Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Seeking Advice: IMWI Volunteer

I've committed to volunteer at IMMoo in that I've booked a hotel room and told Husband I'll be gone that weekend.

Beyond that... I need some advice before I officially register. I haven't done it before and there are so many options I'm not sure what to do. Since some of the jobs only have a few slots open I figure I should sign up now in case I decide to do one of the scarce ones.

The volunteer site is great and spells out what each volunteer duty is so you can make an informed decision. I've narrowed it down based on criteria including:
- my inability to do complex things before sunrise
- my lack of "extensive knowledge of Madison streets"
- my desire to hang out with the Tri-Geek Dreamers if they end up doing something like dinner afterwards
- my preference to see at least some action (i.e. not hiding in a food tent or sitting at an intersection all day)
- the possibility of recording (I have a great DVR) in-race interviews with Tri-Geek Dreamers to pass along for GYGO

I'd absolutely love to hear thoughts from anyone who's either volunteered or raced an Ironman.

Here's what I'm considering:
- Wetsuit peeler... it just sounds cool
- Driving a sag vehicle for the bike course... I have a big van that's easy to toss bikes into. I have no idea why but this appeals to me a lot. It also has a responsibility factor (reporting DNFs). Would love to hear thoughts on the down-sides.
- Bike aid station... special needs or regular, don't have a preference, like the idea of interacting with the racers
- Finish Line Awards... sounds like a ton of fun, this one might allow a shift on another task earlier in day, and would be great to be able to photograph team TGD members as they arrive
- Bike taker... I'd be afraid of screwing up the bike giver thing, but wouldn't it be fun to grope all that carbon fiber?

I also like the idea of being a finish line "catcher" but am a bit intimidated by such an important job at my first volunteer outing. A friend said it sounds pretty hard core and maybe I should do that another year, after I see in person how intense it is.

Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated!

That Time of Year Again

Heat acclimation training.


Sunday, May 28, 2006


Geeks turn me on. And I'm not talking about Tri-geeks, although they have their own special charm.

I'm talking about glasses wearing, mom's basement living, MIT going uber-geeks. The kind of guys whose only form of social interaction is online video games. The kind of guys who could resolve the national debt if they sold their comic book collections. The kind of guys who, at some point in their lives, probably attempted to build a robot. Geeks with a capital "G."

Because of this, I myself have, by association, become a teeny, tiny bit geeked out about some seriously geeky stuff. For instance, last night sitting around a bonfire with friends, just for a moment I got sucked into a lengthy discussion about which actors played Batman in each of the four Batman movies. Before Batman Begins, that is, which (god help me) I believe is the fifth. But I caught myself after suggesting a single name and then returned to what I should have been doing all along - rolling my eyes and giggling with my girlfriend.

But I have to admit, I have, in my past, engaged in impassioned oratory about Tolkien's brilliance with the use old English etymology in the naming conventions of Rohan.

You get the picture.

But I was never interested in tech stuff. Until now. It was a gradual transition, and even I am still surprised when I hear something majorly geeky and actually understand it. I'm not over the top, mind you, not even close to as bad as my husband, who saves stray bits of wire and old computer parts "just in case" and not only dreams of building his next computer, has already started sourcing the parts... but bad enough that I've become a geek genre video podcast junkie.

I go nuts for DL.TV. I knew I had a problem when I started asking on a daily basis if there was a new episode posted yet. (My husband made me learn the schedule - which I didn't want to know because only Geeks know the show schedule - so I'd shut up about it.) I've got a little crush on Robert Herron, which is probably why I am now the proud owner of information I used to find unbearably irrelevant to my life, like what it means when a TV is 720P or 1080i and the various software applications suspicious Geeks install to catch their unfaithful girlfriends. (Seriously, don't cheat on a Geek.)

I loooove me some Diggnation. Those guys are freakin' hilarious. (And I might have a massive crush on Alex Albrecht.) Tiki Bar TV fans should check out Episode 45, filmed at E3. It was a very special treat for geeks like me, with a cameo by Dr. Tiki himself.

While comics are definitely not my thing and I couldn't care less about what Hollywood is up to... I braved immersion in even that sub-basement of geekdom to catch the Geekdrome episode where they interviewed Kevin Smith.

