Friday, March 30, 2007

Prisoner TT2349

He's out packing the bikes up now, but I don't have long. I came home from school to find the car in the driveway, loaded down already with the travel agent cum jailer's and Piper's bags.

"Umm... are we leaving early?"

"As soon as you can get ready."

So I've been scurrying around - up and down the stairs, trying to find the perfect balance of running, hiking, biking, swimming (wetsuit??), vacation clothing. I've also been trying to compose this - my last message to you all - but my eyes must have glossed over or my hands slowed, cuz each time I tried, I'd get a "Is that bag ready to go to the car yet?" So nothing profound, just a hurried scribble to say... have a great week!

Prisoner TT2349 reporting to vacation - 24 hours early.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Finding the Rhythm

I saved a toad's life tonight. And it all happened because I let the rhythm find me today.

Let me back up a little bit. It was that kind of Monday. Up later than I intended, I had to leave the house one cup shy of my usual dose of caffeine - and the day continued that way.

Then I got home with every intention of doing the 1 hour bike, 20 min. run on my training plan. But there was Chris. With Piper. All suited up and ready for a trek through a cornfield on a 70 degree day. I have a weakness for such things. Instead of donning my bike shoes, on went the hiking boots. Two hours later, we had rehashed Chris's weekend at work, decided yet again to postpone moving to another locale, and prevented Piper from rolling in a dead skunk. (He beat us to the punch last week - aargh.)

Then it was home to supper, followed by blogging. Mid-blog-reading, I suddenly felt the urge to bike. I estimated that I still had 45 minutes of light and was out the door within 5 minutes. And up to 17 MPH by .12 mile. That's when I got the first inkling that sometimes you win by letting go of the best laid plans and letting the rhythm find you.

The rhythm that found me was the mating song of spring - every bullfrog and his uncle was out there in the marshes calling for a girlfriend. Two foxes scuttled across the road in front of me, I braked for a herd of deer and - a little over an hour later - wound up safe and sound at home with 18 miles under my belt.

But I was not done banging the drum yet. I transitioned into my running shoes (1:09) and was back out the door for my 20 minute run. Somebody gave my legs speed or something because they completely forgot about the 10:15 miles they were doing yesterday and ran around 8s.

I was pumping it home when who should I see out in the middle of the road but Mr. Toad, trying to soak up the last heat of the pavement. A quick glance behind me revealed a speeding car driven by a pack of the town's cruising teenagers.* There was about a block between Mr. Toad and certain death. I had to make a decision fast - and decided to risk it all. I swooped out to the middle of the road, scooped up Mr. Toad (for which he promptly thanked me by peeing on my hand) and placed his cold little body in the grass.

How's that for rhythm?

(*OK, the car was being driven by the town granny who was a block away and creeping up at 10mph, but just go with this here.)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Hunger

I am not speaking metaphorically here. I'm talking being on my bike and having visions of taking the Sawzall to our peanut butter jar and sawing the narrow top off so I can stick my face right into raw peanut butter and devour every last creamy chunky bit of it.

It's that time of year - the miles and hours are ramping up. Anyone else experiencing the hunger?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Lest I Forget

This has been a great year. These kids have given me joy in ways that I'll never be able to repay. I want to remember...

Explaining contractions - like didn't is did+not, and thinking it would somehow stick better if I told them about muscular contractions... I started down the path to contractions like a woman has in labor and quickly discarded it at their blanched expressions. Then I thought to pull up my sleeve and make a muscle.

"Hooo-eeee!" yelled Big Blue Eyes. We all laughed a little bit, and I continued on to explain how muscular contractions are caused by the shortening of muscle fibers just like we shorten a word - all the while flexing - but was upstaged by the eyelash-batting incredulity and one-man chorus of "Hooo-eee! Man!"

I'm afraid we abandoned contractions that day.

