Sunday, December 28, 2008

Three Days

I've given up chocolate (not to mention all processed sugar) for three days now. Once I went forty days for Lent without chocolate, so I have a vague memory that it's possible. Right now, in the desperate hour of the day's just ugly. The kids built marshmallow snowmen today and melted chocolate in the microwave for hair and to glue them together. I thought I was going to go insane from the smell alone. Now the snowmen are mocking me with their sugary goodness and chocolatey arms. Seriously, is this thing evil-looking or what? It would serve it right if I ate it...

Friday, December 26, 2008


Some folks over at the Trifuel forums are on a 50 Days of Core quest, working out the core muscles every day for 50 days. People are posting before and after photos, so I went off to take my "before" photo today. I have to say I'm a bit horrified. What I noticed is not so much that my abs are in bad shape, they're not. I do a lot of ab work for karate and do it on my own most days too. But it's that they're buried under about 8 pounds of extra sludge. Most of that padding came all at once, when I had a thyroid medicine issue about 10 months ago. I'm missing half of my thyroid, so my metabolism is never a simple issue of "calories in/ calories out". My doc figures I got a bad batch of my prescription meds as my weight shot up, my body temperature fell and my hair started falling out, all familiar symptoms to those of us who struggle with thyroid issues. The big bummer is that when I've had these issues in the past, the weight fell back off after I got my meds under control and this time it just didn't. Part of that was due to the fact that I was struggling with my tendon injury in my foot at the time and not running at all and not swimming or biking hard. Part of it is undoubtably due to the fact that I'm 42 now and my metabolism is just slower in general. Part of it is also probably that I can't seem to give up my morning chocolate habit.

Whatever it is, I first resented those 8 or 9 pounds, and now I've more or less gotten used to them, until of course seeing this photo and being forced to confront them. So now I'm actually posting the photo for accountability's sake, and not only will I be participating in that 50 days of Core thingie, but I'm vowing to give up on sugar for those 50 days as well. I may be sipping a tiny bit of caffeine in the a.m. to make up for my lack of chocolate, and we'll see if we can unbury those abs before the spring sprint triathlon season hits.

After all, I can look at this photo from right before the Ironman in 2006 and be inspired to have this kind of fit body again. The sad truth is that with my metabolism as naturally slow as its always been, with the added loss of much of my thyroid and dealing with meds all the time, it's never been easy for me to get or keep a lean body. It's always a struggle. It's never felt quite fair. I was the chubby child, the plump teen, it shouldn't take training for an Ironman just to get down in the high 150's weight-wise, but that's the way it seems to go for me. So I can rail against the unfairness of it all or just buckle down I guess.

When I hit post in a second, that will lend some accountability to all of this. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Worst Is Not To Come

So I've superstitiously avoided posting anything about this, but I've had this terrible pain in the sides of my abdomen that's come and gone for about two months now. It started when we were in Italy, but then went away. Then it came again a few weeks after we got back and has come and gone since then at seemingly random intervals.

I went to see my doc and he ended up ordering up an ultrasound that looked at just about everything in every organ group in that general vicinity (I'll spare you the details) and found pretty much nothing. That should be reassuring, but when you're still hurting it's more or less not. So I made another appointment and have been googling all kinds of things. From IBS to colon cancer to Polycystic ovaries to whatever, just trying to find something that might resemble what I'm feeling.

The thing is, about the year that Wayne and I got married, my aunt (who was in her 40s) died of cancer. She left behind four school-aged children in this heartbreaking scenario that was reminiscent of that awful scene in Terms of Endearment where Debra Winger's character says goodbye to her kids. My aunt had been to her doctor for months before her cancer diagnosis, only to be told she was suffering from "allergies". By the time she got the cancer diagnosis, it was largely too late. So now that I'm a mom, whenever I've had any little weird pain or twitch, all that she went through comes back to haunt me. I'm not the hypochondriac type, and I'm generally very healthy, but there's always that worry of "what if this is worse than something minor". Couple that with my legendarily high pain tolerance (which, contrary to what people might think, is usually not a good thing, since you often don't know if something is wrong with you until it's REALLY WRONG) and it's been a recipe for a lot of stressful late-night conjecture lately.

So I've got this other doctor's appointment scheduled for next week, but as I was stretching two days ago, hubby noticed how incredibly tight my back was. I'm normally freakily flexible. With his advice, I took myself off to my chiropractor and discovered that I've injured a big muscle group in my back, and that causes all kinds of "referred pain" in the sides of the abdominal area. Phew!

The reason this started on our Italy trip might've had something to do with repeatedly hauling our 50-pound bike-carrying suitcases on and off of multiple trains. Ya think? So the good news is that nothing life-threatening is on my horizon that I know of. And the bad news is that I'm not able to play volleyball right now, and probably won't be running for a week or two either just to give everything time to heal up. I'll be back to see my chiropractor, who when he's treating me I swear could double as a medieval torture specialist. But I can't argue with the fact that all of his poking and prodding and cracking works. I feel a lot better today than I have in weeks.

We'll be hunkered down for an old-fashioned family at-home Christmas this week, so I wish everyone who is celebrating a holiday to have a good one. I'll definitely be remembering to say a prayer of gratitude for my good health and even for my pain and troubles because it reminds me not to take for granted the way my body does so much for me so easily most of the time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If You Could Only Talk to Product Support While Cycling

So I'm still slaving away over the #@! hard drive on my main computer, trying to get it reformatted. And it always galls me when I have to get to the point of calling product support because you know, I actually used to work in the computer industry and fancy myself not a complete novice on these devices (my first day of work at Microsoft in 1988, I arrived at my desk to find a PC in pieces with cards I needed to install, and mind you I had only worked on Macintoshes and mainframes before that!).

So here I am, an hour into a chat session with a product support specialist from heaven knows where on earth, and after succinctly stating my problem:

I quote directly from the chat session: "I have already tried to install Windows from the reinstallation disk, and it doesn't even let me get to the page with the partitions before I get the blue screen of death and the following error:


so then an HOUR into the session after various dorking around, the support person tries to get me to run install from the reinstallation disk, and after my protestations that I already did, they make me do it again and then ask me what error message I get. I type in the above error code, AGAIN, and finally we can proceed. However, that was half an hour ago, and now I've been bumped up to a supervisor who maybe knows something about something.

If I could only do all of this while on my bike trainer, it wouldn't feel like such a monumental waste of time but I'm stuck sitting here for the duration - 1:30 and counting.

