Thursday, June 26, 2008

Riding on Bikes With Boys

What kid were you when you were growing up? I, believe it or not, was the ultimate tomboy. (I’ll give you a moment to recover from your amazement.)

Seriously: I hopped fences, climbed trees, played with mud, skipped stones, rocked boys league, mastered kickball, played G.I. Joe, loved my Commadore 64 and always, always, always had a ghostman on third with less than two outs. It must have been a disappointment for my mom, who wanted a pretty, dainty little girl to dress up and play nice, but that poor, good woman got… me.

Girls, though, were a disappointment to me for years. Aside from a few good friends, I didn’t hang with the girls much or have anything in common with anyone, really. You’ve heard that song and dance.

Fast forward a few years. All this tri-training has put me in touch with so many cool people, especially strong, cool women who rip it up on the course, in the water, at work, at home. I liked being surprised by the number of awesome women I know and get to call my running buddies and friends. Rock on, chicas!

Amidst all the girl power, I’ve still made time to hang with the boys. In fact, I took out the bike-without-a-name with Neil and my dad the other night for a laid-back tour of Euclid, which ended at Dairy Queen. It was hard riding cool on my new roadie, but Neil and my dad indulged me a few times, racing down streets with me so I could warm up these racing legs.

It was a back-to-back workout too: I met my dad early Wednesday for a morning run. I pedaled to his house and then headed on another (different) trek around Euclid, through parks and along the shore. It was the first time I’d ever run with my dad, so I’m glad I had the opportunity (he just might retire soon and I’m trying hard to convince him to train for the Ironman with me!). My dad and I used to watch the Ironman every year when I was little, so it only seems appropriate that we should race together, right?

Wednesday was made for a tempo run, but I didn’t expect to run a tempo. The weather was prime for a good workout – cool morning with crisp, clean air and light sunshine – and we couldn’t resist. I had intended on 7 miles at 9:00/mile for my tempo, but we ended up running 8.2 miles at 8:38/mile. And it was so easy! We just chatted and chugged along mile after mile.

After I mapped the run and told me dad the distance, he was surprised. “Oh, I’ve never run that far before.” Could have fooled me. I guess we’ll have to take him 10 next time, eh?

My campaign for triathlon recruiting hasn’t stopped with my dad; my friends suffer for it too. And I think I have my next victim.

I met my friend Barney after work today (and a two-mile warm-up) for what he claimed was his first run in quite some time (of course, I didn’t realize he wasn’t running at all and was about to make him do four miles of intervals with me!). He was a really good sport about it, particularly after he saw a sign claiming it was 104 degrees.

While it couldn’t have been THAT hot, it was a little roasty outside, so the intervals turned into a regular pace for a couple miles. We ran mile one in a little under 9:00, recovered a few blocks and took mile two around the same pace.

I think he’s (this) close to thinking about Greater Cleveland Tri this year… now if only I knew how to give good swimming advice. Apparently suggesting Michael Phelps footage isn’t a great idea. Shucks.

Getting into a pool this week, however, will be a great idea. The outdoor pool nearby, I’ve learned, is open at 6 a.m. And I’m pumped. Here’s to early mornings biking to the pool like I’m a kid again, swimming, running, biking, throwing rocks and making mudpies. You’re never too old for mudpies, are you?

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Love My Bike

What’s perhaps not the best thing but one of the best things about getting a new bike as an adult? It’s like super Christmas… only better. I finally got my hands (and butt) on a road bike this weekend – a blue Trek 1000 WSD – and couldn’t stop riding it and waiting to ride, thinking about riding and wanting to ride it again.

Trek 1000 WSD
For weeks I had been torn between this Trek and the Felt FW40. Something, though, spoke to me with this bike, and I haven’t been able to leave it since. In fact, I’ve kindly asked Neil to let me keep it in the house for now – I’m like a new parent, too afraid to let my baby get out of eyeshot lest someone come scoop him/her up because s/he is the best baby… bike in the world.

The purchase of (insert name here) was the crowning jewel on a pretty swell weekend. It’s no secret by now that I skipped my college reunion for greener pastures, but I did run through the thing on Friday shortly before meeting up with Monica.

JCU ReunionDetermined to hit 30 last week, I warmed up right after work with 5 miles by myself around University Heights. John Carroll’s reunion weekend has always been a gorgeous affair; it looked really nice at 9:00/mile in the blazing sun. The university neighborhood made for apt distraction on a strikingly warm day. It was so much warmer than normal that I was plagued by stitches whenever I wasn’t being distracted by something much more interesting. For a while, that is.

