of the "official" series use iron-distance and half-iron distance to describe what it is. As an aside, to me this is like trademarking "marathon." To me, Ironman or Half Ironman describes a distance, not a trademarked sponsored race series. But that's just me and I respect the money and prestige of the Ironman.) 

The Aquabike, which is now officially recognized in the triathlon world, consists of the swim and bike portions of the course. There are no awards but according to the race information, I still get a finishers medal.

This means I will be swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 on Sunday, a day after racing the sprint.

Some hearty (or crazy) people participate in what's called the "Double Mussel" doing the sprint and the half iron distance. I don't qualify as a "Double Mussel" participant because I'm saving my legs and skipping the 13.1 mile run.

But I still think I'm a bit crazy.

The idea for this weekend is to look at is as a great training tool.

First, I get to race a sprint, which gives me more race-day experience. The importance of this, at least for me, is to continue to learn and get comfortable with race day. It's about managing anxiety and perfecting my nutrition and being able to have a plan, stick to the plan and understand when and how to change the plan if necessary.

The Aquabike will be a training run. It will give me a chance to swim a 1.2-mile marked course in race conditions and see how I do. Half-iron and iron distance races have time cutoffs for each segment of the course and my biggest concern is making the swim cutoff. I've gotten my head around the fact that I can swim. But can I swim fast enough?

My fears of making the swim cutoff were eased earlier this week when I saw the wave times. The swim course closes at 8:40 and my wave goes off at 7:08. I know that is plenty of time for me to make that swim cutoff and get on the bike. All that I have to do is put my face in the water and swim.

The bike will be challenging, but it's nothing I haven't done previously. Plus, I don't have to worry about saving my legs for the run. I will get the feel of what the distance is all about and have a better feel for what I need to work on in the next three months as I prepare for my official half Ironman debut at Muskoka 70.3

Loving the brashness of Cavendish

Granted, while I'm usually doing work while the Tour de France is on the in background, really yesterday's stage was rather boring.

Thank goodness for the sprint at the end where Mark Cavendish pulled out his third stage win of the Tour.

And I have to admit, that I really like Cavendish (or, as my friend Scott dubbed him for him, Caven-DE-licious). The British cyclist is one of the premier sprinters in the world. Don't look for him to be in the mix to win the overall (the yellow jersey) but he is in contention to win the green jersey as the best sprinter in the Tour.

There are those who don't particularly like Cavendish for his tendency to be brash and a bit (well, perhaps at times more than a bit) cocky.

In fact, Lance Armstrong even teases him about it during his pre-Stage 10 video on Armstrong is posting video blogs on his website throughout the Tour and yesterday's post included Cavendish and George Hincapie. 

Armstrong asks Cavendish if he's going to win the stage today.

"I'll try," Cavendish says with a smile.

"This is not the time to be humble," Armstrong jokes with him.

Armstrong should know. His brashness and confidence and cockiness won him some enemies during the first incarnation of his professional cycling career.

But that's also what makes him the best. And it's what makes Cavendish the best sprinter. And what makes Alberto Contador feel he is the true team leader of Astana and the guy who is going to win the Tour this year.

Attitude is everything.

Granted, you have to have the results and the performance to back it up. But a certain amount of self belief goes a long way.

Sometimes, it's a self fulfilling prophecy. It's not always clean and neat. Just thinking of success won't bring it. You have to put in the work and have the right innate skill set for some things. But if you don't know in your soul that you can truly accomplish what you want, all the work and skills will produce only incremental results.

Talking big puts a lot on the line.

But without risk there is no reward.

How you frame your task at hand, your situation or your goal, is as important as the preparation you put into achieving it.

How will you frame your day? And what can come from it if you frame it in a slightly different way today?

Race reports: Tuscarora 10K and Loghrans 5K

Sometimes, races are just for training. Other times they're for testing.

Both were part of my workouts the last few days.

On Saturday, I returned to my "long run" with a scheduled 1 hour, 5 minute run. (And yes, when you're marathon training an hour-long run feels like a day off. But I'm not marathon training right now and I haven't run longer than 45 minutes in some time.)

Also on Saturday was the Tuscarora 10K held in Lewiston in conjunction with the Tuscarora Nation Picnic & Field Day. Sue had run this race before and was planning on doing her tempo run there. Knowing my paces and the distance I figured I would finish the 10K in about 1:05, especially if I wasn't intent on racing it. And what better way to return to the long run that with a supported run?

