Tuesday, February 28, 2006

February summary

Here are the numbers:

While I'm not yet doing high volume training, I'm doing well on the progression and hitting my targets where I need to be right now. Training time per week has ranged between 9 and 11 hours. This has probably been my most consistent training month of my life, since I hit weekly base-level goals in swimming, biking, running, and nutrition for 4 out of 4 weeks.

I should note that setting weekly minimum distances in each discipline (instead of waiting for the monthly tally) has been REALLY REALLY helpful for me in maintaining consistency, even when those minimums are quite modest amounts. It's gotten me out on Fridays and Saturdays on lots of occasions lately just to make those weekly numbers that I want to hit for my minimum. Doing a LOT and then slacking off is very normal for me, but being consistent and keeping up a steady effort level day after day is much more difficult for my personality.

Next month, weather permitting, should see a modest increase in run mileage and a major increase in cycling mileage. Numerical goals will be posted within a day or two.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Swan walk

Some photos from our jogstroller walk a few days back around town and seeing the mute swans (from a distance) on the Miles River on a bright winter day.

Another good thing

It was actually starting to get a teensy bit light outside when I left for the pool this morning. Civil twilight began today at 6:17 AM. By March 11th it will finally be getting light before 6:00 AM.

Hooray! That will make a huge difference to me!
It's TOUGH to go work out when it's inky black and cold outside!

The power of an image

Yurtie sent me this image of South African swimmer Ryk Neethling and for some reason it stuck in my mind this morning. I hadn't really studied it, I just had a mental impression of it.

Somehow, both subliminally and consciously, it told me that the leading arm needs to be stretched WAY out during the stroke, punching a hole in the water. And that it needs to be there when the other arm is in the middle of the power stroke. And all the while the body is being rotated on its axis.

To achieve this before I think I tried to slow down the power stroke so that my hand wouldn't get down toward my legs too fast. This time I think I speeded up my recovery arm to get it stretched out straight faster.

I also latched on to a mental image of tunneling through the water like a corkscrew, which kept me conscious of that important body rotation.

Result? Over a minute off my best recent 500m time at the same effort level. 13:47 for 500m, 8% faster than I did it 11 days ago. I was also consistently down to about 14 (one-sided breathing) to 15 strokes (bilateral breathing) per 25m pool length.

Last August (last time I counted) I was doing about 19 strokes per 25m pool length. Some elite freestyle swimmers do about 13 strokes per 25m pool length. So 14 - 15 is not shabby at all!

This technique stuff actually works! Who knew!?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Getting to IMFL

250 days out from Ironman Florida. Is it time to panic yet?

I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get myself and my bike and all my gear down there to Panama City Beach.

One method is to drive my minivan. Two days sitting on my butt on the road each way, mega-gallons of gas (1860 miles round-trip = $200+ for gas), a couple of nights in motels on the way, a couple vacation days for my husband minding the girls, fatigue when I get there. And oh yeah, then re-installing the baby seats when I get home (the girls and husband are staying HOME).

OR the other method: I can ship my bike and a bag of gear (helmet, bike shoes, wetsuit, pedals) with TriBike Transport for $235, fly down with two days later departure from the airport that's fifteen minutes from my home, arrive well-rested, pick up a rental car, and pick up my bike at the race venue all ready to go. Do the race, and fly back the next afternoon and sleep off the soreness in my very own bed.

Why am I even thinking twice about this?

Update: Decision made. That didn't take long.

Payment Details
Total: $235.00 USD
Item/Product Name: Bike Transport to Ironman
Item/Product Number: 2006_imfl
DC/virginia_fallschurch_bonzai: Felt S25 tribike yellow
Message: To Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach, Nov. 4, 2006

Hand position

While hand position is probably the least of my problems right now in my swimming technique, it's something that I think about when I'm doing those endless laps. When I'm NOT thinking about it, my hand position may well be closer to the first or second photo than the last.

Here are some drills on the topic of hand position that I may try later today or tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lengthening rides

With the temperatures creeping slowly up, and the daylight lengthening, my cycling distances have been slowly ratcheting upwards this year. Today I got in 35 miles. Whee! In February! I'll have to look back at my records, but I think my longest rides before Eagleman in June of last year weren't more than about 40 miles. I should be able to complete several 56+ mile rides this year by the time it rolls around again.

My back cooperated nicely and I was reasonably comfortable most of the way. The only major problem I experienced were major headwinds (~12-15 mph with gusts to 34) so when I was heading south, into the wind, I was seeing some low numbers for speed that I really didn't like. Like 14, 13, 12 . . . even 11 mph. I get discouraged when I look at those kind of numbers for too long.

Perhaps just need to ignore the odometer or do some rides with it taped over so that I only have the cadence meter to look at. On the return trip, with the wind at my back, everything was happiness and roses since I was getting up towards 20 mph fairly easily.

Train in adversity, race in adversity.

