I'm leaving Thursday morning EARLY to head to the Big Apple and a visit with daughter #2. She snagged some tickets to the Wheel of Fortune live taping at Radio CityMusic Hall, and I know she has hopes of getting on the show. I don't know what the protocal is, but regardless, I am heading there tomorrow and come what may!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I'm leaving Thursday morning EARLY to head to the Big Apple and a visit with daughter #2. She snagged some tickets to the Wheel of Fortune live taping at Radio CityMusic Hall, and I know she has hopes of getting on the show. I don't know what the protocal is, but regardless, I am heading there tomorrow and come what may!
Monday, September 24, 2007
At my yearly physical yesterday, I was asked a lot of the usual questions about recent health issues, etc. as well as how I was doing after my accident just barely a year ago. I hadn't seen this doctor then, and actually hadn't seen her in a few years, what with one thing or another going on in my life or hers and her not being around. Anyhow, I sort of bemoaned the fact that yes, I was exercising, regularly in fact, and even doing triathlons again, but I just felt like I wasn't making much progress, no matter how hard I tried. And if you've been following along, you know I "whine" about this often. Not that I'm intentionally whining, putting myself down, or looking for attention. I'm just am constantly puzzled by the fact that I work hard at trying to do the best I can, but don't feel I am seeing the results I want. (I have to ask myself: is this the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result??) She said I was too hard on myself. Maybe I am. But its hard to go from one level to the total opposite, working your butt off, and still feel like you are dragging through sand.
That's when she gave me an interesting piece of information. She said that a 25 year old male, in top condition, who was sidelined by an injury, causing him to spend ONE DAY with a catheter, on his back in bed, would take 6 weeks to recover. Six weeks due to loss of fitness and muscle mass! Doing the math, I calculated first I could double the age factor, then I was hospitalized 3 days with a catheter, a chest tube (they had expected 7 days), and 2 full weeks at home, barely mobile, and then spent the next 8-10 weeks recovering, but mostly immobilized. I can't count going to work and maybe going for a 20-30 minute walk every day, and then spending the next I don't know how many months not wanting to do ANYTHING once my work day was over. That roughly calculates to about 45-50 weeks of recovery, and given I figure I was in somewhat good shape a year ago, I will scale it back to 30 weeks. That's 7.5 months. Then add in a couple of months for bad weather and my dad dying earlier this year, and that puts me at 9.5 months. That's the middle of June. Then factor in the sprained ankle in mid July and another 4 weeks downtime, and that puts me at the middle of August. So I guess I'm not doing so badly after all. (Not sure I'm doing this math right; I may be giving myself the benefit of the doubt here!)
I go back and forth on this whole "slow" issue, and Geekgirl pretty much spelled out exactly how I am feeling right now. But I have to add another factor here: I am glad I am still able to do anything, let alone be slow. I saw a belated birthday card that had a turtle on it, and it said: I may be slow, but I was there in thought. In my case, I was there in body too. I said it before-- whenever I do a race, I make 3 choices: one: sign up; two: show up; three: finish. I really don't think there's anything more I can do!
That said, I guess I will ease up on my expectations of myself and just work on getting through this year before I try to take on more next year. While my goals for this year have not all been met--and I can't say I'm totally disappointed there, I figure with what I've done it will make me stronger for next year.
And I really appreciate all the encouragement from everyone. It helps keep me going when the going gets tough.
The fun started Saturday on my drive to the Autumn Colors triathlon to be held on Sunday. The race locale was in Holly, Michigan, which according to the map and Mapquest was east of Flint. Otherwise, I would never have had a clue where this place was.
The weather was incredibly perfect, almost unbelievable, actually. Driving east on any Saturday during football season, you can guess which team (Michigan or State) has a game that day, judging from the cars flying by with their team flags, logos, decals, etc. I already knew Michigan was playing a home game, and am thinking the two schools must coordinate their home and away games so as not to jam up the highway, since they both share the same route, more or less.
I arrived at the hotel we had found, in Fenton, Michigan, a suburb of Flint. It appeared to be a fairly new, built-up area, with all new shops, restaurants, and the one hotel we could find, which, had I not been looking at exactly the right moment, I would have missed. According to the desk clerk, because of ordinances, no overhead signs are allowed. Not too good for off the highway business, I'd say.
Shelley soon arrived, looking tres cute in all her pink girlie stuff! We decided to head to the park where packet pickup was to take place, but soon became confused by the directions I had printed out. So we decided to first get something to eat, since by now I was completely famished, in a definite calorie deficit, as happens whenever I ramp up my run mileage like I had last week. I was getting a dull, aching headache, and eating was a must. We asked directions at the Ya Ya's where we ate, getting nowhere with two of the workers, but then getting directions to a "Seven Lakes State Park" from another. It always amazes me how little people know about the attractions in the area they live or inability to give directions! The park he mentioned didn't sound right, but we were starting to wonder.
We set off in search of the park, through Fenton, on a two-lane, winding main street, with lots of slow traffic, with everyone out and about doing their weekend business it seemed. We finally saw a brown sign, indicating a state park, and sure enough, it was Seven Lakes. Well, what did we know? For all we knew, this was the right place. I mean, what are the odds there would be two state parks within a few miles radius? (Especially in Michigan, with all the complaining we get about the budget crisis, could we citizens actually "afford" this? But then, that's another rant I won't go into.)
There wasn't any sign of the possibility of a race taking place the next day, but again, what did we know? So we pulled up to the guard shack and asked about a race on Sunday? Uh, no. Wrong place. But we did get directions to the Holly park we needed to find.
I was glad we were sorting out these direction issues today. I always hate driving around in the morning and getting stressed about that. The Holly park wasn't too far from the Seven Lakes Park, and I had to acknowledge that the 3 Disciplines Racing company had a way of finding some unique, beautiful locations for races. Holly Recreation Area is very beautiful. And as for autumn colors? Some. Its still been too warm for a lot of color, but the sky was such a beautiful blue against the trees, I considered that color enough.
