Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Isn't It Ironic

Speaking of my iPod playlists, I get this grief from Divagirl (my 7-going-on-17 daughter) this morning. She comes out with my MP3 player on (she has her own, mind you, she's just always losing track of it) and says "Mom, you listen to some really inappropriate music. I have to skip, like, every other track." She says the word inappropriate one syllable at a time, as if speaking to an elderly, deaf person of questionable judgement.

What can I say? Girlfriend, I want to tell her, I've partied with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, discussed Henry Miller with Henry Rollins, my band opened for NOFX, I'm not going to be listening to the Princess Diaries Soundtrack, okay?. Overall, I think I'm a pretty good mom, I strive to be an awesome mom. But sometimes my past catches up with me. I grew up an utter rebel, and have had to learn to be responsible and selfless as I've gone along on this wild parenting ride. This is the same daughter who has cured me of my sailor mouth. She "hates curse words", and also tries to give me fashion tips (see above photo for why I don't usually take them). She's probably going to be a Republican, and a CEO. My husband and I joke that the best we can hope for is that she turns out to be a benevolent Dictator of the Universe.

As it turns out, I saved the day by finding her MP3 player and even having a battery for it. So she's rocking out to the Ella Enchanted soundtrack, and I'm off to rip my old X, Live at the Whisky CD for tomorrow's run.

Monday, January 29, 2007


So, do you think it's a bad omen when this is what happens to your morning breakfast? When I was a kid, I read some article or book about Spontaneous Human Combustion and was terrified for at least a year or two that I might suddenly burst into flames. Especially since my feet have always been very hot, so hot that I went barefoot for most of my childhood (a fact that my mom attributes to me having been born in Oklahoma, but that I think has more to do with an efficient heart or fast metabolism or something a bit more scientific.) So this morning, I look over at my toaster and flames are shooting out of the middle of my toast, like a model of Spontaneous Bread Combustion, resembling something from an episode of Mythbusters. Couple that with the fact that my cat barfed all over my bed last night, necessitating a midnight duvet and pillowcase changeover, and the fact that I turned my ankle stepping out of the chicken coop, and I'm beginning to think (as the Mary Chapin Carpenter song goes) "the stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed".

I didn't, and the day has gone relatively smoothly ever since, so I hold out hope that I'm not going to have another terrible workout when I go to swim this evening. I actually had a very nice run yesterday, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, it was only marred by the fact that I loaned my backup MP3 player to my mom and before doing so I took all the good music (read: music my mom would not listen to in a million years) off of it: Bye bye Eminem, X, Social Distortion, Fort Minor, Green Day. But I had forgotten this fact when I realized my iPod was out of juice and I grabbed my old MP3 player and headed out the door for my run, only to find that there was only violin music on the dang thing. At first, I thought I was somehow stuck in replay of one album, so I pushed buttons and selected menus for the first 8 or 10 minutes of my run. Then it sunk in that I had actually removed all of my rockin running tunes, and this is what I was left with. For my long run. And now I was too far to go back to the house, and my iPod had no battery left anyways.

But other than that, I had a nice run. Actually, looking on the bright side, the mellower music helped me keep from over-amping my long run and I ended up with a nice mellow 9:40 pace. Sometimes if you just roll with the rhythm of the day, it all comes out just fine. That's what I'm hoping anyways, since my breakfast went up in flames, my cat is giving me the evil eye for being out all night, and my ankle feels like mischievous elves with small mallets have been working it over. Oh well, onwards.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Get Ready Little Lady, Hell is Coming to Breakfast

That line from The Outlaw Josie Wales seems very appropriate right about now. Sometimes you have a week where every workout hurts, your muscles feel fatigued, your soul unrevived, your splits slow, your technique heading towards hell in a handbasket. It's not surprising that it's this week, I guess. My husband is out of town all week (perils of marrying a pilot) and I never sleep well when he's not here. It's like my entire body system goes on Ultra-High-Alert and I wake up when the house creaks or the guinea pigs breathe a little too loudly. Normally, I don't think of myself as a woman who clings to my man for protection like Sondra Locke in a Clint Eastwood Movie, and with several years of martial arts and some hours on a firing range, I'm probably about as prepared to defend the fortress as anyone, but I have to admit that I sleep easier when The Man is around.

