Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Caffeine. No matter what form you take yours in, I would say the majority of people use caffeine in some form or another: coffee, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, tea. And there are so many conflicting reports out there, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt, how it applies to you.

For me, I have been off it mostly for the last few years, and completely for the past 4 months. Decaf coffee, caffeine free sodas, no chocolate. I notice when I use caffeine that it does in fact cause a more rapid heart rate, and I figure that isn't always good at any age, let alone someone my age. When I sit down, I do not want my heart pounding in my ears.

When I first stopped caffeine, I noticed several things immediately: no fidgeting, no restlessness, no jumpiness, a slower pace overall, and a more calm demeanor. Then as those things have a way of happening, it slowly began creeping back into my life, bringing me back to the same symptoms again. So about 4 months ago I decided to cut it out again. Don't get me wrong, I still love my morning coffee and look forward to it, but it is not for the caffeine, and I do not drink it all day. Its an enjoyment drink, a comfort drink in the morning to wake up with. I probably could do without it, but I love the taste, that's it.

Yesterday for the first time in 4 months I ended up with a Diet Coke. Not my choice, but that's what there was. Don and I went to see The DaVinci Code. He loves getting the popcorn and sodas, even while I have been cutting those things out. Had I just biked 115 miles on Saturday, ran 14 on Sunday, and biked another 65 and ran 4 that morning, I would not deny myself either. But I was still feeling a little guilty for not running after my weird bike ride. So I ask for a Diet Caffeine Coke. "Our machine is broken. All we have is Diet Coke." Whatever. I really don't like Diet Coke that much. I do like Diet Caffeine Coke and always have, whether I was abstaining from caffeine or not. Its a taste thing. So I figured it would have to do. (I will be filling out the survey form they gave me, and with my complaining I doubt I will be a $100 winner). I notice too their refill machine is "Out of Order." So I couldn't even exchange it there.

We get out of the movie around 8 pm and I still had flowers to plant. I spent the afternoon repotting house plants because it was so hot out, but desperately wanted to get my other plants in so they didn't sit around for another week. And I had lots of watering to do. No problem apparently. I was buzzing around doing this, that, and everything else: yard work, made dinner, dishes, lunch, wash, and still I was out watering at 11 pm! I just figured once I sat down it would be all over. But I wasn't sitting down. I was finding more and more things to do, and felt fine doing them! When it went after midnight, I started thinking, why do I have all this energy? Got into bed, still awake at 1:30. Not really that tired. A three day weekend doesn't make that much difference does it? I worked out hard all three days, did lots of stuff around the house, swam, etc. I'm not tired. Why?

Why? I finally figured it out. The 20 oz of Diet Coke I had at 5:30 and still 8 hours I am alert. I did finally sleep but was awake 2 hours later and then before the alarm. I felt hung over: the back of my head felt like someone had hit me with a hammer. But I really wasn't tired.

So that got me thinking of all the articles and studies they do on caffeine and its affects on athletic performance. My conclusion? If you really want caffeine to make a difference, try going off it except for races. I can't help but wonder if that's where they can really test whether it gives you an edge on being able to work out longer without fatigue.

It probably can't hurt to caffeine load before races then? It might be worth trying. If I'm not on it all the time, I shouldn't get the same symptoms I get when on it daily. I think it is daily heavy consumption of caffeine that leaves you jittery and restless, not a one time use. I did not feel fatigued but I also did not feel jittery. I can use any boost I can get coming up!

Started the weekend with a Friday after work swim. Usually I wouldn't do this because it is such a hassle to go the Y and get in a packed pool, after a long week when I am tired. Because I started my new gym that day, I was able to swim in complete relaxation, all by myself. Almost like having my own private pool at home.

Saturday I worked until 1:30 and then headed out on my bike. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but decided to let my legs be the judge. It was hot, probably at this point the hottest day we have had. But the ride was comfortable, since I chose a route away from the city, the heat, and the traffic. It was a very pleasant ride through the country, with trilium still in bloom along the roadside, but tucked back away in the woods. The locust trees were in bloom, and their scent was heavy in the air. Lots of roadkill along this route, since it really is a wooded area not too far from the river, where they just happened to put a road. There are houses scattered here and there, and a few new developments being established, a maple syrup farm (farm?), cows grazing, a horse ranch, and a few older, shabbier looking homes. You pretty much get it all on this stretch. Lots of bikers use this route for training. It is wide open, rolling to flat, to extremely hilly, depending on whether you take the out and back or head off on the side roads. And then yes, you get hills. Hills that will kick your butt. Hills that standing you are lucky to be hitting 5 mph. And downhills that scare me to death! 37-39 mph. Too fast for me, especially when you have 4-way stops here and there and then more downhill!

Something didn't feel right with my wheel. I've been having trouble getting it lined up correctly when putting it on and it seems to be rubbing constantly. Today I was a lot more careful and was sure it wasn't, but I'll tell you, I could barely get over 12 mph at first. And something was ticking. Shifting was a little off too. Probably time to go back to the bike shop, although this is the same thing I had it in for last August. I've barely ridden 200 miles and its back doing it again. Makes you wonder what's up and why they can't fix it and keep it fixed.

I've done this route only one other time this season, and this time it seemed as if the turnaround came a lot sooner. I actually went a little past the turnaround before heading back. Heading back you get a few more uphills, but nothing steep or long. Just lovely countryside and a hot blazing sun.

