Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008


Twenty-eight days and holding with no sun at all here in the frozen tundra of West Michigan. While we also live in the 21st cloudiest city in the U.S., this has also been the cloudiest month on record with 28 days of no sunshine.

All the weather horrors we've had this month fade away with the return of the sun. Where's my sunglasses!

On another note, the newspaper headlines today read: Potholes make early arrival in Grand Rapids area.

More winter weather woes for us. All the streets around my house that don't have speed bumps on them are filled with potholes. Its like driving through a mine field to dodge them. And it makes running in the dark that much more treacherous. If the snow or ice don't get you down, the potholes will certainly swallow you up or break an ankle or something! Sixteen cars were damaged Saturday on a street where I usually exit the highway to get home, but I purposely avoided it knowing the potholes would be bad and then found out about all the wrecked cars after.

And just another one of Michigan's greats: those Detroit Lions! Here's a shirt for all the Detroit fans:

Congratulations Lions! A perfect season: 0 and 16. Too bad the Christmas shopping is over!

Also today at the gym, being a weight training day, I tried the Cybex Arc Trainer that we are testing out. A little different than the elliptical. It was a hard workout in the short time I was on it, but also easier than running on the treadmill. By adjusting the incline, you can get 3-4 different workouts, but definitely it is not like running.

Just a reminder that starting in 2009, I will be doing the Double Digit Challenge, where starting on January 1, I will run 1 mile on 1/1; 2 miles on 2/2; 3 miles on 3/3, and so on. Just for the fun of it. Join me if you'd like!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Like a lot of you, I've had this week off from work. But the only thing I really did for myself this week was to keep on track with my workouts. It makes it so much easier to fit those in when you have a schedule. I've only modified it slightly, mainly just because I ran out of time a few times to do the whole thing, but I still did more than go through the motions.
Where to begin?? Last week was VERY hectic, in so many ways. Monday I did actually have to go into work for a while to complete a weekly deadline we had, even though I had gone in on Sunday to avoid the Monday hours, but thanks to attorneys not wanting to work, things overlapped into Monday. Mlonday was also the day my daughter was coming in from New Jersey. She and her boyfriend were driving and had put off the trip for 2 days because of all the storms rolling through our area. And he had never had a white Christmas until this year, so he was in for a treat. Monday was also the day my son moved into his new home, after a stressful week before wading through the red tape of paperwork that got botched just before closing. Needless to say, it was a huge relief to have that hurdle worked out. They are expecting a baby soon and while waiting to move in had been living with her relatives, and basically wearing out their welcome, so he was stressed and wanted to come stay with me. I agreed, but thankfully didn't have to go there when they suddenly got keys to the house. Its a long a complicated story, but it ended up with a happy ending.
Tuesday I got up at my usual work time to hit the gym for my run and swim before taking my car in for some scheduled maintenance. Don picked me up and we went to breakfast, and the day was unfolding into yet another major winter storm. The car was supposed to be ready by 11 o'clock, and they were supposed to call me before that to let me know what they were doing and how much it would cost. By 10:45 I had heard nothing, so we waited a little longer and went back to the dealership, only to find a half dozen people all waiting for help of some kind and naturally only service person available. After waiting 15 minutes more, I was quickly told the brakes were okay but the car needed a battery soon. Okay, go ahead and do it. How long? 20 minutes. Fine. I sent Don on his way and started making calls to the kids to see who was up and what they were going to do. After 30 minutes I checked on the progress of the car. Has it been 20 minutes already? I was asked. Actually, its been 30. They check the progress, only to be told they didn't even have a battery and would have to order it from the parts store. Another 30 minutes then. All I could do was wait, and its one of those times when you have so much to do that waiting becomes almost intolerable. I still had to stop over at the new house to see what their progress was, was supposed to meet my daughter for lunch, which we cancelled, and still had other errands to do and go pick up Don and get back downtown for a 3 pm TSO concert. Long story short, the car took another hour to be completed only to find out after all that hassle that now my break light is out, but do you think they could notice that?? And changing my battery somehow reset my temperature guage to celsius, so now I have to do the conversion to know what the temperature is! And of course, the weather was the topic of the day again. Traffic was snarled, accidents were all over the place, and it was generally slow going. With 4 wheel drive, I still have to be careful, but it makes it a lot easier to get around. But my annoyance level was going up and up after getting stuck behind one car after another going 10-15 miles under the speed limit. The roads were bad but come on people! Get off the brakes.
