Tuesday, February 23, 2010

spinning round and round

Monday night Nancy got stuck at work and asked me to teach her spin class at the Y. 

Recognize this, downtown Y-ers? It's one of the "good" bikes in the bunch of 20 year olds. 

Now I've taught probably hundreds of classes but ZERO since last May when I gave up my U of M class. And for this reason, I was totally nervous! Lucky for me, there was music already there and somebody to set it up too. Being completely terrible with unfamiliar electronics, especially sound systems I'm depending on, I can't tell you how many classes I taught yelling over the music because the mic just wouldn't work. I managed to fiddle with my bike, water bottle, shoes, etc, long enough that I only had to teach about 40 minutes, and it flew by. Pulling out all of my tricks to make them work hard not only caused some red faces, but had me sweating and panting a lot more than I'd expected! I'm usually good at covering up my tiredness by learning how to talk around my heavy breathing, but I was out of practice last night. Thankfully it didn't occur to me until after class that everyone upstairs in the cardio/weight room could hear me breathing too. I'm sure they'll all be trying to join the panter's class next time.

I have really fond memories of my first  4 or 5 years of teaching. It's where I first met Laura, Charlie, Melissa, Lindsay, and so many other awesome friends. That class was so tough that I had to dream up as many new forms of torture as possible. And they still wanted more. So we started swimming beforehand, running afterward, and adding in as many single-legged bounds across the room as possible. I think I even convinced a few people to give triathlon a shot.  :)

In the beginning I'd always go into class a little stressed that I wouldn't do a good job, or I'd bore everyone to death, talk too much, talk too little, play music everyone hated, or whatnot. I'd come out of class so happy, motivated and encouraged. Even last night I got a lot of thank-yous, and a "You had us do a lot more grinding than Nancy usually does, but at least I'm tired now." That's all I can ask for! I think I'm ready to teach again. :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

suits me

I swam the other day at the Y during lunch. Going in, I didn't know that noon was high time for the senior men's crowd, but there they were, filling every lane, and swimming fast too. Since I'd packed my bag that morning knowing I was going at what I thought was a low time of day, I brought only my newest swimsuit: the Yingfa. 

Let me tell you a little bit about the Yingfa, in case you're not familiar. It's a Chinese company, if you couldn't figure that out. There were lots of great things about it on the internet, even comparisons between the Yingfa sharkskin and the Speedo fastskin. It therefore MUST be good, right?

The ebay store from which I purchased had some kind of conversion chart that said my normal swimsuit size would correlate to a Large, so that's what I ordered. I can fit into a smaller US size, I promise, but I just don't like tight straps or wedgies, so I usually go for the bigger one. So did I mention it's made in China? Even having that information going in, it never occurred to me that Chinese women have no butts.

Cute, right? 

I received the suit in the mail and excitedly opened it to find a great material (don't know what it was from the Chinese label, all I could tell was I'm not supposed to iron it). Of some concern was the 3mm wide mesh insert that would fall directly over the butt crack when wearing. But believe me, nobody is going to notice that. I put it on and discovered that while the rear of the suit consists of about 16 square inches of material, my butt consists of waaaaay more than that. That picture of the suit? Yeah, that's an XXXL size suit on a XXXS size model.

I hope my sprinting to and from the locker room, small towel struggling to cover as much of my bare flesh as possible, didn't come across as rudeness as the lifeguard called her greeting.
I need to spend as little time out in the open, uncovered by water, as possible. 

For now, this suit has been delegated as my odd time of day, swimming alone, hoping nobody I know sees me suit. If you do happen to spot the girl in the way too small suit, please pretend you didn't. And in the meantime, maybe it'll stretch.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mercedes Half

At work we teach the SMART goal system, which means you want your goals to be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-oriented. I'm big on the R. So when I don't meet my goals, and they were set very realistically, it was a bad day. BUT I did meet the goal for the half marathon this weekend! Only by a little. I wanted to break 1:35, since that was my PW set last year, and I ran a 1:34:20. I guess that's success, although it was hard to be overly excited about it. In three weeks is the Little Rock half, which I swear is less hilly than Birmingham, Damie! :)

On to the race details. It started at 7:03 am, according to the race info packet, which I guess is so that you notice the time, kind of like those speed limits that are 17 mph. We definitely beat the heat starting that early; i think it may have hit 40F by the finish line. Jeremy and I were staying at Megan and Austin's house, about 25 miles away, so it was an early start to the day. We'd already planned our parking strategy, which had us completely outside of the race course so that we could get out of there and out of the full marathoners' way after we finished. By the time we got parked, I was desperate for a bathroom and found a lone porta potty on a nearby street. It was padlocked. We walked quickly (as running would not help things) toward the start and suddenly came upon a posh hotel whose lobby was filled with runners. Bingo! Nice clean, flushable toilet, running water, and heat! 

