Thursday, May 31, 2007

Here's the venue for the next tri I am scheduled to do on June 9, on an inland lake right near Lake Michigan.

Course Info: Swim - Bike - Run
Swim course is a half mile triangle-shaped course in Lake Macatawa
Bike course is a 22.8 mile out and back with part of it following the Lake Michigan shoreline. It's a basically flat course with some shaded areas
Run course is a 4.8 mile out and back course featuring a select number of inclines.

I've never done this race, so it will be nice to tri something new. Lake Macatawa used to be (and hopefully still isn't) called Lake Maca-toilet because it was so polluted, which was one thing that kept me from doing it in the past. It also was on a weekend usually too busy with other things: graduations, weddings, my mom's birthday. This year, I have none of those.

I struggled with deciding which race to do: this one or the Olympic distance tri I have done a few other times. After much debating in my mind, I went ahead and signed up for this one on the deadline date so as not to incur a higher fee.

The reason I decided against the Olympic distance tri, which takes place the following weekend, was mainly lack of training. I just haven't had enough bike rides that would leave me comfortable enough doing this race. When I did it last year, I was severely undertrained as well, and to make a point, I was DFL in the race, and last by more than a half hour, taking over 4 hours to finish--not that that is so bad in itself, I'm just not ready for that much time yet. I suspect even with a good effort it would take me well over 3.5 hours. Monday's 3.5 hour bike ride left me not particularly peppy for the rest of the day, and I am still dragging. I also have a graduation that day out of town, meaning a couple hour drive, so no, I just am not up to that much of a hard workout for that day along with everything else. I know I should be pushing harder, but I really do need to pace myself here.

Last year, I did okay on the swim, so-so on the bike, and fell apart on the run and ended up walking 4 miles. Its a fast crowd that does this race. Awards start at 3 hours, and the race basically starts shutting down then, even though there are still many people who come in after that, but rarely anyone even close to 4 hours (with me being the exception--I do believe I have the distinction of having the slowest time in the history of the race!). They do still have the finish line going half staffed, but the race info does imply that if you can't finish in 3 hours or less, maybe you should just pass on this race! I'd like to say I don't know too many people who can finish this race in 3 hours or less, but that isn't true. In fact, I personally don't know too many people who take more than 3 hours on this course! And the bike isn't easy: rolling to hilly the whole way. So I am wimping out on this for this year at least and hoping for a better result at the Lake Macatawa tri. Besides, when you compare numbers, the swim is only 400 meters less (roughly), the bike 1.8 miles less, and the run 1.4 less for the run. Still a good workout.

I'm volunteering instead.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


We had another great weather day and on a holiday weekend, surprisingly enough. Here is the group, gathered at the trailhead, for an early morning ride. You can see it is still chilly enough for jackets.
There were 10 of us, and all of different abilities, so it was nice to have a mixed group. Some of the people are deceptively fast. I, as usual, brought up the rear most of the way.
We started out about 8:30 am, with the intention to ride what I was told would be 40 miles. I figured we were doing the trail, until someone mentioned they wanted to stop at a restaurant about half way, which meant going off the trail. I haven't ever ridden in this area off trail, but I knew there could be low traffic or it might be busy, you never knew. I was a little concerned, knowing of course I would be last all the time, so even if I was riding with a group, I would still be a sitting duck for any car not paying attention. Yes, that is going to worry me forever, most likely.
But I also knew it was time to get some serious training in, and this was the only way to do it. And believe what you hear: you can buy speed, and you will get faster (eventually) riding with faster people.
What do I mean about buying speed? From my own situation, upgrading to a lighter and better, and ultimately faster, bike, even though I was trailing behind, I figure my speed was still about 2 mph faster than with my old bike.
This route was a great training route, with long, flat stretches for getting up some speed, and long, gradual uphills, to get some gearing experience and build strength. And it was a beautiful day on a beautiful country road. But there was a lot of traffic, fast pickup truck traffic. I got annoyed with this before the accident, so now it is doubly annoying. I just can't figure out why these people have to go by at 80 mph, practically blowing you over when they pass, going way to the other side of the road, and potentially endangering anyone coming head on besides.
One of the guys stayed back with me for a while, until we came to our first stop to check the map. I discovered he had bought Don's old Trek bike from probably 4 bikes back, and was mentioning that the computer was off. It was when Don had it too! After our first brief break, probably 5 miles out to check the map, I immediately fell behind. This time, however, one of the other slower people lost his chain on an uphill and I passed by, but asked if he needed help. Nope, doing okay, just the chain. His wife stopped then and waited, and from that point on, until we got to our destination, they were behind me. I felt a lot better then.
The guys were pretty much staying mixed in with the ladies, and there were two women way up front, but once we reached 14 miles and headed to the restaurant with 9 miles to go, the guys took off, the two faster women took off, and that left 5 of us at varying speeds. I was working very hard to keep moderately close, but even averaging 16-17 mph, I couldn't even get close to the two other women in front of me. Like I said, they were deceptively fast. They seemed to ride with ease the same pace, or faster, that I was doing and working very hard to achieve. I wasn't out of breath or struggling, but I was working hard.
At this point on the route, the traffic gets heavier and heavier because it is a back road to Lake Michigan, so lots of people use it to avoid the highway traffic. Its a beautiful route along the bayou, but busy. There is a bike path eventually, but those of us who opted to use it soon pulled back into the road. The path was full of debris, ruts, holes, and sand and gravel everywhere, making it dangerous every time you hit a patch of it. And then there was this large group of bike riders--women and children--fully blocking the path at one point, almost causing me and another women to collide when they came to a complete stop in front of us.
We only had a short way to go yet to the restaurant, thankfully, because I was getting increasingly nervous with all the traffic and obstacles, and I was at least a mile behind the next closest person, since I slowed down so much on the path. I was glad when she stopped at a cross street, because from there I wouldn't have known how to maneuver through town. And then we came upon a Memorial Day parade, so we were forced to detour again.
Eventually, we reached the restaurant, only to find it closed down--permanently. It was a nice coffee shop, but apparently they couldn't compete with McDonalds and Arby's, right across the street. So we went to McDonalds and got a quick breakfast. It was so nice to sit out in the warm sunshine. By now, I had taken off my jacket and was very comfortable. One of the women showed me her makeshift arm warmers--men's tube socks that she cut the feet off. She has another pair she cut thumb holes in that she uses when it is colder. Very ingenious, and they only cost her $3!
At this point, the older guy who had fallen behind, decided he had had enough, so his wife was going to ride back to their truck and drive back and pick him up. She is a fast biker, so it wouldn't be that long of a wait. One of the women in our group, the woman I call the Stripper because she used to completely strip at triathlons until someone told her it was a no-no, looked at me and said, "Did I hear you say you wanted someone to ride back slow with you?" Uh, no, I never said I wanted to ride slow. I just said I know I am slower. She is so diplomatic, don't you think?!
It was apparent she was getting a feel for the return pace, and once Sue the woman picking up her husband decided to leave, Tamara, the Stripper, and another women decided to join her. They were all fast, again deceptively fast. All were super runners and had become uber triathletes, so I did give them credit for their abilities. Its just that two can be bitchy when it comes to comparing their abilities to others, and they don't hesitate to tell you just how good they are. (My question then was why do you come with this group if you don't think we're worthy of you??)
So off they went ahead of the group. We figured our halfway mileage to be about 23 miles, meaning 46 or more on the return, depending on whether we went back the same way. They probably left 10 minutes ahead of us, so the guys were going to try to chase them down. Another Sue said she was riding back slower, so I was hopeful I would have someone to pair up with. But like I keep saying, either Sue is deceptively fast, or I am hopelessly slow. I can't quite decide. Probably a little of both. But I have only had two other bike rides this season, and both were not more than 15 miles. And I've never been fast. (Let's see, how many more excuses can I come up with?)
Anyway, we headed back, directly into the wind. I had been riding entirely in my middle chain ring, and now with the wind I could see myself falling farther and farther behind. I decided I was going to have to make the attempt to gear up, forgetting a little how to switch chain rings with this bike. My first attempt put me in the granny gear, and there I was spinning away. When I attempted to get back to the big chain ring, something got jammed, and all of a sudden I was totally locked up! I immediately unclipped at least one foot, since I couldn't pedal at all, and I had this huge fear of falling, and fiddled with the gears until I got it cleared up. This, of course, caused me to fall yet further behind. It was time to get serious. I dug deep and pedaled as hard as I could, still making sure I was keeping as high of a cadence as I could manage, until I finally came up behind Sue. We rode together for a bit, and I commented on the wind. "I didn't really notice," she says. Deflated, I just pedaled on.
Its times like this when you gain confidence in your abilities and at the same time get humbled from the whole experience. Oh yeah, I caught up with her for a minute, but how long would it last?
We were coming to the fork in the road that would take us back to the road leading to the trailhead, and I was relieved to be getting off this busy roadway. The guys were waiting for us there, and funny guys that they are, as soon as they saw us, they said, "Okay, let's go." No rest for the weary! Unfortunately, this stop was right at the bottom of the biggest hill yet, so it was back down in the small gears to get up this thing.
At this point, we have to cross over the highway on an overpass, and then there are the on and off ramps we pass by. Right after this is our turn. Sue, not paying attention, turned right onto the off ramp until we all yelled at her to turn around! (I'm glad I'm not the only one who does stuff like this!)
We still had 14 miles to go after this, and suddenly all these hills appeared! One after the other. For some reason, I didn't remember them going out. I was still on a roll here, though, and was pushing hard, so I was able to get ahead of a couple of people, but two of the guys flew by us and were out of sight within minutes. Both are amazingly strong bikers, and neither of them have any special equipment! One of the guys has an OLD Trek 420, a big puffy seat, no computer, no aerobars, nothing special. So, maybe it isn't just about the bike?
At this point, I was counting down the miles. The wind was stronger, the hills were many, and the traffic was constant. At one point, a truck hauling pigs went by, crossing first from one side of the road to the other, swaying back and forth, hitting the gravel, clearly almost out of control. Scary, since two of the people were in the truck's path when this was happening. I really don't know how he avoided hitting someone.
I really wanted to be done by now. I was getting tired, it was very windy, and I just couldn't deal with the traffic problems any more. Thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten. I was counting down the miles. At this point again, I got a second wind, or maybe Sue was slowing down, because I found myself coming up behind her and then passing her for the first time. I held onto this lead for about 3 miles, and then she came buzzing past me on an uphill and I never caught up again. I knew we were almost done and had no more incentive to keep up.
My pace on the return trip was in the 13-14 mph range, due to the wind, hills, and fatigue. When we finally reached the trailhead, Sue had waited for me, even though we only had 2 more miles to go. She was tired and didn't mind stopping. I didn't particularly want to keep her pace, but did push myself enough to keep even with her. The last 1 1/2 miles of the trail are marked off, so we were doing the countdown together.
And finally, we were done. We checked our mileage and it was right at 46 miles. Average pace for me was only about 14.5. Time pedalling was about 3.5 hours. Good enough for a first attempt of the year.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I decided to break the weekend reports into three because they are so long.

