Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tagged! 7 Random things about me

I've been tagged by B Bop, over at Lactic Acid from the Left, to put some otherwise LESS known things about me. So...y'all asked for random, so you're going to get some random!

7. Ritual. I have certain rituals that I have to adhere to, otherwise I'm a confused, babbling, wandering mess of a person. They're not truly OCD type of rituals, but they just somehow make me feel grounded, a little more sane. One thing is my Sunday night ritual. First off, no matter how early I get up on Sunday morning, I always have a hard time getting to sleep on Sunday night. Scheduling an AM workout for Monday's is a prescription for failure. I just don't do it anymore. So every Sunday, I have to have crisp clean sheets on the bed, perfectly folded down a la Martha Country Living. I have to have a big glass of ice and a bottle of fizzy water by my side and running/biking/triathlon magazines in my hand. And I have to be listening to Court TV in the background. Any deviation from the ritual can wreak havoc on my night. This, of course, will fly right out the window the moment I have kids, but for now it keeps me somewhat sane. Somewhat.

2. A Place for Everything. I'm the most organized messy person you'll ever meet. I subscribe fully to my grandmother's prescript that "everything has a place, everything in its place." For each discipline in triathlon, I have a drawer specifically designated in my room. (My room is actually different than our room that Mighty M and I share. "My room" is actually the guest bedroom that has shamelessly been taken over by all my hobbies. If we ever, in fact, have guests visit, I may have to rent a short term storage facility to accommodate all the junk. Um, I mean gear.) All of my workout gear is hung in the closet, organized in order of sleeveless to short sleeve to long sleeve to race gear to outerwear. There's a basket specifically for nutrition and a section for "electronics" that overflows with heart rate monitors and spare lap watches. There is a place for everything. But.... (isn't there always a but??) it's a rare and special moment where everything is IN its place! My life is in such constant flux that I forever have bathing suits drying in the bathroom and half packed bags being readied with work attire for the next day's post-gym work day. There's always chest straps and new supplies of bars and gels on the dining room table and somehow my cell phone spends more time in my bike's saddle bag then in my purse. If it weren't for triathlon, I'd be the most organized, least messy person there is. Ah, a gal can dream...

3. Cooking and dishing. Okay, so I simply love to cook. I just find the whole process of creating interesting and tasty food to be so satisfying. Just love it. But, I hate dishes. With a passion. I hate getting my hands wet to clean them. I know, I know...it's terribly, terribly childish of me. But I do. Hate it, that is. The good news is that Mighty M loves to do dishes! I kid you not! Should have been one of those check boxes on Match.com -- enjoy dishes? Check! Sometimes I wonder if his joy of dishes is inappropriately high on my "why I love you" list of qualities. Thankfully he's also kind and generous and funny. Whew.

4. Green Murder. Okay, I have to admit it somewhere, so why not here. I kill plants. I do. There's something that plants just don't like about me. I've only been able to keep two plants alive -- Bob and Sue. I got both on a whim at the grocery store and they've managed to hang on for over 2 years now. I'm convinced it's because I named them. And talk to them. Often. So, here's the scary thing. This past weekend, Mighty M and I spent all of our spare cash, time and energy planting a TON of outside plants. Lots and lots of them. And they look great! Talk about adding some curb appeal. But I worry. Do you think they've heard about my history? Do you think they know that I even killed our money tree for goodness sakes?? Hopefully they're out of the loop. For their own sakes... .

5. Vroom vroom.
Years ago, I spent about 7 years as part of a motorcycle drag racing team (pro-modified Kawi with nitrous, for those who dabble in bikes). No, seriously, I did. And, no -- I wasn't the rider! I was more of an unofficial support person for the rider and team of mechanics. We traveled all over the east coast to different races in a RV, spent hours and hours with amazing people and enjoyed every second of it. Professional drag racers are likely the best people you'll ever meet -- kind, open, friendly, and love their hobby as deeply as any triathlete I've ever met. And there's something about the edge you need to go from zero to 200+ mph in less than 3 seconds on two wheels that is intoxicating to be around. For a number of reasons (such as law school), I had to break off from the group and focus on other things, but those years were some of the best times of my young life.

