Friday, June 29, 2007


I went ahead and signed up for this race, the Block 58 triathlon. Distances have been confusing for me to figure out whenever I've visited the website, but it looks like the final determination will be 1500 meter swim; 35 mile bike; 7.1 mile run. It seemed like every time I checked the website, the distances changed, and while I was led to believe the total miles covered were 58, part of the name here, it can't be more than 43 traveled (35 + 7.1+ @1 = 43).

I hesitated on doing this race, even though I had looked at it weeks ago. I needed to be sure I could come close to doing the distances, but after the last couple of weeks of training, I am feeling more confident. And it was going to fit into my Steelhead training plans. I just want to see where I'm at training wise and how I will feel.

While I was a little intimidated by the distances, I also had to start reminding myself why I am doing these things. Was it to race against the fast people? No. Maybe not against but certainly with. And was it to see how fast I could go? Not necessarily. I just need to finish. It finally occurred to me that all my fretting about how fast or how slow or whether I would be last didn't matter. What mattered--and the real reason I (and maybe you) are doing these things is to have FUN! Why should I not do these things, when one of my main reasons is to have fun? Why should it matter whether I came in first, last, or somewhere in the middle (I wish!)? Wasn't this to have fun? Oh sure, there are always parts that aren't necessarily fun, but when you look back on the experience, do you enjoy what you did? Does it give you a thrill just to be there? The answer for me on both is YES.

A lot of you are a lot younger and maybe can take these things for granted, but I for one am amazed that I am doing this stuff at my age and not taking getting older sitting in a rocker.

That being said, however, I am pretty sure I will be the last finisher in the long course race. So wish me luck, and I'll see you at the finish line!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


As I was getting ready for my run this morning, I could hear just the faint tinkling of my windchimes. The windchimes always catch my attention because, without fail, they have been an accurate predictor of weather to come.

What it means when they start making their music is that we will get rain and just as likely will get a storm. They never tinkle otherwise. Ever. Funny thing, the weather report I had heard just 5 minutes before said no rain until later today or tonight, and the radar didn't even indicate anything coming. Yet, the windchimes knew.

Sometimes when I hear them, its an almost spooky or ominous sound, with them barely moving, barely making any sound. Just a precursor of things to come, like they are possessed of some magical powers of clairvoyance.

No one really believes me. They think I'm crazy. But I can say without a doubt that the windchimes are always right.

Still, I didn't take the warning to heart, tending to believe the radar and weatherman, but figuring the rain would come in later as predicted. I headed to the gym, dropped my bags off, and within a few minutes headed out on my run. It was with complete surprise then when I got to the outside level of the parking ramp where I start out that it had--guess what? Rained. Just a shower apparently, because the ground was wet but nothing coming down. Oh well, I had been looking forward to the run, after having put it off for a few days. It wasn't any cooler than yesterday, and actually felt more humid, particularly now with the brief rain shower, but it had to be done.

Today I wanted to test out a couple of things I figured I would need to do on the Steelhead run: pre-run nutrition and running/walking. I have made steady progress with my running in the past month, not fast by any means, and that's not really a concern right now. But continuous forward motion is, and I have gotten better and better at that. So why mess with a good thing? Because I know without a doubt that I won't be able to run even 6 full miles that day without some walking, even if it is only for a minute or through water stops.

I decided then on a 10 min. run / 1 min. walk, planning on drinking water then too. I was pretty glad I had decided this right off, because the humidity was so high, it was extremely hard to breathe. I had to work to control the breathing the whole time in fact. When the walk break came, I was grateful. It was hard getting going again though, so then I started questioning this method. But I stuck to it, turning around at 34 minutes. Just as I turned to go back, it started raining again, first sprinkles, then a downpour. And I could hear the faint rumble of thunder off in the distance. I didn't mind the rain. It actually helped the breathing a little, but I really didn't want to be out there with lightning. So I continued on, but did take my 1 min. walk breaks, all the while it rained and thundered. So far so good.

By the time I hit 50 minutes, I knew I was over the worst of it. I was drenched from the rain, and that helped keep me cool, but the bad part was I had on a white shirt and white running bra so by now they were basically transparent. Oh great, just what I wanted to look like coming back into work with the rest of the crowd. I was going to have to sneak in the back way.

When I was nearing the last few blocks, thats when it really started raining, thundering, and now lightning. Do I cross the river on the bridge and risk electrocution or cut through the park and then across the bridge was my concern now. Might as well get it over with. If I'm going to get struck, someone at least will see me on the bridge.

I made it back to the gym in 1:06, 6 miles at 11 min. pace and a negative split. But next time I'll listen to the windchimes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I took time off work this morning to go to the trail early for an @25 mile bike ride. I really should have used the morning for a long run, but with the temperature at 6:30 am already at 75 degrees, the humidity at 80%, and the dewpoint over 60, it would have been like running in a sauna, so the bright idea came to me to go for a ride instead. I was already planning on being late, so why not?

I know I should try to run through these types of days, but come a race day, if its like this, I will. I was really still tired from the whole weekend thing, including the long swim, which now I was feeling in the arms and shoulders. A good kind of sore, I guess, saying I actually worked hard enough to get sore.

I was really thinking I would have the path mostly to myself, with it being a work day, but it was actually more crowded than I have found it on weekend mornings. Lots of people out doing their morning thing, I guess.

As soon as I got going, I started realizing I was only doing half the distance of my long rides, so I should be able to kick it up a notch, right? That became my goal then, to not let my pace drop below 13.5 mph, a more than leisurely pace, I realize, but one I am quite content to lollygag at whenever I get the chance! But that pace is not going to cut it at Steelhead, I know.

Its mainly a flat trail, with some deceptive inclines that you become aware of only when your speed slips, but for the most part, if you work hard enough, you can get a good pace going. So that's what I did today, keeping in mind the low end of what I would slow to, and pushing the pace as much as possible to average somewhere in the 15s.

When I say I am searching for that other gear, I mean just that. Somewhere, buried deep within my muscles, that pace is there, but I am realizing that if I want to achieve it, I will have to dig deep and deeper yet. It is just not surfacing on its own, that's for sure. I had it once, I can find it again.

So I pushed the pace as much as is possible for me right now, actually getting out of breath for once (or maybe it was the thick air?). Either way, I felt like I was working harder than I have in a long time.

The biggest obstacle out there were all the little critters scurrying around and back and forth on the trail: chipmunks darting out from the bushes and playing kamakaze with my bike wheels; squirrels scared and running every which way; and those pesky rabbits that seem to have a death wish--theirs and yours--as they not only run across the path, but leap a half a foot off the ground besides! I do think I actually ran over a dead chipmunk, as I felt a bump and then heard a crunch after I saw one on the path and thought I had missed it!

I was rewarded for my hard work on this ride then with a time right around 1:30 (for 24.30 miles) and a pace at 14.9, so I am getting there!

And thanks for all the goggle advice--three people mentioned the kids goggle idea. I think I did this once but had forgotten about that trick. I'll have to try it again. My eyes are still a little goopy from all the leaking on Sunday.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I was too tired Sunday morning, from the previous 3 days, to get up and do a long run, but I was planning on swimming. Don and I talked about going to Lake Michigan, but after seeing the water temps (60 to low 60s) I said, no thanks. I didn't want to drive out there again just to swim. Neither of us had time to sit around on the beach, so it didn't make any sense to go and then find the water too cold to stay in for a decent swim.

Instead, we went to the IM group's favorite swimming hole, a township lake. Last year, one of our group, managed to sweet talk the township supervisor and got passes for up to 10 people to get in free all season. This year, must be a tight budget because no one was getting in for free. So it cost $3 per person. Without having a pool for a backup, the $3 was going to have to be paid.

We were the first to arrive, and while it was already after 2 pm, it was still a little cool. We got in to swim, with Don pointing waaaaay across the lake to a rock that we would swim to. Yeah, I could barely see the rock, but I figured I would follow him. Right off, the goggles leaked. This has been an ongoing problem, and switching to a different pair hasn't helped. I definitely am going to have to invest yet more money in new goggles again this year--the 5th pair--which I barely get any use out of before I have been having issues. So I needed to stop a few times to adjust, and in the meantime he gets away from me. I am okay on the swim, very comfortable, and even can manage with impaired vision. It does take a couple of seasons to not only get comfortable in the water--and that's with repetitive practice or races--but also get good at navigation, a fairly important issue in open water swimming. You would be dismayed at how many strokes it takes to correct a mistake! Anyway, I couldn't see much, but I could see the rock waaay across the lake, so I just headed for that. Don was probably 100 yards away from me, doing his own version of taking the shortcut maybe, but definitely not close to me. I figure I definitely took the long way around, since it seemed like it took forever to get to that rock. I still had several strokes to go to reach Don once he got to the rock. Time on the watch: 17:36. I figured that was good for probably a half mile, maybe less considering I did go off course some and my swimming isn't all that fast this year. Before we head back to shore, I ask how far across and Don says 3/4 a mile round trip. I hope not based on my time, because I am hoping I am not that slow this year.