Part two then starts after the race. I met up with Don, who ran 46 something for a 5th in the age group finish and a BIG medal. Really nice medals. He wanted to be able to watch some of the marathoners finish and we had to check out of the hotel, so we hurried back to shower and check out. We arrived back at the race site just a little after one of his friends had finished, in 3:28, a couple of minutes faster than he predicted. We also ran into several others who had completed the marathon and half. We ran into Dr. Rick (real doctor) who finished the marathon first in 40-44 AG with a 2:52. Dr. Rick is one fast runner, but never hesitates to help mentor slower runners, either to a PR or, to qualify for Boston. And he swears by pickle juice as his secret method of race hydration.

We also met up with Lynne, who had run the 1/2 and PR'd with a 2:01. She generously gave away her finisher's medal to the young daughter of another runner who had recently completed her Girls on the Run 5k. A class act if I ever saw one.

Then there was Marathon Don, running in his marathon of the month. Marathon Don is a member of the 7 Continents Club and the 50 States Club, and is on his way to doubling both. He is also the race director for the Grand Rapids Marathon. Anyone looking for a first rate fall marathon, look no further. And Marathon Don never finishes a race without his cooler full of beer--imports, domestic, pale ales, whatever you are looking for. So we passed the time waiting for people to come in tossing back a few in the now glorious sunshine.

Eventually, the race was winding down, and we decided to head to lunch and then our second place to stay for the weekend, the Grand Traverse Resort. This is a picture of the tower that our room was in, overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay. (slightly blurry from the window in the room),

The Grand Traverse Resort is actually owned by the Ottawa and Chippewa Tribe Band of Indians, and is a world class resort, golf course, and conference center. A picture of the lobby and pool area. There was an indoor and outdoor pool, but by the time we actually got into the room and got over our oohing and aahing of the place, the weather was turning cloudy and cooler, so we headed to the indoor pool area instead.
What we found was a regular athletic club, family pool, and the Olympic size lap pool, quite a surprise, actually. We both wanted to swim, but also were both so sleepy after the early morning wakeup call and the few beers, so decided to take a quick nap and then swim. Once I settled onto the comfy beds
I wasn't so sleepy after all. Something about those beds was so relaxing, it seemed to suck all the fatigue right out of me. Instead I read for a while until my phone rang. It was Nancy wanting to get together for dinner. She and Bruce wanted to go out somewhere, but I wanted to stay at the resort so we could actually spend some time at the expensive place, so they agreed to come by later and eat at the hotel.
I was glad they decided to stay in with us, because by the time evening rolled around, it was rainy and I really was glad to not have to go out anymore.
We ended up eating at a Bistro restaurant on site, and by the time we finished, it was almost 9 pm. We took them on a tour of the complex, and that's when we discovered the place was swarming with kids--kids without chapperones too it appeared. And there was a prom taking place there as well. The lobby area was so noisy, we couldn't hear ourselves talk. I was a little disappointed with the number of kids running around in such a high priced place. We found out they were some sort of youth group, but some of them didn't exactly behave themselves, so it detracted from the experience.
And while the resort did provide massage packages, they really were out of our price range. Instead, we took advantage of the indoor and outdoor whirlpools on site as well as our own private jacuzzi tub.
I have used jacuzzi tubs before, but never have they been as effective and powerful as this one. The jets were so powerful, they splashed over everything in the entire room. And did I mention the bathroom was as big as my kitchen?!
It was a treat to not have to set the alarm for the next morning, but as usual, we still woke up around 7 am. Looking out our window at the view, we could see it was another glorious day. I decided to swim again, so headed to the pool before 8 am, only to find all the lanes full. That only lasted a few minutes, and then I had a lane to myself. After a 1200 yard swim, I headed to the outside hot tub, mainly to check out the temperature. It was breezy and cool, but sunny. It felt wonderful sinking down into the hot water with the cool air around me.
After I dressed, I shopped at some in the shops on site. There was a very nice Michigan cherry products shop, American Spoon. I bought some dried cherries, a cherry and nut package, some sour cherry preserves, and the piece de resistance, handmade cherry truffles. OMG, those were SO good. After all, Traverse City is the sour cherry capital of the world! Couldn't go home empty handed.
All too soon, it was time to head home. Driving along the bay, the water looked so cold. The locals say it doesn't warm up until August. So another year, another fine weekend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


(Part One)

This is the 10k race we did this weekend in Traverse City, Michigan. There was also a marathon and half marathon.

The first 3 miles of the marathon, and the first half of the 10k are run along the east bay of Grand Traverse Bay, pictured here. You can see what a glorious day we had! The weather was perfect. (Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera died after only one picture!)

The weekend started on Friday. I had taken the day off months before, mainly in anticipation that my sister and I would take our dad to the casino on Memorial Day weekend, since it would be a long weekend from work for me, and I figured she would have time away from her chauferring kids to school routine that weekend. This was something my dad had been wanting to do for quite some time, since before his chemo started. Unfortunately, the weekend plans changed when my dad died in February. I still had the day off, however, so Don and I talked about what to do, when I remembered about my prize I had won last fall for a resort package to the Grand Traverse Resort. So the race became part of the plan to use the hotel package. We just can't seem to go too many places not connected with some sort of race!

We arrived in Traverse City around 3:30 in the afternoon, checked into the hotel, and then headed for packet pickup. We knew there would be some people at the race from GR that we knew, but didn't know how many. Most would be doing the marathon or half. Both races had filled up quickly, but there was no limit on the 10k, and I was quite happy to be running only that distance.

After packet pickup, we went to dinner. Dinner was a Memphis barbeque place, and arriving early there was no wait. Good food! Then we headed to the hotel and decided to use the pool for a short while. Usually, there either is no time for these things or we don't want to do anything that would take away from the race the next day, so we don't use the pool or hot tub. This time, we did both. And we had the place to ourselves for most of the time we were there.

While we didn't have to go to bed that early, both of us were sleepy, so it was easy to fall asleep before 11. Good thing too, because our wakeup call was at 4:45. We wanted to be able to head to the race by 5:30 to get a parking spot. I got up first and went to the lobby for coffee, since it was right outside the elevators, and our room was practically next to the elevators. Quicker than making my own. The hotel had already put the food out for the continental breakfast, and there were a few runners already taking advantage of the food and drinks provided.

