Monday, April 30, 2007


That is going to be me crossing the finish line at the 25k in 2 weeks. I totally wimped out on my hoped for 2 1/2 hour run, a time and distance that would have given me the confidence that I needed to pull off that distance.

"Hello, my name is Vickie, and I'm a poser." Yes, I totally blew it this weekend. I don't usually make lofty training goals that I know I can't reach. But somehow, I thought I could accomplish this, and yet this weekend, a crucial weekend, my mind said no. And what makes me most angry at myself is the weather was ideal, so no excuses there!

Back tracking to what led up to this uneventful weekend, I will start at Thursday, but the real trouble probably goes back farther. Thursday was a planned one hour run, following a one hour run on Tuesday and a shorter run and weights on Wednesday. I did okay through Wednesday, but was up too late that night and my alarm screwed up on Thursday, causing me to oversleep just long enough to not give me time to get the one hour in. I also seemed to be suffering somewhat from seasonal allergies, most likely tree pollen, and my eyes were puffy and sore feeling. I don't have too many of those days, thankfully. And I have been horribly busy at work, and had no chance to get to work late, being under deadline for several things that day. I brought clothes to "maybe" run outside at noon, or as a last resort after work. Noon came and went, with no chance to get away from my desk. Hmm, could that be due to a boss who comes in late every day and then likes to work straight through the day, including my alleged "lunch hour"? That would be part of it.

I did manage to get to a stopping point on the work to cut out 10 minutes early, giving me a chance to start my run right at 5 pm and be done by 6 so I could get home and tend to things there at a decent time. While I had hoped to run outside, it was blowing and raining, and mentally, hitting the treadmill was the only option. I knew once I started the belt moving, my body would cooperate. I grabbed a couple of club mints before starting my workout, the kind that have a soft, white coating over a harder mint. They're not my favorite, but they seem to hit the spot when my energy levels are questionable and I am thirsty besides. I ate those and started running. At exactly one hour, I hit the stop button, so grateful to be done. I actually kept myself going by watching TV, something I rarely do except on the really long treadmill runs. It was fairly warm in the cardio room, and I had to wipe sweat off my face regularly, yet somehow I missed one spot. When I finally got into the locker room to change, I couldn't believe my eyes: my lips were totally white! What?? Salt? Nope, I finally figured it was the mints. Naturally, people came and went during that hour and no one said a thing about the white lips. White. Totally.

That night, I didn't sleep too well. My middle toe was throbbing, and I was worried about a possible injury, or stress fracture starting. And my right hip was bothering me. It was time for my regular chiropractic adjustment the next day, so I figured that might help. Thankfully, the toe resolved itself by the next day. When I got up Friday morning, I contemplated not working out, but I had already taken one day off and decided I should at least swim. Surprisingly, I had a good swim: 3/4 mile in under 28 min. Since I swim in a short pool, the length of which is unknown to me, I have to go by laps/miles to know what I am swimming. I was tired and really feared I would not stick it out for a 3/4 mile swim, but I played mind games with myself, and instead of counting up, I counted backwards, and it seemed to go faster to me for once. For the last 1/4 mile, I pushed every other lap, so I'm sure that helped me get under 28 min. But if left me weak, no doubt.

All that day, my nose dripped and I decided to hit the allergy meds for relief. I really can't take too much during the day because it leaves me groggy, but I guess I was busy enough to not notice too much. The day flew by, and I warned my attorneys I needed to leave by 5 to get to my chiro appointment. Weekend work projects then came up, and I knew I was going to have to find someone else to cover. Even if it weren't for the planned long workout, I had other things that needed attention, and I couldn't see myself standing at a photocopier for 4-6 hours after running more than 2. So, I had to scramble around getting people lined up to work, then explain the projects, leaving me falling behind getting out of work on time. I finally left work at 5:40 and attempted to get to my 5:30 appointment, that they were now holding until 6 pm. I just made it and had hoped I would get some more relief from the hip/muscle discomfort, but being out of alignment wasn't the problem. I was really tired that night, and paced myself long enough to get supper made, the dishes cleaned up, and then I hit the hay.

I slept fairly well that night, but the alarm again screwed up, and I woke up on my own, later than planned. I wasn't going to run that day, but did have some shopping to do and then a soccer game to attend at 10 am, and the rest of the day was planned to spend at my dad's cleaning, packing, and sorting his stuff.

This was also a job I was behind on, due in part to either the family not helping with this job, or them wanting to just pick through his stuff like vultures, not doing anything but making a mess instead. And then dealing with my brother and his drunkenness every time I go there. Last weekend, after my 2 hour run Saturday and my 1 1/2 hour bike on Sunday, I met them at my dad's so they could "look" around and pick out some things for themselves. My one sister has been adamant that everyone should get a chance to take something of my dad's if they wanted it, while I have been more inclined to auction off everything to make it fair. And fair it wasn't, which didn't surprise me. As an example, I resisted putting my name on any particular item, so as not to appear greedy, only to have each one of them come in and be greedy themselves. Anything I expressed an interest in, someone else just "had to have," even though NONE of them had been out to visit my dad since he had moved there 5 years ago. (I don't mean they hadn't seen him, just hadn't bothered going to his home.) So, basically, I spent the next 4 hours standing around, settling disputes over who gets what. And then I had to spend another 45 minutes forcing my brother to discuss the house issues before he went off and started his daily drinking binge, that had been interrupted when they had a church event he couldn't get out of going to that day.

So I went into the week on a high, with lots of good running, but also went into the week tired and stressed. Sometimes these long workouts work in your favor; this time they didn't totally.

Saturday, then, after the soccer game, my daughter, grandson, and I went to my dad's, with the intention of packing up as much as we could in the 3 hours I had allotted. The first hour was shot to hell when my sister-in-law came down to chat. She hasn't been present since the funeral, and has never made any attempt to be helpful or friendly in the 14 years since she had been married to my brother, yet, here she was, wanting to chat. As it turned out, she actually wanted something. She wants to move into my dad's house because she and my brother are "done" as she puts it, yet she doesn't want to get divorced, just doesn't want to live with him anymore. So this opened up another can of worms. Once she finally left, we had to scramble around and try to get something done. During this time, my brother showed up, drunk as usual, and proceeded to tramp through the house, as is his usual habit when someone is there and he can get inside, pointing out to me things that need to be done. "Really? Thanks, because I wouldn't have thought of any of that myself." In the process, he opened the front door to check on the hornets that have been gathering for weeks now, building yet another nest. "Come and see the bees." "Shut the door so you don't let them all in!" And "I don't want to see any bees. I'm busy. Shut the door." Just like a little kid. When we left there that day, I had to go behind him shutting off all the lights he seemed to think were necessary to be on. Is he paying the electric bill? No! Off they went. But I forgot one important thing.

By the time I got home later that day, I was really feeling woozy from the allergy meds, the heat, and just generally being tired. I relaxed for a while, but it wasn't easy, because we had someone at the house doing some major yard work, and he kept interrupting me with requests for water, a hose, a rake, etc. (It was my nephew, so I didn't want to be mean.) By 8 pm, I was ready for bed, but somehow, sleep eluded me, and it was almost 11 before I fell asleep. Then, sometime after 3:30 am, I woke up in a panic and wondered if I had locked the front door of my dad's house. I was pretty sure my brother didn't do it when he had the door open, and I hadn't checked it. Damn! Now I would have to go back the next day.

