Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You've got to play to win

I'm still in the trees . . . but almost out of the forest.

Tonight I went for a five mile run and it was (nearly) pain-free. And, though not very long--not even a 10K--it was the longest run for me in two months, since the Frederick Mission 10-miler (on the heels of the DC Half) left me limping and whimpering. Trail running didn't help, the inconsistent surface further stressing my knee.

(To recap: I pulled a hamstring at the DC Half on St.Pat's Day. A week later, I injured my ITB at the Mission 10-miler. Running is like that for me.)

My body adapts much better to running after a long (long!) warm up. Not dynamic stretching or brisk walking; more like 15+ miles on a bike. Which is why I'm better suited for triathlon; I thrive on the cross-training and rarely injure myself on the run when I come off the bike. (Knock on tree bark.)

So that is how I approached my healing after the Mission race. I rested (a little) and vowed not to run unless it was a brick. After weeks of running 1, 2 and 3-mile brick runs, I finally braved one without cycling first. It was okay. As soon as I felt any knee tension, I backed off.

On Monday, I ran just over 4 miles and it went well. It was the heat and humidity that nearly wiped me out instead. It was so hot, my muscles were probably the consistency of taffy.

Tonight I decided to go for 5 miles. It was really tough to get moving; I'm not used to working out in the evening. Though I welcomed the cooler temps at 7:30 PM, my body was not quite on-board with the idea. There was an absolute disconnect between my brain and my body. My legs, which felt like they were encased in concrete, were protesting loudly:

You cannot be serious.  We're really doing this? NOW? Seriously?It's almost 8:00. WTH? Shouldn't we be kicked back in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream by now? 

Then, two miles in:

Okay. You win. We're really gonna do this thing? Then let's do it. 

Enter the negative split.

I ran the last 2.5 miles at1:15 min/mile faster than the first 2.5. Which is not to say it was fast; it was a work in progress. But . . . before I hit mile one, I got a fleeting pain, like a cramp or a charlie horse, in my left butt cheek. (What? It's usually the right side that smarts.) Then it was gone as fast as it had appeared.

At mile 3, a similar cramp-like pain struck my left hamstring. (Oh no. Not the hammie again.) It was as if my left hamstring had morphed into some sort of belt or strap, like when you're wearing a backpack that is too loose and you pull on the straps to make it tighter. Every few steps, the strap was yanked, the muscle pulled taught, like the distance between my glute and my knee was getting shorter. I had flashbacks to the DC Half and immediately stopped to stretch the hammie. One more mile to go. I finished, but my hammie was wagging it's finger at me; a warning.


I'm cautiously optimistic that I'm almost healed, almost out of the woods. Almost. But running still always feels like I'm playing a game of injury roulette.

The thing is, you've got to play to win.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Riders on the storm

We hopped on our bikes at 6:15 knowing full well that, at 7:00, the chance of rain and thunderstorms was 80%. Did we stay home? No way! Should we have? Now, that is the question . . . 

"We'll ride until it starts to rain, or until we see thunder or lightening, and then we'll turn back," we agreed. So, we played Frogger trying to cross one of the busier streets in our area and headed west. 

It looked like we were heading into the eye of the storm. Though the skies overhead were still clear and blue, the front was clearly visible, marked by a jagged line of billowing gray clouds. Beyond it, the sky deepened to a dark indigo before turning nearly black. The lyrics to "Riders on the Storm" began playing in my head.


The wind picked up mightily as the first fat raindrops began to fall. Before we could safely turn around, it became a full-on downpour, immediately obscuring visibility and covering the road in sheets of water. Of course, the roads are most slippery when it first starts to rain as all the grease and oils rise to the surface. If you don't believe this, or have never experienced it while riding around in your two-ton motorized metal vehicle with four fat tires, then try getting out there on a feather-light bike with two tiny slicks: any more than the tiniest application of breaks causes the tires to fishtail beneath you. 


It's all well and good on a flat road and in dry conditions, but when we turned around and reversed course, the wind was at our backs, shoving us down the road at speeds in excess of 30 mph on a relatively flat road! That's a speed I don't usually see unless I'm screaming down a huge hill. Try stopping on a wet road without fishtailing with that kind of force behind you! (Like applying the brakes in your car when it's weighted down and packed to the gills with vacation gear or towing a boat.) It was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. 


