Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our First Olympic Triathlon

August 15, 2015
TriArkansas Olympic Triathlon at Lake DeGray
Swim: 1500m
Bike: 26 miles
Run: 10k (6.2 miles)

Kyle and I raced our second ever triathlon on August 15th.
In the above picture, we are standing in the transition area after the race, about to unrack our bikes, pack our gear and head home after an extremely enjoyable, yet incredibly challenging Olympic/International distance triathlon.

If you read this blog with any degree of frequency, you know that I am a goal-setter of epic proportions. I need goals to fuel me the way cars need gasoline to run.
I particularly like goals of an athletic nature.

In January of 2014, I set a goal of training for and running my first marathon (the LR Marathon in March 2015) with the intention of transitioning from that into triathlons.  I even managed to get my cyclist husband semi-excited about training along with me. I have been a gym rat since high school. Very much internally motivated, I love working out, but after year after year of just working out and struggling to find creativity on that front, I needed a different, bigger challenge. I needed to TRAIN for something. Boy, does that really make all the difference in the world. Once that entry fee money is spent, there's no way I'm slacking on a workout.

So the training began in earnest during the summer and fall of 2014. Then, around November I began having knee trouble which led to knee surgery at the end of the year, altering my planned marathon to a half-marathon. Although disappointed to miss my goal, I was pleased to run the half at a decent pace only 2 months after knee surgery! The next scheduled race was our first Sprint Distance Triathlon on May 9th which was a ton of fun and got us excited about triathlons. We then rode the Arvest Gran Fondo together - my first really long bike ride (69 miles). Then we started on a 12 week training plan for this Olympic Triathlon. 

I should add here that Kyle and I decided that we were going to do the first few triathlons (at different distances) to establish a baseline. We trained together and stuck together during the races. This will probably not be what we continue to do (I mean, we will keep training together, but on race day, we'll each race our own race). This has been an experimental process for us, and one that has been incredibly rewarding. And painful at times.

Which brings me to this race. This race was the first of its distance for us and our first open water swim race. We also knew it was going to be really hilly on the bike course.

My sister Rachel was awesome and stayed at our house with us Friday night, so the kids could sleep late and not have to get up at the crack of dawn to go to Arkadelphia with us. We got up crazy early, drove down (nervous and jittery), checked in, got our numbers and put them on our bikes and on our race belts and set our stuff up in the transition area. We attended the pre-race meeting, waited our turn for the pre-race-nerves Port-a-Potty visit, then donned our swim caps and headed to the boat ramp.  As you can see by the tiny map from my Garmin Connect page, we started at the boat ramp and swam around a little island, following buoys back to the boat ramp.

I really wasn't too nervous about the swim. Or rather, I wouldn't let myself think too much about it. I love swimming, so I kept telling myself that. I love swimming! I knew I wouldn't be the fastest by a LONG shot, but I shouldn't be the slowest either. What I had never done, and what was very confusing, was to start swimming in a wave start - where everyone just starts swimming at the same time. Correction: the guys started 3 minutes before the women. It was all legs and arms and splashing and woah! How on earth is anyone supposed to swim in this madness? I attempted several times to plow into it, before getting a foot in my I backed off, treading water for a second to find a spot that I could swim in that wouldn't lead to a kick in the face.  I probably spent a good 3-4 minutes getting my own "swim lane" situated. I did have a few "fear thoughts" that sped my breathing up too fast, so I rolled onto my back and took a few deep breaths while doing the backstroke. 

That really helped, and I told myself, "Ok, Ash, this is just swimming. Put your face in the water, find your rhythm and go. Enjoy this. This is your job right now. To swim." So I sighted the first red buoy and headed there. Steadily, not fast. I had to veer around people and people passed me, but I got into a rhythm. I was mostly doing right side breathing, even though when I train in the pool, I breathe every 3 stroke, so bilaterally. In this case, my heart-rate was up, so I took a breath when I needed it. 

Next thing I know, I was rounding the little island and on the next straight-away. I found myself slowly passing people, which was a good feeling. The water felt great, the sky was gorgeous, it was a great day! As I rounded the last "corner" and headed to the boat ramp, I heard someone say, "You caught me!" I had caught up with Kyle! I was shocked! He thinks he must have circled a buoy or something. Hehe. Then, it was up the ramp, smile for the camera and into transition!

