Monday, October 24, 2005

What would it mean to excel?

At Ironman Florida, just for a wild-ass example, what would it mean to excel in the event? For me?

I'm all about objectivity. It's all in the numbers.

In iron-distance events, in highly objective terms, "to finish is to win". So crossing the finish line and doing the distance, while meeting the swim (2:20), bike (10:15), and total (17:00) cutoffs and earning a medal, is to earn the name Ironman. That's a victory for anyone who accomplishes it. Period. That would be my primary goal in any Ironman triathlon.

But at the same time, I'm interested (just for curiosity's sake) to see how fast the people in my category did the course. It is a race, after all.

What would it take to be "above average"?

Clydesdale women 40 & over, median -1 performance:
2004: Swim: 1:25:08, Bike: 7:00:24, Run: 5:20:34 Total: 15:03:27
2003: Swim: 2:07:29, Bike: 6:46:00, Run: 6:12:50 Total: 15:30:59
2002: Swim: 1:17:16, Bike: 5:55:08, Run: 4:23:31 Total: 11:53:42 whoa!

Women 45-49, median -1 performance:
2004: Swim: 1:44:43, Bike: 7:01:17, Run: 5:11:41, Total: 14:14:59
2003: Swim: 1:41:36, Bike: 6:39:22, Run: 4:31:05, Total: 13:13:48
2002: Swim: 1:56:10, Bike: 6:41:22, Run: 5:10:15, Total: 14:00:02

Jeez. Those are some fast women. Impressive performances! That seem right now, by the way, totally out of reach for this old body. I think I'm scaring myself. I also think it would be very wise to wait until I age up a group or two, and get an IM finish or two under my belt, before I even consider looking at those median age group times again! I'm kind of surprised how much spread there is in those numbers, as well. They're not as clear-cut as I had hoped - between 11:53 and 15:30 is a gigantic spread. I'll be watching the 2005 Ironman Florida results with interest to see how fast the competitors do the course this year.

Unrelated news bits

Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow are going to be hosting Saturday Night Live this week! Fun!

And for my buddies who are looking for the TRI-DRS email list and the DRS email list, they have been down since Friday and hopefully will be up and running again soon. I'm having major withdrawals! I miss my peeps!

I started a new Yahoo triathlon discussion group today as an emergency backup and place to post photos and use the calendar, etc., just in case TRI-DRS breaks again: Tri-talk. Anyone is welcome!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Not a matter of if, but when

That's what roadies say. It's not IF you're going to have that embarrassing non-clipping-out crash, it's WHEN.

For me, today was my special day.

Jeez. I've been riding in clipless pedals regularly ever since I got my new bike, Buttercup, way back in early March. I felt quite comfortable in them and had no problem clipping in and out, or so I thought.

I went out for a ride today in the nice cooler weather, and headed out down the peninsula for a dozen miles. I was doing great, staying down in the aerobars, feeling good. I even was able to take a water bottle out and get in a good drink even while staying in the aerobars. I thought that was slick. I thought I had finally gained some coordination. But no....

I came to my usual turnaround point, the little parking lot just before Knapps Narrows Bridge. I swung in there, slowed down, clipped out my right foot, came to a stop, and set down my right foot.

The only problem was that I (apparently) was leaning left at the time. And my left foot was still very, very firmly clipped in.

I had a sudden brilliant flash of clarity: there was absolutely, positively nothing that I could do.

In slow motion, I tipped over directly onto my left side, my knee and elbow hitting the asphalt in deliberate sequence with two terrific thuds.


I lay on the ground, pushed the bike off my leg, and finally twisted my left foot out of the pedal. I slowly extricated myself and gingerly stood up, and realized that I would have a couple of new painful bruises, but nothing was badly hurt except my pride (and some scuffed handlebar tape). Luckily nobody was in the parking lot but me.

I pedaled home slowly and with great humility.

I hope that I've successfully passed the initiation test, and we don't have to do that again.

Uh oh!

Recommendation to boaters: Don't go anywhere off the east coast of the US this coming week. Bad plan. This may make the Perfect Storm look like a pleasure cruise.

I'm just hoping this means we'll have a nice fair-weather high following it up after the bad stuff passes by so that Holly has gorgeous weather next Sunday for the Marine Corps Marathon! I'll be doing 10-12 miles of it along with her, just for the fun of it. Can't wait!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Death to ants

Thanks for all your suggestions on my little issue with the ants! I bought these little party gazebos for them today. I hope they enjoy their visit, and bring home samples for all their cousins back home.

If this doesn't work, I'm bringing out the tactical nuclear warheads.

End of inactive, sluglike recovery

Enough already! I took a week of sitting on my butt after the Baltimore Marathon - now it's time to get this old body in motion again!

Yes, I've still got some bruising that has to resolve in my feet, and I know my tendons and ligaments and bones experienced some wear and tear during those 26.2 miles that will take a couple more weeks to fully heal - but I can still get back to doing some exercise! I've got another marathon to finish in just two weeks, and I need to stay on my toes for that!

So today I was back at the track, doing my usual mile repeats. It was partly flooded so I had to stick to the middle lane, so my miles were slightly long. I jogged it at an easy recovery pace:
  • 11:57
  • 11:57
  • 11:55
Yes, much slower than my speedier runs when I'm building (10:52, 10:39, and 10:31 on September 25), but that relaxed pace was just right for today.

Note: I'm posting updates on Linae's progress at the Great Floridian Triathlon half-ironman today as I receive them over on her blog. Go Linae!

Friday, October 21, 2005


I'm going to kill them all.

I just don't know quite HOW yet.

I've tried:
* keeping the counters clean
* keeping the floors clean
* storing all food inside plastic
* taking out the garbage twice daily
* spraying deadly insecticide
* putting out ant traps
* putting out MORE ant traps
* cleaning with vinegar
* smashing them
* not smashing them

... and still they keep coming, and coming, and coming. Their little trails criss-cross my kitchen. They throw parties in my garbage can. They laugh at me. I'm just waiting for them to invite their friends, the cockroaches.


Slow rainy day

I'm bouncing back from the Baltimore Marathon still. No running yet, since my left foot is still slightly bruised (and yeah, that dying toenail has to go), but maybe later today if this cold rain (yuck!) subsides a bit.