So I'm tired, for starters. And when you're a one-woman household with six animals (two of them geriatric) and two homeschooling, energetic kids (along with the accompanying chores), there's more to get done then there are hours in a day. Fitting in the workouts requires a lot of hoop-jumping, transportation, and an awesome network of good friends. One kid goes to a friend's house, the other to a dance class, and I jet out the door of the dance studio in my running shoes for a quick 6 miler before I have to pick her up. Ignore incredulous stares of sleek moms with coiffed hair and actual outfits (not thrown-on athletic clothes), take a quick spit-bath in the dance studio bathroom and we're off to violin lessons. Later on it's a DVD for the kids and I head to the basement and my bike trainer with the latest installment of 24.

The advantage of having done this training thing for more than a few years is that I know the slumps come and the slumps will go. I know if I go a little easier on myself (instead of freaking out and pushing myself harder as I might've done a decade ago) that I'll get through this, I will no longer feel like I'm swimming through molasses or running with a ball and chain attached to each foot. When the going gets tough, the triathlete still heads out the door, and eventually the going gets easier again.

In the meantime, I'm off to eat some breakfast with Hell.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tri Tag

I was recently tagged on my Urban Farm blog (6 Weird Things About Me), and thought it would be fun to do a game of Tri Blogger Tag. I'm going to tag the people in my Favorite blogs list: TriGirl40, J. at Ironmanlife, Hakado Ru, Flatman, TriSaraTops, TriJack, Sheila at Mind & Body of Iron, and the Iron Kahuna himself.

If you've been tagged, answer these six questions, then tag six more folks.

1. Describe a memory from your first triathlon ever

2. Describe a memory from your most recent triathlon

3. What's the most embarassing thing that has ever happened to you in a tri?

4. What's the most thrilling thing that's happened to you in a tri?

5. What is something you discovered about yourself by doing triathlons?

6. What is The Big Goal that you're working towards?

My answers:

1. When I did my first triathlon, it was 1986 at Forest Grove, OR. My main goal was not to walk on the run, but my memory is of the bike course. It wasn't well marked and I don't remember any marshalls, just some chalk on the pavement. Several people got lost. I was biking along just looking at the pavement for arrows and almost ran into a cyclist ahead of me. It hadn't dawned on me that I might catch someone, so I wasn't even looking!

2. My most recent Tri was IMFL 2006. I had read in the race brochure that they wouldn't be letting anyone in the finisher chute but athletes, so when I came up the ramp and saw my husband and kids standing there, I just about burst into tears. We ran across the line together. The kids kept trying to stop and talk to me, and I said "We've got to run now!"

3. Hmmmm, that's a tough one since I've fallen over my own untied shoelaces before (I've gotten quick ties since those days). But it's probably the time I got passed in the run by a pregnant lady. I mean really pregnant. Did I mention I'm a slow runner??

4. Other than crossing the Ironman Finish line, I think it was a couple of years ago in the Hagg Lake Enduro Tri. I was coming out of T1 on my bike and there's a real steep upgrade out of the parking lot. This damn truck was in my way and driving very slow, I guess I thought some spectators or something. Then it stayed ahead of me driving very slowly and I was a bit annoyed. Until I realized it was the pace vehicle and I was the Race Leader! I've never come out of the water ahead of all the women and men before. I kept the pace truck through the whole first bike lap. Now that was a thrill!

5. Another tough one. I've been doing triathlons for half of my life now and I think so much of what I know about myself I've learned during training and racing. I guess the most important discovery for me was that I could change myself a little at a time. That big change doesn't have to happen immediately. In a society focused on instant gratification, this is such a huge thing to know and understand. I see it in training all the time, what is difficult today becomes easier tomorrow. But it has unending ramifications in all areas of life.

