Friday, June 30, 2006

Vaay - Kaay- Shun!

Ahhhhh --

I'm in the middle of a very relaxing week of vacation which I'm spending in the exotic location of "my home".

Hubby and Fireball (stepson) left for their Game Convention last Tuesday. We all got up at about 4:00 am -- they packed up, I made coffee and waved a cheerful goodbye as they drove off to Columbus OH at about 5:15 am. I went back to bed. Ahhhhhh.

The rest of my lazy days have included getting rid of some clutter around the house (Ahhhhhh), get-togethers with some girlfriends, golfing my first "long" course, hanging around the lake, a bit of bike riding, a swim lesson where I performed TERRIBLY and an equally tough "long swim" of 1600 yards last night. (Who the heck knows why some workouts are so much better than others...). It has been wonderful.

I've been trying to take notice of all the wonderful aspects of this time off -- calm days, lazy mornings spent outside watching birds, bunnies and butterflies in the backyard with Gorby (our 15 year old cat); people watching down at Lake Harriet; sunsets; summer smells of flowers or BBQs or rain. I get so caught up in "Every Day" that every day moments get lost. I'm going to work harder on noticing more.

Tomorrow is the MinneMan Tri -- 0.3 swim; 13 mile bike; 3 mile run. I am feeling "ready" and nervous at the same time. The distance doesn't so much cause me worry -- just general angst.

I have to get my stuff ready to take: pan to wash the sand off my feet after the swim; socks; racebelt; shoes; goggles; cap(s); trisuit; wet suit; hat; sunscreen; Powerade, gels and Clff Shot Blocks; race numbers; stuff to wear after the race, blah, blah, blah.

I'm glad I am doing the event tomorrow. It should help give me a feel for how I might work LifeTime, which is about two weeks away.

I'm hoping that all the swim lessons and workouts will positively impact my swim experience and time ("tick-tock" time, not "joy of the event' time). I'm not so concerned about the bike or run, but...I've learned from participating in other events that one should never take any thing for granted.

The weather is predicted to be warm with the possibility of some thundershowers. Those could put an end to the swim adventure in a hurry.

In the meantime, I'm going to just enjoy today -- put my feet up -- possibly take a quick bike ride with a couple of other tri/running friends, maybe play a quick round of par-3 golf with some golf friends -- carbo-load and get some sleep.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Feelin' Groovy

This was one of those days where things just sort of came together on my long run.

I have not done an actual long slow distance (LSD) run in a very long time. In fact, the whole "running" thing has been taking a pretty big back seat lately as I've been trying to really get this "swimming" thing down.

My running club started marathon training on June 12th for our October 1st Twin Cities Marathon .

I've had some recent struggles with the way my running club. We have a new director and, although most people just think that the director is the greatest thing since dri-wick, we seem to have some personality clashes.

I may struggle with the director, but I love running with my friends at the club. They pull me through the rough spots, make me laugh during the fun spots and inspire me every single time we are out there.

I promised my running coach (who is a very good friend of mine) that I would not let my jaded opinion seep in to any of the workouts that we perform.

My goal is to suit up, shut up and train.

Today was a great example of keeping my goal and having a great day.

Our LSD called for running 10 miles. I started out with three of my regular partners and one other new person in our group. We got in to our rhythm pretty easily -- doing a run of 9 minutes with a walk break of 1 minute.

The day was humid but we had cloud cover, which helped us keep a little cooler. By the time we hit Lake of the Isles and were veering over to Lake Calhoun, the sky opened up a bit and shared a little cooling rain with us. It felt wonderful.

It was a great run and I really felt able to keep the pace and the rhythm up for the entire run. That is always a great feeling.

My friends and I went to breakfast after the run and our coach joined us. She would like us to change up the run/walk ratio. Her idea is that we should run fewer minutes (like 6 max) and then take a walk break.

I am not so sure that I like that advice. My concern is that if I train that way, I won't be ready to run with the Cliff Bar Pace Team .