The road taking us to the swim area should have been a warning of what was to come the next day, but naturally we were too busy taking in everything to really notice. As we descended the hill toward the lake, you could see the sun glittering on the water, and the buoys starting to be put in place. It looked nice!
We got our packets, switched to the triathlon from the duathlon, which we both had registered for, just in case the day proved to be too cold to get in the water. I was still having reservations about switching over, but I had brought my wetsuit, and of course Shelley urged me to switch. Some of the race crew was there so we asked about the water temp: oh, about 68 degrees. (Yeah, right!) And what about the run course? A trail run? Oh, yeah, the road is "hard packed dirt." Okay, that's all right. We had seen some dirt roads in the park, so we let that slide.
After we left the park, I briefly wondered why we hadn't checked out the bike course. I mean, we could have driven it. Better we hadn't. Are you getting a little premonition of things to come here??
We headed back to the hotel, and Shelley wanted to get in a little run, so I just checked football scores and tried to hook up on my computer with the Internet, again with no luck. (I'm starting to really wonder why I bought the thing.)
After she got back and changed, we went out exploring the stores and shops across the street from the hotel. We first went to Big K, since she said there weren't any in her area any more, and there is only one or two in mine, which are not in any area I shop. We didn't have anything in particular to buy, except I wanted to get a jug of water. Stupid me, then, having to carry that thing from store to store! But like Shelley said, you never know when you're going to get thirsty. :)
Eventually, we came to a Bath & Body Works. Yes! That was the place to be. Shelley had a great time there, smelling all the various products, and finally settling on a Cherry Pie bath/shower/shampoo selection. Mmm, that really smelled great! And I finally found my Exotic Coconut shower gel to complete my set from my shopping trip the week before. So I was happy!
We then headed to Applebees for dinner, since our hotel key cards indicated $3 off a $10 purchase. Might as well! The drink specials that night were $2 "mystery beers--bartender's choice." Hmm. I don't like beer well enough to trust someone else's pick, and all I could envision was if the bartender was in a foul mood and spitting in it or wringing his bar rag out in it! I'll pass!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, watched a little TV, caught up on phone calls, and finally settled down and ended up watching that hilariously, stupidly funny movie, Dodgeball. Too funny. It was lights out when that was over, and I was getting very sleepy anyway, but as usually happens, just as I am drifting off to sleep, I hear a "noise" of some sort, and I am wide-awake alert again. So I lay there for a while, half in and out of sleep, before finally drifting off.
The morning came all too soon it seemed. The alarm went off at 6:30 am, but I had already been awake for a little while, not really knowing what time it was. And it was still very dark. We dressed, packed up, and headed down to the breakfast offered by the hotel, and I was very glad to see they offered the boiled egg selection. I am one of those people who NEEDS my protein in the morning, and something I read a few years back indicated people's blood types determined their protein needs. Not sure if that is worth anything, but in my case it holds true.
We then left for the race site, which was about 20 minutes away. Again, it was a slow drive, looking directly into the sun, making it difficult to see. The morning was a little cooler than past days, but by no means cold, but I did notice steam coming off every pond or body of water we passed. That meant the water was warm. We weren't in that much of a hurry, because our race, after all, didn't start until 10 am, but I thought I had read where transition would close by 8:30, so we decided just to leave early.
Once we arrived and started setting up, from the info being given on the different races and transition areas, it became obvious we hadn't needed to be there until at least 9 am! Oh well, just more time to get organized and check things out.
This was a gender specific race, meaning men first, women second, and what was really nice, and made perfect sense, was that women had their own transition area and bike out/in as well. I was determined not to have another transition fiasco like my last race, and had heard them announce 7 bikes only to a rack. Getting there early, I still found my rack full, other than my bike making the 7th, but as I told Shelley, that meant 10 would squeeze in.
And sure enough, once I came back later to get my wetsuit and actually get set up, 3 more people had jammed onto the rack, despite 3 other racks being nearly empty. So I just picked up all my stuff and moved it to an empty rack. Much better!
Getting to the race finally:
Swim: 1000 meters. It looked short, and the water wasn't too cold. The sun was actually starting to get hot, so standing in the water was refreshing. And while it looked short, it still seemed like an endless pool swim. I didn't really have any problems, either with jam ups or sighting, but it seemed long. Based on my time, it was just an okay swim. Nothing more.
T1: Went well. Seemed fast enough for me, as I always tend to lollygag here.
Bike: 18 miles, although I think it was somewhat (blessedly) short. Knowing there was a steep uphill on the way out of transition, I had kept my chainring in the middle ring to make it easier to climb. But still, I was really surprised at the difficulty here! It was a short but surprisingly steep climb, and I felt myself barely moving almost immediately. You had to have a burst of speed to get up this thing, which I didn't have. And I was still out of breath from the swim and transition, so I was working hard. Get to the top, and down we went, a steep descent, down and winding around and then practically needing a stop to make another sharp turn, and then up again. OMG! This is horrible was all I could think. It was down sharply, up sharply, winding around, and on and on it went. The course was hell! It wasn't so much that it was up and then down and then up and then down, or slowing down for sharp downhill curves, it was a combination of all three! I never seemed to have my gearing right most of the race: either I had no gears on because of the uphills, or too many on because of the downhills, and the fact that the ups blended in with the downs, with nothing in between, you had to be quick on shifting and pedalling to keep up.
This was a 3 loop course, and eventually I saw Shelley going by in the opposite direction, although I didn't know how many loops she was into. I was so mind boggled by the whole thing by then I figured she was probably on her last loop, when in fact she was only on the second part of her first loop. And then there was the long, steep uphill toward the end of the first loop. No way was I prepared for this and ended up walking towards the end, near the top, to avoid toppling over. It wasn't until the last loop I finally got it right and grinded my way fully to the top, at a smoking 4.8 mph. At the beginning of the last loop, I counted 8 people behind me. When I finished, there were only 4. I heard one was picked up on the course, but that left 3 others unaccounted for. I'm sure they cut the course or quit. (Not saying I blame them though!)