I thought of that yesterday as I watched Julia Mancuso (from Squaw Valley, where it snows a LOT) take the Olympic gold in the giant slalom in a snowstorm.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shelley rocks!

Yay! What a cool person! Shelley was first in line for the good-luck TRI-DRS dogtags at Ironman Florida. I requested them after her, but I was out of luck - too late! But being the super-nice person that she is, she decided to give up her turn and offered them to me to use.

THANK YOU SHELLEY! I'll use them mindfully and conscious of all the good karma they bring along. I'll also bring them across the finish line before midnight, if at all possible. And if I do, it will be a PR!

Be the alligator

That's what I'm supposedly going to be reincarnated as. What are you going to be?

That's okay with me! Lay around all day, swim a little, eat big meals.... just like I've been doing for the entire Olympics.

That goes along with the visualization that my Australian swim coach Yurtie offered me: "I want you to imagine you're a crocodile and you're just cruising along looking at the mangroves. Your tail is moving effortlessly and it's rhythmically pushing you along. Imagine how effortless it is as you just hold a constant easy speed. That's what I want your swimming to be like. I want you to slow your arms down and just be steady. Plenty of roll, and plenty of glide. You must do a full stroke and you must be comfortable doing it. The full stroke should come right down your body as far as your thigh and you should give enough of a push to carry your momentum through the water until your next stroke."

I think I'll be an alligator, because they're a little nicer than crocodiles. Be the alligator.

In other news, The Olympics have sucked the life out of me and I've reverted to my former status as couch potato in this life. So being an alligator in the next isn't looking too bad right now. But things are looking up! Yay! Finally picked up my bike from the local bike shop so this weekend I'll ride, ride, ride!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation?

I haven't tried it. Have you?

As I'm closing out my 5th decade on earth, I'm starting to feel some effects of the years on my joints. You know, those chronic nagging painful aches? A little arthritis in my knees, and a lot in my right thumb and wrist (thanks to mouse abuse). Fortunately aerobars allow me to ride a bike without supporting part of my body weight on my hands (and bent wrists) for extended periods, which can get prohibitively painful. But those achy knees make running (especially on downhills) a real pain sometimes.

Some new positive results in an NIH clinical trial may just convince me to try some oral glucosamine and chondroitin supplements.

". . . using a combination of the two supplements "significantly decreased" knee pain in osteoarthritis patients experiencing moderate-to-severe pain."

Sounds good to me!

Update: Here's the abstract for the New England Journal of Medicine article. It's not terribly straightforward, but it seems that it may be helpful in some people who have pain from osteoarthritis. Worth a try. The dosages were 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin sulfate daily for 24 weeks. Then again, they got a positive response in 54% of subjects to their placebo!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The man in the yellow trunks

On those days when you don't feel like getting out there and doing it, there is always some unexpected reward you receive for doing it.

Like always, as I swam today and worked on my breathing and rolling, I checked out the form of the nearby swimmers to pass the time. I was sharing the lane with the swimming instructor who is preparing for the 4.4-mile Chesapeake Bay Swim (which is always on the same day as Eagleman, so I won't be there this year. But I may be some day, when my swimming improves). I was encouraged to see that I was swimming about the same speed as she was, even when she was doing flip-turns. I presume she was working on her technique too.

Fortunately the pool water was finally noticeably cleaner than it has been! Yay! I might not die from toxic pool microbes after all!

Today's reward was an unexpected conversation with Mr. Yellow Trunks. He was swimming in the lane next to mine. He's a very overweight middle-aged man, swimming along in his baggy yellow trunks with inefficient form that included a huge *SPLASH* every time his right arm slammed down into the water. It looked kind of painful, like an arm belly-flop.

When I stopped and asked him if I might switch into his lane (preparing for them to empty my lane for the entry of the aqua aerobics crowd), Mr. Yellow Trunks began telling me about his workout. Six sets of 200 meters, or something like that. He explained how he was in training for the Gulf Coast Triathlon in May. I congratulated him on his workout and told him he had earned a nap! I mentioned that I had entered Columbia and Eagleman, but since he didn't know anything about those local events I could kinda tell he was pretty new to it all, so that's all I said about it.

He described how he had done 2.5 hours on the exercycles at the club a few days before and completed 56 miles, and then couldn't walk the next day. I couldn't break the news to him that the exercycles give credit for about twice as many miles as they really should.

What did my heart good was seeing how very PROUD of himself he was. He had a mission. He was feeling great, stoked to have completed his workout, and was charged up and ready to take on the day. He was changing his life. He was becoming a triathlete.

I smiled to myself, and went on with my swim. Yep, I know that feeling.

Discussion post: How do you do it?

I just got this comment from Sara, and all morning about a million different responses to it were popping into my head. But I'm wondering how YOU all would respond to it? Comments, please!
"Wow, a tri-athlete. My goal for 40 is to run the Ironman in Hawaii. And a marathon by 35. I got two more years to get my ass in gear. Unfortunately though, I hate running...how do you get past the first 1/4 mile."

