Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cold Conquered - Sort of

This morning's run was almost as cold as Sunday morning. Except it was 5 am and dark. But the wind was less considerable and the planned run was shorter (it was the same run I did on Sunday, but I had planned a much longer run)and, most importantly, I was prepared. I actually overdressed a bit and got pretty hot, but there's something that rocks about being hot in 13 degree weather - as long as you have wicking. Wicking is very important in cold, sweaty situations.

So I ran. I ran the planned five miles and even pushed myself to complete the planned drills and strides afterwords - even though people were arriving at the school where I do the drills/strides and even though the drills look like something out of The Ministry of Silly Walks. So good.

The only bad thing is that this morning's run really seemed to take it out of me. I've been exhausted all day, sitting at my desk like a zombie (with a suntan, thank you Melanoma Factory). So, instead of going to the gym for my weights, I'm going home to nap. If I feel better after that, I'll do the strength routine I have for home. I know. Wuss.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Eleven Degrees (Windchill -5)

OK, I know the folks in the mountains and further north have it much worse - but I've gotta say that yesterday's run was my coldest on record. Not just temperature wise, but just in the magnitude of brutal discomfort. Most of it was my fault. Not the temperature -even on my proudest, most egotistical days I would never claim to have control of the temperature - but my lack of preparation for it. First, I assumed (Yes, boys and girls, when we assume, we make an ass out of you and me - well, I seriously doubt you were an ass yesterday morning, but I most certainly was. A cold ass. Fun.)I assumed that the temp was about what it had been every other morning for the last two weeks. Between 20 and 30. Fine, I know how to dress for that - I didn't even turn on the tube for my daily "check the temperature" ritual. Won't be skipping that again any time soon. So I dressed for 32, loaded up my cell phone, my Ditty, my homemade gatorade and my new "gel" recipe (mashed bananas and honey - yummm) and set out for a two hour run. The first block was great. Brisk. But no real wind. Then I turned the corner to begin the long gentle downhill that begins most of my runs. Its a great warm up. Except for yesterday. The thing about that street is that its very exposed, no real shelter, and when its windy, it whips around and shows you who's boss. Yowza, it was COLD. My face sent me a reminder that I forgot to smear it with moisturizer like I usually do before a cold run. Not good. I kept running, wondering how long it would take to get frostbite. Feeling a little demoralized. So I took a sip from my Camelback. Ahh. That felt better. Ok, so we can do this, just keep running and we'll warm up. (I don't know why I suddenly become a plural when situations get tough, but that's just how it is. Safety in Numbers - or something.)Not a problem. My hands were also getting unusually cold. I took a second glance at the gloves I had put on and realized they were not the yummy thick windstopper gloves that keep my hands so warm, even in this kind of weather, but the cheap imitation thick black gloves that let the wind whip right through them. We have two pair that look exactly alike except for a tiny little label. I had grabbed the wrong ones. Ok, still good, just bunch your hands up inside the gloves and pretend they're mittens. I take another sip from my Camelbac. Or rather, I try to take a sip but can't - the tube has frozen. OK, not a problem, just fish the tube up through my shirt and it will thaw out. At mile one, my Ditty dies. No battery. This is the mother of all Poor Preparation Situations. Damn. OK, the water is not thawing out, there's a little piece that I can't get under my top. I make an executive decision and cut the run to five miles. And I feel like a wuss.

It helps a little that, once I get indoors and manage to thaw out my frozen arms - my elbows were so cold they hurt - Hubby looks up the weather and sees that its eleven degrees outside with 20mph winds, bringing the windchill to five below. I don't feel like a total wuss anymore. Just a partial wuss. And incredibly unprepared. Sometimes, winging it is good. But not when its five below.

Friday, January 26, 2007


What is it about pushing your limits that's so freaking fun and important at the same time?