6. The Big Goal. I think I would like, someday, to qualify for Kona. I was only an hour and change away from the last qualifying spot in my age group at IMFL, my first Ironman. And with the dislocated toe and all that limping and my almost 5 hour marathon, I'm guessing I could be a whole lot closer than that. I think it's within my reach, one of these years. I'd probably wilt in the heat on the Kona course, I'm notoriously bad in the heat. But it would be cool to be there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Why Cheat?

I'm just wondering what goes through the mind of someone who crosses the finish line at the Ironman when they know they did this at the first swim buoy (photo from here) or this out on the bike course (photo from this blog):

Why train for months or years for an Ironman, only to not go out and do an Ironman? Are people so wrapped up in the time flashing over their heads in their finisher photo that they've lost sight of what it really means to be an Ironman? How could you look yourself in the mirror wearing your finisher's shirt if you knew you'd cut time off of your swim or bike by cheating? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that they make me mad for the sport that I have loved for over two decades.

Frankly, I was really really surprised to see the blatant cheating going on in IMFL. Maybe I haven't done enough big races lately. The half-IMs that I have done have not been official Ironman courses, so they don't attract as many people hoping to gain that coveted notch on their belt. I think I could've happily gone on not knowing that this kind of thing was happening. The races I've done lately, people will snap at each other for not falling back quickly enough, and the race officials come by slowly on the motorcycles and estimate bike lengths, so it's better to be safe than sorry and stay far enough away.

Sometimes it's hard. Yeah, it can be really hard. Sometimes following the rules can mean losing time, even when you know you're doing the right thing. As a faster woman cyclist, I'm all too familiar with The Passing Game that some guys will play. That's the one where you come up on a male cyclist, gaining on him over the course of time, but when you pull up beside him while passing, he pours on the heat and you have to drop back. As soon as you're behind him, he slows down again. You try again, same thing happens. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. I've had it take four or five tries to get past a guy who is determined that the ladies are not going to get past him, and yeah, that's frustrating. But it's also playing by the rules in an individual sport.

I recently got an opportunity in email to give feedback to Ironman Florida about the race. I minced no words about the blatant drafting going on out on the bike course, and the lack of officials doing anything about it (despite lip service at the pre-race banquet). I hadn't even seen the swim photos at that point (though I wish I had!) I urge anyone who is concerned about this sport to do the same for any race that doesn't put a priority on enforcing the rules. There's a great article here about this issue, on Michael McCormack's site, and the author gives several suggestions for changing this aspect of our sport:

• make staging a clean race a priority
• supply sufficient number of officials to cover the course
• ensure that officials are more than window-dressing and will actually enforce the rules

I have heard excuses such as "it's impossible for the officials to cover the whole course" or "there's too many cyclists", but I think that's BS. It would only take them cracking down on a few to make the rest of them break apart in fear of being caught. Just seeing 5 or 6 cyclists sitting in the penalty tent would probably put the fear of God into people. And those kayaks out there near the swimmers cutting the buoy - they could get in people's way, turn them around. I've seen it happen in other races, when people tried to shorten the swim course. That won't happen though until we, the athletes, speak up and make it a priority.

So take the time to let race organizers and officials know that you want a clean race. And then put on your finisher's shirt, look in the mirror, and be proud of everything you've accomplished, on your own.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why I Love Running Here

It's not just because we have such a great variety of trails to choose from - I've run on forested paths, gravel walkways through the wetlands, bark trails through parks, and paved bicycle paths all in the course of a week - but also because there is such a great array of wildlife here. Even in the winter time, when there are fewer birds, the butterflies aren't out, and you mostly see fat squirrels running around, you can still catch a glimpse of something breathtaking. Today it was two bald eagles in a tree by the river. Another runner told me he's seen the two in that location lately and it looks like they're a pair. Of course, my silly little camera in my phone couldn't capture it at all, but that blob in the tree is a bald eagle. It was actually close enough I could see its white head and yellowish beak. Very beautiful! I wish I'd had my telephoto lens and my good camera, but I might have to return with the kids later this week if the good weather holds out and see if I can snap a few better pics.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Where Ironman Meets Mozart

When I was a kid, I had this unfortunate tendency to quit when the going got tough. Plenty of things came easily for me, so when things didn't go quite so smoothly, I guess I just made the assumption that it wasn't something I could do, and I quit. Even within subjects that were normally straightforward, if I struck a snag, I just gave up. Being a perfectionist didn't help, because if something didn't come out just right, I threw up my hands in frustration and walked away.