The temperature was 41 degrees, but it was expected to get up to 70, so we both wore shorts, and I put on a jacket until the race started. Then I decided I needed a long sleeved shirt. My hands get cold and stay that way without gloves, so at least I would have sleeves to pull over my hands. We both put on chip straps, which set us apart from regular runners who wore them on their shoes. So convenient!

We arrived at the race site before 6 am and so began the long wait. The parking lot was already almost full. The half marathoners had needed to be there by 5:30 to be bussed to their start. Again, it was amusing to watch people in their preparations for the race, and again so different from a triathlon. But even with the differences, there was the common thread of doing the race and hoping to do the best they could on that day.

We headed over to the race start about 6:45. I forgot our race didn't start until 7:15 or I would have made one more inside bathroom break, so instead had to wait in the porta-john lines when it occurred to me the race start stagger.

This race used to limit the marathon to 500 when I first did the 10k about 11 or 12 years ago, and I doubt there was even 200 people that year. Five years ago, they increased the numbers to 1000 and immediately filled up. Now, I'm not sure what the limit is, but the total number of the three races was over 4000.

The pace groups were out with their pace signs when I spotted my favorite one: Shufflers. Now that one I could identify with!

Just before the race started, I ran into a friend, Nancy, whose husband, Bruce, was doing the marathon. He had wanted to switch to the half, but they wouldn't let him, so Bruce and Nancy had the plan that he would run to the marathon turn around and she would run the 10k and then go pick him up. So I knew she would be running faster than me--she always did anyway. While I like Nancy well enough, she can be a little condescending when it comes to running. As we waited in the start area, she said, "I'm going to be running slow because of an injury, but not as slow as you will." Well, that set the mood!

Finally, the race started and you could hear all the chips chirping as people crossed the start line. This was also a new feature: a chip start. The first time for me in this race actually, so I was able to not worry about starting in the back.

This 10k is pretty straight forward: run out 3 miles, run back, finish on the track. There really are no hills, just a few inclines, and you run along the bay the entire way. Its through a small neighborhood road with little or no traffic. I have no idea what my starting pace was, but I was determined to run only a pace I could hold the whole way, regardless of how slow that might be. People passed me, I passed people. It was pretty crowded, more than I remembered in the past. There were the usual people running ahead and then abruptly stopping to walk. Lots of them doing this. I just held a steady pace and only walked through the two water stops. Just before two miles, a car came onto the course, obviously trying to get out to the main road, so we had to suck exhaust for about 5 minutes. I don't know why people can't plan their departures for either before or after the race. She clearly was a nuisance, because at that point, there were return runners on the other side of the road, so of course those of us going out had to stay behind her.

At the turnaround, a half marathon runner came charging by. This would have been almost 10 miles for those runners, and he would have been right around 46 minutes. It wasn't long before the masses of half runners were coming through also.

After the turnaround, I knew I had to get some focus into what I was doing to get through this whole thing without breaking down into a walk. I am trying very hard to run a pace I can handle for most of the distance I am running, but believe me, the urge to go faster never goes away. The mind and legs here, however, don't match up. What I want to do and what I am able to do are two different things. I don't know why, but since that accident, I just have not been able to take it up a notch on longer distances, and I am slower than I have ever been. Add to that the aging factor and you get the idea. I am hoping this passes after this season, but I suspect for this year I am doomed to be back of the pack, regardless of what I think I am capable of doing.

My focus then was remembering what I did in races when I was much faster, when my legs actually did what my mind told them to do. The trick I found then, and I decided to use again, was to find someone in front of me to focus on, someone obviously running fast enough to be in front of me, but not so fast that I didn't have a chance to pass them. Then I focused entirely on their feet. By doing this, your pace starts matching their pace. You aren't looking down the road seeing how far you still need to go. You are only looking at those feet in front of you--until you come up even with them and pass them. It is almost guaranteed you will pass them using this technique.

So that is what I did for the rest of the race, and I passed many people, and it helped keep me focused on getting through step by step, and not worrying about the miles. I managed to pass everyone I used this trick on until the very end when there were too many people doing too many things for me to find a focus. At that point, people were sprinting to get on the track to finish, there were other 10k runners out for a cooldown, there were half marathon runners charging through, and both sides of the street were lined with spectators. But I held on, and the only ones who passed were 3 women quite a bit younger than me, and try as I might, I couldn't match their sprinting pace.

Onto the track for the victory lap, and I was very glad to be done. I had not looked at my watch the entire way, so had no real idea of what I was doing timewise. I hit the timing mats in 1:12:26, and another woman came through immediately behind me. She came up to me and "thanked" me for pulling her to the finish. "I just watched you and kept up with you." That couldn't have been that hard but I was glad to have helped. :)

Not a stellar time, but I did get through it. Fifteen minutes slower than the last time, 4 years ago. I am truly hoping I get faster at some point, but I guess I am just happy to be able to run at all.

Part two will cover the resort and spa.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Summer is upon us here in Grand Rapids, at least for a couple of days. If I didn't know better, I would worry about potential hot weather for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and particularly how it relates to the 10k Bayshore run. But I do know better. I do know that with weekend plans to go away, it most definitely will either cool down or rain, or both. I have stayed home for everyone's convenience the last two years, and Don and his tri-geek friends were blessed with good weather for their 200 mile weekend ride. Three years prior to this, we went to Traverse City for the races, even going so far as to rent a cottage on a lake for some open water swimming, only to have it rain and get so cold we had to turn the heat on in the cabin. So it remains to be seen if bad weather follows us again this year.

I am also happy to say I am not concerned about this race. It was a last-minute decision to sign up, and after having just completed a 25k, I think I can manage a 10k. And it fits into my training plans perfectly.

I have no serious expectations for this race. Unlike in my younger years, when I actually drove up to the race the morning of, ran the race, grabbed some post-race food, checked the results and headed back to the car, all under the course of an hour (not counting the drive there, of course), I figure it will take me well over an hour to just finish the thing, and then spend the next day and a half recovering!

So I am looking forward to our overly priced room at the Grand Traverse Resort, hoping it has a jacuzzi in the room for that price!

I hope everyone else has a great weekend and the weather Gods smile upon you.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Here's what I'll be doing Memorial Day weekend instead of Triple T:

And here's where I'll be staying:

Actually, I'm not doing the marathon or even the half, since no way am I doing a marathon, and the half has been sold out for months. But there is a 10k that I have run several times (my picture on my profile is from that race). I'm sure it will be my slowest ever, but the scenery is great! It is an out and back course, with the majority of the course run on the East Bay of Grand Traverse Bay, so you can view the sunrise over the water. This race has grown SO much since the first year I did it, back in 1996, to the point where they added a half marathon, and it is now considered one of the top marathons in the country, and boasts a flat, fast, and often a PR course. If you want to qualify for Boston, this is a marathon to run.

After Don decided he wasn't doing Triple T with Shelley and a bunch of the tri-geeks from here, mainly because they filled up early, he started looking at one of the other races offered there that same weekend, and initially we had talked about doing the Shawnee Appalachian Triathlon, a/k/a AM-PM tri, the one where you do a triathlon in the morning and one in the afternoon/evening. I decided my training wasn't good enough for that, and didn't want to do the long drive there and back just to watch someone else race. And he finally decided the cost, time on the road, hotel room, etc. was going to be too much for him as well two weeks before a half IM. So he started looking for something closer or even localto do, and I finally remembered the Bayshore 10k.

And then I also remembered that last summer I had won a fitness contest from work, and the grand prize was the gift package to the Grand Traverse Resort, a pretty exclusive golf/spa resort in Traverse City, also on the Grand Traverse Bay. Room rates start at $175 for winter and spring rates, and go up after June 7 to over $225 a night. So I figured we'd better use that gift card now or it would go to waste again until next year.

The weather looks hot for those going south and cool (typical) for those of us going north. Either way, it should be a fun time.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Actually, that's exactly what my legs felt like. Is that where the term came from?

This was my first outside brick. I have done quite a few spin classes and followup treadmill runs, but I haven't even been outside with it yet until today.

This also completed my recovery week from the 25k and my first triathlon training week.

As a recap:

Monday, 1 mile swim (41:08); 20 min. walk.

Tuesday: 30 minute walk.

Wednesday: 1 1/4 mile swim (50:09).

Thursday: 30 minute run, with 20 minutes of alternating sprinting with easy running.

Friday: Off.

Saturday: 1 hour bike; 20 min. run.
Sunday: 1 hour 15 min. run.

I really thought I would go farther than the 1 hour bike, but it was extremely windy, and while I was hoping for a tailwind coming back, oh no, the wind decided then to become a headwind again. Always happens.