The TSO concert was one of the best I've ever seen. If you ever have a chance to go, make the effort, spend the money. You won't be disappointed. We went last year too, and I would definitely go again next year if the opportunity comes up.
Wednesday was a weight training class day. Since they were still having the class, I went, and had plans to go to lunch that day with the girls after. Its been a great class, and after 4 weeks now I am seeing the rewards. A full hour of intense, using every muscle, lifting. Then it was lunch and picking up my daughter from work out in the traffic mess again (how did I get recruited for this??). All my shopping and wrapping was done, so I pretty much had the day to just get some goodies made and then all the kids went to their dad's side of the family for their annual Christmas get together, and Don and I went to our annual Christmas Eve athlete get together, which has turned into a white elephant giving party as well. That's where everyone brings a wrapped item that they no longer want and each person has the opportunity to choose a wrapped gift or "steal" from someone else. I ended up with an electronic dragon that I gave to Austin, and Don ended up with a puzzle which he gave to his mom, so basically we got rid of a couple of things as well as our regifting items.
Thursday, Christmas day, I was able to get to the gym for my run and swim. The kids were at their dad's and would be over in the afternoon, so it was a relaxing and easy morning. I was planning a sitdown dinner for about 2 pm: roast chicken with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, a ham, salad, biscuits, and desserts, all requested items from the kids. There were 11 of us so it was a houseful. The kids all had their new ipods or other electronic games, and after eating, it was time to unwrap presents! I rarely get to see what everyone gets its so hectic, but eventually the mess clears and everyone takes stock of what they have and what needs to go back. Fortunately, I keep all my receipts in one bulging envelope just for this type of thing.
Friday morning, I did have a massage scheduled. I haven't really felt a huge need to have one lately, but who can argue over the luxury of that? Friday was also a bike trainer day, but I only did 30 minutes hard instead of the 45 required. After the massage, I went to my sister's to give her her Christmas gift. Her sons were shoveling off their flat roof, since there was over a foot of snow accumulated and we were supposed to get heavy rain on Saturday. They also live on a cul-de-sac, and with all the packed snow on their road, its like driving on a dirt road in the winter--rough and bumpy. After a nice visit, it was time for me to hit the stores for more shopping. My sister and I and my girls were planning a double baby shower for the next day, since her daughter and my son's wife are both expecting about the same time. They wanted to do it while Renee was in town. I was in charge of the food and I still had shower gifts to buy, so spent the next several hours shopping, then going home to attempt to wrap all the stuff, running out of paper and one item I needed for cooking something for the next day, The weather was bad again, with heavy fog limiting visibility, since the temperature was warming up to the 40s, and with all the snow that causes ground fog. I decided to wait for the next morning.
Saturday, I woke up to pouring rain and heavy, heavy fog. The temperature was in the 40s and expected to rise, with rain scheduled all day. As you can imagine, with all the snow and all that rain and melting besides, there were many areas flooded out, with flooding along the river already, with homes partially under water. It was a huge sloppy mess. Saturday was also going to be another bike trainer day. I was scheduled to run 45 minutes and then swim, but I just didn't have time to go to the gym and then come back home and go out again, so it was get it done at home and switch the run/swim for Sunday. On the way to my sister's for the shower, it was raining so hard and the fog was so thick, it made driving difficult. The temperature was already in the 50s! Didn't we just have a blizzard 4 days ago?? The shower was a success, and I couldn't believe how much food got eaten! We had about 25 people and after we had our family Christmas get together, since most everyone was there for the shower anyway. Then it was party time with the family. The guys all played Texas Holdem, which seems to be their favorite game, while the women talked or played board games with the little kids. My one grandson and my sister LOVE to play board games, and according to Austin, he likes the "old fashioned" games, not the newer electronic versions my sister has. They probably have over 100 games of any you can imagine.
And that brings us back to Sunday. We are having high winds and more snow so the roads are iced up again. Looks like I'll be heading inside again for a workout and later we're going to see Marley & Me. We had a dog like this, only worse actually, when the kids were younger, so it should bring back some good laughs and memories. And now, I'm off to the gym! Hope everyone had a great holiday and weekend. Almost time for the new year and new goals and challenges.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Monday, December 22, 2008