The course was great -- a large 6.2-mile rectangle with a few rolling hills but nothing too taxing. The race was small and most of the people running were doing the shorter, 2.5 mile run instead. Still, I was amazed at how well it was supported. At the beginning of the race they announced there would six water stops on the 10K course.

Six water stops? Over 6.2 miles?

I thought that might be hyperbole.

Oh, but they did have water six times on the course. In fact, by the time we reached Mile 4, I couldn't take any more sips of water as I felt on the verge of sloshy stomach. But still, I was impressed and grateful for such a well-supported race.

I actually walked some of the water stops. Saturday was humid with terrible thunderstorms on the horizon. This was a training run. No need to hurt myself. I tried to keep a steady rhythm and luckily found an old friend who was happy to run with me at my pace.

I crossed the line in 1:03.45 for a 10:16 pace -- a little bit harder than my easy pace, but a solid run nonetheless. Especially since as we crossed the finish line, the rain drops started.

The rain became a downpour with thunder and lightning cutting short post-race festivities, at least for me. Instead, I took my parents to breakfast -- a nice reward for all of us -- though that means my second-place in my age group award went unclaimed. 

Monday night, the race was a different story. I entered the Loghrans 5K as a testing run. I wanted to see if I had improved my VDOT -- a formula developed by legendary coach Jack Daniels to calculate appropriate training paces. 

My instructions were to do a 10-minute warmup with three different 30-second pickups.

Then I could run the race however I wanted.

My friend Karyn was running with me and kindly decided to keep my pace and run with me, even though she's a bit faster than I am.

The plan was to start out slow. Well, that's always my plan -- start slow and finish strong. In runner's parlance it's called "negative splits."

That's the theory I start with. It doesn't always work that way.

The first part of the course slopes down hill and our first mile was pretty quick.

Whoa, I thought. We really could slow down.

In a 5K, the hardest part for me is that second mile -- the middle of the race. I want to keep a good pace but want to make sure I have something left. And if I'm running hard, this is where it starts to really hurt.

The evening race was warm and what I've learned over the past year is that I'm much better in cooler weather. The wind would kick up every now and again, too. But I tried a steady pace.

We reached the Mile 2 marker and Karyn started giving me a pep talk.

"We have 10 minutes to break your PR," she said. "You can do anything for 10 minutes."

I nodded. I wanted to chat but couldn't. I wasn't in easy-paced chat zone and I so wanted to finish strong.

The cruel thing about the Loghrans race, which was duly noted to me before, was that it's an uphill finish. In that last half mile the road has two rollers.

Harmonious hill, I kept saying to myself.

Once back on Main Street, it's a straight shot for about two blocks before the race turns on a side street for the finish.

Run strong, I thought.

"You're going to crush your PR," Karyn said.

My best 5K was a 28:15 at the Polar Bear Run in Olcott, in a steady snow.

As we turned the corner, I saw the finish line clock.

27:43 ... 27:44 ... 27:45 ...

I had 15 seconds to beat 28 minutes. The sprint was on.

And I made it.

27:59. My best 5K time by 16 seconds.

Unfortunately, it didn't change my VDOT by all that much.

But my training has been, and continues to be, for distance rather than speed.

And yet, my 5K time dropped by 16 seconds.

That was worthy of a pierogi at the post-race party.

Steady up the hill

I needed three hours and hills.

And that's a difficult combination to estimate. At least for me. I wasn't sure what I would average going up hills and not sure that I was all that strong at climbing just yet.

The weather has finally allowed me to get outside on my bike on a regular basis. Which means finding bike routes appropriate for different types of workouts.

On Friday night, I decided to ride with a friend out in Clarence on a nice 18-mile route that was basically flat and perfect for an hour-or-so endurance workout.

Only, the road we began on was torn up for construction. It was still rideable but difficult. Thankfully it was only a few hundred yards.

"It's like riding Paris-Roubaix!" my friend shouted back, referring to the one-day professional cycling race which is famous for it's tough cobblestone roads.

I decided I wasn't much of a cobblestone rider. But the rest of the ride was enjoyable.

Then on Sunday came the big three-hour ride. With hills. Hills not only will make me stronger but will help prepare me for Muskoka, where I've heard the bike course is full of short, steep hills.

