Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.

1 Comment

2500 Crunches: AND MORE!

Six days into this 2500-crunch challenge and I’m in good standing. 1650 crunches done, plus my bonus “warm-up” 250 means that I’ve obliterated my core with over 1800 of these suckers. Crazily enough, I am seeing a huge difference already. Sure, the only way to get that six-pack, abs of steel thing to show is to have little body fat over the waistline, but I’m seeing a lot of definition there, and I’m okay with not actually seeing my six-pack (I know it’s there for emergencies, and that’s all that matters, really).

Today, Coach Emily wanted to know how many regular crunches we could do without losing proper form. My honest count is 165, as my elbows started to collapse inward around my head after that point, and I had to fight to keep them back. Regular crunches bore me anyway, so it’s not like I’ll be doing that many of the same ones again, any time soon.

I also added two minutes of planks to this challenge. Special Note: You can help cure cancer and add minutes to the plank challenge by donating $25 to my fundraising page for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: !

Next weekend is Desert Tri! I am so excited/nervous/scared/thrilled! According to the coaches, it’s tons of fun. I’m going to take as many pics as I can, and I’m sure there will be some from our team photographer as well. Wish me luck!

P.S. Good news! My warrior wounds are healing up nicely. I was finally able to wear a skirt to a job interview this week!!!

With any luck, no nasty scars, but a little scarring is okay (physical proof I'm a BAMF). ;)

With any luck, no nasty scars, but a little scarring is okay (physical proof I’m a BAMF). 😉


Leave a comment

2500 Crunches: Challenge Update!

Two (official) days into the challenge to do 2500 crunches in 10 days, and, boy, are my abs sore!  I’ve completed over 550 crunches in two days, plus another 250 on my bonus warm-up day (and I did five minutes of planks, thanks to Coach Holly’s challenge that day).

Of course, now that I’m spending a lot of time on the floor, Sheila, my Beagle, thinks, “Oooh, cool, you’re on the floor! You must want to play with me!” Keeping her out of my face during crunches has proven harder than I planned.


My personal trainer. Not.

Who’s training whom? At least she could be useful and learn how to count.

Not only did she insist on being nose-to-nose with me while I lurched up and down with every ab contraction, she also decided it was okay to perch on top of my chest. I decided to put her need for attention to good use, as an awkwardly-shaped weight on my chest for some weighted crunches. That did not work. She found this quite rude and promptly removed her 18-lb body from my person after about 10 of them. Of course, a minute later, she was back, in my face and insisting on becoming part of this routine somehow. She wouldn’t sit on my feet, she couldn’t count, and all she was doing was giving me a pathetic-ly awkward look while I huffed and puffed through my sets. What good was she? Finally, I had a solution:

Sheila helps with 25 rope-assisted crunches.

Sheila helps with 25 rope-assisted crunches.


Here was my set for today. My personal trainer and I are going for a walk!

25 regular crunches
50 bicycle crunches
25 rope climbing crunches
50 “mermaid” crunches (lie on your side, top hand behind your head, and crunch feet and head up–really targets obliques)
25 weighted crunches (10 with 18-lb moving Beagle, 15 with a 10-lb weight)
50 regular oblique crunches
25 reverse crunches (lift legs instead of head)
25 “V” crunches
25 “rope assisted” Sheila crunches

Total= 300

Want to make this routine tougher on me for a great cause?  For every $25 you donate to my cancer-fighting fundraising page throughout the challenge, I’ll add one extra minute of planks to my DAILY crunch routine. Do it! I promise I will only hate you one minute at a time:

Want to join the challenge and come up with your own powerhouse crunch routine? Follow Coach Emily @goingforgoofy, Coach Holly @hesort, and, of course, yours truly @SollyD on Twitter to join in and keep up with us!



Leave a comment

2500 Crunches: A Challenge!

So, Coach Emily has decided to post a series of fun fitness challenges on her blog, Going For Goofy. Last week, she gave people seven days to complete one hour total of planks. This week, we have ten days, starting tomorrow, to  complete 2500 crunches (that’s 250 per day, if you want to split it evenly).

