Saturday, September 29, 2007


There will be time for reflection later: I ran a half marathon!

The short story: I woke up early and slathered my leg in BioFreeze before heading to Akron and finding a parking spot within seconds (I thought you might have been worried). After jogging to the race area and hitting the bathroom, I slurped down a GU and got in position for the start. I wasn’t very strategic in my starting position, which I regretted when I got stuck in the jam behind the 9:00/mile pacer for the first 2+ miles.

My calf went from numb to dire to erased by adrenaline, but I finished my first half marathon in 1:54:10 (8:43/mile), which was good enough for 23/126 in my age group.

And the cupcake report: I had a hazelnut cupcake and took a “You must be chipping me” home. My running-stale stomach just wouldn’t have appreciated it the way such things should be loved.

But most importantly: thanks to Melissa, Jeff and Vincent for being my fan club and meeting me at the finish. It was the crowning moment of my race season to have you there. High fives to Stef, Dane and Ethan for hitting Main Street Cupcakes with us to celebrate. And a billion thanks to everyone who has given me words of encouragement and help over my whiney obstacles.

Ahh, running. It takes a village.

What a happy day! More on the race later…

Friday, September 28, 2007

Half Marathon: Here I Come!

Bloggers and friends are awesome. It’s been a down couple of days, but between comment-encouragement and an angel-hair-with-all-kinds-of-good-stuff lunch, I’m feeling all right.

And now my remaining anxiety is all about parking in downtown Akron. Sigh. There’s always something.

My plan: leave the house early tomorrow morning (I only live about 10 miles away, which as a lifelong Clevelander seems strange to me), find parking, stretch, warm-up, stretch and stay active. For all of my this-is-the-longest-I’ve-ever-raced events, I’ve burned up so much energy and water being nervous that I’m determined to distract myself and stay positive. Besides it’s only 13.1 miles. I can totally do that!

My goal: it all depends on the calf. Believe me, it’s not a cop out. But if I’ve feeling strong, I would be pleased with 8:30/mile (1:51:00). I know I’m capable of it without a bum calf. With a bum calf, however, I’ll aim for anything under 9:00/mile (1:58:00). And if I’m feeling flippin’ fantastic, the sky is the limit—that is, if the sky is 8:00/mile.

Last night I took another 3-mile brisk walk without even attempting to jog. My fingers are crossed that the extra-super rest will help. It’s been a very strange week—going from 31 miles in a week to… two. I think I’m literally itching to run. I jogged rapidly down the hall at work when I heard there was free food in the kitchen, but that was it.

My friend Jeff, however, has extolled the virtue of BioFreeze pain reliever gel (think BenGay but less stinky), which I know I’ve received samples and samples of in goody bags all summer long. I just hope I’ve kept some of them.

Finally, when I cross the finish tomorrow, my friend Melissa and I will head to Main Street Cupcake in Hudson for my celebratory treat. Good things come to those who wait… and run. If you’re feeling cupcakey, please join us!

For now I’m going to go join other marathoners/half-marathoners/relay-racers/10Kers in Akron for packet pick-up. All the best to Salty on her inevitably speedy leg of the relay and to everyone else running this weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Runners' Lost and Found

Tuesday’s much-awaited easy 2-miler was run at an “easy” pace, but the run was anything but easy. Was it the heat? I hope. Perhaps it was just a bad day. Whatever it was, I struggled to keep up with 10:00/mile.

For the entire run I felt like I was on the verge breaking out of the lactic threshold. But my legs just lingered. After the first mile (when my legs, even my pained calf, are generally warmed), my legs just felt stiffer and stiffer with each stride. For a minute I thought that the past several months was all a dream. I wasn’t a runner after all. I hadn’t run 12 miles on Sunday. I didn’t have a summer of races under my belt.

But then I started being practical. These weren’t my legs! Sure, they’re the stubby, knee-scarred things I’m used to trotting on, but they weren’t my running legs. So, when I came home I made and posted the following sign all over Summit County:

Missing: Two half-marathon ready running legs. Bum left calf. Capable of 8:00/mile race pace. Severe runner's tan.OK, I didn’t actually post that sign. But I am desperately trying to figure what has happened. I’m also trying to calm myself down. We’ve all had bad running days, so I’m pinning my hopes on that notion. Just a bad day.

And Saturday will be a fantastic day. Whatever legs show up at the starting line.

Now I’m going to rest until Saturday, stretch and ice my calf, and eat my carbs. Mmm, gnocchi and grilled plums, here I come!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flip flops and ice cubes

It’s finally here: my “taper” week (it’s a “taper” week because I don’t think my training is quite to the level—neither the highs nor the lows—to truly warrant being called a true taper… ahh, semantics)! Several weeks ago I was thinking that I wanted my taper week more than I wanted a vacation. And I’m not sorry.

But before I made it to this week, there was some hard running involved, such as my Saturday and Sunday runs. I’ve been adhering to my strict schedule of stretch-ice-stretch for my calf and I nixed all interval training last week. For once I was listening to my body. At least partially listening. And by Sunday I had incorporated pill-popping into the mix (OK, I took two anti-inflams and it was fab) and all was well.

On Saturday I completed a 6-mile round-the-neighborhood run. While it started with my slow-as-torture jog to warm up my calf (maybe 11-13:00/mile), the calf warmed up and the pain all but vanished after 2.5-3 miles. I had plenty of thoughts running through my brain—running and life related—that distracted me from the ouches, but then it actually dissipated. Mostly. I would get the occasional pang, tweak or yowzaas, but nothing stuck around too long.