It was really nice swimming over to the rock, nice to be finally getting in open water when not in a race (note: none before the two races two weeks ago). I really love open water swimming. Once you are comfortable, I am guessing you will too. There is just this freedom I can't explain, gliding along, with only the silence of the water around you. It was nice to stretch out, get a good stroke in, see how my arms really felt, whether I was tired, whether I was getting tired.

Coming back? Not so much fun. The sun was in my eyes, I was trying to follow Don, and the goggles still leaked, making me come up to sight way too often, swimming up along his feet, but not being able to draft, which broke up the swim, and made me feel choppy. Again, it seemed forever before reaching shore. Still, my arms were not tired, I was not tired, and I felt good. Time on watch: 16:xx. So I actually came back faster. Which really made me believe it was under a half mile then.

Then we could see a bunch of the other Iron athletes lounging on the beach, getting ready for their swim. I was thinking I was done; Don had said he didn't want to stay too long. Yet now he said he was going to do another loop. I tried to get out of it, complaining about the leaking goggles (which by the time I reached the first halfway point, they hurt the bridge of my nose so much from pushing them into my face to stop the leaks that my nose ached when I was done), but Deb came up with an extra pair. Okay then. Might as well get used to this all at once. And off we went.

I had no doubts in my mind that even with this group I would not be last, but I was surprised at the improvement of one of the swimmers, whom I could beat all last year on any distance. This year? Right up with the other Iron Athletes. So it took her about 5 years to really improve on her swim. And she has done 2 IMs. See, there's hope for anyone!

Once again, I had leaky goggle issues. I am starting to wonder if one side of my head has shrunken or something! No matter what I've done, I get leaking every time I turn my head to breathe. Since I only breathe on one side, it is always the left eye, the one I don't want to lose my contact out of.

On the way back from the second loop, two other swimmers joined us, for a total now of 7. Times $3 each, that's $21 right there for just getting wet!

So I got in a total of an hour+ of open water swimming, even picking up the pace on the last half of the second loop and feeling like I could hold that for a while. Had I actually been able to see the whole time, my navigation would have been better. I felt like I added a lot of unnecessary strokes getting across the lake. My right shoulder was starting to ache by the end, so it was good to stop when I did.

I would really like to get a few more of those swims in while the pool is down, and Cindy offfered to go out to Lake Michigan if I wanted to go. I don't feel the necessity to go all the way to Benton Harbor, but the Big Lake is always fun and presents a different challenge. Not as hard as ocean swimming, but you can get some rollers, its just about as cold, but not salty, so no buoyancy like in the ocean. But no salt crust after either!

So I'm feeling good about the swim.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Imagine my surprise on Wednesday when I received an e-mail from Well-Fit Triathlon Training that they would be sponsoring a bike clinic to ride the Steelhead course on June 23. Hey, that's this weekend! I checked the signup details, but couldn't find a link to register. I did read up on other things they offered, and I particularly liked the tri outfit they are advertising. I just might be adding that to my wardrobe!

I decided I was going to do it, but because it would be on the actual race course in Benton Harbor, MI, about 1.5 hours away, I figured I would go down on Saturday afternoon, after my long run at home, spend the night, and maybe go to the beach for a swim the night before the bike clinic, and maybe swim again after. So I looked around for a hotel close by, found one in St. Joseph, about 10 minutes away from Benton Harbor, and reserved that at the very affordable price of $39.99 for the night (plus tax of course!). I hoped it wasn't a dive.

Friday morning, a couple of things then started my day off wrong. First, we were distinctly told by the gym manager that the pool would close for a month on June 23, Saturday. We would also be issued pass cards to another reciprocal club before this happened. Friday morning, however, I go to the pool for one last swim, walk down the steps to the pool with goggles in hand to find yellow tape across the door with a sign saying it is closed. One day early. I was steamed and let the club manager know. When he got back to me later that morning, he said he "thought" he had called me "and" had left a pass card for me for the other pool. Yeah, that's probably why I came here this morning to swim. By this time, it was too late to swim in the morning, and I knew I wouldn't have time to do it later.

No worry, I can always swim Saturday afternoon. Except when I got to work and actually thought about the June 23 date, I suddenly realized with a shock that June 23 was Saturday not Sunday. In a way, I was glad for the change, but it also changed all my workout plans for the weekend. And I would have to now drive down on Saturday morning, because by the time I actually got out of work, went home and packed, got things ready for a guy coming to clean the windows (I'm in training, after all and can't waste the time or energy on those type of chores!)Saturday morning, it would be 8 o'clock at night or later, so it wouldn't make any sense to drive down there then.

So I cancelled the hotel reservation and just planned to drive down in the morning, meaning I would have to leave the house by 5:30 am. Yawn.

I didn't get to bed until after 11 and then slept fitfully throughout the night, hearing a siren blast by the house at one point, hearing a loud banging noise I couldn't identify, having the phone ring twice with no on there. The last time I woke up, it was 3:30 am, and by the time I actually got back to sleep, it was almost time for the alarm to go off.

I was very tired when I got up. With my training going into overdrive, I am starting to feel the longer and more frequent workouts. And I'm hungry. All the time. Which I figure is also leaving me a little more tired, not getting enough calories.

So I got ready to go, packing up stuff for the ride and food for later, figuring I would be swimming after. It actually was a nice drive there, not much traffic, and light out most of the way. When I exited the freeway at the Benton Harbor exit, I began to remember when I had come to watch the race last year, and was reminded now of the bike course, a lot of which is on the highway through town. I couldn't help feel a little apprehensive, noticing there was absolutely no shoulder anywhere, which meant if we followed the actual course, like they said we would, we would be riding on the highway--a lot. I wasn't liking that thought at all.

Another car had exited the highway at the same time I did and was right behind me. As I went around a curve, I noticed he had a bike, so I figured he was going to the same place. We turned right into the road where the park is, and the bike transition area is the parking lot, so that's where we headed. There were two other cars there. It was almost 7 am and we were the first ones there. Hmm, were we even in the right place??

We parked cars and got out and discussed this fact, and figured we were just early. A couple of other cars pulled in then, and everyone was just as puzzled as we were. We all set off to find the bathrooms, and I was happy to see they were open, particularly since the porta-johns were very dirty and actually full of food trash! Ick.

It is a very beautiful venue. Unfortunately, the camera isn't working right now or I would have pics of the Big Lake. The water was very calm, but it was also hazy and windy, so I wondered what the water temperature would be later.

By the time we got back to our cars, the parking lot was filling up, and the group leaders were there. The one guy had an accent, which I couldn't place. Brazilian, maybe? Could have been Middle Eastern too. Hard to tell. He looked very much the studly athlete though.

Looking around at the group assembling, I was noticing there was a large group from Chicago, which is where Well-Fit is located. Lots of men, a few women around my age, and a lot of 20 something women. I was feeling a little out of place.

Sharone, the group leader, was giving instructions about riding, emphasizing over and over to ride single file as much as possible because of traffic. "Its dangerous out there. You'll be riding on the highway, with cars going by at 50-60 (or more) mph. And sometimes they're not so nice." He lost me at dangerous. I really didn't hear a whole lot else that was said, because now the little prickle of fear I felt driving through part of the course was becoming almost full blown panic. It would be one thing during the race riding on the highway, when I knew there would be some traffic control, but today we would be out there on our own.

Nevertheless, I decided to do the best I could--after all I had gotten up at the butt crack of dawn and driven all this way, it would be okay. I kept telling myself this to calm my fears. But something just wasn't sitting right with me. I was finding myself extremely fearful, not just nervous or a little worried. Fearful. For really the first time since my close encounter with a not to friendly auto, I was really afraid.

There were to be two pace groups, one 17-20 mph and the other 15-17 mph. That alone was leaving me worried, knowing I might not be able to hang with them for that far at that pace. So to me that meant I would be out there alone a lot, just me and any car that might not see me.

Still, I started with the group, as they wound their way out of the park and onto M-63, the main street/highway through Benton Harbor. By the time we actually were in the traffic lanes, my fear was really getting the best of me and I basically choked, and couldn't pedal any faster than 10 mph. It was like I was paralyzed with fear. There wasn't much traffic yet, but later?

I can't do this, I told myself. I just can't keep up or even stay close enough, and I feel extremely unsafe out here. And I could see the rest of them pulling farther and farther ahead. So I made my decision after a couple of miles. "That's it. I'm turning back and going home." Which I did. No one even noticed I was gone, and no one was in the lot when I got there. I packed up my bike and left. I figured when they saw my car gone when they all got back they would realize I wasn't still out there. And I didn't know anyone, so I doubted anyone would even miss me.

I was mad about this, mad that my fear was getting the best of me, and angry that someone had put me in this position to be fearful. It wasn't anything I could control. It was like after all these months, that fear finally needed to escape, and it took this event to trigger it.

But I resolved to fix the problem and go back home and finish my ride on the path. It didn't have quite the same appeal, but the end result would be the same, I hoped.