There's always a bit of a psychological lull after a big event. I didn't consider Baltimore an "A" race, so I wasn't extremely psyched up for it going into it, so that helps - I'm on a fairly even keel coming out of it. But there's a hazard of getting into a real slump after a major event that has occupied your thoughts and training for a long time - like if I were Shelley or Ellie coming out of their huge iron-distance events I'd probably feel a bit lost and rudderless for a while! I've always called it PMD (Post-Marathon Depression) but maybe next year I'll be calling it PID: Post-Ironman Depression.

I tend to find that having another fun event scheduled as a followup and getting moving in that direction helps - so I'm glad I have the New York City Marathon to look forward to in another (gulp!) 16 days. Then after that I have the Goofy Challenge at Disneyworld in January. And so on, and so on.

I need to find or more probably, CREATE some swimming and biking milestone events in the next three months which will keep me equally motivated in my workouts in those disciplines!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Good luck Linae!

Here's a special GOOD LUCK to Linae doing her first half-Ironman triathlon in Clermont on Saturday, the Great Floridian Triathlon. Their motto is, "Are You Tough Enough?" I'm quite sure that Linae is tough enough! "Fiercest Atlantic hurricane ever seen"?? No problem! Nothing more than a teensy inconvenience. There's no Category Five that can stand up to Linae! You go girl! Just be sure to get your bike leg done while you have a tailwind!

If the management wimps out, I hope they just give you an extra week to taper!

Death to Tanita

I just bought a Tanita scale with a body fat estimator function.

The good news is that it weighs me at 3.2 pounds less than my old standby scale.

The very, very bad news is that it seems to think I have a whopping 11.3% more body fat than the tape measure method. Obviously Tanita is cruelly wrong.

Still sore

Three mile walk down the trail and to the park and back, and I'm STILL sore! Still the bruised instep, outside of my knees, and some crankiness in my quads.

I'm old and decrepit! I'm not going to do any serious runs or do my usual workout plan (right column) until I'm not a hurting puppy.

Here is part of my desperate teeth-gritted sprint for the finish line. At least it does look like I'm running - most of my race photos look like I'm walking, even when I'm not.

Here are the rest of them. It looks like I have gel drooled out from my flask and down my shirt in some of them, but I didn't, honest!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Still recovering and pondering lessons learned

I'm still coming back from the immediate post-marathon soreness, but feeling enough better today that the girls and I went for a jogstroller walk around the National Zoo in the beautiful fall weather. They saw elephants and giraffes and a big orangutan came right up and sat directly in front of them and studied my girls as if they were the animals in the zoo. Catherine enjoyed clucking to the chickens in the children's zoo. She was adamant that the cow was a doggie. So was the capybara, for that matter.

Every long race is just training for the next, and I'll try to review and incorporate the new lessons in what works and doesn't work for me into my upcoming jaunt through the five boroughs of New York City.

Feet: I'm going to lose the usual one or two toenails, which is to be expected from running the downhills, and fine with me as long as they're all done doing whatever they're going to do before NY City Marathon. I got a couple of unusual blisters, but fortunately they didn't bother me during the race. Then all of a sudden when I was walking away from the finish line I thought I had a rock in my shoe next to my toe - but no, it was a toe blister! Ugh!

Shoes: My left instep is still quite bruised - it took a pounding from the stretchy triathlon shoelaces that I used and whooops! never adjusted quite properly. Lesson learned: too loose is better than too snug.

Clothing: My clothing worked great. No discomfort or chafing problems there. In slightly colder temperatures I may just throw a long-sleeved Coolmax shirt over the top that I can adjust or tie around my waist on the fly. Add a windproof technical vest and I'm good down to about 50 degrees. Rain - perish the thought.

Fluids and electrolytes: I also have to do some slight adjustments to my fluid and electrolyte intake during my next marathon. For Baltimore I took 10 Succeed caps in 6-7 hours (total 3440 mg sodium, 210 mg potassium) , and hydrated with a hand-held water bottle. The temperatures were actually somewhat lower than I believed during the race, and while I felt hot I must not have been sweating off as much sodium as I thought at the time. Based on some uncomfortable urinary symptoms, I think I ended up slightly dehydrated and/or hypernatremic at the end of the race. Lesson learned: Next time I need to be sure to get at least 20 ounces of water per Succeed cap, and after a summer of training dial back my normal intake rate (one per ~3 miles) a bit in the fall when the temperature drops below 80*F.

Energy: Another lesson learned: I need to use my largest gel flask during a marathon, and perhaps bring some Jolly Ranchers as a light weight backup! I ran out of my homemade gel at around mile 18-20, and relied on commercial gels distributed on course during the race after that. I still can't stomach them. One packet went from my mouth straight into a garbage can because I literally couldn't force myself to swallow it.

Pacing: I may never learn to run even splits in a marathon. Once again, even though I tried to go out slowly and comfortably, I came no where close to running a consistent pace per mile throughout the course. This time I spent about 47% of the time (2:50) before the halfway point, and 53% of the time (3:10) after the halfway point. This time my slowest miles were in the 20-21 range (but in other races it's been anywhere between mile 16 and 24). But although I was tired on the second half, I don't think I had a full-blown bonk like I have in some long races, but the downslope toward the end helped. I think I just need to keep nudging this in the positive direction and understand in my pacing plans that the second half of a marathon is still likely to take me as much as 20 minutes more than the first half. If not, great! I'm sure that more completed long-long runs would help even out the splits a bit and improve my second-half endurance.

Any other obvious lessons that I'm missing that should be slapping me in the face right about now?

Race etiquette

Is this what fast runners think about doing during races? Or is it just fast racewalkers?

I wouldn't know. I'm always in the back of the pack.

New York Marathon pace bands

If you rely on a pace chart in marathons like I do, and you're running New York, you NEED the NY City Marathon pace band calculator at the Nike website. It accounts for the terrain, including the big uphill of the Verranzano Narrows Bridge at the start, the hills at mile 8, 16.5, and the rollers in Central Park. You'll need to make an account, but then try this link. (The site is a little weird to navigate).

Another must-read site for newcomers (like me) to the New York City Marathon: Ron Horton's "Things I Wish I Knew The First Time I Ran NYCM". Thanks, Ron!

Local Baltimore opinion?

