Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I'd planned to swim tonight, but after a trip to the store for cat food, I decided it was too cold to go anywhere but back to the cozy comforts of home. Once there, I read a personal essay about a woman who did her first Ironman at age 70. She began her IM training plan four years earlier, when she was slightly older than I am now. As heartwarming as her story was, it hasn't inspired me to attempt the same feat. My daughter and I have discussed doing the Hy-Vee Olympic in Iowa in September 2011, and if we do, it will be the acme of my triathlon life. With that goal in mind, I'm considering events on the 2011 calendar -- the Monument 10K in April and a tri in June that's longer than a typical sprint and shorter than a usual olympic. There's also a 5K in February that looks promising -- because it's in Florida, where it should be warm, and sunny, and "snowless." Maybe that's the incentive I need to get past winter-induced inertia and into a new tri season.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Different Kind of Marathon

When I woke up today (correction – when my cat woke me up), I thought the plan was to ride my bike or go for a run before I started cleaning house. But at 5:45 a.m. (the cat apparently forgot it was Saturday), it was still dark outside, so I decided to get started on my cleaning projects. All summer I’ve subscribed to the “a lick and a promise” method of cleaning – “lick” down the cat hair and “promise” to do better next time. However, I have company coming on Tuesday, so I knew I had to get out the big girl mop. Both of my sisters are cleaning fanatics, and one of them even likes to clean house, but, unfortunately, Mrs. Clean was not available to assist me.

Fortified by a cup of left-over coffee and some toast, I started with the guest bath. I washed the curtains, the rugs, and the floor. Then I moved on to the guest bedroom – more curtains to wash. Since my guest room is also a repository for items that belong to family and friends, but they have no place else to store, I decided I needed to do some re-arranging so my guests would have a spot for their suitcases. I moved the rocking chair to my home office, put the recliner back together so someone could actually sit in it, took some books to the garage, and put the extra pillows in my closet. By then, it was fully daylight, but I was into high cleaning mode and decided to postpone the bike ride/run until later in the day.

I ate a spoonful of peanut butter for energy and tackled the kitchen cupboards. Soon my garbage can was filled with out-dated spices, hard-as-rocks colored sugar, tubes of decorator frosting, and other sundries my sister gave me three years ago because she didn’t want to move them to her new house or throw them away and she thought I could use them. Perhaps I would have, if I still baked cakes and cookies, but that was in a past life.

The next project was my porch. I emptied pots of weeds, swept up nails and other trash the roofers left behind when they installed the new roof last week, and wiped off the furniture.

Back inside, I dusted every knick knack, scrubbed two more bathrooms, and cleaned out the litter box. With my chores about two-thirds done, I was starting to hit the wall. Opting for a lunch break, I was surprised to discover it was 2:00 p.m. Considering what else I had to do in the house, the possibility of a bike ride/run later seemed unlikely. And my body felt like it had already logged those miles, anyway.

After lunch, I finished dusting the furniture and baseboards and vacuumed. If everything wasn’t covered with cat hair, this wouldn’t have been such a hard task, but the two critters that share my house are the hairiest “domestic shorthair” cats I know. I’ve tried all sorts of ways, with varying success, to “de-hair” my house, but I think attempting to qualify for Boston might come easier for me. And even though my visitors like cats, too much cat hair is still annoying, so I persevered.

Final job – scrubbing the kitchen floor. I did it the old-fashioned way – on my knees. I’ve tried lots of mops, but the results just don’t satisfy me.

By 5:00 p.m., my house was as clean as it’s going to be, the last load of laundry was in the dryer, and I was ready for a glass of wine. Then I noticed the refrigerator handle was really grimy, so – like the final sprint to the finish line, I grabbed my scrubber and had at it. The pristine result was as good as a medal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jamestown Memories

When my children were young, we used to camp at Jamestown Beach, next to the ferry landing, so the Patriot Sprint, which starts and ends at the old campground, is like a homecoming. As I walked along the beach shore on Saturday evening after picking up my race packet, I looked up the bluff to our favorite camping spot, now overgrown with brush. In my mind’s eye, though, my 4-year-old daughter was nimbly scooting down the hill to watch the Baptists or Methodists singing hymns on the beach – and then was escorted back to our campsite after the service by a kindly church member, who was no doubt horrified to find the sweet child’s father drinking a beer.