Sports changed my life. I know lots of people say that, to the point that it is a cliche. But more than changing my life in a broad sense (which also happened), becoming first a swimmer and then a triathlete began to change my essential approach to almost everything. Before that, I had always had an image in my mind of perfection, and if what I was doing, whether it was playing Mozart or painting a landscape didn't match that perfect image, my frustration became overwhelming and I would stop. In sports however, I learned that nothing is perfect. There is no perfection, there is only better. You can never run a perfect race, something can always be improved. Once you know this essential truth, you can accept that the only thing you can do is to make yourself better, in all aspects of life.

The other more critical thing I learned from sports was the principle of Incremental Change. You don't have to make yourself instantly better, you only have to try just a little harder today, and tomorrow your "normal" will be where "harder" was yesterday. Over a matter of time, once can go from barely being able to run/walk a mile to crossing the finish line of an Ironman. It's amazing how many implications this has in our lives. Whether it be work, hobbies, relationships, eating habits; once we know that the only change we have to worry about is a small and incremental one, then overwhelming problems stop being overwhelming and start to be manageable.

So the other day I was sitting at the piano facing a Mozart concerto that I want to be able to play fluidly. It's not there yet. But, unlike 30 years ago, I have the ability to take it one day at a time, to make each segment better in incremental ways. I now know that when I sit down a week from now, provided I've put in some diligent work, it will sound much better than it does today. I don't have to throw up my hands with an internal "I suck! I'll never be good at this!", but instead can tell myself "Just play the left hand three times, then play them together. It will be better. Tomorrow you can work on the right hand." I know this doesn't sound like much of a revelation, but to this perfectionist it's solid gold.

Passing these hard-won obvservations on to my kids has been a challenge as well. My kids have, quite unfortunately, inherited my perfectionist tendencies. Some lessons, however, are hard to put into words that don't sound trite and lecture-like. So more than anything, I've tried to provide opportunities for them to discover this themselves. Taking Karate together has been a place where both of them have had the chance to make this discovery. Things that were hard a few months ago come more easily now. And once a kid has had success in mastering one thing, they can take that observation to anything they want to tackle in life.

More than anything, I'm grateful for my college swim coach, who provided both the opportunity and the lessons that I needed to learn in order to be able to face my perfectionism bugaboo. Without him, and his edict that I tackle a triathlon, something that I thought I could "never do", my Mozart book might be slammed shut, my piano silent, and I surely wouldn't have crossed the finish line of an Ironman.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Now That's Something New

When I looked out the window this morning, it looked like typical PacNW winter weather: cloudy, a bit rainy, some fog thrown in for good measure. What it didn't look like until I was actually out the door in my bicycling gear was cold. Although it wasn't actually snowing, it somehow felt colder than snow. A peek at weather.com shows it was only 34, but it was that damp kind of 34 degrees that chills you to the insides of your molecules.

So I was biking down the street and ran into a friend of mine. We stopped to chat and that was when I realized that my face had gotten so cold I couldn't speak. It was like I had been to the dentist and gotten twenty shots of novocaine or something. The muscles around my mouth were completely numb. My friend and I had a few giggles at my hysterical drunk-sounding slurred speech, and I was off and on my way to the pool. I've done a lot of cold weather biking, but I don't believe I've ever actually frozen my mouth before. Time to pull out the balaclava I guess.

All I can say is thank heavens the pool has a hot tub. After biking there in the winter, my standard warmup is a good 5 - 10 minute soak before I even hit the lap lanes. Which is good, because this is week 2 of Tough New Coach, and the workout this week wasn't any easier than last weeks. This guy has a penchant for sprints and breathholding laps, and with my chronic anemia, it's one thing that I really stink at. Worse still, I got bumped up to the fastest lane, which meant I was hanging on by my fingernails and trying to just Stay In the Bubbles.