6. Dot Com Romance.
Ever watch those match.com commercials and wonder how people could actually meet online? Well, I don't. At least I don't anymore. After decades of dating kind of sub par people (sorry guys!), it wasn't until I clicked a "wink at him" button after reading Mighty M's profile that I finally met the person of my dreams. And, yes, it actually worked. And, yes, we're are totally normal people and have a well adjusted life together. And, yes, we'll be one of those success stories you can tell your colleague at work about when they're wondering whether or not it's "weird" to meet people online. We were just two people who knew what they needed out of a partner, but had yet to find it. And now that we have, we can finally look forward to a bright future together. So long, of course, as he keeps doing the dishes. ; p

7. Beddy By. I'm a tad bit neurotic. And, interestingly, it's a neurosis I learned, rather than was born with. Developed over the years. You see -- I absolutely must have the bed made properly each day. Not just thrown together, with pillows approximately at the top of the bed and the duvet hiding twisted up sheets. Nope. I need smoothed out sheets, equal on both sides and tucked in at the bottom. I need a duvet that is lined up properly and pillows and shams that are stacked properly. There can be complete chaos surrounding the bed, so long as the bed is made right. Interestingly, not the same approach Mighty M takes. Sometimes I cross the "relationship line" and go behind his bed making and remake according to my specs. That doesn't usually go over too well. So, I've grown to be a little more flexible with my every day approach. But, really, there's nothing like a well made bed!

Well, there's my Memorial weekend randomness. I'm going to just tag whomever wants to do a list of random things. I know -- a tad bit lame to not call people out -- but I want to know weird things about all of you!

Now, back to my work week reality.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Unexpected Graces

Last weekend I participated in the Baltimore Girls on the Run event that, if you had a chance to catch this post you know it was a wonderful experience for me. I received a lovely note from Molly Barker, the founder of GOTR, soon after my blog post. Her story reminds me of the type of person I hope to be -- confident, driven and passionate about her work. A woman with vision...my kind of lady.

So, lo and behold, today Active.com posted a great article by Molly herself on the GOTR program. It's a great read -- you should check it out. What is so touching is the letter she includes in the article, shamelessly pulled from here for your reading pleasure, from a hesitant participant. The letter goes like this...

Before I started Girls on the Run, I could hardly run five laps around the school's field. I had never been a runner like some kids were. I would see kids run around the track, and I would say, I wish I could do that.

One day when I was at my friend's house, she started talking about Girls on the Run. I listened eagerly...but I hesitated to sign up because, well, maybe this just wasn't the right time. Sometime in the third quarter of the school year, I got a letter saying that there were still more spaces left in Girls on the Run, and that I could sign up. So I did.

It turns out that Girls on the Run was fun. I saw some kids from my grade, and we got to run together, with our coaches encouraging us every step of the way.

On my first day, I ran six laps! Now, for some people that might sound like the easiest thing in the world, but for ME it wasn't! Soon enough, I was running a mile. (Eight laps around our field is a mile.) My farthest yet has been 12 laps, which is a mile and a half. I'm so proud of myself for having run this far. Before Girls on the Run, never, in my wildest dreams, would I have been able to run more than a mile.

I'm kind of upset that I didn't sign up earlier. I'm going to keep running and trying to go farther. My goal this year is to be able to run at least half of the Girls on the Run 5k, and walk the other half. Next year I plan to run the 4k and walk one.

Girls on the Run has taught me many lessons, but the most important thing it has taught me is to have confidence in myself and to never give up.

(signed, Grace)

"To have confidence in myself and to never give up."

That bears repeating, no?

And sounds familiar -- at least to me. What feels like eons ago I could barely run a few blocks without walking or bike more than 5 miles without crying uncle. And I had never heard of the Ironman.

Funny how life goes.

Recently, I've been doing a lot of introspection on my long rides. I never wear headphones (and I don't buy the theory that wearing just one earbud is safe!), so my rides have become my time to roll things around in my head. Plans for the future, grocery lists and emotional inventories. And I've been thinking an awful lot about hope, and where we find it and how it is so easily lost. And I've been planning on posting some of these reflections here, in a way a follow up to my more melencholic piece on shame. Another window, so to speak.

But I think that can wait for a little while. I think that Grace may have said enough on the topic in her own way. From the mouthes of babes, yes?

This weekend, hundreds of girls across the country are participating in large and small events, many of whom are doing their first running event in their lives.

And likely most of my readers are also out doing these very same races. (I know for a fact that many will be toeing the line with fellow triathletes and runners at the Bolder Boulder run on Monday!) If you see a pink tee-shirt and a budding GOTR athlete, take a moment to say hello. Tell them how proud you are of their efforts. Give them a big high-five and maybe sign their shirt.

