Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Case for Swimming.

After having blabbed about wanting to spend more time running, I read an article by Dan Empfield, at this link: It emphasizes that you can get more bang for your buck by just increasing swim distance, since overall you can achieve more speed with less effort by putting more time into the swim.

This is something I should have remembered from back when I first started swimming. My first year or two in the water was basically just learning to get from one end of the pool to the other, over and over and over, doing a few sprints intervals each session, doing some indoor tris, and learning to love the water and enjoying it as a crosstraining tool but not really seeing any real benefit to my running. I wasn't biking outside yet either, so triathlon wasn't on the horizon yet for me.

But once I joined a masters group (by default--I just happened to show up to swim one day when they were meeting and they invited me to join them), things changed dramatically. While I honestly can't say I got faster in the swim, although I must have, I did develop swim endurance, and surprisingly enough, my running improved by at least 90%.

After spending an entire running season trying to break 23 min. in the 5k, the following spring, after my winter of masters training, I easily--and almost effortlessly--jumped to 22:20 for my first 5k of the season in March, progressing down to 21:05 in June, before unfortunately an injury besieged me and set me back once again. But that's not the point I want to make. It was the high intensity of the swimming that allowed the running to seem easier and my legs to fly faster.

So, maybe I need to rethink my plans? Maybe a masters swim group this winter? That certainly would break up the boredom and monotony of putting in the swim miles, that's for sure. THINK BIG.

That's what it has been this week and even last week already. Dark and cold in the mornings. Good running weather. But that also means that summer days--beach days, sweltering runs, warm open water swims, sandals, shorts, sunrises at 5 am and sunsets at 10 pm--are winding down. For the first time in over 20 years, (most) West Michigan public schools and colleges will start after Labor Day instead of before. So there's one last push for the weekend here before its time to get down to business again. And what do we get? Cooler than normal temps and possibly rain. Okay, enough dwelling on the negative. I do have to get some quality rides in, but I suspect I will be able to work those out.

On the positive? Good running weather. Yes, I said that before. I'm anxious to get this party started and get into more running. I'm ready. I'm willing. And for once, I am able. Yes, I'll miss the beach swims and bike rides in the morning. Nothing compares with those. But with any good luck and a mouse click, I'll be doing more of those next year than I ever wanted to or dreamed I'd be able to do.

I have plans. Plans for next year and maybe beyond. As Donald Trump says, if you have to think of anything, THINK BIG.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

IT'S OFFICIAL! Here's another e-mail I received today:

Dear Vickie Baker:
Hey, thanks for registering. 2006 should be a great year for the Grand Rapids Marathon. Our whole marathon staff is excited to have you run with us, and we're all working hard to give you the best marathon experience ever. So, keep training, and we'll see you in October.
and the adventure continues....
Don Kern
Race Director

Yikes! Guess I better train now! :) Actually I only signed up for the half. October 29, 2006. That will be about 3 years since my last full and almost 2 years since my last half.

Actually, my run training continues to progress. Yesterday weights (need to improve on my tricep weight routine) and 30 min. run. Today, 40 minutes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

This is an e-mail I got today from Lecia, a tri/running buddy/IM photographer.

The Komen Race for the Cure 5K is September 30th. This will be my sixth year doing the event as a survivor. Every year our group of participants grows larger so this year we decided to form an official team. Please consider joining us to race the 5K, walk the 5K, walk the 1 mile community walk or cheer from the sidelines. Having Breast Cancer changed my life. I started walking because Chemo gave me osteoporosis and that turned into running and now I"m in the best shape of my life hanging out with the greatest group of runners and triathletes.

Now how can you turn down a request like that?? Funny (odd) the roads your life takes you down. Not always the path you expect to go down, but sometimes the detours changes your whole life.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

SO WHAT'S THE SECRET?? To getting faster on the bike, I mean. I am trying not to get down or discouraged about this, but from year to year, I don't seem to gain much speed on the bike. In fact, I'm probably getting slower. Its not for lack of trying, that's for sure. And its not for lack of putting in miles, although I have to say I don't do that many rides over 2.5 hours. Today's bike ride was a practice ride for the tri I am doing in 2 weeks. I wanted to bike the course to remember how badly I did in certain parts (hills of course) and see if I could improve my overall time from the race time last year. I didn't exactly do the course, just parts of it, but also added in some other hills and then did the worst hill twice. Can't say that it helped. It did seem shorter mentally than last week's bike course, and maybe not as hard, but I was still just about the same speed as last year.

Do I bike faster, longer, more often, need a better bike, or what? I suspect it is all of these things. I tend to not ride with others because I am embarrassed by my slowness. I am always last. Always.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and used to bke with a bunch of friends after school a lot of days. We biked everywhere within our allowed zone and then some, not something too many 13 year old girls did then, since it wasn't cool. There too, I was always way behind everyone else. Always. My excuse/reason then was simple though: I had the oldest, heaviest bike of anyone (like now!) and while I probably worked twice as hard to keep up, I just couldn't cut it with that bike. One day, one of my friends said she was sick of hearing me complain about getting left behind and let me ride her bike and she took mine. Guess who was last this time? Hint: it wasn't me.

So maybe there is something there. I don't want to rely on that thought alone to push me to get a new bike and then have the same problem. Then I would be discouraged. After all, I've heard it said its not the bike but the engine. If that's true, just how much faster can I get over the next 10 days??

