Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

Off to the Races

Post by:  Jake

Six-months ago if Veronica would have asked me what I thought of doing a triathlon or running a 10k I would have laughed (to myself) and then probably would have given her a look of “are you crazy?” Then I probably would have asked, “Why on earth would you want to watch me suffer in agony like an ant getting burned under a magnifying glass?”  Well, six months later I’ve not only completed my first sprint triathlon, but have also raced in the Black Bear Challenge adventure race, and have run a 3-mile and a 10k race!  I wasn’t in all that bad of shape last January, but since then I’ve lost nearly 25-pounds and now am in close to the best shape of my life.  It’s such an amazing feeling of accomplishment every time I get to cross the finish line at one of these races.  I genuinely feel strong, and I continue to surprise myself at how far (and fast) I can run.

We just finished the Governors’ Cup 10K on Saturday morning.  I posted a time of almost exactly 55-minutes, and Veronica was just a few seconds over 50-minutes.  I like to start the races near the front of the pack, while Veronica prefers starting a little further back.  My first mile is always my fastest as I try to separate myself from the crowd a bit.  I can’t stand not running at “my” pace simply because there are so many other people around me.  That makes for a fairly depressing rest-of-the-race though as I get continually passed for the remainder of the mileage.  Saturday’s race was no exception.  Between mile 3 and 4 I got passed by not one, but TWO old guys pushing strollers!  Talk about a blow to the ego. :-)   I just try to stay focused on running my race, and keep telling myself that “I’m not competing for first” and “I can’t imagine doing this 6-months ago with an extra 25-pounds”!

So what’s motivated me to keep going?  To lose the weight?  To get back into top shape?

1.)  Having a goal in mind certainly has helped keep me working hard.  First it was, “I need to keep working to get in shape for the adventure race” then, the triathlon race, and so on…

2.)  Having a group to workout with and a rigid workout schedule has been a huge help.  It has kept me on track by giving me structure instead of simply guessing at what I should be doing to workout.  And it’s been great to socialize and see each other progress throughout the weeks.  Each day I look forward to the social aspect of the workouts.

3.)  Rewards.  Knowing the rewards of getting into shape have certainly added to my motivation.  Backpacking trips are easier.  I can bike harder and go further.  Really, everything is easier, including yard work.

So, while I’m still far from an elite athlete, I’m certainly enjoying being in shape.  Knowing I lost the weight the right way (lifestyle change instead of a fad diet), I’m convinced that this will be lasting.  The rewards are too nice to give it up and go back to the shape I was in back in January.  It’s FUN being in shape! :-)


I TRI with a little help from my friends

Post by:  Veronica

Twelve weeks and countless hours of workouts later, I can finally say that Jake and I proudly completed our first triathlon.  YAY!

Just a small sample of the first-timers. Waiting by the finish line to cheer on later heats of athletes.

For three months, we have been meeting regularly with approximately 20 other first-time (or relatively “beginner”) triathletes and our three coaches—sport veterans who wanted to share the “tri-bug” with the rookies.  Such AMAZING people—I’m going through withdrawals now that it’s all over.  Seriously, all I wanted to do on Tuesday was head to the pool right after work for social hour and swim practice! (Which is saying a lot given my lack of excitement for that leg of the sport!) Instead, Jake and I got a few chores checked off the to-do list and are planning to head to the pool for an anti-social pool workout later this week.  Not nearly as much fun.

Looking back, I wanted to reflect on how awesome this experience was.  In addition to the technical benefits of the clinic (I can confidently say that I swim MUCH better than I did before) the whole experience was enlightening for many reasons:

