Thursday, April 30, 2009

SENSORY RUN





Running in the neighborhood is getting predictable, meaning great. It allows me to get into that Zen state I mentioned. But I am not a creature of total habit, meaning I like to go see other things and check out different routes, not only when running but driving as well.



Today I decided to mix it up some and run from the gym (which is also in the building I work in). A smarter move would have been to do my 1 hour swim this morning and run later. Of course that would assume we were going to have dry, sunny weather. I wanted to wear my new running shoes today and didn't want to run in the rain yet again today so out the door I went early to get in the run before work.



I ran west, toward the zoo, a run I've done hundreds and maybe a thousand times over the years. On this route, there is no lack of amusing, odd, interesting, weird, and sometimes disgusting things to see, hear, and smell.



So here is a list of things I saw, heard, or smelled:


# of bums on bikes: 5

# of flooded riverwalks: 4 (actually, there are no riverwalks right now they're so far below water!)

# of spring flowers in bloom: hundreds (I love tulips and daffodils.)

# of flowering trees: several (the bright fuschia ones are my favorite.)

# of closed down businesses: at least a half dozen. (sad.)

# of blue Meijer shopping bags being carried by bums collecting cans: 2

# of polite drivers who let me cross the street first: 1

# of rude drivers who did not let me cross the street first: 3 (yeah, that would be 5 seconds lost from your day)

# of cars going through stop signs: 4

# of road construction projects/detours: 3 (its that season)

# of shopping carts on corners: 2 (with no grocery store anywhere close by)

# of front porches packed to the rafters with junk: 2 (you have to wonder about the inside of the house)

# of beer bottles on the sidewalk: 2 (you just couldn't have walked that inside)

# of mattresses on the curb: 1 (no bums sleeping on it though)

# of other runners: 0 (all by my lonesome out there)

# of train whistles: 2 (Amtrak was running on time today!)

# of times I smelled hyacinths in bloom: 2 (mmm, my favorite!)

# of times I smelled pot (yeah, I do know what that smells like, no mistaking it!): 1 (apparently it goes well with that morning cup of coffee)

# of miles ran: 4.2

So that about sums it up for my morning run. Interesting, weird, amusing. Never a dull moment. Oh the places I go, the things I see!





Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ZEN RUNNING


For years, I had this need for speed when it came to running. At the beginning of my running years, I didn't know anything different but to go out, run hard, be done. The faster I got, the faster I wanted to be. I wanted to be like those other women you read about in Runners World or those who were on the front line of all the races. They were my heroines. I was exhilirated.

I managed to do pretty well, climbing up from the bottom in my age group to age group winner for many years. I was exhausted.

The inevitable happened then, the injury cycle that took years to be broken, because of course I wanted to maintain my speed and my reputation. I didn't realize that by taking time off it might be better for me in the long run. You took time off, you got slow. Everyone knew that. So I continued on this course for several years, going through one injury after another. I was frustrated.

After a while, I got slower, and slower, and slower, still injured in one form or another, but still hell bent on working through it, not able to face the fact that something had to change. I was in denial.

Family troubles, deaths, and tragedies helped further me along on my downward spiral, going through years of sadness and overwhelming grief. When I ran, my heart and legs were equally heavy. I didn't want to run but did because it was something I always did. I was depressed.

Fast forward to the last 3 months. Up until then, I still held some glimmer of hope that I would one day run like a gazelle again, if only--if only I could actually run fast. I tried, God knows how I tried. But those days are gone. I finally decided to embrace a new attitude about my running and triathlon. I was going to focus on what I could do and not what I couldn't do but thought I should.

And the result is that I have finally reached that state of nirvana I had so many years ago when I was running fast, placing in my age group, bringing home the medals and trophies. And what am I doing differently? Running to run, not to race. Running to enjoy the day, regardless of what the weather is. Running with a distant goal of course, but knowing that this run isn't the one that will get me to the finish line but many more like this and then some are still needed. Each run, each footstep, is getting me closer to a far off goal, with the bonus of having reached a Zen-like state now, where I am running relaxed and focused. Speed? Did you hear me say anything about fast? No. I'm not. I don't even care that I'm not. What I care about is how good I feel each and every time I go out and run, knowing I can log another run on the way to my future goal. And that I know is what its really all about. I am happy.

I had truly forgotten how good it felt to just run, to float along, to take that needed breath waiting for a car to pass and then continuing on, barely missing a beat. Or that no matter how badly I needed to get to the bathroom, I could continue on and stay focused until I got home, instead of going into a panic and worsening the situation.

Honestly, I never thought this day would come, where I could run 45 min., an hour, two and feel good the whole time. I hope whatever your goals are that you get to the state of Zen at some time in your running career.