Remind them of what many of us already know -- that we can often do amazing things if we simply trust ourselves and try.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Why

What we do takes time. For the bloggers and other triathletes out there, it usually take a lot of time. And effort. And sacrifice.

It usually seems worth it for the shrinking waistlines and low resting heart rates. It's an amazing lifestyle, full of challenge and successes and constant activity. We rarely lack reinforcement and we are exceptionally patient with our rewards.

And even with all of that -- all of the monstrous benefits and personal improvements -- it can often leave you wondering why. Not the little why. Not the easy answer of "well, because it's fun" or "because it makes me healthier/faster/stronger."

No...the big Why.

Your Why. My Why.

We each have one.

And sometimes you just gotta connect with why you do all of this. Why it's important to you. Why you love it so much that a 4:30 am wake-up call is fine and spinning on the trainer at 10:00 at night makes perfect sense.


I haven't mentioned much about my involvement in Team StayPut yet, mainly because my participation hadn't yet made it past opening up the cool box-o-team gear and passing out the occasional product at the occasional ride. But this last weekend I was able to join up with two other endurance athletes -- Cheaper than Therapy (who rode with me at the Taxing Metric a few weeks ago and has a great blog in her own right) and Meredith (who is an ultrarunner with 50 milers and 100 milers tucked tightly under her beltbuckles) -- and head to the Baltimore area Girls on the Run 5K.

Meredith and I, with two very proud GOTR runners

Girls on the Run is a great program that works directly with young girls who are "at risk" for the myriad of pitfalls that face kids today -- truancy, early sexual encounters, drug and alcohol use, and dropping out of school. To counter the negative and confusing messages they receive from peers, older kids, television, and (often) at home, Girls on the Run serves to build up the girls' self esteem and confidence through mentoring. Part of the mentoring program is preparing for a 5K running race. The girls work every week together to try new things, talk about their body image, talk about making good choices, and learn about their own futures in a positive light.

And then they go on a training run.

And each week they can see themselves building towards a larger goal and putting one step in front of the other -- all to make it to the final "race."

If that's not a valuable program, I simply don't know what is.

On Sunday, about 20 girls both started and finished the Girls on the Run 5K race in under an hour. And they were proud, you could see it in their faces. They felt accomplished. They had finished! All eyes were on them! They were superstars in their own world for that one morning.

Victory cheer!

And Meredith, CTT and I were lucky enough to be there to share in their success, as well as let them have-at-it at our "goodie" table. They snatched up Goody hair ties and Sharpies, putting the later to good use signing their names on each other's tee-shirt in indelible ink. Memories that would not be washed away any time soon.

Permanent mark

This was a little piece of My Why. A little piece of why I find it so important to serve as even a small example to young women. A reinforcement that -- yes -- you CAN do all those things that you think may be impossible. You can find solice in your own reflection and peace in your own plans for the future. Hard work does pay off, in ten-fold. And doing it together makes it all that much better.

There was one girl in particular who I got a chance to talk to, just briefly. She seemed a little stunned at it all -- kind of wide eyed and surprised, but very excited. But smiling. I asked her if it was her first time running a race. And she beamed and said "yes." And did you finish? "Yeah, but I came in almost dead last." I told her how I always seemed to come in almost dead last, but I always finish, just like she did. And that it doesn't matter because she got up this morning, came out in the rain, and finished. I told her that I sometimes do long races with lots of people, and finishing last still means finishing.

And she smiled, looked me straight in the eyes and said thank you. And then hugged me strong and, beaming with new confidence, she wandered off to be with her new friends.

This is My Why.

Meredith, Cheaper than Therapy and me with very happy finishers!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lucky Ducky

This week I indulged in the inevitable.

I bought a wetsuit.

It's been on my list of things to do for the HIM/IM craziness -- along with booking hotels and flights for family, actually registering for my key races, blah, blah, blah. And the tax man, as we know, came-ith...so a wetsuit shall, too.

She'll look a little like this:

And getting into her will be like stuffing this:

Into this:

...Which should be fun...

And, the coolest part is that her debut will not be (as originally presumed) at the Half! Instead, I found a fun little swim in Jersey that is PERFECT to test out not only my swimming, not only my swimming in open water, but my swimming in open water with the ultimate suck-em-in!

Now, I've never done the "Nav-E-Sink or Swim," but it gives you the option of the 1.2 or 2.4 mile distances and is el cheapo. Which is a bonus. Because I am...yes, you've got it...el cheapo.

Talk about a lucky find!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Does this skirt make my butt look fast?"