By the time I biked home, the sun had come out and it's simply gorgeous today. My face didn't freeze again, though my body was thrashed. And now I've got a cord of wood to move (thankfully I didn't have to split it), so I should fall into bed tonight without a peep.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ten Minutes of Heavy Breathing

That's what I left on my friend's answering machine today by accident.

It all started with a trip to the phone kiosk at the mall, where the salesman behind the counter peered with disdain at the chipped, scratched, vaguely phone-like device I was holding.

"What happened to it?" he asked.

"Well, you see, I bicycle a lot. And people are always calling me. And, well, it's been dropped from my bike. At about 20 miles an hour. A few times."

The nice man at the kiosk set me up with a new phone (fortunately, my old one expired just as my time was up on my plan) and this one has Bluetooth. Voila! Phone goes in Bentobox on frame, headset fits under helmet. Hands-free talking means I can pedal and chat with wild abandon. Except that I apparently didn't quite fully understand all the steps needed to hang up a call. So when I called my friend S. to ask if he was going to an event tomorrow and accidentally didn't quite hit the button all the way to turn the dang thing off, I left more than a few minutes of HRZ3 hills on his answering machine, and that sounds basically like a whole lot of heavy breathing. I did call back and apologize.

Overall though, embarassing phone messages aside, I'm going to really like the Bluetooth phone. I'm kind of a techno-gadget kind of gal to start with, and I've got the 80,000 different chargers plugged in to every socket in our house to prove it. I come by it naturally, having gone into computer science in the day when I was one of two gals in my University's entire CIS program (that was back when they still called it Computer & Information Sciences and we mostly programmed on the mainframe), and matriculating from there straight to Microsoft in its pre-Windows days (when Bill G. had an office down the hall and fewer people worked there than my hometown population of 2,000). I call my PocketPC my "auxiliary brain", took it as a complement when my son said I was "kind of Vulcan" and can beat my kids on Tetris with my mouse-hand tied behind my back.

So even though I'm a bit behind the vanguard in becoming one of those strange people who seem to walk around talking to themselves until you see the little metal blob on their ear, I'm happy to be able to use my bike time to catch up with people I never seem to get the chance to talk with without a thousand and one interruptions (hmmmm, maybe it's the fact that my kids aren't usually with me when I'm cycling that makes it easier?) Now I've just got to figure out a way to use my iPod and my Bluetooth concurrently and I'll really be set. A friend's airplane has this great intercom/stereo system that is interlinked so that whenever you need to talk to the tower, the stereo automatically cuts out. Maybe that will be the next phone...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Revenge of the Unused Muscles

Just when you think you are in shape. Just when you think you are in tip-top form, your muscles are strong, your cardio good, endurance excellent. Just then, you try a different sport and realize how many muscles you haven't been using.

You'd think that between swimming, biking, and running, karate, and yoga, you'd hit most of the muscles in a body, but last night my husband and I subbed for a friend's coed league volleyball team and I realized I've been ignoring the muscles that leap, lunge, reach, and dodge. I know exactly which ones they are, because they all hurt this morning! They're probably all the same muscles I've been using, I just don't normally extend them to the margins of their normal range.

Thankfully, my daughter gives a mean backrub, and ran short of cash during last night's family Monopoly game. She'll trade massages for Monopoly money when she gets desperate and so she gave me a good rub down in return for a few pink tens. I popped some Wobenzym (an enzyme formula that does wonders for sore or injured muscles) and topped off with The Rub (an arnica rub that I swear by) and by the morning they were in tolerable shape for our Monday karate class.

The hardest part of all of it might be that I'm now hooked on league volleyball again. I haven't played in years, but we had such a good time that we're thinking we might have to start up a team. It was a blast getting to do something active with my husband as well. Usually one of us goes to work out while the other is on kid duty, but the sprouts are getting old enough now to come along and hang out and more or less occupy themselves. Our daughter was wearing some pirate clothes from the dressup bin and made a joyous cheerleader from the stands, shouting "Go mom! Great hit!", "Way to serve, Dad!". She had everybody in smiles, even the referee. Who can resist an enthusiastic 7 year old pirate? She just started taking a volleyball class, so she really enjoyed watching.