Monday, April 27, 2009

MAKING PROGRESS
Sunday's run was accomplished outside, just missing another hard rain. After Saturday's 4 hour indoor bike marathon, I wasn't even sure if I could run the next day but soon found out it wasn't all that bad. The hardest part was finding a route that took me far enough to get in 2 hours of running without looping around the neighborhood endlessly and didn't take me through all the flooded areas. I finally compromised by running from the gym (downtown), going north to another park along the river. I decided to follow the race course from last September's 10 miler, only changing slightly one loop and back over one bridge to avoid running on a street with lots of potholes and just as many puddles. This way I could loop back over the bridge and run on the river path until it ended for a couple of miles, and pick it up again later in the park. Road construction also caused me to make another detour, but nothing out of the way.
The river was high again and running pretty fast from the hard rains. There were ducks everywhere in every puddle I came upon. By the time I got to the river park, there were also the Canadian geese everywhere honking at each other, fighting over something. I was surprised that I saw only one biker and a couple of other runners. Halfway through the park, just before crossing a bridge over a pond area, I could see the path was completely submerged under water. Change of course here! I went the other way, on the roadway, but it is in bad shape with broken concrete and puddles everywhere, forcing me up on the soggy grass a few times and even using the concrete parking barriers as a bridge over some of the worst areas. And naturally, there's always one jackass who has to come flying through there in their car, splashing everything and anyone nearby. Then he made a loop through the park and came back and did it again. Jerk! He looked like he was pretty oblivious to what he was doing, but get a clue buddy!
At one hour, I turned back, actually having reached the end of my planned destination at the one hour mark. When I turned back though, my right hip started bothering me, forcing me to stop and stretch. I haven't had this since last fall, so I suspect it was from the hard bike ride the day before, being bent over aera on the bike for so long. I'm going to have to watch that, because it bothered me the whole way back.
It stayed cloudy the entire time I was out, but you could see some bright spots in the clouds and the trip back was with the wind behind me most of the time so I got pretty warm. I had dressed in tights, 2 wickaway shirts, my running vest, gloves, and a headband, but finally had to take the gloves off for the last couple of miles. And everything was pretty much saturated not only from sweat but from the humidity.
I actually got back to the start 2 minutes faster, so spent that time walking for 2 minutes. Then it was time for the swim. Sometime after getting done with the run, the rain started again, so I lucked out.
I had a 1 hour swim scheduled and after stretching out the hip/back got in the pool, somewhat reluctantly since I really did not want to do it. However, I came up with a solution to keep me from getting impatient and cutting things short or being totally bored. I usually count all my laps, because its a short pool and the only way to keep track is counting. But after I thought about it, I know approximately how far I swim for one hour so there is no real reason to have to count every lap as well as every stroke. Nothing is more tedious than counting laps endlessly. So I just decided, swim for an hour. Don't keep track. Count it as 1.25 miles plus and add the plus to the next swim (to count for our swim challenge). I stopped every 15 minutes for a drink, stopping for less than 20 seconds each time. And while I did start getting a little impatient the last 15 minutes, I still was able to push through that boredom and impatience for the last few minutes. Done!
Weekend workouts then totalled 7 hours: 4 hours on the bike; 2 hours running; 1 hour swimming. I wasn't exhausted or totally wiped out. I could walk both days afterward. And I slept pretty good both nights, which is always a problem for me after long workouts. I feel a lot more confident too in what I can do.
This weekend I get to do it all over again!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME



That's how today's workout went. I had been looking forward to the hot sunny weather predicted; instead, when I got up, the weather forecast was showing rain!, high winds!, but hot. At 6:30 am, it was already in the 70s and humid, more like a late June or mid July morning. Hmm, what to do, what to do.



I dragged my feet long enough to finally decide to take my chances and get my bike ride out of the way before the heavy rain that was now predicted moved into the area. I knew it would be windy, and was ready to deal with it. My schedule called for 4 hours and I figured on the bike trail which is always windy anyway, I could probably do the whole 50 in that time or less, but also knew it would be hard, like riding uphill in the sand with wind that bad.



So I packed up the car, forgetting my purse, which I noticed just before gettiing on the highway. I was going alone today and didn't want to be without money or ID so turned back. In just the short time it took to go back home and get my purse, dark clouds began forming in the west, and the winds seemed to be picking up.



Still, I headed out, noticing the strength of the wind as I drove west and the darkening of the clouds. I pushed any negative thoughts out of my mind, determined to get this done. When I got to the bike trail head, I noticed many cars, but the lot was not full, despite the warm morning. A few people were leaving in fact. Then I tried to open my car door and the wind was so strong I could barely get it open! Yikes! This doesn't look good. I finally did get out of the car and looked down the trail and could see the sky was a steel gray and beginning to turn black. The wind was gusting. The temperature was 77. Were we going to get a tornado warning??

I made the decision right then to head back home. It was eerie how fast the sky was changing. I've been caught out on my bike several times when a storm kicked up, but this time I had the warning bells in my head to not even start out.

But driving home, I still had to make the decision--bike or run? If I biked, it meant 4 hours on the trainer. I wasn't real confident in myself that I could pull off 4 hours of that. On the other hand, I faced a 2 hour run and my stomach was still full enough from breakfast to not feel like I could run for a while, and with threatening weather I didn't think I would make it the whole way either. But by the time I pulled into the driveway, I decided to do the 4 hour ride. Or atleast start the ride.

I barely got my bike out of the car and set up on the trainer when it started sprinkling. So it seemed I had made the best choice.

Now, on to the ride. I have one Spinnerval DVD that I really like. Its a base and aero builder workout, much like a good spin class, but almost twice as long. The other is actually a 3 disc set, with 5 hours 34 min. of coached workouts. I figured if I started with the long one, I would just cut out the last 1 hour 34 min. Coach Troy Jacobson's disclaimer at the beginning of the first disc was that if you started this ride, you had to finish it. Wanna bet??