The good news is that I always buy my computers from Dell, and Dell product support has not once failed me, and I'm probably the pickiest support customer on earth. So I have faith that all of these efforts will not be in vain and I will indeed get my hard drive back and operational, eventually...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Million Tiny Laps

It's snowing here, which is cause for much rejoicing among the members of the family under age 13. And actually, I love the snow too, we had a great time sledding, throwing snowballs, and goofing around. But it also means no running down the sidewalks, trails, and other fun outdoorsy kinds of places that I like to run. I did thankfully get my long run in on Sunday, then made it to the pool on the first snowy day, and yesterday I rode my bike on the trainer and watched Intolerable Cruelty with a friend (funny funny), but today I really wanted a run so it was off to the gym and the 1/16th mile track. Which made me feel about like this:

Friday, December 12, 2008


I had to get up and coach the 5:15 masters swimmers this week. Now usually I'm a night owl, not a morning person. So if I have to get up at that kind of hour, the swimmers know they're in for a crazy hard workout.

This is the main set I had them swim

400 Swim
4 x 100 Descend (slow, med, med-fast, fast)
400 Pull
3 x 100 Descend (leave off the slowest 100, so this is med, med-fast, fast)
400 Choice
2 x 100 Descend (med-fast, fast)
400 Freestyle
100 HARD

This was after a good long warmup, with the daily total being about 4500 yards. This is a great set for triathletes, try it sometime and really work those hundreds, you'll feel it afterwards!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Sports Collide

On Monday night I noticed something very peculiar was going on with my swim stroke. I wasn't pulling much water, and when I paid attention I noticed that I have been tucking my thumbs into my hands. I'm pretty sure that this has something to do with the fact that our green belt blocks in karate are all knife-hand blocks, and I have been learning to tuck my thumbs in for the knife-hand a little too well. Now it takes an effort to keep that thumb out on my swim stroke. Weird!

Then Monday I jammed two of the fingers on my left hand at volleyball, today it was two fingers on my right hand. By the 10:00 karate class, I can't make a fist with either hand. Try explaining to your sensei why you can't do almost anything right in class. But turnabout's fair play because I sucked at volleyball due to the fact that my wrists were hurting from the Jiu-Jitsu wrist locks and arm bars we've been learning in karate these days.

If my sports keep colliding into each other like this, I won't be much good for anything at all!

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Need

There are times in life where my workout might feel like something I want to do, or maybe something I know I have to do but don't particularly feel like doing in that moment. And then there are the times when it's something I Need to do, with that capital "N" on Need.

I don't deal with chaos well. I'm really an introvert of the worst kind. I could possibly be a hermit in another life. It wouldn't bother me to be marooned on a desert island for awhile (as long as I had a couple of good books, and maybe some goggles and a beach towel). I don't know how I ended up being a homeschooling mom, a coach, married to an extreme extrovert who just about busts at the seams if I'm too overwhelmed to talk with him much, and now coaching my kids' robotics team, volunteering at the theatre where my daughter's been acting, etc. etc. For a deserted-island-hermit-type, I'm really in over my head right now.

Which means my workouts have been great. The more I need them, the more intense I can just push and push myself and the better it all feels. Yesterday I rode for an hour and a half, and went for a 40 minute run without blinking an eye. I remember a time when doing a sprint triathlon seemed like an impossibility. Then came a time when a sprint triathlon was a short workout day. Now an Oly triathlon is just another workout day. It never fails to amaze me what the human body can adapt to, and not just endure but actually come to crave. When I watch my cat go out and just run around for the heck of it, I realize that it's really our birthright to be able to extend the full range of our body's abilities and feel good afterwards, to not just want it but to need it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

You Know It's Going to Suck When...

You look at the board at your swim workout and see the following main set:

10 x 100
10 x 100
10 x 100


Yep. Suckaroo.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Still in Shorts, in December

Running today, shorts and a t-shirt. Bicycling this weekend in short sleeves. My rhododendrons are blooming. It's December in the Pacific Northwest and this is just downright weird.

Meanwhile, as part of their robotics team's research project, my kids have been researching the effects of global climate change on wineries. As it turns out, Napa Valley may be growing olives and walnuts in the upcoming decades, our area might see Syrah and bigger reds, while our lovely Pinots might be migrating north towards Seattle. Who knows, maybe Gewurztraminer growing in Canada?

Yep, not a climate change skeptic here. 99.9% of me knows that this is not a good thing for the earth as a whole. But as a triathlete in shorts on a sunny December day, it's hard to complain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Double Trouble

Here's a tough swim workout. In preparation for our New Year's Day marathon of fifties (this year it will be 109 50's on the :45), we did forty of them at our Saturday Master's swim.

I thought it was so much fun (or else I had so little imagination) that I did the workout again last night all by myself. I have to say that swimming twice a week after last year's only once a week has made a big speed difference for me. I came in on :38 - :39 pretty consistenly through all forty 50's. Six months ago I tried this workout and couldn't make twenty of them on the same interval. Sometimes I wonder what I could do if I went back to swimming five days a week. But that's way too much work and would take too much away from tri training. Too bad there's not a triathlon that equally weights the swim with the bike and run, ha!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Turning 'Em Over

A couple of years ago I noticed an odd thing: I ran faster off of my bike than I did without biking first. That's kind of the opposite of what most triathletes report (what with the rubber-leg factor and all), so I wondered what could've made the difference for me. Reading an article on running cadence supplied the missing link. After time spent on the bike, where my natural cycling cadence is around 90 - 92, I turn my feet over faster when I run. It's like they're already in that rhythm and can just continue on at that pace. Reading some books on running form like ChiRunning and the POSE method made me realize that cadence was important in running too. I've never been much of a runner, but in these last couple of years I've tried to change my attitude towards this last of the three sports in triathlon.

Now it's been awhile since I really got to working on my running form. Last year with my tendon injury (never run in high heels, ever again!) I barely got in any running at all, so this year feels like starting over, though not entirely from scratch.

I've been keeping track of my running cadence, and am happy to report that despite my year off I have an overall net improvement over two years ago when I first started trying to increase my cadence.

When I first took note of the fact that I had a running cadence at all, it looked like this:

Distance runs: 78
Tempo runs: 82
Speed work: 84
Bricks (running off of the bike): 88

In the last couple of weeks, I've tracked my cadence on every run and now it looks like this:

Distance runs: 83
Tempo runs: 87
Speed work: 90
Bricks: 90

I know I'm still not at an optimum cadence of around 90 for everything, but it's definitely gotten better by a long shot. It felt really awkward at first, especially on the long runs, but it's getting much more natural now. I had an awesome ten miler today and kept my cadence in the 83 - 84 zone the whole way, and actually had a negative split. It feels good to be back.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Up the Down Hill

Here's how to spice up a downhill ride: I was out yesterday on one of my favorite hills. It's about 7 miles of gradual winding up one side, and 3.5 miles of brutal uphill on the other, so you can take your pick which way you want to go, depending on your mood. It's been unseasonably warm here and I'm actually still riding in shorts, and the long side was sunny so I decided to head up that way. I was pretty toasty on my way up the hill, but down the other side I was on the shady side of the hill away from the setting sun and the descent started getting chilly fast. So I decided to do something new and fun.

