Sunday, December 22, 2013

Best for Last?

My last race of the season was the Chester River 5K in Chestertown, MD, which I did with my daughter in November. My performance was okay for me, given the limited training I'd been able to do, and, interestingly, my time was exactly the same as my time for run portion of the Smithfield 5K in April. But the best part was that I was two minutes faster than my daughter. We started together, but after the first mile, she told me to go ahead (because she had trained even less than I had), and I was waiting for her at the finish line. A few years ago, when we were doing another race together and someone asked how her training was going, she shrugged and said, "I don't have to train much to keep up with Mom." Well, the first thing she said after finishing was, "I'm going back to the gym on Monday."

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Lost Season

When I renewed my USAT membership this year, I expected to do at least three triathlons, and I was thinking this season might be my last one. First up was the Smithfield Sprint in April. I got a special “PR” for my slowest time ever in that event. A combination of work, family obligations, and inclement weather had hampered my training, and I wasn’t surprised, or discouraged, that my performance reflected that. I enjoyed participating and seeing friends I hadn’t seen since the 2012 season. Anticipating fewer obstacles to my training, I expected to do better as the season continued. After a 5K run in Omaha in early May, in which my time was both improved and respectable (for me), I was looking forward to my summer triathlon choices. Before I registered for any of them, however, my elderly parents’ declining health intervened, derailing my plans. I spent much of my summer in Iowa – getting my parents settled in a nursing home there, cleaning out and packing up the house they’d lived in for over 60 years. I got plenty of exercise moving boxes, but had little opportunity to swim, bike, or run. Occasionally, back in RVA between trips, I contemplated doing a triathlon, but I hesitated to enter because I lacked the energy and time to train properly. I did not want to repeat my Smithfield experience, where I’d been in good enough condition to finish, but not to do as well as I would have liked. So, July and August races passed by, undone. There are still triathlons I possibly could do before the 2013 season ends, but I doubt I will do them. Even though I’ve started my regular training regimen again, I’m a long way from being ready to compete, and there are more trips to Iowa in my immediate future. Maybe there will be another season for me, maybe not. I’ll appreciate the memories of past seasons, though, and always be glad I tried.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shirt Diversity

At a recent spinning class at the Y, I noticed the variety of shirts worn by my fellow cyclists.  Of course, they were different colors and styles, but what caught my attention were the logos.  The instructor and another cyclist wore shirts from a Kinetic Half triathlon.  Other cyclists wore shirts from a 50K trail run, a local city running festival, and a century bike ride.  Some of the other shirts reflected the wearers' college affiliations, past vacation destinations, and even political causes.  Our shirts represented a range of experiences, but whatever our personal aspirations, we came together for that hour as a group, intent only on cadence and proper form. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Adventure

A special work assignment has temporarily relocated me to DC.  I'm living in a charming third floor apartment (in a row house with no elevator), centrally  located near three metro stops, two grocery stores, the Y, and numerous restaurants and eclectic shops.  I've become an inveterate walker, as I navigate my new neighborhood.  These days, comfortable shoes are a treasured possession. 

Walking brings a different perspective from driving or biking.  I've been able to observe the area's architecture "close up."  Ornate Victorian, brick townhomes are interspersed with modern high-rise buildings.  Some of the older residences have tiny yards, but others use the space to park their cars -- something the size of a Mini Cooper or SmartCar fits nicely.  Parking is at such a premium here, I didn't bring my car.  Mostly I've gotten along fine without it. 

I've also observed the rhythm of the city.  Early morning is the province of runners, dog walkers, and sidewalk washers.  The homeless persons who sleep on the steps of a nearby cathedral are gone by 7:00 a.m., when the doors open for the first mass of the day.  They'll return for the night after the last service at 7:00 p.m.  Grocery store check-out lines are longest after work, as people buy their carry-out dinners. 

There are many cyclists here.  I've seen men and women riding in business suits, briefcases strapped to their backs.  Sometimes they wear helmets, but often they don't.  They dodge in and out of traffic with little regard to vehicles or pedestrians.  A cyclist nearly hit me one morning as he sped through an intersection.  Another time I saw a rider texting as he pedaled and I stepped out of his way as he almost collided with the curb. I've been told there are some lovely bike paths here, but I'll pass on trying them.  Except for spinning classes at the Y, I intend to keep my two feet on the ground. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

“Swim, Bike, Walk-Run. I can do that.” Or so I thought in August 2002. AARP was planning to hold a sprint triathlon to encourage persons over 50 to become more physically active, and they were sponsoring 8 weeks of group training for the event. I wasn’t a natural athlete, but recognizing the benefits of regular exercise, I swam laps at a local pool, rode my daughter’s old bike (3-speeds, coaster brakes) around my suburban neighborhood, and walked most days during my lunch hour with a friend. I thought it would be fun to do a triathlon, so I signed up.

I soon discovered “fun” was also very hard work, and I was dismayed to find I was not nearly as fit as I’d believed I was. Most of the other people in the training group were skilled athletes who easily out-swam, out-biked, and out-ran me. I didn’t miss a training session, though, and I was pretty sure I’d meet my goal of finishing the race. AARP canceled the triathlon because there was a serial sniper in the area, randomly shooting at passers-by, but our training group held our own unofficial event (a self-timed swim at our individual pools, a group bike and run at WC). I was probably about the last person to finish, but I was thrilled to have done it at all, and I liked the training regime, so I kept at it.