So I started following along, soon finding that it was way too hard for me at this stage of training. As an example, not only was I supposed to be riding at 90% or higher cadence, but then had to keep my heart rate at about 70% max, and be pedaling at 18 mph! Ha ha ha ha! In my dreams! With 5 hours and 34 min. of coached pedaling, at 18 mph or higher, it was assumed that you would reach the century ride mark--100 miles. I was just hoping in 4 hours I would get in 50 miles. Anyway, I stuck with that for about an hour and a half before just being so frustrated with all the gear changes and being unable to keep my speed up, so for the next hour I kept it on for the music and to keep me focused but did my own workout.

When I got to 30 miles I started reevaluating how long I really felt it necessary to pedal away. Because the first part of the workout had been such a mixed bag of gearing, speed, and cadence, I really hadn't reached higher than 12.9 mph so 30 miles came at about 2.5 hours. Could I then actually pull off 20 more miles in an hour and a half? Not likely. Not doing what I was doing already. I took a break here to see what was playing on TV. Nothing. I looked for a DVD I wanted to watch, only to find out it wouldn't play. I also could see torrential rain was coming down, and could hear the thunder rumbling over and over. Again, I congratulated myself with making the choice to stay in. I had all the comforts I needed and didn't have to worry about the weather. I also made the decision to change my bike shorts since they were probably the wettest I've ever had when not raining because the sweat was not evaporating because I wasn't outside. Not only that, the aero bar elbow pads were so saturated with sweat they were like sponges, and I had already soaked through one hand towel and a headsweat band. This with 2 fans on.

I decided I had to keep going and needed motivation and got out my other Spinnerval DVD. I wasn't sure if I could actually do it but found once I got started with it, it felt great! Doing the high cadence intervals really helped push my pace up (initially), and helped me keep focused to finish the whole thing, putting me at close to the 4 hour mark. Even after 2.5 hours of earlier riding, I was still able to ride at a higher cadence following this DVD than I was able to last year. And like I said, it felt good, I felt challenged. But by the third set, for me to keep the cadence high, my speed dropped so another 1 hour 22 min. later, I had only reached another 18 miles, but for a total of 48 miles! I continued on my own then and finished out the last 2 miles, just barely under 4 hours.

I felt so much more confident having pulled that off. Just getting through the time barrier, mentally and physically, makes me realize on the road I can again achieve a faster time after some more work. It was one of those confidence booster workouts we all look for in training.

Now my next goal will be getting in that run today, despite continued thunderstorms and heavy rain. I won't say never, but I certainly hope I don't have to do this on the treadmill. Its spring after all!

Friday, April 24, 2009

EARTH WEEK ACTIVITIES I'm not a tree hugger by any means, but this week being Earth Week has been a busy one for me in the office. One of the areas of law I work in is the Environmental Practice area, and our office has been pushing hard to develop a Sustainability subpractice. And one of the attorneys I work closely with has pretty much been given the okay to run with this, so she has mainly been in charge.
One of the things we did was set up a recycling program in the office, working closely with the building maintenance and trash hauling company to help us do this properly. Now, each person in the office has their own recycling box that they can place non-trash, non-confidential paper to be recycled. Another program we implemented this week was an electronic recycling program, where anyone in the building can drop off electronic items to be recycled with a local company picking them up and doing whatever it is they do with the stuff. We also began tracking how much paper we use (waste) and began using recycled paper and double sided printing whenever possible in an effort to reduce the volume. Here's just one scary statistic from this data: In 2008, we purchased 28,116 reams of paper (14,058,000 sheets of paper---that is 14 MILLION sheets of paper). This equals 158 reams of paper per lawyer per year (or 79,000 sheets of paper/attorney). I stopped thinking years ago how much waste we have here, realizing part of it is the nature of the business, because it is too depressing.
The firm also provided all employees with a tote bag made of recycled materials, with the firm logo of course, so that expense can go to marketing or at the least free advertising. We also received a water bottle made out of BPA (Bisphenol) free plastic so apparently there will be no excuse for anyone to use paper cups unnecessarily. (That being said, we no longer use foam cups for personal or client use.) If you want to view our website (and this is not advertisement, just fyi) it is www.wnj.com, or you can Google warner norcross & judd. I've worked here for many (many, many) years, and the firm has grown in size and reputation as being a premier lawfirm in West Michigan. So its a good place to be.
What I am anxious now to do is get outside and enjoy Earth Week and the wonderful weather we are supposed to have for the next 2 days and get in my long run and ride. Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, April 20, 2009