I set my watch timer for 1:00 repeating intervals. I descended for one minute, then when the timer beeped I turned around and sprinted uphill for the next minute until it beeped again. This is actually a great exercise in the relativity of time, because time while coasting downhill simply is not the same length as time sprinting uphill. Try it, you'll see what I mean.

So at the end of the ride, I not only got my seven mile hill in, I got about eight more uphill sprints. Then of course I realized that this road puts me at the bottom of the hill separating the valley from my house, and I had one more ridge to climb up and over, then up the hill that my house is on. By the time I hit that road, my legs were completely and utterly toasted. This workout is a good one!

Base season, what base season???

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Swim Workout of the Week

Here's a main set I threw into my workout this week:

6 x 100 - Focus on different part of technique each 25 (catch, recovery, follow-through, rhythm, breathing, body position, etc.)

8 x 125 - Gradually accelerate, then sprint last 25

I'm also trying really hard to keep my head more level, as per a suggestion from my swim coach. I'm still not sure how much good this is going to do me, since I never swim for speed unless I'm in open water, in which case I have to look slightly forward so as not to get kicked in the face. Plus that wetsuit floats my feet enough that a flat body position is never an issue. Still, just in case I ever get the burning desire to attend a Master's swim meet, I guess it's a good idea to have some semblency of a decent pool technique!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Already

Dark at 5:30 in the evening, and still over a month to go until the Solstice. Not sure I can take it.

Only consolation: It didn't start raining on my long run today until I was back in my driveway.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Very Real Danger of Drowning... On Your Bicycle

Yep, that's it, the rainy season has arrived. My friend Kay and I were biking home from the pool the other night and it looked like Lake Eerie had temporarily picked up and moved downtown. And then on the way home Jefferson street closely resembled a large river. Water came up and over my feet while we were pedaling and we were shrieking like mad. Crazy!

There used to be a line of "Oregon Ungreeting Cards" with disparaging remarks about our state. One of them said "Last year in Oregon 667 people fell off their bicycles...

...and drowned."

Not far from the truth. All it would take is a small accident with a good crack to the head and you'd be unconscious and underwater right downtown. So it's on to the trainer with me, and I just ran out of episodes of Dexter... not good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Zoning Out

You know it when you get there, The Zone is the place every athlete wants to be. This year, it's been elusive. The ankle injury back in January that decimated my run for the season, the fact that my coaching took me away from my beloved Master's swim workouts, the lack of racing, and all the preparations for our Italy trip as well as the trip itself all combined to keep me from the level of training most likely to induce The Zone.

But this week has been the business. It started out with a swim on Monday that finally clicked. Like finally really clicked. Dang skippy, I felt fast, in a way I haven't experienced in awhile. Tuesday was a run full of hill repeats that actually felt enjoyable (figure that one out!) Then on Wednesday, my volleyball game really came together. All of a sudden everything I touched went where I wanted it to. That's a sport where even a small bit of time away throws my timing way off, but I've been playing pretty consistently since we got back from Europe and I can finally feel it taking hold. Today was just a moderate trainer ride, so no great leaps there, but I'm looking forward to the rest of my workouts this week.

I think some of this can be attributed to just having some time off. Even though I wasn't actually doing much training this year, a little vacation from the routine usually makes everything feel fresher. And the rest of it, well I don't know where it came from but I'm going to appreciate it while it lasts.

Before I go to bed for the night, I'll mention that my favorite book on this subject is Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, I can't think of anyone else who has mined this subject to such a depth and covered it so well. From case studies and experiments to the experiences of famous folks to ordinary people, he examines the state of "Flow" (or being in the Zone) from every angle.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Possibly the Grossest Blog Post Ever

Well, I'm sure this isn't the grossest thing on the internet by FAR, but you've been warned. As a lifelong swimmer, I developed this neat little trick that many swimmers can do - drinking through your nose. It's helpful when you're swimming and you get a bunch of water up your nose to just open that little passage between nose and throat and let it run down - you can either swallow it or spit it out. I especially try not to swallow lake water! I don't really know what that's called, or if most people can do it, but when you're on the swim team in college it's fun to entertain people at parties by drinking beer through your nose. You know, that kind of classy thing...

So I was swimming on Monday and doing a lot of stroke work including my worst stroke, backstroke. I hate backstroke because I keep getting water on my face. I know this shouldn't bug me, because when you swim on your stomach your face is literally IN the water, so what's a little water on your face? But it really disturbs me. So the water was washing over my face as usual and I got some up my nose and did that little nose-swallowing trick.

Fast-forward to later that evening when I went out for tea with my friend Kay. We hadn't done this in months, and it's a little post-Monday-swim ritual that I really missed, so we had lots to catch up on. In the middle of it, I keep rubbing and rubbing my nose, it was really bugging me. Like I had to sneeze, then didn't, then had to, then didn't. This feeling persisted for almost a whole day until yesterday I managed to pull an entire hair out of my nose! Like a long hair. Like a hair that must've been floating around in the pool when I swallowed it through my nose.

You can say it with me.... Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwww! The hazards of swimming.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's a Dangerous and Beautiful World Out There

First the good news: the fall weather here has been extraordinarily beautiful, and despite the fact that my first couple of runs (after not running for a month) totally sucked, now it feels great and I knocked off a 7.5 miler this weekend pretty easily. So I'm signing up for a spring half-marathon with good confidence (barring any more injuries) that I'll have a healthy running season.

The bad news: I've had two brushes with serious danger in the last couple of days. The first, I was biking home from a volleyball game with hubby at night. He was a good hundred feet in front of me when I was passed by a car, as it turns out driven by a drunk who then proceeded to swing entirely across the bike lane, up onto the sidewalk, narrowly avoid a power pole on the sidewalk, back down onto the road and drive off. Only some very quick braking by me kept me from total annhilation. As a mom of young kids, this is the kind of thing that scares me when I get on a bicycle (especially at night).

Then yesterday while out running I was chased by a pit bull. I had to turn around and confront it (knowing that continuing to run would probably make it chase me down) and while it snapped its immense jaws in front of my face, I sternly held up a finger and said "NO! Bad Dog!", hoping fervently I was sounding like its owner, and dialing 9-1-1 with my free hand. Now I'm not one to point fingers at any one breed, after all the only dog I've ever been bit by while running was a standard poodle, but there's something about the very large and powerful jaws and teeth of a pit bull that are, well pretty darned intimidating! Fortunately, all's well that ends well. The owner turned up, the police turned up, the dog had escaped out of the owner's house by opening the front door (they lived on a busy street, so there's no way the owner wanted the dog running out into the street like that anyways). I was not eaten alive by the big doggy. But again, it makes me realize that running and biking are among the two more dangerous things you can do in this world. Skydiving, cave spelunking, underwater welding, these things have got nothing on just using our American sidewalks and bike lanes!

