Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Team Work

It began with a random lunchtime conversation. I jokingly suggested we should have an office triathlon relay team. Immediately, one co-worker said “I’ll bike,” another volunteered to run, and I said, “that leaves the swim for me.” Then, because my co-workers were actually interested in this idea, I told them there would be a sprint triathlon in Richmond in October that we could do. I gave them some details on logistics, and plenty of opportunity to change their minds about participating, but they both insisted they wanted to do it. So, our team of “Running from the Law” has been born.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bele Chere

On Saturday, July 26, I ran the fastest 5K I’ve ever run. While this in itself is a rather remarkable accomplishment, it’s actually fairly amazing, considering the course had “a few moderate hills.” When my younger sister JJ suggested I join her for the Bele Chere 5K in Asheville, NC, she promised me a fun run, but she lied about the terrain. (She explained later she was afraid I wouldn’t do it if she told me the truth.) I had expected some hills, of course, because the race was in Asheville, but I wasn’t prepared for a “roller coaster” running adventure, beginning with the first hill just around the corner from the starting line. Up and down; momentary flat; up, up, and down; more of the same for 3.1 miles. Sometimes I thought about bike riding while I ran, as I tried to visualize my feet shifting gears to create momentum. Mostly, though, I heeded my sister’s alternating words of encouragement and admonition, as she raced ahead and jogged in place while she waited for me to catch up. Then we crested the final hill and sped toward the finish line for a time of 36:44. Since that was a PR for me, I was happy with the result, even though I was 9/13 in my age group. JJ has now decided she needs to be my personal on-site running coach, so she’s thinking about doing the Richmond Half-Marathon with me in November.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

3Sports Sprint

Today was my seventh triathlon on the Shady Grove course. (I did my first one here in 2004). On the plus side – my swim time was a PR for this event (Thanks, Coach AC!), and my bike time was also a PR.

However, on the minus side – I was beat by the heat on the run. Buoyed by my performance in recent workouts, I was hoping for a PR on the run, too; but I’d done those runs in the mornings, when it was 20 degrees cooler. Today, the hot, humid air was like a giant straw that slurped my energy down to the last bubble in the glass. I walked more than I ran, and my time for the 5K was abysmal, probably my slowest ever since I started doing triathlons.

But I finished, another event done toward my goal. Next up is the Patriot Sprint in about six weeks. The weather for last year’s Patriot was hot, so I plan to be ready for more of the same.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa starts Sunday, July 20. This event is in its 36th year. Bikers begin the ride by dipping their rear wheels in the Missouri River on the western side of Iowa and end it one week later when they dip their front wheels in the Mississippi River on the eastern side of the state. Although you can drive straight across Iowa on I-80 in about four hours, the Ragbrai route meanders along country roads and includes plenty of hills. (Yes, Iowa has hills!). The average daily ride is about 70 miles. One day of the week includes an extra loop for those bikers wanting to do a century ride. The route alternates annually between the northern and southern parts of Iowa. This year it passes within four miles of my parents’ farm.

For years I’ve hankered to participate in Ragbrai. My sister-in-law has done it several times, riding a recumbent bike. Riders are chosen by lottery, and entries for the week long ride are capped at 8500. An additional 1500 riders are allowed to ride each day for a single day, or part of a day. If I were in Iowa on Sunday morning, I could pedal my bike to where county road M16 meets Tamarack Trail, ride some miles with the Ragbrai group, and call my dad to pick me up in his truck when we stopped for lunch in a neighboring town. But I’m signed up to do the 3Sport Sprint, so Ragbrai will stay on my list of things I’d like to do for another year.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday on the Trail with T&B

My usual Sunday morning routine is to “sleep in,” which means I get up about 7 a.m. instead of 5:30 a.m., make a pot of coffee and read the paper. After I’ve perused the ads and worked the puzzles, I’m ready to take on the rest of my day. At 7 a.m. this morning, however, I was at the entrance to the Buttermilk Trail, ready to begin the 7.5-mile loop with my “play pals” T&B.

