Wednesday, August 29, 2007

If Nothing Else, I’ve Learned Not to Quit

As prescribed, I tried to rest my legs on Monday and, perhaps, convince my calf muscles that it’s OK to feel better now. The latter didn’t work, but my muscles weren’t the stumbling blocks for my Tuesday-evening training run.

Fall 2007 is my first autumn as a runner (I had tried to start running in March 2006, but stopped over a trip to Boston that August… and didn’t resume until January 2007). While I’m looking forward to checking out the scenery, crunching dried leaves and feeling the autumnal breeze, I haven’t grasped when I’m going to fit in my training with the skies getting so dark so soon these days.

My logical answers of before or after work are peachy… until you consider my ill-lit surroundings. I’ve already been hit by a car once, and that was in the bright light of day!

Tuesday night I made the mistake of rushing out for my 7-mile run about 20 minutes after a high-protein dinner. The workout included:
  • 3 miles warm-up at 9:30/mile
  • (1 mile walk, not counted in distance)
  • 3 x (2:00, 2:30) aerobic intervals ~ 2 miles
  • 2 miles cool down at 9:30/mile

What’s that walk doing there? Well, by the time I finished my three-mile warm-up, I felt like my dinner was tickling my uvula. Bleh! So, I slowed down and walked for a bit. It was only going to be a couple yards walking at first, but my discomfort persisted. I circled the neighborhood, and as I approached my drive I was angling to head home.

But at the end of the mile, the shame of quitting overwhelmed my fear of vomiting. One more mile, I thought. So, I set my watch for the aerobic intervals, thinking I might finish one set. I have a love/hate relationship with the 2:00+ intervals—they’re challenging as all get out and leave me super whipped… but I love the feeling of being done. Not only do I feel strong and fit, but running my cool down flies by with the greatest of ease.

Accordingly, the two-mile cool down did fly by. Thankfully so: it was pitch black outside by the time I was wrapping up, and there was no Ninja Warrior to watch my back! Our street is lined with fashionable street lights that pop up every 75-100 yards on the street—just enough to leave vast dark pockets in which people disappear. I just don’t dig that.

What do I dig? The post-running sleeps (it’s the precious sister of the runner’s high). I showered after my run, dressed for bed, laid down and never really got up until 5:25 a.m. on Wednesday for my morning swim:

  • 1,500 yards free warm-up
  • 6 x 250 yards free alt. normal pace and sprint pace
  • 6 x 100 yards alt. free and butterfly
  • 400 yards free cool down

Admittedly I wimped out early: it’s only a 4,000-yard swim workout. Not that it’s anything to sneeze at, but my yardage had been steadily growing. But my darned calf muscles!

My weeklong swim break rust shook off 400 yards into the warm-up, but I could feel my tight left calf tinge every time I pushed off the wall (and for anyone counting, that’s about 160 painful pushes!). I found that if I kicked hard and kept the muscle really warm, it didn’t hurt as much. Similar to the run, I was convinced that should definitely quit way early, but I seem to have lost that ability. Not sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing yet!

So, I cut my swim down to about 1.25 hours and soaked my leg in the hot tub for the extra time. It was still a little tight during the day and only slightly yick during yoga. Tomorrow’s training calls for another 7 miles, which I will feel out before I hurt myself. There’s just something ominous about fall right now… and I don’t want to have to recover from an injury again.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekend Update: 26 Miles Down for Week 2 Half Training

After work on Friday I picked up my car from the shop and headed to Heinen’s to buy a shut-in’s worth of produce, including Italian plums, strawberries and a boatload of super juicy peaches.

Aside from my recent focus on my diet, the trip has little to do with my training, but I didn’t want to start off on a bummer note about not being able to swim on Friday. New-but-old car duties call. But at least now I have a safe ball joint… and some day I might understand what that means.

Friday did, however, serve as a pleasant and much needed day of rest. It’s been a high-intensity couple of weeks on all fronts. Plus classes start on Monday! Neil and I took a slow, pleasant walk on Friday evening, but the rest of the day was all about kicking my feet up and letting my legs rest.

Saturday, on the other hand, was all about straight shooting. I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and headed right out the door for my 4-mile run. I’ve been sticking to my neighborhood and the community across the street lately because it offers some variation of terrain—plus I know my distances at most points. Saturday morning was a great time to run and an even better contrast to the hellish conditions from Thursday evening (I can just feel that slick humidity sheen forming on my skin just thinking about it).

The only problem was a couple of tired legs and still-tight calf muscles. When I first kicked off from my front door, I felt the tightness and took a few more minutes to stretch, but they really only started to feel better once they were warmed. Right around 3.5 miles!

It was a mid-range training run, which I took around 9:00/mile. Then I came inside, took a shower, did some light weight training, ate breakfast, dressed myself up for a party and then headed to my friend’s wedding in North Canton. My friends and I danced for a couple hours (I’m all about the sprinkler, lawn-mower, q-tip, and that dance Olive does at the end of Little Miss Sunshine), which I think made for some bonus aerobic training. And laughing that hard is better for abs than any crunches I can do.

We visited friends after the wedding. While Neil and his buddies watched the Browns, I chatted with my tri-friend Fran, who will be racing her first triathlon at the Akron Women’s Triathlon on Sept. 15. It was a blast to share my first experience stories, as well as the things I wish I had known or considered before my first race (i.e., bring extra shoes for after your transition area is set up, have a pan of water available to quickly clean the sand off your feet, getting kicked in the face doesn’t really hurt too much).

My sleepy head didn’t hit my pillow until 1 a.m., so waking up this morning wasn’t as pleasant as most days. On the bright side, I have noticed a sleep pattern over the past several months: if I go to bed at midnight or later, I will wake up groggy regardless of how many hours I have slept.

Does that sound silly? If I get to sleep within or before the 11 p.m. hour, I can wake up and feel refreshed at almost any reasonable morning time (say, 5 a.m. or later). But if I get the same number of sleep hours after getting to bed later, it just feels all wrong. Sigh. I suppose I’m not a college student anymore.

Today was no different. I woke up at 8:30 a.m. and then snoozed until 9:30 a.m., which is oftentimes almost the middle of my day! I ate some breakfast and lugged around. By 11 a.m. I was thinking there was no way I would get any running done. So, I did some weight training, thesis reading, Indians baseball watching and napping until 6 p.m. rolled around.

Fortunately for me, my laziness annoys me. I felt irritated by sitting around all day, so I grabbed a few bites of a Think Thin Crunchy Peanut Butter bar (it was yum!) and headed out for an undecided distance.