WHAT BETTER WAY TO SPEND A RAINY SUNDAY?
As luck would have it, we had two glorious days of weather in a row, and my long workouts fell on both days. For some odd reason, the schedule called for a long run on Friday and a bike/run on Saturday. I'm not sure if there was some mixup on the schedule, since I've noticed there are a couple of glitches in it otherwise--like one Saturday coming up it calls for a 2 hour 15 min. swim and a 45 min. run. I'm pretty much thinking its run 2:15, swim 45 min. Whatever the reason for the long run Friday, bike/run Saturday and OFF Sunday, I went with it.
After our 70+ degree weather on Friday and Saturday (who knew that biking in shorts and a bike shirt would result in a faster bike split than when dressed in winter gear??), I woke Sunday to the expected clouds and drizzle.
Having the prospect of a whole Sunday without working out and with not so great weather led me to realize it would be a good day to spend doing spring wardrobe shopping. Like it or not, I find that it is necessary each spring and fall to do a little wardrobe updating, and the bonus is that through work we got an additional 20% off the total shopping bill at JC Penney the same day they were also having a big sale. I have found Penneys to have a fairly decent career wardrobe department for the budget conscious shopper like me (i.e., cheap), and last year discovered this sale and the coupon was the way to go.
What does shopping have to do with working out? Not much other than the working out has led to trimming down 12 pounds over the past 4 months (closer to the weight I would ideally like to be) so I wasn't so worried about trying on clothes. I still end up wearing petite 10, but this year I also found in some items I could almost wear the 8 petite and others that the 10 was just too big. But I stuck with the 10 on most things just for comfort.
Another reason this year to do some wardrobe changing and updating is a new dress code at work being enforced for summer wear, thanks to all those who feel it necessary to dress for the beach when coming to the office. No more flip flops or even shoes that make a flip flop sound; no capri length pants unless part of a suit; no tank tops without a jacket; etc. While I usually don't go that casual, I did have several capri length pants with no matching jackets so now needed to look for some that either had a jacket or would go with a jacket I already had.
The end result of my shopping trip was: two tops, one a navy/blue/white geometric print, one a raspberry colored scoop neck top; one black pair of pants (pretty standard); one black capri length pants; one black skirt (also pretty standard); one white pair of capri length pants with a matching white jacket and two belts--both reversible, giving me a white/tan belt and a black/navy belt. I'm pretty good at coordinating, and with just these items I pretty much have endless combinations of things to wear, along with what I already have in my closet. And I was out of the store in under an hour and a half.
The best part of the deal was what I spent compared to what I saved. My bill minus the savings was $128. I had two gift cards with money left on them that resulted in my total being $55. And my savings? $174. There is no way I would have bought any of this stuff if not on sale and having the coupon. I would have just continued wearing the old stuff until I absolutely had to find something else, but yesterday was my lucky day in how much I saved and how little time it took. And I get a whole new look besides! Can't wait now to get some new Lia Sophia jewelry I ordered that, coincidentally, will match everything I bought.
Now if I could just find some deals in triathlon clothes. I cringe at the thought of paying $70 (or more) for a pair of decent bike shorts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SWIM BREAKTHROUGH


I've been struggling mentally with pushing through to the next level in swim training. My schedule has called for several times already for a 1 hour 15 min. swim. For a half Ironman, that seems a little much and gets quite tedious swimming laps in a short pool besides: 30 laps for every half mile. I've gotten used to that and would much rather have a short pool than a jam packed pool and limited hours of use, so I'm willing to deal with that.




And since the first of the year, I have gone from doing half mile swims to 3/4 mile, to 1 mile, and eventually 1.25 mile swims on a regular basis. The 1.25 miles takes me anywhere from 52-55 minutes, depending on whether I actually keep accurate count of laps or whether I am tired that day. Either way, I figure getting close to 1 hour is still not cutting off that much from the "1:15" swims. And I'm hitting the distance so I haven't really been that concerned about not doing more.




But still, I have had this nagging in my brain each time I get in the water to push through the barrier and go the full hour at least--or more. After all, its not that much longer in time and not that much farther in distance. I just haven't been able to do it. Until today.




I really don't know why today was any different, except that when I started with my first half mile things seemed to be clicking better than normal. Not faster, just feeling better than usual, not getting water in my ears from the start, and feeling more relaxed than usual.




A young woman from my office has decided to start doing tris and was in the pool with me today. I was pretty impressed and surprised at how fast she sprinted along, lapping me every 10 lengths or so. But I continued on with my easy and relaxed pace, knowing she would only last at that speed for 15 or 20 minutes. Which is still good. I'm not saying she didn't do well, but for the long haul, I have learned how to pace myself better and not be concerned about others' workouts.




By the time I got done with my first half mile, I knew then I was going to go for the full shot today: 1.5 miles. I think the challenge I faced helped break up some of the monotony of doing lap after lap after lap, and most of the time I was focused and didn't get distracted by anyone else in the pool, even when I nearly got hit in the face by another swimmer who suddenly appeared and did about 5 laps and got out. (We don't have lap lane dividers.)




I'm not sure how often I will do this distance, but now that I have, doing it again seems more likely. Fear of the unknown holds you back, but once you have faced the fear and met the challenge, there's no reason to hold back.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

OKAY, I ADMIT IT, I DON'T WANT TO GET MY HANDS DIRTY!



I have to admit that, after folding laundry, my next most despised chore is cleaning my bike chain. That is pretty evident when looking at my bike and comparing it to others'. And I know others who faithfully clean their chains after every ride. In Don's case, its after nearly every ride. But with my increased training volume this year and not being ready or able to invest in a new bike just yet, I figure the best way to keep the bike working smoothly and properly is to not only have a tuneup but a good thorough chain/crankcase cleaning, at least occasionally. And I was willing to pay to have it done. That's how much I hate doing it.


So off to the bike shop the bike went yesterday, being lucky that Don offered to take it along with his that needed a minor repair. I only asked that he drop the bike off; I called the shop and put in my work order over the phone, not wanting him to know what I was asking them to do. What I didn't expect, of course was them giving him the printed quote and then receiving a phone call from him blasting me for paying "$25 to clean your chain! I spend money on things I don't always need, but that isn't one of them I could justify! I'll clean it myself for that much! I'm going to get one of those kits anyway."


Lightbulb goes off. "You will??" I can't tell you how many times he has lectured me about my dirty chain and that I need to take better care of it, and blah blah blah blah." I decided to jump on that opportunity and told him I would buy the cleaning kit if he would clean my chain. Every time. "Well you can do it you know. You just..." My ears tuned him out. No taking those words back now. "I know, but I never think I do a good enough job and I don't always have access to a hose, and..." any excuse I could come up with.


