Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Okay, I'd like to make a slight ammendment to yesterday's profession of love for morning workouts:
I love running in the morning. As long as it's a nice, slow, easy-pace run. Speedwork in the morning? Sucks. Bad.

This morning I got up at 5:15. The sun wasn't quite peeking over the mountains, but it was providing a good backlighting for the peaks of Glacier Park that I can see from my bedroom window. The birds were singing, the air was cool but not cold. Fresh. Aaah.

I strapped on my shoes, started my watch, and took off at a slow jog. The plan was to warm-up for 12-15 minutes or so, then do a fartlek session for 20 minutes, then finish up with a 10 min cool-down (non-runners, see description of a fartlek here).

The warm-up went well. I realized once I started running that perhaps it was a little chillier than I'd thought. I should've gone for the pants instead of shorts. And some light gloves would've been nice. Oh well. It was a bit chilly, and even though my core warmed up and I was starting to sweat, my legs never really felt like they got warm.

So I decided to extend my warm-up a little longer... then a little longer.... then some more.

Okay, so I "warmed up" for 25 minutes. That's when the mind versus matter debate really set in:

Brain: I said I was going to do fartleks, so I'd better do some. Run fast to that green mailbox down there.
Legs: nuh uh.
Brain: Yeah, come on.
Legs: nope. we're cold. not gonna do it.
Brain: Oh come on, pleeeease. Just one little speed burst. Then you can have a break.
Legs: nah... we're already on break.
Brain: Fine, we'll run slow for a few more minutes, then go fast.
Legs: okay, sure, whatever.

(a quarter mile later...)

Brain: Okay, you deadbeats. Get to movin'.
Legs: nope. still don't wanna.
Brain: Jeez, you guys. It's only a mile back to home. Can't you eek out a few little speed bursts in there?
Legs: what, so we can get home 60 seconds faster? nah, we'd rather go slower and have it take a little longer. hurts less that way.
Brain: Okay, I'm getting sick of you whiners. Let's go. Come on, hustle.
Legs: (grumble, grumble)
Brain: Pick it up, a little faster... come on, stay with it...
Legs: arghh!... ragga-schmagga.... this (bleep) sucks
Brain: Okay, you can slow down now.
Legs: thanks. that wan't fun.
Brain: Suck it up. You gotta do it again when we get to the end of this street.
Legs: slave driver.

(a minute or so later)

Brain: Time to go, guys. Get a move on.
Legs: yeah, yeah, we're going.
Brain: See, this isn't so bad, is it?
Legs: yeah, sure... you're not the one working here.
Brain: You think this isn't work getting you guys up and moving first thing in the morning? I daresay it's much tougher on me than on you. Then you get to just hang out all day at the office while I have to keep working. So no, I don't have much sympathy. Just shut up and run.
Legs: hmm.. Brain has a point there. still...
Brain: Now would you look at that? We're almost back home. Let's do one more little burst, then we'll go stretch it out with a short yoga dvd. Come on, now-- hup to!
Legs: golly, this going fast stuff isn't all that bad now. but, you know, if Brain says it's time to quit, we won't argue!

And thus went my morning. It seems that Legs and Brain are usually a little more in-sync later in the day. So maybe I'll try leaving speed sessions for afternoons, and just stick with slow runs in the a.m. for now. I can't handle all that bickering so early in the day!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh glorious mornings

The long weekend afforded me two opportunities to work out in the morning. Saturday I grabbed Amy for a long run in the Rattlesnake. We started about 11am, which isn't all that early in the morning, really. But it had just stopped drizzling and the sun was starting to peek out, so it seemed earlier than it was. Beautiful run through neighborhoods bursting with flowers, then along a rushing stream, and a few miles of trail winding around big ponderosa pines with arnica abloom in the understory. Gorgeous. Warm, but not hot. A little muggy, but we appreciated how the rain had softened the trails just a tad. Lovely. A total of about 8.25 miles, roughly 1 1/2 hours of running. And it was so nice to have the dreaded Long Run out of the way so that I didn't have it looming over my activities for the rest of the weekend.

