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Friday, February 23, 2007

Swimming with the fishes

No, not in the Sopranos way. : )

I've seen lots of forum posts about the benefits of joining a masters swim group. Now, I'm not going to say it isn't beneficial, but do the benefits hold true for the slow lane?

Jodi and I swam together on Wednesday at masters. We were lucky enough to have the lane to ourselves. I wasn't sure she'd really enjoy swimming with me, because I'm so much slower than her. She definitely pushed me to go harder than I normally would if by myself or if I was in the slow lane. After we finished, I felt like I had a good workout and I think she had a good one too. I forced her to rest more than she normally would have. Aren't we just the ying and yang to each other? : )

Today, I swam in the slow lane, which happened to be several lanes wide, because lane lines were missing. We're like the misfits of class. Some do their own thing, some kind of follow the workout and others do follow the workout but are hopelessly behind the rest of the workout group. The coach puts up an A and B workout with the intention for the whole group to stay together. At Lakewood, the coach would give us slow lane folks a C workout in order to keep the group together, but the CSU coach doesn't pay that much attention to anyone, let alone us slow folks.

Regardless, I am one of the slowbies that tries to keep up with the workout. Today, I did okay. I managed to push myself, maybe not as hard as I would have had Jodi or Matt shared a lane with me, but still more than I thought would happen when I woke up exhausted this morning with a killer headache. Actually, I had a really good swim. I felt like my form was there and I didn't get tired out. I'm still slow, but at least consistently slow. If I can maintain the pace I was holding today for the whole IM race, I will finish it in 1.5 hours. Factoring in draft, maybe faster. Yah, it isn't fast, but it will do just fine. I'll keep working towards that goal.

Maybe I don't benefit as much from masters as those that can keep up with the workout, but I do think I still derive some benefit from swimming with the other fishes. Thanks for sharing the lanes mates!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My first blog tag

Deirdre tagged me, so here goes:

1. Describe a memory of your first triathlon.
I didn't really know how to swim, so I used the side stroke the whole time while wearing aqua shoes. My mom said I got really off course and it took me 50 minutes to complete the 750 meter swim. When I got out of the water, I was so thankful I didn't drown that the rest of the triathlon felt easy (albeit lonely - I finished 16th from the bottom).

2. Describe a memory from your most recent triathlon.
The fog was so thick that the start time kept getting delayed. In the past, this would have really bothered me, but this time, I was cool as a cucumber. Actually, I was a little cold, but not nervous. In the middle of the bike segment, I was thinking "Why did I do the Olympic distance and what do I need to prove?", but I hammered the second part of the bike, had a great run and PR'd in a huge way! I'm really glad I did it, even though I'm fairly sure my IT problems started that day.

3. What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you during a triathlon?
During that first triathlon in the aqua shoes doing the side stroke, I could hear my mother yelling from the pier "Go Jennifer! Go Jennifer! C'mon Jennifer!" and all I could think was "stop yelling, because people are going to know what the slowest person in the lake's name is". Of course, by then, there were few spectators left to even hear it.

4. What is the most thrilling thing that has happened to you in a triathlon?
I don't know if you'd call it thrilling, but last season was a great one for me. I raced strong, set new PRs and gained a confidence in my abilities that I didn't think I'd ever possess. That's pretty cool!

5. What is something you discovered about yourself by doing triathlons?
That I deserve to be called an athlete. I always felt like such a poser and was never athletic in school, but now I proudly call myself an athlete. I am going longer, harder and faster (those with dirty minds can simmer down now) than I ever thought possible.

6. What is THE BIG GOAL that you're working towards?
This year it is Ironman Lake Placid. Next year, who knows?! The possibilities are endless.

I shall tag Ms. Sammy B. Enjoy!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Busy, yet good weekend

This weekend flew by, but it was a lot of fun.