Cat piano

I need to get one of these. I'd probably be pretty good at playing it. I love the expressions on their little furry musical faces.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Glasses for Catherine

As much as she enjoys wearing Mr. Potatohead's glasses, I'm not sure that Catherine will enjoy wearing her own real glasses! But that's going to be our next hurdle. We just got the prescription today: +4.5 and +5.0 diopters (farsighted). So we need to go get her glasses, or she's going to have trouble with her puzzles and learning to color, I guess. That's somewhat more correction than I need with my contacts for nearsightedness, but her youthful eyes can still accommodate a lot better than my old eyes can.

The poor thing is really only 2 1/2 years old (since her due date), too! But if that's her only lasting consequence of being born 12 weeks too early, that's not too bad. A lot, lot worse things can happen. I'm just hoping her sister Elisabeth won't need hearing aids because of a medical error. We will find out next month.

Behind already?

Every so often I get a little panicky when I realize that we're only 12 weeks out from Columbia, my first Olympic distance triathlon of the season (and second ever), and 16 weeks from Eagleman, my first half Ironman of the year (and second ever). Not to mention that longer race in November.

But then I looked in my training log for my totals from last year. In 2006, I've already surpassed all the swimming distance that I did in 2005 leading up to Columbia on May 22, 2005. Plus right now I've got 55 more miles on the bike and trainer already this year than I did in 2005 before Columbia. I didn't even have my bike until March 4th last year. (Gosh, did I really do that race with less than 11 weeks total training on Buttercup? Um, yes.)

Looking back on those workout logs gives me a little more confidence. I've still got a long way to go, but I think this year will be better. :-)

Bad feet

Although I could have been a contender in the Olympics of Bad Feet, I still may not have medaled. These folks would probably win.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Upcoming blogversary

Wow, it's nearly a year that I've been blathering away on this blog! March 4th of 2005 was my start date.

So to celebrate, I just entered our local B&A Half Marathon again this year, which is in a couple of weeks. It was my first real (but brief) race report on the blog, and so I'll do it again this year, just to come full circle.

Plus since I didn't do my long run today, I feel the need to put one on the schedule, paid in full, to make CERTAIN that I do it!! Hmm, maybe that's backwards, maybe I should actually DO the long runs before race day? Oh well, why start now? ;-)

There's no bad weather

. . . only bad clothing, right?? And oh yeah, there are also totally unacclimatized people who have been sitting indoors in 72*F all winter and who cringe and whine when exposed to COLD!

That would be me. I had planned a nice long 9-10 mile run today. The wind chills in the single digits scared me enough that I turned it into a track run close to home instead. I did a fairly relaxed 5K tempo run in 35:10, and then finished off a few more laps for an even 4 miles.

I forgot to mention the other day I tried timing myself on the track for a racewalking lap, just to see how I did when I'm pushing it. 1/4 mile in 3:21 - not too bad for someone who never ever trained at racewalking! That's a 13:24 pace! That means if I push the walking pace during walk breaks on long runs, I don't lose as much time as I thought. The key is not letting the walking pace lag when I'm tired.

Core work later tonight while viewing pairs ice dancing on delayed broadcast from Turin. Watching the short program the other night, some of those wacko backless costumes and lurid makeup jobs really gave me nightmares. Call me old-fashioned, but I miss Torvill and Dean.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Swimming time trial

I went to the Y today, but was a little pressed for time so my workout got pared down to the minimum.

I needed to run 2 miles to make my minimum of 10 miles for the week, so I did that first. Darn, these treadmills aren't any easier than the ones at my other club.

Then I changed for the pool. Ewww, a couple of Asian ladies in the showers (speaking together in some language I didn't recognize) were SITTING on the floor of the showers to wash themselves off. I'd be afraid that I'd contract a bad case of athlete's butt.

The kids (usually pretty well-behaved at the Y, which is good to see) were getting canoe lessons in the "warm pool". I had the "cool pool" all to myself in peace and quiet for about 20 glorious minutes. The water was beautifully clean and crystal-clear - that's a nice change for me compared to my other club!

I noted I only had about an hour left before I had to leave for home, so I decided to do a 60-minute time trial. Just back and forth at a comfortable, sustainable pace, staying relaxed. Instead of stopping at the end for breathers, I did a breaststroke lap every 5 to 10 laps when I felt like taking a little break. Back and forth, back and forth. Stay comfortable, relax, don't fight the water, keep your head down, balance. Reach.

Stopped with about 20 seconds to spare at 42 laps. That's 2100 yards - woo hoo! That's just 12 yards shy of a half Ironman swim distance!! Best lap 70 seconds. Yay, that gives me hope that I can do much better this year than the 1:22 that I swam at Eagleman last June! And if I can sustain that pace in November, it will get me out of the water at Ironman Florida with 20 minutes to spare before the cutoff!! Dare I hope?