Now the kids want to go play wallyball together as a family at the gym, and I think we'll take them up on it. As soon as my muscles recover...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I Love the Feel of Lactic Acid in the Morning...

...it feels like Victory (victory over 20 sprints, that is). We've got a new Master's swim coach. Tougher Master's swim coach. More sprinting, more kicking, more breath-holding, more big-muscle explosive moves, more lactic acid, more quivery muscles. Just how I like it!

I took almost a year away from my Master's group because I felt like I really didn't need to focus on swimming when training for the Ironman. So mostly I swam by myself, lots of long distance, workouts of 4,000 straight, that kind of thing. In a way it was good, I developed a lot more arm power and glide than I used to have. On the other hand, I haven't sprinted in almost a year. Ouch!

Today's main set: 20x50 all-out sprint on 1:30. Sounds simple, 'til you try it. It was a long workout because of that, not a lot yards but my body feels like its swum about 5,000, not 3,500. I think this is going to be a good year for swimming! For the record: fastest 50 off the wall was :31, slowest was :34 - lots of work to do. I think this new coach will be good for me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lyrics to Run By

Out for a run today, in the cold and the snow. I'm really enjoying having an iPod with me on my runs. On the playlist today was the album Little Star by Girlman, and the lyrics of the day come from the song Superior:

Ambition is what keeps you moving
When your heart wants to pull you back home
You gotta run when God makes you an offer
You gotta go if someone shows you how to go

How's that for words to run with on a cold day. I love Girlyman's vocals and harmonies. A lot of their stuff isn't fast enough for a really strong run, but today was more of a meander, being careful not to slip on the icy parts of the pavement. I took a detour on some paths through the wetlands, and give a runners thumbs-up to the new Trex decking that they're now using on the paths above the water. The old wooden boards were so slippery in the winter, but I was cruising along on the snowy planks and no slipping at all.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Answer Is: Climb a Mountain

It almost doesn't matter what the question is (what color should I paint the dining room? is a 401k better than a high-yield CD? Latte or mocha?), this is almost always a good answer. I have always loved to climb, there's something wonderful about looking up toward the top of a peak and knowing you will stand on top of it. Then, when you do, you can see how far you traveled and everything you overcame to get there. It's a very convenient and much-used metaphor for triathlon, or any goal in life really. But the mountain is the real deal.

Not that I'm much of a climber, my foray into serious mountains was interrupted by a pregnancy shortly after summiting my first 6,000 meter peak. This was fortunate, really, because right after that I had an opportunity to join Scott Fischer's 1996 Everest expedition. Yeah, that one. The mere fact that people with as skimpy climbing experience as I've got were able to join was enough to scare me away, and the pregnancy sealed the deal. I will most likely never scale old Chomolungma, though I'd like to try my hand at Denali someday if the opportunity presents.

But today, such lofty peaks were not available. Today's question (to which the answer was "climb a mountain") was "What do I do with the 45 free minutes I have during my daughter's horseback riding lesson?" Without a mountain in sight, a 2,000 foot butte had to do. After this week's freakishly warm weather, it was actually snowing as I started out, and the forest turned into whirling gusts of devilish white, and then the sun broke out and lit up all of the lacy branches of the vine maples in sparkling loveliness.

In some areas of the planet, I'm sure it snows enough that snow gets boring, routine, an everyday visual if not an outright nuisance. Here, it's cause for major celebration, a break from the usual coldish rain that means winter in the Pacific Northwest. And because it's so rare, we get to experience anew how wonderful it really is. The dance of the tiny crystals, the white against the dark green of firs and light green of ferns, the hush that falls with the snowflakes turns everything to magic. Since I was the only person crazy enough to be on the mountain in a snowstorm, I got to experience all of this in sensory-soaked wonder by myself.

As I descended quickly down the trail (you have to hustle to make it up and back this particular 3-mile trail in 45 minutes), I picked up enough snow to make a snowball for my daughter. But, by the time I made it down to the elevation of the stables, it had mostly melted. It was like presenting her with a snow pearl more than a snowball, but she gasped in amazement all the same.