Monday morning I awoke naturally (i.e. sans alarm) at 5:30 am. I toodled around the house for a bit, then headed back to the Rattlesnake. I unloaded my bike and started riding, enjoying how quiet the streets were on a holiday morning. The grass is soooo green right now, the cottonwood trees are blooming and smell terrific, and birds are singing their hearts out. I couldn't stop smiling as I cruised along enjoying a nice, long warm-up. Then came the hills-- first a gradual downhill stretch that got me a little chilly. But I quickly warmed up as I climbed to the top of the Lincoln Hills neighborhood-- a steady climb in lowest gears for about 12 minutes. It was so gorgeous, though, that I didn't mind. Then as I flew back down the switchbacks, the views of Lolo Peak and surrounding mountains were just stunning.

Back at my car, Jenny was waiting for me. I stashed my bike, then we took off on a 4 mile run. I couldn't stop commenting about how beautiful everything was. I was probably a bit annoying at first, seeing as how I'd been up and already gone for a ride and was reeling with adrenaline, whereas she'd just gotten out of bed about 20 minutes before meeting me! I appologize, Jenny, if I was one of those annoying too-chipper Morning People! After the run we stopped for coffee and crepes, then I headed off for the rest of my day. Again, it was so nice to have my workout done with early in the day.

I love working out in the mornings. And I love being out in the mornings. I don't necessarily love to get up early, though! But really, I don't typically like to get up EVER, regardless of the time!

I wish I didn't have to be at work at 7am most mornings. To get a workout in and get cleaned up and to work by 7 means getting up quite early. But now that it's light out by 5:30 or so, it shouldn't be too bad. So tomorrow I think I'll rise and get my fartlek run done in the early morning light. Do one of you East Coasters want to call me and make sure my butt's out of bed by about 7 your time?! Remind me how much I love running in the morning!

Friday, May 23, 2008


In the triathlon world, you'll hear people talking about "bricks" a lot. These are training sessions in which you do two activities back-to-back. For example, swim and then bike. Or bike and then run. The main idea is to get your body accustomed to making the physiological shifts it needs to make in a race when switching activities.
Yesterday our Tri Class did what was called a "broken brick" workout. Basically, we ran a mile, hopped on our bikes and rode 8 miles, ran another mile, rode 6 more miles, and finally ran one more mile-- a total of about 1 hour 40 minutes. This was a pretty good approximation of the amount of biking and running I'll be doing in my triathlon in a few weeks-- a 13 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. I was pleased to find that I had a little extra kick left in my legs at the end of the last mile and was able to turn it on and pass one of the girls at the end (I know, you're not supposed to be all competitive all the time, but I couldn't help myself!)

While biking along through lush green countryside, again on an overcast 55 degree day, I intentionally made it a point to appreciate the weather-- great for biking and running (just not swimming!) The wind was a bit stiff at times, forcing me to drop a few gears on the flats, but otherwise it was a nice, peaceful ride.

I wondered as I rode... "What really is a brick? Where did the word come from?"

I had a couple of thoughts: "After a good bike ride, my legs feel like bricks on the run!" "If I keep working out like this, I'll be built like a brick house." or "Doing this kind of workout will help me from hitting the proverbial "brick wall" during a race.

Well, I looked on the internet and it turns out my first guess was probably the closest to being right. Here are a few links to articles about brick workouts that I found:

The best part about yesterday's workout? Variety is the spice of life. Just as I'd begin to tire of one activity, I got to swap it out for another. It made 100 minutes go by pretty quickly.

I also appreciated knowing that after that much time of aerobic activity I still had some gumption. Perhaps enough to add in a 20-minute swim?

(Oh yeah, and going home to a hot bath, a warm dinner, and a session of legs-up-the-wall while watching Grey's Anatomy was pretty nice, too.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First Open Water Swim

With this post I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone: First, I promised I'd write about my experience of doing my first open water swim. Second, I figured I'd respond to TriGreyhound's call for poetry. To the tune of "The Night Before Christmas," here goes:


T'was a cool afternoon and along the lake
The breeze it did blow and the aspens did shake
The skies overcast and the temp fifty-five
With water so cold, could I even survive?