I was so glad to be done with that bike! I think I was actually snarling at the volunteers as I passed them into transition! I was not happy! No idea on bike time, and I'm not sure I want to check, or see how slow I was. One of these days, I'll check.
T2: Fast enough. I just wanted to stay ahead of the last 3 or 4 people behind me, which I did.
Run: OMG. No words to describe other than another hellish experience. As I was leaving transition, I heard the announcer saying "still waiting for our first triathlete to finish. Just goes to show you the difficulty of the course." I still had no clue at this point exactly what this meant, but I started doing the math, and realized that even though the men had started an hour before the women, no one had finished yet!
Getting back to the run, we again had to climb that hill out of transition. I had decided to walk up that just to get my legs working and to avoid having a heart attack. Once I got to the top, it was quickly down, so that was going okay. Felt good! Where to next? Into the woods. Okay, that looks nice and cool.
But wait! This trail wasn't a groomed trail. In fact, what the hell was this?? This was just a path carved out of the woods, so I was soon stumbling over rocks, sticks, and roots, and it was so dark I had a hard time seeing initially. But I had to keep moving. There were other people behind me! Soon, that no longer was a concern. Just finding my way and not breaking an ankle became more of a concern. I started having serious doubts I was on the right path. I mean, no way was this "hard packed dirt." There was, however, a nice, hard packed dirt road right next to this mess they called a trail. Am I supposed to be on that?? Even if I was, I couldn't see any easy way to get on to it. If it weren't for the orange or green markings on the roots and rocks, I would have figured I was lost.
You had to be watching your step the entire time. And then there were the steep climbs up and the sharp descents down, just like on the bike. Why hadn't that occurred to me before? I kept hearing twigs breaking behind me, but never could see anyone behind. Probably a bear or something! (LOL!) I got hit by some acorns falling from a tree, and twice stumbled forward nearly ending up on my face. And this was before the first mile!
I finally saw some arrows point left. Left meaning where? No path to the left. Oh, left, meaning up that hill and then finally out to the road. Yipee! Hard packed dirt. But again here, it was another hill up to the first water stop. I had smartly brought a water bottle, but decided to take advantage of whatever they offered. I had a feeling I was in for a long adventure.
Now where, up the hill? Back into the woods? Oh shit! I don't want to do this anymore. Come get me! Okay, quit whining, I told myself. I think someone is actually coming behind you. Get going! So I did, on to the first mile marker and then back into the woods again, another stumbling, bumbling adventure. I don't know whether this was considered X-terra, but I'm calling it that. I'm not even sure it would qualify for a mountain biking trail, it was so rugged. At this point, the footing became treacherous, and I was getting more and more concerned about hurting myself, so I went down to a fast walk, not much slower than I was doing anyway. My feet were beginning to hurt a lot too from all the twisting and turning and stepping on sharp rocks.
Since I had started walking, at this point, a woman behind me caught up with me. She was 26 and said this was her second "tri." Poor girl. What a way to get into the sport! The "path" was not even more than a one-foot-in-front-of-the other rut in the dirt, so even while we started walking together, we had to walk single file. There was no passing unless you were actually going to run! She was really struggling, both mentally and physically. She wanted to quit, but as I pointed out to her, "where do you think you're going?" It was forward or back, nothing more. I decided after a while, it was best to stay with her, and a perfect excuse for me to continue to walk. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done much running anyway at that point!
We continued on and on and on. We exchanged info and then started making jokes about wondering if anyone would come looking for us when it got dark, wondering if they would find our bodies, etc.! We had to lighten the moment.
I just went mile by mile in my mind. She kept wanting to know how far we had to go yet. ("Are we there yet?") She did say there were a couple of women behind her, so we figured we weren't last yet. And surprisingly, at about 4 miles, another woman came trotting up behind us! We never did figure that out, because Janine (the woman I was with) said it wasn't one of the same ones she saw. She might have been a relay person. That could explain why it was someone different, and she only had running clothes on and looked pretty fresh. More power to you lady!
Like I said, I cannot describe to you the ruggedness of this "run." I know I have never done anything this difficult before, and the trail never ended! It seemed like we were in there for hours, and even when we finally came out to the road, the mile marker had to be a lie. No way was it 5 miles there based on how much farther it was to the end. I had already talked her into running when we hit solid ground, and it actually felt good to do so. But then it was another steep hill and neither of us were up for that anymore. We walked that, and going on the markers then figured it was another half mile to finish. Didn't happen. On and on we still went, and we were both getting discouraged and more than a little fed up at this point. We finally made it to the top of the last hill and a volunteer said it was another 5 minutes--walking. Well, its downhill, so we're not walking. Let's cut that down to 3 minutes or less!
So we set out on the glorious downhill, on pavement. It really did feel good! We made a pact then that we were crossing the finish line together! No last places! But then we hit grass again and were at our wits end to get this thing done. How did some of those people finish that fast?? I had seen women already out of the woods on the last leg of the run when I was heading in, and they weren't that far ahead on the bike.
Naturally, by the time we were finishing, all but the timing clocks had been removed, and they were onto the awards. Surprisingly, I had received a 2nd place in age group award and hadn't even finished yet! That has to be a first! Janine also got first in her Athena division, and we both rightly felt entitled to our awards. Oh, and if you haven't figured it out yet? This is labeled as the "hardest sprint race in Michigan." No wonder!
Shelley got third in her age group and was 8th overall. Great job! Both of us decided we didn't have to do this race again either!
Friday, September 21, 2007
Well, this is the race I'm doing this weekend with Shelley. The weather looks to be ideal!
I didn't think about this race much, until I read through the course info. Then I started getting a little apprehensive. It sounds like the run will be tough. I don't figure the bike course will be any harder than the Reeds Lake race, but the run? Hmm. Not sure yet.
And I am a little confused about something. First they say it will be a "gender specific" race, and then they say they will start "both races" at 9 am, so I think that means the men's swim and the duathlon, but don't know for sure! If that's the case, I may stick with the duathlon, which is what I signed up for in the first place. (I figured if it was as cold on race day as it was the day I registered, no way would I want to get in the water!)