I didn't go back to sleep the rest of the night, and finally got up around 6:30, figuring I would go on my long run early. I really didn't feel too well, and my nose was still acting up. Allergies, even minor ones, leave you feeling fatigued even without the meds, so I was really, really tired, and mentally not with the whole thing. I finally compromised with myself, figuring I might at least get it done if I had to do it on the treadmill and not go anywhere, so I would be close by when I got done, and also close by if I crashed and burned. After one mile, I threw in the towel. I was tired. My mind wasn't with it. I was worried about the house being open and my brother getting in there doing who knew what. I couldn't help but wonder if he planned it that way. He had tried to break in one other time. so it was a natural worry. I also had access to some boxes, so I changed my game plan to go out to my dad's early, hoping to avoid my brother, get some stuff done, lock the doors this time, and get out. Then another dilemma presented itself to me: I had forgotten I had to do my city income tax forms, which here are due April 30! Oh, great, all my stuff is at work, too. One more thing to fit in. So the plan then revised itself to include time to do that and THEN I would go run. And, as you already know, that didn't happen!

By the time I got done at my dad's, again being interrupted for more than an hour by my sister-in-law, her kids and the dog running in and out, it was getting hot, nice for a weekend, but not nice for a 2+ hour run. It was almost 75 by then, and I am not a heat runner, especially since we haven't really had any heat yet. So I'll wait until like 4 pm to go, I thought, when it is likely to be cooler.

To be fair to myself, I did attempt to run at 4 pm, but it still was too hot and sunny for me, and as I said, my mind wasn't into it. I was tired, woozy, stressed, and troubled by my family issues, and just decided to get up early today and attempt some sort of run.

Today, same thing: tired. So the question now is: Will I or won't I run today?? Come on people, I need some encouragement!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Yes, that was the workout of the day, a long, slow run, 1:02 to be exact. I'm still working on building my endurance and time on my feet, rather than worrying about speed or miles right now. After my two hour run on Saturday, I knew I still had to build on that.

The plan today then was leave the gym/work building by 6:45 so I could be back by 7:45 to get ready for work. It is finallly getting light out in the early mornings--again. I say finally and again because of what I consider to be the unnecessary extending of daylight savings time--where it goes from being almost light to being dark just that much longer in the morning (I know, there are people who like the longer light factor in the evenings, but I'm not going to debate that again).

I wore tights today, figuring it was a little colder than Saturday morning, and also knowing I wouldn't be out there as long. They were new, so I didn't notice they were on BACKWARDS because of the new-fangled concept (to me) of zippers on the ankles. (I haven't bought a new pair of tights in probably 10 years.) I couldn't help but notice the zippers were in an odd place, pretty much in the front and on the inside of my ankle. "Probably why they were so cheap, they're defective," I thought and dismissed it until I figured it out later and realized it was more likely my brain power at 0'dark thirty that was defective! Oh well, too late to change now.

My gym is in the basement of the building I work in, so my usual habit is to take the stairs to the ground level and head out to run from there. I have done this many times over the past several months. Never once were the doors locked--like they were today. So there I was, locked in a stairwell and no way to get out. So much for fire safety!

I finally decided to pound on the ground level door, near the guard desk, until one of them finally let me out. Then I gave them a lecture about the doors being locked so in the event of fire no one could get out. They didn't seem to grasp that concept, just gave the reason that the doors electronically opened at 7 am. I'm not the smartest person in the world, but it doesn't take much more than an idiot to figure out they could--and should--leave the ground level door--near the guard desk (fully within sight)--open if for no other reason than fire safety. Duh!

Two strikes already against me, but I was determined to get the run in regardless. I figured my legs would feel dead from the other day yet, but I was surprised at how light they actually felt. There is something magical and transforming, for me at least, in getting past that two hour mark of running. Everything changes, from the way my legs feel to my breathing getting more even and under control. I could almost feel a return of strength in my legs I haven't felt in a long time. I felt like that Saturday too. And it really was a glorious day again, the time of year for us here that makes up for all the crap days (and we probably have a lot more than a lot of you!) we have otherwise. And it made me realize just what a narrow window of time we have for any serious training here. Which is why it is important to get the running miles in early in the season, because otherwise there isn't enough time for the bike.

So out I ran 30 minutes, turned and headed back. I did start feeling it by the time I hit the 40 minute mark, but one thing I knew was I would have to keep going if I were going to get to work on time. That's a good incentive for me. The traffic was heavier by now, so I was forced to wait for every traffic light. It gave me a good chance to observe just how many horrible drivers there are out there. It seems like they are worse in the mornings, with everyone rushing to get wherever they need to go, not worrying about others or safety. (Hmm, could that be why I got hit by a car in the morning??)

Anyway, when I got back to the building, the guard apologized for the locked door. Now we'll see if they unlock at least one door for the future.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Pull up, pull up, pull up. That's what I kept reminding myself on my first ride of the season yesterday. We had such a glorious weekend, probably the best weather we will have all year (not kidding), and to celebrate the new bike, I decided I needed to get out there for a ride. It even was warm enough to go in the morning.

When I went for my bike fit, they hooked the test bike up to a computrainer, a compueterized program that measured your pedalling power and efficiency. I saw immediately I not only had little power, I had no efficiency. Dale, the guy who did my fit, assured me by the time I left he would have me pedalling 80 cadence. Didn't happen, but I did get up to 50-60, from zero or maybe even negative, since the cadence graph bar didn't even rise above a flat line until close to the end of the session. He stressed over and over that I needed to pull up on the pedals, something I have heard for the past 9 years in spinning classes, but until I actually felt the difference in pulling up and not, based on the graph, I really didn't understand the concept. As Dale said, anyone can be "mashers" but to be truly efficient at pedalling, you need to pull up.

So that was in my head the whole way. For obvious reasons, my route of choice was on the bike path. While I would really have preferred riding on the road, I didn't feel I was ready for that, and I even parked in a location where I could totally eliminate crossing the one main road connected with the path that is a problem for me. That cut about 3 miles off the loop, but I really wasn't worrying about distance today. I just wanted to get a feel for the bike, and practice pulling up.

Its hard to describe the difference riding a lighter weight bike and one that actually fit my size. With the right fit, you can feel one with your bike, no doubt. Once I got going and figured out the gearing (slightly different from my old bike), I concentrated on pulling. It definitely made a difference in my speed (lower), but I kept at it and just told myself this was only a practice ride, just a fun ride. And surprisingly, I actually said out loud at one point "This is fun!" something I don't remember ever saying with my old bike.

The path was just starting to get busy, with families out biking, rollerbladers, walkers, and the typical runner with a cell phone. I don't know how people do that! Good breath control? Maybe its a talent worth developing.

Since I parked away from the main parking lot of the park and the use of a bathroom, I had to go when I started out but figured I would stop along the way. About halfway through the first part of the loop, there is another parking area with another bathroom. I decided to stop there, where I could feel my bike would be fairly safe for a few minutes, or I could just bring it in with me. It was hard to believe then that the bathrooms were locked! I was really irritated. What is the point of having these things if they are locked! I suppose it could be too "early" in the season, but I figure the path is open year round, and so then should the bathrooms. I'm pretty sure our tax dollars go to cover this too.

So I continued on my way. The next leg of the loop is slightly uphill, nothing that ou can really see, but you can feel it in your speed. And it gets busier in here as well. I really have to concentrate on not getting overly upset with oblivious people: the ones who decide to stop in the middle of the path and answer their cell phones, with no apparent realization they are blocking others, or the little kids on bikes who weave back and forth across the path, while their parents ride on ahead, or the rollerbladers with headphones, again swaying back and forth with no concern of others needing to get by. Instead, I continued to concentrate on pulling up.

I saw quite a few other serious bikers as well, serious looking anyway. I was really surprised at the number of riders in full biker gear but no helmets. I know I have heard from some people that they never wear a helmet on the bike path, but for the life of me, I can't see what the difference would be in the cement of the path over the concrete of the road if they crashed.

I was under a little bit of a time crunch so had only planned on going about 15 miles, where I could turn and go back, and just before I reached my turning point, two bikers went by and called out my name. I have no real idea who they were though! I hate that when I don't recognize people.

