Thursday, April 26, 2007


When you do triathlons, there's usually a nice little grace period in between races that lets you more or less forget about the pain you were in during the race, and remember the nice afterglowy feeling of having completed it successfully. This is more or less the same mechanism that allows humans to have more than one child, because if we didn't forget a lot of childbirth it probably just wouldn't happen.

So all of that is different when you step out of the triathlon world and into a race series like the cycling time trials I've been doing. There's one of them a week, and that's just not enough time to forget how bad it hurt last time. It's also a little strange doing the same course over and over, although I guess the upside is that you get to know it a bit better over the course of time.

This Tuesday was the last race of the time trial series, and to tell the truth I wasn't really looking forward to it. By the time my busy Monday and Tuesday is almost done, it just seemed like one more thing I had to do. Get all the gear together, slog out to the countryside and ride fifteen miles as fast as I could, then check it off the Palm pilot for another day. Fortunately, my hubby and the kids came along this time and that always makes it more fun. Also fortunately I had taken a peek at the rankings going into the last race and knew how close it was, so that was a bit more encouragement to get out there and go hard. The weather cooperated this time and it was balmy and lovely as the sun faded toward the horizon. I got a slot close to the start along with a couple of teammates, so I could look forward to chasing them and being done early.

Although it was a bit windy and I didn't post my fastest time on the course (and in fact, missed 1st place in Cat4 for that race by a measly 4 seconds), I held on enough to get the overall series win in the Cat4 Women's division. Woooofreakinhoooooo! There was only a minute between myself and the next gal over four races, so that was very close. I'm pretty excited, and my hubby has been nodding knowingly because he's been saying for a long time I should try my hand at just cycle racing. It does make me wonder what I could do if I actually got on my bike more than twice a week (I'm sure I will once the weather gets warmer, I don't usually ride this much so early in the year!) I don't know though, it was a cool experience and all but I really discovered something about why I love triathlons so much. It's that you're always doing something different. Every race is different, each course, each transition, even the water in the same lake is never the same twice. This was fun, but my true love remains triathlon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Birthday Week Ups and Downs

So last Thursday was my birthday, I turned 41 at eight-something in the evening as my mom likes to say. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster week including the birthday. My husband was out of town (hazards of marrying a pilot) but my son brought me a birthday card as soon as I opened my eyes, and my daughter went downstairs and came back up with breakfast in bed (toast, well buttered) which was very sweet. By the afternoon however, I was feeling really miserably sick. The sore lungs from last Tuesday's Time Trial in the freezing rain were turning into a hacking painful chest and I started to run a fever. It's pretty rare that I get sick, so it always throws me for a loop not to be feeling good. I didn't even exercise for two days in a row, so I knew I was really down with something.

Other than the cold though, many quietly good things happened in my birthday week. My mom and sister called, my friend K. wrote me a card about friendship that really touched my heart. Her daughter C. made my day by writing "No matter how old you get, I know you are a wild teenager at heart" in a card. High praise indeed from a teenager herself! And they gave me a copy of the comic book Zits, which has been cracking me up regularly. I guess it's good reading for a few short years when I'll have a teenager myself.

My hubby made my day by drawing an almost indecipherable wetsuit in his card to me. Luckily, he wrote the word "Aqua" on the leg of it, or I might've really wondered. So wheeeee! I get to get a full-sleeved wetsuit! My old farmer john style is on its last legs, so this is really exciting for me. Other women may want flowers, wine, and diamonds, but this man knows what really makes me happy: neoprene.

Other exciting things happened this week. I got my first photo into Flickr's Explore section (where they showcase interesting and enticing photos), which is a pretty big honor. It was this photo I took of the kids in the Sacramento River at sunset, one of my favorites. I also discovered that so far I am leading the Cat4 women in the Time Trial series I've been doing. Given that it's my first year taking a stab at bike racing, and I get on my bike maybe twice a week right now, I'm pretty pleased with that. We'll have to see how this last week goes though to see where I end up.