My training plan called for 8 miles today—the conclusion to a 26-mile second week of my half marathon training—which I didn’t think I could complete. But when I stepped out into the lovely day, I was hooked. It was sunny and breezy with light air and temps in the lower 70s. Ahh. Plus, our neighborhood Ninja Warrior was practicing his nunchucks in a nearby parking lot… and what’s cooler than that?

My warm-up was laid back at 10:00/mile for the opening two miles of the run with one stop to stretch these tight calf muscles. I felt a little looser by mile three and ran miles 3-6 around 9:30/mile. My pace was a bit off today, but more so from my daylong lethargy than the fatigue I felt on Thursday. Or perhaps I’m still recovering from that fiasco!

I briefly spoke to Ninja Warrior as I circled the mostly empty parking lot that is his training space. He has a shaved head, an Eastern European accent and the cheerful demeanor that you wouldn’t expect from a Romanian Ninja Warrior. He mentioned that he would like to add some running and endurance training to his regiment soon, so I invited him to run with me around the neighborhood whenever he was ready. But now I’m wondering whether he’ll be carrying the nunchucks as he runs. I just don’t think our sidewalks are wide enough for that type of action.

As I finished mile six, I was finally feeling warmed up, loose and ready to take off. It’s been a while since I had that refreshed-after-several-miles feeling. Since mid-June, to be exact. In fact, today’s 8.25-mile run was the farthest I’ve run since I stumbled over my sciatica. I’ve missed reaching that threshold at which your body kind of forgets what it’s like to not be running, so your breathing, pace and effort just feel normal (credit to Landon for that description).

So, I stretched out the last couple miles at about 9:00 pace and carefully strode home. I took a cool shower and ate dinner… all with my fingers crossed that I could please stay healthy this time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rough Thursday is OK

I’ll admit that I’m weather-finicky if and only if we can get a respite from the heat. Sure, I didn’t like the nonstop rain, but some balance in the weather force would really make for a more pleasant winding down of summer—and better runs.

While my will power had an all-star day on Tuesday, I wasn’t expecting a repeat performance today. I ate a Think Green chocolate chip bar with a pint of water around 4:45 p.m. and then jetted (or shall I say Jetta-ed) home for my next run.

The ride home didn’t bode well for the workout ahead: I was breaking a sweat just sitting in the car with the windows down. And not only was it hot, it was super muggy. I had a few moments in which my mind fought back and forth about whether I should run, sleep or yoga, but I stopped thinking, got dressing and went running.

Right away I noticed that my calves were tight, which is strange for me because my calves are never tight and they felt fine all day long. I stretched for a bit and then started my opening 4 miles r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y, about 10:30/mile. After the first quarter, I picked it up to about 9:00/mile for the next half mile around my neighborhood. I pushed it up some slight hills and tried get some kick into my run, but the sun was taking it out of me. And by the end of 1.5 miles, I started wheezing. I hate wheezing.

So, I took my pace down around 9:30-10:00/mile and finished the rest of the 4 miles before I headed inside. It was just too darn hot and my body just wasn’t having it. Not only was my breathing all wrong, my hands and feet were swelling too. Ugh.

I ate a protein-rich dinner and chowed an apple with cinnamon until the sun chilled out around 8:15 p.m. It felt like I was cheating on my workout—taking a little over an hour break—but I would have felt worse if I just didn’t finish it at all.

Then I took to the streets again to start my 4 x 1:30 aerobic intervals… but not before a half-mile warm-up. Again with the tight calves. Still I pushed through the warm-up and then built up to the intervals, which were much more difficult tonight than the past week and a half. My pace on the intervals and the 6 pickups that followed was probably double an good night’s pace, but I took everything my body was giving.

I guess all nights can’t be gems. Nevertheless, I finished my total 7 miles for Thursday’s training and am ready for a Friday of rest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tired Legs Aren’t So Bad

If Monday’s cycling didn’t tire out my legs, Tuesday afternoon’s 50-minute power vinyasa yoga stop had them pooped. Because showed 4-7 p.m. as the only bright spots of the day (I saw sunshine!), I had planned to run my assign 7-mile workout right after work. But my body just wasn’t having it. I was hungry and fatigued.

Once I started making dinner, I was trying to rearrange my Wednesday schedule to fit in my 7 miles. And once I ate my salmon Florentine roulette with capellini dinner and then took a nap, I thought the night was lost. It turns out, however, it was just a power nap.

By 8 p.m. the sun was gone and the darkening sky and gloom were back. I strapped on my shoes, popped a strawberry Shot Blok and went on my way. The night’s workout included:
  • 3 miles warm up at 9:00/mile
  • 2 x (2:00, 2:30) aerobic intervals (AI)
  • 2 miles wrap up and warm down (8:40/mile, 9:00/mile)

I started running with way too much food in my stomach—let’s just say that I made too much capellini and I was happy to eat the leftovers—but the heaviness subsided after the first mile. In fact, I was surprised at how much kick I had for that warm-up… I thought it was going to be the week’s biggest struggle.

What made it even easier was that at around 2.75 miles there was a tall, dark and handsome guy standing at the end of one of the parking lots I jog around. He was wearing his running shorts and his New Balances, and he was waiting to hand me my imaginary water. It was Neil!

He knew how hard I had to push to get myself out the door (especially at night), so he joined me for the last quarter mile of my warm-up, which we ran at a steady and healthy pace, and the first AI. Even as we passed the drive to our apartment, he kept going with me. We ran a strong 2:00 AI and then jogged to recovery.

I didn’t think it was healthy for him to do too many higher-intensity runs, so after our recovery I suggested he jog it home as I took off for the 2:30. He must have covered at least a mile at a great pace, and I’m very proud of him. You go, Neil!

And I was kind of wishing I was taking the jog home with him as I hit :40 of the 2:30! These aerobic intervals are absolute killers—and that’s why I love them. I’m not running these sets too hard (as my instructions say, it’s a tempo “somewhere between comfortable and ‘Hey, I'm workin' a little here.’”), but I am beginning to feel their effects on my normal pace.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the AIs reinforce in my spatial memory what it feels like to stretch my legs, lift my knees and kick my feet back. It’s a nice change of pace from my tendency to slump into a lethargic jaunt for greater distances. And I remember the good stride when I start to slump. Plus, with the higher intensity bits, my 8:40-9:00/mile runs feel like cake. And I like cake.

The only uncakey thing about the last two miles was how dark it was getting. I’m not generally afraid of the dark (unless, of course, it’s in a cold, damp basement… but we’re all afraid of cold, damp and dark basements, right?), but my neighborhood isn’t particularly well lit. At all. I pushed to get the last two miles done and get myself off the streets. Where did summer nights go? I suppose I’ll have to start running earlier.