So, a while ago, I was listening to Zen's podcast interview with Catra Corbett, aka Dirt Diva, aka Trail Girl, who is an inspiring and ubercool ultra runner. I loved the interview and checked out her website right away. She has an excellent story, but I'll leave you to find it through her own writing. But, she also is a fan of Atalanta Running Skirts. And any friend of a friend of Zen's... well, you know...

I took a little time to check Atalanta out and was pleasantly surprised. A great company with an excellent, proactive philosophy about personal challenge and community. Right up my alley. So I reached out to them. Zip forward a few weeks later and I had my first honest to goodness running skirt in my mailbox. Wahoo!

Now, I promised a little news and review of their schtuff a while back, but had to wait until I got a chance to actually USE the darned thing. With my calf issues and all recently, it hasn't been until this past week that I really was able to get some miles in and report back. There was that one time I wore it out to breakfast with Mighty M, but I didn't think that would really inform the discussion at all. But, now we've run. Together.

Well, let me tell y'all...

Love. This. Skirt.

Seriously. Just love it! I'm not the type to inflate something just because I got a deal or want a deal later. If I like something I'll tell you. If I don't, I may stay mum on the topic, but no leading astray.

So, I repeat.

I. Love. This. Skirt.

I've been out on about four runs now with it in different kinds of weather. It has this great set up with compression shorts under the skirt and the material is both thin (bonus), slippery (double bonus) and in fancy colors.

Thin is a big bonus. Thin means not bulky. Thin means not hot. Thin is in. Thin is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should.

Slippery is good, too. Doubly good. Never had chub rub? Don't know what it is? I officially hate you and you should stop reading. Go eat a donut or something -- take your thighs elsewhere.

Come on, people! We all have had moments of -- um -- discomfort (blech) in the heat and humidity of August that no amount of Body Glide will fix. My legs are righteously bitchin'...from about three inches below the seam and down. And those, my friends, are a critical three inches. Pick your running attire carefully and you can divert some serious -- um -- discomfort.

This skirt does it. It diverts this issue with grace and flash. The liner shorts are long enough, yet still shows off our pretty legs. The skirt part is just icing on the cake.

Plus, there's pockets that actually hold stuff (rather than pretend to hold like a corner of one gel pack if you make sure you don't bend over) and somehow I feel skinnier running in them.

(Now, that last observation is purely subjective. I don't know what it is, but I feel like a skinny lady running around town in my skirt. One fancy, healthy, athletic lady!)

And here's fav part -- they're flirty. They are clearly having more fun than the boring pair of Nike dri-whatever runners cut on the path next to you. The colorful part is under the skirt, just winking out at everyone saying, "hey, you there, check me out. me and my coy little self, just running here, all fashionable like."*

Who knew that wearing a skirt would be so fun!

So, my final, unbiased opinion, is that if you have any curiosity about the new skirtolicious running rage, check out Atalanta skirts. They're a small, indepedently run shop that has a strong vision of the role they can play in the community, as well as how to bring a solid product to the market. They socially minded, which is a huge motivator for me to continue to order from them. I love their community page and their plans to help to those who are setting and achieving new athletic goals for themselves also succeed with their fundraising efforts.

So, if you're at all interested in purchasing a new running skirt, you can do so directly through their site (they have five great color combos -- I went with the black/red). Mention that you heard about Atalanta through IM Able and they have committed to donating a portion of the proceed of your purchase to Canine Partners for Life in honor of this year's Ironman Moo adventure!! How cool is that??!!

Come on! A cool skirt, a good company and a charitable donation to boot?

You can't go wrong!

* Okay, so the skirt doesn't actually talk...but if it did...

Ride Report: Quad County Metric

The Ride

Well, I came. I saw. And I rode.

And now it's on the books.

The Quad County Metric, put on by the Suburban Cyclists group, based outside of Philly, is one of my favorite rides ever. EVER. I have a little history with this ride. About seven years ago, I was mightily conned into doing a charity ride for AIDS services. How could I say no to that?? Well, my co-worker and good friend Alison told me aaaaalll about how fun the ride was and how inspirational it was to participate and got me all worked up like we were going to camp or something. And in a way, I guess, we were. There were tents involved.

Together we trained for -- and finished -- the Palotta TeamWorks Northeast AIDS Ride from New York to Boston. (Technically, it started at Bear Mountain, outside of NYC proper, but the end was in Harvard Square.) 350 miles in about 3 1/2 days.