I even watched an episode of Hak 5. Dude. That shit is seriously over my head. And quite possibly, not entirely legal. My husband digs it, but it's so crazy even he admits he doesn't get it all. Or even most of it.

Ctrl-Alt-Chicken burst onto the scene in recent weeks to feed both my Alex Albrecht obsession and give my inner Martha a coronary. If you haven't yet seen this, stop what you're doing now and check it out. Few things have made me laugh harder. It's Geeks... doing a cooking show. With drinking, of course, a la Diggnation. Now before you think, "hey, Geeks are smart people, surely they can follow a recipe so how bad, really, can it be?"

Oh, seriously you must watch this show. For instance, in the third episode, Heather demonstrates that she is not entirely capable of buttering bread.

I have to physically restrain myself from dashing off helpful e-mails, explaining things like the necessity of bringing egg whites up to room temperature before making meringue. Because while it pains my inner Martha, the rest of me gets that if we tell them how to cook the show won't be funny any more.

So next time you're not sure what TV to buy or how a particular model of flash memory mp3 player stacks up, or you just want to see some attractive, intelligent twenty-somethings made inedible food, check out some of the techno geek video podcasts. These guys come out of their moms' basements to share their knowledge with us so we never have to research an electronic product again.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

New Level of Newbie

Last night I was in the throes of just-kill-me-now cramps and a particularly bad bout of bitch-moster-from-hell / look-at-the-cute-kitty-I'm-gonna-cry. Because of this I blew off calling Swim Coach Marcy to confirm this morning's ride because I knew if I called I'd cancel, and there was always a chance I'd wake up in the morning and not want to use my bike as a murder weapon.

By some miracle I woke up this morning eager to ride. Called SCM and thankfully she was still up for it; I'd have been a lot less motivated to go alone with temps already approaching 80 and the first sign of returning cramps. I mentioned we could start out from my house and I'd be happy to top off her tires if she needed.

She said 'yeah, they probably need it, I haven't ridden my bike in like 2 years.'

Dude, I sooooo thought she was kidding! She's signed up for a race in 4 weeks!

Not kidding. She was a little late because she'd forgotten how to use her bike rack. She found a Wisconsin State Park receipt on the bike that was stamped September 2004, which truly was the last time she rode it. Rust was starting to form on the handlebars and the tires were so flat I had to pump for a while to bring them up to zero. I made her lube the chain too, once I found out she'd never put anything on it in the five years since she bought it. I was pretty worried she'd drop that creaky chain or blow a flat and, with her lack of gear and experience, end up with a bad case of road rash.

She was looking adorable in a spaghetti tank sans bra, cute little coordinated shorts, movie-star sunglasses and no sunscreen. Oh, and she skipped breakfast and only had a bottle of water with her. No helmet either, she's gonna borrow my old one for the race (just ordered my Atmos!).

I was fully decked out: tri shorts, bike jersey, cycling shoes, Road ID, wrap-around shades, a helmet and SPF 50. I'd eaten a solid pre-workout breakfast of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, part of a banana, some of that slimy green healthy juice concoction and had a bike bottle of sports drink ready to go. I felt ridiculous next to her, she just looked so darn cute and relaxed... but then I remembered that I was actually prepared for what we were about to do.

I tried hard to remind myself I was once that clueless and it's great to help introduce newbies to the sport... but I truly don't think I was ever THAT clueless. And she's really smart and extremely athletic... guess biking has just never been on her priority list.

Once I grasped the full extent of her bike unpreparedness I quickly revised my original plan and suggested we ride out for 20 - 30 minutes and turn around. She said no, she'd be fine, do whatever I'd planned on. I couldn't imagine dragging her 20 miles, especially in the impending heat without proper fuel or hydration. But by the time we got her bike set up it was nearly 10 and she had to teach a swim lesson at 11:30; she went along with the revised plan so as not to be late for work. Good thing, too.

We did the predictable loop from my neighborhood and down part of the bike trial; made it just shy of 12 miles in about an hour (not too bad considering her speed and that some was spent waiting forever to cross a couple of busy roads). She was hurting on the (miiiiild) hills and near the end was clearly starting to struggle, but in general I was blown away by how easily she managed it.