I stepped out my car and greeted my pals
IronMan Ted and two newbie gals
We'd scheduled this first swim last week in the sun
With warm sunny skies, we thought it'd be fun

But typical weather in Montana does shift
One day there's blue skies, the next there's snow drifts
Ted had swam here last Sunday, "It wasn't too bad,
Perhaps with this weather it's cooled just a tad"

So we pulled on our wesuits-- a feat of its own--
Donned swim caps and goggles and earplugs of foam
Slicked up our rub spots with cool Body Glide
To make sure our new suits didn't take off some hide

All dressed up and ready, we walked down to the docks
Set down our towels and started our clocks
We'd swim to a red boat tied to a far shore
Then regroup and see if we'd want to swim more

Ted jumped in feet first, then came up with a clatter
We peered oe'r the edge to see what was the matter
He sputtered about before catching his breath
With water this cold, were we not facing death?

"Come on now girls, you've got to start swimming"
He encouraged us all, our nervousness brimming
One by one we jumped in, the cold quite a shock
And with choppy strokes, pulled away from the dock

My stroke length felt shortened, my rhythm was off
I sucked in some water and started to cough
The other gals, too, were swimming in fits
This lake swimming thing is really the pits

After what seemed like hours, we made it to our "bouy"
It'd only been ten minutes, but I sighed "Phew-wee!
It feels like the first time I ever did swim."
Ted said "It gets better-- let's swim once again!"

We sighted this time for the end of an isle
We swam and we swam, it took quite a while
We regrouped again and complained of cold feet
I peed in my suit-- what wonderful heat

One-quarter mile doesn't seem very far
When jogging or biking or driving a car
Or when in the pool, swimming lap after lap
But back to the dock, it seemed farther than crap!

I stuck my head down and adjusted my mind
Started counting my strokes, and my rhythm did find
One-two-three, four-five-six, sev'-eight-nine and now sight
"Hey it's working," I thought, "I could do this all night"

Like any endeavor this swim was quite mental
To swim half a mile was so monumental
"Don't give up, Self, don't start to cry
Just tough it out, you're training for a Tri!"

Back at the dock we stripped off our suits,
Pulled on our sweatshirts and nice warm dry boots.
As I headed for home I thought of my race
By three weeks from now, I should swim like an ace!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Nuts

It's currently 52 degrees and overcast. And in just a few hours, I'll be heading out to Foy's Lake to don my wetsuit for our virginal swim in open water.

I'm trying to console myself with the fact that the water is actually a few degrees warmer than the air.

I have fleece pants and a sweatshirt packed for afterwards. I'll write about the experience tomorrow... if my fingers have thawed out by then!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Race Report... or lack thereof

So, this past Saturday was the Race for the Cure, a 5k fundraiser run for breast cancer research/awareness to which several of you graciously donated support for me and my team of "Wild and Woodsy Women."

As it turned out, 11 gals and 1 guy signed up on the team, and collectively we raised $1,599 for Komen Montana.

Unfortunately, I was not able to race. I caught a nasty bug a day or two before the race that started with a sore throat, then progressed to a profuse amount of sneezing and nose running, and then in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning moved into my lungs and lent itself to massive body-shaking coughing fits. I got a total of about 2 hours of sleep Friday night. It was a miserable night. I kept trying to sleep, but just couldn't stop my runny nose or coughing. I kept looking at the clock thinking, "Okay, if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW I can still get 4 hours of sleep-- that's enough to make it to the race." But at about 4:45 am, after only a brief nap earlier in the evening, I nearly resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to make the race. At 6am when the alarm went off, though, I still had a shred of hope. I went out to the living room to put on my running clothes that I'd set out the night before. But I soon went into a coughing fit and awoke Jim, who had camped out on the couch for the night so he could get some sleep. "I don't think I can go to my race," I whimpered, plopping down on the floor next to him. He patted my head and agreed that no, it wouldn't be good for me, nor for my teammates, for me to go try to run and subsequently hack and sneeze all over everyone.