Friday night, Matt and I went to the interclub social. I wasn't much in the mood for chatting with people about triathlon, but I did have a nice conversation with Sara's hubby about math and math education. I hope some school wakes up soon and hires him, because we need more good math teachers out there. If it wasn't for my three good ones in high school, I don't think I'd be the math geek I am today. Too many people think that math is hard because they didn't have the right teacher in school. That is my opinion of course. Okay, rant off. Here is a picture of some hawt chicks:

Saturday, I did my long brick. 3 hours on the Computrainer doing the Lake Placid course went better than last time. At 2.5 hours, I had averaged 16 mph on the course, but by the time I hit 3 hours, my average was down to 15.5 mph. That climb back into town really hits the average speed and I didn't even finish the 56 miles. Again, Matt assures me that the course isn't as hard in real life (probably because you don't have to pedal the downhills), but he did say that the last 12 miles hit your average speed hard. That is why patience is so important. After the bike, I debated about running outside. It was snowing and had been all morning during my ride, but I really didn't have time to head to the gym and it was supposed to be a brick. So, I drove to a nearby development, so I could run on the partially cleared roads. I put on the Yak Trax that my mother bought me a few years ago for the first time ever and they really did help with traction. I was hating running in the cold and snow for the first 10 minutes, but eventually I grew to appreciate the beauty of the snow and was feeling proud of myself for getting out there. I found a 22.5 minute route through the neighborhood, so I did it twice to finish my assigned 45 minute run. 4.3 miles in snowy conditions isn't too shabby.

After the run, I hurriedly got cleaned up and headed south to meet my brother for lunch and a movie. We ate at Hoggy's and I really socked away the food. I ordered the monster 1/2 chicken, which lived up to its name. I only ate the breast part without the skin, but had it with asparagus and baked beans. We topped off lunch by splitting the Ho Ho cake. Well, I burned off 2000 calories that morning and needed to refuel, right? We then went to see Ghost Rider, which was surprisingly good. Most of the villains were hokey (except Peter Fonda as the devil), but Nicholas Cage wasn't too bad and the plot was good. I give it a thumbs up, but of course, I like stuff like this, so keep that in mind.

On Sunday, I ran with my pal, Sam J. and we had a good time traipsing on the snowy road at N. Chagrin while avoiding being plowed by the snow plow guy. The Yak Trax worked like magic again and I completed my longest run (7.6 miles in 80 minutes) since November with no IT pain. Yay!! Oh, as an aside, I've run in my orthotics twice on the treadmill. Got a small blister on my left foot and my right toe box was a little sore, but otherwise, the runs were good (no IT pain). Again, Yay!!

After the run, I had a good weights session at the Progressive gym, showered up, and went to the local coffee shop to work on the professional development portion necessary to complete my actuarial credentials. I am determined to finish this by March 22. Seriously, I should have been done with this long ago, but I haven't made it a priority. That is just plain dumb, because I'm not just postponing a raise and a bonus - I'm also postponing getting the respect of having finally completed my fellowship in the Society of Actuaries after 14 years of dealing with the exams and other hoops. No more excuses. As we Hillbilly Goats like to say "Git R Dun".

Matt and I had tickets to the Cleveland orchestra yesterday at 3 PM and we just barely made it in time. They were playing Vivaldi, Handel and Bach. It was a smaller group with mostly violins, violas, etc. There were two oboes, 1 bassoon and the director played the Harpsichord. I am really not a classical music kind of gal, but it was nice being there with my husband and I know he really enjoyed it. Being dressed up, we decided to go to dinner at a swanky restaurant called XO in downtown Cleveland. While the food was okay, I wouldn't recommend it. Everything was a la carte, so basically you pay $30 for just the steak. The meat wasn't that good. But, it was a nice meal with my husband and I always have a good time hanging with him.

I crashed at 9 PM on the couch that night. Not too bad for not having taken one nap the entire weekend. It was busy, but a lot of fun. Now, I better run to the coffee shop to work some more on my professional development. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Houston trip

While there was no rodeo and no riding of mechanical bulls, Sam and I had a great time visiting our pal in Houston.

Here is a picture of Sam and me at the airport:

Friday night, after getting into Houston, Nic took us to a Mexican place for some guac and chips. Sam and I were fading fast though, so we headed to her home to greet her husband and the two dogs, Lily and Wickman.