I broke down and decided to give this challenge a shot, creating a total-ab crunch workout for myself:

25 regular crunches
50 bicycle crunches
25 “climb the rope” or “cherry picker” crunches (legs up at 90 degrees, hands reaching toward toes)
25 x 3 weighted crunches (using a 10-lb weight against my chest, 25 ea. front, left side, right side)
25 regular crunches on the ball
25 crunches with my legs at 45 degrees
25 weighted crunches on the ball


I tested it out this morning, and, all I can say is, WHEW! This is going to be a long ten days! And then, there’s this little bonus:

CRUSH ME FOR A CAUSE!: Ever wanted to torture someone? Now’s your chance (juust kidding–kind of). As if torturing myself with 250 daily crunches for 10 days in a row wasn’t enough, I’m putting the fate of my abs in your hands by letting you add minutes of planks to my routine. For every $25 you donate to my cancer-fighting fundraising page throughout the challenge, I’ll add one extra minute of planks to my crunch routine. Just go here: (ugh, I feel the burn already)!

Want to join the challenge and come up with your own powerhouse crunch routine? Follow Coach Emily @goingforgoofy, Coach Holly @hesort, and, of course, yours truly @SollyD to join in and keep up with us! Time to really kick some a$$!

Kick A$$!

Me winning the Kick A$$ Award at IronTEAM practice!

Leave a comment

Where To Find Hope: A Training Story

It’s pretty safe to say that these past two weeks have put me into an emotional tail spin. With the persistent dragging undercurrent of joblessness pulling on me at all times, it’s hard enough to remain optimistic and upbeat, but with the added twists of devastating news, bad luck, and, heck, the hard, cold backhand of reality, it’s been tough to keep focused on that narrowing sliver of light at the end of this dark, twisted windtunnel of my life.  I was looking forward, at least, to this weekend’s long practices, where I could shut out all of the bad stuff, focus on being around good people, getting stronger, and slaying more of my fear dragons on those hills.

Earlier in the week, I’d taken some time out to meet up with Coach Amy, to attempt to learn how to “drink and drive” on the bike. Being a newb, the idea of removing my hand from my handlebars for any considerable amount of time not only seemed impossible, but terrifying. However, as the rides were getting longer, I knew that I couldn’t get away with only drinking at stops, especially in the dead of summer. I would have to learn to do it sometime anyhow. I might as well get started now.

Amy and I met up in the parking lot at Hanson Dam, which is a bit of a drive for me, but it’s a great spot with a lot of open parking lots. She had told me to wear long leggings, as I might fall. I found my roller blading knee pads and strapped those on too, just in case (my knees had had enough skin scraped off to make up a whole new person by now). Now that I was thoroughly dorkified, I wheeled myself around the lot, attempting to remove my hand from the handlebars. A couple more rounds and I was able to reach down toward my bottle. A-ha, I thought. This is more of a confidence game than a skill game. Before I knew it, I was grabbing the bottle out, and had started to become confident in putting it back.

“Well,” Amy said, after I’d picked up and replaced my bottle for a third time. “Sorry that you wasted your time coming all the way out here.”

I told her not to worry about it, I really had nothing better to do. Besides, parking lot practice can definitely help a person gain confidence. Plus, having a coach help to walk you through things can make a world of difference in progress and confidence. Sometimes I need someone there to tell me that I can do something, especially when i think that I can’t.

On Saturday’s long, 56-mile ride at Zuma Beach, we had a “drinking and driving” test before we left the parking lot. I was still nervous and shaky, so it took me a few times around the lot to get up the nerve to take my bottle out, drink from it, and put it back. By that time, all of my teammates had booked it, and I was the last to head out.

Coach Adam and I pedaled briskly along the route, taking in the sparkling ocean views along the undulating Pacific Coast Highway. The 70-degree sunshine felt much warmer than it was, given that the past several weeks had been in the 30s and 40s. I was glad I’d gone ahead and bought an obnoxiously yellow lightweight cycling vest (on crazy sale) to wear over my breezy running shirt, instead of sporting a warmer jersey.

“You’re a strong climber,” Adam remarked, as we powered up some of the hills on our way up to the first turnaround.

Enough people have said this on the team so far that I’m starting to believe it. I guess that’s a good thing, considering that our team’s major focus these days seems to be hills, hills and more hills.