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

GOOD RUNNING DAY. Two amazing things (for me anyway) happened today: (1) I ran two days in a row, hills no less, and (2) I ran the whole time without stopping. One hour, three minutes. And this too on a hilly course. I can't remember the last time I did this route and without stopping it goes farther back. I know that last week's tri, regardless of how hard it was, put me over the edge on my endurance, so there is really no reason to stop if nothing hurts. Its a mental thing too--I know I can keep going for hours, so a one hour run shouldn't throw me. I got too much into the habit of walking after every mile in training--not that I won't ever walk or think walking isn't valuable in training, its just that for a one hour run, I shouldn't need to walk that much if at all.

Sometimes I'm afraid to think past tomorrow with these workouts because of things that have happened in the past. But I keep pushing those negative thoughts away, and signing up for two races in the near future is one way to keep me motivated and moving forward.

Hopefully everyone running Crim today had a good race.

Friday, August 25, 2006

RUN FOR THE HILLS. I'm missing the Crim race this weekend (Coolest Race in Michigan--and it is!), which is a hilly course through Flint. There's not much going for Flint except this race it seems, but the enthusiasm and crowds every year leave me amazed. So today, instead, and tomorrow as well, I will run hilly courses to remind me of the best race in Michigan and that I am missing it this year! Hopefully I will be able to make it next.

Today's run took me through the streets of downtown GR starting before 7 am. I considered running from home, but even at 6:3o it was still dark, and the street lights were not on. Some were, but most were out. I don't know what gives with that. I'm sure my taxes pay for this! Its just too dark to run without them, and with all the skunks in the area, I wouldn't take my chances. So I headed to the gym and ran from there. I decided it had to be hills, I needed more challenge, and you get some good hills in the downtown area. We have a historic area called Heritage Hill, with the "hill" being an area of stately mansions and homes that overlook the city, and before the view was hindered by office and hospital buildings, overlooked the river in the founding days of the city. Lots of beautiful historical homes and lots of hills too.

I had forgotten about a roughly 4 mile route we used to run that was basically all hills, with the crest being what we call "Lookout Hill" overlooking the city and river, and with the only downhill the last two blocks before the finish. These are hills that would be hard to bike on, let alone run on, but oh so challenging. One hill in particular is so steep, if it is slippery out, there is no way you can make it without almost crawling. I always loved this route. From the gym, it is probably closer to 5. I hope to be able to work that into my training again, and I was encouraged today that the uphills were a lot easier than the down! With Chi running, there is a method of running up and a different one of running down hills, the first to give you momentum to get up the hills, and the second to keep you from pounding and blowing out your knees going down.

As an aside, I sent in my checks for the two races mentioned yesterday. Checks, as opposed to on-line registration. For once I am not late getting these in, and I am tired of paying the extra fee they tack on for every on-line registration. It used to be a flat $2, and okay, I can live with that. But now it seems to be based on the cost of the race--meaning I have paid weird amounts of anywhere from $2 to $7 just to "register" for a race, depending on the race fee. If convenience is a factor, its a mighty expensive one. I may not always trust the U.S. mails, but for 39 cents I can send in my check and save myself the extra fees. And if you do tris, and don't have a USAT membership, add another $9 on to the race fee plus whatever registration fee there is. Then a reasonable race fee (around here anyway) that might be $50 ends up being something like $63! What a racket! Just one of my pet peeves of the day.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


What are those reminders? Sign up for each of these races: the 10 mile Bridge Run on September 16, and the Grand Rapids Half Marathon, on October 29, 2006. I'm amazed I can even think of doing either of these, as last year it wasn't even a remote possibility. Once the tri season is over, my plan is to build up on my running -- again. It seems like I have done this so many times, only to have one injury or another sideline me. This time I feel much more confident that I will accomplish this. I haven't done that much high mileage on my running, but I am getting there. And of course I always equate being able to do a 3-4 hour triathlon with the ability to convert that into a 1-3 hour running race. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

The last time I had this confidence boost was 2002 when I did my first Olympic triathlon and figured I could easily turn that training into doing a marathon. While I actually did train for that distance, the tri and the marathon were two totally different things, and the outcome was less than desirable. Not from my training or running performances, but just the race itself. Something just had to throw off the whole thing, so it turned into more of an ultra than a marathon.

But that was then, right? And this is now, and I am looking forward to moving ahead. The 10 miler may be a little difficult, with timing and all, but the half marathon should be doable with all the time left to train. I'm not going for fast, just looking for a fun way to build my miles. Both are local races, so I know the courses and can train on them, which I like to do. Both are relatively flat, so all my hill training over the next couple of weeks for my next tri should only build strength.

And both races are fairly new to the area. I think this is the third year for both. I have done the 10 miler before, back when I was on the brink of my ankle injury, so if I could make it then, I can make it now.

All this I attribute to my good sense to take the Chi (Chee) running clinic and get my running form back in shape. I know I mention this time and again, and like everything else out there, what appeals to some will not to others, but this basically was one of the things responsible for my turnaround and progression back into the tri and running world, so I can't help but be thankful I came upon this program.