It really was extremely hot this weekend, but I am not going to complain since it has been at least 8 years since we have had a decent Memorial Weekend--the other weekend we didn't go to Traverse City.

I also managed to get in a swim later in the day with the grandkids along in the new private pool! They had a blast, and this way we didn't have to sit outside in the blazing sun and they didn't have to swim in an icy pool. Their apartment complex filled the pool early in the week, apparently to be ready for the weekend, but even though they have a heater, they won't turn it on. So you freeze. The only time you can ever stand to be in there is if we get day after day of weather like we had this weekend.

Sunday was to be my semi-long bike day. It was already 80 degrees when I got out to the trail about 8:30 am. I made adjustments in my schedule because of traffic. It was a wise choice. The trail was relatively empty making getting good speed possible. This particular trail runs north and south, and I start heading north. It seems like it is almost all uphill after the first couple of miles, and I would guess it is since coming back is always much easier. So again, my bike just doesn't feel right, and I'm trudging along at 12-13 mph. Last week everything was a solid 15-16 and it felt great. This definitely felt like trudging. My tires are properly inflated, the bike is shifting okay, and I don't feel tired or sluggish, but I am not making any good progress. Just pedaling, pedaling, and pedaling. Before I hit the half-way mark, the trail was becoming quite congested--people starting at the other end apparently. This trail is different from the river trail. While it does wind along the same river, it also picks up at one point another river and there you come into different territory. From a small, historic town along the Rogue, where one of the biggest manufacturing companies got its roots (Wolverine World Wide) to the half million dollars homes in several upscale developments, to just the old, country homes that have been standing for decades. Along here you see the lupines, trillium, and ferns, and signs of varied wildlife--chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, deer, woodchucks, possum, and racoon, to name a few. A variety of birds as well, and I saw several meadowlarks. Where there weren't houses, it was a pretty natural forest habitat. This trail, like many of ours in the area, are made from old railroad beds, and in the past it wasn't even paved. I remember many trail runs on this trail before it was paved, with rotting railroad tressles to cross. For me, that was a panic attack! Now the trail is actually a state park, and it is really nice. It would probably be nicer if people actually knew how to use it!

Today though, the ride was fairly uneventful. I always make note of strange, irritating, or unusual things I see. Today the odd thing was someone's helmet. Not a bike helmet but an army helmet. Okay, if that's all you've got. The irritating thing though was a stupid recumbant biker old man trying to do his little part in not littering. As I was approaching him, he had pulled off to the side to throw a water bottle into a trash can. Not moving. Didn't feel a big reason to warn him "on your left." Apparently this geezer needs reminding every time anyone passes. Just as he is throwing the bottle into the trash, both hands off the handle bars, his bike veers totally across the the trail right into my path. I have nowhere to go but into him or over the edge into a gully so I yell "watch out, watch out," scream "WATCH OUT." No response, but he does pull back around just in a nanosecond before I crash into him. I was so mad I let him have it. "You stupid moron, watch where you're going. You're not the only one out here you know." Still no response but I'm sure he got the message. And I realize it was a mistake, but it could have been very dangerous for both of us if he hadn't responded. He has to take responsibility for his actions. No excuses.

Other than that and the fact it was extremely hot, and my water was almost gone, and what I had was warm, the ride was good. It was also slow, but not that much off last year's time, so I am hoping it is a bike problem and not me.

Monday then was supposed to be my first real run/bike workout. Due to several factors, the bike took place but not the run. First, I decided I should put some more air in my bike tires, even though they didn't seem to need it. I am constantly getting lectured by Don about cleaning my chain, pumping up my tires, etc. So okay, I'll do it. Oh great, the stupid stem is bent, all my air goes out just loosening the valve, and now I can't get the bike pump nozzle on. I try over and over and over. And of course another problem I have is: I can't change a tire. Can't, won't. I know it will catch up with me one day. Actually it has about 3 times, but still can't, won't. I finally get enough air in to get me by, but less than what I started with. Jeez. Get on the bike and immediately the pedals are flying out of control. Oh, that's right. Chain is on the granny gear, thanks to Don's other great suggestion that I clean my chain the night before. The chain came off and I got it back on the smallest ring, but couldn't get it to shift up while not riding it. Didn't even think of it until I got on. Turn around towards the car going slightly uphill, thinking it would be easier to shift. Nothing. Try again and again and again and still nothing. Would not shift. Great. Now I can either go home and be mad all day or ride on a less than fully inflated tire in my granny gear for 20 miles. I decided to ride.

Right there was a monumental change in attitude from even 2 months ago. I wanted to ride and I was going to despite these annoyances. Now the route I was taking is pretty much out and back, but does have a few turns and one STEEP uphill toward the end. One big, long downhill, one big, long uphill. I've done this probably 2 dozen times so I wasn't totally phased by it or I might have chosen another route. I figured I would coast the downhills and that's all I needed to worry about.

