Friday, June 29, 2007

A swim lesson

Pat, the lifeguard at the Hotchkiss pool, has a reputation for being a good swim instructor. I asked her today for some comments on my stroke, and after watching me for a few laps, said my arm position, head position, body position are all fine, but that I barely kick my legs at all. She said if I kick more vigorously (like kicking off a shoe) my legs would rise to the surface and I"d move much faster. (I'd have to - my usual pace of 6 lengths in 5 minutes - equivalent to 1 mile an hour) would get me disqualified from one of the triathlons I'm considering!) I tried it and yes, I moved, but tired very quickly - I'm going to have a lot of work to do to get used to this! But I'm glad - I needed to know what I was doing wrong! Now I have something to focus on when I swim, which I hope will help me overcome my anxiety.
I also spent a half-hour or so trying to research what might be wrong with my foot - I have now added the words "sesamoid" and "hallux" to my vocabulary. It seems I had best visit a podiatrist or orthopedist sooner rather than later, before it gets worse and needs more intensive or invasive treatment. There is a sports medicine / orthopedist in town, but he doesn't take my insurance.

Where have I been?

Thank you for asking. Just in a bit of a funk since my blisters. Summer is actually a weird time for me -I'm not in a groove of finding good workout times yet. My kids get up and out much later, so it's harder to work out in the mornings before work (yes I know I COULD get up EARLY and work out before they get up - that would be better for dealing with the heat, too) and I have lots of evening commitments too, so it's hard to go after my husband gets home (and I get to bed late making it even harder to go in the morning.)

I've been feeling very sluggish - falling into bad old eating habits, weaseling out of planned workouts, gaining few pounds. I did swim on Wednesday (20 minutes) and will go again today (try for 30 at least - I figure that's how long a half-mile will take me.) I've not gone back out into a lake - still too anxious. I haven't been biking or spinning for over week, and haven't run since the blister incident. A friend of mine is doing a workout regiment called P90X - it's an intense, 90 day cross training program. She's about halfway in and looks amazing already. I don't think I could commit to something like that, just now, but I do want to add some weight training to my plan - I've been avoiding it for months because of a nagging case of tendonitis in my left elbow. (Oh, and have I mentioned the weird and worsening pain in my right big toe joint? I think I should see a doctor and/or stop running for a while.)

Maybe I should lay off the wine, beer and tortilla chips too, though. Summer is supposed to be when it's easy to lose weight - you live on peaches and tomatoes and the weight just falls off! My favorite new snack, clif bars, seem to be having the opposite effect - dense calories (without much of an energy burst on these hot humid days!) - I guess they're supposed to be a meal replacement, not dessert!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It's the skunk's fault

So I'm plodding along, nearly at mile 3 out of 5, feeling basically miserable, when I get an unexpected adrenaline boost - instead of the usual bunny, squirrel, deer, chipmunk or bird ,I get charged by a skunk! I don't think it saw me at first - it was just trotting across the road in my direction (whoever invented Pepe Le Pew got their little bouncy trot just right!) and when we saw each other we both kinda freaked - I muttered " get the $(%#@ away from me" and put on some speed; he arched his back and pointed his tail, but thankfully didn't shoot! That was the last bit of energy I had on this run - it wasn't long before I realized I had blisters forming on both feet. This was my second time out with new shoes - yes, even though I just bought new ones six weeks ago, I LOST one! How do you lose a shoe? I can't say, but I've looked in all the places I can imagine it having fallen out of the car, and all around the house. Back when I was still thinking of doing the Lake Waramaug triathlon (I didn't go, obviously or I'd have written about it by now) I needed shoes, fast, and had an hour to kill on Thursday near the Poughkeepsie Galleria mall. So I ducked into a random sporting goods store and grabbed a pair of Asics that seemed to have motion control properties. They fit similarly to the Sauconies - a bit too loose, so I got some inserts figuring I'd tinker with the combination of original soles and inserts til I got it right. My first time out, Friday night, was OK - a bit under 3 miles, and ended up with one foot with new insole plus half the original; the other foot had just the new one, and felt OK. But today it never felt right - aches, pains, and then blisters. I really want someone who KNOWS to look at my feet, hear my tale of woe (from the Nikes that were too small but I liked them, to the Sauconies to these) and tell me what to do. I think I could run better than I'm running now if I had the right shoes! It's just not possible (is it?) that with all the working out I'm doing, I'm getting slower and having less stamina so it has to be the shoes' fault, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Moment of Truth