I made the turn to go back and immediately felt the wind. Whew! How come I didn't realize this going out? Its not like it was blowing me along or anything. So I just dug in and concentrated again on pulling up. When I slacked off, I could see my speed go lower, so I really could see the benefit of perfecting that technique. And I didn't really feel too much fatigue in my hamstrings, which is where you feel it, so I figured I was good, keeping it easy, especially after the two hour run the day before. The advantage of pulling up, again, is less quad fatigue, and this I can say was true for that day.

One hour 33 minutes later, I finally made it back and had to admit I was tired and my neck, shoulder, and arm were starting to bother me. The wind was starting to get to me too. My average speed was only 12.9 mph! But like I said, it was only experimental and a fun ride. I figure I can work on speed later. My goal is to do a 50 mile ride by Memorial Weekend--that is if it doesn't snow or something!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

At long last, I finally got a new bike. Its a Specialized Sequoia.
There were at least four reasons for deciding on this particular bike: (1) fit; (2) price/componentry; (3) availability; (4) bike shop service. My practical and frugal sides were working together here.
The first reason, the fit, was the most important. After going through a custom bike fit, it was determined that a road bike, customized for triathlon, was the best fit for me, due in part to my injury issues after the bike accident. The "perfect" bike on site at the time of the fit was, of course, the Serotta. Another one, based on specs, was the Sequoia. They did not have the Sequoia available for me to ride that day, so I figured I would just come back later to test it, something I almost forgot about. Because of the price of the Serotta, and having nothing else to compare it to, I held off deciding on or buying anything at that time.
The second reason, price and componentry, was something I was confused about and agonizing over at the same time. I was being told by more experienced riders what componentry I should have, but the price of the best components (Dur Ace) was more than I could justify. And I really didn't understand all the levels of componentry until I had a discussion with the bike shop guys who helped me compare one over the other, not only in durability and price but in weight. The hardest part for me to justify spending so much money on a bike was my present level of ability and future need. I had to be honest with myself that while an Ironman certainly wasn't totally improbable at some time in the future, it is not in my near future plans. I felt it was better to go with where I am now, and likely will be in another season or two, rather than at some obscure future time I haven't fully decided on.
The third reason, availability, also had a big part in my decision. A couple of things came into play here. One, early in the winter (December I think) Don had suggested to me that I go with him to Detroit for a bike fit at Bikesport, where he had ordered his bike in November. He figured he would be picking it up sometime in January, and it would be a good idea for me to go with him then to get fit and possibly order a bike from there, since he had also thought one of the Cervelo models would be good for me. He had ordered a Cervelo P3, and while that was over my head in price and componentry, a lower end model was available at the store (or so they showed on their website). I hemmed and hawed over this and finally nixed the idea. Especially when February and then March rolled around and he still did not have his bike. (Note: It is now almost May, and still no bike. Bikesport ain't all its cracked up to be, that's for sure! Not only are they unreliable on delivery, but they seem to not be concerned when or if you ever get your bike, instead, blaming it on the manufacturer, when in fact the blame should be on them for their lack of customer service.) Another decision about availability was it was local. I also had the chance of getting fit and possibly purchasing a bike while in Tucson at TriSport, but again, after Don's experience with out of town bike shops, and the fact that we really had no extra time for me to do this on our trip, I decided to go back to the local shop and see what they had available.
And the fourth reason was service. Again, I figured it made more sense to deal with a local bike shop, one that had a good reputation, both in service and quality of the mechanic, and this particular shop got good marks from all who used it. (Village Bike Shops--listed as one of the 100 best shops).
So, last week, I finally remembered about the Sequoia and showed up at the shop unannounced, and they immediately got the bike ready for me to ride. It took a while, and I'm sure it wasn't the most convenient time of day, but the guy who worked on my bike was patient and thorough in getting it ready. While I waited, I again rode the Serotta, and had time to question the bike shop guys about comparisons between the two bikes. The most notable difference of course was price. For $1000 more, I could have the Serotta but would need to get new pedals and have all the triathlon stuff added--aero bars, computer, water bottle cages. Componentry differences were so negligible that the huge difference in price did not justify making that a sure choice. I felt as if, and was convinced that, I would be purchasing a name, not just a bike.
But still, the test would be in the ride, right? When I got on the Sequoia, I immediately thought: "I think I like this better." But I was reluctant to admit that, since I had been saying for a while I did not want to buy a Specialized bike, and had to admit my feelings were based on others' opinions and none of my own. The more I rode around, though, the more I was sure I liked it better than the Serotta. Naturally, again, the price was nagging in my mind, and again, after further questioning of the shop guys, I decided: yes, I would buy the Specialized.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


I got the two hours done. It was easier than I thought it might be and seemed to go faster than I thought it might too. All those weeks of pounding out the miles endlessly on the treadmill made the first half hour go by without my even being aware of it. The second half hour was almost equally as easy. Then I stopped to get water, refuel somewhat, and off I went for the next hour, although this time bringing water. The next 30 minutes was okay, although I did start feeling the pain somewhat, but by the time the next 30 minutes started, I knew I was on the downside of the dreaded two hour run, and it was only a matter of sticking it out for 30 more minutes.

I was very fortunate to have some of the best weather I can remember in a long time. The temperature when I started was about 45 degrees, but sunny, and with the promise of reaching the 70s later in the day. I only hesitated a moment in deciding what to wear, and I feel I made the best choice for me. I had decided if it was 45 or higher, it would be shorts and a jacket. I decided too on a short sleeved shirt, figuring if I needed to take off the jacket I still would have something on other than a singlet type shirt I wear at the gym. And for me, without question, gloves. I can't survive with cold hands, and while my hands tend to sweat excessively, they still get cold. But still, I wasn't surprised to see many out there with either just a short sleeved shirt, or none at all (men of course!), and a few women in sports bras. I don't care, I need some covering.

When picking my route, two things presented themselves late in the week: (1) Earth Day doings at the park and on the trail by the river and (2) a 10 mile race most of the people I wanted to avoid would be at. Since I did not want to run behind the garbage trucks and volunteers out cleaning up the riverbank for Earth Day this year, I decided to avoid the park. Instead, I parked by the Y and ran loops from there, both out to the park and back and another route north of there and back. All the miles would be on sidewalks, but it had to be done. With this in mind, I did not do a measured route but just went for time. I figured my ego did not need to be disappointed if I did not make my 11 miles this week. I just really needed to get in the 2 hours.

I also did not have to worry about the usual park crowd, since most of them were at the race. That meant I did not have to get caught up in chatter or risk someone faster than me wanting to tag along. I really wanted to go it alone. Earlier in the season, this 10 mile race was in my thoughts to put on my schedule. It worked into my plan to train for and run a 25k in May. But after my dad died in February, things fell apart for a while, and while I probably could have run 10 miles, this race has the reputation of being hilly--5 miles of rolling hills out and 5 miles back, there is no up, and some of the rollers are more than that. Added to that, its a fast crowd that does this race. The last time I ran this a few years ago, my time was 1:39 and I was one of the LAST people to finish! That was better than a 10 minute pace (just barely) and yet I was almost last. There was no way I could come close to that kind of time today, and I knew it. Again, my ego just didn't have it in me to be followed by the ambulance.

It was amazing how much easier/faster the whole thing seemed compared to the boredom of the treadmill, yet the treadmill is what got me to where I am, so I can't totally complain. For me, the two hour mark running is a milestone in many ways. I feel that after two hours, I can accomplish anything. I also feel that at two hours the fat burning starts and endurance kicks in. It was just the monkey I needed to get off my back, since I have to now admit it has been at least 11 months since I have even attempted anything over a one hour run. I was making half-way decent progress up to last fall when I had the accident, and then had to totally rebuild again. So I was thrilled that I could do this again.

