Thursday, March 30, 2006

March Madness & Mayhem

Well, not really, but it was one of my busier training months, especially compared to previous months. Honestly, though, I'm just putting in all the swimming, cycling, and running demanded of me by my coach so that I may meet my goal of seeing the finish line at Ironman Canada in August. I'm also seriously hoping to meet her goal for me of finishing the New Balance Half Ironman in 7:15 or under. Last year, I was one of the last finishers with a time of around 7:39 (or so). I can tell you now, I won't be making up any of my time on the swim, but on the bike, as that is where I am spending most of my training time.

You may or may not have noticed, I've started posting my monthly goals and progress on my sidebar. I belong to WeightWatchers and am part of their on-line community. In particular, I participate in an on-line forum called "Fitness Challenge." It was on this forum, back in 2002, that I found the support and encouragement I needed to pursue my athletic goals. No one laughed at me or thought I was silly for wanting to do a triathlon. In fact, the thread I started on that board, appropriately named "Tri-ers Day-of-the-Week" (as it is re-started every day), has been going on for almost 4 years now. During that time, many dozens of triathletes have come and gone, though there is a core few of us that are still there, IronAyla included. Some of us even got together one year and did the Accenture Triathlon in Chicago.

My point is that one of our number, SpeedLeopard (awesome young woman, go read her story), suggested we start an Ironman Fitness Challenge. Each month, we encourage others to complete the distance of an ironman triathlon. For many, this is a great motivator and gets them out the door and on their bike or in the pool in order to post their totals to the thread. For others, they are using it to add variety and cross-training to their regular routines. For some, doing the ironman distance is too much and they opt, instead, to do a half ironman distance. We aren't too picky on this as long as they are moving their bodies (getting some form of exercise as many were/are former couch potatoes).

Well, because of my training, doing an ironman distance in a month doesn't present any particular challenge, so I started doubling and tripling the distances. In March, I chose to triple the distance. By the end of the month, my totals looked like this:

Goals for March
Total to date
Total Hours
12600 y
18000 y
336 m
319.1 m
72.6 m
62.7 m

While I did fall short of my goals, I did so only barely. Now that April is upon us, and their are FIVE whole weekends in the month and, for me, April only holds ONE rest week, I'm opting to quadruple the distances. Even with my long runs, though, I'm thinking I may fall a little short in that department. My coach only has me running 3x a week, and two of those runs are typically very short, only 30-40 minutes each. I may start upping those to an hour as that was what I was used to doing before. She is probably concerned with over-taxing me and wants to make sure I can get my long runs, and especially my long rides, in on the weekends. Now that Daylight Saving (not Saving"s") time is here, I may start doing my long runs in the middle of the week, thus saving most of my energy for my long rides.

So, that's it for the month of March. April should prove very interesting.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Success Card #9

Until you try,
you don't know what you can do.

~Henry James

I laughed out loud when I read this quote. I was reminded of IronAyla. She has told me of her lofty goals and far-reaching aspirations many times over the last year. Each time, I tried to gently dissuade her because I didn't want her to become temporarily or, heaven forbid, permanently injured. Even still, I tried to encourage her training, but I was afraid for her, because I knew her fitness was slowing slipping away. She simply wasn't being consistent enough with her training to warrant going into a long endurance race like an Ironman or an ultra event. In my not so humble opinion (as if I were some expert, puh-lease!), she was foolish to even try. Then I read this quote.

Well, girlfriend, I'm right behind you all the way. You won't know if you can cross the finish line at IMCdA or not until you try (tri?), do you? Truth be told, none of us does. So, you just put in the training as best you can, and I'll be right there to support you all the way.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Northwest Beauty

I just wanted to post a few pictures to make the rest of you all envious at the beauty we northwesterners get to enjoy on those rare days when it isn't raining.

This is a shot I took as I left my sister's home a week ago. It had rained that day (I think), but that evening the sky, the clouds, and the colors as the sun set was simply stunning. I HAD to pull off to the side of the road and snap this picture.