We were going fast enough that we outran the storm and actually ended up back on roads that were still dry, albeit now under the cover of the gathering clouds. 

So, did we cut our losses and head home? Not yet. Given the little extra window of time, we tacked on a few more miles, achieving only half of our total intended distance but still nearly that of a sprint triathlon. Shorter than hoped for but definitely better than no ride at all. 

We finally arrived home, drenched but in one piece, before the thunder and lightening began. After seeing cloud to ground lightening last year while pedaling beside an open field, and sparks shooting out of a box attached to the electrical lines, I have no desire to cycle in a thunderstorm again. Ditto that for heavy rains after nearly hydroplaning to my death at a race in 2010 (At least it seemed that way; careening out of control down a steep, curving descent with fellow bikers crashed into the ditches on either side. So scary! It is by pure luck that I remained upright on that descent. I left my balls on the road that day and have yet to fully recover them.) 

Did I mention the car that almost made a left hand turn directly into me tonight? Someone blindly following the other left-turning cars without bothering to check for oncoming traffic (or cyclists). Yes, while cycling, when it comes to motorists, I've learned to expect the worst. I dislike that it chips away at my sense of pure freedom, saddling me with an edge, a tension in my body that I can't quite shake, but it's a necessary evil.

Guess it's a good thing I like living a little on the edge. :)

There's something right with the world today
And everybody knows it's wrong
But we can tell 'em no or we could let it go
But I would rather be a hanging on

Livin' On the Edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'
Livin' On the Edge
You can't help yourself at all
Livin' On the Edge

Aerosmith - aerosmith photo

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Green Thing

Thoughts to ponder . . . (this was fwd to me today; I found it to be an interesting perspective).

Click to show "Recycling" result 13

Being Green
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they were recycled.
But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.
But too bad we didn't do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances and we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

Isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Forward this on to another old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart young person...

Cool Mama's musings

Do kids ever think their parents are cool? We are not given credit where credit is due.

I have been wearing Vibram Five Fingers for years. Long before they were "cool" and definitely before they trickled into the mainstream. I was a little bit of a freak show walking through the grocery store with my funky feet, prompting stares and questions.

When I wore them to chaperone my daughter's field trip last year, she was mortified. "Mom!" She exclaimed, eyes wide with horror, "You're going to wear those?"

Needless to say, she now wants a pair of her own especially since her friends and her friend's parents are starting to wear them too.

Today I wore my Batman t-shirt, the one I purchased in the boy's department and proudly donned for my first Warrior Dash two years ago. As we prepared to head to the bus stop this morning my daughter again looked at me critically and frowned. "Mom! Are you going to wear that? To the bus stop? Could you wear a jacket on top or something? It's embarrassing."


I will be happy to inform her this afternoon that when I walked into the cafe after a 2200 in the pool*, the young, hip, college-aged guy working the counter said simply, "Cool shirt." I rest my case.

*Speaking of the pool, I'm feeling a bit discouraged at the moment. Really wishing I'd been a swim team kid. The Law of Primacy is killing me here. I just cannot compete with those who learned to swim, the right way, right about the same time they were learning to read--when all the synapses were firing full blast, committing words and proper swim form to memory.

A friend of mine recently kicked butt at a local triathlon that I competed in last year. I took a peek at her times. We are nearly identically matched in the bike and very close in the run. But in the swim? She was seven minutes faster than me.  Seven minutes! That's an eternity in the water, in a race. Though I feel like my current swimming progress is stagnant, I'm still hopeful that I will gain 5 seconds here, ten seconds there. But seven minutes? Never! It's very depressing. I used to feel like running was my weakest link but, all other things being equal, I will never be able to make up that kind of time in the water.

There are two pearls in triathlon that continue to haunt me:

1) The best triathletes are runners.

2) A race cannot be won in the water, but it can be lost there.

So, whenever I'm cycling, I'm talking to myself, encouraging myself to get better, stronger, faster, because (despite the fact that I often lose my races/podium spots in the transition area, but that's another post) cycling is my best chance for improving and it's my strongest event. As I ride, I repeat Macca's words over and over, "cycling is my weapon, cycling is my weapon." It may be the only one I've got.

