Saturday, November 26, 2011

Game Changers

Photo Courtesy Clarita

I received news that I officially passed my personal fitness trainer certification exam (thank you, thank you,) and am now looking forward to adding an AFAA personal trainer certification to my arsenal in the near future. I've had several inquiries from people at the gym who have been asking when I become official because they need help with one thing or another and are interested in working with me.

One of the more amusing things (to me anyway) during my PFT classes was when the instructor's daughter came in her place one Saturday to teach the class and she was discussing interaction with clients. She had a dialogue going along the lines of, "Now, it can be difficult sometimes when you're running with your client because you have to keep your own ego in check and slow down for them or they'll get frustrated...."

Ummm, no. With my blazing 14-minute middle-aged broad shuffle/jog miles, I don't think slowing down for a client is going to be an issue for me. In fact, I think I'm going to change up my run schedule again (since it still sucks, that won't be a big problem) and just do the suggested 4-week programs listed in my text book so I have a better insight into what other beginning runners will be going through under my watch and maybe I'll see some improvement in my running. I'll probably just see improvement in my walking but one can always dream.

Also, next Sunday, December 4th, I'll be attending an AFAA indoor cycling workshop (which is called that because "Spin" is trademarked by Johnny G Indoor Spin and they beat you and your bank account to a pulp with those 45-pound flywheels if you use the word "spin" to make money and they don't get a cut.) This ensures that my gym will have two subs "in-house" for last minute no-shows. My manager dusted off her cycling cert a few weeks back to help out but she often takes off for New Hampshire Thursday nights which leaves two classes vulnerable on Friday at Noon and Sunday morning if the ailing instructors can't get in touch with their "usual" subs.

I don't expect that I'll actually teach more than 1-2 classes per year but the workshop's continuing education units count towards re-certification for the personal trainer papers so it's worth the cost plus, I love spin and mixing fitness with my background in music is something I've been doing for several years on my own anyway so I thought it was high time to get a little formal training.

In other news, while hubby and I were visiting his sister's home for Thanksgiving (I won't go into what we ate. A couple of my friends wait for the list every year and one accurately described the literal feast as a food orgy,) my sister-in-law's husband went down to the basement and came back upstairs with a bike trainer which he gave to me. He had bought a Specialized several years back, rode it a few times but eventually lost interest and sold the bike. I had mentioned that I would be interested in purchasing the Minoura Mag 850 from him and he said he would just give it to me.

You may remember when I swapped out my Hutchinson tires for the Bontrager's for the Hotter 'n Hell 100 because one tire had one too many gashes. Well, knowing that these tire friction trainers beat up tires rather handily, I put the less-beat-up of the Hutchinson's on the back wheel to save the back Bonti from excessive wear this winter. The front wheel isn't going anywhere so I just let it be.

The trainer and bike set up easily in the living room and isn't anywhere near as noisy as I had feared. While it might not be as comfortable as the couch for watching TV, at least I can burn calories while wasting time in front of the tube. After all, has anyone ever heard of a, "bike potato?"

So for me, Thursday truly was a day to give Thanks, not only for what I received, but also for the knowledge I now have that can help others.

Plus, I've got all of my Christmas shopping done and didn't even have to risk getting pepper-sprayed in a Wal-Mart on Black Friday. How cool is that?
Sunday, November 20, 2011

Much Rejoicing

I finished my personal fitness training classes! I don't know if I passed the test yet, but at least no one is going to be measuring my fat again any time soon ("and there was much rejoicing").

I just love Terry Gilliam.

As there are many similarities to this certification, we were encouraged to take the AFAA exam as soon as possible (it's supposedly easier) but right now, my head is fogged over with the case studies I just went through. I also have an indoor cycling certification course (AFAA) coming up in a couple of weeks so I can sub at my club in case of a last-minute no-show by an instructor so I don't know when the next test is going to happen.

Since I was at the gym discussing the certification with friends, I've already had several inquiries as to when I would be available to train. While my bank account will be happy to hear this, I will have to start carving out chunks of time to make myself available for clients without forgetting to take time to look after myself and continue training for my own goals. It's odd though because it's the first time I've ever had potential clients/customers without first having a business.

It goes back to that one-to-one networking idea I talked about a few weeks ago. For the woman that is hoping to launch a personal training career from her basement but rarely even ventures to her local Planet Fitness to meet and interact with potential clients or even with people who could lead her to potential clients, this road is going to be much more difficult. Let's face it, if you want to start a skydiving school, you won't get the most out of your networking efforts by hanging out with the Bridge Tournament crowd.

That means I'll be dedicating some time each day both to the gym and to the books - continuing my education to give my clients the best information possible to help them reach their goals.

Right now, it's on to my next goals. My swimming and running have taken a backseat to my studying and it's time to knock the dust off those two disciplines and start working with a goggle towards Spring, which is only a few months of blistering cold, a few (dozen) feet of snow, and a couple of cannibalized minstrels away.

Sure, sure. Always picking on the band.
Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Secret Weapon

At some point, I got it into my head that the only time to get exercise was during my workout sessions. I thought if I was training, I was doing "enough." Trouble is, I lose weight when I workout but gain when I train for endurance events. Those modifications made to my cardiovascular system to build endurance change up my metabolism. When I work out without a specific goal, I'm more of a gym rat, burning more calories, losing more weight.

I think I've finally found a very workable solution to my issue. All I have to do is walk more.

That's it. Not race walking. Not power walking. Not, "Buy these creepy shoes and you'll have a butt worthy of television," walking. Just a stroll a couple of times a day. If my caloric intake remains stable, the extra 200 calories at a low heart rate will add up to a loss without interfering with my recovery time or any scheduled sessions.

My secret weapon is that I'm a middle-aged broad. As such, no one that I meet on the street has any expectation of me doing things like, oh, riding my bike 50 miles or swimming a mile. That means that I can get out on the road and walk and people won't think twice about it. If they see me running, they're likely thinking, "What if she has a heart attack doing that?" and if they see me riding my bike, they think, "Why the heck do they ALL wear Lycra? I just don't see how that's fun..." and perhaps they'd interject some rudeness in there because feelings of insecurity are often hidden behind a caustic veil.

If you think my perception of middle-aged women is way off-base, here's a quick little story...

I used to socialize with a woman that shall remain nameless who goes to the casinos and rakes in a small bundle whenever she wants because she can count cards and disciplines herself to never get greedy. Her husband has been escorted out while they were both playing at the same table but the house never thought twice about the possibility of her counting. Why? Because the pit bosses don't expect the average woman to be able to count cards, so she just finished her hand, cashed in her stacks of chips, and went off to find her hubby. According to the casinos line of thought, when her husband does well, he's cheating, when she does well, hey, even the clueless get lucky sometimes. She taught me a thing or two about perception and gamesmanship.

So if you ever find people underestimating your abilities, instead of killing yourself to prove them wrong, you have the option of using their incorrect perception to your advantage. Sometimes, it's better not to prove yourself to anyone besides yourself. As a middle-aged broad, I can get in a workout and no one will notice. I am stealth. I am working out in plain sight, burning calories during a weight-bearing activity where I don't need to consume electrolytic drinks or 200 calorie energy gels and no one will be any the wiser. It's the modification I need to make now that my metabolism is slowing down.

My first attempt went well. I decided not to channel my inner workout girl  and instead, wore my best spy clothes... jeans, a pullover fleece, and denim-colored trail running shoes. Wow. Lookee here - POCKETS! I can bring a photo ID, my phone (with tunes) and... and... KLEENEX!!! WOO HOO!!! This stealth walking thing is FANTASTIC.

It was an overcast day and about 57 degrees. I had a chance to grab a couple of photos of the neighborhood. The colorful leaves of Fall were pretty much trashed after the snowstorm but there are still some bright spots.

This shrub sticks out even way down the street.

Then there are the signs that some things were changed forever.
I think that I shall never see, a sight so odd as half a tree.
30 minutes later, I was home and NOT sweaty but still warmed up enough to get in a stretch. Since I can easily bundle up and not stray too far from home, this "secret weapon" idea might be worth keeping this winter.

Come to think of it... maybe I ought to throw on a frumpy sweatshirt and head on down to Connecticut for a nice game of Blackjack.
Friday, November 4, 2011

Thoughts on Power

It was an odd week to say the least. First, a freak snowstorm hit us. I should add that I HOPE this is an anomaly and not a portent of Autumns to come. Many in the area are still without power and while most have suffered discomfort, others have had tragedy strike home.