So all in all, not a bad way to get another year older. No big parties, no hoopla, just some quiet moments, cards, conversations with those who are closest to me. As I get older, I am happier with presence than presents. I'm thinking a lot about getting older this year, partly because 40 was a milestone year but 41 is now into the 40s. It's also partly because I can feel my body pushing back a little on me, resisting getting faster, getting a little more sore than it used to when I ask it to go hard. And partly because of this 365 Days of self portraits project on Flickr. Ever try to look at a hundred photos of yourself? It really makes you look at the person that you are right now, not the person you think you'd look like if you took the time to get all glammed up and take a studio portrait with nice lighting and all, but the person with spriggy grey hairs and a wrinkle or three or four. It's been an interesting experience since I'm usually the one taking photos of everyone else in my life, now suddenly I have all these photos of myself and it's kind of strange.

So I'll probably muse more on aging some other time, but for now it's nice to feel healthier again, and I'm grateful to be forty-one years old on this earth today and feeling the sun on my face.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Swim Coach Writes...

I got to coach the Master's morning workout today and thought I'd share this fun set. This distance swim workout is a great one if you're either trying to work your way up to a specific distance, or improve your time at a particular distance: take the distance and break it down into an increasing set. This is how it works.

Say your distance is 750 yards (or meters), it can be broken down into this increasing set:


Now give yourself a little bit of rest in between each of those components, like 10 seconds after the 50, 20 after the 100, and 30 after each of the others (I don't like to go more than 30 or your heart rate comes down too much). By the end of the set, you've done the distance with some breaks to make it easier on you. You can repeat the set as many times as you want.

If you're going for a time, set an interval instead of a specific number of seconds. So, if you were hoping to hit a 1:30 interval per 100 in your 750, you could swim the 50 on :55, the 100 on 1:50, the 150 on 2:45 and so on. Then try to hit your interval for each component (swim the 50 in :45, the 100 in 1:30, the 150 in 2:15, etc.)

This set looked deceptively easy when I wrote it up, but we repeated it four times on a pretty quick interval and it got tough fast! Give it a try if you're looking for something to spice up those boring long swims.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cycling Event to Honor Cyclists Killed by Motor Vehicles

On May 16 at 7:00 pm in locations all over the United States (48 states) and in several other countries, a Ride of Silence will be held in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. There's seven or eight locations to participate in my state alone, so it looks like it will be a pretty big event.

I am planning to do this ride, probably with the kids. I think it's a good idea to bring attention to this issue during Bike Safety Month (May). Being out on the roads on a bike all the time, the issue of cyclist safety is never far from my mind, especially after the death of a fellow triathlete (seven-time Ironman and an amazing woman) in May of last year in a collision with a truck on a route I was biking earlier that day. For those concerned with our safety as cyclists and interested in participating, more information is available at

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Addendum to Faves

Favorite Kid Quotes:
From Miss A. (7): Mom, can you hand me my Lip Chap?
Me: What's Lip Chap?
Her: Well, there's Lip Gloss, Lipstick, and Lip Chap! (in tones of "everyone knows that" LOL)

I figured out it was the chapstick she wanted...

And from Mr. M. (10), overheard when he was upstairs playing with Miss. A.:

"Cry havoc and let loose the squids of war!"
(I have no idea what he was referring to but it cracked me up)

Favorite Weeknight Activity:
We invited several couples over and watched the British comedy Coupling. If you're not familiar with it, it's like Friends meets Sex & the City meets Seinfield and then some. Pretty damned explicit (with episodes like Size Matters and Lesbian Spank Inferno) and blisteringly funny like split-your-sides, laugh-until-ya-puke kind of funny.

