Wednesday, January 31, 2007

END OF THE MONTH WRAP-UP.

Its hard to believe the first month of the year is almost over. As for workouts for me, it is. A new phase for me has been to keep track for a full month already of my daily workouts. Not really a numbers thing, just writing down what I do every day. If I spin, I just write spin. If I run inside or out, I indicate that and how much time. Unless I'm on the treadmill, I don't always know what my outside distances have been, but I do indicate time. So I have something for every day of the month on my calendar. The shortest workout was only 10 minutes, but it was something. I'm not sure how the following months will go, since I expect to increase workout distances and times, so taking days off may lead to those 10 minute swims, if nothing more.

Looking back over the month, I see accomplishments, which to me equal progress. Four races this month, almost one a week. Only two really planned, so maybe being spontaneous at times has its benefits. I started spinning the first week in January and decided it would complement my other workouts. I also added weights back into my routine on a regular basis, and have been consistent with attending the pilates classes, which I feel have helped me strengthen the neck and thoracic spine areas that were injured.

A comment Sharon made to my last post was wondering what I was doing this year compared to last year at this time, particularly after coming back from the accident, that improved my indoor tri distances. I can honestly say there probably were 5 things that have brought me to where I am this year compared to last.

First, last year I was coming off more than two years of severe depression, intermingled with a foot injury that didn't seem to want to go away, probably preventing me to a degree from getting over that depression.

Second, starting this blog. My main reason a year or so ago of starting this blog was to first connect with other like-minded people and next to help get me back on track with workouts and goals--being accountable. Both criteria were met. The encouragement and inspiration I have gleaned from all of your blogs and mine have helped me get my train back on the track, and I thank you all for that. And pushing myself to get back to regular exercise helped lift the depression and find myself again and actually discover a new me.

Third, I discovered Chi Running, which for me really turned my running around. I still have many miles to go before I can get even close to my running abilities of the past, and with age I doubt I will get as far as I did, but I expect to go farther yet this year.

Fourth, was pushing myself through all the tris I did last year, almost impossible as they were for me at times, in an effort to reach goals by the end of the season.

Fifth, was the accident. Not that I would recommend this to anyone, of course, but it did give me a new motivation to gain back the ground I lost and hopefully get almost back to where I wanted to be by the first of the year. It also gave me a time off period that most likely rested me enough for the first time in years so my flexibility returned. I wouldn't want to take 2 full months off and do nothing every year, but I clearly can see the benefit of time off from running, biking, or competing for at least 2 weeks a year, maybe 4. As long as I can do pilates, weights, swim, or yoga, I can be happy.

Today, to wrap up the month, I did an outside run. I want to run outside at least once or twice a week in the cold months, so I will be more accustomed to it again once the good weather returns. I really don't know what the temperature was, but I wore my face mask and I can say that really helps. You feel the cold, but you don't feel cold. And as I've said before, early morning running usually means no wind, so it is tolerable as long as you dress in layers and don't stay out too long. Running from the gym, the sidewalks were mainly clean and dry, unlike yesterday when another blanket of snow hit us.

Tomorrow's another month!

Monday, January 29, 2007

SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE.

That's what I got tonight. I was looking everywhere for last year's indoor tri results, trying even to access my archived blogs, with no luck. I really wanted to compare last year's results to this year. So I e-mailed the race director and asked if he would send them to me, and he was kind enough to comply.

I was extremely surprised then to compare last year's results with this year's: last year 8,010 yards; this year: 8,996 yards. Unbelievable! I really could not remember, and had no idea I was that much ahead. I really was trying not to get too down on myself about maybe not doing as well as last year, or so I thought. I even tried not to make excuses about the fact that there was new competition in the age group this year (overall woman & masters winner, one in the same) or the fact that they didn't give dual (or more) awards to the same person this year, meaning my second place last year really was third behind the masters winner. I even resigned myself today about the fact that this will never change. These same two or three women have always and will always beat me, no matter how much better I get. They are too far ahead of me. (As an example, the overall woman did almost twice my yardage!) And of course I had to rerain from consoling myself over the fact that my training was severely interrupted for months because of the accident.

Oh my gosh! I really didn't expect this! I am so much more encouraged now to work harder still to get to a new level before the next indoor tri. (I actually found about 4 of them in our area coming up!) While I thought my swimming was way down from last year, I was only 2 laps off; my biking this year was over 1/2 mile better (I really had bike issues last year); and I thought I did farther on my run last year, but I really beat last year's distance by 1/2 lap.

I'm happy.
I'VE BEEN TAGGED.

Sort of. Not directly. But I do like this particular tag and thought I would pass it on. I got it from Nancy and liked it enough to "steal" it.

1. Describe a memory from your first triathlon ever.
2. Describe a memory from your most recent triathlon.
3. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you in a tri?
4. What is the most thrilling thing that has happened to you in a tri?
5. What is something you discovered about yourself by doing triathlons?
6. What is The Big Goal that you are working towards?

1. I really have two memories of first tris--one inside and one outside. On the inside tri, it was that I missed part of the bike portion of the race (see, my bike problems go way back) because I was trying to get a shirt on and it got stuck on my wet body and everyone else had gone to the bikes. There I struggled, and finally ran to my bike, 2 minutes into the 15 minute segment, with my shirt stuck over my shoulder. Got a video to prove it! (This could also fit under No. 3) On the outside tri, it was the sheer panic in the open water swim.

2. My most recent tri was my indoor tri on Saturday, Jan. 27. I did okay and took third in the AG, despite my recent injuries.

3. The most embarrassing thing was being last and being "yelled" at for making the volunteers wait "so long." I was angry more than embarrassed. After all, I figured I had paid my money the same as everyone else. But I really was very slow and almost everyone had already left. Now if someone had come out and offered me a ride....

4. The most thrilling thing would have been placing in my AG in our local tri that has some VERY tough competition. (Never mind the fact that no one showed up that day in my AG!)

5. What I've discovered about myself doing tris is that it takes a lot more than I would have thought to maintain or get better. But I've also learned to pace myself and finish the race, regardless of how slow. And I've also discovered I really like the short distances better.

6. My Big Goal is to do at least one IM. I'm not going to make a hobby out of it, but I really would like to experience at least one. Then I'll go back to doing sprints.

So, if you want to play along, consider yourself tagged.

Sunday, January 28, 2007



MUSKEGON INDOOR TRI, JAN. 27, 2007


First tri of the year. LOL! Indoor or not, I'm counting it. Here is a picture of the final result of the day--all winners! (L to R: Don--race director; me; Jan; Amanda (Jan's daughter)).








Here we are just before the swim.
Me on the bike. (I look horrible any time I race!)


The three of us on the bikes.

























The three of us after the run. (Once again, I look horrible! The hair!)






Mom and daughter winners!





And finally.



We had a great time. It never hurts when you al walk away with awards either!


There were 12 heats of mostly 6 in each heat, so about 72 participants, including some teams. Our heat was number 6, so we were right in the middle, making it a long day. All in all, I guess I wasn't disappointed in my results, and until I can compare from last year, won't really know how I did.

The tri is held at a YMCA near the Lake Michigan lakeshore, about 45 miles away from Grand Rapids. Actually, the Y sits right on Muskegon Lake, next to a marina, a stone's throw from Lake Michigan, a prime piece of real estate, I'm sure. I have done races from this Y since I began running 19 years ago, so it has been a work in progress watching the area develop from mostly an industrial area on a lake so polluted it was considered "dead" for years, to a jewel in the rough, with one of the prime outdoor concert areas on the lakeshore, with high rise hotels, beautiful waterfront parks, the marina, and Lake Michigan beaches all within a couple of miles. It was an amazing sight, seeing the frozen Muskegon Lake out the windows of the Y. If you've never seen a big lake frozen, it is a sight to behold, like looking at the moon or another planet.

Anyway, we got there early, to get our bearings and figure out where everything was. Each event is held on a different level of the Y, so it was almost necessary to have a map and compass to get around the place. Fortunately, they had signs pointing us in the direction of the bike and run, not that we could remember which way to go 5 minutes later!

Each event is 15 minutes, with a 5 minute transition, which was good considering the distance we had to hike to each segment! Talk about long transitions!