Disappointedly, I started calling the teammates who were planning to carpool from Missoula, so that they'd know not to expect me. It was a bummer to have to bail. But they all understood.

They all went on to run or walk the race, though, and called me later in the day to report on how things went. Everyone did great, and seemed to have a good time. Beth completed her first 5k in just over 40 minutes-- whoo hoo! Jenny and Liz finished strong as usual. Amy, Kristina, and Kelsey tried out their gazelle-like legs, after sorting their way through a slow, clogged start. Amy said it was fun to be able to pass people the whole race. It definitely sounded like a fun event, but not the best of races to do if trying to PR (set a personal record).

Thanks, again, to everyone who contributed and/or participated in the event! Let's try again next year!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh no, you did NOT just say that!

I'm sitting here at my desk finishing up some work for the afternoon. The sun's out, it's a beautiful day, and there's a 1.1 mile gravel running track right outside my window. For the last hour or so I've been watching folks jog, run, and sprint past.

Well, just a few minutes ago my boss was popped over to say goodbye for the day. "Do you see the slo-mo exercise going on out there?! ha ha?" he giggled. There was a slightly overweight woman jogging along outside the window. "I could walk faster than that." more derrogatory giggles.

Did he really say that? Did he really make fun of someone who's out there TRYING? Who's obviously putting forth EFFORT to make themselves fitter, healthier, happier? Did he dare to poke fun at a chubby girl running while standing in the office of WALKERRUNS?!!?!?!?!!


2 Kinds of People

"The world is divided into two different classes of people: Distance Runners and Candy Asses."
(seen on a t-shirt in a running shop in Spokane the other day)

Love it.

Lots of good running opportunities in Spokane along the river trail. Wish I'd had my bike, too-- there's over 50 miles of paved trail that follows the river east all the way to Coeur D'Alene. Sweet!

Monday was gorgeous-- sunny and 65, lots of people out running, biking, feeding the ducks, and enjoying the lilacs, dogwoods, and other flowering wonders (they're several weeks ahead of MT in terms of spring-iness). Ran for about 45 minutes at a nice easy sight-seeing pace.

Tuesday morning was gray and cooler. I warmed up a little bit with a short jog and then a set of "Rocky Stairs," running up and down the stairs of the amphitheater for a few minutes (they're nowhere near as tall as the ones Rocky ran on, nor did I have gray sweats and a bulldog... but Eye of the Tiger was rocking on my mp3 player. Then I hit the gym at my hotel for some upper body strength training.

I sat in a conference all day, then headed out Tuesday afternoon for speed work. It was gray and drizzling, and there was hardly anyone out on the trails. My 15 minute warm-up run was a little slow and depressing, but then I hit my first interval. Two minutes. Fast. Legs pumping. Rain in my eyes. Feet splashing in puddles. "Thriller" on the playlist. Imagining myself being chased by MJ's monsters. (hey, whatever gets your legs going!) Then two minutes of a slow recovery, then go again. Passing tourists with umbrellas. I don't need no stinkin' umbrella. I'm running in the rain. Fast. Badass. Six intervals later I'd crossed the falls, looped through Gonzaga's campus, and run past million-dollar condos. A good way to see the town. I ran another 20 minutes or so through downtown, letting the acid work out of my legs, stopping to read menus in the windows of cafes that were getting ready for the evening crowd. I could see my reflection-- red-faced, rain-matted hair, big grin. Yeah, I'm a runner.

Back at the hotel, I changed, took a 10-minute power nap, then met my co-workers for a walk up-river to a local brewery for one pint, then back down the other side of the river for some excellent Mexican food. One pint of microbrew after speedwork has quite the effect!