I recruited my friend Jen who recruited our friend Greg to ride a 41-mile course from Chestnut Ridge Park to Springville and back. And those first 10 miles or so were hilly. We got right into hills and rollers and fast descents and then a climb that felt like I might as well have been at the end stage of the Pyrenees. (OK, it was the Pyrenees for me. For high level cyclists, it would have been a minor bump in the road.)

Greg reminded me early on to use my full pedal stroke. The ideal is to think of making a big circle with your foot and pedal, thinking up, over, down, across. I know I tend to point my toes when I pedal, so it's something I need to actually think about, especially when climbing. On the steepest climb of the day, I fell back into a 4-mile-per hour pace. And I remembered an email my coach once sent out to her athletes:

"What if I'm only going 4 miles an hour up hill? .... Then you go 4-miles an hour up hill."

And while I didn't motor up the hill, I felt pretty steady.

The second half was a bit flatter and faster but riding with friends helps you pick up the pace, especially when you're the slower one in the bunch. I finished the ride feeling tired but not trashed. And more importantly I had fun on a beautiful morning with two good friends.

The rest of this week will be relatively easy as I prepare for what I like to call crazy lady weekend: I will be in Geneva for two races, first doing the Mini-Musselman race, a sprint-distance course on Saturday. On Sunday is the annual half-Ironman distance race, the Musselman. As a training day, I will be doing the "Aquabike" race, or the swim and bike portion of the half-ironman race.

But then, it will be back to finding long, hilly rides to test myself, to improve my form and to help my confidence.

Mountain stages

Today begins one of the best parts of the Tour de France -- the mountain stages.

The cycling race takes it's turn into the Pyrenees for a 139.2 mile ride with a Category 1 climb. I knew a Category 1 climb is the hardest rating, but I looked up the specifics in the cycling world: It's a climb that is 6 to 12 miles long and steeper than a 5 percent grade. The elevation gain is between 3,000 and 5,000 feet.

If those numbers mean nothing to you just know this: It's a long, steep climb and not all that much fun.

Unless of course, you're, say, Lance Armstrong or Alberto Contador.

Both riders are on the Astana team and while the younger Contador began the race as the official "leader" of the team (meaning he is the one the team decided has the best chance to win the yellow jersey and everyone works to protect and help him) Armstrong is by default a co-leader of sorts. Throughout the Tour, all members of Astana, including Lance, have said that the inner workings of the team have remained the same and Alberto is the team leader.

If there was any intra-team tension, it certainly didn't show during the team time trial a few days ago when an incredible performance by the unit launched them to a team win.

But today is the first "real test" of the Tour and both Lance and Alberto are strong climbers. It's their speciality both physically and in psychological games.

Today may be the day when Lance and Alberto battle it out for leader rights within Astana.

Either way, it will make for a compelling stage.

Check out Juliet Macur's article in today's New York Times for an excellent breakdown of today's stage and the Lance-Alberto dynamic.

Chances are, it will make you want to dust off your bike and get out and ride. Or, if you are already riding, tackle a few hills.

I'm hoping for a bit of inspiration. In preparation for the hilly course at Muskoka in September, many of my long rides will be on hills and Sunday marks my first designated three-hour hill ride.

If only I can channel a little bit of Lance and Alberto then. 

Getting a good smile

Ever since the marathon, running and I have had a rocky relationship.

Some days, I feel great. Other days, I feel like I'm on a slog. In all likelihood, the run probably felt that way to me while I was training for the marathon, but my mind blocked out just how much the bad runs can feel bad.

Slowly, my run is coming back to me. Important, because this is where I need to gain some strength as my training plan turns toward Muskoka 70.3

To gain speed, my coach's plan of attack is to have me gain strength. And I gain strength by running hills.

This week was my first official hill run of half Ironman training. I slogged through the lower loop at Chestnut Ridge Park which contains the hill infamous in local running circles -- mother. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good after my hour of hill work. My pace was brisk and I thought of my form on the uphills.

Of course, it started to rain during the run. But I changed the focus in my mind. "Just keep running," I sang in my head. (As an aside, I must credit swim master Greg for this tune. At Tri in the Buff, he started singing "just keep swimming." I adjusted it for my run.)

The next say, I wasn't singing a tune. I was desperately reciting mantras. My coach had warned me that after running hills my easy-paced 30 minute would feel weird.

If by "weird" she meant "suck" that I was spot on in the training protocol.

High cadence. Good form. I kept thinking about those things, but my legs started to feel heavy halfway through the run.

My mantra became, "I am a strong runner." And I got through it.

