Thursday, March 31, 2005

Another day, another workout

There's a lot of days that I just don't feel like doing my workout, to be honest. I'm working on getting into that mindset of "I am a triathlete, this is what I do". But it takes some effort to get to that place! Today the biggest chore of all was rolling out of bed at 0515 and heading downstairs to get my first cup of coffee. (Especially after attending to a session of screaming and emergency babyfeeding at something like 0415). I'm sure I could never do it without a programmable coffeemaker!

Today's workout. I was on the treadmill at the gym by 0630 and ended up just about duplicating my workout on Tuesday. 3.25 miles total, with 2 of those miles running at 11 to 12 minutes per mile. That's about the pace I'd like to do for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in Washington, DC that I'm running next Sunday, but I felt slow and tired. I tried my best to concentrate on the other people in the gym to avoid my own workout, but the treadmill still turned over at the same speed for the same number of miles.

Some of the people I see there amuse me, and it does help me pass the time on the treadmill. Powerwalker Lady got on the treadmill adjacent to mine today. No problem there - except she does this weird punching-her-arms-into-the-air thing. One *punch* per step. Every so often she smacks the display on treadmill. *THWACK* I find it a little distracting when the person on the treadmill next to me is punching wildly and periodically smacking their treadmill display. Go figure.

Then there's Anorexic Girl. She's there almost every time I'm there. She's frighteningly skeletal under her baggy clothes, and stays on the stair climber for 45 minutes at a time, climbing up those stairs constantly on her little stick legs. Then off to the the treadmill to do the same. Then off to the Lifecycle... you get the picture. Maybe next time I go to the gym I should bring her a sandwich.

Today I was most intrigued to watch Jumprope Lady. She's a middle-aged overweight lady (I can relate) who was working with one of the trainers on jumping rope. Except she didn't know how to do it. Every time she'd attempt to jump rope she'd get stuck after about 3 revolutions of the rope, and trip, and stop. Then she'd have to start all over again. At first I was kind of embarrassed for her. But 10 minutes went by, and she was sticking to it. One, two, three, trip, start over. The trainer kept trying to demonstrate how to jump rope, but how do you teach a middle-aged person to jump rope who obviously just doesn't know how? But he did his best, and she kept trying and trying. She impressed me with her persistence. One, two, three, trip, start over. Finally she got it - and made it up to ten full revolutions of the rope before she tripped. I felt like cheering for her!

Time to head down to the pool, though. Another 22 laps for 1100 meters, all freestyle. Not any faster - the first 500 m took 15:25 (including a stand up and cough session), slower than Tuesday. I worked on bilateral breathing and keeping my head low in the water. The guy that I shared my lane with was doing 3 lengths for every 2 that I did - I tried to watch him as he went by to see what he was doing differently - he looked so balanced and smooth. I felt slow and awkward in comparison - that is, until I saw the guy in the next lane trying to flail along, doing slow laps Tarzan-style with his head out of the water. My technique is somewhere in the middle of those two. Oh well - practice, practice, practice helps, I hear.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

First day for shorts!

Yay, finally a day over 60 degrees! I wore shorts for my walk for the first time this year.

Today's workout: A leisurely 2.8-mile walk with the double jogstroller loaded up with 35+ pounds of my girls (they're very little for 22-month-olds). Add in a couple reps of picking up Catherine off the ground where she threw herself, screaming in full-blown tantrum mode, as if she were in mortal agony, because it was time to leave the park.

Another commitment: Tomorrow I will go to the gym and run at least 2 miles on the treadmill and swim at least 1000m in the pool. More is great, but that's my minimum!

My girls. Catherine discovered Elisabeth's little outie belly button in the bath, and immediately began poking it repeatedly with her finger. Elisabeth didn't seem to mind - being poked by Catherine is part of her everyday life. Of course, Elisabeth generally gets even by snatching whatever Catherine has been playing with most recently.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Title IX strengthened!

I was delighted to learn of today's Supreme Court ruling in support of Title IX: " prohibits not only unequal treatment of girls and women at school, but also official retaliation against anyone -- male or female -- who blows the whistle on unequal treatment."

One of the common threads in the Geezerjock articles about 40+ women athletes was how they didn't get support at an early age in their athletic activities, and most had huge gaps in their athletic careers or were adult-onset athletes. I hope that has changed permanently.

If not for this blog....

If not for this blog, I probably wouldn't have gone to the gym this morning. It's just way too easy for me to say, at 0515 when I'm still sleepy, &*^&$#@# it and just roll over and go back to sleep. But I made a commitment yesterday, publicly, to get over to the gym and I'd feel like an idiot if I blew it off and then had to either confess on my blog or lie to cover my tracks. And I wouldn't lie to you!!