It's not too late for me to enter the Lake Waramaug tri - there's race day sign ups. So I have to decide if I can do the half-mile swim after what has come to feel like the debacle of the Pawling tri. I've been swimming a few times since then, and every time, whether it be pond or pool, I've felt the same panicky feelings. So - do I just get back on the horse and RIDE, or do I wait til I've gotten more practice, more swim strength and technique, more ... something, that will let me swim with confidence? Maybe I should swim in the wetsuit for that added bit of flotation? (It's a shorty, so it's not that much.) Or will the tightness around my neck add to the freaky feeling? I haven't trained heavily for the last 2 weeks - I swam for 20 mins this morning and did a 1 hour bike just now... before that, I swam over the weekend, but haven't run in maybe a week. Partly to let my strangely sore big toe joint rest. And tonight I was going to go but I seem to have lost a shoe - now that could really put a crimp in my plans! Lucky I'm going to a mall tomorrow - I can get a backup pair. So - dilemma! I better decide soon - I need at least a little time to get organized! Advice anyone? Oh, I have a friend who's doing it, she says because of my inspiration - nice! She's a killer good swimmer - crosses the lake and back every day in summer. She can do the bike, but had a double-hip replacement last year so will just walk the run. It amazes me that someone can just up and do one, when it took me a whole year to train! (But then, she's a dancer and physical trainer - she lives in her body, so to speak, where I live in my brain, most of the time!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Ruth has awarded me a Thinking Blogger Award (my first meme!)- a real compliment, but one that comes with a responsibility to tag five other blogs that make me think!
There are so many, choosing just 5 will be a challenge.
Meanwhile I proudly display this (click on it to get to the origin of the award):
Meanwhile... I bought a book at Lbpteba's recommendaiton, called Marathons for Mortals. I'm not considering a marathon but have been toying with the idea of a half... the one thing I've gotten from it so far is how important days of rest are to prevent injury, especially at my advanced age! (They say 30 is when your body starts going downhill!) I had two very tough bike rides in a row - Monday night and Tuesday morning - so I was grateful to take today off. I need to swim, I need to decide If I'm doing the Lake Waramaug Tri next Friday (leaning towards no -the half-mile swim is just too daunting right now) and if not, what my next one will be! I really want to take advantage of the chance to do a personal triathlon camp with the coach I found -anyone have a bright idea for how to scare up $500?

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I've read on other blogs and training sites about the value of doing a "run-walk"at planned and consistent intervals. I wanted to try a 6 mile run (my longest previously had been 5 miles, and the last time I did it I felt horrible and could barely limp home!) so I decided to do it in 4-minute run, 1-minute walk intervals for the entire time. Even though my ego wants to run as far as I can til I run out of gas, which is what I usually do, I'd read that the intervals help prolong your energy and strength, and the regular periods of recovery have all kinds of other benefits.

I immediately discovered this to be true - by resting even when I didn't really need to, I was able to focus on form during the run periods, keeping up my speed, and enjoying myself (imagine that!!) always knowing I'd be able to walk soon. I never descended into a shambling shuffle, I never got discouraged or overtired, even on steep hills, and interestingly, I covered the first five miles in my best time ever, 60 minutes, even with all the walk breaks. (A few times I let myself run as much as 5 minutes, when I was cruising downhill, but mostly stuck with 4.) The last mile was a steep uphill (see profile below) so I shortened the run part to 3 minutes, then 1, and stuck with 1/1 for a few rounds til I got to the top, then immediately went back to 4 for the last bit (mile 5.5 and beyond), feeling just fine. This was the best I'd felt, physically and mentally, in a workout in weeks! (Also contributing: cool cloudy weather, a good night's sleep, and a great breakfast.)

I did discover some other interesting facts: Gilbert and Sullivan makes good running music. I had the practice tape for the alto part of Iolanthe (Labor Day Weekend! Don't miss it!) on my mp3 player, and the bouncy rhythms are just perfect! After that was over and I got back to the regular playlist, even slow songs like "Bird Alone" by Abbey Lincoln worked well because I could always find an internal rhythm to run to. But I was pleased that some of my favorite fast songs by Lyle Lovett and the Indigo Girls came on at the end when I really appreciated the boost. I want to do my first 10k race on September 4 (if I am still standing after 3 performances of Iolanthe!) and now I know I can do it - I just have to work on speed.