Take the bike: In truth, I'm terrified on the bike. OK, not when its on the trainer, but when its anywhere within a ten mile radius of any car, a persistent hum of terror underscores every second I peddle. My last ride on the outside was beautiful. It was great. It was at least 70% terror. Going downhill totally freaked me out - I was riding the front brake on every significant hill. Granted, there was a lot of debris on the trail that Red Molly, being a sleek, streamlined road machine rather than a clunky, sturdy mountain bike, just couldn't handle. Or rather, her tires couldn't handle it. Sorry Molls. And the abject terror that accompanied me down every hill was nothing compared to riding in a bike lane in traffic with trucks speeding by me - nope, couldn't get over into the EMPTY outer lane. Too inconvenient. Sorry. Some of them even beeped - like "Hello, I'm coming behind you." No shit, like I haven't been clenching my handlebars in a total panic since I heard you behind me like a mile back. Thanks. Then, there was the headwind and the 30 degree weather. You think this is turning into a rant - but its not. That's what totally amazes me. It was one of my best days ever(not even in the category of my son's birth or my wedding day, but one of my best ordinary days. ever). I got off the bike elated. My hands were completely numb - from lack of circulation, not the cold. I know I need to move the handlebars up a bit, but the screw is stuck. Doc said to try coke, but I am wondering off of the subject. So, my hands were numb; my heart was pounding from the traffic; the last mile I was convinced I wasn't going to make it, that the sun would set and I would be sitting beside the road crying; I had endured abject humiliation in front of several people drinking beer; and I had a BLAST. Why? I know I've said why is unimportant but it bears asking.

Why do I have a better time in the pool on the days that I push myself to the point that I feel like I'll drown if I try any harder (despite the fact that you can stand up and touch bottom anywhere in the lane)? Why are the runs that push my limits beyond any point I've ever imagined so much more memorable? If I find that answer, I think I'll unlock a very key element in what makes me tick. I suppose the short answer is - I like the fire.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sunburn in January

I'm finally over my sunburn. Something I never thought I'd say in January.

Let me 'splain. Hubby and I are going on a belated honeymoon in February to the Riviera del Maya in Mexico. Yeah! Well, my vanity has already shown itself on this blog once or twice and it overuled my brain and decided that I must have a tan before I go. Tans make you look thinner. Tans hide cellulite. Tans give you skin cancer, sure, but you'll look so good in the coffin. This is the limited logic of Vanity. So, I talked Hubby into letting me do it (whining works wonders on the man) and, to my utter shock, he decided to come along for the ride.

Well, it was so far so good until last Sunday. After a wonderful long run in the snow, I was ready to warm up - so, off we went to our neighborhood Melonoma Factory. Our critical error was in listening to the impossibly brown Barbie and Ken dolls behind the counter. "10 minutes, you should be fine." We were not fine. We were on fire. My sunburn manifested itself in unbearable pain, Hubby's in unbearable itching. We were not fun people. Unfortunately, he's still itching - every once in awhile he'll let out an exasperated scream and run downstairs. The children look at me, expecting answers. I just shrug and say "Gold Bond". You've got to keep them guessing.

Anyway, now that my skin no longer hurts, I feel pretty good about going back today. Yeah. I'm going back. Vanity is stupid, petty, and meaner than the cheerleaders at my old high school. But she is a persuasive little bitch. Plus, I have this package that I have to use up. Plus, the heat feels really good when its cold out. I never claimed to be smart.

Oh, and training is going pretty well. Cranky Butt was quiet on my long run, silent on Monday (of course, I didn't train on Monday because I was in too much pain from the stupid sunburn), just whispered on my Tuesday run and is being absolutely beligerent right now. You can't win them all. My swim yesterday was mediocre - I really feel a difference when I'm out of the water for too long and I kept losing my rhythm. The lifeguard kept looking at me - maybe he was checking me out. Maybe he was wondering why I had a sunburn in January. Probably he was preparing himself to have to jump in and rescue me from drowning.

The bike is the bike. Tomorrow is supposed to get up to 50. Do you think my boss would consider "Unexpected Warm Spell" a legitimate reason to take a day off? Nah. I'll be riding out there on Saturday when its a high of 36 and snow flurries. Sigh.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Sometimes, the world lets you ride on top of it for awhile. And sometimes it needs to remind you that you are mortal, you are vulnerable, and you are a work in progress - you ain't arrived yet, sugar. This week, was my week to be humble.

First, there is the ongoing Battle of the Cranky Butt. I saw my Doc on Wednesday, he did some stuff to hurt me and sent me home with permission to run and a cautionary statement that "It might be a little sore for awhile." The next morning, I went for my proscribed run and ohhhhh mama - it was . . . well, it wasn't sore exactly, it didn't exactly hurt, but it wouldn't really move right - bringing my left leg forward was just so much work. I hadn't gone two miles when I realized that five miles was out of the question, so I opted for three. And walked about a mile of it. Yikes. Iron Woman, I. Am. Not.