  • It confirmed my belief that the best way to get into something new is to join a group with similarly-experienced individuals that you can learn with. Now that the tri-clinic is over, I’m looking forward to attending a beginner-intermediate women’s group that meets Monday nights to bike (switching between road and mountain).  Groups provide a great outlet to meet people and provide the structure and support to keep you going.
  • I realized that although perhaps intimidating to begin with—experienced athletes, who are passionate about what they do, love to see new, excited people get involved.  And it’s a great community to be a part of.  The triathlon we did was geared toward beginners, but there were lots of veteran triathletes that volunteered or just came to cheer everyone on.
  • I learned that my body is much stronger than my mind sometimes believes.  And if you just keep kicking or putting one foot in front of the other, you can accomplish much more than you once thought.
  • It helped me to remember to celebrate what I do well (and yes, we all have our strengths) and remember that everyone has something they struggle with.  In our clinic, we had strong swimmers who weren’t so excited about the run and bikers and runners who felt like drowned fish at swim practice (Me!).  It’s really the beauty of multi-sport events like this.

As part of the triathlon clinic, we got a t-shirt that so profoundly states:  “I TRI with a little help from my friends.”  Great training buddies = a very rewarding experience. So shout-out to our clinic teammates and coaches—Congrats and thanks for such a great experience!





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Our First Triathlon ~ Queen City Tri

Post by:  Jake

May 21st, 2011 marked our first triathlon, the Queen City Tri.  Since mid-January Veronica and I have been training nearly every single day for this event.  We signed up for a beginners triathlon course at our local health club, Crossroads Fitness, and with about 18 other people we’ve been learning to swim, running together, and taking out the road bikes together.  The class has been incredible and has certainly provided the motivation, accountability, and structure we’ve needed in order to get in shape for the tri.  It’s safe to say, Veronica and I are in nearly the best shape of our lives because of this class.

The triathlon we chose to make our first was the Queen City Tri.  It’s a “sprint” tri designed for newbies like us.  Registration was limited to 90, and we heard that although the race filled up super quick, 57 of the 90 participants were first timers.  Pretty cool to see so many new triathletes considering Helena is a fairly small town and this is a pretty “local” event.  Registration is capped at 90 because the swim component of the race is done in an outdoor heated pool with capacity for 10 swimmers at a time.   The distance of this tri was a USAT sanctioned “sprint” meaning, 1,000-yards of swimming, 12-miles of biking, and 3-miles of running.

1,000-yards of swimming didn’t sound like that much at the beginning of our class. That is, until I tried to swim just 500-yards and felt like my lungs were going to explode.   All of a sudden, 1,000-yards felt unattainable, and I realized quickly this would be the most challenging component of the race.  Even after countless hours in the pool doing swimming drills, and endless laps, the swimming leg did prove to be the most challenging for me.   The outdoor pool was heated to a hot-tub-like 83 degrees, which felt nice initially since it was a cold, overcast day.  The heat certainly began to wear on just about everyone, and from what I heard from the pro’s it slowed everyone down quite a bit.  After about 23 minutes of swimming, I was out of the pool and onto the bike.  Veronica finished the swim in about 26 minutes, although our transition times were a bit screwed up, so I’m not sure what our “actual” swim times were.

Going through the transition from swim to bike meant a brief barefoot run, down a sidewalk and through some soggy grass to get to our bikes.  We had setup our bikes hours earlier, and placed all our gear on a towel below our suspended bikes.  Sunglasses opened, laying in our helmets, socks rolled to go onto our wet feet easier, speed laces in our shoes… all these things were little tips we learned to help the transition go a little quicker.  Once on the bike, we sped through town as fast as possible, weaving through the pot-holed streets of East Helena.  With heats of 10 people, the course quickly becomes deserted as people get spread out very quickly.  This is a bad thing for me, as there’s no one to “chase” down, or no one coming up on my heals to provide a little extra motivation to pound it out a little quicker.  I was simply out there on what felt like a leisurely peddle through the countryside.  I felt like I could go quicker with a little extra motivation, but coming off the swim, the motivation was just gone…

12-miles later, the biking was done, and it was on to the trail running on a rocky cobble/ dirt trail.  Getting off the bike feels good, that is, until you take your first step to start running.  My legs felt like iron tree trunks, and everything inside of me screamed to stop running.  Even my brain was saying, “it’s ok to walk a little… there’s no one behind you, go ahead and walk…” But I gritted my teeth and kept running.  At about 0.75-miles I glanced back and saw someone coming up on my heels.  I told myself I would not get passed, and kicked it into high gear to prevent that from happening.  I ended up passing someone on the run, and crossing the finish line with a total time of 1-hour 31.43-minutes, good enough for 3rd place in my age group.  Only 1-minute off from my goal of an hour and a half.  Veronica raced two heats ahead of me and finished with a time of 1-hour 39.4-minutes, placing 4th for her age group.