The next morning, as I considered the river in the rain, I would have liked to been tucked snugly in our old camper instead. The water temperature was 74°, so wet suits were allowed. Despite the buoyancy a wet suit offers, I tend to feel like I’m choking in it. Hoping to alleviate this problem, earlier this year I purchased wet suit no. 3 –in a larger size and different style. The suit felt okay on dry land, but the Patriot swim would be its “christening.” My other problem with a wet suit is that getting it off after the swim eats up my time in T1, but I don’t swim well at all in chilly water, so I opted to wear it.

Probably, though, I should have gone without the wet suit because the water did not feel cold and my neoprene-swaddled body didn’t seem tethered to my naked arms. I made more progress kicking on my back than actually swimming. I silently agreed with a fellow swimmer who said, “Well, wet suits suck.” I kept aiming for the yellow buoy where we were supposed to turn, but it seemed like the distance between it and me stayed the same. I noticed that some swimmers who had started in the groups behind me were already turning toward shore, without having passed the buoy. Then I heard someone in a boat telling swimmers to turn because the buoy had come loose. I’m not sure how much out of the way I went, but I do know I’m not a fan of open water swimming.

The distance from the beach to the transition area was a hike through a grassy field. I struggled a bit with getting my left foot out of my wet suit, but still my T1 time was 16 seconds less than the maximum possible time I’d estimated.

I rode the bike course in exactly the same time as two years ago, which was disappointing because I’d expected to be faster on my new bike. Or, maybe I should spin it this way – I’m just as fast as I was, even though I’m two years older. I think I needed my bike pal KG riding ahead of me as incentive.

The run course took us through another grassy field at the beginning and end, with a paved trail in the middle. My time was a little faster than other 5K runs I’ve done this year, but still slower than I’d hoped.

All in all, the event provided another good memory of Jamestown Beach. Because I was the only official entrant in my age group, I was awarded first place, albeit by default. Another competitor had a better time than I did, but she was registered in the novice category rather than age group. Whether I was first or second, though, the prizes were the same – a wine glass and a bottle of chardonnay from a local winery.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Green & Pink Weekend

Several months ago I ordered a new car – a 2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback, and I took possession last Saturday. So far, I’m generally pleased with it, although a visit to my local bike store was required to properly fit my old bike rack onto the new car. The car’s most unusual feature is its color – “metallic lime squeeze.” Yes, I have a car that looks like a lime. Because limes make me think of margaritas, and this car seemed like it should have a name, I considered calling it “Margy” or “Rita.” But then a friend referred to it as “Little Limeade,” and that may be the name that sticks. Of course, foregoing the lime theme, there’s “Dumpling,” because the car also resembles a Granny Smith apple.

The pink part of the weekend was the Pink Power Sprint on Sunday. It was also my birthday and my daughter’s present to me was that she came for the race, and did it. This is the first year she’s done triathlons, and it’s been fun to share the experience with her.

My specific goal for the race was to be faster than last year, and I was. My swim time would have been even better if I could have climbed out of the pool quicker, but I was pleased to see that a year of Master’s swimming has improved my performance.

The bike course didn’t seem as difficult as last year, and I took several minutes off my previous time, maybe because I have a different bike, I trained more, or both. Even so, I wasn’t able to catch up with my daughter, who was a few minutes ahead of me on the course. (We learned later that my actual ride time was about 20 seconds faster than hers, but she’s a better swimmer and was quicker in T1.)