The usual pre-race slow jog, finding of the bag check, corralling into the starting line, etc. went smoothly. We lined up about 20 yards back from the starting line, and noticed we were also about 20 yards in front of the 4:00 pacer, with no other pacers in sight. Where are all these 4000 people? It turned out there was no order to the line up whatsoever. I passed people in the first half mile at speeds just above a walk, and others flew by me 10 miles in, going at least 30 sec/mile faster than I was.

At approximately 7:03 -- actually I'm pretty sure it was before 7, but I'd forgotten my watch and was using J's old slow watch -- the starting gun was fired GOGOGO was yelled. I aimed for a 7:15 pace and hit what I believed to be the 1 mile mark (based on the Garmin beeps all around me) at 7:20. There was some maneuvering through the crowd, so I was happy. Mile 2 came at 14:25, so I was averaging close to perfect. Then came the third mile mark. I saw the clock turn over to 20:00 as the man next to me said, that sure was a fast mile. Yeah, a 5:35? Pretty sure I wasn't running that fast. But when I hit the next mile markers right on pace, I was hoping for a short course. :) Up and down and over hills, through downtown and neighborhoods we ran. I chatted with a few runners to pass the time and help me ignore some hip pain. OH the chronic hip pain. 

The longest road of the race was where the final mile was run. It was neverending. I considered trying to pick up the pace; my legs considered the opposite. We met in the middle and stayed consistent. I was passed for 13th place in the finishing chute, which bothered me none. She can have that unlucky number (just kidding, I'm not superstitious, but I really didn't see her coming). Plus she wasn't in my age group. 

I waited at the finish line for J, and just as I'd predicted, he finished just over 1:41. He was hoping for sub-1:45, and got an 11 min PR in this, his second ever half marathon. I'm hoping to set an 11 min PR in my next race. He mentioned that his legs cramped in the last mile, causing him to run that 1.1 in about 11 minutes. Now this just didn't seem right to me. Upon calculation I realized that my 1.1 had been 9 minutes long. Aha! The missing 90+ seconds were added back. I want to thank the course markers for putting the extra distance in the LAST mile, since that one isn't hard enough anyway.  

I've decided that if I'm good at anything, it's predicting my race outcome. So for Little Rock I'm predicting that I'll take 2 minutes off this time and run a 1:32. Determination has to be a factor in this whole running thing, and I'm starting to train it today. 

Little by little does the trick.  - Aesop 

Friday, February 12, 2010

taper taper taper

T minus 2 days until my first half marathon in almost a year (ahem, I don't count that triathlon in southern Louisiana). While I did have a training plan, I didn't follow it very well, especially in the last 6 weeks or so, which was most of it. I get bored just running all the time; it's the reason I started triathlons to begin with. So of course I added in swimming and spinning and took away some of the running. When I don't run every day I look forward to it. When I do, it's not that exciting to me. Maybe you can only run so many miles on the sidewalk of Mud Island park, that same sidewalk next to which you've driven multiple repeats of each day for the last 3+ years, before it gets old. But anyway.

Sunday's race is the Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham. The biggest issue we are now facing with this race is the SNOWSTORM that came through the area south of Tennessee last night. So just making it TO Birmingham with all the road closures may be an issue. But once we're there, the race is on.

Here's the elevation chart, and Damie says just know where the hills are; they aren't that bad. So I've been tapering a little bit this week. No long run, no track (actually it was just too cold and icy for me), no weight lifting (I've been slacking on that anyway), lots of sleep (like this morning when I slept in accidentally instead of swimming). But I'm not expecting a great result anyway. I'd always rather be surprised at how fast I am instead of disappointed that I didn't make my ambitious goal. I almost never make super ambitious goals for myself for that very reason. You can call it pessimistic, I think it's just realistic with a hope of a pleasant surprise. :) So my goal for this race is to preserve last year's PW from the Little Rock Half. It wasn't a lifetime worst, only last-seven-years worst. I hope to not exceed that time if at all possible. Please don't look up my time, it's embarrassing. :) Of course, if it's all starting to look bad around mile 6 or 7, my Valentine's Day present to J may be a victory over me.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I went out to Shelby Farms on Friday afternoon to run. I usually don't put too much thought into exactly where I'm going to run when I get there. I decide on one of two places to park, and from there, just take off. I set my legs on autopilot and they just run. So I started off on the Tour de Wolf trail expecting the usual...