I'm still a bit worried about her for the race. (It was pretty funny, every time we made it up a hill she asked "seriously, are there hills in Naperville?" There's not.) Luckily she's got a very realistic goal of just finishing, so I think she'll be fine. I already know she's going to come out of the water at the front of her wave and she's a pretty solid runner. I expect she's gonna blow my time away.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Two Steps Behind

Was working a ton the last couple days and when I came up for air I noticed all the posts pointing at Flatman's new home... but by the time I figured out what was going on and went to post my own new pointer I learned through the general awesomeness of the tri-blogosphere (apparently we can put on quite a flame campaign when one of our bretheren is threatened) he's back where he belongs.

So, in the words of Roseanne Rosannadanna, "Never Mind." Flatman is back to business as usual.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Idol Recap

My thoughts on the most memborable moments from the American Idol finale...

Most surreal: David Hasselhof in tears.

Possibly more surreal: Prince. Not necessarily just tonight. In general.

Most blasphemous: Elliott singing One. There are some things you Just. Don't. Do. Covering Freebird comes to mind. Stairway too. And nobody sings U2. Because it can't be done unless you're Bono.

Most frustrating: we don't know if it was everywhere, but around 8:00 CST there were technical difficulties and we lost the live feed, they started playing the show recorded from the beginning. We didn't know if we would get it back in time for the end or not.

Lamest: the Burt Bachrach medley. (Except for Mandisa's solo. She rocked.)

Funniest: Clay's dorky clone obviously not being in on the surprise. And then trying to sing along and Ryan trying to get him off stage.

Potentially devastating: we got hit with a huuuuuge thunderstorm and tornado warnings at about 8:40 CST. Lighting was hitting all around. We still can't believe we didn't lose power and miss the end. I was WIGGING OUT until the lightning passed.

Most priceless: the underdog who barely made it to Hollywood won the whole damn thing.

I said it the first time I heard him sing and I'll say it again: I'll be first in line to buy his CD when it comes out. I hope the idiot producers he's contractually obligated to work with let him stick to his roots and record the kind of songs his fans want.

Soul Patrol!!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Refining Me

Today's run was a harsh lesson in the realities of running outside and how little my treadmill triumphs matter in the real world.

Today's run was an exercise in humility, my 10-20 minute indoor run times decimated to 1 or 2.

Today's run proved I am an eternity from the forge called Ironman. That I'm still mining the raw material of my potential, melting away the worthless pounds like so many tailings.

Today's run showed me I'll always have structural weaknesses, every pounding step on the soft dirt trail vibrating through my bad knees, my weak ankle, tiny stress points threatening the integrity of the entire plan.

Today's run showed me the heat of my drive must be tempered with cool thinking and ice packs.

Today's run had veins of pure gold running through it, fleeting moments where everything else fell away and I was running light and fast and free. Moments when I was strong, when I could feel the forge burning within, heart hammering and breath like a bellows.

I felt the heat. I felt the pain. I felt the truth that the refining of me will take time. But for the first time it all felt possible. Someday. And that's enough to keep me running.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

I went to 5 stores in the last 24 hours looking for a sports equipment organizer. Every time I stumble across the stupid box o' balls 'n crap in the garage I get this bug up my ass about it, and this time I was determined to actually do something, to hell with my husband's rule that I'm not allowed to clean things in "his" garage. I'm claiming jurisdiction because half the sports stuff is mine now anyway.

Several years ago I saw an organization rack in a store and thought to myself "that's perfect, someday I will have to get one of those."

Since yesterday I have been to:
Target (where I'm pretty sure I saw them before)
Sports Authority (they told me to try Home Depot)
Sears (they acted like I was a genius for thinking such a thing should exist)
Home Depot (they just acted confused)
WalMart (they seemed surprised they didn't have them)

I hadn't even thought about ordering it online because it's a pretty big thing and shipping costs can get out of hand. But I was even more determined to organize my garage and prove I wasn't a crazy person for thinking these damn things exist.

One quick Google search returned a plethora of options at reasonable prices. Did I want floor standing or over-the-door or wall mounted or for skis or golf clubs or on and on. After two days of futility I was blow away by how easy it was to find not just what I was looking for, but to have options.

So now I just have to decide if I want A, B or C. A buffet of organization! It makes my anal retentive little heart go pitter patter.