Snow, snow, and more snow. Probably about 18 inches have fallen in the last 3 days. I lost track after 14. I could have braved the cold and snow and ran outside, but that's why I have a gym membership! When I think back to when I first got the membership in 2000, I realized that up until then, I had run mostly outside for more than 10 years and, even with having a treadmill at home, rarely used it. Even after getting the gym membership, for 3 years I rarely used it to run inside. If I didn't need to use a pool, I never would have joined at all.

But I'm all over that now, and am glad I have choices I can make--inside or out. So this weekend was all about inside workouts. Four miles on the treadmill Saturday followed by a half mile swim. My swim times have been dropping again, and I'm not sure if its just a fluke or because I have consistently been doing serious weight training again for the last several weeks. Saturday I felt really slow in the pool, and was seriously surprised to see I had taken 40 seconds off my last swim time.

Sunday was 45 minutes on the bike trainer, in the 70-75% heart rate effort, zone 3. I couldn't remember what my numbers were supposed to be but felt like I was not putting enough effort into the workout, so was surprised when I checked later to see that half of it was actually in zone 2, but by the end, I was steadily in zone 3. I am really getting into this heart rate training and can see some improvement due to its use. I'm not sure on the running though. I cannot seem to stay out of zone 4 even at a slow pace, but I guess it takes time to build on that.

I am starting to look ahead to 2009, and the only thing I'll say right now is that it is looking more and more like a triathlon year. 2008 was all about running, and while I accomplished quite a few races, I don't feel like my times improved at all unless I combined it with a swim and/or bike ride. So rather than beat myself up again all next year trying to improve on my running times, I'm figuring it might be more beneficial to do more serious triathlon training.

I got a gift card to a local book store as a Christmas gift, and my next purchase will be Gale Bernhardt's

This seems to have the most information that I'm looking for as well as training plans for every distance.

On the training agenda this week:
  • Monday-weights (done);
  • Tuesday-run 30 minutes, swim 1/2 mile;
  • Wednesday-weights;
  • Thursday-run 30 minutes, swim 1/2 mile (my gym is open 24/7 all year round so I'll be able to get in a workout even on Christmas day);
  • Friday-bike 45 minutes;
  • Saturday-run 45 minutes, swim 1/2 mile;
  • Sunday-bike 1 hour.

Once I actually get the book, I am hoping to do base training (like this schedule) for the next several weeks and then move on to a specific race plan. Rather than start in June or July next year (like I typically do) getting ready for my summer A race, I am going to (hopefully) be smart and organized and get on the ball by late March/early April. I'm thinking if I'm not so worried about my running all winter, maybe things will go better by spring. I'm also hoping with specific training plans, it will be easier to stay motivated and focused even in the type of weather we're having now and will continue having for the next several months. So let it snow!

Friday, December 19, 2008


A play on the "Wordless Wednesday" theme. As you can see, another lovely day in "paradise." Most of Michigan is socked in with a major winter storm that started about 3 am this morning. The weather people fall short of calling it a blizzard. I'm not sure what determines the definition of a blizzard, considering we have 15-25mph winds, whiteout conditions, snow falling at about 2 inches an hour, and an ice storm that is imminent. Its like a storm right out of the past, like when I was a kid and we routinely had storms like this every winter and the snow piled up feet deep. And yet? We never got snow days! Two in all my school years and then only when we had more than 10 inches overnight. It still amazes me how people got around back then, without the 4 wheel drive vehicles. Of course, we had to put the snow tires on and could even use chains back then, so somehow everyone made it. Or you took the bus.

Below are pictures from my driveway. You would think these were taken last night or very early this morning. They were taken this morning, but at 8 am. Still dark. And my no zoom digital camera cannot take in the true effects because of the darkness and blinding snow.

The car has never seen the inside of a garage. No, the garage is not for cars, just the lawnmower, snowblower, bikes, kayak, and all the other miscellaneous tools and junk you need for maintaining your yard. When there isn't all this snow.

