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!