My home lost power from early Sunday morning on through Monday morning. Luckily, even my birds made it through the chilly overnight temperatures unscathed. Some in the area didn't see power until yesterday (Thursday) and the newscasts tell us that there are still about 200,000 in the state without power. I have seen members from my gym and their neighbors booking rooms at the hotels in the area. I even went so far as to go online at work to find a room for a member who just couldn't take another night at home.

The news was even worse for an 86-year old woman named Dorothy Hall of North Brookfield, Mass. who tragically froze to death in her home. She had refused to go into a shelter and the best her 59 year old son could do was to put blankets around her - but to no avail. He was also treated for possible hypothermia at a local hospital. Sadly, news crews interviewed the next door neighbor who said she would have taken them in had she known that they had no heat.

These recent events intersecting with the personal trainer certification journey that I'm on now is where I started thinking about how many times we don't ask for help when we should look to others for assistance. We want to be self-sufficient but quite honestly, we are not all doctors, psychotherapists, nutritionists, auto mechanics, or plumbers. We need other people - professionals and just caring folk alike - to live in this society and we need to know when to ask for help. The old adage that, "It takes a village to raise a child," should have an corollary something to the effect of, "It takes a village to empower a village," with the addendum of, "Each one of us is the village," because as every good salesman/lobbyist/teammate/family knows, it's a numbers game. There is strength in numbers, there are solutions in numbers and all we have to do to gain a numbers' advantage is to let the next person know we're there for them and then to actually be there if they need us.

Maybe we only recognize that we need help when we are looking to survive, but being a part of a community can bring us to actually thrive - to live life as a gift we are grateful to have instead of just waking up at the alarm and hoping to "get through" the next 5 - 12 hours.

I also want to add here that "Friending" people on Facebook and "Following" people on Twitter is NOT what I'm talking about. I believe that one-to-one interaction is still the most powerful tool we have in creating our personal success stories. Think about what we leave out of our blogs, omit from emails and don't post on Facebook but confide in to our closest friends and loved ones. These Social Media/Web 2.0 tools have a place in our lives but when we use them to the point of discarding personal interaction, we lose a chance at being happy without sitting at a keyboard or having an iPhone attached to our hips.

Plus, what happens when the electricity goes out? Like Dorothy Hall, we are stuck in our homes, hoping that something good happens, but what if no one realizes that something bad has happened in the first place? A safe haven was right next door to Ms. Hall but without one-to-one communication, it was never realized.

Don't worry, I know this is a bit more serious than my usual posts but this week has created a slight shift in my personal paradigm and I thought I'd lay out why it's happening than for everyone to say, "Uh - Edie, wt[insert comfortable abbreviation here], girlfriend?" later on.

I'll be catching everyone up on the rest of my stuff soon. In the meantime, stay safe, stay warm, and by all means, stay sane in The Village.

Number 6 is having no fun in The Village
Monday, October 24, 2011

It'll Be Just Like Starting Over

A horrible thing has happened last Saturday. I found myself waking up at close to my regular Work Day alarm clock time.

I'm not a morning person, so realizing I can't get back to sleep at 4:30 AM is disconcerting. Since I have a 6-hour commitment to the personal trainer cert class on Saturdays, I had no time to nap in the afternoon which is my usual schedule.

Remembering my commitment to my virtual running buddy, Ben from Becoming Timberman, I decided to get in a run.

At 6 AM I checked in at and found out that it was 47 degrees. Looking outside, I noticed that it was still pitch dark out there - not even a glimmer of a sun-brightening horizon to be seen. Yes,, I believe you when you say it's cloudy, but it's also DARK. It was an easy decision to hit the treadmill instead of the road.

I opened my workout spreadsheet (yes, old habits die hard and I still plot out everything on a spreadsheet) and checked my runs since I got back from Texas in September... ummm... there were *cough* three multiple entries. All *cough* three*cough* runs were on the treadmill for 47 minutes to fit in a 5K. The last entry was October 1st. Okay, maybe 3 weeks off is stretching that recovery theory. All were at 4.1 MPH, which is mostly a brisk walk and let's keep it at a level 1% grade... did you know that 0 - .5% grade is actually slightly downhill? I read it on the internet so it must be true.

I decided to start out where I,  started out, adding in a 5 minute warm-up and stretch in the front. I noticed that at 4.1 MPH, I can sort of jog so I started doing a jogging pyramid. I would jog for 10 seconds and rest for the remainder of the minute, next minute, 15 seconds and rest, 20 and rest and so on until I reached 35 seconds. Then I went back to 30, 25, until I got back to 10 seconds. Since I haven't been doing any running, this seemed like an easy way to get in that aerobic base mileage and it also made the time go by faster.

Mixed Bag
I wish I could say that I did the pyramid four times and was done but alas, at about 25 minutes in, I felt a serious tightness in my Achilles tendon. This is nothing new but it always feels scary. Not wanting to bag the workout or my tendon, I started walking, dropped my speed down to 3.5 MPH and raised the grade to 4%. This lowered the impact on my leg and was just steep enough to get in a good stretch to loosen it while keeping my heart rate from going too low.

At 36 minutes in, I went back to 4.0 MPH at 1% and did one more jogging pyramid. Then I walked it out to the end, finishing the 5K in 48 minutes and averaged 73% of my maximum heart rate.

That was definitely not as fun as taking a nap.
Saturday, October 15, 2011

What I've Done and Where I've Been

What a month. Last week, just when I thought that I could start training again in earnest, I received a letter from the landlord/management agency that they were going to upgrade the electrical outlets in our apartment on Monday, the 11th.

Unlike most tenants, we have been here over 20 years. If you've ever lived somewhere longer than say, 5 years and had to move, you know how much stuff you can accumulate and that most of it revolves around some outlet. I realized that I would be moving and cleaning stuff all week and I was right. I started Thursday after work, picked up again after Noon spin class on Friday and went right through to Sunday night when I had to finally give it up, get a shower and go to bed. It was a beautiful weekend for riding my bike but the only time I saw the Great Outdoors was when I threw something out at the dumpster.

When I came home from work on Monday, nothing had been touched. I called my husband and he said, "look at the letter - I thought it said today."

I looked at the letter and said, "It says, 'Monday, October 11'. This is the 10th. Do you think we read 'Monday' and they read '11'?"

That was it.

I got home from work Tuesday around 10 AM and saw the electrical truck leaving. I walked in. They had been there and they weren't finished. In fact, they had done more than outlets, they had taken out ceiling light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, electric baseboard wiring, and closet lights.

Since we had only planned on wall outlets getting upgraded , this was a nightmare and a half. They had moved things away from the closets (where you hide stuff) and put them in the middle of the room. Every closet door, every window and the porch doors were wide open. There was nowhere to sit, nowhere to take a nap. My cockatiels were in one of the rooms and it was not warm out that day. They were freaked, to say the least.

Further, the electricians had moved a 4-foot tall plant away from the window to get to a heater and it had toppled over onto my bed. They didn't know where to put my bike that was in front of a closet door so they put it... on top of my couch. They put nothing underneath to protect the couch and they put it with the drive side leaning against the back of the couch. Two for one.

I. Was. Reeling.

I closed the window in the room where the birds were and stayed on the phone with my husband until the electricians returned. I wanted them to know that I had seen EVERYTHING. With a rep from the apartment complex standing by within earshot, I repeated everything I had just seen to my husband and told him I was shaking and needed sleep. Then I left without ever making eye contact or saying a word to them.

I managed to grab my gear for spin before I left but it was only 11 AM and spin was at 5:15 PM. I went to the local mini-mall and hung out at Best Buy, Sports Authority (they now carry the full line of Honey Stinger products) and PetCo where I spent 40 bucks on bird stuff (guilt is definitely an economy booster). I picked up a yogurt, coffee, and ProBar at the grocery store for lunch, ate in my Piece O'Crap car, and then headed back to the gym where I had one of those "DOH!" moments when I realized I could have had a high-in-sodium-and-saturated-fat lunch at the hotel's restaurant for free.

When I got home, for the most part, everything had been put back into place. The first thing I did after checking on my birds was to put my computer back together.

My apologies to those I follow for not being able to comment on your blogs. I've been reading them on my boss' computer but haven't been able to sign in to comment. I'd love to get a laptop but I really need to get a car first.

Later on today, I start the first of six 6-hour class sessions for my personal trainer certification. I'm hoping this will be finally be the catalyst that gets me moving in the right direction this winter because right now, this punk seems to be going nowhere real fast.
Thursday, October 6, 2011


Over the weekend, I started reading about Chia Seeds. They were popularized by the book, "Born to Run" which is, unfortunately, not about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band but rather about the Tarahumara - a Native American tribe of people that live in the remote Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. They are noted for their ability to run 50 - 100 miles every day and (this is important) they enjoy it.