So - question to all with more experience at the interval thing. Should I stick with 4/1 at this distance for a while, focusing on increasing speed during the run portion, or try to stretch to 5/1, then 6/1, etc, with each subsequent outing?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A laugh

Courtesy of Lbtepa, one of the amazing human beings who, without ever having met me, have propelled me forward to leap tall buildings at a single bound and become a triathlete. This week I've done one swim, one bike, one run, so far. (Yesterday I collapsed with exhaustion and did nothing.) The swim was interesting, sort of: I was in the pool, but tried not to touch the wall, just swim back and forth without touching. I realized how much I've been depending on little breaks every 25 yards! So now my practice will be to focus on sustaining my stroke and breathing for longer periods. It looks like crummy weather - not sure I'll get out into the pond today, but I've also been mapping my routes on this cool site and want to try some longer rides in preparation for the Harlem Valley Rail Ride and also work my up to a ten-k run, using the run-walk (4/1) strategy. So I do have goals!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What's next?

I need some sports psychology. I think I'm viewing myself as slow, incapable, creaky. I know that's nuts after what I did but when I got out running today I couldn't seem to get my "kick it" motivation going. I felt sick, I felt tired, I felt slow, I felt like I had to walk a lot -- in short, I felt like I'd gone back in time 6 months or more. I don't feel fit or strong. I don't feel the progress I've made. Why and how can I overcome it? Tomorrow I'll be back in the pool for the first swim since my tri - perhaps focusing on some new goals will help! (i.el improving my stroke so that doesn't happen again!) And why am I eating like I expect to work out for 2 hours every day???

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Recovery and race report

I just read GeekGirl's blog - (click on "Athena Diaries" in my links section) - she just did a half-ironman!!! on Saturday and her workout plan for this week is intense - no rest, just moving forward! Whereas I took two days almost completely off, and only went to a 45-minute spinning today. I'll go running tomorrow, and TGTina has invited me to do some open water swimming with her to overcome my fears - maybe Friday. I feel a bit adrift at the moment - I was so unhappy about the swim that I'm not sure I want to do another tri (except that I really really do - I want to go faster and do better!) So I must overcome.
This is me, prerace!

So, here is the full race report. The day before was the worst possible pre-first-race day. I took off from work, in theory, to rest and prepare. But I'd discovered only a few days earlier that my kids were having a school picnic, parents invited, at noon, with dismissal right after, so my morning free time was cut short, and then cut shorter by the fact that I had some real deadlines and ended up working at home most of the morning. The afternoon was spent chauffering them and a vanload of their friends back and forth to birthday parties and ballet rehearsals with several unplanned trips back home to get things we'd forgotten. The party itself was particularly irritating for reasons I won't go into here - suffice to say that one of my daughters was told there weren't enough cupcakes, so she couldn't have one, which she accepted philosophically, but I found out that the DOG ate three! But what was worst: I developed one of my classic huge allergy attacks and was sneezing, nose-blowing and eye-rubbing all afternoon. Usually, these wipe me out for days - the stress on my system, plus the effects of the large doses of antihistimines necessary to knock out the attack, rob me of any energy.IMG_0627

Miraculously, this did not happen this time. I took my usual battery of meds, with the exception of benadryl - took only a half, and much earlier in the evening than normal, rather than waiting for bed time. So it seemed to have completely cleared my system by morning, and I had no other ill effects - I felt well rested and happy when I got up at 6:20 am. I'd finally managed to pack and organize my gear the night before, so all I had to do was eat (my usual: eggs and toast, plus coffee) and go. I dressed in my workout gear and brought the all-in-one tri suit - I figured I'd put it on after a bathroom break, rather than struggling with getting it on and off too many times. (As it turned out, it wasn't that difficult to pull down and up - much easier than changing completely in the port-a-potty. Think about it - there's no place you'd want to put anything down while changing!)