For two of my girls, it's a time of friendship that feels deeper and more secret than the mystery of conciousness. They meet at the couch in the morning to unload their backpacks and catch up on the hours of separation, link arms to walk through the halls - whispering and giggling all the way - accompany each other to the bathroom, together until they have to part ways - on separate buses to separate homes. They earnestly tell me that they never want to be apart.

It's a year of them discovering the links between them, their world, and entities that used to be separate. "I'm really getting into reading now." "I love these books."

It's a year of having to clear space on my cabinet for more autographed drawings of hearts and horses and triathlete teachers - and even one depicting the differences between the types of literary genre.

They break my heart. They are so good. Yet, sometimes I despair because they're what we in the business call a "low" class - overall low achievers who produce less-than-superb work. But man, their hearts are in it.

Right down to spelling. A little girl argued with her peer editor about the spelling of the word "activity" in her story (she wanted "activate"). I finally convinced her that while she can be creative and "own" her ideas, the spellings belong to the greater English-speaking collective.

But inside, I am exuberant that she cares so much. She is a lioness protecting her cubs, fiercely protective of her writing. She is a writer.

Fortune has smiled on me in the shape of a gaggle of 11 year-olds. The world is my oyster.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First Track

You live all week with your head in the sand, searching for a grain of truth - or just checking things off the list. Yet you've got a Mona Lisa smile because in your pocket is your training plan. And on that training plan you've got intervals. For Wednesday.

Wednesday dawns and you look at the list of what must be done before you can start living: School, Meeting, then Intervals. The weather says chance of thunderstorms so you pack two sets of clothes - one set for the track (that you fervently hope to use), and one set for the treadmill (that have been used plenty already).

You toil through the day, engaged in what's meaningful at the moment - but every once in a while lifting your head high enough out of that sand to get a shiver of excitement. Of anticipation. First night on the track.

Finally the students have tumbled out the bus doors. An x on the list. Then it's the interminable meeting where, among other matters of earth-shattering importance, you debate and finally decide on precisely how to spend $6. Crucial meeting - check.

At last you can change into your track clothes. Because it will be the track. Come what may. You have waited through winter's snow and a bout with an edgy heel. Even if you have to battle thunder and lightning, tonight's intervals will be waged on the track.

And so it is.

800 warm-up: You wish you had more pores on your body. To soak it all up. On the track in spring with puddles of water pooling around you, dense air clothing you, birds chirping and the wind whipping across the marsh - bringing spring to your nostrils. More pores needed.

And then it's go time...

1:33 for 400 #1 - There are no more thoughts of spring or birds or even life. This is it. What you've been waiting for. Your legs respond to the momentous occasion and charge like they've been doing it forever.
2:25 Recovery 400 -You smile cuz you know it is good and you have done well.

1:33 for 400 #2 - Your legs feel high and springy, juiced and ready.
2:23 Recovery 400 - You decide that next set your recovery will be shorter because you're ready for another interval at 200.

1:36 for 400 #3 - You remember that you wheeze and your chest hurts when you run fast. You learn things that you never knew before about running. The way your heel strikes when you run, the way your arms pump and reach, the way your quads recoil and spring, all these details reach your conscious mind with a clarity that shoves all else out of the world. There is only you. You. And Running.
1:16 Recovery 200 - It dawns on you: recovery jogs feel good.

1:36 for 400 #4 - You start out strong but then realize you have blown your wad by 50 meters. You start to rationalize and wonder how fast you really should be running these. Is it necessary to push this hard? Doesn't my training plan say to run these at a 5K pace? That certainly is much slower than this.
1:19 Recovery 200 - You get a little tiffed at yourself because you know exactly where those seconds went. You let your legs slow down a little bit while you were diverting your big brain with pacing thoughts.

1:37 for 400 #5 - Over halfway!! You're happy again just to be out here doing it. A bit of sun even peeks out of the clouds.
1:23 Recovery 200 - You start to cough but stop yourself when it feels like a part of you may come up and have to be spat out. After all, you have vowed to leave nothing on the track tonight. Lung included.