Next - the pool yesterday morning. It went well, don't get me wrong. But I was sharing a lane with a woman about ten years my senior who was faster than me. Not considerably, but faster. I got out about ten minutes before her and watched her swim, thinking she must be on a Master's team or something, she just kept going at a decent pace and didn't seem to tire. Later, when I was chatting with her, it came out that no, she only swims a couple of times a month, she started a few months ago for therapeutic reasons - and she learned how to do a flip turn by talking to her son who was on the swim team. Sigh. Humility.

Then, the bike. We went for a marvelous ride yesterday, along a bike path about 45 min from home that follows the river along beautiful bluffs, through woods. Wonderful. The first lesson was pretty hilarious, I was talking to Hubby, watching the river, starting to relax on Red Molly The Beast, and my tire went off the trail onto the soft dirt, sending me bouncing on the bike into a muddy, rocky ditch hollering "ohshitohshitohshitohshit!" The good news: I didn't fall, I stayed on the bike and kept it relatively upright. The bad news: The incident happened right behind this guys house. Said guy and a number of friends were hanging out on said guy's back deck, having a couple a beers. I had an attentive audience. It was incredibly funny and I was laughing the loudest - but, alas, it was humbling. Especially when, after the bike ride, we sauntered into a local bar and grill to get a bite and some beverage and - a group of people that looked vaguely familiar asked "Hey, are you the folks on the bikes?" I just can't get away from my fans. We all shared another good laugh and I swallowed the tiny, jagged bits that were left of my pride. Oh, humility. And lest I come away with any illusions that I'm a bad ass (after all, we were out there biking into a strong headwind in 30 degree weather with impeding snow) we tracked our mileage with the car (my bike computer didn't work - apparently, I installed in incorrectly - oh, humility) wondering what incredible distance we had covered on our "grueling" two hour ride. 16.5 miles. 16.5. There will be a brief visitation this Wednesday for my Poor Pride with a private cremation on Saturday. We loved her well while she was alive, though she did get us in a heap of trouble at times. She will be missed.

But wait, she may have left a seed behind because, after the two hour ride, I ran about a mile and a half negative split - not far, but I was able to run hard and I felt great. Somewhere, from the depths of the ashes, something stirs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


This week seems to be about finding solutions.

First, to my "body image dilemma". Namely, how to make the chatter stop. Well, on the day I wrote that post, my husband attended a training seminar at work - he's a salesman. He told me about one of the motivational techniques that he found purely outrageous - the outrageous being my realm, I was of course intrigued. Here's the deal: Salesman A wears a rubber band around his wrist. When Salesman A has a negative, self destructive thought, he gives himself a snap from the rubber band. Ouch. Can you believe that, says hubby? Who would do that, says hubby? Hmmm, says me.

So, the next day, I put a rubber band around my wrist. Any time I had a negative thought about my bod, or was tempted to compare my bod, negatively or otherwise, to another bod, I snapped the rubber band. Sounds wierd. Sounds vaguely disturbing. But it worked. Mostly, because it made me aware of my thoughts and attentive to managing the negative ones. I only had to snap a couple of times - much fewer times than if my thoughts had run unchecked. Interesting. I don't know if I'm ultimately harming my psyche this way, or if I'm raising an inhibited mind by keeping a tight reign on it, but its been a relief to think about other things.

Second: Injury. Or hurt. Or sore leg. I hesitate to give it such an official title as "Injury". I sought the help of my local running store guru who sent me to an official Sports Injury Dr. The guy is good. Unfortunately, my insurance has a huge deductable for his services - one because he's a specialist, and two because he's a chiropractor - but, hubby supports my wish to be treated and, so, I'm going.
He's very thorough, having me bring in both my running shoes and Red Molly (the bike - the name is another story that I will tell another day). I hope he can solve this problem for me - yesterday's run was a bitch. He told me I could continue running as of now, however, so I'm continuing. Pain builds character, anyway.