Favorite Weekend Warriorism:
Watching (from the comfort of a computer monitor) BlueBirdBiker, and several other people from the Trifuel forums complete Ironman Arizona. It was a tough and windy day on the course and as always I am inspired by what people face and overcome in this difficult endeavor.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weekly Faves n Raves

Favorite Food This Week: Leftover Easter crepes with yogurt and blueberries. I always make crepes for Easter and I'm in the habit of putting almond meal and flax seed meal in the crepe batter so they're full of protein and kind of nutty tasting. For Easter we had them with strawberries and whipped cream, of course! But they make a great lunch with fruit and yogurt on other days.

Favorite Workout This Week: That one's easy, the time trial on Tuesday, if for no other reason than it's the only workout I haven't done in the rain or cold. But today is sunny and I'm looking forward to a much warmer long run this afternoon.

Favorite Song to Run To: Fall Out Boy - This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race. Thankfully someone I know posted the lyrics online because it's dang hard to figure out what he's saying. Then again, I'm the queen of misheard lyrics, and by the way if you are too, check out The Archive of Misheard Lyrics for some good laughs.

Rave for the Week: Someone keeps stealing my favorite pull buoys from the pool. We're down to one of them left now. Who on earth has a membership at a private club and then can't go buy themselves a pull buoy?? Did they actually "accidentally" just carry one home with them? They're a bit bulky for that. All the other ones are slick, which might work fine for the furry-legged men, but for those of us with smooth thighs, they just slip around annoyingly. I know it's a petty rant, but that's mine for the week.

Saddest Thing That's Happened This Week: Kurt Vonnegut's leaving this earth. At one time, I read every book he wrote over the course of a year or two. Might be time to go and re-read some. It would be impossible to find a favorite quote because there are so many, and I can't seem to dig up (even on Google) the quote he had about swimming (half of it was about writing: "When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth." but the other half was about swimming and I can't find it anywhere!) If anyone has this quote and can help me out, I'd be ever so grateful.

But this is one of my faves that seems appropriate to this blog and will stand as my weekly favorite quote: "I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."

RIP Kurt Vonnegut, who once said about death:

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Note to Self: Buy Booties

It would seem rather late in the year to be buying cold weather gear, but it doesn't seem to be warming up at all around here. And having a race in May, which I usually don't do, is making me ride outside in all of this cold and rainy weather. My previous MO has been to not even think about biking outside until all the rain disappears, so I don't have a lot of the rain riding essentials (except my big flapping rain jackets and pants for around town riding.) I think from the state of my toes after today's ride, I might invest in some booties at the very least.
I came home frozen to my bike like a popsicle only to find that my hubby had been on the phone for awhile and predictably the kids had gotten up to mischief. Big bro' M. (trying to look innocent here) had devised an alien costume for his little sis from crepe paper and bags. The entire dining room looked like a bomb had gone off in a craft store, and I no longer have any tape in the house. But at least they were having fun, and I have to give them full marks for creativity!

At least it wasn't as bad as last week's ride, where I got a panic-stricken voicemail from my daughter that went something like "Mom, you've got to come home Now! The baby chickens are all bleeding from their noses!" When was the last time you got a phone call like that? And being twenty miles from home on a bicycle, there's not much you can do about "come home quick". As it turns out, the chickies got in a bit of a panic and a couple of them banged up their beaks on the cage wire. They weren't actually hemorrhaging out their noses as I was picturing as I listened to this message, just a couple of tiny scabs is all. We don't call Miss A. the Drama Queen for nothing.

Here's hoping next week brings warm weather, and bike rides without frostbitten toes, craft bombs, or chickens knocking on death's door.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Now That's Better!

It's TT time again and let's see, what was improved from last week.... rest, nutrition, hydration, warmup, organization, gear... yep, this time I was prepared. And had a terrific ride and if I'm not mistaken a PR on the course. I don't have my official time yet, and as I rode past the timekeeper's stand they called out "Race Number!" - I guess my number wasn't pinned visibly enough - so I didn't get my exact time off of my bike computer in all the confusion. I think it was around 40:40 though (at least that's my hope), which would be a minute and a half better than last time if so.