Speaking of hills, our first major climb came up at about Mile 20. Encinal Canyon Road. There is a State Park, called “Charmlee” along this road that I like to go to with the dog, not only for its peaceful, un-crowded trails, but also for the incredible ocean views and calming meadows. I would often see cyclists climbing this hill on my way up to the park, and I would think, “Gee whiz, this guy is crazy.”  Now I was the crazy one, pedaling steadily upward.

The road was supposed to be relatively undisturbed by vehicles, but, as my luck would have it, an endless brigade of midlife crisis sports Porches zoomed past my weebling two-wheeler like a hoard of angry hornets. Once we got to the turnaround point, it was terrifying to imagine them whizzing back down, especially when, as a beginning cyclist, I had much less control on the downhill than I did going up. I carefully crossed the road and headed downward.

My quads burned on the downhill, mostly from supporting my weight down such a steep decline while I gripped my top tube for dear life. While downhills scared me much less than they used to, I was still terrified down the steep, winding paths. If I could see the bottom, the quick zoom down the hill was a blast. No bottom, no bueno.

I got to second turnaround and headed back toward the first one. My shifter got stuck on yet another hill climb. Luckily I noticed and fixed it. By about Mile 33, my body was feeling a bit drained. I knew that I was more than halfway to the end, but that there was yet another huge hill climb awaiting. Riding those high PCH rollers, I hoped that my nutrition would sustain me through that last big push. I got to the crest of one hill, switched into my big chain ring for the descent, flew toward the bottom, and then pressed the shifter to bring it back down for another immediate climb. The shifter wouldn’t budge. Ugh.

I pulled over, jimmied the shifter this way and that, and got it to switch down again. I hopped back on, climbed the hill, only to face another steepish descent, followed by another immediate climb. I switched up, and then, click!, nothing. Drat. And I was already commencing the ascent. At that point, I committed, pushing earnestly upward, breathing in my usual steam engine fashion, cursing as I got myself over the crest and to a more level area. This time, it was seriously stuck. Here I was, almost at Mile 40, almost finished, and my bike was thoroughly broken. I felt horribly cheated out of a good dragon slaying.

I broke down and called our roving SAG person, Kris. Meanwhile, a friendly hardcore triathlete guy, with all sorts of gadgets adorning his suped up cycle, stopped to help. Despite his apparent technical knowledge, he couldn’t help me. I thanked him and waved him on, along with a parade of other cyclists who slowed to ask me if I was okay. One thing I will say about cyclists is that they definitely do go out of their way to help out their own kind, which is more than I can say for most motorists in Los Angeles.

It took quite a while for Kris to find me along the route, but, finally, he arrived and scooped up me and my bike in his Land Rover. Kris offered me boysenberries and hand sanitizer to wash away all of the bike grease that had besmirched my hands. It wasn’t a fix-all for my bummy mood, but it helped. On the way back, he received another distress call from a teammate, who’d gotten dizzy riding down the last big hill.

“Ooh, this is just like riding in a cop car,” I exclaimed to Kris. “So exciting!”

Kris laughed. “Yeah, the Batmobile!” he said, turning the Land Rover around and heading up the giant climb that I would have taken on two wheels, had I made it that far.

We scooped up our teammate and drove the few miles back toward the Zuma Beach lot. I figured I would redeem myself somehow on the run, broken toe be damned. I stripped down into my transition gear and headed out on the path. Surprisingly, my toe wasn’t too ouchy. In spite of walk breaks every 10 minutes, my watch averaged my pace to 9:25, which probably meant that I was running about a 9 minute mile. I hadn’t lost my mojo! Phew!

Of course, then, around Mile 3 of the run, I felt new stabbing pain in my left foot, right under the ankle bone. Great. I stretched a bit and walked for a couple of minutes until the pain subsided, then I picked my run pace back up, hoping that I’d just landed funny. I could still feel it. While not debilitating, I knew it wasn’t a good thing. That’s what I got for not taking it easy, I scolded myself. I still got in over six miles in the hour, but I knew it’d come with a price.