And just as an aside, Chi running is nothing mysterious or anything that requires a lot of change, but the little change it requires brought such good results to me (and others) that I don't want anyone to think I am performing this weird ritual before running or anything much different than what anyone else might do. The main points again are: relax, correct your posture, and put a lean into your running to gain speed, rather than using muscular strength alone. Muscles get injured and tired, so by relying on my form rather than just my muscles to propel me, I am using less energy and thus there is less chance of injury. And Chi means energy, so the better I get with the Chi running method, the more energy I should gain. (That's my belief anyway.)

So while the summer has been busy with tris, the fall will be for running, when the weather is more conducive to building mileage. And for me, more running actually equates more strength in everything else I do, including swimming and biking, and also builds more stamina, as you all well know.

And the fun continues!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

REST & RECOVERY. That's what this week will be. A recent post Ellie posted made me think a little more about what I would do this week. While I don't feel totally done in from my race on Saturday, I am learning the value of some down time and want to get this right. I don't like doing "nothing" for too many days. Its just part of my day to do something in the form of exercise every day. Part of this is because this is really the way I have always been. Part of this is because I don't want to slip back into that slump I had for over 2 years. I know that was due to a lot of things that happened in my life that aren't happening now, but the memory lingers, so I want to keep moving all the time. I also want to have a good next race. So I walk a fine line here.

I have another tri on Sept. 9 (my birthday!) and I REALLY want to do better than last year and want to improve on the bike. Its another hilly route, but this time I want to be better prepared.

So, is less more? Is less better? Does my age play a factor here? What am I capable of yet this season? How much more can I get out of this body this year? But it goes beyond just my next race.

While I am still in the believing mode--believing I can do lots more next year--I still have to wonder how much more I can accomplish with triathlon. I know what I want to do, and I have to be careful not to break myself down to where I get back into that doubting mode.

So I am thinking and rethinking my game plan for the next 10 days, and then it will be time to taper again.

How much recovery time do you take?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Well, here it is. For those wanting to see my "hardware" from the race Saturday, this is it. Did I forget to mention the unique flavor of this race? No chip timing. No medals or plaques either. I guess I can only hope not everyone has one of these things, to set me apart in some way.

(In the background, without realizing it, I managed to capture my other "hardware" from a race last year. I guess you can compare the two and decide for yourself which one you would rather have.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

THREE RIVERS TRIATHLON, August 19, 2006--Or, Holy S$#%t!

I signed up for this race last year and couldn't make it--work and unexpected family obligations. Suffice it to say, had I done the race last year, I know two things: (1) there would have been a funeral to attend, as I would have died out there, and (2) obviously I wouldn't have signed up for this year!

I will say this as a preview: swim, good; bike, holy shit; run, okay.

The day started at 4:30 with the alarm going off while I was still in dreamland. Weird dreams. Something stupid about 25 pounds of hamburger! The first thing I noticed upon awakening was the rain. Hard rain coming down. They had predicted it, but what the heck, you can only hope, right? I've only done one other triathlon in all day rain (Clark Lake back in 2000), but I just factored this into my pre-race mentality for the day. It can be done, despite the rain. No lightning, so the race goes on.

I was going with Iron Don this time, so I also had to factor into my pre-race mentality the fact that we would leave late. Its his nature. Its mine to be ready on time and expect the same from him. We met halfway (his concept of it anyway) by him actually getting gas the night before, even though he wanted to wait until morning (it only takes 10 minutes. Yeah, okay.) And yes, we did leave 15 minutes late, but what are you going to do?? (take a deep breath, relax) :)

It was really dark, rainy, and foggy on our way out of town. Three Rivers is about 82 miles away, directly south of Grand Rapids, and should only take about 1 hour 20 min. max, but with the fog and rain, it was going to be slower. (take another deep breath). About halfway there, the clouds opened up and it really started pouring. Don looks at me and says, "What the hell are we doing going there in this stuff??" He was going reluctantly as it was, being totally burned out after two half IMs and Coeur D'Alene already this year. He only signed up at the last minute to go with me. I just kept positive and said, "Everyone will have the same conditions. It probably won't rain all day." (hopeful)

Added value here on the trip to Three Rivers is that the freeway ends about 20 miles before you get there and you have to drive through Anytown USA (places I've seen similar to this town in Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP of Michigan) to get to the race site, getting a train for another 5 minute delay in the process. At this point, I wasn't going to even let it cross my mind that had we left on time, there wouldn't be a train!

We arrived at the race site a whopping 40 minutes before the race. Then we had to park at least 1/2 mile away, in a farmer's field, with grass up to your knees. That felt so good being wet and all, and it was a blast pushing your bike through that. :) This was the moment when I really loved having my tri backpack. Hands free. Everything fits, wetsuit and all.

And yes, today would be a wetsuit swim. First time in 2 months. We were able to get our packets quickly but didn't notice the body marking was also way before transition, so I would have to hike back there later. And of course, transition was crowded. No bike racks open until almost at the end. Whatever, closer to the swim out, better for me. I could have my own space. Since it was still raining, I decided to put my backpack into a plastic bag to try to salvage what I could to stay dry. It probably didn't matter much, but I preferred to not have my stuff all wet. Then I still had to hike back to get body marked. Don had totally disappeared, as often happens at races. He does his thing, I do mine. That's his nature.