Going for a ride in mid-afternoon, I suddenly remembered why I was a little apprehensive about riding in traffic again. The route from park to park is quite heavily traveled, and while the speed limit is supposed to be 25 mph, you would be hard-pressed to find 1 out of 10 cars doing the speed limit. It is also a direct route for all the heavy duty gravel trucks going from one pit to another, so during the week and Saturdays until noon, you have to deal with those just about blowing you over too. No way are they doing 25 mph. The worst jerk though was one of those huge diesel trucks, probably a 5th wheel type, who decided he had to do a U-turn about 500 feet from a parking lot driveway, but because his truck was so huge and there is only a sharply sloping shoulder, he had to back up, pull forward, back up, pull forward, etc. several times, blocking the entire road in the process, so there I am on my bike with cars backed up behind me 5 deep, all of us getting irritated, and cars on the other side, backed up as well. Just when he finally gets his sorry self turned around, and I wait a minute for all the impatient idiots to pass me, he pulls ahead and parks on the shoulder, directly across from the parking lot, totally blocking me again. I was beginning to think he had a target on me, because when I finally decided to venture past him, while he is blocking the shoulder and part of the lane I'm in, he decides he needs to back up for whatever reason. I couldn't believe what he was doing, and his motives weren't clear, so I quickly pedalled past. To say my heart wasn't racing would have been a lie.

My main goal right now with the biking, at least for a couple of weeks, is to practice this cadence thing and try to get it down. I definitely see where my speed goes up when my cadence goes up, but for more than half of the ride, I struggled.

By taking gears off, I could get my cadence up, and my speed went up slightly too. But I felt like I was pulling up so hard I would come out of my shoes to achieve even an average of mid-50s cadence. Near one of the parks, I took a detour around the park, instead of through it like I intended, hoping to avoid one of the nasty hills. But there was a woman who had been riding her bike who, no kidding, had to stop mid-path for a smoke break! So I decided to just stay on the road.

Doing this, I was forced to dig a little deeper to achieve even a moderate cadence, because the route is slightly and deceivingly uphill. I tried, I really did. I didn't let myself slide a bit, but I was getting discouraged. I kept thinking, "there's no way I can do 56 miles in a half IM in a couple of months." I resisted "mashing" gears, yet I wasn't achieving more than an average of 13.5 mph. Sigh.

I went past the park, to the main road, and did a U-turn and headed back to the bike trail. I don't know what it was, the ever so slight downhill, or what, but suddenly things clicked and I was flying! My cadence went into the mid-70s and stayed there. My speed went up to 16.5 and I held it. Suddenly, the pull up concept started to work. I started digging in and pulling up, forcing those heels down, pulling back forcefully, and something was changing. I know some people say just do it, don't be so technical, but I'm one of those people where form matters and I feel I must get it right.

I was forced to slow down at a stop sign and then had to turn into a small path next to a locked gate to the main bike trail. I decided to get a drink here and lost my water bottle, forcing me to stop and go back to retrieve it.

The smoking lady passed me here, and two guys in full biker gear came through the "inlet" onto the bike path. I was regretting my need to stop, because now it meant getting behind this slow woman, but I tried the new-found pull up technique and soon passed her and came up behind the other bikers. Something was working! Something was going right. Was I actually figuring this whole thing out??

I'm always going back and forth on whether I will run after biking, but today I decided to stick with the plan. It was such a beautiful day, even being late afternoon, so the only thing to do was head out.

Yow! My legs really were feeling it. And my feet hurt too. I'm sure they aren't totally recovered from the 25k, and with the more intense bike workout than I have been doing, it should have been expected. I was really glad I was only doing 20 minutes. And the funny thing was once I got the first 5 minutes over, the rest of the time flew by. I'm not saying I was comfortable and couldn't wait to stop, but it just went by faster in my head than I thought.

Today's longer run went fairly good also. I was moving slow, I'm sure, but I stuck it out, hills and all, and even added a couple of hills in the middle to give me more time out there. Once again, glad I did the workout but even more glad to be done!


When I found the Block 58 triathlon website and started thinking of doing that race, I realized it was one month before Steelhead. I thought it would be a good fit for my training. But that got me thinking of the other race I wanted to do: the Olympic distance race on June 16.

I don't often change course once I've decided on something, but I am not ready for a race of this distance this early in the season. I really had hoped to be. Yes, I could easily do the distances, because I would be doing them so slow I couldn't help but get through. Being last doesn't bother me (that much), since that is the likelihood for this particular race. It is a fast crowd that competes here, and no matter how well trained I have been in the past, I still come in close to last. And last year? DFL. A big blowup. A 4 mile walk.

I know I can do better than that this year, but I wonder how it will affect me later in the season and in my training? So here's what I am thinking now.

The week before that race (June 9) there is a triathlon (sprint?): 1/2 mile swim; 22 mile bike; 4.8 mile run. That seems to be better suited to where I'm at right now.

So, what if I traded up for this race, volunteered at the Oly race, and then took two more weeks to get ready for the long course race? Does this sound like a better plan?

Friday, May 18, 2007


Today I did my civic duty. No, I didn't vote. Instead, I e-mailed my Congressmen and Senators, and the other idiots who came up with this new immigration bill about the fact that NO, I do not support this, nor do most clear thinking Americans, and many immigrants. It is an insult what they proposed as a "fix" to the problem.

I don't usually get political on this blog, but I'm telling you, I have become increasingly alarmed at where this whole thing is going.

Michigan is a border state, albeit bordered by Canada, one of our friendly neighbors, I hope! But the fact remains that we are just as vulnerable as our southwestern states, but probably in a more hidden way. What really irritates me is that if I want to cross the border into Canada, a very reasonable likelihood, I now need a passport to re-enter my own country. Yet the illegal population does not need this apparently, and is now even given a pass on the whole thing. Why should I have to spend my money to buy a passport because of the likes of the illegals who invade this country every day, steal from our resources, and provide no more in the way of "necessary" labor than anyone else, when I am a law abiding, tax paying citizen? Letting all of these people in is a slap in the face of every American and every legal immigrant in this country.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against immigration--if done legally. My own ancestors, as I'm sure many of your ancestors, were immigrants. They came to this country with a hope for a better life, often escaping political or religious oppression. My own Polish ancestors escaped from the Russian army because of their religious beliefs. They came here with the hope for a life. They had a strong work ethic, but were given no favors! Everything they wanted or needed, they worked for and earned. Same as with me. They didn't always speak the language. They were discriminated against. But no one ever suggested that they be given free services or even cash in on the Social Security system already in place. They had to EARN what they wanted; they had to EARN their citizenship.

I have worked since I was 15 years old to make a way for myself, rarely asking people for any favors or help. I supported 4 children and a deadbeat husband for over 25 years, and continue to help support my grandchildren, because of the death of their father. They aren't asking for any favors from the government, so why should these illegals, who think they need a better life? Don't we all want that for ourselves?

And don't get me wrong: I do sympathize with their plight, but I feel I am in the minority here, when I work every day, every week, long hours, and never get anything for free (not that I want it). So why do these people feel they are "entitled?"

I hope all of you are as outraged and insulted as I am today.

I read a recent Runners World article about Ceci St. Gemme, a mother of 6, assistant track coach, and master's runner herself. Regardless of her age, which I think is 46, she looks pretty good. If you go to Runners World and do a search for Ceci St. Gemme, it will bring up a video, where you can see a brief interview she gave for Runners World.

One thing I got from the article was her belief in core workouts (pilates, particularly the V sit) and pushups. Pushups, those age old miracle exercises, that seem to shape up everything (link with a lot of info). She said she actually went to the starting line of a race and did pushups before starting. The article did not say what the purpose of that was, but looking at her and looking at myself, I knew what the purpose for me would be: to get some more definition in my arms and shoulders I am lacking.

After I had my accident, while I was forced to sit around for months waiting for the ligaments and muscles to heal in my shoulder, back, and neck, I lost A LOT of strength fitness and muscle tone, and it seemed like no amount of weight training since then was getting it back. Some strength, yes, but truthfully not much shape or definition. I suppose once you reach 50 that muscle tone isn't as easy to bring back without some serious workouts.

This article, then, peaked my curiosity. I know Fe-Lady said she does pushups, and she has good looking arms, so I decided to at least make an attempt at starting pushups again. I don't have enough strength yet to do a traditional military pushup, but I can do a modified one (the bent knee version). Over the last 3 weeks, I have worked up from 10 at a time to 2 sets of 15 or 1 set of 20 at a time. I have been doing these a lot of days, along with pilates work for the abs. What I have noticed then is a definition in my shoulders and deltoids that I have been unable to achieve otherwise up to now, and while I definitely have a lot of work to do on the abs, I am seeing the slight possibility of maybe an 8 pack at sometime (I think I probably have 2 six packs right now!). I also see a change in overall physique, in that I am seeing a hint of the V shape I think I can get close to achieving (I will never have a small waist, but I definitely think I can trim inches off the torso).