"You just don't want to get your hands dirty!" "You're right. You got me there." I can't help it, I'm such a girl. But it goes back many years, and it wasn't something I learned, but apparently was born with--the need for clean hands. My mom always told anyone who would listen that when I was a toddler in the high chair that I refused to get down from eating until my hands were washed. I would sit there with my hands out to be washed until she cleaned them off. And my own kids have their stories about how I would never held their hands when they were little, just their wrists, if we were out and about and they had dirty or sticky hands. (I had a pretty firm grip too and they liked to make it sound like I was dragging them around. LOL!) To this day, while I'm not a germophobe and don't carry around hand sanitizer to use 80 times a day (like my daughter), I want--need--clean hands. They not only have to feel clean, they have to smell clean.


I guess that's my phobia, but if it gets me a clean bike chain without having to clean it myself, oh well!

Monday, April 13, 2009

WIND, PART 2
Saturday was one of those days when the morning was crisp, cold, and cloudless. By 10 am I was raring to go for my long bike ride, waiting for it to warm at least into the 40s, but it was also one of those days when Don wasn't feeling very energetic--the side effects of the cancer drugs he takes cause an ebb and flow of energy, and today his energy wasn't flowing. He said he still needed more time before getting out there, and he actually ended up taking a nap late morning, so I spent that time waiting constructively, cleaning for the next days' gathering and finishing with food preparation.
By lunch time, he said he was feeling better and we decided to eat first and then get ready to go. I checked the temperature again, and it was 47--but no wind and full sun. Still, after Friday's experience with the wind, I decided to dress warmer than may have been necessary, but I was taking no chances. Don on the other hand had dressed only in bike shorts and a "skins" shirt. Me? Tights, shorts, 2 long sleeved shirts, a jacket, headband, and winter gloves. He did decide to bring a jacket and threw in a skull cap and gloves at the last minute.
We decided to ride the Musketawa bike trail, a rails to trails system, since it is not as crowded ever, especially at this time of day. Its a trail that extends almost all the way to Lake Michigan, ending at an unpaved section that eventually links up with another paved section that takes you right to the lake parks. The paved section we can take is 50 miles round trip, and my goal that day was to do the whole 50.
By the time we got to the trail, it was almost 2 pm, and guess what? The wind suddenly started picking up. It wasn't as warm as it looked once the wind started. I was really glad at this point that I had dressed for winter. And Don decided to put on the jacket, gloves, and hat after all.
We decided to ride off trail--on the road--for the first stretch of the ride. While I doubt I will ever be completely comfortable riding on the road again--even in races I am completely paranoid--my confidence goes up and I get bolder every year. The last time we attempted this road portion of the ride the wind was so bad I couldn't control my bike, weaving and wobbling up the hills like some little kid just learning to ride. And while the wind was going to be a factor again today--we were riding right into it--I was in much better control of myself and actually found myself riding up thehills at a "speedy" 10.4 mph, compared to the 8 or less last year late in the season. LOL!
Riding on the road here, it is a whole different world from the city where I live. Farms dominate, with orchards coming in second. Up ahead chickens roamed freely in one front yard; a young girl road her equally young horse around another front yard; there was a corral of ponies in yet another yard; and the smells! Oooh that smell. No mistaking we were in farm country and worse yet, it was the time of the year when the fields were being prepared for planting, meaning the spreading of manure. And there was no doubt there were pigs somewhere in the area too.
We soon found ourselves climbing yet another hill, taking us through Wright Township, one of those typical farming communities, where everyone knew each other, and where the main drag housed the Catholic church and school and more importantly, the Wright Bar. LOL! Tragically, it was also the scene of a quadruple murder that took place the weekend I was in Toronto last fall, where a woman, 2 kids, and a friend were all brutally murdered in their beds, with their house then set on fire in an attempt to hide the crime. Last fall when we rode past here, the crime scene tape was still up, the front yard still littered with debris and the hundreds of memorials placed by mourners, and the smell of smoke still hung in the air. Today, nothing but the hole that was the basement still remained. I couldn't help but think about how the community and family and friends were dealing with this senseless tragedy and had to push these thoughts out of my head and focus on the task ahead. (Side note: the guy who they suspect did this has been caught and is awaiting trial, having been caught after other crimes with evidence linking him to this as well.)
I had forgotten just how hilly this route was, but after all, it is called "the ridge" just for that reason, an area conducive to fruit growing, as evidenced by the thousands of acres of fruit trees, making up the many "Centennial Farms" in the area, farms that have been lived in and maintained by the same families for a hundred years or more.
When we started out, Don said he would ride my pace, but by the time we hit the hills, he said he would ride ahead and wait. No matter how he feels, he always will be a stronger rider than I am and still has a "faster" bike. The hills were challenging, but I still found myself riding in the 3 zones I should be in--1 and 2 on the flats, 3 on the hills--and a peek at my HR monitor after the hills reassured me that I was staying in zone 3.
I would have enjoyed staying on the road a while longer, and the road we chose to head back to the trail goes on for miles and miles, but I was also relieved to get back to the relative safety of the trail, and to hopefully get out of the wind. Don mentioned on this stretch that "at least there's no head wind." True at first, but he had to open his big mouth because soon after we had not only a head wind but a cross wind. And the hills, all rolled into one. The trail I figured would prove easy after that.
And it was for the most part, but the farther out you get, the more open fields you ride through and you know what that will mean--wind, never escaping it totally. And soon, Don was at least 3/4 of a mile ahead of me most of the rest of the ride. He waited at the busiest intersections, and only slowed at the non-traffic ones. Here too, we ride through mainly farm country, but at least the smells eventually improved. There was one area where it was so bad, my stomach started turning and I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Can you imagine puke, sour milk, and cheese all mixed together?? Eww. This is definitely one of the downsides of this route.
By the time we got to the next trailhead, Don was saying he wanted to only ride as far as we had a few weeks back. I was disappointed about this, because that meant cutting the riding time short for me, but I wasn't going to argue about that. If he wasn't feeling good, I wasn't going to push my agenda on him.
Regardless of how he felt, he still was able to keep ahead of me, and I was left alone to battle the headwind by myself, averaging only about 10 mph. I was beginning to question, again, my ability to do a half IM the first part of June. When I'm running or swimming, I feel confident; when biking, not so much. The doubts creep in and won't leave. Still, I was determined to follow the training plan and keep in the recommended zones. It is still early season here and I am far ahead of last year, so I just have to work at controlling the negative feelings.
He did actually compromise and rode ahead one more intersection, adding another 2 miles to the ride. And that last mile was a killer, with full frontal headwind, causing me to just grind along. But I was in higher gears than last time so I still was doing better than 3 weeks before. I was more than happy to turn out of that wind, however, and immediately saw my speed go up 4 mph or more difference, still riding easy. I've tried explaining to Don what I am trying to accomplish--working on improving my lactate threshhold--but I'm not sure he buys into that or understands how it works. He thinks I should be pushing myself the whole ride, and sometimes I do have to question my methods. But I can't completely deny that I much prefer riding easy than pushing myself hard the whole way. And I am seeing some slow but steady improvement, so I also can't dispute this theory either based on that.
We rode along, not really stopping except when necessary to wait for cars at the intersections. I could tell Don was getting impatient and wanting to be done, but he said nothing, just rode ahead and waited for me to catch up.
With 6 miles to go, I got a phone call from my son, so I stopped to take it. He was all excited after leaving the Tigers' baseball game, saying they won, he had great seats, etc. (I'm glad he thought to call, seeing as I paid for the tickets!) The few minutes I stopped completely gave my legs a whole new life. however, and from there to the end, I actually did push myself to keep up with Don most of the time and found I was still staying in the recommended zones. With no wind (and just where was that tailwind--what's up with that??) and the brief rest, I felt really good. I mentioned this to Don, how my legs felt so much better after a short rest. "That's what transition is for." Smart alec!
We got in 35 miles, around 2 hours 45 min., so 45 minutes short for me, but what can you do? And once again, my face was bright red with sunburn and windburn. At least it looks like I spent spring break in Florida!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