The three of us were all in the same heat, me first, Jan second, Amanda third, so those were the lanes we also got in the pool. I was in the same lane as last year, next to the wall. The pool water was warm, but I didn't realize how warm until we got started. It felt good waiting the 5 minutes in the water, since the air in the rest of the place was freezing! But once we started, it was obvious it was too warm for me. I felt like I was breathing hard and working harder than last year, that's for sure. As I swam along, I felt strong, and could see down the lanes that I was keeping even with Amanda on every lap. She would pull ahead of me doing breast stroke (because she is so tall I imagine), but she seemed to falter some towards the middle, and I was able to actually pass her a few times. There was also this other woman next to Amanda who would swim down doing freestyle and then kick back on her back--yet she kept even with us the whole time! Jan is not that strong of a swimmer, so I lapped her a couple of times. When our 15 minutes was up, Amanda and I tied! It was weird, we both hit the wall and looked at each other and laughed! Twelve laps each, 600 yards, 200 yards less than last year! Yikes! I really need to work on my swim!

We hopped out of the pool, quickly got dressed for the bike, and hoofed it up a flight of stairs, down two hallways, and around another corner to the bikes. I still didn't have my shoes tied, but I didn't want the same problem as last year--having my bike seat set for someone over 6 feet, so I waited until I tested the seat and then quickly hopped off again to tie my shoes. This year, they used road bikes on trainers, instead of the mountain bikes like last year, so they were far more comfortable and easier to use. I had a Lemond, Amanda had a Trek, and I can't remember what Jan had. I had never even seen a Lemond. It seemed nice enough. They called Start and we started pedaling. It took me a minute to get the gearing right, so I messed up again on that, and didn't realize the computer indicated distance for a couple of more minutes, so I was just putzing along at first until I noticed that I wasn't making much progress very fast. When you have only 15 minutes, every minute counts. So a minute or two lost means mileage lost. The bike really is my weakest link and always has been. I always think I am pushing myself hard enough, but the results show otherwise. It always feels hard enough! So I struggled, trying to get the mileage up. I could really feel it in my quads, and soon realized my seat wasn't quite high enough. Oh well, can't mess with that now. About halfway through, my nemesis shows up to check out the "competition"--the Stripper with her daughter. "Is that Vickie?? Go girl. Pedal harder!" (Can't she see I'm killing myself already?? I can't beat her anyway on her worst day.") And while 15 minutes doesn't seem like a long time, 15 minutes at a killer pace seems like forever. You can't wait to be done! The last 2 minutes I pedaled as hard as I could, to get the mileage over the 3 mile mark, since I definitely was dragging. One more minute, and I again put all I had into it and went to 3.26. We all compared our distances: me at 3.26; Jan at 3.76; Amanda at 3.92. Woo hoo! She did great. To be fair here, Jan's chain came off once, so I figure she might have gotten closer to Amanda had that not happened.

Then we grabbed our stuff and head up another 2 flights of stairs to the run. Talk about feeling your legs! We had to go up to a track above the basketball court. We have to dodge people coming down the steps and standing in the way of the gym watching the game, but we get through the obstacles and up to the track with 2 minutes to spare. The track is 19 laps to a mile, much like being on a hamster wheel, but really not as bad as it seems. They stagger the start, with three on one end and three on the other end of the track. The three of us started together then. Amanda and I were the only ones who heard them call start, so we started running and everyone else just stood there. I hesitated and asked Jan if we were supposed to start, when they called it out again, and we were all off. Amanda, with her long legs, immediately went to the front of our three, but Jan soon passed her, and I just trailed behind. The other three runners were coming up behind us, but only the lone male in our heat passed me before the first lap, so I felt I was holding my own. I wanted to get at least as far as last year, but I couldn't remember at first how many laps that was. Eventually, I realized I needed to get 30 laps to beat last year. This was tough, was all I could think when we started. My injured shoulder and arm were hurting so bad at this point it caught me up every time I had a spasm. Fortunately, after about 4 laps, that eased up. Round and round we go, where we'll stop, no one knows, as the saying goes. I'm telling you, I couldn't wait to get this thing done. I basically relied on momentum to pull me around that track. I really had no idea how I would do or how I was really doing against the others. I was getting lapped, so I knew I was behind everyone. The only one who didn't lap me was Amanda, and I didn't know why. She should have passed me at some point, but she never did. Jan lapped me twice, and another woman in her age group lapped me twice and then got ahead of Jan, so I was hoping she wasn't getting ahead. A younger girl also lapped all of us, but again, you really can't be keeping track of anyone but yourself, so we would have to see at the end how it all came out. I hit lap 19, the 1 mile mark, in 10 minutes. Yes! I wanted to get another 9 at least. I decided I would be happy with that. At 3 minutes to go, it seemed still an eternity before we would be done. Then 2, then 1, and I needed to get one and a half laps done to get 28. So I pushed it here, coming up behind Jan just at the lap mark, and 5 seconds before the finish! We both stopped at the 5 second mark, since nothing after the lap would count anyway. What a relief! I didn't beat last year, but I was still okay with that. I did what I could, it was what it was, and I feel I put as much as I could into it. Again, Amanda and I tied on the run! 28 laps, 1.5 miles.

We cooled down, got dressed, and then sat around waiting for awards, for 2 more hours! But as you can see, it was worth waiting for. The plaque I got was a fluke! The first place overall woman was in my age group and took masters (she beat all but 2 men). The race director forgot his glasses and couldn't see a thing, so was making mistakes on age group awards, mine included. I went to him afterward and asked why he didn't take the first place woman (and masters winner) out of the age group and he said he did. "No, you didn't. You gave her first place, Tamara second, and Joan third. That left me out." He was very apologetic. I was only trying to make a point for the standings, not get anything. But then he reached into his award box and said, "Here. I have one award left. Its yours for me messing up." LOL! So I call this the whiner award! I'm always amazed at the people who whine and get their own way. Maybe it works!

All in all, we had a great day. Jan and Amanda both took second in their age groups, both missing firsts by less than 200 yards--the swim for Jan, the bike for Amanda.

At least I know what I can do, and how much more I need to do, before my first outdoor tri this year!

Friday, January 26, 2007

UPCOMING WEEKEND.

First, good luck to Sharon and Ross, who are doing a 5k tonight--Sharon's first in a while and Ross's first ever. Should be exciting! And hopefully, the weather in sunny Florida will be warmer than here.

Second, tomorrow is my indoor triathlon, so I will be competing with my friend Jan and her daughter. The event is at a Y, and I have done this event 2 or 3 times before, the most recent last year. They have changed the format somewhat from last year, in that we will be riding road bikes (on trainers) as opposed to mountain bikes. My main hope on this is that I don't have to follow a 6 foot plus Amazon person who puts all the gears on and then leaves the bike this way. Last year, it took me almost 3 minutes to get my bike geared properly so I could move the pedals around without practically standing. Add to that, the seat was maxed out in height, so I had to fix that first. Since we only get 5 minutes between the swim/bike/run segments, and since EACH segment takes place on a different floor, its a little difficult to plan much time to fix your bike in time. And you don't get a choice in bikes, you have to take the number you are assigned to.

I'm not really sure how any of these events will go, since I really haven't been working out that long yet to have any real idea of what I can or will do. I don't know the length of the pool I swim in now, so I can't even make a judgment on that. Last year, in 15 minutes, I went over 800 yards, by far a PR. I don't think that will happen this year. The bike portion was a little skewed last year because of the seat and gearing problem, but I still had almost 3 miles, all things considered (they take yardage, not mileage). The run, I think I did 1.7 miles in 15 min. The run is done on a track on the upper level of the Y, above the basketball court--while a game is going on usually. It is 19 laps to the mile, but once you get the momentum going, it seems like you are really flying, or maybe more like a hamster on a wheel. And again, I'm not sure of the talent of all the individuals in my heat, so I can't guage what I will do against any of them. You compete in your age group anyway, but run in heats of various ages. I think its mostly randomly selected or maybe first come, first served.

Jan and I asked to be in the same heat with her daughter since we were all riding together anyway. I do know there are at least three other super fast triathletes in my age group, so basically the three of them will battle it out for win, place, and show. I'm sure one of them will take masters, so that may leave me with a slight chance of moving up to third. Dream on! Jan, I expect, will take first in her age group again, or battle for second.

It will be a fun event, but I am more than positive I will be whipped when I am done. I have taken it especially easy this week, only doing one run and bike, and all the other days short swims. But I have been stressed out about other things, and also put in long hours on the day of my dad's last treatment so I wouldn't have to work this weekend, so am on the lacking side for sleep.

I'll post a report after tomorrow, and maybe have some pictures as well.
THE NEW BLOGGER.

Well, I have been forced to switch over. From what I have seen on others' blogs, it appears to be going smoothly enough, so time will tell if I have the same luck. One thing I have noticed different when people who are on the new blogger comment on my blog is that I have the comments come through on my e-mail, and now when they comment there is no return e-mail address to respond back. I want some dialogue with people who comment and don't feel I can do that now. Or maybe I just don't know how? In any event, if anyone can pass on to me any tips for being able to respond back to comments, I would appreciate it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


GOOD NEWS FOR NOW.