I haven't read the book so I have no idea why they'd all be a bunch of Dean Karnazes except perhaps there's really nothing else to do where they live. I went online to the Massachusetts public library website to place a hold on the next available copy.

At the moment, I'm more interested in homemade energy gels and bars so my attention was drawn to what the Tarahumara (they refer to themselves as the Raramuri) eat and drink. According to all of the superior and unbiased reporting on the internet (oh, I slipped into sarcasm there,) this is supposedly one of the key components of running without a sports store nearby to sell you packets of GU. One food/fuel source is Pinole which is a type of corn meal that is dry roasted. The modern version is mixed with honey and cinnamon and then either ate or drank, depending on your needs. Tesguino or "corn beer" is a high carbohydrate beer that is very low in alcohol content It's a big part of their culture during harvest season and also featured during Easter week. Another fuel mentioned is Iskiate which is a drink made with chia seeds.

These seeds, like everything else that every fad-diet promoter wants us to believe - are "THE" answer to all of our problems. They supposedly:
  • Are High in Fiber
  • Promote Hydration
  • Ounce for ounce, have more iron than spinach
  • Are SUPER high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
  • Slow the absorption of carbs in the body, thereby extending our energy stores, enabling us to run/walk/cycle/swim/feel full longer.

Most websites that talk about Iskiate say something like this:

"Iskiate, or chia fresca, consists of chia seeds dissolved in water and seasoned with lime and a dash of sugar."

I found the seeds in the organic section of my local grocery store. Following the suggested recipe, I put a tablespoon of chia seeds into cold water, added some agave nectar, about two teaspoons of lime juice and, feeling daring, threw in a slice of candied ginger. I put the glass into the fridge to let the seeds dissolve while my husband and I discussed whether or not these seeds were the same ones they were selling at pets As Seen On TV (they are).

The seeds don't dissolve. They definitely germinated and that process formed a gel around the seeds, but there are still seeds... LOTS of seeds.

Okay, what did I miss?
"Chia seeds form a gel with water thus suspending the particles and making it a little less awkward to drink."

Okay, so they're not going to dissolve. That made me feel better but I still felt "awkward" about drinking it.

I also read that this recipe is a great energy drink in the morning. Ummm, sure it is. After all, it has sugar in it. Just about the time I decided that I can drink this concoction in the morning before I go to work, I read the following...

"Chia seeds contain hydrophilic colloid that helps for better digestion and the nutrients from the seeds are metabolized efficiently and quickly to the blood stream, resulting to immediate nourishment of the body...."

WARNING: Nearing Google Overload. Nearing Google Overload.

Is it just me, or did I just read, "better digestion..metabolized efficiently"? To me, with 1-ounce of chia containing 11 grams of dietary fiber,those types of phrases mean I should probably wait until I get home to drink this where I have access to a private bathroom and more toilet paper -just in case.

When I got home from work about 10:30 AM, I took the drink out of the fridge, stirred up the seeds, and downed it. The only flavors I tasted were the lime, ginger and the sweeteners. Even though the seeds are supposed to have a nutty flavor (yeah, imagine that,) there wasn't enough taste to the seeds for me to form an opinion but I'll admit that they did slide down rather efficiently. Then I sat on the couch, waiting to see if I had any adverse reactions to this super-bad ancient energy-boosting beverage, and while I was waiting, I fell asleep. So much for endurance testing.

Observation number one - There is no substitute for sleep.

My research continues.
Next Gen Endurance Athlete
Saturday, October 1, 2011

Met One Goal

Guess what? My Piece O'Crap car finally passed inspection! Yes, it took 2.5 months of fighting with our local National Tire and Battery to get the parking brake to work... and they never did, but the SpeeDee Oil Change (where I got the sticker) fixed NTB's mistakes in one day.

Conclusion, NTB can give you great tires, just stay away from them when it comes to brake work.

Even the mechanic at SpeeDee said not to put any more money into the car (which we've known all along) and figured I might get another year out of it if I "baby it." That said, I doubt the upcoming New England winter knows how to baby a car but at least the mechanic gave me referrals to two places where I can get cheap and reliable used cars if the same scenario of The Legend of the Money Pit Car tries to play itself out again before I can put together financing for a new one.

Now that I can drive around without worrying about being pulled over because of that blasted Rejection sticker, I am starting to get rolling on my training routine.

I added two spin classes to my week, giving me a total of three which will help keep my cardio amped as my on-road cycling mileage decreases with the seasonal changes. I can add in the pool sessions next week and I might actually be able to meet up with people for group rides although I was just noticing that the next two Sundays feature rides out of my car's "baby zone." At least I can still head on over to the Blackstone River Bikeway for some mid-week riding fun.

Of course, the one thing I can always count on here in New England is inconsistent weather patterns. Last night, the forecast for today was for an "occasional shower." What actually happened was an occasional let-up of some hard core downpours. So instead of getting in local hill repeats in-between rain droplets this morning, I opted for the comfort and safety of the treadmill at the clubhouse (put the emphasis on "safety" as that "comfort" thing only applies for the first 15 minutes I'm on the contraption, then I'm just as soaked as if I had worked outdoors).

How much fun can a Red Sox fan have in one week? Kind of ironic that they would "DNF" their season, too. Oh, well. At least no one will ever accuse me of being an over-paid prima donna.
Friday, September 23, 2011

The Off-Season is On

Now that my races are behind me for 2011, it's time to start the off-season training. Since I still don't have a car, I can't meet up with other cyclists so that leaves me with swimming, weight-training and running.

I decided to kick off the weekend with... a cold. That meant I wasn't getting in the pool - no way, no how. So it's been a good week to get that run thing going.

My running goal is always like that New Year's resolution everybody makes and 90% give up on 6 weeks later. I just give up on it before I reach the end. So this season, instead of trying a new down-loadable program, I'm just going to take what I know I've got and try to improve on it.

Starting From Scratch
Not having been on a consistent running schedule, I'm pretty much starting at square one. That's okay by me since I never really got past square 2 anyway.

I was going to get a new 5K time but since I had no ambition to get on the road with this cold, I'm just using my only timed 5K road race as my starting point. In that race, I finished at 42:42. It was a hilly course but no matter. The average walk/jog/shuffle-y thing speed for that race calculates out to about 4.35 mph so I'm going to approach this from three angles (which might be a bad thing given my distaste for geometry).

1) All workouts will be done on a treadmill. This will force my legs to keep a steady pace until I am comfortable keeping pace outdoors. The lighter weight-bearing activity will prevent injury and this also eliminates the weather as an excuse for not running. I'll keep the grade at 1% for a flat road.

2) I'm starting out at a pace below my 5K time - 4mph which is what on the bike would be considered "base mileage." It isn't running yet - more like a brisk walk - but the muscles will start getting the message that this going to be the adaptive workout du jour.

3) All workouts will be 45 minutes long. If I actually get faster (you'd think I would but who really knows) the runs would get shorter as I progressed if I only measured my workouts in distance. Starting at 45 minutes at 4mph also pretty much guarantees that I'll be covering at least a 5K every time.

So the trick then is to push a little faster each week through the winter until I'm holding a 6 mph jog every time. At that point, I should be strong enough to add in some high intensity interval training and some higher grades.

The first two workouts have gone fine although I do have to go 47 minutes to get that last 1/10th of a mile in for a complete 5K. I should have brought more Kleenex with me, too. I'm sure things will start to get interesting when I start creeping up to the 4.7 - 5.1 mph mark since I can never decide whether I'm walking or jogging at those speeds.
Saturday, September 17, 2011

Moving Along

As I sit here today, waiting for my piece o'crap car to get fixed ( for weeks now, my husband has been battling National Tire and Battery about my car), I thought I'd write an update on what's been going on and what my next goals are.

My Car
Although it's safe to drive, it still isn't legal. Because of this, I missed my last triathlon of the season simply because I'm not taking my car out unnecessarily and my gear doesn't fit in my husband's little jeep. That means my official rides and races are over for the year. My first goal is to get a sticker on my car. My second goal is to get a new car.

I Need to Finish Something
I finished one triathlon early on in the season with less than flying colors and the rest were DNFs (except for that race in Tiverton, RI, but I didn't get an "official" finishing time). I definitely have too much unfinished business on my plate to look at more difficult venues. I just need to get done what I set out to do.