From today's Baltimore Sun Letters to the Editor:

"On Sunday, The Sun had several articles on the Baltimore Marathon of the day before ("Antics keep wacky pace to long race," Oct. 16), and not one of them had a word about the horrendous traffic jams that the marathon caused this year, as it does every year. Thousands of cars were stopped or forced to endure bumper-to-bumper traffic for long periods because, once again, the city did not plan adequately for the event. Big banners should go up all over the city the day before the marathon, alerting drivers to stay off the roads. Those roads that are to be blocked should have signs warning drivers not to enter them. Better yet, the city should close Interstate 83 and confine the runners to it. Some of us have shopping and errands to do on Saturdays, and consider them more important than the desire of a bunch of jerks to run through the streets." -- Henry Cohen, Baltimore

I guess I'm one of the jerks he's talking about, eh? I noted in my race report that I didn't see any closure notices along the course, and I think that might help the situation. It does significantly tie up traffic inside the city for a long period of time that day. I have heard, though, that they do contact people who live along the course directly by mail. The course map was published in the very newspaper this guy was writing to. And you can see some of the big banners that Mr. Cohen apparently did not here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Baltimore Marathon report

Baltimore is a strange patchwork of a city. I took a fairly challenging tour of it on foot on Saturday.

I didn't get in my long-long runs before this race, and I train almost exclusively on the flat, so I was completely unsure how my body would react to the hilly course. I've been working on my biking and swimming more this year, so my running seemed to take a back seat. I was hoping that the cross-training would help carry me through. If not, this run would just serve as my last long run before the New York City Marathon three weeks from now.

They've changed the course every year they've offered this race, I think, so it's difficult to generalize, but I knew this would be one tough mother of a course for me. The course profile promised two climbs up to 200-250 feet (60 - 75m) right at the beginning, a few rollers in the midsection, then another climb back up to 250 feet and two or three more 50-foot climbs between miles 19 and 23.

I had done a relay here the first year of the race, in 2001, and had the pleasure of running the anchor leg and getting to cross the finish line at 5:40:05, just a shade under a 13-minute pace. I said at the time that I would probably never see a "5" as the first number at the finish line again in a marathon. My dream goal for this marathon was to beat that relay time. Alternatively, my baseline goal for every race is to cross the finish line upright and smiling.

I arrived in town the afternoon before the race to attend packet pickup, which is held in Ravens Stadium right next to a tangle of highways. Even though I'm reasonably familiar with the city, I ended up circling around several times before I found the correct route to the free stadium parking lots. The race shirts were good-quality technical long-sleeved ones produced by the major race sponsor Under Armour, but unfortunately they selected transparent white for the marathoners shirts, which I'm sure I will only wear as an under layer. I envied the attractive colored shirts the relayers and half marathoners and 5K participants received. We were also given annoyingly sharp velcro ankle bands for their proprietary timing chips.

My favorite part of the marathon weekend was checking into a luxury hotel on the waterfront (hooray for cheap rooms from Priceline) with a stunning view of the harbor, all by myself (a rare treat for this mother of two-year-old twins!) and being able to indulge in a lovely room service dinner and a peaceful early night's sleep. I was even able to get a nice early room service breakfast at 6:15 and have some delicious scrambled eggs and sausage with the hopes that would keep me well-fueled for the first few miles (it did!).

Race day was bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky. I walked the 1.2 miles to the start next to Orioles Park and Camden Yards in comfortable 60 degrees. I liked that better than the varied forecasts which included rain, but dreaded dealing with the higher temperatures and harsh sun the skies promised. I brought along a water bottle which I decided to carry along with me on course to keep on top of my hydration.

There were pace group leaders in the crowd of ~3000 marathon runners at the start with their signs up for projected finish times, on up to 4:00, 4:30, and 5:00 hours toward the back. (I wished there were pace groups up in my finish time territory, because I would have welcomed some company and support, but alas, none). Then alongside the crowd, on the sidewalk, the organizers had sent out a group of (apparently clueless) teenage girls with pace signs in miles per minute, who were calling out to the runners to attempt to get them lined up according to projected pace times. The 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 minutes per mile signholders were positioning themselves toward the back of the assembled runners - far, far behind the corresponding marathon finish times. I tried to point out to the signholders that this was the reason that people were politely ignoring them, but they couldn't seem to get it resolved correctly to coordinate the two different groups of pace signs by the time the race started (probably because they couldn't do the math quickly in their heads to get the signs synchronized). I don't think it created any problems for the runners, but it was a bit bizarre to watch the disconnect.

I met my friend *jeanne* who was doing the half marathon which started later, and who snapped a photo of me.

Then we started!

My plan was to stay steady, slow, and comfortable for the first half, walk the steep uphills and keep my heart rate under 165. That mostly worked. The first few miles were a steady incline and I jogged those in, enjoying the start of the day. The slopes seemed gradual and easy to run at this part of the race. But by the first mile marker I was soaked with sweat already! That did not presage good things for the 25 miles ahead.

The first 7 miles were a loop back to near our starting point. It was a study in contrasts - the mostly (90 - 95%?) white runners passing among the dwellers of a predominantly African-American city. Only a small proportion of the local residents seemed to pay much notice to the runners passing by and cheer them on. Most of the water table volunteers were white. I didn't notice any street signs along the route warning the local residents of the impending race-day street closures, and many of the stopped motorists seemed quite annoyed by it.

I've never seen a bigger police presence for any race, anywhere! They were great, and posted at every single teensy intersection!!! And apparently very well-instructed on keeping the cars away from the runners. I passed one runner down on the pavement (sitting up, he seemed okay, I offered him my water but he refused) but the police were right on top of it, radioing it in.

Back past the starting point we headed out on a flattish loop to the south, out around the circumference of Fort McHenry, site of the Star Spangled Banner that Francis Scott Key wrote about from a ship far out in the harbor while watching the bombardment of Baltimore. The huge (modern) flag over the fort waved in a breeze which helped our comfort quite a bit, but it was still feeling quite hot in the open sun. I kept up my fluids and took some gel and electrolytes every few miles.