Surveying the crowd, I soon spotted the "Stripper" on her way to the swim area. She had on a new bikini for the occasion. :) No wetsuit for her. Might cover something up. :) It was different with this swim, since they handed out caps when you went into the water. I was wondering where they were and was worried I didn't get one and hadn't brought the usual 6 I have on hand, so I was relieved to hear they gave them to you at the water's edge.

All women were in the last wave. There weren't that many, but they included sprinters and Olympic distance. Waves were about 2 min. apart. And we were off. No warmup. Just an attempt to pee before we started.

Swim: I felt fast, probably because of the wetsuit. I wasn't used to it really because it had been too hot to wear one all summer. But my arms between the wrist and elbow hurt, not fatigue, just hurt. (My wetsuit is sleeveless) No reason why I could think of, but at least it went away later. It was a little jumbled at the start with all the quick swimmers trying to get out of the pack, and we were a tangle of arms and legs at first, but things opened up after a few minutes. Things went well until I started passing men from the earlier waves, and then it got a little chaotic. One guy totally threw me off because I didn't see the next buouy, but the one after, and he went toward that, so of course I did too. Fortunately, I stopped and took a good look because it just didn't seem to fit the sequence, and sure enough I was going off course. I quickly corrected and that was the last mistake I made. From there on out, I pretty much was passing men or by myself. I had this feeling I was probably the last woman, but really don't know. I didn't see any for so long. Swim time out of the water: 32:10. (over 4 min. faster from my last Oly tri in Jnne)

T1: Here's where things went a little awry. Trotted out of the water, up the grassy bank, onto the mats, and then--rough asphalt. Hobble over that to my bike and finish getting the wetsuit off. Socks, yes. Headband, helmet, sun glasses? Can't find them. Dig through the bag, still can't find them. Forget them. (Didn't need them anyway.) Already bikers from the first sprint wave coming back! And runners from the du running through transition while I am trying to get out with my bike. Catch my handle bars on the transition rope and pull that along with me until it broke free. I wasn't stopping. Then I notice my front bike tire is wobbling. Great. Quick release is loose. When I take my bike in my car, the tire comes off and then on again before I ride, so its always checked and tight. When I rack it on Don's rack, I always forget to recheck it. So that's what happened. My fault. Stop, try to tighten it, it holds for a minute and then is loose again. In the meantime, I am pushing my bike, trotting through the loooooong transition, with people running in and out and this rope stuck to my bike, and a wobbly tire. Over 8 minutes here!

Bike: Once I finally got out of that mess and on the road, it wasn't much better. People coming in on their bikes, running in, bikes passing me. Then I hear an ambulance siren and it passes me in the first mile. Not a good sign. Added to all this, its raining hard again, and the first mile is up, up, and more up--on loose gravel. I'm getting nervous here with all the confusion, traffic, the ambulance, and then I notice AGAIN my quick release is loose. Great. I have to stop. I don't trust it. Stop and pull to the side, hop off, tighten it again, get back on, only again to be going up. I saw the ambulance then, stopped and treating someone who was lying on the ground, flat out. I found out later a dog had run in front of the biker and he had swerved and crashed. Shoulder messed up and arm in a sling later. Okay, keep calm, take it easy, be careful on the wet pavement. Up ahead I then see a young woman just topple over on her bike! Aaah! What's going on?? Apparently she forgot the rule of going uphill--don't stop pedaling. She didn't appear hurt and hopped back on the bike and zoomed past me. It was a steep but short hill, and I was starting to see what was to come.

Disclaimer: this is the hilliest bike course I have ever done. Highest speed? 48 mph coasting. No gears left to shift with. Slowest? 3 mph in my granny gear. I was truly afraid to stand, even if I had had the strength because I figured I would faint and fall over. It was tough. I haven't used my granny gears in 3 years, and never in a race. And this course seemed an eternity. I thought it was bad, and then I see a sign: ski area ahead. And what was I just doing?? When we hit "Swiss Valley," I'm not kidding, I was in my smallest chainring going 3 mph uphill. This course was supposed to be 24.8 miles, but it seemed like a hundred. It wouldn't end! Appropriately enough, the turn around was at a cemetery. Just bury me now, because I'm going to be last.

And last I was. I started getting the feeling I was out on a bike ride by myself by the time I hit the turnaround, and I could then see no one was behind me. All right, I did not plan this. I was working hard. What gives?? Oh, I forgot, the wheel thing. Happened again sometime before the turnaround, so this time the only solution was to take the wheel off and reposition it and tighten it. Just more time wasted, whatever!

There were soooo man times when I thought of calling it quits, turning at the sprint distance bike course. I wasn't tired, I was feeling okay, but I was afraid they would tell me I missed some imaginary cutoff. But then I started thinking that if there was ANY chance I could get an AG award out of this day, I had to keep at it. I had to finish to win.

The last 5 miles were the hardest. Volunteers had left their posts, so I didn't know where to go exactly. I was all alone out there in the miserable rain and fog. And then I started seeing runners and it seemed even longer before the finish. I saw the Stripper and then Don and realized they were only about 3 miles ahead of me! I could still do this. I still had time to run. Final bike time: a little unsure right now, but most likely around 2:20, with transitions.