Just this last weekend was the dedication of the trailhead I've taken to using quite extensively as it is only 3 miles from my home. Here is the slab of granite with a plaque that was part of the dedication.

And this is the view across the street from the above-mentioned trailhead. Said trailhead is currently paved for 15 miles in one direction. Makes for some great running and cycling.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Success Card #8

No journey is too great
if you find what you seek.


This is a twist on those "journey vs. destination" maxims we hear all too frequently. This is suggesting that your journey to an end, while difficult or even almost impossible, is worth it if you get what you were after. For me, the goal is the finish line at Ironman Canada. To that end, it means all the pain and anquish I endure during the trip to that finish line, which includes not just the race itself, but all of the training before hand, will be worth the effort.

I'll have to keep that in mind today, as I head out for my 5 hour and 20 minute ride. For now, I'm waiting for the fog to lift as riding in the fog is dangerous even when you have lights on your bike and mine have none. I don't even have a rear reflector (the reflective strip on my bike bag doesn't exactly count).

Yesterday was another challenge. I went out with my hubby to a local 5k/10k fun run. It was the inaugural event for this race. My plan was to do the 10k, which would take me in the neighborhood of an hour and ten minutes (I was figuring conservatively), then run home, which was another 7 or 8 miles away. If, by that time, I hadn't run for 2 hours and 50 minutes, I would just keep on running.

Well, I finished the race in 1:03:15. Not bad, but not a PR (dang), however, I admit to trying to hold myself back some as I knew I still had a long way to run that day (I did the same thing at last week's St. Patrick's Day Dash dressed as you see here--what you can't see are the green tights I'm wearing. We are such goofballs).

After the 10k, I found myself in the gymnasium chatting with my husband and several of the local running icons. One of the women is in my age group and training for her first triathlon (Ironman Coeur d'Alene), and was the overall winner of the women's division. In other words, she was f-a-s-t! I got some water, checked the results for my husband's time (mine weren't posted yet--just too blasted slow to matter), and discovered he took 2nd in his age group. Plus they were holding a raffle. That's the long way of saying I cooled off and since I was soaking wet from the run, I did NOT want to face going back out in the drizzly, sub-40 degree weather to finish my run home. I decided to stay untill my husband got his ribbon, then I would go home, change into dry clothes and head out.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans and all that. I ended up being delayed for another couple of hours after I got home. The reasons are irrelavent, but they were important to others. So, by the time I got back out to finish another hour and 50 minutes of running, I was definitely feeling unmotivated. I had to remind myself that I like to run. I kept telling myself on the way to my chosen starting point, "You are doing this because you like to do it, not because you have to. Remember, you get to run, not you have to run."

Well, I got my Garmin 301 all ready, then I hit the button and headed out. My plan was to go to Military Rd, turn around and repeat. Turns out Military Rd was about 3 miles away. On my way out, I made note of where I was 20 minutes into the run as I figured I would have to run out that far on the return trip. I was near the power lines by the end of the wood. Okay, got it.

After I got done with that first 6 miles, I was feeling pretty wasted. But I had planned to run those miles at about an 11:30 pace, and here I was holding a sub-11:00 with a 60 second walk break every mile. That meant my pace most of the rest of the time was a sub-11:00. Good Lord, how am I going to finish this run at that rate? For goodness sake, SLOW DOWN, idiot! This is a shot of the info garnered from my Garmin.

Well, after a 6 minute water/potty break, I headed back out on the trail. I was going to try and do 2 miles out and 2 miles back. By the time I hit 20 minutes out, I was almost to the powerlines at the end of the wood. That marked 1.75 miles. I couldn't face going any further. I turned around and headed back. My legs felt wasted. I was tired and if I didn't get some food in me soon, I would also turn really, really cranky. A cranky me is not a pretty picture.