I ran with a pacer at Grandma's in 2004, who did a 9/1 run/walk. That was awesome.

I'm worried that if I train doing fewer minutes running that I won't be able to add minutes during race day. I've sent in a email to the pacer that will be heading the TCM team to see what her plan is. I'll see what her response is and then go from there.

However, today, I kept my promise to my coach/friend. I neither endorsed or pooh-poohed her idea. I just kept chewing my bagel and drinking my coffee, feeling proud that I passed my first "test".

My next "test" starts tomorrow. It is peak-week for my Olympic event training. Tomorrow is a 25 mile bike ride; my swim yardage calls for 1,250 and 1,500 yards respectively; my runs will reach 6 miles.

Naturally, being the good "overacheiver" that I am, I am going to do the 25 miles, but will actually try to do 1,600 yards or more in both swims. I just want to KNOW that I can do the distance.

I have a sprint tri on Saturday for my practice event. Hubby and Fireball(stepson) are leaving on Tuesday for their game convention so I'll be at the tri on my own this time around. Sort of scary to do it all on my own (I really like someone being able to actually see me get out of the water...). I'll probably find some kindhearted spectator at the event to help keep an eye out for me.

On that note, I'm going to hit the hay while I'm rested, relaxed and still feelin' groovy.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Kudos and Kool Stuff

My running friends are awesome.

Several of them participated in Grandma's 1/2 and full marathon last Saturday in Duluth. As I've posted countless times before, I did not get in to the 1/2 this year.

I was very unhappy about it in the few weeks after my registration failed to be picked in the lottery. Then, I sort of resigned myself to reality and cut back on my running to concentrate on my swimming.

I did want to support my friends running the events, so at 4:00 am last weekend, two other friends of ours that were not running in the events and I loaded up the car and drove up to Duluth to cheer on our friends.

The day was very warm and humid for Duluth standards. The 1/2 marathoners cut a bit of a break as they started out on their course at 6:30 am when it was still cool and cloudy.

AmyK, Bea and I arrived in Duluth in time to grab some coffee and see the winner of the 1/2 cross the line. We then found our cheering spot and camped out for the rest of the day.

Our 1/2 friends Marcia, Julie, MaryJo, Jen and Sarah did an awesome job. Sarah is a co-worker and this was her first half. Marcia is the "ring leader" organizing a band of women that will run Twin Cities marathon this fall, including me. She has been training like a manic and it showed. She rocked.

The marathon started an hour after the 1/2 and the temp in Duluth was 64 degrees -- not so bad until you combine it with 90% humidity. That was some thing for us as spectators. Runners felt that impact 10-fold! The sun would peak out from time to time and that was brutal. By the end of the 6-hour race cutoff, the temps were in the 80s.

I love watching the full marathon. As a confirmed back-of-the-packer, it is very interesting (and strangely comforting) for me to see that the front runners and mid-packers also struggle a bit as they hit miles 22, 23, 24 and beyond.

Very few people could claim a PR that day. Folks were running past us looking pretty shot. (We were at a spot at about mile 25.5 on the course). Hot, sweaty -- some glazed-- but mostly happy to be nearing the end.

Our friends were terrific! Karen was in her typical rhythm; Angel, who is training for an Ironman, was slower than she wanted to be but was full of smiles when she passed. Carla, a new friend also training for an Ironman, did PR, which was something! KathyT, one of the folks I coached last year when she was a beginner was also smiling as she finished her FIRST marathon. Then there is my good friend Dori . Unfortunately, we missed out on being able to cheer her out on the course, but she did a GREAT job considering the conditions.

My hats off to each of them. They inspire me every day in very unique and special ways. I'm honored to be friends with each and every one of them.

Kool Stuff: I had a very good week of training. Running better (being back in training really helps -- duh). Swimming pretty well too. I went to an outdoor pool swim with my Tri club. The pool is longer than your standard -- a full 50 yards, as opposed to 25. Angel and Carla were also at the swim last night. Although you can't socialize much when swimming, it is just nice to have familiar faces there to keep you going.

