Race Report: 2016 Longmont Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon

Overheard at the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon this Sunday…
I found the best kombucha bar in the Highlands.
Putting on a wetsuit is like putting on a wedding dress. You’re like “Please, zip! Please, zip!”
All she ate was sandwiches and mac and cheese, for, like, every meal.  

I can’t help noticing these things, I’m a chronic eavesdropper fascinated by humanity.

I signed up for my first triathlon since 2012
I signed up for this race on a whim about a month ago. My running injuries had been under control for over a month and I was up to 15-20ish pain-free miles per week. A friend talked me into doing a Stroke and Stride (a casual but timed 750m swim + 5k run), my first since 2008. I had a blast and decided to come back several weeks in a row. As a bonus, I was pleased to find my running speed had returned and my wetsuit still fit. My biking was limited to occasional rides with the kiddos in the Burley and some longer, challenging weekend rides up Sunshine Canyon, up Flagstaff, and one epic, 60 mile ride up to Ward via Lyons and Raymond. I knew I could easily finish the race, and hopefully do well.

I “trained”
The distances were 750m swim, 12.9 mile bike, 5k run. A sprint triathlon is sometimes referred to as a “mini” triathlon, although even the fastest women took over an hour. Most mortals can’t just jump off the couch into a race of this distance. Case in point: I worked my way back from nine months of a fit pregnancy, birth, and six weeks of postpartum rest to do a sprint triathlon when Sweet Pea was four months old. I nearly had a panic attack during the swim (in retrospect, my wetsuit was probably suffocating me, as I had yet to lose all the baby weight), and I shuffled my way to the finish at the very back of the pack.

Since that 2012 race, my sexy orange and blue triathlon bike has sat glumly in the basement. Three weeks ago, I changed out the rear tire, worn thin from infrequent trainer workouts, for a fresh one. With only three weeks to prepare, there was no real structure to my training, but I did the best I could.

For example…
-Where I might normally have run for 45 minutes, instead I woke up a little earlier, asked Dan to start work a little later, and squeezed in a 40 minute ride followed by a 2 mile run.

-I did four Stroke and Strides (a local Thursday evening timed 750m swim followed by a 5k run).

-Where I would normally have done the 750m swim ad 5k run at the Stroke and Stride and called it a night, one night I let my friends talk me into 4 mile cool-down run afterward.
-When I would normally have met a friend for a 50 minute trail run, instead I swam at the reservoir for 45 minutes and hopped on my bike for 15 minutes right after.

-I teach spin class every Monday, so I created workouts that would maximize my performance on race day.

While I didn’t do anything major or over a sustained period of time, it was fun to add some purpose to my workouts and it was at the very least mentally useful to structure my workouts around my race.

And what I realize, in light of the fantastic race I had, was that everything—not just what I did in the short weeks since I signed up for the race—counted. Everything I’ve done since Lady Bug was born—the treadmill runs that were interrupted by a crying baby, the 20 minute bike rides with the kids to the library, the 30 minute swims—they all counted. All the training I did before Sweet Pea was born—the interminable, lonesome six hour Ironman training rides, the four thousand yard pool swims, the duathlons, the marathons, the track workouts, the mountains I pedaled up so slowly I thought my bike and I would tip over—they all counted.

Race Day
I wake up at 5am. I sit at the kitchen table eating my instant oatmeal, drinking my Starbucks Via coffee while the sky is still an inky blue-black and I know it will be a good day. I could fall apart on the course but right now I am alone with my breakfast while my family sleeps and I feel grateful to have stolen this little luxury for myself.

I show up on schedule and the other women, my competitors, are milling about and they are my inspiration. They are tall and lean, short and round, and every shape and size in between. They have long, white, perfect braids, blonde ponytails, and pixie cuts. Some have wrinkles. Some have six packs. There are prominent collarbones and generous booties. I try not to stare at the big ladies. It’s just that I am intrigued and awed by them. I have no idea what it feels to stretch spandex over heaping mounds of flesh, but I imagine it takes an insane amount of courage. I want to high-five these women for being out here, for wearing these clothes, for telling the world that fitness doesn’t always look like an Instagram model, but I can’t do that so instead I give them a high five in my mind.

[bctt tweet=”Fitness doesn’t always look like an Instagram model” username=”@PamMooreWriter”]

The race starts at 8:00 and by 7:38 my transition area is arranged, my cap and goggles are tucked into the sports bra, my wetsuit is half on, and I have nothing left to do so I walk barefoot to the water’s edge and study the swim course. I smile to myself as I remember my last triathlon. It was four years ago and I was frantically nursing my baby when I should have been doing this. For the first time in my life, I swim around the warm-up area like a “real” swimmer. I figure I need to “act as if.”