C. and I had thought we might do the run together, but she started before I did and stayed about a half mile in front. My pace for the first two miles was on target, but mile 3 is the hilly part and I walked more than I should have. Even though my time was faster than last year, I was still disappointed to be slower than I’d expected. The final lap around the soccer field was great, though. C. had waited for me at the edge of the field so we could cross the finish line side by side.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Today I saw Autumn
Lurking in Summer’s shadow,
A bashful child,
Waiting her turn to play

The sun was just rising yesterday when I began my bike ride around my neighborhood. I like to go out early to avoid traffic, but as I checked the time – 6:30 a.m. – I recognized, with regret, that summer is shifting into autumn. The demise of daylight signals the coming season, and it’s not one I welcome with much enthusiasm. Yes, 90° days will be gone, but 6:00 a.m. seems much earlier when it’s still dark outside.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I have a new bike – a Specialized Ruby Pro. I got it a month ago, but since it cost more than a reasonable, normal person, especially one who is not a great biker, would spend on a bike (even though I got a good deal), and I could have returned it within 30 days for a full refund, I didn’t immediately announce my purchase, thinking perhaps I would come to my senses and take it back. However, the sweet thing is still in my garage, so it’s time to “fess up.”

The new bike fits me better than my old one did, it has upgraded components, and it’s lighter – all factors that make riding more enjoyable, even if I am only slightly faster than on my old bike. Each time I get a “new and improved” bike, I prove the truth of these words – A bike is only as fast as the person pedaling. But because presentation matters, on a bike as sleek as my Ruby, I at least can feel like an accomplished cyclist.

A Simple Secret

Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest difference. For years I’ve tried to learn flip turns, but the result was always some sort of weird sideways motion instead of a true flip. Observers said I didn’t keep my head down, so I tried envisioning my chin glued to my chest. It didn’t work – my head came up mid-flip, I listed to my side, and my feet missed the wall. Then my daughter told me she could do proper flip turns only with her eyes closed. When I mentioned this technique to my Masters swim coach, she gave me the kind of incredulous smile I give my younger sister when she says something stupid, but I know she means well. Of course, I should keep my eyes closed. So, I approached the wall, tucked my chin, squeezed my eyes shut, pulled my body forward and down – and over, landing my feet squarely on the wall. I pushed off and surfaced to “high fives” all around. I’d finally done a successful flip turn.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In A Minute

While swimming with the TGs last Sunday, I accomplished a personal goal that has eluded me for sometime, and one that several years ago I would have thought improbable. I swam 50 yards in a minute. Now I know that’s still slow, but it’s 30 seconds faster than I used to be and 10-15 seconds faster than my usual pace now. Of course, after my “fast 50,” I felt like I was trying to swim in deep mud for the next 25, but then I recovered enough to do it again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Own “Tri Kids” and the Power Sprint

One day last January my daughter told me she and her husband were thinking about training for a triathlon, which their fitness center in Maryland was sponsoring. The event was to be held indoors in April, and the participants had to swim in the pool, ride a stationary bike, and run on a treadmill for ten minutes at each station. Winners were determined by the distance accrued in each segment, and F took first place. After that experience C and F decided to try a “real” triathlon and signed up for the Power Sprint at the Shady Grove YMCA on May 23. Not to be left out, I registered for the AquaBike.

Saturday afternoon we checked out new bikes and gear at 3 Sports after we picked up our packets. F found his dream bike, and I saw one I could learn to like, but ever-practical C herded us out of the store before we spent $$$$. Saturday night we listened to the rain while C and I packed our transition bags and F cleaned and tuned his bike, a 30-year-old relic he bought with his first paycheck from his first job.

By Sunday morning the skies were clearing. We arrived at Shady Grove about 6 a.m. and found a great parking place behind the pool area. We unloaded our bikes and headed to the transition area to set up our spaces. C carefully arranged her helmet, shoes, and run number/race belt on her towel beside her bike – a model example of how to set up (and one she did not learn from her mother). We got our timing chips and body markings and then returned to the car for breakfast. A few minutes before transition closed, C noticed F was wearing his run number. We sent him scurrying back to leave it in transition.

Our predicted swim times were within a minute of each other. C was worried I’d overtake her on the bike since my start time was only several minutes behind hers. F swam faster than he’d thought he would and was finished before I got in the water. C’s time was exactly what she’d predicted. Mine was 30 seconds slower, but even so, I set a PR for that distance.

