Monday, March 31, 2008

Dirty Du

The last thing a flooded Mud Island and my motivation to work out needed this weekend was lots of rain. But that's what we got, and both of us survived.

Friday my friend Melissa from New York came to visit. We started off in the pool for a nice wet workout (this became the theme for the weekend) before heading to the weight room where she showed me the latest and greatest moves to torture my abdominals. We then did some carb-loading to get ready for my ride scheduled for Saturday.

The plan on Saturday was for me to meet up with the group who was riding about 80 miles to Drummonds, except I would be meeting them outside my front door, thereby excluding myself from the first and last 4 miles. The rain jacket I wore proved to be entirely too warm and I had a nice sweat going in the first 40 miles. Just as we pulled into the store in Drummonds at 40 miles, the clouds burst open. We relaxed and had a nice snack waiting for it to slack off, which it did about 15 minutes later. However, that was just enough time for my Raynaud's phenomenon to catch up to my fingertips. By the time we started riding again, I had no feeling in any fingers, which proved to be a real hazard when you need those fingers to brake! The blood flow came back pretty quickly, but in the process I felt as though hammers were hitting my fingers one by one. Really pleasant. We got wet and dirty (and I swear there were guts on my shoe covers!), but it didn't start raining hard again until about 10 miles from my house. I was amazed that my sports bra was still dry and I was completely comfortable when I got home.

Next I went with Melissa to do a light spin at the gym followed by some torture of my shoulders. She's really good at making me do things that I normally wouldn't. If only she still lived here and could work out with me every day-- I'd be in such good shape. Tortured, but tough.

Sunday morning's radar looked like a red target right over northeastern Arkansas. I hoped that it would hold off until after the Wolfman Duathlon, which was to start at 9. I was using a borrowed mountain bike and had ridden exactly once since, let's see, the Memphis in May Mountain Bike triathlon last May. On Wednesday the Tour de Wolf trail was completely dry and very hard-packed. Not the case on Sunday. The race was delayed an hour while we waited to see if we'd be struck by lightening. We weren't, so we started. This off road du is a 3 mile run, a 6.5 mile bike, and a 1 mile run.

I learned that I am not as scared of holes and roots on the trails when I can't see them because they are covered in 6 inches (or more) of water. I was proud of my skills until 2 tough women on my team, Susan and Lucia, came flying by me. I tried to follow Lucia's line through the trails, but found that the large chunks of mud flying into my open mouth (yeah, she was going fast; I was breathing hard) inhibited the flow of air down my trachea. So I backed off, spit out some dirt, and lost her. Shortly after, I was by myself, turning an easy corner, when my bike decided it was going right while my body was going left. I hit directly on my hip, but shook it off and got back on. No more than 5 minutes later, same thing happened and I landed on some large roots. This time the casualties included my hip, knee and elbow. I was thrilled to be off the bike and running for that one last mile. The large puddles that I splashed through helped clean off my shoes, but I was still left with a large mud beard at the finish line, just like everyone else in the race. We were quite a site coming in, but most of us smiled with our mud-caked teeth, since what could be more fun than a dirty mudfest of a race to complete a wet weekend?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Delayed Gratification

"Finishing strong is a very satisfying form of delayed gratification." --Gordo

I love reading Gordo Byrn's website and blog, since he is very good at putting into words many concepts and observations about sports and triathlon that I could not. The March 27th posting talks about descending sets in the pool specifically (but I think it may apply to all 3 sports), and how the inability to do that may be due to the practice of training in a higher zone than most athletes realize. It shows up when people fade toward the end of a workout and are unable to really conquer the tough sets.

I find this to be very interesting, since I feel like I am so slow to warm up in group rides and runs (maybe swims too?). I often feel pushed at the beginning with the starting paces, only to find that after 30 miles on the bike or a few repeats on the track, the group starts slowing down just as I feel start feeling good. This used to bother me, since as Gordo says, "most athletes cannot wait to show their strength." I wanted to get out in front and show everyone how fast I am (yeah, ha ha, I know). But it certainly hurt my pride when I was falling behind. Then I started noticing that I was stronger at the end, and I want to be strong at the end of my races, too.