Today's workout. I was at the gym and on the treadmill by 0715, fully caffeinated, energized by a yummy Cherry Pie Larabar and ready to rumble. Crank up the incline to 1.5% to better simulate the workload of running outdoors. Half mile warmup at a walk, then settle into running slowly and creakily, at a little faster pace than I'm immediately comfortable with (5.2-5.3 mph). I wish the treadmill didn't have settings in mph, since I think about running in minutes per mile. My arthritic knees start out a little painful and then they warm into it. The usual "this is stupid, I hate it, make it end" thoughts come and go with complete predictability at about 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile into the run. I pass the time by people-watching the other folks on the ellipticals. A hispanic couple get on the adjacent two treadmills and the chick disinfects the guy's treadmill for him - WTF is up with that? I sneak a peek at his numbers and I'm secretly delighted to see I'm going faster than him. I take a walking break after a mile run, then go again - a little faster this time (5.5 mph). I feel pretty good after getting nicely warmed up, and as usual, I'm sweating buckets with a red blotchy face while everyone else in the gym looks calm, cool, and collected. One girl on an elliptical even has on a sweatshirt hanging way off one shoulder - not only does it look like it would be hot and uncomfortable, but hey, the Flashdance fad is so eighties! People start making concerned glances in my direction. Is it my huffing and puffing, or the spray of sweat coming off the treadmill belt? I stop at 3.25 miles total after a little walk cool-down and head for the pool.

As usual, the lanes are full. I stop and wait politely to enter at the head of one. Two times the woman swims up to me standing there, turns, and departs without so much as a glance. Okay, BE THAT WAY, I'm getting in with you! Actually, I kind of like to swim with someone else in the lane because I need to get used to the distraction of people swimming around me for triathlons. I give myself the task of completing a ten-lap time trial for 500 meters, just over the distance I'll have to swim on April 17, 500 yards. I splash along steadily and come in at 15:03. Hmm, that's 546 yards, that's a 2:45/100 yards pace, which is faster than I swam it in 2002, and I'll probably push myself harder on race day. I'll use that as my time to beat! I continued to play around with my form for another 12 laps (just for a little extra over my commitment from yesterday) and headed home.

In the mail: my first issue of Geezerjock. Hmm, I still have over two years until I turn fifty, but it still looks kind of interesting. I like their approach to lifelong fitness and competition in this issue, but it seems a little too "gee whiz, look at those old farts go!" in style yet. I'll reserve judgment. Check it out for yourselves, free 2005 subscriptions available at

Monday, March 28, 2005

Why couldn't I pick a sport I might actually be good in?

Well, it's no secret that endurance isn't my strong suit. (Just look at me). The problem is that triathlon is an endurance sport. Strength, that I'm fine with. I used to compete in powerlifting for a few years way back in the eighties (before my Great Decade of Sloth) and I was naturally quite good at it with minimal training. I just got really bored with the hours in the gym it would take to get better, and dropped it.

Just the opposite is true for endurance sports. I have no talent for them, and definitely not the physique! Oh well, I guess it's the challenge that attracts me. It's like taking on the Impossible Dream, almost.

Toronto Tri Gal despairs because she "only" rode 80 minutes on a bike trainer a couple of days ago, and not the 150 minutes her coach specified. If I rode 80 minutes on my bike trainer in the living room I'd be jubilant, and dreadfully sore, and I'd probably have to tip over the entire bike trainer and stand together and fall to the floor just to dismount. If I rode 150 minutes I'd be on the verge of disemboweling myself with a dull knife for the entertainment value, just to relieve the boredom.

Today's workout. I made it as far as 15 whopping minutes on the bike trainer today. That's good for 3 miles. Add to that another 15 minutes last night. 3 miles more. Jeez, I'm really going to burn up the roads when I get out there with that kind of training, aren't I? It's a damn good thing my first teensy sprint tri of the year on April 17 only has a 10-mile bike segment. Gosh, I've done that all of once in the last couple of years. This is going to be ... interesting.

Tomorrow morning: OK, here's my commitment: I will get up and get my fat butt over to the gym and sweat like a pig on the treadmill for at least a couple of miles and splash and thrash across the pool for at least 1000m. Hold me to it. The rumor around here is that the weather is turning much nicer - can it possibly be true?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Where the hell is spring?

Was it just 3 weeks ago I was saying spring is right around the corner? Well, that was stupid as sh!t. I jinxed us.

I'm sick of cold. I'm sick of gray. I'm sick of the weather this year. This month we've averaged about 10 degrees below normal. Usually we have several nice stretches of 60*F-plus weather by now, but this year maybe one or two days is all. There are only a few lonely crocuses and limp daffodils out there trying to get the show started.


Today's workout: Steve and I took the two girls in the double jogstroller to the park in the gray cold mist. They got to get pushed on the swings twice, and Catherine got to go down the Big Tube Slide twice for the first time while Elisabeth happily crawled around in the mud. We had our usual leaving-the-park-tantrum (yawn, same old, same old) and continued on for a three mile walk. I think I still need to get on the bike trainer for a while this evening, if I'm ever going to get that Iron Crotch I need to be a real cycling roadie one day. After I put on the new set of clipless pedals that I just got on eBay onto Old Blue, that is (never mind the damn forward seatpost, I took that off and put the old straight one back on).