Tonight, the flakes are falling in abundance down here at 300 feet and the kids are anxiously hoping again for that mythical big snowfall that comes so rarely to our neck of the woods. I'll be shaken out of bed and stumble around dispensing boots and gloves, friends will call and come over to huck snowballs at each other, joyous chaos will ensue, and there won't be time for mountains or even small buttes in their solitary splendor, and that will be just fine. I had my mountain today.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fun With the Heart Rate Monitor

I wore my heart rate monitor around today while doing chores around the urban farm. I discovered that leaf raking (on the gigantic pile) puts me in the 118 - 130 zone for a couple of hours. Carrying 5-gallon buckets of water from the creek to the chicken coop bumped me up to 137, and chasing wayward chickens threw me completely out of Z2 for at least a minute and up to 153. And yes, to keep with the triathlon topic, I did go for a run today. It was beautiful out and I went from my daughter's dance class down the path that runs by the river. Running in a t-shirt in January! But the cold weather is coming, and it's time to (hopefully) get out my snowboarding gear.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Weather Roulette

It's warm and windy here, the kind of weather that can bring sudden torrential downpours before you can say "stranded on a bicycle eighteen miles from home". But the non-frosty weather was too great a temptation and I strapped on my helmet and headed out anyways for a short ride in the afternoon sun (did not get soaked, luckily) . By Thursday, it's supposed to be down in the teens, so that will put a lid on my cycling outdoors for at least awhile and it will be back to the trainer I go.

Unfortunately, I just ran out of good stuff to watch while riding. I've been working my way through the British drama series MI-5, which has been great. Each episode is an hour long, and gripping enough that I'm working up a sweat before I know it. I sadly put the last disc of the 3rd season back in its case, and now I have to figure out what to start up with next. It has to be something pretty engaging, or I get bored quickly. But not too engaging, I discovered, after falling off of my trainer in a "gotcha" moment while watching 28 Days Later (excellent movie, highly recommended when you're not pedaling anything and not home alone at night). Luckily, no one was around to laugh at me for that one.

If anyone out there in Blogland has good suggestions for dark winter trainer rides, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, January 05, 2007

If Anyone Hits Me, It's Their Fault

You know you're dressed as a running goof when your family members take pictures of you heading out the door. Honestly, when I was getting dressed to run, I didn't intend to wear neon orange socks, lime green tights, red shirt, and one green glove and one black glove. That's just the stuff I could find that was clean. And hey, with our changeable winter weather, when the rain, sleet, or snow stops, you gotta go out the door, so out I went.

The way I figure it, at least no one's going to run me over!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Sticking Place

Just over the ridge behind my house, a few miles down the backcountry roads is a short road named McBeth. Only about three miles long, it climbs relentlessly up another ridgeline. I've only ridden it once before, when I discovered it hooked up with another one of my favorite routes and decided to try it out, but failed to notice the arrows on the map indicating that it's quite a hill. Most local cyclists refer to it as "McDeath", April finds people time-trialing up it on Tuesday evenings (which sounds like an exercise in pain to me!), and one of my friends made it a part of his infamous "Seven Hills of the Apocalypse" training ride for Ironman Canada.

Since the day I accidentally wound up its curves, panting and sweating, I've avoided another go at it. But this year, I've decided to take the routes and the challenges that have intimidated me before and meet them head-on. For as long as I've been doing triathlons, running has been my weakest sport, but I've been more or less content to chug along, watching people pass me that I left in the dust on the swim or bike course. This is the year I want to work on that weak sport, and take on the hills on the bike that I've avoided so far. I'm not going to have the big goal out in front of me that I've had for the past few years that I've been aiming at the Ironman, so I want to find my focus on the smaller things I can do to improve in my sport.

With all of this in mind, today found me in unseasonably warm and windy January weather, staring up McDeath and giving it a go. It took me 20 minutes to make it up the three mile hill, which tells you exactly how slow I was going! I think I'm going to try hitting this particular route once a month, just to see my hill-climbing progress in cold, hard, numbers.

As another famous MacBeth once said: "Screw your courage to the sticking-place and we'll not fail". Maybe that will be my motto for 2007.