Then I met up with Monica and ran what had to be a time-warp 5-6 miles before meeting up with her hubby G. Sure we cruised some inclines at a normal hot-distance pace, but running with Monica always makes things fly by. Poor girl, though, had to listen to all my therapy venting… so, it may not have flown by for her just as well!

We swung back toward her neighborhood and picked up Monica’s Hubby G for the last three miles. All was going swell – I was still running strong after 10-11 miles, the sun eased on us and the Heights had all kinds of front-door and landscaping ideas for me to spy – until the stupid stitch attacked.

M and G were kind enough to wait for me to stretch and walk it off. It came and went. But by the end of the run it was really nagging and I just wanted to finish the full 14. By 13.95, however, it stopped me in my tracks. I waved M and G to finish while I wallowed in my stitchiness. It sucked… but it did ease up the second I stopped running.

Guilt ridden by the last .05, I ran the last stretch up and down my driveway when I arrived home. So, mark down 14 miles for Friday!

By Saturday morning, I was surprisingly fresh and ready for my next adventure: the new bike. Rumor had it that Eddy’s Bike Shop was holding a summer sale, and I was all about it. It was, though, decision time in the bike arena. Trek or Felt?

One fast little monkeyI was ready to hit every Eddy’s in the area for the right bike. There was something about the sole Trek 1000 WSD at the Willoughby Hills store that caught my heart. I tried it on for size, tested it around the lot, had it fitted in a million different ways, and viola! It was mine.

I stuck with cages on the pedals – I’m so not ready for clip-in yet – and am always used to the motion of getting in and out on the roll. Neil helped me pack the bike into my car (it’s just the right size to fit without dismantling anything!); we drove home; and I rode wild.

On Saturday I rode was about 7-8 miles around Euclid at speeds impossible on my hybrid. Even if I’m probably still a little pokey cyclist-wise. I hopped off the 30-minute ride and right onto the road for a 3.3-mile run around the neighborhood for a suitable first brick of the season.

You can imagine that riding was all I could think about as I slept into Sunday. I woke up around 8 a.m. ready to roll! I threw on some clothes that yelled “I don’t bike often at all,” nearly forgot my helmet and pedaled away. While I had my heart set on riding the 11.5 side-road miles to work, I changed my mind halfway out of fear of the unknown. I hadn’t take my phone and thoughts of flats and crashes distracted me from an awesome ride.

So, I turned around and rode all around Euclid for a really decent 16-mile journey at an average 16 mph.

What amazed me most? I hopped off the bike and ran 4+ miles (that puts the week’s total a little more than 30!) for brick #2 like it was nothing. In the hot sun. Who's ready for tri-season?

The only pain I felt was leftover butt aches from the previous day’s ride and no ill-effects on my legs. I was a little upset at first how easy the piece of equipment made cycling – and, therefore, how big a difference an external piece of equipment makes on triathlon – but got over the reality and smiled at my new ride.

Next on the list? Gloves and biking shorts. My butt bones are still aching today (while my body doesn’t feel like I rode at all – Lance’s next challenge should be the Alps on a hybrid) and my hands/arms felt more pain than the rest of me. With all that in place, I might not have to hate cycling after all!

More importantly: what should the bike be named? S/he is a 47-inch women’s design road bike in a mist-duo blue. Black handlebars and a smooth ride. What should s/he be called? Neil suggested Mortimer or Penelope; I came up with Mellow Janey and Secretariat. What do you think?
Trek 1000 WSD

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Exercise in Stitching

Isn’t this mild NEOhio weather fantastic? I want to appreciate every easy-to-breathe breath of cool autumn-like air. And get in my miles before I have any reason to complain. At all.

StitchingI stayed up a bit too late last night watching the NBA’s forgone conclusion (feeling ever so grateful for David Tyree’s dexterous helmet), so another morning run didn’t make it into the books. But on the calendar was some speed work.

For the past several weeks, when I’ve done speed work, it’s left a bit to be desired. Racing sets of 800-1000m can be fun, but I’ve appreciated the effects of slightly longer speedy spurts more.

When I run 1600m sets, for instance, I feel the lactic burn, push past it and feel my threshold extend with each rep. Half and ¾-milers just don’t do the trick anymore.

So, today I had intended on running three 1600m in lieu of six 800m at 5K pace, but even that was modified. I had too much on my mind, so I took off down the street at a decent clip despite running a little cold.