A CAT scan my dad had recently has shown a shrinkage of the lymph node tumors, indicating an improvement in his overall health after only three chemo treatments. Here is a picture of my dad at Christmas with 5 of his kids (my hypochondriac sister couldn't make it due to, what else? Her own "sickness." In her words, "I used to worry about him, but I decided to leave that to you since I have my own health to consider." Whatever.)

And while this is good news for him, it makes me sad to realize no one else has bothered to inquire about how things are going, and especially don't ever ask how I am handling all this. I just don't understand the selfishness and self-centeredness of each of them. Its as if no one exists except them, and there is nothing else to life except what goes on in their little world.

Anyway, just thought I would update on things. Treatment 4 was yesterday, so we're halfway there!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


LOCKER ROOM ETIQUETTE.

Since joining the new gym, I was really hoping it would eliminate some of the problems and annoyances I faced while going to the Y. The main problem there was the parking situation, but another one of those problems was the locker room etiquette of most of the patrons. But when you have probably 100-200 women using a facility at the same time at any given time of the day or night, you can pretty much assume things won't be perfect. For example, anything you leave out either would "walk" away, never to be seen again, or would become fair game for anyone who chose to use. So everything was locked up at all times or you took your chances.

The new gym, however, is small, has a maximum number of members at around 200, and of those, probably only 100 use the athletic facilities on a regular basis. Mornings are when there is the lightest use, so probably only 5 or 6 of us at any one time need to "share" a space. For the most part, it works pretty good. Either Jan or I get there first, "stake out" our spot for getting ready, and then go do our workout. Up to this point, when we get back to the locker room, there might be one or two other women already getting ready, and maybe another one or two come in during that time to change for working out. No one bothers anyone, and we all get along well.

Since the first of the year, with all the "resolutionists" showing up (as is usual in any gym, I'm sure), things have gotten a little chaotic. I have held my tongue and have not said anything to anyone, just attempted to be courteous and respectful of space, mess, etc. I tend to spread things out sometimes, but everything gets moved if others need the space, and I always put my stuff away. One thing I have been in the habit of doing, though, as have a few others, is leaving my gym bag under one of the counters in front of one of the mirrors. The counters are pretty deep, so the bag is totally out of the way. One of the nice perks of being in the same building where I work is not having to take my stuff out to my car and having it sit out in the cold car all day where sometimes things freeze in the winter and melt in the summer. Then I just pick it up on my way out at night.

Last week, however, I went to get my things after work and my bag was gone! I'm thinking, where in the world could it have gone? Who would have taken it? And why?? I looked through all the lockers, on top of the lockers, in the corners, all with no luck. I finally found it jammed--and I do mean jammed--onto a shelf by the door where they keep all the locker baskets, for those who want to leave stuff there (indefinitely it seems!) and not pay to store things in a locker.

I was pretty irritated, since whoever did this didn't bother to zip the bag up the rest of the way, and stuff was falling out since it was jammed onto its side. So, when I finally found it, and went to retrieve it, half of my stuff comes tumbling out on the floor. I was more irritated. I was happy, however, to find that my things hadn't been stolen.

I pretty much figured no one in the morning would do such a thing, but since I'm not sure of who all goes on a regular basis during the lunch period, it would be hard for me to put the blame on anyone specifically.

So yesterday, it was the same thing. I worked out in the morning, and planned to go back to take the pilates class after work, so naturally left my stuff in the locker room. When I left the locker room in the morning, my bag was pushed under the counter, out of the way. It could not possibly have been in anyone's way for any reason, unless they were planning on taking a nap under the counter. Even if they had pulled up one of the counter chairs to use, and there was a slim chance the bag was sticking out, they could have just moved it over or pushed it farther back, so I can't think of any reason why anyone has done this. The weight alone would deter anyone from just doing this to be "helpful." They would have to have a bee in their bonnet to go to all that trouble to heft that thing anywhere! And once again, the bag is gone, again stuffed onto a shelf about the size of a milk crate, hanging off the edge for someone to run into or knock it off. What's going on??

Today, I put a note on it, saying Please do not move my things. We'll see if it is still there when I go to swim later!

There have been a few other things lately that annoy me (and others) and make no sense, and generally are just due to people's lack of courtesy for others, but I think this is the worst one right now. Jan says she leaves her bag on the floor by one of the counters and it is never moved, has never even been touched in all the years she has gone there. So what gives? Is someone targeting me specifically??

Craziness. Its everywhere!

Monday, January 22, 2007

VITTORIA PIT STOP.

An answer to my prayers! Not knowing how to properly or quickly change a flat tire, this seems to be a solution for that problem. Vittoria Pit Stop.
I TRIED TO SLEEP IN.

But it didn't happen. I woke up at 5 am on the dot, no alarm. Saturday and Sunday it was the same thing, around 5:30, again with no alarm. Not that I am really tired or anything, I just would like to not get up that early on a weekend for no real reason. And then staying up past 9 pm gets really difficult!

I decided I would not get up as early all week, not do spinning, and generally have an easier week. This coming Saturday, I will be doing the annual Indoor Triathlon at the Y, so I figured I have already got enough training in. I really want to go into this with fresher legs.

As long as I was up anyway, I decided I would go swim. It had been snowy again overnight, and it really makes my life easier to get downtown before the masses hit the highways. And I really do like working out in the morning, so a swim seemed like a compromise.

While swimming, I noticed something: I felt like I was swimming faster than usual. The other woman who swims M-W-F was already there, and I actually came close to her speed for the first time since before the accident. She is a good swimmer. That's pretty much all she does. I felt stronger than usual too. I had on a new swim cap, a really nice one I got at a tri last season and probably had only worn once, and oddly enough, I felt like I was gliding through the water better. When I checked my watch after a half mile, I was almost 2 minutes faster than my last timed half. And I know I counted correctly. Could a swim cap make that much of a difference?? If so, I'm wearing it Saturday!

I always like a morning swim, because it helps me sort things out easier. It definitely helped me think about my schedule this week. I had thought I would do the evening spin class, but now I think I will pass on all spinning this week and instead do short bike/run workouts on Tuesday and Thursday and swim the other days. I think that will work and give me the energy I need to do well on Saturday.

I am not going to look at my times from last year. There are too many factors involved to make a fair comparison. I just want to go into this thing and hope to do as well and place as well as last year, despite any new or different competition who may show up. Later this year, Jan will be in my age group, so this will be my last time at this event to have any hope of placing well in my age group!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

FIRST FIVE MILER.

First that is in 5 months. Today, it was finally time to start the 25k training. Only 10.5 more to go! No more playing around doing 5ks. No siree. Get out there and do the long slow distance.

Since it had been snowing almost steadily since Thursday, and more heavily starting yesterday afternoon-whiteouts driving home, and I live in the city!--I figured the roads would be a factor this morning. I was happy to see, however, that my tax dollars had been at work overnight, so the plows must have been out doing their job, because the roads were fairly clean. At least the main roads were. I knew there would be no way they would have plowed the side streets. So my run was planned to go to the park, a popular meeting place for runners and triathletes. I hadn't planned to run with anyone, but I knew there would be a group there training for the 25k--the Mentor Group--so I knew I wouldn't be out there alone. Whether I would be last, however, I had no way of knowing.

I figured 5 miles would be good, considering I had been doing 5ks for the past two weeks, and a 4 mile race on New Year's Day. I just would walk if I needed to. I was really hoping to be done in an hour, since the hour mark was really my next step up on time. I don't know why, but as I approached the park, I started getting this nervous feeling, like I was doing a race, or something I had never done before. I guess I was apprehensive. I just did not know how I would do or even if I could do it.

I arrived at the park just before 8 am. It was just starting to get lighter out, but with the snow cover it seemed brighter than usual. I didn't really know what the temperature was, but from the many I saw standing around, I knew it was going to be another face mask day. That's okay, another way of staying anonymous to people I don't know.

All the parking spots were filled when I arrived, if not with cars then with piles of snow, so I had to drive around for a while to find a spot. The only spot available was where everyone had gathered to meet before the run. All right, I'm thinking, you people are just going to have to move, because there's no way I'm parking way on the other side of the park. And move they did, as they started out on their run, and there I am, trapped in my car, unable to move, until they had all passed by. They stared at me like I was one of the animals in the zoo. Yes, I do want to park my car; thanks for not moving over!

