Sunday, December 20, 2009


My foot has finally recovered enough that getting from the locker room to the pool, and back again, no longer seems like an impossible feat, so I’d decided to try swimming this weekend. But, alas, 11 or so inches of snow has foiled my plan. The main roads may be clear today, but my driveway is not, and there’s still the pool parking lot to navigate. About the last thing I need to do is fall and break something else! So, my return to swimming has been postponed. I’m about a half mile short of my revised, as of mid-November, “distance swum” goal for 2009. Of course, under normal circumstances, those few yards would be accomplished easily; but the longer I’m away from the pool, the more daunting they become. And the weather just makes it easier to be like a bear and hibernate.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Shoes

The big boot in which my left foot and lower leg have been encased for the past three weeks has been replaced with a smaller ankle brace that is designed to be worn with regular shoes. It’s certainly less cumbersome than the three-pound boot, but I had no shoes, except an old pair of bedroom slippers, that I could comfortably fit my foot into with the brace on. Since I doubted I could wear the slippers every day for the next six weeks, I had to go shoe shopping. I figured a slightly larger size in a wide width would work. When I entered the store, I expected to find an array of wide size shoes in their own special corner -- after all, women’s clothes are organized that way, but I soon discovered that while wide sizes were marked with a green “W” on the box, they were mixed in with all the other sizes, according to style. I also learned there were not many wide shoes in small sizes. If only I wore a 9, or a 12, instead of a 6. And since I was at a discount store, there were no helpful clerks to facilitate my search, but eventually I found some pseudo “running” shoes to try on. Of course, the companion shoe for my right foot was much too big, so I decided I should buy a second pair in my regular size so my feet would match. I didn’t really care what my feet looked like, but I was concerned walking would be more difficult with different type shoes on each foot, and they were on sale. Then I had to search for that pair. There weren’t any in my actual size, however, so I compromised with a half-size larger that’s a little long in the toe, but seems to fit okay otherwise.

The best thing about having shoes on both feet again is that riding a stationary bike is much easier. I cycled twice last week wearing my boot, managing an average speed of about 6 mph – 4 mph with both feet, 8 mph right foot only. Today, my pedal strokes were much smoother and I averaged 10-12 mph with both feet. That I soon might be riding my own bike on a trainer seems much more possible.

Considering 2010

Race schedules for 2010 have been announced, and there are a plethora of events to choose from. I could do one triathlon a month – maybe one a week – between March and October if I wanted to, but I think I’ll aim for 3-4 Sprints, starting with the Smithfield Sprint on March 27, and 1 Olympic. Set-up has eliminated the Patriot Olympic in September, but they’ve added a new Tidewater Olympic in June that will take place in the Buckroe Beach/Fort Monroe area of Hampton. My other option for an Olympic is Rockett’s Landing in July, but I don’t relish having to swim in that part of the James.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keeping On

Several years ago, my dad had emergency surgery, and there were complications during his recovery. Shortly after he left the hospital, he rented his crop land to a neighbor and sold his beef cattle and thoroughbred horses. When I suggested he perhaps was being too hasty in his decision, he said there hadn’t been much to do while lying in his hospital bed but think about how it was time for him to quit farming.

As I’ve hobbled around with some difficulty for the past 10 days with my broken foot in its boot, and spent more hours than usual sitting, I’ve contemplated whether it’s time for me to quit my training regimen. One of the scarier aspects of being injured is that it points out a disadvantage of living alone. Friends and co-workers have been very helpful, but I don’t want to impose of them too much. My children, of course, would come to my aid if necessary, but I hadn’t planned to burden them with my infirmities for at least a few more years. So, while I expect my foot will heal eventually, I’m worried about incurring some other injury that might be more incapacitating. I’ve brushed off past falls while running or biking, but now I’m wondering if I’ve reached the “Age of Decline,” where I should be more circumspect about my choice of activities. That sense of unease will put a big crimp in my training, but not training at all would leave a large void in my life.

My dad’s self-imposed retirement didn’t last long. Within a few months, he bought two Angus cows. Then he bought three more, and soon there were nine cows in the pasture where once there had been nearly 50. Every morning he goes out in his pick-up to check on his “herd.” His day has a purpose, and he still feels like a farmer.

I still want to feel like a triathlete. I still would like to do an Olympic distance triathlon as a solo entry. So last night I did some strength training with a focus on upper body work and cycled for 20 minutes on a stationary bike wearing my boot. I hope that by the time indoor cycling starts on December 1, my footwear will be less cumbersome, but if it’s not, I’ll do what I can to keep tri-ing. Since I won a complimentary entry for the 2010 Pink Power Sprint at the TG brunch, I know there’s at least one event in my future.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fate or Coincidently Clumsy?