Actually, I guess if they say its a gender specific race, the men's tri/du starts at 9, and the women's starts at 10. Either way, I am sure to be the last person to finish.
After the race, they will have a barbeque. Shelley, save me some food!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
OH WHERE OH WHERE HAS MY POLAR TUNA GONE?
I like tuna fish and have been eating it probably most of my life. Its a cheap source of protein--and yes, I know, I've heard everything there is about the mercury levels, etc. I'll worry about that when and if anything happens. Compared to fast food options, I think I might be ahead on this one.
A few years ago, I discovered Polar tuna and haven't been able to (happily) eat any brand since. Our local Meijer stores recently stopped carrying this brand. I was quite unhappy when over the past month, shopping in 4 different stores, I discovered the absence of one of my daily staples.
Since I like to write letters, writing frequently to the Public Pulse, Congressmen, Senators, etc. I quickly sent off an e-mail letter to Meijer asking why their shelves were empty. After a couple of days, I finally got a reply. Their response? "It didn't sell well." Hmm, when you raise the price 20 cents in two years' time, stack it up against your store brand, and never offer it on sale, is that a surprise? My reply included this information, as well as the comment that Meijer has the WORST tasting tuna I have ever eaten, coming in worse even behind a couple of big major brands.
So then I had to go one step further and write to Polar asking for another source in my area to buy their product. So far, no response. But maybe if I get lucky, they'll just deliver a whole case to me, and I'll have a lifetime supply!
Monday, September 17, 2007
My post was going to be about my recovery run, er walk, but I was interrupted by my neighbor knocking on the door.
I hadn't seen her since late last spring, just before they put their pool in, and quite truthfully, while I was concerned about the noise having the pool would mean for me, I haven't been bothered at all. At all. in fact, I was beginning to wonder why they never used it.
The reason for her visit was to inquire about a sign on the back of the garage, which we had put up, asking that they not throw any more trash over their fence and behind the garage, something I was surprised to see because, as I said, we have not been bothered at all by any noise.
I just said we were concerned about the amount of trash we were finding and wanted it to stop. She was concerned about not being a good neighbor.
But then, some of the things she said started to tell me began to disturb me. She recounted several tales about the neighbor between us, and then things started adding up. She is a business owner in the neighborhood and has strived always to be a good neighbor to everyone. And, based on my conversations with her, I felt she was sincere. She's had her share of troubles, to be sure, but I never got the impression she wasn't telling me the truth about things. And the things I heard about the next door neighbors sent chills down my back and confirmed my suspicions.
First, she recounted all the things she knew factually about the guy: bad credit; bad business deals; taking his trash to dumpsters in the area (I saw him do this!), cutting trees down that bordered their yards; etc. My own experience with them was two scratched cars--over $1000 damage each time!; putting a token fence up next to my driveway, on MY property, to prevent anyone from driving on a tire's width of grass that he was claiming for his own, which, in fact was not his; breaking into my garage; breaking into the neighbor's house (they never lock it); putting notes on our cars saying we couldn't park next to his house(?); etc. I could go on and on. Since the car scratching incident and breaking into the garage, I have always suspected them, and in fact reported it to police. I am hoping at some point the police put 2 and 2 together and figure out that two break-ins on either side of him; two vandalisms to cars either in front of his house or in my driveway; all the spottings of him dumping his trash either in other people's yards or in dumpsters in the areas; and generally him/them just being psychotic idiots will help them solve the petty crimes in the area. I have seen the two of them chasing each other through the house in the night yelling, cursing, and who knows what else at each other, and then...quiet. We have heard them at 3 in the morning partying it up, and then screaming and carrying on at each other. Its been scary at times. I live in an upper middle class neighborhood; there is no excuse for this, regardless of where one lives. He has been the instigator in school sit-ins over what he felt was unfair treatment to Native Americans (he is Native American). She has totally stopped talking to neighbors, and has looked away in anger at me when I have seen her at the grocery store or in the neighborhood. I have not spoken to her in over 3 years. So what gives? Is it him? Or is it her? I don't know, but I don't trust or like either of them for all these reasons and more. I avoid them like the plague. But I am also concerned about the ramifications of his bizzare behavior. Whenever I go anwhere now, if no one is expected to be home for any length of time, I have someone check on the place. I don't even feel comfortable being gone overnight anymore. I know he/they know.
So, to get on to the first part of my post:
Tonight was supposed to be a recovery run from yesterday. But for me, if I don't run by 10 am, it likely won't happen. I thought about biking, but then Don called and said he would meet me on Tuesday night to bike, so I cancelled that thought.
Instead, I went to Millenium Park--no, not in Chicago, but here in Grand Rapids. I really had good intentions to run, but like I said....It was eerily empty, only about a half dozen cars in the lots. Its a beautiful park out in the middle of nowhere basically, but yet just minutes from downtown where I work. It was quiet, and I decided, after an initial 10 minutes of bad running, to take the advice of one of my running idols Gayle Barron -- if you don't have a good run after 7 minutes, quit. Me? I'm WAY slower than she ever was, so I always say after 10 minutes. My quads were killing me after all the hill runs yesterday, and it was a nice, peaceful night on the trails, so I decided to walk. Then I started thinking back to the early years of running and all the books I read, books by--and forgive me, I cannot think of this woman's name! doctor who ran with Sheehan and all the other early runners, recounting all her runs in Central Park, etc. I'm sure some of you remember this???
Anyway, I walked and enjoyed the late summer night, realizing how close we were to the end of summer, my favorite season, and moving into fall and then dare I say it the fall months, leading into yet my other hated season--winter! I wanted to enjoy the late summer's warmth; the cloudy, overcast night; the windiness the quiet. Then I come home and...THIS!
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
It was dark when I headed for the track this morning. I had been awake off and on since 3:30 anyway, so I figured I would just get up. (Note: going to bed at 9 pm does NOT add up to more sleep, just waking up that much earlier!) And no, I didn't head there at 4 am, but I was there by shortly after 6.