One of the dumbest things to do while pushing through the warm-up/don’t-want-to-do-this part of a workout: think about training you have planned for subsequent days. What was I doing, for example, thinking about my Wednesday morning swim when I started feeling heavy, tired and stitchy during the first mile of my warm-up? Being an idiot.

I thought at that point that there was no way I would wake up at 5:25 a.m. to get a lane, and, if I did, I would have to make it a short workout. But it wasn’t. I woke up just fine (a couple minutes earlier so I could get up, eat, dress and drive to the rec. center in time to be part of that group of people waiting in line get in right at 6 a.m. sharp) and swam my 4,500-yard/~2.5-mile workout:

  • 1,000 yards free warm-up
  • 10 x 125 yards alt. IM order, plus extra free
  • 7 x 200 yards alt. free and one-arm fly
  • 13 x 50 yards free sprints
  • 200 yards free cool down

And it only took 1.5 hours. I spent most of the swim giving my legs a rest, which is what I will continue doing throughout Wednesday. They can use it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can I Please Ride a Stationary Bike in the Triathlon?

Rain, rain, go away! Take a day off and come back on Wednesday. Geez!

Instead of running the Perfect 10-Miler on Sunday, Neil and I headed out to the baseball fields next to our apartment and started building an ark. So, pair up and come over!

Actually, near early evening I had had enough of sitting around waiting for a break in the rain. I jumped in my [new] car, which had trouble starting and needs a new battery, and was about to head to the rec. center track when the universe gave me a break. It stopped raining. Without hesitation, I jumped out of the car and started my 5-mile run for Sunday.

It was drizzling when I started running and only picked up 2-3 times for a few minutes during the workout. Only after I went inside did it start to truly pour. Good thing it was a quickee!

I was still pretty jazzed from Saturday’s race, which pretty much canceled out the rain discomfort. I took out the first two miles with stretched legs and a steady pace around 9:00/mile. For the second two miles, I tried to pick up the pace while maintaining control of myself. It was steady again at 8:35/mile. Then I cooled down with around a 9:00 mile.

And that completed my first full week on a training plan. Not only have I felt more motivated to run because of the plan in itself (if I have something solid and written down, my guilt will never let me leave it undone), but because it offers me the variety that I was too running dense to realize I needed… or at least how to incorporate it.

This first week was pretty simple: about 20 miles total. But it’s helping me kick and scratch my way back to the 25-30 miles I was completing pre-sciatica June.

So, I’m sticking to that plan and have establish a pretty good strategy (for now) for swimming. What’s next? Cycling and diet.

On the cycling front: I took lunch to cycle 12 miles across vaulting and plunging hills on a stationary bike. It’s wholly different than real cycling (especially since it only took 30 minutes for me to ride the 12 miles… we all know that’s not accurate!), but it helps with my general muscle groups and reinforces the idea that I need to constantly pedal.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I’m hoping that and a new bike frame (to go with the racing tires that have been sitting in my dining room since… April?) might get me out of the cycling dungeon in future triathlons!

Now, when I say diet, I don’t mean it in the trendy sense. I’ve been a lifelong healthy eater and fish-a-vegetarian (I just don’t dig meat texture, it’s not an ethical thing—sorry!), but I think everyone needs a little training-diet-introspection. For instance, I hadn’t realized until recently how lacking I was in protein and other bit vital to rebuilding my body. Ouch!

For the next several weeks, I’m going to keep track of what I’m eating, how much and when. It’s a process I’ve regularly undertaken for most of my life (a habit I picked up from my dad, haha), but one that I can use to understand what foods affect my training and performances, when it’s best to eat and how much. Right now my eating habits are almost always based on general good judgment, but nothing targeted. We’ll see how it goes.

But I’m not going to lie to you: having cupcakes in your diet is not a bad thing. Did you see how well I ran (for me) on Saturday?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nothing Else to Do on a Saturday Morning But Win My Age Group

A couple months ago, I wondered how the hoopla I made of races affected my performance. Race after race I’ve described in gory detail how something in my terrified-of-running subconscious arrests my legs at race time. Salty recommended that I casually enter a race someday—without the mess of countdowns and gear-ups that generally precede race day. Now there’s an idea!

Someday several months later…

I woke up around 7 a.m. this morning, thinking it was a work-week day. What a relief to be wrong! After a couple 5:30 a.m. swim practices, I was actually wide awake. My training plan for today called for a 5K at race pace, so I had a Think Thin chocolate fudge protein bar, hopped in the car and headed to Hudson, where the Vertical Runner email mentioned the Joseph Monastra Refuse to Lose 5K race would kick off at 9 a.m.

First and MainFor the first time, I took a real pre-race warm-up run. I’ve “warmed up” for races past, but it was typically a 25-yard jaunt that had more to do with leaving the car or finding a bathroom than gearing up my muscles. I wound through the First and Main area, thinking about the race and, of course, some cupcakes…

See: I had just vowed two weeks ago that I was swearing off dessert foods until I ran a race with an 8:00/mile pace or better. It’s been rough. My body just wasn’t feeling up to snuff this morning, so I wasn’t hopeful. Both of my hammies were tight, my lower back was hinting at some future discomfort, and the energy that pushed me to drive to Hudson had subsided. At least I’m sticking with my training plan, I thought.

I had expected to feel a little tight: the past week included the sprints and intervals that I’m not accustomed to doing. Results of good training take time and practice. All I wanted to do this morning was run my assigned 5K at a “race pace.”

Nine o’clock finally rolled around and we shuffled toward the starting line. Somehow, I ended up in the very front. The Hermes starter announced we would begin in about two minutes at the sound of her bell.

Thirty seconds later something like a secret starting gun sounded and we all took off! Hermes woman fumbled for her bell and rang it right away. We started off running down a slight hill and for two whole glorious seconds I was winning the race. Ahh. Good times.

After those first two seconds, the typical surge of people sprinting past me at the beginning washed by, and I tried to start this race a little faster than usual. My legs had cooled down since the warm-up, but I could definitely feel the difference between my typical racing legs and the ones I had today! Was it the "casual" race, the lessened hoopla, the intervals? Maybe the allure of cupakes?

1878 Victorian/colonial in Hudson villageThe real obstacle for this current house-hunter: Hudson village. Not only are the houses historic, pristine and gorgeous, some of them are for sale! For the first half-mile, I was trying to stay focused and to keep up a faster-than-usual pace, but there were houses with turrets, curvy trim and for-sale signs! What’s a girl to do?

Well, I remembered what happened last time I got caught up in race-time house-hunting (ahem, finished nearly last in cycling), unglued my eyes from the sideshow and thought about my stride, my extension, my follow-though. I only had 3.1 miles to work with here!