Lose 30 pounds
Lighter is faster. Period. I thought that my weight-loss goal was 25 pounds but the new data by triathlon fitness expert Matt Fitzgerald puts me 30 pounds over my racing weight. I have all winter to do it so I don't have to go to extremes to get it done.

Personal Trainer Certification
About mid-week, my manager at the gym sent me an email that one of our partners - Dr. Patti Mantia of Holyoke Community College and AFAA consultant - is holding a 6-week Personal Training Certification course on Saturdays this Fall at our gym. She comps one gym employee per year to attend these sessions and I'm the lucky duck that gets the free ride. I've always had some sort of schedule conflict that prevented me from doing this earlier but it appears the Timing Gods have finally smiled on me.
I'm very excited about this and have already started creating flash cards to help me memorize the bones, joint movements, and muscles. I actually woke up the other night and the first thought that came to me was, "Sternocleidomastoid!"

I found a nice indoor lap pool not too far from home that I can access once a week. I can work on technique in the pool at my gym (I think I've mentioned it's a kidney-shaped pool in the hotel so it doesn't lend itself to endurance laps). I'll then compliment that training with laps at the other pool. I'll see if I can find a timed, 1 mile open water swim event in late Spring or early Summer that I can lead into...

Half Ironman Aquabike
That's a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride event. I know I can ride the bike, it's just a question of that water thing. This off season I won't be waiting until February to get back into the water. I know my legs won't hold up for a half-marathon this year but I'd love to get in a longer timed bike race... and get past that water thing.

George Street Challenge - Worcester, MA
Distance - 500 feet. Average Grade - 18%.

Well, this actually does fall under the "more difficult venue" category but it's been on my radar for awhile and the work I need to do to complete it falls within my training schedule for the year.

George Street in Worcester (pronounced "WooH-ster" or "wuh-stah" if your native accent is thick) is well known in the area as the training ground for one of the first pro African American cyclists named Marshall "Major" Taylor. He won the U.S. circuit championships in 1899 and 1900. He also won the world one-mile professional cycling championship in 1899.

Right now, I think I can get to about here:
About as far as I can climb

To achieve this goal, besides losing the weight and continuing with my strength training, I'm going to find a steeper hill a little closer to home that I can repeat. In all likelihood, that hill will be Tower Hill Road which is just over the Mass./Rhode Island border from home. Tower Hill is 1,113.5 meters (under 3/4-mile), has an average gradient of 8.3% and maxes out at 16.7%. I've never even bothered to try and climb it. Now, I'm going to try and repeat it... if I ever get to the top just once.

The "Goal within the goal" is to beat Ginny Fanning's time of 86.53 seconds. Due to copyright rules, I can't re-publish her picture here but follow the link and you'll see that she's 71 years young and did the climb in sneakers!

Run a 5K in less than 30 Minutes
Oh, boy. Here I go again. The thing is, if I can't run, there's really no point in doing even sprint-distance triathlons because I simply dread what should be an easy finish. I'm going to change up my training a little this year and I'll outline the new strategy later on. If I can at least get closer to a 30 minute 5K as opposed to a 45 minute 5K, then I'll feel more confident about entering full tris again... especially if I can also get past that water thing.

Hotter 'n Hell Hundred 2012
You knew this was coming. I managed over half the course this year and really only pulled out because of the excessive heat. I was working out at the gym 2 days later. In other words, the experience didn't scare me off or sour me on the event (although I think it scared some of the people at my gym because I'm still getting questions about it). Still, a DNF is a DNF so there are definitely a couple of things I'll be doing differently. After all, I'd like to finish it this time.
What the heck, in the HHH, I don't even have to deal with that water thing.
Thursday, September 8, 2011

Archer City

As you may have noticed from my pictures of Holliday, Texas, there really isn't much to look at in the area. As such, you have to look at the details to find inspiration for your next adventure.
110 Degrees is Uninspiring

Found Inspiration on Main Street
That red arrow isn't pointing to a street sign. It's actually a mileage sign to the next town. The next town is Archer City, 20 miles away. Archer City is the hometown of actress Angela Kinsey who plays Angela (go figure) in The Office. While that is kind of cool, the city is best known as the birthplace of Pulitzer prize-winning author, Larry McMurtry.

Location shots for The Last Picture Show and Texasville were shot in parts of Archer City, Wichita Falls, and even little Holliday. Holliday isn't listed in the IMDB location filming credits but my cousins have the Kodak moments of Jeff Bridges talking with the locals in-between scenes to prove it. In contrast, Cybill Shepherd was nowhere to be seen. (Rumor has it that she was hiding away, terrified of catching something from the natives.)

McMurtry's story is semi-autobiographical and it was a little intriguing to see where the films were shot, but it is also worth noting that while he lived in the Washington D.C. area he and two partners started a used book store in Georgetown called Booked Up, Inc. He opened a branch in Archer City and it is now one of the largest used book stores in the United States.

As I'm a big fan of the dying culture of the used bookstore (you can't get that smell from a Kindle,) that's the kind of inspirational detail that I'm always looking for. It was then that I knew I must make a pilgrimage to Archer City before I left Texas.

I originally thought that the trip would be a solo ride by bicycle. As you may already know, my earlier local rides didn't turn out so well. Once again, I hired my sister to be my Sherpa guide (paid for with endearing begging) and we took off for the local Hollywood launch pad.

The ride there was pretty much what I have already showed you. We did stop at the rest area so I could take more pictures.
Cooking on grill is not recommended.
Nearing the town, my sister noted a sign for the Lonesome Dove Bed and Breakfast. We were definitely in Larryville. There is one thing that stands out about Booked Up that I never realized before my visit. There are actually four buildings that hold the nearly 450,000 books in its collection. Each of the buildings is somewhere around the courthouse and that makes sense since most of the town is around the courthouse.
Archer City Courthouse

We went into Building #4 first since it was closest. It's right next door to the Royal Theater  which was featured in The Last Picture Show.
Royal Theater from Booked Up Entrance

Then we went into Building #4.
Building #4
Inside Building #4, I found an interesting sign. It seems the only clerks around are in Building #1. The other three buildings have surveillance cameras to not answer your questions. You simply bring your books to Building #1 and pay for everything at once.
You are Here. Pay Over There.
Over in Building #1, I found a small vignette honoring the Old West section of books.
Local Steer Posing for the Tourist
While I was browsing in Building #1, I spotted Leo, the cat, resting near the back door. I tried to take a picture of the snoozing kitty but Leo had other ideas. A proper host, he came over meowing and greeting his visitors. He acted like he was really happy to see us. I finally started petting him just to get him to sit still long enough to get a picture.
Leo Welcomes Me to Booked Up, Inc.
What's Missing Here?
What's missing in all of the pictures are people. There weren't any. This was Tuesday at around lunchtime. The only two people in the bookstores besides me and my sister were the two clerks in Building #1. Dying culture,indeed. Mirroring the bookstore was the town square around the courthouse. Archer City is practically a ghost town. As far as I could tell, there were more bookstores than restaurants - one cafe' and one Tommy's Donuts and Fried Rice restaurant (I'm not kidding and I don't want to know). You can also get lunch to go at the local Oodles Market (a convenience store, really). My sister and I grabbed large cherry limeade slushes at Oodles to keep us cool for the trip back to Holliday.

Side note: Has anyone else ever suffered brain freeze in your chest? Man, that is seriously painful and scary.

On the way home while sniffing and searching the area for wildfires, I wondered how much longer McMurtry could sustain Booked Up, Inc. and if Archer City, which primarily a rancher's town, could rebound from the drought in the current economy.

I also decided that I'm happy I trusted my instincts and didn't try to ride to Archer City by bike. The local market was on the other side of town from where I would have entered and I could see myself falling apart looking for it on those hot roads.

Score one for common sense.
Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hotter 'n Hell Hundred Report

Welcome to Texas
A drought-ridden area. An announced optional start one hour early to beat the heat. 84 degrees at 4:30 AM. Sweat running down my back while standing next to my bike in the dark at 6:00 AM. This could be... not good.

It wasn't.

The Lead-in
I guess it really starts with the extra time it took my LBS to pack my bike. That extra day and a half backed up the shipping arrival. While I arrived in Holliday - outside of Wichita Falls - on Friday, the bike didn't arrive until Tuesday. That left me with three days of race/walking to try and get used to the heat and nearly every day was a record-setting heat-blaster of a day. That also left me with the strangest taper I've ever tried to do.

I took some pictures of Holliday that I'd like to share.

Here's the heart of the bustling downtown area.
Downtown - Where all the lights are bright.

