Monday, December 20, 2010

Non-Running Injuries

I'm happy to report that my hip pain (TFL) has decreased significantly over the past few weeks, that is, until I did a slow 4-miler last Friday. Maybe my body likes a faster pace better? I will have no problems with that on marathon day. My usual hamstring tendinitis that I caught on Ballbuster Hill my last season of college CC has been reminding me of its existence every so often, especially when I lie down to go to sleep. 

But in that very position, prone in bed --not out on my long run-- is where I seem to have developed the worst of my injuries from the weekend. It's the right shoulder. Stupid lax joints! And my lack of swimming probably doesn't help that. 

The other pain I've recently developed actually did happen on my long run yesterday. It wasn't due to the constant concrete surface or the slope of the road though. It was my fuel belt. As I bounced along for approximately 27,000 steps, the tiny bottles strapped to my waist tap-tap-tapped along, resulting in 3 bruises on my stomach and back, precisely where the bottles sat. 

My quads are feeling good, calves have no problems, feet and ankles are managing just fine. Now I'm ready for this race to just hurry up and get here!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mileage PR

This week, following the 12 week Pfitzinger plan, I ran my highest mileage ever. This is not going to be impressive to any of you who have every run a marathon, I promise. For some reason, throughout college and even Ironman training, I've never broken (to my knowledge, at least), the 45 mi/week mark. Until today.

Today's 20 miler, even though I died a slow death the last 3 miles, pushed me to 48 miles for the week. I mentioned before that I'm trying really (kind of) hard to follow this plan, but actually I was supposed to hit 55. Knowing my past mileage PR of around 45, 55 was just a bit too much. Oh, and also, I skipped the whole "7 of the 12 miles at half marathon pace" part of Friday's workout in favor of running 10 miles at an easy pace with a friend.

Really the biggest news for the week is that I actually registered for the marathon that I've been running all this excessive mileage for. It's in 5 weeks. Considering the disaster that was miles 17-20 today, I'm excited that I'll be well tapered for the actual race.

I think part of my problem today was ole Bob Seebohar from last week's USAT Clinic. I mentioned he is big on training the fat burning zone and consuming fewer carbs. Apparently my subconscious has committed wholeheartedly to this training technique, because, in my delusional state at about 15 miles in, I decided to change my route and not go by home. Home is where the food is. At least I burned about a half pound of fat today, so I'll be lighter on race day, if nothing else. 

I know a good bunch of carbohydrates was burned at mile 18.3, and again at 18.7 when I ran by a crazy yapping black chihuahua-like dog who dared to chase me down the street (I had to turn around at 18.5 and face him both directions). My heart rate skyrocketed when my legs realized they had little choice in making a quick escape. I had to challenge him back with yelling and running straight at him. Luckily it worked.

I'm starting to think about marathon pacing now. I read on Joe Friel's blog that the #1 mistake athletes make is poor pacing. I don't disagree with that, but do disagree that emotion is my biggest problem. I really don't know what I am capable of running at this point. I know I have run one marathon (my only flat out) with a negative split, and have negative split an IM marathon, which is how the fastest races Joe has coached have been run. He says it's a hard skill to learn, but I'm not sure if it's just an underestimation of your ability or, in my case, a complete lack of ability to guesstimate a realistic pace. I don't remember ever running  while checking mile splits in any of these races. I hoped it was just my central governor telling me how fast to run. Or maybe it was just comfortable and I knew I could hold on. I don't know. So I'm going to make it extra hard on myself and try to stay with a pace group. Nothing like running someone else's pace, right?

So marathon veterans, how do you do it? I was recently telling someone my almost 3 hour time differential between my fastest and slowest marathons. Obviously, I don't know; the 6:23 one felt harder than any 3:30ish ones I've run (except for the lying on the side of the road part). Maybe I'm overthinking this, just like I overthought the decision to actually register. Help?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Almost a Coach!

Last weekend we spent in Vegas; I was at the USAT coaching clinic and Jeremy was running the half marathon. We also managed to have some delicious food, go to the Cirque du Soliel show "O," and see some sights. 

So where to begin? There was lots of good information at the clinic. I did an extra CEU session with Bob Seebohar, who is an exercise physiologist and sports dietitian. His is a different way of thinking about fueling during and outside of exercise-- at least different from my past thinking. Basically, if we can decrease our reliance on carbohydrates, we'll see a lot less gastric distress during exercise. 

Ian gave us more info on swimming, while I was wishing that he'd just coach me. There was a pool right outside, heated and everything. He covered cycling very well, especially for the limited time we had. I came out of it wanting a Computrainer. 

Justin covered running and periodization, which I had a hard time concentrating on, partly because he wrote very tiny numbers on the white board at the dark front of the room, and partly because it was Sunday morning and I was watching Jeremy cross the finish line on my laptop at the back of the room.

Side note: Jeremy PRed by almost 5 minutes! And he didn't trust me that he'd be fast with all this extra mileage. Still waiting for his RR.

I learned in the clinic that every class has THAT GUY. Dude if you're going to constantly talk about yourself, at least find something better to brag about than, "I averaged 100 watts on the bike in a half IM." Really? Did you finish before the cut off? Topple over on the hills?

There were lots of great people there to minimize that guy. I became friends with Rob, who is an amazing athlete. He wins his AG in almost every race he does, and has qualified for worlds over and over. On Sunday, when I was approximately 2 minutes late for class, I walked in to find a look of horror on Rob's face, and that guy setting up shop in my seat! He created enough commotion to distract us every few minutes and to make Rob move his seat.

I found it interesting that I'd been doing triathlons about a decade longer than most people in there. A few had 20+ years of experience, and at least a few were pros or ex-pros, but for the most part, the future coaches had been racing for 3-4 years. One lucky girl had been sent by the Y because they just wanted a tri coach on staff. I don't think she had even raced one. Along those lines, we discussed how success in a sport a good coach does not make. It takes a certain personality plus experience maybe? to do it right. I'm hoping my huge variety of performance outcomes will win me some points. At least I've made all the mistakes. :)

I felt like I was in class most of my hours in Vegas, but we ended our trip with me running in Red Rock Canyon park, Jeremy following along in his car (so he could pick me up when I was done). That night was sushi! and the late performance of "O." And O my, it was amazing! I was impressed not only by their acrobatic moves, but also their ability to survive deep dark water without oxygen for minutes at a time. They could teach me a few things about swimming.

