Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chitter Chatter

I usually bike alone. I have lots of friends who ride, but for many of them their schedules are reasonably predictable - they work, they go for a lunchtime ride, or a 5:30 ride, or a Saturday morning ride. Me, I go for the spontaneous ride, the scrounge-a-babysitter ride, the hubby's-home-early ride, the whenever-it-works ride. So I put 95% of my miles on my wheels keeping myself company. Not that I mind. I'm an introvert in a family of extroverts. An experience that is summed up extraordinarily well by this article, pointed out by blogger, writer, and introvert extraordinaire Dorcas. Time alone is precious, silence golden, the miles spin by and I utter a small sigh of relief at being able to recharge long enough to be swept up by the energy of my hubby and kids again.

But today our neighbor Richard called. I think he was actually calling to see if hubby wanted to go riding, but hubby wisely and happily asked if I wanted to go with him instead (wisely because hubby has been out of town for a week and I'm itching to go ride!) This turned out to be a great thing. For one thing, Richard is one of those most marvelous of riders. Someone who is faster than you, and so pushes your envelope, but doesn't rub it in or make you pay for it. He dropped me on a hill or two, but hovered patiently at the top until I caught up. He's also one of the great conversationalists of the world. Walk by his house and you might not get home for an hour. On top of that, we have a ton of things in common: we're both pilots, WWII history buffs (recently ran into him touring a B-17 at the airport, not surprisingly!), both own Triumph motorcycles, are passionate photographers, have skydived, travelled, scuba dived on WWII wrecks in the South Pacific. He's also had a lot of experiences that I've never had, he's been in the Navy, and has been an antique dealer and expert. He's got a thousand stories.

I couldn't believe how fast a two and a half hour ride flew by. It felt like an hour, maybe less. And we had these unreal winds to boot. I mean it's always windy around here, but these were great gusting blasts (most of my laundry was blown off of my line when I got home). A solo ride in such conditions would've been a tough slog. So today I'm grateful for the good luck that landed us two houses down from a fellow cyclist and generally cool person, and for the opportunity to be out in the sunshine, the fresh air, with good strong legs propelling me along, and the bonus of a friend.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Thanks For Making Me Think

A friend of mine who is a writer, Dorcas tagged me from her blog Life in the Shoe. The challenge was to list five blogs that make me think. In trying to decide which of the many blogs I love to include, it made me realize how much the words that others write out here do make me think. Especially the posts that are not so much about heartrates, repeats, tempos, and such but about their lives and how training for triathlons intersects the essential components of existence: family, friends, jobs, the environment. So here's my post on Blogs That Make Me Think, and I wanted to take a moment to thank all the bloggers out there whose words help me see my world in new and different ways, and offer a window into their own unique perspective on the world.

If all electricity suddenly went out and the internet disappeared with a *poof*, I would miss some of these perspectives. I would wonder about you all, think about the challenges you've written about and there would be a void where your stories now are. When blogging, it sometimes feels like your words are just going out into the air like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind. The thing is, you never know when a new weed is going to spring up (I'm the queen of bad analogies this morning, apparently).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Missed, By An Arm Warmer

So I was standing on the lakeshore yesterday morning in about 41 degrees of horribly damp cold, with rain streaming down my ears and saying to myself "This is why I never do early season triathlons in the Northwest. Sorry, make that the NorthWet." It didn't help that I'm still trying to shake this chest cold (so why am I out in the freezing drizzle doing a triathlon? I have no answer for that one.) And it doubly-didn't help that the long-sleeved wetsuit I had rented for the occasion (see previous comment about never doing early season tri's, I've never needed a long-sleeved wetsuit before...) didn't work. As in leaked water like a sieve. As in didn't fit right or something (good thing I tried it out before the race). So I'm standing there on the lakeshore in my sleeveless warm-weather-wimpy-triathlete farmer john style wetsuit getting ready to go into the water. In the words of Han Solo, I had a bad feeling about this.

That bad feeling was one of my intuitions, those things I've learned to listen to now that I'm old enough to believe I'm more or less mortal. And it was based on the fact that this is a pretty hilly, curvy bike course with many of those curves coming sharply at the bottom of those hills. I'm not the world's best technical cyclist on a good day, and this was not looking to be a good day. So I told myself (again, and again, and again) that I was not going to try to qualify for Nationals in this race, and therefore I did not need to kill myself on a slick wet corner going hell bent for leather on my bike. Having decided that one up front, I also decided to put on some arm warmers when I got to T1, judging (quite rightly) that my arms would be nearly frozen coming out of the lake and riding through the biting wind would be unpleasant at best. If I wanted to qualify, of course I would've never taken the time to pull arm warmers onto wet arms with nearly-numb fingers, but I was not going to worry about it this time.

