Monday, July 31, 2006

Kevin Smith Meets Stan Lee?!

If you love Kevin Smith and know anything about comics... you must check this out. By far one of the most clever mash-ups I've seen.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Two Steps Back, One Ginormous Leap Forward

I just got back from my swim lesson. Had to take it way easy because of yesterday's stupidity with my shoulder, so wasn't planning on doing much but continuing to work on my pathetic breast stroke (good news - I no longer look like I'm trying to commit suicide by chicken dance!)

After working on breast stroke for most of the lesson, I asked her to take a quick look at my free because my times have been going down the toilet. In the last few weeks I've gone from being able to pretty easily swim ~46 sec laps to swimming more like 50 second laps, even though I felt like I was working hard. In fact, I felt like I was working harder than I should and getting slower times.

Now, keep in mind when I started lessons just a few months ago it took me just about a minute, give or take a few seconds, to do a lap, so it's kind of silly to be sweating these 4 seconds. But I was. Especially since she'd gotten me down to the low 40s in sprint repeats not that long ago. 40 second laps has been my holy grail - that's the point at which my half-mile hits the 20 minute mark, which was a big mental milestone. Plus, I had to work so hard to get those low 40s it just about freaking killed me, I figured there was no way I could ever swim faster than that.

So. With my injured shoulder, taking it relatively easy, I did a couple of laps for her to check out. I did notice that today, for whatever reason, I felt graceful and streamlined in the water. Much more so than ever before.

I finish and she says to me "I don't know what you're worried about. Your form looks fine and those were 35 seconds." (Translation for people with normal pools: 1:59/100yd)

My response: "You read the clock wrong. I'm not capable of swimming that fast." (The other swim instructor, sitting behind her, busts out laughing.)

I did it again after my lesson was over just to prove it to myself. Sure enough, I was consistently clocking 35-37 second laps. I wanted to keep going but my shoulder was getting cranky.

I have NO IDEA how I magically cut 15 seconds off my lap times since, oh, last Tuesday... but I'm certainly not complaining!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

I went to weight training class today for the first time in about 6 weeks. Between the tendonitis in my shoulder and then my calf fiasco I just had to take a break. The shoulder has felt perfect for a month and I've been swimming with no trouble at all, so I thought I was good to go.

Today we were doing pyramid sets, rotating 3 times around 5 exercises, increasing the weight each rotation (that's 15 total for chest, 15 total for back, etc). I made it halfway through the second chest rotation, maybe 15 minutes into class, and my shoulder starting talking to me.

I tried to do the next station and it started yelling at me.

I asked the trainer if these kind of chest exercises were, perhaps, enough to aggravate a recently healed case of supraspinatus tendonitis. She looked at me like I was a moron but managed to refrain from yelling "DUH!!!" - she politely said yes and suggested I was done for the day. She said next time I come back from an injury I should stick with just one set of everything until I'm sure I can handle it.

I feel like such an IDIOT! Hello?! Six weeks of not lifting at all and then jumping full-on into advanced weight lifting class. Fucking DUH. Now I have to heal my shoulder again.

In other news.... since I couldn't finish weights class I got on the treadmill and was able to walk 3 miles at a very brisk pace with no calf pain! Yay! That was the official milestone set forth by the sports massage therapist for when I'm allowed to reintroduce running!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Am I the Only One Who Finds This Funny?

This is the lake in my hometown where the local sorta-sprint triathlon is held. No swimming... unless you're a triathlete. It's dangerous, but go ahead and race in it.

Race Report

Finally got everything pulled together to finish my report on the Danskin Sprint Triathlon I did on July 9th.

(Sorry about the funky brown background. Something going on with the CSS at my business site, haven't had time to fix it.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New Low

The sun is shining, there's no wind, it's not too hot and I have an open invite to go swim in a lake. My legs feel great, I could go for a run. Or a bike. The possibilities are eeeendless. BUT.

I feel like hell. Bloated, tired, cramps from hell (seriously, how is it fair that we get to feel like someone is kicking us in the stomach once a month and they get to pee standing up?).

I'm home alone at the moment, but am not gonna turn on the tv because I know I'd be crying at long distance commercials one minute and then ordering whatever food appeared on screen the next.

I hate the scale this time of the month because I'm always bloated by 3-5 pounds, but reminding myself of the higher bloated weight helps keep me from binging on crap during my vulnerable hormonal spells. But the scale was kind today... I'm at a new low, baby!!!

That's 48 down!

Definitely glad to have something to smile about on this rotten, rotten day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Official Swim Race Results

Hey! I wasn't last!!!