It's a faster pool than my usual pool, though, with a deep end and sides that overflow instead of splashing back. I also was wearing a different suit than usual - my regular one has a square neckline that acts like a water-scoop. I swam about 5 to 6 percent faster today than in a 1000m segment on Thursday in the other pool.

It seems to take me a very long time to get settled down and comfortable in my breathing. I start out breathing on 2 strokes (left-right), then do most of it breathing every 3 (bilateral breathing, left-right-left), finished up the last 10 laps or so every 4 (left-right-left-right).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Minivan mayhem

We took the girls out in the minivan to see if one of the local beauty shops would take Catherine for a haircut as a walk-in. No dice, too busy.

So we pull into the self-serve car wash while we were in the neighborhood, just to wash some of the winter salt off the minivan. We get a token and plunk it in and drive into the automatic carwash stall with Catherine and Elisabeth strapped in their carseats in the back seat.

The machine starts up, and the big hairy rollers start rolling over the minivan from the front, just like they always do.

Catherine and Elisabeth ABSOLUTELY FREAK OUT. They start wailing and screaming and crying at the TOP OF THEIR LUNGS. It's like they think the minivan has been accidentally driven into the Star Wars trash compactor and we're all going to die. They have turned into HOWLING little banshees.

Steve and I try to comfort them and they just grab our hands as hard as they can with their sharp little fingernails digging in and continue SCREAMING. And SCREAMING. There is no consoling these girls! But Mom and Dad don't understand, that MACHINE IS EATING THE FREAKING CAR!!!

Finally after hours and hours, it seems, the car wash finishes its business and we are able to pull out and show them that the minivan will not be killed by the Carwash Monsters. But I don't think they stopped whimpering until we were all the way home again.

Product review: Ultraswim shampoo

Ultraswim shampoo, $5.45 for 7 ounces. It is sold with some glowing descriptions: ". . . a unique, patented formula that actually removes chlorine from hair, transforming swimmer’s hair into salon-beautiful hair. In recent independent lab tests, ULTRASWIM removed at least twice as much chlorine from hair as other swimmer shampoos, and almost four times as much chlorine as popular everyday shampoos. "

Let me preface my comments by saying I have thick, coarse, long, damaged hair. I don't know how this product works on other hair types. BUT - I found no discernible difference in the condition of my hair after using this shampoo and a regular better-quality shampoo (NOT the cheap stuff in the dispensers at the health club). I didn't notice any results that made this product worth it. I'll probably just refill the bottle with my normal shampoo from home, and continue to use a good-quality conditioner after swimming. I also don't know if this shampoo may help lessen the effects of cumulative damage on hair over many weeks - but after just a couple of washings with it, I didn't see any change in my hair. I won't buy it again.

What has helped reduce my hair damage has been getting a better-quality swim cap. I bought this "Long hair silicone cap" ($8.95) and I'm very pleased with it. It's large enough to fit around my huge head plus my bulky braid. It's very smooth and slippery in texture so it comes off without pulling my hair, and keeps my hair from getting all tangled while doing my laps. It also prevents my hair from getting tangled by the strap of my swim goggles.

The only drawback is that it does tend to slip off a bit and I have to adjust it periodically, so I probably wouldn't use it in an open-water swim. Actually, one other drawback is that the one I purchased is silver in color, so it looks like I'm swimming with a tinfoil hat.

I'm a convert, though, and from now on I'll be using this type of swim cap religiously in the pool, even though our pool rules do not require swim cap wear.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Our jogstroller walk

They're so darned cute. I'm recording here a few of our little events of the day, because I know that I'll forget them if I don't.

For caterpillar (a creature they doesn't have much experience with, but have seen frequently in videos and in her books) Catherine mixes it up with the much more familiar word, computer, and her resulting malapropism is "ca'aputer".

Today we took a long jogstroller walk and we stopped to watch a large group of swans that lives in a nearby cove. (I'll post some photos after the weekend). First Catherine called them ducks (which she pronounces "cocks"), so I tried to explain that they were called swans. One of her common expressions is "dese" (these/this) or "dese ones". So when we were leaving she called out, "Bye-bye, dese ones". (Say it fast - it's like "bye-bye, the swans").

Even Elisabeth (who is speech-delayed) liked the swans so much she was calling out "Buh! Buh! Buh!" for birds, and signing "More! More! More!"

Then tonight at dinner Catherine was doing magic tricks. She would put hide her hand beside her high chair and say, "Bye-bye, hand!" and then pull it out to surprise me that it was still actually attached to her body and yell out "Hand!"

Product review: Clif Bloks

Ack! I just spent half an hour writing a review of Clif Bloks, only to have it *blip* totally disappear when I clicked on publish. Blogger sucks!

Let me try again.

Product review: Clif Shot Bloks Organic Electrolyte Chews. $1.95 plus tax and shipping from REI.com for 60g/2.1 ounces or 6 blocks (2 servings). Cost per serving similar or slightly less than most sports gels.