At the time, I didn't own a bike. Enter Banana, stage left.

Alison was an amazing training partner and immensely patient with my infant cycling "skills." But she always -- wisely -- insisted that we do some organized rides outside of Philly to test our hill strength. Something about Rhode Island being hilly. (Who knew?) So, I clearly remember doing two rides out of Green Lane Park with her, one of which was the Quad. Happy memories.

So, this weekend, I had an idea of what I was in for. Vague memories of that first tough incline, and then I must have blacked out the remaining first 6 miles from memory completely. But it all came back to me on Saturday!

First things first. Got up very well rested and really looking forward to the challenge. Had my gear put together from the night before and loaded up the new car and headed straight for Dunkin Donuts. (As Adam both knows and shamelessly supports, I have a caffeine issue. In other words, if I don't have my caffeine in the morning, I'm am a much less -- um -- chipper person!) Large coconut with cream and splenda. Nummy in a cup.

The drive there was easy and for once I didn't get lost! Got there in good time and started eagle-eyeing for Jeremy's car/bike. (We were hoping to meet, but a late night busted hot water heater had a completely different idea of how his weekend was going to pan out!) Registration was painless and got my bottles ready and decided to just head out.

Let me tell you -- miles 7 through 67 of this ride are beautiful. Just gorgeous rural Pennsylvania at its finest. Cows and horses and open farm land. Quaint churches and long picket fences. Glorious.

But, I have no idea what the first 6 miles look like. None.

Could have been traveling through Northern Iraq for all I knew. I just was focusing on the road...excuse me, the HILL in front of me. A hill (or series thereof) that snapped back to my memory stashed away for seven years. It wasn't fun then. It wasn't fun now. But at least now it was a lot less painful.

Suburban Cyclists give you fair warning that the metric century route is challenging. Probably smart to give that heads up, so we were all looking out for the hills. Which was good, because they were waiting for us. Waiting to mock our big gears and force us out of the saddle. Waiting to show us what 16% grades felt like after a long slow climb for over a mile. That kind of waiting. Criminal like waiting.

Laying in wait.

But, here's the surprise. Or at least I was surprised. I totally made it through fine. Just fine. No stopping (aside from two excellent rest stops). No whining. And certainly no walking (gasp).

What I did manage to do is miss the turn-off for the ICU (Intensive Climbing Unit) that would have bumped the ride up another 10 miles and 2,000 feet of climb. Maybe it was subconscious. Maybe it was fate. I was told the turn was halfway up an incline, so maybe I was worrying about finishing that one before seeking out more. I had the chance to go back and find the turn off, but I decided against it. The regular metric was challenging enough!

By the end I was really happy with my performance and felt like I had placed a nice big deposit into my Bank of Me. I'd like to do as many of these as possible before both the HIM and the IM this year. They're fun and supported and usually pretty affordable. This weekend will be the Bonkers Metric, suggested by Omar, a fellow triathlete who trains at my Y and wrenches part-time at a shop (Cycle Fit) I've come to like over in Swarthmore. Longest option for this one is the 65, but this time I'm going to plan to run off the bike for about 1/2 hour. There's a brick on the schedule, so brick I will do!

(Oh, by the way, a great update on the running/calf injury front soon!)

I Heart Riding

I have the elevation charts for this, but I'm a moron and can't figure out how to convert them to something I can attach here. But it did raise a little concern for me. As to heart rate. The ride had about 3700 feet of climbing and was about 68 miles. During that time, I spent (are you ready for this?) 3 hours and 13 minutes in Zone 4.

Let me say that again.

Over three hours of Zone 4.

Now, I'm using a Garmin and have it set to automatically adjust my zones based on prior performance, but I have not manually changed them since getting the glorified watch. Likely, the zones are off. But they can't be THAT far off.

So, the next bike priority (aside from just plain riding a lot, which seems to be this week's training m.o.) is to really look at my heart rate and possibly do some adjusting of my Garmin zones. There's a great route near me (in Centerville/Greenville, DE) that has a bunch of rollers but not too many tough climbs. Perhaps that's a good place to start.

Feed Me, Seymour

And lastly -- nutrition. The fourth discipline.

Breakfast was a nice bowl of cereal and yogurt drink -- good for me and on the tummy.

As for the ride, my plan was this: 1 bottle HEED (200 cal), 2 bottles Perpetuem (600 cal), 1 Go Lean bar (300 cal), 2 bananas (300 cals). I was hoping to approximate about 300 calories of intake each hour on the bike. (This is in addition to plain water.)