I set a different kind of PR in T1, as it was maybe my longest time in transition – ever, nearly as long as my swim time. I couldn’t get my helmet fastened. After struggling for several minutes, I heard a male voice behind me say, “Ma’am, you have you helmet on backwards.” I thanked him, turned the helmet around, and still couldn’t fasten it. Eventually, the straps snapped into place and I took off on the bike course.

While I was on my bike, I thought I was having a great ride. I maintained a decent speed – faster than my training rides around my neighborhood – and I even passed a rider who had passed me. When I saw my official time, though, I was disappointed not to have been faster.

I never saw C or F on the bike course – they were too far ahead. In fact, F completed the run as I came in on my bike. And his time would have been better if he hadn’t had to return to T2 for his race number, which he’d forgotten to put on. C crossed the finish line about 25 minutes later. They both enjoyed the race and are planning to do another tri at the end of June in Maryland. I plan to be there, too – have to keep this sport in the family!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Getting Reacquainted With My Bike

The transition from indoor to outdoor cycling is difficult for me, as I much prefer riding my bike on a stationary trainer than on the real road, but triathlons are generally not done indoors, so … after a month of no biking at all, I’ve gotten my bike out of my garage and onto the street. Since Saturday, I’ve ridden three times around my neighborhood – a total of 20 miles, but since I didn’t fall once, and by ride no. 3, actually began to enjoy myself, I consider the ventures successful. Of course, I still have to master clipping both feet into the pedals, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m feeling friendlier toward my bike.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Lost Month

My training log for April shows a dearth of activity – some strength training sessions, a few swims, one short run, and no cycling. I have a sort of excuse, I suppose, as for much of the month, I was out of town for work or out of state visiting family, but I fear I’ve lingered too long in “Slugville,” and it’s good to turn the page on April.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Season

If I lived in my ideal world, this post would be about getting a PR in the Smithfield Sprint or the Monument Ave. 10K, both of which took place yesterday. In a less perfect world, I at least could say I participated. But, no, I wasn't at either event. I was home, wondering whether the strange, sort of rotten smell permeating my laundry room, or something else, has caused my laryngitis/bronchitis, and comtemplating why an injury nearly five months ago has me still sidelined. I think I should be "all better" by now, and the fact that I'm not has routed my mojo like KY took out WF in round 2 of this year's NCAA tournament (90 to 60, for the non-b'ballers). I don't want to be the stereotypical old person who constantly complains about her ailments, but they seem to have taken over my life. A new season is here, though, so it's time to get out of my rocker and tri.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Two Steps, One Step

My return to running has been at tortoise-speed. Since mid-February, using the walk-run method, I’ve logged a mile, or a mile and a half, once a week. Even by my standards, the pace has been slow, but the point was simply to get accustomed to running again. Each week I’ve tried to run more and walk less, with varying success. Last Saturday, however, I decided I would attempt to run the first half-mile (five blocks) before I interspersed any walking. Surprised by the respectable pace at which I did the half-mile, I decided to try running the second half-mile, too. After three more blocks, I was starting to slow down, but I could see the stop sign ahead that marked my “finish line,” and I was determined to keep running. I got there, and only 20 seconds later than I would have if I’d stayed on my original pace. I doubt I could have run much farther, but I was elated to have that mile behind me. I had plans of two miles for the following Saturday.

Until Thursday. While doing split squats at strength training on Thursday night, my left foot/ankle started to hurt. I don’t know what I did to it, and it seemed better this morning, but I decided to forego cycling and running for RICE-ing. Hopefully, I won’t be “defeeted” for long.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Learning to Fly

The butterfly stroke has always intrigued, and eluded, me. My childhood swim lessons – two weeks each summer at the small community pool – covered basic strokes only. I watched with awe whenever the pool manager’s children, both college students who had learned to swim elsewhere, occasionally did a length or two of butterfly. From observing them, I understood what the arms were supposed to do, but I couldn’t figure out the kick. Eventually, whenever I tried to butterfly, I did a sort of aborted breaststroke maneuver. It was neither pretty nor efficient for the ten feet or so I could manage it.