All fall I’d contemplated doing the Richmond Marathon 8K on Nov. 14. It’s a fun event, I was feeling more confident about my running, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend money for the entry fee. I kept putting off signing up, and last night, the decision was made for me. I somehow wrongly stepped off the edge of a slate sidewalk and hurt my left foot. I knew immediately the injury was most likely not an ordinary sprain, but I put some ice on it and figured the bad news could wait until morning. Today my foot was bruised and swollen and putting weight on it was difficult. After a few turns around my kitchen using a bar stool as a “walker,” I decided it was time for a trip to Patient First. There I learned I’d probably fractured a tiny bone along the little toe side of my foot (there was some discussion between the doctors as to whether the break that showed on the x-ray was new or old, but they decided to treat it as “new”). They put a splint around my foot and ankle, and gave me a pair of crutches and a referral to an ortho foot specialist. I don’t really mind not running the 8K, but I am sorry swimming, biking, and strength training are also temporarily curtailed while I hobble around.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

One Lap Wonder

“I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” I recalled that line from a country music song last week when Coach G. had us run timed 400s. She told us to do the first one “as if” we were only doing one, so I traveled around the track as fast as my stubby legs would take me, hoping I could break 2:45. My actual time for the lap was an amazing (for me) 2:30! Then G. told us we were doing two more 400s. I intentionally slowed my pace for the second one, but still did it in under 3 minutes. I tried to go all out again for the last 400, but was seven seconds slower than the first one. G. says we will be doing more timed 400s periodically during the off-season. I’d like to think my times would improve, but I already may have been as fast as I’m going to be.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cooking the Numbers

In this month’s edition of Runner’s World there’s an article about how some numbers are truer measures of weight loss than others. For example, we all know that muscle weighs more than fat, so what the scale says we weigh can be misleading for persons who have muscles. The article suggested several alternatives to determining fitness other than by weight only. The one that caught my attention was whether an article of clothing that fit when the scale said you weighed less still fit.

I tend to keep my clothes, even though I don’t wear them anymore, and so I found a dress in my closet that I’d bought many years ago when – despite a lack of exercise and a diet of coffee, Milky Way bars, and the occasional homemade biscuit with real butter – I weighed at least 20 pounds less than I do now. The dress is a one-piece sheath and buttons down the front. From the waist up, it still fit perfectly. From the waist down, not so well. It buttoned, but it was too snug to wear in public. Maybe I could say I just have more muscles in my thighs now, or I could admit I should lose some weight.

I’m not sure I can fit more exercise into my life, so that means paying more attention to diet, and that means I might actually have to cook real meals. I do not like to cook, but prepared food from grocery stores or restaurants is expensive and often lacking in nutrition, so, is there really a choice here? The same article said a healthy runner could expect to go two seconds faster for every pound lost. Well, I need all the help I can get to increase my speed. Twenty seconds would put me much closer to my goal of a consistent 12-minute mile. My goal for the off-season then is to cook.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Not What I’d Planned

In the odd moments of my life – drinking an early morning cup of coffee, waiting in a long line, washing dishes – I compose “blog thoughts” in my head. Sometimes those musings get posted, but often, they linger in my mind waiting for publication.

“Patriot Weekend” was about how my bike, and maybe my wetsuit, both of which I’d loaned to fellow TGs, did the Patriot Sprint while I plodded at home on my headboard refinishing project. After two days of re-sanding and re-staining, I eventually was satisfied with the way it looked. Then I discovered the headboard did not fit my bed frame the way it was supposed to, so …. Even my worst-ever finish in a triathlon was not as disappointing.

Having gotten my bike back, I’d planned to ride it this weekend, but that’s not happening. The rainy weather is one reason, but the other is the trail run I did on Thursday with some friends. We were having a fine run along the river when “klutzo-me” tripped over a rock and landed flat on the ground. The last time I’d run with one of these people – about one year ago – I’d also tripped, and I badly bent my glasses when I fell on my face. This time my only thought as I went down was “Keep your head up – don’t break your new glasses!” I scraped my left elbow and my right knee – injuries that look worse than they are. But I also sprained/bruised two fingers on my right hand. Even though I iced them soon after the fall, my fingers are still swollen and sore, and trying to hold anything, like a bike handlebar, is difficult. So, my return to cycling has been postponed. But I don’t have to attempt any other furniture refinishing projects, either, and can, with no guilt at all, spend the weekend reading the newest P. Gregory historical novel about the English War of Roses.