YOU CAN NEVER TRUST THE WIND
The best time to run is before the sun comes up--if you want to avoid the wind. Its almost always windy here every day--not the winds off the prairie type wind but windy nevertheless.
Friday I was off work and decided to switch my weekend training schedule around and do my long run/long swim that day and long bike ride Saturday--outside hopefully and not on the trainer again. Friday was supposed to be "cloudy and windy," pretty much an everyday occurrence here, but the temperature is always key in that combination. If its 85 and humid, wind feels great; if its 35 and cloudy? Not so much. And that's what it was when I started out.
And once again this weekend, I misjudged the wind. Actually, and surprisingly, when I started out at the park, there was no noticeable wind. I was immediately too warm and felt overdressed. But I only unzipped my jacket rather than take it off. After about 20 minutes, off came the gloves and I was rethinking taking off the jacket but really didn't want to have it flapping around my waist. (Somehow, anything flapping--like a jacket or race number--when I'm running drives me nuts.)
Normally, the river path would be well shaded, but being early in the year and no leaves on the trees yet, it was full sun. And I had all black on, just soaking up the rays. Fortunately, I did carry water on my 1 hour 45 min. run.
I haven't been on the path since probably late October or early November, before the cold really set in, when Don and I checked out some of the new bike paths being constructed, because then in December we had some major flooding, which was still evident with the high water. And they don't keep it cleared for winter running, so it had been a while. In some places, the water was still so high up near the path it was almost a little scary. Looking down into the murky brown water I almost expected to see an alligator or crocodile poke its head up and snap at me as I ran along. (we don't have either here--as far as I know!)
Many years ago when this trail system started, one of the nice touches was the addition of a foot bridge across the river to the other side (part of the GR marathon course), shortening any run around the river by a couple of miles. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to see a new bridge going the oppposite way, replacing old and rotting railway bridges that have been part of the scenery for as many years as I can remember. What a nice addition! I have to give props to our fabulous trail system that is getting better each year. While lots of things are bad about this state, the beauty of our state is our best feature. From the Great Lakes and hundreds of miles of beaches to our wonderful trail system, I am pretty thankful for all they offer.
About a mile past the bridges, the closed path ends and opens up into another stretch that is open but privately owned by someone who still holds the mineral rights and has still working oil/gas rigs. You can always smell the gas as you go through here. After this, you exit onto the road near Millenium Park, another fabulous park and trail system, where I was able to see all the new trails constructed since last fall.
I was so engrossed with checking all this out that I almost didn't notice the wind picking up, ever so slightly at first, but by the time I climbed one of the few hills on this course, I was starting to realize that while there had been little to no wind on the way out, there definitely would be some going back. And of course, now that I was sweaty all the way through, I would be running back into it. Yipee.
I figured I would turn back at 53 minutes, hoping for a 52 minute return, which would add up to 1 hour 45 minutes. It also would take me to the next intersection, and a good place to turn around. This whole stretch on New Years Day was completely underwater, to the point where you couldn't see any road and people were actually kayaking through there. The water had now receded to just past the parking lot.
As expected, as soon as I turned around, I was running into the wind, which also as expected had now picked up considerably. Add to that a cross wind and it was downright uncomfortable. By the time I climed the last hill, I was practically standing still from the force of the wind. Nothing wears you down faster mentally and physically than wind, especially cold wind. I was now glad of two things--that I had kept my jacket on and that I had decided Saturday would be the better bike day. I now had also put my gloves back on and zipped the jacket up to my neck. And surprisingly, I saw a few bikers out with shorts on. I have to wonder if they too were surprised by the wind.
The rest of the run was definitely a mental exercise keeping going despite my lips being frozen to the point where it was hard to drink water and made recovery on the walk breaks more necessary because of being out of breath. I kept pretty even pacing until almost the end where I had to make my way through one area that had standing water. I finally gave in a little here and walked through here so as not to splash myself again and was glad I had forgotten to wear my new shoes. This is an area where there is runoff from somewhere and I can't see where, but it is nasty looking water I really hated having to get my shoes in, but the ground around it was saturated and muddy so that would have been worse.
I also started having this weird thing going on with my left knee, which I suspect is really my ITB. Every step the last couple of miles it did this weird snapping thing. Not really painful just annoying, and if I stopped I had to be careful to stop gently so as to not hyper-extend the kneecap.
So even while I was slightly distracted by this, I couldn't help notice a disturbing sight on the other side of the river where it looked like a makeshift shelter had been set up. There were people moving around the area, so I suspect it was a homeless shelter ype setup. They would have been well hidden if not for the absence of leaves on the trees. Something I can't even imagine, having to live in those conditions.
I was pretty glad to be done with the run and get out of the wind. All in all I would grade it as a B run. I did the time (actually went over a couple of minutes so no negative split), nothing hurt too much, and I tolerated the wind the best I could.
The next part of the training adventure was a "1:15 swim." I really think an hour and 15 minutes is a little bit of an unnecessary stretch for me, since I can easily swim 1.25 miles in less than 55 minutes, so I decided to just do that distance instead. At some point, I will do the full 1:15; it just wasn't going to be today.
I was barely into my first 1/4 mile when I sensed someone else standing on the side of the pool and in a second they entered the water with such force it was like a tidal wave in such a small pool. I immediately knew who it was without really knowing: my boss. What are the odds?? He is a very powerful swimmer. I had heard from Jan before when she was in the pool with him that you felt like you would be washed up on the deck every time he passed. I have to admit, it was hard keeping water out of my mouth on my breathing stroke, but it was tood triathlon practice dealing with the wave action. By the time he got out, I was at 3/4 mile so had the last 1/2 mile to myself. Mentally, this distance is getting easier and easier and I feel less and less beat up or tired so I am progressing. Total time for the day was 2 hours 44 min.
(As I am finishing this, it is actually Saturday morning.)
Today the weather is supposed to be cooler than yesterday but hopefully less windy. I am looking forward to getting out on the bike and then Sunday will be off.
Have a great Easter!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