However, had I not been too exhausted to post after my ride this weekend (and after hosting a sleepover birthday party for my daughter and 10 of her friends), this would have been the title:

Long, slow & hot 

The content would not have been nearly as sexy as the heading suggests, but it's an apt description of my ride.

On Sunday, on the heels of what should have been a rest/recovery week but was not, my husband and I headed out for the longest ride so far this season (40 miles) on the hottest riding day so far (sunny, 85, 60+% humidity--though this is nothing compared to what a Maryland summer is capable of dishing up), on a very hilly course, and I was so, so, slow. Given that this is supposed to be my "weapon," it was very disheartening. Instead of pumping myself up, I found myself grumpy and grumbling about why I am out riding 40 miles when my next race is a sprint--15 miles, for Pete's sake! ("Who's Pete?" my youngest used to ask).  This is not an Iron year; we are supposed to be taking it easy. But it's so hard to let go . . .

Tonight we were scheduled to hit the road yet again but our babysitter cancelled and, though I'm ashamed to admit this, I'm actually happy about it. (Well, smack my mouth!) This is one very tired, but very Cool Mama, who is looking forward to a night off!

Be safe, train smart & have fun!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wining results in whining


Sometimes I forget how old I am. Recently, I've made a tiny attempted to revist my former Thursday ICPN (Int'l College Party Night) ways. Thing is, I just can't hang anymore, despite the very fine education I had two decades ago in such endeavors.

But after too much wine and too little sleep last night, I simply could not rise to the occasion today--a 30-mile bike ride loomed. Sadly, too, because it was a gorgeous day and I'd been looking forward to this ride with my husband all week. Coffee helped, but not enough.

I started off a bit sluggish but not too bad; there was hope. And then, wham!, I slammed into the train tracks at the bottom of a 38 mph downhill and there went my tire. Yay, lucky me! I get to practice my tire-changing skills, but at least I had my personal "pit-crew" by my side. Tire successfully change, we resumed our ride.

Initially my legs felt refreshed after the brief tire-changing interlude. But, as I continued to puff up the hill sans any momentum the downhill before it would have provided, all the power seemed to drain from my legs. Eight months of hill-avoidance (and the previous night's wine) was taking its toll. The effort to turn the pedals felt momentous. I imagined remnants of the Malbec and buttery popcorn still trudging through my veins, sapping my energy and slowing everything to a crawl--my reflexes, my endurance, my motivation.

Finally, I reached the top of the hill and turned onto a long stretch of road surrounded by fields and began to gain some speed. "Huh," my dull brain thought. "What a nice, calm day. I almost always have to push through a headwind on this road." Duh. This should have been my sign.

I looked longingly at the turnoff that would take me home, begrudging the fact that we were tacking on 10 miles to today's ride. Frowning, I passed the turnoff and tried to rally myself with the knowledge that there was only one more  "uphill" road to go and then it should be smooth sailing. No such luck.

After completing the last "uphill" stretch, I turned and was met with what I thought was a headwind. I began to mutter and complain out loud. I really wanted the ride to be over. Today was one of those very rare days where it just did not feel like fun. "The next road is fast, almost all downhill," I said to myself, trying to motivate for the final push home.

And then, of course, what always seems to be a headwind never really is. I turned onto the "fast" road and was hit head-on with the "real" headwind, steady and unrelenting. My whining accelerated as my speed plummeted. Oh yeah, I thought, my muddy brain finally finding a moment of clarity. This is why that other road felt so unusually easy--you had a tailwind, dummy. 

Tired of my complaining and, perhaps, in a bid to be rid of my grumpy self, my bike fought back and delivering another flat tire. Well, semi-flat. Perhaps there was a small, slow leak? I opened another CO2 cartridge and added some air, hoping it would be enough to get me home. It wasn't.