Total miles for the day, between my race and my training run, 15.8. That night, after a dinner of New York steak, garlic mashed potatoes, and Caesar salad with an appetizer of chicken strips, I had to get on my trainer for a 30 minute recovery ride. I only did 7 miles in that 30 minutes, but that was the whole point, really. Recovery. I wasn't supposed to try to go fast, or crank up the watts. It was just supposed to be an easy ride, with a comfortably high cadence. I'd say I maintained that with an average wattage of only 86, and an average cadence of 90. But that's what I found slightly ironic. I ran more miles that day than I biked. In fact, I ran more than twice as many miles as I cycled. That was just weird to me. When I was done, I went to bed. I'd had enough fun for one day. I think I slept for the next 10 hours.

Today, my legs still feel a little like stumps. Just before I went to sleep, I was reading an article about overtraining vs. adaptation. It stated (more or less) that in order to get better, we have to stretch ourselves, sometimes to the point of overtraining, but not so far that we hurt ourselves. That part of the adaptation includes feeling slightly wasted like I do today, but not so much that I can't contemplate going out on my 5 hour ride today. While it was foggy out, I admit I wasn't looking forward much to my ride. Now that the fog is clearing and it is SUNNY outside, I find I'm a little more inclined to get out there and ride. It may even be fun.

So, the whole point of all of this is that crossing that finish line in August will be worth all this agony when I'm done. I'll have accomplished something I never thought I could. My journey will be complete when I hear those words, "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Success Card #7

It shall be done -- sometime,
somewhere -- so, why not by you?
~Ophelia Guyon Browning

Indeed! Why not by me? We, all of us, I think, are often busy wondering when someone will do something about the state of our union, the state of world affairs, the state of poverty in the world, the state of hunger. Why can't we be that someone?

Okay, so maybe we have a busy life and it's all we can do to get by. Is there nothing at all we can do to make a difference to someone else? Even if it is just to pass on a smile?

In the first couple weeks after my mom passed away, I was busy quarreling with my siblings and working on cleaning my mother's house, when I had to lead a caravan, consisting of my brother driving a rented U-Haul truck and my nephew, to my home. Before I exited the park where my mother's home was, I saw a young woman walking along the shoulder carrying a large plastic red can. She was obviously after some gas. She also looked like she was having a bad day. I'm not prone to picking up strangers, but something about this poor girl spoke to me.

In spite of my role as lead, I stopped for this young woman. I offered her a ride to the end of the street, which was only about a quarter of a mile away. She thanked me and got in, with her gas can on her lap. I looked at her and her bottom lip just quivered and her eyes welled up with tears. I asked her her name. I think she said, "Tammy." I told her that whatever it was, it would get better, that things always work out. I told her that my mom had just died and I was fighting with my siblings, but it would all be okay in the end. So, too, would it be for her.

I think that my small gesture of kindness made a difference to her that day. I told her the way to repay me, was to one day do the same for someone else some day--a kind of "paying it forward."

I dropped this girl off at the end of the street, since I needed to make a turn and she claimed she didn't have much further to go. As she exited the car with gas can in hand, she wiped her tears, gave me her condolences, thanked me, and then offered some encouragement of her own. I'm hoping my words stuck with her. "Whatever it is, it will be okay."

I do NOT condone picking up strangers. But sometimes, somewhere, it's going to be done. Why NOT by you?

Wild and Windy Winter Weather

This last February was not the best of months for me. Besides everything else with my mom, we had some nasty weather to contend with. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a few pictures for you. I tried to do them in sequence from left to right. Unfortunately, I don't have a "stitching" tool with my current photo editing software. Does anyone have a good one they'd recommend?

That's not a tree, folks. That's only a branch, a 50 foot long branch. The tips of the smallest branchs on the end were as thick as my fingers. It took out 15 feet of my fence.

Here is a shot of the actual tree. That big white spot you see is where the branch came off. The white spot is 5 to 6 feet long and a good 30 or 40 feet (or more?) up from the tree trunk. This is clearly a BIG tree!