At 47:17 - a full minute faster than I thought - I came in 82 of 85. The person behind me was even in a younger age group, so that was a nice ego boost. The last 10 swimmers in the mile all had times over 40 minutes (the two very last were just over an hour). I had really, truly thought I'd be the only one above 40 minutes, so that did wonders for my ego! (We won't talk about the 19 minute difference between me and the person who finished before me in my age group.)

Even cooler... my friend Regner podiumed in his age group (3rd with an awesome 26:04, 23rd overall) and Swim Coach Marcy (even with a raging cold and not having swam in a month) only missed the podium by 3 lousy seconds, turning in a smokin' 27:10.

I looked through all the results, and people came from all over Chicagoland for this race - even had a couple out of staters. Turns out there a hotbed of open water swimming 20 minutes from my house. Who knew?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Race Report

Event: Splish, Splash, Dash Open Water Swim Race
Location: Crystal Lake in Crystal Lake, Illinois
Distance Category: 1 mile
Date: July 15, 2007

(I realize it's kind of silly to get this race report done before last week's, but this one is a lot shorter.)

I was pleasantly surprised to see a full parking lot when I arrived at the race venue... I find comfort in numbers when I'm in open water. I peripherally noted the bikes hanging from many of the cars, but it wasn't until I was standing in line for registration that I realized what it meant: I found them! I found all the triathletes! I'd say we comprised 8 out of 10 people racing, and many were Madison-bound. It felt so freaking cool to be with my own kind somewhere other than at an actual triathlon.

At 6:45am it was humid and already approaching 80; a great day for a swim but I was nervous about the water temperature because so many people were sporting wetsuits. Luckily, it turned out they were triathletes testing their suits in open water prior to races with a cold swim. Had a brief moment of panic when one girl said she heard the water was 65, but she was quickly corrected by someone who said she's in this lake all the time and it's about 79. Phew!

Found Regner and Swim Coach Marcy, took some goofy pix (will post when I get copies) and scoped out the course. Just as I was thinking the turnaround buoy looked impossibly far away, John (Regner) blurted out that it didn't look so bad. (Easy for him to say, he can walk out his back door and swim across a lake every day.)

I felt a surprising new emotion this morning as I contemplated the task before me: calm composure. I'm used to my heart racing just coming in view of a lake, and here I was, looking out at this impossibly huge lake, completely at ease with the fact that I was about to swim out to the middle of it. Not confident, mind you, but anything short of sheer terror is really quite an improvement.

SCM was panicky, tears welling up in her eyes and repeatedly questioning why she was stupid enough to sign up for this. I spotted the obvious pattern emerging - this is just how she act pre-race - and didn't worry too much about it. Sure enough, post-race she was happy and had so much fun she's excited to do it next year.

I lined up at the back of the pack - there were about 100 swimmers total - and waded in when the gun went off. I was immediately left far behind by all by a lone breast stroker. About halfway to the turnaround I lost sight of even her.

The warm shallows extend pretty far and even a quarter mile out I had some uncomfortable weed encounters, so I swam for a shameful distance with my head out of the water. My neck was cramping and I felt slooooow, so to get going again without succumbing all-out panic (sadly, the sight of underwater weeds still does that to me) I resorted to my patented swim-with-eyes-closed technique. I only open them when I breathe and sight and it works just fine. For some reason I'm less freaked out when invisible tentacles caress me from below - when it happens I concentrate hard on staying calm and swimming through - than when I can see them reaching for me, waving blindly in the dim water, at which point I panic, gasp for air and thrash around ineffectively.

Even though I'd been in a fairly decent state of mind, I calmed down considerably when I felt the water temperature drop a little and I knew I was in deeper, weed-free water. This is when I did my best actual swimming because I was able to concentrate on things like stroke and rotation and kicking.

Because I swam the half mile last weekend in 22 I thought perhaps I could pull this off in about 45. Even though that estimate was aggressively fast for me - last time I saw a mile, a year ago, it took me about 63 minutes - I knew in the grand scheme of things it's ridiculous slow. But I knew I wouldn't be last to finish because the 2-milers had to do another loop.

As I neared the turnaround I cheered a little bit because I had not yet been passed by any of the 2-milers. I expected to be, and was passed by the leader in just another minute or so, but it made me happy not to be lapped before I turned around.

The rising sun made the return trip a challenge because I was too blinded to sight the buoys. It didn't help that the course had a slight arc to it. I ended up swimming slightly off course - maybe 30 yards wide - not long after I turned around. This was about the time the bulk of the 2-milers were lapping me, so I was happy to have swim caps to follow until I could see the buoys again.