A Fine Balance

My aunt died last week; she was 92 and in poor health, so it wasn’t unexpected. Even so, it’s a sad reminder that our lives are finite, especially since, almost the same day, my mother learned she has a “suspicious nodule” on her lung near her spine. She had colon cancer three years ago, so once all the tests are done, we’re expecting to hear cancer has returned. My mother, who’s nearly 91, has adamantly said she will not have chemo or radiation, and the family will respect her decision. We are all planning to gather in October for my dad’s 90th birthday, but the celebration will be muted by knowing the next gathering could be for a very different reason.

On the happy side of life’s scale, however, was the text message I received this week from a friend – “It’s a boy!” I’ve known the mother-to-be since she was 4 years old, when her mother and I met in law school. Our daughters have always considered themselves sisters as well as friends, so I think I can claim “virtual-grandma” rights to this baby. And that gives me good reason to buy some cute “Future Triathlete” infant outfits.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I most likely won’t do any more triathlons this year. I was considering the Richmond Sprint in October, but there are other things going on that weekend that I’d also like to do. Not having a specific event to train for has given me time for other activities. I’ve been to the Iowa State Fair and the Green Valley Auction and Book Fair in Mt. Crawford. I’ve thought about redecorating my house, and last weekend I started to refinish a headboard that’s been sitting next to my bed for the past two months. Since I decided I really didn’t like the color of the wood stain I’d chosen, that’s still a “work in progress.” I’m thinking about enrolling in a writing seminar at UR. Of course, I’m still doing the Masters Swim at UR, the TG run on Thursday mornings, and twice weekly strength training, but that’s exercise for health’s sake, not “training.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Patriot Camp

This past Saturday I attended Patriot Camp, sponsored by TQT and led by coaches E. and C. A fellow TG and I left for Jamestown at 5:45 a.m. for a full, fantastic, fun day of biking, running and swimming. We split into two groups for the bike ride – Sprinters and Olympians. The Olys rode on Route 5 while Sprinters rode on the adjacent bike trail. The trail was wonderful, and also flat – a pleasant change from the PP hills last week. Someday the trail is supposed to go all the way to Richmond, and it will be a fantastic ride. Then we had a hands-on bike maintenance clinic, where we practiced changing a flat tire. For me, it was my second tire change of the day, as I had blown out a tube while pumping up my tire before we even started the ride. I was using a fancier pump than I’m used to and I didn’t push/pull quickly enough when I should have. Next on the agenda were running techniques and drills, followed by a 3-mile run on the bike trail. Even though I was the last one to finish, I had an excellent time for me, so I was pleased. After lunch we moved across the road to the swim venue. We practiced open water starts, sighting, and techniques for swimming against the current or in some chop. The last session of the day was on race strategy and nutrition. This camp was a wonderful training experience. It was well organized, had great swag, and provided super support for aspiring triathletes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Progress in Pink

I did the Pink Power sprint triathlon on August 9. This was a new, all-women event, and there were nearly 400 participants – half of them first-timers. The swim was 400 meters in an outdoor pool, the bike was 11+ miles of rolling hills, and the run was 3.1 miles around a small lake, thru the woods, and up more hills. I suppose the race director didn’t want anyone to say the race wasn’t challenging, but, for my part, I would have been just as satisfied with a flatter course. I’d done the run several times before the race, so I knew what the terrain was like, but I hadn’t expected my legs to feel like they were stuck in cement when I got to that segment, so the last mile was tough.

Overall, the race was fun. I rarely do as well as I hope beforehand that I might, but my particular goal for this race had been to finish ahead of at least one of the three competitors in my age group, and I placed second. I also was encouraged when I compared my split times with my performance last October at the Napier Richmond Sprint. I think that course is much easier, despite the one, long uphill climb on the bike segment. At the Pink Power, I had a slightly faster swim, a much faster T1, and a comparable bike and run. So I guess I’m still in the game.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Log Canoe Adventure

Last weekend I skipped training to visit my daughter and her husband on the Maryland Eastern Shore. C&F are avid sailors, and they were participating in a log canoe regatta. A log canoe is a long, thin, sleek boat with sails. (The three sails have names, based on their positions, but since I’m sort of out of my element here, I’ll just call them all sails.) The boats were originally raced by oystermen, and the one C&F crew with was built in 1902. Imagine still riding a bike that old!

Preparing for the log canoe race seemed a lot like preparing for a triathlon. There was gear to gather – boat shoes, gloves, hats, suntan lotion, course maps, bailing buckets, and duct tape. The tape is apparently some sort of talisman – the Silver Heel does not leave the dock without it. The race was set to start at 10 a.m., but we arrived at the launch site by 8:30 a.m. C&F and the other crew members (about a dozen in all) hoisted the two masts into place and adjusted the sails. Each canoe is identified by a number, which never changes because it’s printed on a sail, and the color of the crew’s shirts. The SH folks wore red.