Transitions are something you're supposed to get faster at, which I'm sure we will.  My T1 time was 3:09 which is about 2 minutes slower than the first place woman! For several reasons: I put on socks because I knew I was going to want socks on for the run, and I scarfed down some banana, and I don't do flying mounts onto my bike. After donning my helmet and glasses, I actually have to put my shoes on, hustle out with my bike, hop on and then clip in. Flying mounts are where your tri-specific bike shoes are already clipped on your bike, you just throw on your helmet and glasses, race belt and run your bike out, hop on and slide your feet in the shoes once you're moving. My shoes aren't the kind that I can do that with. The flying mount saves tons of time both going out onto the bike and returning from the bike. 

So immediately, we head up a giant hill which levels out and then proceeds to climb, climb, climb steadily for 6 miles. There was a nice decline, then a short, steep hill to the turn-around point and back the way we had come. Do this twice, and that's the bike. You can see the green elevation on the picture above. At this point, Kyle left me because he is stronger on the bike. He averaged 18 mph on the bike and I averaged 17 mph.  For perspective, the overall male winner avgd 23.9 mph and the female winner avgd 20.5mph. It was a pretty ride and we had a tailwind going out, so I felt like it was easier than it was. The hills were no picnic, though. I got down to about 9mph on them and in my smallest chainring. But I. Did. Not. Get. Off. My. Bike.

I did get kind of bored. I sang songs to myself, hilariously...songs like "This Little Light of Mine..." whatever came to mind...I wished I'd had headphones on or something, but that is totally not allowed at all on a triathlon. In hindsight, I could have probably pushed myself harder at key points, but I had no idea what my legs would feel like afterwards, so I didn't want to overdo it.

The most hilarious part of the race to me is that Kyle finished several minutes ahead of me off the bike and waited for me to ride into T2! He confessed that it took him a good few minutes to actually find his bike on the long racks of bikes. Which helped me, because as soon as I dismounted and ran my bike into T2, I saw him and knew where to go. My T2 time was much better - 1:33. The female winner's T2 time was 0:43 seconds. I have less time to shave off there! Good news!

So after ripping off helmet, slapping on my visor and shoving a few goos in my pockets, we headed out onto the run. Right up a steady little hill. Yippee! On my very wobbly legs! We jogged up a bit, then I realized I had a killer stitch in my left side. Cursed stitches! I NEVER get stitches. What's up?!! I tried all the tricks, leaning over, digging my hand into the pain, slowing down, nothing. It was like a knife gouging me. I had to walk. I ran/walked the first mile, hoping the stitch would go away, but it just did not budge. I was hoping to run the 6.2 miles around an 8:30 min/mi pace, but it was not to be. Worst of all, it mentally threw me for a ginormous loop and I lost myself. I found that I would run about half a mile, and then just have to walk. It was like a mental block would just lower itself over my head and my feet would not run. I had enough nutrition, there was no reason I couldn't go faster, I just mentally shut down. The worst part was that Kyle was running with me and I held him back. I played all the wrong sorts of mental games, too. Instead of thinking of positive thoughts, I berated myself in my head. I was very unkind to myself. Had one of my children called a sibling some of the things I was calling myself in my head, I would have spanked them. It was, quite simply, a cruddy run on my part. 90% mental. 10% stitch.

I even took a bathroom break! So perhaps my embarrassing avg pace of 10:27 min/mi is actually not that bad, considering that part of that time I was actually in a little restroom. Hehe. No excuses, it was pathetic on my part. The only positive is that I am a really fast walker, so my walking pace forced Kyle to jog beside me. That's good, right?? There was a guy ahead of us, always within sight, who was slowly jogging the whole time, and we managed to catch and pass him, even at our highly erratic pace. A positive! 

We finished strong, though - and together. We crossed the finish line side by side, and while not under the 3 hours I'd hoped for, it was not an unrespectable time. In a field of 18 women, I came in 11th for a time of 3:18. In a field of 66 men, Kyle was the 55th. ALTHOUGH, if you subtracted his hilariously long T2 time when he was waiting for me to finish my bike ride so he (saint that he is) could run the last leg with would have put him more around 50th spot.  