Heading west for the first mile, I missed my first 1600m marker and just pressed on to the next. What’s speed worth if it can’t last, right? I hit two miles at 16:10 (8:05/mile) and quickly hit a stitch as well.

I tried to walk off the stitch, but it just wouldn’t shake. First it was on my right side, then it jumped to the left. So, I ran two more miles around 9:00/mile, practicing running with a stitch and a smile.

After dinner, Neil and I went out for another evening walk to take in the breeze, watch the sun set and listen to the waves crash on the shore. One of our neighbors was outside playing the bag pipes, while we ran into the Gibbonses walking their Bella and later hung out with their cat, Bud (he’s kind of a dog too). But I could have run all night.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Please Note: Iron G in 2015 is now a whirlyball blog

OK, I’m not joining the professional whirlyball circuit yet. But who knows where this life will take me!

We played for work last week, and while we were all initially skeptical, I think we walked away pretty big fans. If you’re not familiar, think lacrosse mixed with basketball in bumper cars. It looks something like this:

For the past couple weeks, though, life has taken me farther down the new-homeowner path than the marathon-in-September way. Two weeks in a row I’ve ditched my high-mileage days for yard work. Granted, I have fewer weeds and a pretty cleaned-out front yard as a result of it… but I’m thinking neither of those things will get me through miles 13-26 at Akron.

Last week was a step ahead, albeit a small one, from the previous week: 7 + 6 + 5 = 18 miles. The saddest part is that Sunday’s run was supposed to be 16. But, hey, I have boxwoods and a hydrangea.

Over my six miles with Salty, I learned a bit about racing from a girl who knows her stuff. I quipped to her, as I have quipped many times here, that my speed work and tempo runs tend to be faster than my race paces. WTF, right?

But I’m getting a sense that I, umm, don’t really race when I’m… off to the races. At least not as much as I should. It’s not that I don’t try when I race, but I can’t say I feel really taxed at any point except the last 100 yards of any race when I’m trying to book.

It’s as if my [personal] financial conservatism has flooded my racing philosophy—I’m always saving up for something. And it figures the one place where I’m conservative would infect the rest of me…

Perhaps I just need to stop overthinking.

I was lost in my thoughts this morning, though, when I cruised Euclid around 6 a.m. Not only were the streets pretty quiet (there were a good number of runners and cyclist, nevertheless), it was perfectly chilly for a mid-June morning. What a pleasant break from the heat!

It was an easy 5-miler around 9:30/mile, which really is one of the better ways to start the day. I’m often torn about what kind of shape I’m in because I ran the first four miles around 9:30/mile, ticked at least a minute off the last mile and like I could have kept going and going. Then, of course, there are those other days when I can’t run down the street at a noticeable clip.

While today was a little bumpy on the homefront, I still felt pretty well energized all day. I was (this) close to running tomorrow’s workout after work today, but I opted for a walk with Neo instead. The evening weather was just as pleasant and autumnal as the morning. And that’s really something you should share.

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Summer Lover!

Gorsch, do you ever miss summer vacation?

I think I’m too much a busy-body (not to be mistaken for a busy-busy-busy… I just like to always be in the act of accomplishing SOMETHING!) for the real thing, but imagine what I could accomplish with three whole months of sunshine!

Run in the morning, swim in the noon, nap mid-morning, bike everywhere I need to go. I could run dogs and write my thesis, do my gardening, up my culinary quotient and mispaint more rooms in my house.

I’d like to say I appreciated break when I was a kid, but I don’t think the imminent disappearance of the thing occurred to me… until right now. Mostly kidding. Growing up, I swam pretty much everyday—two practices in the morning, 6-8 hours at the pool each day, a brief break for dinner and back to the pool until close—all day. There was also tennis and soccer and inevitable cycling everywhere. What a woman of leisure I was!

But when I was 15 I started working full-time all summer long. Sure, I’d skip days here and there (part of my teenage work ethic), but it was mostly to either watch the paint dry indoors or recover from all the energy it took to stay up late, wake up early and just be 15. Swimming went out the window. I stayed inside.

Now, here I am, years later, wanting it all back. Like we always do. Every morning when I walk into work, I take big breaths of the fresh early air and wish I could spend it running or cycling from here to the moon. By mid-day, however, the heat tempers that urge. And by evening, my motivation and I accept a toned-down version of my morning self.

As such, my 7.5-mile tempo on Thursday night transformed into a 5-mile semi-tempo, which I ran between 8:20-8:30/mile. The pace pleased me—not only because it’s, umm, faster than my racing pace, it didn’t feel at all laborious and it was sticky hot last night.