So by the time I parked, got my face mask on, and got out of the car, most of the group had left the park and were out on the road. I would definitely be playing catch-up from here on out.

My legs felt good, and with the face mask, I was able to breathe easy and relaxed. I passed a few people coming back from what they call "7 at 7," where they meet at 7 am and run 7 miles and then hook up with whoever shows up later to run at 8. Most of these people are the hardcore runners or triathletes, and I have only joined them once on this early loop. Not that I could keep up anyway!

I really didn't know what route the group was going to do, since the training plan varies from year to year, and with whoever is in charge. I was glad to see they were taking the same route I wanted to take, the same route Shelley and I took when she was here in December. I can't really count that day as a 5 mile run, since we walked a lot of it, but it still qualified as a workout. This route is rolling hills mainly, with a few steep climbs, so not the easiest route, but at least the roadway was fairly clean, and with low traffic, we were able to run on the pavement most of the time.

I was able to start catching up with people but still hadn't passed anyone but some walkers. The main group was pulling away quickly. I had to wonder just how "new" to running most of those runners were, since they clearly were at least a half mile ahead. But I noticed on their return that a lot of them were young, probably under 20, so today, youth equalled speed.

If it weren't for my nose running constantly, I might have been able to keep going most of the way, but had to stop to blow my nose so waited for a good time to do my first walk break. That came sometime after the 1.5 mile point. Once I cleared my nose out, I was able to get going and breathe again. Its hard to blow your nose when you have a face mask on, and apparently I'm just not coordinated enough to take it off and put it back on when running. So I walked a minute and a half.

I was at 20 minutes, and was starting to despair a little that I wouldn't hit the halfway point by 30 minutes. But apparently, my idea of what was 5 miles and the group's 5 miles was different, because before I knew it, I had reached the turnaround, at a point in the road sooner than I expected. A few people called out to me, those who recognized me, and the rest smiled or said hello. I just smiled with my eyes. One of the women helping with the group, who generously gave her time--and gas--to drive to the halfway spot and wait, yelled out as I approached, "If you're doing 5 miles, you turn here." I looked at my watch and saw I was dead on 30 minutes. I was happy.

I ran a little farther and decided to take another walk break. My nose needed attention again. A couple of my friends had passed me before I reached the turnaround, and I calculated that had I started with them, I would be with them now. But I wasn't going to catch them anytime soon, so walking now was a good thing.

Starting back up, I had to climb another hill. I hadn't realized how long it was going down, but I easily passed one woman there. I seem to be doing okay on hills at least.

On the return trip, I couldn't help notice how truly beautiful it was out. It was cold, to be sure, but being dressed properly and moving along, it really wasn't that cold feeling. The sun was shining, and everything looked new and clean with the newly fallen snow.

I felt a little stronger at this point too, and really thought I might catch up with my friends ahead, but no luck. Even when they stopped to walk, I still couldn't get close enough to catch them, and then of course I had to take another walk break. If not for the hills and the running nose, I might have dropped one of the breaks, but as I said, this route is rolling hills, the whole way.

I checked my watch as I came over the last hill and saw I still had 7 minutes to finish, if I wanted to get done in an hour. I knew then I had it. I was getting tired, no doubt, but I knew I would make it.

Just before the very end, as I turned back into the park, the guy in charge of the Mentor Group, Paul, came running back (someone does this the whole time--run ahead and check on the front people and then run back to check on the slower people) and said, "First time?" I just said yes, and left it at that. It was almost like a first time. I was really glad to be getting done though. I ran to the last stop sign, hit my watch, and sighed with relief: 1:00 flat! Twelve minute miles.

After that, I headed to the gym and planned to do a swim. I wasn't too cold, but my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows were wet and frozen. That has to be from the facemask and all the breath steam that comes up over the top. I was really surprised at how wet my hair was, but I never even felt it.

One thing I notice while getting my suit on is all the red areas on my skin. I'm always amazed at how red all the "fat" areas are after running outside. Maybe that's a good thing? The fat is heated up and is burning away.

The pool has been pleasantly warmer lately. Since they fixed the heater, I think they raised the temperature by a few degrees too. Much nicer for the winter! My feet were still freezing, but the water felt warm on all the still cold parts. There was another guy swimming, so every time he went past me, I got a face full of water. I figured good triathlon swim training. Twenty five minutes was enough, and I was done for the day!

Friday, January 19, 2007

TONING.

Since restarting my workouts and weight training, my main focus over the last 4 weeks has been to rebuild some lost strength. A couple of good things have come out of that. The first is by getting more strength back in the arms, shoulders, and back my pain and discomfort level has been reduced greatly. I can't remember the last time I had to take a muscle relaxant or pain medication. I realize, of course, that time is a great healer, so the passage of time is a factor. But I really don't believe that by sitting and doing nothing that I would have recovered to this point this fast. The second thing that has happened is my 5k time is improving like I was hoping it would, as it did in the past, using this same routine.

But I couldn't help but notice that my muscle tone was not what it used to be. After sitting for 2 months and doing nothing while I waited for all the bones to heal, and then almost another month waiting for some of the tissue to heal, I lost a lot of muscle, and that meant muscle tone. I lost 5 pounds, which I have gained back, and the loss of muscle tone was obvious, at least to me. The naked truth is harsh. Everything I had gained over last year was wiped out in those months.

Up until now I have mainly concentrated on increasing weight to rebuild strength, and while I have been happy with the progress there, the muscle tone thing has been really bothering me. But then something caught my eye in one of those women's magazines lying around the locker room. It was opened to an article about reshaping yourself--thighs, butt, arms, etc. It showed the before and after pics and gave the before and after workout routines. Most of the women featured in the article worked out regularly, and most included running in their routines. Reading some of the article, I couldn't help but notice what differences were recommended for their workout routines in order to get more shape and definition. The main thing was lighter weights and faster workouts. Even calisthenics were mentioned! That meant pushups, jumping jacks, etc. I didn't think anyone did those anymore.

Naturally, that got me thinking about how I could improve my own weight workout routine. I still feel I need to work on keeping heavier weights to maintain strength, and I do know that you plateau and then gain more, but I seriously believe that I have reached almost my max on most things. And I still get on the treadmill for my speed workout immediately after. What can I change?

So yesterday, I tried something new. I still used many of the same weight routines I normally do, I just lowered the weight and increased the reps. I could definitely feel a difference, both in terms of fatigue level and heat in the muscle worked. When I was done, I hit the treadmill for a speed workout. That seemed a little easier, but I know it is from progression.

I want to get back the look I had many years ago, which is a stretch, I know. But I am going to try to work on building shape and definition, to my arms especially. I am hoping to break down the fat areas and send the flab packing!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

CRUNCHY.

The weather person said it was +6 this morning when I got up. That crunchy cold, indicating that the deep freeze has arrived. It really doesn't feel that cold yet, since we barely have a snow cover. My plan had been to run outside today, and I hesitated at first. But after driving to the gym, I was glad I had thrown my outside clothes in the car--just in case. I also took along my new face mask that my friend Jan had given me for Christmas. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I was even more happy that Jan showed up at the gym and wanted to run outside as well. She probably wouldn't have gone by herself, but decided to join me. I warned her about running slow. That was okay with her. So we bundled up and headed out on the dark downtown streets. Actually, it isn't that dark, what with all the building lights and street lights. It is just dark outside.

Running before the sun comes up--in the winter or any time for that matter--usually guarantees no wind, no matter how cold it is. Today, that held true. While it was cold, it wasn't that biting cold that you get on a blustery, even if sunny, day.

The face mask worked very well. It is mostly fleece with a soft neoprene piece around the nose and mouth with holes for breathing. It fits very nicely, without making me feel claustrophobic, and stays in place. My old all neoprene face mask disappeared a few years ago, and hasn't been missed. Not only have I not been running in the winter outside much for a couple of years, but the old mask was a pain, in that it did not stay in place, bunched up, and got really wet. So this was a nice addition to my running gear and the perfect day to use it.

Having someone to run with this morning also made the cold almost unnoticeable. We chatted as we ran along, actually Jan mostly chatted, and I was able to keep up and not get out of breath as much, I'm sure from having the mask. Jan qualified for Boston back in October at Chicago, so I know she is capable of running me into the ground, but she was content to go my pace, or maybe I just was able to keep up, I'm not sure. Either way, we got it done.

I discovered quite a few years ago how much I enjoyed running in the early morning, before it is light out. When it is dark, you only have you and your run going on. Yes, there are other factors you have to consider--mainly safety--but there is this quiet that allows you to run and think and be aware of everything around you without getting distracted at the same time. Its a time to run without being seen--you can run and observe without being observed. At least, that's the way I feel.