The scene at 7:30am was a bit disorganized, I thought - everyone was super nice, but people would say things, like, "your safety pins are in the bag." What bag? "Oh, you didn't get one of these?" No, where else would I have gotten it except from you? Ditto, "oh, nobody wrote your number on your shoulder yet?" No, at what point was supposed to have been told where and when this was supposed to happen? But it didn't really bother me too much - I found everything I needed quickly enough and made my way into the transition area. (After getting some more wrong information: I asked one volunteer if it mattered where I parked my bike,IMG_0624 since some books say to choose a spot on the end of a rack, and she said, park anywhere you like. IN fact the racks were assigned according to race number. Again, no big deal!) It took me a long time to decide how to set up my gear (I hadn't practiced transitions - bad, I know! Next time I'll at least remember to untie my running shoe laces in advance! And I will definitely bring a pan of water, about which, more later!)
I waded into the water and found it quite reasonably un-cold. I made small talk with my rack neighbors and friendly people I met in the port-a-potty line. I took nervous bites of the many clif bars I'd brought, and packed some gus in the cool little pockets on my suit. I'd brought four bottles of water, so I mixed some energy drink powder in one and put it on one of my bike's bottle racks, and put plain water in the other.
Around then (maybe 40 minutes before start time) TGTina found me and, after a big welcoming hug, showed me a few more tricks. We went down to the water and she showed me how to find my way back to the bike rack - to plan the route in advance to save time. She encouraged me to swim without my wetsuit - she's convinced that it saves time not to have to peel it off at the end of the swim. The water temp was fine, but I was a bit worried about losing that extra flotation (or perception thereof.) Nonetheless, I went wetsuit-less.

I was in the second wave, (benefit of early registration, as that determines the order) so headed down to the beach about 10 before 9. I could feel it was already starting to get quite warm out. My fellow triathloners all wished each other luck, and soon enough, we were off. I felt comfortable at first - I wasn't cold, and I quickly got past the icky seaweed part into the dark water. The lake was flat as could be, so sighting wasn't a problem. I stroked along, noticing that people were passing me pretty quick, but didn't worry about it for a minute or two. Then I noticed a woman (I was pretty sure it was the one who'd parked right next to me on my rack) struggling and looking back towards shore as if she wanted to quit. I shouted at her, don't stop, you can do it! and she continued on. But for some reason this shook me, and I started to realize how far from any solid ground (or pool wall) I was - that turnaround buoy was still far away. I tried to shake it off and keep going, but started to hyperventilate and feel very anxious. I saw a boat not too far away, so started to move toward it. The lifeguard aboard asked me if I needed help, and I said I didn't think so, but that I was feeling freaked out. They told me I could hang on to the boat without getting disqualified, which I gratefully did. The woman swimming with me soon came alongside and did the same. We ended up going boat to boat, clinging to each for a minute or two (while wave after wave passed us, of course). My anxiety went up and down - at times I felt quite despairing and like I'd just have to get out (and get disqualified) but then I'd get a grip and carry on. The last bit felt better - as I was heading into shore I just felt determined to keep going. I think the key will be improving my stroke and in-the-water endurance - if I feel like I'm going faster, and thus getting somewhere sooner, I think I'll keep calmer.
Finally, out of the water wobbling back to transition. This was where I fell in love with my tri-suit - how great to not have to think about it at all! I'd thought about going sockless, but decided at the last minute to try to wipe off my feet and put socks on. Some sand stayed on my feet, which would turn out to be a BIG problem later on. I knew I was already among the last to leave the water, but I tried not to think about that. The breeze felt great, the sun wasn't too hot, and I was delighted to be out on the bike. The ride is SO pretty, and I knew I could do the distance, even after that exhausting swim (emotionally and physically - all that extra treading water took a lot more out of me than I'd planned!) I chugged along, never stopping to walk, and even though all those amazing-looking athletes (and a lot of ordinary chubby folk) whizzed by me, I was happy enough. I tried to remember to sip both water and energy drink (it makes me feel a bit queasy and I don't like the taste, but I was concerned about electrolytes so my heart wouldn't suddenly go haywire. If I ever read about someone having a medical problem, I psych myself into thinking I have it. One summer, a couple of football players died of heat stroke after heavy workouts in hot weather. That same week, I took a hike with some kids up a nearby mountain and climbed a fire tower. It was really hot, and I was really out of shape, and I started to feel certain I was overheating dangerously. I drank lots of cold water, dunked in someone's sink, put ice on my wrists, but even so, after two hours I had a friend drive me to the emergency room as I was convinced I was going to die. My temparature was indeed 103, so they gave me a cold IV (a very weird sensation!) and kept me for an hour or two. To this day I don't know if I caused myself to overheat that way, by just worrying so much about it!)