Do a 90 degree turn to the left and you're looking down Main Street.

Here's the local jail, circa 1925. They've built a new one since then.
Who needs waterboarding when you have this.

After spending most of Tuesday putting the bike back together (UPS, I have said ugly, unprintable things about you and your handling of bicycles) I finally got out on the bike Wednesday and decided to go out after lunch. Maybe I should have gone out a little later after lunch... okay, I SHOULD HAVE WAITED LONGER - happy now? If you ever get antsy when you haven't been on your bike in awhile, you get an idea of how I was feeling. I ignored the big glob of gunk in my gut and started pedaling away to see how I did on the chip seal roads. The goal was to do somewhere around 20 miles at an easy pace.

My cousin would later note that about the time I was outside, it was 110 degrees. That would explain the cramping and the decision to turn and head back before I was 5 miles out. Riding on a full stomach on a road that makes you feel like you're the ice in a bartender's cocktail shaker explains other near-catastrophic events (no need to further paint that picture). I managed 9 miles in 45 minutes and was gasping and nearly suffering from heat exhaustion. So much for Acclimatization Ride number one.

At least I had the local scenery to keep me company.
Simulating Race Day Conditions

On top of all of this, my tendency to not tighten things like guys tighten things came back to haunt me. By the time I got back, my seat had lowered and my handlebars were drooping. My husband was on the phone scolding me and telling me to find a guy to tighten the bolts. I ignored his chastising.

Thursday, everything seemed to be working out better except that around mile 6, I realized that the same cleat issue I had before I left Massachusetts was occurring again. I turned around and headed home. That day, I felt better about the ride itself but still had mechanical issues to deal with. A trip into town for some silicone sealant, tightening everything up (again - yes, I still didn't tighten it up right) and a quick test ride around the block and that was as good as it was going to get.

The day before the ride, I added salt to a 32-ounce bottle of Powerade and spent the day drinking that and eating salty crackers, etc.

The Ride
The race day itself played out almost as I expected. When they gave us the go-ahead, I stayed to the right - out of harm's way to avoid the "dodgers" that were going to jut in and out of the slower riders in an attempt to break from the pack.

When the crowds started to thin out after 20 miles or so, it was easier to pick up a little speed. Not having had a chance to check out the hills on the course, I decided to do easy spinning on the smaller slopes to conserve energy.

At the mile 50 rest stop, I made what would turn out to be a crucial mistake. I had only 13 miles to go before reaching the Hell's Gate cut-off and it was only a little after 10;00 AM so I figured I was making great time. I also noticed that more and more people were starting to get treated for heat-related issues so I decided to stick around and bring my heart rate down a tad. I had two cups of Gatorade and spent some time under a tent and eating ice and a package of Honey Stinger Chews (I should mention that unlike the Powerbar Energy Blasts, they didn't melt in the heat.) Feeling refreshed but aware of a noticeable increase in the temperature, I took my time getting to the next rest stop. The people of Burkburnett were out with hoses for the riders and we snaked along the route to get a shot of each one. I also took the time to ride up and high-five the lines of kids that were cheering us on.

I arrived at the mile 60 rest stop only to be informed by one of the awesome volunteers that due to there being an increase in cases of heat-related stress and a temperature at 103 degrees, Hell's Gate had just closed. Yes, they closed the gate at 11:00 - one hour earlier than I had anticipated - and there I was, about 3 miles away.

Emotionally, I guess it was downhill from there. Between the heat, the missed Gate, and the fact that I couldn't get a clear idea if I had 30 miles to go or 13 miles, I pretty much gave up. I took my time getting going again - even taking time out to call my sister and tell her I'd missed the Gate and would be in early. When it neared about Noon, I saw a SAG wagon on the side of the road and, remembering my fun lunch time ride from 3 days earlier, decided that I should take myself out of the game before someone had to peel me off of the pavement. Once I felt the A/C in the cab of the truck, I knew I wasn't getting out until I was back at Finish Line Village.

One thing that ticked me off when we got there was that some riders actually jumped back on course to ride through the finish line and get medals. Here in New England, we call that, "Pulling a Rosie Ruiz," for the woman that in 1980, won the Boston Marathon only to be found out later that she actually jumped into the race a half-mile from the finish. Nice going people.

On the bright side, I was delighted to finally get the opportunity to meet Roy and Christine from the Pedal Pushers cycling club of San Angelo. Purely by chance, we met at the convention center where we were supposed to meet the evening before. The heat and health of my sister (she's a wimp - okay, she's got some health stuff that affected her that day) forced us to miss a meeting the previous evening. Chris and Roy invited us back to their hotel room where they presented me with a Pedal Pushers cap. Roy even gave me his Finisher's medal as a souvenir. That was incredibly generous of him.

We had a great visit talking about cycling, equipment, blogs, and the record heat and how miserable it was to ride in that climate. Of course, before we had even had a chance to shower, we were discussing how we would be revising our training strategy for a more successful ride next year.

Gotta love endurance athletes.
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Almost a Long Ride

Yesterday (Saturday,) I was trying to go for my final long ride before I pack up and head to Texas. I was really hoping to hit 80 - 90 miles to boost my confidence. I told my husband that anything less than 65 miles would be a disappointment to me. Everything was going well until about mile 62 when I was trying to unclip at a rest stop to take a quick break.

The quick break turned into a long break when my right shoe wouldn't unclip. When I finally managed to free the shoe, I realized that the entire cleat system had remained in the pedal. I got out the multi-tool from my bag and, by turning the float as low as possible (not that I ride with it tight anyway,) I was able to pop the cleat out with the flat head screwdriver. I think it's the first time I was happy to be carrying a multi-tool instead of just a set of hex wrenches.

Amazingly, the screws, instead of being stripped, had just unscrewed themselves from the shoe plate. The was especially surprising to me since I had just tightened the screws before I went out on the road. I've been making several adjustments to the cleats on my right shoe as that seems to be the reason I've had some foot numbing issues.

Well, I sat out there for awhile fiddling with the screws and the cleats and I finally managed to set and tighten them up but decided that when I got back to the car, it would be wise to see if the cleats were loose again before finishing up my ride.

Back at the car, I took off my shoe to see what was what and, instead of putting my foot on the ground, I stepped up to rest it in the interior of my car to avoid the dirty ground. Too bad I missed and wound up whacking my foot on the underside of the car frame.

Ow. Pain. End of ride at 72 miles. This is why I shy away from step classes.

I got a decent night's sleep to recover and the foot feels much better. I might lose a toenail but that's a parade I've marched in before. At least I'm not limping around like I was last night.

Today's planned swim and final ride with my friend and trainer was canceled as well. She has had a worse week when it comes to battling unexpected health issues. We were wondering what planet went retrograde or whatever to cause all of this untimely nonsense. We are both in desperate need of vacations right now.

So, that's it for rides in Massachusetts until the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred. I'm planning on taking my bike to the LBS tomorrow to get it boxed up for shipping. I'll be shipping off myself this Friday and leaving hubby in charge of the fort. He refuses to set foot in Texas in August.

On the bright side, with about 200 miles on the new Bontragers, I was finally able to push up the tire pressure to 120 psi. I don't know why but hearing the tire beads click into the wheel rim while I am inflating the tire is a very comforting sound. That means that if I lower the pressure to 105 psi for the HHH as Roy from the Pedal Pushers suggests, the tire has plenty of room to expand in the heat without stressing the walls. It also means that if I do get a flat, putting the tire back on the wheel will be easier than when they were fresh out of the back room of my local bike shop.

I'll take the small victories.
Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Tires

Three weeks ago, I rode over a piece of metal and found myself with a half-inch gash on my front tire. I put a piece of friction tape on the inside and managed to continue logging the miles but knew I'd have to replace them before the Hotter 'n Hell 100. The tires were starting to fray and I knew that replacing them before the ride was inevitable anyway, but I was sort of hoping to hit the lottery before I needed them. Too bad I don't play the lottery.

Last Saturday's 73.6 miles was my longest ride to date. I had wanted to log at least 80 miles and after mile 64, I knew I was in unknown territory but still felt relatively fresh - or so I thought. All of a sudden, I had nothing left in my legs. I wasn't stressed from a cardio standpoint but I couldn't find a comfortable gear to spin in - everything felt difficult. I could feel some serious stress in my right leg and my foot going numb so I limped back at about 13 mph over the last 10 miles. Seriously doubting myself, I was wondering if (and hoping) the cut on my tire might be hindering me more than I realized.