We had planned on 30 minutes but it was 31:22 when we finished, and we both felt very good. Some good stretching after and I was ready to get to work.

CREEPY!


Okay, I've about had it with spiders. I know they are one of God's creatures. I know they have a purpose. I also know some people like them. Its not bad enough when they crawl across my kitchen counter or stove as I am cooking; its not bad enough when they drop from the ceiling in front of my face; its not bad enough when they crawl out of my bath towel or drop into the tub after a shower. Its not bad enough when they crawl across my computer screen or TV as I am sitting there working or watching. No, that's not bad enough. Bad enough is when they crawl up my coffee cup as I am having my morning coffee! (Shivver)

I can't help it now that I itch all over. It happened the other morning too when I swatted one off the counter and I could have sworn it crawled up my leg. I had that creepy, itchy feeling for quite a while after.

These generally are white or light colored spiders. I don't know what variety and don't care. I just want them to go away! You can't see the darn things until they are right there. I am constantly scanning the ceiling and corners for any signs of them balled up in their nests or whatever it is they live in. I rarely see anything. So where do they come from?? Its a mystery, one I would like to solve. Any ideas on sending these creatures back outside where they belong??

Tuesday, January 16, 2007



A DAY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER.

January 16, 1977. That was the day my oldest daughter (on the left) was born.

Back in the 70s, when the women's movement was really starting to take off, we all wanted careers, wanted to wait to have kids, and vowed to not be stay at home mommies when we did. I admit, I thought there was no way I was not going back to work after giving birth. After all, we knew how to do it all! We weren't going to be like our parents.

And then wham! Into the world came a creature who transformed my way of life and thinking from that moment on. Not only did I want to be the best mom I could possibly be and give this child all the best (typical, right?), but I didn't want anyone else being there for all her firsts. I was this emotional wreck over loving this child so much. And I couldn't ever remember having those feelings before.

Naturally, all that initial gooey stuff wore off to more sensible feelings. Not that I ever changed my feelings of love for this child or my other children, but I learned to balance those feelings with the reality of life. I eventually did have to go back to work, but I definitely made some major changes in my life, and did it gladly.

So happy birthday! And now you're 30, hard to believe! I hope you have a fulfilling and happy life!

Monday, January 15, 2007

OKAY, I'VE BEEN TAGGED.

And if anyone can beat me on boring, I'll take ya on!

Here are the rules:

1.. Find the nearest book.
2. Name the book & the author.
3. Turn to page 123.
4. Go to the fifth sentence on the page. Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
5. Tag three more folks.

2. Book: Michigan Rules of Court, Federal, Thomson/West Publishing.
4. These rules shall be construed to secure fairness in administration, elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.
5. Anyone reading can be tagged.

I figure 3 lines are enough with this book! I'm reading at work, so of course you can see what reading material I keep close at hand. This paragraph is from the Federal Rules of Evidence section. Now, can anyone interpret this?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'M BECOMING A RACE JUNKIE.

Believe it or not, I ran another 5k today. I have Don to thank for that. He's "recovering" from a 50k a couple of weeks ago, so instead, he wants to run all these 5ks. So, once again, we headed out in the cold for another race.

I tried to find the race application yesterday afternoon on one of the race websites, but only found that preregistration was closed and a few runner comments from previous races. The comments were all good, indicating what a great race it was, etc. It also emphasized the hills on the course. Oh great, another killer course.

The race didn't start until 10 am again, making it nice so I didn't have to set any alarms to get up. But the complicating part of the time was I had a benefit breakfast to go to right after that lasted from 8 until noon. The location was about 60 miles in the opposite direction from the race. The benefit was for my niece, who suffers from myasthenia gravis, an autoimmunte disease, that resulted in her having major surgery in November, and which the pancake breakfast was being held to offset some of the costs of the surgery for her parents. (They figure after insurance pays their "share," they will still have an $80,000 hospital bill to cover themselves.) This was the second of two fundraisers, and I had to miss the first one too, so really felt an obligation to try to make it today, as inconvenient as it would be.

Typically, riding to a race with Don is an adventure since we rarely leave early and are always getting there late. Riding with him, you'd better be prepared to not have to go to the bathroom when you get there and pretty much hop out of the car and start the race!

And that's almost what happened. The directions I got from Mapquest were mistakenly for the middle school which I didn't know, so after wandering around the small city of Portland, MI, looking for the race, we discovered we were at the end of a cul-de-sac, and you guessed it. No race there. Mind you, it was 9:45 and I was really starting to panic. We hadn't even signed up yet! I notice a car go by that looked like it had runners in it, so we followed that one and fortunately found our way to the race site.

We hop out of the car, it is 9:50, run into the school, sign up, and then I head for the bathroom. Don disappears, but I couldn't worry about that now. I see a few people I know, but don't stop to chit chat. When I come out of the bathroom, no Don. I still have my race packet to get rid of. It is now 9:56. I head for the car, hoping to find him, but he's not there. All right, I've got to ditch the race bag and shirt, so I stick it practically under the front wheel up near the curb. I couldn't see it no matter which direction I stood, so figured it was safe. Small town, remember?

I head to the start, which at that point I didn't realize was about 3/4 a mile away! It is cold, probably about 28, and windy. But dry! A very tolerable cold for me as long as it is dry. I get to the line up and see they are running towards me. No time to run around the barriers put up, so I just plow through and head toward the back. I only recognize a couple of women, my friend Kathy, and the Cheater. She must go to just about every race too because her husband is a good runner. Like I said before, she got caught "cheating" at races a few years ago because she used her husband's chip and he used hers, always giving her a faster time. When you KNOW you pass someone in a race and then they take YOUR award, you figure out what's going on. There was no way she was going to talk to me or me her.

This is a very popular race, having been around maybe 9 years, although one I have never done. Usually, the weather is horrible, but everyone is commenting on how "nice" it is. While I am busy putting clothes on, there are always those taking them off. In fact, as I approached the start, the race director announced, "Last chance to take your sweats off!" Umm, brr.

The race starts, and as I cross the start line I look at my watch and see 9 seconds have passed. That's the last time I let myself look at my watch until I'm done. Immediately, people rush forward, and everyone behind me is now passing. There seem to be a LOT of older women, and they are all passing me. Not many walkers, so I don't have the luxury of passing too many myself. I decide to just do the best I can do. Once again, its not like I actually was prepared for this race. Not that a 5k should tire me out that much, but it is the cumulative effects of everything else I did this week thatm had I not done, I might be better off today. I really had no way of knowing until I got out there.

So we are off, and I am just trying to hold a decent pace, whatever it is. I am on the lookout for those big hills I heard about, and couldn't help but notice on the way through town. But we hit the first mile marker and still no hill. And the surprising thing was, my first mile was 10:23. Okay, I didn't need to see that. I really felt I was going too fast, but can't actually say I slowed down, I just had a moment of worry.

And before you know it, there is hill number 1. First down a steep grade, and then up. I hold my ground and pass some people walking, but once they get toward the top, they start running again and I can't catch them. I did lose a couple of people behind me though. Before the second mile, naturally, the second hill comes up. About this time, I am at a place in the race where I am no longer getting passed, but I have no way of catching anyone unless they start walking. I hit mile 2 at 21:16, almost an 11 min. mile. I am sure I slowed some without realizing because I thought I was going too fast before and the two hills thrown in, but I am still okay in my mind with this. I don't particularly feel too good, a little like low blood sugar coming on, so my arms feel week. But I do not think I have to walk and just keep plugging along, looking forward to the 2.5 mile mark which takes you back onto school grounds.

I am actually thinking I am not cold and am feeling a little warm, having turned out of the wind. But just then, I turn the last corner onto the campus and the wind hits you full blast in the face. This really is making it hard. I have to put my head down some to keep pushing through this. It is cold, I want to be done, and there are two women who walked a good portion of the 2nd mile who are now catching up. Just before the 3 mile mark, they pass me, and at the same time some idiot woman backs out of her parking spot, almost taking all 3 of us out. I jump out of the way, but the younger women just laugh. I think to myself, if you were run down by this woman, you wouldn't be so quick to laugh!

Believe me, at this point I couldn't wait to finish this thing. Where was that finish line?? I could hear them announcing finish times but it was that old feeling of not being able to get there. Like in a dream. It seemed to take forever! The two women I mentioned earlier had actually stopped to walk again after the 3 mile mark! But now they came blazing past me, and fairly passed, although I felt it was a cheap shot. My finish time: 33:35. So my last 1.1 mile was 12:19, just about what I predicted.