After the first three miles, I thought about making up the intervals I skipped last Tuesday. Running guilt gets me every time! I had been thinking about that workout all week, and had hoped to finagle some intervals into my painful existence. Thankfully, I’ve actually learned something over the past several weeks about pushing myself too hard.

OK, I’m lying. I haven’t learned anything. It just hurt to run fast. Sigh.

But I was able to keep up a 9-9:30/mile pace for the last three miles without any discomfort. At least I can make the minimum pace, I thought.

Sunday, however, would be the true test.

Aside from seeing Skippy (whose prognosis has improved and whose skippiness peaked when he saw Neil “Dogman” B.) and spending quality family time, one of my favorite parts of spending a weekend in Euclid is running. If only I had known that during my 22 years there!

I woke up early Sunday morning and rounded the north-of-boulevard (NOB) blocks from East 219th Street to East 185th and back for a 12-mile roundtrip run. The only drawback: it was almost all flat. The largest grades were the wheelchair-accessible sidewalks and maybe a few dips in the road (in case you’re not familiar with the Akron Half route, it’s pretty bleepin’ hilly… to me).

On the bright side for this injured runner, there’s great novelty to finding a single roundtrip route that measures twelve miles in totally distance, but whose farthest point reaches only 1.5 miles from your mom’s house. I’ve had some distance anxiety the past several months, fearing that my knee, hip, back, ankle, body might give out when I’m dozens of miles from home. And while my calf was feeling OK yesterday, I had the reassurance that I should an injury trip me up, I could easily hop on one foot to safety. Either that or catch the bus.

This run started with my slow jog too, but the anti-inflams made it a cautious slow jog rather than a painful one. I trotted gingerly down one street before I grew more comfortable with my close-to-pain-free calf warming up. And after about ¾ -1 mile I was running at about 75-80 percent energy/flexibility/comfort.

My legs really loosened up after the second mile, so I picked up my pace to 9:30/mile and kept it there for the duration. It was a wholly uneventful run in itself, but it was entertaining to troll the old neighborhoods and check out some houses. Plus, it couldn’t have been a more glorious morning.

The only downside to a beautiful Sunday morning run was my rumbling belly. Everywhere I ran it smelled like someone was cooking something hearty and filling and warm. The open-house houses were baking apple pies, one church smelled like fried chicken and another like muffins.

About one hour into the run I was fighting off more drool than sweat, and I should admit now that this 12-mile run was supposed to be a 13-miler. Sigh. I admit it. I misjudged my distance (I was supposed to take another two streets past my mom’s street) and bolted up the driveway for some cream of wheat. Mmm. But I’ve totally convinced myself by now that my body needed the extra rest and the extra yums.

I didn’t have much downtime when I arrived, however: I showered and suited up for the Indians game. Twelve miles and the AL Central clincher? Doesn’t get better. Well, it could. But we don’t need to talk about the Browns.

And now I can rest. It’s two easy miles on Tuesday and likewise on Thursday. I’m looking forward to some stretch-ice-stretch-ice-eat action this week. I’ve even taken to wearing flip flops and all flat shoes this week to keep the stress off my lower legs. My calf claims that it will be ready for Saturday’s race. And my fingers are crossed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stretch, Ice, Rest

Man, am I pooped and achy! But after two days of feet-up with icy rest, I was able to hit the pavement today to run 9+ miles. I made it home early from work, so I dressed for running and then stretched, stretched, stretched. It wasn’t comfortable (again) to run at first, so I started to super-walk again. About a quarter mile later, I upgrade to an unsuper jog, which eventually grew into a slow jog. And by the end of the first mile I was running. Just gently.

Today was a deal run: I made a deal with myself that if my calf hurt and anything felt wrong I would stop. Sure, it felt wrong at first, but it warmed quickly and felt fine just in time for me not defy myself.

My first 3-mile lap around the neighborhood was 10:30-11:00/mile. I was being some aware and conscious of my gentle stride that I really lost track of myself for the first 20 minutes. With each left-step I wondered, ‘will this one hurt?’ and then ‘how about this one?’ I would feel the occasion tweak that would last 10-20 yards, but most of my discomfort subsided before it became a hindrance.

Lap two was steady and less deliberate, and I admittedly skipped my interval training for the day. I just ran the nine miles straight. In honor of those tempos, however, I did pick up the pace for miles 4-9 to about 9:15-9:45/mile. Again, the most painful part of running was the anticipation of pain. Step off the curb—is it hurt? Jump up on the sidewalk—am I OK?

The best distraction was my local UPS driver completing his early evening route. He follows the same path I run around 6 p.m., and we passed each other back and forth for a full three miles. So, if nothing else, I moved as quickly as a UPS truck… with stops.

On my final lap, I picked up the pace again… but not much faster than 9:30/mile. I started thinking about the half marathon and how slow I would have to run if my injury surfaced in the middle of the race. The Akron Half Web site indicates that runners must maintain a minimum pace of 13:40/mile. And by the time I finished multiplying 13:40 x 13.1 I was almost done with my last stretch! My right foot was getting achy again (as it did on Sunday), but only in a complaining could-you-please-stop-beating-me kind of way.