Today's swim was glorious - 20 minutes of speed work and 30 minutes of long slow swimming without stopping. I can't believe how quickly I've been able to work up to just swimming without the gasping. I'm really enjoying getting in the water - which means I'll probably have to start swimming harder. But, hey, if you can't enjoy the journey, why bother?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Let's Get Real

OK, on my way home last night, I realized that I have been avoiding one of the central motivations of this crazy endeavor. I'm obsessed with how I look. So, that's nothing new, a lot of women (maybe most of them) are. But the thing is, it takes up so much energy. So much time. So much thought. "How will I look in this outfit at the race? Will I look fat, will my belly bulge, will my hips look ginormous?" "Why haven't I lost any weight? Does my butt look smaller? Does anyone notice my biceps? Wow, look at her biceps, she's ripped. I wish I looked like her." On and on and on. In truth, it was this obsession that led me to start working out again over a year ago. Don't get me wrong, the benefits I've received far outweigh the superficial. I focus a lot more on what my body can do than I used to - and in the heat of exercise, the constant diatribe of body worries nearly ceases. Maybe that's the real reason I do it. Not to look better but to stop, for just an hour or two, the constant stream of consciousness fixating on whether my body is less than (or more than) every other body. What a relief when there's quiet. The really sad thing to me (and perhaps its a relief as well) is that I know there are a lot of women - and men too - out there who do the same thing. Day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Why do we chew on this bitter morsel? Why do we keep rubbing our tongues on that sore? Do our minds need to give our bodies an inferiority complex?

I'm not sure if there's ever been more than a very brief period of time that I wasn't holding onto this. I wish I could find a way to make it stop.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Zone

Finally, I believe I've discovered my aerobic zone in the pool. Or maybe it was my recovery zone. Either way, boy did swimming feel good this morning - more like yoga than postponed drowning. I just swam and swam - solid for at least 25 minutes. I stopped counting after 800 yards. So, yeah, I'm going to have to go further, and yeah, I'm going to have to go a lot faster, but, man, what a pleasure it was to just keep going. Everytime I reached the wall to push off for another lap (did I mention I haven't learned a flip turn yet), instead of feeling like I wanted to hang on for dear life, I was happy to put my feet to the wall and push. It was very Zen.

On a yucky note, I've decided to take off of running this week. Total bummer. But, its my Recovery Week (first one, feeling good!) and I'm still having some issues with my piriformis - at least I think that's whats bugging me. It hurt like a mother after yesterday's run. So, I take a week off, and see what happens. I also have two massages coming, gift certificates for Christmas - do my people rock, or what! Those should be helpful in the Battle Against the Cranky Piriformis (aka Butt Trouble). I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Chink in the Armour

I have a cold. Me. The invicible Phoenix has a cold. Due to said cold, I missed both scheduled workouts yesterday. The upside is that one was a run and one was weights - discipline's I have been fairly consistent in for a number of months. The bad news is, I still feel like crap.

On and on I've bragged about how I "never get sick", crediting my diet, my exercise schedule, my superior genes. Pride goeth before a fall.

Tomorrow, I'm getting in the pool and on the bike - regardless. As God and you are my witnesses, I'm getting in the pool and on the bike. I'm not making any promises regarding distance but I'll be there, no matter what. Done.

I'm still feeling pretty bummed about missing out on the May and June races. I was looking forward to those. Plus, with my first race in July, I feel some slack in my motivational rope, the rope thats been pulling me towards the May race, urging me to do one more lap, one more mile, ten more minutes. That rope. Slack. Maybe its a good thing - maybe I need a little more time for exploration, joy, learning, a little less pressure. Nah. I really wish I was doing those races. But reality is reality. Nothing to be done. Except get in the pool and on the bike. Tomorrow. No Excuses. Done.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Sometimes the Way Opens

I've always believed that when one is on the right path, the way is illuminated and whatever is needed is provided in some way - the sojourner need only have the faith. Once again, in a small but very meaningful way (at least to me), my theory has proven correct.

As I have confessed, I have a bike obsession. As I have also confessed, I have major financial issues that preclude buying a new - or even good used - bike. In fact, I've had to forgoe two races that I really wanted to do because the expense of hotels, registration, etc would be too much. Bummer. HOWEVER, just a few days ago, my husband remembered that one of his best friends had a road bike that he never used anymore. Did he ever. In fact, its a Peugot, custom built, vintage beauty. It has new tires because his neighbor borrowed it for a tri last season (just the race, not the training - curious). It fits me nearly perfectly and its mine for the season. No rent, just a prayer that I don't wreck it. I'm thrilled with my new foster baby - its sleek, its fast, its light, and its pretty. Its also red - and I have it on good authority that red bikes are faster. The only slight meloncholy left to dampen my enthusiasm was Bob's assertion that he would never sell the bike - despite the fact that he never rides it. Nevertheless - I'll take this gift and use it to the best of my ability. Thank you to the Universe for asserting that, for reasons unknown to me, I am on the right path.