THREE HOURS
That's how long I spun away on the trainer today. I amazed myself that I could stick it out for that long, but believe me, it was a minute by minute effort.
I had the choice to either spin along with my Hardcore spinnerval dvd or, better yet, catch up on trashy romance movies and the ER finale. The second choice won out.
It was the perfect day for staying in: cloudy, cold (35 degrees), with rain and snow threatening. Don talked about going out on the bikes, but after our frigid ride 2 weeks ago, I could not face that discomfort again, with the added factor of three hours in the cold.
I got up early enough to straighten up the house, make my quiche I use for my everyday breakfast when working out, and head out to do my weekly shopping, getting home by 12:30, with the plan to eat lunch, do some laundry, and get on the bike by 2:00. I actually got on by 2:30 and for the first part of the ride watched the Nora Roberts romance movie Midnight Bayou. I doubt I would have watched this otherwise, so it was a wise move earlier in the week to record it when I saw it on the listing. It held me captivated (LOL!) until the end, giving me a little over 1 hour of riding (for a 2 hour movie--that's how many commercials there are in something like this!). Next up on the playlist was the ER finale. That also kept my interest and I actually didn't stop riding until 2 hours 25 minutes when I ran out of water and needed to refuel. Then it was gutting it out for the next 35 minutes. Honestly, I don't know which was worse: one time when I ran 18 miles on a treadmill training for a marathon or today. I'm guessing it was the 18 miles, because at least today I wasn't crazed by the end, just glad to be done.
I can't help but wonder though if trainer time will equate to road time. When I did my half last summer, it was 4 weeks before the event before I was confident enough I could actually do something like that. I did all my biking outside. This time, most of it will be inside. Does time in the saddle equate?? Hopefully so, because next week it is 3.5 hours, and if luck is with me, it will be outside, and hopefully I can do a full or close 50 miles.
Right now, we're waiting to see if we get that 8-10 inches of snow as predicted or whether it will bypass our otherwise pathetic state. At least we have the MSU win in the final 4 to be hopeful about! Go State!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