This track and I have a long history, going back 18 years ago, in my second season of running, in my attempt to run with the "big dogs" (per Suzanne) (my definition of big dogs: anyone who runs way faster than me). It was on this track way back then where--so I could run with the big dogs--I spent countless hours, running countless laps, in the never ending attempt at trying to reach that elusive 8 minute pace, eventually reaching even sub 8, or so I thought. That is until my bubble was burst and I was informed that this track is a 1/5 mile track, that's 5 laps to the mile, not the 4 I had been running. So back to the drawing board.
And then this track is where my best running buddy at the time and I pounded out quarter mile repeats--after having guesstimated where the 1/4 mile mark was--and smugly reported our ever lowering times to local big dog runner, Greg Meyer, Boston Marathon winner, at a running clinic he put on just for our office team. "Anyone can do quarter mile repeats," he scoffed, deflating our egos. "You need to be doing mile repeats, or at least 800s." So we did. But we took our 800s to the "big dog" track, the quarter miler, until forced off by football season. Even then, we forgot about our trusty friend, and ran around the block instead.
Today, trudging around the track, as the dark still enveloped me, my feet knew what to do. They knew all the bumps, wet spots from the sprinklers, turns, and straight-aways. We go back a long way. They kept moving, through 3+ miles, somewhere around 30 minutes, keeping track of how close to me the young woman who showed up at the same time as I was getting, and who faded after a mile. They kept going as the sun started showing its face in the eastern sky, now turning all pink. This is the same track across the street from the hospital where a year ago I lay broken; where 5 years ago my dad recovered from a stroke, and where numerous times in the past 5 years he had gone for treatment of one ailment or another; where my mom had died 6 years ago; and where many, many years ago I was born. I might not be as fast any more, and my purpose may be different, but old friends understand and love you anyway. Me and the track? A constant.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Perhaps you lost a loved one, friend, or co-worker that day. The best tribute you can pay to these people is to make sure you elect only those who promise to uphold our Constitution and vow to protect our country, your freedom, and your rights.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Like a lot of you, yesterday I spent checking results of IMMoo, staying up far too late, but actually seeing the people I wanted to see cross the finish line. Then it was hard to sleep, so I intentionally slept in a little this morning. I didn't really know what to do about a workout: walk or run? I felt I was rested enough from Saturday's race, but getting started so late I figured I would just walk around the river and back and try to run after work. For me, it is a no brainer: I do not like working out after work. I am much more likely to do something in the morning, but still, it was already 7:30 when I got started. Just a quick walk and see what happens after work. So I can still get to work on time (almost).
But my feet had a mind of their own. I waited for a traffic light and caught it just as it turned to "Don't Walk" so trotted across the street--and just kept going.
I was surprised at how light and "quick" my legs felt, all things considered. Okay, just 20 minutes I thought. Then my mind took over and I started thinking, okay, I have a half marathon at the end of October, but also another triathlon on the 23rd--which may end up being a duathlon, depending on the weather, and maybe a surprise race later. I need to be running, I need to be building my run up again. So, just run!
But then my practical, logical side took over and I started thinking that if I wanted to really build up safely I needed to use the reliable run/walk method to do so. So I decided: run 8 minutes, walk 2. It worked well, and after 40 minutes I could have continued, easily, but alas, I was already late for for, so I had to stop. Can't wait to get back out there again!
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Yes, I've finally acknowledged it. Another year gone by. And what have I accomplished? What have I contributed? I'm not really going to go into all that. I'm not going to go into introspective reflection on what I did or didn't do this past year. I survived. That's about all I will say. That, in and of itself, is quite enough!
It has been spectacularly wonderful weather this weekend. I can't remember too many years when the weather wasn't absolutely perfect at this time of year--cool nights and mornings; low humidity; hot sunny days; blue and cloudless skies. We have so few days like this every year, and I am thankful my birthday falls into some of the best weather we have all year. Its the time of the year when I am glad I started running so many birthdays ago, to enjoy the blue skies, the warm air, the sun. And glad too that I started doing triathlons, so I could bike through the crisp days and changing colors, beneath the cloudless skies and blazing sun.
I sometimes think your real year starts on your birthday, going forward from there, rather than at the beginning of the year. After all, this is the day its all about you and your time on this earth, and what you are doing, will be doing, hope to be doing, etc. in the next year, more so than on January 1. In reality, you are only 1 day older when your birthday falls, but you are growing--older and hopefully wiser--every day during that year. You have another whole year, hopefully, to fulfill your goals and dreams or move closer to them.
Anyway, I'm going to stop thinking and just continue living. Here's to me, hoping this next year will be better than the last.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
I finished. I did it. I'm glad its over.
When I went to pick up my packet yesterday, I got my number: 1449. It didn't occur to me until later that there were 1500 participants, 300 more than they planned: the original maximum was supposed to be 1200.
1500! OMG! That is a lot of people to cram into the same space they use when they limited the race to 500. And that was only a few years ago! I was in the 9th heat, all heats having 150-200 each. Mine was only women, so I was happy about that.
This race is held within running distance of where I live, about 4 miles away, so it has become an almost annual event for me. This was the first outside triathlon I did in 1997. I wish I could find the results from that, but they are packed away somewhere and nothing available on line. I just can't remember. I have pretty much done this about every other year since, so this year was my 6th attempt. 2003 was a DNF, my only one. And last year, while I was signed up, I was on the injured list, having had the bike accident on the same bike course the week before the race.
So I had a lot of misgivings about doing this race. First was the increased numbers. Next was just not feeling ready (do we ever?). Third was not measuring up or being able to beat my time from 2 years ago. And last, of course, was the bike course.
I just decided to do the race at the last minute and hope for the best. I really had no idea how I would compare with my 2005 time. I woke up early, having gone to bed early as well, but decided to head over to transition early too. With 1500 people, I wanted to stake out my territory early. So I arrived at transition just after 5:30 and immediately ran into a couple of other friends, Julie and Lecia.
We all picked spots on the almost completely empty bike racks fairly close to each other, so it would be easy to keep track of each other as well. Lecia was actually in an earlier heat than Julie and I, so I didn't figure I would see her again once she went to swim until after the race. I like an inside end spot, meaning by the fence; Lecia likes the outside end spot, by the aisleway.