And I will say I didn't run the entire time, but I did keep my walk/run ratio the same throughout--8 min. running, 2 minutes walking, and even threw in a couple of extra minutes at the end where I misjudged the distance to get back to my car. My legs aren't in too bad of shape either, although I was pretty slow getting ready after and trying to get around for a while so I could go to the soccer game on time. Then I met my friend at the gym and went over a weight routine with her, so I'm guessing that helped loosen me up more. I don't feel too bad at all, other than my heel being a little sore, but totally manageable--at least I can walk! Nothing a nice glass of wine won't fix! I'm indulging tonight.

Friday, April 20, 2007


That's the length of time I need to run this weekend. Two hours. One hundred twenty minutes. I can't remember the last time I ran two hours. I have biked that long. It has taken me longer than that to finish most triathlons I enter. But I haven't run that long in, well, a long time.

How far will I get in two hours? My goal is at least 11 miles. Broken down, that's 5.5 miles per hour, or right around 11 min. a mile. A completely do-able distance and pace in and of itself. But that doesn't include all the pitfalls for me that come with a two hour span of time or an 11 mile distance. So I need to get myself psyched up for this now.

Two hours used to be the "standard" for running our annual 25k, a standard set by the skinny fast people that have always intimidated me. Two hours to run 15.5 miles. As if. (Even in my fastest moments, in another lifetime, the closest I could come to that elusive 2 hour mark was a 2:10.) And the ones who fell short of that 2 hour mark complained loudly about having a "bad" race, using every possible excuse to explain why they could manage "only" a 2:04 or some other unattainable time by the average runner. They brushed that race under the rug, making it seem as if they were unworthy of being called a real runner.

Two hours seems also to have become a turning point in my training in the past. It seems that once I have reached the two hour mark, everything else seems easier--swimming, biking, and running.

Two hours has taken me months to work up to, starting with 2 minutes back in mid-November, eventually getting to 2 miles sometime in December, and slowly, but surely, inching up to an hour, then 1.5 hours, and finally 1 hour 40 minutes. That wasn't bad, so I think I am finally ready for the two hours.

What day to do this? My gut feeling is to get up early tomorrow (Saturday) and get out there and do it. Too many things seem to get in the way of my time and energy if I wait until Sunday. But getting out there tomorrow means getting started no later than 6:45 am, so I can be done, showered, and to a 10 am soccer game. Then I promised a woman from the gym that I would meet her there at noon to "train" her. (That's what I get for trying to be helpful!--I don't mind, really.) After that, I figure I will probably collapse for the rest of the day!

Monday, April 16, 2007


Weird sounding, I know. But the "family" channel was broadcasting all the Harry Potter movies this weekend, and I got caught up in watching two of them. I got on the Harry Potter bandwagon late--I probably didn't read the first book until the second movie was out. Then I was hooked. J. K. Rowling is a genius of the make believe.

All that aside, someone in the "Chamber of Secrets" movie said something that stuck with me. At this point, I can't remember who it was, due to the fact that my brain suffered severe atrophy and mental boredom running 8.4 miles on the treadmill yesterday. Whoever it was who said it, this is what stood out in my mind: "Its not your abilities that define you. Its the choices you make."

I don't know how you interpret that, but in relation to triathlon, that takes a lot of stress off my mind. To me, it means that I may not have the same abilities as a the pros or even a lot of you out there, but I have made the choice to be a part of the triathlon world despite this. This, in and of itself, says something. After all, just how many women my age can do something like this, and just how many women will stick with it regardless of how well they perform? I have made the choice to train regardless of my abilities, or lack thereof. I have made the choice to surround myself with positive people in this sport, keeping me focused and going forward, regardless of how slow that forward motion is. I have made the choice to enter races that I know will be extremely hard for me to finish, at least in terms of time, and have stuck it out regardless.

So many times I have been somewhat fearful, or maybe intimidated, to attempt something that has required huge amounts of training and commitment, not so much because I didn't think I could do it, but because I was worried about my finishing time, or finishing at all. Along the way, I forgot about the fact that just doing and finishing is really what's important to me. But yet I let it get to me what others might think (or say).

It also leads me to believe--know--that anyone can do a triathlon if they choose to train for one. Some people are just going to be faster than others. But everyone trains for the same distance and covers the same ground in order to finish the race. Not everyone has the ability to be a pro, but the fact that they chose to do a triathlon (or whatever) really does put you on the same playing field.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I just came back from having lunch with the girls at the club. Jan is heading to Boston for the marathon on Monday, and we wanted to get together with her before she leaves. We also were discussing a few club issues--locker room issues actually, and I started mentioning an incident that happened to me a few weeks back.

The incident in question happened on a weekend, a Saturday or Sunday, I can't remember now. As is typical when I go to the gym and/or work on the weekend, since my office is in the same building as the gym I go to now, I generally bring all the things I am going to want while at work--purse, food, drinks, etc. and attempt to juggle all this with my workout bag, etc. and make one trip into the building.

As I was struggling to get out my door access card, slide it into the slot, and then get the door opened, all the while juggling all my stuff and my 50 pound bag, a car drives up and parks next to mine and an older gentleman gets out of his Porsche. I recognized his car immediately, and knew he was a club member, as well as the local parking lot czar--meaning his family owns all the parking lots in the downtown municipal area. His office is across the street, yet he always parks next to the door of our building, sometimes leaving his car there for days if he goes out of town. Sometimes, I know he uses the gym too, and from what I've heard is demanding and condescending as well. He is also a sometimes client of the office, for his business work anyway, so I have heard other stories about this man and the way he treated people on business deals that were not flattering, leading me to an instant dislike without really knowing him (and not wanting to!).

This particular day in question, just as I am getting the door opened, I hear him call out something to me. Not paying attention at first, I didn't hear what he said. I turned toward him with an annoyed look on my face, I'm sure (his tone of voice brought that on), and said, "What?" He says, "Hold the door open for me." Now I'm thinking "WHAT?? You want me to do WHAT?" Here I am, holding 3 or 4 bags, my access card with my teeth, and trying to balance everything and get the door open, and this guy with nothing in his hands wants me to hold the door open for him?? So he doesn't have to get his card out? "I'll push the button for you," I said as I continued through the door, just barely getting my stuff in before it shut again. I continue on down the hallway to the gym doorway, when all of a sudden he's right behind me. "What did you say?" he snarls. I was a little afraid. I thought he was going to grab me or something.

I couldn't believe it. I really couldn't believe someone who expects to have a door opened for him can suddenly chase me down a hallway to see why I wouldn't hold a door for him, when as a gentleman he easily could have offered to get the door for me. But as I said, knowing the way he treats people, I really shouldn't have been surprised. I was really irritated now and quickly walked into the women's doorway and ignored him. Fortunately, he wasn't using the gym (as he rarely does) but was just using the building as a walkway to his office--across the street.

Fast forward to the Monday after, and the scenario was repeated, with me juggling a bunch of stuff to go to the gym and work in the morning, in addition to my coffee, and just as I'm about to walk through the women's door, this guy pops out of a darkened hallway and scares the crap out of me!

"What did you say to me the other day?" he again demands. OMG, I'm thinking. What a jerk! I pretended like I didn't know what he was talking about. "Well you seemed mad or something." I again ignored him and walked into the gym.

Fast forward to today at lunch, and who should walk into the club dining room, and you guessed it, cement czar as the Jan and Laurie, the other friend, call him. I was just going to mention the situation to them, as we discussed a few other incidents, when he walks over, interrupts us, asks Laurie what my name is, and says, "She must be mad at me. She wouldn't hold my door open."

It has been more than a month since this happened and the guy is still carrying it around with him. Unbelievable! He was angry too, when he asked for my name. I noticed he wouldn't address me, but had to ask someone else.

I guess the main reason I am irritated with this whole thing is he had the nerve to come to our table and bring this up, when he doesn't personally know any of us, and yet felt he had to interrupt our lunch to make his point.

I'm pretty sure this isn't over and wonder how someone might handle any future encounter with this idiot?


Just a continuation of my vacation, which I have been too busy to finish this week. Yeah, I'm busy, but don't care!