Here's the reality: 1 bottle HEED (love this stuff), 1 bottle Perpetuem, 2 bananas. Total: 800 calories in 5 hours.

Not great.

I've found that the distraction of rollers and/or steep inclines is tragic for my nutrition. I always promise I'll pull on the bottle after the next hill, which is a never ending cycle. (Ha -- see that pun!) I'm learning from others that eating on the bike is more about planning and discipline than anything else. I need to work on the discipline part.

As for the planning part, Go Lean does not do well in the sun or warm weather. In fact, it turns into a mushy, bendy, chocolaty mess. Next time I won't bother. Time to switch bars. Suggestions anyone?

Another important learning point -- salty dog. That's what I am, except for the dog part. By the end of the five hours I had a 1/2 inch thick layer of salt all over my face, arms and legs. Okay, not really that thick, but a clear sign that I'm a salty sweat'er. Time for some salt tabs. Even though I didn't experience any cramping or bonking this time, there's go reason to think that it would be in my future without addressing the issue.

Oh, and lastly. Recovery drink. I downed a good 48 oz of water with my Muscle Gain + Glutamine mixture (350 cals) about 20 minutes after finishing and really think this had a good deal to do with my only minimal soreness after a tough day. Felt like a total fool trying to get a cups worth of vanilla flavored powder into my Evian bottle in the Wawa parking lot, but well worth the weird looks.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Minor Detail

Just a minor detail to correct about Saturday's ride.

Seems it's a total climb will be 5,797 feet in 76 miles.

Not the 3,500 that I originally thought.

My bad.

(omg, what have I gotten myself into???)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What's this? A bike, you say? Hmmmm

As Bold would say, "Peps, it's all about the bike!"

And knowing that has made for a little triathlon anxiety in the past few weeks. You see, all winter I've been happily spinning my wheels on my trainer in the basement watching so much Nip Tuck that I actually had a dream about the tranny from Season One. Not a bad dream, but she was there, giving me some kind of empathetic and sage advice about something.

But what I found when I finally wrenched my bike away from the grasp of the trainer and out on the road was the I was no longer in charge! Something had happened over the winter -- something ohsonotgood.

I felt top heavy and wobbly. Clipping in and out was almost fearful for me -- and trying to do it around traffic was awful. My front wheel would go left and right and left and right without my telling it to do so -- as if possessed by some evil cycling nymph. I just didn't feel as if I had any level of control. And that, of course, got worse when I decided to PEDAL the stupid thing! Each stroke made me feel less in control, until I got myself up to hurtling speed, where it didn't matter anyway because I was now being distracted by how much it would hurt if I fell. Even going down hills fast was frightening -- I nearly burned off my breaks during the Taxing Metric for fear I would launch myself directly into a roadside tree or inconveniently placed road sign.

This didn't make sense -- I've done triathlons and centuries and even rode from New York to Boston in three days for goodness sakes!!! The bike has always been my strength. ALWAYS. What happened? Where did my confidence go? When did my riding skills just slink away? WTH?

At first I was just freaked out, and then I started putting two and two together. First, I had changed some things on the bike over the winter that hadn't been road tested yet. (And, clearly they were NOT passing the test!) Also, I had been training my body over 700 + miles on that trainer that I could push and pull at will, without any need to worry about my balance or my environment. (Way back when, I have a vague memory of Mighty M -- previously a Cat4 cyclist -- telling me that rollers were a better idea than the trainer...something about being a better estimation of road riding and forces you to retain your lateral balance...orsomethinglikethat.) On the road, I had an awful lot more to worry about.

And then the kicker. My aeros. The just simply were too heavy and too awkward. Maybe just fine for someone with more upper body strength. Maybe on a different frame. Maybe on the planet Mars. But not on my Banana.

So all of these problems had to be solved immediately -- without delay, pronto, asap. I dreaded my rides so much that I was willing to put them off and mess my schedule up, just because I had no confidence that I would come back from a ride with all four limbs and a full body suit of skin.

So I made the DRASTIC and RADICAL decision to...

remove my aero bars

(murmurs of shock and surprise)

I know, I know. But I am a triathlete! I do triathlons! How in the world can I do that without my trusty aeros??? My thought processes was this. If I'm too anxious to get out on the road for more than a dozen miles at a time, then there's no reason to have the comfort of aero position. If I'm tentatively breaking downhill, then the aerodynamic benefits (which I understand really amount to nothing until you're going 17 - 20 mph) are worth squat. And my priority is to improve my fitness and get my mileage up to weekly centuries.