Next I have to complete my take home test, hope I did a good job, and get my certificate. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Air Resistance

I'm back for a short time in the Gord after a weekend in Phoenix watching Ali and Joel and Chrissie to their thing at IM Arizona. And, by the way, in case you were wondering, Jeremy and I both stood in line for 3 hours to pull the trigger and sign up. I then went straight to Little Rock (love love love Southwest Airlines -- I wonder if they'd like to sponsor me?) and on to Germantown for Thanksgiving. I got to meet my brand new niece who is so sweet and tiny. And growing right before our eyes.

In the training arena, I had a "recovery" week during this trip, but I'm not sure that 42 miles in the week is quite low enough for me to recover. So I changed it to 22 miles. I'm always expecting (the 3 times I've been back to sea level-ish altitude) to run minutes per mile faster. I hasn't happened yet. 

I read in Daniels's book-- I think-- that while running at altitude provides less oxygen per breath (therefore vo2max is lower), you have lower air resistance so you should get some benefit from moving through the air more easily. Ok, um, from my experience, air resistance is not my problem. Yes sometimes wind can be a factor, but on a normal-wind day, that's not really what I consider to be my limiter. Although maybe that's why I can maintain the smokin' speed of 8 mph up the Ski Apache mountain...hmmm.

It can get windy here in the basin. We're between two mountain ranges that are 60 or so miles apart, and it's very  flat down here. Today's workout included 5x1000 at 5k pace, which I really can't even guess right now. So I decided on 7 min/mi pace. The first one was slightly uphill and I amazed myself by averaging 6:40 pace. Must be the new inhaler. But that's a story for another post. I turned around on the same road for the second interval and immediately noticed the wind. Not awful wind, but the first thing that popped into mind was air resistance. I should probably blame my slow speed on bad pacing, but it was downhill and I averaged 7:11. Argh. Immediately upon finishing that 1000 I realized that I HAD to go straight back to the house. I forgot the big effect of that taking-off-from-speedwork-of-any-kind-and-then-starting-again has on me: a need for a close bathroom. 

I walked/ran the 3/4 of a mile to home, where my Garmin decided I was too close to the computer, so it proceeded to download part one of my run. I then amazed myself by actually going back out to get in 2 more miles and 2 more intervals. I normally would've called it a day, but I'm really trying to follow this plan. I did compromise and go 0.8 miles  and one interval short, but redeemed myself with my second interval. Ok, so it was downhill, and still slower than the first one, but the pace was also 40 sec/mi faster than the third one. But I think it was with the wind. 

I know a lot of records were set at altitude in the Mexico City Olympics in like 1968, but just how many of these events require the aerobic system? The 10,000m, the long do the cyclists ride? Maybe the 1650 swim-- not that the air resistance would matter. But for sprinting, it's ideal.

I'm still wavering on this marathon in Phoenix. We drove the course, and not only is it flat, it's kind of scenic too. But what's holding me back is this thought that I won't be any faster there. The air resistance will be much greater. How much more psychological can I make this? :)

Tomorrow I leave for Las Vegas to party it up take the USAT Coaching Certification class. I'm really excited to be "certified" even though I've been told that level one focuses on training elites. But I'll be official! And looking for clients. Preferable elite clients. j/k :) Jeremy is coming for the fun stuff-- going out at night and running the half marathon. Brett Michaels is the post race entertainment. If that's not a reason in itself to go, I don't know what is. 

Friday, November 19, 2010


I ran into some snow today, literally. I'd heard there was some up on the mountain, and sure enough, it lingered on road 634 where I ran. (This road is too out in the middle of nowhere to even have a name. I think it's the 634th Lincoln National Forest road. I really didn't know there would be that many.)

What's up with my sudden inability to rotate pictures? Actually I did rotate it, but it rotated itself right back when I put it here. Anyway, if you don't mind turning your head to the side, it's a beautiful view...

I don't expect much snow down in the valley this year, and it's certainly too warm right now to have any. Remember monsoon season? Well in comparison to what we've had since then, it's appropriately named. 

I was driving home from the gym the other day when it started raining! I actually had to use my wipers like twice. Coming up on the city, I could see a strange dust cloud forming over it. My picture out the car window doesn't give the full effect, but here it is. (I know, beautiful foreground. Sorry.)

It wasn't quite the dust tornado that we frequently see out here. One that size would've been exciting, especially right over my house. 

I'm really adapting to this dryness. Coming out of the grocery store on another day, I started driving into a strange wetness on the streets. Looking up at the sky, there were no clouds whatsoever. Maybe a little one rained itself completely out while I was shopping. 

This reminded me of a ride we did with the local group. They just went plowing right over all sand, dirt, or gravel that was in the road. I commented that gravel scares me on the bike. One man said, "We're scared of water."

I'm headed out to Phoenix for the weekend for some IM spectating (and sign up), and just to visit another state in which I've only set foot in the airport. Next week it's back to the rainy south. Should I bring galoshes and a poncho? I'll be checking the forecast.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Decision Time

Even with the elections over, I still haven't made my big decision this fall, which is to race, or not to race. The most urgent (and expensive) race decision involves Ironman Arizona. This Monday we will be D-day. Jeremy and I will be in Tempe, having watched the race and previewed the course over the weekend. 

You may wonder why I'm having a hard time deciding on this, since my past behaviors seem to indicate my haste in registering for yet another Ironman, year after year. But I'm hesitant this time. The past almost two years -- since I feel like I lost my running legs and lungs -- have thrown me for a loop. I don't know what's going on with this body that refuses to get back in shape. And while I, of all people, am not afraid to go out and crash and burn on an Ironman course, I sure don't want to set myself up for failure. A year out. 

I know once I get to the race and feel the excitement and remember why I love these events, I'll be pushing my way into the registration line and thrusting my $600 check at the nearest taker. But for this week, I'll be weighing the pros and cons (which are mostly my athletic inabilities) over and over.

The next racing decision I can wait just a little longer to make. Jeremy has signed up for the Phoenix marathon in January. I couldn't pull the trigger last month when he was offering to register me. And I'll probably wait until the last minute or until I discover that the race is full.