Good times, for sure. Now I'm back to Kalispell, but in the field the next few days. Weather's supposed to be terrific. Big bike ride tonight, race on Saturday. Life is active. Life is good.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rough Waters

Last night our Tri class did a workout to start simulating some of the differences we'll experience when doing a race in open water. While all of our training to date has been in a pool, which has lane lines to help you swim straight, clear and calm waters, and walls to push off of when turning, we'll be competing in a lake. We'll have to swim towards and around bouys out in the middle of the water. We won't be able to push off of any walls. The water will be dark and murky and we won't be able to see where to go without lifting our heads up to see the bouys. And we'll all be starting at the same time, rather than staggering our starts like we do in the pool. Hence, there will be many bodies all entering the water at the same time and struggling to get going in the right direction.

So to simulate some of these experiences, while still in the safe and relatively warm confines of the pool (the pool temp is about 82 degrees; the lake we'll be competing in was 58 degrees yesterday... brr!), we did a few different exercises yesterday.

First, our instructor Betsy took out all of the lane lines and put some orange cones up at each end of the pool. We had to swim from cone to cone, which didn't line up with the black lines on the bottom of the pool. We all started at the same time, pushing off from the wall and swimming the 25 yards or so to the other cone. It was quite a different experience to be swimming 12-abreast! There were arms and legs and bodies bumping and pushing, water splashing, and all the while you're just trying to find your own rhythm and get to the other end without drowning!

After several reps of the 25 yard swims, we started doing 50 yards-- down and back. The only trick was that we couldn't use the walls to turn. Oh, and because we swim at different paces, those of us who turned first to swim back were met head-on by those who were still coming our way. After only a couple of head-on collisions I learned to look up a little more!

Finally we moved on to 100 yard swims, still with no touching the walls, with having to look up and sight your cones (which kept changing places), and with all of us clobbering each other for space to swim. It was full-contact swimming at its best. I'm sure I elbowed several people, and others returned the favor. I got kicked in the mouth. Someone grabbed my toes several different times (that'll make you kick harder!). And I even swam right over the top of one girl!

After 50 minutes, we were all drained. So we spent the last 10 minutes of class treading water in the deep end and talking about race-day strategies and other things we need to practice. Finally, Betsy had us circle up and gave each person the opportunity to say something nice that they've observed or learned about the person on their left. It was a good feel-good session, to boost our attitudes at the end of a hard workout. We're all beating each other up, pushing each other to get better, and ultimately competing against each other. But it's all in fun, and it was nice to have that positive reinforcement.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Yoga Plug

Stiff? Sore? Tight? Need to stretch?
If you're any kind of an athlete, or basically any kind of a hominid, your answer most days will be a resounding YES.

Take my shoulders and back today. After a 30 minute swim, I hit the weight room for 3 sets each of pull-ups, push-ups, tricep extensions, bicep curls, upright rows, shoulder presses, and then some core work. I stretched a bit afterwards, but today I could use some more. I don't have time for a full yoga class, but sure would like to spend 10-15 minutes doing some quick yoga stretches that target my arms, shoulders, and upper back.

Lucky for me, I have a 12-minute shoulder stretch podcast downloaded on my mp3 player. It's one of many short yoga podcasts available for FREE from Sage Rountree, a yoga instructor/triathlete (and Robyn's tri coach) in North Carolina.

These podcasts are great!!! You download them, and then can use them after a workout, on your lunch break, or any time you feel the need to stretch (which, again, if you're doing any kind of training, you feel the need to stretch pretty much all the time!) I recommend watching the video that goes with the podcast the first time you do the routine, just to make sure you're getting everything correct. After that, take it on the go.

Sage has also recently published a book called The Athlete's Guide to Yoga, which I highly recommend. If you're new to yoga, this book is simple enough to get you started. And if you've been practicing yoga for a while, there's great information on how to work your yoga into your training program. The pictures are terrific, and it's a practical, no-froo-froo guide to incorporating yoga into your athletic lifestyle.