Turning onto the next to last road on the next to last big hill, my back tire felt like it was being dragged through mud. I got off the bike at the top of the hill and the tire was definitely soft but not completely flat. I was almost home--only about two or three more miles to go. I'll just stay out of the saddle, shift my weight onto my arms and try to make it. Down the hill and back up again before--thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. Completely flat! At this point, I could no longer be considered ladylike. Sailor was more like it.
The curvy, hilly road had no shoulder so I had to continue thunking my up the next hill (this can't be good for my rim) until I reached a driveway and turned in, hoping it was not inhabited by Cujo or some crazy hilljack. My husband was up ahead and I hoped he hadn't noticed my disappearing act and turned back. I called him. "My tire's cooked," I said, suggesting he continue home and return to retrieve me in the sag wagon. Thank goodness for pit crew!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Triathlon Morning

I wake before dawn and travel to my destination in the early morning darkness, my hands wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee.

In the chilly morning air, I stand shivering at the water’s edge with bare limbs and bare feet, longing for my warm, cozy bed, wondering why I am doing this and knowing that no sane person would.


The sound of the horn sends us splashing into the cold, dark water, arms and legs thrashing, lungs burning. The freezing wetness will seep through the neck and arms of my wetsuit, which is choking me.

On numb legs I will stagger across the beach and into the transition area, attempting to peel the thick wetsuit from my damp skin. The coldness that I’ve adapted to will consume me once again as I stand vulnerable and exposed to the elements, the crisp morning air causing my arms and legs to grow prickly with goose bumps.

I will do my best to tug on arm warmers, shoes and a helmet, my shaking body hindering my efforts, before mounting my bike and pedaling away, a soggy, quaking blur on wheels.

The rising sun will gently lift the frost from the air. My legs will churn faster and faster in an attempt to gather both speed and warmth. In the first few minutes I will shiver and wipe my nose as the icy breeze crashes into my body. I will hope for hills so I can rise from the saddle and pedal harder, raising my heart rate and heating my muscles.

Eventually, the moisture will have evaporated from my skin, my heart will be pumping wildly, and my spirits will be soaring as I glide along the undulating road and into the transition area once again.

I am hot now, my heart and lungs working overtime to keep the engine running, to tackle the hills on foot and push as hard as I can. The finish line appears like an oasis in the dessert and I move my legs faster, though I can barely feel them now.

My chest feels like it will explode as I make the final sprint to the finish, surging forward with everything I have and wanting to collapse in a heap of elation and exhaustion. I exchange my timing chip for a medal, which I proudly hang around my neck.


Finally, my breathing will slow, my muscles will tighten and my heart will swell—with pride and happiness, with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.  I will have forgotten about the darkness and the cold as I bask in the light and the warmth of the insanity, the experience, the adventure.

This is who I am. This is what I do. I am a triathlete. 


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Be the decisive element

Came across this today; very powerful.                                              


"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The shopping cart incident

Taper week is off to a great start. (Not really).

I am not getting enough sleep, I am still babying my right knee, and I drank too many margaritas this weekend.

Then, the cable on my bike began to fray, a sharp wire stabbing me in the finger during my ride on Sunday. (On second thought, maybe the margaritas were a good thing; it was a kickin' ride :) 

Hmmm . . . take a chance on the cable holding up and risk a complete break on race day, or take the bike to the bike shop?

Race Pace Bicycles

To the bike shop I went, squeezing the errand into an already busy day.

There was also a
PetSmart - Pet supplies and pet products for healthier, happier pets
near the bike shop and the dog was getting low on food and was completely out of pig ears, and you can't have that, and my youngest daughter wants "dog things" for her birthday, and so into PetSmart I strolled.

I collected two bags of Pig's Ears (on sale), two dog books for the daughter, and heaved two 40-pound bags of kibble onto the cart. $120 later and I was on my way.

It was chilly, breezy and overcast outside, and I saw the Starbucks Coffee Company at the end of the shopping center, shining like a warm, welcoming beacon. Blinded by Starbucks, and motivated by the thought of a warm, frothy latte, I stepped quickly into the street; a car was closer than it appeared, approaching faster than it should have been. I sped up, made a sharp turn toward my car, and rammed the cart directly into a speed bump/hump/traffic calming device, whatever you call it.

Yes, I saw the big yellow hump. Yes, I thought the cart would simply roll over it. Yes, I was very wrong.