Option A

Option B

Option C

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Some Days are Better Than Others

That's the song that's stuck in my head and it's oh so apropos on this particular Sunday.

Yesterday I'd planned on a nice long bike ride, probably 15 miles. But Husband wanted to go for a ride and he hasn't done much lately, so I willingly agreed to do a short easy one with him Saturday and get in my long ride Sunday.

We were almost home from the easy 5-miler when I popped a flat. No matter, I thought, I've been wanting to learn to change a flat anyway. But it was getting late and I still wanted to take the dogs for a walk around one of the local trails, so I decided I'd change it Sunday morning.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and beautiful, a perfect day for a bike ride. Except.

- I had a pounding headache
- My eyes were nearly swollen shut from high levels of tree pollen and a personal lack of diligence in my allergy shot regimen
- I had a congested chest and a hacking cough (see also tree pollen)
- After yesterday's dinky little ride and subsequent short (2 mile) mosey with my dogs, my right knee (the one NOT diagnosed with a problem) was very painful, requiring RI&E and Ibuprofen Saturday night and still feeling wonky this morning
- It was only 54 degrees and I'd forgotten to wash my cool weather tights
- Both of my potential riding dates for the day blew it off
- I still had a flat tire

I try to fight the good fight, my conscience going blow for blow with my lame excuses, and training usually wins out. But you can't win 'em all, and today was one of those days. I bagged the workout.

But at least I changed the tire.


Got my first official Enell, and it's true, it's true I say! Everything you've ever heard about this bra - it's not hype. Noooo bouncing! None! Not a bit! I can run, I can really actually run, without the girls going on a field trip from my navel to my neck.

They're not cheap, which is why it took me so darn long to shell out the dough. But oh baby, are they ever worth it. I've got at least $200 worth of sports bras of varying brands in my drawer, so I know of what I speak.

Seriously - if you've got some big girls, don't bother with anything else for running. It ain't pretty, it's more like a straight jacket by way of tourniquet chic, but it gets the job done.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Don't Try This at Home

This is Bogart. Sometimes we let him in the fenced yard with us when we're out with the dogs. Today he found the little spot where the fake fireplace sticks out and there's a nice little dirt hidey-hole just the right size for a cat.

We heard him wailing (his preferred method of communication no matter the occassion) and realized he'd snuck outside and gotten left behind when we came in for lunch. I found his head sticking out of the hole, his white parts so dirty you could barely tell them from the gray.

I called him and he came as far as the stoop and started to give himself a bath. He'd shaken off a bit so the ridiculous dirt levels aren't really visible in the picture. I knew what had to be done.

My mission, should I choose to accept it... was to give Bogart a bath.

This is a cat that, at 5 months old, drew blood on two highly skilled veterinarians who were just trying to get him out of the cage. They emerged from the back, disheveled and bleeding, and asked if I could get him out seeing as how I worked there and he was my cat. I informed them he wouldn't behave any better for me and they said "look, we know you don't believe in it, and he's just supposed to get neutered today, but I'm sorry we're declawing your cat." To this day I am glad that I agreed to it.

He turns into Satan's lost pet when he goes to the vet, and has to get heavy doses of tranquilizers even if it's just to get weighed. His aggressive personality was apparent when he was two weeks old and attacking the teeny little syringe we were using to feed him. We sometimes wonder if it wasn't really an accident that his momma abandonded him.

Oh, and he weighs 20 pounds, much of which is solid muscle.

I carried him upstairs and he started to freak out. I turned on the water and he really started to freak out. I had originally planned to just lean over the tub like with the dogs, but it was clear there was nothing for it but to strip down and get in.

Meanwhile, Husband, expecting high comedy whatever the outcome, brought his lunch and the camera to the bathroom to bear witness.

He wailed and thrashed and yowled and wet mud was flinging all over me and the shower and out into the bathroom and I was laughing to hard I couldn't breathe. I started out trying to hold him with one arm and spray him...

but that didn't work so I ended up struggling to hold him with two hands while Husband did the honors.

I've never heard a cat make sounds like that. I seriously couldn't stop laughing, even though a little voice in my head was insistently screaming Husband is taking pictures and you're naked!!!