We looped back to close to the starting point at the halfway 13.1-mile marker. Despite trying to keep my effort level comfortable so far, and only being 2 minutes behind my planned pace (2:50 at 13.1 miles), I was getting tired. The little devil on my shoulder was urging me to stop, call it a day, quit at the halfway mark. I tried to reason with the devil. The course continued past my hotel, I might as well stay on course until then, right? I can quit then. Stop bugging me. We continued around the harbor and by the time we reached the block of my hotel in mile 15, the voices had subsided and I had forgotten about quitting early.

It started getting difficult. From mile 16 through 19 going away from the harbor we had a rolling uphill that felt hugely more difficult than the first time around. My walk breaks increased in length and frequency. My time goals started slipping away from me. Okay, okay devil, shut up, I'm just going to finish this one. Let's see if I can make it in under 5:52, that would still be a PR.

Somewhere along here fellow runner Giddy introduced herself, and I could see she was having problems with the course too. She said she had blisters, and slowed for a while to talk to her husband. We leapfrogged for a few miles, but at least I felt like there was a sympathetic soul out there experiencing the same difficulties that I was.

We passed the highest point in the course out in an area of parklands and recreational fields, only to be met with two more uphills through mile 23. On one big open boulevard between miles 20 and 21 there was a long out-and-back, which felt discouraging because you could see the big hills and all the folks up ahead of you walking the uphills. The sun blazed down. My heart rates were creeping up into the red zone every time I tried to run. These were my slowest miles of the day.

Finally approaching the end of the out-and-back, the police diverted the runners and changed the race in progress! They directed us to cut the course about a block away from the previous turnaround. It probably gave me 2 to 3 minutes, but meant I wouldn't cover the true marathon distance, so I'll have to put an asterisk next to my results. Grrr! I was still on a sub-6:00 pace (although that was looking shaky), and they publicized the course would be open 7 hours.

The police at the intersections were kept busy watching the cars, and not the runners, and there were comparatively few volunteers on course directing the runners. I was tired. At around mile 23 I nearly missed one turn because the cones continued straight, and it was only after people on a porch started yelling at me to turn that I headed in the right direction!

Finally I came across Gummy Bear Man, who offered me a few warm chewy bodies from a big bowl. I exclaimed, "I've been waiting to see you all day!" to which he kindly replied, "Well, I've been waiting to see YOU all day!" In another few feet was someone shoveling up gummy corpses, and I said, "Oh, poor dead gummy bears", and the volunteer said cheerfully, "Oh, they had a good life, supporting the runners!"

Fortunately from mile 24 on it was a pretty steady downhill, and in the shade of the downtown skyscrapers I was able to pick up the pace again. It got weird in here. The streets were crowded with hundreds of people near some local markets, but very few seemed to notice the runners or cheer them on. I was working very hard here to pick up the pace to make a 6:00 finish, and I started to get annoyed at their indifference.

But then I remembered. This is why I came here. This is why I do marathons - not for applause or cheers, but to get to that point where I'm tested. When I'm at that point where I'm so tired that I don't want to go on, when I keep hearing that devil on my shoulder telling me to just walk it in. But I don't. I fight back. I refuse to give in. Aided by the downslope, I turned in my 2nd-fastest mile of the day.

Toward the end we were routed next to the fence at Camden yards, but I was working too hard to take much notice of the ballfield. Keep pushing hard to make that finish under 6 hours! Sprint for the line!

Finally I passed under the banner, over the timing mats, and stopped my watch. If I hadn't been so exhausted I would have burst out laughing. My watch read 5:59:59 - one second to the good, and exactly, precisely the same as my watch time at the Chicago Marathon a year ago! I guess I timed that finishing sprint well enough!

The finisher's area was pretty bleak. Nothing but WARM WARM cups of fluids sitting out (I believe there was both water and Gatorade at that time) and bags of chips and pretzels. No fruit, cookies, bagels, or anything else a little more appetizing. I was glad to spot Giddy again at the finish and congratulate her on completing the marathon.

I limped back toward the hotel where my car was parked. I trudged slowly and painfully past thousands of people out in the Inner Harbor area enjoying the fine weather. Out of all those people out strolling around the harbor, only one (a runner) offered me congratulations on the medal. These people didn't come here for the marathon, and didn't seem to take any notice it was going on.

That's all right. I knew that I had conquered that insistent devil once again, and wore my medal proudly home.

Update: Good news! I hope this is true - someone said that they actually corrected the course to the proper length, and everybody else ran LONG! :-) I'd have to drive back and look at the intersections to tell exactly, which I'm not likely to do.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Before the race

Photo courtesy *jeanne* the fast running photographer gal! That's Baltimore's famous Bromo Seltzer Tower coming out of the top of my head. :-) We're standing just before the marathon start in the shadow of Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

In three weeks....

I get to do this all over again! Minus two toenails, I think. Considering there were 36,562 finishers in 2004, I believe that getting the assigned bib number 44100 means that they expect that I'll be pretty close to the last of the finishers. "Corrals are numbered in increments of 1,000. They correspond to race numbers, which are assigned based on previous best times and/or predicted finishing times (fastest to slowest)." They're probably right!

Thank heavens the women's orange start is on the UPPER deck of the Verranzano Narrows bridge, a.k.a. the World's Longest Urinal on race day.

I'd like to feel excited about this. But right now I just feel tired and sore. Maybe I'll feel excited tomorrow.

I'm tired

Baltimore medalI'm too tired to write a race report! But I'll post my Baltimore Marathon medal pic. It didn't scan too clearly since the little running crab is raised in 3D. Running crab. Hmm. Kind of scary to think about, isn't it?

Thanks to everyone for looking in on me and stopping by to comment yesterday! I appreciate it!

And CONGRATULATIONS TO SHELLEY on her triumphant Kona Ironman finish yesterday! Probably you're more tired than I am!!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Back from Baltimore!

Thanks so much for the good wishes, everyone!!! I just got back from slogging through the streets of Baltimore!

It was a very hilly course, full sun and 74*F - so I was a bit slower than I had hoped. 5:59:59 watch time after I had crossed the finish line - exactly the same as the Chicago Marathon a year ago!

Except I have to put an asterisk by the time in my records - the police changed the course in progress and made us cut the course by about a block in an out-and-back between miles 20 and 21. It probably gave me 2 to 3 minutes - which I might have been able to make up in order to get in under 6:00, but I'll never really know! Grrr! And they said the course would be open 7 hours.