Nutrients: Calories per serving 100. Calories from fat 0. Total fat per serving 0 g. Saturated fat 0 g. Trans fat 0 g. Cholesterol per serving 0 mg. Sodium 70 mg. Potassium per serving 20 mg. Carbohydrates per serving 24 g. Dietary fiber 0 g. Sugar 12 g. This is a negligible source of sodium and potassium for replenishment of sweat losses during heavy exertion - don't count on it for any significant contribution to electrolytes. I consider the title "electrolyte chews" a misnomer and marketing gimmick. They're certified organic, if that's important to you (not to me).

Ingredients: First listed ingredient is organic brown rice syrup, which has a fairly modest glycemic index and shouldn't make your blood sugar spike. On the other hand, they also won't give you a big boost when you may really need it, like glucose tablets, for example.

Texture: Sweet, chewy bite-sized blocks, which are fairly large, about 3/4 inch square. Not as chewy and much less sticky than Jujyfruits, but more chewy than Jell-O jigglers. Might be pasty and difficult to get down on a hot race course without lots of water.

Flavor: I only tried the lemon-lime flavor, and for a snack and after a swim - not during a dry, hot workout. The flavor is pleasant, bland, very slightly salty, and mildly sweet-tart, like a generic mixed fruit jelly, but without any true lemon or lime tang. I haven't tried the other flavors yet.

Packaging: This is one of the big negatives of this product for me. They come 6 per package in a non-recloseable plastic pouch, which at 4.5"x5" is about 3 inches bigger than it needs to be. I've already seen many of these littering race courses. While I like being able to take just one blok at a time (1/3 serving) rather than trying to choke down an entire gel (or trying to carry an oozing open gel packet), having to dispense these sticky little items out of this unwieldy package during a race (and then finding a place to properly dispose of the empty package where it wouldn't get caught in the wind) would be a hassle.

Summary: These aren't bad for a candy-like snack for a little energy during or after a workout when you have access to lots of water, but there are lots of gel candies on the market that have much better flavors and equal energy value. The packaging and hassle of dispensing Clif Bloks might make them fairly undesirable to me to carry during a long race, and I'm doubtful that I would be able to choke them down when I'm very hot and dehydrated. I'd probably take one for variety if they were handed out on the course for free, though.

Update: I tried the Cran-Razz flavor and I do like that better. It's a pretty recognizable mild cranberry-raspberry taste. I decided the texture/consistency is very much like Sharkies, or also like those candy orange slices or candy spearmint leaves without the coating of sugar. Which I like better, come to think of it. Actually, the best solution might be to go to the Brach's Pick-a-mix candy display in the grocery store and get a bunch of those individually-wrapped gel candies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Muslim protests

Actually, I'm starting to think that these Muslim protests aren't entirely a bad thing. Ronald McDonald, last seen in Turin at the Olympics, apparently decided to make a little side trip to Pakistan.

"Now we have you, accursed infidel clown. But, oh, how you taunt us with your smiling!"

Ten minutes later:

"Would you like fries with that?"

Anti-semitic cartoon contest!

No, no, not here. Sorry.

But with all this ridiculous brouhaha raging over cartoons (some people just have NO sense of humor) folks in Tel-Aviv have opened up their own anti-semitic cartoon contest. By Jews, for Jews.

"We'll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!" said organizers. "No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!"

Prizes will include "the famous Matzo-bread baked with the blood of Christian children."

Being of profoundly irreverent mindset myself, I love it. Please pass the matzo.

It's the Olympics' fault

So I thought the Olympics were going to get me all motivated and working out and healthy and all that.

Instead of being active, I'm staying up past 11PM (I hate that they don't start the broadcasts until 8PM on the east coast), sitting on my can watching television of OTHER people being active, and getting very well reacquainted with that too-familiar syndrome of Stuffing My Face Continually In Front Of The TV. Then, unlike Angie, I can't seem to wake up early enough to get in the workout that I had planned.

Something is very wrong about this whole phenomenon. I am getting in a little more bike trainer time than usual watching TV, but that doesn't compensate for all the snacking that I'm doing.

It's probably a good time for them to drain and fix the pool and get my bike worked on, in any event.

Come on Spring!

I saw a robin this morning on the trail! The buds are getting big on the trees, too. I hope that means that spring is right around the corner! I need that burst of energy that the warm temperatures and sunshine seem to provide.

I did four slow kludgy miles on the W&OD rail-trail this morning and most of it was clear of ice and snow, although I did have to tiptoe carefully over some ice-bound bridges. Well, at least I got in a session of that low heart rate training that everybody keeps talking about.

Then again, robins are notoriously dumb birds. Probably the one I saw was just too stupid to migrate, and was hoping desperately to find a frozen worm somewhere in the snow.