Last time I was in Memphis I went to my favorite running shoe store where I talked to my favorite running shoe store manager. He happens to be an incredible runner, and is training for his next 100 miler. Deciding when exactly to race, he said to me, "Like you, I don't race just to do it, I want to do well." Yes! Thank you for remembering that about me, when I almost forgot. I can't bring myself to do a marathon just to do it. Why would I want to run the same speed I ran in my last decent Ironman? I don't even think that's an accomplishment worthy of the leg pain it causes. And my only flat out marathon -- my first one, 10 years ago-- was just 3 minutes faster than that. I'm not going out there to PW, or to even PR by a minute or two. And at this point, my legs aren't proving to me that I would do any better than that.

Of course I could be using a false measure of slowness. I am comparing my Garmin data to my many years of runs lacking data. I've always just assumed I did whatever distance my legs felt like they did for that day. I'd go by time a lot, but never charted or measured distance. Now I'm obsessed with and my Garmin. Ackkkk. 

So maybe I've been running this slowly for years now, but just didn't know it. Maybe I could run a decent marathon. Maybe I'll just sign up under an alias, so my results won't be posted on the internet forever, just in case. 

Yes or no?? I guess it's still TBD.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cool Running

I had the best run yesterday. It started out near Cloudcroft, our local mountain town. I had looked up the weather and found the first report to be unbelievable, so I checked two more sites and got a twenty degree discrepancy. Turns out it was the coldest of the three -- 42F! But it was sunny and comfortable.

The first trailhead at which I stopped marked the entrance to the Vista Trail, which turned out to be full of nice vistas, but only about a third of a mile long. I got right back in the car and headed just a little further down the road to the Rim Trail. I'd heard of the Rim Trail, but hadn't actually set foot on it before. It started out rocky and rooty, but only for a few short sections. Soon it turned into a nice 18-inch-wide ledge, covered in pine straw and hard packed dirt, that rose steeply to my left up the mountain. To the right, it dropped steeply off into the... well I couldn't see the bottom. At least there were a few trees there to break any potential falls before sliding into the deep abyss. Not sure if I'll bring my shaky mountain bike skills out here any time soon. It was a well trodden trail, but some parts were full enough of roots and rocks that I had a perfect excuse to walk and catch my breath. 

Just under 2 miles in, I hit a road crossing. Deciding that I liked the looks of this road, I turned on it instead of continuing on the trail. Now THIS was a nice running road. It was hard packed, smooth dirt with just a bit of gravel. At this point I was feeling the searing in my lungs, and even though the hills weren't bad, I walked some of them. Jeff Galloway said to do it!

Soon I hit a highway and realized that this was in fact the same highway I had parked on. Just not here. But it couldn't be far away. I kept running until the Garmin said 4 miles, since I'd planned an 8 miler. I turned around and must've dazed off for a few miles. Next time I looked down the mileage said 6.4. Oops, wasn't I supposed to get back on the T105 trail at 6? Hmmmm, this looked familiar, but how unfamiliar can a dirt road with lots of evergreen trees look when that's what I've been running on for 4 miles? I kept going. At 7.5 I KNEW I had gone too far. Trying not to panic again (and keeping thoughts of bears this time out of mind), I tried to check my google map on the phone. No service, of course. How is it that I can be up here, higher than anything within like 100 miles, and still not get service?? I knew worst case scenario, I could run a few miles back to the highway and try to figure out which way to run back to my car. It was right at mile marker 5, and I knew I'd parked between, like, 3 and 7. Somewhere.

I turned around and was admittedly unsurprised when the trail marker was very easy to spot going the other direction. Not sure how it's so easy for my brain to faze out for over 2 miles. Can't it do this in my next race? Please?

I ended up with over 10 miles of trail running (read: slow running, Galloway style), plus I learned a new spot to get some off roading in. Very excited to take husband with me next time, and his sense of direction may be what I need to find my car more easily. That or I'm getting the get-me-back-to-my-car-I've-lost-in-the-parking-lot app on my phone.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Travelling the State

Last weekend we found out just how tall a state New Mexico is. We went 3.5 hours north, still not very close to the north border, but to a beautiful city: Santa Fe. We left early Saturday and got there just about lunch time, so our first stop was a "local" favorite, according to my Yelp app. The bean burritos were good, the green chile sauce was excellent as always, but the red sauce still leaves something to be desired by my taste buds.

We had to walk off some of the lunch, so we oriented ourselves to the downtown area. The square had vendors and artists sprinkled around its borders, and the Native American jewelry artists located along one sidewalk, their turquoise and silver spread on blankets in front of them. 

A few blocks over is the Santa Fe "River," which consists of a beautiful smooth stone ravine lined with the yellowest leafed trees you've ever seen. This goes directly through downtown for several miles. I overhead a tour bus guide saying it used to be a raging river, but... I missed the ending. It's barely a trickle in late October.

After lunch was sufficiently settled, we headed over to the Dale Ball Trails, just a few miles east of downtown, for our long run. Now the city of Santa Fe has the #1 for highest elevation of any state capital at 7300 ft. We didn't know how much higher these trails were going to take us. I picked the south set of trails for some reason, and it turned out to have some great elevation gains. Our long run turned into a hike of about 5 miles that took us up to a peak at 8500 ft. Even running downhill was difficult with the rockiness of the trail. I managed a nice controlled fall/rock slide down. But it was totally worth it. Beautiful.

That evening we found a sushi restaurant, which is something we've been sorely missing since moving from Jackson. It was fantastic. We didn't stay out on the town too late that night; we were tired and eager to rest up for more adventures on Sunday.

Our first stop Sunday was at the Aspen Vista Trail, up on yet another mountain. We got there a month or so too late for the peak of the aspen leaves; they were bare. It was also about 37F up there, so we headed back down a bit to the Borrega trails. Now I know I talk about elevation a lot, but I really do need an excuse for my slow running. This one started around 8300 ft and we only gained 1200 or so. It was SO much more runnable than Saturday's. Still very pretty (I mean, I find trees in general just gorgeous after so much scenery that only involves cacti and tumbleweed). There was even a creek that we crossed on a log. Thankfully Jeremy got video of my ridiculous inability to balance on a 2 foot wide flat topped fallen tree. I can never forget it now. And I'm not posting it. :)

After an Italian bistro lunch, we went to the New Mexico Museum of art to check out some Georgia O'Keeffe paintings, then headed to get souvenirs from Trader Joe's (namely, a case of Two-er..Three-Buck Chuck). And then it was time to head home.