I did my first official triathlon in October 2003, and I’ve done a dozen since, plus some 5K, 8K and 10K runs, two half-marathons, and a few Masters swim meets. I still not a skilled athlete – whatever improvement I’ve gained in technique is counterbalanced by the natural decline of increasing age, so my primary goal remains to finish without injury and to have fun participating. I’ve met some wonderful people in the sport of triathlon, and I cherish the new friends I’ve made. Plus, I’ve owned four different bikes, each one a little fancier, and acquired a collection of athletic clothing, shoes, and other related paraphernalia.

Are there ten more years of tri-ing in my future? Probably not, but I think there are at least a few more sprints, maybe an Olympic, and some other events, too. A few weeks ago, I did a swim-run duathlon. My swim time wasn’t as good as the best practice swim I’d had the week before, but it was within a second of my most realistic projected time, and the run went surprisingly well. I finished the whole event 30 seconds faster than the time I’d hoped for, and I’m looking forward to next year’s race.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Where Have All My Tris Gone?

As always, at the beginning of the season, I had great expectations. After Smithfield, I anticipated doing triathlons in June, August and September. However, the rest of my life intervened, and it’s likely I’m already done for this year. I’ve maintained a regular training schedule, but my desire to compete in an actual event has waned.

For one thing, I dislike paying the high entry fees. I don’t doubt the tri fees are warranted, but I don’t need to pay a lot of money for another t-shirt or socks and the “privilege” of finishing close to last. I can do that at swim meets and road races for less money, and less stress because I don’t have to worry about falling off my bike. (In May, I swam at the Virginia Senior Games and ran an 8K in Williamsburg. My performance in both events was not as good as I’d hoped, but they were fun to do.) And that brings me to the one event I may do this summer – a swim-run duathlon in August in Lexington. The swim is 500 yards in a pool and the run is three miles, probably with hills (not my favorite terrain, but better to tackle on foot than on my bike!).

The other reason my tri season may be over is that the remaining scheduled sprints I might have done are being held on dates when I’ll be elsewhere, and I couldn’t avoid the conflicts. So, instead, I’m considering another Master’s swim meet in October and an 8K in November. Then it will be time for indoor cycling to start, along with my hopes for next year.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


On March 31, I did my first triathlon of the season. I start every season with optimism, tempered by realistic expectations, so as I trained for the race, I thought about what I’d need to do to get a personal best. It seemed doable in theory, but driving to Smithfield early Saturday morning in the rain and setting up in transition, still in the rain, I began to question why I’d entered. I was prepared for rain, though, so I dumped my stuff in the big plastic garbage bag I’d brought and put my extra towel over my bike. I hoped, since I hadn’t had the winning ticket in the Mega-Millions big lottery, I’d at least be lucky enough to have better weather by the time I got on the bike course.

The swim was 300 meters in an indoor pool. I’ve been working hard to improve my freestyle stroke and was hoping to do the swim in less than 8 minutes – including the time it takes to get out of the pool and to the transition timing mat. Despite some awkward lane changes, I thought I was doing okay while I was in the water – I even passed two people – but I missed my goal by 43 seconds.

The rain had stopped when I came out of the pool, but it was still overcast and cool. I appreciated having the long-sleeved technical shirt I’d received at registration. The shirt was warmer than the one I’d brought with me, and it was bright yellow – sure to be noticed by anyone on the road.

I had driven the 10-mile bike course earlier that morning. It seemed hillier in the beginning than I remembered from when I did the same race four years ago. At about mile 4, there is a winding downhill followed by a sharp left turn and then a winding uphill. After that, it’s a smoother ride.

My first few miles were sluggish. Perhaps I should have had a more substantial pre-swim snack. After avoiding a near collision with a rider who had dismounted to walk her bike up the big hill after the turn, I settled into maintaining my cadence. My time for the bike leg was within the range I’d projected, even considering I fell as I dismounted. It wasn’t a major mishap, though, and I was still within a possible PR, so I quickly transitioned to the 5K run.

I’ve been working on improving my running, too. I’m a proponent of the Jeff Galloway system of alternating periods of walking and running. As I approached the mile 1 marker, I was heartened to see that despite having rubber for legs, I was on my targeted pace. At mile 2, I was still on pace. Within a half-mile of the finish line, my goal time within reach if I didn’t dawdle, I stepped up my pace. My run time was the best 5K I’ve had in several years.

Even more remarkable, I finished the whole race a minute under the time I’d projected and almost four minutes faster than I’d done it in 2008. A true PR.

Of course, there were a few kinks in my performance. I need to be more adept at changing lanes in the pool. I need to master dismounting my bike without falling (it’s not that I can’t unclip from my pedals, because I don’t ride clipped in – I’m just clumsy!). I need to increase my stamina so I can go faster farther. All in all, however, this sprint was a good beginning to the season, and I’m looking forward to a banner year.