A couple of days later I was going to bring my bike out for a recovery ride when I realized that the back wheel was rubbing against the brake - a LOT. Was that the reason I couldn't finish my long ride? When I had originally brought my bike in to my LBS for its initial tune-up and fit, I had been told that the Slime tubes the original owner had put in would probably put my wheels out of true and it seemed that prophecy had finally been fulfilled.

Instead of going out for a ride, I decided it was time to get the new tires (and tubes) to give me time to break them in before the HH100. Unfortunately, with the amount of money I've put into my car (don't even get me started) and the shipping costs I was about to incur getting my bike to Texas, I was hesitant to spend the money on the tires I really wanted. Doing some online research, I opted for a mid-priced Kenda Kaliente and then went to my LBS to purchase them whereupon they told me they didn't have them in my size.

Good grief. Okay, experts, sell me what you've got in stock.... It's always Bontragers. They must have a huge profit margin on Bontrager because everything in the store is B's. I went from these nice and practically bomb-proof Hutchinson TopSpeed 23's to Bontrager 700 x 25 BL Hardcase with "Triple Flat Protection."
Yeah, right, and the E-Trade baby is loving the stock market this week.

I took them home, got a blister trying to put the things on my wheels (thank you, hubby, for doing in 3 minutes what I couldn't do in 90 minutes,) trued the back wheel and made a brake adjustment. I made it out for a cautious 20 mile ride, made a couple more adjustments, and did a 56 mile ride yesterday, including getting in a new, short but mildly challenging hill that I hit three times. The hill even has a "steep hill" bicycle sign! I like those kinds of hills on relatively flat rides because then I don't feel like I'm cheating myself on the workout.

The tires are still very tight and I have not even been able to inflate them up to the recommended 120 psi (100 on the front, 110 on the back) so I've got some more breaking-in to do but initially, they feel more "tank-like" than my Hutchinsons with less maneuverability on turns and I am about 1.5 mph slower on my cruising speed. From the reviews I've read, they are supposed to be a good long-distance tire. I'll keep them for training and the HH100 and then over the winter, I'll save up for a nice set of race tires for next Summer's adventures.

The goal this week is to get in another 150 miles to hopefully stretch the tires up to 120 psi. I think for the HH100 I will probably keep them at 110-115 psi just for some expansion room on those hot roads. If anyone has a better idea on the psi for the HH100, I'd love to hear it.

The only other revelation I've had over the past couple of weeks is that 50-mile rides no longer feel "epic" to me. It feels more like a good, solid workout but nothing drastically difficult. It was strange yesterday to ride 56 miles and think to myself, "Too bad I couldn't get in a long ride today. Well, at least I got in some hill work to make up for it."

Unfortunately at this point, I still don't know if I'm going to hit a wall at 65 miles again and it's really too late to do anything about it.
Monday, July 25, 2011

Mistake Fixed

I didn't know wetsuits could do that.

After a successful one-on-one with my swim coach, treading water while in a wetsuit is no longer an issue for me. She showed me how to pull myself upright and just hang out in the deep stuff. Easy. I wish I had spent the money on a wetsuit years ago.

Regarding One Little Mistake, where I described why treading water was something I sorely needed to learn, I had a comment from Roy and Christine of the Pedal Pushers regarding this post.
"I am not sure I understand the Intricacies of the swimming part. My friends just talk about getting kicked or jabbed...."

Your friends forgot to mention getting swum over, pushed down and rolled over.

Here are a couple of different types of triathlon swim starts. They put the "MA!!" in Mass Starts;

Point-to-Point Start
This means you start at some pre-determined point in the water and swim to another point (hopefully somewhere near the shoreline).
This is the start of the Pros at the Ironman World Champsionships in 2009.

To be honest, you could put your thumb on the screen and cover as many women as will be in my next point-to-point start. This just looks so much more awesome.

Beach Start
You start at the beach and swim to another point along the shore, either out and back around a line of buoys or along the shoreline.

The theory: You start near the front and run like an animal into the surf. Once you're about knee-to-quad deep, you dive in head first. Do 3 dolphin kicks, keep your head down and drive for about 20-25 hard strokes. Come up for air using the breaststroke, pick a spot on the horizon that you can watch to keep yourself swimming in a straight line, and start your swim stroke of choice. It should feel like the Filene's Basement Running of the Brides.

The reality: Figuring you've been plowed over enough at these starts, you start in the middle to back of the mob and walk in like you're waiting for a popular ride at an amusement park. You might start swimming while others are just about ready to make their turnaround. This traffic jam is why treading water could be important. Sinking is a bad thing but even more so when no one knows you've gone under and anyone in a wetsuit won't be able to dive down and grab you.

This is the beach start for 2009 Ironman Florida.

It's these kinds of starts that inspired this iconic Clif Bar ad:

Oh, and if you are unfamiliar with the "Running of the Brides" - here's the video. It is currently on hiatus in Boston but I believe New York is carrying the torch right now.

The mentality is the same but with less sand and water.
Friday, July 22, 2011

One Little Mistake

When I was at work Thursday morning, my friend/swim coach came in to get ready for her classes and the following conversation transpired:

Me: I think I figured out this morning what my problem has been through all of these triathlons.

Her: What?

Me: I suck at treading water.

You do?

Me: I realized that I panic when I have to tread because I can't.

Her: You shouldn't have a problem with that in a wetsuit.

Me: I didn't even give the wetsuit a chance to fail me.

Her: ... and you're too tall to work on that at this pool. (The deep end of the pool is only 5'7" and I'm 5'9". I can literally stand in the deep end and not drown.)

Me: So I work on it at the clubhouse and the lake but I can never get it right.

Her: ... and you sink.

Me: and I sink.

Her: That's pretty scary.

Me: 'Scary' is a good word.

Her: It's actually pretty terrifying.

Me: I wouldn't disagree with that assessment. There's nothing like flipping out four feet away from the side of a pool. I must have watched 10 "how-to" videos but I'm just not getting it. It's weird that I can swim all over the deep end and not worry about it unless I have to stop. Then I'm scrambling for the sides or shallows and just trying to talk myself down.

Her: So we'll work on that on Sunday.

I don't know why it took so long to put the pieces together. Perhaps it's because I know how to swim and just getting from one end of the pool to other is no big deal to me but it's one of those "must-have" skills that I don't have and it rears its ugly head in the mass starts of these triathlons with their urban "Stop and Go" traffic crushes.

Not being able to tread water is like not being able to unclip at a stoplight or going hiking in Alaska with a camera, bug spray, and zero knowledge of how to handle the encounter you're having with that Grizzly bear 100 feet away from you. These are things that need to be figured out before-hand and I didn't do it.

We may think we're planning for every contingency but planning and reality will clash in the most unpredictable ways. You can see this in every pro sports team when they get to the highest levels - when matching skill-set to skill-set, weaknesses are exacerbated and exploited. No one is immune. Some are just more well-rounded than others.

This is one jagged edge that I have to smooth out soon.
Monday, July 18, 2011

Eau de Plateau

After a less than stellar week, I jumped on what calls a "Category 5" climb to work some hill repeats on Saturday morning. They rate any climb "over 500 meters and with an average grade of 3%" with Category 5 being the easiest. I have to think that this is a flawed measurement though because the so-called Cat 5 that I was climbing had a listed average grade of 2.4%.

The other flaw in the plan was that I decided to go out at about 6:30 in the morning in order to avoid traffic. The flaw was the location. The primary street is only 1/4-mile from a golf course which meant all of those crazies trying to make their tee time were whizzing past me.

Yes, I know I called the golfers, "crazies," but don't hate on me. You see, my father was a more than avid golf nut who practiced year 'round in Chicago. He even set up a tee and screen in the garage to practice in sub-zero weather. Somewhere in an old scrap book is a picture of him on the driving range in the middle of a snowy winter. A local photographer caught him and it was printed in the paper. He was practicing for a tourney called, "The Eskimo Open." My husband is a golfer as well. I know these people and I know how they drive when the greens are calling.

I was worried that I might be in over my head on this climb when I saw a local race club going down the hill and they nodded, smiled, and waved at me... a sign of respect? Now I'm nervous.

No need for nerves. The climb wasn't any harder than the repeat I did a couple of weeks ago, just longer. There was one short section that let me practice my climbing-while-standing skills. The descent was actually more unnerving as my glasses kept fogging and clearing at 25mph. Fogged glasses, tee times... oh, those weren't in the plan. I made it back and forth three times and then rode home and did a 30-minute walk/run interval session.