So by the time I got back home and then to the path, it was late, almost 10:30. By the time I got ready to ride and got something to eat again, because by now I was starving again, it was 10:50. That meant I hoped to be done in 4 hours, which meant around 2:45. Good thing I didn't have anything else planned for the day.

And to make a long ride story short, I did more than the 50 and went 56, like I would have had to do had I stayed in Benton Harbor. I also pushed myself as much as I could, having to deal with the all flat course and a headwind at least half the way. The total time was 4:09:11. That also has to take into account all the stopping and starting at the cross streets and getting back up to speed all the time. I am slowly making some progress, in that the time out there isn't as overwhelming to me, and I am hoping by race time I will be able to get under 4 hours, which I feel I need to do to feel comfortable about making the cutoff.

Bike total for the week then was 131 miles. This has to be worthwhile for race training, right?

Friday, June 22, 2007


The new HP movie is scheduled to come out July 11, when I will be on vacation. So my daughter Renee calls today to tell me where we should go see it--At the IMAX Theater in the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.

Tickets went on sale at noon, and I got mine at 12:05. The cost per ticket was $14, so I'm figuring 14 x 6 = $84. That was enough to choke a horse right there, but then the surcharge of $4.75 each brought the total to over $115. Yikes! It had better be worth it. Just another family event, right?

I might have to do some gambling before or after to pay for this one!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Oh, what a glorious night it was for a ride! By the time we were done riding, the fireflies were winking in the dusk. Two firsts: first day of summer and first sighting of fireflies.

Summer is my favorite season; it always has been. I remember as a kid playing hide and seek until dusk, until the street lights came on. I remember floating on an inner tube in Lake Michigan, watching the sun set, being lulled by the gentle lapping of the waves. I remember all the summer vacations with my parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Those were the days, and without becoming overly sentimental, those born after the mid 70s don't know what they have missed in life. It was a time that can never be matched.

Tonight, a small group of just 5 met at the trail for our Thursday night ice cream ride. I was really glad we were stopping for something to eat, since with all this increase in training has me hungry all the time! Now I know how those IM athletes feel during their training. The bonus though is a big change in body composition.

I know I have complained about lack of muscle tone, especially since my accident. But I was also lamenting about that over 50 look, you know, that look where parts jiggle more than not or where things just don't look as firm as they used to. I have been particularly sensitive to this lately, never having had a problem before. Yet, suddently, here I was, almost a typical 50+ woman, looking--dare I use the term--matronly. I may not act matronly, but the look was creeping up on me way too fast. Months of recovering left me not only physically but mentally changed.

Yet, just after one 50 mile ride, I am starting to see a whole change in my look, almost normal again. And my mental outlook is improving as well.

So tonight's ride started out leisurely, with me actually leading(!). Heh heh. I knew that was too good to be true, although I was revelling in the feeling in my legs even after Sunday's ride. They felt lighter; the pace seemed easier to achieve; and even when everyone did start picking up the pace, I was able to hang onto someone's wheel without a huge effort!

So progress is being made, slow but sure. I have been putting in as many laps in the pool as I can possibly stand, since the pool will be closed after tomorrow for a month. Just what I will do about that, I don't know. It will reopen in 4 weeks, but I have 2 triathlons in the meantime, and training for Steelhead as well. I guess somehow I will get by.

I have put in 3 runs this week as well, and am almost back to normal on mileage there. It will be a stretch, to be sure, to get comfortable around 12 miles, but somehow I have to find a way.

So the training goes on. I have come to terms with Steelhead, and will deal with it the best I can. I am joining a Steelhead bike course training group this weekend, so that should be--interesting. There are two choices of pace groups: 15-17 mph and 17-20. I think you can guess which group I will be joining.

I did weigh the pros and cons of staying home and training alone for 60 miles or joining a group for 56. The 56 group won out! I may be dragging in at the rear, but I am determined to get some familiarity with this course. I need all the advantage I can get!


Below is an article written by a Boston journalist for the Patriot Ledger who recently visited Grand Rapids. I hope you will read and enjoy! Won't you come and visit?

COMMENTARY - AMERICA’S HEARTLAND - Why can’t we be more like Grand Rapids?
It’s such a big country, America. I don’t know it well, haven’t traveled from sea to shining sea, except by airplane from East to West several times. Last weekend I was in Michigan, not quite the heartland but close enough. The combined effect of television programs, chain stores and restaurants and electronic gadgets is that we think we’ve been homogenized. But it’s not so, thank goodness. I know that when I visited New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina, this is a place very different from Boston or anywhere else in America. Texas, too. But what of the vast Midwest? Is it really different from New England or California? Darned right, it is.

I was in Grand Rapids, Mich., for a wedding. What I knew about Grand Rapids before going there was that it was the hometown of President Gerald Ford and site of his presidential library and museum. And also the home of Amway, though I and other out-of-town guests had only a vague idea of what Amway sells.

The small talk that predominates at events like this was punctuated repeatedly by wedding guests proclaiming to one another, ‘‘What a nice town, what a surprise!’’ Many if not most of the guests flew in from both coasts and interesting places in between, such as Santa Fe. There was elitism to spare but at the same time a willingness to be charmed by a place that truly seems to represent good old-fashioned American values. If there are surreptitious litter police, they keep themselves well hidden, but the streets of Grand Rapids are as gleaming as the refurbished buildings throughout the downtown. Community pride is everywhere. I couldn’t help but compare what I saw to cities and towns back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Boston and New England, from the coastline to the old mill towns like the one where I grew up, Manchester, N.H. But there’s no disputing that the quality of life in this area continues to deteriorate. We blame government for not investing more in parks and beaches, but who’s dropping the garbage? It’s not the government; it’s us. The mounds of Dunkin’ Donuts cups scarring off-ramps on our highways is disgusting. Local streets are no better and because we seem not to care, the habit just grows.

In Grand Rapids, Midwestern friendliness and helpfulness were everywhere. I left my camera in a cab and within minutes of calling the hotel, staff was on the case. They called back 15 minutes later, not having located it yet but to let me know I had not been forgotten. I nearly fainted from the shock of random kindness. (Yes, I got it back.) When was the last time someone actually cared that you lost an item in their store, or even that you were shopping there?Downtown Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000, is a laboratory of urban renewal. Formerly a manufacturing city - home of Kelvinator, for example - it faces a huge challenge in reshaping its economy. The state of Michigan is no help, since its automobile-reliant economy has been in the hopper for years, with more bad news sure to come.So what is Grand Rapids turning to? Health care. And here is where it could be interesting to Massachusetts. Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids’ biggest employer, is creating a cancer center and also expanding its medical research, including a new center for molecular medicine. Michigan State University is moving its medical school to the city. You may say, ‘‘So what?’’ But think about all those Boston-area college graduates, our biggest source of human capital, and the cost of living in Massachusetts, and then compare it to Grand Rapids. There you can buy a five-bedroom house in the historic district for $400,000. Yup, $400,000, and you could walk to work, breathe clean air and not worry about litter blowing in your face. And your children could attend a neighborhood school. The historic district, a microcosm of American architectural styles, was rehabilitated decades ago solely because of the efforts of public-spirited citizens.

I am not writing this to encourage young people to leave Massachusetts. I think it’s important to recognize, though, that we don’t necessarily have it all here. We have first-class hospitals and colleges with costs to match and housing prices that make building a future here ever more difficult. We also have a shortage of the kind of community spirit I saw in Grand Rapids.There, the Amway Corp. and its founders put their names all over downtown, investing in public buildings they hope will rejuvenate the city.Here, corporations hand out a few dollars to local charities, but there is less to donate as they are bought up by national companies more interested in naming rights on arenas than in philanthropy or rebuilding communities.

Look around your town: Can it be improved? Probably. I am tired of dirty streets and blaring car horns, bad manners and shoddy service. We’re better than that, aren’t we?JoAnn Fitzpatrick, former editorial page editor, can be reached at . Copyright 2007 The Patriot LedgerTransmitted Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Or at least that's what I'm thinking. If I have to do all this training, what could make it more fun than having a training buddy?

In trying to find a solution for my Steelhead training, I started working on Jan today, getting it in her head that this was something she could do. She just took a Total Immersion swim workshop over the weekend and had been saying how much more she enjoyed swimming already. Lightbulb goes off! So on our track run workout this morning, I casually say: "Why don't you sign up and do Steelhead with me then?" "How about I just come and watch and run the last 5 miles with you?" "Oh, you can't pace me, that would be outside help." "Oh."

Just to give you an idea of how Jan works, once she makes up her mind she wants to do something, it then becomes a major project for her to perfect whatever it is she's doing. So I know this will be the same for her. If you think I'm bad about wanting things to be perfect for me, she is worse. I guess its just in our nature.

I know she wants to do a half, but she hasn't been thinking of it for this year, so in her mind she doesn't think she can. But I know she is a much better biker and runner than I am, so its just a matter of her getting out there and doing a few long bike rides.

I also have been "talking" with Triathlonmom about her success at the recent Eagleman half Ironman race. She has been most encouraging, and has given me a few training ideas that will prove to be helpful, I'm sure.