Don was already done and he says, "You let a 74 year old woman beat you!" No, I didn't let her. I never saw her, she was so much faster!

We grabbed waters, and headed into the school to grab some food before heading out again. I have to say, they had a pretty impressive spread: vegetarian chili; rolls; bread; muffins; apples; bananas; oranges; tossed salad in individual bowls; Krispy Kreme donuts; cookies; and I don't know what else. The line was so long, I just grabbed a couple of apples and we headed to the car to change. Don changed in the back seat, and I actually braved the cold and stood outside the car between the doors, like in the summer! I think I am turning into a polar bear.

Then we head back to Grand Rapids and beyond to get to the breakfast. I call my daughter, who has left me numerous messages: "Where are you!" "We're on the way." No need to alarm anyone we will be cutting it close, getting there by the skin of our teeth. Thankfully, the weather was good enough we didn't get held up and made it to the breakfast with 20 minutes to spare!

One of these weeks, I MUST start adding to my mileage, but in the meantime, I have had fun. I am learning a new strategy: go and have fun. I haven't allowed myself to do this for so long, always thinking I needed to be running by someone else's standards. I am using my accident to capitalize on the fact that that slowed me down, which it did, but my own lack of training for so long contributed, so now I feel I can run uninhindered, not caring what others think, but still knowing I am running the best I am able to right now and enjoying myself no matter the outcome.

Friday, January 12, 2007

FIFTH THIRD RIVER BANK RUN.

Well, I signed up last night. The race isn't until May 12. Early signup. Anything for free pizza and save $3, right?

This is our city's big race of the year, a 25k which is also the National Championship 25k race. There is also a 5k and a 5k walk. I did not run this race last year or the year before, not even the 5k. I haven't run the 25k since maybe 1998. Its been so long, I can't remember. But I really need this to be my focus running race for the year, at least at this point. After that, it will be Steelhead.

To me, running a 25k is as bad as running a marathon. Its not as long, but it is long, mentally and physically. I remember when I first started running and hearing all the hype about the race, and making it a goal to run it the next year. Actually, I remember way back to 1983, before I even thought of running, watching it on TV (since it is local). It was pouring rain, and the big star that year (and many other years) was our local Boston Marathon winner, Greg Meyer. An idea popped into my head that day that I was going to run that race one day.

Fast forward to 1989, and that was my first year. I had been running about a year. I had run numerous 5k, 10k, and other short distance races in that year, but none of them could have prepared me for this length of race. We had a work team, comprised of 2 women and 3 men. One of the guys had been running for a while so found us a training program to follow. It seemed simple on the one hand, and aggressive on the other: two 3 mile runs, one 5+ mile run (and building), and one long run every week. Simple because it really wasn't that many miles until towards the end, but aggressive in that my schedule at the time did not allow for a 5+ mile run in the middle of the week. I don't remember how I handled it, but most likely just did 3 or 4 for that midweek run, and maybe got to 5. I was running mainly on lunch hours then, hardly anything from home, except the long run.

My outdoor running gear at the time consisted of a pair of lycra tights, a sweatshirt, and a nylon jacket and pants I bought from a sporting goods store for $14. I'm sure earmuffs and mittens as well. I didn't have enough money for a water bottle carrier, so found some small baby bottles and put them in my pockets. I froze and my water froze. To this day, I don't know how I got through those grueling runs, other than my personal motivation to accomplish this goal. And I was younger and naive, so I suppose that helped! Week after week, I stuck it out, adding a mile a week to my long run. I suffered through ankle tendinitis from running on the banked roads; an aching left foot due to an earlier stress fracture; blisters as big as my hand (not kidding!) due to wet feet and bad fitting orthotics; wind, rain, blizzards, etc. Sort of like a postal worker, right? Whatever the weather, I was out there. Nothing kept me from getting my runs in. And then I got to come home and be a mom.

I was not only driven, but obviously obsessed. I think that happens when you are new to this stuff. You can tell the difference talking with the "old timers" and the newbies. Sometimes I wish I still had that spark and desire, not letting anything get in the way. Other times,, I am glad I have learned to be more balanced.

A good thing that came out of last night's signup was my daughter and one grandson also signed up for the 5k. I'm sure they will walk, but at least they will be out there with me sharing the moment. This has been something I have dreamed about for as long as I have been running!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


SCOOTER RACE.

Today was a weight training/run day. I decided it was going to be nice enough weather that I would go outside again. I knew it would also be a little harder after doing my weight routine, since I am now up to 140 pounds on the leg press machine and I have consistently gone up in all weight exercises, so I figured it would just add a new twist to outside running. On the treadmill, it is easy enough to push myself to a faster pace, but outside, normallyI am content with running whatever pace I feel like.

I also had to compromise on what I would wear, since wearing my outside clothes would cause me to be too warm for the inside routine. I reached a happy medium by putting on the outside clothes and then layering with the inside clothes before going outside and then adding my jacket, gloves, and earband. It was about 40 degrees and partly sunny. Nice for January in Michigan.

So after my weight routine, I head out the door, out through the parking lot, up the ramp, and out onto the street. I am really feeling the legs today, and am thinking at this point I probably would just jog along. But then there's this guy riding one of those motorizes scooters ("you can go to the Grand Canyon in one of them") and starting to wonder if I can pass this him. Since I'm supposed to be doing a speed run, I figure it is worth a try. Believe me, it was a stretch to get past him before the corner. He says, "I'll race ya!" I laughed and said, "You'd probably beat me!" He says, "I could if this thing would get going." Anyway, you had to be there, obviously, but the end result is I did pass him with some effort.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

RUNNING IN THE COLD AND DARK.

I am reaching my limit on the treadmill, and that probably has something to do with the two races last week I did. I am finding myself getting impatient and bored, so today, after checking the outside conditions, I decided on an outside run. I have done a few early morning outside runs since getting back to running a couple of months ago, but none since the new year started. I have been slightly fearful of falling in the dark or on ice, understandably, but today, leaving from the gym, the sidewalks were clear and dry. The temperature was in the 20s, with a windchill of 10, but really no wind, so it was very tolerable. (Its a dry cold :)).

I also feel somewhat safer in the downtown area, at least in the morning hours, since it is better lighted most places, the sidewalks for the most part are always clear, and the police department is within a couple of blocks of the area. Most people out and about are either hustling to jobs or school. The traffic is lighter, so usually the wait at traffic lights is shorter too.

Today, though, I didn't think out a route thoroughly, so found myself going in circles, meandering up this street, down that one. My only real plan was to stay out 30 minutes.

The air was cold enough to make you breathe heavier, but not so cold I needed a face mask. I started thinking of the pacing issue. Maybe its a guy thing, but when I go out to run, either just a normal run or a race, I don't think what pace I will run. I only think what time or how much time I will run. But when listening to Don and his buddies talk about what they are doing, its always what pace they will run a specific route, as in "we'll run 7:30s for 14." I just can't figure that out and put it to practice. If a run 3 miles in 30 min. (I wish), I would be able to figure I ran a 10 min. pace. But for me to say I am going out and running a 10 min. pace, I'm not sure I really know how that feels automatically. If after a 10 minutes I have run a mile, I know what that mile pace is. Make sense?

So I just ran. Past the delivery guy for our building, startling him as I zipped by in the semi-dark. Past Starbucks, where people were lined up already for their lattes or grandes or whatever it is people who go to Starbucks drink (straight, black, decaf, please). I did a loop around the area we call Monroe Center, where the new Art Museum is going up, and the skating rink, which is now dark. Not too many people out along here, and some guy lurking it seems in a doorway steps out as I pass and asks for a light. Yeah, right. Let me shuffle those cigarettes and lighter out of my pocket. I just shot him a look that said, "get out of my face."

On past the police department, where a couple of cars were heading out on their morning shifts. Around the block and past the old Y, now dark too, waiting for some buyer to turn the place into condos. Past the art school, where it looks like they are setting up the cafe for the morning rush, and then back towards the gym.

On a whim, and with still about 15 min. to go, I headed out across the river, passing a construction worker wearing a hard hat and face mask. Hmm, that could be scary at another time. I decided against running through the Ford Museum grounds, even though the walkway is well lit, but the river path within the grounds is dark at this time of day and just a little too close to the river for my comfort in the dark. Instead, I crossed over to the Grand Valley University campus and ran through there, the campus still dark because of the Christmas break. I look at my watch and see time is crawling along. I really am ready to be done, even though I've only been out about 20 minutes. I'm not too cold or tired, just running out of options on where to go next. When it is dark, I feel more limited in where I will run.