Out onto the bike course, I played it safe. Using my patented Hill Weenie steering techniques, I probably frustrated the hell out of the riders around me, three guys I kept passing on the uphills who then usually passed me on the downhills. But, given my cornering history (remember my day with Billy Blaze?) and the steep dropoffs to the lake on the side of this road, I didn't really want to go riding off into the puckerbrush again, so I didn't have a very fast bike time, in fact I think it was the worst I've posted on this course, ever. But, I was alive and not covered in road rash, and given that the race organizers said that there would be absolutely no pickup of cyclists on the course ("you'll just have to walk" was the answer one gave to the question of whether or not cyclists with injuries or technical problems would be assisted back to the transition area), I was doing good as I rolled into T2.

Well, good until I put my running shoes onto my frozen slabs of meat...er....feet. And then tried to run on said slabs, which I pounded senselessly into the pavement over and over thinking some blood might start flowing to them eventually. All that run training I've been doing to get faster and I was looking like a Frankenstein monster on crack out there. Thud thud thud. At this point, I was apparently in the lead, however. No one bothered to tell me this (usually a race official or kind spectator will at least mention it!) so I didn't know until I was getting close to the run turn-around, which was also when another woman passed me. Still, first off the swim and bike, and a good mile into the run course is not a bad day under such conditions. Another gal caught me, and then one more just before the finisher's chute (grrrrrr) but my legs weren't going to go any faster, so I just kept chugging along as best as I could. Very very surprisingly, I turned in a PR for the run on this course for me, at 25 minutes for the 5k. Don't know how I managed to do that, except that maybe that run training and all of those hill repeats did actually pay off on this hilly course. That's pretty exciting for me, and gives me some hope for later in the season with non-frozen feet.

I ended up 2nd in my age group, 4th overall (though I'm listed in the race results as being male, the final indignity of the day I suppose), and there was only a minute and a half separating those fisrt 4 places, probably about the time it took me to screw around with my arm warmers in my slow T1, so the joke's on me there. In a way, it was a cool race though because it was different for me (early season, very indecisive about how to approach it and what to wear). I felt like a bit of a rookie, and sometimes it's good to push your own personal envelope a bit. I'm encouraged by my running, and not too discouraged by my slow bike time because I hope that these road conditions won't be repeating themselves in any further races this season!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Faves and Raves

I guess I can't call these "weekly faves and raves" because I always forget to post them, so it's more like "whenever I feel like it and get around to it faves and raves." In no particular order, here's a few:

Favorite Activity of the Week: This one's a no brainer: Mother's Day. And not just because the kids brought me breakfast in bed (cooked by the ever-fabulous hubby), flowers, chocolate, my Sudoku book, stuffed animals to snuggle, etc. but because it's always a reminder of how grateful I am for my own mother (who met us in Disneyland and is now off on a solo adventure around the country) but also how grateful I am to be a mom to my two awesome kids. The entire day on Sunday was just so perfect. I got the royal treatment, got to go on my long run in the sunshine (which felt just great after a spurt of cold weather), got surprised by my dad and step-mom who came to visit in the afternoon, got to take the tandem bikes down to the park by the river with the kids, and went out for some late Thai food on the way home. Nothing could've been better.

Kid Quote of the Week: This one's from my son, who was trying to convince my hubby to violate the "no food upstairs" rule in order to bring me breakfast in bed. I overheard this from down below: "Dad, it'c called Breakfast in Bed. The operative words here are In Bed, otherwise it's just called Breakfast."

Quote of the Week: "Happy people plan actions, they don't plan results." - Denis Waitley. This one is particularly appropriate for me this week. I've been waffling off and on about trying to qualify for Nationals this year, since they're in Oregon for once (which I didn't know last summer, or I would've done a race then to qualify.) The last qualifying race that I can get to is this coming weekend, and I originally registered for the sprint (I don't usually race this early at all in the season, wimp that I am!), but then found out that only the Olympic was an official qualifier. To complicate matters, I've been sick with the remainders of a chest cold. Could I do the Olympic? Should I? Today my hubby looked at me and said "You know, you could just find a nice race later in the summer and qualify for next year and just stop worrying about it right now. What a wise guy (and I mean that in a good way). So yes, I'm going to do the sprint tri this weekend. No, I'm not worried about qualifying, if I do that would be icing, but I'm going to plan my actions and not worry about the results, and most of all enjoy it!