When it was over and I'd toweled him off I let go, expecting a little cat explosion of some kind. But in typical Bogart fashion he hopped out, plopped his fat ass down right next to the tub, gave me a dirty look and started grooming himself like nothing had happened.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Transition Question

Now that I'm good and sucked into the sport, I find that I've gone from hating sports on TV to trying to catch races whenever they're on. I find it highly motivating, and I keep telling myself (and my husband, who'd rather watch 'insert any other sport here') that I might pick up some useful techniques or tricks.

I've noticed that many triathletes do a thing where their cycling shoes are already clipped in to the pedals and they run their bikes barefoot to the mount line. The cameras never show the part where they put the shoes on, so I have no idea how hard it really is.

Is this a thing? Should I be doing this? What is the logic here? My best guess is that it's faster to run without cleats, and maybe not wanting to damage the cleats with running on them. I could also see that a long cleat-walk might facilitate blisters.

Is this a transition tactic I should practice? Or is it kind of like the socks/no socks thing, where if you're not going to be competitive then don't worry about it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Did you ever...

... accidentally break the yolk on your egg, and you just hate cooked yolk, so you turn it into a fried-egg sandwich and surprise your husband with it (because they're one of his favorite foods - ick), and then he thinks you're really sweet when really you're just totally selfish and didn't want to eat it?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I won the argument...

...with my body and I went to the gym. Pulled of a pretty smokin' (for me) 5K in 46:30, not far off my PR. Knee's not happy about it, feeling pretty lightheaded and much more tired than a 5K usually deserves but glad I made the effort.

Sobering Reminder

Today I got a stern reminder from my body that I'm not a normal person.

Yesterday I had that niggling little feeling in the back of my mind that I'd forgotten something, and I suspected that what I'd forgotten was to take my meds. But I wasn't sure and I didn't want to take them twice, so I let it go. I felt pretty good and had an incredibly productive work day so I reasoned I must have taken them.

Then I woke up this morning. I overslept by more than an hour. My brain was foggy. My limbs felt like concrete. It took me almost an hour from when I woke up to when I was actually able to stumble out of bed, and only then because my bladder insisted.

This was a mild version of how I used to feel every day of my life, and proof that I most certainly forgot to take my meds yesterday.

Now I'm begging myself to go for my run this morning. The mind is willing but the body is weak. I certainly won't be getting in a record-setting 5K this morning like I'd planned... today will be a victory if I even manage to go for a walk.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mental Milestones

Yesterday I put on a t-shirt.

That's a simple enough thing to do. Most of us do it every day. But this time, this particular t-shirt, triggered an avalanche of emotions. A flurry of calculations, of re-evaluations of the situation.

This was one of my "too small" t-shirts. It was at the bottom of the pile, folded neatly, the way it has been for the 10 years since it stopped fitting. It's a Miss Saigon shirt I got 11 years ago in London, and I couldn't bear to part with it even though I didn't get to wear it much before my ballooning weight relegated it to the back of the closet.

I didn't even mean to put it on - I thought I was grabbing a different grey t-shirt. But it went on. Easily. No tugging, no stretching it over my hips. It just went on.

I looked in the mirror for a long time, trying to wrap my brain around it.

Because last time I was able to wear this shirt I weighed about 40 pounds less than I do right now. When I got it I was in the 170s, a senior in college and vividly recall I had just reluctantly caved and bought my first pair of size 16 jeans.

This was taken the weekend I bought it. (March 1995, age 22, 50 pounds overweight)

When I thought about it I realized that, even though my jeans are still in the land of 18/20, I have been wearing 14/16 shirts for a while now, so it's not so strange in terms of sizing that it fits since that's the size I was when I bought it. I am, however, marveling at the concept that exercise and weight training can make such a huge different in one's size that I can wear some of the same clothes with a 40 pound weight difference!

Anyway, this whole t-shirt thing got me to thinking about where I am in the process. When I first started having the first signs of trouble in my late teens I weighed in around 115.

When this picture was taken, August 1990, my mom was telling me I was too thin and my gym teacher was telling me I obviously had a weight problem (I had hips and the first signs of cellulite, even at 17 years old 115 pounds) and was going to refuse to sign the PE waiver I needed to fit PHYSICS into my schedule because she felt I needed to be forced to exercise (OK, tangent, it just still boggles my freaking mind). I suppose this whole paragraph is irrelevant, but it goes to show you what kind of mixed messages girls are getting about their appearance. According to the doctor's chart I was 10 pounds overweight for 5'2", but I think I looked pretty good.