Once again I was trudging. This time due to lack of available gears. I probably looked like one of those idiots I see all the time on mountain bikes just spinning along. And that's what I did, spun along at a zippy 11-12 mph. That was max on the flats. Several people passed me, as this is another favorite biker route. I'm sure I only got passing respect in the fact I had a race bike jersey on and that always seems to get people's attention. I certainly didn't look threatening to anyone however. I finally reached the first of the major downhills and just hung on for dear life. I have gotten used to downhills over the years, don't usually brake the whole thing anymore, but today I was being cautious. I had no way to control the pedals so just coasted and occasionally did a half pedal to relieve the tension in my legs from holding them in one place for so long. I figured out that by the time the bike slowed to about 14 mph I could start pedaling again and was good until I reached that happy zone of 11 mph. Then it was back to trudging again. With less gears you would think it would be less tiring, but the opposite was true. I was pedaling almost constantly and making very slow progess so I was out there much longer than usual for the same route. But I also knew on the long uphill I was going to have some serious digging in. Usually there it is easy enough to maintain about a 10-11 mph pace if you are trained even moderately enough, but today it meant approaching the hill at 11 mph and going down from there. It is a long hill, and at that pace probably about 8 minutes long, sort of like a long spin hill workout, so I just stayed calm and relaxed and trudged along. Up, up, and up I climbed, finally bottoming out at 6 mph. I wasn't going to stand because I was actually afraid I would tip over. And really, it wasn't awful, just long and tedious. After those hills there was only going to be one more major one toward the end, so on I spun/trudged.

This route is along a state divided highway that also passes through residential, manufacturing, and industrial areas, so you get a lot of traffic regardless of time of day or day of the week--except on a holiday, so I was glad I didn't have constantly roaring traffic going by the whole time. I did have one worry--I had to pass over an expressway on ramp, and since speeds are 55 mph, that's the speed people would be approaching the ramp at. Yikes, I was going to have to pray no one would be coming. Fortunately I made it through just in time. Back to trudging and wanting to be done. I considered cutting the course but didn't. Got to the last hill and of course I had to approach it at almost a complete standstill pace. I decided to push as hard as I could and hold the pace as long as I could. Held 8 mph for most of the hill, then started dropping to 7, 6, and finally 5 at the last little hump of the hill. I was straining at that point, not willing to stand. I wasn't sure I had the strength to do that. OMG. Finally this is getting over! Just another mile to the car. Yipee! So I spun/trudged back to the car. I was very glad to be done and it was just too hot for my mind to comprehend any more torture to go out and run. Enough is enough!

What I have noticed after riding 3 days in a row is recovery is pretty good. I know I'm not pushing a 20 mph pace, but just getting on my bike 3 days in a row and going more than 20 miles each time is a step up for me. I have a lot more bike catching up to do over the next 2 weeks, and I needed this 3 day weekend to get me over the hump. Now I just have to get the running to coordinate everything.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Friday was my first day at my new fitness club. The pool, similar to this one, is much smaller than the Y pool. Clean, but not nearly as nice. And it is so dark in there I can barely see my watch.

I was only going to swim, since I still wasn't sure where the sore throat thing was going, and I wanted an easy day before my long bike weekend began. I looked at the swim distances and totally misread the board. I was thinking to myself, "How am I going to swim 120 laps to get in a mile?? How will I ever keep track??" I had done 30 laps before I decided to re-read the board. I couldn't see my watch to see how I was doing time-wise, and had no way to compare. Thank God I took the time to get out and read the board: 120 lengths for a mile. Whew! So I've done 30 laps, that means only 30 more.

This pool is definitely shorter than anything else I have trained in: 6-7 strokes across as compare to 12-13 in a regular pool. I would say it is actually the size of my brother's outdoor pool, which is a regulation club size, but not Olympic. But what I really noticed was all the wave action I was getting: no lane markers. So I was constantly getting water in my mouth. Good practice for lake swimming or triathlons. In fact, I had to stop twice to cough on the mouthsful of water I kept taking in. I can't imagine what it would be like with even one other person in there!

I was ALL by myself too. It was after 5 pm on a holiday weekend, in a downtown building. The business area was dead. I doubt there was one other person in the whole facility. It was a little creepy that way, especially since anyone could walk into the locker room without my knowing it. I know only people with access are supposed to be in there, but from watching too many TV detective or forensic type shows, I couldn't help but feel a little leery.

But what was nice? Not maneuvering for one of the 375 parking spots, not having to walk 2 blocks or more to get into the building, not waiting for a pool lane or sharing with others who really don't swim, and then not having to repeat the process in leaving. It will take some getting used to, but I am already planning next week's training schedule based on the convenience alone. I figure with having a pool in my work building basement, I should be able to either swim longer or at least cut off a half hour in my workout schedule time. I can also park there in the morning, drop my stuff off, and head out for a run through the park, which is just as close to work as it is to the Y, but then I don't have to do the parking battle at the Y or the traffic drive to the office with everyone else.

I can definitely get used to this!

Despite having this horrendous sore throat all week, I've had a pretty good workout week, other than Wednesday. After two hard rides Monday and Tuesday nights, one night being colder than most any other time I have ridden, and Tuesday with being one of the hottest (its Michigan, what can I say??), Wednesday was to be another ride. Not necessarily hard, just another ride, in an attempt to build up my riding miles. I am not a strong biker by any means, and even with a good swim and a tolerable run at any triathlon, usually I am beat because of my bike. This is where I will be caught if not on the run, and then it is because of the bike.

Where did the sore throat come from? Most likely from the grandkids over last weekend. Its kind of hard to not catch something from a kid when they sleep with their face next to yours. There have been different degrees of soreness, and until Thursday, not much else, so I didn't figure on strep throat, and the kids didn't have it either.