I do know that I got passed by three people on the course (all men), and I passed three people (two women and a man), so I was even in the count (keeping track of that helps me pass the miles as I push my quadriceps to the bursting point and try to blow up my heart - did I forget to mention that time trials hurt. A lot.) The women were both from the local women's team and they both had disc wheels (which I envied) and both of them had to be at least 1:30 or more ahead of me at the start because the three riders in front of me were all male. So that was pretty cool!

It was a gorgeous evening (sorry, I didn't take time to snap photos with my phone camera) with shining sun, only a light breeze, and enough warmth to go in just jersey and shorts. If I hadn't been busy exploding my heart and quads, it might have been pretty enjoyable out there. We had another nice little brick to cool down (and as much as I'm not really a runner, I do enjoy these because they feel nice after all that hard work on the bike.) All in all a good night for some hard work, and I did my best out there. I'll be curious to see where my time falls, but doing my personal best is what really matters so I'm a happy gal tonight!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thug Mama Cyclist Meets the Yodeling Mountain Goat

Have you seen that movie Hoodwinked? Well, if you're not a parent, probably not. It's actually pretty damned cute for a kid's movie, but the part that seems relevant today is a song yodeled by a banjo-playing mountain goat with removable horns whom a witch has cursed to only be able to sing, not talk (yeah, the movie's strange.) The chorus goes something like:

Be prepared, be prepared,
This lesson must be shared,
Be prepared, be prepared,
And unless you got a spare,
You got one life, so handle it with care!

I obviously forgot this lesson this week. You see, there was this cycling time trial Tuesday night. And though I would've liked to have been prepared, I really wasn't (see previous post about three-ring circus, I was still making pizzas ten minutes before throwing my bike in the car to head out to the course.) But life lessons have a great way of coming around to kick you in the arse when you're not paying attention.

With triathlons, I'm almost always prepared these days. First of all, I've been doing them for over twenty years now, so I sort of know what I'm doing. Secondly, my uber-geek nature took over years ago and created spreadsheets for every conceivable aspect of triathlon racing, from what to buy in the week before the race to what to pack for each aspect of the transition area. I print out my sheets, check the little boxes, and I'm squared away. When it comes to TTs though, I'm not nearly that organized. On the surface it seems much simpler: one sport, one bicycle, some shoes, a helmet, show up and ride. No wetsuit, no changing, running shoes. Easy, right?

It started earlier in the day when I realized I forgot to change the battery in my bike computer. Took care of that, but it put my whole day behind schedule. By the time I was throwing the bike in the car, I realized I didn't change my wheels, so I threw those in too. Got to the registration just slightly late, but got signed up and got my start time. Set to work changing wheels. It's damned cold outside. Realized I forgot to throw in the bag with my warmup clothes, but an old black hoodie sweatshirt of hubby's takes most of the chill off even if I look like a thug. Get my wheels on and take 'em for a little test spin. Damn, it seems like I'm going really fast but I chalk that up to a little pre-race adrenaline and forget about it. Don't have time to throw the bike on the trainer and also realize my pre-ride nutrition was in the bag with my warmup clothes - at home. Eat Trader Joe's gingersnaps by the handful from a bucket in the car (sometimes it's useful being a mom, there's always food in the minivan if you look hard enough.)

Looking around, there's lots of really serious and professional-looking cyclists warming up on their fluid trainers, in with nice long-sleeved skin-tight thermal jerseys, disk wheels and those funky aero-helmets that look like something a Sith Lord might don for a night out on the town. Meanwhile, here I am, gangster-mama eating her kids' gingersnaps on the tailgate of her minivan. But no time to worry about my public image, they're calling my number.

Now comes the part I've really been fearing: the standing start. You might think that someone with a background in skydiving, motorcycle riding, and other assorted dangerous occupations would not be as big of a chickenshit as I am, but you'd be wrong. The one and only other time I've done a TT, I backed out of the standing start at the last second and took off by pushing myself with one foot repeatedly like a total idiot. This time though, I got tough and went through with it, and I was off. But my complete and total lack of preparation made this race a very long and hard one.