And, clearly, it's not going to get done by itself. Not. At. All.

So, now I'm riding naked. I untethered my CatEye from the bars, unscrewed the whole apparatus, and now I'm riding just like a roadie. Kind of going back to my roots.

And let me tell you guys...


My first ride out -- Average speed: 11.0 mph

My last ride out -- Average speed: 16.7 mph

Now that's a little more like it.

Now I look forward to hitting the road. Now I'm not terrified of the monster hill I have to mount before I can access all my training routes -- a 12%er that I used to be so concerned that I couldn't control the bike as I geared my way up it. Now I actually feel like the bike is an extension of my efforts, rather than an opposing force. I'm no longer zig-zagging my way up steep inclines and I don't dread intersections. I am, in a word, back. In fact, I even texted Mighty M that very sentiment after a recent ride. I'm Back.

And with a little more time in the saddle, I may actually become a threat. You never know. ;)

And now that I'm out more, riding naked, I'm looking forward to a little weekend challenge coming up. This Saturday I'm joining up with the Quad County Metric and choosing...ah, yes, I said choosing...to do the "hilliest" route. The total elevation climb is 3500 ft and the grades, I hear, are a real challenge.

But I really think it's going to be a good experience. Not just the distance, but also the hills. (If you look at the elevation map for last year's 65 mile route, it's really just about getting through the first 30 miles. After that it's just making sure I don't swallow too many bugs on my screaming descents!) And I now, finally, feel like I'm connected with my bike and in control of what we do out there.

Me and My Banana. Kicking arse and taking names.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Thanks to everyone who commented on my post about the how my Athena sizes up last week. As always, you're terribly supportive and I love it. Are you sure you don't all just want to move into the guest room? No? Yeah...that would be weird. Excellent news is that thankfully triathletes are (1) ridiculously resilient, and (2) easily distracted. After my musings on the XL category, psyched myself up with reminding myself why I do this and then immediately got distracted by whether or not I really need a new helmet just because the one I have makes me look like a 5th grader.

Having the attention span of a knat sometimes can be helpful.

What was I talking about? Right...Med Express. Duh.

JenC -- thanks for your offer to talk to Scott about the categories. (And if you haven't met Jen yet, for goodness sakes get over to her blog right now and check out how well she's doing getting prepared for her IM less than 80 days away!!) I'm sure it's just was something kept on from years past and not meant to dampen the experience. If Scott's interested, I bet we could come up with some darn creative alternatives to XL if given a little time and some coffee!

Right now I'm in very high spirits as I just got back from a 30 mile ride (hills) out in Chester County, which, as usual, blew me away with how beautiful farm land can be. I've been battling with my bike recently (really just transitioning from being used to -- and maybe a little restricted by -- my trainer sessions, to being out on the road...it hasn't been pretty, let me just tell y'all), so it was truly an important moment when I felt completely in control and full of strength to power up those hills. Good news...garmin to come soon (yeah!).

For now, happy training and happy Spring! I'm off for a run!


Friday, May 04, 2007

Extra Extra

So that tax man came...and that's a glorious day for me. GLORIOUS!

He even figured out direct deposit. I've had employers who couldn't manage to figure out direct deposit for a minimum of 6-8 weeks following employ. But good ole' Mark can get it right in 8-10 business days. Clearly he's drinking what I'm drinking.

What does a nice little triathlete do with her new found riches?? Well...register for a RACE, of course!

(Geesh...and I thought y'all knew me by now....)

Time to finally step up and commit (at least financially) to the Med-Express Mountaineer Half Iron distance. {We'll talk later about the "mountaineer" part of that title...as in, "how to pick the hilliest race this side of the mississippi to 'try' for your first HIM?" little talk we should have...right now i'm a little distracted by the registration process...} (Anyway...) I was a weeeee, liiiiiiittle bit of trepidation because of the bad calf issue, but even if I have to walk the 13.1 miles, I'm climbing that there mountain!

And, for those who remember my musings about Athena-ing or not Athena-ing, you'll be happy to learn that I came to a conclusion.

(clears throat)

I am an Athena.

(ta da!!)

I thought for a while about the question of whether or not to sign up for the category. And I realized that I am a competitor at heart and, while I have never considered myself competitive at triathlon, per se, I would really like to be. In other words, I'd like to see how I compare to others like me. Others who race with the same or similar biomechanics. Same or similar risks of injury. And same or similar challenges unique to my body type.