It really is about delayed gratification. In training, you don't need to prove yourself to your training partners and friends; they'll know how fast you are on race day. In the race, it's not who can do the first 5k of the marathon fastest, it's who can hold on and not spend it all before they get to the finish line. Why is this so hard for me to remember? If I can just remember this simple concept, it'll be so worth it in the end!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Aging Up

Happy 30th Birthday Damie! Remember what Mark Twain said: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Now let's conquer this age group together!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Giving to Charity

With the news of Mike having yet another backpack filled with athletic gear stolen, it occurred to me that he and I have single (double?) -handedly supplied the thugs of greater Memphis with all the gear a person could possibly need to do the following:

*do a complete master's swim class with a friend, using fins, paddles, buoys, goggles, and one of them would get a cap; yes, workouts included;

*teach about a dozen one-hour spin classes with a different soundtrack for each, with a guide detailing how long each song is and what type of resistance and cadence to use; mountain bike shoes with SPD cleats included;

*take 2 friends with them on a tour of the town on road bikes, as long as they are all approximately 5'3" and fit on a size 48 frame; they can even get nice and aero, and put beer in the cup holders;

*take 2 more friends through the local mountain bikes trails, fully suspended, so that their tushes are comfy;

*equip self and 5 friends with an ipod or shuffle, to ward off boredom (hope they like Mike's taste in "music" if you can classify Godsmack as music);

*start a resale shop with their assortment of Northface jackets, yoga pants, t-shirts, tank tops... Mike, I can't even remember all the clothing you've had stolen;

*represent Los Locos in a triathlon-- or heck, anywhere-- even stashing snacks, cigarettes, or beer (whatever) in the handy side pockets of the top, without chafing (those DeSoto seams are almost undetectable)!

*run in some great-smelling men's size 12s on the trails, avoiding stone bruises due to the rock plate in the forefoot;

*but just in case those shoes are too tight, BodyGlide the feet to avoid future blisters;

*smell good (although maybe a bit girly) after all the exercise they've done due to the large supply of body washes and lotions;

*pressure wash their driveway, sidewalk, deck, and fence; and

*pack for a 3 month vacation with all the bags they have.

I don't know about Mike, but I'm starting to feel good about my promotion of the sport of triathlon, given that I've donated so many items to the prospective athletes. What have you done for your sport today?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


“What's the good of news if you haven't a sister to share it?”-Jenny DeVries

I'm so excited that my little sister Megan is coming in town today! (That's Megan with her husband Austin in the picture.) I haven't seen her since a brief stop I made in Birmingham several weeks ago. Little Megan is so cute and tiny, she weighs 100 pounds when she's been eating a lot (except for that semester in France when she loved that cheese and wine-- did you get to 105?), and she's almost 6 years younger than I am, so she'll always be my baby sister, about 13 years old in my eyes.

Jenny, my older sister, and I were just talking about her two children who just adore each other, even at the young ages of 5 and almost 2. That got me thinking about sibling rivalry. I browsed one of my favorite health blogs today and there was an article about just that. It asked, "Did you suffer at the hands of a sibling, or did you inflict pain of your own?" I would have to say I did both of those, since I am the lucky middle child.

While I did have much pain inflicted and was the inflicter of much pain, I did learn some lessons from both. First, I think I know pretty well how to fight someone bigger and stronger than I am. And I also know when it's useless to fight back. Sometimes the way to end a fight best is to do something funny (whether you meant to or not, like that one time Jenny, you know what I'm talking about), and end up laughing so hard you forget what you were fighting about. You learn how others' anger and forgiveness works; sometimes if you just pretend it didn't happen, all is forgotten. Other times, you have to let her win some silly contest, or let her think she's right to make her happy again (not that I ever did that! I'm sure you were right, and would've won anyway!). I sure learned a lot from my sisters. I think Linda Sunshine's older sister was like mine. She said, "my sister taught me everything I need to know, and she was only in the sixth grade at the time."

Then from the other side of the sibling rivalry, I learned that things you did a long long time ago can be remembered twenty years later. And you still feel bad about them and wish you could take them back. I learned that my little sister is one of the most forigiving people in the world, because to hear her tell it, she was a tortured child! But she still forgives me.