1:37 for 400 #6 - You decide that intervals are as tough as you remembered - only worse.
1:33 Recovery 200

1:39 for 400 #7 - Your legs feel fast. In the initial burst, you think, "Shiiit, I'm just getting warmed up!" Then you reach about 40 meters. PUSH is the name of the game for the remaining 360.
1:29 Recovery 200 - You hear the first peal of thunder and chuckle, "Yep, it's that kind of day." Seven down, one to go, one to go...

1:37 for 400 #8 - You know it's number 8, the finale. The last one that you want to last - yet can't wait for to be over. You give it all you've got.

6:04 for Cooldown 800
As soon as you can breathe again, you look around and down - revering the track, thanking it, thanking your legs, the sky, the clouds, the birds, your running shoes... This is what all the waiting was for. Your bliss is nonpareil.

And then you start to wonder... What could I do next time? You give the track a last reverent look and know from the bottom of your soul that this is not good-bye, but a definite...

See you later.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stealing Faster's Secret

My master's swim coach has been telling me for months to spend more time on my side. He's been very gentle about it, patiently reminding me after a suitable interval of non-improvement has passed. But yes, reminding me. He clothes these reminders in different forms, hoping it will sink in. I fear I've sunk the poor man's analogies. He has told me to:
  • Spend more time on my side
  • Put my arm over the log
  • Catch with my armpit too
Then I ran into Faster at the pool today. I observed him carefully, watching his catch, his pull, his recovery. The man is a marvel - a flippin' torpedo. He seemed to travel 3 yards off of each pull.

Then I noticed his barrel of a belly. Though not huge, it was sizable enough to mark his progress through the pool. It swung from side to side like a pendulum, regular as clockwork.

Eureka! That's when it hit me.

Faster was spending a lot of time on his side. That metronomic belly showed me. I have learned a lot from watching Coach. But he is lean - all muscle, skin and bone. He couldn't show me what Faster did. I can now visualize "on my side," and enact it.

Like Faster, I have a barrel. Except it's higher on my anatomy. Not to be indelicate, but I have "twin barrels". I have never thought of the girls as allies before, but could they be trained to carry their own weight?

Right then and there, I marshaled the troops, instructing them that as soon as I started swimming, they were to look right and then left. Look right and then left... I can't wait to show Coach!

Ha! I have snuck behind enemy lines and stolen the secret! I chuckle and smack my lips as I consume an extra serving of M&Ms. Now, instead of cursing my excess and binding it to my body, I am officially recruiting it in the pursuit of Faster!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Monsters II: Juxtaposition

My loneliness is measured in a night shift.
Hers will last an undetermined,
interminable amount of time.

I look at a calendar and can predict it.
Hers came out of the blue.

My light is on at 6AM to run.
Unexpectedly, hers is on too.
Was she dreaming of him -
and then woke up?

Oh NeighborLady,
I'm sorry for your loss.
Your monsters are
meaner than mine.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Sometimes when he's not home
the old monsters come to roost
They perch on my shoulder
and whisper mean things
they make me slow
and indecisive.
when I'm

They feed me too many M&Ms
and hide my running shoes
and tie me to the couch.
These monsters
really got it
in for

Then the telephone rings to deliver
his strong tones over the line
The monsters trip over
themselves to scurry
off to caverns dark.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Smell of the Track

Confession: I made a rookie mistake. I over-wore my shoes and, as punishment, the gods of triathlon banned me from running.

At left: The Culprits - Any guesses as to which heel is hurting?

Last night I decided to see just how badly I could twist the knife. I walked Piper to the track. Just to check it out. Just to see if I was really missing out, or if the triathlon gods have spared my self-pitying, old-shoe-wearing, plantar-fascitis-bearing sorry sack of a self.

They have.

The track still has at least 100 yards of ice and snow; I wouldn't dare to run on this surface yet. YES!!! But there were enough clear parts that I got a whiff of rubbery track seasoned with spring. Ooh, am I ready!