I spent the ride home putting together a playlist for my new spin class on Mondays! I love teaching spin, but was a little torn when, after I agreed to it, the lead instructor told me that it's a volunteer class. Whatever, I'll just get such a following that they have to pay me, right? It has to be better than her class. I mean, she wears a weight vest to ride a bike...

The class Monday went well. It consisted of my two workout friends and one guy. Good start. now I need more good spin song ideas! Give me some suggestions, please! I can't play the CDs from 9 years ago when I first started. Right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Back in the Gord

What a great 2 week vacation to the southeastern part of the country! It started on Emily's birthday in Little Rock with a party of about 15 seven- and eight-year-olds (and a couple of 4-year-olds). While it was lots of fun, it may have been the longest 3 hours of my life, since I felt the need to help entertain and serve them. Really they were fine on their own, running through sprinklers, doing backbends, swinging in the back yard, and playing soccer, among the "planned" activities. 

The rest of the week was regular school, gymnastics, art class, and soccer practice. Days flew by with this schedule, but Jenny and I managed to get some running and working out in. As a side note, I expected running at the lower altitude to be easier; I blamed the steep hills and the pushing of the 120lb double-stroller-with-the-two-big-kids-in-it when it wasn't.

The second stop on my tour was in Germantown at my parents' house. Jenny's birthday was celebrated here, with lots of playing outside and even a brief dip in the pool (by Jackson). In the backyard, a pickup game of baseball began. Jackson was at bat first, urging me to throw the ball harder. When I did, he hit harder, and it went further. Then I took a turn. Apparently my batting skills are not where Coach Jackson expected. He told me, "Joy, you're not very good at baseball." So I became the pitcher again.

Ethelyn came up for the party, but wasn't coerced into batting practice this time. She manned the swing.

While I got a little running done in Little Rock, the vast majority of my working out involved lifting a wriggling 25lb weight. He goes by the name of Ethan. He is interested in everything, so lunges from my arms frequently; it's quite a dynamic exercise. My biceps were screaming the first few days, but I found out in body pump class yesterday that I had no trouble at all with the usually challenging curl section.

After the children and Ethelyn left, Mom and I spent some time shopping, going to the barn to get the horse feed ready, watering plants at the cabin, and some more shopping. Have I mentioned the lack of shopping opportunities in the Gord? Unless Walmart is your venue of choice, you're left without much. Mom and Dad both made some great food for us all week, but this time I couldn't take the leftovers home. :(

I was excited to see my teammates at a team meeting while I was home, and of course I had to go out a few other times with Laura, Jonathan, Charlie, and Olaf. I even got to see Nancy, home from her latest locale two time zones away from mine. I'm not very good at taking pictures, but luckily Damie is, so I can steal one from her. Thankfully she didn't post my surprised-eyes picture.

Wow, that sure was easy to steal from her blog. Thanks D!

I got to run on "my" old trails, the yellow and the Tour de Wolf, along with a few laps around the neighborhood. I ran my very first mapped 5k route. I still remember the day I actually did the whole thing without stopping to walk. I maaaaay  have done it slower this time. Even with the flatness of Memphis, my running didn't return. Luckily Barb and Nancy were easy on me during our run. We took walk breaks. Just like old times when training for IMFL.

And then Saturday, time was up. J and I had to head back to the southwest via some very delayed flights. I'm back now, in some beautiful fall weather, still unpacking, getting used to the altitude all over again. To jumpstart it, J and I went up to what turned out to be the nearest shooting range and ran (um, walked) up a thousand feet or so to a beautiful view of the valley. This time my heart rate soared due to something other than animal tracks: the gunshots. It was exciting. And a good way to return "home."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Something That Scares You

I have fulfilled my quota for doing something that scares me everyday-- for at least this month. Last Friday before leaving for a two week vacation to the southeastern part of the US (yay!), I went to find a trail I'd been sighting halfway up the mountain. I also was able to find this trail online on some trail website, so I figured it would be 1) well populated and 2) well marked, at least. I set out to do a "long" run, but figured being off-road at 6000ft with 1000ft of climbing, that would consist of about 10 miles. 

I parked on the side of one of our mountain climbing back roads that winds up the back side of the mountain and easily found the trail. You could go either left or right at the fork a quarter mile down the hill, so I chose left first. Most of this trail is an old railroad line, so it's relatively flat with some small gravel and an occasional tie. They had built a bridge where a train trestle had stood 50 years ago, the last time trains traveled up the mountain. I continued on down the trail -- down the gradual slope toward the basin -- and found that there are many ravines that they didn't build bridges over. I had to climb down and back up, mostly through prickly bushes. Side note: it seems that every bush has some prickly defense system in the desert. After almost exactly a mile, I decided that my legs were bleeding enough from thorns, and avoiding the prickly pears was becoming harder and harder. I turned around. 

Back up almost to the fork again, I stopped dead in my tracks when out the corner of my eye, I saw some other tracks I hadn't seen before. 

I analyzed this print for a minute, and couldn't find where it had come from or gone to because of the rockiness of the surrounding trail. Although I know dog tracks have toenails, I eventually convinced myself that this was a dog. A large friendly dog. 

Continuing on the other way at the fork, I tried to push thoughts of cougars out of my mind. The trail was overlooking Fresnal Canyon, with some steep drop offs right beside me. Here you can see the trail below the road. No parks or playgrounds or people near.

There were more ravines to cross in this direction of the trail, but most had well worn paths dipping down and back up onto the railroad trail. A mile in, I got to Bridal Veil falls, which is a constantly running stream, even in drought years. 

A couple of uneventful miles later, I had to cross a huge ravine and find my way to the continuation of the trail again. It was a steep rocky climb, but easy to navigate. Soon I came to what became the end of the trail for me. I found no path across this creek, even though I could see the trail on the other side. For some reason this picture came out with a very surreal look.