Picture 1: Eaglepoint. The Hualapai Indian Tribe believe the eagle is their protector, and as you can see from this picture, there is a pretty clearcut stone eagle in the mountainside.
Pictures 2-5: Guano Point. Another stopping point on our "tour." You can see the Colorado River if you look closely in one of the pictures, a muddy ribbon of a stream right now. The red rock formations were climbable, which many people did do. Me? Afraid of heights, and while I readily went out on the Skywalk, no way was I climbing too high on these things.
Guano Point is also where we got a buffet meal, a hearty one consisting of shredded barbequed beef, baked chicken, cornbread, beans, coleslaw, and peach cobbler. There was also a place here to buy handmade jewelry and watch as it was being made.
After this, it was back on the bus and back to our car. When we arrived back at the starting point, we were very glad we had gotten there early. Now, the ticket counters and gift shop counters had long lines of people waiting to buy tour tickets and/or purchase souveniers. I had waited to buy things until after our tour, and now regretted that decision. I had to stand in line for more than 30 minutes to get my souveniers, and I got increasingly annoyed at the people cutting in and out of line--to get a bottle of water or an ice cream bar, hooking up with someone they weren't with initially, just making the line that much longer. And then there were the many people who just couldn't accept the fees set for the "tour" and Skywalk. There were a few options, and the cheapest, of course, was the $49.95 (plus tax--I have to stress this because apparently the tax thing was a big deal to some people) for the bus ride/tour/lunch and $25 for the Skywalk. It was almost as if they argued long enough they could negotiate their own package deal or price.
As we headed back down the unpaved, bumpy, dusty road out of the Canyon, a long line of cars was now heading in. These people were in for a long wait, and it looked more like I expected it to look earlier in the day.
The weather had heated up nicely by now, and was expected to be warmer yet as we headed back south. I was looking forward to that!
Our destination again was back to Tucson, but it was likely we would not make it that far that day. We were both tired after our early rising and long day otherwise, and three basketball playoff games were on, something Don wanted to watch. We had no overnight plans made ahead of time, just figured on driving until we found somewhere to stop.
Instead of taking the same road we took to Flagstaff, I convinced Don to take Highway 93, a more scenic, and seemingly a more direct, route back to points south. It was very scenic, less traffic, and not really moutainous, so all in all a little quicker than had we taken Highway 17. I was happy for this change, and the best place we found to stop at the soonest then was Wickenburg.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yes, this was the scene around here yesterday. And it actually is worse than it looks right here. These two young ladies are triathlete/track runners at a local college, one of whom I know. Its not only the runners unhappy with the weather. Golfers too are complaining. But on that note, they should know better than to try to golf this early in Michigan!

Thankfully, I am busy enough with tax deadlines that I'm not thinking outside right now. And I don't have to worry about running the Boston Marathon on Monday like my friends from work, Jan and Dennis. I would, however, like to get to the bike shop and see what they might have come up with while I was gone on vacation, but the prospect of doing that even this weekend is unlikely, even if it wasn't tax time and I would be working, and despite the fact they are having their semi-annual sale. (I did not get a chance to check out bikes while in Tucson and am apologetic to Fe-Lady for this, but that is another story.)

Thanks to all of you in warmer climates who are sending along warm weather vibes. I've already heard from our local weather people that May is predicted to be warmer than normal. Go figure!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

WEATHER MESS. Its the only way to put it.
Your sympathy is much appreciated.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Spring break, in Michigan at least, generally means a break from the school routine and cold weather, when many families head to warmer climates to enjoy the week together. I've done the same thing myself. And usually, if the weather has been cold up to this point, it is on a warming trend by the end of spring break.

This year, spring break means just that--a break from spring. The weather here has been snowy and cold, and it was snowier and colder on Easter than it was on Thanksgiving or Christmas! I have been getting "Winter Weather Warnings" on my computer for the past several days. Even the weather people are confused as to what season and month it is. And Saturday, while out shopping for my Easter dinner fixings, I encountered a whiteout on the highway. A whiteout! Its April, isn't it??

I'm telling you, I am getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated with the whole global warming BS. Just where do these people live who are pushing this theory? Not here, that's for sure. There might be climate changes going on throughout the world, but warming? I hardly think so. Michigan is living proof of that. When Lake Michigan gets to be 80 degrees all summer long, maybe I'll change my opinion.

And our weather forecast for the next 10 days at least is predicted to be colder--and snowier--than normal. Yes, I would think by mid-April a weather forecast that included the word snow would mean it would be colder than normal. Global warming? Phsaw!

In the meantime, I decided it would be a good investment to get my treadmill fixed, in light of the continued unseasonably cold weather. I am tired of dealing with the cold and would rather sweat and drive myself crazy by staying inside for now. I knew it would be the only guaranteed way to get my miles in, something I have been neglecting for weeks for one reason or another.

My foot has calmed down for now, so I decided to risk the dreaded long run on the treadmill on Sunday. I had done 2 other runs during the week of 3.5 and 3.1 miles and they went okay, so I figured I could risk doubling that.

I had forgotten about the run/walk method I had used in the past to build up my miles and decided to go back to it, not only to prevent totally bonking but to test out the foot at various stages of the run. For the most part, I got through a 7.8 mile run in pretty good shape. I had hoped to reach 8 miles, but the time ran out at 7.8 and I called it good, using an 8/2 method. I was able to keep my pace steady through most of the run, and actually bumped it up toward the end without difficulty when I realized I was not going to make my distance goal in the time allotted. If I am going to reach my distance goals this month, I am going to need to increase my long run every weekend through this month. That should put me on track for the 25k next month. I am not making any bets yet on how this will go. I am hoping to not have to to do all this on the treadmill! And since I do not have any planned events for this month, I will focus instead on building mileage.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


The Skywalk at the Grand Canyon West is the newest tourist attraction, having opened to the public on March 28. Its called "The Glass Bridge at Grand Canyon." I decided to break this into parts because I can't seem to upload more than 7 or 8 pictures at a time without losing something.
The pictures, starting at the top, are as follows:

(1) After leaving Kingman, AZ, you still have to drive about 25 more miles to get to the Hualapai Indian Reservation, and then 21 miles to where the West Grand Canyon (as opposed to the North and South Rims) was located. The Skywalk is a combined effort of a Las Vegas architect, David Jin, and the Hualapai Indian Tribe (allowing them to make money from this tourist attraction over and above what they obviously were making previously on tours only).
The actual staging area to buy tickets for the Skywalk is reached after driving on 14 miles of bumpy, unpaved road. We were really glad we weren't driving our own car with all the shaking, rattling, and stone dings we were experiencing. After all the confusion of how to actually get to the Skywalk, we found ourselves on this road with no one in front of us. There were a few cars and a tour bus behind us, but for all I knew, they were following us, and I wasn't convinced we were going the right way. After all, you would think, after what we experienced in Flagstaff, there would be numerous cars caravanning to the Skywalk, but here we were, leading the way, like the blind leading the blind. I mentioned several times that I felt either we were going the wrong way or it had already been decided it wasn't worth the effort to go there, and thus we were on a wild goose chase.

(2) The road goes through the Joshua Tree Forest, something totally unexpected and unique for me to see. I wasn't quite sure until that day what a Joshua Tree looked like. The pictures do not do justice to the tree lined road we actually were driving down, but the car was so bumpy I was unable to focus to take many good pictures while riding.

(3) Just another scene from the long and winding road.

When we finally arrived at the ticket area, we discovered it was also the airport and air field. Here, you were able to buy tour tickets for Eagle and Guano Points, including the Skywalk, and, if you desired, take an airplane or helicopter tour of the Canyon. No, I don't think so! That cost over $200 per person, and I really preferred to stay on the ground.