The Girls. I think Catherine may have some python DNA in her somewhere. It seems that when she finds something very appealing, like peanut butter swirl ice cream, she can unhinge her jaw and take in a bite approximately as big as her two fists without much difficulty. Elisabeth, poor girl, is just recovering from her first pimple. I don't want to tell her what's in store in another ten years.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Another fine ride!

I was thinking about running a local 10K today, but the extra sleep was a fantastic alternative!

The weather was just barely nice enough (45 degrees and threatening to rain) for another lovely spin today along the W&OD Trail on Buttercup. Exhilarating! We only went 10.7 miles and averaged 12.8 mph, but we did it without any significant catastrophes. :)

When I started out the bike computer wasn't working, and I discovered that I had put the front tire on backwards. I want to get odometer credit for every mile, so I stopped and flipped it around. I was quite relieved that it was the only screwup I found after loosening or changing or adjusting just about every single part of the entire bike during my bike maintenance class!

I'm discovering my dreadful lack of hip flexibility is a bit of a problem. Remember swinging your leg wide over your bike saddle to hop on or off? Well, yeah, for me that's just a memory too. I have to do this dreadfully awkward tip-the-bike and step over thing. Another thing to work on, because that's sure going to look really really stupid in the triathlon transition zones when I trip myself on the rear-mounted water cages and go flying on my face in front of everyone.

I worked on keeping my cadence above 80, which kept me WAY down into the low gears on the way out, which is slightly uphill heading upstream along Four Mile Run. I worked a little on my rusty bike handling skills, banking around corners and slow walkers on the trail. Down into granny gear for a couple of steep hills, trying to stay down in the aerobars and in the saddle until the final most difficult part of the climb. I can tell this is going to be a long process.

My biggest limiting factor right now seems to be crotch endurance. No colossal abrasions this time, thank heavens. I wore my Trek bike shorts which have more padding than the tri shorts, plus I had the new Quintana Roo seat cover. I still think I may have to swap out the saddle for a girl model with cutouts, though, which I hate to do because it did come with quite a nice tri-saddle. I did have to stop once (I picked a field far from prying eyes) and reach down into the front of the shorts and rearrange things. I felt so macho. At least I don't feel like I need a crotchectomy today, but I just may after 56 miles on June 12.

I was also able to reach down, grab the water bottle, and take a swig fairly readily, which is a bit of a trick with the spout pointing towards my elbow. I only swerved slightly, and squirted myself accidentally in the face only a little bit. Good to practice with water and not Gatorade.

On the shopping list: cool new sunglasses that are wraparound but yet have a little ventilation (sweaty eyes make it hard to see); and a new helmet that a) has room for a ponytail without forcing my neck into an unnatural position; and b) coordinates with Buttercup's neon yellow-with-red-accents paint scheme.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Today's mini-tri

Today's workout. It was raining off and on, and since I loathe training in the rain, to the gym I went. First I did two miles on the treadmill at a fairly relaxed pace (relaxed meaning I spent over a half hour doing 2 measly miles). Then a few sets of crunches on the slant board while some idiot pressing dumbbells grunted as loud as he could (Translation: "Hey, look at me, everyone!") while cheating them up. Gack. Then I hopped on the exercycle for ten relaxing minutes of the hill program, which went pretty well, considering I had it on the "wimpy" setting.

Then the pool. 1000 meters at an equally relaxed pace, which took me 35 minutes, but that included finding some man's lost wedding ring on the bottom of the pool and bringing it to the attendant. Somebody is in Deep Deep Sh!t tonight.

Then I relaxed (after all that relaxing) for ten minutes in the hot tub, and headed for the locker room for what I thought would be an equally relaxing shower. BUT NO. Some dumb chick had spread all her stuff over most every available horizontal surface in the little pool locker room (they have a bigger locker room downstairs, this tiny one is just for the pool). She was in the shower, and outside the shower on the long bench were arrayed her towel, body scrubber, makeup kit, set of shampoos, bathrobe, flipflops, and who knows what other crap. On the single long bench in front of the lockers was her winter coat, her pants, her shirt, her gym bag, and some more towels. On the floor in front of the entire set of lockers was strewn her two shoes and two socks. I gave her the evil eye, stepped over her nasty socks and smelly shoes, and disdainfully gathered up everything from my locker and took it over on the far side of the room to the other showers.

Then when I am just finishing up my shower, in troops about ten four-year-olds getting ready to have a pool party. Who wants to stand there all naked in front of twenty huge eyes staring from three feet off the floor at all your bulges and everything? I hid out in the shower a while longer until the coast was clear.