So I hope you all are getting to enjoy the beautiful autumn, and be safe out there!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Swing of Things Keeps Hitting Me on the Head

Oof. Nothing worse than being out of training for a few weeks. And it's not exactly like we were sitting still in Italy or anything. I think we walked about 10 miles a day in Rome (we never ever took a bus anywhere), and after 165 miles of biking through Tuscan hills, at least my biking legs still feel fresh. But the lack of running and swimming.... well it's telling, let's just leave it at that. I wonder how long it will take to get back in the swing of things.

On the plus side, I've got some tantalizing goals dangling out there in the new year. My good friend K. is thinking she might want to do a first half-marathon, so I might be signing up for my perennial favorite, the Hippy Chick (with a name like that, can you really go wrong?) which is usually right around Mother's Day, and is all I need in the way of a Mother's Day present (hold the Hallmark, just give me a race registration please). With an eye to a fall half-Ironman, I might also tackle some cycling time trials again as well. At the very least, it gets me out on the open road in the spring, a season when I typically shun the rain and hide on my trainer. Throw a sprint and an Oly distance tri in there somewhere, and that's probably about what next season will look like.

Now if I can just start feeling like my body hasn't forgotten how to do all of this stuff, all will be well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Been Awhile!

We just got back on Tuesday (morning, about 2:30 am, ugh!) from our Italy trip. I've started typing up my daily journals from the trip, and putting the entries (with photos of course, I think I only took about 4,000 of those!) up on my Blue Skies Blog. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime.

I did haul my running shoes all the way over there, with the idea that I'd take an early morning run in Rome, maybe down to the Circus Maximus (jet lag nixed that idea, unfortunately) or somewhere along the way, but realistically we were just too busy! So I hauled those running shoes back home and did go for a jog on Tuesday, and probably will hit the pavement again today.

The second week of our trip was the biking portion, and that all went amazingly well (even if you count in the times we got lost and the times we had to push the bikes and trailers up the steep hills of Tuscany!). We biked 165 miles that week from Asissi to Firenze (Florence) with all of our gear. The kids were real troopers, even on those unexpected side trips and detours. They were very excited to get on the bikes each and every day and see what the day would unveil to us. We cycled through vineyards where the grape harvest was in full swing, and ate lunch under shady olive groves.

Everyone in Italy was extremely friendly and helpful when we were on the bikes. The drivers were amazingly courteous (American drivers, please take note!) Even on narrow windy roads, a truck or car would follow us for miles at our 15 mph until they could safely pass, with nary a honk or unfriendly attitude. Though they drive very fast (compared to here) and seem to take road signs and lane lines with a much more liberal interpretation, the drivers there are very aware of everything around them (scooters zooming around the edges of the lanes, pedestrians stepping out, cyclists on the roads). We got loads of people slowing down and shouting out Bravo! or Complimento! out the window to us. A far cry from many drivers here who will just see how close they can come to you without knocking you off your bike.

One regret I have is that on the last day of our vacation, we were in San Giovanni Valdarno and that morning they were having a bicycle race on the "strada bianca" or white gravel roads of the area. There were six racers staying at the same place we were, loading up on pasta the night before. There were race options from 38k to 200k, and I would've loved to have seen it. Well, truth be told after cycling on all of those roads with the kids on the tandems, I was about burning up with jealousy for those bike racers, I wanted so badly to snap my fingers and have my own trusty bike appear, get on it, and roll out over those beautiful hills and valleys myself! Maybe some year I will go back...

But for now, we had an excellent time. I'll be putting up our detailed experiences on my other blog, and the kids are definitely hooked on bicycle touring, which was one of our goals in this whole thing. We are thinking that next summmer we may tour down the U.S. west coast on the tandems. We could easily haul our camping gear as it wouldn't weigh any less than the luggage we were hauling there (even though we managed to fit all of our clothes for four people for three weeks into two carry-on sized suitcases!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Italy updates

Just a note: I'm posting any Italy updates that I can manage to type on my Blue Skies blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Training Rides

Not quite as sexy as my race bike but this has been my ride for the last few weeks. We're almost ready to head to Italy with the kids and our bikes, and we've been out rolling through the local hills with the kids on the tandems (only resorting to pushing them up a hill once so far). Those of you athletes with young children... there is hope! It all started with a Burley trailer, then a tag-a-long bike, then we got them their own little two-wheelers, the training wheels came off and away they went. They've biked around town with me for years, replacing car trips to dance classes or homeschooling events. They've both competed in fun kids triathlons. Now they're ready for the ride of their lives.

We've got directions, books, maps, and a brand-new GPS. We've got spare tubes, tires, chain links, and brake pads. I've had Italian lessons loaded on my iPod for every run, walk, or quiet moment hanging out the laundry for the last two months. We're as prepared as we're going to be. And on Saturday we roll out of here for three and a half weeks in Italia. Wow!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Annual Adventures at Waldo

This will most likely be one of the few blog posts I manage to scribble before we leave for Italy next Saturday (OMG!) The number of details rattling in my brain is mind-boggling, but we managed to still throw our camping gear in the van and make it up to our favorite lake for Mackenzie's 12th (simply not possible...he's twelve???) birthday. The thing he most wanted to do was to camp at a lake and go kayaking. So we met my mom and a bunch of friends up at Waldo Lake and broke out some s'mores to celebrate. At 4:14 in the afternoon, he became a 12 year old on the shore of the lake.

As soon as we got settled in at camp and tromped down to the water's edge, I could feel the water pulling at me like some kind of crazy addiction. I couldn't just NOT get in. Good thing I brought my wetsuit, Waldo Lake is cold and clear as glass. Last year when we camped here I went for a short swim, but without a wetsuit I couldn't go very far out past the shallows where it's (relatively) warmer. This year Mackenzie kayaked with me while I swam out and around an island over much deeper water. What a trip, it was like hovering over a canyon as the water got deeper, yet was still almost as clear as the air, and the bottom fell farther and farther beneath us. The only thing I've ever felt like that before was wall diving on coral reefs in some extremely good visibility, where you just sort of float out over the abyss.