I had a feeling that the 11-miler scheduled the next day was going to be a “no go” due to this new injury. Meanwhile, Coach Dave, the mechanic, had a look at my shifter and told me to take it to his former shop to get it fixed, as the mechanic who had looked at them before said that my shifters were just low-end, and that nothing could be done. I returned home, feeling a little defeated, a little like I couldn’t catch a break. While, surely the universe hasn’t conspired against me to keep me from being happy and successful, it surely has felt like it recently.

Hopelessness is a tough feeling to shake. It grabs onto your shoulders and holds you down, making everything you attempt all the more difficult. There is so much of me that wants to believe that everything will turn out okay in the end, that, like my shifters, one day the bad stuff will magically be fixed and I’ll no longer be stuck in this bad place. I guess that life can shift quickly. I’m not sure what kind of magical force will un-stick me, but at least I have a tiny bit of hope that it will.

Meanwhile, I’ve been icing the ankle and trying to make the best of being on the sidelines. Besides, I did make a friend last night at an art gallery, who told me to cheer up, that life isn’t all black or white:

I got to pet a baby zebra last night! How cool is that?

I got to pet a baby zebra last night! How cool is that?


On The Other Side Of Terror: A Training Story

Yesterday I’m fairly certain I looked death in the face. No, this isn’t a metaphor for how icy cold it was that morning (32 degrees F) as we rolled out at 8:00 a.m. in Westlake for a 45-mile ride, but a treacherous moment during our ride that has either made me a stronger cyclist and person, or has scarred me for life. Time will tell.

Yep, frost. In Los Angeles. Not okay.

Yep, frost. In Los Angeles. Not okay.

Other than the ridiculous cold, I felt pretty good heading out. We encountered stoplight upon stoplight , and I managed to remain upright throughout all. Celebrate the little things–that’s something I’ve learned here so far.

I still had a small reminder of my previous falls with me, however. I had decided that I needed to wear my favorite tri pants that had just the right amount of padding–not too little, not too much–that I had previously punctured with multiple tumbles. Because spandex isn’t the easiest thing to repair, especially on the bendy knee area, and I wasn’t looking to dispense a fortune of cash for the repair, I had to use a bit of the ol’ “Solly D” ingenuity. My solution? Black cotton KT tape as a patch. And you know what? It worked pretty darn well. The stuff actually adheres better to fabric than it does to skin. Go fig.

We wound through some country roads, and, to my delight, a vast number of sporthorse stables. The smell of hay, grain, and other horsey fragrances, brought me back to my regular riding days, and how, back then, neither wind, sleet, nor snow would keep me from getting to the barn. The President would have had to declare a state of national emergency to keep me away from the one thing I loved more than life itself. What a trooper I was–in extreme heat or cold. A little chilly-ness never hurt anyone, I thought, as I tried to quit grumping about my numb fingers and toes.

The climbs began early on. I powered up  in my usual, steam engine fashion, grinding away at those pedals as if my life depended on it. My uphills started and finished strong, and often had me catching up to and passing teammates who were faster than me on the flat. There was a spot, toward the top, where things got quite steep, that required one of those slow-motion, dig deep, gritty pushes to get over its crest, but I made it. Of course, the other side held the “reward” of some relatively steep and winding downhill slopes.

Our coaches had warned us about a steep and wind-y downhill portion of the route, which, as a beginner, is my least favorite thing to navigate. Not only does a person’s bike flame down the road, slicing reaction time to a fraction of a second, but the wind-y part forces the rider to have utmost control, lest he or she go flying off of a ridge into some kind of hellfire abyss (or rocks). Plus, because the road winds, it is impossible to anticipate what’s coming, or when the treachery will end, or even to pick out a decent spot on the road for one of those roadside crosses with your picture on it (which reminds me, I should get new headshots).

Coach Amy was stopped along the side of the road as she waved us on.

“This is the start of the steep downhill,” she said.

“Oh, crap, I’m scared!” I whimpered, mostly because we’d already done some fairly steep and wind-y downhills, which, silly me, I thought were the steep downhills to which my coaches had been referring.

Oh, no, my friends, I had been wrong. This hill dove dangerously downward, carving true hairpin curves along the cliffs. As I started down the hill, my heart leapt into my mouth. Gibberish tumbled from my lips about how scared I was, combined with “Help!” to no one in particular, combined with a “You’re okay, stay calm” repeated mantra. As I got halfway down, I noticed a bunch of my teammates walking their bikes. My fleeting lament as a flew by: “I could have walked this??” It was too late now.