So I decided to head back to the gym, crossing over the river again, looking upstream at all the bridges lit up. It really is quite pretty in the dark. I have options on where to cross the busy street to get back to where I need to be, and catching one light, I move to the next, and the next, and the next before I can safely cross. Even with my Iluminite jacket, I am invisible in the dark to manic drivers in a rush to get to work early, and am not going to risk crossing, even with the light, without extreme caution if there is a car waiting to turn. (We have turn on red.)

When I finally cross the street and head to the building, it has been 26 minutes since I went out. Not as long as I had wanted, but I didn't feel like circling the block again. This way, if I get the chance this evening, I will have enough left in me for a short swim. In the now 74 degree water. I figure I better get in there before they lose any more heat or I will be chipping the ice away to swim.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE: A GOOD PIECE OF EQUIPMENT TO HAVE ON HAND.

Yes, its a tennis ball. No, I'm not taking up tennis, thankfully for anyone stupid enough to be my partner.

I forgot about my trusty little friend. I used to keep one in my gym bag and one in my purse, so I would have one wherever I went.

It came in very useful several years ago when I was suffering from piriformis syndrome. After trying everything under the sun (stretches, massage, icing, etc.), I came across an article that suggested using the tennis ball to break up the inflammation, which really is what causes the piriformis problem.

I can honestly say, rolling my butt around on a tennis ball where the piriformis problem was, was more painful than childbirth. It was like a hypodermic needle piercing into me. But after a few days of this therapy, along with icing after, finally, after almost 3 years, I found some relief from a problem that had become severely chronic. It actually cleared up totally, but I continued to use this over the years whenever I felt it coming on. From that day forward, I kept a tennis ball on hand.

Then a few years later, I suffered from major plantar fasciatis so severe I was limping around for months. And this was not a running injury. I probably should have claimed workers' comp, since it resulted after spending 10 hours on my feet at work, in shoes not conducive to walking a block, let alone running all over an office for that many hours. But then, it could be argued, rightly so, that I should have worn more sensible shoes. But then, my argument would be, also rightly so, who knew? Who knew I would be subject to that kind of torture, and fall victim to this affliction, all at the expense of fashion. The next day, I couldn't even walk. Six months later, I was still battling the problem. Then voila! Reading another article, I was reminded of my trusty companion, the tennis ball, again. Once again, after three or four days of aggressive massaging with the tennis ball, followed by icing, I was no longer limping. And after a week or so, I had it under control for a long time after.

I am convinced of the magical powers of the tennis ball. So why then do I keep forgetting all its handy uses??

A while back, I complained of constant heel pain in one foot mainly, but not limited to the one foot all the time. One was just worse than the other. I traced the main problem to socks and replaced them and the problem eased up almost immediately. But, as I've continued progressing with my running more and more, I hadn't totally let the problem heal, and I still was suffering from some residual heel pain that just wasn't clearing up no matter how much I iced. Some days, it was sharp, other days nothing. But it still was a nagging problem, and most noticeable, as plantar problems are, upon first arising or waking up in the middle of the night. After walking around a minute or so, it would be fine. Lately, I have been very vigilant with my heel stretches too, but it just wasn't quite going away.

Then a lightbulb goes off in my brain again: the tennis ball. Okay, start digging around the house, wondering which piece of furniture it had rolled under or the kids had thrown it behind. I found one finally in the basement and rolled my foot and heel around it while watching TV Sunday night. It hurt, no doubt, like a small stone in my heel, and I could feel the crunchiness of calcium deposits, so I knew I had some work to do. After massaging agressively all around the heel, arch, and sides of my heel, I did my icing.

The result? Monday morning, no pain. Nothing. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't find one spot on my foot that hurt. Yee ha! All day, same thing. Usually, the longer I sit, the stiffer it got, so I was always limping some when I got up. Not yesterday. Or today either. I did bring the tennis ball with me, and am using it as I type, just to keep it loose, especially after my run this morning.

And be assured, it can be used to massage any area you can roll it around on and you will feel relief. I hope I can continue to remember this handy tool from now on.

Monday, January 08, 2007

SNOW, SPINNING, AND SWIMMING.

All the S words in one morning.

Apparently, my "snow fence" (imaginary) I put up on the Iowa border has gotten drifted over, as the snow is coming our way today for the first time in weeks. I had hoped to keep it west of here as long as possible, but it is January, so it has just been a matter of time. It does add one more challenge though to getting to the gym by 6:30.

I decided after looking at my proposed schedule for the weeks ahead that I really did need, and could manage, to add one or two spin classes in a week, so today was number one for the week, and my second since I can't remember when. Now, I am not a novice at spinning. I started spinning back in 1998, back when the word spinning usually conjured up the idea of some sort of weaving or yarn work, not indoor cycling. In fact, my first class was the day I had a cyst on my ovary rupture (without knowing what it was), so it was a rough start. So it sort of irks me when I go to a class and there are new people there, and they all treat me like I don't know a bike seat from a pedal. Today, I struggled with the tightening levers on the seat, thanks to some he-man who tightened it almost to the point of the screws being stripped when it finally loosened, and had a couple of women come over to help, trying to explain how it worked. Thanks, but I have figured out a quick karate kick does the trick of loosening the lever. I guess I showed them.

This was a new instructor to me, and I had heard how tough he was. He is an age grouper triathlete and runner, very muscled, and hard driven. I think he is self-employed, so usually spends a considerable amount of time a day working out. Still, he has never attempted an ironman distance, which surprises me. Not that becoming an Ironman is a rite of passage or anything, it just surprises me.

As for his teaching technique, I had become used to the Y instructors, who are very technical in their workouts, with lots of explanation on hand placement, pedaling cadence, and form. We got none of that today. I couldn't help but notice too how my friend Jan, who complains about neck pain, hunches and keeps her arms quite ramrod stiff. Another guy, whom I don't know, keeps his toes pointed down. And another, apparently prides himself on being a "true" biker and uses the aero position for the entire class. All big no-nos according to the Y instructors. I got the impression that the instructor was really into his own workout and wasn't focusing on any of the technical aspects for his class.

Still, I figured I could get out of the workout as much as I wanted. I am hoping to gain more strength by going longer in workouts, without pounding on the treadmill. I also figure it can help with bike to run transition later on.

Right after the class, I hit the pool for another polar plunge. It was still take-your-breath-away cold, but I only had 15 minutes, so it was tolerable. Again, I'm not sure whether being warmed up first or the cold water helped me swim faster, but it definitely made a difference. I don't feel I am really getting faster yet, but it seems faster.

As for the on-line sites for swim wear, if anyone could pass those on to me, I would appreciate it. I have forgotten where I looked before, and it does look like I will have more luck finding a suit on line than shopping here in town. And it is likely to save me time as well. Thanks!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


POLAR BEAR SWIM.

At least, that's what its starting to feel like at the new pool. Something has been wrong with the heater for over a week now, and that, along with a couple of other annoyances, has kept me out of the pool lately. I did manage to get in about a half a mile, and that's all the time I had anyway, and you could feel the cold most of the time. Seventy-five degrees. Sounds warm, but 75 is not that warm. Not when the air is 68 or cooler. I think it might have made me swim a little faster though.

Leaky goggles has been another problem. My other goggles weren't really that old, but I did wear them all summer, and with the amount of swimming I do and grandkids wearing them from time to time, the leaking was inevitable and starting to get to me. I decided to switch to my expensive, tinted pair, which really haven't been worn much, but they too have been leaking worse than the others. Maybe my head has shrunk. I don't know what it is, but leaky goggles drive me nuts! I went out on New Year's Day to find a pair, but everyplace I went, they were out of the type I prefer, so I ended up with a junior pair of the same thing. They are okay, but really little--they barely cover my eye socket. But they don't leak!

I need a new bathing suit too. Mine is getting so bagged out that every time I get in the pool or hot tub, the front balloons out like a bullfrog and fills up with water. Then it clings to me. I really don't care that much, but its the way it looks when I get out! Like poured on skin. Just what I want, to walk around in front of guys I work with, looking like that. I only like one brand, and those too are few and far between at this time of the year. When you ask for them at the sporting goods stores, they act like I want one to swim outside or something. Lap swimming is not a sport in most people's minds. And the cost for that scrap of lycra material is ridiculous. So I will be looking for a good sale, and hopefully soon!

I started thinking of my weekly schedule again, and am leaning now towards one or two spinning classes a week. It will mean cutting back on my swimming, but hopefully I can still work that in somewhere. I guess time will tell whether this is going to work or leave me too tired for weekend workouts. That is what I'm trying to avoid, since I really enjoyed the 5k yesterday and would like to be able to do more of those over the winter months, all in an effort to improve my race mentality and at the same time improve my time. Like I said, I firmly believe all my running in the next 5 months will determine my coming season.