But on a happy note, below are "dancing" snowmen, a picture my grandson took using some of my Christmas decorations!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

LAYERS--How to Run in the Winter.

The weather was calm and 21 degrees, a virtual heat wave over the last few days. My schedule today called for 30 minutes of running. A quick scan of the roads and sidewalks, and it was decided: I was going outside. I figured I could survive 30 minutes outside over a dreadmill run any time.
One thing you have to plan for pre-run in the winter is how much time it will take to assemble all your layers of clothes and then put them all on. Plan to add 10-15 minutes for that at least! Here's my list of what I put on today to go out to run, in the correct order:
  • Tights--2 pair. I can't tolerate the cold that penetrates through one layer, and shorts and tights together still doesn't work for me.
  • Running bra--a given. Have to keep the girls warm.
  • Turtle neck wick-a-way shirt.
  • Regular wick-away shirt.
  • Socks--I only need one pair of Thorlos cushioned. My feet rarely get cold.
  • Vaseline--for the face, concentrating on around the eyes and nose, and on the lips. Nothing keeps the skin smoother and wrinkle free in this harsh weather like good old Vaseline.
  • Shoes, a given.
  • Headband or hat.
  • Jacket. Mine is actually a reflective one so even if not quite warm enough, its an added measure of safety.
  • YakTrax. I try not to put these on the shoes until almost ready to go out the door.
  • Gloves.
  • Face mask. I've gotten to really like that face mask. Now I can really go incognito.
  • Fleece mittens.

Then, looking like the Michelin man's wife, I head to the door. And, like what happens with a little kid once you put them into their snowsuits and boots, I now have to go to the bathroom again! And I realized I forgot my heart rate monitor. Oh well, time's a wasting. Time to head out the door and go see whose been naughty or nice in keeping their sidewalks shoveled.

We've gotten probably about 5 inches of new snow over the last couple of days, about a third less than the lakeshore, so I really shouldn't complain. And today there was another new layer, making it still fairly easy to run on the sidewalks. Living by 4 churches and 3 schools, for the most part the sidewalks are kept clear, as long as I stay on the main street. Going off that, however, and you might want snowshoes.

For the most part, it was an easy run, but when my legs started tiring some, I used the unshoveled areas to slow down and give myself a break, never having to walk then. Just a short jaunt through the neighborhood, seeing only one other runner and a house for all seasons, with their pumpkins, campaign signs, Thanksgiving straw decor, and Christmas lights up all rolled into one. Surprisingly, their walk was nicely shoveled. Apparently that was taking up too much time to take all that old stuff down!

Not a bad run at all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Just like most of you, my week has been filled with working out, working, shopping, wrapping, and going to the numerous parties that come up at this time of the year.

Last Sunday, I did the indoor triathlon. Monday was a strength day. We are having a December challenge at our gym, and the main focus for the month is strength training. We need to achieve 12 workouts in the month (not hard for me) but 7 of them have to be strength training! I've accomplished the spinning, pilates, yoga, swimming, one cardio machine (actually I've done that 4 times) and I'm up to 4 strength training sessions. But I'm feeling pressured to do more of that than I have time or energy. Tuesday was my hill repeat day; Wednesday was a spin class in the am and a strength class in the pm; Thursday was elliptical and treadmill in the am; party in the pm; Friday was an off day--went shopping and out to lunch instead! Saturday was a bike trainer workout and core training in the am; Ironman party in the pm. And that gets back to Sunday. Today? Nothing. Another off day.

The weather is dreary, rainy, and windy, with icy patches everywhere on the sidewalks. Not very enticing to get out and run! I'm on a mission today to get the rest of my shopping done (close), the rest of the wrapping done (close), the house cleaned (close) and catching up on the laudry and meal planning for the week. But all this time gets me spending too much time in my head, about what I should be doing, what training I could be doing, what races I should be thinking of for next year, etc. and yet nothing definite is forming in my mind. Watching Ironman gets you so motivated and starts the mind whirring, but then common sense takes over and I back away. Or maybe its fear?