Since it was so early, I decided to head back to my car to stay warm. I think the temp was about 61, but the longer I was out there, the chillier I got. I didn't want to put on my long sleeved shirt after I got body marked because it was white. Not smart. Once I got back to my car, I was fidgety though and had to use the bathroom, so I hiked back to transition. It was still dark, and sunrise was supposed to be after 7 am, just before the race was to start actually. More people had filled our bike rack by now, but there were still a lot of people not there, and it was after 6:30 am. What I figured would happen in transition pretty much did: lots of late comers with no place to go.
That pretty much sums up the woman who showed up at 7:15 and crammed her bike onto our rack, right next to mine. I was glad I was standing there because I told (not asked) her to turn her bike around because her handlebars were all caught up in mine and the person's on the other side of her. Then she proceeded to plop all her stuff right behind my bike wheel. Um, hello? Do you think you're staying there? No. Again, I told rather than asked her to move her stuff to the side, next to the fence if necessary. She was going to be a pain right up to the end, I could tell. Oh she was full of excuses why she got there so late, and then "spent 20 minutes looking for a rack," but I'm telling you, when I get up at 4:30 and am here by 5:30, I really don't want to hear it!
Time to get out of transition, because the guys from the first heat were already out of the water!
Swim: I have panicked on this swim almost every time, but this year, no panic. Lots of chaos though! This swim is usually the worst of any race I have ever done. Its crowded and full of a lot of people who don't really know how to swim, so you get the floaters, the side strokers, and lots of breast strokers, so you are always dodging feet. And to make matters worse, the sun comes up right over the lake, just before we swim, so of course it is still low and blinds you for the first part of the swim. Its so bad, you just have to hope you can figure out where to go. The buoys they used this year were the small ones, so I never could see those and had to rely on the line of kyaks along the course. At one point, I actually swam under the swim buoy rope without realizing, and had to duck back under to keep on course. I'm still not sure if I swam more or less than I should have, but I didn't get disqualified, so no problem I guess (or no one was looking!). Time: 19:43, which included getting out of the water (19:15) and running up the boat ramp and across the mats. Not a stellar 1/2 mile swim time for me, but with the sun and all the flailing going on, I am okay with that.
T1: And now, this is where things get dicey with the bike rack thing. The woman who squeezed in at the last minute was out of the water just ahead of me naturally, so she got to her bike ahead of me by seconds. She had one of those plastic crates crammed with her stuff which she then proceeded to dump out on the ground in front of my bike, just like before, leaving me nowhere to go to get at my stuff! I was pissed and couldn't even get my shoes on until she took off. She also got her bike jammed into the person's bike next to her, but thankfully not mine! So a slow T1: 5:07.
Bike: They changed the bike course last year, and I had heard mixed reviews about it, but overall, I liked it much better. The way it used to be bikers and runners crossed paths throughout the bike, where now you only had it for the first 2 miles, much safer and more sensible, and a few of the worst hills now were downhills. Still, you did have to be careful on those and brake to be safe.
What I don't like about this course, and liked even less this year, is the fact that the major portion of the course is on a state highway and THEY DON'T CLOSE THE ROAD! So not only do you have constant traffic, you have heavy truck traffic. And something that never ceases to amaze me is the fact that there are two traffic lanes in each direction, but do you think EVERYONE goes in the farthest lane? Nooooo! They ride right next to you when they could easily get over in the other lane! That's exactly how I got hit! Fortunately, most of this road has a designated bike path, but just as certain, there is always lots of glass and debris on it, so you are forced lots of time to go into the roadway to avoid getting a flat. If you wanted to pass anyone, the same would be true. I had decided early on that I was taking it easy on this course, since I knew I would be nervous, and wouldn't even attempt to pass anyone if I had to go in the road. So of course, I pretty much brought up the tail of the bike course. I wasn't last, but darn close!
This first part of the busy road stretch is mostly flat or downhill, but that means the return is mostly uphill, including one long, one-mile climb. Not rolling, just steadily up. I just managed to maintain, never going below 8 mph, so that seemed like an improvement over other times.
I was SO glad to be done with the bike course. I didn't care what my time was, I just wanted to be off that road. Time: 1:08:27. Again, not a stellar time, but better than some years. I am amazed that so many people--the majority in fact--can do this in under an hour. That's 17.9 miles of hills under an hour, and lots under 50 minutes! In fact, the first two guys out of the water were DONE with the bike before I even went out and were at the 2 mile mark of the run before I even rode by them!
T2: Another distaster story. Not only did stupid woman put her bike in my spot on the rack, but my running shoes had totally disappeared! I was livid about this and jammed her bike over and put mine there instead. So rude and oblivious! I wish I had seen her later to tell her off again. So I'm looking for my shoes, and luckily I noticed one of them sticking partially out from under the transition fence so figured the other one was under it. Sure enough. But I had to get down on my hands and knees and pull it back under the fence! I don't know how my time managed to be less than 3 minutes, but it was.
Run: Yeah. First I got to dodge all the people in transition who were already done and chatting and lollygagging in the way and then started to realize I might be one of the last people out there. 4.9 miles was starting to seem a little overwhelming then, especially since I really had to go to the bathroom BAD! But I continued on. I didn't see any quick way to the porta-johns so decided to take my chances. They had cones or no parking signs placed all along the run course, so in the first mile and a half, due to the bathroom issue, I was forced into walking and running, so I decided to rely on my old pattern: run 10 cones/signs, walk one. That went well until the second mile when we hit the steep downhill, so I just continued on without stopping obviously until I got to the next uphill, which I decided I would walk. There, I could see I was closing in on a couple of guys! still out there. I didn't feel so bad after all! And I knew there had to be other women behind me, but still no sign of them or how close. Did they drop out? Will I end up being last after all?? So I continued on with the run/walk thing but actually stretched the run to the aid stations, and walk a cone or two after, and start again, other than on the hills. The last part of the run course, which I know like the back of my hand and which I could probably run blindfolded I have run on it so many times, has a steep but short uphill and then it is flat or slightly down to the finish. The hill was at 4 miles, and I was still feeling okay, had passed 3 guys, but knew I might not make my time from 2 years ago. I only had 7 minutes left to do that (I thought) and it was still .9 of a mile to go.