Not surprisingly, I’m totally beat. We taught workshops all day today (I did a cool one about podcasting and then some not-so-thrilling stuff), so I’m spent mentally and physically. But I have to admit it’s a good feeling. So many people come home from work too beat and downtrodden to even get a run. I’m grateful I can run. I wish I could tell my running-hater self from five years ago what I was missing all those years!

Now my nap-loving self is taking over…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blogger Triathlon: Race, Off-season and Injury Reports

First: Saturday’s race. We made it to Portage Lakes by 8 a.m., and that’s when the madness began.

The parka and flip flops As previously mentioned, I’m writing a feature story about Fran, a 59-year-old retired teacher who raced her first tri on Saturday, so I had to put my bike together, check in, find safety pins, set up my transition area and then catch up with Fran and friends for pre-race talks. All in a bulky swimming parka and flip flops.

You would know even if you looked outside on Saturday morning that it was cold. Neil and I guffawed as we drove past a highway-side car dealer on OH-8 whose lighted sign read 50 DEGREES. Not bad, I thought. It could be colder. In winter.

Amid the cold and rush for non-existent safety pins (they ran out right before I arrived; I had to tie my bib to my shorts and begrudge myself for not taking advice and getting a racing belt!), I never made it into the water for my planned warm-up. But I did make it into the 72-degree water for a quick wade. I was relieved to feel the water was warmer than the air. Until I stepped out.

I'm the first one in and second one out!As I walked down the beach to the start, my toes started to burn with cold. Flocks of tri-ready women waddled down the beach wondering what they were doing on the beach in this weather. And all I wanted to do was get back in that warm water… which explains why I was far and away the first body in the water!

It was only my second triathlon, but I think I can dig these in-the-water starts. No swift kicks to the face, no slaps to the jugular, no punches in the back. The only downside was that I had to tread water for 5-7 minutes before the start while most everyone else could stand (they said it was “chest-deep water,” but they apparently weren’t measuring it for a five-footer).

In-the-water startAs I treaded water, I saw the 2006 open water champion and tried to position myself behind her. She would be my guide. The starter explained the water course a number of times, but the 29 and under age group was a sea of chatter and “whats?” Despite the constant repetition of the directive “swim toward Adam; he’s the one waving,” I had a hard time deciphering my path. I could see Adam, but there were buoys and kayak between us.

But I didn’t have time to worry because we were off before I knew it. The 2006 champ propelled ahead of the crowd immediately and bolted way toward shore. I stayed right with her (albeit not so close to shore) for the first 100 yards, spotting with her yellow cap, before she pulled ahead and I lost my course orientation.

Just keep swimmingBreathing on all sides, I could see shore to the left, champ and kayaks up ahead and nothing on my right. I was doing all right. A yellow lane-marker confused the bejesus out of me, but once I caught sight of champ’s yellow cap again, I could see the shape of our entry to shore. I took the final turn and begrudgingly got out of the water.

Swim time: 4:25

So, I ran around the beach in my frozen delirium trying to make it up the hill to the transition area. It was quite a trek! And when I arrived, the champ and I were the only people in sight. It was a rush to know I finished second, but I was terrified to jump on my bike and be one of the first on the course. Why? I have no idea. So, I took a tad longer to wash my feet and get myself together—long enough for 2-3 people to mount and ride. Then I took off.

T1: 2:25

What I didn’t do during that extra time in transition was grab my sweatshirt! My summer of muggy days had me convinced that I would warm up on my bike, but it never happened. I was frozen from the get-go. Two miles into the ride I was wheezing with freeze-burning lungs, my throat was soar and I was too cold to drink my Gatorade. My fingers were numb and my knees were turning funny colors. Finally, I started getting really dizzy and rode into the grass a couple times before I realized things weren’t going well and I still had 3-4 miles to ride! I stood up on my bike and just tried to pedal hard, stay afloat, do anything to overexert myself and get some body heat boiling. Oh, how I longed for my sweatshirt! Lucky for me it was only a 7-mile ride.

Bike time: 33:57

There's really no happier moment for me than leaving T2 and my bike behind.All I wanted when I entered T2 was to jump in the water again. Instead I swigged a touch of cold Gatorade that made my chest burn, bundled up, pulled back my hair and took to the road.

T2: 1:21

But not until I twisted my ankle. The left calf was acting up only slightly during the race, but my inability to follow arrows and waving hands was running on all cylinders. What’s been with me the past two weeks? When I took the turn into my 2-mile run, I misstepped, rolled my ankle and used colorful language to, umm, express my pain. Sorry kids!

My legs were already warmed and beginning to recover by the time I hit the first aid station, but I was parched. I grabbed a cup of water from the first aid station, but couldn’t take it down through my swollen throat. Of course my mind flooded with dehydration fears, but it was only two miles. And that’s what I kept telling myself.

After just a half mile my legs were totally ready to run. Perhaps I had been a touch distracted by my treacherous inability to ride a bike, but my head cleared when I realized I was again running the final leg of a triathlon. Ahh, I hope that novelty never leaves me!

I was operating at about 75 percent with a parchy throat and wheezy lungs, but I focused on stretching my legs and enjoying the run. But not too much. I’ve never really run a cross-country type course, but this was more like an obstacle course. Divots, sink holes and tree roots galore. Thankfully, the race organizers did a fantastic job spray-painting each of the obstructions and accidents-waiting-to-happen bright orange! My peripheral vision was enough to keep me on the up-and-up as I weaved in and out of runners on my way to the finish.