Clockwork people

Don't you hate those clockwork people? You know the ones.
  • The ones that wake up suddenly one day and whoops! discover they're overweight, and so they just change their diet and drop off the pounds steadily week after week and get to their goal weight and stay there.
  • The ones that get up at 4AM every day without complaint or even a second thought and go do their workouts and by the time most of us start our days they've swum two miles and run a dozen and are acting all chipper and happy.
  • The ones that never miss a workout no matter what. They just do it, whatever is on the schedule.
  • The ones that eat the same thing day after day (like this), healthful foods in moderate amounts, and love it and never get tired of it.
  • The ones that look forward to getting to work every day and arrive early, acting all cheerful.
  • The ones that decide to write a book or learn a language and sit down for an hour a day without fail to do it and get the job done in six months.
  • The ones that do their training every day and never seem to need a day off or vacation, because, well, it doesn't even occur to them.

I'm NOT NOT NOT one of those people. I like to sleep late in the morning and go to sleep early at night. Or stay up on a whim because I've found something interesting to do. Enjoy my food in variety and quantity. Find a million "good reasons" to curtail or skip my workout. Love to do something different and new and interesting every day, and hate getting stuck in the same old boring routine.

Discipline is a foreign and slightly distasteful concept to me. Something maybe good for nuns and Marines, but not for me.

But I can sure see how those traits might be useful . . . . if I were to somehow acquire them. Practice, practice, practice, I guess.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

To all my loyal readers out there in blogland: Hope your Valentine's Day was filled with chocolate! Or bling!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Good luck Emily!

Best wishes to American figure skater Emily Hughes on getting out of the US successfully during this snowstorm, getting permission from the IOC (done!) to replace the injured Michelle Kwan on the US team, and having a fabulous skate in Torino!

Wouldn't that be a fairy-tale ending if she did well there!?

Best wishes also to Michelle in her future career. What a true champion!

Oh, and another good luck to our local Maryland figure skater, Kimmie Meissner.

Another fairy-tale story out of the Olympics: I heard in the TV coverage yesterday that the coach Yao Bin of one of the top-ranked Chinese pairs figure-skating teams (Shen and Zhao) was DFL at the Sarajevo Olympics. "Yao says he remembers the audience laughing at their performance" at the 1980 world championships. It looks like he stayed in the business and went on to a great career, and got the last laugh!

Helping shovel

The girls came out to play in the novelty of heavy snow. Elisabeth thought the whole event was hysterically funny.
Catherine was a little suspicious of that deep white stuff, but then decided to pitch in and help with the shoveling effort. With the squeegee. Then she decided to go wading in the deep puddles of icewater, whereupon Mean Mom decreed that it was time to go back inside, which generated much wailing and consternation.

The Exception

Go Chad! Amazing, multiple world-record holder, now gold medalist, and he's only been speedskating four years? Just goes to show what a little training will get you! And oh yeah, there are those FIFTY world championships in inline skating, too. . . .

The Big Snow

Some time between when I went to sleep last night after the end of the prime time Olympics coverage and when I woke up this morning, our area was transformed by 8 to 12 inches of white stuff! Catherine called the snow while it was still falling "snow bubbles".

It's a good thing that I got that run done yesterday!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

No swim clinic!

Due to some snow tonight, the swim clinic that Holly and I were going to tomorrow has been either cancelled or postponed. Darn! I was really looking forward to it!!

Fortunately I was able to get in a pretty good run this morning before the drizzle turned into hard rain (which is now turning to snow in the evening). I ran 10K at a solid 12 min/mile pace - not pushing at all, but not lollygagging either. No walking, just 5 or 6 stops for busy street crossings. Since I hadn't run since last Sunday, my legs felt strong and solid and comfortable most of the way, which was nice. While swimming I never feel that solid, and in cycling I only feel solid for about the first 90 minutes before my back starts giving me grief. Running is my "old reliable" fallback discipline.

Oh, and special mention - since Cliff brought up his 15 hours this week - is that this week I broke 10 hours of training for the first time this year. Onward and upward! I'm starting to get accustomed to doing a little time on the bike trainer most days if I watch TV, but yes, it's boring.

In other news, I'm bummed that Olympic gold-medalist cyclist Tyler Hamilton lost his appeal for blood doping violations. I hope to see him racing again as soon as his suspension concludes in September. Usually I'm very skeptical about these things, and I don't know exactly why, but for some reason I still believe in Tyler. There just seemed to be far too many questions about the analysis procedures, and I'm particularly troubled by the testing agency's assumption of a zero probability of false positives.

Friday, February 10, 2006

First 3K swim!

Woo hoo! I finished my first-ever 3000m swim today! In the pool which is still mucky and murky, too. But it's done! It took me something over an hour and a half. 862 meters to go to finish that Ironman-distance swim - which I'm becoming increasingly sure that I could finish within the 2:20 allowed on the course!!

Plus, naturally, I need a LOT LOT LOT more training so that the 3862 meters in the water on Ironman day doesn't exhaust me for those other activities I have planned that day. Namely 112 miles on the bike and 26.2 miles on foot!