I was only feeling a little bit tight about five minutes into the race, so I took my pace up a few notches—just outside my comfort zone. And then I wondered: was I running faster or was my body just not up to snuff? My thought was that it’s only a 5K—even if I get pooped, I can still jog it home, right? It was the first time I’d raced a 5K (last week’s tri leg was a bit different for me), so tackling it took a little playing.

The group had spread out by the time I could see the 1-mile marker down the road, and I was surrounded by a bunch of kids (not including a nine-year-old girl named Jessica who kicked the race in 21:52!). At first I thought I was running uber slow to be at the kids' table, but I looked down at my watch and then passed the marker at 7:41! That’s a minute off my typical first mile. Woo hoo!

Confidence renewed, I tried to stay focused on my pace. The first two miles were mostly uphill, and I was looking forward to the run back and some down-hills. So, I was pretty disappointed (as were several other people I could hear cursing the course) when we veered away from the downward route back. Darn it! My mind and legs were so surprised by the turn of events that the next uphill was a killer for me. I slowed down way too much and crossed mile two at 15:56 (8:15 mile-two split).

So, I can’t lie: at this point I’m thinking that cupcakes are out of my reach and all I really want is a cup of Gatorade and a nap. I had lost my pacer (she took off on the hill that killed my spirit—it wasn’t even that big!) and I didn’t have the mental energy with which I had started. Lucky for me, I knew that I had the physical energy to finish strong. So, I mentally smacked myself back to reality and just tried to stretch out my legs and keep a strong stride.

Mile three passed without anyone calling out the time, and I didn’t even want to check my watch. With about an eighth of a mile to go, a ten-year-old kid with shaggy hair came flying up from behind me! Greg, who used to work at Kent State and had already finished the race, was cheering us from the sidelines. I looked at him and said, “I’m getting beaten my a little person!” So, the kid turned on the jets! Way to go! I sprinted after him, but he finished two seconds ahead of me (he probably helped me cut a few of my own seconds).

My final time: 24:22 (pace - 7:50/mile; last 1.1 mile - 8:26).

I hadn’t realized it at the time—my mental math was wrong—but I was totally cupcake-worthy! While I knew that my time was in the 24:00 area, I didn’t have a clue how/where I had finished. I talked to a couple of people (including Vince from Vertical Runner—he’s like a celebrity—whom I thanked for hooking me up with a killer pair of shoes) and then headed home.

Once I was home, I checked for results. Nothing. I had some breakfast, did some work, talked to Neil, made lunch, and by noon, still nothing.

Finally around 2 p.m. the results rolled in: I found my time and that I had won my age group! Yeah! I’ve never won my age group, and have never expected to win it… accordingly, I didn’t even stay for the awards! I wonder what I would have received? Anyhow, Neil played “We Are the Champions” for me—changing the lyrics, of course, to “Gina is the Champion… of her age group!”—and that was reward enough. How awesome!

Admittedly it was a small race with a slower pack than most of the events I’ve entered. But I’m still proud… and I still picked up cupcakes! So, there were some additional rewards.

1998 VW JettaI bought a new-to-me car today (a 1998 VW Jetta GLS, which is the car I drove and loved before I gave up driving for a spell), and once the former owner, Emily, dropped it off, Neil and I packed in for an inaugural drive and for a cupcake run.

The cupcake order: seven chocolate lava cuppies for Neil and "Main Street Chocolate Fluff," wedding white and half-baked cookie dough for me.

What a day! I had two cupcakes and will have to freeze-save the rest for my next goal. What can I say: the cupcake-carrot on a stick works for me!

By the way: it turns out that we all started at the sound of a police-escort motorcycle backfiring instead of a secret starting gun on the grassy knoll. Ahh, Hermes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another Morning at the Pool

OK, I’ll admit it: I’m kind of digging the early morning swims (where was this urge when I was in high school and had 5 a.m. practices?). I even tried making it earlier today—around 6:05 a.m.—but it was still packed and I started my swim in the open end of the pool.

For the first 2,000 yards, in fact, I swam around a staircase to turn at one end. And if you thought my spotting job in the tri was bad, you don’t want to know where I ended up when I was swimming backstroke.

I extended my distance, nevertheless, to this 4,400-yard workout:
  • 800 yards free warm-up
  • 4 x 100 yards free sprints on 2:00
  • 3 x 800 yards
    - 1 x 800 yards IM
    - 1 x 800 yards free
    - 1 x 800 yards alt. one-arm fly and free
  • 12 x 50 yards alt. free and IM order
  • 200 yards free cool down

To my surprise, doubling my pool frequency and increasing my weekly yardage eightfold has energized me. Hard swimming used to make me drowsy. I’d like to think that I have some magical will power or sense of motivation, but I think I’m still riding high on tri-fever. And I’d like to finish first in my age group for swimming next time, not second (or perhaps I should focus on not finishing last in cycling instead)!

Check with me in two weeks when I can’t stop napping ;-)

The only unfortunate thing with increasing yardage on morning swims is that I'm butting up against time constraints again. That's the reason I started swimming in the morning (my lunch hour only permitted around 1,500 yards) in the first place! My past two swims have been around 1.25 hours. Sigh. If only I could work training into my job responsibilities.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fun With Interval Training

Running high-intensity intervals on Tuesday tickled me: it was a butt-kicking workout and I had good, hard-sweating time with it. Generally, I enjoy running for the challenge of overcoming something I spent most of my life firmly believing my big butt would never let me do.

Here I am now on a plan to run half marathon (to run it well) and enjoying my training. Hee hee.

And today that plan had me run the following 6 miles

To steal some Web content, Runner’s World describes gentle pickups (in case you had as much a clue as I did—a.k.a. none) as:

“Walking, then slowly increase your leg turnover on a flat stretch for 100 meters—up to the point where you start to breathe hard. Hold it there for 10 to 20 meters, then gradually slow down. Walk to full recovery before you start the next one.” –RW

This break down of six miles was far more intense than Tuesday’s workout. Of course it started with twice the miles and ended with some real speed, so it wasn’t unexpected. And I jogged home with about thrice the sweat and a smile.

According to the training plan, the aerobic intervals and gentle pickups “improve your stamina, leg speed, running efficiency, and […] make your normal pace feel more comfortable.”

Results obviously require repetition and training, but I can feel my stride improving just after a couple days. I’m sure it’s 50 percent mental. But again, I had been running flat-fronted for so long that these faster intervals are finally letting me stretch my legs (without leading to dangerous speed while building distance). Plus, they make my runs interesting again!

I do have to admit, however, that I was a tad rundown at the outset: I returned to my power vinyasa yoga session during lunch today. The one that checks my hubris. But as I’ve previously mentioned, it leaves me with the type of soreness that makes me feel more powerful than pained, and maybe just a little bit tired.