So Wednesday's ride was to be just another ride. I was really tired, and had it not been for the sudden downpour right as I got out of work, I would have ridden. It was best to lay low that night. I actually went to bed before 9 pm.

Thursday then the only time for a workout was going to be morning, so off I went on a short run, barely able to swallow, but feeling fine otherwise. Thursday night was also graduation, and I knew it would be a late night. Midway through the day, we finally got some steady rain that had been threatening since the night before. And wouldn't you know it? A tornado watch. Now the definition of tornado watch as opposed to a warning is that the weather conditions are favorable to producing a tornado or other volatile storm, but as is usually the way it goes, the rain had stopped, the sky was bluing up, and while it was windy and cloudy, it was actually quite pleasant. Two schools cancelled their graduations but thankfully Justin's wasn't one of them.

Justin goes to one of the largest school districts in West Michigan, so it shouldn't have surprised me that in the 4 years since his brother had graduated the class size would have grown to what it was: 530. Its gotten so big that a separate sports arena is rented for this production, complete with big screens to watch the whole event--that is unless some big meathead isn't blocking your view every time your kid was in view of the camera.

The arena was great in that it had actual stadium seating as opposed to bleachers, which having to be there for almost 4 hours was a blessing. And it wasn't stifling hot, as the school gym was in years past. It was almost a little too cold for the liking, and with the air conditioners running full blast, me with a sore throat was getting more miserable all the time. By the time we got out of there, I could barely swallow and I was getting congested and my eyes were watery.

So, by Friday morning, I had almost lost my voice, I hadn't slept well the night before because of the late night and sore throat, so I was groggy and sleepy most of the morning. But I did get in a swim.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Its a matter of numbers.

I was thinking of what I wanted to write about today--my awesome ride last night? The darn cold weather again lately? The upcoming heat wave expected for the weekend? But the matter of numbers kept creeping into my brain.

Everything we do to reach success is a matter of numbers. I learned early in marketing and sales classes that its a matter of numbers how much you sell. Not necessarily in terms of dollars but in number of sales. It takes at least 10 contacts to make 1 sale. I told this to my sister when she was trying to get a hair salon business going. Send out 100 flyers and you likely should get 10 new clients. It worked.

Same thing goes with triathlon or marathon training, or any athletic training for that matter. Its a matter of numbers. Number of-- rides, runs, swims, bricks, races--before it starts to click. Then you can break it down into individual parts of your training: so many miles before the rides start clicking; so many running miles before it gets easier and you get faster; so many swim laps before you finally reach a mile. I might not be explaining it very well or very clearly, but clearly it is a matter of numbers.

Put in the bike, run, and swim miles and the races will take care of themselves. But remember, most of us are not pros. While time is of the essence, we should not lament any effort to achieve completion of any race just because we aren't as fast as someone else. If you do the best you can under the circumstances with the amount of training you have under your belt, the results will be shown in the outcome.

So while I am thinking of that advice, I know I must apply the same philosophy to my own training. Yesterday I came to the conclusion that with my upcoming Olympic distance triathlon only 25 days away, I needed to start putting in the numbers. No more heading to the gym for a spin class when it was only 55 degrees. No getting to the gym late in the morning and cutting off my swim. And no skipping the runs because: its cold, its hot, or I can do it tomorrow. Its now or never.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just do it! That should always be the mantra, hard as it can be at times. Today was one of those days when I didn't want to do anything even though I felt like doing something training wise (does this even make sense??). I was tired from not sleeping well the last few night with lots of things on my mind, had to work most of the day, my heel was hurting again, enough that I need to rethink and back off for a few days. So what I did not want to do was do a long slow run. I would rather have biked but didn't have it with me when I finished work. Even as nice of a day as it was, I wasn't in the mood to go home, get my bike, load it into the car, unload it ,or deal with the traffic that late on a Saturday afternoon. What I did feel like doing was running, just a short, fast run.

I like running fast. And I can honestly say I haven't run fast in so long a turtle could beat me. I remember when I ran competitively for so many years. I worked so hard to achieve a certain time or place in my age group. It took a few years, but it did happen. While I figure I have reached my running peak and can never go back to that, I certainly don't have to be forced into the slow run category all the time. Its just that if it takes as long as it did when I was 10-12 years younger, it just ain't gonna happen.

So today I decided to do what I felt like doing. I went to the track (I love track running), hoping to find no one around, but of course there was at least one person. And go figure, this guy had on a baggy pair of coveralls, hooded sweatshirt, and big quilted flannel shirt. It was 68 degrees. He was just walking. As I readied myself, I couldn't believe it when I saw him light up a cigarette! Still walking! Whatever! There always seems to be some dufus smoking on the track. Its like an oxymoron (moron is right).

So I set off to do some warmup before some quarter mile intervals. I have been pretty amazed at my progress this week despite the heel flareup again. Last Saturday's long run, at a faster than usual pace, must have given me the boost I needed. It actually felt good to get going and keep going today. A hurdle overcome from the past few weeks practicing my ChiRunning. But with it close to 70 (a virtual heat wave for us lately), after a mile and a half I needed to stop for water. At this point, quilted flannel shirt smoking guy was actually RUNNING himself. What in the world?? Here I am with a singlet and short and am starting to feel the heat and this moron is out there in a winter outfit practically. And then I notice he has SWEAT PANTS on under the overalls! Okay, now I am going to have a heat stroke looking at this.