Turning around and climbing my way down that large ravine I'd recently crossed, I suddenly found myself climbing over rocks and thorny bushes with no trail in sight. Thoughts of rattlesnakes, tarantulas and cougars kept creeping back into my mind. I kept climbing. Realizing that not only was there no sign of human life in this area, but I also had no cell phone service, I started to panic. I could feel the anxiety creeping up from my chest as my breath got heavier and my heart beat faster and faster. The grass covering some rocks would be perfect cover for rattlers, and those shrubs all around could hide a stalking cat. Carefully checking placement of each footstep, I barely caught myself before almost stepping on the web of the only spider worse in my mind than a tarantula: a black widow. My mind was racing with thoughts of everything that could possibly go wrong when finally finally I spotted the trail 50 yards down the hill.

Still shaken up, it was almost impossible for me to run without looking over my shoulder the rest of the way back. I kept hearing sounds behind me and repeating to myself, "look big and scary, don't lose eye contact, throw rocks, and fight back."

I've never been happier to see my little car, or to end my 10 mile run 3 miles early. The adrenaline I pumped through my body in those 7 miles was worth at least 20 unpanicked miles. I've decided that Eleanor Roosevelt might not have meant running alone on a trail in cougar country when she said "do something every day that scares you." I'm going to pick my somethings a little more carefully next time. But I'm definitely taking Jeremy back to that trail soon. It was kind of exciting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

I've started to believe more in this statement. I spent so long trying to convince people to just get a little bit of exercise every day -- easy, non-painful exercise -- that I guess I started to believe training goes the same way. Well it doesn't. At least not if you want to improve your fitness, or just not suck at running anymore. 

For years I was perfectly content with the slight fluctuations in my running speed. It usually depended on how tired I was that week, or if I'd done some ridiculous workout the day before. Now it's slow all the time. I will have taken 5 days off running, done little else except some yoga, and I'm slow. I can run every day for 5 days straight, and every run is slow. I can warm up for 3 miles before trying to pick it up, but the pickup is still SLOW.

And it's all painful. If not physically painful, then the pace reading on my garmin produces psychological pain. Sometimes I get both kinds. I went to the track at the end of an extremely flat (but slow!) 8 mile run the other day to do some strides. Suddenly upon getting onto the track my legs switched into this gear that I'd forgotten they had. My stride gets longer and stronger, and it's easier to run faster. Four times around the track with pickups on the straightaways had me going faster and faster each time. I looked down at the garmin to see evidence of my warp speed, only to see 6:30. I actually used to run 10ks at this pace? It must've been another set of legs. But now that I've jogged the memory of those faster running muscles, I'm expecting them to take over any time now.

But in the meantime, I'll go on with my painful yet gainful runs. How about this afternoon's long run at 6800 ft? Don't mind if I do! The next two weeks will be at sea level, and I'm hoping to blame some of my pain on the elevation. Time will tell.

Until then, my running motto will be:
"According to the pain is the gain." - Rabbi Ben Hei 

And finally, good luck to Maggi and Mark and everyone racing in Kona tomorrow! I'm thankful it's you instead of me this year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Change of Seasons

This is the first year since my very first Ironman in 2001 that I haven't ended the tri season with a big bang. Sometimes it's a good bang, other times it's the bang of my legs blowing up on the Queen K. Each year I've done either Ironman Florida or Hawaii in the fall, and I've never once had the slightest motivation to race again until, oh, January at least. I've not even been able to gather up enough interest to do the St Jude marathon, or half, which started only a few miles from my warm bed.

I suddenly found myself at the end of my tri season a few weeks ago. It didn't occur to me before the Yucca tri that it would be my last; I could've signed up for an Oly distance this past weekend. But instead, just as casually as the season started (Rebel Man, I think?), it ended. I'm not sad it's over, or regretful for not doing one more race, and I'm not even thinking about next year yet.

That's because it's now marathon season. Jeremy and I have decided that we are thinking about intending to sign up for a January marathon. Not a big deal to most people, I know. Jeremy, and I'll let him tell his story himself (if he ever blogs again, ahem), hasn't done a marathon since the last knee surgery. This will be his second.

It'll also by only my second flat out marathon. But it'll kind of be my 13th marathon also. Lucky 13! My only other stand alone was the 2000 First Tennessee marathon, so it'll be the 10th anniversary this year. Wow, that's a long time. And I have a different body now. It's been through a lot more, gained a lot of fitness and lost a lot of fitness. I honestly don't know what to expect of it anymore. It makes setting goals a little hard. But onward we go!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I've been going to more classes at the gym here just for something interesting to do. I can usually stand another hour of spinning or yoga in my day. I'm trying to not be too critical of the instructors, because for the most part, the classes are entertaining and I get a workout in. And that's what I'm there for-- not to learn tidbits about exercise.

Some of the gems heard in these classes at the gym amuse and sometimes even amaze me for their lack of actual scientific basis. I just can't help but share them!

"Make sure you get enough oxygen in your lungs!" --And remember to keep those hearts beating!

"If you have healthy hamstrings, you have a healthy body" --I'm sure the guy with heart failure and lung cancer is happy to hear that all he needs is a good regimen of stretching.

"This is a good exercise especially for you who are cyclers." -- What kind of cyclers? REcyclers?

"The most common injuries for people who ride bikes are in their shoulders." -- said as encouragement to sit up and flap our arms up and down to "strengthen" them. Is she referring to falling and separating a shoulder? Can you show us some statistics on that?

"The first thing you're going to burn this morning is what you just ate for breakfast that's in your stomach. Then you'll burn the glycogen in your muscles, and only when that is gone do you burn fat." -- So after we all toss our cookies, then run 20 miles to burn up the stores of glycogen, we'll start burning fat... IF we don't go into a hypoglycemic coma first. That must be new research.

"When you squat make sure your knees don't collapse inward. That can cause Female Athlete Triad." -- my fav from back in Mississippi. Yeah if your knees collapse in, you may become anorexic, amenorrheic, and suddenly develop osteoporosis.

So while these are only quotes, don't think I'm not thoroughly amused by all the new moves I'm shown in spin classes as well. Some days I almost can't keep pedaling because I'm laughing so hard; it's very reminiscent of the days of spinning at the downtown Wellworx. Anyway, like I said, I'm entertained and I get a workout. And I seem to be learning some new concepts along the way.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Parents' Weekend

We had a blast last weekend when my mom and dad came out to the Enchanted State... or whatever it's called. We started with a visit around town, which took all of 20 minutes, and a stop at Lowe's to get some good dirt for the trees Mom brought! We have five new 12" trees that will hopefully soon be blocking the view of my backyard from the neighbors' house.