I tried though, I really did! I didn't stop, I picked it up a little, and kept on to the end. Close to the end, a bunch of people I knew or who had already finished, were standing cheering me on, so I definitely had to pick it up a little there. Time: 58:12. Definitely slower than 2 years ago, and definitely something I am going to be working on!
Total time: 2:34:27. Two years ago: 2:31:24. But I will say this: they did not have any swim to bike transition in the times 2 years ago, so I am going to assume I was pretty close.
The winning time in my age group: 1:46! That's 48 minutes faster than me, more than 2 minutes per mile faster, and incredibly fast if you ask me! I need to stop torturing myself doing the math! And the other phenomenal thing this year? 16 women in my age group, compared with 4 two years ago! And I only recognized 3 other women in the AG. Who are these women?? And how are they so fast??
All in all, I'm pleased with the turn of events. I do wish I was faster, but I have to train to get faster, so I guess I can't complain that much! Will I do this one again? I said no all during the swim and bike, so I guess I'll have to find another race on my birthday weekend to do next year if I want to keep up the tradition!
Post script: Now that I've had a little more time to reflect on my performance, here are my thoughts:
Swim: I could only do better if I was faster and didn't have the navigational problems I had today. I'm not disappointed, based on my training and the chaos we had. One minute faster than 2 years ago too.
Bike: I am amazed at those who can do this course in under an hour. Even the women in my age group and older men. I was thinking I was 6 minutes faster than 2 years ago, but then I realized that the lack of swim-to-bike transition meant the transition was added to the bike time. Its likely though that I was at least a couple of minutes faster. Still, that meant my time today was slower by 3 minutes than 2 years ago. Sigh.
What I am confused about is having ridden through the area today for the first time (since I was hit) where I was hit, I can't see how I didn't get more road rash than I did. I actually had very little. I had a lot of broken bones and bruising and a concussion, but then I guess when you get hit by someone driving 50 mph, and hit their windshield first, you get thrown quite a distance. So apparently I might have landed on grass? I have always wondered exactly how it happened, but since my memory is blessedly blocked from the moment of impact, its probably better I don't have that in my mind's eye. Its bad enough I had been having flashbacks for a couple of weeks, but fortunately they always stop at impact.
Run: More work needed, that's about all I can say. I realize with my sprained ankle earlier this summer that that likely contributed to a slower time by 2 minutes than 2 years ago, but since I was a runner before a triathlete, I have standards I feel I should be able to meet, so its not acceptable to me that it took 58 minutes to "run" 4.9 miles. Was the course long? Maybe. Even so, I know I need to and can run better if I want to improve my fitness level and my times for tris.
And finally, we did get some great technical tees! The bad thing about that was there is a competing law firm's name on the front, as the main sponsor as they should be, so its kind of a slap in my firm's face. But then, they could get involved. I'm just saying.
I was always a better runner than I have ever been a triathlete. I don't know if I will ever get good enough to be competitive in my age group in a race like this no matter how much I train. WhatI do hope though is that knowing I really have had to rebuild my endurance, which is much better than my speed, over the past 9 months and deal with several other life issues, I am not totally discouraged at my progress. Do I think I could have done better today if not for the accident? Yes. Most definitely. But then I have to ask myself what was the reason for the accident? Do I even know yet?
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Its official. I've finally registered for a race being held this Saturday. Nothing like waiting until the last minute!
It was while training for this race last year that I was hit by the car, so it has been a hard decision to come by to enter. But after reading GeekGirl's post about her finish at IM Louisville, and her feelings about not worrying about where you place or what your time is, I finally went ahead and hit the submit button.
Its not that this is a long event; its actually just a little bit longer than a sprint. Its not that I haven't been training for this, at least in the back of my mind. Its just that this is the only race I have ever dropped out of; its the only race I have ever panicked on the swim; and its one of the races I have done more times than any other and all but once placed last in the age group, and the only year I actually placed was when the other competition apparently didn't show up.
I think what has held me back is needing to face my demons of the accident and my slow placement. My friend from work, Jan, also has entered my age group, and I expect her to take top 5, way faster than me. After thinking through it sensibly, I realize there will likely be up to 1199 other athletes doing this race; that there is likely to be at least 7 women in my age group; that it is unlikely I have a chance to place in the top 5 of my AG, which would mean an award; that my time likely will be slower than 2 years ago; that its likely it will be difficult mentally for me to ride the course and through the area where I was hit, not having gone through that way since, BUT, I am going to do this and take what comes.
Monday, September 03, 2007
That's what I asked when I found this triathlon on the Internet a few weeks ago. Was it on the east side of the state? Near the Thumb Area? Near Detroit? Or was it on the west side of the state, on the way to Chicago? No. Wrong on all counts. I had to do a Mapquest search to figure out where it was: 6 hours north, across the Mackinac Bridge, into the Upper Peninsula. Okay then. Well, it will be a nice long weekend, and hopefully a downtime weekend, after Ironman Kentucky. I thought it would be a nice respite after all that heavy training and race for Don. Of course, we both signed up for this before his ill-fated race, but he still agreed to go and see how he would do.
Grand Marais, I found out, is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on a Lake Superior bay. To get there, we went by Mapquest directions, which I should know better by now sometimes lead you off the beaten path or worse yet on a wild goose chase. We had both as it turned out.
After driving the nearly 4 hours to the Bridge, Don made a miscalculation on directions, and we ended up driving nearly 100 miles out of our way--50 each way. By the time he discovered his mistake and we turned around, our now 6 hour trip was turning into more like 7 or more! And we drove at least 2.5 hours through wilderness, and 35 miles down dirt roads that would rattle your teeth out if they were loose. Its not somewhere you are going to just drive past on your way through the UP to somewhere else. Without a map, I doubt you would find it, and if you took the local's "shortcuts," you would wonder how the place even existed.