I feel ready when the siren goes off for my wave. It’s a maelstrom of arms and legs. They’re on top of me, under me, in my ribcage, on my shoulder and it’s ok. Women are everywhere and I can’t see them because this water is murky and brown. I can feel them, though. Fingertips brushing my leg. A foot in my elbow. I think, this is nothing compared to the way my older brother wailed on me when we were kids.

I just need to swim and breathe. I focus on gliding, on scooping lots of water, on remembering to look up at the light blue sky. Buoey by buoey, I make it around the rectangle, and then finally through the inflatable red archway, and I am jogging to the transition area, yanking my wetsuit down to my waist, gasping for air as I go.

I stomp and cajole my way out of my wetsuit, free my head of my cap and goggles, sit down to don my bike shoes, my helmet and sunglasses and I am flying out of the transition area with my bike.

I am supposed to mount my bike on a dirt road and I am not prepared for this. Dirt roads and gravel make me anxious but I pretend they don’t while I hop on my bike and clip my right foot in. I can’t help it but I yell “Whoa!” and swerve while I’m clipping my left foot in and it’s embarrassing but soon the road turns to pavement and no one is around me and I relax my forearms into my aerobars, take a few sips of my drink, and imagine myself slicing powerfully through the air, gliding easily over the road.

The course is mostly flat with a couple of gentle climbs. I notice the edges of subdivisions. In my periphery, I see green space and a pond. Mostly though, I am focused on my breath. Is it labored enough? Is it too labored? Can I keep breathing like this and save enough for the run? I am constantly monitoring my effort. My watch is set to the stopwatch function. My mileage, my speed, and my heart rate are unknown. I say “On your left” and then “Good job” as I pass woman after woman after woman.

I feel good. I feel great, even. I had forgotten the sensation of damp spandex clinging to my body, drying in the morning sun, wind whipping in my face, ponytails dripping. I love this.

A fit-looking woman on a fancy bike passes me but I keep her close. We play cat and mouse for the entire bike course, offering each other smiles and encouragement as we pass each other.

My stomach clenches as I approach the rutted dirt road where I am supposed to dismount my bike and I think to myself “It’s ok” and it is. I run my bike into the transition area and fling off my helmet, change shoes, fasten my race belt, grab my hat, and go.

I feel like I am running in quicksand. I am take short, gasping breaths and I tell myself to just keep on going and my breathing will work itself out but it never does. I pass the fit woman who passed me on the bike and we smile and wave and I say “looking good” even though it takes way too much effort to make words.

People are cheering from the sidelines but I only see what is in front of me because I don’t have the energy to look around. There’s a dirt road that curves in the distance and on it is not an inch of shade. I tell myself it’s only 3.1 miles. Less, now that I’ve probably covered at least a few tenths of a mile.

The race announcer made a big deal about the fireman manning the aid station at the first mile marker and I thought I would not care who handed out the water but when I see the shirtless men at the crest of the hill, it is a treat. I take a little sip of water and pour the rest on my head, down my back. I look at my watch. It says eight minutes and forty seconds. I am not sure how much that hill affected my split. It doesn’t matter because there is nothing else to do but keep running.

It is only half a mile until the turn-around. I can do this. I am passing woman after woman after woman and I don’t know how because I feel like my legs are moving through mud. It feels like a dream where I need to run away from the bad guy but I can’t make my legs go.

I pass the firemen again and take a water. I hit the second mile mark. My watch says 7:40. A little over a mile to go. Can I go faster? I see a woman in yellow and black way up ahead and I imagine a rope connects us. The rope is tightening and I am getting closer and closer until I pass her.

I see another woman ahead and I want to pass her but my legs will not cooperate. I focus on getting to the next tree, the next rock, the next dad with a Baby Bjorn. I wonder if Dan and the girls are here, planning to surprise me at the finish chute. I ask myself if I will even remember how this feels a day from now, an hour from now, twenty minutes from now. Can I go faster?

I have been running for 22 minutes and change. I am practically done. Where is the finish? Why can I not see the finish? It must be soon. Keep running. Keep running. I turn a corner and there is the blessed finish line. I am steps behind Yellow and Black but I’ve lost my chance to close the gap. I cross the finish line. Someone takes my timing chip. Someone hands me a chilly water bottle. I stop. I breathe. I congratulate Yellow and Black. I press the button on my watch.

I am totally spent.

I am happy.


Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon

Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon

I am super happy with my results…. 5th in my age group, 17th woman… My swim (just under 17 minutes) was average, which for me is excellent (to put it in perspective, I swam the same distance in 22 minutes at my first triathlon in 2004, and found my bike was one of the only ones left in the transition area). I biked 19.9 mph and ran a 7:46/mile pace (faster than I’ve ever run at the end of a sprint triathlon before, even at sea level).



I am a Recovered Impostor Syndrome Sufferer

When I was a kid, I hated sports. I dreaded gym class. I was picked last for every team. I flinched when anything smaller than a soccer ball came near me. Or not near me. And if we’re being honest, it wasn’t just the smaller balls that gave me panic attacks; dodge balls, volleyballs, and tetherballs terrified me. They still do. Although adulthood affords me the luxury of never being forced to play ball games, it’s hard to fully relax because every so often, Dan tosses me the car keys.

For reasons I will never fully understand, I tried out for lacrosse when I was a freshman in high school. Most people look back the team sports of their youth and recall friendship, laughter, teamwork, and the development of self-esteem and confidence.

I look back on the three seasons I played lacrosse and wonder why I did not quit sooner. It was painful, and not the kind of pain that breaks you down, only to build you back up. Mostly it was just painful in the breaking down way, but I pretended it wasn’t.

I pretended I wasn’t waiting for the coach to give me a  pep talk. I pretended not to silently wonder why all the girls who’d started as beginners like me, figured out how to maneuver gracefully across the field, making assists, scoring points, and generally looking sure of themselves, while I remained awkward and afraid of the ball. I pretended I didn’t mind being on the fringes of the sport that I assumed would make me one of the gang.

I have two distinct memories from my time on the lacrosse team. One was right after a game against our biggest rival. We won and the mood was giddy as we piled into the team van. A hot, fresh bag of McDonald’s fries was being passed around. My arm was extended toward that bag, and just before I plucked a few fries for myself, one of my teammates—the quintessential mean girl—noticed me.

 “Why don’t you save the fries for those of us who actually played?” she asked. It was not so much a question as it was an accusation. 

My stomach dropped as I lowered my hand to my lap. After a beat, the rest of the team continued laughing and recalling the highlights of the game while they polished off the fries, while I sat in silence, alone with my shame.

The other vivid memory I have of lacrosse is coming in second in a timed two-mile run. My teammates and I complained whenever the coach made us run, but secretly, I enjoyed it. With running, there was no ball.There was no stress. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. Even I could not mess it up.

On that mild spring afternoon, we charged down Blackstone Boulevard and to my shock and delight, I found myself at front of the pack. I nearly killed myself in an attempt to edge out my closest competitor and finished a very close second. When I finished, my legs burned, my lungs were ready to explode, and I was on the verge of puking.

I could not wait to do it again.

When I was 22, I ran my first marathon. By that point, friends and family frequently referred to me as a runner, but it was very important to me that I set them straight. I was not a runner, I would tell them. I just liked to run. That I would I would, in fact, pay money and travel to run for over four hours at a time was actually no indication that I was a bona fide runner, it was just evidence that I enjoyed my hobby. It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time it made perfect sense because I still thought of myself as the un-athletic kid I had always been.

Shortly after I trying a spin class a few years later, I dove headfirst into road biking and triathlons. When I was not working or trolling for guys, I was biking, swimming or running. My friends and I joked we wouldn’t recognize each other if we weren’t wearing a cap and goggles or sunglasses and a helmet. But when I admitted to a friend that I wasn’t sure I “deserved” to use race wheels at an upcoming bike race and he said “But you have the same right to race wheels as any other athlete,” I thought he was crazy. “You think I’m an athlete?” I asked, incredulous. “Why wouldn’t you be?” he asked me. “You are always training for a race.  Sometimes you work out twice a day.” I was flattered but I remained skeptical.

I am a recovered Impostor Syndrome Sufferer

Right before my first sprint triathlon in Lake Murray, SC,  2004. I would end up winning the novice category. I didn’t think I was an athlete (yet).

When I was 28 I did my first IronmanTM triathlon. That’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. I spent the better part of a year training for it. In preparation for it, I crossed the finish of my fifth marathon and I travelled with my bike to a training camp in Spain. I planned every aspect of my life around training for that race.  Yet I scoffed when anyone called me a triathlete. “I do triathlons,” I remember correcting my sister, “but I wouldn’t call myself a triathlete.” She told me I was nuts; and not just because a triathlon was my idea of fun.

I wish I could tell you I realized I was an athlete when I crossed the finish line of that IronmanTM. What I remember about that moment was pure joy, a sense of accomplishment, and the piece of pepperoni pizza I inhaled immediately afterward.