By now, there were also 3 older ladies who had entered the track, all with Vietnamese or Chinese straw hats on, the pointed ones. Okay, this must be circus day. What gives?? So now I'm dodging them. What is it with track walkers that they CANNOT walk in a single file. Noooo. They have to spread themselves across the road like a wide load so everyone else has to push past them or run on the grass.

So I'm ready to start my quarters. I can't remember the last time I did any track work, other than straight running (shuffling actually). Pick up the feet. One of the main things to remember. Lean. Speed takes care of itself with the proper posture.

First quarter: over 2 minutes. Oh, well, that's not bad I guess considering my old average (10 years ago!) was 90 seconds. Okay. A good starting point. My plan was just to maintain. I set off on the second quarter and immediately felt the tail wind pushing me along. Nice! But I knew I would be paying on the other side. Push through the windy area, pass flannel man and old ladies and finish the quarter feelilng--okay.

Second quarter: 1:50. Huh? Okay, I'll take it. Not once did I feel like I had picked up the pace. In fact, into the wind it was a bit of a struggle.

I was running low on water, since I didn't have much to start. And now there were 3 other guys on the track (two actually running, one pretty fast), another walker. It seemed much easier doing intervals with all this than trying to either keep up with or dodge everyone else. Plus, I figured it didn't make me look as slow. :)

Off I went to do the third quarter. Again the tail wind, but this time the wind on the other side didn't seem quite as bad. I finally passed flannel man and had to dodge the wide load before finishing this quarter.

Third quarter: 1:45. Okay, something's wrong here. There is no way I am running this fast. No way. It feels good, it feels easy, but there can be no way I am getting faster on each quarter. I'm not resting that long. I have no water. Its warm but not uncomfortably so, but the wind is pretty strong. I am happy though, no doubt!

Flannel man is now sitting recovering. No water. Heavy clothes. Ugh. He must feel awful, but he DID run at least 2.5 miles. He had to because I only passed him a couple of times!

Fourth quarter is coming up. Should I do one more or let it go while the going was good? Could I actually do a 1:40? Actually, that's exactly what I did. OMG! Its not possible. I feel looser on each quarter. I have totally missed the track. It was starting to feel like a day I could spend an hour or more running quarters and still get faster on each one.

All right. Let's tempt fate. One more. Can't hurt. Makes up for the one I missed in the second mile. Could it be a 1;35??

Are you ready for this?? Fifth quarter: 1:32. There is no way. No way on this earth. But the watch doesn't lie. I did not start it late. I did not stop it early. I did not ever once sprint. I just remembered to pick up my feet, keep my cadence, and lean into the run.

I totally forgot about being down on myself after that. I didn't want to end the run or being out in the beautiful day, but I promised the grandkids I'd pick them up today.

So after a nice dinner, we went outside to finally get some more planting done. Geraniums, petunias, gerbera daisies, pansies. And a little yard cleanup and the perfect finish to gardening: it started raining.

Hope everyone has had a good workout day today and tomorrow if its on the schedule. Our weather is supposed to be, what else? Rainy, windy, and cold. This certainly is a payback for April's unusually fantastic weather.

Last Day of School.

My youngest. His last day of school was Thursday. He graduates next week. I am glad in some ways, sad in others obviously. I am having a major sleepless night and these are thoughts that keep spinning around in my mind.

Four kids over the last 24 years attended this school district. I no longer have to attend conferences or school functions, call in for sick or late days, write checks for lunch, play taxi when someone misses the bus, get calls from teachers when someone is misbehaving, and basically be done with the school years. I never really saw an end to this until just now.

People with children don't always realize how much their own lives revolve around the school years of their children. I tell parents just starting out with their kids in school to take a look around at the parents of these kids because most likely you will be seeing them at not only every school function you attend, but one day at graduation.

When I was pregnant for my first child, I worked with a woman who was also pregnant and we both delivered around the same time. We both eventually went different directions in our lives, but oddly enough at graduation of those kids, there we were, together again. Surprisingly enough, we ended up with those kids in the same school district, although we never kept in contact over the years. Just ended up sitting near each other at graduation.

So another and the last graduation is soon to come. Will this give me more time for my own pursuits? That would be nice, but there are still 2 grandchildren who need me, and that is another adventure to take on.

I sometimes wonder why I have spent so many years taking care of everyone else, and really no one has ever taken care of me. I prefer it that way, but know I must always stay strong to carry on this tradition.

So a tribute to Justin: the places you'll go and the people you'll meet, I hope you will rise to the occasion and become a decent young man with a successful life. Love, Mom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I've gotten back in the habit of taking my lunch every day again. Something I should never have quit doing. But it was too easy at times visiting Mickey D or the King or the deli next door. Easy and costly in many ways.

I love to cook. I love to putz around in the kitchen making things. It isn't unusual for me to prepare a 4 or 5 course meal every night--because I like to and because I would rather eat my food than boxed or frozen. Its not that I don't ever use convenience foods, but sparingly and only as a compliment to something else. But I have gone back to some simpler meals--fish, chicken or a lean beef; and vegetables--2 or 3 at a time--or mushrooms with veggies.

Tonight after my drenching bike ride I still had to come up with something. It never has to be quick. Just tasty and filling and nourisihing. Baked salmon, broccoli, fresh green beans, and sauteed mushrooms. And while it was cooking, a good chance to fix my lunch--spinach salad with mushrooms and spicy chicken. Mmmm.