One of these days I will complete the 90-minute workout (I think I’m up to 45 minutes), and I will be the Yoga Master. Or I’ll just settle for a gold star.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Off to an Early Start

Who would have thought the pool would be so packed at 6 a.m.? Well, it’s not uncommon. I had assumed there would be a bulk of people at the pool bright and early, but didn’t anticipate such a crowd at that hour. The rec. center opens at 6 a.m., and when I arrived by 6:10 a.m., every single lane was full.

But it turns out that early swimmers are particularly courteous. When I swim during other peak times, people tend to bury their heads and swim down the middle of their lanes—ignoring you even if you’re kicking and splashing for their attention. And asking to squeeze in is akin to asking for their secondborn.

The people swimming in the three marked lanes this morning (the rest of the pool is open; it was full too), however, split to one side or the other of their lanes as soon as I showed up on the deck. Ahh, some faith in humanity!

I hopped in with a pretty good swimmer dude and did the following 4,200-yard workout:

1,000 yards free pull warm-up

8 x 150 yards alternating:
· 4 x 150 yards free (counting strokes)
· 4 x 100 yards free sprint, 50 yards backstroke

12 x 75 yards alternating:
· 6 x 75 yards free
· 6 x 75 yards IM order

8 x 50 yards IM order

200 yards reverse IM

500 yards free cool down

Not only was it nice to swim among so many people for the wake (if I’m going to open-water swim, I need to get used to wake), I had pacers and competitors galore. As I mentioned, the guy in my lane was a strong swimmer. I didn’t talk to him much, but we did plenty of swim-dueling during my 1,000-yard warm up. Maybe it was just me.

This may be the weather talking, but early morning workouts aren’t remotely as painful as I had imagined. Don’t remind me I said that in December. Not only did I get my swimming done before the day even began, but I had plenty of time to get a full swim without the pressure of getting back from lunch or getting home before my evening was lost.

Two hours was more than enough to swim, shower, dress and make it to work. I guess I’m just fortunate that the pool is five minutes from my office. Now, if only I could get there before the crowd.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bring on the Half Marathon

What am I waiting for? The Akron Half Marathon 6.5 weeks away, so I started my half-marathon training plan this afternoon with a 6-mile workout that included

On the track:
  • 2 miles warm-up
  • 2 x (1:00, 1:30, 2:00) high intensity, :30 jog in between + end recovery lap

Outside/semi-hilly terrain:

  • 2 miles 9:00/mile pace

It was the first time I have ever done interval training and the first time my workout ever included anything other than the instruction “just run.” I’ve been itching to get some speed back (I was running too fast at the beginning; now I can’t get my pace back up!), and the interval training integrated into the half marathon plan I’ve borrowed from Runner’s World might be the key to getting my groove back.

And boy did I fly! The middle segment covered 2 miles, which I finished in a little under 13:00 (even with the resting jogs and recovery laps). Running at that speed, I could actually feel my stride coming back and my knees lifting—I wasn’t running flat-fronted anymore!

I must admit, however, that I wouldn’t have been able to push through the speed set without the two-mile warm-up. Duh, you say. Aside from my two weeks of sciatica recovery, I have never been hip to the warm-up—in running, swimming, cycling, anything. And it wasn’t that I thought it was a bad idea. I guess I just didn’t appreciate the warm-up for what it was supposed to be (a.k.a. I was lazy). So, I’ve long skipped the warm-up and just launched into whatever it is that I was doing. Silly me!

What surprised me most was that I actually got myself to run today. I wasn’t tired on Sunday after the race, but Monday and Tuesday were a little rough. Maybe it was all the excitement of reliving my first triathlon over and over again. That must have been it. But I think the allure of my first half marathon got me to the track today and then out on the street. And so it begins…

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Official Race Report (a.k.a. My First Tri)

Somehow I managed to sleep well on Saturday night and woke up ready to go on Sunday at 5 a.m. After I zipped on my tri-suit, I triple-checked that I didn’t forget anything (but I did) and headed out to Mentor Headlands. (My mom was nice enough to join me at that ungodly hour… and I think I might have collapsed of nerves and loneliness if she hadn’t. Thanks mom!)

We made it to the race location around 6 a.m.—plenty of time, I thought, to get my bike together. It generally takes me about 20 minutes and at least 35 new curse words to put on my back tire. But in the early morning darkness of my first triathlon, it went straight on. About 2 seconds flat! Woo hoo! My brakes weren’t as cooperative, but more on that later.

So, I went through the body marking (bib number on my arms, age and tri-race on my calf) and set up my transition area before I headed to the beach to find my starting position. By 6:45 a.m., I was ready to take off. Start time, however, wasn’t until 7:45 a.m. for my age group.

I'm in the blue-and-silver knee-length tri-suit, arms stretching behind me. We're waiting to get kicking.It was pretty cool on Sunday morning—it couldn’t have been more than 70 degrees outside—and I was a little, umm, concerned about hopping in the water. We all know what a wimp I am about water temps. But about 30 minutes before start-time, I tipped my toes in the water, which was surprisingly warm. In fact, it was probably a few degrees warmer than the air. Whew!

Within 10 minutes, I jumped into the water to warm-up a bit. At first I slowly walked into the water and then dived right in. The shock of the cold water and zero visibility of Lake Erie water scared the bejesus out of me. And I started to panic. I haven’t swum in open water/zero visibility in about 20 years, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the half mile. Eek!

But before I knew it, I was standing in the second row of my age groupers and listening to our starter count down the minutes. I felt like I was back at a swim meet again—and that familiarity calmed my nerves a little bit. The crowd (which included my mom, my step-father Philip, Neil, my cousin Natalie and my uncle Ermano—thanks, guys!) gathered around and started cheering for our start. How cool!

Group swim!I don’t even remember whether the starter said “go!” or “swim!” or if he sounded a horn… I just remember going into this group dive/scramble for the water, and off we went! I got kicked in the face thrice within the first 100 meters and smacked a couple more.

While swallowing and inhaling about 70 gallons of lake water in this stretch, I was able to keep moving, mostly swimming with my head above the water.

Getting used to the zero water visibility kept me in a panic until I reached the first buoy. I was worried about how to make the turn, how to get around people, how not to drown. But the crowd had loosened up and it was time to swim the major straightaway in the race. The biggest challenge: swimming straight.

I'm the blue cap... and I didn't even know that guy was near me.Let’s just say I swam a little bit off the beaten path. Like into Coast Guard territory. There were a number of boats on the outer edge of the swimming area, and I was right next to them, being waved toward shore. I mean, I was out there… Canadabound! I thought I had been doing a great job spotting the far-end buoy, but I couldn’t quite tell I was zig-zagging until I was way out.