Mentally, I was off of my game from the first mile. I wasn't warmed up enough, hadn't had time to jump on my trainer, had gotten chilled from the breeze blowing through the cotton sweatshirt, and the gingersnaps were sitting a bit hard in the ol' stomach. Still, I was making some really good time, or so I thought. My speedometer was going crazy: 24 mph in the first few miles alone. But then I looked at the mileage and knew something was wrong. I was in the wrong place to have put so many miles on already. Eventually it hit me: I changed the battery in my bike computer, and that wiped out my settings. The computer is automatically set for 700 wheels and I ride 650s. Crap. So much for my blistering speed.

Now let me explain something. For the kind of geeky brain I've got, numbers are everything. I can't live without my numbers. I dream in Sudoku. I was a Vulcan in a former life. So I'm out on the course without Any Meaningful Numbers. Except for my total time. If I hadn't had that, I might've really gone crazy. From there on out, time just spiraled out into the long kind of misery that every athlete has endured sooner or later. Nothing feels right, the universe is pissing on you, and you just have to gut it out. I eventually crossed the finish line 30 seconds slower than the last time I did this (and I definitely should be faster).

So I felt kinda demoralized by the whole thing, and not even my nutty tri friends suggesting a brick run after the TT could cheer me up. I ran in my thug sweatshirt and a black watch cap of my hubby's that was in the back of the van, while the cyclists heading home goggled at us setting out on a run. Since that evening, I've been really dwelling on how much of a mental difference it made to be completely unprepared to race. And that mental difference carried itself over into my athletic performance, making me slower than I knew I could go.

Today I looked up my time on the results page on the web and was moping about how bad it was when my hubby pointed out that really, I came in 2nd in the Cat4 Women, and I was only about 30 seconds behind the woman who finished 1st in the Cat1/2s. Even with the Thug Mama duds, the lack of aero anything (except bars), no coach, and no warmup, I didn't do as badly as I thought. My friend and teammate Megan really rocked and rolled, beating all the other women entirely. And she did it all without even a disc wheel or Sith Lord helmet. She is really inspiring.

So next week, the hubby has offered to come chair my pit crew. Get me warmed up, set up, nutritioned up, and see what I can do when I'm feeling more like my usual self. Next time I'm going to listen to that damned yodeling mountain goat, next time I'm going to Be Prepared.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Welcome To My Three-Ring Circus

In ring #1, we have Robin the triathlete. She did a time trial last night with some of her teammates and they did a brick run afterwards (while cyclists going home looked at them like they were nuts), and then she gave them a ride home. The back of her minivan looks like a bomb went off in a bike store: wheels, trainers, shoes, helmets (some of which are not hers). Although she brought her bike in when she got home last night at 9:00 pm, it's now 9:30 in the morning and she's just realized that she has to put up the backseat in order to carpool everyone to Karate class by 10:00 am. She is frantically carrying biking gear into the garage and dumping it willy nilly.

In ring #2, we have Robin the homeschooling mom. Note: this is the same Robin that's in ring #1. She's busy making sure the kids are fed, they have their karate gis on, belts tied correctly, waterbottles in hand, and a bag with clothes to change into after karate. She also needs to bring along cloth grocery bags for shopping at Trader Joe's afterwards, and make sure she has playdate arrangements for the kids' afternoon, as well as time to shlep kid#2 to her horseback riding lesson shortly after lunch.

In ring#3, we have Robin yet again. This time it's Robin the urban homesteader and environmentalist. This is why she's carpooling to karate (when the weather is not so rainy, she'll be busy loading kids onto bicycles and making sure they have helmets, sunglasses, gloves, etc.). She's busy letting the adult chickens out of their coop for the morning, making sure the baby chickens have food and water. Oops, carrying all the biking gear into the garage has caused all the baby chickens (which currently live in a cage in the garage until it's warm enough for them to go outside for the day) to go nuts, so now that she's filling their feeder, they're busy popping up out of the cage and flapping around. She grabs a chicken with one hand and stuffs it back into the cage, then another, making mental note that they are now able to fly quite well, and moving cycling gear out of the way with her toes at the same time.