This happens every time I swim in a lake, and I need to work on it before I move up to bigger triathlons: I always feel a bit panicky when I start an open water swim, and as a result I tend to gulp air. This quickly leads to a painfully bloated stomach that impedes my ability to inhale fully. I have to pause to get rid of it, but even with diligent effort I fail to expel all the air with my oh-so-ladylike burping technique, and the rest invariably causes painful abdominal cramps within 20 minutes or so. I'm clearly feeling better about open water in general, so I'm hoping this problem swimming outside simply fades away with time, the way it did swimming inside.

Don't have a final result yet, but my friends checked the clock when I finished and said it was around 48 minutes. Not great, but still 14 minutes faster than last time I swam a mile! I feel like this was an ideal training experience and I'm looking forward to making it an annual event.

My favorite part of the morning was heading out to the van and seeing that the triathlete contingent had turned the parking lot into a makeshift T1, and knowing that next year I'll be right there with them.

I'm a Stranger to Me

It's 5:59am Saturday morning. I've been up for 45 minutes already and am about to, literally, go jump in a lake because someone challenged me at the last minute to do a 1 mile swim race.

Through the early morning fog that is me, I'm trying to pinpoint when, exactly, I became THIS person?? She appreciates the fact that she's never seen the office looking like this, bathed in the warm glow of a gorgeous summer sunrise... but even she misses the days when Saturday morning meant sleeping till noon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Yeah, OK, I'll Do It

Thanks so much for the encouraging words... looks like I'm gonna go for it!

Just in case anyone else lives near here and wants to check it out, here's a link to the event flyer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Do I Dive In?

My friend Regner just called. He's all "you wanna go swimmin?" Sure, of course, when?

Saturday. 7am. Open water swim race in Crystal Lake. Distance options are a mile or, for the IM bound, two (the race is billed as great triathlon training).

WTF?! (This is my hard-partying, don't-call-before-noon friend.)
Uuummm.... hm. Maybe not so much?

Then he's all "are you a triathlete or what?"

Um, yeah. BUT. I explained I'm not the kind of swimmer who can sign up for a swim race and, say, finish before they close the course and go home.

He said 'who cares?'

Good question. Do I? I dunno. Do I risk public humiliation and maybe a little hypothermia to do a mile at 7 on Saturday morning? I mean, best case we're talking 45 minutes!

I'm going to look like a fool if I do it. And don't even get me started on the fact that I haven't swum a mile in a workout since last year (and never in a race situation).

So. I'm thinking about it. I was all over it when he thought there was a 500 yard course option, but that turned out to be a misprint in the flyer.

It just seems like such a great opportunity. But a mile?! I've been working on stroke techniques and couldn't tell you the last time I swam more than a thousand yards in a workout!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


After reading all about Wil & the gang's WIBA I got all excited and remembered I needed to register. Now I'm officially an IMMoo volunteer!

7:30 am - noon: drive sag van on bike course (double shift)
3 - 6 pm: Hand out gear bags at bike-run transition

I've still got the option to pick up another sag van shift from noon-2:15; since I really don't know what to expect that day I figure I'd hold off on scheduling things back-to-back at this point. This way I have the option to get some lunch, cheer for people on the course, take pictures, record audio and just generally enjoy the experience in between shifts.

I was totally going to sign up for a finish line gig, but those are scheduled in less friendly increments than other duties (for instance, the bike sag wagon is scheduled in 2 hour bite size pieces) and I just couldn't commit to 7:30pm - 1am on the finish line my first time out, especially when there will be newly minted Iron Tri-Geeks to be cheering for in that time frame!

Onward and Upward

I felt surprisingly great the day after my race - the worst part was actually the deep tissue/myofacial release massage!

Although I'm sad my "season" is over, I'm really looking forward to my next steps... learning the rest of the swim strokes, healing these darn calves and building my running base back up. And of course, cheering on my fellow tri-geeks at IMWI in September.

It's been so much fun poking around the blogosphere, checking out everybody's race reports. I love hearing about all the different races out there - you guys inspire me to keep moving towards my goals and give me a million ideas for planning future race vacations all over the country.