Did I mention the pizza at the finish line?

Best. Pizza. Ever.

I wish there were a specific race or workout that I could look back on and say “That was when I realized I was an athlete.” The unglamorous truth is that over the next few years, I gradually shed that sense of myself as a ball-challenged, athletic failure and finally understood that I was an athlete. That I had, in fact, been an athlete since the day I tried to win that two-mile run in the tenth grade.

I wish I’d figured that out sooner. But upon immersing myself in Impostor Syndrome Research, I realized something kind of epic. It turns out, over the course of my painstakingly slow path to figuring out that I was a legit athlete, I had inadvertently tested nearly every strategy, tip, and trick promising to cure Impostor Syndrome.

I will share more about that soon. For now, feel free to check out my previous posts on Impostor Syndrome here and here.

Are you into this? Do you think your group would enjoy it? I’d love to chat with you about speaking at your next meeting. Feel free to contact me at pam.sinel(at)gmail.com

I beat Impostor Syndrome

Ironman Boulder: The View From the Sidelines

I spectated the Boulder Ironman triathlon this weekend. I stood on the grassy edge of the paved path where the athletes ran a marathon under the unrelenting late afternoon sun. Some of the runners had a spring in their step, most were shuffling, and more than a few were walking. An ironman is comprised of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. I probably don’t need to explain that by the time you start the marathon, you’re tired.

I watched, cheered, smiled, clapped, rang my cowbell, and offered the athletes fist bumps and high fives, in between wrangling my toddler and retreating to my lawn chair to nurse the baby in the shade. I needed only a quick glance at an athlete’s gait and facial expression to determine what kind of race he or she was having.

I needed no more than a couple of hours of spectating to know I have no desire to cross the finish line of an ironman again.

In 2006, I spectated an ironman for the first time. It was inspiring to me. I was in awe of the athletes. I considered the discipline required to carve out the time to train. I imagined what it would be like to have a goal so unimaginably big that I would be motivated to prepare for it out of fear just as much as desire. I remembered I’d promised my friend that I would sign up for the ironman if she did (and she did). I cheered those athletes on from the sidelines on that July day and knew that I wanted to be doing what they were doing. At 8:50 the next morning, I sat in a Starbucks with a borrowed laptop and my credit card, obsessively refreshing the race’s web page until the 9 o’clock hour finally came and registration opened up. I yearned, then, to focus my energy on a project that I could chip away at and eventually conquer.

I yearn, now, for a night of uninterrupted sleep.

I yearn for other things, too. I want to finish the home birth book. I want to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon. I want to become a kinder, more patient person, if only so that Sweet Pea and Lady Bug can have a better role model. I want to stop being afraid to admit that I really want to be a writer and commit to it. I would like to do the Triple Bypass someday and I want to visit the rocky beaches of the Pacific Northwest. Also, I want to read everything on my “To Read” shelf on Goodreads and check everything off my to-do list.

I do not want to do another ironman.

In 2006, the fear of not being ready for race day got me up in the morning, often as early as 5am. Now, the sound of the baby snuffling in search of a breast gets me up, often earlier than 5 am. I used to daydream about the race announcer bellowing, “Pam Sinel, you are an ironman!” Now I daydream about how “Pam Moore” will look on the cover of a book. I used to think the most efficient bike workout was a series of hill repeats. Now I think the most efficient bike workout is a spin to the library with a kid in the Burley trailer.

I used to think an ironman was the most grueling, rewarding test of endurance I would voluntarily undertake. Now I know that motherhood and marriage are the most challenging, joyous feats of endurance I have ever signed up for.

The red Ironman logo sticker I proudly affixed on my Jetta the day after Ironman Lake Placid 2007 has since faded to pale pink, then to light orange, only to eventually dry up and peel off. In it’s place is a discolored, textured patch of paint in the shape of a perfect oval. I wish the sticker hadn’t left such an ugly mark, but these days, I usually take the minivan anyway.


Workout Wednesday: Vol. 1

Welcome to Workout Wednesday! Here’s the deal: Every Wednesday I am going to post an answer to a fitness question. Mostly I will be talking about running, because that is my first love, my current favorite form of exercise, and it is the area of fitness where I have the most experience and knowledge. However, there will definitely be posts where I talk about other topics pertaining to exercise and fitness.

The question I answer might be one a friend has asked me, a question I once had, or a question I still struggle with. If you have a fitness/running question you want answered here, shoot me an email! Nothing would make me happier than hearing from you. If I know the answer to your question I will answer it. If I don’t know the answer, I promise not to give you some bullshit non-answer answer. I hate when people do that. Instead, I will tell you, “I’m sorry but I don’t know.”