We hadn’t gone far when I realized I needed to take off my sunglasses because it was dark in the woods! Then a piece broke off T’s fuel belt so that it didn’t fit properly around her waist, and B. graciously agreed to carry the belt for her, as it did fit him. These adjustments behind us, we scurried along the trail, occasionally stopping to let some bikers pass. As we reached the Boulevard bridge, we saw several police cars and wondered if there had been another incident like the one last week on Belle Isle. Apparently, however, the problem was that a biker had been stopped for riding his bike across the footbridge rather than on the road. T. sped across the bridge, with B. and I several lengths behind. We regrouped on the other side and continued on the trail.

The trail seemed rockier than the last time I’d been on it, about two months ago. Trail running is supposed to be easier on the body because dirt is softer than concrete or pavement. But several miles of clambering up and down rocks, and dodging exposed tree roots, made me question just how much “easier” it really is! (Particularly as I made one spectacular descent – feet sliding and arms flailing.) Running on shady trails, for the most part, is cooler than running on roads and sidewalks, a fact we appreciated as the humidity increased.

Crossing the bridge onto Belle Isle, B. raced ahead, no doubt feeling much lighter on his feet because all the water bottles he’d been carrying were nearly empty. We completed the run in less than two hours. This was nine minutes faster than last time for me, a result worth the change in my routine.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Strategy May Be Working

My plan to earn a Setup Events Age Group Award hinges on doing more events than anyone else in my age group. After one event, I was ranked 7/7, but after two, I’m now 2/9. The woman in first place has also done two events, and she’s speedier than I am, so if she does two more events (it takes at least four to qualify for an award), she’ll stay ahead of me. If any of the women ranked below me now, who’ve each done one event, did more events, they could move up, too, because judging by their times for the events they did, they’re also faster than I am. My third event in this series will be the 3Sports Sprint at Shady Grove on July 20, and I’m considering either the Patriot in September or the “Big Nut” in October, or maybe both for good measure.

Knowing When to Say When

Fearless Fourteen by J. Evanovitch, the latest volume in the Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter mystery series, has been published. A friend told me about these books several years ago, and every summer I read the newest one. Some are more entertaining than others, and the more recent books are not as good as the earlier ones. Another friend, who also has read them all, remarked that someone should tell the author it’s time to stop – Stephanie should give up the bounty hunter business, and Ranger, and settle down in the Burg with Joe.

But I imagine it would be hard for JE to let go of the fictional characters that populate her books, just as it would be hard for me now to quit doing triathlons. A physical injury certainly would hamper my participation; but short of that, will I know it’s time to stop? I do not want to become a caricature of a triathlete, someone whose name on the registration list makes the race director, as well as other competitors, grimace and groan. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but when it happens, I’m counting on a kind friend or teammate to say “Enough.”

Friday, July 4, 2008

Taking Stock

I like to keep track of things in my life, from how many days until I could retire from my job (546) to how many dimes I’ve saved in a jar on my dresser (690). I know that so far this year I’ve read 21 books (of which People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks was the best), seen 3 movies, and written 28 blog entries. I’ve also swum 51,000 yards, or nearly 29 miles; biked 106 miles (plus 43 hours of indoor cycling); run 147 miles, attended 37 strength training sessions, and completed in 2 and 1/3 triathlons. In the same period last year, I swam 28,000 yards, or almost 16 miles, biked 64 miles, ran 130 miles, went to strength training 44 times, and did one triathlon. My numbers for 2006 are comparable. Triathletes who train at a much higher intensity than I do would have logged many more miles in the same time frame, of course, so my stats are meaningful only to me. They show consistency in my training routine and help me stay motivated. However, even though I feel like I have more stamina, maybe even slightly more confidence in my ability to do more than sprints, I’m not getting any faster. Perhaps, given the maxim that age slows us down, I should be glad I simply can maintain my times.