Saturday morning, Nic took us for a run along the Bayou walk. Sam had 2 hours on the schedule and I had 1:10, so we took off separately. It was a great trail that went under a bat colony (didn't see any bats, but did smell them) and by the bayou (where alligators live - didn't see any of them either). Both of us got a little lost and ended up running through downtown Houston, but there were plenty of cool sights and we both made it back okay. Here are some pics of Nic with Wickman and Sam with Wickman.

We went back to their house and Kevin made breakfast - I haven't eaten that much bacon in years, but it was soooo good!

Wanting to show us around, they took us to Galveston to the beach. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate, so we were quite cold (never got much above 50), but the beach was cool and we had a good time catching up in the car (you could drive right on the beach).

After the beach, we headed to a town called Kemah that had a cool boardwalk with lots of shops, including Starbucks which helped warm up the bones.

That night, we went to a Mexican restaurant and I got the burrito I had been wishing for and it was yummy!

Sunday, Nic took us to a different spot to run that had a 3-mile dirt-trail loop. There were tons of people out running/walking, all dressed like it was 20 degrees out - thin blood. I reveled in being able to run in shorts and it was great to run with Nic again - she is the reason I do this crazy running thing.

Here is a picture of the gals after grabbing some bagels:

Then, it was back to Cleveland. The visit was short, but sweet. I miss my buddy and hope she moves back to Cleveland some day, but was glad for the time we got to spend together. Thanks also to Sam for making the trip with me although she loathes flying too.

Now, we are in a blizzard in Cleveland and I'm grateful for the two days I got to run in shorts in February. I'm off to the treadmill now. Ah, good times...NOT! : )

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yes, it is cold, but...

Yes, it is cold, but at least it was sunny today. The frozen lake looked bright blue from my work window. What's even better is it is almost 6 PM and it is not dark yet. There is a beautiful red sunset over the lake.

Can you tell I'm in a good mood? I am loving recovery week. I got my new orthotics last night, which I need to break in for the next week before attempting running in them, but I have a good feeling about them. I had my mid-year review at work and it was all positive stuff.

I can't say enough good things about my office. The people are so nice and the atmosphere is much nicer than my old job. February 19-23 is official "fun" week here. They are catering in lunch every day, bringing in Foosball and video games, having euchre & poker tournaments, playing Pictionary, Scene It and Family Feud and providing us with a free ticket to an Omnimax theatre movie at the Great Lakes Science Center one day that week. Their motto is "you work hard, so you should get to play hard too". That's pretty cool.

I'm off to Yoga soon with my pals. Sara, we'll hope to see you next week.

I'm going to Houston tomorrow with Sam. Hopefully, I'll have some good pictures when I return. We won't be going to the rodeo after all (my friend had the dates mixed up), but we'll still do lots of fun stuff including possibly riding a mechanical bull!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Can it be true?

I have a recognizable recovery week this week. The funny thing is I don't really feel the need for one this week, but I am grateful for it nonetheless.

Last week was my highest volume week yet - about 16.5 hours of training. I had some ups and downs in all three, but felt victorious by the end of yesterday's training.

Saturday, I got up and was on my bike before 5 AM for a 90-minute hilly ride. I hurriedly ate and showered, then headed across town to my coach's house for a nutrition seminar led by the lady who writes for - she's also my coach's dietitian. I learned a good amount during the seminar and truly appreciated how practical her advice was. She didn't advocate following some crazy, strict diet. In fact, the message was "eat healthy foods most of the time and bad foods a minority of the time". I can buy into that. She also eats Lucky Charms occasionally, so how can you not like her?! : )

After the class ended, Sam and I headed out for a run in the Rocky River reservation. It was tolerably cold until the wind blew and we froze our butts off. Sam literally was freezing her leg off, because her water bottle slowly leaked down her leg and formed an icicle. After my hour run, I stripped off my tights and had her put them on over her frozen ones, so she could complete the rest of her run. Luckily, I had warm-up pants in the car, so no naked driving for me! : ) I am pleased to report that my IT band was just fine during my hour run, which was a vast improvement from the day before when I had to do the elliptical rather than run on the treadmill.