Kyle gets irritated at me for even mentioning my frustrations on the run, but it is a very real part of this triathlon experience for me. It's even more irritating for me that I am supposedly a runner, and that was my weakest part. I did have a great time, overall, and I definitely want to do more. I even have a revised strategy for dealing with the bike/run aspect of training. The thing I'm learning is that part of training for triathlon is being prepared mentally. Not just training physically. Not just lifting weights or getting in the rides or runs. It's knowing how to talk your mind up and out of the holes that you might find yourself in along the actual race-course. 

I believe I have it in me...I've managed to deliver 4 children there's some mental toughness there, I'm pretty sure...I just need to learn to apply the same sort of strategies to the toughest part of my mental race. 

So, there you have it. We can officially say we are Triathletes as we have, in fact, completed more than 1 triathlon in a year! (as per an article I read somewhere...) There are, God willing, many more in our future. Two baselines have been set, and good times were most definitely had. 
Until the next time...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Back to School


School is officially back in session on Goshen.
While most schools started back this week or last week, we actually started a bit earlier - August 3, 2015.  We scheduled a September beach vacation, and I wanted to be a week ahead and not feel rushed later on. It also gives us more flexibility around the holidays.

This year, we have a Pre-K'er, a 3rd grader and a 4th grader.
And Wyeth, our Mischief-Maker.

Dorien is doing a Pre-K curriculum!
He's been dying to do some real school, and he now has his chance! This is his first year of an official curriculum. I wavered between starting him out on the Sonlight Kindergarten Core A, but decided he wasn't quite ready for that. Instead, I am using the Pre-K curriculum for him, which includes lots of great reading books, a fun science program involving the Berenstain Bears, a pre-handwriting program and some really neat development books which help me assess his learning strengths/weakness (a 4 volume series called Developing the Early Learner). I'm also using the Explode the Code series to introduce him to writing/the alphabet. August used them during his kindergarten year and loved them. So far, Dorien does too. The first book is called "Get Ready for the Code" and has a picture of a cat and a goldfish on it. Dorien calls it his "Cat and the Code" book. 

My goal for him is to learn to read this year.  He will also be learning lots of songs and memorizing Scripture.  I'm going to also use Saxon math's kindergarten program with him, as it seems perfect for Pre-K. We used it for kindergarten with Brooklyn and August, and I found myself wishing I'd done a more challenging math that year. I think this will be perfect as an introduction to math for Dorien.

Brooklyn started the 4th grade! All the cliches about time are true. I have no idea how it goes by so quickly.  We are still using Sonlight's curriculum for the kids, so Brooklyn and August will both be doing Core E - American History (year 2 of 2). Last year, we did Introduction to American History, which included all the America's, from as far back as we have information on Incas, Mayans, Aztecs, etc. to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. This year, we start at 1850 and move forward.  

Brooklyn will be continuing with the Singapore Math curriculum for grade 4, as well as continuing to work on her cursive writing skills in Handwriting Without Tears. She has a new vocabulary workbook this year called Wordly Wise. The science program has us studying electricity, magnetism and astronomy.  I also have separate Critical Thinking and Language Smarts workbooks which we have used for the past 3 years. The kids love them. She and August are also working through the Rosetta Stone Spanish program. In addition, Brooklyn will be taking piano lessons for the 3rd year.

August, who recently turned 7, is pretty significantly ahead of his age group and is doing mostly 3rd grade work this year.  The Sonlight Core E says it's for 10, 11 and 12 year olds or advanced 9 year olds. Well, be that as it may...we started out with Core A for kindergarten and have just progressed systematically year by year. Ahead or's just where we are. And since August has been doing school with Brooklyn, it naturally puts him ahead in some areas.  He has a 3rd grade Handwriting Without Tears book teaching him cursive. He has 3rd grade level books for Critical Thinking, Language Smarts and Wordly Wise, but does the same 4th grade level math as Brooklyn in Singapore math.   