Then home to collapse after all that "relaxing"! And YUM, a big order of takeout Chinese food with a nice Sonoma Zinfandel! I was so hungry I ate all the fortune cookies on the way home in the car.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Newbie Blogger Mistake #37

Well, I did it. There I was, playing around with my color scheme, messed it up, tried to wipe the slate clean, and I did. I wiped out all those carefully accumulated links on this blog. Now I have to re-do them all. F***!!!

Swimming. It went reasonably well this morning. I took it easy, played around with different strokes, worked a little on my freestyle position, and watched the clock until it ticked around an hour. Then I was close to a mile so I kept going for a few more laps. 1800 meters or - better yet - 1969 yards to the good. They were turning off the lights because they are trying to repair the women's locker room for the zillionth time, but it was kind of neat, like swimming at night with the pool lights glowing through the water. Today I learned that even though I can run about half as fast as the Skinnyfast People, I (currently) swim only a quarter as fast as the Skinnyfast People.

Bikes. So I'm not a highly skilled bike mechanic after all. I was trying to install a forward bent seatpost on Old Blue, the bike trainer bike. However, after many hours of forcing, jimmying, and cursing, I discovered that the bent seatpost that I just bought is 27.2 mm diameter and Old Blue's seat tube has a 26.8 mm inside diameter. I mean, that's 0.015 of a freakin' inch difference. I think I need a bigger hammer. After all, if it doesn't fit, force it! At least I wasn't designing a Mars lander....

My girls. Catherine's learning to be a scientist, just like her Mom. Her latest experiment is combining Poptarts and Juicy Juice and examining the viscosity of the resultant slurry, and its adhesion properties on her plastic tray and her clothing and my clothing. Elisabeth has been working on re-engineering the plastic training potty we got last weekend for $1 at a yard sale. She's been taking it apart and tossing away the seat and using the pan as a stylish and jaunty cap.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bike Maintenance Class, Day 2

Today was the last four hours of an eight-hour bike maintenance class at a local sporting goods store.

When I signed up for this class, I thought $100 was a bit pricey, but now I think it's worth every cent and I'll definitely save that much in the next year by being able to do a little maintenance on my bikes myself, instead of dragging them in to the shop for every niggling thing.

We picked up where we left off, at the front derailleur, and adjusted the way it pushes the chain back and forth. Never again will I have to be one of those poor women whose chain constantly falls off because her husband tightened down all those "loose screws" on the derailleur!

I also asked the instructor about how I would go about swapping out my double front chainring for a triple, and he told me I'd have to change a bunch of components and I'd be better off just putting in a different cassette in back with a few more teeth for spinning up those big hills. That made sense to me - and now that I know how to change the cassette, it doesn't sound too difficult.

Then the brakes. I got a little worried when he told us to replace one of our brake cables - hey, mine are brand new! And it threads this weird way through the top tube. Why should I replace it already? But once I got my shift handle taken apart to access the end of the cable, I realized it was absurdly easy. Another bike part de-mystified!

Then the instructor "sabotaged" our brake pads and had us re-adjust them. He showed me where the shop had set up my bike with the pads rubbing against the tires, so I corrected that (and while I was at it also corrected the position of one aero bar pad - they had been set up by the shop an unequal distance from the center of the bike).

He showed us the differences in headsets and head tubes and how to adjust them, although the newer types don't adjust much.

On to wheels. We worked on truing wheels and he showed us what to do if we break a spoken out on the road (slightly loosen the adjacent spokes on the opposite side enough to true the wheel and then head home - even though the tire will now be slightly out of round). Then another part I had trepidation about - repacking wheel bearings. Fortunately for me I have sealed wheel bearings on my bike, but I got to practice on another bike.

That took up the four hours! I left the class feeling MUCH more confident about my upcoming triathlon season, and feeling much more capable of handling most emergencies that I might experience on the bike.

I loaded up my bike in my minivan and headed back inside for some quick shopping before heading home. I got a new pair of flipflops for summer, some Ironman running socks (it's only legal for me to wear those now as a non-Ironman because the Ironman logo doesn't show inside my shoes), several yummy Larabars for early morning pre-swimming nutrition, and got myself a nice chocolate treat for finishing the class! :)

I also received this weekend a shipment of some bike accessories I bought online, so now Buttercup is fully tricked out with all the things I'll need during triathlons:
- a multitool with all the Allen wrenches and screwdrivers I'll ever need, which also has tiny tire levers
- 2 bigger plastic tire levers that weigh nothing
- a spare inner tube
- a teensy tiny patch kit
- an "Ultraflate plus" (air cartridge thingie)
- extra air cartridge
- a teensy red behind-the-seat wedge pack

All together that weighs almost exactly one pound. I can handle that! I may add on a bento box later to carry some Triathlete Chow along on the bike, but that's all I still need (along with the 3 water bottle mounts already in place).

I also indulged myself with a pair of armwarmers and a QR seat cover. The jury is still out on whether this saddle will work with my particular anatomy, but I'll keep, uh, working at it for a while yet.