Long race report to follow, some time soon. But Marathon Number Seven is in the books, and I lived to tell the tale!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Totally unrelated

Call me a sicko, but these doctored photos of cats just crack me up.

Also totally unrelated: I'm thinking about buying a fake pre-lit Christmas tree, in the hopes it will last a dozen years or so and still look okay. I'm pretty damn sure that even if I buy this model, it won't look exactly like this once it gets to our house, though:

Yeah, I'm definitely going to have to order 18-foot ceilings in our next house. Or else jackhammer out the bottom of our attic.

Elisabeth competes

destruction1Elisabeth is still in the running for the title of Most Mischievous Two Year Old in our household. Catherine isn't ahead in this department.

Here is her erudite comment on baby wipes.

Can you see why we are not planning on replacing this raggedy old couch for a few more years?

Presumably this is the result of her scrutiny of our reading materials. I guess she doesn't care for National Geographic and Washingtonian and Wine Spectator. Nor any of our vast selection of catalogs. Not even the Disney catalogs survived her scathing review.

It's always interesting to walk into a room to find a huge swath of destruction left in their wake.

Shelley in Kona

shelleyIRONM4N Shelley is right in the middle of things, holding the Canadian flag! You go girl! We will be watching you tear up the course on Saturday!

Merciless sun

That's what I'm expecting now for Saturday's marathon! The forecasts have all gone south, so to speak, now that we're within the 48-hour range. The moribund stationary front that we've had all week is moving on, and leaving us with an Indian Summer day on Saturday, it seems. Just right for a scorching marathon!

Weatherbug says:
Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 70s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph.

Intellicast says:
Mainly sunny. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the upper 40s.

Wunderground says:
8AM: 57 degrees, 74% humidity, wind 5 mph, 10% chance of precipitation, 31% cloud cover.
11AM: 70 degrees, 42% humidity, wind 11 mph, 10% chance of precipitation, 35% cloud cover.
2PM: 77 degrees, 28% humidity, wind 15 mph, 10% chance of precipitation, 39% cloud cover.

Oh well, it is what it is! Anything but rain is fine!! I'll pack the sleeveless top and the sunblock!

Actually - and strangely enough - I just realized that this is perhaps my first marathon that I'm looking forward to rather than dreading! On to Marathon Number Seven!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm in Big Trouble

No, this is not about the Ironman thing.

Catherine, a.k.a. "Danger Girl", crawled out of her crib for the first time tonight.

Dad found her face-down, crying, on the floor next to the crib. She was okay, she had just scared herself while vaulting over the top rail.

Actually, I hope she was good and scared. I'm hoping that scared her sufficiently that she won't try that stunt again for several more months. But of course we couldn't be that lucky.

Our lives are going to be taking yet another drastic change.

Oh! And a very big congratulations to Bob and Lynda Mina on the birth of their daughter Kathryn Ruth. Great name. :-)

The next evening I heard Catherine screaming, and found her little body suspended like a bridge, stuck and frozen between the top rails of the two cribs. I guess she wasn't sufficiently frightened from her previous experience. Figures. I was SO right, we couldn't be that lucky.

It's a small world after all....

Remember how I guessed that there's probably fewer than 15,000 women or so worldwide who complete Ironman events each year? And how I admired and was inspired by women in my age group like Vicki Merry who completed Ironman Florida last year?

Coincidentally, I just saw her name on a post from the Disney Deads email list that I joined when I signed up for the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World in January. Needless to say, I wrote her right away and got back a very kind and positive reply! Isn't that cool? Thanks, Vicki! I'm looking forward to (hopefully) meeting you in January!

VMI hope to use her as a resource in seeing if I can really do this Ironman Florida thing in a year. I need all the resources I can get! And if she can get to that finish line despite all the challenges she encountered along the way, maybe, just maybe . . . so can I!!!

Here is Vicki Merry's finishing photo (in the Team in Training singlet), where she is in a much happier place on the course than the midpoint of the swim. :-)

Prepared for liftoff!

I just finished my last short (2 miles) easy run in preparation for the Baltimore Marathon on Saturday. I may do a short bout on the bike trainer and a swim, and maybe a walk to and from the expo, but that's it for exercise before the Big Event. I'm good at tapering!!

I'm still concerned about the effects of my lack of long-long endurance training runs, but in the last 90 days I've completed:

Run/walk: 232 miles (18 miles/week)
Bike: 341 miles (27 miles/week)
Swim: 21,122 meters (1643 meters or 1.0 miles/week)
Crunches: 3310 (257/week)
Weight change: -4.0 pounds

I think that should do the job to get me around the course - the only questions are how fast?, and how much will it hurt? One thing I feel quite good about now - checking back in my records - is that it's substantially more (93 miles running, 100+ miles biking) than I completed in the 90 days before Eagleman last June. I guess it shows me that I can train a little harder and much more consistently than I thought back then, which again makes me more confident about the possibility of Ironman Florida next year.

I also used my last short run for a very important pre-race-day final gear check. I wore exactly what I plan to wear in the race, so that I could fine-tune it and see if there were any problems. Never, never anything new on race day!!

Fairly new shoes: Feel pretty good (same Asics Gel Evolution model that I normally wear, only with fewer miles and more cushion left). Stretchy tri laces adjusted; realized that I needed to re-lace them through the uppermost holes to keep my foot securely in place on downhills.
Shirt good: technical Calgary Roadrunners short-sleeved shirt that Dianne gave me
Shorts good: My old standby RRS Matchmates.
Underwear good: Coolmax on top & bottom
New visor that I got on eBay: good.
Ironman socks: good.
Just wash my clothes, add my waistpack, gel flask filled with my home brew, bandana and a heart rate monitor (and lube up) and I'm good to go!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ironman Florida Swim

I was thinking about the Ironman Florida swim course today - mainly because that's the part that scares me the most about the prospect of starting an Ironman event. The official description reads as follows:

"The swim portion of Ironman Florida begins on the beach behind the Boardwalk Beach Resort, in the Gulf of Mexico. The course is a 2.4-mile two-loop swim. The first loop is rectangular in nature, with athletes actually exiting the water, and doing a turnaround on the beach. Upon re-entrance, athletes take a diagonal (see swim map) angle before reconnecting with the original portion of the swim course, continuing along the second loop until exiting the water at the completion of the swim. After exiting the water, athletes will run up the beach, running up the entrance steps to the Boardwalk, before continuing on to the transistion area."