About 9:15 a.m., the canoes were towed to the starting line by the “chase” boats – so named because they follow the canoes on the course and are at the ready to assist when necessary. I rode with F and some other spectators in the chase boat for the SH. C’s assigned spot was the very rear tip of the canoe, jutting out over the water. (She's the tiny spot on the right side of the above photo.) Saturday was very windy, and there were white caps on the river – not ideal conditions for the race. In fact, one team decided they didn’t have enough experienced crew to handle the rough weather and stayed at the dock.

The 10-minute warning sounded. At the 5-minute warning, the six canoes jockeyed for position, wanting to be as close to the starting line as possible without crossing it before the race officially began. Having next to nil knowledge about the course, I couldn’t tell where the canoes were supposed to go or who was ahead. It looked like the SH was leading, but then the other canoes all turned toward an orange buoy. Someone in our chase boat soon figured out the Heel was off course, but race rules forbid communicating such information to the crew in the canoe. We could only watch until they discovered their mistake and re-adjusted their course.

The SH tried to make up lost time as she rounded the next buoy. Strategically positioned on long boards placed perpendicular to the sides of the canoe, the crew scrambled from one board/side to the other as they tacked. From the chase boat we saw the canoe nearly capsize several times. Then someone fell overboard, and the canoe went down. The race was over for the SH.

The chase boat anchored close by and we began the long process of gathering the heavy, wet sails into the boat, along with other miscellaneous equipment. Then the canoe was turned right-side-up and bailed out. Once the masts were laid flat along the length of the canoe, the chase boat towed it back to the dock. Some of the crew rode on the SH and some rode in the chase boat. Luckily, only one person was hurt – a sprained knee. We later learned several of the other canoes also had capsized. Everyone spread their sails out to dry and got ready to race again the next day.

The weather was better Sunday, and two shorter races were held. The SH did all right in the first race and was running third in the second race when, again, she capsized. If this regatta had given a “bottoms up” prize, the SH certainly would have won it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Swimming with the Masters

Recently I joined a Masters Swim program at UR. I’ve thought about doing this for years but never did because I didn’t think I could keep up with the other swimmers. The UR program, however, emphasized that all levels of ability were welcome, and I figured maybe my triathlon experience had improved my swimming, so I signed up. The class meets three times a week, but I only attend on Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings. I’m in the “baby lane,” of course, but I usually can keep up with my fellow swimmers there.

In other group swims I’ve done I’ve struggled with the drills. Remarkably, in this class, I can actually do at least some of them. On Monday, we did a drill where we kicked while on our back with our hands together in the air at a 90 degree angle from our body. To my surprise, I didn’t find this as difficult as some of the other, accomplished swimmers did. Today we tossed a small medicine ball back and forth for 30 seconds at a time while remaining vertical in the water and kicking our legs. It was challenging, but my partner and I did it.

The best thing we’ve done so far, though, is diving. At the end of today’s swim, we took our marks on the side of the pool and then dived in as though we were starting a race. It’s been years and years, and a few more years, since I’d done any diving, and I wasn’t sure I’d remember how. I had unpleasant visions of hitting the water with a gigantic plop. However, I sprang off the side, sliced into the water, and glided to the top. Then I did it twice more because it was so much fun.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hy-Vee Olympic, Take 2

Last November, perhaps after a visit to the Breezy Hills Winery in Minden, Iowa, my sister and I decided to do the Hy-Vee Triathlon again. We named our team “Wash-Dry-Put Away,” our assigned tasks for doing dishes on the farm. All winter and spring, I diligently worked on improving my swimming and JB trained on her bike. JJ, however, was preoccupied with moving to a new house and then she hurt her foot, so she withdrew from the team in April. Not wanting to abandon the race, I decided to take her place as the runner. I kept meaning to concentrate more on that phase of my training, but I never quite succeeded.

Race day arrived, a pleasant summer morning with no rain in the forecast. Thankfully, the oppressive heat of the preceding week was gone, and it was actually chilly as we gathered at 5 a.m. From the beach, the buoy marking the turning point of the 1500 meter course seemed very far away.

My swim wave went off at 6:36 a.m. The water temperature was in the low 80s – too warm for the wet suit I’d carefully packed. Once I got started, I felt more confident than last year. I was disappointed, then, to discover when I finished that my time was three minutes slower than last year (when I’d stopped to rest at almost every buoy, but had worn a wet suit).