I felt pretty strong in the water and got 1600 yards in -- so pretty much covered the distance I will need to swim at LifeTime.

My plan is to get in to the lake again this weekend -- after a round of golf tonight and a long run of 10 miles tomorrow with my marathon pals.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Open Water is Different --- very different

My Tri Club sponsored an Open Water Clinic last night at Lac Lavon Park, located in Burnsville MN.

My swim coach, Dave, was the facilitator and there were about 30 to 40 triathletes of varying ability that attended including my friend Angel, who is in training for her first IronMan.

I've been feeling much more confident in the water -- well, perhaps better said,"The Pool". You know -- nice clean water, marked lanes, walls you can get to in a hurry where you can cling for your life whenever the going gets tough.

This clinic was at The Lake -- and not your regular triathlon-type lake with a nice, sandy beach start.

No, this lake was pretty much your average Minnesota park lake. No real shoreline where we enter the water. Tiny fish hanging around the shoreline hoping to find a bug or a leg in a wetsuit that looks tasty and easy to swallow. Oh, and the weeds. Since we've had so much rain (and so many homeowners use that fertilizing-crap on their lawns to help them look "nice", which then runs off in to our lakes and streams...) the weeds were huge.

I was not as excited about the workout when I saw the lake. Open water makes me a little nervous. When I did my tri's last year, I pretty much "got through" the swim portion, happy to emerge from the lake alive and relatively unscathed. I had been thinking that, because of my lessons, that the swim portion this year would be something that I'd enjoy more. That thought is currently still up for debate.

Angel and I got in to our wetsuits and in to the water to loosen up before the Clinic started. Angel is a very good swimmer. She got out in to the water and swam past the weeds easily. I got in and got panicky. Pretty much reverted to my dog paddle and back stroke, not liking this whole idea of swimming at all.

We got out and waited for the clinic to begin. Dave got there and we got rolling. He shared some great tips for siteing, water "ettiquette", placement, drafting, etc. It was also the first time I actually got to see him in the water. He is a great swimmer -- fluid, fast.

He also engaged the participants by asking questions and helping us joke through our fears. I was very relieved to hear that many of the folks attending also had some level of dread about the swim portion.

Then we did some drills -- getting in and out of the water "mass start" style. This is the portion of the tri that most people hate. You do indeed have people that swim over you, you do get kicked and jabbed. Eventually the field clears out and you find your place in the water to do your thing.

We then swam out and past those dang weeds (which really weren't so bad) and did some stroke and siteing drills.

In a triathlon, there are lots of people in support vehicles (surf boards; kayaks; canoes) watching the water for swimmers in distress. Swimmers also have the option of holding on to a support vehcile if they panic or need a break. I like that A LOT.

During our Clinic, however, we did not have that luxury. I was concerned that I'd get out there and get over-tired treading water. I forgot the beauty of the wetsuit. That helped keep me more like a bobble than a rock. Phew.

I did not do my best with all the drills, however. My goggles got foggy, leaked a little bit and then I got blindsided by the setting sun and couldn't site. I got way off course and panicked again. Fortunately, Angel was keeping an eye on me and really helped me through that rough spot.

I was also S L O W. (What else is new?).

I left the Clinic very happy I went (and got through it) but also still pretty concerned about my ability to get through that .9 swim at LifeTime.

Angel and I and a couple other tri friends have made a pact to get in to the open water more frequently in the weeks to come. This should help my overall comfort level. I'll also have some race practice when I do MinneMan on July 1st. Fortunately, that swim is relatively short -- only .3 miles.

Time will tell if I'll be able to sink or swim...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Easy Does It.


I ran the final Easy Does It Five-Miler last Saturday. The folks over at Hazelden's Youth and Family Services have been putting on this lovely race for 25 years. For a variety of reasons, they decided that this year would be their last year to hold the event.

I've participated in this race for the last three or four years. The course is nice -- a little hilly, which is challenging, through neighborhoods and next to a lake. It's an "out and back", which is always nice for us back-of-the-packers as we can cheer on the leaders as they whiz by us on their way back to the finish.