So... now you have no excuses. Download a podcast, read the book, or just make it up on your own. However you decide to do it, work a little yoga into your day and you'll feel better, perform better, and have a better recovery from your workout!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Runnin' with the Big Dogs

Yesterday afternoon my Tri class met for our first outside bike ride of the season (as opposed to indoor spinning). After gearing up, we hit the trail, a nice paved bike trail that runs about 6 miles through a pretty valley of rolling hills. Our instructor Ted (an IronMan triathlete) took off at a nice clip, and I decided to see if I could stay with him. Ha! But in my efforts, I soon passed everyone in our group except for one other guy that was keeping pretty good pace with Ted.

At the 6 mile turn-around I was a minute or so behind the leaders. Not too bad for a girl on a mountain bike! But man, my heart rate was UP and my glutes were talking to me. We re-grouped and decided to practice riding in a pace line. You've seen that before-- several cyclists all following very closely behind each other, like a giant centipede cruising down the road. The benefit is that it forms a draft. The first person in line takes the wind head-on, but those behind get a little break as they're basically riding in the eddy created as the wind circles around the first rider. You take turns leading for 5 minutes or so, so that everyone gets a chance to pull the team, and then take a break. It made for a nice ride back. By the time I was up to lead, I was well rested and ready to take the charge.

Then Ted led us on a little detour thrrough a new subdivision called Eagle Heights... emphasis on the Heights. We grinded up a big hill, no longer able to keep our pace line, then stopped at the top to regroup before whooshing back downhill and reconnecting with the trail for the last few miles back to the trailhead.

Finding that I really liked that drafting business, I was determined to keep up with Ted and the other guy, so they could take the brunt of the strong headwind and I could cruise along behind them. It was working great until a little over a mile from the trailhead when we passed a group of runners that I knew. I slowed down for just a beat or two to say hi as I passed, and lost my draft. Doh! So I ended up losing a lot of speed and having to take the wind on by myself for the last mile. Oh well (that which doesn't kill me only makes me stronger...)

Back at the trailhead, I was all psyched to load my bike, stretch a little, then head home to make some supper. I'd been fantasizing about having Dominoe's meet us at the trailhead for the last several miles as my stomach was growling as I rode. But alas, just as I put my bike away, Ted said "hey, do you want to run a few miles?" Uh, no. Duh. "Sure," I piped. I'm such a sucker.

As soon as we re-hit the trail, we ran into the aforementioned girls, and they decided to join us. I ran with them some last fall (part of a local running club), so it was good to catch up. They were all running slowly. I was at the top of my able-to-have-a-conversation zone, pushing a little harder than the others, but still able to hang. It was a good feeling. I learned that one of the girls is training for a 100 mile trail run in the Sierras this summer. (that's nuts!) But it was good to chat with them and to run and be able to hang with folks who are some pretty darn good athletes.

By the end of the two miles I was pretty well spent. There wasn't much left in the legs. Could I have gone another mile? Yeah, probably. But it would've taken EVERYTHING I had. But that's beside the point for now. (I have another 8 weeks to build a little more endurance before my triathlon.)

The point is that, like everything else in life, if you surround yourself with people who are good at what they're doing, you'll become good at what you're doing. Is it intimidating to run with the Big Dogs? Hell yeah it is. But it makes me push myself. And I learn from them. And I get inspired to get better.

(And now for the rest of the story... on the way home I got very chilled. By the time I reached my apartment I was shivering and barely able to put together complete sentences while talking to Jim on the phone. In fact, I don't have any recollection of what we talked about! I went straight to the kitchen and looked for the quickest, easiest warm food possible. My original plan was to make spaghetti, but that seemed too laborious. So I made some instant mashed potatoes and inhaled them and a can of salmon while I let my bath water run. Then I hopped in the bath and got my core temp back up while watching Grey's Anatomy. Still hungry, I got out and ate a bowl of cereal, then spent the second half of the show lying on the floor with my legs up the wall. I crashed into a deep, deep sleep. Today I'm TIRED! Those big dogs kicked my butt... but I'll be back for more next week!)