Somehow, someway, by the strings of the universe, I made it all the way down that hill. Nothing, NOTHING ever has been quite that terrifying before. Still, somewhere inside all of that terror, there was a satisfaction in knowing that I’d made it all the way down without dismounting.

The rest of the ride was pretty peaceful, with minimal hills between mile 15 and mile 30. My bike got stuck in the large chainring on a short, but steep climb around mile 32, and I had to walk it up the hill, as my legs were now thoroughly trashed. Climbs got increasingly difficult as I kept going. I couldn’t wait to get back to our parking lot. As I approached the last big hill and started to climb, I realized that my legs wouldn’t cooperate. I stopped and proceeded to walk my bike up the hill, a terribly humiliating experience for someone who is supposed to be decent at climbing.

Coach Emily rode up behind me, asking me what the problem was. I told her that my legs were trashed and that I just couldn’t do any more climbing. She asked about my nutrition, which, admittedly, I had not consumed enough calories or hydration. I’m too scared to take my hand off to drink while on the bike, so I find that I need to consume whenever stopped. The stoplights on the route were relatively short, so I didn’t get a lot of time to sip, and stopping every 10 minutes, mid-route seemed detrimental to my already slow 15 mph average pace on these long treks.

After impressing upon me the imperativeness of keeping up with nutrition on the bike, Emily looked down at my bike.

“Why are you in the big chainring?” she asked.

Doh. So, that’s why I couldn’t get up the hill? The dang thing had gotten stuck again, and, because I was probably already on an incline while switching, and because I was so incredibly exhausted, I hadn’t noticed. I thought it was me the whole time!

“There’s a lesson in this,” Emily mentioned as she pedaled beside me. “You always assume that something’s wrong with you, instead of wondering what else could be going on.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You’re right, I do that a lot.”

“Didn’t you know? This whole IronMan thing is a metaphor for life,” Emily chuckled.

She was right. Every single lesson I learned during my training has revealed more to me about myself than anything else. I’ve had to face my deepest fears, I’ve had to learn to trust myself. It’s humbling, but also empowering. So far, it’s been the greatest single life experience that I could have put myself through.

“Every week you’re going to feel overwhelmed,” Emily said. “You’ve just got to get used to it.”

I was never more relieved to get my carcass off of that bike when we entered the parking lot. I stripped off my bike jacket, gloves and helmet, grabbed my running shoes and belt, and took off. Still on that broken toe, I tried to take it easy. My first 2.5-mile run loop was about a 9:45 pace, but, as I tired and as my toe started to throb, I slowed considerably. I walked, a lot. My legs felt wobbly. Running felt like torture. The last uphill portion had me suffering, but the comfort of the parking lot was waiting. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I could finally stop moving, for good.

Today, I can say I’m considerably sore, but it is the first day of considerable soreness since I started IronTEAM training, so I’ll wear it as a badge of honor. I’ll be endeavoring a 10-mile run-walk today, along the beach, all by my lonesome, but it will be a nice day to just get out and enjoy the ocean, reflect on my experiences, and to get in the mileage.

I told Coach Jason I would never ride that hill again and he seemed surprised.

“Why? You got through it, you did the whole thing and you were fine,” he said.

“Once is enough,” I declared. “That was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

“Every practice you’re going to find something like that,” Jason said. “I’m not saying we’re doing that hill again, but you’re always going to encounter things that are scary for you. You just have to get through it. You’ve come a long way since you started. You’ve proven you can do it.”

I couldn’t argue. I haven’t failed yet. Every week there will be a new dragon to face, a new “Boss” I have to fight to get to the next level in this crazy game. I keep winning and I keep coming back. There must be more to gain just over the next hill.

Leave a comment

Heart: A Training Story

Our culture has many interpretations of the word, “heart”, and, somehow, it seems that not one interpretation can be left out when it comes to the sport of triathlon. Triathlon is a sport that tests your heart, and that builds and expands it. Building a bigger heart is one of the ways in which adults can grow.