So keep your fingers crossed that Jan decides to sign up for Steelhead. She wanted to know if they give out medals. "Yes! Big medals. And you can get your picture taken with the IM finish line stuff too." (Her dream is to do a full IM) I will do anything at this point to talk her into this! But I will probably pay for this: who knows what she will drag me into next year!

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Training, that is. Since I was going to miss my run yesterday, and I was off work Friday, and that's about when I found out about the Steelhead race, I ran 7.5 Friday and then biked 8 miles. I was tired. It was hot. I had had a long week. Wah.

Yesterday was just a short run because of the race I volunteered at, and then was out of town for a family graduation. Today, then, was a planned bike. Initially, I had thought about doing 4o miles on the Musketawa Trail, a 49.50 mile trail, there and back. I did the whole trail a couple of times last year, and maybe 3 the year before. Its fairly flat, goes through 3 different counties, and has long stretches that are hot and windy. But the scenerey is very pleasant to the eye, as you can see from a picture from their website. Doesn't really do it justice, but I wasn't about to carry a camera for 40 miles. Except that I didn't do 40 miles. I did the whole thing.
I didn't exactly hurry out of the house, even though I woke up early. I still wanted to linger over coffee, read blogs, update my blog, and just generally take my time. I hadn't had one morning to just do nothing in weeks. I happened to read Pirate's blog, and it seemed very appropriate for my present situation. She sounds just as nervous about her upcoming race as I am about Steelhead, but she is far more trained than I.
I dragged my feet until almost 8 am and then had to hustle around, mistakenly thinking it was 9, mainly to get the thing done and to try to not get done in by the heat. It was already 80 degrees at 8 am, and while it still felt cool and not muggy, I knew by the time I got done I would be riding in a sauna. And I really wanted to run after. Correction: I really needed to run after.
Forty miles and then I'll just run to the 1 mile mark and back. Voice in my head says, no you won't. But I have to. But you won't. We'll see.
The last time I was at the trail, the place was packed--there were cars overflowing the parking lot, across the street, on a farmer's property, etc. Today, just a few. It was early, but not that early by the time I got there, after 8:30. So I had my choice of spots to park. I did think it might be crowded by the time I was done though. I got ready to go, taking two water bottles, both half frozen, and a fanny pack filled with stuff to eat, my cell phone, keys, and gum, an essential ingredient for me. Forty miles.
Off I went, at a very leisurely 12.9 mph. Not hurrying here! Started doing some math in my head: 13 mph x 40 miles = about 3 hours. I'm sure I will go faster--at some point--I hope! I have to confess, when I am out there by myself, I do not want to ride hard or hurry usually. Heck, I don't want to ride hard or hurry even when I do go with others! I just don't want to end up in their dust.
So a lot of time was spent thinking of the race, what my splits would need to be to finish the whole thing in the time allotted, what I was likely to do, constantly coming to the conclusion there was no way it would happen. Its not really that I don't want to do the race. I just really don't feel competent to finish in 8 hours. And if truth be known, I really don't want to have to train hard enough to make sure I finish in 8 hours, even if it were possible to cram all that in in the next 6 weeks.
Then my thoughts drifted to wanting to do the Block 58 triathlon on July 1. 58 is the number of miles covered in the race. I'm not sure what the cutoff is, but with the bike being 35 miles and the run being 7.8, that alone will take me probably 4 hours to complete, not counting the swim which is 1500 meters. And then transitions, and, etc....
Being out there alone--and I was virtually alone today--for that long gives you a lot of time to reflect and be honest with yourself. Generally, I wasn't breaking any speed records today, but I felt okay. And the heat wasn't a factor for a long time. For once, the trail wasn't crowded with rollerbladers, families with wandering kids on bikes, people walking dogs with long leashes, hoochies with shorts so skimpy I could see way too much, dorks on lawsmowers, etc.. It was mostly me. Oh, I did see a few weirdos and the Werewolf from London in biker gear when I entered Muskegon County, as is usual, but it was very quiet out there. Hot and quiet. Maybe the fact it was an ozone action day scared them off? But didn't they say we should ride our bikes on these days? No matter, I was glad to not have company.
Once I passed the next trailhead at 13 miles, I started debating how much farther to go to get 40 miles. Well, duh! I have to go 20. Thankfully, my computer zeroed out today, so for once I knew exactly how far I had gone.
And then, once I reached 20 miles, I had to admit it was only another 4.75 to the end, so it made no sense to turn back, only to go to the end. So I did. And when I checked my time for the 24.75 miles, it was still under 2 hours (I can't remember exactly).
At the turnaround point, I took a break and drank the rest of one bottle of water, which was no longer frozen and getting warmer by the minute (yech! I hate warm water) and ate a bar, made a call to my daughter to arrange to pick up the kids later, and then decided to head back. Except I had to go to the bathroom bad and there was nowhere to go. No place. No bushes. No hiding spots. Nothing but traffic on the main road where the trail ended and the wide open trail with no shade. Yikes. I can't make it all the way back. What to do, what to do. I just can't go on the bike. I just can't ruin my shoes and my seat, and get my chain all yukked up. No way. No how.
What I had to do then was ride a little further, finally coming upon some shady areas with lots of trees and bushes lining the trail. And then I just had to take my chances, back off the trail, and quickly squat and go. I no sooner finished and got back on my bike when a couple rode by. Whew! Close call, and note to self about how to pee on the trail and not be seen.
After that, I decided to stop--completely--every 5 or so miles and drink water. It was getting hotter, and while I can drink on the bike easily enough, I know that stepping down, even for just a moment, usually refreshes the legs. I thought I might need it today.
I was also happily grateful that my Polar bottle was still ice cold, and after I reached the 30 or so mile mark, the cold water tasted wonderful. On and on I pedaled, hardly seeing anyone today, which was surprising. And every 5 or so miles I stopped for my water break. It only lasted a few seconds, but was so much more enjoyable being able to stop.
By the time I reached Ravenna, it meant only 13 miles more to go. But here, the miles in my mind dragged. My time was good though. I figured I might be able to get done with the whole thing under 3:45. I was getting sore though: my neck and shoulder had bothered me once I reached 20 miles, and the throbbing was incessant. I went from aero to upright to aero to one handed. I really have noticed that with a lighter bike though my fatigue level is less, and I go longer before my neck and shoulder are in constant discomfort. I can also ride one handed, something I couldn't do with a heavier bike. And the pedalling is easier, even if I'm not that much faster. But still, it is something that gets to be tiring and distracting. And worse yet, my water was now getting lukewarm. To me, lukewarm water is not refreshing, leaving me craving for something cold: a cool pool, a lake, the ocean, a big bucket of icewater, a puddle, anything cool to drink or cool off with! My pace was starting to slip too, and I had to struggle to keep my pace in the 14 mph range, what I figured I needed to do to be in the 4 hour range for 56 miles. A flat course may seem easier, but it is constant pedalling, constant pulling, constant spinning and digging in to reach a desired pace. There is no coasting or letup. For 50 miles. For nearly 4 hours. I get tired of it.
So as not to drag this out mile by mile, the last 7 miles were interminable in my mind, yet my time was still within goal. I wanted to be done! If I was going crazy in less than 4 hours, how would I ever be able to tolerate and complete something that would take me, most likely, 8 hours?? The math didn't add up. I'm still not convinced I can pull this off, but I will say this: I am not going into this race thinking I might not make it. I am only going into this race thinking I will do the best I can and try my best to get done in the 8 hour time limit. I don't know how I will do this yet, but it will be part of the game plan. I cannot go into this with a defeatist attitude. I must think only that I will do the best I can.
My time today? 3:43, my fastest ever for this course!
It was way too hot to run after. I pretty much knew that wouldn't happen. But I did take my grandsons to the pool and swam 1/4 mile and then did some pool running, which I was happy enough to equate to a mile of running. And now I must get something to eat and RELAX!

Yesterday I volunteered at an Olympic triathlon, Johans Trifest, a race put on by many of the mentees of Johan Visser, a local triathlete who died from cancer 5 years ago now. Johan fought to the end, but the disease was stronger than he was. When he died, he left money to a foundation to put this race on for as many years as people show up, and that's what many in our triathlete and running communities come together each year in June to put on for others to enjoy the sport. So it is a race run almost entirely by other athletes, many of whom were inspired and encouraged by Johan himself, and he himself was an outstanding Ironman, with age group records still held at some races.

If you have never volunteered at a race, triathlon or running, I encourage each of you to do that at least once a year. It can definitely be a chance for you to give something back to the sport, but what you will gain will be much more than you will give. In my case, this probably came at a good time, a time when I needed some new hope and inspiration of my own to work through the Steelhead dilemma I am facing. At least watching some of the race gave me a break from freaking out!