Today's swim included a 1000m time trial, which I completed in 31:21. Try as I might to work on my technique, I can't seem to sustain a pace much faster than about 1:30 per 50 m. At least not without a wetsuit and without doing flip turns. YET.

Perhaps that swim clinic on Sunday that Holly and I are attending will give me some jet propulsion, somehow. I can hope!


Olympics start tonight!

Woo hoo!

In the midst of the media blitz, don't forget to stop by this most excellent Olympic blog: DFL. Because they're Olympians, and we're not.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Big fat carnival

Some fascinating reads concerning fat and our human experience over at the Big Fat Carnival. Particularly instructive: the section on Our Fat-Hating Culture.

If you're interested in this subject area, I also recommend Fat Politics by J. Eric Oliver. I haven't quite finished my copy yet, but it's a point of view with which I find myself in agreement.

It disturbs me when I see, on a regular basis, so much raw HATRED and derision projected about body fat. Overt, subtle, by people with relatively low body fat levels, by people with high body fat levels, at others, at themselves. It's ugly and poisonous and doesn't make anyone healthier in body or spirit or help anyone feel better. Unless, perhaps, it offers one that smug sense of superiority over people with higher body fat levels . . . right?

Slow day

Yesterday was a bit of a slower day training-wise than normal. I had planned to do some bike trainer time, but most of that time got taken up instead by the urgent errand of taking my bike Buttercup over to the bike hospital. They had to call out to California for the little fitting that holds on the left crank. I told them to order two so that I would have a spare - I don't want an event messed up when such a tiny piece can cause the whole bike to become non-functional! I want an extra gizmo safely in my toolkit!

They tried to sell me a new handlebar wrap, but I declined since the small cut on the left side is a nice reminder to me to clip out correctly when stopping. It's not on a part of the handlebars that I normally use, anyway. They did point out some cuts on the rear tire tread I hadn't noticed, so I'm having that tire replaced. After I get her back I'll have to buy that new chain and practice swapping out the new cassette and try it out a few times before Columbia.

It looks like I have a change of schedule for August! An old girlfriend is getting married the same weekend as Iron Girl, so I think I'll withdraw from Iron Girl and go to the wedding. Now I need to decide if I want one more fall warmup and full dress rehearsal event, or just train through instead. Lots of possibilities - I'm looking at Diamondman on September 10, Odyssey Half Iron at Lake Anna, Virginia on September 16, or Colonial Half Iron on September 24 or Colonial International Distance on September 23. Or the least travel and expense of all would be the Half Chesapeakeman on September 30, if they offer it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Teaching my daughter the important stuff

Yesterday I was wearing my Eagleman tshirt from last year around the house. Catherine was all excited because she recognized and could name "Eagle! Eagle! Eagle!" and "Stars! Stars! Stars!" on it. (It has a big eagle head that turns into stars and stripes). She enjoyed naming them again and again when I would point to them.

So then I coached her on the m-dot logo too. Now when I point to that symbol, she cries out, "Ironman! Ironman! Ironman!"

Smart girl!

I'm proud that she can name that symbol now even before she has figured out what those ubiquitous golden arches mean.

My 2006 competition tri-suit

I still have to test them out for comfort level during long sessions, but I think this is what I'll be wearing at Columbia and Eagleman this year. They just arrived today and feel great!

A Zoot mesh tri jersey - $47.50 on sale. The cut is a little looser around the armholes than I like (but maybe that's better while riding the bike). It's very comfortable and seems like it will be cool while still providing shoulder and back coverage from the sun, plus it seems long enough it won't gap above my shorts. Best of all, it has a generous mesh pocket on the back. The color is a little strange - deep hot pink, nearly red. But it will do the job plus look fine on Buttercup, and that's what counts. The fabric is an unusal nylon/lycra stretchy mesh that should be durable and allow tons of air movement without being see-through.

I love these shorts!! DeSoto 4-pocket Power Tri Shorts (in black), $38 on sale (a great price for bike shorts). The pad seems a little thin for long-distance cycling, but the fit is great and there are TWO pockets on each side for my essential stuff. Maybe this will mean I finally will be able to do a triathlon without wearing my waistpack during the run!

I also purchased a few other new essentials at swimoutlet.com for the swim clinic this weekend - a pull buoy of my own, a new larger-sized comfortable silicone swim cap that all my hair will fit underneath and doesn't pull it out by the roots, and some Ultraswim shampoo to keep my hair from further turning into brown straw.

Rest, recovery, and tapering

I'm all about rest and recovery in the training cycle.