Not only was it very windy when this branch came down, it was bitingly cold. I was outside with my coat, hat, and gloves on for about 15 or 20 minutes snapping some of those pictures. By the time I got back into the house, I couldn't feel my fingers.

We are looking into having the tree taken down, but the estimates we've had so far are staggering. Everyone seems to want one to three THOUSAND dollars to take the tree down. YIKES! That's a lot of dough. However, that may be cheaper than replacing my neighbors house should another huge branch (there are two left) or the whole tree come toppling down. I'm not too crazy about the idea of it landing on my house either, for that matter. I wouldn't normally be too worried, but the weather this year has been especially weird. First it was the soaking rains, then the crazy wind. And it would seem we may be expecting more damaging winds later this week. In fact, it doesn't look great out there right now as I watch the trees swaying back and forth.

Oh, please. I really don't need any more headaches.

I Did Not Drop Dead

Yes, I'm still alive and kicking. I did not follow my mother into the after-life. It just seems like it.

I was accused the other day of having some dark humor. True. I was referring to getting in a month of solid training so long as no one dies on me. Okay, yes, that was a little dark. But, hey, think about this.

In the last two years, I've had SIX people and my favorite pet die. It started in February '04 with my father-in-law, followed by a sister-in-law (that I admittedly didn't know), and my father. The kicker is that they were ALL in February of 2004.

Then, I got the news in November of that same year that my dearest friend in the world, who lived in Colorado Springs, was ill. She had brain cancer, which began as a melanoma that metastasized (wear your sunscreen!). She died in February of 2005 (but not before I got to visit with her).

In April of 2005, my middle step-son was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was only 27. While not married, he did leave behind a son.

Starting this year out with the death of my mother was almost more than I could handle. Too many people were dying and I'm not yet 50. While in some ways her passing is a bit of a relief (I don't have to worry about her living in that filthy house any more), I missed being able to talk to her about the Olympics (which she loved to watch). I would find myself on some days thinking, "I have to call Mom," except Mom wasn't there to call. I regret she wasn't able to live long enough to see the birth of my sixth grandchild (due this July), her ninth great-grandchild.

Anyway, added to all those deaths is then the passing of my favorite cat. Ah, you didn't know that part did you? Two weeks after my mom passed away, I had to make the heart-wrenching decision to put down my favorite feline. PuddyRat was absolutely the best cat in the world and I miss him terribly. Gone are the days when I would wake up in the morning and he would rush to beat me down the stairs just so he could sit on the back of the couch and meow at me to pet him. I had him for 15 years, so it is a terrible void.

A few days after I put him down, I got the call that his remains were ready to be picked up (we chose to have him cremated). That same day, I got the call from the mortuary telling me the same thing about my mother (who also chose to be cremated). And both of these were on Valentine's Day. Couldn't you just feel the love?

As might be expected, given the circumstances, I was starting to feel pretty darned bleak. I would get up in the morning and the crushing sadness was just so heavy, it was all I could do to get dressed and go to work. There was just no joy in my life. I knew the depression was temporary, but it was so overwhelming. I finally hit critical mass when I went home for lunch one day and got into a stupid, inconsequential fight over nothing with my husband. I stormed out of the house, got in my car, drove the 30 feet out of the driveway where I stopped in the entrance, turned off my car, and bawled my eyes out. The pain and the sadness washed over me. I would have stayed there for much longer, but I had to go back to work. I did briefly consider calling in, but chose not to. Instead, I went to work with streaked mascarra and red, tear-stained eyes. It was obvious to all that I was having a very bad day.

The next day when I got up, I felt marginally better. Whatever my problems were, I simply decided to let them go. Once I did that, I was able to start living again. So, as you may be able to imagine, at this point in my life, that I have any humor left at all is a very good thing even if it is a tad morbid. Grief is a process. I'm very busy processing.