So, I've signed up for spinning again tomorrow morning. That means getting EVERYTHING organized the night before so I'm not late getting there. I'd better get moving.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

TWO RACES IN ONE WEEK.

Today was unplanned, at least until yesterday afternoon. Today was supposed to be the initial group training run for the 25k in May. Today was likely to be the last snow-free day until who knows when.

Don e-mailed me yesterday afternoon and asked if I wanted to do a Running Club event--5k or 10k. I responded, 5k of course. So I got sucked into doing this, and I'm glad I did. The Running Club distances are usually 2, 3, or 6 miles, so being an actual 5k would give me a chance to see what kind of time I could do. The last event, back in December, was 3 miles, my first 3 mile distance since the accident, and I did 32:41, so I was happy with that. I figured, then, that I should be able to do a 5k in 35 min. or better. That has been my goal since I started running again in November. And 35 min. is a far cry from my old average, but you've got to start someplace I figured.

The weather has been in the upper 40s and low 50s all week, so naturally today's forecast would call for colder temps and the possibility of a rain/snow mixture. It was still dry when it finally got light out, so I figured we were going to miss that mess. No sooner had I thought that when it started raining. Fortunately, it was a brief shower, and by the time I left for the race it had stopped. I never did find out the temperature, but it felt okay. I figured it was over the freezing temperature, since it had rained and not snowed.

This event was held at one of the suburban high schools, right next to the cemetery where my mom is buried, so I know the area well. It is hilly, that's about all you can say about it. I knew what I was getting into.

There were probably 50-60 people signed up, including the race director's cross country team. There were 4 women in my age group, including the Stripper, who was there with her daughter. Also the Cheater, a woman in my age group who 3 times in one year switched chips with her husband, taking age group awards away from others who had beat her, until I finally called her on it. She quickly sidestepped me when she saw me show up. I knew of the 4 women in my age group, I would still be last. But that was okay. My main goal for the day was to do the distance and hopefully not walk.

Runners set, go! and we were off, with me bringing up the rear. I did hear someone behind me, but I never looked back, figuring it must be one of the men doing the 10k. There were 4 women ahead of me, and slowly but surely they were pulling away. The first part of the route was through the school campus, then out to the road. The race director had warned people about remembering it isn't a closed course, and to watch for cars, since you always lose against a car, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I know.

Once on the road, it was immediately downhill, but I could see the uphill looming ahead, and people were pulling farther and farther away from me. I just plugged along, still hearing footsteps behind me. My only regret was I still wasn't fast enough to catch the Cheater. About halfway up the first hill, a couple of women were walking. Man, this was a long hill. I hoped I could catch them, but no luck, at least not right away. One of the women took off running again before the top and the other started running just as I came up behind her. It was one of those steep, long grades where you feel like you are going to bust a gut, get sick, or have a heart attack. But I kept going, and the woman who had started running just as I caught her slowed enough so I passed her once and for all.

Up ahead were two guys doing the 10k, since all men had to do the 10k. Soon, I passed one, then the other. We were on a pretty much flat road, but the wind was blowing in our faces, so it was no reprieve. Once we turned off this road, it was a long downhill, and here one of the guys passed me. I continued on though, wishing it would be over soon. I was feeling tired here and I knew I still had at least a mile to go. I really need to work on this, to overcome that fatigue factor I have after 2 or so miles. But after we got down the hill and things leveled off and were actually heading uphill again, I passed the guy again. The last quarter mile or so was all uphill, so I just paced myself, hoping he didn't pass me again. Finally, to the top of the hill, and down the drive to the end. Yipee. And I wasn't last. Time: 35:21.

All in all, I did what I intended to do. Going over my goal time by 21 seconds on such a hilly course was okay. I made it the whole way, I could add to my weekly mileage, I felt like I had put in a solid effort, but there's no way you could pay me to do that loop again!

Friday, January 05, 2007

END OF WEEK WRAP-UP/START OF 25K TRAINING.

So almost back to normal now, after a weeklong of all the historic events going on here and a slight disruption to my planned schedule.

Monday of course was the 4 mile Resolution Run. I had originally thought of doing a reverse triathlon that day, but after the fatigue of the two weeks prior to this race, I decided it was best to stay home, get the Christmas stuff put away, and just take it easy. I didn't want to start the new year out with so much soreness I would suffer for three days after. It was a good plan, as I was very sleepy and tired by the end of the day and even the next morning.

Tuesday, I did get up and go to the gym, did my weights and speed run and pilates that evening. Not only am I going up in weights after just a couple of weeks, but the pilates is getting easier. Less stiffness and back/shoulder discomfort, which means less soreness in the days after as well.

Wednesday was a chemo day for my dad, and while I had on my schedule a short bike/run, that would have meant weaving through the 50,000 plus people still downtown to pay respects to President Ford, with the line starting right at the entrance to my gym, then turn around and leave by 8:45 and go through the whole mess again. So I stayed home and slept in an extra hour, with the intent of going to the gym after I dropped him off at home and after working hours. That didn't happen either, as there was still quite a hoard of people in town for the funeral events and a flyover by the Air Force jets. Everything was running behind, and the road report indicated highway backups 5 miles out of town, so I had to opt to go home another way and again bypass the gym. Wednesday evenings are when my daughter and the kids come over for dinner, and lately we have been going to the gym or pool after, but tonight it still didn't seem wise to get in the downtown mess, so we went out for a walk/jog from home. With it being 49 degrees at 8 pm, you just can't pass up the opportunity to get outside. My one grandson and I walked and jogged about 2.5 miles, so I used that as my workout for the day.

Thursday I had so many good intentions of running outside, but my work schedule just kept preventing me from really going out to run at any time of the day. I did manage a 1.25 mile walk to and from the Presidential Museum to view the grave site, which was still not open to the public, but which I missed by probably minutes being able to view, since I saw on TV that evening an interview by one of President Ford's old friends and former museum curator, who was the first to go through the line. He was being interviewed as I walked through the grounds. My next planned run time was going to be right after work, but before I even got out of work, it started raining. And it rained, and rained, and rained. Hard. That hard soaking rain you can't even see through. So I hit the gym instead, and again did my weight routine and speed run. The run was easier that day than on Tuesday, since Tuesday I was still fatigued from the 4 mile race. But I still feel like I need to work on getting faster in that short amount of time.

Friday, I veered a little from my planned swim workout and did a spin class instead, much as I said I probably shouldn't. I'll see how it goes. I probably should and could work in at least one spin class a week, and next week I will add at least a one mile run after.

Tomorrow is the first day of the new training program for our 25k on May 12. The Grand Rapids Running Club has a great mentor group. I have started this program many times over the years, sometimes getting through the whole thing, other times only getting to 9 or 10 miles, so I guess if I use the "do or don't do, there is no try" philosophy, I will do. If I don't make it, I won't do. For me, this will be the catalyst of all my training this year, so it is important I start now. If I can do this 25k in May, I can do the half IM in August. I don't think I will follow the "official training plan" but stick with my old tried and true training from my very first year doing this race, before all the Internet training plans were out there for experimenting with, when all we had were books to follow. I still remember the first year, all those long, lonely, and that year bitter cold runs to get ready for this race, all by myself, just comparing notes with others, with no e-mail network or anything for support. No special outdoor clothes, just a nylon jacket and pants over tights. No water bottles, just stashing water on the course, hoping it wouldn't be frozen when you needed it. We were a tough group! Mental toughness, that's what I want to get back to.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Overall, a pretty amazing day yesterday. Suprising was the emotional connection all of us here in GR felt for this man and the events taking place. Its hard to really take it all in, with all the media, attention, political big names, etc. All in this town where I have lived most of my life.

The Presidential Museum is within walking distance of where I work, on the banks of the Grand River, where so many of us jog and walk frequently. It has always been a peaceful area to run through, especially in the early morning hours, watching the sun come up east of the river and the museum, and seeing the reflection in the mirrored tiles on some of the buildings nearby. The museum was the impetus for getting the river bank area here revitalized, amd it has been a beautiful addition to our downtown area.

The church where the funeral was held is about 2.5 miles from my house, on a corner that I pass by almost daily. The motorcade procession followed a route I also take often, as I travel around town and then home. So much of this familiar and part of the daily lives of so many here.

Not enough words to describe how we all feel here. I guess special and fortunate are the best ones I can think of now. A moment in time we won't soon forget.
A FAREWELL TO PRESIDENT FORD.









Tuesday, January 02, 2007