I worked at one of the turnaround points on the bike course, a place I have helped with a couple of times in the past. I arrived early, since I bypassed the race site and went directly to my post. The bike course is all on hilly country roads, country roads where the redneck mentality is alive and well. The road my turnaround was on was off a main road, both paved, but it was also a main straightaway to other roads to bypass all the unpaved roads in the area, so it was busy, busier than I remember from 2 years ago. They put up a "Road Closed" barricade on the road, but I actually saw someone get out of their truck, and move it aside so they could get their big rig through! It was incredible. I would bet more than 50 cars came speeding down this section of the road, including 4 semis, and many of the people refused to stop, even when bikes were approaching or making their turnaround. Two trucks nearly ran Joyce, the other woman working with me, and myself over because as she approached the one truck to tell the driver what was going on, he sped away, right as I was stepping into his path, with someone following close behind. A near miss, I can assure you! They just couldn't be bothered with slowing down! It was unbelievable how angry some of these people were! Someone even deliberately ran off the side of the road to knock over the cone with a sign stating "Bikes in road ahead. Caution." It was too much. And the guy who lived in the house who had the turnaround in front of his driveway? He left before the first bikes came through but deliberately backed over all the cones set up to mark the turnaround, knocking them down. And one guy hauling a rig of some sort with tanks on the back never slowed down and blew through the narrowed roadway going at least 50 mph. We were scared to death on that one. I WILL report all this to the race director, you can bet on that! Not only was the safety of the volunteers at risk, but think of what could happen with any of the triathletes? I know they always warn you about courses being open to traffic and to not take chances, but I also feel that as a volunteer it was my responsibility to make it as safe as possible for these people, which I didn't feel I could do that day.

All that aside, we still enjoyed watching the bikers come through. It is a perspective each of you should experience--watching the first place males battling it out; waiting for the first women to come through; seeing familiar faces and friends as they competed. I got to see Cindy again and her pretty pink bike. Awesome! And Shelley, if you read this, I saw your Lake Placid cohorts out there: Kim, Shawn, Deb, and a few others I can't think of right now.

Our spot too was at the top of a LONG uphill, at about the 8 mile mark, and it was mutually agreed by many that "I'm tired!" when asked how they were doing. Those unfamiliar with the course asked if it was the halfway point. Nope, sorry, only 8 miles. (its a 40k) One guy as he turned said, "I think I'm in 5th place, right?" Nope, sorry, 12th dude. Then there was the young man who stopped and was done when he reached us. Something wrong with his knee. Fortunately, one of the motorcycle teams was coming along, so they radioed for help for him. He asked what place he was in then, and I told him 33rd. (we kept track of numbers, and I went a step farther and started numbering down the page, so I always knew how many people had come through. He also wondered about when the first place guy came through, and, being the clock watcher I am, I had that answer for him too!

Eventually, the number of bikers started trailing off, and at 9:41, one hour and 41 minutes after the start of the race, the last woman biker came through. She was a long way back from everyone else, and I could definitely sympathize with her there! I wish I remembered her number so I could look up to see how and whether she finished. Bless her heart! She didn't seem undaunted by the fact she was last at all. Another lesson learned for me!

Joyce and I waited around for another 10 minutes to be sure no one else was out there before we pulled up the cones and headed on our way. I had to leave for a family commitment, so once again did not go back to the race site.

Looking at what I think are the results from the race (even though they are dated 2006), I see there was a no wetsuit swim! That was why the swims seemed slow! That, and the huge mass of weeds they had to deal with. Apparently, with the warmer temperatures and lower water levels, the weeds were thick and out of control this year. I'm betting people were not thrilled with that! The first year they had this race, the weeds were bad then too, and people were coming out of the water looking like creatures from the lagoon, with weeds hanging off them and dangling from faces, arms, and ears. I don't particularly like swimming in weeds--it always makes me wonder if there is some fish or turtle or something waiting to bite me! But I can do it. It definitely slows you down some. So I guess I'll wait to hear from a few people who did the race to hear about that.

It was also VERY hot right from the start. Just standing around waiting for our duties to begin, I was sweating, dripping sweat. I'm not sure if the times reflected the temperature or not. The winning time was 2:01 and the last place finisher was 3:49, with several over 3:30, so it looks like had I done the race, I either wouldn't have been last, or I would have had a lot of company out there for once! Again, a learning experience!

So on with the training!

Friday, June 15, 2007


Last Sunday, on the last part of my run at the second triathlon, when I was so lost in thought I was oblivious to the fact someone in my age group might possibly be behind me, I had come to a conclusion about Steelhead--about not doing it this year. I figured I could transfer my registration, either to someone else or just to next year. Looking at the website today, I was reading about how to go about this, when I discovered the cutoff date was....June 1!

So, I've missed that. Now I don't know what to do, skip it and lose the money? Or drag myself through the whole thing.

Why do I think I'm not ready? Because I'm not. I know in part it is because of my injuries last year, with the unplanned layoff of almost 5 months, and then needing to rebuild almost from scratch, a base good enough to just get me through what I did last weekend. But a half Ironman? I'm thinking not. Once again, I was impulsive, or maybe too quick to think I would recover and get back to my old base just like that. It hasn't been that simple.

My swimming is okay but off from last year even at this time. My biking is just coming along, but still not where it should be for this type of event. My running is actually better than last year at this time, but definitely slower, so still leaving a lot to be desired. And overall mentally? Not sure this is something I can handle, physically or mentally.

I started realizing during my second race on the run that I wasn't ready to take on that much of an event--yet. I think I really should have given myself this year to rebuild and just do sprints or at least shorter tris. I can only envision being out there for 8 hours or more, way longer than I am sure I can handle at this point. I am good for about 4 hours; after that, I don't know.

So I will be trying to come to some sort of conclusion on this soon, for obvious reasons. If I do decide to go ahead with it, I probably will seek the advice of a coach in the area. If he doesn't think it is possible to bring me up far enough by the end of July, then I will just eat the loss and learn from the mistake.

After doing 72 miles on the bike, 23 miles running, and 1.5 miles swimming this week, I still just know I'm not ready. I'm not trying to wimp out, but maybe I am afraid. I thought it would be easier to get back to it. I thought my experience from the past would carry me through, but I'm not so sure. Truthfully, its not how much time it will take, but whether I can handle the amount of time. Will I break down somewhere and not be able to finish after all? Lots of doubts.

So, I don't know what to do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

WEEKEND AT THE RACES--Race 2, Race for Recovery, Sunday, June 10, 2007, Monroe Michigan
Swim: 1000 meters
Bike: 14 Miles
Run: 3.8 Miles
Finish Time: 2:14:09

You might remember how I ended up signed up for two races in two days, how when the first race was to be reduced to a duathlon due to water issues, my eagerness (impulsiveness?) to do a triathlon led me to find this race and sign up immediately. Almost simultaneously upon receiving my confirmation for one race, I received the e-mail about the other race, that the water issues were cleared up, and the race was back on.

That being said, after the first race then, it was necessary for me to stay focused. I hustled home, unpacked some of my things from the first race, changed, showered, ate a big lunch, washed clothes, did household chores, made phone calls (to kids and Don who was already on the road to the same race), repacked for the second race, and then headed out the door. First I had to stop off at a graduation party. :(
So, it was after 4 pm when I was ready to head to the second race, in Monroe, Michigan, an almost 3 hour drive from home, near Toledo actually. I had printed Mapquest directions, but they were confusing. I had forgotten to print the packet pickup instructions, etc., so basically was driving blindly toward a destination I wasn't sure of. Other than some low back discomfort, I felt surprisingly good. As is usual for me after a long or hard workout, I am not particularly sleepy for a LONG time, so that too was good for the long drive.
After about an hour into the drive, Don called and said they had picked up their packets and were headed to dinner already (about 5:15). I mentioned my confusion about the directions and he also reminded me that packet pickup closed at 7 pm. Would I make it? Oh sure, no problem! But you need to take I96 to I275 to I75, exit 15, to the race site. It is the most direct. Don't go to your hotel first. So okay, I was nearing 275, found that, breezed through the heavy traffic there, saw the 75 sign, and thought I was on 75, but when I reached exit 15, it said Detroit Metro Airport. From past memory, I knew that I was still on 275. How did that happen?? But I got off anyway, turned right, and then knew this was not right. So I called Don back and was frantically telling him the directions he gave me were wrong! I was a little shrill actually. I finally said I would figure it out and headed back to the highway. I'm pretty used to getting lost and getting myself back on course, so I knew I would be okay, but it was the time factor I was worried about. For some reason, this race said no race day packet pickup, which is why I had to drive down the night before instead of the morning of, like I originally had planned to do. And that was going to cost me hotel money besides. So I had better make it!

I drove all the way to exit 2 and then got off the highway again because it said "Monroe, Michigan." Okay, I'm off, now what? The directions I had did call for me to get off here, which was also US 24, but as is typical for Mapquest, first they had me going south, then the directions said to make a "slight turn" to the north. How was that possible?? The road either goes north or it goes south. There isn't a choice to turn slightly north. I went about 5 miles towards town before becoming totally confused and heading back to the highway. Somehow, I had to find highway 75 and start over there. I finally found someone to ask directions of and was told to go one more exit and I would run into 75. I did that but it didn't happen. At least I didn't think it happened. There was some sort of detour (of course!) so that made it more confusing to me. So I headed back north, down 275, in search of 75. I finally saw a sign after about 15 miles that took me to 75, and once I got on that, I still had to go the 15 miles back to get to exit 15!