Usually, the three rings of my life run more or less seamlessly. I'm doing one thing or another, taking the kids someplace and then running or biking, or I'm home with the kids doing their stuff, or we're taking care of the animals together, or my hubby's home and that's when I exercise or whatever. But some days every ring has to be going at the same time, and there's just not enough of Robin to go around. This morning was just one of those times! And don't even get me going on what it felt like to have to complete dozens of punches in a torturous position known as Shiko Dachi while the sensei walked around with a bopper hitting you in the stomach and arms and shoulders to make sure everything is solid (it wasn't, my legs were quivering like jelly on a plate.)

Luckily, tomorrow is our day off from everything: all activities, places to be, things to do will cease. I will stay home, try to get the house straightened out, and dye easter eggs with the kids. Oh yeah, and bike. And run. And do it all again.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Need For Speed

Can't help that blog title, we just watched Top Gun again, now that we've got our home projection system set up in our basement with surround sound speakers borrowed from my computer and all. That movie was my son's suggestion and it was a good one to christen the system with. You know, it doesn't matter how many times I've seen that movie, when the cheesy 80's music starts pumping and the afterburners fire up, I'm totally sucked in. And just for the record, the projector and screen are so totally cool when watched from our couch! I think I might never set foot in a movie theatre again.

But this week's been all about speed for me anyways. Not a big volume week, but I really hammered out some tough workouts (taking that meter all the way up to Agony) and I get to announce....

ta da da....

I set a PR.... in the POOL! After 20+ years of swimming, this kinda blew me away. But I think it's all those distance miles I piled on for IMFL last fall. My stroke felt so much more efficient after that and I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that once I started doing more intervals and speed work that I might end up faster. But countering that was the fact that my left shoulder has really been bugging me this week. I took a fall while running and went down pretty hard on my left wrist before I managed to pull my arms in and do a judo-style roll. The jolt traveled up through my poor wrist and up through my shoulder into my neck. All week I've been saying that I really should see my chiropractor, but just didn't manage to haul my butt down to his office, and have had shooting pains in my hand and elbow. So when Saturday's Masters workout showed up, I was feeling less than enthusiastic.

One thing I like about our new coach though is that he gives loooonnnnnggg warmups. Like a thousand yards, which is exactly my kind of warmup. By the time we get to the main set, I'm actually feeling like I can swim. This particular main set started with 800 yards freestyle, then went to 7x100 on a 1:30 interval, then 600 straight, then 5x100 and so on. The total at the end of the board was 5,000 yards! Which, if truth be told, I usually only swim once a year at our killer New Year's Day workout.

My friend The Barge was swimming over in the fast lane next to me, and he's usually just a tad faster (and he's aiming to swim the 1650 in close to a 1:21-1:22 split at a meet this month), so I figured I'd pace off of him. Unfortunately, what I didn't know when I started swimming is that he wasn't first in his lane. I was pacing off of Steve the Insanely Fast. He left me in the dust in the first 50, when I realized my mistake, and when I hit the first 100 and saw the clock read 1:16, I knew I was in big-time trouble. So I backed off and managed to come in at 10:40, which I have Never Swum in My Life. So I might not be as fast in a sprint as I was in college, but I am still picking up speed at distance and I am so excited about that!!!

In other news, I set a practice PR for a 5k run at 24:47. My run is my biggest limiter, so I've been hammering it pretty darned hard in the last two months and it looks like that's definitely paying off. I'm not setting any land speed records, but I'm hoping to get to the point where my run isn't just completely holding me back. If I can come anywhere close to this in May's sprint tri (which is debatable, because I think it's a hilly run following a hilly bike), it should really help my total time.

Best of all, that good hard swim somehow managed to fix my shoulder problem (which swimming often does for me) and I've been pain-free since Saturday now. I still might use it as an excuse to go get a good massage though.