Last week in Masters class, though, those of us in the “baby” lane focused on proper butterfly technique. First, we concentrated on the kick. To keep my feet from going awkwardly awry, Coach D. said to visualize my big toes tied together tightly. After a few lengths I began to feel more “dolphin-like” as I undulated through the water. Next we added arms – one at a time, then both. I was more moth than Monarch, but I could fly.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Considering Spring

As I was shoveling the last bits of snow off my sidewalk today (because I was tired of waiting for it to melt), I noticed my daffodils have started to grow. Those one-inch green shoots were the perfect tonic for my winter-battered psyche. Of course, the imminent arrival of Spring means no more excuses for the weather-induced inertia I’ve had for the past several months. I’ve been doing some indoor cycling, strength training, and swimming, but not with the same intensity as in past years. And I’ve just started to run again. I’d wanted to do the Smithfield Sprint on March 27, but I’m not ready for competition yet. Stuck in the depths of winter, I was wondering if I’d ever be ready, but, like my daffodils, it’s time to start blooming again.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Making “Ice Cream” from Ice

Last weekend I’d planned a full slate of activities – indoor cycling followed by a few laps around the indoor track at UR and a massage on Saturday, swimming on Sunday. Plus, I wanted to go by an antiques mall where a friend has a booth, and I thought I’d check out some new bikes. The Specialized Ruby Expert got a good review in the latest issue of Bicycle. I test rode a Ruby Pro model in 2008 and liked it, but it was way out of my price range. The Expert is still more than I reasonably should pay for a bike, but it’s less than what some of my non-tri friends spend on exotic vacations and interior decorating, so I figured there was no harm in “just looking.” However, Saturday brought snow, lots of snow, and nothing I’d planned happened.

This weekend is shaping up the same way. The storm here doesn’t appear to be as bad as last weekend’s was, but it’s still cold, the roads are a mess, and since I really don’t have to go out, I won’t. Instead, I’ll try to find something constructive to do, like start on my taxes. Maybe my expected refund could be the start of a “new bike fund.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010


January has been a month of adapting to changes. Of course, there’s the ongoing recovery of my foot, as I strive to regain some of the fitness I used to have. And I’m making some progress – today I wore cycling shoes on both feet, clipped in and out on my trainer, and pedaled while briefly standing. I’ve returned to the Master’s swimming class at UR, and I’m wearing dressier shoes than sneakers to work.

Other changes have been bittersweet. With the swearing in of the new Governor and Attorney General last week, I said farewell to several co-workers who have taken new jobs and greeted a new boss and his staff. So far the transition has gone smoothly, but I do miss the tasty treats the mother of a former co-worker sent to the office on Monday mornings. Mrs. G. made delectable cinnamon coffeecake, brownies laced with extra chocolate, and the best-ever pumpkin bread.

One change was totally unexpected, however. Two weeks ago I came home to find my oldest cat, a purebred Himalayan who was nearly 15, dead under my bed. O. was sweet-natured and quite loveable, and I’d had her for nine years. I adopted her from a friend of a friend of my sister’s when her original owner married a man allergic to cats. Even though I miss O. snuggling next to me on the sofa, I have to admit there’s less cat hair on the furniture now that this is only a two-cat household.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Long, Slow Way Back

Last Thursday my orthopedist pronounced my foot/ankle sufficiently healed to resume my regular fitness routine. It’s a good thing, too, because jeans that fit fine three months ago are now too snug to wear in public. I rode my own bike at cycling for the first time on Saturday morning. I couldn’t get a cycling shoe on my left foot because I was still wearing a brace, but it was the best ride I’ve had in weeks. Then I decided to try a short “walk/run” at the UR fitness center indoor track. Ten times around is a mile – I did five laps, two at a sort of running pace, in 8:40. A big WOW! That’s about my speed for the first 5K I ever did, with little training about ten years ago. Of course, it’s been nearly three months since I did any running, or even brisk walking, but it’s discouraging to be so very slow, again. I suppose I should be satisfied I could do the laps at all, but I’ve never been a very patient person when it comes to my own performance.