One advantage to the wetsuit that I've recently discovered is that if I just keep it on, I can stay in such freezing water and play with the kids (who are seemingly immune to the cold). So I kept my wetsuit on for about three hours and alternately swam with the kids and did laps around the island with either Mackenzie or my mom in the kayak with me. As is the case every time I end up at Waldo Lake, I feel supremely blessed to be in one of the world's most beautiful places. Here's a pic of my mom in her kayak. You can see the wonderful clarity of the water, and her adventurous spirit. She's such a great pal!

While at Waldo, a friend of mine took me mountain biking. I hadn't been in a very long time and honestly, I'm a total scaredy cat when it comes to stuff like that. So I was Very Very Brave and went out on this rooty rocky trail with her that goes around the lake (I'm sure to a dedicated single-tracker this trail would be child's play, but it intimidated me). I think it's a good idea to jump out of our personal comfort zones every so often, at least that's what I tried to tell myself as I bumped and ground over the obstacles. But I have to admit that after about an hour I really relaxed into it and was enjoying myself, not to mention shouting "wheeeee!" when I managed to make it over a particularly challenging (to me) rocky bit.

I'm also pushing my comfort zone in a completely different way these days. Mackenzie is growing up, becoming independent, doing things like paddling away from me into the lake by himself. It gives me new appreciation for my mom and her fussing over me whenever she sees me swimming in open water. It's hard to let your kids go, even when it's something you know they love to do. And truthfully, there were times when I never thought I'd see the day where my son was so independent in this way. I mean, this is the kid who was so freaked out he wouldn't get on the Storybook Boats at Disneyland. They were "too tippy" and he totally wigged out and we left that ride when he was little. And now he jumps in a kayak and paddles out into this deep deep lake? Parenthood freaks me the heck out sometimes. But at the same time I'm totally thrilled for him, this amazing creature that I get to call my son.

In any case, it was a lovely weekend, followed by a more traditional birthday party once we returned to town. My sis and brother-in-law came down for a few days and we all had a great time. I was glad that we squeezed in those couple of lovely days at the lake though, a fall tradition that I wouldn't have wanted to miss.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Little Swimmer Girl

As a mom, as a swimmer, I get so excited watching my little gal in the pool. She was in her second swim meet ever this weekend. She still doesn't know how to swim the butterfly, but she signed up for it anyways, what a brave little thing she is! At her age, I would've been mortified to mess up or lose, but she just takes it all in stride. She came in last in the butterfly and was just excited to have completed it.

Because our pool is so shallow, we don't allow diving and don't have any diving blocks. So it was a little intimidating for the kids to get to this meet and see the blocks for the first time. Still, Asa managed to take that into stride too, she's looking pretty nonchalant here leaning on the blocks before her freestyle race.

Halfway down the first 25, she's looking pretty strong. That's her in the pink suit in the far lane. But like me, she's more endurance than flash and as the other swimmers started to fade, she just started picking up steam.

About 5 yards out from the wall she took a breath to the left and looked at the other lanes and I could see she was so surprised that there was no one there. She told me later she wasn't sure whether she was way ahead or way behind. Well, that would be way ahead. Man, she is one strong little gal!

And, unlike her mama who totally sucks at backstroke, she's got a lovely stroke. The lack of a ceiling to follow threw her for a loop though, and she zigzagged across the lane a few times before getting the hang of guiding off of the lane lines. I love her sweet little smile in this photo as she strokes along.

All in all she had a great time. I love that the coaches keep it pretty fun and low-key, but she gets to try her hand at competition in a great atmosphere. I don't know if she has it in her to put in the grueling hours it takes to be a great competitive swimmer, but I do know that this girl's got some talent in there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

And In Honor Of the Olympic Games....

There's this hysterical cake over at Cake Wrecks . This blog has me laughing so hard I'm crying on my keyboard.

My Biggest Fear

You know what really scares the bejeezus out of me? What wakes me up in a cold sweat at night? The boogeyman behind my closet door????

It's that my life is too good, too sweet, and something horrible and unendurable must surely be around the corner, because it just can't last this way. Being a parent gives you so much more to fear than any mortal should have to bear. I was thinking of this the other day as I watched my hubby ride his bike to the left of both of the kids on their bikes as we were headed downtown. Why? Because he would rather get hit by a car than let a car hit our kids. That's what being a parent does to your heart - puts something there, much greater than yourself, that you never knew existed. I used to have a "No Fear" t-shirt. No longer.

Today we went for a family bike ride, getting ready for Italy. We rode just over 30 miles with the kids on the tandems (which I can tell you triathlete folks is about equal to 50 miles on my tri bike in terms of effort expended!!). It was fun, we went about 8 miles alongside the river path and stopped at Jamba Juice for smoothies, then another 7 miles to a small town with a shady park. We hung out while the kids played and swung on the swings, ate a picnic lunch, turned around and leisurely came home. Stopped to pick some blackberries along the way, took a bit of a detour to a friend's house, stopped at REI for more travel supplies, and arrived back home about 5 hours after we left. The kids kept us laughing with their antics and jokes, and it was a balmy 79 degrees out, just a perfect day. I am very very blessed and I know it.

So tonight as I go to bed, the only way I know of banishing the boogie man is giving thanks. Consider it done.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

See What You CAN Do

I found this article about Michael Phelps' childhood struggles with ADHD very moving. Especially the last line "Too many adults looked at Ms. Phelps’s boy and saw what he couldn’t do. This week, the world will be tuned to the Beijing Olympics to see what he can do." As a mom, I know it can be difficult to help your kids see past the things that limit them, and to help them work hard, and latch onto the things that they do well and run with them. Michael Phelps is a great example of someone who turned his focus to his strengths with incredible results. I watched an interview with him and his mom this week just after he captured his 8th gold medal and could really see the bond between them and the amazing amount of encouragement that she was able to give him through his life, even when he struggled.

It's not just hard as a parent, but as an adult as well. Sometimes we talk to ourselves, not as a loving and supportive parent would, but as our own worst enemies might. When we don't measure up, when we blow an opportunity or have a bad day, it's easy to use self-talk that is less than what we would hope to be able to give ourselves. I know for myself, I struggle so much with running, sometimes I look in despair at the fast and graceful runners that call my town home and just wish that I could wave a magic wand and be able to run like they do. I forget that although I'm not blessed with that magic runner's body or talent, I do have other talents that I can concentrate on, while also working on my weak spots.

Along this vein, I was especially inspired watching the 200 & 400 IMs that Phelps swam. Although breaststroke is technically his "weakest" stroke, he somehow turned breaststroke into a secret weapon to pull away from his competitors. I wonder how many lengths he swam in the pool focusing on making that one weak spot into the leg that would secure two of his eight gold medals.