Here's a great summary of recent research on this topic. But keep in mind when you read the piece that in most of these studies, when these folks were training, they were training HARD.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pool yuck

Management responded to my complaint about the yucky pool conditions:

"Thanks for taking the time to email us about the pool here . . . we are always looking for ways to better serve or members.I apologize for the cloudy pool water the past week or so,we put up signs today informing everyone that the pool will be closed next Wednesday for filter repairs.I was with the engineer when he opened up our filters and we found a large amount of lotion,etc. had gotten in the sand and is preventing it from filtering 100%.The chemical levels in pool are perfectly safe,and we are still filtering at a safe rate,currently the pool water is "turned over"or completely filtered every 12 hours,where as usually it's every 9-10 hrs. Our Aquatics staff,led by our Aquatics Director . . . is working to keep the pool operating cleanly and safely,please feel to contact her or myself personally with any questions or other feedback."

Hmm. I don't think I'm buying this. What do you think? The pool was cloudy way back on January 16th. I sent that photo back to the manager just to show him the conditions existed for three weeks, just in case he was misinformed by staff.

Slowly getting less slow

Another swim attempt this morning in the icky 3-lane pool. The water was still really cloudy and yucky. I just sent a complaint email to the management.

The pool was also overcrowded, and I got moved by the pool staffer out of using the lane with the ramp in it so an older lady could walk back and forth to circle-swim in the next lane. Ugh. I hate circle-swimming, because I'm always the slowest. And it interrupts my rhythm, such as it is, to stop every lap and try to spot the other swimmers to make sure I'm spaced out properly.

I was in a lane then with two faster guys and instead of doing the workout I had planned, tried to keep up with their pace. I couldn't, but I did do 1000m in 33:07 (with some stops for spotting the other swimmers, and open turns as usual), which is one of my faster 1000m pool swims. I'm not sure, I haven't kept good records on that. So maybe that will make Kewl Nitrox feel better, who is complaining about a 1000m over 4 minutes faster.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Twins get wild at bathtime

This title ought to draw all the weirdos over to my blog....

As far as the housework....

Cleaning and cooking can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow up, as we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.


And when Daddy's on duty
And minding our cuties
Then I'll ride my bike,
Or swim, run or hike,
So their Mom will have health
At my age that's wealth.

Home maintenance follies

Subtitled: "Everything takes longer than it takes."

The little countertop microwave that I'd had for ages finally zapped its last zap last November. No big deal - it was cheap when I got it twenty years ago. So I look at the counter space it took up, and I look at the unused space over the stove, and I have the brilliant idea to get an over-the-stove microwave for the next one. So, in November, the little dead microwave goes in the dumpster, and days are numbered for the old hood over the range:

So I browse through Consumer Reports as I always do, and go over to Home Depot online and buy a new over-the-stove microwave with delivery and installation (~$300). In a couple of weeks, the guys come over with the new microwave, unbox it, take out the old vent, and stop cold. Nope, won't touch another thing. We need a new electrical outlet wired into the cabinet above before they will do anything, even though there are two outlets already adjacent to the stove which have worked just fine for the microwave in the past.

So we call the electricians, wait another couple of weeks, and they finally come and have to run a complete new line from the fuse box through the kitchen ceiling and then finally we have a new outlet inside the cabinet. Which is useful for plugging in the microwave and exactly nothing else. Another $500.

Meanwhile the new microwave is sitting on our counter, where we are using it daily, and it occupies all but about the front 2 inches of counter space. We call the Home Depot guys back, and after another couple weeks they return to attempt a re-install. Except they come in, drill two holes, hit cinderblock (which is between every unit as a firewall) and refuse to do any more, saying they're not allowed to do anything with the cinderblock. They walk out. Naturally, they do NOT provide us with one of their consumer (dis)satisfaction surveys they're always prompting us to fill out at other times.

So we search and search for an independent contractor who will do the job, and wait another 6 or 8 weeks until they come over. Meanwhile we have almost no counter space and have resorted to using the stove as our only free piece of counter.

FINALLY, today, after 3 months, and another $100 (yes, that's a total of $900), we have success:

Hooray! A fully-installed microwave, AND a big new piece of free, unused, empty countertop!

I'm in housewife nirvana. I think that means it's time to make some Jell-o Jigglers for my kids.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Poor Buttercup!

I was all dressed and ready for my long ride today, when I discovered that my bike Buttercup was injured! A screw-mount that holds on the left crank had fallen off somewhere on the road, so the left pedal was completely loose. Without that, unfortunately, she's unrideable.

I had been procrastinating for the last 3 weeks on taking her in for a tune-up at the local triathlon bike shop, so that's going to take top priority this week! Until I get her back, probably all my bike miles will be on the trainer, sadly enough.

The nice thing about triathlon is that if for some reason you can't do one workout, there are two more disciplines calling your name. I went out on foot for some LSD mileage on the roads and got home after 9.7 slow ones.

My left hip has been complaining at me a little for the past two weeks - ever since I did too much speedwork running in only one direction on the track - probably a little bursitis. I think it's finally nearly cleared up, thankfully. NO INJURIES, PLEASE!

He did it!

First report is back from Yurtie! He did it!! 15,000 meters swum in 6:18:23 official time. AMAZING!! That's 25 minutes per 1000 meters, including all re-hydrating and refueling. Repeated fifteen freakin' times.