The ticket purchasing building also contained a gift shop. There were probably 40 people waiting in line for tour tickets, and another 25 in the gift shop, and the whole building was about the size of a mobile home, so it was crowded. We had heard different information on the cost of walking on the Skywalk, but fortunately one of the Tribe members was handing out brochures as you entered the building and gave us detailed information when asked. For $49.95, plus tax, you can get the Spirit tour, which included: bus ride to Eagle Point, "photo ops with the Hualapai members," exploring the Indian Village, bus ride to Guano Point, panoramic view of the Colorado River, Indian cultural events, all-you-can eat buffet, and, last but not least, view the Skywalk. And for an additional $25, walk on the Skywalk. So, for a total of $74.95, plus tax, you could get a ride to and view and walk on the Skywalk, a tour that previously had cost only $25 before the Skywalk.

From my own perspective, having come all that way, obviously I wasn't going to turn around and leave without getting at least the cheapest tour. So we paid the $75+ each and headed out on the bus.

(4) Skywalk. The rules prohibited bringing any cameras or other loose items onto the Skywalk, so this is a picture of, rather than a picture from, the Skywalk. The Skywalk itself has a mostly plexiglass floor, which required you to wear booties, similar to those worn in the hospitals, with little grippers on them to prevent skidding. I had heard there was a limit on number of people allowed on the Skywalk at any given time, which I thought was 125. I don't think there were more than 50 people on their when we went, and from the information we read ahead of time, it appeared that the only weight issue would be if there were more than 71 747s on the Skywalk at the same time! It was also built to withstand a category 8 earthquate anywhere within 50 miles as well as winds up to 100 mph. Fortunately, we didn't experience any of those problems that day! In fact, the weather was perfect: about 70 degrees, sunny, and no wind. The crew working there told us the first two days it had snowed and was around 20 degrees, so I was glad we had missed that!
When I first stepped onto the Skywalk and looked down, I had a momentary episode of vertigo, but it quickly went away. There were a few people acting totally ridiculous about the whole thing, and in my opinion should have just stayed off. One woman in particular came along the railing where I was standing enjoying the view and clutched onto me so she could pass--and then only if I stepped back so she wouldn't have to let go of the railing! Another young guy was weaving and staggering, as if drunk, due to his dizziness from the experience. But those were just two of the people we encountered, and most were okay. We were 4000 feet up, and as far as I was concerned, if we fell, we wouldn't live to feel the pain, so I wasn't going to worry.

(5-6) This is the Indian culture we experienced.
(7) Another view of the Canyon, similar to what you would see from the Skywalk.

Friday morning, we woke up early and quickly showered, expecting to take off early on our trip to the Grand Canyon. It was at least a four hour drive to Flagstaff alone, so I wanted to be on the road early, with the hope we would get to the Canyon that day and head back to Tucson the next day.

While we had planned to get up and going early, figuring to eat at yet another fast food place or horrors a gas station, my aunt had planned that we would have breakfast with her, and when I finished showering, I noticed she already had the table set for breakfast, and a pot of coffee made. How could we refuse to stay and eat then??

It was nice having breakfast with her and talking about some family matters we hadn't covered the night before. So by the time we got on the road, it was about 8:30 am., and probably better that way, as we missed all the early morning traffic.

The route we would take to Flagstaff was part of the same route we took to Sedona the year before, Highway 17. Highway 17 is a winding, mountainous road, with continuous elevation increases along the way. As in the plane, my ears continually plugged and popped on this road. Some of it was familiar to me, but I kept wondering why we were going north to Flagstaff, since my Internet directions to the Skywalk distinctly routed us northwest, towards Las Vegas. But I didn't speak up, figuring it wasn't worth arguing about. Once we reached Flagstaff, I wish I had said something!

Its a beautiful drive, but lots of traffic, and today we were forewarned of an accident "17 miles ahead. Expect delays." What else was new?? At that point, however, there was no sign of any traffic backup. But soon, we were in the midst of it. From what I remember, it took about 45 minutes to go 3 miles. There was no other way out--no crossovers to go the other way, only one exit we didn't need, and just a long, winding road going up to the sky it seemed. Still, that 45 minutes beat another trip I was on where it took 3 hours to go 3 miles (in Tennessee on highway 75).
As we approached Flagstaff, we started seeing snow on the ground. Not covering it like we had seen on the weather the day before, but patches here and there, and this:

Arriving in Flagstaff, we were "greeted" by unbelievable traffic. Both sides of the main street were lined with hotels and restaurants, and as far as you could see there were lines of cars going every direction. We attempted to find the Visotor's Center, since we saw the sign entering the city, but couldn't find it. The sign had indicated it was "2 miles" ahead, but I guess it took so long to go the 2 miles that we lost track of where it might be.
We were confused as to where to go. Signs pointed north to the Grand Canyon and west to Los Angeles. Some choices! We were in the wrong lane to turn north, which was also the old Route 66. I did not realize Route 66 went that far south (meaning "south" in Arizona as opposed to "north" in Colorado or somewhere. I really had no idea.). So we had to loop around town, and this proved to be quite an ordeal. Like I said, the traffic was bumper to bumper, and because of this I was dreading the Grand Canyon adventure, which by this time of day we had decided would be early the next morning.
We really wanted to stay closer to the Canyon, and since it was 75 miles north of Flagstaff, we decided to try to drive closer that day. Once we got outside of town, it became obvious there were no more hotels, so fortunately we stopped sooner rather than later to verify directions and information from, once again, a gas station, since we had not been able to find that elusive Visitors Center. And we were informed then to either turn back to Flagstaff now or go on ahead to a resort where the rates were around $300 a night. Otherwise, there were no other hotels between there and the Grand Canyon. So we turned back, found a reasonably priced hotel, and then set out--on foot--to get something to eat.
We decided to eat at Bun Huggers, a build-your-own-burger place, where they have a huge grill where they cook your food (burgers, chicken, steaks, etc.) and then you put your own condiments or whatever on it. We were both very hungry at this point, and I pretty much gobbled my food. I wasn't sure we would get another meal that day, since Don tends to like to eat a lot of food early in the day and then snack the rest of the day. Me? I prefer to eat meals steadily and avoid all that snacking. So I was stocking up.
The weather in Flagstaff that day was cold and windy, but sunny. We were used to the cold and wind, but to have sunshine all day? Bonus. We decided to walk through town and check things out. We stopped at yet another gas station, after Don decided we should play some cards and drink some wine to pass the time that day. :) At the gas station, he asked where the Visitors Center was, and we found out it was still several blocks away at the train depot, which we had seen on our first drive through of the town but had not passed. So we had missed the Visitors Center sign because of that.
We decided to walk up there and get some more information on the Grand Canyon and Skywalk so we would be ready the next day. Just in our walk a few blocks away, two trains passed through town, and we would realize during the night that trains went through every hour.
At the Visitors Center, we got a rude awakening: the Skywalk was at the West Grand Canyon (we were close to the North and South Rims), 4 hours west of Flagstaff. Four more hours! It was early in the afternoon, and four hours would have gotten us there by evening, but after having already checked into a hotel, and paid up front, I knew there was no way we would be driving there today. I wanted to get up early the next day then and avoid the crowds, both on the roads and at the Skywalk, if possible.
That meant getting up at 4:30 am and heading out. My eyes protested the early wakeup call, but we did get up and out on the road by 5:15. We had noticed the sun usually came up in Arizona by 6 am, so we only had a short ride in the dark. Since we were heading west, we didn't see the sun rise, but it was still a beautiful view. We were both surprised that not only were we able to get in some decent radio stations, but that our cell phones still worked! Either there are way more towers in Arizona than there were in South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming (that's probably a given), or switching carriers actually paid off.
Our destination was Kingman, the closest town to the West Grand Canyon, and it was about 4 hours from Flagstaff. And the adventure continued.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Thursday, the plan was to get up early, go back to the base fitness center for a swim and/or other workout, and then head to my aunt's house in Apache Junction, AZ, northeast of Tucson, and southeast of Phoenix. The day was promising to be warmer than the day before, so I decided to take a chance and put on shorts. When we got to the base, it was still really early, before 8 am, yet the place was fairly busy.