I'm old enough to remember watching Mark Spitz swim for his gold medals, and as a young swimmer at the time I remember the awestruck feeling I got, without really understanding all of the mechanics of his victories and the hard work behind them. Now as an adult athlete, I can say to myself in the pool that while I'm struggling to make myself finish that last few hundreds of my 4,000 yards, somewhere an athlete like Michael Phelps is pushing themselves beyond all reason to become the best of the best. My hat is off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Attack of the Animal Farm

My favorite swim of the week was derailed by the world's ugliest chicken. Well, not precisely, but my husband found this rooster so disturbing that I figured I had to at least picture it on my blog somewhere.

I can count the number of times in my life that I haven't wanted to swim on about three fingers. Sadly, this morning was one of them. I was supposed to go swim the long course with my friend Kay. It was a lovely and warm morning. My day was so jam-packed that I knew I wasn't going to get a workout in at any other point.... and I woke up with the sinus headache from hell and ears that were not only stuffy and painful but screaming with tinnitus.

As it turned out, I think it was a reaction to all the hours I spent in the animal barns at the county fair last night. You see, my kids are animal nuts. You wouldn't know that from the fact that our family has sixteen animals, right? So of course when we go to the fair we have to pet every goat, watch every last chicken hatch, take photos of the baby pigs, compare breeds of chickens, and ooh and aaah over every baby bunny and guinea pig. I don't know if it was some kind of animal dander or one of the millions of varities of hay particles floating around, but something did a fandango on my sinuses and I woke up simply unable to drag myself to the pool.

Of course, within a couple of hours it was all gone and I was feeling hunky dory again, but by then my lovely early morning hours in the long course lanes were all gone. Friday is my last chance before the high school water polo practice steals away our early morning long course hours. And I may have to whisk the kids away to the pool tomorrow afternoon just to steal a few laps in the sunshine as well.

In order to make up for torturing you with the photo of that rooster, I hereby post a cute little tiny fluffy bunny in a pink hat. Even Steven.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I think I've watched the finish from the Olympic Men's 4 x 100m relay about ten times by now, and every time it just blows me away. That's got to be one of the best moments in sports that I've ever watched. I stayed up really late watching the other night, then saved the program to replay for hubby and the kids. They all peeled off the edges of their seats as Jason Lezak blitzed into the home stretch of the last 50 meters, it was so unbelievable and beautiful. Despite my many other misgivings about the Olympics, that was a moment of pure unadulterated sports magic. It reminded me a bit of when, as a kid, I watched Nadia Comaneci score that first perfect ten in the 1976 Olympics. I'm betting my kids, especially my newly-minted swim teamer will remember this moment too.

And in a happy side-note, I got totally fired up in my swim workout yesterday and did some just awesome sprint sets. How can you watch something like that and then go to the pool for some boring old lackluster workout? Simply not possible. I think all of my strokes benefitted just from watching so much swimming over the last few days. I kept thinking of things I'd seen on the underwater camera and how to apply them to my own stroke, and overall I had the strongest swim workout I've had in a long time. Nothing like some inspiration!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hills Are My Friends

I used to hate hills, dread hills, fear hills, loathe hills. On the bike, on the run, and I would thank God there's never hills on the swim. Sometime after moving back here to a place where I have to go up and over a big hill just to get to most of the great bike rides, hills became the norm. Just something you do, usually in the first couple miles of every bike ride. Eventually, I realized I was getting stronger on every hill, taking longer to stand up on my pedals. I used to get to the curve sign, now I made it past the mailboxes, now I made it past the picket fence, now all the way to the top. Hills weren't the horrible monsters I had made them out to be, but they still weren't my friends.

One fine late-summer day a couple of years ago, I had an epiphany. Epiphany is a favorite word in our family, largely because of an epic multi-day tournament of Ghost that my husband and I played on a long car trip when we were just dating and barely knew each other. He didn't know yet that his beloved was The Human Thesaurus and Dictionary all rolled into one, otherwise he wouldn't have blithely played word games with me in the car. I got him in several successive games of ghost with words like zweiback, gnu, and epiphany. Though that moment is now going on 16 years in our past, he delights in using the word epiphany in the most random and inappropriate ways, just to get my goat. Yeah, he's like that.

So like I said, I was out on my bike one day and had an epiphany (used correctly here) that hills were really my friends. Every single hill was helping me become stronger. I composed an epic poem about hills that my oxygen-deprived brain promptly forgot (this is most likely a blessing). Since that day, I've relished hills, delighted in hills, passed people up hills whistling dixie, and posted most of my best finishes on hilly courses. I'm too dense (not brain-wise, but body-wise) to be a really great hill climber, but it's no longer my achilles heel.

Yesterday I headed up what used to be a horrendous hill for me, now it's one of my best buds. It's a ride I look forward to and yesterday didn't disappoint with stupendous views out over the blue-layered hills and valleys to the South.

In just about four weeks, the famiglia and I will pack our tandems into suitcases and head for the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria. I'm using Google Earth to carefully pick routes, but there's no getting around the fact that medieval people used terrain to their best defensive advantage when picking their townsites. Our ascent to our first hill town of Cortona climbs 780 feet in less than two miles. I think we may be pushing our bikes by that time. So over the next month, I face the daunting task of convincing my kids that hills are their friends too. Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Swim Set: Powerups

Here's a good main set that you can throw in for any distance you want: Powerups. When my kids were little and we would go hiking, I would take a small baggie of jellybeans in my pocket for a little bit of energy on the trail. The kids took to calling them "Powerups", so that's what I always think of when I need a little extra energy. This set can be used to train for anything from shorter to very long distances.

A Powerup is any length of swim that you start at a cruise pace and increase speed throughout. The key is to really know your pacing. Really do start at a slow pace, and gain speed smoothly throughout by applying power to each stroke, not by increasing churn or arm turnover. By the time you come in to the wall at the end of each Powerup, you should be going full-tilt boogie and you should be starting to go hypoxic.

150s are some of my favorite Powerups (especially in the 50 meter pool), so I did a set this week of:

3 x
{3 x 150 Powerups
50 cruise backstroke

For a total of 1500 yards.

You can do Powerups of even really long distances like 3 x 1000 Powerups. These are great for Ironman training because they help you remain strong throughout the swim instead of starting fast and fading away like so many triathletes do.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Like A Chip Off the Ol' Block

Asa had her first swim meet this weekend, only a week after deciding to join our club's swim team! It was great fun to watch, she's such a go-getter. Although she hasn't even learned all of the strokes yet, she entered an event in every stroke. This led to some fun moments, such as her flip turn during the 50 yard breaststroke event, and her butterfly with breaststroke kick. But she really kicked some booty in the backstroke (ironically my totally worst stroke), coming in 2nd in the 25 yard backstroke and swimming backstroke on the medley relay team! More than anything though, she had fun.