Finally, I reached the second buoy and took the turn. I tried to bury my head and bring it home, but I was still swimming astray. Shore came faster than I expected, however, and I was a little bummed the swimming was over. I wasn't really winded and I kind of wanted to do it again!

Despite swimming farther than necessary, I clocked in at 17:30 for the first leg of my race. Woo hoo! I swam as far up onto the beach as I could and then trekked up the beach, where Jen C. and her husband were part of a much-appreciated volunteer and cheering corps (!), and into the transition area.

My next challenge: getting the sand off my feet. I didn’t really have a strategy for the sand removal, but I was very particular about getting my feet as clean as possible—biking 12 miles and running 3 with glass in my shoes sounded like bad news. So, my first transition was a bit long at 3:26. I figured that since this was my first race, I wanted to take my transitions slowly and make sure I did everything right.

Trying to ride a bike. If you look closely, you can see that I'm already smirking.Feet cleaned, helmet strapped, I walked my bike out of the transition area and tried to hop on. Tried. I had forgotten that I raised my bike seat recently because I had apparently been riding about four inches too low. So, as I pushed off into the cycling portion, I started laughing and almost wiped out at the starting line. Ahh, I never claimed I knew how to ride a bike.

The rest of the bike ride was pretty laughable as well. I started out onto OH-44 not yet sure how I had done in the swim. I pedaled up and down some mild hills in Mentor and Grand River, watching as the much more serious-looking cyclists flew by. At one point, we passed a roadside speed radar on which I registered 19 mph (I must have been going downhill!). Just then I could hear another cyclists whizzing toward me; he clocked 40 mph. Wowzaas!

It was about then that I started realizing how ill-prepared I was for the cycling portion. And I started actually laughing to myself that I had a) never ridden my bike 12 miles in one stretch; and b) thought riding my bike to work a few times would actually prepare me for the race. What's more is that my brakes were rubbing against my tires and squeaking at various intervals... and that just made me laugh even harder at myself (at least the tires made it onto the bike!). Nevertheless, it was a beautiful ride and a tough ride for me. I watched as cyclists flew by and tried to get a look at their technique, equipment, pedaling cadence and posture. And I was way off on all of them!

I must have been passed by pretty much everyone in the race, but I realized that I had done well in the swim. It wasn’t until about mile 6, in fact, that I saw a bulk of the sprint racers from my age group zoom by. They were, however, all passing me. So, I tried to stop dilly-dallying and pedaled a little harder to finish the 12-mile bike in 55:57. Just under my goal. Another woo hoo!

Almost there and happy to hear the finish lineMy second transition wasn’t as bad as the first. I had pinned my bib onto a t-shirt (I couldn’t swim with the bib and I didn’t want to dare pinning anything on me during a transition), so I threw on a t-shirt and shorts over the tri-suit. It didn’t turn out to be the coolest solution, but only took 1:39 in transition time. I chugged some Gatorade and made my way to the running course.

Many thanks to the Greater Cleveland Triathlon planners: the running course was relatively flat. The last thing I needed in my first triathlon was a St. Malachi/HOF-sized hill at the end of my race to make me cry!

I started off onto the path at a pretty moderate pace, allowing my legs to warm up to the situation (they weren’t quite sure why they were running so soon after cycling). Neil met me about 1/8 mile into the run, cheering me on and running with me for another 1/8. Then I meandered through the park and actually started passing people. My goal was to run about 10:00/mile, but I could tell that my increased adrenaline and pre-race calorie intake made room for a faster pace. I probably ran about 9:30/mile for the first half of the run, and then brought it home in about 8:30/mile.

Jogging to the finish... but that other lady is walking!On the last stretch, I was passing a bunch of people from the international and sprint races and tried to cheer them to the finish. I started picking up my pace, but didn’t run too fast because I was honestly having too much fun! I could hear the hoopla at the finish line and I thought, “I’m actually going to finish a triathlon! I don’t want this to end!”

So, I kept pushing toward the finish, passed my family fans around the bend and saw the end. And again I had finish-line problems! There was a mat about 25 yards in front of a big archway with a clock on it. Visually I thought finish was the archway. Duh, right? But the first mat beeped when you crossed it, people cheered, and the two people in front of me walked the rest of the way. Hmm.

I crossed the first mat, it beeped, and I slowed a bit, but jogged into the archway. And that, as it turned out, was the actual finish. Darn it! I could have cut a few seconds from my time, but who cares? I just finished my first triathlon!

And then we ate.My 5K time was 27:33 (8:52/mile) and my final overall triathlon time was 1:46:04. I headed through the finishing tent, collected my medal and free stuff, and then we ate!

That’s the long and short and long of it. As you might have guessed, I learned more about triathlons than I could have imagined—registration, timing chips, prep time, transition area, open water swimming, cycling with intent, running after cycling—and hope to use all of it in my next race.

Officially a triathlete. And a stinky one at that!But for today, I’m just going to relax and take it all in. Tomorrow, I start my training plan (yes, I actually have a plan!) for the Akron Half Marathon and the Portage Lakes Triathlon. Maybe I’ll learn to cycle for that one ;-)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm a Triathlete!

Well, I finally did it: I crossed the finish line at the Greater Cleveland Triathlon—my first—in 1:46:06. About 14 minutes under my goal. Not bad!

It was an early morning, a good swim, a… umm… leisurely bike and a nice run through the park. The final results haven’t been posted. But once I get my hands on those numbers, I’ll provide the full run down.

At least I made it!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Collecting my Energy for Sunday Morning

My only hardworking task today: eating.

I had butternut squash soup and potato-and-alfredo pizza for lunch and gnocchi with baked plums and sweet potatoes for dinner. Mmm... carbolicious, I tell you. And I can feel all that energy gearing up to be unleashed on Sunday morning.

I took a long, slow walk this evening (another cool night) to stretch out my tight right hamstring for 2.5 miles. It started feeling a little tight in the middle of the day, and I’m hoping that the muscle-warming walk and easy stretching will make it chill out. But the walk and stretching will be the extent of my activities for the next day and a quarter.

In the meantime, I’ll occupy myself with triathlon focus. Because the Greater Cleveland Triathlon will be my first, I’m wholly uncertain of what to expect of the race, the course and myself. And since I don’t know, my time goals are the following loose guesstimations (sans transitions… or with transitions mixed in?):
  • 1/2-mile swim in 30:00
  • 12-mile bike in 1:00:00
  • 5K/3.1-mile run in 30:00

It may be too much; it may be too little. According to last year’s results, it’s very middle of the road. And I’m all right with that. So, we dive in at 7 a.m. I’d like to be done by 9 a.m.