That sounds okay. A dry land start sounds perfect for me. All except the part about 2.4 miles in a seething cauldron of humanity, in water that is "between 68-72 degrees at that time of year", stalked by sharks and jellyfish and other vile predators, hit by colossal waves, choking on saltwater ... but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

The 2.4 miles is the big part for me. That's 3862 meters. 78 laps in our 25-meter-long swimming pool. In 2 hours 20 minutes or less. Or 1:47 per lap or less. 78 times. (Gack, my normal freestyle laps average only 1:31 to 1:41 right now.)

I looked up some more photos to get a feel for it. The start looks rather scenic, on a nice white sand Florida beach. And I understand that it's fairly shallow most of the way.

I looked up some of the participant photos. Most of the people seem to be stripping their wetsuits pretty quickly upon emerging from the water, lots of them in sleeveless. They don't look cold. A few of them look delighted to be emerging from the water alive!

This athlete, #2361, caught my eye for some reason, maybe because that's a lot like what I look like in my wetsuit photos. I looked up her results. Her name is Vicki Merry, an athlete from Florida. She was in the 45-49 age group, just like me, and finished in 16:22! Yay Vicki!! Maybe that's a good omen for me, eh?

Plus if I finished, I would get to buy and wear this cool new swimsuit. :-)

Dueling forecasts

Now that we're inside the five-day forecast window, it's time for me to begin obsessing about the weather on marathon day. You see, I hate running races in rain - mainly because wet feet equals blisters. But if the rain holds off, if it doesn't heat up too much, and if we have cool overcast conditions, it may just be a perfect marathon weather day:

Intellicast says for Saturday:
Few showers. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 50s.

Wunderground says for Saturday (I like this one the best!):
8AM: 56 degrees, 82% humidity, 7 mph winds, 20% chance of precipitation, chance of rain.
2PM: 72 degrees, 39% humidity, 7 mph winds, 14% chance of precipitation, partly cloudy.

Weatherbug says:
I dunno. My Weatherbug isn't working right. :-( Maybe I'll re-install it.
Aha! That worked! Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 70s.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Portland Marathon

The Portland Marathon is one I've always wanted to do. VJ wrote a wonderful account of cheering on the marathoners there:

"... the folks who are persevering in spite of people passing them, in spite of being out there alone, in spite of blisters and muscle pain and exhaustion—damn, those are my people. They should have a huge crowd. They should have people out, en masse, cheering them on. But they don't. They don't."

Ironman explorer

Shelley sent along the link to this amazing view of the Ironman Championship course on the Big Island. Wow! We'll be following along from home! I'll have to head straight back to my computer to watch her progress online after my marathon on Saturday - hopefully I'll get home before all of the athletes are out on the run themselves! (The time difference helps a lot).

Utility room progress

By popular demand, here are some updated photos on my progress on our utility room renovation. The installation of the new cabinets is not scheduled for another two weeks, so you'll have to contain your excitement until then for the final reveal.

I hope this proves I've been doing *something* productive while I've been slacking on my training!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Chicago marathoners

Keep an eye out this weekend for Jennifer Wilbanks on the course with you. She ran a 4:26 in 2002. This year she interrupted her training to take a bus to Albuquerque, but she's had lots of training since then trying to outrun people searching for her, and then the media.

Good luck, everyone running in Chicago!

Update: It looks like Jennifer was a DNS. No results for her in the finishers' database.

Adult onset athletes

There's a nice essay from another adult-onset athlete, Lisa Bergtraum, at MSNBC/Newsweek.

I find it easy to relate - but then again, difficult to relate. For example, here are some thoughts on the importance of positive self-descriptors when we take on a new identity as an athlete.

From Lisa's photo, she looks fairly gaunt to me, and since she doesn't mention weight loss in the article, I assume she's more or less naturally that way.

It's easier to run when you're bone thin. It just takes less energy to move your body around.

She says, "I’m 46 now. I’ve progressed from running 10-minute miles to finishing the "Fifth Avenue Mile," an annual race, in 6:34."

Huh. I'm 48, been at it for 6 years (minus 2 for a stress fracture and having babies, so 4 years total), and I've progressed from walking 20 minute miles to barely cracking a 10 minute mile. Then again, I've still got that excess 30-40(?) pounds of body fat that I'm carrying around with me for every step of the way.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's different for her.

Naturally, I don't expect that MSNBC and Newsweek would find an overweight mom running 11 or 12 minutes per mile particularly newsworthy. Even running marathons. Heck, there are over 423,000 marathon finishes every year in this country, by people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. With a US population of about 296 million that's about 0.14% or 1 in 700 people. Every year.

Running is the new golf. Swing a dead cat and you hit a marathoner. Good thing I'm not in this for the fame and fortune, eh?

Hmm. Statistics for women who finish Ironman-distance races are a little more selective. If it's true that 50,000 people participate in IM-distance races worldwide, and about thirty percent of those are women, using a generous estimate, that means that only perhaps 15,000 women complete Ironman races each year, worldwide. I'll bet the actual number is substantially smaller than that. But with 6.4 billion people on earth, that means females becoming Ironmen each year are only about .0002% or 1 in 430,000 people. It's as if only one of those people finishing a US marathon each year was a woman who finished an Ironman triathlon. That's a much more select group to join, indeed!

One in half-a-million. That does have a nice ring, doesn't it?

Track work in fall weather

After a four-day layoff, I wondered whether I would remember how to run! I was getting crampy calves and felt sluggish, but I headed for the track this morning since it *finally* stopped raining.

It was my first day this fall running in sub-60*F temperatures, so it felt a bit brisk at first until I got warmed up. The first few of the returning Canada geese honked overhead - soon we will be swarming with them for their winter vacation in the Chesapeake Bay.

I did my usual one-mile repeats with quarter-mile walks in between:
  • 10:33
  • 10:23
  • 9:37
I guess I can still remember how to run! Although I did have to work pretty hard (but not full-out) on that last mile, I admit, but they're faster than when I did the same workout two weeks ago (10:52, 10:39, 10:31).

