Thursday, August 31, 2006

Junior Achiever

I finally got a swimming lesson in yesterday. I am taking a few days off from work to enjoy the last bit of summer laziness here in Minnesota.
With my time off, I decided to catch up on some things that I've been neglecting: swim lessons; cleaning out some clutter; a golf lesson; going to the fabulous Minnesota State Fair and more. Oh yeah, and relaxing.

I've been traveling so much for work lately that my swim schedule got a little off. I will be competing in my last tri for the season on Saturday, so last week I got back in the pool for some laps and then immediately signed up for another lesson.

So yesterday, my coach Dave had me do some drills that should increase my fluidity in the water -- really reaching my stroke out (meaning not cutting in to the water at my eye line, but to cut in to the water about inline with my wrist of my extended arm). Once I cut in to the water, I should set my extended arm in to the anchor position and rotate over to the other side.

He also helped me with a "yeah, I'm a swimmer" kick-off from the sidewall. He had wanted me to learn how to do flip turns, but I can't get beyond getting water up my nose -- yet -- so I'm still pushing off the wall for my turnaround.

The new technique works like this: I crouch down both my legs on the wall in more of a sideways position (I'm looking at the side wall, not the wall ahead of me). I get in to position underwater while I'm crouched down and then push off underwater. This helps me cut through the water more efficiently because I'm already on my side and not lying "flat" in the water creating drag.

I still have three lessons left and am feeling like I'm really coming along.

I took my lesson in the middle of the day and Dave had a client after me. A young boy of about ten or so. Once my lesson was over, I decided to relax in the whirlpool and watch Dave coach the kid.

The kid -- aka the "Junior Achiever" was quite something to watch. No pushing off the sidewall for him. Oh no. He used the diving platform to spring -- cat like -- in to the water and then he swam his 100 freestyle like an Olympian, flip turns and all.

I was amazed. The kid really was fast. I must have been staring at him with an amazed look on my face because at one point, Dave looked over to me in the whirlpool and said "You don't want to know how fast he is going".

Damn straight.

I know that I am a plodder -- be it a running plodder or a swimming plodder. I'm really okay with that.

I do admire those speedsters -- and I fully accept the fact that I started this athletic journey of mine a little late in the game. No matter to me. I still enjoy being out there working my body, feeling physicially fit and taking in the surrounding around me (wonderful scenery when I run; feeling the velvet fluidity of the water when I swim. You know how it goes.)

I'm sure that this kid is competing on some team some where. Good for him. He was amazing to watch and did ignight a little of my competitive nature. If he can do a flip turn, I can to.

Looking forward to being a Senior Achiever.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


I've been golfing just about a year now and just L O V E it! I started golfing last year after hubby and I got invited to play with another friend and his wife. They were playing on a Couples League and their partner couple could not make one of the weekly rounds. They invited us to play and, although I dragged my feet as much as I could, we went and I thought it was great.

I couldn't get a ball in the air -- couldn't putt at all -- but there was something about being outside on an early fall evening, playing a lovely Par-3 course with my husband and friends.

I was hooked.

Since then, Hubby and I played a number of times last fall, squeezing the very last drop out of reasonable play time in Minnesota. Believe me, there were plenty of times when we were scurrying out there on the course when it was freezing cold wearing sweaters, running gloves, hats and jackets.

We had a chance to golf in Las Vegas last January -- another Par 3 where we were partnered with another man who was practicing his short game. Fritz was a very fascinating man to talk with and to learn from, making our mid-winter golf experience even more enjoyable.

For all the Minnesota golf junkies who can't make it out of town during our inclimate winters, we have Golf Domes available. Domes are big structures with inflatable dome ceilings where you can practice your drives and chips. Hubby and I frequented the dome often during the winter months.

Finally, spring came and we signed up for the same Couples League that our friends play on and we had the opportunity to play with them every Friday night for the past 3 1/2 months. Our last game for the summer league was last Friday and I'm really sad to see the league come to an end.

My game has improved -- I took some lessons, which helped -- and getting out every week helped too. I still can't drive worth a dang, but every now and then, I make a shot or a putt that makes it all worth while.