But instead I was faced with the challenge of getting across the overflowing dam up by the lake. With iphone mostly unprotected in my shirt pocket, I imagined scenes of falling into the rushing water, breaking my ankle, and drowning my phone. The ankle would heal; the phone would not. So I turned left to run my next-in-line default course: the high school cross country route. I ran with a friend from high school many years after we'd graduated and without discussing where we'd go, we found ourselves a mile into the race course. This time from a mile in, I switched over to the college cross country route, which I have run far fewer times. When that course ran out, I found the paved path that took me back to my car. 

I know I've said before that I could run out there every day. Five times a week during CC season for 3 years in high school, plus every now and then in college is still not enough to make me bored of the 4500 acres. I find new places to run all the time, but still go back to my favorites. I didn't take this picture, but it's one of my favorite spots in the trails:

It's located right next to an old barn, beyond the graveyard, and I just have to wonder about the story behind that. 

There's something comfortable about running in your old favorite spots. Without directions to think about, you can let your mind wander wherever it wants to go. It's set on autopilot too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Power Drills

Triathletes out there, you knew exactly what I am talking about with that title. But I'm sure I'll get some google hits from those looking for a new Dewalt tool. Ha.

Back while training for IMFL '08, Nancy and I were both assigned by our respective coaches to do hard gear intervals on the bike. Usually, and surprisingly, they were quite similar, like I'd have 3x5 mins and she'd have 5x3 minutes. We would meet in the middle. Or do both. We loved them! We would warm up to Watkins, about 20 minutes, and do the rolling hills out to the dead end and back in our hardest gear. Of course, this was on 650 wheels, which helps a little, but most of the time we had a headwind in at least one direction. Don't you love when there's headwind in both directions? I swear it's happened to me. 

Winter is the perfect time for these. I don't have a powermeter (on the wish list-- can you register for that?), but I know my power averages must be somewhere in the 50%-of-mid-season-levels  range. So yesterday I headed out for some torture. 

But let me back up. After taking Sunday off completely, I made up for it by going to Monday spin class, swimming Tuesday, and going to track that evening. I'm trying to be super conscious of my running speeds lately, and not just going for the puke at every track workout. Except I've never done that. But I'm still not trying to "win" or even to make Coach Paul proud, like I've totally done in the past. 

Side Tangent: I find it funny and somewhat irksome (even though it's none of my business how others train) that when doing something like 6x400, people run so hard that they either have to walk the recovery interval, or even better, stop and hunch over for the minute or so in between. Is anybody training for the mile out there? The 800? If so, then fine, but I'd bet that 99.9% of us are training for distances of 5k or over. So what are you going to do in your 5k? Sprint a quarter mile, rest a minute, sprint another one, etc? If you can't even manage a jog for 100 meters after, maaaaaybe you should slow down those quarters. Just my opinion. 

After the quarters we did a mile, which I was perfectly happy with, given that I felt it was somewhat easy, about 2-3 seconds per quarter slower than my 400s, and thankfully at a pace faster than my last 10k. The final set was for form: building into sprints on the straightaways, jogging the curves. Next it was pullup time. Conveniently located just feet from the track are the bars. The boys decided we were to do 4 sets with different hand grips each time: pronated grip, supinated, pronated close grip, and super wide grip. I got incrementally worse each time, but was happy with my numbers given my heavy weight (see last post). I felt successfully fatigued after track, and headed home for recovery.

At approximately 4:55 the next morning, my alarm cranked up the music. When this happens before about 7, my first thoughts are usually, "why is my alarm going off this early? what am i supposed to do?" Before my thoughts formed, the Running with the Devil chorus played. Then I remembered: run with Nancy. :) It was a great run that loosened me up nicely.

Wednesday afternoons I leave work early and can hopefully start getting some riding in, now that it's getting lighter. It was power drills day, and I found that a few muscle fibers were willing to work. A nice headwind on the way out helped my cadence stay low, even on the downhills. Around about approximately the turn around point (which was decided by time left until darkness), I experienced a power failure. Luckily it was just a brownout. A few miles later, another one, then a complete power outage. A blown circuit. I watched my speed plunge just as I got to the last half mile before the turn off (which means cool down time).  

My jello legs made it home with a tiny bit of light to spare. I checked the computer for the first time, and found that in those 25 miles, I'd average a quite respectable speed (for me, for winter).  My favorite recovery drink, chocolate milk, helped reset the fuse (tired of my metaphors yet? :)) for the upcoming weekend. 

I think I'm getting into this training thing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

fitting it all in

I find it hard to really get into tri training mode this early in the season. Especially when there's actual snow on the ground. I missed all the excitement of the freezing rain and snow this weekend by heading south at 7am Friday morning before it all happened. This was on purpose. Unfortunately it was still not forecasted to be much above 40F in Jackson all weekend, so I didn't even bother to load up my bike and take it along. 