Run time: 17:16 (8:38/mile)

On my way to the finish!No confusion about the finish for this race. I ran right through to the finish with a final time of 59:24.

If you check the results, you can see that the women’s triathlon had quite the crowd. Fran and her friends finished with flying colors. It was an awesome event. And I stuffed my face with PB+J until peanut butter actually oozed from my pores. Yummy.

My only problems are a) the place results have changed since they were first posted on Monday; and b) there are 29 & under age groupers listed with faster swimming times than they could have had. Not only were they not on the beach or in the transition area by the time the champ and I made it, but the spectators and race coordinators noted we were first and second. Odd. But perhaps they started late? I have no idea. I’m just happy that my times look right and met my goals.

The real star of the tri: Fran!What’s next? Well, I dismantled my bike and tucked it away in the garage for the winter. I’m going to keep my eyes open for some secondhand tri-bikes and train in the off season. Neil and my mom might be happy if I actually know how to ride a bike next summer!

I also have to decide very soon on my rec. center membership (it ended last Friday) and make sure this swimming off-week doesn’t become something bigger.

And then there’s the Akron Half Marathon on Sept. 29.

Half training half continued today: my left calf isn’t doing well. I tried to test my idiot IQ by jogging on it for about 100 yards before my brain kicked in. I took my workout down to a 14:00/mile fast-walk that was pain free over four miles.

Today’s “workout” will replace Saturday’s 5-6 miles, and then I’ll push my tempos to Thursday and Saturday. For now I’m icing, resting and yogaing in the hope I can make it another week and a half.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Waiting Games

It’s been such a bummer the past couple of days: I’ve been sitting with the same three windows open on my computer (,, and hitting refresh, refresh, refresh ever 30 seconds. I’m waiting for Saturday’s results!

But I did take a break from that excitement to run on Sunday—my first 10+ miler since June 17!

The run started off shaky. While my legs were a little tired on Saturday evening, they felt fine by morning. My left calf was a different story.

After stretching and a snack, I headed outside. It was a little bit crisp, but I was bundled in pants, a t-shirt and a hoodie… and toting plenty of tissue. I’m still getting used to the cooler weather—I’ve never run in fall—and wondering how on earth I ran in -10 degrees last winter! Neil was right. I must have been nuts.

There was plenty of take the sweatshirt off, put it back on, take it off, put it on, which all served as little distraction for my calf. My first two steps were utter agony. On most other days, I would have just turned around and spent the morning doing yoga, but Sunday was my big mileage day. And I wasn’t going to make it up later!

But I wasn’t going to be an idiot about it either. So, I started walking. Walking was fine. Then I started walking faster. And that was fine. I jogged a little bit. Agony. Ugh. I slowed back to a speedy walk and then tried to jog r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. It hurt, but didn’t make me want to cry.

What did make me want to cry was the idea of being hurt again. I started getting misty at the thought of putting in all this training time only to miss the half marathon in two weeks. I pressed on.

After about ten minutes of uber slow shuffling, I picked up the pace just a bit (maybe a second/mile faster!) and then a little after that. Each pickups made it a little uncomfortable to run at first, but then my calf would warm to it. By about mile four, I was fully warmed and at 75% of my normal training stride.

Before I hit the streets, I had mapped out my run from my apartment in Stow to just outside of downtown Hudson. It’s a different route than I’m used to running (I generally just drive to shop Heinen’s or buy cupcakes… it’s difficult to run with grocery bags), and it’s filled with all of the varying terrain, grades and hills I need. I picked out a street called Thirty Acres as my turnaround, never saw the thing and ran well beyond my mark. Lucky for me, I was feeling peachy at this point, hit Hudson and then started back.

Back uphill, that is. But I actually felt strong running down OH-91 and for the first time felt capable of running a half marathon in less than two weeks. Aside from some slight discomfort lingering in my calf, some right-foot cramping and a little bit sciatic flare-up, I felt healthy and prepared trucking the last five miles home.

My total run: 11.35 miles in about two hours. The first 4-5 miles were record-breakingly slow, so I won’t take this training run as a reflection of my future. I’m just happy to feel healthy.

My sciatic nerve, however, is threatening to be a pain again. It’s been pretty quiet for the past two months, but it’s been hinting at a comeback the past two days. I’m beginning to feel that strain in my left leg that preceded it last time. So, I’m trying to be quick about taking anti-inflams and getting my yoga in gear. I refuse to be tackled by that thing again! Good thing today is another rest day.

While I was running (and quietly sobbing), I reminded myself that this week is my last of higher-mileage/hardworking training before the half. I have about 32+ miles to run this week before having a bit of tapering next week (easy 2 miles on each of Tuesday and Thursday). I’m not going to lie: I’m really looking forward to it. And I guess I’m pretty pumped for the race as well. I just have to stay healthy!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Last Tri of the Season is a Good One

And the results watch begins!

While there was no big clock or time-caller at the finish, Neil’s rumor has it that I finished the Akron Women-Only Triathlon in just under an hour. I may or may not have met my goal, but it was another great experience.

From what I could gather, I came in second in swimming (to the 2006 1-Mile Open Water National Champ), tragically-but-not-surprisingly slow in cycling and not bad in running. The weather was a little less than ideal—Neil and I walked out around 7:30 a.m. to what felt like an early winter morning. Brrrr.