As I entered the transition area, I took off my foggy goggles and headed toward the person I thought was JB. I realized my mistake just as I started to hand the timing chip to a surprised stranger.

This year’s bike course had more hills than last year’s, and the first half required riding into the wind. JB, who rides a heavy, hybrid bike, had worried she’d have to walk her bike up the biggest hills. I assured her doing so would be okay, but she wasn’t looking forward to her part of the race. However, after her husband gave her some tips on proper gear-shifting technique, she rode up all the hills and actually enjoyed the second half of the ride.

Then it was my turn again. The run course had more hills this year, too. The 10K course was an “out and back,” and on the return, I ran with a young woman from Chicago. I enjoyed having a companion, as there were not many runners still on the course, and we encouraged each other to finish strong. My time was what I’d realistically predicted.

Our total team time was about 20 minutes slower than last year when JJ was the runner, but both JB and I were just happy to have finished. We had some post-race Blue Bunny ice cream, collected our gear, and departed. Before the race, JB had said she wasn’t doing it again next year, but on the way from Des Moines to her house, she was already reconsidering. Maybe Santa will bring her a new road bike!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jam-Packed June

So far, this month has been like jumping beans. Last Sunday (which actually was May 31), I did the 8K Run Like A Girl trail run at Pocahontas State Park. My time was 4-5 minutes slower than last year, but except for the third mile, I maintained a decent pace and finished 6/13 in my age group. The top 3 women in the group did the run in 40-45 minutes, while everyone else took at least an hour. I finished the day with a one-mile swim at the JCC.

Then on Monday, my essay in the Mindset Triathlon Anthology was published. I was disappointed I wasn’t a top 3 prize winner, but I did enjoy sending my free author’s copies to various friends and family members. However, the process of downloading the digital book was so complicated, I’m not sure anyone but my son the engineer has actually read the essay.

Tuesday morning found me at the UR fitness center for nearly an hour of indoor cycling with KG. Wednesday morning we were back at UR for a Masters swim class. The class, the first one I’d attended, went better than I’d thought it might. Of course, the four of us in the “granny” lane did about half as many laps as everyone else did! Then there was strength training on Wednesday evening at MMF and a TG run on Thursday morning. The highlight of the run was our relay races. I did one quarter-mile in 2:38 and felt like I was really running, instead of my usual slow jog. My time for the half-mile was a respectable 5:28. By Friday, I was ready for a rest day.

On Saturday I decided to forego biking at WC and do a 6-mile run instead. I’m doing the swim and run parts of an Olympic distance tri in Iowa on June 28; one of my sisters will do the bike part. My other sister was supposed to have done the run, but she changed her mind last month. A great believer in “signs,” she thought this meant we shouldn’t do the triathlon, but I said, “not likely.” However, I haven’t trained for the distance nearly as much as I should have, so doing the WC loop seemed like a good idea. Then I came home and cleaned house before going for a short swim at UR.

Later on Saturday my daughter arrived for a week-end visit. In addition to shopping, our main event was baking a nine-layer cake for one of my co-workers who will be 50 on June 8. The cake is a traditional Smith Island (Maryland) recipe, and the layers are quite thin. My co-worker prefers frosting to cake, so this recipe seemed perfect for her.

Now it’s Sunday evening, and another busy week looms ahead. After June 12, I’ll be at a conference or on vacation until July 1, and I have numerous projects to finish before I go.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Making My Day

The finalists for the Mindset Triathlon essay contest were supposed to be announced on Monday, May 18. All day I waited anxiously for the email announcing I’d made the cut, but it never came. I was still hopeful I might hear something yesterday, but, again, nothing. By this morning, I’d accepted the fact that my essay had been rejected, and I was trying not to dwell on my disappointment. Then, in mid-morning, I received a congratulatory email from Staley at Mindset – yes, indeed, I was a finalist! My name should appear on the Mindset homepage tomorrow, and my essay will appear in a book to be published online June 1. I could even still qualify for a prize, which will be given to the top three. That would be especially exciting, although the prize is an underwater mp3 player, and I’m not sure I’d know what to do with it, if I did happen to win it. But for now, I’m thrilled to be a finalist.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rained Out at Rockett’s