Good core strength also helps with endurance and muscle fatigue in later stages of races so they say, and I am hoping at some point I can actually do the yoga plank pose without collapsing.

With my triathlon training schedule, I was starting to wonder when I would have time for any weight training, but I am thinking by building up on the pushups and practicing my pilates more, and getting better at the plank pose, I may be able to forego some of those weight sessions.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I am seriously thinking of doing this race.
It is labeled Olympic distance, but it is really a long course: 1500 meter swim; 35 mile bike; 7.1 mile run. On July 1, two weeks after the Olympic distance I am signed up for (and which I was having doubts about doing until I saw this). I figure it will be good Steelhead training. When I looked at the race logo, with the picture of the blockhouse, I remembered the run course from other races. Not sure where the swim is, but probably not in Lake Michigan, which is where North Muskegon is located. But there are the nicest inland lakes in this area I have ever swam in, and the scenery is breathtaking--wooded and/or shoreline. I suspect hilly, though, and I know for a fact the blockhouse is at the top of a very steep hill or on the way down from a very steep hill. It was a lookout fort, after all. The blockhouse is really an old fort from Indian days, so it has a very colorful history. Hmm, looks interesting. Anyone want to join me?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Swim: 1 1/4 mile (50:29)

Today was another swim training day. My Olympic distance tri training schedule calls for twice a week workouts of up to an hour and 15 over the course of 8 weeks. As usual, I am behind on my training, but fortunately I am confident enough about my swimming to just use the time for building endurance and fine tuning form. Monday, I did a mile to see what kind of time I was at after not having done a mile swim in months: 41:08. Today: 40:40. Funny how this worked since my 1/2 mile time was the same as the other day: 20:13. I am hoping by the time of the race, and given that I will be using a wetsuit (most likely), that my time will be around 38 minutes for the 1.5k swim. Last year, at this race, first of the season, my time was 39 something; by the end of the season, it was 31 something.

It came as a suprise then when I read in the club newsletter that the pool would close for maintenance on June 23 until July 16! Right in the middle of the training season! The reason? The club manager figured more people would swim outside in their own pools rather than use the club pool.

This might be good thinking if I actually had a pool. Jan talked to the club manager, and he did say he could get us reciprocal use of another nearby club pool, but I have to say this definitely will put a cramp in my training. For one thing, the other pool, regardless of how close by, will not be as convenient as the one I use now. I have gotten spoiled, driving to work basically and hitting the club before work, then going right to work. No moving my car and driving to work after a workout. Now, it will mean more serious morning planning. When you have to plan a one+ hour swim, that means getting there as early as 6 am to be sure I can get my swim time in and then get to work. I realize 6 am isn't that early, but when starting swimming by 6 am means leaving the house by 5:15 am, it makes me a little weary thinking of it now. Thank goodness it is a short-term problem!

So I definitely need to make my swim training between now and my race count towards anything else I will be doing this summer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In preparing for the Olympic tri in June, my training schedule called for a 1 hour swim and a 20 minute run on Monday. I'm not sure whether the run is supposed to follow the swim, but in any event, what I did do was swim 1 mile (41 min.) before work and walk 20 minutes during lunch. That seemed to do the trick to get the rigor mortis out of my legs, and by last evening, I was able to maneuver the steps again.
Today's schedule then was supposed to be a 1 hour bike and a 20 minute run. After checking the weather last night, the forecast was for rain showers and storms today, so I didn't pack my bike. When I got up this morning, it was also forecast that storms were imminent, so again I decided not to take a chance on the biking this morning. I have a lunchtime conflict, so couldn't do the spinning class, and it was almost a 100% chance of rain this afternoon and evening, and no possibility of using the spinning bikes at the gym in the evening. So, what to do, what to do?
When I got up this morning, I was still tired enough that I didn't really mind not biking, and decided I would walk again instead. I was slightly disappointed, however, when I got to the gym and it still had not rained, as was forecast to be imminent, but instead was sunny and blue skies. It was really windy though, so it would have been a difficult bike ride regardless.
I do love being out in the wind, that is if I'm not running or biking into it, or worrying about my hair for a particular reason. It was a pleasant walk, and I felt much looser and faster than yesterday. It was nice walking along the river, seeing all the ducks either on the lookout for predators after their nests or babies, or on the prowl for handouts. Thankfully, no geese though. Those creatures can be mean.
There was a lot of activity around the area today, with some work being done on the riverwalk path, forcing me off the path and through the college campus, quiet temporarily at least, now that graduation has taken place. At one street, I decided to venture to cross during a break in traffic and broke into a trot, only to realize that even if my life had depended on it, running probably would not have worked today.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Now that I have gotten the monkey off my back and have gotten my biggest running goal out of the way, it is time to reflect on the experience somewhat and move on to the next training goals.

One of the benefits of having completed a goal such as this is the reward of accomplishment, being able to cross it off your list. And the fun of sharing war stories with other veterans of the race--having a sense of belonging to an elite club.

But first, my legs are so sore, I felt like I had run a marathon, which to me it was almost. But I can tell you, NO WAY COULD I HAVE RUN ANOTHR 10 MILES THAT DAY! Steps will not be my friend again today, and guess who works in an office with 6 flights of steps? It definitely will be elevator time today.

Second, I can't help wonder how much better I might have done if I had actually trained longer for this event, but I have to also not let this put a shadow on the fact that I finished. I know, I did have a setback period after the accident, and had to start from zero to get this far, but before I start thinking of myself as special or a hero, I remind myself of lots of other people doing the same thing, who may have had worse things happen in their lives while they were training. Like the woman who had brain surgery in December and still managed to run an hour faster than me; or the kid whose father collapsed and died at the finish line last year, so he was back running this year in his memory; or the countless others who suffered through cancer, or other life threatening illnesses or injuries, out there happy to be alive. The main things that got me through this were: (1) my fear of failure at the Steelhead 1/2 IM in August if I didn't get this accomplished. To me, I just had to have this goal. (2) another thing was what I call muscle memory, meaning I think my body adapted to the distance easier having done it several times in the past. And (3) knowing you guys were on the other side, waiting for me to finish. I just did not want to have to say I didn't make it.

And for all my stressing and anxiety during my training and the days before the race, I feel okay with what I did, slow time or not. For once, I don't feel apologetic to anyone for my time, and I would guess that's because I actually made it, which is more than I can say for someone who didn't at least try.

So, now it is time to move on to the next goal: Olympic distance triathlon on June 17. I have found a training schedule on the bike shop website. The guy who owns the shops is married to a woman who either wins races overall or her age group every time, and they have a tri-club, which I have decided not to join just yet. But they have links to training schedules, from a sprint to a 1/2 IM, so I will focus for now on the Olympic training schedule.

It is a little aggressive for me right now, right after this race when my legs and arms and neck and back and every other part of my body are so sore, so I will try to modify it slightly for this week and then pick it up from there. I was surprised to see that there are only two biking days a week, lots of swimming, and more running than I normally do, so I do think it will take me a couple of weeks to get in the swing. I just don't think I can do all the running this week yet, so I will focus on my swimming, building up to the hour the schedule calls for twice a week! Yikes! That's a lot of swimming, and I really don't know that I need that much, but I'll at least start with a mile, see where my time is at, and build from there. Today's swim: 1 mile, 41:08. I started out slow, still moving slow from the race. By the time I had completed 1/5 of the distance, it seemed like I might not make a mile in under 48 minutes, so apparently I sped up somewhere. My 1/2 mile split was 20:13, so I can't complain too much. I figure if I swim 1 hour, I will be at about 1.5 miles. I will need almost all of that for Steelhead, so I'll push it up over the next 2 weeks.

And I'm a little torn on the biking issue, since my plan was to do a 50 miler Memorial Day weekend, yet this schedule doesn't get that far ever. So do I just do my own thing occasionally, or follow the schedule completely? Maybe I will look at the 1/2 IM schedule and see how I can incorporate that 50 miler in within a couple of weeks. With the long weekend, I would have more time to recover, so I might treat that as my long bike marathon weekend, like this has been my long run weekend, and rest the day after and then start up again. I am most concerned about my lack of biking skills, and what they say is true: its all about the bike (but it does come down to the run if you are racing against someone). Even with a good swim time and a so-so run time, with a mediocre bike time I will be lucky to break the time of my last Oly distance race, which was 3:50. I would really like to get back to the time I had back in 2003, which was about 3:20, but it remains to be seen. And here is good news about one of our biking trails:

And then I have to realize I'm looking at another short training time: 5 weeks, and taking into account recovery and taper, more like 3.5 weeks. Oh boy! Here we go again.


I hope you are all enjoying Mother's Day today, whether you are a mother or have a mother.