T2: Once again, I had to fight my way all the way through transition to get rid of the bike. People standing around talking, in the way, and looking at me like I was a freak. I just plowed through and didn't care. Sat down on my little stool, and decided I needed to get rid of the socks. They were dripping. It wasn't raining much anymore and the sun might pop out, so try to find the glasses. Also, get rid of the sweatband and put on the visor. Can't eat anything, stomach hurts some. But I had to go to the bathroom and couldn't think of where the portajohns were. I remembered they were at the end of transition, on the way out to run. Good deal!

Run: So now it was time to go run--by myself. The whole 10k, by myself. My legs felt good though and I still felt strong. Found some gatorade at the first water stop. I couldn't believe they were still there! On I trotted, amazed at myself at how good I really felt. I was doing this! I could do this. I was really glad the sun hadn't popped out yet, or I would have been toast. It was cool but muggy, and quite manageable. I was actually running this thing like I was in a race. I will admit I walked through the water stops--the whole 2 of them left--and up 3 of the biggest hills, but was most surprised at how well my breathing was going. My Chi running coach said eventually we should get to where we were breathing in 3 breaths, out 3, and today I did. More oxygen that way. I can't remember EVER doing anything but 2 in and 2 out--basically gasping-- so I have achieved a level of my running here that I hope only continues to improve. Mile 1, done. Mile 2, done. Whoa, 3 already?? Mile 4 up ahead, and I really needed to stop for just a moment to get a drink. Passed 4 and kept going. I actually couldn't believe it when I hit 5 miles and still felt good. Not fast, that isn't there yet, but good and consistent. At this point I had 2 volunteers on bikes riding behind me, pacing me along I guess. One guy even chatted to me, coaching me in (probably this isn't allowed, but who cared at this point?). Run time: about 1:12.

Final: 3:55, 25 minutes faster than 2 months ago, despite all the problems and a much harder course. The difference was the way I felt. Still standing, still feeling good. Glad to be done, but not sick.

And the best part? Third in AG --out of 3 but--you had to be there--and finish-- to win!

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Its been a long time since I felt I needed and deserved to taper before a race. Usually, I'm scrambling at the last minute to be sure I can do at least most of the distance I plan to cover in a race, so I keep the same pace going right up to close to race day. But after doing two triathlons and my long 176 mile week over the last 3 weeks, along with another close to 100 mile bike week, my legs were telling me to slow down. So this week it was taper time.

Tapering to me means doing half or less of my normal weekly workouts or mileage. One swim, one run, one bike this week only. Off Monday and Friday. Race Saturday. We'll see if this works.

Monday, August 14, 2006

BREAKTHROUGH. Small that it was, yesterday was a running breakthrough day. Since learning about the Chi Running method, which was just before the tri season and vacation, I have worked at improving my running. The progress was small but steady. Improvements over the three tris I have already done this season show the progress--first tri: swim, bike, mostly walk; second tri: swim, bike, mostly run; third tri: swim, bike, run. And that time it felt good.

So over the weeks preceding my last tri, and now building up for my next one this weekend, I have been working at improving my running. Some things I had to be reminded of: go back to basics. First get the distance, then the speed. Looking at a marathon training schedule in Runners World recently, I couldn't help but think that it looked easy. Easy only because I have done a few and have tried many programs. But this one struck me in a different way. It basically was a fast track training program for a marathon, going from almost a couch potato to a finish. What I noticed was the consistency of running, not the volume. Consistency always pays off. I have attempted to be consistent, despite the heat, despite the recent 176 mile week, despite not always wanting to run.

Yesterday was another perfect weather day, with cool morning temps. I wanted to do at least a one hour run. I did not want to go to the park and run the same route I normally do my short runs on because it is mostly flat. I needed some hills to challenge me. I considered doing the 5.4 route from my house and adding to that, which I haven't done in quite some time, but the smell of smoke still permeated the neighborhood from Saturday's fire.

I decided to head to the little lake nearby, about 3 miles from home, and the route for a local tri coming up in September, which I plan to do. This way I could get some training in on that course as well.

I also decided the last time I ran it was time to retire my current pair of running shoes. With Chi Running, you really can get quite a few more miles out of a pair of shoes, but they were starting to cause toe numbness, and I did have another pair to fall back on. So I got out another pair I had held on to, which were in a lot better shape. I'm so glad I did! It was like running on air again.

I had allowed myself to fall into the habit of a run/walk method over the last few years to get me through most runs, because of my foot/ankle problem. But now that the foot/ankle isn't an issue, it was just becoming a bad habit, not always necessary. I do not dismiss the need for walking, just that it had become a crutch for me. I needed to push through that. My endurance was up because of the long biking weeks, it was pleasantly cool, and my feet were not cramped, so no excuses!

Off I went, around the lake and then some. I decided to go with the plan our Chi Running coach suggested: run until you are out of breath and then back off. Today that didn't come for almost 45 min! And then I think the only thing that threw me off was I took a wrong turn down a deadend and didn't know where to go but turn back. I finished the run in 57 min. and then decided to keep going to get to the hour mark. It wasn't bad. I could have gone longer, but decided the best thing to do was leave it where it was. This is taper week, and I was happy with my effort.