I arrived to find Jeremy already finished with a swim workout, something I'd skipped in favor of driving. So for punishment (his) we did a nice abs session before lunch. Since the rain was supposed to continue all day, we found a suitable spin class to try out at one of the Ys. This was J's first spin class EVER, while I taught for about 8 years. You never know what you're going to get in a class at a gym that you've never stepped foot in before, I warned him. So we got there half an hour early to sign up (we weren't even aware that was a necessity), reserve our bikes (yay for clipless pedals!), and hit the weights to waste a little time before class. 

About ten minutes before class start time we decided to hop on for a warm up, where a few were already gathered. Soon enough, it was just as we feared: the lovely pregnant woman with the incredibly high squeaky voice was our instructor. They say that cutting off one of the senses heightens perception from others; she cut off all of the lights except for a black light. This turned out to be of benefit to me on several occasions when I couldn't control the laughing. Yes, there was music to drown her microphone-less voice out a bit, but she squeaked talked constantly, even getting off the bike many times to do a few cheers for us, jumping up and down and clapping. I'm really not kidding. The best part of this was the white tank top she was wearing in the black light so her huge pregnant belly was pretty much all you could see bobbing up and down in the middle of the room.

The real fun began when one of the women in class started her... um, cheers. On the alternating beats that the teacher wasn't giving cues, she'd add her input. It went like this:

teacher: and hover...
student: yeeeah
t: hover
s: that's right
t: hover
s: c'mon

Quite entertaining. I'd have to say that it turned out to be a great workout and it went by super fast with all the action. And I think it convinced J to try a few more out. It's waaay better than sitting on the trainer in my opinion, and I kind of have the urge to teach again! Just not a for-credit class, those guys have zero motivation to be there, besides a grade, and that's just no fun. I digress.

Saturday was reserved for the long run, which is getting shorter now, leading into the Mercedes Half Marathon in 2 weeks. Did I mention I'm signed up for that? :) It was still in the low 30s at 11 when we started and I had a spell of frustration over clothing choices at about 2.5 miles in. I had on my thickest warmest shirt over another thin shirt, and during our run through the sheltered part of the trail I overheated. I decided to take off the top shirt and made it about 3 feet into the wind before changing my mind and putting it back on. It was windy enough the rest of the run to stay cool (ironically) and comfortable. Poor J always feels slow when he runs with me, and I think I discovered the reason today. Looking at our running logs side by side, I realized that he ran 38 miles this week while I ran 26, this run included. I'm totally fresh-legged while he's doing his 38th mile of the week. I'm still pretty confident in my half marathon ability over his at this point. I'm going for the win (over him) THIS time, but I'm afraid I'm the target that he'll be catching before long. 

After lunch Saturday and before gorging on movie popcorn, I stopped by to see how the wedding dress alterations were going. The first thing I noticed was how expensive it is! If I just had the attention to detail and ability to focus like that, I'd go into tailoring. Since J dropped me off by myself for the fitting, I was without a female to zip me in the dressing room. So I asked Al, the tailor, to finish it up. He clasped it, tugged a few times, yanked gently, and came to the conclusion, "I need to let it out a bit." In the meantime I'm sucking in, completely exhaled and holding my breath, turning blue and telling him to try again. Not happening. I explained to Al and his assistant that this is my fat time of year and I should be losing some weight by mid-April. They looked at first like "'Fat time of year'? What in the hell..." And then, "Yeah, they all say they'll lose weight."  But Al said we could wait to let it out. 

By myself again in the dressing room, it occurred to me that the tight area was actually around my lower rib cage, which I must say, is probably one of my skinnier areas. I don't know about most girls, but the fat does not tend to collect there first. Of course, I have been doing more pullups this year... or maybe my liver's swollen?... i guess it could be visceral fat that increases with age, and I AM 33 now... I decided Al just took it in a little too much, even though, yes, I am at my very heaviest EVER (but only by like .5 pound), so I went to the movie and enjoyed about 800 calories of popcorn and coke. And didn't regret it.

I never ever thought I'd be one of those girls who tries to lose weight to fit in her wedding dress! I have almost :) no problem with my size or shape (besides the gluteal area creeping down my backside), even though I occasionally complain just for good measure. But it also never occurred to me that I'd be getting my wedding dress altered during my fat time of year, which I also don't have a problem with. It's good to get a little out of shape before you get back in shape. And at least a few of these pounds should be coming off with the start of tri training, so I can't decide: should I try a little harder to stuff it all in the dress, or should I let him take it out? It's my February challenge. Maybe we'll just see what happens.