I was able to run this morning. See the HEROES at right. My heel hurts, but it has plateaued to a bearable, non-limpable amount of pain. Doable. As long as I continue to RICE - or at least ICE.

My next intervals shall be on track. (Tee hee. Clever double entendre, no?) By next Wednesday, the snow/ice will be gone, my heel will be healed, and I. Will. Run.

'Til then - I will swim until I'm pruney, bike until my quads burst - and run in moderation. Penitent as I feel, I may even throw in an extra lift. Fair enough, tri gods?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Between Fast and Faster

Today I went swimming and ended up in a lane between 2 men. I recognized both of them. On my right was Fast and on my left was Faster.

Fast has been coming to this pool long before even me. My first attempts at lap swimming took place in his daunting presence. When I first started 3 years ago, I could barely keep up to him for 25 yards. By 200, he had lapped me.

I love it when I see Fast at the pool, because I've been marking myself against him these 3 years. I've gained on him little by little. Though we've never spoken to each other, I know his name, and I'm sure he knows mine. But when we're in the pool, both of us are all business - he even moreso than I. He has one speed. Fast. (Hence the name.)

Today I stuck with him for 200 yards. He's still setting the pace and calling most of the shots, but at the end of that 200, I touched the wall even with Fast.

In the other corner, we have Faster. He is friendlier than Fast, and we've exchanged pleasantries. But not names. He's new to the pool, but I hope he'll keep coming. Today I could barely keep up with him for 25 yards, and yep - he lapped me by 200.

But guess what, I've got three years in me yet. Do you think in 3 years that I could be Faster?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lap Counter

So Mike Ricci says swim volume. Well, if you're going to swim volume, you need to count laps. Perhaps a lap counter?

Nope, no fancy gizmo for me. I'm a Luddite compared to the lot of you with your i-pods and Garmins and... other stuff. I have a heart rate monitor & watch. Period. So how do I ever manage to count my laps?

I tell organized stories. Mini life histories. For example, a 600 consists of every teacher I had grade 1-12. For the first 25 of each lap, I think of the teacher. I say his/her name at the flip turn and then think of my classmates/academics/important events of that grade level for the last part of that 50 yards. Next 50 = I've been promoted a grade. Yep, totally geeky. But I rarely leave the pool wondering if my time for the 600 can be trusted.

A 500 is my whole family - from Dad to Baby Bro. Man, do they have a lot to say! And I'm a captive audience to each of them for one whole 50...
  • Dad tells me to take it easy. (Why am I doing triathlon again??) I interpret that to mean he wants me to have a very relaxed, rolling recovery.
  • Mom tells me to be tough. I hear Mom a lot toward the ends of my workouts. She's also the second lap of timed 100s. I hear her saying, "GO!" (BTW, hubby is the first lap of the 100 - even he's not quite as tough as Mom.)
  • Eldest Brother makes Popeye faces at me. Yep, he's reminiscing about our childhood, but he's also prompting me to breath as Popeye speaks - out of the corner of my mouth. To minimize how much of my mouth has to come out of the water to draw breath. Eldest Brother has an ulterior motive; he can only complete the swim portion of our annual family triathlon if he has a noodle - and he doesn't want to have to share that noodle with anyone.
  • Second Son Brother cheers me on and tells me I rock. He's just proud I'm in the water. In this lap I remember why I'm a triathlete. For the plain old joy of moving smoothly.
  • Strong Sister reminds me that we are runners - and I'd better be kicking like I mean it. Consistent, tight little kicks are what she demands.
  • Sweet Sister reminds me to stretch, R-E-A-C-H and maximize all the height I have on her.
  • I tell myself to put it all together. Be the Backhoe!
  • Little Brother tells me to watch my back. Next year he's finding a "good" triathlete to challenge me at the family tri. I spit back at him to get off his ass and challenge me himself. (I really ought to time just this lap - my adrenaline is surging even as I type this!)
  • Little Sis would really like to help me out with some swimming tips but have I heard what happened to her??? OMG, you are never going to believe it...!
  • Baby Bro reminds me to position my head correctly and press my chest into the water. Use that natural "buoyancy" that runs in our family to advantage.
With all that yammering, it's a wonder I ever get out of the pool at all. :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Still a Runner & An Apology

I can still run. I ran a sunny 7-miler with Piper on Sunday morning. It wasn't fast, but it was pretty. Oh, sigh of relief and quiver of elation.