People keep asking us if we’ve got the Tri-bug, and when’s our next race… Although there are several other races this summer, there’s also so many other adventures we’d like to have, from backpacking to rock climbing to simply traveling.  Our weekends are filling up fast.  I do think the triathlon class, and this race were exceptional experiences and were perfect timing in our lives.  It’s motivated us to get back into shape, and getting in shape all winter has opened the door to a summer full of high-energy pursuits.  We will certainly do other triathlons in the future, but for now, there’s nothing else on our calendar for this summer… That could change tomorrow though.

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Triathlon training week two–What am I doing here?!

Post By: Veronica

In the middle of the timed two-mile test I was running for the Triathlon clinic, a girl next to me asks, “So are you a mountain biker or a road biker?”  Taken aback by the fact that she was able to think of anything other than the burning in her legs AND could muster up enough oxygen to utter a complete sentence, I shook myself out of my running trance and answered, “Not really either.”  Then I thought to myself,  ”Actually, I don’t bike, I never learned how to swim and I’ve never been a distance runner…what am I doing here!”

One week later, as the “Adaptation Phase” of our training comes to a close and we’re finally getting the hang of things, I feel much less out of my element.

From spandex to swim caps--my new athletic gear is taking some time to get used to. We're no longer on the volleyball court Toto!

For our training clinic, the group meets three times each week with the coaches.  Tuesday and Friday we are in the pool and Wednesday we’re on the track for a run.  The rest of the week, we bike, lift and usually do another run workout on our own.  Originally I thought it odd that we never meet for our bike workouts, and instead have two swim workouts as a group.  But I soon realized that I was not the only one in the group who felt least comfortable with the swimming component of the race.  In fact, the majority of our group had signed up specifically to improve their swimming comfort and ability.

You see, the beautiful thing about a multi-event sport like a triathlon is that everyone has a component they are confident with and everyone has a component they struggle with.  For example, someone can be holding their own in the pool workouts, fall behind and hate the run days, but then when you see them in the spin room…they are in their element, in the zone.  Personally, I come out of swim class like a drowned rat, am so-so in a bike workout, and am (to my own surprise) loving the run workouts.

So the question could be raised, “Why don’t you just stick with what you like and/or are good at?”  Fair question.  Personally, being pushed out of my element is helping me grow, both mentally and physically as an athlete.  Every day works a different set of muscles and for the first time in my athletic journey, I am genuinely excited to master a weak skill.  Seriously, I’ve spent hours watching YouTube video after video on swimming techniques.  And practicing the motions in my living room!  From mastering the stroke, to figuring out how to breath.  And, when I start getting frustrated about not catching on as quickly as I’d like, I get a confidence boost at the run workout the next day.

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Need a fitness kick in pants? 5 tips to get started

Post By: Veronica

For about two months, Jake and I have been regularly exercising.  On average hitting the gym 3-4 days each week for about an hour each time.  Yes, compared to the 2+ hours, 6-7 days a week I was used to in college, it seems like it should be a walk in the park.  But add full time jobs, family commitments, house projects and the occasional social gathering and 4 hours a week quickly becomes difficult to obtain.

Needless to say, our efforts have paid off.  Both of us have started to shed the extra “winter layer” we’d put on over the past few years, but more importantly, we each feel better, more energized and are all around healthier people.

For those of you who, like me, have taken so much time off from working out that you’re not sure how or where to begin, I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped us stay focused:

1.  Have a partner–one who will actually hold you accountable.  Motivation is something that comes and goes–and when it’s gone, it’s extra important to have someone there to say, “Hey, it’s Wednesday and we haven’t worked out yet this week.  Let’s go right after work instead of waiting until after dinner.”  Honestly, sometimes the hardest part is getting yourself out of the house and to the gym.