 He also is taking tennis this year and will be starting a juniors league in a few weeks. 
The fact that August is in 3rd grade at home gets kind of confusing. This past week in church, it was Promotion Sunday, when all the kids move up to the next grade in their classes.  After Kyle and I served in the nursery first service, between services we wandered around upstairs in the older kids' area to make sure we knew where Brooklyn and August's new classrooms were.  We found Brooklyn and she was settling in with all her friends and a teacher from last year that moved up with her. We could not find August anywhere, though.  We have always kept him "age-wise" in his church classes, so his church class grade has always been a level below what he is actually doing in school.  Apparently, when asked what grade he was in, he said 3rd, so they were baffled at why he was assigned to a 2nd grade room and moved him to a 3rd grade room.  After searching the whole 2nd grade wing and not finding him, we finally spotted him in a 3rd grade class. We had the hallway coordinator move him back with his 2nd grade buddies and with his teachers who had also moved up with the group from last year. He seemed happier! 

As a side note, I wondered if he or Brooklyn felt strange being home-schooled, among their church buddies. Apparently not, because they both said that lots of other kids in their classes are home schooled too. It's nice that home schooling is just as "normal" as going to any other type of school.

One thing I was unsure of was how it would actually work, trying to do school for Brooklyn and August with a separate schedule for Dorien.  Fortunately, Dorien's stuff doesn't take long to cover. When it all goes well, he and I sit together on the couch and read his books and then work on his workbooks while Brooklyn and August do their independent work, like writing, math, handwriting or something.  Dorien's books are just so much fun, though, that usually Brooklyn or August fight to be the one to read it to him. They've even worked with him on the letters he's learning or how to work on his assignments. It's pretty cute. Dorien eats it up - it's not often he is the one they dote on! 

Dorien is also learning little songs, like "This Little Light of Mine" and "Father Abraham". So we have these hilarious sing-alongs that go way too long because everyone gets totally goofy. I'm amazed, too, at how much Wyeth is soaking up. Most of our songs have hand motions, and Wyeth does them right along with us. He takes the "NO!" in ...Light of Mine...very seriously - Hide it under a bushel? NO!!! It's one of the few times he correctly uses the word "no." 

Here Dorien has to identify which of the items in the basket have been removed while his eyes are closed. He picks the missing object, then colors it on a page. He has another activity where he covers his eyes up and I take a wooden spoon and clank it against some object - there are always two "clanks" and I mix up whether the "clanks" are on identical objects or different ones. He has to identify without seeing whether the sounds he heard were different or the same. This has proven to be a big hit with the older kids, too. He also has to listen to a set of instructions and then follow them in regards to coloring/marking two different items on a picture. Like, "Color the stripe on the ball red and make an X through the  box." He has to listen and then do whatever the instructions were. 

We even got out play-do the other day and the kids played and played while I read to them from our read aloud books. 

Wyeth did pretty good with the Play-do...and only tried to eat a little of it.

Here's an example of August reading Dorien's books with him while Brooklyn waits to read the next book. The best part about Sonlight's curriculum is how rapidly our library has expanded.  With tons of really really good books. Brooklyn is currently reading Freedom Train, all about Harriett Tubman. It has made for some very good discussions about slavery. These are not easy topics to dive into. They're painful, horrifying topics. Teaching your children just the lengths that humanity can go to as the result of sin is not pleasant. We had similar discussions last year when studying Native Americans...and now, as we are really getting into slavery, it's been shocking to them. 

Thankfully, the books we are reading are fantastic and open doors for discussion. Another reason I appreciate Sonlight is that slavery within the context of the Civil War is presented in a very balanced way.  Rather than just - the Civil War was fought over slavery and all Southerners were slave-owners, it discusses the events in the North and the South that all contributed to slavery (invention of the cotton gin, manufacturing in the North) and why it wasn't an issue that was clear-cut and easy to fix.  
We have also looked at Great Britain in the 1800's and the work that men like William Wilburforce did in Parliament to get rid of the slave trade and eventually, over a period of a LIFETIME, finally got the British empire to abolish slavery completely. Seeing what a fight that was, it makes more sense how it wasn't a painless or easy process for the United States. 

I continue to learn so much myself as I read these books with my children.  It's eye-opening, sobering and thought-provoking.  I praise God for the opportunity to learn at home. It is a privilege. 
I won't gloss over things and say that it's always easy or pretty or picturesque. It can be very challenging, very frustrating and it very quickly reveals all my flaws and weaknesses.  I always have a picture of how I want my day to go and it rarely, if ever, plays out that way. 