TODAY'S RUN
There really should be a cutoff date for snow and cold, but for some reason, Mother Nature doesn't roll that way. Today was one of those "get it done before the really nasty weather hits" type of runs.
On the schedule today was 1.5 hours. I am finding myself energetic and really beat at the same time, so even though I woke up early (before 7), I was in no mood to get myself out the door to run any time soon. Instead, I waited until the leisurely hour of 9:45 to get out the door. By then, at least it was 37 degrees--but sunny! Of course, I didn't factor in the wind velocity, so rnning north or west, it was frigid; running south or east, my sunglasses steamed up and the sweat trickled off my forehead. Without the sun, it would have been very uncomfortable, no doubt.
I was bored with running from the house so went to run around the lake, where you would see runners coming and going every few minutes, runners of all shapes and sizes, so it was great to have "company", but also forgetting how incredibly hilly it is! And I had also thought it was too warm to wear a jacket and instead wore two shirts and my vest, only to wish I had worn the jacket while running into the wind. But I stuck it out, and actually, when running with the wind behind me, it would have been too warm with the jacket.
I'm not at the point where I need to carry water yet, thankfully, but today I did bring a little Gu flask filled with water, which fit into my pocket. I could have used a little more, but it lasted until almost the end, so that was okay. My goal was to try to run around the lake and then some, ending up at 1.5 hours. I decided just to go with running 8 min., walking 2, especially because of that dang wind. It was so strong that at times it felt like I was running in place. With this method, I lucked out on the last biggest hill and ended up with a walk on this portion, which was also very close to the end. I still had to run another 8 minutes past where my car was parked, and was so thankful when I got done. I dreaded having to run into that wind anymore. It seemed stronger and colder by this time.
All in all, I am pleased with my progress. On the schedule for tomorrow--with rain/snow showers looming--3 hours of biking. I pretty much figure it will be inside on the trainer. Oooh, that has to hurt!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

DECISIONS AND CHOICES
One thing I love about my Half Ironman training program (by Gale Bernhardt--12 Weeks to a Half Ironman, purchased through Active.com) is that I don't have to decide what to do on any given day. Today on my schedule, for example, is a 45 minute run and a 45 minute swim. While this has taken out the guesswork on my training, my mind, however, was fighting the decision I had to make for the day--run in the cold and dark morning or run in the maybe warmer but rainy evening. That would still mean getting to the gym and swimming, but still dragging a little from last week, I didn't want to make a decision. I just wanted to sleep in. But, since I did make the choice to take on this training progam (and paid for it!), I had to make a decision and am glad I made the wise decision to get out and run.
It really wasn't that cold, about 38 degrees but no wind (and we always have wind in the afternoon/evenings) so it seemed effortless as I glided along in the still dark morning, hearing birds chirping as they awakened, knowing that darkness would lift soon.
Because it was still dark, I decided not to wear the heart rate monitor that I have become obsessed with using over the past 4 months now. I have come to know my ranges and zones well enough now to go without it at times, and have become surprised at how much easier it is to go through a run and stay in a comfortable zone than it was back in December when I first started using it. This alone makes the run enjoyable. Sometimes a little tedious because I want to get it done, but running harder/faster will really not get it done for me faster because then at some point I am forced to walk. So I have learned patience in every workout, going through the paces, with the hope and belief that the payoff will be a successful race.
Today, I just plugged along, enjoying the day. Once I had made the choice to run in the morning, the only other choice I had to make was which route I would take. Going by time, I was not locked into any set route and was free to roam wherever I chose. I enjoy watching the world come alive as I head out to run, knowing this will be my only alone time of the day. And it makes me more aware of my actions as I head to work later--controlling my driving speed (I'll get there when I get there!), keeping my impatience with others under control (don't worry, be happy), being more alert and focused than otherwise.
Once I got to the 30 minute mark of my run, I found that I had only stopped to walk twice for 1 minute each, using that time in waiting to and crossing busy streets, and wishing I had time to go farther. That is the difference in my training now. Its relaxed, its enjoyable. To me, there has been a freedom in following this plan because it all goes for time and intensity. While obviously it is necessary to follow and do the training, it is still my choice whether to do it or not, and once I'm done, I'm glad, like today, I made the right decision and got it done.
I hope you all make a good choice today in your workouts!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

MARCH TOTALS

I didn't get in my February totals because I was on vacation starting March 1, and the real training started this month anyway. So here are my totals for March:
  • Swim: 10.25 miles ( 18040 yards/16496 meters)
  • Bike: Outside--2 rides, 58.4 miles (4:36); 7 spin/trainer rides: 9.25 hours
  • Run: 55.25 miles


YTD:

  • Swiim: 27.5 miles (48,400 yards; 44,257 meters)
  • Bike: 25 rides
  • Run: 152.25 miles

I am still in the lead on everything for our gym challenge except on swimming with one guy and that's all he does (and I have to really question his method of counting laps). Even so, I'm not that far behind him on the swim either. Somehow I managed to squeak by Jan by 2.25 miles. Even though I ran more frequently, she ran some longer distances. But, it is the cumulative that counts.


I hope and assume my bike and run totals will come up this month, but the way the April forecast is looking already over the next 10 days, it looks like it will be a good time to get the bike in and tuned up rather than to expect to get in any outdoor rides. That dreaded "snow" word is being thrown out there for every day of next week, "with accumulating totals." Hmm, maybe that was just an April fool's joke??