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 :)