There are nutty days where I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall. Or when I find myself changing 10 poopy diapers after Wyeth eats a tub of grape tomatoes.  Or when Wyeth and Dorien dump every toy container we have while I'm working with Brooklyn and August on their math.  Or when it seems like we just finish breakfast and are really diving into school and Dorien says, "I'm still hungry!" Of all the words in the English language, those are my absolute least favorite. I lose my temper. I have to apologize for thinking they should quickly grasp something that is so easy to me only because I'm a grown up and have been doing it for age and ages. It's really humbling. No doubt about it.  And exhausting. But then there are sweet precious moments like the picture above that I don't stage...they just happen. And I'm grateful.

I won't lie and say I don't miss hours at the gym and the pool. I loved being able to get really long workouts in before lunch or nap time. I'm having to re-adjust my schedule and figure out where that time is going to come from - early morning? Although I think my triathlons for the year are through, I do plan to train for several long distance races, plus continue to cross-train. And that takes time. 
It's a balancing act and a time management riddle. It's life. And I'm truly grateful for every breath, every moment, every day. Filled with good, bad, crazy, stinky, laughter, tears, laundry, dust-bunnies, grocery lists and bills. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Adventures in August

A few weeks ago, Kyle's high school had their 20th reunion. Hard to believe.
Kyle and I are both fundamentally opposed to high school reunions for several reasons. One of which is that we both believe there's very little reason to dwell on high school.  Any friends we wished to maintain from high school, well, we have done. In fact, from Kyle's high school class, he has maintained several really wonderful friendships that have become "our" friendships.  Namely, a group of guys known as the "Fellas" who have been like blood brothers since they were kids. They were a crazy group of boys who grew up into really amazing godly men with wives and kids and families that I am truly proud to call my friends.

Long story short, as the reunion approached, the Fellas thought this would be a good opportunity to reconnect. Most of them are scattered around the country, although a few still live in Northwest Arkansas.  The plan was for everyone to meet up before the reunion kicked off. Kyle decided he'd go ahead and go up there by himself for a dinner with the guys, and then head back home so I could get in one of my early morning long training runs.

He was going to drive up on Friday afternoon in time for the dinner at 7. The funny thing was, he didn't realize it, but the Fellas had planned to meet at a reunion event and then all go out together afterwards. Kyle said, "Uh, Ashley...I've somehow agreed to a reunion thing!" But it was too late to bail out. Mid-Friday, I had an epiphany. I would throw everything together and we'd all go up with him, and I'd just run up there for a change of scenery. It would be a chance to see some people I rarely see, such as my dear friends, Becky, Kim, Autumn and their kids, and it was something totally spontaneous! I am rarely spontaneous.

With about an hour's notice, I threw everything together, grabbed some sleeping bags from my mom, and we headed up to Fayetteville!

We managed to get there in time to throw our stuff on a floor in our friends Greg and Becky's house, change clothes and drop our kids off at one of the Fella's houses where a big group of our kids were being watched by a friend of ours.  We all then headed to U.S. Pizza where the reunion kick-off was being held. It was pretty much what I figured it would be: Crazy loud with music and chatter and lots of unfamiliar faces. Except that there were lots of familiar faces thrown in as well! Turns out that lots of Kyle's graduating class had gone to the University of Arkansas, so many of them were friends of mine from college! That was pretty fun! It was still funny putting on a name tag and having all these strangers give me friendly smiles, and I know they're thinking  - "Ok, now who is she? Did I graduate with her? Should I remember her??" 

After the food ran out and we were all still starving, the Fellas and their wives found a nearby pizza place and managed to spend some quality time together. 
It was truly wonderful to spend time with these friends. We now live in Oklahoma, Texas, Connecticut, Virginia and Arkansas. Get togethers like this are extremely rare, and I was really glad I decided to join Kyle at the last minute.

After dinner, the wives left to give the guys some "manly bonding time", retrieve our children and head to bed.  Kyle got home really late and I was able to get up at 6am and run my 10 miles! It was 64 degrees outside and felt amazing. We then headed back home!