Luckily, few things in life come with style points.

During both runs my mind flashed back to Sunday's Tri in the Buff race and the guy who lived on Lake Shore Road.

We first met Lake Shore Road Guy on the first loop of the bike course. He was sitting on his front lawn cheering athletes as they went by. The guy was older and if had a physical activity routine it had been many years since he participated. But clap and cheer he did. Honestly, part of me wondered what he thought of these triathletes cycling past him and how long he would entertain himself on his front lawn.

On the second loop, there he was, clapping again as I cruised past him and back into the park.

Then came the first lap of the run. Part of the course followed a path that ran parallel to Lake Shore Road. At this point, our guy had moved from his front lawn onto the running path, cheering and encouraging the runners now that the bike portion was completed. He also had started to blast "Eye of the Tiger" from his front lawn (I believe it was from his pick up truck, but I didn't get a good look at the sound system set up.)

He seemed like was genuinely having a good time.

On my second loop, he was still out there.

I gave him a high-five.

I can't help but smile and shake my head when I think of Lake Shore Road guy.

It was one of those scenes that happens in a race that is an elegant mixture of quirky, awesome, ridiculous and joyful.

It's one of those scenes that graciously returns to your memory on days when you need a good smile.

The nutrition equation

The best part about my training protocol before my first intermediate distance race was that 24 hours prior I was to eat a big breakfast.

Yep. A nice big breakfast with pancakes, eggs, homefries and toast.

Granted, I tapered my food the rest of the day. It wasn't a one-day let's-see-how-much-food-Amy-can-shove-in-her-mouth day.

But breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. And anyone who tells me to enjoy it in full force, well, that's reason to celebrate in my book.

There is a bit of a fallacy that when you're training you can eat anything you want.

In what I've read and experienced, that's not exactly true.

In fact, I've heard of people training for the Ironman who actually gain weight either because they think they can eat anything and everything or because they just need to consume a vast amount of calories for energy and naturally end up staying the same weight or gaining a few pounds -- despite the fact that their training has become the equivalent of a part time job.

There are people who could care less about what they eat. They just go out, race and train and have fun.

There are others who count every single gram of fat, protein and carbohydrate in order to optimize performance.

Me? I like somewhere in the middle, please.

As someone who struggled with weight in college and those early adult years, eating wisely was something that became important to me. It seemed an important step to taking care of myself and my health something which was difficult for me at times. 

And so, in order to keep myself healthy and energized and in a physical spot to enjoy my training and racing, I pay attention to my diet.

From time to time I try to track what I'm eating, mostly out of curiosity and because I find the whole nutrition thing terribly interesting, even if I have a stash of Coffee Crisp candy bars in my freezer.

Just in time for the Tour de France, I stumbled upon a new partnership between The Daily Plate and Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation.

At the Livestrong website there is a tab for "Daily Plate." Registration with the site is free and it's the best online food journal program I have ever seen. You can enter generic foods or brand names or restaurants or even cooking magazine recipes and get a complete nutritional breakdown. With a click you can add it to your plate for that day and watch as the program calculates how much you ate and break it down among fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

It's a great tool if you want to lose weight or if you just want to see what it is you're eating.

Granted, I didn't use this on Sunday, when I allowed myself to enjoy my friends and junk food. I ate ice cream and brownies and cookies and had a glass or two of chilled white wine. 

The point for me is that I allow myself enjoyment and a balance. I've heard some diet and nutrition people in the past say that you should not say you "can't" eat something because then it becomes "forbidden" and if you eat a little bit you will feel guilty.

I'm starting to see that "can't" isn't only about guilt. It's also about limiting yourself.

And the more I can ease up on those limits, on those all-or-nothing areas of my mind that paralyze me to inaction, the more I'll be able to enjoy where I am, right now.

Race report: Tri in the Buff

For some reason, I had a nutty.

I don't know exactly why but on Sunday morning, the butterflies were uncontrollable. I was, well, slightly terrified entering my first intermediate distance triathlon and really for no good reason. I had done 1500 meters in the water before. A bike ride of 24 miles? That's fun. A 10K run? Didn't I just do a marathon?

But something about the combination of events had me nervous. More nervous that I had been in recent memory. In fact, I was about as nervous as I was before the marathon, where I broke down into tears before the start, but this time I had no clue where my anxiety was coming from.