Looking back at my figure when it all started, I kind of feel like the thyroid problem was a big honkin' cruel joke the universe played on me. And the mall hair, well, that was a big honkin' joke the 80s played on all of us.

I graduated high school in 1991 at about 120. This was taken for the pageant right before I left for college, weighing in around 130 and starting to freak out about a rapid weight gain that seemed to be out of my control. I was lucky the dress still fit.

What I'm trying to establish is this: I don't look half-bad if I weigh between 120 and 130 pounds. And, with that in mind, I set a couple of goal weights:
- 135: realistic for a girl in her 30s with a thyroid problem, the minimum I will accept for success
- 130: I'd fit into that dress again. I'd take it and be happy.
- 125: my ideal goal weight, what I truly think I could get to
- 120: my ya-never-know, maybe I could pull it off, but don't get too upset if I can't weight

My point is this: all this time I've been fighting with the mental challenge of having to lose 150 pounds because that's roughly what I gained. Anyway, before now it was silly to think in terms of "well, it's really only 135" because, sorry, that just doesn't make ya feel any better. A 3-digit weight loss is a hard thing to swallow not matter what the actual numbers are. Up until now, when I got compliments on my progress all I can think is: yeah, but I still have to lose over a hundred more.

Except here's the thing: I don't any more. I officially, unbelievably, go-tell-it-on-the-mountain, no longer have to lose over a hundred pounds.

That's freaking HUGE, people. HUGE.

I only have to lose 90 pounds to make my minimum goal weight! I know you're probably thinking '"Only!?" good lord, she's lost her mind, that's still an insane amount of weight to lose.'

But from here the view's not so bad.

I had no idea I would feel this way, but I'm relieved, optimistic... all sorts of positive emotions one doesn't expect when still faced with a 90+ pound battle. Turns out, for me it was a mental milestone to get it under a hundred, and right now, at least while I'm wearin' my favorite t-shirt, it feels like I'm coasting the downhill side of this thing.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hot and Cold Inside of 30 Seconds

My radio woke me up with the glorious news that Fuel invited Chris to be their lead singer! I was totally psychedI had just pondered the possibilty with a friends yesterday, and here it is!

So I jumped out of bed, ran to the computer to send her an email....

Only to find an email from my aunt informing us that my cousin Jason (with whom I have always been extremely close, more like a brother to me than my actual brothers) is shipping out for Iraq.

He's a career Air Force guy and does paperwork stuff, something to do with arranging air shipments. All these years I thought he was safe. They were supposed to ship him out about 3 years ago and my uncle had terminal cancer; if he didn't die before J left for Iraq, J would not have been allowed to return for the funeral. Isn't that sick? Uncle Tony knew he had to die before March or his son couldn't be at his funeral. He did. J's orders were rescinded, he came to the funeral and was able to spent time with the family, which was the last time I got to see him. He's been stationed in Ft. Worth since. I don't even know what to think - I guess I thought it couldn't happen since he'd already dodged the bullet once before.

He'll be in the Sunni triangle 45 miles north of Baghdad. He's scared but says he's glad to be going because it's what he's trained for.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Crazy Splits

Excuse me while I gush for a moment.

I just had another swim lesson. I love that she's pushing me to do things I didn't know I could, and wouldn't have thought to try on my own. I've been in absolute shock at the incredible progess I've made in just a few lessons... and today that shock has turned to all-out disbelief.

OK, remember how my pipe-dream goal for this year was to get my swim under 20 minutes? Seemed like an impossible goal, given that, until Marcy came along my best time ever in my pool was about 28 minutes. I did the math and it meant I'd have to get my average lap time (lap in our pool, not a regular size pool) down from my steady average of around a minute to a max of 40 seconds. I honestly thought it was an impossible dream.

I think I already waxed enthusiastic about how my first lesson with her took 10 seconds off my lap time - down to 50. That alone blew me away. By my second lesson it was down to 47, and it's stayed there for a couple of weeks. I figured I'd take it and be happy because, hey, that alone took nearly 7 minutes off my time, which put me as close to the 20 minute mark as I'd ever hope to be with such a short time before the race.