So for now, nothing much going on. Just everyday life.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Isn't that a colorful sight?? The different colors denote the variations in precipitation, from the green/yellow being rain/thunderstorms, to pink being freezing rain/fog, to blue being snow/ice. Like they say, you never know what you're going to get with Michigan weather. I live in the pink area.
But I did get my run in today--and outside no less. I was packing up the car to head to the gym but realized it wasn't all that bad out at 6:20 am--no wind, fairly mild temperature (under 30 degrees but above 25), and nothing coming down at the moment. So I took my stuff back in the house, put on some outside running gear (couldn't find the YaxTrax though) and off I trotted, carefully at first, to be sure there was no black ice under the layer of snow that had fallen overnight. Very easy footing. And most people so far have been keeping up with their shoveling, so nothing piled up to trudge through yet.
I hadn't gotten more than a block when I realized "if its Tuesday, that means hill repeats!" And while there are a few hills close by my house, the better ones are over a mile away. So I decided instead to stay closer by and do the longer gradual hills instead of the longer steeper hills, for convenience, and because I wasn't sure if the steeper hill would have a shoveled sidewalk.
Since I've been doing 5 repeats, today I had to do 6. I started up easy enough and it was nice because the snow was just a light covering on the road, no big ruts from cards yet, and no traffic AT ALL on that hill. In fact, I only saw one person out walking the whole time so I could enjoy my pain in privacy.
By the third repeat, it was starting to get a little more difficult, but I always love that "free falling" sensation going back down, giving me a chance to recover. And let's face it, no speed records were broken, so I was only out of breath and not dying yet. Two more repeats and I could sense a change in the feel of the snow under my shoes--it was starting to get slightly mushy--causing me to slip a little bit in spots. The last hill was going to be the last hill before heading back to the house, so before I did that I decided to circle the block to get back to that spot, only to realize that going around the block was hilly too and a much longer incline than the first five. By the time I got to the top of that one, I was slightly gasping, but again, I had a nice downhill to recover. The snow now was really getting mushy under foot, meaning it was warming up. This makes it harder to get your footing, and putting more strain on muscles unaccustomed to the lateral and back and forth movement in the mush.
I started seeing only my footprints again as I approached the last hill to home and had to laugh when I realized that they resembled the shape of a rabbit--not rabbit footprints but like a Peeps marshmallow bunny. I did see rabbit footprints also and a cat's that seemed to wander aimlessly (or maybe with a purpose) through the darkness.
Finally, the last hill, and it was becoming a slight struggle on the snow, but I was almost done and was pleased at my effort and getting out there. And looking at the rainbow of colors above, tomorrow is likely to be an inside day again.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Or maybe just someone who likes crazy things: Chewbacca sings Silent Night.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thanks to Jan being sick and not attending and me being the oldest woman, I was able to easily take the age group award.

This fitness center is probably one of the most deluxe in the area, and I'm pretty sure the membership dues are reflected in that as well, one reason I don't belong. Everything is state of the art, but surprisingly their lap pool only has 4 lanes.

Jan has been sick with the flu all week and decided not to do the tri. I wasn't overly motivated, but at the same time was anxious to get started and get the show on the road. We were signed up for the last heat, at 9:14, but I was awake before 5:30 and pretty much just wishing I'd been able to get an earlier slot.

This was a perfect day to stay inside to work out--we probably have gotten about 8 inches of snow over the last day and a half and the temp was only in the teens this morning again with more snow predicted during the week and more cold, cold, cold weather to come.

So I got to the club earlier than I needed to for lack of anything else to do and just wanting to get going. I've done so many indoor tris now that I almost don't have to think about how things are going to go, but I decided for the first time to wear my bike shorts in the pool. Its so hard to get those things on when you're wet!

It looked to me like all the people from the earlier heats had already left, since there weren't many people in the club when I got there, and the parking lot was barely full, quite a contrast from usual when I drive past and the lot is packed all the way around the building.

I found the locker rooms, the pool, got ready, and then checked out where the bikes and treadmills were. Finally it was time to get started on the swim. The pool was colder than I'm used to and is surrounded by windows, so it was a little chilly most of the swim. And a new phenomenon here in the pool: I noticed right away that the music is piped underwater so you hear it when you swim. I thought at first it was my HR monitor chirping, but then I realized it was music! Wow, that might help with boredom doing laps or maybe even keep you moving a little faster.