But whoa! It pays to keep records! I didn't realize it at the time, but 9:37 is a one mile PR for me by 9 seconds! Yay! Gosh, if I knew that I would have pushed harder! :-)

I think I may be all ready for that little run I have scheduled for Saturday after all!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ironman Florida group started

For those currently obsessing about Ironman Florida to the same extent that I am, please come over and join the Yahoo discussion group that I just set up for it.

Also note that I still have not said that I'm definitely actually doing to DO it. I'm just obsessing about it. Not that my obsessing involves ramping up my training or anything; on the contrary, I have enjoyed yet another day of slack and painting today.

No century for me!

I sure am glad that I decided not to ride the Seagull Century well before this weekend! Otherwise I'd feel badly about "wimping out" because I didn't feel like riding in Tropical Storm Tammy!

I'll drive over to pick up the shirt today, which I'm sure a lot of folks will be doing.

I'll see if I can convince myself to take a short run in the rain - between bouts of painting.

Update: Good thing I didn't attempt to ride that day! It was a record-breaking downpour, dropping over 7 inches of rain!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Three in a row

Three days without a "real" workout. It's been a long time since I did that! But hey, if you can't slack off when you're tapering for a marathon, when can you? My creaky ankle is actually feeling much better than usual, so I think it's happy to get some respite.

I did manage to get the whole utility room masked and painted with one coat, so it's not like I was a complete blob. The new wall color is a deep, saturated color which the paint company calls Alaskan Blue but I would call colonial blue. I'm hoping that it will make the new white cabinets pop out while the rest of the clutter left in view fades into the background. It means I'm going to have to give it another coat before the white walls are completely covered.

I'll post some more photos on our progress next week some time.

Triathlon timing tool

Phil has posted an *OUTSTANDING* tool for us to use to predict/play with our triathlon times. Thank you, Phil! Metric and Imperial versions available. I'll use this a LOT - definitely one to bookmark!

Ironman bling?

Oooh oooh oooh! I doubt that I will be getting an Ironman tattoo, for a variety of reasons, many of them having to do with the likelihood of Hepatitis C transmission in tattoo parlors (yeah, I know, they can use a sterile needle and new ink, but it just takes one little break in their sterile technique to transmit it).

But I sure would like to be able to rightfully wear this ring.

Corrective goggles

These look great - Tyr swim goggles with corrective lenses in -2.0 to +8.0 diopters, for only $20. Not a perfect solution for those of us who need bifocals to read our watch, but a big improvement on being blind for a great price!

Speedo has also come out with some new "Hydralign" goggles with a faceted face that seem to force you to look out of the top of the lens, in order (I presume) to encourage swimmers to tuck their chin. I don't know how well these work - has anyone had experience with them?

Update: Ooh, here's a link to several models of "optical goggles" that I didn't know about! Thanks, Joyce! And another model that comes highly recommended. Thanks, Jim!

In other new gear news: How about a noseless bike saddle? Has anyone tried this? I wonder how well it would work with aerobars (or not).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Taper madness

The bad thing about clipless pedals and shoes is that it's really, really difficult to cycle without them when you forget to bring your shoes along, and you had intended to rack up some cycling mileage in the next four days.

Bah! Well, it's going to be raining anyway, and I really truly do loathe and detest the bike trainer.

Good thing that I wasn't counting on those shoes to carry me through the Seagull Century this weekend. I'm planning to DNS and let my husband do his own activities (sailing) instead this weekend. I'll drive over and pick up the t-shirt anyway, and if it's not raining we'll stop by the zoo there while we're in town.

I can always spend a big chunk of the weekend getting the utility room painted in preparation for the installation of the new cabinets. The fun never stops.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My cuties

Today we went to Picture People to get some two-year-old shots. It was exhausting getting them both ready, plus myself! I was reminded why I procrastinated four months getting their birthday photos. One shot with me I put in my right sidebar, scroll down a ways to see it. Here are the other two I bought, retouched a little on my computer after I got home:

Catherine had a tantrum entering the elevator inside Sears at the mall. I couldn't figure out what the problem was, until I remembered the only other place that she goes in the elevator: on the way up to see the Evil Pediatrician. No wonder she was frightened!

Chesapeakeman results!

Here are the complete results for all women 50 and older at Chesapeakeman:

Women 50 & up
1 Ellie Hamilton, 53, Accident, MD
Swim 2.4 miles: 1:25:15
T1: 10:27
Bike 112 miles: 6:53:11
T2: 7:19
Run 26.2 miles: 6:22:07
Total: 14:58:19 (99th out of 106 finishers)

Be sure to read Ellie's great race report!

We may have convinced her to join us at Ironman Florida 2006! :-)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

October goals

Here's what I'm hoping (and planning) to accomplish for this month. I'm not positive I'll get it all in, with a taper for one marathon and then another happening this month, but here it is:

  • Swim #1: 5 miles (8047 meters).
  • Swim #2: Complete a one-mile time trial in the pool (using only freestyle stroke with bilateral breathing) for a benchmark to work on improving over the winter.
  • Bike: 140 miles.
  • Run and walk in workouts: 90 miles (including 26.2 miles in the marathon).
  • Crunches: 1000.
  • Events: Complete the Baltimore Marathon upright and smiling (as a final long run in preparation for the New York City Marathon in November)
  • Dream goal (optional!): Complete the Baltimore Marathon in under 5:40.

I think that should keep me busy!

Today's brick

I'm tapering. Yeah. That's it. The Baltimore Marathon is eleven days away. Life is supposed to be crazy when you're tapering.

Woke up at 5:00 AM on the dot without the alarm. Rolled out of bed and just kept rolling. Am I GOOD or what!?

This morning's swim: 2100 m. Yay for getting in the distance!

Samoan Butterfly Man was there. I saw him standing there looking for a lane and so I started doing breaststroke suddenly to fill up the whole lane and ward him off, and it worked. After he picked his lane I resumed my workout doing freestyle and he merely splashed me from the adjacent lane.