Fitness Heart:

I remember a time when climbing any type of hill would leave me breathless. Now, after almost a year’s worth of training, scrabbling up steep slopes during lengthy hill repeat sessions, cycling up never-ending inclines, and struggling up Catalina’s Mile 19 “The Crush”, I reach summits, take a deep breath, and recover with ease (not wheeze). The well-rounded cardiovascular training I receive from all three tri-sport disciplines (let’s not forget swimming, and Mikey’s “Breathing Is Overrated” drills), has made a dramatic difference in my fitness level, and I continue to improve.

Heart As A Center:

“You have to find your center on the bike,” Coach Jason had said to me, while we were riding in Palos Verdes last week.

He had explained to me that, as coaches, they had to learn to be very stable on the bike, so that they could ride very close to people, or reach over to help adjust a person’s riding position, without being knocked off balance. While there is no chance that I’ll be coaching anyone on the bike anytime soon, it’s been important for me to find a sort of equilibrium on the bike, where little unexpected changes won’t send me into wobble mode.

I’m getting closer with every ride, especially toward the end. This weekend, I sailed downhill over some really rough road without feeling out of control. It’s all of the little things that eventually lead you to finding your center, I think.

Finding your center can also serve its purpose in life in general. Bumps in the road happen, plans divert, and the smooth, secure pavement you thought you were riding on can shatter from under you. Self-belief, the ability to look forward with hope, in spite of troubled times, can help you to remain upright, even when the world tries to knock you from your steed.

Courageous Heart:

It’s safe to say that this is the part of me that has grown the most in the past year. I’ve done things that I never could have pictured myself doing. I’ve never shrunk back from a challenge, even when I felt as though I was going to lose my breakfast over it. Valiance does not come from taking the least technical downhill path, or from avoiding new experiences. Instead of getting caught up and ensnarled in an endless loop of  fearful “What if”s, I gave myself no option but to move forward. Like being strapped into a roller coaster seat as it reaches the top of that long clicking climb, I just let go.

The funny thing about courage is that, most of the time, overcoming fear to do something one time does not completely obliterate fear. Fear is a conditioned response. Every day that I have to get on my bike, I’m scared, but the fear lessens a tiny bit each time. Eventually it will be gone completely, but it takes time, and patience.

With each courageous gain in training, I become more confident in general. Learning to trust in my body, my athleticism, has instilled a metamorphic internal sense that I am strong, valuable and wise. Having that kind of confidence can change the way the world looks at you and can make a profound difference in your lifestyle, career and relationships.

Loving Heart:

One thing about me is that I have always had a profound capacity to love. While I may not be particularly demonstrative, I would do anything for a friend or significant other. The one problem is that, because I have never expected anything in return, in the past I often got the short end of the deal. So-called friends and boyfriends used me for comfort, took thousands of dollars from me, and then disappeared, without so much as a “Thank you for being there for me.”  It made me feel as though there was something deeply wrong with me, that maybe I was the one who was flawed for caring about people who, in the end, never really cared about me. I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t care about people anymore, if, every time I smiled in someone’s direction, all I was going to get was a swift kick in the teeth.

Luckily, meeting people through TNT has convinced me that there is room in the world for someone with a big heart, and that there are others out there who will value the kindness of others, and, heck, they’ll reciprocate. Plus, we’re all together, raising money for a cause that is much, much larger than ourselves. This weekend I won a “Kick A$$ Award” from my coaches for struggling through a tough week and overcoming obstacles. I stood up in front of my team and they all cheered and congratulated me. There they were, a whole group of great people, applauding in appreciation. I know I’m in the right place now.

One of my mother’s friends had said something I found quite profound via Facebook, which was, “Find people who don’t merely tolerate you, find those who celebrate you.”  It’s true, when the going gets tough, those people who merely tolerate you will disperse, but those who celebrate you will be there, cheering you on, lifting you up, and letting you be yourself (in all of your glorious weirdness). Those are the people who I want on my team, that’s for sure.


My heart is healthy, full and still growing. If we celebrate anything this Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate our capacity to love, our capacity to learn, our capacity to be braver than we think. Every single one of us has the capacity to reach our goals and to support and be supported by the people in our lives who won’t let us down. Take heart in that, and I’m convinced you’ll have a beautiful life.