Reading the NY Times Health blog comments earlier today, I am so thankful that my sisters and I get along like we do now. Some siblings were never able to repair the damage done in those early years, and there is obviously a lot of pain and anger those people are still holding on to. How sad!

Of course sisters who are the best of friends can still have their differences, but like Ms. Sunshine said, "If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child." I'm so glad I can relate!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paper or Plastic...

One of these days I may get into grinding my own grains to make my own bread, using only my bike for transportation, composting food scraps in a worm bin (NoImpactMan did!), and using no electricity (he did that too, for a year, amongst many other things...). But for now, I feel like I can help out Mother Earth a little here and there by cutting down on wasteful grocery bags!

I read a series of articles on msnbc this morning about the environmental effects of each of these choices, and there are some good arguments either way. Last fall I was so excited to find some reusable, foldable, lightweight polyester bags at envirosax that I bought a pack of them and gave them as Christmas presents this year (Jenny? Megan? y'all using them?). Did I mention they're even waterproof, and cute? I've tried to be vigilant in keeping one in my car all the time. They hold about twice the amount a plastic bag would, and I've only encountered one grocery store employee who seemed put out having to fill it (it was at Walmart in West Memphis, if that's a surprise). You even get the choice of a 10 cent discount on your total or wooden nickels to donate to local charities at Wild Oats when you bring your own bag in.

The envirosax website listed some facts about plastic bags:

-Approx. 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States every year.

-Approx. 100 billion of the 380 billion are plastic shopping bags.

-An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.

-Only 1 to 2% of plastic bags in the USA end up getting recycled.

-Plastic bags create pollution and kill wildlife in the USA every day of the year.

-It is estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are used and discarded worldwide every year.

-1 million plastic bags are used and discarded worldwide every minute of the day.

-Single use plastic bags made of HDPE remain in the environment for up to approx. 1,000 years.

-Over 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles worldwide are killed by plastic rubbish every year.

So Save the Whales (side note: this dolphin did!), birds, seals, turtles, and humans! See what little steps can make a big impact on our city, state, country, earth, and health. There, I've done my good deed of the day. :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Distance vs. Intensity Debate

Anyone who has been running a while knows of the multitude of training models out there. New theories are seemingly introduced daily, so there is a lot of information to sort through. Until I recently read this article, I didn't realize there was actually a debate: high-mileage vs. high-intensity training for endurance runners. In the study that is reviewed in this article, the "threshold" runners, who did an ubelievable amount of high intensity running each week (but only one more threshold run than the control), did not improve their 10k times by as much as the control group, although both groups improved. They were probably overtrained! Charlie and I were recently discussing the merits of track workouts at this point in the season. In my mind, they have several benefits: work on lactate clearance, VO2max, running economy, form, AND I get to run with people-- very motivating (and that psychological aspect is huge). But are they really beneficial to an Ironman athlete?

This is a great article about Ironman marathon training, by Kevin Moats, who is a Hawaii age-group winner. I love this training plan partly because I have done very similar programs to this over the years and partly because it involves running just 4 times per week. Of course, this is for the race season. In another article, he talks about off-season running, specifically training for a late spring marathon. He incorporates 2 higher intensity workouts per week, and it doesn't seem to hurt him in his "base" training. In fact, I found the following in an article, on the website, about off-season training:

"Base building training and lactate threshold training are not mutually exclusive. They exist along the same range of ways to invest your training time, with LT on the short end and base training on the longer, higher volume end. In a perfect world we would be able to put in large aerobic volume during the off-season. However, REALITY is winter, indoors, family, holidays, and an upcoming 6-9 month training season. Reality dictates that you adopt a training method that is extremely time efficient and does make you faster. Interval training at or near lactate threshold fulfills these requirements."

I think the problem with too much intensity in the off-season would be the increased chance of injury or overtraining; oh yeah, and burnout (there's that psychological part again). For people who have a large base and have been running for many years, I don't see that this would be too much of an issue, unless intensity and mileage were both increased quickly and simultaneously. As far as the burnout is concerned, I follow the rule in the off-season (or this early in the season before my November Ironman), that if I don't feel like doing a workout, I don't do it. I make sure to enjoy it.