It is really nice to have an activity that my husband and I both can enjoy together. I can see us golfing together for many years to come.

That being said, one of my goals for this summer was to play a full eighteen, or "the big boy course" as I like to call it. Hubby and I went to a course about an hour north of Minneapolis yesterday and, man oh man, was I handed a big piece of humble pie.

Lost about a million balls; really couldn't drive (chip or putt) very well; couldn't really get the dang ball out of the tall grass very effectively; it was an amateur nightmare. Hubby didn't play his level best either, but still we had a great day out there together.

I still have a very long way to go with my game, but that is okay with me. As an adult, I've had so much fun discovering different interests and passions, whether those interests were running (started at 39); scrapbooking (started at 41); learning Spanish (some where in my 30s); political involvement (in my 40s); swimming and triathlons (40's), etc. Adding one more -- golf -- won't be that big of a thing.

I blew off a Long Run to go golfing -- the marathon is about 5 weeks away. I'm not worried -- yet. We still have a couple of long runs that will put me to the test. I also will compete in my last triathlon for 2006 this Saturday.... I know that I'll cover the distance, although I probably shouldn't be too over confident about my swimming or biking.

I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Trophy Wife

Another long week of sales meetings and travel just ended for me.

I started the week in Minneapolis (home base) attending a two day meeting for one of my company's sales teams. Monday was a blast -- we got to do a little team building by playing golf. The Manager of the group is a member at a very nice country club in the area and we played his course. My first "big boy" course.

We were divided in to four teams of four (each team had one woman). I golfed with the Manager, a sales guy and an account manager, who I happen to sit next to at work. We had a great round of golf and everyone contributed. I helped "seal the deal" on three holes, which I was very proud of.

Tuesday were meetings (bleah). After work, I ran with the Beginning Runners that I'm coaching at my Health Club. We had a beautiful run along the downtown trail. I got home about 8:00 pm and found that the mailman had delivered a package for me from LifeTime Fitness.

Inside the package was a very nice trophy: acrylic, triangular in shape, with a photo of the elite athletes entering the water at the LifeTime Triathlon.

Remember when I posted about coming in first in my Athena age group? And I was joking about it because I was Number One out of, you know, ONE? Apparently, LifeTime recognized this as a legitimate placing because the engraving on the trophy reads:

LifeTime Fitness Olympic Distance First Place Female, Athena, 40 - 49.


Although I do thing that getting the award is kind of funny, there is another part of me that is HUGELY proud of this goofy piece of plastic. I feel slightly vindicated for all those times that the faster, skinner runners in my running club sniffed their noses at me plodding along in my slower-than-molasses style.

I really no longer run for the tee shirts (although I do like it when the race officials decide to give out technical shirts that I can use for running or long sleeved shirts that are good for sleeping), I do like the hardware (medals). The trophy is very nice and I'm going to display it proudly.

In ended the week on the East Coast attending another meeting. The sales group works in Portsmouth, NH, a wonderful seacoast town located about an hour outside of Boston. I have been to Portsmouth three times and just LOVE it there. Very pretty land; wonderful town built around a square, fun progressive people and great running routes. I ran on Thursday night for about an hour -- through the town, out towards the sea, through some beautiful neighborhoods. Felt terrific!

We had a fancy dinner on Thursday night -- the sales team, some of their preferred customers and some of us from Minneapolis. We ate outside overlooking a beautiful bay.

The meetings were held on Friday morning and, frankly, this group is probably the most grumbly of them all. They complain about everything. My presentation kicked off the meeting at 7:30 am and, from what I hear, the group stayed out the night before partying. Imagine how happy there were to hear from me, then, bright and early in the A. of M.

I got through it, meetings ended and we were on our way home. Phew.

Got home in time to meet Hubby and our friends for our golf league where I played a really great round of golf. Yippee!

Next week, I'm in town all week (yippee!) and Hubby and I will celebrate our 1-year anniversary (yippee!)

Wonder how he feels about having a Trophy Wife?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Running on my Own...