Hiking, an excellent cross training exercise, took place each day in a different location. We hit the usual, Cloudcroft, for some excellent old train paths. Saturday was White Sands:

From there we visited Old Mesilla, which used to be a Mexican town, and ate lunch. Next up was the Organ mountains, where we found a trail to an old TB sanatorium,

which was hidden up in the rocks: 

Sunday took us up north to Ruidoso, where we hiked across fields, 

through tall pines

and to the courthouse in Lincoln where Billy the Kid was sentenced. Or killed a bunch of people. Both?

You may notice our special guest, Flat Stanley. He was visiting from Jeremy's cousin for the week. He likes to dress in Mexican garb.

And now for the ad:

YOU TOO could see all of these great places and more when you come to visit us in New Mexico! And if you call in the next 24 hours, I'll throw in a two-for-one deal at Casa Harwood. Don't wait, reserve your space today!

No really, come visit me!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yucca Reverse Tri

I've never done a completely backward, reverse order triathlon before. My experiences with this include 2 races: the Los Locos duathlon (running and then cycling, obviously), which I've done about twice, and before it was even called by this name, and the Dash 'n' Splash. The Dash 'n' Splash was a cute little early season race over at the University of Memphis, in which a two mile run around campus (once to be broken up by a train going through) is followed by a 500m swim. This 20 minute effort sounds relatively easy, but let me tell you, for a (non)swimmer such as myself, it is not.

Yesterday was the Yucca Triathlon down at the White Sands Missile Range, about 30 miles from home. As a side note, I think I discovered the source of that strange burning smell we get when it rains. It's there. Jeremy was on call and nobody could cover for a few hours, so he was stuck at home, leaving me to test the waters at the WSMR. I got there in plenty of time to have my car searched at the security gate, and as I stood in the darkness waiting for my pass, I heard the distinct sound of coyotes in the not-too-distant distance. I know it was a coyote howl, because it sounded exactly like it does on TV, in cartoons. That really had nothing to do with my race, but it of course made me pause at the eeriness. 

I had no trouble finding my way to the gym to get registered, but noticed that the small parking lot was not full. As it turns out, I wasn't just early, it was a very small race. Getting my gear together in transition, the man next to me said, "You must be new because I don't recognize you, and I know everyone else here." He went on to tell me that he was going to be third place in his division, because only three of them were there and the other two would beat him. Now that's knowing your competition. 

I tried to scope out my competition, but only saw a few women at the starting line from my vantage point at the back of the group. The starter gave the signal, and I slowly began my plod. We ran on a few base roads until we got to the "golf course." At that point, about 2 miles in, we went through an open gate onto a loosely packed dirt/sand road. I've driven through the missile range area with its warning signs of unexploded explosives enough to be wary of unpaved paths. So I followed closely in the footprints ahead of me. We ran through an interesting "confidence course," as it was labeled, that looked like an obstacle course of helicopters, tanks, and other random military-looking equipment. Still no land mines, thankfully. After 3 miles of slightly uphill sand, we did a quick out and back, on gravel, where I could check out positions. I was 6th overall, and the next female appeared about a mile behind me. Of course this didn't make me pick up the pace at all. Instead, I relaxed a little more. 

I was wearing the Garmin for the first time in a race, so I know the 10k was more like 5.9 miles. I was ready to move on. The bike was mostly an out and back, starting with a 5 mile gradual descent. It seemed we had a bit of headwind out. Of course everything here is wide open, no trees or other windbreaks, so it was mild wind considering. I decided to take it a little easier on the way out-- the first 25k. As I let my heart rate come back down, an older man came bombing by me, only to slow down several yards in front. A few seconds later came another older man who did the same thing. I backed off from them, since this second one was something to take in. He was riding a relatively new (less than a decade old) Cannondale, but had the oldschool loopy aerobars with silver bar tape. He was wearing not only a fluorescent pink and yellow helmet, but also a fanny pack that said Gatorade Ironman on it. Very much like this picture of Scott Tinley from 1987:

This amused me for a while; I was recalling my favorite article written by ST a while back about how the further back you are in a race, the longer the shorts get, and waaaay back, you might see a fanny pack. Actually, when I talked to him after the race, he had not only raced back when ST did (his first IM was 1988 -- probably using the same aerobars), but he had the same mustache! 

Anyway, he stayed legally off the wheel of the guy in front while I did the same to him. Front guy was slowing up some hills and Fanny Pack would stop pedaling, causing me to run up closer to him. Finally I passed, even though we were going very similar speeds. This took a huge amount of effort (apparently these men did not appreciate being chicked), and not one minute later, they came flying around me, slowing in front again. Fine, I decided to stay there. Then another sudden slow up and coasting came, catching me off guard, as Fanny Pack turned around and motioned for me to slow down and move back. I yelled at him in my head, "If you wouldn't STOP PEDALING I wouldn't be too close!!" Normally I would never let two guys in front of me dictate my pace, but seeing how far away the next female was, that whole motivation to go faster just wasn't there. Besides, I was busy checking out the scenery on the way back.

That long uphill at the end finally came, and caused the front guy slow WAY down. Fanny Pack passed him, and he slowed further, eventually I came up on him and passed as well, but FP was way too far in the distance to catch. I arrived in transition to the cheer of like one person, took off all my gear, remembering my Garmin, grabbed goggles and a cap, and jogged to the indoor pool. On the way, I grabbed the 2 empty GU packages I'd stuffed in my top and threw them, left handed, into the garbage can 15 feet away. Nothin' but net. I should've been a basketball player, J! 

I got to the pool, fixed my cap, and jumped in the warm warm water. At some point without my noticing, someone had put vice grips on my shoulders and tied a bag of boulders to my feet. In slow motion, I swam up and down each 25m lane vertically. I'm sure my feet weren't near the surface. Amazingly, I passed two men in the pool. I think one was dog paddling and the other must've stopped to go down the slide. I got to the end and climbed out the ladder where one guy was standing with a clipboard. I asked where the finish line was and he gave me my time. 