Today she had me to 2-lap time trials (roughly 58 yds) with 30 second rests. This is the first time she's ever timed me; I told her I didn't expect to be any better than 47 sec laps.

Guys. Holy shit. Remember that holy grail time of 40 seconds? Yeah. Suddenly it's feeling very real, and very attainable.

My best lap: 35 seconds. My worst: 42. Most were dead on 36. Overall, I averaged between 1:10 and 1:20 for the 2-lap repeats... most of them below my ultimate goal time, my worst repeat hitting it dead-on. (For all y'all with normal pools: if I take an average of that - call it 1:15 per 2 laps - it translates to 2:09 100s. I don't know if that's good, but it sounds cool to me.)

Yeah, I was working my ass off, but in a good way, in a way that felt like I could make it a sustainable race pace if I worked at it. Probably not this year, with only 6 weeks before my race, but certainly next season. Even better, she made a point of telling me that, even when I was clearly fatiguing and slowing down, my form stayed great.

The icing on the cake? She was looking for something to do for herself, and my enthusiasm convinced her to sign up for her first tri! She'll be doing the race formerly known as Reebok with me in Naperville come June 25th!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sad Day on Idol

We lost Chris. I'm in total disbelief.

I haven't been this upset since we lost Mandisa!

I can't say I expected him to win the whole thing, but I sure as hell never thought that he'd go before Elliot.

We love Taylor Hicks. Loooooove 'im. Said from the first audition that we'll be first in line to buy an album from him. Will be thrilled if he wins.

We love Katherine McPhee. She's gorgeous and sexy and has an amazing voice and we will be thrilled if she wins.

We hate Elliot Yamin with the fire of a thousand suns. Can't stand his singing to the point that we sometimes mute it. Cannot for the life of us figure out what the judges like about him, let alone all the people who are voting for him. (We felt the same way about Fantasia, still can't figure that out.) We can't quite process that he's come this far, and I can't quite process that he just beat out CHRIS!

Chris rocks. We love his voice, we love his music style and we'll be in line to buy his first album. Can't wait to see what band he ends up fronting. (Fuel, anyone?)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Monitoring the Situation

Got to the gym today for my regular Tuesday run. Yes, I admit it's pathetic that I opted to run inside on a 60 degree day, but I've been lazy about my allergy shots and springtime makes me sneeze and cough and my chest tightens up, which isn't very conducive to running. Anyway.

I did 10 minutes of walking to warm up, then started an easy run, no plans, just seeing how long I could keep it up. And for the first time, when I had to pause to stretch out my calves here and there during the run (it's not nearly as bad as last year, but I still have definite tightness) it occurred to me to check my HR too.

Been thinking a lot about training to a target heart rate lately. Heard Iron Wil talk about it on the podcast, seen everybody talk about their monitors on their blogs, but all this time I thought it wasn't for me. I'm still so slow because I'm still carrying so much extra weight that I wasn't getting my HR up that far anyway, so why on earth would I need to monitor it?

And that's been my thinking all along. Until I heard the podcast when Wil's coach listed a monitor as a piece of essential equipment. And then, two weeks ago, my swim instructor (can I just tell ya how much I LOVE her?) introduced me to the torturous world of sprint repeats and explained how doing them affected my HR and in turn my speed and blah blah blah. You guys know. She's also been telling me from the first day that I go much too slow, I take it much too easy, and I need to get aerobic with it because my speed (or lack thereof) problem isn't just bad form. This was all a huge eye-opener for me; my mind was finally making the connection that you can use your heart rate as a tool to improve performance. And I'm finally making the internal paradigm shift that I really am that fit now, and that this is the next logical step for me.

Which brought me to my tentative experiments today with checking my HR while running on the treadmill.

It seemed really, ridiculously high when I was running. Even when I kind of felt ok it was in the 170s, and at one point I felt like I was working pretty hard so I checked and it was 189! Whenever it went over 175 I'd take a little drink or stretch break for a few seconds and run again after it got back down to around 160. Which still seems way too high.