I can't help but reflecting this week on my own swim team experience. I also joined a club team when I was eight years old, but instead of fun, and encouraging Jordan (Asa's swim coach), I got grumpy, mean, whistle-blowing, name-calling Mr. Freeman. He more or less single-handedly ruined any desire for competitive swimming that I might've had, and I only lasted a couple of months. Since he was also the high school coach, I did not swim in high school either. Basically, I didn't swim competitively until college, an unusual start to my athletic pursuits. I'm so happy that Asa has a fun and supportive team to swim with and to have fun with. Whether or not she chooses to continue as a competitive swimmer, just watching her enjoy herself is the greatest!

And man, look at that top photo. Don't you wish you had a freestyle like this kid? After one week of coaching? She is totally a natural. I wish I could take credit for that, but I've only really given her a couple of tips myself. She's a fish!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

What An Experience! Cascade Lakes Relay Race Report

Hubby and I got the opportunity to join a team for the Cascade Lakes Relay, a new entrant in the PacNW stable of relay races. We've done the Hood To Coast, the first and most classic of relays, before. But it has gotten hard to enter (a lottery for the thousands of slots) and with thousands of vans and runners, it's really a zoo to get through. The Cascade Lakes had several appealing features - it was the first year, it's the longest relay in the U.S. (I think) at 217 miles, it goes through some of the most stunning scenery around (boasts 12 mountains and countless lakes that you wind around) and it is quite challenging as you range from 4,000' elevation to almost 7,000' and back down again. Our team, Worst Case Scenario (team motto: "It doesn't get any better than this, and it's not that great right now") promised to be a fun group of people to spend 30 hours cooped up in a couple of vans and running our legs off with.

Our team met for pasta the night before and to go over the considerable logistics - two vans, 12 runners, lots of schedules and very little sleep. We were in Van 2, and took off Friday morning to meet for the handoff from the last runner of Van 1, which had started at 8:30 that morning. On the way, we stopped at Subway and got a couple of foot-long subs for each runner. This would be our staple food for the next two days, and I'm not sure I'll darken the door of another Subway for a verrrryyy long time.

In a relay like this, each runner has three legs of about 5 – 8 miles each. After the last runner has gone from Van 1, they handed off to us and our first runner was launched. I had the 11th leg, which ended up being a hot and hilly 5.6 miles. Between the altitude and the heat (and maybe, just maybe, my lack of recent run training), I was really sucking wind. As it turned out, we had a pretty heated competition with another team, and we traded places frequently throughout the entire race. The runner on their team who had the same legs in the race as I did was a 16 year old girl. She got the first handoff in front of me and took off, and I set off to chase her. I never did catch her, but kept close on her heels, handing off the race bracelet to my hubby who had the last leg in our van. This photo is hubby chasing down a "roadkill" (runner from another team) on his first leg. We called his strange running shirt the "nuclear angel".

When we were done with our legs, we had to get to the next handoff, throw down our sleeping bags in a field and try and get an hour or two of shuteye, then it was up at 12:30 am to go meet Van 1 for the next handoff. As our first runner started his leg, we discovered that we were now over three minutes behind the team we were chasing. But while their runners, which seemed to be mostly ultramarathoners and all acclimated already to higher elevations since they were from Bend, had whupped us in the heat of the day, the cold (BRRRRR – 34 degree!) night air gave us a jump start. The runner who handed off to me passed their runner after an epic gain of over 3 minutes, and I took off with a scant 10 second lead. I widened that to 35 seconds and handed off to hubby who took us to a 2 minute lead. Running through the black forest at night with shooting stars streaking across the sky above me was a moment I will remember and cherish for many years to come, I’m sure. From conversations after the race, it seems that many runners from various teams apparently felt great trepidation at running through the dark forest and empty roads at night, but a few dozen years of camping and backpacking left me feeling more ecstatic than worried. Although apparently a badger chased one runner on this segment, I didn't see or hear any wildlife more dangerous than a few owls and field mice.

Then again, it was off to the next stage, throw down our sleeping bags (in the forest this time) and get another hour or two of scattered sleep. At the final exchange, it was mid-morning. Here, we entered the most challenging but also the most stunningly beautiful part of the course. Again, we were back to being behind our competition. But alas, now we were really up against some challenging elevation gains, and their star hill-climber pulled away from us on a leg that gained 1000’ of elevation in 4 miles, climbing almost to 7,000’ elevation. From the top of this leg, we could see the runs we ski on at Mt. Bachelor right beside us. Giving us inspiration, our oldest runner at 72 years old not only ran his own 3 race legs, but ran this toughest climbing leg alongside his daughter. Wow, now that’s an inspiring pair of athletes!! By the time it got to me, their runner again had a lead on me. My last leg was an excruciating drop of 1300 feet, which really punished my already stiff quads. This is not a leg I would choose to run again, and it earned its “Very Difficult” rating for sure. I saved myself some misery by running on the soft shoulder, and only lost a minute or so to the young runner in front of me. Though the rest of the team also tried valiantly to catch our competition, they ended up beating us by 2 minutes, over a course that took us 29 hours and 43 minutes to accomplish! That’s pretty amazing that our two teams were that closely matched over such a long distance and 12 different runners.

Still, we pulled a nice 9th place finish out of our race, all of us pushing ourselves to do our utmost on a very tough but incredibly beautiful and scenic course. Considering that many of our runners had never met before (we gained one runner from a conversation in a a doctor’s waiting room based on their Hood To Coast t-shirt, and another runner had been recommended by a friend of an employee of one runner), we coalesced nicely into a fun and supportive team. Even though we had a friendly rivalry going with this other team, we also talked with them and encouraged their runners along the course as well. All in all, it was a terrific experience.

The race director provided some really awesome technical race t-shirts, a wonderful BBQ dinner, and best of all hot showers complete with towels and shampoo at the finish at a high school in Bend. The team all ran in together for a photo, and enjoyed hanging out on the shady lawn and chowing down. Then it was off to a nearby town to stay the night, eat a whole mess of ice cream and share all of the details of the last 29 hours events. The icing on the cake was the next morning when we discovered that our very own team captain, veteran relay runner and enthusiastic teammate Bob Hawkins had graced the cover of the Bend Bulletin sports section on his very last leg, a tough trail run coming in to the finish line. We picked up a dozen copies of the paper en route to a morning breakfast and parting of the ways.

This is a race I would gladly do again, and I would totally recommend this kind of race to any triathlete or runner who wants to expand their racing repertoire into something really original, fun, and very challenging

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Have You Ever Run Through a Dark Forest at 3:00 am??

I have, and I'll tell you all about it when I get to download all of my photos from the Cascade Lakes Relay Race and actually get a real night's sleep.