Even though we knew rain was expected, we were hoping the forecast was wrong. It wasn’t raining at 6 a.m. when we set up our transition site, but the dark purple clouds on the horizon looked ominous. Our swimmer, an IM pro undaunted by bad weather, donned her wet suit and headed to the starting dock. As we waited for the race to begin, we could see the buoys in the river had been moved and then we learned the course had been shortened. Sheets of rain were coming down the river, and within minutes, we were drenched. The swimmers gathered at the new starting point, and the first wave (men 39 and under) took off. Our biker and I (the runner) went back to transition so she’d be ready to ride. It was raining steadily, the wind had picked up, and the air was getting chilly. We questioned why we were there. Then we saw a lot of pink and yellow caps walking toward transition. We were pretty sure they hadn’t had time to finish the swim. We soon found out the water had become too rough and the swim was cancelled, but no one seemed to know what was going to happen next. At that point, the thought of enduring several more hours of cold rain while biking and running was not at all appealing, so we “scrubbed the mission.” Later, as we warmed up over coffee, Biker and I decided we’d do our own “mini-tri” at the UR fitness center. We ran 2 miles on the indoor track, rode stationary bikes for 30 minutes, and swam 750 yards in the pool. And when we finished, it was still raining.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ready or Not

Tomorrow is my first tri of the season -- I'm doing the run as part of a relay. I'm not sure I'm really ready -- since last fall I haven't run more than 4 miles at a time, and I've only done that twice, and the last time was in early March. I know, barring some sort of disaster or injury, I can complete the 6.2 miles, but it will take me a while. I don't know that I'd be much faster even if I'd trained more, though, so "que sera, sera."

One Clip at a Time

Last Saturday I rode clipped in on the road for the first time in a long while. Granted, I only clipped in my right foot, but I wasn’t overcome by anxiety when I got on and I didn’t fall over when I got off, so I considered the ride a success. When I first switched to clipless pedals two years ago, I clipped in my right foot, but not my left because I’ve always had issues with falling off bikes when trying to stop and dismount and I didn’t want to make falling any easier than it already was. At my age, circumspection is the better part of valor. Last season I fell so many times trying to master clipping in both feet that just thinking about getting on my bike precipitated panic-induced paralysis. Finally, I quit trying, deciding that I needed to concentrate instead on simply feeling comfortable on my bike again

I hated being such a wimp, though, and I hadn’t fallen off my bike in a while, so I was determined to try again this year. There was a moment of trepidation as I heard my right foot click in, but I told myself “you can do this,” and kept pedaling. My ride was insignificantly faster, but the fact I did it at all was encouraging. One of these days, maybe I will be able to clip in both feet successfully.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend Workout

My weekend started at 6 a.m. on Saturday with one hour of indoor cycling at MMF. Then TG KG and I went to SPTC to run the ASK 5K. This was a family friendly event to support children with cancer. The 3.1 mile course looped around the back of the mall with the start-finish line near Nordstrom’s. KG had a great race, finishing in less time than she’d anticipated. I was several minutes behind. While I’d always like to be faster than I am, I was satisfied with my time. However, I’m not listed anywhere in the results – it’s like I became invisible once ASK took my money for the entry fee and gave me a race number.

7 a.m. Sunday found me on my bike riding the Rockett’s Landing course with KG. Except for turning right when we should have gone straight and ending up on a dead-end road at the bottom of a hill surrounded by woods, the kind of place that might be described as “where people dump dead bodies,” the ride was pleasant. Because we have been doing cadence drills this month at indoor cycling, I concentrated on shifting gears to maintain my cadence. Maybe I’m just finally “getting it,” but this ride seemed smoother than usual and the smaller hills less daunting. The bigger ones are still a challenge.

Sunday afternoon, KG and I swam at the UR pool. In deference to our other weekend activities, we didn’t swim quite as many laps as we usually do, but it was still a productive effort. Maybe I picked up some inspiration from having recently watched Pride, a movie set in 1974 about a swim team at a rec center in urban Philadelphia.

Next weekend I’ll be at the beach, the following weekend my daughter and her husband are planning to visit, and then it’s Rockett’s. So I guess I’ll start tapering now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2,139 Words

On April 16, 1 hour and 14 minutes before the deadline, I submitted my entry to the Mindset Triathlon Essay Contest. Fifteen essays on the philosophy of triathlon will be chosen for publication in “The Life of Tri,” an anthology “exploring the meaning and inspiration behind the sport of triathlon.” Finalists will be announced on May 18.