Now, I remember Wil saying that her coach had her doing long slow runs at a 140 HR, and this was supposed to be a long slow run for me. Can't get much slower, at the beginning of my runs I'm doing a 13:30 pace, which even feels plodding to me! At my fastest, after I start to feel good, I did a little work as fast (ok, "fast") as 11:30 pace.

So, I think it's time for me to get a monitor. I don't know what to get, and I don't really know what I'm looking for in terms of HR training zones once I get it. All I know is that I loathe the idea of a chest strap and that 189 is way to freaking high. (For the record, my RHR, a few hours post-workout, is 76 bpm.)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

(Oh btw, managed to run for 20 minutes, albeit with a few stretching pauses, longest run time ever!)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Heart on my Sleeve

Not exactly keeping my hobbies a secret.
Most people buy a minivan because they have kids. I bought a minivan because I was tired of squishing hundred pound rescue dogs I transported into the back of a Honda Civic almost every weekend. (And because I plan to have kids.) Now I also love that it's a piece of cake to throw tri gear in the back.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Massive Conspiracy

A few days ago I caught Oprah, and Dr. Oz was on it talking about things we shouldn't eat. No big shockers - hydrogenated oils, white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup.

He spent some time talking about HFCS, and something he said grabbed my attention. Of course, I've always known it's not great (what artificial sweetener is?) and I do read juice labels in an effort to avoid it (nearly impossible) but I had no idea just how bad it really is.

Studies have now proven that HFCS is instrumental in blocking insulin and leptin - that means it literally prevents the "you're full" signals from reaching our brains. How this translates into real life? If you, say, drink a soda with a meal, you will eat, on average, 100 calories more than you would have before you decide you're full.

Research is now indicating that the introduction of this artificial sweetener in the 70s is very like one of the root causes of the explosion of diabetes and obesity in this country. Because folks, it's is fucking everything.

Normally I would take a piece of information like this and think it was interesting but wonder how proveable it really it. Except for this: about 5 weeks ago, when I started counting calories, one of the things I did was stop drinking soda altogether.

Now, I'm not what you would call a soda drinker. At most, I might have a Sprite with lunch or dinner - lunch and dinner if I was really indulging. So this turned out to be a perfect test case, although I didnt' know it at the time. I was just trying to be a little healthier and cut out a few optional calories.

But something dramatic and unexpected has been happening, and cutting out the HFCS-laden soda with meals is the only thing I can attribute to it.

First: the quantity of food I eat before I am full has diminished by nearly HALF. I am seriously, couldn't-eat-another-bite full on about half the food I would normally eat. And believe me, I'm still putting the same amount of food on my plate I always have, so it's pretty obvious when I can't finish it (the dogs are quite happy with this new development).

Second: After a 9-month plateau, where nothing I did seemed to help, my weight has magically started coming down. When I was working my hardest and losing weight the fastest, in the last 2.5 years of trying the most I was ever able to take off was about 2 pounds a month, and normally it was more like 1 pound a month.

I've lost 5 pounds in 5 weeks.

And no, I did the math, and I wasn't drinking neeeeeaaarly enough soda to account for those calories. In a bad week, I'd have maybe a thousand calories worth for the week, in a good week, none at all.

That's enough to prove it to me. Seriously - add this to a thyroid problem and it sure as hell explains why I fight tooth and nail to lose every ounce. From here on out I'm avoiding that stuff like the plague.

I chatted with RTP about this and posed this question. If we proved an ingredient in our food was causing cancer, it would be pulled in a heartbeat. Drugs have been pulled for much, much less. Yet this goes on unquestioned, an ingredient in nearly every food on the shelves, this information kept under wraps, while this ingredient is now a known contributor to two of the leading causes of death in this country. WTF?! Her response: it's a massive industry, and they have obviously managed to keep it quiet.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Protein Source

Did a nice little 8/2 brick this morning. Bike was good, "run" was pathetic. I couldn't hardly run at all, ended up doing the "walk one telephone pole, run one telephone pole" thing, and couldn't even keep that up the whole time.

Stiff headwind aside, the bike felt pretty great. Only thing was, after going up a little hill and fighting the wind I was breathing a little hard and my mouth was open... a bug flew down my throat.

I don't know who was more surprised - me or the bug. I choked on it and coughed really hard and he came back out. Dunno if he survived, but it sure taught me not to bike with my mouth open!