But it is one of the most charming places I have ever visited! I loved it
Anyway, we started making the trip back in the right direction. Those 100 miles were 100 miles of seeing almost nothing along the highway--a few small wood framed or ranch style houses; a closed up gas station here and there; maybe a tavern; an old mobile home or two, but not much else. When we finally got to Newberry, we had reentered civilization, finding a McDonald's and a Pizza Hut to choose for lunch. We chose Pizza Hut and, if you can believe this, ran into someone I work with! Talk about a small world?
While eating our lunch, we discussed the route we would need to take to continue to Grand Marais, and the fact that we wanted to visit Tequamenon Falls, so going through Newberry wasn't all bad, since that was where we needed to turn off to the Falls. Don went so far as to ask an employee at Pizza Hut about how to get to Grand Marais from the Falls, since the Falls were still 35 miles from the highway. The guy gave him directions, a "shortcut" that would eliminate our coming "all the way back" to the highway. More on that later.
We went to the Falls and found it not terribly crowded. Its a beautiful wilderness area, but to be honest, after visiting the different waterfalls in Yellowstone and Glacier Parks, I found them a little less exciting. What was interesting though was the hundreds of steps you needed to go down and climb up to see the falls: 94 at the Upper Falls; 116 at the Lower.
I was happy to see that all that stair climbing did not affect me too much, other than to get my heart pumping a little harder. Don, on the other hand, is still suffering the effects of the cancer drug and found himself huffing and puffing less than halfway up. :( But he was a good sport and went along anyway.
When we decided to leave, then the real adventure began. We followed the directions we were given to take the "shortcut" to Grand Marais. As I mentioned before, that shortcut entailed driving 35 miles on unpaved roads. Its a snowmobiler's mecca up there that's for sure! There are hundreds of miles of unpaved roads, and we were "lucky" enough to have found several. And as I mentioned, to save us maybe an extra 10 miles--10 miles on paved roads--we took the shortcut recommended by the local.
Again, talk about wilderness!! Nothing but forest and a dirt road to look at for the 35 miles--which took more than an hour to travel and it was getting late in the afternoon.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at yet another dirt road, but the sign at least pointed to Grand Marais. We found out later there is an intricate trail system on unpaved roads all through the UP with numbered routes, so if you are going one place, you follow those numbers. But we didn't really figure that out until much later either.
We arrived at our destination after 6pm and hoped our hotel room hadn't been given away. I had confirmed the day before, but never said we would be that late. The hotel was way up on a hill, down yet another dirt road, and at a deadend. It was a small mom and pop motel, but very reasonably priced, clean, and quite large. And the motel boasted a "view of Grand Marais Bay from each room." This is the view from our room.
Grand Marais is one of those quaint UP towns, a former logging town, but now basically home to maybe several hundred locals and tourists throughout the year.
We headed down to the beach area, so Don could check out the water temp. We ran into a couple of people doing the same thing: a 75 year old gentleman and his wife, and a younger guy quite concerned about the need for a wetsuit. The younger guy mentioned the fact that last year the water temp was only 51 degrees! I was starting to get a little concerned myself then hearing that. But Don said the water felt fine when he went for a short swim, so I was going to rely on that. Still, I figured I would wear a wetsuit. The older gentleman and his wife were quite charming and had a lot of history in doing triathlons and 5ks--between them in 23 years they had done over 1100 events! And did he ever have a kewl bike!
Here is another picture of Grand Marais Bay.
That night, we went to the local brew pub for dinner, Lake Superior Brewing Company. We were told by many it was the best place in town to eat and find a good microbrew. They were right! The place was crowded, and we had to wait quite a while for a table, but it was worth it. I had a whitefish sandwich and Don had a burger, both reasonably priced, and I tried a pale ale, while he went for a wheat. Both very good.
The next morning, we could sleep in! The race didn't start until 1:30! But still, we woke up early, and were out and about by 8 am. We went to another local eatery for breakfast, a saloon by night, a restaurant by day. One thing I couldn't help but notice is when you are in the UP, there is no shortage of places to sit and drink or buy liquor! The gas stations, markets, and every restaurant all sell alcohol, and not just beer. All have a fine selection of whiskey, vodka, rum, etc. I suppose when you are snowed in all winter it becomes a favorite passtime!
After breakfast, we headed over to the beach again, since Don had spied a few others checking out the water. Everyone said it was cold but "not too bad." I didn't even want to venture a guess what that might mean. Then they started talking about the bike course, wondering if we had checked it out. No? Well you head out of town and "up to the falls and back." These are different falls than what we saw on Saturday, but the word that caught my ear was the "up." "Oh yeah, its all uphill on the way out, but you get a nice downhill on the way back. The key is to hammer on the way up." Yeah, hammer. That's what I always do.
Of course, we had to check this out, so off we went on another adventure. We still had a few hours until race time, so why not? Another "problem" for the day was the wind. The wind was blowing between 20 and 25 mph, and of course we had to ride into the wind on the way out.
Notice the flag.
As promised, the first part of the bike course was up. Lots of up in the UP, are you noticing the coincidence of those letters?? I was dying seeing this, and Don was just chuckling. The only problem was, we couldn't find the turnaround, but we did find other things to see:
This was at the "Log Slide" a 500 foot drop into Lake Superior, previously used for dropping the lumber into the water to take to the barges. I wasn't about to get near the edge, but you can see Don was more brave than me. There was also a man with a small child in a backpack and his wife with a baby in a front pack that had climbed all or part of the way down. She struggled coming up, and it took her husband quite a while with that load to get back up.
Notice the caution sign posted, warning of the difficulty of the climb, and warning of the delay in being rescued.
Then we went down another path and saw this overlook, which reemphasizes the drop to the lake.
Notice the beach and the long climb back up the hill to our bikes. There was a set of stairs, about 40 of those, to make it "easier."
I would love to go back to this place, especially now that we found actual paved roads leading right to it! Boo for Mapquest! And I truly found this race to be the most interesting to date.