When Coach G first told us about this contest, I began thinking about what I might write. I had a possible theme in mind, and I composed random sentences, even paragraphs, in my head as I swam laps and folded laundry. After I put all my thoughts on paper, however, I discovered I had a big problem. The essay had to be a minimum of 2000 words, and I only had about 1400. I thought about all kinds of things I might include to make the essay longer, but I discarded most of them as soon as I wrote them down. Every time I added something, I deleted something else, so my net word count remained stuck at 1400, then 1500. Expounding on what triathlons mean to me was proving quite difficult, and I was getting desperate as the deadline loomed. I lost sleep, my lunch hour, and training time as I struggled to write just 501 more words. Then, much like muscling through a tough hill on my bike, I found the necessary words and completed my essay.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Changing Seasons, Changing Venues

Finally, it’s starting to look and feel like spring. As much as I like the coming season, though, I’m sorry it foretells the end of indoor cycling. When I ride inside on a trainer, I clip in and out of my pedals with ease, I ride in aero, and I keep up with the group. These skills are lost off the trainer. I rode outside at W.Crk. for the first time this year on April 4. After just ten miles I’d had enough “yumminess.” This past Saturday I got a reprieve because predictions of rain moved the ride inside, but next week I’ll have to take on W.Crk. again. Maybe I could just set up my trainer in the parking lot!

If This Were My Last …

I recently read in the newspaper that some study group had determined more persons died during triathlons than participating in other sports and that most deaths came in the swim portion. That’s a sobering thought. I know there are risks of injury in triathlons, but every time I do one, I’d rather not be contemplating my demise. However, under the rubric of “make every day count,” I’ve often asked myself, “If this were the last day of my life, would I spend it doing what I’m doing now?” Generally, the answer is “yes,” and when it’s not, I’ve moved on to doing something else. Applying the same philosophy to triathlons, while I wouldn’t consider starting each race thinking it could be my last good strategy, as long as I’m willing to accept that possibility, I’ll keep tri-ing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Time to Step Up

By this time last year, I’d run and swum about twice as many miles and laps as I’ve done this year. Last year I was training for the Monument Ave. 10K and my first triathlon of the season, so my motivation was high. This year I’ve done just enough training to not be a total slug, but my sense of purpose has been lacking. It’s not that I’ve tired of triathlons or other races – it’s more that I don’t want to spend money on the entry fees. I don’t need more tee-shirts, socks, hats, or water bottles. And I’m past needing to prove to myself, or anyone else, that I can do these events. So, with no early races to prepare for, I’ve not been as diligent in my training as last year.

However, it’s time to step up. My sisters and I are registered for the Hy-Vee Olympic in Iowa in June, which we’ll do as a relay, and I’ll be the swimmer. I’ve agreed to do Rockett’s Landing in May as a relay with two other TGs, and I’ll be the runner. It’s time to start some serious training.

Am I Smart Enough to Own a Bike?!

For several years I’ve transported my bike, laid on its side, inside my car, but then the chain kept coming off almost every time I loaded and unloaded the bike, so I decided this year to get a bike rack. My original thought was to get a new car that came with the manufacturer’s bike rack, but the diminishing state of my retirement fund squelched that idea. So, instead, I bought an ordinary rack that holds two bikes and attached to the back of my car.

The salesman’s brief explanation of how to install it seemed simple enough. When I opened the box and started to read the written instructions, however, the task seemed much more complicated. First, I had to read the special footnotes that applied to my car. Then I had to adjust the rack so the upper and lower frames would be the required 11 inches apart. After several attempts, I correctly pushed/pulled the knobs that released the frames and maneuvered them into place. Then I positioned the rack on my car and adjusted the top straps. The trick to tightening the straps, I discovered, was to press the little metal lever that said “press” before trying to pull the strap. Next I affixed the bottom and side straps, which required several, hard tugs. (At last, a practical application of strength training!)

Now I was ready to put my bike on the rack. Lifting the bike on went pretty well (another advantage of strength training), but the stabilizer piece didn’t fit around the bike stem right. Studying the diagram in the instructions again, I figured out I’d put the bike on the rack backwards – the chain side wasn’t supposed to be facing the car. So I took the bike off, turned it around, and lifted it back on. This time all the parts fit properly, the bike seemed to be snugly in place, and the rack didn’t fall off the car. Of course, I haven’t driven anywhere yet with the bike on the rack, but I hope it will work as well on the road as it did in my garage.

After my struggle with the rack, I figured my next bike project – attaching a small bag behind the seat – would be a snap. Well, …. I could see from the picture on the tag how it was supposed to go, but I couldn’t figure out how to place the straps to accomplish that result. There were no instructions for installation, so I tried up, down, and backwards, without success. I was about to resort to duct tape when, suddenly, I knew exactly how to do it, and the result looked just like the picture.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day