My knees turned a slight blue, my breathing got super wheezy and my dizziness led me into the grass on the bike route, but I recovered by mile four. But I’m warm now. And I’m eager to share the full story.

On a side note: my little brother, Skippy (an 11-year-old cocker spaniel), is in the doggy hospital. He's not in doggy-tri condition right now, so please send out good vibes for the pooch.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Saturday Goals Update!

While I’ve been really laid back about Saturday’s race (despite that whole wig-out-about-the-weather thing I had going), I have been thinking about goals for the race. Because I’m still a little shaky about what to expect from my tri performances, my goals are loosely set as follows:
  • 250-yard swim: 5:00
  • 7-mile bike: 33:00
  • 2-mile run: 18:00

And that should get me in a couple minutes under 1:00:00, which is truly my goal in this race.

I took a walk through the course on Thursday night with a group of women I’m interviewing for a story about the race. The running path seemed a little narrow, uneven and potentially dangerous in a twist-my-ankle-in-a-deep-whole kind of way. But typing it out might remind me that I have to keep an eye open for the divots.

My fingers are just crossed that I actually remember how to ride a bike. Ah, some things I do make complete sense. Other things (i.e., still neglecting to even remove my bike from the trunk since GCT): not so much. Instead, I’ve signed up for spinning classes over the winter. Next year, I’ll totally rock the bike. Or, you know, not finish last.

But for now I’m off to prep: I need to get my hands on some pre-race food and a container for feet washing—my T1 at GCT was 3:50 because I had to meticulously remove each grain of sand from my feet. Perhaps a quick foot bath might cut that down a few. That way I can have a few more minutes on the bike!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food (and Rest) it Up!

Last night’s 7-miler concluded my training for the week (I moved Thursday’s run to Wednesday to get an extra day of rest before Saturday’s race… even if it is just a super sprint), so now it’s time to rest and eat. Ahh, two of my preferred activities!

But I have to admit that my brain wasn’t functioning properly again yesterday. I started my after-work run and my watch, stopped it to cross a street and never switched it on again. So, I just set the world record in the 3.5-miler: 2:22. Woo hoo! I realized the error after about a mile and just tried to keep up a 9-9:30/mile pace through the first half of the run. And I think I'm finally getting a mental feel for my pace. In other words, I'm getting a pacing clue!

Since I also forgot to check my workout before I took off, I was lucky to correctly guess my plan: 6-7 miles, including 4 x 2:00 aerobic intervals and 6 gentle pickups.

It was nice to get in some of these higher intensity spurts on rolling hills. I swear if I move from this area one of the few things I’ll miss (other than the cupcake shop) will be the rolling hills. While it’s not as great on miles for my already-fuel-efficient car, it really puts some extra kick into a workout. But it also puts an extra kick into my achy left calf.

I came home from the run around 6:45 p.m., ate dinner and then iced my calf for about 30 minutes. Some non-medical advice I received recommended before/after stretching and after icing… so I’m giving it a try. Plus, I’m getting back to my morning yoga in hopes that the addition stretching might aid some of my achy problems. If nothing else, it’s a nice workout that wakes me up when an alarm just won’t.

And now it’s all about resting (I have my feet kicked up as I type) and eating foods that will power me to the finish on Saturday. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve decided not to compete in Sunday’s sprint tri at Portage Lakes. But my half marathon plan calls for 10 miles on Sunday—my first 10-miler since my June 17 injury. I’m coming back, baby (knock on wood)!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two-a-Day, Plus: Faith in Humanity

Have you had one of those days in which your brain just wasn’t operating on all cylinders? I woke up at 5:25 a.m. this morning to make my way to the pool, and that’s where it all began.

Flub one: I walked all the way out to the car without my swimming bag (forehead smack). Luckily I had on my suit! So, I rushed back upstairs, grabbed the bag and ran back outside with the fear of losing my lane at my heels. My bag was packed for my two-today: swimming in the morning, running at lunch. And so the err of my ways began.

I pulled into the rec. center parking lot a few minutes after 6 a.m. and started rushing toward the door. My running shoes had been stuff into the top of my bag the night before, so I turned around to throw them back into the car (who needs shoes when you’re swimming?) only to find one of my shoes missing! I tore through my car and looked all around, wondering whether I had dropped it at home or in the lot. It was way too early to call Neil for a search, so I calmed myself with the prospect of the shoe being in my apartment—and not outside, where it had just started raining.

But my mind remained on my shoe. Lucky for me, I had the shoe to think about because my brain wasn’t really hip to functioning on any other normal level. My swim workout was an all-time high for me: at least 5,000 yards free almost continuous swim (I had to stop a couple times to clear my goggles).

“At least?” you ask? Well, I couldn’t count my yards or laps for the life of me this morning. I wandered around the 500 mark for each 1,000 yards. When in doubt, I always swim extra. And today I just kept on swimming.

I love the feeling of getting out of the pool after a long swim and feeling energized. It makes me feel less like I’ve misstepped getting into triathlon training. And even when my head doesn’t work, at least my body was.

By the time I finished swimming, showered and was headed to work, it was 8 a.m. and a more polite hour to call Neil. He took a swing around the parking lot, but my Mizuno was nowhere in sight. My hopes for the rest of the day were on an apartment surprise.