And then to add the weird thing on this run. I noticed a runner about a block before I came to the end of my run. I didn't know if he was through running, had stopped for a break, or what. When I came to the end of my route, I stopped, and for who knows what reason, this guy is right behind me and runs into me when I stop! What??? I don't understand why, when there is a whole street or sidewalk available, why would someone follow so closely on your heels that they run over you if you stop?? It wasn't like we were in a race. Sheesh.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Here's the actual story:

Alger Heights Hardware destroyed in fire
Saturday, August 12, 2006
By Theresa McclellanThe Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- Firefighters remained on the scene Saturday in the Alger Heights business district, where fire destroyed a hardware store and caused water damage to two other businesses.
The blackened roof of the Alger Heights Hardware Store is caved in and yellow tape still cordoned off the Eastern Avenue and Alger Street intersection.
Neighbor Bob Alliston heard fire trucks after midnight Friday and left his Griswold Street home to see flames shooting from the hardware store roof. "I looked around and saw one neighbor just crying. Everyone seemed in shock," he said.
Owners of the businesses live in the tight-knit neighborhood on the Southeast Side.
"People were saying they will support them," Alliston said. "Everyone has put their heart and soul into these businesses. So there is a lot of hope out there that they can bring them back. But it will be a lot of work."
Alger Heights Hardware owners Bill DeJong and Keith Buys reopened the store in 2002 after it had been closed a few months. The store had been there 47 years until the previous owners closed doors and moved to Wyoming.
Also damaged were Sundaes in the Heights ice cream parlor and Gathering Grounds coffee shop. Both shops had opened just last month.
Alliston said Sundaes owner Barbara Bush was watching the blaze in shock.
"She said it would probably take her three days to take it all in and just cry."

Hopefully they will all be able to rebuild and I am hoping to get the smoke smell out of the house soon! I still smell it and it is on everything I own, and I was one block away. I can't even imagine what it would be like having it be my house.

On another note, today is a low training day. I need to taper for next week's tri, Three Rivers Triathlon/Duathlon another Olympic distance. I'm really not sure if I am ready for this or not. I have been tired the last few days, which I suspect is due to the 176 mile week I did two weeks ago. But I had Friday off and Monday as well, so hopefully that will allow me to not only catch up on sleep but relax. I do need to get a longer run in, either Sunday or Monday, and then it will be rest until Saturday.

Weather today was only in the low 50s this morning, so I am really glad the race wasn't today. I'm sure the water is warmer than the air by a good 20 degrees. Only time will tell what next week will bring.

The race locale is in southwest lower Michigan, so it is likely to be somewhat warmer there, and the projected 8-day forecast is higher than normal temperatures with more precipitation than normal expected for this time of year. So I have to wonder if it will be steamy and wet for the next race. I guess that's how I will be able to judge my real progress.

Friday was one of those cool, crisp, breezy mornings that reminded me most definitely of September. Great day for a bike ride! I had the day off work and wasn't going to let it go to waste. The afternoon turned a bit warmer, and Don and I headed out to the lake for a Lake Michigan swim. And surprisingly, the water has remained warm, despite the north winds. It was less windy at the lake, but the flies were horrible. Must be why the beach was relatively empty. We had the cove area almost entirely to ourselves. A swim between the piers is about a half mile. I would have done more, but he wanted to stop. But we could not sit on the beach without getting bit by the flies, so we cut it short and headed home.

With the 32 mile bike ride and sun and swim, I was tired after a long week, and went to bed early. Again, it was cool enough for most people to have all their windows open. Mine are always open since I have no air conditioning. I was drifting in and out of sleep. There was this smell. Probably a skunk, I thought, as the area is overrun by the odious creatures.

After sleeping for a while longer, I was suddenly half awake. There was still this smell. A skunk? Not a skunk. What was it? Smoke?? Now I was fully awake and got up quickly. No smoke alarms were going off but there was a definite smell of smoke. Something was burning. I walked through the house and the smell was consistent throughout but nothing appeared on fire in the house. I went to the 3 season porch and stood and listened--and smelled. Something was definitely burning. It was eerily quiet and foggy? No, it definitely was smoke. I went to the front door and opened it and looked out. Nothing. Quiet. Smoke. Someone must have one of those little backyard chimnea fires going. But it reminded me of being at a campground and smelled like a big fire. I wonder if I should dial 911 and report this. Its bad. I could taste the smoke. Then I went back to the front of the house and looked down the street. Red blinking lights. Something definitely was going on. It must be a fire. That was confirmed moments later when a group of young people walked by and said the hardware store was on fire. Wow! That was bad.

I live in a post-World War II neighborhood, built on the fringes of three municipalities. Contained within this approximately 5 square mile "neighborhood" is everything you need to get by in life, and all within walking distance--grocery stores, library, post office, churches, schools, banks, pizza parlors, numerous small businesses, doctor offices, dentists, video stores, ice cream shoppe, even a cemetery and golf course. A concept that our city is trying to revive in new neighborhoods, and this has been here for over 50 years. One business of course is the hardware store that has been here as long as I can remember, recently taken over by new management when the old one outgrew the location. Surrounding this whole area is one of the state's busiest roadway, large shopping malls, office parks, factories, and the inner city. So this is a fairly unique area, and a loss like this is felt by all within our small community.

TV crews are on site as this is typed, so I don't have all the details right now. What I see as a preview on the news though is sad--not only the hardware store but a new coffee house that just opened and the ice cream shoppe that were adjacent have been affected. Preliminarily, the hardware store is gutted, and other business in the area that were saved have smoke and water damage. The area is blocked off three blocks each way, as the fire is still being put out, as I saw from the scrolling news ticker on the bottom of the TV screen.