Favorite food: Always a hard one to decide, but I do try to keep this relevant to training for triathlons, so the chocolate souffle is pretty much out. I'd say now that we're reliably into the warm weather, it's smoothie time. Today's offering includes blackberries we picked last summer and froze, eggs from our very own lady chickens, and goat's milk from a nearby farmer (don't wrinkle your nose, when you get fresh goat's milk from someone who knows how to keep dairy goats, it's very good stuff). A dash of vanilla and it's perfect on a warm spring afternoon before or after a ride.

Workout of the Week: Over-under intervals on the bike. 1 minute max effort, 2 minutes just under the anaerobic threshold, repeat 10x. I actually did 5, took a break, then did 5 more. Wonder how the legs will feel tomorrow!

Music to Run By: I have none for this week. I loaded up my iPod with a Learning Italian CD and buon giorno'd my way down the trail. We are now definitely planning on a multi-week family tandem biking excursion in Italy for '08, and as I'm the family linguist I figured on getting a jump on Italian. So far I've managed to amaze the kids with how much I can pick up just from knowing French and some Spanish (as well as a smattering of Latin and a musical background). I also made an interesting discovery about myself. I'm such a completely visual (and completely non-auditory) learner that I can repeat out loud any word or phrase on the Italian CD that I can visualize in my head. If I can't visualize it, I can't say it. I remember this from learning French in college. We would watch movies in French and my comprehension dropped from 95% to about 10% if a character turned their back to the screen. I was actually lip-reading in French, not hearing it. Isn't that weird? It may explain why I can never remember anyone's name... unless I write it down or see it on a nametag.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Chapter Seven, In Which Robin Meets Badmouth Bob, Billy Blaze, and Takes an Excursion Into the Puckerbrush

While not quite as frightening as J's encounter with bicyclist Bob (scroll down to March 15, but I warn you may pee your pants laughing, this is the funniest blog in tri-town), I had some very interesting run-ins with the local two-wheeled loonies this week.

First, there was Badmouth Bob (or BB for short). I was cycling to work and only a block from the club when I pull up next to another cyclist on a commuter bike at a stop light, an act I would soon come to regret. We're right near the downtown bus depot, and a bus turns right on a red light directly in front of us (though not close enough to put us in any danger). Badmouth Bob, who up until this point looked relatively sane, takes a deep breath and yells at the top of his lungs "The Transit District can lick my hairy nutsack!". All eyes from pedestrians, car drivers, people waiting for busses, and the usual crowd in front of the library are now focused our way. Did I mention I'm a block from where I work, and am sitting right next to Bobby Boy, as if we're cycling together? As the light turns green and he moves off, I decide to put as much distance between us as possible, which is a good thing because he repeats his little proclamation (in a voice loud enough to carry a good half mile) over and over again as he pedals away. When I've finished racking my bike, I can still here him shouting his displeasure with the transit district into the sunset.

So that was day one of my cycling week. On day two, I've dropped my daughter off at her play rehearsal and headed off down the nearby bike path en route to a nice 90 minute ride along the rolling hills by the river. It's a gorgeous early evening, and I'm enjoying just cruising along. I'm coming up on a cyclist in front of me, decked out in long cycling tights and riding a mountain bike with knobby tires for all he's worth. Seriously, the dude is doing almost 19 mph on this mountain bike, and he's standing up and pumping every minute or so, going hell bent for leather. Still, heroic though his efforts might be, I was gaining on him steadily over the course of a mile or two, if for no other reason than I'm on aerobars and skinny tires. So I'm doing about 22 when I pull out, give him an "on your left" and pass him, not thinking anything of it.

The river looks gorgeous to my right and I'm enjoying the light breeze and sunny weather as I cruise along when I notice this weird sound, kinda like heavy breathing off of my left shoulder. A sunny patch of ground reveals his shadow, still pumping legs like crazy, right on my rear tire. So that's a little strange, but maybe he's on testosterone overload or doesn't like being passed by chicks (quite unfortunately, that's not an infrequent occurrence if you're a female cyclist). As I brake to make a turn off of the path, he whizzes past me and resumes manic pumping action. Of course, he also drops back down to 19 mph, now that he's lost my draft. I'll take a second just to point out here that this little event happens in races all the time, which is really hard on those female cyclists near the front of the pack. Some guys (no matter how much slower they're going) will just not be passed by a woman. It's downright maddening in a race (where it's costing me time), but is merely irritating on the bike path.