Sans shoes, I had to settle for the Nikes I keep in my office. I’ve gotten used to the lower top on my Mizunos, so my spoiled feet and shins weren’t immediately hip to the idea of my ex-shoes. So, I tied down the tongue and took an 8-mile track run at lunch, including:
  • 3 miles at 9:36/mile
  • 2 x (2:00, 3:00, 4:00) aerobic intervals ~ 3 miles
  • 2 miles at 9:00/mile

My calf was really tight before the run, so I stretched for a few more minutes and then hit the track for a really low-key warm-up. The most difficult part, as you might have guessed, was keeping track of my laps. While I resorted to counting on my fingers and trying to estimate times, I had a difficult time keeping it all straight. Ugh. I was wholly convinced that I wasn’t going to survive the AIs until some hotshot with a pass-all-chicks attitude and a funky, show-off stride came trotting by.

Now I know that I’m a) not supposed to take these intervals too hard and b) not supposed to let other people influence my training pace, but this guy was really asking for it. And I was even good about it—I kept my pace right between normal and ‘hey I’m working here’ as prescribed. I’d say it was right around 8:00/mile.

And then I was pretty tired. Maybe a little hungry too. I still had plenty of endurance energy remaining for the last twelve laps/two miles, but I just hadn’t replenished enough after the morning swim. But the thing that was really getting me down was that missing-in-action shoe!

So, hungry, distracted and a little fatigued, I did the unthinkable: I went grocery shopping after work. Sure, I bought half the store (come on: Heinen's had butternut squash for 69 cents a pound!), but I managed to put together a Gina-friendly meal that has me totally on the brink of covering both my calcium and protein doses for the day! In fact, I might chow a Luna bar as a night snack to put me over. Woo hoo!

What’s more woo hoo is that I came home to Neil holding the following sign:

It had been posted on our apartment building door by the time he came home. Neil called the number and arranged for our nighttime pick-up. And as it turns out, Mel from Vertical Runner and her husband, Todd (who found my shoe) live pretty much next door.

Lucky for me, Todd found my shoe about an hour after I dropped it in the rain. It’s a little damp, but healthy as can be. We had the opportunity to meet the two, have some tri talk and thank them for caring for my shoe.

So, maybe my brain wasn’t working today, but at least humanity was. Many thanks to Mel and Todd (and Neil)! Here’s to good people!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Outlook is Chilly

The fact that I still haven’t taken the bike out of my trunk from Aug. 12 GCT, not a problem. I won’t be fantastic on the cycling segment (again), but I have all winter to kick butt next year. The fact that my inner left calf is still bothering me: no big deal. I’m on track with my half marathon training while giving it rest, ice and perhaps some healing.

Now, the fact that says Saturday’s high will be 57 degrees, that’s a big, cold deal! It sounds like a lovely day for running and cycling… but that whole swimming thing might be a freezing issue for this total-baby-in-the-cold-water! Can you see me inching my way in at the group start? Eek, eek, eek! At least someone would probably push me in just to get me out of the way.

I might just have to give in and go for the wetsuit. Ugh, I hate wetsuits. Just the thought of being shocked by the cold is making me shiver right now. I’m trying to convince myself that the GCT start was cold, but I’m still giving myself a reminder to bring my swimming parka on Saturday.

I’ll definitely have to get in for a warm-up and then wrap up until the start. Otherwise you’ll read in the Beacon about how a girl having a panic attack from the chill took down half the women’s triathlon with her. Brrrr.

But I suppose mugginess for the cycling/running legs trumps a few shivers at the start. This weekend, in fact, was strange with mugginess: it was pretty much room temperature here all weekend long, but with that stick humidity that fills the air and makes you feel like you’re covered with a layer of yick.

I managed to get caught up on my half marathon training on Saturday and Sunday (and I finally get to rest today!) in between drizzle and major showers—10K on Saturday and 4 miles on Sunday.

While I wasn’t lucky enough for my training schedule to coincide with a local 10K race this weekend, I measured the distance on the Nike Plus Web site and tried to run with the fury of race pace on Saturday. My legs have been a little tired—I went to pilates in the morning and pretty much ran race pace on Friday!—so I was pleased with my 53:00 or 8:31/mile solo “race.”

What I discovered between my Friday track run and Saturday’s road 10K was how much knowing my position/distance helps me run faster and maintain my pace. Duh, right? Well, I generally know what mile marker I’m approaching when I run in familiar hoods, but having a handle on each 1/6 of a mile gave me a constant gauge on my pace and any changes. Then again, the flat track and perfect conditions probably helped me as well ;-)

By Sunday I was talking myself into running—I haven’t really run three days in a row for more than 2+ miles in several months. Or, you know, ever. And I had mismarked on my training plan that Sunday called for 12 miles. Let’s just say that this body wasn’t running 12 miles for anything on Sunday and I was incredibly relieved to see that the actual training plan called for four miles. FOUR MILES! I can do that!

So, after morning yoga and the disappointing Browns game, I hit the road for four miles before night and/or rain fell. My calf was tight and my legs were still a little unhappy, but my pace felt steady and strong through the 34:40 four-miler (8:40/mile).

Today is all about resting this calf and getting over Saturday’s forecast. And rearranging my training schedule, again, to fit in some rest before this race.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Keeping Up With Myself

It dawned on me today that the Akron Women’s Triathlon is a week off and I still haven’t even taken my bike out of the trunk of my car from the GCT. While I had promised myself I would pick up the pace after I finished tri-one, I just seem to forget about that whole cycling segment. Darn it!