What woke me up this morning wasn't an alarm but the smell of smoke. Everything in my house smells like smoke (its only 1 block away), including my pillow. I could still taste smoke. I had a hard time going back to sleep because of the smoke. I kept thinking if the house had been closed up and the smoke had crept in, would I have died of smoke inhalation?? It was very thick. I have tried to post pictures that I took, but to no avail. Maybe later.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Anyway, that's the way it seems. After reading Fe-Lady's post about her frustration about not being able to go to a championship race because of cost, it got me thinking of some of the things I have put off doing because of cost. Just to name a few related to triathlon: getting a new bike, doing races in exotic or tropical places, even signing up for an Ironman. Then last night I find out one of our spin instructors got a new bike. She does one triathlon and gets a new bike. (!) Granted, she needed one, so I won't begrudge her there. But its one of those things that cause me angst in this sport. Just how much of a disadvantage are you at with mediocre equipment?

When I first became introduced to triathlon, way back in 1994 no less, it was indoor tris. I'm not even sure I had heard of a triathlon before that, what with the miniscule amount of information available on the Internet at the time (and the fact that most of us had limited access to such a common day luxury). When the idea came up to consider doing an actual outdoor tri, I turned down that opportunity--I didn't have a bike. At least not what one could even consider a bike: a rusted Schwinn with a baby seat did not seem the ideal means of transportation to consider using for such an event. When two of my best running buddies decided to do a duathlon, again I had to decline, because not only did I not have a bike, I did not have a helmet nor could afford to buy one. I choked on the cost when my friend told me how much she spent: $25. I decided then and there that I would never do an outdoor triathlon because I would be at an unfair advantage with all that fancy equipment everyone else had! At least with the indoor tris, everyone had the same handicap--they used their best abilities.

Eventually (1997) I was persuaded to do an outdoor tri and was offered the use of a half-way decent bike to train with and use in the event, as well as a borrowed wetsuit. That worked great until I had to return the bike and wetsuit, and then I was back at square one. Sort of like Cindarella at midnight.

Fast forward to the year 2000 when I got my own first bike with Don's help and his hand-me-down wetsuit (I find out this year he got rid of it because it was so hard to get off. Tell me something I didn't figure out right away!) The bike wasn't that expensive and has served me quite well to this point. In fact, I'm okay with it, but keep hearing from him about getting a new one or upgrading. Until now I didn't feel the necessity, and wasn't even sure what to get. Suddenly, I can see a need for a new bike, but I can't see it happening any time soon. So I'm envious of anyone getting a "new" bike, even though it was used and bought from someone else. I can't really even afford that! Because today was the first tuition payment due for my son for college. An expense I will most likely shoulder on my own. Yes, financial aid is pending, but it still has to be paid back, and I would rather be paying on it as we go rather than 5 or 6 years down the road. (And yes, he's helping!)

So once again, do I put my dreams on hold or splurge and charge a new bike?? My very tiny part of my brain that is impulsive says "yes" but the rest of my brain says "wait." So I have to ask: Is it possible to train for and participate in an Ironman race with a $650 bike (from 7 years ago)?? Parts are wearing out. I expect to be no less than 8 hours on the bike. How uncomfortable can I possibly be after that long with a bike in this shape?? What to do, what to do??

Monday, August 07, 2006


One of my favorite places to be. I have memories going back as far as I can remember of being on/in Lake Michigan. What I don't remember is how warm/cold the water was. Some of my favorite memories with my kids were at the beach. I remember after my 2nd 5k run, in the summer of 1988, when the temperature was almost 100 degrees, my daughter and I went to the beach right after the race and played in the waves for hours!

Here's a picture of my grandson and nephew playing in the sand, and my daughter and grandson enjoying the sunshine and a snack!

I have to say my favorite place is the beach. Maybe that's why I gravitated toward triathlons? To spend more time in the water?

And I think I've finally got this camera thing figured out! Slow but sure to Blogland.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Just got home from Steelhead Triathlon. As a spectator. This year.

What a BEAUTIFUL race venue--right on the shore of Lake Michigan at a jewel of a park.

Fun as it was watching, it made me want to do it next year. Also fun as it was, I somehow missed Shelley and Nancy, as well as a host of other people. I saw only 4 people I knew, 3 from my area, and Elizabeth from Cleveland. Apparently, I picked the exact moments these people finished to find a bathroom, hunt down Don (whom I had not seen for over 2 hours!), and/or again find a bathroom or Don. I did manage to see a woman (Deb) I knew in my age group finish third in 5:23! Wow is all I can say. She was hoping for a slot to the Championships in Clearwater Beach in November, but as luck would have it, the other women in her age group also wanted it and there were only 2 slots. Two other women I knew were offered slots and turned them down! Her day will come though. She is a super triathlete, and I was glad I had a chance to get to know her a little better today. She was beaming and bubbling about her fantastic time, as she should have!

I will have to wait for Shelley's race report, since it was very difficult to get close enough to the results to spot anyone's time, since they were in finish order, so I only have a guess as to what she did. I heard from a friend who did talk to her that she did better than last year. Go Shelley! And then she left almost immediately after, which is how I missed her. Go figure. I stand out there 2 hours and the minute I leave out of necessity, stuff happens. In fact, I thought I saw her from behind talking on her cell phone and went up and grabbed some strange woman, thinking it was her. Oops! Didn't mean to get so friendly!