The state park was very close to the highway, thankfully, but getting into the park required a state park day or yearly pass, so I had to scrounge around in my purse for money before I could finally get in. I had totally forgotten to check the time, so when I pulled up to the race site and tried to find packet pickup, I was told: oh, we're closed. I quickly looked at my watch: it was 7:12. I cannot lie when I say my heart sank. And then I got angry. "I just drove 3 plus hours to get here. I couldn't get here any sooner. Now what am I supposed to do??" "Oh, we're having race day packet pickup after all." Sigh. It would have been so much easier if that had been the plan in the first place!

So I headed to my hotel, ate the food I packed for dinner, and settled in for the night and it was lights out by 10:15.

Up the next day at 5 am to head to the park by 6 am. They said transition would close at 7. I'm pretty sure that that time frame was instituted for the half IM racers, with not much thought to those of us doing the sprint, but after the packet pickup near miss, I decided not to take a chance and mess with their timing. Besides, I was up and ready to go!
When I got to the park, it never occurred to me there would be a HUGE line of cars waiting to get in: everyone had to pay the daily or yearly fee to get in, so of course that would slow things up. I already had bought a year sticker the day before and wished they had an express line for this, but I really don't think they were organized for this many people this early at all. They had 2 people taking money at first and handing out passes, and then a third showed up after about 15 minutes. Knowing they would have a big jam up in the first part of the day, it seems likely they could have had a couple hundred day passes made up ahead of time to save time to and have someone walk up and down the line of cars telling people what the rates were instead of: go up to the car, tell people the rates, wait for people to scrounge for money, take the money, walk back to their booth, make out the day pass, walk back to the car, put the pass on the car. Repeat. Even those few steps would have saved a lot of minutes in the long run. But hey, who am I to tell someone how to do their job? By the time I finally got through the line it was 6:30. I did, however, recognize a woman in a car ahead as someone I worked with, whose daughter was doing the half IM, so at least we made a connection, something neither of us figured would happen.
So now we only have a half hour to get to transition, get set up, and get out. I am lucky and find a parking spot right next to transition. A lot of people parked farther away, assuming they couldn't get closer, but I am always the optimist and tried to get closer first.
Here is the beach when I arrived. You can see what a beautiful day it was going to be again, and it was: low 70s, low humidity.
Here is the swim area, in Lake Erie. The water was calm and warm--75 degrees.

Then I had to get my packet and get body marked. Here again is where some better organization would have made things less frustrating. Because I saw a long line near what I figured was transition, I decided I had better get my packet first, which I knew from yesterday was over by the beach. I already had my bike and stuff out so had to hoof it over there with the bike, etc. and find a place to prop it up to go get my packet. And did they give you chips here? Noooo. We still had to go to another line to get those! While that isn't that unusual, the fact that one line was 1/4 mile from the other line was a little annoying. So back I went to get my chip. I decided first to rack my bike, since I had to go through transition to get there. Our bike racks were assigned by number, which is nice, but of course the rack I was supposed to be on was already full, with no one around to move anything out of the way for me. So I just decided to go to the next rack, numbers be damned, and got an end spot for my bike, just as I like. There were only about 4 bikes on the rack by then anyway, so I just kept a low profile in the corner and didn't say a word, and no one questioned me.

I set things up, and then went to get my chip. I see they are doing body marking in the same area, so decide to get that done first.

Me, getting body marked.

Then I go to get the chip. I wait and wait and wait. It is nearly 7 am now. And wait some more. There is a woman? behind me talking to me, but I wasn't sure until I really looked that it wasn't a man. Deep voice, short short hair. A little disconcerting to not be sure! Finally I get to the chips and: "we need to see your race number." "Huh? I have my number already marked. See?" "Doesn't matter. We need to see your bib." Sigh. Back to my bike, get my bib number, and this time decide I'm not waiting in any line, walk right up, get my chip, and leave. I got some dirty looks, but oh well!

Organizationally, as I've already said, a lot of things could have been done to make things go faster, but they also didn't take into account the sprint athletes, expecting everyone to be out of transition by 7 am, when the soonest we would start would be 8 am. I suppose it made it easier for volunteers, but it was still something that might have been done differently. After all, a whole hour before a race we were supposed to be wearing our wetsuits or carrying stuff around and not have access to anything we brought? It might be okay if you have someone with you, but I went by myself and only had myself to rely on.

I did finally meet up with Don and Bruce, one of his friends, both doing the half. They were going through their final preparations for the day. We wished each other well, and then went back to tending to our own things.

Finally, we needed to head down to the swim start--800 meters away (according to race director). And it was a long hike, I'll tell you, barefoot. I hate walking barefoot, so I pretty much hobbled my way down there. As I walked to the swim start, it occurred to me that Saturday's race had been on the west side of the state and today's would be on the east side. That was something!

The pros (about 5 of them) started the half IM first, then the men, then the women. The plan was to give the women a chance to be on the last 1/2 mile before they let us start, which might be at 8 am or later. So most of us did not totally suit up until about 15 minutes before the start, to avoid overheating. But I also stood in the water to keep my legs cool. The women would start the sprint, with 11 minutes before the men started, hopefully a good enough lead to avoid getting clobbered.

Finally, we were off! It was very shallow. After the day before, I decided to do the wading thing too, and even when I tried to swim, it was just too shallow, so I went back to wading. We were almost to the first buouy before it was deep enough to get a good stroke. Once I rounded the first buouy, I realized I had forgotten to start my watch, so I hit the start then. I figured I had lost about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, but would keep that in mind. At this point, too, my goggles started leaking. Not just a drop or a drip, but a fullblown leak. So every time I turned my head to breathe, I got an eyeful of water. That in itself doesn't bother me--if I'm in a pool or not in a race--but I was afraid of losing a contact and not being able to see on the bike, and I hadn't put an extra contact in my transition stuff. So I had to stop and adjust them. Not once but 3 times. By the time I got to the third buouy, I finally got that problem under control, but had also lost a lot of time. I was now in a pack of no-nothing swimmers. I call them that because they were constantly swimming across and in front of you--in the wrong direction even--butting up against my feet, smacking my feet, stopping short in front of me, and just generally making it difficult to work around them. I realize a lot of people were newbies, but it was something that was going to cost me time had I not been in with that pack. Someone actually came up behind me as I was on a downstroke and hit my elbow so hard with their head I got that funny bone jolting feeling! It wasn't a good swim, and it only got worse towards the end, so I was very happy to get out of the water! I took a quick look at my watch as I got on the sand and it said 25 something, so I added some time to be sure. Comparatively, a better swim time than the day before, and the longer the swim, usually the better I do. Comparatively.

Up the beach to the bikes then. I'm happy to say that this transition went smoothly, and I was in and out in just a little over 2 minutes. The first part of the ride would take us out of the park, past the gates, and through all the traffic still coming in. There was a sign I couldn't help but laughing about: Snake Crossing. LOL! That's a new one, but I was glad there weren't any on the road right then.

Once out of the park and the nice smooth roads, we were on a bumpy, rutted, back road, so I was right back out of the aerobars. I got passed a lot here by the men now getting out of the water. Some of those Zip wheels sound like a car whooshing past you they go so fast!
The bumpy road crossed the main road and was smooth again, so back in the aerobars. I was getting passed by a lot of men but no women. I cranked away, but again, kept the cadence high to save my legs. The course was flat, flat, flat! I don't think I have ever ridden that many miles on a flat course, including Saturday's race. We have so many hills where I usually ride. That helps keep the speed up and helped keep me in the aerobars most of the way. My back and neck didn't bother me at all.

I didn't really even come close to passing anyone until after the first turnaround, even though I was keeping up a fairly good pace, better than Saturday even. Surprisingly, my legs felt good. I had stretched good and iced them down on Saturday, so I had no stiffness, and they didn't even feel dead. (or maybe I didn't work hard enough the day before??) Once I passed this woman after the turnaround, it was on to the end, so I decided to try to pick up my speed for the rest of the way. I pretty much kept the pace up, but didn't kill myself, until the bumpy road, when that slowed me down again. Shortly after re-entering the park, I saw a guy walking his bike, looking like Jimmy Neutron with one of those weird helmets, with a shredded back tire. Too bad dude!