My racing self really blows my mind. Am I not properly warmed? Do my nerves keep me tight? Am I still oh-so afraid?

After my first 2-3 races, the anxiety of race day lifted. Aside from the Akron Marathon, I really have no question I can finish my distances and I’m not exactly in a place to compete for anything but wholly personal achievement and pride.

So, why the nerves or whatever else affects my pace? I have no flabeepin’ idea.

And the tempo wasn’t cut short by ability, heat or effort. I just wanted to hang out with my boy (Neo came home late from work just as I was headed out to run)! It was after 7:30 p.m. and I thought it would be a total bummer to get home around 9 p.m., give him a high-five and go to sleep. We’re all about healthy relationships at the IronG-Neo household.

Healthy commutes are in vogue here as well. While the move has opened up some fun summer-loving time on its own, I’m thinking about extending my summer-loving time with bike rides to work. It’s around ten miles and I think it would be totally rad to find other cyclists traveling this way in the morning.

It’s only necessary then that this weekend is bike-buying weekend. And the finalists are… a Trek and a Felt. Both roadbikes. Both awesome.

But who will by my trusty steed this commuting and triathlon season?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Slow Times at Ridgemont High

My first week back to marathon training didn’t exactly kick off on the foot my training plan intended. I completed my speed work and the easy 5+, but totally skipped the 6.5 tempo, my Saturday 14 and the Sunday five. Life, it turns out, goes on.

At least I have good excuses for two of the three. I skipped the tempo out of sheer laziness and weather-wimpitude. The idea of running anything tempo in 90+ degrees just wasn’t happening for me. Naps were more my speed.

But I did get out! I met Monica, Salty, CJ and co. on Saturday morning for ~6.5 miles on the NC trails. While the sun and heat were blazing that day, we were pretty sheltered by trees and even took the big ol’ NC hill that normally wipes me out. Because it was only a 1+ hour run, I didn’t carry water with me, but was grateful for a mid-point water stop. Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t parched despite the weather. Wippee on that!

Sunday was all house, all day. We painted the tragically colored kitchen to something much prettier, and I spent most of the day getting scorched in the sun while pulling out all things living, dead and intrusive in my garden. It was a workout! This weekend is front-yard landscaping. And I intend on actually completing my runs as scheduled.

Just like I intended last week.

The weather shouldn’t provide too many excuses for me now. I headed out right after work yesterday for what should have been speed day. Instead of 800s, I ran seven miles around my neighborhood and up and down Lakeshore at about 10:00/mile. It started as my speed warm-up, but kept extending. Slower and slower and slower.

While it wasn’t too hot or muggy on Tuesday, it was warm enough to slow my already garden-aching legs. I just didn’t have any kick. I was happy to get our and run, nevertheless, and at least get some good miles under my feet. Maybe today will be the day for speed.

So far, last week’s mileage (15.5 miles) has only a slight edge on this week (7 miles). Now, if I can only get over 40 miles… that’s when I’m allowing myself dessert. It’s the new plan.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Holy Hotness, Batman!

These are the days when I’m more grateful for the Cleveland Half Marathon’s weather than I am for sliced bread. Truly.

I worked most of yesterday from the kitchen table (we don’t have much else in order yet) with the front door open and the sun shining in. The dogs sat at the foot of the door, enjoying their leisurely lifestyles, and expressed visible and audible confusion as the weather tumbled and rumbled from one personality to the next.

Holy hotness, batman!The morning started in the wake of the loudest thunderstorm I’ve ever heard. Seriously: one massive bolt I was certain had hit the house. It was that loud. But it was around 5 a.m. (and I had gone to bed around 2 a.m., which I’ve discovered is something I’m not capable of doing anymore) and I was too tired, really, to be concerned about checking.

Nothing caught fire and the morning was pretty fresh and mild. Had I slept enough the night before, I wouldn’t have resisted taking an early morning run.

That mildness, however, flipped between fiery 90s and blazing sun to big breezes and pounding rain from one minute to the next. By the time I was ready for a work break, though, it was muggy hot with all the day’s moisture thick in the air. My schedule called from a 6.5-mile tempo run, and I kept waiting from one hour to the next for “better” conditions. Maybe just a stroke of energy. But that late night did me in. No run, just chilling and food.

Thankfully laziness didn’t do me in the previous night. I ran an easy 5.5 miles along Lakeshore on Wednesday from my block to the Cleveland border, about halfway to the other border and back. It was probably closer to 9 p.m. and getting dark when I ran. But talk about a nice time to run!