Sometimes we take these special people in our lives for granted, and its not until they are gone that we fully realize the role they played in our lives.

My own mom died in 2001, and I had thought about writing a tribute to her today. Fe-Lady had a very nice one for her mom, along the same lines I thought of for mine, so I think I will save it for her birthday instead.

Enjoy the day. Enjoy your mothers while they are here with you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


This is actually a picture from one of the first years. Its of Greg Meyer, local runner, Boston Marathon winner, 7 time Riverbank run winner.

The first year, Bill Rodgers won the race, Greg was second. Both were back this year, although not in contention for any top prizes.

But I would guess you want to know about me. I finished. Now, I'm sipping on Sangria and listening to the recap on the radio. Finish time: 3:27.

Looking back on my "training," I definitely wouldn't recommend minimalist training, but somehow I got through it. After I thought about it, realistically, I never started seriously training until the middle of April. To be exact, I had 5 training runs leading up to this 25k: two 7 mile runs, one 8 mile run, one 10 mile run, and one run of probably 11 miles, broken up in two parts. Then 15.5 today. Under these circumstances, I can't complain about the outcome, but I definitely hope it NEVER takes me this long to finish this race again.

Here's a recap of the experience.


I crossed the street from where I work to the expo. Just how much more convenient do you have to get? Without planning it, I timed my arrival to be in between the lunch crowd and the after work crowd. I was still a little hesitant about feeling like I belonged in this race, so I was looking nervously around for someone who was waiting to ask me what was I thinking, doing this race! But no one questioned me, so I picked up my packet. I was committed. This expo, as has the race, has improved 100% over the last 5 years, which should be expected for a world class event. This race has finally graduated from the local, small town run into the national championship race it should be considered. My daughter called me on my cell phone right after I arrived, and I had forgotten she was going to do the walk with my grandson. She refuses to run, but with her skinny, wiry build, if she actually trained I have to bet she would stand out in her age group.

Evening before the race:

I got my things together for the next morning: race belt, chip strap, picked my outfit for the run, gathered clothes for after the run, and got my fanny pack ready. I was really tired all day, and my low back and shoulder conveniently decided to spasm while at work, so I used the tennis ball and did some icing and heat and just lolled around watching TV after dinner. Went to bed about 10 pm, with a 5 am wakeup call planned.

Pre-Race morning:

I actually slept pretty well, but woke up at 4:30 and after lying there for a few minutes, formed my plan when I would leave for the race, and decided to just get up and start the coffee. I decided that I would head downtown and get a parking spot in my building lot, which, conveniently, and dontcha love it, was right at the start line! I knew I had to be in the lot no later than 6:30, but nervous prerace jitters sent me down there early, and I arrived at 6 am. It was still dark, yet I could see the preparations in motion for closing off the road, putting up the runner barricades, and people who were actually tailgating already in the lot. Even more convenient, I was able to park right next to the door to the building, which is also where my gym is located. I had decided to take a shower ahead of time and leisurely get ready. Hey,if you know you won't finish fast, at least you can finish looking good! And I was congratulating myself on going off on my own, instead of with Don who wanted to go to the Y, allowing me to park at the start, which also was as far as I wanted to walk after the race.

I was enjoying a leisurely shower when Jan arrived with her daughter and an entourage of her friends, so the locker room started buzzing with activity. It was fun, actually. Jan put on her Boston running outfit and said, "Do I have to be fast to wear this?" Yeah, right Jan, as if you aren't! Her daughter was so-so trained, one of her friends was trained, and one was basically around for the ride. We all joked about how we would be lucky to finish in 3 hours, but I was completely serious when I said I knew I wouldn't!

A lot of the stress was lifted from me when I found out they were actually extending the official race cutoff to 3:30, so I wasn't worried any more about finishing.

I had arranged to meet up with Don and Corey, my daughter, at 7:30, a block from the start line. When I walked out of the building, I was glad then that I had chosen a short sleeved wick-away shirt instead of a singlet, because while the temperature was perfect, there was thick cloud cover and the wind had picked up as the sun had come up. It was cool but not cold or chilly. While Thursday and Friday had had temps in the high 80s, a cold front had come through Friday evening, bringing in some blissfully cooler air. It was absolutely perfect for running, and the humidity was below 50%! So it was dry too. The winds were out of the north and east, meaning cool weather, but this always triggers my nose to drip constantly, which even with an allergy pill, still happened the whole race, and is still happening now. If that doesn't affect your breathing!

Don and I made one last pit stop--so conveniently INSIDE my building with no lines and real running water. Got to love the perks! Then he headed out to line up and I went back out looking for Corey, whom I had not met up with yet.

Five minutes before the race was to start, I started making my way through the crowd. At last count, there were over 5,000 25k runners, a record number. Give us good weather and we will come.

Before I knew it, the gun went off and we were on our way. It took over 4 minutes to cross the starting mats.

Early miles:

I felt comfortable, and my legs felt good, as I started into the first mile. It was still cool, windy, and cloudy, but that was okay. The longer it stayed cloudy, the better. My original plan was to follow my training schedule: 8 min. run, 2 minute walk. When I figured what pace I needed to finish in 3 hours though, it indicated 11:35. I knew there was no way I could keep that up the whole way, mainly because of my lack of training. For 3-5 miles maybe, but 15.5? Probably not happening. So as I'm getting close to the 8 minute mark, I start doing some rethinking and also notice NO ONE is walking at this point, and besides it would be a major inconvenience to either stop suddenly or make my way to the side of the road. So rather than to stop and walk, I decide I would just slow down, at least for a couple of minutes. Once I did that, I hit a pace that I started wondering if I could keep for a longer time, and made the decision right then and there to just slow down completely. And the payoff? First mile: 11:37.

Problem one occurred then. Even though I had gone to the bathroom 10 friggin minutes before the race, I had to pee badly at the start of the race, and after the first mile was getting extremely uncomfortable. The first porta-pot had people waiting, so I continued on, thinking and hoping somehow the extra liquid would get worked out as sweat or something. But, no such luck. I really had to go by the time I reached the next porta-pots and decided to stop, rather than be distracted by this annoyance any longer. The result here was almost a 5 minute delay. But it couldn't be helped, and I headed to the second mile. The second mile and I already have to stop!

I now was with a totally different pacing group. It was kind of nice actually though, being WAY back in the pack, because there weren't those annoying crowds or people who drive you nuts in races. After all, I was going to be out there for a LONG time, and didn't want to deal with weirdness. Like for example the guy I ran in front of the last time I did this race, who rang a cow bell THE WHOLE WAY, and who I couldn't shake the whole race. If there was a licence to kill, that would certainly have been a justified reason.

Just before 3 miles, the sun decided to make an appearance. It was behind us, but still! "Go away, come back another day." If the sun comes out now, all these people in ALL BLACK will be cooked alive, I thought. All black, meaning jackets and tights or long sleeved black shirts and tights. Doesn't black attract the heat?

Surprisingly, by the time I reached 4 miles, I had only walked through the water stops. I had decided that there was no way I could make the 3:30 cutoff if I did a bunch of walking, so decided I was going to keep going, at a slower pace if I had to, until the wheels fell off. Better to get as close as possible if I was going to have to walk!

Making this decision, I couldn't help but notice people around me: the young woman who ran steadily, yet I ALWAYS caught up to just before the water stops and passed her. She would pass me while I did my "water stop walk," but I always caught her later. This went on until 11 miles, when I passed her and never saw her until the end. Then there were two guys who had on sweat pants and were doing A LOT of walking, yet they would run and pass me and then walk and I would pass them. I think I finally left them behind around mile 8. And the woman with a horrible running form, who as I passed her commented that she had started running at 52, and this was her first time in the race. I told her, better late than never, and continued on, barely squeaking ahead of her. Again, she passed me during my water stop walks, but by 8 miles I lost her forever.

By the time I reached the halfway mark, I was at 1:28, and there was still a little bit of hope I might just double my time and finish around 3 hours, but I really wasn't feeling it. I had been trying to ignore the jolting numbness in my one foot since almost the 3rd mile, and adjusting my running cadence helped, but it still was another 7.25 miles to go, not an easy task to block out all that pain!

As for cadence, I was remembering my Chi Running lessons, particularly the cadence lesson, and applied it whenever I felt I was slipping behind. Left two three, right two three, left two three, right two three. I resorted to this cadence mantra often throughout the race, and as hard as it might be to believe, whenever I focused on cadence, I pulled ahead every time. Man, do I have to work on that!

Second half:

By 8.5 miles, the hills were starting. The course cruelly puts the hardest part of the run in the middle of the race. On a hot day, you die here. The weather was still windy and cool. And while the wind was definitely a factor in the race, it kept things much cooler this way. My hands were actually cold most of the way and started getting stiff from the cold.