The swim was easy. I worked hard but didn't push past my limits. One woman in the heat was lapping us all; the woman next to me went in fits and starts, sometimes breaststroking, other times sprinting. I lapped her once but she caught me and that was it. The other woman was ahead at first, but after 3 or 4 laps, I managed to lap her. I lost track of my laps for some reason, but with a lap counter it didn't matter. I ended up with 33. I'm not sure how this measures up to previous swims, but I was hoping to get to 32, so I was happy with that.

Then they gave us a whole 7 minutes to get from the swim to the bike. One reason I put my shorts on for the pool was to avoid the out-of-breath hustle you find yourself in during transition, but with 7 whole minutes, it was a leisurely change and walk to the bikes. We used some sort of life cycle and were instructed to put the resistance on 5. That seemed okay and again I kept within my HR limits for the most part. Don had come to watch and kept saying I should go faster. I told him I was already almost at my max heart rate and he said, oh that must be wrong. No, actually its right on. I love the fact that my monitor records on their equipment so I don't have to keep looking at my watch. The woman next to me was madly pedalling, thrashing back and forth, but she did end up with the highest bike total, so to each their own I guess! My total was 5.25 miles, with cadence in the 85-89 range, for 20 minutes.

Then it was on to the treadmills. Those were upstairs. The other women in my heat took the elevator. I took the stairs so I could stretch out some and I figured we had a whole 7 minutes to kill. So I was surprised when I got to the treadmill to find out we had less than a minute to transition. I didn't need the whole 7 minutes but I would have liked a couple of more minutes!

The treadmills were very, very nice, with built in TV screen and all the bells and whistles you can imagine. They even had these straps to hold you on if needed! What is the point of working out so hard that you get flung off?? Here again, I told myself I had to stay within my HR zone until the last few minutes and then I would crank it up and hold on for dear life. I have noticed its getting easier and easier to go from the bike to the run. I've been doing this for a while after spinning, if only for a mile, and being on the treadmill you can also control and maintain speed. So that's pretty much what I did but probably should have just cranked it up sooner to get in a whole 2 miles rather than the 1.89 I ended up with. Still, it was slightly better than I expected, which was 1.8. But, I didn't want to have to hang on the whole time and wanted to be able to run a pace I could hold for a few minutes at least.

After, there were free massages but very little else for the money we paid--orange slices, power bars, and an ugly green shirt. But I did get a nice AG medal!

And the race director then invited me (and others, I'm not thinking I all that special!) to join them on their training runs starting in January for the 25k in the spring. Just this morning I was thinking I really should join a group this year and try to break that 3 hour mark again by starting the training sooner rather than later, and trying to accomplish this in outdoor runs instead of all treadmill runs. I guess I'll have to see what kind of group shows up. If they're all gazelles, I'm not sure I want to pay for the humiliation of being the last one to finish all the time. But if I see a few older and slower women like me, then it might just be the thing I'm looking for. I have the impression that women who belong to this club are all fast, so we'll have to see how it goes.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


by Fe-Lady to list 6 things that make me happy. Most of these will include my kids:

1. Being able to help them out financially when needed. I have never been able to get over the guilt of putting them through a difficult childhood because of our financial troubles for so many years, both from internal and external reasons. They had what they really needed most of the time, but to be able to finally be in a position (for now at least) to help them when it really counts is one thing that makes me happy.

2. Being happy that despite some of the mistakes I made in their early years that for the most part they are succeeding as best they can and don't seem to hold any grudges against me for what I perceive to be my parental failures. I realize I am hard on myself about things that may seem trivial to others, but its that Catholic guilt upbringing I had that doesn't let me put things out of my mind until I feel they are resolved in a way I am satisfied with.