But at least I have kicked up my running and swimming since GCT. In fact, I hit the pool on Thursday morning for a 4,500-yard (~2.5 miles) continuous swim—my longest continuous swim since I started training again earlier this year. The best part was that I finished it in 1:14:00, which is one minute faster than the 4,200 yards I swam late last week.

I swam the first 1,000 yards at a pretty relaxed pace. It’s generally during this slow, warm-up period that I’m convinced I won’t/can’t swim more than 2,000 yards today. But after 2,000 yards I picked up the pace a little more. And when I tuned into 3,000, a slightly speedy girl jumped into the lane next to me and cruised right by! Because of my recent pay-attention-to-no-one-but-myself discipline from running, my first instinct was to just let her go. She’s none of my concern. Right?

Well, that lasted about 10 yards and I had to speed up. By the end of the first lap I was on her toes, and then neck-and-neck at the middle of lap two. Then my arms really warmed to the speed and I kicked it into my next gear, passed her and then lapped her a few times before she left. Every time I cam back around, I felt like she was out-swimming me again, so I would have to pick up my pace to take her again. She must have helped cut five minutes off my time!

Unfortunately, I’m not able to run at a faster speed for quite as long. Although I could probably make it 2.5 miles… just not over an hour. Ugh. But I had a good 7-mile track run at lunch on Friday, which included:

  • 1-mile warm-up at 10:00/mile
  • 5 miles at 8:12/mile
  • 8 gentle pick-ups (~1 mile)

I’m a day behind on my training plan and will be running Friday, Saturday and Sunday before I get to rest of Monday. Whew! And then next week I’ll have to move around my running days to make room for some rest before Saturday’s race. It’s great to have a training plan, but when your schedule gets dorked up, it’s difficult playing catch up.

And I thought I wasn’t going to play it very well today. When I started on the 1-mile warm-up, my legs were tight and fatigued, and that stupid inner-left calf muscle was whining at me again. I paused to stretch after one lap and then tried to stretch out my legs with each extended stride.

My body was warmed by the second mile, so I thought I would try to run with pace in mind. Hmm, 9:00/mile, I thought. That’s 1:30/lap at the rec. center track. After the first couple laps I was right on time, but then I started coming in 8, 10, 12 seconds ahead of my pace, so I thought I would increase it a little. So, I ran at a very comfortable (I was singing!) pace, trying to keep each lap under 1:30, and continued to come in under my target.

Still feeling pretty perky, I finished the workout with eight gentle pick-ups—I was that person hoofing it down the straightaways at the track and walking the curves. It was really fun to finish the run with that segment. It was fast, free and flippin’ fantastic. I focused on extending my legs and quickening my turnover… without turning up the intensity level to DANGEROUS. Now I’m just hoping this pep carries me through the weekend runs.

On my way home from work last night, I stopped at the store to pick up Viactiv, but came home with a wealth nutrition bars instead. I was a little put off by Viactiv’s ingredients (corn syrup topped the list), so I opted for a few treats like Luna and Kashi bars that service my sweet tooth… I mean, protein and calcium needs with natural stuff.

And if you’re looking for a good snack, try Kashi Crunchy bar. Tasty! I’m chowing the chocolate-caramel variety as I type, getting 8 grams of protein and 20% of my calcium in 150 tasty calories. Now I just have to eat ten of them to get my protein. Remember that Total commercial? It’s kind of like that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Run, Eat, Rinse, Repeat

Ugh. I’ve been missing my protein targets for the past couple days. So when I came in from tonight’s 8-mile training run, I passed on a simple bowl of cereal (just cooking for one tonight) and went for a lump of protein instead.

For the past 2.5 weeks, I’ve been tracking my diet—and I mean everything I eat—using Ever since I upped the training ante, I’ve been concerned about my nutrition. I’m not eyeing any weight-loss goals, but I have learned that I need to eye some calcium and protein goals. Two weeks ago, it wasn’t pretty. is a neat tool that allows you to track your mouth’s every move using data you input from your typically eaten foods, as well as a vast database of more common eats. It’s one of the most high-maintenance and time-consuming things I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most honest and enlightening.

Calcium intake chartMy calcium in take, for example, is embarrassing. You can see from the Nutridiary graph of my calcium intake since Aug. 20 that aside from the Aug. 25 wedding I attended (there was a cheese tray with plenty of smoked gouda, muenster, cheddar and jack!), my calcium is shameful.

The blue line represents my targeted calcium value… which is higher than I generally get. So, I have to make my way to the store soon and get my hands on some Viactiv calcium chews. I should have known my mom was onto something when she force-fed me those things as a teen. Although I imagine I could kill two birds with a glass of milk. If only I drank milk.

My protein chart is even more tragic, so I took down a serving of organic kidney beans, mixed nuts (pepitas, pine and almonds) and a sweet potato. Granted, the sweet potato isn’t exactly packing the protein, but it tastes good! Unfortunately, I was packed with the rest of my vitamins today, so I didn’t require the 438 percent Vitamin A in that baby.

Despite feeling more ready for an all-night nap when I came home from work, I put on some running clothes and headed out. It has been a little warm for the past couple days, but not prohibitively muggy as in past weeks.