Heading back to transition, here you could see runners going out AND finishing, but they did have this set up nicely so the bikers and runners did not intersect, like the day before. Get to the dismount line, hustle off the bike, into transition, and go to put my running shoes on and find they are soaked! I had hung my wetsuit on the fence right above my shoes! Oh well. On with the show. Got the shoes on, grabbed my visor and some water, and I was off again. This time, my feet didn't feel nearly as bad as the day before. They were giving out water on the run out, so I did stop a minute for another drink. I hadn't drank ANYTHING on the bike and didn't want to risk getting too thirsty.
The run course was on a walking path, and at the beginning it was totally sunny, so I worried about that. We came to another water stop, which was also a water stop for the half, so I decided another drink and a brief walk through wouldn't hurt. Drink, swallow, and start running. This was probably only 1/4 mile out, so I didn't want to waste a lot of time here. The path then became shady, so it was very comfortable from there on out.
The path wound through the park through the dunes, and next to two lagoons that were used for fishing apparently. They smelled horrible though! Eww. I was glad it wasn't hotter for that reason alone. It was quite sickening really. On and on I trotted, getting passed by only men. I passed the mile marker signs for the half: 8 miles; 5 miles; 4 miles; 2 miles. I started figuring they had to be doing loops with that sequence, but I never really knew where I was on my own run until I finally hit the first mile marker. Seemed like forever too! Grab some water, drink, swallow, run. That's what I decided to do. My legs really didn't feel bad, but I knew I was only moving at a snails' pace. Oh well, I knew for sure there are people behind me, and not just men, but at this point something that happened near the finish line didn't occur to me.

When I got to the second mile, I was starting to get a little crazed, thinking to myself, I am glad I am at least half way! I still was feeling okay, all things considered, and again, comparatively to what I thought I might feel like. I wasn't tired, I wasn't thirsty, I wasn't hot. I just wanted to stop moving and do something else! Just keep moving, I told myself. Another water stop and 3 miles was just ahead. From here, I could actually see the last part of the path leading to the finish area. I could also see a woman ahead of me, walking, who had passed me right around the 1 mile mark. I knew she was a lot younger, but I still decided it was worth trying to pick her off. At least I could pass someone! But she would walk, then run, then walk, etc. I still wasn't running fast enough to catch her, but I was getting closer. There was a bridge to cross, then the park road, then the path led to the parking area, and then a short way from there to the finish.

I was getting closer to her and actually got within about 20 feet when all of a sudden I sense someone coming from behind and actually feel air movement as they were passing. It took only a moment before I realized the woman who had just passed me was in my age group! What do you know? I wasn't the last one in the age group out there! But I had to act right then to try to catch her, so I actually sprinted to the finish, coming up short by 5 seconds behind her!
Normally, I wouldn't let it bother me, but this time I knew had I only worked a little harder the whole way, had I not assumed I was the last one out there in the age group, I might actually have taken third place! But alas, it was fourth again. Still a bridesmaid.
And here's what I missed out on!
At the finish line, they gave us ice cold dripping towels and medals! Finally, I get something for doing a triathlon!

Then I had to get right to my bike and things to pack up and go back to the hotel to check out. That worked very conveniently, since checkout was at noon, and it was 10:30 now, so it gave me plenty of time for a shower before I came back to watch the guys finish their race. Cath, the woman I work with, was also waiting for her daughter, and was kind enough to snap a couple more pictures of me:

Me, the pack mule, with my backpack, bike, and camp stool.

Me, after the race with my medal.

Then it was back to the hotel to change, shower, pack up, head back to the park to wait for the guys. I was really not wanting to hurry out of the shower this time. All in all, I did feel good, not beat up, and not particularly tired. The good weather was a big reason, I'm sure. I never got overheated and didn't feel sapped from the heat.

Back at the park, I waited near the finish line for the guys. It is always so much fun to just sit and observe and listen to all the great music they always play. The announcer was keeping a running tally of finishers: Michigan v. Ohio, so that was pretty funny (since they are such rivals in college athletics), with Indiana a distant third.

I was keeping track of the time, trying to figure the time they would start coming in. I figured at least 6 hours, and there was still an hour to go. It was so pleasant sitting out in the sun with the comfortable light breeze blowing. I had brought a lawn chair just for this purpose. Its always amazing too to watch the finishers. Even in the 5 hour time range they looked pretty good.

The daughter of my work friend came in, in her first half Ironman and first ever triathlon, in 5:50! That was pretty amazing. So her mom was thrilled, of course.

I was standing, congratulating her, and not yet back to my seat when I see Don coming! Woo hoo! Under 6 hours! Then Bruce, and a few minutes later Tom. So here's a picture of the 3 Amigos below, all age group winners: Tom, 1st in 55-59 AG; Don, 1st in 60-64 AG (5:55:38); Bruce, 2nd in 60-64 AG (5:56:10). All under 6 hours. Don said he just had to take Bruce on in the last mile when he came up behind him and went on to beat him by mere seconds. Tom said he made sure he ran the whole way to get in under 6 hours, and his time was 5:59:00. Cutting it close!

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful venue, and a fun race. I had another great day and am glad I did both races. I don't feel any worse for the wear, learned a lot, and had a great time too!

Monday, June 11, 2007

WEEKEND AT THE RACES--RACE 1, Saturday, June 9, 2007

Lake Macatawa Triathlon, Holland, Michigan
Swim: 1/2 mile
Bike: 22 miles
Run: 4.8 miles
Finish time: 2:57
4th out of 4

This race was going to be cancelled due to water issues, then it was back on. They actually offered an out to everyone, offering refunds. That is highly unusual, and I could have taken the easy out, but I remembered the waiver we always sign, indicating you do these things at your own risk, and decided that once the water issue was cleared up, I would put aside any worries I had and do the race. Don't swallow was the advice given by everyone I knew.

Saturday was predicted to be perfect weather, and it was. It started a little cool, probably about 57 degrees, cool enough for a jacket pre-race. The race was about 30 minutes from home, and I arrived at the race site about an hour ahead of time, to get my packet and get organized. That was pretty much when the majority of others also arrived, but I found a parking spot relatively close and proceeded to get my bike ready and make my way to transition. Once I started walking towards the race site, I suddenly realized there was more parking right next to transition! Well, I hadn't done this race before, so there was no way I could know. Apparently most other people didn't know either.

As soon as you entered the park, you had to go down a short steep hill. I figured this might be one of the hills mentioned in the race course description, which was mainly described as flat. The packet pickup and body marking were right in front of transition, and the transition area was a huge parking lot next to the beach. Already, there wasn't much available space on bike racks, but I finally settled for a rack about in the middle and not too busy yet. Now I had to figure out how to set everything up again!

I looked around for any familiar faces, and saw a couple women I knew in my age group: Deb, who was training for Lake Placis and Kona, and who had qualified for Kona at Wisconsin the year before in her first ever Ironman. Deb used to weigh in over 200 pounds, and in her quest for weight loss, discovered an incredible, untapped athletic talent. I first met her at Steelhead last year and introduced myself. Before then, she had seemed aloof and stand-offish; after we finally met, she has been graciously kind to me. And there was Ruthie, a multi-Ironwoman, who, while not one of the faster women in the age group, was very capable of placing in her age group most of the time. And then I saw my spinning instructor, Tom. I figured he would hammer the course. He ended up winning over all. And a few 20 somethings I knew. I was also looking around for Cindy, but not knowing what she really looked like, I hoped to meet up with her at some point.

I decided to get into my wetsuit, and soon discovered what an ordeal that was to get on. Last year it seemed a lot easier! Does any coating wear off after a while? Once I got that on, I put on the cap and got out my goggles and realized mistake number 1: I had bought new, clear goggles instead of tinted goggles like I did after a swim fiasco last year. What was I thinking?? Well, you go with the flow. Hopefully the sun wouldn't be too direct and I would do okay. The water was warm, but naturally I couldn't help think about what might be in it! I had ear plugs and a nose plug, so I hoped I would be somewhat safe.

I was in the last wave--men and women over 40, so predictably we had the biggest wave. But when the gun went off I just waded in with the others and realized how shallow it was. Once I got where I thought I could start swimming, I did, but others were walking, walking, and still walking. I wonder now if I would have been better wading longer because I wasn't making much forward motion progress on the walkers. They also blocked my view to the first buouy, so by the time they finally got in the water, I could see I was headed slightly off to the left of the first buouy and had to correct my direction. Finally, I arrived at the first buouy, and then had to turn towards the second one. That's when I started getting the sun in my peripheral vision on the right, and since I only breathe on the right, every breath caused me to see spots when looking at the sun. So I had a little difficulty sighting the second buouy and staying on course. But it wasn't until we turned towards the shore and the next buouy that the blinding effects of the sun became a bigger problem. All I could really see was the glare on the water and a little splashing. I really don't think the sun was all that bad, but I seem to have more of a sensitivity to sun in my eyes, so I was mainly following the splashes right ahead of me. Which turned out to be a guy flailing, basically.

I don't know why 20 or so minutes in the water always seems like an hour, but I was starting to think I would NEVER reach the shore. My shoulder, the one that was broken, was starting to hurt some. I knew this was from the wetsuit, and I hoped it wouldn't be a problem on the bike. I finally seemed to be getting closer to shore, and I could see people walking again, so figured it was shallow, but not for me yet. So I swam on and on and on, it seemed. Then I could finally get to solid ground and did decide to start walking to get out and be done. I glanced at my watch and saw I was over 22 minutes, which is relatively slow for me, but decided not to let it bother me and go for the next leg of the event. They actually had a kiddie pool to clean the sand off your feet by the timing mat, but I didn't think I could leap into and out of it without tripping or falling so bypassed it.