This all takes time of course, and I see why people don't want to take the time. But it is so much better than throwing something together and/or doing what I did for a while--go out to lunch at all the wrong places.

As athletes we think that because we work out and expend so much energy that we can eat anything and everything we want. Usually we don't, of course, but at times I am amazed at what some of the athletes I know eat. And unfortunately I found myself falling into that grip. But I don't do 100 mile bike rides or run 15 or 20 miles on a weekend, or do a 2 mile swim workout 2 or 3 times a week. I sit at a desk 45-50 hours a week, so the 30-60 minutes I work out daily, and maybe more on weekends, was not cutting the calorie explosion I had fallen victim to. Add my age to that, and something had to change.

So now, 15 pounds lighter, I am back to being me--both in workouts and in the kitchen!
I'm thinking of switching gyms. I have belonged to the YMCA for 6 years, and while we have one of the nicest metropolitan Ys in the country, I am getting beyond frustrated with the lack of adequate parking, the abuse of the locker rooms because of the huge membership numbers, and the inability to really use the facility when I want to. Morning workouts are generally the easiest, but really, there are days when those 6 am workouts just get to me and I would love to go at lunch time for a nice swim or run for a change.

The building I work in has an athletic club in the basement. In the past (and even now) they cater to mainly the attorneys in our office and other business men and women in the metro area. The membership, however, is small, almost what you would consider exclusive. I have avoided getting involved with this for some of those reasons, but have finally reached the point where I am seriously considering it. For an extra $24 a month, I can have the convenience of:
  • parking in the same lot where I work;
  • being able to run downstairs for a workout at lunch without the hassle of driving to the Y, circling the lot over and over and over waiting for someone to leave, then rushing through a workout because I only have 25 min. left before needing to get back to the office;
  • or waiting for a treadmill or weights or a pool lane or whatever;
  • working out with some people I know from work;
  • having the luxury of working out at my convenience;
  • being able to bring my grandsons to swim at least occasionally.

What I will give up would be the fantastic pool at the Y. The club pool is small, something like 66 laps to a mile. Also all the state of the art equipment. And best of all the hassles with the locker room (kids, no towels, waiting for a shower, people with cell phones, etc.). So what am I waiting for??

Its been a fairly busy week juggling workouts around work, weather, and life in general. Anyone who lives in the Great Lakes area, Indiana, or Ohio (and many parts of the Northeast) have been dealing with torrential rains day after day after day. Not the drizzly stuff that gets annoying after a while but which you can still manage, but the heavy-duty, flooding deluges.

Catching up, the swim workouts have improved again, thanks to tweaking the form, following the Total Immersion method. The runs are improving, once again tweaking the form, following the ChiRunning method. But the bikes aren't happening, so maybe we should tweak the weather?

All the Iron Athletes here should be commended for doing their long bikes (100+ miles) week after week in this rain and cold sometimes too. Friday was one of the worst days, with heavy rain and high winds, and yet they persisted, getting another 100 miler in and then another Sunday, even though Sunday it had quieted down to just a steady drizzle.

Sunday, though was Mother's Day. Even though my mom is gone, I wanted to spend the day with my sister and daughter, and my son and grandsons. Two of my kids live out of state (Montana and New Jersey), so it was surprising to hear from my son and surprising to almost not hear from my daughter. It was a nice day all around however.

So tonight was finally a bike night. Its been several weeks since it was a Tuesday bike night. There have been Tuesday spin nights but no outside biking. Since rain has been the forecast for days, I did check the weather and radar and saw nothing to worry about.

With all the rain, the trees have blossomed into lush, green canopies along the river bike path. The path was littered with a lot of debris again, but no big obstacles until I reached the low land area. I knew immediately that the bridge would be washed over and the rest of the trail flooded when I saw the boat ramp under water and the first part of the trail submerged as well.
So I had to cut the route short again. Its likely to be another 10 days or 2 weeks before this clears, so I was disappointed to not go the whole 15 mile route. Its a good route for speed, and I like to do my own time trials on this route, but that's not likely to happen for a while now.
Heading back, I decided to take the route the opposite way, toward town, to make up some of the distance I had to forego because of flooding. I took it to the deadend, noticing the darkening skies and thought to myself of all the times I had rode in the rain and that really it wasn't that bad riding in the rain. No sooner had those thoughts formed when I started feeling drops. You've got to be kidding! But yes, it was starting to rain. Oh well, another rainy day in River City.
I picked up the pace as the rain picked up as well. I was surprised at all the people still out walking on the path, and even came upon 3 young people walking their bikes. While it was raining fairly hard, no puddles were forming. I have biked in the rain more times than I have fingers, sometimes getting caught in pop-up thunderstorms with lightning, and while it isn't really that bad riding, I have learned to respect the weather, knowing full well my visibility and drivers' is reduced, knowing I can wipe out on a puddle (and did before), and knowing the dangers of lightning. While Iwas not wasting any time, I wasn't racing to get done either.
And as to be expected, the rain stopped within a minute after arriving back at my car, having rained long enough and hard enough to get soaked. A few others I knew were now heading back as well. And of course, a beautiful sunset followed the rain. I got done what I wanted for the night, so I wasn't disappointed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chocolate Cream Pie OR Jello Cake.

Which would you choose?