So I slow down for a little bit until there's another straight section and it's safe to pass again. A little bit more curt with the "on your left" and I'm past. Now we've gone up and over a bridge and are coming down the other side, picking up speed. My bike computer reads 24, then 26mph. At 28 we come out from behind some trees and I get another shadow glance, the dude is still glued onto my back wheel. At 28.5 on a mountain bike! Ordinarily, my hat would be off to him, but at this point it's starting to feel downright creepy. Interestingly, my girlfriends I've told this story to have nodded their heads - scary stuff. Guys look at me oblivious: what's the problem, other than a dude in need of an attitude adjustment? So here's a Public Service Announcement: Guys, girls can get a bit freaked out when they're being chased. Many of us have had unsavory, dangerous, or downright victimizing experiences with men in our lives, and while it doesn't make us walking paranoids, it's just not nice to chase us around (when you don't know us of course, if you happen to be my husband, go right ahead!)

So I did what seemed to be the best thing to my rabbit-being-chased-by-fox brain at the time: accelerated. I poured on the gas and took the speed up a few more notches. Dude is still there, ragged breathing and all. I'm so focused on getting away from this guy, I forget that the bike path is almost ending and there's a big sweeping curve coming up. I'm sure you know where this is going. I realize about 1/8th of the way into the curve that there's no way in hell I'm going to make it without completely dumping my bike over at a speed that will ensure most of my skin gets left on the pavement. So I straighten up and ride right off the path into the weeds.

Now I'm hurtling along over the rocky ground, thigh-high weeds and thorns whipping past my legs, and, as if in slow motion, the guy goes past me on my right on the bike path, his mouth in an "O", and all he says is "Wow". I manage to yell something like "wild ride" as I hold tight to the handlebars with both hands in a death grip. I manage to brake to a stop about fifty yards off the path, just before I would've hurtled off an embankment into a gigantic blackberry thicket. After checking my tires for thorns, and letting all of the blood drain back out of my cheeks, I head back onto the path. There at the end is Blazin' Billy, turning around to speed back into town. After all, he appears to be a pretty normal guy out for a power ride after work, not some kind of freaky demon. He looks as if he is going to say something to me but I just keep pedaling, hoping futilely that he will forget what color jersey I'm wearing (orange with flowers and purple shorts, what are the odds??) or maybe that he ever saw any of this (where's that Jedi mind-control thing when you need it: "You didn't see anything. You can go about your business now.")

fishbikeI'm a little nervous about what tomorrow's bike ride might bring, I could use a more normal ending to my week. I just hope that Badmouth Bob and Blazin' Billy don't have a cousin or something. Maybe this guy...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Jumping Back In To Life

It's funny how time flies by during the weeks here, but one week of vacation can simultaneously seem very fast and also very long. It seems like forever since I've been home, but the days went by quickly. I had planned on running a few times on vacation but that only materialized once. There's also not many good places to run around Mouseland, a lot of cars and traffic, long lights and freeway intersections make it more of an exercise in frustration than anything. I think I'll write to the Disney people and suggest that they open up the park in the early mornings for us running folk who need a place to stretch out our legs, that would be fun.
This is my favorite photo from Disney, I went on Autopia with Miss A., a ride that lets the kids drive. Made me wonder what I'll be going through in seven or eight years when she wants to drive for real!

Now I'm back and staring at a race in less than two weeks, that's about 10 days of workouts, taper, and boom it's here. I did get out on my bike yesterday for a brick of 1.5 hours, and then 45 minute run. Strangely enough, though I felt like I was sluggish my biking speed was quite fast. I guess a week of rest after four weeks of time trials left me with some oomph in my biking, that's nice! But running was dreadful and I've got just a few days to try and get some speed back into my legs or I'll be toast. And this tri has a hilly run, so I'm off tomorrow to start hitting the hills again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dispatch From Disney #1

So far it's Vacation 4, Workouts 0 (unless you count hoofing around Disneyland for 8 hours with two kids a workout, and judging by how tired I am at the end of the day, I guess I can!), but we're having a good time here. I've blasted the Evil Emporer Zurg numerous times on our journeys through the new Buzz Lightyear ride, and managed to convince my less-than-thrillseeking kids (don't ask me how mine and my husband's genetics combined to produce that) to try out the Matterhorn and the Haunted House. I haven't left the park with kids in tears, and my usual tactics (get there when the park opens, stay 'til 2:00, go back to the hotel to swim and lounge, return for evening and stay until park closes) are working well. We've done just about everything in two days and are off to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, then back for one more day of Disney and then home. Whew!

I packed my running shoes but they haven't been out of the suitcase yet. I didn't even take this big of a break from my workouts after Ironman, so it feels very weird to be doing absolutely nothing at all. But sometimes I think maybe that's not such a bad thing, and regardless of the fact that I've got my first tri of the season in just a few weeks, it will probably be just fine. Call it a pre-taper maybe. Now I'm off to read the kids some Harry Potter and then to bed....