At the awards ceremony, where they didn't give overall prizes, I learned that I had actually beaten about 6 women, and was only beaten by 6 men. I also learned that I can survive a reverse tri, and at least I only have to run once! My next race, if I don't retire for the season, will be this format, so I better start practicing reverse bricks, or practice tying bricks to me in the swim. Change of training plans!

Friday, August 27, 2010

for the love of the ipod

I've become much more of a music-listening exerciser this past year than I ever had been before. I'm sure some of it has to do with the size and shape of the object I have to carry to listen to music. Back when it was a bulky cassette-playing walkman or even a discman, I frequently took it out and held it by the wrist strap. Mostly back in those days I had teammates to run with, and conversation or heavy breathing usually filled the air space. 

These days, carrying the iphone for safety anyway, it's just too convenient not to listen to music. Plus the husband always does. Always. I never listen to it in races, whether legal or not, since I have the tendency to get annoyed with certain songs while exercising. Either they're too slow, or just don't evoke quite the right mood for my effort level. Inevitably, I'll get something like, "Feels like you're dying, you're dying," in the middle of an interval. Thanks, Kings of Leon. You're right. 

Having taught 8 or so years of spin class, I know music is important. The selection of the music to go on my CDs, especially when I first started teaching, was a major source of stress for me. I wanted to make sure everyone not only liked the songs I was playing, but was motivated by them to work hard. I relaxed about this after a few years, realizing that you can only please 80% of the people 20% of the time...or whatever that saying is. 
As it turns out, the speed of the song is a real motivator, according to some new research done on cyclists. Participants' heart rates increased as the song tempo increased, and while the perceived exertion also increased, it seemed to motivate them to work harder. Distraction plus motivation.

One study showed that once runners hit about 90% effort, they were unable to increase pace anymore even with the upbeat music. Apparently it's not all mental. But lots of them enjoyed the music anyway. I find that at this level is probably where I get most annoyed with songs that aren't perfect for the moment.


So runners, cyclists, and Jeremy who even swims with a swimP3, how does that music effect you?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

hills hills hills

I like to find evil challenging routes for our weekend bicycling adventures, and I think I've come up with one for Saturday. We're heading up north to the resort town about 50 miles away. It is the local ski mountain, and I'm really looking forward to doing some skiing this winter. As cold as it is up there already, it shouldn't be long 'til snow is here. The lows are getting down into the upper 30s and low 40s already. Brrrr. But this weekend, if the rain holds off, we will preview on our bikes what we can take a chair lift up in a few months. 

As short as this ride is, even though I'll tack a few miles on the beginning and end, it'll be a gut buster. Should I show this to J before we go, or keep it a secret? :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The pool

We've gotten pretty good about going swimming lately. I think we've averaged 2.5 times per week. But sadly, the total yardage is hovering around the 1800-2000 mark for just about all of those swims. The first week here we had the luxury of using the 50m outdoor pool in the mornings while the 25 yd indoor pool was being serviced in some way. Lap swimming is not normally allowed outside, so we're stuck in the usually uncrowded, clean, naturally lit indoor. 

Last week I finally got the courage to time a 100 at the end of a workout. Up until this point I was a little scared of what my lack of swimming and the (same old excuse) altitude had done to me. Turns out I was scared for good reason. I sucked. It was at the end of the (rather short) workout, and I knew I hadn't been swimming well, but I was SLOW! Like 10-15 seconds slower than I expected (not going to embarrass myself by admitting just how slow it was). Discouraged, and trying to think up excuses for this, I hung my head and cooled down. Then a few days later I was picking up a gym schedule and saw hand written at the bottom of the pool schedule "pool length 50 meters." Knowing at least half of this statement is false (def not 50 anything), I was skeptical, so I confirmed with the lifeguard. She seemed 90% sure it was meters. What a relief. I got in the pool yesterday just feeling the extra power and speed that her confirmation had given me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back "home"

Last week was running camp in New Orleans. It was just me and the pavement for most of the runs, but I decided to get back at it by running 6 days in a row. I probably haven't achieved this frequency of running since college. And I haven't done that much mileage in a week since at least last fall. I had a great time running down the trolley line on St. Charles with all the beads decorating the trees; into the Garden District neighborhood with all their big old houses and bumpy sidewalks; down the median of Esplanade, where I had much more success with actually running than last time I tried it (NOLA 70.3); along the riverwalk listening to the Natchez play its music; on the treadmill because it poured all day. Every night to reward myself for an excellent run, we went to a delicious restaurant to fill the tank. Actually, we would've done that anyway, but it helped me feel less guilty. I was back at home in the humidity, around people with familiar accents, who conversed over such topics as SEC football. 

But now we're back "home," to the still slightly unfamiliar terrain, where people talk in an assortment of accents, but not about football. For me, the hardest part of coming back had to be the neighbor. This neighbor is hands down the nosiest person I've ever met. Not only does he have keys to our house, but he also has the trust of our landlord who, ironically, has never had to live next door to him. I almost can't go in the backyard without him either appearing in his side yard, with me in perfect view, or actually coming over to bother me. And forget the front yard! We have to sneak out to get the mail. He is semi-retired, and spends 98% of his time in his open garage, wearing nothing but jean shorts and 8 gold chains. His beady little eyes are always there to see my comings and goings. Upon arriving home from our trip Sunday, we caught him guiltily coming out of our back gate. I hadn't made it in the door before he was ringing our front bell to deliver our mail (don't remember asking him to get it) and explain why he needed to take care of the house and cats next time we're out of town. I completely missed his reason, since all I could hear was, "I'd like to snoop through your stuff." And by the way, his wife is the nicest person you can imagine! I have many more stories of his creepiness that just add to reasons to change the locks. I have no experience with this type of thing; any advice?

The excitement of coming home had to do with my garden. I've planted a few things out back, and I was happy to see that nothing died! I ate my first cucumber today, and have two tiny tomatoes, a small squash, and a microscopic eggplant. Now if I could just go out back and check on them... let's see if the neighbor's around!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Adventures of the mid-week variety

We're going to New Orleans next week (yay! vacation for me, since I'm so overworked :)), so we used that as an excuse to get in some good "long" training. Tuesday, still obsessed with trails, I wanted to try out a hike/run at Dog Canyon, just a little ways south of here. Turns out that we probably ran about half a mile total in our 4 mile hike, due to the rockiness or steepness of the trail (or maybe the cacti thorns 2 inches off the side, or the hundred foot drop off just beyond...). We saw no cougars or rattlesnakes, much to my dismay, but some really great views of the valley below.