These were the birthday treats I brought today for someone's birthday. I went over and over in my mind last night what I would say when I didn't eat any of either. To not eat the cake, well, its just not something you do around this office. But I knew I had to remain steadfast. I am on a roll with my eating plan, and the smell alone was tempting, so it was doubly hard not to indulge, not even a taste. I thought of a lot of excuses I could give (other than: I'm dieting), and finally came up with: I'm in triathlon training. That's true, but then to explain what that meant? Not too many people I work with (1) care or (2) have a clue, which is typical for the regular world. But they are enthusiastic and supportive as long as its you doing the stuff and not them. And I don't really care whether they care or not, but to not eat cake or any goodie it seems you need to have a reason.

No explanation was needed as I busied myself with cutting and passing out the cake/pie so no one mentioned, even if they noticed, that I passed on the treats.

I don't like the word dieting. I'm not sure what the real meaning of dieting is in the dictionary, but to most it means depriving. I am not in that frame of mind. All I have done and will continue to do is use more discipline when making food choices: no chips, nuts, sweets, or alcohol. Once you stop eating the stuff, and you get adequate calories otherwise, I think the cravings go away. But you still have to refrain from "just a small piece," or "a bite," or "a taste." One taste, bite, small piece and you are back on the downslide again.

Don't get me wrong. I am not criticizing ANYONE for anything they choose to eat. This is just my philosophy for getting back in shape. I have daily temptations, but I'll tell you the thing that stays in my mind before I give in? The wetsuit.

Oh yeah, wetsuits are not forgiving pieces of apparel. They show everything you hope they would hide and then some. Its like looking 10 pounds heavier on camera. And if they are tight, they are danged uncomfortable.

So after last season struggling with those "last 10 pounds," and tugging at and squirming in the wetsuit, the decision to banish those "last 10 pounds," was an easy one. It had to be done. That was my fear factor.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Two good rides in a row. And four good weather days in a row. I don't know what it is this spring, but it is definitely spring for a change. Sunday's ride was 25 miles, flat and easy. At least easy for me. My trie friend from work and I met late afternoon and rode the Musketawa Trail, the old railroad bed now bike/recreation trail. It runs 25 miles one way, and I am hoping over Memorial weekend to do that ride. For now, half the distance works.

The weather was cool but 100% sunny with that bright blue sky I mentioned earlier. Even with sunscreen, we both ended up with pink noses and cheeks, like little kids out in the cold. That healthy glow I would guess. My legs felt good, even after the long run the day before. I was worried I would be dragging behind Jan, but we kept a pretty even pace. I know she is probably 50% stronger than I am, but sometimes holds back without realizing, at least until a race and then she goes all out. All I can keep thinking is my legs felt good. We kept a nice cadence and never really went all out. I felt good when done too.

Monday though I was REALLY tired late in the afternoon. I had done another mile swim in the morning and then it was work my butt off all day at work. I just started dragging late in the day and couldn't wait to get to bed that night.

My intention had been to get up and do a bike ride in the morning, but even though I was up and it seemed like a fairly warm and mild morning, I had so much to do around the house I ended up going to work and getting there on time for once with the idea then I would take a long lunch and go for a run. I want to run the 5k course of the race this coming Saturday and would rather do it in the early morning before all the traffic.

But after looking at the radar and seeing the ominous green indicating rain coming over Minnesota and Wisconsin, across Lake Michigan and into West Michigan, waiting 6 or more hours to go for a ride didn't seem like it would happen.

So off I went, pretty much sneaking out of work for a ride in the sun. And it WAS warm, probably mid 70s, and a stiff wind, but nothing cool. I didn't have much choice but to ride the river trail, so once I got my bike set up, I pretty much gave myself a time trial ride: had to be back in 45 min. or no shower.

I started off easy, but soon realized I needed to put some serious pedal down to get this ride done in time. I haven't pushed the pace yet this year, but once I got going, I was determined to at least hold a 16mph pace. Its not that easy on the winding river trail, but with no one else out there to get in the way, I took a chance on the curves no one would be coming at me. I was lucky and only saw maybe 5 people the whole way, other than the doofeses who found it necessary to park their trash trucks across both lanes of the bike trail/road in order to pick up trash bags after a river cleanup (yeah!) over the weekend. I'm not even going to venture on that act of stupidity.

It was SOOO nice to have the river path repaved and cleaned after the winter flooding and years of crumbling roadway. That smooth road made it that much more possible to get a fast pace and keep it. I was pushing with all I had to get the ride done. But once I hit the lower trails, then the path wasn't as cleaned and there were still silt piles (like small sand dunes) here and there, so it was a mine field getting through there. I had to turn back finally and it was 25:10. Eeek, I am not going to get 45 min. now.

Surprisingly the going back was faster (no wind?). I actually pulled into the parking lot in 47:35, so it only took me 22:25 to get back! Still, no time for a shower. Just a quick turn on the air conditioner, ride back to the office and another quick change, redeodorizing, etc. and at the desk within an hour and a half.

I need more fast rides like this, but it sure messes up the rest of the day! I didn't get out of work until after 6 pm, had shopping to do, dinner, cleanup, next day stuff, and a cake to bake for tomorrow, so here I am at 10 pm on the computer! Still, it was worth it!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Blue skies. Yes, its a miracle. Two weekend days in a row with blue skies and sunshine. This was the blue we had yesterday, that crystal clear blue we see so seldom in West Michigan. (Something about those wonderful Great Lakes causes us to be the third cloudiest spot in the nation!)