In year's past, this race was always my last taper event right before Grandma's Marathon. I'd hit the start line all ready and raring to go... trained and "efficient". Not this year.

Since I did not get in to either of the Grandma's events, my running has taken a backseat to swimming. I've been spending much more time and effort trying to become more efficient in the water so that .9 swim portion of LifeTime Fitness triathlon doesn't do me in.

I ran the race on Saturday with my great friend Mary B. She is running Grandma's Marathon and has been training for weeks. It really showed in her performance Saturday. She took off ahead of me in the first 600 feet and I didn't see her again until she came back for me on the course after she had finisher her very own 49:00 minute race.

I struggled. The air was heavy, so my asthma was troublesome. I felt slow and cumbersome, like I was running through molasses. I wasn't physically achy, but mentally was not really able to get it together.

I was sure that I was really really behind the eight-ball time-wise, so when I saw the finisher chute I was surprised to see that I was coming in in less than an hour. Still and all, with my finishing time of 55:42, I was about 3:04 slower than last year.

I got in my 20-mile training bike ride yesterday. Another day where I felt like I was not moving at all. There was a lot of wind which was challenging and I did slog through the workout in less than 2 hours. My legs felt like rubber -- from the bike ride and probably the 9-holes of golf that we played that morning. That is when the doubts started creeping in.

I'm not sure how ready I am for this Olympic-distance triathlon. I've got 5 weeks to finish up training and prepare but my sluggish performances last weekend got me in a bit of a panic.

I'm trying to relax just a little bit -- Twin Cities Marathon training starts tonight, so that will help with my running; I've got plenty of training dates for biking and swimming to help shore up those two legs; I've got some time. I just have to remember:

Easy Does It.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Flat Side Against the Wall

Years ago, when Hubby and I were first dating, I wanted to install some new towel hangers in my master bathroom.

Being the independent woman that I am, I bought the fixtures, got my tool set out and started my DIY project.

The fixtures came with instructions -- illustrated instructions, mind you -- and yet I could not get this one little part to fit flatly against the wall. The instruction read "Place (weird, obscure) object with flat side against the wall".

I struggled with this little piece of metal for hours before finally throwing in the screwdriver and calling my (then) boyfriend.

He came over and instantly discovered my mistake. The piece had two flat sides. I had been trying to position the wrong side. He simply turned the (weird, obscure) object around and, POOF. Flat side was against the wall -- and, with a couple turns of the Phillips head, I had new towel racks.

I bring this up now because of what happened last night at my swimming lesson. As previously mentioned in this blog, I've been taking Total Immersion swim lessons. The lessons have been great and I've come a long way. I feel much more confident in the water -- move much more efficiently, and cover more water over less time. All good things.

Tthere have been a couple techniques of this method that continue to mystify me: front quadrant (FQ) swimming and anchoring, or "catching". FQ is basically when you keep your lead arm ahead of you for as long as you possibly can while your stroke arm does its thing. The lead arm should start its motion until both arms are fully extended.

Anchoring is what give you the strength in the water. Basically, the catch position is looks like this: extend your arm in front of you. Now, without moving your upper arm, bend your elbow down as if you were going to touch your desk. Water flowing around your forearm as you continue your stroke drives strength in the water.

Coach Dave has been trying to get me to refine these techniques and, since last night was my last night of lessons, we worked a ton on this. Finally, I 'fessed up I just wasn't getting it. "If I'm on my left side, with my left arm leading in front, my right stroke arm is coming out of the water, elbow high, I get it out to FQ position, how do I move it to anchoring if it is extended?", I asked.

"Um, Amy, you are anchorng with the OPPOSITE arm". (FLAT SIDE AGAINST THE WALL).


Yep, took me six lessons to figure out that, in the scenario above, when I'm on my left side, when I hit the FQ positon with my right stroke arm, my LEFT arm goes in to anchor position as I rotate my hips around to complete the stroke.


I've signed up for six more lessons.