On Sunday, I had a 3-hour trainer ride of the Lake Placid course, followed by a 40-minute run. I was dreading the whole thing. Heck, an 1:50 into the ride, I was still dreading it, but eventually the time passed and I was off the bike. That Lake Placid computrainer course is brutal. I barely averaged 15.5 mph and hadn't finished the climb back into town before the time was up. Again, Matt assures me that the course in real life isn't that hard (maybe due to being able to coast downhill). Climbing hills and getting my HR down on them has to be a priority this summer. I learned in the nutrition class that once you deplete your glycogen reserves through high HR efforts, that they cannot be replenished through nutrition. I want to use those reserves wisely.

After the bike, I contemplated driving to the gym to do the run on a treadmill. I mean, I had never run in weather that cold before (barely above 0 degrees and negative windchills) and didn't know what to expect. The meteorologists were talking frostbite occurring in a matter of minutes. But, getting the run over with and completing it as a brick won out. About 10 minutes into my run, my husband turns into the development (he ran his 2-hour run on the treadmill - smart guy). I tell him that I can't take my usual path, because of the snow cover, so will be running alongside a busier road. I know he was worried, but he just told me to be careful. Not long after running on that busy road, I found a sub development that had plenty of empty roads to run on. Unfortunately, I was heading out with the wind at my back. When I turned around, I was hit by the full force of the arctic-like wind. My eyes were tearing up, but it certainly was motivation to get my butt back home. I had a nice negative split against the wind and my IT band behaved. I felt like a road warrior! Of course, I did see a guy on a bike when I was running. Now, that is impressive!

So, the schedule for the week came out today and it is just over half the volume of the prior week. I'm heading to Houston this weekend to see a friend, so there are no weekend bike rides, let alone bricks. I'm sure the volume avalanche will hit again next week, but in the meantime I'll enjoy getting more sleep.

Good times!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday swim

Matt invited me to swim with him in his lane today at masters. Even though I'm slower than him, I manage not to slow him down too much and he doesn't make me feel pressured to go faster. I really appreciate that.

This guy shows up late and enters our lane. There is only one guy in the lane next to us, so I'm not sure why he felt the need to join our lane. I have always disliked swimming with this particular gentleman and I know that my opinion is shared by masters swimmers in more than one location. He can be pretty rude - hogging the lane, not letting you pass, riding up on your butt, etc..

So, now I'm feeling pressured and what is worse is that he is not doing the workout with us. So, he is doing IM sets, while we are kicking and we are swimming while he is kicking. We both stopped a few times to let him past us. I was pretty grumpy about it.

But, about halfway through the workout, we all stopped at the same time for a breather. He apologized for screwing up our swim session. Seriously, how can you stay mad when someone openly admits to being sorry about it? So, I was mad no longer and the rest of the swim was just fine.

Oh, and I think he was in our lane, because he can't see the board if he goes any further away. It leads me back to the old adage, "Do not judge lest ye be judged yourself." I'm sorry for being mad at him and for judging him. I think we left on a positive note though, so that's all good!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Life Treadmill

Lately, I've been feeling like I'm on a life treadmill. Get up at 4:45 AM, get AM exercise, go to work for 8-11 hours (possibly get noon exercise), get PM exercise, go to sleep... start over the next day. Yes, the AM and PM workouts change, but the basic formula remains the same. Thank goodness, I've become really good at time management and packing my workout bags.

So, I've come to hate Tuesdays. Maybe it is because I just had the day off the day before. Maybe because it is the start to the two- or three-a-day workouts. Maybe it is because I have to bike at night, but prefer to do it in the morning. Regardless, it has fast become my least favorite day.

On the flip side, I absolutely love Thursdays! I get to bike in the morning, which means getting ready after at home at a leisurely pace for work. Yes, I come into work later that day, but I also leave later. It is for a good reason though. Yoga class is Thursday night. I get to work on my flexibility, hang out with new and old friends and find some Zen time.

So, the basic message is you take the good with the bad. A structured gal like myself does at least appreciate the rhythm of my schedule, but don't expect me to like Tuesdays anytime soon. : )