I mean...really. I weigh 164 pounds. I'm decidedly short. And I still go the distance and push my hardest. Why not see how I compare to a field that reflects me?

So, I was all excited to go ahead and click the box "Athena, 30 - 34" when I was registering yesterday.

(screeching tires...)

Wha? There's no row for Athena available! Could that be? I read the columns again. And then I see it.

Race Category: XL



(blink, blink)

Um, where do I sign up to be a Greek Goddess? Where do I click to be the incarnation of the power and glory of my dear Athena? Did they forget that category?


Clearly, this is what I'm supposed to check. XL.

I've been around for a long enough while to finally come to terms with the fact that when I buy pretty, sophisticated, adult clothing, I must consider the possibility of the X and the L. Together, next to each other, conveniently on the tag at the collar.

And I've come to terms with the fact that most of my weight is in my leg muscles (or, as I like to imagine them, rocket launchers with flair) or my distinctive curviness.

And while I joke often with Michael that I feel fat, I'm usually just bemoaning the fact that I have the genetic predisposition to forever be a size 10 and never look good running in a bikini.

All of this I have concluded without therapy or intervention.

But, seriously guys...XL?

Is that even necessarily accurate? I mean, I'm not necessarily all that much LARGER than age groupers -- I mean, they never used to try to kick me out of the swim pen before races for being too large to ride this ride.


So...there it is. I'm a fully registere Athena...(ahem) XL. I'm stepping up to the plate (the extra large plate!) and saying I care how I perform at this endeavor and I want to see how I stack up with my peers.

Do I feel extra large? Nah. But I do feel like an Athena -- strong, powerful, emboldened. I may not incorporate "Athena" (or XL, for that matter) into my identity, but I have decided to incorporate it into my racing strategy!

So. Decision made. Athena it is. Booyah.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

TriLesson # 23

No matter how much you're craving it, DO NOT eat a quart of hot and sour soup two hours before a long swim set.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Calves that Baaaa

Once I was told that I have "calves that baaa."

Yup, they kind of do. In fact, they're the only part of my body that I've never really had to worry about before -- they've always been strong and muscular and kind of rockin'. Throw some heels on and let's go party.

It's just a genetic fluke. My Dad has the most ridiculously muscular calves you've ever seen. Like easily 10-12 inch around and cut like Schwarzenneger before he became governor. And Dad is a musicologist. Seriously. A musicologist.

That, my dear friends, is genetics at work.

Trust me, there's a bunch about my body that I've had an "issue" (or three) with in the past, but my calves ain't one of them.

Until now.


I'm not used to this injury thing. And it's bumming me out big time.

As you know from yesterday's post, I've been off the training tip since last Tuesday and I've been careful with my left calf pull in the interim. Lots of icing and anti inflams going on. Like over two weeks of this process going on. Lots of homely, but "practical" flats replacing my normal heels. Lots of stretching. Lots and lots.

So, last night it was time to give her a spin out on the running trail and see how much progress we've made.

What...did I run backwards??

I did make it farther than last week's 15 minute/1 mile jog down the street -- that's the good news. This time I made it about 2 miles before cramping set in. And lots of it. I iced like a fiend when I got home and took 2 Aleve and elevated and STILL had some serious residual tightness and pain.

Let me repeat...


Have you ever felt like your body is working AGAINST you?? Like it has a totally different agenda and is intent on making sure YOU don't get to meet your goals!?!?!

Um...yeah, CAUSE I DO!!!

Thankfully, tonight I get to bang some miles out on the bike. The bike -- thankfully -- doesn't produce this same horrible, ridiculous, utterly frustrating pain. The bike, for now, will be my friend.

BFF. The bike and me.

And the pool. We've always been pals, but we're going to see a great deal more of each other now adays.

Now...I'm going to grab some coffee and take a look at my health plan. Possibly a physical therapist in on my horizon? Hmmm? Ya think?


Oh, and as a little addendum to this story, there was a true IronSherpa moment last night. After finding me curled up in bed and crying about my misfortune with my calf and listening to me blubber about how all my (imaginary internet) friends were out there PR'ing races and doing 13 mile training runs, Might M snuck out of the house by the basement door and went to get me an emergency pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream at the Wawa, which he thoughtfully delivered (with spoon) to me in my pissed-on-petunia repose in bed and shared in my pitty-party with a pint of peanut butter cup of his very own.

Not only does it show how mighty Mighty M can be, it also apparently shows that I can write really, really long sentences.