Aside from the spring bugs (I probably only swallowed about 60), it was a pleasant evening bustling with dozens of friendly walkers and—get this—courteous drivers who actually stopped for pedestrians. No joke. Not only did I have every driver wait and wave me through before I reached the street, but none of them hit me, none swore at me for being a runner and at least two backed out of the crosswalk when they saw me coming.

Big deal, right? Well, it’s a huge change from the old neighborhood and major upgrade from the pedestrian-haters who used to run me down. OK, it only happened twice and I’m way overgeneralizing. But these early impressions are important and I need to hold onto them for when that one rude driver really ruffles my feathers.

Lucky for my training schedule, Friday calls for a rest day. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I’m going to rest tonight. I do, however, get to run yesterday’s tempo without falling behind. Then I can hop back on schedule and find many more places to run in the heat (and get over this weather-related hang-up the way I dealt with rain).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back at it, again…

If I had a nickel for every time I said that.

It probably wouldn’t afford a tank of gas, but I don’t drive that much anymore. So, maybe I would just buy a cupcake.

My nutritional sense is coming back to me, however, along with my scattered brain and training mindset.

I managed not to binge on desserts at all this week (it’s only Tuesday) and finally reached day #1 of my restarted marathon-training plan.

But first: the lead-up.

The hardest part about this move has been controlling my unbridled desire to run when I get home from work. (OK, it's not exactly a bad problem to have.) Not only am I saving at least ten hours in the car, I totally get home with ten times the energy I had driving out to Stow. And now I have all this time! It’s incredible.

We’re still not unpacked, so I’ve been doing much of my cross-training by lifting and moving boxes all the livelong day to find clothes, shoes, kitchen stuff, vases, spoons and the DVR. It’s all worth it, though: did I mention the killer new commute?

Once I get my hands on my Felt FW40, I’m going to try to incorporate a bike ride to work every once in a while, and many bike rides after work in preparation for the tris I’ve scheduled this summer.

The Greater Cleveland Triathlon, where I’ll attempt my first international distance, is almost two months away. And we don’t want another [lack of] bike showing like last year. They might just close the course on me!

So, last week was pre-training week. I tried to tone down the sugar-rush eating and get in some miles before the real stuff begins. It was so easy to come home, run 3-6 miles after work, have dinner and hang out until bed (I forgot to mention, I get more sleep now too!).

And it was even easier to meet Monica and Ilana at Shaker Lakes on Sunday morning for an 8-miler in the Heights. I felt really smooth and fluid the whole run, which worked well on my confidence (it’s been a little shaky during my 2-week move-related training hiatus… I always think I’ll forget how to run), even if my stride is never quite fluid or smooth. Talking and trotting with the girls, however, made the time fly!

We ran 8 miles at about 10:20/mile across varying terrain, which I think might be part of a race on my to-be-considered list this Sunday: the Sunbeam 4-miler at Horseshoe Lake. But what’s more important is that Monica will race her first triathlon next week (a sprint) in preparation for her big HIM in August. Go, Monica!

What surprised me most about Sunday was that I ran pretty well and didn’t tire even though I woke up with some seriously sore legs from one kitchen paint job the previous night.

I gave myself Monday off—it was supposed to be a cross-training day—to rest and to have a Caribbean carnaval in my kitchen. And today it all began. Again.

My rejuvenated marathon training started with some “speed” work, which, again, I take pretty lightly. I mean, I’m really not going anywhere fast. Even if I’m in the car.

Instead of 5 x 1000m at 5K pace, I ran five sets of 1030-1080 meters, which was easier for me to measure out up and down my blocks. And the pace stayed pretty close to my target 5K times (they were 5:04, 5:03, 4:53, 4:52 and 5:10), interspersed with 2-3 minute recovery jogs that sometimes became strolls. My pace ranged from 7:39-7:55/mile. Not bad.

If you’re looking at my splits, you might think I was pooped for the fifth rep, but I really wasn’t. Perhaps I was giving myself too much recovery time. I felt swell going into the last stretch… until it began to pour as I kicked off into number 5. Luckily I was soaked about one minute in because I had to run right past my street to finish the distance. I was a block away from home when I was done, so I trotted home to cool down. And, apparently, to shower.

I don’t fear the rain as much as my pre-half self. Sure, it’s inconvenient and the downpour can slow you down. Most of it, though, is just state of mind. And I’ve had a good one of those lately. I just need to get that good mind into the pool... or, better yet, the lake. August will be here before I admit it.