After waxing poetic about how great it is to have such wonderful friends to make those long runs worth while, I ended up bagging them on Saturday and running on my own.

It wasn't as bad as "bagging" really sounds, though.

Hubby and I golf in a Couples League on Friday nights. I had promised him that my running this marathon would not cut so much in to our time together as training for my other events has in the past. So, despite what my coach says about having Fridays be a total rest day before the big Long Slow Distance (LSD) Saturday, we golf on Fridays. It is a small Par 3 course -- very pretty -- and we golf with another couple that have been our friends for several years. We walk the course -- really no biggie, LSD run or not.

Last Friday, we got off the course later than we usually and Hubby and I putzed around on the way home -- ran a couple of errands, had dinner late, etc.

I woke up at 6:00 to run and just decided "screw it". I slept in.

Honestly, part of my rebelliousness was because we were supposed to go 18 miles. We had just done a 1/2 marathon the week before and I felt that going from 13 to 18 was a big leap that I wasn't ready for. So, the alarm blared at 6:00 am and I promptly turned it off.

I knew that I'd have to make up the miles and get a run in. I got out of the house about 1:00 pm and followed a route from my block along Lake Harriet and then connecting with Minnehaha Parkway. Most of the run corresponded with the marathon route, including the one really ugly spot of the marathon route off of Cedar Avenue, near Lake Nokomis.

(It is interesting to me that this section is also a section of the LifeTime Fitness Triathlon. I LOVE it when I'm doing the Tri, but HATE it as part of the marathon. I suppose it's because I'm riding a bike when I'm on Cedar during the Tri versus not being quite at the half-way point for the marathon.)

In any event, I got out there and did my thing for 16 miles and was very glad I ended up running alone.

Here are the things I observed during my run, that would have escaped me had I run with the group:

Fish swimming against the current in Minnehaha Creek.

Sleeping ducks nestled in creekside.

My first glimpse of a tree with leaves that just hinted at color change (uh oh!).

The Minnesota Freeze playing a tournament near Nokomis. (Apparently the Freeze is our Australian-style football league -- whatever that means).

Great gardens and yards that adorn the beautiful homes along the parkway.

Kids playing in the park, including a dad teaching his son how to play T-ball.

People walking their dogs.

A wonderful elderly couple out in their yard. The husband was going to take the dog for a walk -- the wife was standing close to him, stroking his face and smiling. I hope Hubby and I are like that when we are their age.

Finally, after I was just about done with my run, I veered off the course, whipped my shoes and socks off and waded in to the wonderful waters at Lake Harriet beach. My aching feet and knees were 'oh, so happy'.

I think I needed this kind of run -- where I can take my time and observe things around me rather than just ticking off the miles and getting the run "done".

Sometimes you just have to run and smell the roses.

Friday, August 11, 2006

In to the LONG stuff now....

Tomorrow my running group and I will be tackling 18 miles. Can you say BLEAH?

We only have about seven weeks until Twin Cities Marathon, so the long, tough stuff starts now.

Actually, most of the training drills this session have been much tougher than in previous years. Don't know why exactly, but our mileage seemed to go up fast on the long runs and our weekly sessions seem to alternate between doing fast runs and hill runs. (What the heck ever happened to Easy Does It or EDI?)

I'm glad I have a good group of gals to run with, however. My friend Marcia, who's birthday this year started this whole thing; new friends Jane, Mary and Ally; old friends Cheryl, Bea, Kathy, Bev, etc. Makes the runs really worth it.

Last weekend, a number of us ran the Urban Wildland 1/2 marathon. It was a great event. I finished 10 mintues faster than I did at the Wells Fargo 1/2 earlier this year and felt pretty good the whole way through the race.

I ran mostly with Marcia and Ally -- until a potty break sent them ahead and me waiting to "go" -- literally. We were running 7 minutes with a 1 minute walk break. The course is very pretty. We ran through residential areas and nature preserves. It was great fun.