3. Being healthy enough to pursue whatever athletic goals I choose.

4. Living in this country and being able to freely travel wherever I choose.

5. Finally seeing gas prices go down!

6. Knowing all you bloggers.

I can't remember who may have played this before so if you feel like playing along, I'll pass it to you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

No, this isn't mine, but it was pretty cute. My point here today is all the stuff I carry every day, some to work out with, and some I need for my other life.
I always think of the post Kona Shelley wrote a couple of years back about her 100 pound gym bag she lugs every day. Today I think I surpassed that.
It always helps to pack your stuff the night before, but it gets to be such a chore I can hardly bring myself to come home, haul it into the house, unpack it, and then repack it immediately. I need time to decompress from all that stuff! And its particularly more challenging when you're involved in multisport--shoes for spinning, shoes for running, flip flops for the pool (and shower), heart rate monitor, toiletries, underwear, clothes for spinning/running, swimsuit, pilates/yoga, or weights, etc. Whew! I get tired just thinking of all that stuff.
So there I am this morning, madly stuffing all of the above stuff and then some into my gym bag, and finally get the bag jam packed and zipped, only to discover I had forgotten my makeup bag, my running shoes, and my underwear. I knew I couldn't fit one more thing in that bag and would be lucky to even be able to carry it, so I had to go to another bag and stuff that full besides!
The next challenge of course is getting all that stuff into the car and then a little later into the gym all in one haul. Of course along with the gym bag/s, I also have my lunch, which is as big as a picnic basket (when you're gone all day, including breakfast, and sometimes doing 2 workouts in a day, you just need your snacks!), my clothes for work on hangers, my purse (also jammed packed with snacks that don't fit into the lunch bag--and which my kids say resembles a bowling bag), and last but not least is the hot coffee. And then try to get all that into the building which requires one hand free to use the access card and shlepp all that stuff into the gym without dropping it! And of course then there's the old man at the gym who thinks I'm afraid of him (no, actually, I really don't like you!) and wants to make an issue of that every time I see him, while I'm trying to hustle all my stuff into the locker room before either my arms rip out of their sockets, or something falls and I have to bend over to pick it up, or get scalded with the hot coffee!
I really consider all that one workout for the day. Everything else after that is a cakewalk!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Which is better?
Today, it was a treadmill run that won out. After doing a complete 360 degree spin out in my car on the way to the gym--in my neighborhood no less, the decision was made to stay inside to run. It wasn't all that cold or windy; in fact, it felt pleasant--when I wake up in the morning, I am VERY warm, so the cold fresh air felt good. But the deciding factor was the black ice. Lots of accidents here again today. I lucked out and didn't hit anything; another time this happened to me was on the highway and I didn't hit anything that time either, but it was probably one of the scariest moments in my driving career. You don't realize how little control you have over your car on ice until it happens. Having dealt with this before, I knew enough to just let the car go until it stops. But I soon got dizzy waiting for it to stop spinning. And then it was almost impossible to straighten out the car to get going again because of the ice. Just a light dusting of snow over the top of an ice skating rink.
Today was also supposed to be a hill repeat day. And while most of the downtown streets have the heated sidewalk factor, those areas are completely flat. To get to the hilly area, it is dark and mostly lacking in pedestrian or car traffic at that time of day, so it isn't the most practical place to be running on an icy cold morning. And I'm not sure how clear those sidewalks are on a day like today.
I started reading about treadmill v. outdoor running, and which is better. I really hate to start wimping out this early in the season by staying inside, but the safety factor is more important to me than anything else. So here's the scoop on indoor v. outdoor running:
1. Speed control: Controlling your speed is key to running consistently for a distance or time. For those new to treadmill running, this is a tough one. When you’re new to running, controlling your speed is difficult. I find that most people run faster on a treadmill than they would on the road, so while running on the treadmill allows you to set the speed and let things roll, its important to keep a consistent speed, and that can be a challenge. Treadmills do, however, help you develop speed control. Thats one up for the treadmill.
2. Real motion: I’ve yet to come across a treadmill that feels the same as running outside. They might be close, but running out in the open is an experience that is hard to simulate-the exertion, the feel of the ground, and the exact muscle work. The hardest thing to simulate is running form. From all I've read and practiced, I find it is easier to do the Chi Running slight lean and run towards the front of the machine, rather than running totally upright. It forces you to adjust your pace that way so that you don't have to hang on or get thrown off. But when you add to that the acclimation to the temperature, you want to train in weather you're likely to race in. To simulate the exertion of running on ground, its recommended to keep the treadmill at a 1% incline. So, this factor one goes to running outside.
3. Simulating new geography: If you live in a flat area, and want to train for hills, the best way is to run on a treadmill at a hill incline. Or vice versa, if you’re in a hilly area, its hard to simulate flat runs. So, treadmills wins this factor hands down. Today's hill repeats were done at a 2.5% grade. Five repeats of only .10 distance, but I will work up to the .20 distance recommended and start sooner into my run.
4. Speed Change-Sprints/Intervals: Sprints and interval training are a great workout to incinerate your fat. Intervals on the treadmills can be distracting, since you have to keep pressing those buttons at the end of every interval, to change your speed. Its kind of annoying than just using your legs to slow down, where you would actually use more muscle in running on the ground, to increase or decrease your speed. In fact using your legs to increase or decrease your speed actually helps to work more muscle. Its even more annoying to simulate sprints on a treadmill. Sprints are a fantastic way to burn fat! So, this one goes to running outside.
5. Climate/Environmental Control: And last but not least, weather and location play a big factor in which is the best choice for me. For obvious reasons, indoors for me in this climate in the winter is better; even sprints/intervals are easier inside than out. But I do think the cold weather helps burn more calories in the same amount of time when running outside. Safety is also a factor, whether its running alone in the dark, morning or night, or slipping or falling on ice or snow. So this one is an obvious one for me.
Its always a long winter season here, but at least I'm feeling somewhat better and less wimpy about running inside. I do hope to get some outside running in, especially long runs, but I never know how the season will go. Last year it was so snowy and icy; the year before extremely cold and recovering from injury, so not much outside winter running these last 2 years. They say global warming is happening, but I have yet to believe that's true for this part of the country. But it would be nice just once to have a balmy, sunny, and warm winter! No excuses then for not continuing regular fitness.