Once again, and I don't know how I managed it, I forgot my goggles, etc., but this time decided to borrow goggles from the pool office and take my chances without using the other things. I didn't get too far, however, since I also need a nose plug and just a few laps got my sinuses working overtime, so I went to kickboarding.

I amused myself with seeing how many people who were swimming in their own fashion I could beat kick boarding. At that particular time of day? All of them, except Don. I do have a strong kick, so at least I felt like I was getting in some sort of workout. I had actually gone out and ran again a couple of miles before, and once again felt out of breath easily and was really looking forward to a nice swim workout.

We finally headed out on our way to Apache Junction mid-morning, but not until making numerous stops--to get food, gas, and other gas station stuff. It seems that on trips like this, we rely heavily on gas station amenities. How sad is that??

After about an hour into the trip, I decided to look at the Mapquest directions and realized had we followed the map, it would have had us taking backroads, not highway 10. That would have been okay had we started out following the directions, but now that we were on the Interstate, it looked like it was taking us way out of the way. But without knowing what the backroads would be like, we stuck to the main highway, something I don't tend to do by myself. I'm more likely to take my chances on a possible "shortcut" and see what happens. (Usually it means getting lost and taking hours longer than the longer route.) But I wasn't driving, thankfully. :) So of course, we had the usual little bickering routine about what did the map show? What was the next junction? Why didn't you tell me to turn before this? We're going way out of our way! Why don't I just call and see what my aunt says?? Come to find out, the map was partially lacking directions anyway (what's new with Mapquest, right?), and a new bypass loop did not show, so we basically went north out of our way, then looped back east to get to our destination, instead of just looping directly east. I was totally confused at this point, only half remembering where we were from the year before. And it seemed farther than I remembered too.

We finally arrived at my Aunt Dorothy's house much later than we had predicted. She lives in a 55 and over community that really is quite nice without being too expensive or pretentious. They have a great pool too! Dorothy is my mom's sister, and has lived in Arizona for over 20 years due to severe arthritis. She does spend her summers in Michigan, however, so I do see her while she is here. Two of her daughters, my cousins, also live in the area with their families, and have lived there for close to 20 years as well, and they NEVER come to Michigan to visit, so obviously I don't see them too often. My mom's brother and his wife also winter in the park, so its like a family reunion whenever I have visited. My uncle and his wife were divorced a number of years ago and then remarried, so now his standard joke he likes to tell is that he lives with his wife and ex-wife and they get along great. They also have a son, my cousin, who is--are you ready for this--9 months YOUNGER than my oldest child. I have probably seen him a total of 4 times in his life. Did I mention my aunt and uncle are only 8 years older than I am?

My Aunt Dorothy had been suffering from severe sciatic nerve pain for quite a while, but the day we arrived she had finally been able to get out of bed for the first time in a long time. She will be 77 in May, but really gets around quite well despite all her ailments. She's a busy bee, that's for sure. Maybe that's where I get my energy? So it was good to visit and catch up on family stuff. We planned to stay the day and then leave sometime in the morning for the West Grand Canyon.

My aunt also has a friend, Lucy, who lives in the park. Lucy is a dear and loved by all who know her. She amused us with stories of her past. Lucy had recently lost her second husband to Alzheimers in January, and I couldn't help but feel sad about the fact that she would have been a perfect companion for my dad had we only been able to get him down to Arizona for the winter. :(

While the weather wasn't HOT the way I would have liked it for a few days, it was warm enough to enjoy the outdoor pool by late afternoon. At last I would be able to get in a real swim, since I had gone ahead and bought new goggles, earplugs, and a nose plug at the BX. But we were disappointed to find that the pool pump was broken, so they had shut the pool for repairs.
:( But, at the risk of sun damage, I decided I would lounge by the pool for one day at least.

Since we planned to visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk the next day, we checked the weather later that evening, only to find SNOW at Flagstaff. Lots of snow. "I'm not going there if its snowing," I declared. "I can see THAT stuff at home anytime." (Am I a prophet or what, since it appears that we will be having snow year round in this state.) I don't really know where going to Flagstaff entered into the plans, since I wasn't really involved in the discussion, but despite my maps and directions to the Skywalk that I brought from home, Don somehow got the impression, from my relatives no doubt, that we had to go to Flagstaff to accomplish this. That would prove to be a mistake, as we found out later.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Fe-Lady was taking the day off work on Wednesday to show us around. We got up early, had oatmeal and coffee, and dressed to go to Saguaro National Park.

The park is about 10 miles away, and we knew that Cheryl (Fe-Lady) biked there frequently. When we first arrived in Tucson, we were impressed with the fact that everywhere we drove we saw "Bike Route" signs, leading us to believe that Tucson was a bike friendly city. We were informed otherwise, but if you went early enough on a Sunday it was fairly safe. Pretty much the way it is most places.

I wasn't sure whether we would run or hike, but as it turned out, even though I dressed to run, we ended up just hiking. There was so much to see I figured I would be too busy looking at everything to want to count on this as a running workout. The park has an 8 mile loop that lots of bikers use, Cheryl included. Its hilly and twisty, and the views are sensational.

We stopped on one of the overlooks to take some pictures and as weird as it was, a vehicle with Michigan plates pulls up! I asked the man where they were from, and as it turned out were from Spring Lake, Michigan, a city near Grand Rapids but closer to the Lake Michigan lakeshore, along one of Don's biking routes. Don and the man then had a conversation about the area, while Cheryl and I chatted. She mentioned then that my skin looked younger than hers, but I have to point out she is much slimmer than me! That's what sitting around for 2 months gets you, as well as 40+ hours a week! Oh, and maybe I can use the excuse of storing fat for the cold, winter months. And she is a MUCH better athlete than I.

There were lots of bikers here this morning, some serious, some obviously recreational, and they were most likely on vacation with rental bikes. Its not an easy route, and Cheryl mentioned she usually does the loop twice. Tough lady!

We continued on up the winding road farther into the park and finally stopped at a place where we could hike in. I could not get over all the cactus! Everywhere. Such a foreign climate and terrain from what we were used to.

We hiked upward mainly, and it wasn't a difficult climb, but we could have made it harder had we followed some of the straight-up routes Cheryl mentioned. Not today, thanks! I was glad I had shorts on though, making it easier to climb. The temperature never really got hot, probably hovering around 65. But of course the sun was shining, so that was a bonus. And I was glad I had put on my sunscreen!

Looking out over the park, you could see a haziness blurring the mountains in the distance. We figured it might be dust particles in the air from the high winds from the day before. It was nice to be here during a weekday, when the crowds were not present. There were several other people hiking, again some serious and others recreational. I ventured a couple of jogs on the flatter sections and it felt so good to not be running on frozen pavement or a treadmill! Don did not dress to run but wanted to strictly hike, and got ahead of us while we gabbed and chatted. I'm not sure what the elevation was, but fortunately I didn't struggle with my breathing. I was sweating though!

After a couple of hours, we headed back to Cheryl's to relax a while and chat some more. The plan later in the day was that Cheryl and Brant would go on their usual Wednesday after-work ride and Don and I would head to the Davis Monthan Air Force Base where there was a BX (base exchange) and a fitness center that he wanted to check out. Don is retired Air Force and Brant is retired Army, so they had some military stories to share, and it also is where Cheryl and Brant swim some of the time.