At the first hill, a short, steep climb, there was a DJ with great music, pumping everyone up that hill! I chugged along, but was starting to look forward to when I could stop again. That came at 9 miles, with a water stop. Here, while I was doing my water stop walk, a woman walking passed me. She was pumping her arms so much I thought she might actually take flight soon! I called her arm flapping woman, because her shadow was hilarious! But what was really aggravating was I couldn't pass her! I tried so hard to get around her, but she just kept gliding away. And we were approaching another slight incline, so I just couldn't make any headway on her.

And there is a woman in our running circle who has, over the last 4 years, lost 200 pounds! She is truly an inspiration in her dogged determinedness in losing most of her weight from running, and had trained for this race the first time 3 years ago and then went on to do a marathon and two more half marathons, along with her weekly training. She keeps going, like the Energizer Bunny, never walking, running week after week 10-15 mile runs. And yet, she is THE SLOWEST RUNNER I have ever met. She often says she feels the reason she never gets injured is her slow pace. So as I am between miles 9 and 10, who do I see ahead of me?? You guessed it. Much as I want her to do well, I do have some pride. There was no way I could let her beat me! So I dug deep again and did pass her, but finished barely ahead of her.

At mile 10, I decide I finally need a gel. I am over the 2 hour mark, the fat burning mark, the endurance building mark, and today, the energy depleter mark. I need to wait for a water stop though, and it seems like it takes FOREVER to get there. And wouldn't you know it? The water stop is on a hill, so while I am glad I can walk up this one, it doesn't end soon enough and I have to start running again on the hill.

At this point, I am glad I have reached this far, but have to face reality that I still have 5.5 miles to go. The major hills are ahead of me. I need to hold on. One mile at a time. And this truly is the hardest, hottest, and hilliest part of the whole race. From 11 to 12, there are a series of 4 hills that are deceiving. Having run this course probably hundreds of times in 18 years, I know better than to be lulled into thinking the worst is over. Its not over until you can see the downhills! And its apparent that the unaware think its going to end sooner than it does, because by the second to last hill, they are walking. I chug ahead, not really making that much progress but not walking. I an holding out until I see over the top of what I KNOW to be the last hill. From there on out, it is flat again. Yeah!

Just before the last hill ends, there are two people walking backward cheering on the runners. I hear them before I approach and curse them to shut up! By this point, I hate loud noises, voices, or whatever else is annoying. Just shut up! But as I pass them, they are most encouraging and I am grateful.

Here, there is a sharp downhill (ouch!) to the 12 mile mark. OMG, 12 miles! I am so thankful. So here, I have to decide: continue on or what? Go. Do not stop. Collect $200. Wait, that's monopoly! I'm getting delerious!

I want to stop in the worst way, but again, the time factor keeps me moving. My achilles hurt, my legs are feeling weirdly weak, yet my pace continues. I am getting annoyed with little things, like a race volunteer on a bike who whizzes by me without saying anything, startling me; like the sag wagon who continually comes up right behind you before tooting its hort and scaring the crap out of you--on the opposite side of the road by the way! Like no more gels at the aid stations and the aid stations closing down. I can't wait for another turn to get off this road, a road where there are no cooling breezes.

We finally turn, and I realize what the objective here is: find a pleasantly appealing street for the race to go down, so it will reflect well on the community. We were in an area now where the houses are a mixture of old Polish and white trash, meaning neat, clean little bungalows or ones with a junk yard dog chained to the porch, or broken cars or bikes in the driveway, or worse. We are approaching another park, and the fact that we had wound around to roads away from the park and yet had to go through it increased a slight agony in my head to getting done. I didn't know fully the rest of the course, so I was guessing, and again, it was getting hot here. We went through the zoo park, another area I had run in probably hundreds of times in 18 years, and yet I was really starting to stress a little, and wanting to be done. When we entered the park, I again reassessed myself and decided I needed desperately to get to 14 miles before I fell apart, and yet it seemed an interminable amount of time before we were even half-way through this mile!

Tbere is a water stop, so I am so thankful I can stop and walk here. Porta-Potty man, the guy who seemed to stop at every one, gets ahead of me here, again, yet I know I will pass him again soon. People are getting in the way, however, sweeping, and picking up trash, and I am having to dodge them and again am getting annoyed. Another young couple, who were walking for at least 1.5 miles, were now passing me. Just why am I running if all these people are passing me??

I am hanging on to get to the 14 mile mark. I am at a marathon shuffle pace, but still running. I am so thankful it is a cool day, and at the same time am getting weepy, something that happens to me sometimes on these long, grueling runs. Pull it together, keep it going. I had to keep repeating the cadence drill to: left two three, right two three, etc. My lower back was aching, spasming slightly actually, and I was getting crazed to get this thing done!

I hear foot steps behind me and figure it must be Porta-Potty man, whom I passed again after the last water stop, but once again it is someone power walking. Just what is the point of running? I have to ask myself. I can't help but think that by now the Kenyans are finished, showered, and half-way home.

I grasp at whatever straw I can muster to get past the 14 mile mark and then push myself another half mile, almost kissing the ground when I see the 1 mile to go mark! My back was not good here, and my mind was losing it too, so I held on until I got to a traffic light and had to walk here for the first time, without a water stop. I walked about a minute and started realizing each step meant I was getting closer to being done! One more mile. One-half mile. One-quarter mile.

And here, Frank, a tri-geek, whom I had passed before mile 4 walking the whole way because of severe arthritis in his hip, was coming up behind me! "Frank, you might actually beat me." He mumbled something or other, and I started running again while he walked, an even pace. With 3 blocks to go to the finish, he suddenly says, "I've only got 2 1/2 minutes before they shut the clock down. I might actually have to run!" I look at my watch and think we actually have 5 minutes, but then I remember that the clock shuts down at 3:30, and if we want a medal we have to finish then!

Frank sprints ahead, and I finally do the math and sprint ahead, gettig my butt moving. I cross the finish line in clock time: 3:30:01. I get a medal.

Friday, May 11, 2007

That race I have been dreading and anticipating is finally here. The Fifth Third River Bank Run is the largest 25k event in the US. It is also the 25k National Championship race. This is the 30th anniversary of the race, so this, along with my yearly goals, is what has prompted me to want to do this race so badly this year.
My first realization of the race came in 1983. At the time, I was hugely pregnant for my third child. This particular pregnancy had been hard on me, and my usual exercising self had slacked off for most of the term. The race was on a Saturday, and I had to go to work that day (24 years later, nothing much has changed there!), but knew I would have to wait until afternoon for the race to clear out. At that time, the race had the name Old Kent Riverbank Run, because Old Kent was the name of the bank and the building I worked in. Fifth Third acquired Old Kent back in 2001, and thus the name changed to the Fifth Third River Bank Run. Because the race was starting and finishing near the bank building, I knew I could not get to work until it was over. That particular day, there was a torrential downpour of rain early in the day. It was hot and muggy too. For some reason, the TV was on and the start of the race was being televised, and it caught my attention. Something back then clicked in my head and even while hugely pregnant, I thought to myself: "Some day I am going to do that race." (Where did that thought come from??) Up to that particular year, Greg Meyer, a local boy, and the 1983 winner of the Boston Marathon (still the last American winner), had also won the race 7 times.
Fast forward to 1989, the year after I actually started running, and after another child, and I did in fact run the race that year. I dutifully trained for it all winter long, suffering through a stress fracture, ankle tendinitis, and knowing nothing about proper clothing or hydration. No wicking clothing, no Gatorade or sports drinks, no gel or Gu. Just water, if I even carried that, since I had no waterbottle holder. But I was determined to do the race, and we even had a team from work, so we got uniforms out of the deal with the firm name printed across the front! And I wasn't the last team member to finish, so that was a bonus.
So here I am, 18 years later, severely undertrained, but determined again to do this race. The race itself is a big community event, although it has taken probably 10 years to build it to what it is now. Before that, it was pretty much known as a community nuisance, since the race winds through 4 different municipalities, which naturally means road closures and traffic tieups. People avoided the area like the plague and generally complained for days before and after. This year, there will be over 4,000 25k runners and probably the same amount of 5k runners, 5k walkers, and kid runners. As a matter of fact, my grandson, Austin who is 7, ran in the kids race on Wednesday night. This is a non-competitive event for kids 5-12. Many of the local school districts have running clubs they start early in the year so the kids can log miles and eventually earn enough points to get a free entry to the race. We figured Austin might do 3-4 laps max, and he actually wanted to know how many he could do, so it was totally surprising when after 8 laps we told him he could stop if he wanted. By then, he was so red faced I was worried about him. I'm sure he would have continued on, but I don't think he has ever run that far at one time. And he drank a whole bottle of water after, so I know it was the right thing to do. There is hope though that this kid can run a 5k yet this summer, and I'm willing to try to keep up with him doing one!
So the race is here. Am I ready, especially after all the goings on these last few weeks and what I consider to be difficult training runs? As ready as I will ever be. I have decided to treat this only as another training run (I am not foolish enough to think I could ever race this thing!) and do what I can do. If I pace myself well enough from the beginning, and if my foot doesn't bother me too much on the bad part of the course, I think I can get through the whole thing, mixed in with some planned walking of course. As for having fun? I think it won't be fun in the first 3 miles, might get fun in the next 6, and then it will be time to grit my teeth and get through the rest of the distance.
Doing a 25k is as hard for me as doing a marathon, and this particular race is known for its fast times, so you don't have the luxury of making it "your run." You are under a time deadline (3 hours), and then they pull up the water stops, open the roads to traffic, and shut down the clocks, although I do know the clock keeps running for at least another 30 minutes after that. I know this is part of my mental hangup about the race, but I do figure there will be walkers out there doing the whole 25k, and I would assume they won't be any faster than me.
I'll be off to the expo later today to get my packet and then I'm just going to chill and wait.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