Anyway, as I finished the bike (having passed only one person, who stopped to rest on a hill!) I saw my husband drive into the parking lot - he'd spent the first part of the morning dropping the kids off at various friends' houses so they could get to their ballet dress rehearsals.) He didn't see me, but I figured we'd spot each other before the run. Again, transition was fairly smooth, except for the shoelaces - that definitely added a minute or so to my time. I put my hat on, strapped on my water bottle (I'd been undecided about whether this would be too bothersome, but again was worried about hydration as it was really hot by now!) As soon as I got out of transition I realized I was seriously wobbly and weak - but tried to remind myself that this feeling would pass, as it had during my brick workouts. I saw people crossing the finish line as I passed it in the other direction - it was somewhere around 1:23 on the clock, so those folks were well behind the leaders, but still doing some pretty impressive times.

My husband was walking along the road, so he jogged alongside me for a few moments and gave me great encouragement, and then I was away. I wonder now if I didn't have enough gels and energy drinks as I just never hit my stride, never found any reserves of energy. It was bloody hot, the hills felt like mountains, and again, I was passed by just about every remaining athlete. I poured water over my head at every water station (and drank plenty too) but again, my brain just beat my body - I started really getting down on myself, thinking of myself as slow, out-of-shape, hopeless. I tried to pep-talk myself, reminding myself that I'd trained for a year, that I could kick it if I wanted to. But the negative voices were louder, and I just went slower and slower as I felt the heat more and more. I was finally walking even on the downhills. With a quarter mile to go, the path leaves the road, heads up a grassy hill, back into the park. As I got nearer, I saw my husband, and then TGTina, who was waiting for me. She came and ran alongside, and I told her I thought I was going to cry, or lie down right then, or both. For some reason, she told me I couldn't do that - I had to just keep shuffling my feet til I crossed the finish line. Obediently, I did so, though I knew she couldn't possible realize that I was about to die of heat exhaustion. When I saw the finish line, my body miraculously found a way to cross it at a jog, I think. The clock said 2:10 (and something) as I crossed. Roughly the time of the most elite marathoners. Significance? Only that now I know what it feels like to work my hardest for that amount of time , I guess!

As the volunteer took my chip off, I suddenly felt - GREAT! Euphoric, delighted, not hot or sick at all! I found some mystery drink they were giving out, grabbed a banana, and posed for the photo you see below. I walked around babbling to my husband and anyone else who would listen for a while, soaked my legs in the pond to cool off and chill my muscles, chowed on the giant 10-foot-long sandwiches and yummy pesto pasta, and found all the people I'd met previously to say hi, how'd you do. It took me longest to find the woman I'd "swum" with - she was one of only two people to finish after me, and she seemed quite glum about it. But she's young (29, according to the results) so I'm sure she'll be able to do better in the future! As, I hope, will I.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I will write more later (after my parents' visit, my daughter's dance concert, the article I have to write and the report that's due... all the real life things that I've tried to balance all these weeks and months...) but the bullet version is: I finished. It was really, really hard - way harder than I thought. I was wondering, by the way - what's harder, giving birth or running a triathlon? They have a lot in common in my case: nearly a year to prepare... 2 hours of "pushing" (2:07, in the case of the triathlon, 3rd from last)... and a great feeling in the end!

One other thought to all this: I didn't give enough attention to the mental side of this. The hardest part was the open-water swim - the minutes I spent clinging to the side of each boat along the route while I overcame panic attacks definitely added to my total time (and took a lot out of me - parts of me I was definitely missing on the run!) More later, but you get the idea!

Added: from the online race results :
420 HANSELL JENNY SHARON CT 42F F40-44 [total time] 2:07:54 [swim place and time} 430 30:04 [bike place and time} 415 0:52:43 [total after bike} 1:22:47 [run place and time] 410 0:45:07 There were 422 finishers (out of 560 entrants - I'm not sure how there could be only 6 or 8 listed as DNF!) I and one other woman who swam boat to boat with me were dead last in the swim. I was a bit surprised that I didn't place a bit higher in the bike as I was churning along pretty good! But pleasantly surprised that I did as well in the run as I did, considering how utterly whipped I was by then (and how HOT and HUMID it was!)