In the end, you really have to (figure out and) do what works for you. Of course if you don't know what works for you because you haven't ever tried to reach this particular goal before, or you have tried and failed, you may be looking for other options. Just trust your body, and don't forget to recover and sleep!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Damie, Gina, and I went to Little Rock to do a half marathon over the weekend. I have come to realize I've been taking this distance for granted for a while now, thinking it's not that hard, you can do it on minimal training, etc. Damie and I discussed how we just sign up for these things a couple weeks before and train right through them, while "normal" people may train for 6 months just to complete one. Well no more lack of respect. That race was much harder than I'd expected.

I haven't done a stand-alone half marathon in several years, so I didn't really know what kind of time goal to have. I thought sub-1:30 would be nice. Jenny informed me before the race that top 3 would be receiving a nice monetary prize, so I better be up there receiving my award. She tells me this because a few years ago during the LR Race for the Cure, I was running stride for stride with 2nd place, knowing there was nothing special to win after the overall winner takes home 2 roundtrip plane tickets to anywhere in the continental US. I backed off toward the end of the race, not really pushing all that hard, and letting her have a 3 second victory. It turned out that first overall was a 17 year-old who couldn't accept the prize since she would be running collegiately the next year. So second place got the tickets. Second place, who I didn't race to the finish line. I was 3 seconds from an $800 prize.

I was sure I wasn't going to be top three in a large half marathon, but I kept this info in the back of my mind as I seeded myself directly behind the "elite" runners at the starting line. Luckily we had tags on our backs labeling us as "HALF" marathoners, so we could distinguish amongst the thousands of runners who we were actually competing against. I sure didn't want to be racing that 2:50 marathon woman, wearing myself out to keep up as she takes off for another 13.

At two miles I remembered that I had forgotten some post-race necessity. Luckily, I had my cell phone with me (see picture, and no, I'm not pregnant), so I called Jenny, who hadn't left the house yet, and she packed a dose for my post-race bag. At that point I was still running a 6:45ish pace, and let me tell you, it's hard to hold a phone to your ear while running hard!

I got varying reports of what place I was in by spectators, but didn't really worry too much about that, since I was seeing Wendy in the distance, and catching up to her. She is an incredible runner and if she'd been training much at all, I'd have never seen her on the course. But she hasn't been lately, lucky for me. We ran together for a few miles and chatted, then I tucked in to draft behind a tall man and never saw her again.

I missed the 11 mile marker, and when the 12 appeared I looked at my watch. 1:18!! Oh wow, I could smash my sub-1:30 goal. Nobody was out there calling splits, and I asked a fellow runner if that was really the 12 mile mark. He agreed that it was. At that point, I was running on air, feeling no pain, just sailing toward the finish line... until a runner who had overheard me brought me back down to earth. "That's 12 miles for the full, not us. But we've passed 11." What?! I guess that's why I should actually look at my watch during the race sometimes. I got to the real 12 mile marker with this same guy, and I stopped to walk. He yelled some encouragement, to which I responded, "I'm demoralized now, " and walked a few more steps. I managed to pick it up when a spectator told me I was 2nd female. I asked if he could see third. No! I flew to the finish in time to receive my beautiful 300 carat pink diamond award and very large check (no really, it's like 2 feet long), but not fast enough to reach my time goal. 1:30:20-- so close!

Damie and Gina came in close together, also falling short of their time goals. None of us had actually trained for a half marathon. We have all been doing marathon training (some more than others-- they more than I), so really this can't be a disappointment, can it? I have to admit that the money I received erased in an instant any disappointment I felt from my time. I'm sure my manager, Damie, will have all of hers erased when I take her on that shopping spree...

After collecting my finisher's prizes (donuts and granola bars, hat and medal), my mylar blanket, my pink diamond, and my large check, I was on a mission, trudging up a 1.5 mile hill to the Capitol where Jenny was to begin her leg of the relay. I didn't make it in time and had to be driven a few miles by Tim to catch her. Darn it, I only got in 5 with her. She had the longest, hilliest section of the course to do, and luckily, I missed most of the uphills! She and her team had a great race and a fun time doing it, and I think they'll be back for more next year. I think I will be too! But I'm sure not telling anyone about the prize money...