It was a pretty impressive place, the whole thing, with the base exchange reminding me of a discounted higher end department store. The fitness facility was also impressive, with a large weight room, 6 lane, 25 meter pool, indoor and outdoor running tracks, and cardio center. I had planned to swim only, but discovered when I got there that I had forgotten my goggles, ear plugs, nose plug, and cap, the things I can't go without swimming anymore. Had I thought of it, I would have gone to the BX and bought the stuff, but it didn't occur to me until later. Instead, I ran on the outside track a couple of miles, and here I was really huffing and puffing! Was it the elevation or thinner air or what? Or was I just tired from the morning hike? Whatever it was, after two miles I was wiped out! I did some weights and then pretty much tried to hurry Don along, who was into a 45 min. eliptical workout and then weights. He had wanted to go longer, but I knew Cheryl and Brant would be waiting for us to eat, since they ate dinner early, while we were used to eating late. A Midwestern thing maybe?

We finally arrived back at their place to find they had already grilled and eaten, salmon and steak. Delicious! I was ravenous after the day, but while I was eating, my cell phone rang and it was my aunt who wanted to know where we were and when were we coming (to visit in Apache Junction). Um, I think you have the wrong day. I finally convinced her we would be there the next day and that they must have mixed up the day we would arrive. I felt badly about leaving them hanging there waiting for us, but it was too late at that point to go there that night.

Again, after chatting for quite a while, we finally hit the hay and zonked out again, early by Arizona time but late for Michigan time. Our inner time clocks hadn't changed much yet. And tomorrow would be another day.

As usual, when packing to leave for anywhere, it is a mad scramble to decide what to take. If I didn't mention it before, I'll mention it now, whererever I have gone over the past 4 years, regardless of what the weather is supposed to be, cold weather follows me. That pretty much is one reason I don't put too much stock in the global warming debate. :) To be safe, then, I packed jackets and winter gear, running and otherwise.

We had a mid-morning flight, which would bring us into Tucson around 3:15 pm. I figured that this would get us there just about the time Fe-Lady would be out of work, so we would be able to go straight from the airport to her house.

I have flown quite a bit over the last 4 years, but the whole airport experience is just getting worse, in my opinion. While I am glad that more precautions are taken to screen passengers, in an attempt to make it safer for all of us, the whole procedure gets a little annoying, and I figure it is only a matter of time before they--whoever "they" are--figure out something else we need to be afraid of.

The Grand Rapids airport is small by most standards--we only have 3 luggage carousels if that's any indication of size. But they take their TSA duties seriously! The security here is almost ridiculous compared to some larger cities I have been in. For example, don't even think of stopping your vehicle at the curb for more than a few seconds, just long enough to hop out and throw your luggage to the curb. The security guys are ready and waiting to scare you off if you even hesitate! The other thing is the new rules about carry on items, specifically "gels, lotions, and aerosols." Everything has to be 3.4 ounces or less. I couldn't remember what the size rule was, but was careful about packing things in see-through bags or putting them in my checked luggage. I made a couple of mistakes, however, because I had a half-used tube of toothpaste, in a clear baggie, which probably only had 2 ounces of toothpaste left. I had forgotten to get a travel size so threw that in at the last minute. Wrong move! The tube said "4.6 ounces" even though, like I said, probably only 2 ounces were left. Had to throw that out. Then, in the screening process, I got stopped again because I had an unbagged "liquid" in my carry-on backpack. Since I hadn't used that since last summer, I totally forgot about a small, liquid bug spray container that was in a side pocket. That, however, was under the 3.4 ounce limit, so I was allowed to keep that, but had to put it into a clear bag. It would seem to me a partially used tube of toothpaste would be less of a threat than bug spray, but who am I to decide that??

The flight from GR to Houston, our layover destination, was uneventful, other than the usual trauma to my eardrums. Arriving in Houston, it was sunny, 75, and HUMID! We decided to get something to eat before heading to our departure gate, since it was now about noon our time, and we had an almost 2 hour layover. Our departure gate seemed like it was almost a mile from where the terminal was we were droppped off in. While we sat there waiting for the flight, we both noticed a line of shuttle busses, too many to count. And they were all running. So much for the environment, right? It occurred to me then that we would be shuttled to our plane, wherever that was. So, let me get this straight: they drop you off in one spot, make you walk a country mile to the next departure gate, and then shuttle you back to your plane. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

We finally got our call for boarding, and headed onto the shuttle bus. Because I had missed a last chance for a bathroom break before we boarded the plane, I decided to head straight for the plane bathroom, so I wouldn't have to get up during the flight. The first thing I encountered was no light in the bathroom. I opened and shut the door a couple of times before it finally came on. Then I discovered the toilet did not flush and there was no running water in the sink. Hmm. Houston, we have a problem!

Going back to my seat, I also found that the overhead light didn't work, and the woman I was sitting next to had the shade drawn, so it was hard for me to see to read. After waiting to take off for several minutes past the scheduled departure time, some of the passengers were moving to empty seats, so I asked to move to a single seat on the opposite side of the plane so I had a window to see by. I no sooner got comfortable in my seat than the pilot said we would be switching planes because apparently something had been left running from an earlier flight, and now there was no battery power in the plane. Don later commented that he didn't realize planes ran by battery power! Whatever the problem, we now had to deboard, get back on shuttles, and wait for another plane. This experience, again, left something to be desired. I noticed Don was getting on a different bus than I, so decided to get on his bus. Again, wrong move! The woman bus driver barked at me to get back on my bus. When I tried to explain what my motive was, she again barked at me there was no room and to get back on my bus. Whatever! Did it make any difference whether I stood on one bus or the other??

By this time, I was getting irritable. I just have so much tolerance for this kind of stuff and wanted to be done with the whole flight. It was hot on the plane too. We were already late by over an hour leaving, and we still had another 2+ hours to Tucson. At this point, I figured we would be arriving later than expected, and was worried about not being able to let anyone know. But, as usually happens, they make up for lost time somehow, and we arrived only about 20 minutes late.

Tucson! We were here! It was a beautiful day, but windy. The view from the plane windows was so welcoming: sunshine, blue skies, mountains. We deboarded, got our luggage, and then started the long hike to the rental cars, only to find out our car rental location was off site. We had to take a shuttle to get a car. By this time, it was about 4 pm, and I attempted to call Fe-Lady to tell her we had arrived late but were getting the car and would be there soon. I went over the directions I had printed out ahead of time, and told her we would be there soon. Since she is located only about 20 minutes from the airport, I figured it would be soon.

Wrong! Not knowing which direction was which, and not really understanding the consequences of one wrong move in trying to follow the directions, we found ourselves way off track. After driving for almost 30 minutes, I knew we had to call and reverify our directions. By now, it was almost 5 pm. I knew there were people waiting for us, and I get edgy about this. We got some further instruction on how to get to her house, but again, without knowing direction--north/south or east/west--we were guessing. Fortunately we guessed correctly, but still continued off track trying to find our way. After another 30 minutes, I called again, and after that we just winged it until we finally figured out where we were! It probably was after 6 pm when we finally arrived, much to everyone's relief, I'm sure.

And here we were! I finally got to meet Fe-Lady! We both felt as if we had known each other for a long time. She and her husband were very warm and hospitable, and showed us the guest house we would be staying in. It was so cute and comfortable looking! Almost like a hotel room in size.

The weather by now had gotten quite windy, and it had cooled down. We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and then headed back to their place for some talk. It was getting late when we finally headed to bed, and it wasn't long before I was zonked out for the night. It was after midnight our time, so we were beat. Tomorrow would be another day.

First, before I say anything else, I want to thank Fe-Lady and her husband Brant for their hospitality in hosting me on my visit to Arizona. It goes without saying that Don and I appreciate everything they did for us while we were there to make us feel welcome and show us around their city. We had a most enjoyable stay, and it will be something to remember for a long time. I also value the friendship I have made and hope this will be just the beginning of future meetings.

We got back to semi-warm temps and sunshine, so the switch back to Michigan weather wasn't quite as painful as it could have been. But this morning, back to dark and rainy. After sunshine and dry, that is hard to take. At least the grass is green and the flowers are blooming!

I am going to try to recap some of the day-to-day experiences we had, and hope this doesn't get too long and drawn out.