As we were heading out of town, we happened to spot this hilarious sight. A guy was taking his dog for a walk from the back of a scooter. Could be the laziest thing I've ever seen....


Later, as we ate dinner at Waffle House, poor Brooklyn had the unfortunate experience of discovering what happens when a creamer pod is bitten into by Wyeth.
It explodes and goes....EVERYWHERE! The white spatters covered Brooklyn, the wall behind her, the windows and blinds, up to the ceiling. Note to self. Keep the creamer out of Wyeth's reach.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

July Farm Vacation

Mid-July, we took a much needed vacation to our Farm. Just us. No projects to come with us. Just lots of books, movies and the outdoors.

And a fair bit of nudity.

We made use of the little kiddie pool at the Farm and its two slides. There were slide competitions of every imaginable sort. It was a lovely place to stay cool on the crazy 100 degree days.

August faces off a competitor (probably Brooklyn) and prepares to make the biggest splash!

We didn't leave much room in the pool, did we? 

Wyeth hangs out with me as I pour myself some coffee.

August went crazy with the Lincoln Logs - building a pretty awesome house that made us all want to move there.

Despite the heat, we couldn't keep Wyeth indoors except for naps. He was a crazy outdoorsman! He ran around with all the push toys, riding toys, sat on the 4 wheeler when it was parked, played in the pool, chased bugs, probably ate some bugs, and miraculously managed not to get bitten or stung.
He ended up brown as a nut by the end of the week.

Don't tell me you can't vacuum out here. Just watch me!

Dorien braves the initial chill of the water as the pool fills up!

Dripping wet and having a ball!

Brooklyn was as content as Wyeth to play outside for hours. Mostly in the pool.  She and August can entertain themselves indefinitely. It's amazing.

My sweet girl loves my other sweet girl. 

During the hottest parts of the day, we'd force them inside to keep them from over-heating. It was insanely hot on some days. They were zapped from the sun, anyway, and a movie would just about put them all to sleep.

Hanging out with Dad before the nightly baths. 

Crazy nuggets.

Making progress through one of my library books!

Wyeth eats a snack while staring at the photo montage on the fridge.

Here's the upstairs room in the Farm. It has 3 sets of bunk beds, a twin bed, and 3 double beds. And lots of floor space for acrobatics. During nap times, it was an incredibly peaceful place to be. 

I love all the old signs my parents have used to decorate the room!

Kyle and Dorien have some special reading time.

Kyle and I were trying to keep up with our training schedule as best we could in the heat, and Brooklyn decided to write up a daily workout schedule for the kids. It started with push-ups. And everyone participated, even Wyeth. They also did lots of lunges and a variety of warm-up moves that August has learned from his tennis lessons. It was pretty hilarious. 

One evening, we drove to town for dinner and on the way back, noticed a rodeo setting up. It was about a mile from the Farm, and definitely something we've never seen before, so we pulled in and watched for a few hours. We all love horses, so the kids were really excited.
What we discovered was that rodeos start around 8:30pm and go until midnight. They start late and end late so the animals (and people) don't get over-heated. 

We claimed a spot on the bleachers! We were clearly "city folks" among a bunch of country folk. It was fun, though. I love country folk. There were horses everywhere, Wranglers and boots, spurs, cowboy hats, lots of thick Southern accents and it was kind of a new world for my kids to see.

The rodeo started with barrel racing, and there were some little-bitty kids out there! One little girl was accompanied by her Daddy on a much larger horse. 

After a few people had raced, they re-graded the corral, which meant that a big John Deere tractor came and drove strategic circles all around the dirt, smoothing it out. Let's just say that every time the tractor came out, Wyeth perked up! He would yell and clap and get so excited! He liked the horses, too, but not as much as the tractor. He called the horses, "dog-dogs!"

Here's his favorite part. It quickly became our LEAST favorite part as it seemed to take a good 10 minutes and happen at least every 10 minutes. No wonder rodeos go so late! The big dirt Zamboni has to do its thing repeatedly!

Gleaming with sweat, my boy and I soak up a sweet summer July evening at a rodeo in the country.
Not a bad way to pass an evening.

Kyle and Wyeth share a bowl of food. 

My three boys swinging together and just enjoying being brothers!