Sunday brought an easy 50-mile bike ride. I know that I'm supposed to rest after a hill repeat workout but it was Sunday... SUNDAY!!
I turned it into a recovery ride, knowing that Monday was bringing the threat of thunderstorms (that means rain for those that may not remember that weather phenomenon) and I would treat that as a rest/errand day. That it was an easier ride than the 35 miles I did earlier in the week means I'm either breaking past the plateau I've been riding at lately or the humidity is the real enemy during these hotter rides. I'm thinking it's a little of both because I have no tightness the day after these two exercises but did feel it immediately after the ride which is my personal signal for dehydration even though I was taking in electrolytes every 10 minutes.

Today (Monday) at work also brought a comment from my friend/swim coach (who, besides earning a living as a swim instructor, is also a triathlete coach, an Ironman finisher and former Team-in-Training coach). She mentioned that she did a half-mile swim at the beach in Hopkinton over the weekend. Knowing that she held an open-water swim clinic at that same beach, that's what I affectionately call a, "gauntlet soft-toss."

We are planning a swim/ride brick some time in the next two weeks in preparation for the Title 9 triathlon in Hopkinton in September. She is bound and determined that I will finish the swim/tri this year. I am bound and determined to finish just so I don't ruin her stellar reputation. She's a great coach, I'm just a lousy student so I have to adjust my schedule to fit in some more swim time to be sure and make her proud... and get out of the water so I can kick her butt on the bike.
Saturday, July 16, 2011

Week of Meh

While this past week should have been a week to ramp up my mileage, I instead wound up dealing with new issues pertaining to my Piece O'Crap car. The car actually failed it's yearly state inspection and I was off to deal with a parking brake repair. For those outside of Massachusetts, if your car fails, you have 60 days to make repairs and get it re-inspected before they revoke your registration so I had some time to get it done. I rarely use the parking brake so I had no idea that it no longer worked. I was told that the cables were original to the car so it was definitely time for replacements.

Unfortunately, there were no new cables to be found in the region and the garage had to order them directly from Dodge but they never bothered to tell me this. When I dropped it off on Saturday, I was told that it would be ready by 2PM. After not hearing from them by 5:30, my husband gave them a call (so we could avoid the old, "We won't give the man the same runaround that we would give a woman." trick) at which time he was told the car would not be ready until Monday. MONDAY?!?!? Have they ever heard of a courtesy call?

Seeing as how I needed the car to get to work by 4:00 AM on Monday, we made them put the car back together and I picked it up Sunday afternoon. That was my weekend.

Monday morning brought a call from the garage that the cables might be in on Tuesday so I took the opportunity to squeeze in a 35 mile bike ride. I wanted to go longer but it was so hot and sticky that I could barely peel myself off the bike at 35 miles. I was not feeling very encouraged by how the heat was affecting me but kept telling myself that it would not be so humid in Texas and I still had time to get stronger and lighter. I showered when I returned home and went over to the clubhouse for a nice, easy swim just to clear my head.

Tuesday brought a different kind of endurance test. Right after I got out of work, I received a call that the brake cables had arrived. I stopped off at home, grabbed a magazine and then spent the next 3.5 hours in the waiting room at National Tire and Battery while they put in the new cables. $750 later, I finally have a legal car... I hope.

Friday was my next opportunity to ride but only managed 20 miles. The one positive I can take from this is that I was working it as a strength ride - pushing heavier gears - and I have noticed that my average speed per hour is slowly creeping up while the numbers on my heart rate monitor have remained steady, indicating that my overall efficiency is increasing. Now I just have to extend that efficiency on longer rides and get it done soon.

I'm just hoping that the car passes inspection so I don't have to deal with this again this year.
Thursday, July 7, 2011

Almost Hot Out There

Yesterday's high 90 degree weather was an opportunity for a ride in the heat that I just couldn't pass up since I know that's about as cool as the day will get during the Hotter 'n Hell 100. I wound up lasting only 50 miles so I'm seriously disappointed but at the same time, I have to admit that when I get out after work, I'm usually just fighting to stay awake and I usually fail. I've never gotten used to getting up at 4:00 AM.

I used the Blackstone Valley Bikeway because I could park the car at one end and use it as my "rest stop." - trying to simulate as closely as possible what I would be facing during the HHH. I started at around 11:00 AM.

My plan was as follows: Get as comfortable as I could in the saddle and let my legs do the work.

I started easy as I know with 12,000+ riders in the event, there isn't room for a fast pace through until that first rest stop at the 10 mile mark where most families turn off for the shorter course. My time splits on the 3 laps weren't spectacular but I would up cutting 5 minutes off the last lap as compared to the first.

Still, projecting out the time splits, while adequate to get me to Hell's Gate at the 60+ mile mark before it closes, would have been too long when I factor in the rest time. I'm hoping that if I can get in another 600 miles before I leave for Texas that this will improve. I just hope there are more hot days to come because by the end of the ride, I felt like I had earned every inch of the 52.2 miles that I logged.

I also decided to simulate the snacks that would be available at the rest stops. My thoughts on those are as follows:
  • Oranges are fantastic. I inhaled an orange like I was eating jelly beans.
  • Bananas work but aren't refreshing.
  • Pretzels taste like I'm eating flour.
  • Powerade and Gatorade are the most disgusting things ever promoted by the soda companies.
I have started using NUUN tablets almost exclusively for electrolyte replacement and I swear that Powerade just sucked the energy right out of me. It's bad enough that I use Powerbar Energy Gels because things like that (GU, etc.) bave a tendency to hit my system hard and make me jittery. I usually shake off more energy than I'm using. Unfortunately, my latest shipment of NUUN hasn't arrived so I went with watered-down Powerade in one of my water bottles as I know it will be available at the rest stops.

I also usually eat a homemade energy bar but I wanted to see what the other snacks would do for me (or do to me). I am trying to find a balance between the faster-acting gels and solid food that will keep me from ordering a pizza while on the route a la Dean Karnazes.

So all in all, it was a great litmus test to show me that I'm not ready for a 100 miler in 100 degree heat but at least I have still have time to improve.

Natural Encounters on the Ride
  • A couple of hawks circling low - probably looking at the delicious chipmunk smörgåsbord.
  • A deer in the path who took off faster than the two I saw last weekend.
  • A turkey with its brood in tow decided to get out of the path for me.
  • A duck took off from a pond and flew right in front me at (in duck hunter's terms) point blank range. Who knew bicycles were such good hunting dogs?
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nature Calls

In spite of missing my long ride last Sunday, I did manage to eek out 150 miles last week. These rides haven't been without incident. You'd think a bike path would be a nice, easy trip, but now that the temperatures have heated up, Mother Nature has been throwing new sliders into the mix and because the path sometimes winds through protected areas, the number of people-critter encounters has escalated recently.

Runaway Chuck
My first encounter was a rodent encounter. This one was a woodchuck crossing the path. I kept thinking of the Geico ad "Hey, you dang woodchucks!" and wondered how much wood they could actually chuck. The next thing I always think of when I see wildlife is "rabies" and the intrigue of gazing at nature is over just like that.

Suicidal Munk
The next rodent encounter was the inevitable chipmunk kill. It had been a busy day for Alvin and the crew and I had done my best to dodge around the chipmunks that darted in front of my wheel. The one I didn't miss tried to run between my front and rear wheel. Boy, that poor little thing flattened under me so fast and I felt horrible. I don't know if something or someone else came along and pushed it into the bushes but I looked for it on my return and found nothing... except the rider lawnmower guy. Ack! My husband has a picture that he took years ago of me on a camping trip getting a chipmunk to beg for peanuts and now... this. Two weeks later and it still haunts me.

Gaggle Me
There is a family of geese nesting near the path. On this particular day, they decided that the path was a better place to hang instead of the grass. There was a slight through-way that I could take but it put me between the parents and the goslings. To ride or not to ride? Ultimately, it was the hesitation that doomed me. I eventually decided to stop for them but forgot to tell my feet. Still clipped in, I weebled, I wobbled, and I managed to unclip before I fell down but not before my front wheel whip-lashed and the bike began sliding out from under me. I saved the bike before it hit the ground but I've got some nasty bruises on my shins for my save. As I finally rode past, one of the parents hissed at me.

Two for the Road
The most recent encounter came during my first hill workout. There is a plot of land still undeveloped on Route 106 and I was hearing some very noisy squirrel activity the first two times I rode past. The third time up, I saw two deer standing in the middle of the road, staring at me like I was nuts. I am nuts but that's beside the point. I noticed that they were close to the top of the hill and if a motorist was coming over, they probably wouldn't have enough time to stop before hitting one.