Luckily, a year into triathlon and I have some pretty good friends at races. And a slew of them helped calm me down, reminding me that it was just nerves and that everyone gets nervous. Diane reminded me that we even wake up nervous for a training 5K race. Greg reminded me that indeed I know how to swim and that I just need to think long, smooth strokes.

Once I get past the swim, I'll be fine, I said. But on the inside, I was also dreading the run, too, which would affect me later.

But first, the swim. It was a 1500 meter swim and two laps of the course -- a giant rectangle. As usual, I stayed in the back of my wave and, again as usual, it took me a while to get started. I walked out as far as I could. Put my face in the water. Floated with my face in the water. Took a few strokes. Treaded water.

Ok. Just start swimming.

And I did. My first few strokes in open water are always terribly ugly. Then I get the feel of movement in my wetsuit and get my groove. I counted five strokes then looked up to sight (without stopping, mind you). This was a challenge because when I swim, I breathe only to my left. The buoys were on my right. So sighting was important.

Still, I was about as straight on for a swim as I have ever been.

By the time I got to the third buoy and the turn to swim across the rectangle, the men's wave that started after my wave caught me. I pulled up and started to do the breaststroke around the buoy. It then took me a minute or two before I started swimming again, choosing to let the fast guys duke it out ahead of me.

Swimming again, I rounded for the home stretch of the first lap. I kept swimming. I got hit in my feet a few times, but nothing major. Perhaps I did about 10 strokes of breaststroke total the rest of the swim. I just kept going. Steady. That's what I was thinking. Keep swimming steady.

And as I started to see shore it hit me. The biggest news of the day: Not one kayak, surfboard or canoe was part of my swim. For the first time in a race I did not need to rest on a water safety craft.

This was momentous.

My swim time still looked slow as I got out of the water. Popular opinion after the race was that swim course was laid out long since everyone felt they had good swims and everyone had slow times in relatively calm water. Heck, I'd be glad if it was longer -- that mean's my swim was even better. Even so, the quality of my swim is what mattered. And I felt good.

My first transition was smooth. In fact, all my transitions are smooth. If there ever could be a duathlon that was transition and cycling, I would podium every time. Just saying.

The bike course was again two loops for me -- a 40K distance. My goal was to have to a solid bike but to hold back a bit. I didn't want to expend myself too much on the bike and have dead legs for the run. This is difficult for me because I love the bike. I smile almost the entire time on the bike. And I certainly did on this course.

My other goal on the bike was to practice my nutrition. I cut up a Clif Bar and put it in my "bento box" on my bike. In the first 10 minutes I ate about half of it and washed it down with a sports drink. I sipped the sports drink about every 10 minutes or so. Later in the bike, I switched to water to make sure I wasn't creating a carbohydrate mess in my stomach.

To me, the bike course was fast and I enjoyed every minute of it. I aimed for high cadence and adjusted my gears accordingly. A bigger, harder gear might make me go a mile an hour faster but saving my legs was important.

I still finished the bike in around 1:22, averaging around 18 miles an hour and feeling rather fresh.

I transitioned to the run -- again two loops of the course for 10K. Parts of this course at Evangola State Park go "off road" through the grass and, with the amount of rain we had recently, through some mud. Personally, I didn't care for the trail running part of the course. I actually felt more pain on the grass than I did on the pavement.

My legs actually felt good and as I was running the first 5K I was pretty amazed with how good it felt. But I was cautious. The sun was out in force by now and parts of the run were in the open with no shade. Perhaps I was a bit too cautious. Because my legs felt good and my fitness felt good yet I kept my run to a nice, steady jog. This is where I may have psyched myself out earlier in the week, noting to friends that I had never run a 10K before. I've run more than that distance and the 6.2 miles is something I've likely done in hour-long training runs before. But specifically a 10K? I couldn't picture how that would feel and the uncertainty of that unknown held me back a bit.

Ah, but just a bit.

My pace was slow, but I did the run in a hour and six minutes.

Grand total for my first intermediate distance triathlon: 3 hours, 30 minutes, 17 seconds.

Right about what I thought I would do for my first attempt at the distance on a normal training week.

When I was about to start the second loop of my run, I saw my friend Diane who caught my eye and said, "no fear now."

I smiled.

Because it feels like time and time again, I'm looking right in the face of fear -- my fears -- and time and time again, it is fear who is blinking first.

On pancakes and the start of The Tour

Sunday is my first intermediate distance triathlon, which for simplicity's sake basically doubles the distance of the sprint triathlons I've done.