Tonight’s 8-miler was a doozy:
  • 3 miles on 9:30/mile pace
  • 2 x 2:00, 2 x 2:300, 1 x 3:00 aerobic intervals (AI) ~ 3 miles
  • 8 gentle pick ups (GP) ~ 1 mile
  • ~1 mile cool down on 10:00/mile

My legs didn’t take as long as usual to warm up today, but by the second AI, I felt beat. I kept repeating to myself that AIs are meant to push me a little past my comfort zone and to make me feel more comfortable within my normal pace… and, of course, that I would thank myself for doing them on Sept. 29. Or maybe it was the prospect of getting to speed-walk a bit during the GPs at the end. That was nice.

The middle three miles may have been a killer, but they rocked pretty hard too. I ran the set in 24:33 (that’s 8:11/mile), which is pretty speedy for me right now. Sure, I’ll complain about the AIs, but I think I’m feeling the beginnings of their benefits. I’ve been a good girl—not running these sets at too high intensity or verging on injury like I used to—and hope to reap the benefits.
What good is all this training is my bones and muscles are going to crumble at the end of the day? Perhaps I should go have another calcium-fortified protein bar or something.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day? Resting Day?

In the spirit of Labor Day, I was a lazy bum on Sunday who ate too much and replaced my 8-miler with family, friends and too-much-food time. Not that it’s a bad thing.

So, I picked up the slack with eight miles on Monday morning. It was a slow 8 miles (10:00/mile for the first two miles, 9:00/mile for the middle four, 9:50 for the last two), but a cool, relaxing morning. Labor Day couldn’t have been more pleasant.

Because I skipped Sunday and replaced my Monday rest with an 8-miler, I botched the day of rest I generally get before my new week begins. Most weeks I would just push through the “pain,” but I couldn’t make it out today. I don’t know whether it’s stress, poor nutrition, bad rest, worse training or a combination.

By the time I mustered up a free spot this afternoon, I felt like I was hit by a Mack truck! My legs are tired and my energy was about 30,000 leagues beneath my typical “too exhausted to do anything but sleep” level. I took a quick cat nap and ate dinner already… but I think I’m going to hit the yoga mat in hopes of finding my energy or just being ready to two-a-day it tomorrow (swimming in the morning, running in the evening). But at least I feel uninjured. Just a little fatigued.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Swimming Like an Ironman

In the spirit of the first week of school, I’ve gotten behind on my blogging, but I’ve been totally up on my training. Saturday morning’s 4-mile run was easy around the neighborhood at 9:30/mile. Thanks to some early-morning yoga, my legs were only tight at the outset of the run. My left calf is feeling better (knock on wood), but I still have an eight-miler on Sunday.

My Friday-morning swim was anything but laid back and easy, and it totally kicked butt. I set out, as usual, with a wimpy workout in mind (it’s hard sometimes to feel energetic and optimistic in the darkness of 6 a.m.). I was ready to cut out early for calf rest or hot tub time or extra hair drying. Anything really.

But after the first 900 yards of warm-up, I felt fresh. Who knew? So, I thought I would push it to 1,500 yards, then 1,800 (~1 mile)… maybe 2,000. The biggest obstacle I’ve faced when extending my continuous distances in the water has been—you guessed it—boredom. Sure there’s some fatigue, but swimming is one of my only Energizer Rabbit activities! I kept swimming until I reached the Iron distance: 2.4 miles (~ 4,250 yards).

While it was a continuous freestyle swim, I broke down the 4,250 yards for the sake of keeping count:
  • 1,000 yards warm-up
  • 2,000 yards stroke mechanics, rotating:
    - 4 x 100 yards pull
    - 4 x 100 yards stroke with kick emphasis
    - 4 x 100 yards breathe every 5 strokes
    - 4 x 100 yards “perfect” stroke at higher intensity/sprint pace
    - 4 x 100 yards stroke count (avg. 23-25 strokes/lap)
  • 1,000 yards more stroke mechanic, rotating:
    - 250 yards pull
    - 250 yards stroke with kick emphasis
    - 250 yards stroke count (avg. 22-24 strokes/lap)
    - 250 yards “perfect” stroke at sprint pace
  • 250 yards cool down

And, yes, I did feel like going for a 112-mile bike ride when I was done! Unfortunately, I had to go to work (hee hee). Because I finished the swim in 1:15:00, I still had the extra time I would have had if I had wimped out. How cool is that?

I swam the 2.4 miles at a pretty level and consistent intensity—a concept I understand so well in the water, but not very well on land. Running the aerobic intervals and gentle pick-ups prescribed by my half marathon training plan, however, are guiding me well. I think I’m wrapping my mind around the concept… my body’s just not keeping up. Yet.

On Thursday, I hit the trail immediately after work to avoid the running-in-the-dark problem I described earlier. I’m still bored by the bike-hike trail route, but the extra hills added spice to the generally graded path near my house. The 7-miles included 4-mile warm-up at 9:30/mile, 4 x 1:30 aerobic intervals, 6 gentle pick-ups and 1.5-mile cool down.

And what a difference a week makes: last Thursday, I huffed and puffed through a high-humidity 90+ degree afternoon; this week it took about a half mile for me not to feel chilled! Oh, autumn, how I’ve missed you!

I know that the hot weather will come and go over the next several months (this is NEOhio: it’s going to alternate between blizzards and heat waves many times between now and December), but fall just feels cozy regardless of weather realities. The most cozy: football season! As I type, the state up north is getting beaten up by Appalachian State. Hee hee. Who knows what will happen in the second half, but Appalachian is hot, hot, hot…

Happy Anniversary to me: Eight months of training down... and a lifetime to go!