The heavy cart came to an abrupt and violent stop while I, a hapless victim of Newton's Law of motion, kept moving forward, crashing into the cart that had lurched forward, like a bucking bronco trying to rid his back of an unwanted load. A 40-pound bag of food went flying, narrowly missing the oncoming car, and my right knee (yes, the very one I'm babying) collided with the metal bar on the back of the cart, hitting the soft, vulnerable spot between kneecap and ligaments.

I tried to right myself and my knee buckled; like it had suddenly gone to sleep.Kinda like when you hit your funny bone on your elbow, except it wasn't funny.

The car kept on motoring without a second glance at me or the bag of dog food a mere inches from his front tire, but this wonderful passerby--a lovely, primly dressed, older woman--took pity on my poor, clumby soul, and, after asking if I was okay, she deftly plucked the bag of dog food from the asphalt and deposited it back into my cart as easily as if she were scooping a small Chihuahua into her arms. It's like she was the grandma version of Clark Kent who suddenly appeared from her car with a red cape flying behind her. My hero!

And then she vanished as quickly as she'd appeared. I limped to my car, making a mental note of the lessons I'd learned that day:

1) Shopping carts and speed bumps do not mix.
2) Older ladies are surprisingly strong!
3) I am still a klutz.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The truth about salad

Remember Popeye? Getting strong eating his spinach? Or Bugs Bunny and his carrots? Where have all the veggie-loving cartoons gone?

The thing is, the FDA has, for years, been duping the American people into thinking that grains should make up the bulk of our diets, and gives milk and dairy a more prominent role than necessary, too:
Food Pyramid
Fact is, for optimal overall health benefits and athletic performance, veggies are number one! Here is the food guideline you should really be following (from Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet,

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid

Ever heard of "too much of a good thing?" Not so with veggies. You can eat as many as you want, all day long, every day, and you're doing something amazing for your body and your health. It's unlimited!

So here's a few truths about veggies:

1) Eat at least one large salad a day; two if possible.

2) Veggies can be boring, so keep it interesting by eating a wide variety of veggies and spruce them up a bit with light dressings on the side, or 2 T. of hummus.

3) Be brave; try something new. Since joining my CSA, I've tried veggies I've never even heard of, like kohlrabi, and others I would have ignored in the store, like parsnips and radishes.

4) It's harder to eat salads when it's cold outside; harder on your digestive system too. In the winter months, steam, stir fry or sautee veggies; a little olive oil and garlic goes a long way. Toss with toasted slivered almonds.

5) Salads and veggies take time to prepare. You'll be more likely to eat them if all the cutting, peeling and chopping are done in advance so you can "grab-n-go." When you make salad for dinner, make several extras to keep in the refrigerator and eat throughout the week. Cut carrots, celery and cucumber for quick snacks.

6) Salad makes the digestive system work--"cleans the pipes," so to speak, and keeps everything healthy . . . that said, avoid salads within four hours of a workout. Don't say I didn't warn you.

7) Don't forget the protein. Add lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, tofu, nuts or cheese to salads for a protein boost.

8) Bet you didn't know this one, but salad can be embarrassing. This, I learned, after packing a small salad in my daughter's lunch one day. She came home from school and complained, "Mom, salad is embarrassing." Hey, what are moms for?

9) Salad, it's what's for . . . breakfast? Some fitness article I read touted the benefits of eating salad for breakfast, the author as enthusiastic as a kid at Christmas about the "unlimited" portions of veggies he could eat at breakfast each day. Sorry, I love veggies, but I can't rally myself to support this one anymore than I can get on-board with the Japanese's penchant for eating fish for breakfast, despite sushi being one of my favorite foods. Salad has its place. A large one for lunch and another one with dinner works for me, but if you can manage salad for breakfast, more power to you!

10) Just do it. For some, it may be an acquired taste, but the more you eat veggies, the more you will get used to them and maybe even come to love them, or at least like them a little. Or tolerate them. Buy local when you can, for better-tasting produce and for the betterment of the environment, and organic when possible. Fill your plate half way with produce, a quarter with protein and a quarter with grains. My dinner last night: Grilled wild Alaskan salmon, asparagus with mimosa topping, roasted beets with olive oil, garlic and goat cheese, and about 2 T of long grain & wild rice. A side salad would have made the perfect appetizer, if only I'd prepared one in advance!