The rest of this week was spent mostly in Salt Lake City (SLC) for work. I flew out Sunday and back late Wednesday, just in time to miss all this new travel fear and crap. SLC is very pretty with the mountains and interesting buildings downtown. There is definitely a Mormon influence (you have to be a "member" to go in to bars, but I hear that membership is pretty easy to get); downtown is a ghost town after 5:00 pm; but they do have plenty of coffee houses (thank heavens) and I hear that most of the city has a pretty liberal bend. (The conservative crowd has settled in the suburbs).

I ran once. Found a great path through the city, by the Tabernacle, up to the capital, through a beautiful part and up a mountain side. W O N D E R F U L.

I communed with nature and came up with a gratitude list while the miles pounded away.

I'm not so sure I'll be as grateful tomorrow about mile 15...

Got home on Wednesday night and the new terror warnings came out Thurday morning. Hubby and I have plans to go to Europe this October after the marathon. I really don't want to cancel our trip although I will say that I do have some anxiety about the trip. (I'm not a very good flyer to begin with.) We are not making any decisions yet about our trip. We'll wait out this recent thing for a week or so and then decide.

Stepson goes back to his mom's on Monday, which also produces a yin/yang feeling in me. I love him and have a hard time living with him. Part of it is he is 16 and part is that he has been some what spoiled by his parents. I usually end up in the role of WSM -- wicked step mother -- nagging him about helping around the house or at a minimum getting out of the house. If he had his way, he'd sleep in late every day, eat junk food till he burst and then would sit on the computer playing games with cartoons on in the background.

Yet, on the other hand, he is a smart, personable kid who can be a lot of fun to be around. Once he leaves, the house gets quiet and it isn't long until I miss him.

Funny little ironies, no?

Sunday, August 6, 2006


Last night, at some point in the middle of it, I officially became older than my mother.

My mom, known to her family and friends as Margaret or "Mugs", died of breast cancer on August 6th, 1969 at the age of 47. I was 10 years old.

Although I don't remember much of her, I do vividly remember parts of her illness, and the morning she died.

It was very hot in Milwaukee that August. My mom's illness had progressed and she had been bedridden for most of the summer. The cancer that had started in her breast spread to other organs, including her lungs. She ultimately had to have a tracheotomy, which was supposed to help her breathe, but would clog with mucus causing more coughing and problems. Little by little, she withered away.

My grandmother came to live with us that summer to help my dad out. That particular weekend in August, my mom's favorite sister, Sharon, came up from Illinois with my two cousins. Our house was full of people. My sister Tina, then 5, and I had to sleep in a bedroom that was in a part of the house that must not have been insullated very well. It was hotter than heck in that room. I didn't sleep well that night. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and hearing a lot of commotion down stairs. I was too tired to get up so I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

The next morning, my dad woke me up. He had Tina with him and he picked her up and put her on his lap. I knew right then. He said "Your mother passed away last night. I'm sorry". I just laid there looking at him and looking at Tina. In an instant, every thing changed.

Zoom ahead one year, five years, ten...move forward twenty, thirty and now thirty seven. Might as well be 1,000 years for all I can remember and for all that I have missed.

I've had a lot of mixed feelings about this particular day, when I'd pass my mother in age. IF I'd pass it by. For years, I thought that her fate was my fate -- that I'd get cancer and be dead already. I'm not alone having that type of thought, I know. Many people who have lost a parent fear that they will come to the same early end.

But I did make it past her time -- albeit only by a few hours now. I'm hoping that those hours will stretch in to days and months and years....leaving me to die peacefully an old woman.

Very melancholy blog enter, I know. I've been moody for the past couple of weeks and pretty sad about this date. I'm (still) angry that she died and angrier that I don't remember her. I'm sad that she's not here and that she -- and I -- and Tina -- missed so much.

I'm not so idealistic that I believe, had she not gotten cancer and lived, that we would have had this perfect mother/daughter thing. I just would have liked the chance to have experienced it, instead of looking at it through the lens of an outsider observing my friends with their mothers. Or my friends as Mothers with their children.

Anyway, for what ever reason(s) that was not meant to be. It was just sort of a hard day and I guess I just wanted to acknowledge that along with the woman I never really knew.