I'll get mine up as soon as I get the email from the people who take the race pictures - I know it's silly, but it just doesn't feel "done" without visuals.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Scary Thought

As I prepare to crawl into bed at the ridiculously early hour of 9:00 on this race day, having spent the afternoon lying in bed or on the couch, swaddled in ice packs, in various forms of discomfort - normal race fatigue, routine injury aches and the onset of heat exhaustion complete with fever, pounding headache and the shakes (which, btw, I'm convinced didn't come from the race, but the 90 minutes I had to sit in the freaking sun after the race waiting for the stupid shuttle bus situation to let my husband get the car) - I voiced a thought that tormented me all day:

If this were an Ironman race I might, maybe, just now be approaching the finish line.

Looks like I've got my work cut out for me.

Yeah Baby!!!

I smashed last year's time - bettered it by nearly 15 minutes even with my bad calves, which only bothered me a little bit.

Now I must nap. Or shower then nap. Yeah. That would be good.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Happy Tri-ing!

I'm off to do the Danskin! Here's wishing everybody safe and happy training this weekend!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Oh yeah, Actual Tri Stuff

Had a lesson with SCM yesterday. We decided it was time for me to start learning the rest of the strokes so I can have more balanced workouts. We spent a little time working on my atrocious back stroke, then she introduced the breast stroke, with which I have had ZERO experience.

It was nothing short of comical. I felt ridiculous, and must have looked like someone trying to throw out their back, kick out a cramp and commit suicide by drowning while doing the chicken dance.

Here's the really crazy part... after the lesson was over I did ten laps of freestyle just to soothe my bruised ego. I was totally taking it easy, enjoying the summer rarity of having the pool all to myself, so was shocked and amazed to find I was clocking 46 second laps... a full 20 seconds faster than my typical pre-SCM times and a full 9 seconds faster than Sunday's swim. (Was it only 8 weeks ago that my sprint repeats were in the 41-46 second range?!)

Fun with Podcasts

Since I haven't been able to train as much I've been getting sucked into the wonderful new things Husband's been digging up in Podcastland.

Due to the wonky nature of iTunes I can't post direct links without an advanced degree in programming, but you can find these no problem if you just go there and search on the names.

The Onion Radio News ('nuff said. Go. Listen. Laugh until you can't breath.)

Ask a Ninja (video. hard to explain, must watch to believe, really funny in a goofy, off-beat way. rumored to be the brainchild of former Second City cast members)

Hope is Emo (video. again, hard to explain. a must see. freaking hysterical. girl is rumored to have been associated with Mad TV)

Control-Alt-Chicken (video. I've mentioned them before. still hilarious.)

This one's not iTunes, so it's easy to get to. If you're a raging Jon Stewart fan like I am, you'll enjoy this clip of him and Stephen Colbert totally losing it on camera.

After all that...

The siren-song of the sport worked its magic after all... even though she approached the race with all the enthusiam of someone facing a root canal sans anesthesia, now that SCM has had a while to digest the experience she realized she enjoyed it and told me yesterday she's planning on doing it again next summer.

And I'm still doin' my job... I've got 3 potential triathletes asking me to take them through their first race next year!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Report: The Race I Couldn't

Finally posted my report on the sprint I volunteered at 10 days ago.

Does this mean it's working?

Had my second sports massage therapy appointment Monday night. It hurt, but not quite as horribly as last time. Apparently that means the muscles are healing?

I'm catching on pretty quick - I got in the important workouts on Sunday and Monday before the appointment because I suspected I'd be too miserable on Tuesday to exercise. I was right. There's a reason she insists on allowing at least 5 days between a treatment and an event! The day after I feel like someone beat me up; I'm even sporting a few bruises.

In between inflicting various kinds of pain on me she did say that the muscles felt noticeably better, so I'll take that to mean I'm on the right track.

She's not sure I should race this weekend but understands my reasons for wanting to give it a shot. She made me promise to take it easy, to walk the run leg and to quit if it starts to hurt, which is certainly not unreasonable advice.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Not Looking This Gift Horse in the Mouth

After 3 weeks of non-activity I got into the pool today for another shoulder test and was shocked at the amazing results.

I felt pretty clunky at first and the first few laps were all about remembering how to move through the water. Even so, my worst lap times today were several seconds faster than my pre-swim-coach bests.

Of course I took it easy because this was about testing a recently healed injury, but I still managed to swim 675 yards in 20:49, which I'm pretty sure is a PR for me in that pool. And I could definitely have gone faster; in fact, had to consciously hold myself back.

I certainly felt like I could have kept going but I followed the doctor's advice and stopped there. I must say I'm happy with where I'm at given the extent of my recent injuries and am optimistic I can make it across that lake next Sunday.

I suppose I should be wondering how taking so long off I practically forgot how to swim made me faster... but I'm just going to accept it and be happy it's going this well.