2.  Set a goal.  I know this is almost cliche and growing up in sports, goal setting didn’t make sense to me.  I played to win, not to improve my endurance or work on my technique.  But as an adult, when it’s not about winning or losing, but about being fit and healthy, goals become more important than ever.  Perhaps it’s to lose 5 pounds or to try something new–goals are not only the motivation for getting to the gym, but they also set the pace for your workout.  Just remember:  realistic and obtainable.

3.  Listen to your body.  This has been one of the hardest things for me.  In my mind, my body is capable of doing what it did 5 years ago when I was working out 20 hours each week in college.  In reality,… let’s just say things are a little rusty.  And yes, sometimes it is OK to take the night off.  Just make sure you and your workout buddy are committed to giving a serious effort the next day.  Whether training seriously or exercising leisurely, full rest and recovery are an important, and often forgotten, part of the formula.

4.  Make sure your iPod or other personal music device has been updated with great up-tempo songs.  I guess music choice while working out is a personal preference, but find something that will keep your mind off the exhaustion.  Personally, I find it really helpful to use the up-beat chorus sections of a song to increase my running tempo.  I’m then adding some intervals to my workout and I don’t have to think about when to push myself.  Just follow the beat.

5.  Mix it up.  One of the things I love about the Tri-training that Jake and I are doing is that in one given week, we bike, run, swim and do strength training.  So everyday is something different.  Hitting the treadmill five days a week may be great if you have a serious passion for running.  But if you’re looking to simply “work out” chances are you will get really bored, really fast.  Plus, mixing up your activities will work different muscle groups–making for a much more complete fitness program.  This also means doing something FUN and active.  Have a racquetball day, hit a Zumba class or shoot some hoops.  Just because you’re “working out” doesn’t mean it all has to be “work.”

If you are just thinking about starting a new workout plan and want to stay on track, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic to get started.  Happy running!

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Adventure Races, Triathlons and getting my butt kicked!

Post By: Jake

Out of the blue, Veronica and I saw a poster titled “Intro to Triathlon Training Course” at our local gym and without hesitation we signed right up.  I had been interested in “something new” for quite a while and although I knew it would be tough work, I knew I needed to do this.  Over the past few years of career life, I’ve slipped further and further out of shape and after hitting the gym in January for the first time in I can’t remember how long… I knew I needed to get back into shape.  What better way to motivate me to get into shape then a goal.  All my life I’ve been goal driven.  Without a goal I fall into complacency and quickly become bored.  But if I set a goal for myself, I’m focused and absolutely driven to complete it.


So there it was, my name on the signup sheet, a new goal.  I quickly went home, hopped on the computer and started searching for local triathlon races.  It didn’t take long before I started re-thinking my decision… What did I get myself into,  Swim nearly a mile in open water with dozens if not hundreds of other feet kicking me in the face, then hop on a bike (while wet) and pound out a quick 25 miles, and if that doesn’t kill you, get off the bike and run 6 miles!  As it sits now, I’m pretty sure the 6 miles of running alone will kill me.


Well, I haven’t signed up for a triathlon (yet) but I did find something that’s been getting me very excited, an ADVENTURE race!  The minute I found it I knew I was doing it, alone, with a team, didn’t matter–I’m there!  I talked to a few friends about it and quickly found a partner.  My cousin Adam and I will be competing in our first ever Adventure Race and we couldn’t be more thrilled!  We have two months to get into the best shape possible before we take on the GrizzlyMan Adventure Race,  well ok, not the full race,  just the Black Bear Challenge, but hey, give us a break, it’s our first one, and at least we’re getting out there!


Over the next few months I’ll be updating the blog regularly with the intro to Triathlon training.  I’ll post how we’re doing with the Adventure Race training, and (since I’m a huge gear head) I’ll be posting about the gear we’ll be utilizing to get us across the finish line.  Stay tuned and share in our Adventure!


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