Now all I have to do is get out there and TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN!! My first little sprint triathlon of the season is less than 4 weeks away!! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a place to buy a new engine for the bike.... ;)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Training in tinfoil?

Yesterday I went for another pre-dawn workout at Club Anthrax. The adjacent office building was still closed down, with police vehicles parked outside. "They" tell us that all the anthrax was inert due to being irradiated, and that there's nothing to worry about. And "They" tell us that it was merely a "coincidence" that anthrax was discovered on the exact same day at two locations just a few miles apart in northern Virginia. And that "They" are addressing all the reasons that the people handling each of the two incidents weren't aware of the other incident until hours after the fact.

Uh-huh. Fortunately I don't believe all that, since "They" can't get to me because the tinfoil cap I'm wearing around my head deflects all the Mind Control Rays that "They" beam out from the top of the Lincoln Monument.

My workout went well - another 2.5 slow miles on the treadmill. Again I was the only one in the gym getting soaked with sweat. That tinfoil sure gets hot.... maybe I need to make the eyeholes a little bigger for ventilation, you think?

Then another swim, 1000m, slowly, as always. I'm working on getting long and streamlined in the water. I need to practice rotating more in the water, to swim more on my sides than on my stomach, with my body emulating a vertical sailboat keel rather than a flat barge. But I wonder if this concept applies to bodies shaped like beach balls? Maybe if I took off the tinfoil swim cap that would reduce drag....

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I'm doing this for my health?

So yesterday I see something on the news about anthrax detected at the Pentagon. Hmm, I say to myself, that's about 3 miles away from here. Let's keep an eye on this news.

This morning I get up at 5AM (ungodly hour for me) and get my coffee and wake up while my husband feeds the screaming babies and I bring in the newspaper. I notice something about also detecting anthrax at some "defense facility" at Bailey's Crossroads. Hmm. Bailey's Crossroads is about 3 miles in the other direction, but I don't know about any "defense facility" near there. Shrug, and go on about my business.

Drive over to my health club, park in the underground garage, get changed, warm up, and by 6:30AM I'm on the treadmill and I put in 3.5 miles. The treadmills, ellipticals, and Lifecycles (a dozen of each) are PACKED at 6:30 AM! Jeez, these people are nuts! This is way too early to get up and work out! Then I notice that I'm the only one in the place that's obviously breathing hard and sweating. I have on a gray shirt that gets soaked, starting at my neck and eventually I have a big sweat ring down to my chest. Funny, nobody else seems to be working very hard. That seems just plain wrong.

Then I get in the pool and do 1000 m. Or is it yards? I'm not sure how long this pool is. I have an end lane to myself so I walk a length and count the 6 inch tiles on the side of the pool. 165 of them, that makes 82.5 feet per length. Must be 25 meters long, I conclude.

I soak in the hot tub for another ten minutes, then shower and head home to be back by 9AM so my husband can go in to work. I feed the babies again and settle down for another cup of coffee.

I read the anthrax article on the front page of the Washington Post. It seems this "defense facility" in which anthrax was detected is a nondescript office building that is actually directly adjacent to my health club. And shares the underground parking garage that I parked in. That is used by the postal and delivery trucks that service the building and come in and deliver stuff like ... anthrax.

Sigh. I need a nap now.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bike Maintenance Class, Day 1

Today was Day 1 of a 2-day, 8-hour bike maintenance course at a local sporting goods store.

I had a little trepidation going into this class for a few reasons: I thought it was kind of expensive ($100), they had us bring our bikes to the class and I was a little afraid that I would do something wrong and mess up my brand spanking new bike; and my usual generic all-purpose new situation dealing-with-mechanics trepidation. At the same time I knew that it was Necessary (I did not know how to change a flat until today) for triathlons and I knew it would be Good For Me to gain some confidence in learning how everything works on my bike, and knowing how to adjust it.

The class has so far exceeded my expectations and pushed me to try things on my bike that I NEVER would have attempted on my own.

The instructor was their store's Master Bike Mechanic, whatever that means. Clearly he was knowledgeable and comfortable dealing with lots of different types of bikes and their ignorant owners.

We were given quite a nice spiral-bound bike maintenance manual, "The Park Tool School Student Manual", which looks quite helpful, with lots of diagrams.

We started out with the most frequent maintenance problem we'll face: flats. He showed us different inner tube repair kits, and had us remove the inner tube from our front tire. Once he showed us how, it seemed fairly simple. I got the sidewall of the tire unseated and took out my teensy little inner tube, and put it back in. I had a little trouble getting the tire rim re-seated after I replaced the inner tube, but he showed me how to get it around the valve properly and then it worked fine. Whew! I think I'm ready to buy the rest of the supplies that I need in order to change flats in an emergency out on a triathlon course, but I'm not sure I still won't cry in frustration if it's a rear flat.

Then we started studying the drive train.