Yesterday J got off work early, so we set out on yet another new bike route. This time we rode from our house up north to take the back way up the mountain, in effort to avoid lots of traffic. I'm not sure who really lives up on the mountain, and where they work, so the worst of the traffic may be on the weekends when people are headed up to recreate. But anyway, we immediately turned into a headwind. My legs were actually more sore from Tuesday's hike than even the 10k last weekend, so grinding up the false flat with a headwind made the ride start really slowly. We made it to the next town, La Luz, and J had an excuse for his feeling crappy: a flat, on his brand new Gatorskin. 

Just after changing the flat we turned and headed up. Every road is named for a canyon around here, and luckily I found just the canyon we were looking for. Twice we came upon signs in the road that warned us NOT to cross if flooded. And sure enough, the road was "flooded." These New Mexicans sure like to exaggerate. They call it monsoon season when it rains twice a week. "Humid" is 50%. Flooded to them means 6 inches of water slowly flowing across the road. So of course we crossed anyway. The rest of the route included a couple of cattle gaps (no surprise there) and lots of small gravel. Normally I would've been really wary of this much gravel on the road (lesson learned by my first big crash on a tri bike 12 years ago), but since I was going so slowly, I figured it wouldn't hurt too badly when I fell into it. Even with all the weaving across the road, there was no crashing. And luckily, no traffic either. 

We saw in the distance some really nice looking trails (told you I'm obsessed) that we are going to have to visit. Otherwise it was a beautiful vista (everything is named vista) of the canyon as we ascended. I'd mapped this course beforehand just to see how awful it might be. I realized that the elevation graph is color-coded by what your face is going to look like while you're riding that section. 

It starts out yellowish, turns orange, red, and by 8% it's well on it's way to purple. Then going down that hill it's pretty green with nausea. Actually the descent wasn't too bad. We decided to take the main road back down, since it was well past rush hour. The sun was in our eyes, at least when mine were open. I seriously need blinders like horses wear, so that I can't see the drop off just beyond the guardrail. By far the scariest spot was the tunnel. It only lasted about a quarter mile, but once inside, it was pitch black. J was a few hundred feet ahead of me, and he completely disappeared from my view. About halfway through, I thought it was only a hallucination of a truck approaching from behind. But I still pedaled my heart out through the blackness, praying that this road that was invisible to me was smooth. Finally I emerged, gathered my wits, and turned around to find that the truck was real. At least he had his lights on. Next time, I will too. And I'll remember to take my sunglasses off.

The rest of the way home was mostly downhill, but the wind of course had changed directions, reminding us that that thunderstorm in the distance could be coming our way. But we made it safely to our doorstep, only still wet from a creek crossing, out of water, tired, and hungry.

As of today, it's taper time for our upcoming sprint in Socorro, which should be flat and fast. Or flat and windy. But it's a pool swim, so time to go practice my flip turns under lane ropes!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 2, 2010

another weekend, another race

First things first: Jeremy has started his very own blog. Now you can actually read the true story other side of the story!

We're slowly getting involved in the running and triathlon scene in the area, and we continued to submerge ourselves on Saturday night. With a billboard advertisement, I could only assume that the 5k/10k/half marathon was going to be huge. I decided on the 10k since it seemed a good middle distance. I contemplated forcing myself to run 13, but really lacked motivation. And just doing the 5k seemed a little wimpy (plus I have no speed). At least I could get a decent workout out of a 10k. Arriving at registration about 25 minutes before race start, we found ourselves getting numbers 28 and 29 of the 10k. Maybe there wasn't going to be the crowd I expected. 

All distances started together just before a thunderstorm came over the mountains. By mile 1 we were slipping and sliding, but running toward a rainbow in the distance. I caught men one by one over the first mile or so, and just before the 5k turnaround, I had three in front of me. They all turned around. The next stretch of road was a slight uphill toward our neighborhood, a road we've run frequently these last 3 weeks. My pace was pretty steady; I only slowed down 10 seconds in the second mile. The third mile seemed to last forever, and the marker was located at precisely the 10k turnaround. Now my math skills while running are pretty terrible, but I knew when this mile was over THREE minutes slower than the last one that the course just may be mismarked. Of course, having not one person in front of me, or anyone very close behind me helps the motivation none. At the turnaround I got to scope out the competition, and I found that a few half marathon runners were closest behind, my husband was the next 10k runner, and another woman behind him. The second half was populated by runners making their way out, and eventually some 5k walkers to keep me going. But not another mile marker was placed for the 10k. I immediately felt sorry for the half marathoners (who ran well into the night) when I saw the "12" mile mark when we had at least 2 miles to go. We figure the 10k was .5-.6 miles long.

Crossing the finish line in first overall overall was a new experience for me! And I was excited to win, even though I was at least 4 minutes slower than I'd expected for a tempo pace AND I had only beaten 28 people. J got the overall male award (I keep emphasizing the male), and we both (surprisingly to the race director) won our age groups as well.

Sunday we decided to torture ourselves with another ride in the mountains. Actually I look forward to these in a kind of nervous-because-it's-going-to-hurt-so-much way. But it's so beautiful and so different than what we're used to, it's really a lot of fun. We drove up to Cloudcroft at 8800ft and climbed from there to Sunspot, where the largest vacuum telescope in the world lives. We stopped on top for a quick tour of the observatory, a snack, and an adding of arm warmers. It was cold! But the sun came out for our return trip, plus there was plenty of climbing on the way back to keep us warm. It was a slower trip than our last mountain ride, and we found that we had climbed 3200ft in just 35 miles this time, at a higher altitude. So we're averaging 15 mph, but on 8-9% hills, at a place where there's only 2/3 of the oxygen content of sea level, so we don't feel so bad about slogging out the slow miles. It's certainly scenic. If J would just not hold the pictures hostage on his phone I could show you.

Yea for internet photos! Here's the telescope. I did not take this :)