Because I’m not fond of winter, I’ve always looked forward to March as the beginning of spring. There’s nothing spring-like about today, however, with at least seven inches of snow in my yard and predicted temperatures in the teens tonight. But it’s okay. It’s Monday, and my office is closed due to snow. Because it’s an unexpected “free time day,” I can read a book, watch a movie, or even catch up my blog. I can enjoy my favorite cozy foods – grilled cheese, popcorn and hot chocolate. A “snow day” is a bonus, and I intend to make the most of it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to read me a story about a kitten that persevered until she got what she wanted. I don’t remember what that was, but the storybook had several gray and white kittens pictured on the cover playing with a basket of blue yarn. I’ve always associated the word “persevere” with those kittens. In life or triathlons, perseverance is an appropriate concept for me. But the visual image of frolicking kittens can also remind me to have fun in whatever I do. Dog lovers (and new parents) would disagree, of course, but I think there’s nothing much cuter than kittens. I want that image to focus my energy on enjoying the endeavor, as I keep going until I finish.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finally, Clean Closets

For months I’ve been trying to clean out my closets. Two years ago, when my sister moved from MD to NC, I agreed to store some of her belongings. Several minivan loads later, my extra bedroom had become the “JJ Memorial Storeroom.” Since I had been storing several large boxes for my daughter, as well as a few small items for a friend, in that room, I had to move those things into other closets in my house so nobody’s stuff would get confused. And since I tend to save odd items on the chance that someday they might prove useful, there wasn’t much available space. I kept putting things in wherever they fit, though, and figured “someday” I’d sort it all out.

By Labor Day 2008, both my sister and my daughter had reclaimed their stuff, and the only excuse I had for the sorry state of my closets was that I had triathlons to do, so cleaning would have to wait. I did squeeze in straightening up a small closet now and then, but my two largest – and most cluttered – closets remained to be done. As the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – passed by with no extra time for cleaning, I was determined I’d spend my 4-day Lee-Jackson-King weekend on the task.

As I surveyed the mess of my bedroom closet on Friday, I considered that running a marathon in sub-zero weather might be a better activity. But there was no race on my schedule – just heaps of clothing, pillows, and empty gift boxes in varying sizes. Several hours later, I’d filled a bag for Goodwill and my drawers were neatly arranged. Figuring I needed a break from closet drudgery on Saturday, I went to indoor cycling and then a swim at the JCC. I also had other plans on Sunday, so that left Monday for the final closet.

Fortified by an extra cup of coffee, I grabbed the curtain rods that always fall out when that closet door is opened before they hit me in the head. Facing me was a hodgepodge of things put there six years ago when I moved in and accumulated since. I methodically examined every box or plastic bag I took off the shelves. Sometimes I was surprised to see I still had an item, sometimes I wondered why I’d kept it, and sometimes I was impressed I could lift the box. I only got sidetracked once – reading the newsletters I edited for a Tidewater sports car club many years ago. Then it was back to filling more bags for Goodwill, recycling, and trash. By noon, I could say “Mission Accomplished.” Well, almost – I have years of family photos and personal papers to sort through, but at least they are all in the same filing cabinet now. That project is for another day. It’s time to concentrate on triathlons again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Getting Back in the Saddle

The recent holidays took a bigger than usual chunk out of my fitness routine. Because I was occupied with seasonal activities like shopping and then was out of town, I missed several cycling and strength-training sessions. And while my visits with family and friends were wonderful, I apparently caught some kind of “bug” on the way home from Texas – maybe it was “spa-withdrawal”! Anyway, for much of last week, I felt “blah” – not bad enough to be officially sick, but not good, either. When I climbed on my bike this morning at 7 a.m., I hadn’t ridden in nearly two weeks. It was good to be back, even though I had to leave early to keep my quarterly date with the “Bug Man.” Having not had the energy to train at all earlier in the week made me appreciate each pedal stroke. Being reminded this way that good health is indeed a blessing helps me see that, although I’d like to be faster this year, what’s truly important is that I can continue to do it at all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What About 2009?

Another year – another tri season. I’m very “que sera sera” about the events I might attempt or accomplish this year. Last year I was enthused about the goals I’d set. This year I have no goals. I’ll stay with the TG program, of course, but I’m not feeling compelled to commit to training for any particular race. (Training as a way of maintaining a certain level of fitness and a healthy lifestyle is an entirely different matter!) And since I’m trying to pay attention these days to what I’m spending my money on, I’m going to choose carefully the events I do.

I might do the Smithfield Sprint again because it’s a good “first of the season” triathlon. I’ll do one of the sprints on the Shady Grove course because that’s my benchmark event. As long as I can see some improvement in my performance there, I’ll keep tri-ing. The all-women’s sprint in August will probably be on my calendar, and the Patriot (sprint or olympic) could be a possibility.

I expect I’ll continue this blog. My biggest achievement of the year could be figuring out how to add some snazzy graphics!