I'm "racing" to train. The idea is to get my body used to longer distances as I prepare for my goal race -- Muskoka 70.3, a half Ironman.

Since this is not an "A" race, or a priority race, this past week has been a normal base-building week. I am not driving to Evangola on complete fresh legs tomorrow, but that's part of the plan. Today, however, is officially a rest day from training. In fact, my only real triathlon assignment is to practice my race week nutrition, which today means to eat a big breakfast.

Yep, my "workout" today is to have pancakes. Of course then I taper my food intake the rest of the day. But anything that requires me to eat pancakes is a fine plan in my book.

There's a line from the movie "Empire Records" that I often like to twist and make my own.

Today's adaptation: "We can't be sad. Not today. The Tour de France starts today!"

Yes, we cyclists love the month of July filled with hours of the colorful peleton dashing around the French countryside and the sidelines of drama including personality conflicts, power plays within teams and of course, the drama and controversy that doping scandals (or mere accusations) bring.

This year marks the return of Lance Armstrong, seeking his eight title in one of the most grueling sporting events in the world. And while he adds drama and American interest, he's not even the team leader for Astana at today's start -- Alberto Contador is. Contador, a young Spanish rider, won the Tour in 2007. He didn't compete last year as his team, Astana, was banned for doping violations (none of which, by the way, had to do with Contador).

For those still new to the sport of cycling, the Tour de France is very much a team sport. Riders on each team have assigned roles and only one can be the "leader" the one the team is helping to win the race.

And that's part of the drama that will make this month interesting to watch.

If you're in need of a bit of a primer on this year's Tour de France, check out the work of New York Times reporter Juliet Macure (who also has a Twitter page).

She gives a breakdown of the top riders.

Here is an explanation of the different jerseys riders can win.

And, she offers, just in case, a story that serves as a doping primer.

My personal pick for the tour win is Contador though I am intensely curious as to how Armstrong will perform.

Oh, to be young

Two women were sitting on a park bench. The evening was shaping up to be nice and cool after the rain had passed through. It looked like they were sitting in relative silence -- perhaps mother and daughter, one in her 70s the other in her 40s.

I passed by them as I trotted through my easy-paced run, rounding the traffic circle they were watching and preparing to head home from my second workout of the day.

I smiled as I went by and offered a "hello."

The older woman smiled back and said, with a laugh, "Oh to be young."

It's not the first time I've heard that sentiment. Running in my neighborhood I pass my fair share of older women, those who have lived two or three lifetimes compared to mine. On days when I feel old and wonder exactly what it is that I've done with, or packed into, my 30-some years of living, I usually come across someone like the woman on the bench. And it gives me plenty to think about.

Her observation (and she stands in for other women like her I've come across) is never bitter. It's never filled with anger that she herself is no longer young. It's a bit wistful. A bit of longing. A bit of wishing she had the energy and the health now that she has the experience and wisdom. It's one of the great ironies of life, isn't it? Like the line in the movie It's a Wonderful Life -- "Youth is wasted on the young."

But it's more than just the energy and health of youth. It's enjoying the newness that each day brings. It's realizing that where I am today is a product of everything -- good, bad, indifferent -- that happened yesterday. We can let yesterday define who we are, or accept that yesterday put us in the place we are today and that we have the ability to change our direction, to find a new place, today.

Perhaps that's the gift of being where I am in life right now. I still have the energy to make things happen with a bit of life experience in my pocket. Might I have been a better athlete if I took my health and exercise seriously in my 20s? Possibly.

But then my races and my training would be void of the experiences I enjoy. I'd have different expectations. Different goals. Different motivations.

I, quite simply, would not longer be me.

So I take my mixture of youth and experience into my first intermediate distance race at Tri in the Buff on Sunday. My goal? To finish. But not in the "I hope I can finish" sort of way. I know I can finish. That's the not the issue.

But my life experience tells me setting a time goal right now is wasted energy for me. (Emphasis, by the way, on the for me part. Others love to set high performance goals. It's who they are and I celebrate that with them. However tt is not, I am learning, who I am.)

I want to have fun on Sunday. I want to challenge myself, see what I can do at a longer distance. From a training perspective, I want to get my body acclimated to swimming, biking and running for longer periods of time. I'm working on creating a solid base of endurance and fitness for Muskoka in September.

Most of all, I want to create some more bankable memories for the days when I'm sitting on a park bench.
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