Inching my way up, I started waving at the deer and whispering, "Move over!" but they just stood there. Yeah, I'm climbing this hill and waving my hands (why am I whispering?) and these deer are staring at me like my ANSI yellow shirt is giving them the "headlight effect." My slow-poke pace told them I was no threat and I would get within 20 feet of these deer before they went back into the thick brush. The next thing I thought of was "Lyme Disease," and that was probably a contributing factor to not trying to push for a fourth lap. At least they made it back safely that time.

Boy, I can't wait to jump back into the lake.
Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

It's getting late here but I wanted to just say that I hope everyone had a fabulous and safe 4th of July and to say, "Thank You!" to all of those servicemen and women who have always been there for us and to thank all of the families who endure the sacrifice right along with them.

A special note for a gentleman I had the privilege of working for 10 years ago. His oldest son died in a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan in late 2009 and I just wanted him to know that he and his family are still in our thoughts and prayers. I'm avoiding last names as the family has tried to avoid the spotlight as much as possible and I don't want this post to become a target for political soapboxes or dirt-digging reporters.

Kyle - Thank you. We miss you and we'll never forget you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Today was supposed to be about doing my first century ride (and my first ride ever) with the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen.

While following along with the updates that are emailed from their Yahoo! group this week, I realized that this was going to be a ride that included challenging climbs. Did I really want to ride 100 miles on my first club ride without knowing exactly what challenging meant to these guys?

Hmmm... maybe I'll just do the 75 mile route. Wait - there's another email here that says the worst hills are after mile 50 so I should just do the 50-miler. Wait - what if I really suck at this? I guess I'll just do the 33-miler. Okay now, I'm going to drive for over an hour to get to the starting point just to ride my bike 30 miles? Meh. I guess I'll just skip it.

Now that the climbs had scared me off of my original objective, the obvious "ride of choice" would have to be some sort of other, more manageable hill work. It's easy enough to find a hill in my neighborhood. That "Uphill both ways" quote nicely describes most of the rolling climbs around here. The one known as, "Watery Hill," is a favorite for the local running club. The name of the street (East Bacon) has nothing to do with the nickname. All I know about it is that I will not take my minivan down that hill in the winter. It is a short but steep twister and hitting any patch of ice could doom me.

A friend of mine who is an accomplished runner (a marathoner - she likes to run five miles before she teaches her spin classes - oh, good grief,) once told me that "other" hill, which is straight up Route 106, while not as steep, is actually a longer climb. She found it more of a challenge to ride up 106 than Watery Hill. I decided to take on the Route 106 climb because the road itself has a wider shoulder and obviously a less technical descent which gave me more room for error.

It should also be noted that on the Fuji Monterey that I was riding last year, neither of these two hills was within my ability. To say that I was more than a little hesitant to attempt this would be a gross understatement.

The day started overcast so I skipped the cycling jersey and went with an old ANSI yellow wicking t-shirt. I also turned on my new taillight (Bell is Swell). It was early Sunday morning so I knew traffic would be negligible which meant a safer road for me and fewer people to laugh at me if I screwed up and fell over.

I warmed up for about 10 minutes on a couple of side roads that had small slopes - slopes that would have been slightly challenging in the past. I got into the mindset of trying to stay in the saddle as long as possible before having to stand up because a) It's more of a challenge to remain seated and b) I still squirrel about like I'm about to fall over when I stand on my pedals - I just don't have that skill down yet.

Somehow, through all of that Darth Vader lung-sucking noise I was making that scared the local wildlife, I managed to make the climb in the saddle 3 times and decided that was enough for my first hill workout. In the end, I am happy to have finally been able to make a climb that was beyond my abilities last year, I set the table for more workouts in the future (including a CAT 5 rated climb a couple of miles down the road,) and had enough energy left to do a 2-mile shuffle/jog on my return - logging much the same bike/run mileage as the Sudbury triathlon I did in early May.

I'm also very happy I decided to skip that club ride, too. That might have been one hot mess.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This is a Recovery Ride?

With my A-list event only a few weeks away, I have no time to dwell on the issues I had at the Holliston Triathlon. The plan is to try and log 150 miles weekly between now and August. With the number of rainy days we've had, this might be the toughest task of all.

The rides will now include adding more strength work like weekly hill repeats and working in harder gears. Yesterday's 17+ mile recovery ride on my favorite bike path was a hard gear workout. Basically, instead of maintaining an 85-90 rpm in a lower gear, I went with a high gear and pushed through at about 65 rpm. This obviously pushed my speed up from 15-17mph to the 17-19mph range. It worked out well except for the occasional clueless pedestrians on the path that think nothing of walking in front a cyclist.

Would you walk in front of a vehicle 10 feet away from you traveling at 15mph? I know I wouldn't because there's not enough time to stop. So why do it in front of a bike that is going just as fast but has even worse brakes?

Then there are the casual cyclists that refuse to ride single file when you want to pass. Why even have a rear view mirror if you're just going look at what's about to hit you? I have less patience for these people on these shoulder-less New England routes than anyone else. They are one of the reasons that drivers hate us.

The first encounter with two-wide cyclists on the bike path yesterday, I was actually doing a shoulder check to try and pass them when I heard a bicycle bell. This guy was really hustling. I moved back to the right to let him pass and then watched as he had to slow down for the same cyclists. This is when I decided to jump on his wheel.

Yeah, I know I said it was a recovery ride. Yeah, I know jumping on someone's wheel isn't usually part of a recovery ride, but come on, now. After the previous day's triathlon debacle, I had to see just what I had in the tank.

Turns out, I had more than I had imagined. Of course he eventually dropped me but not before I had hung on for more than 5 minutes. I started to lose him when I couldn't hold my form at 20+ mph and so I eased up and went back to work. I watched as he looked back twice to make sure I wasn't gaining on him again.

The rest of the ride was spent being hot and sticky. It wouldn't have warranted a post at all except for that hill climb at about mile 13.

On the way back, the hill was hurting two young cyclists. Probably in high school, they looked like they were on a "bicycle date" - very cute - but they were in trouble. This is one of the hills that I had said very few people had to stop and walk it but there they were and they were completely blocking the path which meant they were blocking my ascent. It meant that if I couldn't pass, I'd get stuck on the hill and would have to dismount and walk my bike up the to the top as well.

The boy was on the left and the girl was on the right. That made him the one that was blocking my attempt to make a proper pass on their left. Unfortunately, he was also the only one that really noticed me. The girl was having serious issues.

I slowed as much as I could and then asked, "Can I pass through, please?" He moved his bike further to the left, leaving her on the right side, but she decided to move closer to him. That created a path on their right which I attempted to take.

He saw the path as well, looked at me and said, "Go ahead."

The only trouble was that she didn't realize I was passing. It was a coincidence that she had moved to his side and, as I rode past her, she decided it was time to try and climb the hill again. Perhaps she thought he was talking to her when he said, "Go ahead," and that is what prompted her to mash on her pedal.

Now, anyone who's been on a bike for longer than 10 miles eventually figures out that the harder it is to get the bike moving - like when you're in a high gear or on a hill - the harder it is to move it in a straight line. That's why as she started to try and pedal up the hill, she instead turned right into me.

I said, "Watch out!" He said, "Watch out!" and she said, "OH, MY GOD! I AM SO SORRY!"

Our wheels touched and her weight was piling into me. Before our forks could clash, I swerved off the path and onto the grass/shale/what-is-that-I-have-no-clue-just-avoid-it and all the while hearing, "I am so sorry! I am so sorry!" to which I kept replying, "It's all right! I'm all right!" even before I was sure I was all right.

Somehow, I managed to not only stay upright, but I also managed to ride my bike back onto the path without further incident.

I yelled back to them, asking if they were alright, but all I could still hear was, "I AM SO SORRY!" so I let it go and rode on. I felt bad that I had scared her on their "date" and I hoped I hadn't scared her off the bike forever.

A little while down the path, I tried to see if there was any damage to the bike. I saw nothing on the frame and the wheel stayed true. Then I checked for body damage. She had definitely gotten my hip and ribs with her handle bar and somehow had connected to my shoulder, but I've had worse encounters with gym equipment.

The funny thing is that earlier in the ride, I was thinking about a blog post that cyclist/writer Janeen McCrae had posted about her recent racing clinic.

The clinician was dispelling misconceptions about racing, one of which was, "Bike racing is non-contact sport." The clinic then went through exercises that included practicing "wheel touch recovery," and practicing contact while on the bike.

I figured I would never be up for such challenges which is why, "Trial By Fire" exists, I guess.