Now I just need to work on getting some good sleep!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Last Day Before I Rest

At first I thought that talking to my Dad, who is in Phoenix right now and said it was 109 degrees yesterday, put my mental heat index on ice. But as it turns out, the horrendous storms that passed through NEOhio and the “colder” fronts pushing with them brought the still-humid night to 70 degrees.

I hadn’t even planned on running when I returned home from dinner this evening, but I couldn’t help myself.

My carbohydrating kicked off this evening at Mangiamo!, where I had eggplant with fettuccine for dinner with Neil and Jeff. Tomorrow I’m making room for sweet potato something for lunch and potato gnocchi with baked plums for dinner. On the way home from New York, I read a nutrition article in the latest issue of Runner’s World that detailed the goodness that is potatoes. I’ve been craving them ever since.

Between the pasta, wedding soup, bakery’s worth of bread and a decaf black coffee, I was pretty much filled to the brim at the end of dinner. But when I stepped out of the car and walked toward my apartment, I knew the “cool” evening wasn’t to be resisted. So, I ran inside, topped off my dinner with about half a Think Thin chocolate fudge protein bar (I didn’t have dessert, so I had to, umm, balance my taste buds—hey, it wasn’t a cupcake), changed into running clothes and hit the streets around 8:45 p.m.

It was just another round-the-hood trot, but felt even better, stronger, looser than the last several runs. Was it the shoes? I don’t know. But it really helped my confidence. Yesterday’s swim made me feel all right about the first leg of my race; tonight improved my running outlook. And, well, the cycling portion will be what it is.

I had only intended to run for a short bit (in fact, I felt a bit full and had considered just walking… but these Mizunos just won’t let me!), but stayed out for around 45 minutes and 5.25 miles. My legs and core were a little fatigued from 40 minutes of power vinyasa yoga over lunch, but that soreness seemed to turn into strength and energy as I ran. Ahh, the magic that is yoga.

The only thing that really pushed me inside was the total darkness and threat of mosquitoes/West Nile virus. Plus, we have some nutty drivers around here who probably don’t yield to runners (as I know all too well), and I have a race in three days!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Morning Run, Ninjas and Afternoon Swim

So why didn’t you tell me running in the morning was awesome?

Almost every plan I had for training on Tuesday was thwarted (the pool was packed to the gills and beyond, it started hardcore storming one mile into my evening run), so I focused on weight training last night, had a restful sleep, skipped yoga this morning and took to the neighborhood streets at 6:30 a.m. for a really great run.

And boy was it muggy! I think I live with the blind notion that mornings are almost always cool. Not so. It had to be at least 80 degrees this morning with air so thick with moisture that I felt like I had a sticky film all over me. Yick! It did not, however, affect my run.

Nor did the ninja warrior practicing his nunchucks in the leasing office parking lot. Neil and I first saw Mr. Ninja, a stout and bulky man with a cleanly shaven head, when we dropped off our rent before taking off for New York last Friday morning. He was standing in the parking lot next to his Beethoven-blaring Rav-4 spinning, swinging and switching nunchucks from hand to hand. Since I am obviously the ninja in this relationship, I was the one who got out of the car to hand in the rent.

Oddly enough, Mariel and Eric introduced us to Ninja Warrior—a Japanese physical challenge show that is half Most Extreme Elimination and half superhuman Double Dare obstacle course (without the nose-picking event)—during our Brooklyn trip last weekend. It really has nothing to do with ninjas or warriors, but is one of those shows you catch on a lazy Saturday afternoon and secretly try to find on Sunday when nothing else is on. Not that I’ve ever done that.

But back to my run: I weaved through the parking lot, gave Mr. Ninja a nod and continued to feel great in my new Mizunos. All due respect to my previous life as an ankle-roller, but the greater ankle flexibility I have in these shoes has loosened up my stride and eased the warm-up period that used to burn my shins. What’s more is that my upper body even feels relaxed and my arm swings have finally begun to feel natural. I’m on my way, baby!

My goal for the morning was to run for 30 minutes. It’s not as much time as I would like to dedicate to running, but I a) am trying to rest a bit this week, despite my lazy-training in recent weeks; and b) had to get showered and to work by 8 a.m. Sticking around my neighborhood, however, enabled me to hit some minor hills and a few grades, check out a ninja dude and work on picking up the pace a bit.

I’m only running with a watch these days, so I had to guess my distance during the run and measure for certainty later (one of these days I’ll get back to that HRM). At least I know my times. In fact, my first “lap,” 2.06 miles down my street and around the condo community, went by in 17:55; the second lap, which was an abbreviated 1.3-mile cool down trip around the neighborhood, clocked in at 12:05. My total run was 3.35 miles around 8:57/mile pace.

I realize that while I felt great running today that I can’t quite expect the same miracle of energy from my shoes on Sunday. That whole swimming and cycling first thing might get in the way!

Today’s run left me wanting for water, however, so I skipped lunch and cut out of work early to get a full no-rush swimming workout for the first time in way, way too long. While I’m a strong swimmer, I know that I’m not near peak shape or speed… and I can’t expect to be with my poor excuse for a swim-training regiment of one 30-minute swim each week.

Thus I was surprised at how easily I completed my 4,000-yard workout this afternoon:
  • 1,000 yards free warm-up
  • 8 x 50 yards “perfect” stroke down, spotting stroke back (:15 rest)
  • 3 x 500 yards free (1:00 rest)
  • 300 yards one-arm butterfly
  • 300 yards reverse IM kick
  • 500 yards free cool down

What I call “perfect” stroke is essentially swimming with a correct stroke. In an ideal world I would swim that way all the time. But for this set I focused on every single inch of my stroke—from entry to pull and breathing to follow-through—for the first 25 yards, and then swam with my head above the water on the way back. I imagine that spotting might come in handy while swimming with many other people in open water on something of a “course.” But it gets tiring!

The only problem with today’s regiment: man, was I flippin’ hungry on the drive home! I was just lucky I hadn’t decided to bike to work today because I may have actually eaten my helmet or my cell phone.

For the past several weeks, however, I’ve been trying to pick up more protein than the average electronic and protective device. I’m not really a meat-eater (I’m big on fish), so I’ve been pretty protein-lacking for much of my life. No wonder I’m so short! And while I’m utterly crazy about cheese, I have a natural (read: hereditary) and slight cholesterol almost-problem that prevents me from fulfilling my protein needs with feta, cheddar, gorgonzola, chevre, soft swiss, hard swiss, colby, havarti, smoked gouda, brie… I’m sorry: I just went somewhere else for a minute. And now I need some fresh French bread.