So, first things first….

Question: Pam, why in the world do you think you are qualified to answer any questions about running or about fitness in general?

Answer: Good question. In fact, I asked Dan this very question myself just the other day. Here’s the deal. I don’t claim to be a physician, a coach, a guru, or an expert of any kind. I am a person who loves exercising (especially running). I have never been a natural athlete. I was picked last for every team as a kid. But when I discovered I loved to run, I also learned how much I love to train, race, and move toward accomplishing my goals. I have worked hard over many years to become a better athlete.

I have been running for over 20 years. I ran my first marathon in 2001, and since then I have been hooked on endurance sports. I’ve run six marathons, completed two ironman triathlons, participated in several multi-day road cycling tours, and I have competed in countless shorter events over the years. I became certified to teach indoor cycling classes in 2004 and have been teaching on and off ever since then.

Since having my first child in 2012, I have focused on running, due to the unfortunate circumstance of there being only so many hours in a day. I achieved a personal record of 1:44 in the half marathon when my daughter was eight months old.  You can read about my other PR’s here. My long-term goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. First, however, I need to accomplish my short-term goal of establishing a regular sleep pattern for the baby, who is now 7 weeks old.

I love helping people accomplish their fitness goals. I coached a friend to his first half ironman finish and I coached Dan to his first sprint triathlon finish. I also wrote a training plan for what was supposed to be Dan’s best post-college 5k ever (although I beat him in that one, so it turned out be my best 5k ever). I believe that anyone can cross any finish line they set their mind to (barring any real physical limitations, like a bad knee or a bad back).

I’m looking forward to chatting fitness with you over the course of the weekly Workout Wednesday series!

You Can Go Away Now, Impostor Syndrome

Catching up on the phone with my best friend on the phone other day, I told her, “I’m writing a book… I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you that. I feel like such a fraud. But you’ve known me forever so I can tell you.” Dear old friend that she is, she told me “Of course you’re writing a book. It’s the natural thing for you to do.” She reminded me that all women, (including herself, a physician with three young children) tend to feel like imposters when we take on something new. Men, on the other hand, tend to overestimate their skills and abilities when taking on new responsibilities. Don’t ask me to cite the exact source of this information, but it’s definitely true because my best friend and I both read it in Lean In. Also, if you live on Planet Earth then you have surely observed that in general, women tend to be much more insecure than men about going after what we want.

Worrying that the rest of the world sees you as a fraud is a big fat waste of time. I can say that with some authority, having felt the fraud thing and then gotten over it a number of times now. When I signed up for an ironman triathlon, at first I was embarrassed about it. I told myself, “Who am I to seriously tell people I plan to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles?” Even though I had run several marathons, and completed plenty of other, shorter triathlons, even biked my way across the Rockies, covering nearly 500 miles in one week, I still didn’t think of myself as an athlete. I told people my friend and I had talked each other into this race, and I had promised that I would sign up if she did. Which was 100% true. But it was not the whole story. I left out the part about how this ironman was something that was really important to me, something I felt compelled to try.

When I hired a coach to give me objective feedback on how to train for said ironman, I was embarrassed to tell people about that, too. Coaches were for serious athletes, and it had only just occurred to me that maybe I might be an actual athlete. I didn’t want anyone to get the idea that I thought I was special or important or, god forbid, serious- about triathlon.  Looking back, this is laughable. Of course I was serious. I was training six days a week, anywhere from two to seven hours a day, including runs that sometimes began as early as 4:30 am, and swims that didn’t get me out of the pool until 9pm two nights a week. I spent $500 just to register for the race. Some days, I showered twice a day. I did about three loads of laundry a week (It doesn’t sound like a lot to me now, but this is a lot of dirty clothes for a single woman with no kids). I was not kidding around with this triathlon stuff.

And now with the writing- it is nearly as hard for me to say the words “I am a writer” as it was for me to say, “I am an athlete.” I have been blogging since 2007, but I needed Dan to practically jump up and down and yell at me to sign up for the BlogHer conference last summer. I’m writing a book, and I can barely admit it to my best friend who has known me since I was seven. WTF? This impostor complex is not doing me (or you, if you are a fellow sufferer) any favors!

Dan read a passage at our daughter’s naming (a Jewish ceremony to celebrate the birth of a baby girl) that I think accurately identifies the source of the impostor complex:

 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. –By Marianne Williamson

Here’s to letting our light shine…

I’m writing a book. What are you doing that is equal parts scary and exciting?You Can Go Away Now, Imposter Syndrome (6)