Our first task was to break the chain and then put it back together. This scared me - but only because I never knew it was such a simple, reversible operation with the right tool! I guess I always took the term "breaking" too literally. Actually, I didn't NEED to do that since my chain came equipped with a special purple link that is made for taking it apart, but I went through the exercise anyway.

Then we removed the back wheel of the bike and removed the cassette of gears from it, then put it back on. My biggest struggle of the day was getting my rear wheel mounted again properly on the bike into the rear dropouts - it took the longest time to get it to fit in there properly.

Then we removed the crankarms and the big chainring. My bike had a newer, different type of bottom bracket and so he called the class over to take a look at it. Then I put it all back together - it's important to align the crankarms directly opposite one another. :)

We finished up Day One by looking at the rear derailleur and going over the different adjustments that can be made on it, and practiced adjusting the rear shifter cable so the tension was correct and it would operate smoothly through all the gears.

At the end of the day I definitely did feel better informed, and thought the class was a good value, and I'm more comfortable knowing how some of the bike parts operate. I still think I want to pay a specialist to do most of the major operations on my Buttercup. I'll just look over their shoulder a little more than I did before. :) I'll practice and make the bad mistakes on my Old Blue bike until I'm more comfortable and have the right toolset of my own.

Next time we work on front derailleurs, brakes, wheel bearings, and I don't know what else! But I'm going to read the manual carefully and examine the 3 bikes we currently have in the living room and figure out a list of questions to take back with me!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Buttercup RULZ!

Today I took Buttercup out for only our second outing of some 9 miles. The
weather this last week has been just too damn cold for riding bikes!

I didn't like:
  • Going into the wind and only making 12 mph.

  • Realizing I had forgotten my sunglasses, going into the wind, when my eyes were running with tears and my contacts were adhering to my pupils.

  • Getting very saddlesore even with proper bike shorts. A gel seat cover is on the shopping list.

  • My thighs hitting my hanging-down gut. Ugh. Damn fat triplet tummy.

  • Stupid walkers meandering on the left side of the trail with stupid dogs with stupid too-long leashes stringing across the path.

  • Parents that just stupidly watch and do nothing while their kid parks her bike sideways across the trail blocking it and just sits there on the damn little pink bike staring slack-jawed at oncoming runners and cyclists.

  • Dangerous motorists turning at busy intersections without looking. They scare the dickens out of me.

  • Working hard in a low gear to maintain even a 70 rpm cadence.

  • Sliding on sand left on the roadsides in late winter.

  • I liked:
  • Getting down on the aerobars going into the wind and gaining 1 mph easily.

  • Going downwind and coasting a quarter mile easily at 18 mph.

  • Standing up in the pedals and swooping over bridges fast like a happy little kid.

  • Logging some more actual cycling miles in training.

  • Getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

  • Getting a brisk response when I pushed a little bit.

  • Riding a hot new bike -- infinitely better than a creaky old clunker.

  • Feeling much more competent in my clipless pedals, and being able to clip in once or twice without looking down.

  • Finding granny gear and memorizing exactly where the shift lever goes for it.

  • Making it up that big hill by my house - this time sensibly in granny gear - even though I was panting like a dog after I made the top.

  • Tomorrow's training: Day One of a two-day bicycle maintenance course! I never want to HAVE to change a flat if I can help it, but it would be reassuring if I at least minimally understood the concepts involved. Sure beats clip-clopping home in cycling shoes on foot.

    Catherine's new manual skill: Sticking her index finger into her nostril up to the first joint. At dinner. That's my girl!

    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    Getting settled in....

    I think I'm going to like it here. Here = my blog, that is. I like the feedback and comments I get from folks (apologies to those who had trouble leaving comments - it seems blogspot is dyspeptic today), and I like browsing around through all the other interesting and arcane blogs I'm finding.

    Like the Complete Running Expert telling us how to run faster. Hey, I know this answer! There are 2 ways and only 2 ways - increase your stride length or increase your stride frequency! Period, end of story! There is no other way! Hey, I can do that!

    However, the Devil, as they say, is in the details. The trick is maintaining that ideal gait, that long, high-frequency stride, over a considerable distance without it deteriorating and shortening up and slowing down in frequency due to fatigue. For me, that happens at about twenty feet into the run. YMMV. Maybe that will increase for me with a little more training, we shall see.

    Jeez-o-man. I just looked at my calendar - 13 weeks until my first Half Ironman triathlon. I am SO dead meat.

    My Girls. I may simply be humoring myself, but I'll probably relate some stories about my darling twin daughters here from time to time. Just try to stop me! They're now 21.5 months old since birth, about 19 months since their due date (they were 28-weeker preemies) and developmentally Catherine is about at 18 months and Elisabeth is about at 12-14 months (since she had open heart surgery at 5 months and was tube-fed for her first 8 months). Catherine, aka Danger Girl, is a rambunctious toddler and Elisabeth is a healthy and active crawler, but still not quite walking yet.