Now I have to apologize to the snow for my nasty little riddle. You see, after my post, we went skiing by the light of the full moon. Ain't no way you could do that in August.

There was beauty in the forest - the dappled light just enough to follow the path. But the stunners were the clearings - open bowls of milky white perfection. We'd had so much snow that these were large tracts of untrammeled powder. We took turns baptizing them - being the first one to swish through the powder. In those places, we were alone in the world together. The first ones. In those places, like reptiles to the sun, we lifted our faces and basked in the moon's glow.

Oh snow, do you forgive me now?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Riddle

In November
I am cute and fluffy,
novel and exciting.
I make you wax your skis
and wet your lips.

By March I am worn,
I am old and heavy.
I cling to your concrete
and bust your back.

I overstay my welcome and
delay any green,
with a brilliant-white grin.

Who am I?

Time for the Critical Eye

It's been a slacker week for me. I skipped all but my swim workouts and clawed my way through denial of food cravings. I succeeded - until last night. Then the levees broke. Big time. Here are the casualties:

  • 1 canister lowfat (even in the 11th hour, I was still trying!) Pringles - except for the last 4 chips and some crumbs. By the time I got to those, even I had tired of their sour cream and oniony deliciousness.
  • 2 slices bacon cheeseburger pizza - cut me some slack here; I was still full from the Pringles. Usually I'm good for at least 3 slices.
  • 4 (FOUR, cuatro) ice cream sandwiches. Not too full to enjoy a little ice cream.

This morning the guilt got me out the door and running. I feel so cleansed now. My cravings have been purged from my system. (I did not literally purge; call me what you will, but I've never been bulimic.) Every once in a while, I need to do this. Binge on all of those uber-icky foods, and then I'm done with them. Back on the straight and narrow.

So, time for the critical eye:
Running - Not so good this week.

Swimming - Inverse proportion to the running; it rocked! I've noticed that when I pick up my running, my swimming suffers. Cut back a little bit, and boy, do I feel like I can cruise.

Biking - Mediocre. I'm mountain biking around town but haven't clocked any long rides. However, biking through snow, sleet, and rain (crazy weather week) has really helped my bike-ed-ness. I feel one with the bike.

Lifting - Skipped all week until today.

Weight - Even while all this craving-clawing was taking place, I managed to lose weight. I'm only 3 pounds up from my Ironman weight now. That's a loss of 5 pounds since January. I'm getting there!

Kegels - No, I am not pregnant! (Call me what you will, but I have never been pregnant.;)) However, I have experienced an increase in, um, urinary urgency and am taking pains to train those muscles as well. It's going quite nicely, thank you.

Why am I telling you this? I am curious. This first came to my attention during Ironman, and exertion seems to exacerbate the condition. Has anyone else experienced this? Is there a causal relationship, or is it due to one of the other bazillion variables (e.g. too much coffee)? Please drop me a comment - or an email if you'd rather not speak of IT in a public forum.

Mitigating factors (AKA Excuses):
I skied 3 hours last weekend, and shoveled snow for a total of the same over the course of this week. My shoulders ached. Plus, I did feel that little nagging sensation at my temples that's my first indicator of overtraining. I think the shoveling and skiing count for more than I'd initially granted them.

So where does that all leave me? With a mixed bag: worried about meeting my 1/2 marathon goal time, but with the sneaking suspicion that the skiing and shoveling have strengthened me in some heretofore unappreciated ways.

Finally, food: I am ready for a salmon-spaghetti-vegetable week. Hold me to it.

Critical Eye out!