I did Yurtie's ladder of sucky sprints again, correctly repeating the whole thing this time:

  • 200m with normal, normal, normal, sprint lengths.
  • 200m with normal, normal, sprint, sprint lengths.
  • 200m with normal, sprint, sprint, sprint lengths.
  • Repeat.
Results compared to 12 days ago: the "normal" lengths averaged 4.9 seconds faster (at 45.7 sec), and the "sprint" lengths averaged 1.0 seconds faster (at 44.1 sec). They still sucked, and I drank a lot of the pool on the sprint lengths, but I'll call that progress! It's just going to be a while before my form doesn't go to hell when I'm trying to push the speed.

Out of the pool and downstairs to the treadmill. My hair was insane after the pool because I had forgotten a hairbrush and I couldn't get a comb through the knots. The custodian lady was wiping off my treadmill just as I arrived. What an exercise in futility! I dripped all over it and sprayed sweat everywhere. People stared. I ignored them. I put the incline on 2% to give me a little more preparation for those Baltimore hills, warmed up 1/4 mile, ran 3 miles at 12 min/mile, then cooled down for 1/4 mile.


Poor Elisabeth

The speech therapist seems to think that my two-year-old daughter Elisabeth may not be able to use her velum, which closes off the mouth from the nose during speech. Which is probably why she can't say "g" and "k" sounds and coughs a lot when she eats and drinks, and her speech is very delayed. It may be related to her low muscle tone and being tube-fed for her first seven months.

Damn, damn, damn.

Poor girl.

We can look forward to (probably) another long round of doctor appointments and examinations which she will HATE and possibly more surgeries for her (she's already endured open heart surgery and surgery on both eyes), and lots of followup therapy.


I had really hoped we were through with most of that.... we still have two to three therapist visits per week now, mostly for the delays the girls experienced due to their extreme prematurity (28 weeks), but the therapists come to our home, fortunately. But we had daily hospital visits for their first six months, then tons of medical appointments the next six months. It got REALLY old. I thought we had been freed from all that. :-(

Monday, October 03, 2005

On goal-setting

I just saw this on a local swimming website for parents and thought it was right on target. Translate to your own situation. Some of it applies very well to those of us who are no longer 6 or 7:

Q: What are "Process" goals?
A: There are two types of goals that swimmers can set:

Outcome Goals: focus on the end result of performance. “Win, make finals.”
Process Goals: relate to process of performance. “Breathe every 3rd stroke, streamline.”

Swimmers have much more control over Process Goals. Outcome Goals are uncontrollable since they also involve the performance of other competitors. Swimmers and coaches, especially at the Age Group level, should concentrate on Process Goals.

Q: Should my child begin setting goals?
A: Of course! Everyone should set goals. In fact, most kids have already set goals. As adults, however, we must remember that kids are not simply little versions of us and are not going to set the same types of goals as adults. One developmental difference is that children lack the cognitive ability to distinguish time and are also very concrete thinkers. Therefore, setting long-term goals often doesn't provide the motivation for kids that it does for adults. Kids want results today. With younger swimmers, it is appropriate to talk about short-term goals - - what they need to work on today. Most coaches will emphasize goals that reinforce skill development and the process of swim performance. Additionally, based on cognitive development research, we know that around the age of 6 or 7, kids enter the stage of social comparison. In this stage, they begin to evaluate their own performance by comparing it to others. So as the parent, reinforce what the coach has emphasized and help her focus on individual improvement.

Encourage your child's goal to be “SMART”.
S pecific: tells the athlete what to do
M easurable: able to measure and record progress
A ttainable: athlete can experience success
R ealistic: challenging but “do-able”
T rackable: short-term goals build into long-term goals

September totals

Let's perform the ritual of looking back at last month to see where we are, before we attempt to figure out where we're going from here:

Swim: 8947 yards (5.1 miles, 8.1 km). Goal: 5280 yards (169%), grade A+.
Bike: 145 miles (233 km). Goal: 120 miles (120%), grade A+.
Run: 94 miles (151 km). Goal: 80 miles (117%), grade A+.
Crunches: 1110. Goal: 1000 (111%), grade A+.
Events: Goal of completing 1 metric century, DNF at mile 52 (83%), grade C.

All in all, a solid month of training, grade A. My goals were reasonably moderate with no big events this month, so hitting them didn't really exhaust me. I did have to pay attention to doing some training nearly every day, though.

I didn't include getting in the long pre-marathon training runs as a goal, and perhaps I should have. The monthly total running mileage is pretty good for me, though, and I'm hoping that base will carry me through the Baltimore Marathon this month.

I'll take some time and think about my October goals before I post them. They will focus on finishing a marathon this month as a prep race for the NY City Marathon in November, while still paying some attention to working on my swimming and cycling and core strength.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

My puny marathon training

I'm starting to have some flashes of FEAR about the Baltimore Marathon in two weeks. Yes, I respect the distance (after completing six marathons I can recall exactly what it feels like in those final awful miles) and that's exactly why I'm getting these scary twinges! You see, I've been terribly neglecting my long-long runs lately. I've had all these big plans for fourteen miles, sixteen miles, etc., and instead I've been getting in sixes, eights, and an occasional ten.

My total monthly mileage is on track for me, and my training paces are okay; I just haven't done the mega-long runs that I really need (and recommend to others!) to get myself truly prepared to tackle the marathon distance.

I'm hoping that my low-impact bike training and my swimming time has kept my long-duration aerobic fitness (such as it is) intact, and as long as my legs keep remembering how to do it after 10 or 12 miles, I think I'll be okay.

Baltimore is just my last long training fun run for New York anyway, right? Oh well, "to finish is to win", and if I don't make my 5:40 dream goal for the finish line, I've still got another eighty minutes (seven full hours) to finish the 26.2 miles on October 15.

I mean, how hard can it be? The most complicated thing about running is deciding whether to step with your left or right foot, correct? :-)

Left, right, left, right; repeat until the finish line occurs.

Army Ten or Eleven Miler?

How bizarre! Due to a security scare this morning in Washington, DC, they re-routed the Army Ten Miler race while it was in progress and it became the Army ~11.5-miler. Too bad they couldn't have changed the timing mat locations for the finish line with the same alacrity, because now they have no placements or official times for any of the runners in the biggest (formerly) 10-miler in the country!

The funniest thing I heard was that some Army wags were blaming the SNAFU on the Navy and calling it the Nautical Ten Miler. :-)

Congratulations to Holly for running strong today and finishing in great shape! On to the Marine Corps Marathon, girlfriend!