Monday, December 01, 2008

So now the outside running becomes more challenging. Sunday, Don and I went to the track again, for our official weekly run "together." Neither of us was too motivated to get out there early. It was cloudy and dreary and I figured it was colder than it was. But my main goal was to get it done before the snow started, even though it wasn't predicted to start until late afternoon or evening.
We got to the track about 11:45 and as luck would have it, we barely finished one lap and the wind picked up and the flakes started falling, slowly and lazily at first, with a full blown blizzard raging by the time we finished. We probably got 3-5 inches of the wet slushy variety, and dozens of schools are closed today. I remember when I was a kid only having 2 snow days in all my school years, and that's when we got 2 feet or more of snow at one time, yet they close for 3 or 4 inches now, without much hesitation it seems.
My plan this time was not to do fast/slow intervals but just a sustained effort for 3 or more miles. I have been wearing the heart rate monitor faithfully now and wanted to see when running only (not spinning/running) where my HR numbers would go.
I did pretty well the first 2 miles, with my heart rate only spiking when running into the wind on the east side of the track. With the winds coming directly out of the east, I knew it would be a little worse than usual storm. And by the end of the 2nd mile, the snow was falling heavily and the wind was raging! It was forceful enough that it was like running on a treadmill for a few seconds whenever it gusted, meaning you went no place fast.
By the time I was halfway through the last mile, my heart rate was spiked the entire time but went higher still whenever I ran into the wind. That was a strange observation to note. In fact, I went over my max HR and the monitor blinked and beeped at me so I knew it without even looking. I had set my max to be about 5 beats lower and I easily went 5 over. My time wasn't stellar by any means but again, the goal was only to try to keep a sustained effort for at least 3 miles with no walking. Since I haven't run a 5k since last summer, not once have I run steadily without walking since then. Doing longer races I allow myself walk breaks, and probably far too often, so while not stopping was challenging, it was also easier than I had expected.
That will probably be the last track run we'll do until next spring again. Next week is the indoor tri, and after that we're into the middle of December. My next goal will be to do a 4 mile sustained effort run, which I hope to accomplish before our New Year's Eve run. In the meantime, its back inside this week, spinning with running to practice for next week's tri. Hope everyone had a great weekend.
Oh, and I did manage to get the tree up. Still working on the decorations, but I'll do a little here, a little there. And got a lot of shopping done even. It was a successful long weekend!