    This morning Catherine brought my husband Steve a box that she had been playing with (from a 12-pack of Fresca soda). Then she disappears back into the living room. She comes back carrying some Kleenex she had shredded and deposited all over the floor the previous day, and some old little plastic wrapper she had found somewhere. She stuffs it all into the box. Then she toddles back off to the living room. Great, thought my husband, she's learning what garbage is and where it should go! Wonder of wonders, she's picking up after herself! Catherine reappears. She has kidnapped Elisabeth's two most favorite toys in the whole world, AngelDog and JingleBunny. Of course, Elisabeth's beloved stuffed animals met the same ignominious fate. Catherine stuffed AngelDog and JingleBunny into her box of garbage as well. Poor Elisabeth. As Steve and I often say, it's tough to be Elisabeth.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    Fear Itself

    "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

    Fear is what got me into the pool this morning.

    The thing that frightens me the most about triathlons is the start. Looking out at a long row of buoys, bobbing in rough water, stretching out past the horizon, disappearing into mist, it seems impossibly long and difficult and frankly scares me to death. No one could actually swim that far, my mind tells me. I don't know why, but that sight instills panic into my soul. And it happens right at the beginning of every triathlon.

    It's like the start of the 2001 Marine Corps Marathon, when I saw the Capitol Dome from the start at the Iwo Jima statue in Arlington, Virginia. If you look way, way out to the horizon, you can see the Capitol dome as a small white bump above all the rest, far, far away in the center of the District of Columbia. I knew that day, in order to finish the marathon, I would have to not only travel on my own two feet all the way around that dome and back, but miles more besides. It just seemed too impossibly hard. And I felt fear.

    Fortunately, on that day and others, I have been able to talk sense into my panicking, primitive brain. I remind it that I am well-trained, and all I have to do is set out on the course, and take it one step at a time, and the day will unfold and eventually I will get through and finish the marathon course. And I did.

    And so when I wade into the lake water at the Columbia Olympic-distance triathlon on May 22nd, or into the Choptank River at the Eagleman Half Ironman on June 12th, I will be talking away that panicky feeling and telling myself to take it one stroke at a time and let the day unfold as it will.

    But in order to earn the right to do that, and to have the confidence to tell myself on that day that I'm well-prepared, I have to train. I have to train a LOT.

    So that fear is what got me up at 5:30AM this morning, and out into the cold wintery weather and into the pool. Fear is what got me to do 35 laps, over a mile distance and farther than I've swum in years.

    And if I keep doing it, one day I'll conquer that unreasoning terror, wade out into the unknown, and swim.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Thoughts on my diet

    I'm always hearing about the latest diet fad, it seems. I'm not a big fan of changing my diet in a way that I don't feel like I can keep up for my whole life - because I've tried and failed on enough "quick fix" diets to know they don't work for me for any sustained period. I also tend to rebel when I forbid any particular foods to myself, so there's no forbidden list for me. While I would love to see a huge weight drop and suddenly find myself fitting in my old "thin" clothes, I don't think that's going to happen for me in a big hurry.

    What has worked for me is very slow and steady weight loss since I began running again in 2000 - ten pounds a year or thereabouts for four years (with time off for having babies, which had me flat on my back in a hospital for a solid month less than two years ago). This slow and steady 40+ pound weight loss sure beats the alternative, which would have been an equivalent weight gain, I'm positive of that!

    The permanent habit change I am trying to instill right now is eating more vegetables. What I have been doing every night at dinner is eating a HUGE salad (and I mean HUGE - serving bowl size) as my first course, with lots of low-calorie stuff chopped up in it and olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing on top. That tends to fill me up and I'm not hungry for much else for dinner. It also takes quite a while to eat and leaves me feeling like I've eaten something of substance, and helps me avoid less desirable food choices and grazing during the evening.

    I'm still working on incorporating more calorie-burning exercise on a daily basis - I tend to do harder workouts three days per week or thereabouts, and I think it would do my metabolism more good to have instead daily fat-burning workouts early in the day. That's still a change in progress.

    Discipline and consistency are keys, or so I hear. Those are attributes that I admire, but never have seemed to incorporate in my eating or workout habits. Never say never, though. I'm starting to make changes I used to think were not sustainable.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    Spring is right around the corner!

    Today I was able to take my two daughters for a double jogstroller walk for the first time this year without jackets! It was wonderful to be outside in the sunshine and 68*F, even though I was still gimpy from my run yesterday.

    Teaching them sign language before they are able to speak has been one of the best things I've done with them. Today Catherine made two signs that gave me a little insight into what she understands.

    She saw a squirrel running on a branch outside the window and made the sign for "bird". I don't know if she thought it was actually a bird. She doesn't know the sign for squirrel, but it shows she knows that birds move around outside up in the branches of trees!

    Then on our jogstroller walk when we turned on the path toward the park, about a half mile away, she made the sign for "swing". It told me she knew exactly where she was and what she wanted to do when we got to our destination!