I heard though how warm the water was (unbelievable!), how fast the bike course was, and how hot the run was (yes, it was, that's the only thing I did). It was just a very pretty day on the beach, and I would love to go back sometime. How about next year??

So if anyone is close enough to drive over to Michigan or are thinking of a vacation in the area, try this race.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Virtual Race Update

Here's the e-mail that finally came through late yesterday. Up to that point, no mention or acknowledgement of the weekly or final results (my comments in black):

First let me say that I am completely impressed with everyone's effort and enthusiasm to be active, healthy and to participate in this race. You're motivating me and that is no easy feat.

You've all been very patient with me as I worked through the conversions and the bugs of our first virtual race. This has been a good learning experience and I'm already planning how to do it better the next time. [probably meaning I will either be excluded next year or I will have to bike 20 mph to qualify!]

This was completely unexpected [and unbelieved] so early in the race, but we already have a winner. Congratulations to Vickie Baker who logged 176 miles and virtually biked all the way to the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. [and let me mention again, it is only 139.5 miles to Traverse City!] Vickie is the winner of the $300 gift card to the destination as well as this week's incentive prize for logging the most miles within the first week.

And yes, I actually got a few congratulations from people in the firm, but of course not from the ones you really hoped would respond!

But not only did I win the "race" and the prize, but I learned a lot about my abilities last week. And I had been offhandedly thinking of doing a week like this for a long time, since I know how much it can boost your endurance in running and swimming. I read somewhere quite a while ago some training tips from one of the pros who said the easiest way to improve your overall fitness (for triathlon anyway) was to do more biking. "You can bike hours every day and not get injured [most likely], but you can't run hours every day and avoid injuries." That has stuck in my mind for a long time, and I was finally able to put that to the test.

I hope to do this again next year because it really made a huge improvement for me. Now if it translates over into a better bike in my next race, I will definitely know it worked!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Hot town, summer in the city, Back of my neck getting burnt and gritty,Been down, isn't it a pity, Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city. . . (the rest of the lyrics don't fit)

The temperature guage on my car said 90 degrees this morning at 6:30 a.m. as I headed out to the park for a bike ride. Ten degrees hotter than yesterday when I ran and felt myself for the first time this summer noticing how hard it was to breathe. At first I thought it couldn't possibly be right, but then I did recall hearing on the news that the heat index at 5:30 a.m. was 86 degrees, so 90 would be about right.

Everyone is feeling the heat these days, with record temperatures everywhere in the Midwest. Our downtown temperature registered in at 103 degrees yesterday. Chicago was about the same, horrible thought that is!

I guess I am getting fairly acclimated to the heat, considering I have no air conditioning at home. But I am keeping totally disciplined to working out in the morning because of it. While I'm no expert, from my own experience over the many years of being involved in running and triathlon, working out in extreme temperatures never does anyone any good. Heat and cold yes. You do need to acclimate. Running in the middle of the afternoon when it is over 90 degrees and the heat index is even higher is crazy, and serves no real purpose unless you're training for the Badwater in Death Valley. I'm reading on blogs all the "heat" training people are doing, then hearing how awful they feel, for days after even, and I have to question the sense or sanity of this. Training in the extreme temperatures usually leaves one sick and weak for at least a day or two, so right there you get behind on your training.

My first half marathon way back when is a vivid reminder of the long-term effects on me of training or racing in extreme temperatures. I was pretty much at the peak of my running days, and ran most days at lunch time or later, so I was used to the heat and ran fast (1:50 for a half). Race day was cool at the start, but the course itself started in town and ran out to Lake Michigan, through the dunes and trails, and then back to town on the only road leading to and from the lake and town. Basically, no shade for 5.5 miles. I started out at my usual breakneck 7 miles per hour pace, but by the time I reached this point in the race, I was dragging big time. Not only had I gone out way too fast for the later race conditions, but with water stops only every 2 miles at best (and at that time I was oblivious to the importance of pacing and hydrating properly), I was actually getting quite sick feeling. Add to that, I had to use a bathroom, as what usually happens to me is stomach cramps in heat and hard racing, and there were none anywhere. Forget about going into the bushes or somewhere. We were running down a road paved between the sand dunes, and as I said, no shade to be had.

By the time I reached mile 12, as a sick joke someone had turned the mile marker around to read 2 miles. I didn't know whether it meant 2 more miles to go or the 2 mile mark! I was feeling so miserable I wanted to hit the person. How I finished the race at the pace I ended up with is beyond me. I was sick the rest of the day, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps. A day at the beach that followed was spent mostly in the porta-john, as well as on the 2 hour ride home.

The point here though is that because of putting myself in an extreme situation, even though technically I was accustomed to extreme conditions and well trained besides, for at least the next 2 months I could not run more than 2 miles at a time without the stomach cramps and diarrhea coming on. And to this day, I think I am still affected because of this, although I admit I am not as well trained or heat conditioned. Its almost something I can't put myself through anymore.

So people, while it is good to be ready for anything on race day, I really don't believe you are doing yourself any favors by exposing yourself to extreme conditions all the time. I seriously can't believe that even if you do, and the chance race day conditions are the same, that you will be the better for it. Anyway, off the soapbox, and safe training.