One of the foods I’ve recently used to supplement my training diet is Think bars (i.e., Think Thin, Think Organic, Think Green, etc.), which provide up to 20 grams of protein, have one of those wholly appealing all-natural ingredient lists and are pretty darn dee-lish.

It’s only taken me nearly 30 years to realize that I need protein to grow and repair my body. And I’ll definitely need that protein as I train for the triathlons and road races to come.

Four days to go! Countdown with some Ninja Warrior...

Monday, August 6, 2007

What a Difference a Shoe Makes

Not long after I returned from my weekend in Park Slope (with an afternoon wedding stop in Montclair), I was itching to head to Vertical Runner for my next pair of shoes. I woke up this morning, took in some Namaste Yoga, and then headed to Hudson to find out what’s next.

Vertical RunnerVertical Runner, at 134 Main Street in Hudson (around First & Main), is a small store that was at first a bit intimidating [to a goof like me] with its wall of running socks, super-runner gear and much-better-than-Dick’s selection of running shoes.

What shocked me most: Vince, one of the store’s owners, actually took quite a bit of time to help me find the shoes for me. He looked at my feet and my arch, talked about how far I run and where, and recommended a few different shoes for my to try. At another place, which shall remain nameless (Dick's), I was told to "just try on whatever pairs I liked to see if they fit." It's no wonder I've suffered so much as a runner.

Since my favorite shoes so far have been my Asics Gel-Foundation 7 (we always love our first pair), I tried on Asics GT-2120—a good-looking structured cushioning shoe that felt great except for what seemed to be a lump under my left ball of foot.

Asics GT-2120The GT-2120, to me, felt like it had a platform sole compared to the other shoes I tried. On one hand, I thought the support and concrete-shield might somehow benefit my aging joint and these shoes might be a good decision; on the other hand, they just didn’t sing to my feet. I even tried on three different sizes, but there simply wasn’t harmony between my foot and that shoe.

And I don’t think my pretty little metaphors for my shoe's ill fit would be as cute after 10+ miles of pain.

I tried another pair of similar Asics and what I believe were a pair of Nike Air Pegasus 2007 that just didn’t jive with my feet at all, but not before I laid my feet in a pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 3.

The Mizuno weren’t the best looking of the four shoes by far, but they felt like they were my shoes. The shoes feel lower to the ground than any of my other shoes; they weigh next to nothing but feel trustworthy and stable; and the lower top is a welcomed change from the “training wheels” higher ankle on my last pair of Nike (granted, it really helped me run without rolling my ankle)

My new shoes: Mizumo Wave Inspire 3The shoes are a touch aesthetically challenged in clean white with orange accents, but they have GP written all over the inside. Besides, what do I care about the visual appeal of my shoes?

But if we really want to talk about being fashionably challenged, please refer to the Speedo triathlon suit I’ll be wearing at next week’s race. I bought the suit many month ago and have taken it swimming once, but thought it was time to take it for a run before the Greater Cleveland Triathlon.

I took the day off to recover from the weekend (and the realization that I have to go back to work!), and thought that 2 p.m. on Monday in my neighborhood should be desolate enough testing grounds. Nevertheless, I put the suit on with a pair of my new running shorts—I’m shameless in many respects, just not when it comes to, umm, super aerodynamic apparel.

The suit has a high neck, zip up the back and bike-short legs with a sticky-like material around the bottom. It had long been my impression that I would not only have zero support, maximum sweat and even more chaffing in this suit, but it turned out to be a good investment. So far.

My tri suitThe high neck didn’t feel constrictive at all—even if it will take some getting used to—and the suit legs stayed in place better than my super-awesome running shorts.

What’s more is that I ran past various groups of landscaping dudes, construction dudes and garbage-pick-up dues, and not one batted an eye my way (generally I’ve noticed that anything with some semblance of woman-running catches the eye and cat-calls of more guys than necessary).

Finally: the solution for distraction-free running.

I only ran a little over 1.5 miles because it was ungodly hot outside, and I’m not that used to the suit just yet. Plus, I would like to take the suit out on my bike tonight and get in some running after that.

Can I talk about the shoes, though? They felt fantastic. I had run them around the store and down the street, but I didn't quite pick up the spring and support I felt during my run. The greater ankle flexibility has opened up my stride a bit and made my knee extension far less laborious. And to think that I had never heard of Mizuno before this morning!

I’ve never been much of a crammer, but I feel like I’ll be cramming in brick workouts this week. While I’m a little disappointed in myself for dropping off on the brick workouts I had started earlier this summer, all I can do is power through and prepare better for the next. And I’ll have to schedule some resting time this week as well.

But by the end of Sunday, I should (if all goes well) be able to call myself an actual triathlete. I just need to finish! (Check out "Don't Let Life Become a DNF" from the August editor's letter in Ohio Sports and Fitness Magazine.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Back to New York

Despite the predictable unpredictability of work, I still managed to go for a bike ride with Neil on Wednesday evening and take a brief run around 11 a.m. Thursday. It was a quick, hot run, and I took it in my “old” pair of running shoes (the pair before my current pair).

I was wearing my old Asics cycling the other day and found that I liked the feel of them better than my current shoes. And they feel better on the road as well. So, when Neil and I get back from New York, I’m going to get my feet to Vertical Runner in Hudson—a running store that has been wildly acclaimed and recommended by just about everyone I know who runs in this area (which is about four people). It will be nice to know what my feet should be wearing these days.

This weekend, however, I will be wearing my dancing shoes because my friends Betsy and Dan are getting married in Montclair, NJ. Mariel has been gracious enough to let us stay with her on this trip, which is particularly useful because she a) is very hospitable; b) is an NYC tour guide/history doctoral candidate who has fascinating insights about the city; and c) has a much better handle on getting to Montclair than I do.

Most of my ideas about getting around the city don’t take party dresses and high-heeled shoes into consideration, so it’s nice to stick with someone who is swell and has a clue. Plus it’s going to be one steamy weekend, and I don’t think we would have much patience for any of my gaffes.

Perhaps I’ll even get to run in the city again. When we originally planned this trip (and I realized it was the weekend of the Cleveland tri), I looked around to see if any races were up on Sunday. What do you know? It's the New York Half Marathon! Maybe someone else will need to get married or engaged or house-warmed this time next year...

And then next weekend is the Greater Cleveland Triathlon! Charlie was nice enough to give me reassurance about commute-cycling vs. race-cycling (thanks, man). I’ve also been trying to get Neil to join the race as my insurance racer so I wouldn’t finish last. But then I changed my mind about Neil because I’d be pretty devastated if he could not train at all and kick my butt. And he’s competitive and naturally fit enough to do that (damn him!).