Cold though, almost frost Friday and Saturday nights, but so pretty. A nice change from the last 3 weekends when we had beautiful weather on Saturdays and rain, clouds, wind, etc. on Sundays. Glad to have the cycle broken.

Yesterday I did 7+ miles on the river trail again. I have been much encouraged with my running, but still can't seem to run within myself using the new method. So it was basically another stop and start run, but overall I was okay with that. I'm still learning and trying not to get ahead of myself. I went out too fast and paid the price coming back, but even adding another mile to my distance from last week and doing tons of walking it seemed, I still only added 4 minutes to my overall time.

To better describe this ChiRunning method, other than getting technical, I relate it to using a heart rate monitor. I need to get my rhythm before I can run without stopping it seems.

But here's what I notice as a good thing: no stiff hip flexors--I can now do a hamstring stretch the right way instead of a modified way, I can squat down and pick something up and get back up again, I can sit without feeling crippled when rising; no sore feet--I used to feel as if an elephant had crushed my feet when I'd get done running and hobbled around the rest of the day; no real soreness generally. I'm becoming a firm believer.

After my run, I headed to the pool. I met up with a few of the IM crowd after one of their workouts--7 miles at 7 am (7 at 7), bike 30, run 7, then swim. These guys are really tough. I don't think I am ready for their dedication yet, but maybe that's what happens when you sign up for something like an IM. You do the training regardless. Maybe that's what I need after all.

The swim went great. I remembered my form, and I'm telling you I swam almost 1000 yards before I even realized what was going on. Just this free floating body it felt like, that belonged in the water all the time. Just zip down the lane, turn, and zip back. More like relaxing than anything else. I was not winded, my shoulders did not ache, nothing. A mile done in no time it seemed.

This week I will attempt to get a bike ride in before work at least twice a week so I can run after work. It gets light out by 6:30 am, and the river trail is only 2 miles from work, and less from the Y, so I am hoping for warmer mornings and no rain in the early a.m. at least. That way I have more time to swim also. I pretty much refuse to swim evenings at the Y. It is just a joke. You almost need to make an appointment to get a lane. Mornings are at least tolerable and it is such a pleasant way to start the day. I just realized I only have 6 weeks before my first tri, and while my swim is okay and I can get by on the run, my biking is seriously lacking. I've put in a lot of easy, flat miles, but nothing hilly or serious. I am planning on at least a 20 miler today, but again it will be easy and flat. The bike portion of the tri is hilly so I need to get some more serious training in there. I am waiting for a traffic light to be installed so I can actually enjoy my hilly route soon. You have to cross one of those major highways with no traffic light anywhere near, and I am not brave enough to attempt it on my own or even with a group.

So, once I get out of work today, I will be off on the bike, enjoying the blue skies.

Friday, May 05, 2006

See that hand? That's what my arm is supposed to be doing when swimming. I took the time to rewatch my Total Immersion video today and what a difference it made. I have been struggling with my swim form lately and needed to refresh. I felt so completely relaxed and effortless that the time just flew by. I lapped the only other person in the pool at the time over and over and over. He was not that slow but really struggling with form. On one lap, he really tried to beat me, I could tell, because all of a sudden I could see him getting closer to the end where I was, but--it didn't happen. Form is everything, there's no doubt. And since I can't afford to go to a workshop (even though there is one in 2 weeks 60 miles from here!), I will have to watch and rewatch the video from time to time.

Effortless. That's how I want to feel in running again. Which is why I am willing to take on the ChiRunning method. The same theories hold true: less effort accomplishing the same thing. While I am seeing some improvement and my running effort is less, it still is not effortless. A ways to go, I guess. Another long run tomorrow, and that definitely helps with form. When you spend an hour or more practicing form, the next time you go run, the form happens without thinking, so it does have to become a subconscious effort to succeed. My main reason of course is to avoid injuries and accomplish goals I have been sidetracked from accomplishing.

I really want to do another tri season having fun with the sprint tris. That keeps you training all season and using your training for something, but it doesn't bog you down with week after week of long runs and long bikes, and long swims throughout the week. I need a season to just do that before I refocus on next year. There are at least 3 fun tris I haven't done in a few years, and I am hoping my schedule works to do these again. My big decision then is do I do the Olympic tri the first weekend in June or the sprint??

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy 75th Anniversary WNJ. This is the lawfirm where I work. Today is their 75th anniversary as a lawfirm. I have been there almost 24 years.

We had a 2 hour luncheon today in celebration of this special occasion, and each person in the firm received a HowardMiller clock (above), as well as a few other goodies. Our firm motto is "Fun, pride, profit." We are a premier West Michigan lawfirm. And we do have some of the "Best Lawyers in America" affiliated with our firm. Quite a milestone day.

That said, our luncheon was fun and good food, and best of all I passed up the desert with a chocolate medallion 75th anniversary on it!

Hmm, I Wonder Who It Is?

I have parked next to this Beemer quite a few times in the past months in my work parking lot, always figuring it was one of the stuffed suits I worked with, actually a real snob of a guy. Now I don't think so. Today I noticed for the first time a USAT sticker on his window. Awesome! I can't figure out who it is though. Some closet triathlete in the office I suppose. Now my next mission will be to figure out who this is.