At least, that seems to be the case here. I am talking about recent issues in dealing with my family situation. To bring you up to speed, since my dad died in February, I have been very irritable and short tempered with a lot of people. I could blame some of it on the grief process, but truthfully, I have never gone through a period of time this long where I was just mad at everyone and everything. I avoided as long as possible dealing with taking care of his household items, mainly because first, no one else seemed to be interested in disposing of these items. No one came forward to offer except my one sister, and her schedule and mine aren't ever on the same page, so things weren't working there. Finally, she started e-mailing the others in the family, and finally sent me an e-mail indicating that everyone wanted to go to dad's just to look around and maybe get something from his house.

I suspected my one sister's motives, since she is extremely greedy and always wants things for nothing. I told my sister Deb who I am closest to that I didn't trust her, but Deb thought she was being sincere. Deb, too, was starting to get on my nerves about the whole thing, because even though we all will be getting a substantial amount of money from my dad's estate, she wanted to scavenge the house for things--a mattress, pieces of furniture, etc.--all things of value that either we could sell or where I had to question the need for these items at all.

The other major problem has been my bad brother. My brother had been taking advantage of my dad all the years he lived in the house that my brother "allowed" him to put on his land. My brother refused to ever deed the property to my dad because he figured he'd never get it back, and this was going to be for his "retirement," a nice investment he could sell or rent out at his discretion. But in addition to his receiving the house upon my dad's death, which was never specifically put in writing by the way--I know, big mistake--he had been draining my dad (and his wife's family too) of money for several years, mainly to always get his own house out of foreclosure. Over a 6 year span, my brother scammed my dad out of nearly $50,000--all to get his house out of foreclosure year after year. So apparently, my brother never made a house payment or paid his taxes? Does he work? Does his wife work? Yes to all. And what did they do with all their money? Who knows. When my dad finally told him he wasn't giving him any more money, my brother started treating him worse than usual, meaning he ignored him if my dad stopped at his house, meaning he wouldn't do anything my dad might need help doing, like shoveling snow off his porch, or showing him how to use his DVD player, or just simply getting him a newspaper on Sundays. Simple things, but my brother refused. He admitted it later, but I already knew. And so did my dad.

So I have built up a lot of anger at my brother over the years, and when my dad died, it all spilled out. What I dreaded more than just going through my dad's house and disposing of things was dealing with my brother over his "debt to the family" as he called it and the disposition of the house. I was still angry that my brother hadn't deeded the land to my dad, because I knew it would have eliminated all the problems I knew we would have.

We finally had a family meeting at my dad's a few weeks ago, and as I suspected, the vultures came out full force. The greedy sister showed up with a truck to load up on all the free stuff she could get, and after a while I just wanted to beat her. I kept telling her that I felt we should sell anything of major value--either to someone in the family at a reduced cost, or on e-bay or however and split the money. No, she wasn't interested in buying anything. She, as my dad's daughter, had a right to have what she wanted (her words). My feeling on the whole thing, knowing she would be this way, was that we should have an appraisal done, put a price on everything, and if a family member wanted to buy it before it was offered at a public sale, they could have it for a reduced cost. But I met so much opposition from everyone that I finally gave up on that battle. The only thing I held firm on was my dad's car. Greedy sister, naturally, wanted that too, but no way did she think she should have to buy it. So let's get this straight: you want something with a value of about $18,000 for you--because you're dad's daughter--and my good brother can have a crockpot? That's almost how ludicrous it was getting.

But to continue with the saga, we started learning how many shady dealings my bad brother was involved in, along with his serious drinking and drug problem. Trying to avoid losing his house to a tax sale last year, he got in with a guy who is known around the area for preying on people in his predicament, who buys up foreclosures and near foreclosures because of back taxes owing. Then he sells back the property to the homeowner, at usually double the amount they owed before. For example, my brother's house payment went from close to $1000 a month to $2000 with this land contract (info according to his wife). And things were starting to come to a head apparently when my dad died, because my brother once again was in trouble with his land contract, hadn't paid taxes on the property my dad's house was on in 3 years, and those taxes were on the verge of tax sale as well.

He came to me just before I left for my vacation in Tucson and said he desperately needed money to pay the 2004 taxes (its 2007, remember?), and would I be able to give him some money from dad's money for this? My brother always had the idea my dad had loads of money at his disposal whenever he wanted it. I told him then that I had a funeral bill to pay and other final bills to pay and the money was dwindling, and also until the car was sold, I would have to make payments on that. But he was going to start a second job "in a couple of weeks" and would have money for the rest of the amount if I could just pay $500. I agreed finally and reluctantly, but in my mind, I was just going to add that to his bill.

The family was mulling over some sort of plan to give him a chance to pay back his debt, in that we would rent out the house for however long it took for that debt to be repaid. We figured it would be at least 5 years, if not longer, and that too was leaving me with a lot of sleepless nights. That meant I would have to be dealing with this for at least another 5 years, and I knew I didn't want to have to worry about that. It meant having to deal with him too, and I knew I couldn't stand that thought.

Fast forward a few more weeks and I get a call from bad brother about needing more money to pay the next tax installment because he hadn't started that second job yet. I somewhat believed that because our weather during this time was horrible, and since it was a construction job, I figured things had been delayed because of the weather. So I reluctantly and again stupidly agreed to another $500, but was angry about it and angry at myself that he had come around again. I was starting to seriously worry about this becoming a steady habit of his, and again went through a lot of anger and frustration issues--and now I was starting to take it out on him.

On May 1, I got two voice messages from him again, asking if I "remembered to pay the rest of that tax bill." Uh no, actually I hadn't remembered, and this time had no intention of doing it. I ignored his calls. Last weekend, I decided to go to the house by myself (and my daughter) to get away from the other vultures who never wanted to come and pack up things, just pick through things. We didn't even get out of the car when my sister-in-law approached me and to get to the point, she wanted to rent my dad's house as soon as possible because she wanted to leave my brother, but wouldn't file for divorce so he didn't have to pay child support, etc., etc., and etc. For an hour we had to discuss this issue, and the bottom line was, even though I had talked to my brother that I felt we needed to rent the place for no less than $900 a month, she could only afford $600 and what did I think of that? OMG, here we go again. When I told my sister this, she blew a stack, and that's when the ball started rolling on everything my brother was up to because my sister-in-law finally started talking. And did she give us an earfull!

We found out that my brother needed to get the taxes paid up on dad's house property so he could take out a loan on it and pay up his delinquent payments on his own house. The money he was getting for the loan was coming from a friend of the guy who bought his house. Starting to see the pattern here? Not only that, there was a whole lot of other crap out there going on--bad checks he had written; past due payments on every credit card they have, etc. Dealing with either of them was starting to sound way too risky for me. So I told my sisters that the only way I would do any business, even as a family LLC or LLP, would be if he signed the property over to us and allowed us to rent the place without his involvement until the debt was paid, at which time we would transfer the title back to him and be done with the whole mess. I figured he probably wouldn't live that long, or would be in jail. They agreed, and we began preparation of a deed and agreement that was more to his advantage than anything else he would be offered--but we weren't giving him any more cash.

His wife presented this to him and he refused. Flat out refused. No way. He wanted the money.

So, today is the day of a secret mission. After more debating, it was mutually agreed by me and my other two sisters that we would go to my dad's house, clear it out entirely, turn off the power, get the car from the garage, take all the expensive machinery, and sell everything we could, leaving my brother with the house to do with what he wanted. We figure within a year he will be kicked out of his house and this will be the only place he will have to go anyway, so I guess we're still doing him a favor.

Once we started putting this plan in motion, we all started feeling better and I actually slept through the night last night.