I'll tell you this much: it was a lot of fun! Running three shifts of around 6 miles each, 12 people on a team, 217 miles total, elevations ranging from 4,000' to almost 7,000' (gasp gasp), big mountains, forest, and desert to run through, about 4 hours of sleep in two days and we finished in somewhere around 29 hours and 43 minutes. Our team came in 9th out of 54 teams. This was the first running of this race ever and we had a blast!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

This Looks Familiar

The gear is out and sorted - three bags, a set of stuff carefully packed and re-checked in each one. I've got towels and sunscreen and glide and even a sleeping bag and pillow. My mom is arriving today and hubby and I are leaving first thing in the morning with his running club to go do the inaugural running of the Cascade Lakes Relay. Covering 217 miles from Diamond Lake to Mt. Bachelor to Bend, Oregon, our twelve-person team will run three legs each, of around six miles each. Hubby and I have done the Hood to Coast before, but that was back before we had kids. This will be the first relay we've done together in the twelve years since our son was born. Very exciting!

So, although I have no more triathlons coming up this summer, I'm really looking forward to this event (although I'll be sleepless and blasted and I know when I'm running somewhere in the desert at 3 am I'll be wondering what the heck I'm doing!). After we get back from this, Mackenzie's cast comes off his arm and we have about fiver weeks to get ready to go bike around Italy. Ciao!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Size Does Matter

When it comes to swimming pools that is. Now that summer is here and the long course (50m) lanes are open at our big lovely outdoor pool, I'm finding it very difficult to swim indoors after I coach in the 25 yard lanes at the gym. Not only is it so nice to do 100s in only two lengths, but the depth of the big pool makes such a difference, I'd forgotten how good it feels to swim in a deeper pool. Now when I go back to the pool I coach at, which is very shallow, I can really feel the turbulance caused by having so little depth. Your hands are constantly searching for purchase on the disturbed water, whereas in a deeper pool the water is so much smoother that you can more easily move it in the direction you want it to go. All of this is unconscious usually, it just either feels like swimming is going easily and smoothly, or it feels like you're swimming through molasses.

And speaking of feeling the water, a great drill for that is to swim with your hands closed for a fifty or so, then when you open up your hands you should have a great feeling for what you're doing with your hands when you catch and move the water. So many people swim by moving water in all kinds of directions besides straight behind them (which really is the only direction that counts). Sometimes when I'm swimming in the same lane, or even in an adjacent lane to another swimmer, I can tell that they're not very efficient just by the feel of the water they're moving. If water is being moved to the sides or in front of you, that's muscle power that's not being used to move water behind you. The closed-fist drill is a terrific one for starting to sense where you're moving water with your hands.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Take a Page From This Athlete's Book

Ah, if only everyone I coach would be so sensible! One of my athletes today told me that he's using this year's base season to just work on technique with swimming, instead of piling on the yardage in the hopes that somehow he will get faster. I've been working with him for a month now and he has already dropped from a 9:00 for 500 yards to 8:00, a pretty impressive jump in just a few week's time! Mostly we're working on extending his glide and "swimming downhill" to get his feet back on the surface, along with rotating to breathe.

The kicker? My client this time around is my hubby. Yep, it's only taken him 16 years to ask my advice on his swimming stroke, LOL. Actually, to his credit he hasn't been swimming much at all, since running is his current major sport. But he'a great all-around athlete, and he did try a sprint triathlon several years ago. I think he got re-interested after watching all of my Team in Training athletes cross the line at the Pacific Crest triathlon last month, and I'm very excited to hear him say he might toe the line at another triathlon next summer!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Want To See A Day in my Ordinary Life??

On a parenting list I'm on, we did this last year too: we each took photos throughout an entire day, and that way you get to see the average day in each person's life - what their dinner plates look like and where they go and what kind of slippers they wear, that kind of thing. Often when I'm blogging, it's obviously not the mundane details I'm writing about. So if you want to see all the nitty gritty of my life, you can check out A Day in My Life, 2008. And if you're really all that interested, my Day from 2007 is also still up. I found the similarities between the two of them a bit eerie. I have some routines that are pretty engraved in stone. I drink from the same tea mug, hang my laundry out at the same time, and make pizza for the kids once a week. But many things are different, too. The freaky snake in the high chair has been replaced by a cuddly teddy, that's a big improvement at least.

Interestingly, as I'm linking to this from my Ironmom blog, I shot both of these on a day I wasn't doing any swim, bike, or run training, which is usually only one day a week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Favorite Eleven Books of All Time

The question was asked elsewhere what your top ten books of all time are, and since I so love books, and so many different genres of books, it was very very hard to compile this list. Many books made the list, then got bumped by something else. All of these books reside permanently on my bookshelves, and are taken out and re-read at various intervals in my life. I never did whittle it down to ten, so this is my top eleven...

So here's mine (feel free to tell me yours!):

The Stand - Stephen King (because he is such a superb storyteller and this story is so engaging)
Illusions - Richard Bach (because every time I read it, I get something different out of it)
Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (because his language is so beautiful, I've read this trilogy more times than I've read any other, including twice out loud to my kids)
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver (because she has a way of capturing a sense in a phrase that is unmatched)
The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara (because I'm a Civil War buff and this is the epitome of all Civil War books ever, with the possible exception of The Red Badge of Courage)
Isaac's Storm - Erik Larson (because I've always been fascinated by big weather, by this particular storm, and this is some awesome historical storytelling)
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (because it was the first book to affect me very deeply)
Out of Africa - Isak Dinesen (because I feel like I'm standing there in Africa again every time I read it)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole - Sue Townsend (because I've sincerely never laughed harder while reading a book)
Into Thin Air - John Krakauer (I love Krakauer's engaging writing, the tragedy -- in the true Greek sense -- of this story and the people involved, how Krakauer makes you feel the mountain, and last but not least because I once considered going on this expedition so it always gives me the chills to read this account).
A Perfect Spy - John le Carre (hard to pick just one of his, but this is my favorite)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Imagine... a dock on an empty lake

...a perfect day under a beautiful blue sky

...water so clear you can look down dozens of feet and see the rocks beneath you

...air so warm and sweet that with every breath you smell the pine duff of the forest from the trees on the shore're camping next to the lakeshore, looking out longingly at this perfect water when... remember that your wetsuit is still packed in the back of the camper... put it on and wade out into the perfect water


...the sound of boats does not disturb the quiet of the morning hear the wind sighing through the trees and the call of the shorebirds look up and see snowy peaks in the blue distance beyond

...the lake smells as clean as freshly melted snow

...your feet move carefully over smoothly rounded rocks...

...and then... start to swim