Then I got to my bike, and this huge wave of fatigue hit me. I had already started stripping off the wetsuit on the way up to my bike (why is the transition from beach to bikes ALWAYS uphill??), but didn't follow my usual protocal, which was to sit on my camp stool to peel the thing off. Instea, I stupidly tried doing it from a standing position, and that's when mistake number 2 happened. Doing this caused me to get the thing tangled up at the ankles, and I could not get it over my heel and foot to get it off! Last year, the thing stripped off like nothing so wasn't expecting this difficulty, yet here I was, hopping on one foot, about ready to crash into the bike rack and take the whole thing down. At this point, I basically lost my balance and crashed down onto my stool, just about tipping the thing over onto the woman sitting on the ground next to me. Fortunately, I recovered in time and then proceeded to struggle with the wetsuit. By the time I got the socks, shoes, sunglasses, race belt, and helmet on and quickly drank some water, I noticed it was already more than 5 minutes wasted! Oh brother. I did have the foresight to ask someone standing there if we could ride out of transition (which usually is a no no), and was told no, so prevented getting disqualified.

So I got to the bike mounting line and of course that too was at the bottom of the steep, but short hill coming into the park. Surprisingly, my bike cranked right up it and I was off. My legs felt pretty good, way better than with my old bike, so something has improved here.

Heading out on the bike, we first were in the neighborhood surrounding the lake, but soon were out on one of the main roads. Here, I realized immediately that the course was not going to be closed to any traffic, so I was going to have to face my fears with that today also. One thing was certain: it was a flat course so far. I kept my cadence up, trying to not overdo it, but realized too I had not reset my computer from my last ride, so I had no idea what kind of average pace I was keeping, the distance, or the time. I suppose that could be considered mistake number 3, but it wasn't a huge issue. I still had my watch running since the start, but it would have been nice to know the mileage so I knew where I was.

Probably about 3 or 4 miles into the bike portion, I started hearing this strange hooting or whooping sound from behind. I thought it was someone riding making that kind of noise, and after a couple of minutes it was getting annoying. Eventually, I could see a shadow behind me, on the right, and I started thinking it was some young kid doing the race who was actually going to attempt to pass me on the right, another no no. So I yelled back, "don't pass me on the right!" Only to have the rider pull around me and pass on the left. It was a woman hauling a baby bike carrier. They have these charity athletes in the race, who actually pull canoes or rafts with special needs kids in them, then pull them in their bike carriers, and then push them in jogging strollers, all to raise money for their charity (which I can't remember what it is and can't find the link). Anyway, just as soon as she passes me and pulls in front of me, I'm on the wheel of the carrier, so I am forced to go around her. I didn't want to ride that hard, hard enough that I had to pass, but I was forced to so as to not get a drafting penalty. Yeah, right, a drafting penalty from a bike carrier?? But I wasn't going to test the system and pulled ahead.

I didn't think I really knew the bike route, until we finally reached Lakeshore Drive, which is along Lake Michigan. Here, on the lake side, there are these fabulous homes and gated communities, none of which are visible from the road, so you don't even realize the big lake is there, but it also doesn't cause any windiness or distraction from the view, so its a pretty nice route. I was remembering then that I did know this route, having run my first 10k here, numerous 5ks here, numerous bike rides from the opposite direction through here, and my ultra, 50k run.

So I am thinking of all this, and along comes woman with the bike carrier again. I can hear her kid, so I know she is behind me again. Once again, she passes me and then basically cuts me off, forcing me to pass her. There is also another rider in front of her that I am forced to pass as well, and as I go by her she says, "I'm not too consistent today, am I?" I say nothing, but grit my teeth instead. This cat and mouse thing went on two more times, until I finally backed off when she passed me the last time and she pulled ahead for good. Like I said, I didn't want to ride that hard today.

The route was basically flat like they said, but we did hit a few hills, and here I could see how seriously lacking in hill training and shifting I was so far this year. I did, however, get into my aerobars for almost the first time and stayed comfortable in them for most of the race. I knew once I got into race mode, I would quickly adapt. Even with some hills, I recovered quickly and by the turn around actually passed a young woman. I liked reaching the turnaround, because here I could see just how many people were behind me. I passed her on an uphill no less and went on my way and then passed another guy struggling too. That was the last time I saw the young woman on the bike course. But she would show up later. At the turnaround, I counted at least 11 more people behind me, so I worked hard from there on to maintain that position. I figured there were at least 200 people in front of me though.

On the return portion of the bike, the traffic was getting heavier. Being a lakeshore community, with numerous beaches and waterfront parks and fishing areas, we were constantly passed by trailers and trucks hauling boats. I really didn't like this, but what can you do but hope for the best? This road though seemed like it was never ending, and I was ready to be done, but we still had the busiest traffic portion to go through, and here the drivers were just downright rude and annoying. I found myself swearing at everyone who came close to me without getting over, even when there was another lane for them to be in. It didn't make sense. But being out there basically by myself again, I didn't have the comfort of other riders around me to make these people aware, so I was basically holding my breath.

I can't tell you how glad I was to finally turn off that busy road and onto the last portion of the bike. But here, it was just as congested, because you had runners coming out and going back, and it was like an obstacle course until the end. So I was glad to be done with the bike and this time my transition wasn't as slow. Off with the helmet and bike shoes, on with the running shoes, take a quick drink, and I was off. Lace locks are the way to go, allowing me to just slip the shoes on without having to tie them. I almost forgot about that nice trick. And here again, was the young woman I passed at the bike turnaround. I was positive it was her, and since I heard her say her name to someone she passed on the bike, and heard her family call out her name, I knew it was her. There was no way she got ahead of me; no one had passed me since the turnaround, yet here she was, heading out on the run. I heard her family say her bike broke but she was going out on the run. So she must have gotten a ride back. Did they not disqualify her and take her chip?? I still don't know.

In any event, it was time to run. Oh man, my feet were so stiff! I must have laced my shoes too tight, because I felt like I was running on stiff cardboard. I tried to wiggle my toes, but my feet were numb, so that could have been the problem. So I started my shuffle out of the park and through this rat maze of yellow tape, directing a path out of the park. It was a little confusing, to be running along and then see yellow tape across a portion of the trail and having to look for the way to go, but eventually I got to the road and was on my way.

I have been training myself to not walk no matter what except at the water stops, and I figured with a distance of only 4.8 miles I could manage to shuffle through the whole thing if I had to. But I can't tell you how happy I was to get to the first water stop so I could stop running, if only briefly, and catch my breath. I gratefully accepted the water, and then the volunteers started pointing to a big sign that said "BEER HERE." It was like an oasis! But I resisted and said I would catch them on the return. Which I did. I can't tell you how much even a shot of beer perks you up on a run! I am not one who ordinarily would order a beer if I was out, and rarely drink it, but it just seems to be a magic elixir when running. I have tried this several times when it was offered in races (not by official volunteers obviously), and it never makes me feel sick, and always perks me up. Way better than gatorade or any other sports drink.

By this time, I could see I was not being challenged by any of the other back of the pack people, but there was no one directly in front of me, and the volunteers were sparse through here. I kept waiting for the hills mentioned in the course description, but can honestly say what might be considered hills by some were not more than a couple of inclines here and there. By the time I hit the next water stop, it was just before 3 miles, and here two women with baby joggers came gliding by, and I never saw them again. And this part of the course was more sunny and winding through neighborhoods, so you saw people on the return portion, but never knew how far you still had to go to get there. Basically, they had two water stops in the race that you hit twice each. The last one then was just before 4 miles. I had been keeping track of my pace and was consistent at least for each mile. The last 8/10 of a mile seemed forever though. No one was out on the course in front of me any more, there was traffic, and the side of the road I should have been running on was all sun, so I went to the jogging path instead, in the shade. I figured no one could possibly have a problem with that.

Back at the park entrance, I thought that was where the finish line would be, but no. Again, a return to the rat maze, down a hill, around a corner, down another hill, and out onto the grass. My legs almost buckled hitting the uneven grass at this point, after coming down a sharply steep hill, and then I could see the finish line and they announced my name, and I could hear some people cheering my name, and I was DONE!

I wasn't last. There were still several people out there. I broke 3 hours, which was my secret goal; and I had a lot of practice in getting back into the triathlon groove.

After the race, we stood around waiting for awards. That's where I finally met up with Cindy who is a fantastic athlete. I think she got first in her age group. The awards were little wooden shoes that got progressively smaller with each descending place in the age group. (Its Holland, remember?) And as usual, there were 4 in my age group, and I was fourth. But I am okay with that. I am happier with the fact that I wasn't last overall, I kept running nearly the whole time, that I felt pretty good afterward, that I had put forth a decent effort, and that I got to participate and mingle with all the great people you meet in triathlons.

And then I remembered, I get to get up and do this all over again tomorrow! Life is good!