    Catherine enjoyed toddling around, chasing a brave squirrel through the park, but didn't understand that it was never going to let her catch it. Elisabeth really enjoyed the swings today, and squealed with delight when I pushed her hard, and had a great time crawling around in the dirt. That was wonderful to see, since she used to freeze up and scream on the swing, and recoiled from touching the ground.

    I just put a couple little movie clips of the girls up on my website. Take a look and let me know if they work for you (they work on some computers and not others, and I'm not sure why). I'm certainly prejudiced, but I think they're both pretty darned cute.

    Damn DOMS

    Today I have the usual Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness from the 13.1 miles yesterday - moving slowly and creakily. It's not as bad as I got from the hillier Belle Haven 25K on the Mt. Vernon Trail 2 weekends ago (maybe because I walked every steep hill yesterday), but it does point out my many weak areas. My BACK muscles are sore, which tells me I need more core strengthening work. Hell, I need everything strengthening work, truth be told.

    COOL NEWS! My runner friend *jeanne* got 3rd in her age group in the B&A Trail Marathon yesterday, and also ran a PR! She entered on a lark, just because the fee was the same as the half marathon. I'm so delighted for her! I'm confident she could run a Boston Marathon qualifier if she got serious about training for it.

    OUCH! It sucks to be clumsy. I was just was carrying a chair through a doorway (took it out into the upstairs hall to stand on to hang up my medal from yesterday) and hit the edge of the doorway and dented the frame, and the top of the chair hit me in the mouth, and I bounced back against the furnace room door and bent the cheap metal door, and now it won't open right, and I have a big gum wound. I could easily have knocked a tooth out, so I suppose it wasn't so bad ... but it was certainly DUMB!!

    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    B&A Trail Half Marathon

    A great half marathon for me today - my second fastest of all time! 2:39:49 watch time, 12:11 min/mile pace, finished 71 seconds slower than my PR (when I was paced, way back 3 years ago in that other pre-babies life), and it was 13 minutes faster than I ran the same course in 2002. I really didn't even prepare for this race! I got somewhat lost and was nearly late to the start, and had no gels with me, and was a little bit saddle-sore from the ride on my new bike the previous day. However, it was a lovely, sunny day to be out running along the B&A Trail, even though a bit on the chilly side (~32*F) at the start. So I feel excellent about that performance!

    There I go! (Photo below courtesy *jeanne*).


    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Fun first ride!

    I took my new bike "Buttercup" out for her first ride today and DID WE EVER HAVE FUN!

    I'm still getting used to clipless pedals, and I have 3 fairly dangerous street crossings in heavy traffic before I get out to continuous trails, so the start was a little tricky. I can see this set of shoe cleats is going to be ground down fast. But once I got out on the straight path (W&OD paved rail-trail), it seemed like we were flying! I got her up to 21.7 mph on the straight, nearly level path without a great deal of effort, which is at least 5 mph faster than my old road bike at the same level of effort. It felt great to crank up the pedals a little bit and actually get rewarded with a surge of speed, rather than just tiring myself out!

    One thing I am immediately loving as I ride in this congested area is the brilliant yellow hue of Buttercup's paint job. I saw more than one motorist do a double-take (maybe it was the fat old lady on the hot bike, maybe it was the eye-catching color -- either way is fine with me), but I was pleased to see them take notice rather than just dangerously disappear into background visuals. I had a few misgivings about her BRIGHT VIVID HAZMAT YELLOW when I first saw her, but now I'm delighted with the color, since some day it may save me from some serious injuries.

    I did have a little crisis toward the end when I was almost home - the last road before the turn-in to my place is one of the few exceedingly steep hills in the area, and I made the mistake of trying to ride up it three gears above granny gear. Despite my best efforts, the pedals ground to a humiliating standstill. In my panicky struggle, I started to feel myself going down, fought myself out of the pedals and managed to free my feet, and so avoided my first fall-while-standing-still. I won't make that particular mistake again - at least not until my legs are better conditioned for cycling!

    So a short 6.6-mile ride is in the books, and my real cycling training for the Eagleman Half Ironman triathlon in June begins NOW! Or to be more accurate, after a little half marathon that is on my calendar for tomorrow morning!

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Woo hoooooo!

    Buttercup is HOME! And she's BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to take her out for a spin!

    I'm getting kind of sick of the snow, though. Here's a shot of me last weekend taken by my runner friend *jeanne* at the Belle Haven 25K along the Mount Vernon Trail through Alexandria, Virginia along the Potomac River waterfront.


    New Bike!

    I'm so psyched! I get to pick up my new triathlon bike today! It's a Felt S25 in hazmat yellow (MUCH more vivid than in the picture below). I think I'm going to name her Buttercup, as in, "Suck it up...." and also the name of one of the Powerpuff Girls.


    Here we go...

    Stepping up to the plate, as the last remaining person in the universe not to have a personal blog spilling all the mundane details of their daily existence...